Billeder på siden



yourself in his good opinion. Let me recommend you to avail yourself of that chance. But you must do so at once, and thoroughly. You understand?'

'Go on!' she said, in a voice none who had heard her speak half an hour before would have recognized, so hoarse and harsh had it become.

And Monsieur Glitstein, still keeping his eye upon her as she cowered in her seat before him, went on.

'It is necessary, then, that you should know that there is now in Lindenbad a person who has seriously compromised himself with the authorities, là-bas. This person, forgetful of all he owes to the clemency of the Imperial Government, has been ungrateful and imprudent enough to organize a rash and hopeless plot against it. This plot has been discovered; its leader has become, for the second time, amenable to the laws he has daringly outraged. The proofs of his own guilt, and of the complicity of certain of his ill-advised compatriots in the conspiracy, are, it is known, at this moment in his possession. Hitherto all attempts to discover them have failed. It is supposed therefore that he carries them constantly about his person; and, if so, they are contained in a case or bag formed of small steel links which he would probably wear suspended by a chain round his neck.

'May I hope I have succeeded in awakening Madame's interest in my story?' Monsieur Glitstein broke off his narrative here to inquire, in his soft pateline voice, once more.

'Go on!' she said, again, in those strangely hoarse tones still.

'Madame is anxious to hear the dénouement, then?' Monsieur Glitstein suggested, with his unpleasant grin. It is only natural. I hasten to continue. Once assured that what I have mentioned is the case, namely, that this steel case or bag is worn by the individual in question, it becomes my duty to arrest that individual. But hitherto I have, I confess, been unable so to assure myself without a too great risk of awakening any man's suspicions, and so ruining the coup. The arrest of the leader, without

obtaining the proofs of the guilty complicity of his subordinates, would be futile. More-it would, in the present state of things at Warsaw, be highly inexpedient, and even dangerous.'

She had started, slightly, when he spoke of Warsaw, but his lynx-eyes had marked it.

'Madame divines now,' he went on, 'if she has not done so before, who the leader of this conspiracy is? If she does not, there is no reason why I should conceal his name. It is Vladimir Laginski.'

[ocr errors]

'Vladimir!' she muttered under her breath. And you mean that I—'

'Madame does me the honour to comprehend à demi-mot, I see!' he sneered. 'She doubtless guesses correctly why I have need of her invaluable assistance in this matter. I have said that it is impossible for me, without risking an ignominious failure, to assure myself that the all-important documents are where I suspect them to be. Madame doubtless foresees that I am going to ask her to give me that assurance.'

She laughed a short, harsh laugh. 'I?' she said; and how can I—?'

"That I will explain to Madame.' 'And if I refuse?' she said, after a moment's pause, rising, and, for the second time in their interview, confronting him with baleful eyes. Monsieur Glitstein, ever calm and watchful, noticed how, under her domino, her right hand was hidden in her breast; noticed the murderous look, that had been growing deeper and deeper under each taunt he had flung at her, on her face, as she stood before him in the moonlight, and paused a second, in his turn, before he answered

'Madame will not refuse! I require nothing I cannot enforce.' 'Ah! nous verrons!'

'It will be as I say. I have authority-the highest-for what I do. Recollect, you are one of us; and I, Numéro Treize, can command the services of any subordinate. Madame la Comtesse de Vorazof may find that disagreeable; but Le Numéro Trente-Trois in the register of the Secret Bureau will obey me, if

she is wise. Voyons!' he went on. 'Enough of melodrama. Let us speak reason. What I require is simply this. There is a masked ball at Madame de Rohan's to-morrow night. You will be present at this ball, if only to show scandalmongers there is no truth in that story about a certain opal necklace.' 'Dornberg!' she muttered, involuntarily.

'Perfectly right!' said Monsieur Glitstein. It was he who was my informant. But, entre confrères cela se peut! Dornberg is one of us, too.'

She felt the net closing round her tighter at every word this man spoke. Monsieur Glitstein went on.

'Permit me to trace you a little programme of what will happen at Madame de Rohan's. Monsieur de Laginski will naturally ask Madame la Comtesse for a valse. Madame la Comtesse will accord Monsieur de Laginski the fifth valse upon her ball-card, which, I may remark, for fear lest Madame should forget, will be a new valse of Strauss' called the "Liebeskranz”. -a charming title, is it not? The valse ended, Madame will take M. de Laginski's left arm, and permit him to lead her in the direction of the open window ncarest the doorway looking on to the gardens. But, as she passes the doorway, madame will not fail to notice a masked personage who will wear a crimson cross on the left sleeve of his domino. To this individual Madame will say, in such a tone as to be unheard by M. de Laginski of course, the words "Trente-Trois ;" and the man in the domino so addressed will answer "Treize." Five minutes later Madame, then on the terrace with her late partner, will feel slightly indisposed, and despatch M. de Laginski to look for her carriage. And that will be all. On her return home Madame will find the opal necklace on her dressing-table, and, if she chooses, and her indisposition fortunately happens to pass off, can_reappear without her domino at Madame de Rohan's, and with the superb gift of Monsieur le Comte about her neck.'

'And you think I will do this?'

she hissed fiercely at him, in her rage and shame. Betray him!'

"Who spoke of" betray?" Madame will remember it was not I. But, since the word is spoken, I think you will. Useless!' he said, quickly, watching the motion of her hand that was hidden in her bosom.

'Useless! Do you think I trusted you so far as not to take my little precautions? They know yonder where I am and with whom I am. You would do well to take your hand off that murderous little toyyou would gain nothing by using it here. I might be provoked at last; and it would be a pity to break that dainty wrist of yours!' And, as Monsieur Glitstein snarled his last remark, he showed that he grasped under his cloak a short, pliant truncheon, loaded with a deadly weight of lead at its extremity.

'You understand, I see,' he added, as baffled and beaten the Vorazof fell back into her seat.

'Let me place your position before you,' he continued. If I am not mistaken, M. le Comte has already hinted to you that it would be well if you wore the necklace you left in Dornberg's hands to-morrow night. You best know what the consequences will be if you fail, as, without my aid, you will fail to do so. I was witness to your unfortunate loss just now at the tables; but if you had won that coup, you would have been little the better. Dornberg would have been unable to restore you the necklace to-morrow, for this reason, that it has passed from his possession to mine.' And, as he spoke, Monsieur Glitstein drew forth the shagreen case we have seen in his hands once before tonight.

The Vorazof recognized it at once. And then she realized perfectly how utterly she was in her companion's

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsæt »