Wyndham Martyn.

The Secret of the Silver Car



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There was one moment of dreadful anticipation for the American. He noticed that Hentzi was permitting himself to argue with his master. Suddenly as the twain passed by Trent's refuge the count buffetted his secretary on the head. It was Count Mich?l's favorite expression of annoyance. Trent himself had suffered thus on the golf links. Hentzi ducked in time to receive merely a glancing blow but he gripped the arm of Trent's chair to steady himself. If he had taken his eyes off the count's still upraised hand he could not have failed to see the intruder.

For a full half hour Anthony Trent sat quiet. Then the count and Hentzi left him alone. Now that immediate risk of detection seemed past Trent assured himself that his evening had been well spent. Undoubtedly Count Mich?l's rooms, the rooms he wanted to investigate – were those through whose windows the two had come and gone. He memorized as well as he could the position in the corridors the doors would occupy. The discovery of this courtyard three floors in depth helped him to understand what had baffled him in his explorations of the corridors many of which came to abrupt meaningless ends. In other days they had continued across the space that had once been arsenal, magazine and strong room.

He made his way through the open window and past the sleeping men without mishap. In the corner of a panel in the armoire he bored two small holes and blew away the dust that fell from them. He descended the copper pipe prepared to find his room invaded by vengeful servants. But it was as he had left it. It was not for his arrest that the count had dragged Arlfrit into his conversation.

Chapter Ten
THE GREATER GAME

Trent was annoyed next morning to learn from Hentzi that he was to accompany Pauline and the count to the links. The only redeeming thing about the expedition was that he himself could get a few strokes in the demonstration.

The count was in high good spirits and gracious to them all.

"Ah, Arlfrit," he cried, "this is my last game for two weeks. Yes, I shall be too busy playing another and a greater game. And you, too, will be busy. Tell me you know the roads to Fiume, Zengg and Agram well?"

"I could set them to music," Trent said forgetting that it was Alfred Anthony who was answering his august employer. He waited until the count drove. He saw that the autocrat broke every rule of the many which go to make a perfect drive yet sent his ball every inch of two hundred yards. Never had Count Mich?l done such a thing before.

"Let us see you beat that," he said dramatically.

Trent pressed. He wanted to outdrive the other by fifty yards and ordinarily would have done so. He took too much earth and sent a rocketting ball skyward which dropped full fifty yards behind the other.

"That was very tactful of you," Pauline whispered. "His Excellency will be in a good temper the whole day."

"Do you think I tried to do that?" he asked.

"Why not?" she asked, "I only know you are of a timid disposition.

I hate timid men."

"I can't help being timid," he said grinning genially, "it's my nature."

So gratified was the count by his unusual showing at the game that he did not notice how close Pauline kept to Alfred Anthony. It was nervous work for Anthony and he answered the girl abruptly trying to keep her attention on the game.

"You are two men," she said presently when Hentzi and his employer were a little ahead of them. For a moment Trent was thoroughly alarmed. What did she know?

He had always known that it was a fallacy to assume because he had seen none on his midnight wanderings that he had been unobserved. In a vast house such as Castle Radna there were nooks and crannies where frightened servants or timid guests might hide from him momentarily only to denounce him later.

"What do you mean?" he asked teeing up her ball. He had not answered her immediately.

"That you are two men. There may be three of you but I have seen two already. There is the timid, servile creature accepting a coin or a blow and eating with the servants as among his equals. I hate that man. The other is a creature that every now and then looks out of your eyes like a bird of prey. It is the man who drives the great car over the mountain passes as though it were on a smooth boulevard. It is the man who beat big Peter Sissek to the earth with tight lips and eyes that flashed. That is a man I could love."

He could feel her arm brush against his own. There was a caressing tenderness in her voice.

"Tell me, which is the real you?"

Anthony Trent looked straight ahead of him.

"If you slice your ball," he said, "you'll get into the rough. Golf, like other things is largely a matter of self control."

"I could kill you," she said, her eyes blazing.

"Think of my wife and children," he answered with a grin.

"That is why," she retorted. "The count is right. One should have only contempt for lackeys. I honor you too much as it is."

"Fine!" Trent observed, "suits me all right. How many quarterings of nobility have you Mademoiselle Pauline?"

"I at least am an artiste," she flung back at him. "To be the most graceful skater in the world and to have earned more in a week than you in a year is something which puts me as far above you as Count Mich?l Temesvar."

"Absolutely," Trent agreed, "take your mashie here and go back slowly and don't look up for three seconds after hitting the ball."

Pauline was certainly a splendidly athletic woman. She held herself magnificently and was at her best this morning but merely to be with her bored the pseudo-chauffeur who had thoughts only for Daphne. Daphne could have given her two strokes a hole and a beating, he reflected. Gloom seized on him as he wondered if ever again he would see her. He was in peril in Castle Radna even as an honest worker. Peter Sissek had sworn to pay him for the beating. Half of Trent's energies were consumed in going over his car to make sure the bolts and nuts were tight and had not been loosened maliciously.

And in his position as an emissary of the Earl of Rosecarrel he was in danger of the most vivid kind. He was a spy in a house which sheltered a princeling who might yet force Europe into war. If it were discovered he possessed this secret nothing could save him. It was a sinister, dour pile of stone, this Castle Radna utterly unlike the Cornish castle with its rose gardens, its fountains and the charm of country life. He could well believe that in his present dwelling tragedies has been enacted of which no knowledge had filtered through to the larger world. Oddly enough it was during the day when he was peacefully employed as Alfred Anthony that he was most obsessed by despondency. When the servants were long abed and asleep and the silences of the early hours hung about the great corridors and halls Anthony Trent came into his own. His rubbershod feet were noiseless in the stone passages and his two pass keys opened every locked door. He was possessed of all secrets it seemed to him. Here he was free to wander like a ghost in banquet hall and corridor. None walked so silently as he.

Pauline did not talk to him any more that morning but the count was affable.

"Ah, Arlfrit," he cried, "tomorrow your work commences. Yes. You leave for Fiume at daybreak and meet the Ungarisch-Kroatische boat. This time you will go alone as you will have a passenger beside you as you return. You will wait at the Hotel de l'Europe. The boat gets to her dock at eleven and my guests will drive immediately to the motor. Make speed back for you must go to Agram and back before dinner."

"That will be going some!" Trent commented.

"For what reason do you suppose I buy a Lion car and a chauffeur if not to do what my other automobiles and chauffeurs cannot do? Why do you imagine I introduce a Londoner into my servants hall, a brawling man who assaults good Peter Sissek if not because he must travel fast and safely?"

But the count was not angry. He was in that good humor which comes to all men who having been in the habit of taking seven for a last hole make it in four. Pauline had taken six and he had not permitted his record to be clouded by allowing Trent (as Pauline suggested) to see what he could do it in.

Anthony Trent started on his trip when it was as yet hardly light. He was singularly carefree. The repulsive Sissek was not at his side and he was free to wander about the seaport town, locate the cable offices and make certain arrangements that might contribute to future safety. That he was invariably able to make such good time was due mainly to the absence of traffic along the Maria Louisa road. Not yet had the old prosperity come back to Europe and there were more automobiles in Allenhurst, New Jersey, than all Croatia.

He was bound to admit that the group of people he took from the Hotel de l'Europe lived up to all the traditions of mysterious fiction. There were two men, middle aged and plainly used to power, and a very pretty vivacious dark woman of five and thirty to whom her escorts paid profound attention. The seat beside Trent was occupied by the lady's maid. The black morocco dressing case she held inexorably upon her knees was marked with a coronet. The woman was hard-faced, elderly and uncommunicative. Trent noticed that her mistress was in that deep mourning which European women affect.

Trent tried the maid in English but she made no answer at all. He strained his ears to catch what language was being talked behind him but the Lion was a car of tremendous wheel base and the passengers were removed too far from him.

Once or twice in the old days, particularly in the case of the Sinn Fein plot Anthony Trent had found his lack of knowledge of German a handicap. This linguistic failing was now remedied. He had studied the tongue carefully; and as languages were easily acquired by him had some fair proficiency in it.

He was not certain whether it was a trap or a genuine desire to know that made the woman after a whispered talk with the lady in black say to him suddenly, "Wenn wir nur nicht unwerfen; die Strassen sind nicht besonders hier zu Lande."

It was his first impulse to tell her that she would not be upset and that they would soon get on to the better roads. Then he remembered Alfred Anthony knew but little of any tongue but his own. He smiled at her and shrugged his shoulders.

"Try it in English," he commanded smiling. "No speak Dutch."

She did not take the trouble to answer. It was, he decided, a trap to find if he understood. Perhaps it was counted in his favor, this ignorance of continental tongues.

At Agram he fetched six other people. He found that Sissek and another chauffeur had been busy also. Hentzi, always desirous of impressing those beneath him in rank, told Trent he was to be guest tonight at a table which would hold some of the great ones of the country.

"Will Pauline be among those present?" Trent asked.

"Pauline!" Hentzi sneered, "there will be gracious, high-born ladies at the table and among these our Pauline has no part. She knows that."

"What time do you dine?" Trent asked. It was now seven o'clock and Hentzi was not in evening dress.

"At half past eight. There is one among us who likes the late dinners of the English and his likings must be obeyed even by Count Mich?l."

"An Englishman?" Trent queried.

"My friend," Hentzi said impressively, "if he could take all the British and all the Americans and sink them in mid-ocean he would be entirely happy. I do not think you understand world politics, eh?"

"I follow the racing and footer news," Trent confessed. "I'm not so much on politics. A set of grafters if you ask me."

Trent spent an hour on his car. He filled the tanks with gasoline and saw that his spare tires were ready and made the little adjustments that only sensitive fingers may perform. As a rule he drove the car straight into the garage and backed out. Tonight he backed into it. There might be the sudden need to utilize every moment.

Hentzi's news was good. A dinner of state commencing at half past eight would be continued long after dark. Of necessity the count would be there and undoubtedly the officer and his royal master would grace the board. Entrance could easily be made through their room and over the courtyard to the Count Mich?l's apartment. There would be time for a thorough search.

The kitchens were full of bustling maids assisting the cooks. There was so much confusion that Trent helped himself amply to what food he desired and strolled out to the garage to eat it. More than half was stowed away in his car. If he were able to get away that night, as he hoped, it might come in handily for breakfast.

His plan was to place the treaty draft in an envelope already addressed and stamped and mail it at Fiume. After that he would take the car into Italy if possible and make for Venice whence he could come easily to England.

The servants saw him take a candle and walk wearily to his room. They remembered he had been up before dawn broke. Not one of them had any suspicions that he was aught but what he represented himself to be.

At half past ten Anthony Trent, looking through the carved oaken musicians gallery twenty feet above the floor of the banqueting hall, beheld a notable company assembled. When he saw that the prince had at his side the vivacious dark lady, he remembered that the weekly pictorial papers had often presented her to their readers. She was the daughter of a royal house lately at war with his country. To her diplomatic skill and love of intrigue was due many checks to allied plans. It was said she ruled her husband absolutely and loved him little.

Trent recognized the two men he had brought with him. They were in evening dress as was Count Mich?l and decorated with many orders, of St. Stephen of Hungary among others. The military attach? bristled with medals and there were others in brilliant uniforms.

No other woman was present but the princess. Her jewels made Trent's mouth water. No doubt the maid had carried them at his side for several hours and would, for all he had to do with it, carry them back. Not for a moment dare he think of taking them. It was obvious that the count would make no outcry about the loss of the draft if that alone were taken. He would piece things together and understand the riddle of Alfred Anthony. But were the valuables of his guests taken it might be a police matter.

So great was the buzz of conversation that Trent could catch no memorable phrase. Here and there was a name he had heard of but that was all. He noticed that Hentzi was not a guest despite his boasting. This in itself was awkward for the secretary might be even now in the big room to which the master criminal was bound. He was relieved presently to observe Hentzi hovering on the outskirts of the room directing the servants, a sort of super-major-domo.

It was exactly eleven when he crossed the dark courtyard and opened one of the long French windows of Count Mich?l's room. It was in darkness. A little water driven power plant supplied some of the chief rooms of Castle Radna with electric light and he was able, after screening the windows to flood the room with light. It was an apartment the counterpart in size and decoration of the one occupied by the prince, across the courtyard.

Almost the first thing Anthony Trent saw was the safe. And as he looked on it he knew his hopes were in vain and the draft of the treaty could remain there indefinitely for all his skill availed or all the knowledge of the greatest "petemen" would aid, had he possessed it.

Count Mich?l Temesvar was not one of those who entrusted precious things to insecure keeping. It was a Chubbwood burglar proof safe of a type Trent had heard of but never before seen. The double-dialled cannon ball safe of the American maker was the nearest approach to this gleaming mocking thing which faced him. There was no chance that any forcing screw or wedge could damage the bolts. The locks were so protected that drilling was impossible and no nitro-glycerine could be used. The oxy-acetylene blowpipe, high explosives or electric arc were useless here. It was the last word of a safemaking firm which had been in the business for more than a century. Trent did not doubt, as he gazed at it, that there would be developed by the need of it craftsmen who could open even this. But the time was not yet.

Count Mich?l Temesvar had been wise in buying the only safe in the world whose patent had been extended by the Privy Council of Great Britain. With his gloved hands Trent touched the thing lightly. The millionth chance that it might not be locked was against him. He was wasting his time. Quickly he made a methodical search of the room but found nothing that interested him.

On his own bed he sat for an hour wondering what to do. He had been so certain when speaking to Lord Rosecarrel that his professional skill would accomplish what others had failed to do that this disappointment was bitter indeed.

He had wondered why the count had taken so little caution in permitting a foreigner of the same supposed nationality as Lord Rosecarrel to live in Castle Radna. It was, plainly, because the count knew perfectly well that the Chubbwood safe preserved his treasures inviolate.

Probably no living crook could break into it even though he had a year in which to work. It was undrillable, unscathed by fire and could repose at the bottom of the sea without its contents becoming damaged.

Trent's first thought of compelling the count to give up the combination by force promised an unhappy ending. Surrounded by servants and friends he would assuredly be interrupted before he could be forced to give up his secret.

Hentzi would never be entrusted with the combination. None would know it but Count Mich?l. For a moment he wondered if Pauline might be dragged into it to exercise her Delilah arts on her protector.

"There must be some way out of it," Trent murmured a hundred times as he sat on his bed's edge.

Dawn was breaking as he closed his eyes. His expression was calm and untroubled. He had found his solution.

Chapter Eleven
ANTHONY PLAYS HIS HAND

Lord Rosecarrel opened his town house in Grosvenor Place at the beginning of May for the London season. Lady Daphne observed that he had shaken off the gloom and apathy which had engulfed him for the last few years. He began to take a more vivid interest in the international situations which grew out of the Peace Conference. He began to talk to the girl again about the aims of nations with respect to Persia and indirectly with the future of India.

The earl was waiting impatiently for her one night when she came back from an opera party given in her honor by Rudolph Castoon.

"Daphne," he began abruptly, "Do you believe absolutely in the bona fides of Anthony Trent?"

The girl felt herself coloring.

"Absolutely," she said steadily, "Why?"

"I have had a long cable from him," he returned. "A cable so extraordinary that I can hardly believe he sent it. Here it is. It is only partly in cipher for the reason the cipher code I made was not intended for a message such as this. What you would not understand I have decoded."

The girl took the slip of paper eagerly.

"At once," she read, "allow papers to announce you have decided to come from retirement and accept public office. If Temesvar wires for confirmation persist in your statement. If he threatens tell him he has not got treaty. Tell him if he has it to bring it to the prime minister. Follow these instructions implicitly otherwise I can never succeed."

"And will you?" Daphne demanded breathlessly.

"I don't know," the earl said slowly. "It seems rather a desperate thing to do. You must have heard rumors that I have been offered the enormously important position of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the cabinet that will be formed when the present government goes out of office. There will be two men there who are my enemies. There is, for instance, Rudolph Castoon whose guest you have been tonight and Buchanan who will be Home Secretary. Castoon knows I do not trust him wholly. There is always a danger in making a man of his kind Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has a brother in every great country and some of them have been our bitter enemies in the past. Buchanan, of course, exercises enormous influence through his newspapers and seems to feel a personal grievance against me."

"It was because you never would invite him here or to the castle," she answered, "although he was forever spelling for an invitation. Those nouveaux riches are very sensitive."

"If I accepted office," the earl went on slowly, "I should have these two men against me. And if by any ill chance it should become known that I did not destroy the draft of a treaty which was entrusted to me Buchanan would see his opportunity and use his wretched papers to the full. I should be forced out of public life. I have always been intolerant of breaches of faith and that would be remembered against me as a mark of hypocrisy."

"But Mr. Trent says Count Mich?l Temesvar hasn't got the treaty," she cried, "and that means he has it."



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