The words sounded so doubly strange from a girl of her evident refinement that I watched her narrowly, not sure yet but that we had a plain case of insanity to deal with.
“A murder?” repeated Kennedy incredulously. “You commit a murder?”
Her eyes rested on him, as if fascinated, but she did not flinch as she replied desperately, “Yes—Baron Kreiger—you know, the German diplomat and financier, who is in America raising money and arousing sympathy with his country.”
“Baron Kreiger!” exclaimed Kennedy in surprise, looking at her more keenly.
We had not met the Baron, but we had heard much about him, young, handsome, of an old family, trusted already in spite of his youth by many of the more advanced of old world financial and political leaders, one who had made a most favorable impression on democratic America at a time when such impressions were valuable.
Glancing from one of us to the other, she seemed suddenly, with a great effort, to recollect herself, for she reached into her chatelaine and pulled out a card from a case.
It read simply, “Miss Paula Lowe.”
“Yes,” she replied, more calmly now to Kennedy’s repetition of the Baron’s name, “you see, I belong to a secret group.” She appeared to hesitate, then suddenly added, “I am an anarchist.”
She watched the effect of her confession and, finding the look on Kennedy’s face encouraging rather than shocked, went on breathlessly: “We are fighting war with war—this iron-bound organization of men and women. We have pledged ourselves to exterminate all kings, emperors and rulers, ministers of war, generals—but first of all the financiers who lend money that makes war possible.”
She paused, her eyes gleaming momentarily with something like the militant enthusiasm that must have enlisted her in the paradoxical war against war.
“We are at least going to make another war impossible!” she exclaimed, for the moment evidently forgetting herself.
“And your plan?” prompted Kennedy, in the most matter-of-fact manner, as though he were discussing an ordinary campaign for social betterment. “How were you to—reach the Baron?”
“We had a drawing,” she answered with amazing calmness, as if the mere telling relieved her pent-up feelings. “Another woman and I were chosen. We knew the Baron’s weakness for a pretty face. We planned to become acquainted with him—lure him on.”
Her voice trailed off, as if, the first burst of confidence over, she felt something that would lock her secret tighter in her breast.
A moment later she resumed, now talking rapidly, disconnectedly, giving Kennedy no chance to interrupt or guide the conversation.
“You don’t know, Professor Kennedy,” she began again, “but there are similar groups to ours in European countries and the plan is to strike terror and consternation everywhere in the world at once. Why, at our headquarters there have been drawn up plans and agreements with other groups and there are set down the time, place, and manner of all the—the removals.”