“But don’t you see—don’t you see you will be killed if—?” she began tensely.
“May I see the inventor, please?” Mr. Grimm interrupted.
For a little time she stood, white and rigid, staring at him. Then her lids fluttered down wearily, as if to veil some crushing agony within her, and she stepped aside. Mr. Grimm entered and the door closed noiselessly behind him. After a moment her hand rested lightly on his arm, and he was led into a room to his left. This door, too, she closed, immediately turning to face him.
“We may talk here a few minutes without interruption,” she said in a low tone. Her voice was quite calm now. “If you will be—?”
“Please understand, Miss Thorne,” he interposed mercilessly, “that I must see the inventor, whoever he is. What assurance have I that this is not some ruse to permit him to escape?”
“You have my word of honor,” she said quite simply.
“Please go on.” He sat down.
“You will see him too soon, I fear,” she continued slowly. “If you had not come to him he would have gone to you.” She swayed a little and pressed one hand to her eyes. “I would to God it were in my power to prevent that meeting!” she exclaimed desperately. Then, with an effort: “There are some things I want to explain to you. It may be that you will be willing to go then of your own free will. If I lay bare to you every step I have taken since I have been in Washington; if I make clear to you every obscure point in this hideous intrigue; if I confess to you that the Latin compact has been given up for all time, won’t that be enough? Won’t you go then?”
Mr. Grimm’s teeth closed with a snap.
“I don’t want that—from you,” he declared.
“But if I should tell it all to you?” she pleaded.
“I won’t listen, Miss Thorne. You once paid me the compliment of saying that I was one man you knew in whom you had never been disappointed.” The listless eyes were blazing into her own now. “I have never been disappointed in you. I will not permit you to disappoint me now. The secrets of your government are mine if I can get them—but I won’t allow you to tell them to me.”
“My government!” Miss Thorne repeated, and her lips curled sadly. “I—I have no government. I have been cast off by that government, stripped of my rank, and branded as a traitor!”
“Traitor!” Mr. Grimm’s lips formed the word silently.
“I failed, don’t you see?” she rushed on. “Ignominy is the reward of failure. Prince d’Abruzzi went on to New York that night, cabled a full account of the destruction of the compact to my government, and sailed home on the following day. I was the responsible one, and now it all comes back on me.” For a moment she was silent. “It’s so singular, Mr. Grimm. The fight from the first was between us—we two; and you won.”