THE FALSE FACES
FURTHER ADVENTURES FROM THE HISTORY OF THE LONE WOLF
BY LOUIS JOSEPH VANCE
I Out of No Man's Land
II From a British Port
III In the Barred Zone
IV In Deep Waters
V On the Banks
VI Under Suspicion
VII In Stateroom 29
VIII Off Nantucket
IX Sub Sea
X At Base
XI Under the Rose
XVI Au Printemps
XVIII Danse Macabre
XIX Force Majeure
OUT OF NO MAN'S LAND
On the muddy verge of a shallow little pool the man lay prone and still, as
still as those poor dead whose broken bodies rested all about him, where
they had fallen, months or days, hours or weeks ago, in those grim contests
which the quick were wont insensately to wage for a few charnel yards of
that debatable ground.
Alone of all that awful company this man lived and, though he ached with
the misery of hunger and cold and rain-drenched garments, was unharmed.
Ever since nightfall and a brisk skirmish had made practicable an
undetected escape through the German lines, he had been in the open,
alternately creeping toward the British trenches under cover of darkness
and resting in deathlike immobility, as he now rested, while pistol-lights
and star-shells flamed overhead, flooding the night with ghastly glare
and disclosing in pitiless detail that two-hundred-yard ribbon of earth,
littered with indescribable abominations, which set apart the combatants.
When this happened, the living had no other choice than to ape the dead,
lest the least movement, detected by eyes that peered without rest through
loopholes in the sandbag parapets, invite a bullet's blow.
Now it was midnight, and lights were flaring less frequently, even as
rifle-fire had grown more intermittent … as if many waters might quench
out hate in the heart of man!
For it was raining hard—a dogged, dreary downpour drilling through a heavy
atmosphere whose enervation was like the oppression of some malign and
inexorable incubus; its incessant crepitation resembling the mutter of
a weary, sullen drum, dwarfing to insignificance the stuttering of
machine-guns remote in the northward, dominating even a dull thunder of
cannonading somewhere down the far horizon; lowering a vast and shimmering
curtain of slender lances, steel-bright, close-ranked, between the trenches
and over all that weary land. Thus had it rained since noon, and thus—for
want of any hint of slackening—it might rain for another twelve hours, or
eighteen, or twenty-four….
The star-rocket, whose rays had transfixed him beside the pool, paled and
winked out in mid-air, and for several minutes unbroken darkness obtained
while, on hands and knees, the man crept on toward that gap in the British
barbed-wire entanglements which he had marked down ere daylight waned,
shaping a tolerably straight course despite frequent detours to avoid the
unspeakable. Only once was his progress interrupted—when straining senses
apprised him that a British patrol was taking advantage of the false truce
to reconnoitre toward the enemy lines, its approach betrayed by a nearing
squash of furtive feet in the boggy earth, the rasp of constrained
respiration, a muttered curse when someone slipped and narrowly escaped a
fall, the edged hiss of an officer's whisper reprimanding the offender.
Incontinently he who crawled dropped flat to the greasy mud and lay
Almost at the same instant, warned by a trail of sparks rising in a long
arc from the German trenches, the soldiers imitated his action, and, as
long as those triple stars shone in the murk, made themselves one with him
and the heedless dead. Two lay so close beside him that the man could have
touched either by moving a hand a mere six inches; he was at pains to do
nothing of the sort; he was sedulous to clench his teeth against their
chattering, even to hold his breath, and regretted that he might not mute
the thumping of his heart. Nor dared he stir until, the lights fading out,
the patrol rose and skulked onward.
Thereafter his movements were less stealthy; with a detachment of their
own abroad in No Man's Land, the British would refrain from shooting at
shadows. One had now to fear only German bullets in event the patrol were
Rising, the man slipped and stumbled on in semi-crouching posture, ready
to flatten to earth as soon as any one of his many overshoulder glances
detected another sky-spearing flight of sparks. But this necessity he was
spared; no more lights were discharged before he groped through the wires
to the parapet, with almost uncanny good luck, finding the very spot where
the British had come over the top, indicated by protruding uprights of a
rough wooden scaling ladder.
As he turned, felt with a foot for the uppermost rung, and began to
descend, he was saluted by a voice hoarse with exposure, from the black
bowels of the trench:
"Blimy! but ye're back in a 'urry! Wot's up? Forget to put perfume on yer
The man's response, if he made any, was lost in a heavy splash as his feet
slipped on the slimy rungs, delivering him precipitately into a knee-deep
stream of foul water which moved sluggishly through the trench like the
current of a half-choked sewer—a circumstance which neither suprised him
nor added to his physical discomfort, who could be no more wet or defiled
than he had been.
Floundering to a foothold, he cast about vainly for a clue to the other's
whereabouts; for if the night was thick in the open, here in the trench
its density was as that of the pit; the man could distinguish positively
nothing more than a pallid rift where the walls opened overhead.
"Well, sullen, w'ere's yer manners? Carn't yer answer a civil question?"
Turning toward the speaker, the man replied in good if rather carefully
"I am not of your comrades. I am come from the enemy trenches."
"The 'ell yer are! 'Ands up!"
The muzzle of a rifle prodded the man's stomach. Obediently he lifted both
hands above his head. A thought later, he was half blinded by the sudden
spot-light of an electric flash-lamp.
"Deserter, eh? You kamerad—wot?"
"Kamerad!" the man echoed with an accent of contempt. "I am no German—I
am French. I have come through the Boche lines to-night with important
information which I desire to communicate forthwith to your commanding
"Strike me!" his catechist breathed, skeptical.
There was a new sound of splashing in the trench. A third voice chimed in:
"'Ello? Wot's all the row abaht?"
"Step up and tike a look for yerself. 'Ere's a blighter wot sez 'e's com
from the Germ trenches with important information for the O.C."
"Bloody liar," the newcomer commented dispassionately. "Mind yer eye.
Likely it's just another pl'yful little trick of the giddy Boche. 'Ere
you!" The splashing drew nearer. "Wot's yer gime? Speak up if yer don't
want a bullet through yer in'ards."
"I play no game," the man said patiently. "I am unarmed—your prisoner, if
"I like, all right. Mike yer mind easy abaht that. But wot's all this
"I shall divulge that only to the proper authorities. Be good enough to
conduct me to your commanding officer without more delay."
"Wot do yer mike of 'im, corp'ril?" the first soldier enquired. "'Ow abaht
an inch or two o' the bay'net to loosen 'is tongue?"
After a moment's hesitation in perplexed silence, the corporal took the
flash-lamp from the private and with its beam raked the prisoner from head
to foot, gaining little enlightenment from this review of a tall, spare
figure clothed in the familiar gray overcoat of the German private—its
face a mere mask of mud through which shone eyes of singular brilliance and
steadiness, the eyes of a man of intelligence, determination, and courage.
"Keep yer 'ands 'igh," the corporal advised curtly. "Ginger, you search
Propping his rifle against the wall of the trench, its butt on the
firing-step just out of water, the private proceeded painstakingly
to examine the person of the prisoner; in course of which process he
unbuttoned and threw open the gray overcoat, exposing a shapeless tunic and
trousers of shoddy drab stuff.
"'E 'asn't got no arms—'e 'asn't got nothink, not so much as 'is blinkin'
"Very good. Get back on yer post. I'll tike charge o' this one."
Grounding his own rifle, the corporal fixed its bayonet, then employed it
in a gesture of unpleasant significance.
"'Bout fice," he ordered. "March. Yer can drop yer 'ands—but don't go
forgettin' I'm right 'ere be'ind yer."
In silence the prisoner obeyed, wading down the flooded trench, the
spot-light playing on his back, striking sullen gleams from the inky water
that swirled about his knees, and disclosing glimpses of coated figures
stationed at regular intervals along the firing-step, faces steadfast to
loopholes in the parapet.
Now and again they passed narrow rifts in the walls of the trench,
entrances to dugouts betrayed by glimmers of candle-light through the
cracks of makeshift doors or the coarse mesh of gunnysack curtains.
From one of these, at the corporal's summons, a sleepy subaltern stumbled
to attend ungraciously to his subordinate's report, and promptly ordered
the prisoner taken on to the regimental headquarters behind the lines.
A little farther on captive and captor turned off into a narrow and
tortuous communication trench. Thereafter for upward of ten minutes they
threaded a labyrinth of deep, constricted, reeking ditches, with so little
to differentiate one from another that the prisoner wondered at the sure
sense of direction which enabled the corporal to find his way without
mis-step, with the added handicap of the abysmal darkness. Then, of a
sudden, the sides of the trench shelved sharply downward, and the two
debouched into a broad, open field. Here many men lay sleeping, with only
waterproof sheets for protection from that bitter deluge which whipped the
earth into an ankle-deep lake of slimy ooze and lent keener accent to the
abiding stench of filth and decomposing flesh. A slight hillock stood
between this field and the firing-line—where now lively fusillades
were being exchanged—its profile crowned with a spectral rank of
shell-shattered poplars sharply silhouetted against a sky in which
star-shells and Verey lights flowered like blooms of hell.
Here the corporal abruptly commanded his prisoner to halt and himself
paused and stood stiffly at attention, saluting a group of three officers
who were approaching with the evident intention of entering the trench. One
of these loosed upon the pair the flash of a pocket lamp. At sight of the
gray overcoat all three stopped short.
A voice with the intonation of habitual command enquired: "What have we
The corporal replied: "A prisoner, sir—sez 'e's French—come across the
open to-night with important information—so 'e sez."
The spot-light picked out the prisoner's face. The officer addressed him
"What is your name, my man?"
"That," said the prisoner, "is something which—like my intelligence—I
should prefer to communicate privately."
With a startled gesture the officer took a step forward and peered intently
into that mud-smeared countenance.
"I seem to know your voice," he said in a speculative tone.
"You should," the prisoner returned.
"Gentlemen," said the officer to his companions, "you may continue your
rounds. Corporal, follow me with your prisoner."
He swung round and slopped off heavily through the mud of the open field.
Behind them the sound of firing in the forward trenches swelled to an
uproar augmented by the shrewish chattering of machine-guns. Then a battery
hidden somewhere in the blackness in front of them came into action,
barking viciously. Shells whined hungrily overhead. The prisoner glanced
back: the maimed poplars stood out stark against a sky washed with wave
after wave of infernal light….
Some time later he was conscious of a cobbled way beneath his sodden
footgear. They were entering the outskirts of a ruined village. On either
hand fragments of walls reared up with sashless windows and gaping doors
like death masks of mad folk stricken in paroxysm.
Within one doorway a dim light burned; through it the officer made his way,
prisoner and corporal at his heels, passing a sentry, then descending a
flight of crazy wooden steps to a dank and gloomy cellar, stone-walled
and vaulted. In the middle of the cellar stood a broad table at which an
orderly sat writing by the light of two candles stuck in the necks of empty
bottles. At another table, in a corner, a sergeant and an operator of the
Signal Corps were busy with field telephone and telegraph instruments. On a
meagre bed of damp and mouldy straw, against the farther wall, several men,
orderlies and subalterns, rested in stertorous slumbers. Despite the cold
the atmosphere was a reek of tobacco smoke, sweat, and steam from wet
The man at the centre table rose and saluted, offering the commanding
officer a sheaf of scribbled messages and reports. Taking the chair thus
vacated, the officer ran an eye over the papers, issued several orders
inspired by them, then turned attention to the prisoner.
"You may return to your post, corporal."
The corporal executed a smart about-face and clumped up the steps. In
answer to the officer's steadfast gaze the prisoner stepped forward and
confronted him across the table.
"Who are you?"
"My name," said the prisoner, after looking around to make sure that none
of the other tenants of the cellar was within earshot, "is Lanyard—Michael
"The Lone Wolf!"
Involuntarily the officer jumped up, almost overturning his chair.
"That same," the prisoner affirmed, adding with a grimace of besmirched and
emaciated features that was meant for a smile—"General Wertheimer."
"Wertheimer is not my name."
"I am aware of that. I uttered it merely to confirm my identity to you; it
is the only name I ever knew you by in the old days, when you were in the
British Secret Service and I a famous thief with a price upon my head, when
you and I played hide and seek across half Europe and back again—in the
days of Troyon's and 'the Pack,' the days of De Morbihan and Popinot
"Ekstrom," the officer supplied as the prisoner hesitated oddly.
"And Ekstrom," the other agreed.
There was a little silence between the two; then the officer mused aloud:
"All … but one."
The officer looked up sharply. "Which—?"
"Ekstrom? But we saw him die! You yourself fired the shot that—"
"It was not Ekstrom. Trust that one not to imperil his precious carcase
when he could find an underling to run the risk for him! I tell you I have
seen Ekstrom within this last month, alive and serving the Fatherland as
the genius of that system of espionage which keeps the enemy advised of
your every move, down to the least considerable—that system which makes it
possible for the Boche to greet every regiment by name when it moves up to
serve its time in your advanced trenches."
"You amaze me!"
"I shall convince you; I bring intelligence which will enable you to tear
apart this web of treason within your own lines and…."
Lanyard's voice broke. The officer remarked that he was
trembling—trembling so violently that to support himself he must grip the
edge of the table with both hands.
"You are wounded?"
"No—but cold to my very marrow, and faint with hunger. Even the German
soldiers are on starvation rations, now; the civilians are worse off; and
I—I have been over there for years, a spy, a hunted thing, subsisting as
casually as a sparrow!"
"Sit down. Orderly!"
And there was no more talk between these two for a time. Not only did the
officer refuse to hear another word before Lanyard had gorged his fill of
food and drink, but an exigent communication from the front, transmitted
through the trench telephone system, diverted his attention temporarily.
Gnawing ravenously at bread and meat, Lanyard watched curiously the scenes
in the cellar, following, as best he might, the tides of combat; gathering
that German resentment of a British bombing enterprise (doubtless the work
of that same squad which had stolen past him in the gloom of No Man's Land)
had developed into a violent attempt to storm the forward trenches.
In these a desperate struggle was taking place. Reinforcements were
Activities at the signallers' table became feverish; the commanding officer
stood over it, reading incoming messages as they were jotted down and
taking such action thereupon as his judgment dictated. Orderlies, dragged
half asleep from their nests of straw, were shaken awake and despatched to
rouse and rush to the front the troops Lanyard had seen sleeping in the
open field. Other orderlies limped or reeled down the cellar steps,
delivered their despatches, and, staggered out through a breach in the wall
to have their injuries attended to in the field dressing-station in the
adjoining cellar, or else threw themselves down on the straw to fall
instantly asleep despite the deafening din.
The Boche artillery, seeking blindly to silence the field batteries whose
fire was galling their offensive, had begun to bombard the village. Shells
fled shrieking overhead, to break in thunderous bellows. Walls toppled
with appalling crashes, now near at hand, now far. The ebb and flow of
rifle-fire at the front contributed a background of sound not unlike the
roaring of an angry surf. Machine-guns gibbered like maniacs. Heavier
artillery was brought into play behind the British lines, apparently at no
great distance from the village; the very flag-stones of the cellar floor
quaked to the concussions of big-calibre guns.
Through the breach in the wall echoed the screams and groans of wounded.
The foul air became saturated with a sickening stench of iodoform. Gusts of
wet wind eddied hither and yon. Candles flickered and flared, guttered out,
were renewed. Monstrous shadows stole out from black corners, crept along
mouldy walls, crouched, sprang and vanished, or, inscrutably baffled,
retreated sullenly to their lairs….
For the better part of an hour the struggle continued; then its vigour
began to wane. The heaviest British metal went out of action; some time
later the field batteries discontinued their activities. The volume of
firing in the advance trenches dwindled, was fiercely renewed some half a
dozen times, died away to normal. Once more the Boche had been beaten back.
Returning to his chair, the commanding officer rested his elbows upon the
table and bowed his head between his hands in an attitude of profound
fatigue. He seemed to remind himself of Lanyard's presence only at 'cost of
a racking effort, lifting heavy-lidded eyes to stare almost incredulously
at his face.
"I presumed you were in America," he said in dulled accents.
"I was … for a time."
"You came back to serve France?"
Lanyard shook his head. "I returned to Europe after a year, the spring
before the war."
"I was hunted out of New York. The Boche would not let me be."
The officer looked startled. "The Boche?"
"More precisely, Herr Ekstrom—to name him as we knew him. But this I did
not suspect for a long time, that it was he who was responsible for my
persecution. I knew only that the police of America, informed of my
identity with the Lone Wolf, sought to deport me, that every avenue to
an honourable livelihood was closed. So I had to leave, to try to lose
"Your wife … I mean to say, you married, didn't you?"
Lanyard nodded. "Lucy stuck by me till … the end…. She had a little
money of her own. It financed our flight from the States. We made a
round-about journey of it, to elude surveillance—and, I think, succeeded."
"You returned to Paris?"
"No: France, like England, was barred to the Lone Wolf…. We settled down
in Belgium, Lucy and I and our boy. He was three months old. We found a
quiet little home in Louvain—"
The officer interrupted with a low cry of apprehension, Lanyard checked him
with a sombre gesture. "Let me tell you….
"We might have been happy. None knew us. We were sufficient unto ourselves.
But I was without occupation; it occurred to me that my memoirs might
make good reading—for Paris; my friends the French are as fond of their
criminals as you English of your actors. On the second of August I
journeyed to Paris to negotiate with a publisher. While I was away the
Boche invaded Belgium. Before I could get back Louvain had been occupied,
He sat for a time in brooding silence; the officer made no attempt to
rouse him, but the gaze he bent upon the man's lowered head was grave and
pitiful. Abruptly, in a level and toneless voice, Lanyard resumed:
"In order to regain my home I had to go round by way of England and
Holland. I crossed the Dutch frontier disguised as a Belgian peasant. When
I reentered Louvain it was to find … But all the world knows what the
blond beast did in Louvain. My wife and little son had vanished utterly. I
searched three months before I found trace of either. Then … Lucy died in
my arms in a wretched hovel near Aerschot. She had seen our child butchered
before her eyes. She herself…."
Lanyard's hand, that rested on the table, clenched and whitened beneath its
begrimed skin. His eyes fathomed distances immeasurably removed beyond the
confines of that grim cellar. But he presently continued:
"Ekstrom had accompanied the army of invasion, had seen and recognized Lucy
in passing through Louvain. Therefore she and my son were among the first
to be sacrificed…. When I stood over her grave I dedicated my life to the
extermination of Ekstrom and all his breed. I have since done things I do
not like to think about. But the Prussian spy system is the weaker for my
"But Ekstrom I could never find. It was as if he knew I hunted him. He was
seldom twenty-four hours ahead of me, yet I never caught up with him but
once; and then he was too closely guarded…. I pursued him to Berlin,
to Potsdam, three times to the western front, to Serbia, once to
Constantinople, twice to Petrograd."
The officer uttered an exclamation of astonishment. Lanyard looked his way
with a depreciatory air.
"Nothing strange about that. To one of my early training that was
easy—everything was easy but the end I sought…. En passant I collected
information concerning the workings of the Prussian spy system. From time
to time I found means to communicate somewhat of this to the Surété in
Paris. I believe France and England have already profited a little through
my efforts. They shall profit more, and quickly, when I have told all that
I have to tell….
"Of a sudden Ekstrom vanished. Overnight he disappeared from Germany. A
false lead brought me back to this front. Two days ago I learned he had
been sent to America on a secret mission. Knowing that the States have
severed diplomatic relations with Berlin and tremble on the verge of a
declaration of war, we can surmise something of the nature of his mission.
I mean to see that he fails…. To follow him to America, making my way
out through Belgium and Holland, pursuing such furtive ways as I must in
territory dominated by the Boche, meant much time lost. So I came through
the lines to-night. Fortune was kind in throwing me into your hands: I
count upon your assistance. As an ex-agent of the Secret Service you are in
a position to make smooth my path; as an Englishman, you will advance the
interests of a prospective ally of England if you help me to the limit of
your ability; for what I mean to do in America will serve that country, by
exposing the conspiracies of the Boche across the water, as much as it will
serve my private ends."
The officer's hand fell across the table and closed upon the knotted fist
of the Lone Wolf.
"As an Englishman," he said simply—"of course. But no less as your
FROM A BRITISH PORT
"And one man in his time plays many parts": few more than this same
Lanyard. In no way to be identified with the hunted creature who crept into
the British lines out of No Man's Land was the Monsieur Duchemin who, ten
days after that wintry midnight, took passage for New York from "a British
port," aboard the steamship Assyrian.
André Duchemin was the name inscribed in the credentials furnished him in
recognition of signal assistance rendered the British Secret Service in its
task of scotching the Prussian spy system. And the personality he chose
to assume suited well the name. A man of modest and amiable deportment,
viewing the world with eyes intelligent and curious, his temper reacting
from its ways in terms of grave humour, Monsieur Duchemin passed peaceably
on his lawful occasions, took life as he found it, made the best of irksome
This last idiosyncrasy stood him in good stead. For the Assyrian failed
to clear upon her proposed sailing date and for a livelong week thereafter
chafed alongside her landing stage, steam up, cargo laden and stowed,
nothing lacking but the Admiralty's permission to begin her westbound
voyage—a permission inscrutably withheld, giving rise to a common
discontent which the passengers dissembled to the various best of their
abilities, that is to say, in most cases thinly or not at all.
Yet they were none of them unreasonable beings. They had come aboard one
and all keyed up to a high nervous pitch, pardonable in such as must commit
their lives to the dread adventure of the barred zone, wanting nothing
so much as to get it over with, whatever its upshot. And everlasting
procrastination required them day after day to steel their hearts anew
against that Terror which followed its furtive ways beneath the leaden
waters of the Channel!
Alone among them this Monsieur Duchemin paraded successfully a false face
of resignation, protesting no predilection whatsoever for a watery grave,
no infatuate haste to challenge the Hun upon his chosen hunting-ground. In
the fullness of time it would be permitted to him to go down to the sea in
this ship. Meanwhile he found it apparently pleasant and restful to explore
the winding cobbled ways of that antiquated waterside community, made over
by the hand of War into a bustling seaport, or to tramp the sunken lanes
that seamed those green old Cornish hills which embosomed the wide harbour
waters, or to lounge about the broad white decks of the Assyrian watching
the diurnal traffic of the haven—a restless, warlike pageant.
Daily, in earliest dusk of dawn, the wakeful might watch the faring forth
of a weirdly assorted fleet of small craft, the day patrol, to relieve a
night patrol as weirdly heterogeneous. Daily, at all hours, mine-sweepers
came and went, by twos and twos, in flocks, in schools; and daily bellowing
offshore detonations advertised their success in garnering those horned
black seeds of death which the Hun and his kin were sedulous to sow in the
fairways. While daily battleships both great and small rolled in wearily to
refit and dress their wounds, or took swift departure on grim and secret
There was, moreover, the not-infrequent spectacle of some minor ship of
war—a truculent, gray destroyer as like as not—shepherding in a sleek
submarine, like a felon whale armoured and strangely caparisoned in
gray-brown steel, to be moored in chains with a considerable company of its
fellows on the far side of the roadstead, while its crew was taken ashore
and consigned to some dark limbo of oblivion.
And once, with a light cruiser snapping at her heels, a drab Norwegian
tramp plodded sullenly into port, a mine-layer caught red-handed, plying
its assassin's trade beneath a neutral flag.
Not long after its crew had been landed, volleys of musketry crashed in the
One of a group of three idling on the promenade deck of the Assyrian,
Lanyard turned sharply and stared through narrowed eyelids into the quarter
whence the sounds reverberated.
The man at his side, a loose-jointed American of the commercial caste,
paused momentarily in his task of masticating a fat dark cigar.
"This way out," he commented thoughtfully.
Lanyard nodded; but the third, a plumply ingratiative native of Geneva,
known to the ship as Emil Dressier, frowned in puzzlement.
"Pardon, Monsieur Crane, but what is that you say—'this way out'?"
"Simply," Crane explained, "I take the firing to mean the execution of our
nootral friends from Norway."
The Swiss shuddered. "It is most terrible!"
"Well, I don't know about that. They done their damnedest to fix it for us
to drown somewhere out there in the nice, cold English Channel. I'm just as
satisfied it's them, instead, with their backs to a stone wall in the
warm sunlight, getting their needin's. That's only justice. Eh, Monsieur
"It is war," said Lanyard with a shrug.
"And war is … No: Sherman was all wrong. Hell's got perfectly good
grounds for a libel suit against William Tecumseh for what he up and said
about it and war, all in the same breath."
Lanyard smiled faintly, but Dressler pondered this obscure reference with
patent distress. Crane champed his cigar reflectively.
"What's more to our purpose," he said presently: "I shouldn't be surprised
if this meant the wind-up of our rest-cure here. That's the third
mine-layer they've collected this week—two subs, and now this benevolent
nootral. Am I right, Monsieur Duchemin?"
"Who knows?" Lanyard replied with a smile. "Even now the mine-sweeping
flotilla is coming home, as you see; which means, the neighbouring waters
have been cleared. It is altogether a possibility that we may be permitted
to depart this night."
Even so the event: as that day's sun declined amid a portentous welter of
crimson and purple and gold, the moorings were cast off and the Assyrian
warped out into mid-channel and anchored there for the night.
Inasmuch as she was to sail as the tide served, some time before sunrise,
the passengers were advised to seek their berths at an early hour. Thirty
minutes before the steamship entered the danger zone (as she would soon
after leaving the harbour) they would be roused and were expected promptly
to assemble on deck, with life-preservers, and station themselves near the
boats to which they were individually assigned.
For their further comforting they were treated, in the ebb of the chill
blue twilight, to boat-drill and final instructions in the right adjustment
A preoccupied company assembled in the dining saloon for what might be
its last meal. In the shadow of the general apprehension, conversation
languished; expressions of relief on the part of those who had been loudest
in complaining at the delays were notably unheard; even Crane, Lanyard's
nearest neighbour at table, was abnormally subdued. Reviewing that array of
sobered and anxious faces, Lanyard remarked—not for the first time, but
with renewed gratitude—that in all the roster of passengers none were
children and but two were women: the American widow of an English officer
and her very English daughter, an angular and superior spinster.
Avoiding the customary post-prandial symposium in the smoking room, Lanyard
slipped away with his cigar for a lonely turn on deck.
Beneath a sky heavily canopied, the night was stark black and loud with
clashing waters. A fitful wind played in gusts now grim, now groping, like
a lost thing blundering blindly about in that deep darkness. Ashore a
few wan lights, widely spaced, winked uncertainly, withdrawn in vast
remoteness; those near at hand, of the anchored shipping, skipped and
swayed and flickered in mad mazes of goblin dance. To him who paced those
vacant, darkened decks, the sense of dissociation from all the common,
kindly phenomena of civilization was something intimate and inescapable.
Melancholy as well rode upon that black-winged wind.
At pause beneath the bridge, the adventurer rested elbows upon the teakwood
rail and with importunate eyes searched the masked face of his destiny.
There was great fear in his heart, not of death, but lest death overtake
him before that scarlet hour when he should encounter the man whom he must
always think of as "Ekstrom."
After that, nothing would matter: let Death come then as swiftly as it
He was not even middle-aged, on the hither side of thirty; yet his attitude
was that of one who had already crossed the great divide of the average
mortal span: he looked backward upon a life, never forward to one. To him
his history seemed a thing written, lacking the one word Finis: he had
lived and loved and lost—had arrayed himself insolently against God and
Man, had been lifted toward the light a little way by a woman's love, had
been thrust relentlessly back into the black pit of his damnation. He made
no pretense that it was otherwise with him: remained now merely the thing
he had been in the beginning, minus that divine spark which love had once
kindled into consuming aspiration toward the right; the Lone Wolf prowled
again to-day and would henceforth forevermore, the beast of prey callous
to every human emotion, animated by one deadly purpose, existing but to
destroy and be in turn destroyed….
Two decks below, about amidships, a cargo port was thrust open to the
night. A thick, broad beam of light leaped out, buffeting the murk,
striking evanescent glimmers from the rocking facets of the waters.
Deckhands busied themselves rigging out an accommodation ladder. A tender
of little tonnage panted nervously up out of nowhere and was made fast
alongside. The light raked its upper deck, picking out in passing a group
of men in uniforms. Fugitively something resembling a petticoat snapped
in the wind. Then several persons moved toward the accommodation ladder,
climbed it, disappeared through the cargo port. The wearer of the petticoat
did not accompany them.
Lanyard noted these matters subconsciously, for the time altogether
preoccupied, casting forward his thoughts along those dim trails his feet
must tread who followed his dark star….
Ten minutes later a deck-steward found him, and paused, touching his cap.
"Beg pardon, sir, but all passingers is requested to report immedately in
the music room."
Indifferently Lanyard thanked the man and went below, to find the music
room tenanted by a full muster of his fellow passengers, all more or less
indignantly waiting to be cross-examined by the party of port officials
from the tender—the ship's purser standing by together with the second and
third officers and a number of stewards.
Resentment was not unwarranted: already, before being suffered to take up
quarters on board the Assyrian, each passenger had submitted to a most
comprehensive survey of his credentials, his mental, moral, and social
status, his past record, present affairs, and future purposes. A formality
to be expected by all such as travel in war time, it had been rigid but
mild in contrast with this eleventh-hour inquisition—a proceeding so
drastic and exhaustive that the only plausible inference was official
determination to find excuse for ordering somebody ashore in irons. Nothing
was overlooked: once passports and other proofs of identity had been
scrutinized, each passenger was conducted to his stateroom and his person
and luggage subjected to painstaking search. None escaped; on the other
hand, not one was found guilty of flagitious peculiarity. In the upshot the
inquisitors, baffled and betraying every symptom of disappointment, were
fain to give over and return to their tender.
By this time Lanyard, one of the last to be grilled and passed, found
himself as little inclined for sleep as the most timorous soul on board.
Selecting an American novel from the ship's library, he repaired to
the smoking room, where, established in a corner apart, he became an
involuntary and, at first, a largely inattentive, eavesdropper upon an
animated debate involving some eight or ten gentlemen at a table in the
middle of the saloon—its subject, the recent visitation.
Measures so extraordinary were generally held to indicate an incentive more
"You can't get away from it," he heard Crane declare: "there's some sort of
funny business going on, or liable to go on, aboard this ship. She wasn't
held up for a solid week out of pure cussedness. Neither did they come
aboard to-night to give us another once-over through sheer voluptuousness.
There's a reason."
"And what," a satiric English voice enquired, "do you assume that reason to
"Search me. 'Sfar's I'm concerned the processes of the British Intelligence
Office are a long sight past finding out."
"It is simple enough," one of Crane's compatriots suggested: "the
Assyrian is suspected of entertaining a devil unawares."
"Monsieur means—?" the Swiss enquired.
"I mean, the authorities may have been led to believe some one of us a
"Or an English traitor?"
"Impossible," asserted another Briton heavily. "There is to-day no such
thing in England. Two years ago the supposition might have been plausible.
But that breed has long since been stamped out—in England."
"Another guess," Crane cut in: "they've taken considerable trouble to clear
the track for us. Maybe it occurred to somebody at the last moment to make
sure none of us was likely to pull off an inside job."
"'Inside job?'" Dressler pleaded.
"Planting bombs in the coal bunkers—things like that—anything to crab our
getting through the barred zone in spite of mines and U-boats."
"Any such attempt would mean almost certain death!"
"What of it? It's been tried before—and got away with. You've got to hand
it to Fritz, he'll risk hell-for-breakfast cheerful any time he gets it in
his bean he's serving Gott und Vaterland."
"Granted," said the Englishman. "But I fancy such an one would find it far
from easy to secure passage upon this or any other vessel."
"How so? You may have haltered all your traitors, but there's still
a-plenty German spies living in England. Even you admit that. And if they
can get by your Secret Service, to say nothing of Scotland Yard, what's to
prevent their fixing to leave the country?"
"Nothing, certainly. But I still contend it is hardly likely."
"Of course it's hardly likely. Look at these guys to-night—dead set on
making an awful example of anybody that couldn't come clean. I didn't
notice them missing any bets. They combed me to the Queen's taste; for
a while I was sure scared they'd extract my pivot tooth to see if there
wasn't something incriminating and degrading secreted inside it. And nobody
got off any easier. I say the good ship Assyrian has a pretty clean
bill of health to go sailing with."
"On the other hand"—yet another American voice was speaking—"no spy or
criminal worth his salt would try to ship without preparations thorough
enough to insure success, barring accidents."
"Criminal?" drawled the Briton incredulously.
"The enterprisin' burglar keeps a-burglin', even in war time. There have
been notable burglaries in London of late, according to your newspapers."
"And you think the thief would attempt to smuggle his loot out of the
country aboard such a ship as this?"
"Scotland Yard to the contrary notwithstanding?"
"If Scotland Yard is as efficient as you think, sir, certainly any sane
thief would make every effort to leave a country it was making too hot for
"Considerable criminal!" Crane jeered.
"Undeceive yourself, señor." This was a Brazilian, a quiet little dark body
who commonly contented himself with a listening rôle in the smoking-room
discussions. "There are truly criminals of intelligence. And war conditions
are driving them out of Europe."
Of a sudden Lanyard—stretched out at length upon the leather cushions,
in full view of these gossips—became aware that he was being closely
scrutinised. By whom, with what reason or purpose, he could not surmise;
and it were unwise to look up from that printed page. But that sixth sense
of his—intuition, what you will—that exquisitively sensitive sentinel
admonished that at least one person in the room was watching him narrowly.
Though he made no move other than to turn a page, his glance followed
blindly blurring lines of text, and his quickened wits overlooked no shade
of meaning or intonation as that talk continued.
"A criminal of intelligence," some one observed, "is a giddy paradox whose
fatuous existence is quite fittingly confined to the realm of fable."
"You took the identical words right out of my mouth," Crane complained
"Your pardon, señores: history confutes your incredulity."
"But we are talking about to-day."
"Even to-day—can you deny it?—men attain high places by means which the
law would construe as criminal, were they not intelligent enough to outwit
"Big game," Crane objected; "something else again. What we contend is no
man of ordinary common sense could get his own consent to crack a safe, or
pick a pocket, or do second-story work, or pull any rough stuff like that."
"Again you overlook living facts," persisted the Brazilian.
"Name one—just one."
"The Lone Wolf, then."
"Unnatural history is out of my line," Crane objected. "Why is a lone wolf,
The Brazilian's voice took on an accent of exasperation. "Señores, I do not
jest. I am a student of psychology, more especially of criminal psychology.
I lived long in Paris before this war, and took deep interest in the case
of the Lone Wolf."
"Well, you've got me all excited. Go on with your story."
"With much pleasure…. This gentleman, then, this Michael Lanyard, as he
called himself, was a distinguished Parisian figure, a man of extraordinary
attainment, esteemed the foremost connoisseur d'art in all Europe.
Suddenly, at the zenith of his career, he disappeared. Subsequently it
became known that he had been identical with that great Parisian criminal,
the Lone Wolf, a superman of thieves who had plundered all Europe with
unvarying success for almost a decade."
"Then what made the silly ass quit?"
"According to my information, he won the love of a young woman—"
"And reformed for her sake, of course?"
"To the contrary, señor; Lanyard renounced his double life because of a
theory on which he had founded his astonishing success. According to this
theory, any man of intelligence may defy society as long as he will, always
providing he has no friend, lover, or confederate in whom to confide. A man
self-contained can never be betrayed; the stupid police seldom apprehend
even the most stupid criminal, save through the treachery of some intimate.
This Lanyard proved his theory by confounding not only the utmost
efforts of the police but even the jealous enmity of that association of
Continental criminals known as the Bande Noire—until he became a lover.
Then he proved his intelligence: in one stroke he flouted the police,
delivered into their hands the inner circle of the Bande Noire, and
vanished with the woman he loved."
"The rest," said the Brazilian, "is silence."
"It is for to-night, anyway," Crane observed, yawning. "It's bedtime. Here
comes the busy steward to put the lights and us out."
There was a general stir; men drained glasses, knocked out pipes, got up,
murmured good-nights. Lanyard closed the American novel upon a forefinger,
looked up abstractedly, rose, moved toward the door. The utmost effort of
exceptional powers of covert observation assured him that, at the moment,
none of the company favoured him with especial attention; the author of
that interest whose intensity had so weighed upon his consciousness had
been swift to dissemble.
On his way forward he exchanged bows and smiles with Crane and one or two
others, his gesture completely casual. Yet when he entered the starboard
alleyway he carried with him a complete catalogue of those who had
contributed to the conversation. With all, thanks to seven days'
association, he stood on terms of shipboard acquaintance. Not one, in his
esteem, was more potentially mischievous than any other—not even the
Brazilian Velasco, though he had been the first to name the Lone Wolf.
It was, furthermore, quite possible that the mention of his erstwhile
sobriquet had been utterly fortuitous.
And yet, one might not forget that sensation of being under intent
In his stateroom Lanyard stood for several minutes gravely peering into the
mirror above the washstand.
The face he scanned was lean and worn in feature, darkly weathered, framed
in hair whose jet already boasted an accent of silver at either temple—the
face of a man inured to hardship, seasoned in suffering, strong in
self-knowledge. The incandescence of an intelligence coldly dispassionate,
quick and shrewd, lighted those dark eyes. Distinctively a face of Gallic
cast, three years of long-drawn torment had served in part to erase from
it wellnigh all resemblance to both the brilliant social freebooter of
ante-bellum Paris and that undesirable alien whom the authorities had
sought to deport from the States. Amazing facility in impersonation had
done the rest; unrecognisable as what he had been, he was to-day flawlessly
the incarnation of what he elected to seem—Monsieur Duchemin, gentleman,
Impossible to believe his disguise had been so soon penetrated….
And yet, again, that gossip of the smoking room….
Police work? Or had Ekstrom's creatures picked up his trail once more?
Beneath that urbane mask of his, a hunted, wild thing poised in question,
mistrustful of the very wind, prick-eared, fangs agleam, eyes grimly
A little sound, the least of metallic clicks, breaking the hush of his
solitude, froze the adventurer to attention. Only his glance swerved
swiftly to a fastened door in the forward partition—his stateroom being
the aftermost of three that might be thrown together to form a suite. The
nickeled knob was being tried with infinite precaution. On the half turn it
checked with a faint repetition of the click. Then the door itself quivered
almost imperceptibly to pressure, though it yielded not a fraction of an
Lanyard's eyes hardened. He did not stir from where he stood, but one hand
whipped an automatic from his pocket while the other darted out to the
switch-box by the head of his berth and extinguished the light.
Instantly a glimmer of light in the forward stateroom showed through
a narrow strip of iron grill-work set in the top of the partition for
Simultaneously the door-knob was gently released, and with another louder
click the light in the adjoining cubicle was blotted out.
Mystified, Lanyard undressed and turned in, but not to sleep—not for a
little, at least.
Who might this neighbour be who tried his door so stealthily? Before
to-night that room had had no tenant. Apparently one of the passengers had
seen fit to shift his quarters. To what end? To keep a jealous eye on
the Lone Wolf, perhaps? So much the better, then: Lanyard need only make
enquiry in the morning to identify his enemy.
Deliberately closing his eyes, he dismissed the enigma. He possessed in
marked degree that attribute of genius, ability to command slumber at will.
Swiftly the troubled deeps of thought grew calm; on their placid surface
inconsequent visions were mirrored darkly, fugitive scenes from the store
of subconscious memory: Crane's lantern-jawed physiognomy, keen eyes
semi-veiled by humorously drooping lids, the extreme corner of his mouth
bulging round his everlasting cigar … grimy lions in Trafalgar Square of
a rainy afternoon … the octagonal room of L'Abbaye Thêléme at three in
the morning, a swirl of Bacchanalian shapes … Wertheimer's soldierly
figure beside the telegraphers' table in that noisome cave at the Front …
the deck of a tender in darkness swept by a shaft of yellow light which
momentarily revealed a group of folk with upturned faces, a petticoat
fluttering in its midst….
IN THE BARRED ZONE
Day broke with rather more than half a gale blowing beneath a louring sky.
Once clear of the bottleneck mouth of the harbour, the Assyrian ran into
brutal quartering seas. An old hand at such work, for upward of a decade
a steady-paced Dobbin of the transatlantic lanes, she buckled down to it
doggedly and, remembering her duty by her passengers, rolled no more than
she had to, buried her nose in the foaming green only when she must. For
all her care, the main deck forward was alternately raked by stinging
volleys of spray and scoured by frantic cascades. More than once the crew
of the bow gun narrowly escaped being carried overboard to a man. Blue with
cold, soaked to the buff despite oilskins, they stuck stubbornly to their
posts. Perched beyond reach of shattering wavecrests, the passengers on the
boat-deck huddled unhappily in the lee of the superstructure—and snarled
in response to the cheering information that better conditions for baffling
the ubiquitous U-boat could hardly have been brewed by an indulgent
Providence. Sheeting spindrift contributed to lower visibility: two
destroyers standing on parallel courses about a mile distant to port and
to starboard were more often than not barely discernible, spectral vessels
reeling and dipping in the haze. The ceaseless whistle of wind in the
rigging was punctuated by long-drawn howls which must have filled any
conscientious banshee with corrosive envy.
Toward mid-morning rain fell in torrents, driving even the most fearful
passengers to shelter within the superstructure. A majority crowded the
landing at the head of the main companionway close by the leeward door.
Bolder spirits marched off to the smoking room—Crane starting this
movement with the declaration that, for his part, he would as lief drown
like a rat in a trap as battling to keep up in the frigid inferno of those
raging seas. A handful of miserables, too seasick to care whether the ship
swam or sank, mutinously took to their berths.
Stateroom 27—adjoining Lanyard's—sported obstinately a shut door.
Lanyard, sedulous not to discover his interest by questioning the stewards,
caught never a glimpse of its occupant. For his own satisfaction he took a
covert census of passengers on deck as the vessel entered the danger zone,
and made the tally seventy-one all told—the number on the passenger list
when the Assyrian had left her landing stage the previous evening.
It seemed probable, therefore, that the person in 27 had come aboard from
the tender, either with or following the official party. Lanyard was
unable to say that more had not left the tender than appeared to sit in
inquisition in the music room.
By noon the wind was beginning to moderate, and the sea was being beaten
down by that relentlessly lashing rain. Visibility, however, was more low
than ever. A fairly representative number descended to the dining saloon
for luncheon—a meal which none finished. Midway in its course a thunderous
explosion to starboard drove all in panic once more to the decks.
Within two hundred yards of the Assyrian a floating mine had destroyed a
patrol boat. No more was left of it than an oil-filmed welter of splintered
wreckage: of its crew, never a trace.
Imperturbably the Assyrian proceeded. Not so her passengers: now the
smoking room was deserted even by the insouciant Crane, and the seasick to
a woman brought their troubles back to the boat-deck.
Alone the tenant of 27 stopped below. And the riddle of this ostensible
indifference to terrors that clawed at the vitals of every other soul on
board grew to intrigue Lanyard to the point of obsession. Was the reason
brute apathy or sheer foolhardihood? He refused either explanation,
feeling sure some darker and more momentous motive dictated this obstinate
avoidance of the public eye. Exasperation aroused by failure to fathom the
mystery took precedence in his thoughts even to the personal solicitude
excited by last night's gossip of the smoking room….
With no other disturbing incident the afternoon wore away, the wind
steadily flagging, the waves as steadily subsiding. When twilight closed in
there was nothing more disturbing to one's equilibrium than a sea of long
and sullen rolls scored by the pelting downpour.
Perhaps as many as ten venturesome souls dined in the saloon, their fellows
sticking desperately to the decks and contenting themselves with coffee and
Daylight waned, terrors waxed: passengers instinctively gravitated into
little knots and clusters, conversing guardedly as if fearful lest their
normal accents bring down upon them those Apaches of the underseas for
signs of whom their frightened glances incessantly ranged over-rail and
searched the heaving wastes.
The understanding was tacit that all would spend the night on deck.
Dusk at length blotted out the shadows of their guardian destroyers, and a
great and desolating loneliness settled down upon the ship. One by one
the passengers grew dumb; still they clung together, but seemingly their
tongues would no more function.
With nightfall, the rain ceased, the breeze freshened a trifle, the pall of
cloud lifted and broke, giving glimpses of remote, impersonal stars. Later
a gibbous moon leered through the flying wrack, checkering the sea with
a restless pattern of black and silver. In this ghastly setting the
Assyrian, showing no lights, a shape of flying darkness pursuing a course
secret to all save her navigators, strained ever onward, panting, groaning,
quivering from stem to stern … like an enchanted thing doomed to
perpetual labours, striving vainly to break bonds invisible that transfixed
her to one spot forever-more, in the midst of that bleak purgatory of
shadow and moonshine and dread….
Sensitive to the eerie influence of the hour, Lanyard interrupted the tour
of the decks which he had steadily pursued for the better part of the
evening, and rested at the forward rail, looking down over the main deck,
its bleached planking dotted with dark shapes of fixed machinery. In the
bows the formless, uncouth bulk of the gun squatted in its tarpaulin. Its
crew tramped heavily to and fro, shivering in heavy jackets, hands in
pockets, shoulders hunched up to ears. Farther aft an iron door clanged
heavily behind a sailor emerging from an alleyway; he approached the ship's
bell, with practised hand sounded two double strokes, then turned and sang
out in the weird minor traditional in his calling:
"Four bells—and a-a-all's well!"
Even as the wind made free with the melancholy echoes of that assurance,
the spell upon the ship was exorcised.
Overhead, from the foremast crow's-nest, a voice screamed, hoarsely urgent:
"Torpedo! 'Ware submarine to port!"
Many things happened simultaneously, or in a span of seconds strangely
scant. The gunners sprang to station, whipping away the tarpaulin, while
their lieutenant focussed binoculars upon the confused distances of the
night. Obedient to his instructions, the long, gleaming tube of steel
pivoted smoothly to port.
From the bridge a signal rocket soared, hissing. The whistle loosed
stentorian squalls of indignation and distress—one long and four short.
Commands were shouted; the engine-room telegraph wrangled madly. The
momentum of the Assyrian was checked startlingly; her bows sheered
smartly off to port.
A rumour of frightened voices and pounding feet came from the leeward
boat-deck, where the main body of the passengers was congregated, hidden
from Lanyard by the shoulder of the foreward deck-house. A number of men
ran forward, paused by the rail, stared, and scurried back, yelling in
alarm. At this the din swelled to uproar.
Scanning closely the surface of the sea, Lanyard himself descried a silvery
arrow of spray lancing the swells, making with deadly speed toward the port
bow of the Assyrian. But now both screws were churning full speed astern;
the vessel lost headway altogether. Then her engines stopped. For a
breathless instant she rested inert, like something paralyzed with fright,
bows-on to the torpedo, the telegraph ringing frantically. Then the
starboard screw began to turn full ahead, the port remaining idle. The
bows swung off still more sharply to port. The torpedo shot in under them,
vanished for a breathless moment, reappeared a boat's-length to starboard,
plunged harmlessly on its unhindered way down the side of the vessel, and
Amidships terrified passengers milled like sheep, hampering the work of the
boat-crews at the davits. Ship's officers raged among them, endeavouring
to restore order. Half a mile or so dead ahead a tiny tongue of flame spat
viciously in the murk. A projectile shrieked overhead, and dropped into the
sea astern. Another followed and fell short.
The U-boat was shelling the Assyrian.
The forward gun barked violent expostulation, if without visible effect;
the submarine lobbing two more shells at the steamship with an indifference
to its own peril astonishing in one of its craven breed, trained to strike
and run before counterstroke may be delivered. Its extraordinary temerity,
indeed, argued ignorance of the convoying destroyers.
Coincident with the second shot, however, these unleashed searchlights
slashed the dark through and through with their great, white, fanlike
blades, till first one then the other picked up and steadied relentlessly
upon a toy-boat shape that swam the swells about midway between the
Assyrian and the destroyer off the port bows.
Simultaneously the quickfirers of the latter went into action, jetting
orange flame. In the searchlights' glare, spurts of white water danced all
round the submarine. A mutter of gunfire rolled over to the Assyrian,
abruptly silenced by an imperative deep voice of heavier metal—which spoke
With the lurid unreality of clap-trap theatrical illusion the U-boat
vomited a great, spreading sheet of flame….
Someone at the rail, near Lanyard's shoulder, uttered a hushed cry of
He paid no heed, his interest wholly focussed upon that distant patch of
shining water. As his dazzled vision cleared he saw that the submarine had
Unconsciously, in French, he commented: "So that is finished!"
Likewise in French, but in a woman's voice of uncommon quality, deep
and bell-sweet, came the protest from the passenger at his side: "But,
monsieur, what are we doing? We turn away from them—those poor things
That was quite true: under forced draught the Assyrian was heading away
on a new course.
"They drown out there in that black water—and we leave them to that!"
Lanyard turned. "The destroyers will take care of them," he said—"if any
survived that explosion with strength enough to swim."
He spoke from the surface of his thoughts and with a calm that veiled
profound surprise. The woman by his side was neither the American widow nor
her English daughter, but wholly a stranger to the ship's company he knew.
The training of the Lone Wolf had been wasted if one swift glance had
failed to comprehend every essential detail: that tall, straight, slender
figure cloaked in the folds of a garment whose hood framed a face of
singular pallor and sweetness in the moonlight, its shadowed eyes wide with
emotion, its lips a little parted….
With a shiver she lifted her hands to her eyes as if to darken the visions
of her imagination.
"They die out there," she said, in murmurs barely audible…. "We turn our
backs on them…. You think that right?"
"We play the game by the rules the enemy himself laid down," Lanyard
returned. "They would have sunk us without one qualm of pity—would, in all
probability, have shelled our boats had any succeeded in getting off. They
have done as much before, and will again. It is out of reason to insist
that the captain risk his ship in the hope of picking up one or two
"Risk his ship? How? They are helpless—"
"As a rule, U-boats hunt in pairs; always, when specially charged to sink
one certain vessel. It was so with the Lusitania, with the Arabic as
well; I don't doubt it was so in this instance—that we should have heard
from a second submarine had not the destroyers opened fire when they did."
The woman stared. "You think that—?"
"That the Boche had specific instructions to waylay and sink the
Assyrian? I begin to think that—yes."
This declaration affected the woman curiously; she shrank away a little, as
from a blow, her eyes winced, her pale lips quivered. When she spoke, it
was, strangely enough, in English so naturally enunciated that Lanyard
could not doubt that this was her mother tongue.
"Then you think it is because…."
Of a sudden she wilted, clinging to the rail and trembling wildly.
Lanyard shot a glance aft. The disorder among the passengers was measurably
less, though excitement still ran so high that he felt sure they were as
yet unnoticed. On impulse he stepped nearer.
"Pardon, mademoiselle," he said quietly; "you are excusably unstrung.
But all danger is past; and there is still time to regain your stateroom
unobserved. If you will permit me to escort you…."
He watched her narrowly, but she showed no surprise at this suggestion of
intimacy with her affairs. After a brief moment she pulled herself together
and dropped a hand upon the arm he offered. In another minute he was
helping her over the raised watersill of the door.
Like all the ship the landing and main companionway were dark; but below,
on the promenade deck, the second doorway aft on the starboard side stood
ajar, affording a glimpse of a dimly lighted stateroom.
With neither hesitation nor surprise—for he was already satisfied in this
matter—Lanyard conducted the woman to this door and stopped.
Her hand fell from his arm. She faltered on the threshold of Stateroom 27,
eyeing him dubiously.
"Thank you, monsieur…?"
There was just enough accent of enquiry to warrant his giving her the name:
"Monsieur Duchemin…. Please to tell me how you knew this was my
"I occupy Stateroom 29. There was no one in 27 till after the tender came
out last night. Furthermore, your face was strange, and I have come to know
all others on board during our week's delay in port."
The light was at her back; he could distinguish little of her shadowed
features, but fancied her a bit discountenanced.
In a subdued voice she said, "Thank you," once more, a hand resting
significantly on the door-knob. But still he lingered.
"If mademoiselle would be so good as to tell me something in return—?"
"If I can…."
"Then why, mademoiselle, did you try my door last night?"
"It was neither locked nor bolted on my side. I wished to make sure—"
"So one fancied. Thank you. Good-night, mademoiselle…?"
She was impervious to his hint. "Good-night, Monsieur Duchemin," she said,
and closed the door.
Now Lanyard's quarters opened not on this alleyway fore-and-aft but on a
short and narrow athwartship passage. And as he turned away he saw out of
the corner of an eye a white-jacketed figure emerge from this passageway
and move hurriedly aft. Something furtive in the round of the fellow's
shoulders challenged his curiosity. He called quietly:
There was no answer. By now the white jacket was no more than a blur moving
in that deep gloom. He cried again, more loudly:
"I say, steward!"
He could hardly see, but fancied that the man quickened his steps: in
another instant he vanished altogether.
Smothering an impulse to give chase, the adventurer swung alertly into the
narrow passage and opened the door to Stateroom 29. The room was dark, but
as he fumbled for the switch, the door in the forward partition was thrust
open and the girl's slight figure showed, tensely poised against the light
"Monsieur Duchemin!" she cried, in a voice sharp with doubt.
Lanyard turned the switch. "Mademoiselle," he said, and coolly crossed to
the port, drawing the light-proof curtains.
"This door was locked all day—locked when the firing alarmed me and I went
out to the deck."
"And on my side, mademoiselle, it was locked and bolted when last I was
here, shortly before dinner." "Whoever unfastened it entered my room during
my absence and tampered with my luggage."
"You have missed something?"
Gaze intent to his she nodded. He shrugged and cast shrewdly round his
quarters for some clue to the enigma. His glance fastened on a leather
bellows-bag beneath the berth. Dropping to his knees he pulled this out,
and looked up with a quizzical grimace, his forefinger indicating the lock,
which was uncaught.
"I left this latched but not locked," he said. "Perhaps I, too, have lost
Opening the bag out flat, he sat back on his heels, with practised eye
inspecting its neat arrangement of intimate things.
"Nothing has been taken, mademoiselle," he announced gravely. "But
something—I think—has been generously added. I seem to have an anonymous
admirer on board."
Bending forward, he rummaged beneath a sheaf of shirts and brought forth
a small jewel-box of grained leather, with a monogram stamped on the
"The lock is broken," he observed, and handed it up to the woman. "As to
its contents, mademoiselle herself knows best…."
The woman opened the box.
"Nothing is missing," she said in a thoughtful voice.
"I am relieved." Lanyard closed the bag, thrust it back beneath the berth,
and got upon his feet. "But you are quite sure—?"
"My jewels are all in order," she affirmed, without meeting his gaze.
"And you miss nothing else?"
Was there an accent of hesitation in this response?
"Then, I take it, the thief was disappointed."
Now she glanced quickly at his eyes. "Why do you say that?"
"If the thief had found what he sought, he would never have presented it
to me, mademoiselle would never again have seen her jewels. Failing in
his object, after breaking that lock, and interrupted by your unexpected
return, he planted the case with me, hoping to have me suspected. I am
fortunately able to prove the best of alibis…. So then," said Lanyard,
smiling, "it would appear that, though we met ten minutes ago for the first
time—and I have yet to know mademoiselle by name—we are allies in a
"My name is Brooke—Cecelia Brooke," she said quietly—"if it matters. But
"It appears we own a common enemy. Each of us possesses something which
that one desires—you a secret, I a good name. (Duchemin, indeed, I have
always held to be an excellent name.) I shall not hesitate to call on you
if my treasure is again violated. May I venture to hope mademoiselle will
prove as ready to command my services?"
"Thank you. I fancy, however, there will be no need."
She moved irresolutely toward the communicating door, paused in its frame,
eyeing him speculatively from under level brows. He detected, or imagined,
a tremor of impulse toward him, as though she faltered on the verge of some
grave confidence. If so, she curbed her tongue in time. Her gaze dropped,
fixed itself abstractedly on the door…. "This must be fastened," she
said, in a tone of complete disinterest.
"I will speak to the chief steward immediately."
"Don't trouble." She roused. "It doesn't matter, really, for to-night. I
shall leave what valuables I have in the purser's care and stop on deck
He gave a gesture of bewilderment. "You abandon your seclusion—leave your
"Why not?" She shrugged slightly with a little moue of discontent. "If,
as you assume, I had a secret, it was that for certain reasons I did not
wish my presence on board to become known. But it seems it has become
known: my secret is no more. So I need no longer risk being cut off from
the boats in the event of any accident."
Momentarily her gravity was dissipated by a smile at once delightful and
"Once more, monsieur—good-night!"
After some moments Lanyard, with a start, found himself staring blankly at
a blankly incommunicative communicating door.
IN DEEP WATERS
Following this abrupt introduction to his interesting neighbour, Lanyard
went back to his deck-chair and, bundling himself up against the cold,
settled down to ponder the affair and await developments in a spirit of
chastened resignation. That a dénouement would duly unfold he was quite
satisfied; that he himself must willy-nilly play some part therein he was
too well persuaded.
Not that he wished to meddle. If this Miss Cecelia Brooke (as she named
herself) fostered any sort of intrigue, he wanted nothing so fervently
as to be left altogether out of it. But already he had been dragged in,
without wish or consent of his; whoever coveted her secret—whatever that
was, more precious to her than jewels—harboured designs upon his own as
well. It was his duty henceforth to go warily, overlooking no circumstance,
however trifling and inconsiderable it might appear. The slenderest thread
may lead to the heart of the most intricate maze—and the heart of this was
become Lanyard's immediate goal, for there his enemy lay perdu.
It was never this man's fault to underrate an enemy, least of all
an unknown; and he entertained wholesome respect for Secret Service
operators—picked men, as a rule, the meanest no mean antagonist. And this
business, he fancied, had all the flavour of Secret Service work—one
of those blind duels, desperate and grim affairs of masked combatants
feinting, thrusting, guarding in the dark, each with the other's sword ever
feeling for his throat, fighting for life itself and making his own rules
as the contest swayed.
But what was this Brooke girl doing in that galley? What conceivable motive
induced her to dabble those slender hands in the muck and blood of Secret
Lanyard was fain to let that question rest. After all, it was no concern of
his. There she was, up to her pretty eyebrows in some dark, bad business;
and it was not for him to play the gratuitous ass, rush in unasked, and
seek to extricate her….
Through endless hours he sat brooding, vision blindly focussed upon the
misty, shimmering mystery of that night.
Ekstrom!… Slowly in his understanding intuition shaped the conviction
that it was Ekstrom whom he was fighting now, Ekstrom in the guise of one
of his creatures, some agent of the Prussian spy system who had contrived
to smuggle himself aboard this British steamship.
Out of those nine in the smoking room the previous night, then, he must
beware of one primarily, perhaps of more.
Four he was disposed, with reservations, to reckon negligible: Baron von
Harden, head of a Netherlands banking house, a silent body whose acute
mental processes went on behind a pallid screen of flabby features; Julius
Becker, a theatrical manager of New York, whose right name ended in ski;
Bartlett Putnam, late chargé d'affaires of the American embassy in Madrid;
Edmund O'Reilly, naturalized citizen of the United States, interested in
the manufacture of motor tractors somewhere in Michigan.
Of the other five, two were English: Lieutenant Thackeray, a civilly
reticent gentleman whose right arm rested in a black silk sling, making
a flying trip to visit a married sister in New York; Archer Bartholomew,
Esq., solicitor, a red-cheeked, bright-eyed, white-haired, brisk little
Cockney, beyond the military age.
There remained Dressier, the stout, self-satisfied Swiss, whose fawning
manner was possibly accounted for by his statement that he journeyed to
New York to engage in the trade of restaurateur in partnership with his
brother; Crane, long and awkward and homely, of saturnine cast, slow of
gesture and negligent as to dress, his humorous sense clouding a power
of shrewd intelligence; and Señor Arturo Velasco, of Buenos Aires,
middle-aged, apparently extremely well-to-do, a thoughtful type, more
self-contained than most of his countrymen.
One of these probably … But which?…
Nor must he permit himself to forget that the Assyrian carried fifty-nine
other male passengers, in addition to her complement of officers, crew, and
stewards, that any one of these might prove to be Potsdam's cat's-paw.
Awesome pallor tinged the eastern horizon, gaining strength, spread in
imperceptible yet rapid gradations toward the zenith. Stars faded, winked
out, vanished. Silver and purple in the sea gave place to livid gray.
Almost visibly the routed night rolled back over the western rim of the
world. Shafts of supernal radiance lanced the formless void between sky
and sea. Swollen and angry, the sun lifted up its enormous, ensanguined
portent. And the discountenanced moon withdrew hastily into the
immeasurable fastnessness of a cloudless firmament, yet failed therein to
find complete concealment. Keen, sweet airs of dawn raked the decks, now
to port, now to starboard, as the Assyrian twisted and writhed on her
Passengers whose fears had become sufficiently numb to permit them to
drowse, stirred in their chairs, roused blinking and blear-eyed, arose
and stretched cramped, cold bodies. Others lay listless, enervated by the
sleepless misery of that night. Crane found Lanyard awake and marched him
off for coffee and cigarettes in the smoking room.
Later, starting out for a turn around the decks, they passed a deck-chair
sheltered in a jog where the engine-room ventilating shaft joined the
forward deck-house, in which Miss Brooke lay cocooned in wraps and furs,
her profile, turned aside from the sea, exquisitely etched against the rich
blackness of a fox stole. She slept as quietly as the most carefree, a
shadowy smile touching her lips.
Crane's stride faltered. He whistled low.
"In the name of all things wonderful! how did that get on board?"
Lanyard mentioned the girl's name. "She has the stateroom next to
mine—came off that tender, night before last."
"And me sore on that darn' li'l boat because it brought aboard all the
nosey Johnnies! Ain't it the truth, you never know your luck?"
The American ruminated in silence till another lap of their walk took them
past the girl again.
"Funny," he mused, "if that's why they held us up…."
"Oh, I was just wondering if it was on that young lady's account they kept
us kicking our heels back there so long."
"I am still stupid," Lanyard confessed.
"Why, she might be a special messenger, you know—something like that—the
British Government wanted to smuggle out of the country without anybody
"Monsieur is a romantic."
"You can't trust me," Crane averred unblushingly.
When they passed the chair again it was empty.
At breakfast Lanyard saw the girl from a distance: their places were
separated by the width of the saloon. She had no neighbours at her table,
did not look up when Lanyard entered, finished her meal some time before
he did, and retired immediately to her stateroom, in whose seclusion she
remained for the rest of the day.
That second day was altogether innocent of untoward incident. At least
superficially the life of the ship settled into the groove of "business
as usual." Only the company of the Assyrian's faithful convoys was an
ever-present reminder of peril.
And in the middle of the afternoon she passed close by a derelict, a
torpedoed tramp, deep down by the stern, her bows helplessly high in air
and crimson with rust, the melancholy haunt of a great multitude of gulls.
More than slightly to Lanyard's surprise he received no quiet invitation
to the captain's quarters to be interrogated concerning the burglary in
Stateroom 27. Apparently, the young woman had contented herself with
reporting merely that the communicating door had carelessly been left
For his own part, neither seeking nor avoiding individual members of the
smoking-room group, Lanyard permitted himself to be drawn into their
company, and sat among them amiably receptive. But this profited him
scantily; there was no further talk of the Lone Wolf; he was not again
aware of that covert surveillance.
But when—the evening chill driving him below to don a fur-lined
topcoat—the Brooke girl, coming up the companionway, acknowledged his look
of recognition with the most distant of nods, he accepted the apparent
rebuff without resentment. He understood. She was playing the game. The
enemy was watching, listening. After that he was studious to refrain from
seeming either to avoid or to seek her neighbourhood; and if he did keep a
sharp eye on her, it was so circumspectly as to mock detection. To the
best of his observation she found no friends on board, contracted no new
acquaintances, kept herself to herself within walls of inexorable reserve.
Dawn, ending the second night at sea, found the Assyrian pursuing a
course still devious, and now alone; the destroyers had turned back during
the night. The western boundary of the barred zone lay astern. Ahead, at
the end of a brief interval of time, the ivory towers of New York loomed,
a-shimmer with endless sunlight, glorious in golden promise. Accordingly,
the spirits of the passengers were exalted. The very ship seemed to grin in
self-complacence; she had won safely through.
Unremitting vigilance was none the less maintained. No hour of the
twenty-four found either gun, forward or aft, wanting a full working crew
on the keen qui vive. The life boats remained on outswung davits; boat
drills for passengers as well as crew were features of the daily programme.
Regulations concerning light and smoking on deck after dark were rigidly
enforced. Fuel was never spared in the effort to widen the blue gulf
between the steamship and those waters wherein she had so nearly met her
end. By day a hunted thing, racing frantically toward a port of refuge in
the West, all her stout fabric labouring with titanic pulsations, shying in
panic from the faintest suspicion of smoke upon the horizon, the Assyrian
slipped into the grateful obscurity of night like a snake into a thicket,
made herself akin to its densest shadows, strained hopelessly not to be
outdistanced by its fugitive mantle.
And the benison of unseasonably clement weather was hers; day after shining
day, night after placid night, the Atlantic revealed a singularly gracious
humour, mirrored the changeful panorama of the heavens in a surface little
flawed. So that the most squeamish voyagers, as well as those most beset
with fears, slept sweetly in the comfort of their berths.
Lanyard, however, never went to bed without first securing his door so that
it might be opened by force alone; and never slept without a pistol beneath
But the truth is, he slept little. For the first time in his history he
learned what it meant to will sleep to come and have his will defied. He
lay for hours staring wide-eyed into darkness, hearkening to the steady
throbbing of the engines, unable to dismiss the thought that their every
revolution brought him so much nearer to America, so much the nearer to
his hour with Ekstrom. In vain he sought to fatigue his senses by
over-indulgence in his weakness for gambling. Day-long sessions at poker
and auction in the smoking room—where he found formidable antagonists,
principally in the persons of Crane, Bartlett Putnam, Velasco, Bartholomew,
Julius Becker and Baron von Harden—served only to forward his financial
fortunes; his luck was phenomenal; he multiplied many times that slender
store of English banknotes with which he had embarked upon this adventure.
But he left each exhausting sitting only to toss upon a wakeful pillow or
to roam uneasily the dark and desolate decks, a man haunted by ghosts of
his own raising, hagridden by passions of his own nurturing….
About two o'clock on the third night (the first outside the danger zone,
when every other passenger might reasonably be expected to be in his berth)
Lanyard lay in a deck-chair deep in shadows, wondering if it was worthwhile
to go below and woo sleep in his stateroom. By way of experiment he shut
his eyes. When after a moment he opened them again he was no longer alone.
Some distance away, at the rail, the woman of Stateroom 27 was standing
with her back to Lanyard, looking intently forward, unquestionably ignorant
of his presence.
Without moving, he watched in listless incuriosity till he saw her
straighten and stand away from the rail as if bracing herself against some
A man was coming aft from the entrance to the main companionway, impatience
in his stride—a tall man, of good carriage, muffled almost to the heels in
a heavy ulster, a steamer-cap well forward over his eyes. But the light was
poor, the pale shine of the aged moon blending trickily with the swaying
shadows; Lanyard was unable to place him among the passengers. There was
a suggestion of Lieutenant Thackeray—but that one was handicapped by one
shell-shattered arm, whereas this man had the use of both.
He demonstrated that promptly, taking the girl into them. She yielded
herself gladly, with a hushed little cry, hiding her face in the bosom of
his ulster, clinging to him.
This, then, was an assignation prearranged! Miss Cecelia Brooke had a lover
aboard the Assyrian, a lover whom she denied by day but met in stealth by
And yet, after that first, swift embrace, their conduct became oddly
unloverlike. The man released her of his own initiative, held her by the
shoulders at arm's length. There was irritation in his manner. He seemed
tempted to shake the young woman.
"Celia! what madness!"
So much, at least, Lanyard overheard; the rest was a mumble into the hand
which the girl placed over the man's lips. She cried breathlessly: "Hush!
not so loud!"
And then she remembered to guard her own voice. In an undertone she spoke
passionately for a moment. The man interrupted in a tone of profound
vexation. She drew away, as if hurt, caught him up as he hesitated for a
word, returned, clung to the lapels of his coat, her accents rapid and
pitiful, eloquent of explanation, entreaty, determination. The man lifted
his hands to her wrists, broke her grasp, cut her brusquely short, put her
forcibly from him. She sobbed softly….
Thus swiftly the scene suffered disillusioning transition. The pretty
fiction of lovers meeting in secret was no more. Remained a man annoyed to
the verge of anger, a woman desperately importunate.
The wind, sweeping aft, carried broken snatches of their communications:
"… all I have … could not let you go…."
"I was desperate…."
"… drive me mad with your nonsense…."
Lanyard sat up, scraping his chair harshly on the deck. Stricken mute,
the pair at the rail moved only to turn his way the pallid ovals of their
Heedless of the prohibition, he struck a vesta, cupped its flame in his
hands, bending his face close and deliberately lighting a cigarette.
Appreciably longer than necessary he permitted the flare to reveal his
features. Then he blew it out, rose, sauntered to the rail, cast the
cigarette into the sea, went aft and so below, satisfied that the girl must
have recognised him and so knew that her secret was safe.
But it was in an oddly disgruntled humour that he turned in—he who had
been so ready to twit Crane with his fantastic speculations concerning
the English girl, who had himself been the readiest to endue her with the
romantic attributes becoming a heroine of her country's Secret Service!
What if he must now esteem her in the merciless light of to-night's
exposure, as the most pitiable of all human spectacles, a poor lovesick
thing sans dignity, sans pride, sans heed for the world's respect, a woman
pursuing a man weary of her?
He resented unreasonably the unreasonable resentment which the affair
inspired in him.
What was it to him? He who had struck off all fettering bonds of common
human interests, who had renounced all common human emotions, who had set
his hand against all mankind that stood between him and that vengeful
purpose to which he had dedicated his life! He, the Lone Wolf, the
heartless, soulless, pitiless beast of prey!
God in Heaven! what was any woman to him?
ON THE BANKS
Unaccountably enough in his esteem, and more and more to Lanyard's
exasperation, the evil flavour of that overnight incident lasted; it
tinctured distastefully his first waking thoughts; and through all that
fourth day at sea his mood was dark with irrational depression.
And the fifth day and the sixth were like unto the fourth.
Constantly he caught himself on watch for the young woman, wondering how
she would comport herself toward him, unwilling witness though he had been
to that shabby scene.
But, save distantly at meal times, he saw nothing of her.
And though he knew that she was much on deck after midnight, he was
studious to keep out of her way. The tedium of stopping in a stuffy
stateroom, when the spell of restlessness was on him, waiting for the
sounds of his neighbour's return before he might venture forth, was
nothing; anything were preferable to figuring as the innocent bystander at
another encounter between the Brooke girl and her reluctant lover….
Then that happened which lent the business another complexion altogether.
Its second phase, of close development, drew toward an end. Subtle
underlying forces began to stir in their portentous latency.
The rapiers which thus far had merely touched, shivering lightly against
each other, measuring each its opponent's strength, feeling out his skill,
fell apart, then re-engaged in sharp and deadly play. Steel met steel and,
clashing, struck off sparks whose fugitive glimmerings lightened measurably
On the sixth night out, at eleven o'clock as a matter of routine, the
smoking room was closed for the night, terminating an uncommonly protracted
and, in Lanyard's esteem, irksome sitting at cards. Well tired, he went
immediately to his quarters, undressed, stretched out in his berth, and
switched off the light.
Incontinently he found himself bedevilled by thoughts that would not rest.
For upward of an hour he lay moveless, seeking oblivion in that very effort
to preserve immobility, while the Assyrian, lunging heavily on her way,
moaned and muttered tedious accompaniment to the chant of the working
Despairing at length, and fretted by the closeness of his quarters, he got
up, dressed sketchily, and was shrugging into his fur-lined coat when he
heard the door to the adjoining stateroom open and close, stealth in the
sound of it.
At that he hung up his overcoat, and threw himself down with a book on the
lounge seat beneath the port. The novel was dull enough in all conscience;
for that matter no tale within the compass of the cunningest weaver of
words could have enthralled his temper at that time.
He read and read again page after page, but without intelligence.
Between his eyes and the type-blackened paper mirages of the past trembled
and wavered; old faces, old scenes, old illusions took unsubstantial form,
dissolved, blended, faded away: a saddening show of shadows.
His heavy eyelids drooped; slumber's drowsy vestments trailed lazily
athwart the sea of consciousness….
A slight noise startled him, either the shutting of the door to Stateroom
27, or the sound of the book dropping from his relaxed grasp. He sat up and
consulted his watch. The hour was half after twelve.
The ship's bell sounded remotely a single, doleful stroke.
He might have dozed five minutes or fifteen—long enough at least to leave
its tantalising effect of sleep desperately desirable, mockingly elusive,
almost grasped, whisked beyond grasping. And with this he was aware of
something even less tangible, a sense of something amiss, of something
vaguely wrong, as of an evil spirit stalking furtively through the darkened
labyrinth of the ship … as impalpable and ineluctable as miasmic
exhalations of a morass….
Lanyard passed a hand across his forehead. Had he been dreaming, then? Was
this merely the reaction from some bitter nightmare? He could not remember.
On sheer impulse he stood up, extinguished the light, opened the door. As
he did this he noted that a light burned in Stateroom 27, visible through
the ventilating grille. So the girl must have returned while he slept. Or
had she neglected to turn the switch when she went out? He could not be
On the threshold he paused a little, attentive to the familiar rumour of
the ship by night: the prolonged sloughing of riven waters down the side,
gnashing of swells hurled back by the bows, sibilance of draughts in
alleyways, groaning of frames, a thin metallic rattle of indeterminate
origin, the crunching grind of the steering gear, the everlasting
deep-throated diapason of the engines, somewhere aft in that tier of
staterooms a persistent human snore … nothing unusual, no alarming
Yet the feeling that mischief was afoot would not be still.
Lanyard moved down to the junction of the thwartship passage with the
Here he commanded a view of the promenade-deck landing and the main
companionway, all in darkness but for a feeble glimmer of reflected
starlight through the open deck port on the far side of the vessel. Beyond
this the rail was stencilled against the dull face of the sea with its far
lifting and falling horizon; within, no more was visible than the dimmed
whiteness of the forward partition, the dense, indefinite mass of balusters
winding up to the boat-deck, and the flat plane of the tiled landing.
On this last, near the mouth of the port alleyway, half obscured by the
intervening balusters, something moved, something huge, black, and formless
swayed and writhed strangely, and in the strangest silence, like a dumb,
tormented misshapen brute transfixed to one spot from which its most
anguished efforts might not avail to budge it.
Lanyard ran forward, rounded the well of the companionway, and pulled up.
Now the nature of the thing was revealed. Blackly silhouetted against the
square of the doorway two human figures were close-locked and struggling
desperately, straining, resisting, thrusting, giving, recovering … and
all with never a sound more than the deadened thump of a shifting foot or
the rasp of hard-won breathing.
For several seconds the spectator could not distinguish one contestant from
the other. Then a change in the fortunes of war enabled him to make out
that one was a woman, the other, and momentarily more successful, a man.
Slender and youthful and strong, she fought with the indomitable fury of
a pantheress. He on his part had won this much temporary advantage—had
broken the woman's clutch upon his throat and was bending her back over
his hip, one hand fumbling at her windpipe, the other imprisoning her two
Yet she was far from being vanquished. Even as Lanyard moved toward the
pair, she drove a savage knee into the man's middle and, as he checked
instantaneously with a grunt of pained surprise, regained her footing and
planted both elbows against his chest, striving frantically to free her
Simultaneously Lanyard took the fellow from behind, wound an arm around his
neck, jerked his head sharply back, twisted his forearm till he released
the woman's wrists, and threw him with a force that must have jarred his
The woman staggered back against the partition, panting and sobbing beneath
her breath. The man rebounded from his fall with astonishing agility, and
flew back at Lanyard. An object in his right hand gave off the dull gleam
of polished steel.
Lanyard, his automatic in his stateroom, in the pocket of the overcoat
where he had deposited it when meaning to go out on deck, lacked any means
of defense other than his two hands; but his one-time fame as an amateur
pugilist had been second only to his fame as a connaisseur d'art; and to
one whose youth had been passed in association with the Apaches of Paris,
some mastery of la savate was an inevitable accomplishment.
A lightning coup de pied planted a heel against one of the man's shins,
and his onslaught faltered in a gust of curses. Then the point of his jaw
received the full force of Lanyard's right fist with all the ill will
imaginable behind it. The man reared back, reeled into the black mouth of
the alleyway, fell heavily.
Even so, he demonstrated extraordinary vitality and appetite for
punishment. He had no more gone down than the adventurer, peering into the
gloom, saw him struggle up on his knees. Instantly Lanyard made toward
him, intent on finishing this work so well begun, but in his second stride
tripped over a heavy body hidden in the shadows, and pitched headlong.
Falling, he was conscious of a flashing thing that sped past his cheek,
immediately above his shoulder. There followed an echoing thud against the
Picking himself up smartly, Lanyard crept several paces down the alleyway,
flattening against the wall, straining his vision, listening intently,
rewarded by neither sign nor sound of his antagonist.
That one must have been swift to advantage himself of Lanyard's tumble.
If he had not vanished into thin air, or gone to earth in some untenanted
stateroom thereabouts, he found in the close blackness of that narrow
passage a cloak of positive invisibility to cover his escape.
And there is little wisdom in stalking an armed man whom one cannot see,
with what little light there is at one's own back.
So Lanyard went back to the landing, stepping carefully over the obstacle
which had both thrown him and saved his life—the supine body of a third
man, motionless; whether dead or merely insensible, he did not stop to
investigate. His immediate concern was for the woman.
As he came upon her now, she stood en profile to the partition, tugging
strongly at something embedded in the woodwork close by her side, between
her waist and armpit. At the sound of his approach she looked up with a
tremor of apprehension quickly calmed.
"Monsieur Duchemin! If you please—"
Lanyard, in no way surprised to recognise the voice of Miss Cecelia Brooke,
stepped closer. "What is it?" he enquired; and then, bending over to look,
found that her cloak was pinned to the partition by the blade of a heavy
knife buried a full half of its considerable length.
"He threw it as you fell," the girl explained. "I was in the direct line."
"Permit me, mademoiselle…."
He laid hold of the haft of the weapon and with some difficulty withdrew
"Who was it?" he asked, weighing the knife in his palm and examining it as
closely as he could without the aid of light.
There was no reply. Directly her cloak was freed, the girl had moved
hastily away to the body over which Lanyard had stumbled. He heard an
imploring whisper—"Please!"—and looked up to see her on her knees.
"Who, then, is this?" he demanded, joining her.
"Lionel—Lieutenant Thackeray. Please—O please!—tell me he is not dead."
Her voice broke; he saw her slender body convulsed with racking emotions.
Kneeling, Lanyard made a hasty and superficial examination, necessarily no
more under the conditions.
"His heart beats," he announced—"he breathes. I do not think him seriously
injured." He made as if to get up. "I will get a light—a flash-lamp from
my stateroom—or, better still, the ship's surgeon—"
Her hand fell upon his arm. "Please, no! Not that—not now. Later, if
necessary; but now—surely, you can help me carry him to his stateroom."
"You know the number?"
"It's close by—30."
"Find it, and light up. No—leave this to me; I can carry him without
The girl rose and disappeared. Lanyard passed his arms beneath the
Englishman's body, gathered him into them, and struggled to his feet: no
Light gushed from an open doorway, the third aft from the landing.
Staggering, the adventurer entered and deposited the body upon the berth.
Immediately the girl closed and bolted the door, then passed between him
and the berth to bend over the unconscious man. He lay in deep coma, limbs
a-sprawl, unpleasant glints of white between his half-closed eyelids, his
breathing stertorous through parted lips. Free of its sling, his wounded
arm dangled over the edge of the berth. In putting him down, Lanyard had
remarked that its sleeve had been slit to the shoulder, and that its
bandages were undone. Now, in amazement, he saw the arm was firm and
muscular, with an unbroken skin, never a sign of any injury in all its
Gently the girl lifted the lieutenant's head to the light, discovering a
hideously bruised swelling at the base of the skull, blood darkly matting
the close-clipped hair.
She requested without looking round: "Water, please—and a towel."
Obediently Lanyard ran hot and cold water into the hand-basin in equal
"Would it not be well now to call the ship's surgeon?" he suggested
"Is that necessary? I am something of a nurse. This is simply a bad
contusion—no worse, I believe. He was struck down from behind, a cowardly
blow in the dark, as he started to go up on deck. I had been waiting for
him. When he didn't come I suspected something was wrong. I came down,
found him lying there, that brute kneeling over him."
She spoke coolly enough, in contrast with the high excitement that inflamed
her eyes as she turned away from the berth.
"Monsieur Duchemin, are you armed?"
"I have this," he said, exhibiting the knife thrown by the would-be
murderer—a simple trench dagger, without distinguishing marks of any sort.
"Then take this, please." Extracting an automatic pistol from a holster
belted beneath Thackeray's coat, she proffered it. "You won't mind staying
here a moment, standing guard, while I fetch a dressing from my room?"
Before he could utter a word of protest she had slipped out into the
alleyway, shutting the door behind her.
When several minutes had passed the adventurer found himself beset by
increasing concern. This long delay seemed not only inconsistent with her
solicitude, but indicated a possibility that the girl had braved unwisely
the chance of a resumption of hostilities on the part of her late and as
yet anonymous assailant.
Darkening the room as a matter of common-sense precaution, Lanyard, pistol
in hand, stepped out into the alleyway in time to see the girl in the act
of rising from her knees on the landing, near the spot where Thackeray had
fallen. The light of her flash-lamp was blotted out as she came hurriedly
Perplexed, he turned back and switched on the light as she entered.
Her eyes challenged his almost defiantly.
"Was I long?" she asked, breathless. "I dropped something…."
Lanyard bowed without speaking. Instinctively he knew that she was lying;
and divining this in his attitude, she coloured and, disconcerted, turned
away. For a moment, while she busied herself arranging on a convenient
chair an assortment of first-aid accessories, he fancied that her
half-averted face wore a look of sullen chagrin, with its compressed lips,
downcast eyes, and faintly gathered brows.
But directly she needed assistance, and requested it of him in a subdued
and impersonal manner, showing a countenance devoid of any incongruous
Lanyard, lifting the lieutenant's head and heavy torso, helped turn him
face downward on the berth, then stood aside, thoughtfully watching the
girl's deft fingers sop absorbent cotton in an antiseptic wash and apply it
to the injury.
After a little, he said: "If mademoiselle has no more immediate use for
"Thank you, monsieur. You have already done so very much!"
"Then, if mademoiselle will supply the name of this assassin—"
"I know it no more than you, monsieur!" She glanced up at him, startled.
"What do you mean to do?"
"Why, naturally, lodge an information with the captain concerning this
"Oh, please, no!"
At a loss, Lanyard shrugged eloquently.
"Not yet, at all events," she hastened to amend. "Let Lionel judge what is
best to be done when he comes to."
"But, mademoiselle, who can say when that will be?" He pointed out the
ugly, ragged abrasion in the young Englishman's scalp exposed by the
cleansing away of the clotted blood. "No ordinary blow," he commented;
"something very like a slung-shot or a loaded cane did that work. If I may
venture again to advise—unless mademoiselle is herself a surgeon—"
Her colour faded and she caught her breath sharply. "You think it as
serious as all that?"
"I do not know. Such a blow might easily fracture the skull, possibly bring
about a concussion of the brain. Regard, likewise, his laborious breathing.
I most assuredly advise consulting competent authority."
She did not immediately answer, turning back undivided attention to her
task; but he noticed that her hands were tremulous, however, dextrously
they finished dressing and bandaging the hurt; and deep distress troubled
the handsome eyes she turned to his when she rose.
"You are right," she murmured—"unquestionably right, monsieur. We must
have the surgeon in…."
But when Lanyard advanced a hand toward the bell-push, to call the steward,
she interposed in quick alarm:
"No—if you please, a moment; I must have time to think!" Her slender
fingers writhed together in her agony of doubt and irresolution. "If only I
knew what to do…."
Lanyard was dumb. There was, indeed, nothing helpful he could offer, who
was without a solitary tangible or trustworthy clue to the nature of this
He owned himself sadly mystified. In the light—or, rather, the shadow—of
this latest development, his revised suspicions seemed unwarranted to the
point of impertinence; unless, of course, one assumed the unknown assailant
to be a rejected lover or wronged husband. And somehow one did not, in
the presence of this clear-eyed, straight-limbed, courageous young
Englishwoman, so wanting in self-consciousness.
And yet … what the deuce was she to this man whom, indisputably, she
followed against his wish?
And what conceivable chain of circumstances linked their fortunes with his,
and that double burglary of the first night out with this murderous assault
Nor was to-night's work, considered by itself, lacking in questionable
Why had Thackeray carried that sound arm in a sling? How had its bandages
come to be unwrapped? Not in struggles before being placed hors de combat,
for he had never had a chance to resist. Had his assailant, then, unwrapped
it subsequently? If so, with what end in view?
Why had this Miss Cecelia Brooke, surprising the thug at his work, joined
battle with him so bravely and so madly without calling for help?
What hidden motive excused this singular hesitation to summon the surgeon,
this reluctance to inform the officers of the ship?
What duplicity was that which the girl had paraded concerning her
procrastination when Lanyard had surprised her on her knees out there on
If this were what Lanyard had first inclined to think it, Secret Service
intrigue, surely it was weirdly intricate when an English girl hesitated
to safeguard an Englishman by taking into her confidence the officers of a
British ship, British manned!
Nevertheless, and however much he might wonder and doubt, Lanyard would
never question her. Never of his own volition would he probe more deeply
into this mystery, take one farther step into the intricacies of its maze.
So, in silence, he waited, passively courteous, at her further service if
she had need of him, content if she had not, tolerant of her tacit prayer
for time in which to think a way out of her difficulties.
After some few moments he grew uncomfortably aware that he had become the
object of a speculative regard not at all unfavourable.
He indulged in a mental gesture of resignation.
Then what he had feared befell, not altogether as he had apprehended, but
in the girl's own fashion, if without material difference in the upshot.
"I am afraid," said she in an even voice, so quietly pitched as to be
inaudible to any eavesdropper. "This becomes a task greater than I had
dreamed, more than my wits can cope with. Monsieur Duchemin…."
She hesitated. He bowed slightly. "If mademoiselle can make any use of my
poor abilities, she has but to command me."
"We—I have much to thank you for already, monsieur, much more than I can
ever hope to reward adequately—"
"Reward?" he echoed. "But, mademoiselle—!"
"Please don't misunderstand." She flushed a little, very prettily. "I am
simply trying to express my sense of obligation, not only for what you have
already done, but for what I mean to ask you to do."
Again he bowed, without comment, amiably receptive.
She resumed with perceptible effort: "I can trust you—"
"You must make sure of that before you do," he warned her, smiling.
"I am sure," she averred gravely.
"You know nothing concerning me, mademoiselle—pardon! For all you know
I may be the greatest rogue in Christendom. And I must tell you in all
candour, sometimes I think I am."
"What I may or may not know concerning you, Monsieur Duchemin, is
immaterial as long as I know you are what you have proved yourself to me, a
gentleman, considerate, generous, brave, and—not inquisitive."
He was frankly touched. If this were flattery, tone and manner robbed it of
fulsomeness, rendered it subtle beyond the coarser perceptions of the man.
He knew himself for what he was, knew himself unworthy; and that part
of him which was unaffectedly French, whether by accident of birth or
influence of environment, and so impulsive and emotional, reacted in
spontaneous gratitude to this implicit acceptance of him for what he strove
to seem to be.
"Mademoiselle is gracious beyond my deserts," he protested. "Only let me
know how I may be of use…."
"In three ways: Continue to be lenient in your judgments, and ask me no
more questions than you must because … I may not answer…." Her hands
worked together again. She added unhappily, in a faint voice: "I dare not."
That, too, moved him, since he had been far from lenient in his judgments.
He responded the more readily: "All that is understood, mademoiselle."
"Please go at once back to your stateroom, and as quietly as possible.
There is a bare chance you were not recognised, that nobody knows who came
to my aid to-night. If you can slip away without attracting attention, so
much the better for us, for all of us. You may not be suspected."
"Trust me to use my best discretion."
"Lastly … take and keep this for me, till I ask you for it again. Hide it
as secretly as you can. It may be sought for, is certain to be if you are
believed to be in my confidence. It must not be found. And I may not want
it again before we land in New York."
She extended a hand on whose palm rested a small and slender white
cylinder, no longer and little thicker than the toy pencil that dangles
from a dance-card: a tight roll of plain white paper enclosed in a wrapping
of transparent oiled silk, gummed fast down its length and, at either end,
sealed with miniature blobs of black wax.
"Will you do this for me, Monsieur Duchemin? I warn you, it may cost you
He took it, his temper veering to the whimsical. "What is life?" he
questioned. "A prelude—perhaps an overture to that great drama, Death. Who
knows? Who cares?"
She heard him in a stare. "You place no value on life?"
"Mademoiselle," he said, "I have lived nearly thirty years in this world,
three years in the theatre of war, seldom far from the trenches of one
front or another. I tell you, I know death too well…."
He shrugged and put the roll of paper away in a pocket.
"You understand it must not be taken from you under any circumstance? As a
last resort, it must be destroyed rather than yielded up."
"It shall be," he said quietly. "Is there anything more?"
She shook her head, thoughtfully knuckling her underlip.
"How can I communicate with you in event of necessity after we get to New
York?" she asked.
"I shall stop for a week or two at the Hotel Knickerbocker."
"If anything should happen"—with a swift glance of anxiety toward the
motionless figure in the berth—"if anything should prevent my calling for
it within a week after our arrival, you will be good enough to deliver it
to—" She caught herself up quickly, the unuttered words trembling on her
lip. "I will write down the address of the person to whom you will deliver
it, and slip it underneath the door between our rooms—first making
certain you are there to receive it—if I do not ask you to return
the—thing—before we land."
"That shall be as you will."
"When you have memorized the address you will destroy it?"
"Depend on that."
"I think that is all. Thank you, Monsieur Duchemin—and good-night."
She extended her hand. He saluted it punctiliously with fingertips and
"If you will put out the light, mademoiselle, it may aid me to get away
She nodded and offered him Thackeray's pistol. "Take this. O, I have
another with me."
Lanyard accepted the weapon and, when she had darkened the room, opened the
door, slipped out, and closed it behind him so noiselessly that the girl
could not believe he was gone.
Nothing hindered his return to Stateroom 29.
Fully two minutes after he had locked himself in he heard the distant
clamour of the annunciator, calling a steward to Stateroom 30.
He sat for a long time on the edge of his berth, elbow on knee, chin in
hand, unstirring, gaze fixed upon that little cylinder of white paper
resting in the hollow of his palm, in profoundest concentration pondering
the problems it presented: what it was, what possession of it meant to
Michael Lanyard, what safe disposition to make of it pending welcome relief
from this unsought and most unwelcome trust.
This last question alone bade fair to confound his utmost ingenuity.
As for what it was, Lanyard was well satisfied that he now held the true
focus of this conspiracy, a secret of the first consequence, far too
momentous to the designs of England to be entrusted, though couched in the
most cryptic cipher ever mind of man devised, even to cables or mails which
England herself controlled.
Solely to prevent this communication from reaching America, Lanyard
believed, Germany had sown mines broadcast in all the waters which the
Assyrian must cross, and had commissioned her U-boats, without fail and
at whatever cost, to sink the vessel if by any accident she won safely
through the mine-fields.
In the effort to steal this secret, German spies had sailed on the
Assyrian knowing well the double risk they ran, of being shot like rats
if found out, of being drowned like neutrals if the ship went down through
the efforts of their compatriots.
It was the zeal of Potsdam's agents, seeking the bearer of this secret,
which had caused the rifling of Miss Brooke's luggage when she fell under
suspicion, thanks to her clandestine way of coming aboard; and through the
same agency young Thackeray had been all but murdered when suspicion, for
whatever reason, shifted to him.
To insure safe transmission of this communication, England had held the
Assyrian idle in port, day after day, while her augmented patrols scoured
the seas, hunting down ruthlessly every submarine whose periscope dared
peer above the surface, and while her trawlers innumerable swept the
channels clear of mines.
To prevent its theft, Lieutenant Thackeray had invented the subterfuge of
the "wounded" arm, amid whose splints and bandages (Lanyard never doubted)
the cylinder had been secreted.
Finally, it was as a special agent, deep in her country's confidence, that
this English girl had smuggled herself aboard at the last moment, bringing,
no doubt, this very cylinder to be transferred to the keeping of Lieutenant
Thackeray or, perhaps, another confrère, should she find reason to think
herself suspected, her trust endangered.
Nothing strange in that; women had served their countries in such
capacities before; the secret archives of European chancellories are
replete with their records. Lanyard himself remembered many such women,
brilliant mondaines from many lands domiciled in that Paris of the so-dead
yesterday to serve by stealth their respective governments; but never, it
was true, a woman of the caste of Cecelia Brooke; unless, indeed, this were
an actress of surpassing talent, gifted to hoodwink the most skeptical and
least susceptible of men.
Lanyard's train of thought faltered. New doubt of the girl began to shadow
his meditations. Contradictory circumstances he had noted intruded,
uninvited, to challenge overcredulous conclusions concerning her.
Would any secret agent worth her salt invite suspicion by making such a
conspicuously furtive embarkation, by such ostentatious avoidance of her
fellow passengers, by surrounding herself with an atmosphere of such
palpable mystery? Would such an one confess she had a "secret" to an utter
stranger, as she had to Lanyard that first night out? Would she, under any
conceivable circumstances, entrust to that same stranger that selfsame
secret upon whose inviolate preservation so much depended?
And would she make love-trysts on the decks by night?
Would a brother-agent take her in his arms, then reprove her with every
symptom of vexation for her "madness," her "insanity," her "nonsense" that
was like to "drive me mad"?—Thackeray's own words!
Vainly Lanyard cudgelled his wits for some plausible reading of this
Was this Brooke girl possibly (of a sudden he sat bolt upright) a Prussian
agent infatuated with this young Englishman and by him beloved in spite of
all that forbade their passion?
Did not this explanation reconcile every apparent inconsistency in her
conduct, even to the entrusting to a stranger of the stolen secret, the
purloined paper she dared not keep about her lest it be found in her
Lanyard's eyes narrowed. Visibly his features hardened. If this surmise of
his were any way justified in the outcome, he promised Miss Cecelia Brooke
an hour of most painful penitence.
Woman or not, she need not look for mercy from him, who must ever be
merciless in his dealings with Ekstrom's crew.
To be made that one's tool!
The very thought was intolerable….
As for himself, possession of this paper meant that pitfalls were digged
for his every step.
If ever the British found cause to suspect him, his certain portion would
be to face a firing squad in dusk of early day.
If, on the other hand, these Prussian agents on board the Assyrian ever
got wind of the fact that the cylinder was in his care, his fate was apt to
be a knife between his ribs the first time he was caught alone and—with
his back to the assassin.
Two courses, then, were open to him: the most sensible and obvious, to go
straightway to the captain of the Assyrian, report all that he knew or
surmised, and turn over the paper for safekeeping; one alternative, to hide
the cylinder so absolutely that the most drastic search would overlook it,
yet so handily that he could rid himself of it at an instant's notice.
But the first course involved denunciation of the Brooke girl. And what
if she were innocent? What if, after all, these doubts of her were the
specious spawn of facts misinterpreted, misconstrued? What if she proved to
be all she seemed? Could he, even though what he had warned her he might
be, the greatest rogue unhung, be false to a trust reposed in him by such a
As to that, there was no question in his mind; he would never betray her,
lacking irrefutable conviction that she was an employee of the Prussian spy
Then how to hide the paper?
Kneeling, Lanyard drew from beneath the berth his bellows-bag, selected
from its contents a black japanned tin case containing a rather elaborate
though compact trench medicine kit, the idle purchase of an empty afternoon
in London. Extracting from its fittings a small leather-covered case, he
replaced the kit, relocked and shoved the bag back beneath the berth.
Then, standing over the hand-basin, he opened the leather-covered case. Its
velvet-lined compartments held a hypodermic syringe and needle, and a glass
phial of twenty-four one-thirtieth grain morphia tablets.
Uncorking the phial, he shook out all the tablets, replaced three, then
slid the paper cylinder into the tube; it fitted precisely, concealed by
the label of the manufacturing chemist, leaving room for six more tablets.
Lanyard inserted four on top of the cylinder, moistening the lowermost
slightly to make it stick, recorked the phial, and returned it to its
Next he dissolved three morphia tablets in a little water in the bottom of
a glass, filled the syringe with the strong solution, fitted on the needle,
squirted most of the contents down the waste-pipe, and consigned the
remaining tablets to the same innocuous fate.
Finally he replaced needle and syringe in the case, let the glass which had
held the solution stand without rinsing, and put the open case upon the
shelf above the basin.
A light tapping sounded on the panels of his door.
"Well? Who's there?"
"Your steward, sir. Captain Osborne's compliments, an' 'e'd like to see you
in 'is room as soon as convenient, sir."
"You may say I will come at once."
"'Nk you, sir."
A summons to have been expected as a sequel to the surgeon's report after
attending Lieutenant Thackeray; none the less, Lanyard had not expected it
Authority, he reflected, ran true to form afloat as well as ashore; it was
prompt enough when required to apply a pound or so of cure. Surely the
officers, at least the captain, must have been advised why this voyage
was apt to prove exceptionally hazardous; and surely in the light of such
information it had been wiser to set armed watches on every deck by night,
rather than permit the lives of passengers to be imperilled through the
possible activities of Prussian agents among them incogniti.
And now that he was reminded of it, was not this, perhaps, but a device of
the enemy's to decoy him from the comparative safety of his stateroom?
It was with a hand in his jacket pocket, grasping Thackeray's automatic,
that he presently left the room. The alleyway, however, was deserted except
for his steward; who, as he appeared, turned and led the way up to the
Rounding the foot of the companionway, Lanyard contrived a hasty glance
down the port alleyway. The door to Stateroom 30 was on the hook; a light
burned within. Outside a guard was stationed, a sailor with a cutlass: the
first application of the pound of cure!
At the heels of his guide, he approached a door in the deck-house, devoted
to officers' accommodations, beneath the bridge. Here the steward knocked
discreetly. A heavy voice grumbling within was stilled for a moment, then
barked a sharp invitation to enter. The steward turned the knob, announced
dispassionately "Monseer Duchemin," and stood aside. Lanyard entered a
well-lighted room, simply but comfortably furnished as the captain's office
and sitting room; sleeping quarters adjoined, the head of a berth with a
battered pillow showing through a door a foot or so ajar.
Four persons were present; the notion entered Lanyard's head that a fifth
possibly lurked in the room beyond, spying, eavesdropping: not a bad scheme
if Thackeray had an associate on board whose identity it was desirable to
keep under cover.
The door closed gently behind him as he stood politely bowing, conscious
that the four faces turned his way were distinguished by a singular variety
Miss Cecelia Brooke was nearest him, beside a chair from which she had
evidently just risen, her pretty young face rather pale and set, a scared
look in her candid eyes.
Beyond her, the captain sat with his back to a desk: a broad-beamed,
vigorous body, intensely masculine, choleric by habit, and just now in an
extraordinarily grim temper, his iron-gray hair bristling from his
pillow, and his stout person visibly suffering the discomfort of wearing
night-clothes beneath his uniform coat and trousers. Bending upon Lanyard
the steel-hard regard of small, steel-blue eyes, he drummed the arms of his
chair with thick and stubby fingers.
To one side, standing, was the third officer, a Mr. Sherry, a youngish man
with a pleasant cast of countenance which temporarily wore a look, rarely
British, of ingrained sense of duty at odds with much embarrassment.
Lastly Mr. Crane's lanky person was draped, with its customary effect of
carelessness, on one end of the lounge seat. He looked up, nodded shortly
but cheerfully to Lanyard, then resumed a somewhat quizzical contemplation
of the half-smoked cigar which etiquette obliged him to neglect in the
presence of a lady.
"This is the gentleman?" Captain Osborne queried heavily of the girl.
Receiving a murmured affirmative, he continued: "Good morning, Monsieur
Duchemin…. Thanks, Miss Brooke; we won't keep you up any longer
He rose, bowed stiffly as Mr. Sherry opened the door for the girl, and when
she was gone threw himself back into his chair with a force which made it
enter a violent protest.
"Sit down, sir. Daresay you know what we want of you."
"It is not difficult to guess," Lanyard admitted. "A sad business,
"Sad!" the captain iterated in a tone of harsh sarcasm. "That's a mild name
to give murder."
Even had it not been blurted violently at him, that word was staggering.
The adventurer echoed it blankly. "You can't mean Lieutenant Thackeray—?"
"Not yet, though doctor says it may come to that; the poor chap's in a bad
"So one feared. But monsieur said 'murder'…."
Captain Osborne sat forward, steely gaze mercilessly boring into Lanyard's
eyes. "Monsieur Duchemin," he said slowly, "Lieutenant Thackeray was not
the only passenger to suffer through to-night's villainy. The other died
"In God's name, monsieur—who?"
"Mr. Bartholomew!" A memory of that brisk little body's ruddy, cheerful,
British personality flashed athwart the screen of memory. Lanyard murmured:
"Murdered," the captain proceeded, "in Stateroom 28. Lieutenant Thackeray
and he were friends, shared the suite. Apparently Mr. Bartholomew heard
some unusual noise in 30 and left his berth to investigate. He was struck
down from behind as he approached the communicating door. The murderer had
got in by way of the sitting room, 26."
Mr. Sherry added in an awed voice: "Frightful blow—skull crushed like an
There was a pause. Crane thoughtfully relighted his cigar, and wrapped his
right cheek round it. The captain glared glassily at Lanyard. Mr. Sherry
looked, if possible, more uncomfortable than ever. Lanyard pondered,
Ekstrom's work, of a certainty! This was his way, the way he imposed upon
his creatures. Ekstrom, ever a killer, obsessed by the fallacious notion
that dead men tell no tales….
And Bartholomew had been in this mess with Thackeray, both of them
operatives of the British Secret Service!
"Miss Brooke has given her version of the attack on Lieutenant Thackeray,"
the captain pursued. "Be good enough to let us have yours."
Succinctly Lanyard recounted the happenings between the moment when
premonition of evil drew him from his stateroom and the moment when he
He was at pains, however, to omit all mention of the cylinder of paper;
that, pending definite knowledge to the contrary, was a sacred trust, a
matter of his honour, solely the affair of the Brooke girl.
The captain squared himself toward Lanyard, his face louring, his jaw
"How did you happen to be up and dressed at that late hour, so ready to
respond to this—ah—premonition of yours?"
"I sleep not well, monsieur. It was my intention to go on deck and
endeavour to walk off my insomnia."
Captain Osborne commented with a snort.
"Why did you leave Miss Brooke alone before she called the doctor?"
"At mademoiselle's request, naturally."
"You'd been deuced gallant up to that time. I presume it didn't occur to
you that the young woman might need further protection?"
Lanyard shrugged. "It did not occur to me to refuse her request, monsieur."
"Didn't it strike you as odd she should wish to be left alone with
"It was not my affair, monsieur. It was her wish."
"Excuse me, cap'n." Crane sat up. "I'd like to ask Mr. Lanyard a question."
But Lanyard had prepared himself against that, and acknowledged the touch
with a quiet smile and the hint of a bow.
"U.S. Secret Service," Crane informed him with a grin. "Velasco spotted
you—had seen you years ago in Paruss—tipped me off."
"So one inferred. And these gentlemen?" Lanyard indicated the captain and
"I wised them up—had to, when this happened."
"Naturally, monsieur. Proceed…."
"I only wanted to ask if you noticed anything to make you think perhaps
there was an understanding between Miss Brooke and the lieutenant?"
"Why should I?"
"I ain't curious why you should. What I want to know is, did you?"
"No, monsieur," Lanyard lied blandly.
"The little lady didn't seem to take on more'n she naturally would if the
lieutenant'd been a stranger, eh?" "How to judge, when one has never seen
mademoiselle distressed on behalf of another?"
Crane abandoned his effort, resuming contemplation of his cigar.
"Now we come to the point. Monsieur Lanyard, or whatever your name is."
"I have found Duchemin very agreeable, monsieur le capitaine."
"I daresay," Captain Osborne sneered. He hesitated, glowering in the
difficulty of thinking. "See here, Monsieur Duchemin—since you prefer that
style—I'm not going to beat about the bush with you. I'm a plain man,
plain-spoken. They tell me you reformed. I don't know anything about that.
It's my conviction, once a thief, always a thief. I may be wrong."
"Right or wrong, monsieur might easily be less offensive."
The captain's dark countenance became still more darkly congested.
Implacable prejudice glinted in his small eyes. Nor was his temper softened
by the effrontery of this offender in giving back look for look with a calm
poise that overshadowed his arrogance of an honest, law-abiding man.
He made a vague gesture of impatience.
"The point is," he said, "this crime was accompanied by robbery."
"Am I to understand I am accused?"
"Nobody is accused," Crane cut in hastily.
"You have found no clues—?"
"What I want to say to you, Monsieur Duchemin, is this: the stolen property
has got to be recovered before this ship makes her dock in New York.
It means the loss of my command if it isn't. It means more than that,
according to my information; it means a disastrous calamity to the Allied
cause. And you're a Frenchman, Monsieur—Duchemin."
"And a thief. Monsieur le capitaine must not forget his pet conviction."
"As to that, a man can't always be particular about the tools he employs. I
believe the old saying, set a thief to catch a thief, holds good."
"Do I understand," Lanyard suggested sweetly, "you are about to honour me
by utilizing my reputed talents, by commissioning a thief to catch this
thief of to-night?"
"Precisely. You know more of this matter than any of us here. You were at
hand-grips with the murderer—and let him get away."
"To my deep regret. But I have told you how that happened."
"Seems a bit strange you made no real effort to find out what the scoundrel
"It was dark in that alleyway, monsieur."
The captain made an inarticulate noise, apparently meant to convey an
effect of ironic incredulity. More intelligible comment was interrupted by
a ring of the telephone. He swung around, clapped receiver to ear, snapped
an impatient "Well?" and listened with evident exasperation.
Lanyard's eyes narrowed. This business of telephoning was conceivably
well-timed; not improbably the captain was receiving the report of somebody
who had been sent to search Stateroom 29 in Lanyard's absence. He wondered
and, wondering, glanced at Crane, to find that gentleman watching him with
a whimsical glimmer which he was quick to extinguish when the captain said
curtly, "Very good, Mr. Warde," and turned back from the telephone, his
manner more than ever truculent.
"Mr. Lanyard," he said—"Monsieur Duchemin, that is—a valuable paper has
been stolen, an exceedingly valuable document. I don't know which carried
it, Lieutenant Thackeray or Mr. Bartholomew. But I do know such a paper was
in their possession. And to the best of my knowledge, we three were the
only ones on board that did know it. And it has disappeared. Now, sir, you
may or may not be deeper in this affair than you have admitted. If you are,
I'd advise you to own up."
"Monsieur le capitaine implies my complicity in this dastardly crime!"
Osborne shook his head doggedly. "I imply nothing. I only say this: if you
know anything you haven't told us, my advice is to make a clean breast of
"I have nothing to tell you, monsieur, beyond the fact that I find you,
your tone, your manner, and your choice of words, intolerably insolent."
"Then you know nothing—?"
"Monsieur!" Lanyard cried sharply.
"Very good," the captain persisted. "I'll take your word for it—and give
you till we take on our pilot to find the real criminal and make him give
up that paper."
"And if I fail?"
"Not a soul on board leaves the Assyrian till the murderer and thief are
found—if they are not one."
"But that is a general threat; whereas monsieur has honoured me by
making this a personal matter. What punishment have you prepared for
me specifically, if I fail to accomplish this task which baffles
"I'll at least inform the port authorities in New York, tell them who you
are, and have you barred out of the country."
"I want to say, Lanyard," Crane interposed, "this isn't my notion of how to
deal with you, or in any way by my advice."
"Thank you, monsieur," the adventurer replied icily, without removing his
attention from the captain. "What else, Captain Osborne?"
"That is all I have to say to you to-night, sir. Good-night."
"But I have something more to say to you, monsieur le capitaine. First, I
desire to give over to you this article which it will doubtless please you
to consider stolen property." Lanyard placed the automatic pistol on the
desk. "One of Lieutenant Thackeray's," he explained; "at Miss Brooke's
suggestion, I borrowed it as a life-preserver, in event of another brush
with this homicidal maniac."
"She told us about that," Osborne said heavily, fumbling with the weapon.
"What else, sir?"
"Only this, monsieur le capitaine: I shall use my best endeavour to uncover
the author of these crimes. If I succeed, be sure I shall denounce him. If
I succeed only in securing this valuable paper you speak of, be equally
sure you will never see it; for it shall leave my hands only to pass into
those which I consider entirely trustworthy."
"The devil!" Captain Osborne leaped from his chair quaking with fury. "You
dare accuse me of disloyalty—!"
"Now you mention it…." Lanyard cocked his head to one side with a
maddening effect of deliberation. "No," he concluded—"no; I wouldn't
accuse you of intentional treason, monsieur; for that would involve an
imputation of intelligence…."
He opened the door and nodded pleasantly to Crane and the third officer.
"Good-night, gentlemen," he said silkily. "Oh, and you, too, Captain
Osborne—good-night, I'm sure."
IN STATEROOM 29
In spite of his own anger, something far from being either assumed or
inconsiderable, Lanyard was fain to pause, a few paces from the deck-house,
and laugh quietly at a vast and incoherent booming which was resounding in
the room he had just quitted—Captain Osborne trying to do justice to
the emotions inspired in his virtuous bosom by the cheek of this damned
But suddenly, reminded of the grim reason for all this wretched brawling,
Lanyard shrugged off his amusement. Beneath his very feet, almost a man
lay dead, another perhaps dying, while the beast who had wrought that
devilishness remained at large.
He comprehended in a wondering regard that wide, star-blazoned arch of
skies, that broad, dark, restful mystery of waters, that still, sweet world
of peace through which the Assyrian forged, muttering contentedly at her
toil … while Murder with foul hands and slavering chops skulked somewhere
in the darkened fabric of her, somewhere beyond that black mouth of the
deck-port yawning at Lanyard's elbow.
From that same portal a man came abruptly but quietly, saw Lanyard standing
there, gave him a staring look and grudging nod, and strode forward to the
captain's quarters: Mr. Warde, the first officer.
Lanyard recollected himself, and went below.
Still the sailor guarded the door in that port alleyway; but now it stood
wide, and Cecelia Brooke was on its threshold, conversing guardedly with
the surgeon. Even as Lanyard caught sight of them, the latter bowed and
turned aft, while the girl retreated and refastened the door on its hook.
Thus reminded of Crane's shrewd questions, Lanyard was speculating rather
foggily concerning the reason therefor as he turned down the passage to
his own quarters. What had the American noticed, or been told, to make him
surmise covert sympathy between the girl and the lieutenant?
He caught himself yawning. Drowsiness buzzed in his brain. He had an
incoherent feeling that he would now sleep long and heavily. Entering his
stateroom, he put a shoulder against the door, pushing it to as he fumbled
for the switch. The circumstance that the lights were no longer burning as
he had left them failed to impress him as noteworthy in view of his belief
that, by the captain's orders, Mr. Warde had been ransacking his effects in
But when no more than a click responded to a turn of the switch, the room
remaining quite dark, Lanyard uttered an imprecation, abruptly very wide
Before he could move he stiffened to positive immobility: the cool, hard
nose of a pistol had come into contact with his skull, just behind the ear.
Simultaneously a softly-modulated voice advised him in purest German: "Be
quite still, Herr Lanyard, and hold up your hands—so! Also, see that you
utter no sound till I give you leave…. Karl, the handkerchief."
Lanyard stood motionless, hands well elevated, while a heavy silk blindfold
was whipped over his eyes and knotted tight at the back of his head.
"Now your paws, Herr Lone Wolf—put them together behind your back,
prudently making no attempt to reach a pocket."
Obediently Lanyard permitted his wrists to be caught together with a second
silk handkerchief. He could feel a slight sensation of heat upon his hands,
and guessed that this was caused by the light of a flash-lamp held close
to the flesh. None the less he took the chance of clenching his fists and
tensing the muscles of his wrists.
The bonds were made painfully fast. Still it did not seem to occur to his
captors to oblige their prisoner to open his hands and relax his wrists.
Lanyard perceived a glimmer of hope in this oversight: the enemy was
"Now the lights again."
After a little wait, during which he could hear the bulbs being pressed
back into their sockets, the switch clicked once more.
"And now, swine-dog!"—the pistol tapped his skull significantly—"if you
value your life, speak, and speak quickly. Where is that document?"
"Document?" Lanyard repeated in a tone of wonder.
"Unless you are eager to explore the hereafter, tell us where we may find
it without delay."
"Upon my word, I don't know what you're talking about."
"You lie!" the German snapped. "Face about!"
Somebody grasped his shoulders roughly and swung him round to the light,
the nose of the pistol shifting to press against his abdomen.
"Search him, Karl."
Unseen hands investigated his pockets cunningly. As they finished, the man
who answered to the name of Karl became articulate for the first time,
following a grunt of disappointment:
"Nothing—he has it not upon him."
"Look more thoroughly. Did you think him idiot enough to carry it where
you'd find it at the first dip? Imbecile!"
For the purpose of this second search Lanyard's garments were ripped
open, and the enemy made sure that he carried nothing next his skin more
incriminating than a money-belt, which was forcibly removed.
"His shoes—see to his shoes!" the first speaker insisted irritably. "Sit
A petulant push sent the adventurer reeling across the cabin to fall upon
the lounge seat beneath the port. With some effort he assumed a sitting
position, while Karl, kneeling, hastily unlaced and tore off his shoes and
"Nothing, captain," was the report.
"Damnation!… Continue to search his luggage. Leave nothing unexamined.
In particular look into every hole and corner where none but a fool would
attempt to hide anything. This fine gentleman imagines we value his
intelligence too highly to believe he would leave the paper in plain
To an accompaniment of sounds indicating that Karl was obeying his
superior, this last resumed in a tone of lofty contempt:
"How is it you have abandoned the habit of going armed, Herr Lone Wolf?
That is not like you. Is it that you grow unwary through drug-using? But
that matters nothing. We have more important business to speak over, you
and I. You will be very, very docile, and answer promptly, also in a low
voice, if you would avoid getting hurt. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," Lanyard replied, furtively working at the bonds on his wrists.
"Good. We speak together like good friends, yes?"
"Naturally," said Lanyard. "It is so conducive to chumminess to be caressed
with an automatic pistol—you've no idea!"
"Oblige by speaking German. Our ears are sick with all this bastard
English. Also, more quietly speak. Do not put me to the regrettable
necessity of shooting you."
"How regrettable? You didn't stick at braining those others—"
"Hardly the same thing. You are not like those English swine. You are
French; and Germany has no hatred for France, but only pity that it so
fatuously opposes manifest destiny. In truth, you are not even French, but
a great thief; and criminals have no patriotism, nor loyalty to any State
but their own, the state of moral turpitude."
The speaker interrupted himself to relish his wit with a thick chuckle. And
Lanyard's jaws ached with the strain of self-control. He continued to pluck
at the folds of silk while concentrating in effort to memorise the voice,
which he failed utterly to place. Undoubtedly this animal was a shipboard
acquaintance, one who knew him well; but those detestable German gutturals
disguised his accents quite beyond identification.
"For all that, you are not wise so to try my patience. I permit you five
minutes by my watch in which to make up your mind to surrender that
"How often must I tell you," Lanyard enquired, "all this talk of documents
is Greek to me?"
"Then you have five minutes to brush up your classical education, and
translate into terms suited to your intelligence. I will have that document
from you or—in four more minutes—shoot you dead."
To this Lanyard said nothing. But his patient attentions to the
handkerchief round his wrists were beginning perceptibly to be rewarded.
"Moreover, Herr Lanyard, you will do yourself a very good turn by
confessing—entirely aside from saving your life."
"How is that?"
"Providing you persuade me of your good faith, I am empowered to offer you
employment in our service."
Lanyard's breath passed hardly through a throat swollen with rage, chagrin,
and hatred, all hopelessly impotent. But he succeeded in preserving an
unruffled countenance, as his captor's next words demonstrated.
"You are surprised, yes? You are thinking it over? Take your time—you have
three minutes more. Or perhaps you are sulky, resenting that our cleverness
has found you out? Be reasonable, my good man. Think: you cannot be
insensible to the honour my offer does you."
"What do you want of me?"
"First, that paper—thereafter to use your surpassing talents to the glory
of God and Fatherland. In addition, you will be greatly rewarded."
"Now you do begin to interest me," Lanyard said coolly…. Surely he could
contrive some way to slay this beast with his naked hands! He must play for
time…. "How rewarded?"
"As I say, with a place in the Prussian Secret Service, its protection,
freedom to ply your trade unhindered in America, even countenanced, till
that country becomes a German province under German laws."
"But do I hear you offer this to a Frenchman?"
"Undeceive yourself. Men of all nations to-day, recognising that the star
of Germany is in the ascendant, that soon all nations will be German,
are hastening to make their peace beforehand by rendering Germany good
"Something in that, perhaps," Lanyard admitted thoughtfully.
"Think well, my friend…. Yes, Karl?"
The voice of the other spy responded sullenly: "Nothing—absolutely
"Two minutes, Herr Lanyard."
Of a sudden Lanyard's face was violently distorted in a grimace of terror.
He lurched his shoulders forward, openly struggling with his bonds.
"But—good God!" he protested in a voice of terror, "you can't possibly be
so unreasonable! I tell you, I haven't got your damned paper!"
A loop of the handkerchief slipped over one hand.
"Be still! Cease your struggles. And not so loud, my friend!" The
peremptory voice dropped into mockery as Lanyard, pale and exhausted, sat
back trembling—and a second loop of silk dropped over the other hand. "So
you begin to appreciate that we mean business, yes? One minute and thirty
"Have mercy!" the adventurer whined desperately—and licked his lips as if
he found them dry with fear. Now both hands were all but wholly free. True:
he remained blindfolded and covered by a deadly weapon. "Give me a chance.
I'll do anything you wish! But I can't give you what I haven't got."
"Be silent! Here, Karl."
There was a sound of unintelligible murmuring as the two spies conferred
together. Lanyard writhed in apparent extremity of terror. His hands were
free. He sought hopelessly for inspiration. What to do without arms?
"Be grateful to Karl. He urges that perhaps you know nothing of the
"Don't you think I'd tell if I did know?"
"Then you have one minute—no, forty seconds—in which to pledge yourself
to the Prussian Secret Service."
"You want me to swear—?"
"Then hear me," said Lanyard earnestly: "You damned canaille!" And in
one movement he tore the bandage from his eyes and launched himself head
foremost at the man who stood over him.
He caught part of an oath drowned out by the splitting report of a pistol
that went off within an inch of his ear. Then his head took the man full
in the belly, and both went sprawling to the deck, Lanyard fighting like a
Sheer luck had guided clawing fingers to the right wrist of his antagonist,
round which they shut like jaws of a trap. At the same time he wrenched the
other's arm high above his head.
Momentarily expecting the shock of a bullet from the pistol of the second
spy, he found time to wonder that it was so long deferred, and even in
the fury of his struggles, out of the corner of one eye caught a fugitive
glimpse of a tallish man, masked, standing back to the forward partition in
a pose of singular indecision, pistol poised in his grasp.
Then the efforts of his immediate adversary threw him into a position in
which he was unable to see the other.
Of a sudden the stateroom was filled with the thunder of an automatic, its
seven cartridges discharged in one brisk, rippling crash.
It was as if a white-hot iron had been laid across Lanyard's shoulder.
Beneath him the man started convulsively, with such force as almost to
throw him off bodily, then relaxed altogether and lay limp and still,
pinning one of Lanyard's arms under him.
Its visor displaced, the face of Baron von Harden was revealed, features
distorted, eyes glaring, a frozen mask of hate and terror.
His arm free, the adventurer rolled away from the corpse in time to see the
open window-port blocked by the body of the other spy.
Gathering himself together, he snatched up the pistol that dropped from the
inert grasp of the dead man, and levelled it at the port.
But now that space was empty.
He rose and paused for an instant, his glance instinctively seeking the
ledge above the hand-basin.
The hypodermic outfit was there, but minus the phial.
In the alleyway rose a confusion of running feet and shouting tongues.
A heavy banging rang on the door to Stateroom 29. Crane's nasal accents
called upon Lanyard to open.
Upon the authors of that commotion Lanyard wasted no consideration
whatever. Let them knock and clamour; he had more urgent work in hand, and
knew too well the penalty were he stupid enough to unbolt to them. Their
bodies would dam the doorway hopelessly; insistent hands would hinder him;
innumerable importunate enquiries would be dinned at him, all immaterial
in contrast with this emergency, a catechism one would need an hour to
satisfy. And all attempts would be futile to make them understand that,
while they plagued him with futile questions, a murderer and spy and thief
was making good his escape, being afforded ample opportunity to slough all
traces of his recent work and resume unchallenged his place among them.
No; if by any freak of good fortune, any exertion of wit or daring, that
one were to be apprehended, it must be within the next few minutes, it
could only be through immediate pursuit.
Nor did the adventurer waste time debating the better course. With him,
whose ways of life were ceaselessly beset by instant and mortal perils,
each with its especial and imperative demand upon his readiness and
ingenuity, action must ever press so hard upon the heels of thought as to
make the two seem one.
For that matter, the whole transaction had been characterised by almost
unbelievable rapidity. And that square opening of the window-port was
hardly vacant when Lanyard sprang to his feet; the fugitive had barely time
to find his own upon the outer deck before Lanyard leaped after him; the
first thumps upon the panels of his door were still echoing when he thrust
head and shoulders out of the port and began to pump the automatic at a
shadow fleeing aft upon that narrow breadth of planking between rail and
Then, at the third shot, the automatic jammed upon a discharged shell.
Exasperated, the adventurer cast the weapon from him, shrugged hastily out
of his unfastened coat and waistcoat, hitched tight his belt, and clambered
through the port.
Dropping to the deck, he turned in time to see the fugitive dart round the
shoulder of the superstructure.
As Lanyard gained the after rail of the promenade deck a man standing on
the boat-deck at the head of the companion-ladder greeted him with pistol
fire. He dodged back, untouched, and instantaneously devised a stratagem to
cope with this untoward development.
Overhead, at the side, a lifeboat hung on its davits, ready for emergency
launching, the gap in the rail which it filled when normally swung inboard
spanned only by a length of line. And the darkness in the shadow of the
boat was dense, an excellent screen.
Climbing upon the rail, Lanyard grasped the edge of the deck overhead and
drew himself up undetected by his quarry, whom he espied still holding
the head of the companion ladder, hidden from the bridge by the after
deck-house, standing ready to shoot Lanyard should he attempt to renew the
pursuit by that approach.
At the same time, "Karl" seemed mysteriously occupied with some object or
objects in whose manipulation he was hampered to a degree by the necessity
under which he laboured of holding his pistol ready and dividing his
A man of good stature, broad at the shoulders, slender at the hips, he
poised himself with athletic grace—the lower part of his face masked by
what Lanyard took to be a dark silk handkerchief.
Lanyard heard him swearing in German.
Then a brisk little spray of sparks jetted from the flint and steel of a
patent cigar-lighter in the hands of the spy. And as Lanyard rose from his
knees after ducking beneath the line, a stream of fatter sparks spat from
the end of a fuse.
The man leaned over the rail and cast a small black object to which the
sputtering fuse was attached, down to the main deck.
As it struck midway between superstructure and stern it burst into
brilliant flame, releasing upon the night an electric-blue glare that must
have been visible from any point within the compass of the horizon.
A yell of profane remonstrance saluted the light, and throughout the brief
passage that followed Lanyard was conscious that pistols and rifles on the
after deck below were making him and his antagonist their targets.
Before the German could face about, Lanyard, moving almost noiselessly in
his bare feet, had covered more than half the intervening space. In another
breath he might have had the fellow at a disadvantage. But the distance
was too great. Twice the automatic blazed in his face as he closed in, the
bullets clearing narrowly—or else he fancied that their deadly cold breath
fanned his cheek.
Then the spy's weapon in turn went out of action. Half blinded, Lanyard
clipped the man round the body and hugged him tight, exerting all his skill
and strength to effect a throw.
That effort failed; his onslaught was met with address and ability that
all but matched his own. The animal he embraced had muscles like tempered
springs and the cunning and fury of a wild beast in a trap. For a moment
Lanyard was able to accomplish no more than to smother resistance in a
rib-crushing embrace; no sooner did he relax it than all attempts to shift
his hold were anticipated and met half way, forcing him back upon the
Yet he was given little chance to prove himself the master. The first phase
of the struggle was still in contest when the rear door of the smoking room
opened and a man stepped out, paused, summed up the situation in a glance,
seized Lanyard from behind.
The adventurer felt his arms grasped by hands whose strength seemed little
short of superhuman, and wrenched back so violently that his very bones
cracked. Fairly lifted from his feet, he was held as helpless as an infant
kicking in the arms of its nurse.
Released, the other spy stepped back and swung his left fist viciously to
Lanyard's jaw. Something in the brain of the adventurer seemed to let
go; his head dropped weakly to one side. The man who had struck him said
quietly, "Loose the fool, Ed," and followed as Lanyard reeled away,
striking him repeatedly.
For a giddy moment Lanyard was darkly conscious—as one dreams an evil
dream—of blows raining mercilessly about his head and body, blows that
drove him back athwartships toward a fate dark and terrible, a great void
of blackness. He felt unutterably weary, and was weakened by a sensation of
nausea. Beneath him his knees buckled. There fell one final blow, ruthless
as the wrath of God.
He was falling backward into nothingness, into an everlasting gulf of night
that yawned for him….
As he shot under the guard rope and into space between the edge of the deck
and the keel of the lifeboat, the spy rounded smartly on a heel and darted
to the smoking-room door. His confederate was in the act of stepping across
the raised threshold. He followed, closed the door.
The first officer, charging aft from the bridge, rounded the deck-house and
pulled up with a grunt of surprise to find the deck completely deserted….
The shock of icy immersion reanimated Lanyard.
He felt himself plunging headlong down, down, and down to inky depths
unguessable. The sheer habit of an accustomed swimmer alone bade him hold
Then came a pause: he was no more descending; for a time of indeterminate
duration, an age of anguish, he seemed to float without motion, suspended
in frigid purgatory. Against his ribs something hammered like a racing
engine. In his ears sounded a vast roaring, the deafening voices of a
thousand waterfalls. His head felt swollen and enormous, on the point of
Without warning expelled from those depths, he shot full half-length out of
water, and fell back into the milky welter of the Assyrian's wake.
Instinctively he kept afloat with feeble strokes.
The cold was bitter, as sharp as the teeth of death; but his head was now
clear, he was able to appreciate what had befallen him.
Already the Assyrian, forging onward unchecked, had left him well astern,
her progress distinctly disclosed by that infernal bluish glare spouting
from her after deck.
She seemed absurdly small. Incredulity infected Lanyard's mind. Nothing so
tiny, so insignificant, so make-believe as that silhouette of a ship could
conceivably be that great liner, the Assyrian….
Temporarily a burning pain in his left shoulder drove all other
considerations out of mind. The salt water was beginning to smart in the
raw, superficial wound made by that assassin's bullet … back there in the
stateroom … long ago….
Then the cold began to bite into his marrow, and he struggled manfully
to swim, taking long, slow strokes, at first comparatively powerful, by
insensible degrees losing force.
Just why he took this trouble he did not know: for some dim reason it
seemed desirable to live as long as possible. Withal he was aware he could
not live. Whether careless or utterly ignorant of his fate, the Assyrian
was trudging on and on, leaving him ever farther astern, lost beyond rescue
in that weird, bleak waste. Even were an alarm to be given, were she to
stop now and put out a boat, it would find him, if it found him at all, too
The cold was killing.
He felt very sleepy. Drowsily he apprehended the beginning of the end.
His senses, growing numb with cold, presently must cease to function
altogether. Then he would forget, and nothing would matter any more.
Yet the will to live persisted amazingly. Had Lanyard wished it he could
not have ceased to swim, at least to keep afloat. Vaguely he wondered how
people ever managed to commit suicide by drowning; it seemed to pass human
power to resist that buoyancy which sustained one, to let go, let one's
self go down. Impossible to conceive how that was ever done….
Why should he care to go on living?
No reading that riddle!…
On obscure impulse he gave up swimming, turned upon his back, floated face
to the sky, derelict, resigning himself to the cradling arms of the sea.
The gradual, slow rocking of the swells soothed his passion like a kindly
opiate. The cold no more irked him, but seemed somehow strangely anodynous.
Imperturbably he envisaged death, without fear, without welcome. What must
For all that, life clutched at him with jealous hands. More than ever
sleepy, before he slept that last, long sleep he must somehow solve this
enigma, learn the reason why life continued so to allure his failing
Athwart the drab texture of consciousness wild fancies played like heat
lightning in a still midsummer night.
Death's countenance was kind.
That wide field of stars, drooping low and lifting away with rhythmic
motion, would sometime dip swiftly down to the very sea itself and,
swinging back, take with it his soul to some remote bourne….
The deeps were yielding up their mysteries. Past him a huge pale monster
swept at furious pace, hissing grimly as it passed, like some spectral
Nemesis pursuing the Assyrian.
Indifferently he speculated concerning the reality of this phenomenon.
The heave of a swell enabled him to glance incuriously after the steamship.
She seemed smaller, less genuine than ever, a shadow shape that boasted
visibility solely through that unearthly light on her after deck. Even
that now had waned to a mere glimmer, the flicker of a candle lost in the
immensities of that night-bound world of empty sky and empty ocean. Even as
he that had been named Michael Lanyard was a lost light, a tiny flame that
guttered toward its swift extinction….
Why live, when one might die and, dying, find endless rest?
Like a blazing thunderbolt one word rent the slumbrous web of sentience:
Galvanised by the flood of hatred unpent by the syllables of that name,
Lanyard began again to swim, flailing the water with frantic arms as if to
win somewhither by the very violence of his efforts.
This the one cogent reason why he must not, could not, die….
Unjust to require him to give up life while that one lived. Unfair…. It
must not be!…
Across the sea rolled a dull, brutish detonation. The swimmer, swung high
on the bosom of a great swell, saw a vast sheet of fire raving heavenward
from the Assyrian.
It vanished instantly.
When his dazzled vision cleared, he could see no more of the ship. He
imagined a faint, wild rumour of panic voices, conjured up scenes of horror
indescribable as that great fabric sank almost instantaneously, as if some
gigantic hand plucked her under.
What had happened? Had the accomplices of the dead Baron von Harden set off
an infernal machine aboard the vessel? In the name of reason, why? They had
got what they sought, that accursed document, whatever it was, that page
torn from the Book of Doom. Then why…?
And to what end had they exploded that light bomb on the after deck?
To make the Assyrian a glaring target in the night—what else? A target
Of a sudden all rational mental processes were erased from Lanyard's
consciousness. A wave of pure fear flooded him, body, mind, and soul. He
began to struggle like a maniac, fighting the waters that hindered his
flight from some hideous thing that was lifting up from the ocean's ooze to
drag him down.
He heard a voice screaming thinly, and knew it was his own.
The impossible was happening to him, out there, alone and helpless on the
face of the waters. A shape of horror was rising out of the deep to engorge
him. He could feel distinctly the slow, irresistible heave of its bulk
beneath him. His feet touched and slipped upon its horrible sleek flanks.
His most desperate efforts were all unavailing. He could not escape. The
thing came up too rapidly. Following that first mad thrill of contact with
it underfoot, he was lifted swiftly and irresistibly into the air. Almost
instantly he was floundering in knee-deep waters that parted, cascading
away on either hand. Then, elevated well above the sea, he slid and fell
prone upon a slimy wet surface.
His clawing hands clutched something solid and substantial, an upright bar
Incredulously Lanyard pawed the body of the monster beneath him. His hands
passed over a riveted joint of metal plates. Looking up, he made out the
truncated cone of a conning tower with its antennae-like periscope tubes
stencilled black upon the soft purple of the star-strewn sky.
Slowly the truth came home: a submarine had risen beneath him. He lay upon
its after deck, grasping a stanchion that supported the small raised bridge
round the conning tower.
He sobbed a little in sheer hysteric gratitude, that this miracle had been
vouchsafed unto him, that he had thus been spared to live on against his
hour with Ekstrom.
But when he sought to drag himself up to the bridge, he could not, he
was too weak and faint. Ceasing to struggle, he rested in half stupour,
With a harsh clang a hatch was thrown back. Rousing, Lanyard saw several
figures emerge from the conning tower. Men uncouthly clothed in shapeless,
shiny leather garments, straddled and stretched above him, filling their
lungs with the sweet air. He tried to call to them, but evoked a mere
rattle from his throat.
Two came to the edge of the bridge and stood immediately over him, fixing
binoculars to their eyes, their voices quite audible.
A pang of despair shot through Lanyard when he heard them conferring
together in the German tongue.
Death, then, was but a little delayed.
Thereafter he lay in dumb apathy, save that he shivered and his teeth
Through the torpor that rested like a black cloud upon his senses he caught
broken phrases, snatches of sentences:
"… sinking fast … struck square amidships … broke her back…."
"… trouble with her boats. There goes one over!…"
"… fools jumping overboard like cattle…."
"What's that rocket? Do the swine want us to shell their boats?"
"Why not? They're asking for it!"
One of the officers lowered his glasses and barked a series of sharp
commands. The crew on deck leaped to attention. One leaned over the
conning-tower hatch and shouted to his mates below. A hatch forward of
the tower opened, and a quick-firing gun on a disappearing carriage swung
smoothly and silently up from its lair.
The other officer, looking down, started violently.
"Verdammt! What's this?"
The first rejoined him. "Impossible!"
"Impossible or not—a man or a cadaver!"
"Have him up and see…."
By order, two of the crew dragged Lanyard up to the bridge, supporting him
by main strength while the officers examined him.
"At the last gasp, but alive," one announced.
"How the devil did he get out here?"
"From the Assyrian—"
"Impossible for any man to swim this far since our torpedo struck—"
"Then he must have gone overboard before it struck—or was thrown—"
A cry of alarm from the group about the gun, awaiting final orders to open
fire upon the Assyrian's boats, interrupted the conference. The officers
swung away in haste.
"Hell's fury! what's that searchlight?"
"A Yankee destroyer—in all probability the one we dodged yesterday
"She'll find us yet if we don't submerge. Forward, there—house that gun!
And get below—quickly!"
During a moment of apparent confusion, one of the men sustaining Lanyard
caught the attention of an officer.
"What shall we do with this fellow, sir?" he enquired.
"Leave him here to sink or swim as we go down," snapped the officer—"and
be damned to him!"
With a supreme effort the adventurer sank his fingers deep into the arms of
the two men.
"Wait!" he gasped faintly in German. "On the Emperor's service—"
"What's that?" The officer turned back sharply.
"Imperial Secret Service," Lanyard faltered—"Personal
Division—Wilhelmstrasse Number 27—"
A brilliant glare settled suddenly upon the deck of the submarine, and was
welcomed by a panicky gust of oaths. One officer had already popped through
the conning-tower hatch, followed by several of the crew. There remained
only those supporting Lanyard, and the second officer.
"Take him below!" the latter ordered. "He may be telling the truth. If
In the distance a gun boomed. A shell shrieked over the submarine and
dropped into the sea not a hundred yards to starboard. The men rushed
Lanyard toward the conning tower. He tried feebly to help them. In that
effort consciousness was altogether blotted out….
When he opened his eyes again he was resting, after a fashion, naked
between harsh, damp blankets in a narrow, low-ceiled bunk inches too short
for one of his stature.
After an experimental squirm or two he lay very still; his back and all his
limbs were stiff and sore, his bullet-seared shoulder burned intolerably
beneath a rudely applied first-aid dressing, and he was breathing heavily
long, labouring inhalations of an atmosphere sickeningly dank, close, and
foul with unspeakable stenches, for which the fumes of sulphuric acid with
a rank reek of petroleum and lubricating oils formed but a modest and
Also his head felt very thick and dull. He found it extremely difficult to
think, and for some time, indeed, was quite unable to think to any purpose.
His very eyes ached in their sockets.
In the ceiling glowed an electric bulb, dimly illuminating a cubicle barely
big enough to accommodate the bunk, a dresser, and a small desk with a
folding seat. The inner wall was a slightly concave surface of steel plates
whose seams oozed moisture. In the opposite wall was a sliding door, open,
beyond which ran a narrow alleyway floored with metal grating. Everything
in sight was enamelled with white paint and clammy with the sweat of that
Over all an unnatural hush brooded, now and again accentuated by a rumble
of distant voices and gusts of vacant laughter, once or twice by a curious
popping. For a long time he heard nothing else whatever. The effect was
singularly disquieting and did its bit to quicken torpid senses to grasp
Sluggishly enough Lanyard pieced together fragments of lurid memories,
reconstructing the sequence of last night's events scene by scene to the
moment of his rescue by the U-boat.
So, it appeared, he was aboard a German submersible, virtually a prisoner,
though posing as an agent of the Personal Intelligence Department of the
German Secret Service.
To that inspiration of failing consciousness he owed his life, or such
of its span as now remained to him, a term whose duration could only be
defined by his ability to carry off the imposture pending problematic
opportunity to escape. And, assuming that this last were ever offered him,
there was no present possibility of guessing how long it might not be
Its butcher's mission successfully accomplished, the U-boat was not
improbably even now en route for Heligoland, beginning a transatlantic
cruise of weeks that might never end save in a nameless grave at the bottom
of the Four Seas.
Only the matter of impersonation failed to embarrass in prospect. A natural
linguist, Lanyard's three years within the German lines had put a rare
finish upon his mastery of German. More than this, he was well versed in
the workings of the Prussian spy system. As Dr. Paul Rodiek, Wilhelmstrasse
Agent Number 27, he was safe as long as he found no acquaintance of that
gentleman in the complement of the submarine; for, largely upon information
furnished by Lanyard himself, Dr. Rodiek had been secretly apprehended
and executed in the Tower the day before Lanyard left London to join the
But the question of the U-boat's present whereabouts and its movements
in the immediate future disturbed the adventurer profoundly. He was
elaborately incurious about Heligoland; and several weeks' association
with the Boche in the close quarters of a submarine was a prospect that
revolted. Wellnigh any fate were preferable….
Uncertain footsteps sounded in the alleyway, paused at the entrance to his
cubicle. He turned his head wearily on the pillow. In the doorway stood
a man whose slenderly elegant carriage of a Prussian officer was not
disguised even by his shapeless wreck of a naval lieutenant's uniform, a
man with a countenance of singularly unpleasant cast, leaving out of all
consideration the grease and grime that discoloured it. His narrow forehead
slanted back just a trace too sharply, his nose was thin and overlong, his
mouth thin and cruel beneath its ambitious mustache à la Kaiser; his small
black eyes, set much too close together, blazed with unholy exhilaration.
As soon as he spoke Lanyard understood that he was drunk, drunk with more
than the champagne of which he presently boasted.
"Awake, eh?" he greeted Lanyard with a mirthless snarl. "You've slept like
the dead man I took you for at first, my friend—a solid fourteen hours, my
word for it! Feeling better now?"
Lanyard's essays to reply began and ended in a croak for water. The
Prussian nodded, disappeared, returned with an aluminium cup of stale cold
water mixed with a little brandy.
"Champagne if you like," he offered, as Lanyard, painfully propping himself
up on an elbow, gulped like an animal from the vessel held to his lips. "We
are holding a little celebration, you know."
Lanyard dropped back to the pillow, the question in his eyes.
"Celebrating our success," the Prussian responded. "We got her, and that
means much honour and a long furlough to boot, when we get home, just as
failure would have spelled—I don't like to think what. I shouldn't care to
fill the shoes of those poor devils who let the Assyrian escape them off
Ireland, I can tell you."
Something very much like true fear flickered in his small eyes as he
pondered the punishment meted out to those who failed.
So the U-boat was homeward bound! Strange one noticed no motion of her
progress, heard no noise of machinery.
"Where are we?" Lanyard whispered.
"Peacefully asleep on the bottom, about five miles south of Martha's
Vineyard, waiting till it is dark enough to slip in to our base."
The Prussian hiccoughed and giggled. "On the south shore of the Vineyard,"
he confided with alcoholic glee: "snuggest little haven heart could wish,
well to the north of all deep-sea traffic; and the coastwise trade runs
still farther north, through Vineyard Sound, other side the island. Not
a soul ever comes that way, not a soul suspects. How should they?
The admirable charts of the Yankee Coast and Geodetic Survey"—he
sneered—"show no break in the south beach of the island, between the ocean
and the ponds. But there is one. The sea made the breach during a gale, our
people helped with a little Trotyl, tides and storms did the rest. Now we
can enter a secluded, landlocked harbour with just enough water at low
tide, and lie hidden there till the word comes to move again—three miles
of dense scrub forest, all privately owned as a game preserve, fenced and
patrolled, between us and the nearest cultivated land—and friends in
plenty on the island to keep all our needs supplied—petroleum, fresh
vegetables, champagne, all that. Just the same we take no chances—never
make our landfall by day, never enter or leave harbour except at night."
He paused, contemplating Lanyard owlishly. "Ought not to tell you all
this, I presume," he continued, more soberly, though the wild light still
flickered ominously in his eyes. "But it is safe enough; you will see for
yourself in a few hours; and then … either you are all right, or you will
never live to tell of it. We radio'd for information about Wilhelmstrasse
Number 27 just before dawn, after we had dodged that damned Yankee
destroyer. Ought to get an answer to-night, when we come up."
Heavier footsteps rang in the alleyway. The Prussian made a grimace of
"Here comes the commander," he cautioned uneasily.
A great blond Viking of a German in the uniform of a captain shouldered
heavily through the doorway and, acknowledging the salute of the rat-faced
subaltern with a bare nod, stood looking down at Lanyard in taciturn
silence, hostility in his blood-shot blue eyes.
"How long since he wakened?" he asked thickly, with the accent of a
"A minute or two ago."
"Why did you not inform me?"
The tone was offensively domineering, thanks like enough to drink, nerves,
and hatred of his job and all things and persons pertaining to it.
The subaltern coloured. "He asked for water—I got it for him."
The commander stared churlishly, then addressed Lanyard: "How are you now?"
"Very faint," Lanyard said truthfully. But he would have lied had it been
otherwise with him. It was his book to make time in which to collect his
thoughts, concoct a bullet-proof story, plan against an adverse answer to
that wireless enquiry.
"Can you eat, drink a little champagne?"
Lanyard nodded slightly, adding a feeble "Please."
The Bavarian glanced significantly at his subaltern, who hastened to leave
"Who are you? What is your name?"
"Dr. Paul Rodiek."
"Personal Intelligence Bureau—confidential agent."
"What were you doing on board the Assyrian?"
Lanyard mustered enough strength to look the man squarely in the eye.
"Pardon," he said coldly. "You must know your question is indiscreet."
"I must know more about you."
"It should be enough," Lanyard ventured boldly, "to know that I set off
that flare as arranged, at risk of my life."
"How came you overboard?"
"In the scuffle caused by my lighting the flare."
"So you tell me. But we found you half clothed, lacking any sort of
identification. Am I to accept your unsupported word?"
"My papers are naturally at the bottom of the sea, in the garments I
discarded lest their weight drag me down. If you have doubts," Lanyard
continued firmly, "it is your privilege to settle them by communicating via
radio with Seventy-ninth Street."
He shut his eyes wearily and turned his head aside on the pillow, confident
that this reference to the headquarters and secret wireless station of the
Prussian spy system in New York would win him peace for a time at least.
After a moment the commander uttered a non-committal grunt. "We shall see,"
he prophesied darkly, and went away.
Later, one of the crew brought Lanyard a dish of greasy stew and potatoes,
lukewarm, with bread and a half-bottle of excellent champagne.
He ate all he could stomach of the first, devoured the second ravenously,
and drained the bottle of its ultimate life-giving drop.
Then, immeasurably refreshed and fortified in body and spirit, he turned
face to the wall, composed himself as if to sleep, shut his eyes, adjusted
the tempo of his respiration, and lay quite still, wide awake and thinking
After a while somebody tramped into the cubicle, bent over Lanyard
inquisitively and, satisfied that he slept, retired, taking away the empty
bottle and dishes.
Otherwise his meditations were disturbed only by those echoes of revelry
in honour of the late manifestation of the Hun's divine right to do wanton
murder on the high seas.
The rumour waxed and waned, died into dull mutterings, broke out afresh in
spurts of merriment that held an hysterical note. Once a quarrel sprang up
and was silenced by the commander's deep, unpleasant tones. Corks popped
spasmodically. Again there were sounds much like a man's sobbing; but these
were promptly blared down by a phonograph with a typically American accent.
When that palled, a sentimental disciple of frightfulness sang Tannenbaum
in a melting tenor.
Everything tended to effect an impression that all, commander and meanest
mechanic alike, were making forlorn efforts to forget.
Devoutly Lanyard prayed they might be successful, at least until the
submarine made her secret base. If too much alcohol was bad, too much
brooding was infinitely worse for the German temperament. He remembered
one U-boat commander who, returning to the home port after a conspicuously
successful cruise, had been taken ashore in a strait-jacket.
Lanyard himself did not care to dwell upon those scenes which must have
been enacted on board the Assyrian after the torpedo struck….
Deliberately ignoring all else, he set himself the task of reviewing those
events which had led up to his going overboard.
One by one he considered the incidents of that night, painstakingly
dissected them, examined their every phase in minute analysis, weighing for
ulterior meaning every word uttered in his presence, harking even farther
back to reconstruct his acquaintance with each actor from the very moment
of its inception, seeking that hint which he was convinced must be
somewhere hidden in the history of the affair, waiting only recognition to
lead straightway out of this gloomy maze of mystery into a sunlit open of
In vain: there was an ambiguity in that business to baffle the keenest and
most pertinacious investigation.
The conduct of Cecelia Brooke alone bristled with inconsistencies
inexplicable, the conduct of the German spies no less.
To get better perspective upon the problem, he reduced the premises to
their barest summary:
A valuable dossier brought on board the Assyrian (no matter by whom) had
come into the possession of British agents, with the knowledge of Captain
Osborne. Thackeray had secreted it in that fraudulent bandage. German
agents, apparently under the leadership of Baron von Harden, had waylaid
him, knocked him senseless, unwrapped the bandage, but somehow (probably
in the first instance through the interference of the Brooke girl) had
overlooked the document. Subsequently the Brooke girl had found and
entrusted it to Lanyard. (No matter why!) He on his part had exerted his
utmost inventiveness in hiding it away. Nevertheless it had been discovered
and abstracted within an hour.
Not improbably by the Brooke girl herself. Repenting her impulsiveness,
after leaving Lanyard with the captain, from whom she had doubtless learned
the truth about "Monsieur Duchemin," she might well have gone directly to
Lanyard's stateroom and hit upon the morphia phial as the likeliest hiding
place without delay, thanks to prior acquaintance with the proportions of
the paper cylinder.
But why should she have assumed that Lanyard had not disposed of the trust
about his person?
Not impossibly the thing had been found by the first officer of the
Assyrian, searching by order of the captain—as Lanyard assumed he had.
But, if Mr. Warde had found it, he had not reported his find when
telephoning to Captain Osborne; or else the latter had gone to great
lengths to mystify Lanyard.
There remained the chance that the paper had been stolen by one of the two
German agents—by either without the knowledge of the other.
If Baron von Harden had found it—necessarily before Lanyard returned
to the room—he had subsequently been at elaborate pains to conceal his
success from both his victim and his confederate. Why? Did he distrust the
latter? Again, why?
If "Karl" had been the thief, it must have been after Lanyard's return,
and while the Baron was preoccupied with the task of keeping the prisoner
quiet, to let the search proceed.
In that event "Karl" had lied deliberately to his superior. Why? Because
the document was salable, and "Karl" intended to realize its value for his
Not an unlikely explanation. Nor could this be called the first instance in
which the Prussian spy system, admirably organized though it was, had been
betrayed by one of its own agents.
This hypothesis, too, accounted for that most perplexing circumstance of
all, the murder of Baron von Harden. For Lanyard was fully persuaded that
had been nothing less than premeditated murder, in no way an accident of
faulty aim. Even the most nervous and unstrung man could hardly have missed
six shots out of seven, point blank. A nervous man, indeed, could hardly
have gained his own consent to take so hideous a chance of injuring or
killing a collaborator.
It appeared, then, that one of four things had happened to the cylinder of
Miss Brooke had taken it back into her own care. In which case Lanyard was
no more concerned.
Captain Osborne had secured it through Mr. Warde. This, however, Lanyard
did not seriously credit.
It had gone to the bottom when the Assyrian sank with the body—among
others—of Baron von Harden.
Or "Karl" had stolen it.
Privately, indeed, Lanyard rather inclined to hope that the last might
prove to be the true solution. He desired earnestly to meet "Karl" once
more, on equal terms. And the more counts in the score, the greater his
satisfaction in exacting a reckoning in full.
But he anticipated. That chapter might only too possibly have been closed
forever by the hand of Death. As yet he knew nothing concerning the
mortality of the Assyrian débâcle. He had not enquired of the officers of
the U-boat because they knew little if anything more than he. Their glasses
had discovered to them trouble with the lifeboats; they had spoken of one
boat capsizing, of "people going overboard like cattle." There must have
been many drownings, even with a United States destroyer near by and
speeding to the rescue.
A single question troubled Lanyard greatly. Officers and crew of the U-boat
had betrayed profoundest consternation upon the advent of that destroyer,
presumably a warship of a neutral nation. And that same ship had without
hesitation fired upon the submarine.
Was it possible, then, that the United States had already declared war on
It seemed extremely probable; in such event these Germans would have been
notified instantly by wireless from the New York bureau of their country's
Secret Service; whereas, Captain Osborne, receiving the same advice by
wireless, might reasonably have kept it quiet lest the news stir to more
formidable activity those agents of the Wilhelmstrasse whose presence among
the passengers he must at least have strongly suspected.
Presently the closeness of the atmosphere began to work upon Lanyard's
perceptions. In spite of his long rest, a new drowsiness drugged his
senses. He yielded without struggle, knowing he would soon need every ounce
of strength and vitality that sleep could give him….
The din of an inferno startled him awake. Those narrow metal walls were
echoing a clangour of machinery maniacal in character and overpowering in
volume. Clankings, tappings, hissings, coughings, clatterings, stridulation
of a wireless spark, drone of dynamos, shrewdish scolding of Diesel motors
developing two thousand horsepower, individual efforts of some two thousand
valves, combined—or, declined to combine—in a cacophony like nothing
under the sun but the chant of a submersible under way on the surface.
Lanyard, gratefully aware of a current of fresh air sweeping through the
hold, rolled out of his bunk to find that, while he slept, clothing had
been provided for him, rough but adequate; heavy woollen underwear and
socks, a sweater, a dungaree coat, trousers of the same stuff, all vilely
damp, and a friendless pair of oil-sodden shoes: the sweepings of a dozen
lockers, but as welcome as disreputable.
Dressed, he turned aft through the alleyway, entering immediately the
central operating room and storm center of that typhoon of noise, a
wilderness of polished machinery in active being.
Of the score or more leather-clad machinists silent at their posts, none
paid him more heed than a passing, incurious glance as he crossed to a
narrow steel companion ladder and ascended to the conning tower. This he
found deserted; but its deck-hatch was open. He climbed out to the bridge.
The night was calm and heavily overcast, with no sea more than long, slow
swells. Through its windless quiet the U-boat racketed with the raving
abandon of the Spirit of Discord on a spree in a boiler factory. To the
riot of its internal strife was added the remonstrance of waters sliced by
the stem and flung back by the sides, a prolonged and stertorous hiss like
the rending of an endless sheet of canvas.
To eyes new from the electric illumination of the hold, the blackness was
positive, with the palpable quality of an element, relieved alone by the
dull glow of the binnacle housing the gyroscope telltale, from which the
faintest of golden reflections struck back to pick out a pair of seemingly
severed fists gripping the handles of the bridge steering wheel with a
singular effect of desperation.
For some moments Lanyard could see nothing more.
The mirthless chuckle of the lieutenant sounded at his elbow.
"So the good Herr Doctor thought he had better come up for air, eh? My
friend, the very dead might envy you the sincerity of your slumbers. We
have been half an hour on the surface, with all this uproar—and you are
only just wakened!"
"Half an hour?" Lanyard repeated thoughtfully. "Then we should be close
"Give us ten minutes more … if we don't go aground in this accursed
A broad-shouldered body passed between Lanyard and the binnacle,
momentarily eclipsing its light. Down below in the operating room a bell
shrilled, and of a sudden the Diesels were silenced.
The dead quiet that followed the sharp extinction of that hubbub was as
startling as the detonation of high explosive had been.
Through this sudden stillness the submarine slipped stealthily, the hissing
beneath her bows dying down to gentle sibilance.
From forward the calls of an invisible leadsman were audible. In response
the commander uttered throaty orders to the helmsman at his elbow, and
those unattached hands shifted the wheel minutely.
Lanyard started to speak, but a growl from the captain, and a touch of the
lieutenant's hand on his sleeve cautioned him to silence.
There was a small pause. The vessel seemed to have lost way altogether, to
swim like a spirit ship that Stygian tide. The lieutenant moved forward,
leaving Lanyard alone. The voice of the leadsman was stilled. By the wheel
the captain stood absolutely motionless, his body vaguely silhouetted
against the glow of the binnacle. The hands that gripped the wheel so
savagely were as steady as if carven out of stone. An atmosphere of
suspense enveloped the boat like a cloud.
Lanyard grew conscious of something huge and formidable, a denser shadow in
the darkness beyond the bows, the loom of land. Off to starboard a point
of light appeared abruptly, precisely as if a golden pin had punctured the
black blanket of the night. The captain growled gutturals of relief and
command. The hands on the wheel shifted, steering exceeding small. A second
light shone out to port, then shifted slowly into range with the first,
till the two were as one. Again the bell sang in the operating room, and
the vessel forged ahead quietly to the urge of electric motors alone. A
third light and a fourth appeared, well apart to port and starboard, the
range lights precisely equidistant between them. Between these the U-boat
moved swiftly. They swam back on either hand and were abruptly extinguished
as if the night, resenting their insolent trespass, had gobbled both at a
The temperature became sensibly warmer and the salt air of the sea was
strongly tinctured with the sweet smell of pines and forest mould.
Up forward carbons sputtered and spat; a searchlight was unsheathed and
carved the gloom as if it was butter, ranging swiftly over the tree-clad
shore of a burnished black lagoon, picking out en passant several unpainted
wooden structures, then steadying on a long and substantial landing stage,
on which several men stood waiting.
As the U-boat, with motors dead and way lessening, glided up alongside
the head of that T-shaped landing stage and was made fast, the wireless
operator popped up from below, saluted the commander, and delivered a
Lanyard, instinctively aware that this was the expected report from
Seventy-ninth Street on Dr. Paul Rodiek, quietly pulled himself together
and took quick observations.
At best his chances in the all-too-probable emergency were far from
brilliant. Yet one might better perish trying, however hopelessly, than
passively submit to being shot down.
The lieutenant, waspishly superintending the work of crew and base guards
at the mooring lines, stood preoccupied within an arm's length; while the
landing stage was a fair six feet away. From its T-head to the shore, the
distance was nothing less than two hundred yards.
Desperate action and miraculous luck might take the Prussian by surprise
and enable one to snatch the service automatic from its holster at his
belt, leap to the stage, and shoot a way landward through the guards
clustered there; after which everything would depend on swiftness of foot
and the uncertain light permitting one to gain a refuge in the surrounding
woodland without a bullet in one's back.
It was a sorry hope….
With catlike attention Lanyard watched the hands holding that paper to the
binnacle light—large hands, heavy and muscular but tremulous with drink
and nervous reaction from the long strain and cumulative horror of the
cruise then ending. Their aim would not be good, except by accident. None
the less, if the report were unfavourable, their first gesture would be
toward the holster, signalling to Lanyard that the moment had come to
initiate heroic measures.
The Bavarian was an unconscionable time absorbing the import of the
message. Bending his face close to the paper, the better to make out the
writing, he read with moving lips, slowly, a doltish frown of concentration
clouding his congested countenance.
At length, however, he stood up, swaying a little as he folded and pocketed
Lanyard relaxed. The man was too far gone in drink to be crafty, too sure
of his absolute power of life and death to imagine a need for craft. Since
his hand had not immediately sought the holster, it would not.
Turbid accents uttered the name of Dr. Rodiek.
Lanyard stepped forward alertly. "Yes, Herr Captain?"
"New York says it had no knowledge of your intention to leave England on
the Assyrian, but that you may well have done so. The Wilhelmstrasse will
know, of course. It has already been telegraphed. Pending its reply, I am
to detain you."
"How long?" Lanyard demurred.
"As you know, transatlantic communications must now go by land telegraph to
the Border, by hand into Mexico, thence by radio via Venezuela to Berlin.
All that takes time. Also, we may not signal New York but at stated times
of night. You will be detained another twenty-four hours at least, possibly
"My errand cannot wait."
"You will obstruct the business of the Imperial Government at your peril."
"I would incur still greater peril did I let you go," the commander replied
nervously. "With these swine-dogs at war with the Fatherland, our lives are
not worth that should this base be betrayed."
"Do I understand America has declared war?"
"Two days since. Did you not know?"
"The Assyrian's wireless room was under guard: the captain published no
The Bavarian gave a gesture of impatience.
"You will remain on board for the night," he announced heavily.
"Pardon!" Lanyard insisted with every evidence of anxious excitement.
"What you tell me makes it more than ever imperative that I reach New York
without an hour's avoidable delay. I warn you, think well before you hinder
the discharge of my duty."
"It is not necessary that I think," the commander replied. "My thinking has
all been done for me. Me, I obey my orders; it is not my part to question
their wisdom. Moreover, Herr Doctor, to my mind your insistence is to say
the least suspicious. Even had I discretion in the matter, I should hold
you. Therefore, you will keep a civil tongue in your head, or go below in
He swung on his heel, showing an insolent back while he conferred with his
And Lanyard shrugged appreciation of the futility of more contention
against such mulishness. Not that the Bavarian was not right enough! As to
that, one had really hoped for no better issue; but every shift is worth
trial till proved worthless; and he was no worse off now than if he had
submitted without complaint. Still one had Chance to look to for aid and
comfort in this stress; and Chance, the jade, is not always unkind to her
Even now she flashed upon Lanyard a provoking intimation of her smile.
He began to divine possibilities in this overt ill-feeling between the
officers; advantage might be made of the racial hostility of Prussian and
The commander's attitude and tone were consistently overbearing, if his
words were inaudible to Lanyard. The lieutenant quite evidently submitted
only in form; his salute was punctiliously correct and curt; and as the
commander lumbered off down the landing stage, he grumbled indistinctly in
"Dog of a Bavarian!"
"The good Herr Captain," Lanyard suggested pleasantly, "is not in the most
agreeable of tempers, yes?"
The high and well-born lieutenant spat comprehensively into the darkness
overside. After a moment of hesitation he moved nearer and spoke in
confidential accents. And the fragrant air of the night was tainted with
the vinous effluvium of his breath.
"Always he prattles of his precious duty!" the Prussian muttered. "Damn his
duty! Look you, Herr Doctor: months we have been on this cruise, yes, more
than three months out of Heligoland, penned together in this ramshackle
stinkpot, or isolated here in this God-forgotten hole, seeing nothing of
life, hearing nothing of the world but what little the radio tells
us—sick of the very sight of one another's faces! And now, when we have
accomplished a glorious feat and have every right to look for prompt recall
and the rewards of heroes, orders come to remain indefinitely and operate
against the North Atlantic fleet of the contemptible Yankee navy! The life
of a dog! And that noble commander of mine pretends to welcome it, talks
of one's duty to the Fatherland—as if he liked the work any better than
I!—solely to spite me!"
"Because he hates me," the lieutenant snarled passionately—"hates me even
as I hate him—he knows how well!"
He interrupted himself to define his conception of the commander's
character in the freest vernacular of the Berlin underworld.
Lanyard laughed amiably. "They are like that," he agreed—"those
Which inspired the Prussian to deliver a phosphorescent diatribe on the
racial traits of the Bavarian people as comprehended by the North German
"To be cooped up God knows how long in this putrescent death-trap with such
cattle," he concluded mutinously—"it passes all endurance!"
"I wonder you stand it," Lanyard sympathised—"a man of spirit and good
birth, as one readily perceives. Though the life of a secret agent is not
altogether heavenly either, if you ask me," he added gratuitously. "Regard
me now, charged with a mission of most vital moment—more than ever so
since the Yankees have shown their teeth—delayed here indefinitely because
your excellent Herr Captain chooses to doubt my word."
"Patience. Maybe your release comes quickly. Then he will regret—or would
had he wit enough. There is no cure for a fool." The sententiousness of
this aphorism was unhappily marred by a hiccough. "Anybody with eyes in his
head could see you are what you are…."
The last of the operating-room crew piled up the hatchway, saluted, and
hurried ashore to join in noisy jubilations. There remained on the U-boat
only the lieutenant with Lanyard, and two base guards detailed as anchor
"I must go," the lieutenant volunteered. "And believe me, one welcomes a
change of clothing and a dry bed after a week in this reeking sieve. As for
you, my friend, if it lay with me, you should receive the treatment due
a gentleman." A wave of maudlin camaraderie affected him. He passed an
affectionate arm through Lanyard's and was suffered, though the gorge of
the adventurer revolted at the familiarity. "I am sorry to leave you. No,
do not be astonished! No protestations, please! It is quite true. I know a
man of the right sort when I meet one, the sort even I can associate with
without loss of self-respect. It is a great pity you may not come with me
and make a night of it."
"Another time, perhaps," Lanyard said. "The night may yet come when you and
I shall meet at the Metropole or the Admiral's Palace…. Who knows?"
"Ah!" sighed the Prussian, enchanted. "What a night that will be, my
friend!… But now, it is too bad, I really must ask you to step below.
Such are my silly orders. I am made responsible for you. What do you think
of that for a joke, eh?"
He laughed vacantly but loudly, and, attempting to poke a derisive thumb
into Lanyard's ribs, lost his balance.
"What a responsibility!" said Lanyard gravely, holding him up.
"Nonsense, that's what it is. You have no possible chance to escape."
"Suppose I make one—tip you overboard, take to my heels—?"
"You would be shot like a rabbit before you got half way to the shore."
"Ah, but grant, for the sake of argument, that these brave fellows, the
guards, aim poorly in this gloom?"
"Where would you go? Into the forest, naturally. But how far? You may
believe me when I tell you, not a hundred yards. It's a true wilderness,
scrub-oak and cedar and second growth choked with underbrush, almost
trackless. In five minutes you would be helplessly lost, in this blackness,
with no stars to steer by. We need only wait till daylight to find you
walking in a circle."
"You can't mean," Lanyard pursued, learning something helpful every moment,
"there is no communicating road?"
"The main woods road, yes: but that is far too well patrolled. Without the
countersign, you would be caught or shot a dozen times before you reached
the end of it."
"Ah, well!"—with the sigh of a philosopher—"then I presume there's no way
out but by swimming."
"Over to the beach you mean? Well, what then? You have got a twenty-mile
walk either way through deep sand sure to betray your footprints. At dawn
we follow and bag you at our leisure."
"You are discouraging!" Lanyard complained. "I see I may as well go below
and be good. It's a dull life."
"Tell you what," giggled the lieutenant, leading his prisoner to the
conning-tower hatch and lowering his voice: "do just that, go below and be
nice, and presently I will come back and we'll split a bottle. What do you
say to that, eh?"
"Not a bad notion, is it? I like it myself. One gets weary for the society
of a gentleman, you've no idea…. As soon as my commander is drunk enough,
I will slip away. How's that?"
"Grossartig!" Lanyard approved, turning to descend.
"Wait. You shall see for yourself what it means to have the friendship of
a man of my stamp." The lieutenant raised his voice, addressing the anchor
watch: "Attention. Heed with care: this gentleman is my friend. He is
detained merely as a matter of form. I do not wish him to be annoyed. Do
you understand? You are to leave him to himself as long as he remains
quietly below. But he is not to come on deck again till I return. Is all
that clear, imbeciles?"
The imbeciles, saluting mechanically, indicated glimmerings of
"Then below you go, Dr. Rodiek. And don't get impatient: I will rejoin you
as soon as possible."
"Don't be long," Lanyard implored.
As he lowered himself through the hatch he saw the Prussian stumble down
the gangplank and reel shoreward.
Well satisfied with his diplomacy, Lanyard lingered a while in the conning
tower, closely studying and memorising the more salient features of the
Island of Martha's Vineyard and its adjacent waters and mainland as
delineated on a most comprehensive large-scale chart published by the
German Admiralty from exhaustive soundings and surveys of its own
navigators and typographers, with corrections of as recent date as the
first part of the year 1917.
Here the breach in the south coast line which permitted the utilisation
of what had formerly been an extensive fresh-water pond as this secret
submarine base, was clearly shown. And a single glance confirmed the
lieutenant's statement concerning its remote isolation from settled
sections of the island.
Somewhat dismayed, Lanyard descended to the central operating compartment
and scouted through the hold from bow bulkhead to stern, making certain he
enjoyed undisputed privacy. And it was so; every man-jack of the U-boat's
personnel—jaded to the marrow with its cramped accommodations, unremitting
toil and care, unsanitary smells and forbidding associations—having
naturally seized the earliest opportunity to escape so loathsome a prison.
Lanyard, however, was anything but resentful of condemnation to this
solitary confinement. His interest in the interior arrangements of
submersibles seemed all but feverish, as intense as sudden; witness the
minute attention to detail which marked his second tour of inspection. On
this round he took his time. He had all night in which to work out his
salvation; the wildest schemes were revolving in his mind, the least
fantastic utterly impracticable without accurate knowledge of many matters;
and such knowledge might be gained only through patient investigation and
ungrudging expenditure of time.
It was now something past ten by the chronometers. He could hardly do much
before dawn, lacking the instinct of a red Indian to guide him through
that night-bound waste of woodland. So he felt little need to slight his
researches through haste, except in anticipation of his lieutenant's
return. And as to that, Lanyard was moderately incredulous: he expected to
see nothing more of this new-found friend, unless the infatuation of the
Prussian proved far stronger than his head.
Turning first to the private quarters of the commander, a somewhat more
commodious cubicle than that across the alleyway in which Lanyard had been
berthed, his interest was attracted by a small safe anchored to the deck
beneath the desk.
To this Lanyard addressed himself without hesitation, solving the secret
of its combination readily through exercise of the most rudimentary of
professional principles. The problem it offered, indeed, was child's play
to such cunning of touch and hearing as had made the reputation of the Lone
Open, the safe discovered to him a variety of articles of interest:
some five thousand dollars in English and American banknotes of large
denomination, several hundred in American gold; three distinct cipher
codes, one of these wholly novel in Lanyard's experience and so, he
believed, in the knowledge of the Allied secret services; the log of the
U-boat and the intimate diary of its commander, both in cryptograph; a
compact directory of German agents domiciled in Atlantic coast ports; a
very considerable accumulation of German Admiralty orders; together with
many documents of lesser moment.
Rapidly sorting out the more valuable of these, Lanyard disposed them about
his person, then confiscated the banknotes as indemnity for his stolen
money-belt, replaced the rejections, and reclosed and locked the safe.
His next interest was to arm himself. After several disappointments he
discovered arms-lockers beneath the berths for the crew in the forward
compartment just aft of that devoted to torpedo tubes. Here he selected
a latest pattern German navy automatic pistol with three extra cartridge
clips and, after some hesitation, a peculiarly devilish magazine rifle
firing explosive bullets. The latter he placed handily, yet out of sight,
near the foot of the companion ladder. The pistol fitted snugly a trousers
pocket, its bulk hidden by the sag of his sweater….
Some time later the lieutenant, slipping down the ladder, found Lanyard
studying with a convincing aspect of childlike bewilderment the complicated
combinations of machinery which crowded the central operating compartment.
Fresh from a bath and shave and wearing a clean uniform, the Prussian
showed vast improvement in looks if not in equilibrium. But his mouth
twitched fitfully, his eyes wandered and disclosed a disquieting
superabundance of white, and his tongue was noticeably thicker than before.
"Well, my friend!" he said—"you are truly disappointing. The watch said
you had made no sound since going below. I was afraid of another of those
famous naps of yours."
"With the prospect of a bottle with you? Impossible! I have been waiting
and waiting, with my tongue hanging out."
"Too bad. Why did you not look around, help yourself? Why not?" the
lieutenant demanded. "Have I not given you freedom of ship? It is yours,
everything here 'yours!"
"I want nothing but an end to this great thirst," Lanyard protested.
"Then—God in Heaven!—why we standing here? Come!"
Releasing the handrail the Prussian took careful aim for the alleyway door,
launched himself toward it, slipped on the greasy metal grating, and would
have fallen heavily but for Lanyard.
Cursing pettishly, he stood up, threw off Lanyard's arms without thanks,
and made a new attempt, this time shooting headlong through the alleyway,
to bring up against the wing table in the third forward compartment, the
kitchen and messroom in one.
"A great pity," he muttered, opening a locker and fumbling in its
"Keep you waiting so long. Not my fault." The lieutenant brought forth two
bottles of champagne and one of brandy. "You open them, Herr Doctor, like
'good fellow," he said, placing the three on the table. "I just wish you
'understand no discourtesy meant … unavoidably detained … beastly
commander … drunk. Give 'my word, hopelessly drunk. Poor fool…."
"If my judgment is sound," Lanyard said, "this noble vessel will soon need
a new commander."
"True. Quite true." The Prussian placed two aluminium cups upon the table
and half filled one with brandy, then brimmed it with champagne. "Try
that," he said thickly, "That will keep your tail up, my friend."
"Many thanks," Lanyard protested, filling another cup with undiluted
champagne. "I prefer one thing at a time."
"Unfortunate … don't know what is good … King's peg … wonderful
drink. No matter. To 'new commander—prosit!"
He drained his cup at a gulp.
"To the new commander!" Lanyard echoed, and drank judiciously.
"Excellent…. How long can he last, do you think, at this pace?"
"No telling—not long—too long for my liking. Shall I tell 'something?"
He filled his cup again, half and half, and sat down, his wicked, rat-like
face more than ever pale and repulsive. "Not 'whisper of this, mind—though
I think 'crew sometimes suspects: he's going mad!"
"Not that Bavarian?"
The lieutenant nodded wisely. "If 'knew him as I know him, 'never be
surprised, my friend. You think too much drink. Yes, but not entirely. He
keeps seeing things, hearing them, especially by night."
"What sort of things?"
"Faces." The Prussian licked his lips, glanced furtively over his shoulder,
and drank. "Dead faces, eyes eaten out, seaweed in their hair…. And
voices—he's forever hearing voices … people trying to talk, 'can't
make him understand because 'mouths 'full of water, you know. But they
understand one another, keep discussing how to get at him…. He tells me
about it … I tell you, it is Hell to hear him talk … especially when
submerged, as last night. Then he hears them fumbling all over the hull
with their stumpy fingers, trying to find 'way in, talking about him. And
he tells me, and keeps insisting, till sometimes I seem to hear them, too.
But I don't. Before God, I don't! You don't believe I do, do you?"
His eyes rolled wildly.
"Why should you?"
"Just so: why should I?" The lieutenant's accents rose to a shrill pitch.
"I have not his record … still in training when he sent Lusitania to
the bottom. Yes: it was he, second-in-command, in charge of torpedo tubes.
His own hand fired that torpedo…."
He fell silent, staring moodily into his cup, perhaps thinking of the
number of torpedoes it had been his own lot to discharge upon errands of
And the dead silence of the ship was made audible by a stealthy drip-drip
of water from the seams, and the furtive slaver of the tide on the outer
A shiver ran through the body of the Prussian. He pulled himself together
with obvious effort, looked up with an uncertain grin, and passed a shaking
hand across his writhing lips.
"All foolishness, of course, but 'gets on one's nerves … constant
association with man like that…. 'Know what he's doing now, or was, when
I came away? Sitting up with doors and windows locked and blinds drawn,
drinking brandy neat. He can't sleep by night if sober, or without 'light
in the room. If he does, he knows they will get him … people he hears
crawling up from the sea, slopping round the house, mumbling, whimpering in
He broke off abruptly, with a whisper more dreadful than a
shriek—"God!"—and jumped to his feet, whipping the automatic from his
A footfall sounded in one of the after compartments. Others followed.
Someone was coming slowly down the alleyway, someone with dragging, heavy
The lieutenant waited motionless, as one petrified with terror.
The bulkhead doorway framed the figure of the commander. He paused there,
louring at his subaltern with haunted eyes ablaze in a face like parchment.
"So!" he said, nodding. "As I thought. It is thus I find you, fraternising
with one who may be, for all we know, an enemy to the Fatherland. You
drunken, babbling fool! Get ashore!" His angry foot thumped the grating.
"Get ashore, and report yourself under arrest!"
With no more warning than a strangled snarl, the lieutenant shot him
through the head.
UNDER THE ROSE
Vague stupefaction replaced the scowl upon the countenance of the
commander. He swayed, a hand faltering to his forehead, where dark blood
was beginning to well from a cleanly drilled puncture. Then he collapsed
completely, falling prone across the raised sill of the bulkhead opening. A
convulsive tremor shook savagely his huge frame.
Thereafter he was quite still.
The report of that one shot had reverberated stunningly within those narrow
walls of steel. Momentarily Lanyard looked to see the alarmed anchor watch
appear; so too, apparently, the lieutenant, who remained immobile, pistol
poised in a hand for the moment strangely steady, gaze fixed upon the mouth
of the alleyway.
But through a long minute no other sounds were audible than that ceaseless
dripping from frames and seams, with that muted, terrible mouthing of
waters on the plates.
Unable either to fathom or forecast the workings of the drink-maddened
mentality masked by that rat-like face, Lanyard waited with a hand covertly
grasping the automatic in his pocket. There was no telling; at any moment
that murderous mania might veer his way. And he was not content to die, not
yet, not in any event by the hand of a decadent little beast of a Boche.
Slowly the arm of the lieutenant dropped, lowering the pistol till its
muzzle chattered on the top of the table: a noise that broke the spell upon
his senses. He looked down in dull brutish wonder, then roused and with a
gesture of horror let the weapon fall clattering.
His glance shifting to the body of his commander, he started violently,
backing up against the plates to put all possible distance between himself
and his handiwork. His lips moved, framing phrases at first incoherent,
presently articulate in part:
"… done it at last!… Knew I must soon…."
Abruptly he looked up at Lanyard.
"Bear witness," he cried: "I was provoked beyond human endurance. He
insulted me in your presence … me!… that scum!"
Lanyard said nothing, but met his gaze with a blank, non-committal stare,
under which the eyes of the lieutenant wavered and fell.
Then with a start he realised anew the significance of that still figure at
his feet, and tried to shake some of the swagger back into his wretched,
"A good job!" he muttered defiantly. "And you will stand by me, I know….
Only there is nothing in that, of course, no justification possible before
a court martial. Even your testimony could not save me … I am done for,
He hung his head. Lanyard heard whispered words: "degraded," "dishonour,"
A chronometer in the central operating compartment tolled eight bells.
With a sharp cry the lieutenant dropped to his knees. "He can't be dead!"
he shrilled. "It is all play-acting, to frighten me!"
Frantically he sought to turn the body over.
Lanyard's hand shot swiftly out, capturing the automatic on the table. With
rapid and sure gestures he extracted and pocketed the clip, drew back the
breech, ejecting into his palm the one shell in the barrel, and replaced
the weapon, all before the Prussian gave over his insane efforts to
resurrect the dead.
"He is dead enough," he announced, eyeing Lanyard morosely—"beyond
helping…. Look here; are you with me or against me?"
"Need you ask?"
"I count on you, then. Good. I think we can cover this up."
He checked and stood for a while lost in thought.
"How?" Lanyard roused him.
"Simply enough: I go on deck, send the watch ashore on some trumped-up
errand. They suspect nothing, thinking the commander and I have you in
charge. If they heard that shot, I will say one of us dropped a bottle
of champagne, and it exploded…. When they are gone, I bring the dory
alongside; and with your help it should be an easy matter to carry this
body up, weight it, row it out to the middle of the lagoon, dump it
overboard. Then we return. Our story is, the commander followed the anchor
watch ashore; if later he wandered off, got lost in the woods in his
alcoholic delirium, that is no affair of ours. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly," said Lanyard with a look of fatuous innocence. "But how about
the water—is it deep enough?"
The Prussian took no pains to dissemble his scorn of this question,
seemingly so witless. "To cover the body? Why, even here there is
sufficient depth at low tide for us to submerge completely, barring the
periscopes. And it is deeper yet in the middle."
"Thanks," Lanyard replied meekly.
"Have another drink? No?" The Prussian tossed off a half cupful of
undiluted brandy, and shuddered. "Then stop here. I'll be back in a—"
"Half a minute." The lieutenant halted in the act of stepping across the
body. Lanyard levelled a hand at the automatic. "Do you mind taking that
with you? I have no desire to be found here with it and a dead man, should
anything prevent your return."
With a sickly grimace the murderer snatched up the weapon, thrust it in its
holster, and hurriedly departed.
Lanyard watched him pass through the alleyway and turn toward the companion
ladder, then followed quietly.
As the lieutenant climbed out on deck, Lanyard ascended to the conning
tower and waited there, listening. He could not quite make out what was
said; but after a few brusque words of command two pair of boots rang on
the gangplank and thumped away down the stage. At the same time Lanyard let
himself noiselessly out through the hatch.
As soon as his vision grew reconciled to the change from light to darkness,
he discovered the slender figure of the lieutenant skulking on tip-toe
after the retreating anchor watch; about midway on the landing stage,
however, he paused and bent over one of the piles, apparently fumbling with
the painter of a small boat moored in the black shadows below.
At this Lanyard began to move along the deck, one by one working the
mooring lines clear of their cleats and dropping them gently overboard,
till but two were left to hold the U-boat in place.
Throughout he kept watch upon the manoeuvres of the lieutenant—saw him
drop over the side of the stage, heard a thump of feet as he landed in a
boat, and a subsequent creak of oar-locks.
The small boat was rounding the bows of the submarine when the adventurer
ducked back through conning tower to hold.
He was standing where he had been left when the lieutenant came below.
"It's all right," this last announced with shabby bravado as he stepped
over the body in the doorway. "We are rid of that damned watch for a time.
They won't return within half an hour at least. I have the dory moored
amidships. If we are lively, this dirty job will be over in no time at
Lanyard nodded. "I am ready."
"No need to hurry—plenty of time for one more drink." The Prussian
splashed brandy into the cup, filling it to the brim. "And God knows I need
Lanyard watched critically as, with head well back, he drained that
staggering dose of raw spirit gulp by gulp without once removing the cup
from his lips. No mortal man could drink like that and stand up under it:
it was now a mere question of time….
Hardly that: the hand of the murderer shook and wavered widely as he put
down the cup. For a moment he swayed with eyes fixed and glazing, features
visibly losing plasticity, then lurched forward, knocking the brandy bottle
to the floor, swung around a full half turn in blind effort to re-establish
equilibrium, fell backward upon the table, and lay racked from head to foot
with savage spasms, hands clawing empty air, chest labouring vainly to win
sufficient oxygen to combat the poison with which his system was saturated.
Moving to his side, Lanyard laid a hand upon the left breast. The man's
heart was hammering his ribs with agonizing blows, at first rapid, by
degrees more slow and feeble.
No power on earth could save him now: he had committed suicide as surely as
Wasting not another glance or thought upon him Lanyard hurried aft to the
central operating room.
The time he had spent there, an hour earlier, was by no means lost in
purposeless marvelling. He boasted a certain aptitude for mechanics,
perhaps legitimately inherited from that obscure origin of his, largely
fostered by the requirements of his craft; into the bargain, he had been
privileged ere now to gain some slight insight into the principles of
submersible operation. If obliged to work swiftly and in some instances
upon the advice of intuition rather than practical knowledge, he went not
unintelligently about his task, made few false moves.
Turning first to the diving controls, he adjusted the hydroplanes to their
extreme downward inclination, then made the rounds of the vent valves,
opening all wide. With a sharp hissing and whistling the air from the
auxiliary tanks was driven inboard, and as Lanyard manipulated the wheels
operating the forward and aft groups of Kingston valves, to the hissing was
added the suck and gurgle of water flooding the main and auxiliary ballast
and adjusting tanks.
Immediately the U-boat began to sink. Lanyard delayed only to close the
switches which controlled the electric motors. As their drone gained volume
he grasped the rifle and swarmed up the companion-ladder, passing through
the conning tower to deck with little or nothing to spare—with, in fact,
barely time to throw off the two mooring lines and jump into the small boat
before water, sweeping hungrily up over deck and bridge, began to cascade
through conning tower and torpedo hatchways.
Constrained to cut the painter lest the dory be drawn down with the
fast-sinking submarine, he fitted oars to locks and put his back to them,
swinging the small boat hastily clear of whirlpools which formed as the
waves closed over the spot where the U-boat had rested.
From first to last less than five minutes' activity had been needed for
the task of scotching this water-moccasin of the salt seas and putting its
keepers at the mercy of the country whose hospitality they had too long
Well content, after a little, Lanyard lay on his oars and contemplated with
much interest what the night permitted to be visible: the landing stage, no
more than a dark, vague mass in the darkness; the land picked out with but
few lights, mainly at windows of the base buildings, painting dim ribbons
upon the polished floor of the lagoon.
Methodically these were eclipsed as a moving figure passed before them.
Listening intently, Lanyard could distinguish the slow footfalls of an
unsuspecting sentry—no other sounds, more than gentle voices of the night:
murmurs of blind wavelets, the plaintive whisper of a little breeze belated
amid the tree-tops of that dark forest, and a slow, weary soughing of
swells upon the distant ocean shore.
Perceiving as yet not the slightest indication of an alarm ashore, Lanyard
ventured to continue rowing, but with utmost caution, lifting and dipping
his blades as gingerly as though they were fashioned of brittle glass, and
for want of a better guide keeping the stern of the dory square to the
shank of the T-stage.
In time the bows grounded lightly on sand. The melancholy voice of the sea
now seemed a heavier sighing in the stillness. He pushed off and rowed on
parallel with a dark shore line, so close in that his starboard oar touched
bottom at each stroke.
At intervals he paused and rested, striving vainly to garner some clue to
his bearings. Inexorably the blackness forbade that. He might have failed
ere dawn to grope a way out of that trap had not the disappearance of the
submarine been discovered within the hour.
A sudden clamour rose in the quarter of the landing stage, first one great
shout of dismay, then two voices bellowing together, then others. Several
rifle-shots were fired in the air. More lights broke out in windows ashore.
Many feet drummed resoundingly upon the stage, and the confusion of voices
attained a pitch of wild, hysteric uproar. Of a sudden a flare was lighted
and tossed far out upon the bosom of the lagoon.
Surprised by that sharp and merciless blue glare, Lanyard instinctively
shipped oars and picked up the rifle. He could see so clearly that
huddle of figures upon the head of the landing stage that he confidently
apprehended being fired upon at any moment; but minutes lengthened and
he was not. Either the Germans were looking for bigger game than a dory
adrift, or the dazzling flare hindered more than aided their vision.
At length persuaded that he had not been detected, Lanyard put aside the
rifle and resumed the oars. Now his course was made beautifully clear to
him: the blue light showed him that outlet to the sea which he sought
within a hundred yards' distance.
Presently the flare began to wane. It was not renewed. Altogether unseen,
unsuspected, Lanyard swung the dory into the breach, and drove it seaward
with all his might.
Swiftly the lagoon was shut out by narrow closing banks. The blue glare
died out behind a black profile of rounded dunes. Lanyard turned the bow
eastward, rowing broadside to the shore.
After something more than an hour of this mode of progress, he struck in
toward the beach, disembarked in ankle-deep waters, slung the rifle over
his shoulder by its strap and, pushing the dory off, abandoned it to the
whim of the sea.
Then again he set his face to the east, following the contour of the beach
just within the wash of the tide: thereby making sure that there should
be no trail of footprints in the sand to guide a possible pursuit in the
The rising sun found him purposefully splashing on, weary but enheartened
by the discovery that he had left behind the more thickly wooded section of
Presently, turning in to the dry beach for the first time, he climbed
to the summit of a dune somewhat higher than its fellows, and took
observations, finding that he had come near to the eastern extremity of the
At some distance to his right a wagon road, faintly rutted in sand and
overgrown with beach grass, struck inland.
Following this at a venture, he came, at about eight o'clock, upon the
outskirts of a waterside community.
Before proceeding he hid the magazine rifle in a thicket, then made a wide
detour, and picked up a roadway which entered the village from the north.
If his disreputable appearance was calculated to excite comment, readiness
in disbursing money to remedy such shortcomings made amends for Lanyard's
taciturnity. Within two hours, shaved, bathed, and inconspicuously dressed
in a cheap suit of ready-made clothing, he was breakfasting famously upon
the plain fare of a commercial tavern.
The town, he learned, was the one-time important whaling port of Edgartown.
He would be able to leave for the mainland on a ferry steamer sailing early
in the afternoon.
Ten minutes before going abroad he filed a long telegram in code addressed
to the head of the British Secret Service in New York….
Consequences manifold and various ensued.
When the telegram had been delivered and decoded—both transactions being
marked by reasonable promptitude—the head of the British Secret Service
in New York called the British Embassy in Washington on the long distance
Shortly thereafter an attaché of the British Embassy jumped into a
motor-car and had himself driven to one of the cardinal departments of the
When he had kicked his heels in an antechamber upward of an hour, he was
received, affably enough, by the head of the department, a smug, open-faced
gentleman whose mood was largely preoccupied with illusions of grandeur,
who was, in short, interested far more in considering how splendid it was
to be himself than in hearing about any mare's-nest of a German U-boat base
on the south shore of Martha's Vineyard.
He was, however, indulgent enough to promise to give the matter his
distinguished consideration in due course.
He even went so far as to have his secretary make a note of what alleged
information this young Englishman had to impart.
During the night he chanced to wake up and recall the matter, and concluded
that, all things considered, it would do no harm to give the United States
Navy a little amusement and exercise, even if it should turn out that the
rumour of this submarine base was a canard.
So, the next morning, he went to his desk some time before noon, and issued
a lot of orders. One of them had to do with the necessity for absolute
During the day several minor officials of the department might have been,
and indeed were, observed going about their business with painfully
Also many messages were transmitted by wireless, telephone, and telegraph,
to various persons charged with the defense of the Atlantic Coast; some of
these were code messages, some were not.
That same night a great forest fire sprang up on the south shore of
Martha's Vineyard, both preceded and accompanied by a series of heavy
The first United States vessel to reach the lagoon found only charred
remains of a landing stage and several buildings and, at the bottom of the
lagoon, an incoherent mass of wreckage, a twisted and shattered chaos of
steel plates and framework that might possibly have been a perfectly sound
submarine, though sunken, had somebody not been warned in ample time
to permit its destruction through the agency of trinitrotoluene, that
enormously efficient modern explosive nicknamed by British military and
naval experts "T.N.T.," and by the Germans "Trotyl."
The early editions of those New York evening newspapers which Lanyard
purchased in Providence, when he changed trains there en route from New
Bedford to New York, carried multi-column and most picturesque accounts of
the Assyrian disaster.
But the whole truth was in none.
Lanyard laid aside the last paper privately satisfied that, for no-doubt
praiseworthy reasons of its own, Washington had seen fit to dictate the
suppression of a number of extremely pertinent circumstances and facts
which could hardly have escaped governmental knowledge.
Already, one inferred, a sort of censorship was at work, an effective if
comparatively modest precursor to that noble volunteer committee which was
presently with touching spontaneity to fasten itself upon an astonished
Ship of State before it could gather enough way to escape such cirripede
Presumably it was not thought wise to disconcert a great people, in the
complacence of its awakening to the fact that it was remotely at war with
the Hun, with information that a Boche submersible was, or of late had
been, operating in the neighbourhood of Nantucket.
Unanimously the sinking of the Assyrian was ascribed to an internal
explosion of unknown origin. No paper hinted that German secret agents
might possibly have figured incogniti among her passengers. There was
mention neither of the flare which had burned on her after deck to make
the Assyrian a conspicuous target in the night, nor of any of the other
untoward events which had led up to the explosion. Nothing whatever
was said of the shot fired at the submerging U-boat by a United States
torpedo-boat destroyer speeding to the rescue.
Still, the bare facts alone were sufficiently appalling. Reading what had
been permitted to gain publication, Lanyard experienced a qualm of horror
together with the thought that, even had he drowned as he had expected to
drown, such a fate had almost been preferable to participation in those
awful ten minutes precipitated by that pale messenger of death which had so
narrowly missed Lanyard himself as he rested on the bosom of the sea.
Within ten minutes after receiving her coup de grâce the Assyrian had
gone under; barely that much time had been permitted a passenger list of
seventy-two and a personnel of nearly three hundred souls in which to rouse
from dreams of security and take to the lifeboats.
Thanks to the frenzied haste compelled by the swift settling of the ship,
more than one boat had been capsized. Others had been sunk—literally
driven under—by masses of humanity cascading into them from slanting
decks. Others, again, had never been launched at all.
The utmost efforts of the destroyer, fortuitously so near at hand, had
served to rescue but thirty-one passengers and one hundred and eighty of
In the list of survivors Lanyard found these names:
Becker, Julius—New York
Crane, Robert T.—New York
Velasco, Arturo—Buenos Aires
Among the injured, Lieutenant Lionel Thackeray, D.S.O., was listed as
suffering from concussion of the brain, said to have been contracted
through a fall while attempting to aid the launching of a lifeboat.
In the long roster of the drowned these names appeared:
Von Harden, Baron Gustav—Amsterdam
Osborne, Captain E. W.—London
Of all the officers, Mr. Sherry was a solitary survivor, fished out of the
sea after going down with his ship.
No list boasted the name "Karl."
Lacking accommodations for the rescued, it was stated, the destroyer had
summoned by wireless the east-bound freight steamship Saratoga, which had
trans-shipped the unfortunates and turned back to New York….
Throughout the best part of that journey from Providence to New York
Lanyard sat blankly staring into the black mirror of the window beside
his chair, revolving schemes for his immediate future in the light of
information derived, indirectly as much as directly, from these newspaper
Retrospective consideration of that voyage left little room for doubt that
the designs of the German agents had been thoughtfully matured. They had
been quiet enough between their first stroke in the dark and their last,
between the burglary of Cecelia Brooke's stateroom the first night out and
those murderous attacks on Bartholomew and Thackeray. Unquestionably,
had they bided their time pending that hour when, according to their
information, the submersible would be off Nantucket, awaiting their signal
to sink the Assyrian—a signal which would never have been given had
their plans proved successful, had they not made the ship too hot to hold
them, and finally had they not made every provision for their own escape
when the ship went down.
Lanyard was confident that all of their company had been warned to hold
themselves ready, and consequently had come off scot free—all, that is,
save that victim of treachery, the unhappy Baron von Harden.
If the number of that group which Lanyard had selected as comprising a
majority of his enemies, those nine who had discussed the Lone Wolf in the
smoking room, was now reduced to five—Becker, Dressier, O'Reilly, Putnam,
and Velasco—or four, eliminating Putnam, of whose loyalty there could be
no question—Lanyard still had no means of knowing how many confederates
among the other passengers these four might not have had.
And even four men who appreciated what peril to their plans inhered in the
Lone Wolf, even four made a ponderable array of desperate enemies to have
at large in New York, apt to be encountered at any corner, apt at any time
to espy and recognise him without his knowledge.
This situation imposed upon him two major tasks of immediate moment: he
must hunt down those four one by one and either satisfy himself as to their
innocence of harmful intent or put them permanently hors de combat; and
he must extinguish utterly, once and for all time, that amiable personality
whose brief span had been restricted to the decks of the Assyrian,
Monsieur André Duchemin.
That one must be buried deep, beyond all peradventure of involuntary
Fortunately the last step toward the positive metamorphosis indicated had
been taken that very morning, when the Gallic beard of Monsieur Duchemin
was erased by the razor of a New England barber, whose shears had likewise
eradicated every trace of a Continental mode of hair-dressing. There
remained about Lanyard little to remind of André Duchemin but his eyes; and
the look of one's eyes, as every good actor knows, is something far more
easy to disguise than is commonly believed.
But it was hardly in human nature not to mourn the untimely demise of so
useful a body, one who carried such beautiful credentials and serviceable
letters of introduction, whose character boasted so much charm with a
solitary fault—too facile vulnerability to the prying eyes of those to
whom Paris meant those days and social strata in which Michael Lanyard
had moved and had his being. Witness—according to Crane—the demoniac
cleverness of the Brazilian in unmasking the Duchemin incognito.
Suspicion was taking form in Lanyard's reflections that he had paid far
too little attention to Señor Arturo Velasco of Buenos Aires, whose
avowed avocation of amateur criminologist might easily be synonymous with
interests much less innocuous.
Or why had Velasco been so quick to communicate recognition of Lanyard to
an employee of the United States Secret Service?
For that matter, why had he felt called so publicly to descant upon the
natural history of the Lone Wolf? In order to focus upon that one the
attentions of his enemies? Or to put him on guard?
It was altogether perplexing. Was one to esteem Velasco friend or foe?
Lanyard could comfort himself only with the promise he should one day know,
and that without undue delay.
Alighting in Grand Central Terminus late at night, he made his way to
Forty-second Street and there, in the staring headlines of a "Late Extra,"
read the news that the steamship Saratoga had suffered a crippling
engine-room accident and was limping slowly toward port, still something
like eighteen hours out.
Wondering if it were presumption to construe this as an omen that the stars
in their courses fought for him, Lanyard went west to Broadway afoot, all
the way beset with a sense of incredulity; it was difficult to believe that
he was himself, alive and at large in this city of wonder and space, where
people moved at leisure and without fear on broad streets that resembled
deep-bitten channels for rivers of light. He was all too wont with nights
of dread and trembling, with the mediaeval gloom that enwrapped the cities
of Europe by night, their grim black streets desolate but for a few,
infrequent, scurrying shapes of fright…. While here the very beggars
walked with heads unbowed, and men and women of happier estate laughed and
played and made love lightly in the scampering taxis that whisked them
homeward from restaurants of the feverish midnight.
A people at war, actually at grips with the Blond Beast, arrayed to
defend itself and all humanity against conquest by that loathsome incubus
incarnate, a people heedless, carefree, irresponsible, refusing to credit
Here and there a recruiting poster, down the broad reaches of Fifth Avenue
a display of bunting, no other hint of war-time spirit and gravity….
Longacre Square, a weltering lake of kaleidoscopic radiance, even at this
late hour thronged with carnival crowds, not one note of sobriety in the
Lanyard lifted a wondering gaze to the livid sky whose far, clear stars
were paled and shamed by the up-flung glare, like eyes of innocence peering
down into a pit of hell.
Yet one could hardly be numb to the subtle, heady intoxication of those
cool, immaculate, sea-sweet airs which swept the streets, instilling
self-confidence and lightness of spirit even in heads shadowed with the woe
of war-worn Europe.
Lanyard had not crossed the Avenue before he found himself walking with a
brisker stride, holding his own head high….
On impulse, despite the lateness of the hour, albeit with misgivings
justified in the issue, he hailed a taxicab and had himself driven to the
headquarters of the British Secret Service in America, an unostentatious
dwelling on the northwest corner of West End Avenue at Ninety-fifth Street.
Here a civil footman answered the door and Lanyard's enquiries with the
information that Colonel Stanistreet had unexpectedly been called out
of town and would not return before evening of the next day, while his
secretary, Mr. Blensop, had gone to a play and might not come home till all
More impatient than disappointed, Lanyard climbed back into his cab, and in
consequence of consultation with its friendly minded chauffeur, eventually
put up for the night in an Eighth Avenue hotel of the class that made
Senator Raines famous, a hostelry brazenly proclaiming accommodations "for
gentlemen only," whereas it offered entertainment for both man and beast
and catered rather more to beast than to man.
However, it served; it was inconspicuous and made no demands upon a shabby
traveller sans luggage, more than payment in advance.
Early abroad, Lanyard breakfasted with attention fixed to the advertising
columns of the Herald, and by mid-morning was established as sub-tenant
of a furnished bachelor apartment on Fifty-eighth Street near Seventh
Avenue, a tiny nest of few rooms on the street level, with entrances from
both the general lobby and the street direct: an admirable arrangement for
one who might choose to come and go without supervision or challenge.
Lacking local references as to his character, Lanyard was obliged to pay
three months' rent in advance in addition to making a substantial deposit
to cover possible damage to the furnishings.
His name, a spur-of-the-moment selection, was recorded in the lease as
At noon he brought to his lodgings two trunks salvaged from a storage
warehouse wherein they had been deposited more than three years since, on
the eve of his flight with his family from America, an affair of haste and
secrecy forbidding the handicap of heavy impedimenta.
Thus Lanyard became once more possessor of a tolerably comprehensive
But, those trunks released more than his personal belongings; intermingled
were possessions that had been his wife's and his boy's. As he unpacked,
memories peopled those perfunctorily luxurious lodgings of the transient
with melancholy ghosts as sweet and sad as lavender and rue.
For hours on end the man sat idle, head bowed down, hands plucking
aimlessly at small broidered garments.
And if in the sweep and turmoil of late events he seemed to have forgotten
for a little that feud which had brought him overseas, he roused from this
brief interlude of saddened dreaming with the iron of deadly purpose newly
entered into his soul, and in his heart one dominant thought, that now his
hour with Ekstrom could not, must not, be long deferred.
In the street there rose an uproar of inhuman bawling. Lanyard went to the
private door, hailed one of the husky authors of the din, an itinerant
news-vendor, and disbursed a nickel coin for one cent's worth of spushul
uxtry and four cents' worth of howling impudence.
He found no more of interest in the newspaper than the information that the
Saratoga had been sighted off Fire Island and was expected to dock in New
York not later than eight o'clock that night.
This, however, was acceptable reading. Lanyard had work to do which were
better done before "Karl" and his crew found opportunity to communicate
directly with their collaborators ashore, work which it were unwise
to initiate before nightfall lent a cloak of shadows to hoodwink the
ever-possible adventitious German spy.
Nor was he so fatuous as to fancy it would profit him to call before nine
o'clock at the house on West End Avenue. No earlier might he hope to find
Colonel the Honourable George Fleetwood-Stanistreet near the end of his
dinner, and so in a mood approachable and receptive.
But there could be no harm in reconnaissance by daylight.
He whiled away the latter part of the afternoon in taxicabs, by dint of
frequent changes contriving in the most casual fashion imaginable to pass
the Seventy-ninth Street branch of the Wilhelmstrasse no less than four
Little rewarded these tactics other than a fairly accurate mental
photograph of the building and its situation—and a growing suspicion that
the United States Government had profited nothing by England's lessons
of early war days in respect of the one way to cope with resident enemy
The house stood upon a corner, occupying half of an avenue block—the
northern half of which was the site of a towering apartment house in
course of construction—and loomed over its lesser neighbours a monumental
monstrosity of architecture, as formidable as a fortress, its lower tiers
of windows barred with iron, substantial iron grilles ready to bar its
main entrance, even heavier gates guarding the carriage court in the
side street. In all a stronghold not easy for the most accomplished
house-breaker to force; yet the heart of it was Lanyard's goal; for there,
he believed, Ekstrom (under whatever nom de guerre) lay hidden, or if not
Ekstrom, at least a clear lead to his whereabouts.
Certainly that one could not be far from the powerful wireless station
secretly maintained on the roof of this weird jumble of architectural
periods, its aërials cunningly hidden in the crowning atrocity of its
minaret: a station reputedly so powerful that it could receive Berlin's
nightly outgivings of news and orders, and, in emergency, transmit them to
other secret stations in Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela.
Yet the shrewdest scrutiny of eyes trained to detect police agents at
sight, however well disguised, failed to espy one sign of any sort of
espionage upon this nest of rattlesnakes.
Apparently its tenants came and went as they willed, untroubled by and
contemptuous of governmental surveillance.
A handsome limousine car pulled up at its carriage block as Lanyard drove
by, one time, and a pretty woman, exquisitely gowned, alighted and was
welcomed by hospitable front doors that opened before she could ring: a
woman Lanyard knew as one of the most daring, diabolically clever, and
unscrupulous creatures of the Wilhelmstrasse, one whose life would not have
been worth an hour's purchase had she ventured to show herself in Paris,
London, or Petrograd at any time since the outbreak of the war.
He drove on, deep in amaze.
Indications were not wanting, on the other hand, that enemy spies
maintained close watch upon the movements of those who frequented the house
on West End Avenue. A German agent whom Lanyard knew by sight was strolling
by as his taxi rounded its corner and swung on down toward Riverside Drive.
This more modest residence possessed a brick-walled garden at the back, on
the Ninety-fifth Street side. And if the top of the wall was crusted with
broken glass in a fashion truly British, it had a door, and the door a
lock. And Lanyard made a note thereon.
And when he went home to dress for dinner, he opened up the false bottom
of one of his trunks and selected from a store of cloth-wrapped bundles
therein one which contained a small bunch of innocent-looking keys whose
true raison d'être was anything in the world but guileless.
Later he did himself very well at Delmonico's, enjoying for the first time
in many years a well-balanced dinner faultlessly cooked and served amid
quiet surroundings that carried memory back half a decade to the Paris that
was, the Paris that nevermore will be….
At nine precisely he paid off a taxicab at the corner of Ninety-fifth
While waiting on the doorstep of the corner house, he raked the street
right and left with searching glances, and was somewhat reassured.
Apparently he called at an hour when the Boche pickets were off duty; at
the moment there was no pedestrian visible within a block's distance
on either hand, nobody that he could see skulked in the areas of the
old-fashioned brownstone houses across the way.
The neighbourhood was, indeed, quiet even for an upper West Side
residential quarter. A block over to the east Broadway was strident in the
flood of its nocturnal traffic; a like distance to the west Riverside Drive
hummed with pleasure cars taking advantage of the first bland night of that
belated spring. But here, now that the taxi had wheeled away, there was
never a car in sight, nor even a strolling brace of sidewalk lovers.
The door opened, revealing the same footman.
"Colonel Stanistreet? I will see, sir."
"If you will be kind enough to be seated," the footman suggested,
indicating a small waiting room. "And what name shall I say?"
It had been Lanyard's intention to have himself announced simply as the
author of that telegram from Edgartown. Obscure impulse made him change his
mind, some premonition so tenuous as to defy analysis.
"Mr. Anthony Ember."
"Thank you, sir."
After a little the footman returned.
"If you will come this way, sir…."
He led toward the back of the house, introducing Lanyard to a spacious
apartment, a library uncommonly well furnished, rather more than
comfortably yet without a trace of ostentation in its complete luxury, a
warm room, a room intimately lived in, a room, in short, characteristically
British in atmosphere.
Waist-high bookcases lined the walls, broken on the right by a cheerful
fireplace with a grate of glowing cannel coal, in front of it a great club
lounge upholstered, like all the chairs, in well-used leather. Opposite the
chimney-piece, a handsome thing in carved oak, a door was draped with a
curtain that swung with it. In the back of the room two long and wide
French windows stood open to the night, beyond them that garden whose
wall had attracted Lanyard's attention. There were a number of paintings,
portraits for the most part, heavily framed, with overhead picture-lights.
In the middle of the room was a table-desk, broad and long, supporting a
shaded reading lamp. On the far side of the table a young man sat writing,
with several dockets of papers arranged before him.
As Lanyard entered, this one put down his pen, pushed back his chair, and
came round the table: a tallish, well-made young man, dressed a shade too
foppishly in spite of an unceremonious dinner coat, his manner assured,
amiable, unconstrained, perhaps a little over-tolerant.
"Mr. Ember, I believe?" he said in a voice studiously musical.
"Yes," Lanyard replied, vaguely annoyed with himself because of an
unreasoning resentment of this musical quality. "Mr. Blensop?"
"I am Mr. Blensop," that one admitted gracefully. "And how may I have the
pleasure of being of service?"
He waved a hand toward an easy chair beside the table, and resumed his own.
But Lanyard hesitated.
"I wished to see Colonel Stanistreet."
Mr. Blensop looked up with an indulgent smile. His face was round and
smooth but for a perfectly docile little moustache, his lips full and red,
his nose delicately chiselled; but his eyes, though large, were set cannily
"Colonel Stanistreet is unfortunately not at home. I am his secretary."
"Yes," said Lanyard, still standing. "In that case I'd be glad if you would
be good enough to make an appointment for me with Colonel Stanistreet."
"I am afraid he will not be home till very late to-night, but—"
Mr. Blensop smiled patiently. "Colonel Stanistreet is a very busy man," he
uttered melodiously. "If you could let me know something about the nature
of your business…."
"It is the King's," said Lanyard bluntly.
The secretary went so far as to betray well-bred surprise. "You are an
Englishman, Mr. Ember?"
And for all he knew to the contrary, so Lanyard was.
"I am Colonel Stanistreet's secretary," the young man again suggested
"That is precisely why I ask you to make an appointment for me with your
employer," Lanyard retorted politely.
"You won't say what you wish to see him about?"
A trace of asperity marred the music of those tones; Mr. Blensop further
indicated distaste of the innuendo inherent in Lanyard's use of the word
"employer" by delicately wrinkling his nose.
"I am sorry," Lanyard replied sufficiently.
The door behind him opened, and the footman intruded.
"Beg pardon, Mr. Blensop…."
The servant advanced to the table and proffered a visiting card on a tray.
Mr. Blensop took it, arched pencilled brows over it.
"To see me, Walker?"
"The gentleman asked for Colonel Stanistreet, sir."
"H'm…. You may show him in when I ring."
The footman retired. Mr. Blensop looked up brightly, bending the card with
"You were saying your business was…?"
"I was not," Lanyard replied with disarming good humour. "I'm afraid that
is something much too important and confidential to reveal even to Colonel
Stanistreet's secretary, if you don't mind my saying so."
Mr. Blensop did mind, and betrayed vexation with an impatient little
gesture which caused the card to fly from his fingers and fall face
uppermost on the table. Almost instantly he recovered it, but not before
Lanyard had read the name it bore.
"Of course not," said the secretary pleasantly, rising. "But you understand
my instructions are rigid … I'm sorry."
"You refuse me the appointment?"
"Unless you can give me an inkling of your business—or perhaps bring a
letter of introduction."
"I can do neither, Mr. Blensop," said Lanyard earnestly. "I have
information of the gravest moment to communicate to the head of the British
Secret Service in this country."
The secretary looked startled. "What makes you think Colonel Stanistreet is
connected with the British Secret Service?"
"I don't think so; I know it."
After a moment of hesitation Mr. Blensop yielded graciously. "If you can
come back at nine to-morrow morning, Mr. Ember, I'll do my best to persuade
"I repeat, my business is of the most pressing nature. Can't you arrange
for me to see your employer to-night?"
"It is utterly impossible."
Lanyard accepted defeat with a bow.
"To-morrow at nine, then," he said, turning toward the door by which he had
"At nine," said Mr. Blensop, generous in triumph. "But do you mind going
out this way?"
He moved toward the curtained door opposite the chimney-piece. Lanyard
paused, shrugged, and followed. Mr. Blensop opened the door, disclosing a
vista of Ninety-fifth Street.
"Thank you, Mr. Ember. Good-night," he intoned.
The door closed with the click of a spring latch.
Lanyard stood alone in the street, looking swiftly this way and that, his
hand closing upon that little bunch of keys in his pocket, his humour
For the name inscribed on that card which Mr. Blensop had so carelessly
dropped was one to fill Lanyard with consuming anxiety for better
acquaintance with its present wearer.
Written in pencil, with all the individual angularity of French
chirography, the name was André Duchemin.
It took a little time and patience but, on his third essay, Lanyard found
a key which agreed with the lock. He permitted himself a sigh of relief;
Ninety-fifth Street was bare, the door set flush with the outside of the
wall afforded no concealment to the trespasser, while the direct light of a
street lamp at the corner made his lonely figure uncomfortably conspicuous.
Apparently, however, he had not been observed.
Gently pushing the door open, he slipped in, as gently closed it, then for
a full minute stood stirless, spying out the lay of the land.
Fitting precisely his anticipations, the garden discovered a fine English
flavour; it was well-kept, modest, fragrant and, best of all, quite dark,
especially so in the shadow of the street wall. Only a glimmer of starlight
enabled him to pick out the course of a pebbled footpath. A border of deep
turf between this and the wall muffled his footsteps as he moved toward the
back of the house.
The library windows, deeply recessed, opened on a low, broad stoop of
concrete, with a pergola effect above, and a few wicker pieces upon a grass
Noiselessly Lanyard stepped across the low sill and paused in the cover of
heavy draperies, commanding a tolerably full view of the library if one
somewhat unsatisfactory, since the light within was by no means bright.
Still, this circumstance had its advantages for him; with his dark topcoat
buttoned to the throat and its collar turned up to hide his linen, he was
confident he would not be detected unless he gave his presence away by an
abrupt movement—something which the Lone Wolf never made.
At the moment Mr. Blensop seemed to be engaged in the surprising occupation
of discoursing upon art to his caller.
The latter occupied that chair which Lanyard had refused, on the far side
of the table. Thus placed, the lamplight masked more than revealed him,
throwing a dull glare into Lanyard's eyes. His man sat in a pose of earnest
attention, bending forward a trifle to follow the exposition of Mr.
Blensop, who stood beneath a portrait on the wall between the chimney-piece
and the windows, his attitude incurably graceful, a hand on the switch
controlling the picture-light. Apparently he had just finished speaking,
for he paused, looking toward his guest with a quiet and intimate smile as
he turned off the light.
"And that's all there is to it," he declared, moving back to the table.
"I see," said the other thoughtfully.
Lanyard felt himself start almost uncontrollably: rage swept through him,
storming brain and body, like a black squall over a hill-bound lake. For
the moment he could neither see or hear clearly nor think coherently.
For the voice of this latest incarnation of André Duchemin was the voice of
When the tumult of his senses subsided he heard Blensop saying, "I'll
write it out for you," and saw him pick up a pad and pencil and jot down a
"There you are," he added, ripping off the sheet and passing it across the
table. "Now you can't go wrong."
"I precious seldom do," his caller commented drily.
"I think—" Blensop began, and checked sharply as the man Walker came into
"Beg pardon, Mr. Blensop—"
There was an accent of impatience in those beautifully modulated tones:
"Well, what is it now?"
"A lady to see you, sir."
Blensop took the card from the proffered salver. "Never heard of her," he
announced brusquely at a glance. "She asked for Colonel Stanistreet or for
"Colonel Stanistreet, sir. But when I said he was not at home, she asked to
see his secretary."
"Any idea what she wants?"
"She didn't say, sir—but she seemed much distressed."
"They always are. H'm…. Young and good-looking?"
"Dessay I may as well see her," said Mr. Blensop wearily. "Show her in when
Walker shut himself out of the room.
"It's just as well," Blensop added to his caller. "You understand, my clear
"Assuredly." The man got up; but Blensop contrived exasperatingly to keep
between him and the windows. "I'm to be back at midnight?"
"Twelve sharp; you'll be sure to find him here then. Mind leaving by this
"Not in the least."
"Then good-night, my dear Monsieur Duchemin!"
Was there a hint of irony in Blensop's employment of that style? Lanyard
half fancied there was, but did not linger to analyse the impression.
Already the secretary had opened the side door.
In a bound Lanyard cleared the stoop, then ran back to the door in the
wall. But with all his quickness he was all too slow; already, as he
emerged to Ninety-fifth Street, his quarry was rounding the Avenue corner.
Defiant of discretion, Lanyard gave chase at speed but, though he had not
thirty yards to cover, again was baffled by the swiftness with which "Karl"
He had still some distance to go when the peace of the quarter was
shattered by a door that slammed like a pistol shot, and with roaring
motor and grinding gears a cab swung away from the curb in front of the
Stanistreet residence and tore off down the Avenue.
Swearing petulantly in his disappointment, Lanyard pulled up on the corner.
The number on the license plate was plainly revealed as the vehicle showed
its back to the street lamp. But what good was that to him? He memorised
it mechanically, in mutinous appreciation of the fact that the taxi was
setting a pace with which he could not hope to compete afoot.
The rumble of another motor-car caught his ear, and he looked round
eagerly. A second taxicab—undoubtedly that which had brought the young
woman now presumably closeted with Mr. Blensop—was moving up into the
place vacated by the first.
In two strides Lanyard was at its side.
"Follow that taxi!" he cried—"number seventy-six, three-eighty-five. Don't
lose sight of it, but don't pass it—don't let them know we're following!"
"Engaged," the driver growled.
"Hang your engagement! Here"—Lanyard pressed a golden eagle into the
fellow's palm—"there will be another of those if you do as I say!"
"Le's go!" the driver agreed with resignation.
If the cab was moving before Lanyard could hop in and shut the door, the
other had already established a killing lead; and though Lanyard's man
demonstrated characteristic contempt for municipal regulations governing
the speed of motor-driven vehicles, and racketed his own madly down the
Avenue, he was wholly helpless to do more than keep the tail-lamp of the
first in sight.
More than once that dull red eye seemed sardonically to wink.
Still, Lanyard did not think "Karl" knew he was pursued. His conveyance had
passed the corner before Lanyard emerged from the side street. There being
no reason that Lanyard knew of why the spy should believe himself under
suspicion, his haste seemed most probably due to natural desire to avoid
adventitious recognition, coupled with, no doubt, other urgent business.
At Seventy-second Street the chase turned east, with Lanyard two blocks
behind, and for a few agonizing moments was altogether lost to him. But at
Broadway the tide of southbound traffic hindered it momentarily, and it
swung into that stream with its pursuer only a block astern.
Thereafter through a ride of another mile and a half, the distance between
the two was augmented or abbreviated arbitrarily by the rules of the road.
At one time less than two cab-lengths separated them; then a Ford, driven
Fordishly, wandered vaguely out of a crosstown street and hesitated in the
middle of the thoroughfare with precisely the air of a staring yokel on
a first visit to the city; and Lanyard's driver slammed on the emergency
brake barely in time to escape committing involuntary but justifiable
When he was able once more to throw the gears into high, the chase was a
long block ahead.
They were entering Longacre Square before he made up that loss.
And at Forty-fourth Street, again, a stream of east-bound cars edged in
between the two, reducing Lanyard's driver to the verge of gibbering
A car resembling "Karl's" was crossing Broadway at Forty-second Street when
Lanyard was still on Seventh Avenue north of the Times Building.
But only a minute later his driver pulled up in front of the Hotel
Knickerbocker, and Lanyard, peering through the forward window, saw the
number 76-385 on the license plate of a taxicab drawing away, empty, from
the curb beneath the hotel canopy.
He tossed the second gold piece to the driver as his feet touched the
sidewalk, and shouldered through a cluster of men and women at the main
entrance to the lobby.
That rendezvous of Broadway was fairly thronged despite the slack
mid-evening hour, between the dinner and the supper crushes; but Lanyard
reviewed in vain the little knots of guests and loungers; if "Karl" were
among them, he was nobody whom Lanyard had learned to know by sight on
board the Assyrian.
With as little success he searched unobtrusively all public rooms on the
It was, of course, both possible and probable that "Karl," himself a guest
of the hotel, had crossed directly to the elevators and been whisked aloft
to his room.
With this in mind, Lanyard paused at the desk, asked permission to examine
the register and, being accommodated, was somewhat consoled; if his chase
had failed of its immediate objective, it now proved not altogether
fruitless. A majority of the Assyrian survivors seemed to have elected to
stop at the Knickerbocker. One after another Lanyard, scanning the entries,
found these names:
Arturo Velasco—Buenos Aires
Half inclined to commit the imprudence of sending a name up to Miss
Brooke—any name but André Duchemin, Michael Lanyard, or Anthony
Ember—together with a message artfully worded to fix her interest without
giving comfort to the enemy, should it chance to go astray, the adventurer
hesitated by the desk; and of a sudden was satisfied that such a move would
be not only injudicious but waste of time; for, now that he paused to think
of it, he surmised that the young woman—"young and good-looking", on
Walker's word—who had called to see Colonel Stanistreet was none other
than this same Cecelia Brooke.
What more natural than that she should make early occasion to consult the
head of the British Secret Service in America?
A pity he had not waited there in the window! If he had, no doubt the
mystery with which the girl had surrounded herself would be no more mystery
to Lanyard; he would have learned the secret of that paper cylinder as well
as the part the girl had played in the intrigue for its possession, and so
be the better advised as to his own future conduct.
But in his insensate passion for revenge upon one who had all but murdered
him, he had forgotten all else but the moment's specious opportunity.
With a grunt of impatience Lanyard turned away from the desk, and came face
to face with Crane.
The Secret Service man was coming from the direction of the bar in company
with Velasco, O'Reilly, and Dressier.
Of the three last named but one looked Lanyard's way, O'Reilly, and his
gaze, resting transiently on the countenance of André Duchemin minus the
Duchemin beard, passed on without perceptible glimmer of recognition.
Why not? Why should it enter his head that one lived and had anticipated
his own arrival in New York by twenty hours whom be believed to be buried
many fathoms deep off Nantucket?
As for Crane, his cool gray, humorous eyes, half-hooded with their heavy
lids, favoured Lanyard with casual regard and never a tremor of interest
or surprise; but as he passed his right eye closed deliberately and with a
significance not to be ignored.
To this Lanyard responded only with a look of blankest amaze.
Chatting with an air of subdued self-congratulation pardonable in such
as have come safe to land through many dangers of the deep, the quartet
strolled round the desk and boarded one of the elevators.
Not till its gate had closed did Lanyard stir. Then he went away from there
with all haste and cunning at his command.
The route through the café to Broadway offered the speediest and least
conspicuous of exits. From the side door of the hotel he plunged directly
into the mouth of the Subway kiosk and, chance favouring him, managed to
purchase a ticket and board a southbound local train an instant before its
doors ground shut.
Believing Crane would take the next elevator down, once he had seen the
others safely in their rooms, Lanyard was content to let him find the lobby
destitute of ghosts, to let him fume and wonder and think himself perhaps
The last thing he desired was entanglement with the American Secret
Service. For Crane he entertained personal respect and temperate liking,
thought the man socially an amusing creature, professionally a deadly peril
to one who had a feud to pursue.
Leaving the train at Grand Central, the adventurer passed through the back
ways of the Terminus, into the Hotel Biltmore, upstairs to its lobby,
thence out by the Vanderbilt Avenue entrance, walking through Forty-fourth
Street to Fifth Avenue, where he chartered a taxicab, gave the address
of his lodgings, and lay back in the corner of its seat satisfied he had
successfully eluded pursuit and very, very grateful to the Subway system
for the facilities it afforded fugitives like himself through its warren of
One thing troubled him, however, without respite: the Brooke girl was on
his conscience. To her he owed an accounting of his stewardship of that
trust which she had reposed in him. It was intolerable in his understanding
that she should be permitted to go one unnecessary hour in ignorance of the
truth about that business—the truth, that is, as far as he himself knew
If through Crane or in some unforseeable fashion she were to learn that
André Duchemin lived, she would think him faithless. If she knew that
Duchemin had been one with Michael Lanyard, the Lone Wolf, she would not be
surprised. But that, too, was intolerable; even the Lone Wolf had his code
Again, if she remained in ignorance of the fact that Lanyard had escaped
drowning, she would continue to believe her secret at the bottom of the sea
with him; whereas, in the hands of the enemy, in the possession of "Karl"
and his, confederates, it was potentially Heaven only knew how dangerous a
Abruptly Lanyard reflected that at least one doubt had been eliminated by
that encounter in the Knickerbocker. It was barely possible that "Karl" had
gone to the bar on entering and added himself to Crane's party, but it
was hardly creditable in Lanyard's consideration. He was convinced that,
whether or not Velasco, O'Reilly, and Dressier were parties to the Hun
conspiracy, none of these was "Karl."
As for the Brooke matter, he felt it incumbent upon him immediately to find
some safe means of communicating with the girl. She could be trusted not to
betray him to the police, however much she might at first incline to doubt
him. But he would persuade her of his sincerity, never fear!
The telephone offered one solution of his difficulty, an agency
non-committal enough, provided one were at pains not to call from one's
private station, to which the call might be traced back.
With this in mind he stopped and dismissed his taxicab at Fifty-seventh
Street and Sixth Avenue, and availed himself of a coin-box telephone booth
in the corner druggist's.
The experience that followed was nothing out of the ordinary. Lanyard,
connected with the Knickerbocker promptly, with the customary expenditure
of patience laboriously spelled out the name B-r-double-o-k-e, and was told
to hold the wire.
Several minutes later he began to agitate the receiver hook and was
eventually rewarded with the advice that the Knickerbocker operator, being
informed his party was in the rest'runt, was having her paged.
Still later the central operator told him his five minutes was up and
consented to continue the connection only on deposit of an additional
Eventually, in sequel to more abuse of the hook, he received this response
from the Knickerbocker switchboard: "Wait a min'te, can't you? Here's your
Lanyard was surprised at the eagerness with which he cried: "Hello!"
A click answered, and a bland voice which was not the voice he had expected
to hear: "Hello? That you, Jack?"
He said wearily: "I am waiting to speak with Miss Cecelia Brooke."
"Oh, then there must be some mistake. This is Miss Crooke speaking."
Lanyard uttered a strangled "Sorry!" and hung up, abandoning further effort
That matter would have to stand over till morning.
Time now pressed: it was nearly eleven; he had a rendezvous with Destiny to
keep at midnight, and meant to be more than punctual.
Walking to his apartment house, he proceeded to establish an alibi by
entering through the public hallway and registering with the telephone
attendant a call for seven o'clock the next morning.
In the course of the next half hour Lanyard let himself quietly out of the
private door, slipped around the block and boarded a Riverside Drive bus.
Alighting at Ninety-third Street, he walked two blocks north on the Drive,
turned east, and without misadventure admitted himself a second time to the
It was hardly possible to watch Mr. Blensop functioning in his vocational
capacity without reflecting on that cruel injustice which Nature only too
often practises upon her offspring in secreting most praiseworthy qualities
within fleshy envelopes of hopelessly frivolous cast.
The flowing gestures of this young man, his fluting accents, poetic eyes,
and modestly ingratiating moustache, the preciosity of his taste in dress,
assorted singularly with an austere devotion to duty rare if unaffected.
Beyond question, whether or not naturally a man of studious and
conscientious temper, Mr. Blensop figured to admiration in the role of such
Seated, the shaded lamplight an aureole for his fair young head, he wrought
industriously with a beautiful gold-mounted fountain pen for fully five
minutes after Lanyard had stolen into the draped recess of the French
window, pausing only now and again to take a fresh sheet of paper or
consult one of the sheaves of documents that lay before him.
At length, however, he hesitated with pen lifted and abstracted gaze
focussed upon vacancy, shook a bewildered head, and rose, moving directly
toward the windows.
For as long as thirty breathless seconds Lanyard remained in doubt; there
was the barest chance that in his preoccupation Blensop might pass through
to the garden without noticing that dark figure flattened against the
inswung half of the window, in the dense shadow of the portière. Otherwise
the game was altogether up; Lanyard could see no way to avoid the necessity
of staggering Blensop with a blow, racing for freedom, abandoning utterly
further effort to learn the motive of "Karl's" impersonation of Duchemin.
He gathered himself together, waited poised in readiness for any
eventuality—and blessed his lucky stars to find his apprehensions idle.
Three paces from the windows, Mr. Blensop made it plain that he was after
all not minded to stroll in the garden. Pausing, he swung a high-backed
wing chair round to face the corner of the room, switched on a reading
lamp, sat down and selected a volume of some work of reference from the
well-stocked book shelves.
For several minutes, seated within arm's length of the trespasser, he
studied intently, then with a cluck of satisfaction replaced the volume,
extinguished the light, and went back to his writing.
But presently he checked with a vexed little exclamation, shook his pen
impatiently, and fixed it with a frown of pained reproach.
But that did no good. The cussedness of the inanimate was strong in this
pen: since its reservoir was quite empty it mulishly refused more service
With a long-suffering sigh, Mr. Blensop found a filler in one of the desk
drawers, and unscrewed the nib of the pen.
This accomplished, he paused, listened for a moment with head cocked
intelligently to one side, dropped the dismembered implement, and got up
alertly. At the same moment the door to the hallway opened, and two women
entered, apparently sisters: one a lady of mature and distinguished charm,
the other an equally prepossessing creature much her junior, the one
strongly animated with intelligent interest in life, the other a listless
prey to habitual ennui.
To these fluttered Mr. Blensop, offering to relieve them of their wraps.
"Permit me, Mrs. Arden," he addressed the elder woman, who tolerated him
dispassionately. "And Mrs. Stanistreet … I say, aren't you a bit late?"
"Frightfully," assented Mrs. Stanistreet in a weary voice. "It must be all
"Hardly that, Adele," said Mrs. Arden with a humorous glance.
"Dinner, the play, supper, and home before twelve!" commented Blensop,
shocked. "I say, that is going some, you know."
"George would insist on hurrying home," the young wife complained.
"Frightfully tiresome. We were so comfy at the Ritz, too…."
"The Crystal Room?" Dissembled envy poisoned Blensop's accents.
"Frightfully interestin'—everybody was there. I did so want to
dance—missed you, Arthur."
"I say, you didn't, did you, really?"
"Poor Mr. Blensop!" Mrs. Arden interjected with just a hint of malice.
"What a pity you must be chained down by inexorable duty, while we fly
round and amuse ourselves."
"I must not complain," Blensop stated with humility becoming in a dutiful
martyr, a pose which he saw fit quickly to discard as another man came
briskly into the room. "Ah, good evening, Colonel Stanistreet."
With a brusque nod, Colonel Stanistreet went straightway to the desk,
stopping there to take up and examine the work upon which his secretary had
been engaged: a gentleman considerably older than his wife, of grave and
sturdy cast, with the habit of standing solidly on his feet and giving
undivided attention to the matter in hand.
"Anything of consequence turned up?" he enquired abstractedly, running
through the sheets of pen-blackened paper.
"Three persons called," Blensop admitted discreetly. "One returns at
Stanistreet threw him a keen look. "Eh!" he said, making swift inference,
and turned to his wife and sister-in-law. "It is nearly twelve now. Forgive
me if I hurry you off."
"Patience," said Mrs. Arden indulgently. "Not for worlds would I hinder
your weighty affairs, dear old thing, but I sleep more sound o' nights when
I know my trinkets are locked up securely in your safe."
With a graceful gesture she unfastened a magnificent necklace and deposited
it on the desk.
"Frightful rot," her sister commented from the doorway. "As if anybody
would dare break in here."
"Why not?" Mrs. Arden enquired calmly, stripping her fingers of their
"With a watchman patrolling the grounds all night—"
"Letty is sensible," Stanistreet interrupted. "Howson's faithful enough,
and these American police dependable, but second-storey men happen in the
best-guarded neighbourhoods. Be advised, Adele: leave your things here with
"No fear," his wife returned coolly. "Too frightfully weird…."
She drifted across the threshold, then hesitated, a pretty figure of
"But really, Colonel Stanistreet is right," Blensop interposed vivaciously.
"What do you imagine I heard to-night? The Lone Wolf is in America!"
"What is that you say?" Mrs. Arden demanded sharply.
"The Lone Wolf … Fact. Have it on most excellent authority."
"The Lone Wolf!" Mrs. Stanistreet drawled. "If you ask me, I think the Lone
Wolf nothing in the world but a scapegoat for police stupidity."
"You wouldn't say that," Mrs. Arden retorted, "if you had lived in Paris as
long as I. There, in the dear old days, we paid that rogue too heavy a tax
not to believe in him."
"Frightful nonsense," insisted the other. "I'm off. 'Night, Arthur. Shall
you be long, George?"
"Oh, half an hour or so," her husband responded absently as she
With a little gesture consigning her jewellery, heaped upon the desk, to
the care of her brother-in-law, Mrs. Arden uttered good-nights and followed
Blensop bowed her out respectfully, shut the door and returned to the desk.
"What's this about the Lone Wolf?" Stanistreet enquired, sitting down to
con the papers more intently.
"Oh!" Blensop laughed lightly. "I was merely repeating the blighter's own
assertion. I mean to say, he boasted he was the Lone Wolf."
"Who boasted he was the Lone Wolf?"
"Chap who called to-night, giving the name of Duchemin—André Duchemin. Had
French passports, and letters from the Home Office recommending him rather
highly. Useful creature, one would fancy, with his knowledge of the right
way to go about the wrong thing. What? Ought to be especially helpful to us
in hunting down the Hun over here."
"Is this the man who returns at midnight?"
"Yes, sir. I thought it best to make the appointment."
"He said he had crossed on the Assyrian, said it significantly, you know.
I fancied he might be the person you have been expecting."
Stanistreet looked up with a frown. "Hardly," he said—"if, that is, he is
really what he claims to be. I wonder how he came by those letters."
"Does seem odd, doesn't it, sir? A confessed criminal!"
"An extraordinary man, by all accounts…. Those other callers—?"
"Nobody of importance, I should say. A man who gave his name as Ember and
got a bit shirty when I asked his business. Told him you might consent to
see him at nine in the morning."
"And the other?"
"A young woman—deuced pretty girl—also reticent. What was her name?
Brooke—that was it: Cecelia Brooke."
"The devil!" Stanistreet exclaimed, dropping the papers. "What did you say
"What could I say, sir? She refused to divulge a word about her business
with us. I told her—"
Warned by a gesture from Colonel Stanistreet, Blensop broke off. Walker was
opening the door.
"A Mr. Duchemin, sir, says Mr. Blensop made an appointment with you for
"Show him in, please."
The footman shut himself out. Blensop clutched nervously at Mrs. Arden's
"Hadn't I better put these in the safe first?"
"No—no time." Stanistreet opened a drawer of the desk—"Here!"—and closed
it as Blensop hastily swept the jewellery into it. "Safe enough there—as
long as he doesn't know, at all events. But don't forget to put them away
after he goes."
Again the door opened. Walker announced: "Mr. Duchemin." Stanistreet rose
in his place. A man strode in with the assurance of one who has discounted
a cordial welcome.
Through the gap which he had quietly created between the portière and the
side of the window, Lanyard stared hungrily, and for the second time that
night damned heartily the inadequate light in the library.
The impostor's face, barely distinguishable in the up-thrown penumbra
of the lampshade, wore a beard—a rather thick, dark beard of negligent
abundance, after a mode popular among Frenchmen—above which his features
were an indefinite blur.
Lanyard endeavoured with ill success to identify the fellow by his
carriage; there was a perceptible suggestion of a military strut, but that
is something hardly to be termed distinctive in these days. Otherwise, he
was tall, quite as tall as Lanyard, and had much the same character of
body, slender and lithe.
But he was "Karl" beyond question, confederate and murderer of Baron von
Harden, the man who had thrown the light bomb to signal the U-boat,
the brute with whom Lanyard had struggled on the boat deck of the
Assyrian—though the latter, in the confusion of that struggle, had
thought the German's beard a masking handkerchief of black silk.
Now by that same token he was no member of that smoking-room coterie upon
which Lanyard's suspicions had centered.
On the other hand, any number of passengers had worn beards, not a few of
much the same mode as that sported by this nonchalant fraud.
Vainly Lanyard cudgelled his wits to aid a laggard memory, haunted by a
feeling that he ought to know this man instantly, even in so poor a light.
Something in his habit, something in that insouciance which so narrowly
escaped insolence, was at once strongly reminiscent and provokingly
Pausing a little ways within the room, the fellow clicked heels and bowed
punctiliously in Continental fashion, from the hips.
"Colonel Stanistreet, I believe," he said in a sonorous voice—"Karl's"
unmistakable voice—"chief of the American bureau of the British Secret
"I am Colonel Stanistreet," that gentleman admitted. "And you, sir—?"
"I have adopted the name of André Duchemin," the impostor stated. "With
permission I retain it."
Colonel Stanistreet inclined his head slightly. "As you will. Pray be
He dropped back into his chair, while "Karl" with a murmur of
acknowledgment again took the armchair on the far side of the desk, where
the lamp stood between him and the secret watcher.
"My secretary tells me you have letters of introduction…."
"Here." Calmly "Karl" produced and offered those purloined papers.
"You will smoke?" Stanistreet indicated a cigarette-box and leaned back to
glance through the letters.
During a brief pause Blensop busied himself with collecting together the
documents which had occupied him and began reassorting them, while "Karl,"
helping himself to a cigarette, smoked with manifest enjoyment.
"These seem to be in order," Stanistreet observed. "I note from this code
letter that your true name is Michael Lanyard, you were once a professional
French thief known as 'The Lone Wolf', but have since displayed every
indication of desire to reform your ways, and have been of considerable
use to the Intelligence Office. I am desired to employ your services in my
discretion, contingent—pardon me—upon your continued good behaviour."
"Precisely," assented "Karl."
"Proceed, Monsieur Duchemin."
"It is an affair of some delicacy…. Do we speak alone, Colonel
"Mr. Blensop is my confidential secretary…."
"Oh, no objection. Still—if I may venture the suggestion—those windows
open upon a garden, I take it?"
"Yes. Blensop, be good enough to close the windows."
Stepping delicately, Blensop moved toward the end of the room.
Again Lanyard was confronted with the alternatives of incontinent flight or
attempting to remain undetected through the adoption of an expedient of the
most desperate audacity. He had prepared against such contingency, he did
not mean to go; but the feasibility of his contemplated manoeuvre depended
entirely upon chance, its success in any event was forlornly problematic.
"Karl" remained hidden from him by the lamp, so he from "Karl." Colonel
Stanistreet, facing his caller, sat half turned away from the windows.
Everything rested with Blensop's choice, which of the two windows he would
elect first to close.
A right-handed man, he turned, as Lanyard had foreseen, to the right, and
momentarily disappeared in the recess of the farther window.
In the same instant Lanyard slipped noiselessly from behind the portière,
and dropped into that capacious wing chair which Blensop had thoughtfully
placed for him some time since.
Thus seated, making himself as small and still as possible, he was wholly
concealed from all other occupants of the library but Blensop; and even
this last was little likely to discover him.
He did not. He closed and latched the farther window, then that wherein
Lanyard had lurked, and ambled back into the room with never a glance
toward that shadowed corner which held the wing chair.
And Lanyard drew a deep breath, if a quiet one. Behind him the conversation
had continued without break. It was true, he could see nothing; but he
could hear all that was said, he had missed no syllable, and now every
second was informing him to his profit….
"Your secretary, no doubt, has told you I am a survivor of the Assyrian
"You were, I believe, expecting a certain communication of extraordinary
character by the Assyrian, to be brought, that is, by an agent of the
British Secret Service."
After an almost imperceptible pause Stanistreet said evenly: "It is
"A communication, in fact, of such character that it was impossible to
entrust it to the mails or to cable transmission, even in code."
"And if so, sir…?"
"And you are aware that, of the two gentlemen entrusted with the care of
this document, one was drowned when the Assyrian went down, and the other
so seriously injured that he has not yet recovered consciousness, but
was transferred directly from the pier to a hospital when the Saratoga
"What then, Monsieur Duchemin?"
"Colonel Stanistreet," said the impostor deliberately, "I have that
communication. I will ask you not to question me too closely as to how it
came into my possession. I have it: that is sufficient."
"If you possess any document which you conceive to be so valuable to the
British Government, monsieur, and consequently to the Allied cause, I have
every confidence in your intention to deliver it to me without delay."
A note of mild derision crept into the accents of "Karl."
"I have every intention of so doing, my dear sir…. But you must
appreciate I have incurred considerable personal danger, hardship, and
inconvenience in taking good care of this document, in seeing that it did
not fall into the wrong hands; in short, in bringing it safely here to you
A slightly longer pause prefaced Stanistreet's reply, something which
he delivered in measured tones: "I am able to promise you the British
Government will show due appreciation of your disinterested services,
"Not disinterested—not that!" the cheat protested. "Gentlemen of my
kidney, sir, seldom put themselves out except in lively anticipation of
favours to come."
"Be good enough to make yourself more clear."
"Cheerfully. I possess this document. I understand its character is such
that Germany would pay a round price for it. But I am a good patriot. In
spite of the fact that nobody knew I possessed it, in spite of the fact
that I need only have quietly taken it to Seventy-ninth Street to-night—"
"Monsieur Duchemin!" Stanistreet's voice was icy. "Your price?"
"Sorry you feel that way about it," said "Karl" with ill-concealed
insincerity. "You must know thieving is no more what it once was. Even I,
too, often am put to it to make both ends—"
"If you please, sir—how much?"
"Ten thousand dollars."
Silence greeted this demand, a lull that to Lanyard seemed endless. For in
his fury he was trembling so that he feared lest his agitation betray him.
The very walls before his eyes seemed to quake in sympathy. He was aware of
the ache of swollen veins in his temples, his teeth hurt with the pressure
put upon them, his breath came heavily, and his nails were digging
painfully into his palms.
"How much have we on hand, in the emergency fund?"
"Between ten and twelve thousand dollars, sir."
"Intuition, monsieur, is an indispensable item in the equipment of a
successful chevalier d'Industrie. So, at least, the good novelists tell
"Open the safe, Blensop, and fetch me ten thousand dollars."
"Very good, sir."
"I presume you won't object to satisfying me that you really have this
document, before I pay you your price."
"It is this which makes it a pleasure to deal with an Englishman, monsieur:
one may safely trust his word of honour."
"Permit me: here is the document. Use that magnifying glass I see by your
elbow, monsieur; take your time, satisfy yourself."
"Thanks; I mean to."
Another break in the dialogue, during which the eavesdropper heard an
odd sound, a sort of muffled swishing ending in a slight thud, then the
peculiar metallic whine of a combination dial rapidly manipulated, finally
the dull clank of bolts falling back into their sockets.
"Your coffre-fort—what do you say?—strong-box—safe—is cleverly
concealed, Colonel Stanistreet."
There was no direct reply, but after a moment Stanistreet announced
quietly: "This seems to be an authentic paper…. Monsieur Duchemin, what
knowledge precisely have you of the nature of this document?"
"Surely monsieur cannot have overlooked the circumstance that its seals
"True," Stanistreet admitted. "Still…."
"I trust Monsieur does not question my good faith?"
"Why not?" Stanistreet enquired drily.
"Oh, damn your play-acting, sir! If you can be capable of one infamy, you
are capable of more. None the less, you are right about an Englishman's
word: here is your money. Count it and—get out!"
"Thanks"—the impostor's tone was an impertinently exact imitation of
Stanistreet's—"I mean to."
"Permit me to excuse myself," Stanistreet added; and Lanyard heard the
muffled scrape of chair-legs on the rug as the Englishman got up.
"Gladly," the spy returned—"and ten thousand thanks, monsieur!"
The secretary intoned melodiously: "This way, Monsieur Duchemin, if you
"Pardon. Is it material which way I leave?"
"What do you mean?" Stanistreet demanded.
"I should be far easier in my mind if monsieur would permit me to go by way
of his garden, rather than run the risk of his front door."
"In these little affairs, monsieur, I try to make it a rule to avoid
covering the same ground twice."
"You have the insolence to imply I would lend myself to treachery!"
"I beg monsieur's pardon very truly for suggesting such a thing.
Nevertheless, one cannot well be overcautious when one is a hunted man."
"Blensop … be good enough to see this man out through the garden."
"Again, monsieur, my thanks."
"Good-night," said Stanistreet curtly.
Blensop passed Lanyard's chair, unlatched and opened the window and stood
aside. An instant later "Karl" joined him, swung on a heel, facing back,
clicked heels again and bowed mockingly. Apparently he got no response, for
he laughed quietly, then turned and went out through the window, Blensop
With a struggle Lanyard mastered the temptation to dash after the spy,
overtake and overpower him, expose and give him up to justice. Only the
knowledge that by remaining quiescent, by biding his time, he might be
enabled to redeem his word to the Brooke girl, gave him strength to be
But he suffered exquisitely, maddened by the defamation imposed upon his
nick-name of a thief by this brazen impostor.
Nor was wounded amour-propre mended by an exclamation in the room behind
his chair, the accents of Colonel Stanistreet thick with contempt:
"The Lone Wolf! Faugh!"
Presently Blensop came back, closed the window, and passed blindly by
Lanyard, his reappearance saluted by Stanistreet in tones that shook with
"You saw that animal outside the walls?"
Mildly injured surprise was indicated in the reply: "Surely, sir!"
"And locked the door after him?"
"Howson anywhere about?"
"I didn't see him. Daresay he's prowling somewhere within call. Do you wish
to speak to him?"
"No…. But you might, if you see anything of him, tell him to keep an
extra eye open to-night. I don't trust this self-styled Lone Wolf."
"Naturally not, sir, under the circumstances."
Stanistreet acknowledged this with an irritated snort. "No matter," he
thought aloud; "if it has cost us a pretty penny, we have got this safe in
hand at last. I've not had too much sleep, I can promise you, since the
report came through of Bartholomew's death and Thackeray's disablement.
Nor am I satisfied that this Monsieur Duchemin came by the document
fairly—confound his impudence! If he hadn't put me on honour, tacitly, I'd
not hesitate an instant about informing the police."
"Rather chancy course to take in this business, what?"
"I don't know…. That Yankee invention known as the 'frame-up' would
easily make America too small for the Lone Wolf without the British Secret
Service ever being mentioned in the matter."
"Yes; but suppose the beast knows the contents of this paper, suspects
the authorship of the 'frame-up'—as he instinctively would—and blabs?
Messages have been unsealed and copied and resealed before this."
"That one consideration ties my hands…. Here, my boy: take this and
put it in the safe—and don't forget Mrs. Arden's things, of course.
"Trust me, sir. Good-night."
A door closed with a slight jar, and for half a minute the room was so
positively quiet that Lanyard was beginning to wonder if Blensop himself
had gone out with his employer, when he heard a low and musical chuckle,
followed by a soft clashing as the secretary scooped Mrs. Arden's jewellery
out of the desk drawer.
Itching with curiosity, Lanyard turned with infinite care and peered round
the wing of the chair, thus gaining a view of the wall farthest from the
Blensop remaining invisible, Lanyard's interest centred immediately upon
the safe the ingenuity of whose concealment had excited "Karl's" favourable
comment, and with much excuse.
One of the portraits—that upon whose merits Blensop had descanted to
"Karl" earlier in the night—was, Lanyard saw, so mounted upon a solid
panel of wood that, by means of hidden mechanism, it could be moved
sidelong from its frame, uncovering the face of a safe built into the wall.
This last now stood open, its door, swung out toward Lanyard, showing
a simple arrangement of dials and locks with which he was on terms of
contemptuous familiarity; only the veriest tyro of a cracksman would want
more than a good ear and a subtle sense of touch in order to open it
without knowledge of the combination.
With all its reputation for efficiency and astuteness the British Secret
Service entrusted its mysteries to an antiquated contraption such as this!
Humming a blithe little air, Blensop moved into Lanyard's field of vision
and stopped between him and the safe, deftly pigeonholing therein the
docketed papers and Mrs. Arden's jewels. Then, closing the door, he shot
its bolts, gave the dial a brisk twirl, located a lever in the side of the
frame and thrust it into its socket.
With the same swish and thud which had puzzled Lanyard at first hearing,
the portrait slipped back into place.
Rounding on a heel, Blensop paused, head to one side, a slight frown
shadowing his bland countenance, and stood briefly rooted in some
perplexity of obscure origin. Twice he shook a peevish head, then smiled
radiantly and brought his hands together in an audible clap.
"I have it!" he cried in delight and, dancing briskly toward the desk, once
Now what was this which Mr. Blensop so spontaneously had, and from the
having of which he derived so much apparently innocent enjoyment? Wanting
an answer, Lanyard settled back in disgust, then sat sharply forward, gaze
riveted to the near sash of the adjacent window.
In showing "Karl" out, Blensop had moved the portières, exposing more
glass than previously had been visible. Now this mirrored darkly to the
adventurer a somewhat distorted vision of Blensop standing over the
desk, seemingly employed in no more amusing occupation than filling his
fountain-pen. But undoubtedly he was in the highest spirits; for the lilt
of his humming rose sweet and clear and ever louder.
To this accompaniment he pocketed his pen, two-stepped to the windows,
drew the portières jealously close, returned to the desk, switched off the
reading lamp, and left the room completely dark but for a dim glow from the
ash-filmed embers of the fire.
But before he went out the secretary interrupted his humming to laugh
with a mischievous élan which completely confounded Lanyard. He was not
unacquainted with the Blensop type, but the secret glee which seemed to
animate this specimen was something far beyond his comprehension.
As the door softly closed Lanyard moved silently across the room and bent
an ear to its panels, meanwhile drawing over his hands a pair of thin white
From beyond came no sound other than a faint creaking of stair-treads
Opening the door, Lanyard peered out, finding the hallway deserted and
dimly lighted by a single bulb of little candle-power at its far end, then
scouted out as far as the foot of the stairs, listened there for a little,
hearing no sounds above, and reconnoitred through the other living rooms,
at length returning to the library persuaded he was alone on the ground
floor of the house.
A Yale lock was fixed to the library side of the door. Lanyard released its
catch, insuring freedom from interruption on the part of anybody who lacked
the key, crossed to the other side door, left this on the latch and, having
thus provided an avenue for escape, turned attention to business, in brief,
to the safe.
Turning on the picture-light he found and operated the lever, with his
other hand so restraining the action of the panel that it moved aside
without perceptible jar.
Then with an ear to that smooth, cold face of enamelled steel, he began
to manipulate the combination. From within the door a succession of soft
clicks and knocks punctuated the muted whine of the dial, speaking
a language only too intelligible to the trained hearing of a thief;
synchronous breaks and resistance in the action of the dial conveyed
additional information through the medium of supersensitive finger tips.
Within two minutes he had learned all he needed to know, and standing back
twirled the knob right and left with a confident hand. At its fourth stop
he heard the dull bump of released tumblers, grasped the handle, and
twisted it strongly. The door swung open.
Systematically Lanyard searched the pigeonholes, emptying all but one,
examining minutely their contents without finding that slender roll of
Mystified, he hesitated. The thing, of course, was somewhere there, only
hidden more cunningly than he had hoped. It was possible, even probable,
that Blensop had stowed the cylinder away in a secret compartment.
But the interior arrangement was disconcertingly simple. Lanyard saw no
sign of waste space in which such a drawer might be secreted. Unless, to be
sure, one of the pigeonholes had a false back….
He began a fresh examination, again emptying each pigeonhole and sounding
its rear wall without result till there remained only that in which Blensop
had placed the Arden jewels.
It was necessary to move these, but Lanyard long withheld his hand,
reluctant to touch them, for that same reason which had influenced him to
avoid them in his first search.
Jewels such as these he both worshipped and desired with the passionate
adoration of connoisseur and lover in one. He feared violently the
temptation of physical contact with such stuff.
For his was no thief's errand to-night, but a matter, as he conceived
it, of his private honour, something apart and distinct from the code of
rogue's ethics which guided his professional activities. He had pledged
his word to Cecelia Brooke to keep safe for her that cylinder of paper, to
return it upon her demand for whatsoever disposition she might choose to
make of it. It was no concern of his what that choice might turn out to
be, any more than it was his affair if the document were a paper of
international importance. But she must and should, if act of his could
compass it, be given opportunity to redeem her word of honour if, as one
believed, that likewise were involved in the fate of the document.
He had stolen into this house like a thief because he had given his pledge
and perforce had been made false to that pledge, because he had been
despoiled of the concrete evidence of the trust reposed unasked in him, and
because he had learned that his spoiler was to meet Stanistreet in this
room at midnight.
He was here solely to make good his word, to take away that cylinder, could
he find it, and to return it to the girl … not to thieve….
Slowly, reluctantly, inevitably he put forth his hand and selected from
among those brilliant symbols of his soul's profound damnation the
necklace, a rope of diamonds consummately matched, a rivulet of frozen
fire, no single stone less lovely than another.
"Admirable!" he whispered. "Oh, admirable!"
Hesitant to do this thing which to him, by the strange standard of his
warped code, spelled dishonour, he would and he would not; and while he
paltered, was visited by an oddly vivid memory of the clear and candid eyes
of Cecelia Brooke, seemed veritably to see them searching his own with
their look of grieving wonder … the eyes of one woman who had reckoned
him worthy of her trust….
Almost he won victory in this fight he was foredoomed to lose. Under the
level and steadfast regard of those eyes his hand went out to replace the
necklace, moved unsteadily, faltered….
Beyond the windows an incautious footfall sounded. In the darkness out
there someone blundered into a piece of wicker furniture and disturbed it
with a small scraping sound, all but inaudible, but to the thief as loud as
the blast of a police whistle.
Instantly and instinctively, in two simultaneous gestures, Lanyard dropped
the necklace into an inner pocket of his coat and switched off the
With hands now as steady and sure as they had been vacillant a moment
since, he closed the safe door noiselessly, shot its bolts, and was yards
away, crouching behind an armchair, before the man outside had ceased to
fumble with the window fastenings.
If this were the watchman Howson, doubtless he would be satisfied with
finding the room dark and apparently untenanted, and would go off upon his
rounds unsuspecting. If he did not, or if he noticed the displaced panel,
then would come Lanyard's time to break cover and run for it.
With a faint creak one of the windows swung inward. Curtain-rings clashed
dully on their poles. Someone came through the portières and paused,
pulling them together behind him. The beam of an electric flash-lamp lanced
the gloom and its spotlight danced erratically round the walls.
Now there was no more thought of flight in Lanyard's humour, but rather a
firm determination to stand his ground. This was no night watchman, but a
housebreaker, one with no more title to trespass upon those premises than
himself; and at that an unskilled hand at such work, the rawest of amateurs
practising methods as clumsy and childish as any actor playing at burglary
on a stage before a simple-minded audience.
The noise he made on entering alone proved that, then this fatuous business
with the flash-lamp. And as he moved inward from the windows it became
evident that he had not even had the wit to close the portières completely;
a violet glimmer of starlight shone in through a deep triangular gap
between them at the top.
For all that, the intruder seemed to know what he wanted and where to seek
it, betrayed a nice acquaintance with the room, proceeding directly to the
safe picked out by his lamp.
Arrived beneath it he uttered a low sound which might have been interpreted
as surprise due to finding the panel already out of place. If so, surprise
evidently roused in him no suspicion that all might not be well. On the
contrary, he quite calmly located and turned the switch controlling the
Immediately, as its rays gushed down and disclosed the man, Lanyard
rose boldly from his place in hiding. Now there was no more need for
concealment; now was his enemy delivered into his hands.
The man was "Karl."
His back to Lanyard, unconscious of that one's catlike approach, the spy
put up his flash-lamp, searched in a waistcoat pocket and produced a slip
of paper, and bent his face close to the combination dial, studying its
figures; but abruptly, like a startled animal, whirled round to face the
One of the sashes was thrown back roughly, and a figure clad in the gray
livery of a private watchman parted the portières and entered the library.
"Everything all right in here, Mr. Blensop?"
Lanyard saw the sheen of blue steel in the hands of "Karl," and leaped too
late: even as he fell upon the spy's shoulders, the pistol exploded.
The watchman reeled back with a choking cry, caught wildly at the
portières, and dragged them down with him as he fell.
His screams of agony made hideous the night. And the second cry was no more
than uttered when Lanyard, even in the heat of his struggle, heard sounds
indicating that already the household was alarmed.
But the door would hold for a while; it was not probable that the first to
come downstairs would think to bring with him the key. Time enough to
think of escape when Lanyard had settled his score with this one: no light
undertaking; not only was the score a long one, longer than Lanyard then
dreamed, but, as he had learned to his cost, the man was an antagonist of
skill and strength not to be despised.
Nevertheless, aided by the surprise of his onslaught, Lanyard succeeded
in disarming the spy, forcing him to drop the pistol at the outset, and
through attacking from behind had him at a further disadvantage. For all
that he found his hands full till, by a trick of jiu-jitsu, he wrenched one
of the fellow's arms behind him so roughly as almost to dislocate it at the
shoulder and, forcing the forearm up toward his shoulder blades, held him
"Be still, you murderous canaille!" he growled—"or must I tear your arm
from its socket? Still, I say!"
"Karl" uttered a grunt of pain and ceased to struggle.
Pinning him against the bookcase, Lanyard hastily rifled his pockets, at
the first dip bringing forth a thin sheaf of American bank-notes with the
figures $1000 conspicuous on the uppermost.
"Ten thousand dollars," he said grimly—"precisely my fee for the use of my
name—to say nothing of its abuse!"
A torrent of untranslatable German blasphemy answered him. Intelligible was
the half-frantic demand: "Who the devil are you?"
"Take a look, assassin—see for yourself!" Lanyard twisted the spy around
to face him, holding him helpless against the wall with a knee in his
middle and a hand gripping his throat inexorably. "Do you know me now—the
man you thought you'd drowned a hundred fathoms deep?"
Blows thundered on the hallway door. Neither heeded. The spy was staring
into Lanyard's face, his eyes starting with horror and affright.
"Lanyard!" he gasped. "Good God! will you never die?"
"Never by your hand—" Lanyard began, but stopped sharply.
For a moment he glared incredulously, and in that moment knew his enemy.
"Ekstrom!" he cried; and the man at his mercy winced and quailed.
The din in the hallway grew louder. Voices cried out for the key. Somebody
threw himself against the door so heavily that it shook.
The emergency forced itself upon Lanyard's consciousness, would not be
denied. Its dilemma seemed calculated to unseat his reason. If he lingered,
he was lost. Either he must grant this creature new lease of life, or be
caught and pay the penalty of murder for an execution as surely just as any
in the history of mankind.
It was bitter, too bitter to have come to this his hour so long desired, so
long deferred, so arduously sought, and have the fruits of it snatched from
his craving grasp.
He could not bring himself to this renunciation; slowly his fingers
tightened on the other's throat.
Driven to desperation by the light of madness that began to flicker in
Lanyard's eyes, the Prussian abruptly put all he had of might and fury into
one final effort, threw Lanyard off, and in turn attacked him, fighting
like a lunatic for footroom, for space enough to turn and make for the
In spite of all he could do Lanyard saw the man work away from the wall and
manoeuvre his back toward the windows; then he flew at him with redoubled
fury, driving home blow after blow that beat down Ekstrom's guard and sent
him staggering helplessly, till an uppercut, swinging in under his uplifted
forearms, put an end to the combat. Ekstrom shot backward half a dozen
feet, stumbled over the prostrate body of the watchman, and crashed
headlong into the windows, going down in a shower of shattered glass.
In one and the same instant Lanyard darted back and dropped upon his knees
in the shadow of the club lounge, and the door to the hallway slammed open.
A knot of men, to the number of half a dozen, tumbling into the library,
saw that figure floundering amid the ruins of the window, and made for it,
passing on the other side of the lounge, between it and the fireplace.
Unseen, Lanyard rose, ran crouching across the room; found the side door,
opened it just far enough to permit the passage of his body, and drew it to
Ninety-fifth Street was a lonely lane of midnight quiet. He sped across it
like the shadow of a cloud wind-hunted.
In those days New York nights were long; this was still young when Lanyard
sauntered sedately from a side street and stopped on a corner of Broadway
in the Nineties; he had not long to wait ere a southbound taxicab hove in
sight and sheered over to the curb in answer to his signal.
It was still something short of one o'clock when he was set down at his
Wearily he let himself in by the private entrance, made a light, and
without troubling even to discard his overcoat threw himself into a chair.
Leaden depression weighed down his heart, and the flavour of failure was
as aloes in his mouth. Thrice within an hour he had fallen short of his
promises, to Cecelia Brooke, to himself, to his idée fixe. His three
chances, to redeem his word to the girl, to measure up to his queer
criterion of honour, to rid his world of Ekstrom, all had slipped through
fingers seemingly too infirm to profit by them.
He felt of a sudden old; old, and tired, and lonely.
The uses of his world, how weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable! What was
his life? An emptiness. Himself? A shuttlecock, the helpless sport of
his own failings, a vain thing alternately strutting and stumbling, now
swaggering in the guise of an avenger self-appointed, now sneaking in the
shameful habiliments of a felon self-condemned.
What had prevented his dealing out to Ekstrom the punishment he had so well
earned? That insatiable lust for loot of his. But for that damning evidence
against him of the stolen necklace in his pocket he might have had his will
of Ekstrom, and justified himself when discovered by proving that he had
merely done justice to a thief who sold what he had stolen and stole back
to steal again what he had sold.
Self-contempt attacked self-conceit like an acid. He saw Michael Lanyard
a sorry figure, sitting stultified with self-pity … crying over spilt
Impatiently he shook himself. What though he had to-night forfeited his
chances? He could, nay, would, make others. He must….
To what end? Would life be sweeter if one found a way to restore to Cecelia
Brooke her precious document and to smuggle back to Mrs. Arden her pilfered
diamonds? Would this deadly ache of loneliness be less poignant with
With lack-lustre eyes he looked round that cheerless room, reckoning its
perfunctory pretense of comfort the forlornest mockery. To lodgings such as
this he was condemned for life, to an interminable sequence of transient
quarters, sordid or splendid, rich or mean, alike in this common quality of
His aimless gaze wandered toward the door opening on the public hallway,
and became fixed upon a triangular shape of white paper, the half of an
envelope tucked between door and sill.
Presently he rose and got the thing, not until he touched it quite
persuaded he was not the victim of an optical hallucination.
A square envelope of creamy paper, it was superscribed simply in a hand
strange to him, Anthony Ember, Esq., with the address of his apartment
Tearing the envelope he found within a double sheet of plain notepaper
bearing a message of five words penned hastily:
Nothing else, not another word or pen-scratch….
Opening the door Lanyard hailed the hall-attendant, a sleepy and not
"When did this come for me?"
"'Bout anour ago, Mistuh Embuh."
"Who brought it?"
"A messenger boy done fotch it, suh—look lak th' same boy."
"What same boy?"
"Same as come in when you do, 'bout 'leven o'clock—remembuh?"
Lanyard nodded, recalling that on his way up the street from Sixth Avenue
he had been subconsciously irritated by the shrill, untuneful whistling of
a loutish youth in Western Union uniform, who had followed him into the
house and become engaged in some minor altercation with the attendants
while Lanyard was unlocking the door to his apartment.
"What of him?"
"Why, he bulge in heah an' say we done send a call, an' we tell him we don'
know nuffin' 'bout no call, an' he sweah an' carry on, an' aftuh you done
gone in he ast whut is yo' name, an' somebody tell him an' he go away. An'
then 'bout haffanour aftuhwuds he come back with that theah lettuh—say to
stick it undeh yo' do, ef yo' ain't home. Leastways he look to me lak th'
same boy. Ah dunno fo' suah."
Repeated efforts failing to extract more enlightenment from this source,
Lanyard again shut himself in with the puzzle.
Somebody had set a messenger boy to dog him and find out his name and
address. Not Crane: Lanyard had seen that one disappear in the elevator of
the Knickerbocker and had thereafter moved too quickly to permit of Crane's
returning to the lobby, calling a messenger boy, and pointing out Lanyard.
For that matter, Lanyard was prepared to swear nobody had followed him from
the Knickerbocker to the Biltmore.
Vaguely he seemed to recall a first impression of the boy at the time when
he emerged from the drug store after his unprofitable effort to telephone
Cecelia Brooke, an indefinite memory of a shambling figure with nose
flattened against the druggist's window, apparently fascinated by the
display of a catch-penny corn cure.
Was there a link between that circumstance and the long delay which Lanyard
had suffered in the telephone booth? Had the Knickerbocker operator been
less stupid and negligent than she seemed? Was the truth of the matter that
Crane had surmised Lanyard would attempt communication with the Brooke girl
and had set a watch on the switchboard for the call?
Assuming that the Secret Service man had been clever enough for that,
it was not difficult to understand that Lanyard had purposely been kept
dangling at the other end of the wire till the call could be traced back to
its source and a messenger despatched from the nearest Western Union office
with instructions to follow the man who left the booth, and report his name
and local habitation.
Sharp work, if these inferences were reasonable. And, satisfied that
they were, Lanyard inclined to accord increased respect to the detective
abilities of the American.
But this note, this hurried, unsigned scrawl of five unintelligible words:
what the deuce did it mean?
On the evidence of the handwriting a woman had penned it. Cecelia Brooke?
Who else? Crane might well have been taken into her confidence, subsequent
to the sinking of the Assyrian, and on discovering that Lanyard had
survived have used this means of relieving the girl's distress of mind.
But its significance?… "Au Printemps" translated literally meant "in the
springtime," and "in the springtime at one o'clock" was mere gibberish,
incomprehensible. There is in Paris a department store calling itself "Au
Printemps"; but surely no one was suggesting to Lanyard in New York a
rendezvous in Paris!
Nevertheless that "Please!" intrigued with a note at once pleading and
imperative which decided Lanyard to answer it without delay, in person.
"Au Printemps—one o'clock—please!"
Upon the screen of memory there flashed a blurred vision of an electric
sign emblazoning the phrase, "Au Printemps," against the façade of a
building with windows all blind and dark save those of the street level,
which glowed pink with light filtered through silken hangings; a building
which Lanyard had already passed thrice that night without, in the
preoccupation of his purpose, paying it any heed; a building on Broadway
somewhere above Columbus Circle, if he were not mistaken.
Already it was one o'clock. Fortunately he was still in evening dress, and
needed only to change collar and tie to repair the disarray caused by his
encounter with Ekstrom.
In two minutes he was once more in the street.
Within five a cab deposited him in front of the Restaurant Au Printemps, an
institution of midnight New York whose title for distinction resided mainly
in the fact that it opened its upper floors for the diversion of "members"
about the time when others put up their shutters.
Lanyard's advent occurred at the height of its traffic. The dining rooms on
the street level were closed and unlighted: but men and women in pairs
and parties were streaming across the sidewalk from an endless chain of
motor-cars and being ground through the revolving doors like grist in the
hopper of an unhallowed mill, the men all in evening dress, the women in
garments whose insolence outrivalled the most Byzantine nights of L'Abbaye
Drawn in with the current through the turnstile door, Lanyard found himself
in an absurdly little lobby thronged to suffocation, largely with people
of the half-world—here and there a few celebrities, here and there small
tight clusters of respectabilities making a brave show of feeling at
ease—all waiting their turn to be lifted to delectable regions aloft in an
elevator barely big enough to serve in a private residence.
For a moment Lanyard lingered unnoticed on the outskirts of this
assemblage, searching its pretty faces for the prettier face he had come to
find and wondering that she should have chosen for her purpose with him a
resort of this character. His memory of her was sweet with the clean smell
of the sea; there was incongruity to spare in this atmosphere heady with
the odours of wine, flesh, scent, and tobacco. Perplexing….
A harpy with a painted leer and predacious eyes pounced upon him, tore away
his hat and coat, gave him a numbered slip of pasteboard by presenting
which he would be permitted to ransom his property on extortionate terms.
And still he saw no Cecelia Brooke, though his aloof attitude coupled with
an intent but impersonal inspection of every feminine face within his
radius of vision earned him more than one smile at once furtively
provocative and unwelcome.
By degrees the crowd emptied itself into the toy elevator—such of it, that
is, as was passed by a committee on membership consisting of one chubby,
bearded gentleman with the look of a French diplomatist, the empressement
of a head waiter and the authority of the Angel with the Flaming Sword.
Personae non gratae to the management—inexplicably so in most
instances—were civilly requested to produce membership cards and, upon
failure to comply, were inexorably rejected, and departed strangely
shamefaced. Others of acceptable aspect were permitted to mingle with
the upper circles of the elect without being required to prove their
In the person of this suave but inflexible arbiter Lanyard identified a
former maître d'hôtel of the Carlton who had abruptly and discreetly fled
London soon after the outbreak of war.
He fancied that this one knew him and was sedulous both to keep him in the
corner of his eye and never to meet his regard directly.
And once he saw the man speak covertly with the elevator attendant,
guarding his lips with a hand, and suspected that he was the subject of
The lobby was still comfortably filled, a constant trickle of arrivals
replacing in measure the losses by election and rejection, when Lanyard,
watching the revolving doors, saw Cecelia Brooke coming in.
She was alone, at least momentarily; and in his sight very creditably
turned out, remembering that all her luggage must have been lost with the
Assyrian. But what Englishwoman of her caste ever permitted herself to be
visible after nightfall except in an evening gown of some sort, even though
a shabby sort? Not that Miss Brooke to-night was shabbily attired: she was
much otherwise; from some mysterious source of wardrobe she had conjured
wraps, furs, and a dancing frock as fresh and becoming as it was, oddly
enough, not immodest. And with whatever cares preying upon her secret mind,
she entered with the light step and bright countenance of any girl of her
age embarked upon a lark.
All that was changed at sight of Lanyard.
He bowed formally at a moment when her glance, resting on him, seemed about
to wander on; instead it became fixed in recognition. Instantly her smile
was erased, her features stiffened, her eyes widened, her lips parted, the
colour ebbed from her cheeks. And she stopped quite still in front of the
door till lightly jostled by other arrivals.
Then moving uncertainly toward him, she said, "Monsieur Duchemin!" not
loudly, for she was not a woman to give excuse for a scene under any
circumstances, but in a tone of complete dumbfounderment.
Covering his own dashed contenance with a semblance of unruffled
amiability, he bowed again, now over the hand which the girl tentatively
offered, letting it rest lightly on his fingers, touching it as lightly
with his lips.
"It is such a pleasant surprise," he said at a venture, then added
guardedly: "But my name—I thought you knew it was now Anthony Ember."
Her eyes were blank. "I don't understand," she faltered. "I thought you …
I never dreamed…. Is it really you?"
"Truly," he averred, lips smiling but mind rife with suspicion and
This was not acting; he was convinced that her surprise was absolutely
So she had not expected to find him "Au Printemps" at one o'clock in the
morning, till that very moment had believed him as dead as any of those
poor souls who had perished with the Assyrian!
Therefore that note had not come from her, therefore Lanyard had
complimented Crane without warrant, crediting him with another's
cleverness. Then whose…?
And while Lanyard's head buzzed with these thoughts, an independent chamber
of his mind was engaged in admiring the address with which the girl was
recovering from what must have been, what plainly had been, a staggering
shock. Already she had begun to grapple with the situation, to take herself
in hand and dissemble; already her face was regaining its accustomed cast
of self-confidence, composure, and intelligent animation. Throughout she
pursued without a break the thread of conventional small talk.
"It is a surprise," she said calmly. "Really, you are a most astonishing
person, Mr. Ember. One never knows where to look for you."
"That is my good fortune, since it provides me with unexpected pleasures
such as this. You are with friends?"
"With a friend," she corrected quietly—"with Mr. Crane. He stopped outside
to pay our taxi-driver. How odd it seems to find any place in the world as
much alive as this New York!"
"It seems almost impossible," Lanyard averred—"indeed, somehow wrong. I've
a feeling one has no right to encourage so much frivolity. And yet…."
"Yes," she responded quickly. "It is good to hear people laugh once more.
That is why Mr. Crane suggested coming here to-night, to cheer me up. He
said Au Printemps was unique, promised I'd find it most amusing."
"I'm sure…." Lanyard began as Crane entered, breezing through the
turnstile and comprehending the situation in a glance.
"Hello!" he cried. "Didn't I tell you everybody alive would be here?"
Nor was Cecelia Brooke less ready. "But fancy meeting Mr. Ember here! I had
no idea he was in New York—had you?"
"Perhaps a dim suspicion," Crane admitted with a twinkle, taking Lanyard's
hand. "Howdy, Ember? Glad to see you, gladder'n you'd think."
"How is that?" Lanyard asked, returning the cordiality of his grasp.
Crane's penetrating accents must have been audible in the remotest corner
of the ground-floor rooms: he made no effort to modulate them to a quieter
"You can help me out of a fix if you feel like it. You see, I promised Miss
Brooke if she'd take me for her guide, she'd see life to-night; and now,
just when we're going good, I've got to renig. Man I know held me up
outside, says I'm wanted down town on special business and must go. I might
be able to toddle back later, but can't bank on it. Do you mind taking over
"Chaperoning Miss Brooke's investigations into the seamy side of current
social history? That will be delightful."
"Attaboy! If I'm not back in half an hour you'll see her safely home, of
"And you'll excuse me, Miss Brooke? I hope you don't think—"
"What I do think, Mr. Crane, is that you have been most kind to a lonely
stranger. Of course I'll excuse you, not willingly, but understanding you
"That makes me a heap easier in my mind. But I' got to run. So it's
good-night, unless maybe I see you later. So long, Ember!"
With a flirt of a raw-boned hand, Crane swung about, threw himself
spiritedly into the revolving door, was gone.
"Amazing creature," Lanyard commented, laughing.
"I think him delightful," the girl replied, surrendering her wraps to a
maid. "If all Americans are like that—"
"Shall we go up?"
She nodded—"Please!"—and turned with him.
The committee on membership himself bowed them into the elevator. Several
others crowded in after them. For thirty seconds, while the car moved
slowly upward, Lanyard was free to think without interruption.
But what to think now? That Crane, actuated by some motive occult to
Lanyard, had engineered this apparently adventitious rencontre for the
purpose of throwing him and the Brooke girl together? Or, again, that Crane
was innocent of guile in this matter—that other persons unknown, causing
Lanyard to be traced to his lodgings, had framed that note to entice him to
this place to-night? In the latter event, who was conceivably responsible
but Velasco, Dressier, O'Reilly—any one of these, or all three working in
concert? The last-named had looked Lanyard squarely in the face without
sign of recognition, back there in the lobby of the Knickerbocker,
precisely as he should, if implicated in the conspiracies of the Boche;
though it might easily have been Velasco or Dressier who had recognized the
adventurer without his knowledge….
The car stopped, a narrow-chested door slid open, a gush of hectic light
coloured morbidly the faces of alighting passengers, a blare of syncopated
noise singularly unmusical saluted the astonished ears of Lanyard and
Cecelia Brooke. She met his gaze with a smiling moue and slightly lifted
"More than we bargained for?" he laughed. "But there is always something
new in this America, I promise you. Au Printemps itself is new, at all
events did not exist when I was last in New York."
Following her out, he paused beside the girl in a constricted space hedged
about with tables, waiting for the maître d'hôtel to seat those who had
been first to leave the elevator.
The room, of irregular conformation, held upward of two hundred guests and
habitués seated at tables large and small and so closely set together
that waiters with difficulty navigated narrow and tortuous channels of
communication. In the middle, upon a small dancing floor, rudely octagonal
in shape, made smaller by tables crowded round its edge to accommodate the
crush, a mob of couples danced arduously, close-locked in one another's
arms, swaying in rhythm with the over-emphasized time beaten out by a
perspiring little band of musicians on a dais in a far corner, their
activities directed by an antic conductor whose lantern-jawed, sallow face
peered grotesquely out through a mop of hair as black and coarse and lush
as a horse's mane.
Execrable ventilation or absence thereof manufactured an atmosphere that
reeked with heat animal and artificial and with ill-blended effluvia from a
hundred sources. Perhaps the odour of alcohol predominated; Lanyard thought
of a steam-heated wine-cellar. He observed nothing but champagne in any
glass, and if food were being served it was done surreptitiously. Sweat
dripped from the faces of the dancers, deep flushes discoloured all not so
heavily enamelled as to preserve an inalterable complexion, the eyes of
many stared with the fixity of hypnosis. Yet when the music ended with an
unexpected crash of discord these dancers applauded insatiably till the
jaded orchestra struck up once more, when they renewed their curious
gyrations with quenchless abandon.
The Brooke girl caught Lanyard's eye, her lips moved. Thanks to the din, he
had to bend his head near to hear.
She murmured with infinite expression: "Au Printemps!"
The maître d'hôtel was plucking at his sleeve.
"Monsieur had made reservations, no?" Startled recognition washed the man's
tired and pasty countenance. "Pardon, monsieur: this way!" He turned and
began to thread deviously between the jostling tables.
Dubiously Lanyard followed. He likewise had known the maître d'hôtel at
sight: a beastly little decadent whose cabaret on the rue d'Antin, just off
the avenue de l'Opéra, had been a famous rendezvous of international spies
till war had rendered it advisable for him to efface himself from the ken
of Paris with the same expedition and discretion which had marked the
departure from London of his confrère who now guarded the lower gateway to
these ethereal regions of Au Printemps.
The coincidence of finding those two so closely associated worked with the
riddle of that note further to trouble Lanyard's mind.
Was he to believe Au Printemps the legitimate successor in America of that
less pretentious establishment on the rue d'Antin, an overseas headquarters
for Secret Service agents of the Central Powers?
He began to regret heartily, not so much that he had presented himself in
answer to that note, but the responsibility which now devolved upon him of
caring for Miss Brooke. Much as he had wished to see her an hour ago, now
he would willingly be rid of her company.
Why had he been lured to this place, if its character were truly what he
feared? Conceivably because he was believed—since it now appeared he had
cheated death—still to possess either that desired document or knowledge
of its whereabouts.
Naturally the enemy would not think otherwise. He must not forget that
Ekstrom was playing double; as yet none but Lanyard knew he had stolen the
document and done a murder to cover the theft from his associates and leave
him free to sell to England without exciting their suspicion.
Consequently, Lanyard believed, he had been invited to this place to
be sounded, to be tempted, bribed, intimidated—if need be, and
possible—somehow to be won over to the uses of the Prussian spy system.
Leading them to the farther side of the room, the maître d'hôtel paused
bowing and mowing beside a large table already in the possession of a party
Lanyard's eyes narrowed. One of the three was Velasco, another a young man
unknown to him, a mannerly little creature who might have been written by
the author of "What the Man Will Wear" in the theatre programmes. The third
was Sophie Weringrode, the Wilhelmstrasse agent whom he had only that
afternoon observed entering the house in Seventy-ninth Street.
He stopped short, in a cold rage. Till that moment a mirror-sheathed pillar
had hidden from him Velasco and the Weringrode; else Lanyard had refused
to come so far; for obviously there were no unreserved tables, indeed few
vacant chairs, in that part of the room.
Not that he minded the cynical barefacedness of the dodge; that was indeed
amusing; he was sanguine as to his ability to dominate any situation that
might arise, and to a degree indifferent if the upshot should prove his
confidence misplaced; and he did not in the least object to letting the
enemy show his cards. But he did enormously resent what was, after all,
something quite outside the calculations of these giddy conspirators, the
fact that he must either beat incontinent retreat or introduce Cecelia
Brooke to the company of Sophie Weringrode.
His face darkened, a stinging reproof for the maître d'hôtel trembled on
his tongue's tip; but that one was busily avoiding his eye on the far side
of the table, drawing out a chair for "mademoiselle," while Velasco and the
Weringrode were alert to read Lanyard's countenance and forestall any steps
he might contemplate in defiance of their designs.
At first glimpse of the Brooke girl Velasco jumped up and hastened to her,
with eager Latin courtesy expressing his unanticipated delight in the
prospect of her consenting to join their party. And she was suffering with
quiet graciousness his florid compliments.
At the same time the Weringrode was greeting Lanyard in the most intimate
fashion—and damning him in the understanding of Cecelia Brooke with every
"My dear friend!" she cried gayly, extending a bedizened hand. "I had begun
to despair of you. Is it part of your system with women always to be a
little late, always to keep us wondering?"
Schooling his features to a civil smile, Lanyard bowed over the hand.
"In warfare such as ours, my dear Sophie," he said with meaning, "one uses
all weapons, even the most primitive, in sheer self-defense."
The woman laughed delightedly. "I think," she said, "if you rose from the
dead at the bottom of the sea, Tony, it would be with wit upon your
lips…. And you have brought a friend with you? How charming!" She shifted
in her chair to face Cecelia Brooke. "I wish to know her instantly!"
Velasco was waiting only for that opening. "Dear princess," he said,
instantly, "permit me to present Miss Cecelia Brooke … Princess de
Completely at ease and by every indication enjoying herself hugely, the
girl bowed and took the hand the Weringrode thrust upon her. Her eyes,
a-brim with excitement and mischief, veered to Lanyard's, ignored their
warning, glanced away.
"How do you do?" she said simply. "I didn't understand Mr. Ember expected
to meet friends here, but that only makes it the more agreeable. May we sit
The person in the educated evening clothes was made known as Mr. Revel.
For Lanyard's benefit and his own he vacated the chair beside Sophie
Weringrode, seating himself to one side of Cecelia Brooke, who had Velasco
between her and the soi-disant princess.
Already a waiter had placed and was filling glasses for Lanyard and the
With the best grace he could muster the adventurer sat down, accepted
a cigarette from the Weringrode case, and with openly impertinent eyes
inspected the intrigante critically.
She endured that ordeal well, smiling confidently, a handsome creature with
a beautiful body bewitchingly gowned.
Time, he considered, had been kind to Sophie—time, the mysteries of the
modern toilette, and the astonishing adaptability of womankind. Splendidly
vital, like all of her sort who survive, she seemed mysteriously able to
renew that vitality through the very extravagance with which she squandered
it. She had lived much of late years, rapidly but well, had learned much,
had profited by her lessons. To-night she looked legitimately the princess
of her pretensions; the manner of the grande dame suited her type; her
gesture was as impeccable as her taste; prettier than ever, she seemed at
worst little more than half her age.
And her quick intelligence mocked the privacy of his reflections.
"Fair, fast, and forty," she interpreted smilingly.
He pretended to be stunned. "Never!" he protested feebly.
The woman reaffirmed in a series of rapid nods. "Have I ever had secrets
from you? You are too quick for me, monsieur: I do not intend to begin
deceiving you at this late day—or trying to."
"Flattery," he declared, "is meat and drink to me. Tell me more."
She laughed lightly. "Thank you, no; vanity is unbecoming in men; I do not
care to make you vain."
Aware that Cecelia Brooke was listening all the while she seemed to be
enchanted with the patter of Mr. Revel and the less vapid observations of
Velasco, Lanyard sought to shunt personalities from himself.
"And now a princess!"
"Did you not know I had married? Yes, a princess of Spain—and with a
castle there, if you must know."
"Quite a change of atmosphere from Berlin," he remarked. "But it has done
you no perceptible harm."
That won him a black look. "Oh, Berlin!" she said with contemptuous lips.
"I haven't been there since the beginning of the war. I wish never to see
the place again. True: I was born an Austrian; but is that any reason why I
should love Germany?"
She leaned forward, her fan gently tapping the knuckles of his hand.
"Pay less attention to me," she insisted, with a nod toward the middle of
the room. "You are missing something. Me, I never tire of her."
The floor had been cleared. A drummer on the dais was sounding the
long-roll crescendo. At the culminating crash the lights were everywhere
darkened save for an orange-coloured spot-light set in the ceiling
immediately above the dancing floor. Into that circular field of torrid
glare bounded a woman wearing little more than an abbreviated kirtle of
grass strands with a few festoons of artificial flowers. Applause roared
out to her, the orchestra sounded the opening bars of an Americanised
Hawaiian melody, the woman with extraordinary vivacity began to perform a
denatured hula: a wild and tawny animal, superbly physical, relying with
warrant upon the stark sensuality of her body to make amends for the
censored phrases of the primitive dance. The floor resounded like a great
drum to the stamping of her bare feet, till one marvelled at such solidity
of flesh as could endure that punishment.
Sophie Weringrode lounged negligently upon the table, bringing her head
near Lanyard's shoulder.
"Play fair," she said between lips that barely moved.
Without looking round Lanyard answered in the same manner: "Why ask more
than you are prepared to give?"
"The police ran you out of America once. We need only publish the fact that
Mr. Anthony Ember is the Lone Wolf…."
"Leave Berlin out of it before this girl."
Lanyard shrugged and laughed quietly. "What else?"
"We can't talk now. Ask me for the next dance."
The woman sat back in her chair, attentive to the posturing of the dancer,
slowly fanning herself.
Lanyard's semblance of as much interest was nothing more; furtively his
watchfulness alternated between two quarters of the room.
On the farther edge of the circle of tropical radiance he had marked down a
table at which two men were seated, Dressier and O'Reilly. No more question
now as to the personnel of the conspiracy; even Velasco had thrown off
the mask. The enemy had come boldly into the open, indicating a sense of
impudent assurance, indicating even more, contempt of opposition. No
longer afraid, they no longer skulked in shadows. Lanyard experienced a
premonition of events impending.
In addition he was keeping an eye on the door to the elevator shaft. Once
already it had opened, letting a bright window into the farther wall of the
shadowed room, discovering the figure of the maître d'hôtel in silhouette,
anxiety in his attitude. He was waiting for somebody, waiting tensely. So
were the others waiting, all that crew and their fellow workers scattered
among the guests. Lanyard told himself he could guess for whom.
Only Ekstrom was wanting to complete the circle. When he appeared—if by
chance he should—things ought to begin to happen.
If tolerably satisfied that Ekstrom would not come—not that night, at all
events—Lanyard, none the less, continued to be jealously heedful of that
But the hula came to an end without either his vigilance or the impatience
of the maître d'hôtel being rewarded. Writhing with serpentine grace to the
edge of the illuminated area, the dancer leaped back into darkness and the
folds of a wrap held by a maid, in which garment she was seen, bowing and
laughing, when the lights again blazed up.
Without ceasing to play, changing only the time of the tune, the orchestra
swung into a fox-trot. Lanyard glanced across the table to see Cecelia
Brooke rising in response to the invitation of dapper Mr. Revel.
In his turn, he rose with Sophie Weringrode. "Be patient with me,"
he begged. "It is long since I danced to music more frivolous than a
"But it is simple," the woman promised—"simple, at least, to one who can
dance as you could in the old days. Just follow me till you catch the step.
It doesn't matter, anyway; I desire only the opportunity to converse."
Yielding to his arms, she shifted into French when next she spoke.
"You do admirably, my friend. Never again depreciate your dancing. If you
knew how one suffers at the feet of these Americans—!"
"Excellent!" he said. "Now that is settled: what is it you are instructed
to propose to me?"
She laughed softly. "Always direct! Truly you would never shine as a secret
"Not as they shine," Lanyard countered—"in the dark."
"Don't be a fraud. We are what we are, and so are you. Let us not begin to
be censorious of one another's methods of winning a living."
"Agreed. But when do we begin to talk business?"
"Why do you continue so persistently antagonistic?"
"I am French."
"That is silly. You are an outlaw, a man without a country. Why not change
"And how does one effect miracles?"
"Germany offers you a refuge, security, freedom to ply your trade
unhindered—within reasonable limits."
"And in exchange what do I give?"
"Your services, as and when required, in our service."
"With what specific performance?"
"We want, we must without fail have, that document you took from the Brooke
"Perhaps we had better continue in English. You are speaking a tongue
unknown to me."
"Don't talk rot. You know well what I mean. We know you have the thing.
You didn't steal it to turn it over to England or the States. What is your
price to Germany?"
"Whatever you have in mind, believe me when I say I have nothing to sell to
"But what else can you do with it? What other market—?"
"My dear Sophie, upon my word I haven't got what you want."
"Then why so keen to get the Brooke girl on the telephone as soon as you
found out where she was stopping?"
"How did you learn about that, by the way?"
"Let the credit go to Señor Velasco. He saw you first."
"One thought as much…. Nevertheless, I haven't what you want."
"You gave it back to Miss Brooke?"
"Having nothing to give her, I gave her nothing."
The woman was silent throughout a round of the floor; then, "Tell me
something," she requested.
"Can I keep anything from you?"
"Are you in love with the English girl?"
Lanyard almost lost step, then laughed the thought to derision. "What put
that into your pretty head, Sophie?"
"Do you not know it yourself, my friend?"
"It is absurd."
She laughed maliciously. "Think it over. Possibly you have not stopped to
think as yet. When you know the truth yourself, you will be the better
qualified to fib about it. Also, you will not forget…."
"What?" he demanded bluntly as she paused with intention.
"That as long as she possesses the document—since you have it not—her
life is endangered even more than yours."
"She hasn't got it!" Lanyard declared, as nearly in panic as he ever was.
"Ah!" the woman jeered. "So you confess to some knowledge of it after all!"
"My dear," he said, teasingly, "do you really want to know what has become
of that paper?"
"I do, and mean to."
"What if I tell you?"
Her eyes lifted to his in childlike candour. "Need you ask?"
"You are irresistible…. Ask Karl."
She demanded sharply: "Whom?"
"Ah!" Again the adventuress was silent for a little. "What does he know?"
"Ask him, enquire why he murdered von Harden, then what business took him
to Ninety-fifth Street twice this evening—once about nine o'clock, again
"You must be mad, monsieur. Karl would not dare…."
"You don't know him—or have forgotten he was trained in the International
Bureau of Brussels, and there learned how to sell out both parties to a
business that won't bear publicity."
"I wonder," the woman mused. "Never have I wholly trusted that one."
"Shall I give you the key?"
"If you love Karl as little as I…."
"But where do you suppose the good man is, this night of nights?"
"Who knows? He was not here when I arrived at midnight. I have seen nothing
of him since."
"When you do—if he shows himself at all—look him over carefully for signs
of wear and tear."
"Yes, monsieur? And in what respect?"
"Look for cuts about his head and hands, possibly elsewhere. And should he
confess to an affair with a wind-shield in a motor accident, ask him what
happened to the study window in the house at Ninety-fifth Street."
Impish glee danced in the woman's eyes. "Your handiwork, dear friend?"
"A mere beginning…. You may tell him so, if you like."
He was subjected to a convulsive squeeze. "Never have I felt so kindly
disposed toward an enemy!"
"It is true, I were a better foe to Germany if I kept my counsel and let
Ekstrom continue to play double."
The music ceasing, to be followed by the inevitable clamour for more,
Lanyard offered an arm upon which Sophie rested a detaining hand.
"No—wait. We dance this encore. I have more to say."
He submitted amiably, the more so since not ill-pleased with himself. And
when again they were moving round the floor, she bore more heavily upon his
shoulder and was thoughtful longer than he had expected. Then—
"Attention, my friend."
"I am listening, Sophie."
"If what you hint is true—and I do not doubt it is—Karl's day is done."
"More nearly than he dreams," Lanyard affirmed grimly.
"I shan't be sorry. I am German through and through; what I do, I do for
the Fatherland, and in that find absolution for many things I care not to
remember. If through what you tell me I may prove Karl traitor, I owe you
"Always it has been my fondest hope, Sophie, some day to have you in my
Her fingers tightened on his. "Do not jest in the shadow of death. Since
you have been unwise enough to venture here to-night, you will not be
permitted to leave alive—unless you pledge yourself to us and prove your
sincerity by producing that paper."
"That sounds reasonable—like Prussia. What next?"
"I have warned you, so paid off my debt. The rest is your affair."
"Do you imagine I take this seriously?"
"It will turn out seriously for you if you do not."
"How can I be prevented from leaving when I will, from a public
"Is it possible you don't know this place? It is maintained by the
Wilhelmstrasse. Attempt to leave it without coming to a satisfactory
understanding, and see what happens."
"What, for instance?"
"The lights would be out before you were half across the room. When they
went up again, the Lone Wolf would be no more, and never a soul here would
know who stabbed him or what became of the knife."
"Are you by any chance amusing yourself at my expense?"
Once more the woman showed him her handsome eyes: he found them frankly
grave, earnest, unwavering.
"If you will not listen, your blood be on your own head."
"Forgive me. I didn't mean to be rude…."
"Still, you do not believe!"
"You are wrong. I am merely amused."
"If you understood, you could never mock your peril."
"But I don't mock it. I am enchanted with it. I accept it, and it renews
my youth. This might be Paris of the days when you ran with the Pack,
Sophie—and I alone!"
The woman moved her pretty shoulders impatiently. "I think you are either
mad or … the very soul of courage!"
The encore ended; they returned to the table, Sophie leaning lightly on
Lanyard's arm, chattering gay inconsequentialities.
Dropping into her chair, she bent over toward Cecelia Brooke.
"He dances adorably, my dear!" the intrigante declared. "But I dare say you
know that already."
The English girl shook her head, smiling. "Not yet."
"Then lose no time. You two should dance well together, for you are more of
a size. I think the next number will be a waltz. We get altogether too few
of them; these American dances, these one-steps and foxtrots, they are not
dances, they are mere romps, favourites none the less. And there is always
more room on the floor; so few waltz nowadays. Really, you must not miss
This playful insistence, the light stress she laid upon her suggestion that
Cecelia Brooke dance with him, considered in conjunction with her recent
admonition, impressed Lanyard as significantly inconsistent. Sophie was no
more a woman to make purposeless gestures than she was one sufficiently
wanting in finesse to signal him by pressures of her foot. There was sheer
intention in that iteration: "… lose no time … you must not miss this
opportunity." Something had happened even since their dance; she had
observed something momentous, and was warning him to act quickly if he
meant to act at all.
With unruffled amiability, amused, urbane, Lanyard bowed his petition
across the table, and was rewarded by a bright nod of promise.
Lighting another cigarette, he lounged back, poised his wine glass
delicately, with the eye of a connoisseur appraised its pale amber tint,
touched it lightly to his lips, inhaling critically its bouquet, sipped,
and signified approval of the vintage by sipping again: all without missing
one bit of business in a scene enacted on the far side of the room,
directly behind him but reflected in a mirror panel of the wall he faced.
The diplomatist charged with the task of discriminating the sheep from the
goats in the lower lobby had come up to confer with his colleague, the
maître d'hôtel of the upper storey. When Lanyard first saw the man he was
standing by the elevator shaft, none too patiently awaiting the attention
of the other, who, caught by inadvertence at some distance, was moving to
join him, with what speed he could manage threading the thick-set tables.
Was this what Sophie had noticed? Had she likewise, perhaps, received some
secret signal from the guardian of the lower gateway?
A signal possibly indicating that Ekstrom had arrived
They met at last, those two, and discreetly confabulated, the maître
d'hôtel betraying welcome mitigation of that nervous tension which had
heretofore so palpably affected him; and, as the other stepped back into
the elevator, Lanyard saw this one's glance irresistibly attracted to the
table dedicated to the service of the Princess de Alavia. Something much
resembling satisfaction glimmered in the fellow's leaden eyes: it was
apparent that he anticipated early relief from a distasteful burden of
Then, at ease in the belief that he was unobserved, he turned to a near-by
table round which four sat without the solace of feminine society—four
men whose stamp was far from reassuring despite their strikingly quiet
demeanour and inconspicuously correct investiture of evening dress.
Two were unmistakable sons of the Fatherland; all were well set up, with
the look of men who would figure to advantage in any affair calling for
physical competence and courage, from coffee and pistols at sunrise in the
Parc aux Princes to a battle royal in a Tenderloin dive.
Their table commanded both ways out, by the stairs and by the elevator,
much too closely for Lanyard's peace of mind.
And more than one looked thoughtfully his way while the maître d'hôtel
hovered above them, murmuring confidentially.
Four nods sealed an understanding with him. He strutted off with far more
manner than had been his at any time since the arrival of Lanyard, and
vented an excess of spirits by berating bitterly an unhappy clown of a
waiter for some trivial fault.
The first bars of another dance number sang through the confusion of
voices: truly, as Sophie had foretold, a waltz.
Trained in the old school of the dance, Lanyard was unversed in that
graceless scamper which to-day passes as the waltz with a generation
largely too indolent or too inept of foot to learn to dance.
His was that flowing waltz of melting rhythm, the waltz of yesterday,
that dance of dances to whose measures a civilization more sedate in its
amusements, less jealous of its time, danced, flirted, loved, and broke its
Into the swinging movement of that antiquated waltz Lanyard fell without
a qualm of doubt, all ignorant as he was of his benighted ignorance; and
instantly, with the ease and gracious assurance of a dancer born, Cecelia
Brooke adapted herself to his step and guidance, with rare pliancy made her
every movement exquisitely synchronous with his.
No need to lead her, no need for more than the least of pressures upon her
yielding waist, no need for anything but absolute surrender to the magic of
Effortless, like creatures of the music adrift upon its sounding tides,
they circled the floor once, twice, and again, before reluctantly Lanyard
brought himself to shatter the spell of that enchantment.
Looking down with an apologetic smile, he asked:
"Mademoiselle, do you know you can be an excellent actress?"
As if in resentment the girl glanced upward sharply, with clouded eyes.
"So can most women, in emergency."
"I mean … I have something serious to say; nobody must guess your
She said simply: "I will do my best."
"You must—you must appear quite charmed. Also, should you catch me
smirking like an infatuated ninny, remember I am only doing my own
indifferent best to act."
Laughter trembled deliciously in her voice: "I promise faithfully to bear
in mind your heartlessness!"
"I am an ass," he enunciated with the humility of conviction. "But that
can't be helped. Attend to me, if you please—and do not start. This place
turns out to be a nest of Prussian spies. I was brought here by a trick. I
understand the order is I may not leave alive."
Playing her part so well as almost to embarrass Lanyard himself, the girl
smiled daringly into his eyes.
"Because of that packet?" she breathed.
"Because of that, mademoiselle."
"Where is it?"
For an instant Lanyard lost countenance absolutely. Through sheer good
fortune the girl was now dancing with face averted, her head so nearly
touching his shoulder that it seemed to rest upon it.
Nevertheless, it was at cost of an heroic struggle that he fought down all
signs of that shock with which it had been borne in upon him that he dared
not assure the girl her packet was in safe hands.
If he had failed in his efforts to restore the thing to her, that she might
consign it as she saw fit and so discharge her personal trust, till now
Lanyard had solaced himself with a hazy notion that she would in turn be
comforted when she learned the document was in the keeping of her country's
Impossible to tell her that: his own act had rendered it impossible,
that act the outcome of wilful trifling with his infirmity, his itch for
Of a sudden the pilfered necklace secreted in an inner pocket of his
waistcoat, above his heart, seemed to have gained the weight of so much
lead. The hideous consciousness of the thing stung like the bite of live
This woman was in distress; he yearned to lighten her burden; he could do
that with half a dozen words; his guilt prohibited.
Now indeed the Lone Wolf tasted shame and realized its bitterness….
Puzzled by his constraint, the girl's eyes again sought his; and warned
in time by the movement of her head, he mustered impudence to meet their
question with the look of tenderness that went with the rôle she suffered
him to play.
"What is the matter?"
"I am ashamed that I have failed you…."
"Don't think of that. I know you did your best. Only tell me what became of
"It was stolen; when I returned to my stateroom that night I was held up
and robbed. The thief shot at me, killed his confederate, decamped by
way of the port. I pursued. Another aided him to overpower and cast me
"Yet you escaped…!"
Strange she should seem more intrigued by that than concerned about her
"I escaped, no matter how…."
"You don't know who stole the packet?"
"I don't recall the man among the passengers, but he may have been in one
of the boats, a fellow of about my stature, with a flowing beard…."
He sketched broadly Ekstrom as he had seen him in the Stanistreet library.
Her eyes quickened.
"One such escaped in our boat, the second steward; I think his name was
"Doubtless the same."
"Then it is gone!"
For once in his acquaintance with her, that brave spirit seemed to falter:
she became a burden, bereft for a little of all grace and spontaneity.
He was constrained to swing her forcibly into time.
Almost instantly she recollected herself, covered her lapse with a little
laugh innocent of any hint of its forced falsity, and showed him and the
room as well a radiant countenance: all with such address and art that the
incident might well have escaped notice, otherwise have passed for a bit of
Yet distress was too eloquent in the broken query: "What am I to do?"
Heartsick, self-sick to boot, he essayed to suggest that she consult
Colonel Stanistreet, but lacking so much effrontery, stammered and fell
Perhaps misinterpreting, she cried in quick contrition: "I am forgetting!
Forgive me. I should have said: what are you to do?"
He whipped his wits together.
"Look down, turn your face aside, smile…. I have a plan, a desperate
remedy, but the best I can contrive. When next the lift comes up, we must
try to be near it. There is one row of tables which we must break through
by main force. Leave that to me, follow as I clear a way, go straight into
the lift. If anything happens, run down the stairway on the left. The
ground floor is two flights below. If I am any way detained, don't stop—go
on, get your wraps, take the first taxi you see, return directly to the
Knickerbocker. I will telephone you later."
"If you live," she breathed.
"Never fear for me…."
"But if I do? Do you imagine I could rest if I thought you had sacrificed
yourself for me?"
"You must not think that. I am far too selfish—"
"That is not so. And I refuse positively to do as you wish unless you tell
me how I may communicate with you."
Resigned to humour her, he recited his address and the number of the house
telephone, and when she had memorized both by iteration, resumed:
"Once outside, if anybody tries to hinder you, don't let them intimidate
you into keeping quiet, but scream, scream at the top of your lungs. These
beasts abominate a screaming woman, or any other undue noise. Not only will
that frighten them off, but it will fetch the nearest policeman."
The music ceased. She stood flushed, smiling, adorably pretty, eyes
star-like for him alone.
"We are not far from the lift now," she said just audibly.
"But the door is shut. Hush. Here comes the encore. Once more around…."
They drifted again into that witching maze of melody and movement made one.
"You are silent," she said, after a little. "Why?"
Lanyard answered with a warning pressure on her hand.
The elevator was stationary at the floor, its door wide, the maître d'hôtel
engaged in a far quarter of the room, while those four formidable guardians
of the exit were gossiping with animation over their glasses.
"Steady. Now is our time."
Abruptly they stopped. A couple that had been following them avoided
collision by a close margin. Over his partner's head the man scowled
portentously—and dissipated his display of temper on Lanyard's indifferent
Upon those guests who sat between the dancing floor and elevator, Lanyard
wasted no consideration. Pushing roughly between two adjoining tables, he
lifted one chair with its astonished occupant bodily out of the way, then
turned, swung an arm round the girl's waist, all but threw her through the
lane he had created, followed without an instant's pause.
It was all so quickly accomplished that the girl was in the car before
another person in the room appreciated what was happening. And Lanyard, in
the act of slamming the door shut without heed for the protesting operator,
saw only a room full of amazed faces with gaping mouths and rounded
eyes—and one man of the four at the near-by table in the act of rising
uncertainly, with a stupefied look.
Elbowing the boy aside, he seized the operating lever and thrust it to the
notch labelled "Descend." An instant of pause followed: like its attendant
the elevator seemed stalled in inertia of stupefaction.
Beyond the door somebody loosed an infuriated screech. Angry hands
drummed on the glass panel. With a premonitory shudder the car started
spasmodically, moved downward at first gently, then with greater speed,
coming to an abrupt stop at the street level with a shock that all but
threw its passengers from their feet.
Up the shaft that senseless punishment of the panel continued. Some other
intelligence conceived the notion for ringing for the car to return: its
annunciator buzzed stridently, continuously.
Unlatching the lower door, Lanyard threw it back, stepped out, finding the
lobby deserted but for a simpering group of coat-room girls, to one of whom
he flipped a silver dollar.
"Find this lady's wraps—be quick!"
Deftly catching the coin, the girl snatched the check from Cecelia Brooke,
and darted into the women's dressing room.
Throughout a wait of agonising suspense, the elevator boy remained cowering
in a corner of the car, staring at Lanyard as at some shape of terror,
while the ignored buzzer droned without cessation to persistent pressure
Out of the dark entrance to the lower dining room the bearded diplomatist
popped with the distracted look of a jack-in-the-box about to be ravished
of its young.
"Monsieur is not leaving?" he expostulated shrilly, darting forward.
Lanyard stopped him with a look whose menace was like a kick.
"I am seeing this lady to her cab," he said in a cold and level voice.
The coat-room girl emerged from her lair with an armful of wraps and furs.
Again the bearded one made as if to block the doorway.
Lanyard caught the fellow's arm and sent him spinning like a top.
"Out of the way, you rat!" he snapped; then to the girl: "Be quick!"
As she shouldered into a compartment of the revolving door incoherent yells
began to echo down the staircase well. At length it had occurred to those
above to utilize that means of descent.
Wedged in the wheeling door, a final glimpse of the lobby showed Lanyard
the startled, putty-like mask of the maître d'hôtel at the head of
the stairway with, beyond him, the head of one who, though in shadow,
uncommonly resembled Ekstrom—but Ekstrom as he was in the old days,
without his beard.
That picture passed like a flash on a cinema screen.
They were on the sidewalk, and the girl was running toward a taxicab, the
only vehicle of its sort in sight, at the curb just above the entrance.
Coatless and bareheaded, Lanyard swung to face the door porter, a towering,
brawny animal in livery, self-confident and something more than keen to
interfere; but his mouth, opening to utter some sort of protest, shut
suddenly without articulation when Lanyard displayed for his benefit a .22
Colt's automatic. And he fell back smartly.
Jerking open the cab door, the girl stumbled into the far corner of the
seat. The motor was churning in promising fashion, the chauffeur settling
into place at the wheel. Into his hand Lanyard thrust a ten-dollar bill.
"The Knickerbocker," he ordered. "Stop for nobody. If followed steer for
the nearest policeman. There'll be no change."
He closed the door sharply, leaned over it, dropped the little pistol into
the girl's lap.
"Chances are you won't want that—but you may."
She bent forward quickly, eyes darkly lustrous with alarm, and placed a
hand upon his arm.
"It is I whom they want, not you. I won't subject you to the hazard of my
Gently Lanyard lifted the hand from his sleeve, brushed it gallantly with
his lips, released it.
"Good-night!" he laughed, then stepped back, waved a hand to the
The taxicab shot away like a racing hound unleashed. With a sigh of relief
Lanyard gave himself wholly to the question of his own salvation.
The rank of waiting motor-cars offered no hope: all but one were private
town cars and limousines, operated by liveried drivers. A solitary roadster
at the head of the line tempted and was rejected; even though it had no
guardian chauffeur, something of which he could not be sure, he would
be overhauled before he could start the motor and get the knack of its
gear-shift mechanism. Even now Au Printemps was in frantic eruption, its
doors ejecting violently a man at each wild revolution.
Down Broadway an omnibus of the Fifth Avenue line lumbered, at no less
speed than twenty miles an hour, without passengers and sporting an
illuminated "Special" sign above the driver's seat.
Dashing out into the roadway, Lanyard launched himself at the narrow
platform of the unwieldy vehicle and, in spite of a yell of warning from
the guard, landed safely on the step and turned to repel boarders.
But his manoeuvre had been executed too swiftly and unexpectedly. The group
before Au Printemps huddled together in ludicrous inaction, as if stunned.
Then one raged through it, plying vicious elbows. As he paused against the
light Lanyard identified unmistakably the silhouette of Ekstrom.
So that one had, after all, escaped the net of his own treachery!
The 'bus guard was shaking Lanyard's arm with an ungentle hand.
"Here, now, you got no business boardin' a Special."
From his pocket Lanyard whipped the first bank-note his fingers
"Divide that with the chauffeur," he said crisply—"tell him to drive like
the devil. It's life or death with me!"
The protruding eyeballs of the guard bore witness to the magnitude of the
"You're on!" he breathed hoarsely, and ran forward through the body of the
conveyance to advise the driver.
Swarming up the curved stairway to the roof, Lanyard dropped into the rear
seat, looking back.
The group round the doorway was recovering from its stupefaction. Three
struck off from it toward the line of waiting cars. Of these the foremost
Simultaneously the 'bus, lumbering drunkenly, lurched into Columbus Circle,
and the roadster left the curb carrying in addition to the driver two
passengers—Ekstrom on the running-board.
Tardily Lanyard repented of that impulse which had moved him to bestow his
one weapon upon Cecelia Brooke.
The night air had a biting edge. A chill rain had begun to drizzle down in
minute globules of mist, which both lent each street light its individual
nimbus of gold and dulled deceitfully the burnished asphaltum, rendering
its surface greasy and treacherous. More than once Lanyard feared lest
the 'bus skid and overturn; and before the old red brick building between
Broadway and Eighth Avenue shut out the western sector of the Circle, he
saw the roadster, driven insanely, shoot crabwise toward the curb, than
answer desperate work at the wheel and whirl madly, executing a volte-face
so violent that Ekstrom's hold was broken and he was hurled a dozen feet
away. And Lanyard's chances were measurably advanced by the delay required
in order to pick up the sprawling one, start the engine anew, and turn more
cautiously to resume the pursuit.
Striking diagonally across Broadway the 'bus swung into Fifty-seventh
Street at the moment when the roadster turned the corner of Columbus
The head of the guard lifted above the edge of the roof. Clinging to the
supports of the stairway, he addressed Lanyard in accents of blended
suspicion and respect.
"Lis'n, boss: is this all right, on the level, now?"
"Absolutely, unless that racing-car catches up with us, in which case
you'll have a dead man—myself—on your hands."
"Well … we don't wanna lose our jobs, that's all."
"You won't unless I lose my life."
"Anything you'd like me to do?"
"Go down, wait on the platform, if anybody attempts to get aboard kick him
in the act."
"Sure I will!"
The guard disappeared.
Wallowing like a barge in a strong seaway, the omnibus crossed Seventh
Avenue and sped downhill toward Sixth with dangerous momentum. Shortly,
however, this began to be modified by the brakes, a precaution against
mishap which even the fugitive must approve. Ahead loomed the gaunt
structure of the Sixth Avenue "L," bridging the roadway at so low an
elevation as to afford the omnibus little more than clear headroom. Once
beneath it a single bounce up from the surface-car tracks must mean a
But the pursuit was less than half a block astern and gaining swiftly, even
as the speed of the omnibus was growing less and desperately less.
At what seemed little better than a snail's pace it began to pass beneath
the span of the Elevated.
Like a racing thoroughbred the roadster swept up alongside, motor chanting
triumphantly, running-board level with the platform step.
Ekstrom, poised to leap aboard, hesitated; a pistol in his hand exploded; a
shattered window fell crashing.
There was a yell from the guard, not of pain but of fright. Apparently he
executed a von Hindenburg retreat. Without more opposition Ekstrom gained
In the same breath Lanyard stood up. The lowermost girder of the "L" was
immediately overhead. He grasped it, doubled his legs beneath him, swung
clear. The omnibus shot from under him, the roadster convoying.
Drawing himself up, he seized a round iron upright of guard-rail and heaved
his body in over the edge of the platform round the switching-tower, which
was at this hour dark and untenanted.
In the street below a police whistle shrieked, and a fusillade of pistol
shots woke scandalised echoes.
Bending almost double Lanyard moved rapidly northward on the footway beside
the western tracks, and so gained the old station on the west side of
Fifty-eighth Street, for years dedicated to the uses of desuetude. Through
this he crept, then down the stairs, encountering at the lower landing an
iron gate which obliged him to climb over and jump.
Not a soul paid the least attention to this matter of a gentleman in
evening dress without hat or top coat dropping from the stairway of a
disused elevated station at two o'clock in the morning.
In New York anything can happen, and most things do, without stirring up
meddlesome impulses in innocent bystanders.
This visit to his rooms was the briefest of the several Lanyard made that
night, considerations of mortal urgency dictating its drastic abbreviation.
If the events of the last few hours had meant anything whatever they had
demonstrated two truths which shone like beacon lights: that Manhattan
Island was overpopulated as long as both he and Ekstrom remained on it;
that Ekstrom had been goaded to the verge of aberration by the discovery
that Lanyard had come safely through the Assyrian débâcle to take up anew
his self-appointed office of Nemesis to the Prussian spy system in general
and to the genius of its American bureau in particular.
Henceforth that one would know no more rest while Lanyard lived.
Thus that little street-level apartment forfeited whatever attractions it
originally had possessed in the adventurer's estimation. Not only was the
address known to Ekstrom's associates, and so open to him, but its peculiar
characteristics, its facilities for access from the street direct, rendered
it a highly practicable death-trap for a hunted man.
Lanyard was well persuaded he need only wait there long enough to receive a
deputation from Seventy-ninth Street. And with any assurance that Ekstrom
would come alone, he might have been content to wait. Not only had he
through too intimate acquaintance with his methods every assurance that
Ekstrom would never brave alone what he could induce another to risk with
him, but Lanyard was never one willing to play the passive part.
A banal axiom of all warfare applied: The advantage is with him who fights
upon the offensive.
Since midnight the offensive had shifted from Lanyard's grasp to the
enemy's. He was determined to recapture it; and that was something never to
be accomplished by sitting still and waiting for events to unfold, but only
by carrying the war into the enemy's camp.
He delayed, then, only long enough to change his clothing and to conceal
about him certain properties which it seemed unwise to expose to chance
discovery on the part of Ekstrom or in the ever-possible event of police
Within five minutes from the time of his return he was closing behind him
the private door.
Wearing a quiet lounge suit but no top coat, with a hat not so soft as to
lack character but soft enough to stick upon one's head in time of action,
and carrying a stick neither brutishly stout nor ineffectively slender,
he strolled up to Seventh Avenue, turned north, entered Central Park—and
strolled no more.
Kindly shadows enfolded him, engulfed him altogether. One minute after he
had passed through the gateway he would have defied unaided apprehension
by the most zealous officer of the peace. He went swiftly and secretly,
avoiding all lighted ways.
Not till then did conscience stir and remind him of his slighted promise to
call up Cecelia Brooke.
No time now for that; the errand that engaged him was of a nature to brook
no more procrastination. The girl must wait. He was sorry if, as she had
protested, solicitude for his welfare must interfere with her night's rest.
But what must be, must: until he saw the end of this adventure he could be
influenced by no minor consideration whatsoever.
Not that he seriously believed Cecelia's sleep would be uneasy because of
him. That was too much.
His temper was grim and skeptical. The resentment roused by the trap that
had so nearly laid him by the heels, together with the subsequent effort to
assassinate him out of hand, had settled into a phase of smouldering fury
whose heat consumed like misty vapours every lesser emotion, every humane
Some by-thought recalling the Weringrode's innuendo that he was in love
without his knowledge, moved him to laugh outright if strangely, an
unpleasant laugh that held as much of pain as of derision.
What room in that dark heart of his for love?… the heart of a thief and a
potential assassin, the heart of the Lone Wolf!…
How was he to know he had hardly left his lodgings before their hush was
interrupted by the grumble of the house telephone?
Intermittently for upward of three minutes that sound persisted. When
at length it discontinued the quiet of the untenanted rooms reigned
undisturbed for a brief time only.
An odd metallic stridor became audible, a succession of scrapings of
stealthy accent at the private entrance. Its latch clicked. The door swung
back against the wall with a muffled bump. Two pairs of furtive feet padded
in the little private hallway. The flash of an electric hand-lamp flickered
hither and yon like a searching poignard, picked out the door to the one
bedchamber and vanished. There was guarded whispering, then a thud as one
of the intruders gained the middle of the bedchamber in a bound. An instant
later a switch snapped, and the room was flooded with light.
Beneath the chandelier stood a man in evening dress the worse for
misadventure, one knee of his trousers cut open, both legs caked with
a film of half-dry mud, his linen dingy with mud-stains, his top coat
shockingly bedraggled. He was bareheaded, apparently having lost his hat; a
black smear across one cheek added emphasis to the pallor of newly shaven
jowls; and his eyes were blazing.
"Stole away!" he muttered briefly in disgust, then called: "Ed!"
As quietly as a shadow a second man joined him, greeting him with a "Hush!"
This gentleman was in far more presentable repair and a more equable frame
of mind. There was even a glint of amusement in his hard blue eyes. His
countenance had an Irish cast.
"Hush?" the other iterated with contempt. "What for? The hound's not here."
"No, Karl," Ed admitted; "but there are others in the house. If it's known
to them that Lanyard's out, they may turn in a police alarm; and I for one
have had enough of bulls for one night."
Karl grunted disdainfully. "I told you this would be a waste of time…."
"And I agreed with you entirely. But you would come."
"Lanyard's no such fool as to stick round a place he knows I know about."
Karl's hands twitched and his features worked nervously. "He knows me too
well, knows that if ever I lay hands on him again—"
His voice was rising to an hysterical pitch when the other checked him with
a sibilant hiss. At the same time his hand darted out and switched off the
light. Karl uttered a startled ejaculation.
"Sssh!" his companion repeated.
In the street a motor-car was rumbling, stationary before the door. Then
the remote grinding of the house door-bell was heard.
"Let's get out of this," suggested the Irishman. "It's no good waiting,
"Hold hard! We won't go till we have a clear field."
The Prussian stole out into the sitting room and stood listening at the
door to the public hallway, his companion standing by with a mutinous air.
"Oh, come along!" he insisted, in a stage whisper.
"Shut up! Listen…."
Shuffling footfalls traversed the hallway. The front door was opened. The
clear voice of an Englishwoman was answered in the slurring patois of a
"No'm, he ain't in."
The next enquiry was intelligible: the speaker had entered the hallway.
"Are you sure?"
"Yas'm. Sumbody done call him up 'bout ten min'tes ago, an' I rung an' rung
an' he don' answer. He ain't in or he don' mean to answer nobody, tha's
"I am very anxious about him. Have you a key to his rooms?"
"Yas'm, I got a pass-key, but—"
"Please use it. Take this. Go in and make sure he is out, or if at home
that he is all right."
"Yas'm, thanky ma'am, but—"
"Do as I tell you. I will see that you don't get into trouble."
"All right, ma'am." The negro chuckled, probably over his tip. "Yo' sho'
has got the p'suadin'est way…."
The Irishman caught the German's arm. "Come out of this," he pleaded.
"No fear. I'll see it through. That's the Brooke girl the fool got in with
on the boat. She may know something…."
"Leave this to me. You look out for the negro. I'll take care of Miss
Swearing unhappily, the Irishman flattened against the wall to one side of
the door. Karl waited behind it as it admitted the hall attendant, who made
directly toward the central chandelier.
"Yo' jes' wait, ma'am, an' I'll mek a light an'—"
But the girl had impetuously followed him in.
The light went up, and Karl put a heavy shoulder against the door, closing
it with a slam. The negro turned and stood with gaping mouth and staring
eyes, dumb with terror. The girl recognised Karl with a little cry, and
darted back toward the door. Immediately he caught her in his arms. Her
lips opened, but their utterance was stifled by a handkerchief thrust
between them with the dexterity of a practised hand.
Without one word of warning the Irishman stepped forward and struck the
negro brutally in the face. The boy reeled, whimpering. Two more blows
delivered with murderous ferocity silenced him altogether. He collapsed
like a broken puppet, insensible on the floor, his face a curious ashen
colour beneath its glossy skin of brown.
The drizzle had grown thicker, the night blacker, the early morning air
still more chill. But Lanyard was moving too swiftly to be affected by
this last circumstance; the first he anathematised with the perfunctory
bitterness of a skilled artisan who sees his work in a fair way to be
obstructed by elemental depravity. Another of his trade would have termed
such weather conditions ideal, and so might the Lone Wolf on an everyday
job; but the prospect of a footing rendered insecure by rain trebled the
hazards attending a plan of campaign that would brook neither revision nor
There was only one way to break into the house on Seventy-ninth Street;
this Lanyard had appreciated upon his first reconnaissance of the previous
afternoon. He could have wished for more time in which to prepare and
assemble tested equipment instead of relying upon chance to supply
the requisite gear; but with all time at his disposal the mechanical
difficulties of the problem would remain. Far from indifferent to these,
Lanyard addressed himself to their conquest doggedly and with businesslike
economy of motion.
Shunning the public paths he went over the park wall like a cat, sped
across town through Eightieth Street, and so came to that plot of land upon
which an apartment building was in process of erection, immediately to the
north of the American headquarters of the Prussian spy system.
Walled in with stone two storeys deep, its gaunt skeleton of steel had
been joined together as far as the seventh level. How much higher it was
destined to rise was immaterial; for Lanyard's purpose it was enough that
the frame had already outgrown its neighbour on the south.
A litter of lumber, huge steel girders, and other material narrowed the
side street to half its normal width. The sidewalk space was trampled earth
roofed with heavy planks for the protection of pedestrian heads, a passage
lighted by electric bulbs widely spaced; midway in this an entrance to
the structure was flanked by a wooden shanty, by day a tool house, after
working hours a shelter for the night watchman. This boasted one glazed
window dull with orange light.
Approaching with due precaution, Lanyard peered in. The light came from a
single electric bulb and a potbellied sheet-iron stove, glowing red. Near
by, in a chair tipped against the wall, sat the watchman, corncob pipe
in hand, head drooping, eyes closed, mouth ajar. A snore of the first
magnitude seemed to vibrate the very walls. On the floor beside the chair
stood a two-quart tin pail full of arid emptiness.
Dismissing further consideration of the watchman as a factor, satisfied
that the entire neighbourhood as well was sound asleep, Lanyard darted up
the plank walk that led into the building, then paused to get his bearings.
Effluvia of mortar and damp lumber saluted him in an uncanny place whose
darkness was slightly qualified by a faint refracted glow from the low
canopy of cloud and by equally dim shafts of diffused street light. There
was more or less flooring of a temporary character over a sable gulf of
cellars, and overhead a sullen, weeping sky cross-hatched with stark black
With infinite patience Lanyard groped his way through that dark labyrinth
to the foot of a ladder ascending an open shaft wherein a hoisting tackle
Here he stumbled over what he had been seeking, a great coil of one-inch
hempen cable, from which he measured off roughly what he would require, if
his calculations were correct, and something over. This length he re-coiled
and slung over his shoulder: an awkward, weighty handicap. Nevertheless he
began to climb.
Above the third level there was merely steel framework; he had somewhat
more light to guide him, with a view of the north wall of the Seventy-ninth
Street house, bright in the glare of avenue lamps.
The wall was absolutely blank.
At the seventh level the ladders ended. He stepped off upon a foot-wide
beam, paused to make sure of his poise, and began to walk the girders with
a sureness of foot any aviator might have envied.
At regular intervals he encountered uprights: between these he had to
depend upon his sense of direction and equilibrium to guide him safely
across those narrow walks of steel made slippery by rain.
But, thanks to forethought, his footwork was faultless: he wore shoes old,
well-broken, very soft, flexible, and silent.
The building was in the shape of a squat E, with two courts facing south.
On this seventh level the first court was bridged by a single girder, the
middle of which was Lanyard's immediate objective. Since it lacked uprights
he took it cautiously on hands and knees until approximately equidistant
from both ends, when he straddled it, took the cable from his shoulders,
uncoiled a length and made it fast round the girder with a clove hitch:
giddy work, in that darkness, on that greasy span, fashioning by simple
sense of touch the knot upon which his life was to depend, half of the time
prone upon the girder and fishing blindly beneath it for the rope's end,
with nothing but a seventy—foot drop between him and eternity, not even
another girder to break a fall….
He was now immediately opposite the minaret, at an elevation of about
twenty feet above the roof he wished to reach, and as far away, or perhaps
a trifle farther.
Still he detected no signs of life about that nest of spies: if the
wireless were in operation its apparatus was well-housed; there was no
sound of the spark, never a glimmer of its violet flash.
Laboriously—the knot completed to his satisfaction—Lanyard returned via
the eastern arm of the E, paying out the coiled cable as he progressed,
working round to the north side of the court.
Once again pausing opposite the minaret, he knotted the end of the cable
loosely round an upright connecting with the sixth level, let it slide
down, followed it, repeated the process, and rested finally on the fifth.
Now his ordeal approached a climax which he contemplated with what calmness
he could while securing the rope beneath the arms.
In another sixty seconds or less it must be demonstrated whether his dead
reckoning would set him down safe and sound on the roof or dash him against
the walls of the Seventy-ninth Street house, to swing back and dangle
impotently in mid-air till daylight and police discovered him—unless,
escaping injury, he were able to pull himself up hand over hand to the
With one arm round the upright to prevent the sag of rope from dragging him
over prematurely, he essayed a final survey.
Either the murk deceived or Lanyard had judged shrewdly. His feet were on
an approximate level with the coping round the roof, and he stood about as
far from the upper girder to which the rope was hitched as that was distant
from the coping.
One look up and round at those louring skies, duskily flushed by subdued
city lights: with no more ceremony Lanyard released the upright and
committed his body to space.
If the downward sweep was breathless, what followed was breath-taking:
once past the nadir of that giant swing, he was borne upward by an impetus
steadily and sensibly slackening.
Instant followed leaden-winged instant while the wall, looming like
a mountainside, seemed to be toppling, insensately bent upon his
annihilation; even so his momentum, decreasing with frightful swiftness,
seemed possessed of demoniac desire to frustrate him.
After an age-long agony of doubt it became evident he was not destined
to crash into the wall, but not that he was to gain the coping: through
fractions of a second hideously protracted this last drew near, nearer,
slowly, ever more slowly.
And he was twisting dizzily….
With frantic effort he crooked an arm over the coping at a juncture when,
had he not acted instantly, he must have swung back. There was a racking
wrench, as though his arm were being torn from its socket.
At the end of a struggle even more wearing he flung his other arm across
the ledge, and for some time hung there, at the end of an almost taut rope,
unable to overcome its resistance and pull himself in over the coping,
stubbornly refusing to loose his grasp.
Presently, grown desperate, he let go with his right hand, holding fast
only with the left, fumbled in a pocket, found his knife, opened it with
his teeth, and began, to saw at the rope round his chest.
Strand after strand parted grudgingly till it fell away altogether and
reaction from its tension threw him against the coping with such violence
that he all but lost his hold. Dropping the knife, he swept his right arm
up and once more hooked his fingers over the inside of the ledge.
Far down the knife clinked suggestively upon stone.
Breathing deep, Lanyard braced knees and feet against the wall, worried,
heaved, hauled, squirmed like a mad thing, in the end rolled over the top
and fell at length upon the roof, panting, trembling, bathed in sweat,
temporarily tormented by impulses to retch.
By degrees regaining physical control, he sat up, took his bearings, and
crept toward the foot of the minaret.
A small, narrow doorway in its base was on the latch. He passed through to
the landing of a dark winding stairway with a dim light at the bottom of
its circular well.
While he stood attentive, intermittent stridor troubled the stillness,
originating at some point on the floors below: the proscribed wireless was
Hearing no other sounds, Lanyard went on down the steps, at their foot
pausing to spy out through a half-open doorway to the topmost storey.
Nobody moved in the corridor. He saw nothing but a line of closed doors,
presumably to servants' quarters. Now, however, the vibrant rasp of the
radio spark was perceptibly stronger and had a background of subdued noise,
echoes of distant voices, deadened sounds of hasty footfalls, now and again
a heavy thump or the bang of a door.
Moving out, he commanded the length of the corridor. Toward one end a door
stood open. He could see no more of the room beyond than a narrow patch of
wall fitfully illuminated by a play of violet light.
Then a man stepped out of this operating room, turning on the threshold to
utter some parting observation; and Lanyard retired hastily to the shaft of
the minaret stairway, but not before recognising Velasco.
A moment later the Brazilian passed his lurking-place, walking with bended
head, a worried frown darkening his swarthy countenance; and Lanyard
emerged in time to see his head and shoulders vanish down a stairway at the
far end of the corridor.
Following with discretion, Lanyard leaned over the head of the main
staircase well, looking down three flights to the ground floor, to which
Velasco was descending.
The house seemed veritably to hum with secret and, to judge by the pitch of
its rumour, well-nigh panic activity. One divined a scurrying as of
rats about to desert a sinking ship. Untoward events had thrown this
establishment into a state of excited confusion: their nature Lanyard could
not surmise, but their conjunction with his designs was exasperatingly
inopportune. To search this place and find his man—if he were there at
all—without being discovered, while its inmates buzzed about like so many
startled hornets, was a fair impossibility; to attempt it was to court
None the less he was inflexible in determination to go on, to push his luck
to its extremity, by sheer force to bend fortuity to his service and suffer
without complaint whatever the consequences of its recoil.
Yet even as he advanced a foot to begin the descent, he withdrew it.
On the ground floor, a door closing with a resounding crash had proved the
signal for an outburst of expostulant, acrimonious voices: some half a
dozen men giving angry tongue at one and the same time, their roars of
polysyllabic gutturalisms fusing into utterly unintelligible clamour.
One thought of a mutiny in a German madhouse.
Moment after moment passed, the squall persisting with unmitigated
viciousness. If now and again it subsided momentarily, it was only into
uglier growls and swiftly to rise once more to high frenzy of incoherence.
Two of the disputants appeared in the square frame of the staircase well,
oddly foreshortened figures brandishing wild arms, one of them Velasco, the
other a man whom Lanyard failed to identify, seemingly united in common
anger directed at the head of some person invisible.
Abruptly, with a gesture of almost homicidal fury, the Brazilian darted out
of sight. The other followed.
Then the object of their wrath took to the stairs, stopping at the rail
of the first landing and gesticulating savagely over the heads of his
audience, Velasco and the others returning amid a knot of fellows to bay
round the newel post.
His voice, full-throated, cried them all down—Ekstrom's deep and resonant
voice, domineering over the uproar, hectoring one after another into sullen
In the beginning employing nothing but terms and phrases of insolence and
objurgation untranslatable, when he had secured a measure of attention he
delivered a short address in tones of unqualified contempt.
"I will have obedience!" he stormed. "Let no one misunderstand my status
here: I am come direct from His Majesty the Emperor with full power and
authority to command and direct affairs which you have, individually,
collectively, proved yourselves either unfit or unable to cope with. What I
do, I do in my absolute discretion, with the full sanction and confidence
of the Kaiser. He who questions my judgment or my actions, questions the
wisdom of the All-Highest. Let it be clearly understood I am answerable
to no one under God but myself and my Imperial master. Henceforth be good
enough to hold your tongues or take the consequences—and be damned to you
Briefly he stood glowering down at their upturned faces, then sneered, and
"Come along, O'Reilly," he said. "Fetch the woman, and give no more heed to
His hand slipped up the rail to the first floor, vanished.
If O'Reilly followed with the woman mentioned, both kept back from the rail
and so out of Lanyard's field of vision.
The group at the foot of the stairs moved away, grumbling profanely.
At once Lanyard began to descend, rapidly and without care to avoid
One flight down he met face to face a manservant, evidently a footman, with
an armful of clothing which he was conveying from one chamber to another.
The fellow stopped short, jaw dropping, eyes popping; whereupon Lanyard
paused and addressed him in German with a manner of overbearing contempt,
that is to say, in character.
"You're wanted upstairs in the radio room," he said—"at once!"
The servant bleated one word of protest: "But—!"
"Be silent. Do as I bid you. It is an emergency. Drop those things and go!
Do you hear, imbecile?"
Completely cowed and cheated, the man obeyed literally, letting his burden
of garments fall to the floor and bounding hurriedly up the stairs.
Another flight was negotiated without misadventure; on this floor as well
servants were flitting busily to and fro, but none favoured the adventurer
with the least attention.
Midway down the third flight he pulled up to one side of the landing, and
reconnoitred. It was on the next floor below, the first above the street,
that Ekstrom had stopped. But in what quarter thereof? The exigency forbade
the risk of one false turn. If Lanyard were to take Ekstrom unawares it
must be at the first cast.
From the ground floor came semi-coherent snatches of surly comment, like
growls of a thunderstorm passing off into the distance:
"At a time such as this…."
"… Secret Service snapping at our heels …"
"… base on the Vineyard discovered …"
"… Au Printemps raided, Sophie Weringrode under arrest. God knows
whether she will hold her tongue!"
"Trust her! But this ass …"
"Bringing a woman here, putting all our necks into a halter …"
Immediately opposite the foot of the stairway, on the first storey, a door
opened. O'Reilly came alertly forth, closed the door behind him, paused,
fished in his pocket for a cigarette case, lighted and inhaled with deep
appreciation, meantime eavesdropping on the utterances below with his head
cocked to one side and a malicious smile shadowing his handsome Irish face.
In his own good time he shrugged an indifferent shoulder, thrust his hands
into his pockets, and sauntered coolly on down the stairs.
The moment he disappeared, Lanyard went into action, in two bounds cleared
landing and stairs, in another threw himself upon the door. It opened
readily. Entering, he put his back to it, with his left hand groped for,
found and turned a key, his right holding ready the automatic pistol he had
taken from the lockers of the U-boat.
The room was a combination of administrative bureau and study, very
handsomely if somewhat over-decorated and furnished, with an atmosphere as
distinctively German as that of a Bierstube, the sombreness of its colour
scheme lending weight to its array of massive desks, tables, chairs,
bookcases, and lounges.
Between great draped windows and an impressive chimney-piece opposite,
beside a broad, long desk, in a straight-backed chair sat a woman, gagged,
bound as to her wrists, strips of cloth which had but lately bound ankles
as well on the floor about her feet.
That woman was Cecelia Brooke.
Ekstrom stood behind her, in the act of loosening the knots which held the
For a space of thirty seconds, transfixed by the apparition of his enemy,
he did not stir other than to raise weaponless hands in deference to the
pistol trained upon his head. But the blood ebbed from his face, leaving
it a ghastly mask in which shone the eyes of a man who sees certain death
closing in upon him and is powerless to combat it, even to die fighting for
life. And his lips curled back in a snarl neither of contempt nor of hatred
but of terror.
And for as long Lanyard remained as motionless, rooted in a despondency
of thwarted hopes no less profound than the despair of the Prussian,
apprehending what that one could not yet guess, that once more, and now
certainly for the last time, vengeance was denied him, the fulfilment of
all his labours and their sole purpose snatched from his grasp.
The instincts of a killer were not his. Barring injudicious attempt to
summon aid or take the offensive, Ekstrom was safe from injury at the hands
of Michael Lanyard. His cunning, his favour in the countenance of fortune,
or whatever it was that had enabled him to make the girl his prisoner and
bring her here, bade fair to prove his salvation.
Deep in Lanyard's consciousness an echo stirred of half-forgotten words:
"Vengeance is mine…."
The sense of frustration brewed a hopelessness as stark as that of a
brow-beaten child. A blackness seemed to be settling down upon his
faculties. A mist wavered momentarily before his eyes. He gulped
convulsively, swallowing what had almost been a sob.
But he spoke in a voice positively dispassionate.
"Keep your hands up."
Lanyard removed and pocketed the key, crossed to the middle of the room
without once letting his gaze waver from the face of the Prussian,
passed behind him, planted the muzzle of the pistol beneath Ekstrom's
shoulder-blade, and methodically searched him, finding and putting aside on
the desk one automatic, nothing else.
The almost puerile measure of his disappointment was betrayed in the thrust
with which he shouldered Ekstrom out of the way, so forcibly that the man
was sent staggering wildly half a dozen paces.
"Don't move, assassin!… Pardon, mademoiselle: one moment," Lanyard
muttered, with his one free hand undoing the gag.
He made slow work of that, fumbling while watching Ekstrom with unremitting
intentness, hoping against hope that his enemy might make one false move,
one only, by some infatuate endeavour to turn the tables excuse his
But Ekstrom would not. Recovery of his equilibrium had been coincident with
the shock administered to his hardihood and sense of security by Lanyard's
entrance. He stood now in a pose of insouciant grace, hands idly clasped
before him, disdain glimmering in languid-lidded eyes, contempt in the set
of his lips—an ensemble eloquent of brazen effrontery, the outgrowth of
perception of the fact that Lanyard, being what he was, could neither shoot
him down in cold blood nor, with the Brooke girl present, even attempt to
injure him: compunctions unassembled in the make-up of the Boche, therefore
when discovered in men of other races at once despicable and ridiculous….
The gag came away.
"Mademoiselle has not been injured?" Lanyard enquired, solicitous.
The girl coughed and gasped, shaking her head, enunciating with difficulty
in little better than a husky whisper: "… roughly handled, nothing
Lanyard's face burned as if his blood were molten mercury. "Nothing
worse!" Appreciation of what handling she must have suffered, if she had
resisted at all, before those beasts could have bound her, excited an
indignation from whose light, as it blazed in Lanyard's eyes, even Ekstrom
The hand was tremulous with which he sought to loose her wrists, so much so
that she could not but notice.
"Don't mind me—look to that man!" she begged. "Leave me to unfasten these
with my teeth. He can't be trusted for a single instant."
"Mademoiselle," Lanyard mumbled, instinctively employing the French
idiom—"you have reason."
For an instant only he hesitated, swayed this way and that by the maddest
of impulses, then resigned himself absolutely to their ascendancy.
"This goes beyond all bounds," he said in an undertone.
Deliberately leaving the Englishwoman to free herself according to her
suggestion—forgetful, indeed, for the moment, that she was not altogether
free—he moved to the desk and left his own automatic there beside
"Mademoiselle," he said mechanically, without looking at the girl, without
power to perceive aught else in the world but the white, evil face of his
enemy, "for what I am about to do, I beg you forgive me, of your charity. I
can endure no more. It is too much…."
He strode past her.
She twisted in her chair, then rose, following him with wide eyes of alarm
above her hands, whose bonds her teeth worried without rest.
Ekstrom had not stirred, though one flash of pure exultation had
transfigured his countenance on comprehension of Lanyard's purpose: thanks
to the silly scruples of this animal, one more chance for life was granted
Nor would the Prussian give an inch when Lanyard paused, confronting him
squarely, within arm's length.
"Ekstrom," the adventurer began in a voice lacking perceptible inflection
… "what is between you and me needs no recounting. You know it too
well—I likewise. It is my wish and my intention to kill you with my
two hands. Nothing can prevent that, not even what you count upon, my
reluctance—to you incomprehensible—to commit an act of violence in the
presence of a woman. But because Miss Brooke is here, because you have
brought her here by force, because you are what you are and so have treated
her insolently … before we come to our final accounting, you shall get
down upon your knees and ask her pardon."
He saw no yielding in the eyes of the Prussian, only arrogance; and when he
paused, he was answered in one phrase of the gutters of Berlin, couched in
the imagery of its lowest boozing-kens, so unspeakably vile in essence
and application that Lanyard heard it with an incredulity almost
stupefying—almost, not altogether.
It was barely spoken when those lips that framed it were crushed by a blow
of such lightning delivery that, though he must have been prepared for it,
Ekstrom's guard was still lowered as he reeled back, lost footing, and went
to his knees.
Panting, snarling, uttering teeth and blasphemy, the Prussian recoiled like
a serpent, gathered himself together and launched headlong at Lanyard, only
to be met full tilt by a second blow and a third, each more merciless than
its predecessor, beating him down once more.
This time Lanyard did not wait for him to come back for punishment, but
closed in, catching him as he strove to rise, meeting each fresh effort
with ruthless accuracy, battering him into insanity of despair, so that
Ekstrom came back again and again without thought, animated only by
frenzied brute instinct to find the throat of his tormenter, and ever and
ever failing; till at length he crumpled and lay crushed and writhing, then
subsided into insensibility, was quite still but for heaving lungs and the
spasmodic clutchings of his broken and ensanguined fingers….
With a start, a broken sigh, a slight movement of the hand interpreting a
crushing sense of the futility of human passion, Lanyard relaxed, drew back
from standing over his antagonist, abstractedly found a handkerchief and
dried his hands, of a sudden so inexpressibly shamed and degraded in his
own sight that he dared not look the girl's way, but stood with hang-dog
air, avoiding her regard.
Yet, could he have mustered up heart, he might have surprised in her eyes
a light to lift him out from this slough of humiliation, to obliterate
chagrin in a flood of wonder and—misgivings.
When, however, he did after a moment turn to her, that look was gone,
replaced by one that reflected something of his own apprehension; for a
heavy hand was hammering on the study door, and more than one voice on the
other side was calling on "Karl" to open.
Either the servant whom Lanyard had met and victimised on his way
downstairs had given the alarm, or else the noise of the encounter within
the study had brought that pack of spies to the door, wildly demanding
Steadied by one swift exchange of alarmed glances with the girl, Lanyard
hastily reviewed the room, seeking some avenue of escape. None offered but
the windows. He ran to them, tore back their draperies, and found them
closed with shutters of steel and padlocked.
Simultaneously the din at the door redoubled.
With a worried shake Lanyard crossed to the chimney-piece, ducked his head,
and stepped into its huge fireplace. One upward glance sufficed to dash his
hopes: here was no way out, arduous though feasible; immediately above the
fireplace the flue narrowed so that not even the most active man of normal
stature might hope to negotiate its ascent.
He returned with only a gesture of disconcertion to answer the girl's look
"Can we do nothing?" she asked, raising her voice a trifle to make it heard
above the tumult in the corridor.
"There's no help for it, I'm afraid," he said, going to the desk and taking
up the pistols—"nothing to do but shoot our way out, if we can. Take
this," he added, offering her one of the weapons, which she accepted
without spirit. "If you can't get your own consent to use it, give it to me
when I've emptied the other."
She breathed a dismayed "Yes …" and wonderingly consulted his face, since
he did not stir other than thoughtfully to replace his pistol on the desk,
then stood staring at his soot-smeared palms.
"What is it?" she demanded nervously. "Why do you hesitate?"
As one fretted by inconsequential questions, he merely shook his head,
glancing sidelong once at the unconscious Prussian, again with calculation
toward the door.
This he saw quivering under repeated blows.
With brusque decision he said: "Get a chair—brace it beneath the
door-knob, please!"—and leaving her without more explanation turned back
to the fireplace.
Motionless, in dumb confusion, the girl stood staring after him till roused
by a blow of such splintering force as to suggest that an axe had been
brought into play upon the door, then ran to a ponderous club chair and
with considerable exertion managed to trundle it to the door and tip it
over, wedging its back beneath the knob.
By this time it had become indisputably patent that an axe was battering
the panels. But the door, in character with the room, was a substantial
piece of workmanship and needed more than a few blows, even of an axe, to
break down its barrier of solid oak.
She looked round to discover Lanyard kneeling beside Ekstrom, insanely—so
it seemed to the girl—engaged in blackening the upper half of the man's
face with a handful of soot.
Unconsciously uttering a little cry of distress she sped to his side and
caught his shoulder with an importunate hand.
"In Heaven's name, Monsieur Duchemin, what are you doing? Is this a time
He responded with a smile of boyish mischief so genuine that her doubts of
his reason seemed all too well confirmed.
"Making up my understudy," he said simply. And brushing his hands over the
rug to rid them of superfluous soot, Lanyard rose. "Please go back and
stand by the door—on the side of the hinges. I'll be with you in one
Resigned to humour this lunatic whim—what else could she do?—the girl
retreated to the position designated, and watched with ever darker doubts
of his sanity, while Lanyard hurriedly drew the shells from his automatic
and carefully placed its butt in the slack grasp of Ekstrom's fingers.
Then, lifting from a near-by table a great cut-glass bowl of flowers, the
adventurer inverted it over Ekstrom's body.
Expending its full force upon the man's chest, that miniature deluge
splashed widely, wetting his face, half filling his open mouth. Some of
the soot was washed away, but not a great deal: enough stuck fast to suit
Roused by that cool shock, half strangled as well, Ekstrom coughed
violently, squirmed, spat out a mouthful of water, and lifted on an elbow,
still more than half dazed.
Joining the girl by the door, Lanyard saw the Prussian sit up and glare
blankly round the room, a figure of tragic fun, drenched, woefully
disfigured, eyes rolling wildly in the wide spaces round them which Lanyard
had left unblackened.
Swinging the club chair away from the door, the adventurer placed it with
its back to the room.
"Get down behind that," he indicated shortly, and drew the key from his
pocket. "Don't show yourself for your life. And let me have that pistol,
A bright triangular wedge of steel broke through one of the panels as he
fitted and turned the key in the lock.
His wits clearing, Ekstrom saw him and with a howl of fury staggered to his
feet, clutching the unloaded pistol and endeavouring to level it for steady
Simultaneously Lanyard turned the knob and let the door fly open, remaining
beside the chair that hid the girl.
A knot of spies, O'Reilly and Velasco among them, whirled into the room,
pulled up at sight of that strange, grim figure, disguised beyond all
recognition by its half-mask of black, facing and menacing them with a
O'Reilly fired in the next breath, his shot echoed by half a dozen so
closely bunched as to resemble the rattle of a mitrailleuse.
At the first report the pistol dropped from Ekstrom's grasp. He carried a
hand vaguely to his throat, staggered a single step, uttered a strangled
moan, and fell forward, his body fairly riddled, his death little short of
While the fusillade was still resounding Lanyard, seizing the girl's wrist,
unceremoniously dragged her from behind the chair and thrust her through
the door, retreating after her with his face to the roomfull, his pistol
None of that lot paid him any heed, the attention of all wholly absorbed by
the tragedy their violent hands had wrought. Velasco, the first to stir,
ran forward and dropped to his knees beside the dead man. Others followed.
Gently Lanyard drew the door to, locked it on the outside, and at the sound
of a choking cry from Cecelia Brooke, whirled smartly round, prepared if
need be to make good his promise to clear with gun-play a way to the street
though opposed by every inmate of the establishment.
But the first face he saw was Crane's.
The Secret Service man stood within a yard. To him as to a rock of refuge
Cecelia Brooke had flown, to his hand she was clinging like a frightened
child, trying to speak, failing because she choked on sobs and gasps of
Behind him, on the landing at the head of the staircase, running up from
below, ascending to the upper storeys, were a score' or more of men of
sturdy and business-like bearing and indubitably American stamp. Of
these two were herding into a corner a little group of frightened German
Lanyard's stare of astonishment was met by Crane's twisted smile.
"My friend," he said, as quietly as anyone could with his accent of a
quizzical buzz-saw, "I sure got to hand it to you. Every time I try to pull
anything off on the dead quiet you beat me to it clean. Everywhere I think
you ain't and can't be, that's just where you are. But I ain't complaining;
I got to admit, if you hadn't staged your act to occupy the minds of those
gents in there, we might've had a lot more difficulty raiding this joint."
Quickly he wound an arm round the waist of Cecelia Brooke when, without
warning, she swayed blindly and would have fallen.
"Here, now!" he protested. "That's no way to do…. Why, she's flickered
out! Well, Monsieur Duchemin-Lanyard-Ember, to a man up a tree this looks
like your job. You take this little lady off my hands and see her home, and
I'll just naturally try and finish what I started—or what you did. For,
son, I got to give you credit: you sure are one grand li'l trouble-hound!"
Through the breathing hush of that dark hour which foreruns the dawn, that
hour in which the head that knows a wakeful pillow is prone to sudden
and disquieting apprehension of its insignificance and it's soul's dread
isolation, the cab sped swiftly south upon the Avenue, shadowed reaches of
the park upon its right, upon its left the dull, tired faces of those homes
whose tenants lay wrapped in the cotton-wool of riches.
The rain had ceased. A little wind was blowing up. There was a fresh
smell in the air. Sidewalks began to be maculated with spreading areas of
dryness, but the roadway was still wet and shining, the wide black mirror
of a myriad lights.
Through the windows of the speeding cab an orderly procession of street
lamps, marching past, threw each its fugitive and pallid glimmer. Periods
of modified darkness intervened, when the face of the girl in her corner
seemed a vision subtle and wraithlike. But ever the recurrent lights
revealed her sweetly incarnate if deep in enervation of crushing weariness.
Once she stirred and sighed profoundly; and Lanyard, bending toward her,
asked if he could be in any way of service.
She replied in an undertone scarcely better than a whisper: "Thank you, I
am quite comfortable…. Please—what time is it?"
The cab was passing Sixtieth Street. Lanyard caught a fleeting glimpse of a
street clock with a dial like a little golden moon.
"It's just four."
He had the maddest notion that her head inclined to droop toward his
shoulder. Perhaps the motion of the cab…. If so, she recovered easily.
"Can I do anything?"
"No, thank you, only …" An ungloved hand stirred from her lap and for
the merest instant rested lightly above his own, or hovered rather, barely
touching it with a touch tenuous and elusive, no sooner realised than gone.
"I mean," she murmured, "I am a bit too overwrought, too tired, to talk."
"I quite understand," he said. "Please forget I'm here; just rest."
Perhaps she smiled drowsily. Or was that, too, a freak of his imagination?
Lanyard assured himself it was, in excess of consideration even tried to
persuade himself he had dreamed that ghost of a caress upon his hand. It
seemed so little like her.
Not that anything had happened more than a gesture of transient
inadvertence due to fatigue. It could not have been intentional, that act
of intimacy, when the girl was altogether engrossed in young Thackeray.
There was something one must not forget, something that gave the lie flatly
to that innuendo of the Weringrode's. Ignorant of the circumstances the
intrigante had leaped blindly at conclusions, after the habit of her kind.
True, Sophie had not implied that this girl cared for him, but vice versa:
either supposition, however, was as absurd as the other. As if Lanyard
could love a woman who loved another! As if the name of love meant aught
to him but the memory of a sweetness like a vagrant air of Spring that had
breathed fitfully for a season upon the Winter of his heart!
A corner of Lanyard's mouth lifted in a sneer. That precious heart of
his! the heart of a thief upon which even now the fruits of his thieving
Irritated, he wrenched his thoughts into another channel, and began to
piece together inconsecutive snatches of information gained from Crane
in the confusion of the quarter hour just past, while the Secret Service
operatives were busy rounding up the inmates of that spy-fold and searching
for evidences of their impudent activities.
It appeared that Washington had at length, however tardily, roused out of
its inertia and at midnight had telegraphed instructions to arrest out
of hand every enemy alien in the land against whom there was evidence of
conspiracy or even a ponderable suspicion.
So unexpected was this order that Crane had volunteered to show Cecelia
Brooke that midnight rendezvous of the Prussian spy system without the
least notion that he might be required before morning to lead a raiding
force against the establishment; and even when a messenger stopped him as
he turned to enter Au Printemps, he was not advised concerning the cause of
this demand for his immediate presence at headquarters.
The first cast of what Crane aptly termed the dragnet had brought in the
management and service staff to a man, with a number of the restaurant's
habitues, including Sophie Weringrode and her errand-boy, the exquisite Mr.
Velasco, however, had somehow mysteriously managed to slip through the
meshes and had straightway hastened to spread the alarm.
As for O'Reilly and Dressier, they had left with Ekstrom in pursuit of
Lanyard less than five minutes before, and so had escaped not only arrest
but all knowledge of the raid prior to their return to Seventy-ninth
The second cast of the net had been made at the latter place as soon as
the watchers were able to assure Crane that Ekstrom and O'Reilly had
returned—Dressier having anticipated them there by something like half an
By daybreak, then, these gentry would be interned on Ellis Island….
And break of day impended visibly in grayish shades that stole westward
through the cross-town streets like clouds of secret agents spying out the
city against invasion by the serried lances of the sun.
A garish twilight washed Forty-second Street from wall to wall by the time
the car swung round in front of the Knickerbocker. As yet, however, there
was little evidence that the town was growing restive in its sleep with
premonition of the ardour of another day.
Lanyard stepped down and offered the girl a hand in whose palm her slender
fingers rested lightly for an instant ere she passed on, while he turned to
bid the driver wait. Following, he overtook her in the entrance, where by
tacit consent both paused and lingered in an odd constraint. There was so
much to be said that was impossible to say just then.
Visibly the woman drooped, betraying physical exhaustion in every line of
her pose, seeming scarcely strong enough to lift the silken lashes that
trembled upon cheeks a little drawn and pale, with the faintest of bluish
rings beneath the eyes.
"I must not keep you," Lanyard broke the silence. "I merely wished to say
good-night and … I am sorry."
"Sorry?" she echoed.
"That you had such an unhappy experience," he explained—"thanks to your
thoughtfulness for me. I do not deserve so much consideration; and that
only makes me feel all the more regretful."
"It was silly of me," she admitted with a shadowy, rueful smile. "I'm
afraid my silliness makes too much trouble…."
He commented honestly: "I don't understand."
"If I had only been patient enough to wait for you to call me…."
"Forgive that oversight. I was pressed for time, as you may imagine."
"Oh, it all comes back to my own stupidity. I might have known you had come
through all right."
"How should you?"
"Why not?—when you turn up here in New York safe and sound after being
drowned on the Assyrian!—as if that were not proof enough that you bear
a charmed life!"
"Charmed!" he laughed.
"And you haven't yet told me how you survived that adventure."
"You are kind to be interested, and I am unfortunate in never seeing you
save under circumstances unfavourable for yarn-spinning."
"You might be more fortunate."
"Only tell me how!"
"If you cared to ask me to dine with you to-morrow—I mean, to-night—"
He was distressed by consciousness that his voice had thrilled impetuously.
But perhaps she had not noticed; there was no change in the even
friendliness of her tone.
"I'm as inquisitive as any woman that ever lived. Even if I wished to, I'm
afraid I shouldn't be able to resist an invitation to hear your Odyssey."
"Delmonico's at eight?"
"Thank you," she said primly.
"You make me too happy. May I call for you?"
"Please." She offered a hand whose touch he found cool, steady, and
impersonal. "Good morning, Mr. Ember."
He stood in a stare while she went quickly through the lobby to a waiting
elevator, then roused and went back to his cab.
It was by daylight that he reentered his rooms and found them tenanted by
a negro boy bound and gagged, bruised and sore, and scared beyond
Freeing him and salving his injuries bodily and spiritual with a liberal
douceur, Lanyard exacted an oath of silence, then turned him out.
He had approximately five hours to put in somehow before his appointment
with Colonel Stanistreet at nine, and was too well versed in the lore of
late hours to think of giving any part of that time to sleep. By so doing
he would only insure a mutinous awakening, with mind and body sluggish and
unrested. If, on the other hand, he remained awake, he would go to that
interview in a state of supernormal animation exceedingly to be desired if
he were to round out this adventure without discredit.
For its end was not yet. He had still a part to play whose lines were not
yet written, whose business remained to be invented. He neither dared
shirk that appointment, for reasons of policy, nor wished to, while there
remained reparation to be accomplished, a wrong to be righted, justice to
be done, a question to be answered.
Only when these matters had been put in order would he feel his honour
discharged of its burdens, himself free once more to drop out and go in
peace his lonely ways in life, ways henceforth to be both lonely and
For, when he strove to peer into the future, only an emptiness confronted
him. With Ekstrom accounted for finally and forevermore, there was nothing
to come but the final accounting of the Lone Wolf with that civilization
which had bred and suffered him.
One way presented itself to make that reckoning even. The Foreign Legion of
France asks no embarrassing questions of its recruits, and enlistment in
its ranks offers with anonymity a consoling certainty.
Thus alone might he find his way home to the heart of that enigma whence he
had emerged, a nameless waif astray in grim Parisian by-ways….
This vision of his end contenting him, he began to scheme a campaign
for the day that was simple enough in prospect: a little chicanery with
Stanistreet, a personal appeal to Crane to restore the passports of
Monsieur André Duchemin which must have been found on Ekstrom's body, a
berth on some steamer sailing for Europe, then the last evanishment.
One detail alone troubled him, his promise to the Brooke girl that she
should dine with him that night.
Reminded of this obligation, figuratively he seized Michael Lanyard by the
scruff of his neck and shook him with a savage hand. What insensate folly
was ever his, what want of wit and strength to keep out of temptation's
ways! Why must he have fallen in so readily with her suggestion? Why this
infatuate thirst for sympathy, this eagerness to violate the seals of
reticence at the wish of a strange woman? Was there any reasonable
explanation of the strange lack of his wonted self-sufficiency in the
company of Cecelia Brooke?
No matter. If he might not contrive somehow to squirm out of that
engagement, he could at all events school himself to decent reticence. He
promised himself to make his account of the submarine adventure drearily
bald and trite, to minimize to the last degree his part therein, above all
things to refrain from painting the Lone Wolf in romantic colours.
She was much too good a sort, too straight, sincere, fair-minded,
honest—the sort of girl who deserved the Thackeray sort of man, never a
If she even dreamed….
Lanyard brought forth from its hiding place the necklace, weighed it in
his hand, examined it minutely. Granting its marvellous perfection, he
recognized no more its beauty, dispassionately reviewed in turn each stone
of matchless loveliness, no more susceptible to their seductive purity,
perceiving in them nothing but hard, bright, translucent pebbles, cold,
One by one they slipped through his fingers like beads of an unholy rosary.
At length, crushing them together in the hollow of his palm, he stood a
while in thought, then turning to his writing-desk bundled the necklace in
wrappings of white tissue secured with rubber bands, counted carefully the
sheaf of bills he had taken from Ekstrom, sealed the whole amount in a
plain, long envelope, and put this aside in company with the necklace.
Already two hours had passed and, since he meant to call at the house on
West End Avenue well in advance of the hour when Cecelia Brooke might be
there—presuming Blensop to have given her the same appointment as he had
given "Mr. Ember," that is, nine o'clock—it was now time to prepare.
Returning to his bedchamber, he laid out a carefully selected change of
clothing, shaved, parboiled himself in a hot bath, chilled him to the
pith in one of icy coldness, and dressed with scrupulous heed to detail,
studiously effacing every sign of his sleepless night.
That experience was in no way to be surmised from his appearance when he
sallied forth to breakfast at the Plaza.
At eight precisely, presenting himself at the Stanistreet residence, he
desired the footman to announce him as the author of a certain telegram
He was obliged to wait less than a minute, the footman returning in haste
to request him to step into the library.
This apartment—which he found much as he had last seen it, eight hours
ago, its window shattered, the portières down, the furniture in some
disorder—was, on his introduction, occupied by two persons, one an
elderly, iron-gray gentleman of untidy dress and unobtrusive habit in spite
of a discerning cool, gray eye, the other Mr. Blensop in the neatest of
one-button morning-coat effects, with striped trouserings neither too smart
nor too sober for that state of life unto which it had pleased God to call
him, and fair white spats.
If his attire was radiant, so was the temper of the secretary sunny. He
tripped forward in sprightliest fashion, offering cordial hands to the
caller till he recognized him, and even then was discountenanced only for
the briefest moment.
"My dear Mr. Ember!" he purred soothingly—"why didn't you tell me last
night it was you who had sent that telegram? If I had for a moment
suspected the truth you should have had your appointment with Colonel
Stanistreet at any hour you might have cared to name, no matter how
Lanyard bowed gravely. "Thank you," he said. "And Colonel Stanistreet—?"
"Is just finishing breakfast. He will be down directly. Please be seated,
make yourself entirely at ease. And will you excuse me—?"
"With pleasure," Lanyard assured him, his gravity unbroken.
A doubt clouded Mr. Blensop's bright eyes, but its transit was
instantaneous. He turned forthwith to join the iron-gray man before the
portrait which concealed the safe.
"And now, Mr. Stone," said Mr. Blensop, with indulgence.
"Well, sir," said Mr. Stone quietly, "if you'll be good enough to show me
how this contraption works, maybe I'll find out something interesting,
Mr. Blensop proceeded to oblige by operating the lever and sliding aside
"Thanks," said Mr. Stone, producing a magnifying glass from a waistcoat
pocket and beginning to peer myopically at the face of the safe. "I take
it nobody's been pawing over this since the late, as you might say,
"Not a soul has touched it. By Colonel Stanistreet's order it was covered
as soon as we found it had been tampered with."
"Um-m," Mr. Stone acknowledged, bending close to his work.
Partially, perhaps, by way of administering an urbane rebuke to Lanyard for
his readiness to dispense with his society, Mr. Blensop remained in
the neighbourhood of Mr. Stone, hovering round him like a domesticated
"Do you find anything?" he enquired, when Stone straightened up.
"Fingerprints a-plenty," Mr. Stone admitted with a hint of temper—"a slew
of the damn things. Looks like you must've called in the neighbours to help
make a good show. However, we'll see what we can make of 'em."
He conjured from some recess in his clothing a squat bottle, from another a
stopper in which was fitted a blowpipe, joined the two together, approached
the safe with one end of the pipe between his lips and sprayed it with a
thin film of white powder, the contents of the bottle.
"I say, do tell me what that's for?"
"That," said Mr. Stone patiently, "is to make the fingerprints stand out,
so we can get a good likeness of 'em."
He put the bottle aside, blinked at the safe approvingly, and by further
exercise of powers of legerdemain materialized a pocket kodak and a
"Can't I help you?" Blensop offered eagerly. "I used to be rather a dab at
amateur photography, you know."
"Well, I'm kind of stuck on pressing the button myself," Stone confessed,
adjusting the focus. "But if you want to work that flashlight, I don't
"Delighted," Mr. Blensop asserted. "How does it go, now?"
"Like this." Stone set his camera down to demonstrate. "Now just stand
behind me," he concluded, "and pull the trigger when I say 'now'."
"I'll do my best, but—I say—will it bang?"
Stone had taken up the camera once more. His sole answer was a grunt upon
which his hearers placed two distinct interpretations—Lanyard's affording
him considerable gratification.
"If you're ready," said Stone—"now"
Mr. Blensop squinted unbecomingly and pressed the trigger. A vivid flare
lifted from the pan of the pistol, and winked out in a cloud of vapour,
"Is that all?"
"Yes, sir—that's all of that." Stone stowed the camera away about his
person and from another cranny produced a small cardboard box of glass
slides, one of which he offered. "Now if you'll just run your fingers
through your hair and rest them on this slide, light but steady…."
"What for?" Blensop demanded with a giggle of nervous reluctance. "You
don't think I'm the thief, do you?"
"No, sir, I don't. But if I haven't got your fingerprints, how am I going
to tell them from the thief's?"
"Oh, I see," Blensop said with a note of allayed apprehension, and put
himself on record.
The door opening to admit Colonel Stanistreet, Lanyard rose. At sight of
him the Englishman checked and stared enquiringly, his eyes shadowed by
careworn brows; for it was apparent that, if the events of the night had
not depressed the spirits of the secretary, his employer had known little
sleep or none since the burglary.
"Colonel Stanistreet," Blensop said melodiously, abandoning Stone to his
unsupervised devices, "this is Mr. Ember, the gentleman who called last
night before you got home. It appears he is the person who sent us that
telegram from Edgartown day before yesterday."
"Indeed? Ember is not the name with which the message was signed."
"The message was purposely left unsigned," Lanyard explained.
Stanistreet nodded approval. "I am glad to meet you, Mr. Ember," he said,
offering a hand. "Be seated. I am most anxious first to express our
gratitude, next to learn how you came by your information."
"You will find it an interesting story."
"No doubt of that." Stanistreet took the desk chair, opened a cigar
humidor, and offered it. "I shall be even more interested, however," he
said with an evanescent trace of humour, "to know who the devil you are,
"That is something I am prepared to prove to your satisfaction."
"If you will be so good…. But excuse me for one moment." Stanistreet
turned in his chair. "Mr. Stone?"
"Have you finished with the safe? If so, I want my secretary to check over
its contents carefully and make sure nothing else is missing."
"I'm all through with it, Colonel Stanistreet. Now, if you don't mind,
I'm going to mouse around and see if I can nose out anything else that's
"That shall be entirely as you will. Now, Blensop"—Stanistreet nodded to
the secretary—"let us make certain…."
Blithely Mr. Blensop addressed himself to the safe.
"There has been an accident of some sort, Colonel Stanistreet?" Lanyard
enquired civilly, nodding toward the shattered French window.
"A burglary, sir."
"The criminal escaped—?"
Stanistreet nodded. "Our watchman surprised him, and was shot for his
pains—not seriously, I'm happy to say. The burglar got himself tangled
up in that window, but extricated in time, and went over the garden wall
before we could determine which way he had taken."
"I trust you lost nothing of value?"
Stanistreet shrugged. "Unhappily, we did—a diamond necklace, the property
of my sister-in-law, and—ah—a document we could ill afford to part
with…. But you offered to show me credentials, I believe."
"Such as they are," Lanyard replied. "My passports and letters were stolen
from me. But these, I think, should serve as well to prove my bona fides."
He laid out in order upon the desk his plunder from the safe aboard the
U-boat—all but the money—the three cipher codes, the log, the diary
of the commander, the directory of German secret agents, and such other
documents as he had selected.
The first Colonel Stanistreet took up with a dubious frown which swiftly
lightened, yielding, as he pursued his examination into the papers and
began to recognize their surpassing value to the Allied cause, to a subdued
glimmer of gratulatory excitement.
But he was at pains to satisfy himself as to the authenticity of each paper
in turn, providing a lull for which Lanyard was not ungrateful since it
gave him a chance to adjust his understanding to an unexpected development
in the affair.
He lounged at ease, smoking, his eyes, half-veiled by lowered lids, keenly
reviewing the room and its tenants.
Stone, the detective (an operative, Lanyard rightly inferred, of the
American Secret Service, loaned to the British in order to keep the
burglary out of police records and newspapers), had wandered out into the
garden that glowed with young April sunlight beyond the windows. From
time to time he was to be seen stooping and inspecting the earth with the
gravity of an earnest, efficient, sober-sided sleuth of the old school.
Blensop was busy before the safe, extracting the contents of each
pigeonhole in turn, thumbing its dockets of papers, checking each off upon
a typewritten list several pages in length.
To that lithe and debonair figure Lanyard's gaze oftenest reverted.
So not only had the necklace been stolen but "a document" which the British
Secret Service "could ill afford to part with"!
Lanyard entertained no least doubt as to the identity of the document in
question. There could be but one, he felt, which Stanistreet would so
That document had not been in the safe when Lanyard had opened it at
After a moment Mr. Blensop uttered a musical note of vexation. The lead of
his pencil had broken. He threw it pettishly aside, came over to the desk,
took up a penholder, dipped it in the ink-well, and returned to his task.
Colonel Stanistreet put down the last of the papers and slapped his hand
upon it resoundingly.
"This is one of the most remarkable collections of data, I venture to
assert, that has ever come into the hands of the British Government. Have
you any idea of its value?"
Lanyard lifted a whimsical eyebrow. "Some," he admitted drily.
"And what do you ask for it, sir?"
The gaze of the Englishman bored into his eyes; but he met their challenge
with an unshaken countenance, smiling.
"My dear sir," Stanistreet demanded—"who are you?"
"The name under which I sailed for New York on board the Assyrian,"
Lanyard announced quietly, "was André Duchemin."
Disturbed by a startled exclamation, together with a sound of shuffling and
a slight thump, he looked round in mild curiosity to see Blensop staggered
and astare, standing over a litter of documents which had slipped from his
grasp to the floor. Mastering his emotion quickly enough, the secretary
knelt with a mumbled apology and began to pick up the papers.
With no more notice of the incident Lanyard returned undivided attention to
"I had another name," he confessed, "and a reputation none too savoury,
as, I daresay, you know. Through the courtesy of the British Intelligence
Office I was permitted to disguise these; but on the Assyrian I was
recognized—in short, ran afoul of German Secret Service agents who knew
me, but whom I did not know. On the sixth night out circumstances conspired
to make me seem a serious obstacle to their schemes. Consequently I was
waylaid, robbed, and thrown overboard. Within the next few minutes a
torpedo struck the ship and the submarine which fired it came up under me
as I struggled to keep afloat. By passing myself off as a Boche spy, I
succeeded in inducing the commander to take me below, and so reached the
Martha's Vineyard base. There chance played into my hands: I contrived to
sink the U-boat and escape, as reported in my telegram."
During a brief silence he found opportunity to observe that Mr. Blensop was
working with hands that trembled singularly.
"Incredible!" Stanistreet commented.
"Yet here is proof," Lanyard asserted, indicating the papers beneath
"My dear sir, I didn't mean—"
"Pardon!" Lanyard smiled, with a lifted hand. "I never thought you did,
Colonel Stanistreet. But it is your duty to make sure you are not imposed
upon by plausible adventurers. Therefore—since my papers have been
stolen—I am glad to be able to prove my identity with André Duchemin by
referring to survivors of the Assyrian disaster, among others Mr. Sherry,
the second officer, Mr. Crane of the United States Secret Service, and a
countrywoman of yours, a Miss Cecelia Brooke, whose acquaintance I was
fortunate enough to make."
Stanistreet nodded heavily, and consulted his watch. "Miss Brooke," he
said, "should be here shortly. Blensop made an appointment with her last
night, which I confirmed by telephone this morning."
"Then, with permission, I shall remain and ask her to vouch for me,"
Lanyard suggested in resignation, since it appeared he was not to be
permitted to escape this girl, that destiny was not yet finished with their
"I shall be glad if you will, sir…. Monsieur Duchemin," Stanistreet
began, but hesitated—"or do you prefer another style?"
"I am content with Duchemin."
"That is a matter for your own discretion, but I should warn you it may
already have acquired an evil odour on this side. To my knowledge it has
been used within the last twenty-four hours, and the pretensions of its
wearer supported by your stolen credentials."
"I am not surprised," Lanyard stated reflectively. "A chap with a beard,
"Anderson," the adventurer nodded: "that, at least, was his alias when he
jockeyed himself into the second steward's berth aboard the Assyrian."
He glanced idly across the room, discovered Blensop once more at pause in a
stare, and grinned amiably.
"He came here last night," Stanistreet volunteered deliberately—
"representing himself as André Duchemin—to sell me a certain paper, the
same which subsequently, I am convinced, he returned to steal."
"And did," Lanyard added.
"And did," the Briton conceded. "Now you have told me who he is, I promise
you every effort shall be made to apprehend him and prevent further misuse
of the name you have assumed."
"It has," Lanyard said tersely.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I say every effort has been made—and successfully—to accomplish the ends
"What's that you say?" Blensop demanded shrilly, crossing to the desk.
"My secretary," Stanistreet explained, "was present at the interview, and
is naturally interested."
"And very good of him, I'm sure," Lanyard agreed. "I was about to explain,
Mr. Blensop, that Ekstrom, alias Anderson, was killed in the course of
a raid on the Prussian spy headquarters in Seventy-ninth Street this
"Amazing!" Blensop gasped. "I am glad to hear it," he added, and went
slowly back to his task.
"I may as well tell you, sir," Lanyard pursued, "I have every reason to
believe the document sold you last night was one of those stolen from me."
Stanistreet wagged a contentious head.
"I cannot conceive how it could have come into your possession, sir."
"Simply enough. Miss Brooke requested me to take care of it for her."
The eyes of the Englishman grew stony. "Miss Brooke!" he repeated testily.
"I don't understand."
"It was a document—I do not seek to know its nature from you, sir—of
vital importance in this present crisis, with the United States newly
entered into the war."
Stanistreet affirmed with an inclination of his head.
"I may tell you this much, Monsieur Duchemin: if it had not reached this
country safely…. What am I saying? If it be not recovered without delay,
the chances of America's early and efficient participation in the war will
suffer a tremendous setback … Blensop, be good enough to call up the
American Secret Service at once and ask whether the document in question
was found on the body of this—ah—Ekstrom."
"Pardon," Lanyard interposed as Blensop hesitantly approached the
telephone. "It would be a waste of time. I happen to know, because I was
there, that no such document was found on Ekstrom's body."
"The devil!" Stanistreet grumbled. "What can have become of it? This
business grows only the blacker the deeper one seeks to fathom it. I
must own myself completely at a loss. How it came into the hands of Miss
"I can explain that, I think. The document was in the care of two
gentlemen, Mr. Bartholomew and Lieutenant Thackeray. The former was
murdered by the Huns in search of it, Lieutenant Thackeray murderously
assaulted. But for Miss Brooke's intervention the assassins must have
succeeded. As it was, the young woman herself found it and, one presumes,
took charge of it because her fiancé was incapacitated, and possibly with
the notion that she might thereby prevent further mischief of the same
"Her fiancé?" Stanistreet echoed blankly.
"Her brother, sir!" the Briton laughed. "Thackeray was his nom de service."
It was Lanyard's turn to stare. "Ah!" he murmured. "A light begins to
"Upon me as well," Stanistreet confessed. "Miss Brooke and her brother are
orphans and, before the war, were inseparable companions. I do not doubt
that, learning he had been commissioned with an uncommonly perilous errand,
she booked passage by the Assyrian without his consent, in order to be
near him in event of danger."
"This explains much," Lanyard conceded—"much that perplexed more than one
"But in no way advances us on the trail of the purloined document."
"I am afraid, sir," Lanyard lied deliberately, "you may as well abandon all
hope of ever seeing it again. Ekstrom made away with it: no question about
that. There was time enough and to spare between his exploit here and his
death for him to deliver it to safe hands. It is doubtless decoded by this
time, a copy of it already well on the way to the Wilhelmstrasse."
"I am afraid," Stanistreet echoed—"I am very much afraid you are right."
His thick, spatulate fingers of an executive drummed heavily upon the desk.
Stone's figure darkened the windows.
"Colonel Stanistreet?" he called diffidently.
"Yes, Mr. Stone?"
"There's something here I'd like to consult you about, sir, if you can
spare a minute."
"Certainly." The Englishman rose. "If you will excuse me, Monsieur
Duchemin…." Half way to the windows he hesitated. "By the bye, Blensop, I
wish you'd call up Apthorp and ask after Howson's condition."
"Very good, sir," Blensop intoned cheerfully.
"And do it without delay, please. I don't like to think of the poor fellow
As his employer passed out into the garden with Stone, the secretary
discontinued his checking and came over to the desk, drawing up a chair and
sitting down to telephone. At the same time Lanyard got up and began to
pace thoughtfully to and fro.
"Howson is the wounded night watchman, I take it, Mr. Blensop?"
"Yes—an excellent fellow…. Schuyler nine, three hundred," Blensop cooed
into the transmitter.
Conceivably that ostensible discomfiture whose symptoms Lanyard had
remarked had been a transitory humour. Mr. Blensop was now in what seemed
the most equable and blithe of tempers. His very posture at the telephone
eloquently betokened as much: he had thrown himself into the chair with
picturesque nonchalance, sitting with body half turned from the desk, his
right hand holding the receiver to his ear, his left thrust carelessly
into his trouser pocket, thus dragging back the lapel of that impeccable
morning-coat and exposing the bright cap of his gold-mounted fountain pen.
Something in that implement seemed to possess for Lanyard overpowering
fascination. His gaze yearned for it, returned again and again to it.
He changed his course to stroll up and down behind Blensop, between him and
"I understood Colonel Stanistreet to say the watchman was not seriously
injured, I believe," he observed, with interest.
"Shot through the shoulder, that is all…. Schuyler nine, three hundred?
Dr. Apthorp, please. This is Mr. Blensop speaking, secretary to Colonel
Stanistreet…. Are you there, Dr. Apthorp?"
With professional dexterity Lanyard en passant dropped a hand over the
young man's shoulder and lightly lifted the pen from its place in the
pocket of Blensop's waistcoat; the even tempo of his step unbroken, he
tossed it toward the safe, where it fell without sound upon a heavy Persian
"Yes—about Howson," the musical accents continued, "Colonel Stanistreet is
Swiftly Lanyard moved toward the safe, glanced through the French windows
to assure himself that Stanistreet and Stone were safely preoccupied,
whipped out the envelope he had prepared, and thrust it into a file of
papers which did not crowd its pigeonhole; accomplishing the complete
manoeuvre with such adroitness that, like the business of the pen, it
passed utterly without the knowledge of the secretary.
"Thank you so much. Good morning, Dr. Apthorp."
Lanyard was passing the desk when Blensop rose, and the footman was
entering with his salver.
"A lady to see Colonel Stanistreet, sir—by appointment, she says."
Blensop glanced at the card. At the same time Stanistreet came in from the
garden, leaving Stone to potter about visibly in the distance.
"Miss Brooke is here, sir," the secretary announced.
"Ask her to come in, please."
The footman retired.
"Howson is resting easily, Dr. Apthorp reports," Blensop added, going back
to the safe. "Has Stone turned up anything of interest, sir?"
"Footprints," Stanistreet replied with a snort of moderate impatience.
"He's quite upset since I've informed him the man who made them is—"
The interruption was Blensop's in a voice strangely out of tune.
Stanistreet wheeled sharply upon him.
"What the deuce—!" he snapped.
By every indication the secretary had suffered the most severe shock of his
experience. His face was ghastly, his eyes vacant; his knees shook beneath
him; one hand pressed convulsively the bosom of his waistcoat. His
endeavours to reply evoked only a husky, rattling sound.
"What the devil has come over you?" Stanistreet insisted.
The rattle became articulate: "I've lost it! It's gone!"
"What have you lost?"
"N-nothing, sir. That is—I mean to say—my fountain pen."
"The way you take it, I should say you'd lost your head," Stanistreet
commented. "You must have dropped the thing somewhere. Look about, see if
you can't find it."
Thus admonished, the secretary began to search the floor with frantic
glances, and as the footman ushered in Cecelia Brooke, Lanyard saw the
young man dart forward and retrieve the pen with a start of relief wellnigh
as unmanning as the shock of loss had seemed.
With that Lanyard's interest in the fellow waned; he was too poor a thing
to consider seriously; while here was one who compelled anew, as ever when
they met, the homage of sincere and marvelling admiration.
Yet another of those miracles of feminine adaptability and makeshift had
brought the girl to this meeting in the guise of one who had never known a
broken night or an hour's care, with a look of such fresh tranquility that
it seemed hardly possible she could be one and the same with that wilted
little woman whom Lanyard had left in the gray dawn at the entrance to the
Hotel Knickerbocker. A tailored suit, necessarily borrowed plumage, became
her so completely that it was difficult to believe it not her own. Her eyes
were calm and sweet with candour; her colour was a clear and artless glow;
the hand she offered the Briton was tremorless.
"I am he, Miss Brooke. It is kind of you to call so early to relieve my
mind about your brother. I have known Lionel so long…."
"He is resting easily," said the girl. "His complete recovery is merely a
matter of time and nursing."
"That is good news," said Stanistreet. "Monsieur Duchemin I believe you
"I have been fortunate in that at least."
Gravely Lanyard saluted the hand extended to him in turn. "Mademoiselle is
most gracious," he said humbly.
"Then—I understand—Monsieur Duchemin must have told you—?" The girl
"Permit me to leave you—" Lanyard interposed.
"No," she begged—"please not! I've nothing to say that you may not hear.
You have been too much involved—"
"If mademoiselle insists," Lanyard demurred. "I feel it is not right I
should stay. And yet—if you will indulge me—I should like very much to
demonstrate the truth of an old saw…."
Two confused looks were his response.
"I fear I, for one, do not follow," Stanistreet admitted.
"I will explain quite briefly," Lanyard promised. "The adage I have in mind
is as old as human wit: Set a thief to catch a thief. And the last time it
was quoted in my hearing, it was not to my advantage. I recall, indeed,
resenting it enormously."
He paused with purpose, looking down at the desk. A pad of blank paper
caught his eye. He took it up and examined it with an abstracted manner.
"Well, monsieur: the application of your adage?"
"Colonel Stanistreet, what would you think if I were to tell you the
combination of your safe?"
"I should be inclined to suspect that you were the devil," Stanistreet
"By all accounts a gentleman of intelligence: one is flattered…. Very
well: I proceed to demonstrate black art with the aid of this white
paper pad. The combination, monsieur, is as follows: nine, twenty-seven,
A low cry of bewilderment greeted this announcement. Blensop had drawn near
and was eyeing Lanyard as if under the influence of hypnotism.
"How—how do you know that?" he asked in a broken voice.
"Clairvoyance, Mr. Blensop. I seem to see, as I hold this pad, somebody
writing upon it the combination for the information of another who had no
right to have it—somebody using a pencil with a hard lead, Mr. Blensop;
which was very foolish of him, since it made a distinct impression on the
under sheet. So you see my magic is rather colourless, after all…. Now,
a wiser man, Mr. Blensop, would have used a pen, a fountain pen by
preference, with a soft gold nib, well broken. That would leave no
impression. If you will lend me the beautiful pen I observe in your pocket,
I will give a further demonstration."
The eyes of the secretary shifted wildly. He hesitated, moistening dry lips
with the tip of a nervous tongue.
"And don't try to get out of it, Mr. Blensop, because I am armed and don't
mean to let you escape. Besides, that good Mr. Stone patrols the garden."
Lanyard's tone changed to one of command. "That pen, monsieur!"
Blensop's hand faltered to his waistcoat pocket, hesitated, withdrew, and
feebly extended the pen.
"I think you are the devil," he stammered in an under-tone—"the devil
Deftly unscrewing the pen-point, Lanyard inverted the barrel above the
The cylinder of paper dropped out.
"And now, Colonel Stanistreet, if you will call Mr. Stone and have this
When Stanistreet had gone out in company with Stone, and the broken,
weeping Blensop, ending a scene indescribably painful, a lull almost as
uncomfortable to Lanyard ensued.
Then—"How did you guess?" Cecelia Brooke asked in wonder.
Discountenanced by the admiration glowing in her eyes, Lanyard stood
fumbling with the disjointed members of Blensop's pen.
"Do not give me too much credit," he depreciated: "anybody acquainted with
that roll of paper could have guessed that an empty fountain pen would
furnish an ideal place of concealment for it. Moreover, just before you
came in, that traitor missed his pen, and his consternation betrayed him
beyond more doubt to one whose distrust was already astir. As for the
other, it was true: Blensop did write down the combination on this pad,
using a pencil with a hard lead; the marks are very plain."
"But for whose use?"
"Ekstrom—Anderson—was here last night, and saw Blensop alone. Colonel
Stanistreet was not at home. Knowing what we know now, that Blensop was
a creature of the German system here, bought body, soul, and conscience
through its studied pandering to his vices, we know he could not well have
refused to surrender the combination on demand."
"Still I fail to understand…."
"Ekstrom, being Ekstrom, could not resist the opportunity to play double.
Here was a property he could sell to England at a stiff price. Why not
despoil the enemy, put the money in pocket, then return, steal the paper
anew for the use of Germany, and collect the stipulated reward from that
source? But he reckoned without Blensop's avarice, there; he showed Blensop
too plainly the way to profit through betraying both parties to a bargain;
Blensop saw no reason why he should not play the game that Ekstrom played.
So he stole it for himself, to sell to Germany, but being a poor, witless
fool, lacking Ekstrom's dash and audacity, was foredoomed to failure and
The girl continued to eye him steadfastly, and he as steadfastly to evade
her direct gaze.
"Nothing that you tell me detracts from the wonder of your guessing so
accurately," she insisted. "Now I know what Mr. Crane said of you was true,
that you are one of the most extraordinary of men."
"He was too kind when he said that," Lanyard protested wretchedly. "It is
not true. If you must know…."
"Well, Monsieur Lanyard?"
Her tone was that of a light-hearted girl, arch with provocation. Of a
sudden Lanyard understood that he might no longer stop here alone with her.
"If you will be a little indulgent with me," he suggested, "I will try to
explain what I mean."
"And how indulgent, monsieur?"
"I have a whim to take the air in this garden. Will you accompany me?"
As she led the way through the French windows, he noted with deeper
misgivings how her action matched the temper of her voice, how she seemed
to-day more deliciously alive and happier than any common mortal.
So light her heart! And all since she had found him here!
At his wits' ends, he conceded now what he had so long denied. With all her
wit and wisdom, with all her charm of beauty, winsomeness, and breeding,
with all her ingrained love of truth and honesty, she was no more than
Nature had meant her to be, a woman with woman's weakness for the man
she must admire. She liked him, divined in him latent qualities somehow
excellent. Something in him worked upon her imagination, something, no
doubt, in the overcoloured, romantic yarns current about the Lone Wolf,
and so had touched her heart. She liked him too well already, and she was
willing to like him better.
But that must never be. He must rend ruthlessly apart this illusion of
romance with which she chose to transfigure the prowling parasite of night,
the sneaking thief….
The garden was sweet with the bright promise of Spring. A few weeks more,
and its formal walks would wend a riot of flowers. Now its sunlight made
amends for what it lacked in beauty of growing things; and its air was warm
and fragrant and still in the shelter of the red-brick walls.
Midway down that walk, by the side of which a thief had skulked nine hours
ago, near that door whose lock had yielded to his cunning keys, the girl
paused and confronted Lanyard spiritedly as he came up with heavy step and
"Well, monsieur?" she demanded. "Do you mean to tantalize me longer with
But something in the haggard eyes he showed her made the girl catch her
"What is it?" she cried anxiously. "Monsieur Duchemin, what is your
"Only this truth that I must tell you," he said bitterly: "I merely played
a part back there, just now. There was neither wit nor guess-work in that
business; once I had seen Blensop's panic over the fancied loss of his pen,
the rest was knowledge. I saw him and Ekstrom together last night—skulking
in those windows, I watched them; and though in my denseness I didn't
understand, I saw him write upon that pad, tear off and give the sheet to
Ekstrom. And I knew Ekstrom had not succeeded in stealing back what he had
sold to Colonel Stanistreet, knew he was guiltless in fact if not in deed."
"But—how could you know that?"
"Because I was there, in the room, when he entered it after it had been
shut up for the night."
Conscious of her hands that fluttered like wounded things to her bosom, he
looked away in misery.
"What were you doing there?" she whispered in the end.
"Trying to find that paper, which I had seen Ekstrom sell to Colonel
Stanistreet, so that I might make good my promise and relieve your distress
by returning it to you. I had opened the safe before he entered, and
searched it thoroughly, and knew the paper was not there—though at that
time it never entered my thick head to suspect Blensop of treachery. It
was neither Blensop nor Ekstrom, Miss Brooke … it was I who stole that
She made no sound and did not stir; and though he dared not look he knew
her stricken gaze was steadfast to his face.
"I will say this much in my defence: I did not come with intent to steal,
but only to take back what had been stolen from me, and return it to you,
who had trusted it to my care. I wanted to do that, because I did not then
understand the ins and outs of this intrigue, and had no means of knowing
how deeply your honour might be involved."
"But you did not take that necklace!"
"I am sorry…. I saw it, and could not resist it."
"But Mr. Crane assured me you had given up all that sort of thing years
"Notwithstanding that, it seems I may not be trusted…."
After another trying silence she declared vehemently: "I do not believe
you! You say this thing for some secret purpose of your own. For some
reason I can't understand you wish to abase yourself in my sight, to make
me think you capable of such infamy. Why—ah, monsieur!—why must you do
"Because it isn't fair to represent myself as what I am not, mademoiselle.
Once a thief, always—"
"No! It isn't true!"
"Again I am sorry, but I know. You have been most generous to believe in
me. If anything could save me from myself, it would be your confidence.
That, I presume, is why I felt called upon to undo my thieving, and make
good the loss. The money Colonel Stanistreet paid Ekstrom is now in the
safe, back there in the library. The necklace is … here."
Blindly he thrust the tissue packet into her hands.
"If you will consent to return it to its owner, when I have gone, I shall
be most grateful."
Her hands shook so that, when she would open the packet, it escaped her
grasp and dropped into a little pool of rain-water which had collected in
a hollow of the walk. Lanyard picked it up, stripped off the soiled and
sodden paper, dried the necklace with his handkerchief, replaced it in her
He heard the deep intake of her breath as she recognized its beauty, then
her quavering voice: "You give this back because of me…!"
"Because I cannot be an ingrate. I know no other way to prove how I have
prized your faith in me…. And now, with your leave, I will go away
quietly by this garden gate—"
"I have more to say to you. It isn't fair of you to go like this, when I—"
She interrupted herself, and when next she spoke he was dashed by a change
in her voice from a tone of passionate expostulation to one of amused
"Colonel Stanistreet!" she called clearly. "Do come here at once, please!"
Startled, Lanyard saw that Stanistreet had appeared in the French windows
in company with Crane. In response to Cecelia's hail both came out into the
garden, Stanistreet briskly leading, Crane lounging at his heels, champing
his cigar, his weathered features knitted against the brightness of the
"Good morning, Miss Brooke. Howdy, Lanyard—or are you Duchemin again?" he
said; but his salutations were lost in the wonder excited by the girl's
"See, Colonel Stanistreet, what we have found!" she cried, and showed him
the necklace. "I mean, what Monsieur Duchemin found. It was he who saw it,
lying beneath that rose-bush over there. Your burglar must have dropped it
in making his escape; you can see the paper he wrapped it in, all rain-wet
Stanistreet's eyes protruded alarmingly, and his face grew very red before
he found breath enough to ejaculate: "God bless my soul!" Breathing hard,
he accepted the necklace from Cecelia's hands. "I must—excuse me—I must
tell my sister-in-law about this immediately!"
He turned and trotted hastily back into the house.
Crane lingered but a moment longer. His cheek, as ever, was bulging round
his everlasting cigar. Was his tongue therein as well? Lanyard never knew;
the man's eyes remained inscrutable for all the kindly shrewdness that
glimmered amid their netted wrinkles.
"Excuse me!" he said suddenly. "I got to tell the colonel something."
He got lankily into motion and presently passed in through the windows….
Irresistibly her gaze drew Lanyard's. He lifted careworn eyes and realized
her with a great wistfulness upon him.
She awaited in silence his verdict, her chin proudly high, her face
adorably flushed, her shining eyes level and brave to his, her generous
"Must you go now?" she said tenderly, as he stood hesitant and shamed.
"Must you go now, my dear?"