[Frontispiece: "We are what conditions make us, Miss Wellington," he said.]
PRINCE OR CHAUFFEUR?
A STORY OF NEWPORT
AUTHOR OF "DAN MERRITHEW," "FROM THE DEPTHS OF THINGS," "TWO TRAMPS," ETC.
WITH FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS BY
J. V. McFALL
A. C. McCLURG & CO.
BY A. C. McCLURG & CO.
Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England
Published, March, 1911
I THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS II MISS WELLINGTON ENLARGES HER EXPERIENCE III PRINCE VASSILI KOLTSOFF IV THE TAME TORPEDO V AT TRINITY VI AN ENCOUNTER WITH A SPY VII MISS WELLINGTON CROSSES SWORDS WITH A DIPLOMAT VIII WHEN A PRINCE WOOS IX ARMITAGE CHANGES HIS VOCATION X JACK McCALL, AT YOUR SERVICE XI THE DYING GLADIATOR XII MISS HATCH SHOWS SHE LOVES A LOVER XIII ANNE EXHIBITS THE PRINCE XIV UNDERGROUND WIRES XV ANNE AND SARA SEEK ADVENTURE XVI THE ADVENTURE MATERIALIZES XVII THE NIGHT ATTACK XVIII ANNE WELLINGTON HAS HER FIRST TEST XIX AN ENCOUNTER IN THE DARK XX WITH REFERENCE TO THE DOT XXI PLAIN SAILOR TALK XXII THE BALL BEGINS XXIII THE BALL CONTINUES XXIV THE BALL ENDS XXV THE EXPATRIATE XXVI CONCLUSION
"We are what conditions make us, Miss Wellington," he said . . . . . . Frontispiece
"If you 'll allow me the honor of playing waiter, I 'll be delighted to serve you in the cabin"
"Is n't it beautiful," murmured Anne. "So different from being on the Mayfair, is n't it?"
To-night she was a professional beauty, "rigged and trigged" for competition
PRINCE OR CHAUFFEUR?
THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS
John Armitage, Lieutenant U. S. N., followed the porter into the rear car of the midnight express for Boston, and after seeing his bag deposited under a lower berth, stood for a minute in frowning indecision. A half-hour must elapse before the train started. He was not a bit sleepy; he had, in fact, dozed most of the way from Washington, and the idea of threshing about in the hot berth was not agreeable. Finally, he took a short thick pipe from his pocket, and picking his way gingerly between the funereal swaying curtains and protruding shoes, he went outside to talk to the porter.
The features of this functionary relaxed, from the ineffable dignity and self-containment of a dozing saurian, into an expression of open interest as Armitage ranged alongside, with the remark that it was cooler than earlier in the evening.
"Ya'as, suh," agreed the porter, "it sut'nly am mighty cooler, jes' now, suh." He cocked his head at the young officer. "You 's in de navy, suh, ain't you, suh? I knowed," he added, as Armitage nodded a bored affirmative, "dat you was 'cause I seen de 'U. S. N.' on yo' grip. So when dat man a minute ago asked me was dere a navy gen'lman on my cyar, why I said—"
"Eh!" Armitage turned upon him so quickly that the negro recoiled. "Asked for me! Who? What did he say? When did he ask?"
"I came outen the cyar after cahying in yo' bag, Majah," replied the porter, unctuously, "and dey was a man jes' come up an' ask me what I tole you. 'Ya'as, suh,' says I, 'I jes' took in de Kunnel's bag.' So he goes in an' den out he comes again, givin' me fifty cents, an' hoofed it out through de gates, like he was in a hurry."
Armitage regarded the negro strangely.
"What did he look like?" he asked. "Quick!"
"He was a lean, lanky man wid a mustache and eye-glasses. He looked like a foreigner. He—"
But Armitage had started on a run for the iron gates. In the big waiting-room there were, perhaps, a score of persons, dozing or reading, no one of whom resembled the man described by the porter. He passed across to the telephone booths and as he did so the one for whom he was searching emerged from the telegraph office, walked rapidly to the Forty-second Street doors, and jumped into a taxi-cab waiting at the curb.
And so Armitage missed him. He walked back to the train with a peculiar smile, emotions of pleasurable excitement and a sense of something mysterious conflicting.
"Missed him," he said in answer to the porter's look of inquiry.
"Friend of yo's, suh?"
"Well," said the officer, smiling grimly, "I should have liked to shake hands with him."
His desire would have been keener could he in any way have known the nature of the message which the curious stranger had sent to a squalid little house on William Street in Newport:
A. leaves here for torpedo station on midnight train.
Though he did not know it, despatches of a similar nature had been following or preceding him these past three months, a fact certainly not uncomplimentary to an officer who had been out of the academy a scant ten years, whatever the additional aspects.
As it was, Armitage, not given to worrying, dismissed the incident for the time being and yielded full attention to the voluble porter. The young officer was from Kentucky, had been raised with negroes, and understood and liked them thoroughly.
With five minutes remaining before midnight he was about to knock the fire from his pipe when a bustle at the gate attracted his attention. A party, two women, their maids, and a footman bearing some luggage, was approaching the train. The older woman was of distinguished bearing and evidently in no amiable mood; the younger was smiling, trying to pacify her.
"Well, mother," she said, as the party stopped at Armitage's car, "the worst of the ordeal is over. It has all been so funny and quite exciting, really."
That she was an interesting girl, Armitage could see even in the ghastly effulgence of the arc lamps. Slightly above the medium height, with a straight, slim figure, she was, he judged, about twenty-two or three years old. Her light hair flowed and rippled from under a smart hat; her face, an expressive oval; her mouth not small, the lips full and red. Armitage could not tell about the eyes, but considering her hair and vivid complexion they were, he decided, probably hazel. From his purely scientific or rather artistic investigation of the girl's face, he started suddenly to find that those eyes were viewing him with an unmistakably humorous disdain. But only for a second. Then as though some mental picture had been vaguely limned in her mind, she looked at him again, quickly, this time with a curious expression, as of a person trying to remember, not quite certain whether she should bow. She did n't. Instead, she turned to her mother, who was advancing toward the porter, voicing her disapproval of her daughter's characterization of the situation.
"Funny! exciting!" she exclaimed. "You are quite impossible, Anne. Porter, is this our car?"
The negro examined the tickets and waved his hand toward the steps.
"Ya'as'm, cyar five; state room A, an' upper 'n lower ten, for dem ladies," indicating the maids. "Ya'as'm, jes' step dis way."
With a few directions to the footman, who thereupon retraced his steps to the station, the woman followed her daughter and the maids into the car. A minute or so later the train was rolling out into the yard with its blazing electric lights, and Armitage, now hopelessly wakeful, was in the smoking compartment, regarding an unlighted cigar. Here the porter found him.
"Say, Gen'ral," he said, "dem folks is of de vehy fust quality. Dey had got abo'd dey yacht dis ebenin', so dey was sayin', an' somethin' was broke in de mashinery. So dey come asho' from whar dey went on de ship at de yacht club station. Dey simply hab got ter get to Newport to-morrow, kase dey gwine receive some foreign king or other an'—"
"Sam," interrupted Armitage, "did you find out who they are?"
"Ya'as, suh. Ah sut'nly did," was the pompous reply. "Dey is de Wellingtons."
"Wellington," Armitage regarded the porter gravely. "Sam, I have been in Newport off and on for some time, but have been too busy to study the social side. Still, I happen to know you have the honor of having under your excellent care, the very elect of society."
"Well, dey only gib me fifty cents," grimaced the porter, "an' dat don' elect 'em to nothin' wid me."
"You were lucky," he said. "You should have paid them for the honor."
The porter shook his head gloomily. "Two bits," he growled. "I don' see no sassiety partiality in dat."
"No," Armitage reached into his pocket; "Here, Sam, is fifty cents for hefting that young woman's bag." He paused and smiled. "It is the nearest I have ever come to paying the bills for such a beautiful creature. I like the experience. Now don't forget to call me at Wickford Junction, or the other people either; for when I get them aboard the General I am going to start a mutiny, throw the mater overboard, and go to sea. For, Sam, I rather imagine Miss Wellington glanced at me as she boarded the train."
The porter laughed, pocketing the silver piece, and left Armitage to his own devices. He sat for a long time, still holding the unlighted cigar, smiling quizzically. Some underlying, romantic emotion, which had prompted his vicarious tip to the porter, still thrilled him; and it was not until the train had flashed by Larchmont, that he went to his berth.
The full moon was swimming in the east, bathing the countryside in a light which caused trees and hills, fences and bowlders to stand out in soft distinctness. Armitage raised the window curtain and lying with face pressed almost against the pane, watched the ever-changing scenes of a veritable fairyland. He was anything but a snob. He was not lying awake because a few select representatives of the Few Hundred happened to be in his car. Not by a long shot. But that girl, he admitted, irrespective of caste, was a cause for insomnia, good and sufficient.
"Anne!" He muttered the name to himself. By George, it fitted her! He did not know they bred her sort in the Newport cottage colony. Armitage was sufficiently conceited to believe that he knew a great deal about girls. He had this one placed precisely. She was a good fellow, that he would wager, and unaffected and unspoiled, which, if he were correct in his conjectures, was a wonderful thing, he told himself, considering the environment in which she had been reared.
"I may be wrong, Anne Wellington," he said to himself, "but I 've an idea we 're going to know each other better. At any rate, we, speaking in an editorial sense, shall strive to that end."
He chose to ignore the obvious difficulties which presented themselves in this regard. Who were the Wellingtons? His great, great grandfather was signing the Declaration of Independence when the Wellingtons were shoeing horses or carrying sedan chairs in London. His father was a United States Senator, and while Ronald Wellington might own one or two such, he could not own Senator Armitage, nor could any one else.
The train flashed around the curve into Greenwich and the Sound appeared in the distance, a vast pool of shimmering silver. Armitage started.
"That torpedo of mine could start in that creek back there and flit clean into the Sound and chase a steel hull from here to Gehenna. In two weeks I 'll prove it."
How had Anne Wellington suggested his torpedo? Or was it the moonlight? Well, if he set his mind on his torpedo he would surely get no sleep. It had cost him too many wakeful hours already. He lowered the curtain and closed his eyes.
MISS WELLINGTON ENLARGES HER EXPERIENCE
Few places in the well-ordered centres of civilization are so altogether dreary as Wickford Junction, shortly before five o'clock in the morning, when the usual handful of passengers alight from the Boston express. The sun has not yet climbed to the top of the seaward hills of Rhode Island, the station and environment rest in a damp semi-gloom, everything shut in, silent—as though Nature herself had paused for a brief time before bursting into glad, effulgent day.
The station is locked; one grocery store in the distance presents a grim, boarded front to the sleeping street. No one is awake save the arriving passengers; they are but half so, hungry and in the nature of things cross. Mrs. Wellington was undisguisedly in that mood.
Armitage found some degree of sardonic pleasure in watching her as she viewed with cold disapproval the drowsy maids and her daughter, who although as immaculate and fresh and cool and altogether delightful as the morning promised to be, persisted in yawning from time to time with the utmost abandon. Armitage had never seen a woman quite like the mother. Somewhat above medium height, there was nothing in the least way matronly about her figure; it had still the beautiful supple lines of her youth, and her dark brown hair was untinged by the slightest suggestion of gray. It was the face that portrayed the inexorable progress of the years and the habits and all that in them had lain. Cold, calculating, unyielding, the metallic eyes dominated a gray lineament, seamed and creased with fine hair-like lines.
No flippant, light-headed, pleasure-seeking creature of society was Belle Wellington. Few of her sort are, public belief to the contrary notwithstanding. Her famous fight for social primacy, now lying far behind in the vague past, had been a struggle worthy of an epic, however meticulous the object of her ambition may have appeared in the eyes of many good people. At all events she had striven for a goal not easy of attainment.
Many years before, on the deck of her husband's yacht—whither, by methods she sternly had forgotten, had been lured a select few of a select circle—the fight had begun. Even now she awoke sometimes at night with a shudder, having lived again in vivid dream that August afternoon in Newport Harbor, when she sat at her tea table facing the first ordeal. She had come through it. With what rare felicity had she scattered her conversational charms; with what skill had she played upon the pet failings and foibles of her guests; what unerring judgment had been hers, and memory of details, unfailing tact, and exquisite taste! A triumph, yes. And the first knowledge of it had come in a lingering hand clasp from the great man of them all and a soft "dear" in the farewell words of his wife. But she had fainted in her cabin after they left.
Since that day she had gone far. She was on familiar terms with an English earl and two dukes; she had entertained an emperor aboard her yacht; in New York and Newport there were but two women to dispute her claims as social dictator, and one of these, through a railroad coup of her husband's, would soon be forced to her knees.
It was all in her face. Armitage could read it there in the hard shrewd lines, the cold, heartless, vindictive lines, or the softer lines which the smiles could form when smiles were necessary, which was not so often now as in former years. And in place of the beauty now gone, she ruled by sheer power and wit, which time had turned to biting acidity,—and by the bitter diplomacy of the Medicis.
"Ugh!" Armitage drew his pipe from his pocket with humorous muttering. "A dreadnaught, all right. An out-and-out sundowner. And I beg leave to advise myself that the best thing about fair Anne is that she favors her father, or some relative considerably more saintly than My Lady of the Marble Face."
As Armitage passed the group in pacing the platform, the woman whom he had been studying raised her eyes and gazed at him with just a touch of imperiousness.
"I beg your pardon," she said, and a trace of the little formal smile appeared; "but can you tell me when we are to have a train?"
Armitage glanced at his watch.
"It is due now," he said, "I think—here it comes," he added, inclining his head towards a curve in the track around which a little locomotive was pushing two dingy cars.
Mrs. Wellington nodded her thanks and turned to her daughter, as though dismissing Armitage, who, indeed, had evinced no desire to remain, walking toward the upper end of the platform where his bag reposed upon a pile of trunks.
He did not see them again until they boarded the General at Wickford Landing for the trip down Narragansett Bay. They were all in the upper cabin, where Mrs. Wellington was evidently preparing to doze. Armitage walked forward and stood on the deck under the pilot house, watching the awakening of the picturesque village across the narrow harbor, until the steamboat began to back out into the bay. The sunlight was glorious, the skies blue, and the air fresh and sparkling. Armitage faced the breeze with bared head and was drawing in deep draughts of air when footsteps sounded behind him, and Anne Wellington and her maid came to the rail.
"How perfectly delightful, Emilia," she exclaimed. "Now if I could have a rusk and some coffee I should enjoy myself thoroughly. Why don't they conduct this boat like an English liner!"
Her eyes, filled with humorous light, swept past Armitage; yes, they were hazel.
"I am so hungry, Emilia!" She smiled and sniffed the air with mock ardor. "Emilia, did n't you smell that tantalizing odor of hot biscuits in the cabin? I wonder where it came from."
Armitage suddenly remembered a previous journey in this boat and he was on the point of addressing the girl when he checked himself, but only for a minute. Her mother had addressed him in her presence, had she not? Certainly that constituted, well, if not an acquaintance, at least something which involved warrant to assist her in time of stress, which he decided to be here and now.
So he turned to the girl with that boyish grin and that twinkling of his clear, gray eyes which people found so contagious in him, and addressed her in the most natural way.
"If I don't intrude egregiously—" He rounded out this beautiful word, a favorite of his father's, with a drawling, tentative inflection, which caused Anne to smile in spite of herself. Seeing which Armitage continued: "I happen to know that the steward in the galley below makes biscuits and brews coffee at this hour each morning such as are given to few mortals. If you 'll allow me the honor of playing waiter, I 'll be delighted to serve you in the cabin."
Anne Wellington heard him in wide-eyed astonishment. Then she laughed, not at all affectedly, and glanced swiftly through the cabin windows, to where her mother sat apparently in slumber.
"I thank you. It's awfully polite of you. But you needn't play waiter. Instead—would it be too much trouble for you to show us where the—the—"
"Galley," suggested Armitage.
"Where the galley is?"
"No," he said, "it would be a pleasure. Only, the galley, or, rather, the mess room, is rather a stuffy place. I—"
"Oh, I should n't mind that in the least. I am not unused to roughing it." She turned to her maid. "Emilia, go and tell Morgan to say to mother, if she wakes, that we are in the galley, breakfasting on plum duff."
Armitage said nothing while they waited for her return. Anne Wellington was silent, too. She simply stood waiting, tapping the toe of one of her small russet pumps on the deck and gazing out over the bay with a curious little smile rippling up from the corner of her mouth.
Armitage did not quite understand her. While she had been cordial enough, yet there was an underlying suggestion of reserve, not at all apparent and yet unmistakably felt. It was, he felt, as though in her life and training and experience, she had acquired a poise, a knowledge of at least certain parts of the world and its affairs, which gave her confidence, made her at home, and taught her how to deal with situations which other girls less broadly endowed would have found over-powering, or, at best, distinctly embarrassing.
Not that Armitage had in any way sought to embarrass Miss Wellington. He had spoken simply upon impulse, being of that nature, and he could not but admire the way in which she had diagnosed his motive, or rather lack of motive save a chivalrous desire to serve. Evidently she had long been accustomed to the homage of men, and more, she was apparently a girl who knew how to appraise it at its true value in any given case. If Armitage had but known it, this was a qualification, not without its value to the girls and elder women who occupied Anne Wellington's plane of social existence. The society calendar of scandal is mainly a list of those who have not possessed this essential.
When the maid returned, Miss Wellington smiled and nodded to Armitage, who led the way into the cabin and to the main stairway and thence down into the hold.
The steward was a bustling, voluble little man with well-rounded proportions and a walrus-like mustache. As Armitage and his two companions entered, he was engaged in removing a coffee-stained table cover—the crew had finished breakfasting—which he replaced with a spotless red-and-white checkered cloth.
"Steward," said Armitage, falling unconsciously into the crisp voice of command, "get some coffee and biscuits for this lady and her maid, please."
"Yes, sir," the steward smiled affably, "certainly, sir. They 're fine this morning—the biscuits, I mean. Fine!"
"Very good," said Armitage. He pulled two chairs to the table and was leaving the room when the girl looked over her shoulder.
"Are n't you going to join us?" she asked.
"Well," said Armitage smiling, "I was going to breakfast in the galley. It is so warm by the range, you know."
"Nonsense! Don't mind us. It's rather novel breakfasting with one's maid—and a stranger."
She said this in rather an absent manner, as though the fact to which she called attention were almost too obvious for remark. Certainly it was not said in any way to impel Armitage to introduce himself, and he had no wish to take advantage of a lame opportunity.
"Yes," he said, seating himself at one end of the table; "it impresses me that way, too."
To say that the biscuits were delicious and the coffee uplifting, inspiring, would, in the mind of all who have shared the matutinal hospitality of the steward of the General, be an inadequate expression of gastronomic gratitude. Let it be sufficient to note that Anne Wellington beamed gratefully upon the steward, who, expanding under the genial influence, discussed his art with rare unction.
"The secret," he said, leaning confidentially over the back of Miss Wellington's chair, "is to be sparin' of the yeast; and then there is somethin' in raisin' 'em proper. Now, the last time Mrs. Jack Vanderlip was down here, she made me give her the receipt for them identical biscuits; gave me a dollar for it."
"Mrs. Jack Vanderlip!" cried Miss Wellington, "did she ever grace your table?"
"Did she ever grace this table! Well, I should say so, and the Tyler girls and Hammie Van Rensselaer and Billy Anstruther,—he comes down here often."
Miss Wellington laughed.
"I often have marvelled at Billy's peach-blow complexion," she said; "now I have the secret."
"Don't tell him I said so, Miss Wellington," said the steward.
The girl, with a biscuit poised daintily in her fingers, did not seem surprised to hear her name.
"Your acquaintance is rather exten—rather large," she said.
The steward actually blushed.
"I live in Newport, miss," he said.
"Oh!" That was all, and the curious little smile did not leave her face. But Armitage noticed that in some way the steward found no further opportunity for exercising his garrulity.
Evidently she assumed that Armitage now knew whom she was, if he had not known before the steward uttered her name, for he noticed a slight modifying of her previous attitude of thorough enjoyment. For his part, Armitage of course had no reason for altering his bearing, and that he did not was observed and appreciated by his companion. This eventually had the effect of restoring both to their former footing.
"Yes," she said finally, "it has been rather a novel experience. I am indebted to you."
"Not to me," said Armitage. Then, by way of conversation, "novel experiences, as a rule, are not so easily had."
"No, I grasp them whenever," she jerked her head toward the cabin above and smiled, "whenever I can, conveniently. My old tutor in Munich was always impressing it upon me never to neglect such opportunities."
"Opportunities? Oh, I see—slumming." Armitage glanced about the apartment and laughed.
"I was speaking categorically, not specifically; at least I meant to. I did not mean slumming; I detest it. 'Seine erfahrungen erweitern'—enlarging one's experience—is the way my teacher put it. Life is so well-ordered with us. There are many well-defined things to do—any number of them. The trouble is, they are all so well defined. We glide along and take our switches, as father would say, like so many trains." She smiled. "And so I love to run off the track once in a while."
"May I have the credit of having misplaced the switch?" Armitage's eyes were twinkling as the girl arose with a nod.
In the upper cabin, Mrs. Wellington, apparently, still slept, to Armitage's great joy. Her daughter, with hardly a glance into the cabin, stepped to the rail and looked down the bay with radiant face. The promise of the early hours had been established; it was a beautiful day. It was one of these mornings typical of the hour; it looked like morning, smelt like morning, there was the distinct, clean, pure, inspiring feel of morning. The skies were an even turquoise with little filmy, fleecy shreds of clouds drifting across; the air was elixir; and the blue waters, capped here and there with white, ran joyously to meet the green sloping shores, where the haze still lingered. Ahead, an island glowed like an opal.
"Perfect, perfectly stunning!" cried the girl. Somehow Armitage felt the absence of that vague barrier which, heretofore, she had seemed almost unconsciously to interpose, as her eyes, filled with sheer vivacity, met his.
"What are those little things bobbing up and down in the water over there?" she asked.
"I believe that is the torpedo testing ground," he said.
"Torpedoes! Ugh!" She shrugged her shoulders. "Mother knew Vereshchagin, who was in the Petrapavlovsk when she struck the Japanese torpedo and turned upside down. Do you know anything about torpedoes?"
"Not much; a little." Armitage thrilled at the first sign she had given him that she considered or was in any way curious regarding his personality.
She looked at him.
"I am certain I have seen you before," she said. "You don't live in Newport?"
"That is not my home," said Armitage. "I come from Kentucky. I am something of a wanderer, being a sort of fighter by profession."
The girl started.
"Not a prize fighter?" She glanced quickly at the handsome, square, fighting face, the broad chest and shoulders, and flushed. "Are you really that?"
Armitage had intended to tell her he was a naval officer, but obsessed of the imp of mischief, he nodded.
"I can imagine situations wherein I might fight for a prize."
She overlooked what she regarded as the apparent modesty of his answer.
"Really!" she exclaimed. "How interesting! Now I am glad I met you. I had no idea you were that, of all things. You seemed—" She checked herself. "But tell me, how did you begin? Tommy Dallas is keen on your sort. Did he ever—ever back you, I believe he calls it—in a fight?"
The new trend speedily had become distasteful to Armitage, who inwardly was floundering for a method of escape from the predicament into which his folly had led him. He had no wish to pose as a freak in her eyes. Still, no solution offered itself.
"No," he said at length, "he never backed me. As a matter of fact, I am more of a physical instructor, now."
"Oh," she said, disappointedly, "I was going to gloat over Tommy. Physical instructor! Do you know father is looking for one for my two kid brothers? Why don't you apply?"
"Thanks," said Armitage, a bit ungraciously, "perhaps I shall."
Plainly the girl's interest in him was fast waning. Extremely chapfallen and deeply disgusted with himself, Armitage bowed, and, muttering something about looking after his luggage, withdrew.
PRINCE VASSILI KOLTSOFF
When Miss Wellington entered the cabin she found her mother in the same position in which she had left her, but her eyes were open, looking straight at the girl.
"Mother, I never knew you to do anything quite so bourgeois before." There was a gleam of mischief in her eyes. "Sleeping in a public place! You weren't sleeping, were you?"
"No, I was not," said her mother. "I have been thinking, planning."
"Oh, Prince Koltsoff!"
"Yes." Mrs. Wellington raised her hand languidly to her face. "He wrote he was coming to us this afternoon, direct from the Russian ambassador's at Bar Harbor. Did he not?"
"Yes, unless Miss Hatch was mistaken in what she said the other day."
"Miss Hatch," said the elder woman, "is one of the few secretaries I ever had who does not make mistakes. However, that is neither here nor there. Prince Koltsoff has been in Newport for a week."
"A week! The idea! Where? Not with the Van Antwerps?" Miss Wellington's eyes blazed with interest.
"No, not with any one that I was able to discover. But Clarie Pembroke, of the British legation, was driving from the Reading Room to the yacht club with your father the other day. He told me he was certain he saw Koltsoff standing on a side street near the Aquidneck."
"Why on earth did n't you tell me before?" cried the daughter. "What a delightful mystery!" She smiled with mischief. "Do you suppose after all he is some no-account? You know Russian princes are as numerous as Russian bears; they can be as great bounders and as indigent as Italian counts—"
"All of which you have heard me say quite frequently," interrupted Mrs. Wellington placidly. "Koltsoff is not pinchbeck. The Koltsoffs are an illustrious Russian family, and have been for years. I think I know my Almanach de Gotha. Why, Koltsoff is aide-de-camp to the Czar and has, I believe, estates in southern Russia. His father fought brilliantly in the Russo-Turkish War and gained the Cross of St. Anne; his great, or great-great-grandfather, I don't recall which, was a general of note of Catherine the Great's, and if certain intimate histories of that time are not wholly false, her rewards for his services were scandalously bestowed."
"No doubt," said the girl carelessly. "And Koltsoff?"
"A genuinely distinguished fellow. He was educated, of course, at the cadet school in St. Petersburg and during the Japanese War was with the Czar. I met him in London, last May, at Lord McEncroe's, as I have already told you, I think, and when he spoke of coming to America this summer I engaged him for August."
"It was rather farsighted of you," said the girl admiringly. "Newport needs some excitement this season. If he 's anything like that last Russian who came here on a warship two years ago, you will shine as a benefactor, especially in the eyes of reporters."
Mrs. Wellington smiled grimly.
"The Grand Duke Ivan?"
"Yes; what a great bearded beast he was! I remember father bemoaning, when Ivan the Terrible departed, that there was no more of his favorite Planet brandy left in the Reading Room cellars."
Mrs. Wellington did not smile. She was eying her daughter curiously. "I want you and the Prince to become good friends," she said.
"That will depend upon whether he can gracefully explain his mysterious presence in Newport the past week," replied the girl laughingly. Suddenly her face grew grave. "What do you mean, mother?"
"Merely that I expect—that Prince Koltsoff hopes"—and under her daughter's steady gaze, she did something she had done but once or twice in her life—floundered and then paused.
The girl's lip curled, not mirthfully.
"Ah, I begin to understand," she said. "Prince Koltsoff's visit was conceived hardly in the nature of ordinary social emprise."
"Now, please don't go on, Anne," said the mother. "I have expressed nothing but a wish, have I? Wait until you know him."
"But you said Koltsoff had expressed a—a—"
"A hope, naturally. He saw Sargent's portrait of you in London."
"How romantic! I do not wonder you couldn't sleep, mother."
"Perhaps there were other reasons. Who was the man you ensnared outside?"
Miss Wellington laughed.
"Trust you, mother. He was very decent. He took me below and fed me hot biscuits and coffee. He said he was a prize fighter."
"A prize fighter!"
"He said so. But he was not telling the truth. He was awfully good looking and had a manner that one does not acquire. I am rather curious concerning him. You don't imagine he was Koltsoff, incog?"
Mrs. Wellington glanced witheringly at her.
"I imagine he may have been a reporter, Anne. Why are n't you more careful! There may come a time when your efforts to uphold your reputation for eccentricity and for doing the cleverly unexpected will react disagreeably."
It was the first time her mother had given her reason to believe that she shared in any way in the views concerning her which were prevalent among the younger set at least. The girl was not flattered.
"Mother, don't be so absurd," she said. "The only efforts I have ever made have been to lead a normal, human life and not a snobbish, affected one. Eccentric! The conditions under which we live are eccentric. My only desire is to be normal."
"Life is relative, you know," said Mrs. Wellington. "If you—" she glanced out the window and saw the Torpedo Station slipping past. "Why, we are almost in," she said. "Morgan, go out, please, and see if they have sent a motor for us."
The handful of passengers were filing down to the main deck and Mrs. Wellington, her daughter, and Emilia followed, where Morgan presently joined them with the announcement that she had not seen a Wellington car.
"Peste!" murmured Mrs. Wellington. "This is the last of Dawson if he has n't sent a car. I telegraphed last night."
"Telegrams have been known to go astray," suggested her daughter.
"Rot! So has Dawson," observed Mrs. Wellington.
It was only too plain when they crossed the gang plank that something or somebody had gone wrong. No automobile or horse-drawn vehicle bearing the Wellington insignia was at the landing. Having adjusted herself to the situation upon receiving her maid's report, Mrs. Wellington immediately signalled two of the less dingy hacks, entered one with her daughter, leaving the other for the maids.
"The Crags," she said, designating her villa to the hackman, who, touching his hat with the first sign of respect shown, picked up the reins. The driver, half turned in his seat to catch any conversation of an interesting nature, guided his horse to Thames Street and thence along that quaint, narrow thoroughfare toward Harbor Road.
Miss Wellington glanced at the driver and then looked at her mother solemnly.
"Do you suppose they will be up yet, mamma?" she said, with a sort of twanging nasal cadence.
Mrs. Wellington turned her head composedly toward the show windows of a store.
"I don't see why you won't say what you think, mamma," resumed the girl. "You know some of these Newporters, so the papers say, do not breakfast before eight o'clock."
"Eight o'clock!" There was an explosion of derisive mirth on the seat above them. "Ladies," the driver looked down with red cheeks and watery eyes, "if you expect to see 'Rome' Wellington's people, you 'd better drive round 'till eleven o'clock. And at that they won't have the sleep out of their eyes."
"Do these society people really sleep as late as that?" asked the girl.
The driver glanced at her a second.
"Aw, stop yer kiddin'," he said. "All I can say now is that if you try to wake 'em up now they 'll set the dogs on you."
"Very well, let them," interposed Mrs. Wellington. "Now drive on as quickly as possible—and no more talking, please."
The driver had a good look at her as she spoke. His round face became red and pale in turn and he clucked asthmatically to his horse.
"Good Lord," he muttered, "it's herself!"
But he had not much farther to go. Just as they turned into the Harbor Road, a Wellington car came up. The mecanicien had been losing no time, but when he caught sight of the Wellingtons he stopped within a distance which he prided himself was five feet less than any other living driver could have made it in, without breaking the car.
The footman was at the side of the hack in an instant and assisted the mother and daughter into the tonneau, which they entered in silence. Mrs. Wellington, in fact, did not speak until the car was tearing past the golf grounds. Here she turned to her daughter with a grim face.
"Anne," she said, "I 've about made up my mind that you escaped being really funny with that impossible hackman."
"Yes, mother," said the girl, absently viewing the steadily rising roof of her home. "Our ideas of humor were ever alien. I wonder if Prince Koltsoff has arrived."
The Crags was one of the few Newport villas bordering on the sea, whose owners and architects had been sufficiently temperamental to take advantage of the natural beauties of its site. Upon huge black rocks, rising twenty-five or thirty feet, the house had been built. Windows on either side looked down upon the waters, ever shattering into white foam on half-hidden reefs, or rushing relentlessly into rocky, weed-hung fissures or black caverns. Sometimes in the autumn storms when the inrushing waves would bury deep the grim reefs off Bateman's Point and pile themselves on the very bulwarks of the island, the spray rattled against the windows of The Crags and made the place seem a part of the elemental fury.
In front of the house was an immense stretch of sward, bordered with box and relieved by a wonderful parterre and by walks and drives lined with blue hydrangeas. The stable, garage, and gardener's cottage were far to one side, all but their roofs concealed from the house and the roadway by a small grove of poplars.
Supplementing the processes of Nature by artificial means, Ronald Wellington had had a sort of fjord blasted out of the solid rock on the seaward side, as a passage for his big steam yacht, with steps leading from the house to the little wharf. Here lay the Mayfair when not in service; from the road you could see her mast tops, as though protruding from the ground. But now the Mayfair was down in a South Brooklyn shipyard; this thought, recurring to Mrs. Wellington, framed in her mind a mental picture of all that she had undergone as a result of that stupid blowing out of steam valves, which, by the way, had seriously scalded several of the engine-room staff and placed the keenest of edges upon her home-coming mood. No subject of nervous irritability, she. Incidents, affairs, persons, or things qualified to set the fibres of the average woman of her age tingling, were, with her, as the heat to steel; they tempered her, made her hard, keen, cold, resilient.
The butler, flanked by two or three men servants, met them at the door. Breakfast was served, he said. Prince Koltsoff, indeed, had already arrived, and had breakfasted.
"The Prince—" Mrs. Wellington checked herself and hurried into the breakfast room with inscrutable face. Her daughter followed, smiling broadly.
"The Prince seems to have anticipated us," she said.
Mrs. Wellington glanced at the alert-faced second man, who had just brought in the coffee, and compressed her lips into a straight line.
There was no conversation in the course of the short light breakfast. Anne went to her apartments, while Mrs. Wellington, after arising from the table, stood for a minute gazing from the window toward the polo grounds. Then slowly she mounted the stairs and, entering her boudoir, rang for her maid.
An hour and a half later, massaged, bathed, and robed in a dainty morning gown, Mrs. Wellington stepped into her "office," than which no one of her husband's many offices was more business-like, and seated herself at a large mahogany desk. Miss Hatch, her secretary, arose from a smaller desk with typewriter attachment and laid before her a number of checks for signing, bills rendered, invitations, and two bank books. Then she resumed her seat in silence.
Mrs. Wellington did not glance at the mass of matter. With a muttered "Thank you," she gazed thoughtfully at the row of white push buttons inlaid at her elbow. There were more than a dozen of them and they ranged from the pantry to the kitchen, from the garage to the stable. By means of them the mistress of The Crags kept in touch with nearly fifty servants. Here at her desk she could plan her campaigns, lay counter mine against mine, plan stratagems, and devise ideas. Her superiority over those who sought, or had sought in the past, to rival her lay in the fact that she could devise, outline, and execute her projects without assistance. A former secretary with some degree of literary talent had, upon dismissal, written up that office and its genius for a Sunday newspaper, and several hundred thousand good people, upon reading it, had marvelled at the tremendous means employed to such trivial ends.
But after all, who shall say what is trivial in this world and what is not? Let it rest with the assertion that in any other sphere, business, sociology, charity, Belle Wellington's genius would have carried her as far as in that domain wherein she had set her endeavors. As to charity, for that matter, she had given a mountain recluse, a physician, five hundred thousand dollars with which to found a tuberculosis sanitarium, and—but those were things which not even her friends knew and concerning which, therefore, we should remain silent.
Slowly she leaned forward and pressed a button. Mrs. Stetson, the housekeeper, soon appeared.
"Good-morning, Mrs. Stetson," she said. "Prince Koltsoff seems to have anticipated us." She suddenly remembered she had utilized her daughter's expression, and bit her lips. "When did he arrive?"
"He came last night in the French ambassador's carriage."
"Last night!" Mrs. Wellington glanced at her secretary. "Will you bring my engagement book, please." This in hand, she turned the pages hastily, then put it down.
"There has been some mistake. He was not to come to us until luncheon to-day. Was M. Renaud with him?"
"Yes, Mrs. Wellington, but he did not stay. The Prince seemed to know he was not expected. He apologized profusely, but said that events had brought him here a day early and trusted there was no inconvenience. He did not dine, but spent the evening in the smoking-room, writing. He sent two cable despatches by Parker."
"Um-m, degage, even for a Russian," said Mrs. Wellington. "And he arose early?"
"Very early. He asked Mr. Dawson for a car to go to the village at half after six."
Mrs. Wellington almost revealed her intense interest.
"Ah, to the village," she said. "Did he say—did he explain the reasons for his early trip?"
"No, but Parker told Mr. Dawson he stopped at the telegraph office."
"Where is the Prince now?"
"He is in the morning-room, writing."
"Thank you, Mrs. Stetson."
As the housekeeper left, Mrs. Wellington pressed another button, summoning the superintendent.
"Mr. Dawson," she said, "you received my wire last night that the Mayfair had broken down and that we were taking the midnight train from New York?"
"Yes, Mrs. Wellington."
"And you thought the Prince was going to meet us with that car? That was the reason for your failure to follow my instructions?"
"Yes, madame, thank you. I supposed Prince Koltsoff knew you were coming and that he had ordered the car to meet you. When this proved wrong I sent Rimini. I am glad he was not late."
"He was late. He met us, packed in a miserable hack. Hereafter I must insist upon strict compliance with my wishes. Do not assume things, please. Am I quite clear? Thank you." Mrs. Wellington turned from him and pressed still another button. In a moment the tutor of her two sons, Ronald, sixteen years old, and Royal, twelve, stood before her. He was a Frenchman, whose facial expression did not indicate that his duties had fallen in the pleasantest of places.
"Good-morning, M. Dumois. Where are my sons?" She spoke in French.
"They attended a party at Bailey's Beach and remained the night with Master Van Antwerp."
"How have they been?"
"Very well, thank you, except—"
"I found Master Ronald smoking a cigarette in the smoking-room yesterday."
Mrs. Wellington dashed a note on her pad.
"Thank you," she said in her soft tone of dismissal.
"Lest Miss Wellington forget, you might, on your way, remind her, in my name, not to meet Prince Koltsoff until I receive him at luncheon."
She turned to the mass of correspondence on her desk and selected for first reading a long telegram from her husband, who, when he sent it, was speeding eastward through the Middle West in his special car. She laid it down with a faraway smile in her eyes. She loved and admired her big husband, who did things, knocked men's heads together, juggled railroads and steamships in either hand. And this love and admiration, in whatever she had done or wherever placed, had always been as twin flaming angels guarding her with naked swords.
Presently she turned to her secretary and dictated a statement concerning the arrival of Prince Koltsoff, who he was, and a list of several of the entertainments given in his honor.
"You might call Mr. Craft at the Newport Herald office and give him this," she said.
Half an hour was spent in going over accounts, signing checks, auditing bills, and the like, and then with a sigh she arose and passed into her dressing-room. Ordinarily she would have dressed for the beach or the Casino. But to-day she threw herself on a couch in her boudoir and closed her eyes. But she did not sleep.
M. Dumois, hastening to comply with his mistress' command, failed to find the girl in her apartments. At the moment, indeed, that Emilia was informing the tutor that the girl had left for the stables, Miss Wellington from a corner of the hall was gazing interestedly at the Prince, who sat with his profile toward her. He was bending over a table upon which was spread a parchment drawing. The sunlight fell full upon him. He was not at all unprepossessing. Tall and slim, with waist in and well-padded shoulders, his blonde hair and Van Dyck bead, long white eyelashes, darker brows, and glittering blue eyes, he was the very type of the aristocratic Muscovite.
As the girl looked she saw his lips part and his teeth glisten. He half arose, leaned forward, and smote the chart.
Miss Wellington hurried down the hall and out of the house.
"Prince Koltsoff," she murmured, as she swung down the path to the stable, "I would give worlds to know what you 're up to. I definitely place you as a rascal. But oh, such a romantically picturesque one!"
THE TAME TORPEDO
That night Lieutenant Armitage, in a marine's drab shirt and overalls, stood among a silent group of mechanics on a pier near the Goat Island lighthouse. A few hundred feet out lay a small practice torpedo boat, with the rays of a searchlight from the bridge of the parent ship of the First Flotilla resting full upon her.
Suddenly Armitage leaned forward. When he straightened there came a dull report, a lurid flash of light, and with a sharp whirring sound a model torpedo about half the regulation size, leaped through the darkness and with a clear parting of the waters disappeared. A green Very star cleaved the night. Intense silence followed. One second, two seconds, elapsed and then from the practice boat out in the harbor a red star reared. Armitage turned to the master mechanic at his side.
"Bully!" he said. "I aimed at least twenty feet wide of the Dumont. The magnetos fetched her. But wait—"
In the glare of the searchlight he could see they had lowered a boat and were recovering the torpedo. He saw a group of young officers gather about it as it was hauled aboard, and then in a minute or so the red and green Ardois lights began to wink. As Armitage watched with straining eyes he spelled the message as it came, letter by letter.
"A fair hit. But the wrong end struck."
The Dumont was sufficiently near the pier for the message to have been shouted. But tests of new torpedoes are not to be shouted about. Armitage discharged a white star from his pistol, the signal to come in for the night, and walked toward the shops.
"You may turn in," he said to the men. "I have a good night's work, alone, ahead of me."
"She should not have struck with her stern, sir," said a short, squat man, hurrying to Armitage's side. He spoke with a strong accent and passed as a Lithuanian. His expert knowledge of electricity as well as his skill in making and mending apparatus had caused Armitage to intrust him with much of the delicate work on the model, as well as on the torpedo of regular size, based on the model, now in course of construction.
His was a position of peculiar importance. As the blue-prints of the invention, from which detailed plans were worked, passed into the shops, they came into the hands of this man, who, thus, many times in the course of the day had the working prints of the controlling mechanism in his exclusive possession.
For some reason that he could not explain, all this shot through Armitage's mind as the man spoke.
"No, Yeasky, it should not. But I 'll fix that. By the way, how long—No matter, I shan't need you any more to-night, Yeasky."
As he entered the shop the storekeeper was leaving. He nodded to the officer.
"What luck, Lieutenant Armitage?"
"Fair, the wrong end hit first. I think the regulation size would have worked all right. At all events, I 'll study it out to-night."
He paused. Then as the storekeeper stepped past him he called him back.
"Mr. Jackson, I may be silly, but I 've been a bit worried of late. You keep a close eye on the record of parts, don't you?"
"Yes, indeed, sir, I go over it every night."
"Do you ever actually go over the parts to see that they tally with the records? What I mean is, important parts might be missing, although the daily record might be so juggled as to make it appear they were not."
"By George!" exclaimed the storekeeper, "I never have done that. I 'll begin to-morrow."
"Thanks, I should if I were you. Good-night."
Armitage passed into the shop and switched on an electric light over a long pine table in the centre of the apartment. Then he went to the safe, opened it, and returned to the table with an armful of rolled parchment and specifications. These he spread out and thereafter, while the night waned, he was lost to the world and its affairs.
Briefly, Armitage had invented a torpedo, whose steering was so controlled by delicate magnetos, that while ordinarily proceeding in the line of aim, if such aim, through the movement of the vessel aimed at, or through some other cause, should result in a miss, the effect of the steel hull of the objective ship on the delicate magnetos of the Armitage torpedo would be such as to cause a change in the course of the deadly missile, and have her go directly toward the vessel and even follow her.
Armitage, whose mechanical genius had marked him while at the Academy as a man of brilliant possibilities, had developed his idea in the course of several years, and when it was perfected in his mind he had gone to the Chief of Ordnance at Washington and laid the matter before him in all its details. The chief at once gave the lie to the theory long current that the Department was averse to progress along whatever line, by expressing unqualified delight. He had Armitage ordered to the Torpedo Station at Newport to carry on experiments forthwith, and instructed the superintendent of the station to give the inventor every facility for carrying on his work. Two months had already elapsed and the work was at the stage when a destroyer and a practice torpedo boat had been detached from regular duty and placed at his exclusive service.
The Government was deeply interested in the progress of the work, and had shown it in many ways. The significance of such a torpedo in any war in which the country might become involved was patent. Rumors more or less vague had leaked, as such things do, to foreign war offices, and there was not a naval attache at Washington but had received imperative orders to leave nothing undone by which the exact nature of the torpedo and its qualifications might be ascertained. But neither Armitage nor the Department had any idea of permitting the slightest information regarding the invention to escape.
All matters connected with the invention had been carried forward with the utmost secrecy, while the pedigree of every man employed in the work had been investigated carefully. All but Yeasky were native-born mechanics, and he had come from a great electrical plant in New Jersey with highest recommendations as to character and ability.
The sound of bells ringing for early mass was floating across the water from the city, when Armitage, with a deep breath of relief, walked from the table and threw himself with legs outstretched into a chair.
"No," he said with a triumphant grimace, "there will be no mistake next time. There was not a single fault in the model except—" He suddenly started bolt upright and looked about him. Then he settled back laughing. "A fine state of nerves," he added, "when I am afraid to talk to myself."
He arose with the pleasing design of enjoying a cold tub and a shave on board the destroyer, the D'Estang, but the idea of pumping his water did not accord with his mood.
He walked over to Billy Harrison's house. Billy commanded the First Flotilla and, being married, had quarters on the reservation. A drowsy servant answered the bell. She said that the Harrisons were still asleep.
"Well, never mind," said Armitage, chuckling, "I'll be back later."
Instead of going away he went around to the side, seized a handful of gravel, and threw it into an open second story window. He could hear it rattle against the wall and floor. A short silence followed and Armitage was about to pick up more gravel when a girl in a green and white dressing-gown appeared.
"Jack Armitage!" she cried, falling to her knees, so that only her head rose above the sill. "What on earth do you want now?"
"Why, hello, Letty," laughed Armitage. "Where 's Billy?"
"He 's here, sleeping. What do you mean by throwing stones into my window?"
"I want to talk to Billy," said Armitage.
"He's asleep, I tell you. What do you want?"
"Well, I want to borrow your tub and Billy's razors."
"Why didn't you say so? Ring the bell and come right up. I 'll have some towels put in. And say, Jack, really—"
"I hope you drown, waking me this way. And, Jack, stay to breakfast, won't you, like a good chap?"
Which Jack did. An hour or so later, fresh and cool and with that comfortable feeling which follows a well-cooked Navy breakfast,—bacon and eggs,—his pipe sending blue clouds into the sparkling air, Armitage walked over to the torpedo boat slips. Across the harbor lay the city, bathed in golden sunshine, the tree-clad streets rising tier by tier to the crown, Bellevue Avenue. His gaze wandered seaward and for the first time since sunset he thought of Anne Wellington. Would he ever see her again? What was she doing now, he wondered. No doubt she would attend service at Trinity; many of the cottagers did. He, too, would go to church there. He had not been lately; it would do him good, he told himself.
Thus thinking, he stepped aboard the black, ominous, oily D'Estang, made his way aft and clambered down the companion ladder. There was the usual Sunday morning gathering of young officers from the boats of the flotilla. The smoke, mainly from pipes—three weeks having elapsed since pay day—was thick, and an excited argument, not over speeding records, or coal consumption, but over the merits of an English vaudeville actor who had appeared the week before at Freebody Park, was in progress.
"Hello, Jack," said a tall dark officer in spotless white uniform, "how 's the tame torpedo this morning?"
"Fine, fine, Blackie," grinned Armitage. "How's that tin cup, misnamed the Jefferson, to-day?"
"Did n't eat out of your hand last night, did she?" observed Tommy Winston of the Adams, attired in blue trousers and a flannel shirt.
"No, but she will," said Armitage.
"No doubt," replied Winston with his quaint Southern drawl. "Look here, Jackie, where you going this morning, all dressed up in gorgeous cits clothes?"
"To church," replied Armitage, "to Trinity; any one want to go with me?" he asked, ignoring the derisive chorus.
There was a moment's silence and then Bob Black looked at him quizzically.
"Does any one want to go with you?" he jeered. "Who 's the girl?"
"I wonder—But seriously, I have never been to the service there and since the Wellingtons asked me to drop into their pew any Sunday, I—"
"The Wellingtons!" exclaimed Thornton of the submarine Polyp. "You don't mean the Ronald Wellingtons?"
"No, I don't mean any Wellingtons at all. I was joking. Why?"
"Then you did n't hear of Thornton's run in with them last week?" said Winston. "That's so, you were in Washington."
"What was it, Joe?" asked Armitage, turning to Thornton.
"Why, nothing much. Two of my men were arrested last Thursday for assaulting the Wellington kids. It seems they were walking past Bailey's Beach and the youngsters bombarded them with clam shells and gravel. It would have been all right, but one of the shells caught Kelly on the cheek and cut him. The men didn't do a thing but jump over that hedge into the holy of holies, gather in the young scions, and knock their heads together."
"You don't say! What happened then?"
"They were arrested and the chief sent over here. I got the men's story and then called the Wellingtons' house on the telephone. Mrs. Wellington's secretary answered. I told her who I was and that I wanted to talk about the case with some one in authority. She asked me to hold the wire and in a few seconds the queen herself was holding pleasant converse with yours truly.
"'You say the men are under your command?' she said.
"I replied, 'Even so.' Then she gave me the name of her lawyer and said Kelly and Burke would be prosecuted on every charge that could be brought to bear."
"Trust her! What did you say?"
"I got hot under the collar right away, then. 'Mrs. Wellington,' I said, 'my men were not to blame. If they were I should not have called you on the 'phone. But your sons threw shells and cut one of them. They were punished, and justly. And I now advise you I am going to have counter warrants issued against your boys if the charge is pressed in court to-day!' Just like that.
"Her voice came crisp. 'You say my sons were at fault? Have you any proof of that?'
"I came back in a second. 'I have sufficient proof to convince even your lawyer.'
"'Very well,' she said. 'Then do it. I shall direct him to see you at once. If what you say is true we will of course take no further action.'
"The case was dropped all right."
"Bully for you," said Armitage. "My Lady evidently has a sense of justice."
"Here 's a paragraph," said Winston, holding up a local paper, "which says that a physical instructor is wanted at The Crags. They are going to prepare for future engagements with our men, evidently."
"Well, let me tell you that Anne Wellington is a corker," observed Black suddenly.
"Anne Wellington?" said Armitage ingenuously.
"Yes," continued Black, "the daughter. I saw her at the Casino the other day. She was joshing some little old rooster who was trying to play tennis and she had him a mile up in the air. She 's beautiful, too. That's more than you can say of most of these alleged society beauties."
"Which reminds me," said Armitage, glancing at his watch, "that I am due for church. Come on, Joe," he added, "be a good chap."
Thornton in the goodness of his nature arose.
"All right," he said. "I'm game." Thornton had been a star full-back at Annapolis when Armitage was an All America end, and he would have gone to worse places than church for his old messmate.
Nowadays he spent his time in sinking the Polyp among the silt on the harbor bottom, for which work his crew received several dollars apiece, extra pay, for each descent. Thornton received not even glory, unless having gone to the floor of Long Island Sound with a President of the United States be held as constituting glory.
Old Trinity rests on the hillside, serene in the afterglow of its one hundred and eighty-four years. The spotless white walls, the green blinds, the graceful Colonial spire, are meetly set in an environment which strikes no note of dissonance. On either side are quaint, narrow streets, lined with decent door-yards and houses almost as old as the church. Within the cool interior the cottagers, and representatives of a native aristocracy—direct descendants of the English of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, who are so conservative, so proudly, scornfully aloof, that one would doubt they existed at all, were it not for their stately homes in the older sections of the city, where giant elms keep watch and ward over eave and column and dormer window, where hydrangeas sweep the doorstep, and faun and satyr, rough hewn, peer through the shrubbery—sit primly in the box-like pews with the preacher towering above them under the white sounding board.
The church was not half filled when Armitage and Thornton arrived, but a double line of visitors were standing in the rear aisle. Armitage caught the eye of one of the ushers and beckoned to him. But that frock-coated, austere personage coldly turned his glance elsewhere and Armitage had started forward to enlist his attention in a manner that would admit of no evasion when his companion caught him by the sleeve, chuckling.
"Look here, old chap," he whispered, "you have to wait until they know how many pew-holders are going to be absent. This is n't a theatre."
Armitage turned his head to reply, when a rustling of skirts sounded behind him and Thornton punched him in the ribs.
"The Wellington bunch," he whispered, "and the Russian they have captured."
It was a fine entry, as circus folks say. First came Mrs. Wellington in a simple but wonderfully effective embroidered linen gown, then her two sons, likely enough boys, and then Anne Wellington with Prince Koltsoff. She almost touched Armitage as she passed; the skirt of her lingerie frock swished against his ankles and behind she left, not perfume, but an intangible essence suggestive, somehow, of the very personality of the cool, beautiful, lithe young woman. As Armitage turned in response to Thornton's prod in the ribs, he met her eyes in full. But she gave no sign of recognition, and of course Armitage did not.
The Wellingtons had two pews, according to the diagram on the rear seats, and as Armitage followed the party with his eyes, he saw the mother, her daughter, and the Prince enter one, the boys seating themselves in the stall ahead.
In the meantime the congregation had assembled in large numbers and the body of the church as well as the side aisles were comfortably filled. From time to time the ushers, with machine-like precision, took one or two persons from the patiently waiting line of non-pew-holders and escorted them to seats, a proceeding which began to irritate Armitage, seeing which Thornton grinned and observed, sotto voce, that one might worship here only at the price of patience.
"It's the sheep and the goats, Jack," he whispered.
"I don't know about the sheep, but we 're the goats, all right," replied Armitage, "and I for one am going to beat it right now."
He had started for the door and Thornton was following when an usher hurrying up touched him on the shoulder, bowing unctuously.
"Miss Wellington," he said, "asked to have you gentlemen shown into the Wellington pew."
His voice clearly indicated that he felt he had been neglecting angels unawares, to say nothing of a desire to atone for his indiscretion.
The young men nodded as indifferently as the situation seemed to require and followed the man to the stall in which the boys were seated, who pushed in hospitably enough and then returned to their prayer books.
It must be said that two handsomer men, or men better constructed physically, never sat together in old Trinity; Thornton a perfect, brawny, rangy blonde; Armitage, shorter, better knit, perhaps, with shoulders just as broad, and short crinkling brown hair surmounting his squarely defined, sun-browned features.
The sermon was somewhat revolutionary, but Anne Wellington paid but slight attention. While the good clergyman warned his hearers of the terrible reckoning which must eventually come from neglect by the upper classes of the thousands born month after month in squalor and reared amid sordid, vicious surroundings, the girl's eyes rarely wandered from the two men in front of her. It was uplifting, conducive to healthful, normal emotions to look at them, and such emotions were exactly what she needed.
Radiating, as it were, from Prince Koltsoff was an influence she did not like. On the contrary, feeling its power, she had begun to fear it. He attracted her peculiarly. She could not quite explain the sensation; it was indefinable, vague, but palpable nevertheless. Then he was high in the Russian nobility, upon terms of friendship with the Czar, a prominent figure in the highest society of European capitals. His wife would at once take a position which any girl might covet. True, she would probably be unhappy with him after the first bloom of his devotion, but then she might not. She might be able to hold him. Miss Wellington flattered herself that she could. And if not—well, she would not be the first American girl to pocket that loss philosophically and be content with the contractual profits that remained. A Russian princess of the highest patent of nobility—there was a thrill in that thought, which, while it did not dominate her, might eventually have that effect.
At all events, she found it not at all objectionable that Prince Koltsoff was apparently enamoured of her. Of this she was quite certain. He had a way of looking his devotion. His luminous blue eyes were wonderful in their expressiveness. They could convey almost any impression in the gamut of human emotions, save perhaps kindliness, and among other things they had told her he loved her.
That was flattering, but the trouble was that so often his eyes made her blush confusedly without any reason more tangible than that he was looking at her.
Anne Wellington was as thoroughly feminine as any girl that ever lived, and had always gloried in her sex. She had never wished she were a man. Still there is a happy mean for every normal American girl, and already she had begun to wonder if the Prince was ever going to forget that she was a woman and treat her as an ordinary human being, with the question of sex in the abstract at least.
Yet on the other hand there was that thrill which she could not deny. She felt as though she were living through an experience and was curious as to the outcome. With her, curiosity was a challenge. Withal, for the first time in her life, she was afraid of herself. And so she found her study of the two young men in front of her wholesome and antiseptic, as Kipling says.
As the preacher suddenly paused and then demanded in ringing tones what those of the upper classes intended to do about the situation which he had been eloquently portraying, a portly old gentleman whose breath would have proclaimed that he had had a cocktail at the Reading Room before service, heaved a loud, hopeless sigh. She saw Thornton nudge Armitage with his shoulder and the replying grin wrinkle Jack's face. Swiftly her eyes turned sideways to the Prince. He was sitting half turned in the seat regarding her with worshipping gaze. She thrilled under the contrast; compared to the men in front of her, Koltsoff was a mere—yes, a mere monkey. What did he take her for, a school girl?
Filled with her emotions, she impulsively opened a little gold pencil with which she had been toying and wrote rapidly upon one of the blank pages of her hymnal, which later she surreptitiously tore out. When the service was ended and Armitage and Thornton with slight bows of acknowledgment passed into the aisle, the girl leaned toward the younger of her two brothers.
"Muck," she said, "be a good chap and give this note to the dark-haired man who sat next to you. Do it nicely, now, Muck, so no one will see you. I'll pay you back for it. Hurry."
Muck, who adored his sister, nodded and worked his way through the departing worshippers until he came up with Armitage. He pushed the note into the young officer's hand and as Armitage started in surprise the boy nodded his head knowingly.
"Say nothing," he warned.
So well had the boy carried it through that not even Thornton observed the incident. Armitage said nothing to enlighten him, but spread the page open in his hand as though he had taken a memorandum from his pocket.
It was as follows:
MY DEAR MR. PRIZE FIGHTER—
I was really serious the other day about your applying for the position of physical instructor. My small brothers were mauled by sailors the other day and mother is keen for some one who will teach them how to obtain their revenge some day. You might see mother or her secretary any morning after eleven. I have spoken to both about you.
A. V. D. W.
Twice Armitage read it and then he folded it carefully and placed it in his breast pocket, a curious smile playing over his face.
"We think," he said, addressing himself under his breath, as was his wont upon occasion, "we think we shall keep this for future reference. For we never know how soon we may need a job."
It has been observed ere this how many truths are sometimes spoken in jest.
AN ENCOUNTER WITH A SPY
At the door of the church, Thornton met a retired rear admiral and his wife, whose daughter he knew. So he paused and was affably solicitous whether they found the glorious August weather conducive to their general well-being. Armitage bowed and drew to one side, just as the Wellington party passed out into the churchyard and walked down the path to their motor panting at the curb.
The Prince helped Mrs. Wellington and her daughter into the tonneau with easy grace and then motioned the two boys to precede him. He was not at all bad looking, Armitage decided. Tall and rather wasp-waisted he was, nevertheless well set up, and his tailor easily might have left a pound or so of padding out of the blue jacket and still have avoided the impression that the Prince was narrow-backed. His manner certainly bore every impress of courtly breeding and the insolence of rank was by no means lacking, as Armitage learned the next instant, when a man whose back was strangely familiar, suddenly appeared at Koltsoff's side and, with hat in hand, essayed to address him.
Armitage, watching eagerly, saw the Russian's form stiffen, saw his eyes, as cold and steady as steel discs, fix themselves unseeingly over the man's head, who bowed awkwardly and turning hurriedly with a flushed face, stumbled against a horse post.
A low exclamation leaped from Armitage's lips. He hesitated just an instant and then fairly ran out of the doorway and down the path to the street. He caught up with the fellow before he had gone a hundred feet. Looking back to see that the Wellington car had gone, he touched him on the arm.
"Look here, Yeasky," he said, as the man wheeled in nervous haste, "who was that chap you spoke to at that motor car?"
Yeasky hesitated a moment and then looked the officer full in the eyes.
"I do not know," he said; "I thought it was Commander Harris. I was going to ask him about those coils which have not come yet. When I found I mistook, I was ashamed."
Armitage returned the electrician's gaze for a second. He was at a loss. There was a slight resemblance between Harris and the Prince, to be sure. Then, suddenly, as he recalled the incident at the Grand Central Station and his fears of the previous evening, a wave of anger swept over him and he thrust his face belligerently toward the workman, the muscles of his right shoulder calling nervously for action.
"Yeasky," he said, "you are lying. Who do you think you are up against,—a child?" He shook his finger in the man's face. "Now quick; tell me what business you had with that man." Yeasky drew himself up with an air of offended dignity not altogether compatible with his putative station in life. Armitage noticed it and pressed on.
"Do you hear?" he said in a low tense voice. He was already past saving; he had never been a diplomat. "Hurry up, speak, or I 'll knock your Polack head off."
Before the man could reply, Thornton, who had hurried up, interposed.
"What's the matter, Jack? Did this gentleman have the misfortune to demand all of the sidewalk?"
Armitage replied over his shoulder.
"You go along, Joe, and leave this to me. I saw this man trying to talk to that Russian Prince—and he's employed on confidential work in the shops."
"I know, Jack," said Thornton soothingly, placing his hand on Armitage's shoulder. "But it is n't policy to get into a street fight about it, you know, old chap."
"It wouldn't be a fight," began Armitage sneeringly. He turned suddenly toward Yeasky. "I have been pestered and worried for a week now. I know I was shadowed in New York. Now that I 've a clue I am not going to let go of it."
"Of course not," said Thornton, "but you don't want to go off half cocked. Remember you were up all last night. Just heave to a second. Has anything happened at the shops?"
"No," said Armitage, cooling a bit, "not that I know of. But this fellow's doing inside work here on the torpedo and I saw him talking to that Russian."
"I mean he tried to. He says he thought the man was Harris, and he wanted to ask him about some coils. That was too fishy for me."
"Did the Prince talk to him?"
"No; snubbed, ignored him."
"Oh," smiled Thornton. "Well, I say, Jack, honestly I think you might be wrong. Harris does suggest that Prince chap; I thought so in church. Of course you can decide about this fellow's future in the shops, as you think best. But you really can't do anything here."
"I suppose you are right," said Armitage reluctantly. He nodded toward the man.
"Yeasky, if you are straight, meet me at the storekeeper's office at three o'clock this afternoon. I hope by that hour to be in a position to apologize to you. In the meantime," his good nature, as with all persons of warm temperament, speedily returning, "if I have wronged you, I am sorry."
"You have wronged me," replied Yeasky. "But I understand your feelings. I shall certainly meet you at three o'clock."
"Three, sharp." And Armitage, with Thornton's arm drawn through his, walked down the street.
Yeasky stood watching them for a second and then clapping his hand to his pocket a smile spread slowly over his face. He followed the two stalwart officers for a few steps and paused irresolutely. Then, without further hesitancy, he walked rapidly to Spring Street and thence to the Hotel Aquidneck, where he entered the telephone booth. When he emerged he paid toll on five charges.
This done he went into the writing-room and called for a small piece of wrapping paper and twine. When it came he took from his pocket a bulky, heavy object, done up in a newspaper. Without removing this, he wrapped it neatly in the manila paper, bound it securely, and addressed it in printed letters. He sat for a moment looking thoughtfully at the package. Then he drew a sheet of note paper toward him, cut off the hotel heading and dipped his pen in the ink.
Vassili Andreyvitch, I am sending you by messenger as you instructed over the telephone, the vital part. There is nothing more to do and I leave Newport this hour, for excellent reasons. I was seen trying to address you this morning, so watch out.
Yeasky read this last sentence again and then the thought that he would be confirmed as a bungler in his superior's mind occurred to him. He inked out the sentence, muttering that Koltsoff must take care of himself, as he had had to do, and then resumed his writing.
When you get this I shall be in parts unknown. I begin to fear I am suspect. You can reach me care of Garlock, Boston, to-night, and Blavatsky, Halifax, on Wednesday. On that day I go via the Dominion Line to England and thence to the secret police office in St. Petersburg. Forgive, I pray, this haste, but I have done all there is to be done. I accept your congratulations—and now having no desire to pose as the centre of a diplomatic situation, I go—Au Revoir.
He called a messenger, despatched the package and the letter, and within half an hour was in a trolley car bound for Fall River.
MISS WELLINGTON CROSSES SWORDS WITH A DIPLOMAT
As Koltsoff, who had been summoned to the telephone, returned to the morning-room of the Wellington house, he looked about him with a triumphant gleam in his eye. He loved the part he was playing in Newport, a part, by the way, which he had played not always ineptly in other quarters of the world. He loved mystery; and like many Russians, the fact that he was a part, the centre, of any project of international emprise, questionable or otherwise, was to him the very breath of life. Innuendo, political intrigue, diplomatic tergiversation—in all these he was a master. Nor did he neglect the color, the atmosphere. Here was his weakness. Vague hints, a significant smile here, a shrug there, a lifting of the brows—all temptations too great for him to resist, had at times the effect of setting his effectiveness in certain ventures partially if not completely at naught. Temperamental proclivities are better for their absence among the component elements of a diplomat's mental equipment.
He had now in contemplation a genuine affaire du coeur. Thus far, everything had gone well. He sighed the sigh of perfect self-adjustment, sign of a mind agreeably filled, and stretching out his legs picked up a volume of Bourget. He fingered the pages idly for a few minutes and then laid it aside and half closed his eyes, nodding and smiling placidly. He sat thus when Anne Wellington entered.
Rays of sunlight, flooding through the windows glorified the girl, made her radiant as a spirit. And the Prince, who, if genuine in few things, was at least a true worshipper of beauty, was exalted. He arose, bowed slightly, and then advanced with wonderful charm of manner.
"My dear Miss Wellington," he murmured, "you come as the morning came, so fresh and so beautiful."
"How polite of you," smiled the girl. "If our men were so facile—" she opened one of the French windows and stepped out on the veranda, looking over the restless waters to the yellow-green Narragansett hills.
"So facile?" asked Koltsoff, following.
"—So facile in their compliments, I am afraid we should grow to be unbearable." She paused and smiled brightly at the Prince. "And yet women of your country are not so; at least those whom I have met."
"That," replied the Russian, turning his eyes full upon hers, "is because we are discriminating, if, as you say, facile."
Anne flushed and laughed and then dropped lightly into a big wicker chair, conscious that Koltsoff had not withdrawn his gaze. She leaned forward and flicked her skirts over her ankles, nervously pulled a stray wisp of hair from her neck. Then she slowly met the eyes of the man standing at her side and propounded an inquiry having to do with nothing less banal than his views of America thus far. Prince Koltsoff tossed his head and thus threw off the question. This amused the girl.
"Really," she said, "don't you find a remarkable resemblance between Newport and the Isle of Wight? At least—pray sit down, won't you—I have found them very like."
Prince Koltsoff seated himself daintily in a chair at her side and his face lit under the influence of a triumphant thought.
"You speak of the Isle of Wight, Miss Wellington, neglecting one great point of difference. Newport possesses you. They are, therefore, to me, totally different." He waved one hand slightly and drew his cigarette case from his pocket with the other, glancing at the girl.
"Oh, certainly," she said, "please smoke."
"But the difference," pursued Koltsoff, "don't you think it remarkable that it should be so apparent to me?"
"Do you know," she said, glancing down at the toes of her slippers, "I am not sufficiently inter—" She stopped abruptly and shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, let us be impersonal, Prince Koltsoff, it is so much nicer."
The Prince frowned.
"But, please," he said, "I wish to be personal. Am I at fault if I find you interesting? Character is one of my most absorbing studies. I am rather scientific. I see sometimes in persons, more than others see who are not so observing, or scientific, as you please." He lit his cigarette. "In you, for instance."
Miss Wellington, caught off her guard, started. The flash of a smile crossed Koltsoff's face. His inclination to show off, to reveal his cleverness, triumphed over his small supply of tact.
"I! 'For instance'! What do you mean, Prince Koltsoff?"
"Why, this morning at your church. As hidden depths of character reveal themselves—" the Prince raised his eyes. "That billet—shall we say billet doux?" He raised his shoulders and let them fall slowly. "Women! Ah! most interesting!"
For a moment Anne maintained her expression of mild inquiry, but within she was mentally perturbed. Irritation succeeded and she resolved to punish him for his insolence, even at the risk of indiscretion.
"You see many things, do you not?" she said, mockingly.
"Yes," he agreed, following her lead, "I see very, very many things. It is a faculty. It has been most useful."
"I should not flatter myself that I alone possessed that faculty, Prince Koltsoff, if I were you." She leaned forward, her chin upon her hand and gazed thoughtfully seaward. "I also am not sightless."
She leaned back in her chair languidly and watched the Prince's change of expression with open amusement.
"So, you have found it worth while to observe me? I am quite flattered." His impression that she had discharged a random shot grew with his words and soon became conviction. "I thank you."
"You are quite welcome to all you received—in the way of my interest in you. It is only fair, however, to suggest that we do not always obtain information concerning our friends—'you, for instance,'" she mimicked him perfectly, "through general observation. Some things may obtrude themselves, don't you know, in the most—what was your word? Oh, yes, 'scientific'—the most unscientific manner."
The Prince looked at her intently.
"You are speaking in innuendo, Miss Wellington," he replied. His tone was low and rapid.
"I am speaking quite truthfully, Prince Koltsoff," she said, with an inflection of emphasis.
"How could I doubt that!" He bowed. "That is why I am certain that you will be more explicit."
"There, you really don't insist, do you?" He saw a malicious light in her eyes.
"My dear Miss Wellington, most assuredly I do insist. I—I beg your pardon—I do more: I demand. Certainly it is my right."
Anne was all mischief now.
"Very well, then, I am able to inform you that you were in Newport incog, several days before you came to us. Do you conceive my right to call this to your attention, in view of the fact that you told us you had just arrived from Washington?"
Prince Koltsoff, as though absorbing her meaning, sat motionless, gazing at her steadily. Then he leaned forward and placed his hand on hers for a moment.
"Miss Wellington, you have done well. I pride myself on some diplomatic experience. You have negotiated your coup in a manner worthy of a De Stael. You would adorn the service. I wonder if you realize the possibilities of your future in an international sphere. To you I have no fear of talking. Listen, then."
Unconsciously the girl bent toward him.
"I am a diplomat," he continued. "There are things which—" he lifted his brows. "Newport—the French ambassador is here; the German ambassador is at Narragansett Pier, and I—who knows where I am—and why? But some day—"
He drew a long breath. "Rest content now, Miss Wellington, that I am progressing toward the gratitude of my Government; you shall hear more. Of course," he waved his hand, "I have spoken for your ear."
"Of course," said Miss Wellington, calmly, but inwardly curious nevertheless. "Should you care to walk to the stables?"
He nodded and then walking beside her he continued impulsively:
"I am not a soldier, Miss Wellington. But all victories are not won on the battlefields. The art—one of the arts—of diplomacy is to bring on war, if war must be, when you are ready and your adversaries are not. There are other functions. Let it be so. I but observe that one may wield things other than the sword and better than the sword, to serve one's country."
"I quite believe you." There was enthusiasm in her voice. "You may never expect the glory of the soldier, and yet how glorious the work must be! The matching of wits instead of guns, and then—you have the opportunity of winning the victories of peace—"
"Of which the world seldom hears," interpolated the Prince.
"But that makes it finer," she said. "Have we any real diplomats, who—oh, I don't know—make themselves felt in the inner circle of things: men that we—that the country—does not know of, who are doing the—the things you are?"
The Prince smiled.
"I don't know really. You have the 'new diplomacy' which is shouting what other people whisper—or keep to themselves—and le gros gourdin—the laughable big stick; it amuses us more than it impresses, I assure you." He regarded the girl closely and she smiled questioningly.
"You do not flush! You are not irritated?" he asked.
"Why should I be? What do you mean?"
"I was speaking lightly of your country."
"Oh, were you? I did not notice. I fear I am used to that, having spent much time in Europe."
The Prince looked at her curiously. She colored.
"No," she said, "I do not go in strongly for the furore Americanus, if that is what you mean."
"So. Your country must look to its bourgeoise for its Joans of Arc. But then your men are ungallantly self-sufficient. In Russia," the Prince shrugged his shoulders, "we send women to Siberia—or decorate them with the Order of St. Katherine."
"You actually shame me, Prince Koltsoff. We are different here; even our suffragettes would by no means allow devotion to their cause to carry them to jail; and as for influencing statesmen, or setting their plans at naught—" she shook her head—"why, I do not even know who they are. They are not in our set," laughing. "Really, we are pretty much butterflies from your—from any—viewpoint, are n't we? But after all, why?"
"Ah, why?" He turned to her suddenly. "Do you love your country, Miss Wellington?"
"What an absurd question! Of course I do."
"Easily answered," replied the Prince, "but think a moment. I said love. That love which inspired your women to send their sons and husbands to die for their country in your Civil War; the love that exalted Charlotte Corday. Have you breathed the quicker when you saw your flag in foreign lands?" He looked at her strangely. "Would you loathe the man you loved if you learnt he had injured your country? Think, Miss Wellington."
"Your fervor renders it quite impossible for me to think; if it will satisfy you I will say I don't believe I begin to know what patriotism is. Yet I would not have you think I am altogether shallow. Sir Clarence Pembroke has praised my grasp of British affairs. I have always regarded that as quite a compliment."
"You have reason. You know, we know, that the American woman who would move in the tense affairs of the world must find her opportunity in Europe. It does not exist here."
"And never can exist, in a republic, I imagine," said the girl, "at least in a republic constituted as ours is."
"No, surely not. By-the-bye, who is your Secretary of the Navy? Your Attorney-General?"
"Help!" cried the girl in mock despair. "Really, Prince Koltsoff, I must ask you to consider your demonstration of my unfitness to even consider myself an American complete. Further humiliation is unnecessary. At least I suppose I should feel humiliated. But somehow, I 'm not. That's the pitiable part of it."
"And yet, Miss Wellington, have you ever considered what would lie before you with your,—pardon me,—your beauty and your wit, in Europe?"
"No, I never have," said Anne not quite truthfully. "Please, Prince Koltsoff, let us change the subject."
WHEN A PRINCE WOOS
But Prince Koltsoff evidently deemed it expedient to obey the letter, not the spirit, of the wish. An ardent lover of horses, he gave himself wholly to them when they arrived at the stables, conversing freely with the grooms and going over the various equines with the hands and eyes of an expert.
When at length they strolled from the stables to a little wooded knoll near the boundary of the estate, commanding a view of the main road, which ran straight for a quarter of a mile and then dived into the purple hills with their gray out-jutting rocks, the girl, who had been left pretty much to her own thoughts, felt in ever-growing degree the disadvantage at which she had been placed in the course of their conversation. She had sat, it seemed, as a child at the feet of a tutor. At least in the mood she had developed, she would have it so. The thought did not please her. And then she began to burn with the memory that on the veranda the Prince had placed his hand upon hers and that for some reason beyond her knowledge, she had permitted it to remain so until he had withdrawn it.
This sufferance, she felt, had somehow affected, at the very outset, a degree of tacit intimacy between them which would not otherwise have occurred in a fortnight, perhaps never. But he had done it with an assurance almost, if not quite, hypnotic, and he had removed his hand—a move, she recognized, which offered more opportunities for bungling than the initial venture—with the exact degree of insouciance, of abstraction, but at the same time not without a slight lighting of the eyes expressive alike of humility and gratitude. Lurking in her mind was an irritation over the position in which she had been placed, and her only solace was the thought that her revenge might be taken when Koltsoff tried it again, as she had no doubt he would.