“What is the war news to-day?...”
And while the old sailor was giving him the news, he read feverishly the few lines grouped beneath that name.
He was bewildered. The heading told little to one ignorant of the preceding facts to which the periodical alluded. These lines were simply voicing a protest against the government for not having made the famous Freya Talberg pay the penalty to which she had been sentenced. The paragraph terminated with mention of the beauty and elegance of the delinquent as though to these qualities might be attributed the delay in punishment.
Ferragut put forth all his efforts to give his voice a tone of indifference.
“Who is this individual?” he said, pointing to the heading of the article.
His companion had some difficulty in recalling her. So many things were happening because of the war....
“She is a boche, a spy, sentenced to death.... It appears that she did a great deal of work here and in other ports, sending word to the German submarines about the departure of our transports.... They arrested her in Paris two months ago when she was returning from Brest.”
His friend said this with a certain indifference. These spies were so numerous!... The newspapers were constantly publishing notices of their shooting:—two lines, no more, as though treating of an ordinary casualty.
“This Freya Talberg,” he continued, “has had enough said about her personality. It seems that she is a chic woman,—a species of lady from a novel. Many are protesting because she has not yet been executed. It is sad to have to kill one of her sex,—to kill a woman and especially a beautiful woman!... But nevertheless it is very necessary.... I believe that she is to be shot at any moment.”
The Mare Nostrum made another trip from Marseilles to Salonica.
Before sailing, Ferragut hunted vainly through the Paris periodicals for fresh news of Freya. For some days past, the attention of the public had been so distracted by various other events that for the time being the spy was forgotten.
On arriving at Salonica, he made discreet inquiries among his military and marine friends in the harbor cafes. Hardly any one had ever heard the name of Freya Talberg. Those who had read it in the newspapers merely replied with indifference.
“I know who she is: she is a spy who was an actress,—a woman with a certain chic. I think that they’ve shot her.... I don’t know certainly, but they ought to have shot her.”
They had more important things to think about. A spy!... On all sides they were discovering the intrigues of German espionage. They had to shoot a great many.... And immediately they forgot this affair in order to speak of the difficulties of the war that were threatening them and their comrades-at-arms.