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Title: In the Name of the People

Author: Arthur W. Marchmont

Illustrator: A. Forestier

Release date: April 9, 2022 [eBook #67801]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: Ward, Locke and Co., Limited, 1911

Credits: D A Alexander, David E. Brown, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)




The Court Circular says:—“There is always something supremely audacious about Mr. Marchmont’s books. This, however, I will say, that for a long evening’s solid enjoyment ‘When I was Czar’ would be hard to beat.”

The Nottingham Guardian says:—“The best story of political intrigue which has been written since ‘The Prisoner of Zenda,’ with which it compares for the irresistible buoyancy by which it is told and the skill in which expectation is maintained on tiptoe till the last move.”

The Freeman’s Journal says:—“A very brilliant work, every page in it displays the dramatic talent of the author and his capacity for writing smart dialogue.”


The Sporting Life says:—“Every page is full of incident and bright dialogue. The characters are strongly and vividly drawn, and the development of the whole story shows the author to be a thorough master of his craft.”

The Scotsman says:—“The action never flags, the romantic element is always paramount, so that the production is bound to appeal successfully to all lovers of spirited fiction.”

The Notts Guardian says:—“The interest is absorbing and cumulative through every chapter, and yet the tale is never overloaded with incident. The vigour and reality of the story does not flag to the last page.”

The Court Journal says:—“One of those intricate webs of intrigue and incident in the weaving of which the author has no equal.”


The Dundee Courier says:—“To say that the clever author of ‘When I was Czar’ has eclipsed that stirring romance is to bring one within the sphere of the incredible. But it is true. The present novel is full to overflowing of boundless resource and enterprise, which cannot but rouse even the most blasé of readers.”

The Daily Mail says:—“The story is undoubtedly clever. Mr. Marchmont contrives to invest his most improbable episodes with an air of plausibility, and the net result is an exciting and entertaining tale.”

The Birmingham Post says:—“Mr. Marchmont creates numerous thrilling situations which are worked out with dramatic power, his description of the interior of a Turkish prison, with all its horrors, being a realistic piece of work.”


The Times:—“Mr. Marchmont’s tales always have plenty of go. He is well up to his standard in this busy and exciting narrative.”

The Globe:—“Mr. A. W. Marchmont can always write an exciting story bristling with adventures and hazard, and incidents of all sorts. ‘In the Cause of Freedom’ furnishes a good example of his talent. Vivid, packed with drama, with action that never flags, this novel ought to appeal successfully to all lovers of romantic and spirited fiction.”

The People’s Saturday Journal:—“It is an admirable example of the type of exciting fiction for which Mr. Marchmont is justly famous, and lacks nothing in the way of plot and incident.”


The Daily News says:—“Written in a vigorous and lively manner, adventures throng the pages, and the interest is maintained throughout.”

The Belfast Northern Whig says:—“As one book follows another from Mr. Marchmont’s pen we have increased breadth of treatment, more cleverly constructed plots and a closer study of human life and character. His present work affords ample evidence of this.”

Madam says:—“A thrilling story, the scene of which takes us to the heart of the terrible Servian tragedy. We are taken through a veritable maze of adventure, even to that dreadful night of the assassination of the Royal couple. A very readable story.”


The Daily Telegraph says:—“An exciting romance of the ‘cloak and rapier.’ The fun is fast and furious; plot and counterplot, ambushes and fightings, imprisonment and escapes follow each other with a rapidity that holds the reader with a taste for adventure in a state of more or less breathless excitement to the close. Mr. Marchmont has a spirited manner in describing adventure, allowing no pause in the doings for overdescription either of his characters or their surroundings.”

The Bristol Mercury says:—“A very striking picture of France at a period of absolute social and political insecurity. The author’s characters are drawn with such art as to make each a distinct personality. ‘A Courier of Fortune’ is quite one of the liveliest books we have read.”


The Morning Leader says:—“A stirring tale of dramatic intensity, and full of movement and exciting adventure. The author has evolved a character worthy to be the wife of Sherlock Holmes. She is the heroine; and what she did not know or could not find out about the Hungarian Patriot Party was not worth knowing.”

The Standard says:—“Mr. Marchmont is one of that small band of authors who can always be depended upon for a distinct note, a novel plot, an original outlook. ‘By Wit of Woman’ is marked by all the characteristic signs of Mr. Marchmont’s work.”


The Sheffield Telegraph says:—“The reader once inveigled into starting the first chapter is unable to put the book down until he has turned over the last page.”

Manchester City News says:—“It is no whit behind its predecessors in stirring episode, thrilling situation and dramatic power. The story grips in the first few lines and holds the reader’s interest until ‘finis’ is written.”

The Scotsman says:—“A romance, brimful of incident and arousing in the reader a healthy interest that carries him along with never a pause—a vigorous story with elements that fascinate. In invention and workmanship the novel shows no falling off from the high standard of Mr. Marchmont’s earlier books.”


“‘To whom are you going to give the papers you have
just received from M. Dagara?’” (Page 193.)


Author of “When I was Czar,” “The
Queen’s Advocate,” etc., etc.





I An Unpropitious Start 9
II Developments 18
III The Reception 28
IV Miralda 38
V Inez 49
VI Dr. Barosa 59
VII Sampayo is Uneasy 70
VIII Miralda’s Mask 79
IX The Interrogation 90
X A Drastic Test 100
XI Police Methods 110
XII The Real “M.D.” 121
XIII Miralda’s Confidence 132
XIV Alone with Sampayo 143
XV In the Flush of Success 151
XVI Barosa’s Secret 161
XVII A Little Chess Problem 172
XVIII Dagara’s Story 180
XIX Spy Work 190[8]
XX A Night Adventure on the River     199
XXI Plot and Counterplot 207
XXII Ready 216
XXIII On the Rampallo 226
XXIV A Tight Corner 235
XXV Ill News 244
XXVI In Sight of Victory 253
XXVII Dr. Barosa Scores 263
XXVIIIYou Shall Die 272
XXIX Miralda’s Appeal 280
XXX Jealousy 289
XXXI A Night of Torment 299
XXXII A Hundred Lashes 309
XXXIII The Luck Turns 318
XXXIV On the Track 327
XXXV The Problem of an Empty House 335
XXXVI Until Life’s End 343



“318, Rua de Palma,
September 20, 1907.


“I’m here at last, and the above is my address. The Stella dropped her anchor in the Tagus yesterday afternoon, and within half an hour I was at the Visconte de Linto’s house. That will show you I mean my campaign to be vigorous. But the Visconte and his wife are at Coimbra, and Miralda is with them. I should have been off in pursuit of her by the first train; but I managed to find out that they are with friends there and will be back to-morrow for a big reception. As that is just the sort of place I should choose before all others for the meeting with Miralda, I promptly set to work to get an invitation. I have done it all right. I got it through that M. Volheno whom you and Stefan brought on a visit to us at Tapworth, just after I got home from South Africa. Tell Stefan, by the way, that Volheno is quite a big pot and high in the confidence of the Dictator. I told him, of course, that I had come here about the mining concessions in East Africa; and I shall rub that in to every one. I think his mouth watered a bit at the prospect of getting something for himself; anyway, he was awfully decent and promised me all sorts of a good time here. Among the introductions he mentioned was one to the de Lintos! I kept my face[10] as stiff as a judge’s; but I could have shrieked. Imagine a formal introduction to Miralda! ‘Mademoiselle Dominguez. Mr. Donnington,’ and those eyes of hers wide with astonishment, and her lips struggling to suppress her laughter! I really think I must let him do it, just to see her face at the moment. Anyway, I shall see her to-morrow night. Ye gods! It’s over four months since I fell before her beauty as intuitively as a pagan falls before the shrine of the little tin god he worships. I hope no one has got in the way meanwhile; if there is any one—well, I’ll do my best to give him a bad time. I’m not here for my health, as the Yanks say; nor for the health of any other fellow. By all of which you will see I am in good spirits, and dead set on winning.

“By the way, I hear that things are in the very devil of a mess in the city; and Volheno told me—unofficially of course—that the streets are positively unsafe after dark. But I was out for a couple of hours last night, renewing my acquaintance with the city, and saw no ripple of trouble. After his warning I shoved a revolver in my pocket; but a cigar-holder would have been just as much good. I should rather like a scrap with some of the Lisbon ragamuffins.

“I’ve taken a furnished flat here; yacht too awkward to get to and from; and a hotel impossible—too many old women gossips.

“Love to your hub and the kiddies.

“Your affect. brother,

“PS. Think of it. To-morrow night by this time I shall have met her again. Don’t grin. You married a Spaniard; and for love too. And you’re not ashamed of being beastly happy. R. D.

“PPS. Mind. I hold you to your promise. If there is any real trouble about M. and I need you, you are to come the moment I wire. Be a good pal,[11] and don’t back down. But I think I shall worry through on my own.”

I have given this letter because it explains the circumstances of my presence in Lisbon. A love quest. In the previous March, my sister’s husband, Stefan Madrillo, who is on the staff of the Spanish Embassy in Paris, had introduced me to Miralda Dominguez—the most beautiful girl in Paris as she was generally acknowledged; and although up to that moment I had never cared for any woman, except my sister, and the thought of marriage had never entered my head, the whole perspective of life was changed on the instant.

The one desire that possessed me was to win her love; the one possible prospect which was not utterly barren and empty of everything but wretchedness, was that she would give herself to me for life.

I had one advantage over the crowd of men whom the lodestone of her beauty drew round her. I had lived in her country, spoke her language as readily as my own, and could find many interests in common. Naturally I played that for all it was worth.

From the first moment of meeting I was enslaved by her stately grace, her ravishing smile, her soft, liquid, sympathetic voice, the subtle but ineffable charm of her presence, and the dark lustrous eyes into which I loved to bring the changing lights of surprise, curiosity, interest and pleasure.

I was miserable when away from her; and should have been wholly happy in her presence if it had not been for the despairing sense of unworthiness which plagued and depressed me. She was a goddess to me, and I a mere clod.

For three weeks—three crazily happy and yet crazily miserable weeks for me—this had continued; and then I had been wired for at a moment’s notice, owing to my dear father’s sudden illness.

[12]I had to leave within an hour of the receipt of the telegram, without a chance of putting the question on which my whole happiness depended, without even a word of personal leave-taking. And for the whole of the four months since that night I had had to remain in England.

During nearly all the time my father lay hovering between life and death. At intervals, uncertain and transitory, he regained consciousness; and at such moments his first question was for me. I could not think of leaving him, of course; and even when the end came, the settlement of the many affairs connected with the large fortune he left delayed me a further two or three weeks.

My sister assured me that, through some friend or other, she had contrived to let Miralda know something of the facts; but this was no more than a cold comfort. When at length I turned the Stella’s head toward Lisbon, steaming at the top speed of her powerful engines, I felt how feeble such a written explanation, dribbling through two or three hands and watered down in the dribbling process, might appear to Miralda, even assuming that she had given me a second thought as the result of those three weeks in Paris.

But I was in Lisbon at last; and although I could not help realizing that a hundred and fifty obstacles might have had time to grow up between us during the long interval, I gritted my teeth in the resolve to overcome them.

Anyway, the following night would show me how the land lay; and, as anything was better than suspense, I gave a sigh of relief at the thought, and having posted the letter to my sister, set off for another prowl round the city.

I had not been there for several years—before I went out with the Yeomanry for a fling at the Boers—and it interested me to note the changes which had taken place. But I thought much more of Miralda[13] than of any changes and not at all of any possible trouble in the streets. After a man has had a few moonlights rides reconnoitring kopjes which are likely to be full of Boer snipers, he isn’t going to worry himself grey about a few Portuguese rag-and-bobtail with an itch for his purse.

Besides, I felt well able to take care of myself in any street row. I was lithe and strong and in the pink of condition, and knew fairly well “how to stop ’em,” as Jem Whiteway, the old boxer, used to say, with a shake of his bullet head when he tried to get through my guard and I landed him.

But my contempt for the dangers of the streets was a little premature. My experiences that night were destined to change my opinion entirely, and to change a good many other things too. Before the night was many hours older, I had every reason to be thankful that I had taken a revolver out with me.

It came about in this way. I was skirting that district of the city which is still frequently called the Mouraria—a nest of little, narrow, tortuous by-ways into which I deemed it prudent not to venture too far—and was going down a steep street toward the river front, when the stillness was broken by the hoarse murmur of many voices. I guessed that some sort of a row was in the making, and hurried on to see the fun. And as I reached a turning a little farther down, I found myself in the thick of it.

A small body of police came tearing round the corner running for their lives with a crowd of men at their heels, whooping and yelling like a pack of hounds in full sight of the fox.

As the police passed, one of them struck a vicious blow at me with a club, and I only just managed to jump back and escape the blow. I drew into the shelter of a doorway as the mob followed. The street was very narrow and steep at this point, and the police, seeing the advantage it gave them, rallied to make a[14] stand some forty or fifty yards up the hill above me.

The foremost pursuers paused a few moments to let a good number come up; and then they went for the police for all they were worth. The fight was very hot; but discipline told, as it will; and although the police were tremendously outnumbered, they held their ground well enough at first.

Meanwhile the racket kept bringing up reinforcements for the mob, and some of them began to get disagreeably curious about me. Here was a glorious struggle going on against the common foe, and I was standing idly by instead of taking a hand in it.

One or two of them questioned me in a jeering tone, and presently some fool yelled out that I was a spy. From taunts and gibing insults, those near me proceeded to threats, fists and sticks were shaken at me, and matters looked decidedly unpleasant.

I kept on explaining that I was a foreigner; but that was no more than a waste of breath; and I looked about for a chance to get away.

I was very awkwardly placed, however. If I went up the street, I should only run into the thick of the fight with the police; while the constant arrival of freshcomers below me made escape in that direction impossible.

Then came a crisis. One excited idiot struck at me with a stick, and of course I had to defend myself; and for a time I was far too busy to heed what was going on in the big row higher up the street. I tried fists at first and, putting my back to the wall, managed to keep the beggars at bay. Then a chance came to seize a big heavy club with which a little brute was trying to break my head; and with that I soon cleared quite a respectable space by laying about me indiscriminately.

But suddenly the club was knocked out of my hands, and a howl of delight hailed my discomfiture. Then I[15] remembered my revolver. I whipped it out and a rather happy thought occurred to me. Shouting at the top of my lungs that I was an Englishman and had nothing to do with either the mob or the police, I grabbed hold of the ringleader of my assailants, and used him as a sort of hostage. Keeping him between myself and the rest, I shoved the barrel of the revolver against his head and sung out that I would blow out his brains if any other man attempted to harm me.

The ruse served me well. The crowd hung back; and my prisoner, in a holy scare for his life, yelled at his friends to leave me alone.

Whether the trick would have really got me out of the mess I don’t know. There was not time to tell, for another development followed almost immediately. Some fresh arrivals came up yelling that the soldiers were close at hand; and we soon heard them.

The mob were now caught between two fires. The police were still holding their own above us, and the troops were hurrying up from the other direction. Some one had the wit to see that the crowd’s only chance was to carry the street against the police and clear that way for flight. A fierce attack was made upon them, therefore, and they were driven back to one side, leaving half the roadway clear.

The throng about me melted away, and I let my prisoner go, intending to wait for the troops. But I soon abandoned that idea; for I saw they had clubbed their muskets and were knocking down everybody they saw.

I had already had a blow aimed at me by the police, and had been threatened by the mob; and being in about equal danger from both sides, I was certain to get my head cracked if I remained. Their tactics were to hit first and inquire afterwards, and I therefore adopted the only alternative and took to my heels.

Being among the last to fly I was seen. A tally-ho[16] was raised and four or five of the police came dashing after me. Not knowing the district well, I ran at top speed and bolted round corner after corner, haphazard, keeping a sharp look-out as I ran for some place in which I could take cover.

I had succeeded in shaking off all but two or three when, on turning into one street, I spied the window of a house standing partly open. To dart to it, throw it wide, clamber in, and close it after me took only a few seconds; and as I squatted on the floor, breathing hard from the chase and the effects of my former tussle, I had the intense satisfaction of hearing my pursuers go clattering past the house.

That I might be taken for a burglar and handed over to the police by the occupants of the house, did not bother me in the least. I could very easily explain matters. It was the virtual certainty of a cracked pate, not the fear of arrest from which I had bolted; and that I had escaped with a sound skull was enough for me for the present.

But no one came near me; so I stopped where I was until the row outside had died down. It seemed to die a hard death; and I must have sat there in the dark for over an hour before I thought of venturing out to return to my rooms.

Naturally unwilling to leave by the window, I groped my way out into the passage and struck a match to look for the front door. Close to me was a staircase leading to the upper rooms; and at the end of the passage a second flight down to the basement.

Like so many houses in Lisbon this was built on a steep hill, and guessing that I should find a way out downstairs at the back, I decided to use that means of leaving, as it offered less chance of my being observed.

I had just reached the head of the stairway, when a door below was unlocked and several people entered the house. A confused murmur of voices followed, and among them I heard that of a woman speaking in a tone[17] of angry protest against some mistake which those with her were making.

The answering voices were those of men—strident, stern, distinctly threatening, and mingled with oaths.

Then the woman spoke again; repeating her protest in angry tones; but her voice was now vibrant with rising alarm.


The command broke her sentence in two, and her words died away in muffled indistinctness, suggesting that force had been used to secure obedience.

Then a light was kindled; there was some scuffling along the passage; and they all appeared to enter a room.

I paused, undecided what to do. The thing had a very ugly look; but I had had quite enough trouble to satisfy me for one night. I didn’t want to go blundering into an affair which might be no more than a family quarrel; especially as I was trespassing in the house.

A few seconds later, however, came the sound of trouble; a blow, a groan, and the thud of a fall.

I caught my breath in fear that the woman had been struck down.

But the next instant a shrill piercing cry for help rang out in her voice, and this also was stifled as if a hand had been clapped on her mouth.

That decided things for me.

Whatever the consequences, I could not stop to think of them while a woman was in such danger as that cry for help had signalled.



MY view of the trouble was that it was a case of robbery. The disordered condition of the city was sure to be used by the roughs as a cover for their operations; and I jumped to the conclusion that the woman whose cry I was answering had been decoyed to the house to be robbed.

But as I ran down the stairs I heard enough to show me that it was in reality a sort of by-product of the riot in the streets. The woman was a prisoner in the hands of some of the mob, and they were threatening her with violence because she was, in their jargon, an enemy of the cause of the people.

To my surprise it was against this that she was protesting so vehemently. Her speech, in strong contrast to that of the men, was proof of refinement and culture, while the little note of authority which I had observed at first suggested rank. It was almost inconceivable, therefore, that she could have anything in common with such fellows as her captors.

The door of the room in which they all were stood slightly ajar, and as I reached it she reiterated her protest with passionate vehemence.

“You are mad. I am your friend, not your enemy. I swear that. One of you must know Dr. Barosa. Find him and bring him here and he will bear out every word I have said.”

“Holding my revolver in readiness, I entered.”

“That’s enough of that. Lies won’t help you,” came the reply in the same gruff bullying tone I had[19] heard before. “Now, Henriques,” he added, as if ordering a comrade to finish the grim work.

Holding my revolver in readiness, I entered. There were three of the rascals. Two had hold of the woman who knelt between them with her back to me, while the third, also with his back to me, was just raising a club to strike her.

They were so intent upon their job and probably so certain that no one was in the house, that they did not notice me until I had had time to give the fellow with the club a blow on the side of the head which sent him staggering into a corner with an oath of surprise and rage. The others released their hold of the woman, and as I stepped in front of her, they fell away in healthy fear of my levelled weapon.

They were the reverse of formidable antagonists; rascals from the gutter apparently; venomous enough in looks, but undersized, feeble specimens; ready to attack an unarmed man or a defenceless woman, but utterly cowed by the sight of the business end of my revolver.

They slunk back toward the door, rage, baulked malice and fear on their ugly dirty faces.

“A spy! A spy!” exclaimed the brute who had the stick; and at the word they felt for their knives.

“Put your hands up, you dogs,” I cried. “The man who draws a knife will get a bullet in his head.”

Meanwhile the woman had scrambled to her feet, with a murmured word of thanks to the Virgin for my opportune intervention, and then to my intense surprise she put her hand on my arm and said in a tone of entreaty: “Do not fire, monsieur. They have only acted in ignorance.”

“You hear that, you cowardly brutes,” I said, without turning to look at her, for I couldn’t take my eyes off the men. “Clear out, or——” and I stepped toward them as if I meant to fire.

[20]In that I made a stupid blunder as it turned out. They hung together a second and then at a whisper from the fellow who appeared to be the leader, they suddenly bolted out of the room, and locked the door behind them.

Not at all relishing the idea of being made a prisoner in this way, I shouted to them to unlock the door, threatening to break it down and shoot them on sight if they refused. As they did not answer I picked up a heavy chair to smash in one of the panels, when my companion again interposed.

But this time it was on my and her own account. “They have firearms in the house, monsieur. If you show yourself, they will shoot you; and I shall be again at their mercy.”

She spoke in a tone of genuine concern and, as I recognized the wisdom of the caution, I put the chair down again and turned to her.

It was the first good square look I had had at her, and I was surprised to find that she was both young and surpassingly handsome—an aristocrat to her finger tips, although plainly dressed like one of the people. Her features were finely chiselled, she had an air of unmistakable refinement, she carried herself with the dignity of a person of rank, and her eyes, large and of a singular greenish brown hue, were bent upon me with the expression of one accustomed to expect ready compliance with her wishes. She had entirely recovered her self-possession and in some way had braided up the mass of golden auburn hair, the dishevelled condition of which I had noticed in the moment of my entrance.

“You are probably right, madame,” I said; “but I don’t care for the idea of being locked in here while those rascals fetch some companions.”

I addressed her as madame; but she couldn’t be more than four or five and twenty, and might be much younger.

[21]“There will be no danger, monsieur,” she replied in a tone of complete confidence.

“There appeared to be plenty of it just now; and the sooner we are out of this place, the better I shall be pleased.” And with that I turned to the window to see if we could get out that way. It was, however, closely barred.

“You may accept my assurance. These men have been acting under a complete misunderstanding. They will bring some one who will explain everything to them.”

“Dr. Barosa, you mean?”

“What do you know of him?” The question came sharply and with a touch of suspicion, as it seemed to me.

“Nothing, except that I heard you mention him just as I entered.”

She paused a moment, keeping her eyes on my face, and then, with a little shrug, she turned away. “I will see if my ser—my companion is much hurt,” she said, and bent over the man who was lying against the wall.

I noticed the slip; but it was nothing to me if she wished to make me think he was a companion instead of a servant.

She knew little or nothing about how to examine the man’s hurt, so I offered to do it for her. “Will you allow me to examine him, madame? I have been a soldier and know a little about first aid.”

She made way for me and went to the other end of the room while I looked him over. He had had just such a crack on the head as I feared for myself when bolting from the troops. It had knocked the senses out of him; but that was all. He was in no danger; so I made him as comfortable as I could and told her my opinion.

“He will be all right, no doubt,” was her reply, with about as much feeling as I should have shown[22] for somebody else’s dog; and despite her handsome face and air of position, I began to doubt whether he would not have been better worth saving than she.

“How did all this happen?”

She gave a little impatient start at the question, as if resenting it. “He was brought here with me, monsieur, and the men struck him,” she replied after a pause.

“Yes. But why were you brought here?”

“I have not yet thanked you for coming to my assistance, monsieur,” she replied irrelevantly. “Believe me, I do thank you most earnestly. I owe you my life, perhaps.”

It was an easy guess that she found the question distasteful and had parried it intentionally; so I followed the fresh lead. “I did no more than I hope any other man would have done, madame,” I said.

“That is the sort of reply I should look for from an Englishman, monsieur.” Her strange eyes were fixed shrewdly upon me as she made this guess at my nationality.

“I am English,” I replied with a smile.

“I am glad. I would rather be under an obligation to an Englishman than to any one except a countryman of my own.” She smiled very graciously, almost coquettishly, as if anxious to convince me of her absolute sincerity. But she spoilt the effect directly. Lifting her eyes to heaven and with a little toss of the hands, she exclaimed. “What a mercy of the Virgin that you chanced to be in the house—this house of all others in the city.”

I understood. She wished to cross-examine me. “You are glad that I arrived in time to interrupt things just now?” I asked quietly.

“Monsieur!” Eyes, hands, lithe body, everything backed up the tone of surprise that I should question it. “Do I not owe you my life?” I came to the conclusion that she was as false as woman of[23] her colour can be. But she was an excellent actress.

“Then let me suggest that we speak quite frankly. Let me lead the way. I am an Englishman, here in Lisbon on some important business, and not, as the doubt underneath your question, implies—a spy. I——”

“Monsieur!” she cried again as if in almost horrified protest.

“I was caught in the thick of a street fight,” I continued, observing that for all her energetic protest she was weighing my explanation very closely. “And had to run for it with the police at my heels. I saw a window of this house standing partly open and scrambled through it for shelter.”

“What a blessed coincidence for me!”

“It would be simpler to say, madame, that you do not believe me,” I said bluntly.

“Ah, but on my faith——”

“Let me put it to you another way,” I cut in. “I don’t know much of the ways of spies, but if I were one I should have contented myself with listening at that door, instead of entering, and have locked you all in instead of letting myself be caught in this silly fashion.” Then I saw the absurdity of losing my temper and burst out laughing.

She drew herself up. “You are amused, monsieur.”

“One may as well laugh while one can. If my laugh offends you, I beg your pardon for it, but I am laughing at my own conversion. An hour or two back I was ridiculing the idea of there being anything to bother about in the condition of the Lisbon streets. Since then I have been attacked by the police, nearly torn to pieces by the mob, had to bolt from the troops, and now you thank me for having saved your life and in the same breath take me for a spy. Don’t you think that is enough cause for laughter? If you have any sense of humour you surely will.”

[24]“I did not take you for a spy, monsieur,” she replied untruthfully. “But you have learnt things while here. We are obliged to be cautious.”

“My good lady, how on earth can it matter? We have met by the merest accident; there is not the slightest probability that we shall ever meet again; and if we did—well, you suggested just now that you know something of the ways of us English, and in that case you will feel perfectly certain that anything I have seen or heard here to-night will never pass my lips.”

“You have not mentioned your name, monsieur?”

“Ralph Donnington. I arrived yesterday and stayed at the Avenida. Would you like some confirmation? My card case is here, and this cigar case has my initials outside and my full name inside.”

“I do not need anything of that sort,” she cried quickly, waving her hands. But she read both the name and the initials.

“What have you inferred from what you have seen here to-night?”

“That the rascals who brought you here are some of the same sort of riff-raff I saw attacking the police and got hold of you as an enemy of the people. I heard that bit of cant from one of them. That you are of the class they are accustomed to regard as their oppressors was probably as evident to them as to me; and when you expressed sympathy with them——”

“You heard that?” she broke in earnestly.

“Certainly, when I heard you tell them to fetch this Dr. Barosa. But it is nothing to me; nor, thank Heaven, are your Portuguese politics or plots. But what is a good deal to me is how we are going to get out of this.”

“And for what do you take me, monsieur?”

“For one of the most beautiful enthusiasts I ever had the pleasure of meeting, madame,” I replied[25] with a bow. “And a leader whom any one should be glad indeed to follow.”

She was woman enough to relish the compliment and she smiled. “You think I am a leader of these people, then?”

“It is my regret that I am not one of them.”

“I am afraid that is not true, Mr. Donnington.”

“At any rate I shall be delighted to follow your lead out of this house.”

“You will not be in any danger, I assure you of that.”

As she spoke we heard the sounds of some little commotion outside the room and I guessed that the scoundrels had brought up some more of their kind.

“I hope so, but I think we shall soon know.”

“I have your word of honour that you will not breathe a word of anything you have witnessed here to-night.”

“Certainly. I pledge my word of honour.”

The men outside appeared to have a good deal to chatter about and seemed none too ready to enter. They were probably discussing who should have the privilege of being the first to face my revolver. I did not like the look of the thing at all.

“If they are your friends, why don’t they come in?” I asked my companion. “Hadn’t you better speak to them?”

She crossed to the door and it occurred to me to place the head of a chair under the handle and make it a little more difficult for them to get in.

“You need have no fear, Mr. Donnington,” she said with a touch of contempt as I took this precaution.

“It’s only a slight test of the mood they are in.”

As she reached the door the injured man began to show signs of recovering his senses; and I stooped over him while she spoke to the men.

“Is Dr. Barosa there?” she called.

Getting no reply, she repeated the question and knocked on the panel.

[26]There was an answer this time, but not at all what she had expected. One of the fellows fired a pistol and the bullet pierced the thin panel and went dangerously near her head.

I pulled her across to a spot where she would be safe from a chance shot. Only just in time, for half a dozen shots were fired in quick succession.

She was going to speak again, but I stopped her with a gesture; and then extinguished one of the two candles by which the room was lighted.

A long pause followed the shots, as if the scoundrels were listening to learn the effect of the firing.

In the silence the man in the corner groaned, and I heard the key turned in the lock as some one tried to push the door open.

I drew out my weapon.

“You will not shoot them, Mr. Donnington?” exclaimed my companion under her breath.

“Doesn’t this man Barosa know your voice?” I whispered.

“Of course.”

“Then he isn’t there,” I said grimly.

I raised my voice and called loudly: “Don’t you dare to enter. I’ll shoot the first man that tries to.” Then to my companion: “You’d better crouch down in the corner here. There’ll be trouble the instant they are inside.”

But she had no lack of pluck and shook her head disdainfully. “You must not fire. If you shoot one of these men you will not be safe for an hour in the city.”

“I don’t appear to be particularly safe as it is,” I answered drily.

There was another pause; then a vigorous shove broke the chair I had placed to the door and half a dozen men rushed in.

As I raised my arm to fire, my companion caught it and stopped me.

[27]For the space of a few seconds the scoundrels stared at us, their eyes gleaming in vicious malice and triumph. I read murder in them.

“Throw your weapon on the table there,” ordered one of them.

Then a thought occurred to me.

I made as if to obey; but, instead of doing anything of the sort, I extinguished the remaining candle, grabbed my companion’s arm, drew her to the opposite side of the room and, pushing her into a corner, stood in front of her.

And in the pitchy darkness we waited for the ruffians to make the first move in their attack.



THE effect of my impulse to extinguish the light in the room was much greater than I had anticipated. It proved to be the happiest thought I had ever had; for I am convinced that it saved my life, and probably that of my companion.

The average Portuguese of the lower class is too plugged with superstition ever to feel very happy in the dark. He is quick to people it with all sorts of impalpable terrors. And these fellows were soon in a bad scare.

For a few moments the wildest confusion prevailed. Execrations, threats, cries of anger, and prayers were mingled in about equal proportions; and every man who had a pistol fired it off. At least, that appeared to be the case, judging by the number of shots.

As they aimed at the corner where they had seen us, however, nothing resulted except a waste of ammunition.

The darkness was all in my favour. I knew that any man who touched me in the dark must be an enemy; while they could not tell, when they ran against any one, whether it was friend or foe. More than one struggle among them told me this, and showed me further what was of at least equal importance—that they were afraid to advance farther into the room.

When a lull came in the racket, therefore, I adopted another ruse. I crept toward the corner where they[29] had seen us, and, stamping heavily, cried out that I would shoot the first man I touched.

Another volley of shots followed; but I was back out of range again, and soon had very welcome proof that the trick was successful. Each man appeared to mistake his neighbour for me, and some of them were pretty roughly handled by their friends before the blunders were discovered.

Some one shouted for a light; and in the lull that succeeded we had a great stroke of luck. The wounded man, who lay in a corner near to them, began to move his feet restlessly, and they immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was going to attack them from there.

I backed this idea promptly. Letting out a fierce yell of rage, I fired a shot at random. This filled to overflowing the cup of their cowardice, and in another moment they had bolted like rabbits out of the room and locked the door again.

I lost no time in relighting the candles, and set to work to pile the furniture against the door to prevent them taking us again by surprise, and to give me time to see if we couldn’t get away by the window.

Opening it as quietly as possible I had a good look at the bars, and saw that it would be possible to force them sufficiently apart with wedges for us to squeeze through.

“We can reach the street this way, madame?” I asked my companion, who was now very badly scared.

“It is useless,” she replied despairingly.

“Not so useless as stopping here. We can’t expect such luck a second time as we have just had.” I spoke sharply, wishing to rouse her.

But she only shook her head and tossed up her hands. So I began to break up some of the furniture to make some wedges, when she jumped to her feet with a cry of surprise and delight.

“It is his voice,” she exclaimed, her eyes shining[30] and her face radiant with delight. Whoever “he” might be, it was easy to see what she felt about him.

Then the key was turned once more and an attempt made to force away my impromptu barricade.

I closed the window instantly and blew out one of the candles.

“Open the door. It is I, Barosa,” called a voice.

“Let him in, monsieur. Let him in at once. We are safe now.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, suspecting a trick.

Again the rich colour flooded her face. “Do you think I do not know his voice, or that he would harm me? Let him in. Let him in, I say,” she cried excitedly.

I pulled away enough of the barricade to admit one man at a time. I reckoned that no one man of the crowd I had seen would have the pluck to come in alone.

A dark, handsome, well-dressed man squeezed his way through the opening with an impatient exclamation on the score of my precaution. And the instant she saw his face, my companion sprang toward him uttering his name impetuously.

“Manoel! Manoel! Thank the Holy Virgin you have come.”

His appearance excited me also, for I recognized him at a glance. He had been pointed out to me in Paris some time before by my brother-in-law as one of the chief agents of Dom Miguel, the Pretender to the Portuguese Throne. His real name was Luis Beriardos. His presence in Lisbon at such a time and his connexion with a section of the revolutionaries gave me a clue to the whole business.

The two stood speaking together for a time in whispers, and then he went out to the others. I heard him explain that they had made a blunder in regard to madame and that he was ready to vouch for her as[31] one of their best friends and a leader of their movements.

Some further murmur of talk followed, and when he returned, one or two of the rest tried to follow. But I stopped that move. One man was all I meant to have in the room at a time; and when I told the others to get out they went. I had managed to make them understand that it was safer to obey.

“What does this mean, sir?” asked Barosa, indignantly.

“You need have no fear now, Mr. Donnington,” added madame.

I replied to Barosa. “Those men have been telling you that I am a spy and you have come in to question me. This lady has assured me that I have nothing to fear from you. You will therefore have the goodness to get the key of that door and lock it on this side. Then we can talk, but not till then.”

“I shall not do anything of the sort,” he replied hotly.

“Then I shall shove these things back in position;” and I began.

“Dr. Barosa will get the key, Mr. Donnington,” put in madame; and she appealed to him with a look. “He has saved my life, doctor,” she said in an undertone.

I noticed that she did not now call him by his Christian name as in the first flush of her relief.

He hesitated a second or two and then with an angry shrug of the shoulders complied.

“I’ll take the key, doctor,” I said quietly; and when he stood irresolute, I pushed past him and drew it out of the lock. “Now we can talk, and I’m ready to answer any questions, in reason, which you like to ask.”

“Your conduct is very extraordinary, sir.”

“Not a bit of it. These friends of yours take me for a spy. You may come to the same conclusion.[32] They tried to take my life; and you may wish to do the same. I am simply taking precautions. I have told this lady enough about myself to satisfy her that I am no spy; but if you are not equally satisfied, I prefer to remain here with no other company than ourselves until a chance of getting away offers.”

He was going to reply when madame interposed. To do her justice she took up my cause with a right good will. She repeated all I had previously told her, gave him a graphic account of what had passed, lauded me to the skies, and ended by declaring her absolute conviction that every word I had spoken was the truth.

Feeling that my case was in safe hands, I let them have it out together. He was suspicious, and at every proof of this, her anger and indignation increased.

“I have accepted Mr. Donnington’s word, Dr. Barosa,” she said hotly, when he declared that I ought not to be allowed to leave the house; “and I have given him a pledge for his safety. You know me, and that I will keep my word. Very well, I declare to you on my honour that if any harm comes to him now, I will abandon the cause and reveal everything I know about it and all concerned in it.”

That shook all the opposition out of him on the spot.

“You are at liberty to go, Mr. Donnington,” he said at once.

“Thank you; but what about your friends out there?”

“I will leave the house with you,” declared madame. “And we will see if any one will dare to try and stop you.”

“It might be simpler if they were to go first,” I suggested.

“I will answer for them,” said Barosa. “We have your word that you will not speak of anything you have learned here to-night?”

“Yes, I pledge my word,” I replied.

[33]“Let me thank you once more, Mr. Donnington——” began madame.

But I stopped her. “We can call the account between us squared, madame. If I helped you out of one mess you have got me out of this. And for the rest, silence for silence. We shall not meet again.”

“Are you staying long in the city, sir?” asked Barosa with a suggestion of eagerness in his tone.

“Not an hour longer than my business here renders necessary. I am not so delighted with my experiences so far as to wish to remain.”

He left the room then and after a hurried conference with the fellows outside he called to us and we left the house.

With what relief I drew the first breath of the fresh night air will be readily understood; but I do not think I fully realized how narrow an escape I had had until I was safe in my rooms and sat recalling the incidents of the strange adventure.

Who was the woman I had helped? Not a hint had been dropped of her name; but that she was a person of as much importance in the world outside as in the ranks of the revolutionary party of which she was a leader, I could not doubt. That the conspiracy was being carried on in the interest of the Pretender was fairly certain, seeing that this Beriardos, or Barosa, as he now called himself, was mixed up in it; and I resolved to write at once to Madrillo to send me everything he knew about him.

What had he meant, too, by that eager question as to the length of my stay in the city? He was certainly not satisfied that I was not a spy. Should I have to be on the look-out for further trouble from him and the scum of the city joined with him? It was a more probable than pleasant prospect.

As that exceedingly handsome creature had reminded me, I had gained some information which made me dangerous to these people; and however willing she[34] might be to accept my promise of secrecy, it was all Portugal to a bunch of grapes that the others would not be so content.

And the irritating part of it was that I had got into the mess through my own blundering stupidity. If I hadn’t been ass enough to go wandering about the city when I had been warned to stop indoors, I shouldn’t have had this bother. But the world is full of asses; and many of them with a heap more brains than I. And with a chuckle, as if that silly cynicism were both an excuse and a consolation, I tossed away my cigar and went to bed.

A night’s sound sleep put me on much better terms with myself, and I scouted the thought of troublesome personal consequences following my adventure. The thing was over and done with and I was well out of the mess.

Instead of bothering to write to Madrillo for details about this Dr. Barosa, therefore, I went off to the Stella for a cruise to blow the cobwebs away and think about Miralda and the meeting with her that evening.

We were to meet at the house of the Marquis de Pinsara, and my friend, Volheno, had impressed upon me the importance of the gathering.

“Affairs are in a somewhat delicate condition just at present,” he had said; “and as there is a great deal of surface discontent here and in Oporto—although the bulk of the country is solid in our favour—we have to exercise some care in organizing our followers. The Marquis de Pinsara is one of M. Franco’s firmest adherents, and this reception will really be political in character. You may have heard of the ‘National League of Portugal?’ No? Well, it is a powerful loyalist association, and we are doing our utmost to make the movement fully representative and powerful;” and being a politician and proportionately verbose, he had first inflicted upon me a long account of the League and its merits, and from that had launched[35] into the reasons why he meant to take me to the reception. Put shortly these were simply that he wished to interest the Marquis de Pinsara and many of his loyalist friends in the concessions at Beira which I had put forward as the object of my visit.

What this process of “interesting” the Marquis meant, I learnt within a few minutes of my entering his house.

As Volheno sent me a line at the last moment saying he was detained, I had to go alone and I was very glad. Not being quite certain how Miralda would receive me, I did not wish to have any lookers-on when me met. Moreover, I certainly did not want to fool away the evening, a good deal of which I hoped to spend with her, in talking a lot of rot about these concessions which I had only used as a stalking-horse for my visit to Lisbon.

But I soon found that in choosing them, I had invested myself with a most inconvenient amount of importance.

The Marquis received me with as much cordiality as if I were an old friend and benefactor of his family. He grasped my hand warmly, expressed his delight at making my acquaintance, could not find words to describe his admiration of England and the English, and then started upon the concessions.

I thought he would never stop, but he came to the point. Volheno had taken as gospel all the rubbish I had talked about the prospects of wealth offered by the concessions, and had passed it on to the marquis through a magnifying glass until the latter, being a comparatively poor man, was under the impression that I could make his fortune. He was more than willing to be “interested” in the scheme; and took great pains to convince me that without his influence I could not succeed. And that influence was mine for a consideration.

In the desire to get free from his button-holing I[36] gave him promises lavish enough to send him off to his other guests with eyes positively glittering with greed.

Unfortunately for me, however, he began to use his influence at once, and while I was hanging about near the entrance, waiting to catch Miralda the moment she arrived, he kept bringing up a number of his friends—mostly titled and all tiresome bores—whom he was also “interesting” in the scheme.

They all said the same thing. Theirs was the only influence which could secure the concessions for me, and they all made it plain about the consideration. I began at length to listen for the phrase and occasionally to anticipate it; and thus in half an hour or so I had promised enough backsheesh to have crippled the scheme ten times over.

One of these old fellows—a marquis or visconte or something of the sort, the biggest bore of the lot anyway—was in possession of me in a corner when Miralda arrived, and for the life of me I couldn’t shake him off. I was worrying how to get away when the marquis came sailing up with another of them in tow, a tall, stiff, hawk-faced, avaricious-looking old man, with a pompous air, and more orders on his breast than I could count.

I groaned and wished the concessions at the bottom of the Tagus, but the next moment had to shut down a smile. It was the Visconte de Linto, Miralda’s stepfather.

The marquis had evidently filled him up with exaggerated stories of my wealth and the riches I had come to pour into the pockets of those who assisted me, and his first tactic was to get rid of the bore in possession. He did this by carrying me off to present me to his wife and daughter.

It was the reverse of such a meeting as I had pictured or desired; for at that moment Miralda was besieged by a crowd of men clamouring for dances. But I[37] could not think of an excuse, and I had barely time to explain that I had met Miralda and her mother in Paris, when the old man pushed his way unceremoniously through the little throng and introduced me, stumbling over my name which he had obviously forgotten, and adding that Miralda must save two or three dances for me.

As he garbled my name she was just taking her dance card back from a man who had scribbled his initials on it and she turned to me with a little impatient movement of the shoulders which I knew well.

Our eyes met, and my fear that she might have forgotten me was dissipated on the instant.



ALTHOUGH it was easy to read the look of recognition in Miralda’s eyes, it was the reverse of easy to gather the thoughts which that recognition prompted. After the first momentary widening of the lids, the start of surprise, and the involuntary tightening of the fingers on her fan, she was quick to force a smile, as she bowed to me, and the smile served as an impenetrable mask to her real feelings.

The viscontesse gave me a very different welcome. She was pleased to see me again and frankly expressed her pleasure. I had done my best to ingratiate myself in her favour during those three weeks in Paris, and had evidently been successful. She was a kind-hearted garrulous soul, and before I could get a word in about the dances, she plunged into a hundred and one questions about Paris and England and the beauties of Lisbon, and why I had not let them know of my coming and so on, and without giving me time to reply she turned to Miralda.

“You surely remember Mr. Donnington, child? We met him in Paris, last spring.”

“Oh yes, mother. His sister is M. Madrillo’s wife,” said Miralda indifferently.

This was not exactly how I wished to be remembered. “I am glad you have not forgotten my sister, at any rate, mademoiselle,” I replied, intending this to be very pointed.

“M. Madrillo showed us many kindnesses, monsieur,[39] and did much to make our stay in Paris pleasant; and it is not a Portuguese failing to forget.”

This was better, for there was a distinct note of resentment in her voice instead of mere indifference. But before I could reply, the viscontesse interposed a very natural but extremely inconvenient question. “And what brings you here, Mr. Donnington?”

The visconte answered this, making matters worse than ever; and there followed a little by-play of cross purposes.

“Mr. Donnaheen is here on some very important business, my dear—very important business indeed.”

“If I remember, Donnington is the proper pronunciation, father,” interposed Miralda, very quietly, as if courtesy required the correction—the courtesy that was due to a stranger, however.

“I wish you wouldn’t interrupt me, Miralda,” he replied testily. “This gentleman will understand how difficult some English names are to pronounce and will excuse my slip, I am sure.”

“Certainly, visconte.”

“I am only sorry I do not speak English.”

“Donnington is quite easy to pronounce, Affonso,” his wife broke in.

He gave a sigh of impatience. “Of course it is, I know that well enough.”

“You were speaking of the reason for Mr. Donnington’s visit,” Miralda reminded him demurely; and as she turned to him her eyes swept impassively across my face. As if a stranger’s presence in Lisbon were a legitimate reason for the polite assumption of curiosity.

“It is in a way Government business; Mr. Donnington”—he got the name right this time and smiled—“is seeking some concessions in our East African colony and he needs my influence.”

“Oh, business in East Africa?” she repeated, with a lift of the eyebrows. “How very interesting;”[40] and with that she turned away and handed her programme to one of the men pestering her for a dance.

No words she could have spoken and nothing she could have done would have been so eloquent of her appreciation of my conduct in absenting myself for four months and then coming to Lisbon on business. Once more I wished those infernal concessions at the bottom of the Tagus.

“I hope to be of considerable use and you may depend upon my doing my utmost,” said the visconte, self-complacently.

“I cannot say how highly I shall value your influence, sir, not only in that but in everything,” I replied, putting an emphasis on the “everything” in the hope that Miralda would understand.

But she paid no heed and went on chatting with the man next her.

“And how long are you staying, Mr. Donnington?” asked her mother.

“Rather a superfluous question that, Maria,” said her husband. “Of course it will depend upon how your business goes, eh, Mr. Donnington?”

I saw a chance there and took it. “I am afraid my object will take longer to accomplish than I hoped,” I replied; for Miralda’s benefit again of course.

“At any rate you will have time for some pleasure-making, I trust,” said the viscontesse.

“Englishmen don’t let pleasure interfere with business, my dear, they are far too strenuous,” replied her husband, who appeared to think he was flattering me and doing me a service by insisting that I could have no possible object beyond business. “I presume that you are only here to-night for the one purpose. The Marquis de Pinsara told me as much.”

At that moment a partner came up to claim Miralda for a dance, and as she rose she said: “Mr. Donnington is fortunate in finding so many to help him in his business.”

[41]“Wait a moment, Miralda,” exclaimed her father as she was turning away. “Have you kept the dances for Mr. Donnington?”

Again her eyes flashed across mine with the same half-disdainful smile of indifference. “Mr. Donnington has been so occupied discussing the serious purpose of his visit that he has had no time to think of such frivolity and ask for them;” and with that parting shot she went off to the ball-room without waiting to hear my protest.

The visconte smiled and gestured. “I suppose you don’t dance, Mr. Donnington,” he said, “I have heard that many Englishmen do not.”

“Indeed he does, Affonso,” declared his wife quickly. “I remember that well in Paris. He and Miralda often danced together. And now, sit down here in Miralda’s place till she comes back and let us have a chat about Paris,” she added to me.

But the old visconte had not quite done with me. Drawing me aside—“I want you to feel that I shall do all in my power, Mr. Donnington,” he began.

I knew what was coming so I anticipated him. “I am sure of that, and I have been given to understand that you can do more for me than any one else in Portugal. And of course you’ll understand that those who assist me in the early stages will naturally share in the after advantages and gains. I make a strong point of that.”

“Of course that was not in my mind at all,” he protested.

“Naturally. But I should insist upon it,” I said gravely.

“I suppose it will be a very big thing?”

“Millions in it, visconte. Millions;” and I threw out my hands as if half the riches of the earth would soon be in their grasp. “And of course I know that without you I should be powerless.”

He appreciated this thoroughly and went off on excellent terms with himself and with a high opinion[42] of me as a potential source of wealth, while I sat down by the viscontesse to explain why four months had passed since we met.

But these miserable concessions gave me no peace. I was only beginning my explanation when up came the marquis and dragged me off for the first of another batch of introductions, followed by a long conference in another room with him and Volheno who had meanwhile arrived. And just as the marquis took my arm to lead me away, and thus prevented my escape, Miralda returned from the dance.

A single glance showed her that I was fully occupied in the business which I had been forced to admit in her presence was the object of my visit to Lisbon, and the expression of her eyes and the shrug of her shoulders were a sufficient indication of her feeling.

I was properly punished for the silly lie which I had merely intended to conceal my real purpose, and when I saw Miralda welcome a fresh partner with a smile which I would have given the whole of Portuguese Africa to have won from her, I could scarcely keep my temper.

I was kept at this fool talk for an hour or more when I ought to have been making my peace with her, and I resolved on the spot to invent a telegram from London the next day reporting a hitch in the negotiations.

When at length I got free, Miralda was not anywhere to be seen; and I wandered about the rooms and in and out of the conservatories looking for her, putting up no end of couples in odd corners and getting deservedly scowled at for my pains.

I saw her at last among the dancers; and I stood and watched her, gritting my teeth in the resolve that no titled old bores nor even wild horses should prevent my speaking to her as soon as the waltz was over.

I stalked her into a palm house which I had missed in my former search and, giving her and her partner[43] just enough time to find seats, I followed and walked straight up to them.

She knew I was coming. I could tell that by the way she squared her shoulders and affected the deepest interest in her partner’s conventional nothings.

“I think the next is our dance, mademoiselle,” I said unblushingly, as I affected to consult my card. She gave a start as if entirely surprised by and rather indignant at the interruption; while her partner had the decency to rise. But she glanced at her card and then looked up with a bland smile and shook her head. “I am afraid you are mistaken, monsieur.”

The man was going to resume his place by her side, but I stopped that. “I have the honour of your initials here, and if to my intense misfortune you have given the dance to two of us, perhaps this gentleman will allow me, as an old acquaintance of yours, to enjoy the few minutes of interval to deliver an important message entrusted to me.”

I was under the fire of her eyes all the time I was delivering this flowery and untruthful rigmarole; but I was as voluble and as grave as a judge. I took the man in all right. I made him feel that under the circumstances he was in the way and with a courteous bow to us both, he excused himself.

Miralda was going to request him to remain, I think, so I took possession of the vacant chair; and then of course she could not bring him back without making too much of the incident and possibly causing a little scene.

That I had offended her I could not fail to see; her hostility and resentment were obvious, but whether the cause was my present effrontery or my long neglect of her, I had yet to find out.

She did not quite know what to do. After sitting a few moments in rather frowning indecision, she half rose as if she were going to leave me, but with a little[44] toss of the head she decided against that and turned to me.

“You have a message for me, monsieur?” Her tone was one of studied indifference and her look distinctly chilling.

“For one thing, my sister desired to be most kindly remembered to you.”

Up went the deep fringed lids and the dark eyebrows, as a comment upon the message which I had described as important. “Please to tell Madame Madrillo that I am obliged by her good wishes and reciprocate them.” This ridiculously stilted phrase made it difficult for me to resist a smile. But I played up to it.

“I feel myself deeply honoured, mademoiselle, by being made the bearer of any communication from you. I will employ my most earnest efforts to convey to my sister your wishes and the auspicious circumstances under which they are so graciously expressed.”

She had to turn away before I finished, but she would not smile. There was, however, less real chill and more effort at formality when she replied—

“As you have delivered your message, monsieur——” she finished with a wave of the hands, as if dismissing me.

But I was not going of course, and then I made a very gratifying little discovery. Her dance card was turned over by her gesture and I saw that for the next dance she had no partner.

“That is only one of the messages, mademoiselle,” I replied after a pause in the same stilted tone. “Have I your permission to report the second?”

I guessed she was beginning to see the absurdity of it, for she turned slightly away from me and bowed, not trusting herself to speak.

“My brother-in-law, M. Stefan Madrillo, desired me to bring you an assurance of his best wishes.”

“Have you any messages from the children also,[45] monsieur?” she asked quickly, with a swift flash of her glorious eyes.

I kept it up for another round. “I am honoured by being able to assure you that their boy appreciated to the full the bon-bons which were the outcome of your distinguished generosity when in Paris, and retains his appetite for delicacies; but the little girl, not yet being able to speak, has entrusted me with no more than some gurgles and coos. To my profound regret I cannot reproduce them verbatim. May I have the honour of conveying your reply?”

She kept her face turned right away from me and did not answer.

“I have yet another message, mademoiselle, if your patience is not exhausted,” I said after a pause.

“Still another, monsieur?”

“Still another, mademoiselle.”

“From whom, monsieur?”

“From a man you knew in Paris, mademoiselle, Mr. Ralph Donnington. He has charged me to explain——”

“I don’t wish to hear that one, thank you,” she broke in.

“But he is absolutely determined that you shall hear it.”

“Shall?” she cried warmly, throwing back her head with a lovely poise of indignation and looking straight into my eyes.

“Yes, shall,” I replied firmly. “I have travelled over a thousand miles to deliver it.”

“I am not interested in mining concessions, Mr. Donnington,” she cried scornfully, thinking to wither me.

“Nor am I.”

Her intense surprise at this put all her indignation to flight, and left nothing in her eyes but bewildered curiosity.

“Nor am I,” I repeated with a smile.


[46]“I know,” I said when she paused. “I had to have a pretext.”

She knew what I meant then and lowered her eyes.

“I still do not wish to hear Mr. Donnington’s message,” she said after a pause and in a very different tone.

“I do not wish to force it upon you now, and certainly not against your wish. I may be some months in Lisbon, and——”

“There is the band for the next dance, I must go,” she interposed.

“I have seen by your card that you have no partner; but if you wish me to leave you I will do so, or take you back to the viscontesse—unless you will give it to me.”

She leant back in her chair, her head bent, her brows gathered in a frown of perplexity and her fingers playing nervously with her fan.

“I do not wish to dance, Mr. Donnington, thank you,” she murmured.

“Just as you will.”

A long silence followed. She was agitated and I perplexed.

After perhaps a minute of this silence, I rose.

“You wish to be alone, mademoiselle?”

She did not reply and I was turning to leave when she looked up quickly. “I do not wish you to go, Mr. Donnington.” Then putting aside the thoughts, whatever they were, which had been troubling her, she laughed and added: “Why should I? It is pleasant to meet an old acquaintance. You have come through Paris on your way here, of course. Were you there long?”

I was more perplexed by the change of tone and manner than by her former silent preoccupation.

“I did not come through Paris,” I replied, as I resumed my seat. “I came from England in the Stella—my yacht.”

[47]“You have had delightful weather for your cruise.”

“I was not cruising in that sense. The Stella is a very fast boat and I came in her because I could get here more quickly.”

“Our Portuguese railways are very slow, of course, and the Spanish trains no better. It is a very tedious journey from Paris.”

“Very,” I agreed. Whether she wished to make small talk in order to avoid my explanation, I did not know; but I fell in with her wish and then tried to lead round to the old time in Paris.

She turned my references to it very skilfully however, and after my third unsuccessful attempt, she herself referred to it in a way that forced me to regard it as a sealed page.

“It has been very pleasant to meet you again, Mr. Donnington, and have such a delightful chat, and I am so much obliged to you for not having pressed me to dance. I hope we shall see a good deal of you while you are here. You quite captured my dear mother during that time in Paris. Of course you’ll call.”

“I ventured to leave cards immediately on my arrival.”

Then she rose. “I must really go now. Major Sampayo will be looking for me for the next dance. Have you met the major yet?”

“I don’t think so; but I have had so many introductions this evening that I don’t remember all the names.”

“Ah, the result of your supposed purpose in Lisbon, probably. Of course I shall keep your secret,” she replied with a smile. Then a sudden change came over her. She paused, the hand which held her fan trembled, the effort to maintain the light indifference of voice and manner became apparent, and her voice was a trifle unsteady as she added: “You will meet Major Sampayo at our house. Ah, here he comes with[48] my friend the Contesse Inglesia. I suppose my mother has told you I am betrothed to him.”

The news gripped me like a cramp in the heart, and I caught my breath and gritted my teeth as I stared at her.

But the next instant I rallied. The pain and concern in her eyes seemed to explain what had so perplexed me in her manner. Her agitation when I told her the real purpose of my presence; her quick assumption of indifference, of mere acquaintanceship, her studious evasion of my references to our time in Paris, and her light surface talk on things of no concern to either of us. If my new wild hope was right, all this had been merely intended to school herself to refer lightly to the matter of her betrothal.

I forced a smile. “Permit me to congratulate——” I began; but the words died on my lips as I turned and saw the two people whom she had mentioned.

The man, Major Sampayo, I knew to be one of the vilest scoundrels who ever escaped the gallows.

And his companion was the woman whose life I had saved from her revolutionary associates on the previous night.



WITH a big effort I managed to pull myself together, and much to Miralda’s surprise I covered my momentary confusion with a hearty laugh and a sentence spoken for the benefit of the other two who were now within earshot.

“I’m afraid I’ve bored you frightfully, but I couldn’t resist sparing a few minutes from this concession-mongering business. And after your saying that the viscontesse remembers our chats in Paris, I shall certainly ask her to allow me to call.”

I succeeded in speaking in the tone of a quite casual acquaintance, and I turned to find two pairs of eyes fixed intently upon me.

Whether the fellow who now called himself Major Sampayo recognized me I could not tell, but his companion did, and I waited for her to decide whether we were to acknowledge that we had met.

She made no sign and I made my bow to Miralda and was moving off when the major intervened.

“Will you present me to your friend, Miralda?”

I could have kicked him for the glib use of her name. I paused and turned with a smile, as if highly pleased by the request. If I knew myself, the kicking would come later.

“Mr. Donnington, may I introduce Major Sampayo?” said Miralda, a little nervously.

I bowed and smirked, but behind the entrenchment of English reserve I made no offer to take his hand.

[50]“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Donnington.”

“I consider myself equally fortunate, Major Sampayo.”

I saw then that he had an uneasy feeling that we had met somewhere before, and his eyes moved from side to side as he searched his memory to place my voice or face or name.

“Is that really Mr. Donnington?” exclaimed his companion, with a delightful assumption of interested surprise. “My dear Miralda, please don’t leave me out.”

“My friend the Contesse Inez Inglesia,” said Miralda.

She held out her hand and as I took it she looked straight into my eyes with a most cordial smile. “I have heard so much about you, Mr. Donnington, that I have been questioning every one I know to find a mutual friend, and wandering all over the rooms to find you.”

Which meant that she knew I had been a long time with Miralda.

“I have such an implicit faith in Portuguese sincerity, contesse, that you will turn my head if you flatter me so. The fact is I have been making an unconscionable bore of myself with Mademoiselle Dominguez. I met her and the viscontesse in Paris last spring, and I was so glad to find a face I knew to-night, that I could not resist the temptation for a chat.”

“Have you been long in Lisbon, sir?” asked Sampayo, still worrying himself about me.

“Two days, major, that’s all. I came in my yacht.”

“Surely you’ve heard about Mr. Donnington, major,” said the contesse. “He’s the millionaire who has come about the mining concessions in Beira, or somewhere.”

“No, I had not heard that,” he replied, with a little start, as if this might have suggested a clue to his problem. “Have you been in Beira, sir?”

[51]I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. “I suppose I ought not to own it, but I was never there in my life.”

“Major Sampayo knows every inch of South Africa, Mr. Donnington,” said the contesse. “He was out there at the time your country was at war with the Boers.”

“Oh, indeed,” said I, as if in great surprise. I knew that well enough. “Then I shall hope to get some wrinkles from him.”

“You served in that war, didn’t you, Mr. Donnington?” asked Miralda, evidently feeling she ought to say something.

“For a few months. I was in Bloemfontein and Mafeking.” I purposely named places as distant as possible from the spot where I had seen him. I did not wish him to recognize me yet.

“Were you out at the finish of the campaign?” he asked at the prompting of his uneasy fears.

“About the middle. I was sent down country after the relief of Mafeking.” This was half truth but also half lie. I had gone up again almost immediately. But it appeared to ease his unrest.

“I have a curious feeling that we have met somewhere,” he said; “and was wondering whether it could have been out in South Africa. That was the reason for my rather inquisitive questions.”

I laughed. “Oh, I should have recognized you in a moment if that had been the case. I never forget a face.”

This made him uneasy again, but, as the band struck up, he gave his arm to Miralda.

“Thanks for a delightful chat, mademoiselle,” I said lightly to Miralda. “May I take you to your partner, madame?” I asked, offering my arm to the Contesse.

Instead of accepting it she said to Miralda. “If you see Vasco tell him I’ll give him another waltz[52] for this. I am going to sit this out with Mr. Donnington—that is, of course, if he is willing.”

“I’ll tell him, Inez,” replied Miralda over her shoulder as she walked away.

Inez was silent until they were out of hearing, and then she said very meaningly: “What an excellent actor you are, Mr. Donnington.”

“May I return the compliment? I saw that you wished it to appear that we were complete strangers. And with your permission that is just what we have been up to the moment of this introduction.”

Another pause followed by a surprise for me.

“So you are Miralda’s Englishman!”

But I was too well on my guard to betray myself. “Am I really?” I asked with an easy laugh. “We had a jolly time for a week or two, but—that’s four months ago.”

“You are fond of camelias, Mr. Donnington.”

“I am wearing one, as you see,” I replied pointing to my buttonhole. But I had often given camelias to Miralda in those three weeks; and this handsome, dangerous, stately creature with hazel eyes, which were open and frank or diabolically sly at will, knew it.

Again she paused once more as the preface to a shot.

“What do you know about Major Sampayo, Mr. Donnington?” She flashed the question at me, her eyes searchlights in their intensity.

“I think he’s quite a handsome man and looks awfully well in that rather gorgeous uniform; and I presume those orders on his chest show that he is as distinguished a soldier as he looks.”

“Spoken without even a shadow of hesitation. I declare that every moment I admire your acting more.” She let her eyes rest on mine and half closed the lids. “I think I am glad I am not Major Sampayo,” she said slowly.

“I should imagine you have every reason to be satisfied[53] with your own delightfully handsome personality. But if it comes to that, I am also glad I am not the major.”

“Not even with Miralda thrown in?”

“Not even with Miralda thrown in,” I repeated with a laugh. “She’s a very charming girl and exceedingly pretty and all that. She was acknowledged to be one of the prettiest girls in Paris last spring, you know, and I admire her tremendously.”

“A frank admission of unconcerned admiration is very clever, of course, but I am not deceived by it, Mr. Donnington.”

“No? Well then shall I confess that I worship her, that the ground her foot touches is changed to holy soil; that when she smiles I am in heaven, and when she frowns, in hell; and that for four months I have only existed on the hope of seeing her again; that she fills my heart, inspires my every thought, dominates my every action, permeates my being, and is the end-all and be-all of my life?” I declaimed all this with a lot of extravagant gesture; and then added in a different tone: “And why on earth do you want to insist that I am in love with her?”

“It is necessary that I know exactly the relationship between you?”

“My relationship is precisely the same as between you and myself, madame.”

“What do you mean?”

“Are we not all cousins in more or less remote degree—in our descent from Adam and Eve?”

She rustled her shoulders impatiently. “Don’t you understand what I mean? You know how we first met.”

“Oh ho, and is the fair Miralda one of you?” I laughed. “But I thought that subject was taboo?”

“You know my secret and I can therefore talk freely to you.”

[54]“I would very much rather that you did not, if you please.”

“I am under the deepest of all obligations to you, Mr. Donnington; you saved my life and I wish to be your friend. If you have any such feeling for Miralda as you have burlesqued, I owe it to you to let you understand things and be warned in time. It is not possible for a foreigner to know the undercurrents of life here at present.”

“My dear lady, I am only trying to swim on the surface. I find myself to-night in the house of one of the staunchest supporters of the Government at a gathering intended to strengthen the position of the loyalist body—the National League of Portugal.”

“I am one of the acknowledged leaders of that League.”

I could not restrain a start of astonishment at this; and she noticed it, of course.

“You are surprised. But many of those here are my friends—my political friends, I mean. It was my public connexion with the League which led me into the trouble last night. The men who threatened me knew of my position in it, but not of my sympathies with them—that of course is as close a secret as possible—and by a trick decoyed me to a house where I was seized and brought to where you found me. The intention was to kill me and then carry me into the streets to make it appear that I had been killed in the rioting. You will understand from this the dangerous forces that are at work. Some of those men suspect you of being a spy and you will be well advised not to prolong your stay in Lisbon. And your friendship with M. Volheno will not add to your safety.”

“Cannot an Englishman come here without being taken for a spy?”

“You know that one of your best English detectives has been employed by the Spanish Government to reorganize the detective force there. One story[55] I have heard is that you yourself are an English detective engaged by M. Volheno to help in unearthing some of the conspiracies here, and that your desire to obtain some concessions in Africa is a mere blind.”

“It would be difficult to go much further away about me, anyway.”

“Yet those who seek concessions from a Government do not usually advertise the fact far and wide. You are a man of courage and resource: we have had proof of that. You have learnt some of our secrets and one of our haunts. You have some secret knowledge about Major Sampayo that threatens him; and you are more than clever enough to sustain the part of an Englishman of wealth and position.”

“And do you mean that you yourself believe this preposterous story?”

“No; but I should like to know the real reason for your coming here.”

“And that Dr. Barosa, does he take me for a spy?”

“No, we have already made inquiries about you from our friends in England. But, like myself, he wishes to know why you are here. You will do well to give me your confidence.”

“And your other colleague—Major Sampayo?”

“I did not tell you that he was with us.”

“Not in so many words. And really I don’t care.”

“He will remember where he has met you before, and the facts may help us to know more about you—for your benefit or otherwise.”

“My dear madame, if you mean that for a threat, it does not in the least alarm me. Let me tell you once for all I am not a member of the English detective force; my presence here has not the remotest connexion with your politics or your plots; and I have no sort of sympathy with them one way or another. I am just an average Englishman; and as such claim the right to go where I will when I will, so long as I mind my own business. And as an Englishman I[56] can take care of myself and must decline to be frightened out of doing what I wish to do either by charming, cultured and handsome ladies, like yourself, or by such gutter scum as I had the tussle with last night.”

“Then you refuse to give me your confidence?”

“Let me put it rather that I have really no confidence worth giving. I shall hold absolutely secret what you have told me—that on my honour. And now do you mind if we talk about the scenery?”

“You will have cause to regret it, Mr. Donnington.”

“My dear madam, I have arrived at the mature age of twenty-seven, and probably twenty-six of them are full of regrets for lost chances. But there is a question of real seriousness I should like to put to you,” I said very gravely.


“What is the name of the third, no the fourth bluff, to the north of the river mouth?”

She turned and bent those strange eyes of hers upon me with an intent stare. “You mean me to understand that you regard everything I have said—my warning, my questions, everything—as a mere jest.”

“I mean that, although I am by the way of being a wilful person, I am not an ungrateful one; and that if you would do me the honour one day of making up a little party to view that bluff from the deck of my yacht, it would give me great pleasure and I hope promote that better understanding between us which I should like to think you desire as much as I.”

“I accept willingly,” she replied with a smile; but even then she could not resist a thrust. Looking at me out of the half-veiled corners of her eyes she asked: “May I bring Major Sampayo?”

“By all means, and Dr. Barosa and any others of your colleagues—even the fair Miralda; and I will have cosy corners specially fitted up for you all where you may talk politics or personalities as you prefer.”

Again her strange eyes fastened on mine, searchingly.[57] “What do you really mean by that?” she asked, with tense earnestness.

“Oh, please don’t let us get serious again, and read grave meanings into mere trifling banalities,” I exclaimed with a laugh. “I mean no more than that I should try to give you all a good time and let you enjoy it in your own way.”

“If I am to enjoy it, Mr. Donnington, you must ask Miralda’s brother, Lieutenant de Linto.”

“My dear lady, I’ll ask the whole regiment if you wish it.”

“Here he comes, you can ask him now. I suppose you know him?”

A young fellow in the uniform of a lieutenant had entered the palm house and came hurrying toward us. I did not care for his looks. Tall and slight of figure, a foppish and affected manner, anæmic and dissipated in looks with a narrow, retreating forehead, no chin to speak of, and prominent eyes, in one of which he had an eyeglass, I set him down as weak, unstable, shallow, and generally undesirable. But he was Miralda’s half-brother and thus to me a person of consideration.

“I say, Inez, this is too bad. I’ve been hunting for you everywhere and the dance is all but over.”

She beamed on him with one of her richest smiles. “I own my fault, Vasco, but I sent word to you by Miralda. I simply could not resist the opportunity of a chat with the distinguished Englishman every one is talking about. Mr. Donnington, Lieutenant de Linto.”

I had risen and shook hands cordially, expressing my pleasure at meeting him. “I fear that unwittingly I have taken your place, lieutenant,” I added. “Pray pardon me.”

“Here’s my card, Vasco. Take two dances for the one we have missed.”

“That’s all right then,” he said, as he took her card[58] eagerly and scribbled his initials on it. “I think after all I’m obliged to you, Mr. Donnington,” he added with a vacuous smile which he intended to be pleasant.

“Mr. Donnington has asked me to make up a little yachting party one day, Vasco, and I was just mentioning your name as you came up.”

“Oh, I say, but I’m a rare bad sailor,” he replied doubtfully.

“We’ll choose a fine day then, Vasco. And of course I couldn’t go without you.” She laid her hand on his arm and glanced up into his face with a yearning look which convinced him of her perfect sincerity and fetched a sigh out of him that told its own tale.

I excused myself promptly, and as I turned away he took the chair by her side, feasting his big eyes on her beauty and letting his little senses surfeit themselves in the glamour of her charms.

She had his scalp right enough. He was hers, body and soul and honour. But why had she taken the trouble? She cared for him even less than I cared for her; and the night before I had seen her look at Barosa with the light which only one man can bring to a woman’s eyes. Only one at a time, anyway.

Why then should she fool this little insignificant creature? Of course she had a purpose. She was not the woman to waste her time and her glances for nothing.

Was it those confounded politics again? One of the little wheels within the big one which was to have its part to play when the whole machinery of plot and conspiracy was set in motion.

Fools can be useful at times.

What part had this one to play?

It was nothing to me—and yet it might be much. He was Miralda’s brother; and nothing which concerned her could be indifferent to me.



AS I made my way through the crowded rooms with the object of finding the viscontesse and making sure of an invitation to her house, I saw Miralda and Sampayo sitting together. They did not see me and I stood a moment watching them.

He appeared to be urging her to do something and his eyes were insistent, compelling and passionate. There was no doubt that he felt for her all the animal love of which such a man is capable.

But there was no answering light in her eyes. She was passive, cold and indifferent; and the emotion he stirred was more like fear than anything.

Instinctively I hated the man and felt an unholy glow of gladness at the thought that at a word from me any hold or influence he could have over her would snap like a rotten twig.

My thoughts slipped back to that old time in South Africa; and in place of the swaggering major of cavalry, with his breast covered with orders, I saw him as I had seen him there, a broken-down tatter-de-mallion member of the hungry brigade at Koomarte Port; general sponge, reputed spy and acknowledged rascal, passing as a Frenchman under the name of Jean Dufoire; one of the many scamps who infested the border between the Transvaal and the Portuguese Colony, ripe for any scoundrelism from theft to throat-slitting.

This was the story I knew about him. When old[60] Kruger was bundling off his private fortune to Europe, this Dufoire managed to get hold of some secret information about one of the consignments and joined with three other men to steal it. They were successful. The two men in charge of it were found murdered; and the money, said to be nearly £50,000, was missing.

But that was not all. Not content with a share of the loot, Dufoire first picked a quarrel with one of his companions and shot him treacherously, and then cheated the other two of the greater part of the money and disappeared.

The facts came out when the two men were afterwards captured. One of them died; and just before his death confessed everything, in the hope that the British would take the matter up and secure Dufoire’s punishment. Many men were aware that I knew Dufoire by sight; and when the war was over and I was leaving Capetown for home, the other scamp, a Corsican named Lucien Prelot, sought me out to get news of him. He swore by all the saints in the calendar that if he could ever find Dufoire he would drive a knife between his ribs. He begged me on his knees to let him know if I ever met Dufoire again; and vowed, Corsican as he was, that he would go from one end of the world to the other in his quest for revenge.

Of course I would not have anything to do with such an affair; but he managed in some way to ferret out my address in England and wrote me two or three letters urging the same request. And then one day he turned up in London to tell me that he had made money on the Rand, that he was in Europe searching for Dufoire, and that he could and would pay me any sum I chose to ask if I would tell him where to find his enemy.

That was about a year before my father’s death; and every month had brought me a letter from him, in the hope that I could send news. These letters were addressed from various parts of Europe where[61] he was pursuing his search, with the deadly intensity of his unslaked and unslakable thirst for revenge.

And while Prelot was hunting for a Frenchman of the name of Jean Dufoire, the scoundrel himself had been strutting it in the Portuguese capital as Francisco Sampayo, major of cavalry. He had purchased his position, of course, with the fortune he had acquired by robbery, bloodshed and treachery; and had found some means to use it to obtain the promise of Miralda’s hand in marriage.

That some underhand means had been employed to force her consent I was certain; as certain as that I could scare the brute out of the country with half a dozen words. But before I spoke them I felt that I must learn more of the facts.

“Good evening, Mr. Donnington,” The voice broke in upon my reverie, and I turned to find Dr. Barosa at my elbow.

“Ah, good evening, Dr. Barosa,” I replied, as we shook hands.

“You were looking very thoughtful, sir; I am afraid I disturbed you.”

“I have reason to be thoughtful, doctor. I am more than a little perplexed by the position in which I find myself.”

“I shall be delighted to be of any service, if I can. Would you care for a chat here, or may I do myself the pleasure of calling upon you at your rooms?”

“Both, by all means. I should like a word or two with you, and the sooner the better; but I shall also be glad to see you at my rooms at any time.”

He thanked me and led the way to a spot where we could talk privately.

“I’ll go straight to the point, doctor: that is our English way. I have had a conversation with Contesse Inglesia this evening, and I wish to disabuse your mind thoroughly of any thought that I am a spy.”

“My dear sir, I do not think it.”

[62]“I don’t wish you only to think it, I want you to know. You’ll appreciate the difference. I am ready to give you any proofs you can suggest, to answer any questions you like to put, and to back every word I say with facts. I am tremendously in earnest about this. And when you have thoroughly convinced yourself, I wish you to convince any one and every one associated with you, who may be inclined to suspect me.”

“Your reasons, Mr. Donnington?”

“Must surely be obvious. Last night’s business showed me the length to which some of your more reckless friends are prepared to carry mistakes of the kind; and I desire to be able to walk the streets of the city without expecting to be shot or knifed at the next corner.”

“I do not doubt you, and certainly do not presume to ask for any facts; but if you would prefer to make any statement, I am of course ready to listen.”

I replied to that by giving him a fairly full account of myself, and then added: “Of course I am aware that my statement, unsupported by evidence, could easily be made up by any one who was here as a spy. I suggest, therefore, that you shall get evidence of my identity. The best and simplest thing I can suggest at the moment is that I give you the addresses of various firms who have photographed me from time to time, and that you send your agents to them to get photographs of Ralph Donnington which they have taken. You can then send some one to my place at Tapworth for the photographs to be identified; you can have them shown also to my bankers in London; and to any one of a dozen people who know all about me.”

“I accept your word, I assure you,” he said, with a wave of the hand.

“But that is just what I do not wish you to do. You must be in a position to say you know, and to table the evidence;” and with that I wrote down the[63] names and addresses and insisted upon his taking them.

“As the matter is naturally pressing you will of course use the telegraph, and if money will expedite your inquiries I will very gladly pay any sum that is necessary. I am, fortunately for myself, a man of considerable means, and not likely to spare money to put an end to this intolerable suspicion.”

“You have invited me to question you. There is one point. You are a friend of M. Volheno?”

“That gentleman, as I have told you, was brought to our place, Tapworth Hall, by my sister’s husband, M. Stefan Madrillo, some years ago, and when I came over here about these concessions, Madrillo advised me to see him. Only in that degree is he a friend of mine.”

“These concessions have been spoken about, Mr. Donnington, with unusual freedom.”

“That is not my doing. M. Volheno gave a somewhat lurid account of them to the Marquis de Pinsara, as a man likely to be able to help in the matter; and the latter appears to have told all his acquaintances. I shall not be in the least surprised to find the matter in the papers in the morning. Of course it is very ridiculous and calculated to frustrate my object entirely. But it is not my doing, I assure you.”

“Yet M. Volheno might have an object?”

“You mean to use them to conceal some other purpose for my visit?”

“And you give me your word that you have no other purpose except to obtain these concessions?”

“Contesse Inglesia put much the same question, and I will answer it as I answered her. I pledge my word that I have no sort or kind of interest in the political affairs of your country otherwise than as they may be incidentally connected with these concessions.”

“Is that an entirely frank answer, Mr. Donnington?”

“Any suspicion underlying that remark I have[64] already given you the means of dissipating. I declare to you, on my honour as an English gentleman, that I have none but absolutely private and personal reasons for coming to Lisbon.”

“You have discussed political matters with M. Volheno?”

“Certainly not in any detail. He told me the city was in a condition of unrest, and that there were all sorts of more or less dangerous combinations against the Government. But this was merely as a reason for the warning he gave me against being in the streets alone after dark.”

“You did not heed that warning?”

“No. I was disposed to smile at it. But I learnt my lesson last night, and shall profit by it in the future.”

Barosa sat a few moments thinking. “I will have these inquiries made, Mr. Donnington,” he said then; “but I have no doubt whatever of the result. I will make it my personal affair to see that you have no trouble. In point of fact we already have proof that you are what you say. Mademoiselle Dominguez and her mother met you in Paris last spring, and they of course know you to be Mr. Donnington.”

Why did he want to drag Miralda into the matter?

“I have intentionally kept her name out of our conversation, Dr. Barosa,” I answered with a smile, “and I still wish you to make your own investigations.”

“The Contesse Inglesia is disposed to think that your meeting with Mademoiselle Dominguez is connected with your presence here now.”

“The contesse is a very charming and delightful woman, doctor, and being a woman is likely to jump to conclusions.”

“You will understand, of course, that any such purpose would concern us. She is a friend of our cause, and betrothed to a man to whom we are under great obligations, Major Sampayo.”

“I will ask you, if you please, not to give me any[65] information about either your friends or your objects. For the rest, I shall be glad to know when you have satisfied yourself about me; and afterwards, if you wish, to see you at any time as a friend. But no politics, mind.”

He took this as a hint that the subject should be dropped, and he switched off to a topic I was always ready to talk about, yachting and yachts in general, and my own boat in particular. He was a keen yachtsman, and when I suggested that he should find time to have a run on the Stella, he accepted the invitation quite eagerly.

As a matter of fact, I rather liked him. He had treated me quite candidly; and I was convinced he was satisfied that, whatever might be my real object in coming to the city, it had no connexion with the political situation. His politics were no concern of mine. I was absolutely indifferent whether the King of Portugal was Dom Carlos or Dom Miguel; and it was no part of my duty to tell Volheno or any one else that this keen-eyed smooth-voiced, doctor, who was accepted as a loyalist in this most loyalist of gatherings, was in reality a secret agent of the Pretender endeavouring to exploit this National League in the interests of his master.

The only point where the thing threatened to affect me was in regard to Sampayo. Barosa had admitted that they were under great obligations to him, and I read this to mean that some of old Oom Paul’s money was finding its way into the coffers of the cause.

If, in return for the money, Sampayo had stipulated for the support of Barosa and the rest in regard to Miralda, there might be trouble. But I was so confident of being able to bring that scoundrel to his knees that I could view even such an alliance without concern.

What I had to do first was to get at Miralda’s own feelings and the reasons behind her engagement,[66] and for that I must do my best to secure her mother as an ally.

The viscontesse greeted me with a smile and a shake of the head. “You’ve neglected me shamefully, Mr. Donnington. Here’s nearly the whole evening gone and we’ve scarcely had a word together.”

“I hope we shall have many opportunities. I assure you I have not had a minute to myself the whole evening, and after all a place like this is not the best in the world for a real friendly talk.”

“When can you spare time to come and see us?”

“May I come?”

“May you come, indeed? Why of course you not only may, but must. Now when?”

“Shall you be at home to-morrow?”

“I’m always at home. Come in the afternoon. I’ve such a lot to tell you. I suppose you’ve heard about Miralda and Major Sampayo. I was just going to tell you about it this evening when that wretched old marquis carried you away.”

“You mean your daughter’s engagement? Yes. She herself told me of it.”

“Do you think him a handsome man? They call him one of the handsomest men in the army. And he’s very rich, too. There were heaps of women setting their caps at him.”

“A man who is both rich and handsome is generally labelled desirable. At least in London and presumably in Lisbon also.”

“You will find that out before you have been here long. Do you think our girls pretty?”

“Some of them are much more than pretty,” I agreed.

“Would you like an introduction to any of them? I’ll do it for you in a moment.”

“I am too pleased to be where I am to wish anything of the kind.”

“Ah, you always knew how to say nice things,[67] Mr. Donnington. I often think of that time in Paris, and sometimes I—do you know what I used to think?”

“If I was the subject of your thoughts I trust they were pleasant ones.”

“You know an old woman—I call myself old, but I’m offended in an instant if any one else does—an old woman, especially the mother of a pretty girl—you think Miralda pretty, don’t you?”

“By far the prettiest in the rooms to-night.”

“Well, a mother gets into the way of thinking that when a young man pays her attention, it’s vicarious, you know. A woman’s never too old to relish attentions, of course, but I suppose you know that. But in Paris I had my suspicions.”

“Of whom, viscontesse?”

“Of you, Mr. Donnington. Perhaps I should say they were rather hopes than suspicions. You were a great favourite of mine, I’ll admit that. At the same time, I wasn’t quite sure that some of the nice things you said and did were solely on my account. But that’s all over now, of course—over and done with;” and she smiled and fanned herself slowly, looking at me askance through half-closed lids, as if to watch the effect of her words.

Was she warning or reproaching me? Or both? What answer did she expect? “I trust nothing has occurred in the interval to cause me to forfeit your good opinion, madame.”

The fan stopped a moment, as if she detected the double meaning of my words. “Four months is a long time to take to travel a thousand miles or so. I had hoped to see you in Lisbon.”

“I think you know that I was called from Paris suddenly by my father’s illness. He lay for many weeks between life and death, and it was absolutely impossible for me to leave him even for a day. I have come here at the first possible moment.”

The fan stopped again, abruptly this time, and she[68] lowered it slowly until it rested upon her lap; her look was very serious and her eyes full of concern.

“It is only these—these concessions which have brought you here now, Mr. Donnington?” she replied after a pause, her tone and look suggesting some degree of nervous doubt of what my reply would be.

I returned her look and framed my answer carefully. “I have been very careful to let every one know that—every one else.”

She bit her lips and frowned, the concern in her eyes deepened, and with a half-suppressed sigh she turned away and began to fan herself slowly again. I think she understood my meaning, but before she could reply Miralda came up on Major Sampayo’s arm. As she saw them approaching, the viscontesse started and glanced quickly and nervously at me with a look I could not read.

I rose to give my seat to Miralda, and her mother sent Sampayo to find the visconte as she wished to go home. Then she burst into one of her garrulous speeches and did not cease speaking until Sampayo returned with the visconte, when she hurried both husband and Miralda away on the plea of an overpowering headache. And Sampayo went with them.

I was both perplexed and excited as the result of that short conversation. It was possible to read so much both in her words and in her manner; and I was puzzling over her real meaning when Sampayo re-entered the room, glanced round hurriedly, and then came straight across to me.

By the heavy frown in which his brows were drawn together, his air of decision, and the expression of his eyes when he saw me, I guessed that he had at last succeeded in remembering me and had decided to lose no time in finding out what I knew about him.

I had been watching him without looking up, and when I did so, his look changed and he forced a smile: a very poor effort to appear at ease.

[69]“You know I was puzzling where we could have met, Mr. Donnington. I have settled it at last. It was in South Africa, and I wish to have a word or two with you.”



ALTHOUGH Sampayo had obviously made up his mind to ascertain at once whether I knew anything about those black doings of his in South Africa, I had not the slightest intention of satisfying him.

There were many things I had to clear up before I dealt with him; and, as matters stood, it suited me much better that Miralda should be betrothed to him than to any one else.

Sampayo was a big brute, much bigger than I, and had once possessed great strength; but during his years of comfort and wealth, fat had taken the place of a good deal of his muscle. He had, however, retained the air of bullying masterfulness and he now tried to bully me.

“You have not been frank with me, Mr. Donnington,” he said as he sat down. “I don’t suppose you wished purposely to mislead me, but you did so in fact. You said that after the relief of Mafeking you did not see any more of the war.”

“No, no, pardon me. I said I was sent down country.”

“Well, that’s much the same thing, sir; whereas, from what you have told Mademoiselle Dominguez it is clear that you went up country again and were there at the end of things. You meant me to infer the opposite, and I must ask you for your reasons.”

At his hectoring tone I turned and looked him full[71] in the eyes, and then turned away again with a shrug of the shoulders, giving him no other reply.

“You heard me, Mr. Donnington.”

I took out my watch, glanced at the time, and replaced it in my pocket very deliberately, and yawned.

“I have asked you a question, sir, and I mean to have an answer.”

I paused and looked at him again more deliberately than before. “Is it possible that you are addressing me?”

“Certainly I am addressing you,” he said with an angry twist of the head.

“Then be good enough to drop that barrack-yard tone, or say at once that you wish to force a quarrel upon me.”

I knew he was an arrant coward; and this was not at all to his liking. After a slight pause he said in a very different manner: “I may have spoken abruptly, but I think I am entitled to an explanation.”

“Of what?” I rapped out very sharply.

“Whether you intentionally misled me as to your movements in South Africa?”

“What on earth can it matter to you or any one else except myself where I went and where I did not go in South Africa?”

“Do you say you did not meet me out there?”

“Why should I say whether I did or did not? And why should you be so anxious about it?”

“I am not anxious about it at all. No more so than yourself. But if you did meet me and now deny it, I have a right to ask your reasons.”

“I met hundreds of men, of course—thousands indeed—and equally of course you may have been one of them.”

“That is not meant as an evasion, I hope,” he exclaimed, losing his temper again.

“Major Sampayo!” I cried indignantly.

He gave a twirl to his moustaches and it looked as[72] if he were going to quarrel in earnest. But he thought better of it. “I meant no offence, Mr. Donnington,” he muttered.

“Then I will take none.”

“But you will remember your remark that you never forget a face.”

“I did not mean that I could identify at sight every man I met in the campaign both on our side and among the Boers. Of course there would have to be something in the circumstances of the meeting which would serve as a connecting link.”

“And you do not remember me then?” he persisted.

It was awkward to answer this without a direct lie, so I turned and had another steady look at him for perhaps half a minute and then shook my head. “Can you suggest anything likely to recall your features to me?”

His eyes shifted uneasily under my scrutiny, and he vented a little sigh of relief as he replied: “Of course I cannot.”

“We both appear to be in the same difficulty, then. Now that I look fixedly at your features, there is something about them that I seem to know; but very likely it is only due to the fact that I have seen you two or three times to-night. Sampayo. Sampayo,” I repeated, as if trying to recall the name, and then shook my head again as if giving the matter up. “I suppose we must take it that we have not met,” I said.

“I can understand that,” I said with a smile.

“You will excuse my curiosity, I trust, Mr. Donnington. It may have seemed somewhat exaggerated to you perhaps, but I am always anxious to meet any one who was out there when I was.”

“I can understand that,” I said, with a smile.

All the former uneasy suspicion leapt to life again in his eyes. “Why?” he asked, quickly and eagerly.

“It is just the same with me,” I answered lightly. “It suggests a sort of comradeship, you know, chatting over the old experiences.”

[73]“Certainly, certainly,” he agreed.

“I shall be glad to have an opportunity of exchanging experiences with you some day. Only we mustn’t begin, as we did just now, by firing broadsides at one another.”

“No, no, of course not. I am quite ashamed of my heat.”

“That’s all right, major. On which side were you in the war? Of course we’ve all buried the hatchet long ago.”

“I was not a combatant, Mr. Donnington. I was making money and was very successful, I am glad to say.” As I knew how he had made it, his boastful self-complacent tone was amusing. “I rejoined the army here on my return. And now there is another topic on which I should like to say just a word or two. You met Mademoiselle Dominguez last spring in Paris, I believe.”

“Yes. She was there with her mother.”

“You are aware that she has done me the honour to promise to be my wife?”

“Oh yes. She herself told me. But——”

He interrupted with a wave of the hand. “One moment. It has been suggested to me to-night that your present visit is in some respects a result of that meeting?”

I smiled. “Considering that I have been only two days in the city there appears to be a tremendous amount of interest in my movements and actions.”

“You have proposed that we should see something of each other in a friendly way, Mr. Donnington, and I should be glad of your assurance that there is no truth in the suggestion?”

“Really, really!” I protested laughing again.

“Pardon my frankness, but I wish to know where we stand.”

“You are not serious, of course?”

“Indeed I am. And I must press the point.”

[74]“Well, really, I can’t take such a thing seriously at all, Major Sampayo. You are naturally at liberty to entertain any ideas you wish as to my presence in Lisbon. But I am greatly astonished that you should have even broached such a subject.”

“I have a right to put the question to you, I think.”

“Well, I disagree with you, and absolutely decline to discuss it. You must have seen very little of the English in South Africa if your experiences have led you to believe that it is our custom to exchange confidences with a stranger. Possibly after you and I have had our proposed chat over our mutual experiences out there and get to know one another better, we may resume the subject. But not until then, if you please. And now, I must bid you good-night.”

He looked very angry and malicious; but I did not care for that. I was rather pleased than otherwise that Miralda should have spoken of me to him in such a way as to rouse his jealousy.

Sleep was almost out of the question for me that night. I was in a positive fever of unrest.

Did Miralda care for me? If so, why had she promised to marry Sampayo?

Over and over again I recalled every word that had passed between us that evening, and every glance she had given me. The first look at the moment of meeting had been one of surprise, but I had read no other feeling into it.

She had, however, been genuinely indignant when she heard that only business had brought me. And she had every right. I had carried matters far enough in Paris to warrant her in believing I cared for her. I had done everything I could to make my feelings plain. Then I had gone without a word, had remained away four months, and had now arrived “on business.” It was only human nature that she should resent such treatment.

Unexplained, my conduct was that of a cad and a[75] coxcomb. She might well believe that in Paris I had spoken without meaning, had been amusing myself with a flirtation, and had forgotten her as soon as I had shaken the dust of the city off my feet. To follow to Lisbon on such an errand as the visconte had described and I had acquiesced in, was nothing short of a brutal insult to her.

But while her resentment was white-hot, I had made her see the truth. Her eyes had told me that she understood. And the explanation had shifted the axis of all her thoughts. I had come solely on her account, hurrying to her at the first moment I was at liberty to speak the words which had been impossible in Paris, and—she had pledged herself to another man.

If she cared for me—always that if—she would find herself playing the part she believed I had played. The charge of inconstancy was transferred from my shoulders to hers. And she had to face the task of telling me the truth. Her sudden agitation was intelligible enough. And she had undoubtedly been very deeply moved. That thought was as balm in Gilead to me.

I thought long and carefully over her manner at that point. She had thrown off her agitation with an effort and passed at once to the opposite extreme of indifference; she had plunged into a discussion of conventional trivialities of no interest to either of us, and had deftly fended off my attempts to refer to our former relations until she herself had mentioned them in a way that implied they were past and buried. And she had followed this with the news of the engagement.

The object might have been to spare us both from embarrassment. But I read more in it. That she should try to spare me pain was as natural as is the light when the sun shines. But she had not spared me. She would know that to refer to it in the light tone she had used would add to the shock; and there had[76] not been a word of preparation and not one of regret.


I thought I could see the reason. She wished me to believe her heartless and unfeeling. She had regretted her involuntary agitation on learning the truth, lest I should believe she really cared. She had then acted designedly and with the set purpose of making me believe she had entirely forgotten the Paris episodes, could speak of them with complete indifference, and was happy in her engagement.

Again, why?

And again I thought I could see her reason. She felt there were circumstances behind her betrothal to Sampayo which shut out the possibility of its being broken and she wished to drive home that conviction upon me. She could not tell me what the facts and influences were which had decided her; so she deliberately blackened herself in my eyes, posing as a jilt who had first encouraged me to hope and had then thrown me over with a laugh and a careless toss of the head.

But I knew her too well to accept any such self-caricature as a true portrait, even without the help of all I had heard from Inez, from Barosa, and from the viscontesse.

Was it too late now to win? It might be; but it certainly was not too late to make a big effort. And such an effort I would make at once. If she had compromised herself in this wretched conspiracy business so far as to be under the thumb of Barosa and his associates, her very safety demanded that I should strive with might and main to break the power they held over her and set her free from it.

But my fear was that some other compelling influence was at work; and I looked to find it in her home. It was not the viscontesse, I was certain of her; but I knew very little yet of the visconte and nothing[77] at all of the brother, Vasco, except that he was infatuated with Inez and was being properly fooled by her. I made my promised visit to the viscontesse on the following afternoon hoping to be able to resume the thread of the conversation at the reception. But no opportunity offered. She had some friends and I could not get a word with her alone; and Miralda did not come in until just as I was leaving.

But I learnt something from the conversation. It concerned mainly the personal side of the political situation. Every one had a grievance against M. Franco, the Dictator. In his zeal for economy he had swept away a host of sinecure positions about the Court; and had thus made enemies not only of every one who had been paid for doing nothing and their friends and relatives, but also of all who had been looking forward to such payments.

The visconte himself had held one of the best of these sinecures. He had been the royal cork-drawer or napkin ring-holder-in-chief, or something equally important, and the loss of the salary had been hotly resented.

It sounded intensely ridiculous; but the viscontesse herself was full of indignation; and her friends all agreed and joined in abusing the Government with a violence which, although entirely laughable, proved how widespread was the discontent among those who had been staunch in their loyalty.

It was on this feeling among the higher classes that Barosa was working on behalf of the Pretender, Dom Miguel.

Just as I was leaving, the viscontesse found a moment to tell me she wished to have had more opportunity of talking to me, so I promptly asked her to come to luncheon on the Stella the next day, and she was hesitating when Miralda came in. We were standing near the door and she joined us. She greeted me with just the same air of detached friendliness[78] she had shown on the previous evening; but when her mother spoke of my invitation, she surprised me.

“It will be delightful, and I should like it above all things—that is if the invitation is to include me, Mr. Donnington?”

“Why, of course.”

“And can we have a little run out to sea? I love the sea you know.”

“It shall be exactly as you wish,” I replied, and having arranged that the launch was to be ready for them at noon, I went off delighted at the prospect of having Miralda and her mother to myself, for some hours.



THE next morning was gloriously fine, and I was on the Stella in good time to see that all was in readiness. Old Bolton, my skipper, muttered something about the wind shifting and that we should probably have a change in the weather, but for once I didn’t believe him, and just before noon I jumped into the launch and went off in high spirits to fetch Miralda and her mother.

Then came a decidedly disagreeable surprise.

As I stepped on to the quay, Inez was waiting for me, her servant standing by with wraps. With one of her most radiant smiles she gave me her hand and reminded me that I had invited her to see the yacht. “So when I heard Miralda and the viscontesse were going to-day, I thought this would be just a chance of chances.”

“Of course, delighted,” I replied very cordially. I couldn’t very well tell her she wasn’t wanted; so I buttoned up my chagrin and made the best of it. “We’re going to have a little run out to sea.”

“You’re quite sure I shall not upset your plans?” she asked, knowing quite well that that was precisely what she was doing.

“My dear lady, what plans do you think I have that could be spoilt? There’s heaps of room on the Stella for us all.”

“I mean with regard to Miralda, Mr. Donnington,”[80] she said, dropping her light tone and fixing those queer eyes of hers on me.

“I hope to give both the viscontesse and her daughter a pleasant day’s outing. You don’t consider that a very deadly plan, I hope.”

“You may remember my warning?”

“I try to make it a rule to remember only the pleasant things which are said to me by beautiful ladies, contesse.”

“You mean you refuse to be warned?”

“Against what?”

“Ah, you pretend you do not know,” she retorted impatiently.

“I don’t think you quite grasp the position. I am in Lisbon on business which will detain me some little time. Meanwhile, I am fortunate in having met some old friends and made some new ones, and I am delighted to have an opportunity of welcoming them on my yacht. That is how matters stand. And any warning against doing that, however well meant and by whomsoever given, is really as little needed as if you or I were to go to the Stella’s captain and warn him against hidden reefs out there on the open sea.”

“It is against a hidden reef in an apparently open sea that I am warning you.”

“Well, Captain Bolton is a splendid seaman and knows his charts, but a man of very few words, and he would—just smile.”

“You may smile if you will; but do you think I should have forced myself upon you in this way without reason?”

“The man is fortunate indeed upon whom such pleasure is thus thrust.”

“You cover your meaning with a jest—but I am too much in earnest. I wish to be your friend. You must not seek to interfere with Miralda’s marriage.”

“Your pardon, but we are really getting too personal. Let me suggest that we wait to discuss that lady until[81] she is present. Ah, here they are,” I exclaimed, catching sight of them. And then I had a little thrust at Inez. “And you are fortunate, too. Lieutenant de Linto is with them.”

I knew how he must bore her; and she did not succeed in disguising her chagrin. She had admitted that she had come as a sort of watchdog; and the punishment fitted the crime so aptly that I grinned. Nor was that to be her only punishment, as matters turned out. The skipper proved a true weather prophet, and Inez was a desperately bad sailor.

She played her watchdog part cleverly; but it was entirely superfluous. All the delightful anticipations I had indulged in were killed by Miralda herself, whose conduct perplexed me far more than on the previous night.

Almost from the moment her dainty foot touched the Stella’s deck, she acted in a manner I could not have deemed possible. She was very bright and laughed and talked as if there were no such thing in the world as care and trouble. She treated me as if I were a mere acquaintance whom she was just pleased to meet again. Nothing more.

But it was not that which so pained me. She spoke freely of her visit to Paris, referring now to her mother and again to me in regard to little episodes of the time there, and doing it all without a suggestion of restraint. Then in a hard tone and with jarring half-boastful laughter, she began to jest about her conquests. She named several men, who, as I knew, had admired her; mimicked their ways, ridiculed their attentions, and freely admitted that she had flirted with them, because “one must amuse oneself.”

If any man had told me that she was capable of such conduct I think I should have knocked him down. But I heard it all myself. I could scarcely believe my own eyes and ears. The last belief in the back of my mind was that she could be the callous, heartless[82] coquette she was showing herself, luring men to her by her beauty only to laugh at them for believing in her, and descending to the depths of talking about it to others in a vein of self-glorification.

The luncheon gong interrupted but did not check her, and as I sat listening in silence she appealed to me more than once to confirm some little ridiculous trait of some one or other of the men she had “scalped.”

Inez saw and rejoiced at my discomfiture, but retribution was at hand for her. When we sat down to luncheon the sea was as smooth as the table-cloth, but when we reached the deck again the weather had changed and a heavy bank of clouds to the south threatened a capful of wind. And even this served to show Miralda in a new light.

She heard me tell the skipper to return. “Is it going to be rough? I hope so. I love a rough sea. Don’t go back yet.”

Inez and Vasco protested vigorously.

Miralda looked at them both and shrugged her shoulders, and then turned to me. “I don’t see why we should spoil our pleasure for them, do you?” she asked with a laugh that was half a sneer.

“I am sorry to cut your pleasure short, but I think we had better return,” I replied.

“People look so silly when they are ill;” and with an unpleasant laugh she crossed to the side.

When the wind came and the Stella began to roll, Inez hurried away, followed directly by Vasco.

The viscontesse had been very quiet all the time, and although the motion of the yacht did not appear to upset her, she said she would rather lie down and asked Miralda to go with her.

“Don’t be unreasonable, mother,” was the reply. “I am enjoying every moment of it. You don’t want to shut me up in a stuffy cabin. But take my hat with you, and bring me a wrap of some sort, and my cloak.”

[83]The unfeeling words and the tone in which they were uttered, stung me like the knots of a whip lash. I gave my arm to the viscontesse and took her below and installed her comfortably on a sofa in the saloon.

“Miralda loves a rough sea, Mr. Donnington,” she said, as she pointed to the wraps for me to take on deck. “Don’t stay with me; I am going to take an old woman’s privilege and have a nap.”

I took the things in silence and returned to Miralda.

She stood by the bulwarks her eyes intent on the troubled waters; a stray lock or two of her hair had been freed by the breeze, and her face was radiant with delight. She revelled in the scene. A veritable incarnation of vigorous youth and bewitching beauty.

She turned as I reached her side. “Isn’t it glorious, Mr. Donnington? I suppose I may stay on deck? I shan’t be in the way?”

“The whole yacht is yours to be where you will, of course,” I replied.

“You always say such pleasant things. I remember that knack of yours. Help me on with this cloak,” she added with a coquettish glance. “There, how do I look?” she asked when she had adjusted the wrap, gracefully, as all her acts were. “And now you must find me a corner where I shan’t be quite blown away,” she commanded.

I found her a corner and installed her.

“We shall want two chairs, of course, and then we can have a long chat like we used to in Paris.”

I had had quite enough of Paris already, if she meant to continue to talk in her former strain. But I fetched another chair and sat down.

Then she laughed suddenly and almost boisterously. “Do you know I really believe my mother wanted me to go and stop with her? She can be a terrible nuisance. Imagine me pinned up there. Sympathize with me.”

“The viscontesse told me she hoped to get to sleep,” I replied.

[84]“Then wasn’t it selfish of her? As if I was going to miss this beautiful sea just because she feels bad and has a headache. Absolutely preposterous, wasn’t it?” and she laughed again.

I looked round at her and made no reply.

She returned the look as if surprised at my silence. Then her eyes lighted and her lips parted. “Oh, I remember now, of course. It was you who always put on that mournful look—funereally gloomy—when I used to do things which shocked your English propriety. I was thinking it was that Graf von Holstein—that long-faced German who would insist upon giving me flowers I did not want and then expected me to dance with him in return.”

I had given her flowers and asked her to dance when she wore them.

“Very unreasonable, mademoiselle,” I said after a pause.

“Oh, men are always like that. They all seem to think that because a girl amuses herself and dances once or twice with them, they have made a conquest.”

“A man is of course unreasonable to believe in a woman.”

“What a delightfully cynical platitude. Isn’t the sea getting up quickly? Poor mother! I am afraid you won’t tempt her on the yacht again.” Again she laughed, and added: “And that’s a nuisance, for I love the sea.”

I turned unexpectedly and caught a look in her eyes as they were bent on me, which she had not meant me to see. And then I thought I understood.

“I thought that was it,” I said quietly. I myself could smile now.

“What was what, Mr. Donnington?” she asked as a sort of challenge; adding, with an attempt to resume her former expression of reckless frivolity: “that sounds like a conundrum, doesn’t it? And they are such stupid things.”

[85]“I believe I have the answer to the bigger conundrum.”

“There’s the grave Englishman again,” she jested, with a toss of the head.

“Yes. ‘Miralda’s Englishman,’” I answered, holding her eyes with mine and speaking slowly and deliberately.

It was great daring, but I felt that I must strip away this mask of heartless raillery which galled and pained me beyond endurance. I would know the truth at any cost. If this coquette of flouts and jibes who laughed at men with one breath and made light of even her mother’s sufferings with the next, was the real woman whom I had set in the inmost shrine of my heart, the sooner I was away the better.

The mask fell, but not at once.

She met my gaze steadily, almost defiantly, and the blood rushed to her face as she read my look and strove to force a laugh and utter a jest in reply. But the words would not come.

“You understand me,” I said, in the same deliberate tone. “You are either the most heartless jilt who ever trifled with the best feelings of men in order to be able to boast of your triumphs afterwards, or you are deliberately playing the part for some purpose of your own. God forbid that I should accept your self-accusation.”

“I will go——” she began and half rose. But the reaction came then. The crimson faded from her face, leaving it white and strained. She hid it behind her hands as she sank back in the chair, her head lowered, trembling in agitation.

I was answered and without a word I rose and left her that she might be alone while she recovered her self-command.

With a rare feeling of exultation I renewed all that had passed in the light of my new knowledge. She had set herself purposely to disgust me with the gibbering caricature she had drawn of herself. And my[86] heart thrilled and my blood raced through my veins as I saw that my reading of her conduct on the evening of the reception had been right.

Many minutes passed as I paced the deck deciding the course I would take, and not until I had settled it did I return to her.

She had regained her self-possession, but as I sat down she looked at me questioningly and nervously as if fearing how I should refer to the secret I had surprised. But there was not a vestige of the mask left. She was just herself.

“The wind is dropping again already,” I said in a casual tone.

Her eyes thanked me, but she made no reply and sank back in her chair with an air of relief. I uttered a few commonplaces about the weather and the yacht, worked round to the subject of Lisbon and then to that of my supposed purpose in the city. For once the concessions were of use, as they enabled me to describe my own acts and intentions in regard to her as if I were referring to the concessions.

“Of course I shall find difficulties—indeed the whole position is entirely different from my anticipations. I ought to have been here earlier. But it was impossible. After my father’s stroke of paralysis which took me at a moment’s notice from Paris, he lay between life and death for three months; and although I was as anxious then as now about these concessions and should have come at once to Lisbon, I could not leave him for any purpose, however vital and important to me.”

“No, of course not,” she murmured, not raising her eyes from the deck.

“But now that I am here, of course I shall not abandon my efforts to obtain them until they are actually in the possession of some one else. I have heard that they are promised, but I shall not regard that as an actual barrier.”

She moved slightly and answered in a voice firm but[87] low: “From what I have heard you will only be wasting time and effort, Mr. Donnington. You will not be allowed to—to obtain them.”

“You think the unsettled condition of political matters here, the cabals and intrigues and so on, will interfere with me?”

“I am sure of it,” she said very deliberately.

“You mean there are obstacles of which I know nothing. As for those I do know, I care nothing for them.”

“It depends upon what you do know.” Every word was uttered in a low tense monotone, full charged with suppressed feeling.

“I know, as I say, that they are promised to some one else, but that doesn’t count with me. I know too that they are involved in the secret plans of some of those whose political objects are opposed to the professed objects of some leaders of the League of Portugal. But that also I will not regard as an insuperable barrier.”

“Is that all you know?”


“It has not occurred to you that private influences may be at work which those who might wish to help you are powerless to resist, and which make your quest absolutely unattainable and impossible?”

“I admit I have had fears of that, but I shall not believe it impossible until I know what those influences are.”

“I have told you that I know it to be impossible, Mr. Donnington.”

“Will you tell me more—what these private influences are?”

“I cannot without speaking of things that must be secret; without revealing a story of shame and crime.”

“Why should I sacrifice an object which is more to me than any I have ever desired because another person has done wrong?”

“You must not even seek to discover it.”

[88]“On the contrary, I will know it within the next few hours.”

“If you knew it, you would recognize the truth of what I have said. But if you will take advice, you will use those next few hours to be many leagues on your way to England.”

“I will go when I said—when the concessions are actually in the possession of those who seek them. Not one hour, not one minute before.”

She was silent for a while and then for the first time since I had rejoined her she sat forward and looked at me. “Once in those days when we met in Paris, you said you would do anything I asked you? Does that promise hold good now?”


“Then I wish you to leave Lisbon at once.”

I shook my head. “No, anything but that.”

“I was afraid,” she murmured, and leant back in her seat, with a sigh of despair; and we both remained silent.

Some time later the skipper’s voice roused me. “We shall drop anchor in about quarter of an hour, Mr. Donnington,” he said as he passed.

Miralda rose with a sigh, started to leave me and then returned.

“There is one thing you spoke of which I must make clear. I am no revolutionary, as you hinted, but I am not free. I have been compromised against my will and I cannot break the bonds. But don’t think me a rebel, because you see me associated with those who are.”

And without waiting for any reply, she turned and hurried away.

When the anchor was dropped and the launch waiting to take us all on shore, she came up with the viscontesse and was again wearing a mask. But a different one now. She laughed and chatted brightly, but without the hardness or bitterness of the earlier time.

I was once more the stranger. I gathered that the[89] mask was now worn to mislead Inez, for when we shook hands, although her words of thanks were just those of common courtesy, there was an expression in the eyes and a simultaneous pressure of the fingers eloquent of the altered relations between us.

Wishing to be entirely alone I returned to the Stella and remained there thinking and speculating and planning.

I did not reach my rooms until late and found a letter awaiting me which made me rub my eyes in astonishment.

It was from Volheno, thanking me for some information I had given him and saying that it had been acted upon the previous night with excellent results. “It will of course be considered by the Government when we come to decide the matter of the Beira concessions; and I need scarcely say that if you can give us any more information of the same kind, you will render the Government a great service.”

I had given no information and would see him in the morning and explain. The man was mad; and I tossed the letter down and went off to bed.

I must have slept heavily after the day in the fresh air, for I was roused by some one shaking me roughly.

I opened my eyes to find the lights switched up and the police in my room. Two of them were searching the room and a third stood over me and ordered me sternly to get up and dress and be quick about it.

“What does it mean?” I asked, blinking like an owl in the sudden light.

“You are arrested. That’s what it means. Dress and come with us, unless you want to go as you are;” and the fellow gave point to his words by stripping off the bedclothes.

A curious sequel, this, to Volheno’s letter.



DIGNITY in a nightshirt is impossible; so I rolled off the bed and dressed myself quickly.

Why I should be arrested I could not imagine, unless it was in some way the outcome of that row in the streets. Even if that were so, the thing could not be serious. I had been mistaken for one of the mob and nearly clubbed by a policeman; but it was scarcely likely I should be punished because he had missed his aim. Probably some fool or other had blundered, and the whole thing was just a mistake.

I was disposed to smile at it, therefore. I might lose half a night’s sleep; but that was no great matter; and as a recompense I should have an experience at first hand of police methods under a dictator.

“What am I supposed to have done?” I asked the man who had awakened me.

“Wait and see.” He jerked the words out with scowling gruffness.

“In England when a man is arrested like this it’s usual to tell him the reason.”

“This isn’t England.”

“There’s no need to make the affair more unpleasant than necessary by talking in that tone. The whole thing’s a mistake; but I don’t blame you. Why growl at me, therefore?”


“Well, who ordered this?”

“Hurry.” And he accompanied the word with an emphatic gesture.

[91]“Thank you,” I said with a grin; and as it was evident I should not get anything out of him, I finished dressing in silence. In the meanwhile the two men finished their search of the drawers and wardrobe and my luggage; and we went to my sitting-room.

This had also been ransacked; and the work must have been done before they roused me. “Your men certainly understand their work,” I said; for the search had been very thorough; “but you might have put some of the things back in their places. If you’ll give me a couple of minutes, I’ll do it myself, however.”

“No.” Short, sharp, and peremptory this, from the fellow who had spoken before.

“Then wake my servant—his room is through the kitchen at the end of the hall and up a short flight of stairs.”

“No.” Same tone from the same speaker.

“All right. Then I’ll leave a line here for him to let him know what has happened.”


“But he’ll think I’ve gone mad, or bolted, or——”

“Come.” He was quite a master of monosyllabic dialogue.

“I’ll be hanged if I will,” I flung back at him angrily.

But as he pulled out a revolver and made me understand—without even a monosyllable this time—that I should be shot if I didn’t, I decided not to be obstinate.

As we left the door of the house a vehicle drove up and I was bundled into it, none too gently.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Silence.” The word was so fiercely uttered that I saw no use in arguing the point. I sat still therefore wondering to which prison we were going and what steps I should be allowed to take to get the matter explained. The simplest course would be to send a line to Volheno; but the arrest was really an outrage,[92] and in the interests of other Englishmen in the city, a row ought to be made about it by the British authorities.

I was hesitating to which of the two quarters I would send, when the carriage stopped before a large private house, the door of which was instantly opened and I was hurried inside. Obviously I was expected.

The three men took me up a broad flight of stairs and halted on the landing. The man of monosyllables went into a room at the back of the house, taking with him some papers which I concluded he had brought from my rooms; and after perhaps a couple of minutes he reopened the door and signed to us to enter.

Seated at a large official-looking table was a man in evening dress reading the letter from Volheno, the receipt of which had so puzzled me on my return from the Stella. To my intense surprise he rose and offered me his hand.

“I am sorry to have had to disturb you, Mr. Donnington, and am extremely obliged to you for having come so promptly,” he said with a courteous smile and an appearance of great cordiality.

This was too much for my gravity. I looked at him in bewilderment, and then laughed. “As a matter of fact your men didn’t give me any alternative.”

“I do not understand,” he replied glancing from me to the police, who looked rather sheepish.

“Well, I was arrested. These men got into my rooms—I don’t know how—hauled me out of bed, would tell me nothing, except that I was under arrest; and dragged me here. That’s why I came so promptly,” I said drily.

“What does this mean, you?” he thundered at the police, his eyes flaming his anger.

“I was only ordered to bring him here, and I brought him,” answered the man of few words, in a hang-dog, surly tone.

“By Heaven, it is infamous. Do you mean to tell[93] me that you never delivered M. Volheno’s letter to this gentleman?”

“I had no letter.”

“You blockhead, you fool, you thing of wood, get out of the room. You’ll hear of this again, all of you. A set of clumsy mules without the brains of an idiot amongst you;” and he stormed away at them furiously.

I chuckled at their discomfiture while admiring at the same time the excellent variety of abusive epithet possessed by their angry superior.

“These blunders are the curse and despair of public men,” he exclaimed as he slammed the door after them and returned to his seat. “Of course the whole thing is an egregious blunder, Mr. Donnington, and I tender you at once a most profound apology.”

I considered it judicious to mount the high horse. “It is a very disgraceful affair, sir, and naturally I shall report the matter to the representatives of my country here and demand satisfaction.”

“Oh, I hope you will not find it necessary to do that,” he replied in a tone of great concern. “I would not have had it occur for any consideration in the world.”

“A man in my position is not likely to submit tamely to such an infamous outrage; and I cannot see my way to have such a thing hushed up,” I declared with a very grandiose air. “It might have occurred to any countryman of mine whose lack of influence might render him unable to protect himself.”

“Let us talk it over;” he urged; and we did at some length until I allowed myself to be mollified by his apologies, and agreed not to take any step without first seeing Volheno.

“And now perhaps you will have the goodness to explain why I was asked so courteously”—I dwelt on the phrase and he winced—“to come here at this time of night.”

“It was really M. Volheno’s suggestion, Mr. Donnington. You see I am in evening dress and I was fetched[94] home hurriedly from a social gathering as the result of some discoveries the police have made. I may explain I am the magistrate—d’Olliveira is my name: you may perhaps have heard it.”

“I have not. I never discuss public matters here,” I said.

“Well, as I was saying, some important discoveries have been made and a number of arrests——”

“Of the same nature as mine?” I interjected.

“Oh, please,” he replied with a deprecatory smile and wave of the hand. “A number of genuine arrests have been made and I am going to interrogate the prisoners. M. Volheno thinks it very probable that you can identify——”

“Do what?” I exclaimed.

“We believe that they are some of the men who frequented the revolutionary headquarters in the Rua Catania about which you gave him information.”

“Wait a moment. I never gave M. Volheno any information of any sort whatever, sir.”

He gave me a very shrewd glance and his eyes were hard and piercing. “Surely—I don’t understand, then.”

“I am beginning to, I think. I had a letter from him to-night—I think your clever police brought it away with them—in which he thanked me for having done something of the sort. But he is under a complete delusion. I am going to see him in the morning and tell him so.”

“Is this the letter?” I nodded as he held it up. “With your permission I’ll read it again.”

“I don’t care what you do with it,” I said.

“It is certainly very strange,” he muttered to himself when he finished. “He clearly has had a letter from you and this is the reply to it.”

“Nothing of the sort is clear, sir, and I’ll beg you to be so good as not to imply that I should lie about it either to you or to him,” I rapped out hotly. “I[95] have had as much from your people as I can stand for one night. I tell you point-blank that I did not write any letter either to M. Volheno or any one else giving any such information as he and you appear to think; nor did I tell any one anything of the sort. I declare that on my word of honour.”

His look was very stern. “This is an official matter, of course, Mr. Donnington, and you must not regard anything I say as reflecting in any way upon your word. But I am taken entirely by surprise, of course, and equally of course the matter cannot rest here.”

“What does that mean?”

He made a little gesture of protest and sat thinking. “Do you say that you had no such information about the house in the Rua Catania?” he asked after the pause.

“What I know and what I don’t know concerns no one but myself, sir,” I replied firmly. “I decline to answer your question.”

He shrugged his shoulders significantly. “This may be more serious than I thought. You will see that. I think, perhaps, I had better send for M. Volheno.”

“You can send for the Dictator himself if you like. It makes no sort of difference to me.”

He was much perplexed what to do and at length took a paper from one of the pigeon holes of the table, folded it very carefully and then held it out to me. “Is that your signature, Mr. Donnington?” He put the question in his severest magisterial manner.

“It’s uncommonly like it, I admit.”

“Ah,” he grunted with evident satisfaction. “Have you any objection to write a few lines in my presence and at my dictation.”

“None whatever, provided you undertake to destroy what I write in my presence afterwards.”

He smiled grimly and then rose and waved me to sit at the desk.

[96]“Well?” I asked, looking up pen in hand at the desk.

“Write as follows, please.”

“It may influence your Government in granting the Beira concessions which I seek,” I wrote as he dictated, “if I give you some information which I have learnt. Let your men raid at once the house 237, Rua da Catania. It is one of the headquarters of the revolutionary party. I shall be in a position to tell you much more in a few days. Of course you will keep the fact of my writing thus absolutely secret.”

“That will do,” he said.

I resumed my former seat and he sat down at the desk again and very carefully compared what I had written with the letter the signature of which he had shown to me. The work of comparison occupied a long time, and now and again he made a note of some point which struck him.

“You gave me a pledge on your word of honour just now, Mr. Donnington,” he said, at length turning a very stern face to me. “Are you willing that I treat with you on that basis?”

“Of course I am.”

“Then will you pledge me your word to imitate to the utmost of your ability a line of the writing of this letter?”


Again I took his seat and he folded the letter so that only one line was visible.

“Rua de Catania. It is one of the headquarters,” was the line.

“It’s a little unusual for a magistrate to give lessons in forgery, isn’t it?” I asked as I studied the writing and then wrote as good an imitation of it as I could, and returned to my seat.

[97]Again he made an examination letter by letter, very laboriously.

“Well?” I asked, growing impatient at his long silence.

“I am greatly perplexed, Mr. Donnington. And I must ask you one or two questions. How did you come to know of the house mentioned here?”

“Wait a bit, please. I have complied with the test you put; what is the result? And what is my position now?”

“I put my questions in a perfectly friendly spirit—as M. Volheno would put them were he here.”

“And that writing test?”

“I will discuss it freely with you afterwards. I promise you that.”

“Well, I can tell you nothing about the house. Evidently the writer of that letter knows that I learnt what I know by accident; but what I know I cannot reveal.”

“I am sorry you take that line. Whom did you meet there?”

“I cannot answer.”

“Did you meet a Dr. Barosa there?”

“I cannot answer.”

“Did you rescue a lady from any of the men belonging to the place?”

“I cannot answer. I will not answer any questions.”

“Was that lady the Contesse Inez Inglesia?”

I held my tongue.

He asked many questions of a similar nature, surprising me considerably by his knowledge of my movements on that night and since; but I maintained a stolid silence.

I could see his anger rising at his repeated failure to extract any reply, and he sat thinking with pursed lips and a heavy frown. “I will make one further effort. I ask you as a personal favour to M. Volheno to reply to me.”

[98]“If M. Volheno were fifty times as great a friend of mine as he is, and begged me on his knees, I would not do it, sir!”

His frown deepened at this. “Then you must understand that if you persist in refusing, you may as well abandon all thought of obtaining the concessions you seek.”

“To the devil with the concessions. If Volheno or you or any one else in the business think you are going to bribe me with them to do spy work for you, the sooner you disabuse your minds of that insulting rot the better,” I answered letting my temper go. “And now I’ve finished with this thing and want to go back to bed.”

“I cannot take the responsibility of allowing you to leave, Mr. Donnington,” he snapped back sharply.

“Do you mean that you dare to detain me as a prisoner?”

“Keep your temper, sir, and remember that I am a law officer of His Majesty the King of Portugal.”

“Then as a British subject I claim my right to communicate at once with the British Legation.”

“That request will be considered, and if it is thought desirable, complied with. Not otherwise. This is a political matter. It is known to us that you have held communication with these dangerous revolutionaries; you are seeking to shield them by refusing information; and the only inference I can draw is that you do so because you are in collusion with them.”

At that I burst out laughing. “Infer what you like and be hanged to you.”

“You may find this is no laughing matter, sir,” he cried, getting white with anger.

“And so may you, magistrate though you are. Kidnapping Englishmen is not a game your Government can play at with impunity, my friend.”

“I shall send for M. Volheno,” he said as he rose;[99] “and in the meantime shall detain you here on my own responsibility.”

And with that he favoured me with a scowl and went out of the room, leaving me to speculate where I was going to finish the night.

The odds appeared to be in favour of a prison cell rather than my own bed.



THE matter was obviously more serious than I had at first believed; and I realized that, as the authorities were aware that I knew Barosa and Inez were really revolutionaries, I might have some difficulty in convincing them that my knowledge had been innocently obtained. And two unpleasant possibilities loomed ahead.

This hot-headed magistrate, if left to himself, might pack me off to one of their prisons; and any one who has seen a Portuguese prison will understand my dread of such a step.

The condition of these dens of filth, wretchedness, and abomination is a black stain upon the Portuguese administration. Take the lowest and dirtiest type of the worst doss-house in London, multiply its foulest features ten times, overcrowd it with verminous brawling scum to two or three times the extent of what you would consider its utmost limit of accommodation, and stir up the whole with gaoler-bullies who have all graduated with the highest honours in the school of brutality and blackguardism; and you have a typical Portuguese gaol.

A sojourn in one of those human hells was one possible result for me; and the other was even more distasteful—that a sufficiently grave view might be taken of the case to have me ordered out of the country.

I was railing at my ill-luck in ever having learnt the facts which threatened one of these alternatives,[101] when the murmurs of many voices started below in the house swelled as it came up the stairs and culminated in a chorus of threats and groans and curses just outside as the door was opened and a man was thrust violently into the room and went staggering across the floor.

He had been in the wars. His clothes were all disordered, his collar was flying loose, his coat was torn, and he had the crumpled look which a man is apt to have at two o’clock in the morning after a night on the general rampage finished up with a scrimmage with the police.

His first act was inspired by the sheer stupidity of rage. He turned and shook his fists at the door and swore copiously. He had quite a natural gift for cursing, and gave free vent to it. Then he began to put his clothes straight and saw me for the first time.

“Hallo, you here?”

“Yes.” Both question and answer sounded a little superfluous under the circumstances, but it turned out that he recognized me.

“Did they want you?” He swore again as he recalled his own experiences.


“Those infernal brutes out there?”

“Do you mean the police?”

Instead of replying he gave me a sharp look and then came up close and peered inquiringly at me with his head slightly on one side.

“What the devil are you doing here?”

“Waiting to go somewhere else; but where, seems a little doubtful at present.”

He laughed. “I didn’t expect they’d take you yet. They’re all fools—the whole lot of them. I told them to give you more rope.”

“What kind?”

“Oh, not that sort;” and he made a gesture to[102] indicate hanging. Then wrinkling his brows he added suspiciously: “You didn’t come of your own accord, did you?”

“Perhaps you’ll make things a bit plainer.”

“If you did, you’d better tell me.”

“If there’s any telling to be done you’d better start it,” I said drily.

“They got me to-night—— Here, aren’t you interested in Miralda Dominguez?” he broke off lowering his voice.

“I’m getting rather interested in you. Who are you?”

He winked knowingly. He was quite young, dark and not bad-looking, except that he had sly ferretty eyes. “You don’t know, eh? You don’t remember, eh? Is that your line? Or are you on the same tack as I am?”

“What is your particular tack?”

“You might have guessed it I should think. They’ve got about twenty of Barosa’s people here and about half a dozen police to look after them. Somebody let ’em know that I meant to save myself by telling things, and the brutes nearly tore me to bits as I came up. The devils;” and once more he cursed them luridly. “But I’ll make it hot for some of them,” he added, his little close-set eyes gleaming viciously.

“Oh, you’re an informer, are you? Well, I don’t like your breed, I’m——”

“Oh, I know you, of course. You’re Ralph Donnington, the reputed English millionaire. I know;” and he winked again. “I saw you at the de Pinsara house the other night with Barosa. He told me you were all right. I had to tell them about you, of course. They’ve sucked me about as dry as a squeezed orange. Barosa told me you were interested in Miralda Dominguez——”

“I’d rather not talk any more,” I interposed sharply.

“I suppose you know it’s all up. They’ve got[103] Barosa and Contesse Inglesia, and Lieutenant de Linto and heaps of others. But not his sister yet.”

I affected not to hear this and took out a cigarette and lighted it.

“Can you spare me one?”

I put the case in my pocket.

“If you want to get her out of the mess you’d better do as I’ve done. Out with everything. It’s the only way. I——”

I jumped to my feet. “Look here, if you talk any more to me I shall act as deputy for those men outside, and when I’ve finished with you, you’ll find it difficult to talk at all.”

That stopped him and he slunk away to the door and flopped into a chair staring at me and muttering to himself, probably cursing me as he had cursed the others.

Soon afterwards M. d’Olliveira came back with a couple of police, and said that Volheno was coming and would arrive in about half an hour. Then he ordered the first of the prisoners to be brought in.

The informer jumped away from the door as if it was on fire and crossed to the other side of the magistrate’s desk.

The proceedings were very short—apparently for no purpose other than identification.

I glanced at the prisoner and recognized him as one of the men I had seen at the house in the Rua Catania. He was the scoundrel named Henriques, who had been going to strike Inez when I had entered.

He looked at the young informer with a scowl of hate and hissed out an execration.

The magistrate appealed to me first. “You know this man, Mr. Donnington?” he said sharply, and the fellow turned a scowling face on me with a half defiant and wholly malicious expression.

“Do I? If you know that, why ask me?”

“Don’t trifle with me, sir.”

[104]“He knows him well enough. He saw him that night in the Rua Catania,” broke in the informer.

“Hold your tongue,” was the rough rebuke. “Do you deny it, Mr. Donnington?”

“You can draw what inference you please. I decline to be questioned by you or any one,” I replied.

“I cannot too strongly warn you, Mr. Donnington, that any refusal to identify this man and any of his companions will render you suspect.”

“I am quite ready to accept the responsibility.”

He turned then to the informer and accepted his identification, made a note of it, and sent the prisoner away in custody.

Another of the men I had seen in the house was brought in, and a very similar scene was enacted, except that I held my tongue. Three more followed and then a pause.

When the door opened next time Dr. Barosa was brought in.

“You know this man, Mr. Donnington?” asked d’Olliveira.

“Yes, I had the pleasure of meeting him at the house of the Marquis de Pinsara. Good evening, Dr. Barosa;” and I rose and would have shaken hands with him had not the police prevented me.

“Did you see him in Rua Catania?” asked the magistrate.

“I have told you I met him elsewhere. That is my answer.”

“I am obliged to you, Mr. Donnington,” said Barosa, “but unfortunately no good purpose can be gained by your keeping silent about anything you know. You can only compromise yourself; and as everything is now known to these people, I release you from the pledge of secrecy you gave.”

“Ah,” broke in d’Olliveira, gloatingly.

“To the devil with you and your grunts of satisfaction,” I cried hotly, turning on him. “If you[105] want to bribe or frighten information out of people, do it with carrion like that young brute at your side. Don’t try it with Englishmen.”

“How dare you use that tone to me, sir?” he exclaimed, getting up.

Barosa interposed. “I beg you not to compromise yourself further. It may lead you into a very false position and can do no good either to me or to the Contesse Inglesia. It is known quite well that you were present in the——”

“That’s enough, doctor. If you like to tell these people what they want to know, it’s your affair not mine. As for my part, I have friends quite influential enough not only to protect me, but to make it unpleasant for this hectoring gentleman here. I am sorry to see you in this mess.”

He threw up his hands. “It is the fortune of war.” Then he turned to the magistrate. “Now, sir are you satisfied?”

There was a pause and d’Olliveira said: “Yes, absolutely.”

And then I had the most amazing surprise of my life.

The magistrate waved his hand and a dozen or more men, police and prisoners mingled together, crowded into the room, and the eyes of every man present were directed on me.

Barosa stepped forward and offered me his hand.

“You must forgive us, Mr. Donnington,” he said.

“Forgive you. What the deuce for?”

“For having tested you in this drastic way. You will admit the evidence that you had betrayed us to the authorities was very strong—a letter in your name to your friend M. Volheno and his to you, thanking you for the information, was found in your rooms. I made the inquiries you suggested and satisfied myself of your absolute good faith. I would not believe you had broken your word, but my friends here insisted, and then this test was planned.”

[106]“Do you mean——” I stopped in sheer astonishment as the truth dawned on me.

“I mean that this was all an elaborate pretence. There is no magistrate here and no police. We are all comrades in the one cause, and after what has passed no one of us will ever distrust you again. I say that for all of us.”

“Yes, certainly for me,” said the magistrate.

“For us all,” came a chorus.

“Well, you fooled me all right,” I said, gaping at them for a moment like a bumpkin at a wax-work show, for the suddenness of the thing almost bewildered me. Then I laughed and added: “It seems I was sitting on a bag with more gunpowder in it than I knew. Which do you expect me to do—thank you for your present confidence or curse you for your former distrust?”

“The matter is ended, Mr. Donnington,” said Barosa. “And you have as much reason as we have to be glad the result is what it is.”

“And if it had gone the other way?”

He shrugged his shoulders and replied very drily: “You had better not ask perhaps. At such a crisis our methods with those who betray us cannot be—pleasant.”

“Which reminds me,” I said, turning to the man who had played the magistrate—whose real name I learnt was Sebastian Maral—“you’ve asked me plenty of questions and there are one or two I should like to ask you. How did you get that spurious letter I was supposed to write to M. Volheno?”

“I think we had better discuss those matters alone,” interposed Barosa; and then all but we three left the room.

“Was such a letter really written?” I asked.

“Certainly. That which you received was M. Volheno’s reply to it.”

“Then some one did give away that Rua Catania[107] house? Who is it? Do you suspect any one in particular?”

“No,” said Barosa, his look darkening as he added: “But we shall of course find out.”

“I think you can help us, Mr. Donnington,” said Maral. “The writer is obviously an enemy of yours. Can you make a suggestion?”

I was fairly confident that I knew, but it did not suit me to say so. “I have not had time yet to make any enemies unless some one is after the Beira concessions and thought this an easy way of getting rid of a competitor. Will you show me the original of that letter you dictated to me?”

He glanced at Barosa who nodded, and it was given to me.

I made a discovery then. Either from inadvertence or as a proof of confidence in me, Maral left on the letter, where it was pinned to the top, a strip of paper with half a dozen words followed by the numerals “134.”

I compared the handwriting of the letter with my own copy of the dictated part and saw at once how clumsy a forgery it was. My signature was done well enough; the writer probably had a signature of mine and had practised it until the resemblance was striking. But the attempt to write an entire autograph letter was a conspicuous failure.

Then while pretending to continue my examination of the writing, I worried over the curious superscription, and it dawned upon me at length that it was a message of some sort in cypher.

As the other two had their heads together in a very earnest discussion, I unpinned the cypher message and rolled it up in my palm. Its nature convinced me that it was inadvertence not confidence which had led Maral to let me see it, and I took the risk of his not noticing its absence even if I could not do what I now very much wished—retain the letter itself for a time.

[108]“I wish to keep this letter, Dr. Barosa,” I said presently.

“I am afraid that is not possible. It has to be returned.”

“We can get over that easily enough. You are probably as eager as I am to know who wrote it. As for returning it, I’ll write out another in my own hand, and that one can be returned.”

After some demur this was agreed to; and I went to the desk and wrote the duplicate letter, and was careful to fold it up so that Maral should not miss the strip of paper I had annexed.

While I was writing, Barosa paced up and down the room thinking. The fact that there was a traitor somewhere among the followers disquieted him profoundly. And when I had finished he came up to me and said with intense earnestness: “You have some definite purpose in keeping that letter, Mr. Donnington?”

“Naturally. I mean to try and find the writer of it.”

“Are you sure there is no one you suspect?”

“I do not know all your followers; if there is any one among them who seeks to prevent my getting——”

He broke in, with an impatient motion of the hand. “Do you give me your word you have no positive suspicion?”

“Is that a question you should expect me to answer? I am not one of you, and I have no interest whatever in your cause. If I am anxious to discover the writer, it is for my own purposes not yours.”

“We are helping you in trusting that to you.”

“Take it back if you will;” and I held it out.

He shook his head and did not take it. “If you find out the truth you will tell me?” he asked.

“I make no promise. I may or I may not, but frankly that will turn upon my own concerns, not upon yours.”

“You are very straight,” he said, with a slow hesitating[109] smile, much more suggestive of vexation than mirth.

“I think we had better leave it there. It is not improbable that if I do get at the truth I may need your help. In that case I shall come to you.”

“I should like something more definite.”

I shook my head. “Not yet, at any rate,” I said.

“I may visit you?”

“At any time you please. And now, I’ll be off.”

While we had been speaking Maral was taking papers from the desk, and as he turned and held out his hand to bid me good-night, we heard the sound of loud knocking at the door of the house.

“What can that be?” he exclaimed nervously.

The next moment the room door was thrust open and the young fellow who had played the part of informer rushed in.

“The police!” he gasped. “The house is surrounded. All the rest have gone.”

Barosa did not turn a hair, but Maral, suddenly grey with fear, tossed up his hands and dropped into his chair with a sigh of despair.

“Are they really the police this time?” I asked.

He nodded. “More of the same man’s work,” he said with grim concentrated passion, and carried away for the moment by his feelings, he clenched his fists and uttered a vehement oath.

I should have sworn too, no doubt, if I had been in his place. But I was thinking of myself and what I was going to do.

It was a tight corner for us all.

In the pause the knocking was repeated more noisily and peremptorily than before.



AT the second summons Barosa roused himself.

“What will you do, Mr. Donnington. We have a secret means of leaving the house and——”

“I swear I had forgotten that,” exclaimed Maral, as he jumped up, grabbed his papers and made for the door.

“Wait please. Give me the letter which M. Volheno wrote me,” I said, stopping him.

He searched for it agitatedly and then thrust it into my hand. “Come on, Barosa,” he cried and darted away.

“Are you going to remain?” asked Barosa, hurriedly.

I nodded. “You won’t want to use this house again?”

“Of course not. But——”

The crash of glass below interrupted him, announcing that the police had broken in, and the next moment I had the room to myself and sat down to wait for the real police and find out how their treatment differed from that of the bogus ones.

With Volheno’s letter in my possession I had nothing to fear, and I glanced at it to make sure that Maral in his panic had handed me the right one—and then gave a start of surprise.

It was Volheno’s letter all right, but folded up in it was a long doubled strip of paper with three rows of[111] small holes punched in it at irregular intervals. I knew instantly what it was—the key to the cipher which I had seen attached to the letter which I had duplicated.

As the police might have a fancy to search me I rolled it and the other strip very tightly, emptied a cigarette, inserted the roll, and plugged up the ends with tobacco; and just when the police were at the door I struck a match and was puffing at the cigarette as two of them entered.

“Good evening, gentlemen, I’m very relieved to see you,” I said, rising and carefully pinching out the lighted tobacco.

“You are our prisoner,” exclaimed one of them, covering me with a revolver.

“I’m extremely relieved to hear it, I can assure you.”

“Where are the others?”

“What others?”

“The other scoundrels who use this house?”

“To my intense satisfaction your arrival scared them away.”

“Don’t try and fool us with that tone. You won’t help them and it will make things worse for you. Put up your hands.”

I did so, at once, of course, keeping hold of my precious cigarette, and they made a very business-like search of all my pockets, and then felt all about me to see that I had no weapons. They put the results of their search on the desk, and one of them, being a very zealous officer, went to the trouble of breaking open two or three of the cigarettes and pinching and bending the rest. But it did not occur to him that I could be smoking one which he might wish to see. It had been quite a happy thought, that little precaution of mine.

Then one of them picked up the letter from Volheno and was unfolding it when I said gently: “I am not[112] sure that M. Volheno will care for you to read correspondence between us.”

The name acted like a charm of magic. He refolded it and dropped it like a live coal.

“It would, however, assist you to understand the position, my friend, and appreciate your mistake,” I said in the same suave tone.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Ralph Donnington. I am an Englishman and have the privilege of enjoying the friendship of M. Volheno.”

“Why didn’t you say who you were before?”

“You did not ask me, and I never argue with the man at the butt end of a revolver.”

“How is it you are here?”

“I think that is a matter I can better explain to my friend, M. Volheno, himself.” Seeing the excellent effect of the name, I deemed it judicious to rub it in. “Are you in command here? If not, I wish you would bring your superior here or take me to him.”

They whispered together and one of them left the room.

“Do you know where you are? What this house is, I mean?”

“Oh yes, perfectly. I have had very good proof of it. Would you have any objection to my lowering my hands? This is rather a trying position.”

He nodded and his face relaxed in a grin which he turned away to conceal.

“I should also like my matchbox and cigarettes—if you don’t think I shall blow the Government up with them. Thank you very much,” I added as he handed them to me.

Affecting considerable annoyance at the condition of the cigarettes, I tossed away those which were broken, and while pretending to straighten out the bent ones I managed to slip the one I held into the case without his knowledge. Then I lit another and pocketed the[113] case, and sat puffing away, with that air of easy indifference affected by the cigarette-smoking villain in melodrama when he is top dog and has all the virtuous members of the caste in his power.

I had nearly finished the cigarette when the man returned with a superior officer whose look of chagrin told me that the raid had been unsuccessful and that Barosa and the rest had escaped.

“Now what is your story?” he asked brusquely.

As he had the look of a man who would not stand any nonsense, I dropped my air of indifference. “I am an Englishman, Donnington is my name. I quite understand that my presence here requires explanation and that of course I am entirely in your hands.”

“What is your explanation?”

“I was brought here by force.”

He sneered. “You think I shall believe that?”

“I am sure that my friend, M. Volheno, will.”

“What does M. Volheno know of you?”

“Your men took from me a letter he wrote to me. It is on the desk there and explains itself. But it is marked confidential; and whether he would wish you to read it is a point I will leave to you. I am indifferent.”

This proved a good card. He stretched out his hand to take the letter and paused.

“Tell me the purport of it,” he said.

“No, no. I can’t do that. It is a confidential letter, I say. I cannot disclose it therefore. But I am your prisoner and cannot prevent your doing what you please.”

His perplexity was quite amusing.

“How do I know it is not a forgery?”

“I don’t know that myself, but it was addressed to me at my rooms, 318, Rua de Palma, and reached me to-night through the post.”

“How long have you been in this house?”

“Some hours.”

[114]“Alone?” he cried with another sneer.

“Oh no. For part of the time one man was here; for others, two; and at times perhaps a dozen.”

“Where are they?”

“I have no more idea than you. There were two of them when you and your men arrived. I was then left alone.”

“But the house was surrounded. They couldn’t escape.”

“I was brought straight to this room and have not been allowed to leave it for a moment.”

“‘Allowed’?” he repeated quickly, catching at the word.

“That is just what I mean. Otherwise, I certainly should not have remained.”

“Who were the men?”

I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. “I would tell you if I could.” This was a deliberate equivocation, but it saved me from a direct lie. I meant that I could not because of my pledge, but I meant him to infer that I did not know.

He paused and I added: “And now I shall be glad to know what you propose to do with me?”

“What do you suppose we generally do with prisoners? Billet them at the Avenida Palace Hotel? You’ll be locked up for the rest of the night, of course, while we make inquiries about you.”

“I am an Englishman—as I have told you.”

“What of that? What’s good enough for a Portuguese is good enough for an Englishman, I suppose.”

“I am also a friend of M. Volheno.”

“So you say. But do you expect me to rouse him in the middle of the night whenever a revolutionary rascal chooses to say he is a friend?”

“I can give you the names of several other influential men who know me. The Marquis de Pinsara, Visconte de Linto,” and I rattled off a number of the[115] men to whom I had been introduced on the night of the reception.

“You can communicate with them in the morning and call them as witnesses,” he sneered. He had the sardonic habit strongly developed. “But I haven’t done questioning you yet.”

“I shall not answer any more questions. You don’t believe what I tell you. My object was to avoid the unpleasantness of being thrust into one of your filthy gaols; and that has evidently failed.”

“You will tell me where the men are hidden who were here with you,” he said very threateningly.

“I repeat, I know no more than you do. You were already in the house when they left this room.”

“That won’t do for me,” he answered bluntly. He motioned to the two men who pulled my hands behind my back and slipped a pair of handcuffs on my wrists, while he himself sat down at the desk and made a list of the things the men had taken from me. “Is this all?” he asked the fellow who had searched me.

“All but a cigarette case.”

“Anything in it?”

“Nothing but cigarettes. I made sure of that.”

“All right.” I breathed more freely.

“Now, prisoner, show me the secret hiding-place in this room.”

“There is none. The men left the room.”

He came close up and glared so fiercely into my face that I thought he was going to strike me. He was the sort of brute to enjoy hitting a defenceless man. “If you lie to me, I’ll——” he ground his teeth and left me to finish the sentence out of my own fears.

“I do not lie,” I said meeting his look steadily. “And you will do well to bear in mind in all you do now that in the morning you will find every word I have said as to my friendship with M. Volheno is true.”

I spoke very calmly thinking it would have the[116] better effect. But it appeared to enrage him and this time he actually raised his hand for a blow. It was therefore clearly time to try a change of manner.

So I shoved my head forward until our noses were nearly touching and with a fierce oath, I cried: “You dare to lay a hand on me, you infernal bully, and it shall cost you dear. M. Volheno shall know of this. Do your duty whatever that may be, but not one jot more, or——” and I adopted his tactic of an unfinished sentence.

The result was a surprising success. His hand fell to his side, his eyes wavered, and his threatening truculence of manner dropped from him like a cloak. The reason was, of course, that he was a miserable coward and had mistaken my coolness for fear.

“I am only doing my duty,” he muttered.

“You lie,” I thundered back, quick to take advantage of his mood. “You dare to handcuff me like a felon, when I tell you I am a British subject and give you ample means of testing what I say. You’ll have to reckon with the British Legation for this. Do what you will, while you have me in your power; but don’t think for an instant you won’t have to pay for your bullying in the morning.”

“I have——”

“Don’t try to excuse yourself. If you want to bully any one, do it with the unfortunate devils under your orders. As for me, do what you dare—but remember, it will be my turn to-morrow.”

“If you’ll give your word not to offer resistance, you shall be freed.”

“You didn’t ask that before you handcuffed me. I call these men to witness that. Take me in them to M. Volheno—if you dare. Or haul me off to gaol in them. It’s all one to me—until to-morrow.”

He paused and then signed to the men who freed me, and he left the room. I sat down and the men stood near the door whispering and sniggering together.[117] They appeared to be rather pleased at their chief’s discomfiture.

He was away so long that I fell asleep and was in the middle of a realistic dream that I was in prison among the scum of the city when I was roused by some one thundering my name in my ear.

I started up and found the official had returned with a companion who was shaking me and calling me by name.

“Mr. Donnington! Mr. Donnington!”

“Well, what is it?” I grumbled, blinking at him like an owl until I recognized him as a man I had seen at Volheno’s bureau.

“M. Volheno desired me to come to you, sir.”

“Oh, ho,” I chuckled, turning to the official, “so you thought discretion was the better part of bullying, eh?”

“My name is Dagara, Mr. Donnington. I am M. Volheno’s private secretary. He instructed me to say that he desires to see you as soon as you can call on him.”

“I have to go to gaol first,” I said with a snarl for my old enemy. “I was already there in my dreams when you roused me. But if I am to be shot or hanged or beheaded as this man decides, I’ll leave directions for my corpse to be packed up neatly and sent to M. Volheno.” I was winning so I could afford a small jibe.

“You are of course at liberty to go where you will,” said Dagara.

“Then I’ll go back to bed,” I declared as I rose, “and will see M. Volheno in the morning. I have to tell him how this brute has treated me.”

The official had wilted like an unwatered flower in the noon sunlight. He returned me my belongings and began to mumble an apology. “I much regret——”

“I’ve no doubt of it. I know your kind,” I cut[118] in drily, and then left the house with Dagara, feeling that I was well out of an ugly business.

I had come off with all the honours of war, too, for my letters had not been read and the two little secret papers were safely stowed away in my cigarette case.

The secretary walked with me to my rooms and I found him an exceedingly close-lipped individual. The house where the drastic test of my good faith had been applied was in the Rua Formosa, about half a mile from the Rua de Palma; and during the walk I could get little else than monosyllables from my companion. He did go so far as to tell me that he had been at work all night with Volheno and that that was the reason he had not gone home and had been able to come so promptly to identify me.

But when I asked him about the police official he replied that he knew nothing.

I soon ceased to question him, and as we reached my rooms, he said suddenly: “You will understand of course that M. Volheno never allows me to speak of any of his affairs. I will give him your message, and wish you good-morning, Mr. Donnington;” and with this abrupt apology in explanation of his silence, he raised his hat and went off.

A useful and silently working wheel, no doubt, in the complicated machinery of the Dictator’s system of government, was my mental verdict as I entered my rooms, eager to examine my prizes at leisure.

I put back some of the things Barosa’s men had left littered about, brewed myself some strong coffee, and set to work.

I first read through again very carefully the forged letter which had been sent to Volheno. That it was the work of an enemy who was well versed in my movements was of course on the surface. My friendship with the man to whom it was addressed, my secret knowledge of the house in the Rua Catania, my business in regard to these Beira concessions,[119] these three points told their story as plainly as the attempt proved the ingenious malignity of the writer, and his intention to cause Barosa and his friends to suspect me of treachery. The blow was aimed at my life.

There was only one man in all Lisbon who could have the needed information and would have the motive.


Jealousy was one motive, and fear of what I knew about him another. And he was just the sort of cunning beast to go to work in this mole-like way. He had reckoned that Barosa’s people would accept without question such a proof of my treachery and act upon it. And in all probability they would have done so, but for my conversation with Barosa on the night of the reception and his conviction of my good faith.

But there was another point. He must have known that the contents of the letter would be at once passed on to Barosa. There was therefore some one about Volheno in league with the revolutionary party, and that some one must be sufficiently high in his confidence to be able to get the letter and send it to his friends.

I must find that man out; and then I studied the little slip of paper which Maral had inadvertently given me with the letter.

The line of nonsense ran as follows.

“Real effects to you truly. You know what this only can mean. 134”

Absolute gibberish of course. But I had the key.

I noticed that the sentence exactly fitted a line of the same length as the strip of paper with the holes in it; and when I laid the first line of holes on the top of the words the meaning was clear.

[120]All the letters were covered by it except the following:


“Return at once.”

A simple direction to send the letter back; and 134 was probably the number by which the man was known to his companions. I had had my trouble for nothing—or next to nothing; for the cipher key did not cover the figures at the end of the message.

Then a thought struck me. The numerals might stand for letters: 134 would be “A. C. D.;” or 13 and 4, “M.D.”

“M.D.!” I uttered the letters aloud in my surprise. They were Miralda’s initials. “Miralda Dominguez.”

The coincidence mazed me; but a moment’s reflection made the inference appear grotesque, preposterous, idiotic; and I laughed at it.

But my nerves were out of balance. The ordeal of the last few hours, following so close upon the tense interview with Miralda on the Stella, had tried me severely. Everybody appeared to be playing at make-believe to cause me to misread everything I saw and heard.

Even as I laughed at the thought that Miralda could have had even the remotest connexion with the cipher message, the disconcerting possibility suggested by the coincidence would not be shaken off.

Furious with myself, for the subconscious distrust of her which this depression of spirits implied, I huddled the papers together and went off to bed.



A FEW hours’ sleep enabled me to laugh much more sincerely at the thought which had sent me off to bed in a hurry, and I was reviewing the whole situation when Miralda’s brother called. He had the look of a man who had been making a night of it, and was washed out and generally sorry for himself.

“Hullo, then, I have caught you, Mr. Donnington. May I come in?”

“Of course you may,” I said as I shook hands with him, put him into an easy chair and handed him the cigarettes. “Why, did you think you wouldn’t catch me?”

He lit a cigarette and I saw that his hand shook badly.

“Eh? Oh, you’re such a busy man, aren’t you?” His hesitancy and a note in his voice suggested nervousness, as if he had been momentarily at a loss how to answer.

“Not too busy for a chat with you at any time, lieutenant.” I spoke cordially because I wished to be friendly.

“Thanks,” he said, adding after a puff or two: “You look confoundedly fit.”

“Not much the matter, I’m glad to say.”

“No, I should think not, indeed.” Another pause followed and he put his eyeglass in position, glanced[122] at me and then round the room, and let it fall again. “I suppose not.”

“Will you have a pick-me-up?” I asked. It struck me he had been looking about for one.

“Cognac,” he replied with a nod. I rang for my servant, Bryant, and mixed a brandy and soda, which Vasco drank eagerly. “Had a hot night of it,” he murmured with one of his inane grins as he set the empty glass down.


“I always do, curse the luck,” he answered, and pouring himself out about a wine-glassful of brandy he gulped it down. “Hair of the dog, you know,” he added, smacking his lips. The spirit stimulated him. “Better luck next time;” and he laughed, the frown left his face, and he lolled back smoking with an air of indifference real or assumed.

“So you’re off, eh? Going in your yacht?”

“Off? Where to?”

“Home, I suppose. That’s what I meant about catching you.”

“I am not going away.”

“Not? Why Sampayo——” he stopped suddenly. “No, it wasn’t Sampayo of course—but I heard you were going last night,” he said, evidently confused by his first slip.

My interest awoke in an instant. If Sampayo had sent him to me, it was probably to learn the issue of the previous night’s scheme.

“No no. I shan’t be able to get away for a long time to come.”

“Then I wonder why the deuce—I’m awfully glad to hear it. Then you won’t be taking your boat away?”

“Of course not. But I’m afraid the weather yesterday made your trip in her rather unpleasant.”

“Not a bit of it. The fact is I—I came to ask you a favour. I wonder if you’d mind lending her to me for a day. As a matter of fact I want to give some[123] of the fellows of my regiment a bit of an outing, and I should like to take ’em out in her.”

He said all this with the air of one repeating a lesson and very much afraid of forgetting it. “My dear lieutenant, you can have her and welcome. Give me a couple of days’ notice, that’s all.”

“Thanks. I’m afraid you’ll think it cool of me.”

“Not cool of you at all; but I think Major Sampayo himself might have asked, instead of worrying you to do it.”

He sat bolt upright and stared at me. “I say, how the deuce did you know?” he cried, astonishment shaking all the pretence out of him.

“Never mind that. You can have the Stella,” I answered, with a smile, intending him to infer that I knew much more.

“I know I’m a clumsy sort of ass. I suppose I gave it away. Dashed if you don’t beat me;” and he shook his head in perplexity as he first tried to relight his cigarette and then threw it away and started a fresh one.

“Did Major Sampayo tell you why he thought I was leaving in such a hurry?”

“Here, hold on. I’m getting a bit afraid of you.”

“I am the last man in Lisbon you need be afraid of, lieutenant. I have the greatest desire for your friendship and—if you would like to give it—your confidence.”

I spoke earnestly and he glanced at me with a hunted, harassed look in his eyes, and then reached for the brandy again. I put it out of his reach. “I never was more serious in my life,” I added. “If I can ever help you, you have only to ask.”

He got up. He was pale and shaking. “I think I’ll go,” he said.

“Very well. But don’t forget what I’ve said. I mean it, on my honour;” and I held out my hand.

Instead of taking it he looked intently into my eyes[124] and then, to my surprise, and pain, he seemed to crumple up suddenly. He threw himself back into the chair, covered his face with his hands and burst into tears.

It is hateful to see a man cry, but the feeling I had for him was rather pity than contempt. His tears told me so much. He was the merest tool in Sampayo’s hands, and his weak nature was as clay for the stronger man’s moulding. Miralda’s words flashed across my mind—that behind her betrothal to Sampayo was a “story of shame and crime.” Here was the key to it, I was convinced.

The shock of learning that I knew Sampayo was in the background, his fear of what I knew, followed by my earnest offer of friendship, confidence and help, coming at a moment when he was shaken by a night of dissipation, had unmanned him.

With an excuse that I had to speak to Bryant, I left him alone for a few minutes, and when I returned he was staring out of the window smoking.

“You’ll think me an awful fool and baby, Mr. Donnington,” he said nervously and shamefacedly.

“No. Any man might break down under the load you are carrying.”

“May I come and see you again? I’m all shaken up now.”

“You can do better than that. Tell me now.”

“How you read a fellow’s thoughts.”

“Sit down and tell me frankly what hold Major Sampayo has on you.”

“I—I can’t tell you.”

“Is it money?”

“I—I can’t tell you,” he repeated, in the same hesitating way.

“I shan’t preach. I only wish to help.”

“I—I can’t tell you. I—I daren’t. I wish to heaven I dared.”

“You mean because of—your sister and all the others involved?”

[125]With a quick start he asked, “Is it on her account you ask?”

“It is on your account, I ask.”

He wavered, but with a shrug of his thin shoulders he turned back to stare out of the window again. After a pause he said somewhat irritably. “I’m not in the confessional box, Mr. Donnington. You’ve no right to question me. And after all, you can’t help me.”

“If you think that, there’s an end of the thing, lieutenant.”

“Now I’ve put your back up, I suppose?” and he laughed feebly.

“Not in the least, I assure you. I know that you are in a devil of a mess——”

“How do you know it? Has Miralda——” he broke in.

“Don’t mention your sister’s name, please,” I interposed in my turn, speaking sharply.

“Sampayo says you hate him on her account. And he hates you. There’s no mistake about that.”

“Yet he sent you to borrow my yacht.”

“That’s for another thing altogether—there I go. If I stop here you’ll have everything out of me.”

“If you mean in regard to this wretched conspiracy, I probably know much more than you could tell me.”

His jaw fell in his surprise. “You know and yet lend the Stella? Why, are you——” He paused and stared at me in gaping bewilderment.

There could be only one reason for this. The Stella was to be used for some purpose connected with the revolutionaries and he had jumped to the conclusion that I was in league with them. Before I could reply he saw his mistake. “What a mess I’m making of things,” he muttered to himself; and then to me weakly—“Don’t question me any more, Donnington.”

“Very well. But I was not asking you about that at all, merely your personal affairs.”

[126]He stood glancing at me nervously and irresolutely. “I say, you won’t give me away, will you?”

“You have my word on that.”

“Not even to Miralda, I mean? I told her I wanted to talk to you, but she wouldn’t hear of it.”

“When was that?”

“A couple of days ago.” That was before our talk on the Stella when she had been intent upon keeping me at a distance.

“Why did you ask her?”

“There you go again. You said you wouldn’t question me. I wish you wouldn’t,” he said peevishly, and then added with utter inconsequence; “she used to be always speaking of you when she came back from Paris. You were Miralda’s Englishman, you know. And when you turned up here——”

“I’d rather you didn’t tell me.”

“You are an odd mixture. One minute you want to know everything and the next you shut me up. She’s awfully white and it’s because it’s so hard on her that I feel such a brute. I——” he pulled up suddenly and seized his hat. “No, hang it, I can’t tell you now.”

At that moment Bryant brought in a letter from Volheno asking me to go to him at once, and when we were alone again Vasco held out his hand. “May I come again? I—I should like to tell you.”

I told him to come any time, and having made me repeat my promise not to give him away, he wrung my hand and went off.

So Miralda was being sacrificed to save her brother from the consequences of the “shame and crime” of which he had been guilty. That was unmistakably plain now; as plain as that Sampayo was the brute who was demanding the sacrifice as the price of his silence.

In one way it was good news to me. I had feared that there might prove to be some other obstacle far[127] more difficult to overcome. But the instant I sent Sampayo flying for life from the vengeance of the Corsican, Prelot, this barrier would cease to have terrors for either Miralda or her weak-kneed brother. It would be best, however, to learn what this crime was before dealing with Sampayo.

It must be serious, for Vasco was absolutely helpless; so much so that Miralda had forbidden him to speak to me. But that must have been before our explanation on the Stella. Would she still forbid him?

Other points in the interview were by no means so clear as the evidence of Sampayo’s power. Why had he been sent to me? Was it merely to ascertain whether I had escaped the snare laid on the previous night? If so why the request about the Stella?

The two things appeared to be inconsistent, and yet there was a possible explanation. Knowing Vasco to be a fool, Sampayo had had to prompt him with a reason for the call, supposing I had escaped from the toils. Vasco was prepared to find me gone. He had blurted that out; and Sampayo had probably coached him with the request for the yacht to conceal his own hope—that I was dead—and at the same time to give him something to talk about if I were found at home.

Could that request for the yacht be genuine? If so, for what purpose was it wanted? I could not answer that riddle at present, but I might be able to get the answer from Vasco.

As I was leaving to go to Volheno, I remembered the ease with which Barosa’s men had got into the flat, so I told Bryant to get a new lock and a bolt and have them fitted that day. I had had enough of midnight visitors.

Volheno received me as courteously as ever, but I soon found that he was profoundly perplexed about my conduct.

[128]“I expected you much earlier, Mr. Donnington.”

“I am sorry. I didn’t get to bed till six o’clock and lay late.”

“You’ll understand that I have been anxious to hear your news. You have rendered me a most valuable service by giving me the information about that Rua Catania house, and you will add immensely to my obligation if you’ll tell me about this affair last night in the Rua Formosa.”

“I have not rendered you any service at all, as a matter of fact. I was coming to see you about your letter. It was a complete puzzle. I did not write to you at all.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I altogether. But if you received a letter signed with my name giving information, it was a forgery.”

“Mr. Donnington! Are you serious?”

“Never more sober in my life.”

He rang his table bell. “Tell M. Dagara to come to me.”

“He is out, sir.”

“Tell him to come to me the instant he returns. I had no doubt that the signature was yours. I couldn’t doubt it.”

“Well, you must doubt it now. I declare to you positively that I did not write the letter which put you on the track of that Rua Catania business.”

“I am bound to say I thought it strange that, having been only a few hours in the city, you should have got secret information which my people have been trying in vain to get for weeks.”

I let this go without a reply, but he guessed my reason for silence.

“Had you any such information in your possession?” he asked, shooting a quick questioning glance at me.

“I think I would rather not answer that question.”

[129]“That means that you had, of course, and makes the matter all the stranger.”

“Well, I’ll admit I knew something,” I said on second thoughts, reflecting that I should have to explain the previous night’s affair. “These are the facts. You remember warning me not to be in the streets at night. I disregarded the warning and on the second night I got into the middle of a fight between the mob and the police, and had to run for it. By chance I found shelter in that house in the Rua Catania and afterwards learnt the character of the place.”

“You saw some of these villains there, of course?”

“Yes, and had a bit of trouble, but I got out all right.”

“Do you know the men?”

“Yes,” I said, after considering. “But the position is this. I only got away by passing my word of honour not to speak of anything or any person I had seen there.”

“Of course such a pledge given under those circumstances is not to be considered binding. Do you know the names of any of them or——”

I shook my head. “I must keep the word I gave, M. Volheno.”

“Would you keep your word to a murderer who spared your life on condition that you kept secret a murder you had seen him commit?”

“That case has not arisen and I would prefer not to discuss questions of casuistry.”

“But these men are assassins and worse. They are enemies of the State ripe for any evil work. I must press you to tell me all you know.”

“My lips are sealed. And to that fact I owe my escape from worse trouble last night.”

“Well, tell me that then,” he said, with a deep frown of vexation.

[130]“The letter you received in my name was really intended to fix on me a charge of having broken my pledge;” and I went on to give him a short and carefully worded account of what had passed, laying particular stress upon my treatment by the police.

He put the last point aside with a short promise that the matter should be sifted, and then questioned me at great length and with all the pressure he could exert to get me to give the names of the men I had seen, or a description of them.

I resisted all his pressure and then he tried argument. He explained the position of the Government, and their difficulties; the urgent necessity that they should know who were their friends and who their enemies, declaring that my information might be of positively vital importance.

In reply I uttered one or two home truths, telling him that in my opinion they were trying their hands at repression in a very amateurish fashion; employing enough force to render many classes of the people dissatisfied and violent, but not enough to keep them in subjection.

We were hammering away at this when Dagara entered.

“You asked for me, sir?”

“Oh, yes. Bring me the file of personal letters—A to F. That brings us back from the general question to your part in particular, Mr. Donnington,” he said, when the secretary had gone out again.

“You must not press me any more. I cannot do what you ask.”

But he did press me very strongly indeed, and then Dagara returned with the file of letters.

“I want that which Mr. Donnington wrote about the Rua Catania affair. Just find it.”

I was not a little curious to see whether the copy I had made had been returned.

“I think I left it in my desk,” said Dagara.

[131]“Oh, how many times have I told you to file these at once.”

“I did file it, sir, but if you remember you asked for it when you were dictating the reply to Mr. Donnington.”

“Manoel, Manoel, is that any excuse for not refiling it at once?” exclaimed Volheno, and proceeded to lecture the man for his carelessness.

It was well for me that both of them were thus engaged, and I rose and strolled to the window and looked out.

“Manoel,” was his first name, then, “Manoel Dagara”; and in a flash the identity of the “M. D.” of the cipher message was plain.

This sleek, secretive, smooth-tongued secretary who had parried my questions with the unctuous plea that his employer enjoined such close silence in regard to his affairs, was in league with Barosa! On such terms indeed that he even purloined private letters and carried them to his other masters.

Here in the very eye of the web of Government was a traitor.

Volheno might well say they did not know who were friends and who enemies.



AS the door closed behind Dagara I returned to my seat. M. Volheno was obviously annoyed by the incident, but I observed that it was rather the fact of the secretary’s negligence than the consequences of it which had ruffled his temper.

“You would scarcely believe, judging by this, the trouble I have taken to train that young man. Since his marriage there has been some difference in him; but he is usually as dependable as a machine, and does his work with precision, speed and silence.”

“A man of the kind is, of course, essential for such confidential affairs as yours,” I replied.

“Of course I can trust him. He has my entire confidence and is a perfect encyclopædia of details. As a matter of fact he is a distant connexion of mine, an orphan, and I educated him.”

“Such a man has reason to be grateful,” I said.

“I believe he would give his life for me,” declared Volheno confidently.

Dagara came back then, but without the letter, and I concluded that Maral had failed to send him the copy I had made. While he was making his explanation I observed him very carefully.

He was genuinely troubled, as he might well be, indeed; but there was so little in his look and manner suggestive of roguery or hypocrisy that, despite what I knew, I set him down as an honest fellow who had been forced against his will into this treachery.

[133]His explanation was that the letter was probably among his employer’s papers and that he would make a search for it; and Volheno, trusting him implicitly, accepted the story and sent him away with another word or two of censure.

Then he resumed his efforts to get me to disclose what I knew, but adopted a different line. He referred to the concessions, and gave me to understand that, whereas it would help me in regard to them if I told him things, my refusal would as certainly prejudice my chances.

I did not attach the value of a rotten orange to them, but I deemed it judicious to make a fine display of rather indignant surprise.

From that he went a step further—that although he himself had no doubt that I had acquired the information innocently, it was highly probable that those to whom he was bound to report the matter would not take the same view; and he hinted that in such a case I might receive a request to leave the country.

That touched me on the raw, but I instantly professed a readiness to leave. I would go that very day if he wished, but in such a case, of course, the concessions would be dropped and there would be no plums in the future for those who looked for them in return for help at the present.

And then he grew a little more subtle.

“There is another point, Mr. Donnington. We shall necessarily take more interest than heretofore in your movements.”

“I am quite indifferent about that,” I replied. “You may quarter your agents in my rooms and on my yacht, if you wish.”

“I don’t mean any such thing as you imply. But you have certain friends in Lisbon, and——”

“On your introduction,” I reminded him.

“There is, for instance, the Visconte de Linto.”

[134]“To whom I was presented by the Marquis de Pinsara.”

“Some of his family were known to you previously. The whole of that family occupy a somewhat peculiar position. You may have heard that the visconte filled for some years a Court position with a good emolument and no duties. M. Franco has put an end to that—as in so many other cases—and this has produced both discontent and bitterness in some quarters. Between such discontent and actual disaffection, the gap is small; and we cannot help being impressed by a coincidence where we find close friendly relations between some such family and a foreigner who suddenly acquires such dangerous information as you yourself possess.”

“If you mean that my acquaintance is likely to prejudice them in any way, it shall cease. But it is a mare’s nest—nothing more.”

“The prejudice might be against you, Mr. Donnington. The position of that family is—peculiar. The visconte is angry and embittered by the loss of his salary. His wife is indiscreet and has often spoken against the Government in very strong terms. The son is a lieutenant in the one regiment in Lisbon some of whose officers are not wholly free from a suspicion of disaffection. And the daughter, a very charming young lady, is engaged to marry another officer of the same regiment and, further, has one or two friends—one especially—who is something of an enigma. Then you arrive, and—well, you can draw the inference.”

I smiled. “The inference I draw, M. Volheno, is not from surmise but from a knowledge of facts.”

“Now don’t you think you would be well advised to let me have in confidence the information you have gained?”

“I have already explained—I am bound by my word.”

“Then we can do no good by further discussion,”[135] he exclaimed abruptly, and rose to end the interview.

I hesitated a moment whether to tell him that I had really come to Lisbon on Miralda’s account, but thought it better to hold my tongue. It would have shown him the strength of his threat to pack me out of the country.

The interview left me with the extremely unpleasant and disquieting feeling that I was getting out of my depth in troubled waters which might easily be lashed into a storm.

Why he had introduced the topic of the de Linto family, I could not understand. Yet he must have had a reason, and I ought to know it. Could I get it from Dagara? He had Volheno’s confidence, and if Barosa and his associates could force him to give them information, I might be able to squeeze him also under a threat of exposure. The plan was infinitely distasteful; but if Miralda’s safety was at stake, I was ready to adopt almost any means to protect her.

She was in some danger, clearly. She had told me herself that, although she was no rebel, she was compromised. And as Volheno suspected her, it might be only a short time before discovery would follow and suspicion materialize into an actual charge.

Considerably alarmed at this prospect I decided to come to close grips with Sampayo at once. He might not be the only obstacle between Miralda and me, but the situation would certainly be much clearer the instant he was out of the way.

I went off in search of him that afternoon, therefore, but learnt that he was in Oporto and would not return until the following day. On my way back I met the Visconte de Linto close to his house and he urged me to go in with them. He was eager to know something more about the concessions and his own prospects in regard to them.

[136]This proved to be a preface to a long account of his grievances against the Dictator. I was a very patient, sympathetic listener; and my patience was rewarded, for I succeeded in steering the talk round to the subject of Sampayo, about whom I wished to know the visconte’s real opinion. I appealed to his cupidity, therefore.

“I should very much value your advice on a point concerning Major Sampayo,” I said in a confidence-inviting tone. “I am told that his influence with the Government is so great that his help alone would be enough to secure me all I want. Of course you’ll see my difficulty. I should be delighted to have my friends sharing in the good things; but those behind me naturally expect me to limit the number. Now, if he can do everything, of course he is just the man for their purpose.”

His face fell. “He couldn’t do that, Mr. Donnington. Of course, he is a wealthy man and all that, but——” and he shook his head.

“Scarcely wealthy—in our sense of the word, visconte,” I replied airily. “Not wealthy compared with men who are prepared to put fifty or a hundred thousand pounds into a single scheme.”

“Will your friends go that extent?”

“If the concessions are such as I desire, I should be ready to do much more than that myself.” I spoke intentionally as if such a sum were a mere bagatelle.

“You must be a very wealthy man, then, Mr. Donnington,” he exclaimed.

I smiled blandly and shrugged my shoulders, and then became very earnest. “I could of course finance the whole thing myself; and if I could find some one here in Lisbon to co-operate with me honourably and straightforwardly—he must of course be a man of the highest honour—I might do so; and should of course leave all the negotiations here to him. Well, the question is then whether Major Sampayo is such[137] a man. I place great reliance upon your opinion, as he is to marry your daughter.”

His perplexity at this was almost comical. He saw that his own chance of plunder was in danger, and did not know how to save it without running down the man who was to marry Miralda.

“You place me in a great difficulty, sir,” he said nervously.

“Let me tell you something in confidence, then. I do not like Major Sampayo. Of course in business matters we do not allow such personal considerations to determine our actions, although they may influence us. I would much rather work with such a man as yourself for instance. But as his name is known to those behind me, of course any decision I may make and my reason for it might reach him.”

His alarm at this was obvious. “I—I am afraid I cannot say anything.”

“Of course as your son-in-law, his success would benefit you. An indirect benefit, perhaps, but still a benefit.”

“Our conversation has taken a very unexpected turn, Mr. Donnington. I was under the impression you desired my influence in any event.”

“It may be a question between yours or his,” I said, pressing him further into the corner. “That is why I have spoken as I have.”

“I—I really cannot say anything. You must decide for yourself. I should be delighted to be associated with you, but—but——” he shook his head and paused.

“But you are afraid of Sampayo?” I finished for him.

“Mr. Donnington!” he exclaimed with no little indignation.

“Don’t take offence, please, at least until you have heard me out. Will you give me your word of honour not to speak of what I wish to tell you?”

“Yes, certainly.”

[138]“In coming to Lisbon I had another object besides these concessions. I met your daughter in Paris, and my disappointment was intense when I found that she was betrothed to Major Sampayo. I had hoped that in all my affairs I should have enjoyed the advantage of your help—as that of a relative by marriage.”

He tossed up his hands and stared at me in speechless surprise.

“Since I have been here—you must pardon my speaking very freely—it has come to my knowledge that Sampayo has forced himself upon you by reason of his knowledge of certain matters.”

“My dear Mr. Donnington——” He could get no further, and jumped up from his chair and began to pace the room in extreme agitation.

“My reason for speaking in this way is to ask you one very vital question. If Major Sampayo were to relinquish his claims to your daughter’s hand, would you be willing to honour me by allowing me to plead my own cause with her?”

“I should be only too——” he cried impulsively but checked himself in the middle of the sentence, and shook his head again. “It is out of the question; out of the question.”

“I am answered, on the one point. Now, will you go a step further and tell me why you deem it out of the question?”

“I really cannot discuss the matter. I really cannot,” he said nervously. “You must excuse me.”

“I cannot press you, of course. But will you think it over and let me see you again?”

“I am afraid I must say it would be quite useless, Mr. Donnington.”

“Well, the position may have changed when we next meet,” I said as I rose. “And now, will you let me give you a hint on another matter. M. Volheno is my friend, as you know, and when I was with him to-day I learnt that your attitude toward the Government[139] is a subject of close and watchful interest. You and all in this house will be well advised to be on your guard;” and without giving him time for the alarm in his eyes to crystallize into questions, I left him.

As I crossed the hall his wife met me. She greeted me very warmly and taking me to the saloon asked me to wait a moment for her.

Before she returned, however, Miralda and Inez came in. Both were surprised to find me there, and judging by their manner, their surprise was not so great as their displeasure.

“You are still in Lisbon, Mr. Donnington?” said Inez coldly.

“Obviously. Does that surprise you?”

“More than I can express. Doesn’t it, Miralda?”

“I don’t know,” murmured Miralda who was very much disturbed.

“I have no intention of leaving, madame,” I said to Inez.

“No doubt your correspondence detains you?”

“My correspondence?” I repeated.

“And your close association with M. Volheno and the Government.”

“Inez!” exclaimed Miralda, under her breath.

I understood then. They had heard part of the Rua Catania business, but not the sequel; and Inez had been using it to poison Miralda against me. I was not unwilling to see the result. “It is well known that M. Volheno is friendly toward me.”

“There has been an exchange of letters between you, I believe.”

“Well, scarcely. He wrote to me and I have written to him.” Miralda started uneasily, looked across quickly, and then dropped her eyes.

“I have seen your letter to him and have been speaking to Miralda about it.”

“You will permit me to doubt that you have seen the letter I wrote?”

[140]“I have a copy of it;” and she handed it to me. “You do not deny that that is what you wrote.”

I glanced over it. It was in her own handwriting. “Word for word, as nearly as I can recollect,” I said.

Inez smiled derisively in triumph. “That is how an Englishman keeps his word,” she sneered.

“I have kept my word just as an Englishman would, madame.”

But Miralda was both perplexed and troubled. “Do you really mean you wrote such a letter, Mr. Donnington?” she asked.

“It is a fact that I wrote a letter addressed to M. Volheno and couched in those identical terms. Under the circumstances it was the best course for me to adopt.”

Miralda caught her breath and winced as if I had struck her.

“Circumstances,” echoed Inez, with a fine scorn.

“But you had pledged your honour not to reveal a word of this,” said Miralda, hesitatingly. “You cannot mean that you broke it deliberately in this way?”

“That is perfectly plain,” declared Inez. “It is only what I told you.”

But Miralda shook her head and laid her hand on Inez’ arm, as she appealed to me. “Mr. Donnington?”

“You know enough of us English, mademoiselle, to judge whether, having given my word, I should break it.”

“There is no doubt,” said Inez, with a contemptuous toss of the head.

“You at least have condemned me. And you, mademoiselle?”

“If you admit you broke your word, I should be forced to believe you; but——” and she threw up her hands with a frown of perplexity.

“But I have not admitted it,” I said.

[141]“How can you say that in the face of this letter?” cried Inez, her fingers shaking with anger as she held it out.

“Wait, Inez. You can explain this, Mr. Donnington?”

“I cannot explain anything——”

“There, what did I say?” interposed Inez, with contemptuous scorn.

“To those who have already condemned me without explanation.”

Miralda looked at me steadily. “I have not condemned you,” she said slowly.

“Then I tell you at once that the letter I wrote was written with the full sanction of a man whose approval even the Contesse Inglesia will regard as important—Dr. Barosa.”

“Dr. Barosa!” they exclaimed together, but in very different accents. Miralda’s betokened surprise, Inez’ scorn and disbelief.

“It was written last night in his presence, long after the raid on the Rua Catania house and when he had thoroughly satisfied himself and others that I had not broken my word.”

“I find that very difficult of belief,” cried Inez.

“Inez! How dare you?” cried Miralda impetuously, and then winced and flushed slightly in some confusion, as her friend turned sharply upon her with a meaning glance.

“Mr. Donnington is to be congratulated upon having so zealous a champion,” she said coldly.

But it was I, not she, who profited by this shaft. Miralda’s face set and her eyes shone as she held out her hand to me. “I owe you an apology, Mr. Donnington, for having stooped to listen to this slander. You have my word for it that I will not do it again.”

As I took her hand, Inez coughed suggestively.

Miralda understood and turned quickly from me. “There is a limit to what I will endure even from you,[142] Inez. You have reached it now;” and Inez, being a person of discretion, held her tongue.

I left them, asking Miralda to make my excuses to her mother, and returned to my rooms in a glow of pleasure at the proof of Miralda’s confidence in me, and her zeal in risking even a breach with Inez on my account.

At my rooms I found a letter marked “Urgent and confidential.”

I guessed of course that it had some concern with the concessions, and after puzzling over the unknown handwriting, as one will at times, I opened it without much interest.

But I read it with the closest concern. It was from Vasco, and it gave me the very facts I was so eager to learn.



VASCO’S letter was very long, and so rambling and inconsequent in parts as to be almost incoherent. It was obviously written under the impulse of intense feeling, despair indeed; and was in response to my solicitation of confidence and offer of help.

“I don’t believe you can help me even if you would, and I don’t suppose you’ll care to try when you know the mess I am in. But you said you would, and a drowning man catches at straws. I am at the end of things; utterly broken up and ruined; and bar writing to you I have only two alternatives—to shoot myself or get more hopelessly into the power of the man who has done a lot to drag me down. That’s the mood in which I write to you, and the reason I write. If you won’t or can’t help me, say so at once.”

That was the preface to his ugly story.

Put in a few words he was hopelessly in Sampayo’s power. He was a gambler and a hard drinker, and Sampayo had used both these weaknesses to ruin him. And ruin him he certainly had, using a craft and cunning worthy of the man.

Having got Vasco hopelessly in debt to him and others, Sampayo had succeeded in having him placed in a position where he had charge of a considerable sum of money subscribed by the officers of the regiment. He had then dunned him for payment and set[144] others to do the same, and Vasco had been weak enough to use this money. Sampayo was of course on the watch, and had discovered the theft within a few hours of its commission.

To frighten such a weakling was easy work; and Sampayo had at once engineered matters so that the money had to be instantly forthcoming. Scared out of his wits, Vasco had admitted his act, and the scoundrel, in the guise of friendship, had offered to find the sum on condition that Vasco gave him a written confession.

Glad to escape on any terms, Vasco had only too readily agreed, and exposure had thus been averted. This was some six months previously. For two of them Sampayo showed nothing but friendship. Then the persecution started. Vasco was drawn into the revolutionary net and forced to commit himself. The next step was that Miralda should be involved. To save Vasco she had yielded; and after another interval the demand that she should consent to marry Sampayo had followed.

She had resisted this strenuously—she had been home from Paris only about a month at the time; but the utmost pressure had been brought to bear upon her, not only by the visconte and Vasco, but by Barosa and the leaders of the revolutionary party.

For two months she had held out, and had yielded only a month before my arrival.

How this part of the letter stirred me will be readily understood. After my talk with Miralda on the Stella, it was not mere coxcombry on my part to believe that, had I come only a month earlier, I should have found her ready to receive me on the same footing as in those weeks in Paris.

I could understand now the reason for Inez’ warning, Barosa’s references, Sampayo’s instant jealousy, and that regret of the viscontesse that I had not come sooner. They had known the reason for Miralda’s[145] stubborn resistance, and had feared that my arrival would lead to her rebellion.

Vasco’s immediate request was that I would lend him some money—about five hundred pounds—but he freely admitted that even if I consented, the money would not free him from Sampayo.

I sent him a note at once that I would do what he wanted and would have the money ready for him if he would come to me the following evening.

But I made it a condition that he should go on board the Stella at once and remain there until the time for our interview. I did not mean to give Sampayo a chance of frightening him into admitting he had told me. I told Bryant to put the letter into Vasco’s own hands and to go with him to the yacht, and I wrote a line to my skipper with instructions.

It proved to be a prudent precaution. Sampayo returned about midday and as I found out afterwards went everywhere in search of Vasco, before going to his own quarters, where I was waiting.

He had learnt meanwhile that his attempt against me had failed, but he was genuinely surprised to see me when he entered.

“This is an unexpected pleasure, Mr. Donnington,” he said.

“I am sure of the unexpectedness,” I replied drily, taking no notice of the offer of his hand.

He drew himself up stiffly. “Am I to understand that your refusal of my hand is intentional?”

“Am I to understand on my side that you made the offer of it from any feeling of friendship?”

“That is a very extraordinary question.”

“It is not altogether an ordinary visit, Major Sampayo. It has more to do with business of a sort than friendship. I am right in thinking you do not feel very well disposed to me.”

“Oh, really I have no time just now for talk of that kind. I have been away from the city and have a great[146] press of matters to attend to. Be good enough to state your business briefly.”

He said this in a very curt sharp tone and he crossed to a writing desk, unlocked it and began to turn over some papers.

I made no reply, but leant back in my chair and lighted a cigar. My silence worried him. He kept up a pretence of being very busy, opening a letter or two and making some notes as if ignoring my presence.

Then under the pretence of fetching a book, he rose and assumed surprise to find me still in the room. “Oh, are you still here?”

“Yes, still here, as you see—waiting.”

“Your conduct is very extraordinary. You are trying my courtesy to the utmost limit.”

“On the contrary, I am only waiting until you have time and inclination to give me undivided attention. By all means finish these pressing matters first.”

“Well, then, state your business at once.”

“It may take some time,” I said with an apologetic smile. I could not resist the pleasure of playing with him a little, as a punishment for his conduct.

“If it has anything to do with the concessions you are after, you may spare me and yourself the waste of time in discussing them. I have decided to have nothing to do with the matter.”

“Don’t you think I could persuade you to change your mind?”

“Certainly not. The Marquis de Pinsara spoke to me to endeavour to obtain my influence for you, but I declined. I will not be mixed up in an affair which I do not consider quite clean.”

“I assure you there is nothing in it which would soil your hands, Major Sampayo,” I said, with just sufficient emphasis on the “your” to rouse him.

“I consider that remark extremely offensive, sir,” he replied hotly. “And you will be good enough to[147] understand that I do not allow any man, Englishman or not, to make offensive remarks to me. I do not suppose you have come to insult me deliberately.”

His manner was very hectoring; and as it is sometimes amusing to allow a bully to believe he can bully you, I allowed him to enjoy this belief for a while.

With a start of affected nervousness I exclaimed quickly, “Oh, I’m sure—I trust——” as if beginning an apology, and then stopped and lowered my eyes.

“Then be good enough to be more guarded in what you say and how you say it.”

I hesitated as if much impressed and rather cowed by this and at a loss what to say. “These concessions, of course....” I stammered when he broke in.

“You have my answer in regard to them. It is final. And now I must ask you to leave me.”

I put in a little comedy stroke, by tossing up my hands, glancing half-appealingly at him, and giving a little sigh of regret.

“You can do no good by remaining, Mr. Donnington. You asked me just now whether I had offered you my hand in any spirit of friendliness. I will tell you now, I did not. I have no wish for your friendship or your acquaintance.”

“But you expressed a desire that we should meet again and I—I made quite sure——” I broke off again and let the sentence falter out in an indistinct murmur.

“You know my decision now at any rate. You understand our language quite well enough for my meaning to be perfectly plain.”

I was rather surprised at his attitude. He appeared to have quite reassured himself that we had not met before and that he had nothing to fear from me. And yet he had set that trap to get me into trouble. I could only conclude therefore that my present apparent fear of him led him to think he could safely intimidate me. So I dug the spur in.

[148]“You said you would welcome a chance of exchanging our mutual experiences in South Africa.”

But he did not feel the spur. “I have told you I do not desire your acquaintance at all,” he said warmly, adding with a sneer: “Are you Englishmen accustomed to force yourselves upon one in the way you are doing now?”

I let even this go in silence, and he crossed and threw the door open. “Now, sir,” he said, in barrack-yard style.

I rose then. “I think you had better not insist on my going at present.”

“I don’t care what you think. Go. That’s all I mean.”

“You are deeply involved in a certain conspiracy, Major Sampayo. I have absolute knowledge that concerns you closely.”

“Oh, this is blackmail, eh?” he cried. “You want to force me to help you by threatening me. Well, I refuse point-blank. Give what information you like. You are a spy.”

I gave him a steady look and answered very deliberately. “You mistake me. I did not give the information which led to that raid in the Rua Catania, but—I know who did.”

I got right home with that thrust, and as he glared at me, that old perplexed, speculative fear of me came creeping back into his eyes. He tried to fight it back by encouraging his rage. “Are you going to force me to kick you out, you spy?” he cried fiercely.

“A spy is an object of contempt, quite kickable, of course; but Dr. Barosa would probably regard a traitor as infinitely more despicable.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said, even more angrily, but also with more fear.

I paused. “You forged the letter in my name. I have the proofs here;” and I took out the letter and held it up.

[149]He burst into a loud scoffing laugh, the effort of which was obvious. “You must have lost your senses.” Even his voice was beginning to grow unsteady.

Having frightened him to this extent, I took a chance. It was certain of course that he must have carefully practised the copying of my handwriting before he forged the letter, so I glanced round significantly at his desk and said: “You are forgetting that you have not been in this room for more than thirty hours.”

It was an excellent bluff. He was scared right through. He changed colour, and the quick look which he shot involuntarily at the desk was instinct with fear. It was several seconds before he could recover himself sufficiently even to bluster.

“I’ll have no more of this,” he said with an oath and came toward me threateningly.

I knew him to be a wretched coward and was not in the least doubt that if he laid hands on me I could more than hold my own; so I let him come, my eyes fixed very steadily upon his. About two paces from me he stopped.

“Are you going?” he asked.

I made no answer and no movement.

“I’m in no mood to be trifled with.”

I let this go also without reply. I kept my eyes steadily on his face, and saw the struggle between his rage and his fear, and at one moment his rage all but won. His face set viciously and he tried to conceal his intention under an assumption of contempt.

“You are too contemptible to touch,” he said, as he moved back and then turned to his desk.

For a moment he misled me. I thought he meant no more by the insult than a cover for his cowardice. But I soon changed my opinion. His back was toward me, and I saw that while pretending to turn over his papers, his left hand went stealthily to a drawer. I guessed his intention.

[150]The purpose in his mind when he had meditated that attack had not been to put me out of the room, but to secure the proofs of his treachery which I said were in my possession. He was looking now for a weapon with which to force them from me.

To test him, as well as to interrupt his search, I made a feint of leaving.

“I will go now,” I said and stepped toward the door.

“No, by Heaven, not until this thing is cleared,” he cried, and rushing to the door he locked it, pocketed the key, and hurried back to the desk.

Knowing the man, I had of course taken the precaution of having my own weapon with me, and was about to take it out when another thought struck me.

Instead of the revolver, I took out a letter from the Corsican, Prelot, which had been forwarded to me that morning.

“What is there to be cleared up?” I asked, in the same steady, stern tone I had used before.

He found his revolver then and holding it behind him turned round. “You have made a lying charge against me. You say you have the proofs. Give me them.”

“I refuse to do anything of the sort.”

“I think you will,” he replied, with a cunning leer, and he covered me.

“Do you dare to threaten me?”

“Hand them over at once. Don’t fool me.”

I hesitated a moment.

“I give you five seconds,” he thundered.

“I had certain information in this letter,” and I held up the Corsican’s.

“Give it to me.”

I folded it up and threw it close to him.

With a chuckle he stooped and picked it up, and as he began to read it I took out my own weapon.

The door was locked and he might be really dangerous when he learnt the peril which menaced him.



MY precaution proved to be unnecessary.

As Sampayo read the first page of the letter his expression was merely one of perplexity. Prelot had begun with a recital of the places he had visited since writing to me before, and this told nothing of any significance.

Sampayo read it hurriedly and turning the page glanced down at the signature.

He started violently, and stared at the words for the space of a few seconds like a man bewitched. The hectic flush of triumphant cunning changed to a deathly grey. His hand shook so that the paper crackled; then his teeth began to chatter; the trembling spread to his limbs, and the whole of his big frame quivered and shook till he reeled under the shock and had to cling to the table for support.

His eyes all this time were fixed glassily on the signature of the letter; his breath was laboured and stertorous as he gasped for air; and he made frantic efforts to fight against the palsy of terror. He failed. And at length the revolver dropped from his nerveless hand, the letter fluttered to the floor, and with a groan he collapsed into the chair near him helpless, inert, and unconscious, his bullocky head lolling over the back with gaping mouth and staring but unseeing eyes.

I laid him down on the floor, and pocketed his revolver lest, when he recovered, he might have a fancy to put a bullet in me. Then I helped myself to the key,[152] and having unlocked the door, put the key in my own pocket.

Next I picked up Prelot’s letter and was beginning to hunt round for some brandy when it occurred to me to look in his desk to make sure that he had no other weapons and also to see if there was any evidence that he had been practising my handwriting. A hasty search gave me just what I wanted. Hidden away in a small drawer I found some sheets of paper on one of which was the draft of the letter he had written in his own handwriting; while among the others were his first attempts at the forgery and with them a letter of mine written to Volheno announcing my arrival in Lisbon.

I concluded that Sampayo had been disturbed at his work and had put the papers away hurriedly and forgotten them.

Lastly I turned my attention to restoring him. I found a decanter of brandy and gave him some. The spirit soon began to take effect, and then I lit another cigar and sat down to wait until he should be ready to resume operations.

When at length he sat up he passed his hand across his eyes in dazed bewilderment, as a man will when awakened suddenly from an ugly dream. Then with a start he began to stare about the floor as if looking for the letter, and not seeing it he gave a deep sigh of intense relief, apparently convinced that the thing was no more than a nightmare horror.

“If you’re looking for that letter, I have it,” I said quietly.

With a shuddering start at my voice—I was behind him and he had not seen me—he swung round and stared at me, and began to shake again as his terror returned.

“Here, you’d better have some more of this;” and I poured him out a wine-glassful of brandy and gave it him.

[153]He made one gulp of it and sat leaning forward, trying to think. Presently he scrambled to his feet and sank with a sigh into the chair, leant his arms on the desk and buried his face in his hands.

For some few minutes—five probably—he remained in this attitude of utter dejection. Then he let his hands fall on the desk, turned his head slightly so that he could see exactly where I was, and shifted his position so that the action of his left hand should be hidden by his body.

He was reaching for his revolver of course. A start and a grunt of dismay announced his disappointment.

“If you feel steady enough to shoot, you’re fit to talk,” I said sharply; “and we’ll get this thing over.”

There was a long pause before he spoke. “What is it?” he murmured then, slowly and sullenly.

I gave him another shock then. Imitating Prelot’s voice as nearly as I could recall it, I stamped my feet and called out, “Ah, Jean Dufoire, at last!”

The effect was electrical. He sprang up and turned round in a positive agony of terror.

I laughed. “I began to think you might have forgotten your name.”

With a scowl of hate he flung a bitter curse at me.

“Well, it’s roused you anyway, and now listen to me. You are either going to do exactly what I tell you, or Lucien Prelot and Jean Dufoire will be face to face before this time to-morrow. Now, which is it to be?”

“Who is Jean Dufoire?” he asked, after a long pause.

“If that’s your line, I’m going.”

He let me reach the door and felt in his pocket to make sure that he had the key; but when I opened it he started. “Wait,” he said.

“Which is it to be? Quick,” I said sharply.

“Tell me what you want.”

[154]“Which is it to be?” I repeated.

“I’ll do what you wish.” The words came slowly as if the utterance of each one of them was a torture.

I returned to my seat. “In the first place, you have a confession of Lieutenant de Linto’s. Give it me.”

With shaking fingers he unlocked a drawer of the desk and from a secret recess in it took out a paper and held it out.

I pushed a chair half-way between us. “Put it there.” He obeyed. “Now write an admission that you incited this young fool to take the money having won large amounts from him by cheating at cards.”

“I didn’t.”

“I haven’t forgotten Jean Dufoire’s reputation. Write what I say—and sign it Jean Dufoire, now known as Major Francisco Sampayo.”

He fought against this, but in the end yielded.

“Now a confession that you wrote the letter in my name giving information about the house in the Rua Catania.”

Against this he fought more stubbornly than before, but I showed him the papers I had taken from his desk, vowing I would take them straight to Barosa, and then he gave in. The sweat was standing in great beads on his forehead as he placed the papers on the chair.

“Now a letter to the Visconte de Linto and one to Mademoiselle Dominguez renouncing all claim to her hand.”

“I will not,” he cried with an oath. “My hand shall rot first.”

“It will do that soon after Lucien Prelot has found you.”

“I will not,” he repeated, flinging down the pen. “I dare not.”

I took the slip of paper and wrote, speaking the words as I pencilled them. “‘Jean Dufoire is now[155] known as Major Francisco Sampayo. You will find him in Lisbon.’ That telegram I shall send within five minutes of leaving here,” I said.

With a groan he threw up his hands distractedly and rising began to pace up and down. “I dare not. I dare not,” he exclaimed.

I watched him very closely and observed that his movements, at first erratic as if at the dictates of his overpowering agitation, had a method suggestive of a purpose. Each turn he took brought him a little nearer to me. So I stood up and while pocketing the papers he had written, I held my weapon in readiness, questioning him the while.

“What do you mean by dare not?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Then make it plain.”

“No. There is a limit to my compliance. I dare not do this.”

“What is it you are afraid of?”

“I can’t tell you that. My lips are sealed.”

“Oh come, you weren’t afraid to betray your associates when you thought to get me into a mess. Why be afraid now, to get yourself out of one?”

He was pacing in my direction now and I made a half turn from him as if to glance at his desk.

“I would do it if I could, Heaven knows. You’ve got me in a corner, but——” And at that instant he sprang forward to grab me by the throat. I was fully prepared, and instead of getting his hands on me he threw them up and staggered back from my levelled revolver.

“Don’t try that again,” I said between my teeth. “And now do what I have told you—and do it at once.”

He abandoned his intention to try force, and sat down again at the desk, but he would not write the letters.

“I dare not. I dare not. You must do what you[156] will. I dare not,” he repeated, over and over again in answer to my threats.

This persistent refusal perplexed me. That he was in fear of his life I knew, for I had convinced him I meant to set his enemy on his track. But there was obviously something or some one of whom he was even more afraid than of me. I could think of only one man—Barosa. But why of him? And why only in regard to breaking his engagement to Miralda?

“Why are you so determined to marry Mademoiselle Dominguez?”

“I am not. I will take any oath you like not to marry her.”

“Then it is only the written renouncement you shrink from?”

“I dare not do it.”

“Then write a letter to her asking her to release you and to keep the whole thing secret.”

“Why are you so set on this?” he asked.

“Don’t question me,” I snapped angrily.

He sat thinking in moody despair. He might well despair being between the upper and nether millstones. Then at length he took up the pen and began to write, but stopped and tore up the sheet.

“You can tell her,” he said.

I renewed my threats, promising secrecy, but he struggled hard and at length I got up and went to the door, declaring I would at once dispatch the telegram I had drafted.

“Give me time,” he said then. “Let me have a week—three days—one day——” he pleaded as I shook my head. And at last he gave in.

“Now for my last condition,” I said as I took the letter. “You will leave the city at once—to-day.”

“Give me more time. I shall go of course after this, but I must have some time—two days at least—to make arrangements.”

“Not one hour after to-day. If you are still in[157] the city to-morrow, this message will go to Lucien Prelot.”

And with that final shot I left him.

There was only a very small fly in the amber of my satisfaction at the result of the interview. I had secured all I wanted. I had caused the rupture of the engagement to Miralda, had put an end to his hold over her brother, had obtained the proofs of his treachery toward Barosa, and had given him a notice to quit which he would not dare to disobey.

The only point where I had failed had been in learning that strange secret at the back of his fears which had made him refuse to write the letter to the visconte. It was in some way connected with the betrothal; but beyond that, I could not even hazard a guess.

But I was in too high spirits at what I had gained to worry over the minor failure. Indeed, the prospect of a secret understanding with Miralda was so alluring that I was more than half disposed to be glad that the thing had taken this particular course, and decided not to lose a minute before telling her the news.

I was hurrying off to her when I remembered my promise to have the money for Vasco. I had to get it from the bank, and while I was there it occurred to me to put the other papers I had forced from Sampayo in safe custody. I sealed them up and left them in the bank’s custody, with instructions that the packet was not to be given to any one—only to myself in person.

This precaution started another line of thought. Sampayo was at bay, utterly desperate, fighting for all he cared for in life, and I must reckon with that and be on my guard.

What was he likely to do? He had attempted my life once, even while he was only in doubt whether I could harm him. What would he do now that he knew and was desperate? I decided not to run the[158] risk of being alone in my rooms until I knew that he was out of Lisbon.

Instead of going straight to Miralda, therefore, I drove down to the quay and sent off a message by a boatman to Burroughs, my second in command on the Stella, to come to my rooms with a couple of the crew.

Jack Burroughs was just the man for such a purpose—a ’Varsity man of good birth but very small means, with the roving instinct strongly developed, he had been half over the globe in search of adventure; and having a love of the sea, had jumped at my suggestion that he should come with me, partly as companion and partly to qualify himself to take command of the Stella later on.

Having dispatched the message I drove back to the visconte’s house. I was in luck, for Miralda was alone when the servant showed me into the room.

She was not surprised by my visit and received me with some little restraint. Her eyes were troubled and her hand trembled as she placed it in mine.

“I am glad to find you alone.”

“I was expecting you, Mr. Donnington, but I am afraid I am sorry you have come.”

“Expecting me? But no one except myself knew I was coming.”

“You are the bearer of a letter, I think.”

“Are you reading my thoughts? You amaze me.”

She shook her head and smiled sadly. “It is unfortunately nothing occult. But I will ask you not to give me the letter.”

I drew a deep breath of surprise. “Do you know what is in it?”

“No—but please do not question me. You are mixing in matters which you cannot understand and I cannot explain. But do not give me the letter—I—I could not read it.”

“Will you not say why? This is so extraordinary.”

[159]“I know it must seem so to you. Oh, why do you not leave the city?” she burst out impulsively.

“But the news I bring is good news—at least I hope——”

“Please, please,” she interposed, holding up her hand.

“But if you don’t know the contents of the letter why mustn’t you read it?”

“Don’t question me. I cannot tell you. I would if I might—I am sure you know that. But I cannot.”

“Who told you I was coming?”

She shook her head again, growing more and more distressed. “Don’t offer it to me even. I must take it if you do but must not read it.”

I sat thinking a moment. I was almost dumbfounded by this sudden check at the moment when I had been so full of confidence. I had hoped that the instant she saw the letter she would see that the barrier between us was swept away for good. And now she would not even look at it.

She dared not, just as Sampayo had not dared to write the letter to the visconte. Was there any connexion between her fear and his? Was this further evidence of that mysterious power in the background?

“Very well,” I said at length; and at the words the expression of her eyes changed.

But there are more ways than one of gaining an end, and I was resolved she should know the contents of the letter before I left; and once more I pressed those Beira concessions into my service. I chatted at random for a while and then spoke of them.

“You’ll be glad to hear that I am getting along all right in that matter,” I said in a casual tone.

“I am glad if it will mean that you will be able to leave Lisbon,” she replied, a little suspicious as to which concessions I meant.

I said a lot about Beira and the colony until I had cleared the doubt from her eyes. “I’ll tell you how[160] the matter stands,” I said then, and added quickly, not heeding her attempts to interrupt me: “There was a man here who tried to forestall me by using secret means he possessed to force others, and to-day I have seen him and he has given me a letter definitely renouncing his claims and by to-morrow he will have left Lisbon for good.”

She understood, but instead of showing relief or pleasure, her eyes clouded again with trouble, and she sat with drooped head biting her lip and pressing her hands tightly together in agitation.

“Have you no word of—of congratulation?”

Her congratulation was a deep sigh, a gesture of despair, and a scarcely audible whisper: “It is too late.”

“No!” I exclaimed firmly. “I don’t and won’t believe that. And I hold too strong a hand now for any one to beat me.”

My firmness told. She looked up with the dawn of hope in her eyes, and if I could read it, something beside hope, something far dearer to me.

“My hand on it,” I said, stretching it out.

She was about to place hers in it, when the servant announced Inez. On watchdog duty again, of course. I gave her the letter and whispered quickly: “Take this now. You know what is in it. I have other news for you—I have rescued Vasco.”



I  STAYED a few minutes after Inez’ arrival so that she should not think she had scared me away, and I left the house more in love with Miralda than ever and convinced that had she been free the interview would have had a very different result.

I saw Barosa’s sinister influence behind. Sampayo had evidently told him at once what I had done; he had instantly sent instructions to Miralda to take the letter but not to read it; and his power over her was too great for her to dare to disobey.

To break down his influence appeared impossible; it meant a fight against the whole forces of this infernal conspiracy. And then a somewhat wild, harum-scarum alternative occurred to me—to carry her away from it all on the Stella. Vasco was out of danger, and so far as she herself was in danger from the Government, she could smile at it when we were once in old England.

Vasco was already on the yacht. Could I use him to get her there? And if I did, would she resent my trick or come to view it as the best, if not the only way out?

Burroughs was at my rooms when I arrived, and he was just the man to help me in such a plan; but I would not broach it until I had had more time to think it round.

I was still undecided when Barosa arrived. I guessed his object but greeted him pleasantly. He was, however, too engrossed by the reasons which had[162] brought him to make any sort of pretence, and the moment we had shaken hands, he plunged into the subject.

“I have come to see you about Major Sampayo, Mr. Donnington. I regret to hear that you and he have quarrelled.”

“Scarcely quarrelled, doctor. At least I should not use that term; and pardon me if I say that it is a strictly personal matter.”

“I cannot regard it so; that is why I have come. You have threatened to use certain information you possess and have required him to leave Lisbon at once.”

“I should put it very differently, of course.”

“We need not split hairs,” he replied bluntly.

“I do not care to be addressed quite so curtly, Dr. Barosa. If you wish to tell me anything or to make any sort of request, I am willing to listen in a friendly spirit. But not otherwise.”

“I have no wish to offend, but the matter is serious. I have explained to you once before that we are under great obligations to Major Sampayo, and any action directed against him is felt to be directed equally against us.”

“Of course I cannot take that view. I have nothing to do with your aims or concerns or plans. My action is strictly individual. But perhaps you will put in plain terms exactly what you wish.”

“That your persecution of Major Sampayo shall cease.”

“Persecution! There is no persecution. Are you aware that he even attempted my life?”

“Not for a moment, Mr. Donnington. You refer to the Rua Catania letter. That has all been explained. He was not satisfied that you would keep your pledge of secrecy and intended that merely as a test.”

“Is it possible that he has persuaded you to believe that?”

“Otherwise I should not say it, Mr. Donnington.”

[163]“Well, I don’t, and nothing would ever make me. He forged my name to the letter and managed to let you know of it somehow in his belief that you would deal with me as a liar and traitor. I know the man.”

“So do I. And the fact that he warned us of the raid so that nothing should be discovered satisfies me of his good faith.”

“Very well, then, we must be content to differ about it.”

“You will not forget that he had stronger cause for distrusting you than we had. We believed that you had come here for very different reasons from those openly given—reasons which touched him very closely indeed.”

“Did he think I came after him, do you mean?” I asked with a smile.

“No, of course not,” he replied, nettled by my smile,—as, indeed, I intended he should be. “He believed that you had come on a very different person’s account.”

Why did he fight shy of mentioning Miralda by name? And why was he himself so interested in forcing Sampayo to marry her, when the man himself had offered to take any oath I wished that he would not? “I don’t care a rap what he believed,” I said, after a moment’s pause.

“But we care, Mr. Donnington?”

I paused and then asked sharply: “What is Miralda Dominguez to you, Dr. Barosa?”

The question took him by surprise, and the sudden light which gleamed in his eyes answered my question.

“She is nothing to me, personally, of course,” he protested.

“You misunderstand my question. What is she to you and your friends?” It was not prudent yet to show him that I believed I had guessed his secret of secrets.

“She is one of us, Mr. Donnington. She is in a[164] position to render our cause valuable help, as she has already done. It is more to the point to ask what she is to you.”

I had another shaft ready, but to prepare the way for the surprise I paused, gave a shrug and a smile of indifference, and then said quickly: “I hope to make her my wife.”

Once more the sudden flame in his eyes confirmed my former diagnosis.

“That will not be possible, Mr. Donnington.”

“We shall see. I doubt if I am more easily turned from a course I have once taken than you yourself. I’ll tell you how I view the thing, for it is the pith and marrow of this business with Sampayo. I came here for the express purpose of asking her to become my wife. I found her promised to Major Sampayo. I set my wits to work and my money, and ascertained that she had been driven to compromise herself in your politics. By means of money I succeeded in learning how she had been forced to join you. My whip-hand over Sampayo led him to admit that he did not really wish to marry her—and I found that you were really the background force which made him shrink from an open rupture with her. He agreed to a secret one and gave me a letter to her. I took that letter and she absolutely refused to open it. I saw, therefore, that Sampayo had been to you and that you had ordered her not to read it. Now I’ve spoken frankly and invite similar freedom from you. Why did you do this?”

“I cannot explain to you without entering into matters that are secret—political matters, I mean, of course,” he replied, making the addition quickly.

“Very good. Then you come to me and tell me that I must not do as I please with regard to Sampayo. You call it persecution. I apply that term to Mademoiselle Dominguez’ treatment. Cease that, give her back her freedom of action, and I’ve done[165] with Sampayo. He can stop here or go to the devil for all I care.”

“I have told you it is not possible, Mr. Donnington,” he said firmly.

“You mean that you, for motives personal to yourself, will not permit it.”

“You have no reason to draw any such inference.”

“Well, I do draw it, and shall continue to believe it and act upon it until I learn it is wrong.”

“I tell you it is wrong, wholly wrong and preposterous.”

I looked at him with a purposely aggravating smile and shook my head. “As a matter of fact, I know,” I said. Pure bluff this, of course, but useful.

He paled with anger and his eyes flashed again. “You wish to insult me,” he said between his teeth.

“I should not regard it as an insult if you suggested that I admired a very beautiful woman, but if I got as angry as you are, you would conclude that you were right.”

He sprang up. “Then you intend to disregard my warning and set us all at defiance,” he cried, beside himself with rage.

“Are you threatening me?”

“Take it as you will, sir.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that I knew he was the agent of the Pretender and reply to his threat with one to denounce him to Volheno. But I checked myself. “You understand I shan’t take it lying down. I shall hit back. And now I think we are at the end of this stage of the affair,” I said; and he left me.

It was evidently a fight to be with the gloves off, and I might look for trouble without any fear of being disappointed. But I should be on my guard.

I had gained more than a warning by the interview, however. I had learnt the secret which had been in the background. Barosa was in love with[166] Miralda; and Sampayo was only the stalking-horse to keep other men away until he could declare himself. I could not resist a smile at his dilemma. He could not do anything at present without changing Inez from friend to enemy and I saw how this interesting embarrassment could be turned to excellent account with her.

But the axis of things was shifted. It was not Sampayo who had so tortuously woven the web which had entangled Miralda. It was Barosa himself. And then came the question why Sampayo had been so pliant a tool in his hands and so frightened of him. There was one probable answer to that—that Barosa knew what I knew about that South African villainy.

Vasco arrived when I was turning over the problem. I told him that I had obtained his confession from Sampayo and that the latter would not trouble him any more; and he thanked me profusely, making earnest protestations that he would never touch a card or a dicebox again as long as he lived. Men generally make resolutions of that sort at such a moment, of course. He told me how much he owed to his fellow-officers, and I gave him the amount.

Then I suggested that he should return to the Stella until Sampayo had left Lisbon. This was not my real reason. I really wished to have him on board in case I should decide upon the drastic step of carrying off Miralda and could use him to get her to go to the yacht.

But he jumped away from the suggestion as if it were a red-hot iron. “I am sorry I cannot, Mr. Donnington. I’ll do anything else, but to-morrow I must go on duty.”

“Why?” I asked with surprise at his exaggerated love of discipline.

“Don’t ask me that. I cannot tell you. I cannot really.”

“But you’ve told me a good deal.”

[167]“I’d tell you anything else. You’re the best friend a fellow could have. But this is not my secret. Please don’t question me.”

“Not your secret, eh? Then it’s some of this conspiracy business. It strikes me you’re going to make a fool of yourself. You’d much better have nothing to do with it.”

“For heaven’s sake don’t say any more.”

“Very well. By the way, you wanted to have my yacht for a day?”

His tell-tale face was instantly so troubled that I took it he connected the question with what I had said before.

“I shan’t want it, thank you,” he said quickly; and added with stammering hesitation: “You see, I’ve given up the idea of taking those fellows out.”

“All right. But all I was going to suggest was that you should come for another outing with me and perhaps get your sister to join you.”

“Oh, I’ll do that any time—but not to-morrow, or—or the next day. Any other time. I know Miralda would go—at least—if——” and he stopped.

“Well, we’ll fix a day soon,” I said, and let him go.

Evidently something serious was to take place on the morrow. What could it be? Was it something I ought to know for Miralda’s sake? Clearly the sooner I could get her away the better.

Later in the evening Burroughs told me a curious incident. We were smoking, and he broke one of the pauses with a sudden laugh. “A rum thing happened yesterday,” he said, in response to my glance of surprise.


“Say, is the king of this benighted country in the habit of playing the Haroun Al Raschid game?”

“I don’t know, Jack.”

“Well, it looks like it. I was on the Quay yesterday[168] and some of the loafers began looking at me and nudging one another and chattering—you know what beggars they are for that—and the thing went on until there were two or three dozen of ’em gawking around. I was walking away when hang me if the whole lot didn’t off with the caps and sing out ‘Long Live the King.’ I looked round for the King, but he wasn’t there, and when I was going back in the launch to the Stella afterwards, one of the hands told me the crowd had taken me for him, and were pretty huffy because I hadn’t acknowledged the cheer. Wish I’d tumbled to it, I’d have played up to it.”

“You are surprisingly like him, Jack, now that I look at you,” I said with a grin.

“Rather be myself, a heap,” he replied drily, and after some chaff the matter dropped.

I had been considering how to tell him about Miralda, and after the next pause I asked him if he knew why we were in Lisbon.

“You haven’t told me,” he replied drily.

“You mean you have guessed?”

He took his pipe out of his mouth, glanced at it, and then at me and smiled. “I know the symptoms. I’ve had the fever myself. You’re the sort to take it badly too.”

“I have.”

“What’s the trouble?”

“All sorts and plenty of it.”

“Well, I’m with you, if you want me. I’d love a scrap.”

“I’m thinking of making a bolt of it.”

Stella?” I nodded. “The lady willing?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t asked her. She’s been forced to give a promise to some one else. I’d better tell you something about it;” and I gave him a short outline of the position.

“It’s a mix up, sure,” he commented drily. “But she’s a lovely girl. That’s a cert.”

[169]“How do you know?”

“A man has eyes, I suppose. She’s a good sailor too. Seemed to enjoy that bit of a racket on the yacht.”

“Yes,” I said, self-consciously.

“If you can get her to put one of her dainty feet into a rowing boat, I’ll answer for it that she doesn’t take it out again except to mount the Stella’s companion, and the rest would be as easy as shooting gulls.”

“But how to do it?”

He paused, shook his pipe out, refilled it and lit it. “If you leave it to me, I’d undertake to do it all right,” he said very deliberately.


“I said leave it to me. I’ll tell you how when it’s done.”

“But you’ve never spoken to her.”

“All the better.”

“I should ask her first.”

“And spoil your chance. Ask her when we’re half-way across the bay.”

“It may have to come to that.”

“Better come first,” he said with his dry smile. “If you want to win.”

That was my own thought secretly; but I was half afraid Miralda herself might resent such a strong step.

We lapsed into silence and I sat thinking over the whole situation, and the longer I thought the stronger grew my conviction that to get Miralda away was at once the safest and simplest solution of all the difficulties. If she would go, of course. Would she? I could only answer that out of the hopes which her look that afternoon had roused. If she were free, I was certain of her. And free she certainly would be if I dared to carry her off in the Stella.

Presently we began to speak of another matter.[170] We were sitting at the open window with no light except from that of the full moon, and Burroughs went out on to the verandah and leant over, looking about curiously.

“I suppose you think there may be something happen to-night by having us up here?” he asked as he sat down again.

“Scarcely likely, but I thought best to be prepared.”

“It’s turning-in time. I’ll keep the first watch.”

“What have you seen?” I asked.

“Nothing—except that any one could get in here easily enough.”

“Oh, I don’t think there’s any fear of that.”

“I wasn’t talking about fear of anything. But I shan’t turn in.”

“Neither shall I, yet. I couldn’t sleep.”

“Well, I reckon we don’t want to show ’em they’re expected;” and he got up and closed the window. “And we shall have plenty of other time to talk, so we’ll keep a close lip. From what you told me, this is the night they’re most likely to try some hanky-panky. I guess, too, we don’t want too fresh smoke for ’em to smell, so I’ll shake my pipe out.”

He did so and drew his chair away from the window, and I followed his example.

I was wrong about not being able to sleep. After a time I dozed off and, at Burroughs’ suggestion, lay down on a sofa close to him and went off into a sound sleep.

From a dream that I was being smothered I awoke to find a hand pressed tightly on my mouth.

“Hsh! Wake up. Something’s happening,” whispered Burroughs.

I looked round the room. It was almost dark, for the moonlight was no longer streaming through the window. I had evidently been asleep some hours.

[171]Then Burroughs caught my sleeve and pulled it upwards. A sign to me to get up.

When I stood up he put his lips to my ear and whispered: “You stay this side of the window. I’ll go to the other.”

Without making a sound he crept away from me.

I stood listening intently, and presently bent down and peered cautiously at the window.

There was neither sign nor sound of anything.

The seconds of suspense lengthened into minutes.

Burroughs had clearly deceived himself.

And just when I was on the point of telling him so, the form of a man showed on the verandah.

In a second I was on my feet again in the shadow of the curtain.

Cautiously the window was pushed open. A man entered and stood motionless as a statue, listening and peering round the room.

With absolutely noiseless tread he stepped forward a couple of paces, paused again, and then returned to the balcony.

A couple of minutes passed before he re-entered, this time with a companion. The second man remained close to the window.

The small circle light of an electric lamp carried by the first comer flashed for an instant, and then he started to cross the room.



AS soon as the two men were separated in this way, I realized that Burroughs had made a mistake in tactics. We ought to have stayed together. As it was, I did not know which of the two he meant to tackle.

It turned out that he was in the same uncertainty about me; but he saw that the man who had crossed the room was going to switch on the electric light, and to prevent this he sprang on him and shouted to me to seize the other fellow.

I might as well have tried to seize a stroke of lightning. Before my companion had half finished his sentence, the man was out of the room and over the balcony railing, and it would have been sheer folly to attempt any pursuit.

Meanwhile, Burroughs, who was as strong as a bullock, had collared his man, holding his hands behind him in a grip of iron.

I closed the jalousies and fastened them, and then shut the window and fastened that, and then switched up the light.

I recognized the prisoner immediately. It was Henriques—the brute who had been going to strike Inez that night in the Rua Catania.

“Run your hands over him and draw his teeth,” said my friend.

He had both a revolver and a knife, and I took these from him and then turned out his pockets.[173] Among the miscellaneous contents I found, to my intense surprise, an envelope addressed to Vasco, the name being given in full.

I was careful not to show my keen interest at this, and something like a flash of intuition warned me that I must learn the contents of the letter without Henriques knowing that I had read it. As the envelope was fastened, this was a little difficult. “These things may be wanted by the police and may or may not be important,” I said to Burroughs. Then I fetched a sheet of paper from my desk, wrapped up the envelope and the small things and sealed the packet, placing the revolver and knife by them. I did it very deliberately so that Henriques should see, and then I said to him: “I don’t mean to give you a chance to deny that these thing were found on you.”

“Shall I send for the police?” asked Burroughs, who was considerably perplexed by what I had done.

“That depends upon this scoundrel. You needn’t hold him. He can’t do any harm. But don’t let him get near these toys of his,” and I pointed to his weapons. I had my plan by that time. I meant to trick him, and it was part of my plan that he should believe that the packet was not out of his sight the whole time.

“Now, if you make a clean breast of things, I shall let you go,” I said, turning to the man. “What’s your name?”

“Garcia Rosada.” He lied so promptly that I saw he had been carefully making up his tale.

I was on the point of telling him I knew his name, when it occurred to me that it would be better to affect to believe him. “Who sent you here?”

“No one.”

“Why did you come then?”

He hung his head for a moment as if in shame and then muttered: “I’ve never been a thief before,[174] and if you’ll let me go, Excellency, I vow to the Holy Virgin I’ll never be one again. Have mercy on me. I’ve a wife and five children and this will—will kill them.” He was an artful scoundrel, and the break in his voice was quite cleverly done.

I put a few more questions, and he improved on the tale, saying that his companion was name Ferraz, and having heard that I was a very rich man, had tempted him to try and rob me.

Burroughs’ face, when he saw that I appeared to believe the yarn, was quite an amusing study. He was divided between doubt whether I was really gulled, and curiosity as to my object, if I was not.

“I’ll write that down while it’s fresh in my memory. If I find your story true, I won’t punish you, Rosada,” I said and turned away to my writing table. I made a pretence of writing, repeating the words aloud and turning now and then to put a question about some detail.

But what I really did was to make up a dummy packet the exact counterfeit of that on the table.

As soon as it was ready I crossed again to Henriques. “There’s one thing you haven’t explained,” I said, picking up the revolver. “Why did you bring this and the knife with you?”

He had his tale ready, good enough for such a fool as he deemed me. “They are not mine at all, Excellency. They belong to Ferraz—the man who got me into this.”

I put a question or two; and then as if in doubt I turned to replace the revolver and stood for a moment in such a position that he could not see me exchange the packets.

“You don’t believe that, do you?” exclaimed Burroughs, with a scoff.

“I don’t know quite what to believe yet,” I replied. “I’ll think it over;” and I returned to my desk, and while keeping up the farce of writing and[175] asking occasional questions, I opened the packet and took out the letter to Vasco.

It was very insecurely fastened, fortunately, so that I could open it without showing any signs that it had been tampered with. As I read it, I found it was from Dagara, and could scarcely restrain a laugh of chagrin at the elaborate means I had taken to discover a mare’s nest.

It ran as follows:—

Lisbon Chess Club.
438, Rua da Gloria.

Dear Lieutenant de Linto,—

“I was sorry you could not be at the Club last night. We had a most interesting series of problems set by M. Polski, the Polish champion. There were ten of them and the fifth and sixth will interest you—both forced mates in seven moves. I hope that all our playing members will find or make an opportunity of studying them very thoroughly. I shall have them printed, of course, and am writing in this strain to all the members who were not present.

“I am so anxious to see the general average of play improved before we meet the Sanatarem Club.

“Yours sincerely,
Manoel Dagara.”

Feeling very much like a man who has most ridiculously hoaxed himself, I refolded the letter, put it back carefully into the envelope, and was about to fasten it when a thought struck me.

Vasco a chess player! The most unlikely man in all Christendom to have that profoundly staid disease. And why should this Henriques be chosen to carry such a letter and have it on him in the dead of night when he had come on such a grim mission as had brought him here?

Then a reason suggested itself. He must have had[176] instructions to deliver it in person to Vasco; and as the latter had been on the Stella from the previous night, the note could not be delivered. The man in such a case, being afraid to leave it about, might well prefer to have it on him.

This meant that it was of much more importance than its contents suggested; and my thoughts flew to the cipher.

I was glad now that I had taken all the trouble and I took some more. I made an exact copy of the letter, laying a sheet of very thin paper over it and using the utmost pains to space every word and letter exactly as it was written.

Then I fastened it up and made up another packet and returned to Burroughs.

“I am still undecided what to do,” I said to him. “If this man’s tale is true, I shan’t punish him. But he must stop here for the present, of course. Have him locked in a room and let a couple of men be with him.”

Then I made another exchange of the packets and said to Henriques. “You can’t have your weapons, but you can keep this.” And I gave it him.

Burroughs took him out of the room and was back again in a minute or two, his face one staring note of interrogation.

“What the devil does it all mean?” he cried.

“He’s an honest fellow that, Jack. He’s been led into trouble by evil companions and——”

“Oh, rats!” he broke in. “What were you writing there? You had me guessing all the time?”

“I was only writing this;” and I showed him the copy of the letter.

He read it and scratched his head. “What is it? A prize puzzle?”

“It’s a copy of the letter I took from our friend’s pocket.”

“But you wrapped it up in the parcel.”

[177]“You wouldn’t have me rob a gentleman of his belongings?”

“But the blessed thing was on the table all the time.”

“Do you mean this?” and I produced the dummy.

“It’s on me,” he said with a laugh. He was very American at times in his idioms.

“I’m either a big stupid ass and have taken a lot of trouble for nothing, or I’ve made a useful discovery. I shall soon know which,” I said explaining how I had changed the packets.

Then I fetched the cipher key which I had hidden in another room and returned to find him puffing at his pipe and puzzling over the copy of the letter.

I told him then about the discovery of the cipher, and laid the key over the lines getting more nonsense words from the first two or three. Then I read the letter again and a thought struck me.

Dagara spoke of ten problems. There were ten lines in the letter.

“The fifth and sixth will interest you,” ran the phrase.

I laid the punctured slip over these in turn. The fifth gave me this result. I will put the indicated letters in capitals.

“I hoPe that All our Playing mEmbeRS will find oR make.”

“P A P E R S R,” was shown up.

I laid the same row of holes over the next line, with no results that were intelligible. The second row was no more fruitful, but the third gave this result.

“an EArly opportunity of stuDying them thoroughlY.”

Put together the two lines of indicated letters read—

“PAPERS READY”—easy enough for Macaulay’s schoolboy to understand. “Papers Ready.”

“I’m not a stupid ass after all,” I exclaimed, triumphantly. “Now we want our considering caps. This means that some important information which the[178] writer of this letter has obtained is waiting to be delivered, and what we have to do is to get hold of them.”

“It’s not in my line,” said Burroughs.

“I’m going to sleep over it. We’re not likely to have any more callers, so I shall go to bed;” and to bed I went, leaving him on watch, as he declared he should sit up till daylight.

In the morning I decided what to do. It was clear that the papers were too important to be trusted by Dagara to any one but a duly selected messenger. The care with which the message was sent to Vasco that they were ready, suggested that he was not that messenger. Why then should he be told about them? Probably he had to send the messenger for them.

I thought it over carefully, revolving all I knew, and by the process of exclusion decided it was Miralda. It must be some one whom Vasco could see at any time, the moment the message reached him. Even with Inez, of whom I thought first, this was not practicable. It might be some fellow-officer; but no one of them would be so invariably within immediate touch as Miralda.

Moreover, it was just the thing for which she could be used to the best advantage. Dagara was married I knew, and thus she would only have to pay an informal visit to the wife for him to meet her and hand over any papers. Then I recalled that Inez had been one of the first to see that forged letter of mine which Dagara had given up, and the conclusion was easy that when Miralda obtained anything, she handed it on to Inez for the latter to give to Barosa.

The inference was strong enough for me to risk acting upon it. I could not, of course, be certain that Miralda went to Dagara’s house for any communications, while that I should go there was out of the question. I decided therefore to try my hand at a[179] cipher message in Miralda’s name telling Dagara to bring the papers to a spot where I could meet him, and then take him to the only safe place for such an interview as ours would be—on the Stella.

I must contrive to get him there secretly. I remembered a very little-used landing-stage on the east of the city round the point, where I could have my launch ready, and I soon saw a way of getting Dagara to that spot.

The message I sent in cipher was as follows:

“Usual place unsafe. M. waiting now in the Praca da Figueira for papers.”

I wrapped this up in a long letter answering his about the chess problems, addressed it to Dagara at Volheno’s and sent Bryant to leave it at the office.

I had meanwhile bundled Burroughs off to bring the launch to the landing-stage, and I timed the delivery of the letter to reach Dagara just about his dinner interval.

If the scheme failed, I resolved as an alternative to find out where he lived and risk a visit to his house to frighten the papers out of him.

I had a carriage in readiness as I intended to drive him in it to the landing-stage; and I was not a little excited as I started for the Praca da Figueira—a quiet little square close to my flat.

I left the carriage out of sight and as I turned the corner leisurely I felt a little thrill of satisfaction to see that he was there before me.

I had worked out my chess problem successfully and saw my way to mate in less than his seven moves.

He was walking slowly with his back toward me, and I quickened up my pace so that I was close to him when he heard my footsteps, turned and saw me.



I  WAS a great deal more pleased to see Dagara than he was to see me, judging by the way in which he took my hand and the little nervous shrinking movement as I linked my arm in his and turned back with him toward the carriage.

“I am afraid I am a little late, but I have made all the haste I could,” I said with a smile of apology which perplexed him considerably.

“You have an appointment then? I myself am—am waiting for a friend.”

“My appointment is with you, of course. There is a change in the plans and I have come to fetch you. I have a carriage here for the purpose. I was delighted to come. I want to ask your opinion about something.”

“I’m afraid I don’t quite understand, Mr. Donnington.”

“The fact is I want to talk chess with you—about M. Polski’s ten problems, and particularly the fifth and sixth.”

His face turned to the colour of the paving stones he was staring at so intently, and his voice was as husky as if half the dust of the city had got into his throat when he muttered: “What do you mean?”

“Here’s my carriage. Jump in, and we’ll chat it over as we drive.” I had already told the driver where to go.

Dagara had no jump left in him, poor fellow, and tried to refuse to get in at all. But with my help he[181] stumbled in and sat staring helplessly at me, as I talked a lot of nonsense about chess—to give him time to pull himself together.

“Where are you taking me, Mr. Donnington?” he asked when I had chattered myself almost out of breath.

“He is driving us down to a landing-stage and I’m going to give you some lunch on my yacht. I have had a desire for a chat with you for several days.”

“I am much obliged to you, Mr. Donnington, but I cannot go now.”

“Oh, nonsense. I’ll make excuses to M. Volheno.”

“But I will not go. I won’t be forced in this way,” he cried, striving hard to rally his courage.

“Of course I won’t force you. I’ll stop the carriage.” I leant forward as if to call to the driver, and then turned with a meaning look. “By the way, did you find that missing letter the other day?”

“I don’t know what you mean. I demand to get out.”

“I know why it was missing, M. Dagara. Would you rather lunch with me or shall we return together to M. Volheno? Decide quickly, please. It must be one or the other.”

He drew a sobbing breath of fright; and all thought of resistance was abandoned.

I let him frighten himself thoroughly until we were nearing the landing-stage. “Now I want you to understand things. I shall either be one of the best friends you ever had or I shall ruin you lock, stock and barrel. That rests with you. I know all you have been doing and what your appointment was for to-day. Give me the papers you have and tell me candidly all you know about these people’s plans, and I shall be the friend. Refuse, and I shall be the reverse. And I can be a very ugly enemy, M. Dagara. We shall not talk on the way to the yacht and you will have ample time to think over your position and decide. But I[182] must have the papers at once, lest you should take a fancy to pitch them into the harbour.”

He hesitated in positively pitiful fear.

“If you do not give them to me now without trouble, my men on the launch will take them from you by force.”

That threat had a wholesome effect. After a moment he handed me an envelope which I pocketed, and he gave no more trouble.

In consequence of some repairs to the roadway the carriage had to stop some fifty yards short of the landing-stage, but he walked to the launch without demur, and when I told him to conceal himself in the little cabin he obeyed at once.

As soon as we reached the Stella I led him into the saloon. “Now I’ll have your decision, Dagara,” I said sharply.

“Will you really try to shield me?”

“Yes, I give you my word—but no half measures, mind. I know quite enough to test the truth of all you say.”

“I’m the most miserable man in Portugal, Mr. Donnington, and this double life is killing me;” and then out came his story.

It was very similar to Vasco’s case—except that Dagara’s wife had been the means of his undoing. She had friends among the revolutionaries and had been in league with them some time before he discovered it. She had wormed things out of him, as wives can and do out of husbands who love and trust them, and had handed on the information to her friends.

Barosa had learnt this and naturally jumped at the chance of getting a man in such a position into his clutches. It was not difficult to lay a trap for him, and he found himself suddenly faced with the alternative of giving a little information of a comparatively harmless description, or of seeing the wife he loved denounced to the Government as a revolutionary.

[183]Love for wife triumphed over fealty to employer, and the information was given. It concerned only some arrangements for the disposition of a body of troops and police on one occasion when the king was returning to the capital from a shooting party. But it was given in writing—Barosa took good care of that, of course—and from that hour Dagara was a bond-slave and had never known a minute’s peace of mind.

By degrees, cunningly progressive, information of increasing secrecy and importance had been extorted from him until even his wife was scared out of her senses and the man himself driven to regard suicide as offering the only prospect of relief from unbearable torture.

I was right in my guess that Miralda had been used lately as a go-between. She knew the wife, and Vasco had been dastard enough to induce his sister to fetch one or two communications from Dagara, without telling her their nature. She had then been allowed to discover their treasonable character, and had immediately refused to carry any more. Then the screw was turned. She was already compromised and her name as a suspect would be given up. She had resisted strenuously, answering threat with threat, but the thing had been done cleverly, and the only people she was at that time in a position to harm were the Dagaras, her friends, and her own brother. The latter’s prosecution for the theft he had confessed was the next menace, and this had driven her to yield, and so, like Dagara, she had become hopelessly entangled in the net.

This was almost all that Dagara could tell me. I put a guarded question about the Visconte de Linto, but he declared with the exception of Miralda, Henriques and a friend of his wife’s, he did not know the name of another person in the conspiracy. Henriques was the caretaker of the building in which the chess club met, and carried his letters to Vasco.

[184]The reason for this caution on Barosa’s part was clear. He knew that Dagara had a very weak backbone and that at any moment a fit of remorse might seize him in which he would reveal all he knew to Volheno. He was therefore allowed to know as little as possible.

“But you know what use is made of the information you have given from time to time?” I asked him.

“So far as I can see, it has been of comparatively little use. I have told them from time to time the objects and plans of the police and have warned them when suspicion has fallen on certain individuals, or when raids have been planned. The threatened persons have disappeared and the raids have brought no result.”

“You warned them about me and gave them that letter?”

“Yes. But in regard to that a curious thing occurred. I received a communication in the cipher warning me to look out for it.”

I understood this of course. In his eagerness that the attempt against me should not misfire, Sampayo had sent the warning.

“But what are these men’s plans?”

“I don’t know. They are of course in league against the Government, but what they mean to do I have no idea. That uncertainty is the heaviest part of my burden. It weighs on me night and day.”

“Well, let us deal with these papers in particular,” I said. “What is the information in them?”

“I was ordered to ascertain the movements of the police and troops to-morrow evening when the King returns to the city from a shooting expedition. Except that in this case I had to get fuller details and quite exact particulars; the information is no more than I have supplied before.”

“Do you suppose any demonstration is to take place against him or any attempt made to harm him?”

“God forbid,” he cried instantly agitated.

[185]“Is there anything in the arrangements differing from those which are usually made?”

“Yes, there is. His Majesty is not supposed to be returning for another week and is only remaining for the one night. He has expressly ordered that the customary arrangements shall be omitted both on his arrival and on his departure the following morning early. He wishes the matter to be kept quite secret.”

I pricked up my ears at this. “Tell me the police arrangements.”

“They are all there,” he replied pointing to the papers.

“Tell me generally.”

“There will be very few police or military present. He crosses from Barreiro in an ordinary launch—not the royal launch—and instead of going to the Quay, he will land at the Eastern landing-stage—the one from which you brought me to-day. He will be accompanied only by two members of the shooting party, and three or four officers will be present to receive him.”

“Of any particular regiment?”

“The First Battalion of the Royal Guards.”

This was the regiment in which Sampayo was a major and Vasco lieutenant.

“Wait a moment. Is not the loyalty of that regiment suspected?”

“Oh no,” he replied decidedly.

“But M. Volheno said something of the sort to me.”

“M. Volheno was only trying to draw some admissions from you, Mr. Donnington. He dictated to me a précis of his conversation with you that morning; and I knew at once what his object had been.”

“Well, go on.”

“A private carriage will be in waiting for his Majesty, and he and his two companions will drive in that to the Palace.”

[186]“But a carriage cannot get any closer to the stage than ours to-day—that is some forty or fifty yards from the landing-place.”

“His Majesty has used that stage more than once when returning privately to the city.”

“Since you have been giving away this information?”

“Yes, once—about six weeks ago.”

“Will that part be policed?”

“It never is. His Majesty does not go in fear of any section of his people. He ridicules the very suggestion of such a thing, Mr. Donnington.”

“And M. Franco and M. Volheno?”

“Are of the same opinion so far as the capital is concerned. Of course, it would be different in Oporto. The revolutionaries are strong there. But in Lisbon there is no more than discontent which the police can suppress.”

“I understand. Now, would it take you long to make a copy of these papers?”

“An hour, perhaps.”

“Do so while you are having something to eat. I wish to think things over.” I left him at the work and going on deck nearly tumbled over Burroughs, who was staring intently at some object through the most powerful glass we had on the yacht.

“Don’t show yourself, Ralph. Come here a moment,” and he pulled me under the lee of the pinnace behind which he was screening his action.

“What is it?”

“You’ve infected me with some of your suspicions, and as you said last night about yourself, I’m either a stupid ass or I’ve made a discovery which may be important. I’ve been watching the people on that boat there—the one with the grey hull and sharp lines. She’s called the Rampallo. She came in yesterday, and the old man tells me the whole of her crew were discharged soon after you sent for me.”

[187]“Well, what’s that to us? We don’t want any hands.”

“But she hasn’t taken on another.”

“I suppose her skipper or owner can please himself.”

“But the skipper went with the crew as well. And when I came off this morning to fetch the launch, I saw that tall young dandy on board her—the fellow who was out with us.”

“The devil you did!” I exclaimed, with suddenly roused interest.

“There have been two or three boats out to her this morning, and what can any one be wanting in a yacht with no crew on board?”

“Let me have a squint at her,” I said, taking the glass and training it on her. She was a nice craft, about 250 tonnage; her sharp lines suggested a good turn of speed; and everything about her was as smart as one expects to see it in a private yacht.

“What drew my attention to her,” said Burroughs at my elbow, “was that I saw some one carefully scanning us through a glass, and I thought I’d return the compliment.”

“What was he like?”

The description he gave fitted no one whom I knew. “He’s been at it more than once since. The old man has noticed it too.”

“Are you sure that you recognized that young fellow?” I asked as I handed him the glass, not having seen any one on the yacht.

“I’d eat my sea-boots if it wasn’t.”

“Well, keep an eye skinned for her. It’s very singular.”

I took his advice not to show myself and sat down on the other side of the deck and lit a cigar to think things over.

I recalled Vasco’s request for the loan of the Stella and the hesitating way in which he had explained that[188] he had abandoned the idea of taking his companions for a day’s cruise.

Why was he on that other yacht? For a time my mind was so thronged with the crowd of suggestions arising out of Dagara’s statement, the events of the last few days, and now this enigma of a crewless yacht, that I had the greatest difficulty in picking a course. In my present mood I was ready to see matter for suspicion in anything, however trivial.

Presently Burroughs called to me. “He’s there now, Ralph.”

It was Vasco, sure enough. The glass showed his features plainly; and while I was watching, two other men came up on the deck and all three went ashore in a launch.

I returned to my seat completely bewildered. I had gained vitally important information, but had no idea what use to make of it. Rack my wits as I would, I couldn’t see the connecting link with Barosa’s plans.

Then all suddenly a wild thought occurred to me: far-fetched, extravagant, and grossly improbable; but not impossible.

It was that an attempt was to be made on the king’s life, and that this crewless yacht was to afford the means of escape for the assassins.

Possible or impossible I could put it to the test. It was good enough to form a working hypothesis, and I plunged into the consideration of the steps to take.

In the first place Dagara must go back to the city with the papers and these must find their way to Barosa.

I saw how to do that. I called Burroughs to me.

“Jack, I am going to take Dagara back to the city in the launch, and I want you to go at once to my rooms and liberate the fellow we caught last night. It must be done cleverly. Tell Simmons to leave Foster[189] in the room alone with him and then to fire a shot and yell to Foster for help. Foster is to rush out, leaving the door open and the way clear for the scoundrel to get off. He must be at liberty inside an hour from now and must have no suspicion that the thing is a plant. Get going, man. I’ll tell you all afterwards,” I said as he hesitated and wanted to ask questions.

Then I went down to Dagara to test him.

I should have to trust him, for his part was of the very pith and marrow of my new plans.



DAGARA having finished both his task and his lunch was waiting in some concern to know what was to come next, and he appeared relieved when I said he was to return in the launch.

“I wish you to go back,” I told him, “and act precisely as if our meeting had never taken place. With this exception—should any change be made in these arrangements for the King’s arrival to-morrow evening, let me know them and do not divulge them to any one.”

“And about Mademoiselle Dominguez?” he asked.

“Well, what about her?” I repeated, not understanding.

“She got you to meet me to-day after sending me word where to go.”

“Oh no, that was a fairy tale of mine. I wrote that cipher letter. Yours has not yet reached her brother. But it will do so very soon now, and she will no doubt go to your house as usual.”

“But how did you get the cipher?” he asked in blank astonishment.

“Never mind about that. The question is, will you do exactly as I ask? I will call at M. Volheno’s office to-morrow afternoon and you must manage to see me and——”

“He has an appointment from four to five with M. Franco at the latter’s bureau. If you come then[191] I could see you privately without exciting any suspicion.”

I agreed to do this and then, having got from him his address and the time when he would reach his house and give the papers to Miralda, I made certain that no one on the Rampallo was taking stock of our movements, and smuggled him into the launch.

As soon as he had left to return to his office I sent the men with the launch to wait at the usual landing-stage on the quay.

When I reached my rooms, the little farce had been played and Henriques had gone. I calculated that his first step would be to deliver the letter to Vasco, who would immediately send Miralda for the papers, and my intention was to meet her as she left Dagara’s house.

It was essential that I should know to whom she was to hand them and that person must be shadowed from the moment they were in his or her possession.

In the meanwhile I had to ascertain whether Sampayo had left the city, and to do this I sent my servant, Bryant, a sharp fellow, with a letter for Sampayo. I told him to say it was to be given into Sampayo’s own hands, and if asked, he was to say it was from Dr. Barosa.

I wrote one line: “Give you one more hour.”

He returned with the news that Sampayo had gone. The furniture was being removed and all the evidences of a speedy departure were everywhere. I concluded, therefore, that Sampayo had learnt of the failure of his little scheme the previous night and had fled.

In the meanwhile Burroughs and I had discussed the spy work that had to be done. My opinion was that the papers would be given to Inez, and if so, the difficulties would be considerable.

“Simmons is sharp enough to do it,” said Burroughs; “but I should suggest that you put both him[192] and your man, Bryant, on it, and let Simmons rig himself up as a Portuguese long-shoreman.”

I adopted the suggestion and we sent the man out to buy the necessary disguise.

“I must be on hand to point out the quarry,” I said; “but the devil of it is, if she takes them to her house we shall have the trail cut and shall need to shadow every one who comes out. And that’s precisely where she is most likely to take them.”

“Say, I’ve a great idea,” exclaimed Burroughs, clashing his big fist on the table excitedly. “What price my offering to ship aboard that yacht, the Rampallo?”

“What’s that got to do with this sleuthing business?”

“Nothing, but you want to know what game’s going on on board her.”

“My dear fellow, let’s stick to one thing at a time.”

“It would be great though, wouldn’t it? I’d make ’em sit up.”

“Do you imagine for an instant that you are not known to belong to the Stella?”

“I didn’t think of that,” he said crestfallen, shaking his head.

“Well, don’t think any more of it, and let’s worry this other thing out.”

“I can’t get that infernal boat out of my head.”

We did worry with it until it was time to set out; but the only thing I could see to do, if Inez took the papers home, was to call at her house myself.

Being entirely new to this spy business, I was abominably nervous and possessed with the conviction that every one we met knew quite well the reason why we were strolling along the street with an entirely exaggerated air of indifference.

Burroughs and I went ahead, Simmons, got up as a rather theatrical Portuguese fisherman, was behind[193] us, and Bryant, who apparently was the coolest of the four, followed on the opposite side of the street.

We had barely reached the neighbourhood of Dagara’s house when Miralda drove up in a hired carriage. She stopped the driver a hundred yards short of the street and got out, leaving the driver to wait.

My first step was to get rid of the carriage, by telling the man he would not be wanted and paying his fare with the addition of a liberal tip.

In a few minutes Miralda returned and was profoundly surprised to find me instead of the carriage, and her hand trembled as she put it in mine.

“I have sent your carriage away. I knew you were coming to M. Dagara’s house and the reason, and I was compelled to speak to you alone.”

“You have frightened me. What is the matter?”

“I am only going to ask you to trust me. You will?”

“Need you ask that?” and her eyes flashed in reproach. “But I may be seen with you,” she added, glancing round.

“I am not going to keep you long enough to explain everything—only to ask you two questions. I will tell you everything another time. To whom are you going to give the papers you have just received from M. Dagara?”

“Mr. Donnington!” she cried with a start and a stare of astonishment.

“No, not to me,” I replied with a smile. “Let us walk on a little. You will not think I mean anything that is not entirely to help you in asking this.”

“No. I know that. But I—I can’t tell you. Besides, I have been ordered not—not to speak to you.”

“I guessed something of the sort and that’s partly the reason why I arranged this meeting instead of coming to your house. You generally give such things to the Contesse Inglesia. Shall you give her these?”

[194]Again she was startled. “But how can all this be known to you? Do you mean others know it?”

“Certainly not. But please tell me.”

“How you have learnt all this, I can’t imagine; but you are right. I do generally give them to Inez. But there has been some unaccountable delay and I am to give them to Vasco.”

“That’s good news, for a start.”

“Why good news?” she asked quickly.

“You must let me be a little mysterious for the present. And now, the second question—can you tell me where he is to take them?”

“I know no more than you—not so much indeed it seems;” and she smiled faintly.

“That’s better—that you can smile, I mean. When will you give them to him? Is he waiting at your home for them?”

“No. He hurried in to tell me to fetch them at once and that he would come back for them. He was very excited about something and very strange.”

“When is he to return for them?”

“I don’t know.”

“But I must know. It is absolutely vital. Can you so arrange that he does not get them until, say, eight o’clock this evening?”


“Don’t ask me. Can you do it?”

“It may be dangerous, but I—I will try.”

“It must be certain,” I said firmly. “I must know definitely.”

“Then of course I promise you.”

“Good. I shall depend on you. Let me say how I thank you for this trust.”

“As if I should not,” she said again, with a look of reproach. “But—but can’t you tell me something? I am all at sea.”

“I wish we both were,” I cried impulsively. “That would put an end to all this ugly business.”

[195]Her face clouded. “I can see no end to it but trouble and disaster,” she replied with a gesture of despair that went to my heart.

“I believe I can see the end, if all goes well just now. But if I fail——” I paused and looked at her earnestly.

“If you fail?” she repeated questioningly.

“There is still the sea,” I said, with as much under-current of meaning as I could put into tone, looks, manner.

She sighed. “Yes, there is still the sea; but——” and she shook her head despondently.

“Would you dare?” I asked in little more than a whisper.

“I am fettered like a slave—oh, once more to be free!” she sighed.

“Will you dare it now?”

But at that she flinched. “I am talking like a madwoman. It is impossible, impossible.”

“I don’t understand that word when I am in such earnest as now. Sampayo has left Lisbon. I have driven him away. I will sweep every other obstacle out of our path. Miralda?”

She trembled as I uttered her name and took her hand in mine; the colour flushed her cheeks and she stood hesitating with downcast eyes.

“Miralda?” I said again appealingly, hoping she would yield.

“Ah, how you tempt me!” she whispered.

“In less than an hour we can be out of the river, homeward bound. For God’s sake come—now,” I said passionately.

But I failed. She started as if from a dream and shivered. “You made me forget, but——”

“Remember only your happiness and the freedom from all these troubles. Trust me.”

She shook her head, sighed deeply, and withdrew her hand. “It is not that I distrust. But there is my[196] mother. If I were to play these men false they would visit it upon her.”

“But she can come with us. Let me see her.”

“It is impossible. Impossible. Would to Heaven it were not?”

“Then I’ll try the other way,” I said. “But if I fail——”

After a pause she lifted her eyes to mine, let them rest there a second and then smiled, but shook her head despondently again.

“It must be as you will,” I said. “And now there is one thing more. It may be necessary for me to communicate with you. If I send one of my people to your house, will you see him?”

“Yes. I will help you all I can and pray for your success.”

I held out my hand. “Till we meet again.”

She put hers into it with a delighting pressure.

“And if I fail,” I said again, “there is still the sea.”

“There is still the sea,” she whispered; “for you, but not for me.”

I watched her go and presently saw her enter a carriage.

Then Burroughs came up and I tried to think of other things; not very successfully at first. We returned to my rooms, and on the way Miralda’s eloquent smile, the thrilling pressure of her hand, the flush of tell-tale colour, and the proof of her trust, entangled my wits and made it difficult for me for a time to give coherent answers to the questions of my insistently curious companion.

My object in securing Miralda’s promise to delay the delivery of the papers to Vasco was to enable me to make preparations to follow him myself, and I set about them the instant we reached my rooms.

I had decided to use the Portuguese clothes which Simmons had obtained; and a few alterations in them together with a false moustache, the darkening of my[197] eyebrows and the judicious application of a little picturesque dirt to my face and hands and clothes, so changed my appearance that even Miralda would have had difficulty in recognizing me.

I arranged that Burroughs should follow me, to be at hand in case of need; that Simmons should go to the launch and Foster remain for the night with Bryant at the flat.

It was dark when I reached the visconte’s house to wait for Vasco, and I had no fear that he would penetrate my disguise.

There was one trouble I had to guard against—the danger of the streets. The fact that a man of my apparent position was lurking about in such a neighbourhood might easily attract the attention of the police, but I was saved from that embarrassment by Miralda’s punctuality.

I had scarcely found a hiding-place when a carriage drove up and she and Inez alighted from it and entered the house. She had gone to Inez in order not to meet Vasco until the hour we had agreed.

Three minutes afterwards he came out and hurried away at a rapid pace, and the spy work commenced in earnest. While we were in the quieter streets, I followed at just sufficient distance to keep him in sight; but when he turned into the Rua Sao Benito I hastened to close up, for fear of losing him in that somewhat busy street.

As I hurried round the corner I nearly plumped into him. He stood looking about him, and I stopped and rolled a cigarette to fill the pause.

It turned out that he was waiting for a tram-car, and when he boarded it I had no option but to risk discovery and follow him. He sat close to the door and I passed him, with my face averted, choosing a seat on the same side, but at the other end.

He was in a condition of extreme nervous excitement and had been drinking freely, probably to[198] drown his fears. He sat with his hands plunged in his pockets and took no notice of any one; and even when the other passengers got out at the Square of St. Paul, leaving him at one end of the long seat and me at the other with no one between us, he took no notice of me.

I had now lost Burroughs, of course. He had hung behind until he had missed the car; but this was perhaps all the better. If he had been in the car, Vasco might have recognized him.

When we reached the Praca do Commercio, Vasco got up and jumped off and hurried along the Rua da Alfandega. There was little fear of my attracting notice here as there were still plenty of people about, and I had no difficulty in following him.

I guessed now that he was making for the landing-stage near the Artillery Museum, and just as he reached that building he was accosted by two men in the dress of sailors. He drew back nervously at first, with a sharp stare; then began to talk to them; and they walked on together.

They were as much like sailors as I was like the cross of St. Paul’s, and walked with the stiff upright carriage of well-drilled soldiers.

It was clear that I was not the only person in Lisbon that night with a fancy for disguise, and this discovery confirmed my opinion that Vasco was making for the landing-stage.

Were Burroughs’ suspicions of that yacht, the Rampallo, about to be confirmed?

It looked uncommonly like it.



THE fact that Vasco’s companions—presumably his fellow-officers—were playing at being sailors, increased the need for extreme caution. I dropped back and followed at a distance, contented to keep the three men just in sight.

They made straight for the landing-stage, got aboard a small launch in which another man was waiting, and cast off at once and headed out into the estuary. They were going to the Rampallo, of course; and equally of course I must manage to get on board after them.

I could not follow immediately, however, as the noise of my launch would be heard and a dozen suspicions started. I guessed that a conference was to be held on the yacht about the information which Vasco had brought; but why such a place was chosen for it baffled me. The reason could not be merely the desire for absolute privacy which had induced me to take Dagara to the Stella. These men must have a dozen places in the city where they could meet without a remote chance of being overheard.

Still I had to deal with facts, and the controlling fact now was that the papers were on Vasco and he was going to the yacht. I must therefore follow him or throw up the sponge.

While I was waiting Burroughs arrived. “I lost you in the Rua Sao Benito, Ralph,” he explained, “so I thought it best to come on to the launch. Why are you here?”

[200]I told him briefly what had occurred, and what I meant to do, and in a few minutes we were on our way to the Stella.

“You’re taking risks,” he said, as we sat talking it over.

“I can’t help that, but in fact I’m not so sure there are any. My idea is this. As soon as we reach the yacht, get the Firefly launched.” This was a small electric launch I had on the yacht. “You and I will drop down in her to the Rampallo. She runs with scarcely a sound, and we’ll see whether any look-out is kept on her. I shall be surprised if there is; and if not, I shall climb aboard without any trouble. If there is one, you must manage to keep him watching you at the stern while I swim to the bow and get aboard by the anchor cable. Once on board, I’ll shift for myself. If necessary I’ll silence him.”

“It sounds all right to you, perhaps,” he grumbled.

“It’s got to be all right, Jack. The worst that can happen is that I shall be discovered and have to make a bolt of it. I suppose I can dive well enough to jump from a yacht’s bulwarks. But even if the beggars get hold of me, I suppose you can make enough row to scare them. Have the launch within hail, if you like, with the skipper and four or five of the men. There’s no personal risk at all—the only risk is that I may fail to find out things.”

“But if they caught you they might shoot first and jaw afterwards,” he objected.

“A dozen ‘ifs’ suggest a dozen ‘mights,’ of course. But I’m not likely to give them much of a chance.”

“They’d be justified if they took you for a thief.”

“They won’t be thinking about thieves. They’re much more likely to be fearing the police and be scared out of their skins. Anyway, it’s the best plan I can think of, and it’s got to be done.”

When we reached the Stella I threw off the clothes I had been wearing and dressed for the venture. I had[201] of course to render myself as little conspicuous as possible for the spy work on the Rampallo, and had also to be careful not to wear anything which would hamper me too much if I had to take to the water.

So I chose a set of very dark grey combinations which fastened close up to the neck, and a pair of dark rubber-soled shoes. A dark cloak to wear in the Firefly completed a costume in which I looked like a cross between a Harlequin and a Guy Fawkes conspirator.

By the time these preparations were complete Burroughs had launched the Firefly and we were soon off. The moon was not due for an hour and the night was dark enough to conceal us.

The Firefly glided almost noiselessly through the waters at the slow pace we deemed best, and we switched off the motor every now and again and let the boat drift. The darkness made it a little difficult to pick up the Rampallo, which had no light, but Burroughs glanced now and then at the compass by the flash of an electric torch, and thus kept his course.

“What weapon have you?” he whispered once.

“Why, none, of course. I’m not going throat-slitting. I am only going to use my ears.”

“There she is,” he said suddenly, and pointed ahead. His eyes were keener than mine, but I made her out soon afterwards.

We drifted down close to her, keeping our eyes fixed on her for any sign that a look-out was kept.

“I don’t think there is any one on the deck,” he whispered.

She was lying between us and the twinkling lamps of the city, and as we drifted nearer, her outline showed up against the lights and the reflexion of them in the sky.

All was as still as a vault; and not a single porthole gave out so much as the glimmer of a match.

A sickening feeling of disappointment began to[202] creep over me at the fear that there was no one on board.

“Sheer down alongside, Jack,” I whispered.

No one challenged us as we dropped under the lee of the hull. I fended the Firefly off with my hands and then worked her round under the stern.

Here was confirmation of my fear in the disconcerting discovery that the launch, which I had confidently expected to find either astern or alongside, was not there.

“There’s no one on her, Ralph,” said Burroughs.

“I shall get aboard and see. Drop astern and then circle round at a distance to the bow.”

We drifted far enough for our little propeller to be out of earshot and then made a sweep round to the bow.

“What do you think it means?” he whispered.

“I’m afraid I’ve backed the wrong horse. But I can’t think of anywhere else for that launch to go. When I get aboard stand off up the bay so that you can keep a look-out for me. The reflection of the city light in the sky will be enough for you to see any signal I make to you.”

“You can do better than that. Take the electric torch. You can show a light then even if you have to swim for it.”

“That’s a happy thought,” I exclaimed, and tucked it inside my vest.

“If there’s any trouble I shall be able to make racket enough for you to hear me, and you can come aboard after me.”

We stopped the propeller then and drifted down till I could reach the yacht’s cable. I swarmed up this and, using the greatest caution, got a grip and hauled myself up until I could see along the deck.

It was quite deserted, so I climbed on to the forecastle and crept along as stealthily as a cat stalking a bird and almost as noiselessly.

[203]I had reached almost amidships when I discovered that some one was on board after all. The glow from a lamp showed through the partly open companion of the saloon. Doubling my caution I lay at full length on the deck and approached the opening.

Whoever he was he was able to afford very good cigars, for the scent of one reached me. I lay listening intently. I heard the crackle of papers as they were turned over; the rustle of some one moving in his chair, a sound of stertorous breathing; the clink of a bottle against a glass, and again the crackle of papers as the man, whoever he was, resumed his writing or reading.

For many minutes there was no other sound. Then the man struck a match as he lit a fresh cigar, and pushed aside the papers with a breath of relief. Then silence for a while, broken at length by a gasp and a snore.

“Wake up, you drunken young pig!”

At this I nearly uttered a cry of astonishment. It was Sampayo’s voice; and in a second I understood what had so baffled me—why the papers had been brought to the Rampallo.

Sampayo was hiding on it from me. That removal of his goods and all the evidences of flight which Bryant had seen were just play-acting to mislead me into the belief that he had bolted, and being afraid to be seen on shore he had arranged for his associates to come to the boat.

That they were coming was soon plain. Sampayo roused the man he had spoken to; and the answer was in Vasco’s voice, thick with drink.

“Go on deck, you young fool, and see if there are any signs of the launch. They ought to be here by now.”

“Leave me alone,” grunted Vasco thickly.

“I must go myself then,” was the reply with an oath.

I slipped away forward and hid myself under the[204] lee of the forecastle hatchway. Sampayo came out on deck and stood smoking and listening and peering through the darkness for the expected launch.

Presently, I heard the quick throb of her propeller, and in a few minutes she reached the yacht and three or four men, I could not distinguish the exact number, came on board, and all went down below at once.

Anxious not to miss a word of what passed I hastened along the deck to my former position, and had just passed the hatchway leading below to the saloon when some one came running up the companion way.

In a second I rolled into the scuppers lying as still as death.

“I fastened her all right,” protested some one.

“For Heaven’s sake, make sure. You’re not much of a hand at sailors’ knots,” was the laughing reply.

Two men came out and hurried across the deck. One of them got down into the launch; and the other stood watching.

“It’s all right. As fast as a steeple.”

“It would be a pretty mess if she got adrift.”

The men came on deck again and they both returned toward the companion way.

“I suppose everything’s all right on the deck,” said one.

“What should be wrong?”

“Nothing. Only I’ve got an infernally uneasy feeling.”

“Not going to back out at the last minute, are you? We shall be in a pretty bad way to-morrow night if we have to go without the only man who knows anything about managing the boat.”

“Who said anything about backing out? We’re all in it now, sink or swim. But—oh, hang presentiments,” he broke off irritably.

“Well, I’ll get a lantern if you like and look round the deck. But it’s all rot.”

“I’ve half a mind you shall.”

[205]As he said this he came a couple of paces toward me, and I began to think any number of unpleasant things.

“I won’t be a minute,” said the other and ran down below.

Move I dare not. The man was too close to me, and the instant the other returned with a light, my discovery was certain. All I could do was to plan how to escape. I decided to lie still until actually discovered, and then trust to their astonishment, giving me time to jump over the side and swim for it.

The few seconds that followed were among the longest of my life. But just as I heard the second man coming with the lantern, some one below called to the man close to me by name.


He went a couple of steps down the companion way and replied that he was going to see that all was snug on deck, and before the words were out of his mouth I was half-way to the stern.

Then followed the grimmest game of hide and seek I have ever had to play. But the odds were on my side. The two men went carefully round the deck; but, fool-like, kept together. The light of the lantern showed me exactly where they were all the time, and by skulking from cover to cover I had little difficulty in keeping out of their way.

My movements were absolutely noiseless, and the dark grey costume I had fortunately put on made it almost impossible for them to see me.

I had one other narrow escape. I had worked my way back again to the companion while they were in the bows, when another man came out and called to them sharply to be quick. I was crouched so close to him that he could have touched me if he had stretched out a hand in my direction.

But instead of that he went a few steps toward the[206] others and I turned and slipped away in the opposite direction.

Two or three minutes later the three went below, the newcomer expressing a strong opinion about the folly of having shown a light.

Giving them time to join the rest of the party below, I crawled back to the companion and settled myself to listen once more.

Barosa’s was the first voice I heard distinctly. “We needn’t waste any more time in discussing it. Captain Gompez was quite right to satisfy himself and as we are indebted to him for having the boat at all, it is surely ungracious to charge him with wasting a few minutes for this purpose. And now, please, will you let me explain exactly what are the arrangements for to-morrow? Major Sampayo has carefully examined these papers, and every detail is as I told you it would be.”

There was a murmur of interest, followed by a pause, and then Barosa spoke again.

“I have news of the greatest importance for you, gentlemen, and that you may appreciate it fully, I shall be obliged if you will carefully study this plan of the scene.”

A considerable rustling of papers followed as the plans were handed round, the whispering of many questions, and then another pause of silent, almost breathless expectancy.



THE pause was a long one before Barosa spoke again.

“Of course we have all studied the actual ground of which these are the plans, but it was best that we should have them before us in settling the final details. I was able to tell you three days ago the arrangements for Dom Carlos’s private visit to the city to-morrow evening, and this later information, coming straight from M. Volheno’s office, confirms them. Dom Carlos will arrive at the little Eastern landing-stage at a few minutes before eight, and will have with him two companions—only two. And the news I have for you is that those two companions are fast and firm adherents of the rightful king of Portugal, His Majesty Dom Miguel.”

A murmur of surprise greeted this statement, and Barosa paused in evident enjoyment of the effect his words had produced.

“They are Conte Carvalho Listoa and Colonel Antonio Castillo. You will agree that I do not exaggerate when I say that that fact makes failure impossible. He will be received by six officers of the 7th Battalion of the Royal Guards——” and he gave a string of names which I do not remember.

“These, as we know well, are also our staunch friends, pledged like ourselves to give their lives for their rightful king. Dom Carlos will thus be without a single supporter, and absolutely in our power. He has, as[208] you know, made use of the same landing-stage on the occasion of former private visits to the city, and the arrangement has always been that a carriage drew up close to the stage. That will not be practicable to-morrow, although he does not know it. You will see two thin red lines on the plans. Those indicate the lines of excavations, which have been made for some supposed building and drainage operations. I have been able to get that work started without creating any suspicion as to the real object—which is to render it impossible for a carriage to approach within fifty yards of the landing-stage.”

“Good,” exclaimed some one and the others murmured assent.

Barosa then explained the scheme in elaborate detail.

It was this. The king was to be met at the landing-stage and the officers were to explain why the carriage was not in the usual place; and that it was in waiting for him at a spot most easily reached through the smaller of two sheds used for wharfage purposes. A door at the back of this shed opened on to a narrow way between two buildings. The officers were not to leave the shed, as it was deemed desirable that they should not take any personal part in what followed. The two friends of the king were to walk a few yards with him and then excuse themselves on the plea that they had left something on the launch, but if this proved impracticable, they were to drop behind.

From the door of the shed to the end of the passage was a distance of some forty yards and a carriage was to be in full view; but this was to be one provided by Barosa and intended for the escape of those in the plot who would not be needed after the attempt had been carried out. The king’s carriage, sent from the Palace, was to wait at a spot fifty yards in the other direction.

Except the two servants with Barosa’s carriage, not a man was to show himself in the path between the shed door and the carriage, lest the king’s suspicions[209] should be roused. The coachman was to signal with his whip when the king appeared, and then to make it appear that the horses were restive and to back them past the corner of the building on the left hand of the narrow passage.

Round this corner the conspirators were to wait and when the king reached it, a cloak was to be thrown over his head and he was to be gagged and hurried through an adjoining shed to some water steps where the launch would be waiting to rush him to the Rampallo, where a cabin had been specially prepared for him. The yacht was to make at full steam for Oporto, where he was to be delivered over to the revolutionary party there and forced, under threat of assassination, to abdicate in favour of Dom Miguel.

After Barosa had finished his explanation, a long discussion followed on many of the details. The scheme was hailed with approval, but the tone of the speakers convinced me that, while ready to take part in an abduction plot, they were against assassination, and Barosa had to give very specific assurances that nothing of the sort would be attempted.

Presently the talk turned upon the arrangements made to protect themselves and their friends when the trouble came after the abduction; and as it was not very material for me to learn that, I crept away to the bow, lowered myself noiselessly into the water, flashed my torchlamp as a signal to Burroughs, and struck out to meet him.

“You’ve given me the fright of my life, Ralph,” he said when I had clambered into the Firefly. “I heard their launch come out, and saw a light moving about the deck and didn’t know what the deuce to do.”

“It’s all right, Jack. Get back to the Stella. I’m cold to the bones, but I’ve heard enough to keep my blood from stagnating.”

“Here’s my flask. Take a pull.”

I gulped down a couple of mouthfuls of whisky, and[210] as soon as I was on board and had had a hot bath, a vigorous towelling, and some grog, I was ready to talk things over with him.

I told him everything I had overheard. “And now the question is what I’m to do.”

“It’s as simple as falling off a tree. Slip off to the quay and bring off a party of police and take ’em on the yacht.”

“Yes, and get the only woman in the world I care for arrested for conspiracy in a plot to abduct the king.”

“You could make her safety a condition.”

“With whom? Who’s to assure me of that? It’s nearly midnight. Where do you suppose these men would be by the time I had roused first Volheno and then old Franco the Dictator, and argued the matter out. And if they refused, where should I find myself? I can tell you. In gaol until I opened my lips. I’m already half-suspect as it is. That saw won’t cut any ice, Jack.”

“But you won’t let the thing go through, surely?”

“What’s the King of Portugal to me, and what do I care whether his name’s Carlos or Miguel?”

“Well then, tell mademoiselle what’s going on and get her to make a bolt of it on the Stella to-morrow, and leave word behind you and queer the plan that way.”

“There are several reasons against that, but one’s enough. She wouldn’t leave her mother to bear the brunt of things, her brother’s up to the eyes in it, and if she did bolt, she’d be under the charge all her life long and her flight would be accepted as proof of guilt.”

“Well, I give it up then,” he exclaimed with a shrug.

“But I don’t. I can’t. I’ve got to queer the thing somehow and make certain of mademoiselle’s safety. And I’ve got to do it off my own bat. Wait a bit, wait a bit,” I exclaimed after some minutes’ thought.[211] “I’ve got an idea coming. By the lord-knows-who, I believe it would be possible. Let’s go over that business again. He lands from the launch, goes into the shed—there are two sheds, I remember—he goes out with his two friends, the coachman sees him and under pretence of the horses turning restive, backs the carriage past the corner, the two friends turn back. I wonder if both sheds have doors at the back. I expect so.”

“Is that Greek you’re muttering?” broke in Burroughs.

“Stand up, Jack, let’s have a look at you.”

He got up and I laughed as I looked him over. “Wait a bit, take your coat off,” and I plunged into my cabin and fished out a thick tweed shooting coat and a soft felt hat. “Here, put these on, quick.”

He did so, muttering: “Is this a pantomime rehearsal?”

“By the lord Harry, it’ll do,” I cried excitedly, smacking my hands together.

“What’ll do?”

“Wait, man, wait. It’s all coming up like a clear photo. How much taller am I of us two? By George, two inches. That’s a heap; but padding might take off some of it.”

“Perhaps you’d like to know how much thinner you are than I am next?” he said with a grin.

“That’s just what I would,” I replied to his still greater surprise. “Six inches, eh. That’s a lot.”

“And muscle too, not fat, mind that.”

“But I can get over that, easily enough.”

“When you’ve a minute to spare perhaps you’ll tell me why you take this sudden interest in my anatomy?” he asked drily, as he threw off my shooting coat and put on his jacket.

“I’m going to crown you and be your Majesty’s understudy at the same time, King Jack Burroughs. You won’t have a long reign, my boy—only a couple[212] of minutes at most—that is if that second shed has the door I believe it has.”

“You’ll soon be understudying in a strait jacket at this rate, Ralph.”

“It is a little mad, perhaps, but I’m going to do it. I intend you to take the place of the king to-morrow evening long enough for this coachman to mistake you for him. I shall then take your place, the instant no one is looking, and I’m going to let these men abduct me. It will be much easier for them than if they got hold of the genuine article.”

“Wouldn’t it be much simpler and shorter to put a bullet in your head yourself?” he asked grimly. “You’ll find one get there all right when they know.”

“Not a bit of it. You forget the ‘divinity that doth hedge a king.’ These men are not assassins. They made that plain; nor are they accustomed to handle kings every day. They’ll be so excited over the business that they’ll be as nervous about ill-treating him as an old maid about her lap dog. They’re officers, mind, and what we term gentlemen; and they’ll be so scared to death lest the thing is going to fail, that they won’t want me to have so much as a peep at their faces until I’m safe on the Rampallo and locked up in the cabin which, as I heard, is already in readiness for my reception. If you turn the thing over, you’ll see that if I had laid the plan myself, it could not have suited me better;” and I ran over it again in detail.

“When we first leave the shed you’ll be king, and Bryant—I shall use Bryant because he’s a cool hand—and I will be in attendance on your Majesty. You’ll be recognized at once as the king—half Lisbon would mistake you for him at close grips even, and these fellows will be expecting you—we shall walk about ten yards and then stop while we are supposed to be asking you to excuse us; and we shan’t move on until the carriage has backed out of sight. I shall then take[213] your place—I shall pad myself out, you know, and make up—and shall walk on alone straight into the trap.”

“But why you? I could put up a bigger fight than you.”

“There’s no fight to be put up at all, Jack.”

“You mean to let them carry you off to Oporto? You may find yourself in a tighter corner there than you reckon.”

“But I’m not going to Oporto. It’s 180 miles or thereabouts and, with an amateur crew, the Rampallo under the best circumstances wouldn’t make more than twelve to fifteen knots; the Stella would steam round her, and from the moment these beggars shove their yacht’s nose out of the harbour, you’ll keep almost within hailing distance. That’s where I want you. They’ll shut me into the cabin and as soon as it’s daylight I’ll hang a handkerchief or a pillow-case or something out of the porthole, and you’ll make trouble for my hosts.”

“Of course they’ll stop directly and say ‘thank you, sir,’ and go down on their knees and ask me to come on board and kick ’em,” he gibed with a heave of his big shoulders.

“It doesn’t matter what they say, it’s what you’ll do, Jack. Haven’t we got a couple of guns? And couldn’t you give the thing a pretty loud advertisement? And do you think they’ll relish to have you firing a royal salute within a league or so of the shore? And can’t we get some cartridges that aren’t blank in the city to-morrow? And would they enjoy their breakfast nicely if you sent a shot into the Rampallo’s hull? Or couldn’t the old man run the Stella alongside in the old grappling-iron style?”

“Piracy now, eh?”

“Yes, piracy, if it comes to it. But it won’t. What I’m after is this. Sign on an extra crew to-morrow and get ’em on the Stella quietly. When you see[214] my signal, sheer close up, fire a blank cartridge and order them to stop. Get our men aboard somehow or anyhow; and then we’ll send the Rampallo off to sea with the whole of them in her as prisoners and keep them away a week. By that time I shall have had time to straighten things out in the city. And now I’ll tell you exactly what we’ve got to do to-morrow;” and I went very carefully over the whole ground, filling in the gaps and elaborating the details and mapping out the whole of the day’s work before us.

As soon as the dawn broke, Burroughs and I steamed over to the Eastern landing-stage and made a careful survey of the scene of operations. There were half a dozen places where we could lie hidden in the larger shed, and as I had hoped, it had an opening at the back, and the doors were so close together that it would be difficult for any one at the spot where the carriage was to remain to be certain which one a person leaving either would use.

I explained everything as I had planned it; and as we ran back to the Stella to snatch three or four hours’ sleep, I arranged that Burroughs should take Bryant down to the place during the day and explain things to him.

As soon as we were up, the skipper was called to a consultation and his work assigned to him. He was to engage the spare crew, buy some ball cartridges and half a dozen pair of handcuffs, and lay in a store of provisions to put on the Rampallo sufficient for a week’s cruise, if the scheme went right.

With Burroughs I went to my rooms and we explained Bryant’s part to him and sent him off to get the necessary disguises—shooting rigs such as were in common enough use, and three light dustcoats for us to wear over the disguises in driving to the landing-stage. For me he was also to get some padding to fill out my spare figure to something like the proportions of His Majesty, and a quantity of small[215] shot, intended to increase my weight, lest my abductors should detect the deception when they found I was two or three stone lighter than their august and portly monarch ought to be.

The arrangements of these matters occupied nearly all the morning.

Next, I sent Burroughs to Miralda to tell her to find some means of preventing Vasco from taking any part in the night’s work. If necessary Burroughs was to frighten her into compliance, but not to say what was actually on foot. If no other way could be found, Miralda was to drug Vasco. But by fair means or foul, he must be prevented from leaving the house, or his life would be in danger.

This was essential in view of the line I meant to take with Volheno and the authorities in the event of success.



I  WAS busy with the final touches to my shooting rig when Burroughs returned bringing Miralda’s promise to do what I asked.

“She is going to stop him somehow, Ralph. I think she’ll drug him if he gives any trouble. He was evidently gloriously drunk last night and he turned up this morning—his friends of the Rampallo took him back—and is all to pieces, she told me. He had already let out enough to scare her out of her senses almost, and she jumped at the chance of saving him from trouble.”

“Did she want to know things?”

“Well, what do you think? She has a way with her, too; and I was glad to get out of fire of her eyes—or she’d have had the whole business out of me.”

“Any message for me?” I asked casually.

“No, nothing particular, of course,” he replied in the same tone, with a grin. “I don’t wonder you’re willing to do things now. Hanged if I wouldn’t be. She wanted to know that you weren’t running any risks; but she didn’t seem to fancy that a rough sort of sea-dog like me was the sort of message carrier she ought to choose, so she made a postman of me;” and he put down a letter and went out of the room saying he wanted to tell Simmons something.

It was the first letter I had ever received from Miralda, and I did what I suppose nine out of ten mooncalves would have done. I just sat staring at[217] the envelope for a while, as if it were an amulet with a thousand mystic virtues, and looking round to make sure I was alone, I kissed it—yes, and more than once, before I thought of such a commonplace thing as opening it.

It was very simply worded.

“I will of course do what you ask; and I think I am half disappointed you have asked so little of me—a something to help others, not you yourself. Your friend’s manner shows me that he at any rate recognizes the dangers of the task you are attempting, whatever that may be. I know it would be useless to try and dissuade you from it; and I suppose I cannot help you. But I can pray for you. With all my heart and soul I do. God keep you safe and unharmed, and give you success.


It is difficult even to suggest how this letter moved me.

Like a pause of peace and hope and love in the midst of the strenuous hurly-burly of the struggle, it seemed; a favour on the lance of a knight setting out to battle for the woman of his heart; a kiss imprinted on the shield with love’s whispered blessing. For the moment all else in the world was nothing, and Miralda was all in all. Everything was forgotten as my thoughts wandered among the fairy groves of that mystic domain of ecstatic oblivion—the rhapsody of a lover who knows that he may hope.

“Shall I sew these shot pads together, sir?”

It was Bryant’s respectful voice, and it brought me to earth as if I had dropped from a balloon.

“Eh? Oh. Yes. No. I’ll see to it in a moment,” I muttered incoherently, as my thoughts were knitting themselves together. “Don’t go, Bryant;” and with an effort I told him what I wished and sent him away.

[218]The dream was broken, but I folded Miralda’s letter and was putting it next my heart, when common sense prevailed over romance. I might fail. If I did and were searched, the letter, instead of an amulet protecting me from danger, might prove a serious peril for her. So I lit a match, and kissed the paper once more, and burnt it.

Then Burroughs returned to discuss where we had better have the launch in waiting for him to get back to the Stella. This proved to be, however, only the preface to a change he wished to make in the plan.

“You don’t seem to think that you’ll be in any danger while you’re in the hands of these fellows on the Rampallo, Ralph?”

“No. I shall take a revolver with me, of course. There’ll be plenty of chance of concealing it under all that padding.”

“Well, I’ve thought of something. When the time comes for us to hail their boat in the morning, it would give them a much bigger scare if it was you who hailed them. I’m afraid of that part of the business, you know.”

He spoke with such earnestness that he showed his meaning at once. “Why not say it plump out, Jack?” I asked with a smile.

“Confound you, don’t you understand? That part of the affair will need a longer head than mine to manage.”

“What I do understand is that you don’t agree with me about there being no danger for the prisoner on the Rampallo and that you want to be the prisoner instead of me. Don’t you think it’s like your infernal conceit to want to cast yourself for the star part?”

“Oh, come off,” he growled. “There’s no earthly good in your keeping the star part for yourself.”

“Didn’t you give me the cheering opinion that I should find a bullet in my head when they discovered me?”

[219]“I’m serious, Ralph.”

“Well then, answer me this. If I’m right and there is no danger, I run no risk. And if you’re right and there is danger, why should I shove you into it instead of myself?”

“Fifty reasons. If anything happened to you the whole thing would be spoilt.”

“Not a bit of it. We should still have wrecked this little revolutionary move and you could carry out the rest of the plan with the much stronger card that these beggars would have to answer for what they might have done to me.”

“Yes, but hang it all, man, there’s—there’s the girl,” he said, hesitatingly and almost nervously.

“You don’t want to make me jealous, do you?”

“Don’t rot, Ralph. I’m in earnest.”

“The offer is just what I should expect from you, but I must see the thing through myself. If there is any risk, it must be mine.”

“I’d much rather——”

“No, Jack,” I interposed, shaking my head. His offer moved me deeply. It was just like his whole-hearted friendship to wish to take the risk, especially as he believed it to be much more serious than I did. Big or little, however, that risk must be mine. But his disappointment was both genuine and keen.

“I must go out now,” I said a moment later. “I have to see Dagara, and while I’m away, you’d better take Bryant down to the landing-stage and put him through his paces.”

He got up with a smile and a heave of his broad shoulders. “You’re an obstinate devil, Ralph,” he said: “and it would serve you right if I chucked the whole thing.”

“Look here. I’ll put it another way. If our positions were reversed, would you let me take the star part?”

[220]“I don’t want any of your conundrums,” he grunted, and went off to call Bryant.

Acting on my resolve to avoid even remote risks, I took Simmons with me to M. Volheno’s bureau.

I found Dagara on the look-out for me, and the moment I asked for M. Volheno, he came out of an adjoining room.

“M. Volheno is not in, Mr. Donnington,” he said, for the benefit of the clerks round. “Can I be of any assistance?”

“I only wished to ask a simple question.”

“Will you come into my room?” and he led the way.

“Well? Have you any further information for me?” I asked as soon as he had closed the door carefully behind us.

“No, Mr. Donnington.”

“There is no change in the arrangements for His Majesty’s arrival to-night?”

“None whatever, but—but I want to speak to you. I can’t bear this any longer. I have decided to tell M. Volheno everything.”

If he did anything of the sort, of course there was an end to all my plans, and therefore to all my hopes of getting Miralda out of the trouble. But it would not do to let him see it.

“I think you are quite right.”

He was as much surprised as I intended him to be. “I scarcely expected you to agree so readily. But after my promise to you, I felt I must let you know first.”

“I am not involved, M. Dagara. You are in a very trying position—purgatory, as you term it—but your ruin and imprisonment cannot in any way affect any one but yourself and your wife and children, of course.”

“My wife and children?” he echoed blankly.

“No, not your children, perhaps. Your friends[221] will no doubt be able to take care of them. Your wife, only, I should have said.”

“But she has had nothing to do with this betrayal of information.”

I perceived then that he had not decided to confess, but was only contemplating the step. “You are rather shortsighted, surely, if you think that those whom you are going to give up to justice will not retaliate. You must reckon that they will do their utmost to be revenged, and that utmost will include your wife.”

“You don’t think I should confess, then?”

“On the contrary, I think you should have told everything long ago; but you might have taken the precaution of sending your wife out of the country. Is she strong enough to bear imprisonment? You know what hells your Portuguese prisons are.”

“It would kill her in a week,” he groaned.

“It is clearly your duty, but I am sorry for her.”

“I have not the means to send her away. O God, I’d kill myself if I dared, but that would only leave her destitute and at the mercy of the men who have destroyed me.”

“You have destroyed yourself,” I said sternly. “But I have no time to discuss this with you. So far as I am concerned, I prefer that you include every detail of our interview yesterday in your confession to M. Volheno. Hide nothing, for I have nothing to fear.”

Having made him believe that I was indifferent, I rose and turned to the door, and then paused.

“I don’t know that I have quite understood one thing you said—about not having means to send your wife away. Does that mean that you have no money.”

“Yes,” he replied disconsolately. “My salary is not large and I cannot save.”

“Oh, if that’s all, you must allow my pity for your[222] wife and children to take a practical shape. How much money would she require?”

“I don’t know,” he said, wringing his hands fatuously.

“Try and think it out, then;” and while he was doing this I turned my side of the matter over and came to the conclusion that as his presence was a menace to Miralda’s safety, the sooner he was out of Lisbon the better. The moment this abduction plot failed, a dozen informers were certain to offer evidence, and he and his wife would certainly be accused.

“About two hundred and fifty milreis, Mr. Donnington,” he said, looking up at last.

“Well, you asked my advice just now, and I’ll give it you. You are ill both in mind and body. Any one can see that, and in such a condition, no one can form a calm judgment. Ask M. Volheno to give you a fortnight’s holiday and leave the country to-night. I will give you double the sum you ask for now. Go to Paris and give your address to M. Madrillo, at the Spanish Embassy. He will let me know it and I will send you another two hundred and fifty milreis, and will let you know the position here.”

I put the money on the table and the tears were in his eyes as he seized my hand and pressed it in both of his.

“Don’t give way, man. If I find that it is not safe for you to return here, I will interest myself to find you employment either in Paris or elsewhere. Don’t thank me, but prove your gratitude by going straight for the future;” and I hurried away. It was worth many times the money to secure the delay for Miralda, and his excessive gratitude tended to make me feel rather mean.

Burroughs and Bryant had not returned when I reached my rooms, so I went once more carefully over every detail of my scheme in a kind of mental rehearsal. There was only one point which gave me[223] any qualms now. We three had to get into the shed on the wharf without being seen and conceal ourselves, and yet be able to learn the precise moment of the king’s arrival.

Burroughs had been worrying over the same thing, it turned out, and had not been idle.

“We’ve made a useful friend, Ralph,” he said when he arrived. “Got hold of the wharf watchman. He’s a Spaniard, and Bryant’s Spanish came in very handy. He managed to find out how things go down there. He shuts the big shed at seven o’clock and we must be inside before then. We can manage it all right. That Bryant has his head screwed on the right way. He promised to go to the man’s house to-night at nine o’clock; so that if we show up about half-past six, he’s going to meet him and take him away while he explains why he can’t keep the appointment. We shall slip in then, and Bryant will get rid of him and join us by the back entrance. A screwdriver will do the rest.”

“A screwdriver.”

“We had a good look at the lock on that back door and five minutes will have it off.”

“I’d been worrying about that part of the thing. But time’s getting on. We’d better have something to eat and get ready.”

The business of dressing occupied some time. We all wore the hunting rigs over our ordinary clothes; as both Burroughs and Bryant were to get rid of theirs as soon as possible after the purpose for which they were needed was achieved.

We sent Simmons and Foster off to the yacht and locked the flat up for the night.

We looked rather like three squat square Dutchmen as we set off; but the long grey dustcoats rendered us sufficiently inconspicuous, and as the weather had changed and the light was bad, we attracted no attention in the streets.

[224]The wind was rising and a light rain falling, and there was every promise of a somewhat dirty night. This was all the better for our purpose.

When we were near the landing-stage, Bryant went on ahead in search of the new friend he had made and presently we saw the two together close to the sheds. They stood talking for a few minutes and then walked away, and disappeared round the end of the further building.

“He lives over that way,” said Burroughs. “We may safely go.”

The rain was falling fast now and the wind coming in gusty squalls across the bay and not a soul was to be seen as we slipped into the shed.

We hid ourselves among a large quantity of hay, and were scarcely settled when some one else entered the shed, and I heard him clamber among some big packing cases. I jumped to the conclusion that either we had been seen or that Volheno had decided to put a police agent on the watch.

I dared not speak to Burroughs, and in this trying uncertainty we waited until the watchman entered, gave a casual glance round with his lantern, and then locked the doors.

I racked my wits to know what to do about the unwelcome interloper. Bryant might come to the back entrance at any minute, and we should be instantly discovered.

Then to my profound relief I heard his voice.

“Are you there, sir?” he asked in a whisper.

“Phew, how that shook me up!” exclaimed Burroughs. “How did you get in, Bryant?”

“I got rid of the man at his house door as he was going to fetch his overalls, so I came on at once, sir.”

“All right. But I wish you had said who you were. Get to work with that lock.”

In a few minutes all was ready and we waited anxiously for the sound of the king’s approach.

[225]We heard the arrival of the officers in the adjoining shed and could even catch the low hum of their voices.

The suspense was not a little trying; and I was intensely glad when the whistle of a launch announced that the king was coming.



WHENEVER I read of an actor playing for the first time a part which is to make or mar his reputation, my thoughts fly back to that wet squally evening on the Lisbon water-front. The big warehouse with its piles of varied merchandise; the curiously composite smell with its predominating scent of hay; the creaking of the tall slide doors at the front as the wind dashed at them and whistled through the crevices and whispered and rustled in the cavernous gloom of the building, the hiss and spume of the waters of the bay, and Burroughs, Bryant and I grouped together by the smaller door as I stood listening intently for the cue to “go on.”

I was, and yet was not, nervous. That is, I was sure of myself and confident of success, was quite cool, and had not a thought of shrinking from the scene to be played; but at the same time my pulses were beating very fast, my tongue was dry, and I kept moistening my lips and biting them, and I could not keep my hands still nor my fingers from fidgetting, and I am sure I was very pale.

I knew that success or failure might turn upon my giving the signal to leave the shed at exactly the right moment. If I went too soon, the men waiting at the end of the narrow passage would know the king had not had time to pass through the shed from the launch. If I delayed too long, the king himself might come out before the “abduction” had taken place.

[227]Yet I had nothing to guide me. After the whistle of the launch we could not hear a sound to indicate what was passing—the racket of the wind made that impossible. Had I foreseen this, I saw how simply I could have avoided this perplexity. A hole or two bored in the big gates or a brick loosened in the partition wall between the two sheds would have sufficed; and I cursed my stupidity in having lost sight of the precaution.

“Can you hear anything?” I whispered to Burroughs, but both he and Bryant were in the same dismayed perplexity as I.

“There seems a hitch somewhere,” he whispered back.

“Well, I shan’t wait any longer,” I decided a moment later, and I opened the door with as little noise as possible.

It creaked horribly on the hinges, however, and jammed half-way, and I caught my breath, fearing that the wrench I had to give it must surely be heard by those in the adjoining shed. Then the wind came rushing through with most disconcerting violence; and I only just succeeded in preventing the door from slamming to with a tell-tale bang.

“A bold face on it, and we shall soon know,” I said as we started through the drenching rain squall.

Burroughs went in front with Bryant close to his side, while I kept behind as I did not wish the man who was on the look-out to see that there were two replicas of the king’s august person.

The rain gave us invaluable help, for it rendered impossible any exact recognition of us by the man on the watch.

We walked some ten yards along the narrow passage before he even saw us. Then he waved his whip, jerked at his horses, and began to back them past the end of the building to our left.

At that moment the strenuous excitement was[228] relieved by a touch of the ludicrous. In the preoccupation of the period of suspense I had forgotten to stick on the false moustache without which any imposture would have been instantly detected.

I called to the others to halt a moment, and fishing the thing out of my pocket I dabbed it on, and had to hold it in its place by crinkling my upper lip against my nose.

Burroughs and Bryant turned back; and I pulled my felt hat well down over my face, held my head down as if to avoid the pelting rain and hurried on alone.

On reaching the corner I purposely quickened my pace, and as I turned, something was thrown over my head, a hand was clapped to my mouth—outside the cloak fortunately, otherwise it might have been my moustache only which would have been abducted—and I was lifted off my feet and carried bodily away.

I made a pretence of struggling.

“No harm will happen to you unless you resist or try to cry out,” said a voice sternly.

I felt I could safely desist, therefore, and let them carry me the rest of the distance to the launch, where I was placed in the little deckhouse with a couple of men to hold me down.

I made another feeble struggle then, and once more I was ordered with threats to lie still.

In the struggle I managed to get my hands up to my face and luckily found the moustache which I stuck on again.

Almost immediately afterwards, I was turned face downwards, and the covering cloak or cloth or whatever it was, was pulled back sufficiently to allow of a revolver being thrust against my head.

“If you dare even to look round, I shall fire,” said the same voice, and I replied with an appropriate shiver of fear. I chuckled as I realized that the men[229] were as anxious I should not see their faces as I was that they should not see mine.

Next I felt a hand on my forehead, my face was lifted an inch or two, and a thick wide scarf, in which a gag was fastened, was wound twice round my head and fastened at the back, and then my hands were tied behind me.

It was extremely uncomfortable, of course, and I had great difficulty in breathing, but that was all. A very small discount from the success which I had scored.

After that I was left to my own meditations, and I guessed that I was not one whit less excited or ill at ease than my captors. My one qualm was whether the scarf would be taken off before I was left in the cabin which was in readiness for me on the Rampallo. If it was, then the confounded moustache would assuredly go with it and that farcical incident might prove to be the curtain raiser to a very serious drama and possibly a tragedy.

But the men’s unwillingness to let me see their faces was a fact of auspicious promise, and I judged that their reluctance would not lessen until they were practically certain their desperate venture had succeeded. So long as failure was a possible contingency, it would be practicable for them to make a bolt of it in a body, with much less risk of recognition than if “His Majesty” had seen that his abductors were officers whom he knew well by sight and probably by name.

Nor could they be absolutely certain of success until the Rampallo was many knots on her way to Oporto. They would naturally calculate that the abduction would be discovered almost at once; and were no doubt afraid that the authorities would be roused to prompt and energetic action, with the result that the yacht might be stopped before she could get out of the river.

[230]I persuaded myself, therefore, that the risk of my impersonation being detected was over for some hours at least, and as this was the most comforting thought for me, there was no good purpose to be gained by anticipating trouble.

The launch was a vile sea boat. She kicked about and tossed and pitched like the ill-behaved cockle-shell she was, and, as I was powerless to help myself, I rolled about the floor like a bale of goods or a very intoxicated monarch; and the man in charge understood neither how to manage her properly nor how to make matters easier for his “king.”

I was heartily glad, therefore, when we bumped alongside the Rampallo and I was hoisted aboard. They handled me with all the clumsiness of nervous amateurs, and I think that was the moment of my greatest peril, for the launch danced and bobbed about so much that they nearly dropped me into the river.

But they did not unfasten the scarf, and I was taken below into a cabin, laid on the berth, my hands still tied and the gag in position, and locked in.

Had they peeped in a few minutes later they would have been considerably surprised. They were as great bunglers in tying my hands as they were in managing the launch, and I had not the least difficulty in wriggling my arms free. A vigorous tug tore off the head-gear, wig, and all, and as there were a couple of serviceable bolts on the door I shot them home softly, and indulged in the luxury of unimpeded breathing. It had not occurred to them apparently, that “His Majesty” might be quite as anxious to keep them out of the cabin as they were to keep him in; otherwise they would have removed the door fastenings.

Then I closed the porthole and covered it over, took off the shot-weighed shooting rig, and with my revolver ready at hand, I threw myself at full length on the bunk to cool and wait for the next act.

[231]I was in darkness, of course, but by feeling the hands of my watch I found the time to be just nine o’clock. It would be dawn between four and five; and I had thus some seven or eight hours to wait before signalling to Burroughs on the Stella. I was now quite easy in mind about the issue, and as no one could enter the cabin without making noise enough to wake me, there was no reason why I should not go to sleep.

The yacht was under weigh almost as soon as I was placed in the cabin and, so far as I could gauge the speed, was making no more than from ten to twelve knots.

I was just dropping off to sleep when some one tried the door and was apparently very much astonished to find it fastened on my side. It must have seemed something like a conjuring trick for a “king” gagged and bound, as I was, to have accomplished such a feat.

I took no notice, of course. There was some whispered consultation followed by more knocking and more whispering, and then I was left at peace. They concluded, no doubt, that as they could force the door at any time, there was no use in doing so until we were near Oporto; and that if I preferred to remain gagged, instead of allowing them to release me, the “royal” prerogative entitled me to punish myself.

Anyhow, they went away and I went to sleep, and did not wake until the dawn was breaking. I had very little doubt that I passed a more comfortable night than any one else on the yacht.

I opened the porthole and shoving my head through was intensely pleased to see the Stella under easy steam about a mile astern. I waved a towel as a signal to the skipper to close up, and having edged it and left it fluttering, I looked carefully to see that my revolver was loaded, and sat down to speculate as to what form the crisis would take.

As the Stella could steam two knots to the Rampallo’s one, a few minutes after my signal was observed would[232] bring matters to a head. But those minutes might bring trouble my way, of course.

The first sign of it was a hurried trampling of feet on the deck over my head, followed almost directly by a loud knocking at my cabin door and an angry demand for me to open it.

I let them knock and call as they pleased and then some one said that the door was to be broken in. But I did not wish that to be done and did wish to make delay, so I rapped back loudly with the butt of my revolver.

“Open the door at once,” came in loud angry tones.

Putting my handkerchief to my mouth I yelled back a lot of muffled unintelligible gibberish. An altercation followed in which they continued to call to me to open and I replied with the same sort of rot and played with the bolts as if fumbling in an attempt to unfasten them.

In this way I gained two or three invaluable minutes, and a glance out of the porthole showed me that the Stella was coming up very fast.

Their impatience drove them to act at last; and the first blow was struck to force the way in.

“Wait. I’ll open it,” I shouted.

I drew the bolts and stepped back as a hail came across the water in Burroughs’ stentorian tones.

There are many ways of showing astonishment, and most of them were conspicuous as the door flew open and four men started to rush in and then jumped back from my levelled weapon.

“Well, gentlemen, I should like to know what the devil you mean by kidnapping me in this way,” I sang out and then, to their further astonishment, I burst out laughing.

If my life had depended upon my keeping serious, I could not have helped laughing at the ridiculous figures they cut. It was not so much their boundless amazement at seeing me instead of the king, nor their quick[233] retreat from my weapon, but their general appearance which was so irresistibly comic.

They wore neither coat, waistcoat, nor collar, their trousers were rolled up to the knees, in their shirts of finest linen were gold studs and the sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, their boots were faultless in fit, all four wore gloves, and two of them carried pince-nez; while from the top to toe they were smothered in a mixture of machine oil, perspiration and coal dust.

They looked for all the world like amateur greasers badly made up and coming straight from the comic opera stage.

“Who are you and where is——” stammered one of them, when a companion stopped him and stepped forward.

“Leave this to me,” he said and then to me: “Who are you?”

“I am the king of Portugal, of course—Dom Carlos,” I replied, trying to keep my face straight. “Where is Captain Gompez?”

“I am Captain Gompez.”

“I’m afraid you’ve had rather a rough night of it, captain. Stokehole work is trying for an amateur.”

“Who are you, sir? I’m in no mood for fooling.”

“I should think not after such an experience. But as you are the owner of this boat, tell me why you brought me here?”

As I said this I saw one of the younger men—a red-headed, fiery-looking fellow—pull off his gloves furtively and begin to reach for his hip pocket. “If either of you attempts to draw on me I shall fire at whoever’s nearest to me,” I sang out in a very different tone.

Captain Gompez was the nearest and he promptly turned and stopped the fellow who then tried to sneak away.

But I wouldn’t have that either. “You stop just[234] where you are,” I said. “I’m like your leader here—in no mood for fooling.”

At this moment Burroughs fired the blank cartridge from the Stella, and some one called excitedly for Captain Gompez.

Taken aback by the unexpected development, all four started and I took advantage of the moment when their eyes were off me to grab hold of the captain and drag him into the cabin and then slammed the door to and shot home one of the bolts.

“Now we can talk this——”

Before I could finish the sentence he flung himself upon me with an oath in a desperate effort to grab my weapon, while he shouted to the others to break in the door.

Like a fool I had allowed myself to be taken by surprise, and in a second he had me pinned against the wall and at a terrible disadvantage.

I could not use my weapon, and my life depended on my preventing him from getting it.



CAPTAIN GOMPEZ was about my own height but very strong, as agile as a cat, and mad with rage. Under equal conditions I should have had no chance in such a struggle with him. Fortunately for me, however, the conditions were not equal.

He had been up all night, hard at work in laborious and unusual toil. He was responsible for the management of the Rampallo and had had to teach his crew of amateurs their work, and he was also the leader in this critical part of the abduction plot. The combined strain of all this had told on him and made tremendous demands upon his strength and endurance.

At the same time, he had the two most powerful motives which can drive a man to set his life on an issue such as that involved in this attack on me. He knew that in some way I had thwarted the plot, and the knowledge filled him with a frenzy of rage, while he believed that, on his success in overpowering me, depended not only his own safety but that of all who were relying upon his leadership. This rendered him desperate.

My advantage was that I was as fresh as paint after the hours of sleep I had had during the night; and I felt that if I could hold my own in the first minutes of the affair, the frantic efforts he was making would tire him out and give me the victory. Time would give me another advantage. The Stella would soon be alongside,[236] when Burroughs would quickly have command of the Rampallo.

The struggle between us began in a somewhat curious fashion. The attack had taken me by surprise, as I have said, and forced me back against the side of the cabin. As he grabbed for the revolver, I shot my right hand up as high as I could stretch it, to hold the weapon out of his reach. You may have seen one child use a similar tactic when teasing another, and you may know how difficult it is to bend an arm held rigid in such a position, when there is no marked advantage in height.

That was the problem the captain had to solve, and he fought with tremendous energy. He held my right wrist in his left, tugging and straining to lever it down so that he might venture to release his right, which held my left in a grip of steel, and grab the prize.

His shouts to the others to break the door open were not answered, and he soon ceased to call, concentrating all his strength in the struggle for my weapon.

He displayed such strength that I realized he would beat me before the energy which frenzy gave him was exhausted; and as I was convinced that the first use he would make of his victory would be to put a bullet into my head, I resolved to empty the revolver as a defensive measure.

I fired three shots in rapid succession when he suddenly released my left arm and fastened both hands on my right wrist and tugged and strained at it in the desperate effort to drag the weapon within his reach.

This was more than I could resist, and I thought he would dislocate my shoulder and wrench the sinews. But I succeeded in discharging two more cartridges before my power of resistance was broken, and then I let the weapon fall and at the same moment I got my left hand on his throat and pressing my foot against the wall pushed him violently backwards.

[237]The manœuvre took him by surprise and he slipped and fell, dragged me down with him, to resume the struggle under different conditions. I had some advantage now, however. I was top dog. But he writhed and wriggled with such agility that I could make little use of my position.

He fought at this stage like a savage. He kicked me viciously, butted my face with his head, tried every trick to get his hands on my throat, writhing the while like a snake to change his position so that he could wriggle back to the spot where the revolver lay, the possession of which meant life or death to me and freedom or ruin to him.

Again I realized that he was the better man and that I was going to be beaten. By a very clever movement he got me again at a terrible disadvantage. I was holding on to his throat when he twisted to one side, drew his knees up with a sudden jerk and thrust one of his feet into the pit of my stomach with such force as to drive the wind clean out of me. My grip on his throat relaxed and I fell back sick and dizzy and beaten.

Only the merest luck saved my life then. As I fell, my hand came in contact with the revolver and I gripped it and pulled the trigger. Even as the shot flashed, he was on to me; and he wrenched the weapon from me, and pulled the trigger three or four times at my head in the hope that there was still a cartridge left.

Maddened with rage and disappointment he raised it and tried to strike me on the head; but I had sense enough to protect myself with my arms, and then my rage began to lend me strength. I grappled with him again, and as the effects of the kick passed off and I recovered my wind, I renewed the fight.

I was in a very different mood now. He had attempted to take my life and I no longer tried merely to exhaust his strength. I fought like a madman. For the[238] moment, indeed, I was mad, crazed with blood lust, white-hot for revenge.

Disappointment at finding the weapon, which he had striven so frantically to gain, useless, disheartened him; his strength was nearly used up and he had no passion left to answer to that which burned like a fever in me.

I got him under me again, my left hand fastened on his throat while I dashed my fist again and again into his face, finding a brutal pleasure in the punishment I inflicted, until his resistance weakened and he lay still and helpless.

Then I rose and sat on the berth, breathing hard and watching him as if he were some dangerous wild beast who had mauled me and from whose fangs I had only just escaped with my life—as indeed I had.

I was not seriously hurt. That kick of his had only winded me. My arms were painful from the blows I had received from the revolver in shielding my head, but they were only bruised, and I had every cause to be glad matters were no worse.

Nor was my opponent badly injured. His face was damaged and his lips swollen and bleeding, but the blood was chiefly from his nose; and he soon recovered sufficiently to sit up.

His first movement brought me to my feet, but he had no strength left to make any fight. Moreover my own rage had cooled and, to tell the truth, I was a little ashamed of my savagery; so I made no effort to interfere with him.

He spat out some of the blood from his mouth and had plenty more on his face, so I threw him a towel.

“Are you going to try any more of this?” I asked.

He was wiping his face with the towel, and paused to look up at me, shook his head, and continued his task.

At that moment the Stella came alongside with a[239] force which sent a shiver through the Rampallo from stern to stern; and the sounds of the trampling of many feet on the deck above our heads followed.

“What’s that?” he exclaimed and started to scramble up.

“You’ll find it safer to stop just where you are,” I said curtly.

He glanced up at me and, not liking my looks, abandoned the attempt. “What is the meaning of it all?” he asked sullenly.

“I was on this boat the night before last when you were all discussing your plans and I decided to play the king’s part in this business.”

“You?” and he ran his eyes over my much slighter form.

“You’ll find the remainder of His Majesty under the bunk here; the shot-weighted clothes and all the rest of it.”

“And what’s your object?”

“Never mind. I had one and have gained it. My yacht, the Stella, followed us all through the night; and the row up there means that my men have just come aboard.”

The racket on deck was dying down now and I soon heard Burroughs calling my name loudly and anxiously.

“Donnington! Ralph! Where are you?”

I opened the cabin door and answered him.

“Is all well with you?” he cried, eagerly. “I was getting worried about you.”

“It’s all right, Jack, but it was touch and go, owing to Captain Gompez here, the leader of the lot.”

“Been making trouble, has he? Have you left any kick in him?”

“What are you going to do with us?” interposed Gompez.

“Send you to sea for a week in charge of my friend here, Mr. Burroughs—and a crew chosen from my own yacht. At the end of that time I shall probably hand[240] you over to the authorities with a full statement of all this.”

“I protest——” he began angrily.

“Waste of time,” I cut in laconically. “Bring him along to the rest, Jack.”

We went to the yacht’s saloon where the other prisoners were. Burroughs had done things thoroughly. There were seven of them, and he had handcuffed them all and put a couple of men over them, with loaded revolvers.

“I’m taking no risks, Ralph,” said Burroughs in explanation, and then fastened Captain Gompez’ wrists in similar fashion.

A more dejected forlorn set of men I had never cast eyes on. Grimed from head to foot, worn out with sleeplessness, toil and anxiety, they were broken by the utter defeat of their scheme and the certainty that ruin, disgrace, dishonour and possibly death was all they had to face. Two or three had dozed off, and the rest turned as I entered and looked at me with lack-lustre eyes without even the energy to show anger.

Among those who were asleep, or feigning sleep, was Sampayo. He was in a corner at the far end, his face averted and his head sunk on his breast. The arrival of the Stella had warned him that I was at the bottom of the trouble, and he and the red-headed young fellow who had tried to draw on me before had been the only ones to give trouble; but they had gained nothing by it except a crack on the head.

Sampayo was not of course aware that I knew he was on board, and his present attitude was probably due to the hope that he would escape my notice.

“You can tell your companions my decision, Captain Gompez,” I said, and went away with Burroughs to arrange for the stores to be transferred from the Stella and discuss the steps he was to take to guard against any trouble from the prisoner-passengers.

[241]“I shall run no risks, Ralph. I’ve been looking round and I can separate them and shall keep them fastened up. The old man and I discussed the course I’d better lay. There’s none too much coal on board, so I shall steam due west for a day and if the weather holds good shall just crawl about until the time’s up, and I’ve arranged where he can pick us up if you want to before the week’s out. And of course I shall keep well away from any vessels that may came along.”

The two yachts were still roped together, and while the stores were transferred I went down to the “king’s” cabin and told Burroughs to send Sampayo to me.

“I have sent for you to write a brief letter to Dr. Barosa telling him what has occurred,” I said without preface.

“What use are you going to make of it?”

“Just what I decide. It is possible that I may not speak of this thing at all.”

“I’ll tell you everything if you’ll put me ashore,” he said after a pause.

“Characteristic, but out of the question.”

“Then I won’t write a word.”

“Very well. Then I’ll get one of the others.”

He looked at me eagerly, as if my words suggested a hope that matters would be made easier if he complied. “Why do you want to hound us down?”

“So far as you are concerned, your old companion, Prelot, will do that.”

He caught his breath with a shudder at the mention of the name. “That letter to Barosa will do no good. After you showed you knew about me, I begged and prayed him to do the only thing that would get rid of you—and he refused.”

He paused as if waiting for me to question him.

“He is mad with his love for Mademoiselle Dominguez,” he continued after a pause. “I said that if he would let me break with her, you would go away. He would not. It was he who planned that attempt[242] on your life the same night. He was with Henriques. He is mad, I say. And nothing, not even this, will turn him from his purpose. He knows something about that South African affair of mine, but not all. He has had nearly all my money, he forced this farce of an engagement with Mademoiselle Dominguez, and his intention was to use the influence he would have if a revolution was provoked to force her to marry him. That’s why she has been dragged into it, and he would sacrifice every man of us rather than lose her. He would have been betrothed to her openly, but he could not break with the Contesse Inglesia. Now you know everything.”

“I knew most of that before,” I replied drily. “But how did you get the visconte’s consent?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “He could not help himself. He was in this thing also to some extent, but Barosa found out that he had been stealing his wife’s money and I was put to threaten him with exposure if he refused. I have been Barosa’s slave for months, curse him.”

There was no mistaking the bitter sincerity of this.

“You will do no good with the letter you want. It is more probable that you will find that he fled from the city the moment he knew this thing had failed and took Mademoiselle Dominguez with him. But if he is still there, and still hopes to provoke a revolution, your only means of dealing with him will be through the Contesse Inglesia. Rouse her jealousy, and you may succeed. I would have done it, but I dared not.”

I did not let him see my alarm at his suggestion that Barosa had forced Miralda to fly with him, but I determined to get back to Lisbon as fast as the Stella could carry me.

I took Sampayo back to the rest, wrote a line:—“We are prisoners in the hands of Mr. Ralph Donnington,[243] who knows everything;” and obtained the signatures of them all to it; and then hurried up on deck.

The Stella was just casting off, and with a last handshake with Burroughs, I jumped on board.

“How long will it take us to get back to port, captain?” I asked the skipper, who had good news for me.

“We’re not much more than thirty-five knots out,” he said. “These fools couldn’t get more than a few knots an hour out of the Rampallo and didn’t even know enough to keep a straight course. They’ve been zigzagging about all night. Never saw such lubbers.”

“Well, let her rip. I must be back at the earliest moment. Get all you can out of her.”

Sampayo’s words had fired me with impatience. A burning fever of unrest had seized me and I should not know a second’s peace until I had assured myself of Miralda’s safety.

The bare thought that she might be in Barosa’s power and that the very act by which I had striven and risked so much to win her, might prove to be the means of losing her, was torture unutterable.

The instant we were in the river I had the launch lowered and jumped into her and shot away to the quay.

A few minutes now would tell me the best or the worst.



SAMPAYO’S statement had not only roused my fears for Miralda’s safety but had also decided me not to have any further dealings at all with Barosa. As soon as I had satisfied myself that she was not in any danger from him, I would go straight to Volheno and tell him about the abduction plot and how it had been frustrated.

I could make a full statement of that without in any way violating the pledge of secrecy I had given to Barosa. That pledge did not include either my previous knowledge that he was an agent of the Pretender, Dom Miguel, or anything I had overheard on the Rampallo and the results.

I would keep my word in regard to all that had occurred in the Rua Catania house and in the other house in the Rua Formosa, where I had been subjected to the “test”; and should not give the names of any one whose connexions with the plot I had learnt before my spy work on Captain Gompez’ yacht.

My intention was to make one condition—that Miralda, her mother, the visconte, Vasco and, if possible, Dagara, should be pardoned for their complicity in the affair. They had been forced into the net by Barosa’s tortuous cunning, and that I could prove if put to it.

I felt that I had a perfect right to impose such a condition as the price of my services. I had thwarted the abduction plot, and my own experiences proved[245] that, but for me, nothing would have saved the king. Moreover, I had risked my life—had very nearly lost it, indeed—and, although I had chosen my own method instead of turning informer in advance, that was my own concern. But the result had been entirely successful, for it had led to my taking a batch of the men in it red-handed.

In making this decision to go at once to Volheno, I had none but personal considerations. I had no interest in the political issues involved in the struggle between the Throne and the people. They were nothing to me. The Government managed their own affairs in their own way; and if I had been fool enough to have offered them suggestions, they would have laughed at me for an impertinent interfering puppy.

At the same time, the part of informer was a profoundly hateful one to play, and if I could have gained my end as easily and safely by dealing direct with Barosa, I should have preferred that method.

But he was too dangerous a man. I had far too high an opinion of his ability, shrewdness and resource to believe for an instant that I could pit myself against him. It was much more by accident than anything else that I had obtained the whip-hand over him now; and it would be sheer folly to run the risk of giving him an opportunity to outwit me, when a word to Volheno would lay him by the heels.

I took Bryant and Simmons ashore with me. I sent the latter up to my rooms and, as I deemed it best not to go about alone, I drove with Bryant to Miralda’s house and left him in the carriage to wait for me.

My anxiety on Miralda’s account rendered me nervously uneasy. This feeling quickened into alarm when the servant told me she was not in the house. The viscontesse was at home and I sent a message begging her to see me at once.

The instant she entered the room I read ill news in her manner and looks. She was greatly agitated,[246] her face was white and drawn, her eyes full of trouble, and she appeared both surprised and angry to see me. She drew back and would not take my hand. “You asked for me, Mr. Donnington? I wonder you dare to come here, sir.”

“Dare to come?” I repeated, bewildered by this reception.

“Why is not Miralda with you?”

The question filled the cup of my alarm and amazement.

“There is some mistake, viscontesse. I have just landed from my yacht and have come straight here to see her.”

“For Heaven’s sake do not try to deceive me. I know what has happened. It was cruel and shameful. I have been beside myself with grief and suspense.”

“I give you my word of honour I have not seen Miralda since the day before yesterday.”

She stared at me as if unable to believe or even understand me. “Have not seen her?” she repeated hoarsely, after a pause. “Oh, that cannot be true.”

“I assure you most earnestly and solemnly that it is true.”

As the conviction of my sincerity was forced upon her, her expression changed. The trouble in her wide, staring eyes gave place to unmistakable terror inspired by her new thoughts. Suddenly she reeled, threw up her hands in despair, and then clasped them distractedly to her face and sank on a couch with a moan of anguish.

“Then she is arrested or dead. Heaven have mercy upon my dear, dear child,” she cried, a prey to overpowering emotion.

I was scarcely less alarmed by this most disconcerting news, and while the viscontesse was striving to recover some measure of self-command, I tried to realize all it meant and to think what to do.

[247]“Don’t go, Mr. Donnington,” she said at length in the midst of her sobs; and I waited, tormented by a thousand vague fears.

“I beg you to tell me all as soon as possible. Even minutes may be of vital importance,” I said earnestly.

She made an effort to check her wild sobs. “But we cannot do anything,” she wailed helplessly.

“Not unless you can let me know what has happened,” I replied sharply. “If anything is to be done, it must be at once.”

“I will try to tell you,” she said a minute later, sitting up.

“I know that Miralda was here yesterday,” I said, “because I sent to her and received a letter from her. That was early in the afternoon. Will you tell me everything that occurred after that?”

“I know very little, Mr. Donnington. In the afternoon Inez came and the two were alone together. Miralda came to me afterwards and I saw that she was both greatly excited and distressed. It was in some way connected with this miserable conspiracy business. She told me that something very important was to happen; but that she herself did not know what it was. She was to go for the evening to Inez. I was in great trouble about Vasco, you know. He was in bed ill—he had been drinking heavily the night before, I must tell you.”

“Did he leave the house yesterday?” I interposed.

“No. He was getting better toward the evening and said he had to go out; but I went up later and found him sleeping so soundly that I could not rouse him.”

“Was Miralda in the house then?”

“No, she had been gone about half an hour. Well, I waited by his bedside for a long time, an hour or more—I could not say how long. When Inez arrived I went down to her, and she asked me where Miralda was. I said she had gone to her house. She had never reached[248] there, however; and then Inez said she had something very serious to tell me. It was that Miralda had been in secret communication with you, and that as some of their friends suspected you of having betrayed them in some way, Miralda had also fallen under suspicion. She had disappeared, and one of three things must be the cause. She had been arrested, or had got into the hands of those who suspected her, or had run away with you.”

“Can you fix the time the contesse was here?”

“Not that first visit, but she came again about ten o’clock, bringing the news that your yacht had left the river and that it was plain that Miralda had gone with you.”

So the Stella had been missed, it seemed.

“What I tell you is true, viscontesse; I have not seen Miralda.”

“You think she has been arrested then?”

“It is impossible to be certain—but I do not think it.”

“Oh, but don’t tell me you believe she has fallen into the hands of any of these people who will do her mischief? They would kill her.”

“Oh, no; I am certain that there is no fear of that.” I was, for it was as clear as anything could be that Barosa would not allow anything of the sort.

“You are so positive. Do you know anything that makes you so?”

“Yes; but I cannot tell you.”

“You get to learn so much. I suppose you know that my husband has left the city.”

“No. When was that?”

“You warned him one afternoon that he was under suspicion; and he left the next night. He has gone to Paris.”

“Would to Heaven you and Miralda had gone with him,” I exclaimed.

“We were going; but Miralda was prevented.”

[249]“How prevented?”

“Dr. Barosa and Inez arrived when all was ready, and after what they said to her, she told me she could not go.”

“But they let the visconte go?”

“And I could have gone too—but I could not leave my dear child.”

I began to get a grip of the situation now.

“And Vasco? Can I see him?”

“He is on duty this morning. He is better. What are you going to do?” she asked as I rose.

“To find Miralda.”

“Pray God you may be successful. You will let me know?”

With a promise to do so, I left her. I had very little doubt that I should find Miralda with Inez. She had been taken away from her home as the result of that attempt at flight; and Barosa had used Inez for the purpose. The thing must have been planned before the failure of the previous night’s scheme was known; and being uncertain of the issue, he was still afraid to break with Inez.

Under other circumstances he might have employed different means—getting Miralda into his own hands; but he would shrink from rousing Inez’ jealousy until he felt strong enough to set her at defiance.

What the effect upon him would be of the failure of the scheme was of course very difficult to say. But it was not of much consequence unless he had already got Miralda away and I should know that as soon as I saw Inez herself.

The lie which had been told about my having carried Miralda away was intended merely to blind her mother’s eyes. It offered a plausible reason for Miralda’s absence.

As I drove to Inez’ house I told Bryant to wait for me, but not to remain in the carriage, as I did not wish him to be seen; and as soon as the servant[250] opened the door, I pushed my way in, lest Inez should refuse to see me.

She did make the attempt. In reply to my message, she sent word that she was unable to see me then, but would do so an hour later.

“Then I will wait,” I told the servant; and down I sat in the hall. Inez’ unwillingness to face me confirmed my opinion that Miralda was in the house; and nothing short of force would have made me leave.

After perhaps a quarter of an hour the servant came with another message—her mistress would receive me in a few minutes. She was leading the way upstairs when I stopped her, saying bluntly I preferred to remain where I was until the contesse was quite ready.

I did not intend to give Inez a chance of smuggling Miralda out of the house while I was cooling my heels shut up in a room upstairs. Whether or not any attempt of the sort had been planned, I do not know; but while I was close to the door and had a full view of the staircase it was impracticable.

Another delay followed, and then the servant said Inez was waiting for me; and she herself appeared at the top of the stairs, cool, smiling, and apologetic.

“I am so sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr. Donnington,” she said as she gave me her hand, and led the way into an adjoining room; “but your call at this unusual hour found me quite unprepared to come to you.”

“It is not a conventional purpose which has brought me, madame,” I replied as she settled herself gracefully upon a couch.

“No? Ah, well, I am grateful to any purpose which leads you to find your way at last to my house,” she said with another smile.

I was in no mood for this kind of thing; so I said rather bluntly: “My purpose is to see Mademoiselle Dominguez.”

[251]Her start and look and gesture of extreme surprise were well acted. “My dear Mr. Donnington! Miralda?”

“Yes, certainly.”

“But——” she paused, and then those strange eyes of hers expressed perplexity and trouble and rising alarm. “I am afraid I—I don’t understand.”

“Yet my words were very simple. I wish to see Mademoiselle Dominguez.”

“I heard that, of course. But is it possible, you believe she is here? Do you mean you do not know what has occurred? You find out so many things, you know,” she added with a quick thrust.

“I know that she came here last night. I have seen her mother this morning; but, as you suggest, I do find out things. You were under the impression last night that she did not reach your house; but”——and I paused as I made a shot, speaking very meaningly—“I know how she came to the house.”

A single swift up-lift of the deeply fringed lids told me that the unexpected shot had pierced the armour-plate of her defence; and when she looked up after a pause all the assumption of surprise had disappeared.

“You have only yourself to blame, Mr. Donnington,” she said, tone and manner both very earnest. She had as many moods as an actress has costumes and was able to change them much more quickly.

“And that means—what, if you please?”

“I am genuinely sorry for you. I knew from the first that your object here was Miralda; and you will remember that I warned you. You would not heed the warning. You set to work to win back Miralda; and had she been free, you would have succeeded. But she was not free; and when you took the mad step of driving Major Sampayo from the city you—well, you can understand what was sure to follow.”

[252]“On the contrary I do not understand, madame.”

“You precipitated matters, of course. Miralda is Major Sampayo’s wife and is now with his friends.”



INEZ’ face as she said this was full of excellently simulated solicitude for me; but had she been aware of all I knew about Sampayo’s movements, she would certainly have chosen some other fairy tale with which to fool me.

“I am afraid some one has been misleading you,” I said drily; “unless, of course, you were present at the wedding?”

Her own instinct or my manner warned her that she had blundered. “I was—not present, Mr. Donnington.” She began the reply quickly, and the slight pause in the sentence came when she suddenly changed her mind; and the last words were spoken in a very different tone.

“When is the marriage said to have occurred? I don’t wish to question you in the dark, and will tell you that I know precisely all Major Sampayo’s recent movements. Let me suggest, therefore, that it is quite useless to fence with my questions.”

She fixed her eyes on me with a steady searching look. “Are you threatening me, Mr. Donnington?”

“I am asking you to let me see Mademoiselle Dominguez at once, madame.”

“I have told you she is with Major Sampayo’s friends.”

“You are one of those friends. Mademoiselle Dominguez is here,” I said as positively as if I knew it for a fact.

[254]For a moment I thought she was going to give in; but her features set and she threw her head back with a toss of defiance. “You must have seen a yacht in the river for the last two days, the Rampallo. It is Major Sampayo’s; and Miralda joined him there last night.”

“The Rampallo belongs to Captain Gompez, and I passed last night on board her.”

She sat bolt upright and stared at me, every muscle and nerve strained and set, her face as white as her lace and the pupils of her weird eyes dilated with sudden fear and wonder. For several seconds she was unable to utter a word, as she realized all that must lie behind my words.

“You will now, perhaps, deem it prudent not to refuse any longer to bring Mademoiselle Dominguez here to me,” I said very meaningly.

She lowered her head with a deep sigh and sat thinking, then rose with a little shiver of fear. “I will fetch her,” she murmured and went out of the room.

I breathed a sigh of satisfaction at my victory. It was a telling proof of the strength of my hold over her and all who were leagued with her in this persecution of Miralda.

I had to wait about a quarter of an hour before she returned, bringing Miralda, who was pale and worn and nervous.

Inez did not enter the room, but closed the door, leaving us alone, as I took Miralda’s hand.

“Oh, why have you come here, Mr. Donnington?”

“To take you away. I have come straight here from your mother and am going to take you back to her.”

“I—I cannot go,” she replied, shaking her head.

“Why not?”

“If I attempt to leave here, I shall be arrested.”

“Is that the tale they have told you to keep you here?”

[255]“It is true. Do you know what happened last night?”

“Yes, indeed; a great deal better than you or any one else in this house. I urge you to come away at once with me; and I will tell you everything that occurred.”

“I—I dare not,” she said, shrinking away from me.

“But I tell you that you have absolutely nothing to fear. You can trust me?”

“Oh yes, yes. You know that; but I—dare not go.”

It was evident that by some means they had succeeded in breaking down her nerve. “Let me urge you to come at once—just as you are.”

“Do you know that a mad attempt was made to make the king a prisoner; that it failed and has been discovered; and that all concerned in it are now in danger of their lives? I had no idea of such a shameful plot, or I would never have done what I have. There is no hope for any of us but flight; and Dr. Barosa is arranging for us to fly secretly this afternoon.”

“I know much more than that. I know why it failed. I have every reason to know, because I myself prevented the attempt.”

“You?” she cried in amazement.

“Yes, I. No one else.”

“And you knew this terrible thing and did not warn me? And yet you knew I was implicated! Oh, how could you?”

This was a point of view which had not occurred to me. She had good reason to blame me; and for the moment I was silent.

“You have no answer? If you had told me, do you think I would not have given a warning of it even at the risk of my life?” and with a despondent sigh she dropped into a chair and sat staring helplessly at the floor.

“You are forgetting that I myself prevented it.”

[256]“Yes, but my life is now in danger. You do not understand what it is you have done. You did what you deemed best, of course; but you do not understand. They are hunting the city for us all now.”

“These people have merely told you that to frighten you. No one has been even to your house.”

“Oh, how little you understand. They are waiting because it is known that I have left there. The instant I leave here I shall be arrested.”

“Then how could you escape this afternoon?”

“Inez and Dr. Barosa have arranged that. We shall go in disguise, of course.”

“Who told you that the plot had been discovered?”

“Do you think they do not know that? M. Dagara sent them warning last night, and told them the names of those who are to be arrested.”

“Everything you tell me only confirms what I say to you—that these lies have been coined in order to frighten you. M. Dagara is not in Lisbon. He left yesterday evening. I gave him money to take him and his wife to Paris. He did not even know that the abduction had been planned; and he left the city before he could hear of its failure.”

She shook her head. “I know you think that—but I have the list of names.”

“Will you show it me?”

She took it out of the bosom of her dress and handed it me.

“The trick is obvious,” I said with a smile. “It is not his handwriting.”

“Inez made a copy for me.”

“But did not show you the original. It is a lie—the whole thing. Do try to understand it all by the light of what I tell you. Why, here on the very face of it is a proof of its falsehood. Your mother’s name is mentioned.”

“Do you think I have not seen it?” she cried, intensely moved.

[257]“Yes, but I have come straight from her to you. If she had been listed for arrest, should I have found her at home?”

“She is left at liberty because they expect me to return to her, when we should both be arrested. That is why I have not gone home.”

“But surely you can see that that is inconsistent with the other thing they told you—that you would be taken the moment you left this house? They have put your mother’s name on this concocted list in order to frighten you, and vamped this utterly false explanation. If the police are watching your home, you can safely leave here; if, on the other hand, they know how to find you without your going home, why is not your mother already arrested?”

This made some impression. “I do not know what to think,” she murmured.

“There is another thing. If you are to run into danger the instant you leave here, it means that the police know where you are. Do you suppose that, in such a case, they would not have raided this house?”

“Inez is not on the list.”

“Another proof that the whole thing is a fabrication. If the police had such intimate knowledge of the plot that they knew of your slight connexion with it, would they not know of the leaders?”

She considered a moment. “But you yourself knew that the visconte and all of us were suspected. You told him.”

“I ascertained afterwards that I was wrong. Dagara told me.”

“But why should Inez be so false as you suggest?”

“She is instigated by Dr. Barosa.”

“And what is his motive, then?”

It was an awkward question. “I know the motive; but you may doubt the truth. Let me tell you first what has occurred. When I learnt the truth as to the abduction plot——”

[258]“When did you learn it, and how?”

“I was present on the Rampallo when they all met there, and I overheard the whole matter discussed and settled. I then planned matters so that I should be mistaken for the king and carried off in his stead. That was done last night. I was taken to the Rampallo and was on her all the night. My own yacht followed; and this morning my people boarded the Rampallo, released me and made prisoners of every man on the yacht. Under the charge of my friend, Mr. Burroughs, the Rampallo has been sent off with the men and I came back to free you.”

“But how could that free me?”

“In one of two ways. Either by forcing Dr. Barosa to free you from all connexion with the conspiracy; or by making your pardon a condition of my handing over these men to the authorities with a full statement of what had occurred. Now, except myself and those in my confidence on the Stella, there is not a man in Lisbon, outside those in the plot, who knows the facts.”

She listened in rapt attention, sat thinking a few moments, and then put out her hand. “Can you forgive me for hesitating to go with you? I have been distracted with fear.”

“There is nothing to forgive. All I ask is that you come with me at once. You would be safer in the hands of the police than here.”

“Tell me why? And you have not explained Dr. Barosa’s object. He has been kindness itself in all this trouble.”

“He stopped you from leaving with the visconte,” I reminded her.

“There was a reason. My presence was still necessary to get the information from M. Dagara. But Dr. Barosa and Inez are going to take my mother and myself away to-day to join the visconte in Paris.”

“They will do nothing of the kind. They are false[259] to you right through. The contesse herself is being deceived by Barosa. Sampayo is among the men on the Rampallo; and I got from him to-day the real truth why you were compelled to betroth yourself to him. It is not a pretty story, but you must hear it. He——” I stopped abruptly as Inez entered.

She was smiling, but far less collectedly than usual. “Well, have you persuaded Mr. Donnington that you must remain here, Miralda?”

“No; I am going with him, Inez.”

“You must do as you please, of course, but you know the danger.”

“I am going home.”

“You do not think we can take care of her, Mr. Donnington? What have you told her to cause this change of plan?”

“I will gladly tell you all I have said if you will accompany us. Miralda is naturally anxious to reassure her mother as soon as possible.”

“I do not wish to do so, thank you; but we shall have a minute or two while Miralda gets ready. And I wish to have a word with you privately, Mr. Donnington, after what you told me.”

“I shall be ready in a minute,” said Miralda with a smile as she went away.

“What are you going to do, Mr. Donnington?” asked Inez. “There can, of course, be only one meaning to your statement—that you were on the Rampallo last night. Are you going to betray us?” She was greatly agitated and made little attempt to conceal it.

“Not necessarily. I have no concern with your politics or plots.”

“Yet you have interfered in this?”

“For the sole purpose of making sure of Miralda’s liberty. When she has left the city, and if she is not implicated any further, and a full explanation is made in writing of the means adopted to force her to do what she has done—a statement which must also[260] include the persecution of the rest of her family—there may be no reason why I should not keep silent.”

“May be?”

“Will be—if you prefer it put more definitely. But that statement, signed by both yourself and Dr. Barosa, must be in my hands within an hour.”

“And Major Sampayo?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I care for nothing but Miralda’s welfare in this.”

“You are a generous enemy, Mr. Donnington. There will be no difficulty in doing all you ask. May I—may I thank you?” and she held out her hand. “I have not forgotten that you saved my life, and only regret that I have been powerless to help you with Miralda until you have forced me. I hope you will bear me no malice.”

“It is not my way, I assure you.”

“Will you tell me how you learnt of last night’s plot?”

“I would rather you did not ask me.”

“Some one betrayed it to you?”

“No. But you must not press me to give you any more details.”

“But you cannot have done it alone; and you will see that for Miralda’s sake we ought to know if any traitor is amongst us. He might carry information in the future to others, and then all this would come out.”

“I repeat I do not know of any traitor in your ranks. I cannot say any more.”

“But who knows beside yourself?” she persisted.

“No one on whose silence I cannot rely as surely as you may rely upon me.”

“But, Mr. Donnington——”

“I can say no more. And now Miralda should be back.”

“I am agitated and had actually forgotten her. I will go and see what is keeping her;” and she went away.

[261]I was now very impatient to be out of the house. I had gained all I had striven for so desperately; and there was really no solid reason why I should turn informer. If this abduction scheme was not discovered by the Government, no suspicion in any future plot would fall upon Miralda.

Her flight from the city would not be connected with any trouble of the sort; and when we reached Paris, it would be my fault if in a few hours she was not my wife.

The Sampayo complication was ended; and he would never dare to cross my path or hers again. If he did, the means of getting rid of him would still be available, so long as Prelot’s thirst for vengeance lasted.

There was Vasco. I could not see at once what to do in regard to him. But Miralda and I could discuss his future with the viscontesse. Probably the best thing would be for him to throw up his commission and join us. He had been a fool and must pay for his folly.

There was also Barosa. If Sampayo had spoken the truth about his love for Miralda, he would be mad with Inez for letting her go. It was all for the best, therefore, that he was not in the house. I might have found much more difficulty in getting Miralda away.

Yet he could not have prevented me. The weapon I held was too strong. Not only his liberty and even his life were in my hands, but those of Inez and of every one associated with him in the plot. My silence was worth infinitely more than the price I asked. At the same time I was more than glad that I had had to deal with Inez instead of him.

While I was occupied in these thoughts several minutes passed, and my impatience at Miralda’s delay in returning mounted fast and I began to grow uneasy. She had promised to be back almost at once; and had now been absent more than a quarter of as hour.

[262]I recalled the former suspicion which had led to my remaining in the hall, and reflected that it might be best to go down there again.

Then the door opened and with a sigh of relief I turned to meet her.

But instead of Miralda, it was Dr. Barosa who entered.



BAROSA was carrying a sheet or two of writing paper, and in the glance I caught of his profile as he shut the door carefully behind him, I noticed that his hard strong features were paler than usual. His set determined expression and manner were those of a man who knows he is face to face with a grave crisis.

“You are surprised to see me, Mr. Donnington,” he said as he turned to me; and his voice, deep and vibrating, confirmed my diagnosis.

“Yes, I am.”

“Let me explain. The Contesse Inglesia has told me what has passed between you and that you desire to have a written statement from me concerning Mademoiselle Dominguez and her relations; and I thought it could be more conveniently drawn up at once.”

“I am waiting for her to leave the house with me.”

“I am aware of that. She will no doubt be here in a moment and can perhaps assist us in writing this. Will you tell me what you wish written?”

“I have told the contesse; and you are quite able to do all I need,” I answered shortly.

“You will understand how profoundly I myself am concerned by all this. My liberty, my life, and what is far more to me than my life, are at stake. You have ascertained all our plans, and I feel it imperative[264] to ask what use you intend to make of anything you compel me to write.”

“It will never be used at all unless it should become necessary in order to explain Mademoiselle Dominguez’ connexion with your plot.”

“Become necessary?” he repeated. “What does that mean?”

“If the plot should be discovered and she should be in any danger.”

“But it has been discovered already. It has failed. You discovered it because of the facts which had come to your knowledge as the result of the Rua Catania affair.”

“I do not intend to discuss the matter with you, Dr. Barosa. You can do as you please about writing what I require.”

“And if I refuse?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “You must infer what you will.”

“I will put it on another ground. I accepted unconditionally your pledge of secrecy and was instrumental in saving you subsequently from very serious consequences at the hands of those who questioned your good faith. As a return for that service I ask you to tell me exactly what you know.”

“The service of which you speak was followed by your secret visit to my rooms—with Henriques; and Major Sampayo told me this morning the object of that visit,” I said very drily. “Sampayo was very frank about you.”

“What did he say?” he asked, quite unruffled by this thrust.

“You can ask him on his return. And now, I am going.”

He had remained close to the door and he turned and locked it and put the key in his pocket.

“Our interview cannot end in this abrupt way, Mr. Donnington. The cause I have at heart may be ruined[265] by you. You have told Contesse Inglesia that you were on the Rampallo the night before last, and I must know what you overheard and what use you intend to make of that information.”

“Open that door or give me the key,” I said sternly.

“I shall do neither. I am armed, as probably you are; and if you wish to force a struggle you must do so.”

Like a fool, I had come without a revolver; but I clapped my hand to my pocket as if I had one there; and then paused. “I don’t want your blood on my head,” I exclaimed.

But he was not deceived. “Ah, I perceive you have not thought that precaution necessary,” he said quietly. “Well, I mean you no harm, but we must talk this thing out and then I pledge you my word to open the door. Will you answer my questions?”

I was, in a mess, and if I was to get out, it would not be by force; unless I could succeed in catching him off his guard. So I threw myself into a chair and laughed. “You are right. I am not armed. But the weapon I have is stronger than a revolver. I had my suspicions roused about the Rampallo, and I got on board her in time to hear all your discussion on the news which M. Dagara sent you.”

“Ah, as a spy!” he sneered.

“Yes; as a spy, if you like. As a result, Captain Gompez and his companions carried me off instead of the king; and this morning my men from the Stella came aboard and I returned here.”

“Where are my friends now?”

“On the Rampallo in charge of my people.”

“Why did you interfere? What could it matter to you?”

“You know perfectly well. Sampayo told you, after my interview with him three days ago. He begged you to cut the net in which you had involved Mademoiselle Dominguez. He told me this morning what[266] I had only suspected before and what the Contesse Inglesia does not even suspect—your real motive.”

“He has lied to you of course.”

“Lies or truth, it doesn’t alter the present situation. Even if you draw your revolver and put one of its bullets in my head you won’t help matters. I have taken that precaution, you may be perfectly certain.”

“You mean to betray us all to the Government?” he asked after a pause, during which he drew his hand slowly from his pocket.

“I tell you what I have already told the contesse. My object is entirely personal. You can fight out your battle with your Government in your own way; but I mean to gain my end. When once that is gained, I shan’t be more minutes in Lisbon than I can help.”

Again he paused. He realized no doubt that he had to choose between giving up Miralda or sacrificing his cause and all concerned in it. A dilemma searching enough to make him thoughtful.

“You will give me your pledge to keep absolutely silent?” he asked at length.

“It is for me to impose conditions, not for you.”

“How do I know that all has occurred as you tell me?”

“You can please yourself. I have a paper signed by Sampayo and Gompez and all the rest of them.”

“Show it me.”


This might offer me the chance I sought. I took it out and held it toward him, intending to close with him the instant he came near enough. But he was too wary. “Throw it to me,” he said.

“You can read it from there,” I replied, and held it up so that he could do so.

“And where is the Rampallo now?”

I smiled and shook my head. “I have been very frank as to what has occurred; but what is going to occur is my own business.”

[267]“You say these men have let you make them prisoners?”

“They say so themselves here.”

“And they are absolutely in your power to deliver them up to the Government when you please?”

“Absolutely. And they will be given up and a full statement of the facts made, unless I determine otherwise.”

That hit him as hard as I intended.

“When?” he rapped out.

“That also I must leave you guessing. If you are under the belief that by keeping me here or doing me any sort of mischief you will prevent all this getting out, you are merely deluding yourself.”

He paused once more and then tossed up his hands. “You have left me no option,” he said with a sigh. “What do you wish me to write?”

“That Mademoiselle Dominguez and her brother were forced into this affair by you and that she was never aware of the nature of the communications she received from Dagara.”

“I will write it,” he said at once. “Here is the key of the door;” and he threw the key to me as he crossed to a table and sat down to write.

I drew a breath of relief. I had won more easily than I had anticipated. Whatever his intentions had been at the outset of the interview, he had apparently abandoned them on learning that to do anything to me would not avert discovery or save his companions.

He found some difficulty in wording the paper and tore up a couple of sheets with an exclamation of impatience. Several minutes were spent in this way.

When he had finished the writing he handed it to me. “Will that do?”

I read it carefully. It was almost in the words I had used, and I folded it up and put it in my pocket, well satisfied that, should any emergency arise requiring[268] its use, it would prove a sufficient confirmation of the story I had to tell.

“I am satisfied,” I said.

“You will leave Lisbon at once, Mr. Donnington, and will keep absolutely silent as to all that has occurred?”

“Yes, unless circumstances arise in which I am compelled to use this document on Mademoiselle Dominguez’ behalf.”

“I quite understand that, and can accept your word absolutely,” he replied. As I went toward the door, he added: “You will pardon the means I adopted to secure this interview, and will understand how vital it was that I should know the position precisely?”

“So long as you recognize it, that’s enough for me.”

“Oh, wait one moment,” he cried, as I put the key in the lock. “We have forgotten one very important point. I have been intensely disturbed by all this, as you will have seen; and that is the cause of my oversight. You will arrange for my friends to be set at liberty at once?”

“Certainly; as soon as practicable.”

“To-day, I mean?”

“That is not possible. The Rampallo is out at sea. I will send the Stella after her; but it will be at least two days before the two yachts can be back in port.”

His face clouded. “That is very serious. These officers are absent from their regiment without leave and exceedingly awkward questions may be asked. It may mean ruin for them.”

“I presume they knew the risk they were running.”

“Had they succeeded there would have been no risk of course. On the contrary, they would have had their reward. Had the cause of their failure been other than it was, they would have been able to[269] return to duty at once; but as it is——” he broke off and paced the room in great perturbation. “Could you have them put on shore somewhere along the coast so as to save time?”

“No. The Rampallo has steamed straight out into the Atlantic.”

He tossed up his hands with an exclamation of despair. “I beg you to remain a minute while we consider this. I can think of but one way. It may be two days, you say?”

“Possibly less,” I replied. “We parted company this morning about seven o’clock. The Rampallo makes about eight or nine knots under easy steam and was about forty miles out. The Stella covers two knots to her one; and if we assume that the Rampallo has nine hours start, and allow for the time necessary to pick her up, the Stella should reach her in about twelve hours. The Rampallo would be about twenty-four hours on the homeward run and should make the river the day after to-morrow in the early morning.”

“If they returned in your yacht they would be here sooner.”

“But the Stella will not return here.”

“Could you not let her do so? The matter is very serious indeed.”

“No. I shall send orders that my men are to return to the Stella. Those who took the Rampallo to sea must bring her back.”

“You will not be surprised if I press you to let them return in your yacht. I do press it, very earnestly indeed.”

“I can’t do it, Dr. Barosa.”

“Well, then, I must fall back on my first thought. The Rampallo must be wrecked, and Gompez and the rest take to the boat. That would give a plausible reason for their absence.”

I smiled. It was certainly ingenious. “The weather[270] has been rather against anything of that sort,” I reminded him.

“That is not serious. As I gather it, you will send out an order at once to your boat to go after the Rampallo and just take off the men you have on her. Will you let me send a letter by—your captain will it be?”

“Captain Bolton.”

“Well, will you let me send a letter by him to Gompez?”

“Yes, if you give it me at once.”

He began to write it at once and, as before, found difficulty in framing it, and tore up several sheets. “I can trust your captain to deliver it unopened?” he asked.

“Of course you can. But I must ask you to get it done,” I said impatiently.

He made a fresh start; wrote a dozen lines or so, and again tore up the sheet, this time with a muttered oath of vexation.

“I am sorry to try your patience so, Mr. Donnington; but I have been so disturbed that I am scarcely master of my thoughts. Will you let me send this to your boat later on? Or will you write your instructions to your captain and let me send them both together?”

“Yes, that will do as well,” I said.

He got up from the table and made way for me. I began a note to the skipper telling him to hunt up the Rampallo and take off Burroughs and the men; and was proceeding to add that he should then steam to Plymouth, when it occurred to me that I might possibly persuade Miralda and her mother to leave on the Stella at once.

I paused and by chance glanced in a mirror just opposite me, in which I saw Barosa. He was watching me with a look of cunning, gloating triumph that in an instant my suspicions awoke. He was fooling me. All his show of concern for his companions, his inability[271] to master his thoughts, his suggestion about wrecking the Rampallo and all the rest of it, were tricks, nothing more, to fool me to put this order into his hands so that he might get his friends at liberty.

Careful not to let him know that I had seen him, I resumed the writing. But after adding a couple of lines I scribbled the word “Cancelled” in big sprawling letters right across the paper, rose with a laugh and tore it into minute fragments. “I’m like you, Dr. Barosa, I cannot write. I’ll see my skipper and tell him personally; and you can send your letter to him later. I’ll tell him to wait for it.”

“That will answer the same purpose, of course,” he said, not quite successful in hiding his chagrin. “I will send it to the yacht in less than an hour.”

“Will you see that Mademoiselle Dominguez comes to me?” I said, and unlocked the door.

As I threw open the door he caught me by the arm. “Wait a moment, there is another——”

The sentence was not finished. I turned at his voice and a cloth was thrown over my head, I was seized before I had a chance to resist, my arms were pinioned and a gag thrust into my mouth; and I was carried down the stairs and flung on the floor of a room the door of which was locked and bolted.



I  WAS not left alone very long, but it was quite enough for me to curse my own folly for having allowed myself to be trapped in this way. I ought never to have entered the house at all without taking ample precautions. I could have brought half a dozen of the Stella’s men with me. That was the first stupid blunder; but even in the house itself, I had acted like an idiot.

I could see the whole business plainly enough now. Everything had been done to secure delay. The instant I had arrived Inez had sent for Barosa, and her talk to me had been merely intended to create delay until he arrived. Then in order that the two might consult together, Miralda had been brought to me.

They had filled her with the fear of arrest, calculating that she would hesitate long enough to serve their purpose; but of course they had never intended to allow her to leave the house. Then as their preparations were not complete, Barosa had come to me to cause more delay.

He had first detained me with a threat in order to gain more time; and as soon as the trap for me was ready, he had affected to submit to defeat. This was to learn precisely how matters were on the Rampallo, and the steps necessary to secure the freedom of his companions.

He had gulled me so completely that I had been[273] within an ace of giving him the authority to the skipper, which would have sent the Stella racing off to bring the men back to the city, while I was kept a prisoner.

Fortunately I had pulled up in time to checkmate that move, and thus was still so far master of the position.

What would be Barosa’s next step? What did he mean to do with me? It would not do him much good to keep me a prisoner. Nor, so far as his conspiracy was concerned, would he gain anything even by knocking me on the head or putting a bullet in it.

I had rubbed the fact in well that, if anything happened to me, there were others who would give the information which would blow his plans into the air and send him flying for his life. There was a certain amount of grim satisfaction that I was worth more to him alive than dead; and in my present plight any consolation at all was welcome.

There was another source of consolation, too. Bryant knew where I was, and when I did not return to him he would do something. He was a sharp fellow, and quite shrewd enough to make matters unpleasant for my gaolers. Fortunately, I had told him that I was coming to the house in search of Miralda; and as he knew about Barosa and the attempt the latter and Henriques had made, he would soon scent danger.

He would be in a desperate fix, however, what to do and when to do it; urged, on the one hand, to immediate action by his alarm for me, but restrained on the other by fear of acting too soon and so interfering with my plans. But I might safely reckon that he would not let many hours pass without taking some vigorous measures on my behalf. In that case I might still escape without any more serious trouble than those hours of discomfort.

Barosa was ignorant of the fact that Bryant knew[274] of my presence in the house, and thus would not have the very strong incentive to hurry matters which that knowledge would have given him. If my guess was right—that his object was to force me to send an order to Captain Bolton to go after the Rampallo and set the prisoners at liberty—he would be chary of doing me any injury which would prevent my sending for them.

I had reached that point in my speculations when the door was unbolted, and two or three persons entered. They carefully examined the cords on my arms, and then hauled me to my feet, and half led, half carried me up several flights of stairs to a room where the gag and cloth over my head were taken off.

I found myself in a small room, the one window of which was barred. A pallet bed stood in one corner with a mattress, but without sheets or blankets, and by the window a chair and a small table with writing materials on it.

I lay down on the bed, intensely glad to be able to breathe freely once more, but both sick and dizzy from the pressure of the gag. I recognized the men who had brought me upstairs. I had seen them on the night of the “test,” and I judged that they had been intentionally selected by Barosa in order that I might see I was in the hands of men who would have scant mercy for a traitor.

He meant to play on my fears, and the writing materials ready to hand showed me I had guessed his purpose. I was to be forced to write the necessary instructions to the skipper.

Not a word was spoken by the men. As soon as they had finished with me they went outside, leaving the door open and remained close to it.

Some few minutes passed, and then Barosa came into the room and closed the door.

“Now, Mr. Donnington, you must understand what we require you to do,” he said very peremptorily.[275] “You have chosen to interfere in our plans, and your interference has brought you to this pass. You are absolutely in our power; and I tell you at once and frankly, that your life will depend upon your decision. You will write the instructions to Captain Bolton to go after the Rampallo, and take our friends to Oporto with all speed. As soon as they are safe, you shall be set at liberty. Not here in Lisbon; but you will go on board a steamer which will take you straight back to England, and you will have to give your word of honour not to speak a word of anything you know until you reach your country. You will also order your captain to take your yacht straight to England the moment that our friends are landed.”

“I shall do nothing of the sort, Dr. Barosa.”

“I think you will change your mind. The penalty of refusal will be—death,” he replied, as sternly and impressively as he could speak.

“Very well. I refuse absolutely,” I said, in quite as firm a tone as his. As a matter of fact, I did not believe in his threat. His object was to get his friends at liberty with the least trouble and in the quickest time, and he was bluffing me.

But if it was only bluff, he made it very realistic. “I shall give you five minutes in which to do what I require, and at the end of that time if you persist in your refusal you shall die. That I declare solemnly on my honour.”

With that he called in a couple of men and ordered them to unfasten my right hand and bind my left arm to my side, and as soon as they had done so, he sent them out again.

“I will tell you what you do not seem to know. The attempt last night on the king has become known, many arrests have been made, and we are all in danger of the same fate. At present the men who have brought you up here do not know the part you have played in betraying them; but when they[276] learn it you know enough of them to judge how they will feel towards you, and what they will be eager to do in revenge. If on my return in five minutes from now those instructions are not written, I shall tell them everything.”

With that he went out, leaving me extremely perplexed and profoundly uncomfortable. Every one knows the trying effect of suspense on one’s nerves; and he had no doubt carefully calculated how it would act upon mine.

Did he mean to make his threat good, or was it a blank cartridge? I did not believe that the attempted abduction had been discovered, and that statement of his threw doubt on everything else. Moreover, he had told and acted lie after lie in the former interview, and had done so cleverly enough to hoodwink me completely.

He had declared on his honour that he was in earnest now, and his manner had been tremendously earnest. But a man who could lie as he had would probably not hold his word of honour much more highly than his word without such a pledge. So I put that aside as a mere touch of play-acting.

As I thought it all over, it seemed to me that he had overplayed his part. If he had meant to shoot me, that reference to his associates founded, as I believed it to be, on a lie about the plot having been discovered, was an unnecessary exaggeration of my danger, intended to appeal to my fears.

Yet, if I were wrong, my shrift was to be a very short one. To form a judgment on a man’s probable motives, when the penalty of a mistake means death, is a very ugly task, and I seemed to have scarcely begun to think when he came back.

I was still sitting on the bed and a glance at the paper showed him it was blank.

“You persist in refusing, then?”

“I haven’t had time to decide.”

[277]“I won’t give you any longer,” he said, very sternly.

“There’s one point you must clear up. About Mademoiselle Dominguez,” I said firmly.

“I will answer you with your own words this morning. It is for me, not you, to impose conditions. But her safety will be secured.”

“Then you can have my decision. As soon as she and I are across the frontier, you can have the letter you want.”

“You mean you will not write it otherwise? I warn you.”

“I mean I will not write it otherwise,” I replied; “I’ll see you hanged first. Do what you will.”

He called in the three men who were waiting at the door, and in a very few words told them the part I had taken on the previous night, and that I intended to betray everything I knew to the authorities.

Before he had half finished there was no question about their verdict. I read it in faces dark and fierce as a cyclone cloud; in the threatening looks from eyes ablaze with wrath; in the execrations hissed and growled between teeth clenched fast in hate, and in the gleam of the half-drawn weapons as the strenuous fingers clutched at them instinctively.

White-hot with passion they were, and possessed with but one common motive and resolve—to defend themselves by exacting the uttermost penalty for my treachery. Jury and judges and executioners in one, Barosa knew how to play upon their feelings, and I saw that I was condemned and sentenced almost as soon as the first words had left his lips.

They were some of those who had been suspicious of me when the “test” of my good faith had been made, one of them being the young fellow who on that night had endeavoured to draw a statement from me by pretending that he had been arrested and had turned informer. He was the most vindictive of them all now; and while Barosa was still speaking,[278] he broke in with a loud fierce oath, and, carried away by his rage, he drew his revolver and fired point-blank at my head.

Barosa saw him and struck up his arm. “Marco!” he thundered. “Are you the sole judge?”

“The dog shall die,” he growled, in a muttered snarl of hate; and the other two scowlingly agreed with fierce and savage oaths.

Barosa turned on them, his eyes snapping with rage. “Do you follow your own lead or mine?”

“He shall die,” said Marco sullenly, and was raising his revolver again when Barosa snatched it from him and flung it to the ground.

All three quailed before his fierce look and masterful assertion of his leadership; and Marco fell back a couple of paces, his gaze at me more vengeful and bitter than before, as if I had been the cause of his humiliation.

I could understand Barosa’s action. With men of this class among his followers his rule must be absolute and inflexible. Independent action, even when amounting to no more than an anticipation of his orders, could only be fraught with danger in such a cause as his; and for his own sake and that of the end he had in view, he was bound to exact literal and implicit obedience.

For a few seconds there was dead silence.

“Well, is it my lead or yours?” he asked them.

There was no longer sign or sound of disobedience.

“Pick up your weapon, Marco.”

The young fellow obeyed and put it back in his pocket.

“Now your decision?” he asked.

“Death,” all three exclaimed together.

“Bind his free hand,” he ordered next.

But I was not going to submit tamely. I sprang to my feet and seized the chair. If I was to die it should be in hot blood, not like a sheep.

[279]“Resistance is useless, Mr. Donnington. You must see that.”

My reply was not in words. I swung the chair up—it was a stout heavy wooden one—and struck at him with all my force. He jumped back and escaped most of the blow, but one of the legs struck him on the side of the head; and then a very hot five minutes followed. I laid the young fellow, Marco, senseless, and gave the other two something to remember me by before the chair was torn out of my grip, and I was seized and my right arm bound to my side and my legs lashed together.

Barosa had kept carefully out of the fight, but as soon as I was helpless he saw that the cords were tied very securely.

“Stand him against the wall there,” he said, indicating a spot at the foot of the bed.

They placed me as directed and then drew back.

He stooped over Marco, who was only stunned for the moment, drew the revolver from his pocket and handed it to one of the men. “You have yours,” he said to the other.

The fellow drew it out with a swift under glance at me, full of sinister thirst for revenge and gloating satisfaction.

Then Barosa looked across at me. “We are all agreed that this is our only course, Mr. Donnington.”

I met his look firmly. “You can murder me if you will, but it will not help you. You know that,” I replied.

“Will you write what I require?”


“Now,” he said sharply to the others.

They looked to see that the revolvers were loaded, glanced at each other and raised them slowly, pointing them at my head and waiting for the word to fire.

“I give you one last chance, Mr. Donnington,” said Barosa.



WHETHER I was really so near death as it appeared when the two pistols were levelled close to my head and the men were waiting for the word to fire, or whether it was no more than a well-played and realistically-staged bluff to frighten me into writing the instructions to Captain Bolton, I have never been able to decide. I think now, it was only pretence from beginning to end; but I believed it was grim earnest then, and that when I answered Barosa’s question with another refusal, I was signing my own death-warrant.

But in the pause before he gave the order to fire there was a sound of rapid footsteps on the stairs, and Inez rushed into the room. With a cry of horror she dashed between me and the levelled weapons.

“What does this mean?” she asked Barosa.

“You can see for yourself,” was the reply.

“You shall not do this in my house. Lower your pistols, you,” she cried to the men.

They looked to Barosa, who hesitated a second, and then signed to them to leave the room.

At that moment the strain told on me. I turned dizzy and weak, and sat, or rather slid, down on to the foot of the bed, and lolled helplessly against the wall.

An angry altercation followed between Inez and Barosa, but I paid no attention to it. I could not; and some minutes passed before I was able to pull my wits together sufficiently to hear what passed.

[281]Barosa was about to leave the room. “The responsibility is yours, not mine,” he was saying. “I tell you that while that man is alive, not one of us is safe. You know how the police are hunting for us. They will come here to a certainty, and then——” and he threw up his hands angrily and went out.

Inez sat down and leaned her head on her hand in thought, and presently turned and looked at me, with a deep despairing sigh.

The interval gave me time to think. It was beginning to dawn upon me that the whole thing was play-acting, and that Inez herself had had her cue to enter for her part in it.

“Mr. Donnington?” she began at length.

I turned very slowly and looked at her. For the present it was evidently my best course to lead her to think that I had no suspicion of the unreality of the proceedings.

“You are ill.”

I gave a feeble smile and wagged my head slowly.

“Can you listen to me?”

“Yes. I—I thank you,” I said, in a half-indistinct mumble, and with a sigh as heavy as hers.

“It is horrible,” she replied with a shudder. “But they shall not do you any harm. If I could get you out of the house I would. Oh, why, why have you done all this?”

“I owe you my life,” I said, inconsequently.

“If I can save you,” she cried. After a pause she jumped up and began to pace the floor excitedly. “You are mad to set Barosa at defiance. You must see the uselessness, the folly of it, the utter madness. The whole city is up in anger against us. We are in hourly danger of discovery, even here in this house. There is nothing left for any of us but flight; and you choose such a moment to drive him to extremes;” and she continued in this half-distracted manner, as if speaking partly to me and partly to herself, and[282] giving me a very vivid picture of their desperate situation.

But it did not agree with what Barosa had said. He had declared that if I gave the order for the officers on the Rampallo to be set at liberty, I was to be set free on their arrival. That meant a delay of nearly two days, and was therefore absolutely inconsistent with Inez’ statement that they were in hourly danger of the police raiding the house.

However, her long excited tirade gave me time to think things out; and when at last she ended with an appeal to me to write what Barosa required, I had decided how to reply.

“You ask me to have these men set at liberty, contesse; but if I were to do so, what object would be gained, as everything has been discovered?”

“They are our friends and we must save them. Their ruin will not help you.”

“Miralda is my friend, and I must save her.”

“But you will not help her by destroying them.”

“Why is Miralda kept a prisoner here?”

“She is not a prisoner, Mr. Donnington.”

“But she was not allowed to leave the house this morning.”

“Because after she had seen you we learnt other facts about her danger. She is not a prisoner, and she stayed because it was not safe for her to leave the house. That is all. You persuaded her to consent, but when I saw her afterwards she realized her mistake in having given you the promise. She will tell you so herself. She is as anxious as I am that you should do what Dr. Barosa requires.”

This was all part of her parrot-like lesson, of course, but it was no use to tell her that I knew that. So I tried another tack. “Do you know Major Sampayo’s history?”

“What has that to do with this?” she asked in surprise.

[283]“A great deal, as I will show you. Do you know it?”

“No, except that——”

“Anything about his South African career, I mean?” I broke in.

“No,” she replied, shaking her head.

“Then I’ll tell you.” And I told her enough to let her understand why he went in such fear of me. “That is the secret of Barosa’s hold over him,” I added.

“Why do you tell me this, and at such a time?” she asked suspiciously.

“Three days ago Sampayo offered to take any oath I pleased that he would never marry Miralda; and this morning on the Rampallo he told me he had all but gone on his knees to Barosa, to induce him to set Miralda free from all this, in order that I might be induced to leave the country.”

She began to understand me now. The catch of the breath, the dilating nostrils, the quick movement of the head, and the involuntary gripping of the hands, were signs as easy to read as print.

“Within the last hour or two, here in this room, I offered to write all that he needs if Miralda and I were put across the frontier. He refused. I asked myself—why? I ask you the same question?”

In the pause she sat gnawing her lip; her bosom rose and fell quickly under the strain of her quickened breathing; her colour began to wane; her brows were drawn together in a frown, and the pupils of those curious eyes of hers dilated as if her pent-up feeling had acted upon them like atropine. “Why do you tell me this?” she repeated, her voice down almost to a whisper.

“This morning Sampayo swore to me that his betrothal to Miralda was a sham and a pretence, never intended to culminate in marriage, but only meant to cover another man’s plans and passion.”

[284]“Why do you tell me this?” she asked, for the third time.

“Because Manoel Barosa is the man you love.”

She winced as if I had struck her in the face, and for a few seconds sat speechless and overwrought. Then with a great effort she mastered her emotion and laughed. “It is all false, all ridiculous, all laughable.”

“Then why will he not let Miralda go?”

“I have told you we are not preventing her.”

“Ah, stop that pretence. If you will not answer that question to me, answer it to yourself.”

But she had regained her self-command, and concealed all sign of the jealousy I knew I had roused. “She shall come to you herself and tell you that what I say is true,” she said. She went to the door, paused, and then turned. “You have done yourself an ill turn by this. Until now I have been your friend,” she said, clipping her words short in her anger; and with that she went out.

I cared nothing for her anger. I knew that I had started a fire which would soon rage furiously enough to burn up Barosa’s scheme in regard to Miralda. The question I had told Inez to put to herself was one to which the roused devil of her jealousy would soon supply the answer; and when it was answered, Barosa would have his hands full in looking after himself.

Moreover, I was now all but convinced that the whole show of force had been nothing more than an ingenious and well-acted bluff. Barosa had realized that without my help he could not get Gompez and his companions set at liberty, and it was quite probable that he had been to Captain Bolton. I smiled as I thought of the reception he would meet with from the old skipper.

As his dramatic show of force and Inez’ appeal following her aptly-timed rescue, had both failed,[285] the next move was to send Miralda. But it was very long before she came, and the afternoon began to wane. I watched the fading light with eyes greedy for the darkness, for I knew that I might then look for some results of Bryant’s action.

I was suffering considerable pain now. The cords which bound my arms to my sides had been so tightly drawn that all the blood in my body was congested, and I tossed and turned on the bed in vain efforts to find relief from the pressure.

All my own worries were forgotten, however, when Miralda came, and I struggled up into a sitting posture and greeted her with a smile, as she crossed the room.

Her face was very pale and careworn, her manner nervous and hesitating, and her eyes very troubled. She had no smile in answer to mine.

“Inez tells me that you believe I am a prisoner here, Mr. Donnington. I have come to assure you that is not so. I did not return to you this morning because I found it would be useless for me to attempt to leave.”

She said this nervously in a sort of monotone, and with the air of one repeating a lesson and afraid of forgetting the lines. The very tone contradicted every syllable; and as she finished, she whispered hurriedly in English: “Caution.”

I understood the position instantly and played up to it. “I told you there was no danger. You might have trusted me,” I replied aloud in a tone of reproach; and then with a glance toward the door which she had left wide open, I whispered in English: “Listening?”

She nodded quickly, and said in her own tongue: “You did not know. You could not know. Everything about last night has been discovered, and the city is being ransacked to find us.”

“Not a bit of it. I am sure that nothing is yet known of the failure. This is said to frighten you;”[286] and again I whispered quickly in English: “Are you a prisoner?”

Again she answered with a quick significant nod, as she went on with her lesson. “I have come to beg of you to do what Dr. Barosa wishes. Inez says you are refusing because you think you can help me. But you can help me much better by doing this. I beg you with all my heart not to refuse any longer.”

She was now able to speak with a much greater appearance of sincerity and earnestness; and as she finished this last appeal she whispered in English: “Don’t do it.”

“You say I can help you better by freeing these men. Prove that to me, or let others prove it. Do you know that Dr. Barosa has told me that even if I yield to him I am to be taken from here on board a vessel sailing straight for England? How is that to help you?” and I laughed incredulously.

Under cover of the sound of my laugh she whispered “Brazil, not England,” and then added, with a well-acted note of concern in her voice: “You are placing me in danger from some of these desperate men who believe that I am in league with you to betray them.”

“But that cannot be so. No one knows that I told you anything about the position of things on the Rampallo,” and I questioned her with my eyes.

“I tell you you will ruin me if you persist in refusing, Mr. Donnington,” and added under her breath: “We were overheard.”

“I can’t believe that. These people are merely seeking to frighten you. Of course if I thought you were really in danger the thing would be altogether different,” and again my eyes questioned her.

She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “How can I prove it to you? I am. I know that. Even Dr. Barosa is alarmed, lest he may not be able to protect me from their violence.”

[287]“But he has already arranged for your escape and your mother’s.”

She shook her head again meaningly. “These men have made that impossible to-day. We were prevented when everything was ready.”

Once more the silent question from me, answered by the significant shake of her head, told me the real truth beneath her words.

“But what you say only confirms my opinion—that by doing what is asked I should not help you,” I said.

Her eyes signalled assent, but her lips uttered a quite emotional protest. “Is my safety nothing to you, then? If I beg and implore you to do what I have asked; if I tell you, as I do, that my liberty, and probably my life, depend upon your decision, is this all nothing to you?”

Her look explained the double meaning of her words. She believed that not only my safety, but her own, depended upon my doing what she had asked—but asked not in words, but by her looks and whispered English asides.

“You distress me more than I can say,” I replied, adopting a similar equivocation. “If it were possible I would tell you precisely how I feel.”

“You appear to think you can set these men at defiance with impunity, and that they will not harm you or me so long as you refuse!” A swift interchange of glances told me that this was actually her belief. Then she added with passion: “How can you be so infatuated, so mad, so reckless? You will pay for refusal with your life.” Once more the significant gesture of the head denied the truth of her words.

“What you have said has moved me deeply. Heaven knows, I have no thought in all this but to save you from harm. I must make you understand that. I have already told Dr. Barosa that if he will[288] put you and me across the frontier, I will do what he asks and keep silent about everything. In that way your safety would be assured. But he refused, believing that he can force me to agree to his terms. He cannot. I have so arranged that even if he took my life—as indeed he all but did to-day—he cannot tear his companions from my grip, and will have to answer for my murder in addition to these other charges. There are two beside myself who know everything about last night’s attempt—they helped me in it—and they will hand over the prisoners I took. Aye, and more than that. They know of his hatred of me; and should anything happen to me they will not rest until they have hunted him down and avenged me. No; it is useless to plead longer,” I exclaimed, as if she had been going to do so, while in fact she had listened with mounting interest and pleasure to every word.

“But I must,” she broke in, taking the cue readily. “I beg——”

“I cannot listen to you. I have stated my terms. The moment you are out of the country, or on my yacht and in safety, I will do what is wanted; but until then neither entreaties nor threats shall make me yield.”

She gave me a last bright glance of encouragement, her heart in her eyes, and then burying her face in her hands she cried despairingly: “You do not care, you do not care. You will ruin us all in your madness;” and as if overwhelmed by her emotions, she rushed out of the room.



THE interview with Miralda left me in better spirits than I had been at any moment since my imprisonment. She had confirmed my own view that my life was safe so long as I refused to release Gompez and his companions, and had assured me that she herself was in no serious or immediate danger.

But best of all she had given me another proof of her trust. A fresh bond was created between us and the old one cemented more firmly than ever. Despite the fact that those who had sent her to induce me to yield were actually listening to every word that passed, she had contrived to let me know the real truth of the position.

I could understand the pressure which had been applied to force her to come on such an errand. Her manner when she entered and uttered the first lines of the part in which she had been carefully drilled had revealed her feelings; and the nervous, quickly whispered word of warning told me why she had yielded.

She knew the risk she was running should her act be discovered, but she had faced it unflinchingly for my sake, resolved to put me on my guard let the consequences be what they might to her. Barosa and Inez had little dreamt that the trick of forcing her to try and mislead me would result in the strengthening of my resistance! And it was Miralda’s own shrewdness and care for me which had brought it all about.

[290]The thought was infinitely sweet; and all the discomfort and pain I was enduring were forgotten in the delightful contemplation of Miralda’s courage and zeal for me.

The discomfort would soon be over now, moreover. Many hours had passed since Bryant saw me enter the house, and I was certain that he was now at work to secure my liberation.

If I had not been blinded in the morning by my alarm for Miralda I should have taken the precaution to tell him what steps to take. But I had not thought there would be any danger in Inez’ house. I ought to have foreseen that she would send for Barosa, and have given Bryant definite instructions what to do if I did not return to him.

What was he likely to do? He would keep a watch on the house of course. He would thus see Barosa arrive, and probably also the men who must have been sent for afterwards. I read the thing in this way. Inez had sent word to him almost as soon as I was in the house. He had come at once and then had probably sent Miralda to me in order to overhear what passed between us.

Recognizing the danger, he had then sent for such of his companions as he could thoroughly trust and had laid the trap into which I had fallen. But he saw that unless he could get the men on the Rampallo free, I still held the key to the situation. He had tried first to trick me with that pretence of submission, and when that had failed, he had fallen back on threats, carrying the threat to the very extreme limit in the hope that I should yield when death appeared the inevitable alternative.

Then, threats having failed, he resorted again to cunning. Inez rushed in and saved my life, and then Miralda had been sent again.

When Bryant saw first Barosa and then the men arrive, he would be shrewd enough to understand[291] that I was in danger. In an hour or two he would be in a parlous fix what to do. Unwilling to leave the house, lest I should be brought out of it, he would have to devise some way of getting it watched; and it was an easy guess that he would solve the difficulty by finding a messenger of some kind to carry word to the men on the launch to fetch the skipper.

The question they had to settle was whether they would enter the house themselves or put the police on the track. The skipper would be for doing it themselves—that was his blunt way; but Bryant’s was a much more cautious nature, and he was far more likely to make up some yarn and set the police to work.

All this would occupy a lot of time, but I felt certain that the night would still be young when they would act.

I lay back on my mattress no longer fretting and chafing at the slow passage of time. I had ample food for thought. I pieced together these speculative doings of Bryant in the intervals of giving rein to the fresh hopes and new delights engendered by my interview with Miralda. I recalled word by word all she had said, treasuring her little asides, her significant glances, her changes of tone and manner, as jewels whose every facet reflected her trust, her courage, and above all her care for me.

I was confident now of success, and it was she who had given me confidence. As the darkness deepened I rejoiced. Each minute was bringing nearer our delivery and reunion.

Some long time after she had left me—perhaps an hour or perhaps two hours, I had no means of reckoning the time, but it had long been quite dark—I heard footsteps approaching the room; and I guessed the curtain was to go up for the next scene.

Barosa and Inez entered together. He carried a lamp, and I could see by its light that the faces[292] of both were very pale. He set the lamp down on the little table and then bent over me.

“Mr. Donnington!” he said. His voice was low and slightly husky, either from suppressed passion or anxiety.

I made no reply, and when he repeated my name and shook me I moaned as if in great pain. There was little enough pretence about it indeed, for the tightness of my bonds was causing acute suffering.

I rolled my eyes upon him, uttered another moan, shook my head feebly, and then closed my eyes.

“He is almost unconscious, Manoel,” said Inez.

I read that use of his name to mean much. She had been asking herself the question I had suggested—about the real reason for detaining Miralda—and finding it unanswerable had passed it on to him.

“Mr. Donnington!” he said again angrily.

It was my object to waste time, of course; so I took no notice except to sigh heavily, open my eyes again and close them instantly as if the effort tried my strength.

“You are not so bad as all that,” he said, and shook me again very roughly. When this had no effect, he felt my pulse, and in doing so put a finger under the rope which bound my left hand.

“See how swollen the hands are, Manoel,” said Inez, holding the lamp close to me. “It must be torture.”

But Barosa knew better than to be taken in by my malingering. “He can speak well enough as he is if he pleases. Mr. Donnington, we have come to set you at liberty.”

Then why didn’t he do it, was my natural thought. But I went through another little pantomime. I showed slightly more strength this time, as if invigorated by the news, but sank back again exhausted.

“He is only shamming, curse him,” muttered Barosa.

[293]“These cords are cruelly tight, Manoel. Ease them, and see the effect. I’ll go and fetch some brandy.”

She went away and Barosa began to unfasten the knots. He was very suspicious and went to work cautiously. But he need not have feared. The instant the cords were released and the stagnant blood began to course again through the veins, I was not only helpless but in positive agony, from my aching head to my throbbing feet.

Inez had been back some time before I could bear to move and when I strove to sit up in order to take the spirit she had fetched, I fell back like a log, sick, dizzy and as helpless as a new-born babe. Barosa held me up while she poured a little brandy between my chattering teeth.

The pain subsided slowly and the brandy stimulated me, and after a long interval—I made it long enough to try Barosa’s patience sorely—I struggled to a sitting posture.

“What is this you have told Contesse Inglesia?” he asked.

I passed my hand across my forehead and stared at him vacantly.

“You know well enough what I mean. Repeat it to me.”

“What about?” I muttered.

“About Mademoiselle Dominguez. Some lie Major Sampayo is said to have told you.”

I looked from him to Inez, and met her eyes fixed upon me intently. “Tell me,” I said to her.

“What Major Sampayo said about the reason why Miralda was betrothed to him.”

I turned slowly to Barosa. “If the contesse has told you, why bother me about it?”

“Repeat it,” he said sternly.

I shook my head. “You know already.”

“Repeat it,” he cried again furiously. “And then admit you lied.”

[294]“I do not lie,” I answered and turned again to Inez. “So you have asked that question?”

“Repeat it, I say,” he thundered. “If you dare.”

“Oh, I dare. Sampayo told me that you had him at your mercy because you found out the facts about his South African doings and threatened to expose him. I had the same knowledge with an addition which frightened him even more. He said that you had forced this betrothal, but that it was only a sham and that you did not mean him to marry Miralda because you yourself loved her.”

Out came a storm of oaths and denial, with fierce and passionate threats against Sampayo for having coined the lie and against me for having dared to repeat it.

Inez was scarcely less moved; and from what passed it was clear that there had been a very warm quarrel between them before they had come up to me. I learnt that she had threatened to sacrifice everything and go straight to M. Volheno.

It was a long time before I could get a word in, and then I brought them back to the real point. “Sampayo told me that after my interview with him he begged you to get rid of me by doing what I wanted—freeing Miralda from all this trouble. But you refused and tried to get rid of me in another way—by inciting Henriques to murder me.”

“It is a lie, a lie. It is all lies,” he exclaimed furiously.

“Well then, why have you kept Miralda in the toils? If Sampayo lied, what is the truth?”

That roused Inez again, and another altercation followed, fiercer even and more prolonged than the first. He had evidently tried to answer the question with fifty subtle pretexts, but Inez was jealous and knew too much not to be able to see that there was no reason except the true one.

[295]In their anger they let out other valuable facts. The plot to abduct the king had not been discovered, and Miralda had been prevented from flying on the pretext that no discovery was likely to be made and that she would be wanted for the next scheme which might be hatched. My arrival with the news that I could reveal the whole conspiracy and meant to do so had cut even this ground from under Barosa’s feet, and then my repetition to Inez of Sampayo’s story had completed his discomfiture.

I was delighted to find that Inez was now as anxious as I was that Miralda should fly the country; and instead of making her my enemy, as she had declared, she was resolved that I should take Miralda away.

Barosa was equally determined that I should do nothing of the kind, and hence the bitterness of both and the impasse to which matters were brought.

Another result of the quarrel was that it gave me time to recover my strength, and as that increased, I began to see whether I could not take advantage of the position to escape. I was more than a match for Barosa even after my experiences in that room. It was probable that he had a revolver on him, and if I could get that, I could soon put a different complexion on matters.

But he and Inez had crossed to the other end of the room, she had closed the door lest the sound of their angry voices should be heard by others in the house; and I could not get to him, however quick my rush, before he would have time to draw his weapon.

In his present frenzy he would shoot me the instant he drew, and things were going too favourably for me to take that risk.

I waited therefore in the hope that he would return to my end of the room and give me the chance I sought.

But before I had such a chance, some one knocked hurriedly at the door and Marco rushed in.

[296]“I must speak to you at once,” he said excitedly to Barosa, and the two men went out together.

Inez was literally convulsed with jealous rage. Her face was white, her features drawn and haggard, her hands fiercely clenched, and she was shaking from head to foot. As the two men went out, she watched Barosa, her strange eyes gleaming like those of a tigress watching her prey. And when the door closed behind them, she crossed to me, her hand pressed tightly to her heart.

“Get Miralda from this house or I will not answer for myself,” she said, her lips shivering and her voice low and hoarse with passion.

I threw up my hands with a gesture of helplessness.

With fingers that shook so violently that she could scarcely command them, she tore open the bosom of her dress, took out a revolver and thrust it into my hands.

“Wait here a few minutes until I return. She shall be ready to go,” she whispered and then turned to the door.

“Inez! Quick. For God’s sake!” cried Barosa; and the next moment I was alone again.

I rose and paced the room to shake off the lingering effects of the cramp caused by the cords. My legs were still stiff, but a few turns across the room put me all right.

Presently I opened the door and stood listening for Inez’ return. Although I was within a few minutes of complete success, I was in a fever of impatience.

There was no sound anywhere in the house, and it was all dark. I fetched the lamp from my room and went to the stairhead.

Was it after all nothing but some fresh ruse?

I examined the revolver Inez had given me. It was loaded.

I was mystified.

I began to descend the stairs, but paused.

[297]If I carried a light I should be an easy mark for any one having a fancy to make a target of my body.

Setting the lamp down I felt my way by the balustrade and crept down in the dark, careful to make as little noise as possible and halting every now and again to listen.

In this way I descended two storeys, and tried in vain to remember how many flights I had been carried up, that I might know on which floor I stood.

Feeling in my pockets I found my matches and was about to strike one when I heard a footstep followed by a smothered exclamation, as if some one had stumbled in the dark. The sound came from some distance below.

Instinctively I shrank back against the wall and stood holding my breath and listening intently.

All was as still as a vault.

My eyes had now grown sufficiently accustomed to the dark to enable me to make out that I was on a wide landing on to which several rooms opened. I felt my way round and listened cautiously at each. Not a sound. Two of the doors were ajar, but each of the rooms was in darkness.

I hesitated when I reached the stairs again what to do. That stumbling footstep below had been full of unpleasant suggestion. But it was useless to stop where I was, so I continued my descent, more cautiously and slowly than before.

When I reached the next floor I paused again, waiting a long time and straining my ears for some clue to the baffling situation. Not hearing a sound, I again made a circuit of the landing, feeling my way by the wall. There were three doors here, and each was ajar, and all three rooms in darkness.

Feeling my way back to the stairs, I stumbled against a low pedestal placed at some little distance from the wall. There was a large plant on it and in preventing it from falling, the leaves shook with a[298] rustling noise almost disconcerting in the dead stillness of the house.

I crouched as still as a statue behind it, listening and holding my breath again. Then I heard other rustling with a curiously regular beat or infinitesimal throbbing. For a long time this puzzled me; until at length I discovered that the throbbing was that of my own heart and the rustling due to the movement of my coat lapel against the stiff edge of my collar.

I crept on then to the stairs and descended, still using the same caution. I reached the bottom. I was now in the hall. The feel of the marble under my foot told me this.

I remembered the direction of the front door and turned toward it.

But I had not taken two steps in its direction before I was seized, a hand was pressed on my mouth before I could utter a sound, and my hands were wrenched back violently and pinioned behind me.



MY first thought when I was seized so suddenly in the darkness was that a fresh trap had been laid for me and that I had blundered into it; and that all the fierce wrangling between Inez and Barosa in my presence had been mere pretence, to lead up to her saying what she had about my leaving the house with Miralda.

But why all that trouble had been taken when I was already in their power and, above and beyond all, why she should have given me a loaded revolver, was utterly baffling.

I had not more than a minute or two to worry over that, however, for my captors dragged me in silence to a room close by, which, like the rest of the house, was in darkness.

“Don’t speak above a whisper,” said one of them fiercely, putting his lips close to my ear.

An electric lamp was flashed in my face and the sudden light set me blinking and winking like an owl.

“Do you know him?” asked a voice out of the darkness.

A murmur of dissent from the rest followed.

“Where are the rest of you?” was the first question asked of me.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I replied after a pause.

“Answer my question at once.”

I was at my wits’ end to know what line to take. I[300] had had such dramatic proof of Barosa’s methods of testing my good faith, that the suspicion flashed across me that this was just another of them. He and Inez might have patched up their quarrel—if it had been one in reality—and he might have devised this means of seeing whether I meant to keep my promise of silence, before he allowed Miralda to leave the house with me.

My hesitation appeared to provoke the man who had put the question. “Answer at once, you dog,” he said. But whether his anger was real or assumed, I could not tell.

“There is some mistake——” I began.

“You’ll find that out if you don’t answer at once,” he broke in.

“I am an Englishman, Ralph Donnington, and have been kept a prisoner in this house since this morning.”

“Answer me instantly,” he repeated with an oath.

“I have given you the only answer I can.”

The lamp was directed at my face the whole time—the only gleam of light in the whole room. And to me everything was, of course, just one huge blur of utter darkness.

“You refuse to tell me? You will repent it, I warn you.”

“I have answered,” I said again.

“You say you were a prisoner?”


“When did you come to the house?”

“This morning. I came here from my yacht, the Stella. She is in the river now.”

“Who made you a prisoner, and why?”

To answer that involved the telling of all I knew. And whether this was sham or reality, it meant danger to Miralda. “You may be sure I mean to find that out,” I said, fencing.

A pause followed and I heard some whispering. Then the man’s former question was repeated. “You say you were a prisoner?”


“A prisoner at liberty to roam about the house armed with a loaded revolver? Is that what you mean?”

“Some little time ago a woman came to me—I was locked in a room at the top of the house—and gave me the revolver and told me I could leave.”

This was the truth; but it sounded like a preposterous lie—as the truth sometimes will.

“And that was just at the moment when you were all hurry-scurrying for your lives on our arrival. Of course you don’t know who the woman was, any more than why you came sneaking down the stairs in the pitch darkness with her revolver ready to put a bullet into any one who prevented your escape.”

“What I tell you is absolutely true. I was trying to get away, of course, and came down in the dark fearing some trick on the part of those who had imprisoned me.”

“You know whose house this is?”

“Oh, yes. The Contesse Inglesia’s.”

“Oh come, you know something,” he sneered. “I suppose she is a friend of yours—just in a social way?”

“I was presented to her at the house of the Marquis de Pinsara just after my arrival in Lisbon. I came to Lisbon on a mission of considerable importance in which the Marquis and others of his friends are greatly interested.”

“Do you include His Majesty the King in your circle of friends?”

I disregarded the sneer and replied gravely, “No, but I can give you a list of those who are interested in my affairs;” and beginning with M. Volheno, I rattled off a number of names. It was no good having well-placed acquaintances without making some use of them.

“You are an impudent scoundrel,” was the hot reply. “Why did you come to this house to-day?”

[302]“On matters closely connected with my object here in Lisbon.” This was, of course, my real object—Miralda—but it was not necessary to split hairs or trouble with too much explanation.

“Whom have you seen here?”

“The Contesse Inglesia and the woman who gave me the revolver.”

“No one else?”

“I should not identify any one else.” This was very close to a direct lie; and as I had no intention of either telling what I knew or of committing myself to a direct denial, until I was certain about the nature of the whole proceedings, I added: “I have said that I am an Englishman. I have given you my name and have told you I am a friend of M. Volheno, amongst others. You do not believe what I say, and I claim my right as a British subject to communicate with my country’s representatives here in the capital. Let me send to them or yourselves send to M. Volheno. I shall not answer any more questions.”

“Tell me at once where to find the rest of your companions,” he said very sternly.

“I know no more than yourself. I have no other answer to give.” I spoke very firmly and half expected that my experience of the former test would be repeated and that the men would be satisfied.

But nothing of the kind followed. After a pause the light was suddenly put out, a whispered command was given, and I was hurried out of the room and then out of the house, dragged with no little violence into a carriage and driven away.

This might still be part of a drastic test, of course; so I held my tongue and let them take me where they would. As I left the house I glanced about me in the hope of catching sight of Bryant; and was considerably troubled when I could not see him.

But I was soon to learn that it was no mere test. The carriage pulled up before a gloomy building and I[303] was half led, half dragged inside, where I was confronted by a number of men in police uniform. I was searched and everything taken from me; my name was entered; and without more ado I was led away to be thrust into an unmistakable prison cell with other equally unmistakable prisoners.

The experiences of that night live as an ineffaceable memory—worse than any nightmare horrors; worse than one’s worst imaginings of any nether world.

The cell was a large one in which perhaps twenty or thirty could have been confined without any undue crowding. There were more than that number already there when I was thrust inside; and many others were brought in afterwards, men and women indiscriminately, until we must have numbered over sixty altogether.

Had all been approximately clean or approximately sober, the air would still have been too foul to breathe and we should have been too crowded to move without shouldering one another. By the exercise of strict discipline and mutual arrangement and forbearance, it would have been possible, by taking turns, for some to have slept while the rest huddled together.

But there was neither cleanliness nor discipline. Most of the men and some of the women were of the scum of the gutter; filthy beyond description and evil-smelling to the point of nausea—the incarnation of all that is offensive and abominable in humanity. And to add to the horror, many of the men were in different stages of drunkenness—hilarious, quarrelsome, brutal or obscene, according as the drink developed their natural or unnatural temperaments. But all were noisy and equally loathsome.

Some dozen of the men and most of the women—of whom there were about fifteen—were of a better class. But two or three of the women were too hysterical from fear to be capable of anything approaching[304] self-command. Their cries and moans of anguish were heartrending; and their occasional piercing screams and vehement outbursts of sobbing, not only added to the general din and racket, but provoked the anger of the drunkards and drew from them a flood of obscenity and abuse.

Wherever a dozen women are brought together in trouble, however, you may confidently look for at least one “ministering angel” among them. There were two in that awful den that night. In appearance they afforded the extremes of contrast. One was a tall buxom woman in the forties with a hard forbidding-looking face, but with a heart as stout as her big body and courage as strong as her bared brawny arms. The other was a pale frail slip of a girl who looked as if a breath of wind would have knocked her down; and it was an act of hers which brought matters to a crisis.

On my entrance two or three fights were in progress, and as I had no wish except to avoid trouble, if possible, I pushed my way to a corner near one of the small barred windows, and stood leaning against the wall, watching the unruly crowd in dismay at the prospect of a night to be passed in such company and in such utterly foul surroundings.

Whenever the door was opened and fresh prisoners were thrust in, their entrance was hailed by raucous shouts of welcome or hoarse oaths and jeers of anger according to the feelings which the newcomers’ looks inspired. Those who were known favourably were hailed by their names, while others were received with yells and curses and immediately seized and buffeted and kicked and mauled, dragged hither and thither like a big bone by a pack of yelping curs, until bruised, battered and half-dead with fear, they found rest and obscurity in a corner; or until some new arrival distracted the attention of their persecutors.

I had been watching one of these affairs when I[305] turned to find the girl I have mentioned at my side. Her fragile form and pale face moved my pity, and I made way so that she could stand just under the window. She thanked me with a smile, and we stood thus for a long time, exchanging an occasional glance.

Later on, one of the noisiest of the hysterical women drifted our way and the girl instantly left her place and began to try and comfort the woman. There must have been magnetism in her touch and eyes, for the effect was remarkable. The other’s cries ceased and her sobbing subsided, and she soon regained a measure of composure.

She was a good-looking woman and her face attracted the attention of a drunken brute of a bully who shouldered his way up and with a coarse oath tried to put his arm round her waist to kiss her. Without a second’s consideration of her own risk, the girl thrust herself in his way and pushed him back with all her little strength, and stood guarding the woman like a young lioness at bay.

The beast swore viciously, glared at her and raised his hand for a blow; then his look changed, his eyes blazed with animal passion and he tried to seize her, swearing he would kiss her instead of the woman.

I shouldered my way to her rescue, but before I could reach her, the big woman intervened. She grabbed the brute from behind and dragged him off, with a voluble torrent of language which, “ministering angel” as she afterwards proved, had very little of the minister and nothing of the angel in it.

The drunken bully, powerful though he was, had much difficulty in shaking her off, and by the time he had succeeded, I had reached the girl and stood in front of her. Finding a man to deal with and one much slighter than himself, he elbowed himself clear of the throng round him and prepared to knock me into the next world. But I knew how to use my fists and he[306] did not; and as he struck at me I easily parried the blow and gave him an undercut on the jaw which sent him staggering back, a very much surprised bully indeed.

A fight being a welcome recreation for the prisoners, we were immediately surrounded by a yelling, oathing crowd, and a sufficient space was cleared for us to settle matters. It is no credit to batter a half-drunken man, and I would gladly have avoided the thing if it had been possible. But it was not. My antagonist was regarded as a sort of champion by those who knew him; and as they were anxious to see me mauled, they hounded him on with shouts and cheers of encouragement. Five minutes finished it; and established a reputation for me which proved of infinite value for the rest of that terrible night.

His friends led him away to the other end of the place; and when I turned to go back to my corner, I found that the girl and her big companion had taken possession of it for the benefit of the other women. They had cleared a sufficient space to enable the women to lie down; and by some magic of womanhood had comforted and soothed them until comparative quiet had been restored.

Nor was that all. Such of the men as were sober and decent had drifted to our end and stood in line as a guard over the women. A space of very few feet divided us from the rowdies; and as they still persisted in keeping up a racket, I determined to use the authority with which my victory had invested me, to try and stop some of the din.

I picked out three of the strongest men near me, told them what I meant to do, and asked their help. We were, of course, heavily handicapped in numbers; but we were sober and capable of concerted action, whereas the others were mostly drunk and at loggerheads even with one another.

Four of us crossed the dividing line and without a[307] word seized four of the noisiest of the crowd, dragged them from the midst of the throng, shook and cuffed them soundly, and then ordered them to stop their yelling and oathing.

They slunk off cowed and beaten; but a number of the others broke out with volleys of curses and threats and showed fight. At this, the other men from my corner came forward, and the manœuvre was repeated on a larger scale. This time I took care to punish my man severely; and when we shoved them reeling away and looked for fresh ones, we looked in vain.

They all backed away, huddled together like sheep frightened by the dogs; and for the rest of the night there was no recurrence of the row. We went back to our side and resumed guard over the women; half our number crouched on the ground and the rest of us did sentry work.

The rowdies across the dividing line gave very little trouble after that. There were occasional wranglings among themselves, as they fought for room to crouch or lie down, or struggled for space to breathe; but they had had their lesson and were careful not to provoke another attack from us.

Many of them were soon fast in drunken sleep, as their stertorous breathing and loud snoring evidenced. But contrasted with the din and racket in the past hours, this was comparative peace and silence.

How any one could sleep under such conditions baffled me. The reek and noisome stench of the place were appalling; and although I stood as near as I could get to one of the windows, I was almost suffocated and felt sick, stifled, and overpowered.

The women also slept, all but the two who watched over them and tended them with the care and vigilance of tender-hearted womanhood. The endurance of the young girl was as wonderful as her staunch courage and her magnetic handling of her troubled sisters.[308] She even outlasted the big brawny woman who fell asleep soon after the dawn broke. The light struggled through the windows, and the abject wretchedness and squalor of the scene were infinitely more depressing and horrible in the light than they had seemed in the feeble rays of the gas jets.

Only once did she show even a sign of breaking down. That was about two hours after the dawn when she was near me and I asked her why she was a prisoner and spoke in praise of her conduct.

She told me that she was a political prisoner, and that her real name was Pia Rosada, but she had been arrested in a different one. She was a keen revolutionary, goaded into rebellion by the ill-treatment of her relatives. She was only a suspect; but she knew much and looked forward to some kind of torture being employed to force her to turn informer. “They may do what they will, I shall tell nothing,” she said, her eyes lighting with resolution and dauntless courage—a martyr in the making.

“I am sorry for you,” I murmured.

“I would die a hundred deaths first,” she answered. Then her look changed. Her clear gaze was troubled and she glanced round at the women. “Do you think we have no cause to revolt? Look at these poor creatures;” and her eyes filled with tears. But she dashed them away. “We cannot afford the luxury of tears,” she said hurriedly, and slipped from me to go to one of her charges who woke and sat up and began to weep. In a minute she was soothed and comforted by the touch of those wonderful hands, the glance of the magnetic eyes, and the soft whisper of the sweet calming voice.

My thoughts flew to Miralda, and with a shudder of fear I pictured her in the midst of such a scene of abomination and desolate misery.

Death was a million times preferable to existence in such a hell of life as this!



I  WAS not without apprehension that, as soon as the drunkards and rowdies woke up, there would be some renewal of the night’s disturbances, with trouble to follow for the women and for us who had kept watch over them.

But the anticipation was unfounded. The men were too ill to make trouble. The fearful atmosphere they had breathed, combined with the effects of their intoxication, had sapped alike their strength and their energy. Listless, sick both in mind and body, crushed in spirit and utterly downcast, they kept apart from us and huddled together in a compact companionship of weary, lifeless, dejected wretchedness.

Several of those at our end of the prison, men and women alike, were in much the same condition. Daylight appeared to add to their sufferings, instead of diminishing it. In the dim gas light they had been spared the sight of the other’s condition; but it was revealed to them now and made them the more conscious of their own evil plight. The pestilential atmosphere had also enfeebled them; and the frail little Pia and her strong helpmate were hard put to it to keep them from giving way. Many of them fainted, gasping piteously for air; and Pia asked me to get the men to help in holding one or two of them up to the windows that they might breathe fresh air in place of the pestilence-laden atmosphere of the gaol.

[310]The men agreed readily, although themselves greatly weakened by the night’s experiences, and I had just laid down one woman whom a companion had helped me to revive in this way, when he began to speak of Pia; praising her courage, her endurance and her resource.

“She is a little heroine and will be missed by our friends,” he said, when I echoed his praises warmly. “I hope they can prove nothing against her. How long have you known her?”

“I saw her for the first time here.”

“She is heart and soul in our cause and one of the staunchest workers and the bravest.”

“What cause is yours, my friend?”

“You are right to be cautious; but my cause is yours, and yours mine.”

At this moment Pia touched me on the arm. “Will you come and look at this poor soul here?” she asked; and as I turned and we bent over a woman who had fainted, she whispered hurriedly: “That man is a spy. Be careful what you say to him.”

I was astounded. It seemed incredible that any money, any reward however lavish, could induce a man to face the horrors of such an inferno as that gaol.

“Can you lift her to the window?” asked Pia, seeing my look of incredulity; and she whispered: “It is true. I know. Be very careful.”

The man helped me hold the unconscious woman to the air; and when we set her down somewhat revived, he was at me again, seeking to draw some compromising admissions from me in response to his own violent abuse of the Government.

“You are mistaken about me and should not speak so unguardedly to a stranger even in this place,” I answered.

“I should not had I not seen how you sympathize with our friends here. It is true we have not met before, and in that sense we are strangers; but a fellowship[311] of suffering in our common cause makes us all friends—aye, and more than friends.”

“What I have done has been done for motives of mere humanity.”

“But they recognize a leader in you—and I proclaim myself as devoted a follower as any of them.”

“I am no leader of any cause, man. I am an Englishman; my name is Donnington; and I have been brought here through the blundering of the police.”

“They are devils,” he exclaimed vehemently, and then tried to lead me into joining in his abuse of them. But little Pia had put me on my guard, and after a time he abandoned his efforts and fastened on to another man, with results I was delighted to see.

The man listened for a while and presently, taking offence at something which the spy said, answered hotly; the spy lost his temper and let fall a remark which others beside the man he was pumping resented. They closed round him and first thrashed him soundly and then knocked him across to the other group. The latter glad to get hold of one of us grabbed hold of him, and venting on his cowardly body all the rage they dared not vent on us, they beat and kicked and mauled him unmercifully, until his screams for help attracted the attention of the warders and they entered and dragged him away.

Knowing that he would seek revenge by lying about us, I got from Pia all the names of the men who had stood by me during the night, so that when I was out of my own troubles, I might tell Volheno what had really occurred.

Soon after that the door was thrown open and several officials entered. They made a careful note of the unusual division of the prisoners into the two groups, and at once ordered the removal of those with whom we had had the trouble.

While this was going on I went up to the chief official and told him my name and asked for food for myself[312] and those remaining. I was famished and parched with thirst. I had not had even a crust of bread for twenty-four hours and only the sip of brandy which Inez had given me.

His reply was an oath and an order to hold my tongue.

I pointed to the women and asked for food for them, and the brute raised his hand and struck me across the mouth.

Mad with rage at this, I sprang on him and pulled him down, dashing his head against the stone flags. In a moment half a dozen of his men rushed up and dragged me off, kicking and mauling me with the utmost violence, and then put my wrists in irons.

Their leader rose livid with rage. “You shall have the lash for this, you traitorous dog,” he hissed between his teeth. “Fling him in the corner there,” he ordered. “The lash shall tear the flesh from your back for this. Yes, the lash and plenty of it. That shall be your breakfast. Yes, the lash, the lash;” and he repeated this several times, each time with a fierce and bitter oath, as if gloating in the prospective treat of seeing my flesh cut to ribbons.

I was flung into the corner, as he had ordered—the loathsome spot, reeking with all the filthy abominations of the vile crew who had passed the night in it—and the other prisoners were forbidden to come near me under penalty of sharing my punishment. But the door had scarcely closed on them before little Pia came straight across, with gentle reproaches for my futile violence and words of sympathy for my trouble.

I tried to send her away, fearing the warders would return and find she had disobeyed their order; but she would not go. The skin of my face was broken slightly where one of the men had kicked me—only a graze, for the force of the kick was spent before his foot touched me; and she insisted upon wiping the few drops of blood away. Her touch was that of a hand[313] skilled in healing; and as she did what she could to cleanse the little wound, her eyes were full of tears and her face a living mask of pity and sympathy.

“In a moment half a dozen of his men rushed up
and dragged me off.”

“Go, go before they return and find you here,” I urged her.

“Is it not you who saved us all from the worst terrors of this awful night? Shall I desert you now you have brought this trouble on yourself?”

“Go, please go. You can do me no good and only harm yourself,” I begged her; but she would not go, and was still with me when the men came back to lead me out.

They seized her at once and, being brutes not men, handled her with cruel violence. I would have cursed them in my empty rage had it not seemed like a dishonour to her, in her calm quiet, almost saint-like resignation.

We were taken out together into a large quadrangle, and I caught my breath with a shiver of panic as I saw on the other side the whipping post surrounded by a group of men, two of whom held many-thonged, heavily knotted whips.

We were led across to it and a halt was made, and the two powerful men with the whips eyed us both with sinister, half-gloating gaze.

I was ashamed of my cowardice then. Grit my teeth as I would in a firm resolve to bear the awful punishment of the lash, I turned cold and sick at the thought of it. But the frail creature by my side was utterly unmoved. She was pale, but no paler than usual, and as calm and unmoved as the whipping post itself.

To the brutalized ruffians, the tragedy was more like a pleasant farce.

“Only two this morning?” asked one of those holding a whip.

“May be more presently,” replied one of the men with us.

[314]“I want more exercise than this,” was the growling answer, uttered with a sort of snarling laugh.

“You’ll have plenty with this dog. He struck the captain.”

“He looks as if he had less stomach for his breakfast than the girl here.”

The taunt bit like an acid and did more than anything could have done to revive my drooped courage.

In this coarse way they jested until another prisoner was brought out from a different cell and tied up for the lash. I will not dwell on the sickening scene which followed. I shut my eyes and, had I not been ironed, would gladly have closed my ears as well to keep out the awful sound of the poor wretch’s screams, until the blessed relief of unconsciousness silenced them.

Pia stood with her hands clasped to her eyes and her thumbs pressed close to her ears, and did not look up until the unfortunate victim was carried away, the blood dripping from his lacerated back making a gruesome and significant track across the flags.

I thought my flogging would follow immediately; but it turned out otherwise. We had merely been made to witness the terrible punishment that our courage might be broken and our senses racked by the sight of what was in store for us.

Instead of being triced up to the post, we were led away into another part of the building; and one of the men with me explained with a chuckle that such a number of strokes as I should receive for my offence could only be ordered by the Governor of the prison himself.

As we were taken into the room I saw the officer I had struck, who was addressed as Captain Moros, in close consultation with a tall, thin, grey-bearded man in an elaborate uniform decorated with several medals. This was His Excellency the Governor. He frowned at me over the rims of his pince-nez; and I perceived at once that he had been already informed of my[315] heinous deed, and that the captain had made the case as black as possible.

“This is the man, I suppose?” the Governor asked him.

“Yes,” said the captain, and he turned to the warders by my side.

“Is he securely ironed? He is a very desperate and very dangerous ruffian,” he added to the Governor. “I have ascertained that he nearly killed one of his fellow-prisoners in the night and instigated an attack upon another of them this morning;” and he bent toward the Governor and whispered to him.

He was describing the incident of the spy’s mauling, and he finished in a tone loud enough to reach me. “There is no doubt he recognized him and was at the bottom of the whole thing.”

“Who is he? Is he known to our men?”

“Oh, yes. I have made inquiries. He is one of the most violent revolutionaries in the city. Altogether a most reckless, dangerous man. I am able to vouch for all this personally; and there is no doubt he meant to kill me. I had a most marvellous escape.”

“How do you say the attack was made?”

“Without a word of warning. I was watching as some of the prisoners were taken out of the cell and he sprang on me suddenly from behind and tried to throttle me. It took half a dozen men to drag him away.”

“Certainly a very bad case; as bad as it could be. And the woman, who is she?” asked the Governor.

“A political suspect in league with the man. I have reason to believe that she incited him to attack me. I had the fellow separated from the rest and ordered them not to go near him on pain of sharing his punishment. I really did that as a test to find out if he had any close associates among them. She went to him at once in defiance of my orders; and I find that they are old companions. They acted[316] together all the night in a very suspicious manner indeed.”

“She looks very young and fragile for such a punishment.”

“Your Excellency will see that flagrant disobedience of our orders such as this woman was guilty of cannot be passed over. She knew the penalty of disobedience; and if prisoners find that we can be set at defiance with impunity, the difficulty of keeping them in subjection will be very great. I feel that my sense of duty compels me to press this case.”

“I see that, of course. The doctor had better examine her to see if she can bear the punishment.”

“You may of course leave that to me,” was the reply; and the Governor was quite willing to do it.

A pause followed, and I was waiting to be questioned, for I had not even been asked my name, when Pia’s clear young voice broke the silence.

“General de Sama.”

If a bomb had exploded suddenly in the room it would not have produced much more astonishment. The Governor looked up with surprise; the captain shouted “Silence her;” and the two men holding Pia shook her angrily, one of them clapping a hand to her mouth. It was evident that none but official dogs must bark in that place, and for a prisoner to open her lips was a crime.

I made an effort to explain, but before a couple of words were out of my lips, I was silenced as Pia had been.

When the commotion caused by this had subsided, the Governor addressed me. “You have attempted the life of Captain Moros and you are evidently a very dangerous and desperate man. The punishment for your crime under the law is death; but your intended victim has interceded for you and has mercifully asked that the case shall be dealt with, not as a capital crime against the law of the land, but as an[317] offence against the discipline of the prison. As such I have power to deal with it. It is a very grave offence, very grave indeed, and the punishment must be in proportion to its gravity. You will receive a hundred lashes to be administered twenty strokes at a time with such intervals between each flogging as the doctor shall decide. You have every reason to be grateful to Captain Moros for his leniency. As for you,” he added, turning to Pia, “your case is different, but I am compelled to uphold the discipline of the prison. You knew beforehand the punishment of disobedience. But you are young and may have been led into this trouble by your evil companion there. You will receive five strokes with the lash.”

With that he signed to the men to take us away.

I was so dazed, stunned and overwhelmed by the terrible sentence that even the gloating look of triumph and malice on Captain Moros’ face failed to rouse my resentment, as my guards hustled me away.



AS it turned out, this same paralysis of despair which fell on me after hearing my terrible sentence proved the means of saving me. I had tried to explain who I was and had been silenced, and any attempt during the proceedings would have failed in the same way.

But as I was being taken out, my condition of helplessness led the warders to believe I was too feeble to offer any sort of resistance, and their hold of me was very slight.

Just as I reached the door, through which Pia had already passed, my wits awoke and my energy quickened in obedience to an instinct of self-preservation. The Conte de Sama had been one of those to whom the Marquis de Pinsara had introduced me on the night of the reception, and the conte had written me subsequently that his brother, General de Sama, the Governor of the prison, was anxious to co-operate with me.

I sprang back from the gaolers’ loose hold of me, therefore, and darting toward the Governor I rushed out the words: “There is a mistake. I am Ralph Donnington, the Englishman who seeks the Beira Concessions. Your brother, Conte de Sama——”

I had no chance to finish, for I was collared by the warders, one of whom silenced me as Pia had been silenced.

Captain Moros was furious and put himself in front[319] of the Governor, as if to protect him from my violence and ordered the men to drag me away instantly.

But I had appealed to a far higher force than the law—the cupidity of this Portuguese notable; and he had heard enough to rouse his fear of losing a chance of fortune.

“Wait,” he said quickly to his companion. “Remain here with your prisoner,” he ordered the gaolers; and then, as if to conceal his personal interest in my statement, he was shrewd enough to cover it with a reference to the law. “If the prisoner is an Englishman, Captain Moros, as he says, you will see there may be somewhat serious complications. I must question him. Have the female prisoner brought back.”

“May I sit down?” I asked abruptly. My legs were trembling under me and I was feeling faint from want of food and quite used up. He consented and a warder placed a chair for me.

“If you are an Englishman”—and he affected to have forgotten my name, stumbling over it—“how is it I find you here?”

“Ralph Donnington is my name. I was arrested last night by mistake as a political suspect. I passed the night in this prison, and when Captain Moros entered it this morning, I told him who I was and asked him for some food. He ordered me to be silent. I then asked for some food for the women who were lying ill from the effects of the awful night we had all endured. His reply was a blow on the mouth, and I lost my temper and grappled with him.”

The captain tried several times to interrupt me with furious outbursts, but the Governor—thinking no doubt of the concessions—would not let him interfere.

“If your statement is true, it puts a very different complexion on the matter. You must see that, Captain Moros.”

“It is a pack of lies,” he declared.

[320]“All the prisoners heard and saw what passed. Interrogate them singly and they will corroborate every word. I have the honour of the friendship of M. Volheno and I shall appeal to him to do so. I have requested to be allowed to communicate both with him and with the representatives of my country, but no notice has been taken. If your Excellency will send to M. Volheno, you will be immediately convinced that I am what I say—Ralph Donnington, an Englishman of great wealth, enjoying the friendship of the Marquis de Pinsara and many other prominent men in Lisbon, and here for the purpose of acquiring very valuable concessions in your African Colony.”

The concessions won hands down, and the victory extended even to little Pia who had been brought back and stood listening in amazement.

“This must be inquired into, of course,” said the Governor after a pause. “Free the prisoner’s hands,” he added. Then to me: “Do you know anything of the girl at your side?”

“I will answer for her as for myself. I know her to be innocent of any wrong, and that she is about to leave the country. I am indeed interested in making arrangements for her to do so.”

Pia moved restlessly and was about to protest, I think, so I placed my hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes: “You will bear out what I say?”

To deny would compromise me, and that I was sure she would not do. After a slight pause, she said simply: “That is so.”

At my mention of Volheno’s name the Governor had scribbled a line and handed it to a subordinate who took it away.

“I am compelled to protest against this, your Excellency,” said the captain at this point. “And having made this protest, I will, with your permission, return to my duties.”

[321]“The matter has taken a very grave turn, Captain Moros; you will be good enough to remain until we know more. This may be serious for you.” The subordinate returned then and handed a packet to the Governor who whispered with him, and sent him away again. “I find that you gave your name on being brought in last night, Mr. Donnington. Here is what was found upon you. I shall return all except a paper which I may have to deal with differently. I revoke both sentences.”

This was, of course, the confession of Gompez and the rest. “May I ask that some of the money may be used to buy food for the wretched prisoners in that cell?”

He granted the request and sent some one away for the purpose.

“I have telephoned to M. Volheno, and have no doubt, from what he says, that all is as you represent. He desires to see you as soon as possible.”

“May we go then? I have had no food since yesterday morning.”

“There is still one formality,” he replied. He turned then to Captain Moros and said something which made the brute go white and set him trembling, as he protested. But the protest was evidently unavailing, and after some further words, he rose and went out at the back of the room. I learnt afterwords that he was made the scapegoat for my treatment and dismissed from his position.

Just as this incident ended, the door by which we had entered opened and another prisoner was brought in. To my amazement I saw it was Bryant.

“Do you recognize any one here, prisoner?” the Governor asked him.

Bryant stared all round. “Only my master, Mr. Donnington.”

“Was that the formality, your Excellency?” I asked.

[322]“M. Volheno said you two were to be confronted, and I had no option but to do so. You are now at liberty to leave.”

“And my servant?”

“Certainly. I trust you will let this most regrettable and unintelligible series of mistakes pass out of your mind. Here are the things taken from you—the paper I am sending to M. Volheno. And now,” he added, as he offered me his hand; “I shall be glad if at some time convenient to yourself you will afford me an opportunity of discussing with you the matter in which you so interested my brother.”

Pia was at a loss what to do. So I laid my hand on her arm. “Come,” I said.

“But——” she began.

“Come,” I repeated, more insistently, and she yielded, leaving the place as if she where walking in her sleep. But as soon as we were in the street and the gloomy gates had closed behind us, she paused to take two or three deep breaths, her face raised skywards and her eyes shining brightly in rapture, and then smiled, as if the very air itself were at once the symbol and the proof of the liberty so unexpectedly regained.

After that she turned and held out her hand to me.

“You are out of prison, Pia, but you are not free,” I said, shaking my head. “I have answered for you; and you cannot return to your associates here without falsifying my pledge.”

Her eyes clouded in embarrassment. “What can I do?”

“In the first place you are going to put absolute confidence in your new gaoler and let him look after your future, as soon as he knows what you wish to do. He is a very stern gaoler and will take no refusals,” I added, interrupting a threatened protest.

“If you are anything like as famished as I am, your[323] first desire will be to eat something;” and we turned into the first hotel we reached.

Some objection was taken to our appearance—we were like three towsled tramps—but money soon overcame that, and while I was doing what I could to get rid of the results of the night’s imprisonment—Pia having gone off with a servant for a similar purpose—I listened to Bryant’s account of his experience.

It was pretty much what I anticipated, but with an unexpected result. He had waited for me outside Inez’ house for some hours and had then contrived to send a message to Captain Bolton. Together they had agreed that the skipper should go and tell the police about my disappearance, while Bryant remained on watch.

But in some way the abduction plot had become known. The police had jumbled the two things up and, on reaching Inez’ house, their first act was to arrest Bryant himself on suspicion, refusing to believe or even listen to his explanation; and he had been in prison up to the moment of his being brought in to identify me.

It turned out that Captain Bolton had been making inquiries everywhere both for me and for Bryant; and Volheno had heard of the latter’s imprisonment and had been on the point of ordering his release when General Sama had communicated with him about me.

I told Bryant to hurry his breakfast and go down to the quay to send word to the skipper that we were both at liberty, and then drive to Miralda’s house for news of her, and bring me the result of his inquiry to my rooms.

Pia’s story was soon told. She had no living relatives. She and her only brother had lived together until he had been led to join the revolutionary party. His arrest had soon followed through the betrayal[324] of a false friend who had tried to make love to her and in revenge for his defeat had betrayed him. The brother, feeble and delicate in health, had been questioned as to the plans and names of his companions, and Pia declared that his refusal to speak had been punished with the lash. He had died in prison, and this had driven her into hot rebellion against those whom she termed his murderers.

She had been hunted for by the police; but her arrest on the previous night had been an accident—she was caught as I had once been—in the thick of a fracas between the police and the people. She had not given her right name, but, feeling sure she would be identified, she looked forward to sharing the same fate as her brother.

This fact explained the readiness of the Governor to liberate her.

“You have no friends anywhere?” I asked.

“I have only one friend in the world; but when my brother was arrested, he had to fly for his life. That was almost on the eve of the day we were to have been married,” she said simply.

“And where is he?”

“In America.”

“That settles it then. You will go out to him.”

She tossed up her hands. “Some day, perhaps.”

“There is no ‘perhaps’ about it and no ‘some day.’ Do you know that if it had not been for you I should have had that lash this morning. If you had not mentioned the Governor’s name, I should not have known him and been able to do what I did. You will go out to New York by the first boat you can catch, and you will leave Lisbon for Paris to-day, and go to an address I will give you to wait in safety until that boat starts.”

“Monsieur!” she cried tremulously.

“I am your gaoler, remember, and responsible for you. You must let me persuade you to do what I[325] say. And now, I must go. Hurry your preparations and return to me here;” and I gave her the address of my flat.

“But I—I cannot accept your money, monsieur.”

“But you can use it. I shall lend it to you, and when you are married in the new world, you will soon be able to repay me. There is a place for such a woman as you in the world and good work waiting to be done by you. You promise to come to me?”

She could not speak. The tears, which no persecution, nor the horrors of the past night, nor even the almost certain prospect of the lash itself had been able to draw from her, were standing thick in her eyes as I left her and hurried to my rooms.

I decided to go to Volheno as soon as I had changed into some decent clothes, and secure a pardon for Miralda in return for a full statement of what I knew, and then obtain his assistance in searching for her. There was a faint chance that Bryant would bring back some news of her from the vicontesse; but he did not arrive before I was ready to go to Volheno.

I found him studying the paper which General de Sama had sent to him from the prison, and his first question was about it.

“Why have you made prisoners of some of His Majesty’s officers?” he asked.

“I have much to tell you and of very grave importance, but there is a condition,” I replied. I told him enough to convince him that my information was such as to place clues in his hand strong enough to enable him to break up the whole revolutionary movement so far as the Pretender’s friends were concerned; and then named my condition.

Without mentioning their names I described at length the means which had been adopted to force Miralda, Vasco and Dagara into the scheme and how they had helped me to thwart it, and asked for a written assurance of pardon for them all.

[326]He fought hard and tried every means to get the names from me. A long and at times very heated altercation followed, in which I declared that I would make all the trouble I could on the score of my own treatment, and finally that I would seek an audience of the king himself and lay all the facts before him.

I won the victory in the end, and I had the assurance in my pocket when I gave him the story, confining my statement to what I had overheard on the Rampallo and all that had followed from it. We then arranged for the Stella to go out at once to pick up the Rampallo and to carry out Government agents to take over charge of her and the officers.

I purposely abstained from mentioning Inez, but the fact that I had been arrested in her house led Volheno to question me about her. I found that the house had been raided through a blunder of the police who had mixed up some information they had received with Captain Bolton’s statement that I was a prisoner there. Volheno had nothing definite against her, and I would not give him any information.

Of Miralda’s whereabouts he knew no more than I. She had not been arrested, however; and I returned to my rooms to learn the result of Bryant’s visit to her house.

He brought no news of her. He had seen the viscontesse who was almost prostrate with grief and anxiety at her absence.

There was only one inference to draw. Miralda must still be with Barosa; and where to look for them baffled me.



I  RACKED my wits in vain to think of some clue to the place where Barosa was likely to hide. I ransacked my memory to recall every incident of my stay in the city, every word which had been dropped in my hearing, and every man I had met, having any connexion with him or any of his companions. But it led to no result.

All I could think of was to institute a house-to-house search of the whole city; and I wrote to urge Volheno to have this done, declaring I would cheerfully bear all the expense and give a liberal reward to any one who brought me the information I craved.

But the thought of the length of time which such a search would involve drove me to the verge of despair. I must find some means by which I myself could take part in the search. To sit still with folded hands was a sheer impossibility.

I thought of Inez. She might now be willing to help me. I had the key now to what had so perplexed me during the last few minutes I had spent in her house. While she and Barosa were wrangling, Marco had rushed up with the news of the police raid, and this had prevented Inez from keeping her promise to return to me.

She had meant to return—that was clear now—and she was in fierce earnest that Miralda should leave the house with me. The loaded revolver—which had proved such a Greek gift when the police had[328] found it upon me—had been honestly given, to provide me with the means of overcoming any opposition, whether from Barosa or others, to our getting away.

But the words she had used in giving it only pointed to greater danger now. “Get Miralda away or I will not answer for myself.” With Barosa and Miralda still associated, the devil of jealousy I had roused in Inez might goad her to some act of wild rage against Miralda; and the thought that I had placed her in this added peril stung and scorched me with all the agony of a festering wound.

My helplessness was torture; and yet I could not think how to commence my search, where to go, or what to do. Stay in the house I could not, and I rushed out into the streets, wandering aimlessly about, scrutinizing every one I met, as if I expected that some of those I sought would stroll about publicly in the full light of day in order that I might see them.

After a time I found myself close to Inez’ house, and as I loitered about I narrowly escaped being once more arrested by the police. I went from there to the house in the Rua Catania and then to the Rua Formosa, where I had been subjected to the “test”—the most unlikely spots in all the city, of course, where I should find any one. And that I should go there at all only proved the fatuous vagueness of my thoughts.

From the latter place I was on my way back to my rooms when I remembered where Henriques had been employed as a porter. I hurried there at once, but without result. Not a trace was to be found.

I returned to my rooms in despair. It was now late in the afternoon, and little Pia was waiting for me. She had finished her few preparations and was ready to go.

“You are in great trouble, Mr. Donnington. What is the matter?” she asked as I entered, her smile[329] of welcome changing on the instant to a look of deep concern and sympathy.

“Yes, I am in sore trouble. Wellnigh beside myself, but I will see to your matters.”

“Tell me. Let me help you.”

“Could you help me, I wonder.” I had not thought of her. She might know of some places where I could search, but on the other hand, she could not give me the information without bringing those with whom she had been associated into danger of arrest.

“Tell me. You can surely trust me,” she urged.

“You could only help me by betraying your former friends. Do you know a Dr. Barosa?”

“By name, yes. There is nothing you can ask me I will not tell you. You believe that as I am sure you believe I will keep everything you say secret.”

A few seconds decided me to tell her enough to make the position clear—that what I wanted was to know where to look for Barosa.

“I do not know that I could help you much in any case. It is very difficult,” she murmured, her face troubled and her manner expressing both perplexity and wistful anxiety.

“I do not understand,” I said.

“You said I might have to betray my former associates. Does that mean that you will take the police with you?” She paused and sat biting her lip in great distress. “If you ask me, I cannot refuse.”

“If I can find Mademoiselle Dominguez without the police it is all I want.”

She brightened instantly. “Can you get me some disguise?” Seeing my surprise, she explained, “I would go without it, but it would not help you. Since we parted this morning, I have had a very narrow escape from arrest in my own name. The police are swarming near my lodging, and it is in that district we must search. I was on my way there when by good fortune I met a friend—a girl who had lived[330] in the same house as myself. She warned me not to go near it because the police were in it. Her brother had been arrested and she herself was flying. To go as I am, therefore, would not help you.”

“You must not go at all. Tell me where to go,” I said.

She hesitated again. “If I hesitate, you will understand me. Let me be frank. Some of the people have been very kind to me and to put them into the hands of the police would be an ill return.”

“I will not take the police with me. Tell me where to search, and I’ll find means of doing what I need without the police.”

“A little to the west of the Theatre of Donna Amelia and close to the Square of Camoes is a nest of streets; and many of the houses are those of our friends where any refugees are certain of a ready shelter. It is there I should expect to find those whom you seek. But you must go not as you are. It would be not only useless but dangerous, and you must be careful to have help at hand. If your object were suspected, you would look in vain for a friend in all that district.”

I opened a map and she pointed the neighbourhood out to me and indicated a spot at the corner of the Square which would be the best for my purpose.

“There are three theatres close there, and the hawkers always stand about there to catch the people going to them. You could thus watch without being suspected;” she explained.

I took her advice and set about my preparations forthwith, and while getting ready, a thought occurred to me. I sent Bryant with a note to Volheno telling him I had an important clue and I asked him, as I had already had a narrow escape of being arrested, to give me a line or two which would protect me from anything of the kind and enable me to call upon the police to assist me if I should need their help.

[331]Pia helped me to disguise myself as a pedlar of matches, suggesting many clever touches—the result probably of her experiences—and when I was ready not a soul in all Lisbon would have recognized me.

Volheno sent me the letter I asked for, and when Bryant returned with it I told him to disguise himself also and to watch me from another corner of the Square, and to have Simmons and Foster, who had not gone in the Stella, in a liquor shop close at hand.

Then I slipped out of the house and shuffled off on my search in the character of a match seller. I had about a mile to go across the city to my destination, but I did not reach it. I had just turned into the Rua da Carmo when a man carrying a bag and having the air of a commercial traveller crossed the street and came up to buy a box of matches.

His disguise was good, but as he lit his cigarette I recognized him. It was Marco; and in a moment my other plan was abandoned and I decided to follow him.

He made straight for the Central Station. After studying the time-tables, he went to the booking place, entered into conversation with the clerk and bought some tickets, turned away with a casual air and left the building again.

Either Pia was all wrong in her guess as to the locality where Barosa was likely to hide, or Marco was not going back to him. He sauntered idly across the Square of San Pedro, turned into the Rua Bitesgo, quickened his pace slightly as he reached the Rua da Magdalena, and branching off to the left, when about half-way down, threaded his way at a quick pace among the maze of streets which form the district of Eastern Lisbon.

This was directly in the opposite direction from that which Pia had suggested; but I was certain by the change from his former sauntering pace to a quick stride, that he was taking me where I wanted to go.

[332]His speed made it difficult for me to keep him in sight without his discovering that I was shadowing him. Twice I nearly lost him as he made a double turn in the short tortuous streets, and after that I had to lessen the distance between us, doing my best to slink along in the shadow of the houses.

Presently he turned into a very steep hilly street and, slackening, began to look about him warily. I guessed that he was getting near his destination, and redoubled my caution. About half-way down the hill he stopped at the corner of a dark street somewhat wider than the rest, where the houses were larger, and I slipped to cover in the wide porch of a house on the opposite side.

Two men were in sight, one coming down the hill and the other up, and lighting a cigarette as a pretext for loitering, Marco waited until both men had passed and gave each of them a sharp searching look. As soon as they were out of sight, he turned and hurried along the side street.

I followed quickly, but when I reached the corner he had disappeared.

I had run him to earth; but which house he had entered I could not tell, of course. I passed the mouth of the street and had a good look at the houses. He had not had time to go more than fifty yards; and within that distance there were only six houses, the two nearest of which were detached and stood well apart from one another.

Keeping under the shadow of the buildings I walked the length of the street and discovered that it had no outlet at the farther end. I returned to the corner with the same caution, and then considered what to do.

I felt at liberty to seek the help of the police if necessary. My promise to Pia not to do so did not apply now, since my discovery was not due to anything she had told me, but to the accidental meeting with Marco.

[333]At the same time, I did not wish to bring the police into it except in the very last extremity. It was quite possible that they would arrest every one in the house, including Miralda herself; and after my terrible experiences of the previous night, the thought that she should endure even for an hour the horrors of such a den of beastliness was unendurable.

If it proved necessary for me to enter any house in search of Miralda, it would be nothing short of sheer madness to do so alone; and in that case I must have the help of the police.

But it might not come to that. Marco’s visit to the railway station and his purchase of tickets was plain evidence that some one, presumably Barosa, was meditating immediate flight from the city. But as there was only the one outlet from the street, he could not leave without passing me; and certainly he could not get Miralda away.

There was another consideration. The meditated flight suggested that Miralda was not in any immediate danger. It might be better to risk a little delay, therefore, rather than take a hasty step with consequences which I might afterwards have bitter cause to regret.

Then I began to consider whether I could possibly find means of sending a message to Bryant so as to bring him and the others to my assistance. With them to help me, I should have no hesitation in entering the house, if I could ascertain definitely in which Barosa was hiding.

I was puzzling over this when Marco came out of the second house, and I noticed one little significant fact. In addition to the bag, he was carrying an overcoat on his arm. This meant that he at any rate had been staying in the house; and it decided me not to follow him.

He walked to the corner of the street and was turning up the hill away from me when he changed[334] his mind and came straight towards me. I drew back against the wall to avoid him, and he had all but passed when he caught sight of me. The start he gave showed that he recognized me as the man from whom he had bought the matches.

He paused a moment, put his hand to his head, as if he had forgotten something and turned to retrace his steps. He meant to warn the others in the house, of course; and as I had to prevent this at any cost, I stepped forward quickly and grabbed him by the wrist.

“What do you want with me, you old fool?” he said roughly, trying at the same time to shake off my hold.

“You are my prisoner,” I said sternly. “Who are in that house there?”

“I don’t know what you mean. Which house?”

“The one you have just left. I know you. Answer at once.”

His answer was both clever-witted and quick. He flung the overcoat he carried over my head and made a fierce snatch to break away from me, while reaching at the same time for a weapon.

I held on, however, and managed to trip him up. As we fell together the coat dropped away and I was in time to seize the barrel of a revolver he had succeeded in drawing, and drag it out of his hand.

“It’s no use, Marco,” I said.

He knew me then. “The Englishman!” he cried with an oath of unbounded amazement.

“Yes, the Englishman,” I said.



THE discovery of my identity, combined no doubt with the fact that I had disarmed Marco, put an end to any thought of resistance, so I pulled him up and forced him against the wall, and kicked his bag and coat close to his feet.

“Now, Marco, tell me who is in that house and be quick about it.”

“Will you let me go if I do?”

“I’ll hand you to the police if you don’t. You went to the railway station to-night and took some tickets. I saw you and then followed you here. You went into the second house across the road. Now who are in there?”

“Barosa, Maral, Countess Inglesia and Mademoiselle Dominguez,” he said sullenly after a slight pause.

“Who else?”

“No one.”

“What have you come out for now?”

“If I tell you everything, will you let me go?”

I repeated my question.

“To fetch a carriage. Mademoiselle Dominguez is in no danger,” he added, thinking probably to appease me. “She is going to leave with us, and her mother is to join us at the station. I took a letter to her this evening. If I tell you everything, will you let me go?”

As a matter of fact I wished to get rid of him now[336] that I had obtained the information I needed. But I did not let him know it.

“No,” I answered fiercely with an oath. “You tried to murder me yesterday, you villain, and you shall pay for it with your life. I have the police in hiding close here and I’ll give you to them!” Then I made a pretence of hauling him away, but at the time I stooped as if to pick up his bag and loosened my hold of him.

He saw his chance and took it. He tore himself free, pushed me violently away, snatched up his bag and coat and darted off. With a cry of rage, I started in pursuit, but I went no more than a few yards, just far enough to convince him I was in earnest, and then returned to my corner well satisfied to have got rid of him so easily.

His information put a different complexion on matters. As he was going for the carriage which was to take Barosa and the rest to the station, the time for their departure must be drawing near; and when he did not return, some one would probably come out to look for him, or they would all have to start for the station on foot.

I could well afford to wait for either result. Miralda was safe thus far, and, according to Marco, was willing to trust to Inez and Barosa to get her away from the city. The two latter had probably patched up a peace, and it was no doubt Inez’ plan to have the viscontesse with them—as a useful check on Barosa.

About a quarter of an hour later the door of the house opened and some one looked out. I could not distinguish whether it was a man or a woman, however, as my attention had been distracted by three or four men at some distance away who were coming down the hill in my direction.

I made out soon afterwards that they were police, and as I did not wish to be seen and questioned at that moment, I slipped along the by-street and hid[337] in a doorway nearly opposite the house I was watching, to hide there until they had passed.

Before they reached the turning, however, some one in the disguise of an old man came out of the house and shambled along toward the corner. It must be either Barosa or Maral, I knew; and as it would vastly simplify things if I could scare him away as I had scared Marco, I slipped like a shadow across the road and got between him and the house.

He heard me and turned.

“I arrest you, Dr. Barosa,” I cried, and started as if to run after him.

Taking me for a police agent, he paused a second, drew out his revolver, and then, thinking probably he could both save himself by flight and prevent the others in the house being discovered, he turned round and bolted.

But in avoiding me, he ran right into the arms of the police who reached the corner of the street at the same minute. There was a short sharp scuffle, a cry or two of astonishment, a gruff call to surrender, a pause, and then a shot.

One of the police fell, and I saw Barosa break away, reach the middle of the road, and raise his hand to his head. A flash and a report followed, he lurched heavily and then dropped, as a drunken man drops, nervelessly and all in a heap.

Everything had occurred with such dramatic swiftness that I could scarcely realize it. In a few seconds a number of people came hurrying up, attracted by the noise of the shots, and as they crowded round the police, I joined them and edged through to the front.

The man whom Barosa had shot was sitting on the doorstep of the house at the corner, hatless and very white, but I heard one of his comrades say that he was not seriously hurt.

Two others had carried Barosa close to the same[338] spot and were bending down, examining his wound and feeling his heart for the pulse.

“Dead,” announced one of them with an oath, and as he rose I saw Barosa’s face. The false beard and wig he had been wearing had fallen off in the scuffle; and the right cheek and temple were discoloured with the powder, the blue-black mark showing plainly in contrast to the grey pallor of the face.

He had chosen death rather than imprisonment; and after my experiences of one night in that hell, I was not surprised.

The police did not recognize him and had no idea that he was a man of any importance.

“Does any one know him?” was asked, and some half-dozen of those present pressed forward, looked at him, and shook their heads.

I took advantage of the movement to back away, and as I turned I came face to face with Maral. He had not seen Barosa, and I did not mean that he should. Very much to his surprise, I linked my arm in his and drew him away across the mouth of the street to the corner from which I had kept my watch.

“Come with me or you are lost,” I said in a low voice.

“Who are you?”

“You are Sebastian Maral. The police are there. You must fly or you will be taken.”

“Who are you?”

“A friend if you go, an enemy if you stay. My name does not matter. A secret agent—but you once did me a good turn. I am going to raid the second house over there. I give you a chance to fly; if you stay I must hand you to my comrades.”

“But I——”

I cut him short. “Say which it shall be. Quick. I can’t give you another moment or I shall be seen[339] with you. Are there any men left in that house? We have taken Barosa.”

An oath burst from him and he began to tremble. “There are only two women there. But—”

At that instant there was a movement among the little throng across the street. Two or three of the people went running past us and I saw others hurrying in the opposite direction. They were sent by the police probably in search of a conveyance.

“My men are coming. Which is it to be. Quick,” I said, and let go my hold of him. He hesitated for no more than a second and then, tossing his hands up in despair, he turned away, walked a few steps, then quickened his pace, and at last ran at full speed.

Barosa having been caught as he was leaving the little side street, it was possible that the police might take a fancy to search some of the houses, so I deemed it prudent to hang about until they had gone and the commotion caused by the affair had subsided.

Two carriages arrived almost together, one from each direction. Barosa and the wounded man were placed in one and the police drove away. The driver of the other was moving off, grumbling at having been brought there for nothing, when I stepped into the roadway and hailed him.

“Drive away and come back in a quarter of an hour, and wait at this corner for me,” I told him.

“Wouldn’t your highness like a four-in-hand?” he asked with a contemptuous jeer at my poverty-stricken appearance.

A milreis changed his sneer to a glance of curiosity and amazement. “It will pay you to do what I say and keep your tongue between your teeth,” I said curtly.

“I’ll be here,” he replied, and rattled away down the hill.

I crossed to the house at once and knocked lightly at the door. No one opened it; so I knocked again,[340] a little louder; and again a third time. Still with no result. The house was, as I have said, all in darkness, and, although I listened intently, I could not hear a sound.

It was probable that either the three men had had keys or that the door was to be opened only in response to some agreed knock. I did not know it, of course, and might stay there rapping all night without being admitted.

Both Inez and Miralda would be intensely alarmed by the failure of the three men to return and if they had heard Barosa’s shot or had seen anything of the commotion that followed, they would certainly conclude that the three had been arrested and mistake my summons for that of the police bent upon effecting an arrest.

It was a most provoking and unexpected check. I left the door and fumbled my way round to the back to try and get admittance there. I was no expert at burgling, but even if I had been I should have been puzzled how to get into this house. There was a door at the back letting out upon a small garden; but it was securely fastened, and every window in the lower part of the house was protected by both outside bars and inside shutters. It was hopeless to try and force them.

There was a stack pipe running up to the gutter at the roof; but it was so placed that if I climbed it I could not reach any window except one on the top floor; and an attempt to enter that way meant a very considerable risk that I should break my neck. There was no urgent necessity to run such a risk, so I went round again to the front of the house to look for a chance of getting in there.

It was no more promising than the back, so far as the windows within reach were concerned.

It was almost ludicrous to find myself in such a fix. Here was I able and eager to save both Inez and Miralda; and there were they shivering with[341] panic and regarding me as an enemy bent on their destruction and arrest; and only this infernal locked door and the barred windows between us.

I tried knocking again, but with no better result than before, and then it occurred to me that although I had examined the front and the back and one side, I had not inspected the fourth side.

The chances of breaking in there were better. There was a small projection built about half-way up the house with a window level with the first floor, which did not appear to have either shutters or bars. A stack pipe offered a chance of reaching this window, and although the pipe was unpleasantly insecure I judged that even if it gave way I could not hurt myself much, as there was a flower bed with some shrubs on the spot where I should fall.

I began the ascent very cautiously, digging my toes into the courses of the bricks where I could, and carefully testing the bearing strain of the pipe before trusting my full weight on it. It was a very difficult business, for part of my disguise consisted of a long overcoat which hampered almost every step I took.

But I made the ascent safely and managed to get a grip of the window ledge, and then, pulling myself up till my chin was level with the window, I found a slender but sufficient hold for my feet on a ledge of the brickwork.

To my relief the window was unfastened. I opened it very cautiously, climbed in over the sill, into a tiny room quite bare of furniture. I listened intently and, not hearing a sound, tried the handle of the door. To my intense chagrin, it was locked. It seemed as if some diabolical ingenuity was at work to prevent my effecting Miralda’s rescue.

The door opened outwards and that made it easier for me to force it; but I was loth to make the row which this would cause and so advertise the fact that I was in the house.

[342]It had to be done, however, so I put my shoulder to it and tried first to force it open with quiet pressure. This proving unavailing I dashed myself against it with all my weight and strength. At the third attempt it yielded with a crash which echoed through the house, making a din which would have roused the heaviest sleeper in the remotest part of the building.

Then I stood listening again intently. Not a sound. I was close to the head of the stairs. Fearing that the noise I had made would scarce Inez and Miralda half out of their senses, I tried to reassure them.

“Miralda, Miralda. It is I, Ralph,” I called loudly, but only the echo of my own voice replied.

Disconcerted at this, I lit a match and hurried through the rooms, calling her name as I went. I searched first those on the floor where I was; next those above, and then went below.

Save for the scanty furniture, the house was empty, and there was not a sign that Miralda had ever been in it.



EARLIER in the evening, barely an hour before, indeed, the discovery that the house was deserted would have alarmed me profoundly, for Miralda’s disappearance might then have had a very sinister significance. But she was no longer in any danger. Barosa was dead and I had the assurance of the pardon for her association with his plot.

Instead of being alarmed therefore, I burst out laughing as the reason for her disappearance flashed upon me.

She had obviously run away from me.

When first Marco, then Barosa and lastly Maral had left the house not to return, Miralda and Inez would have been both desperately perplexed and thoroughly scared. Waiting to fly in accordance with the plan which Marco had explained to me, they would immediately conclude either that the men had been arrested or had had to run from the police.

In this condition of fear they would naturally keep a sharp look-out, and thus would have seen me. In my disguise their inevitable inference would be that I was a police spy who had discovered their hiding-place, and my movements had been just such as would tend to confirm that belief.

When I broke into the house, therefore, they would realize that their only chance was to fly from it, especially when they found that I was alone and that no police were in the street to stop them.

A moment’s consideration prompted the conclusion[344] that they would make for the railway station in the hope that Barosa or one of the other men would elude arrest and be there to meet them.

I hurried out of the house, therefore. The carriage was waiting, and having questioned the driver and found that he had not seen any one come out of the side street, I told him to drive to the station as fast as he could.

It was fairly certain that neither Maral nor Marco would run the risk of going to the railway. Barosa probably had the tickets in his possession; and as I was resolved that Inez should leave the city, my first act was to purchase a ticket and put it in an envelope together with some banknotes, in case she should be without money.

Then I made a round of the building in search of them. They would almost certainly be disguised, but I was confident that my instinct would enable me to detect Miralda, however well disguised, while the fact that the viscontesse was to be of the party would help me.

Neither the viscontesse nor any one even remotely suggesting Miralda was in the station, however. A train was due out in a quarter of an hour after my arrival, and I loitered near the barrier, keeping a sharp but futile look-out, until it occurred to me that I myself might be defeating my object. If the two had seen me as a spy getting into the house, they would instantly conclude that I was watching for them now. So I looked for a place where I could hide and still watch.

Five more minutes passed and I scrutinized every passenger and every individual within sight. A rather lanky youth in the company of a squat, stout, broad-shouldered market woman, apparently his mother, appeared to be waiting to meet some one, but there was not another soul loitering anywhere in the station.

[345]As the time was now getting very short, I left my hiding-place to go and look outside; and as I neared this couple, the boy put his arm through his mother’s, drew her attention to something at the other side of the station, and walked away with her. The woman was lame and rolled in her walk with a most grotesque waddle.

After a dozen yards or so they paused and the young fellow looked round. He appeared disconcerted to see that I was watching them, and drew his mother forward again.

Then I nearly laughed aloud. The woman took two or three steps without either the waddle or the limp; suddenly recollected herself and went lame with the wrong foot.

I hastened after them and as they quickened their pace, I called out in English: “You’ve forgotten which is your lame foot, Miralda.”

They stopped and turned, but even when I was close to them and saw their faces clearly, I should not have recognized the market woman as Miralda, nor the lanky youth as Inez, had it not been for Miralda’s eyes. I had looked too often into them not to know them.

“It is I, Ralph; you’ve been running away from me the last hour or more,” I added, laughing.

“Ralph!” cried Miralda. “What does it all mean?”

“You shall know all directly, but I must speak to your son there first. He has not a moment to lose if he means to catch this train.”

“Mr. Donnington?” exclaimed Inez. “Where——”

“You must let me talk, please,” I interrupted. “When Dr. Barosa left that house he ran into a party of police, but I managed to get a word or two with him before he fled, and I have to give you this ticket and the money with it. You are to leave by this train. If you remain another hour in Lisbon, you will be arrested.”

[346]“Where is he?”

“You haven’t a second to spare,” I cried, giving her the ticket and pressing the envelope into her hand. “You will learn everything later. Miralda is pardoned. And now go, or it will be too late;” and I urged her away in the direction of the barrier, without giving her time to question me.

She hesitated, walked away a few steps, paused in doubt, and was turning back, when the call to the passengers to enter the train came. She choked back a hundred unspoken questions, hurried through the barrier and got into the train.

With a sigh of satisfaction I watched it move along the platform and disappear in the darkness, and then turned to Miralda. Her disguise was really wonderful. The complexion was darkened almost to the tan of a mulatto, and the skin of the forehead, nose and upper half of the cheeks was lined very cunningly and had the wrinkled look of age: on the left side of the face was what looked like the cicatrice of a bad wound or burn, and on the right a large disfiguring claret-coloured birth-mark. Both mark and scar extended to the lips, and along the edges of both and across the lower lip was fastened a cleverly moulded skin-covered plastic pad which gave the appearance of the flabby cheeks and fat double chin of a woman of middle age, the lower part being lost in the folds of a neckerchief.

The effect was grotesque, and as I stared at her in amazement, the upper part of her face crinkled, while the lower remained stolidly impassive. “Are you trying to smile?” I asked.

“You look comical enough to make any one smile,” she replied, her lips scarcely moving, as she spoke through her nearly-closed teeth.

“I suppose I do. But have you seen yourself in a glass? Whoever did that, knew his business; but you—you are not exactly pretty, you know. I can scarcely believe it is really you.”

[347]“You are not even clean,” she retorted, tossing her head.

“I haven’t a hideous birth-mark and a double chin, at any rate.”

“But you’re a Jew with a hook nose and your grey beard is as dirty as it is long.”

We must have made an odd-looking couple in all truth—a fat, waddling, disfigured, old market woman and a dirty down-at-heels Jew pedlar, and I saw the station people were beginning to eye us suspiciously.

“I think it’s time the market woman went home,” I said.

“She is waiting for her mother, Jew.”

“I think she’ll be found at home. Barosa didn’t mean her to leave to-night or she would have been here. Nothing matters now except to get you home.”

“Where is Dr. Barosa?”

“I don’t know.” This was true in the letter; I had never been down where he deserved to be. “When I saw him last he was in the hands of the police,” I added.

“But I may be arrested also at any minute.”

“Not by the police. You are pardoned, but the other arrest is imminent.”

“What other arrest?”

“This, by the old Jew,” I replied, linking my arm in hers to leave the station. “Let’s see how fast the market woman can waddle.”

She was a willing prisoner and pressed close to me with a happy unrestrained laugh, and then clapped her hand to her face with an exclamation of dismay and let her head droop as we went out into the street.

“Why did you cry out?” I asked.

“It’s coming off. What shall I do?” she cried. “You shouldn’t have made me laugh. I didn’t expect to have to laugh when this was put on.”

“Thank Heaven, we can laugh as much as we like now—even at one another. Can’t you get it all off?[348] The Jew’s going,” I said, and I took off my grey beard, eyebrows, nose and wig, with a sigh of relief.

“I’ve got all but the last bit off,” said Miralda, as she held up her face under the light of a lamp and laughed merrily.

Cicatrice, birth-mark and double chin were in one piece and adhering now by the mark. I peeled this back carefully, and then held her upturned face close to mine.

“I thought the Jew who arrested me was gone,” she said.

“It was the market woman he arrested. Miralda is free—if she wishes.”

“It doesn’t seem much like it;” and she moved in my arms.

“Does she wish it?”

“She doesn’t wish to go to prison.”

“Does she wish to be free?”

“Do you think it would be safe for her to be free in the streets alone?”

“Is she willing to pay for an escort?”

“It depends on the terms.”

“There are several. The first is that you smile.”

“I can do that although my face is still very sticky;” and she smiled and grimaced.

“The next is to say one word and promise to answer a simple question.”

“What question?”

“You must promise first. But the answer must be the truth.”

“Oh, what an insult! That’s the Jew back again. Anything more?”

“Yes, the proper corollary to the answer.”

“Don’t you think the escort is rather a coward to make all these terms now?”

“Yes, but he insists all the same.”

“Well, what is the word?”

“Ralph,” I said.

[349]“That’s easy—Ralph,” she said with purposeful unconcern. “I’ve done two of the things—the escort ought to take me half-way home for that.”

“Now for the question.” I paused and her light assumption of indifference changed under my earnest gaze. She made an effort to release herself. But I held her fast. “Do you love——”

“Ralph!” A very different tone this as she hid her face against my shoulder and then let me lift it that our lips might meet in the rapturous ecstasy of the lingering betrothal kiss.

Roused by the sound of approaching wheels, we drew apart and walked on hand in hand.

It proved to be the carriage which had taken me to the station and the driver asked if I needed him.

Oblivious to all else save our happiness, I should have let him pass, but the question brought me to earth, and I stopped him. He stared in some astonishment at us both as I put Miralda into the carriage and told him to drive first to my rooms.

I remembered that Pia was waiting there, and when I told Miralda about her, she declared she would take her home.

When we reached my rooms, Simmons was there, Bryant having sent him back when he did not see me, and I told him to go in search of Bryant. Then I took Pia out to Miralda and drove home with her.

We found that the viscontesse had not heard anything of the projected flight from the city. The letter which Miralda had written to tell her about it had not been delivered, Barosa having substituted for it one written by himself to say Miralda would be home that evening.

“You see I didn’t answer that question after all,” said Miralda as we were alone and I was bidding her good-night.

“Which question?” I asked, as if I did not understand.

“You know I didn’t.”

[350]“Didn’t you? I had an impression——”

“Not in words,” she broke in with a flash of happy laughter.

“That’s a challenge. You shall answer it now,” I cried, putting my arm as far round her much-swathed waist as it would reach.

“You are developing a very masterful manner, Mr. Jew.”

“It is necessary with a rebellious market woman. Answer it now.”

“Which question?” she mocked, mimicking my indifferent tone.


She put her hand to my lips, and silenced me, and then lifting her eyes to mine she threw her arms round my neck and whispered: “With all my heart, Ralph, and for all my life.”

And again we sealed the compact with the all appropriate formalities.

The next morning M. Volheno sent for me and I was glad to find him anxious to hush up the whole matter of the Abduction Plot. In pursuance of this policy, two conditions were attached to Miralda’s pardon—absolute silence about everything and a year’s expatriation for her, her mother and the visconte. Vasco was to be transferred to a regiment in Portuguese Africa.

I told him of Barosa’s death, and that he was really Luis Beriardos, Dom Miguel’s trusted agent, and he was genuinely relieved. Barosa’s fate was never publicly known and he was buried under a different name as the result of a concocted identification.

The fate of his associates on the Rampallo I never learned. The yacht and the prisoners on her were handed over to the men whom Volheno sent out in the Stella with secret instructions; and when they returned neither the skipper nor Burroughs knew anything.

[351]By the time of the Stella’s arrival, the viscontesse had completed all arrangements for the year’s enforced absence; and a few hours after the yacht’s anchor was dropped it was weighed again and I was taking a farewell look at the city.

Miralda and her mother were below and Pia was with them. She was to sail for America from Southampton.

I was heartily glad to go. It had been a strenuous love quest, but all the trouble and the dangers were forgotten in that joyous hour of success, in the glowing consciousness that I had won the woman I loved, and the thrilling realization of my hopes.

As I stood dreaming of the happiness to come, there was the soft rustle of a skirt and a hand was slipped into my arm.

“You are glad to go, Ralph?” asked Miralda. “You were smiling.”

“I was thinking of my fellow passenger,” I whispered. “And she is smiling, too.”

But her eyes were very thoughtful behind the smile. It was natural. All her young life had been passed in the city she was leaving.

She turned her eyes from me, let them roam over the glorious panorama of the city and the hills beyond, and then turned to me again. “I was trying to think if I have any regrets. I have not. I have not in all my heart a thought that is not wholly happy at being with you. But it has been my home.”

“I know,” I said, understanding; and I took her hand and pressed my lips to it. “You will grow to love the new home, and it shall be one of peace and content and, so far as I can ensure it, of happiness.”

“Is that all?” she asked, with half mischievous, half wistful glance.

“What more would you have, dearest?”

“That which draws me to it and makes me happy to go,” she said in a whisper.

[352]“Ah, our love. To last, please God, until life’s end.”

She caught her breath, pressed closer to me, sighed and then smiled as she repeated in a whisper of prayerful earnestness: “Until life’s end.”

And then we stood together in silence too happy for words, until the yacht had turned out of the river mouth and the city was hidden from view.


Butler & Tenner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London.


Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or alternate spelling has been retained from the original.