It was, however, quite within the probabilities that they would send some one to watch him, for the two men whom he had overheard in the dark house on the Boulevard Froissart were active and resourceful rascals, he had no doubt. Whether they would be able to make anything of the cigarette case he had stupidly left behind he could not conjecture; but the importance of recovering the packet he had cut from Chauvenet’s coat was not a trifle that rogues of their caliber would ignore. There was, the purser said, a sick man in the second cabin, who had kept close to his berth. The steward believed the man to be a continental of some sort, who spoke bad German. He had taken the boat at Liverpool, paid for his passage in gold, and, complaining of illness, retired, evidently for the voyage. His name was Peter Ludovic, and the steward described him in detail.
“Big fellow; bullet head; bristling mustache; small eyes—”
“That will do,” said Armitage, grinning at the ease with which he identified the man.
“You understand that it is wholly irregular for us to let such a matter pass without acting—” said the purser.
“It would serve no purpose, and might do harm. I will take the responsibility.”
And John Armitage made a memorandum in his notebook:
“Zmai—; travels as Peter Ludovic.”
Armitage carried the envelope which he had cut from Chauvenet’s coat pinned into an inner pocket of his waistcoat, and since boarding the King Edward he had examined it twice daily to see that it was intact. The three red wax seals were in blank, replacing those of like size that had originally been affixed to the envelope; and at once after the attack on the dark deck he opened the packet and examined the papers—some half-dozen sheets of thin linen, written in a clerk’s clear hand in black ink. There had been no mistake in the matter; the packet which Chauvenet had purloined from the old prime minister at Vienna had come again into Armitage’s hands. He was daily tempted to destroy it and cast it in bits to the sea winds; but he was deterred by the remembrance of his last interview with the old prime minister.
“Do something for Austria—something for the Empire.” These phrases repeated themselves over and over again in his mind until they rose and fell with the cadence of the high, wavering voice of the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna as he chanted the mass of requiem for Count Ferdinand von Stroebel.
“THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING”
Low he lies, yet high and great
Looms he, lying thus in state.—
How exalted o’er ye when
Dead, my lords and gentlemen!
—James Whitcomb Riley.