THE WRATH TO COME
“Since when have you learnt to preach?” she scoffed. “A man doesn’t need to preach, to hesitate about taking another man’s wife,” he rejoined soberly.
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
GRANT walked into the Carlton at a quarter-pasttwelve that evening, the exact hour mentioned by Cleo in the note which the Commissionaire at the Sporting Club had given to him. He handed his coat and hat to the Vestiaire, made his way inside the room, which was as yet sparsely occupied, and, ignoring the effects of the maitre d’hotel to provide him with a table, strolled across towards where Cleo was seated alone. She welcomed him with a bare uplifting of the eyebrows, the sparsest possible smile upon her face.
“You permit me?” he asked, with his hand on the back of her chair.
“Certainly,” she assented. “Sit down if you wish, but I have changed my mind. I have nothing to say
He summoned a waiter and ordered some wine. “That seems unfortunate,” he remarked. “May I have the pleasure of providing you with your accustomed
“You can order some tea for me,” she said shortly, “and as many cigarettes as you like. But, alas, you will be wasting your kindness. I have nothing to say to you.”
“Perhaps,” he suggested, “I should not be considered unreasonable if I were to ask why this change? I am here at your invitation.”
“It is permitted always to a woman to .change her mind,” she reminded him. “I believe you’re one of those with whom frankness is best. I have changed mine because Itash—”
“Sometimes called Sammy,” he murmured. . “—has changed his attitude towards me.”
“All up with the little lady from the Cafe de Paris?” Grant queried.
“He has finished with her,” she confided. “It was nothing but a passing fancy, ministered to by her lies. I wish, instead of talking nonsense to you, I had killed her.”
“But, my dear lady, consider how different everything would have been,” Grant pointed out. “Things having happened, as they have, behold ourselves seated— friends, I trust—in this very pleasing place of entertainment, alive and well, and with perfectly robust futures. If you had killed that rather impossible young lady, where would you be now? In that uncomfortablelooking edifice which these wise people of Monte Carlo keep absolutely out of sight, awaiting your trial and not in the least sure what was going to happen to you.” “I am satisfied, if you are,” she said shortly.
“Of course, as a patriotic American,” he went on, “there are drawbacks to the situation. You were going to explain to me, if I remember rightly, exactly how to
save my country from her impending doom, and you were also going to reveal to me various nefarious schemes directed against her.”
“Imagination!” she declared. “Nothing that I said was true. It was just spite.”
“Well, I don’t know that it much matters,” he observed, sipping his wine. “I didn’t believe it anyhow.” “Why didn’t you believe it?” she demanded. “Because,” he told her, “I have had some conversation with Count Itash. I have come to the conclusion that that young man is not a fool. Under those circumstances I do not see how he could possibly have confided important political secrets to you. Nor can I conceive any sane reason for his having put them upon paper in such a fashion that you could have stolen them. Therefore, the existence of any means by which you could have read the riddles of Hash’s brain does not seem to me possible.”
“So, to put it in plain words,” she suggested—
“I think that you were romancing.”
She looked at him half mockingly, half in admiration. “Really,” she confessed, “I find you, for quite an ordinary person, unusually 'quick of perception.” “And to be equally honest,” he rejoined, “I find you only attractive inasmuch as you are entirely removed from the commonplace. You are not good-looking enough to be a danseuse here. I am not sure that you dance well enough. You just have qualities that go to the ordinary man’s head. And therefore shall we have one dance before I make my disappointed way back to the hotel?”
AGAIN there was the beginning of that smile, which - she seemed never to finish. They moved away to the music. When the dance was finished they found their way to two easy-chairs in a far corner of the Bar. She looked at him sombrely. The smile was no nearer breaking into fruition upon her lips.
“If I were not in love with Sammy,” she acknowledged, “I think that I should rather like you.”
“A pity about that subjunctive,” he sighed. “I am not at all sure that he deserves you.”
“If a man really deserved a woman,” she said, “it
is perfectly certain that the woman would not care for him. That always happens.”
“It sounds platitudinal for you,” he commented.
“Pooh!” she scoffed. “We all have to be reminded of the things we know best. I am, as you have suggested, plain, dull, altogether ordinary. Yet I have gifts. Sammy, at one time, loved me desperately. If he ceases to love me and puts another in my place, I shall destroy him. At present his passion has returned. He has been very sweet to me for many hours, and so, Monsieur l’Américain, let us say goodbye. He does not like you and it would do me no good to have him come here and find us together.”
Grant rose to his feet, and bent low over her fingers.
“Mademoiselle,” he said, “I do not think that this is the end. . . . You would doubtless prefer, under
the circumstances, that I quit the restaurant.”
“It would be to my advantage, in case Sammy should come,” she admitted. “If you were with a party of your friends it would be another matter.” . . .
Twice, during that few hundred yards down to the front, Grant stopped, fancying that he was followed. Each time, if there had been a shadow behind, it faded away. He entered the Casino, which he seldom visited, without exactly knowing why, avoided the Corde Prwe, and hung about the tables around the entrance where the stranger visitants to Monte Carlo congregate. He drew near a table and threw a louis on his favorite number. It lost the first time. He repeated his stake and won. He turned abruptly round, with his winnings, and was not in the least surprised to find Hash standing behind him.
“You are fortunate,” the young man murmured equably.
“They are a small part of life, these games of chance,” Grant replied.
Hash’s dark eyes glowed behind their spectacles.
“Listen,” he expounded. “If you treat life like a science to be lived by the direction of the brain, day by day, year by year, decade by decade, then life ii a thing that grows dry as dust in the living. It counts only for the hucksters. But if one only realises—if one treats it as a gamble—a hundred to one chance, if you will—then life is entrancing.”
“Philosophy on the floor of the Caaino,” Grant observed, smiling. “You haven’t lost all your Orientalism, then, in Berlin and London?”
“I have only learnt to value it the more,” was the calm reply. “Without it no man can do more than climb to the middle places. In this world one needs the gambler’s instinct.”
“You’d be a dangerous fellow,” Grant remarked, “to
be trusted with the whole of your patrimony within these walls.”
Itash glanced at his watch and smiled.
“My whole patrimony, my name, and my honor,” he said, “are already at stake, but it is not the spinning of a wheel which decides my fate. Will you take a little supper with me at the Carlton, Mr. Slattery? I have a friend who awaits me there—an acquaintance, also, I believe, of yours.”
“With the utmost pleasure,” Grant assented. “I only came in here because I was bored.”
CO THEY climbed the hill and went back to the ^ Carlton. Cleo was still seated alone at her table. She watched the two men enter together, without change of countenance. Itash was very ceremonious.
“You have, I believe, already met my friend, Mr. Grant Slattery,” he ventured.
“I have taken, advantage of Mademoiselle’s official position here,” Grant hastened to intervene. “I have given myself the pleasure of dancing with her.”
“In that case, Mademoiselle will permit us to join her,” Itash suggested. “But you have wine already upon your table, Cleo! How is that?”
She glanced at the bottle which Grant had left threequarters filled.
“They come here, these men, after a dance,” she explained. “They order wine. The management prefers that I accept.”
Itash waved it away impatiently and gave a fresh order. Nevertheless his eyes were sombrely lit.
“Amongst Orientals,” he confided, “there is always one trait which survives—the trait of curiosity. Now that I have you here together, tell me, I beg, on what subject did you two converse so earnestly in the corner of the Bar there, last night —or was it two nights ago?”
“I was endeavoring to persuade Mademoiselle,”
Grant replied, “that the Tango, as a dance, is an incomplete affair. The most perfect dances in the world have been those in which the steps are absolutely registered—the minuet, for instance.”
“I was venturing,” Cleo murmured, “to disagree with Monsieur.”
“It appeared,” Itash reflected, “that you took the affair seriously.”
“Dancing,” Grant remarked, “is the profession of Mademoiselle. It happens to be my chief amusement.”
Itash turned upon his guest. His question was asked with rapierlike suddenness.
“Your chief amusement, but not your only one,
“I play golf, I sail my yacht a little, I am an indifferent hand at tennis,”
“ i ou have no more serious occupation in life?”
Itash demanded incredulously.
His guest leaned over the table.
“My friends,” he told his two companions, “I started life trying to be serious. I was moderately well off. I needed a profession. I embraced diplomacy and then —see what happened to me.
I was left seventeen million dollars, the whole of the van Roorden estate. Well,
I confess it, I fell where many a better man has fallen before. I yielded to the call of wealth. I am an idle man now for the rest of my days.”
Itash, himself, took the bottle from the ice-pail, filled his own glass and Grant’s to the brim. He appeared to have recovered his composure. The shadow of some fear seemed to have passed from him.
“It is what I have been told,” he admitted. “Such wealth might dazzle any one. The spending of it might indeed enchain the imagination of the most ambitious on earth. So I drink to your health, Mr. Grant Slattery. I have had a nightmare. It has passed.”
They drained their glasses. Itash was himself again. He leaned towards Cleo.
“You will dance with me?” he murmured.
She rose at once. Just then there was the bustle, in the entrance hall, of new arrivals. It was Gertrude and Arthur Lymane who were being ushered in.
'TpHE advantage was distinctly with Grant. His air of hurt reticence was admirably assumed. It chanced that, at the moment of leaving the yacht, Gertrude had confided to him that she had a headache and was going to bed immediately on her return to the hotel.
“My congratulations upon your speedy recovery,” he murmured.
She was mistress of herself at once. She raised her eyebrows very slightly.
“Oh, my headache,” she remarked. “A hot bath and an aspirin disposed of that. Mr. Lymane was a perfect dear and called just as I was wondering whether I should get up and try my luck at the Club, or go to bed. He suggested some supper and a dance here. I am so glad I came. I love this place, and I haven’t been here this season. And you? Where are your friends?”
“I came here with the very interesting young man whom I met on the tennis-courts,” Grant replied. “They tell me that he plays tennis like a pro. Harris, our new secretary, says that he could give me fifteen and owe fifteen. In the other walks of life he is to be taken a little differently. His name is Itash and he is,
I understand, devoted to the little danseuse who sits at this table.”
The smile had faded from Gertrude’s lips. She was looking into Grant’s face as though her eyes would bore their way into the back of his brain.
“I should not have thought that a party of_three would be very amusing for you,” she remarked.
“The little danseuse is only a temporary addition,” Grant explained. “I am certa; ily not making my host jealous, for he takes his prot gee away whenever he chooses, and he insisted upon my coming. Still the position is not without its embarrassments. I am seriously thinking of cultivating one of these ladies for myself. There is a divine being opposite, with vermilioncolored hair and eyes of the most enchanting shade of blue. I think I had better throw myself upon her mercy.”
“Come and sit with us,” Gertrude invited shortly.
“Not on any account,” was the firm refusal. “ am already a troisième here. When I leave it will not be to accept similar place elsewhere. Go and choose your table, you two. I am hurt, but not offended. I I will even come and pay my respects later on. But at present, when my friends here have returned, I have an unconquerable desire to introduce myself to the young person with vermilion hair.”
“What shall you say to her?” Gertrude asked.
“I shall say,” he confided, “ ‘Mademoiselle, I have these few recommendations to your favor. I am an American, as you see me, a millionaire, with a yac’t in the harbor and a cheque book which I too seldom use. May I have the pleasure of this dance?’ ”
“It sounds inten ling,” Gertrude admitted. ■ “She will probably refuse you. She will think you 1 ave drunk too much wine Sucu good fortune would be almost too incredible for belief,”
He rose to his feet. “That remains to b. sééñ,” he said, taking leave of them with a little bow.
They watched him approach the ; irl whom he had pointed out, watched her rise with alacrity to her feet, and the commencement of the dance. Gertrude bit her lip as she followed Lymane to a table.
“Monte Carlo,” she observed coldly, “is too small a place for these enterprises.”
“Life,” Lymane rejoined, “is too short an affair to take notice of them.”
'T'HEY chose their table, ordered wine and danced. Lymane murmured all the time in his companion’s ear. Gertrude sometimes listened, sometimes watched the danseuse with the red hair. She seemed to be interested in Itash, but her eyes seldom left Grant and his partner.
“I wonder whether it is my fancy,” she confided to her escort, as they sat down, presently, “but it seems to me—I suppose it is because of this Nice Conference going on so near—that there is an electrical atmosphere everywhere. I feel as though there were rumblings underneath the earth, as though we were on the brink, all the time, of portentous events.”
He smiled indulgently, yet in a slightly superior fashion.
“I don’t think that you need be afraid,” he said. “I think I can assure you that there are no cataclysms imminent at the moment.” “How can you tell?” she asked.
“Well,” he pointed out, “for one thing, England, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Spain, and a few of the smaller powers, are linked hand in hand to preserve the peace of the
world. There is no sign of war, no threat of war anywhere. We are all a little jealous of Germany, but industrially she deserves her success. Now, tell me, what form of cataclysm could descend upon the earth to justify your depression?”
“I think,” she sighed, sipping her champagne, “that I am afraid of the end of the world.”
“The end of the world,” he observed, “is but a picturesque fable. The scientists have the matter well in hand. We are likely to have at least a thousand years of warning. My own apprehensions do not extend thus far.”
She looked through the menu, which a hovering waiter had handed to her.
“Notwithstanding our wonderful dinner,” she decided, “I should like a sandwich. And as it is not the end of the world which is coming and I honestly don’t believe I have indigestion, will you tell me why I am so depressed?”
“I can only suggest,” he ventured politely, “that it is because of your husband’s arrival to-morrow.” “That,” she declared, “is a crude remark, the sort of speech which betrays your youth. A man of the world, like Grant Slattery for instance, would never have made it.”
“He would probably have hinted at it,” was the somewhat sullen rejoinder, “and it would probably have been the truth.”
“Well, I don’t know,” she murmured. “At any rate I am not going to discuss my husband’s coming with you. I prefer a little consolation for these vague fears of mine. Do you honestly mean to tell me,” she went on, “that the peace of the world is so wonderfully assured? Take these meetings of the Pact, for instance. Is there nothing there which gives cause for a moment’s anxiety?”
“Princess!” he expostulated. “You will remember!” “Heavens! Am I forgetting again!” she exclaimed. “You see, you’re such a child, I always forget that you have an official connection with the great world. Of course you can say nothing. But then, as it happens, I know as much as you do. Prince Lutrecht is my husband’s cousin. He came to my rooms for a few minutes this evening. I know all that transpires that can be told without an absolute breach of confidence.» And I know that as yet there has been nothing serious.’ “But you know there are rumors abroad?”
“Prince Lutrecht gave me a hint to-night. There is just one apple of discord that your Chief might throw upon the board.”
“Shall we dance?” he begged.
She rose at once, quite willingly.
“You are a thoroughly irritating young man,” she declared. “I shall send for Mr. Grant Slattery to come and talk to me. He seems to pick up a wonderful amount of information, and so does Prince Lutrecht. Even my husband hears things sometimes. No one refused me information. Only you. It is either because you don’t like me or you don’t trust me.”
“I am not my own master,” he reminded her, as they started off to dance. “As it is, I have spoken more freely with you than with any one else before in my life.”
HP HEY danced until the music ceased. Gertrude clapped for the encore, and they went on until the finish. Tr.en, as they walked towards their table, she continued their conversation.
“There is something you could tell me,” she said, “because, if it is true, the whole world will know it in a day or so. Does Lord Yeovil mean to once more invite America to join the Pact?”
“You have heard that spoken of?”
“I have heard it stated for a fact.”
“I believe it is true,” he told her. . . .
Grant’s farewell shake of the hand possessed a particular significance for Mademoiselle with the red hair, whose rent was a little in arrears. She felt the crisp paper in her palm and flashed her thanks across at him.
“This is too good of Monsieur,” she murmured. “Because he dances so beautifully. He has no need of a lesson. I am always at his disposition.”
They separated, Mademoiselle to glance at her note and find her most sanguine hopes more than realized, Grant to rejoin Itash and his imperturbable companion.
“I am in danger here,” he declared. “I am of so susceptible a temperament and Mademoiselle aux cheveux roux has spoken to me of the loneliness of her life. I think I shall go back to my hotel. The sea air to-day was very invigorating but it also makes one inclined to sleepiness. Besides, I am like an uneasy spirit to-night. Wherever I descend I find myself that terrible third. What happens to him in French fiction and on the stage, one knows. I think I’ll depart quickly.”
Itash smiled, showing his wonderful white teeth. He was more at ease now, and he was not without a sense of humor.
"Fetch Mademoiselle here,” he suggested. “She is a very charming young woman and we will make a partie
carree. We will see the night through and end it in my rooms with breakfast.”
Grant shook his head.
“I am no longer of the age when such things attract,” he sighed. “Besides which, I detest an aftermath. The nights which end with bacon and eggs and coffee offend me. I prefer they terminate with the playing of the violin to the door, the bow of the commissionaire, the little voiture.”
“Monsieur has sentiment,” Cleo murmured.
“I cling to what remains of it,” Grant assured her earnestly. “When sentiment goes, then life is like the dust which the Persian poet tells us about. And so, all you young people, farewell.”
He made' his bow, collected his hat and coat, and departed. He left the place with the air of a conqueror. He looked back at it, metaphorically shaking his fist.
“This is a sorry triumph,” he muttered, as he lit a cigarette. “There is that ass Lymane gassing away to Gertrude—thank heavens he doesn’t know much— and Mademoiselle Cleo, back again under the thrall, close-lipped, elose-tongued, with enough locked up at the back of her brain to make the way easy for all of us.” “Monsieur desires something?” the Commissionaire asked him wonderingly.
“Nothing in the world,” Grant replied, slipping a five-franc note into his hand. “I am perfectly happy. I am going home to bed.”
The man took off his hat and bowed.
“A pleasant repose to Monsieur,” he said.
THEY sat in the luncheon room at Mont d’Agel, three very hungry but well-satisfied beings, Lord Yeovil, Susan, and Grant. They sipped their aperitifs and waited for their luncheon, “contented but eager,” to use Susan’s own expression.
“The match was a good one,” Grant conceded, “but no Prime Minister has a right to hole out like your father, Lady Susan. Affairs of state and all that sort of thing ought to interfere and make him raise his head.”
“That putt at the sixteenth was sheer robbery,” she agreed.
“An excellent match,” Lord Yeovil declared. “Placing you at scratch, Grant, and Susan at twelve, men’s handicap, the fact that I was able to halve the match against you would seem to indicate my having played somewhere about six. Six is above my form.”
“I think, with the exception of the drive which you sliced from the eighth tee, Dad, and which landed in Italy,” Susan observed, “you were playing better than six.”
“The game has restored my faith in my powers of concentration,” her father announced. “I said to myself: ‘Every nation in the world may be at one another’s throats to-morrow, my resignation may be demanded before I return to England, I may march out of Downing Street, bag and baggage, the day of my return, but I will not take my eye off the ball this morning,’ and I didn’t.” “Plumb in the centre, every time,” Grant agreed. “Hurray! Here come the hors d'oeuvres."
“It is not my custom,” Lord Yeovil said, “to drink wine in the middle of the day, but I think we must supplement the vin ordinaire a little—Montrachet, perhaps, or Chateau Youem."
“This is a terrible start to a strenuous day,” Grant remarked. “To-night I dine with Delilah.”
Susan looked across the table at him a little curiously.
“I am glad that you admit the attraction.”
“I never found any one who knew her and was willing to deny it,” Grant rejoined.
“Quite right,” his host assented. “Thank heavens that I am no longer a young man. I fancy that I should find the Princess irresistible.”
“When I knew her first,” Grant continued reminiscently, “she was a simple American girl, living upon a farm, riding three hours every day, playing a little tennis, doing a little housekeeping. Then she had a sea on in Washington. After that she became somehow the vogue. A town aunt took her up. It was about that time that von Diss fell so desperately in love with her.”
“She was a fool to marry him,” Lord Yeovil declared. “Even now, after all these years, a German or an Austrian woman finds it difficult to hold her own. In Berlin, especially the aristocracy, at any rate until about ten years ago, have had a hideous time.”
“There’s a reaction going on now,” Grant reminded him.
“As we well know,” the older man assented. “Chiefly owing, I honestly believe, to that fascinating youth, Prince Frederick. A most charming lad. I only hope that Lutrecht and our dear friend’s husband, von Diss, an the others of that regime, don’t get hold of him and spoil him. By the bye, 1 am breaking my rule by speaking of such affairs in a public place, and Arthur isn’t here to correct me. I wonder why you are not English, Grant. You would have made a wonderful secretary for me.”
“I’d rather have been an Englishman, than belong to
any other race, if I hadn’t been an American, sir,” Grant answered. “As it is, I am naturally content.”
“AM revoir to conversation,” his host remarked, watching the approach of their first course. “I now become a glutton. Appetite is, after all, a most entrancing thing.” “During this regrettable silence of my father’s,” Susan observed, as she helped herself from one of the dishes, “you and I had better exchange a few ideas, Grant. You don’t seem to have had much time for me lately.”
“Dear Lady Susan,” he bemoaned, “the amenities of life have seemed to lie outside the orbit of my jurisdiction the last few days.”
“You always pose as being so" busy,” she scoffed. “What do you do with yourself?”
“Solve bridge problems, inspect my crew on the ‘Grey Lady,’ lose my mille or two, eat, drink, and sleep. It is a most enthralling existence.”
“You seem to have left out a few little things,” she remarked. “There’s the Princess, for instance. I thought that it was rather the object of your life just now to entertain her.”
“Others have shared that task with me,” he replied. “To-night I dine with her. We shall probably be very sentimental. I shall ask her whether she is entirely happy with the man she preferred to me. She will sigh and tears will stand in my eyes as I look through the wall. Then we shall part with a little gulp. I may kiss her fingers and she will go and powder her nose, put on a becoming peignoir and listen for the train. I foresee a sentimental evening.” “Something has happened to you,” Susan declared. “You used not to be so sentimental, of so cynical.”
“A great deal has happened to me,” he agreed. “In three days’ time, Lady Susan, if you will trust me so far, I will tell you a most entrancing story.”
“And, in the meantime,” she reminded him, a little coldly, “the tears will stand in your eyes, and you will look through the wall, whilst thinking of the woman you have loved.”
“Those things have to be,” he apologized.
“For what purpose?” she demanded. “Where is the necessity? Have you anything to gain, for instance, by flirting with the Princess? Or do you do it to indulge in a sort of sentimental debauch—to go through it and then analyze your feelings? Because—”
SHE was suddenly silent. She felt that, in a sense, she had betrayed herself. Her father glanced at her across the table. Grant saved the situation.
“You read me like a book, Lady Susan,” he acknowledged. “You always do. As a matter of fact, a passion for diluted psychology of an analytical type stopped my taking honours at Harvard, and will, without a doubt* interfere with my complete success in life. I am hideously curious about little things. Still I offer no apologies. The Princess has stirred colder hearts than mine.”
“If I were your age,” Lord Yeovil declared, helping himself to omelette, unselfishly, and yet with discretion* “there is nothing in this world which would prevent my being in love with the Princess.”
“I am glad,” Grant said gratefully, “that you recognize my difficulties.”
“Experience has such a charm for the very young,”
Susan observed, a little sarcastically.....
“After all, it’s rather a relief,” Grant observed, looking round the room, “to be free for an hour or two from this little host of intriguers. Here we are with a crowd of strangers, amongst whom I only recognize our very excellent friend Baron Funderstrom, the Scandinavian* None of the others are here. I fancy that this atmosphere is a little too bracing for them. We are in a different world. Intrigue up here is unknown—except the intrigue of cutting in.”
“Dashed annoying intrigue, too, when it comes off,” Lord Yeovil grumbled. “Are you two young people going to play again? Because, I tell you frankly that I am not. I’ll send the car back for you with pleasure. A nap in my study for the next hour or two is the thing which appeals to me most.”
“Just as Lady Susan wishes,” Grant said, looking towards her.
“I should like another round, unless it bores you,” she decided.....
Their final round was played in the brilliant declining; sunlight of a perfect Riviera afternoon. The wind had1 dropped and brought no longer icy reminiscences from the snow-clad Alps. The air, though keen, was sweet and laden with the fragrance of the trees in blossom, which fringed the slopes of the hills. More than once they paused to look downwards. Susan was, for her, a little restless.
“I don’t think you’re really enjoying the Riviera this, year,” he remarked.
“I’m not sure that I am,” she admitted. “Somehow or other, from the moment we arrived, we seem to have lived in an unfamiliar atmosphere. I can’t explain it. Baron Naga’s death seemed to be part of it. Dad bluffsmost beautifully, but he is all the time nervous and on edge. You—although I don’t know what you have to do> with it all—seem to be living half in this world and half;
in some other you won’t talk about. Arthur has the air of a man about to commit suicide. The Lancasters are the only normal people, and perhaps that is because they are brainless. What’s it all about, Grant? Have you really lost your head about this old sweetheart of yours? And is there really any cause for Dad to worry? All these politicians who come to call are so delightfully amiable and polite that one can’t realize that they may not be absolutely sincere.”
“I’m not going to try and bluff to you, Lady Susan,” Grant said seriously. “I’m afraid there may be trouble afoot. We can’t quite get to grips with it, but it’s there. We have indications of it, and warnings from all sorts of unsuspected quarters. Personally It think your father is in a very awkward position. You see the great difficulty is that, however hard he tries, he can’t find out exactly how things really do stand. When the Pact was inaugurated, all the nations started trusting one another. They dropped secret treaties and secret understandings, and swept the whole of their Secret Service Departments into the four corners of the world—that is to say, the honest ones did. Consequently, now there’s trouble about, we don’t know where to turn.”
“But you?” she protested. “You’re out of it all. You’re not even English. Why are you so disturbed?”
He smiled as he watched his ball go travelling over a bunker.
“Let it alone, Lady Susan,” he begged. “You’re the one person outside it all. Stop outside for a time. If the trouble comes you will know of it fast enough.”
She was not altogether satisfied.
“Is it my fapcy,” she asked, “or am I being treated like some one just emerged from the nursery?”
“My dear Lady Susan,” he pointed out, “it wouldn’t do you a bit of good to be let into your father’s worries or mine. And they very likely don’t amount to anything, after all.”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Do you talk like this to the Princess?” she queried.
“I should certainly not tell the Princess the things you are asking me,” he assured her.
“I suppose I am a cat,” Susan reflected, “but I don’t like the Princess.”
“You’ll like her when you know her better,-” he ventured.
“I don’t want to know her any better,” she declared. “She seems to me the sort of woman who makes use of people. That’s what I can’t help thinking about you, and her, and Arthur.”
“What use can she make of us?” he asked.
“She wants to get to know things, for the sake of that husband of hers, I suppose. It’s all very well for you, but I do think Arthur ought to be more careful. Father never says much, but I fancy he’s thinking a good deal.”
'T'HEY finished the round almost in silence, and their conversation over tea was negligible. On the way down, Grant was conscious of a sudden fear. Susan, after all, was a creature of impulse. These purgatorial days through which he and the others were passing, meant nothing to her. She might fail to make allowance for them. She was always surrounded by young men, and, for the moment at any rate, she was seriously annoyed with him.
“Lady Susan,” he began.
“I thought it was generally ‘Grant,’ ” he remonstrated.
“I have heard myself called ‘Susan,’ ” she reminded him.
“Look here, then, Susan,” he recommenced. “We seem to have got wrong somehow. I don’t like it. I want to be friends.”
“My dear man,” she protested, “have I shown any signs of quarrelling with you?”
“You’re annoyed, and I don’t want you to be.”
“Does it really make any difference?” she asked a little bitterly.
“Of course it does.”
“Do something to please me then, will you?”
“Anything,” he declared, with foolish optimism.
“Don’t dine with that von Diss woman to-night.”
He was distressed.
“My dear Susan!” he expostulated. “I can’t get out of it.”
“Had you asked her to dine with you or did she invent that on the yacht?”
“She invented it on the yacht,” he admitted. “At the same time I accepted it, and, to tell you the truth, Susan, for certain reasons, I really am anxious to dine with her.” “The certain reasons being, I suppose, that she may go on making love to you in the flagrant way she did then.” “Do you mind whether she does or not?”
“Not in the least,” she declared untruthfully.
“Then it wouldn’t be any use my asking you—”
She turned suddenly towards him with a touch of her old manner.
“You can ask me anything you like, Grant, if only you’ll promise not to dine with her to-night.”
He was half embarrassed, half irritated. She was, after all, such a child.
“Susan,” he begged, “be reasonable.”
“What a horrible suggestion!” she scoffed. “I’ll be reasonable when I’m middle-aged—when nothingmatters. I’m a very foolish person, of course, but it does happen to matter a good deal to me, that you insist upon dining with that woman to-night. To prove how unreasonable I am—voila!”
The car had been crawling round the corner of the Square, and Susan jumped lightly on to the footpath. She waved her hand to Grant.
• “Thanks so much for the game,” she said. “I’m going to talk to Bobby and Rose.”
She waved her hand once more and started off to join her friends. Grant stopped his car by the pavement.
“Look here, you can’t leave me like that,” he protested. “Your father left you in my care.”
“Can’t help it,” she replied. “You were beginning to bore me, so I had to escape.”
“But how are you getting out to the Villa?” he asked. “Bobby will take me. Won’t you, Bobby?”
“Rather!” that young man promised. “Push off, Grant! You’ve had a pretty good innings, old chap. We haven’t seen anything of Susan all day. Come along!
Continued on page 57
Continued from page 29
We’ll have mixed vermouths over at the Cafe de Paris, gamble for half-an-hour, then we’ll get rid of Rose, and I’ll take you home in a petite voiture.”
“It’s a desperate enterprise, but I accept,” she declared. “Good-bye, Grant! Hope you enjoy your dinner.”
“I shall do my best,” he answered, with a little unnecessary emphasis.
The monosyllable was suggestive, almost illuminative. Gertrude had paused for a moment, on the threshold of the little salon, which she was entering from her bedchamber. Her unexpected visitor, Mr. Cornelius Blunn, looked across at her with a deprecating smile.
“I am a monument of apologies, Princess,” he said.
“We will take them for granted, then,” she replied. “What do you want?”
He glanced at the clock.
“Five minutes’ conversation,” he begged, “or, if by any fortunate chance, you are disengaged—”
“You know quite well that I am dining with Mr. Slattery,” she interrupted.
“I had imagined so,” he assented. “It is about that dinner engagement that I venture to come and see you.”
“You will, I trust, avoid impertinence.” “I shall try,” he assured her. “Princess, your mission here was a difficult one. So far you have performed it with much skill.”
“I am flattered,” she murmured, with latent irony.
“I may or may not share your opinion as to Mr. Grant Slattery,” he continued, “but, in other respects, you have done well. I am here to beg you not to spoil the good effects of your work.”
“Will you please say what you want to in as few and as plain words as possible,” she invited.
“I obey,” he answered, with a little bow. “You came here to try and solve for us a somewhat vexed question concerning this young man, Mr. Grant Slattery. You think that you have arrived at the truth concerning him. I am going to be frank with you and tell you that I am not so sure. But I am convinced of one thing—you have gone as far as Otto would approve in your investigations.”
“You think that I am likely to lose my head about this man?” she asked.
Blunn made no reply. She waited for a moment and then glanced towards the clock.
“For a clever man,” she said deliberately, “I think you are the biggest fool I ever knew.”
“I am your husband’s friend, and yours,” he reminded her quietly.
“Listen,” she continued. “Otto sent me here and you know my mission. I shall perform it in just the way I think best.” “Princess,” Mr. Blunn remonstrated, “you are going to spend the evening with a man whom three years ago you treated disgracefully. The instinct for atonement is a very dangerous thing.” “Perhaps,” she admitted. “At any rate, I am my own mistress. What I choose to give, I give, and nothing that you could say, no threat that you could utter, would induce me to change.”
“Your mind is made up, Princess?” “My mind is utterly and finally made up.”
There was a knock at the door. A messenger from below announced the arrival of a gentleman for Madame la Princesse.
“You can show him up,” Gertrude directed.
The man bowed and left the room. Blunn looked across at her and frowned.
“You will receive him here, in your salon?” he asked.
“Certainly,” she replied. “If it pleased me to do soY should dine here. I am responsible to no one for what I may choose to do.”
Still he made no movement to depart. “It seems to be my hard fate to anger you, Princess,” he regretted. “And I can assure you that such is not my desire. Yet this I must tell you, that I am used to men, and watching men, and turning them inside out, judging them from their characters and actions and the trifles which escape other people. I have never yet been wrong. This man Slattery is, in my opinion, all that we believed him to be.
In my opinion, he is playing a game of his own with you. You think that you have discovered him harmless, you think that his devotion to you is real. You are wrong. You are wrong in both conclusions.”
SHE smiled. At that moment she was praying that the confidence which her smile was intended to' indicate really existed in her heart.
“I think,” she declared, “that a woman is the best judge of a man’s affection for her. I may put Mr. Slattery’s to the test. If I do, I have no fears.”
There was a knock at the door. Grant was ushered in. Gertrude gave him her fingers. He raised them to his lips, and turned towards Blunn.
“Have no fear,” the latter said. “I am an uninvited guest and I was just taking my leave. Princess, you will allow me once more to assure you that I never make a mistake.”
She laughed a little scornfully.
“The Kingdom of Fools is peopled by the men who never make mistakes,” she answered.....
The door closed upon Blunn. She came a little nearer to Grant.
“What did that fellow want?” he demanded.
“To warn me against you,” she replied. “What a busy-body!”
She came a little nearer to him, raised her eyes, and stood for a moment silent.
“Do you remember the last time you kissed me, Grant?”
“Perfectly well,” he answered. “I stayed with you half-an-hour after we got back from the opera. I must have interfered with your packing, I’m afraid.”
He saw her wince, blit he remained unmoved.
“You look wonderful to-night, Gertrude,” he said.
“Then why don’t you want to kiss me?” she asked.
“A psychological problem insoluble before dinner,” he assured her with faint irony.
“Then you don’t want to,’ she persisted.
He leaned forward, holding her for a moment in his arms, yet gently resisting the abandon of her swaying body. He kissed her on the eyes, drew her hand through his arm, and turned towards the door.
“Five minutes later and Louis would never forgive me,” he said. “He is preparing for Us—”
The sentence was never finished. The door was suddenly opened without a knock or any form of warning. A man, in travelling clothes, and carrying a small dispatch case, entered.
“Otto!” Gertrude exclaimed, disengaging her arm from Grant’s._ “How on earth did you get here—to-night?”
He frowned irritably.
“I sent a telegram,” he replied. “You did not, perhaps, receive it. We found a quicker route. May I be presented to this gentleman?”
“It is Mr. Grant Slattery,” Gertrude murmured. “My husband, Prince von Diss.”
The two men bowed. Neither extended a hand.
PRINCE VON DISS glanced around him. He had a most unpleasant face, short, fair moustache, carefully trimmed, well-cut features, a wicked mouth, and cold, unprepossessing eyes. Herwas very nearly bald.
“I was not aware, Gertrude,” he observed, “that it was your custom to receive your friends in your salon at an Hotel of this description.”
“I do as I think well in such matters,” she answered calmly.
There was a moment’s hectic silence. The Prince seemed about to speak but controlled himself with an effort.
“You are probably fatigued with travelling,” she continued, “and would prefer to dine here. In that case I can keep my engagement with Mr. Slattery.”
“On the contrary, I shall beg you to break it,” the Prince declared emphatically. “It is a peculiarity of mine, but I do not permit my wife to dine alone with any man so long as I am within reach. I shall hope to have another opportunity of cultivating Mr. Slattery’s acquaintance.”
i Grant was suddenly conscious m the j ridiculous side of the situation. He pulled himself together an I turned to the newcomer courteously.
“Perhaps, ycu, as w 11 as your wife, would do me the honou of dining?” he suggested. “Dinner itordered downstairs. Half-an-hour’s delay will be of no consequence.”
. The Prince bowed coldly.
“I thank you very much, sir,” he replied, “but to-night 1 shall prefer to dine tete-a-tete with my wife. I have ! affairs to attend to. We shall without j doubt meet again ...”
Gr at dmed alone in a distant cornei of 1 I tiw Restaurant, somewhat to his own | : satisfaction, but very much to the \ (“¿appointment of the maître d’hotel to ' whom he had confided his orders. Just as he was finishing, Gertrude and her husband entered the room. The latter had changed his clothes but appeared to be in no better humour. He scowled at Grant and ignored his wife, both when he ordered the dinner and the wine. She leaned back in her chair, fanning herself lazily. Her eyes continually sought Grant’s. On the way out he paused for a moment at their table. She made a little grimace of apprehension, but Grant only smiled.
“You have made a very greedy man of me, Princess,” he confessed. “I have had to try and eat the dinner I had ordered for two.”
“I wish you’d sent me my share,” she said. “I have not been consulted about our own any way, and I seem to have heard the name of every dish I detest.”
Her husband spoke for the first time.
“The marital feast cloys, I am afraid,”
! he sneered.
“I have no doubt but that you are right,” Grant assented, with a little bow of farewell. “I’m not married myself, but one seems to discover these things.....”
HE PASSED out into the hall and stood for a moment smiling to himself. Then, prompted by a sudden impulse, he opened one of the telephone boxes and rang up the Villa Miranda. In a minute or two Susan came to the telephone.
“What on earth do you want?” she enquired. “You ought to be in the middle of dinner.”
“I am supplanted,” he replied.
“What do you mean? Arthur?” she j asked with some excitement.
“Worse! Her husband! The prince arrived twelve hours before he was expected. It was most awkward.”
“So you haven’t dined with her?”
“He refused to let me. Gertrude did her best but it was quite useless. You should see him, Susan. He’s an insufferable little bounder.”
“You would have dined with her, then, if he had not arrived?” she asked, after a moment’s pause.
“Stop a minute,” he insisted. “If I came round—”
“Don’t come to-night,” she interrupted. “Father’s going to bed in a few minutes, and I’m going round to the Lancasters’. They’ve some friends in to dance.”
“Why didn’t they ask me?” he grumbled.
“You’re supposed to be engaged,” she reminded him. “Good-bye.”
“Aren’t you a little—”
The instrument whirred in his ear. He was disconnected.
“Little Cat!” Grant shouted down the instrument.
But he was too late. There was no reply.
GRANT, who had moved his quarters on to the yacht, had already commenced to undress, when the sight of the moon through the porthole window brought him up on deck again. He sank into a basket chair, filled his pipe and sat smoking. The gangway which connected the stern of the yacht to the dock had been pulled in and there was no sound of any movement on board. The Casino was in darkness, but the Sporting Club was still brilliantly illuminated, and here and there on the hillside lights shone out from the villas. A sort of violet curtain of twilight seemed to brood over the place.
An automobile with flashing lamps swung around the corner and dashed along the road to Nice. A voiture came down the steep incline towards the harbour. Momentarily curious Grant watched it. It came along the dockway to within fifty
yards of the yacht. Then it stopped. A woman descended and came swiftly along the jetty. The light from an electric standard flashed upon the jewels in her hair as she passed, and Grant sprang suddenly to his feet. He walked hastily towards the stern. The woman had paused, looking at the little chasm of water. She moved out of the shadows and he recognized her.
“Gertrude!” he cried.
“Please put down the gangway,” she called out. “I want to come on board.”
A SAILOR on night duty hurried forward. Grant gave a brief order and a gang plank was lowered. It was he, however, who made use of it. He met Gertrude at the further end and gently led her on one side.
“Gertrude,” he told her firmly, “it is impossible for you to come on board at this hour of the night. Tell me what has happened.”
She was looking very white and very determined. She put her arm through his and clung to him.
“Grant,” she said. “He took me away from you once, and he wasn’t altogether honest about it. If you like you can take me back again.”
“My dear Gertrude!” he exclaimed.
“I mean it,” she went on. “I know everything that is in your mind. I don’t care. If I am worth having, take me. Otto has brought it upon himself. I think that I dislike him more than any human being upon the earth.”
All the time he was leading her back slowly towards the waiting voiture.
“Gertrude,” he insisted, “this is not a possibility.”
“Why not?” she demanded. “You’re your own master. You could steam away to-morrow morning before any one was about. You told me only the other day that you were always ready for an emergency.”
“Quite true,” he agreed. “But not this emergency.”
“He has insulted me,” she declared, “and he’s insufferable. No self-respecting woman ought to marry a German. She becomes a worse chattel than the plaything of a Mohammedan.”
“I am terribly sorry for you,” Grant assured her, “but what you are contemplating now would only make matters worse. You must remember this, too. Your husband is a Roman Catholic. He would never divorce you.”
She was silent.
“You don’t want me,” she muttered. “Perhaps I don’t want you mq the spirit in which you have come,” he answered gently. “You simply want to revenge yourself upon your husband and you offer me the chance of revenging myself, too. It isn’t quite a big enough feeling, Gertrude. The satisfaction of it wouldn’t last for the rest of our lives.” “Since when have you learnt to preach?” she scoffed.
“A man doesn’t need to preach to hesitate about taking another man’s wife,” he rejoined. “This is just an impulse of yours, Gertrude.”
“Very well,” she said. “You won’t let me yield to one impulse. You can’t prevent my yielding to another. I have a disclosure to make. I came to Monte Carlo to spy on you.”
“I knew that quite well,” he replied. “Knew it? How could you?”
“Because the newspaper you showed me with my name on, bore the yellow pencil marks of your Secret Service.” “Well,” she went on, “I haven’t made much of you—I’ve learnt more from Arthur Lymane. But I’ve found out a few things and my people are content with what seem to be trifles. You won’t let me give myself away. I’ll give them away. They know that Lord Yeovil is going to propose an invitation to America to join the Pact. They’ll pretend to acquiesce. In reality they’re going to vote against it.” “Three of them, perhaps,” Grant interposed quickly. “Which one have they induced to be the fourth?”
“That is what I am going to tell you, she said. “Baron Funderstrom.”
“The Scandinavian!” Grant exclaimed. “It has cost them fifty thousand pounds,” she continued, “but they have his promise. Four votes and the motion is . lost. Those four are arranged for. Now do 1 you believe that I am in earnest when I tell I you that I hate my husband? Do you still I forbid me to come on the yacht?”
I “Yes,” he answered.
HE WAS standing with his hand upon the rail of the gang-plank. She came close to him. Her eyes were filled with tears.
“Let me come, Grant,” she begged. “I will be content just to be cared for as you used to care for me. I don’t mind what happens to me. You can hide me away, if you like. You can come back here alone if you want. I won’t complain. Only I must have some one kind to me. Let me come, please.”
His arm barred the way.
“Gertrude,” he said, “this may hurt, but it’s best. I care for some one else. I couldn’t have you on the yacht. It wouldn’t be honest.”
“Some one else!” she muttered. “Well, why not?”
She stood away for a moment, on the edge of the dock. She was looking down at the waters of the harbour. He caught her by the arm.
“Gertrude,” he asked, “do you think that they will have missed you yet?”
“I don’t think so,” she answered dully. “They were all talking in Blunn’s rooms
.....Some one else, Grant! Why didn’t you
“We were both playing a game,” he declared. “You were trying to learn my secrets. I was trying to learn yours.” “Who is she?”
“That doesn’t matter, does it? I’m not in the least sure of her or about her, but you see—well, I had to tell you, hadn’t I?”
He led her towards the voiture. Even when they reached it she looked longingly back at the yacht.
“It would have been such wonderful freedom,” she sighed. “You used to care, Grant. I thought that you used to care quite a great deal.”
He handed her into the carriage and tucked the rug around her. The hand which he touched was cold.
“The Hotel de Paris,” he told the man. She leaned back without another word. He listened to the horses’ hoofs ringing on the hard macadam road. As they turned the corner she waved her hand—a pitiful little salute.
THE spray came flashing back like drops of crystal sunlight from the bows of the Grey Lady as she rose and dipped, ploughing her way southwards in the teeth of a stiff breeze. The rolling blue of the Mediterranean was crested with multitudinous little white caps. Sometimes the wind lifted the foam bodily from the breaking waves and dashed it like a shower of April rain across the white decks. Susan, holding fast to the rail, tossed her head back to let the wind sweep through her hair.
“It’s wonderful, Grant,” she exclaimed. “This is the best day we’ve ever had on the Grey Lady. The wind’s getting up, too, isn’t it?”
“It’s freshening a little, I think,” Grant admitted. “Thank heavens, you’re all good sailors.”
“Upon me, when sailing,” Cornelius Blunn declared, “the sea has a pernicious and devastating effect. It gives'me appetite, it gives me thirst, it fills me with the joy of life. Yet no sooner do I set my foot upon an ocean steamer than I am incapacitated. It is amazing!”
“I’m glad you mentioned that—the little matter of thirst,” Grant observed smiling. “It is a long time between afternoon tea and cocktails. We must introduce Baron Funderstrom to my famous Scotch whiskey. Let’s go into the smokeroom. They’ve got the fiddles on the table.”
Baron Funderstrom, a tall, gloomy man, grey-haired, grey-bearded, greyvisaged, of neutral outlook and tired manners, accepted the invitation without enthusiasm or demur. He drank two whiskeys and sodas quite patiently.
“It is good whiskey,” he pronounced. “It is wonderful,” Blunn agreed. "It reminds me of what I used to drink in my younger days.”
“It is not so potent as our own,” Baron Funderstrom remarked. “One could drink a great deal of this without discomfort.” His eyes were upon the decanter. Grant refilled their glasses.
“Wonderful!” Blunn repeated. “Mr. Slattery, you are the best host in the world. Never shall I forget our first picnic on board this yacht. It is amazing that you should invite us again so soon. Tel)
me—you will not think I am presuming, I am sure—but our invitation as I received it, was a little vague. Do we dine on board to-night, or are we to be landed?”
“You dine on board most certainly,” Grant announced. “If this wind continues we may not be able to land you until quite late in the evening. However, I think that I can promise that my larder and my cellar will be equal to any demands we can put upon them.”
“So far as one can judge,” the Scandinavian observed, “they are capable of anything. It is a great thing to own a yacht like this. It’s the acme of luxury. Speaking of returning, though, Mr. Slattery, you will not forget that we have to leave for Nice at nine o’clock to-morrow morning.”
“That’s all right,” Grant assured him. “The wind always goes down with the twilight.”
“When shall we change our course?” Cornelius Blunn enquired, looking out of the porthole.
“Presently. It’s pleasanter to make a straight run out.”
Prince von Diss swaggered into the smoke-room. He seemed smaller than ever in his nautical blue serge, and he was perhaps not quite such a good sailor as the others. He was certainly looking a little pinched.
“Mr. Slattery,” he said, in a loud and important tone, “I have been talking to your Navigator. Isn’t it almost time we altered our course? We have been out of sight of land for an hour and more.”
“I expect Captain Martin knows what he’s about,” Grant observed coolly. “Come and try this whiskey, Prince, or would you prefer a brandy and soda?”
“I never drink spirits,” was the prompt reply. “Wine, if you have any.”
“I have some Clicquot—a very excellent year.”
“I will drink some Clicquot,” Prince von Diss decided.
THEY all sat down again while the steward produced an ice-pail. There was a disposition on Blunn’s part to forget that they had been drinking^ whiskey and soda. Grant managed to slip away. He reached the deck and sat down by Gertrude’s side.
“Are they all right?” she asked, dropping her voice a little.
“Perfectly contented so far! They’ve begun on champagne now after whiskey and soda. I’m hoping that they may feel like a nap before dinner.”
“Champagne!” she murmured. “That’s Otto, I’m sure. He never drinks anything else. I don’t think, though,” she went on, “that you’ll ever get him to drink enough to make him sleepy. When do you think the trouble will come?”
“Not until after dinner,” Grant assured her. “I shall set the course a little differently before then. As soon as it is necessary to get steam up, I shall be sent for down to the engine room.”
“Really, life might have been very amusing,” she sighed, “if only—”
“It will be amusing enough presently,” he interrupted. “I can see that your husband is already in rather an uncertain mood—ready to make trouble at the slightest provocation.”
“Our friend the Baron, I should think, will remain perfectly philosophical, especially if he has already touched the fifty thousand pounds,” Gertrude declared. “He’s the most colourless person I have ever met.”
Cornelius Blunn came out of the smoking room and walked towards them. His expression was inclined to be thoughtful. He stood for a moment watching their course. Then he looked at the sun.
“You’ll have a long beat back,” he remarked to Grant.
“I shall steam back,” the latter told him. “We’re sailing now—for one thing, because it’s so much pleasanter, and the women enjoy it so.”
“We would wish to avoid even the appearance of interfering with your arrangements,” Blunn said, “but you will not forget that our friend Baron Funderstrom is a delegate—that means he must leave for Nice at nine o’clock to-morrow morning.”
“He’ll be back before midnight.”
“It is_rather a pity Lord Yeovil was not able to join us. We should have felt quite safe with him here.”
“He and Lymane are hard at it, getting things ready for to-morrow,” Grant explained. “It isn’t very often he misses a day on the sea. What about a rubber of bridge before dinner? I’ll order a table.”
HE STROLLED away. Blunn turned towards Gertrude. He looked at her for a moment thoughtfully.
“Has anything about this cruise struck you as being in any way peculiar?” “Why, no,” she replied. “It all seems very pleasant. Mr. Slattery is a wonderful host.”
“Marvelous!” he assented. “Still I don’t quite see why he’s standing such a long way out or why he was so particularly anxious to have Funderstrom as a guest. Funderstrom is not an attractive man.”
“As a matter of fact it was I who suggested him,” she admitted. “And having once mentioned his name, I suppose Mr. Slattery was trying to be civil.”
“It was you who suggested him,” Blunn repeated thoughtfully. “Ah well, we shall see. I expect I’m being very foolish. We shall soon know.”
“I don’t know about being foolish, but you’re very mysterious,” Gertrude said, with slightly uplifted eyebrows.
“It is because I am on the scent of a mystery,” he replied. “A crude mystery, a clumsy affair without a doubt—but still
a mystery. We shall see.....”
“When we get on deck after dinner,” Grant said later, “we shall be headed for the land and under steam.”
“At what time do you propose to get rid of us?” Gertrude asked.
“In time for a final flutter at the Casino, if you’re keen about it,” he assured her.
The service of dinner proceeded. The wine circulated, conversation, which had languished at first, soon became gay, even uproarious. Cornelius Blunn alone seemed to be scarcely in his usual spirits. He looked often out of the porthole.; more than once he glanced at the clock.
“What about the course, now?” he asked his host once.
“We are round by this time,” Grant answered. “You’ll hear the engines directly.”.....
Another half-an-hour passed, however, and the engines remained silent. Then one of the junior officers came in and whispered in Grant’s ear. He laid down his table napkin.
“May I be excused for a minute?” he begged. “A matter of etiquette. My engineer always has to consult me. À perfect bluff, of course.”
He was gone about ten minutes. When he came back they all looked at him a little curiously. It was Gertrude who became spokeswoman.
“Is anything wrong, Grant?” she asked. “We’re not going to be shipwrecked or anything, are we?”
“Not a chance of it,” he assured her. “I wish there were. I’d show you what an Admirable Crichton I should make. As a matter of fact there’s a little trouble with one of the pistons. We may not be able to get going for an hour or so.”
There was a brief silence. Then Susan laughed gaily.
“What fun! Shall we have to sleep on board?”
“Not so bad as that, I don’t suppose,” was the cheerful reply. “If you do, though, I fancy we can manage to make you comfortable. Bad luck it’s a head wind, or we could beat it. We’re gaining a little all the time, as it is.”
Baron Funderstrom finished his glass of champagne and looked to see if there was any more in the nearest bottle.
“There will be no doubt, I trust, about my being landed in time to get to Nice to-morrow morning?” he enquired.
“Not the slightest,” Grant promised, making a sign to the steward.
They sat for the best part of an hour round the table. The women went out on deck, but Susan soon returned in glistening oilskins.
“Dark as pitch,” she declared, “and little spits of rain all the time. Really, Mr. Host, you do provide us with lots of variety, even in the way of weather.” Grant rose to his feet.
“We’ll have a look round,” he proposed. “I thought we should have heard the engines before now.”
THEY trooped out on deck. One of the stewards was busy handing out oilskins and sou’-westers. They walked up and down for a moment or two. There were no lights in sight, and they seemed to be doing little more than drift.
“I’ll go and have a talk to Captain Martin,” Grant suggested. “Perhaps I’d better look downstairs first though, and see what Henderson can arrange, in case we have to give you a shake-down.”
“Fd like to come with you,” Cornelius Blunn, who had been curiously silent for some time proposed. “Which way are your quarters?”
Grant led them along the oak panelled passage and threw open the door of his own little suite. Blunn, who was following close behind, suddenly pushed against him, so heavily that Grant slipped. The Prince, who had joined them on the stairs, slammed the door. Grant felt the cold pressure of a pistol against his forehead.
“If you utter a sound,” Blunn threatened, “as sure as I’m a living man you’ll be a dead one. Hold up your hands, and back away there.”
Grant help up one hand and stooped and picked up a cigar with the other.
“I give you my word of honour that I am not armed,” he said, “and I haven’t the faintest intention of quarrelling with a man who is. Now what’s it all about?” “Will you give the order to start your engines?” Blunn demanded.
“I’ll see you damned first,” was the emphatic reply.
CAPTAIN MARTIN and Chief Engineer Nicholson were smoking a pipe together in the latter’s very comfortable but somewhat out-of-the-way quarters when, to their surprise, the door of the cabin was abruptly opened to admit two of the ship’s guests, Cornelius Blunn and Baron Funderstrom.
“Good evening, gentlemen,” the Captain said, in some surprise.
Cornelius Blunn was not wasting words. “We want to know, Mr. Engineer, what is wrong with your engines. Why can’t you start up and get us back to Monte Carlo according to promise?”
“My engines! Who said there was anything wrong with my engines?” Nicholson demanded.
“Mr. Slattery has told us so,” was the curt reply. “He told us not a quarter of an hour ago that you were afraid to start them for fear of an accident to one of the pistons.”
“Well, if Mr. Slattery said so,” the Chief Engineer observed, “he’s doubtless right.”
“I do not believe it,” Blunn declared. “We have reason to suspect that Mr. Slattery is trying to keep us out here all night for a purpose of his own.”
“If you think that,.it’s Mr. Slattery you’d better talk to, sir,” Nicholson suggested. “My job on board this boat is to take orders from the owner. You’d better go and complain to Mr. Slattery, if there’s anything not to your liking.”
“We have complained to Mr. Slattery,” Blunn rejoined. “He has refused to order you to start the engines.”
“Then that’s all there is to be said about it,” the Captain intervened. “They’ll start all right as soon as Mr. Slattery says the word, and not before.” Cornelius Blunn’s hand left his hip pocket. He was a good judge of men and he realized that threats were not likely to help him.
“Look here,” he said. “You two are sensible men. I’m sure of that. I want to tell you that Mr. Slattery is playing a very dangerous game. He is pretending to be broken down to keep this gentleman, Baron Funderstrom, from attending the Nice Conference to-morrow.”
“Aye, aye,” the Engineer observed. “He has some good reason, no doubt.”
“I am not going to threaten you with what may happen if this conspiracy is persisted in,” Blunn went on. “I want to put the matter to you another way. Start your engines up and get us into Monte Carlo before morning, and you shall have a draft for five thousand pounds, during the day.”
. “Five _ thousand pounds!” Chief Engineer Nicholson exclaimed.
“Five thousand pounds!” the Captain echoed.
“It’s an enormous sum,” the former declared.
“It is yours,if you’ll doas I haveasked,” Blunn assured them.
_ ‘‘What’S the matter with Mr. Slattery giving me my orders?’ ’Nicholson demanded.
“Mr. Slattery has already given you his orders, and we don’t approve of them,” Blunn replied.
“It’s a pity, that,” the Chief Engineer regretted, “for Mr. Slattery’s are the only orders that are likely to receive any attention on board this ship.”
“If to that five, I were to add another two?” Blunn suggested.
“Seven thousand pounds!' Why, man alive, it’s a tremendous sum,” the other gasped. “I’d not know what to do with such a fortune.”
“That is for you to decide,” Blunn said impatiently. “You can make your own arrangements with the Captain. All we ask of you Is to start your engines, and of the Captain, to take us into Monte Carlo. Come! This shall mean your fortunes, both of you. It shall be ten thousand pounds between you, paid in cash tomorrow morning.”
“Ten thousand pounds!” the engineer repeated. ‘‘Did you hear that, Captain Martin? Five thousand apiece! Why, man, the money would be a temptation to us. Like as not we would stay on land and get drunk, instead of coming to sea, like decent seafaring men should.”
“Will you do it, or won’t you?” Blunn demanded, suddenly suspicious of the other’s attitude.
The Chief Engineer knocked the ashes from his pipe.
“I’m thinking,” he said, “that neither of you gentlemen are much used to the sea and the ways of seafaring folk, or you know that there isn’t a self-respecting officer born who’d take his orders from any, except his skipper. You’re simply wasting your time here, gentlemen. If you’ll excuse me I’ll be getting along. I’ve a fancy for a word with Mr. Slattery.”
“You’ll stay here for the present,” Blunn declared coolly. “Don’t make a fuss about it, please. No one wants to hurt you, but there’s a great deal at stake, and a few men’s lives won’t make much difference.”
THE engineer looked in blank and genuine amazement down the black muzzle of Blunn’s automatic.
“Take your finger off that trigger, you blithering idiot,” he shouted. “Don’t you know it might go off at any minute?” “It’s very likely indeed to go off if you move,” Blunn assured him. “Just as you are, please, both of you.”
Baron Funderstrom stepped backwards and Blunn followed his example. Outside, they shut the door, and locked it. The two officers stared at one another openmouthed.
“So that’s the game,” the engineer exclaimed. “We’re keeping that warmedup corpse of a lop-eared German from going to the Conference. Abductors! That’s what we are.”
The Chief Mate, Henry Fosbrooke, was standing, his back to the rail, watching the somewhat erratic antics of an uncertain wind in his mainsail. The yacht being for a watch under his control, he was indulging in some mild speculation as to the reason for the curious instructions he had received. To him, out of the gloom, came Blunn, bulky, ponderous, slow-footed, followed by Funderstrom, grey and cold, silent as a dead man.
“Are you the officer in charge?” the former asked.
“I am, sir, for my sins,” was the civil reply. “We’re giving you a queer sort of entertainment to-night.”
“My friend here, Baron Funderstrom, and I are the victims of a practical joke,” Blunn continued. “We have a proposition to make to you.”
“A proposition,” the officer repeated, watching the slow bellying out of his sail. “If it is anything to do with getting busy down in the engine room, I shall be glad to hear it anyhow. I don’t fancy this flopping about like a lame duck, with squalls in the offing.”
“To tell you the truth, neither do we,” Blunn declared. “We want to turn the tables upon Mr. Slattery. Is there a Second Engineer on board?”
“There he is, sir,” the mate answered, pointing to a gloomy figure standing with his hands in his pockets a few yards off.
“I should like to speak to him for a moment. Please call him.”
THE appearance of the Second Engineer, who at once obeyed the summons, was distinctly encouraging. He was a youngish man, with shifty eyes, and a furtive manner.
"Is five thousand pounds apiece any use to you young fellows?” Blunn asked, addressing them both.
Neither of them answered. They could only stare.
“Get down to your engine room, start up and head this yacht back for Monte Carlo,” Blunn continued, “and the money is yours.”
“Without Mr.|Slattery’s orders?” the Officer of the Watch gasped.
“Mr. Slattery, at the moment, is not in a position to give orders,” was the terse reply.
“What about my^Chief?” the Engineer demanded.
“He is in the same position. You have got the run of the ship, for a time. Do as I say and I swear before God you shall have the money.”
“The devil!” the Mate exclaimed. “I thought there was some queer work afoot. What’s wrong with Mr. Slattery?”
“Nothing serious,” Blunn assured them. “I have locked him up. He is trying to play a trick on us. It is perfectly fair and just to defend ourselves. He is endeavoring to keep us from making land before dawn. We are determined to get there, somehow or other. It is five thousand apiece. There’s some fun to be got in the world for five thousand, you know.” “I’m on, anyway,” the Second Engineer decided. “We can’t be getting any one into bad trouble.”
“You will not be getting any one into trouble at all,” Blunn declared. “My friend here is Baron Funderstrom, Scandinavian delegate at the Nice Conference. All Mr. Slattery is trying to do is to prevent his attending the meeting to-morrow morning, for political reasons. We intend that he shall be there.”
“But what’s become of my Chief?” his subordinate asked anxiously.
“Locked up in his own room,” was the blunt reply, “and the Captain with him. That can’t last long, I know, but it won’t take us very long either to get back to Monaco, with a full head of steam on.” “All right,” the Officer of the Watch announced. “I’ll take her in charge. We’ve scarcely any sail on her now. We’ll get rid of that directly. Five thousand pounds each, mind!”
“It is a bargain,” Blunn assured them. They disappeared in different directions. Blunn, followed by Funderstrom, his silent and almost ghostly shadow, strolled along the'deck. Away aft Rose Lancaster and her brother, Susan and Gertrude, were still laughing and talking. Susan looked up as they approached.
“Where’s every one?” she asked curiously. “They all seem to have gone to sleep.”
“Where is Mr. Slattery?” Gertrude demanded. “And what have you done with my husband?”
“They are all trying to solve the problem of this slight break-down,” Blunn explained. “It seems to be a more intricate affair than we thought.”
“I don’t care when we get back,” Susan declared recklessly. “I’ve been to look at the cabins downstairs, and I never dreamed, of such luxury in my life.”
“Odd thing about Slattery, though,” Lancaster observed. “Is he really down in the engine room?”
“I left him there,” Blunn told them. “Like every owner, I believe he fancies that hjs presence encourages les autres.” “By jove, it has, too!” the young man exclaimed. “Can’t you hear the thud? The engine’s started.”
There was a chorus of exclamations. Susan rose from her place and glided unnoticed round to the other side of the deck.
SUSAN'passed unseen down the companion-way and into the saloon. A single steward was there, busy at the sideboard.
“Where are all .the others?” she enquired.
“They are having supper, your ladyship.”
“Do you know where Mr. Slattery is?” “He is in his room with another gentleman.”
Susan hesitated for a moment, and then continued on her passage through the saloon. The man deferentially but effectively barred the way.
“If your ladyship will excuse me,” he said, “Mr. Slattery gave instructions that he was not to be disturbed.”
“You’re telling me a lie,” she answered promptly. “Mr. Slattery gave no such orders.”
The man faltered.
“Well, the gentleman with him did, your ladyship.”
“That isn’t at all the same thing,” Susan declared. “Stand aside, please.” The man hesitated. He was a somewhat undersized person, and Susan, just then, felt herself possessed with the
strength of half-a-dozen such. She swept him on one side, and passed along the passage beyond the saloon. At the second door, which she knew to be Grant’s, she paused, knocked in vain and then tried the handle.
“Who is there?” Grant’s voice enquired.
“Curse you, shut up!” von Diss muttered angrily.
“Grant, is anything wrong?” Susan called out.
“A great deal,” he answered, “and you seem to have been the only person with common sense enough to find it out. Can you get hold of Captain Martin and tell him there is a mutiny on the ship? I’m locked in here.”
The door was stealthily opened. A hand flashed out and caught her by the wrist. She felt herself being dragged into the room. And then pandemonium. The sudden opening of the door showed her what had happened. Grant lounging on his bunk, covered by von Diss’s weapon, took advantage of that sudden turn, to make the spring which he had been •contemplating for some time. Von Diss s right arm was knocked up by a cruel undercut, one barrel of the pistol went -off harmlessly into the wall. With the other hand, Grant struck him on the side of the head. He collapsed with barely a groan, half on the floor and half on tné sofa. Grant stooped and picked up the pistol.
“Bless you, my child!” he said to Susan, who was standing, amazed but unshaken, on the threshold.
“What does it all mean?” she demanded wonderingly.
“Oh, we a=ked for trouble all right,” he admitted. “We’re abductors, pirates, whatever you like. I don’t blame these chaps for not taking it lying down. But I think they might have put up a better class fight. Now let’s get on deck. I want to find out who the mischief gave orders to start the engine.”
‘.‘What about him?” she asked, pointing to the floor where von Diss lay moaning and half conscious.
“I’ll send a steward down,” Grant promised. “He’s got lots of nerve, I will say that for him. He got me covered and his hand was like a rock. He’d have shot me all right if I’d moved. He made the mistake of his life when he took his eye off me to pull you in. Now we’ll have to see about these engines.”
» She slipped her arm through his. They made their way through the deserted saloon, up the companion-way, and out on to the weather side of the deck. A young officer came along, smoking a cigarette. He saluted as Grant spoke to him.
“Who’s on the bridge, Simpson?”
“Fosbrooke, sir.. It’s my relief, but he preferred to go on for another hour. Said he had some special orders.”
“What’s our course?”
“Almost due north, sir,” the youth answered. “We shall fetch Monaco in about two hours.”
Grant nodded and walked forward to the steps leading to the bridge. The look-out man stood behind the white canvas. A solitary figure was pacing backwards and forwards.
“Stay here,” Grant whispered. “There’s probably some one else lurking about to see that this fellow isn’t interfered with.”
“Not I!” she insisted. “I’m coming up with you. You haven’t another pistol, have you?”
“No, but you can have this one,” he answered, pushing it into her hand. “They won’t suspect your having one
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and I’m pretty useful with my fists. Got it? Good! Now, go round the other side and tell Gertrude to look after her husband. See what’s doing, and then come forward. I can’t think what’s become of Martin and the Chief Engi neer.”
SHE nodded and glided away through the darkness. Her slippered feet were noiseless upon the deck, and in her black gown she was almost invisible. Grant mounted the steps rapidly. There was no sign of any unauthorized person upon the bridge. The words of stern enquiry were already framed upon his lips. Then, just as he stood on the last step, something swung out from behind the canvas protection. He felt a crashing blow on the side of his head, a sudden sensation of fury, followed by one of darkness. He fell down the steps and collapsed on the deck below. Cornelius Blunn, an ugly block of wood still in his hand, peered over and looked at him.
_ “A pity,” he muttered. “I hate violence.” . . .
The seaman had turned round from his shelter on the bridge. He glanced anxiously toward the Officer in charge. “What’s going on here, sir?” he asked. “Only one of the Commander’s guests run amok,” was the answer. “Had too much to drink and wanted to come and sail the ship. Get back to your post, Burgess.”
The man looked uneasily below. He was not at all satisfied.
“Seems to me they’ve treated him a bit roughly, sir,” he said.
“Not our job.”
“Hadn’t I better go down and have a look at him?” he persisted.
“Stay where you are, damn you!” was the reply. “We’re doing twenty-six knots with a cloud of rain ahead, and thirty fishing boats somewhere about. Attend to your job.”
THERE was a certain irony about Susan’s reappearance aft. Grant’s string quartette band of which he was so proud had begun to play soft music, and a steward was handing round orangeades, whiskey and soda, and some cup. Funderstrom had rejoined the little group and was sitting upon the outskirts, cold and silent as ever. Gertrude and Rose were listening to the music, but the latter was clearly uneasy. She welcomed Susan eagerly.
“Susan, where is everybody?” she exclaimed. “I never knew anything so mysterious. Mr. Slattery hasn’t been back all the time. Prince von Diss has disappeared, and now even Mr. Blunn has deserted iis.”
“I suppose it’s the trouble about the engines,” Susan observed. “I don’t think there’s anything to be alarmed at, though. The sea’s quite calm even if we do break down.”
Mr. Cornelius Blunn suddenly came into evidence. He stepped through the companion-way with the obvious air of having something to say.
“There is no cause for alarm,” he assured them, “the whole affair is a mere trifle, but Mr. Slattery has met with a slight accident. He seems to have slipped coming down the steps from the bridge. We’ve taken him into the saloon. If one of you ladies, who is accustomed to bandaging—”
Gertrude and Susan both rose to their feet. Susan, however, was half way down the stairs, before the others had started. Grant was lying upon a sofa, and a steward was bathing his forehead. He looked up as Susan entered. She hurried over to his side and waved the steward away.
“Are you hurt, Grant?” she whispered eagerly.
“Not I,” he answered. “I’m making the worst of it, but I shall be all right in half an hour. It’s a fair enough fight, Susan, but these fellows are in earnest, especially Blunn. Look here, Nicholson and Martin must be locked up in the Chief Engineer’s quarters. All the bells are cut, but the Captain’s boy is certain to find them within half-an-hour. The worst of it is, we shall be in sight of Monaco in an hour or so if they keep this speedup.”
“They shan’t,” she declared. “Tell me. Who’s my man? Where shall I go, the engine room, or the bridge?”
“Bravo, child!” he muttered. “Look out! They’re coming. The bridge!”
To be Continued\