FICTION

The Major Has Seven Guests

To the sunshine of freedom, to the darkness of doom — one by one the Major’s guests go their ways. Fifth and concluding installment of a dramatic serial

CONSTANCE REYNOLDS December 15 1939
FICTION

The Major Has Seven Guests

To the sunshine of freedom, to the darkness of doom — one by one the Major’s guests go their ways. Fifth and concluding installment of a dramatic serial

CONSTANCE REYNOLDS December 15 1939

The Major Has Seven Guests

FICTION

CONSTANCE REYNOLDS

To the sunshine of freedom, to the darkness of doom — one by one the Major’s guests go their ways. Fifth and concluding installment of a dramatic serial

CONCLUSION

JULIE, with her interminable knitting, was sitting near the fireplace. She had the jitters. In fact, she was so jumpy that I wondered if Polly had let her in on the secret. It seemed probable, since it might be hard for Polly to get out without her knowing about it.

Polly walked over to her. “ You're going quietly nuts, too. Aren’t you?" she asked, looking down at Julie anxiously, and talking with a cigarette in her mouth.

Julie nodded. “I’m—pretty near to

the breaking point," she said, her lips ’quivering.

Polly cast a swift glance toward Isaac Moss, on the other side of the fire, then back at Julie. “For heaven’s sake,” she said, quite harshly, “don’t fold up nou'.

It’s almost over. I lang on ! Understand?”

Julie nodded again, vigorously. She didn’t seem able to speak.

“Look,” Polly said suddenly. “Why don't you play your fiddle for us? That’d do you gxxl, and it might help the rest of us pull out of it, too.”

Julie brightened at that, and found her voice. “Yes,” she said. “Yes. I’d like to.”

She looked up at me, with retrospective eyes. “You remember what I told you— about Gottschall—when we first came here, Mr. Delius?”

Certainly I did.

“And do you remember what you said?

Well, you w'ere right. Things have hapIH*ned to me and 1 haven't liked them, either. They’ve been terrible things, in a way. But—I think I can play the Beethoven now.”

She lifted her chin proudly, with a halfshy confidence, and only for the briefest instant did her glance rest on Mungo, sitting close to Mrs. Holdgate at the far end of the room.

We followed her, then, into the salon across the hall, and I sat down at the piano while Moss and Polly took chairs near by.

Never, as long as 1 live, will I forget the lovely assurance with which Julie drew her bow across those strings for the first note of the concerto. It was superb. She played it with passion, with reverence, with sympathy and understanding. Her tone was so clear and full and sweet that it made your throat ache, listening to it. There wasn’t a weak or faltering instant, all the way through. The strength and precision of those thin, small hands were unbelievable. 1 had to keep my eyes on the piano score pretty closely, but the absolute stillness of the room, beyond the music, told how rapt was the attention of Polly and of Isaac Moss.

I looked up once, and had a glimpse of pale, astonished faces in the half-dark doorway : the innkeeper and his wife, peering over the shoulders of Mungo and Mrs. Holdgate. She was just inside the door, and it was her face that impressed itself ujxm my mind, in that swift glance. She looked like a woman seeing a ghost. Her lips were parted and her eyes stared unblinkingly across the little room, toward Julie, with an indescribable expression. I don’t know what it was—remorse, perhaps, or self-disgust. At any rate, it was the only genuine, unguarded emotion that I had ever seen in that strange and complex woman— and I turned quickly back to the music in front of me, feeling as if I had inadvertently come upon Mrs. Holdgate undressed.

As I played, I remembered her saying, “l used to play once ...” Perhaps that was it. Perhaps she heard in Julie’s music a faint, disturbing echo of enduring and beautiful things that she had passed by, once, and rejected, in her quest for sensations and excitements.

Julie must have known that they were there, listening, but she took no notice of them. She went on and played the concerto through to its last note, as if she were all alone in the room. Mungo didn’t matter now. Julie had come through love and ecstasy, disillusionment and loss, all in

the space of one crowded fortnight—and, at the end, she had found music.

V\ T’HFN she had finished, she wiped the resin from her ’ * violin and tucked it back in its case, with no more fuss than as if she’d been practicing scales. The faces melted out of the doorway and we four were alone.

Isaac Moss was the first to speak. He took Julie's hand in both his, and looked down at her, smiling gravely.

“Thank you, my dear. That was a fine thing to have heard—in the midst of chaos. It gives me heart. Sometimes 1 forget that there is still beauty in this raucous world. You’ve made me remember. It means a great deal. 11 means—everyihing.''

His glasses were misted, and he took them off and wiped them with his handkerchief. Polly Targ was standing a little in the background, looking bewildered.

“I never heard that kind of music before,” she told Julie, diffidently. “I don’t understand it very well—but parts of it kind of got me. I had cold chills chasing up and down my back. I guess I'd like it when I got used to it. Was it all one number?” she asked suddenly.

1 told her that it was the Beethoven concerto—supposed to be played with an orchestra, not just a piano. I told her that it was every violinist’s dream to play it. just as every actor aspired to play Hamlet. Then I turned to Julie, who was looking down at her open violin case with an odd expression.

“Julie." I said, “when you get back to the States, I want you to go to Boston and see Vivaldi. If 1 know him at all. he'll take you on as a scholarship pupil and prepare you for the concert stage.”

Her eyes widened, and she pressed one hand hard against her breast, as if the beating of her heart bothered her. “Another thing,” 1 went on, “there’s a particularly fine

Amati gathering dust at my place in Connecticut. I want you to have it . . . and some day, I want to hear you play it. So remember, now. Get in touch with me when we get back—the Orion Club in New York—in case we lose track of each other on this side of the Atlantic.”

Julie couldn’t say a word. She just stared at me as if she didn't believe her ears, for a while. At last she took one of my hands and one of Isaac Moss's, held them very tight for an instant, then turned and ran upstairs.

There was no sleep for Moss or myself that night. We put out the lights in outroom about midnight. After that, we sat smoking and talking quietly in the dark. I said, “I wonder if we’ll ever see Polly Targ again.”

“I hope so.” Moss’s pipe, when he drew on it, made a small circular red glow, a few feet from me. He added thoughtfully, “I believe she is one of the most honest people I’ve ever run across.”

I agreed; and I smiled reminiscently there in the darkness, remembering Polly as we had first seen her, with her hair escaping in blond wisps from under her outrageous little hat, and the amazing pheasant feather standing up like a drawn sword above her furious face. Even in that first scene there had been a touch of grandeur in the wrath of Polly Targ. Her angers were undiluted. She emptied the vials of her indignation with a hand that held nothing back.

The church clock struck half-past twelve—a single stroke, clear and sharp. We moved our chairs closer to the window, and lowered our voices still more. There hadn’t been a sound from across the hall: Polly was being very quiet in her preparations. The minutes crawled past. I kept looking at the illuminated dial of my watch, and, as it neared a quarter to one, we stopped talking altogether and just listened.

She must have avoided the creaking board in the hall this time, because we heard nothing but the faint tread of the sentry’s boots beneath our window. We pressed our faces against the panes, not daring to open the casements. We heard the sentry's feet halt suddenly, for a long moment, and then resume their pacing. A second later, someone hurried, half-running, down the narrow street, with something heavy in one hand. Then the figure—no more than a darker blot on the darkness - vanished, and a motor purred quietly somewhere out of sight.

I turned away from the window and lighted a cigarette. My hands were shaking a little, I think.

“Well, she made the first hazard all right,” I said, trying not to sound as excited as I felt.

I could just make out Isaac Moss’s tall bulk, against the window. He was still looking after Polly.

“Vaya con Dios.” he muttered, and I imagined his whimsical smile in the darkness.

IWE WENT downstairs early the next morning. Moss * ’ and I had been speculating as to just how the Major intended avoiding trouble for himself, in the matter of Polly’s escape.

“Probably a simple question of greasing a few honest palms along the line.” I suggested, while I was shaving.

Moss looked up from lacing his boots and nodded. “As long as everyone concerned pretends to complete ignorance, there isn't much to be done about it. Polly probably wasn’t a very important prisoner anyway—except to ourselves,” he added.

“Amen to that.”

Mungo was already in the dining hall and so, to my surprise, was Mrs. Holdgate. I think the suppressed excitement of the rest of us, the night before, must have communicated itself to them. There is something about

nervous tension strangely akin to electric current. It seems to flow in invisible, soundless waves between one human organism and another. They had felt it, I was certain, even though their still, secret faces told nothing.

Julie hadn’t put in an appearance by the time we’d finished breakfast. The innkeej>er's wife looked at me enquiringly as we prepared to leave the table.

“They'll probably lxdown shortly.” 1 told her. “Better leave the things on for the present.”

But it got to be ten o’clock, and no sign of Julie. Then there was a blustery opening and closing of the front door, and the Major came bursting into the room, red and putting with cold.

“S-so!” he shouted, pulling off his fur gloves and beaming around at us, with eyes brighter, more observant than ever. “You did not expect to see me again—eh? The las-st time! Where is Miss Targ?” he demanded suddenly, with a histrionic ability of which I hadn't suspected him. “1 cannot leave without once more saying good-by to Miss Targ—the very beautiful Miss Targ.”

I looked at Moss enquiringly. What was up? Had he decided that it would look better if he came back and “discovered” Polly’s absence himself, before he left? That was the only explanation I could think of.

He stamped out into the hall and bellowed up the stairs. “Miss Targ! I say. Miss Targ—you must come and saxgood-by to me! I shall be devastated if I don’t see you again—just for one minute—”

He’s rather overdoing it, I thought, exchanging a surreptitious wink with Isaac Moss.

Then the unexpected happened. I had strolled over to the door, the better to enjoy the Major’s little farce. He was standing there at the foot of the stairs, with his legs planted widely in their shining boots, and his pink face turned upward toward the beloved whom he didn’t for a moment expect to appear.

But she did appear.

She walked down the stairs with a leisurely, insouciant swing of her hips, and the black negligee clinging voluptuously about her knees. At sight of her, the Major shuddered violently, and his own knees seemed in danger of giving way altogether. It was the mocking smile on Polly’s face that brought him back to life, I imagine. For my part, I was so utterly dumfounded that I began to wonder if I was still upstairs, and dreaming.

“Hello—darling.” Polly was standing onthe third step, looking down from a superior position upon the Major’s horror. “Sorry to see you leaving. We’ll be missing you around here . . . ”

The Major was speechless at first. He was remembering, obviously, that the rest of us didn’t know of the plan, and he didn’t want to get himself into hot water, but he saw that somehow he had been tricked. A look of cunning came gradually into his piggy pink face.

He said slowly, “Where is Miss Rember?”

Polly shrugged her lovely shoulders and raised one hand to tuck in a blond curl.

"That’s what I was wondering,” she said, stifling a yawn. “Woke up just a minute ago, and she wasn’t there. One of her bags is gone, too.”

Moss and I stared at each other, trying to understand it. Mrs. Holdgate and Mungo, more completely in the dark than anyone, were watching rigidly from within the dining room. As for the Major. 1 momentarily expected him to fall down and start foaming at the mouth. He lost all the sense of discretion which he had clung to until that moment. I’ve never seen such an utter abandonment of rage. His face became violently purple, and the veins stood out on his neck and forehead as if they were about to burst. He raised both short arms, fists clenched, and fairly danced in his wrath.

When he was able to utter words, they weren’t English—which was just as well. 1 ’ve seldom heard a choicer collection of invective, in any language, than he vented upon the uncomprehending Polly. When he’d exhausted his vocabulary of profanity and insult, he edged forward, with his chin jutting out, and hissed at her in English:

“S-so! You let her have it, did you? You wanted to fool me. You didn’t expect me to come back here. But I thought—what they said at the station—something odd. I wanted to be sure.” (Ah, the clever little Major!)

“You thought 1 wouldn’t find out till 1 got there—two hundred miles away. But why?

Why should you try such a stupid trick? Tell me ...”

Polly stepped imperturbably down the last three stairs and stood looking him over curiously. “Little matter of business to look after,” she said carelessly. “More up Julie’s alley than mine. Is that clear. Major, or shall 1 draw a diagram?”

The Major’s expression of dismay had given way, by now, to one of the most unmitigated hatred. “You thought to send me on a wild goose chase,” he said sibilantly.

Polly laughed and went on into the dining hall. "Oh, get wise to yourself. Don Juan. 1 wasn't going to meet you there, anyway.” She flung the words back negligently over her shoulder, sweeping past Mungo and Mrs. lloldgate as if they hadn’t existed.

The Major followed her into the room, his fat body fairly shaking.

“Listen to me!” he cried, striding along behind her on his short legs and looking pretty silly. "Did you know that your affair with Bostvec would have got you into a lot of trouble, if it hadn’t been for me? Me! And this is your gratitude, eh? Bah! Scum. Well, it's not too late, yet, for the Bostvec business to be gone into. Maybe I’m not always so kind—so soft ! You'll see.”

Mungo, who had been an interested onlooker while all this had been happening, now stepped forward and touched the Major’s arm respectfully. Mungo was always most

resp-ctful to authority. The Major wheeled impatiently, ready to bite anyone who came near him. but Mungo said something in his ear. and he stopjx-d short in his mad career, looking at Mungo with his eyes popping, and an altogether new expression on his infuriated face.

“You are—quite certain?” He almost choked on the words.

Mungo bowed his head. “Absolutely.”

The Major let out something that sounded like an animal cry of triumph, rushed out of the room and bounded up the stairs two at a time. 1 wasn’t going to miss anything if 1 could help it. so I made after him, and Mungo came trailing along behind.

1 got there just in time to see the Major fling open the door of Polly’s room. In his excitement, he left it open, too, so 1 saw him standing there for a moment, in the midst of the early-morning disorder, as if undecided, then, spotting the theatrical trunk half-open in one corner, gaudily decked with travel tags, he flung himself upon it and began tearing the bright gowns from their hangers. I le tossed them right and left in a great heap, and he sluxik each one before he discarded it. And, as he shook a dazzling affair of silver sequins, something fell out on the floor. He swooped, grovelled for an instant with both hands among the tumbled finery, and came up, gasping, with three packages of cigarettes.

He tore one open, extracted a cigarette, and peered into the end of it. “S-so!" The word was a long, slow exhalation. “S-so!”

T WAS seized by a cold fear that was entirely new to me. I looked from him to Mungo, not quite daring to believe it. His smirk faded abruptly as he met my eye, and he vanished rapidly down the hall without a word.

As soon as I was able to recover myself, I went down after him. Everything was still confused in my mind. I wanted a chance to speak to Polly privately. That was about as far as 1 could get toward thinking things out, just then.

She was lounging in front of the fire, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Moss was standing near by, and Mrs. Holdgate and Mungo were at a little distance—Mungo moving nervously about on his light feet, like a frightened cat.

I hurried across the room to Polly. “Polly—you shouldn’t have done that. What made you send Julie, instead of going yourself?"

She looked up at me from half-dosed eyes. She was prettier that morning than 1 had ever seen her.

“I didn’t think I 'd be so hot at that job,” she said casually. “Julie—well, she looks like a nice girl.

They’d believe her. And anyway, 1 liked the kid and she couldn’t take it here—not as well as I can. 1 figured it’d be: better for her to get away while she had the chance. She didn’t want to, at first, but—”

Polly appeared very well pleased with her coup. It gave me a nasty jolt, when I thought about the Major up in her room. I thought I ought to prepare her, somehow, for what was coming.

“Wait. You don’t know, Polly,” I interrupted her. “You don’t know' how bad it’s going to be. Your friend Mungo has sold you out ...”

She was mystified, of course, and I didn’t have time to explain, because the Major bounced into the room just then, bursting with triumph.

“I have something very important to say.” he proclaimed breathlessly. “You can make ready to leave. There will be a slight formality of papers and passports to be signed, but that can be all arranged within an hour. In the meantime, you will pack your things and be ready. All of you, except”— he paused for an effect —“except Doctor Moss and Miss Targ.”

He looked around, gratified by the effect he had produced. We were all struck dumb.

Polly stood up slowly. She was very pale. “What do you mean?” she asked in an odd voice.

The Major bowed with fine irony. “You are under arrest, my dear Miss Targ. But naturally. And, since the evidence we have been l>king for so long was found among your effects well, obviously there is no object in holding anyone but yourself. And, of course, my good friend Doctor Moss, who refuses to look at matters like a sensible person."

Polly was gazing down at him with that scorn which she reserved for “foreigners.” "What do you mean— evidence*"

The Major, with some ceremony, produced the three packages. 1 glanced involuntarily toward Mrs. Holdgate. Her eyes widened slowly, but her mouth was hard and unmoving. She made no sound. Polly, on the other hand, regarded the evidence without interest.

"So what?” she demanded. “They aren't mine. I don’t smoke that kind. So what?”

“S-so,” the Major explained patiently, “each little cigarette has a paper cleverly rolled inside it. You did not know that, eh my little dove? And each paper contains very valuable and interesting information about the national defense plans. You did not know that either? But. since these so unusual cigarettes were found in one of your trunks, we shall have to suppose that they belong to you. Is it not true?”

Polly stared from his face to the cigarettes in his hand with growing comprehension.

"That’s a lie.” she said, in a strained voice. “I never saw them before.”

The Major hunched his shoulders and smiled tolerantly. “That you will have to tell to the military court, my dear Miss Targ. It is hardly my province, you will comprehend.” Polly looked wildly from one to another of us. Her panic and her anger mounted together, as her glance fell upon Mungo, standing at a little distance, watching with his oblique smile. Beyond him was the face of Mrs. Holdgate, impenetrable and without emotion, like the face of the dead.

I stepped in then. “Major, this whole thing is an outrage. Miss Targ is telling the truth. She knew nothing about those cigarettes. They were given to Mrs. Holdgate by Irene Dumont. They were in Mrs. Holdgate’s possession until three days ago, when Carl Mungo apparently stole them and planted them in Miss Targ’s room, some time between that time and this. The motive was clearly revenge, and the fear that Miss Targ would expose him for the criminal and renegade that he is. You aren't going to let him get away with a thing like that, are you?”

The Major glared at me insolently. “S-so! You, too,

Mr. Delius, have become enslaved by the irresistible Miss Targ! That is most interesting, but I am afraid it has no bearing on so serious a matter as this.”

I wanted to smash his pink face, but it didn’t appear the wisest move at that moment. “Use your head.” I suggested, as calmly as possible. “If she'd wanted to smuggle those papers out of the country, she'd have grabbed the chance you gave her to leave, last night. Wouldn’t she? At least, she'd have sent them out with Julie Rember. The thing is an out-and-out frame-up, and you well know it.” Polly had taken it all in. Her eyes remained fixed on Mungo for a minute, as if she were trying to sound the depth of his treachery. Then she advanced slowly toward him. He went white as paper, and seemed to want to escajx; her, but to have lost his power of locomotion. He stood quite still and let her come close to him.

With her hands clenched at her sides. Polly stood over his shrinking figure and {x>ured out her rage and her scorn like slow poison, drop by drop. And when she had finished, she raised her hand with the swift unexpectedness of a snake striking, and dealt him a blow across the face that sent him spinning backward.

Mrs. Holdgate stepi>ed aside, murmuring, “How primitive!”

Polly turned on her. “You’re as low-down as he is—you dead fish ! You’re two of a kind. You better stick together. 1 wouldn’t wipe my feet on either of you—see?”

The Major probably hadn’t understood more than half of Polly’s tirade, but he wasn’t going to be intimidated. “Come, come!” he exclaimed, trying to get the situation back into his own hands. “All this is quite unnecessary. You should be preparing to leave by the afternoon train, my friends. Mrs. Holdgate will wish to join Mr. Holdgate in the city, no doubt.”

“I am going to Paris.” said Mrs. Holdgate icily.

Moss came forward for the first time since it had hapixmed. He probably felt that his own position was so perilous that anything he might say in Polly’s behalf would

be more of a detriment than otherwise. But he couldn’t keep silent any longer.

“You are making a mistake. Major,” he said pacifically. “This girl is quite innocent of the charge. You must see that. And it may lead to most unpleasant complications, you know. She is an American citizen, after all . . .” The Major lost his temper completely, at that. A woman scorned may be comparable to hell’s fury, but the Major proved, that day. that the vindictiveness of a man. thrown over, can be equally dangerous.

"Bah!” he trumpeted. “An American citizen! What kind of a citizen do you call that? A common street-wench —a cabaret singer—a nobody! No connections, no family, no position ! What government is going to care a snap of its fingers what happens to such a bird of passage? Again —bah!”

I tried one more tack. “Do you mean to say,” I demanded, “that you intend keeping this girl, who isn’t implicated in your national affairs in the least— and Isaac Moss, who has never in his life done anything that wasn’t upright and honest—you’re going to hold them as criminals and let this dyed-in-the-wool crook go scot-free? Why, it’s preposterous. This man is wanted by the United States Government. He is a menace to society, from every standpoint. You might better allow a case of smallpox to roam at large. He’s a habitual criminal.”

“That is not my concern,” said the Major stiffly.

“But you’re taking his word,” I shouted at him. “You’re taking the word of an acknowledged felon, against those of three self-respecting people.”

The Major threw out his chest. “I am not taking Mr. Mungo’s word.” he announced. “I myself discovered the evidence. Nothing more is needed.”

It was utterly futile, you see. He undoubtedly knew that I was telling the truth of the matter, but he chose to ignore it. In his little twisted soul, there was room for nothing but his petty triumph: he had paid out Polly Targ for her duplicity, and, with the same stroke of luck, he had achieved a coup in the eyes of his government. Fresh honor was within his grasp. Honor and revenge for his wounded pride. The Major was well content.

AN HOUR later, with my luggage packed and a car waiting downstairs, I said good-by to Polly Targ. She took hold of my hand and clasped it so tightly that her rings almost cut the flesh.

“Mr. Delius, I’m scared,” she said, in a quick whisper. “I don't want Doc to know—but I am. Say you’ll get me out of this, won’t you? And him, too.”

I told her I would, if it was humanly possible, and maybe even if it wasn’t. “That’s why I’m in a big rush to get away,” I said, reassuringly.

Mungo and Mrs. Holdgate had already left. No one had spoken to them or favored them with more than an averted glance, as they took their departure. I said, as the door slammed after them:

“The air seems fresher now.” Polly gave me her wry smile.

YVe stood, the three of us, in Moss’ room, while the innkeeper took my bags downstairs. There wasn’t much to say. Polly walked over to the window and looked out at the mountains that cast their purple shadows down upon the street.

“Over that way,” she said thoughtfully. “The other side of those mountains—that’s where the kid is now, isn’t it?”

I nodded. I knew she was thinking that, if it hadn't been for her arrangement with Julie, she herself would be beyond the mountains now.

She said slowly, still looking away, “It doesn’t matter so much. Maybe it was just as well, in a way. that Julie did go, instead of me. If she puts it across with that man in Geneva—” She turned impulsively to Isaac Moss. “I don't want you to think I’m sorry about that. Doc. Not if it turns out all right. And anyway”—she stood looking down at Moss in his chair, with the old mocking smile I had seen so often—“anyway, there's two of us. so it's not so bad.”

Moss grinned back at her. “Two of us.” he said deliberately. as if the phrase had some inner meaning which he’d just discovered. “That's right, Polly. It’s not so bad.”

I left them with the feeling that some rare and exquisite bond had sprung suddenly into being between those two who were left to face chaos, alone and yet together. It was a strange thing, but, as I looked at them for the last time, standing side by side on the stairs—so oddly matched, with Moss’ tall, awkward frame hovering like a protective middle-aged saint above the lithe, ripe beauty of Polly, and Polly looking up with a smile on her crimson mouth—well, they looked like two people who wouldn’t be afraid to meet anything, together.

Looking backward at the Silver Goose, I couldn’t help wondering at the curious workings of chance which had brought us all together, strangers beneath that roof, and had welded and fashioned us, in so brief a time, to fit the ends of an inscrutable destiny.

Continued on page 24

Continued from page 20—Starts on page 18

Not one of us. I thought, who entered that door a short while ago, but had undergone some change. Or was it only that the secret weaknesses and rigid repressions in each of us had been drawn forth in the trial of those few days, as a magnet draws forth hidden nails, so that we were no different on leaving, but only revealed as the people we actually were, instead of the people we wished or pretended to be?

The {peaked gables and little window’s of the inn were sw’ept out of sight, as the car rounded the first curve, and it was then that I took a silent vow to overturn heaven and earth to get those two out of there. 1 didn’t realize yet that heaven and earth are not easily moved, in a place like that.

1 dropped my luggage at the railway station and went at once to the telegraph office. I wrote out long and urgent messages—to the consulate, to Glore in Geneva, to everyone else I could think of who might be able to wield some influence

on behalf of Polly Targ and Isaac Moss.

I handed about half a dozen blanks, painstakingly written, to a gloomy young man behind the desk. He ran his eye over them hastily and handed them back to me. “These will have to wait,” he informed me listlessly. “The telegraph is being used for government business. Private messages will have to wait.” “Wait!” I cried, staring at him. “How long, in the name of heaven?”

He eyed me without visible emotion. “I couldn’t say. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next day. I couldn’t say.”

I cursed the young man and his Government, and rushed across the street to the telephone office. The same thing was repeated there.

“The lines have been taken over by the Government,” they told me, w'ith protestations of regret. “No private calls can be put through.”

As I emerged from the place, wondering what to do next, I realized that 1 w’as

being followed by an unobtrusive-looking person in civilian clothes. It was clear that they weren’t going to permit me to get in touch with anyone, or even to get out of their sight. I stalked down the street toward the station, feeling hot and angry. People, passing, stared at me curiously and edged away. Perhaps they recognized the bloodhound who was tagging at my heels, I thought ironically, I was tempted to swing around suddenly and let him have one on the chin. But I realized that it wouldn’t serve my purpose as well as it would theirs, for me to be locked up in the town jail on an assault charge. So I pretended not to notice him.

I looked at my watch. There was still

time to catch the afternoon train crossing

the border. It seemed the only thing to do,

reluctant though I was to put much

distance between myself and the Silver

Goose. But it was all too evident that I

couldn’t accomplish anything, so long as I stayed within their jurisdiction. I plunged into the dirty little railway station, marched up to the ticket window, and demanded a reservation. I must have

frightened the ticket agent. I remember

the scared look on his face and the way

his hands shook as he began scrambling for

a ticket. Someone touched my arm, and I

turned to find myself looking at a customs official.

“Your passport, sir?”

I produced it, along with some bitter remarks on the state of the country and the treatment accorded visiting foreigners. He didn’t pay any attention. Maybe he was used to it. He was shaking his head sadly over my passport.

“This is most unfortunate,” he said. His mustache moved up and down when he talked. “This will have to be withheld until it can be properly authorized. The visas are not in order. Most unfortunate.” By that time I was in a mood for wholesale homicide. “What are you talking about?” I bawled at him. “This thing was okayed by one of your high panjandrums not three hours ago. Look, at it!”

He shook his head again. “Most unfortunate,” he said, with his mustache quivering. “But I can do nothing, sir. You will have to remain in the town until it can be returned to you, properly signed. There is a pension just down the street. You should not be delayed long.”

“Can’t I go to the capital? Can’t I get in touch with the consul?”

He wagged his head. “The regulation,” he said, “provides that all passport difficulties must be adjusted at the frontier. You will have to remain here—oh, a very short time.”

I could see the train with its toy engine, already getting up steam beyond the gates. Far down the platform, I caught a glimpse of two familiar figures, walking away from me. It was the last I ever saw of Mrs. Holdgate or Mungo. And that, in itself, was maddening. That they should be free to go where they would, while I remained in that place, tied hand and foot.

I FOUND the pension down the street;

there was no help for it. I took a room in that none-too-clean boardinghouse, and then I went to military headquarters and raged like a madman. I stormed and pleaded and cajoled. I hinted rather broadly at bribery, if they’d fix it up. I threatened them with reprisals, and invasion by the entire United States Army. They were unfailingly polite— and regretful. I got exactly nowhere.

That went on for three days. Wherever I went, my shadow followed after. My nerves were shot. I hung about the railway station and haunted the telegraph office, by turns.

I couldn’t get anyone to take me out to the Silver Goose so I could see for myself what was going on there. They all seemed afraid to go near the place. Everyone in that town, living under the shadow of war and the dictator, was scared to death.

As I walked about the medieval streets,

the shifting, frightened eyes of the townspeople began to obtrude upon my consciousness with awful insistence, and I wondered if there was a contagion of fear that was gradually communicating itself to me, the longer I stayed there.

On the third day, I managed to shake my watchdog. I saw him slip into the telephone office to make a call (reporting my movements, I thought grimlyj, so I seized the opportunity to scurry around the nearest corner and down several alleys. The next time I looked around, I had lost him.

I poked around a dingy district, where narrow shops huddled one against another, and I savored the taste of freedom, even though I knew it couldn’t last long. I peered in at the streaked windows of cobblers’ and pastry shops, wishing to go in and buy something—anything—simply for the luxury of talking to someone who wasn’t corrupted by the touch of officialdom.

At the end of the little street, I found a wine shop. I went in with a sense of deliverance, though it was a somewhat disreputable-looking place. There was no one there, except for a blowzy barmaid and one man sitting disconsolately over a glass, at a corner table.

I glanced at him casually, and then I looked again. It was my old friend, the piano tuner.

I felt as if I had found a brother. “May I buy you a drink?” I asked, swooping down on him. “You remember me, don’t you?”

He looked up and gave a little start. “I remember you,” he said, as if the fact gave him no particular pleasure.

I ordered red wine and took a chair next to him, uninvited. He had been remarkably well informed on that other occasion. Obviously he had access to some source of information as to what went on. I took a gold coin out of my pocket and laid it carelessly on the table near his hand. He glanced at it apathetically.

“Keep it,” he said, without looking up. “Where would I get a gold piece?”

I hadn’t considered that. I took it back and felt in my pocket for some loose silver. “They’re holding two of my friends at the Silver Goose,” I said as casually as possible. “I’ve been trying to get them out. Do you know anything about it?”

“I know all about it,” he said bleakly. He wasn’t looking at me, but at his glass of wine—the same queer trick I had noticed before.

He waited till the maid had put the wine on the table and gone back behind the bar. Then he scooixxl up the silver without any noise and said, “They were taken away from there.”

“What do you mean?” I demanded. “Where did they take them? I’m trying to get them out—understand?”

He raised his mournful eyes and looked at me for an instant, pityingly. “It won’t do any good,” he said. “It’s too late.”

I didn’t want to understand him. He wouldn’t say any more, and I was too sick to try to drag it out of him. But there had been an unmistakable finality in his tone.

When I got back to my pension, and received word that my passport was now in order and I could leave whenever liked, I knew that what he had said was true. They didn’t need to keep me any longer, because I couldn’t do anything now. He got things straight, that fellow. It was too late.

I GOT back to New York in April and found a letter from Julie Rember waiting at my club. She was in Boston, she said, studying with Vivaldi. And she wanted to see me.

A few days later I ran up to Boston and met her for luncheon. She looked a little thinner and harder—more grown-up, somehow—than I had remembered her.

“We missed each other in Geneva,” said, “but here we are—at last.”

Julie, sitting across the luncheon table, looked down at her plate and then jp at me, and she told me all about it.

Some of it, of course, I already knew.

When she got to Geneva, she found that Milton Glore had just left for Rome. She got in touch with him, finally, and he pulled all the wires he knew how. Certain bigwigs in Washington, as well as on the continent, sprang into action with amazing celerity—but it was no use.

The Major’s Government gave out, in terms of almost obsequious politeness, that Mr. Moss and Miss Targ had been exonerated and given their liberty. As to their subsequent movements, the Government begged to disclaim all responsibility.

“There's an investigation on in Wash-

ington,” I told Julie. “But after all— what’s the use? It’s all over as far as we —and they—are concerned.”

Julie looked away. Her eyes were wet.

“Somehow,” she said, “I can’t quite believe it. It doesn't seem possible, does it, that things like that ever happened? Here —it seems so far aw'ay from—all that.” She gazed around her, at the quiet hotel dining room, with its small shaded lights and the roses on the tables, and she shivered, remembering violence. “Polly—” she said in an undertone. “Polly. I can’t imagine her—dead. I feel as if I ought to make it up to her somehow.”

“You’ll do that,” I told her, “when you make your concert debut next fall.”

Julie crumpled her handkerchief and looked at me gratefully over the table. “I’ve thought about her so much. About her and Mr. Moss. They were so different, weren’t they? But they were both—good people. It’s a little hard to understand, Mr. Delius. But—I’m glad I knew them, just for that little while.”

“They had a special kind of courage,” I said. “I’m sure they never were defeated —even at the last.”

And I believe that is the truth.

The End