The Wrath to Come
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
HODSON and Grant dined together that evening in the latter’s room, and Grant was still telling his story when the telephone rang. It was for Colonel Hodson.
Hodson spoke a few brief words and listened. “Slattery,” he said, “that was a man from Poynter’s Detective Agency. They’re the people we called on this morning about this young woman. They think they’ve found her. Will you come along with me?”
They jumped into a taxi and Hodson gave the man an address on the other side of the park. They pulled up outside what was evidently a second-class lodginghouse. On the steps a young man was waiting “Colonel Hodson?’ he asked.
“Right,” Hodson answered. “Are you from Poynter’s?”
“Yes, sir. Mr. Poynter’s upstairs himself. He left me here to wait for you. Will you go up to the top floor?”
They climbed six flights of stairs. On the sixth floor Poynter stood waiting. He shook hands with Hodson and nodded to Grant.
“We’re up against a nasty piece of business, Colonel,” he announced. “I wanted you to see exactly how things stood for yourself before the police got hold of it.”
“Get on with the story,” Hodson urged.
“In the first place,” the detective pointed out, “the ■girl’s bell is cut. You see the wire there. It’s a clean cut, been done with a pair of nippers, within the last hour or two. Now come inside, sir. But,” he added, his hand upon the handle of the door, “you must be prepared for something unpleasant.”
“The young lady?” Grant exclaimed.
“She is dead,” Poynter answered gravely. “The scene is set for suicide. Personally I think there is not the slightest doubt that she was murdered. The door of her room was locked and the key is nowhere in her room. I picked the lock after I had tracked her down. This way, sir. The smell is still bad, but I have had the window open nearly an hour.”
They entered what was little more than a garret
bedroom. On the bed lay Cleo’s body. Mr. Poynter raised the sheet which he had drawn over her face and let it drop almost immediately. Above the girl’s head was the gas jet and from it a small piece of tube hung downwards. The remains óf the imprisoned gas were still escaping by the open window.
“She was quite dead when I picked the lock,” Poynter told them, “and for the moment I thought the gas would get me. I managed to make a rush for it to the window, though.”
“But surely all this points to her having committed suicide?” Grant queried.
“I am perfectly certain all the same that she did not,” the detective replied. “Not only has her bell been cut, but the telephone is cut too. She was lying half across the floor, trying to reach it or the window when I found her, and the window was fastened down with a nail which had only recently been driven in. There is not the least doubt but that some powerful person entered her room, held her down until the last moment, then rushed out, locking the door behind him. There are marks on her throat which could not possibly have been self-inflicted.”
Grant searched the room for a note or letter, but in vain.
“What she knew,” Hodson decided at last, “she has taken with her. You had better warn the police, Poynter, and stand by while they take a record of the things you have pointed out to me. You can say that we two have seen them.”
“And don’t let them take her away,” Grant insisted “I will be responsible for the funeral.”
“There’s just one thing,” Poynter said, casting his professional eye once more around the room. “I have a perfectly definite idea of my own as to the type of person who was following this poor girl. Am I to go on?”
“Absolutely,” Hodson replied. “You can treat it as a Government affair, Poynter, and take your orders from me. The young lady was suspected of having political secrets in her possession.”
“I’ll make a report in a few days,” Poynter promised.
They descended to their taxi and drove away. Both
Grant foils plotters who menace peace of world, but doesn't feel so sure of success with Lady Susan
men were silent. Grant was filled with a sense of horror. The sordidness of the little scene, its atmosphere of tragedy, its cruelty, had brought the tears into his eyes.
“If ever I get my fingers on the throat of that brute Itash,” he muttered, “I think that I shall kill him. What did you think of the matter, Hodson?”
“I think that Poynter was entirely right/’ was the confident reply. “And every moment I am coming round to your point of view. I am beginning to believe that this conspiracy really exists.”
“You’re coming in?” Grant inquired, as the taxi drove up to the Great Central Hotel.
Hodson shook his head. “You’ll see nothing of me for twenty-four hours or so,” he announced. “I am going to work in directions you can’t approach. You and Stoneham go on with your propaganda, even though the thing looks hopeless. Let your friends think that’s all you’ve got to depend upon. Don’t go away from your rooms for more than an hour or two without leaving word where you’re to be found. There may be some big things doing when I get started.”
TT WAS three whole days before Grant saw anything I more of Hodson. Then the latter appeared in his room about seven o’clock in the evening and demanded a cocktail.
“Glad you’ve remembered my existence,” Grant grumbled good-humoredly, as he gave the necessary orders. “Stoneham and I have been pegging away. There are heaps of things I want to know about.”
Hodson nodded. “There are big events close at hand,” he announced. “A great deal of what you suspect is true, with a few other trifles thrown in. Can you go to England to-morrow?”
“England!” Grant exclaimed. “Why, the Limitation of Armaments Conference starts here in a little over a fortnight.”
“You’ll be back for it,” the other assured him. T want you to catch the Katatonia to-morrow morning. She sails at eight o’clock. Let me see, to-morrow’s Saturday. You’ll be in Plymouth Wednesday, and in London Wednesday night Lord Yeovil will be expecting you. You can sail back on Saturday in the Sefalonia. You’ll probably return with Yeovil and his staff ”
“What am I to do in England?” Grant asked, trying to keep back an alien and most disturbing thought.
"Deliver dispatches from Washington,” was the prompt reply. “I have them in my pocket. I came through from Washington to-day. Great Britain polices the eastern waters for the Limitation of Armaments Conference, and we want a seaplane patrol over certain specified districts. There are a few other little matters to be inquired into, too.”
“Look here,” Grant expostulated. “You’re not sending me over to play messenger boy. are you?”
“What’s the game, then? Do you want to get me out of the way?”
“Not precisely that. Where are you dining?”
“With you, anywhere. I was going up to the Lotos Club. Stoneham generally drops in there.”
“I’m tired,” Hodson confessed. “I’d like to hear some music and look at some pretty women. I’ll go round and have a bath and change and call for you in half an hour. We’ll get a corner table at Sherry’s. I think, as we’re saving empires, we can afford some terrapin and a bottle of champagne.”
“You’re serious about that trip to England—because I must have my fellow pack?”
“Serious! My God, I am!” was the emphatic answer. “You’ll be the chief spoke in the wheel for the next ten days. You wont miss anything here, either. I’m gathering up some wonderful threads, but I’m doing it silently. I’ll come round in half an hour. I’m on your floor.”
A fit of restlessness seized Grant.
He gave his servant the necessary orders, interviewed the travel manager in the hotel and obtained the best accommodations possible on the steamer. Then he permitted himself to think deliberately, opened up the closed chambers in his mind, welcomed reflection and memory. He would see Susan. He would find out what her silence really meant, what she thought or believed about him.
In a sense, it was all very hopeless. He had been forced into an accursed position. He scarcely knew even now how to appraise it. And yet the big thing remained unaltered and still seemed to tower over everything else—he loved Susan.
THE two men dined at Sherry’s in a retired corner.
They dined, as Grant complained, like profiteers and gourmands. Hodson ordered caviar and lobster Newburg, terrapin, saddle of lamb, asparagus and champagne.
“A disgraceful meal,” Grant declared as he sipped his cocktail. “Do you really think we shall get through it?”
“Of course we shall,” Hodson laughed. “To tell you the truth, I’ve scarcely eaten anything for two days. They were a tough lot on the trains to Washington and back. I can manage better in the cities.”
“What do you mean?” his companion asked curiously. “Well, the same powers that murdered that poor girl and translated it into suicide were out for me,” Hodson explained. “If they had known that it was you who started me off, I expect you’d be in the same position. My own little crowd are pretty useful, though. And Poynter’s men are wonderful. There are two of them at the next table. They look all right, don’t they?” “They look just like two successful business men talking over a deal,” Grant observed.
“Well, they aren’t,” Hodson assured him. “They’re two of Poynter’s shrewdest detectives. They’ve got guns n their pockets and their job is to see that no one tries to steal a march on me from the lounge. One of my men is down in the kitchen. I dared not eat anything on the train, for they were in with the cook there. I’ve been shot at twice in the last twentyour hours. They nearly got me, too. It's a great storm that’s gathering, Grant.”
“Exactly why are you sending me to England?” “Listen,” was the earnest reply. “This is official. It comes from the White House. You know who owns the Nevi York now. You know the power at the back of the greater part of our press. They want to make had blood between Great Britain and this country. You can guess why. They’re at it already, and the British press, quite naturally, is beginning to take it up. Use all your influence with Lord Yeovil. Tell him the truth. Get him to take you to see his own big newspaper people and try to keep the feeling down. Beg him to disregard any attacks upon him personally either before he comes or directly he lands. It’s all part of the game. It will all be over, tell him, in two months; and for heaven’s sake do what you can to stop trouble.” “I certainly will," Grant promised. “I used to have a certain amount of influence with Lord Yeovil.”
“That’s why we’re sending you—one reason, at any rate. Then—hullo! Another farewell party, I see.”
“Why farewell!?” Grant asked, looking curiously at the newcomers.
“I hadn’t come to that. Cornelius Blunn is sailing for England to-morrow. He’ll be your fellow passenger.” “Where the devil is he off to?”
"A dozen of the most astute brains in the country, besides my own, have tried to answer that question,” Hodson replied. “At present, I must frankly admit that we don’t know. I have a theory. He’s getting a trifle shaken up in New York. Not exactly scared, but nervous. He wants to re-establish confidence. There’s a dinner of German bankers in London at which he is advertised to take the chair. He imagines that his attendance at that function just now wil put us off the scent. He’ll probably come back by your steamer.”
“Is he taking the casket with him, I wonder?” Grant reflected.
“I may consider some day,” Hodson said deliberately, “that within the last few hours I have made the mistake of my life. That girl’s whisper to you was probably the vital part of all that she had to tell. I honestly believe that the key to the whole conspiracy—and there is a conspiracy, Grant, I’ll tell you that—is in that casket, side by side, no doubt in affectionate communion, with that letter from old man Blunn, the present man’s father which we know he always carries with him. They’ll risk a lot for sentiment, these people.
“I honestly believe I ought to have raided his private room with a dozen picked men, broken open his safe and casket and shot myself if I found nothing. I believe it was a fair risk. Honestly, Grant, it wasn’t that I funked it. It was just because I knew all the time how Cornelius Blunn would have laughed at me if the thing had been a fake how the Department would have laughed at me, how the press would have poked fun.”
“ ALL the same ” Grant proposed a little doggedly, “give me a dozen men and a plan of campaign and I’ll run the risk.”
“As a last resource,” Hodson declared, “it is always open to us. Personally, I have some hopes in other directions. Now, let us see whom our friend, Cornelius Blunn, is entertaining. H’m! A respectable lot, but suggestive. Two great steel men, Pöttinger, the new editor of the New York, Admiral Purvin—he’s all right but inclined to be talkative—and Doctor Sinclair Forbes, the great Jewish educationalist. A respectable party but a dash of the Teuton about most of them. A farewell party that amounted to anything would have been given in his rooms. By the way, Grant, if you speak to Blunn on the way out, don’t tell him you’re sailing to-morrow.
“I’ve arranged for you to be a quarter of an hour late. They’ll put the gangway down again for you. I’m beginning to have great faith in Blunn’s organization. If he considered your presence in England likely to
prove inconvenient, I think it’s very doubtful whether you would reach the steamer in time. Now he’s seen us. Wave your hand, Slattery. Play his game. Love your enemies on the surface. Be glad to see the people you wish were at the bottom of the sea. It’s a great game as Blunn plays it. How he must hate to see us together! And yet, behold! A great honor is coming to us.”
Blunn had risen to his feet, with a word of excuse to^ his guests, and came across the room to them. He beamed upon Grant and shook hands with Hodson cordially, reminding him of a previous meeting at Washington.
T am giving a little farewell party,” he announced. “I have decided, rather at the last moment, to accept an invitation to visit London.”
“Didn’t I once hear you say that you seldom visited England?” asked Grant.'
“Your memory is excellent, Mr. Slattery,” Blunn admitted. “To tell you the truth, I do so now more from a sense of duty than with the expectation of any pleasure. The whole world knows that my father hated England, and, in a milder form, I have inherited his dislike. But, in these days of settled peace, what can one do? What good does it do to yourselves or to theworld to keep open the old sore? I have been asked to preside at the anniversary dinner given to celebrate the reopening of the German banks in London. I must confess that at first I refused, but strong pressure has been brought to bear upon me. I have decided to go. Naturally my presence on such an occasion will mean the burying forever of all feelings of ill will.”
“I think you are quite right,” Hodson remarked.
“So do I,” Grant echoed. “Your presence there will be of great significance. By the way, are you returning here then?”
“I am not sure. My friend Lutrecht, who is coming over to represent us at the Limitation of Armaments Conference, is very anxious that I should be here, but, personally, I think it exceedingly doubtful. My affairs in Germany require my presence, and I have promised to visit Hamburg within the next few weeks. I will only say au revoir, gentlemen. Mr. Slattery and I, at any rate, are c’tizens of the world, and we are likely to meet in most unexpected places.”
He returned to his table and the two men exchanged a smile.
“Even Cornelius Blunn,” Hodson murmured, “has a knack of telling the truth sometimes.”
There was humor rather than tragedy in the inevitable meeting between Cornelius
Blunn and Grant on the Katalonia. On the morning after their departure, Grant, while promenading the deck, heard a feeble tapping against the glass which enclosed the small promenade of one of the magnificent private suites, for which the vessel was famous. Mr. Cornelius Blunn, almost unrecognizable, swathed in
rugs, with a hot-water bottle at his feet and a servant by his side, was gazing out at the world with lackluster eyes. Grant obeyed his summons, pushed back the sliding door, and stepped inside.
“So you are here, my young friend,” Cornelius Blunn said weakly. “What does it matter? I am sick in the stomach. I do not think that I shall live till we reach Southampton.”
“Not so bad as that, I hope,” Grant ventured.
“It is worse,” Blunn groaned, “because I am beginning to hope that I shall not. Go away now. I am going to be ill. I wanted to be sure that I was not already seeing ghosts. If this were only your yacht!”
Grant hurried out with a word of sympathy.
“An object-lesson in proportionate values,” he reflected, as he walked down the deck—and then his little effort at philosophy deserted him. He himself found great events dwarfed by smaller ones. His heart was pounding against his ribs. He was face to face with Gertrude von Diss!
His first impulse was ludicrously conventional. He hastened to relieve her of the rug she was carrying. Behind her came a maid with coat, pillows and other impedimenta of travel.
“Gertrude!” he exclaimed, as he stood with the rug upon his arm. “Where have you come from? Where have you been?”
“Stateroom Number 84,” she replied, “and I am on my way to that chair, and please don’t ask me whether I have been ill. Come and tuck me up as a well-meaning fellow passenger should.”
He obeyed at once. The maid assisted his efforts, a deck steward supplemented them. Presently Gertrude declared herself comfortable and her entourage faded away. Grant sat by her side.
“I am going to break orders,” he said gently. “I am afraid that you have been ill.”
There were hollows in her cheeks. The freshness of her exquisite complexion had departed. Her eyes seemed to have receded. She was thin and fragile.
“Yes, ’ she admitted. “I have been ill. A nervous breakdown, accompanied by great weakness of the heart, was all that the doctor could find to say about it. I might have helped his diagnosis.’
“Don’t, Gertrude!” he begged.
“My dear man, don’t be afraid that I am going to break into reproaches! There is nothing more illogical in the world than the position of the woman who complains of a man because he doesn’t care for her. It is no sin of yours that you didn’t love me, Grant. It was most certainly no sin of yours that, for a few hours, I made you pretend to. That was entirely my affair— entirely my cunning scheme, which went wrong. Some idiot once wrote that ‘love begets love!’ I thought that with my arms around your neck I could have brought about a sort of transfusion, forced a little of what was in my heart into yours—and you see I couldn’t. In the morning I knew. You were very dutiful. Your lips were there for me if I wanted them. Your arms were ready for my body if I had been content to come. You were prepared to take advantage of all the nice and proper little arrangements which the circumstances had placed at my disposal. And of love there was not a scrap. I had made my venture and lost.”
“I was a brute,” he muttered. “I tried, Gertrude.” “What a horrible condemnation!” she laughed bitterly. “And so true—so damnably true. You did try. I watched you trying, hour by hour. I watched you drink champagne at night.
You tried to pretend.
It was I who had to make the excuses—because I knew; I who had to pretend not to see your look of relief.
Y ou never deceived me for a single moment,
Grant. It was I who gambled and lost.”
“I am sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she enjoined. “Now, I will tell you something.
Notwithstanding the great humiliation through which I have passed, I am glad. I am glad that it all happened. When this pain is lightened, I shall be more glad still.
I was restless and unhappy while I believed that I could reawaken your love. Now, I am every day more rested, more content. And here is the wickedness of me, Grant—I am glad about it. I do not regret for a single moment my experiment.
The only regret I have is that I failed.”
“You know why?” he ventured.
“You were very frank about it,” she admitted, “but somehow or other I couldn’t believe that you knew, yourself. You are a man of parts, even a little older than your years, and Susan Yeovil, for all her charm, is young. I used my brain upon the matter —foolishly — the one thing brain has nothing to do with. Finished, my dear Grant! That rug a little more closely round my left foot, please. And don’t imagine for a moment that I am going to offer my eternal friendship. About some matters my sentimentalism is not of the sloppy order. There’s a jagged edge about our rela-
tions and always must be. But that’s no reason why you shouldn’t make the deck steward bring me some of that delicious bouillon.”
“Where have you been, and where are you going?” Grant asked, as soon as he had ministered to her wants.
“I’ve been in New Hampshire,” she told him, “staying with one of the neglected aunts of my family. A wonderful spot among the hills. Incidentally I was ill there.”
“Well—I have plans but they are not concluded. My book, please, and then you can continue that swinging walk of yours. Afterwards pay me the little attentions one fellow passenger may offer to another, if you like. But rest assured that your liberation is complete.”
Grant chose another deck for his promenade. The magnificent and primitive selfishness of his sex had asserted itse f He found noth ng but relief in this meeting with Gertrude. He could, at least, go to Susan with his hands free, so far as he ever could be free.
THE preliminaries of Grant’s mission to London seemed to him, eager to get in touch with the vital things, monotonous and a little wearisome He paid his respects to his own Ambassador and received the entree to the Embassy. Afterward he made a formal application for an appointment with Lord Yeovil, and, after a brief delay, was accorded an interview in Downing Street at six o’clock that evening. The interval he filled up by calling with the naval attache of his Embassy upon the Admiralty, and with the m litary attache upon the War Office. At six o’clock precisely he was
received in Downing Street by Arthur Lymane, who welcomed him with a certain amount of surprise.
“Glad to see you and all that, Slattery,” he said, “but I never thought of you as being on the official side of anything. I thought you’d absolutely chucked the service some years ago.”
“I m on a special mission,” Grant explained. “They’ve sent me over to see one or two people here and especially Lord Yeovil. I’m going back on Saturday.”
“We shall all be fellow passengers then,” Lymane observed. “Do you think America will be able to stand the troop of us? Because we’re all coming—even bringing our own little typists this time.”
“Is Lady Susan—” Grant began hesitatingly.
“Yes, Lady Susan’s coming along.”
“She’s all right, I suppose,” Grant inquired. “I don’t seem to have heard anything of her for some time.” “In the pink. She’s been doing the honors for her father this season and doing them wonderfully, too.” “Engaged yet?” Grant ventured with a ridiculous affectation of carelessness.
“Nothing announced,” was the cautious reply. “There are three or four of them running neck and neck. Bobby Lancaster’s fallen behind a bit, although he’s as keen as ever. No matrimonial news about you, I suppose, Slattery.”
A little bell rang, and Grant was ushered into the presence of the man who, a few months ago, notwithstanding the differences in their ages, had been his most intimate friend. From the moment of his entrance, however, he understood that those days were past.
Lord Yeovil was courteous, even friendly. Nevertheless, the change in his demeanor would have been apparent to a man of duller perceptions than Grant.
“Very glad to see you again, Slattery,” the Prime Minister said, motioning him to a seat. “It seems a long time since we used to sit cudgeling our brains about those bridge problems.” “History is giving us something much more serious with which to occupy ourselves, sir,” Grant replied. “All the things which you and I used to speak about in those days are coming to pass.” Lord Yeovil nodded. “This time, I gather, you come to me officially.”
THAT is true, sir. I am the bearer of a message and representations from my Government to yours. May I beg for your serious attention?” “By all means,” the Prime Minister acquiesced. “My car is ordered for seven o’clock. Till then I am at your service. I will just give Arthur a few messages and leave word that we are not to be disturbed.” Until a quarter to seven Lord Yeovil was an attentive listener. When his visitor at ast finished, he was looking very grave.
“I have always felt a premonition of something of this sort,” he confided. “My invitation to the United States was practically founded upon it. But I must confess that I had no idea that things were so imminent. Nor even at the present moment is it quite clear to me how Germany and Japan pro-
pose to carry out their plans and to work this thing.”
“There is a great deal that we have to discover yet, sir,” Grant declared. “We’re reconstructing the scheme more thoroughly, day by day, but from the facts we have, it seems as though the central idea is that the Japanese fleet, which we have reason to believe is much larger than it should be, will approach the west coast of America at exactly the same time that the German fleet approaches the east coast—the German fleet, by the way, augmented, without a doubt, by the Russian. \Ve in America, as you know, sir, being the instigators of the Lim'tation of Armaments, have been most scrupulous in keeping zealously to our officia tonnage in every class of battleship, and the consequence seems to be that the American fleet, even if it could meet either of these others undivided, would be greatly inferior in numbers, and the idea of dividing it to meet these two opposing forces simultaneously would simply be to court disaster.”
“This, of course, is all supposition,” Lord Yeovil observed.
“Founded upon a certain amount of proof, which I shall presently produce,” Grant went on. “The most urgent matter, however, which I was begged to discuss with you, sir, was the attitude of certain portions of the American press toward yourself and this country. I shall offer you presently an explanation of that attitude and I am to beg you most sincerely, in the name of the President and the Government, to use your influence with the press of your own country to avoid, so far as possible, recrimination and reprisal.”^
“It is true, I suppose,” Lord Yeovil inquired, “that the New York is no longer conducted in the interests of your Government?”
“The New York,” Grant replied, “has been purchased by Cornelius Blunn, and is the most dangerous organ in America to-day.”
The Prime Minister glanced at his watch. “I fear that, for the present, we must adjourn our discussion,” he announced. “It has been a great pleasure to see you again, Slattery, and to receive you in an official capacity. No one could have been more welcome—as a representative of your people.”
Grant felt a sudden chill. He took his courage into both hands, however.
“I fear, sir,” he ventured, “that I seem to have forfeited in your eyes the position of which I was once very proud—the position of being a friend of your household.”
Lord Yeovil hesitated. The young man’s directness was almost disconcerting.
“I would not say that,” he rejoined, a little more kindly. “I am naturally a man of the world, and I am not a hard judge of any man’s actions. This is a matter, however, which, if you choose, we will discuss at another time.”
Grant rose to leave. There was again a very perceptible hesitation on his host’s part.
“To-night,” he said, “I am giving a reception at Yeovil House, a sort of farewell before I leave for Washington. Most of the diplomatic people will be present. If you care to attend, it will give me great pleasure to see that you have a card. You are staying at the Embassy?”
“You will have a card within an hour.”
Grant once more summoned all his courage.
“Shall I have the pleasure of meeting.Lady Susan?” he asked.
“My daughter has made her debut this season as a political hostess,” was the polite but somewhat cold reply. “She will be assisting me to-night.”
It was gone, then, the old cordiality, the easy terms of familiarity on which Grant had stood in the household. Lord Yeovil had become to him—as he had to most of the world—a courteous and polished diplomat, kindly and gracious in words and demeanor, but a man who seemed almost outside the amenities of life. And, if the change was so noticeable in him, what had he to expept from Susan?
He was in a depressed frame of mind when he called in at Carleton White’s, selected the most beautiful roses he could find, and sent them to Yeovil House. Afterward he went back to the Embassy and was kept there until eight o’clock. There were many questions raised over the dispatches he had brought, which were of vital interest to various members of the staff.
Grant could not help contrasting the atmosphere here and the atmosphere in Washington. Geographically the two were not so far apart. The press, cables, wireless, rapid travel had, in the language of the journalists, brought the two hemispheres side by side, and yet there was an extraordinary difference in outlook, in political perspective. Things which in Washington seemed far away, phantasmal, hatched in the brain of the alarmist, inconceivable in real life, here assumed a different appearance. Here, at any rate, it was realized that Europe had become once more a huge whispering gallery of intrigue, that the curtain might at any moment be raised again on the great drama of war and bloodshed.
It was after half-past ten when Grant, in the suite of his own Ambassador, mounted the stairs of Yeovil House and waited for some time in the block which had collected at the entrance to the reception rooms. From where he stood he suddenly recognized Susan, recognized her with a little shock of mingled pleasure and apprehension. His first impression was that she had changed, had grown older in some marvelous fashion, without the loss of any of her beauty or freshness. She wore the gown in which, only a few months ago, she had been presented. Her hair, in the midst of a galaxy of brilliant coiffures, was arranged as simply as in the old Monte Carlo days, and the jewelry she wore consisted only of a simple rope of pearls.
Yet she seemed to have assumed without effort and with perfect naturalness a becoming dignity and ease, wholly in keeping with her position as the hostess of a great gathering, and having a certain piquant charm when associated with her extreme youth. She talked gaily and without embarrassment to all the guests in turn, passing them on with that tactful little word which is sometimes a hostess’s greatest difficulty and having always the air of thoroughly enjoying her position, of finding real joy in welcoming individually members of the distinguished crowd which streamed slowly by. More than once Lord Yeovil, who in his court dress and dazzling array of orders was himself a striking figure, found time to glance for a moment, half in amusement, half in delight, at the girl by his side, whom the society papers of to-morrow were all to acknowledge as one of London’s most promising hostesses.
Step by step they moved on. Glancing upward, Grant fancied once that she recognized him. If so there was no change in her expression. She welcomed the Ambassador, talked for a moment with his wife, exchanged some jest about a golf match with the naval attache, and finally turned away, to find Grant standing before her. She gave him her hand and smiled as frankly as ever. There was no trace of self-consciousness in her manner. Yet Grant was aware of a great chill of disappointment.
“Welcome back to London, Mr. Slattery,” she said. “You really are a globe-trotter, aren’t you? I hope you’ve brought some new bridge problems with you for father. He needs a little distraction, poor dear, with all those terrible newspapers of yours hurling thunderbolts at his head.”
“Glad to see you, Slattery,” Lord Yeovil added. “You’ll find Arthur in the room to the left. If dancing amuses you, he’ll introduce you to some good partners.”
And that was the end of it. Grant found himself one among seven or eight hundred people, meeting an old acquaintance occasionally as he strolled about, introduced by Lymane to one or two young women with whom he danced, and all the time conscious of a sickening sense of disappointment. This was the meeting to which he had looked forward so eagerly. He was judged and condemned, wiped out, finished with. And why not? Who in the world would believe that Gertrude had come to him as a stowaway? Worse still, whom could he tell?
Later in the evening Arthur Lymane sought him out and presented him to a white-haired, lean-faced man, in the uniform of an admiral.
“Admiral Sullivan would like to have a word or two with you, Grant ” he said. “Unofficially, of course. The Admiral is head of our Naval Intelligence Department.”
“I have heard of Admiral Sullivan often,” Grant declared, shaking hands. “Once in Tokyo, where he wasn’t very popular, and again in Archangel.”
“Don’t mention that,” the Admiral begged, with a little grin. “Tokyo I don’t mind. I hear you fellows are getting the wind up on the other side of the pond.”
“We’re shaking in our shoes,” Grant assured him. “Can we find a place to talk?”
“I know the run of this house,” was the cheerful reply.
THEY passed outside the formal suite of reception rooms into an apartment opening from the billiard room—a small den, in which were a few easy-chairs, a quantity of sporting literature, several decanters, and some soda water.
“This is Arthur Lymane’s little shanty,” Grant’s cicerone explained. “Can I mix you one? Say when.” They subsided into easy-chairs. The Admiral’s blue eyes were still twinkling.
“By the by,” he confided, “I’m the man who handled your reports from Archangel and Berlin.”
“You didn’t throw them into the wastebasket, I hope?”
“Not on your life,” was the prompt assurance. “I acted upon them, and jolly quick, too. They tell me you’ve been doing S.S. work for Washington for the last two years.”
“Two years and a half, to be exact,” Grant admitted. “I’m beginning to piece things together now.”
‘Interesting!” his companion murmured. “There have been rummy things going on all over the world— heaps of loose threads we’ve got hold of ourselves. I wonder whether your conclusions are the same as mine?”
May 15, 1924
“There is no secret about my conclusions, so far as you’re concerned,” Grant replied. “I am convinced that there is a most venomous plot brewing against my country. That is why I am so thankful that the question of our joining the Pact has been raised again. My only fear is that it’s a trifle late.”
The Admiral selected and lit a cigar with deliberate care.
“Well,” he said, “the world knows my opinion of Pacts and Limitation of Armaments Conferences, and all that sort of twaddle. They are started by philanthropic fools to be taken advantage of by rogues. I’ve given Yeovil seven questions to ask the Japanese representative at Washington, and I’ll tell you that there isn’t one of them which he will be able to answer.”
“Thank heavens the Conference comes before the matter of joining the Pact is voted on by the Senate!” Grant exclaimed fervently.
“Damned good job, I should think,” the other agreed* “It’s easy enough to see that your country’s being riddled with propaganda. As regards that Conference, how long is it supposed to last?”
“Usually about a fortnight.”
“Well, I’ll tell you something. This time it won’t last for twenty-four hours.”
“Go on, please,” Grant begged.
“There’ll be a most unholy row,” the Admiral confided. “The only two countries who have kept to their program are yours and mine. France has built past her allotted number of submarines, and to be frank, we’ve winked at it. Germany and Russia between them, as you found out, have kept on exchanging ships and building ships for one another till even the experts can’t keep pace with conditions. If you take my advice, Slattery—and they tell me you’ve got the ear of your Government—you’ll cable home and urge your Administration with all the eloquence you can pump out of your brain, to accept Yeovil’s invitation and join the Pact and fight it out with the Senate afterwards.
“You people have got lots of the right stuff in you, I know, and you can’t believe that anything on God’s earth could hurt you; but take it from me, there’s a hell of a lot of trouble brewing. Get ’em to sign on to the Pact, Slattery. We shall have a finger in the pie then, anyway.”
“I went straight back to Washington from Monte Carlo,” Grant confided, “and I can assure you that I have done my best. The trouble of it is just as you pointed out a few minutes ago—there’s a propaganda going on over there which one can’t deal with, unless something happens which will drive the truth home to the people. That fellow Cornelius Blunn has founded an organization with branches in every city in the United States, and that organization exists primarily to stop America joining the Pact, and secondly, I am convinced, for her destruction. The press has been tampered with. Blunn has even succeeded in buying the New York."
“But surely your Government can’t be absolutely blind to what’s going on?”
“They’ve only just begun to realize it,” Grant assured his companion. “That’s why for this visit they’ve given me an official status. If the vote were taken to-day, I think the Senate would reject the proposal to join the Pact by a majority of three to one.”
The Admiral nodded sympathetically. “It’s a filthy business,” he said “I hate this underground work, myself. All the same, you don’t need to worry. When you people really are waked up, it doesn’t take you long to get going, and the first few hours of the Limitation of Armaments Conference will send all Cornelius Blunn s propaganda sky-high.”
“I must say you put heart into a man,” Grant declared gratefully.
The Admiral rose with a glance at the door and a welcoming smile
“Well,” he said, “here comes the young lady who’s taken the heart out of a great many of us. Lady Susan, we’ve made free with Arthur’s room and we ve drunk his whiskey. I don’t know what’s go ng to happen to us. My only excuse is that your father told me off to have a chat with Mr. Slattery.”
She laughed. “Why should you need an excuse? There isn’t a room in the house where you re not welcome, Admiral. I was scouting round with Arthur to see if there were any shirkers from the dancing room. We re so short of men. And, Mr. Slattery, my father wishes to see you before you leave.”
“I’m quite at his service,” Grant replied, rising.
BY SOME means or other the thing he had so greatly desired came to pass—he was left a few yards behind with Susan. She neither avoided nor sought this contingency. She walked by his side, humming slightly to herself, entirely at her ease.
“Lady Susan,” he began, with less than his usual confidence, “may I remind you of our parting at Monte Carlo, of something I said to you?”
She looked at him with slightly uplifted eyebrows. Continued on paje 32
Continued, from page 30 “I should consider your doing so in atrociously bad taste,” she answered.
He winced a little. Perhaps she saw that he was really suffering. Perhaps that love of fair play which was so strong in her rebelled against the idea of any possible misunderstanding. She slackened her pace. She made sure they were well out of hearing of the other two.
“I detest hearsay evidence,” she said. “I shall ask you a question. A terrible thing to do, I suppose, but I shall ask it all the same. Did the Princess von Diss accompany you on your yacht from Monte Carlo to America?”
“She did,” Grant admitted.
“And was she not also a passenger on the steamer from which you landed yesterday?”
“She was, but—”
“Please do not go on, Mr. Slattery,” she begged. “I hated asking you these questions, but I was determined that there should be no risk of any misunderstanding. I do not wish to quarrel, with you. I found you a very pleasant companion at Monte Carlo. I hope that we shall continue friends. We can only do so if you will remember that, although I do not think that I am a prude, I should consider any reference to that conversation at Monte Carlo as an insult . . Angela dear, what luck to meet you here! I want to present Mr. Grant Slattery, who is dying to dance—Lady Angela Brooks. Mr. Slattery is an American, Angela, and I will vouch for his dancing. He used to try to teach me complications, but I am not nimble enough. And, Angie, I don’t think you'd better lose your heart to Mr. Slattery. He makes love to single ladies most fluently, but he runs away with the married ones. I never thanked you for you~ roses, Mr. Slattery. Good night, all of you. I must go back to my post of duty.” Grant offered his arm to the very pretty girl who had been introduced.
GRANT was fully aware, on the afternoon before his return, that he had brought his mission to a most successful conclusion. The English press was receiving the attacks upon Lord Yeovil and his invitation with good-humored magnanimity. He had collected more evidence —evidence of a very sinister nature—as to the brooding air of unrest which everywhere prevailed, and, in view of certain contingencies, firmly uxed in his own mind but only half believed in by other people, he had obtained pledges of the utmost value and importance. Yet. so far as he personally was concerned, he knew that his visit had been a failure. The more he thought of it the more he became convinced that its failure had been inevitable, that his advertised delinquencies could have been looked upon in no other way. And yet he smarted under the judgment.
In Bond Street that afternoon, he heard his name pronounced by a woman alighting from a motor car just in front of him. He recognized her with some difficulty. It was indeed Gertrude looking entirely her old self.
“Still in London,” he remarked, as he stood by her side for a moment.
“Still here,” she assented. “I had orders to wait Mo meet my husband.” “Your husband!”
She smiled with faint irony. “My husband. Are you surprised? He arrives today. He is quite excited at the idea of seeing me again.”
“I can hardly believe it,” Grant observed, a little bewildered.
“But you,” she went on, “you have not the appearance of amusing yourself at all. You are worn to a shadow, my dear Grant. Why do you worry so about this little game of politics? Believe me, for all your efforts, the world will be very much the same in five or ten years’ time.”
“The philosophy of sloth,” he reminded her, smiling.
“Perhaps so. But you seem, indeed, very miserable,” she continued, studying him for a moment. “What is the matter? Are your love affairs going badly?”
“I have no love affair,” he answered. She looked at him a moment searchingly, and her lips slowly parted. She laughed— laughed the more as his frown deepened.
“You poor man!” she exclaimed. “And after all your sacrifices! Perhaps it was not so much of a sacrifice, though,” she went on, glancing unconsciously at her reflection in the plate-glass window of the shop in front of which they were standing.
“I suppose I have gone off. What do you think, Grant?”
“You looked ill on the steamer,” he told her. “To-day you look as well as you ever have done in your life.”
'T hope I do,” she murmured.
He broke away from the subject.
"May I take it, then,” he asked, “that you and your husband are reconciled?”
WE ARE about to be,” she admitted. “It is very amusing. I made the first overtures, or rather, Mr. Cornelius Blunn made them on my behalf. He pleaded my cause most eloquently. I have been given to understand that I am forgiven. My husband arrives to-day. We are staying at the Ritz. I think I will not ask you to call.”
She saw the displeasure in his face. For a moment she faltered. She was gripping her little gold purse tightly with the fingers of her left hand.
“I seem to you flippant?” she went on. “Well—you must make allowances for me. This is not exactly the happiest day of my life. I suppose really I should look for happiness in other ways—trying to do good, and all that sort of thing. If I were to play the much admired part of longsuffering heroine in the cinema romance of life, I should, of course, put on my plainest clothes, wait mysteriously upon your young ingenue, confess the whole truth to her at the cost of my own undying humiliation, and not leave her until I had shown her the truth. Then I should telephone you. You would leap into a taxi and drive to Yeovil House. I should take a last look at your photograph and an overdose of veronal. Curtain to slow music!”
Grant’s feelings had suddenly changed. He realized the state of strain in which she was.
“You’re talking a great deal of nonsense, Gertrude,” he said. “I am glad to have seen you. I am glad to hear your news. If I may be allowed to say so, I wish you happiness. I wish that I could have had a share in bringing it to you.”
He passed on a little abruptly, and Gertrude made her delayed entrance into the establishment where hovering satellites had been eagerly awaiting her. To Grant, the interview had been, in its way, a painful one. From a material point of view, Gertrude’s reconciliation with her husband was certainly the best thing that could have happened to her. Yet, during the whole of their conversation, he had been conscious of her misery. The meeting notwithstanding a certain sense of relief which it brought him, had only increased his depression. He strolled on without any particular idea as to where he was going. At the corner of Bond Street and Piccadilly he heard a familiar voice and felt a friendly hand upon his shoulder.
“Why so woebegone, my young friend? You ought to be up in the seventh heaven to think of all the excitement you are causing.”
Grant was suddenly down again in the world of real things. He shook hands heartily with his new friend.
“Good morning, Admiral,” he said. “Do I look as though I were indulging in a fit of the blues?”
“If I hadn’t been a brave man,” Sullivan declared, “—we’re all brave in the navy!—I wouldn’t have ventured to speak to you. Come along and lunch.” Grant hesitated. His companion took him by the arm.
“Ritz grill room—my favorite corner table,” he insisted. “We ought to have heaps to talk about—except that I am too hungry to talk at all. I’ve been up since five o’clock on your business—in the Marconi room at the Admiralty, most of the time.”
“Not much that’s fresh, anyway. We’re getting things into shape for the moment we receive word from Washington. There’s a Cabinet Council to-day, you know. Lucky some of our friends can’t get hold of the agenda. We should have the whole world by its ears to-morrow.”
THEY descended the stair and remained for a moment in the lounge of the grill room, while Sullivan ordered luncheon from an attentive maître d’hotel.
“I brought you here instead of the club,” Sullivan resumed, “because all the fellows would want to meet you and talk, and we’re not loquacious just at present, except to one another.”
“Very thoughtful of you,” Grant approved. “I had an idea that you might be coming across with us.”
“Can’t be done. We shall work the show from here. All the same, I must confess I had rather be in Washington. Have you sent that cable?”
“I’ve sent one a yard long. The trouble is, the Government is pretty well convinced already. It’s the voters we want to get at. What I’m afraid of all the time is that the trouble will commence before the President has been empowered to sign.”
The Admiral rose to his feet in reply to a summons from the maitre d’hotel and led his guest toward the table which had been prepared for them.
‘Don’t worry too much about that, young fellow,” he rejoined cheerfully. “I’m a sailor, not a politician, but I can see my hand before my face in the daylight. If half the members of the Pact go on the rampage—well, I shouldn’t be surprised if the other half didn’t follow suit. Now then, sit in that corner and try an English lobster.”
“Another thing that rather puzzles me,” Grant remarked, as they proceeded to enjoy their very pleasant luncheon, “is why our friends, the enemy, should have chosen for their enterprise the year in which England is policing the Asiatic seas on behalf of the Limitation of Armaments Committee. If it had been Germany’s year, for instance, they could have done what they liked.”
“Well, there are two reasons for that,” his companion explained. “The first is that the most important year, so far as secrecy is concerned, was last year, when some of their phantom ships were actually
slid down. Last year, as you know, Germany policed the whole of the eastern waters and reported everything O.K. Then, their second reason, no doubt, is that England polices very strongly, and it means at least two capital ships and subsidiary craft detached from the main fleet. They think they’ve got rid of those units in case, by any chance, we should break the Pact and intervene. As a matter of fact, we have made a few changes,” he went on, lowering his tone. “Our best battleship and three destroyers are on their way home now. Australia’s replacing them for us.”
“I am going to ask you the most improper question a person in my position could ask a person in yours,” Grant declared. “If the German fleet entered the Atlantic steaming westward, before America had had time to join the Pact, should you interfere?”
_ Sullivan grinned merrily. “The politicians have to decide that,” he reminded his guest. “But a look around our naval ports to-day would probably surprise you.”
“How would your strength work out?”
“A trifle to their advantage on paper,” the Admiral admitted, “if you count the Russians in. But there might be a little difficulty about Russia keeping her appointment. They have just been served with a notice to receive a police patrol of inspection for a report to the Limitation of Armaments Committee. They will either have to show their hand or stay in their harbor. I am a terribly pig-headed and prejudiced Britisher, and I swear by our own forces, but the French submarines have gone one or two ahead of us. I had sooner face the devil himself than the flotilla which is collecting in Cherbourg harbor.”
Grant’s eyes flashed for a moment. “You mean that France—”
“Pooh! My dear fellow, I don’t mean anything,” Sullivan interrupted. “I’m a sailor, not a politician. But I’ll tell you this. France is very often misjudged. Thirty years ago the world thought her self-centered, selfish, neurotic. So would any of us have been after what she went through. You wait. Jove! There’s our hostess of last night. Ripping, isn’t she? She’ll be the partie of the season.”
GRANT was conscious of a queer presentiment as he stopped to speak with Cornelius Blunn on the first day out from Southampton. Blunn was occupying his usual suite and was lying in splendid isolation on his own little portion of the deck. He had come on board the day before, to all appearances his usual self. Now, within twenty-four hours, he was again writhing in misery. There was something in his look, as he glanced up at Grant, which touched the latter.
“Sit down and talk to me for a minute, my young enemy,” he invited. “The doctor tried to tell me that part of this seasickness is nervousness. One should seek distraction, he says. Tell me how you succeeded in London.”
“Admirably,” Grant replied, accepting his invitation. “But I’m not going to cure your seasickness by telling you my secrets.”
Cornelius Blunn smiled faintly. “You’re a nice lad,” he said. “Pity you aren’t a German. I’d have made a great man of you.”
“I am very glad I am not a German.” “Why?”
Grant shrugged his shoulders. “Well,” he pointed out, “of course every nation has its characteristics, bad and good. Your people are industrious, domesticated, subject to discipline, and full of courage. On the other hand they are the most egregiously selfish and egotistical race upon the face of the earth. It is Germany first, and let any one else exist that may. That is what I don’t like about your people.”
Cornelius Blunn did not reply for a moment. “It may seem so to the world,” he conceded presently. “You see, we are a nation of individualists.”
“Why are you alone?” Grant inquired after a moment’s pause.
The troubled look returned to Blunn’s face.
“A chapter of accidents has befallen me,” he explained. “Muller, my bodyservant, and Felix, my secretary, who came over with me, missed the boat at Southampton. Both were executing commissions for me late in London, and I sent them down by car. They had an Continued on page 53
The Wrath to Come
Continued from page 32
accident, twelve miles from Guildford, and both were too injured to continue the journey.”
Grant murmured a few words of sympathy and presently departed. On the deck he met Lord Yeovil, with whom he turned and walked.
“Blunn seems to be quite ill,” he said.
“Unfortunately men do not die of seasickness,” the other rejoined. “It sounds a brutal thing to say, I suppose, but, in my opinion, it would be a great benefit to the world if Blunn were to be removed from it. I have come to the conclusion within the last few weeks, Slattery, that, more than any other man living, Cornelius Blunn represents the spirit of warfare and unrest. He is the personification of all that is evil in the German system. I can quite believe your story that he carries with him day and night a famous letter of hate, inscribed by his father on his death-bed. He not only carries the letter, but he carries the spirit.”
“One is so often tempted to like the man,” Grant remarked. “And yet I know that you’re right. If all that we suspect of his intrigues in America is true, he is a very terrible person. I hope Lady Susan is keeping well. I haven’t seen her about.”
SHE is playing deck tennis forward,” her father replied. “A pleasant game, but a trifle energetic for this warm weather. Lutrecht and his faithful henchman, von Diss, are playing ecarte in the smoke room. Did you know, Slattery, that von Diss was to be one of the German entourage?”
“I had no idea of it,” Grant answered hastily and with perfect truth. “I met the Princess in Bond Street the day before we sailed and she told me that her husband was arriving in London that afternoon. She gave me no idea that it was for the purpose of proceeding to the States or I that she was accompanying him.” I
“They keep their secrets well, these Germans,” Lord Yeovil mused. “They have method and reticence. I must go and spend my usual hour with Arthur. I don’t think I ever had such a mass of material to master in my life—pretty terrible, some of it, too.”
Grant strolled on and threw himself into a chair close to the rail. “Method and reticence!” He thought for a moment of C’leo's whispered words. If they were true —and he had never doubted them—the whole secret of the poisonous domestic conspiracy, as much to be dreaded as any avalanche of foreign aggression, was contained in two small volumes—neat, they would be; precise, they would be; venomous, they would surely be—and never so nearly within his grasp as now. He fell to studying the ethics of the much debated problem of justification by result. Cornelius Blunn, at the present moment, was probably more helpless than he would ever be again. Was it worth the risk of failure, the plan that was slowly forming itself in his mind?
Von Diss, very neat and dapper in white flannel trousers and blue serge coat of nautical cut, came up and touched Grant on the arm. He always made a show of being very friendly with the man he hated.
“I saw you talking to our friend, Cornelius Blunn,” he said. “His condition puzzles me. It is a terrible thing to suffer so from such a simple cause. Incomprehensible, too! He enjoys sailing as much as any man, and yet directly he gets on a big steamer, he collapses altogether.” “He was very ill coming over,” Grant remarked. “Yet he was himself again the night after landing. His speech at the Whitehall Rooms was an admirable production.”
Von Diss nodded. “He is not old,” he went on, half to himself. “He is a strong man. His mentality is amazing. Yet this simple illness seems to have thrown him into a strange disorder. I made a harmless request to him this morning, and he ordered me away.”
“A harmless request!” Grant felt a sudden inspiration. “A harmless request!” Bearing in mind Cornelius Blunn’s unprotected state, von Diss had probably asked for the care of the casket or that it be deposited in the ship’s safe. It was a perfectly reasonable suggestion.
“I expect you will find him better tomorrow,” Grant observed. “The Princess is, I trust, not suffering?”
“She is a little tired, but she has no mal-de-mer,” her husband replied. “I go now to fetch her. Presently I shall talk to our friend, Cornelius Blunn, again.”
He wandered off and Grant made his way to where the deck tennis was proceeding. He sat down and watched the players for a time. Presently, without noticing who her neighbor was, Susan came and shared his seat. She gave a little start as he spoke and made an involuntary movement. Grant rose at once to his feet.
“Pray let me go away,” he begged. “I am sorry that you find my presence so utterly distasteful.”
He was angry with himself directly he had spoken. She only laughed at him and settled herself down more comfortably.
“Don’t be absurd,” she said lightly. “Only I didn’t happen to notice who was sitting here. Don’t you play any of these games?”
“We’re having a competition,” she confided. “So far Charles Suffolk and I have beaten everybody. Oh, I must go!” she added, slipping off. “I see there is another couple ready for us.”
He watched her for a moment or two and turned away. He tried other parts of the ship, but some fascination seemed to draw him always back to that little enclosed space where Cornelius Blunn lay with half-dosed eyes. He had lost a great deal of his nat ural color and seemed somehow to have shrunken. Grant hesitated at the round glass door for a moment or two, wondering whether or not to enter. Then he realized that Blunn was asleep. He stooped down, withdrew the key from the lock of the door and placed it in his pocket. Afterward, he walked awavAfter resisting the impulse at least half a dozen times, Grant finally found his way, after dinner that evening, to the dancing deck aft. It was a very beautifully arranged space, given over in the daytime to various games, and at night covered with a specially prepared floor for dancing. The windows opened all the way round, and in hot weather the roof rolled hack. From one of the window
seats he watched for some little time. Susan was, as usual, surrounded by admirers.
He turned away and walked out on to the open deck. There was nothing more to be done. He was in a hopeless position. There was nothing he could say to her, no complaint he could make, no excuse he could offer. He drew a wicker chair to the side of the rail, threw himself down, lit a pipe, and began to smoke. Somehow or other, the tobacco tasted wrong, even the beauty of the night seemed to increase his depression. Presently he left off smoking, leaned-back in his chair and closed his eyes. They were playing a waltz he used to dance with Susan. He lay still and listened.
Susan, crossing the deck in search of her father, discovered him in conversation with the Prince and Princess von Diss. She stopped and was half inclined to retreat. Gertrude, however, had already turned toward her.
“Lady Susan,” she said, “I was just sending my husband to look for you. Will you come and sit with me for a moment?”
Susan glanced meaningly toward her father, who she had been told was looking for her. He mistook her appeal for help and smiled acquiescence.
“Do, Susan,” he enjoined. “I only sent for you to say that I was going to the smoke room. Von Diss and I will finish our little discussion there.”
Gertrude led the way toward a distant corner where there were two comfortable chairs. Susan walked by her side, apparently at her ease, but inwardly fuming. There was something about this woman which always made her feel young and unformed.
OF COURSE, my dear Lady Susan,” Gertrude began, “I know that you detest having to talk to me. But you see it really can’t be helped. My husband is meeting your father officially, and, so long as my husband has decided to make me so, I am a perfectly respectable woman.”
“I have had very little experience in the ethics of such matters,” Susan replied. “I am content as a rule to follow my own judgment.”
Gertrude settled herself quite comfortably in her chair.
“Ah, well,” she sighed. “You’re very young. It is just your youth which makes your judgment so absurd. You’re very angry with Mr. Grant Slattery, aren’t you?”
“Whatever my feelings may be with regard to Mr. Slattery, or any other man,” Lady Susan rejoined quietly, “they concern—if you will forgive my saying so— myself alone.”
“Very foolish,” Gertrude murmured. “Listen to me, please. Poor Grant! He really is in a ridiculous position. If there weren’t just a spice of tragedy attached to the situation, I am sure I should never accept the role of obvious idiot which seems thrust upon me.”
“I hope you’re not going to offer me any confidences,” Susan begged. “I do not desire them.”
“My dear Lady Prig, you’re going to hear what is good for you,” Gertrude continued calmly. “You can’t get up and leave mé, because I am an older woman, and it would be very rude of you. You probably think that when Mr. Slattery said good-by to you in Monte Carlo he knew that I was going to America with him. Well, the poor man didn’t know anything of the sort.”
“He didn’t know?” Susan repeated incredulously. “Why, it was the night before—”
“Precisely,” Gertrude acquiesced. “You see, I was very fond of Grant Slattery, and I couldn’t quite believe that he had lost all feeling for me. Sheer vanity, of course—for which I suffered. I knew quite well that if I had asked him to take me away he would have refused pointblank-because I had already asked him and he had refused —but I wanted to go away with him and I took a risk. I went aboard his yacht as a stowaway. He hadn’t the faintest idea that I was there until the yacht was a day and a half out. He wouldn’t have known, even then, if I hadn’t nearly fainted from hunger.”
Susan sat quite still for a moment. She was struggling to emulate her companion’s composure.
“It sounds incredible,” she murmured. “It is the truth, nevertheless,” Gertrude assured her. “When I disclosed myself, he was aghast. He took no pains
,o hide from me the fact that my pres;nce there was utterly undesired. For some time he considered landing me at aibraltar. That, however, would have -nade the matter no better from any joint of view, and I suppose he realized ;hat it would have been a particularly jrutalact. So he let me stay. He had to.”
THERE was a pause. Gertrude seemed to be listening to the music. Suddenly ¡he recommenced.
“Of course, the rest of the story is ibsurd, as well as being humiliating. Why [ tell it to you, I really don’t know. I made an idiot of myself in the usual way, and I forced Grant into the usual hopeless position. I suppose because he was in love with you, he played Sir Galahad for some time with almost ridiculous perfection. Then one night we ran into a terrible storm. I was frightened and Grant—he is really very kind-hearted—began to realize that he had been hurting me badly every moment of the time.
“I became emotional and finally desperate. I will spare you the rest of the story —but I gave Grant no chance. Afterward, I understood how hideously one-sided love can be. If I had wronged my husband, I paid for it, in the suffering of those three days before I could get him to land me in Newport. I only saw him for a few minutes at meal times and afterward when he used to come and try to make polite conversation to me, but the whole affair was ghastly. I had done the most absurd thing a woman could possibly attempt. I had tried to secure for myself a man who was in love with another woman.
“There were those hours I spoke of during the storm. After that—nothing. I did not see Grant again until we met by accident on the steamer coming back to England. I had been ill in a little country place in New Hampshire and he had had no idea even of where I was. I wonder whether you would be very kind now and go and ask my husband to give me his arm. I think we must be somewhere near the screw. I am beginning to feel the motion.”
Susan rose to her feet. Something in her expression warned Gertrude.
“My dear child!” she exclaimed. “If you say a single word of what I can see in your face, I shall scream. I am an impossible person who has told you an impossible story for an impossible reason. Please do as I ask you.”
Susan conveyed his wife’s message to the Prince. Then, for a moment, she hesitated. Two or three young men moved toward her but she waved them away.
“In a minute,” she called out. “I am coming back.”
She walked out on the open part of the deck. A few yards away Grant was still seated, gazing gloomily across the sea. She drew nearer and nearer to his chair. He heard the sound of her hesitating footsteps and turned around. Suddenly he sprang to his feet. He could scarcely believe his eyes. She was smiling at him, a little plaintively, with just a touch of appeal about her mouth. tt 'T was stupid, Grant,” she whispered. ‘Would you care to dance this?”
“Susan!” he exclaimed.
•i ‘ stupid, indeed,” she went on. ‘Let’s have a good long dance as we used to and then do something terribly obvious go and look at the bows or something.” He had sense enough to ask no questions, to accept what came to him. Gertrude watched them for a moment as she passed along, leaning on her husband’s arm.
Really,’’ she remarked, “I suppose the papers are right when they call that young woman beautiful. I used to think she lacked expression.”
The Prince looked at the young couple through his horn-rimmed eyeglass.
‘ She does very well,” he agreed. “They have the looks, these young Englishwomen, and the figure—sometimes the wit. They move all the time, though, in a very narrow world.”
Gertrude continued her walk.
I suppose the stony and narrow way has its compensations,” she sighed.
'T'HE Sefalonia was due in New York on f Wednesday morning, and on Tuesday night Grant and Susan sat on deck together until almost eleven o’clock. Susan glanced at her watch reluctantly.
“If this voyage were going on any longer, Grant,” she said, “I should have to tell people that we were engaged, in self-defense. We really do such out-
rageous things. Do you know that I didn’t dance with any one else to-night?” “I know that I am getting very unpopular,” Grant observed smiling, “and curiously enough, I don’t care a bit.” “Nor do I,” she agreed.
“The one thing I am glad about,” he went on, “is that we are approaching a country which has most civilized ideas as regards matrimonial arrangements. No putting banns up and waiting three weeks and that sort of thing.”
“You don’t suppose I’m going to be married over here, do you?” Susan exclaimed.
“I am hoping so,” he replied patiently, “I thought a quiet little wedding in Washington would round off the proceedings there—if we are any of us left alive.” “You’ve some very serious work to do first, Grant,” she reminded him.
“Very,” he assented. “So has your father. Mine may lead me into more trouble, perhaps, but your father’s is the greater responsibility. I don’t think there is another man in the world who would be able to handle the situation he will have to meet in a few days. There is a terrible crisis closing upon us, Susan.”
“The thought of it makes our little affairs seem almost unimportant, doesn’t it?” she sighed.
He leaned over and kissed her.
“Just for luck,” he said.
On his way to his stateroom, Grant passed the entrance to Cornelius Blunn’s suite. He raised the curtain. The steward was seated outside the closed door.
“How’s Mr. Blunn to-night?” he inquired.
“He’s been a little easier, I think, sir,” the man replied.
“I wonder whether he’d like to see me?” “I don’t think I’d disturb him, sir. He’s locked the door and he seems quite quiet now.”
“Are you going to sit there all night?” “Mr. Blunn’s giving me ten dollars a night not to move, in case he wants me. The chief steward’s put another man on to look after some of my rooms. Lucky I’m used to sleeping in a chair.”
“Good night,” Grant said.
“Good night, sir.”
Grant made his way to his own stateroom, exchanged his patent shoes for some dark-colored ones with rubber soles, his dinnerjacket for a blue serge coat which buttoned close to his throat, slipped the latest thing in automatics into his pocket, and went up on deck again, but by a roundabout way. It was nearly midnight now, and only a few people were still in evidence. He drew a chair into the recess close up against the glass-enclosed space in front of Blunn’s suite and waited until one by one they dispersed and he was entirely alone. Then he rose to his feet, opened the sliding door to which he had the key, and found himself in the little sheltered portion of the deck allotted to the suite. The door opening into the outer room was left upon a hook. There was no sound to be heard inside, although a light was burning. Softly he lifted the hook and peered in. The apartment was evidently the sitting-room of the suite and was untenanted. He stepped inside and listened. Opposite to him was another door, also on the hook, leading to the sleeping-room, from which a thin gleam of light shone.
He approached it noiselessly. There was still no sound to be heard, not even the breathing of a sleeping man. For some seconds he paused, puzzled by the unbroken silence; then slowly, and with the utmost care, he lifted the hook and pushed the door open, inch by inch. At last the opening was wide enough to admit the upper part of his body. He leaned forward and stood quite still, gripping the side of the door. The bed was empty, although In disorder. Cornelius Blunn was seated on a chair before a round table, leaning forward, his head resting upon his arms. He was wearing a heavy dressing-gown over his pajamas, and was apparently in an extraordinarily deep sleep. His left hand was stretched across the table, and gripped between its fingers was the end of a chain, and some keys. A few inches farther away still was a box of dull yellow metal.
The seconds crept on. He stepped into the room, hooked the door again, and drew nearer and nearer to the silent figure. Then, as he bent over it, a new horror faced him. He forgot for a moment the great object of his search—forgot that the secrets of a world’s salvation were there within his grasp. He stooped down to peer into the stricken face. Human nature, all his powers of restraint, failed him. He
gave a little cry. It was a terrible thing to look thus into the face of a dead man. He recovered himself at once. The cry, he realized, had been almost fatal. The steward outside had heard him.
There was a heavy knocking at the door. He took no notice. The knocking continued. Then Grant made the effort of his life. He seized the stiffened fingers and dragged from them the end of the chain, unbuttoned the other end from the belt underneath the pajamajacket,slipped it into his pocket and took the casket into his hands. With stealthy footsteps he stole away, unhooked the door and hooked it again, crossed the sitting-room, reached the little glass-enclosed deck, passed through on to the main deck, and went staggering toward the farther end. He stood for a moment in the wind to recover himself.
They were making about thirty knots an hour through a tumbling sea with little showers of spray thrown glittering into the air. Grant felt the sting of them on his face, and in a moment he was himself again. He walked round the bows, descended the gangway from the other side and hurried to Lord Yeovil’s suite. There was still a light in the sitting room. He knocked at the door and entered. Lord Yeovil, half undressed, was finishing a whisky and soda. He looked at the intruder without saying a word. Grant slipped the bolt through the door.
“I’ve got it,” he announced breathlessly. “I’ve got the casket and the key. I want you to put it at once into one of the official boxes.”
“Any struggle?” Lord Yeovil asked.
“None,” was the awe-stricken reply, “but it was horrible all the same. Cornelius Blunn is dead.”
THERE was pandemonium on the Sef alonia for the last four hours before she reached dock. The tragedy of a death on shipboard was deepened by the fact that Cornelius Blunn, who had consistently declined to allow any doctor to examine him, had shown no signs of the heart disease which had ended his life so abruptly. But apart from the tragedy itself there were two men on the steamer, Prince Lutrecht and Prince von Diss, whom the event seemed to have reduced to an almost hysterical state. The captain scarcely knew how to deal with the situation which their importunities created. They refused even to leave his_ room. Their persistence was becoming intolerable.
“Commander,” Prince Lutrecht said, earnestly, “you àre an Englishman, and I know that you are a lover of fair play. I tell you that last night there was stolen from Cornelius Blunn’s room a casket containing political documents of the most vital importance to the future of the world. Those documents, if they fell into the wrong hands, might lead to a terrible and disastrous war. They were carried about by Cornelius Blunn in defiance of our wishes and it might very well be that he has met with his death in defending them. But they have been stolen and are, at the present moment, concealed upon this ship, and I appeal to you, as the one responsible person here, to assist us in finding them.”
“But what can I do, Prince?” the captain expostulated. _ “I have nine hundred and seventy-five passengers on board. Do you wish every one of them searched?”
“Not every one,” Prince Lutrecht replied. “The person who must be responsible for this robbery is Mr. Grant Slattery. He and Cornelius Blunn were enemies, yet he was always stopping to speak to him. He learned the way into his suite. Without a doubt Slattery was the thief.”
“I have already done more than I have any right to do in that matter,” the commander pointed out. “I have had Mr. Grant Slattery’s room searched. Besides, the steward saw him going down into his stateroom at a reasonable hour. I cannot see the slightest evidence against the young man.”
“He has probably passed the casket on to some one,” Prince von Diss declared. “We must insist upon having the staterooms and baggage of his friends searched.”
“Including, I presume, the belongings of Lord Yeovil?” the commander asked with a patient smile.
“The casket must be found,” Prince Lutrecht persisted.
Continued on page 58
Continued from page 56 ENTLEMEN,” the commander said, Vjr “I will discuss the matter with my officers and see whether any search in conjunction with the Customs examination can be effected. I tell you frankly that, so far as regards the personal and official luggage of the Prime Minister of my country, I should not allow it to be touched. You must excúseme. We shall be taking up the pilot within half an hour.”
“Captain,” Prince Lutrecht announced in desperation, “I am prepared to give a reward of one million dollars for the recovery of that casket and its contents.”
“There is no harm in announcing that,” was the cold reply. “You must excuse me now. I have my duties to attend to.”
Nothing happened. No discovery was made. As the great steamer backed up to her place alongside the dock, she was boarded by a small army of detectives, members of the police force and journalists. The Custom House officials miraculously worked into a state of intense excitement, made almost savage onslaughts upon the general baggage. There was a rumor—many people declared they had seen it in black and white—that a million dollars would be paid for a small casket of dull yellow metal which had been stolen on board the Sefalonia. Grant Slattery—who was met by Hodson —Lord Yeovil and Susan, were among the earliest to pass the customs. They all drove together toward the hotel in Park Avenue at which the Yeovils were to spend the night before going on to Washington. Half-way there, Hodson, who had been looking out of the little window behind, redirected the driver.
“We are being followed,” he said, “by at least two taxicabs. I have told him to drive to Police Headquarters. It is the only safe place for an hour or so. Sorry to detain you and your daughter, Lord Yeovil, but if we had gone on to the hotel, there would only have been some shooting on the sidewalk. There’ll be some trouble here, but we’ll do it on the rush.”
The only luggage they had with them was two official-looking black boxes which had not been subjected to search and were inside the car with them.
“Which oñe?” Hodson asked.
Grant touched the box nearest him with his foot. Hodson picked it up.
“It is just three steps across the sidewalk,” he said. “Even if they wing me, I’ll get there. Don’t let the young lady move. We won’t hang round many seconds. They’ll probably try a rush.”
Susan passed her arm through Grant’s.
“You must stay and protect me,” she insisted.
He patted her hand. The light of battle was in his eyes.
“It may take both of us to get that safely inside,” he warned her.
They swung round the last corner. Hodson held the box under his arm. Grant, with his automatic in his right hand, crouched by his side. Before they had drawn up against the curb, Hodson had flung the door open and made his spring. A taxicab from behind came crashing into the back of their car, without, however, doing serious damage. Hodson, quick on his feet, was half-way across the sidewalk before the first shot was fired. He staggered for a moment, and Grant, rushing past him, snatched the box from under his arm, and, bending low, dashed past the astonished bystanders, into the shelter of the building. Hodson stumbled after him. Policeman and detectives came running up, closing around them.
“Get those fellows in the taxicabs, if you can,” Hodson cried, stooping down to feel his leg. “Green and his gang, by the looks of them. This way, Grant.”
They penetrated into the heart of the building,Hodson limping slightly from the effect of a bullet which had grazed his shin hone.
Grant left Police Headquarters half an hour later to find Lord Yeovil and Susan still waiting. They drove off toward the hotel, and Grant at once unburdened himself.
“It is the most amazing scheme that’s ever been conceived,” he declared. “Scores of names in every city in the United States, every one with their exactly assigned task on an exactly stipulated day. They all had their station, all
their peculiar functions—Brooklyn Bridge for instance, would have been blown up the day the German fleet appeared in sight. So far as we could see, there wouldn’t have been an important bridge left in the country. The Japanese program out West was worse. There will be more than two hundred arrests to-day. There will be trouble in the city to-night, though, if the news gets about.”
They arrived at the hotel.
“You’re staying here, Grant?” Lord Yeovil inquired.
Grant shook his head.
“I will come and dine, if I may, sir,” he replied. “I haven’t got a scrap of writing now of any sort, but I’m a marked man. I’m best away from your hotel.”
THE opening session of the Limitation of Armaments Conference was held in an environment outwardly calm, but with mutterings of the storm very clearly audible to those who knew something of the real position. The actual surroundings all made for peace—a stately and dignified chamber, with carefully shaded windows, cool white walls, and oaken furniture, massive, and beautiful with age. There were twenty-six representatives present and six secretaries at the side table, among whom Slattery, by special appointment, found a place. He was next to Itash, but the two men exchanged no greetings. At the appointed hour the President entered the room and spoke a few words of welcome. His allusions to the world’s desire for peace seemed to contain, perhaps, a faint note or irony; otherwise there was nothing to indicate any foreknowledge of untoward events.
After he had extended his usual formal invitation to luncheon he left the room, and his place was taken by the Secretary of State, who embarked at once upon the proceedings. He declared that on a matter of urgency, he had given permission to the English representative, Lord Yeovil, to make a statement before the agenda were entered upon. There was a little movement, a rustling of papers, as Lord Yeovil, on the right-hand side of the Secretary of State, rose to speak, a slim, dignified figure in the cool, soft light. He spoke slowly and very gravely, and his words seemed chosen to attain to the essence of brevity.
“Mr. Secretary and members of the Conference,” he said. “As you know, certain of the Powers have assumed year by year, the duty of policing the waters and lands of the earth, in order to satisfy ourselves that the regulations imposed by you, gentlemen, are dutifully and honorably carried out. I have to present to you a report from the commander of the English flotilla in eastern waters that Japan, by a system of duplication, described in the papers which I have the honor to lay before you, has during this and the proceeding year exceeded her allowance of marine tonnage by two hundred and fifty thousand tons, and also that, in the harbor of a port on the Chinese coast, leased to her, or on an adjacent island, there have been constructed and are now ready to fly, a score of flying ships of a new type, obviously designed for offensive purposes. The papers containing particulars of this divergence from the principles and ordinances of the Conferences, I had the honor to hand to Mr. Secretary of State last night, and a copy has, I believe, been prepared for the inspection of each of you.” There was a tense silence. One of the young men from the side table arose, with a little pile of papers in his hand, which he distributed around the table. The Secretary allowed a few minutes to elapse while every one studied the very simple document laid before him, translated in each case into the language of the representative. Then he rose to his feet.
“It is my duty,” he said, “to call upon the representative of Japan, his Excellency Prince Yoshimo, to afford us an explanation and reply to this very serious charge.”
Itash moved silently from his place and stepped toward the representative of his country, who was also the Ambassador to the United States. Prince Yoshimo rose slowly to his feet. He seemed imperturbable and wholly unembarrassed.
“Mr. Secretary,” he said, “and gentlemen. The charge of Lord Yeovil has come as a surprise. I can only say that; as has
happened before, a little too much zeal has been shown, a little too great— great—”
“Credulity,” Itash whispered.
“—credulity displayed,” the Ambassador went on. “The so-called duplicate ships are nothing but coal barges, and the flying boats are for commercial purposes. That is my reply.”
Lord Yeovil rose once more to his feet. “The statement of his Excellency Prince Yoshimo,” he announced, “simply contradicts my information.”
Once more Prince Yoshimo rose, calm and soft-tongued.
“Mr. Secretary,” he said, “I have given you the reply you asked. Let others go and see. Our harbors, and the harbors of any part of the Chinese coast over which we have influence, are free to the vessels of any one of the powers here present.” The Secretary turned to Lord Yeovil, who rose once more to his feet.
“I desire, sir,” the latter begged, “a postponement of any further discussion for two days.”
THE routine business of the Conference was continued, but it was very hard to secure the close attention of any of the members. The questions which they were called upon to decide seemed of infinitesimal importance compared to the magnitude of the issues which had already been raised. The morning session drifted away, however, and the afternoon session, without further incident. The proceedings terminated about five o’clock. Slattery, leaving the place alone, came face to face with Itash in one of the lobbies. No salutation passed between them, but Itash stopped and the beginning of a smile curved his lips unpleasantly.
“Is this wonderful information,” he asked, “part of the babble I am supposed to have talked in my sleep and Mademoiselle Cleo to have repeated?”
“And for repeating which she was murdered?” Grant added.
Itash was unmoved. “I so seldom read the newspapers,” he said. “I understood that she had committed suicide. That was quite reasonable. Why not? We each have the right. But you do not answer my . question.”
“Nor do I intend to,” Grant replied. “But I will be very rash indeed and tell you this: It was Mademoiselle Cleo who conveyed to us your fear that Mr. Cornelius Blunn yielded too much to sentiment. The deepest vault in his safe-deposit company should have held that little casket of gold!”
Itash drew a queer little breath. It was as though he had been attacked suddenly by asthma. No thunderous exclamation or furious expletive could have contained half the feeling of his simple words, each one detached from the other:
“Ah!” Grant murmured. “Explanations are so tedious. I will leave you a little puzzle with which you may occupy the rest of the day. Prince Lutrecht is sharing your anxiety. So, I think, is Prince von Diss. Very soon you will know.”
“The casket contained nothing but the letter of Cornelius Blunn, the elder, to his son. A personal letter of no importance.” Grant passed on with a little smile. Itash watched him down the long corridor, watched him disappear. Then he turned back and hurried to the room where Princes Lutrecht and von Diss were still talking.
Slattery spent a wonderful hour in a quiet room of an official building, talking over a private wire to Hodson in New York. Afterward he dined at the British Embassy, where all official entertainment had been postponed. He was able to sit alone with Susan on one of the broad piazzas afterward, watching the rising of the moon, and the fireflies at the bottom of the garden.
“Your father was splendid,” he told her. “He said just enough. The day after to-morrow will come—and the bombshell. Hodson has done splendidly, too,” he went on. “They have raided thirty or forty places in New York, St. Louis, and even Philadelphia, and discovered documents which afforded them absolute proof. They are trying to keep the press muzzled until after to-morrow. I’m afraid it will be difficult.”
“It seems an amazing tangle,” she murmured.
“We’re making history at express speed,” he replied. “I wonder whether we couldn’t walk down and see if those really are fire-flies.”
She rose to her feet, took his arm and they passed down the broad walk, through the ornamental gardens, to the little wood beyond. After which they talked no more of politics.
ON THE Wednesday morning, the day but one after the opening of the Conference, the members assembled at the same time and place, with one notable absentee. At the appointed hour for commencing the proceedings the Secretary of State made a momentous announcement.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “I have to announce that Prince Yoshimo, the representative of Japan, has sent me formal notice on behalf of his government, that it desires to withdraw from this Conference.” There was a little murmur of excitement. Prince Lutrecht rose to his feet.
“Mr. Secretary, and gentlemen,” he began. “I am not in any way an apologist for the action taken by my distinguished confrere on the instigation of his government. On the other hand I must point out to you that the charges brought by Lord Yeovil against the honor of a great nation, publicly, and before you all, were of a nature to provoke most intense and poignant reprisals.
“I regret very much that they were made. I foresee from the retirement of the representative of Japan from this Conference—a retirement which I fear may be final—a serious blow to its utility. The item upon the agenda for discussion this morning deals, I see, with a supposed secret naval and military understanding between Russia and my country to the exclusion of other members of the Pact. If it is proposed to interfere in any way with the arrangements which I admit exist between the Russian and German naval forces, for joint practice and maneuvers, I desire to tell this meeting at once that I offer my strongest protest and shall follow the example of my friend the Japanese Ambassador, in retiring from participation in the Conference.”
Prince Lutrecht resumed his seat. Lord Yeovil glanced toward the Secretary of State. The latter nodded and rose once more.
“I think,” he announced, “that Lord Yeovil has a reply to make to Prince Lutrecht, but before we proceed with what is the apparent business of this Conference, I desire to make an unofficial announcement to you all, which you will learn when you leave this room, but which it was the President’s wish that you should know of in conjunction with such events as are now taking place. The Japanese Ambassador last night tendered to the Government of the United States a formal demand that all persons of Japanese birth desiring to do so shall be permitted to acquire land and American citizenship on an equality with citizens of other nations.”
Monsieur Lafayel, the French representative, for a moment lost his head.
“Mon Dieul” he exclaimed. “A declaration of war!”
“My distinguished friend technically anticipates,” the Secretary observed. “But the attitude of the United States of America to such a demand is, perhaps, too obvious for any other construction to be placed upon the situation.”
Lord Yeovil rose once more to his feet, lie looked around the table before he spoke, with the air of one who desires to impress on his mind the memory of a scene destined to become historical. He spoke slowly and with unflurried tone.
“Mr. Secretary, and gentlemen,” he said, “J address you once more in reply, chiefly, to the remarks of my distinguished friend, Prince Lutrecht. I speak to you, not only as a representative of Great Britain, but as the representative of the Power chosen in rotation for the duty of policing the seas and enforcing the regulations imposed by this Conference. I have to announce to you that I am in possession of absolute proof of the illfaith of the seceding nation Japan—from this organization. I have to-day received cabled information from the admiral commanding the police forces in eastern waters that he has, in accordance with
instructions received, destroyed the four or five battleships built in excess of Japan’s rights and also the nest of flying ships lying in the harbor of Yulensk, and built and armed without the cognizance of this Assembly.”
It is, perhaps, doubtful, whether spoken words have, at any time, produced a greater effect upon a gathering of men than those of Lord Yeovil. Amazed and half-incredulous interest was the prevailing note. Lutrecht, however, seemed like a man stricken. Every scrap of color left his cheeks. His eyes burned like dry fires. His tongue was perpetually moistening his lips. He seemed to be trying to speak, but he made no effort to rise to his feet.
“Further,” Lord Yeovil continued, “and in reply to Prince Lutrecht, I have to inform him that the evidence is that the secret understanding between the naval forces of Germany and Russia is not in accordance with the terms of this Conference, and I have ventured in behalf of the powers with which I am endowed, to anticipate your permission to act according to our statutes. A small portion of the British fleet has surprised the Russian battleships lying at Archangel and, in behalf of the Conference—not, I beg you will understand, in any way on behalf of Great Britain, but acting simply in the interests of all—has taken possession of those ships and disarmed them pending a satisfactory settlement. I may add that we found them provisioned and ready to sail to join the German fleet at a rendezvous off the north coast of Ireland.”
PRINCE LUTRECHT rose a little heavily to his feet. All his effrontery had deserted him.
“Mr. Secretary,” he announced, “I have no alternative but to follow the example of his Excellency, the representative of Japan, and sever my allegiance to this Conference.”
“A course which I naturally follow,” the representative of Russia declared, rising in his place.
“It will cause my country the greatest regret,” the chairman said, dryly, “that this Conference, for the inauguration of which America was responsible, and to whose conventions we have zealously and, it seems, at great risk to ourselves been true, exists no longer. But I may add that it is still more to our sorrow that the circumstances of the breaking up of the Conference point clearly to disloyalty on the part of two of the subscribing nations.” Prince Lutrecht made one effort. “Disloyalty, sir?” he repeated, half turning on his way to the door.
“I regret to have to use that word, Prince,” the Secretary observed gravely. “I shall offer no explanation at this time. If you require one, read the press of tonight and to-morrow morning. You will find there bad news. This is the last word.” Lutrecht left the room. The Secretary waited until the door was closed.
“I have no other course, gentlemen,” he continued, “painful though it may be, than to declare that this Conference has come automatically to an end until some further understanding can be arrived at among the nations, based upon principles which seem to have been deserted by the representatives of the two seceding Powers. The United States of America must in future guard its own freedom.” There was a rustling of papers, shuffling of feet, and then every one began to talk at once. The Limitation of Armaments Conference ended, as most similar assemblies had done—in a mixture of exaltation, confusion and misunderstanding.
There was a very fateful and wonderful meeting, convened on behalf of his government by the Secretary of State an hour or so later, and attended by Lord Yeovil, Prince Lutrecht and Prince Yoshimo. They met in the Secretary’s official room in the White House. No one shook hands; no civilities of any sort were offered. The Secretary himself locked the door.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “I have asked you to meet me because, whatever our feelings may be, the United States of America, more than any other country, hates war, deprecates revenge, and seeks for the truest expression of civilization. By a series of fortuitous incidents America has become apprised of the hostile intentions of Japan and Germany. Let me remind you, Prince Lutrecht, that, if you persevere, you are without the aid of the
Russian navy, and your fleet will be met, before it enters the Atlantic, by the combined navies of France and England, and probably Italy.
“The fact that, for the moment, America stands outside the Pact has, thanks to the generous instincts of the nations of the world, been ignored by them, in the face of recent discoveries. You, Prince Lutrecht, have lost that superiority of naval forces by means of which you intended to inflict disaster upon our people. If your fleet sails it will be met by the American fleet in its entirety, and I imagine that, under the present conditions, the advantage in material would rest sightly with us. The schemes you produced for disorganizing the mentality of our country have been discovered and dealt with. Fifty citizens of this country —some of them citizens of repute—are to-day in jail. Five hundred more are under police surveillance. The points of danger from New York to San Francisco, which it was their duty to attack, have been guarded and will be guarded. Now, gentlemen, you have heard what I have to say. Are you going through with your abortive schemes? If so, you can have your papers within half an hour.”
AMAZING man of an amazing race, Prince Yoshimo bowed.
“There have been many misunderstandings,” he said. “Japan, too, loves peace. I think, in the circumstances, I can anticipate my Imperial Master’s decision. I desire to withdraw the documents I had the honor to present to the Government of the United States yesterday.”
“And I,” Prince Lutrecht added, “desire to assure you, and through you, your Government, that gross exaggeration has been used in describing the attitude and aims of my country. It seems to be the hard fate of Germany to be continually striving for peace and to be always suspected of bellicosity. I offer the fullest pledges of our peaceful intentions. On behalf of my Government I acquiesce in the cessation of the understanding between Russia and ourselves. I declare for peace.”
The Secretary bowed. “This,” he pronounced, “is not the place or the hour to discuss the future. The Limitation of Armaments Conference has ceased to exist. The Pact, I imagine, must be either reconstructed or dissolved; full account must be taken of the dangerous position in which your two countries, gentlemen, have placed the peace of the world. That, I think, is all we can say at present.”
Prince Lutrecht bowed. Prince Yoshimo followed his example. They left the room together, undismayed, with little apparent loss of dignity. Lord Yeovil accepted a cigarette and lit it thoughtfully.
“Queer brains, some of these people,” he observed.
The Secretary smiled. “What about a cocktail and some luncheon?” he suggested. “The chief would like to see you.”
Lord Yeovil glanced at his watch.
“I am taking a day off,” he announced. “And, by the by, I shall have to hurry. My daughter is being married to Grant Slattery at one o’clock, and we have a little family party afterward at the Embassy. Your wife will have received a note by now. I hope we may have the pleasure of seeing you both.”
“I am quite sure that you can count upon us,” the other replied, heartily. “Let me offer you at once, however, my best wishes for your daughter’s happiness. Grant Slattery is a fine fellow. Only a few of us will ever know how much our country owes to him for his work during the last two years.”
“Not only your country, but the world,” Lord Yeovil acquiesced. “War brings equal disaster to victor and vanquished.”
“A relic of the Middle Ages,” the American statesman declared, “in which the victors sometimes derived an illusory benefit from the simple fact that international commerce consisted merely of a primitive attempt at barter, and the complication of exchanges was unknown.” “And yet,” Lord Yeovil sighed, “there will always be wars.”