The Prince bent his head and stooped to enter the cab. The tramp leaned forward, shot up his right arm; there came a flash of steel, and the next instant the tramp lay writhing on the sidewalk, one hand twisted under his back, the other held in the viselike grip of the black-bearded man. Alcorn rushed past me, threw himself on the prostrate tramp, slipped a pair of handcuffs over his wrists, dragged him to his feet, and with one hand on his throat backed him into the shadow of the side door.
The Prince smiled and stepped into his carriage. The black-bearded man dusted his white gloves one on the other, gave an order in a low tone to the coachman, took his place beside his companion and the two drove off.
I stood out in the rain and tried to pull myself together. The rapidity of the attack; the poise and strength of the black-bearded Russian; the quickness with which Alcorn had risen to the occasion; the absence of all outcry or noise of any kind—no one but ourselves witnessing the occurrence—had taken my breath away. That an attack had been made on the life of the Prince, and that it had been frustrated by his friend, was evident. It was also evident that accosting a Prince on the sidewalk at night without previous acquaintance was a dangerous experiment. When I recovered my wits both Alcorn and the would-be assassin had disappeared. So had the cab.
Only two morning journals had an account of the affair; one dismissed it with a fling at the police for not protecting our guests from annoyance, and the other stated that a drunken tramp had demanded the price of a night’s lodging from the Prince as he was leaving Delmonico’s, and that a member of the Prince’s suite had held the fellow until a policeman came along and took him to the station-house. Not a word of the murderous lunge, the flash of steel, the viselike grip of the black-bearded man or the click of the handcuffs.
That night I found Alcorn.
“Did that fellow try to stab the Prince?” I asked.
“With a knife?”
“No, a sword cane.”
“The papers didn’t say so.”
“No, I didn’t intend they should. Wouldn’t have been pleasant reading for his folks in St. Petersburg. Besides, we haven’t rounded up his gang yet.”
“The Prince didn’t seem to lose his nerve?” I asked.
“No, he isn’t built that way.”
“You know him, then?”
“Yes—been with him every day since he arrived.”
“Who is the black-bearded man with him?”
“He is his intimate friend, Count Lovusski. Been all over the world together.”
“Is Lovusski his only name?” This seemed to be my chance.
Alcorn turned quickly and looked into my face.
“On the dead quiet, is it?”
“Yes, Alcorn, you can trust me.”