Jack Barrington was cutting corners at forty miles an hour on
the Grand Corniche road, when he caught sight of that white
landaulette in front of him. There was no mistaking this particular
car, its white body picked out with black. Jack Barrington had been
haunted by it for the last month, a mystery car that always
travelled at a high speed, often with the blinds pulled down over
the windows. Once he had seen it draw up outside a costumier's at
Monte Carlo, and he had purposely loitered to see who would get
out. His curiosity had not brought him any romantic satisfaction,
for a swarthy old lady had emerged showing a very solid foot and
ankle, and a harsh, equine face, decorated with a big brown mole
over the right eyebrow.
Jack Barrington had loitered on, with a critical glance at the
exquisite lines of the white car and the luxurious refinement of
its fittings. He had caught a glimpse of a bouquet of red
carnations in a silver vase, of a whole row of bijou books bound in
red morocco, of silver-topped scent bottles and a little mirror
that hinted at legitimate and picturesque vanities. And in the
exuberance of his vitality he had refused to believe that all these
provoking details were wasted on the swarthy old lady with the
brown mole and the stodgy ankles.
He had even made enquiries, and hunted up the registered
lettering and numbering of the car. The latter had referred him to
a big motor concern in Paris. Even the gossips and the habitues
were dumb. They were not interested in the white landaulette; it
did not appear to have haunted them as it had haunted Jack
Barrington. All he had learnt was that it belonged to a
hypothetical Countess Glika.
But that night Jack Barrington gave chase. He was an
irresponsible youngster of eight-and-twenty, and being one of the
richest commoners in England he could be as irresponsible as he
pleased. There had been a splendid and rather restless virility in
all his activities. He had climbed the Rockies, hunted his way
through Central Africa, and nearly got himself shot in Persia. He
had driven a car in the Grand Prix, and his latest achievement had
been to fly to Corsica and back in a new 80 h.p. monoplane.
The white landaulette was travelling at a fast pace, but
Barrington soon began to overhaul it. The Corniche is a road of
interminable curves, winding as it does through wild and rocky
country hundreds of feet above the sea, and for several minutes
this chase of Barrington's was a game of hide and seek, the white
car whisking out of sight round some sharp corner and coming into
view again where the road straightened out for two or three hundred
The landaulette had vanished round one of these curves. It was
one of the most solitary portions of the road, without a house in
sight. Northwards, a rocky hill-side dotted with stunted pines
heaved up towards the sky; southwards, more rocks and pines fell
away precipitously towards the sea. The road was a great dusty
ribbon, winding between the cut surface of the rock on one side and
a stone parapet on the other.
Barrington came round that corner at forty miles an hour. The
next second his right hand shot out for the brake lever. He set his
teeth hard, felt the big car ripping along the road. Her tail swung
round, and missed the wall by inches before Barrington managed to
straighten her out and pull up.
For he had seen an amazing thing just ahead of him round the
corner. The trunk of a fir tree had been thrown across the road;
the white landaulette had pulled up, and two nondescript-looking
foreigners in dark coats and soft felt hats came scrambling down
the bank and were covering the driver of the white landaulette with
a couple of automatic pistols.
Barrington had no time to think. He did the thing that happened
to come naturally to him; he sounded his exhaust whistle. It was a
particularly strident, rending instrument, especially when at full
blast with the throttle wide open.
The result might have appeared ridiculous under less thrilling
circumstances, but the thing acted on the two gentlemen with
pistols like a steamer's siren on the astonished aborigines of some
lost island. They pocketed their pistols, turned and ran, and
scrambling up the hillside, disappeared into the ewigkeit.
Jack Barrington climbed out of his car just as the driver of the
white landaulette slid out from behind his steering wheel, swearing
very creditably in French. He turned and saw Barrington, and
snapped at him like an angry dog.
"The devil take these cinematograph swine, I suppose it seems
funny to you, monsieur, eh? We are all in the picture! And putting
a tree across the road round such a corner!"
Barrington stared at him, and answered him in fairly respectable
"That's an idea, certainly. But I'm not part of a cinema show;
it struck me as rather too real. You had better push that tree out
of the road in case another car comes round in a hurry. I'll keep
an eye on the landscape."
The chauffeur saw the reasonableness of the suggestion, and
directly he was busy removing the barricade, Barrington seized the
opening he had played for. The window blinds were down as usual. He
opened the near door, and stood there, hat in hand, outwardly
solicitous, but most outrageously inquisitive.
Automatic pistols seemed to be the fashion, for at the same
moment the mysterious occupant switched up the blinds and he found
himself looking into the ugly muzzle of one of those deadly little
"Pardon me, madame, I only opened the door to reassure you."
The pistol was lowered. Instead of it a pair of dark eyes
covered him, haughty, resolute eyes that showed no fear. He was
conscious of a thrill of triumphant satisfaction. This was not the
swarthy old lady with the mole over the right eyebrow. The car had
its appropriate and mysterious occupant.
"I hope you have not been frightened."
She rebuffed him with perfect sang-froid.
"I am not frightened. I am much obliged to you. Be so good as to
close the door."
But he did not close it, being provoked by the discovery that
this woman of the mysterious car more than deserved all the
curiosity he had lavished on her. She was young, and she had that
indefinable air that betrays the grand dame. Barrington knew when a
woman was perfectly dressed as a rich and distinguished woman
should be dressed. Like her car, she was a study in black and
white; he thought she looked Russian, but was not sure.
"Your man seems to think that it was part of the cinematograph
show. Would you like me to make any inquiries?"
She looked at him as though his perseverance surprised her.
"Thank you, no."
"It is lucky that I happened to be behind you. Those fellows ran
off when I sounded my whistle."
"So there were men?"
"Two, with pistols."
He fancied that her eyes darkened, and that those firm red lips
of hers trembled slightly. Moreover, he suddenly became aware of
the fact that though that pistol was lying in her lap, she had a
hand on it, and the muzzle covered his body.
"Thank you. Will you tell Adolphe, my man, that I want to speak
She smiled, and the whole expression of her face was changed.
The eyes softened; the mouth became humorous; there was an archness
in the poise of her head.
"You are English, is that not so?"
"That explains so much. You are a very wonderful and eccentric
She changed from French to English, and spoke it with the
fluency of a diplomatist.
"I am very much obliged to you. Strange things happen, even on
the Grand Corniche. Will you tell my man to drive me home?"
"Yes. And if you will pardon me—I think I ought to follow
you in my car. It will make for safety."
"Please do not trouble. Nothing more will happen,
"Barrington, John Barrington."
"I don't know, I'm sure; I hope so."
"Of course. I see you are one of those men who must try and get
killed! And now——"
"I really must insist on guarding you home."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"It is quite unnecessary."
"But I shall regard it as a great pleasure."
"Very well. You English are so obstinate."
He closed the door, and found Adolphe waiting. He had managed to
roll the tree out of the road.
"Madame wishes to go home."
"I will follow and keep an eye on the hill-side."
The two cars moved on, and other cars began to pass them, coming
from the direction of Italy. There were no more sensational
happenings. The white landaulette took a branch road that zigzagged
towards the sea. Barrington saw Cap St. Pierre spread out below
with its pines, a dark wedge thrusting out into the blue
Mediterranean. Here and there a white villa showed amid the dusky
masses of the trees.
Ten minutes later they were running between the pinewoods and
the sea. Barrington saw Adolphe's arm stretched out, waving him to
hold back. The white landaulette swung round, and passed in between
two big stone pillars. Barrington pulled up. And before he had
decided whether to follow the white car farther, an old man emerged
from a lodge, slammed the iron gates to and locked them.
Barrington hailed the old fellow.
"Hallo, monsieur, one moment."
The lodge-keeper stared at him through the bars like a sleepy
"Does the Countess Glika live here?"
The man shook his head, pointed to his ears, and promptly
returned to his lodge.
"If you are deaf, my friend, how was it you heard madame's car
and rushed out to shut the gates? You can't see along the road from
Barrington drove on a little way, but the high wall and dense
belt of pines balked his curiosity, and he could see nothing of the
villa. He turned his car and drove back to Monte Carlo, thoroughly
piqued by the adventure, and not at all inclined to remain outside
those iron gates.
He was having tea next day in the lounge of the Hotel Glorieux.
The place suited him, in spite of its name. It was cosmopolitan,
and yet jealous of its reputation; irresponsible wealth was not
suffered to roll in there as it pleased.
"I say, Pentherby—-"
A white-haired old dandy, who was sitting stiffly in the chair
next to him and reading The Times as though the paper had
grossly insulted him, turned an eyeglass on Barrington.
"Well—well, what is it?"
"I want your advice."
"What's that? Advice! Who ever asks a man of my age for
"I do. Can you tell me who is the most scandalous person within
two miles of the Casino?"
Sir John Pentherby sat up even more stiffly.
"Go and ask the police, my dear fellow."
"I have been told that you know more——"
"So I am the most scandalous party, am I?"
"Wait a minute. I want to get into touch with someone who knows
everybody round here, and everybody's business. I am doing some
social research work."
"Who's the woman?"
"I don't know."
"Well, go to another woman. The women seem to like you for some
reason or other. Try the Baroness."
"What, old Bromberg?"
"I've heard it's her business to know everything, even to make
herself au fait with the indiscretions of Crown Princes and
Grand Dukes. Try her. She won't tell you anything of any
importance, so you are quite safe."
The Baroness Bromberg was more than a woman; she was Germania
personified. She was fat, with protuberant blue eyes and a double
chin that hung down like a bag. She looked overfed and stupid, and
this air of bland stupidity had been of great use to her on
The Baroness was a furious gambler, and notoriously mean.
Barrington knew of this weakness of hers; three nights a week she
was to be seen at the public gaming tables; she preferred to be one
of the crowd, rather than pay the subscription that entitled the
gambler to haunt the private rooms.
Barrington went to the Casino after dinner; he had a permanent
ticket, and the attendants knew him well by sight. He was in search
of the Baroness, and after drawing a blank at several tables, he
discovered her sitting next a croupier, sucking a pencil and
staring at the entries in the little notebook on the table in front
of her. As usual, she was dressed in black, with a crowd of rings
on her lumpy fingers.
It was obvious that the Baroness had been losing; her flabby
face looked sullen; six five-franc pieces remained beside her,
piled in a column.
Presently Barrington caught her vague eyes. He bowed and smiled,
and for a moment she glared at him intently.
"Faites vos jeux, messieurs."
Suddenly he saw her face brighten. Her hand shot out, seized a
rake, and pushed two five-franc pieces on to number ten.
And by some freak ten turned up. The Baroness's face grew
beatific. She beamed across at Barrington.
He went and stood behind her.
"I hope it was I who brought you luck, Baroness."
Her laughter was like a sheep coughing.
"So. Is it not wonderful? I see you, I say to myself, Mr. Bon
Ton—that is what I call you. Bon Ton becomes bon ten. I stake
on ten and win. Ach! I like you."
Barrington was amused, but her good humour seemed opportune.
Moreover, he knew that she would abandon play for the night now
that she had won.
"Ach, I am so tired."
She gathered up her money with greedy fingers, pushed back her
chair and rose.
Barrington constituted himself her cavalier, persuaded her into
the restaurant, and fed her on sweet cakes and coffee. She was in
excellent temper, like an old bear with a generous harvest of
They chatted, gossiped, removed to one of the lounges, and
Barrington smoked cigarettes. He did not want to be too eager and
"Strange, I have never seen Countess Glika here."
The Bromberg gave him a blank stare.
"The Countess Glika; I believe that is her name."
"Ach, no. She makes her parties at home."
Barrington put on the air of a very frivolous and rather foolish
"I say, Baroness, I had quite a funny adventure with
her—this afternoon. You know that white car?"
He described the incident of the afternoon to her, facetiously,
as though it were an immense joke and he was in a mood to be
amusing. The Baroness listened like a placid cow. She did not
betray any great interest.
"And was it not for the cinematograph?" she asked him. "I do not
believe in brigands."
"Oh, we may hear, see something in the papers. But really,
Baroness, the Countess delighted me. I am going to follow up the
A queer glint flashed momentarily into the old lady's eyes, and
vanished just as swiftly. Her face remained expressionless; no one
could have looked more stupid.
"Ach, she is pretty, I suppose? Yes, I have seen her; she is
handsome, but too thin, and I do not think she is married. You
should never make love to unmarried women, my Barrington, it is too
Barrington laughed as though he thought her wit immense.
"But I love danger, my dear Baroness. It excites me. The thing
is—to approach the lady. You see, I know nothing about
She looked at him placidly, stupidly, with her heavy swollen
eyes. No one would have imagined that a peculiarly cunning brain
was on the alert behind that obese stolidity. She was studying
Barrington, summing him up, nor had he any idea that she had
discovered that he might be useful.
"What should I know, my friend? I believe she is from Borovia,
that she is a widow. An old dragon, Madame Maclou, lives with her.
She receives very few people, I am told."
"The more room for me, Baroness."
"Ach, so. You are a young madman; you English are all mad. Why
not fly over her villa, fall into the grounds, and pretend yourself
"An idea, Baroness, certainly. But it would be rather difficult
in such a place to arrange how much one got hurt. I might present
her with a corpse, and the affair would have no more interest for
She yawned, openly and without shame.
"I am so sleepy. You will find a way, my friend; the English are
both mad and persevering. I think I will go home."
And Barrington saw her to her cab.
A full moon had risen, and far across the bay the pine-clad cape
of St. Pierre looked like the snout of some huge crocodile lying
asleep upon the water. A motor-boat had rounded the headland of
Monaco. It passed the Casino with its thousand lights, and held on
eastwards towards St. Pierre. The motor-boat had come from
In the garden of the Villa Biron a woman was walking to and fro
between hedges of Banksia roses. Palm trees and pines were outlined
against the moon; a row of cypresses made a screen of ebony through
which the moonlight poured upon a stretch of grass. The villa
itself with its cream white walls looked like a great casket of
The Countess Glika seemed in a restless mood. She was wearing a
coat of sables, and a scarf of some gauzy stuff about her hair. The
moonlight was so strong that she could tell the time by the watch
strapped to her wrist. She glanced at it repeatedly as though she
were waiting for someone who was late.
The night was very still, and the place where she was walking
was not more than a hundred yards from the sea. There was hardly a
ripple against the rocks where the stone pines almost overhung the
She stopped and stood listening, her intent face turned towards
And suddenly a man appeared on the stretch of grass where the
moonlight fell. He had come along a path through the pine woods, a
path that led to the sea.
For a moment he stood there in the moonlight, and then, moving
to where the cypresses threw a deep shadow, he became lost in the
The Countess walked down the path until she, too, was in the
shadow of the cypresses. A dim figure was waiting there, a figure
that put its heels together and saluted.
She started, and paused as though surprised.
"Who is it?"
"Captain Prague, madame."
"Ah, Prague, of course. But I was expecting——"
He bowed apologetically.
"Madame, I bring regrets, explanations. Monsieur has been
unavoidably detained; he sends you passionate apologies. To-morrow
or the day after he will drive over from Nice; he will dine with
you. To-day it was not safe."
She gave a gesture of impatience; she was angry.
"Not safe! He is considerate. And to-day I was in danger of
Prague rocked on his heels.
"Ah—well, I have counted the cost. I am not
"But monsieur will be in anguish."
"It may be good for him, Prague. How did you come?"
"Carry back my felicitations to monsieur, and tell him that I
"I am your servant, madame."
He bowed, and vanished down the path that led to the sea.
But Anna Countess Glika returned to the house, walking slowly,
with the air of one who had received grave news. It was
she—the woman—who had faced real danger that day;
he—the man—had disappointed her, made excuses. Nor was
it the first time that he had disappointed her. In bringing him
into the world, Fate had intended him to take his place among the
great ones of the earth, but Anna had doubted his greatness;
sometimes she even doubted his courage.
She entered the house, and, passing up a flight of marble
stairs, crossed a broad gallery decorated in the style of Louis
Quinze, and unlocked the door of a room with a key that she wore
fastened to her waist by a gold curb. The turn of a switch flooded
the room with light. It was half boudoir, half library, a gem of a
room, whose colour scheme was black, white, and old rose. The
furniture was of ebony, inlaid with ivory; the walls white; the
carpet, cushions, and hangings a soft rose. There were pink and
white carnations everywhere, masses of them in black porcelain
bowls and vases.
Anna locked the door. A restlessness born of vague doubts was
still upon her. She went to the ebony bureau, opened the flap, and
pressed a spring that formed part of the ivory patterning of the
inlay. A shallow drawer shot forward. She took papers from it, a
photograph, and a packet of letters.
She sat down, glanced through the papers, read some of the
letters, and then picked up the photo and studied it. It was the
photo of a youngish man, round-headed, full-eyed, Germanic, with
upturned, aggressive moustache, and an expression of forced
arrogance. And yet, when analysed, especially by the subtle
perceptions of a woman, the face was weak, for all its pride of
caste. The mouth was sentimental and a little flabby, and those
rather staring eyes: she had seen them fogged with fear. And this
was the man who loved her, who had sought her love in turn,
passionately and with a kind of fury. This was the man upon whom
she counted to lead her country towards an ideal that to her was
sacred, inspired. She had not given herself to him, because she
desired to keep the subtle chain of her fascination strong and
unstrained. In her heart of hearts she knew that she did not love
him, but when he would pledge himself, take that irrevocable step
that should bind him to the great Slav country that she loved, then
she had determined to sacrifice herself in turn, to offer up her
womanhood on the altar of a great ideal.
Presently she sighed, and put the papers and the portrait back
into the drawer. She was in a mood that mistrusted her own fate.
She knew, too, what merciless and cunning influences were arrayed
against her, all the secret and unprincipled diplomacy of a great
state—treacherous, greedy, cruel.
Had she possessed the gift of second sight, and been able to
follow that boat westwards along the track of the moon, she would
have had a further cause for doubt and unrest. For Captain Prague's
launch did not repass the black headland of Monaco. It glided in
nearer to the glitter of the casino, and, shooting into the harbour
of Monaco, landed Prague at the western quay.
Prague told the men to wait. He went off with long strides along
the quay, deigning to bend his military bearing into a civilian's
slouch. He had turned up the collar of his overcoat, and pulled the
brim of his hat down over his eyes.
Prague made his way up the hill towards the casino, but its lure
was not for him that night. He passed the Café de Paris, walked up
through the gardens, and in five minutes found himself at his
destination, the vestibule of a big block of flats. The concierge
was sitting reading a paper.
Prague walked past him as though the man did not exist.
"Excuse me, monsieur——"
Prague turned on him brusquely.
"The Baroness is at home?"
"She returned half an hour ago."
The concierge watched him disappear up the stairs; he had seen
this gentleman before, but he did not like him any the better for
that. And one had to be careful at Monte Carlo. It was a strange
The Baroness's maid knew him as Herr Schmidt, and under that
vague pseudonym he was admitted without demur. He found the old
lady sitting by the radiator, and drinking cocoa and eating sweet
cakes, in spite of the fact that she had dined and that Barrington
had fed her a little more than an hour ago.
"I am glad to see you. Please open the door, my dear Schmidt.
Ach—so that second room serves as a guard-room; no one can
sneak in and listen while that door is open. Well, how is the
Prague sat down opposite her. He had high cheek bones, and a big
flaxen moustache, and his eyes were humorous and shrewd, and none
"He did not come—to-day. I have been there to present his
"Himmel, what has happened?"
"Monsieur was a little nervous. I had presented a secret report.
And she—the Glika—told me she had been in danger."
He laughed unpleasantly. The Baroness remained absolutely
"It must have been that fool Bulow. I shall have to get him
severely lectured. We have no need of those clumsy methods.
Besides, such an adventure might give her more sentimental
influence over the Prince. She is clever and knows how to handle
"If she would only compromise herself," he said.
The Baroness took a mouthful of cake, and washed it down with
"It might be managed, my dear friend. I had an idea to-night; an
English fool gave it me. He may prove of use, this Englishman, a
young man who is for ever trying to get himself killed. The Glika
has always been circumspect. If we can but get some mud to stick to
her, monsieur will be disillusioned."
They talked on for an hour before Prague bowed over the
Baroness's fat hand, kissed it, and made his way back to the
Jack Barrington scanned the papers next morning, but he could
find nothing about the attack made on the Countess Glika's car on
the Corniche road, but the fact did not surprise him. The police
did their best to prevent such affairs being noised abroad. The
papers refrained from publishing accounts of them. Such unpleasant
incidents did not advertise the French Riviera in a way that was
No one had ever accused Jack Barrington of lack of enterprise.
He spent the morning at the golf club up at La Turbie, and lunched
at Ré's. He had ordered his car to be outside the Hotel Glorieux at
three o'clock. At a quarter-past three he was sounding his hooter
outside the gates of the Villa Biron.
The deaf lodge-keeper came rushing out. He appeared to have
received very particular orders, for he unlocked the gates and
flung them open without waiting to examine either the man or the
car. And Barrington was throwing away no opportunities. His machine
went in with a rush, and he was out of sight round a corner of the
winding drive before the lodge-keeper began to wonder whether he
had made a mistake or not.
Barrington drew up outside the great white porte-cochère of the
Villa Biron. Masses of palms, oranges, conifers, and eucalyptus
trees sheltered the place; the mimosa was in bloom. There were
camellias in pots ranged along below the wall of the terrace.
He climbed out, and rang the bell. A manservant opened the door,
a man with a discreet, stolid face and the look of a Russian. He
eyed Barrington intently.
"Is the Countess at home?"
"I do not know, monsieur."
Barrington handed him a card.
"I have come to inquire for her good health after the affair of
The man looked at the card, looked again at Barrington, and
realised that he was English. For some reason or other the fact
seemed to reassure him.
"Will monsieur wait, here, in the lounge. I will go and
Anna was in the blue saloon, a room that overlooked the garden,
when the manservant brought her Barrington's card.
"What is it, Dmitri?"
"A gentleman, madame, English, to ask after your good
She took the card from the salver, read it, and for a moment she
hesitated. It was a mere vague impulse that decided her, one of
those seemingly wayward decisions that often prove of extraordinary
"I will see him, Dmitri."
It was said that many women had been in love with Barrington,
perhaps because he never appeared to care whether he was with women
or with men. He was always at full gallop on some adventure; danger
fascinated him; he loved a horse, or a car, or an aeroplane, the
charge of a rhino, the thrill of some ticklish situation faced and
tackled. Some women had said that he had no heart, that he was a
big schoolboy playing games. But the one particular woman had never
come his way as yet, the woman who could play a big game, and stake
her all on the chance of triumph.
Countess Glika had her back turned as Dmitri showed him into the
blue saloon. He did not realise that she was watching him in a
mirror with an interest that might have been flattering.
"Monsieur Barrington, madame."
She turned, rose, and bowed to him, looking him straight in the
"I am grateful to you for your courtesy, Mr. Barrington."
He smiled at her frankly. Dmitri had closed the door.
"To be quite honest—I have seized an opportunity. I am
always being told that I am an impudent beast. That car of yours
has been haunting me for a long time."
Somehow his smile made her eyes brighten.
"Sit down. I was not conscious of having been at all
"I should not have dared to use so crude a word. That study in
black and white kept passing me, and you know, as a rule, the
blinds were down."
"A fatal lure to a man!"
"To me, at all events. I confess that I loitered one day on the
pavement when your car stopped outside a shop. I wanted to see who
"A very admirable gentlewoman stepped out. I have no doubt that
she is charming, but——"
"It was poor old Maclou, Madame Maclou; she stays with me from
time to time."
"Madame, let me hasten to say that I speak in no mocking spirit,
but I must confess that I was disappointed. Your dear friend was an
anti-climax; she did not live up to my idea of mystery. I was
convinced that I had not seen the real woman who owned the
"Indeed! You must have a great deal of time to waste."
"I must dare to disagree with you. Yesterday I had my
opportunity. I took it."
A sudden suspicion suggested itself to her.
"What—you had planned that affair? Hired those
"Good heavens, no. I confess to having chased your car, and I
confess to having opened the door in order to discover who was
inside, Madame Maclou—or——" He paused, half
"You must think me an impudent ass, but when I get into an
adventure I must go along with it."
She smiled rallyingly.
"You must have had many adventures."
"A few—with machines and wild men, and beasts and
"Things! Does that not include the most dangerous thing of
His eyes questioned her quite ingenuously.
His sudden seriousness amused her, but made her like him the
"I don't know. I don't think so. Somehow, I always seem to have
been too busy. I have come across good comrades——"
Then he seemed to realise the suggestiveness of all that he had
"Please turn me out if you think me impudent. Really—I am
not a conceited fool; I did not come here to try and see you just
to call it a joke. I am not that sort of beast. It is
queer—but I had to come."
She, too, had grown serious. She knew something of men, but she
had never met one quite like him. And she believed every word he
"I have not suspected you of that kind of impertinence. All this
is very unusual—but I, for one, have led an unusual life. I
do not feel it my duty to call Madame Maclou."
His keen face brightened somewhat at that.
"Thank you. I expect you are much cleverer than I am. I have
always been busy doing things."
"I have heard of some of them."
But he was very English in that he diverged at once from any
discussion of his own adventures. He attacked again in his frank,
easy way, and she was not affected by the knowledge that she was
being attacked. He had a kind of steel-bright courage that appealed
to her; he reminded her of one or two notable English sailors whom
she had met. A woman—as a woman—had nothing to fear
from such a man.
"You never come out among our people."
"At least I have never met you."
"No, I dare say not."
He was not the fool to hint that he would like to be told her
reason. She had been extravagantly magnanimous already. That was
He smiled and rose.
"You have been very merciful to me, you know. I wish you knew
some of my friends, Lady Bland and Grace Fortescue and their set.
They are the very best that we can show."
"I might know them if——"
"You mean you would?"
"I say, that's splendid."
She laughed at his freshness, she who had seen so much of the
sad and problematic side of the great world.
"You might suggest it."
"By George! I will."
An extraordinary melancholy descended on her when Jack
Barrington had gone. It was as though he had taken the freshness of
life away with him, and the blue saloon felt oppressive and exotic.
She had to rally herself and to drive herself out into the garden
where the cypresses were being bent by a crisp north wind; the sea
was an intense blue and ridged with foam.
It was absurd, this sudden plunge into depression. What did it
mean, what did it suggest? That she was growing old and a little
cynical, yet sensitive enough to be saddened by the strenuous
enthusiasm of youth. Good heavens! why should this rather
extraordinary interview with an absolute stranger have affected her
thus? Had he over-stimulated her vitality, and was this the
reaction? She had to confess that he had come like this north wind,
whipping a deeper blue into the sea, filling the world with a sense
of swift movement and of adventure.
She remembered that monsieur would be with her in less than an
hour. The thought left her cold, even repelled her. And she would
have to be charming to him, to play up to his greatness, to remind
herself that this thick-set man with the dull blue eyes and the
weak mouth might be a maker of history. The mere glamour of his
birth and power had fallen from him. She knew him, studied him as a
Jack Barrington and the Prince passed each other on the road,
Barrington at the wheel of his own car, royalty muffled up in furs
and looking at life with sulky eyes. The inevitable Prague
accompanied his master, spruce, well-fleshed, cunning. He was a
traitor to this royal romance, while pretending to be the
Monsieur was in the sulks. He made no attempt to conceal the
fact, and it is easy, when one is a person of singular importance,
to vent one's temper impartially upon friends and subordinates.
"Well, here I am."
They were alone together in the blue saloon, and her first
glance at him had warned her that he was in one of his sullen
moods. How often had she to combat them, to put out all her
brilliance and charm him into laughter! It was a dead, boorish
weight, this temper of his, and he had never helped her to lift it;
and to-day she felt an inclination to rebel, to refuse the labour
of persuading a royal boor to behave as his own gentlemen were
expected to behave.
"I expected you yesterday."
"I could not come."
For once she gave him no help, and, like a spoilt child, he felt
the lack of it. He had traded on her desire to please him, to win
him over to her visualising of the future.
"You expect me to explain, make excuses?"
She smiled, and her smile was a provocation.
"No; I should not presume. But I was in danger yesterday."
He started up and began to stamp about the room, setting his
heels down heavily, a trick of his when he was angry.
"Thunder! you women are insatiable. You must have everything,
you must not be thwarted! And I run no danger, eh, dangling after
you, I, one of the best watched men in Europe? Was there ever a
woman who was reasonable?"
She said nothing, and her silence was a prick of the goad to a
bull. His short, thick neck reddened, his eyes began to glare.
"And what do I gain by it, mein Gott? It is like sitting at a
table with flowers and silver and the plates ready, but no food and
no wine. I am not going on living on airs and graces and the cut of
a gown and just a glimpse of your white skin. You have got to give
me more than that, Anna. Do you hear me? You have got to give me
more than that."
He came and stood in front of her, and she looked at him
"And what do you promise in return?"
"Promise! You women are all bargains, you cannot love. And you
do not consider what I am risking for your sake, and you ask me to
smell the scent on your handkerchief, admire your dress and the
curve of your foot. I'm a man, Anna; I want realities before I
He threw himself on his knees and tried to seize her, but she
was on the alert, and, slipping aside, rose and left him with open
arms before an empty chair. He looked rather ridiculous, but a
prince is not taught to suspect that his dignity can suffer.
"Let us go out and walk on the terrace. I have given to you what
I have given to no other man—a promise. But I have a right to
name my terms. Why should I give you the most precious thing a
woman possesses, just as I would give you a glass of wine? How
often have we spoken of this? You know that I shall keep my
He got up, and some of the anger had died out of him. He was a
weakling, even in his physical passions, ever ready to pity
himself, to demand sympathy, and to accuse her of withholding
"You have a heart of stone. You tantalise me with your prudery.
As though I have not made sacrifices for your sake!"
She passed out by the French window on to the terrace.
"Believe me, Friedrich, I am not ungrateful."
"Then show your gratitude."
She turned and looked at him.
"We first met, I believe, in Bucharest. You remember it?"
"And I was not an obscure girl there, sire."
"Men admired me. I know what they said of me."
She had thrown a characteristic audacity into her attitude
towards him; she had often succeeded in playing upon his
"What did they say of me, Friedrich?"
"Thunder! That you were the most fascinating woman in
She looked at him proudly.
"Well, for your sake I renounced all that triumphant life. I had
given myself to no man. And you—well, my friend, your
romances have been legion. For your sake I have been living the
life of a nun, nor have I ever taken your money. That is rare in a
woman, is it not?"
His eyes scanned her longingly.
"Yes, yes, you are wonderful, Anna; almost too wonderful. I wish
that you were more human."
"Like some of the fools whom you played with for a month, and
tired of when they had given you everything! You must not count me
among them, my friend. I demand more from you—I demand the
utmost. I am a new sort of woman to you, Friedrich; you have not
met my like before. I stand at your level, even above you. I do not
stoop, I do not surrender. I treat as one proud nation treats with
The sentimental side of him was touched.
"You are incomparable! And what have I not dared for your sake,
"I ask you to dare still more."
"Yes, yes; you are a meteor; sometimes you terrify me."
She managed to charm the sulks out of him, but all his
boorishness returned when he found that Madame Maclou and Prague
were to dine with them. He waved Prague out of the room, and most
royally and pettishly refused to sit down while old Maclou
"Very well, my friend, we will dine, and you shall watch
She was as good as her word, and his high and mightiness fumed
for a while, shocked and astonished. He withstood the soup, but the
next course conquered him. He joined them; the dinner was
exquisite, and he had all the greed of the Teuton. Warmed by
champagne, he began to feel himself a rather fine and magnanimous
fellow. He told droll stories rather feebly; and Prague indulged in
Anna gave him a few minutes alone before he drove off.
"Have I not overwhelmed you? Did I not take it well?"
"You were hungry," she answered bluntly.
He fired up.
"And I sat down with that brown-faced gorilla of a
"My Prince, do you never consider that I am a woman, that I may
value my reputation?"
He stared. He was just a little vinous.
"Most of them have been proud—in a hurry."
And knowing herself as she did, she sat and wondered after he
had gone whether she could face the ultimate sacrifice that might
be required of her.
John Barrington had driven back to the Hotel Glorieux in a
strangely serious mood. He had succeeded beyond his hopes, but the
affair had suddenly refused to be bounded by the mere spirit of
adventure. An irresponsible curiosity had come back chastened and
silenced. He was more than a little ashamed of it, and he found
that he had said things that he had never thought of saying when he
had started out for the Villa Biron. He had never met such a woman
before. In an hour she had become the mysterious and central figure
round which all the varied and cosmopolitan life of the place
revolved. Perhaps it dawned on him that he had fallen in love with
her, that he had been half in love with the imagined woman hidden
in that elusive white landaulette. He had been hunting a shadow.
The shadow had materialised, and he was a little in awe of his own
But one thing he never suspected: that this visit of his to the
Villa Biron would be of any interest to such a person as the
Baroness Bromberg. Yet a rather shabby gentleman in an ulster and a
battered hat left a note at the Baroness's flat. It was written in
cipher, and the Baroness smiled when she read what the shabby man
"Monsieur Barrington was at the Villa Biron this
afternoon. He stayed there nearly an hour."
Barrington was popular; he had a genius for getting other people
to do things for him, perhaps because he knew how to ask. He did
not demand too much; he was not aggressive; and he had an air that
suggested a delightful and flattering belief in the altruism of his
"My dear Lady Bland, fate and coincidence have introduced me to
the Countess Glika. She's charming, but I believe she's awfully
lonely. If you'll call on her I'll drive you over."
The Countess Glika was a mystery, rather a problematical person.
Perhaps that was why all these good ladies consented to call on
her. They went to explore the personality of this mysterious Eve,
and being women of the world, they came back fascinated, and yet a
As Grace Fortescue put it: "Jack Barrington always plunges for
big risks. She's no ordinary woman. I'm rather worried."
The mistral was blowing one morning when Barrington drove over
to the Villa Biron. The pine woods were making a great clamour, and
on the hills the olives looked sad and grey, but the sea was an
intense and strenuous blue, with foam flecking it and flashing in
Dmitri smiled at Barrington. He was very wise was Dmitri; he
trusted the Englishman, but he did not trust Captain Prague.
"Madame is in the woods, monsieur, out of the wind."
He took Barrington through the house and garden, and showed him
"Go straight forward, monsieur." And again he smiled.
The tops of the pines were swaying overhead, but below in the
shelter of their dark boles it was peaceful and very still. Masses
of white heather were in bloom. The green boughs made a fretwork
through which one saw the blue of the sky.
The path opened suddenly and surprisingly into a kind of glade
in the thick of the pine woods. It was like a great green bowl, two
hundred yards long and a hundred yards wide, fenced in by the
trees. Purple Apennine anemones bloomed in the grass. The sky was a
blue awning stretched from the tops of the pines.
Barrington caught sight of a long cane chair and a white
sunshade. She was lying there in the sun, a book on her lap, her
He paused with the sunlight in his eyes, and perhaps he drew his
breath more deeply. Then he went forward, came close to her, but
she did not stir.
"Are you asleep?"
She opened her eyes with a start and sat up, the red cushion
that had been under her head falling to the ground.
"You? How did you come here?"
"Dmitri sent me. I'm sorry. I've driven your dreams away. But
Dmitri is a good fellow."
He picked up her cushion, and put it back in its place.
"May I stay a little while?"
"You have discovered the secret of my labyrinth."
"But I see no minotaur here. I should never have guessed there
was a piece of grassland in the middle of these woods. I have
brought a letter from Lady Bland."
He sat down on the grass beside her, and handed her a
"There is to be a bal masqué at the Moscow. We want you
to join our party."
She flushed slightly, and opened the letter.
"But that—that is impossible."
She lay back, and tilted her sunshade so that he could not see
"It is impossible. You must not ask me to explain."
"What right have I to ask you to explain! And yet, no one would
She still screened herself behind the sunshade.
"I have not danced for nearly a year. And dancing is in my
"Oh, you do not know! You must think me a strange, mysterious
creature. I have been taught to trust no one, to look on everybody
as a spy."
"You can trust me."
"Are you not here—in my labyrinth!"
He was frowning; he wanted her to move that sunshade, to give
him a glimpse not only of her face, but of her inner life—the
life that baffled him.
"You need tell me nothing, Anna."
It was the first time that he had used that name, and yet she
could not accuse him of presumption.
"Nothing! Then you assume me to be a mystery?"
She tilted the sunshade aside, and allowed him to see her
"True; I am a mystery. Are you content to look on me as a
"I am content to do what pleases you."
"And still believe in me?"
He flushed, and his blue eyes were the eyes of a fighter.
"Of course. You might turn the world upside down, and I should
believe you had some reason for it."
She regarded him fixedly.
"I believe you would. You are unusual. You are like Dmitri; you
do not ask selfish questions and insist on having them answered.
You are content to allow that other people may have to keep
silence, that they can act honourably, without being talkative
about it. Well, I will come to the ball."
He betrayed himself in the look he gave her.
"How will you be dressed? I must know."
She smiled at his ingenuous directness.
"I will come as Flame. And you?"
The corner of his mouth twitched humorously.
"As Ice? No, I think not. I will come as Icarus. Am I Greek
enough for that?"
"You dare to fly near the sun," she said half sadly.
He was staring reflectively across the glade, with its smooth
turf and its encircling wall of trees.
"I say, what a place for a landing. They are pretty rare along
"You mean—for an aeroplane?"
"But you could not land here. Surely there is not room."
He was measuring the ground with his eyes.
"Oh, yes—just enough. Of course, it would be a little
ticklish, but a high-powered machine would get out again all right.
My Vampire would do it. You see, one would have to get off
the ground quickly in order to clear the tree-tops."
She watched his face, and its keenness and its virility
delighted her. He was the man of action talking of what he
"It would be too dangerous."
He turned with a smile.
"Now you are challenging me."
"No, no; I forbid you."
"Let me see, there is Dmitri and your chauffeur, and I believe
you keep two gardeners. Just enough. Have you ever been up?"
"Never. But I absolutely forbid you to try and land here."
"But I might be here at five in the morning, before you were up.
Don't forbid me; it's dangerous."
She laughed at his audacity; it was a trait in him that tempted
her to be reckless.
"Very well. But I have promised to come to the bal
He scrambled up and bowed to her.
"It's a concession—an immense concession. I'm grateful.
Now I must really be going. I have to lunch at Nice."
"Good-bye, Icarus. Be warned by me."
He smiled down at her.
"Sometimes one gets killed by being too cautious."
This glade in the pine wood might be sheltered from the wind,
but it was no secure refuge from Mother Bromberg's German spies. A
fat man, ridiculous and yet effective, had advanced on his paunch,
with a kind of swimming motion, through a mass of heather, and he
had lain there all the while, within hearing of what these two had
said. It seemed an absurd attitude for a mature member of a great
nation, but Germany has always been ready to crawl anywhere on its
belly, and to shiver in its shirt listening at keyholes, thorough
even in the slime of its secret service.
And the Bromberg heard all about that meeting in the pine wood,
the masked ball that was to be held at the Hotel Moscow, and the
costumes of the two persons concerned. She was exultant, and bit
her finger-nails more assiduously than usual. Prague was wired for.
He came, and there was a great pow-wow.
The Baroness gave him excellent advice.
"Never forget, my friend, that we are a sentimental nation. That
wretched Nietzsche never understood us; he thought us beasts. This
affair must be handled sentimentally. You must look very sorrowful,
my Schmidt, and—and very troubled."
"He will ask me if I have overeaten myself."
"Ach! but for that you have a different expression. This must be
Bavarian—soulful, moonlight and swan boats. He will ask you
what is the matter; you will pretend to be surprised, you will
appear embarrassed. You will confess unwillingly that you have
discovered something that concerns his heart and his honour."
"I will see that he has had champagne and music," he said, "then
he will be in a mood to behave like one of Schiller's fools."
Prague went back to Nice, and in two days he had fallen into
such a state of extreme melancholy that it forced itself upon
monsieur's attention. It was the pander's abominable dullness that
surprised and annoyed him. Prague did not laugh at his jokes, or
tell those indecent and scandalous little tales of his. Monsieur
thought he had indigestion.
"Go and see a doctor, Prague. You eat too much."
Prague looked grieved, denied that he was ill in body, and
hinted at soul sickness, spiritual qualms. He contrived to pique
the Prince's curiosity, and in a little while Prague disburdened
himself of his doubts and sorrows.
Monsieur was not wholly unimpressed by Prague's sympathy, but
the news threw him into a jealous rage.
"I shall go to this ball, Prague."
"It is private, sire."
"Himmel! I go anywhere—and everywhere."
"They will ask you for your ticket, sire, at the door, and will
not let you enter. But I can provide you with a ticket."
That bal masqué at the Moscow was a very pretty affair.
Barrington arrived early, shed a heavy coat, and stepped forth from
the cloak-room as Icarus, winged with golden pinions, in a tunic of
purple, his black mask fastened by a golden fillet. And the part
suited him; he had a lean and youthful symmetry that could show
itself gracefully naked to the knee and shoulder. He walked like an
athlete, and he was not self-conscious.
He stood chatting to Grace Fortescue, who had come as Britannia,
but though his tongue was busy his eyes and thoughts were
elsewhere. The band had struck up, and was playing a wild, vibrant
waltz. The masked figures began a swirling movement, but Barrington
stood still and waited.
Then she came, a tall figure in a close-fitting dress the colour
of flame. It was a mere sheath, sensuous, superbly modelled. On her
forehead burnt a tongue of fire. She carried a mimic torch in her
Barrington made his way round the room.
"Greetings. Icarus salutes you."
Her eyes smiled at him through the openings in her black
"You know me—you are sure?"
"Your voice would be sufficient. Don't let us miss this waltz;
it is gorgeous. May I take you?"
"I must leave these wings behind, or they will be
scorched—so near to the sun."
He unbuckled them from his arms, and left them on a settee.
"Now—I know you can dance like fire."
"How do you know that?"
"One has only to see you move to guess it."
That dance was a great emotional experience for both of them.
Their whole attitude towards each other seemed to change, to grow
more intimate and subtly comprehensive. They moved together without
effort, with the instinctive sympathy of two people who had danced
many times together, not perfunctorily, but as lovers. They hardly
spoke, but when the music ceased they felt the exultation of a
"I knew you would set fire to me."
"Go and find some cold Englishwoman to quench it."
"Perhaps I do not wish it quenched."
They danced a second waltz together, and then she ordered him to
leave her; she was a little breathless, glowing under her
"We are too conspicuous; return presently. Yes, and you may
bring me some English partners."
Barrington was passing through into the card-room in search of
one or two reliable acquaintances, when a man dressed as a Death's
Head Hussar shouldered him rudely. It was done so clumsily, and
with such aggressiveness, that it almost escaped appearing as an
He stared hard at the man, and saw a pair of sullen eyes behind
the fellow's mask.
"Did you do that on purpose?"
"It is possible."
"Then you are a silly ass, whoever you are. Such things aren't
done at a private dance. Good night!"
He walked on, picked out an English soldier, and carried him off
to introduce him to Countess Glika. He himself was due to dance
with Grace Fortescue. As they glided round he saw the hussar
"I say, do you know who that fellow is?"
"That robust-looking person? No. I don't think I can even
"He shouldered me just now, as though I were his mortal
"Perhaps you are. You may have trodden on his
"Well, I hope I did. The fellow has the look of a Teuton."
Presently he found himself again with Countess Glika. They sat
in an alcove behind some palms, while a few enthusiasts "tangoed"
with infinite seriousness.
"You have not told me how you like my dress."
"I like it too much to say how much."
"What a dear, dull partner you found me."
"But then you said you did not want to be conspicuous. No woman
could be conspicuous with Major Browne. They used to call him
"You funny English! If one is dull, one is good. I feel wicked,
"Well, you look splendid."
He glanced up suddenly, and saw the Death's Head Hussar staring
at them insolently as he passed across the opening of the
"I should like to kick that German," was Barrington's
For a while he had other partners to serve, and the Countess
Glika chose to believe that she was tired. He left her half hidden
behind the palms, watching the dancers, a symbolical figure with
that flame upon her forehead.
A mood of sadness seized her. It was as though some joyous
playfellow had taken her by the hand and drawn her out into the
sunlight, and in looking back she discovered how sinister and
problematical that other life of hers had been. And yet she could
not escape from it without sacrificing a passionate and patriotic
dream. She was a vowess; she had pledged herself; it was her fate
to go forward through this land of intricate and treacherous
hatreds and ambitions.
"So you enjoy yourself!"
She started and then sat rigid, staring up at a man whom she
found standing beside her. It was the Death's Head Hussar, and in
spite of his mask she knew him by his voice.
"You did not expect me! No. And yet it was only last week you
declared that you were living the life of a nun."
"Well, it was true."
His eyes gleamed dully. There was greed in them, anger, the
unrestrained passion of a man who had always satisfied his desires.
He stretched out a hand and touched her shoulder.
"This is the dress of a nun, eh? Fire—and the flesh!"
She swept his hand aside with a gesture of proud distaste. She
was cold as snow now, watchful, on her guard.
"You think I should not be here? And why?"
"If I had been warned I should have had no cause to reprimand
"Reprimand! Be careful what words you use to me. My pride can
outmatch yours, sire. And have you forgotten that I am a woman and
young? And do you straightway rush into dishonourable suspicions
because I choose to laugh and enjoy myself for one night?"
He sat down beside her, and she noticed the whiteness of the
knuckles of the hand that rested on his knee; it was clenched in a
fury. For a moment he did not speak. He was trying to steady
"You do not know what my pride is, Anna. To see you dancing with
that bare-legged, bare-armed English fool!"
"I am a man, and more than a man. I permit no subject, no
stranger, to come within my circle, to touch the hand that I have
"Ah, the superman! Are you so great an egoist?"
"My blood is not the blood of these bourgeois English, that
nation of brewers and shopkeepers."
She held her head high, looking straight in front of her.
"So you do not trust me? Very good. Let us say no more. I am not
a woman who can deign to accept mistrust."
"Insolence is no answer," he retorted.
He found her smiling at him, and her smile was not comforting to
"I hold a court of my own, sire. And I dismiss
you—to-night; the audience is ended. Come to me in a less
tyrannical spirit, and I will listen to you to-morrow. But do not
dare to be jealous and to assault me with your jealousy. I will bid
you good night."
She rose and walked away, leaving him behind the palms. And he
did not follow her; he was a little dazed, astonished. No woman had
ever dared to treat him as this woman treated him, and he could not
In the ballroom she met Barrington coming to take her to
"Will you have my car sent round?"
"But you are not going! We have just arranged a table for
"I have decided to go. Come down with me, Jack; I want to say
He was surprised, troubled, but wholly at her service.
"I'll have the car sent round at once."
He asked for no reasons, and she appreciated his delicacy. The
lounge at the foot of the staircase was nearly deserted.
"Get my cloak for me; here is the number. I will wait here."
He called a porter, and sent him for the Countess Glika's car;
and then went off to the cloakroom, wondering why she was leaving
so abruptly. When he returned to the lounge with a cloak of sable
over his arm, he found her sitting in a chair that was screened
from the staircase by a curtain.
"I'm terribly disappointed——"
She held up her hand.
"You had better know why I am going. Someone whom I know
discovered me here, and made it impossible for me to stay. No,
don't be angry. It has been splendid; that first dance of ours was
a rhapsody. But—you may have suspected that I am a
politician, a schemer, and here—I was being insulted by the
suspicions of someone whom I have to regard as a friend."
"Insulted? You have been insulted here? But there is no
"There is an unbidden, or rather, an unknown guest present. But
I ask you to say nothing, do nothing. I trust you."
He stood looking down at her with sudden deep concern.
"I will do just what you ask me to do. But,
She held up a hand.
"Be silent—be silent. The man is coming to say my car is
at the door. I must go."
He helped her with her cloak, gave her his arm, and saw her into
She smiled as she gave him her hand.
"You have been so good tempered. Good night!"
The white landaulette drove off, and he returned to the
ballroom, puzzling himself by wondering who the unknown was who had
been responsible for her leaving so abruptly. Was it a man or a
woman? And that vague hint of hers as to some political
Mystery still surrounded her, and mystery did not displease him.
He was piqued, challenged by it. She seemed made for mystery and
for adventure. Flame! He knew now that his blood had taken
But Barrington was a sportsman and a cavalier. He laughed and
talked through supper, was gallant to women to whom a little
generous gallantry meant much, and danced to the end. He had
forgotten all about the Death's Head Hussar, till he discovered
that the gentleman had disappeared after causing some
"Who was he?"
"He never danced, and he never spoke to anyone."
"Oh, but he did. I saw him talking to the Woman in that
Barrington caught the remark, and found it infinitely
suggestive. So it was that German beast who had insulted her; and
there had been some reason for the fellow's shouldering him in that
Captain Prague had been in attendance on monsieur, and had spent
a couple of hours at a famous restaurant, enjoying the most
elaborate supper that could be obtained in Monte Carlo. Monsieur's
car had been ordered to be in waiting at midnight outside the
Moscow, and Prague, sleepy and surfeited, dozed inside it under a
bearskin rug. He was roused by the door being opened suddenly, and
by somebody treading heavily on his foot.
"Wake up, you fool!"
Prague woke up very thoroughly then.
"A thousand pardons, sire. I was tired, and had dropped off for
a few seconds."
The Prince pulled the rug over his knees, and the chauffeur
closed the door. In a few seconds they were moving away towards
The Prince was very silent. Once he smote the floor of the car
with his heel. Prague was very much awake now, and bristling with
"May I hope, sire, that your evening proved enjoyable?"
The Prince tore off his mask and threw it out of the window.
"Enjoyable, Prague—most enjoyable. My God! you were right.
Never have I been spoken to as I was spoken to to-night."
"Was the Countess present, sire?"
"Prague, you will carry a letter to the Villa Biron to-morrow
morning. I will give her a chance to apologise to me—to
explain. She never expected to see me there to-night."
He laughed viciously.
"A cigar. I left my case at home."
Prague produced his, and monsieur smoked all the way to Nice;
and Prague, who knew his moods, did not disturb him.
Now the Countess Glika took her coffee and rolls in bed next
morning. She had slept but little, and had opened her eyes with a
feeling of lassitude and of dreaminess, but it was not an
unpleasant feeling. Something had happened—something of very
peculiar significance, and she wanted to lie still and think. And
through all the texture of her thoughts ran like a red thread the
vibrant emotion of the waltz that she had danced with the
Englishman. Nothing else seemed of great account. Her quarrel with
monsieur made her smile, and yet it had been serious; she realised
that; but the conviction lacked edge—it did not cut deep into
Her maid had just finished dressing her hair when Dmitri knocked
at the door.
"Captain Prague, Madame. He has brought a letter."
"Bring it to me, Susette. Tell Captain Prague, Dmitri, that I
will see him presently."
"He has gone, Madame. He did not wait."
She dismissed Susette, and, sitting before her dressing-table,
opened and read the letter:
"ANNA,—You will see me this afternoon. I shall
leave my car outside the sea-gate, and walk through the pine
"You may wish to say certain things to me. I am sufficiently
magnanimous to give you that
So His Highness was still high in the saddle. He would deign to
come and grant her the chance of abasing herself, of throwing
herself metaphorically at his Teutonic feet! She smiled. It was
plain that he had not learnt his lesson. He wanted her to behave as
other women had behaved. He had not realised that she was not as
other women—that her empire was not to be a thing of the
flesh, a mere incident that he could forget when it might no longer
be pleasant for him to remember it.
And sitting there looking into her mirror she seemed to see
beyond herself, beyond that pale face of hers, with its
soul-troubling eyes. It was a moment of illumination. So many men
had made love to her that she had grown a little jaded, inclined to
look on love as a lure and a bauble. This morning she looked deeper
into the glass of her fate, saw something that shocked
her—something that made her pause.
Even if she surrendered herself in the end, could she count on
this man's loyalty? He might repudiate her, repudiate her pledges,
bribe right and left, even set others moving who would know how to
create silence. Her eyes dilated. For these were no vain
imaginings, no panic thoughts. Pistol and knife and poison lay
beneath the soft folds of all this Germanic diplomacy. They had
tried to frighten her, but she had refused to be frightened. They
had not touched her yet, because monsieur had stood between.
She faced the afternoon calmly, determined to keep her pride in
the air, and to make him respect it. She would judge him by the way
he behaved to her after this quarrel. It should be the crisis, the
knife edge on which she would balance the future.
She waited for him in the great clearing in the middle of the
pine wood, lying on a chaise longue, a book in her lap, a
vacant chair beside her. Overhead the sky was a flawless shield of
blue. The day was very still; the tops of the trees absolutely
She heard a car coming down the road towards Cap St. Pierre. It
stopped, and she guessed that it was his car. Suspense had gripped
her. She wanted him to come, to speak, to show his true self. Then
she could judge, decide, hold him in vassalage, or let him go.
Then he appeared where the path opened from the wood, and it
struck her that he was too short and squat. She had seen him on
horseback reviewing troops; he could ride, but he could not walk,
and to-day his dignity was very martial and needed a horse.
She did not move, but just smiled at him and pointed to the
"So we are to have a friendly talk. What could be better?"
He bowed, with rigid hauteur.
"As usual, you are very informal."
"Am I to get up and stand like a schoolgirl, and say: 'Yes, sir;
no, sir'? Come, this is my villa. You are just Monsieur Friedrich,
and I am Madame Anna."
His eyes were sullen. The aggressive tusks of his moustache
annoyed her; they had no right to be so aggressive when the mouth
under them was so weak.
"You know why I have come?"
"To give me an opportunity to throw myself at your feet!"
"You are frivolous; you have no sense of dignity."
"Oh, sire, but I have a sense of humour!"
She lay back and laughed, and even as she lay looking at the
tops of the trees a queer, droning sound seemed to come from over
the sea. For the moment she attached no significance to the sound;
it is possible that she did not notice it.
Monsieur was sitting very stiff and square in his chair.
"May I suggest, madame, that I did not come here to be laughed
"Well, shall I frown at you? It seems to me that you desire to
be too exacting—too tyrannical."
"I demand, madame, what is due to me, what is due to my position
and honour. I do not choose to share you with English brewers and
That whirring noise overhead grew so insistent that it could not
be ignored. Countess Glika noticed a great shadow sweeping across
the grassy space, like the shadow of a huge bird. She looked
skywards, and her face was the face of one suddenly confronted with
some desperate dilemma.
Monsieur stared upwards in a bored way. The thing was black
against the sun, but it came sweeping round till its wings
glistened in the blue sky. They could see the little dark figure of
the pilot leaning forward slightly, as though he were scanning the
country under him.
Anna held her breath. She had realised that Jack Barrington had
come to prove to her that he could bring his machine to earth on
that grassy arena in the thick of the pine wood.
But what a predicament!
She frowned and glanced at monsieur. He was watching the machine
with the evident arrogance of a royal egoist, who attached a
personal meaning to all the phenomena that life could offer.
"What does the fellow want to fly about over here for? Some
The aeroplane circled overhead. Then the whir of the motor
"The devil—but he is going to descend! He will get smashed
on the trees."
He started up excitedly.
She threw book and sunshade aside and stood up with a queer
feeling of panic. She was trembling, almost unnerved.
The aeroplane was descending in a great spiral, gliding lower
and lower along an aerial curve. The last loop of the spiral looked
as though it must bring the machine crashing into the tops of the
trees. But no such thing happened. It cleared them and ended its
volplane with a beautiful little glide to the ground, and, running
along the grass, came to a standstill about twenty yards from the
fir boles at the farther end of the clearing.
The Countess Glika's eyes were smiling. In half a minute she had
passed through a supreme experience, touched the realities of life,
discovered what mattered and what did not matter. In that
half-minute of suspense monsieur had ceased to be of infinite
importance. She refused to be posed by a dilemma. Chance had taken
the decision out of her hands.
She roused herself and found his eyes fixed meaningly upon her
"Have I surprised you a second time?"
"It seems that my friend the Englishman has surprised us to-day.
Do not vex yourself, Friedrich. If your temper cannot behave
itself, why—go. It is very simple."
He almost shouted at her.
"Remember to whom you are speaking! No; I shall stay here. I
shall know how to treat this fellow."
She gave him one look and then moved forward across the grass to
meet Barrington, who had climbed out of his pilot's seat and was
walking towards her. His blue eyes looked keen and adventurous. He
smiled at her and saluted.
"My helmet will not take itself off. I hope Icarus has not got
himself into disgrace? I told you I could do it."
"Oh, vainglorious man!"
For the first time Barrington noticed that she was not alone.
The Prince was standing in the shadow of the trees, and Barrington
had been absorbed in making that adventurous landing.
"I say, I hope I'm not in the way. I can clear out and come back
for the machine presently."
She was watching his face, and she saw that it did not betray an
egoist's impatience. His eyes remained clear and unclouded. He
meant what he said.
"It is a friend of mine; he has driven over from Nice to see me.
Strange that both of you should have come from Nice. Come and be
Her sense of humour carried her away. She was delightfully
curious to see how monsieur would bear himself as man to man. And
in her heart she was being tempted to draw comparisons.
"One word—he is just a little eccentric. Don't be
surprised if he behaves rather queerly. He has held a very
responsible post for years, and is just a little inflated."
"Can you speak German?"
"Then let it be French."
She introduced the two men, referring to monsieur as Herr
Weissmann. Barrington held out a hand, but the Prince stood stock
still, his arms pressed stiffly against his sides, his head
unbending. He stared at the Englishman. It was about as insolent an
attitude as any man could have adopted.
Barrington's hand had to make a dignified retreat. He frowned
slightly and then smiled.
Anna looked meaningly at monsieur. She returned to her chaise
longue, and it was Barrington who picked up her sunshade and
Then an absurd thing happened. Both men caught hold of the
solitary chair at exactly the same moment. Both refused to let
"I have the right to sit, sir, while others stand."
Barrington's eyes beamed on him.
"I was about to offer you the chair, Herr Weissmann. Allow me to
place it for you."
He gave a twist of the wrist and the chair was his. He placed it
within a yard of the Countess and bowed to monsieur.
"It is yours, sir."
He threw himself on the grass on the other side of Anna's
chaise longue, but the Prince remained standing. He had been
worsted in the matter of manners. Dignity and a sulky temper
refused to let him sit down.
Countess Glika held the centre of the balance between these two
men. She had seen everything, appreciated everything. Barrington
looked amused; monsieur had a face of thunder—thunder that
lacked the lightning.
"So you flew from Nice. It is a perfect day—no wind."
"Perfect. I came along the coast, and the sea was quite still. I
could see all the rocks patterned out under the water. It is a
grand machine, that Vampire."
"Is it the one that took you to Corsica and back?"
She turned her head and had a side glance of a stiff and sulky
figure standing with inflated chest and moustache bristling.
"Do you not wish that you could fly, Herr Weissmann?"
He appeared to swallow something.
"I do not do such things, madame. I pay men to do them for
Barrington glanced up at monsieur behind the Countess's
sunshade, and then the truth dawned on him. This was the Death's
Head Hussar, the man who had shouldered him in the doorway and
spoilt the evening for Madame Flamme.
Barrington had been taught to think and act quickly. He had had
to face round and meet a charging rhino, and keep his head and
straighten out an aeroplane after it had flopped into an air
pocket. He realised that he had dropped into a delicate situation,
that he did not know how the wind blew, that he was flying in a
fog. The humorous aspect of the affair vanished. He became
conscious of a complex and mysterious atmosphere, a feeling of
tension that held him on the alert.
He began to talk easily and with the frankness of a man who had
fine manners. If he had been the cause of embarrassment, it was up
to him to lift the dead weight off Anna's shoulders.
"I dare say you drive a car, sir? Well, it's the same thing,
only a little more delicate, and you can't stop and sit still and
admire the view. If you are staying at Nice I should be glad to
take you up some day."
Monsieur was silent a moment.
"I have been forbidden to fly," he said.
"Oh, your doctor? Then you are quite right."
"No, sir; my life happens to be too precious."
"If one looks at it in that way, of course one stays on the
ground. I happen to be an idiot with plenty of money and no wife; I
can please myself as to taking risks."
Monsieur ceased to pay any attention. He looked bored, pulled
out his watch, and glanced with venomous impatience at Barrington.
His natural instinct was to hint very plainly to this commoner that
he was in the way, that his presence could be dispensed with, but
Herr Weissmann could not expect to be accorded the arbitrary
authority of a royal personage. Elsewhere, it would have been so
easy to order the fellow to get into his confounded machine and
exhibit himself a few hundred feet nearer the sun.
He remarked on the time, ostentatiously and with emphasis. And
he was astonished when the Countess Glika understood him to be
suggesting that he must go.
"I know what a man of affairs you are. What a pity you will not
let Mr. Barrington take you back to Nice."
That last thrust of hers was final. He bowed to her with a
meaning glare in his eyes, and, ignoring the Englishman, marched
off along the path that led through the pine wood.
For a moment neither Barrington nor the Countess Glika said a
word. Barrington looked serious. He was wondering whether she was
"Please say the severest things you can think of. I will take
them without a murmur."
"Do you feel guilty?"
"I ought not to have dropped on you out of the skies. It annoyed
your friend considerably. I soon realised that I had acted like an
irresponsible fool. Are you angry?"
She was lying back, looking at the sky.
"You mean it?"
He moved round so that he was facing her.
"Still, the fact that you are generous does not clear my
She sighed, but it was a sigh of relief, not of regret. A
sensitive smile played about her mouth.
"Do not vex yourself, my friend. Perhaps I am grateful to you;
perhaps you have done me a great service by sweeping down out of
"I can only say that I am glad. I was afraid that I had
blundered in like a bumble-bee."
She sat up, clasped her hands about her knees and looked at him
"Is it possible that you are devoid of curiosity?"
"On the contrary, I am one of the most inquisitive beasts that
ever poked its nose into adventure."
"Then you have very fine manners. You can make yourself appear
just like a blue-eyed boy, with no thoughts under the surface."
"Thank you. I take that as precious praise."
"But you have no desire to ask questions?"
"The desire is there, but I can plead no authority."
Her eyes looked at him in a way that made his blood run
"Supposing I give you that authority?"
"I'll try to deserve it."
"Very well, ask any question you wish and I will answer it."
He said nothing for a moment, but just looked at her with an
intense, blue-eyed seriousness.
"Anna, I am a man who can hold myself in, but if you once give
me the right to rush into the wind, I warn you you will have
trouble with me."
She met his steady gaze just as steadily.
"I give you that right; I am going to trust you. And I think I
can tell you what your first question will be," she said.
"Who my friend—Herr Weissmann—is."
"He was at the Moscow, dressed as a hussar?"
"I'll ask that question," he said—"who is he?"
She turned right and left to see that they were alone, and then,
bending slightly towards him, spoke in a whisper.
Barrington's head went up like the head of a boxer dodging a
blow on the jaw.
"Good God! Prince Friedrich of——"
"S-s-sh! Now you understand why he behaved to you as he did. The
arrogance of Empire! You English dog, eh?"
But Barrington's face looked like iron.
"Yes, I grasp all that. But this is amazing! It
"It means more questions?"
He looked at her with kindling eyes.
"No, I'll not do it. It would be a kind of insolence towards you
that I cannot possibly dream of. I'll ask nothing."
Her spirit mounted to him.
"I honour you for that. But is there no reason why I should not
"There is one great reason, Anna."
"Ah! Perhaps—have I guessed it?—that might be to
accuse me of arrogance. But I will tell you. For the last year it
has been the heart's core of my life, and my heart is in
He did not speak, but waited for her to go on.
"Perhaps you English love England. You will realise it some day
when the eagle plucks at the lion's heart. All Europe is one great
maze, where men plot and whisper and try to delude each other. No
doubt you have heard of our Prince?"
"And what does gossip say?"
"That he is something of a mystery—that he is suspected of
"There you have the riddle. And can you not guess now who
He sat back and stared at her.
"Good God, Anna, what have I done?"
"Yes, blundered like a fool of a wasp into your web and torn
She gave a queer, breathless laugh and stretched out her
"No, no. You have saved me from making a mad sacrifice that I
now see would have been useless. This man loved me. Did I love him
in return? You can guess. I thought that I might inspire him, draw
him away from that brutal and arrogant race that is ready to cry
'God' and 'Kultur,' and to stab humanity in the back. I weighed
him, tried him, and doubted. And what have I found him?—a
boor, selfish, none too brave, sometimes a sentimental fool,
sometimes half a savage. He would have broken my heart. If I had
given myself to him he would have taken my body and betrayed my
He had the air of one under a spell, for all that calm, pale
beauty of hers had blazed into a passionate splendour. And she was
speaking to him, pouring all the fire of herself into his ears.
He spoke with a curious humility.
"I suppose I ought to thank God that this has happened. I know
that I am very proud that you should have chosen to trust me."
She caught up those last words of his.
"Yes, why have I trusted you? Why have I told you things that no
other living creature knows? Ah, well, I suppose I could not help
myself. I was very lonely and you came, and you had the eyes of a
sailor, the eyes of a man who had faced danger, a man whom danger
has strengthened and made clean."
"You choose to think me better than I am. We men have a way of
showing off. But if ever a man was in earnest——"
He sprang up and looked keenly into the wood. "I thought I heard
something moving. Let's walk farther away from the trees."
She joined him, and they strolled in the direction of the
"Supposing our friend shows temper?"
"It is possible, but I do not fear it greatly. Besides, all
those who were against me will be glad."
She glanced over her shoulder.
"Can you guess what it feels like to know that someone may shoot
you in your own garden or when you are driving back from the
theatre? I have lived with that fear. It is not pleasant."
He swung nearer to her suddenly as they walked. Her hand was
hanging, and then he found himself holding it.
"Anna, I want to look after you. I want to stand between you and
our friend's spite."
Her dark eyes met his; she did not attempt to withdraw her
"I am a very worldly creature, Jack."
"I do not believe it."
"Yes, but I am. How do you know that I am not fooling you, using
you to make another man jealous?"
"Because you could not do it."
"But how do you know that? Are we such old friends?"
He answered her with impressive simplicity.
"You are not that sort of woman. I have no reasons to give you.
It is like believing in God; that's all."
They wandered through the pine woods to the sea, and the sun was
low in the west before they returned. Dmitri had to be sent to find
the two gardeners and the chauffeur to help Barrington turn his
machine and to hold it while the engine got going.
Anna glanced anxiously at the tops of the firs.
"There looks so little room."
His eyes and voice reassured her.
"Do you think I would risk it now if I did not know that it was
His amateur helpers served him well, and the Vampire's
engine was in perfect fettle. Anna held her breath as the aeroplane
went running towards the trees. Would it never rise? It looked as
though it must go crashing straight into those brown trunks! Then
the machine lifted swiftly and, soaring, cleared the tree-tops
easily. She gave a sigh of relief. He was a man of action and a man
of his word.
Captain Prague was asleep in a comfortable chair when Prince
Friedrich's car drew up outside the villa that he had hired for the
season. Prague could have slept through a bombardment, especially
after one of those gargantuan lunches of his. He was roused by the
sound of a door being slammed.
He yawned, blinked, and then started up, putting on his
courtier's manner with eager alacrity. For the Prince was standing
there, staring at him with a face of thunder.
"Himmel! Prague, you are like an old dog, always curling up and
getting trodden on."
"I did not expect you so soon, sire."
Something had happened. It looked as though the Countess Glika
and Herr Weissmann had quarrelled.
The Prince walked out on to the balcony and stood there, looking
out over the sea. He brushed the points of his moustache and
drummed irritably on the iron railing with his fingers. He appeared
to be watching for something.
Prague went. The Prince gripped his arm and pointed
"An aeroplane, sire?"
"Yes. That dog of an Englishman. He has been at the Villa Biron.
Prague, I have been grossly fooled, grossly insulted."
Prague looked shocked, incredulous.
The Prince stamped on the stone floor of the balcony.
"It is true. The gossip you heard came from someone who is wiser
than I am. That woman has been playing with me, Prague, playing
with me! It is astounding!"
Prague appeared voiceless, but he was doing some subtle
"Are you sure, sire, that you are not mistaken?"
"Mistaken! Don't talk like a fool, Prague."
"But it is incredible that a woman like the Countess Glika
should risk your favour, sire, for the sake of an English
"You will pardon me, sire, but if you will suffer me to sift the
matter, to approach certain people who can find out the
"Have them watched, my friend?"
"That is your right, sire. Your dignity must be guarded from
designing enemies. No one must be allowed to laugh at you,
"Laugh at me! How dare you suggest such a thing, Prague! It is
"It is, sire. But have I your permission——"
"Thunder! Yes, have them watched. And get me a cigar."
Three days passed. The Prince spent two of them at Monte Carlo
and lost much money there, which did not glorify his outlook on
life. One whole day he sat in the chaume of his villa
garden, smoking and watching Nice and the sea, He saw an aeroplane
fly eastwards, and later he saw it return.
Captain Prague was busy, in spite of a love affair with a noted
houri at Monte Carlo. He visited the Baroness Bromberg, and was
also received by a very exalted personage who was spending a month
in retirement on the Riviera. The exalted personage had the look of
a lean, old, grey-feathered bird. His nose was as hard as a
vulture's beak, his mouth a mere slit below it.
The exalted personage had a reputation for being laconic.
"Tell him the woman's a ——," he said. "And send him
to see me."
And Prague admired the exalted personage immensely. He was one
of those grey eagles who would tear Europe to pieces and give the
Teutonic people the remnants to tag together into a new Empire.
On the fourth day Prague went to see the Bromberg, and found her
vastly amused at life. She had photographs to show him, and she
heaved and chortled over them.
"That fellow Müller of mine is a genius. Look at these, my dear
friend. How he managed to get them puzzles me."
Prague examined the photographs, and gave way to fat
"Immense! The fellow must have been crawling about like a
"Take them home with you, Prague. And here is a confidential
report. The Prince may like to read it after he has looked at the
"Himmel, he will go mad!"
Prague chuckled and rolled to and fro in his chair.
"Did Müller produce this?"
The Baroness's eyes lit up for a moment.
"I did, my friend. I amplified Müller's notes and gave them a
touch of literary realism."
"Immense! The spell will be broken and the witch
"She must be more than discredited. The royal protection will be
withdrawn, and then——"
"Something will happen to her, Prague. She will cease to be
fascinating. How dared she try to thwart us?"
Prague took those photographs and the confidential report back
to Nice and presented them to the Prince with an air of sympathetic
depression. They were sealed up in a big envelope, and Prague
pretended that he had not examined the contents; but he let it be
understood that the hints he had received were not flattering to
He expected an outburst, and he was not disappointed. Herr
Weissmann's hands trembled as he examined those photographs and
turned the pages of the report. His face went an earthy colour. It
was not a pleasant face, with its vindictive eyes and weak,
"My God! she shall pay for this. And that dog of an
He was beside himself, wild with an hysterical jealousy that
clamoured for self-expression. He rushed to a bureau, took a
revolver out of a drawer, and looked to see that it was loaded.
Prague threw himself in the way.
"Sire, calm yourself, calm yourself. If this woman has wronged
you, you have friends who will wipe out the insult. It is beneath
your dignity, sire, to chasten her with your own hands."
"I am going to kill her, Prague."
"My Prince, for God's sake, listen to me. It is impossible for
you to soil your hands with such an affair. There are people whose
business it is to do such things. It is a public necessity, and we
honour the men and women who perform it. But for you, sire,
Prague had an anxious and an argumentative half-hour, but he
knew his master and his master's temper. The Prince was a coward,
and Prague was able to persuade him to be cruel. Moreover, there
was that exalted personage to be considered. Prague was very
anxious that the Prince should listen to the wise words of that
The revolver was put away, and Prague spent ten minutes getting
into touch on the telephone with the exalted personage.
"Bring him to dine with me," said the voice over the wire.
And at half-past seven the Prince entered his car and was driven
to the exalted personage's villa.
It was a grand night, and after dinner the Prince and his host
sat on the terrace under the palms, smoked, and chatted like father
and son. A brilliant moon shone over the sea, but the exalted
personage saw to it that romance did not shiver in the Prince's
"I am indeed thankful," he said, "that your good sense has shown
you what manner of woman this is, and how she has tried to use you.
I was convinced that a man of your cleverness would in the end
discover the truth for himself. The woman is a worthless
adventuress. She is rotten with intrigue. And yet I admit that she
The Prince's mood was one of sullen and bitter vindictiveness,
and the exalted personage diagnosed his temper and used it for his
"So long as you extended your favour to her we stood aside and
spared this woman. But we cannot afford to be merciful to such
enemies. For the sake of the Fatherland we have to silence
The Prince's face looked white and hard in the moonlight.
"I shall forget her," he said. "I surrender her to your wise
"There speaks the true patriot. Another cigar, my son? We will
set a heel on the head of this serpent."
The Prince lit a second cigar.
"It will please me to know that she has been punished," he
That night a professional-looking person in spectacles met the
Baroness Bromberg as she left the gaming rooms. He bowed to her,
beaming mildly, his face wrinkling like the face of an ape.
"May I present a letter to you, Baroness?"
Her staring eyes met his meaningly.
"It is permitted, Herr Schiller."
He handed her a letter, bowed, and went away smiling dreamily to
himself, the most innocent looking creature imaginable, a Teutonic
type that has contrived to impose itself on the more credulous
believers in universal peace.
During those days Countess Glika ascended into heaven. Love flew
out of the west, swooped upon that grassy space in the pine woods
on Cap St. Pierre, snatched her up and carried her soaring into the
blue. Somehow she had such faith in him that she was not afraid,
though the physical part of her squirmed a little when, for the
first time in her life, she felt the fierce pressure of the wind
and saw the earth sliding below her. But it was a game that
appealed to her audacity, and there was a subtle pleasure in
feeling herself at his mercy. His air-mastery delighted her. She
liked to watch his brown hands on the levers and that adventurous
face of his gazing out over the world.
The blue of the sea bit into the grey and green of the land as
they flew up and down the coast. White villas looked like blocks of
freshly quarried stone lying amid herbage. Mentone, Monte Carlo,
Nice were toy towns with red roofs and miniature trams and cars
crawling along the threadlike streets. And through it all sounded
the roar of the engine and the whirring of the propeller, while
they seemed to force their way against the will of a stubborn
He had flown over one afternoon, and was having tea with her,
tea made in a samovar. Wistaria, masses of mauve bloom, covered the
little Japanese shelter below the terrace. There was a scent of
violets in the air, and the foliage of the orange and lemon trees
seemed bathed in a mellow light.
They decided to fly together towards Nice, for it was a perfect
evening, windless and warm. Anna went in to put on a heavy coat and
to wrap her thick veil over her hair, while Barrington strolled on
to the glade in the pine woods to make some trivial adjustment to
his machine. And just where the path opened into the grassy space
he found Dmitri waiting, leaning against a tree.
"Are the men coming, Dmitri?"
But Dmitri looked at him in a queer way, and then nodded in the
direction of the aeroplane.
"Will monsieur examine the machine?"
"Why, don't you trust it, Dmitri?"
"I ask monsieur to examine it, that is all."
They crossed the grass together, Dmitri silent, but with a glint
of restlessness in his eyes. He stood and watched Barrington
testing the controls and examining stays and wires.
"Hallo! what the——"
A subtle smile spread over Dmitri's face.
"You find something, monsieur?"
"I should think I do, Dmitri. Someone has been here with a
hacksaw and a file and some white lead."
He turned, and his eyes were fierce.
"The machine has been tampered with. That wing would have
buckled up and we should have been smashed."
"I am a suspicious soul, monsieur. I see more than other people.
It so happened that I was inquisitive, and strolled down
here—softly as the snow falls. And I saw a man busy at the
machine. He did not see me, and when he had finished he slunk away
into the wood."
"And you didn't follow him?"
Dmitri shrugged his shoulders.
"I knew what was of importance, and I had no pistol with me.
They go armed, these Germans."
"Germans! What sort of man was it?"
"Just a little man, monsieur, with spectacles and a beard. I
expect he changed his face in the wood."
Barrington's eyes looked ugly.
"Look here, Dmitri, you are to be trusted. What does this
"That they do not love my mistress, monsieur; that she is
dangerous to them. And so they send their rats to come and
For a moment Barrington almost doubted the whole business. It
seemed so extraordinary, so damnable; but there was the machine
with its cunningly weakened wing, and Dmitri's stolid and assured
face to convince him.
"Good God! Look here, Dmitri, your mistress must know nothing of
this. I'll tell her I have found a flaw in the machine, that it
will not be safe to fly it till I have had the faulty parts
"As you wish, monsieur. They will try something else."
"What do you mean, man?"
"The Prince has not been here, monsieur, for many days."
"Then you know——"
"He is her enemy now. He will not defend her. They can do as
"Do you mean to tell me, Dmitri, that there are people near us
who are bent on deliberate murder?"
"Of course, monsieur. You are English, you do not live with such
things. But in our countries people disappear, or they commit
suicide, or they are found robbed and dead in the river. It is not
the little criminals who do these things, but the great political
Barrington stood stock still, thinking. And in those moments of
thought he realised that it was he who had brought this peril into
the life of the woman he loved. And he looked into Dmitri's stolid,
loyal face and knew in his heart that the man had spoken the
"Then there is only one thing to be done, Dmitri—madame
"And there seems to be only one country where these scoundrels
cannot do as they please. Would you trust yourself in a train,
Dmitri, if they had marked you down?"
"No, monsieur, I should not."
"Very well. I shall come to-night in my car. After all, it is
better that madame should be told the truth about that machine. I
will tell her, Dmitri."
"Yes, monsieur, I will be ready. And she is coming, monsieur;
she is here."
Dmitri had taught himself the art of self-effacement, and there
was much delicacy and discretion beneath that stolid surface. He
watched his mistress with the eyes of a dog as she came out from
the shadow of the pines.
"We shall need Adolphe and Etienne, Dmitri. Are they
He bowed and seized his chance..
"I will go and bring them, madame."
He disappeared, but he did not go more than fifty yards. He
wanted to make sure that no one was in the wood, and so he
patrolled it, keeping out of sight of the two in the clearing.
Now, it may have been that Barrington could not hide what was in
his heart, for she came to him smiling, her dark hair all swathed
up in a soft pink veil, and the thought flashed over him that in an
hour she might have been lying dead, all that beauty of hers
desecrated, but for Dmitri's shrewdness. A great anger gave a grim
intensity to his love.
The smile dried out of her eyes.
"Oh, mon ami, why do you look so fierce?"
"I will show you."
He led her to the machine and pointed out to her how the wing
supports had been tampered with.
"We owe our lives to Dmitri. He saw some scoundrel at this while
I was out of the way. That wing might have buckled up at any
moment, just when we were wanting to clear the tops of the trees,
or perhaps when we were five hundred feet up and a puff of wind
She was white, silent, staring at him with tragic eyes.
"Oh, my God! And it is not enough that they wish me dead. They
would have killed you too! Jack, forgive me!"
She held out her hands.
"Am I, then, one of those fatal women who bring disaster and
madness to men? For myself I did not fear; I had counted the cost.
I thought that you were in no danger, and I was happy. I wanted to
live, were it for a week or a month——"
He caught her hands and drew her close to him. She felt the
muscles of his arms all tense and rigid.
"Anna, why did you not tell me your life was in danger?"
"Because I hoped that they would no longer trouble about me;
because I believed that you would be safe, whatever their devil's
mood might be."
"Safe! Do I ask for safety for myself? Yes, Dmitri has opened my
eyes; Dmitri is a man to be trusted. And by God! Anna, I'm the
savage now, the savage with the club in his fist. I love you, and
I'm going to keep you. And by God! if anything happens to you, in
spite of me, I'll drag our friend the Prince out into his own
garden and put a bullet through him."
She drew nearer still and put her face up to his.
"No, no, Jack. I know that these people have no mercy. They have
put their mark against me and I'll face them alone. You have made
me very happy, dear. Kiss me and go. Yes; I mean it."
His arms went round her. Their lips met. And then he held her at
arm's length, his hand-set firmly upon her shoulders. His eyes were
full of a grim yet laughing tenderness.
"You let me kiss you and tell me to go. And what a poor fool I
should be! I would rather get into that machine and smash myself up
somewhere between here and Nice. And am I going to give you up,
leave you to be poisoned or shot by these infernal Germans? I think
not. We are going to fool them, Anna. We shall be half across
France by to-morrow morning."
She shook her head.
"I love you, but I'll not let you risk your life."
"Oh, very well, then. I'll call Dmitri and your men and I'll go
up in that machine. I mean it, Anna; I'm not bluffing. Do you think
I am going to let you make me a coward?"
"You are no coward, but——"
"But I'm in love with you. That's a very serious consideration.
Now, then, am I to go up in that machine?"
She looked into his eyes, faltered, and then clung to him with
"Well, take me. Do what you will, I'm yours. And
"Listen, Anna. Your man will drive me back to Nice. By ten
o'clock I shall be here with my car. Be ready. We'll drive through
the night and straight on to Calais. There is not a machine in Nice
that can catch us, even if they have the pluck to try it. Wrap up
well, and get Dmitri to have a hamper of food ready. We'll take our
meals on the road."
That English cheeriness of his, the spirit that dares and
laughs, was like a stirrup-cup before a gallop. Her natural
audacity returned to her. She was no longer afraid.
"What recklessness! Am I to leave everything here and run away
with you to England all in one night?"
He slipped an arm about her and swung her round.
"What a mate I have won! What won't we do together, you and I!
You have such pluck."
"Have I? Perhaps; but you will have to be less reckless."
"Well, I'm in love with you, dear; I shall not be in a hurry to
break my neck."
In twenty minutes he was being driven along the Nice road in the
white landaulette, nor did Barrington ever forget that drive. The
whole atmosphere of it remained with him vividly—the blue
sea, the grey mountains blackening in the west against the redness
of a rather stormy sky, the villas perched upon the hill-side, the
white dust of the winding road.
But he missed one detail that would have had a sinister
significance. It was the rusty figure of a hairy little man in
spectacles leaning over the parapet where the road skirted the sea,
and staring towards Cap St. Pierre as though he were waiting to see
the moon rise over the pines. Barrington did not notice him as they
whirled past, nor did the little man glance up at the car. He was
watching for an aeroplane, an aeroplane that had been tampered
Barrington had temporary quarters in a hotel at Nice. His big
car was in the hotel garage. He tipped Adolphe, sent the white
landaulette back to the Villa Biron, and went to his room to
The manager of the hotel was a German Swiss, a dapper, polite
and rather insinuating little man. Barrington met him in the lounge
as he came downstairs after packing his own kit bag. He had left
his valet at the Glorieux.
The Swiss made conversation.
"Monsieur has had a good day? He did not return on his
The average Englishman is a confident and trusting person. He
does not go about the world suspecting every foreigner he meets of
being a secret agent. The Swiss had been very polite, very
"No; I drove back. You might let me have my bill, Herr Zwingli.
I have to be back in Monte Carlo to-night."
"Certainly, monsieur, certainly."
Barrington made his way to the garage that was at the back of
the hotel, and found a sallow man in blue overalls polishing the
brasswork of his car.
"Hallo, Pierre, I want twenty cans of spirit."
"Yes; fill up the tank and pack the rest away in the tonneau.
And put in a couple of gallons of oil."
"Monsieur is going far?"
"I may have to meet a friend at Marseilles."
Within ten minutes the Swiss manager had heard that Barrington
had loaded up twenty cans of petrol and was making ready for a long
run. Herr Zwingli shut himself in the telephone-box, called up
somebody, and held a significant conversation.
"Herr B. Yes, yes. Leaving to-night. Is taking twenty cans of
spirit on his car. Speaks of Marseilles. Yes, yes. Italy? Very
likely. Genoa. He returned here in a white car."
Herr Zwingli came out of the telephone-box smiling. He, too, was
one of the tiny cogs in the great wheel.
Barrington dined at Nice, drove on to Monte Carlo, paid his bill
at the Glorieux, and packed up some of his luggage. It was about
half-past nine when he left Monte Carlo, and following the curves
of the coast road, saw the full moon rising across the bay above
the pine woods of St. Pierre. He could hardly bring himself to
believe that there was any danger in the adventure, with the moon
shining so calmly on the sea and all those villa lights twinkling
on the hillsides. Even the steady purr of the powerful engine
seemed to suggest a civilised and well-balanced security. Yet he
had an automatic pistol in the pocket of his leather-lined coat, a
coward's weapon to his way of thinking, but essential when one
might have to deal with political fanatics who were out for
When he left the main road for the one that led along the Cape,
Barrington switched off all his lights and slowed the car up to an
almost noiseless glide. The shadow of the pine woods covered the
road here and there. Barrington found the lodge gates open, and the
deaf lodge-keeper standing in the doorway of his lodge.
Dmitri was waiting on the steps when Barrington pulled up
outside the villa.
"All well, Dmitri?"
"All well, monsieur."
"We shall leave you in charge here, Dmitri. Have you any
objection to that? Things must be looked after. I shall write to
the English Consul and get him to put matters through for us."
"I will do what you wish, monsieur. But madame has been very
good to me, and——"
"You will follow us to England, Dmitri, of course. We are not
going to lose you. Is madame ready?"
"Yes; this way, monsieur."
She was in the blue salon sipping coffee and smoking a Russian
cigarette. A magnificent black fur coat lined with ermine lay over
the back of the sofa. She had more colour than usual, and her eyes
were very bright.
Dmitri left them and went to stand guard over the car. As he
reached the top of the steps something crawled away across the
drive, keeping behind the car, and Dmitri did not see it. The
crawling figure squirmed its way in between the shrubs and trees
lining the road. It was the little bearded man with spectacles. He
sat down, tucked a folding rule back into the breast-pocket of his
coat, and seemed to be making calculations. He had been measuring
the height of Barrington's car. So much depended on the height of
the wind-screen and the slope of the seats. In the blue salon
Barrington was bending over the couch; his hands held Anna's, and
he was looking into her eyes.
"So you are not afraid, dear heart? I know what it means—a
new life and a new country."
She smiled up at him dearly.
"I am only afraid that you will not take care of yourself. I
shall make you promise that your adventures shall be my
"Even if we rough it in Central Africa?"
"I want to go all over the world with you."
They kissed with passion.
"Come along, playmate. We must be moving."
He picked up a cerise-coloured woollen coat that lay over the
back of a chair.
"This first. You have got to wrap up as though we were going on
an Arctic expedition or into Siberia. Fancy yourself in a troika
for twenty-four hours. It will be bitterly cold when we get towards
Avignon, and we are going full speed all night."
He made her wrap her throat and head up in a woollen shawl. The
coat had a hood that could be turned forward.
"That's splendid, nothing but two eyes and a nose and a red
He kissed her.
"You have got fur gauntlets? Good. Now for our dash through the
He had turned the car before entering the villa, and left the
engine running dead slow. Dmitri was lifting a big luncheon basket
in on top of the petrol cans. Susette stood waiting with fur rugs
Barrington took his place at the steering wheel.
"Settle yourself down comfortably. That's it, the cushions are
behind you; draw those rugs well up. And sit low, I'm going to drop
the wind-screen a bit for the first twenty miles. Loose that nut,
will you, Dmitri? That's it. I like to see over the top—till
it gets too cold."
Dmitri kissed his mistress's hands.
"May the good God watch over you."
"We shall see you in England, Dmitri," she said in a
He turned away and started running down the drive.
"I will see that François has the gates open."
The drive to the Villa Biron was about two hundred yards long
and shaped like an S. Dmitri had covered about a hundred yards,
when something caught him across the forehead and flung him heavily
on his back.
Dazed for a moment, he scrambled up, flung out his arms, and
struck something tense and metallic, something that quivered and
hummed like a harp string. And suddenly he heard the car behind
him, coming at a fair speed down the drive.
He tore at the wire, but could not break it; it only cut his
Then he turned and ran, waving his arms and shouting,
Barrington had switched on the electric headlights, and they
showed him Dmitri running like a madman straight at the car. He
threw out the clutch and jammed on both brakes, and stopped within
five yards of the death-trap with Dmitri sprawling over the
"Down, dear, down!"
He thrust her unceremoniously into the bottom of the car.
"What is it, Dmitri?"
"A wire—a wire across the road! Wait, monsieur. If I force
it upwards with my hands you can pass underneath."
"The devil! We should have had our heads off!"
Dmitri sprang back, and Barrington saw him thrusting something
upwards with his hands. He let the car glide forward very slowly,
and, bending his head, found that he could just pass under the
Barrington had pulled the pistol out of his pocket, and he drove
with one hand on the wheel. Dmitri was running towards the lodge
with his arms stretched up and out before him.
Barrington spoke softly to Anna.
"Keep down, dear, keep out of sight."
He saw Dmitri standing in the moonlight by the open gates.
Dmitri ran out into the road, peering right and left, a pistol
ready in his fist. He waved Barrington forward, seized hold of the
hood-brackets as the car glided out, and, jumping on the
running-board, swarmed over on to the back seat.
"Quick, monsieur, they may shoot, and I will shoot back."
There was no chance of the wire trick being played on them now
they were beyond the lodge, for there were trees on only one side
of the road, a low stone wall and the sea on the other. Barrington
opened the throttle wide, and the powerful car went speeding under
the shadows of the pines, while Dmitri knelt on the back seat,
ready to fire at any threatening figure or at the red flash of a
Nothing happened. They reached the main road, but Barrington
still kept the car going at a high speed. The electric headlights
threw a brilliant stream of light; they were strong enough to blind
anyone meeting them till the car had passed.
Barrington slackened up as they reached the outskirts of Monte
Carlo. Anna had refused to remain crouching in the bottom of the
car. She sat there beside him with a certain proud air, muffled up
in her black furs.
"What is yours is mine," she said; "is not this our first
At the top of the casino gardens Barrington slowed the car up,
and Dmitri opened the door and jumped out.
He waved a hand.
"Au revoir, Dmitri; take care of yourself."
They left Dmitri hatless and smiling.
"I am quite safe, monsieur. They will hope to persuade me with
All through the night Barrington drove the car, watchful,
imperturbable, but very happy. And Anna fell asleep at his side,
and her head rested on his shoulder. They had begun the great
adventure of life together.