Chapter XXII. Activity of Austrian Spies

Louise left her brougham in Piccadilly and walked across the Green Park. Bellamy, who was waiting, rose up from a seat, hat in hand. She took his arm in foreign fashion. They walked together towards Buckingham Palace - a strangely distinguished-looking couple.

"My dear David," she said, "the man perplexes me. To look at him, to hear him speak, one would swear that he was honest. He has just those clear blue eyes and the stolid face, half stupid and half splendid, of your athletic Englishman. One would imagine him doing a foolishly honorable thing, but he is not my conception of a criminal at all."

Bellamy kicked a pebble from the path. His forehead wore a perplexed frown.

"He didn't give himself away, then?"

"Not in the least."

"He took you out and showed you the spot where it happened?"

"Without an instant's hesitation."

"As a matter of curiosity," asked Bellamy, "did he try to make love to you?"

She shook her head.

"I even gave him an opening," she said. "Of flirtation he has no more idea than the average stupid Englishman one meets."

Bellamy was silent for several moments.

"I can't believe," he said, "that there is the least doubt but that he has the money and the portfolio. I have made one or two other inquiries, and I find that his firm was in very low water indeed only a week ago. They were spoken of, in fact, as being hopelessly insolvent. No one can imagine how they tided over the crisis."

"The man who was watching for you?" she inquired.

"He makes no mistakes," Bellamy assured her. "He saw Laverick enter that passage and come out. Afterwards he went back to his office, although he had closed up there and had been on his homeward way. The thing could not have been accidental."

"Why do you not go to him openly?" she suggested. "He is, after all, an Englishman, and when you tell him what you know he will be very much in your power. Tell him of the value of that document. Tell him that you must have it."

"It could be done," Bellamy admitted. "I think that one of us must talk plainly to him. Listen, Louise, - are you seeing him again?"

"I have invited him to come to the Opera House to-night."

"See what you can do," he begged. "I would rather keep away from him myself, if I can. Have you heard anything of Streuss?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Nothing directly," she replied, "but my rooms have been searched - even my dressing-room at the Opera House. That man's spies are simply wonderful. He seems able to plant them everywhere. And, David! - "

"Yes, dear?"

"He has got hold of Lassen," she continued. "I am perfectly certain of it."

Then the sooner you get rid of Lassen, the better," Bellamy declared.

"It is so difficult," she murmured, in a perplexed tone. "The man has all my affairs in his hands. Up till now, although he is uncomely, and a brute in many ways, he has served me well."

"If he is Streuss's creature he must go," Bellamy insisted.

She nodded.

"Let us sit down for a few minutes," she said. "I am tired."

She sank on to a seat and Bellamy sat by her side. In full view of them was Buckingham Palace with its flag flying. She looked thoughtfully at it and across to Westminster.

"Do they know, I wonder, your country-people?" she asked.

"Half-a-dozen of them, perhaps," he answered gloomily, no more.

"To-day," she declared, "I seem to have lost confidence. I seem to feel the sense of impending calamity, to hear the guns as I walk, to see the terror fall upon the faces of all these great crowds who throng your streets. They are a stolid, unbelieving people - these. The blow, when it comes, will be the harder."

Bellamy sighed.

"You are right," he said. "When one comes to think of it, it is amazing. How long the prophets of woe have preached, and how completely their teachings have been ignored! The invasion bogey has been so long among us that it has become nothing but a jest. Even I, in a way, am one of the unbelievers."

"You are not serious, David!" she exclaimed.

"I am," he affirmed. "I think that if we could read that document we should see that there is no plan there for the immediate invasion of England. I think you would find that the blow would be struck simultaneously at our Colonies. We should either have to submit or send a considerable fleet away from home waters. Then, I presume, the question of invasion would come again. All the time, of course, the gage would be flung down, treaties would be defied, we should be scorned as though we were a nation of weaklings. Austria would gather in what she wanted, and there would be no one to interfere."

Louise was very pale but her eyes were flashing fire.

"It is the most terrible thing which has happened in history," she said, "this decadence of your country. Once England held the scales of justice for the world. Now she is no longer strong enough, and there is none to take her place. David, even if you know what that document contains, even then will it help very much?"

"Very much indeed. Don't you see that there is one hope left to us - one hope - and that is Russia? The Czar must be made to withdraw from that compact. We want to know his share in it. When we know that, there will be a secret mission sent to Russia. Germany and Austria are strong, but they are not all the world. With Russia behind and France and England westward, the struggle is at least an equal one. They have to face both directions, they have to face two great armies working from the east and from the west."

She nodded, and they sat there in silence for several moments. Bellamy was thinking deeply.

"You say, Louise," he asked, looking up quickly, "that your rooms have been searched. When was this?"

"Only last night," she replied.

Bellamy drew a little sigh of relief.

"At any rate," he said, "Streuss has no idea that the document is not in our possession. He knows nothing about Laverick. How are we going to deal with him, Louise, when he comes for his answer?"

"You have a plan?" she asked.

"There is only one thing to be done," Bellamy declared. "I shall say that we have already handed over the document to the English Government. It will be a bluff, pure and simple. He may believe it or he may not."

"You will break your compact then," she reminded him.

"I shall call myself justified," he continued. "He has attempted to rob us of the document. You are sure of what you say - that your rooms and dressing-room have been searched?"

"Absolutely certain," she declared.

"That will be sufficient," Bellamy decided. "If Streuss comes to me, I shall meet him frankly. I shall tell him that he has tried to play the burglar and that it must be war. I shall tell him that the compact is in the hands of the Prime Minister, and that he and his spies had better clear out."

She looked at him questioningly.

"Of course, you understand," he added, "there is one thing we can do, and one thing only. We must send a mission to Russia and another to France, and before the German fleet can pass down the North Sea we must declare war. It is the only thing left to us - a bold front. Without that packet we have no casus belli. With it, we can strike, and strike hard. I still believe that if we declare war within seven days, we shall save ourselves."

Streuss and Kahn looked, too, across the panorama of London, across the dingy Adelphi Gardens, the turbid Thames, the smoke-hung world beyond. They were together in Streuss's sitting-room on the seventh floor of one of the great Strand hotels.

"Our enterprise is a failure!" Kahn exclaimed gloomily. "We cannot doubt it any longer. I think, Streuss, that the best course you and I could adopt would be to realize it and to get back. We do no good here. We only run needless risks."

The face of the other man was dark with anger. His tone, when he spoke, shook with passion.

"You don't know what you say, Kahn!" he cried hoarsely. "I tell you that we must succeed. If that document reaches the hands of any one in authority here, it would be the worst disaster which has fallen upon our country since you or I were born. You don't understand, Kahn! You keep your eyes closed!"

"What men can do we have done," the other answered. "Von Behrling played us false. He has died a traitor's death, but it is very certain that he parted with his document before he received that twenty thousand pounds."

"Once and for all, I do not believe it!" Streuss declared. "At mid-day, I can swear to it that the contents of that envelope were unknown to the Ministers of the King here. Now if Von Behrling had parted with that document last Monday night, don't you suppose that everything would be known by now? He did not part with it. Bellamy and Mademoiselle lie when they say that they possess it. That document remains in the possession of Von Behrling's murderer, and it is for us to find him."

Kahn sighed.

"It is outside our sphere - that. What can we do against the police of this country working in their own land?"

Streuss struck the table before which they were standing. The veins in his temples were like whipcord.

"Adolf," he muttered, "you talk like a fool! Can't you see what it means? If that document reaches its destination, what do you suppose will happen?"

"They will know our plans, of course," Kahn answered. "They will have time to make preparation."

Streuss laughed bitterly.

"Worse than that!" he exclaimed. "They are not all fools, these English statesmen, though one would think so to read their speeches. Can't you see what the result would be if that document reaches Downing Street? War at a moment's notice, war six months too soon! Don't you know that every shipbuilding yard in Germany is working night and day? Don't you know that every nerve is being strained, that the muscles of the country are hammering the rivets into our new battleships? There is but one chance for this country, and if her statesmen read that document they will know what it is. It is open to them to destroy the German navy utterly, to render themselves secure against attack."

"They would never have the courage," Kahn declared. "They might make a show of defending themselves if they were attacked, but to take the initiative - no! I do not believe it."

"There is one man who has wit enough to do it," Streuss said. "He may not be in the Cabinet, but he commands it. Kahn, wake up, man! You and I together have never known what failure means. I tell you that that document is still to be bought or fought for, and we must find it. This morning Mademoiselle drove into the city and called at the offices of a stockbroker within a dozen yards of Crooked Friars' Alley. She was there a long time. The stockbroker himself came out with her into the street, took her to see the entry, stood with her there and returned. What was her interest in him, Kahn? His name is Laverick. Four days ago he was on the brink of ruin. To the amazement of every one, he met all his engagements. Why did Mademoiselle go to the city to see him? He was at his office late that Tuesday night. He had a partner who has disappeared."

Kahn looked at his companion with admiration.

"You have found all this out!" he exclaimed.

"And more," Streuss declared. "For twenty-four hours, this man Laverick has not moved without my spies at his heels."

"Why not approach him boldly?" Kahn suggested. "If he has the document, let us outbid Mademoiselle Louise, and do it quickly."

Streuss shook his head.

"You don't know the man. He is an Englishman, and if he had any idea what that document contained, our chances of buying it would be small indeed. This is what I think will happen. Mademoiselle will try to obtain it, and try in vain. Then Bellamy will tell him the truth, and he will part with it willingly. In the meantime, I believe that it is in his possession.

"The evidence is slender enough," objected Kahn.

"What if it is!" Streuss exclaimed. "If it is only a hundred to one chance, we have to take it. I have no fancy for disgrace, Adolf, and I know very well what will happen if we go back empty-handed."

The telephone bell rang. Streuss took off the receiver and held it to his ear. The words which he spoke were few, but when he laid the instrument down there was a certain amount of satisfaction in his face.

"At any rate," he announced, "this man Laverick did not part with the document to-day. Mademoiselle Louise and Bellamy have been sitting in the Park for an hour. When they separated, she drove home and dropped him at his club. Up till now, then, they have not the document. We shall see what Mr. Laverick does when he leaves business this evening; if he goes straight home, either the document has never been in his possession, or else it is in the safe in his office; if he goes to Mademoiselle Idiale's - "

"Well?" Kahn asked eagerly.

"If he goes to Mademoiselle Idiale's," Streuss repeated slowly, "there is still a chance for us!"