SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE
By RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
TO HOPE DAVIS
"SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE"
BILLY AND THE BIG STICK
THE BOY SCOUT
"SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE"
Marie Gessler, known as Marie Chaumontel, Jeanne d'Avrechy, the Countess d'Aurillac, was German. Her father, who served through the Franco-Prussian War, was a German spy. It was from her mother she learned to speak French sufficiently well to satisfy even an Academician and, among Parisians, to pass as one. Both her parents were dead. Before they departed, knowing they could leave their daughter nothing save their debts, they had had her trained as a nurse. But when they were gone, Marie in the Berlin hospitals played politics, intrigued, indiscriminately misused the appealing, violet eyes. There was a scandal; several scandals. At the age of twenty-five she was dismissed from the Municipal Hospital, and as now—save for the violet eyes—she was without resources, as a compagnon de voyage with a German doctor she travelled to Monte Carlo. There she abandoned the doctor for Henri Ravignac, a captain in the French Aviation Corps, who, when his leave ended, escorted her to Paris.
The duties of Captain Ravignac kept him in barracks near the aviation field, but Marie he established in his apartments on the Boulevard Haussmann. One day he brought from the barracks a roll of blue-prints, and as he was locking them in a drawer, said: "The Germans would pay through the nose for those!" The remark was indiscreet, but then Marie had told him she was French, and any one would have believed her.
The next morning the same spirit of adventure that had exiled her from the Berlin hospitals carried her with the blue-prints to the German embassy. There, greatly shocked, they first wrote down her name and address, and then, indignant at her proposition, ordered her out. But the day following a strange young German who was not at all indignant, but, on the contrary, quite charming, called upon Marie. For the blue-prints he offered her a very large sum, and that same hour with them and Marie departed for Berlin. Marie did not need the money. Nor did the argument that she was serving her country greatly impress her. It was rather that she loved intrigue. And so she became a spy.
Henri Ravignac, the man she had robbed of the blue-prints, was tried by court martial. The charge was treason, but Charles Ravignac, his younger brother, promised to prove that the guilty one was the girl, and to that end obtained leave of absence and spent much time and money. At the trial he was able to show the record of Marie in Berlin and Monte Carlo; that she was the daughter of a German secret agent; that on the afternoon the prints disappeared Marie, with an agent of the German embassy, had left Paris for Berlin. In consequence of this the charge of selling military secrets was altered to one of "gross neglect," and Henri Ravignac was sentenced to two years in the military prison at Tours. But he was of an ancient and noble family, and when they came to take him from his cell in the Cherche-Midi, he was dead. Charles, his brother, disappeared. It was said he also had killed himself; that he had been appointed a military attache in South America; that to revenge his brother he had entered the secret service; but whatever became of him no one knew. All that was certain was that, thanks to the act of Marie Gessler, on the rolls of the French army the ancient and noble name of Ravignac no longer appeared.
In her chosen profession Marie Gessler found nothing discreditable. Of herself her opinion was not high, and her opinion of men was lower. For her smiles she had watched several sacrifice honor, duty, loyalty; and she held them and their kind in contempt. To lie, to cajole, to rob men of secrets they thought important, and of secrets the importance of which they did not even guess, was to her merely an intricate and exciting game.
She played it very well. So well that in the service her advance was rapid. On important missions she was sent to Russia, through the Balkans; even to the United States. There, with credentials as an army nurse, she inspected our military hospitals and unobtrusively asked many innocent questions.
When she begged to be allowed to work in her beloved Paris, "they" told her when war came "they" intended to plant her inside that city, and that, until then, the less Paris knew of her the better.
But just before the great war broke, to report on which way Italy might jump, she was sent to Rome, and it was not until September she was recalled. The telegram informed her that her Aunt Elizabeth was ill, and that at once she must return to Berlin. This, she learned from the code book wrapped under the cover of her thermos bottle, meant that she was to report to the general commanding the German forces at Soissons.
From Italy she passed through Switzerland, and, after leaving Basle, on military trains was rushed north to Luxemburg, and then west to Laon. She was accompanied by her companion, Bertha, an elderly and respectable, even distinguished-looking female. In the secret service her number was 528. Their passes from the war office described them as nurses of the German Red Cross. Only the Intelligence Department knew their real mission. With her also, as her chauffeur, was a young Italian soldier of fortune, Paul Anfossi. He had served in the Belgian Congo, in the French Foreign Legion in Algiers, and spoke all the European languages. In Rome, where as a wireless operator he was serving a commercial company, in selling Marie copies of messages he had memorized, Marie had found him useful, and when war came she obtained for him, from the Wilhelmstrasse, the number 292. From Laon, in one of the automobiles of the General Staff, the three spies were driven first to Soissons, and then along the road to Meaux and Paris, to the village of Neufchelles. They arrived at midnight, and in a chateau of one of the champagne princes, found the colonel commanding the Intelligence Bureau. He accepted their credentials, destroyed them, and replaced them with a laisser-passer signed by the mayor of Laon. That dignitary, the colonel explained, to citizens of Laon fleeing to Paris and the coast had issued many passes. But as now between Laon and Paris there were three German armies, the refugees had been turned back and their passes confiscated.
"From among them," said the officer, "we have selected one for you. It is issued to the wife of Count d'Aurillac, a captain of reserves, and her aunt, Madame Benet. It asks for those ladies and their chauffeur, Briand, a safe-conduct through the French military lines. If it gets you into Paris you will destroy it and assume another name. The Count d'Aurillac is now with his regiment in that city. If he learned of the presence there of his wife, he would seek her, and that would not be good for you. So, if you reach Paris, you will become a Belgian refugee. You are highborn and rich. Your chateau has been destroyed. But you have money. You will give liberally to the Red Cross. You will volunteer to nurse in the hospitals. With your sad story of ill treatment by us, with your high birth, and your knowledge of nursing, which you acquired, of course, only as an amateur, you should not find it difficult to join the Ladies of France, or the American Ambulance. What you learn from the wounded English and French officers and the French doctors you will send us through the usual channels."
"When do I start?" asked the woman.
"For a few days," explained the officer, "you remain in this chateau. You will keep us informed of what is going forward after we withdraw."
"Withdraw?" It was more of an exclamation than a question. Marie was too well trained to ask questions.
"We are taking up a new position," said the officer, "on the Aisne."
The woman, incredulous, stared.
"And we do not enter Paris?"
"You do," returned the officer. "That is all that concerns you. We will join you later—in the spring. Meanwhile, for the winter we intrench ourselves along the Aisne. In a chimney of this chateau we have set up a wireless outfit. We are leaving it intact. The chauffeur Briand—who, you must explain to the French, you brought with you from Laon, and who has been long in your service—will transmit whatever you discover. We wish especially to know of any movement toward our left. If they attack in front from Soissons, we are prepared; but of any attempt to cross the Oise and take us in flank, you must warn us."
The officer rose and hung upon himself his field-glasses, map-cases, and side-arms.
"We leave you now," he said. "When the French arrive you will tell them your reason for halting at this chateau was that the owner, Monsieur Iverney, and his family are friends of your husband. You found us here, and we detained you. And so long as you can use the wireless, make excuses to remain. If they offer to send you on to Paris, tell them your aunt is too ill to travel."
"But they will find the wireless," said the woman. "They are sure to use the towers for observation, and they will find it."
"In that case," said the officer, "you will suggest to them that we fled in such haste we had no time to dismantle it. Of course, you had no knowledge that it existed, or, as a loyal French woman, you would have at once told them." To emphasize his next words the officer pointed at her: "Under no circumstances," he continued, "must you be suspected. If they should take Briand in the act, should they have even the least doubt concerning him, you must repudiate him entirely. If necessary, to keep your own skirts clear, it would be your duty yourself to denounce him as a spy."
"Your first orders," said the woman, "were to tell them Briand had been long in my service; that I brought him from my home in Laon."
"He might be in your service for years," returned the colonel, "and you not know he was a German agent."
"If to save myself I inform upon him," said Marie, "of course you know you will lose him."
The officer shrugged his shoulders. "A wireless operator," he retorted, "we can replace. But for you, and for the service you are to render in Paris, we have no substitute. You must not be found out. You are invaluable."
The spy inclined her head. "I thank you," she said.
The officer sputtered indignantly.
"It is not a compliment," he exclaimed; "it is an order. You must not be found out!"
Withdrawn some two hundred yards from the Paris road, the chateau stood upon a wooded hill. Except directly in front, trees of great height surrounded it. The tips of their branches brushed the windows; interlacing, they continued until they overhung the wall of the estate. Where it ran with the road the wall gave way to a lofty gate and iron fence, through which those passing could see a stretch of noble turf, as wide as a polo-field, borders of flowers disappearing under the shadows of the trees; and the chateau itself, with its terrace, its many windows, its high-pitched, sloping roof, broken by towers and turrets.
Through the remainder of the night there came from the road to those in the chateau the roar and rumbling of the army in retreat. It moved without panic, disorder, or haste, but unceasingly. Not for an instant was there a breathing-spell. And when the sun rose, the three spies—the two women and the chauffeur—who in the great chateau were now alone, could see as well as hear the gray column of steel rolling past below them.
The spies knew that the gray column had reached Claye, had stood within fifteen miles of Paris, and then upon Paris had turned its back. They knew also that the reverberations from the direction of Meaux, that each moment grew more loud and savage, were the French "seventy-fives" whipping the gray column forward. Of what they felt the Germans did not speak. In silence they looked at each other, and in the eyes of Marie was bitterness and resolve.
Toward noon Marie met Anfossi in the great drawing-room that stretched the length of the terrace and from the windows of which, through the park gates, they could see the Paris road.
"This, that is passing now," said Marie, "is the last of our rear-guard. Go to your tower," she ordered, "and send word that except for stragglers and the wounded our column has just passed through Neufchelles, and that any moment we expect the French." She raised her hand impressively. "From now," she warned, "we speak French, we think French, we are French!"
Anfossi, or Briand, as now he called himself, addressed her in that language. His tone was bitter. "Pardon my lese-majesty," he said, "but this chief of your Intelligence Department is a dummer Mensch. He is throwing away a valuable life."
Marie exclaimed in dismay. She placed her hand upon his arm, and the violet eyes filled with concern.
"Not yours!" she protested.
"Absolutely!" returned the Italian. "I can send nothing by this knapsack wireless that they will not learn from others; from airmen, Uhlans, the peasants in the fields. And certainly I will be caught. Dead I am dead, but alive and in Paris the opportunities are unending. From the French Legion Etranger I have my honorable discharge. I am an expert wireless operator and in their Signal Corps I can easily find a place. Imagine me, then, on the Eiffel Tower. From the air I snatch news from all of France, from the Channel, the North Sea. You and I could work together, as in Rome. But here, between the lines, with a pass from a village sous prefet, it is ridiculous. I am not afraid to die. But to die because some one else is stupid, that is hard."
Marie clasped his hand in both of hers.
"You must not speak of death," she cried; "you know I must carry out my orders, that I must force you to take this risk. And you know that thought of harm to you tortures me!"
Quickly the young man disengaged his hand. The woman exclaimed with anger.
"Why do you doubt me?" she cried.
Briand protested vehemently.
"I do not doubt you."
"My affection, then?" In a whisper that carried with it the feeling of a caress Marie added softly: "My love?"
The young man protested miserably. "You make it very hard, mademoiselle," he cried. "You are my superior officer, I am your servant. Who am I that I should share with others—"
The woman interrupted eagerly.
"Ah, you are jealous!" she cried. "Is that why you are so cruel? But when I tell you I love you, and only you, can you not feel it is the truth?"
The young man frowned unhappily.
"My duty, mademoiselle!" he stammered.
With an exclamation of anger Marie left him. As the door slammed behind her, the young man drew a deep breath. On his face was the expression of ineffable relief.
In the hall Marie met her elderly companion, Bertha, now her aunt, Madame Benet.
"I heard you quarrelling," Bertha protested. "It is most indiscreet. It is not in the part of the Countess d'Aurillac that she makes love to her chauffeur."
Marie laughed noiselessly and drew her farther down the hall. "He is imbecile!" she exclaimed. "He will kill me with his solemn face and his conceit. I make love to him—yes—that he may work the more willingly. But he will have none of it. He is jealous of the others."
Madame Benet frowned.
"He resents the others," she corrected. "I do not blame him. He is a gentleman!"
"And the others," demanded Marie; "were they not of the most noble families of Rome?"
"I am old and I am ugly," said Bertha, "but to me Anfossi is always as considerate as he is to you who are so beautiful."
"An Italian gentleman," returned Marie, "does not serve in Belgian Congo unless it is the choice of that or the marble quarries."
"I do not know what his past may be," sighed Madame Benet, "nor do I ask. He is only a number, as you and I are only numbers. And I beg you to let us work in harmony. At such a time your love-affairs threaten our safety. You must wait."
Marie laughed insolently. "With the Du Barry," she protested, "I can boast that I wait for no man."
"No," replied the older woman; "you pursue him!"
Marie would have answered sharply, but on the instant her interest was diverted. For one week, by day and night, she had lived in a world peopled only by German soldiers. Beside her in the railroad carriage, on the station platforms, at the windows of the trains that passed the one in which she rode, at the grade crossings, on the bridges, in the roads that paralleled the tracks, choking the streets of the villages and spread over the fields of grain, she had seen only the gray-green uniforms. Even her professional eye no longer distinguished regiment from regiment, dragoon from grenadier, Uhlan from Hussar or Landsturm. Stripes, insignia, numerals, badges of rank, had lost their meaning. Those who wore them no longer were individuals. They were not even human. During the three last days the automobile, like a motor-boat fighting the tide, had crept through a gray-green river of men, stained, as though from the banks, by mud and yellow clay. And for hours, while the car was blocked, and in fury the engine raced and purred, the gray-green river had rolled past her, slowly but as inevitably as lava down the slope of a volcano, bearing on its surface faces with staring eyes, thousands and thousands of eyes, some fierce and bloodshot, others filled with weariness, homesickness, pain. At night she still saw them: the white faces under the sweat and dust, the eyes dumb, inarticulate, asking the answer. She had been suffocated by German soldiers, by the mass of them, engulfed and smothered; she had stifled in a land inhabited only by gray-green ghosts.
And suddenly, as though a miracle had been wrought, she saw upon the lawn, riding toward her, a man in scarlet, blue, and silver. One man riding alone.
Approaching with confidence, but alert; his reins fallen, his hands nursing his carbine, his eyes searched the shadows of the trees, the empty windows, even the sun-swept sky. His was the new face at the door, the new step on the floor. And the spy knew had she beheld an army corps it would have been no more significant, no more menacing, than the solitary chasseur a cheval scouting in advance of the enemy.
"We are saved!" exclaimed Marie, with irony. "Go quickly," she commanded, "to the bedroom on the second floor that opens upon the staircase, so that you can see all who pass. You are too ill to travel. They must find you in bed."
"And you?" said Bertha.
"I," cried Marie rapturously, "hasten to welcome our preserver!"
The preserver was a peasant lad. Under the white dust his cheeks were burned a brown-red, his eyes, honest and blue, through much staring at the skies and at horizon lines, were puckered and encircled with tiny wrinkles. Responsibility had made him older than his years, and in speech brief. With the beautiful lady who with tears of joy ran to greet him, and who in an ecstasy of happiness pressed her cheek against the nose of his horse, he was unimpressed. He returned to her her papers and gravely echoed her answers to his questions. "This chateau," he repeated, "was occupied by their General Staff; they have left no wounded here; you saw the last of them pass a half-hour since." He gathered up his reins.
Marie shrieked in alarm. "You will not leave us?" she cried.
For the first time the young man permitted himself to smile. "Others arrive soon," he said.
He touched his shako, wheeled his horse in the direction from which he had come, and a minute later Marie heard the hoofs echoing through the empty village.
When they came, the others were more sympathetic. Even in times of war a beautiful woman is still a beautiful woman. And the staff officers who moved into the quarters so lately occupied by the enemy found in the presence of the Countess d'Aurillac nothing to distress them. In the absence of her dear friend, Madame Iverney, the chatelaine of the chateau, she acted as their hostess. Her chauffeur showed the company cooks the way to the kitchen, the larder, and the charcoal-box. She, herself, in the hands of General Andre placed the keys of the famous wine-cellar, and to the surgeon, that the wounded might be freshly bandaged, intrusted those of the linen-closet. After the indignities she had suffered while "detained" by les Boches, her delight and relief at again finding herself under the protection of her own people would have touched a heart of stone. And the hearts of the staff were not of stone. It was with regret they gave the countess permission to continue on her way. At this she exclaimed with gratitude. She assured them, were her aunt able to travel, she would immediately depart.
"In Paris she will be more comfortable than here," said the kind surgeon. He was a reservist, and in times of peace a fashionable physician and as much at his ease in a boudoir as in a field hospital. "Perhaps if I saw Madame Benet?"
At the suggestion the countess was overjoyed. But they found Madame Benet in a state of complete collapse. The conduct of the Germans had brought about a nervous breakdown.
"Though the bridges are destroyed at Meaux," urged the surgeon, "even with a detour, you can be in Paris in four hours. I think it is worth the effort."
But the mere thought of the journey threw Madame Benet into hysterics. She asked only to rest, she begged for an opiate to make her sleep. She begged also that they would leave the door open, so that when she dreamed she was still in the hands of the Germans, and woke in terror, the sound of the dear French voices and the sight of the beloved French uniforms might reassure her. She played her part well. Concerning her Marie felt not the least anxiety. But toward Briand, the chauffeur, the new arrivals were less easily satisfied.
The general sent his adjutant for the countess. When the adjutant had closed the door General Andre began abruptly:
"The chauffeur Briand," he asked, "you know him; you can vouch for him?"
"But, certainly!" protested Marie. "He is an Italian."
As though with sudden enlightenment, Marie laughed. It was as if now in the suspicion of the officer she saw a certain reasonableness. "Briand was so long in the Foreign Legion in Algiers," she explained, "where my husband found him, that we have come to think of him as French. As much French as ourselves, I assure you."
The general and his adjutant were regarding each other questioningly.
"Perhaps I should tell the countess," began the general, "that we have learned—"
The signal from the adjutant was so slight, so swift, that Marie barely intercepted it.
The lips of the general shut together like the leaves of a book. To show the interview was at an end, he reached for a pen.
"I thank you," he said.
"Of course," prompted the adjutant, "Madame d'Aurillac understands the man must not know we inquired concerning him."
General Andre frowned at Marie.
"Certainly not!" he commanded. "The honest fellow must not know that even for a moment he was doubted."
Marie raised the violet eyes reprovingly.
"I trust," she said with reproach, "I too well understand the feelings of a French soldier to let him know his loyalty is questioned."
With a murmur of appreciation the officers bowed and with a gesture of gracious pardon Marie left them.
Outside in the hall, with none but orderlies to observe, like a cloak the graciousness fell from her. She was drawn two ways. In her work Anfossi was valuable. But Anfossi suspected was less than of no value; he became a menace, a death-warrant.
General Andre had said, "We have learned—" and the adjutant had halted him. What had he learned? To know that, Marie would have given much. Still, one important fact comforted her. Anfossi alone was suspected. Had there been concerning herself the slightest doubt, they certainly would not have allowed her to guess her companion was under surveillance; they would not have asked one who was herself suspected to vouch for the innocence of a fellow conspirator. Marie found the course to follow difficult. With Anfossi under suspicion his usefulness was for the moment at an end; and to accept the chance offered her to continue on to Paris seemed most wise. On the other hand, if, concerning Anfossi, she had succeeded in allaying their doubts, the results most to be desired could be attained only by remaining where they were.
Their position inside the lines was of the greatest strategic value. The rooms of the servants were under the roof, and that Briand should sleep in one of them was natural. That to reach or leave his room he should constantly be ascending or descending the stairs also was natural. The field-wireless outfit, or, as he had disdainfully described it, the "knapsack" wireless, was situated not in the bedroom he had selected for himself, but in one adjoining. At other times this was occupied by the maid of Madame Iverney. To summon her maid Madame Iverney, from her apartment on the second floor, had but to press a button. And it was in the apartment of Madame Iverney, and on the bed of that lady, that Madame Benet now reclined. When through the open door she saw an officer or soldier mount the stairs, she pressed the button that rang a bell in the room of the maid. In this way, long before whoever was ascending the stairs could reach the top floor, warning of his approach came to Anfossi. It gave him time to replace the dust-board over the fireplace in which the wireless was concealed and to escape into his own bedroom. The arrangement was ideal. And already information picked up in the halls below by Marie had been conveyed to Anfossi to relay in a French cipher to the German General Staff at Rheims.
Marie made an alert and charming hostess. To all who saw her it was evident that her mind was intent only upon the comfort of her guests. Throughout the day many came and went, but each she made welcome; to each as he departed she called "bonne chance." Efficient, tireless, tactful, she was everywhere: in the dining-room, in the kitchen, in the bedrooms, for the wounded finding mattresses to spread in the gorgeous salons of the champagne prince; for the soldier-chauffeurs carrying wine into the courtyard, where the automobiles panted and growled, and the arriving and departing shrieked for right of way. At all times an alluring person, now the one woman in a tumult of men, her smart frock covered by an apron, her head and arms bare, undismayed by the sight of the wounded or by the distant rumble of the guns, the Countess d'Aurillac was an inspiring and beautiful picture. The eyes of the officers, young and old, informed her of that fact, one of which already she was well aware. By the morning of the next day she was accepted as the owner of the chateau. And though continually she reminded the staff she was present only as the friend of her schoolmate, Madame Iverney, they deferred to her as to a hostess. Many of them she already saluted by name, and to those who with messages were constantly motoring to and from the front at Soissons she was particularly kind. Overnight the legend of her charm, of her devotion to the soldiers of all ranks, had spread from Soissons to Meaux, and from Meaux to Paris. It was noon of that day when from the window of the second story Marie saw an armored automobile sweep into the courtyard. It was driven by an officer, young and appallingly good-looking, and, as was obvious by the way he spun his car, one who held in contempt both the law of gravity and death. That he was some one of importance seemed evident. Before he could alight the adjutant had raced to meet him. With her eye for detail Marie observed that the young officer, instead of imparting information, received it. He must, she guessed, have just arrived from Paris, and his brother officer either was telling him the news or giving him his orders. Whichever it might be, in what was told him the new arrival was greatly interested. One instant in indignation his gauntleted fist beat upon the steering-wheel, the next he smiled with pleasure. To interpret this pantomime was difficult; and, the better to inform herself, Marie descended the stairs.
As she reached the lower hall the two officers entered. To the spy the man last to arrive was always the one of greatest importance; and Marie assured herself that through her friend, the adjutant, to meet with this one would prove easy.
But the chauffeur commander of the armored car made it most difficult. At sight of Marie, much to her alarm, as though greeting a dear friend, he snatched his kepi from his head and sprang toward her.
"The major," he cried, "told me you were here, that you are Madame d'Aurillac." His eyes spoke his admiration. In delight he beamed upon her. "I might have known it!" he murmured. With the confidence of one who is sure he brings good news, he laughed happily. "And I," he cried, "am 'Pierrot'!"
Who the devil "Pierrot" might be the spy could not guess. She knew only that she wished by a German shell "Pierrot" and his car had been blown to tiny fragments. Was it a trap, she asked herself, or was the handsome youth really some one the Countess d'Aurillac should know. But, as from his introducing himself it was evident he could not know that lady very well, Marie took courage and smiled.
"Which 'Pierrot'?" she parried.
"Pierre Thierry!" cried the youth.
To the relief of Marie he turned upon the adjutant and to him explained who Pierre Thierry might be.
"Paul d'Aurillac," he said, "is my dearest friend. When he married this charming lady I was stationed in Algiers, and but for the war I might never have met her."
To Marie, with his hand on his heart in a most charming manner, he bowed. His admiration he made no effort to conceal.
"And so," he said, "I know why there is war!"
The adjutant smiled indulgently, and departed on his duties, leaving them alone. The handsome eyes of Captain Thierry were raised to the violet eyes of Marie. They appraised her boldly and as boldly expressed their approval.
In burlesque the young man exclaimed indignantly: "Paul deceived me!" he cried. "He told me he had married the most beautiful woman in Laon. He has married the most beautiful woman in France!"
To Marie this was not impertinence, but gallantry.
This was a language she understood, and this was the type of man, because he was the least difficult to manage, she held most in contempt.
"But about you, Paul did not deceive me," she retorted. In apparent confusion her eyes refused to meet his. "He told me 'Pierrot' was a most dangerous man!"
She continued hurriedly. With wifely solicitude she asked concerning Paul. She explained that for a week she had been a prisoner in the chateau, and, since the mobilization, of her husband save that he was with his regiment in Paris she had heard nothing. Captain Thierry was able to give her later news. Only the day previous, on the boulevards, he had met Count d'Aurillac. He was at the Grand Hotel, and as Thierry was at once motoring back to Paris he would give Paul news of their meeting. He hoped he might tell him that soon his wife also would be in Paris. Marie explained that only the illness of her aunt prevented her from that same day joining her husband. Her manner became serious.
"And what other news have you?" she asked. "Here on the firing-line we know less of what is going forward than you in Paris."
So Pierre Thierry told her all he knew. They were preparing despatches he was at once to carry back to the General Staff, and, for the moment, his time was his own. How could he better employ it than in talking of the war with a patriotic and charming French woman?
In consequence Marie acquired a mass of facts, gossip, and guesses. From these she mentally selected such information as, to her employers across the Aisne, would be of vital interest.
And to rid herself of Thierry and on the fourth floor seek Anfossi was now her only wish. But, in attempting this, by the return of the adjutant she was delayed. To Thierry the adjutant gave a sealed envelope.
"Thirty-one, Boulevard des Invalides," he said. With a smile he turned to Marie. "And you will accompany him!"
"I!" exclaimed Marie. She was sick with sudden terror.
But the tolerant smile of the adjutant reassured her.
"The count, your husband," he explained, "has learned of your detention here by the enemy, and he has besieged the General Staff to have you convoyed safely to Paris." The adjutant glanced at a field telegram he held open in his hand. "He asks," he continued, "that you be permitted to return in the car of his friend, Captain Thierry, and that on arriving you join him at the Grand Hotel."
Thierry exclaimed with delight.
"But how charming!" he cried. "To-night you must both dine with me at La Rue's." He saluted his superior officer. "Some petrol, sir," he said. "And I am ready." To Marie he added: "The car will be at the steps in five minutes." He turned and left them.
The thoughts of Marie, snatching at an excuse for delay, raced madly. The danger of meeting the Count d'Aurillac, her supposed husband, did not alarm her. The Grand Hotel has many exits, and, even before they reached it, for leaving the car she could invent an excuse that the gallant Thierry would not suspect. But what now concerned her was how, before she was whisked away to Paris, she could convey to Anfossi the information she had gathered from Thierry. First, of a woman overcome with delight at being reunited with her husband she gave an excellent imitation; then she exclaimed in distress: "But my aunt, Madame Benet!" she cried. "I cannot leave her!"
"The Sisters of St. Francis," said the adjutant, "arrive within an hour to nurse the wounded. They will care also for your aunt."
Marie concealed her chagrin. "Then I will at once prepare to go," she said.
The adjutant handed her a slip of paper. "Your laisser-passer to Paris," he said. "You leave in five minutes, madame!"
As temporary hostess of the chateau Marie was free to visit any part of it, and as she passed her door a signal from Madame Benet told her that Anfossi was on the fourth floor, that he was at work, and that the coast was clear. Softly, in the felt slippers she always wore, as she explained, in order not to disturb the wounded, she mounted the staircase. In her hand she carried the housekeeper's keys, and as an excuse it was her plan to return with an armful of linen for the arriving Sisters. But Marie never reached the top of the stairs. When her eyes rose to the level of the fourth floor she came to a sudden halt. At what she saw terror gripped her, bound her hand and foot, and turned her blood to ice.
At her post for an instant Madame Benet had slept, and an officer of the staff, led by curiosity, chance, or suspicion, had, unobserved and unannounced, mounted to the fourth floor. When Marie saw him he was in front of the room that held the wireless. His back was toward her, but she saw that he was holding the door to the room ajar, that his eye was pressed to the opening, and that through it he had pushed the muzzle of his automatic. What would be the fate of Anfossi Marie knew. Nor did she for an instant consider it. Her thoughts were of her own safety; that she might live. Not that she might still serve the Wilhelmstrasse, the Kaiser, or the Fatherland; but that she might live. In a moment Anfossi would be denounced, the chateau would ring with the alarm, and, though she knew Anfossi would not betray her, by others she might be accused. To avert suspicion from herself she saw only one way open. She must be the first to denounce Anfossi.
Like a deer she leaped down the marble stairs and, in a panic she had no need to assume, burst into the presence of the staff.
"Gentlemen!" she gasped, "my servant—the chauffeur—Briand is a spy! There is a German wireless in the chateau. He is using it! I have seen him." With exclamations, the officers rose to their feet. General Andre alone remained seated. General Andre was a veteran of many Colonial wars: Cochin-China, Algiers, Morocco. The great war, when it came, found him on duty in the Intelligence Department. His aquiline nose, bristling white eyebrows, and flashing, restless eyes gave him his nickname of l'Aigle.
In amazement, the flashing eyes were now turned upon Marie. He glared at her as though he thought she suddenly had flown mad.
"A German wireless!" he protested. "It is impossible!"
"I was on the fourth floor," panted Marie, "collecting linen for the Sisters. In the room next to the linen closet I heard a strange buzzing sound. I opened the door softly. I saw Briand with his back to me seated by an instrument. There were receivers clamped to his ears! My God! The disgrace. The disgrace to my husband and to me, who vouched for him to you!" Apparently in an agony of remorse, the fingers of the woman laced and interlaced. "I cannot forgive myself!"
The officers moved toward the door, but General Andre halted them. Still in a tone of incredulity, he demanded: "When did you see this?"
Marie knew the question was coming, knew she must explain how she saw Briand, and yet did not see the staff officer who, with his prisoner, might now at any instant appear. She must make it plain she had discovered the spy and left the upper part of the house before the officer had visited it. When that was she could not know, but the chance was that he had preceded her by only a few minutes.
"When did you see this?" repeated the general.
"But just now," cried Marie; "not ten minutes since."
"Why did you not come to me at once?"
"I was afraid," replied Marie. "If I moved I was afraid he might hear me, and he, knowing I would expose him, would kill me—and so escape you!" There was an eager whisper of approval. For silence, General Andre slapped his hand upon the table.
"Then," continued Marie, "I understood with the receivers on his ears he could not have heard me open the door, nor could he hear me leave, and I ran to my aunt. The thought that we had harbored such an animal sickened me, and I was weak enough to feel faint. But only for an instant. Then I came here." She moved swiftly to the door. "Let me show you the room," she begged; "you can take him in the act." Her eyes, wild with the excitement of the chase, swept the circle. "Will you come?" she begged.
Unconscious of the crisis he interrupted, the orderly on duty opened the door.
"Captain Thierry's compliments," he recited mechanically, "and is he to delay longer for Madame d'Aurillac?"
With a sharp gesture General Andre waved Marie toward the door. Without rising, he inclined his head. "Adieu, madame," he said. "We act at once upon your information. I thank you!"
As she crossed from the hall to the terrace, the ears of the spy were assaulted by a sudden tumult of voices. They were raised in threats and curses. Looking back, she saw Anfossi descending the stairs. His hands were held above his head; behind him, with his automatic, the staff officer she had surprised on the fourth floor was driving him forward. Above the clenched fists of the soldiers that ran to meet him, the eyes of Anfossi were turned toward her. His face was expressionless. His eyes neither accused nor reproached. And with the joy of one who has looked upon and then escaped the guillotine, Marie ran down the steps to the waiting automobile. With a pretty cry of pleasure she leaped into the seat beside Thierry. Gayly she threw out her arms. "To Paris!" she commanded. The handsome eyes of Thierry, eloquent with admiration, looked back into hers. He stooped, threw in the clutch, and the great gray car, with the machine gun and its crew of privates guarding the rear, plunged through the park.
"To Paris!" echoed Thierry.
In the order in which Marie had last seen them, Anfossi and the staff officer entered the room of General Andre, and upon the soldiers in the hall the door was shut. The face of the staff officer was grave, but his voice could not conceal his elation.
"My general," he reported, "I found this man in the act of giving information to the enemy. There is a wireless—"
General Andre rose slowly. He looked neither at the officer nor at his prisoner. With frowning eyes he stared down at the maps upon his table.
"I know," he interrupted. "Some one has already told me." He paused, and then, as though recalling his manners, but still without raising his eyes, he added: "You have done well, sir."
In silence the officers of the staff stood motionless. With surprise they noted that, as yet, neither in anger nor curiosity had General Andre glanced at the prisoner. But of the presence of the general the spy was most acutely conscious. He stood erect, his arms still raised, but his body strained forward, and on the averted eyes of the general his own were fixed.
In an agony of supplication they asked a question.
At last, as though against his wish, toward the spy the general turned his head, and their eyes met. And still General Andre was silent. Then the arms of the spy, like those of a runner who has finished his race and breasts the tape exhausted, fell to his sides. In a voice low and vibrant he spoke his question.
"It has been so long, sir," he pleaded. "May I not come home?"
General Andre turned to the astonished group surrounding him. His voice was hushed like that of one who speaks across an open grave.
"Gentlemen," he began, "my children," he added. "A German spy, a woman, involved in a scandal your brother in arms, Henri Ravignac. His honor, he thought, was concerned, and without honor he refused to live. To prove him guiltless his younger brother Charles asked leave to seek out the woman who had betrayed Henri, and by us was detailed on secret service. He gave up home, family, friends. He lived in exile, in poverty, at all times in danger of a swift and ignoble death. In the War Office we know him as one who has given to his country services she cannot hope to reward. For she cannot return to him the years he has lost. She cannot return to him his brother. But she can and will clear the name of Henri Ravignac, and upon his brother Charles bestow promotion and honors."
The general turned and embraced the spy. "My children," he said, "welcome your brother. He has come home."
Before the car had reached the fortifications, Marie Gessler had arranged her plan of escape. She had departed from the chateau without even a hand-bag, and she would say that before the shops closed she must make purchases.
Le Printemps lay in their way, and she asked that, when they reached it, for a moment she might alight. Captain Thierry readily gave permission.
From the department store it would be most easy to disappear, and in anticipation Marie smiled covertly. Nor was the picture of Captain Thierry impatiently waiting outside unamusing.
But before Le Printemps was approached, the car turned sharply down a narrow street. On one side, along its entire length, ran a high gray wall, grim and forbidding. In it was a green gate studded with iron bolts. Before this the automobile drew suddenly to a halt. The crew of the armored car tumbled off the rear seat, and one of them beat upon the green gate. Marie felt a hand of ice clutch at her throat. But she controlled herself.
"And what is this?" she cried gayly.
At her side Captain Thierry was smiling down at her, but his smile was hateful.
"It is the prison of St. Lazare," he said. "It is not becoming," he added sternly, "that the name of the Countess d'Aurillac should be made common as the Paris road!"
Fighting for her life, Marie thrust herself against him; her arm that throughout the journey had rested on the back of the driving-seat caressed his shoulders; her lips and the violet eyes were close to his.
"Why should you care?" she whispered fiercely. "You have me! Let the Count d'Aurillac look after the honor of his wife himself."
The charming Thierry laughed at her mockingly.
"He means to," he said. "I am the Count d'Aurillac!"
To fate, "Jimmie" Blagwin had signalled the "supreme gesture." He had accomplished the Great Adventure. He was dead.
And as he sat on his trunk in the tiny hall bedroom, and in the afternoon papers read of his suicide, his eyes were lit with pleasurable pride. Not at the nice things the obituaries told of his past, but because his act of self-sacrifice, so carefully considered, had been carried to success. As he read Jimmie smiled with self-congratulation. He felt glad he was alive; or, to express it differently, felt glad he was dead. And he hoped Jeanne, his late wife, now his widow, also would be glad. But not too glad. In return for relieving Jeanne of his presence he hoped she might at times remember him with kindness. Of her always would he think gratefully and tenderly. Nothing could end his love for Jeanne—not even this suicide.
As children, in winter in New York, in summer on Long Island, Jimmie Blagwin and Jeanne Thayer had grown up together. They had the same tastes in sports, the same friends, the same worldly advantages. Neither of them had many ideas. It was after they married that Jeanne began to borrow ideas and doubt the advantages.
For the first three years after the wedding, in the old farmhouse which Jimmie had made over into a sort of idealized country club, Jeanne lived a happy, healthy, out-of-door existence. To occupy her there were Jimmie's hunters and a pack of joyous beagles; for tennis, at week-ends Jimmie filled the house with men, and during the week they both played polo, he with the Meadow Brooks and she with the Meadow Larks, and the golf links of Piping Rock ran almost to their lodge-gate. Until Proctor Maddox took a cottage at Glen Cove and joined the golf-club, than Jeanne and Jimmie on all Long Island no couple were so content.
At that time Proctor Maddox was the young and brilliant editor of the Wilderness magazine, the wilderness being the world we live in, and the Voice crying in it the voice of Proctor Maddox. He was a Socialist and Feminist, he flirted with syndicalism, and he had a good word even for the I.W.W. He was darkly handsome, his eyeglasses were fastened to a black ribbon, and he addressed his hostess as "dear lady." He was that sort. Women described him as "dangerous," and liked him because he talked of things they did not understand, and because he told each of them it was easy to see it would be useless to flatter her. The men did not like him. The oldest and wealthiest members of the club protested that the things Maddox said in his magazine should exclude him from the society of law-abiding, money-making millionaires. But Freddy Bayliss, the leader of the younger crowd, said that, to him, it did not matter what Maddox said in the Wilderness, so long as he stayed there. It was Bayliss who christened him "the Voice."
Until the Voice came to Glen Cove all that troubled Jeanne was that her pony had sprained a tendon, and that in the mixed doubles her eye was off the ball. Proctor Maddox suggested other causes for discontent.
"What does it matter," he demanded, "whether you hit a rubber ball inside a whitewashed line, or not? That energy, that brain, that influence of yours over others, that something men call—charm, should be exerted to emancipate yourself and your unfortunate sisters."
"Emaciate myself," protested Jeanne eagerly; "do you mean I'm taking on flesh?"
"I said 'emancipate,'" corrected Maddox. "I mean to free yourself of the bonds that bind your sex; for instance, the bonds of matrimony. It is obsolete, barbarous. It makes of women—slaves and chattels."
"But, since I married, I'm much freer," protested Jeanne. "Mother never let me play polo, or ride astride. But Jimmie lets me. He says cross saddle is safer."
"Jimmie lets you!" mocked the Voice. "That is exactly what I mean. Why should you go to him, or to any man, for permission? Are you his cook asking for an evening out? No! You are a free soul, and your duty is to keep your soul from bondage. There are others in the world besides your husband. What of your duty to them? Have you ever thought of them?"
"No, I have not," confessed Jeanne. "Who do you mean by 'them'? Shop-girls, and white slaves, and women who want to vote?"
"I mean the great army of the discontented," explained the Voice.
"And should I be discontented?" asked Jeanne. "Tell me why."
So, then and on many other occasions, Maddox told her why. It was one of the best things he did.
People say, when the triangle forms, the husband always is the last to see. But, if he loves his wife, he is the first. And after three years of being married to Jeanne, and, before that, five years of wanting to marry Jeanne, Jimmie loved her devotedly, entirely, slavishly. It was the best thing he did. So, when to Jeanne the change came, her husband recognized it. What the cause was he could not fathom; he saw only that, in spite of her impatient denials, she was discontented, restless, unhappy. Thinking it might be that for too long they had gone "back to the land," he suggested they might repeat their honeymoon in Paris. The idea was received only with alarm. Concerning Jeanne, Jimmie decided secretly to consult a doctor. Meanwhile he bought her a new hunter.
The awakening came one night at a dance at the country club. That evening Jeanne was filled with unrest, and with Jimmie seemed particularly aggrieved. Whatever he said gave offense; even his eagerness to conciliate her was too obvious. With the other men who did not dance, Jimmie was standing in the doorway when, over the heads of those looking in from the veranda, he saw the white face and black eyes of Maddox. Jimmie knew Maddox did not dance, at those who danced had heard him jeer, and his presence caused him mild surprise. The editor, leaning forward, unconscious that he was conspicuous, searched the ballroom with his eyes. They were anxious, unsatisfied; they gave to his pale face the look of one who is famished. Then suddenly his face lit and he nodded eagerly. Following the direction of his eyes, Jimmie saw his wife, over the shoulder of her partner, smiling at Maddox. Her face was radiant; a great peace had descended upon it.
Jimmie knew just as surely as though Jeanne had told him. He walked out and sat down on the low wall of the terrace with his back to the club-house and his legs dangling. Below him in the moonlight lay the great basin of the golf links, the white rectangle of the polo fields with the gallows-like goals, and on a hill opposite, above the tree-tops, the chimneys of his house. He was down for a tennis match the next morning, and the sight of his home suggested to him only that he ought to be in bed and asleep.
Then he recognized that he never would sleep again. He went over it from the beginning, putting the pieces together. He never had liked Maddox, but he had explained that by the fact that, as Maddox was so much more intelligent than he, there could be little between them. And it was because every one said he was so intelligent that he had looked upon his devotion to Jeanne rather as a compliment. He wondered why already it had not been plain to him. When Jeanne, who mocked at golf as a refuge for old age, spent hours with Maddox on the links; when, after she had declined to ride with her husband, on his return he would find her at tea with Maddox in front of the wood fire.
That night, when he drove Jeanne home, she still was joyous, radiant; it was now she who chided him upon being silent.
He waited until noon the next morning and then asked her if it were true. It was true. Jeanne thanked him for coming to her so honestly and straightforwardly. She also had been straightforward and honest. They had waited, she said, not through deceit but only out of consideration for him.
"Before we told you," Jeanne explained, "we wanted to be quite sure that I was sure."
The "we" hurt Jimmie like the stab of a rusty knife.
But he said only: "And you are sure? Three years ago you were sure you loved me."
Jeanne's eyes were filled with pity, but she said: "That was three years ago. I was a child, and now I am a woman. In many ways you have stood still and I have gone on."
"That's true," said Jimmie; "you always were too good for me."
"No woman is good enough for you," returned Jeanne loyally. "And your brains are just as good as mine, only you haven't used them. I have questioned and reached out and gained knowledge of all kinds. I am a Feminist and you are not. If you were you would understand."
"I don't know even what a Feminist is," said Jimmie, "but I'm glad I'm not one."
"A Feminist is one," explained Jeanne, "who does not think her life should be devoted to one person, but to the world."
Jimmie shook his head and smiled miserably.
"You are my world," he said. "The only world I know. The only world I want to know."
He walked to the fireplace and leaned his elbows on the mantel, and buried his head in his hands. But that his distress might not hurt Jeanne, he turned and, to give her courage, smiled.
"If you are going to devote yourself to the World," he asked, "and not to any one person, why can't I sort of trail along? Why need you leave me and go with—with some one else?"
"For the work I hope to do," answered Jeanne, "you and I are not suited. But Proctor and I are suited. He says he never met a woman who understands him as I do."
"Hell!" said Jimmie. After that he did not speak for some time. Then he asked roughly:
"He's going to marry you, of course?"
Jeanne flushed crimson.
"Of course!" she retorted. Her blush looked like indignation, and so Jimmie construed it, but it was the blush of embarrassment. For Maddox considered the ceremony of marriage an ignoble and barbaric bond. It degraded the woman, he declared, in making her a slave, and the man in that he accepted such a sacrifice. Jeanne had not argued with him. Until she were free, to discuss it with him seemed indecent. But in her own mind there was no doubt. If she were to be the helpmate of Proctor Maddox in uplifting the world, she would be Mrs. Proctor Maddox; or, much as he was to her, each would uplift the world alone. But she did not see the necessity of explaining all this to Jimmie, so she said: "Of course!"
"I will see the lawyers to-morrow," said Jimmie. "It will take some time to arrange, and so," he added hopefully, "you can think it over."
Jeanne exclaimed miserably:
"I have thought of nothing else," she cried, "for six months!"
Jimmie bent above her and laid his hand upon her shoulder.
"I am sorry, so sorry," he said. "If I'd any brains I'd have seen how it was long ago. Now I'll not waste time. You'll be rid of me as quick as the courts can fix it."
He started for the door, but Jeanne caught his hand.
"Won't you kiss me, Jimmie?" she said.
Jimmie hesitated unhappily and Jeanne raised her eyes to his.
"Not since we were married, Jimmie," she said, "has any one kissed me but you."
So Jimmie bent and kissed her. She clung to his sleeve.
"Jimmie," she begged, "you haven't told me you forgive me. Unless you forgive me I can't go on with it. Tell me you forgive me!"
"Forgive you?" protested Jimmie. "I love you!"
When Jimmie went to the office of the lawyer, who also was his best friend, and told him that Jennie wanted a separation, that young man kicked the waste-paper basket against the opposite wall.
"I'll not do it," he protested, "and I won't let you do it, either. Why should you smear your name and roll in the dirt and play dead to please Jeanne? If Jeanne thinks I'm going to send you to a Raines hotel and follow you up with detectives to furnish her with a fake divorce, you can tell her I won't. What are they coming to?" demanded the best friend. "What do they want? A man gives a woman all his love, all his thoughts, gives her his name, his home; only asks to work his brains out for her, only asks to see her happy. And she calls it 'charity,' calls herself a 'slave'!" The best friend kicked violently at the place where the waste-basket had been. "Give them the vote, I say," he shouted. "It's all they're good for!"
The violence of his friend did not impress Jimmie. As he walked up-town the only part of the interview he carried with him was that there must be no scandal. Not on his account. If Jeanne wished it, he assured himself, in spite of the lawyer, he was willing, in the metaphor of that gentleman, to "roll in the dirt and play dead." "Play dead!" The words struck him full in the face. Were he dead and out of the way, Jeanne, without a touch of scandal, could marry the man she loved. Jimmie halted in his tracks. He believed he saw the only possible exit. He turned into a side street, and between the silent houses, closed for the summer, worked out his plan. For long afterward that city block remained in his memory; the doctors' signs on the sills, the caretakers seeking the air, the chauffeurs at the cab rank. For hours they watched the passing and repassing of the young man, who with bent head and fixed eyes struck at the pavement with his stick.
That he should really kill himself Jimmie did not for a moment contemplate. To him self-destruction appeared only as an offense against nature. On his primitive, out-of-door, fox-hunting mind the ethics of suicide lay as uneasily as absinthe on the stomach of a baby. But, he argued, by pretending he were dead, he could set Jeanne free, could save her from gossip, and could still dream of her, love her, and occupy with her, if not the same continent, the same world.
He had three problems to solve, and as he considered them he devotedly wished he might consult with a brain more clever than his own. But an accomplice was out of the question. Were he to succeed, everybody must be fooled; no one could share his secret. It was "a lone game, played alone, and without my partner."
The three problems were: first, in order to protect his wife, to provide for the suicide a motive other than the attentions of Maddox; second, to make the suicide look like a real suicide; third, without later creating suspicion, to draw enough money from the bank to keep himself alive after he was dead. For his suicide Jeanne must not hold herself to blame; she must not believe her conduct forced his end; above every one else, she must be persuaded that in bringing about his death she was completely innocent. What reasons then were accepted for suicide?
As to this, Jimmie, refusing to consider the act justified for any reason, was somewhat at a loss. He had read of men who, owing to loss of honor, loss of fortune, loss of health, had "gone out." He was determined he owed it to himself not to go out under a cloud, and he could not lose his money, as then there would be none to leave Jeanne; so he must lose his health. As except for broken arms and collar-bones he never had known a sick-bed, this last was as difficult as the others, but it must serve. After much consideration he decided he would go blind. At least he would pretend he was going blind. To give a semblance of truth to this he would that day consult distinguished oculists and, in spite of their assurances, would tell them that slowly and surely his eyesight was failing him. He would declare to them, in the dread of such a catastrophe, he was of a mind to seek self-destruction. To others he would confide the secret of his blindness and his resolution not to survive it. And, later, all of these would remember and testify.
The question of money also was difficult. After his death he no longer could sign a check or negotiate securities. He must have cash. But if from the bank he drew large sums of actual money, if he converted stocks and bonds into cash and a week later disappeared, apparently forever, questions as to what became of the sums he had collected would arise, and that his disappearance was genuine would be doubted. This difficulty made Jimmie for a moment wonder if being murdered for his money, and having his body concealed by the murderer, would not be better than suicide. It would, at least, explain the disappearance of the money. But he foresaw that for his murder some innocent one might be suspected and hanged. This suggested leaving behind him evidence to show that the one who murdered him was none other than Proctor Maddox. The idea appealed to his sense of humor and justice. It made the punishment fit the crime. Not without reluctance did he abandon it and return to his plan of suicide. But he recognized that to supply himself with any large sum of money would lead to suspicion and that he must begin his new life almost empty-handed. In his new existence he must work.
For that day and until the next afternoon he remained in town, and in that time prepared the way for his final exit. At a respectable lodging-house on West Twenty-third Street, near the ferry, he gave his name as Henry Hull, and engaged a room. To this room, from a department store he never before had entered, he shipped a trunk and valise marked with his new initials and filled with clothes to suit his new estate. To supply himself with money, at banks, clubs, and restaurants he cashed many checks for small sums. The total of his collections, from places scattered over all the city, made quite a comfortable bank roll. And in his box at the safe-deposit vault he came upon a windfall. It was an emerald bracelet left him by an eccentric aunt who had lived and died in Paris. The bracelet he had offered to Jeanne, but she did not like it and had advised him to turn it into money and, as the aged relative had wished, spend it upon himself. That was three years since, and now were it missing Jeanne would believe that at some time in the past he had followed her advice. So he carried the bracelet away with him. For a year it would keep a single man in comfort.
His next step was to acquaint himself with the nature of the affliction on account of which he was to destroy himself. At the public library he collected a half-dozen books treating of blindness, and selected his particular malady. He picked out glaucoma, and for his purpose it was admirably suited. For, so Jimmie discovered, in a case of glaucoma the oculist was completely at the mercy of the patient. Except to the patient the disease gave no sign. To an oculist a man might say, "Three nights ago my eyesight played me the following tricks," and from that the oculist would know the man was stricken with glaucoma; but the eyes would tell him nothing.
The next morning to four oculists Jimmie detailed his symptoms. Each looked grave, and all diagnosed his trouble as glaucoma.
"I knew it!" groaned Jimmie, and assured them sooner than go blind he would jump into the river. They pretended to treat this as an extravagance, but later, when each of them was interviewed, he remembered that Mr. Blagwin had threatened to drown himself. On his way to the train Jimmie purchased a pair of glasses and, in order to invite questions, in the club car pretended to read with them. When his friends expressed surprise, Jimmie told them of the oculists he had consulted, and that they had informed him his case was hopeless. If this proved true, he threatened to drown himself.
On his return home he explained to Jeanne he had seen the lawyer, and that that gentleman suggested the less she knew of what was going on the better. In return Jeanne told him she had sent for Maddox and informed him that, until the divorce was secured, they had best not be seen together. The wisdom of this appealed even to Maddox, and already, to fill in what remained of the summer, he had departed for Bar Harbor. To Jimmie the relief of his absence was inexpressible. He had given himself only a week to live, and, for the few days still remaining to him, to be alone with Jeanne made him miserably happy. The next morning Jimmie confessed to his wife that his eyes were failing him. The trouble came, he explained, from a fall he had received the year before steeplechasing. He had not before spoken of it, as he did not wish to distress her. The oculists he had consulted gave him no hope. He would end it, he declared, in the gun-room.
Jeanne was thoroughly alarmed. That her old playmate, lover, husband should come to such a plight at the very time she had struck him the hardest blow of all filled her with remorse. In a hundred ways she tried to make up to him for the loss of herself and for the loss of his eyes. She became his constant companion; never had she been so kind and so considerate. They saw no one from the outside, and each day through the wood paths that circled their house made silent pilgrimages. And each day on a bench, placed high, where the view was fairest, together, and yet so far apart, watched the sun sink into the sound.
"These are the times I will remember," said Jimmie; "when—when I am alone."
The last night they sat on the bench he took out his knife and carved the date—July, 1913.
"What does that mean?" asked Jeanne.
"It means to-night I seem to love you more and need you more than ever before," said Jimmie. "That is what it means. Will you remember?"
Jeanne was looking away from him, but she stretched out her hand and laid it upon his.
"To-morrow I am going to town," said Jimmie, "to see that oculist from Paris. They say what he tells you is the last word. And, if he says—"
Jeanne swung toward him and with all the jealousy of possession held his hand. Her own eyes were blurred with tears.
"He will tell you the others are wrong!" she cried. "I know he will. He must! You—who have always been so kind! God could not be so cruel!"
Jimmie stopped her.
"If I am not to see you—"
During his last week at home Jimmie had invented a Doctor Picard, a distinguished French oculist, who, on a tour of the world, was by the rarest chance at that moment in New York. According to Jimmie, all the other oculists had insisted he must consult Picard, and might consider what Picard said as final. Picard was staying with a friend—Jimmie did not say where—and after receiving Jimmie was at once taking the train for San Francisco. As Jimmie had arranged his scenario, it was Picard who was to deal him his death sentence.
Her husband seemed so entirely to depend on what Picard might say that Jeanne decided, should the verdict be unfavorable, she had best be at his side. But, as this would have upset Jimmie's plan, he argued against it. Should the news be bad, he pointed out, for her to receive it in her own home would be much easier for both. Jeanne felt she had been rebuffed, but that, if Jimmie did not want her with him, she no longer was in a position to insist.
So she contented herself with driving him to the train and, before those who knew them at the station, kissing him good-by.
Afterward, that she had done so comforted her greatly.
"I'll be praying for you, Jimmie," she whispered. "And, as soon as you know, you'll—"
So upset was Jimmie by the kiss, and by the knowledge that he was saying farewell for the last time, that he nearly exposed his purpose.
"I want the last thing I say to you," he stammered, "to be this: that whatever you do will be right. I love you so that I will understand."
When he arrived in New York, in his own name, he booked a stateroom on the Ceramic. She was listed to sail that evening after midnight. It was because she departed at that hour that for a week Jimmie had fixed upon her as furnishing the scene of his exit. During the day he told several of his friends that the report of the great oculist had been against him. Later, they recalled that he talked wildly, that he was deeply despondent. In the afternoon he sent a telegram to Jeanne:
"Verdict unfavorable. Will remain to-night in town. All love. J."
At midnight he went on board. The decks and saloons were swarming and noisy with seagoers, many of whom had come to the ship directly from the theatres and restaurants, the women bareheaded, in evening gowns. Jimmie felt grateful to them. They gave to the moment of his taking off an air of gentle gayety. Among those who were sailing, and those who had come to wish them "bon voyage," many were known to Jimmie. He told them he was going abroad at the command of his oculist. Also, he forced himself upon the notice of officers and stewards, giving them his name, and making inquiries concerning the non-appearance of fictitious baggage. Later, they also recalled the young man in dinner jacket and golf cap who had lost a dressing-case marked "James Blagwin."
In his cabin Jimmie wrote two letters. The one to the captain of the ship read:
"After we pass Fire Island I am going overboard. Do not make any effort to find me, as it will be useless. I am sorry to put you to this trouble."
The second letter was to Jeanne. It read:
"Picard agreed with the others. My case is hopeless. I am ending all to-night. Forgive me. I leave you all the love in all the world. Jimmie."
When he had addressed these letters he rang for the steward.
"I am not going to wait until we leave the dock," he said. "I am turning in now. I am very tired, and I don't want you to wake me on any excuse whatsoever until to-morrow at noon. Better still, don't come until I ring!"
When the steward had left him, Jimmie pinned the two letters upon the pillow, changed the steamer-cap for an Alpine hat, and beneath a rain-coat concealed his evening clothes. He had purposely selected the deck cabin farthest aft. Accordingly, when after making the cabin dark he slipped from it, the break in the deck that separated the first from the second class passengers was but a step distant. The going-ashore bugles had sounded, and more tumult than would have followed had the ship struck a rock now spread to every deck. With sharp commands officers were speeding the parting guests; the parting guests were shouting passionate good-bys and sending messages to Aunt Maria; quartermasters howled hoarse warnings, donkey-engines panted under the weight of belated luggage, fall and tackle groaned and strained. And the ship's siren, enraged at the delay, protested in one long-drawn-out, inarticulate shriek.
Jimmie slipped down the accommodation ladder that led to the well-deck, side-stepped a yawning hatch, dodged a swinging cargo net stuffed with trunks, and entered the second-class smoking-room. From there he elbowed his way to the second-class promenade deck. A stream of tearful and hilarious visitors who, like sheep in a chute, were being herded down the gangway, engulfed him. Unresisting, Jimmie let himself, by weight of numbers, be carried forward.
A moment later he was shot back to the dock and to the country from which at that moment, in deck cabin A4, he was supposed to be drawing steadily away.
Dodging the electric lights, on foot he made his way to his lodging-house. The night was warm and moist, and, seated on the stoop, stripped to shirt and trousers, was his landlord.
He greeted Jimmie affably.
"Evening, Mr. Hull," he said. "Hope this heat won't keep you awake."
Jimmie thanked him and passed hurriedly.
The landlord had said it.
Somewhere out at sea, between Fire Island and Scotland Lightship, the waves were worrying with what once had been Jimmie Blagwin, and in a hall bedroom on Twenty-third Street Henry Hull, with frightened eyes, sat staring across the wharves, across the river, thinking of a farmhouse on Long Island.
His last week on earth had been more of a strain on Jimmie than he appreciated; and the night the Ceramic sailed he slept the drugged sleep of complete nervous exhaustion. Late the next morning, while he still slept, a passenger on the Ceramic stumbled upon the fact of his disappearance. The man knew Jimmie; had greeted him the night before when he came on board, and was seeking him that he might subscribe to a pool on the run. When to his attack on Jimmie's door there was no reply, he peered through the air-port, saw on the pillow, where Jimmie's head should have been, two letters, and reported to the purser. Already the ship was three hundred miles from where Jimmie had announced he would drown himself; a search showed he was not on board, and the evidence of a smoking-room steward, who testified that at one o'clock he had left Mr. Blagwin alone on deck, gazing "mournful-like" at Fire Island, seemed to prove Jimmie had carried out his threat. When later the same passenger the steward had mistaken for Jimmie appeared in the smoking-room and ordered a drink from him, the steward was rattled. But as the person who had last seen Jimmie Blagwin alive he had gained melancholy interest, and, as his oft-told tale was bringing him many shillings, he did not correct it. Accordingly, from Cape Sable the news of Jimmie's suicide was reported. That afternoon it appeared in all the late editions of the evening papers.
Pleading fever, Jimmie explained to his landlord that for him to venture out by day was most dangerous, and sent the landlord after the newspapers. The feelings with which he read them were mixed. He was proud of the complete success of his plot, but the inevitableness of it terrified him. The success was too complete. He had left himself no loophole. He had locked the door on himself and thrown the key out of the window. Now, that she was lost to him forever, he found, if that were possible, he loved his wife more devotedly than before. He felt that to live in the same world with Jeanne and never speak to her, never even look at her, could not be borne. He was of a mind to rush to the wharf and take another leap into the dark waters, and this time without a life-line. From this he was restrained only by the thought that if he used infinite caution, at infrequent intervals, at a great distance, he still might look upon his wife. This he assured himself would be possible only after many years had aged him and turned his hair gray. Then on second thoughts he believed to wait so long was not absolutely necessary. It would be safe enough, he argued, if he grew a beard. He always had been clean-shaven, and he was confident a beard would disguise him. He wondered how long a time must pass before one would grow. Once on a hunting-trip he had gone for two weeks without shaving, and the result had not only disguised but disgusted him. His face had changed to one like those carved on cocoanuts. A recollection of this gave him great pleasure. His spirits rose happily. He saw himself in the rags of a tramp, his face hidden in an unkempt beard, skulking behind the hedges that surrounded his house. From this view-point, before sailing away from her forever, he would again steal a look at Jeanne. He determined to postpone his departure until he had grown a beard. Meanwhile he would plead illness, and keep to his room, or venture out only at night. Comforted by the thought that in two weeks he might again see his wife, as she sat on the terrace or walked in her gardens, he sank peaceably to sleep.
The next morning the landlord brought him the papers. In them were many pictures of himself as a master of foxhounds, as a polo-player, as a gentleman jockey. The landlord looked at him curiously. Five minutes later, on a trivial excuse, he returned and again studied Jimmie as closely as though he were about to paint his portrait. Then two of the other boarders, chums of the landlord, knocked at the door, to borrow a match, to beg the loan of the morning paper. Each was obviously excited, each stared accusingly. Jimmie fell into a panic. He felt that if already his identity was questioned, than hiding in his room and growing a beard nothing could be more suspicious. At noon, for West Indian ports, a German boat was listed to sail from the Twenty-fourth Street wharf. Jimmie decided at once to sail with her and, until his beard was grown, not to return. It was necessary first to escape the suspicious landlord, and to that end he noiselessly packed his trunk and suit-case. In front of the house, in an unending procession, taxi-cabs returning empty from the Twenty-third Street ferry passed the door, and from the street Jimmie hailed one. Before the landlord could voice his doubts Jimmie was on the sidewalk, his bill had been paid, and, giving the address of a hotel on Fourteenth Street, he was away.
At the Fourteenth Street hotel Jimmie dismissed the taxi-cab and asked for a room adjoining an imaginary Senator Gates. When the clerk told him Senator Gates was not at that hotel, Jimmie excitedly demanded to be led to the telephone. He telephoned the office of the steamship line: and, in the name of Henry Hull, secured a cabin. Then he explained to the clerk that over the telephone he had learned that his friend, Senator Gates, was at another hotel. He regretted that he must follow him. Another taxi was called, and Jimmie drove to an inconspicuous and old-fashioned hotel on the lower East Side, patronized exclusively by gunmen. There, in not finding Senator Gates, he was again disappointed, and now having broken the link that connected him with the suspicious landlord, he drove back to within a block of his original starting-point and went on board the ship. Not until she was off Sandy Hook did he leave his cabin.
It was July, and passengers to the tropics were few; and when Jimmie ventured on deck he found most of them gathered at the port rail. They were gazing intently over the ship's side. Thinking the pilot might be leaving, Jimmie joined them. A young man in a yachting-cap was pointing north and speaking in the voice of a conductor of a "seeing New York" car.
"Just between that lighthouse and the bow of this ship," he exclaimed, "is where yesterday James Blagwin jumped overboard. At any moment we may see the body!"
An excitable passenger cried aloud and pointed at some floating seaweed.
"I'll bet that's it now!" he shouted.
Jimmie exclaimed indignantly:
"I'll bet you ten dollars it isn't!" he said.
In time the ship touched at Santiago, Kingston, and Colon, but, fearing recognition, Jimmie saw these places only from the deck. He travelled too fast for newspapers to overtake him, and those that on the return passage met the ship, of his death gave no details. So, except that his suicide had been accepted, Jimmie knew nothing.
Least of all did he know, or even guess, that his act of renunciation, intended to bring to Jeanne happiness, had nearly brought about her own end. She believed Jimmie was dead, but not for a moment did she believe it was for fear of blindness he had killed himself. She and Maddox had killed him. Between them they had murdered the man who, now that he was gone, she found she loved devotedly. To a shocked and frightened letter of condolence from Maddox she wrote one that forever ordered him out of her life. Then she set about making a saint of Jimmie, and counting the days when in another world they would meet, and her years of remorse, penitence, and devotion would cause him to forgive her. In their home she shut herself off from every one. She made of it a shrine to Jimmie. She kept his gloves on the hall table; on her writing-desk she placed flowers before his picture. Preston, the butler, and the other servants who had been long with them feared for her sanity, but, loving "Mr. James" as they did, sympathized with her morbidness. So, in the old farmhouse, it was as though Jimmie still stamped through the halls, or from his room, as he dressed, whistled merrily. In the kennels the hounds howled dismally, in the stables at each footstep the ponies stamped with impatience, on the terrace his house dog, Huang Su, lay with his eyes fixed upon the road waiting for the return of the master, and in the gardens a girl in black, wasted and white-faced, walked alone and rebelled that she was still alive.
After six weeks, when the ship re-entered New York harbor, Jimmie, his beard having grown, and wearing gold-rimmed spectacles, walked boldly down the gangplank. His confidence was not misplaced. The polo-player, clean-faced, lean, and fit, had disappeared. Six weeks of German cooking, a German barber, and the spectacles had produced a graduate of Heidelberg.
At a furnished room on a side street Jimmie left his baggage, and at once at the public library, in the back numbers of the daily papers, read the accounts of his death and interviews with his friends. They all agreed the reason for his suicide was his fear of approaching blindness. As he read, Jimmie became deeply depressed. Any sneaking hopes he might have held that he was not dead were now destroyed. The evidence of his friends was enough to convince any one. It convinced him. Now that it was too late, his act of self-sacrifice appeared supremely stupid and ridiculous. Bitterly he attacked himself as a bungler and an ass. He assured himself he should have made a fight for it; should have fought for his wife: and against Maddox. Instead of which he weakly had effaced himself, had surrendered his rights, had abandoned his wife at a time when most was required of him. He tortured himself by thinking that probably at that very moment she was in need of his help. And at that very moment head-lines in the paper he was searching proved this was true.
"BLAGWIN'S LOST WILL," he read. "DETECTIVES RELINQUISH SEARCH! REWARD OF TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FAILS TO BRING CLEW!"
Jimmie raced through the back numbers. They told him his will, in which he had left everything to Jeanne, could not be found; that in consequence, except her widow's third, all of his real estate, which was the bulk of his property, would now go to two distant cousins who already possessed more than was good for them, and who in Paris were leading lives of elegant wastefulness. The will had been signed the week before his wedding-day, but the lawyer who had drawn it was dead, and the witnesses, two servants, had long since quit Jimmie's service and could not be found. It was known Jimmie kept the will in the safe at his country house, but from the safe it had disappeared.
Jimmie's best friend, and now Jeanne's lawyer, the man who had refused him the divorce, had searched the house from the attic to the coal cellar; detectives had failed to detect; rewards had remained unclaimed; no one could tell where the will was hidden. Only Jimmie could tell. And Jimmie was dead. And no one knew that better than Jimmie. Again he upbraided himself. Why had he not foreseen this catastrophe? Why, before his final taking off, had he not returned the will to the safe? Now, a word from him would give Jeanne all his fortune, and that word he could not speak.
The will was between the leaves of a copy of "Pickwick," and it stood on a shelf in his bedroom. One night, six months before, to alter a small bequest, he had carried the will up-stairs and written a rough draft of the new codicil. And then, merely because he was sleepy and disinclined to struggle with a combination lock, he had stuck the will in the book he was reading. He intended the first thing the next morning to put it back in the safe. But the first thing the next morning word came from the kennels that during the night six beagle puppies had arrived, and naturally Jimmie gave no thought to anything so unimportant as a will. Nor since then had he thought of it. And now how was he, a dead man, to retrieve it?
That those in the library might not observe his agitation, he went outside, and in Bryant Park on a bench faced his problem. Except himself, of the hidden place of the will no one could possibly know. So, if even by an anonymous letter, or by telephone, he gave the information to his late lawyer or to the detectives, they at once would guess from where the clew came and that James Blagwin was still alive. So that plan was abandoned. Then he wondered if he might not convey the tip to some one who had access to his bedroom; his valet or a chambermaid who, as though by accident, might stumble upon the will. But, as every one would know the anonymous tipster could be only Blagwin himself, that plan also was rejected. He saw himself in a blind alley. Without an accomplice he could not act; with an accomplice his secret would be betrayed.
Suddenly a line in one of the newspapers returned to him. It was to the effect that to discover the lost will several clairvoyants, mediums, and crystal-gazers had offered their services. Jimmie determined that one of these should be his accomplice. He would tell the clairvoyant he formerly had been employed as valet by Blagwin and knew where Blagwin had placed his will. But he had been discharged under circumstances that made it necessary for him to lie low. He would hint it was the police he feared. This would explain why he could not come forward, and why he sought the aid of the clairvoyant. If the clairvoyant fell in with his plan he would tell him where the will could be found, the clairvoyant would pretend in a trance to discover the hiding-place, would confide his discovery to Mrs. Blagwin's lawyer, the lawyer would find the will, the clairvoyant would receive the reward, and an invaluable advertisement. And Jimmie's ghost would rest in peace. He needed only a clairvoyant who was not so upright that he fell over backward. Jimmie assured himself one of that kind would not be difficult to find.
He returned to the newspaper-room of the library and in the advertising columns of a Sunday paper found a clairvoyant who promised to be the man he wanted.
He was an Indian prince, but for five dollars would tell fortunes, cast horoscopes, and recover lost articles. Jimmie found him in the back room on the first floor of an old-fashioned house of sandstone on a side street. A blonde young woman, who was directing envelopes and enclosing in them the business card of the prince, accepted Jimmie's five dollars and ushered him into the presence. The back room was very dark. There were no windows showing, and the walls were entirely hidden by curtains in which twinkled tiny mirrors. The only light came from a lamp that swung on chains.
The prince was young, tall, dark-skinned, with a black, pointed beard. He wore his national costume and over it many necklaces of strange stones, and of jewels more strange. He sat on a papier-mache throne with gilded elephants for supports, and in his hand held a crystal globe. His head was all but hidden in an enormous silken turban on which hung a single pearl. Jimmie made up his mind that if the prince was no more on the level than his jewels there would be no trouble.
Jimmie came quickly to the point.
"I can't show up," he explained, "because after I lost my job as Mr. Blagwin's valet several articles of value were missing. But you can show up for me. If the will is not where I saw it—where I tell you it is—you're no worse off than you are now. You can say the spirits misled you. But, if I'm telling you the truth, you stand to get half the reward and the biggest press story any ghost-raiser ever put across.
"And why," in conclusion Jimmie demanded, "should I ask you to do this, if what I say is not true?"
The prince made no reply.
With a sweeping gesture he brought the crystal globe into his lap and, bending his head, apparently peered into its depths. In reality he was gaining time. To himself he was repeating Jimmie's question. If the stranger were not speaking the truth, why was he asking him to join in a plot to deceive? The possibility that Jimmie was telling the truth the prince did not even consider. He was not used to the truth, and as to the motives of Jimmie in inviting him to break the law he already had made his guess. It was that Jimmie must be a detective setting a trap which later would betray him to the police. And the prince had no desire to fall in with the police nor to fall out with them. All he ever asked of those gentlemen was to leave him alone. And, since apparently they would not leave him alone, he saw, deep down in the crystal globe, a way by which not only could he avoid their trap, but might spring it to his own advantage.
Instead of the detective denouncing him, he would denounce the detective. Of the police he would become an ally. He would call upon them to arrest a man who was planning to blackmail Mrs. James Blagwin.
Unseen by Jimmie, in the arm of his throne he pressed an electric button, and in the front room in the ear of the blonde a signal buzzed. In her turn the blonde pushed aside the curtains that hid the door to the front hall.
"Pardon, Highness," she said, "a certain party in Wall Street"—she paused impressively, and the prince nodded—"wants to consult you about his Standard Oil stock."
"He must wait," returned the prince.
"Pardon, Highness," persisted the lady; "he cannot wait. It is a matter of millions."
Of this dialogue, which was the vehicle always used to get the prince out of the audience-chamber and into the front hall, undoubtedly the best line was the one given to the blonde—"it is a matter of millions!"
Knowing this, she used to speak it slowly and impressively. It impressed even Jimmie. And after the prince had reverently deposited his globe upon a velvet cushion and disappeared, Jimmie sat wondering who in Wall Street was rich enough to buy Standard Oil stock, and who was fool enough to sell it.
But over such idle questions he was not long left to meditate. Something more personal demanded his full attention. Behind him the prince carefully had closed the door to the front hall. But, not having his crystal globe with him, he did not know it had not remained closed, and as he stood under the hall stairs and softly lifted the receiver from the telephone, he was not aware that his voice carried to the room in which Jimmie was waiting.
"Hello," whispered the prince softly. His voice, Jimmie noted with approval, even over a public telephone was as gentle as a cooing dove.
"Hello! Give me Spring 3100."
A cold sweat swept down Jimmie's spine. A man might forget his birthday, his middle name, his own telephone number, but not Spring 3100!
Every drama of the underworld, crook play, and detective story had helped to make it famous.
Jimmie stood not upon the order of his going. Even while police headquarters was telling the prince to get the Forty-seventh Street police station, Jimmie had torn open the front door and was leaping down the steps.
Not until he reached Sixth Avenue, where if a man is seen running every one takes a chance and yells "Stop thief!" did Jimmie draw a halt. Then he burst forth indignantly.
"How was I to know he was honest!" he panted. "He's a hell of a clairvoyant!"
With indignation as great the prince was gazing at the blonde secretary; his eyes were filled with amazement.
"Am I going dippy?" he demanded. "I sized him up for a detective—and he was a perfectly honest crook! And in five minutes," he roared remorsefully, "this house will be full of bulls! What am I to do? What am I to tell 'em?"
"Tell 'em," said the blonde coldly, "you're going on a long journey."
Jimmie now appreciated that when he determined it was best he should work without an accomplice he was most wise. He must work alone and, lest the clairvoyant had set the police after him, at once. He decided swiftly that that night he would return to his own house, and that he would return as a burglar. From its hiding-place he would rescue the missing will and restore it to the safe. By placing it among papers of little importance he hoped to persuade those who already had searched the safe that through their own carelessness it had been overlooked. The next morning, when once more it was where the proper persons could find it, he would again take ship for foreign parts. Jimmie recognized that this was a desperate plan, but the situation was desperate.
And so midnight found him entering the grounds upon which he never again had hoped to place his foot.
The conditions were in his favor. The night was warm, which meant windows would be left open; few stars were shining, and as he tiptoed across the lawn the trees and bushes wrapped him in shadows. Inside the hedge, through which he had forced his way, he had left his shoes, and he moved in silence. Except that stealing into the house where lay asleep the wife he so dearly loved made a cruel assault upon his feelings, the adventure presented no difficulties. Of ways of entering his house Jimmie knew a dozen, and, once inside, from cellar to attic he could move blindfolded. His bedroom, where was the copy of "Pickwick" in which he had placed the will, was separated from his wife's bedroom by her boudoir. The walls were thick; through them no ordinary sound could penetrate, and, unless since his departure Jeanne had moved her maid or some other chaperon into his bedroom, he could ransack it at his leisure. The safe in which he would replace the will was in the dining-room. From the sleeping-quarters of Preston, the butler, and the other servants it was far removed.