“Maxendorf and I have spoken many times of the future of this country. The dream which he outlined for you, he has spoken of to me with glittering eyes, with heaving chest, with trembling voice. It was his scheme that I should take you to him. You, too, believed as I did. To-night I visited him. I stepped in upon the one weak moment of his life. He needed a confidant. He was bursting with joy and triumph. He showed me his heart; he showed me the great and terrible hatred which burns there for England and everything English. The people’s man, he calls himself! He is for the people of his own country and his own country only! You and I have been the tools of his crafty schemes. This country, if he possesses it, he will occupy as a conqueror. He will set his heel upon it. He will demand the greatest indemnity of all times. And every penny of it will flow into his beloved land. We thought that the dawn had come, we poor, miserable and deluded victims of his craft. We are dooming the people of this country to generations of slavery!”
Maraton for a moment sat quite still. When he spoke, his tone was singularly matter-of-fact.
“Where is Maxendorf?” he asked.
“Still at the hotel. The Embassy was not ready, and he has made excuses. He is more his own master there.”
Maraton turned to Ernshaw.
“Ernshaw,” he begged, “wait here for me. Wait.”
He took up his hat and left the room. Selingman stood almost as though he were praying.
“Now,” he muttered, “is the time for the strong man!”
Into the salon of Maxendorf’s suite at the Ritz Hotel, freed for a moment from its constant stream of callers, came suddenly, without announcement—from a place of hiding, indeed—Maraton. He stepped into the room swiftly and closed the door. Maxendorf was standing with his back to his visitor, bending over a map.
“Who’s that?” he asked, without looking up “You, Franz? You, Beldeman?”
There was no reply. Maxendorf straightened his gaunt figure and turned around. He stood there motionless, the palm of one hand covering the map at which he had been gazing, the lamplight shining on his gaunt, strangely freckled face.
“You!” he muttered.
Maraton remained still speechless. Maxendorf stretched out his hand for the telephone, but before he could grasp it, his hand was struck into the air. He wasted no time asking useless questions. His visitor’s face was enough.
“What have you to gain by this?” he demanded. “Even if you could take my life, it will alter nothing.”
Maraton caught him fiercely by the throat. Maxendorf, notwithstanding his superior height, was powerless. He was forced slowly backwards across the couch, on to the floor. Maraton knelt by his side. His grasp was never for a second relaxed.
“I leave you to-night,” Maraton whispered, “with a gasp or two of life in you, but remember this. If I fail to undo your work, as sure as I live, I will keep my word. My hand shall find your throat again—your throat, do you hear?—and shall hold you there, tighter and tighter, until the life slips out of your body, just as it is almost slipping now!”