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The God of Coincidence by Richard Harding Davis

 

The God of Coincidence is fortunate in possessing innumerable press agents. They have made the length of his arm a proverb. How at exactly the right moment he extends it across continents and drags two and two together, thus causing four to result where but for him sixes and sevens would have obtained, they have made known to the readers of all of our best magazines. For instance, Holworthy is leaving for the Congo to find a cure for the sleeping sickness, and for himself any sickness from which one is warranted never to wake up. This is his condition because the beautiful million-heiress who is wintering at the Alexander Young Hotel in Honolulu has refused to answer his letters, cables, and appeals.

He is leaning upon the rail taking his last neck-breaking look at the Woolworth Building. The going-ashore bugle has sounded, pocket-handkerchiefs are waving; and Joe Hutton, the last visitor to leave the ship, is at the gangway.

"Good-by, Holworthy!" he calls. "Where do you keep yourself? Haven't seen you at the club in a year!"

"Haven't been there in a year--nor mean to!" is the ungracious reply of our hero.

"Then, for Heaven's sake," exclaims Hutton, "send some one to take your mail out of the H box! Every time I look for letters I wade through yours."

"Tear them up!" calls Holworthy. "They're bills."

Hutton now is half-way down the gangplank.

"Then your creditors," he shouts back, "must all live at the Alexander Young Hotel in Honolulu!"

That night an express train shrieking through the darkness carried with it toward San Francisco--

In this how evident is the fine Italian hand of the God of Coincidence!

Had Hutton's name begun with an M; had the H in Hutton been silent; had he not carried to the Mauretania a steamer basket for his rich aunt; had he not resented the fact that since Holworthy's election to the Van Sturtevant Club he had ceased to visit the Grill Club--a cure for sleeping sickness might have been discovered; but two loving hearts never would have been reunited and that story would not have been written.

Or, Mrs. Montclair, with a suit-case, is leaving her home forever to join handsome Harry Bellairs, who is at the corner with a racing-car and all the money of the bank of which he has been cashier. As the guilty woman places the farewell letter against the pin-cushion where her husband will be sure to find it, her infant son turns in his sleep and jabs himself with a pin. His howl of anguish resembles that of a puppy on a moonlight night. The mother recognizes her master's voice. She believes her child dying, flies to the bedside, tears up the letter, unpacks the suit-case. The next morning at breakfast her husband, reading the newspaper, exclaims aloud:

"Harry Bellairs," he cries, "has skipped with the bank's money! I always told you he was not a man you ought to know."

"His manner to me," she says severely, "always was that of a perfect gentleman."

Again coincidence gets the credit. Had not the child tossed--had not at the critical moment the safety pin proved untrue to the man who invented it--that happy family reunion would have been impossible.

Or, it might be told this way:

Old Man McCurdy, the Pig-Iron King, forbids his daughter Gwendolyn even to think of marrying poor but honest Beef Walters, the baseball pitcher, and denies him his house. The lovers plan an elopement. At midnight Beef is to stand at the tradesman's entrance and whistle "Waiting at the Church"; and down the silent stairs Gwendolyn is to steal into his arms. At the very same hour the butler has planned with the policeman on fixed post to steal Mother McCurdy's diamonds and pass them to a brother of the policeman, who is to wait at the tradesman's entrance and whistle "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee."

This sounds improbable--especially that the policeman would allow even his brother to get the diamonds before he did; but, with the God of Coincidence on the job, you shall see that it will all come out right. Beef is first at the door. He whistles. The butler--an English butler--with no ear for music, shoves into his hands tiaras and sunbursts. Honest Beef hands over the butler to the policeman and the tiaras to Mother McCurdy.

"How can I reward you?" exclaims the grateful woman.

"Your daughter's hand!"

Again the God of Coincidence scores and Beef Walters is credited with an assist. And for preventing the robbery McCurdy has the peg-post cop made a captain; thus enabling him to wear diamonds of his own and raising him above the need of taking them from others.

These examples of what the god can do are mere fiction; the story that comes now really happened. It also is a story of coincidence. It shows how this time the long arm was stretched out to make two young people happy; it again illustrates that, in the instruments he chooses, the God of Coincidence works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. This time the tool he used was a hat of green felt.

The story really should be called "The Man in the Green Hat."

At St. James's Palace the plenipotentiaries of the Allies and of Turkey were trying to bring peace to Europe; in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, Sam Lowell was trying to arrange a peace with Mrs. Wroxton, his landlady. The ultimatum of the Allies was: "Adrianople or fight!" The last words of Mrs. Wroxton were: "Five pounds or move out!"

Sam did not have five pounds. He was a stranger in London; he had lost his position in New York and that very morning had refused to marry the girl he loved--Polly Seward, the young woman the Sunday papers called "The Richest Girl in America."

For any man--for one day--that would seem to be trouble enough; but to the Sultan of Turkey that day brought troubles far more serious. And, as his losses were Sam's gain, we must follow the troubles of the Sultan. Until, with the aid of a green felt hat, the God of Coincidence turns the misfortunes of the Sultan into a fortune for Sam, Sam must wait.

From the first days of the peace conference it was evident there was a leak. The negotiations had been opened under a most solemn oath of secrecy. As to the progress of the conference, only such information or misinformation--if the diplomats considered it better- as was mutually agreed upon by the plenipotentiaries was given to a waiting world. But each morning, in addition to the official report of the proceedings of the day previous, one newspaper, the Times, published an account which differed from that in every other paper, and which undoubtedly came from the inside. In details it was far more generous than the official report; it gave names, speeches, arguments; it described the wordy battles of the diplomats, the concessions, bluffs, bargains.

After three days the matter became public scandal. At first, the plenipotentiaries declared the events described in the Times were invented each evening in the office of the Times; but the proceedings of the day following showed the public this was not so.

Some one actually present at the conference was telling tales out of school. These tales were cabled to Belgrade, Sofia, Athens, Constantinople; and hourly from those capitals the plenipotentiaries were assailed by advice, abuse, and threats. The whole world began to take part in their negotiations; from every side they were attacked; from home by the Young Turks, or the On to Constantinople Party; and from abroad by peace societies, religious bodies, and chambers of commerce. Even the armies in the field, instead of waiting for the result of their deliberations, told them what to do, and that unless they did it they would better remain in exile. To make matters worse, in every stock exchange gambling on the news furnished by the Times threatened the financial peace of Europe. To work under such conditions of publicity was impossible. The delegates appealed to their hosts of the British Foreign Office.

Unless the chiel amang them takin' notes was discovered and the leak stopped, they declared the conference must end. Spurred on by questions in Parliament, by appeals from the great banking world, by criticisms not altogether unselfish from the other newspapers, the Foreign Office surrounded St. James's Palace and the office of the Times with an army of spies. Every secretary, stenographer, and attendant at the conference was under surveillance, his past record looked into, his present comings and goings noted. Even the plenipotentiaries themselves were watched; and employees of the Times were secretly urged to sell the government the man who was selling secrets to them. But those who were willing to be "urged" did not know the man; those who did know him refused to be bought.

By a process of elimination suspicion finally rested upon one Adolf Hertz, a young Hungarian scholar who spoke and wrote all the mongrel languages of the Balkans; who for years, as a copying clerk and translator, had been employed by the Foreign Office, and who now by it had been lent to the conference. For the reason that when he lived in Budapest he was a correspondent of the Times, the police, in seeking for the leak, centred their attention upon Hertz. But, though every moment he was watched, and though Hertz knew he was watched, no present link between him and the Times had been established- and this in spite of the fact that the hours during which it was necessary to keep him under closest observation were few. Those were the hours between the closing of the conference, and midnight, when the provincial edition of the Times went to press. For the remainder of the day, so far as the police cared, Hertz could go to the devil! But for those hours, except when on his return from the conference he locked himself in his lodgings in Jermyn Street, detectives were always at his elbow.

It was supposed that it was during this brief period when he was locked in his room that he wrote his report; but how, later, he conveyed it to the Times no one could discover. In his rooms there was no telephone; his doors and windows were openly watched; and after leaving his rooms his movements were--as they always had been--methodical, following a routine open to observation. His programme was invariably the same. Each night at seven from his front door he walked west. At Regent Street he stopped to buy an evening paper from the aged news-vender at the corner; he then crossed Piccadilly Circus into Coventry Street, skirted Leicester Square, and at the end of Green Street entered Pavoni's Italian restaurant. There he took his seat always at the same table, hung his hat always on the same brass peg, ordered the same Hungarian wine, and read the same evening paper. He spoke to no one; no one spoke to him.

When he had finished his coffee and his cigarette he returned to his lodgings, and there he remained until he rang for breakfast. From the time at which he left his home until his return to it he spoke to only two persons--the news-vender to whom he handed a halfpenny; the waiter who served him the regular table d'hote dinner--between whom and Hertz nothing passed but three and six for the dinner and sixpence for the waiter himself.

Each evening, the moment he moved into the street a plain-clothes man fell into step beside him; another followed at his heels; and from across the street more plain-clothes men kept their eyes on every one approaching him in front or from the rear. When he bought his evening paper six pairs of eyes watched him place a halfpenny in the hand of the news-vender, and during the entire time of his stay in Pavoni's every mouthful he ate was noted- - every direction he gave the waiter was overheard.

Of this surveillance Hertz was well aware. To have been ignorant of it would have argued him blind and imbecile. But he showed no resentment. With eyes grave and untroubled, he steadily regarded his escort; but not by the hastening of a footstep or the acceleration of a gesture did he admit that by his audience he was either distressed or embarrassed. That was the situation on the morning when the Treaty of London was to be signed and sealed.

In spite of the publicity given to the conference by the Times, however, what the terms of the treaty might be no one knew. If Adrianople were surrendered; if Salonika were given to Greece; if Servia obtained a right-of-way to the Adriatic--peace was assured; but, should the Young Turks refuse--should Austria prove obstinate- not only would the war continue, but the Powers would be involved, and that greater, more awful war--the war dreaded by all the Christian world--might turn Europe into a slaughter-house.

Would Turkey and Austria consent and peace ensue? Would they refuse and war follow? That morning those were the questions on the lips of every man in London save one. He was Sam Lowell; and he was asking himself another and more personal question: "How can I find five pounds and pacify Mrs. Wroxton?"

He had friends in New York who would cable him money to pay his passage home; but he did not want to go home. He preferred to starve in London than be vulgarly rich anywhere else. That was not because he loved London, but because above everything in life he loved Polly Seward--and Polly Seward was in London. He had begun to love her on class day of his senior year; and, after his father died and left him with no one else to care for, every day he had loved her more.

Until a month before he had been in the office of Wetmore & Hastings, a smart brokers' firm in Wall Street. He had obtained the position not because he was of any use to Wetmore & Hastings, but because the firm was the one through which his father had gambled the money that would otherwise have gone to Sam. In giving Sam a job the firm thought it was making restitution. Sam thought it was making the punishment fit the crime; for he knew nothing of the ways of Wall Street, and having to learn them bored him extremely. He wanted to write stories for the magazines. He wanted to bind them in a book and dedicate them to Polly. And in this wish editors humored him--but not so many editors or with such enthusiasm as to warrant his turning his back on Wall Street.

That he did later when, after a tour of the world that had begun from the San Francisco side, Polly Seward and her mother and Senator Seward reached Naples. There Senator Seward bought old Italian furniture for his office on the twenty-fifth floor of the perfectly new Seward building. Mrs. Seward tried to buy for Polly a prince nearly as old as the furniture, and Polly bought picture post-cards which she sent to Sam.

Polly had been absent six months, and Sam's endurance had been so timed as just to last out the half-year. It was not guaranteed to withstand any change of schedule, and the two months' delay in Italy broke his heart. It could not run overtime on a starvation diet of post-cards; so when he received a cable reading, "Address London, Claridge's," his heart told him it could no longer wait- and he resigned his position and sailed.

On her trip round the world Polly had learned many things. She was observant, alert, intent on asking questions, hungering for facts. And a charming young woman who seeks facts rather than attention will never lack either. But of all the facts Polly collected, the one of surpassing interest, and which gave her the greatest happiness, was that she could not live without Sam Lowell. She had suspected this, and it was partly to make sure that she had consented to the trip round the world. Now that she had made sure, she could not too soon make up for the days lost. Sam had spent his money, and he either must return to New York and earn more or remain near Polly and starve. It was an embarrassing choice. Polly herself made the choice even more difficult.

One morning when they walked in St. James's Park to feed the ducks she said to him:

"Sam, when are we to be married?"

When for three years a man has been begging a girl to marry him, and she consents at the exact moment when, without capitulation to all that he holds honorable, he cannot marry anybody, his position deserves sympathy.

"My dear one," exclaimed the unhappy youth, "you make me the most miserable of men! I can't marry! I'm in an awful place! If I married you now I'd be a crook! It isn't a question of love in a cottage, with bread and cheese. If cottages were renting for a dollar a year I couldn't rent one for ten minutes. I haven't cheese enough to bait a mouse-trap. It's terrible! But we have got to wait."

"Wait!" cried Polly. "I thought you had been waiting! Have I been away too long? Do you love some one else?"

"Don't be ridiculous!" said Sam crossly. "Look at me," he commanded, "and tell me whom I love!"

Polly did not take time to look.

"But I," she protested, "have so much money!"

"It's not your money," explained Sam. "It's your mother's money or your father's, and both of them dislike me. They even have told me so. Your mother wants you to marry that Italian; and your father, having half the money in America, naturally wants to marry you to the other half. If I were selfish and married you I'd be all the things they think I am."

"You are selfish!" cried Polly. "You're thinking of yourself and of what people will say, instead of how to make me happy. What's the use of money if you can't buy what you want?"

"Are you suggesting you can buy me?" demanded Sam.

"Surely," said Polly--"if I can't get you any other way. And you may name your own price, too."

"When I am making enough to support myself without sponging on you," explained Sam, "you can have as many millions as you like; but I must first make enough to keep me alive. A man who can't do that isn't fit to marry."

"How much," demanded Polly, "do you need to keep you alive? Maybe I could lend it to you."

Sam was entirely serious.

"Three thousand a year," he said.

Polly exclaimed indignantly.

"I call that extremely extravagant!" she cried. "If we wait until you earn three thousand a year we may be dead. Do you expect to earn that writing stories?"

"I can try," said Sam--"or I will rob a bank."

Polly smiled upon him appealingly.

"You know how I love your stories," she said, "and I wouldn't hurt your feelings for the world; but, Sam dear, I think you had better rob a bank!"

Addressing an imaginary audience, supposedly of men, Sam exclaimed:

"Isn't that just like a woman? She wouldn't care," he protested, "how I got the money!"

Polly smiled cheerfully.

"Not if I got you!" she said. In extenuation, also, she addressed an imaginary audience, presumably of women. "That's how I love him!" she exclaimed. "And he asks me to wait! Isn't that just like a man? Seriously," she went on, "if we just go ahead and get married father would have to help us. He'd make you a vice-president or something."

At this suggestion Sam expressed his extreme displeasure.

"The last time I talked to your father," he said, "I was in a position to marry, and I told him I wanted to marry you. What he said to that was: 'Don't be an ass!' Then I told him he was unintelligent-- and I told him why. First, because he could not see that a man might want to marry his daughter in spite of her money; and second, because he couldn't see that her money wouldn't make up to a man for having him for a father-in-law."

"Did you have to tell him that?" asked Polly.

"Some one had to tell him," said Sam gloomily. "Anyway, as a source of revenue father is eliminated. I have still one chance in London. If that fails I must go home. I've been promised a job in New York reporting for a Wall Street paper--and I'll write stories on the side. I've cabled for money, and if the London job falls through I shall sail Wednesday."

"Wednesday!" cried Polly. "When you say things like 'Wednesday' you make the world so dark! You must stay here! It has been such a long six months; and before you earn three thousand dollars I shall be an old, old maid. But if you get work here we could see each other every day."

They were in the Sewards' sitting-room at Claridge's. Sam took up the desk telephone.

"In London," he said, "my one best and only bet is a man named Forsythe, who helps edit the Pall Mall. I'll telephone him now. If he can promise me even a shilling a day I'll stay on and starve-- but I'll be near you. If Forsythe fails me I shall sail Wednesday."

The telephone call found Forsythe at the Pall Mall office. He would be charmed to advise Mr. Lowell on a matter of business. Would he that night dine with Mr. Lowell? He would. And might he suggest that they dine at Pavoni's? He had a special reason for going there, and the dinner would cost only three and six.

"That's reason enough!" Sam told him.

"And don't forget," said Polly when, for the fifth time, Sam rose to go, "that after your dinner you are to look for me at the Duchess of Deptford's dance. I asked her for a card and you will find it at your lodgings. Everybody will be there; but it is a big place-full of dark corners where we can hide."

"Don't hide until I arrive," said Sam. "I shall be very late, as I shall have to walk. After I pay for Forsythe's dinner and for white gloves for your dance I shall not be in a position to hire a taxi. But maybe I shall bring good news. Maybe Forsythe will give me the job. If he does we will celebrate in champagne. "

"You will let me at least pay for the champagne?" begged Polly.

"No," said Sam firmly--"the duchess will furnish that."

When Sam reached his lodgings in Russell Square, which he approached with considerable trepidation, he found Mrs. Wroxton awaiting him. But her attitude no longer was hostile. On the contrary, as she handed him a large, square envelope, decorated with the strawberry leaves of a duke, her manner was humble.

Sam opened the envelope and, with apparent carelessness, stuck it over the fireplace.

"About that back rent," he said; "I have cabled for money, and as soon--"

"I know," said Mrs. Wroxton. "I read the cable." She was reading the card of invitation also. "There's no hurry, sir," protested Mrs. Wroxton. "Any of my young gentlemen who is made welcome at Deptford House is made welcome here!"

"Credit, Mrs. Wroxton," observed Sam, "is better than cash. If you have only cash you spend it and nothing remains. But with credit you can continue indefinitely to-to-"

"So you can!" exclaimed Mrs. Wroxton enthusiastically. "Stay as long as you like, Mr. Lowell."

At Pavoni's Sam found Forsythe already seated and, with evident interest, observing the scene of gayety before him. The place was new to Sam, and after the darkness and snow of the streets it appeared both cheerful and resplendent. It was brilliantly lighted; a ceiling of gay panels picked out with gold, and red plush sofas, backed against walls hung with mirrors and faced by rows of marble-topped tables, gave it an air of the Continent.

Sam surrendered his hat and coat to the waiter. The hat was a soft Alpine one of green felt. The waiter hung it where Sam could see it, on one of many hooks that encircled a gilded pillar.

After two courses had been served Forsythe said:

"I hope you don't object to this place. I had a special reason for wishing to be here on this particular night. I wanted to be in at the death!"

"Whose death?" asked Sam. "Is the dinner as bad as that?"

Forsythe leaned back against the mirror behind them and, bringing his shoulder close to Sam's, spoke in a whisper.

"As you know," he said, "to-day the delegates sign the Treaty of London. It still must receive the signatures of the Sultan and the three kings; and they will sign it. But until they do, what the terms of the treaty are no one can find out."

"I'll bet the Times finds out!" said Sam.

"That's it!" returned Forsythe. "Hertz, the man who is supposed to be selling the secrets of the conference to the Times, dines here. To-night is his last chance. If to-night he can slip the Times a copy of the Treaty of London without being caught, and the Times has the courage to publish it, it will be the biggest newspaper sensation of modern times; and it will either cause a financial panic all over Europe--or prevent one. The man they suspect is facing us. Don't look now, but in a minute you will see him sitting alone at a table on the right of the middle pillar. The people at the tables nearest him--even the women--are detectives. His waiter is in the employ of Scotland Yard. The maitre d'hotel, whom you will see always hovering round his table, is a police agent lent by Bulgaria. For the Allies are even more anxious to stop the leak than we are. We are interested only as their hosts; with them it is a matter of national life or death. A week ago one of our own inspectors tipped me off to what is going on, and every night since then I've dined here, hoping to see something suspicious."

"Have you?" asked Sam.

"Only this," whispered Forsythe--"on four different nights I've recognized men I know are on the staff of the Times, and on the other nights men I don't know may have been here. But after all that proves nothing, for this place is a resort of newspaper writers and editors--and the Times men's being here may have been only a coincidence."

"And Hertz?" asked Sam--"what does he do?"

The Englishman exclaimed with irritation.

"Just what you see him doing now!" he protested. "He eats his dinner! Look at him!" he commanded. "Of all in the room he's the least concerned."

Sam looked and saw the suspected Adolf Hertz dangling a mass of macaroni on the end of his fork. Sam watched him until it disappeared.

"Maybe that's a signal!" suggested Sam. "Maybe everything he does is part of a cipher code! He gives the signals and the Times men read them and write them down."

"A man would have a fine chance to write anything down in this room!" said Forsythe.

"But maybe," persisted Sam, "when he makes those strange movements with his lips he is talking to a confederate who can read the lip language. The confederate writes it down at the office and--"

"Fantastic and extremely improbable!" commented Forsythe. "But, nevertheless, the fact remains, the fellow does communicate with some one from the Times; and the police are positive he does it here and that he is doing it now!"

The problem that so greatly disturbed his friend would have more deeply interested Sam had the solving of his own trouble been less imperative. That alone filled his mind. And when the coffee was served and the cigars lit, without beating about the bush Sam asked Forsythe bluntly if on his paper a rising and impecunious genius could find a place. With even less beating about the bush Forsythe assured him he could not. The answer was final, and the disappointment was so keen that Sam soon begged his friend to excuse him, paid his bill, and rose to depart.

"Better wait!" urged Forsythe. "You'll find nothing so good out at a music-hall. This is Houdini getting out of his handcuffs before an audience entirely composed of policemen."

Sam shook his head gloomily.

"I have a few handcuffs of my own to get rid of," he said, "and it makes me poor company."

He bade his friend good night and, picking his way among the tables, moved toward the pillar on which the waiter had hung his hat. The pillar was the one beside which Hertz was sitting, and as Sam approached the man he satisfied his curiosity by a long look. Under the glance Hertz lowered his eyes and fixed them upon his newspaper. Sam retrieved his hat and left the restaurant.

His mind immediately was overcast. He remembered his disappointment and that the parting between himself and Polly was now inevitable. Without considering his direction he turned toward Charing Cross Road. But he was not long allowed to meditate undisturbed.

He had only crossed the little street that runs beside the restaurant and passed into the shadow of the National Gallery when, at the base of the Irving Memorial, from each side he was fiercely attacked. A young man of eminently respectable appearance kicked his legs from under him, and another of equally impeccable exterior made an honest effort to knock off his head.

Sam plunged heavily to the sidewalk. As he sprawled forward his hat fell under him and in his struggle to rise was hidden by the skirts of his greatcoat. That, also, he had fallen heavily upon his hat with both knees Sam did not know. The strange actions of his assailants enlightened him. To his surprise, instead of continuing their assault or attempting a raid upon his pockets, he found them engaged solely in tugging at the hat. And so preoccupied were they in this that, though still on his knees, Sam was able to land some lusty blows before a rush of feet caused the young men to leap to their own and, pursued by several burly forms, disappear in the heart of the traffic.

Sam rose and stood unsteadily. He found himself surrounded by all of those who but a moment before he had left contentedly dining at Pavoni's. In an excited circle waiters and patrons of the restaurant, both men and women, stood in the falling snow, bareheaded, coatless, and cloakless, staring at him. Forsythe pushed them aside and took Sam by the arm.

"What happened?" demanded Sam.

"You ought to know," protested Forsythe. "You started it! The moment you left the restaurant two men grabbed their hats and jumped after you; a dozen other men, without waiting for hats, jumped after them. The rest of us got out just as the two men and the detectives dived into the traffic."

A big man, with an air of authority, drew Sam to one side.

"Did they take anything from you, sir?" he asked.

"I've nothing they could take," said Sam. "And they didn't try to find out. They just knocked me down."

Forsythe turned to the big man.

"This gentleman is a friend of mine, inspector," he said. "He is a stranger in town and was at Pavoni's only by accident."

"We might need his testimony," suggested the official.

Sam gave his card to the inspector and then sought refuge in a taxicab. For the second time he bade his friend good night.

"And when next we dine," he called to him in parting, "choose a restaurant where the detective service is quicker!"

Three hours later, brushed and repaired by Mrs. Wroxton, and again resplendent, Sam sat in a secluded corner of Deptford House and bade Polly a long farewell. It was especially long, owing to the unusual number of interruptions; for it was evident that Polly had many friends in London, and that not to know the Richest One in America and her absurd mother, and the pompous, self-satisfied father, argued oneself nobody. But finally the duchess carried Polly off to sup with her; and as the duchess did not include Sam in her invitation--at least not in such a way that any one could notice it-- Sam said good-night--but not before he had arranged a meeting with Polly for eleven that same morning. If it was clear, the meeting was to be at the duck pond in St. James's Park; if it snowed, at the National Gallery in front of the "Age of Innocence."

After robbing the duchess of three suppers, Sam descended to the hall and from an attendant received his coat and hat, which latter the attendant offered him with the inside of the hat showing. Sam saw in it the trademark of a foreign maker.

"That's not my hat," said Sam.

The man expressed polite disbelief.

"I found it rolled up in the pocket of your greatcoat, sir," he protested.

The words reminded Sam that on arriving at Deptford House he had twisted the hat into a roll and stuffed it into his overcoat pocket.

"Quite right," said Sam. But it was not his hat; and with some hope of still recovering his property he made way for other departing guests and at one side waited.

For some clew to the person he believed was now wearing his hat, Sam examined the one in his hand. Just showing above the inside band was something white. Thinking it might be the card of the owner, Sam removed it. It was not a card, but a long sheet of thin paper, covered with typewriting, and many times folded. Sam read the opening paragraph. Then he backed suddenly toward a great chair of gold and velvet, and fell into it.

He was conscious the attendants in pink stockings were regarding him askance; that, as they waited in the drafty hall for cars and taxis, the noble lords in stars and ribbons, the noble ladies in tiaras and showing much-fur-lined galoshes, were discussing his strange appearance. They might well believe the youth was ill; they might easily have considered him intoxicated. Outside rose the voices of servants and police calling the carriages. Inside other servants echoed them.

"The Duchess of Sutherland's car!" they chanted. "Mrs. Trevor Hill's carriage! The French ambassador's carriage! Baron Haussmann's car!"

Like one emerging from a trance, Sam sprang upright. A little fat man, with mild blue eyes and curly red hair, was shyly and with murmured apologies pushing toward the exit. Before he gained it Sam had wriggled a way to his elbow.

"Baron Haussmann!" he stammered. "I must speak to you. It's a matter of gravest importance. Send away your car," he begged, "and give me five minutes."

The eyes of the little fat man opened wide in surprise, almost in alarm. He stared at Sam reprovingly.

"Impossible!" he murmured. "I--I do not know you."

"This is a letter of introduction," said Sam. Into the unwilling fingers of the banker he thrust the folded paper. Bending over him, he whispered in his ear. "That," said Sam, "is the Treaty of London!"

The alarm of Baron Haussmann increased to a panic.

"Impossible!" he gasped. And, with reproach, he repeated: "I do not know you, sir! I do not know you!"

At that moment, towering above the crush, appeared the tall figure of Senator Seward. The rich man of the New World and the rich man of Europe knew each other only by sight. But, upon seeing Sam in earnest converse with the great banker, the senator believed that without appearing to seek it he might through Sam effect a meeting. With a hearty slap on the shoulder he greeted his fellow countryman.

"Halloo, Sam!" he cried genially. "You walking home with me?"

Sam did not even turn his head.

"No!" he snapped. "I'm busy. Go 'way!"

Crimson, the senator disappeared. Baron Haussmann regarded the young stranger with amazed interest.

"You know him!" he protested. "He called you Sam!"

"Know him?" cried Sam impatiently. "I've got to know him! He's going to be my father-in-law."

The fingers of the rich man clutched the folded paper as the claws of a parrot cling to the bars of his cage. He let his sable coat slip into the hands of a servant; he turned back toward the marble staircase.

"Come!" he commanded.

Sam led him to the secluded corner Polly and he had left vacant and told his story.

"So, it is evident," concluded Sam, "that each night some one in the service of the Times dined at Pavoni's, and that his hat was the same sort of hat as the one worn by Hertz; and each night, inside the lining of his hat, Hertz hid the report of that day's proceedings. And when the Times man left the restaurant he exchanged hats with Hertz. But to-night--I got Hertz's hat and with it the treaty!"

In perplexity the blue eyes of the little great man frowned.

"It is a remarkable story," he said.

"You mean you don't believe me!" retorted Sam. "If I had financial standing--if I had credit--if I were not a stranger- you would not hesitate."

Baron Haussmann neither agreed nor contradicted. He made a polite and deprecatory gesture. Still in doubt, he stared at the piece of white paper. Still deep in thought, he twisted and creased between his fingers the Treaty of London!

Returning with the duchess from supper, Polly caught sight of Sam and, with a happy laugh, ran toward him. Seeing he was not alone, she halted and waved her hand.

"Don't forget!" she called. "At eleven!"

She made a sweet and lovely picture. Sam rose and bowed.

"I'll be there at ten," he answered.

With his mild blue eyes the baron followed Polly until she had disappeared. Then he turned and smiled at Sam.

"Permit me," he said, "to offer you my felicitations. Your young lady is very beautiful and very good." Sam bowed his head. "If she trusts you," murmured the baron, "I think I can trust you too."

"How wonderful is credit!" exclaimed Sam. "I was just saying so to my landlady. If you have only cash you spend it and nothing remains. But with credit you can--"

"How much," interrupted the banker, "do you want for this?"

Sam returned briskly to the business of the moment.

"To be your partner," he said--"to get half of what you make out of it."

The astonished eyes of the baron were large with wonder. Again he reproved Sam.

"What I shall make out of it?" he demanded incredulously. "Do you know how much I shall make out of it?"

"I cannot even guess," said Sam; "but I want half."

The baron smiled tolerantly.

"And how," he asked, "could you possibly know what I give you is really half?"

In his turn, Sam made a deprecatory gesture.

"Your credit," said Sam, "is good!"

That morning, after the walk in St. James's Park, when Sam returned with Polly to Claridge's, they encountered her father in the hall. Mindful of the affront of the night before, he greeted Sam only with a scowl.

"Senator," cried Sam happily, "you must be the first to hear the news! Polly and I are going into partnership. We are to be married."

This time Senator Seward did not trouble himself even to tell Sam he was an ass. He merely grinned cynically.

"Is that all your news?" he demanded with sarcasm.

"No," said Sam--"I am going into partnership with Baron Haussmann too!"

 
 
 

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