“Your deficiencies in the matter of wisdom are unfortunate. That paper constitutes our chief asset, my dear associate. So long as we have it we are able to keep dear Francis in order. Therefore we shall hold fast to it, remembering that we risked much in removing it from the lamented Stroebel’s archives.”
“Do you say ‘risked much’? My valued neck, that is all!” said the other. “You and Winkelried are without gratitude.”
“You will do well,” said Chauvenet, “to keep an eye open in Vienna for the unknown. If you hear murmurs in Hungary one of these fine days—! Nothing has happened for some time; therefore much may happen.”
He glanced at his watch.
“I have work in Paris before sailing for New York. Shall we discuss the matter of those Peruvian claims? That is business. These other affairs are more in the nature of delightful diversions, my dear comrade.”
They drew nearer the table and Durand produced a box of papers over which he bent with serious attention. Armitage had heard practically all of their dialogue, and, what was of equal interest, had been able to study the faces and learn the tones of voice of the two conspirators. He was cramped from his position on the narrow balcony and wet and chilled by the rain, which was now slowly abating. He had learned much that he wished to know, and with an ease that astonished him; and he was well content to withdraw with gratitude for his good fortune.
His legs were numb and he clung close to the railing of the little ladder for support as he crept toward the area. At the second story his foot slipped on the wet iron, smooth from long use, and he stumbled down several steps before he recovered himself. He listened a moment, heard nothing but the tinkle of the rain in the spout, then continued his retreat.
As he stepped out upon the brick courtyard he was seized from behind by a pair of strong arms that clasped him tight. In a moment he was thrown across the threshold of a door into an unlighted room, where his captor promptly sat upon him and proceeded to strike a light.
A LOST CIGARETTE CASE
To other woods the trail leads on,
To other worlds and new,
Where they who keep the secret here
Will keep the promise too.
—Henry A. Beers.
The man clenched Armitage about the body with his legs while he struck a match on a box he produced from his pocket. The suddenness with which he had been flung into the kitchen had knocked the breath out of Armitage, and the huge thighs of his captor pinned his arms tight. The match spurted fire and he looked into the face of the servant whom he had seen in the room above. His round head was covered with short, wire-like hair that grew low upon his narrow forehead. Armitage noted, too, the man’s bull-like neck, small sharp eyes and bristling mustache. The fitful flash of the match disclosed the rough furniture of a kitchen; the brick flooring and his wet inverness lay cold at Armitage’s back.