Infomotions, Inc.The Mischief Maker / Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946



Author: Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946
Title: The Mischief Maker
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): julien; herr freudenberg; freudenberg; kendricks; madame christophor; herr; mademoiselle; monsieur; anne; madame; lady anne; julien portel; julien replied; paris; dear julien; prince falkenberg; julien remarked
Contributor(s): Kleiser, Grenville, 1868-1953 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 95,689 words (short) Grade range: 6-9 (grade school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext8878
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Title: The Mischief Maker

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THE MISCHIEF-MAKER

BY

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

AUTHOR OF "THE LIGHTED WAY," "THE TEMPTING OF TAVERNAKE," "HAVOC," ETC.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANSON BOOTH

1913






CONTENTS



BOOK ONE



CHAPTER


    I SYMPATHY AND SELFISHNESS

   II AN INDISCREET LETTER

  III A RUINED CAREER

   IV A BUNCH OF VIOLETS

    V A SENTIMENTAL EPISODE

   VI AT THE CAFE L'ATHENEE

  VII COFFEE FOR THREE

 VIII IN PARIS

   IX MADAME CHRISTOPHOR

    X BETTER ACQUAINTANCE

   XI THE TOYMAKER FROM LEIPZIG

  XII AT THE RAT MORT

 XIII POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM

  XIV THE MORNING AFTER

   XV BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

  XVI "HAVE YOU EVER LOVED?"

 XVII KENDRICKS IS HOST

XVIII A MEETING OF SOCIALISTS

  XIX AN OFFER

   XX FALKENBERG ACTS




BOOK TWO



CHAPTER



    I THE FLIGHT OF LADY ANNE

   II "TO OUR NEW SELVES"

  III WORK FOR JULIEN

   IV A STARTLING DISCLOSURE

    V THE FIRST ARTICLE

   VI FALKENBERG FAILS

  VII LADY ANNE DECLINES

 VIII A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

   IX FOOLHARDY JULIEN

    X THE SECOND ATTEMPT

   XI BY THE PRINCE'S ORDERS

  XII DISTRESSING NEWS

 XIII ESTERMEN'S DEATH WARRANT

  XIV SANCTUARY

   XV NEARING A CRISIS

  XVI FALKENBERG'S LAST REPORT

 XVII DEFEAT FOR FALKENBERG

XVIII THE ONE WAY OUT

  XIX ALL ENDS WELL




ILLUSTRATIONS

"Really," he said, "I thought better of Herr Freudenberg"

"At least," she reminded him, "you are going to see Madame
Christophor?"

"Splendid!" he muttered, rising to his feet. "If only I can do it!"

"Let me present to you Monsieur Bourgan of the French Detective
Service"





BOOK ONE




CHAPTER I


SYMPATHY AND SELFISHNESS


The girl who was dying lay in an invalid chair piled up with cushions
in a sheltered corner of the lawn. The woman who had come to visit her
had deliberately turned away her head with a murmured word about the
sunshine and the field of buttercups. Behind them was the little
sanitarium, a gray stone villa built in the style of a chateau,
overgrown with creepers, and with terraced lawns stretching down to the
sunny corner to which the girl had been carried earlier in the day.
There were flowers everywhere--beds of hyacinths, and borders of purple
and yellow crocuses. A lilac tree was bursting into blossom, the breeze
was soft and full of life. Below, beyond the yellow-starred field of
which the woman had spoken, flowed the Seine, and in the distance one
could see the outskirts of Paris.

"The doctor says I am better," the girl whispered plaintively. "This
morning he was quite cheerful. I suppose he knows, but it is strange
that I should feel so weak--weaker even day by day. And my cough--it
tears me to pieces all the time."

The woman who was bending over her gulped something down in her throat
and turned her head. Although older than the invalid whom she had come
to visit, she was young and very beautiful. Her cheeks were a trifle
pale, but even without the tears her eyes were almost the color of
violets.

"The doctor must know, dear Lucie," she declared. "Our own feelings so
often mean nothing at all."

The girl moved a little uneasily in her chair. She, also, had once been
pretty. Her hair was still an exquisite shade of red-gold, but her
cheeks were thin and pinched, her complexion had gone, her clothes fell
about her. She seemed somehow shapeless.

"Yes," she agreed, "the doctor knows--he must know. I see it in his
manner every time he comes to visit me. In his heart," she added,
dropping her voice, "he must know that I am going to die."

Her eyes seemed to have stiffened in their sockets, to have become
dilated. Her lips trembled, but her eyes remained steadfast.

"Oh! madame," she sobbed, "is it not cruel that one should die like
this! I am so young. I have seen so little of life. It is not just,
madame--it is not just!"

The woman who sat by her side was shaking. Her heart was torn with
pity. Everywhere in the soft, sunlit air, wherever she looked, she
seemed to read in letters of fire the history of this girl, the history
of so many others.

"We will not talk of death, dear," she said. "Doctors are so wonderful,
nowadays. There are so few diseases which they cannot cure. They seem
to snatch one back even from the grave. Besides, you are so young. One
does not die at nineteen. Tell me about this man--Eugene, you called
him. He has never once been to see you--not even when you were in the
hospital?"

The girl began to tremble.

"Not once," she murmured.

"You are sure that he had your letters? He knows that you are out here
and alone?"

"Yes, he knows!"

There was a short silence. The woman found it hard to know what to say.
Somewhere down along the white, dusty road a man was grinding the music
of a threadbare waltz from an ancient barrel-organ. The girl closed her
eyes.

"We used to hear that sometimes," she whispered, "at the cafes. At one
where we went often they used to know that I liked it and they always
played it when we came. It is queer to hear it again--like this....
Oh, when I close my eyes," she muttered, "I am afraid! It is like
shutting out life for always."

The woman by her side got up. Lucie caught at her skirt.

"Madame, you are not going yet?" she pleaded. "Am I selfish? Yet you
have not stayed with me so long as yesterday, and I am so lonely."

The woman's face had hardened a little.

"I am going to find that man," she replied. "I have his address. I want
to bring him to you."

The girl's hold upon her skirt tightened.

"Sit down," she begged. "Do not leave me. Indeed it is useless. He
knows. He does not choose to come. Men are like that. Oh! madame, I
have learned my lesson. I know now that love is a vain thing. Men do
not often really feel it. They come to us when we please them, but
afterwards that does not count. I suppose we were meant to be
sacrificed. I have given up thinking of Eugene. He is afraid, perhaps,
of the infection. I think that I would sooner go out of life as I lie
here, cold and unloved, than have him come to me unwillingly."

The woman could not hide her tears any longer. There was something so
exquisitely fragile, so strangely pathetic, in that prostrate figure by
her side.

"But, my dear," she faltered,--

"Madame," the girl interrupted, "hold my hand for a moment. That is the
doctor coming. I hear his footstep. I think that I must sleep."

Madame Christophor--she had another name, but there were few occasions
on which she cared to use it--was driven back to Paris, in accordance
with her murmured word of instruction, at a pace which took little heed
of police regulations or even of safety. Through the peaceful lanes,
across the hills into the suburbs, and into the city itself she passed,
at a speed which was scarcely slackened even when she turned into the
Boulevard which was her destination. Glancing at the slip of paper
which she held in her hand, she pulled the checkstring before a tall
block of buildings. She hurried inside, ascended two flights of stairs,
and rang the bell of a door immediately opposite her. A very
German-looking manservant opened it after the briefest of delays--a man
with fair moustache, fat, stolid face and inquisitive eyes.

"Is your master in," she demanded, "Monsieur Estermen?"

The man stared at her, then bowed. The appearance of Madame Christophor
was, without doubt, impressive.

"I will inquire, madame," he replied.

"I am in a hurry," she said curtly. "Be so good as to let your master
know that."

A moment later she was ushered into a sitting-room--a man's apartment,
untidy, reeking of cigarette smoke and stale air. There were
photographs and souvenirs of women everywhere. The windows were
fast-closed and the curtains half-drawn. The man who stood upon the
hearthrug was of medium height, dark, with close-cropped hair and a
black, drooping moustache. His first glance at his visitor, as the door
opened, was one of impertinent curiosity.

"Madame?" he inquired.

"You are Monsieur Estermen?"

He bowed. He was very much impressed and he endeavored to assume a
manner.

"That is my name. Pray be seated."

She waved away the chair he offered.

"My automobile is in the street below," she said. "I wish you to come
with me at once to see a poor girl who is dying."

He looked at her in amazement.

"Are you serious, madame?"

"I am very serious indeed," she replied. "The girl's name is Lucie
Renault."

For the moment he seemed perplexed. Then his eyebrows were slowly
raised.

"Lucie Renault," he repeated. "What do you know about her?"

"Only that she is a poor child who has suffered at your hands and who
is dying in a private hospital," Madame Christophor answered. "She has
been taken there out of charity. She has no friends, she is dying
alone. Come with me. I will take you to her. You shall save her at
least from that terror."

It was the aim of the man with whom she spoke to be considered modern.
A perfect and invincible selfishness had enabled him to reach the
topmost heights of callousness, and to remain there without
affectation.

"If the little girl is dying," he said, "I am sorry, for she was pretty
and companionable, although I have lost sight of her lately. But as to
my going out to see her, why, that is absurd. I hate illness of all
sorts."

The woman looked at him steadfastly, looked at him as though she had
come into contact with some strange creature.

"Do you understand what it is that I am saying?" she demanded. "This
girl was once your little friend, is it not so? It was for your sake
that she gave up the simple life she was living when you first knew
her, and went upon the stage. The life was too strenuous for her. She
broke down, took no care of herself, developed a cough and alas!
tuberculosis."

The man sighed. He had adopted an expression of abstract sympathy.

"A terrible disease," he murmured.

"A terrible disease indeed," Madame Christophor repeated. "Do you not
understand what I mean when I tell you that she is dying of it? Very
likely she will not live a week--perhaps not a day. She lies there
alone in the garden of the hospital and she is afraid. There are none
who knew her, whom she cares for, to take her into their arms and to
bid her have no fear. Is it not your place to do this? You have held
her in your arms in life. Don't you see that it is your duty to cheer
her a little way on this last dark journey?"

The man threw away his cigarette and moved to the mantelpiece, where he
helped himself to a fresh one from the box.

"Madame," he said, "I perceive that you are a sentimentalist."

She did not speak--she could not. She only looked at him.

"Death," he continued, lighting his cigarette, "is an ugly thing. If it
came to me I should probably be quite as much afraid--perhaps
more--than any one else. But it has not come to me just yet. It has
come, you tell me, to little Lucie. Well, I am sorry, but there is
nothing I can do about it. I have no intention whatever of making
myself miserable. I do not wish to see her. I do not wish to look upon
death, I simply wish to forget it. If it were not, madame," he added,
with a bow and a meaning glance from his dark eyes, "that you bring
with you something of your own so well worth looking upon, I could
almost find myself regretting your visit."

She still regarded him fixedly. There was in her face something of that
shrinking curiosity with which one looks upon an unclean and horrible
thing.

"That is your answer?" she murmured.

The man had little understanding and he replied boldly.

"It is my answer, without a doubt. Lucie, if what you tell me is true,
as I do not for a moment doubt, is dying from a disease the ravages of
which are hideous to watch, and which many people believe, too, to be
infectious. Let me advise you, madame, to learn also a little wisdom.
Let me beg of you not to be led away by these efforts of sentiment,
however picturesque and delightful they may seem. The only life that is
worth considering is our own. The only death that we need fear is our
own. We ought to live like that."

The woman stood quite still. She was tall and she was slim. Her figure
was exquisite. She was famous throughout the city for her beauty. The
man's eyes dwelt upon her and the eternal expression crept slowly into
his face. He seemed to understand nothing of the shivering horror with
which she was regarding him.

"If it were upon any other errand, madame," he continued, leaning
towards her, "believe, I pray you, that no one would leave this room to
become your escort more willingly than I."

She turned away.

"You will not leave me already?" he begged.

"Monsieur," she declared, as she threw open the door before he could
reach it, "if I thought that there were many men like you in the world,
if I thought--"

She never finished her sentence. The emotions which had seized her were
entirely inexpressible. He shrugged his shoulders.

"My dear lady," he said, "let me assure you that there is not a man of
the world in this city who, if he spoke honestly, would not feel
exactly as I do. Allow me at least to see you to your automobile."

"If you dare to move," she muttered, "if you dare--"

She swept past him and down the stairs into the street. She threw
herself into the corner of the automobile. The chauffeur looked around.

"Where to, madame?" he inquired.

She hesitated for a moment. She had affairs of her own, but the thought
of the child's eyes came up before her.

"Back to the hospital," she ordered. "Drive quickly."

They rushed from Paris once more into the country, with its spring
perfumes, its soft breezes, its restful green, but fast though they
drove another messenger had outstripped them. From the little chapel,
as the car rolled up the avenue, came the slow tolling of a bell.
Madame Christophor stood on the corner of the lawn alone. The invalid
chair was empty. The blinds of the villa were being slowly lowered. She
turned around and looked toward the city. It seemed to her that she
could see into the rooms of the man whom she had left a few minutes
ago. A lark was singing over her head. She lifted her eyes and looked
past him up to the blue sky. Her lips moved, but never a sound escaped
her. Yet the man who sat in his rooms at that moment, yawning and
wondering where to spend the evening, and which companion he should
summon by telephone to amuse him, felt a sudden shiver in his veins.




CHAPTER II


AN INDISCREET LETTER


The library of the house in Grosvenor Square was spacious, handsome and
ornate. Mr. Algernon H. Carraby, M.P., who sat dictating letters to a
secretary in an attitude which his favorite photographer had rendered
exceedingly familiar, at any rate among his constituents, was also, in
his way, handsome and ornate. Mrs. Carraby, who had just entered the
room, fulfilled in an even greater degree these same characteristics.
It was acknowledged to be a very satisfactory household.

"I should like to speak to you for a moment, Algernon," his wife
announced.

Mr. Carraby noticed for the first time that she was carrying a letter
in her hand. He turned at once to his secretary.

"Haskwell," he said, "kindly return in ten minutes."

The young man quitted the room. Mrs. Carraby advanced a few steps
further towards her husband. She was tall, beautifully dressed in the
latest extreme of fashion. Her movements were quiet, her skin a little
pale, and her eyebrows a little light. Nevertheless, she was quite a
famous beauty. Men all admired her without any reservations. The best
sort of women rather mistrusted her.

"Is that the letter, Mabel?" her husband asked, with an eagerness which
he seemed to be making some effort to conceal.

She nodded slowly. He held out his hand, but she did not at once part
with it.

"Algernon," she said quietly, "you know that I am not very scrupulous.
We both of us want success--a certain sort of success--and we have both
of us been content to pay the price. You have spent a good deal of
money and you have succeeded very well indeed. Somehow or other, I feel
to-day as though I were spending more than money."

He laughed a little uncomfortably.

"My dear Mabel!" he protested. "You are not going to back out, are
you?"

"No," she replied, "I do not think that I shall back out. There is
nothing in the whole world I want so much as to have you a Cabinet
Minister. If there had been any other way--"

"But there is no other way," her husband interrupted. "So long as
Julien Portel lives, I should never get my chance. He holds the post I
want. Every one knows that he is clever. He has the ear of the Prime
Minister and he hates me. My only chance is his retirement."

Mrs. Carraby looked at the letter.

"Well," she said, "I have played your game for you. I have gone even to
the extent of being talked about with Julien Portel."

Her husband moved uneasily in his chair.

"That will all blow over directly," he declared. "Besides, if--if
things go our way, we shan't see much more of Portel. Give me the
letter."

Still she hesitated. It was curious that throughout the slow evolution
of this scheme to break a man's life, for which she was mainly
responsible, she had never hesitated until this moment. Always it had
been fixed in her mind that Algernon was to be a Cabinet Minister; she
was to be the wife of a Cabinet Minister. That there were any other
things greater in life than the gratification of so reasonable an
ambition had never seemed possible. Now she hesitated. She looked at
her husband and she saw him with new eyes. He seemed suddenly a mean
little person. She thought of the other man and there was a strange
quiver in her heart--a very unexpected sensation indeed. There was a
difference in the breed. It came home to her at that moment. She found
herself even wondering, as she swung the letter idly between her thumb
and fore-finger, whether she would have been a different woman if she
had had a different manner of husband.

"The letter!" he repeated.

She laid it calmly on the desk before him.

"Of course," she said coldly, "if you find the contents affectionate
you must remember that I am in no way responsible. This was your
scheme. I have done my best."

The man's fingers trembled slightly as he broke the seal.

"Naturally," he agreed, pausing for an instant and looking up at her.
"I knew that I could trust you or I would never have put such an idea
into your head."

She laughed; a characteristic laugh it was, quite cold, quite
mirthless, apparently quite meaningless. Carraby turned back to the
letter, tore open the envelope and spread it out before them. He read
it out aloud in a sing-song voice.

_Downing Street. Tuesday_

MY DEAREST MABEL,

I had your sweet little note an hour ago. Of course I was disappointed
about luncheon, as I always am when I cannot see you. Your promise to
repay me, however, almost reconciles me.

The man looked up at his wife.

"Promise?" he repeated hoarsely. "What does he mean?"

"Go on," she said, with unchanged expression. "See if what you want is
there."

The man continued to read:

I am going to ask you a very great favor, Mabel. When we are alone
together, I talk to you with absolute freedom. To write you on matters
connected with my office is different. I know very well how deep and
sincere your interest in politics really is, and it has always been one
of my greatest pleasures, when with you, to talk things over and hear
your point of view. Without flattery, dear, I have really more than
once found your advice useful. It is your understanding which makes our
companionship always a pleasure to me, and I rely upon that when I beg
you not to ask me to write you again on matters to which I have really
no right to allude. You do not mind this, dear? And having read you my
little lecture, I will answer your question. Yes, the Cabinet Council
was held exactly as you surmise. With great difficulty I persuaded
B---- to adopt my view of the situation. They are all much too
terrified of this war bogey. For once I had my own way. Our answer to
this latest demand from Berlin was a prompt and decisive negative.
Nothing of this is to be known for at least a week.

I am sorry your husband is such a bear. Perhaps on Monday we may meet
at Cardington House?

Please destroy this letter at once.

Ever affectionately yours,

JULIEN.

The man's eyes, as he read, grew brighter.

"It is enough?" the woman asked.

"It is more than enough!"

Slowly he replaced it in its envelope and thrust it into the
breast-pocket of his coat.

"What are you going to do with it?" she inquired.

"I have made my plans," he answered. "I know exactly how to make the
best and most dignified use of it."

He rose to his feet. Something in his wife's expression seemed to
disturb him. He walked a few steps toward the door and came back again.

"Mabel," he said, "are you glad?"

"Naturally I am glad," she replied.

"You have no regrets?"

Again she laughed.

"Regrets?" she echoed. "What are they? One doesn't think about such
things, nowadays."

They stood quite still in the centre of that very handsome apartment.
They were almost alien figures in the world in which they moved,
Carraby, the rankest of newcomers, carried into political life by his
wife's ambitions, his own self-amassed fortune, and a sort of subtle
cunning--a very common substitute for brains; Mrs. Carraby, on whom had
been plastered an expensive and ultra-fashionable education, although
she was able perhaps more effectually to conceal her origin, the
daughter of a rich Yorkshire manufacturer, who had secured a paid
entrance into Society. They were purely artificial figures for the very
reason that they never admitted any one of these facts to themselves,
but talked always the jargon of the world to which they aspired, as
though they were indeed denizens therein by right. At that moment,
though, a single natural feeling shook the man, shook his faith in
himself, in life, in his destiny. There was Jewish blood in his veins
and it made itself felt.

"Mabel," he began, "this man Portel--you've flirted with him, you say?"

"I have most certainly flirted with him," she admitted quietly.

"He hasn't dared--"

A flash of scorn lit her cold eyes.

"I think," she said, "that you had better ask me no questions of that
sort."

Carraby went slowly out. Already the moment was passing. Of course he
could trust his wife! Besides, in his letter was the death warrant of
the man who stood between him and his ambitions. Mrs. Carraby listened
to his footsteps in the hall, heard his suave reply to his secretary,
heard his orders to the footman who let him out. From where she stood
she watched him cross the square. Already he had recovered his alert
bearing. His shoes and his hat were glossy, his coat was of an
excellent fit. The woman watched him without movement or any change of
expression.




CHAPTER III


A RUINED CAREER


Sir Julien Portel stood in the middle of his bedroom, dressed in shirt
and trousers only. The sofa and chairs around him were littered with
portions of the brilliant uniform which he had torn from his person a
few minutes before with almost feverish haste. His perplexed servant,
who had only just arrived, was doing his best to restore the room to
some appearance of order.

"You needn't mind those wretched things for the present, Richards," his
master ordered sharply. "Bring the rest of the tweed traveling suit
like the trousers I have on, and then see about packing some clothes."

The man ceased his task. He looked around, a little bewildered.

"Do I understand that you are going out of town tonight, Sir Julien?"
he asked.

"I am going on to the continent by the nine o'clock train," was the
curt reply.

Richards was a perfectly trained servant, but the situation was too
much for him.

"You will excuse me, Sir Julien," he said, "but there is Lord
Cardington's dinner tonight, and the reception afterwards at the
Foreign Office. I have your court clothes ready."

His master laughed shortly.

"I am not attending the dinner or the reception, Richards. You can put
those things back again and get me the traveling clothes."

The man seemed a little dazed, but turned automatically towards the
wardrobe.

"Shall you require me to accompany you, sir?" he inquired.

"Not at present," Sir Julien replied. "You will have to come on with
the rest of my luggage when I have decided what to do."

Richards was not more than ordinarily inquisitive, but the
circumstances were certainly unusual.

"Do you mean, sir, that you will not be returning to London at
present?" he ventured to ask.

"I shall not be returning to London for some time," Sir Julien answered
sharply. "Get on with the packing as quickly as you can. Put the
whiskey and soda on the table in the sitting-room, and the cigarettes.
Remember, if any one comes I am not at home."

"Too late, my dear fellow," a voice called out from the adjoining room.
"You see, I have found my way up unannounced--a bad habit, but my
profession excuses everything."

The man stood on the threshold of the room opening out from the
bedroom--tall, florid, untidily dressed, with clean-shaven, humorous
face, ungloved hands, and a terribly shabby hat. He looked around the
room and shrugged his shoulders.

"What an infernal mess!" he exclaimed. "Come along out into the
sitting-room, Julien. I want to talk to you."

"I should like to know how the devil you got in here!" Sir Julien
muttered. "I told the fellow downstairs that no one was to be allowed
up."

"He did try to make himself disagreeable," the newcomer replied.
"However, here I am--that's enough."

Sir Julien turned to his servant.

"Get on with your packing, Richards," he directed, "and let me know
when you have finished."

Sir Julien followed his visitor into the sitting-room, closing the door
behind him. His manner was not in the least cordial.

"Look here, Kendricks, old fellow," he said, "I don't want to be rude,
but I am not in the humor to talk to any one. I have had a rotten week
of it and just about as much as I can stand. Help yourself to a whiskey
and soda, say what you have to say and then go."

The newcomer nodded. He helped himself to the whiskey and soda, but he
seemed in no hurry to speak. On the contrary, he settled himself down
in an easy-chair with the appearance of a man who had come to stay.

"Julien," he remarked presently, "you are up against it--up against it
rather hard. Don't trouble to interrupt me. I know pretty well all
about it. I said from the first you'd have to resign. There wasn't any
other way out of it."

"Quite right," Julien agreed. "There wasn't. I've finished up
everything to-day--resigned my office, applied for the Chiltern
Hundreds, and I am going to clear out of the country to-night."

"And all because you wrote a foolish letter to a woman!" Kendricks
murmured, half to himself. "By the bye, there's no doubt about the
letter, I suppose?"

"None in the world," Julien replied.

"There's nothing that the Press can do to set you right?"

"Great heavens, no!" Julien declared. "No one can help me. I've no one
to blame but myself. I wrote the letter--there the matter ends."

"And she passed it on to that shocking little bounder of a husband of
hers! What a creature! Did it ever occur to you that it was a plot?"

Julien shrugged his shoulders.

"It makes so little difference."

"You were in Carraby's way," Kendricks continued, producing a pipe from
his pocket and leisurely filling it. "There was no getting past you and
you were a young man. It's a dirty business."

"If you don't mind," Julien said coldly, "we won't discuss it any
further. So far as I am concerned, the whole matter is at an end. I was
compelled to take part in to-day's mummery. I hated it--that they all
knew. I suppose it's foolish to mind such things, David," he went on
bitterly, taking up a cigarette and throwing himself into a chair, "but
a year ago--it was just after I came back from Berlin and you may
remember it was the fancy of the people to believe that I had saved the
country from war--they cheered me all the way from Whitehall to the
Mansion House. To-day there was only a dull murmur of voices--a sort of
doubting groan. I felt it, Kendricks. It was like Hell, that ride!"

Kendricks nodded sympathetically.

"I suppose you know that a version of the letter is in the evening
papers?" he asked.


"My resignation will be in the later issues," Julien told him. "It was
pretty well known yesterday afternoon. I leave for the continent
to-night."

There was a short silence between the two men. In a sense they had been
friends all their lives. Sir Julien Portel had been a successful
politician, the youngest Cabinet Minister for some years. Kendricks had
never aspired to be more than a clever journalist of the vigorous type.
Nevertheless, they had been more than ordinarily intimate.

"Have you made any plans?" Kendricks inquired presently. "Of course,
you would have to resign office, but don't you think there might be a
chance of living it down?"

"Not a chance on earth," Julien replied. "As to what I am going to do,
don't ask me. For the immediate present I am going to lose myself in
Normandy or somewhere. Afterwards I think I shall move on to my old
quarters in Paris. There's always a little excitement to be got out of
life there."

Kendricks looked at his friend through the cloud of tobacco smoke.

"It's excitement of rather a dangerous order," he remarked slowly.

"I shall never be likely to forget that I am an Englishman," Julien
said. "Perhaps I may be able to do something to set matters right
again. One can't tell. By the bye, Kendricks," he went on, "do you
remember when we were at college how you hated women? How you used to
try and trace half the things that went wrong in life to their
influence?"

The journalist nodded. He knocked the ashes from his pipe deliberately.

"I was a boy in those days," he declared. "I am a man now, getting on
toward middle age, and on that one subject I am as rabid as ever. I
hate their meddling in men's affairs, shoving themselves into politics,
always whispering in a man's ear under pretence of helping him with
their sympathy. They're in evidence wherever you go--women, women,
women! The place reeks with them. You can't go about your work, hour by
hour or day by day, without having them on every side of you. It's like
a poison, this trail of them over every piece of serious work we
attempt, over every place we find our way into. They bang the
typewriters in our offices, they elbow us in the streets, they smile at
us from the next table at our workaday luncheon, they crowd the tubes
and the cars and the cabs in the streets. Why the deuce, Julien, can't
we treat them like those sage Orientals, and dump them all in one place
where they belong till we've finished our work?"

Julien lifted his tumbler of whiskey and soda to his lips and set it
down empty.

"In a way, you're right, Kendricks," he agreed. "You go too far, of
course, but I do believe that women hold too big a place in our lives.
I am one of the poor fools who goes to the wall to gratify the vanity
of one of them."

The journalist muttered a word under his breath which he would have
been very sorry to have seen in the pages of his paper. Julien had
moved to the open window. There had been a little break in his voice.
No one knew better than Kendricks that a very brilliant career was
broken.

"I think you're wise to go away for a time, Julien," he decided. "Look
here, it's six o'clock now. I have a taxicab waiting downstairs. Come
round to my rotten little restaurant in Soho and dine with me. Your
fellow can meet us at Charing-Cross with your things. You won't see a
soul you know where I'm going to take you."

Julien turned slowly away from the window. He was looking for the last
time from those rooms at the London which he had loved. The setting sun
had caught the dome of St. Paul's, was flashing from the dark, placid
water of the Thames. The roar of the great city was passing from
eastwards to westwards.

"You're a good chap, Kendricks," he declared. "I'll come along, with
pleasure. I shall have enough solitude later on. But listen, before we
go--listen, David, to a speech after your own heart."

Julien stood quite still for a moment. His pale face seemed suddenly
whiter, his eyes were full of fire.

"David," he said, "if ever the time comes in the future when I find
that a woman is beginning to claim a minute of my thoughts, a single
one of my emotions, to govern the slightest throb of my pulses, I'll
take her by the throat and I'll throw her out of what's left of my life
as I would a rat that had crept into my room. I've done with them.
Curse all women!"

There was a silence. Kendricks leaned over to the fireplace and knocked
his pipe against the hearth. Then he suddenly paused.

"What's that?" he asked abruptly.

There was a soft knocking at the outside door.




CHAPTER IV


A BUNCH OF VIOLETS


Kendricks rose slowly to his feet. Julien was looking toward the door
with a frown upon his face. While they stood there the knocking was
repeated, still soft but a little more insistent. Julien hesitated no
longer.

"I think," Kendricks said dryly, "that you had better see who is
there."

The door was already opened. Julien seemed suddenly transformed into a
graven image. He said nothing, merely gazing at the woman who walked
calmly past him into the room. Kendricks, who also recognized her,
withdrew his pipe from his mouth. This was a situation indeed! The
woman, with her hands inside her muff, looked from one to the other of
the two men.

"Am I interrupting a very important interview?" she asked calmly. "If
not, perhaps you could spare me five minutes of your time, Sir Julien?"

Kendricks recovered himself at once.

"I'll wait for you downstairs, Julien," he declared.

He caught up his hat and departed, closing the door after him. Julien
was still motionless.

"Well?" she began.

He drew a little breath. He was beginning to regain his
self-possession.

"My dear Mrs. Carraby," he said, "with your wonderful knowledge of the
world and its ways, will you permit me to point out that your presence
here is a little embarrassing to me and might, under certain
circumstances, be a good deal more embarrassing to you?"

Mrs. Carraby smiled. She stood where the sunlight touched her brown
hair and her quiet, pale face. She was one of those women who are never
afraid of the light. Her face was of that strange, self-contained
nature, colorless, apparently, yet capable of strange and rapid
changes. Just now the last glow of sunlight seemed to have found a
skein of gold in her hair, a queer gleam of light in her eyes. She
stood there looking at the man whom she had come to visit.

"Julien," she said, "I wanted a few words with you."

It was impossible for him to remain altogether unmoved. Whatever else
might be the truth, she had risked most of the things that were dear to
her in life by this visit.

"Mrs. Carraby," he declared, "I am entirely at your service. If you
think that any useful purpose can be served by words between you and
me, I would only point out, for your own sake, that your visit is, to
say the least of it, unwise. These are bachelor chambers."

"You know very well," she replied calmly, "that it was my only chance
of speaking with you. If I had sent for you, you would not have come.
If I had spoken to you in the street, you would have passed me
by--quite rightly. This was my only chance. That is why I have come to
you."

"If you think it worth the risk," he remarked gravely, "pray continue."

She shrugged her shoulders very slightly.

"Who can tell what is worth the risk?"

"You have at least excited my curiosity," he admitted, leaning a little
towards her. "I cannot conceive what it is that you want to say to me."

She lifted her eyes to his, and though there was nothing unusual about
them--there were few people, indeed, who could tell you what color they
were--men seldom forgot it when Mrs. Carraby looked at them steadily.

"I do not know, myself," she said. "I do not know why I have come."

Julien laughed unnaturally.

"Pray be seated," he begged. "Would you like to examine my curios or my
photographs? I must apologize for the condition of my room. You see,
you happen to be the first woman who has ever crossed its threshold."

"That," she remarked, "rather interests me. Still, it is only what I
should have expected. No, I do not think that I will sit down. I am
trying to ask myself exactly why I have come."


"If you can answer that question," Julien said grimly, "you will
appease a very natural curiosity on my part. It is not like you."

"Quite true," she assented. "It is not like me. I have run a great risk
in coming here and it is not my metier to run risks. And now that I am
here I do not know why I have come. This has been an impulse and this
is an hour outside my life. I am trying to understand it. Come here,
Julien." He came unwillingly to her side. She held out her hand, but
he shook his head.

"Mabel," he said, "you and I do not need to mince words. To-night I am
celebrating the ruin of my career. I am leaving England within a few
hours. I have you to thank for what has happened. Yet you come to me,
you hold out your hand. You must forgive me--I am afraid I am dull."

"No," she replied, "you are not dull. Your feelings towards me are
obvious and very natural. Mine towards you I am not so sure of. It is
not because I did not understand you that I came here to-night. It is
because I did not understand myself. May I go on?"

"Why not?" he answered. "I am at your service."

"From the days of my boarding-school," she continued, "I have known
only one Mabel. In her girlhood she had all that she could get out of
life and turned everything she could to her own ends. A marriage was
arranged for her--you see, I was half a Jewess and my husband was half
a Jew, and things are done like that with us. The marriage opened the
door to a fresh set of ambitions. For the last few years I have trodden
a well-worn path. It was I who advised my husband to refuse a
baronetcy. It was I who won his first election. I see that my
photographs are in all the illustrated papers, that his speeches are
properly recorded, that my visiting list moves within the correct
limits. These things have spelt life. To the fulfillment of my
husband's ambitions there was one obstacle. That obstacle was you. In
life one schemes. It was my husband's wish that I should make myself
agreeable to you, even to the extent of a flirtation."

She raised her eyes.

"Your obedience to your husband is most touching," he said.

"It is true, I suppose," she went on, "that we have flirted. I looked
upon it as the means to an end. The end came. I played my cards quite
ruthlessly, I gathered in the reward. I got your letter, I handed it to
my husband. Your career was finished, my husband's begun."

"This is most interesting," Julien muttered.

"Is it?" she answered. "I suppose it should have been an hour of
triumph with me. It simply isn't. I have come to a place in my life
which I don't understand. When I told myself that it was over, that I
had flirted with you, that I had won your friendship and your
confidence, betrayed you, ruined you for a peerage and that my husband
should take office, I should surely have been satisfied! It was for
that I had worked. I gave my husband the letter and I watched him walk
off in triumph. Since then I have not been myself. I have come to you,
Julien, to ask if there is no other end possible to this?"

Once more she raised her eyes. Julien came a step nearer to her. They
were standing now face to face.

"All of a sudden," she murmured, "I looked back and I saw the way I
have lived and the way I am living and the life that spreads itself out
before me. I saw myself a peeress, I saw myself receiving my husband's
guests, I saw the gratification of all those ambitions which have
seemed to me so wonderful. And I locked the door and I shrieked and it
seemed to me that there was a new thing and a new thought in my life. I
have done you a hideous wrong, Julien. There is only one way I can set
it right. There is only one moment in which it can be done, and that
moment is now. Tomorrow I shall be back again. For this one hour I see
the truth. I am a very rich woman, Julien. My husband's future, indeed,
is largely bound up with my wealth. Remember that in all I have done I
have been his agent. He hates you, has hated you from the first because
you were a gentleman and he never was. This is my one moment of madness
in a perfectly well-ordered life."

One of her hands stole from her muff, stole out half-hesitatingly
towards him. Julien took it in his and raised it to his lips. Then he
looked her in the eyes.

"Dear Mabel," he said, "you are forgiven. I understand perfectly the
reasons for your coming. Go back to your husband, wear your coronet and
receive his guests with a free conscience. I forgive you."

Her hand slipped back into her muff. She began to tremble a little.

"As for me," he went on, "I played the fool and I pay willingly. I was
engaged to marry a very charming girl who believed in me and whom I
cared for as much as it was possible for me to care for anything
outside my career. I flirted with you because it was a piquant thing to
do. You were a woman whom other men found difficult, you were the wife
of a man whom I despised and who was trying all the time to undermine
my position. I sacrificed my self-respect every time I crossed your
threshold. To-day I pay. I am willing. As for you, Mabel, your visit
here shall square things between us. I wish you the best of luck. You
must let me ring for my servant. He will find you a taxicab."

He moved toward the bell. Mrs. Carraby, with her hands inside her muff,
stood exactly as though she were part of the furniture of the room.
With his finger upon the ivory disc, he hesitated. She was not looking
towards him and her eyes were half closed.


"Perhaps," he suggested, "you would rather find your way out alone? I
will not offer my escort, for obvious reasons."

She turned slowly round.

"Do not ring," she ordered sharply. "Come here."

He came at once towards her. She took both his hands in hers, she
leaned towards him. She was a tall woman and they were very nearly the
same height.

"Julien," she whispered, "is this all that you have to say to me?"

"It is more," Julien replied frankly, "than I expected ever to have to
say to you again in this world. What do you expect? You don't think
that I am the kind of man to--but that is absurd! Come. We'll part
friends, if you like. Here's my hand."

"We must part, then?" she said.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Unless a walking tour in Normandy for a month appeals to you. You see,
I am going to take a holiday, and I have a fancy that our ideas on the
subject of holidays might not exactly agree."

"A holiday," she repeated. "I am not sure--do you know, Julien, I
sometimes believe that I have never had a holiday in my life?"

He looked at her doubtingly.

"After all," she continued, "can't you see that I have come here to ask
you one question? You are different from the people I have known
intimately and the people with whom I have been brought up, different
from my husband. You know what my life has been. I have told you just
now that the great doubt has come to me within the last few days. Won't
you tell me what I want to know? Is there anything better, anything
greater, anything more wonderful in life than these things which I have
known, these ambitions, this social struggle? Tell me, Julien, is there
anything else? Can you tell me how and where to find it?"

Once more her fingers had crept out of her muff.

Her hands were upon his shoulders, she seemed to be drawing him to
her. Julien kissed her lightly on the forehead.

"For you, my dear Mabel," he decided, "I should say that there was
nothing better. A leopard cannot change its spots. The life into which
you have been brought and for which you have qualified so admirably, is
the only life which would suit you. If you fancy sometimes in your
dreams, or in your waking hours, that you hear cries and calls from
another country, don't listen to them. You would never be happy outside
the world you know of. You see, one who has made such a failure of life
himself is yet well able to advise. Forgive me."

The telephone on his writing table was ringing. He turned aside to
answer it. It was a question regarding the whereabouts of some papers
at the office and it took him a few minutes to explain. When he set the
receiver back and turned around, he was alone. There was nothing to
remind him of her visit but a bunch of violets which seemed to have
fallen from her muff, and the faint perfume from them. He took them up,
smelt them for a moment, and flung them lightly into the hearth. Then
he touched his bell.

"My hat, stick and gloves, Richards," he ordered. "Bring my things to
Charing-Cross at half-past eight. Have them registered only to
Boulogne. You understand?"

"Perfectly, sir," the man replied.

Julien glanced once more around his sitting-room. The little bunch of
violets was smouldering upon the hearth. In a sense they seemed to him
symbolical.

"Kendricks is right," he muttered. "It is the women who play the devil
with our lives!"




CHAPTER V


A SENTIMENTAL EPISODE


Kendricks was waiting below in the taxicab, leaning back in the corner
with his feet upon the opposite seat, and smoking his very disreputable
pipe with an air of serene content.

"Sorry to have turned you out into the street like this," Julien
remarked.

"Thank you," Kendricks replied, "under the circumstances I preferred
the street."

Julien hesitated for a moment and glanced at his watch.

"There is one more call that I must pay, David," he said. "You won't
mind, will you? We've plenty of time."

"Mind? Of course not," Kendricks answered, stretching himself out in
the cab. "Do what you please with me, only leave an hour or an hour and
a half for dinner. I am the best-tempered person in the world so long
as no one interferes with my regular meal hours."

"It's just a little farewell call," Julien explained, "that I want to
pay. I've told the man where to go."

Kendricks nodded silently. He knew all about that little call, but if
he felt any sympathy he was careful not to show it. They drew up in a
few minutes before a large and solemn-looking house at the corner of
Hamilton Place.

"Don't hurry," Kendricks advised, stretching himself out once more in
the cab. "I'll smoke another pipe and thank heaven we are not in New
York! You wait an hour there and take your choice of paying the fare or
buying the taxicab!"

Julien ascended the steps and rang the bell at the door of the house.
It was immediately opened by a manservant, who recognized him with a
bow and a smile, for which, somehow or other, he felt thankful.

"Is Lady Anne in, Robert?" he inquired.

The man stood on one side.

"Please to walk in, Sir Julien," he invited. "Lady Anne is with some
young people in the drawing-room. Will you go in there to them, or
would you prefer that I announce you?"

"Is there any one in the waiting-room?" Julien asked.

"No one at present, sir."

"Let me go in there, then. I want to speak to Lady Anne alone for a
moment. You might let her know that I am here."

"Certainly, sir."

Julien walked restlessly up and down the small, uncomfortable
apartment, the room which he had always hated. There were illustrated
papers arranged in a row upon a leather-topped table, two stiff
horsehair easychairs, and various views of Clonarty, the country seat
of the Duke of Clonarty, around the walls. Presently he heard the
laughter in the drawing-room cease. There was a short silence, then the
sound of footsteps across the hall and the abrupt opening of the door
of the room in which he was waiting. Julien looked up quickly. It was,
after all, what he had expected! A somewhat vivacious-looking little
lady in a muslin gown and elaborate hat held out both her hands to him.
In the darkened light of the room she might very well have passed for a
younger and less serious edition of her own daughter.

"My dear Julien!" she exclaimed, in a tone which was manifestly
sympathetic. "This is terrible news we are hearing about you. But what
an odd time you have chosen to come and tell us all about it!"

"I have not come to tell you all about it, Duchess," Julien assured
her. "The newspapers will tell you everything that is worth knowing.
They are so much better informed."

"The newspapers sometimes exaggerate," she objected.

"In my case," he replied, "I do not think that exaggeration is
possible. Everything has happened to me that could possibly happen to
any one in my unfortunate position."

"You mean that these stories are all true, then?"

"Every one of them. I really don't suppose that I ought to show my face
here at all. I have simply come to say good-bye. There is just a single
word that I want to say to Anne."

"Tell me, Julien," she demanded, "you really did write that letter to
Mrs. Carraby?"

"I did."

"And she gave it to her husband?"

"Yes!"

For once the Duchess was perfectly and delightfully natural.

"That woman," she declared, "is a detestable cat! Mind, Julien," she
added, "I don't mean by that that you were not hideously and entirely
to blame. I can't feel that you deserve a single grain of sympathy. All
the same, a woman who can do a thing like that should not be
tolerated."

Julien smiled grimly. He was perfectly well aware that at that moment
Mrs. Carraby was passing from the list of the Duchess's acquaintances.
It was all so inconsequent.

"Can I have that one word with Anne?" he begged.

The Duchess looked doubtful.

"Why?"

"I am going abroad to-night. I should like to say good-bye to her."

"Isn't it a little foolish?" she asked. "I don't mean your going
abroad--that, I suppose, is almost necessary--but why do you want to
see Anne? I can give her all the proper messages."

Julien laughed bitterly.

"There are some things," he said, "which can scarcely be altogether
ignored. It may have escaped your memory that Anne was to have been my
wife."

"Not at all," the Duchess replied. "The only thing I do not understand
is why, as any such arrangement is of course now ridiculous, you should
want to see her again. What can you possibly have to say to her?" "An
affair of sentiment," he explained. "I have a fancy to say good-bye."

The Duchess shook her head.

"Those sort of things don't belong to us," she declared. "You ought to
know better, my dear Julien. I can see no possible object in it. I will
give her any message you like, and so far as she is concerned I can
assure you that she has not the slightest ill-feeling. She is really
quite angelic about it."

"Duchess," Julien said steadily, "I came here expecting that these
would be your views. You are Anne's mother and of course you are in
authority, but when two people of our age are engaged to marry one
another, they pass just a little beyond the sphere of their parents'
influence. Anne and I have been in that position. Don't think for a
moment that I wish to dispute your authority when I say that I intend
to see her before I leave."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Ah! my dear Julien," she murmured, "if you had only been as firm with
that foolish woman. Still, if you have really made up your mind, I am
sure I don't want to be disagreeable. Perhaps it would be just as well
to get the thing over."

She touched the bell.

"Ask Lady Anne to step this way," she told the servant.

The man withdrew and the door was closed again. The Duchess showed no
signs of being about to take her leave.

"This matter has already, I presume, been fully discussed between you
and Anne?" Julien remarked. "It will not be necessary for you even to
give her a parting word of advice?"

"You amusing person!" she laughed. "There are no words of advice of
mine needed in a case like this. To tell you the truth, Julien,
although I always liked you, as you know, I hated your engagement to
Anne. You were a very charming young man to have about the house and I
was always pleased to see my girls flirt with you, but as a son-in-law
I ranked you from the first amongst the undesirables. Your income, so
far as I know, is a little less than nothing at all, and politics, as
you are discovering to-day, are a precarious form of livelihood. Anne
hasn't a copper and never will have. She ought to marry a rich man, and
I intend now that she shall. Here she is. Now do get this stupid affair
over quickly."

The door was opened and Lady Anne came in. She was taller than her
mother, of more serious aspect, and her hair was a shade darker. There
was something of the same expression about the eyes. She came straight
over to Julien and gave him both her hands.

"My dear Julien," she exclaimed, "this is shocking! Run away, if you
please, mother. I must see Julien for a moment alone."

The Duchess left the room. They both waited until the door was closed.
Then she turned and faced him.

"I suppose it's all true?" she asked.

"Every word of it, Anne," he answered. "Please don't misunderstand the
reason of my coming. I am absolutely a ruined man and I absolutely
deserve everything that has come to me. But there was one thing I
wanted to say to you before I went."

"There was also one thing," she remarked, looking at him intently,
"which I intended to ask you, provided you gave me the opportunity."

"It is about Mrs. Carraby," he said firmly.

"So was my question," she murmured.

"The friendship between Mrs. Carraby and myself," Julien continued,
"has been patent to every one for a great many years. I knew her long
before I did you. It began, in fact, when we were little more than
children. It finished--to-day. There is only one thing I want to say to
you about it, and that is this. Our friendship was of that sort which
is fairly well recognized and even approved of by the world in which we
live. It contained, of course, certain elements of flirtation--I am not
denying that. There was never at any time, however, anything in that
friendship which made it an error even of taste on my part to ask you
to become my wife."

She took his face between her hands and deliberately kissed him.

"That's just what I wanted to know, Julien," she declared. "Now shake
hands, be off, and do the best you can for yourself. I wish you the
best of luck, the very best. That's all we can say to one another,
isn't it?"

"Quite all," he admitted.

"You are a dear, good fellow," she went on, "and I have been quite fond
of you, although I think that I bored you now and then. I should have
made you an excellent wife, perhaps a better one than I shall the next
man who comes along. Don't stay any longer, there's a dear, because
although I never pretended to have much heart, this sort of thing does
upset one, you know, and I want to look my best to-night. Write me
sometimes, if you will. I'd love to hear that you'd found some interest
in life to help you gather up the threads. And here--this is for luck."

She took a little turquoise pin from her waistband and stuck it in his
black tie. Then, before he could stop her, she touched the bell with
one hand and gave him the other.

"Please kiss my fingers, Julien, and tell me I've behaved nicely."


He looked steadily into her eyes and then away out of the window,
across the square. It was such a natural ending, this. It was foolish
that his heart should shake, even for a second. And yet there had been
one occasion--at Clonarty--when she had lain very close to him in his
arms, and the moonlight had been falling through the pine trees in
little dappled places around them, and the wind had been making faint
music among the swinging boughs--for these few moments, at any rate,
the other things had shone in her face. Were they illusions really,
those moments of agitation, he wondered--simply one long, sensuous
period passing like breath from a looking-glass and leaving nothing
behind? He looked into her face. There was no sign there. Then he
dropped the fingers which he had been holding. Women were wonderful!

"Do write," she begged, as she walked into the hall with him. "Dear me,
what a strange-looking person you have with you in the taxicab!"

"He is a friend," Julien said quietly, "a journalist. I might say the
same of the young man who is watching us from the drawing-room, Anne!
Who is he?"

She made a little face at him and whispered in his ear.

"Semitic, as you see, and positively appalling. He is entirely mother's
choice. He arrived ten minutes after the evening papers were out, but
somehow or other I don't fancy that we shall make anything of him. It's
young Harbord, you know."

Julien made his effort. He touched her fingers once more in
conventional fashion. He leaned towards her earnestly.

"My dear Anne," he said, "that young man has an income of at least a
hundred thousand a year. Have you ever considered what a wonderful
thing it is to possess an income like that? You could surround yourself
with it like a halo. You could eat it, wear it, and breathe it every
second of your life. You could even use it as a means of escaping as
often as possible from the somewhat inevitable but highly objectionable
adjunct who seems now to be peering at us through the door. Be a wise
girl, Anne. An income like that doesn't depend upon discretions or
indiscretions. Besides, as a matter of fact, I really do not think that
that young man knows what it is to be indiscreet. Remember, I am quite
serious. A hundred thousand a year should lift any man beyond the pale
of criticism."

"Yes!" the girl replied, looking at him as he walked down the steps. "I
shall remember. Good-bye!"

"We are getting on," Julien declared lightly, as he took his place in
the taxicab. "Really, it is astonishing how much a man can get through
in a day if he sets his mind to it. Is there any place where we could
get a drink, do you think, Kendricks? I have just passed through a
trying and affecting interview. I have said farewell to the lady who
was to have been my wife. That sort of thing upsets one."

"You are behaving, my dear Julien," Kendricks admitted, "like a man of
sense. In a moment or two we shall pass Very's, on our way to the
restaurant where I am going to entertain you at dinner. It will
probably be such a dinner as you have never eaten before in your life!
You will not need an _aperitif_. I am not sure, indeed, that it is not
tempting providence and inviting indigestion to offer you a mixed
vermouth here. However, come along. One experience more or less in such
a day will not disturb you."

They entered the cafe and sat down at a small, marble-topped table.
Julien lit a cigarette and Kendricks affected not to notice that the
hand which held the match was shaking. A crowd of people, mostly
foreigners, were sitting about the place. Julien, as he sipped his
vermouth, noticed a familiar face nearly opposite him--a young,
somewhat sandy-complexioned man, quietly dressed, insignificant, and
yet with some sort of personality.

"I wonder who that fellow is?" he remarked. "I seem to know his face."

Kendricks looked incuriously across the room.

"One knows every one by sight in London," he said. "The fellow is
probably a clerk in some office where you have been, or a salesman
behind the counter at one of the shops you patronize. It's odd
sometimes how a face will pursue you like that. That's a pretty little
girl with whom he's shaking hands."

Julien watched the two idly for a moment. The man had risen to greet
his newly-arrived companion, who was chattering to him in fluent
French. All the time Julien was aware that now and then the former's
eyes strayed over towards him. It was odd that, notwithstanding his
somewhat disturbed state of mind, he was conscious of a distinct
curiosity as to this young man's identity.

"Come along," Kendricks suggested. "We shan't get a table at all at the
place where I am going to take you to dine, unless we are punctual."

They finished their vermouth and left the cafe. Kendricks knocked out
the ashes from his pipe and leaned a little forward in the taxicab.

"We go now," he continued, "into a foreign land--foreign, at least, to
you, my young Exquisite--the land of journalists, of foreigners, of
hairdressers and anarchists, and cutthroats of every description.
Nevertheless, we shall dine well, and if you will only drink enough of
the chianti which I shall order, I can promise you a nap on your way to
Dover. You look as though you could do with it."

Julien suddenly remembered that his eyes were hot, and almost
simultaneously he felt the weight that was dragging down his heart. He
laughed desperately.

"I'll eat your dinner, David," he promised, "and I'll do justice to
your chianti. From what you tell me about our expedition, I should
imagine that we are going into the land to which I shall soon belong."

"It's a wonderful country," Kendricks muttered, looking out of the
window. "It may not be flowing exactly with milk and honey, but its
sinews are supple and its blood is red. For absolute vitality, I'd back
the Cafe l'Athenee against the Carlton any day. Here we are."




CHAPTER VI


AT THE CAFE L'ATHENEE


The Cafe L'Athenee was in a narrow back street and consisted of a
ground floor apartment of moderate size, and a number of small rooms,
most of which were already crowded with diners. There were no
smooth-faced _maitres d'hotel_ to conduct new arrivals to a table, no
lift to the upper rooms, no palm-lined stairways, or any of the modern
appurtenances of restaurant life. Kendricks, taking the lead as an
habitue, pushed his way up to the first floor, pushed his way past the
hurrying and perspiring waiters, who did not even stop to answer
questions, and finally pounced upon a table which was just being
vacated by three other people. The two men sat down before the debris
and waited patiently for its removal.

"Don't turn your nose up yet," Kendricks begged. "Wait till you've
tasted the spaghetti. And don't look at the tablecloth as though it
would bite you. They'll put a clean napkin over it directly and you'll
forget all about those stains. This is where one takes off the kid
gloves and deals with the realities of eating and drinking. I am
inclined to think sometimes, Julien, as a humble admirer from a long
way off, that you've worn those kid gloves a little too long."

Julien looked across at his friend. Kendricks was still smoking his
pipe and he was evidently in earnest. It was obvious, too, that he had
more to say.

"You know," he continued, loudly summoning a waiter and pointing to the
table before them, "you know, Julien, I have always had this feeling
about you. I think that life has been made a trifle too easy for you.
You have slipped with so little effort into the polished places. You
never had to take your coat and waistcoat off and try a
rough-and-tumble struggle with life. No man is the worse for it.
Prosperity and smooth-traveling along the easy ways, even though they
come to one as the reward of brainwork, lead to a certain flabbiness in
life, lead to many moments when you have to stop and ask whether things
are worth while, lead sometimes, I think, to that curious neuroticism
from which clever, successful people suffer as well as the butterflies
of fashion. You are up against it now, Julien, real and hard. You don't
feel that you've got a day to live that you care a snap of the fingers
about. You look at what you think are the pieces of your life and you
imagine yourself a gaunt spectator of what has been, gazing down at
them, and you've quite made up your mind that it isn't a bit of good
trying to collect the fragments. Such d----d nonsense, Julien! You may
have made a jolly hash of things as a Cabinet Minister, but that isn't
any reason why you shouldn't make a success of life as a man. Look
here, Carlo," he added, addressing the waiter, "the table d'hote
dinner--everything, and serve it hot. Bring us fresh butter with our
spaghetti, and a flask of chianti."

"Si, signor!" the man replied, gazing for a moment in wonder at this
shock-headed individual who spoke his own language so perfectly.

Kendricks laid down the menu and glanced across the table at Julien's
face with its slightly weary smile.

"Of course, I know how you're feeling now," he went on,--"rotten!--so
would any one. Try and forget it, try and forget yourself. Look about
you. What do these people do for a living, do you think? They weren't
born with a title. There's no one in this room who went to Eton and
Oxford, played cricket for their university, and lolled their way into
life as you did. Look at them all. The thin chap in the corner is a
barber, got a small shop of his own now. I go there sometimes for a
shave. He lived on thirteen shillings a week for six years, while he
saved the money to start for himself. It was touch and go with him
afterwards. In three months he'd nearly lost the lot. He'd married a
little wife who stood behind the counter and had worked almost as hard
as he, but somehow or other the customers wouldn't come. Then she had a
baby, was laid up for a time, he had to engage some one to take her
place, and at that time he had about fifteen shillings left in the
world. I used to be shaved there every day then. I knew all about it. I
used to hear him, when he thought no one was listening, go and call a
cheerful word up the stairs--'Shop full of customers!' 'Sold another
bottle of hair restorer!' or something of that sort. Then some one lent
him a fiver, and, by Jove, he turned the corner! He's doing well now.
That's his wife--the plump little woman who's straightening his tie.
They come here every Wednesday night and they can afford it. Yet he was
up against it badly once, Julien. That's right, look at him, be
interested. He's a common-looking little beast, isn't he?--but he's got
a stout heart."

"I think," Julien said, "that I could guess the name of the man who
lent him the fiver."

"You'd be a mug if you couldn't," Kendricks retorted. "It's doing that
sort of thing that helps you to smile sometimes when the knocks come. I
tell you, Julien, some of the people--these small shopkeepers,
especially--do have the devil of a fight to get their ounce of pleasure
out of life. Nothing's made easy for them. They don't know anything
about that big west-end world, with pleasures tuned up to the latest
pitch, where you do even your work with every luxury at hand to make it
easy. There's a little chap there--an Italian. See him? He's sitting by
the side of the old man with the gray beard. That man's his father.
They both landed over here with scarcely a copper. The young fellow
worked like a slave--sixteen shillings a week I think he was getting,
and he kept the old man on it. Then he lost his job, couldn't get
another. The old man had to go to the workhouse, the young man slept on
the Embankment, ate free soup, picked up scraps, lived on the garbage
heap of life. He pulled himself together, though, got another job,
improved it, saved a few shillings, drove up in a cab and took the old
man out. Look at them now. He's got a little tailor's shop not a
hundred yards from here, and somehow or other one or two people on the
stage--they're a good-hearted lot--have taken him up He gets lots of
work and brings the old man here now and then for a treat. How are you,
Pietro?" he called across the room. "When are you going to send me that
coat along?"

The young man grinned.

"Too many orders to make you that coat, sir," he declared.

Kendricks smiled.

"No one can deny that I need a new coat," he said. "I told Pietro when
things were slack that he could make me one, but he gets lots of orders
now. See the little girl in the corner? She's going out--no, she's
going to stay here; they've found her room at that table. I suppose
you'd turn your nose up at her because she has a lot too much powder on
her cheeks, and you don't like that lace collar around her neck. It
isn't clean, I know, and the make-up on her face is clumsy. Must be
uncomfortable, too, but she's done her best. She's been dancing at the
_Hippodrome_ this afternoon, probably rehearsing afterwards. She's got
an hour now before she goes back to the evening performance. She's
taking the eighteenpenny dinner, you see. She'll get a glass of chianti
free with it. I am in luck to-night. I can tell you about nearly all
these people. Her name is Bessie Hazell--Sarah Ann Jinks, very likely,
but that's what she calls herself, anyway. She married an acrobat two
years ago and they started doing quite well. Then he got a cough, had
to give up work, the doctors all shook their heads at him, wanted to
tell him it was consumption. Bless you, she wouldn't listen to it! She
got him down to Bournemouth somehow and they patched him up. He came
back and started again, caught cold, and had another bad spell. Still,
she wouldn't have it that there was anything serious the matter with
him! He'd be all right, she said, if it weren't for the climate, and
every night she danced, mind--danced twice a day. She's quite clever,
they say--might have done well if she'd only herself to think of and
could spare a little of her money for lessons. Not she! She sent him to
Davos, paid for it somehow. He's back again now. He can't go on the
stage, but he's got a light job somewhere. I don't know that he's
earning anything particular. They've got a baby to keep, but they do it
all right between them. She isn't pleasant to look at, is she? What's
that matter? She's a bit of real life, anyhow."

"Why didn't you bring me here before, Kendricks?" Julien asked.

The man leaned back and laughed.

"Ask yourself that question, not me," he replied. "You--Sir Julien
Portel, caricatured as the best-dressed man in the House of Commons,
member of the most fashionable clubs, brilliant debater, successful
politician, future Prime Minister, and all that sort of twaddle. You
were living too far up in the clouds, my friend, to come down here. You
see, I am not offering you much sympathy, Julien. I don't think you
need it. You were soaring up to the skies just because of your gifts
and your position and your opportunities. You are down now. Well,
you're thundering sorry for yourself. I don't know that I'm sorry for
you. I'll tell you in ten years' time. By Jove, here's your
sandy-headed little friend!"

The man, with the girl upon his arm, had entered the room and had taken
seats at a table in the corner, for which, apparently, they had been
waiting. Julien looked at them curiously.

"Why," he exclaimed suddenly, leaning across the table, "I remember him
now! He's at the shop--I mean he's an Intelligence man."

Kendricks nodded.

"Just the sort of inconspicuous-looking person who could go anywhere
without being noticed."

"I recollect him quite well," Julien continued. "It's not in my
department, of course, but I remember being told he was a very useful
little beggar."

"I should say, without a doubt," Kendricks declared, "that he was at
present working hard for the safety and welfare of the British Empire.
If you've suddenly recognized the man, I'll tell you who the girl is.
She's a manicurist at the Milan."

Julien looked round and watched them for a moment curiously. Again he
noticed that his interest in the young man was at least reciprocated.

"The fellow has recognized me, of course," he said. "You know,
Kendricks, I remember two or three years ago a most amazing item of
news was brought to us--one that made a real difference, too--through a
manicurist."

"Shouldn't be a bit surprised," Kendricks replied.

"Things drop out in the most unexpected places, as you'd find out if
you'd been a journalist."

"She was sent for into the room of some princess--at Claridge's, I
think it was, or one of the west-end hotels--and while she was there a
man came from one of the inner rooms and said a few words in Russian.
The girl had been in St. Petersburg and understood. It made quite a
difference. I remember the story."

"Might have been the same man and the same manicurist," Kendricks
remarked.

Julien shook his head.

"There was trouble about the manicurist," he said, "and she had to
leave the country. She's in South Africa now."

"I can't say that I like the appearance of the fellow," Kendricks
declared. "Don't funk the soup, Julien--it's better than it looks. He's
a slimy-looking sort of chap. I have a theory that the modern sort of
Secret Service agent ought to be a person like myself--breezy and
obvious. Julien, if that girl doesn't stop gazing at you sideways,
you'll be in trouble with your late employee."

Julien looked across at the opposite table. The girl, as he had noticed
before, was stealing frequent glances at him. For some reason or other,
she seemed anxious to attract his attention.

"Quite a conquest!" Kendricks murmured. "Drink some more of that
chianti, man, and bring some color to your cheeks. There's a charming
little manicurist wants to flirt with you. What teeth and what a
smile!"

"Considering that she has been listening to my history for the last
quarter of an hour, I imagine that her interest is of a less
sentimental nature," Julien said. "I have probably been pointed out to
her as the biggest fool in Christendom."

"Not you," Kendricks declared. "I assure you that I am a critic in such
matters. She looks when the young man who is with her is engaged upon
his dinner, or speaking to the waiter. I am not positive, even, that
she wants to flirt, Julien. I think she wants to say something to you."

Julien laughed.

"What shall I do? Present myself? Bah!" he added, almost fiercely. "I
wish the girl would keep her black eyes to herself. I want to tell you
this, Kendricks. You've talked some splendid common sense to me without
going out of your way to do it. I am not going to whine, now or at any
other time, but as long as I live I never want anything more to do with
a woman. That sounds about the most futile and empty-headed thing a man
can say--I know that. But there it is. I tell you the very thought of
them makes me shudder. They're like pampered, highly-groomed animals,
with their mouths open for the tit-bits of life. They have to be fed
with whatever food it may be they crave for, and that's the end of it."

Kendricks motioned with his head across the room to where the little
woman with the blackened eyebrows was eating her dinner.

"What about that?" he asked.

"I don't know anything about that sort," Julien admitted. "What you
told me sounded like one of the things you read of in newspapers and
never believe. I don't believe it. Mind you, I don't say it's false,
but I don't believe it because I have never spoken to the woman whom I
could imagine capable of such unselfishness. If I patch up the pieces
again, Kendricks," he added, and his face was suddenly very dark and
very set--the face of an older man, "whatever cement I use, it won't be
the cement of love or any sentiment whatsoever connected with women."

Kendricks nodded.

"It's my belief," he began, then he stopped short. "Julien," he
continued kindly, "you're nothing but a big baby. You think you've
moved in the big places. So you have, in a way. But there was a hideous
mistake about your life. You've never had to build. No one can climb
who doesn't build first. These ready-made ladders don't count. Now," he
added, dropping his voice and glancing quickly across the room, "you
will have an opportunity to put into force your new and magnificent
principles of misogyny. Our little sandy-headed friend has been
summoned from the room. I saw the _commissionaire_ come up and whisper
in his ear. Mademoiselle is writing a note. A hundred to one it is to
you!"

Julien frowned. He, too, turned his head, and he met the girl's eyes.
She was looking at him curiously. It was not the look of the woman who
invites so much as the look of the woman who appeals for an
understanding, who has something to say. She smiled ever so faintly and
touched with her finger the scrap of paper which she thrust into the
waiter's hand. Then she bent once more over her plate. The man came
across to Julien.

"For you, monsieur," he announced, and laid it by the side of Julien's
plate.

"Read it," Kendricks whispered across the table, for he had been quick
to see his companion's first impulse.

"Why should I?" Julien said coldly. "I have no desire to have anything
to do with that young person. What can she have to say to me?"

"Nevertheless, read it," Kendricks repeated.

Julien unrolled the scrap of paper with reluctant fingers. There were
only a few words written there in hasty pencil:

Monsieur, there is a friend of mine whom you must see. Call at number
17, Avenue de St. Paul and ask for Madame Christophor. Do not attempt
to speak to me. This is for your good.

Julien's fingers were upon the note to destroy it, but again Kendricks
stopped him.

"Julien," he insisted, "don't be an idiot. The little girl knows who
you are. She can't imagine that you are in the humor just now for
flirtations. Put the note in your pocket and call. One can't tell. Your
life has been so artificial that you've probably left off believing in
any adventures outside story-books. My life leads me into different
places and I never neglect an opportunity like that."

"A sister manicurist, I expect," Julien replied scornfully; "a palmist,
or some creature of that sort."

Kendricks hammered upon the table for the waiter.

"One takes one's chances," he agreed, "but I do not think that the
little girl over there would send you upon a fool's errand. There are
other things in life, you know, Julien. You carry in your head
political secrets which would be worth a great deal. There may be
danger in that call."

Julien looked at him with faintly curling lip.

"Tell me exactly what you mean?" he asked.

Kendricks shrugged his shoulders. The waiter had arrived and he gave
him a vociferous order.

"Listen," he said, "I could hand you out a hundred surmises and each
one of them ought to be sufficient to induce you to keep that
appointment. You leave here--shall we say under a cloud?--presumably
disgusted with life, with the Government which gives you no second
chance, with your country which discards you. And you have been
Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Can't you conceive that
this woman on whom you are to call might make suggestions to you which
would at least be amusing? Don't look so incredulous, Julien. Remember
you've lived in the stilted places. I haven't. I believe in the
underground world. You must know for yourself that a great deal of the
truth leaks up through the gratings."

"That is true enough," Julien admitted, "but somehow or other--"

"Let it go at that," Kendricks interrupted. "Promise me that you will
call at that address."

Julien laughed.

"Yes, I'll call!" he promised.

"Then look across at the little girl and nod," Kendricks suggested.
"She's watching you all the time anxiously. The man hasn't come back
yet."

Julien turned his head half unwillingly. The girl was leaning across
the table, her eyes fixed steadfastly upon his. Her lips were parted,
her eyebrows were slightly raised, as though in question. She had been
holding a menu before her face to shield her from the casual observer,
but the moment Julien turned his head she lowered it. He inclined his
head slowly. A curious expression of relief took the place of that
appearance of strained anxiety. Her face became natural once more. She
laid down the menu and took a sip of wine from her glass. Kendricks
looked across at Julien and raised his glass to his lips.

"We will drink, my dear Julien," he said, "to your visit to Madame
Christophor, and what may come of it!"




CHAPTER VII


COFFEE FOR THREE


"Admit," Kendricks insisted, "that you have dined well?"

"I have dined amply," Julien replied.

Kendricks frowned.

"I am not satisfied," he declared.

"The _entrecote_ was wonderful, also the omelette," Julien admitted. "I
will supplement 'amply' with 'well,' if you wish, but the insistent
note about this dinner is certainly its amplitude. I have not eaten so
much for ages."

Kendricks was filling his pipe.

"Cigars or cigarettes you must order for yourself," he said. "I know
nothing of them. The coffee is before you. I will be frank with you--it
is not good. The brandy, however, is harmless."

Julien lit a cigarette and leaned back in his chair. Just then the
sandy young man re-entered the room. He hastened to his place, but
instead of resuming it stood by the side of the girl, talking. He
seemed to be suggesting some course of which she disapproved, pointing
to her unfinished dinner. Kendricks nodded his head slowly.

"The young man has to leave," he remarked. "He wishes mademoiselle to
accompany him. She declines. He is annoyed. Behold, a lover's tiff! He
has placed the money for the dinner upon the table. He shakes her hand
very politely. Behold, he goes! Mademoiselle shrugs her shoulders. She
orders from the menu. She remains alone. My dear Julien, if you will
you can prosecute your conquest. The young man has departed."

Julien glanced across the room. He met the girl's eyes and once again
he saw in them that curious, almost impersonal invitation.

"She wants something," Kendricks declared. "I am going over to see what
it can be. Carlo!"

He summoned the waiter and asked him a question quickly in Italian.

"The man says that her companion is not returning," he remarked,
rising. "I am going to interview the young lady."

Julien shrugged his shoulders.

"As you will."

Kendricks crossed the room, his pipe still in his hand. The girl
watched him come, for a moment, and then looked down upon the
tablecloth. She was at the end of a table laid for four or five people,
but only two men were left at the extreme end.

"Mademoiselle," Kendricks said, "my friend thanks you for your message.
His curiosity, however, is piqued. Is there not an opportunity now for
explaining further?"

She regarded her questioner a little doubtfully.

"Who are you?" she asked.

Kendricks sighed.

"My dear young lady," he answered, "I flattered myself that I possessed
a personality which no one could mistake. Furthermore, I am a constant
patron here."

"I have never been here in my life before," the girl told him.

"Then your ignorance shall be pardoned," Kendricks declared. "My name
is David Kendricks. I am a journalist. I ought to be an editor, but the
fact remains that I am a mere collector of news, a bringer together of
those trifles which go to make such prints as these," he added,
touching her evening paper, "interesting."

"A journalist," she repeated, glancing up at him. "Yes! I might have
guessed that. Are you a friend of Sir Julien Portel?"

"I think I may call myself a friend," Kendricks admitted. "We were at
college together."

She rose composedly to her feet.

"Then I will take my coffee at your table," she decided. "You may
present me. I am Mademoiselle Senn."

Kendricks hesitated.

"You may not find my friend in the most amiable of moods," he began.


The girl waved her hand.

"It is to be explained," she declared. "To tell you the truth, I was
surprised to see him even in so out of the way a restaurant as this."

"He leaves to-night for the Continent," Kendricks told her.

"So I heard," the girl replied. "Come."

Sir Julien watched their approach and the frown upon his aristocratic
forehead, though thin, was distinct. Kendricks, however, took no notice
of it, and the girl pretended that she had not seen.

"Julien," the former announced, holding a chair for mademoiselle, "I am
permitted the pleasure of presenting you to Mademoiselle Senn, who
already knows your name. Mademoiselle sent you a message a few minutes
ago. If she is good-natured, she may choose to explain it. If not, what
does it matter? Mademoiselle will take her coffee with us."

Julien rose to his feet and bowed very slightly.

"We have only a moment or two to spare," he said, "as I am leaving
London to-night."

She looked at him and smiled oddly. She was a very typical young
Frenchwoman of her class--round-faced, with trim little figure, black
eyes, and smart but simple hat; not really good-looking except for the
depth of her clear eyes, and yet with a command of her person and
movements which was not without its charm.

"Monsieur is not too gallant," she murmured, "but one is inclined to
forgive him. If I may take my coffee, I will go. Monsieur has promised
me that he will call and see Madame?"

"Your friend in Paris?" Julien remarked, a little doubtfully.

"Ah! I dare not call her that," the girl continued. "Madame is
different. But I know that it is her wish that you call, and I know
that it would be for your welfare."

"Is it necessary," Julien asked coldly, "that you should be so
mysterious? After all, you know, the thing, on the face of it, is
impossible. Madame probably does not know of my existence, and why
should you take it for granted that I am going abroad?"

"Oh, la, la!" the girl interrupted. "But you amuse one! Madame knows
everything which she desires to know. As to your going to France,
monsieur over there," she added, moving her head backwards, "told me so
some minutes ago."

"And how the dickens did he know, and what right had he to talk about
my affairs?" Julien demanded, with all an Englishman's indignation at
his movements having been discussed by strangers.

"I suppose that it is his business to know those things," she replied,
sipping her coffee. "He is a very mysterious young man. He takes a room
sometimes at the Milan Hotel and he sends for me to manicure his hands.
Then he asks me very clever questions and I look down and I give
him--very clever answers. Then he thinks, perhaps, that his methods are
not quite the best, and he sends me a great box of chocolates, some
stalls for the theatre, some flowers--why not? Then he comes again to
be manicured and he asks more questions, but I know so little. Then
sometimes, not very often, he brings me out to dine. Imagine for
yourself, monsieur," she went on, with a wave of the hand, "the
excitement, the wonder of all this to a poor French girl! And again he
asks questions, but again I know so little. And then, in the midst of
our dinner, his employer has sent for him. He has to go on a journey.
It is sad, is it not? He would like me to go with him to the station,
to see him off, but I--" she shrugged her shoulders. "Why should I
leave before I have finished my dinner? In truth, he wearies me, that
young man. I do not think, Sir Julien Portel, that Englishmen are very
clever."

"As a race," Julien declared grimly, "I agree with you. I think that
most men are unutterable fools. But this young admirer of yours--what
are these questions which he asks you so often, and what business is he
in that he should be compelled to leave you to hurry away?"

"Ah, monsieur!" she answered, "it is you now who ask questions. Why
should I tell you, indeed, more than I tell him?"

Julien smiled.

"Perhaps because it was a matter of moment to him whether you replied
or not, whereas, frankly, I only ask you these questions out of the
idlest curiosity."

"Also a little," she remarked, "to make conversation, is it not so?
Very well, then, Sir Julien Portel, let me tell you this. If you do not
know who that young man is, I do not wonder that you find it necessary
to catch the nine o'clock train to the Continent to-night and to give
up that delightful work of yours, where you try to keep the peace
between all these wicked nations, and to get the lion's share of
everything for your great, greedy country. If you do not know who that
young man is, you have not the head for detail, the memory, which goes
to the making of politicians."

Julien leaned back in his chair and laughed, softly but genuinely. Even
Kendricks seemed a little taken aback.

"Upon my word!" the latter exclaimed. "This is an interesting young
person! Mademoiselle, I congratulate you. You have the gifts."

"Interesting, indeed!" Julien agreed, sitting up in his place.
"Mademoiselle, to save my reputation with you I must confess. I do know
who the young man is. He is in the Intelligence Branch of the Secret
Service of the British Foreign Office--Number 3 Department."

The girl nodded several times.

"What you call it I do not know," she said. "He is just one of those
ordinary people who go about to collect little items of information for
your Government. That is why I have received from him four pounds of
chocolate, at least a sovereign's worth of roses, four stalls for the
theatre--which I do believe that he had given to him because they were
for plays that no one goes to see, and to-night a dinner--such a
dinner, messieurs, with chianti that burned my tongue!"

"This," Kendricks declared, "is quite a bright young lady!
Mademoiselle, I trust that we shall become better acquainted."

"And in the meantime," Julien inquired, "what are these wonderful items
of information which you carry with you, and which this unfortunate
young man fails so utterly to elicit?"

"Ah! well," she sighed, "I am by profession a manicurist, but some
freak of nature gave me the power of keeping my mouth closed, of
looking as though I knew a good deal, but of saying so little. Now,
messieurs, what could a poor girl know in the way of secrets for which
that young man would get credit if he had succeeded in eliciting them?
What could I know, indeed? I sit on my little stool and sometimes there
are great people who give me their hands, and they are thoughtful. And
sometimes I ask questions and they answer me absently, because, after
all, what does it matter?--a manicurist from the shop downstairs,
earning her thirty shillings a week, and anxious to be agreeable for
the sake of her tip! And then sometimes while I am there they dictate
letters, or a caller comes, or the telephone rings. One does not think
of the manicure girl at such a time. Fortunately, there are some like
me who know so well how to keep silent, to say nothing, to be dumb."

"The methods of that young man," Kendricks asserted, "were crude. Now,
young lady, consider my position. I represent a power greater than the
power of Governments. I represent a Press which is greedy for personal
news. Have you trimmed lately the nails of a duchess? If so, tell me
what she wore, her favorite oath, any trifling expression likely to be
of interest to the British public! And instead of roses I will send
you carnations; instead of dead-head tickets I will take you myself to
the _Gaiety_; instead of a dinner at the Cafe l'Athenee, I will take
you to supper at the Milan."

"Your friend," mademoiselle declared, smiling at Julien, "is quite an
intelligent person. I like him very much. But I wish he would not smoke
that pipe and I should like to buy him a necktie."

"Julien," Kendricks sighed, "the Bohemian has no chance against such a
model as you."

"I do not think," she remarked, looking Julien in the eyes, "that Sir
Julien Portel cares very much for women--just now, at any rate."

Julien frowned. He absolutely declined to answer the challenge in her
dark eyes.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "when I present myself to this Madame
Christophor, do I deliver any message from you? Do I explain my visit?"

The girl shook her head slowly.

"It will not be necessary," she told him. "Madame Christophor will know
all about you. She will be expecting you."

He smiled scornfully.

"It would be a pity to disappoint a lady with such a remarkable knack
of foretelling things. Supposing, however, I change my mind and visit
St. Petersburg instead?"

She raised her hands--an expressive gesture.

"There is no Madame Christophor in St. Petersburg. I think that you
will be very ill-advised if you go there. Many of the elements which go
to the making of life wait for you in Paris. In St. Petersburg you
would be a stranger. The life is not there."

She rose to her feet briskly.

"Good night, Monsieur le Bohemian!" she said. "Remember that you have
only to accept my little gift of a necktie, to let me take you to a
coiffeur whom I know of, and I will dine with you when you choose. Good
night, Sir Julien! I think I envy you."

Julien laughed. The idea seemed odd to him.

"I fancy you would be in a minority, mademoiselle," he declared.

"At least," she reminded him, "you are going to see Madame
Christophor!"

She nodded and left them a little abruptly. Kendricks paid their bill
and they descended into the street a few minutes later. The
_commissionaire_ called a taxi for them and they drove toward
Charing-Cross.

"My friend," Kendricks said, "if I had you here for another week, cut
off from your old life, I'd show you some things that would astonish
you. It's good fortune and these well-ordered ways that keep a man a
prig, even after he's finished with Oxford. The man who lives in the
clouds of Mayfair knows nothing of the real life of this city."

"Some day I'll come back and be your pupil," Julien promised. "You're a
good fellow, David. You've given me something to think about, at any
rate, something to think about besides my own misfortunes."

"That's just what I set out to do," Kendricks declared. "There are
plenty of bigger tragedies than yours loose in the world. Watch the
people, Julien--the people whom such men as you glance over or through
as of no account, the common people, the units of life. Strip them bare
and they aren't so very different, you know. Try and feel for a moment
what they feel. Look at the little dressmaker there, going over to
Paris to buy models, hanging on to her husband's arm. She's probably
got a shop in the suburbs and this trip is a daring experiment. See how
earnestly they are talking about it. I don't think that they have too
easy a time to make ends meet. Do you see that old lady there, clinging
to her daughter? How she hates to part with her! She is going to a
situation, without a doubt, and Paris isn't too easy a place for a girl
with hair and eyes like hers. In her heart I think that the old lady is
remembering that. Then look at that little old man with the tired eyes,
carrying his two valises himself to save the hire of a porter. Can't
you tell by the air of him that he has had an unsuccessful business
journey? Poor fellow! It's a hard struggle for life, Julien, if you get
in the wrong row. You've no one dependent upon you, you don't know the
worst agony that can wring a man's heart.... Got your ticket and
everything, eh? And that looks like your servant. Are you taking him
with you?"

Julien shook his head.

"I shall have to do without a manservant. I never had much money, you
know, David."

"So much the better," Kendricks declared heartily. "It gives you a
final chance. The gutters of the world are full of good fellows who
have been ruined through stepping into a sufficient income."

They found a carriage and arranged Julien's few belongings. Presently
mademoiselle's companion came hurrying up the platform, followed by a
porter carrying his dressing-case. A short distance behind,
mademoiselle, too, was walking, humming to herself.

"Company to Boulogne for you, Julien," Kendricks pointed out. "Your
little man from Number 3 Branch is on your track."

Julien smiled. The young man never glanced towards their carriage as he
passed, but mademoiselle, who was still a few steps behind, made a wry
face at Kendricks.

"I believe she knew that he was going across," the latter declared.

"I wonder if he, too," Julien murmured, "has to call on Madame
Christophor?"

The whistle sounded. Kendricks put out his great hands.

"Good luck to you, Julien, old fellow!" he said. "Stand up to life like
a man and look it in the face. I tell you I haven't been gassing
to-night. I'd hate to pose as a moralist, but I do believe that
misfortunes are often blessings in disguise. And I tell you I've a sort
of faith in that little French girl. She gives one to think, as she
herself remarked. Look up Madame Christophor. Don't be surprised to see
me at any moment. I generally turn up in Paris every few weeks or so.
Good luck to you!"

Julien leaned out of the window and waved his hand to Kendricks as the
train moved slowly around the curve. The last face he saw upon the
platform, however, was the face of mademoiselle.




CHAPTER VIII


IN PARIS


For exactly a month Julien disappeared. At the end of that time,
looking very brown, a shade thinner, and possessed of a knowledge of
the older towns of Normandy which would not have disgraced a guidebook,
he arrived one cold, gray morning at the Gare du Nord. During all this
time he had scarcely seen one familiar face. It was an unpleasant shock
for him, as he waited for his baggage in the Customs House, to realize
that he was being watched from behind a pile of trunks by the little
man who had shown so much interest in him at the Cafe l'Athenee on the
night he had left England. The sight somehow annoyed him. He crossed
the room and accosted his late subordinate.

"What is your name?" he asked coldly. "You are in the Intelligence
Department, I believe?"

"My name is Foster, Sir Julien," the young man replied, after a
moment's hesitation.

"What are you doing over here?"

The young man hesitated.

"You will excuse me, Sir Julien," he said slowly, "but I am responsible
only to the permanent officials in control of my office. Besides,--"

"You can tell me at least how long you have been in Paris?" Julien
interrupted.

"Since the night, Sir Julien, when you came as far as Boulogne."

"May I ask," Julien demanded, "whether I am going to be subject to your
espionage?"

The young man whose name was Foster looked blandly at a pile of luggage
which was just arriving.

"I am not at liberty, Sir Julien," he said, "to explain my
instructions."

Julien shrugged his shoulders.

"Do as you like, of course. At the same time, let me tell you that you
irritate me. Keep out of my sight as much as possible. It will be
better for you."

Julien turned and left him there, declared his luggage, and was driven
to a quiet hotel in the Rue de Rivoli. There he had a bath, changed his
clothes, and strolled up the Champs Elysees towards the Bois. The sun
had come out and the avenue was crowded with automobiles and carriages.
He walked steadily on until he reached the first of the cafes in the
Bois. He took a chair and watched the crowd. A peculiar sensation of
loneliness oppressed him, a loneliness of which he had been scarcely
conscious during this last month's wanderings among the quiet places.
Paris had seemed so different to him on his last visit. He was
surrounded by friends and people who were anxious to become his
friends. He was in charge of a difficult mission which he was conscious
of conducting with skill. Everywhere he was meeting English people of
his own order, all delighted to see him, all pleased with his notice.
His few days in Paris were merely a change in the kaleidoscope from
London. The life--everything else--was the same. This time he was like
a man cast upon a desert island. He sat at his little table, sipping a
glass of vermouth, and conscious that no man in Paris had fewer
friends. The clubs were closed to him, there were no official visits to
pay, no calls to make, no familiar faces to look for. He was a man who
had had his day, a man disgraced, a man in whom the people had lost
faith, who was dead politically and socially. He thought his position
over carefully from every point of view. It was ruin, utter and
complete. He had disclosed a valuable political secret to a woman who
had not hesitated to make use of it. Nothing could be more ignoble. He
tried to fancy for himself some new life under altered conditions, but
everywhere he seemed to run up against some possibility, some
combination of circumstances which included a share in things which
were absolutely finished. His brain refused to fashion for him the
thought of any life which could leave outside everything which had been
of account to him up till now. Even in London, among the working
classes, it might have been easier. He remembered those few vivid
speeches of Kendricks'. What a gift the man had! Always he seemed to
see big things in life smouldering underneath the lives of these
ordinary people--big things unsuspected, invisible. There was nothing
of the sort to be found here. The only Paris Julien had ever known was
closed to him. Paris the vicious repelled him instinctively. He was
here, he had even looked forward to coming, but now that he had arrived
there was nothing for him to do. After all, he had better have found
some far distant corner in Switzerland or Italy. There was no club for
him to go to, no interest in perusing the newspapers, no visits from
ambassadors to think about. The puzzles of his daily life were ended.
There was nothing for him to do where he was but to eat and to drink
and to sleep!

He lunched at a restaurant of which he had never heard before, and
there, to his anger, almost at the next table, he found Foster. With a
trace of his former imperiousness of manner, he summoned him. The young
man rose, after a moment's hesitation, and obeyed the mandate.

"What are you doing here?" Julien demanded.

"Lunching, sir," the young man replied. "The place has been recommended
to me. I do not know Paris well."

"You lie," Julien declared. "Unless you knew Paris well, you wouldn't
be here for Number 3 Branch. Tell me, are you still watching me?"

"That is a question, Sir Julien, which, as I said before, I am not at
liberty to answer."

Julien drew a little breath between his teeth.

"Look here," he continued, "I want to warn you that I am a bad-tempered
man. You can write home if you like and tell them that you met me
coming out of the German Embassy and the Russian Embassy and the
Italian Embassy, with a list of prices in my hands for different pieces
of information. Is that what you're afraid of, eh?"

"Sir Julien," the young man answered, "I have to make reports only. It
is not my business to question the necessity for them."

Julien laughed. After all, the little man was right.

"Well, perhaps I do need looking after. Is there any particular place
where you would like me to dine? I don't want to bring you out into the
byways if I can help it."

The young man excused himself politely. Julien finished his luncheon
and then took a carriage back to his hotel. He found half-a-dozen
visiting cards in his box and glanced at them eagerly. Every one of
them was from the representative of a newspaper. He tore them into
pieces, left a curt message for their bearers, and went up to his room.
A telegram was lying upon his bureau. He tore it open and read:

Call on Madame Christophor this afternoon.

He frowned and threw the unsigned telegram into a wastepaper-basket.

"That decides it," he muttered to himself. "I will not call upon Madame
Christophor."

Nevertheless, he changed into calling attire and presently strolled out
once more into the sunshine. From habit he turned into the Champs
Elysees. The sight of a group of acquaintances drove him into a side
street. He walked for a short distance and then paused to see his
whereabouts. He was in the Avenue de St. Paul. He studied the numbers.
Exactly opposite was Number 17. He stood there, gazing at the house,
and at that moment a large automobile glided up to the front door. The
footman sprang down and a lady descended, passing within a few feet of
him. She was tall, very elegant, and her eyes, gaining, perhaps, a
little color from the pallor of her cheeks, were the most beautiful
shade of violet-blue which he had ever seen. She was a woman whom it
was impossible not to notice. Julien stood quite still, watching her.
The footman who had stepped down in advance had rung the bell, and the
postern door already stood open. The lady did not at once enter. She
was looking at Julien. This, then, was Madame Christophor! He was aware
at that moment of two distinct impressions--one was that she knew
perfectly well who he was; the other that at any cost, however _gauche_
it might seem, it was better for him to ignore the faint gleam of
recognition which already lent the dawn of a gracious smile to her
lips.

The woman was certainly expecting him to speak. Every second her
hesitation seemed more purposeful. Julien, however, with an effort
which was almost savage, set his teeth and walked on. She looked after
him for a moment and began to laugh softly to herself. Julien walked
steadily on till he had reached the corner of the street. Then he
turned away abruptly and without glancing around. He was angry with
himself, angry at the sound of that faint, musical laugh. He had quite
made up his mind not to call upon Madame Christophor. It would, in
fact, now be impossible. He would never be able to explain his
avoidance of her.

He was in a part of Paris of which he knew nothing, but he walked on
aimlessly, anxious only to escape the vicinity of the clubs and of the
fashionable thoroughfares. Suddenly he was conscious that an automobile
had drawn up close to the curbstone by his side. The footman sprang
lightly down and accosted him.

"Monsieur," he announced, "Madame Christophor has sent her automobile.
She would be happy to receive you at once."

Julien glanced inside the automobile. It was daintily upholstered in
white. A pile of cushions lay on the seat, there was a glove upon the
floor, the faint fragrance of roses seemed to steal out. Almost he
fancied that the woman's face was there, leaning a little towards him,
with the curious smile about the lips, the wonderful eyes glowing into
his. Then he set his teeth.

"You had better inform your mistress," he said, "that there is some
mistake. I have not the honor of the acquaintance of Madame
Christophor. You have followed the wrong person."

The man hesitated. He seemed perplexed.

"But, monsieur," he persisted, "madame pointed you out herself. It was
only because of a block in the roadway that we were not able to catch
you up before. We have, indeed, never lost sight of you."

Julien shook his head. "Pray assure madame," he said, "of my most
respectful regrets. I have not the honor of her acquaintance."

He walked on. The two men sat for a moment on the box of the car,
watching him. Then they turned around and the car disappeared. Julien
jumped into a little carriage and drove back to his hotel. As he passed
through into the office, the clerk leaned forward.

"Monsieur is desired upon the telephone," he announced.

Julien frowned.

"Who is it?"

The man shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the booth. Julien
hesitated. Then he stepped inside and held the receiver to his ear.

"Who is this?" he asked.

A very slow, musical voice answered him. He never for a moment had a
doubt as to whose it might be.

"Is this Sir Julien Portel?"

"This is Julien Portel," he answered. "Who is it speaking?"

"I am Henriette Christophor," the voice replied. "I had word from
England, Sir Julien Portel, that you were coming to see me."

"I shall do myself that honor," Julien assured her, "before I leave
Paris."

"You were not polite," the voice continued, "that you did not come this
afternoon."

"Madame," Julien said, "I am not here to make acquaintances. It is true
that I promised to call upon you; I do not know why, I do not know whom
I promised, I do not know for what reason I was asked to come. Since I
have promised, however, and you are kind enough to desire it, I will
come."

"And why not now?" the voice persisted. "You are alone in Paris, are
you not? I have something to say to you, something which is best said
quickly."

Julien hesitated.

"You will come?" the voice begged. "My automobile will be at your hotel
in ten minutes. You shall come, and if you dislike, after all, to make
that call, you shall drive with me, if you prefer it. Monsieur, if you
please!"

"I will be ready," Julien answered.

He hung up the receiver and walked out into the hall. He was angry with
himself because only an hour ago he had told himself that he would not
make that call. He was angry, too, because the fact of his making it or
not making it had assumed a ridiculous importance in his eyes.

He walked to the bar and filled his case with cigarettes. Then he took
up a monthly magazine and read. His own official resignation was dealt
with in a political article of some significance. It interested him
curiously. One sentence in particular he read several times:

It is not our desire to play the alarmist, but we would point out to
Great Britain that she may at any time within the next few weeks be
called upon to face a situation of great gravity, and we cannot help
expressing our regret that when that time comes the country should be
deprived of the advice, sound judgment and experience of a man who,
notwithstanding his youth, has already made his mark in European
politics.

Julien flung the paper down. What that situation might be he knew,
perhaps, better than any man!

The porter hurried up to him.

"There is a lady outside who inquires for monsieur," he announced.




CHAPTER IX


MADAME CHRISTOPHOR


She held out an ungloved hand to him as he stepped up to the
automobile. Having gained her ends, she was disposed to be merciful.

"This is very kind of you, Sir Julien," she murmured. "I really was
most anxious to have you visit me. Will you step in, please, and drive
with me a little way? One converses so easily and it would perhaps
amuse you more than to sit in my rooms."

"You are very thoughtful," Julien replied. "I will come, with pleasure,
if I may."

He seated himself by her side.

"You must put your stick and gloves in the rack there," she continued,
"and make yourself quite comfortable. We drive a short distance into
the country, if you do not mind."

"I am entirely at your service," he answered.

He was firmly determined to remain wholly unimpressed by whatever she
said or did, yet, even in those first few moments, the sweetness of her
voice and the delicate correctness of her English sounded like music to
him. There was a suspicion of accent, too, which puzzled him.

"We are not altogether strangers, you know," she went on. "I have seen
you before several times. I think the last time that you were in Paris
you sat in a box at Auteuil with some friends of mine."

Somehow or other, he was conscious of a certain embarrassment. He was
not at his best with this woman, and he found it hard, almost
impossible, to escape from commonplaces.

"It was my misfortune that I did not see you," he remarked. "My visit
was rather a momentous one. I dare say I paid less attention than usual
to my surroundings."

"Tell me," she asked, "it was my little friend Emilie, was it not, who
persuaded you to come and see me?"

"It was a little girl with whose name, even, I was unacquainted,"
Julien replied. "I must admit that I scarcely took her request
seriously. I could not conceive anything which you might have to say
which could justify the intrusion of a perfect stranger."

"But you," she reminded him, "are not a perfect stranger. You have been
a public man. You see, I am not afraid of hurting you because I think
that you will soon get over that little sensitiveness. I know all about
you--everything. You trusted a woman. Ah! monsieur, it is dangerous,
that."

"Madame," he said, looking into her wonderful eyes, "one makes that
mistake once, perhaps, in a lifetime--never again."

"The woman who deceives," she sighed, "makes it so difficult for all
those who come after! I suppose already in your mind I figure as a sort
of adventuress, is it not so?"

"Certainly, madame," he answered calmly. "It never occurred to me to
doubt but that you were something of the sort."

She half closed her eyes and laughed softly to herself, moving her head
like a child, as though from sheer pleasure.

"It is delicious, this frankness!" she exclaimed. "Ah! what a pity that
you did not come before that other woman had destroyed all your faith!
We might, perhaps, have been friends. Who can tell?"

"It is possible," he assented.

"So you believe that I am an adventuress," she continued. "You think
that I sent for you probably to try and steal one by one all those
wonderful secrets which I suppose you have stored up at the back of
your head. One cannot be Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
without knowing things. Keep them to yourself, Sir Julien. I ask you no
questions."

"Then why," he demanded, "did you insist upon this visit from me, and
why did the little manicurist, who is a perfect stranger to me, insist
also that I should come to you?"

She smiled, and looked down at her hands for a moment.

"Now if I answer all your questions, Sir Julien," she said, "you will
have no more curiosity left, and when your curiosity is gone, perhaps
some measure of your interest may go, too. Can you not bring yourself
to believe that I may have had personal reasons for desiring your
acquaintance?"

"Madame," he answered, "no! I cannot bring myself to believe that."

Again she laughed.

"I think," she declared, "that it is your candor which makes you
Englishmen so attractive. Do you believe that I am a dangerous person,
Sir Julien?"

He looked at her coldly and dispassionately.

"I think," he decided, "that you might be very dangerous indeed to a
susceptible person."

"But not to you?"

"Certainly not to me," he admitted. "As you have already told me, it is
within your knowledge that I am paying the price for having trusted a
woman."

She nodded.

"It is a fine sort of ruin, after all. Not to trust is generally proof
of a mean and doubting disposition."

"You are probably right, madame," he agreed. "Is it permitted to remind
you that we have been together for some time and you have not yet
enlightened me as to your reasons for seeking my acquaintance?"

"Can't you believe that it was a whim?" she asked.

"No!"

"Remember that I saw you when you were here before," she persisted.

"I have no recollection of having met you."

"Yet I can tell you nearly all that you did on that last visit of
yours. You dined one night at the Embassy, one night at the Travelers'
Club with a party of four, one night with the Minister--Courcelles. You
were two hours with him on the afternoon of the day you dined with him.
You managed to snatch an hour at the races and to lunch at the Pre
Catelan on your way. You lunched, I believe, with Monsieur le Duc de
St. Simon and his friends."

"Your knowledge of my movements," he declared, "is very flattering. It
suggests an interest in me, I admit, but I have yet to be convinced
that that interest is in any way personal."

She looked at him from under the lids of her eyes.

"What is it, Sir Julien, that you possess, then, which you fear that I
might steal?"

He returned her gaze boldly. "I am a discarded Minister," he said. "I
might reasonably be supposed to be suffering from a sense of wrong. Why
should it not occur to a clever woman like you that it might be a
favorable moment to obtain a little information concerning one or two
political problems of some importance? Are you interested in such
matters, madame?"

She leaned back in her seat and laughed. He sat and watched her.
Distinctly she was, in certain ways, the most beautiful woman he had
ever seen. It was true that she was pale and that her neck was a trifle
thin, but her face was so aristocratic and yet so piquant, the color of
her eyes so delightful, her mouth so soft and yet so humorous. She laid
her hand upon his arm.

"Oh! my dear, dear Englishman," she exclaimed, "Heaven indeed has sent
you to me that I should not die of ennui! You do not know who I am--I,
Madame Christophor?"

"I have no idea who you are," he assured her. "I have never seen you
before. I know of no other name than the one by which I was told to ask
for you."

She leaned a little closer to him.

"Come," she said, "you see me for what I am. I shall not rob you, I
shall not drug you, I shall not try to tear secrets out of your throat
by any medieval methods. We are neither of us of the order of those who
seek adventures in vulgar fashion and expect always a vulgar
termination. Can't we be friends for a time--companions? Paris is an
empty city for me just now. And for you--you must avoid those whom you
know. It follows that you must be lonely. Let me show you my Paris."

Julien looked steadfastly out at the country, at the flying hedges, the
tall avenues of poplar trees in the distance, the clumsy farm wagon
coming across the hayfield, the blue-petticoated women who marched by
its side--anywhere to escape for a moment or two from her eyes. It was
absurd that he should feel even this faint interest in her proposition!
It was only a month since the blow had fallen, only a month since the
girl to whom he had been engaged had sent him away with a sigh and a
little handshake. It was only a month since life lay in splinters
around him. It was much too soon to feel the slightest interest in the
things which she was proposing!

"Madame Christophor," he said, "you are very kind, but I tell you
frankly that I should accept your proposition with more pleasure if you
had been of my own sex."

"You have become a woman-hater?"

"I cannot trust a woman," he answered coldly. "All the time I have the
feeling of insecurity. I fear that it must sound ungallant if I tell
you what is the sober truth--that your sex for the present has lost all
charm for me."

She closed her eyes. Perhaps from behind the mask of her still face she
was laughing at him!

"Do you think I don't understand that a little?" she murmured. "Never
mind, for to-night, at least, I will be sexless. You can believe that I
am a man. I think you will find that I can talk to you about most of
the things that men know of. Politics we will leave alone. You would
mistrust me at once. Art--I can tell you of our modern French painters;
I can tell you about these two wonderful Russians who are painting in
their studio here; I can tell you what to look for at the new
exhibitions, what studios to visit--I can take you to them, if you
will. Or old Paris--does that interest you? Have you ever seen it
properly? I know my old Paris very well indeed. Or would you rather
talk of books? There have been many years when I have done little else
but read. Tell me that we may be companions for a time. You have
nothing to lose, indeed, and I have so much to gain."

"Madame," Julien replied, "I do not trust you. You are doubtless an
agreeable companion, and as such I am willing to spend a short time
with you. This is an ungracious acceptance of your suggestion, but it
is the best I am capable of."

She clapped her hands.

"It is something, after all," she declared, "and let me tell you this,
my friend," she added, leaning over. "You have been frank with me. You
have told me that you hated my sex, that you distrusted us all. Very
well, I will share your frankness. I will tell you this. Neither am I
any friend of your sex. I, too, have my grievance. I, too, have
something in my heart of which I cannot speak, which, when I think of
it, makes me hate every male creature that walks the earth. Perhaps
with that in my heart and what you have in yours, we may meet and pass
and meet again and pass, and do one another no harm. Is that finished?"

"By all means," he agreed.

Her expression changed.

"Come," she said, "now you shall see that I have begun my plots. I have
brought you away from Paris into the country places. For what, I
wonder? Are you terrified?"

"Not in the least," he assured her.


"Brave fellow! Perhaps when you know the truth, your heart will shake
with fear. You are going to dine in a country restaurant."

"That does not terrify me in the least," he replied, smiling. "I think
that it will be charming."

"It is a tiny place," she told him, "not very well known as yet; soon,
I fear, likely to become fashionable. One sits at little tables on a
lawn of the darkest green. If the sun shines, an umbrella of pink and
white holland shades us. Quite close is the river and a field of
buttercups. There are flowers in the garden, and so many shrubs that
one can be almost alone. And behind, an old inn. They cook simply, but
the trout comes from the river, and it is cool."

"It sounds delightful," Julien admitted; "but, madame, indeed it is I
who must be host."

She shook her head.

"On the contrary, it is by subtlety that I have brought you here and
that I claim to be the giver of the feast. You see, you dine with me
to-night. You must ask me back again. It is the custom of your country,
is it not?"

He smiled. The automobile had turned in now up a short drive, and
stopped before a long, low building. Down in the gardens they could see
fairylights swinging in the faint breeze. A short man, with
close-cropped hair and a fierce black moustache and imperial, came
hastening out to greet them. When he recognized Madame Christophor, he
bowed low.

"Monsieur Leon," she said, "I bring an Englishman to try your river
trout. You must give me a table near that great tree of lilac that
smells so sweetly. I order nothing--you understand? But you must
remember that monsieur is English. He will want his champagne dry and
his brandy very old. Is it not so, my friend? Now I will give you into
charge of _monsieur le proprietaire_ here. He shall show you where you
can drink a little _aperitif_, if you will. He shall show you, too,
where to find me presently."

A trim maid came hurrying up and took possession of Madame Christophor.
Julien followed his guide into a small reception room, all pink and
white.

"If monsieur desires to wash," the proprietor explained, "he passes
beyond there. And for an _aperitif?_"

"I will take anything you send me," Julien declared. "What is the name
of this place, monsieur?"

"They call it the Maison Leon d'Or, monsieur," the man replied. "It is
my own idea--a country house I purchased once for myself, but found it
too far, alas! from Paris. In the fine weather we could, if we chose,
have half Paris here. When the cold days come, there is nobody.
Monsieur permits?"

He departed and Julien strolled to the window. In the portion of the
gardens over which he looked were smaller tables, set out simply for
those who desired to take their coffee and liqueurs or _aperitif_ out
of doors. Julien glanced out idly enough at the little group of people
dotted about here and there. Then his face suddenly darkened. At a
table within a few yards of where he stood were seated Foster and a man
whose back was turned towards him.

Julien's first impulse was to retire out of sight, for the window was
open and he himself imperfectly concealed by the muslin blind. Then, as
he was on the point of retiring, he distinctly heard the sound of his
own name. The two men were speaking in a low tone, but a slight breeze
was blowing into the room. Julien stood still and listened. The man who
was a stranger to him was speaking to Foster.

"The woman is first, it is true," he muttered. "She will pump him dry,
no doubt. But what matter? She may even put him on his guard, but I say
again, what matter? There is a price for everything, a price or--"

The man's voice died away and Julien heard nothing for some time. Then
he saw Foster shake his head.

"Our service," Foster declared, "does not protect us in such a
position. It does not allow us to go to extremes. I am supposed to be
here to watch him, but I am really powerless. He might become your man
or hers or any one else's. I could do nothing but report."

His companion leaned across the table.

"What you call your Secret Service," Julien heard him say, "is a farce.
You have no authority, no scope. You are too proud to ferret about as
the others do. You sit in dignified ease and wait for information to be
brought to you. My good Foster, you must learn to be a man. We must
teach you."

Again their voices became inaudible. Julien drew back into the room.
His heart was beating faster, his brain was full of new thoughts. From
a place where he was absolutely secure he sat and gazed at Foster and
his companion. Presently the waiter entered with the _aperitif_. Julien
gave him five francs.

"Listen," he said, "you see those two gentlemen sitting there?"

"_Parfaitement_, monsieur," the man replied.

"Have you ever seen the elder one before--the dark one with the
glasses?"

The waiter hesitated.

"Monsieur," he said, looking at the five francs in his hand, "_monsieur
le proprietaire_ here has strange notions. He objects that we mention
ever the name of any of his clients."

"Why is that?" Julien asked.

"How should one know, monsieur?" the waiter answered. "Only it seems
that this place is a little distance from Paris, it is retired, one
finds seclusion here. People meet, I think, in these gardens who do not
care to be seen in Paris. There are some come here who whisper at the
door to _monsieur le proprietaire_ that their names must never be
mentioned."

"One can understand that, perhaps," Julien agreed, "but these are
surely affairs of gallantry? It is when the gentlemen bring ladies,
perhaps?"

The man shook his head and gesticulated an emphatic negative.

"Monsieur," he declared, "there are other things. There are other
things, indeed. This place is well-known because there meet here often
men who are interested in discussing serious matters. I can tell
monsieur, alas! the name of no one among the guests here. If I
attempted it, it would mean my dismissal, and there is no place in
Paris, monsieur, where the salaries are so good as here." Julien
hesitated. Then he drew a louis from his pocket.

"Listen," he said, "you may rely upon my word. No mention of it shall
go outside this room. Take this louis for just the name of that
gentleman with his back to you."

The waiter took the louis.

"His name, monsieur, I cannot tell you, but I will tell you what
perhaps will do for monsieur as well. The German Ambassador comes
sometimes here with a party of friends; somewhere in the distance you
will find the gentleman about whom you ask. The German Ambassador rides
through the streets when Paris is troubled; somewhere close at hand you
will find monsieur there. The German Ambassador he attends the races;
feeling, perhaps, is running a little high. Somewhere amongst the crowd
who watch the races, and very close to _Monsieur l'Ambassadeur_, you
will find monsieur there with the shoulders."

Julien drank his _aperitif_ thoughtfully.

"Thank you," he said to the waiter. "You have earned your money. You
need have no fear."

There was a knock at the door. _Monsieur le proprietaire_ presented
himself.

"Monsieur," he announced, "it is my honor to conduct you to the table
reserved for madame and yourself. Madame awaits you."




CHAPTER X


BETTER ACQUAINTANCE


The gardens of the Maison Leon d'Or were, in their way, unique. There
was no extent of open space, but the walks threaded everywhere a large
shrubbery, and in all sorts of corners and quiet places little dining
tables had been placed. Scarcely any one was in sight of any other
person, although they were so close together that all the time there
was a hum of voices. In the distance, down by the river, a large
gondola was passing slowly backwards and forwards, on which an
orchestra played soft music. Julien and Madame Christophor crossed the
narrow strip of lawn together and followed Monsieur Leon into the
graveled path bordered with fairy lamps.

"I have arranged for madame and monsieur," he announced, looking
backwards, "a table near the lilac tree of which madame is so fond. The
perfume, indeed, is exquisite. If madame pleases!"

They turned from the path on to another strip of lawn, which they
gained by rounding a large lilac bush. Here a small table was laid with
the whitest of cloths and the most dazzling of silver. An attentive
waiter was already arranging an ice-pail in a convenient spot. From
here the gardens sloped gently to the river, which was barely forty
yards distant. Although it was scarcely twilight, the men on the
gondola were lighting the lamps.

"Madame and monsieur will find this table removed from all chance
visitors," the proprietor declared. "If the dinner is not perfect,
permit that I wait upon you again. A word to the waiter and I arrive.
Madame! Monsieur!"

He retreated, with a bow to each. Julien, with a little laugh, took his
place at the table.

"Madame," he said, "your entertainment is charming."

"The entertainment is nothing," Madame replied, "but here at least is
one advantage--we are really alone. I do not know how you feel, but the
greatest rest in life to me is sometimes the solitude. There is no one
overlooking us, there is no one likely to pass whom we know. We are
virtually cut off from all those who know us or whom we know. My
friend, I would like you to remember this our first evening. Talk, if
you will, or be silent. For me it is equal. I, too, have thoughts which
I can summon at any time to bear me company. And there is the river. Do
you hear the soft flow of it, and the rustle of the breeze in the
shrubs, the perfumes, and--listen--the music? Ah! Sir Julien, I think
that we give you over here some things which you do not easily find in
your own country."

"You are right," he agreed slowly. "You give us a better climate, more
sympathetic companionship, a tenderer chicken, a more artistic salad."

"At heart you are a materialist, I perceive," she declared.

"We all are," he admitted. "Everything depends upon our power of
concealment."

The service of dinner commenced almost at once. There was something
excessively peaceful in the scene. The tables were so arranged that one
heard nothing of the clatter of crockery. The murmur of voices came
like a pleasant undernote. They talked lightly for some time of the
English theatres, of the stage generally, some recent memoirs--anything
that came into their heads. Then Julien was silent for several minutes.
He leaned slightly across the table. Their own lamp was lit now and
through the velvety dusk her eyes seemed to glow with a new beauty.

"Tell me," he begged, "you spoke of yourself a little time ago as
though you might have a personality at which I ought to have guessed.
Are you a woman of Society, or an artist, or merely an idler?"

"I have known something of Society," she replied. "I believe I may say
that I am something of an artist. It is very certain that I am not an
idler. Why ask me these questions? Let us forget to be serious tonight.
Let us remember only that we are companions, and that the hours, as
they pass, are pleasant."

"It is a philosophy," he murmured, "which brings its own retribution."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"All happiness is lost," she declared, "the moment you begin to try and
define it. It is a sensation, not a state of being. Let us drift. The
waters are not dangerous for you or for me."

Her words chilled him with a sudden memory. Then, in the act of helping
himself to wine, he paused. Some one had taken the table nearest to
them, dimly visible through the laurel bushes. He heard the voice of
the man who had been with Foster, giving the orders.

"Listen!"

There was no need for him to have spoken. Curiously enough, Madame


Christophor seemed also to have recognized the voice. Her hand fell
upon Julien's. He looked at her in surprise. Her cheeks were blanched,
her eyes blazing.

"You hear that voice?" she whispered.

Julien nodded.

"It is the voice of the only person in the world," she continued, "whom
I absolutely hate."

"You know whose it is, then?"

"Of course!" she replied.

"So do I," he muttered. "I have never seen the man's face, but I know a
little about him."

She shivered.

"Come," she said, "let us have our coffee later. We have finished
dinner and the moon is coming up. If we walk to the bottom there, we
shall see it from the bend of the river, and we shall escape from those
men."

He rose hastily to his feet. She led the way down the path. Here and
there they caught a glimpse of other tables as they passed--little
parties of two or four, all very gay. Madame breathed more freely as
they progressed. Presently they passed through an iron gate into a
field, already half-mown. The perfume of the fresh-cut grass came to
them with an almost overpowering sweetness. Her hand fell upon his arm.

"Forgive me," she begged, "I am not really a weak woman. I do not think
that there is any other sound in life which I hate so much as the sound
of that voice."

They walked in silence along the narrow path. Soon they reached the
edge of the river. A few steps further on was a seat, of which they
took possession. In the distance the gondola, on fire now with lamps,
was playing a waltz. A bat flew for a moment about their heads.
Somewhere in the woods a long way down the river a nightingale was
singing.

"I am not often so foolish," she murmured. "Once--let me tell you
this--once I had a dear little friend. She was very sweet, but a little
too trusting, too simple for the life here. She found a lover. She
thought she had found the happiness of her life. Poor child! For a
month, perhaps, she was happy. Then he forced her to give up her little
home and her savings and go upon the stage. He preferred a mistress
from the theatres. She worked hard, but, sweetly pretty though she was,
she was not very successful. Then she caught cold. She began to lose
her health--and she lost her lover."

"Brute!"

"The child got worse," madame went on. "Presently they told her that it
was consumption. She went to a hospital and she wrote a pathetic little
note to the man. He tore it up. There had been an article in the papers
a few weeks before proving that consumption was among the diseases
which were more or less infectious. He sent her a few brutal lines and
a trifle of money, with a warning that there was to be no more. He
never went to see her. The child grew worse. I used to sit with her
sometimes. I saw her look down upon the river, almost as we are looking
now, and her eyes would grow soft and wet with tears, and she would
tell me in whispers of the evenings she had spent with him, when the
love had first come, and how sweet and tender he was. There must be
something wrong, she was sure. He did not understand, he could not know
how ill she really was. She prayed for the sight of him. I put her off
with one excuse after another, but one day the fear of death was in her
eyes, the terror came to her, she was afraid. She was afraid of dying
alone, of going into a strange country, no one to hold her. I went to
the man, I begged him to come and see her. He scoffed at me. If she had
consumption, she was better dead. He would have flirted with me if I
had let him. I can hear his voice now--brutal, jeering, hideous! It was
the voice, Sir Julien, which we heard ten minutes ago at the next
table. Do you wonder that I hate it?"

"And the little girl?" he asked.

"When I returned without him," she answered, "the little girl was
dead."

They were both silent, listening to the splash of the water and to the
distant music.

"Life is like that," she went on. "We pass through it lightly enough,
but Heaven only knows the number of little tragedies against which our
skirts must brush. Sometimes they leave impressions, sometimes we grow
callous, but the horror of that man's voice will stay with me
always.... Shall we go back now? You would like your coffee."

"Sit here for five minutes more," he begged. "Tell me, did you know
that the man was a spy?"

She looked at him curiously.

"How is it that you know so much about him?"

"He is sitting there with an Englishman who comes from our Intelligence
Department," Julien explained. "They were speaking together of some
one--I believe it was myself--speaking in none too friendly terms.
There was a woman, too, whose name they coupled with mine, but I could
not hear that. I made some inquiries about the man. I was told that he
was in the suite of the German Ambassador."

She nodded.

"Whoever or whatever he is," she said, "he is something to be abhorred.
Hush! There is some one coming down the footpath."

They sat quite silent. Some instinct seemed to tell them who it was.
Suddenly they heard the voice--rasping, unpleasant.

"You have bungled the affair, Foster. It is not well-managed; it is not
clever. You were to have brought him to me, to have let me know the
instant he reached Paris. I would have seen him. Just as he was, I
should have succeeded. Now it may be that this woman has warned him
already. She is very clever. If she has him, he will not escape."

Foster's voice was inaudible, but whatever he said seemed to anger his
companion.

"Thunder and lightning!" they heard the man exclaim. "Am I a fool that
you talk to me like this? Yes, I go to him--I go to him to-night, but I
tell you that it is too late! If it is too late, there is but one thing
to be done. You are a coward, Foster!"

They came out into the open, on the path which fringed the river, and
they were immediately silent. They came strolling along and noticed for
the first time the two figures upon the seat. Instantly they began to
talk upon some local subject. No escape was possible. In a few minutes
they were opposite the bench. Foster started a little. The other man's
face darkened. He ventured upon a bow. Madame Christophor looked at him
as one might look upon some strange animal. Foster hesitated for a
moment, but his companion pushed him along.

"I think," she whispered, "that that man would like to do me an
injury."

Julien was watching their retreating forms.

"I don't understand what Foster is doing there, or what the dickens
they were talking about," he said thoughtfully. "I think if you don't
mind," he added, "we will return."

"Why are you so suddenly uneasy?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Apparently," he answered, "you know who I am and everything about me.
I, on the other hand, am ignorant almost of your very name. There are
certain circumstances connected with my late career which make it
inadvisable--"

"Oh, I know all that you are going to say!" she interrupted. "But ask
yourself. Have I made any attempt whatever to ask you a single
unbecoming question?"

"You certainly have not," he confessed.

"Your little friend returns," she whispered. "See!"

Foster came back to them, slowly, with reluctant footsteps. He had the
appearance of a man bent upon a mission which he dislikes.

"Sir Julien," he said, as he drew near, "would you grant me a moment's
interview?"

Julien looked at him.

"You probably know my address," he replied coldly. "You can call there
and see me. At present I am engaged."

"Sir Julien, the matter is of some importance," Foster persisted. "I
have a friend who is anxious to meet you. It would be an affair of a
few words only, and perhaps an appointment afterwards."

"Is the friend to whom you refer the person with whom you were walking
just now?" Julien inquired.

"Yes!" Foster admitted. "If you can spare me a moment I can explain--"

"You need explain nothing," Julien interrupted. "Understand, please,
that I decline absolutely to make that person's acquaintance."

Foster looked away from Sir Julien to the woman who stood by his side.

"Am I to take this as final?" he asked.

Julien turned on his heel.

"Absolutely," he said. "The little I know of the person with whom you
seem to be spending the evening makes me feel more inclined to pitch
him into the river than to make his acquaintance. As a matter of fact,
Foster, I don't know, of course, under what instructions you are acting
over here, but I should not have considered him exactly a companion for
you."


Foster started. A new fear had suddenly broken in upon him.

"I am doing my best to carry out instructions, sir," he declared. "I do
not understand why you should take so prejudiced a view of my friend."

"It is, perhaps," Julien replied, "because I know more about him than
you seem to. Good night!"

They walked slowly back to the gardens. The woman was thoughtful.

"I am sorry," she said, "that those people came along to spoil our
first evening together. I am glad, though, that you refused to meet the
German. All that he would have done would have been to try and fill
your mind with suspicions of me. Haven't you found me harmless?"

"I am not sure," he answered.

She laughed softly.

"Ah, me!" she exclaimed, "I gave you an opening, didn't I, and one must
remember that of late years the men of your nation have established a
reputation over here for gallantry. Harmless, at least, so far as
regards tearing political secrets from your bosom?"

"As a matter of fact," Julien remarked, "there are not so many secrets
between France and England, are there?"

"Thanks in some measure to you," she reminded him. "You take it for
granted, I notice, that I am a Frenchwoman."

He looked at her in great surprise.

"Why, indeed, yes! Is there any doubt about it?"

"My mother was an American," she told him.

"Tell me your real name?" he asked suddenly.

"On the contrary, I am going to beg you not to try and discover it. Let
us remain as we are for a little time. You are lonely here and you need
companionship, and I am very much in the same position. You are a hater
of women and I have sworn eternal enmity against all men. We are so
safe, and solitude is bad for us."

He smiled.

"You are very kind," he said, "but as for me, I am only starting my
wanderings. I want to go on through Algiers to Morocco, to Egypt, and
later to the east. I never meant to stay long in Paris."

"I do not blame you," she declared. "Sooner or later you must find your
way where the battle is. Paris is not a city for men. One loiters here
for a time, but one passes on always. Never mind, while you stay here I
shall claim you."

They drove back to Paris through the perfumed stillness of the long
spring night. Madame had instructed her chauffeur to drive slowly, and
more than one automobile rushed past them, with flaring lights and
sounding horn. In one they caught a glimpse of Foster and his
companion, whispering together as they raced by. Madame half closed her
eyes with a little shiver.

"Those men again!" she exclaimed, "They say that Estermen never
abandons a chase. You may still find him waiting for you in your
hotel!"




CHAPTER XI


THE TOYMAKER FROM LEIPZIG


In the front row of balcony tables at the Cafe des Ambassadeurs was one
which had been transformed into a veritable bower of pink roses. The
florists had been at work upon it since early in the afternoon, and
their labors were only just concluded as the guests of the restaurant
were beginning to arrive. Henri, the chief _maitre d'hotel_, had
personally superintended its construction. He stood looking at the
result of their labors now with a well-satisfied aspect.

"But it is perfect," he declared. "The orders of Monsieur Freudenberg
have indeed been delightfully carried out. You will present the account
as usual, mademoiselle," he directed the florist, who in her black
frock, a little hot and flushed with her labors, was standing by his
side. "Remember monsieur is well able to pay."

"It is, perhaps, a prince who dines in such state?" the girl inquired.

The _maitre d'hotel_ smiled.

"It is, on the contrary," he told her, "a maker of toys from Germany."

She made a little grimace.

"And to think that my back aches, that I have pricked myself so," she
exclaimed, showing the scarred tips of her fingers, "for the sake of a
toymaker from Germany! But it is not like you, Henri, to disturb
yourself so for anything less than a prince."

Henri, who was a sleek and handsome man, with black moustache and
imperial, shook his head sadly.

"Ah! mademoiselle," he said, "when you have lived as long as I, you
will know that the times indeed have changed. It is no longer the
princes of the world to whom one gives one's best service. It is those
who carry the heaviest money bags who command it."

"Well, well," she replied, "that is perhaps true. Yet in our little
shop in the Rue de la Paix we do not always find that it is those with
the heaviest money bags who pay us most generously for our flowers. I
would sooner serve a bankrupt aristocrat than a wealthy shopkeeper. If
they pay at all, these aristocrats, they pay well."

Henri stretched out his hands.

"Mademoiselle, there are shopkeepers who are also princes. My client of
this evening is one of those. Behold, he comes! Pardon!"

The man for whom these great preparations had been made stood in the
entrance of the restaurant, waiting for the woman who was giving her
cloak to the _vestiaire_. He was tall and thin, dressed rather
severely, with a black tie and short coat, a monocle which hung from
his neck with a black ribbon. His face was unusually long, his eyes
deep-set, his mouth set firm on a somewhat protuberant jaw, with lines
at the corners which somehow suggested humor. When he saw Henri he
nodded.

"Once more, Henri," he remarked, with a little smile, "once more in my
beloved Paris!"

"Monsieur is always welcome," Henri declared, bowing to the ground.
"Paris is the gayer for his coming."

"You are indeed a nation of courtiers!" Herr Carl Freudenberg
exclaimed. "What German _Oberkellner_ would have thought of a speech
like that to a Frenchman finding himself in Berlin! Ah! Henri, you try,
all of you, to spoil me here. Is it not so, mademoiselle?" he added,
turning with a bow and a smile to the girl who stood now by his side.
"Henri here speaks honied words to me always. The wonder to me is that
I am ever able to tear myself away from this city of fascination."

"If we could keep monsieur," the girl murmured, smiling at Henri, "I
think that we should all be very well content."

Herr Freudenberg made a little grimace.

"But my toys!" he cried. "Who is there in Germany could make such toys
as I and my factory people? The world would be sad indeed--the world of
children, I mean--if my factory were to close down or my designers
should lose their cunning."

"Is it the greatest ambition of monsieur," the girl asked, "to amuse
and make happy the world of children? Have not the world of grown
people some claims?"

"Monsieur will, I trust, and madame," Henri declared, as they moved
slowly forward, "find much to admire in the table which has been
prepared for them this evening. It is by the orders of monsieur so
enclosed that here one may talk without fear of observation. And the
perfume of these roses, every one of which has been selected, is a
wonderful thing. It is indeed a work of art."

Herr Freudenberg turned deliberately on one side where the little
flower girl was still lingering.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "something tells me that it is you whom we
have to thank for this adorable creation. It is indeed a work of
supreme art. If mademoiselle would permit!"

He slipped a crumpled note into her fingers, so quietly and
unostentatiously that it was there and in her pocket before any one had
time to notice it. She went out murmuring to herself.

"He is a prince, this monsieur--a veritable prince!"

"For your dinner," Henri announced, as they seated themselves in their
places, "I have no word to tell you. I spare you, as you see, the
barbarity of a menu. What will come to you, monsieur and madame, is at
least of our best. I can promise that. And the wine is such as I myself
have selected, knowing well the taste of monsieur."

"And of madame also, I trust?" Herr Freudenberg remarked.

"Ah! monsieur," Henri continued, "when monsieur is not in Paris, madame
is invisible. Not once since I last had this pleasure of waiting upon
you, have I had the joy of seeing her."

Herr Freudenberg looked across the table at his companion with
twinkling eyes.

"This is a city of conspirators," he declared. "You make a man vain and
happy and joyous at the same time. Let your dinner be served, then,
Henri. Since I was in Paris last I have eaten many times, but I have
not dined."

The _maitre d'hotel_ departed, but for the next hour or so his eyes
were seldom far away from the table where sat his most esteemed client.
Once or twice, others of the diners sent for him.

"Henri," one asked, and then another, "tell us, who is it that dines
like a prince under the canopy of pink roses?"

Henri smiled.

"Monsieur," he replied, "it is Herr Carl Freudenberg of Leipzig."

"Herr Carl Freudenberg of Leipzig--but who is he?"

"He is a great manufacturer of toys, monsieur."

"A German!" one muttered.

"It is they who are spoiling Paris," another grumbled.

"They have at least the money!"

One woman alone shook her head.

"It is not money only," she murmured, "which buys these things here
from Henri."...

The companion of Herr Carl Freudenberg was, without doubt, as charming
as she appeared, for Herr Freudenberg certainly enjoyed his dinner as a
man should. Nor were those lines of humor engraven about his mouth for
nothing, to judge by the frequent peals of laughter from mademoiselle.
Towards the close of dinner, Henri himself carried to them a superb
violet ice, with real flowers around the dish and an electric light
burning in the middle.

"For two days, madame," he announced, "our chef has dreamed of this. It
is a creation."

"It is exquisite!" mademoiselle cried, with a gesture of delight.
"Never in my life have I seen anything so wonderful."

"Henri," Herr Freudenberg said in an aside, "you will present my
compliments to the chef. You will shake him by the hand from me. You
will double the little affair which passes between us. Tell him that it
comes from one who appreciates the work of a great artist, even though
his French thickens a little in his throat."

Henri bowed low.

"If monsieur's body is German," he declared, "his soul at least belongs
to the land of romance."

They were alone again and the girl leaned across the table.

"Monsieur," she murmured, "it is cruel of you to come so seldom. You
see what you do? You spoil the keepers of our restaurants, you steal
away the hearts of your poor little companions, and then--one night or
two, perhaps, and it is over. Monsieur Freudenberg has gone. The earth
swallows him."

"Back to my toys, mademoiselle," he whispered. "One has one's work."

She looked at him long and tenderly.

"Monsieur," she said, "it is two months, a week and three days since
you were in Paris. Since then I have sung and danced, night by night,
but my heart has never been gay. Come oftener, monsieur, or may one not
sometimes cross the frontier and learn a little of your barbarous
country?"

For the first time the faintest shadow of gravity crossed his face.

"Mademoiselle," he replied, "alas! The world is full of hard places.
Behold me! When I am here, I am your devoted and admiring slave, but
believe me that when I leave Paris and set my face eastwards, I do not
exist. Dear Marguerite, it hurts me to repeat this--I do not exist."

She looked down into her plate.

"I understand," she murmured. "You said it to me once before. Have I
not always been discreet? Have I ever with the slightest word disobeyed
you?"

"Nor will you ever, dear Marguerite," he declared confidently, "for if
you did it would be the end. In the city where I make my toys, life as
we live it here is not known. It is not recognized. And there is one's
work in the world."

She looked up from her plate. Her expression had changed.

"It was foolish of me," she whispered. "To-night is one of those nights
in Heaven for which I spend all my days longing. I think no more of the
future. You are here. Tell me, from here--where?"

"To the Opera. I have engaged the box that you prefer. We arrive for
the last act of 'Samson et Dalila' and for the ballet."

"And afterwards?"

"To the Abbaye. After that, there is the Rat Mort--Albert must not be
disappointed--and a new place, they tell me. One must see all these new
places."

"And we leave here soon?"

"You are impatient!"

"Only to be alone with you," she answered. "Even those few moments in
the automobile are precious."

He smiled at her across the table. She was very pretty with her fair
hair and dark eyes, very Parisian, and yet with a shade of graceful
seriousness about her eyes and mouth.

"Dear Marguerite," he said, "I wait only for one of my agents who comes
to speak to me on a matter of business. He is due almost at this
moment. After he has been here, then we go. Cannot you believe," he
whispered, dropping his voice a little and leaning slightly across the
table, "that I, too, will love to feel your dear fingers in mine, your
lips, perhaps, for a moment, as we pass to the Opera?"

"It is a joy one must snatch," she murmured.

"There is no joy in life," he replied, "which is not the sweeter for
being snatched, and snatched quickly."

"And you a German!" she sighed.

Henri appeared once more, and after him Estermen. Herr Freudenberg,
with a word of excuse to his companion, turned to greet the newcomer.

"Well?"

Estermen stood quite close to the table. He was distinctly ill at ease.

"Herr Freudenberg," he said, "I have done my best. It was impossible
for me to obtain an introduction to this customer."

"Impossible?" Herr Freudenberg repeated, his face suddenly becoming
stony.

"Let me explain," Estermen continued hastily. "This customer arrived in
Paris last night or early this morning. He was called upon at once by a
lady who lives in the Avenue de St. Paul. She has told him a little
story about me--I am sure of it. He has refused to make my
acquaintance."

"And you were content?"

Estermen spread out his pudgy hands.

"What can one do?" he muttered. "The man is quick-tempered. He dined
tonight in the country at the Maison Leon d'Or with madame. It was
there that I sought an introduction with him. It was impossible for me
to force myself."

"You know where to find him, I suppose?"

"I know the hotel at which he is staying."

"Make it your business to find him," Herr Freudenberg ordered. "Bring
him with you, if before one o'clock to the Abbaye Theleme; if
afterwards, to the Rat Mort."

Estermen looked stolidly puzzled.

"Am I to mention the subject of the toys of Herr Freudenberg's
manufacture?"

Herr Freudenberg tore a corner from the programme which lay on the
table between them, and wrote a single word upon it.

"Study that at your leisure, my friend," he said. "Pay attention to the
task I impose upon you. Nothing is more important in my visit to Paris
than that I should make the acquaintance of this person. Much depends
upon it. I rely upon you, Estermen."

Estermen thrust the morsel of paper into his waist-coat pocket. Then he
leaned a little closer to this man who seemed to be his master.

"Herr Freudenberg," he began, "I spoke of a lady in the Avenue de St.
Paul, the companion to-night of the person whose acquaintance you are
anxious to make."

"What of her?" Herr Freudenberg asked calmly. "There are many ladies,
without a doubt, who live in the Avenue de St. Paul."

"The name of this one," Estermen continued slowly, "is Madame
Christophor."

Herr Freudenberg sat quite still in his place. His eyes seemed fixed
upon a cluster of the roses which hung down from the other side of the
sweet-smelling barrier by which they were surrounded. Yet something had
gone out of his face, something fresh had arrived. The half
contemptuous curl of the lips was finished. His mouth now was straight
and hard, his eyes set, the deep lines upon his forehead and around his
mouth were suddenly insistent. He sat so motionless that his face for a
moment seemed as though it were fashioned in wax. Then his lips moved,
he spoke in a whisper which was almost inaudible.

"Henriette!"

From across the table his companion watched him. At first she was
puzzled. When she heard the woman's name which came so softly from his
lips, she turned pale. Herr Freudenberg recovered from his fit of
abstraction almost as quickly as he had lapsed into it.

"I thank you, Estermen," he declared. "It is a coincidence, this. I am
obliged for your forethought in mentioning it. Until later, then."

The man made a somewhat clumsy bow, glanced admiringly at Herr
Freudenberg's companion, and departed. Herr Freudenberg was shaking his
head slowly.

"I fear," he said softly to himself, "sometimes I fear that I am not so
well served as might be in Paris. However, we shall see. For the moment
let us banish these dull cares. If you are ready, Marguerite, I think I
might suggest that the nearer way to the Opera is by the Champs
Elysees."

She rose to her feet and gave him her hand for a moment as she passed.

"If one could only find as easily the way to your heart, dear maker of
toys!" she murmured.




CHAPTER XII


AT THE RAT MORT


Julien had been back in the hotel about half an hour and in his room
barely ten minutes when he was disturbed by a knock at the door.
Immediately afterwards, to his amazement, Estermen entered.

"What the devil are you doing up here?" Julien asked angrily. "How dare
you follow me about!"

"Sir Julien," his visitor answered, "I beg that you will not make a
commotion. It was perfectly easy for me to gain admission here. It will
be perfectly easy for me, if it becomes necessary, to leave without
trouble. I ask you to be reasonable. I am here. Listen to what I have
to say. You are prejudiced against me. It is not fair. You have spoken
with a woman who is my enemy. Give me leave, at least, to address a few
words to you. You will not be the loser."

Julien was angry, but underneath it all he was also curious.

"Well, go on, then."

"You are reasonable," said Estermen, laying his hat and stick upon the
bed. "Listen. Your story is known at Berlin as well as in Paris. There
is only one opinion concerning it and that is that you have been
shamefully treated."

"I am not asking for sympathy, sir," Julien answered coldly.

"Nor am I offering it," the other returned. "I am stating facts. There
are many who do not hesitate to say that you have been made the victim
of a political plot, conceived among the members of your own party;
that you are suffering at the present moment from your masterly efforts
on behalf of peace."

"Pray go on," Julien invited. "I consider all this grossly impertinent,
but I am willing to listen to what you have to say."

"The greatest man in Germany," Estermen continued, "when he heard of
your misfortune, declared at once that the peace of Europe was no
longer assured. I am here to-night, Sir Julien, without credentials, it
is true, but I am the spokesman of a very great person indeed. He is
anxious to know your plans."

"I have no plans."

"Your political future, then--"

"I have no political future," Julien interrupted. "That is finished for
me."

"But the thing is absurd!" protested Estermen. "There is no other man
but you capable of dealing tactfully and diplomatically with my
country. Your blundering predecessors brought us twice within an ace of
war. If the man takes your place to whom rumor has already given it, I
give Europe six weeks' peace--no more. We are a sensitive nation, as
you know. You learned how to humor us. No one before you tried. You
kept your alliance with France, but you were not afraid to show us the
open hand. There are those in Berlin, Sir Julien, who consider you the
greatest statesman England ever possessed."

"I listen," Julien said. "Pray proceed."

"It cannot be," Estermen went on, "that you mean to accept the
situation?"

"I have no alternative," Julien answered.

"It is not, then, a question of money?" Estermen ventured slowly. "The
Press tell us that you are poor."

"Money, in this case, would scarcely help," Julien remarked.

"There is no man in the world who can afford to despise the power of
money," Estermen said quietly.

"Are you here to offer me any?"

"I am not. Have you anything to give in exchange for it?"

Julien laughed a little shortly.

"I imagined," he declared, "that with your first remarks you had
climbed to the dizziest heights of impertinence. I perceive that I was
mistaken. I am a discarded minister,"--dryly. "I may be supposed to
have in my possession secrets for which your country would pay. Is it
not to those facts that I am indebted for the honor of this visit?"

"Not in the least," answered Estermen. "Our own Secret Service keeps us
supplied with such information as we desire. My object in seeking you
is this. The Prince von Falkenberg is in Paris for a few hours only. He
wants to meet you. I have been ordered to arrange this meeting, if
possible."

Julien did not attempt to conceal his interest.

"Why on earth didn't you say so at once?" he exclaimed. "What does he
want of me?"

Estermen shrugged his shoulders.

"Who knows? Who knows what Falkenberg ever wants? He is here, there and
everywhere--today in Paris, tomorrow in Berlin, next week in Moscow.
Yet it is he, as you know well, who shapes the whole destinies of my
country. It is he alone in whom the Emperor has blind and absolute
confidence. If he holds up his hand, it is war. If he holds it down, it
is peace."

"What does he do in Paris?" Julien inquired.

Estermen shook his head.

"He arrived this morning and disappeared. Tonight he sent me orders
that I was to search for you."

"Where is he now?" Julien asked.

"At eight o'clock tonight," Estermen said, "he declared himself to be
Herr Carl Freudenberg, dealer in German toys. He dressed, dined at the
Ambassadeurs with Mademoiselle Ixe from the Opera, sent for me, learned
that I was at the Maison Leon d'Or, telephoned there, and all for this
one thing--that I should bring you to him without a moment's delay."

"But where is he now?" Julien asked again.

Estermen glanced at the clock and at a piece of paper which he took
from his pocket.

"It is one o'clock within a few minutes," he remarked. "Herr
Freudenberg is either at the Abbaye Theleme or the Rat Mort."

Julien scarcely hesitated.

"When you first came in," he admitted, "I felt like throwing you out.
How you got here I don't know. I suppose it is no use complaining to
the hotel people. But there is no man on the face of this earth in whom
I am more interested than Falkenberg. I shall change my clothes, and in
a quarter of an hour I am at your service. Wait for me downstairs."

Estermen drew a little sigh of relief. "I shall await you, Sir
Julien," he declared.

All Paris seemed to be seeking distraction as they drove in the
automobile along the Boulevard des Italiens. Julien sat with folded
arms in the corner of the automobile. He had no fancy for his
companion. He was anxious so far as possible to avoid speech with him.
Estermen, on the contrary, seemed only too desirous of removing the
impression of dislike of which he was acutely conscious. He talked the
whole of the time of the cafes and the women, of everything he thought
might be interesting to his companion. Julien listened in grim silence.
Only once he interrupted.

"What brings Herr Freudenberg to Paris?" he inquired once more.

Estermen was suddenly reticent.

"He has affairs here," he said. "He is also like us others--a man who
loves his pleasure. You will find him tonight with a most charming
companion--Mademoiselle Ixe of the Opera. Before the coming of Herr
Freudenberg, I remember her well--the companion at times of many.
To-day she is changed, _triste_ when he is not here, faithful in a most
un-Parisianlike manner."

They swung round to the left.

"Herr Freudenberg," Estermen continued, "is a great lover of the night
life of Paris. He goes from one cafe to the other. He is untired,
sleepless. He seems to find inspiration where others find fatigue."

Julien raised his eyebrows, but he said nothing. These were not his
impressions of the man whom they were seeking!

They drew up presently at the doors of the Abbaye Theleme. There were
crowds of people trying to gain admission. Estermen elbowed his way
through.

"Herr Freudenberg?" he asked of the man who stood at the door.

The man's forbidding face changed like magic.

"Herr Freudenberg left but ten minutes ago for the Rat Mort. Those who
inquired for him were to follow."

Estermen nodded and touched Julien on the arm.

"We will walk," he said. "It is at the corner there."

They presented themselves at the doors of a smaller and dingier cafe.
Estermen elbowed the way up the narrow stairs. They emerged in a small
room, brilliantly lit and filled with people. The usual little band was
playing gay music. A corpulent _maitre d'hotel_ bowed as they appeared.

"Herr Freudenberg," Estermen began.

The waiter's bow by this time was a different affair.

"Monsieur will follow me," he invited.

At the corner table at the far end of the room--the most desired of
any--sat Herr Freudenberg with Mademoiselle Ixe by his side. They met
the flower girl coming away with empty arms. The table of Herr
Freudenberg was smothered with roses. There was a shade more color in
the cheeks of Mademoiselle Ixe, in her eyes a light as soft as any
which the eyes of a woman who loved could know. Herr Freudenberg,
unruffled, had still the air of a man who finds life pleasant. As the
two men came up the room, he rose and held out both his hands.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "it is indeed my friend of Berlin! Welcome, dear
Sir Julien! We meet on neutral ground, is it not so? We meet now in the
city of pleasures. Let us sit for a little time and talk, and forget
that you and I once wrote a chapter together in the history--of
toymaking. But first," he added, turning to Mademoiselle Ixe,
"mademoiselle permits me to introduce a very dear and cherished
acquaintance to an equally dear and cherished friend. This gentleman,
dear Marguerite, and I make toys in different countries, and there was
a time when it was necessary for us to consult together. So he came to
Berlin and I have never forgotten his visit. For the present, join us,
dear Julien. You permit that I call you by your first name? It is after
midnight, and after midnight in Paris one permits everything. Now we
drink together, we three, for Estermen must leave us, I know. We drink
together to the making of toys, the building of toy palaces, and the
love of one another. Come, Monsieur Albert, see that your _sommelier_
opens that bottle that you have chosen for us so carefully," he
continued, turning to the manager who was hovering close at hand. "This
is a meeting and we need the best wine that ever came from the
vineyards of France. A dear friend, Albert. Bow low to him, indeed, for
he is worthy of it. Afterwards we will perhaps eat something. Send your
waiter. But above all, monsieur, see to it that mademoiselle with the
fair curls dances once more. My friend, I think, would like to see her.
And we must have music. Let the band never cease playing. Ah! it is
here, dear Albert, that one learns to forget how strenuous life really
is. It is here that one may unbend. The wine!"

While Herr Freudenberg talked the _sommelier_ had gravely served the
champagne in some tall and wonderful glasses brought from a private
cabinet by Monsieur Albert himself to honor his most treasured
visitors. Herr Freudenberg raised his glass, clinked it against the
glass of mademoiselle, clinked it against Julien's glass.

"Come," he cried, "to our better acquaintance, to our better
understanding! Mademoiselle," he added, lowering his tone, "to the
eternal continuance of those things which lie between you and me!"

Estermen had departed and Julien breathed the freer for it.
Mademoiselle Ixe chattered to him for a few moments, and Herr
Freudenberg whispered in the ears of Albert, who withdrew at once.

"One must eat," Herr Freudenberg declared. "Albert has some peaches,
wonderful peaches from the gardens where the sun always shines. Peaches
and macaroons--afterwards coffee. Ah! my friend, you remember those
somber banquets when we all hated one another because we all fancied
that the other wanted what we had a right to? Ugh! When I think of
Berlin in those days, when no one smiled, when one's sense of humor was
there only to be kept down with an iron hand, why, it gives one to
weep! Mademoiselle, I have a prayer to make."

"It is granted," she assured him softly.

"Presently the orchestra shall play the music of Faust. You will sing
to us? Tonight is one of my nights, never really perfect unless some
minutes of it move to the music of your voice."

She laughed softly.

"Yes, monsieur, I will sing," she answered, "but not the Jewel Song
tonight. Send the _chef d'orchestre_ to me."

At the merest signal he was there with his violin under his arm.
Mademoiselle whispered a word in his ear and he departed, all smiles.
The selection which they were playing suddenly ceased. _Monsieur le
chef_ alone played some Italian air, which no one wholly recognized but
every one found familiar. Slowly he walked around the tables, playing
still, always with his eyes upon Mademoiselle Ixe, and when at last he
stood before her, she threw her head back and sang.

The clatter of crockery diminished, the waiters paused in their tasks
or crept on tiptoe about the place. Men and women stood up at their
tables that they might see the singer better; conversation ceased. And
all the time the _chef d'orchestre_ drew music from his violin, and
mademoiselle, with half-closed eyes, her head thrown back, filled the
whole room with melody. Even she herself knew that she was singing as
she never sang at the Opera, as she had never sung when a great
impressario had come to try her voice, as one sings only when the heart
is shaking a little, and as she finished, the fingers of her left hand
slowly crept across the table into the hand of Herr Freudenberg, the
toymaker, and her last notes were sung almost in a whisper into his
ears. The room rose up to applaud. The _chef d'orchestre_ went back to
his place, bowing right and left. Herr Freudenberg raised the fingers
that lay between his hand to his lips.

"Ah, mademoiselle," he murmured, "I have no longer words!"

Albert came back. Scarcely more than a look passed between him and Herr
Freudenberg. Then the latter rose to his feet.

"Come," he said, "a little surprise for you. You, too, dear Julien. I
insist. This way."

They passed from the room. As mademoiselle rose to her feet, people
began once more to applaud.

"Mademoiselle will sing again presently, perhaps," Herr Freudenberg
answered a man who leaned forward. "We do not depart."

He led the way to the head of the staircase and they passed into the
back regions of the place--dim, ill-lit, mysterious. Albert, who had
preceded them, threw open the door of a room. There was a small supper
table laid for three, more flowers, more wine.

"It is that one may talk for five minutes," Herr Freudenberg explained.
"Mademoiselle!"

But mademoiselle had already flitted away. The door somehow was closed,
the two men were alone.




CHAPTER XIII


POLITICS AND PATRIOTISM


Herr Freudenberg shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the
softly-closed door.

"Mademoiselle is a paragon," he declared. "Always she understands. Sir
Julien, will you not sit down for a moment? Let me confess that this
little supper-party is a pretense. For five minutes I wish to talk to
you."

Julien seated himself without hesitation.

"My dear host," he said, "I left Berlin a year ago with only one
hope--or rather two. The first was that I might never have to visit
Berlin again! The second was that I might have the pleasure of meeting
you as speedily and as often as possible."

Herr Freudenberg smiled--a quiet, reminiscent smile.

"Even now," he remarked, "when I would speak to you for a moment on
more serious subjects, the strange humor of that round-table conference
comes home to me. There were you and I and our big friend from Austria,
and that awful dull man from here, and the Russian. Shall you ever
forget that speechless Russian, who never opened his lips except to
disagree? Sometimes I caught your eye across the table. And, Sir
Julien, you know, I presume, whose was the triumph of those days?"

Julien smiled doubtfully.

"Yours, of course," Herr Freudenberg continued. "The Press even
ventured to find fault with me. England, as usual, they declared, had
gained all she desired and had given the very minimum. However, we will
not waste time in reminiscences. To-day the only pleasure I have in
thinking of that conference is the fact that you and I came together.
When you left Berlin--I saw you off, you remember--I told those who
stood around that there went the future Prime Minister of England. I
believed it, and I am seldom mistaken. Tell me, what piece of
transcendental ill-fortune is this which brings you here an exile?"

"I committed an act of transcendental folly," Julien replied. "I have
no one to blame but myself. I not only wrote an indiscreet letter, but
I put my name to it. I was deceived, too, in the character of the woman
to whom it was sent."

"It is so trifling an error," Herr Freudenberg said thoughtfully, "made
by many a man without evil results. One learns experience as one passes
on in life. It is a hard price that you are paying for yours. Come,
that is finished. Now answer me. What are you going to do?"

Julien laughed, a little bitterly.

"My friend," he answered, stretching out his hand and taking a
cigarette from the open box upon the table, "you ask rather a hard
question. My resignation was accepted, was even required of me.
Politics and diplomacy are alike barred to me. There is no return. What
is there left? I may write a book. So far as my means permit, I may
travel. I may play games, take a walk in the morning, play bridge in
the afternoon, eat heavily and sleep early. What is there left, Herr
Freudenberg--tell me of your wisdom--for a man about whose ears has
come crashing the scaffolding of his life?"

Herr Freudenberg looked across at his companion, and in that dimly-lit
room his eyes were bright and his lips firm.

"To rebuild, my friend," he declared. "Choose another foundation and
rebuild."

"You recognize, I presume," Julien said, "that I require a few more
details if your advice is to be of value?"

"The details are here in this room," Herr Freudenberg replied firmly.
"Be my man. I cannot offer you fame, because fame comes only, nowadays,
to the man who serves his own country. You see, I make no pretense at
deceiving you, but I offer you a life of action, I offer you such
wealth as your imagination can have conceived, and I offer you
revenge."

"Revenge," Julien repeated, a little vaguely.

"Upon the political party by whose scheming that letter was first of
all elicited from you and then made public," Herr Freudenberg said
slowly. "Do you imagine that it was a thoughtless act of that woman's?
Do you know that her reward is to be a peerage for her husband?"

"You, too, believe that it was a trap, then?" Julien remarked.

"Of course. Don't you know yourself that you were a thorn in the flesh
to your own party? They hated you because you were not afraid to preach
war when war might have saved your country from what is to come. They
hated you because you were a strong man in a strong place, and because
the people believed in you. They hated you because the policy which
would have been yours in the four or five years to come, would have
been the policy which would have brought the country around you, which
alone would have kept your party in power. You were the only figure in
politics which the imperialist party in England had to fear. Mrs.
Carraby--I believe that was the lady's name--is ill-paid enough with
that peerage. Leave out the personal element--or leave it in, if you
will, for when I speak of my country I know no friendships--but, my
dear friend, let me tell you that I myself would have given more than a
peerage--I would have given a principality--to the person who threw you
out of English politics."

Julien's eyes were bright. Somehow or other, his old dreams, his old
faith in himself had returned for a moment. And then the bitterness all
swept in upon him.

"I think, Herr Freudenberg," he said, "that you are talking a little in
the skies. At any rate, it makes no difference. Those things have
passed."

"Those things have passed," Herr Freudenberg assented. "There is no
future for you in England. That is why I wish to rescue you from the
ignominy of which you yourself have spoken. I repeat my offer. Be my
man. You shall taste life and taste it in such gulps as you wish."

Julien shook his head slowly.

"My friend," he said, "it is the cruel part of our profession that one
man's life can be given to one country alone."

"Wrong!" Herr Freudenberg declared briskly. "I am not going to decry
patriotism. The welfare of my country is the religion which guides my
life. But you--you have no country. There is no England left for you.
She has thrown you out. You are a wanderer, a man without ties or home.
That is why I claim you as my man. I want to show you the way to
revenge."

"You puzzle me," Julien admitted. "You talk about revenge. I know you
far too well to believe that you would propose to me any scheme which
would involve the raising even of my little finger against the country
which has turned me out."

"Naturally," Herr Freudenberg agreed. "You do me no less than justice,
my dear Sir Julien. What I do hope that you have firmly fixed in your
mind is that I, despite your halfpenny papers, your novelists seeking
for a new sensation, and your weird middle class, I, Carl Freudenberg,
maker of toys, am the honest and sincere friend of England. The work
which I ask you to do for me would be as much in the interests of your
country as of my own, only when I say your country, I mean your country
governed by the political party in which I have faith and confidence. I
tell you frankly that an England governed as she is at present is a
country I loathe. If I raise my hand against her--not in war, mind, but
in diplomacy--if I strive to humble her to-day, it is because I would
cover if I could the political party who are in power at this moment
with disrepute and discredit. Why should you yourself shrink from
aiding me in this task? They are the party in whose ranks--high in
whose ranks, I might say--are those who stooped with baseness, with
deceit unmentionable, to rid themselves of you. Therefore, I say
strike. Come with me and you shall help. And when the time comes, I
think I can promise you that I can show you a way back, a way which you
have never guessed."

Julien looked across the table long and earnestly.

"Herr Freudenberg," he said, "if I answer you in the negative, it is
because of your own words. The love of your country, you told me not
long ago, is your religion. For her good you would make use even of
those you call your friends. Now I am sincere with you. I do not know
whether to trust you or not. For that reason I cannot attempt to
discuss this matter with you. I do not ask even that you explain
yourself."

"You mean that at any rate you cannot trust me entirely?" Herr
Freudenberg replied. "Well, if you had, I should have been disappointed
in you. Still, I have said things that were in my heart to say to you.
We send now for Mademoiselle Ixe. Before very long we talk together
again."

Herr Freudenberg touched the bell. A waiter appeared almost
immediately.

"Find mademoiselle," he ordered. "Tell her that we wait impatiently."

Mademoiselle was not far away. Herr Freudenberg passed his arm through
hers.

"We return, I think," he said. "This little room has served its
purpose."

Julien on the landing tried to make his adieux, but his host only
laughed at him. Mademoiselle Ixe held out her hand and led him into the
room by her side.

"He wishes it," she murmured softly. "He has so few nights here, one
must do as he desires."

The little party returned to their table in the corner. Somehow or
other, their coming seemed to enliven the room. There was more spirit
in the music, more animation in the conversation. Albert walked with a
sprightlier step. Then Julien, in his passage down the room, received a
distinct shock. He stopped short.

"Kendricks, by Jove!" he exclaimed.

Kendricks, sitting alone at a small table, with a bottle of champagne
in front of him and a huge cigar in his mouth, waved his hand joyfully.
Then he glanced at his friend's companions, frowned for a moment, and
gazed fixedly at Herr Freudenberg.

"Julien, by all that's lucky!" he called out. "And I haven't been in
Paris four hours! I called at your hotel and they told me you were out.
Sit down."

"I am not alone," Julien began to explain,--

Herr Freudenberg turned round.

"You must present your friend," he declared. "He must join us."

Julien hesitated for a moment.

"Kendricks," he said, "this is my friend, Herr Freudenberg."

The two men shook hands. Kendricks as yet had scarcely taken his eyes
off Herr Freudenberg's face.

"I am glad to meet you, sir," he remarked. "It is odd, but your face
seems familiar to me."

Herr Freudenberg leaned over the table.

"My friend, Mr. Kendricks," he said, "you are, I believe, a newspaper
man, and you should know the world. When you see a face that is
familiar to you in Paris, and in this Paris, it goes well that you
forget that familiarity, eh?"

Kendricks nodded.

"It is sound," he agreed. "I will join you, with pleasure."

"Mademoiselle," Herr Freudenberg continued, "permit me to introduce my
new friend, Mr. Kendricks. Mr. Kendricks--Mademoiselle Ixe. We will now
begin, if it is your pleasure, to spend the evening. There is room in
our corner, Mr. Kendricks. Come there, and presently Mademoiselle Ixe
will sing to us, mademoiselle with the yellow hair there will dance,
the orchestra shall play their maddest music. This is Paris and we are
young. Ah, my friends, it comes to us but seldom to live like this!"

They all sat down together. Herr Freudenberg gave reckless orders for
more wine. The _chef d'orchestre_ was at his elbow, Albert hovered
in the background. Kendricks leaned over and whispered in his friend's
ear.

"Julien, who is our friend?"

"A manufacturer of toys from Leipzig," Julien answered grimly.

"The toys that giants play with!" Kendricks muttered. "I have never
forgotten a face in my life."

"Then forget this one for a moment," Julien advised him quickly. "This
is not a night for memories. I have lived with the ghosts of them long
enough."

Their party became larger. The little dancing girl came to drink wine
with them and remained to listen to Herr Freudenberg. A friend of
Mademoiselle Ixe--a tall, fair girl in a blue satin gown--detached
herself from her friends and joined them. Herr Freudenberg, with his
arm resting lightly around Mademoiselle Ixe's waist, talked joyously
and incessantly. It was not until some one lifted the blind and
discovered that the sun was shining that they spoke of a move. Then, as
the _vestiaire_ came hurrying up with their coats and wraps, Herr
Freudenberg lifted his glass.

"One last toast!" he cried. "Dear Marguerite, my friends, all of
you--to the sun which calls us to work, to the moon which calls us to
pleasure, to the love that crowds our hearts!"

He raised his companion's hand to his lips and drew her arm through
his.

"Come," he cried, "to the streets! We will take our coffee from the
stall of Madame Huber."




CHAPTER XIV


THE MORNING AFTER


Kendricks and Julien drove down from the hill in a small open
victoria. The sun had risen, but here and there were traces of a fading
twilight. A faint mauve glow hung over the sleeping streets. The
sunlight as yet was faint and the morning breeze chilly. As they passed
down the long hill, tired-looking waiters were closing up the night
cafes. Bedraggled revelers crept along the pavements with weary
footsteps.

With every yard of their progression, the meeting between the two
extremes of life seemed to become more apparent. The children of the
night--the weary, unwholesome products of dissipation, rubbed shoulders
with the children of the morning--girls, hatless, in simple clothes,
walking with brisk footsteps to their work; market women, brown-cheeked
and hearty, setting out their wares upon the stalls; the youth of
Paris, blithe and strenuous, walking light-footed to the region of
warehouses and factories. Julien and Kendricks looked out upon the
little scene with interest. Both had been sleepy when they had left the
cafe, but there was something stimulating in the sight of this thin but
constant stream of people. Kendricks sat up and began to talk.

"Julien," he declared, "this Paris never alters. It's a queer little
world and a rotten one. We are here just at the ebbing of the tide.
Don't you feel the hatefulness of it--the thin-blooded scream for
pleasure which needs the lash of these painted women, these gaudy
cafes, this yellow wine all the time? My God! and they call it
pleasure! Look at these people going to their work, Julien. There's
where the red blood flows. They're the people with the taste of life
between their teeth. Can't you see them at their pleasures--see them
sitting in a beer-garden with a girl and a band, their week's money in
their pocket, and the knowledge that they've earned it? Perhaps
sometimes they look up the hill and wonder at the craze for it all. Did
you see the stream coming up to-night--automobiles, victorias,
carriages of every sort; pale-faced men who had lunched too well, dined
too well, flogging their tired systems in the craze for more
excitement, more pleasure; eating at an unwholesome hour, smoking
sickly cigarettes, kissing rouged lips, listening to the false music of
that hard laughter? Look at those girls arm in arm, off to their little
milliner's shop. Hear them laugh! You don't hear anything like that,
Julien, on the top of the hill."

"Of course," Julien remarked, stifling a yawn, "if you've come to Paris
to be moral--"

"Not I!" Kendricks broke in roughly. "Bless you, I'm one of the worst.
A wild night in Paris calls me even now from any part of the world. But
Lord, what fools we are! And, Julien, we get worse. It's the old people
who keep these places going."

"The older we get," Julien replied, "the harder we have to struggle for
our joys."

Kendricks wheeled suddenly in his place.

"Tell me how long you have known Herr Freudenberg?" he insisted. "How
many times have you been seen with him? Is it the truth that you met
him to-night for the first time?"

Julien laughed.

"My dear David!" he protested,--

"To tell you the truth, Julien," Kendricks interrupted, "there's some
hidden trouble, some mysterious influence at work which seems to be
upsetting the relations just now between France and England. To be
frank with you, I know that Carraby, at a Cabinet meeting yesterday,
suggested that you were at the bottom of it."

Julien's eyes suddenly flashed fire.

"D--n that fellow!" he muttered. "Does anybody believe it?"

Kendricks shrugged his shoulders.

"Scarcely. And yet, Julien, it pays to be careful. You can't afford to
be seen in public places with the enemies of your country."

"Is Carl Freudenberg an enemy of my country?"

Kendricks leaned back in his seat and laughed scornfully.

"Julien," he exclaimed, "there are times when you are very simple! Do
you indeed mean that you would try to deceive even me? You would
pretend that I, David Kendricks, of the _Post_, don't know that
Herr Freudenberg and the Prince von Falkenberg, ruler of Germany, are
one and the same person? Maker of toys, he calls himself! Maker of
fools' palaces, if you like, builder of prison houses, if you will. No
man was ever born with less of a conscience, more solely and wholly
ambitious both for his country and for himself, than the man with whom
you talked to-night. You knew him?"

"Naturally," Julien answered. "We met at Berlin."

"The man is a great genius," Kendricks continued. "No one will deny him
that. They speak of his weaknesses. They talk of his drinking bouts, of
his plunges into French dissipation. The man hasn't a single dissipated
thought in his mind. He moves through this world--this little Paris
world--with one idea only. He gets behind the scenes. He comes here
secretly, drops hints here and there as a private person, lets himself
be considered a Parisian of Parisians. All the time he listens and he
drops his cunning words of poison and he works. What are his ambitions?
Do you know, Julien?"

"Do you?" Julien asked.

"It seems to me that I have some idea," Kendricks answered. "This is
your hotel, isn't it?"

Julien nodded.

"Are you going to stay here?"

Kendricks shook his head.

"I stay at a little hotel in the Rue Taitbout. I stay there because it
is full of the weirdest set of foreigners you ever knew. This morning
we breakfast together?"

"Come and see me when you will," Julien invited, "or I will come to
you; not to breakfast, though--I am engaged."

"To Herr Freudenberg?" Kendricks asked quickly.

"To the lady whom your little friend, the manicurist, sent me to
visit," Julien replied. "Perhaps now you will tell me that she is an
ambassadress in disguise?"

"I'll tell you nothing about her this morning," Kendricks said. "I'll
tell you nothing which you ought not to find out for yourself."

"Do you think I may breakfast with her safely?" Julien inquired.

"Heaven knows--I don't!" Kendricks replied. "No man is safe with such a
woman as Madame Christophor. But let it go. We dine together to-night.
I'll tell you some news then. I'm going to unroll a plan of campaign.
There's work for you, if you like it;--nothing formulated as yet, but
it's coming--perhaps hope--who knows?"

The sun rose higher in the heavens, the mauve light faded from the sky.
Morning had arrived in earnest and Paris settled herself down to the
commencement of another day. Julien, for the first time since he had
left England, was asleep five minutes after his head had touched the
pillow. Herr Freudenberg, on the contrary, made no attempt at all to
retire. In the sitting-room of his apartments in the Boulevard
Maupassant he sat in his dressing-gown, carefully studying some letters
which had arrived by the night mail. Opposite to him was a secretary;
by his side Estermen, who appeared to be there for the purpose of
making a report.

"Not a document," Estermen was saying, "not a line of writing of any
sort in his trunk, his bureau, or anywhere about his room."

Herr Freudenberg nodded thoughtfully.

"But these Englishmen are the devil to deal with!" he said. "The
luncheon is ordered to-day in the private room at the Armenonville?"

"Everything has been attended to," Estermen replied.

Herr Freudenberg was thoughtful for several moments. Then with a wave
of his hand he dismissed Estermen.

"You, too, can go, Fritz," he said to his secretary. "You have had a
long night's work."

"You yourself, Excellency, should sleep for a while," his secretary
advised.

Herr Freudenberg shook his head.

"Sleep," he declared, "is a waste of time. I need no sleep. As you go,
you can tell my servant to prepare a warm bath. I will rest then for an
hour and walk in the Champs Elysees."

The secretary withdrew and Herr Freudenberg was alone. He picked up a
crumpled rose that lay upon the table and twirled it for a moment or
two in his fingers. The action seemed to be wholly unconscious. His
eyes were set in a fixed stare, his thoughts were busy weaving out his
plans for the day. It was not until he was summoned to his bath that he
rose and glanced at the withered flower. Then he smiled.

"Poor little Marguerite!" he murmured. "What a pity!"

He touched the rose with his lips, abandoned his first intention, which
seemed to have been to throw it into the fireplace, and put it back
carefully upon the table, side by side with an odd white glove.

"Queer little record of the froth of life," he said softly to himself.
"One soiled evening glove, a faded rose, a woman's tears,--they pass.
What can one do--we poor others who have to drive the wheels of life?"

He sighed, shrugged his high shoulders, and passed out.




CHAPTER XV


BEHIND CLOSED DOORS


Very soon after mid-day on the same morning, Herr Carl Freudenberg was
the host at a small luncheon party given in a private room of the most
famous restaurant in the Bois. His morning attire was a model of
correctness, his eyes were clear, his manner blithe, almost joyous.
There was no possible indication in his appearance of his misspent
hours. He was at once a genial and courteous host. Monsieur Decheles
sat at his right hand; Monsieur Felix Brant on his left; Monsieur
Pelleman opposite to him. The three men had arrived in an automobile
together and had entered the restaurant by the private way, but that
they were guests of some distinction was obvious from their reception
by the manager himself.

The luncheon was worthy of the great reputation of the place. It was
swiftly and well served. With the coffee and liqueurs the waiters
withdrew. Herr Freudenberg, with a smile, rose up and tried the door.
Then he returned to his place, lit a cigarette, and leaned back in his
chair.

"My dear friends," he announced, "now we can talk."

Monsieur Pelleman smiled.

"Yes," he admitted, "we can talk. In this excellent brandy, Monsieur
Carl Freudenberg, I drink your very good health. Long may these little
visits of yours continue."

Herr Freudenberg smiled his thanks.

"Monsieur Pelleman," he said, "and you, too, my dear friends, let me
assure you that there is nothing in the world which I enjoy so much as
these brief visits of mine to your delightful capital. No more I think
of the pressures and cares of office. I let myself go, and on these
occasions, as you know, I speak to you not in the language of
diplomacy, but as good friends who meet together to enjoy an hour or
two of one another's company, and who, because there is no harm to be
done by it, but much good, open their hearts and speak true words with
one another."

Monsieur Decheles smiled.

"It is a pleasure which we all share," he declared. "It is more
agreeable, without a doubt, to take lunch with Monsieur Carl
Freudenberg, and to speak openly, than to exchange long-winded
interviews, the true meaning of which is too much concealed by
diplomatic verbiage, with the excellent gentleman to whose good offices
are intrusted the destinies of Herr Freudenberg's great nation."

"Monsieur," Herr Freudenberg said, "to-day shall be no exception.
To-day I speak to you, perhaps, more openly than ever before. To-day I
perhaps risk much--yet why not speak the things which are in my heart?"

Monsieur Felix Brant took a cigarette from the box by his elbow, but he
felt for it only. His eyes never left the face of his host. Of the
three men, he seemed the one least in sympathy with the state of
affairs to which Herr Freudenberg had alluded so cheerfully. He watched
the man at the head of the table all the time as though every energy of
which he was possessed was devoted to the task of reading underneath
that suave but impenetrable face.

"Gentlemen," Herr Freudenberg continued, "there have been many
misapprehensions between your country and mine. Ten years ago we seemed
indeed on the highroad to friendship. It was then--I speak frankly,
mind--that your country made the one fatal mistake of recent years.
Great Britain, isolated, left behind in the race for power, a weakened
and decaying nation, having searched the world over for allies, held
out the timorous hand of friendship to you. What evil genius was with
your statesmen that day! When the history of these times comes to be
written, it is my firm belief that it will be then acknowledged that
the genius of the man who reigned over Great Britain at that time was
alone responsible for the commencement of what has become a veritable
alliance."

Herr Freudenberg paused.

"There is no doubt," Monsieur Decheles asserted calmly, "that the
influence of the late king was immense among the people of France. He
appealed somehow to their imaginations, a great monarch who was also a
_bon viveur_, who had lived his days in Paris as the others."

Herr Freudenberg nodded thoughtfully.

"He is dead," he said, "and history will write him down as a great
king. Do you know that it is one of my theories that morals have
nothing to do with government? I doubt whether a more sagacious monarch
has ever reigned over that unfortunate country than the one we speak
of. So sagacious was he that he even saw the beginning of the end, he
saw the things that must come when he looked across the North Sea; and
notwithstanding his descent, notwithstanding all the ties which should
have allied him with Germany, he hated our people and he hated our
country with a prophetic hatred. But we gossip a little, gentlemen. Let
me proceed. I want you to realize that the policy of Germany for the
last five years has been wholly directed towards securing the
friendship of your country. I want you to realize that but for the
continual interference of Great Britain you would even now be in a far
more favorable position with us than you are to-day. Germany wants
nothing in Morocco. Germany's first and greatest wish is for a rich and
prosperous France. On the other hand, Germany is loyal to her
friendships, and fervent in her hatreds. The country whose humiliation
is a solemn charge upon my people is Great Britain and not France."

Monsieur Decheles leaned back in his chair. Monsieur Felix Brant never
moved.

"I want," Herr Freudenberg continued, "to have you think and consider
and weigh this matter. Why do you, a great and prosperous country, link
yourselves with a decaying power, against whom, before very long,
Germany is pledged to strike? These are the plainest words that have
ever been spoken by a citizen of one country to three citizens of
another. Herr Freudenberg, the maker of toys, speaks to his three
French friends as a thoughtful merchant of his country who has had
unusual facilities for imbibing the spirit of her politicians.
Gentlemen, you do not misunderstand me?"

"It is impossible, Herr Freudenberg," Monsieur Decheles said, "to
misunderstand you for a single moment. Your hand is too clear and your
methods too sagacious."

"Then let me repeat," Herr Freudenberg declared, "that before many
years are passed--perhaps, indeed, before many months--it is the
intention of my country either to inflict a scathing diplomatic
humiliation upon Great Britain, or to engage in this war the fear of
which has kept her in a state of panic for the last ten years. Keep
that in your minds, my friends. Friendship is a great thing, honor is a
great thing, generosity is a great thing, but I would speak to you
three citizens of France to-day as I would speak to her rulers had I
access to them, and I would say, 'Do you dare, for the sake of an
alliance out of which you have procured no single benefit, do you dare
to drag your country into unnecessary, fruitless and bloody war?' You
have nothing to gain by it, you have everything to lose. Let Germany
deal with her traditional enemy in her own way. And as for France, let
France believe what is, without doubt, the truth--that she has nothing
whatever to fear from Germany. I will not speak of the past, but the
greatest thinkers in Germany to-day regret nothing so much in the
history of her splendid rise as that unfortunate campaign of
Bismarck's. It is the one blot upon her magnificent history. Let that
go--let that go and be buried. I bring you timely warning. I come to
the city I love, for her own sake, for the sake of her people whom I
also love. I beg you to listen to these words of mine, to adjust your
policy so that little by little you weaken the joints which bind you to
England, so that when the time comes you yourself may not be dragged
into a hopeless and pitiless struggle."

There was a moment's silence. Then Monsieur Decheles spoke.

"Herr Freudenberg," he began, "what you have said we have been in some
measure prepared for. The more amicable tone of all the correspondence
between our two countries has been marked of late. Yet there have been
times, and not long ago, when your country has shown wonderful
readiness to treat with a rough hand the claims of France in many
quarters of the world. The more powerful your country, the greater she
is to be feared. Supposing France stood on one side while Great Britain
fell before your arms, what then would be the relations between France
and Germany?"

Monsieur Brant spoke for the first time.

"Herr Freudenberg, you remind me of the fable of the Persian who had
two men to fight, both as strong as himself. To the one he sent
ambassadors, with the key of his favorite gardens; the other he fought.
It is a great policy to deal with your enemies one at a time."

Herr Freudenberg stretched out his arms across the table.

"My friend," he pronounced, "without faith there is no genius. Without
genius there is no government. I only ask you to believe this one
thing. Germany is not and never has been the traditional enemy of
France. I ask you to study the whole question for but one single
half-hour, I ask you to read the commercial records of these days. Help
yourself to all the statistics that throw light upon this question, and
I swear that you will find that whereas Great Britain and Germany stand
opposed to one another under every condition and in every quarter of
the world, there is no single bone of contention anywhere between
France and Germany. Their aims are different, their destinies are
written. I ask you to apply only a reasonable measure of philosophy and
common sense, a reasonable measure of faith, to the things I say."

There was a cautious tap at the door, a whispered message. Monsieur
Pelleman rose.

"It is my secretary," he announced. "I fear, gentlemen, that we are due
elsewhere."

"Herr Freudenberg, your luncheon has been delightful," Monsieur
Decheles declared, holding out his hand. "You have given us, as usual,
something to think of. These informal meetings between citizens of two
great countries will do, I am sure, more than anything else in the
world, to ripen our budding friendship."

"Your words," Herr Freudenberg replied, grasping the hand which had
been offered to him, "are a happy augury. When we meet again, I shall
be able to prove the coming of the things of which I have spoken."

They left him on the threshold of the room. The giver of the feast was
alone. Very slowly he retraced his steps and stood for a moment with
folded arms, looking down on the table at which they had lunched. His
natural urbanity, the smile half persuasive, half humorous, which had
parted his lips, had gone. His face seemed to have resolved itself into
lines of iron. As he stood there, one seemed suddenly to realize the
presence of a great man--a greater, even, than Carl Freudenberg, maker
of toys!




CHAPTER XVI


"HAVE YOU EVER LOVED?"


Nothing which he had heard or imagined of Madame Christophor had
prepared Julien for the subdued yet manifest magnificence of her
dwelling. He passed through that small postern gate beneath the watch
of a butler who relieved him of his stick and gloves and handed him
over to a sort of major-domo. Afterwards he was conducted across a
beautiful round hall, lit with quaint fragments of stained-glass
window, through a picture gallery which almost took Julien's breath
away, and into a small room, very daintily furnished, entirely and
characteristically French of the Louis Seize period. A round table was
laid for two in front of an open window, which looked out upon a lawn
smooth and velvety, with here and there little flower-beds, and in the
middle a gray stone fountain. Madame Christophor came in almost at the
same moment from the garden. She was wearing a long lace coat over the
thinnest of muslin skirts, and a hat with some violets in it which
seemed to match exactly the color of her eyes.

"So you have come, my friend of a few hours," she said, smiling at him.
"The fear has not seized you yet? You are not afraid that over my
simple luncheon table I shall ask you compromising questions?"

"I am neither afraid of your asking questions, madame," he assured her,
"nor of my being tempted to reply to them."

"That," she murmured, "is ungallant. Meanwhile, we lunch."

Such a meal as he might have expected from such surroundings was
swiftly and daintily served. There was cantaloup, cut in halves, with
the faintest suspicion of liqueur, and a great globule of ice; an
omelette, even for Paris a wonderful omelette,--a _mousse_ of
chicken, some asparagus, a bowl of peaches, and coffee. After the
latter had been served, madame, with a little wave of her hand,
dismissed the servants from the room.

"Sir Julien," she said, "I am not pleased with you."

He sighed.

"I regret your displeasure the more," he declared, "because I find
myself indebted to you for a new gastronomic ideal."

"You are really beginning to wake up," she laughed. "When you first
arrived here, less than twenty-four hours ago, you thought yourself a
broken-spirited and broken-hearted man. You were very dull. Soon you
will begin to realize that life is a matter of epochs, that no blow is
severe enough to kill life itself. It is only the end of an epoch. But
I am displeased with you, as I said, because you have told me nothing.
This morning I have letters from London. I learn that through a single
indiscretion not only were you forced to relinquish a great political
career, but that you were forced also to give up the lady for whom you
cared."

"You have ingenious correspondents," he remarked.

"Truthful ones, are they not?"

"I was engaged to marry Lady Anne Clonarty," he admitted. "It was, if I
may venture to say so, an alliance."

Madame Christophor's eyes twinkled.

"Once," she declared, "I met the Duke of Clonarty. I also met the
Duchess, I also saw Lady Anne. They were traveling in great state
through Italy. It was in Rome that I came across them. The Duchess was
very affable to me. I think you have rightly expressed your affair of
the heart, my friend. It was to have been an alliance!"

Julien was thoughtful. Madame Christophor in a moment continued.

"You know, my friend," she said, tapping the ash from her cigarette
into her saucer, "your misfortune came just in time to save you from
becoming what in English you call a great, a colossal prig."

His eyebrows went up. Suddenly he smiled.

"Perhaps," he admitted. "To be a successful politician one must of
necessity be a prig."

"Not in the least," she reminded him swiftly. "There is the Prince von
Falkenberg."

"The maker of toys," he murmured.

"The maker, alas! of toys which the world were better without," she
replied. "But never mind that. For the sake of your ambitions you were
content, were you not, to marry a young woman with whom you had not the
slightest sympathy, in order that she might receive your guests, might
add the lustre of her name to the expansion of her husband's genius?"

"Madame," he said, "we live a very short time. We live only one life.
Only certain things are possible to us. The man who tries to crowd
everything into that life fails. He is a dilettante. He may find
pleasure but he reaches no end. He strikes no long sustained note. In
the eyes of those who come after him, he is a failure."

"This," she murmured, "is interesting. Please go on."

"The man who means to succeed," he continued, "to succeed in any one
position, must sacrifice everything else--temperament, if necessary
character--for that one thing. When I left college, the study of
politics was almost chosen for me. It became a part of my life. As my
interest developed, it is true that my outlook upon life was narrowed.
I was content to forget, perhaps, that I was a man, I strove fervently
and desperately to develop into the perfect political machine. From
that point of view, nobody in England would have made me a better wife
than Lady Anne Clonarty."

She nodded.

"What a blessing that you wrote that letter!"

"I don't know," he replied. "I still think it was a great misfortune.
Frankly, I have no idea what to make of my life. I don't know how to
start again, to deal with the pieces in any intelligent fashion. Now
that I am outside the thing, I see the narrowness of it all, I see that
I was giving up many things which are interesting and beautiful, many
friendships that might have been delightful, but on the other hand
there was always the pressing on, the big, vital side, the great throb
of life. I miss it. I feel to myself as a great factory sounds on
Sundays and holidays, when the engine that drives all the machinery of
the place is silent. I wander among the empty, quiet places, and I am
lonely."

"Have you ever loved a woman?" she asked.

Her voice had suddenly dropped. He looked across the table. Her lips
were slightly parted, her eyes fixed upon his. There was something
shining out of them which he did not wholly understand. He only knew
that the question seemed to have stirred him in some new way. An
intense sense of pleasurable content, a feeling as though he were
listening to music, stole through his senses. This was a new thing. He
was bewildered. He leaned a little further across the table. He found
himself watching the faint blue veins of her delicate fingers, noticing
the curious perfume of roses that seemed to come to him from the
flutter of the lace around her neck.

"You are a man, Sir Julien. You must be thirty-five--perhaps older. Yet
somehow you have the look to me of one who has never cared at all."

"It is true," he admitted.

"Life," she declared, "is a strange place. A few months ago your whole
career was one of ambition. Misfortune came, or what you counted a
misfortune. You reckoned yourself ruined. It is simply a change of
poise. You turn now naturally to the other things in life. Do you know
that you will find them greater?"

He shook his head.

"It is too early for me to believe that," he said. "I will admit that
now and then in my forced solitude I have sometimes realized that one
may become too engrossed in a career of ambition. One may shut out many
things in life that are sweet and wholesome. But it is too early yet
for me to look back upon what has happened with equanimity and say that
I am glad to be a wanderer on the face of the earth, a homeless man, a
waif."


She shrugged her shoulders.

"You know that people are talking about you in London?" she asked
abruptly.

He looked a little startled.

"I know nothing of the sort," he replied. "I have scarcely looked at a
newspaper for weeks. Kendricks is over here with some story--"

"Who is Kendricks?" she interrupted.

"A journalist, an old friend of mine. What he told me, though, I looked
upon as simply a little more malice from my friend Carraby."

"Tell me exactly his news?"

"He told me," Julien continued, "that there is a good deal of unrest
over in London concerning our relations with France. The absolute
candor and completely good understanding which existed a short time ago
seems to have become clouded. Carraby is trying to suggest in English
circles that I have been using my influence over here against the
present government. The absurd part of it is that although I have been
in France for a month, I arrived in Paris only yesterday."

"I was not alluding to that at all," she said. "It is in the country
places, at the by-elections, and twice in the House itself lately, that
things have been said which point to a certain impatience at your
having been dropped so completely. You know Brentwood?"

"A strong, firm man," Julien replied, "but scarcely a friend of mine."

"Well, in your House of Parliament, the night before last," she
continued, "he said that your country needed men at the Foreign Office
who, however great might be their love of peace, still were not afraid
of war, and your name was mentioned."

Julien smiled.

"They used to call me the fire-brand. I suppose I am in a great
minority. I have never been able to see that a wholesome war, in
defense of one's territory and one's honor, is an unmixed curse. It is
the natural blood-letting of a strong country."

"No wonder you are unpopular in radical circles," she remarked, raising
her eyebrows; "but anyhow, what I really want to say to you is this.
Don't do anything rash. You have made the acquaintance of the most
dangerous man in Europe. Don't let him control your actions, don't let
him influence you. I want you always, whatever you do, to leave the way
open for your return."

He shook his head.

"I do not think that my return is ever possible."

"Have you talked with your friend Kendricks?" she asked.

"Not yet," he replied.

"Hear what he has to say," she continued. "Bring him to see me if you
will."

"I will try," he promised.

They were silent for a moment, listening to the splashing of the
fountain outside and the distant hum of the city.

"Do you know that you are very kind to me?" he said.

"You were very much afraid of me yesterday," she reminded him.

"Had I any cause?"

She smiled.

"I shall not tell you my secrets. You must find them out. I have
dabbled in politics, I have dabbled in diplomacy. I have not as a rule
very much sympathy with your sex, as I think you know. It has never
interested me before even to give good advice to a man. If I were you,
Sir Julien, beyond a certain point I would not trust Madame
Christophor, for when the time comes I have always the feeling that if
a man's career lay within my power, I would sooner wreck it than help
him."

"Of course you are talking nonsense," he declared.

"Am I?" she replied. "Well, I don't know. I can look back now to a
half-hour of my life when I loathed every creature that could call
itself a man."

"But it was a single person," he reminded her, "who sinned."

"His crime was too great to be the crime of a single man," she
asserted, with a quiver of passion in her tone. "It was the culmination
of the whole abominable selfishness of his sex. One man's life is too
light a price to pay for the tragedy of that half-hour. I have never
spared one of your sex since. I never shall."

"So far you have been kind to me," he persisted.

"Up to a certain point. Beyond that, I warn you, I should have no pity.
If you were a wise man, I think even now that you would thank me for my
luncheon and take my hand and bid me farewell."

"Instead of which," he answered, smiling, "I am waiting only to know
when you will do me the honor to come and dine with me?"

She shook her head.

"I will make no appointment," she said. "Send me your telephone number
directly you move into your rooms. If I am weary of myself I may call
for you, but I tell you frankly that you must not expect it. If I see a
way of making use of you, that will be different."

"May I come and see you again?" he begged. "You are dismissing me
rather abruptly."

She shrugged her shoulders. She was looking weary, as though the heat
of the day had tried her.

"I care very little, after all," she answered, "whether I ever see you
again. I wish I could care, although if I did the result would be the
same."

"You asked me a question a short time ago," he remarked. "Let me ask
you the same. Have you never cared for any one?"

"I cared once for my husband."

"You have been married?"

"Most certainly. I lived with my husband for two years."

"And now?" he persisted.

"We are separated. You really do not know my other name?"

"I have never heard you called anything but Madame Christophor."

"Well, you will hear it in time," she assured him. "You will probably
think you have made a great discovery. In the meantime, farewell."

She gave him her hands. He held them in his perhaps a little longer
than was necessary. She raised her eyes questioningly. He drew them a
little closer. Very quietly she removed the right one and touched a
bell by her side.

"If my automobile is of any service to you, Sir Julien," she said,
"pray use it. It waits outside and I shall not be ready to go out for
an hour at least."

"Thank you," he replied. "Your automobile, empty, has no attractions."

The butler was already in the room.

"See that Sir Julien makes use of my automobile if he cares to," she
ordered. "This has been a very pleasant visit. I hope we may soon meet
again."

She avoided his eyes. He had an instinctive feeling that she was either
displeased or disappointed with him. He followed the butler out into
the hall filled with a vague sense of self-dissatisfaction.




CHAPTER XVII


KENDRICKS IS HOST


"You are going to spend," Kendricks declared, "a democratic evening.
You are going to mix with common folk. To-night we shall drink no
champagne at forty francs the bottle. On the other hand, we shall
probably drink a great deal more beer than is good for us. How do you
find the atmosphere here?"

"Filthy!"

"I was afraid you might notice it," Kendricks remarked. "Never mind,
presently you will forget it. You have never been here before, I
presume?"

"I have not," Julien agreed. "I daresay I shall find it interesting.
You wouldn't describe it as quiet, would you?"

"One does not eat quietly here," Kendricks replied. "Four hundred
people, mostly Germans, when they eat are never silent. The service of
four hundred dinners continues at the same time. Listen to them. Close
your eyes and you will appreciate the true music of crockery."

"If that infernal little band would keep quiet," Julien grumbled, "one
might hear oneself talk!"

"Let us have no more criticisms," Kendricks begged. "To-night you are
of the working class. You may perhaps be a small manufacturer, the
agent of a manufacturing firm in the country, a clerk with a moderate
salary, or a mechanic in his best clothes. Remember that and do not
complain of the music. You do not hear it every day. Let us hear no
more blase speeches, if you please.... Good! The dinner arrives. We
dine here, my friend, for two francs. You will probably require another
meal before the evening is concluded. On the other hand, you may feel
that you never require another meal as long as you live. That is a
matter of luck. In any case, you had better squeeze a little further
up. Madame and her two daughters are going to sit next to you, and
opposite there will be monsieur, and I judge the fiance of one of the
young ladies. It will be a family party. If there is anything in that
dish of _hors d'oeuvres_ which you fancy particularly, help
yourself quickly. In a moment or two there will be no opportunity."

The two men were seated opposite one another at a long table in a huge
popular restaurant in the heart of the city. It was Kendricks'
plan--Kendricks, in fact, had insisted upon it.

"You know, my dear Julien," he continued, "a certain education is
necessary for you. If only I had a little more time I should be
invaluable. You have taken all your life too narrow a view. That
wretched Eton training! You would have been better off at a
board-school. We all should."

"You were at Winchester yourself," Julien reminded him, trying some of
the bread and approving of it.

"For a short time only," Kendricks admitted, "and then you forget the
years after which I spent in the byways. Oh, I know my people! I know
the common people of America and England and France and Germany. I know
them and love them. I love the middle classes, too, the honestly
vulgar, honestly snobbish, foolishly ambitious, yet over-cautious
middle class. The extreme types of every nation lose their racial
individuality. You find the true thing only among the bourgeoisie. Oh,
if I only knew whether these people," he added, "understood English!"

"You must not risk it," Julien warned him. "Madame has already her eye
upon you."

"As a possible suitor for that unmated daughter on her right, I
suspect," Kendricks declared. "The young lady has looked at me twice
and down at her plate. Julien, you must change places."

"I shall do nothing of the sort," Julien retorted.

"If I ingratiate myself with this family and trouble comes of it,"
Kendricks continued, "the fault will be yours. Madame," he added,
standing up and bowing, "will you permit me?"

Madame had been looking at the bread. Kendricks gallantly offered it.
Madame's bows and smiles were a thing delightful to behold.
Mademoiselle, too, would take bread, if monsieur was so kind. When
Kendricks sat down again, the way was paved for general conversation.
Julien, however, practically buttonholed his friend.

"Kendricks," he said, "you have told me nothing about England."

"There is little to tell," Kendricks replied. "The little there is will
filter from me during the evening. We are spending a long evening
together, you know, Julien."

"Heavens alive!" Julien groaned. "I am not sure that I am strong
enough."

"Eat that soup," Kendricks advised him. "That, at least, is sustaining.
Never mind stirring it up to see what vegetables are at the bottom.
Take my word for it, it is good. And leave the pepper-pot alone. How
the people crowd in! You perceive the commercial traveler with a
customer? How they talk about that last order! The fat man facing you
puzzles me. I wish I could know the occupation of our neighbors. I am
curious."

"I should ask them," Julien suggested dryly.

"An idea!" Kendricks assented approvingly. "Let us wait until they have
drunk the free wine. You understand, my dear Julien, that you pay
nothing for that flask which stands by your side? It comes with the
dinner. It is free."

Julien helped himself, and sipped it thoughtfully.

"At least," he murmured, as he set his glass down, "one is thankful
that we do not pay for it!"

"There are some," Kendricks remarked, "who prefer beer. Personally, I
like to preserve my local color. _Vin ordinaire_ in Paris, beer in
Germany. Madame!"

Kendricks had caught madame's eye with the glass at his lips. He rose
at once and bowed. Madame acknowledged his graciousness with a huge
smile, which spread even to her double chin. Monsieur leaned forward
and joined in the ceremony. Mademoiselle, after a timid glance at her
mother, also responded. Kendricks' character as an Englishman of
gallantry was thoroughly established.

"I am doing our national character good," he declared to Julien, as he
set down his glass empty. "As to my own constitution--but let that
pass. We will drown this stuff in honest beer, later on. How are you
getting on with the fish?"

"It is excellent--really excellent," Julien proclaimed. "Do you mean to
say seriously that you are going to pay only two francs each for this
repast?"

"Not a centime more," Kendricks assured him. "Do you know why I brought
you here?"

"Part of my education, I suppose," Julien replied resignedly.

"Quite true. Further than that, I am here on business for my paper. I
am here to study the effect of the German invasion of Paris. This place
is being spoken of as being the haunt of Germans. It still seems to me
that I find plenty of the real French people."

"Do we pursue your investigations elsewhere during the course of the
evening?" Julien inquired.

"The whole of our evening," Kendricks told him, "is devoted to that
purpose, and incidentally," he added, "to your education. We are going
for red-blooded pleasure to-night, for the real thing,--for the hearty
laughs, for the wholesome appetites; no caviare sandwiches, over-dry
champagne, rouged lips and Rue de la Paix hats for us. If we make love,
we make love honestly. Mademoiselle may permit a clasp of her hand--no
more."

"So far," Julien remarked, "mademoiselle--"

"That is for later," Kendricks interrupted briskly. "We shall go to a
singing-hall--a German singing-hall. The mademoiselles whom we meet
will probably have their own sweethearts. Somehow, to-night I fancy
that we shall be lookers-on. What does it matter? We shall at least see
life. We shall catch the shadows of other people's happinesses. It is,
I believe, the sincerest form. The chicken, dear Julien,--what of the
chicken?"

Julien hesitated.

"There is little to be said against it," he confessed. "The only
trouble is that it fails to arrive."

Kendricks summoned a waiter, a task of no inconsiderable difficulty,
for the service was automatic--the dishes were set upon the table and
the waiter disappeared for the next lot. Anything intervening was
almost impossible. Monsieur, Kendricks declared, pointing indignantly
across the table, had not been served with chicken! The waiter shook
his head. It was unheard of! Monsieur had probably had his chicken and
forgotten it. The chicken had been brought, two portions. There was no
doubt about it. But where then had the chicken been hidden? Kendricks
became fluent. He looked under the table. He pointed to his friend's
empty plate. The waiter, only half convinced, departed with a vague
promise. Kendricks sipped his wine.

"It is a regrettable incident," he declared, "but in the excitement of
conversation, Julien, I ate both portions of chicken."

He had lapsed into French, the language in which he had argued with the
waiter. Madame was overcome with the humor of the affair. Mademoiselle
tittered as she leaned across and told her fiance. The unattached
mademoiselle looked her sympathy with Julien. Monsieur saw the joke and
laughed heartily. They looked reproachfully at Kendricks. To them it
was indeed a tragedy!

"Madame," Kendricks explained, "it is not my custom to be so greedy.
The waiter set both portions before me, meaning, without doubt, that I
should pass one to my friend. Alas! in the pleasure of conversation in
these delightful surroundings,"--he bowed low to mademoiselle--"something,
I don't know what it was, carried me away, and I ate and ate until both
portions were vanished. Ah!" he exclaimed. "Triumph! The waiter returns.
He brings chicken, too, for my friend. Garcon, you have done well. You
shall be rewarded. It is excellent."

The waiter, still with a protesting air, passed up the chicken. The
little party was convulsed with merriment. They all watched Julien eat
his tardy course. Kendricks, with an air of recklessness, sipped more
wine.

"I flatter myself," he said, "that before very long I shall have taught
you to forget that you were ever a Cabinet Minister, that you were ever
at Eton, that you were ever at Oxford. One does not live in those
places, you know, Julien. One shrivels instead of expands.... My
friend, we have dined."

"Is there nothing more?" Julien asked.

"There is fruit," Kendricks admitted. "It was in my mind to spare you
the fruit. I see it to right and left of us being handed around--nuts,
a banana, apples whose exterior I trust is misleading. Never mind, you
have desired fruit and you shall have it. Waiter, monsieur desires his
fruit."

The waiter disappeared and in a moment or two Julien was served.

"Coffee, if you will?"

"No coffee, thanks," Julien decided. "If we are really going to spend
the evening visiting places of entertainment of a similar class, let us
reserve our coffee. A large cigar, I think."

Kendricks sighed.

"I hate to go. Mademoiselle opposite is pleased with me. I have made a
good impression upon madame. Monsieur is ready to extend to me the
right hand of fellowship. One of those pleasing little romances one
dreams about might here find a commencement. In a week's time I might
be accepted as a son-in-law of the house. I see all the signs of assent
already beaming in madame's eye. Perhaps we had better go, Julien!"

They took their leave, not without the exchange of many smiles and bows
with the little family party they left behind. They walked slowly down
the room, arm in arm.

"We were fortunate, you see, in our neighbors," Kendricks declared.
"There are Germans everywhere here. One is curious about these people.
One wonders how far they have imbibed the manners and customs of the
people among whom they live. Are they still absolutely and entirely
Teutons, do you suppose? Do they intermarry here, make friends, or do
they remain an alien element?"

"To judge by appearances," Julien remarked, "they remain an alien
element. It is astonishing how seldom you see mixed parties of French
people and Germans here."

"It is exactly to make observations upon that point that I am in
Paris," Kendricks asserted. "My people are curious. They want me to
watch and write about it. Do you know that there is a feeling in
London, Julien, that we are reaching the climax?"

Julien nodded.

"I can quite believe it," he replied. "Falkenberg seems to show every
desire to force our hand."

"May the Lord deliver us from a Germanized Paris!" Kendricks prayed.
"They may have the Ritz, if they will, and the Elysees Palace. They may
have all the halls of fashion and gilt and wealth. They may swamp the
Pre Catelan and the Armenonville, so long as they leave us the real
Paris. Come, we take our coffee here. This is a German cafe, if you
like. Never mind, let us see if by chance any French people have
wandered in."

They drank coffee at a little table in a huge building, hung with
tobacco smoke, with the inevitable band at one end, and crowded with
people. Kendricks smiled as the waiter brought them sugared cakes with
their coffee.

"It is Germany," he declared. "Look! An odd Frenchman or two, perhaps;
no French women. Look at the hats, the women's faces. The hats looked
well enough in the shop-windows here. What an ignoble end for them!
From an aesthetic point of view, Julien, nothing is more terrible than
the domesticity of the German. If only he could be persuaded to leave
his wife at home! Think how much more attractive it would make these
places. He would have more money to spend upon himself, upon his own
beer and his own pretzels, and in time, no doubt, a lonely feeling, a
feeling of sentiment, would overpower him, and the vacant chair would
be filled by one of these vivacious little women who might teach him in
time that blood was meant to flow, not to ooze like mud."

"I shall begin to think," Julien remarked, "that you don't like
Germans."

"There you are wrong," Kendricks replied. "In their own country I like
them. They have all the good qualities. Germany for the Germans, I
should say always, and me for any other country. We have drunk our
coffee. Let us go."

They passed on to a music-hall, where they listened to a mixed
performance and drank beer out of long glasses, served to them by a
distinctly Teutonic waiter. Greatly to Kendricks' annoyance, however,
they were surrounded by English and Americans, and were too tightly
packed in to change their seats. On the way out, however, he suddenly
beamed.

"Behold!" he exclaimed.

He swept his hat from his head. It was their companions at the dinner
table. Madame was pleased to remember him, also mademoiselle.

"I shall invite them to supper," Kendricks declared.

"If you do," Julien retorted, "I shall go home."

Kendricks heaved a long sigh as he regretfully let them pass by.

"It's just a touch of Oxford left in you," he complained. "For myself,
I know that madame would be excellent company, and I am perfectly
certain that mademoiselle would let me whisper--discreetly--in her ear.
Alas! it is a lost opportunity, and from here we go--to who knows
what?"

He was suddenly serious. Julien looked at him in surprise. They were
standing on the pavement outside. Kendricks consulted his watch.

"You have courage, I know, my friend," he said. "That is one reason why
I choose you for my companion to-night. I have two tickets for a German
socialist gathering here. The tickets were obtained with extraordinary
difficulty. I know that your German is pure and I can trust to my own.
From this minute, not a word in any other language, if you please."

"I am really not sure," Julien objected, "that I want to go to a German
socialist meeting. In any case, I am hungry."

"Hungry!" Kendricks exclaimed. "Hungry! What ingratitude! But be calm,
my friend," he added, taking Julien's arm, "there will be sausages and
beer where we are going."

"In that case," Julien agreed, "I am with you. Which way?"

"Almost opposite us," Kendricks declared. "Come along."

They paused outside a brilliantly lit cafe with a German name. Julien
looked at it doubtfully.

"Surely they don't hold meetings in a place like this?" he muttered.

Kendricks lowered his voice.

"We go into the cafe first," he said. "The meeting is in a private
room. Come."

They pushed open the swinging doors and entered the place.




CHAPTER XVIII


A MEETING OF SOCIALISTS


The _brasserie_ into which the two men pushed their way was
smaller and less ornate than the one which they had last visited. Many
of the tables, too, were laid for supper. The tone of the place was
still entirely Teutonic. Kendricks and his companion seated themselves
at a table.

"You will eat sausage?" Kendricks asked.

"I will eat anything," Julien replied.

"It is better," Kendricks remarked. "Here from the first we may be
watched. We are certainly observed. Be sure that you do not let fall a
single word of English. It might be awkward afterwards."

"It's a beastly language," Julien declared, "but the beer and sausages
help. How many of the people here will be at the meeting?"

"Not a hundredth part of them," Kendricks answered. "It was a terrible
job to get these tickets and I wouldn't like to guarantee now that we
have them that we get there. Remember, if any questions are asked,
you're an American, the editor or envoy of _The Coming Age._"

"The dickens I am!" Julien exclaimed. "Where am I published?"

"In New York; you're a new issue."

Julien ate sausages and bread and butter steadily for several minutes.

"To me," he announced, "there is something more satisfying about a meal
of this description than that two-franc dinner where you stole my
chicken."

"You have Teutonic instincts, without a doubt," Kendricks declared,
"but after all, why not a light dinner and an appetite for supper?
Better for the digestion, better for the pocket, better for passing the
time. What are you staring at?"

Julien was looking across the room with fixed eyes.

"I was watching a man who has been sitting at a small table over
there," he remarked. "He has just gone out through that inner door. For
a moment I could have sworn that it was Carl Freudenberg."

Kendricks shook his head.

"Mr. Carl Freudenberg takes many risks, but I do not think he would
care to show himself here."

"It is no crime that he is in Paris," Julien objected.

"In a sense it is," Kendricks said. "These incognito visits of his must
soon cease if they were talked too much about. Then there is another
thing. This cafe is the headquarters of German socialism in Paris, and
Herr Freudenberg is the sworn enemy of socialists. He fights them with
an iron hand, wherever he comes into contact with them. This is a
law-abiding place, without a doubt, and the Germans as a rule are a
law-abiding people, but I would not feel quite sure that he would leave
unmolested if he were recognized here at this minute."

"You think he knows that?" Julien asked.

"Knows it!" Kendricks replied scornfully. "There is nothing goes on in
Paris that he does not know. He peers into every nook and corner of the
city. He knows the feelings of the aristocrats, of the bourgeoisie, of
the official classes. Not only that, he knows their feelings towards
England, towards the Triple Alliance, towards Russia. He never seems to
ask questions, he never forgets an answer. He is a wonderful man, in
short; but I do not think that you will see him here to-night."

The long hand of the clock pointed toward midnight. Kendricks called
for the bill and paid it.

"We go this way," he announced, "through the billiard rooms."

They left the cafe by the swing-door to which Julien had pointed,
passed through a crowded billiard room, every table of which was in
use, down a narrow corridor till they came face to face with a closed
door, on which was inscribed "Number 12." Kendricks knocked softly and
it was at once opened. There was another door a few yards further on,
and between the two a very tall doorkeeper and a small man in
spectacles.

"Who are you?" the doorkeeper demanded gruffly.

Kendricks produced his tickets. The tall man, however, did not move. He
scrutinized them, word for word. Then he scrutinized the faces of the
two men. Kendricks he seemed inclined to pass, but he looked at Julien
for long, and in a puzzled manner.

"Of what nationality is your friend?" he asked Kendricks.

"I am an American," Julien replied.

"And your profession?"

"A newspaper editor. I edit _The Coming Age_."

"This is not altogether in order," the tall man declared. "The meeting
which we are holding to-night is not one in which the Press is
interested. We are here to discuss one man, and one man only. I do not
think that you would hear anything you could print, and as you do not
belong to our direct association here I think it would be better if you
did not enter."

Kendricks stood his ground, however.

"I must appeal," he said, "to your secretary."

The little man in spectacles came forward. Kendricks stated his case
with much indignation.

"Here am I," he announced, "editor of the only socialist paper in
London worthy of the title. I come over because I hear of this meeting.
I bring with me my American friend, the editor of _The Coming
Age_. For no other reason have we visited Paris than for this. If
you refuse us admission to this meeting, the whole of the English
branch will consider it an insult."

"And the American," Julien put in firmly.

The two men whispered together. The taller one, still grumbling, stood
on one side.

"Pass in," he directed. "It is not strictly in order, but our secretary
permits."

The two men passed on. The room in which they found themselves was a
small one and there were not more than fifty people present. It was
very dimly lit and they could barely make out the forms of the row of
men who were sitting upon chairs upon the platform. They contented
themselves with seats quite close to the door. No drinks were being
served here. Although one or two men were smoking, the general aspect
seemed to be one of stern and serious intensity. A man upon the
platform was just finishing speaking as they entered, and he apparently
called upon some one else. A large and heavy German stood up on the
centre of the slightly raised stage. He wore shapeless clothes and
horn-rimmed spectacles. His face was benevolent. He had a double chin
and a soft voice.

"My brothers," he said, "at these our meetings we have many things to
discuss. We have little time to waste. Why beat about the bush? I am
here to speak to you of the greatest enemy our cause has in the
world--Prince Adolf Rudolf von Falkenberg."

He paused. There was an ugly little murmur through the room. It was
very easy indeed to understand that the man whose name had been
mentioned was unpopular.

"The cause of socialism," the speaker continued, "is the one cause we
all have at heart. In our Fatherland it flourishes, but it flourishes
slowly. The reason that we are denied our just and legitimate triumphs
is simply owing to the vigorous opposition, the brutal enmity, of
Prince Adolf Rudolf von Falkenberg. My brothers, this man has been
warned. His only answer has been a fresh and more diabolical measure.
He fights us everywhere with the fierceness of a man who hates his
enemy. It is our duty, brethren, that we do not see our cause retarded
by the enmity of any one man. Therefore, it is my business to say to
you to-night that that man should be removed."

There was a murmur of voices, one clearer than the others.

"But how?"

The man on the platform adjusted his spectacles.

"My brother asks how? I will tell him. Falkenberg loves war. We others
hate it. We work always to infuse throughout the army our own
principles and theories. Falkenberg falls upon them with all his might
and main. There are orders posted in every barracks in Germany. Our
literature is confiscated. Any man preaching our doctrines is drummed
out upon the streets. I say that these things cannot last. I say that
Falkenberg must go. A friend in the audience has asked how. I will
answer you. There is a body of men whose beliefs are somewhat similar
to ours, but who go further. It is possible they see the truth. But for
us at present it is not possible to accept their general principles.
This case is an exception. The anarchists of Berlin, one of whom, Franz
Kuzman, is here to-night, will dispose of Falkenberg for us if we
provide sufficient funds to make an escape possible, and an annuity for
the executioner should he live, or for his wife should he die."

There was a slow, ominous murmur of voices. The fat man on the platform
beamed at everybody.

"Kuzman is here upon the platform," he announced. "Does any one wish to
hear him?"

Kuzman stood up--an awkward, rawboned, dark-featured man. In a coat
that was too short for him, he stood rather like a puppet upon the
platform.

"If you delegates of the socialist societies decide that it is just,"
he said, in a hoarse, unpleasant tone, "I am willing to see that
Falkenberg meets his reward. I can say no more. I do not fail. I move
against no one save those who deserve death and against whom the death
sentence has been pronounced. But when I do move, that man dies."

He resumed his seat. The fat man went on.

"Is it your wish," he asked, "that Kuzman be authorized by you to
arrange this affair?"

The murmur of voices was scarcely intelligible.

"Into the hands of every one of you," the fat man continued, "will be
placed a strip of paper. You will write upon it 'Yes' or 'No.' Kuzman
will be instructed according to your verdict."

Some one on the platform bustled around. Kendricks and Julien were both
supplied with the long strips. In a few minutes these were collected.
The man upon the platform turned up the lights a little higher. He drew
a small table towards him and began sorting out the papers into two
heaps. One was obviously much larger than the other. Towards the end he
came across a slip, however, at which he paused. He read it with
knitted brows, half rose to his feet and stopped. Then he went on with
his counting. Presently he got up.

"My brothers," he said, "there are forty-two papers here. Of these,
thirty-five agree to the appointment of Kuzman for the purpose we have
spoken of. Six are against it. One paper I will read to you. The writer
has not troubled to put 'Yes' or 'No.' This is what I find:

"Falkenberg has served his Emperor and his country to the whole extent
of his will and his capacity. He has given his life to make his country
great. If he has been stern upon the cause of socialism, it is because
he does not believe that socialism, as it is at present preached, is
good for Germany. I vote, therefore, that Falkenberg live.

"We desire to know," the speaker continued, "who wrote those words.
They do not sound like the words of one of our delegates. Johann and
Hesler, stand by the door. Turn up the lights. Let us see exactly who
there is here to-night, unknown to us."

There was a little murmur. A man who sat only three or four places off
from Kendricks and Julien rose silently to his feet and moved towards
the door. It was as yet locked, however. From the other end of the room
the lights were suddenly heightened. The faces of the men were now
distinctly visible. A light in the body of the hall flared up. A man
was discovered with his hand upon the door handle. There was a hoarse
murmur of voices.

"Who is he? Hold fast of the door! Let no one pass out!"

The man turned quickly round. The light flashed upon his face. Julien
was the first to recognize him and he gripped Kendricks by the arm.

"My God!" he muttered, "it's Falkenberg himself! Who is the man with
the key?"

Kendricks pointed to him. They crept closer. Then that hoarse murmur of
voices turned suddenly into a low, passionate cry.

"Falkenberg! Falkenberg himself!"

The toymaker made no further attempt at concealment. He drew himself up
and faced them. They were creeping towards him now from all corners of
the room--an ugly-looking set of men, men with an ugly purpose in their
faces.

"Yes, I am Falkenberg!" he cried. "I am here to spy upon you, if you
will. Why not? Kill me, if you choose, but I warn you that if you do
the whole of Germany will rise against you and your cause."

"Don't let him escape!" some one shouted from the platform.

"Gag him!"

"It is fate!"

"He is ours!"

"A rope!"

There was no mistaking the feeling of the men. Julien whispered swiftly
in Kendricks' ear. Simultaneously his right arm shot out. The man who
guarded the door felt his neck suddenly twisted back. Kendricks
snatched the key from his hand and thrust it in the lock. Some one
struck him a violent blow on the head. He reeled, but was still able to
turn the key. They came then with a howl from all parts of the room.
Julien felt a storm of blows. Falkenberg, with one swoop of his long
arm, disposed of their nearest assailant.

"Get off, man," Kendricks ordered. "You first!"

The door was wide open now. They half stumbled, half fell into the
outer cafe. The orchestra stopped playing, people rose to their feet.
Before they well knew what was happening, Falkenberg had slipped
through their midst and passed out of the door. One of the pursuers,
with a howl of rage, sprang after him, but he tripped against an
abutting marble table and fell. Kendricks and Julien stepped quietly to
one side, threading their way among the throng of customers in the
cafe. Loud voices shouted for an explanation.

"It was a pickpocket," some one called out from among those who came
streaming from the room,--"a tall man with a wound on the forehead. Did
no one see him?"

They all looked towards the door.

"He passed out so swiftly," they murmured.

Several of them had already reached the door of the cafe and were
rushing down the street in the direction which Falkenberg had taken.

"There were two others," a grim voice shouted from behind.

A waiter, who had seen the two men sit down, looked doubtfully towards
them. Kendricks pushed a note into his hand.

"Serve us with something quickly," he begged.

The man pocketed the note and set before them the beer which he was
carrying. Kendricks, whose knuckles were bleeding, laid his hand under
the table. Julien took a long drink of the beer and began to recover
his breath.

"So far," he declared, "I have found your evening with the masses a
little boisterous."

Kendricks laughed.

"Wait till my hand has stopped bleeding," he said, "and we will slip
out. That was a narrow escape for Falkenberg. What a pluck the fellow
must have!"

"It seems almost like a foolhardy risk," Julien muttered. "If those
fellows could have got at him, they'd have killed him. Have they gone
back to their room, I wonder? Let us hear what the people say about the
affair."

"What was the disturbance?" he asked.

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"It was a meeting in one of the private rooms of the cafe," he
declared, "a meeting of some society. They were taking a vote when they
discovered a pickpocket. He bolted out of the room. They say that he
has got away."

"Did he steal much?" Julien inquired.

The man shook his head.

"A watch and chain, or something of the sort," he told them. "The
excitement is all over now. The gentlemen have gone back to their
meeting."

Julien smiled and finished his beer.

"Is our evening at an end, Kendricks?" he asked.

Kendricks shook his head.

"Not quite," he replied, binding his handkerchief around his knuckles.
"If you are ready, there is just one other call we might make."

"More German _brasseries_?"

Kendricks smiled grimly.

"Not to-night. We climb once more the hill. We pay our respects to
Monsieur Albert."

"The Rat Mort?"

"Exactly!"




CHAPTER XIX


AN OFFER


Kendricks, as they entered the cafe, recognized his friends with joy
openly expressed.

"It is fate!" he exclaimed, striking a dramatic attitude.

"It is the gentleman who ate both portions of chicken!" mademoiselle
cried.

"It is the gallant Englishman of the Cafe Helder," madame laughed, her
double chin becoming more and more evident.

"And yonder, in the corner, sits Mademoiselle Ixe," Kendricks whispered
to Julien. "For whom does she wait, I wonder?".

"For Herr Freudenberg?" suggested Julien.

"For Herr Freudenberg, let us pray," Kendricks replied.

The husband of madame, the father of mademoiselle, the rightly
conceived future papa-in-law-to-be of the attendant young man, rose to
his feet in response to a kick from his wife.

"If monsieur is looking for a table," he suggested, "there is room here
adjoining ours. It will incommode us not in the slightest."

"Of all places in the room," Kendricks declared, with a bow, "the most
desirable, the most charming. Madame indeed permits--and mademoiselle?"

There were more bows, more pleasant speeches. A small additional table
was quickly brought. Kendricks ignored the more comfortable seat by
Julien's side and took a chair with his back to the room. From here he
leaned over and conversed with his new friends. He started flirting
with mademoiselle, he paid compliments to madame, he suddenly plunged
into politics with monsieur. Julien listened, half in amusement, half
in admiration. For Kendricks was not talking idly.

"A man of affairs, monsieur," Kendricks proclaimed himself to be. "My
interest in both countries, madame," he continued, knowing well that
she, too, loved to talk of the affairs, "is great. I am one of those,
indeed, who have benefited largely by this delightful alliance."

Alliance! Monsieur smiled at the word. Kendricks protested.

"But what else shall we call it, dear friends?" he argued. "Are we not
allied against a common foe? The exact terms of the _entente_,
what does it matter? Is it credible that England would remain idle
while the legions of Germany overran this country?"

Monsieur was becoming interested. So was madame. It was madame who
spoke--one gathered that it was usual!

"What, then," she demanded, "would England do?"

"She would come to the aid of your charming country, madame."

"But how?" madame persisted pertinently.

Kendricks was immediately fluent. He talked in ornate phrases of the
resources of the British Empire, the perfection of her fleet, the
wonder of her new guns. Julien, who knew him well, was amazed not only
at his apparent earnestness, but at his insincerity. He was speaking
well and with a wealth of detail which was impressive enough. His
little company of new friends were listening to him with marked
attention; Julien alone seemed conscious that they were listening to a
man who was speaking against his own convictions.

"Monsieur! Monsieur Julien!"

It was the voice of Mademoiselle Ixe. She was leaning slightly forward
in her place. Julien turned quickly around and she motioned him to a
seat by her side. He rose at once and accepted her invitation.

"I do not disturb you?" she asked. "It seemed to me that your friend
was talking with those strange people there and that you were not very
much interested. It is dull when one sits here alone."

"Naturally," Julien agreed. "My friend talks politics, and for my part
it is very certain that I would sooner talk of other things with
mademoiselle."

She was a born flirt--a matter of nationality as well as temperament,
and not to be escaped--and her eyes flashed the correct reply. But a
moment later she was gazing wistfully at the door.

"You expect Herr Freudenberg?" Julien inquired.

"I cannot tell," she replied. "I must not say that I am expecting him
because he did not ask me to meet him here. But I thought, perhaps,
that he might come--so I risked it. I was restless to-night. I do not
sing this week because Herr Freudenberg is in Paris, and without any
occupation it is hard to control the thoughts. I sat at home until I
could bear it no longer. _Eh bien!_ I sent for a little carriage
and I ventured here. There is a chance that he may come."

"Mademoiselle permits that I offer her some supper?" Julien suggested.

She hesitated and glanced at the clock.

"You are very kind, Sir Julien," she answered. "I have waited because I
have thought that there was a chance that he might come, and to sup
alone is a drear thing. If monsieur really--Ah! Behold! After all, it
is he! It is he who comes. What happiness!"

It was indeed Herr Freudenberg who had mounted the stairs and was
yielding now his coat to the attentive _vestiaire_--Herr
Freudenberg, unruffled and precisely attired in evening clothes. He
showed not the slightest signs of his recent adventure. He chatted
gayly to Albert and waved his hand to mademoiselle. He came towards
them with a smile upon his face, walking lightly and with the footsteps
of a young man. Yet mademoiselle shivered, her lip drooped.

"He is not pleased," she murmured. "I have done wrong."

There was nothing apparent to others in Herr Freudenberg's manner to
justify her conviction. He raised her fingers to his lips with charming
gayety.

"Dear Marguerite," he exclaimed, "this is indeed a delightful surprise!
And Sir Julien, too! I am enchanted. Once more let us celebrate. Let us
sup. I am in time, eh?"

"With me, if you please," Julien insisted, taking up the menu.

Herr Freudenberg smiled genially.

"Host or guest, who cares so long as we are joyous?" he cried, sitting
on mademoiselle's other side. "Although to-night," he added, with a
humorous glance at Julien, "it should surely be I who entertains! Dear
Marguerite!"

He patted her hand. She looked at him pathetically and he smiled back
again.

"Be happy, my child," he begged. "It is gone, that little twinge. It
was perhaps jealousy," he whispered in her ear. "Sir Julien has
captured many hearts."

She drew a sigh of content. She raised his hand to her lips. Then she
dabbed at her eyes with the few inches of perfumed lace which she
called a handkerchief. It was passing, that evil moment.

"There is no man in the world," she told him softly, "who should be
able to make you jealous. In your heart you know."

He laughed lightly.

"You will make me vain, dear one. Give me your little fingers to hold
for a moment. There--it is finished."

He looked around the room with the light yet cheerful curiosity of the
pleasure-seeker. Then he leaned over towards Julien.

"What does our shock-headed friend the journalist do in that company?"
he asked, with a backward motion of his head.

Julien smiled.

"He is devoted to madame with the double chin. He is apparently also
devoted to mademoiselle, the daughter of madame with the double chin.
He is contemplating, I believe, an alliance with the bourgeoisie."

Herr Freudenberg watched the group for a moment with a slight frown.

"They are types," he said under his breath, "absolute types. Kendricks
is studying them, without a doubt."

He continued his scrutiny of the room. Then he leaned towards
mademoiselle.

"Dear Marguerite!"

"Yes?"

"There is Mademoiselle Soupelles there," he pointed out, "sitting with
an untidy-looking man in a morning coat and a red tie. You see them?"

"But certainly," mademoiselle agreed. "They are together always. It is
an alliance, that."

"It would please me," Herr Freudenberg continued, still speaking almost
under his breath, "to converse with the companion of Mademoiselle
Soupelles. From you, dear Marguerite, I conceal nothing. I made no
appointment with you to-night because it was my intention to speak with
that person, and I could not tell where he would be. All has happened
fortunately. We spend our evening together, after all. See what you can
do to help me. Go and talk to your friend, Mademoiselle Soupelles.
Bring them here if you can. Sir Julien thinks he is ordering the
supper, but he is too late; I ordered it from Albert as I entered."

Mademoiselle rose at once and shook out her skirts. She kissed her hand
across the room to her friend.

"I go to speak to her," she promised. "What I can do I will. You know
that, dear one. But he is a strange-looking man, this companion of
hers. You know who he is? His name is Jesen. If I were Susanne, I would
see to it that he was more _comme-il-faut_."

Herr Freudenberg laughed.

"Never mind his appearance," he said. "He can drive the truth into the
hearts of this people as swiftly and as surely as any man who ever took
up a pen. Bring him here, little sweetheart, and to-morrow we visit
Cartier together."

She glanced at him almost reproachfully.

"As if that mattered!" she murmured, as she glided away.

Julien turned discontentedly to his companion.

"This fellow will take no order from me," he objected. "Do you own this
place, Herr Freudenberg, that you must always be obeyed here?"

"By no means," Herr Freudenberg replied. "To-night is an exception. I
ordered supper as I entered. You see, there are others whom I may ask
to join. You shall have your turn when you will and I will be a very
submissive guest, but to-night--well, I have even at this moment
charged mademoiselle with a message to her friend and her friend's
companion. I have begged them to join us. On these nights I like
company--plenty of company!"

"In that case, perhaps," Julien suggested, "I may be _de trop_."

Freudenberg laid his hand upon his companion's shoulder.

"My friend," he said earnestly, "it is not for you to talk like that,
to-night of all nights. If I say little, it is because we are both men
of few words, and I think that we understand. You know very well what
you and your shock-headed friend have done for me. Not that I believe,"
he went on, "that it would ever come to me to be hounded to death by
such a gang. I am too fervent a believer in my own star for that. But
one never knows. It is well, anyhow, to escape with a sound skin."

"Why did you run such a risk?" Julien asked him.

"Partly," Freudenberg answered, "because I was really curious to know
what those fellows were driving at; and partly," he added, "because,
alas! I am possessed of that restless spirit, that everlasting craving
for adventures, which drives one on into any place where life stirs. I
knew that these people were plotting something against me. I wanted to
hear it with my own ears, to understand exactly what it was against
which I must be prepared. But now, Sir Julien, I question you. As for
me, my presence there was reasonable enough; but what were you doing in
such a place? What interests have you in German socialism?"

Julien shrugged his shoulders.

"I cannot say that I have any," he admitted. "It was Kendricks who took
me. He is showing me Paris--Paris from his own point of view. He took me
first to a restaurant, where we dined for two francs and sat at the
same table with those people to whom he is now making himself so
agreeable. Kendricks has democratic instincts. His latest fad is to try
and instil them into me."

Herr Freudenberg looked thoughtfully across at the journalist, still
deep in argument with his friends.

"I am not sure that I understand that man," he declared. "In a sense he
impresses me. I should have put him down as one of those who do nothing
without a set and fixed purpose. But enough of other people. Listen. I
wish to speak with you--of yourself. I am glad that we have met
to-night. I have another and altogether a different proposition to make
to you."

Julien remained silent for several moments. Herr Freudenberg watched
him.

"A proposition to make to me," Julien repeated at last. "Well, let me
hear it?"

Herr Freudenberg leaned towards him.

"Sir Julien," he said, "there has happened to you, as to many of us, a
little slip in your life. It is a wise thing if for a few months you
pass off the stage of European affairs. You are of an adventurous
spirit. Will you undertake a commission for me? Listen. I will
guarantee that it is something which does not, and could not ever, by
any chance, affect in the slightest degree the interests of your
country. It is a commission which will take you a year to execute, and
it will lead you into a new land. It will require tact, diplomacy and
some courage. If you succeed, your reward will be an income for life.
If you fail, the worst that can happen to you is that you will have
passed a year of your life without effective result. Still, you will at
least have traveled, you will at least have seen new phases of life."

Julien was puzzled.

"You cannot seriously propose to me," he protested, "to undertake a
diplomatic errand for a country which has absolutely no claims upon
me--to which I am not even attracted?" he added.

Herr Freudenberg tapped with his forefinger upon the table. Upon his
lips was a genial and tolerant smile. He had the air of a preceptor
devoting special pains upon the most backward member of his
kindergarten class.

"My friend," he said, "there is no political question involved
whatever. The mission which I ask you to undertake would lead you into
a remote part of Africa, where neither your country nor mine has at
present any interests. More than this I cannot tell you unless you show
signs of accepting my invitation. The negotiations which you would have
to conduct are simply these. Four years ago a distinguished German
scientist who was in command of a somewhat rash expedition, was
captured by the ruler of the country to which I wish you to travel. For
some time the question of a mission to ascertain his fate has been upon
the carpet. It is true that we have received letters from him. He
professes to be happy and contented, to have been kindly treated, and
to have accepted a post in the army of his captor. We wish to know
whether these letters are genuine or not. If they are genuine, all is
well, but a suspicion still remains among some of us that the person in
question is being held in torture as an example to other white men who
might penetrate so far. This is the first object in the journey which I
propose to you. There is nothing political about it at all, as you
perceive. It is purely a matter of humanity.... Ah! I see that our
party is to be increased. Here are some new friends who arrive."

Mademoiselle Ixe had succeeded. She returned now to her place, followed
by the girl with the chestnut-colored hair and her companion. At close
quarters the latter, at any rate, was scarcely prepossessing. He was a
man of middle age, untidily dressed, whose clothes were covered with
cigar ash and recent wine stains, whose linen was none of the cleanest,
and whose eyes behind his pince-nez were already bloodshot. Herr
Freudenberg, however, seemed to notice none of these unpleasant
defects. He grasped him vigorously by the hand.

"It is Monsieur Jesen!" he exclaimed. "Often you have been pointed out
to me, and I have long wished to have the pleasure of making your
acquaintance. Sit down and join us, monsieur. Your little friend,
too,--ah, mademoiselle!"

He bent low over the girl's hand and placed a seat for her. The party
was now arranged. Their host beamed upon them all.

"Come," he continued, "this is perhaps my last night in Paris for some
time! We have had adventures, too, within these few hours. You find us
celebrating. My English friend here is one of us. I will not introduce
him by name. Why should we trouble about names? We are all friends, all
good fellows, here to pass the time agreeably, to drink good wine, to
look into beautiful eyes, mademoiselle, to amuse ourselves. It is the
science of life, that. Monsieur Jesen, mademoiselle, dear Marguerite,
my English friend here, let me be sure that your glasses are filled. To
the very brim, garcon--to the very brim! Let us drink together to the
joyous evenings of the past, to the joyous evenings of the future, to
these few present hours that lie before us when we shall sit here and
taste further this very admirable vintage. To the wine we drink, to the
lips we love, to this hour of life!"

For the moment there was no more serious conversation. Herr Freudenberg
had started a vein of frivolity to which every one there was quick to
respond. Only every now and then he himself, the giver of the feast,
had suddenly the look of a different man as he sat and whispered in the
ear of Monsieur Jesen.




CHAPTER XX


FALKENBERG ACTS


At two o'clock, with obvious reluctance, Kendricks' new friends
departed. Their leave-taking was long and ceremonious. Kendricks,
indeed, insisted upon escorting mademoiselle to the door. Madame left
the place with the assured conviction that a prospective son-in-law was
soon to present himself--it could be for no other reason that the
English gentleman had so sedulously attached himself to their party.
Monsieur, having less sentiment, was not so sure. Mademoiselle had both
hopes and fears. They discussed the matter fully on their homeward
drive.

Kendricks strolled over to the table where Julien was and touched him
on the shoulder.

"Is this to be another all-night sitting?" he asked.

Herr Freudenberg was deep in conversation with Monsieur Jesen--the
friend of mademoiselle's friend. He glanced up, but his greeting was
almost perfunctory. Kendricks looked keenly at the man who was leaning
back in his padded seat. The eyes of Monsieur Jesen were a little more
bloodshot now. He had spilt wine down the front of his waistcoat, cigar
ash upon his coat-sleeve. He was by no means an inviting person to look
at. Yet about his forehead and mouth there was an expression of power.
Herr Freudenberg, with obvious regret, abandoned his conversation for a
moment.

"You are taking your friend away?" he remarked suavely. "We shall part
from him with regret. Sir Julien," he added, whispering in his ear, "I
must have your answer to my proposition. I will put it into absolutely
definite shape, if you like, within the next few days."

"I move into my old rooms--number 17, Rue de Montpelier--to-morrow
morning, or rather this morning," Julien replied. "You might telephone
or call there at any time."

"Tell me, is what I have proposed in any way attractive to you?" Herr
Freudenberg asked, still speaking in an undertone.

"In a sense it is," Julien answered. "It needs further consideration,
of course. I must also consult my friend."

Herr Freudenberg glanced at Kendricks and shrugged his shoulders. He
had the air of one slightly annoyed. Kendricks was bending over
Mademoiselle Ixe. Herr Freudenberg whispered in Julien's ear.

"You take too much advice from your boisterous friend, dear Sir
Julien," he asserted. "Mark my words, he will try to keep you here,
cooling your heels upon the mat. He will prevent you from raising your
hand to knock upon the door of destiny. These men who write are like
that. They do not understand action."

Kendricks turned from mademoiselle.

"You are ready, Julien?" he asked.

"Quite," Julien answered.

They made their adieux. Herr Freudenberg watched them leave the room.
The man by his side--Monsieur Jesen--also watched a little curiously.

"An English journalist," Herr Freudenberg remarked, "some say a man of
ability. I find him a trifle boisterous and uncouth. Monsieur Jesen,
our conversation interests me immensely. I feel sure--"

Jesen looked suspiciously around.

"We have talked enough of business," he declared. "It is an idea, this
of yours. For the rest, I cannot tell. A wonderful idea!" he continued.
"And as for me, am I not the man to embrace it?"

"You have but to say a single word," Herr Freudenberg reminded him
softly, "and all is arranged."

Monsieur Jesen puffed furiously at a cigarette. The fingers which had
held the match to it were shaking. The man himself seemed unsteady on
his seat. Yet it was obvious that his brain was working.

"Herr Freudenberg," he said, "there is but one weak point in all your
chain of arguments. To do as you ask, it will be necessary that I--I,
Paul Jesen, so well-known, whose opinions are followed by millions of
my country people--it would be necessary for me to abandon my
convictions, to turn a right-about-face. Ask yourself, is it not like
selling one's honor when one writes the things one does not believe?"

Herr Freudenberg smiled.

"My friend, you ask me a question the reply to which is already spoken.
I tell you that behind, at the back of your brain, you know and realize
the truth of all these things. Think, man! Call to mind the arguments I
have used. Remember, I have lifted the curtain, I have shown you the
things that arrive, the things that are inevitable."

Mademoiselle, the companion of Monsieur Jesen, had had enough of this.
It was her weekly holiday. She yawned and tapped her friend upon the
arm.

"My dear Paul," she protested, "while you and Herr Freudenberg talk as
two men who have immense affairs, Marguerite and I we weary ourselves.
If I am to be alone like this, very good. I speak to my friends. There
is Monsieur de Chaussin there. He throws me a kiss. Do you wish that I
sit with him? He looks, indeed, as though he had plenty to say! Or
there is the melancholy Italian gentleman, who raises his glass always
when I look. And the two Americans--"

"You have reason, little one," Monsieur Jesen interrupted. "Herr
Freudenberg, this is no place for such a discussion."

"Agreed!" Herr Freudenberg exclaimed. "We owe our apologies to
mademoiselle, your charming friend, and mademoiselle, my adored
companion," he added, turning to Marguerite. "Come, let us drink more
wine. Let us talk together. What is your pleasure, mademoiselle, the
friend of my good friend, Monsieur Jesen? Will you have them dance to
us? Is there music to which you would listen? Or shall we pray
Marguerite here that she sings? Let us, at any rate, be gay. And for
the rest, Monsieur Jesen, time has no count for us who live our lives.
When we leave here, you and I will talk more."

It was daylight before they left. The whole party got into Herr
Freudenberg's motor.

"I drive you first to your rooms, Monsieur Jesen," he said. "I take
then the liberty of entering with you. The little conversation which we
have begun is best concluded within the shelter of four walls."

Monsieur Jesen was excited yet nervous.

"It is too late," he muttered, "to talk business."

Herr Freudenberg smiled.

"Ah!" he cried, "you jest, my friend. Look out of that window. You see
the sunshine in the streets, you breathe the fresh, clear air? Too
late, indeed! It is morning, and the brain is keenest then. Don't you
feel the fumes of the hot room, of the wine, of the tobacco smoke, all
pass away with the touch of that soft wind?"

Monsieur Jesen stared. He was conscious of a very bad headache, an
uncomfortable sense that he had, as usual on his weekly holiday, eaten
and drunk and smoked a great deal more than was good for him. He gazed
with wonder at this tall, spare-looking man, who had drunk as much and
smoked as much and eaten as much as any one else, and yet appeared
exactly as he had done four hours ago. Even his linen was still
spotless. His eyes were bright, his manner buoyant.

"Monsieur," he murmured, "you are marvelous. I have never before met a
German merchant like you."

Herr Freudenberg sat quite still for a moment. He looked at
mademoiselle, the friend of Monsieur Jesen, and he realized that theirs
was no casual acquaintance. In both he recognized the characteristics
of fidelity. As he had always the genius to do, he took his risks.

"Monsieur Jesen," he announced, "I am no German maker of toys. Let me
ascend with you to your room and you shall hear who I am and why I have
said these things to you."

Monsieur Jesen held his hand to his head. Something in the manner of
this new friend of his was, in a sense, mesmeric.

"You shall ascend, monsieur," he said. "I do not know who you are, but
you are evidently a very wonderful person. We will ascend and you shall
wait while I place my head in cold water and Susanne mixes me some
absinthe. Then I will listen."

The automobile came to a standstill about halfway down a shabby street
in a somewhat shabby neighborhood. Herr Freudenberg noticed this fact
without change of countenance, but with secret pleasure. He turned to
Marguerite.

"Dear Marguerite," he whispered, "for an hour or so I must leave you.
You will permit that my man takes you to your apartments and returns
for me here?"

"May I not wait for you here in the automobile?" she asked timidly.

Herr Freudenberg shook his head kindly.

"Dear little one," he murmured, "not this morning. Indeed, I have
important affairs on hand. As soon as I am free, I will telephone.
Sleep well, little girl."

He stepped out on to the pavement. The postern door in front of them
was opened, in response to Monsieur Jesen's vigorous knocking, from
some invisible place by a string. The three of them climbed four
flights of rickety stairs. They reached at last a stone landing.
Monsieur Jesen threw open a door and led the way into an untidy-looking
salon.

"Monsieur will forgive the fact," he begged, "that I am not better
housed. If it were not for little Susanne here," he added, patting her
upon the shoulder, "I doubt whether I should keep a roof above my head
at all."

"It is not like this," Herr Freudenberg declared, "that genius should
be treated."

"Indeed," Mademoiselle Susanne intervened, "it is what I tell him
always. Monsieur, they pay him but a beggarly three hundred francs a
month--he, who writes all the editorials; he, who is the spirit of the
papers! It is not fair. I tell dear Paul that it is wicked, and, as he
says, the money, if it were not for me, he would squander it in a
minute. I have even to go with him to the office, for there are many
who know when Paul draws his little cheque."

Herr Freudenberg set down his hat upon the table. He looked around at
all the evidences of unclean and sordid life. Then he looked at the
man. It was a queer housing, this, for genius! His face remained
expressionless. Of the disgust he felt he showed no sign. In the
building of houses one must use many tools!

"Monsieur Jesen," he said, "and mademoiselle--I speak to you both, for
I recognize that between you there is indeed a union of sympathy and
souls. Mademoiselle, then, I address myself to you. On certain terms I
have offered to purchase for Monsieur Paul here a two-thirds share of
the newspaper upon which he works, that two-thirds share which he and I
both know is in the market at this moment. I am willing at mid-day
to-morrow, or rather to-day, to place within his hands the sum
required. I am willing to send my notary with him to the office, and
the affair could be arranged at half-past twelve. From then he
practically owns _Le Jour_. Its politics are his to control. I
make him this offer, mademoiselle, and it is a greater one than it
sounds, for the money which I place in his hands to make this
purchase--five hundred thousand francs--is his completely and
absolutely. You move at once into apartments befitting your new
position. Monsieur Paul Jesen is no longer a struggling and ill-paid
journalist. He is the proprietor of an important journal, through whose
columns he shall help to guide the policy of your nation."

Monsieur Jesen sat down. His fingers were clutching one another.
Mademoiselle stared at Herr Freudenberg. Her color was coming and
going.

"Monsieur, I do not understand!" she cried. "Are you a prince in
disguise? Why do you do this?"

"Mademoiselle," Herr Freudenberg replied, "your question is the
question of an intelligent woman. Why do I do this? Not for nothing, I
assure you. It is my custom to make bargains, indeed, but I make them
so that those with whom I deal shall never regret the day they met Herr
Freudenberg. I offer you this splendid future, you and Monsieur Jesen
there, on one condition, and it is a small one, for already the truth
has found its way a little into his brain. _Le Jour_ has supported
always, wholly and entirely, the _entente_ between Great Britain
and your country. I have tried to point out to Paul Jesen here what all
far-seeing people must soon appreciate--that the _entente_ is
doomed."

The girl glanced at Jesen. Jesen was looking away out of the dusty
window.

"Mademoiselle," Herr Freudenberg continued, "I will not weary you at
this hour in the morning with politics. I have talked long with
Monsieur Jesen and I think that I have shown him something of the
truth. You came to the rescue of Great Britain when she lay friendless
and powerless. You saved her prestige; you saved her, without doubt,
from invasion. What have you gained? Nothing! What can you ever gain?
Nothing! Her army of toy soldiers would be of less use to you than a
single corps from across the Elbe. Her fleet--you have no possessions
to guard. It is for herself only that she maintains it. I ask you to
think quietly for yourself and ask yourself on whose side is the
balance of advantage. You can reply to that question in one way, and
one way only. France has been carried away on a wave of enthusiasm, a
wave of sentiment--call it what you will. But France is a far-seeing
people. The moment is ripe. I propose to Paul Jesen that his should be
the hand and _Le Jour_ the vehicle which shall bring the French
people to a proper understanding of the political situation."

"Who, then, are you?" Mademoiselle Susanne persisted.

Herr Freudenberg barely hesitated.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "we speak of great things, we three, in this
little chamber of yours. I, who have often talked of great things
before, have learned in life one lesson at least, and that is when one
may trust. It is not my desire that many people should know who I am.
It suits my purpose better to move in Paris as a private citizen, but
to you two let me tell the truth. I am Prince Falkenberg."

There was a silence. The man looked at him, sober enough now, in
amazement. The girl's hands were clasped together. She was watching the
man--her man. She crept to his side, her arm was around his neck.

"Dear Paul," she whispered, "think! Think how sweet life might be.
There is so much truth in all this. I know little of politics, but
think of the hard times we have lived through. Think how glorious to
have you ride in your automobile to the offices of your newspaper, to
see you pass into the editor's sanctum instead of waiting outside, to
have me call for you, perhaps, and take you out to lunch--no, never at
Drevel's any more--at the Cafe de Paris, or Henry's, or Paillard's, or
out in the Bois! And the excursions, dear Paul. Think of them! The
country--how we both love the country! You remember when we first went
out together to the little town on the river, where no one ever seemed
to have come from Paris before? How sleepy and quiet the long
afternoon, when we lay in the grass and heard the birds sing, and the
murmur of the river, and we had only a few francs for our dinner, and
we had to leave the train and walk that last four miles because you had
drunk one more _bock_. Dear Paul, think what life might be if one
were really rich!"

The man's eyes flashed.

"It is true," he muttered. "All my life I have been a straggler."

"You have done your genius an ill turn, my friend," Herr Freudenberg
said slowly. "No man can be at his best who knows care. I, Prince
Falkenberg, I promise you that it is the truth which I have spoken, the
truth which I shall show you. You lose no shadow of honor or
self-respect. There will come a day when the millions of readers whom
you shall influence will say to themselves--'Paul Jesen, he is the man
who saw the truth. It is he who has saved France.' You accept?"

"Monsieur le Prince," Susanne cried, "he accepts!"

Jesen rose to his feet. He had become a little unsteady again. He
struck the table with his fist.

"I accept!" he declared.






BOOK TWO




CHAPTER I


THE FLIGHT OF LADY ANNE


It was exactly nine forty-five in the evening, about three weeks
later, when the two-twenty from London steamed into the Gare du Nord.
Julien, from his place among the little crowd wedged in behind the
gates, gazed with blank amazement at the girl who, among the first to
leave the train, was presenting her ticket to the collector. At that
moment she recognized him. With a purely mechanical effort he raised
his hat and held out his hand.

"Lady Anne!" he exclaimed. "Why--I had no idea you were coming to
Paris," he added weakly.

She laughed--the same frank, good-humored laugh, except that she seemed
to lack just a little of her usual self-possession.

"Neither did I," she confessed, "until this morning."

He looked at her blankly. She was carrying her own jewel-case. He could
see no signs of a maid or any party.

"But tell me," he asked, "where are the rest of your people?"

She shook her head.

"Nowhere. I am quite alone."

Julien was speechless.

"You must really forgive me," he continued, after a moment's pause, "if
I seem stupid. It is scarcely a month ago since I read of your
engagement to Harbord. The papers all said that you were to be married
at once."

She nodded.

"That's exactly it," she said. "That's why I am here."

"What, you mean that you are going to be married here?" asked Julien.

"I am not going to be married at all," she replied cheerfully. "Between
ourselves, Julien," she added, "I found I couldn't go through with it."

"Couldn't go through with it!" he repeated feebly.

Lady Anne was beginning to recover herself.

"Don't be stupid," she begged. "You used to be quick enough. Can't you
see what has happened? I became engaged to the little beast. I stood it
for three weeks. I didn't mind him at the other end of the room, but
when he began to talk about privileges and attempt to take liberties, I
found I couldn't bear the creature anywhere near me. Then all of a
sudden I woke up this morning and remembered that we were to be married
in a week. That was quite enough for me. I slipped out after lunch,
caught the two-twenty train, and here I am."

"Exactly," Julien agreed. "Here you are."

"With my luggage," she continued, swinging the jewel-case in her hand
and laughing in his face.

"With your luggage," Julien echoed. "Seriously, is that all that you
have brought?"

"Every bit," she answered. "You know mother?"

"Yes, I know your mother!" he admitted.

"Well, I didn't exactly feel like taking her into my confidence," Lady
Anne explained, smiling. "Under those circumstances, I thought it just
as well to make my departure as quietly as possible."

"Then they don't know where you are?"

"Really," she assured him, "you are becoming quite intelligent. They do
not."

"In other words, you've run away?"

"Marvelous!" she murmured. "I suppose it's the air over here."

A sudden idea swept into Julien's mind. Of course, it was ridiculous,
yet for a moment his heart gave a little jump. Perhaps she divined his
thought, for her next words disposed of it effectually.

"Of course, I knew that you were in Paris, but I had no idea that we
should meet, certainly not like this. I have a dear friend to whose
apartments I shall go at once. She is a milliner."

"She is a what?" Julien asked blankly.

A smile played about Lady Anne's lips.

"My dear Julien," she exclaimed, "you know, you never did understand
me! I repeat that she is a milliner and that she is a dear friend of
mine, and I am going just as I am to tell her that I have come to spend
the night. She will have to find me rooms, she will have to help me
find employment."

Kendricks, who had come by the same train, and whom Julien was there to
meet, was hovering in the background. Julien, seeing him, could do no
more than nod vaguely.

"Lady Anne," he began,--

"You needn't bother about that," she interrupted. "We were always good
friends, weren't we?" she added carelessly. "Besides, to call me 'Lady'
anything would be rather ridiculous under the present circumstances."

"Well, Anne, then," he said, "please let me get my bearings. I
understand that you were engaged to Harbord--you weren't forced into
it, I suppose?"

"Not at all. I tried to run along the usual groove, but I came up
against something too big for me. I don't know how other girls do it. I
simply found I couldn't. Samuel Harbord is rather by way of being
something outrageous, you know."

"Of course he is," Julien agreed, with sudden appreciation of the fact.

"You needn't be so vigorous about it. I remember your almost forcing
him on to me the day you called to say good-bye."

"I was talking rubbish," Julien asserted. "You see, I was in rather an
unfortunate position myself that day, wasn't I? No one likes to feel
like a discarded lover. I can understand your chucking Harbord all
right, but I can't quite see why it was necessary for you to run away
from home to come and stay with a little milliner."

She laughed.

"My dear Julien, you don't know those Harbords! There are hordes of
them, countless hordes--mothers and sisters and cousins and aunts.
They've besieged the place ever since our engagement was announced. If
the merest whisper were to get about among them that I was thinking of
backing out, there's nothing they wouldn't do. They'd make the whole
place intolerable for me--follow me about in the street, weep in my
bedroom, hang around the place morning, noon and night. Besides, mother
would be on their side and the whole thing would be impossible."

"I have no doubt," Julien admitted, "that the situation would be a
trifle difficult, but to talk about earning your own living--you, Lady
Anne--"

"Lady fiddlesticks!" she interrupted. "What a stupid old thing you are,
Julien! You never found out, I suppose, that at heart I am a Bohemian?"

"No, I never did!" he assented vigorously.

"Ah, well," she remarked, "you were too busy flirting with that Carraby
woman to discover all my excellent qualities. We mustn't stay here,
must we? Are you very busy, or do you want to drive me to my friend's
house? Of course, meeting you here will be the end of me if any one
sees us. Still, I don't suppose you object to a little scandal, and the
more I get the happier I shall be."

"I'll take you anywhere," Julien promised. "You don't mind waiting
while I speak to the man whom I have come to meet?"

"Not at all," she replied. "You are sure he won't object?"

"Of course not," Julien assured her. "Kendricks is an awfully good
sort."

The two men gripped hands. Kendricks was carrying his own bag and
smoking his accustomed pipe. He had apparently been asleep in the
carriage and was looking a little more untidy than usual.

"I got your wire all right," Julien said, "and I am thundering glad to
see you. Are you just in search of the ordinary sort of copy, or is
there anything special doing?"

"Something special," Kendricks answered, "and you're in it. When can we
talk? No hurry, as long as I see you some time to-night."

"I am entirely at your service," Julien declared. "I have been bored to
death for the last few weeks and I am only too anxious to have a talk.
You don't mind if I see this young lady to her friend's house first? I
don't know exactly where it is, but it won't take very long. She is all
alone, and as long as we have met I feel that I ought to look after
her."

"Naturally," Kendricks agreed. "I can go to my hotel and meet you
anywhere you say for supper."

Julien glanced at his watch.

"It is ten o'clock within a minute or two," he announced. "Supposing we
make it half-past eleven at the Abbaye?"

Kendricks nodded.

"That'll suit me. So long!"

He strode away in search of a cab. Julien returned to Lady Anne and
took the jewel-case from her fingers.

"It's all arranged," he said. "You are quite sure that you have no more
luggage?"

She laughed.

"Not a scrap! Have you ever traveled without luggage, Julien? It makes
you feel that you are really in for adventures."

"Does it!" he replied a little weakly. Somehow or other, he had never
associated a love for adventures with Lady Anne.

"Isn't it fun to be in Paris once more?" she continued. "I want a real
rickety little _voiture_ and I want the man to have a white hat,
if possible, and I want to drive down into Paris over those cobbles."

"Any particular address?"

She handed him a card. He called an open victoria and directed the man.
Together they drove out of the station yard. Lady Anne leaned forward,
looking around her with keen pleasure.

"Julien," she cried, "this is delightful, meeting you! I hope I shan't
be a bother to you, but really it is rather nice to feel that I have
one friend here."

"You couldn't possibly be a bother to me," he declared. "I'm rather a
waif here myself, you know, and I am honestly glad to see you."

She looked at him quickly and breathed a little sigh of relief.

"Now that's sweet of you," she said. "Of course, I don't see why you
shouldn't be. We were always good friends, weren't we? and it makes me
feel so much more comfortable to remember that we never went in for the
other sort of thing."

"There was just one moment," he murmured ruminatingly,--

She turned her head.

"Stop at once," she begged. "That moment passed, as you know. If it
hadn't, things might have been different. If it hadn't, I should feel
differently about being with you now. We are forgetting that moment, if
you please, Julien. Do, there's a good fellow. If you wanted to be
good-natured, you could be so nice to me until I get used to being
alone."

"Forgotten it shall be, by all means," he promised cheerfully. "Do you
know that the address you gave me is only a few yards away?"

"Oh, bother!" she exclaimed. "I knew that it was somewhere up by the
Gare du Nord."

They turned off from the Rue Lafayette and pulled up opposite a
milliner's shop.

"Mademoiselle Rignaut lives up above," Lady Anne said, alighting. "It's
sweet of you to have brought me, Julien."

"I am going to wait and see that you are all right," he replied,
ringing the bell.

There was a short delay, then the door was opened. A young woman peered
out.

"Who is it?" she asked quickly.

A little of Lady Anne's confidence for the moment had almost deserted
her. The girl's face was invisible and the interior of the passage
looked cheerless. Nevertheless, she answered briskly.

"Don't you remember me, Mademoiselle Janette? I am Lady Anne--Lady Anne
Clonarty, you know."

There was a wondering scream, an exclamation of delight, and Julien
stood on the pavement for fully five minutes. Then Lady Anne
reappeared, followed by her friend.

"Sir Julien," she said, "this is Mademoiselle Rignaut. I am awfully
lucky. Mademoiselle Rignaut has a room she can let me have and we are
going to raid her shop and get everything I want. She has costumes as
well as hats."

Julien shook hands with the little Frenchwoman, who had not yet
recovered from her amazement.

"But this is wonderful, monsieur, is it not," she cried, "to see dear
Lady Anne like this? Such a surprise! Such a delight! But, miladi," she
added suddenly, "you must be hungry--starving!"

"I am," Lady Anne admitted frankly.

The little woman's face fell.

"But only this afternoon," she explained, "my servant was taken away to
the hospital! What can we--"

"What you will both do," Julien interrupted, "is to come and have
supper with me."

"Do you really mean it?" Lady Anne asked doubtfully. "What about your
friend?"

"He won't mind," Julien assured her. "You shall take your first step
into Bohemia, my dear Anne. We had arranged to sup in the Montmartre.
You and Mademoiselle Rignaut must come. I can give you half an hour to
get ready--more, if you want it."

"What larks!" Lady Anne exclaimed. "Can I come in a traveling dress?"

"You can come just as you are," Julien replied. "One visits these
places just as one feels disposed. I'll be off and get a taximeter
automobile instead of this thing, and come back for you whenever you
say."

"You are a brick," Lady Anne declared. "I shall love to go."

"Monsieur is too kind," Mademoiselle Rignaut agreed, "but as for me, it
is not fitting--"

"Rubbish!" Lady Anne interrupted briskly. "You've got to get all that
sort of stuff out of your head, Janette, and to start with you must
come to supper with us. Bless you, I couldn't go alone with Sir Julien!
I was engaged to be married to him three months ago."

Mademoiselle shook her head feebly.

"But indeed, Miladi Anne," she protested, "you are a strange people,
you English! I do not understand."

Lady Anne took her by the arm and turned towards the open door.

"Don't bother about that. We'll be ready in half an hour, Julien."

Julien returned to the Gare du Nord and treated himself to a whiskey
and soda. He was surprised at the pleasurable sense of excitement which
this meeting had given him. During the last few weeks in Paris he had
found little to interest or amuse him. He had been, in fact, very
distinctly bored. The newspapers and illustrated journals, although
they were always full of interest to him, had day by day brought their
own particular sting. Although his affection for Lady Anne had been of
a distinctly modified character, yet he had found it curiously
unpleasant to read everywhere of her engagement, of her plans for the
future, and to look at the photographs of her and her intended
bridegroom which seemed to stare at him from every page. Somehow or
other, although he told himself that personally it was of no
consequence to him, he yet found the present situation of affairs far
more to his liking.

He lounged about the Gare du Nord, smoking a cigarette and thinking
over what she had told him. There was a good deal in the present
situation to appeal to his sense of humor. He thought of the Duke and
the Duchess when they discovered the flight of their daughter,--their
efforts to keep all details from the papers; of Harbord and his horde
of relations--Harbord, who had neither the dignity nor the breeding to
accept such a reverse in silence. He could imagine the gossip at the
clubs and among their friends. He himself was immensely surprised. He
had considered himself something of a judge of character, and yet he
had looked upon Lady Anne as a good-natured young person, brimful of
common sense, without an ounce of sentiment--a perfectly well-ordered
piece of the machinery of her sex. The whole affair was astonishing.
Perhaps to him the most astonishing part was that he found himself
continually looking at the clock, counting almost the minutes until it
was possible for him to start on this little expedition!




CHAPTER II


"TO OUR NEW SELVES"


Julien found a taximeter automobile and, punctually at the time
appointed, drove to the little milliner's shop in the Rue St. Antoine.
Lady Anne and her companion were waiting for him and they drove off
together in high good humor. The manager at the Abbaye bowed before
them with special deference. He recognized Julien as an occasional
customer, and Lady Anne, even in her traveling gown, was a person to
inspire attention.

They chose a table and ordered supper for four. Kendricks had not yet
arrived, but it was barely half-past eleven and the place was almost
empty. Lady Anne was in high spirits and chattering all the time.
Julien looked at her occasionally in amazement. They had seldom been
alone together in London, but on those few occasions when the
conventions had demanded it, he had been inclined to find her rather
stupid. She was certainly nothing of the sort this evening!

"I suppose I am a baby," she exclaimed, laughing, "but to-night I feel
as though I were beginning a new life! Tell me, mademoiselle, have you
a place for me as a seamstress? Or will you have me for a model? My
figure is good enough, isn't it?"

"Miladi," Mademoiselle Rignaut declared deprecatingly, "there is no
girl in my shop with a figure like yours, but it is not well for you to
talk so, indeed. It is shocking."

Lady Anne laughed gayly.

"Now, my little friend," she said, "let us understand one another.
There is no more 'miladi.' I am Anne--Anne to you and Anne to Julien
here. I've finished with the 'miladi' affair. I dare say I shouldn't
care about being a model, but all the same I am going to earn my own
living."

"Earn your own living!" Mademoiselle Rignaut echoed, in something like
horror.

She had met the Duke and the Duchess--she had traveled even to London
and had passed the night beneath the ducal roof. Lady Anne's mother had
very sound ideas of economy, and Mademoiselle Rignaut was cheap and yet
undoubtedly French.

"Earn my own living, without a doubt," Lady Anne repeated, helping
herself to a roll. "You don't mind my eating some bread and butter, do
you, Julien? I couldn't lunch--I was much too excited, and the tea on
the train was filthy. Why, of course I am going to earn my own living,"
she continued. "I've only got a few thousand francs with me, and some
jewelry. I believe I have got a small income, but Heaven knows whether
they will let me have it!"

Julien's eyes were suddenly lit with humor.

"Why, the Duke will be here for you to-morrow," he exclaimed, "to take
you back!"

She leaned back in her seat with an air of deliberation.

"I'm free," she insisted. "I'm twenty-six years old, thank Heaven!
Twenty-six years I've had of it--enough to crush any one. No more! You
know, I like this sense of freedom," she went on. "It's perfectly
amazing how young I feel. Julien, do you remember when mother wouldn't
let us lunch together at the Ritz without a chaperon?"

"I do," he assented. "I'm sure we didn't need one, either."

She smiled reminiscently.

"What sticks we were! What a silly life! I really have the most
delightful feeling, as though I were starting things all over again, as
though there were all sorts of wonderful adventures before me."

Julien looked at her quickly. There was no woman in the place half so
good-looking or with any pretensions to such style. He was conscious of
an odd twinge of jealousy.

"You'll have no trouble in finding adventures," he remarked a little
grimly.

Her eyes flashed back an answer to his thought.

"Bless you, I don't want anything to do with men! Fancy having been
engaged to you and to Samuel Harbord! What further thrills could
possibly be in store for me?"

"Well, I don't know," Julien retorted. "I suppose if I was a stick,
there must have been something about you which induced me to be one."

"Not a bit of it," she objected. "You were a solemn, studious,
gentlemanly, well-behaved, well-conducted prig--very much a male
edition of what I was myself. What a life we should have lived
together!... Here's your friend. You know, I rather like the look of
him. He's so delightfully untidy. I should think he belongs round about
the new world, doesn't he?"

"He's a working journalist," Julien answered, "a very clever fellow and
a good friend of mine."

"Then I shall adore him," Lady Anne decided,--"not because he is a good
friend of yours, but because he is a working journalist. Why, I saw him
sitting waiting for you the day you came and wished me that touching
good-bye," she added. "I liked him even then. It seemed so sweet of him
to come and help you through that terrible ordeal."

She held out her hand to Kendricks very charmingly when he was
presented.

"Don't be terrified at finding us here, please," she begged. "I know
you have some business to talk over with Julien, but you see we were
starving, and Julien had to be polite to me because we were once
engaged to be married. I promise you that when we have eaten we will go
home."

Kendricks looked at her for a moment and smiled.

"You know," he said, "I believe you've run away."

She laughed.

"I felt sure that I was going to like your friend, Julien!" she
exclaimed. "He understands things so quickly."

"I am a newspaper man, you see," he told her. "Just as I left, I was
reading all sorts of things about your wedding, and the presents, and
the rest of it. I saw you in the train and recognized you."

"Don't think I've come over after Julien," she continued cheerfully. "I
never dreamed of seeing him--not just yet, at any rate. I had no idea
where to run to, but Paris seemed to me so easy and so natural, and
somehow or other it must be more difficult to worry any one into going
back from a foreign country. Not that I've any idea of going back," she
broke off. "I think I'm going to enjoy life hugely out here."

"But it is most astonishing!" Mademoiselle Rignaut declared with a
gasp.

"My little friend here," Lady Anne went on, "hasn't got over it all
yet. She doesn't understand the sheer barbarity of being a duke's
daughter. The worst of it is she'll never have an opportunity of trying
it for herself. Heaven save the others! Julien, I hope we are going to
have some champagne. Mother never liked me to drink champagne at a
restaurant. You see," she explained, "we weren't rich enough to be in
really the smart set, or else I should have been allowed to do any
mortal thing, and if you aren't in the very smart set, it is best to
turn up your nose at them and to ape propriety. That's what we did. It
suited father because it was cheap, and mother because she said it went
with my style."

"Champagne, by all means," Julien agreed. "I ordered it some time ago.
And here comes the lobster."

"Julien, tell him to give me some wine," Lady Anne begged. "I am
thirsty."

Julien gave the order to the _sommelier_. She raised the glass to
her lips and looked at him.

"To our new selves," she exclaimed, laughing, "and to the broken
bonds!"

Julien raised his glass at once.

"To our new selves!" he echoed.




CHAPTER III


WORK FOR JULIEN


The new Anne had not forgotten her natural stubbornness. At half-past
twelve she rose from the supper table and declined absolutely to allow
Julien to escort her home.

"My dear Julien," she declared, "the thing is ridiculous. We have
finished with all that. I am a Bohemian. I expect to walk about these
streets when and where and at what hour I choose. You have business
with Mr. Kendricks and I am glad of it. You certainly shall not waste
your time gallivanting around with me. Janette and I together could
defy any sort of danger."

"But, my dear Anne," Julien protested, "you cannot make these changes
so suddenly. To drive you home would take, at the most, half an hour."

"I shall enjoy the drive immensely," Lady Anne answered coolly, "but we
shall take it alone. Don't be foolish, Julien. Come and find us a
little carriage and say good night nicely."

He was forced to obey. He found a carriage and helped her in. She even
stopped him when he would have paid for it.

"For the present," she said, "I prefer to arrange these matters for
myself. Thanks ever so much for the supper," she added, "and come and
see me in a day or two, won't you?"

She gave him her hand and smiled her farewells at him. The lamplight
flashed upon her as she leaned forward to say good-bye, and Julien for
the first time realized that her hair was a beautiful shade of brown,
and that there was a quiet but very effective beauty about her face
which he had never appreciated. She waved her hand and laughed at him
in frank good-fellowship which he somehow felt vaguely annoying. The
carriage rolled away and he went back to Kendricks.

"My friend," the latter exclaimed, "pay your bill and let us depart! I
am in no humor for the cafes to-night. Let us go to your rooms and sit
quietly, or drive--whichever you choose."

"You have news?" Julien remarked.

"I have news and a proposition for you," Kendricks replied. "I am not
sure that we do ourselves much good by being seen about Paris together
just now. I am not sure, even, whether it is safe."

Julien stared at him.

"You are making fun of me!"

"Not I," Kendricks assured him. "We are both being drawn into a queer
little cycle of events, events which perhaps we may influence. When we
get back to your rooms, I will tell you about it. Until then, not a
word."

They drove down the hill, talking of Lady Anne.

"Somehow," Kendricks remarked, "she doesn't fit in, in the least, with
your description of her. I imagined a cold, rather stupid young woman,
of very moderate intelligence, and certainly no sense of humor. Do you
know that your Lady Anne is really a very charming person?"

"She puzzles me a little," Julien confessed. "Something has changed
her."

Kendricks nodded.

"Whatever has done it has done a good thing. She gave you your conge
quite calmly, didn't she?"

"Absolutely," Julien admitted. "She brushed me away as though I had
been a misbehaving fly."

"After all," Kendricks said, "you were of the same kidney--a prig of
the first water, you know, Julien. I am never tired of telling you so,
am I? Never mind, it's good for you. Have you seen Herr Freudenberg
this week?"

Julien shook his head.

"Not since we were all at the Rat Mort together nearly a month ago. Did
I tell you that he made me an offer then?"

"No, you told me nothing about it," Kendricks replied, leaning forward
with interest. "What sort of an offer? Go on, tell me about it?"

"He wanted me," Julien continued, "to undertake the command of an
expedition to some place which he did not specify, to discover whether
a German who was living there was being held a prisoner--"

"Oh, la, la!" Kendricks interrupted. "Tell me what your reply was?"

"I told him that I must consult you first. As a matter of fact, I never
thought seriously about it at all. The whole affair seemed to me so
vague, and it didn't attract me in the least. I don't know whether you
can understand what I mean, but to me it appeared to be an entirely
artificial suggestion. If such a thing had been reasonable at all, I
should have said that it was an offer invented on the spur of the
moment by Herr Freudenberg, to get me out of Paris."

"Really, Julien," declared Kendricks, "I am beginning to have hopes of
you. There are times when you are almost bright."

"What are you here for?" Julien asked. "Is there anything wrong in
London?"

"Anything wrong!" Kendricks growled. "You and your foolish letters,
Julien! You left the way open for that little bounder Carraby and he'll
do for us. Lord, how they love him in Berlin!"

"They are not exactly appreciating him over here, are they?" Julien
remarked. "I don't understand the tone of the Press at all. There's
something at the back of it all."

"There is," Kendricks agreed grimly. "Sit tight, wait till we are in
your rooms. I'll tell you some news."

"We are there now," Julien replied, as the little carriage pulled up.
"Follow me, Kendricks, and take care of the stairs. I hope you like the
smell of new bread? You see, the ground floor is occupied by a
confectioner's shop. It keeps me hungry half the time."

"Delicious!" Kendricks murmured. "Are these your rooms?"

Julien nodded and turned on the electric light.

"Not palatial, as you see, but comfortable and, I flatter myself,
typically French. Don't you love the red plush and the gilt mirror? Of
course, one doesn't sit upon the chairs or look into the mirror, but
they at least remind you of the country you're in."

Kendricks threw open the window. The hum of the city came floating into
the room. They drew up easy-chairs.

"Whiskey and soda at your side," Julien pointed out. "You can smoke
your filthy pipe to your heart's content. I won't even insult you by
offering you a cigar. Now go ahead."

Kendricks lit his pipe and smoked solemnly.

"Your remarks," he declared, "are actuated by jealousy. You haven't the
stomach for a man's smoke. Now listen. There's the very devil of a
mischief abroad and Falkenberg's at the bottom of it. Do you know what
he's doing?"

"I know nothing."

"You remember the night that we were up at the Rat Mort? He was talking
with a dirty-looking man in a red tie and pince-nez."

"I remember it quite well," Julien admitted.

"Well, he was the leader writer in _Le Jour_,--Jesen--a brilliant
man, an absolutely wonderful writer, but shiftless. Do you know what
Falkenberg has done? The paper was in the market, the controlling share
of it, and he bought it, or rather he put the money into Jesen's hands
to buy it with. The whole tone of the paper with regard to foreign
affairs has turned completely round. Every other day there is a
scathing article in it attacking the _entente_ with England.
You've read them, of course?"

"So has every one," Julien replied gravely. "The people here talk of
little else."

"It is known," Kendricks continued, "that Falkenberg has made every use
of his frequent visits to this city to ingratiate himself with certain
members of the French Cabinet, and to impress them with his views. To
some extent there is no doubt that he has succeeded. The German
Press--the inspired portion of it, at any rate--is backing all this up
by articles extremely friendly towards France and deriding her
friendship with England."

"This, too, I have noticed," Julien admitted.

"Carraby is in hot water already," Kendricks went on. "He had a chance
on Monday in the House, when he was asked a question about the German
gunboat which is reported to have gone to Agdar. The fool muddled it.
He gave the sort of suave, methodist reply one expected, and the German
Press jeered at him openly. Julien, it's serious. The French people are
honest enough, but they are impressionable. A Liberal Government was
never popular with them. You were the only Liberal Foreign Minister in
whom they believed. This man Carraby they despise. Besides, he has
Jewish blood in his veins and you know what that means over here.
Jesen's articles come thundering out and already other papers are
beginning to follow suit. The poison has been at work for months. You
remember monsieur and madame and mademoiselle, with whom I talked so
earnestly? Well, they were but types. I talked to them because I wanted
to find out their point of view. There are many others like them. They
look upon the _entente_ with good-natured tolerance. They doubt
the real ability of Britain to afford practical aid to France, should
she be attacked. This good-natured tolerance is being changed into
irritation. Falkenberg's efforts are ceaseless. The moment he has the
two countries really estranged, he will strike."

"Against which?" Julien asked quickly.

"Heaven only knows!" Kendricks answered. "For my part, I have always
believed that it would be against England. There is no strategic reason
for a war between France and Germany. Germany needs more than France
can give her. She does not need money, she needs territory. Falkenberg
is a rabid imperialist, a dreamer of splendid dreams, a real genius. He
is fighting to-day with the subtlest weapons the mind of man ever
conceived. Now, Julien, listen. I am here with a direct proposition to
you."

"But what can I do?" Julien exclaimed.

"This," Kendricks replied. "It is my idea. I saw Lord Southwold this
morning and he agreed. We want you to write for our paper a series of
articles, dated from Paris and signed in your own name, and we want you
to attack Falkenberg and the game he is playing. We will arrange for
them to appear simultaneously in one of the leading journals here. We
want you to write openly of these German spies who infest Paris. We
want you first to hint and then to speak openly of the purchase of
_Le Jour_ by means of German gold. We want you to combat the
popular opinion here that our army is a wooden box affair, and that we
as a nation are too crassly selfish to risk our fleet for the benefit
of France. We want you to strike a great note and tell the truth.
Julien, those articles signed by you and dated from Paris may do a
magnificent work."

Julien's eyes were already agleam.

"Splendid!" he muttered, rising to his feet. "If only I can do it!"

"Of course you can do it," Kendricks insisted firmly. "Before you spoke
so often you used to write for the _Nineteenth Century_ every
month. You haven't forgotten the trick. Some of your sentences I
remember even now. I tell you, Julien, they helped me to appreciate
you. I liked you better when you took up the pen sometimes than I liked
you in those perfect clothes and perfect manner in your office at
Downing Street. Your tongue had the politician's trick of gliding over
the surface of things. Your pen scratched and spluttered its way into
the heart of affairs. Get back to it, Julien. I want your first article
before I leave Paris to-night."

"I'll do my best," Julien promised. "It's a great scheme. I'm going to
commence now."

"I hoped you would," Kendricks replied. "You've got the atmosphere
here. You're sitting in the heart of the France that belongs to the
French. It isn't for nothing that I've taken you round a little with me
since we were here. Chance was kind, too, when it brought us up against
Freudenberg. Remember, Julien, journalism isn't the gentlemanly art it
was ten or twenty years ago. You can take up your pen and stab. That's
what we want."

"It's fine," Julien declared. "It is war!"

Kendricks rose to his feet.

"I'm going to bed," he announced. "The last month has been exciting and
there's plenty more to come. I need sleep. Julien, just a word of
caution."

"Fire away," Julien sighed. He was already gazing steadfastly out of
the window, already the sentences were framing themselves in his mind.

"The day upon which your first article appears," Kendricks said,
"Freudenberg will strike. Your life here will never be wholly safe. You
will be encompassed with spies and enemies. Why, this wild-cat scheme
of his of sending you off on some expedition was solely because you are
the one man of whom he is afraid. He feared lest Carraby might make
some hideous blunder in a crisis and that the country might demand you
back. That is why he wanted you out of the way."

"You may be right," Julien admitted. "What's that striking--one
o'clock? Till to-night, David!"

Kendricks nodded and left the room. Julien sat for a moment before the
open window. It was rather an impressive view of the city with its
millions of lights, the fine buildings of the Place de la Concorde in
clear relief against the deep sky, the Eiffel Tower glittering in the
distance, the subtle perfume of pleasure in the air. Julien stood there
and raised his eyes to the skies. Already his brain was moving to the
grim music of his thoughts. He looked away from the city to the fertile
country. Some faint memory of those once blackened fields and desolate
villages stole into his mind. He turned to his desk, drew the paper
towards him and wrote.




CHAPTER IV


A STARTLING DISCLOSURE


Julien was driving, a few afternoons later, with Madame Christophor.
She had picked him up in the Bois, where he had gone for a solitary
walk. In her luxurious automobile they passed smoothly beyond the
confines of the Park and out into the country. After her brief summons
and the few words of invitation, they relapsed into a somewhat curious
silence.

"My friend," Madame Christophor remarked at length, glancing
thoughtfully towards him, "I find a change in you. You are pale and
tired and silent. It is your duty to amuse me, but you make no effort
to do so. Yet you have lost that look of complete dejection. You have,
indeed, the appearance of a man who has accomplished something, who has
found a new purpose in life."

Julien to some extent recovered himself.

"Dear Madame Christophor," he exclaimed, "it is true! My manners are
shocking. Yet, in a way, I have an excuse. I have been hard at work for
the last few days. I was writing all night until quite late this
morning. It was because I could not sleep that I came out to sit under
the trees--where you found me, in fact."

"Writing," she repeated. "So you are changing your weapons, are you?
You are going to make a new bid for power?"

Julien shook his head.

"It is not that," he answered. "I have no personal ambitions connected
with my present work. It was an idea--a great idea--but it was not my
own. Yet the work has been an immense relief."

She looked away, relapsing once more into silence. He glanced towards
her. The weariness of her expression was more than ever evident to-day,
the weariness that was not fretful, that seemed, indeed, to give an
added sweetness to her face. Yet its pathos was always there. Her eyes,
which looked steadily down the road in front of them, were full of the
fatigue of unwelcome days.

"You men so easily escape," she murmured. "We women never."

Julien was conscious of a certain selfishness in all his thoughts
connected with his companion. He had been so ready always to accept her
society, to accept and profit by the stimulus of her intellect. Yet he
himself had given so little, had shown so little interest in her or her
personal affairs. He sat a trifle more upright in his place.

"Dear Madame Christophor," he said earnestly, "you have been so kind to
me, you have shown so much interest always in my doings and my
troubles. Why not tell me something of your own life? I have felt so
much the benefit of your sympathy. Is there nothing in the world I
could do for you?"

She sighed.

"No person in the world," she declared, "could help me; certainly not
one of your sex. I start with an instinctive and unchanging hatred
towards every one of them."

"But, madame," Julien protested, "is that reasonable?"

"It is the truth," she replied. "I do my best when we are together to
forget it so far as you are concerned. I succeed because you do not use
with me any of the miserable devices of your sex to provoke an interest
whether they really desire it or not. You treat me, Sir Julien, as it
pleases me to be treated. It is for that reason, I am sure--it must be
for that reason--that I find some pleasure in being with you, whereas
the society of any other man is a constant irritation to me."

Julien hesitated.

"You know," he began, "I am not naturally a curious person. I have
never asked a question of you or about you from the few people with
whom I have come in contact over here. At the same time,--"

"Do you mean," she interrupted, "do you seriously mean that you are
ignorant as to who I really am, as to any part of my history?"

"Entirely," Julien assured her.

She was thoughtful for several moments.

"Well, that is strange," she declared. "You are upsetting one of my pet
theories. All the men whom I have ever known have been more curious
than women. Are you interested in me, by any chance, Sir Julien?"

"Immensely," he replied.

"I am glad to hear it. Do you know, that is a great concession for me
to make, but it is the truth? I like you to be interested in me. Yet I
must confess that your ignorance as to who I really am astonishes me.
Perhaps," she added gravely, "if you knew, you would not be sitting by
my side at the present moment."

"I cannot believe," he said, smiling, "that you are such a very
terrible person."

"Terrible? Perhaps that is not the word," she admitted.

"There is one thing," he went on, "concerning which I have always been
curious."

"And that?"

"The little manicure girl whom I met in the Soho restaurant," he
replied promptly, "what on earth was her reason for wishing me to come
and see you? Why did you want me to come?"

"I thought," she murmured, "that we had agreed not to speak of those
matters for the present."

"That was some time ago. Things are changing around us every day. It is
possible that within a very short time I may find myself in such a
position here that I am forced to know exactly who are my friends and
who my enemies."

"Can you believe," she asked, "that you would ever find me among the
latter?"

Julien thought for several moments.

"I shall not ask you," he proceeded, "not to be offended with me for
what I am going to say. It was a chance remark I heard--no more. It
certainly, however, did suggest some association. There is a man who
comes often to Paris, who calls himself a maker of toys. He says that
he comes from Leipzig and that his name is Herr Freudenberg."

She sat as still as a statue. Not a line of her features was changed.
Julien turned a little in his seat. As he watched, he saw that her
bosom underneath the lace scarf which she wore was rising and falling
quickly. Her teeth came suddenly together. He saw the lids droop over
her eyes as though she were in pain.

"Herr Freudenberg," she repeated, "what of him?"

"I knew him in the days when I counted for something in the world,"
Julien explained. "Don't you remember that on the night when we dined
together at the Maison Leon d'Or he sent one of his emissaries for me?
He was a man in whom I had always felt the greatest, the most complete
interest. I went to him gladly. Since then, as you will know if you
read the papers, events have moved rapidly. I am beginning to realize
now how completely and absolutely that man is the enemy of my country."

"It is true, that," she murmured.

"For some reason," Julien continued, "he seemed anxious to remove me
from Paris. He made me a somewhat singular offer. He wanted me to go to
some distant country on a mission--not political and yet for Germany."

"And do you go?"

"No," he replied, "I have found other work. I don't think that I
seriously considered it at any time, yet I have always been curious as
to why he should have made such an offer to me."

She had the air now of a woman who had completely recovered control of
herself.

"Sir Julien," she asked, "I beg of you to tell me this. If you do not
know who I am, why have you mentioned Herr Freudenberg's name to me?"

"Madame," Julien answered, "because the man who brought me the message
from Herr Freudenberg, the man who conducted me to him, the man
concerning whom you told me that strange, pathetic little story--he let
fall one word. I asked him no question. I wished for no information
except from you. Yet I am only human. I have had impulses of
curiosity."

"Herr Freudenberg is my husband," Madame Christophor declared.

Julien looked at her in amazement. For the moment he was speechless.

"I say what is perhaps literally but not actually true," she went on.
"He was my husband. We are separated. We are not divorced because we
were married as Roman Catholics. We are separated. There will never be
anything else between us."

Julien remained silent. It was so hard to say anything. The woman's
tone told him that around her speech hovered a tragedy.

"Now you know that Herr Freudenberg is my husband," she asked, "are you
not a little afraid to be sitting here by my side?"

"Why should I be?"

"Don't you know," she continued, "that he is your enemy?"

Julien looked grave.

"No, I have scarcely realized that," he answered. "I think, perhaps,
when he reads yesterday's papers he may be feeling like that. At
present, so far as he knows, what have I done?"

"You," she said, "were the only man who ever stood up to him, who ever
dealt a blow at his political supremacy. At the Conference of Berlin
you triumphed. German papers politely, and in a very veiled manner,
reminded him of his defeat. It was not a great matter, it is true, but
none the less the Conference of Berlin was the first diplomatic failure
in which he had ever been concerned, and you were responsible for it."

"You think, then," Julien remarked, "that he still harbors a grudge
against me for that?"

"Without a doubt. Now tell me what you mean when you speak of
yesterday's papers?"

"I am writing a series of articles," Julien told her. "They commenced
yesterday. They will appear in a French paper--_Le Grand
Journal_--and in the English _Post_. They are written with the
sole idea of attacking Herr Freudenberg. When he reads the first, he
will understand--he will be my enemy."

She held out her hand.

"Then say good-bye to me now, my friend," she murmured, "for you will
die."

Julien laughed scornfully.

"We do not live in those days," he reminded her. "We fight with the
pen, with diplomacy, with all the weapons of statecraft and intrigue,
if you will. But this is not now the Paris of Dumas. One does not
assassinate."

"My friend," she said earnestly, "you do not know Herr Freudenberg. If
indeed you have become during these last few days his enemy, by this
time next week you will surely have passed into some other sphere of
activity. There are no methods too primitive for him, no methods too
subtle or too cruel. He can be the most charming, the most winning, the
most generous, the most romantic person who ever breathed; or he can be
a Nero, a cruel and brutal butcher, a murderer either of reputations or
bodies--he cares little which."

"Presently," Julien declared, "I shall begin to feel uncomfortable."

"Oh! you have courage, of course," she admitted, with a scornful little
shrug of the shoulders. "No one has ever denied that to your race. But
you have also the unconquerable stupidity which makes heroes and
victims of your soldiers."

Julien smiled.

"Well, I am at least warned, and for that I thank you. Now let me ask
you another question. You have told me this very strange thing about
yourself and Herr Freudenberg. You have told me of your feelings
concerning him. Yet you have not really told me exactly on what terms
you are with him at present? Forgive me if I find this important."

"I do not receive him," she replied. "I have no interest in his comings
or his goings. I have a solemn promise, a promise to which he has
subscribed upon his honor, that he shall not seek to cross the
threshold of my house. He sent me an ambassador once quite lately to
make me a certain proposition connected with you."

"With me?" Julien repeated.

She nodded.

"He has great faith in my powers," she went on, looking him full in the
face, "also, apparently, some belief in your susceptibility. Is that
unkind of me? Never mind, it is the truth. He imagined, perhaps, that I
might help him to rid Paris of your presence. There was just one thing
he could offer me which I desired. He came to offer it."

"You refused?" Julien exclaimed.

Her eyes rested upon his. Her expression was faintly provocative.

"How could I accept an offer," she asked, "to deal with a thing which
did not belong to me? You have shown no signs at present, Sir Julien,
of becoming my abject slave."

The car rushed through a straggling village. All the time she was
watching him. Then she threw herself back among the cushions with a
little laugh.

"A week or so ago," she murmured, "I had a fancy that if I had
tried--well, that perhaps you were not so different from other men. I
should have loathed my conquest, I should probably have loathed you,
but I think that I should have expected it. At the present moment," she
went on, glancing into a little gold mirror which she had picked up
from a heap of trifles lying on the table before her, "at the present
moment I am disillusioned. My vanity is wounded though my relief is
great. Nevertheless, Sir Julien, tell me what has happened to you
during the last few days?"

"Work," Julien replied, "the sort of work I was craving for."

"Not only that," she insisted, setting down the mirror with a sigh.
"There is something else."

"If there is," Julien assured her, "I am not yet conscious of it."

They had emerged from the country lane along which they had been
traveling and were returning now to Paris along the broad highroad.
They were going at a fair speed when suddenly a huge racing car came
flashing by them, covered with dust, and with all the indications of
having come a great distance. Madame Christophor leaned forward in her
seat and clutched her companion's arm. Her eyes were fixed upon the
figure of the man leaning back by the side of the driver.

"You see?" she muttered.

"Herr Freudenberg!" Julien gasped.

She nodded. Already the car had vanished in a cloud of dust.

"He is just from Germany or from the frontier. He very seldom comes all
the way by rail. The car is always waiting."

"I shall see him, then, to-night," Julien declared. "Already, without a
doubt, he knows. Already he is my enemy. What about you, Madame
Christophor?"

"My friend," she promised, "you will have nothing to fear from me. So
long as I can forget your sex, I rather like you."

"Are you going to answer my question about the little girl who sent me
to you?" he asked.

"I will tell you, if you like," she said. "Mademoiselle Senn was once
in my service. She occasionally executes commissions for me in London.
She knows everybody. It was in obedience to my wishes that she gave you
that message."

"But why?" Julien demanded. "What interest had you in me?"

"None," she answered a little coldly,--"no personal interest. I sent
that message because I discovered that the individual who has just
passed us in the automobile was framing certain schemes in connection
with you if you should come to Paris. Politically as well as personally
he and I are enemies. He hates America and the whole Anglo-Saxon race.
It has amused me more than once to thwart his schemes. I intended to
set you upon your guard. You see, it is very simple. Mademoiselle Senn
wrote me at first that she did not know you and that she feared you
were inaccessible. Then she wired me of an accidental meeting and that
she had delivered my message. The whole affair is simpler than it
seemed, is it not so?... Now listen. I have satisfied your curiosity.
You now shall answer a question. Who is Miss Clonarty?"

Julien gazed at her in astonishment.

"Miss Clonarty?" he repeated.

Madame Christophor nodded.

"The name seems to surprise you. A young English woman called on me
to-day in answer to my advertisement for a secretary who could write
and speak English. She said that her name was Miss Anne Clonarty and
she referred me to you."

"If she is the lady whom I suppose she is," Julien replied, "you will
be perfectly safe in engaging her."

Madame Christophor looked at him from underneath the lids of her eyes.

"Do you think that I do not know?" she asked, with a shade of contempt
in her tone,--"that I do not sometimes read the papers? Do you think
that I have not seen that Lady Anne Clonarty, the girl whom you were
engaged to marry, disappeared from her home the other day, on the eve
of her marriage to another man? It is this girl who comes to me for my
situation, is it not so?"

Julien was silent.

"I knew nothing of her coming. I did not even know that you wanted a
secretary."

"I wonder why she came to Paris," Madame Christophor remarked. "Is she
in love with you?"

"There was never any question of anything of the sort," Julien declared
fervently.

"You have seen her since she arrived in Paris?"

"Entirely by accident. I saw her alight from the train. I was at the
Gare du Nord to meet Kendricks."

Madame Christophor leaned back in her seat.

"Is it your wish that I engage her?"

"Certainly," Julien replied. "I am sure that you will find her
competent. At the same time, I don't know how long she will keep this
thing up."

"As a rule I do not care for handsome women around me," Madame
Christophor said composedly. "Lady Anne is much too good-looking to
please me. She has all the freshness and vitality," she added, dropping
her voice a little, "which seem to have left me forever."

"You have experience," Julien reminded her. "Experience in itself is
wonderful, even though one has to pay for it."

They were in the streets of Paris now. Madame Christophor shrugged her
shoulders and sat up.

"It is one of the misfortunes of my sex," she said, a little bitterly,
"that without experience we lack charm--in the eyes of you men, that is
to say. It is your own folly.... Are you coming home with me, my
friend, or shall I set you down somewhere?"

"As near the Gare du Nord as possible, if you please," Julien begged.
"I have wearied you enough for one afternoon."

Madame Christophor looked at him thoughtfully. There was a slight frown
upon her forehead.

"Somewhere near the Gare du Nord!" she repeated.




CHAPTER V


THE FIRST ARTICLE


Julien found Lady Anne in a small, stuffy apartment on the third floor
of the house in the Rue St. Antoine. Before her was a sewing-machine,
and the floor of the room was littered with oddments of black calico.
She herself was seated apparently deep in thought before an untrimmed
hat.

"What on earth, my dear Anne," he exclaimed, "are you doing?"

She merely glanced up at his entrance. Her eyes were still far away.

"Don't interrupt," she begged. "I am seeking for an inspiration. In my
younger days I used to trim hats. I don't suppose anything I could do
would be of any use here, but one must try everything."

"But I thought," he protested, "that you were going to be a lady's
secretary, or something of that sort?"

"I have applied for a situation," she admitted. "I am not engaged yet.
By the bye, I gave your name as a reference. I wonder if there is any
chance for me."

"As a matter of fact," he told her, "I have just left the lady whose
advertisement you answered."

"Madame Christophor?"

"Madame Christophor. If you are really anxious for that post, I can
assure you that it is yours."

She flung the hat to the other end of the room.

"Good!" she exclaimed. "I don't think this sort of thing is in my line
at all. Tell me, is Madame Christophor half as charming as she looks?"

"I have known her only a short time," Julien replied, "but she is
certainly a very wonderful woman."

"What does she do," Lady Anne asked, "to require a secretary?"

"She is a woman of immense wealth, I believe," Julien answered, "and
she has many charities. She is married, but separated from her husband.
I think, on the whole, that she must have led a rather unhappy life."

"I think it is very extraordinary," Lady Anne remarked, "that she
should be willing to take a secretary who knows nothing of typewriting
or shorthand. I told her how ignorant I was, but she didn't seem to
mind much."

Julien sat down by the side of the sewing-machine.

"Anne," he began, "do you really think you're going to care for this
sort of thing?"

"What sort of thing?" she demanded.

"Why, life on your own. You have been so independent always and a
person of consequence. You know what it means to be a servant?"

"Not yet," Lady Anne admitted. "I think, though, that it is quite time
I did. I am rather looking forward to it."

Julien was a little staggered. She looked over at him and laughed
scornfully.

"After all," she said, "I am not sure, Julien, whether you are a person
of much understanding. You proposed to me because I happened to be the
sort of girl you were looking for. My connections were excellent and my
appearance, I suppose, satisfactory. You never thought of me myself, me
as an independent person, in all your life. Do you believe that I am
simply Lady Anne Clonarty, a reasonable puppet, a walking doll to
receive some one's guests and further his social ambitions? Don't you
think that I have the slightest idea of being a woman of my own? What's
wrong with me, I wonder, Julien, that you should take me for something
automatic?"

"You acted the part," he reminded her.

"With you, yes!" she replied scornfully. "I should like to know how
much you encouraged me to be anything different. A sawdust man I used
to think you. Oh, we matched all right! I am not denying that. I was
what I had to be. I sometimes wonder if misfortune will not do you
good."

"Misfortune is lending you a tongue, at any rate," he retorted.

"As yet," she objected, "I know nothing of misfortune. The impulse
which led me to chuck things was just the most wonderful thing that
ever came to me in life. I awoke this morning feeling like a freed
woman. I sang while I got up. It seemed to me that I had never seen
anything so beautiful as the view of Paris from my poky window. And I
got up without a maid, too, Julien. I had no perfectly equipped
bathroom to wander into. Not much luxury about these rooms of
Janette's."

He glanced at her admiringly.

"You certainly look as though the life agreed with you," he answered.
"Put on your hat and come out to dinner."

She rose to her feet at once.

"I have been praying for that," she confessed. "You know, Julien, I
should starve badly. The one thing I can't get rid of is my appetite.
You don't expect me to make a toilette, because I can't?"

"Nothing of the sort," he assured her. "Come as you are."

She kept him waiting barely five minutes. She was still wearing her
smart traveling suit and the little toque which she had worn when she
left home. She walked down the street with him, humming gayly.

"Have you read the English papers this morning, Julien?" she asked.

"Not thoroughly," he admitted.

"Columns about me," she declared blithely. "The general idea is that I
am suffering from a lapse of memory. They have found traces of me in
every part of England. Not a word about Paris, thank goodness!"

"But do you mean to say that no one has an idea of where you are? Won't
your mother be anxious?"

"Not a bit of it," Lady Anne laughed. "I left a note for her, just to
say that she wasn't to worry. She knows I'll take care of myself all
right. Julien, don't you love these streets and their crowds of people?
Every one looks as though they were on a holiday."

"So they are," Julien replied. "Life is only a holiday over here. In
England we go about with our eyes fixed upon the deadliest thing in
life we can imagine. Over here, depression is a crime. They call into
their minds the most joyous thing they can think of. It becomes a
habit. They think only of the pleasantness of life. They keep their
troubles buried underneath."

"It is the way to live," she murmured.

"This, at any rate," he answered, leading the way into Henry's "is the
place at which to dine. Just fancy, we were engaged for three months
and not once did I dine with you alone! Now we are not engaged and we
think nothing of it."

"Less than nothing," she agreed, "except that I am frightfully hungry."

They found a comfortable table. Julien took up the menu and wrote out
the dinner carefully.

"In this country," he said, leaning back, "we are spared the barbarity
of table d'hote dinners. Therefore we must wait, but what does it
matter? There is always something to talk about."

"I am glad to hear that you feel like that, Julien. I remember
sometimes when we were alone together in England, we seemed to find it
a trifle difficult."

"Since then," he replied, "we have both burst the bonds--I of
necessity, you of choice."

"I don't believe," she declared, helping herself to _hors
d'oeuvres_, "that we are either of us going to be sorry for it."

"One can never tell. So far as you are concerned, I haven't got over
the wonder of it yet. You never showed me so much of the woman
throughout our engagement as you have shown me during the last few
days."

"My dear Julien," she protested, "you didn't know where to look for it.
Why does this funny little man with the mutton-chop whiskers hover
around our table all the time?"

"He is distressed," Julien explained, "to see you eating so much bread
and butter. He fears that you will not have an appetite for the very
excellent dinner which I have ordered."

"He is right," she decided. "Never mind, I will leave the rolls alone.
I am still, I can assure you, ravenous."

She leaned back and, looking out into the room, began to laugh. People
who passed never failed to notice her. She was certainly a
striking-looking girl and she had, above all, the air.

"Julien," she cried, "this is really too amusing! Did you see who went
by just then? It was Lord Athlington--my venerable uncle--with the lady
with the yellow hair. He saw you here with me--saw us sitting together
alone, having dinner--me unchaperoned, a runaway! Isn't it delicious?"

Julien looked after his companion's elderly relative with a smile.

"I wonder," he remarked, "whether your uncle's magnificent
unconsciousness is due to defective eyesight or nerve?"

"Nerve, without a doubt," she insisted. "We all have it. Besides, don't
you see he's changed their table so as to be out of sight? I wonder
what he really thinks of me! If we'd belonged even to the really smart
set in town, it wouldn't have been half so funny. They do so many
things that seem wrong that people forget to be shocked."

"I can conceive," he murmured, "that your mother's ambitions would
scarcely lead her in that direction."

Lady Anne shrugged her shoulders.

"I don't think she could get in if she tried. The really disreputable
people in Society are so exclusive. I wonder, Julien, if I shall be
allowed to come out and dine with you when I am Madame Christophor's
secretary?"

"Once a week, perhaps," he suggested,--"scarcely oftener, I am afraid."

"Ah! well," she declared, "I shall like work, I am convinced. Julien,
you are spoiling me. I am sure this is a _cuisine de luxe_. I told
you to take me to a cheap restaurant."

"We will try them all in time," he answered. "I had to start by taking
you to my favorite place."

"You really mean, then," she asked, "that you are going on being nice
to me? Of course, I haven't the slightest claim on you. I suppose, as a
matter of fact, I treated you rather badly, didn't I?"

"Not a bit of it," he assured her. "I was a failure, that was all. But
of course I am going on being nice to you. There aren't too many people
over here whom one cares to be with. There aren't very many just now,"
he continued, "who care to be with me."

"Idiotic!" she replied. "Tell me about this work of yours?"

He explained Kendricks' idea. Her eyes glistened.

"It's really splendid," she declared. "How I should love to have seen
your first article!"

"You shall read it afterwards," he told her. "I have a copy of _Le
Grand Journal_ in my overcoat pocket."

She beckoned to the _vestiaire_.

"I will not wait a moment," she insisted. "I shall read it while dinner
is being served. It's a glorious idea, this, to fight your way back
with your pen. There are those nowadays who tell us, you know, Julien,
that there is more to be done through the Press than in Parliament.
Your spoken words can influence only a small number of people. What you
write the world reads."

She explained what she desired to the _vestiaire_. He reappeared a
minute or two later with the newspaper. She spread it out before her.
Julien read it over her shoulder. He himself had seen it before, but
his own eyes were the brighter as he reread it. When she had finished
she said very little. They ate the first course of their dinner almost
in silence. Then she laid her hand suddenly upon his.

"Julien, dear," she said, "I have done you a wrong. I am sorry."

"A wrong?" he repeated.

She looked at him almost humbly. There was something new in her eyes,
something new in her expression.

"I am afraid," she continued, "that I never looked upon you as anything
more than the ordinary stereotyped politician, a skilful debater, of
course, and with the chessboard brains of diplomacy. This,"--she
touched the newspaper with her forefinger--"this is something very
different."

"Do you like it, then?"

"Like it!" she repeated scornfully. "Can't you feel yourself how
different it is from those precise, cynical little speeches of yours?
It is as though a smouldering bonfire had leapt suddenly into flame.
There is genius in every line. Go on writing like that, Julien, and you
will soon be more powerful than ever you were in the House of Commons."

He laughed. It was absurd to admit it, but nothing had pleased him so
much since the coming of his misfortune! She was thoughtful for some
time, every now and then glancing back at the newspaper. Over their
coffee she broke into a little reminiscent laugh.

"Did I tell you about Mrs. Carraby?" she asked. "Mother and I met her
at Wumbledon House, two or three days after her husband's appointment
had been confirmed. I can see her now coming towards us. There were so
many people around that she had to risk everything. Oh, it was a great
moment for mother! She never troubled even to raise her lorgnettes. She
never attempted any of that glaring-through-you sort of business. She
just looked up at Mrs. Carraby's hand and looked up at her eyes and
walked by without changing a muscle. Of course I did the same--very
nearly as well, too, I believe. Cat!"

Julien frowned slightly.

"You can imagine," he said, "that I am not very keen about discussing
Mrs. Carraby. Yet, after all, her husband and his career were, I
suppose, the most important things in life to her."

"Then she's going to have a pretty rocky time," Lady Anne decided. "I
don't understand much about politics, but I know it's no use putting a
tradesman into the Foreign Office. He's wobbly already, and as for Mrs.
Carraby--well, I don't know if she ever went on with you like it,
Julien, but you remember Bob Sutherland--the one in the Guards, I
mean?--well, she's going an awful pace with him."

"I think," he declared, "that Mrs. Carraby can take care of herself."

"Perhaps," Lady Anne replied, looking thoughtfully at her cigarette.
"You see, the woman knows in her heart that she's impossible. She
copies all our bad tricks. She sees that we all flirt as a matter of
course, and she tries to outdo us. It's the old story. What one person
can do with impunity, another makes an awful hash of. We can go to the
very gates because when we get there we know how to shrug our shoulders
and turn away. I am not sure that Mrs. Carraby has breeding enough for
that. She'll go through, if Bob has his way."

"You are becoming rather an advanced young person," Julien remarked, as
he paid the bill.

"My dear Julien," she said, "I've told you before that you never knew
me. If you had appreciated me as I deserved, when you came that cropper
you wouldn't have called on me to say good-bye. You'd have left that
red-headed friend of yours at home and told me that the empty place in
the taxicab was mine."

He laughed and then suddenly became grave.

"Supposing I had?" he whispered.

She looked at him, startled. In that moment he seemed to see a new
thing in her face, a new and marvelous softness. It passed like a
flash--so swiftly that it left him wondering whether it was not indeed
a trick of his imagination.

"Absurd!" she murmured. "Tell me, what is there we can do now? Must I
go home?"

"On the contrary," he declared, "you are engaged to me for the evening.
Only I must call at my rooms. Do you mind?"

"I mind nothing," she assured him. "Let us take a carriage and drive
about the streets. Julien, what a yellow moon!"

They clambered into a little _voiture_, and with a hoarse shout
and a crack of the whip from the _cocher_, they started off. Lady
Anne leaned back with an exclamation of content.

"If only it weren't so theatrical!" she sighed. "The streets seem so
clean and the buildings so white and the sky so blue and the people so
gay. Yet I suppose the bitterness of life is here as in the other
places. Why do you want to call at your rooms, Julien?"

"There is just a chance," he explained, "that there may be a telegram
from Kendricks. I want to know what they think of my article."

She laughed scornfully.

"I can tell you that. There is only one thing they can think. How these
people will hate you who are trying to make mischief between France and
England!"

Julien smiled grimly.

"I shouldn't be surprised," he admitted. "It may come to a tussle
between us yet."

They pulled up before the door of his rooms. She, too, alighted.

"I want to see what your quarters are like," she said calmly. "I may
come up, mayn't I?"

"By all means," he assented.

She followed him up the dark stairs and into his room. He turned on the
lights. She looked around at his little salon, with its French
furniture, its open windows with the lime trees only a few feet away,
and threw herself into an easy-chair with a sigh of content.

"Julien, how delightful!" she exclaimed. "Is there anything for you?"

He walked to the mantelpiece. There was a telegram and a note for him.
The former he tore open and his eyes sparkled as he read it aloud.

Magnificent. Be careful. Am coming over at once.

KENDRICKS.

He passed it on to her. Then he opened the note.

I am coming to your rooms for my answer to-night.

CARL FREUDENBERG.

Even as he read it there was a knocking at the door. She looked up
doubtfully.

"Who is that?"

"It may be the man who writes me here," he told her.

She rose softly to her feet and pointed to the door which divided the
apartments. He nodded and she passed through into the inner room.
Julien went to the outside door and threw it open. It was indeed Herr
Freudenberg who stood there.

"Come in," he invited.

Herr Freudenberg removed his hat and entered.




CHAPTER VI


FALKENBERG FAILS


Herr Freudenberg was dressed for the evening with his usual fastidious
neatness. He had the air of a man who had been engaged for many nights
in some arduous occupation. There were dark rims under his eyes, the
lines upon his forehead were deeper. Nevertheless, he smiled with
something of his old gayety as he accepted the chair which Julien
placed for him.

"My dear Sir Julien," he said, "I have come a good many hundred miles
at a most inconvenient moment for the sake of a brief conversation with
you."

Julien raised his eyebrows.

"You surprise me!" he exclaimed. "I had no idea that the mission you
spoke of was so urgent."

"Nor is it," Herr Freudenberg replied. "As a matter of fact, it
scarcely exists at all, or if it did exist, it was created simply as a
means of removing you from within the reach of practical politics for
some months. I have foresight, you see, Sir Julien. I saw what was
coming. Permit me to tell you that I do not like your letter in _Le
Grand Journal_ yesterday, a letter which I understand appeared also
in the London _Post_."

"I am sorry," Julien said calmly. "Still, to be perfectly frank, it
wasn't written with a view of pleasing or displeasing you. It was
written in a strenuous attempt to preserve the friendship between
France and England."

"It is to be followed, I presume, by others?" Herr Freudenberg asked.

"It is the first of a series," Julien admitted.

"You know," Herr Freudenberg remarked, glancing at his finger-nails for
a moment, "that it is most diabolically clever?"

"You flatter me," Julien murmured.

"Not at all. I have spoken the truth. I am here to know what price you
will take to suppress the remainder of the series."

Julien considered.

"I will take," he replied, "the exact amount of the last war indemnity
which was paid to you by France."

Herr Freudenberg smiled.

"A mere trifle to the war indemnity we shall be asking from England
before very long."

"I am not avaricious," Julien declared. "Those are my terms."

Herr Freudenberg sighed.

"My friend," he said, "it would be better if you talked of this matter
reasonably. There are other ways of securing the non-continuance of
those letters than by purchase."

"Precisely," Julien answered, "but Paris, in its beaten thoroughfares,
at any rate, is a law-abiding city. I don't fancy that I shall come to
much grief here."

"A brave man," Herr Freudenberg remarked, "seldom believes that he will
come to grief."

"If the blow falls, nevertheless, it is at least considerate of you
that you bring me warning!"

"Rubbish!" Herr Freudenberg interposed. "Listen, Sir Julien, I ask you
to consider this matter as a reasonable person. We don't want war. We
don't mean to have war. But the desire of my Ministers--my own
desire--really is to inflict a crushing diplomatic humiliation upon the
present Government of Great Britain. It is composed of incompetent and
objectionable persons. We desire to humiliate them. Yet who is it that
we find taking up the cudgels on their behalf? You--the man whom they
drove out, the man whom from sheer jealousy they ousted from their
ranks. Why, you should be with us, not against us."

"I have no grudge whatever against my party," Julien said. "You seem to
have been misinformed upon that subject. Besides, I am an Englishman
and a patriot. The whole series of my articles will be written, and I
shall do my best to point out exactly the means by which this present
coolness between our two countries has been engineered."

"I will give you," Herr Freudenberg offered, "a million francs not to
write those articles."

Julien pointed to the door.

"You are becoming offensive!"

Herr Freudenberg rose slowly to his feet. There was a little glitter in
his eyes.

"I have gone out of my way," he declared, "to be friendly with you,
most obstinate of Englishmen. That now is finished. You shall not write
those articles."

"You threaten me?"

"I do!"

"There are times," Julien remarked quietly, "when I scarcely know
whether to take you seriously. There is surely a little of the
burlesque about such a statement?"

Herr Freudenberg shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"You think so? Nevertheless, no man whom I have ever threatened has
done the thing against which I have warned him."

Julien turned towards the door to open it. Herr Freudenberg, with
footsteps like a cat, came up behind him. Suddenly he threw his long,
sinewy arm around the other's neck. Taken utterly unprepared, Julien
was powerless. Herr Freudenberg swung him round upon his back and knelt
upon his chest.

"This," he said calmly, "distresses me extremely. Yet what am I to do?"

He whistled softly. The door was opened. Estermen came in with
suspicious alacrity. There was scarcely any need of words. In a moment
Julien's legs and arms were bound and a gag thrust between his teeth.
Herr Freudenberg moved before the door and listened.

"Estermen has reported to me," he remarked, "that you keep no
manservant. Any intrusion here, therefore, is scarcely to be feared.
You will permit me?"

He took one of the tumblers from the tray, rinsed it out with
soda-water, and poured the contents of a small phial into it. Then he
came and stood over Julien.

"My obstinate Englishman," he proceeded, "this tumbler contains the
waters of forgetfulness. Let me assure you upon my honor that the
liquid is harmless. Its one effect is to reduce those who take it to
such a state that for the space of a week or two their mental faculties
are impaired. You will drink this in a few minutes. You will awake
feeling weak, languid, indisposed for exercise, incapable of mental
effort. The doctor will prescribe a tonic, you will go away, but it
will be months before you are able to set yourself to any task
requiring the full use of your faculties. At the end of that time, I
trust that you will have found wisdom. Will you swallow the draught?"

Julien shook his head violently. Herr Freudenberg sighed.

"I was hoping," he continued, "that you would not force me to mention
the alternative. I should dislike exceedingly having to inflict any
more lasting injury upon you, but you stand in my path and I permit no
one to do that. Drink, and in a month or two all will be as it is now.
Refuse, and I shall leave Estermen to deal with you, and let me warn
you that his methods are not so gentle as mine. More men than one who
have been foolish have disappeared in Paris."

"If you move a step this way," a calm voice said from the other end of
the room, "I shall shoot."

Herr Freudenberg turned his head. Estermen, whose nerves were less
under control, gave a little cry. Lady Anne was standing upon the
threshold of the doorway between the two rooms, and in her very steady
hand was grasped a small revolver. The two men were speechless.

"It has taken me some time to find this," Lady Anne went on, "and
longer still to find the cartridges. I do not understand in the least
what has happened, but I am perfectly serious when I tell you that I
shall shoot either of you two if you move a step towards me."

Herr Freudenberg looked into the revolver, looked at Lady Anne and made
her a little bow.

"Mademoiselle," he said, "who you may be I do not, alas! know. Sir
Julien, however, is indeed to be congratulated that he possesses
already so charming and courageous a friend with the entree to his
bedroom."

Lady Anne lifted the revolver a few inches and fired. The bullet struck
the wall barely a foot over Herr Freudenberg's head. A faint puff of
blue smoke floated up towards the ceiling.

"I do not like impertinence," she remarked. "If you have any more such
speeches to make--"

"Mademoiselle, I have none," Herr Freudenberg interrupted, bowing.
"Allow me, on the contrary, to offer you my apologies and to express my
admiration for your bearing. I must, alas! acknowledge myself, for the
moment, vanquished. I shall leave you to release our dear friend, Sir
Julien. But, if you are wise, mademoiselle, if you are really his
friend, you will advise him to obey the injunction which I have sought
to lay upon him to-day. A little affair like this which goes wrong, is
nothing. I have a dozen means of enforcing my words, not one of which
has ever failed."

"I do not know who you are," Lady Anne said calmly, "or what it is
against which you are warning Sir Julien, but I am perfectly certain of
one thing. He will do what is right and what he conceives to be his
duty, without fear of threats from you or any one."

Herr Freudenberg bowed low. Estermen, who had been glancing more than
once uneasily towards the revolver, was already at the door.

"Mademoiselle," Herr Freudenberg declared, "bravery is a splendid gift,
discretion a finer. Sir Julien knows who I am and he knows that I have
yet to admit myself vanquished in any scheme in which I engage. He will
use his judgment. Meanwhile, mademoiselle!"

He bowed low, turned and left the room. Lady Anne listened to his
retreating footsteps. Then she crossed the room quickly and bent over
Julien.

"Are you hurt?" she asked breathlessly.

He shook his head. She fumbled for a few minutes with the gag and
removed it.

"Not a bit," he assured her. "Don't put the revolver down yet, but
fetch me a knife. You'll find one on the mantelpiece in the bedroom."

She did as he told her. In a few minutes he was free. He stood up,
gasping.

"The fellow came up behind me," he explained, "while I was walking to
the door. Anne, what a brick you are!"

He held out his hand. She took it, laughing frankly.

"My dear Julien," she exclaimed, "what else could any one do? I heard
the row and,--shall I admit it?--peeped through the keyhole. I couldn't
see anything, so I opened the door softly and heard something of what
was going on. This old revolver was lying on your dressing-table, but I
had an awful hunt for the cartridges. Whoever were those men?"

Julien smiled.

"When I tell you," he said, "you will think that I am mad. Yet this is
the truth. The man with whom you talked was Prince von Falkenberg."

"What, the German Minister?"

Julien nodded.

"It seems incredible, doesn't it? Falkenberg is a man possessed of one
idea--to upset the relations between France and England. For that
purpose he has been paying secret visits to Paris for the last year. He
has corrupted the Press here. He has wormed his way into the confidence
of one or two of the Ministers. The thing is a perfect mania with him.
He has taken it into his head that the articles which Kendricks has
made me promise to write, and the first one of which appeared in _Le
Grand Journal_ yesterday--the one you read at dinner-time--are going
to be exploited as an exposure of his methods. For that reason he came
ostensibly to confirm an offer which he made me some time ago. When I
refused, he offered me a large sum of money--anything to get rid of me
and to stop my writing these articles. Of course I declined, and there
you are."

Lady Anne began to laugh once more.

"Well," she said, "I suppose I'm not dreaming. It sounds like a page
out of an opera-bouffe. That man who was here, whom I threatened to
shoot, was really Prince Falkenberg?"

"There's no doubt whatever about it," Julien assured her. "The very
first night I was in Paris he sent for me. Anne," he went on, turning
once more towards her, "I haven't thanked you half enough. What a nerve
you have! You were splendid!"

"Don't talk rubbish, Julien," she protested. "The stroke of luck was
that I happened to be there. It must have been quite a surprise for him
to see an apparently respectable young woman step out of your bedroom.
I am inclined to fear, Julien, that I am compromised. Anyhow, mother
would say so!"

"Between ourselves," Julien remarked, "I don't think that Falkenberg
will mention the occurrence. Just wait while I put on another collar
and we'll go to that music-hall."

She glanced at the clock.

"I think you shall take me home instead."

He looked at her quickly.

"This affair has upset you!"

"My dear Julien," she said dryly, "what an absurd idea! Of course I am
quite used to these little affairs, to seeing you lie bound and gagged,
and pointing a revolver at that unpleasant-looking Prince, with a
horrible fear inside me all the time that if I did aim at anything I
shouldn't hit it! Nevertheless, I think I'll go home, if you don't
mind."

They descended the stairs and he called a little _voiture_.

"I suppose it would sound silly," he ventured, after a time, "if I said
anything more about thanking you?"

"Ridiculous!" she replied. "But what are you going to do? Are you going
to the police?"

He shook his head.

"I think that Herr Freudenberg, as he calls himself, would be too
clever for me if I tried anything of that sort. You see, I have put
this revolver into my pocket. I am going to avoid the lonely places,
and have Kendricks with me as much as possible."

She nodded.

"Take care of yourself," she advised, in a matter-of-fact tone, as they
turned into the street where Mademoiselle Rignaut lived. "I don't want
to hear of any tragedies."

"When shall I see you again?" Julien asked.

"It depends upon what reply I get from Madame Christophor," she
answered. "She may want me at once, and I don't know yet whether I'll
get an evening out or not! I shall have to leave you to discover that.
Good night!"

She vanished within the dark doorway. Julien stepped back into the
carriage more than a little puzzled. To him Anne had always seemed the
prototype of all that was serene and matter-of-fact. To-night he had
found her unrecognizable. There was something, too, in her face as she
had turned away, a slight tremble in her voice, that bewildered him. As
he drove back to his rooms through the lighted streets, it was strange
that, notwithstanding the exciting adventure through which he had
passed, his thoughts were chiefly concerned with the problem of this
unfamiliar Lady Anne!




CHAPTER VII


LADY ANNE DECLINES


"My dear Julien!"

The Duchess was very impressive indeed. From the depths of an
easy-chair in her sitting-room at the Ritz Hotel she held out both her
hands, and in her eyes was that peculiar strained look which Julien had
only been privileged to observe once or twice in his life. It
indicated, or rather it was the Duchess's substitute for, emotion.
Julien at once perceived, therefore, that this was an occasion.

"First of all," she went on, motioning him to a chair, "first of all,
before I say a single word about this strange thing which has brought
me to Paris, let me congratulate you. I always knew, dear Julien, that
you would do something, that you would not allow yourself to be
altogether crushed by the machinations of that hateful woman."

"Really," Julien began, "I am not quite sure--"

"I mean your letters, of course," she interrupted. "The Duke, when he
finished the first one, said only one thing--'Wonderful!' That is just
how we all feel about them, Julien. I met Lord Cardington only a few
hours before I left London, and he was absolutely enthusiastic. 'If one
thing,' he said, 'will save the country, it is this splendid attack
upon the new diplomacy!'--as you so cleverly called it. The Duke tells
me that that first article of yours is to be printed as a leaflet and
distributed throughout the country."

"I am very glad," Julien said, "to hear all this. Tell me, what brings
you to Paris? Is the Duke with you?"

The Duchess smiled at him reproachfully.

"You ask me what brings me to Paris, Julien? Come, come! You and I
mustn't begin like that. I want you to tell me at once where she is."

"Where who is?"

"Anne, of course! Please don't play with me. Consider what a terrible
time we have all been through."

Julien did not at once reply. His very hesitation seemed to afford the
Duchess a lively satisfaction.

"There!" she declared. "You are not going to pretend, then, that you
don't know? That is excellent. Julien, tell me at once where to find
her. Take me to her."

"I am afraid I can't do that," Julien objected.

"My dear--my dear Julien!" the Duchess protested. "This is all so
foolish. Why should there be any mystery about Anne's whereabouts? I am
not angry. I ought to be, perhaps, but you see I have guessed my dear
girl's secret. I've felt for her terribly during the last few weeks,
but it was so hard to know what to do. It seemed shocking at the time,
but perhaps, after all, the course which she adopted was the wisest."

"I am very glad to hear that you are taking it like that," Julien
remarked, "and I am sure Anne will be. I think the best thing I can do
is to go and see her and tell her that you are here--"

"She does not know, then?" the Duchess interrupted.

"Why, of course not," Julien replied. "I received your note early this
morning--before I was up, in fact--and you begged me so earnestly to
come round at once that I came straight here without calling anywhere."

The Duchess coughed.

"Very well, Julien, I will leave you to go and fetch Anne whenever you
like. I shall await you here impatiently. Tell me how it was that you
both managed to deceive us so completely?"

Julien shook his head.

"I haven't the slightest notion what you mean."

The Duchess shrugged her shoulders.

"For my part," she said, "I always looked upon dear Anne as the most
unemotional, unsentimental person. Naturally I thought that she was a
little attracted towards you, but on the other hand I had no idea that
she looked upon marriage as anything but a reasonable and necessary
part of life. I had no idea, even, that she had any real affection for
you."

"Affection for me!"

Julien looked up. The Duchess was regarding him as a mother might look
at a naughty child whom she intended to pardon.

"I did notice," she continued, "that Anne seemed very silent for some
time after your departure, and there was a curious lack of enthusiasm
about her preparations for the wedding with Mr. Samuel Harbord. She
scarcely looked, even, at the pearls he gave her. You know that I found
them on the floor of her bedroom after she had gone away? Well, well,
never mind that," the Duchess went on. "When I got her hurried note and
understood the whole affair, I must say that on the whole it was a
relief to me. Dear Anne--she is only like what I was at her age, before
I married the Duke. You ought to be very proud and happy, Julien."

"I should be very happy," Julien declared, "to understand in the least
what you are talking about."

The Duchess stared at him.

"My good man," she cried, "my own daughter runs away on the eve of her
marriage, throws all Society into a commotion, comes to Paris to join
the man whom she cares for--you--you, Julien--and then you affect to
misunderstand!"

Julien was speechless for several moments. He was conscious of a little
wave of strange emotion. The walls of the hotel sitting-room fell away.
He was standing on the edge of the wood behind the shrubbery of
laurels. The smell of the country gardens, the distant music, the
delicious stillness, the queer, troubled look in Anne's eyes, her
suddenly quickened breath, that moment which had passed so soon! It
came back to him with a peculiar insistence during those few seconds!

Then he brushed it away.

"My dear Duchess," he said slowly, "you are laboring under some
extraordinary mistake. Anne and I were very good friends and I think
that we should have made a reasonably contented couple. That, however,
was naturally broken off at once owing to my misfortune. Anne's visit
to Paris, her sudden flight from London, had nothing whatever to do
with me. I met her here entirely by accident. No word has passed
between us which would suggest for a single moment that she looked upon
this matter any differently!"

The Duchess listened to him steadily. At first there were signs of a
coming storm. Like a skilful general, however, she abandoned her
position and changed her tactics. She got up and walked to the window,
produced a handkerchief from her pocket, and stood dabbing her eyes.
She looked out over the Place Vendome. Julien, who had not the least
idea what to say, kept silent.

"Julien," she said at last, turning around, "this--this is a blow to
me. If what you say is true, and of course it is, dear Anne's life is
ruined. At present every one sympathizes with her. You know, Samuel
Harbord, notwithstanding his enormous wealth--you have no idea, Julien,
how horrid he was about the settlements--is very unpopular. There wasn't
a soul except his own people who didn't thoroughly enjoy his position.
Anne had run away to Paris, they all said, because she declined to give
up her old sweetheart. You know what they will all say now? She came
and you would have none of her! I ask you, Julien, as a man of the
world, isn't that the view people are bound to take?"

"It is a very stupid view," Julien declared. "Anne cares no more for me
than for any other man. She isn't that sort. Even if I were in a
position to marry any one, I am quite sure that she would refuse me."

The Duchess began to see her way. She tried, however, to banish the
look of relief from her face.

"My dear Julien," she said very gently, "you men, however well you
mean, sometimes make such mistakes. I want to show you what I am sure
you will see to be your duty. Things, of course, can never be as we had
once hoped. On the other hand, I am a mother, Julien, and I want to see
my daughters happy. We are very, very poor, but a little privation is
good for all of us. The Duke will settle two thousand a year upon Anne,
and I am quite sure that you can earn money with that wonderful pen of
yours, and then, of course, there is your own small income."

"Anne doesn't want to marry me, and," he added, after a moment's
hesitation, "I don't want to marry Anne. You forget that I am an
outcast from life. I have to start things all over again. What should I
do with a wife who has been used to the sort of life Anne has always
led?"

"Dear Julien," the Duchess repeated, "I want to show you your duty. If
you do not marry Anne, every one in London will say that she came to
you and you refused her. It is your duty at least to give her the
opportunity. It is unfortunate that she came here, perhaps, but we have
finished with all that. She is here, every one knows that she is here,
and you have been seen together."

Julien rose from his chair and walked up and down the room.

"I haven't talked very much with Anne," he said, pausing after a while,
"but it seems to me that she is making a bid for liberty. She is an
independent sort of girl, you know, after all, although she was very
well content, up to a certain point, to take things as they came. I
don't believe for a moment that she would marry me."

"At least," the Duchess persisted, "do your duty and ask her. If
necessary, even let people know that you have asked her. It is your
duty, Julien."

Julien hesitated no longer.

"Very well," he decided, "since you put it like that I will ask Anne,
but I warn you, I think she will refuse me."

"She will do nothing of the sort," the Duchess declared; "but oh!
Julien, it would make me so happy if you would take me to her, if I
could have just a few minutes' talk with her first, before you said
anything serious."

Julien smiled.

"Dear Duchess, I think not. I will go to see Anne alone. I will ask her
to marry me in my own way. I will tell her that you are here, and
whether she consents to marry me or not, I will bring her to see you.
But my offer shall be made before you and she meet."

"You are a little hard, dear Julien," the Duchess murmured, "but let it
be so. Only remember that the poor dear child may be feeling very
sensitive--she must know that she has placed herself so completely in
your power. Be nice to her, Julien."

The Duchess offered him a tentative but somewhat artificial embrace,
which Julien with great skill evaded.

"We shall see," he remarked, "what happens. I shall find you here, I
suppose?"

The Duchess nodded.

"I have traveled all night," she said, half closing her eyes. "Directly
I saw that it was my duty, I came here without waiting a single second.
I shall lie down and rest and hope, Julien, until I see you both. I
shall hope and pray that you will bring Anne here to luncheon with me
and that we shall have a little family gathering."

Anne was seated before the wide-open window in the little back room
leading from Mademoiselle Rignaut's workshop. A sewing-machine was on
the table in the middle of the apartment, the floor was strewn with
fragments of material. Anne, in a perfectly plain black gown, similar
to those worn by the other young ladies of the establishment, was
making bows. She looked at Julien, as he entered, in blank amazement.
Then a shadow of annoyance crossed her face.

"My dear Julien," she exclaimed, "fancy letting you climb these four
flights of stairs! Besides, these are my working hours. I am not
receiving visitors."

"Rubbish!" Julien interposed. "There's surely no need for you to pose
as a seamstress?"

She laughed.

"Don't be foolish! Why not a seamstress? I am absolutely determined to
do work of some sort. I am tired of living on other people and other
people's efforts. Until I hear from Madame Christophor, or find another
post, I am doing what I am fit for here. Don't make me any more annoyed
than I am at present. I am cross enough with Janette because she will
make me sit in here instead of with the other girls."

He came across the room and stood by her side before the window. The
slight haze of the midsummer morning rested over the city with its
tangled mass of roofs and chimneys, its tall white buildings with funny
little verandas, the sweep of boulevards and statelier buildings in the
distance. She looked up and followed his eyes.

"Don't you like my view?" she asked. "One misses the roar of London. Do
you notice how much shriller and less persistent all the noises are?
Yet it has its own inspiration, hasn't it?"

"Without a doubt," Julien answered. "Of course, you can guess what I
came for?"

"If it were to ask me to lunch," she said, composedly threading her
needle, "I am sorry, but I can't come. I have to make twenty-five of
these bows and I am rather slow at it."

"Luncheon might have followed as an after-thought," he replied. "My
real mission was to suggest that you should marry me."

Lady Anne's fingers paused for a moment in the air. She sat quite
still. Her eyes were half closed. There was a curious little quiver at
her heart, a little throb in her ears. On the whole, however, she kept
her self-control marvelously.

"Whatever put that into your head?" she inquired, going on with her
work.

He hesitated. It was in his mind to tell her of that evening at
Clonarty, to speak of it, to recall that one wave of emotion on which,
indeed, they might have floated into a completer understanding. He
looked at her steadfastly. She was very graceful, very good to look
upon. She sat upright in her poor cane chair, bending over her foolish
little task. But he missed any inspiration which might have guided his
tongue. She looked so thoroughly self-possessed, so splendidly superior
to circumstances.

"Isn't it natural?" he asked. "You and I were always good friends. We
have come together here and we are both a little lonely. I have never
known any one else in the world, Anne," he continued, "with whom I have
been able to think of marriage with more--more content. One might live
quite a pleasant life here. We should not be paupers. At any rate,
there would be no reason for you to sit in this stuffy room making
bows, or to go and write Madame Christophor's letters."

"Is that all?"

Again he was tempted. For a single moment she had raised her eyes and
he had fancied that in that swift upward glance he had seen the light
of an almost eager questioning, an almost pathetic search. He bent
towards her, but she refused obstinately to look at him again.

"Dear Anne," he said, "I have always been fond of you."

Again her fingers were idle. An idea seemed to have occurred to her.
She asked him a question.

"How long is it since you have seen my mother?"

He did not at once reply. She raised her head and looked at him. Then
she knew the truth. She set her teeth and fought. A little sob was
strangled in her throat.

"I left your mother a few minutes ago," he told her. "She arrived in
Paris this morning and sent for me."

Lady Anne worked for a time in silence. Then she laid the bow, which
she had finished, upon the table, and leaned back in her chair,
clasping her right knee with her hands.

"You really are the queerest person, Julien," she declared. "How you
were ever a success as a diplomatist I can't imagine! You came in with
the air of one charged with a high and holy mission. It was so obvious
and yet for a moment it puzzled me. How I would love to have been with
you this morning--with you and my mother, I mean--somewhere behind a
curtain! Never mind, you've done the really right and honorable
thing--you have given me my chance. I am very grateful, Julien."

She looked frankly enough into his face now and laughed. Julien
remained silent.

"Can't you see, both of you," Anne went on, "you silly people, that
something quite alien to us and our set has found its way into my
life--a sort of middle-class complaint--Heaven knows what you would call
it!--but it came just in time to place me in a most awkward position. I
still haven't any doubt that marriage is a very respectable and
desirable institution, but to me the idea of it as a matter of
convenience has suddenly become--well, a little worse than the thing
which we all shudder at so righteously when we pass along the streets
of Paris. Of course, I know," she added, "that's a shocking point of
view. My mother would hold, and you, too, that a legalized sale is no
sale at all, that matrimony is a perfectly hallowed institution, a
perfectly moral state, and all the rest of it. You see, I very nearly
admitted it myself--I very nearly sold myself!"

She shuddered. Then she rose to her feet, straight and splendid, with
all the grace of her beautiful young womanhood.

"Men don't think just as we do about this," she continued. "You are all
much too Oriental. But a woman has at least a right to keep what she
doesn't choose to sell, even if in the end she chooses to give it."

Julien moved a step nearer to her.

"Anne," he said, "supposing one cared?"

Every fibre of her body was set in an effort of resistance. The mocking
laugh rose readily enough to her lips, the words were crushed back in
her throat. Only the faintest shadow shone for a moment in her eyes.

"Ah, Julien," she murmured lightly, "if one cared! But does that really
come, I wonder? Not to such men as you. Not often, I am afraid, to such
women as I."

The door was suddenly opened. Little Mademoiselle Rignaut was covered
with confusion.

"But, miladi," she exclaimed, "a thousand pardons--"

"Janette," Anne interrupted, "if I hear that once more I leave--I seek
another situation."

"But, mademoiselle, then," Mademoiselle Rignaut corrected, "a thousand
pardons indeed! I had no idea--"

"My dear Janette," Lady Anne protested, "why do you apologize for
entering your own workshop? It is foolish, this. I go now, dear Julien,
to put on my hat. You shall drive me to where my mother is staying--the
Ritz, I suppose? Afterwards you shall leave us. Wait in the street
below. I shall be less than two minutes."

Mademoiselle Rignaut was still apologetic as she conducted Julien down
the narrow stairs.

"But indeed," she declared, "there never was a young lady so strange,
with such charming manners, so sweet, as dear Miladi Anne. All the time
she smiles, inconveniences are nothing, one would imagine that she were
happy. And yet at night--"

"At night what?" Julien asked.

Mademoiselle shook her head.

"Miladi Anne is not quite so cheerful as she seems. At night I fancy
that she does not sleep too well. One hears her, and, alas! Monsieur
Sir Julien, last night I heard her sobbing quietly."

"Lady Anne sobbing?" Julien exclaimed. "It seems impossible."

"Indeed, but women are strange!" Mademoiselle Rignaut sighed.




CHAPTER VIII


A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE


Lady Anne came gayly down to the street a few minutes later. She was
still wearing the plain black gown and the simplest of hats.
Nevertheless, she looked charming. Her fresh complexion with its slight
touch of sunburn, her wealth of brown hair, and the distinction of her
carriage, made her everywhere an object of admiration in a city where
the prevailing type of beauty was so different.

"Poor mother!" she exclaimed, as they crossed the Place de l'Opera.
"Tell me, was she very theatrical this morning, Julien?"

Julien smiled.

"I am afraid I must admit that she was," he declared. "I found her very
interesting."

"I hate to talk about her," Anne continued, "it makes one feel so
unfilial, but really she is the most wonderful marionette that ever
lived the perfect life. You see, I have been behind the scenes so long.
Every now and then a little of the woman's nature crops up. Her cut to
Mrs. Carraby, for instance, was quite one of the events of the season.
It was so perfectly administered, so utterly scathing. I hear that the
poor creature went to bed for a fortnight afterwards. Gracious, I hope
I am not distressing you, Julien!" she added hastily.

"Not in the least," Julien assured her grimly. "I have no interest in
Mrs. Carraby."

Lady Anne sighed.

"That's how you men talk when your little feeling has evaporated.
Julien, you're a selfish crowd! You make the world a very difficult
place for a woman."

"I think," he said, "that your sex avenges itself.'

"I am not sure," she replied. "Men so often place the burden of their
own follies upon a woman's shoulders."

"You rebuke me rightly," Julien declared bitterly.

"I was not thinking of you," she told him reproachfully. "I am sorry,
Julien. I should not have said that."

"It was the truth," he confessed, "absolutely the truth. Still, I have
never blamed Mrs. Carraby for my disasters. It was my own asinine
simplicity. Tell me, when shall I see you again? I think I ought to
leave you here."

She laughed.

"You want to know about my interview with mother? Well, you shall know
all about that, I promise you, because I have changed my mind. I intend
to make you an auditor. Don't desert me, Julien, please. Remember, this
is really a trying moment for me. I have to face an irate and obstinate
parent. If friendship is worth anything, come and help me."

"I can't help thinking," he objected, "that your mother would rather
talk to you alone."

"Then you will please to consider me and not my mother," Anne insisted,
as they drew up before the door of the hotel. "I wish you to remain."

The Duchess received them perfectly. She did not attempt anything
emotional. She simply held out both her hands a little apart.

"You dear, sensible people!" she cried. "Anne, how dared you give us
such a shock!"

Anne leaned over and kissed her mother.

"Mother," she announced, "I am not going to marry Julien."

The Duchess started. The expression which flashed from her eyes was
unmistakably genuine.

"Don't talk nonsense, Anne!" she exclaimed sharply.

"No nonsense about it," Anne retorted. "I can't bear to talk when any
one is standing up. Sit down, and in a few sentences I'll let you know
how hopeless it all is."

There was real fear in the Duchess's eyes.

"Anne," she gasped, "is there a man, then?"

"You idiotic person, of course there isn't!" Anne replied. "Why on
earth you should all talk about a man directly a girl breaks away for a
time, I can't imagine. Now sit down there and listen. I brought Julien
along because if you bully me too much I shall make him take me away.
We are excellent friends, Julien and I, and he has been very kind to me
since I came here; but I met him entirely by accident, and if I hadn't
I am quite sure that we might have lived here for years and never come
across one another."

"But I have told every one in London!" the Duchess protested. "I have
explained everything! I have told them how you always loved Julien,
what a terrible blow his troubles were, and how you suddenly found that
it was impossible for you to marry any other man, and like a dear,
romantic child that you are you ran away to him."

"Yes," Lady Anne said dryly, "that's a very pretty story! That's just
what I imagined you would tell everybody when you knew that I'd come
here. That is just," she continued slowly, "what you have been rubbing
into poor Julien this morning before he came to see me. Very well,
mother, up to a certain point it came off, you see. Julien called most
dutifully, found me sitting in an attic--'attic' is the correct word,
isn't it?--and made his declaration. No, I don't think he declared
anything, on second thoughts! He effectually concealed any feelings he
might have had. It was a suggestion which he made."

"My manner of expressing myself," Julien began a little stiffly--

"Your manner of expressing yourself was perfect," Anne interrupted. "It
was a great deal too perfect, my _preux chevalier_. Only you see,
Julien, only you see, mother, Julien offered me exactly what I left
home to escape from. I have come to the conclusion," she went on,
smoothing her skirt about her knees, "that it is most indecent and
wholly improper even to think of marrying a man who does not love you
and whom you do not love."

The Duchess closed her eyes.

"Anne, what have you been reading?" she murmured.

"Not a thing," Anne went on. "I never did read half enough. I'm simply
acting by instinct. Julien and I were engaged for three months and at
the end of that time we were complete strangers. The idea of marrying a
stranger was not attractive to me. Let that go. Julien went. Along came
Samuel--"

"We will not talk about Mr. Harbord," the Duchess interposed hastily.

"Oh, yes, we will! Now so far as Julien was concerned," Anne continued,
"I dare say I should have smothered my feelings because there is
nothing revolting about him. He is quite an attractive person, and
physically everything to be desired. But when it came to a man who was
not a gentleman, whose manners were odious, who offended my taste every
time he opened his mouth--why, you see, the thing couldn't be thought
of! Day by day it got worse. Towards the end he began to try and put
his hands on me. That made me think. That's why I came to Paris."

"Anne," the Duchess declared severely, "you are indecent!"

"On the contrary," Anne insisted, "I think it was the most decent thing
I ever did. Now please listen. I will not come back to England, I will
not marry Julien, I will not think of or discuss the subject of
marriage with any one. I am a free person and I haven't the least
intention of spending my life moping. I am going to have a pleasant
time and I am going to have it in my own way. You have two other
daughters, mother--Violet and Lucy. Unless they change, they are
exactly what you would have them. Be satisfied. Devote your energies to
them and count me a black sheep. You can make me a little allowance, if
you like--a hundred a year or so--but whether I have it or not, I am
either going to make bows in Mademoiselle Rignaut's workshop, or I am
going to be secretary to a very delightful lady--a Mrs. Christophor, or
something of the sort."

The Duchess rose--she had an idea that she was more dignified standing.

"Anne," she said, "I am your mother. Not only that, but I ask you to
remember who you are. The women of England look for an example to us.
They look to us to live regular and law-abiding lives, to be dutiful
wives and mothers. You are behaving like a creature from an altogether
different world. You speak openly of things I have never permitted
mentioned. I ask you to reflect. Do you owe nothing to me? Do you owe
nothing to your father, to our position?"

"A great deal, mother," Anne replied, "but I owe more to myself than to
any one else in the world."

The Duchess felt hopeless. She looked toward Julien.

"There is so much of this foolish sort of talk about," she complained.
"It all comes of making friends with socialists and labor people, and
having such terrible nonsense printed in the reviews. What are we to
do, Julien? Can't you persuade Anne? I am sure that she is really fond
of you."

"I wouldn't attempt to influence her for a single moment," Julien
declared. "I won't say whether I think she is right or wrong. On the
whole, I am inclined to think that she is right."

"You, too, desert me!" the Duchess exclaimed.

"Well, it all depends upon one's conception of happiness, of course,"
Julien replied, "but so far as I am concerned, let me tell you that the
idea of a girl like Anne married to an insufferable bounder like
Harbord, just because he's got millions of money, simply made me boil."

Anne, for some reason or other, was looking quite pleased.

"I am so glad to know you felt like that, Julien. It's really the
nicest thing you've said to me all the morning. Well, that's over now.
Mother, why don't you give us some lunch and take the four o'clock
train back? It's the Calais train, which I know you always prefer."

The Duchess reflected for a moment. There were advantages in lunching
at the Ritz with Julien on one side of her and Anne on the other. She
gave a little sigh and consented.




CHAPTER IX


FOOLHARDY JULIEN


The luncheon in the beautiful restaurant of the Ritz was a meal after
the Duchess's own heart. She was at home here and received the proper
amount of attention. Not only that, but many acquaintances--mostly
foreign, but a few English--paused at her table to pay their respects.
To every one of these she carefully introduced her daughter and Sir
Julien. The situation was not without its embarrassments. Lady Anne,
however, dissipated them by an unaffected fit of laughter.

"Mother thinks she is putting everything quite right by lending us the
sanctity of her presence," she declared. "We have been seen lunching at
the Ritz. After this, who shall say that I ran away from home to meet a
riding master in Paris, or some other disreputable person? I may
perhaps be pitied as the victim of a hopeless infatuation for you,
Julien, but for the rest, if we only sit here long enough I shall be
whitewashed."

The Duchess was a little uneasy.

"I must say, Anne," she protested, "that you seem to have developed a
great deal of levity during the last few days. It's not a subject to be
alluded to so lightly. Ah! now let me tell you who this is. A
wonderfully interesting person, I can assure you. She was born in Paris
of American parents, very wealthy indeed, married when quite young to
Prince Falkenberg, and separated from him within two years. They say
that she lives a queer, half Bohemian sort of life now, but she is
still a great person when she chooses. My dear Princess!"

Madame Christophor, who had entered the room on her way to a luncheon
party, paused for a moment and shook hands. Then she recognized Julien.

"Really," she murmured, "this is most unexpected. My dear Duchess, you
have quite deserted Paris. Is this your daughter--Lady Anne? I scarcely
remember her. And yet--"

"We met yesterday," Lady Anne interrupted promptly. "You know, I want
to be your secretary, Madame Christophor, if you will let me. My mother
has entirely cast me off, so it doesn't matter."

The Duchess made a most piquant gesture. It was really an insufferable
position, but she was determined to remain graceful.

"My dear Madame Christophor," she said, "you have no grown-up children,
of course, so I cannot ask for your sympathy. But I have a daughter
here who is giving me a great deal of trouble. I flatter myself that I
have modern views of life, but Anne--well, I won't discuss her."

Madame Christophor smiled.

"Young people are different nowadays, Duchess," she remarked. "If Lady
Anne really wants to come into life on her own, why not? She can be my
secretary if she chooses. I shall pay her just as much as I should any
one else, and I shall send her away if she is not satisfactory. There
are a great many young people nowadays, Duchess," she continued, "in
very much your daughter's position, who do these odd things. I always
think that it is better not to stand in their way. Sir Julien, I want
to speak to you before you leave this restaurant. I have something
important to say."

The Duchess was a little taken aback. To her it seemed a social
cataclysm, something unheard of, that her daughter should propose to be
any one's secretary. Yet this woman, who was certainly of her own
order, had accepted the thing as entirely natural--had dismissed it,
even, with a few casual remarks. Julien, who since Madame Christophor's
arrival had been standing in his place, was somewhat perplexed.

"You are lunching here?" he asked.

"With the Servian Minister's wife. I shall excuse myself early. It is a
vital necessity that we talk for a few minutes before you leave here.
Five minutes ago I sent a note to your rooms."

"I shall be at your service," Julien replied slowly.

"I shall expect you in the morning," Madame Christophor said, smiling
at Lady Anne. "Don't be later than ten o'clock. I am always at home
after four, Duchess, if you are spending any time in Paris," she added.

They watched her as she passed to the little group who were awaiting
her arrival. She was certainly one of the most elegant women in the
room. Lady Anne looked after her with a faint frown.

"I wonder," she murmured, "if I shall like Madame Christophor?"

"I had no idea, Julien," the Duchess remarked, "that you were friendly
with her."

Julien evaded the question.

"At any rate," he said, turning to Anne, "this will be better for you
than making bows."

"I suppose so," she assented. "All the same, I am very much my own
mistress in that dusty little workshop. If Madame Christophor--isn't
that the name she chooses to be called by?--becomes exacting, I am not
even sure that I shan't regret my bow-making."

"Tell me exactly how long you have known her, Julien!" the Duchess
persisted.

"Since my arrival in Paris this time," Julien answered. "I had--well, a
sort of introduction to her."

"She is received everywhere," the Duchess continued, "because I know
she visits at the house of the Comtesse Deschelles, who is one of the
few women in Paris of the old faction who are entirely exclusive. At
the same time, I am told that she leads a very retired life now, and is
more seen in Bohemia than anywhere. I am not at all sure that it is a
desirable association for Anne."

"Well, you can leave off troubling about that," Anne said. "Remember,
however much we make believe, I have really shaken the dust of
respectability off my feet. Hamilton Place knows me no longer. I am a
dweller in the byways. Even if I come back, it will be as a stranger.
People will be interested in me, perhaps, as some one outside their
lives. 'That strange daughter of the poor dear Duchess, you know,' they
will say, 'who ran away to Paris! Some terrible affair. No one knows
the rights of it.' Can't you hear it all? They will be kind to me, of
course, but I shan't belong. Alas!"

The Duchess was studying her bill and wondering how much to tip the
waiter. She only answered absently.

"My dear Anne, you are talking quite foolishly. I wish I knew," she
added plaintively, a few minutes later, "what you have been reading or
whom you have been meeting lately."

"Don't bother about me," Anne begged. "What you want to do now is to
tell Parkins to pack up your things and I'll come and see you off by
the four o'clock train. Julien must wait outside for my future
employer. What I really think is going to happen is that she's going to
ask for my character. Julien, be merciful to me! Remember that above
all things I have always been respectable. Remind her that if I were
too intelligent I should probably rob her of her secrets or money or
something. I am really a most machine-like person. Nature meant me to
be secretary to a clever woman, and my handwriting--don't forget my
handwriting. Nothing so clear or so rapid has ever been seen."

The Duchess signed her bill, slightly undertipped the waiter and
accepted his subdued thanks with a gracious smile.

"I can see," she said, as they left the room, "that I shall have to
wash my hands of you. Nevertheless, I shall not lose hope."

She shook hands solemnly with Julien, and he performed a like ceremony
with Lady Anne.

"When shall I see you again?" he asked the latter.

"You had better question Madame Christophor concerning my evenings
out," she replied. "It is not a matter I know much about. I am sure you
are quite welcome to any of them."

Julien found a seat in the broad passageway. Several acquaintances
passed to and fro whom so far as possible he avoided. Madame
Christophor came at last. She was the centre of the little party who
were on their way into the lounge. When she neared Julien, however, she
paused and made her adieux. He rose and waited for her expectantly.

"We are to talk here?" he asked.

She nodded.

"In that corner."

She pointed to a more retired spot. He followed her there.

"Order some coffee," she directed.

He obeyed her and they were promptly served. She waited, chatting idly
of their luncheon party, of the coincidence of meeting with the
Duchess, until they were entirely freed from observation. Then she
leaned towards him.

"Sir Julien," she said, "I have read your articles, the first and the
second. You are a brave man."

He smiled.

"Are you going to warn me once more against Herr Freudenberg?" he
asked.

She shook her head.

"If you do not know your danger," she continued, "you would be too
great a fool to be worth warning. Remember that Freudenberg came from
Berlin as fast as express trains and his racing-car could bring him,
the moment he read the first."

"I have already had a brief but somewhat unpleasant interview with
him," Julien remarked.

"I congratulate you," she went on. "Unpleasant interviews with Herr
Freudenberg generally end differently. Now listen to me. I have a
proposition to make. There is one house in Paris where you will be
safe--mine. I offer you its shelter. Come there and finish your work."

Julien made no reply. He sipped his coffee for a moment. Then he turned
slowly round.

"Madame Christophor," he said, "once you told me that you disliked and
distrusted all men. Why, then, should I trust you?"

She winced a little, but her tone when she answered him was free of
offense.

"Why should you, indeed?" she replied. "Yet you should remember that
the man against whose cherished schemes your articles are directed is
the man whom I have more cause to hate than any other in the world."

"Herr Freudenberg," he murmured.

"Prince Adolf Rudolf von Falkenberg," she corrected him. "Do you know
the story of my married life?"

"I have never heard it," he told her.

"I will spare you the details," she continued. "My husband married me
with the sole idea of using my house, my friends, my social position
here for the furtherance of his schemes. Under my roof I discovered
meetings of spies, spies paid to suborn the different services in this
country--the navy, the army, the railway works. When I protested, he
laughed at me. He made no secret of his ambitions. He is the sworn and
inveterate enemy of your country. His feeling against France is a
slight thing in comparison with his hatred of England. For the last ten
years he has done nothing but scheme to humiliate her. When I
discovered to what purpose my house was being put, I bade him leave it.
I bade him choose another hotel, and when he saw that I was in earnest,
he obeyed. It is one of the conditions of our separation that he does
not cross my threshold. That is why I say, Sir Julien, that you have
nothing to fear in accepting the shelter of my roof."

"Madame Christophor," Julien said earnestly, "I am most grateful for
your offer. At the same time, I honestly do not believe that I have
anything to fear anywhere. Herr Freudenberg has made one attempt upon
me and has failed. I do not think that he is likely to risk everything
by any open assaults. In these civilized days of the police, the
telephone and the law courts, one is not so much at the mercy of a
strong man as in the old days. I do not fear Herr Freudenberg."

Madame Christophor shrugged her shoulders.

"My friend," she admitted, "I admire your courage, but listen. You say
that one attempt has already been made to silence you. For every letter
you write, there will be another made. At each fresh one, these
creatures of Herr Freudenberg's will have learned more cunning. In the
end they are bound to succeed. Why risk your life? I offer my house as
a sanctuary. There is no need for you to pass outside it. You could
take the exercise you require in my garden, which is bounded by four of
the highest walls in Paris. You can sit in a room apart from the rest
of the house, with three locked doors between you and the others. You
may write there freely and without fear."

Julien smiled.

"I am afraid it is my stupidity," he said, "but I cannot possibly bring
myself to believe in the existence of any danger. I will promise you
this, if I may. If any further attempt should be made upon me, any
attempt which came in the least near being successful, I will remember
your offer. For the present my mind is made up. I shall remain where I
am."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Ingrate!"

"Not that, by any means," he assured her heartily. "You know that I am
grateful. You know that if I refuse for the moment your offer it is not
because I mistrust you. I simply feel that I should be taking elaborate
precautions which are quite unnecessary."

"I might even spare you," she remarked, smiling, "Lady Anne for your
secretary."

"Even that inducement," he answered steadily, "does not move me."

She sighed.

"You will have your own way," she said, "and yet there is something
rather sad about it. I know so much more of this Paris than you. I know
so much more of Herr Freudenberg. Remember that there are a quarter of
a million Germans in this city, and of that quarter of a million at
least twenty thousand belong to one or the other of the secret
societies with which the city abounds. All of them are different in
tone, but they all have at the end of their programme the cause of the
Fatherland. By this time you will have been named to them as its enemy.
Twenty thousand of them, my friend, and not a scruple amongst the lot!"

He moved in his place a little restlessly.

"One does not fight in these ways nowadays," he protested.

"Pig-headed Englishman!" she murmured. "You to say that, too!"

His thoughts flashed back to those few moments of vivid life in his own
rooms. He thought of Freudenberg's calm perseverance. An uncomfortable
feeling seized him.

"I do not know," she went on, leaning a little towards him, "why I
should interest myself in you at all."

"Why do you, then?" he asked, looking at her suddenly.

She played with the trifles that hung from her chatelaine. He watched
for the raising of her eyes, but he watched in vain. She did not return
his inquiring look.

"Never mind," she said, "I have warned you. It is for you to act as you
think best. If you change your mind, come to me. I will give you
sanctuary at any time. Take me to my automobile, please."

He obeyed her and watched her drive off. Then he went slowly and
unmolested back to his rooms.




CHAPTER X


THE SECOND ATTEMPT


The concierge of Julien's apartments issued with a somewhat mysterious
air from his little lodge as his tenant passed through the door. He was
a short man with a fierce, bristling moustache. He wore a semi-military
coat, always too short for him, and he was so stout that he was seldom
able to fasten more than two of the buttons of his waistcoat.

"Monsieur!"

"What is it, Pierre?" Julien asked. "Any callers for me?"

"There have been callers, indeed, monsieur," Pierre replied, "callers
whose errand I do not quite understand. They asked many questions
concerning monsieur. When they had finished, the man--bah! he was a
German!--he thrust into my hand a hundred franc note. He said, 'No word
of this to Monsieur Sir Julien!' I put the note into the bottom of my
trousers pocket, but I made no response. I am not dishonorable. I keep
the note because these men should think me craven enough to give them
information, to hear their questions, and to say nothing to monsieur,
one of my own lodgers! It was an insult, that. Therefore I keep the
hundred franc note. Therefore I tell monsieur all that these two men
did ask."

"You showed," Julien declared, "a rare and excellent discretion.
Proceed."

"They asked questions, monsieur, on every conceivable subject," Pierre
continued. "Their interest in your doings was amazing. They asked what
meals you took in the house, at what hour you went out and at what hour
you returned. Then the shorter of the two wished to take the room above
yours. I asked him more than double the price, but he would have
engaged it. Then I told him that I was not sure. There was a gentleman
to whom it was offered. They come back this afternoon to know the
result."

"If they find a lodging in this house," Julien said, "I fear that I
must leave."

"It shall be," Pierre decided, "as monsieur wishes. I am not to be
tempted with money when it comes to a question of retaining an old
tenant. The room is let to another. It is finished."

Julien climbed the stairs thoughtfully to his apartments, locked
himself in and sat down before his desk. For an hour or more he worked.
Then there came a timid knock at the door. He looked around, frowning.
After a moment's hesitation he affected not to notice the summons, and
continued his work. The knocking came again, however, low but
persistent. Julien rose to his feet, turned the key and opened the
door.

"Mademoiselle!" he exclaimed, genuinely surprised.

It was Mademoiselle Ixe who glided past him into the room. She signed
to him to close the door. He did so, and turning slowly faced her. She
was standing a few yards away, her lips a little parted, pale
notwithstanding the delicately artistic touch of coloring upon her
cheeks. Her hands were crossed upon the jade top of her lace parasol.
In her muslin gown and large hat she formed a very effective picture as
she stood there with her eyes now fixed upon Julien.

"Mademoiselle," he began, "I do not quite understand."

"Look outside," she begged. "See that there is no one there. I am so
afraid that I might have been followed."

Julien stepped out onto the landing and returned.

"There is no one about at all," he assured her.

She drew a little sigh.

"But it is rash, this! Monsieur Sir Julien, you are glad--you are
pleased to see me? Make me one of your pretty speeches at once or I
shall go."

"But, mademoiselle," Julien said, wheeling a chair towards her, "who
indeed could be anything but glad to see you at any time? Yet forgive
me if I am stupid. Tell me why you have come to see me this afternoon
and why you are afraid that you are followed?"

"Why?" she murmured, looking up into his eyes. "Ah, Monsieur Sir
Julien, it is hard indeed to tell you that!"

Mademoiselle Ixe was without doubt an extraordinarily pretty young
woman. She was famous even in Paris for her figure, her looks, the
perfection of her clothes, the daintiness and distinction of those
small adjuncts to her toilette so dear to the heart of a Parisienne.
Julien looked at her and sighed.

"Perhaps, mademoiselle," he said, "you will find it hard also to tell
me whether you come of your own accord or at the instigation of Herr
Freudenberg?"

She looked genuinely hurt. Julien, however, was merciless.

"It is, perhaps, because Herr Freudenberg has told you that I once lost
great things through trusting a woman that you think to find me an easy
victim?" he went on. "Come, am I to give you those sheets over there,"
he added, pointing to his writing-table, "and promise for your sake
never to write another line, or have you more serious designs?"

"Monsieur Julien," she faltered,--

He suddenly changed his tone.

"Am I cruel?" he asked. "Forgive me, mademoiselle--forgive me,
Marguerite."

She held out her delicately gloved hand towards him; her face she
turned a little away and one gathered that there were tears in her eyes
which she did not wish him to see.

"Take off my glove, please," she whispered. "I did not think you would
be so cruel even for a moment."

He took her fingers in his, fingers which promptly returned his
pressure. His right arm stole around her.

"Monsieur Sir Julien," she continued very softly, "please promise that
you will speak to me no more now of Herr Freudenberg. Tell me that you
are glad I have come. Say some more of those pretty things that you
whispered to me in the Rat Mort."

His arm tightened about her. She was powerless.

"Julien!" she murmured.

He laughed quietly. Suddenly she struggled to escape from him.

"Let me go!" she cried. "Sir Julien, but you are rough. Monsieur!"

He flung her from him back into the chair. In his left hand he held the
pistol he had taken from the bosom of her gown--a dainty little affair
of ivory and silver. He turned it over curiously. She lay back in the
chair where he had thrown her, gripping its sides with tremulous
fingers, her eyes deep-set, distended, staring at him. He thrust the
weapon into his pocket.

"Really," he said, "I thought better of Herr Freudenberg. Why doesn't
he come himself?"

"Oh, he will come!" she answered.

"Will he?" Julien replied. "I should have thought better of him if he
had come first, instead of sending a woman to do his work."

She sat up in the chair. Julien had known well how to rouse her.

"You do not think that he is afraid?" she cried. "Afraid of you? Bah!
For the rest, it was I who insisted on coming. He was troubled. I knew
why. I said to myself, 'It is a risk I will take. I will go to Sir
Julien's rooms. I will shoot him. I will pretend that it was a love
affair. I will go into court all with tears, I will wear my prettiest
clothes, nothing indeed will happen. An affair of jealousy--a moment of
madness. One takes account of these things. Then Herr Freudenberg
himself has great friends here, friends in high places. He will see
that nothing happens.'"

"A very pretty scheme," Julien remarked sarcastically. "Supposing,
however, I turn the tables upon you, mademoiselle. You are here and I
have taken away this little plaything. Would Herr Freudenberg be
jealous if he knew, I wonder?"

She glanced at the door.

"Locked," Julien continued grimly. "Do you still wish me to come and
make pretty speeches to you?" he added. "You are certainly looking
very charming, mademoiselle. Your gown is exquisite. What can I do more
than echo what all Paris has said--that there is no one of her
daughters more bewitching? Can you wonder if I lose my head a little
when I find you here with me in my rooms--a visit, too, of pure
affection?"

She rose to her feet. The patch of color upon her cheeks had become
more vivid.

"You will let me go?" she faltered.

Julien unlocked the door.

"Mademoiselle," he answered, "I shall most certainly let you go. Permit
me to thank you for the pleasure which your brief visit has afforded
me."

The door was opened before her. Julien stood on one side. The smile
with which he dismissed her was half contemptuous, half kindly. Upon
the threshold she hesitated.

"Sir Julien!"

"Mademoiselle Ixe?"

"If there were no Herr Freudenberg," she whispered, "if it were not my
evil fortune, Monsieur Sir Julien, to love him so foolishly, so
absolutely, so that every moment of separation is full of pain, every
other man like a figure in a dream--if it were not for this, Monsieur
Sir Julien, I do not think that I should like to leave you so easily!"

Julien made no reply. She passed out with a little sigh. He heard the
flutter of her laces and draperies as she crossed the passage and
commenced the descent of the stairs. Julien was closing the door when
he heard a familiar voice and a heavy footstep. Kendricks, with a
Gladstone bag in his hand, came bustling up.

"Julien, you dog," he exclaimed savagely, "you're at it again! Why the
devil can't you keep these women at arm's length? What has that pretty
little creature of Herr Freudenberg's been doing here?"

Julien laughed as he closed the door.

"Don't be a fool, David! She wasn't here at my invitation."

"Tears in her eyes!" Kendricks muttered. "Sobbing to herself as she
went down the steps! Crocodile's tears, I know. These d--d women,
Julien! Out with it. What did she come for?"

Julien produced the pistol from his pocket.

"It was," he explained, "her amiable intention to please her lord and
master at the slight expense of my life. Fortunately, the game was a
new one to her and she kept on feeling the bosom of her gown to see
whether the pistol was there still."

"What did you do?" Kendricks demanded.

"What was there for me to do?" Julien replied. "I took her little toy
away and told her to run off. This is the second time, David. Estermen
and Freudenberg have had a shy at me here themselves, and they'd have
gotten me all right but for an accident. I won't tell you what the
accident was, for the moment, owing to your peculiar prejudices. How
are things in London?"

Kendricks threw himself into an easy-chair and began to fill his pipe.

"Julien," he declared, "you've done the trick! I'm proud of my advice,
proud of the result. There isn't a club or an omnibus or a tube or a
public-house where that letter of yours isn't being talked about. They
tell me it's the same here. Have you seen the German papers?"

"Not one."

"Never was such a thunderbolt launched," Kendricks continued. "They are
all either stupefied or hysterical. Freudenberg left Berlin an hour
after he saw the article. You tell me you've met him already?"

"Yes, he's been here," Julien replied. "He offered to make me a Croesus
if I'd stop the letters. When I refused, well, we had a scuffle, and by
Jove, they nearly got me! He means to wipe me out."

"We'll see about that!" Kendricks muttered. "I'm not going to leave
your side till we're through with this little job."

"Madame Christophor suggested that I should go there and finish,"
Julien said. "What do you think of that?"

"Madame Fiddlesticks!" Kendricks retorted angrily. "The wife of
Falkenberg! Do you want to walk into the lion's jaws?"

"She is separated from her husband," Julien reminded him. "My own
impression is that she hates him."

"I'd never believe it," Kendricks insisted. "The fellow has the devil's
own way with these women. Look at that little wretch I met on the
stairs. A harmless, flirting little opera singer a year ago. Now she'd
come here and murder a man against whom she hasn't the slightest
grudge, for his sake. I tell you the fellow's got an unwholesome
influence over every one with whom he comes in contact."

"Have you read to-day's letter?" Julien asked abruptly.

"Read it! Man alive, it made the heart jump inside me! I tell you it's
set the war music dancing wherever a dozen men have come together. I
always thought you had a pretty gift as a maker of phrases, Julien, but
I never knew you dipped your pen in the ink of the immortals. I tell
you no one doubts anything you have written. That's the genius of it.
No one denies it, no one attempts arguments, every one in England and
France whose feelings have been ruffled is already wanting to shake
hands all over again. One sees that giant figure, the world's
mischief-maker, suddenly caught at his job. It's gorgeous! How about
number four?"

"Half written," Julien declared, pointing to his table.

Kendricks went to the door and locked it, went to the cupboard and
brought out the whiskey and soda, undid his Gladstone bag, buttoned a
life preserver on his left wrist, and laid a Mauser pistol on the table
by the side of him.

"Julien," he said, "I feel like the biggest ass unhung, but I am here
with my playthings to be watchdog. Get to your desk and write, man. One
drink first. Come."

They raised their glasses.

"What have you called number three?" Kendricks asked.

"'A Maker of Toys!'" Julien replied.

"Here's damnation to him!" Kendricks said, raising the glass to his
lips. "Now get to work, Julien."




CHAPTER XI


BY THE PRINCE'S ORDERS


Once more mademoiselle sat beneath a canopy of pink roses, surrounded
by obsequious waiters, with the murmur of music in her ears, opposite
the man she adored. Yet without a doubt mademoiselle was disturbed. Her
fixed eyes were riveted upon the newspaper which Herr Freudenberg had
passed into her hand. She was suddenly very pale.

"Send some of these people away," she begged. "I am frightened."

Herr Freudenberg smiled. With a wave of his hand they were alone.

"Dear Marguerite," he said quietly, "compose yourself. All those who
stand in my way and the way of my country must be swept aside, but
remember this. They have all received their warning. I lift my hand
against no one who has not first received a chance of escape."

"He was a man so gallant," she faltered, "so _comme il faut_.
Listen to me, please."

She laid the newspaper upon the table and kept the flat of her hand
still upon it. Then she leaned towards him.

"You will not be angry with me?" she implored. "Indeed I did it to
please you, to win, if I could, a little more of your love. I knew that
this man Sir Julien stood in your path and that you found it difficult
to remove him. An impulse came to me. We had talked together gayly as a
man of gallantry may talk to a woman like myself. It might easily pass
for flirting, those things that he has said. Although you, dear one,"
she added, looking across the table, "know how it is with me when such
words are spoken. Well, I bought cartridges for my little pistol that
you gave me, I thrust it into the bosom of my gown, I wore my prettiest
clothes, and yesterday I went to his rooms."

Herr Freudenberg's cold eyes were suddenly fixed upon her face. His
fingers stopped their drumming upon the tablecloth.

"Proceed!"

"I meant to shoot him," she confessed. "I thought that if I could not
escape afterwards it was so easy for people to believe that he was my
lover, that it was a crime of jealousy, a moment's passion. I said to
myself, too, that you would help so that after all my punishment would
be a very small affair. In no other way it seemed to me could he have
been disposed of so easily."

"Sweet little fool!" Herr Freudenberg murmured. "Did it never enter
into your little brain that you are known as my companion?"

She shook her head.

"That would have counted for nothing. People would not have believed
that I had any other motive. I should have declared that it was a love
affair."

"What happened?"

"He was too quick for me," mademoiselle admitted. "He saw me feel the
spot where the pistol lay concealed. He--he snatched it away."

"And afterwards?" Herr Freudenberg inquired, with the ghost of a smile
upon his lips.

She raised her eyes.

"He let me go," she replied. "He threw open the door and he laughed at
me. Forgive me, please, if I am sad, if indeed I weep. He was a gallant
gentleman."

Herr Freudenberg sighed. Slowly he raised his glass to his lips and
drank.

"It is an amiable epitaph," he declared. "Many a man has gone up to
Heaven with a worse. Cheer up, my little Marguerite. A year or two more
or less in a man's life is no great matter, and after all it was not
one warning which this rash man received. You have not yet read the
account of the affair."

Mademoiselle slowly withdrew the palm of her hand from the paper. The
paragraph was headed:

SHOCKING EXPLOSION IN THE RUE DE MONTPELIER.

She looked up.

"I cannot read it," she murmured. "Tell me."

"It is simple," he replied. "This afternoon an unfortunate explosion
occurred in the house in the Rue de Montpelier where Sir Julien had his
apartments. The whole of the front of the premises was blown away. It
is regrettable," he added, with a little shrug of the shoulders, "that
in all seven people perished, including the concierge. Mr. Kendricks,
an English journalist, was taken away alive, but terribly injured, to
the hospital. His companion, who seems to have been within a few feet
of him when the explosion occurred, was unfortunately blown to pieces.
The details as to his fate might perhaps interfere with your appetite,
but let me at least assure you, my dear Marguerite," Herr Freudenberg
continued, "that such a death is entirely painless. I regret the
necessity for such means, but the man had his chance. I regret, also,
the fate of the other poor people who lost their lives. Unfortunately,
it was necessary to remove Sir Julien in such a way that no suspicion
should be cast upon any one person. The death of the concierge, for
instance, was absolutely essential. He was suspicious about some of my
men who had been making inquiries."

"But it is horrible!" she gasped.

"Little one," he went on, "life is like that. To succeed one has to
cultivate indifference. Sir Julien Portel had many warnings. He knew
very well that if he persisted in writing those articles, he was
braving my defiance. Already he has done mischief enough. The whole
series would have undone the work of the last two years. To-night,"
Herr Freudenberg continued, with a sigh of relief, "we may open the
Journal without apprehensions. There are no more secrets disclosed, no
more of these marvelously written appeals to--"

Herr Freudenberg stopped short. His eyebrows had drawn closer together.
He was gazing at the sheet which he held in his hand with more
expression in his face than mademoiselle had ever seen there before.

"My God!" he muttered.

She, too, bent forward. She, too, saw the article with its heading: "A
Maker of Toys!"

Herr Freudenberg waved her back. Line by line he read the article. When
he had finished, his face was almost ghastly. He drained his glass and
called for the _sommelier_.

"Serve more wine," he ordered briefly.

"What is it that you have seen?" she asked.

"I was a fool not to have been prepared," he answered. "There is
another article in to-night's paper, but of course he would have sent
it off before--before the explosion happened. It is worse than the
others!" he went on hoarsely. "Thank Heaven, that man is out of the
way! I would give a million marks to be able to destroy every copy of
this paper that was ever issued. It is not fair fighting!... It is
barbarous! No longer can I hope for any privacy in this country. You
see--you see, Marguerite? He has written of me openly. 'The Toymaker
from Leipzig!'--that is what he has called me! These two, Kendricks and
he, they saw through me from the first. They knew what it was that I
desired. Damn them!"

Mademoiselle crossed herself instinctively. Once she had been
religious.

"Poor Sir Julien!"

Herr Freudenberg sighed.

"To-morrow night, at any rate," he said, "there will be no article. We
have made sure of that. I pray to Heaven that it may not be too late!"

She shuddered. The service of dinner was resumed.

"Put the paper away," she begged. "Don't let us think of it any more.
After all, as you say, he was warned. Nothing that one feels now can do
any good. Give me some wine. Talk to me of other things."

Estermen came in to them presently. Herr Freudenberg insisted upon his
taking a chair. Once more he dismissed the waiters.

"All goes well," Estermen announced. "There is not an idea at
headquarters as to the source of the explosion. I have been round with
the newspaper men."

"How is Kendricks?" Herr Freudenberg asked.

"Alive, but barely conscious."

"It is a pity," Herr Freudenberg said coldly. "Kendricks is responsible
for a good deal of the trouble. Did you see that to-night's article is
here?"

Estermen nodded.

"He must have been a day ahead," he explained. "It was probably a later
one of the series upon which he was engaged when the thing occurred."

"This one will do sufficient harm," Herr Freudenberg remarked grimly.

Estermen shrugged his shoulders.

"It is true, and yet we have a great start. Public opinion is
thoroughly unsettled. Even those who accepted the _entente_ as the
most brilliant piece of diplomacy of the generation, are beginning to
wonder what really has been gained by it. If I were at Berlin,"
Estermen continued, with a covert glance up at his master, "now is the
time I should choose. To-morrow _Le Grand Journal_ will be silent.
To-morrow I should send a polite notification to the English Government
that owing to the unsettled condition of the country, and the
nervousness of certain German residents, His Imperial Majesty has
thought it wise to send a warship to Agdar."

"The German subjects are a trifle hypothetical," Herr Freudenberg
muttered. "We had the utmost difficulty in persuading an ex-convict to
go out there."

"What does it matter?" Estermen asked. "He is there. He represents the
glorious liberties of the Fatherland. Millions have been spent before
now for the blood of one man."

Marguerite sighed. She was leaning back in her place, watching the
boughs of the lime trees swinging gently back and forth in the night
breeze, the cool moonlight outside, refreshing in its contrast to the
over-lit and overheated auditorium of the music-hall. On the stage a
Revue was in full swing. Mademoiselle Ixe glanced at it but seldom. Her
eyes seemed to be always outside.

"Tell me," she demanded almost passionately, "why cannot one leave the
world alone? It is great enough and beautiful enough. Will Germany be
really the happier, do you think, if she triumphs against England? It
doesn't seem worth while. Life is so short, the joy of living is so
hard to grasp. Don't you think," she added, leaning towards her
companion, her beautiful eyes full of entreaty, "that for one night at
least, all thoughts of your country and of her destinies might pass
away? Let us live in the world that amuses itself, that takes the
pleasures that grow ready to its hand, whose arms are not rapacious,
and whose sword lies idle. Forget for a little time, dear friend. Let
us both forget!"

Herr Freudenberg smiled as he finished his wine.

"Ah! dear Marguerite," he said, "you preach the great philosophy. We
will try humbly to follow in your footsteps. Lead on and we will
follow--up to the Montmartre, if you will, or down to the Rue Royale.
What does it matter, sweetheart, so long as we are together?"

She shivered a little as his fingers touched hers, although her eyes
still besought him. The _vestiaire_ was standing by with her lace
coat. She rose slowly to her feet.

"To the Rue Royale," she decided. "To-night I have no fancy for the
Montmartre."




CHAPTER XII


DISTRESSING NEWS


Mrs. Carraby advanced into the library of the great house in Grosvenor
Square. Her husband had risen from his desk and was standing with his
hands in his pockets upon the hearth-rug. His dress was as neat and
correct as ever, his hair as accurately parted, his small moustache as
effectually twirled. Yet there was a frown upon his face, an expression
of gloomy peevishness about his expression. His wife stood and looked
at him, looked at him and thought.

"You are back early," he said. "What is the matter? You don't look
radiantly happy. I thought you were looking forward so much to this
bazaar."

"I was," she replied. "I am disappointed."

He saw then that her silence was not a matter of indifference but of
anger.

"What's wrong?" he asked quickly.

Her lips parted for a moment. One saw that her teeth were firmly
clenched. There was a wicked light in her strange-colored eyes.

"It was that woman again," she muttered,--"the Duchess!"

"What about her?" Carraby demanded. "She's bound to be civil to you
now, anyway."

"Is she?" Mrs. Carraby replied. "Is she, indeed! Well, her civility
this afternoon has been such that I shall have to give up my stall. I
can't stay there."

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"Nothing except that before everybody she once more cut me dead, cut me
wickedly," Mrs. Carraby declared. "You don't understand the tragedy of
this to a woman. You are not likely to. She did it in such a way this
time that there isn't a person worth knowing in London who isn't
laughing about it at the present moment."

"Beast of a woman!" he muttered.

Mrs. Carraby came a little further into the room. She sank into an
easy-chair and sat there. Her hands were tightly clenched, her face was
hard and cold, her tone icy. Yet one felt that underneath a tempest was
raging.

"You know, Algernon," she went on, "we had some hard times when you
first began to make your way a little. When we first took this house,
even, things weren't altogether easy. Americans can come from nowhere,
do the most outrageous things in the world, and take London by storm.
London, on the other hand, is cruel to English people who have only
their money. She was cruel to us, Algernon, but with all the snubs and
all the difficulties I ever had, nothing has ever happened to me like
to-day."

"You'll get over it."

"Get over it!" she repeated. "Yes, but I thought that that sort of
thing was at an end. I thought that when you were a Cabinet Minister no
one would dare to treat me as though I were a social nobody."

"You must remember that the Duchess has a special reason," he reminded
her. "I suppose it's that Portel affair."

"Yes," Mrs. Carraby agreed, "it is the Portel affair."

They were both silent. There wasn't much to be said, for the moment.

"Have you heard," he inquired presently, "whether Lady Anne is with him
in Paris?"

"No," she replied. "Somehow or other, people don't seem to talk scandal
about Lady Anne. They say that she is staying for a time with an old
friend there. Algernon!"

"Yes?"

"Is it true that you are doing so badly at the Foreign Office?" she
asked bluntly.

A little flush mounted almost to his forehead.

"I have had the devil's own luck," he muttered.

"I can't take up a newspaper," she continued bitterly, "without finding
it full of abuse of you. They say that during six weeks the _entente
cordiale_ has vanished. They say that you have lost the friendship
of France, that she trusts us no longer, and that Germany's tone
becomes more threatening and more bullying every day, solely on account
of your weakness."

"We can't afford to risk a war," Carraby explained. "I am a Radical
Minister. I have represented a Radical constituency ever since I came
into Parliament. What the devil should I have to say to my people if
within a couple of months of taking office we were plunged into war?"

"I do not pretend," Mrs. Carraby remarked, "to be an active politician,
but I have heard it said that the best way to avoid war is to show that
you are not afraid of it. They say that that is where Sir Julien Portel
was so splendid. Do you know that the leading article of one of your
own papers this morning declares that Germany would never have dared to
have said so much to us if she had not known that she had only a puppet
to deal with in the Cabinet? You know what all the other papers are
hinting at? Is it true, Algernon, that you gave two hundred thousand
pounds to the party?"

"Whether it is true or not," Carraby retorted, "it makes no difference.
I wanted this post, wanted it for your sake as much as my own, and I
wish to Heaven that it was at the bottom of the sea! I'd resign
to-morrow if I could do so with dignity. I can't now, of course. Every
one would say I was chucked. To make things worse," he went on
savagely, "there come these infernal letters of Portel's!"

Mrs. Carraby raised her eyebrows.

"Why, I've heard it said that those letters are the one hope this
country has! I have heard it said that but for those letters France and
England would be as far apart to-day as they ever were. I heard it said
only this afternoon that those letters were our only hope of peace.
They were compared with the letters of Junius, whoever he was. Lord
Cardington told me himself that they were the most splendid political
prose he had ever read in his life."

"That may be true enough," Carraby growled, "but they make it all the
harder for me. No doubt Portel was a good Minister. No doubt he was
doing very well in his post. Now he writes these letters every one
remembers it, every one is asking for him back again. It's hell, Mabel!
I wish to God we'd let the man alone!" Mrs. Carraby looked at her
husband steadfastly. She was a little taller than he. She looked at
him, from his well-brushed hair to the trim patent boots which adorned
his small feet. She looked at him and in those strange-colored eyes of
hers were unmentionable things. She turned away and walked to the
window. In imagination she was back again in Julien's rooms. She lived
again through those few minutes. If he had answered differently!

Outside in the square the newsboys were shouting. She had stood before
the window for some time when a familiar name fell upon her ears. She
turned around and touched the bell.

"What is it that you want?" her husband asked.

"A paper," she replied.

A very correct butler brought her the _Pall Mall Gazette_ a moment
or two later. She scanned it eagerly. Then it slipped from her
shuddering fingers. She turned upon her husband.

"He is dead!" she cried. "Can't you read it? 'Death of an Englishman in
an explosion in Paris. Mr. Kendricks, a journalist, seriously injured;
Sir Julien Portel, the ex-Cabinet Minister,--dead!'"

She stood as though turned to stone. Then something in her husband's
face seemed to bring her back to the present. She turned upon him. Her
face was suddenly lit with some strange, quivering fire. It was one of
the moments of her life.

"You miserable worm!" she shrieked. "You dare to stand there and smile
because a man is dead! You!"

He tried to draw himself up, tried to rebuke her. He might as well have
tried to stem a torrent.

"I've done my best to share your rotten, scheming life," she cried, "to
help you in your dirty ways, and to crawl up into the places we
coveted! Once I saw the truth. Once a real man was kind to me and I saw
the difference. I've felt it in my heart ever since. For your sake and
my own, for the sake of our rotten, miserable ambitions, I ruined him
and sent him to his death. He is dead, do you hear? You and I did it!
We are murderers! And to think that I did it for you! That you--such a
creature as you--might take his place!"

She threw up her hands high above her head. There had been people who
had doubted her good looks. No one at that instant would have denied
her beauty. Carraby's eyes were fixed upon her and he was afraid. Even
when she had cast herself face downward upon the couch, and lay with
her head buried in her hands, he dared not go near. He stood there
gazing at her across the room. Perhaps he, too, though his
understanding was less, tasted a little of the poison!

In the splendid library of his palace in Berlin, the maker of toys
leaned back in his chair after a long and successful day's work. There
lingered upon his lips still the remnants of a grim smile, which the
dictation of a dispatch to London had just evoked. His secretary
gathered up his papers. His master was disposed to be genial.

"My young friend," he remarked, "those letters from Paris--they were
stopped just in time, eh?"

"Just in time, indeed, Highness," the young man replied. "I have
friends who write me from there. They assure me that their effect was
tremendous. The cessation of them was indeed an act of Providence."

Prince Falkenberg's lips relaxed. There were hard lines at the corners
of his mouth. Yet if this were indeed a smile, it was no pleasant thing
to look upon!

"An act of Providence, without a doubt!" he exclaimed,--"Providence
which watches always over the destinies of our dear Fatherland!"

"I shall bring you now, Highness, the foreign papers?" the young man
suggested.

"If you please," his master replied. "I read them now, thank Heaven,
with an easier feeling."

The young man retreated and reappeared in a few minutes with a pile of
newspapers. Prince Falkenberg rose and stretched himself, lit a long
black cigar and threw himself into a comfortable chair before the high
window.

"Your Highness will take some coffee, perhaps?" the young man asked.

"Presently."

The great Minister unfolded his newspapers. A reference in the English
_Times_ perplexed him. He turned to the journal which only a few
days ago he had opened with almost a shudder. He undid the wrapper,
shook it open and looked at it. Then suddenly he sat like a man turned
to stone. The cigar burnt out between his teeth, his eyes were riveted
upon that page, the black letters seemed to have become lurid. The
sentences stabbed, he was face to face with the impossible. The paper
which he read was dated on the preceding day. Before him was a fourth
article, dated from Paris, dated less than forty-eight hours ago,
signed "Julien Portel." The title of the article was "The World's Great
Mischief-Maker!" He read on, read from that first sentence to the last,
read the naked truth about himself, saw his motives exposed, his
secret visits to Paris derided, his foibles photographed. He saw
himself the laughing stock of Europe. Then he leaned over and rang the
bell.

"Neudheim," he said, "let it be given out that I leave to-night for
Falkenberg as usual. Let the automobile be prepared for a long journey.
I leave in half an hour."

The young man stared. He had fancied that those flying visits of his
master's for a time were to be discontinued.

"Your Highness goes south?" he asked.

"I drive all night," Prince Falkenberg replied. "See that the Count
Rudolf is prepared to accompany me. Quick! Give the orders."




CHAPTER XIII


ESTERMEN'S DEATH-WARRANT


In the untidy salon of his bachelor apartments in the Boulevard
Maupassant Estermen awaited the coming of his master in veritable fear
and trembling. In all his experience he had never been compelled to
face a crisis such as this. There had been small failures, punished,
perhaps, by a sarcastic word or biting sentence. There had been no
failure to compare with this one! Herr Freudenberg deliberately, and of
his own free choice, was accustomed to take huge risks. When they came
he accepted them, but when they were not inevitable he as sedulously
avoided them. The wrecking of Julien's apartments in the Rue de
Montpelier was by far the most hazardous enterprise which had been
attempted since the days of the toymaker's first secret visits to
Paris. Half a dozen human beings had been done to death in a manner
which invited and even challenged the attentions of the French police.
A terrible risk had been run and run in vain. The blow had been struck
at the very moment when its object was unattainable! Estermen shivered
as he tried to imagine for himself the coming interview. Gone, he
feared, was his life of pleasant luxury among the flesh-pots and easy
ways of Paris; his bachelor apartments, occupied in name by him but of
which the real tenant was his dreaded master. And behind all this
apprehension lurked another grisly and terrible fear! For the twentieth
time during the last few minutes he peered through the closely drawn
Venetian-blind, and his blood ran cold. On the pavement opposite,
before the small table of a cafe, a man was sitting--the same man! For
two days he had been there--a gaunt and silent person with a wonderful
trick of gazing away into space from the columns of his newspaper. But
Estermen knew all about that! He knew, even, the man's name! He knew
that he was one of the most persistent and successful of French
detectives. His name was Jean Charles and he had never known failure.
Estermen looked at him through the blind and his pale face was ugly
with fear.

The moment arrived. The long, gray traveling car, covered with dust,
swung around the corner and stopped below. Herr Freudenberg was
travel-stained and almost unrecognizable in his motor clothes as he
stepped out and passed into the block of apartments. Contrary to his
usual custom, he did not at once present himself before the man who
awaited him in fear and trembling. Estermen heard him enter his own
suite of rooms on the other side of the stairway and give a few brief
orders. Then there was a peremptory knock at the door. Herr Freudenberg
was announced and entered.

To the man who had been waiting for his sentence there was something
terrible in the grim impassivity of Prince Falkenberg's features. His
face was set and white and sphinx-like. Only his eyes shone with a
fierce, unusual fire.

"What have you to say, Estermen?" he demanded.

"It was a miracle," Estermen faltered. "Sir Julien descended the stairs
with the copy in his hand to speak to a caller. For seventeen hours he
had been in his rooms, for the following seventeen hours he would
probably have been there, too. For the intervening thirty seconds he
happened to be upon the pavement. It was a miracle!"

This was the end of all the specious story which Estermen had gone over
so often to himself! Yet he had done his cause no harm, for the few
sentences he spoke were the truth.

"You have discovered his present whereabouts?" his master demanded.

Estermen hesitated. He feared that this was another blow which he was
about to deal.

"He is at the house of Madame Christophor in the Rue de St. Paul," he
faltered.

His news, however, did not discompose Prince Falkenberg. On the
contrary, he seemed, if anything, to find the intelligence agreeable.

"Have you made any inquiries as to his condition?"

Estermen shrugged his shoulders.

"The household of Madame Christophor," he replied, "is, as you know,
outside my sphere of influence. It is, besides, incorruptible. I myself
am personally obnoxious to Madame. I could do nothing but wait for your
coming."

Prince Falkenberg stood with his hands behind him, thinking. He had
relapsed into his former grim and impenetrable silence. And while he
waited the sweat stood out in beads upon Estermen's forehead. Greatly
he feared that the worst was to come!

"Have you anything else to say to me?" his master asked.

"Nothing!" Estermen replied, with faltering lips.

Prince Falkenberg's eyes were fierce orbs of light and his servant
quailed before him.

"Have you any reason to believe that the origin of the crime is
suspected?"

It was the question which above all others he had dreaded! Estermen was
a coward and a fluent liar. The latter gift, however, availed him
nothing. He felt as though the nerves of his tongue were being
controlled by some other agency. Against his will he told the truth.

"Jean Charles is watching these apartments!"

"Ah!"

Prince Falkenberg's single exclamation was the death sentence of his
agent. Estermen knew it and his knees knocked one against the other.

"For six years," Prince Falkenberg said, after a moment's pause, "you
have lived an easy and a comfortable life, Estermen,--a life, I dare
say, spent among the gutter vices which would naturally appeal to a
person of your temperament; a life, apart from the small services which
I have required of you, directed altogether by your own inclinations.
Be thankful for those six years. As you well know, but for me they
would have been spent either in prison or in the problematical future
world--a matter entirely at the discretion of the judge who tried you.
It pleased me to rescue you for my own purpose. You were possessed of a
certain amount of low cunning and a complete absence of all ordinary
human qualities, a combination which made you a useful servant of my
will. My one condition has been always before you. The present case
demands your fulfillment of it."

Estermen began to tremble.

"The man may be there by accident," he faltered. "There is no certainty
as yet that I am even suspected. I'm--I'm horribly afraid to die!" he
added, with an ugly little laugh.

"So are most men of your kidney," Prince Falkenberg replied composedly.
"Nevertheless, die you must, and to-night. Write your confession. Make
it clear that one of the victims was your personal enemy. I'll dictate
it, if you like."

"I can do it myself," Estermen muttered. "Let me--let me write the
confession first and then make an attempt to escape," he pleaded. "If I
am taken, the confession shall be found upon me. It will make no
difference. Let me have a chance! I know the secret places of the city.
I have friends who might help me to escape."

Prince Falkenberg watched his agent for a moment in contemptuous
curiosity. Estermen was walking restlessly up and down the few feet of
carpet, his fingers and the muscles of his face twitching. His words
had come with difficulty, as though he had suddenly developed an
impediment in his speech. His sallow complexion had become yellow. His
carefully waxed moustache was drooping, a speck of saliva was issuing
from his lips.

"The request which you make to me," Prince Falkenberg replied, "I
absolutely refuse. I know you and your cowardly temperament too well to
allow you to come alive into the hands of the French police."

"You value your own life highly enough!" Estermen snarled.

"It is not so," Prince Falkenberg asserted. "If I had ever valued my
own life highly, there would have been no Herr Freudenberg; and if the
whole history of Herr Freudenberg is discovered, I follow you, my
friend, post haste. If I seem to be taking any pains to hold my own,
remember that mine is a life which is valuable to the Fatherland. You
have been and you are only a feeder at the troughs. One more or less
such as you in the world makes just the difference of a speck of
dust--that is all."

Estermen shrank cowering into his seat.

"I'd rather live--in torture--in prison or in chains--anywhere!" he
gasped. "I can't think of death!"

Prince Falkenberg was becoming impatient.

"My dear Estermen," he exclaimed, "what prison do you suppose remains
open for the murderer of seven men! You shrink from death. Yet let me
assure you that the guillotine, with the certain prospect of it before
you day after day through a long trial, is no pleasant outlet from the
world for a sybarite. Be a philosopher. Go and die as you have lived.
Write your confession, summon your dearest friend by telephone, give a
little supper--you'll have plenty of time--but see that the affair is
over before midnight! This is my advice to you, Estermen; these are
also my orders, my final orders. If I find you alive when I return, or
the confession unwritten, I will show you how death may be made more
horrible than anything you have yet conceived."

Prince Falkenberg turned on his heel and left the apartment. Estermen
remained for several moments shrinking back in the chair upon which he
had collapsed. Then he rose and with trembling footsteps stole to the
window, peering out from behind the blind. The man at the cafe opposite
was still there!




CHAPTER XIV


SANCTUARY


"This afternoon," Madame Christophor declared, looking thoughtfully at
Julien, "I am going to send you a new secretary."

He turned a little eagerly in his easy-chair.

"Lady Anne!" he exclaimed.

"Are you glad?" she asked.

Julien hesitated. His eyes sought his companion's face. She was seated
at the small writing-table drawn up close to his side, her head resting
upon her left hand, the pen in her right fingers sketching idle figures
at the bottom of the sheet which she had just written. She was wearing
a dress of strange-colored muslin, a shade between gray and silver, but
from underneath came a shimmer of blue, and there were turquoises about
her neck. Her large, soft eyes were fixed steadfastly upon his. There
was a sort of question in them which he seemed to have surprised there
more than once during the last few days. A sudden uneasiness seized
him. His brain was crowded with unwilling fancies. There were, without
doubt, symptoms of coquetry in her appearance. He had spoken of blue as
the one sublime color. As she leaned a little back in her chair,
resting from her labors, he could scarcely help noticing the blue silk
stockings and suede shoes which matched the hidden color of her skirt,
the ribbon which gleamed from the dusky masses of her hair. Madame
Christophor was always a very beautiful and a very elegant woman, and
it seemed to have pleased her during these last few days to appear at
her best. Julien gripped for a moment at his bandaged arm.

"You are in pain? You would like me to change the bandage?" she
suggested almost eagerly.

"Not yet," he replied. "It is still quite comfortable."

She looked at him thoughtfully.

"You have the air of wanting something," she remarked. "Is there
anything that displeases you?"

"Displeases me! If you knew how strange that sounded!" he exclaimed. "I
do not think that any one ever lived with such luxury, or was treated
with so much kindness, as I during the last few days. You make every
second perfect."

Madame Christophor sighed. Almost as Julien finished his speech he
regretted its conclusion. Madame Christophor, on the other hand,
although she sighed, seemed vaguely content.

"You see, the fates against whom you have so great a grievance have
done something to atone," she declared. "No doubt you hated to leave
your work to come and speak to me in the street that afternoon. No
doubt your red-headed journalist friend hated me also. Yet if you had
not come, if my automobile had been detained a few minutes on the
way--ah! it is terrible indeed to think what might not have happened!"

She shivered. A moment later she raised her eyes and continued.

"I think," she said, "you must abandon a little of your hostility
against my sex. It was a woman who worked this mischief in your life
and a woman who was fortunate enough to save it. I think you can almost
cry quits with us, Sir Julien."

He smiled. He was struggling to lead back their conversation to a
lighter level. A certain change in this woman's tone and manner, a
change which was reflected even in her appearance, disturbed him
painfully.

"The balance is already on my side, dear hostess," he assured her. "You
have left me an eternal debtor to your sex. I shall never again indulge
in generalities or wholesale condemnation. It is, after all, foolish.
But tell me why you are sending Lady Anne to help me to-day?"

She watched for any trace of disappointment in his tone. There was
none. On the contrary, his mention of Lady Anne was accompanied by a
slight eagerness which puzzled her.

"I have a few social duties to attend to," she explained a little
vaguely. "Lady Anne is quite efficient. I like her handwriting, too. It
is like herself--clean-cut, legible. There are no hidden pools about
Lady Anne."

"Yet," he said, "a woman always keeps some part of herself concealed."

"You think that Lady Anne, too, has her secret?" Madame Christophor
asked, raising her eyes.

"I think that if she has, she is quite capable of keeping it," he
replied.

There was a knock at the door. Lady Anne entered. She came a few yards
into the room with a slight smile upon her lips, and nodded pleasantly
to Julien. In her slim stateliness, the untroubled serenity of youth
reflected in her smiling face, she represented perfectly the other type
of womanhood. Madame Christophor rose deliberately to her feet. For one
swift moment she measured the things between them. She herself was
conscious of a greater intellectual maturity, a more subtle quality in
her looks, a beauty less describable, more exotic, perhaps, but also
more provocative. The arts of her sex were at her finger-tips, the
small arts disdained by this well-looking and perfectly healthy young
woman. She turned her head quickly towards Sir Julien. It was the idle
impulse of the man or woman who plucks the petals from a flower. Julien
was gazing steadfastly at Lady Anne.... Madame Christophor picked up
her belongings and moved towards the door.

"Be merciless today, my friend!" she exclaimed, pausing upon the
threshold,--"virulent, if you will! _Le Jour_ was screaming at you
last night. Jesen has lost his head a little; or is it the lash of his
master which he feels? How can one tell?"

"After tonight," Julien remarked, with a smile, "who will read _Le
Jour_? I shall tell the story of the purchase of that paper by Herr
Freudenberg. French people will not love to think that the pen of Jesen
has been guided by the hand of Germany."

Madame Christophor made a little grimace.

"My friend," she declared, "my house is, I believe, the safest spot in
Paris, yet there are limits. Remember that you have become a celebrity.
There is an agitation in England to have you back at the Foreign
Office. All Paris is divided upon the subject of your life or death.
And there are men here in the city who seek for you night and day with
death in their hands. My house is sanctuary, but no one can write such
things as you are writing and deem himself secure against any risk."

He smiled at her confidently.

"Yet you would not have me leave out one single line, you would not
have me lower the torch for one second! You suggest caution!--you, who
haven't the word 'fear' in your vocabulary! It is your house, not mine.
There are more bombs to be bought in Paris. Yet tell me, would you have
me spare a single word of the truth?"

She flashed back her answer across the room. For the moment she forgot
Lady Anne. They two were on another plane.

"Not one word," she assured him, with soft yet vibrant earnestness. "I
would have you write the truth in letters of fire upon the clouds, for
all Paris to see. You have a message. See that it goes out."

Madame Christophor closed the door softly behind her. Julien remained
looking at the spot from which she had disappeared. Then he drew a
little breath.

"She is wonderful!" he muttered.

Lady Anne took up her pen. She avoided looking at him.

"Let us begin," she said....

They wrote for hours. Julien was in the mood for this final and fierce
attack upon _Le Jour_ and all the powers that stood behind it. He
held up Falkenberg to derision--the charlatan of modern politics, the
Puck of Berlin, whose one sincerity was his hatred for England, and one
capacity, the giant capacity for mischief! He wound up his article with
a scathing and personal denunciation of Falkenberg, and a splendidly
worded appeal to the French nation not for one moment to be deceived as
to the character of this tireless and ambitious schemer after his
country's welfare. All the time Anne took down his words in fluent and
flowing writing. When at last he had finished, he looked at the sheets
which surrounded her with something like amazement.

"Why, what a pig I've been, Anne!" he exclaimed, glancing from the
table to the clock. "You must have been writing for nearly three
hours!"

She was busy picking up the sheets.

"Quite, I should say," she answered, "but I loved it. Now I am going to
ring for tea, and afterwards you must read it through. We might get the
manuscript down to the office to-night."

"I shall need you when I read it through," he reminded her. "There will
be corrections."

"Either Madame Christophor or I will be here," she replied. "Madame
Christophor may have some other work for me."

He looked at her curiously.

"Even you are different," he murmured.

"Tell me at once what you mean?" she begged.

"I wish I knew," he confessed. "To tell you the truth, Anne, a curious
feeling of detachment seems to have come over me--during the last few
days especially. It is such a short time since I was living the
ordinary sort of mechanical life in London, engaged to be married to
you, and my doings day by day all mapped out--a life interesting, of
course, but without any real variation. And now here I am, hanging on
to life by the thin edge of nothing, writing such things as I should
never have dared to have said from my seat in the House, practically
an adventurer. Do you wonder that sometimes I am not quite sure that it
isn't all a nightmare? I am actually hiding here in Paris from
assassins--in Paris, the most civilized city in the world--the guest of
a woman whose acquaintance I made only because a little manicurist in
Soho insisted upon it. And you, Anne, are here by my side, a
professional secretary, the friend of a milliner, more intimate and on
better terms with me than you were in the days when we were engaged to
be married! What has happened to us, Anne? How did we get here?"

She laughed at him tolerantly.

"We've come a little into our own, I suppose," she remarked. "As for
me, I feel a different woman since I stepped out of the made-to-order
world. And you--well, don't be angry, but you're not nearly so much of
a prig, are you, Julien? You're less starched and more human. Of course
we are more companionable. We are both more human."

He nodded.

"I suppose that so far as I am concerned Kendricks had something to do
with it--he was always trying to make me look at things differently.
But it seems such a short time for such an absolute change."

She was balancing her pen upon the inkpot--keeping her eyes turned from
him.

"It isn't always a matter of time, you know, Julien," she said
thoughtfully. "You were never really a prig--I was never really a
machine for wearing a ready-made smile and a few smart frocks. It took
a shock to make us see things, but neither of us remained wilfully
blind. You'll be back in your world before long and a better man than
ever."

"And you?"

"I have hopes some day of becoming a perfect secretary," she confessed.
"If I fail, I will at least make more bows than any one else in a day."

He leaned towards her, showing a sudden and dangerous forgetfulness of
his bandaged arm.

"Anne," he said firmly, "if I go back, you go back. Sometimes I think
that I shall never regret anything that has happened if--"

The door was softly opened. It was Madame Christophor who entered with
a little pile of letters in her hand. Lady Anne, with slightly
heightened color, rose to her feet. There was something in Madame
Christophor's eyes which was almost fiercely questioning.

"I am not disturbing you, I trust?" she asked slowly. "I bring Sir
Julien some letters."

He caught up the sheets which lay by his side.

"I will not even look at them until I have corrected my article," he
declared.

Madame Christophor settled herself composedly in an easy-chair.

"Lady Anne shall read it aloud," she proposed calmly, "and I will
assist in the corrections. For the French edition I may be able to
suggest. The papers today are most amusing," she continued. "The German
press is almost unreadable. No wonder that there is a price upon your
head, my friend!"

Julien moved restlessly in his place.

"I have had the most extraordinary luck," he remarked. "No other man,
naturally, knew so much of Anglo-German and Anglo-French relations. And
instead of being at home in Downing Street, and muzzled, I happened to
be here on the spot, to run up against Falkenberg, discover his little
schemes, and with my own special knowledge to see through them at once.
No one else ever had such an opportunity."

Madame Christophor smiled enigmatically. She was looking thoughtfully
across at her guest.

"It is not every opportunity in life," she murmured, "which a man knows
how to embrace!"




CHAPTER XV


NEARING A CRISIS


That night, for the first time since his arrival in the house as a
guest, Julien dined downstairs. To his surprise, when he presented
himself in the smaller salon to which he had been directed, he found
the table laid for two only. Madame Christophor, who was standing on
the threshold of the winter-garden opening out from the apartment, read
his expression and frowned.

"You expected Lady Anne to dine?" she asked bluntly.

Julien was taken a little aback.

"It seemed natural to expect her," he admitted.

Madame Christophor moved towards the bell, but Julien intercepted her.
He remembered all that he owed to this woman. He was ashamed of his
lack of tact.

"Dear Madame Christophor," he pleaded, "forgive me if for a moment I
forgot how altered things are. Indeed, it was not a matter of choice
with me. Of course, it will give me the greatest pleasure to dine
tete-a-tete with you!"

He was, perhaps, a shade too impressive, but Madame Christophor, as all
women who greatly desire to read in a man's words what they choose to
find there, hesitated. Finally, with a shrug of the shoulders, she
turned away from the bell.

"Three is such an impossible number," she declared, with well-assumed
carelessness. "Lady Anne has her own salon adjoining her apartment. She
dines there always. If I am without company, I enjoy the rest of being
alone. She is very delightful in her own way, your dear Lady Anne, but
she and I have not much in common. Come and see my roses."

She led the way into the conservatory, a dome-shaped building with
colored glass at the top, fragrant, almost faint with the perfume of
roses and drooping exotics. A little fountain was playing in the
middle. When the butler announced the service of dinner and they
returned to take their places, she left the door open.

"Tonight," she announced, as they sat side by side at the small round
table, "I am going to take advantage of the situation. I am your
hostess and you are an invalid. It is my opportunity to talk. Are you a
good listener, Sir Julien?"

She had dropped her voice almost to a whisper. Those beautiful deep-set
eyes were challenging his. She seemed to have made up her mind that for
that night, at any rate, her beauty should be unquestioned. She wore a
dress of black net, fitting very closely, a wonderful background for
her white skin and the ropes of pearls which were twined about her
neck. He had never seen her _decolletee_, but he remembered
reading in a ladies' fashion paper that a famous sculptor had once
declared her neck and bust to be the most beautiful in Paris. She had
even added the slightest touch of color to her cheeks. There was no
longer any sign of the wrinkles at the sides of her eyes. She read the
half ingenuous, half unwilling admiration in his face, and she laughed
at him.

"Ah, my friend," she murmured, "I can see that you object to the role
of listener! Very well, then, you shall talk. You shall tell me of your
life in England. You shall tell me what dreams have come to you for the
days when once more you shall help to shape the destinies of your
nation. Tell me how you mean to live! Shall you be again--what was it
Lady Anne thought you?--a prig?"

"I am like many other and more famous men," he remarked. "I have
learned much in adversity."

"I read the English papers," she continued presently. "I have also a
large correspondence. Do you know that there is nearly a rebellion in
your party? Questions have been asked about you in the House. Both
sides want you back. There is a feeling that you were allowed to go
much too easily, that the indiscretion of which you were guilty was a
trifle. This man Carraby is what you call--a cad! That does not do in
the high places. Nationality cannot conceal a lack of breeding."

"I have thought over many things," Julien admitted. "If the way is made
clear for me, I shall go back. Why not? I believe that I can serve my
country, and it is the life for which I am best fitted. Carraby may
have his good points, but his ambitions have been a little too
extensive. He would have made a better mayor of the town where he was
born."

"You are right," she declared. "There is no place for such men in the
great world. You will go back. It is written. See--I drink to England's
future Prime Minister!"

She raised her glass, which the butler had just filled with champagne.
She looked into his eyes as she drank and Julien was conscious of a
passing uneasiness. She set the glass down, empty. Her hand lay for a
moment near his.

"You will go back," she murmured. "You will forget. The people whom you
have met in your brief period of adversity will seem to you like
shadows. Is it not so?"

He took her hand and raised it boldly to his lips.

"It will never be like that with you, dear hostess," he assured her.
"There are things which one does not forget."

She did not withdraw her hand. Its pressure upon his fingers was faint
but insistent.

"Do you remember when we first met," she said softly, "how bitter we
were against the others--even at first against one another? You had
been betrayed by that unimportant woman and the whole sex was hateful
to you. I had just come from seeing the tragedy caused by a man's crass
selfishness. I, too, was wearing the fetters. To me the whole of your
sex seemed abominable.... You see," she went on, "my marriage was a
terrible disappointment. I fancied that I was marrying a great man, a
genius, an inspired statesman, and I found myself allied to a political
machine. My wealth--have I told you, I wonder, that I am very
wealthy?--helped him. For the rest, I was a puppet by his side. I
lived in Berlin for one year. Official life in Berlin for an American
woman, even though she be Princess von Falkenberg, is still
intolerable. The men were bad enough, the women worse. I could not
breathe. I was no part of my husband's life. I was no part of any one's
life. The German women did not understand me. My husband--oh, he is
very German in his heart!--only laughed at my complaints. He would have
been perfectly willing to see me become as those others--_hausfrauen_,
bearers of children, a domestic article. So we separated--divorce at that
moment was impossible. I came back to Paris."

"You had no children?" Julien asked.

"One boy," she answered, her eyes becoming very soft. "Do not let us
speak of him for a moment."

The service of dinner continued. Outside, the water from the fountain
fell into the basin with a gentle, monotonous sound. The perfume of the
roses stole through the open doorway. One softly-shaded lamp had been
lit, but the rest of the lofty room remained in shadowy obscurity. The
light from that one lamp seemed to fall full upon Madame Christophor's
beautiful face.

"I loved my boy," she went on. "It was part of my husband's cruelty to
detach him from me. He has the law on his side. I may not even see
Rudolf. Very well, I do my best to steel my heart. I come here to live.
I have many friends, but Falkenberg is the only man to whom I have ever
belonged, and he has treated me as he would have treated one of those
others--his companions for the moment. I have occupied myself here in
work of different sorts. I have tried in my way to do good among women
less happy, even, than I. Wherever I went I saw that every woman who
has sinned, every woman who is miserable, every woman who has become a
blot upon the earth, is what she is by reason of man's selfishness.
Can you wonder that I have grown a little bitter?"

"I wonder at nothing in the woman who has been Falkenberg's wife,"
Julien replied. "He seems to me the most unscrupulous person who ever
breathed. Yet in his way he is marvelously attractive."

"He is," she admitted. "I fell in love with him against my will.
Directly my reason intervened, the madness was over. How old do you
think I am, Sir Julien?"

Julien was a little startled.

"How old?" he repeated.

"A foolish question, of course," she continued. "How could you be
honest! I am twenty-nine years old. I believe that I am the richest
woman in Paris. I am tired of being called brilliant and cynical, of
showing fortune-hunters to the door, of living my life in loneliness.
Falkenberg has sworn that if I take any steps to make a divorce
possible, I shall never see my boy again. I have not seen him, as it
is, for nearly two years. The threat is losing its terrors.... You are
listening, my friend?"

"Of course!"

She turned to the butler. The other servants had already left the room.

"Bring coffee into the winter-garden," she ordered. "Come, Sir Julien."

She lit a cigarette and threw it away almost immediately. Her eyes were
gleaming like stars. She laid her fingers upon his arm as they passed
out into the perfumed air of the conservatory, and he seemed to feel
some touch of the fire that was burning in her veins. She swayed a
little towards him. The color in her cheeks was brilliant. Her bosom
was rising and falling quickly. She was splendidly handsome, nerved up
to great things, a woman inspired by a purpose. Julien was afraid. He,
too, felt something of the excitement of the moment, but his brain
seemed numbed. There was nothing he could say. She threw herself back
into a low chair and drew him down to her side. With her other hand she
caught hold of a cluster of pink roses and pressed their cool blossoms
to her cheek.

"Sir Julien," she murmured, "I have looked so steadfastly into life, I
have striven so hard to find a place there. I have something to give. I
do not come empty-handed. I can place offerings upon the altar of the
great god. I have myself, my brains such as they are, and the golden
key which unlocks the wonderful doors. Can you wonder that I ask for
something in return? I have stood in the marketplace of life, I have
passed down between the stalls, and I am humiliated. There is no life,
there is no career upon this world for a woman. It is a strange
doctrine, perhaps, to preach in these days, but I have searched and I
know it to be the truth. Nature meant woman for man, and if she rebels
there is no seat for her alone among the mighty places. Alone I can win
none of the things I desire. You see, I talk to you like this, nakedly,
because we are of the order of those who understand. You very nearly
married a duke's daughter and became a middle-class politician. Don't
do it. Don't think of it any more, Julien. You were meant for the great
places, and I think--I think--that I was meant to hold the torch to
light you there!"

"Madame Christophor!"

She started at his tone. In the splendid arrogance of her assured
position, her brilliant gifts, her almost inspired individuality,
failure had never occurred to her. Even now she refused to read the
message in his set face.

"You feel, perhaps," she went on, leaning towards him, "that you are
pledged to Lady Anne. Dear Sir Julien, rub your eyes! I want you to
see--all the way to the skies. Lady Anne is a sweet girl who will look
nice at the head of any one's table. She will read the papers and take
an intelligent interest in her husband's work, and ask him trite and
obvious questions to prove that she understands all about it. She will
give you phenacetin when you have a headache, she will fill your house
with the right sort of people. She will be very amiable and very
satisfied. She'll always read the debates and she'll sit up for you at
night in a pretty dressing-gown. And all the time the wall will grow,
brick by brick, and you will look up to the skies and find them empty,
and listen for the music and hear none, and a web will be spun about
your heart, and your brain will be clogged, and the fine thoughts will
go, and you'll never be anything but a successful politician. You
know very well that all the paths to the great pit of unhappiness are
crowded with men who have been successful in their profession."

She swayed even closer towards him, her head a little thrown back, her
eyes inviting him. He scrambled to his feet. Still she held out her
hands.

"Won't you trust me?" she begged. "Believe me that I know the way into
the great places, Julien."

"Listen!" he cried hoarsely. "You have offered me everything except
your love. Thank Heaven you did not offer me that! I love Lady Anne."

"Everything _except_ my love!" she exclaimed, with the first note
of trouble in her tone. "Everything _except_ my love! Are you mad?"

"I love Lady Anne!" he repeated, setting his teeth.

They stood facing one another. She tore a handful of the blossoms from
a syringa tree and commenced crushing them in her fingers. The sound of
footsteps scarcely disturbed her. The butler appeared, followed by Lady
Anne. The former excused himself with a grave face.

"Madame," he announced, "the Prince von Falkenberg is here."

Madame Christophor turned slowly around.

"The Prince von Falkenberg! Where?"

"In the waiting-room, madame."

She moved away. She did not glance towards Julien.

"I come," she announced.


Lady Anne had some letters in her hand, which she handed to Julien. He
threw them hastily aside and drew her suddenly into his arms and into
the shadow of the giant palm.

"Anne," he pleaded, "not because of your mother, not because you would
make me a suitable wife, but because I love you, will you marry me?"

He felt her relax in his arms.

"Julien!" she murmured.

"I didn't finish the sentence," he went on,--"to-morrow at the
Embassy?"

"Absurd!"

"It's the only way," he insisted confidently. "We couldn't be married
in London. All the tribe of Harbord would come and boo, and it would
save no end of gossip and bother when we got back. Anne--I love you
very much and I want you just as soon as I can get you!"

"Of course, if you put it like that," she said softly,--

"Well?"

"This is the only frock I have."

"The Rue de la Paix is at our gates," he reminded her.

"Be sensible," she begged. "You can't show your-self about Paris.
Something terrible will happen."

"Not it!" he replied confidently. "It's too late."

His arm crept a little further around her waist, he drew her even
further back among the drooping palms.

"I think that I like this better than the last time you asked me!" she
whispered.




CHAPTER XVI


FALKENBERG'S LAST EFFORT


"Madame," Prince Falkenberg declared, with a formal bow, "I owe you a
thousand apologies for this visit."

Madame Christophor looked at him across the room, and in her eyes there
was no welcome nor any anger--only surprise.

"You break," she reminded him, "the word of a prince!"

Falkenberg smiled icily.

"There are cataclysms in life," he said, "whirlpools into which one may
sometimes be drawn. One's will is overborne. I myself am in that
unfortunate position."

Madame Christophor looked steadfastly at her visitor. Was it her fancy
or was he really growing older, this man of iron? The story of the last
few weeks was written into his face, there were shadows under his eyes,
a deep line across his forehead.

"Since you are here, be seated," she invited, sinking herself wearily
into a chair. "Tell me as quickly as you can what has brought you?"

"Portel has brought me," Falkenberg answered grimly. "They tell me that
he has taken shelter under the shadow of your petticoats."

"Shelter from your assassins!"

"Precisely!" Falkenberg admitted.

"I do not admire your methods," Madame Christophor remarked. "They seem
to me not only brutal but clumsy. You killed seven men and injured
several others, to no purpose."

"Madame," Falkenberg declared, "to secure the death of that man I would
have destroyed a whole quarter of Paris and every person in it."

Madame Christophor shivered.

"Thorough, as usual, my dear Prince," she murmured. "Nevertheless, I
find such statements loathsome. We should have outlived the days of
barbarity. I do not understand men who deal in such fashion with their
enemies."

Falkenberg frowned.

"There is something between us greater than personal enmity," he
retorted fiercely. "My personal enemy I would deal with in such a
manner as I make no doubt would commend itself to your scruples. Julien
Portel is more than that. He is the enemy of my country. Upon him,
therefore, I shall have no mercy."

"I will not argue with you," she replied. "There is a plainer issue
before us. In passing my threshold you have broken your word of honor.
What do you want?"

"I want Julien Portel!"

Madame Christophor shrugged her shoulders.

"You have wanted him for some little time."

"Never so badly as at this instant," Falkenberg declared bitterly. "He
has set all Europe in a ferment with those infernal letters. He knows
too much. He knows whence came the money which bought _Le Jour_.
He knows every detail of my campaign here."

"There are surely others," she objected, "who must have guessed--"

"But there was no one else," he interrupted, "who had the special
knowledge which Portel has. He came from the Foreign Office, with the
records of the last two years in his mind. At Berlin he and I crossed
swords. He is the only Englishman who has ever caused me a moment's
uneasiness."

"Are you sure," she asked, "that your campaign here has been a wise
one?"

"The wisdom of Solomon," he replied grimly, "can be made to look like
folly by the accident of failure. There is no doubt as to its wisdom.
No one has studied these matters as I have studied them. No one has
seen the truth more clearly. An alliance between England and America is
a matter of a few years only, and when it comes the progress of Germany
is set back for a generation. The one absolute necessity before me was
to cut the bonds between England and France and to settle with England
alone and quickly--diplomatically, if possible; by force of arms as a
last resource. We don't seek war, Henriette. We are not really a
bloodthirsty nation. We seek territory. We need new lands--fruitful
lands, trade, the command of the seas. If we cannot get what we want
by peaceful means, then it must be war. England for the present is
weakly governed. She is in the throes of labor troubles. Her political
parties are ill-balanced. There is a puppet at the Foreign Office. Now
is the time to strike."

"Is it wise to tell me your secrets?" she inquired coldly. "I have no
sympathy for you or your country."

"I have a bargain to strike with you and you must understand," he
answered. "Twenty-four hours ago we dispatched a gunboat to a certain
neutral port which comes under the influence of England. We paid a
German to go there and send us word that he was in danger. We have sent
an intimation to the French and English Governments. To England it is
an insult. I have taken the chance that France has had enough of this
_entente_. Now you understand why I must have Julien Portel before
they can get him back to the Foreign Office, before he can do more
mischief. A strong man in Downing Street at this juncture might upset
everything."

"I understand well enough why you need Julien Portel," she admitted. "I
am still in the dark, however, as to why you imagine that I shall give
him up?"

"Because I am going to buy him from you," Falkenberg asserted.

She glanced across the room at him, half curiously, half scornfully.

"Buy him! You!"

"Exactly," he replied. "You smile because you do not understand. I
offer you a dispensation for your divorce, and your son."

A little tremor seemed to pass through her whole frame. For a moment
she closed her eyes. Then she sprang to her feet and stood quivering
before him.

"This is one of your traps!" she exclaimed. "You don't mean it!"

"To prove that I do," he insisted, "I have brought Rudolf with me to
Paris. He can be in your arms in a few minutes. Look into the street,
if you will."

She crossed the room hastily and lifted the curtain. A low cry broke
from her lips. In the tonneau of the great touring car outside a little
boy was lying back amongst the cushions, asleep.

"He is tired," Falkenberg said slowly, with his eyes fixed upon the
woman. "He has come all the way from Berlin without an hour's rest. Am
I to take him back to-morrow? It is for you to decide."

Madame Christophor turned toward the door. Falkenberg barred the way.

"Not yet!" he declared. "Do you accept my terms?"

"But he is hungry!" she cried. "I can see that he is hungry! And he is
so pale--let me fetch him in."

"Of course he is hungry," his father agreed. "He has also been asking
me questions about you all the way. He believes that he is going to see
you. I, too, believe that. You consent?"

"Tell me exactly what it is that you require?" she demanded.

"Take me to Portel," he answered swiftly. "Inform him that you cannot
any longer permit him the shelter of your roof."

She sat down and began to laugh, softly but in unnatural fashion.
Falkenberg watched her with grim curiosity.

"And then?" she inquired.

He hesitated.

"I have made some plans," he said slowly. "If he passes outside your
doors to-night, he will write no more articles!"

"But the whole of the English Press is clamoring for his return to
power! There will be no need for his pen--he will take up his old
position."

"Precisely!" Falkenberg assented. "It is not my intention that he shall
return to that position!"

Madame Christophor sat with her eyes fixed upon the wall. Then she
began to laugh once more in the same strange manner. Falkenberg was
curious.

"You find my intentions amusing?" he asked.

"I find the situation amusing," she replied. "Half an hour ago I
offered Sir Julien Portel what is left of my life."

Falkenberg stood perfectly still, watching her closely. Then his eyes
filled with a sudden bright light.

"You!" he exclaimed. "You--Princess von Falkenberg--offered yourself to
this man and were refused?"

"You are indeed a genius," she admitted. "I was refused."

There was a brief silence. Falkenberg waited. Madame Christophor
remained silent. Her attitude puzzled him a little. He was afraid to
speak for fear of striking the wrong note. Nevertheless, the onus of
speech was thrust upon him.

"Madame," he said at last, "I anticipate your reply. This man has put
an intolerable insult upon you. While he lives you could never forget
it. There are some privileges still belonging to me. I claim the right
of avenging that affront."

"It comes conveniently--the affront!" she remarked, through her
clenched teeth.

"Conveniently or not, the affront exists!" he cried. "You cannot refuse
me now! You would not have him go unpunished!"

"I am not sure that he was to blame."

"Not to blame?" Falkenberg repeated, with emphasis. "Would you have me
believe that you threw yourself at his head unasked, without
encouragement--you, the proudest woman in France? One does not believe
such folly!"

"Nevertheless, it is the truth," Madame Christophor declared.

Falkenberg smiled incredulously, but he said nothing. Madame
Christophor had found her way once more to the window. She stood there,
looking down into the car. The boy was still asleep. She gripped the
window-curtains with both her hands. He was so pale, so tired, and how
he had grown!

"I give you even his heritage," Falkenberg promised. "Make of him a
Frenchman or an American, if you will. He is your own son. Take him. I
give my firstborn for my country. You will not refuse what I offer?"

Madame Christophor made no answer. Falkenberg, however, saw the longing
in her face. It was enough! He suddenly changed his tactics.

"This Julien Portel," he said,--"it is another woman he prefers."

He saw her bosom heave. The storm against which she had been struggling
all the time seemed on the point of bursting. The hot blood was singing
in her ears, her eyes were aflame. She crossed the room and rang the
bell. Falkenberg was content to wait. He felt that he had won! The
butler appeared almost immediately.

"You will conduct the Prince von Falkenberg into the winter-garden,"
she directed. "He desires to speak to Sir Julien Portel."

"And you?" Falkenberg asked, turning towards her.

A swift gesture showed him her disordered countenance. It was
reasonable.

"I follow," she announced.




CHAPTER XVII


DEFEAT FOR FALKENBERG


Among the palms of Madame Christophor's conservatory, Julien and Lady
Anne were living through a brief new chapter of their history. The
wonderful thing had come to them. It was amazing--almost unrealizable!
A new glamor enveloped the merest trifles. They spoke in halting
sentences, they were at times almost incoherent. The marvel of it was
so great!

Lady Anne was the first to hear the sound of approaching footsteps. She
listened. It was not Madame Christophor who returned. She laid her hand
upon Julien's arm.

"It is Jean, the butler, who comes," she whispered. "He conducts some
one."

On the threshold of the winter-garden, only a short distance away, they
heard Jean's voice.

"Monsieur le Prince will find Sir Julien Portel a few steps further
on."

"Monsieur le Prince!" Anne faltered, with whitening face. "Julien, what
does it mean?"

Julien rose to his feet. The footsteps were close at hand now upon the
tessellated pavement. Then through the drooping palm boughs they saw
him. Julien was standing tense and prepared, his uninjured arm was
ready to strike. Falkenberg was there.

"You!" Julien exclaimed. "Well?"

The iron prince had disappeared. It was Herr Freudenberg, maker of
toys, suave, genial, fascinating, who bowed before them.

"Why so surprised, Sir Julien?" he asked. "You forget that this is my
wife's house. The little difficulties which have existed between us
have to-day, I am happy to say, been removed. I have restored her son
to Madame la Princesse. We are reunited. Henceforth my wishes are the
wishes also of madame. You will present me? It is Lady Anne Clonarty, I
believe?"

They were both bewildered. For the moment Falkenberg was supreme. He
bowed low upon the hesitating words of introduction.

"Dear Lady Anne," he murmured, "do not be prejudiced against me. Sir
Julien believes that I am his enemy. I am not. I am his sincere and
heartfelt admirer."

Lady Anne's eyebrows were slowly raised.

"You have surely," she remarked, "a strange manner of showing such
sentiments!"

Falkenberg smiled whimsically. He had the expression of a penitent boy
who has misbehaved.

"It is at least consistent," he pleaded. "I admire Sir Julien's talents
to such an extent that I am perhaps a trifle too anxious that he should
not use them against my country."

"You haven't forced your way in here to bandy phrases," Julien asserted
a little harshly. "What is it that you want?"

"You!" Falkenberg answered softly. "You, my friend! Madame la
Princesse--my wife, whom you have known as Madame Christophor--finds it
impossible, against my wishes, to offer you any longer the shelter of
her roof. I am here to escort you, if you will, to your new
quarters--to follow you, if I cannot reconcile you to my company."

Julien was startled, Lady Anne incredulous.

"I do not believe," the former declared, "that Madame Christophor
intends any such act of inhospitality."

"As to that," Falkenberg replied pleasantly, "my wife will be here
herself in a few moments. You shall hear what she has to say from her
own lips. You must remember that I have paid a price. I have given up
the guardianship of my son. You yourself," he continued, looking
steadfastly at Julien, "may know if any other cause exists likely to
have influenced my wife in granting my request."

Julien set his teeth, but he did not flinch.

"What is it that you want with me, Prince Falkenberg?" he demanded.
"Another brutal attempt at massacre? I owe you this," he added, raising
his bandaged arm. "Do you imagine that you can continue to use the
methods of other generations with impunity? The thing is absurd. There
are too many who know already the secret of Herr Freudenberg, maker of
toys! There are too many who will know, also, before long, the secret
of the explosion in the Rue de Montpelier!"

Falkenberg nodded gravely.

"I understand," he admitted. "One moves, of course, always, with the
knife at one's heart. Yet, until now, I, personally, am safe. Another
man dies to-night, even as we talk here, and confesses himself guilty
of the Rue de Montpelier affair. But let that pass. We have crossed
swords, Sir Julien, and I frankly admit, although I have gained my end
to-night, that I am worsted. The money I spent to purchase _Le
Jour_ has been thrown away. The months of careful intrigue, the
sacrifices and efforts I have made to destroy the _entente_, have
been rendered almost futile by your diabolical pen. Very well, for what
you have done I will accept defeat--I will accept defeat without
malice. But there is the future."

"What of it?" Julien asked.

"I do not intend," Falkenberg declared, in a low, firm tone, "to have
you back, a member of any English Government. I prefer Carraby and such
as he."

"You flatter me!" Julien remarked grimly.

"Not in the least," Falkenberg objected. "You know the position as well
as I. The political party of which you are a member is in power for a
long time. You have got hold of the middle class, you've bought the
Irish vote, you've bought labor. In the ranks of your party there isn't
a man whom I fear--only you. I will not have you go back."

"But as it happens," Julien announced, "I am going back. I have heard
from England this evening. Your friend Carraby is resigning."

Falkenberg shook his head. He remained calm, but there was an ominous
flash in his eyes.

"You would make a mistake," he asserted. "No one ever goes
back--successfully. Do I not know--I who am twenty years your senior, I
who have felt my way into all the corners and crevices of life? Listen
to me, please."

He drew a chair towards them and sat down, crossing his knees and
looking towards them both in friendly fashion.

"Sir Julien," he said, "and you, my dear young lady, your entire future
depends upon this little conversation. Can you not put it out of your
minds for a few moments that I am the dangerous Falkenberg, the
mischief-maker, the ogre of all respectable Britons? Can you not
remember only that I am a well-meaning, not unkindly old gentleman who
has some good advice to offer? You at least will listen to me, Lady
Anne. Do I look like an assassin by choice? Do I seem like the sort of
person to indulge in these dangerous exercises for mere amusement? You
are both young, you have both your lives before you. Why do you, Sir
Julien, voluntarily put the yoke about your neck? Why do you, my
gracious young lady, suffer the man with whom your life is to be linked
to deliver himself over voluntarily into a state of bondage? Politics
lose all glamor to those who have dwelt within the walls. Sir Julien
has dwelt there and so have I. He knows in his heart whether it is
worth while. One lives always amidst a clamor of evil tongues, a
pestilent trail of poisonous suspicions. One gives up one's life to be
flouted and misunderstood, to be accused of evil motives and every
imaginable crime. When it is all over, when one has time to think of
all that one has missed, one feels that all one has done could have
been done just as well by the next man in the street. That is the end
of it. And against all that, you two have the world before you. You can
be rich--very rich indeed. You can make an idyll of this love of yours.
You can travel around the world in your own yacht, you can visit all
strange countries, you can wander where you will, and all the time
affairs in the world will go on very much the same as if you had stayed
and given the best hours of your life to the dusty treadmill. I am an
old man, Lady Anne, and I have an evil name in your country. They call
me greedy, subtle, and ambitious. I may be all these things, but let me
assure you that if I had my time over again my master could find
another servant and my country another toiler. There are fairer flowers
in life to be plucked than any which can be reached from the high
places in Downing Street or Berlin.... Let me, at least, Lady Anne,
make sure of your support? Mind, I am not threatening now--I plead."

Lady Anne looked at him gravely.

"Sir Julien," she declared, "will answer you for himself."

"But I want your own decision," Falkenberg insisted. "I want you to see
the truth as I see it. I want you to tell me that you agree with me."

She shook her head.

"But I do not!" she exclaimed. "To me you have spoken like a sophist.
One does not gain happiness by seeking it. You may be honest in some
part of what you say--I cannot tell. Only I think that you have
mistaken Sir Julien's ideas--and mine."

"You disappoint me!" Falkenberg murmured.

Sir Julien smiled.

"Not very much, I think," he said. "You always did believe in trying
the hundredth chance. Let us come back to the reasonable part of our
discussion. Do you propose, then, that I should leave this house at
this moment with you?"

"My car is entirely at your service," Falkenberg suggested.

"Do I seem to you so ingenuous?" Julien inquired. "I am wondering what
resources are open to me. I might propose to Lady Anne here that she
telephone for the gendarmes. Why should I not have an escort to take me
to an hotel?"

Falkenberg shrugged his shoulders.

"I like the idea," he admitted. "By all means, do as you say. Only do
me the favor to remember that this is my wife's house and with her
authority I request that you leave it immediately."

"I wonder," Julien asked, "what may be in store for me?--what pleasant
schemes you have hatched?"

Falkenberg shrugged his shoulders.

"Listen," he said,--"if you listen attentively you will hear the murmur
of Paris calling you back. Almost you can hear the falling of a
thousand feet upon the pavements of the boulevards, the voice of life.
You may find an asylum there. Who can tell?"

They heard the soft swirl of a woman's gown passing over the marble
floor. They all turned. It was Madame Christophor who stood there.

"Still here?" she remarked.

Julien frowned.

"It is not my intention to linger," he assured her. "Prince von
Falkenberg has given me your message. I am prepared to go."

Lady Anne moved hastily forward.

"Do you know," she cried, "that they will kill him? Do you know that
this man," she added, pointing to Falkenberg, "has admitted it? Would
you dare to send him out to be butchered in the streets?"

"The young lady exaggerates," Falkenberg protested. "This is a
perfectly respectable neighborhood. What possible harm can come to an
English gentleman? Besides, I have offered him, if he will, the
protection of my car."

Madame Christophor sighed. She waved back Sir Julien.

"Alas!" she exclaimed, "there has been a slight misunderstanding."

She touched a bell which stood on the table by her side. Almost
immediately a tall, pale-faced man in dark clothes appeared, followed
by Jean, the butler.

"My dear Prince," she said to her husband, "I do assure you that you
need have no special anxiety. Let me present to you Monsieur Bourgan of
the French Detective Service. Monsieur Bourgan--the Prince von
Falkenberg--Sir Julien Portel!"

Monsieur Bourgan saluted. The two men looked at him,--as yet they
scarcely understood.

"I suppose," Madame Christophor continued, "that I am a somewhat
nervous woman, but you see I can always plead the privilege of my sex.
I was delighted to have Sir Julien here with me, but in a sense it was
a responsibility. It occurred to me then to send a message to the
Minister of the Police, who happens to be a great friend of mine, and
at his suggestion Monsieur Bourgan here, who is, as I have no doubt you
both well know, very distinguished in the Service, has taken up his
residence in my house. He has occupied, as a matter of fact, the next
room to Sir Julien's. Forgive me," she added, smiling at them all, "if
I kept this little matter secret, but I know that men hate a fuss. I
propose, dear Prince," she added, turning to her husband, "that
Monsieur Bourgan accompanies you to your rooms. You need not fear then
any molestation."

There was an absolute silence. It was broken at last by the Prince von
Falkenberg.

"I must confess," he said slowly, "that I do not altogether
understand."

Madame Christophor faced him with a faint smile upon her lips. The
smile itself told him all that he desired to know.

"But, my dear Prince," she declared, "it is my anxiety for your safety
which induces me to propose this. Only a few minutes ago you were
telling me that you feared that you had become an extremely unpopular
person in Paris, and that the very streets were not safe for you. Under
the circumstances, one can scarcely wonder at it! The French
Government, however, is above all small feelings. A private citizen in
Paris, even though he be an enemy of France, is a person to be
respected. The protection of the detective force of Paris is at your
service. Monsieur Bourgan, you will do me the great favor of conducting
my husband to his rooms. Afterwards you will return here to continue
your watch over Sir Julien."

"I am entirely at your command, madame," Monsieur Bourgan replied.

Falkenberg hesitated for one single moment. He seemed to be measuring
the distance between Julien and himself. Under the pretense of picking
up a match, Monsieur Bourgan was almost between them. Falkenberg
laughed softly, then most graciously he made his adieux.

"Lady Anne," he said, bowing, "one is permitted to wish you every
happiness? Sir Julien, let me assure you," he continued, "that it has
been a pleasure to renew our acquaintance. Dear Henriette," he added,
"this care for my safety touches me! And the boy?"

"He is safe in my room," she assured him. "It is absurd of me, no
doubt, but I have turned the key upon him and placed a footman outside
the door. Take care of yourself, dear Rudolf. Monsieur Bourgan, I know,
will watch over you well. Yet you are one of those who take risks
always."

Falkenberg raised her fingers to his lips.

"Almost, dear Henriette," he murmured, "you make me regret that I ever
have to leave Paris at all."

She leaned a little towards him.

"I bear you no ill-will, Rudolf," she said softly. "Take my advice.
Leave Paris quickly."

His eyes held hers as though seeking for some meaning to her words. She
only shook her head. He turned and followed Jean. Monsieur Bourgan
brought up the rear. Madame Christophor shrugged her shoulders.

"Really," she declared, with a sigh, "life is becoming altogether too
complicated. Never mind, I have got rid of Prince Falkenberg for you,
Sir Julien. Between ourselves, I think that he will receive a hint to
leave Paris, and before very long. Listen--there goes his car."

"Dear Madame Christophor," Lady Anne whispered, "you are wonderful!"

Madame Christophor was already moving away.

"Not really wonderful," she replied. "Only a little human. I must go to
my boy."




CHAPTER XVIII


THE ONE WAY OUT


Estermen started up from his chair. In the unlit room the figure of
his master seemed to have assumed a portentous, almost a threatening
shape.

"Who's that?" he cried out.

Falkenberg calmly turned on the electric light.

"Still here, my friend?" he remarked significantly.

Estermen began to tremble.

"There is plenty of time," he faltered. "I am not sure about the man
opposite. It may be some one else he is watching."

Falkenberg walked to the window and stood there in the full glare of
the light. The man opposite was still sipping his eternal coffee. He
glanced casually at Falkenberg and back at his paper.

"You fool!" the latter said to Estermen. "Can't you see that he is
waiting only to draw the others in? Do you know that I--I, Von
Falkenberg, Chancellor of Germany, have received what they are pleased
to call a hint from the French Minister of Police that it would be
advisable for me to leave Paris? This is your blundering, Estermen!"

"Not mine only," the man muttered. "Do you know that there are those
who wait for you in your rooms?"

Falkenberg turned away.

"Stay here till I return," he ordered.

He turned the key of his own apartments and entered. His servant
hurried up to him.

"There waits for Your Highness," he announced, "the Baron von
Neudheim."

Falkenberg started.

"Here?" he exclaimed.

"In His Excellency's private apartment. There waits also--"

Falkenberg had already departed. He opened the door of his room. His
secretary rose hastily to his feet.

"What do you here, Neudheim?" Falkenberg demanded. "What has happened?"

"Excellency," the young man replied, "there is trouble. Within half an
hour of your leaving, I had important news. I dared not telegraph. I
have followed you. I took a special train from the frontier."

"Go on," Falkenberg said calmly. "It is something serious?"

"Indeed, yes, Your Excellency!" the Baron continued. "It is concerning
the Agdar matter."

Falkenberg's face lit up.

"An ultimatum!" he exclaimed. "So much the better!"

Baron von Neudheim shook his head.

"For once, I am afraid," he said, "we have been trapped. His Excellency
himself sent for me. The reply from Downing Street has been received."

"Well?" Falkenberg interrupted impatiently.

"Your Excellency, the reply to our note is exceedingly courteous. It
states that the unrest referred to had already been reported to the
British Government, and a warship which left Portsmouth under sealed
orders some months ago was instructed to proceed to the port last week.
The note goes on to state that no intimation was given to Germany, as
the British Government was not aware that Germany had any interests,
but it further contains an assurance that the welfare of all white men
will receive equal attention." Falkenberg set his teeth.

"What battleship was sent?" he asked.

"The 'Aida,'" the young man replied slowly,--"a first-class cruiser,
twenty-six thousand tons."

Falkenberg was silent for a moment. His face had grown dark.

"And ours," he muttered, "was a third-rate gunboat! Who in all Downing
Street could have planned a coup like this?"

"It was Sir Julien Portel--his last official action," the Baron
answered. "The papers to-morrow will be full of this. The Press of
Germany and England and France have the whole story."

"Which is to say," Falkenberg exclaimed, "that we are to be the
laughing-stock of Europe! Anything else?"

"There is an imperial summons commanding your presence at Potsdam at
once," Neudheim acknowledged reluctantly.

"I start for the frontier in a quarter of an hour," Falkenberg decided.
"I shall drive to Chalons and telegraph for a special train from
there."

"You will let me accompany you?" the young man begged.

Falkenberg hesitated, then he shook his head.

"No, it is my wish that you return by train. Take a day's holiday, if
you will. You will be back in time."

The young man's expression was clouded. He was obviously disappointed.

"But, Excellency," he pleaded, "there is trouble in Berlin. It is best,
indeed, that I should be by your side."

Falkenberg held out his hand.

"My dear Fritz," he replied, "you will obey my orders, as you always
have done. It is my wish that you return by the ordinary train
to-morrow night."

"There is nothing I can do--no message--"

"Nothing!" Falkenberg interrupted. "Look after yourself. Leave me now,
if you please."

The young man moved reluctantly towards the door.

"Excellency," he protested, "I do not desire a day's holiday. Things in
Berlin are bad. Let us talk together on our way north. You have never
yet known defeat. We can plan our way through, or fight it. Don't tell
me to leave you, dear master!" he wound up, with a sudden change of
tone. "There are still ways."

Falkenberg laid his hand upon the young man's shoulder.

"Fritz," he said, "my orders, if you please! Remember that I never
suffer them to be disputed. Goodbye!"

The young man left the room. As he passed down the stairs he shivered.
Falkenberg passed into an inner apartment. Already he had guessed who
it was waiting for him. Mademoiselle rose to her feet with a little
cry.

"At last!" she exclaimed. "Dear maker of toys, how long you have been!
How weary it has been to wait!"

She came into his arms. He patted her head gently.

"Dear little one!"

"You are taking me to supper?" she begged.

He shook his head. Her face fell, the big tears were already in her
eyes.

"But you are troubled!" she cried. "Oh, come and forget it all for a
time! Isn't that what you told me once was my use in the world--that I
could chatter to you, or sing, or lead you through the light paths, so
that your brain could rest? Let me take you there, dear one. To-night,
if ever, you have the look in your face. You need rest. Come to me!"

He looked at her steadfastly, looked at her feeling as one far away
gazing down upon some strange element in life. Then a thought came to
him.

"Little one," he whispered, "you are irresistible. Wait, then. It may
be as you desire. Only, after supper I pass on."

"And I with you?" she implored.

He shook his head.

"Wait here."

Once more he returned to Estermen's apartments. Estermen was still
there, smoking furiously. The room was blue with tobacco smoke.
Falkenberg regarded him with distaste.

"Make yourself presentable, man," he ordered. "We sup in the Montmartre
and we leave in a few minutes."

"What, I?" Estermen exclaimed, springing up.

"You and I and mademoiselle," Falkenberg told him. "I have made plans.
You may perhaps escape--who can tell?"

Estermen, with a little sob of relief, hurried into his sleeping
apartment. Soon they were all three in the big car, gliding through the
busy streets. It was getting towards midnight and they took their place
among the crowd of vehicles climbing the hill, only wherever the street
was broad enough they passed always ahead. At the Rat Mort they came to
a stand-still. Falkenberg led the way up the narrow stairs, greeted
Albert with both hands, nodded amiably to the _chef d'orchestre_,
the flower girl and the head waiter, who crowded around him.

"For as many as choose to come!" he declared. "The round table! The
best supper in France! It is a gala night, Albert. Serve us of your
best. Mademoiselle will sing. We are here to taste the joys of life."

Albert led the way.

"Ah, monsieur," he said, "it is good, indeed, to hear your voice! There
is no one who comes here who enters more splendidly into the spirit of
the place. When you are here I know that it will be a joyful evening
for all. They catch it, too, those others," he explained. "Sometimes
they come here stolid, British. They look around them, they eat, they
drink, they sit like stuffed animals. Then comes monsieur--dear
monsieur! He talks gayly, he laughs, he waves salutes, he drinks wine,
he makes friends. The thing spreads. It is the spirit--the real spirit.
Behold! Even the dull, once they catch it, they enjoy."

Falkenberg took the cushioned seat in the corner. Close to his side was
mademoiselle, her hand already clasping his. Estermen, gaunt, red-eyed,
still haggard with fear, sat a few feet away.

"Wine!" Falkenberg ordered. "Pommery--bottles of it! Never mind if we
cannot drink it. Let us look at it. Let us imagine the joys that come,
added to those we feel."

Already the wine was rushing into their glasses. Falkenberg raised his
glass.

"To our last supper, dear Marguerite!" he whispered.

She shivered all over. She looked at him, her face was suddenly
strained.

"You jest!"

"Jest? But is it not a night for jests!" he answered. "Why not? Ah,
Marguerite, I take it back! To our first supper! Let us say to
ourselves that to-night we stand upon the threshold of life. Let us say
to ourselves that never before have I seen how blue your eyes shine,
how sweet your mouth, how soft your fingers, how dear the thrill which
passes from you to me. Close to me, Marguerite--close to me, little
one! Our first evening!"

"Dearest," she whispered, "first or last, there could never be another.
It is you who make my life. It is you who, when you go, leave it
desolate."

He held her hand more tightly.

"Ah, little friend," he murmured, "you spoil me with your sweet
phrases! You set the music playing in my heart--the witch music, I
think. Come, we must speak to Estermen," he continued, looking
resolutely away from her. "We cannot have him sitting there glum, a
death's-head at our feast. Estermen, drink, man! Is this a funeral
party? Wake up. Mademoiselle who dances there looks towards you. Why
not? You see, she waves her hand. You have waltzed with her before. Ask
her to sit down with us. I have ordered supper. See, mademoiselle
approaches, Estermen. More glasses, waiter. Open more wine. There is
champagne here for everybody. Mademoiselle does us great honor. Permit
me!"

The little dancing girl obeyed his invitation. She sat by Estermen's
side, but she cast a longing glance at Falkenberg. Their glasses were
filled. Estermen drank quickly, all the time looking about him with the
furtive air of a whipped dog.

"To-night," Falkenberg cried, as he lifted his glass, "I have but one
command--be joyful. Why not? To-night I have Marguerite by my side, and
you--you can choose from the world of Marguerites. There is nothing in
life like this--the hour of midnight, the music of the moment, the wine
of the hour, the woman we love. Drink, Estermen, once more. Fix your
thoughts upon the present. Mademoiselle looks around her. She finds you
dull. She will seek for another admirer. Ah, mademoiselle!" he added,
leaning across the table, "if the sweetest girl in Paris were not here
already by my side, do you think that I would permit you to be for an
instant the companion of a dumb admirer?"

Mademoiselle laughed back into his eyes.

"If monsieur's friend were but as gallant as monsieur himself!"

"He is depressed," Falkenberg declared, "but it passes. Behold! Another
glass like that, Estermen! Drink till you feel it bubbling in your
veins. Look at him now!"

Falkenberg leaned back in his place and pressed his companion's arm.
Indeed, the wine was working its magic. The terror was passing from
Estermen's face. Already he was becoming more natural.

"Leave them alone," Falkenberg said softly. "He will have no relapse.
The wine is in his blood. Ah, Marguerite! never did you seem so sweet
to me as tonight, when my face is set for the cold north! Have you joy
in remembering, little one? Have you sentiment enough for that?"

"I have sentiment enough," she whispered, "to suffer every time you
leave me. To-night I am afraid to let you go. Oh! dear--my dear--take
me with you! I have begged you before, but to-night I beg you in a
different manner. I am afraid to be left alone. I care not where or
whatever the end of your journey may be. Take me with you, dear one. It
is because I love that I ask this!"

He looked at her for a moment and there were wonderful things in his
eyes.

"Ah, little girl," he murmured, "you teach one so much! One passes
through life too often with one's eyes closed, one finds the great
things in strange places, the rarest flowers even by the roadside.
Drink your wine, press my fingers--like that. See, it is the _chef
d'orchestre_ who approaches. You shall sing--sing to me, little
one."

He motioned to the musician, who with a smile of delight held up his
hand to the orchestra. Mademoiselle hummed a few bars. The man who
listened nodded his head. Then he raised his violin, he passed his bow
across the strings. With the touch of his fingers he drew from them a
little melody. Mademoiselle assented. Her head was back against the
wall, her eyes half closed. Then she began to sing; sang so that in a
few moments the passionate words which streamed from her lips held the
room breathless. It was no ordinary music. It was the love prayer of a
woman, starting in sadness, passing on to passion, ending in wild
entreaty. As she finished she turned her head towards her companion.

"You shall not go alone!" she cried, and her words might well have been
the text of her song.

Falkenberg shook his head.

"Something gayer," he begged,--"something more like the wine which
foams in our glasses."

She obeyed him after only a moment's hesitation, yet in the first few
bars her song came to an abrupt end, her voice choked. She leaned
suddenly forward in her place, her face was hidden between her hands.
They all gazed at her curiously.

"Nerves!" one declared.

"Hysterics!" another echoed.

"It is the life they lead, these women," an American explained to a
little party of guests. "They weep or they laugh always. Life with them
quivers all the time. They pass from one emotion to another--they
seldom know which. Look, it is over with her."

It was over, indeed. She raised her head and sang, sang ravishingly,
charmingly, a gay love-song. Falkenberg was the first to applaud her.

"To-night, dear," he murmured, "you are wonderful. You sing from the
heart, your voice has feeling, you bring to one the exquisite
moments.... Behold, the supper arrives! Estermen has made friends now
with his little _danseuse_. Sit closer to me, dear. These are the
golden hours. Give me your hand, look into my eyes, drink with me....
How the minutes pass! There is magic in this place."

Towards four o'clock Falkenberg and his companions came down the narrow
stairs, out into the morning. A fine rain was falling, the pavements
were already wet. Falkenberg was still gay, still laughing and talking.
Behind, a little company--the _chef d'orchestre_, the chief
_maitre d'hotel_, the flower girl--wondering at his generosity,
stood at the head of the stairs to bid him godspeed. He gave a louis to
the _commissionaire_ and called for a special carriage. He had
almost to lift Marguerite inside.

"Dear child," he said, holding her hands, "here we must part for a
time--not for so long, perhaps. Who can tell? It is a comfortable
carriage, this. Here is a handful of money for the fare. It is of no
use to me."

He emptied his pockets into her lap as she sat there. She made no
effort to pick up the shower of gold and silver.

"What do you mean--that it is of no use to you?"

"We drive for home," he answered. "We shall need no money to take us
there. Listen."

He drew her face very close to his.

"When you arrive at your apartment," he said, "you will find there a
little packet from me. Be wise, dear. If chance will have it that we do
not meet again very soon, may it help you to take all out of life that
you can find. Only sometimes when the heart is joyous, when the wine
flows and your feet are keeping time to the music of life, think for a
moment--of one who dwells, alas! in a quieter country. Dear
Marguerite!"

He kissed her, first upon the lips and then lightly on the forehead.
Then gently he thrust away the arms which she had wound around his
neck. He waved to the coachman to drive off. With a little shrug of the
shoulders he took his own place in the great touring car. Estermen,
too, clambered into the tonneau.

"You have supped well, I trust, Henri?" the Prince asked the chauffeur.

"Without a doubt, Excellency," the man replied.

"Then drive for the frontier," Falkenberg ordered. "We will stop you
when we need a rest."

They left Paris in the semi-darkness. They were away in the country
before the faintest gleam of daylight broke through the eastern clouds.
Even then the way was still obscured. It was a stormy morning, and
banks of murky clouds were piled up where the sun should have risen.
The rain still fell. Soon they commenced to ascend a range of hills. At
the summit Falkenberg pulled the check-string.

"Henri," he said, "come in behind here. I will drive for a time--it
will amuse me."

The man descended. Falkenberg took his place at the wheel. Estermen,
obeying his gesture, scrambled into the seat by his side.

"Go to the signpost," his master ordered the chauffeur. "Tell me
exactly, how many miles to Rheims?"

The man clambered up the bank. The gray morning twilight was breaking
now through a sea of clouds. From where they were the vineyards sloped
down to the bank. A thin, curving line of silver marked the course of
the river. Here and there a little gleam of sunlight fell upon the
country below them. Estermen closed his eyes.

"It makes me giddy," he muttered. "I hope that you will drive slowly
down the hill!"

Falkenberg glanced to the left--the chauffeur was still peering at the
milestone. He slipped in the clutch and the car glided off, gathering
speed as though by magic.

"You have left Henri!" Estermen cried. "He is running after us. Stop
the car! Can't you stop it?"

Falkenberg turned his head only once. The stone walls now on either
side seemed flying past them. Estermen looked into his face and quaked
with fear.

"This ride is for you and me alone, my friend!" Falkenberg replied.
"Sit tight and say your prayers, if it pleases you. This is better,
after all, than poison, or the cold muzzle of a revolver at your
forehead. Close your eyes if you are afraid; or open them, if you have
the courage, and see the world spin by. We start on the great journey."

Estermen shrieked. He half rose to his feet, but Falkenberg, holding
the wheel with his right hand, struck him across the face with his left
so that he fell back in his place.

"If you try to leave the car," he said, "I swear that I will stop and
come back. I will shoot you where you lie, like a dog. Be brave, man!
Be thankful that you are going to your death in honorable company and
in honorable fashion! It's better, this, than the guillotine, isn't it?
Look at the country below, like patchwork, coming up to us. Listen to
the wind rushing by. You see the trees, how they bend? You feel the
rain stinging your cheeks? Sit still, man, and fix your thoughts where
you will. Think of mademoiselle _la danseuse_, think of her
kisses, think of the perfume of the violets at her bosom! You see, we
arrive. Watch that corner of the viaduct."

They were traveling now at a terrific speed, falling fast to the level
country. Before them was a high bridge, crossing the river. On the
left, a portion of it was being repaired and a few boards alone were up
for protection. Falkenberg, recognizing the spot for which he had been
looking, settled down in his seat. A grim smile parted his lips.

"Jean Charles will never place his hand upon your shoulder now!" he
cried. "Can you hear the wind sob, Estermen? Soon you'll hear the water
in your ears! Hold fast. Don't spoil the end!"

They were going at sixty miles an hour, and with the slightest swerve
of the steering wheel they turned to the left on entering the bridge
and struck the boards. Henri, in his account of the accident, declared
that although the car turned over before it reached the river,
Falkenberg never left his seat. Estermen, on the other hand, was thrown
violently out, and struck the water head foremost. From the condition
of his body it would seem that death was instantaneous. Falkenberg was
found with his arms locked around the steering wheel, his head bent
forward. He, too, seemed to have been drowned almost immediately. The
steering wheel was jammed, the car wrecked....

The authorities, who had left only a temporary protection while they
repaired the viaduct on the bridge, were severely censured. The makers
of the car were subjected to a very searching cross-examination. The
brakes and the uncertain light were blamed. Henri, who from the
hillside a mile or more back had watched with ghastly face, was the
only one who understood the accident, and he kept silent!




CHAPTER XIX


ALL ENDS WELL


The Duchess of Clonarty was famous for doing the right thing. Three
weeks after the return of Julien and Lady Anne to London, she gave a
large dinner-party in their honor. At a quarter past eight, a
telephone message from the House of Commons was received, explaining
that Sir Julien would be ten minutes late, owing to his having to speak
at greater length than he had first intended upon the Agdar question.
Lady Anne was waiting for him, and they would arrive together certainly
within a quarter of an hour. The Duchess made every use of her
opportunity. She was at her very best during that brief period which
ensued while they waited for the delayed guests.

"You know, my dear Lady Cardington," she explained, raising her voice a
little to indicate that this was not entirely a confidence, "I never
dreamed that dear Anne had so much self-confidence and resolution. Even
now I have scarcely given up wondering at it. If she had only told me
that she was so sincerely attached to Julien, I would never have
listened for one moment to that Harbord affair. It was a mistake, of
course," she rippled on, "but then one learns so much by one's
mistakes. Notwithstanding their wealth, they were most terrible and
impossible people. I am sure the association would have been most
distasteful to the Duke. Poor Henry used to lock himself in his study
when any of them were about the place, and what it would have been if
they were really able to call themselves connections, I cannot imagine.
You were speaking of the Carraby woman a few minutes ago. My dear Eva!
Of course, you have heard about her? Her husband, when he resigned,
gave out that he was obliged to go abroad for his wife's health. My
dear, his wife had already left him, three days before! She was seen in
Paris with Bob Sutherland. I hear the divorce suit is filed. What a
terrible woman!"

"A great escape, I am sure, for Sir Julien," Lady Cardington declared.

The Duchess drew a little breath.

"Poor Julien was always so chivalrous," she murmured. "How thankful
your dear husband must be to think that at last he has one person in
his Cabinet who does command some sort of a following in the country!"

The Duchess delivered her little shaft and moved to the door. Sir
Julien and Lady Anne Portel had just been announced. It was almost a
family dinner. The Duchess took Julien's arm and drew him into a corner
while the others filed past.

"Is it true," she whispered, "that the Carraby woman has bolted?"

Julien nodded.

"I am afraid there isn't a doubt about it," he admitted.

"How are things to-night? Anything new?" she asked.

"Quite calm again," he replied. "The trouble seems to have passed over.
Falkenberg's death upset the whole scheme which was brewing against us,
whatever it may have been. All the notes which are being interchanged
at the present moment are perfectly pacific."

The Duchess sighed.

"After all," she said, "my little visit to Paris was
not so wild. I don't think you would ever have found out about Anne
but for me."

Julien smiled.

"If I really believed that," he assured her, "and I shall try to, then
I should feel that I owed you more than any person upon the earth."

The dinner was a success. Lady Anne seemed certainly to have developed.
She was looking wonderfully handsome, and though her eyes strayed more
than once to the end of the table where her husband was sitting, she
carried on her share of the conversation with just that trifle of
assurance which marks the transition from girlhood to the dignity of
marriage. After the women had left, conversation for a few moments was
necessarily political. The Duke, who read the _Times_ and the
_Spectator_, and attended every debate in the House of Lords,
spoke with some authority.

"I believe," he said firmly, "that we have passed through a crisis
greater than any one, even those in power, know of. It is my opinion
that Falkenberg was the bitter enemy of this country--that it was he,
indeed, who kept alive all that suspicious and jealous feeling of which
we have had constant evidences from Berlin. He was dying all the time
to make mischief. I am sorry, of course, for his tragical end. On the
other hand, I am inclined to believe that his departure from the sphere
of politics was the best thing that has happened to this country for
many years."

"There is no doubt," Lord Cardington declared, "that he was working
hard to estrange France and England. Your letters, Sir Julien, made
that remarkably evident."

"'The good that men do lives after them,'" some one quoted, "also the
evil. I am afraid it will be some time before France and England are on
exactly the same terms."

"I would not be so sure," Julien interposed, setting down his glass.
"The politics of Paris are the politics of France, and the spirit of
the Parisian is essentially mercurial. Besides, the days of the great
alliance draw nearer--the next step forward after the arbitration
treaty. Who can doubt that when that is completed, France will embrace
the chance of permanent peace?"

The Duke rose to his feet.

"Five minutes only I am allowed, gentlemen," he said. "My wife wants
some of us, some of us have to go back to Westminster. I shall ask you,
therefore, before we separate, as this is in some respects an occasion,
to drink to the health of my son-in-law, Sir Julien Portel. Though a
politician of the old type, I do not fail to appreciate what we owe to
the new school. I am a reader of the old-fashioned newspapers, but I
recognize the fact that the modern Press sometimes exercises a new and
wonderful function in politics. It is my opinion that by means of this
modern journalism Sir Julien Portel has maintained the peace of the
world. I ask you, therefore, not only as my private friends and
relatives, but as politicians, to drink to-night to the health of my
son-in-law."

They all rose.

"And with that toast," Lord Cardington added, as he bowed toward
Julien, "let me associate the fervent pleasure felt by all of us in
welcoming back once more the colleague to whom we have so many reasons
to be thankful."

The party broke up soon afterwards. Lady Anne drove back with her
husband to Westminster. She sat by his side in the closed car which had
been her father's wedding present. Her hands, linked together, were
passed through his arm. She was a very well satisfied woman.

"Julien," she declared, "it's lovely to be back here, but I wouldn't
have been without those few weeks in Paris for anything in the world. I
don't think we can ever get back down into the bottom of the ruts, do
you?"

"If ever we feel like it," he answered, smiling, "we'll cross the
Channel again, and take Mademoiselle Janette with us and seek for more
adventures."

"Lovely!" she exclaimed. "I shall hold you to that, mind."

"No need," he replied. "Kendricks is going to stay there as
correspondent for the _Post_. We must go and see him occasionally.
There is no one who understands better the temperament of the Parisian
than he."

"There will be no more Herr Freudenberg to circumvent," she remarked.

"Paris always has its problems," he answered. "Kendricks realizes that.
The plotting of the world takes place within a mile of Montmartre."

They were nearing Westminster. Julien drew his wife towards him and
kissed her.

"I shall only be about twenty minutes, dear," he suggested. "Why not
wait?"

"Of course," she replied. "I have a little electric lamp here, and a
book. I'd love to."

Julien walked blithely into the House. Lady Anne turned on the lamp,
drew out her book, and leaned back among the cushions with a deep sigh
of content.

       *       *       *       *       *

That same night, wandering around Paris, Kendricks met Monsieur,
Madame, and Mademoiselle.

"It is the gallant Englishman!" mademoiselle exclaimed.

"It is the gentleman who ate both portions of chicken!" madame cried,
clapping her hands.

It was a veritable meeting. Kendricks willingly joined their little
party and sat down with them in the brightly-lit cafe. Monsieur ordered
wine.

"The business affairs of monsieur are prospering, I trust?" he said.
"After all, the _entente_ remains."

Kendricks lifted his glass.

"I drink to it!" he exclaimed. "It is the sanest thing to-day in
European politics. Drink to it yourself, monsieur, and you, madame, and
you, mademoiselle. You shall accuse us no longer, we English, of
selfishness or stupidity. For what reason, think you, did we order a
warship to Agdar and brave the whole wrath of Germany?"

Monsieur held out his hand.

"My friend," he declared, "it was a stroke of genius, that. It was what
we none of us expected from any English Minister. It was magnificent. I
confess it--it has altered my opinions. I drink with you now, cordially
and heartily. I drink to the _entente_. I believe in it. I am a
convert."

Kendricks shook hands with every one solemnly. He shook hands last with
mademoiselle, and forgot to release her little fingers for several
moments.

"Tell us of your friend, monsieur?" madame asked politely.

But Kendricks did not hear! He was whispering in mademoiselle's ear.
Her dark eyes were fixed upon the tablecloth, her pretty lips were
parted, a most becoming flush of color was in her cheeks. Monsieur
looked at madame and winked. Madame smiled, well pleased.

"_L'entente!_" monsieur murmured.

Madame nodded.




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