“If she is dead, Wratslav,” he said, “what will be said of us, and what new trouble will arrive? Who is next in line of succession?”
“The Duchy,” said Wratslav, “will pass to the Grand Duke’s brother.”
“Not so bad, not so bad. The King would like that. I think, then, that the brother is the only one who will benefit by this unfortunate complication. The Salic law should be enforced throughout the whole world. When we have to deal with women, only the good God knows what’s going to happen. I am afraid the girl above told the truth.”
“But,” objected Wratslav, “even if she did, Excellency, you cannot take the risk of letting her go without orders from His Majesty. The Grand Duchess was always clever. She knew she was tracked down. It would be easy for her to pretend that she did not know her native language. You cannot let her go until you are sure.”
The Minister passed his hand wearily across his forehead and sighed.
“At any rate we can verify some of the details. You must go to Baltimore, Wratslav, and view the bodies. Arrange for the embalming. Say that the two are ladies of our country. Give any names you wish. Place both bodies in a vault until this thing is cleared up; and bring me half a dozen pictures of the young one, taken close to the face on every side. Note the hair, the clothes, any jewels she may have about her; but, above all, find out if there are any papers to be found. See also if there are identifying marks. Return to-night; for by to-morrow morning I must be ready to decide. I shall send no dispatches until then.”
His Excellency turned to his papers, and Wratslav left the room.
THE OPEN DOOR
That night, Mark Griffin and Father Murray sat in the priest’s room at the New Willard until very late. Father Murray was by far the more cheerful of the two, in spite of the strain upon him. Mark looked broken. He had come into a full knowledge of the fact that Ruth had not been false to him, and that no barrier existed to their union, but he could not close his eyes to the danger of the girl’s situation. Father Murray, however, could see no dark clouds.
“My dear Mark,” he said, “you don’t understand the kind of a country you are in. Affairs of state here do not justify murder, and an elected public official cannot, even in the name diplomacy, connive at it. It is true that a Minister cannot very well be arrested, but a Minister can be disgraced, which is worse to his mind. You may be sure that our knowledge of the murder of the Italian will be quite sufficient to keep His Excellency in a painful state of suspense, and ultimately force him to yield.”
“I could wish him,” said Mark, “a more painful state of suspense.”
Father Murray smiled at the grim jest. “He will never see the rope, Mark, you may be sure of that. But there will be no more murdering. The situation of the Ministry is bad enough as it is. His Excellency looked very much perturbed—for a diplomat—before I was done with him. There is nothing more certain than that he has had a messenger in Baltimore to-day, and, unless I mistake very much, he will be able to identify the body. Then they must free Ruth.”