A FASCINATING TRAITOR
AN ANGLO-INDIAN STORY
By Col. Richard Henry Savage
BOOK I. OUT OF THE DEAD PAST.
I.-A Chance Meeting at Geneva
II.-An Offensive and Defensive Alliance
III.-"And at Delhi What Am I to Do?"
IV.-The Veiled Rosebud of Delhi
V.-A Diplomatic Tiffin
BOOK II. "A DEVIL FOR LUCK."
VI.-The Mysterious Bungalow
VII.-The Price of Safety
VIII.-Harry Hardwicke Takes the Gate Neatly!
IX.-Alan Hawke Plays His Trump Card
X.-A Captivated Viceroy
BOOK III. PRINCE DJIDDIN'S VISIT TO ENGLAND.
XI.-"Do You See This Dagger?"
XII.-On the Cliffs of Jersey
XIII.-An Asiatic Lion in Hiding.
XIV.-The Council at Granville
XV.-The French Fisher Boat "Hirondelle"
BOOK I. OUT OF THE DEAD PAST.
CHAPTER I. A CHANCE MEETING AT GENEVA.
"By Jove! I may as well make an end of the thing right here to-night!" was the dejected conclusion of a long council of war over which Major Alan Hawke had presided, with the one straggling comfort of being its only member.
All this long September afternoon he had dawdled away in feeding certain rapacious swans navigating gracefully around Rousseau's Island. He had consumed several Trichinopoly cigars in the interval, and had moodily gazed back upon the strange path which had led him to the placid shores of Lake Leman! The gay promenaders envied the debonnair-looking young Briton, whose outer man was essentially "good form." Children left the side of their ox-eyed bonnes to challenge the handsome young stranger with shy, friendly approaches.
Bevies of flashing-eyed American girls "took him in" with parthian glances, and even a widowed Russian princess, hobbling by, easing her gouty steps with a jeweled cane, gazed back upon the moody Adonis and sighed for the vanished days, when she possessed both the physical and mental capacity to wander from the beaten paths of the proprieties.
But—the world forgetting—the young man lingered long, gazing out upon the broad expanse of the waters, his eyes resting carelessly upon the superb panorama of the southern shore. He had wandered far away from the Grand Hotel National, in the aimlessness of sore mental unrest, and, all unheeded, the hours passed on, as he threaded the streets of the proud old Swiss burgher city. He had known its every turn in brighter days, and, though the year of ninety-one was a brilliant Alpine season, and he was in the very flower of youth and manly promise, gaunt care walked as a viewless warder at Alan Hawke's side.
He had crossed over the Pont de Montblanc to the British Consulate, only to learn that the very man whom he had come from Monaco to seek, was now already at Aix la Chapelle, on his way to America, on a long leave. He had wearily made a tour of the principal hotels and scanned the registers with no lucky find! Not a single gleam of hope shone out in all the polyglot inscriptions passing under his eye! And so he had sadly betaken himself to a safe, retired place, where he could hold the aforesaid council of war.
The practical part of the operations of this sole committee of ways and means, was an exhaustive examination of his depleted pockets. A few sovereigns and a single crisp twenty-pound Bank of England note constituted the rear guard of Alan Hawke's vanished "sinews of war." The young man briefly noted the slender store, with a sigh.
"Twenty-five pounds—and a little trumpery jewelry—I can't ever get back to India on that!" He seemed to hear again the rasping voice of the vulpine caller at Monte Carlo: "Messieurs! Faites vos jeux! Rien ne va plus! Le jeu est fait!" And, if a dismal failure in Lender had been his Leipsic, the black week at Monaco had been his long drawn-out Waterloo! "I was a rank fool to go there," he growled, "and a greater fool to come over here! I might have got on easily to Malta, and then chanced it from there to Calcutta!"
The sun's last lances glittered on the waters gleaming clear as crystal, with their deep blue tint of reflected sky, and liquid sapphire! The gardens were becoming deserted as the loungers dropped off homeward one by one, and still the handsome young fellow sat moodily gazing down into the rushing waters of the arrowy Rhone, as if he fain would cast the dark burden of his dreary thoughts far away from him down into those darkling waters. But thirty-two years of age, Alan Hawke had already outlived all his wild boyish romances. The thrill with which he had first set foot upon the land of Clive and Warren Hastings had faded away long years gone! And, Fate had stranded him at Geneva!
As he sat, still irresolute as to his future movements, the dying sunlight gilded the splendid panorama of the whole Mont Blanc group. Rose and purple, with fading gold and amethystine gleams played softly upon the far-away giant peak, with its noble bodyguard, the Aiguilles du Midi, Grandes Jorasses, the Dent du Geant, the sturdy pyramid of the Mole, and the long far sweep of the Voirons. But he noted not these splendors of the dying sun god, as he stood there moodily defying adverse fate, a modern Manfred. "I might with this get on to London—but what waits me there? Only scorn, callous neglect!" His eye fell upon the statue of Jean Jacques, lifted up there by the sturdy men who have for centuries clung to the golden creeds of civil and religious liberty—the independence of man—and the freedom of the unshackled human soul. "Poor Rousseau! seer and parasite, fugitive adventurer, the sport of the great, the eater of bitter bread—the black bread of dependence! I will not linger here in a long-drawn agony! Here, I will end it forever, and to-night!"
There were certain visions of the past which returned to shake even the iron nerves of Alan Hawke! Face to face now with his half formed resolution of suicide, the wasted past slowly unrolled itself before him.
The brief days of his service in India, an abrupt exit from the service, long years of wandering in Japan and China, as a gentleman adventurer, and all the singular phases of a nomadic life in Burmah, Nepaul, Cashmere, Bhootan, and the Pamirs.
He smiled in derision at the recollection of a briefly flattering fortune which had rebaptized him with a shadowy title of uncertain origin. Thus far, his visiting card, "Major Alan Hawke, Bombay Club" had been an easily vised passport, but—alas—good only among his own kind! He was but a free lance of the polished "Detrimentals," and, under this last adverse stroke of fortune, his poor cockboat was being swamped in the black waters of adversity. He had staked much upon a little campaign at the Foreign Office in London. The cold rebuff which he had received to there had carried him in sheer desperation over to Monaro and incoming onto Geneva, he had "burned his ships" behind him. Ignorant of the precise manner in which his clouded reputation had stopped the way to his advancement in the English Secret Service, he remembered, even at the last, that a few letters were due to those who still watched his little flickering light on its way over the trackless sea of life. For hard-hearted as he was,—benumbed by the blows of fate, his heart calloused with the snapping of cords and ties which once had closely bound him—there were yet loosely knit bonds of the past which tinged with the glow of his dying passions—the unforgotten idols of his adventurous career!
He rose and walked mechanically along the Qua du Mont Blanc with the alert, springy step of the soldier. "Once a Captain, always a Captain" was in every line of his resolute, martial figure. His well-set-up, graceful form, his nobly poised head and easy soldierly bearing contrasted sharply with the lazy shuffle of the prosperous Swiss denizens and the listless lolling of the sporadic foreign tourists. Crisp, curling, tawny hair, a sweeping soldierly moustache, with a resolute chin and gleaming blue eyes accentuated a handsome face burnt to a dark olive by the fiery Indian sun. An easy insouciance tempered the habitual military smartness of the man who had known several different services in the fifteen years of his wasted young manhood. As he swung into the glare of the hospitable doorway of the Grand Rational, the obsequious head porter doffed his gold banded cap.
"Table d'hote serving now, Major!" With the mere social instinct of long years, Alan Hawke recognized the man's perfunctory politeness, tipped him a couple of francs, and then, mechanically sauntered to a seat in the superb salle a manger. "I'll get out of here to-night," he muttered, and then he bent down his head over the carte du jour and peered at the wine list, as the chatter of happy voices, the animated faces of lovely women and the eager hum of social life around, recalled him to that world from which he contemplated an unceremonious exit. It was in a deference to old habit, and the "qu en dira't on," that he ordered a half bottle of excellent Chambertin and then proceeded to dine with all the scrupulous punctilio of the old happy mess days.
Something of defiance seemed to steal back into his veins with the generous warmth of the wine—a touch of the old gallant spirit with which he had faced a hard world, since the unfortunate incident which had abruptly terminated his connection with "The Widow's" Service. His eye swept carelessly over the international detachment seated at the splendid table. Lively and chattering as they were, it was a human Sahara to him. He easily recognized the "Ten-Pounder" element of wandering Britons; poor, anxious-eyed beings grudgingly furloughed from shop and desk, and now sternly determined to descend at Charing Cross without breaking into the few reserve sovereigns. Serious-looking women, clad in many colors, and stolid cockneys, hostile to all foreign innovation, met his eye. He sighed as he cast his social net and drew up nothing.
There was a vacant chair at his left. Very shortly, without turning his eyes, he was made aware of the proximity of a woman, young, evidently a continental, from her softly murmured French.
"Houbigant's Forest Violets," he murmured. "She is at least semi-civilized!" He was dreaming of the far off lotos land which he had left, as he felt the rebellious protest of his young blood and the defiant spirit awaked by the mechanical luxury of the well-ordered dinner. "These human pawns seem to be all prosperous, if not happy! I'll have another shy at it! By God! I must get back to India!" The whole checkered past rushed back over his mind! The fifteen years of his "wanderjahre"! Scenes which even he dared not recall! Incidents which he had never dared to own to any European! He but too well knew the origin of his loosely applied title of Major—a field officer's rank more honored at the easygoing clubs of Yokahama, Shanghai, and Hong Kong than on the Army List—a rank best known at the ring-side of Indian sporting grounds, and only tacitly accepted in the extra-official circles of Hindustan. For it figured not in the official Army List, either as active or retired. The whole panorama of the mystic land of the Hindus was unrolled once more by the memories of fifteen clouded years, He saw again his far-away theater of varied action, with its huge grim mountains towering far over the snow line, its arid wastes, its fertile plains bathed in intense sunshine, its mystic rivers, and its silent, solemn shrines of the vanished gods.
Major Alan Hawke silently ran over his slender professional accomplishments. "I'm not too heavy to ride yet. I've a fair hand at cards—tough nerves, and even a bit of staying power. Luck may turn my way yet and there's always the Pamirs! At the worst, the Russians—the Afghans,—or those fellows up in Sikkim and Hill Tipperah! An artillerist is always welcome there!" But even in his moral desperation, he hung his head, for a flush of his boyhood's bright ambitions returned to shame him. An old song jingled in his memory, "When I first put this uniform on." He lapsed into a bitter reverie!
The soldier of fortune was finally aroused from a brown study by the impassive steward presenting two great dishes. The clatter of some late convive seating himself also caused him to turn his head.
"Hello, Anstruther! You are a long way from staff headquarters here!" quietly said Hawke, as the new arrival gazed at him in a mute surprise.
Captain the Honorable Anson Anstruther put up his monocle and duly answered: "I thought that you were still in Calcutta, Hawke." There was a faint noli me tangere air in the young staff officer's manner, and yet mere propinquity drew them together in a few minutes. With the insouciance of men bred in club and at mess, the two soldiers soon drifted into an easy chat, meeting on safe grounds. They calmly ignored the surrounding civilians, regardless of the attractions of two falcon-eyed Chicago beauties, loud of voice and brilliantly overdressed, who were guiding "Popper" and "Mommer" over the continent. These resplendent daughters of Columbia already boasted a train consisting of a French count (of a very old and shadowy regime), a singularly second-hand looking Italian marquis, a wooden-soldier figured German baron, and a sad-eyed, distant-looking Russian prince, whose bold Tartar glances rested hungrily upon both Miss "Phenie" and Miss "Genie" Forbes.
The Anglo-Indians, however, calmly pursued their dinner and gossip regardless of the fact that Miss "Phenie" had violently nudged Miss "Genie," and whispered in a stage aside: "Say, Genie, look at those two English fellows! They are something like—I bet you that they are two Lords!" The approval of the gilded Western maidens, whose father systematically assassinated a thousand porkers per diem, was lost upon the chance-met acquaintances. "I must get back to India, by hook or crook," mused Alan Hawke, and therefore, he very delicately played his wary fish, the sybaritic young swell of the staff. Captain the Honorable Anson Anstruther's reserve soon melted under the skillful bonhomie of the astute Alan Hawke. An easy-going patrician of the staff, he was in the magic circle of the viceroy. The heir to an inevitable fortune, and already vested with substantially stratified deposits at "Coutts" and Glyn, Carr and Glyn's, he would have been envied by most luckless mortals the heavy balances which he always carried at "Grind-lay's," a fortune for any less fortunate man.
He was already interested in the remarkably fetching looking young woman at Alan Hawke's left, being a squire of dames par excellence, while Major Alan Hawke himself wondered how Anstruther had drifted so far away from the direct line of travel to London.
Thawing visibly under the influence of Hawke's gracefully modulated camaraderie, the susceptible Anstruther was attentively examining his fair neighbor in silence, while he tried vaguely to recall some story which he had once heard, quite detrimental to the cosmopolitan Major.
He gave it up as a bad job! "Hang it!" he thought. "It may have been some other chap. Very likely!" It was the strange story of a sharp encounter with the hostile Kookies, in which a couple of English mountain guns, long before abandoned by a British expeditionary force, had been served with due professional skill and most desperate dash by a reckless man, easily recognized as an English refugee artillerist. The wounded escaped British soldier, who had died after denouncing the deserting adventurer, had left his parting advice to the Royal Artillery to burn the fearless renegade, should he ever be captured. It was the Story of a nameless traitor!
But, the vague distrust of the curled darling of Fortune soon faded away under Hawke's measured social leading. A silver wine cooler stood behind their chairs, and the old yarn of a British officer playing Olivier Pain became very misty under the subtle influence of the Pommery Sec. Alan Hawke guarded the expected story of his own wanderings, waiting craftily until Bacchus and Venus had sufficiently mollified Anstruther.
He duplicated the champagne, knowing well the warming influence of "t'other bottle." The Major of a shadowy rank had early learned the graceful art of effacing himself, and on this occasion, it stood greatly to his credit. Anstruther was now quite sure that the graceful head of the beautiful neighbor swayed in an unconscious recognition of his witty sallies. A true son of Mars—ardent, headlong, and gallant as regarded le beau sexe—he talked brilliantly and well, aiming his boomerang remarks at a woman whom he knew to be young and graceful, and whose beauty he was gayly taking upon trust; an old, old interlude, played many a time and oft.
"What is going on here in this beastly slow old town? Nothing much for to-night, I fancy," said the aid-de-camp, wondering if a promenade au clair de la lune or a carriage ride to Ferney would be possible! He already had noted the purity of the French accent of the fair unknown. No guttural Swiss patois there, but that crisp elegance of tone which promised him a flirtation en vraie Parisienne.
"Only Philemon and Baucis, an antique opera, at the Grand Opera House, and sung by a band of relics of better days, wandering over here!" said Hawke.
And then it finally dawned upon the blase young staff officer that he had met Alan Hawke in certain circles where plunging had chased away the tedium of Indian club life with the delightful sensations of raking in other people's money.
"Better come up to my rooms then, and have a weed and a bit of ecarte!" slowly said Anstruther. "We may manage a ride afterward!" Alan Hawke nodded, and a thirsty gleam lit up his crafty eyes. He instinctively felt for the little card case containing that solitary twenty-pound note; it was a gentleman's stake after all. And the would-be suicide silently invoked the fickle goddess Fortuna!
Captain Anstruther, however, furtively murmured a few words to the solemn head steward and then leaned back contentedly in his chair. His ostensible orders for cafe noir and cards, as well as the least murderous of the obtainable cigars, covered the plan of using a five-pound note in an adroit personal inquiry. For, the Honorable Anson Anstruther proposed to ride that very evening, and he did not wish to bore Major Hawke with his company. He nursed a little scheme of his own. "Do you make a long stay?" carelessly said the wary Major.
"I intend to leave to-morrow night," gayly answered the other. "I came over here on a very strange errand. I've got to see an eminent Gorgon of respectability, who has a finishing school here for the young person bien clevee," said Anstruther, eyeing the unknown.
"Hardly in your line, Anstruther!" laughed Hawke, casting his eyes around the depleted table, for Miss Phenie and Miss Genie Forbes had vanished at last, leaving behind them expanding wave circles of sharply echoing comment. The noisy Teutons had devoured their seven francs worth, and the fair bird of passage on their left was left alone, woman-like, dallying with the last sweets and finishing her demi bouteille with true French deliberation. "It's a case of the wolf and the sheep-fold!"
"Not that; not at all!" gayly answered Anstruther. "I have a long leave, and I only ran over here to oblige His Excellency." He spoke with all the easy disdain of all underlings born of an Indian official life—the habitual disregard of the Briton for his inferior surroundings. "By Jove! you may help me out yourself! You're an old Delhi man!" He gazed earnestly at Hawke, who started nervously, and then said:
"You know I've been away for a good bit of the ten years in the far Orient, but I used to know them all, before I went out of the line."
"Then you surely know old Hugh Johnstone, the rich, old, retired deputy commissioner of Oude?" Alan Hawke slowly sipped his champagne, for his Delhi memories were both risky and uncertain ground.
"I fail to recall the name, Johnstone—Johnstone," murmured Hawke.
"Why, everyone knows old Johnstone; he is an old mutiny man. You surely do! He was Hugh Fraser until he took the name of Johnstone, ten years or so ago, on a Scotch relative leaving him a handsome Highland estate!" There was a warning rustle at Hawke's left, as the fair stranger prepared for her flitting.
"I was very intimate with Hugh Fraser in my griffin days. But I thought he had retired and gone back home. He is enormously rich, and an old bachelor! I know him very well; he was a good friend of mine in the old days, too!"
Anstruther leaned toward Hawke, as he signed to the waiter to refill his hearer's glass. "Well, I can surprise even you! He has turned up with a beautiful daughter—at Delhi—just about the prettiest girl I ever—"
"Je demande mills pardons, Madame!" politely cried Major Hawke, as his fair neighbor's wineglass went shivering down in a crystalline wreck.
"Pas de quoi, Monsieur," suavely replied the woman whom till now he had hardly noticed. A moment later the slight damage was repaired, and then Captain the Honorable Anson Anstruther had his little innings.
With courtly hospitality he offered the creamy champagne as a remplacement for the lost vin du pays.
A charming smile rewarded the gallant youth, while Major Hawke turned with interest to the renewal of the interrupted narrative. He had caught a glance of burning intensity from the dark brown eyes of the lady a la Houbigant, which set every nerve in his body tingling. It was a challenge to a companionship, and, as he led on the triumphant Anstruther, he deeply regretted the absence of that most necessary organ,—an eye in the back of the head. He was dimly aware that his beautiful neighbor was very leisurely drinking the peace offering of the susceptible son of Mars. "I will bet hundreds to ha'pennies she speaks English!" quickly reflected the now aroused Major.
"You astound me, Anstruther," the Major said. "Not a lawful child! Some Eurasian legacy—a relic of the old days of the Pagoda Tree! Why, the old commissioner always was a woman hater, and absolutely hostile to all social influences!" The Captain was now stealing longing glances at the willowy figure of the beautiful woman whose glistening dark brown eyes were turned to him with a languid glance, as Alan Hawke leaned forward. To prolong the sight of that bewitching half profile, with the fair, low brows, the velvet cheeks, a Provencale flush tinting them, the parted lips a dainty challenge speaking, and the rich masses of dark brown hair nobly crowning her regal outlines, Anstruther yielded to the spell and babbled on. "The whole thing is a strange melange of official business and dying gossip!" dreamily said Anstruther with his eyes straying over the ivory throat, the superbly modeled bust and perfect figure of the young Venus Victrix.
He was duly rewarded by a glance of secret intelligence when he leaned back, dreamily closing his eyes. "You see, they were going to make old Hugh Fraser or Hugh Johnstone, as he is now called, a baronet for some secret services to the Crown of an important nature, rendered about the time when mad Hodson piled up the whole princely succession to the House of Oude in a trophy of naked corpsess pistoling them with his own hand." He ordered a third bottle of Pommery, with a wave of his hand, and proceeded: "Of course, you know, Her Majesty's Government always closely investigate the social antecedents of the nominee in such cases. The change of name is all right; it is regularly entered at Herald's College and all that sort of thing, but the Chief has heard of the sudden appearance of this beautiful daughter. Now, old Johnstone surely never looked the way of woman in India! It's true that he went back about twenty years ago to England on a two years' leave. He has lived the life of a splendid recluse in his magnificent old bungalow on the Chandnee Chouk."
Anstruther paused, fishing for another fugitive smile. He caught it behind the back of the wary adventurer.
"I know the old house well," said Hawke with an affected unconcern. "Men were always entertained royally there, but I never saw a woman of station in its vast saloons."
"Now there you are!" cried Anstruther, lightly resuming: "I was sent up to Delhi to delicately find out about this alleged daughter, for the Chief does not want to throw Johnstone's baronetcy over. The fact is before they packed the toothless old King of Oude away to Rangoon to die with his favorite wife and their one wolf cub out there, Hugh Fraser skillfully extorted a surrender of a huge private treasure of jewels from these people while they were hidden away in Humayoon's tomb. There's one trust deposit yet to be divided between the Government and this sly old Indo-Scotch-man, and I fancy the empty honor of the baronetcy is a quid pro quo." Alan Hawke laughed heartily. "It is really diamond cut diamond, then."
"Precisely," said Anstruther, as he most calmly waved his hand to the steward, who silently refilled even the glass of the Venus Anonyma. A slight inclination of the head and parthian glance number three, encouraged Anstruther to hasten and conclude, for the moon was sailing grandly over the lake now.
Love thrilled in the young man's vacant heart, sounding the chords of the Harp of Life. He had been in a glittering Indian exile long enough to be very susceptible. "I spent two weeks up there with the expectant Sir Hugh Johnstone," lightly rattled on the aid. "I verified the fact that the young woman is his acknowledged daughter. He has no other lineal heir to the title, for an old, dry-as-dust, retired Edinburgh professor, a brother, childless and eccentric, is living near St. Helier's, in Jersey, in a beautiful Norman chateau farm mansion, where old Hugh proposed once to end his days. It seems to be all square enough. I was as delicate as I could be about it, and the matter is apparently all right. The papers have all gone on, and, in due time, Hugh Fraser will be Sir Hugh Johnstone!"
Anstruther quaffed a beaker with guileful ideas of detaining his fair neighbor, now ruffling her plumage for departure, for only a sporadic knot of diners here and there lingered at the long table. "The girl herself?" asked Hawke, with a strange desire to know more.
"Report has duly magnified her hidden charms," replied Anstruther. "She is called "The Veiled Rose of Delhi," and no manner of man may lift that mystic veil. I was treated en prince, but held at arm's length."
Hawke smiled softly, and said in a low voice, "I hardly see how all this brings you over here. The Rose blooms by the far-away Jumna."
"Then know, my friend," laughed Anstruther, "such a rose as the peerless Nadine Johnstone must have a duenna." He deftly caught an impassioned glance from the softly shining brown eyes, and hastily went on. "She was educated right here in this emporium of watches, musical boxes, correct principles, and scientific research. Mesdames Justine and Euphrosyne Delande, No. 122 Rue du Rhone, conduct an institute (justly renowned) where calisthenics, a view of the lake, a little music, a great deal of bad French, and the Conversations Lexicon, with some surface womanly graces, may all be had for some two hundred pounds a year. Miss Justine Delande, a sedately gray-tinted spinster, has been tempted to remain on guard for a year out in India, having safely conducted this Pearl of Jeunes Personnes Bien Elevees out to the old Qui Hai. I have been charged with some few necessary explanations and negotiations, the delivery of some presents, and, when I have visited this first-class institute, enjoying all the attractions of the Jardin Anglais and the Promenade du Lac, I shall flee these tranquil slopes of the Pennine Alps. Incidentally, the records of Mademoiselle Euphrosyne will confirm the very natural story of the would-be Sir Hugh, whose vanished wife no Anglo-Indian has ever seen. She is supposably dead. A last official note after I have run on to Paris will close up the whole awkward matter. I will call there tomorrow and then take the early train, as I am on for a lot of family visits and sporting events before I can settle down to have my bit of a fling."
"It's a very strange story," murmured Alan Hawke. "No man ever suspected Hugh Fraser of family honors."
"And 'the Rose of Delhi!' will probably marry some lucky fellow out there, as old Johnstone has lacs and lacs of rupees," said Anstruther, "for he cannot keep her in his great gardens forever, guarded by the stony-eyed Swiss spinster, or let her run around as the Turks do their priceless pet sheep with a silver bell around her neck. There was some old marital unhappiness, I suppose, for the girl is evidently born in wedlock, and the story is straight enough."
"Have you seen her?" eagerly inquired Hawke.
"Just a few stolen glimpses," hastily replied Anstruther, politely rising and bowing as the fair unknown suddenly left her seat, in evident confusion.
The two men strolled out of the salle & manger together, Major Alan Hawke critically observing the heightened color and evident elan of his aristocratic friend.
"Oh! I say, Hawke," cried Anstruther, "they'll show you up to my rooms in a few moments. I'll go and see the maitre d'hotel here! The service is beastly—beastly!" and the youth fled quickly away.
Major Alan Hawke nodded affably, and slowly mounted the staircase to his room, wondering if the aid-de-camp was destined by the gods to furnish forth his purse for the return to India. "He's pretty well set up now, and he evidently has his eye upon this brown-eyed nixie. Dare I rush my luck? The boy's a bit stupid at cards." With downcast eyes the anxious adventurer wandered along the corridor in the dimly-lighted second story. It was the turning point of his career.
There was the rapid rustle of silk, the patter of gliding feet, a warm, trembling hand seized his own, and in the darkness of a window recess he was aware that he was suddenly made the prize of the fair corsair ci la Houbigant. "Quick, quick, tell me! Do you go with him?" the strange enchantress said, in excited tones, using the English tongue as if to the manner born.
"Madame! I hardly understand," cautiously said the astounded Major.
"I want you to help me! You must help me! I must see him! I must find out all." The sound of a servant's steps arrested her incoherent remarks. "Wait here!" the excited woman whispered, as she walked back down the hall. There was a whispered colloquy, and Alan Hawke caught the gleam of the silver neck chain of the maitre d'hotel. The sound of an opening door was heard, and, in a few moments the flying Camilla returned to her hidden prey.
"Tell me truly," she panted, "what will you do with him? He wishes me to ride with him; my answer depends on you. You are in trouble; I can see it in your haggard eyes. Help me now, and—and I will help you!" And then Alan Hawke spoke truly to the waif of Destiny, whom chance had thrown in his way.
"I only wish to play with him for a couple of hours; if luck turns my way, that will be time enough!"
"Ah! you would have money! Let him go away in peace! Help me to-morrow, here, and I will give you money!"
"What is your own scheme?" the doubting vaurien demanded.
"I must know all of this Hugh Johnstone, all about this girl," she whispered, her lips almost touching his cheek.
"Let me play with him to-night; I am yours as soon as he departs!" sullenly said Hawke.
"Then, finish in two hours," the woman said, gathering her draperies to flee away, "for I will ride with him to-night!"
"Just a bit unconventional," murmured Alan Hawke. "Who the devil can this French-English woman be anyway." He realized that some subtle game depended upon the memories of the past strangely evoked by the artless Anstruther's babble. As he strolled back to the smoking-room, he saw the maitre d'hotel slyly deliver a twisted bit of paper to the all too unconcerned looking young Adonis, and the gleam of a napoleon shone out in the grave faced Figaro's hand. "Now for our cafe noir, a good pousse cafe—and—a dash at the painted beauties. I can't play very long," was Anstruther's salutation, as he complacently twisted his mustache en hussar. Major Hawke bowed in a silent delight.
And so it fell out that both wolf and panther—hungry vulpine prowler and sleek feminine soft-footed enemy—gathered closely, around the young British Lion, whose easy self-complacency led him into the snare, hoodwinked by the fair unknown Delilah.
Alan Hawke strode to the windows of Anstruther's rooms and standing there, watched the drifting moonbeams mantling on the spectral blue lake, while his chance-met friend rang for a waiter. There was the murmur of confidential orders, and then Anson Anstruther with a bright smile dropped easily into the role of host. The young staff officer was so elated by the apparently flattering selection of the fair anonyma that he never considered the idea of possible foul play. It was evident that Major Hawke had not noticed the little by-play which was the delightful undercurrent of the table d'hotel dinner. There was no time lost in the preliminaries of the card duel.
Through curling blue wreaths of aromatic incense, over the brandy-dashed coffee, the two men sententiously struggled for the smiles of Fortune, with impassive faces, in a rapid duel of wits as the fleeting moments sped along.
The tide of luck was set dead against Anstruther, who strangely seemed to be now possessed of a merry devil. He made perilous excursions into the land of brandy and soda, gayly faced his bad fortune, and feverishly chattered over the well-worn Anglo-Indian gossip adroitly introduced by the now nerve-steadied Hawke. General Renwick's loss of his faded and feeble spouse, the far-famed "Poor Thing" of much polite apology for her socially aristocratic ailments; Vane Tempest's singular elopement with the beautiful wife of a green subaltern; Harry Chillingly's untoward end while potting tigers; Count Platen's enormous winnings at Baccarat; Fitzgerald Law's falling into a peerage; and Mrs. Claire Atterbury, the wealthy widow's purchase of a handsome boy-husband fresh from Sandhurst. All this with Jack Blunt's long expected ruin, and a spicy court-martial or two, furnished a running accompaniment to Anstruther's expensive "personally conducted tour" into the intricacies of ecarte, led on by the coolest safety player who ever fleeced a griffin. Truly these were golden moments. The Major's cool steady eyes were sternly fixed on his cards.
The self-imposed sentence of suicide of the afternoon was indefinitely postponed when Alan Hawke amiably nodded as Anstruther at last apologized for glancing at his watch. "I've a bit to do to get ready for to-morrow, and we'll try one more hand and then I'll say good-night."
"Well, I'll give you your revenge at any time, Anstruther! By the way, what's your London address?" Hawke was complacently good humored as he glanced at a visiting card whereon sundry comfortable figures were roughly totted up.
"Junior United Service, always," carelessly said Anstruther. "They keep run of me, for I'm off for the woods as soon as the shooting season opens. Where will you be this winter?"
Major Hawke assumed a mysterious air, "That depends upon the Russian and Chinese game—the Persian and Afghan intrigues! You see, I am awaiting some ripening affairs in the F. O. I was called back on account of my familiarity with the Pamirs, and there's a good bit of Blue Book work that my knowledge of Penj Deh, and the whole Himalayan line has helped out." The captain was a bit agnostic now.
"You were—-" began Anson Anstruther, timidly, the old vague gossip returning to haunt him. His ardor was cooling in view of the very neat sum of his losses in three figures.
"On Major Montgomerie's escort as a raw boy when I came out," promptly interrupted Hawke. "I went all over Thibet in '75 with Nana Singh as a youngster. He was a wonderful chap and besides executing the secret survey of Thibet, he ran all over Cashmere, Nepaul, Sikkim, and Bhootan, secretly charged with securing authentic details of the death of Nana Sahib." The cool assurance of the adventurer disarmed the now serious Anstruther, for both the sagacious English officer and his disguised assistant, Nana Singh, were both dead these many years. "Morley's is my regular address; I keep up no home club memberships now," coolly said Hawke, as at last they threw the cards down.
Anstruther picked up his marker card as he glanced at Hawke's ready money upon the table. There was a ten-pound note folded under the Major's neat pocket case and a plethoric fold of Bank of England notes bulged the neat Russia leather. He never knew that only thirteen one-pound notes made up this brave financial show of his adversary. Alan Hawke was a past master of keeping up a brave exterior and he blessed the Cook's Tourists who had that day left these small bills with the hotel cashier.
"Now, here you are," hastily said Anstruther. "Do you make the same total as I do?" The spoiled patrician boy carelessly shoved out sixty pounds in notes and rummaging over his portmanteau produced a check book. "There, I think that's right. Check on Grindlay, 11 and 12 Parliament Street, for four hundred and twenty-eight." Hawke bowed gravely with the air of a satisfied duelist, and then carelessly swept the check and notes into his breast pocket.
"Tell me, what sort of a girl is this Nadine Johnstone," the wanderer said, by way of a diversion.
"I can't tell you! Only old General Willoughby has pierced the veil. Of course, Johnstone could not refuse a visit from the Commander of Her Majesty's forces. In fact, Harry Hardwicke, of the Engineers, accompanied Willoughby. The old chief treats Hardwicke as a son since he bore the body of the dear old fellow's son out of fire in the Khyber Pass, and won a promotion and the V. C. Harry says the girl is a modern Noor-Mahal! But, she is as speechless and timid as a startled fawn! Now, Major, you will excuse me. I have to leave you!" There was a fretful haste in the passionate boy's manner. The hour was already near midnight.
"Shall I not see you to-morrow?" politely resumed Hawke. "You will not spend your whole morning with the stern damsel in spectacles and steel-like armor of indurated poplin?"
"Do you know I'm afraid I shall miss you," earnestly said the aide. "Hugh Johnstone wishes me to urge Mademoiselle Euphrosyne to allow her sister to remain in India, in charge of the Rose of Delhi until the old eccentric returns. Of course, the girl left alone would be an easy prey to every fortune hunter in India, should anything happen!" There was a ferocious, wild gleam in Alan Hawke's eyes as the aide grasped his hat and stick. "I wish to probe the family records and find out what I can of the 'distaff side of the line,' as Mr. Guy Livingstone would say. I have some really valuable presents, and I am on honor to the Viceroy in this, for, of course, a baronetcy must not be given into sullied hands. Johnstone will probably hermetically seal the girl up till the Kaisar-I-Hind has spoken officially. Then, if this delicate matter of the hidden booty of the King of Oude is settled, the old fellow intends to return to the home place he has bought. I'm told it's the finest old feudal remnant in the Channel Islands, and magnificently modernized. The government does not want to press him. You see they can't! The things went out of the hands of the hostile traitor princes, and Hugh Fraser, as he was, cajoled them from the custody of the go-betweens. We have never gone back on the plighted word of a previous Governor-General! The Queen's word must not be broken. I have a bit of persuading to do, and some other little matters to settle!"
"Well, then, Anstruther, we may meet again on the line of the Indus," said Hawke, with his lofty air. "I have always preferred the secret service to mere routine campaigning, for, really, the waiting spoils the fighting! Poor Louis Cavagnari! He confirmed my taste for silent and outside work! I was sent out from Cabul by him as private messenger just before that cruel massacre, a faux pas, which I vainly predicted. He taught me to play ecarte, by the way!"
"Then he was a good teacher, and you—a devilish apt scholar!" laughed Anstruther, as he politely held the door open for the man who had coldly fleeced him.
Alan Hawke's pulses were now bounding with the thrill of his unlooked-for harvest! He experienced a certain pride in his marvelous skill, and, restraining himself, he soberly paced along the corridor. The excited aid-de-camp stood for a moment with his foot on the stair, and then slowly descended. "He suspects nothing!" the amatory youth murmured, as he passed out upon the broad Quai du Leman.
He walked swiftly along, gayly whistling "Donna e Mobile," with certain private variations of his own, until he reached the splendid monument erected to the miserly old Duke of Brunswick, who showered his scraped-up millions upon an alien city, to spite his own fat-witted Brunswickers, and so escaped the blood-fleshed talons of the hungry-Prussian eagle.
Duke Charles I hovered amiably in the air, over a comfortable carriage wherein the "other little matters" were most temptingly materialized in the person of a lovely woman waiting there with burning eyes, her splendid face veiled in a black Spanish lace scarf. It was the old fate—"Unlucky at cards, lucky in love!" The staff officer's abrupt command to "drive everywhere, anywhere," until "further orders," was implicitly obeyed by the stolid cabby, who set off at once for a long round of the mild "lions" of fair Geneva, nestling there by the shimmering lake.
The click of the horses' feet upon the deserted roadway kept time to the murmurs of a most coy Delilah, who molded as wax in her slender hands the ardent military Samson, who was all unmindful of his flowing locks! And the silent moon shimmered down upon the waste of waters!
Alan Hawke was seated for an hour alone in his room, enjoying the cigars offered up by the "Universal Provider," who had yielded up so liberally. The strong brandy and soda had at last restored his shaken nerves, for he had played with his life staked upon the outcome! He then grimly counted up his winnings. "Four-hundred and eighty-eight good pounds! That will take me back to Delhi in very good shape," he soliloquized. "I wonder if there is anyway to get at that girl? If I mistake not, she will have a half a million! The old Commissioner always liked me, too. By God! If I could only get in between him and this baronetcy I might creep in on the girl's friendship! But the old curmudgeon keeps her locked up! Rather risky in India!" He leaned back, enjoying memories of the women with pulses of flame and hearts of glowing coal whom he had met in the days when he was "dead square." This strange woman! Who is she? What does she know?
He dozed off until the clattering return of the Misses Phemie and Genie Forbes, of Chicago, aroused him. His broad grin accentuated the easily overheard strident remark: "Say, Genie, I wish we had had those two English Lords at our opera supper. They are just jim-dandies, that's what!"
"As long as the world is full of such fools, I can afford to live," he pleasantly remarked, as he turned in. A new campaign was opening to him. Far away, up the shores of the moon-transfigured lake, a hot-headed young fool was showering kisses on the hand of a woman, who sweetly said: "Remember my conditions! Prove yourself my friend, and I will meet you in Paris! Now, take me home." Samson was shorn of his locks, and the delighted Alan Hawke found a little note slipped under his door in the morning.
CHAPTER II. AN OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE ALLIANCE.
When the now buoyant Major Alan Hawke was awakened by the golden lances of morning which shivered gayly upon the Pennine Alps he proceeded to a most leisurely toilet, having first satisfied himself that his winnings of the night before were not the baseless fabric of a dream. He smiled as he fingered the crisp, clean notes, and gazed lovingly upon the dingy-looking but potent check drawn on the old army bankers.
"No nonsense about that signature," he cheerfully said. "Anstruther is no welsher," and, as he rang for his hot water and a morning refresher, he picked up the little note with an eager curiosity.
"By Gad! she is a cool one! This is no vulgar darned occasion! I need all my wits to-day!" He was studying over the brief words when the ready waiter took his order for a cosy breakfast. He had deliberately moved out all his lines to an easy comfort, throwing out a line of pickets against any appearance of social shabbiness. "She said that she had money," he murmured, as he read the note again. "What the devil does she want, then, if she has all the money she needs! Perhaps some discarded mistress! Bah! The old man's heart is as hollow as a sentrybox, and, besides, he has not been in Europe for nearly twenty years. Ah, I see! Perhaps a bit of blackmail—some early indiscretion! She did speak about the girl! Then I must be the silent partner of her future harvest! She probably needs a man's arm to reach the wary old Baronet in future. My lady writes in no uncertain tone."
He carefully folded the note and bestowed it safely with the spoil of the young patrician. "Of course I must show up," he said as he betook himself to his tub whence he emerged shapely as an Adonis with the corded torso of an athlete. The appetizing breakfast put the Major in excellent humor, and he drew forth his "sailing orders" as he lit his first cheroot. Seated in a window recess, he watched the hotel frontage, while he read the imperative lines again. They were explicit enough and had been dictated en reine. "Meet me at the Musee Rath, in the vestibule at two o'clock. He leaves here at one-thirty. Keep away from the hotel and avoid us both. Go up to Ferney and come back on the one o'clock boat."
There was a neat carte de visite in the inclosure.
"Now, I will wager that is not her name," he smiled as he read the Italian script.
"I can certainly now afford to throw a day or so away on her. At any rate, I will let her make the game. I must wait a day or so to send on the Grindlay check," the wanderer mused, smiling genially upon the head porter. Major Alan Hawke casually inquired, upon his leisurely descent, "My friend?"
"Ah, sir! Paid his bill and left. Luggage already sent to the station labeled 'Paris.'" Alan Hawke most liberally tipped the functionary. "I think I will take a run of a few days up to Lausanne or Chillon myself; the weather is delightful." He strolled over to the local Cook's Agency and sent his treasure-trove check on to London for collection.
"I think that I will fight shy of this sleepy burgh," he ruminated, as the little paddle-wheel steamer sped along toward Ferney, leaving behind a huge triangular wake carved in the pellucid waters. "It might be devilish awkward if Anstruther should find me here, hovering around his fair enslaver. I may need this golden youth again, in the days to come! He will be out of India for a couple of years, but I will not trust Fate blindly. What the old Harry can she be up to?" He suddenly burst into a merry peal of laughter, to the astonishment of the crowd of passengers.
"Fool that I am! I see it all now! Anstruther cleared out early! The proprieties of the home of Calvin must be respected! After he has adroitly pumped the intellectual fountain of the past dry, then a quiet little breakfast tete et tete will give Madame Louison the time to fool him to the top of his bent! The sly minx! Evidently she is cast for the 'ingenue' part in this little social drama! And her trump card is to hide from me what she extracts from our Lovelace by the coy use of those deuced fetching brown eyes and—other charms too numerous to mention! But you shall tell me all yet, Miss Sly Boots!" And the Major dreamed pleasant day dreams.
Life now seemed so different to the hopeful vaurien, with the physical and moral backing of the four hundred and odd pounds! "I was a fool—a damned fool, yesterday," he cheerfully ruminated. "If I only handle this woman rightly, then I may get the hold I want on this old recluse Johnstone, congested with the fat pickings of forty-five years. A close-mouthed old rat is he, and yet it seems that he is vulnerable after all. If he is playing fast and loose with the government he will never get his honors before he gives up the sleeping trust of the forgotten years."
Major Hawke vainly tried to follow the exuberant Anstruther in his incursion into the placid temple of Minerva, where that watchful spinster, Miss Euphrosyne Delande, eyed somewhat icily the handsome. young "Greek bearing gifts." Professional prudence and the memory of certain judiciously smothered escapades caused Miss Euphrosyne at first to retire within her moral breast works and draw up the sally-port bridge. For even in chilly Geneva, young hearts throb in nature's flooding lava passions, jealously bodiced in school-girl buckram and glacial swiss muslin. So it was very cool for a time in the august cavern of conference where Anson Anstruther, a bright Ithuriel, struggled with the cautious and covetous Swiss preceptress, and the swift steamer Chilian was far up the lake before Captain the victorious Honorable Anson Anstruther, sped away to the morning meeting with the woman who had seemed to lean down from the moon-lit skies upon her young Endymion in that starry night by the throbbing lake.
Major Alan Hawke, proceeding on his voyage, found a certain bitterness in the distant mental contemplation of Captain Anstruther's employment of his leisure till train time, not knowing that the young soldier's sense of duty led him first to dispatch several careful official dispatches, one to London, and the two others to Calcutta and Delhi, respectively. When Captain Anstruther finally deposited his mail with the head porter of the Grand Hotel National he deftly questioned that functionary. "My friend—Major Hawke?"
"Gone up the lake for two or three days, sir. Going to Lausanne and Chillon. Keeps all his luggage here, though. Shall I give him any message for you?" With a view to artfully veiling his coming meeting with the beautiful Egeria a la Houbigant, the captain deposited a card marked "P. P. C."
"A devilish pleasant fellow and a right stunning hand at ecarte." Anstruther prudently walked for a couple of squares, and then hailed a passing voiture, directing him to the very cosiest restaurant in the snug city of Bonnivard.
Major Hawke, far away now, entertained a slight resentment toward the man who had so coolly aspired to les bonnes fortunes, and ignored his own possible interference with the Lady of the Lake. It was with a grim satisfaction, however, that he saw on the boat the Misses Phenie and Genie Forbes, of Chicago, the bright particular stars of the traveling upper tendom. "Popper" and "Mommer" were deep in certain red-bound Baedeker's and busied in delving for "historic facts," while the artful Alan Hawke glided into a fast and familiar flirtation with the two bright-eyed, sharp-voiced damsels. Both the heiresses were dressed as if for a reception, with judiciously selected jewelry samples, evidencing the wondrous success of machine conducted pig demolition. They glittered in the sun as Fortune's bediamonded favorites.
And, so, while Madame Berthe Louison and Captain Anstruther lingered au cabinet particulier, over their Chablis and Ostend oysters, the recouped gambler extended his store of mental acquirement, by tender converse with the two sprightly belles of the Windy City. In fact, the whistle of the steamer was heard long before Alan Hawke could extricate himself from the clinging tentacles of the audacious beauties. He was somewhat repaid for his social exertions, however, as he sped back to keep his tryst at Geneva, by the acquisition of a large steel-engraved business card inscribed, "Forbes, Haygood & Co., Chicago," loftily tendered him by "Popper." He smiled at the whispered assurances of the Misses Phenie and Genie that they "should soon meet again."
"Bring your friend—that other Lord," cried the departing Miss Genie, waving a thousand-franc lace fan, as she sagely observed, "Two's company—three's none. We'll have a jolly lark—us four. Don't forget, now!" The polite Major laid his hand upon his heart and played the amiable tiger, although burning inwardly now, in a fierce personal jealousy of Anstruther as he wandered alone around the cold gray halls of the museum, and gazed upon the pinched features of the permanently eclipsed shining lights of the "Bulwark of Civil and Religious Liberty." There was no charm for him in the bigoted ferocity of Calvin's lean, dark face, smacking his thin lips over the roasted Servetus. He abhorred the departed heroes of the golden evolution from Eidegenossen into Higuerios and later Huguenots. They interested him not, neither did he love Professor Calame's scratchy pictures, nor the jumbled bric-a-brac of art and history. None of these charmed him. He waited only for the gliding step, the clasp of a burning hand, and the flash of the lustrous dark-brown eyes. It was his own innings now.
He had referred to his watch for the fiftieth time, when, from a closed carriage, the object of his mental vituperations gracefully alighted at last. It was with the very coldest of bows that the irritated man received the graceful, self-possessed woman, whose lovely face was but partially hidden by her coquettishly dotted veil.
"She dresses like a Parisienne, walks like an Andalu-sian, and has all the seductiveness of a Polish countess!" the quick-witted rascal thought, as they strolled into the museum, which the departed General Rath knew not would be the scene of many a hidden love intrigue, when he endowed it with a benevolent vanity. The two wary strangers strolled along until they found a retired corner. Madame Louison seated herself, waving her lace parasol with the impatient gesture of one accustomed to command.
Alan Hawke was in no gentle humor, and his cheeks reddened as he felt the calm scrutiny of the woman's searching glances. He was now determined to take the whip hand, and to keep it. His accents were staccato as he said, "Tell me now who you are, and what you wish of me!" A clock, hung high over them on the dreary, drab walls, ticked away brusquely, as the angered woman gazed steadily into his face.
"And so your little windfall of last night has already made you impudent? If you cannot find another tone at once, I will find another agent! The man whom you plucked has told me the story of your wonderful skill at cards!" The sneer cut the renegade like a whip lash, and Alan Hawke sprang up in anger. Madame Berthe Louison coolly settled herself down into the red cushions.
"The way to India is before you, but five hundred pounds is not a fortune for Major Alan Hawke! Listen! I watched you carefully yesterday, in your vigil upon Rousseau's Island. Your telltale face betrayed you. You were left stranded here in Geneva. An accident has brought us together. You cannot divine my motives. I can fathom yours easily. Tell me now, of yourself, of your past in India—of your present standing there. If you are frank, I may contribute to your fortune; if not—our ways part here!"
"And, if I warn Anson Anstruther that you are a mere adventuress, if I notify my old friend Hugh Fraser (soon to be Sir Hugh Johnstone), then your little game will be spoiled, Madame Louison!" defiantly said Hawke. The woman leaned back and laughed merrily in his face.
"You are like all professional lady killers, a mere fool in the hands of the first woman of wit. I dare you to cross my path! I will then join Captain the Honorable Anson Anstruther, in Paris, at the Hotel Binda! I will also see that you are excluded from every club in India! Your occupation will be gone, my Knight of Ecarte. Anstruther waits for me." She tossed him a card. "See for yourself. He was kind enough at breakfast, and, he will help me, if I ask him."
"And why do you not fly to his arms?" sneered Alan Hawke, who had quickly resigned the bullying tone of his abordage.
"Because he is a nice boy and a gentleman," the woman said, with a cutting emphasis. "Now, let me read you, Monsieur le Major, a lesson in manners. Never be rough with a woman! That is the road which always leads on to failure. I wish you a good appetite for your breakfast, which I have delayed, and for which I beg your pardon!" She rose and swept along with her Juno strides, and had reached the second Hall of Antiquities before Alan Hawke overtook her. It had flashed across his mind that he had for once in his life met a woman who was not afraid of the future, whatever had been her past. A single malicious letter from Anstruther would ruin him in India, for there was an ominous cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, lingering in that hiatus between his old rank of Lieutenant of Bengal Artillery, and the shadowy tenure of his self-dubbed Majority. This Aspasia hid none of her methods. She had boldly captivated the passing Pericles, and, evidently, she was the desired one.
"Let me explain," he began, as the woman looked calmly into his face.
"We are only losing time, Major," Madame Louison remarked, as she sought a corner. "I see that you have already repented. Do you know any one in Geneva?"
"Not one of the seventy-five thousand here," frankly answered Hawke. "The only man I came here to see, the English Consul, is away on leave."
"Then I can use you safely," answered the stranger. "Now, I owe you a breakfast. Will you put me in my carriage? I know the town thoroughly. Remember that it is only business that brings us together, and yet we may become better friends." In a half an hour they were seated in an arbor by the lake, where a homely German restaurant offered good cheer.
The Lady of the Lake did the honors ceremoniously, and Major Alan Hawke was permitted a cigar after the lake trout, filet, pears, cheese, Chambertin, and black coffee had been discussed. He was both conquered and repentant, and had adroitly atoned for his mauvais debut by a respectful demeanor, which was not feigned. He answered the running fire of questions which had led him from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, and from Chittagong to the Khyber Pass.
"You are sure that no one in Geneva knows your face?" Berthe Louison asked at last.
"I have been here only two days, and it is twenty years since I first roved over Switzerland on schoolboy leave," was the truthful answer.
"Then I can use you if you will decide to aid me, after you have heard me. I know, already, all that young Anstruther knows of the whole Johnstone matter. I do not intend to meet him at Paris," she demurely said. "I am absolutely untrammeled in this world. I am free to act as a woman's moods sway her. I have plenty of money, a fact which lifts me above the degradation of man's chase, and I indulge in no illusions. I am a soldier's daughter, and my dead father was the son of one of Napoleon's heroes of La Grande Armee. My whole life has been most unconventional; and I am free to dispose of myself, body and soul, and will, but for one thing." She was pleased with Alan Hawke's mute glance of inquiry. "Only the business which brought me to Geneva! We are all the slaves of circumstance! The veriest fools of fortune! I do not blame you for your surmises! I had vainly sought, for two years, the very information which I gained last night by chance at a Geneva table d'hote. It was from Anstruther that I discovered the changed name under which Hugh Fraser's daughter has been hidden from me for years. For I owe this all to chance, to Anstruther's susceptibility, and to my playing the risqu'e part which you saw fit me so well." The woman's eyes were now flashing ominously.
"But you led me on—you deceived me!" stammered Alan Hawke.
"I had nothing to risk!" the resolute beauty replied. "My name is not Berthe Louison, as you may well imagine! As for the little amourette de voyage, I will leave the laurels to your handsome young friend and yourself. I do not play with boys, and, as for you, I should always guard myself against you!
"Now, I will be practical! I know Europe; I do not know India! I need a man brave, cool, and unscrupulous; I need a resolute man to aid me in the one purpose of my life! I wish to go out to India to face this Hugh Fraser, to lift up the curtain of the dead past, and I need a protector—a paid champion—a man who values the only thing which is concrete power in life; a man who knows the power of money! For, gold is irresistible!" Her bright face hardened.
"My duties are, then, not to be of a tender nature," lightly hazarded Hawke.
"I can soon judge of your value by your adroitness, and you can make your own record!" smiled the strange woman waif. "Let me see how you would do this! I do not care to personally approach Mademoiselle Euphrosyne Delande, I would have a picture of the woman whom I seek—the lonely child whom I have hungered for long years to see! I do not care to expose myself here—"
"The Preceptress might telegraph out to India and the girl be spirited away!" broke in Alan Hawke.
"Very good! Precisely so!" said Berthe Louison, gravely. "I will tell you now that I have played perfectly fair with Anstruther! I have enabled him to assure himself of Nadine Johnstone's regular standing as the legal and only heiress of the would-be Baronet! I do not fear Anstruther! He is a gallant boy, worthy to wear a sword, and, he does not work for hire! He tells me that Euphrosyne Delande showed him the last pictures of the girl which were sent on before Hugh Fraser suddenly telegraphed to have his child 'personally conducted' on carte blanche terms out to join him."
Major Hawke buried his head in his hands and slowly said: "I can do it easily! We must not be seen together here! Go up to the Hotel Faucon, at Lausanne, and wait for me there for three days. I have to remain here at any rate to collect Anstruther's check in London. I have in my favor all the facts of Anstruther's story. I happen also to have Anstruther's P. P. C. card. I will bring you the picture you want, or a half dozen copies. Will you trust to me? I make no professions!"
"That is right!" sternly said Berthe Louison. "Let our casual association be one of a mere money interest. We can find each other out easily. You have no motive to injure me, your own interest now and always lies the other way. I only wish to have some one at hand when I am ready to face the embryo Sir Hugh Johnstone!"
"You are bold!" slowly said Alan Hawke. "If I should denounce you to Johnstone, himself! If he should be warned—"
"I hold him and his long cherished dream, the Baronetcy, in my hand," the brown-eyed beauty frankly cried. "I should not burn my ships in Europe! Even if I were to be betrayed, the purpose of my life will be carried out. I should leave here behind me the safest of anchors in other well-paid agents. Your rash meddling would only ruin your own money interests and not hurt my plans."
"Then we are to make an offensive and defensive alliance without trust or faith in each other?" agnostically remarked Hawke.
"Just so!" answered Madame Louison. "I can make it to your interest to serve me well, better than the man whom I wish to face. You know India—you happen to know Delhi. Your possible adversary is an old civilian, rich, retired, and unable to rake up trouble for you in military circles. I will do my work alone, but I shall want your aid, and I will pay you liberally. I will go up to Lausanne. You will find me at the Hotel Faucon. Bring up some route maps of India. We will go out as soon as possible. Do you wish any present money?"
Alan Hawke reddened as he shook his head.
"Then, Major Hawke, if you will take the first passing carriage, we will meet as soon as you have succeeded. Send me a telegram of your coming." The adventurer's low bow of silent assent terminated the strange breakfast scene, and at the gate of the vine-clad garden he turned and saw her seated there alone, with her head bowed in a reverie.
"Damme if she is made of flesh and blood!" mused the Major, as he drove back to the Hotel National. That very evening he revenged himself upon the callous-hearted stranger, by a reckless flirtation with the Misses Phenie and Genie Forbes, still of Chicago. It was not a matter of concern to any one but Paterfamilias Forbes that the Major indulged in a stolen moonlight excursion upon the lake in charge of two extremely prononcee Daisy Millers. The Major's slumbers, however, were of the lightest, for the face of the chance-met directress of his immediate future haunted his uneasy dreams. He was a model of respectable gravity, however, when he presented himself before Mademoiselle Euphrosyne Delande, at her Institute, when the bells clanged ten in the morning. Major Hawke at once impressed the sleek door-opener, Francois, by the ultra refinement of his demeanor, and the suave elegance of his French. "Evidently the one necessary Adam in this Garden of undeveloped young Peris," thought Hawke, as he gazed around the cheerless room, with its globes, busts of departed sages, topographical maps, and framed samples of the "Execution" of the jeunes personnes, with brush and pencil.
"Looks breachy, that fellow—they all have to sneak out to drink, and for les fetifs plaisirs! He may be made useful. I'll have a shy at him," mused the Major, now on his mettle. Francois stood there expectant of a tip, when he announced the regrets of Mademoiselle Delande, that class duties would detain her for a few moments.
"Would Monsieur kindly pardon, etc.?"
"Am I right in inferring that the ladies, are the daughters of the famous Professor Delande?" the Major hazarded, with a wild guess. Before the votary of Minerva finally descended, Francois had artfully "yielded up" much valuable information to the gravely interested visitor. The attendant was the richer by a five-franc piece when he retired to vigorously fall upon the Major's hat and brush it in an anticipatory manner.
It was but a half an hour later when Alan Hawke had concluded his deftly worded compliments upon the justly famed Institute, and had subjugated the still susceptible spinster by his adroitly veiled flatteries. The easy aplomb with which he introduced the forgotten commission of Captain Anstruther was aided by the presentation of that gentleman's visiting card, and the charms of an interesting word sketch of Delhi and its surroundings.
The sound of distant girlish voices punctuated the refined murmur of the ensuing conference, which was an exposition of Mademoiselle Delande's grand manner! Hawke adroitly soothed the natural uneasiness of the cunning Swiss spinster as to her sister's comfort, safety, and the surety of Hugh Johnstone's fabulously liberal money inducement to retain Miss Justine in his service for a year. The flattered woman fell easily into Alan Hawke's net, and she freely dilated upon the singular eccentricities of the Indian magnate as to his daughter's education.
There was a breaking light now illumining the strange childhood of a girl, nurtured by proxy, and kept in ignorance of her brilliant future and vast monetary inheritance.
"In fact, I have never seen the honored Mr. Hugh Fraser," concluded Miss Euphrosyne. "Nadine was brought to us a child of three by the wife of Professor Fraser, since deceased! And, by special arrangement, she was taken by us, and her whole girlhood has been passed in our charge. We have never seen her uncle, Professor Fraser, whose duties at Edinburgh University chained him down. It was her own father's written and positive direction that no one, whomsoever, should be admitted to converse with his child. And so Justine and myself have formed her entirely!"
Hawke's keen eyes glowed for a moment, in a secret satisfaction. "I have you, my lady! They wished to keep you away from this young Peri, formed upon such heroically antique models." Major Hawke gazed upon the leather-faced visage of the slaty-eyed woman, whose age none might venture to guess. An artless admiration of the absent Miss Justine's photographed charms, caused a faint glow to flicker upon the ancient maiden's cheek. When Alan Hawke drew forth a hideous carbuncle and Indian filigree bracelet (an old relic of bazaar haunting), the thin lips of the preceptress parted in a wintry smile.
With modest urging, he soon overcame the Roman firmness of Mademoiselle Euphrosyne, and, wonder of wonders, was honored by an invitation to dine with the austere Genevan maiden. The happy Major was soon triumphant at all points, and Francois was hastily dispatched to the Photographic Atelier to order a half dozen copies of the card portrait which displayed to Alan Hawke the rosebud face of the Veiled Beauty of Delhi. The adventurer made haste to excuse himself for interrupting the flow of the Parnassian stream, and walked backward from the presence of the poor old woman whom he had duped, as if she were a queen.
It was an easy matter for the Englishman to waylay and intercept the returning man-at-arms of this castle of cosmopolitan beauty. Francois had duly availed himself of his lengthened absence, and his thick tongue and swimming eye spoke of potations of the Kirsch-wasser dear to the Swiss heart. Major Hawke impressed the servitor with the necessity of bringing the pictures down to his rooms upon the morrow, and then the Major judiciously duplicated his five-franc piece. The happy butler winked with an acute divination of the Major's purpose and went unsteadily back to the whirlpool of learning. The Major cheerfully went on his own way to meet Miss Genie Forbes, with whom he had established a private understanding as to a runaway visit to the Cathedral, to be followed by an impromptu breakfast. "I can stand the old Gorgon's dinner," mused the happy adventurer, "after a tete-a-tete with Miss Genie, and as for Francois, I will also waste a bottle of good Cognac on him. I think that I will start into this strange partnership with a better stock of family history than even this remarkably self-possessed young woman, who seems to be the heiress of some old family vendetta."
The Major laughed as he heard the mills of the gods grinding out a golden grist of the future. But lifted up beyond the impulses of his itching palm the sight of the delicate, girlish face of the Rosebud of Delhi had caused him to dream the strangest dreams. "Why not?" he murmured as he wandered back to the hotel and privately indulged in a petit verre before his rendezvous with Miss Genie, the belle of the West Side. Major Alan Hawke was in "great form" as he piloted the bright-eyed, willful Chicago girl through the dim religious light of the Cathedral. His mocking history of the gay life and racy adventures of Bonnivard, when posing as the rollicking Prior of St. Victor in the wild days of his youth, greatly amused the nervous American heiress.
"I should say that he was a holy terror," laughed Miss Genie, "and I don't blame the Bishop of Geneva and the Duke of Savoy for making him do his six years in that dark old hole at Chillon! He was a gay boy, you bet, and with his three wives and his lively ways, I reckon the Genevans were blamed sorry they ever let him out. He seems to have been a free thinker, a free liver, and a free lover!"
"And yet," mused Alan Hawke, "his writings to-day are the pride of Genevan scholars; his library was the nucleus of the Geneva University; his defiant spirit broke the chains of Calvin's narrowness, and his resistant, spiritual example caught up has made Geneva the home of the oppressed, the central, radiant point of mental light and liberty for the world! Geneva since 1536 has harbored the brightest wandering Spanish, French, English, and Irish youth! Even grim Russia cannot reclaim from the free city its wayward exiles. France, in her distress, has found an asylum here for its helpless nobles and expelled philosophers. I willingly take my hat off to brave little Switzerland, where Royal Duke, proscribed patriot, mad enthusiast, bold agnostic, and tired worldling can all find an inviolate asylum under the majestic shadows of its mountains—by the shores of its dreaming lakes!" Alan Hawke dropped suddenly from the clouds as the practical Miss Genie led the way to the breakfast rendezvous, cheerfully demonstrating her own bold ideas of social freedom by remarking:
"Say! what's the matter with a little day's run up to Chillon? Phenie is game for anything! You just get that other English Lord and we will dodge Popper and Mommer."
"I am sorry to say that my friend has left suddenly, bound for London," laughed the Major, gazing admiringly at this pretty feminine Bonnivard.
"That's awful bad luck!" gloomily remarked Miss Genie. "He was a regular dandy, and I liked him—but," she said, with a thirsty peck at a glass of champagne, as they waited for the breakfast, "Phenie will then have to give that long-legged Italian fellow the tip. The Marquis of Santa Marina! He's not much, but better than nothing at all. We'll have a jolly day!"
Major Hawke was mystified at the daring personal independence of the sprightly young heiress. She was a social revelation to him, and the sunny afternoon was not altogether thrown away, for they carelessly rambled over the proud old town together, doing all the sights. They visited the stately National Monument, the Jardin Anglais, the Hotel de Ville, the Arsenal, the Muse'e Foy, the Botanic Gardens, and the Athende. He gazed upon the fresh face of the rebellious young American social mutineer with an increasing wonder as they wandered alone on the Promenade des Bastions, and was simply astounded when he vainly tried to take advantage of a shady corner in the Musee Ariana to steal a kiss from the wayward girl's rosy lips. Miss Genie "formed herself into a hollow square" and calmly, but energetically, repulsed him.
"See here! Major Hawke!" she coolly said, "get off the perch! I don't care for any soft sawder! I'm a pretty good fellow in my way, but I know how to take care of myself!"
In fact, Major Alan Hawke at last recognized the existence of a species of womanhood which he had never before met. Miss Genie was frankly unconventional, and yet she was both hard-headed and hardhearted. When he carefully dressed himself for the intellectual feast of Mademoiselle Delande's "refined collation," he dimly became aware that the role of unpaid bear leader to the Chicago girl simply amounted to being an unsalaried valet de place! "As for compromising that devil of a girl," he growled, "she could have given the snake in the Garden of Eden long odds and beaten him hollow, in subtlety." This view of the impeccability of the Chicago epidermis was confirmed later when Hawke returned from the "Institute" at the decorous hour of ten that evening. He was thoroughly happy, for the sly Francois was ready to meet him at the door, whispering:
"I will be at your rooms at ten, and bring you the photographs. I have a couple of hours of freedom then."
Mademoiselle Euphrosyne's pale, anemic nature had bloomed out under the graceful attentions of the gallant officer, and gradually she expanded, little by little unfolding the desiccated leaves of her tranquil past, and, yielding, as of old, to the charm of youth and good looks, the faded spinster told him all.
"I will sell my precious knowledge, bit by bit, to Madame Berthe," he ruminated. "Evidently the Louison dares not face this stony-faced Swiss Medusa. The felites histoires of Francois will fill up my mental notebook." Major Hawke then sat down at ease in the cafe of the Hotel National to indite a dispatch of spartan brevity to "Madame Louison" at the Hotel Faucon, Lausanne. "The Cook's Agency tell me that the London draft will be paid to-morrow. Francois will deliver me the photographs, and relate his selected historical excerpts, and then I will be ready to have a duel of wits with Madame Berthe." So he simply telegraphed to Lausanne:
"Successful—arrive to-morrow night." He then dispatched the head porter with the telegram, and while enjoying his parting brandy and soda, was suddenly made aware of the near proximity of Mr. Phineas Forbes of Chicago, who was anxiously drinking cocktail after cocktail in a moody unrest. The lank Chicago capitalist waved his tufted chin beard dejectedly as he answered the Briton's casual salutation. "I'm worried about the girls," he simply said. "They're off on the lake, with the Marquis de Santa Marina and that French chap, the Count de Roquefort. I don't more than half like it." The hour was late, and the heavy father glued his eyes upon the darkened window pane. "Is Madame Forbes with them?" murmured the Englishman.
"Oh, Lord, no!" simply said the Illinois capitalist. "The girls are used to going out alone with their gentlemen friends, but I'm afraid that these two damned useless foreigners will upset the boat and drown my two girls. I wouldn't care a rap if they were alone. But these Dago noblemen are no good—at least that's my experience. I indorsed a draft for one of them that Mommer and the girls dragged up to the house last year. Came back marked 'N. G.'—I wish to God the girls wouldn't pick up these fellows."
Alan Hawke hazarded the inquiry "Why do you permit it?"
The Chicago pork jammer thrust his hand in his pockets and whistled reflectively. "How the deuce can I help it?" he reflectively answered, "Mother and the girls go in for high society. What'll you have? You can talk French to this fellow. Now, order up the best in the house," Alan Hawke laughed and charitably divided the hour of long waiting with the simple-hearted old father. At half-past twelve, with a rush and a flutter, the two young falcons sailed into the main hallway and effusively bade adieu to their limp cavaliers, who slunk away, in different directions, when they observed the disgruntled parent and the heartily amused Briton.
"So they brought you home safely?" calmly remarked Hawke, as he watched the happy father gathering his chickens unto his wing.
"We brought them home safe," cutely remarked Miss Phenie. "Those fellows are heavenly dancers, but they are not worth shucks in a boat. I wish we had had you out with us. I like Englishmen!" with which frank declaration Miss Phenie and Miss Genie whisked themselves away to bed, Miss Genie leaning over the banister to jovially cry out:
"Don't you go away till we fix up that Chillon trip." Major Hawke and Phineas Forbes, Esq., drank a last libation to the friendly god Neptune, the old man huskily remarking:
"Say, Major, those are two fine girls, and they will have a million apiece. I want 'em to be sensible and marry Chicago men, but, they both go in for coronets and all that humbug." The laughing Major extricated himself from the social tentacles of the honest old boy, mentally deciding to play off Miss Genie against Mad-ame Berthe Louison.
"I will give these strange girls 'a day out.' It may reduce the nez retrousseeoi my mysterious employer." And so he dreamed that night that he was an assistant presiding genius of the great pig Golgotha, where Phineas Forbes was the monarch of the meat ax. "Right smart girls, and you bet they can take care of themselves," was the last encomium of their self-denying parent which rang in Alan Hawke's ears as he wandered away into the Land of Nod.
"They are a queer lot," laughed the happy schemer, as he woke next day to his closing labors at Geneva. "Now, for my check cashing, then, Monsieur Francois, a farewell visit to Miss Euphrosyne, and a secret council with the fair Genie," He merrily breakfasted, and was more than rewarded for his Mephistophelian entertainment of Francois. The sly Figaro "parted freely," and when he slunk back to the "Institute" he was the richer by fifty francs. Major Hawke was the happy possessor of the coveted photographs, and a private address of Francois, artfully informing that person that he was going to London, and on his return, in a few months, desired a cicerone in the hypocritically placid town. Francois's eyes gleamed in a happy anticipation of more Cognac and many easily earned francs. "Now, Madame Berthe, I think I have the key of the enigma! I see a year's assured comfort before me, for I can play the part of the Saxon troops at Leipzig," the schemer joyously ruminated.
His farewell to Miss Delande impressed that thrifty dame with the golden fortunes which had descended upon her sister. "Should you return to India, Major," she sibillated, "I will give you a confidential letter to Justine, for I know there is no one more fitted to remain in charge of sweet Nadine than my dear sister!" The Major blushingly accepted the honor, and directed the letter to be sent at once to Morley's Hotel, for, as he mysteriously whispered,
"The Foreign office may send me back to India—in fact, I may be telegraphed for at any moment, and your sister will surely find a fast friend in me."
"Easily gulled!" laughed Alan Hawke. "I will sweeten' upon Miss Justine; those thin lips indicate the auri sacra fames. These miserly Swiss sisters may aid me to approach the veiled Rose Bird." His delight at fingering the crisp proceeds of Anstruther's check sent him to the Ouchy steamer in the very happiest of moods, and, his cup was running over when the birdlike Miss Genie Forbes descended upon him to announce a meeting on the morrow at Montreux.
"We can do the castle, and essay the airy railroad at Territet Glion, have a jolly dinner on the hill, and come home on the last boat! You be sure to meet Phenie and me." The astounded Major murmured his delight and surprise. "Oh! Popper will let us go up there. He likes you—he says that you are a thoroughbred. So, we'll cut the other fellows and come alone. Say, can't you scare up another fellow like yourself for Phenie?" Whereat Alan Hawke laughed, and promised to secure an eligible "fellow" among the migratory Englishmen hovering around Lausanne-Ouchy, and he pledged a future friendship with the patient Phineas Forbes, who lingered in the cafe, engulfing cocktails, while "Mother and Phenie were out shopping." The vivacious Genie had confided to her callous swain that she had watched him as he lingered on Rousseau's Island.
"I rather thought that you were sick and distressed, you looked so peaked like, and I was mighty near speaking to you. I was just bound to meet you." And upon this frank declaration, Alan Hawke kissed her firm white hand, agreeing to her plans, and the glow of prosperity shone out upon his impassive face, as he glided away to meet the strange woman whom he distrusted. "I hold the trump cards now, my lady!" he cried, as he watched Miss Genie's handkerchief fluttering on the quay. Major Alan Hawke wasted no time in his three hours' voyage to Lausanne-Ouchy in carefully preparing for his interview with Madame Berthe Louison. He abandoned the idea of trying the "whip hand," remembering how suddenly he had descended from the "high horse." "Bah! She is about as sentimental as a rat-tail file. However, she is good for my passage to India, at any rate, and, the nearer I am to old Johnstone and this pretty heiress to be, the better my all-round chances are." So, he contented himself with watching the pictured shores of Lake Leman glide by, and wondering if he might not turn aside safely to the chase of the bright-eyed, sharp-featured, Miss Genie Forbes. He had profited by Phineas Forbes's frank disclosures, and yet the Madame Sans Gene manners of the heiresses rather frightened him. He was aware from the amatory failure in the dim old cathedral that Miss Genie was armed cap-a-fie. "Those American girls, apparently so approachable, are all ready to stand to arms at a moment's notice." And so, he drifted back in his day dreams toward the Land of the Pagoda Tree, with Ouchy and Chillon. He studied the beautiful face of the lonely child from the school-girl photograph, and decided, in spite of hideous frocks and a lack of conventional war paint, that she was a rare beauty.
"Yes! She will do—with the money. All she needs is the art to show off her points, and that is easily gained. The recruits in Vanity Fair easily pick up the tricks of society, and old Hugh's money and prospective elevation will surely draw suitors around like flies swarming near the honey." The boat gracefully glided in to the port of Ouchy before Major Hawke's day dream faded away.
A flattering dream which led him on to a future gilded by Sir Hugh Johnstone's money. He longed to ruffle it bravely with the best. To hold up his head once more in official circles, and to smother the ugly floating memories ef a renegade who had served those English guns under the fierce Sikkim hill tribes against his one-time fellow soldiers. "I must have that money, with or without the girl! There must be a way to it! I will cut through the barriers to get it!" There was a steely glitter in his blue eyes as he murmured: "Now for the fox's hide! She shall have her way—for a time! My play comes on later, when the deal is with me!"