“P. S. The prince and I left the steamer at Montauk Point, on a tug-boat.”
Mr. Grimm kissed the note twice, then burned it.
A room, low-ceilinged, dim, gloomy, sinister as an inquisition chamber; a single large table in the center, holding a kerosene lamp, writing materials and a metal spheroid a shade larger than a one-pound shell; and around it a semicircle of silent, masked and cowled figures. There were twelve of them, eleven men and a woman. In the shadows, which grew denser at the far end of the room, was a squat, globular object, a massive, smooth-sided, black, threatening thing of iron.
One of the men glanced at his watch—it was just two o’clock—then rose and took a position beside the table, facing the semicircle. He placed the timepiece on the table in front of him.
“Gentlemen,” he said, and there was the faintest trace of a foreign accent, “I shall speak English because I know that whatever your nationality all of you are familiar with that tongue. And now an apology for the theatric aspect of all this—the masks, the time and place of meeting, and the rest of it.” He paused a moment. “There is only one person living who knows the name and position of all of you,” and by a sweep of his hand he indicated the motionless figure of the woman. “It was by her decision that masks are worn, for, while we all know the details of the Latin compact, there is a bare chance that some one will not sign, and it is not desirable that the identity of that person be known to all of us. The reason for the selection of this time and place is obvious, for an inkling of the proposed signing has reached the Secret Service. I will add the United States was chosen as the birthplace of this new epoch in history for several reasons, one being the proximity to Central and South America; and another the inadequate police system which enables greater freedom of action.”
He stopped and drew from his pocket a folded parchment. He tapped the tips of his fingers with it from time to time as he talked.
“The Latin compact, gentlemen, is not the dream, of a night, nor of a decade. As long as fifty years ago it was suggested, and whatever differences the Latin countries of the world have had among themselves, they have always realized that ultimately they must stand together against—against the other nations of the world. This idea germinated into action three years ago, and since that time agents have covered the world in its interest. This meeting is the fruition of all that work, and this,” he held the parchment aloft, “is the instrument that will unite us. Never has a diplomatic secret been kept as this has been kept; never has a greater reprisal been planned. It means, gentlemen, the domination of the world—socially, spiritually, commercially and artistically; it means that England and the United States, whose sphere of influence has extended around the globe, will be beaten back, that the flag of the Latin countries will wave again over lost possessions. It means all of that, and more.”