As this story progressed, listened to most attentively by all, I noticed that one large man, flashily dressed, flushed somewhat, and that the rest turned and looked at him. When Andrews stopped, the Prince said, quietly:
“Count, that is your man.”
“Yes,” replied the man spoken to, very coolly. “There is, however, no truth,” he added, “in the latter part of the story; for I have had detectives shadow young Phillips ever since he returned to the city, and they report to me that he is a shallow, dissipated, drunken, worthless fellow, who spends his time about saloons and running after actresses and singers; and that it will not be long until he will have neither health nor fortune left.”
I need not say that I was an intent listener to everything, and especially to the latter part of the spy’s story. I pieced it out with what Maximilian had told me, and felt certain that Maximilian Petion and Arthur Phillips were one and the same person. I could now understand why it was that a gentleman so intelligent, frank and kindly by nature could have engaged in so desperate and bloody a conspiracy. Nor could I, with that awful narrative ringing in my cars, blame him much. What struck me most forcibly was that there was no attempt, on the part of the Count, to deny the sinister part of Jenkins’ story; and the rest of the Council evidently had no doubt of its truth; nor did it seem to lessen him a particle in their esteem. In fact, one man said, and the rest assented to the sentiment:
“Well, it is a lucky thing the villain is locked up, anyhow.”
There were some among these men whose faces were not bad. Under favorable circumstances they might have been good and just men. But they were the victims of a pernicious system, as fully as were the poor, shambling, ragged wretches of the streets and slums, who had been ground down by their acts into drunkenness and crime.
“When will the outbreak come?” asked one of the Council.
“That I cannot tell,” said Andrews. “They seem to be waiting for something, or there is a hitch in their plans. The men are eager to break forth, and are only held back by the leaders. By their talk they are confident of success when the insurrection does come.”
“What are their plans?” asked the Prince.
“They have none,” replied Andrews, “except to burn, rob, destroy and murder. They have long lists of the condemned, I am told, including all those here present, and hundreds of thousands besides. They will kill all the men, women and children of the aristocracy, except the young girls, and these will be reserved for a worse fate—at least that is what the men about the beer-houses mutter between their cups.”
The members of the government looked uneasy; some even were a trifle pale.
“Can you come here Wednesday night next and tell us what you learn during your visit to their ’Council of One Hundred’?” asked the Prince.