The Secret of the Silver Car
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"Nothing to it," Anthony Trent said confidently. "She doesn't even like him as a friend. Does your sister know her well?"
"Next door neighbours in Cornwall," Maitland answered. "She married Lord Polruan."
So it was Maitland's sister who had dubbed him an American adventurer and indirectly warned the earl against the danger of having him on such intimate terms! And this unassuming young naval officer was of course a son of an earl, and would rightly be described as the Honourable Willoughby Maitland. Anthony Trent smiled. He could not help thinking how gratified his old housekeeper in Kennebago would be to think he moved in such company.
The two men reached Liverpool Street station at ten o'clock at night and taxied westward to Lord Rosecarrel's town house in Grosvenor Place.
The butler, that stern functionary who disapproved of democracy and the ambitions of the new rich, beamed a welcome when he beheld Anthony Trent. In a sense he felt the young American was one of the family. His greeting to Trent's friend as the son of an earl was respectful, but to Anthony he vouchsafed especial courtesy. It was very grateful to the wanderer. It was like coming home to a man who has no abiding place.
"His Lordship is attending a cabinet meeting," he said. "Her Ladyship is at an Albert Hall concert and Mr. Arthur is out of town."
It was plain from his manner that he expected Anthony Trent to make his quarters in the Rosecarrel town house.
"I must see his lordship instantly," Trent said. "Tell one of your men to whistle for a taxi."
"You seem to be very popular with old Barlow," Maitland said.
"I have spent the happiest hours of my life at Rosecarrel Castle," Anthony Trent said, Maitland thought with some little reserve.
At Downing Street the prime minister's butler could not conceive of such a thing as an interrupted cabinet meeting.
"It is business of state," Anthony Trent said loftily. "If you feel you have a right to dictate terms very well. But," he continued impressively, "I will promise you one thing. From tomorrow on, you will buttle for someone else."
It happened that the cabinet meeting, which had to do with domestic finance, was already ended.
The prime minister glanced at the card sent in, and turned to the private secretary of the Earl of Rosecarrel who had just entered the room.
"That splendid young man Willoughby Maitland who did so well at Zeebrugge is demanding an audience. I am rather tired. Do you mind seeing if it is of importance?"
"Certainly not, sir," said Colonel Langley.
He stopped short when he saw who accompanied the naval officer, and learned that it was Anthony Trent who had business with the premier.
"The last time I saw you," he said stiffly, "was under circumstances which give you no right to expect me to plead your cause."
"That may be," Trent said equably, "but I am here not to converse with you but your superiors.By the way who is prime minister now?"
"Llewellyn Morgan," Maitland said. "His third term."
It was Llewellyn Morgan Trent had met in Cornwall. Things looked brighter. "The premier knows me," he said to Colonel Langley, "and you are no doubt aware I am privileged to call Lord Rosecarrel my friend."
When the two reached the simply furnished room Lord Rosecarrel looked at the American with wide open eyes.
"My dear boy," he said affectionately, gripping both his hands. "I do not think you can believe how glad I am to see you."
"Isn't this the young man who had the presumption to outdrive me forty yards every time we stepped to a tee?"
The Right Honourable Llewellyn Morgan greeted him in so friendly a fashion that Colonel Langley was astounded. But there was another man, of cabinet rank, who scowled when he beheld it. Rudolph Castoon had attained his desire. He was now Chancellor of the Exchequer. And Castoon knew in his heart that it was because of Anthony Trent Lady Daphne Grenvil had refused him.
"Do I understand," he said, with a show of friendliness, "that you have news of such importance that it justifies, shall I say breaking in upon us here?"
"It is for the premier to decide," Trent said. Then he looked at Colonel Langley and took his revenge. Trent addressed the pleasant and amiable personage who sat at the head of the table. "Have I your word for it that this gentleman is entirely to be trusted?"
"He is my private secretary," Lord Rosecarrel said quickly.
"By all means let him remain," the premier decided.
Lord Rosecarrel was vaguely disturbed. So far as he knew there was nothing Trent could have learned at Castle Radna which justified this. To tell the assembled members of the cabinet of his errand and its success would spell disaster to the one who had sent him.
"Briefly it is this," Trent began, "Prince William, of Misselbach, was not drowned although a real corpse was buried. He is at the present time hiding and Count Mich?l Temesvar is planning to put him upon the throne of Hungary. I have seen him with my own eyes a dozen times although he was not aware of it. I had the luck to get a list of names of the prime movers in it. I could not keep the paper so I memorized them and wrote them down while on the destroyer which brought me from Fiume."
Trent passed it across the table to the prime minister.
"This is exceedingly important," he declared after reading it quickly. "Mr. Trent you have performed a service to this government and your own which entitles you to a reward of no mean character. Now have the goodness to answer these questions."
They were fired at him quickly and embraced a variety of subjects. It was only because of his retentive memory and trained powers of observation that he was able to satisfy the premier.
"It is unfortunate," said Rudolph Castoon, "that Mr. Trent was not able to bring us the original document. One's memory, even when one's intentions are of the best, can play off tricks."
He said it so obviously to discredit the American that Trent flushed and disclosed something that he had not meant publicly to announce.
"Do you know Baron Adolf Castoon?" he asked.
"Naturally," Castoon answered, "One does not easily forget to know one's eldest brother."
"Then I have news of your eldest brother which will cause you infinite concern," Trent said, with sympathy in his voice. "Baron Adolf is financing this revolutionary movement. I brought him up from Fiume one day and being assured I did not understand a word of German he was indiscreet enough to talk about it."
"It is a lie," Rudolph Castoon cried. "Adolf is loyal to the interests of the Allies. His public speeches are evidence of it."
"But I am speaking of private speeches," Trent said smiling.
"What were you doing that you came to drive him?"
"Acting as chauffeur," Trent replied. "I stored many interesting facts in my brain during that four hour ride."
"Of course," Castoon said turning to his chief, "you do not believe this sir?"
"I can only say that Baron Adolf's printed speeches, a copy of which you sent me, did not interest me greatly. I am much more eager to hear what he said in private."
"First of all," Castoon said, "may I ask why it was this young man went to the trouble of acting as chauffeur. It may be, of course, that it is his profession."
"That's interesting," Colonel Langley commented, "Why did he go there at all?"
"I went," said Anthony Trent, "because Lord Rosecarrel, who knows Count Mich?l and mistrusts him, asked me to go. He had an idea that I might be useful. I went and I think I can assure him I have succeeded in what he desired me to do."
Lord Rosecarrel breathed a sigh of relief. So, after all, this mysterious American had freed him from bondage.
Mr. Llewellyn Morgan looked at his friend reproachfully.
"And to have kept it from me," he said.
"The credit belongs to Mr. Trent and not to me," said Lord Rosecarrel. "To give merely a hint and have it followed to successful conclusion by another is not the lot of many. For my part I can never cease to feel under obligation to him."
"What we have heard," said the premier, "is under the seal of the most absolute secrecy." He turned to Castoon. "I am sorry for the news you have heard but it was not a matter of surprise to me. I have long heard unpleasing rumours as to the baron's sympathies. You understand that he must not be apprised in any way of this?"
"Certainly sir," Castoon returned stiffly. "I can hardly see the necessity of reminding me of it."
When the meeting had broken up Anthony Trent was amazed to see Colonel Langley's outstretched hand.
"I must apologize," he said frankly, "I did not know that you were working for my chief or that he regarded you so highly. You shoot I suppose?"
"Crazy over it," Anthony Trent admitted.
"I wish you would be one of the guns next September the first. My place is at Dereham Old Hall in Norfolk. You have never been to that part of the world I imagine?"
Anthony Trent looked at the tall colonel and understood.
"Never," he said, "but I shall be delighted to come."
Maitland remained after the others left. It was necessary that the premier should endorse his conduct with his own chief. British destroyers are not designed as passenger boats.
"Of course you are going to make your headquarters with us?" Lord Rosecarrel said and pointed to his waiting limousine.
"I think not," Trent returned. He had not forgotten that when he planned to go to Castle Radna he gave his word that he would seek no reward. To go back to Grosvenor Place would seem as though he had forgotten this.
"But I insist," the earl said.
"You are asking me to put myself in torment," he returned.
"Fiddlesticks!" the other cried, "How youth exaggerates."
Anthony Trent felt it was weak of him but he climbed into the car. The thought of seeing Daphne again was intoxicating. He was grateful that there was silence during the five minute ride.
The butler informed his master that Lady Daphne had come in and was now in bed.
"Did she know I was here?" Trent asked him.
"No, sir," said the man, "I did not see her ladyship."
The earl pushed a silver cigarette box over the table of his library.
"I don't want to talk of politics," he said, "until tomorrow."
"Nor I," Trent answered and passed the draft of the treaty to the other.
The earl held it in his fingers until the flame reached them. The paper was now ashes and a memory.
"Anthony Trent," said the earl, "No matter what you have done or what things have conspired to make your life unfortunate, you are a chivalrous gentleman. Let me smoke in silence for a little. My heart is too full for speech."
"Now," he said later, "Let me tell you about Arthur. He is splendid. He is my own lad again. The years that the locusts have eaten are still blotted from him. He has confidence in himself. He is marrying one of the dearest of girls next month. You are back in time. It is no secret that you are to be his best man."
"That's good news indeed," Trent said heartily.
"It has made me very happy," the earl said slowly, "and incidentally made me examine my conduct rather more severely than I had ever thought of doing."
"I'm afraid I don't see what you mean sir," the younger man said during the long pause.
"I will tell you. Here was the girl. Young, beautiful, of a great family. She had everything to offer and my son loved her. Here was the problem. Had I the right to let her marry him when there lay behind him those misspent years? I wondered whether I was not bound to tell her father of what he had done. It was true he was not responsible but nevertheless he had done them. In the end I persuaded myself that where love existed as it did between my son and the woman he is to marry, pasts counted for little."
Anthony Trent looked at him for a long time in silence.
"Had you any especial reason for telling me this?" he asked.
Lord Rosecarrel smiled.
"I am tired and must sleep," he said, "and my wits may be wool-gathering; but you know me well enough, I hope, to be sure that I have my reasons for making confidences."
"I am afraid to say what I think," stammered Anthony Trent.
"Then put it off until tomorrow," the earl laughed, "Go and sleep, my dear boy, even though it may be in torment. We breakfast rather later here than in the country. I don't suppose Daphne will be down until ten. We keep such late hours."