Last Train Out - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

Last Train Out ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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Though dated stylistically, this novel has the makings of a decent movie thriller. The story takes place between the Anschluss, the Nazi takeover of Austria, March 1938, and the invasion of Poland in September 1939. A wealthy Jewish banker, philanthropist, and art collector is forced to flee Vienna to avoid imprisonment by the Nazi’s. He disappears on the night the Germans march into Austria, and his fortune and collection vanishes with him, leaving behind his personal secretary, Pamela Grey, and his agent, the mysterious Marius Blute.

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Liczba stron: 370

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER I

Mr. Paul Schlesser, number-one cashier to the banking firm of Leopold Benjamin & Co., Ludenstrasse, Vienna, broke off in his conversation with the distinguished-looking young Englishman who was leaning over his portion of the counter and, in an undertone, directed the latter’s attention to the taller of the two men who were issuing from the private office the other side of the marble tiled floor.

“That,” he announced with bated breath and a note of deep respect in his tone, “is the present head of our firm–Mr. Leopold Benjamin. He comes here very seldom nowadays. It is a great pleasure for us to welcome him.”

Mr. Schlesser, who was an insignificant-looking person, seemed to expand and grow almost into dignity as he bowed low to the tall, thin man who was passing by. Mr. Leopold Benjamin did not in the least resemble his cashier. No one would have imagined them to belong to the same race, a race which in those days stood in hourly peril of its life. His smile was scarcely cheerful, but pleasant enough in its way as he half paused to return his employee’s greeting. His eyes looked enquiringly at the stranger. The cashier slipped open the wire partition which separated him from the outside world.

“If you will pardon me, Mr. Benjamin,” he said, “this gentleman, Mr. Charles Mildenhall, has a Letter of Credit here from Barclay’s in London. This is the head of our firm, Mr. Mildenhall–Mr. Leopold Benjamin.”

The banker let his fingers slip from his companion’s shoulder. He held out his hand. His voice was pleasant, almost musical.

“You are perhaps related to my old friend–Sir Phillip Mildenhall?” he asked.

“Sir Philip is my uncle, sir,” the young man replied. “He was First Secretary here in his younger days.”

Mr. Benjamin nodded reminiscently.

“He was a delightful companion. He dined with me often. A connoisseur, too, of pictures–in fact, of all objects d’art, I missed him very much when he went to Bucharest.”

“I think in a way he was sorry to go,” Mildenhall remarked. “He had many friends here. Amongst them I have heard him speak of you, sir. I heard from him of your marvellous collection of Old Masters.”

“You are in the Diplomatic Service yourself?” the banker asked.

“In a way I am,” the young man answered. “Just now I am on long leave.”

“Your uncle is well, I trust?”

“In excellent health, I thank you, sir. I shall tell him of our meeting.”

“You must come and see me before you leave the city,” the banker invited. “How long do you stay here?”

“Only a few days longer, I fear.”

“Will you dine with me on Thursday night?” the other suggested. “I am compelled to choose an early date because my movements are a little uncertain.”

“I will do so with pleasure,” the young man assented. “It will interest my uncle very much to have news of you.”

Mr. Benjamin shrugged his high, stooping shoulders. There was a momentary look of sadness in his sunken eyes.

“Not too good news, I am afraid,” he said. “Our race becomes less and less popular in this country as the days go by. Things were different in your uncle’s time. At present we find the future full of anxiety. One pleasure at least I shall make sure of,” he concluded with a smile. “I shall have the pleasure of seeing you on Thursday at eight o’clock. I trust that you do not mind our early hours.”

“Not in the least, sir.”

“Our friend here at the desk,” Leopold Benjamin said, with a benevolent smile towards the cashier, “will write down my address for you. Auf Wiedersehen, Mr. Mildenhall.”

He passed on, his companion–a short, thick-set man with a very intelligent face–by his side. The cashier looked at his client with increased respect.

“We regard it as a great honour,” he confided as he counted out some notes, “to be received by Mr. Benjamin. He entertains very little now. Your money, sir–also your Letter of Credit,” he went on, returning the latter to its parchment envelope. “It will always be a pleasure to serve you here when you are in need of more money or if there is any general information about the city we can give you. I am writing here the address of Mr. Benjamin: Palais Franz Josef. Any vehicle you engage would drive you there without hesitation.”

The young man gathered up his belongings, nodded in friendly fashion and took his leave. On the broad steps of the very handsome bank building he hesitated for a few moments, then decided to walk for a while in the Ringstrasse. It was barely five o’clock and, notwithstanding that these were days of strain and anxiety, something of the spirit of levity was visible on the countenances of most of the passers-by. The day’s work was over. The evening and night were at hand. The true Viennese is seldom sensitive to the call of domesticity. It is the music of the cafés, the light laughter of the women, the flavour of his apéritif which appeal to him with the coming of the twilight. Mildenhall yielded to the general spirit. After an hour’s promenade he entered one of the most attractive of the famous cafés, purchased an evening paper and installed himself at a comfortable table. He ordered a drink and lit a cigarette. His Thursday evening rendezvous pleased him. It was a great thing to have met Leopold Benjamin so entirely by accident and to have received so interesting an invitation. The Viennese cafés are not made for isolation. Mildenhall was seated in the corner place of the long settee which stretched down one side of the room. The table in front of him was sufficiently large to accommodate several customers. There were two chairs unoccupied. Mildenhall shook out his newspaper and turned it so that he could read the leading article. His attention, however, was suddenly distracted.

“I do not disturb you, sir, if I take this chair?” a friendly voice asked in excellent English.

Mildenhall glanced up and recognized the man who had been Mr. Benjamin’s companion in the bank a short time before.

“By no means,” he answered courteously. “Why not the settee? It is more comfortable and, after all, I don’t take up much room.”

With a bow the newcomer seated himself, handed his coat and hat to a waiter and gave an order. He glanced at the paper in Mildenhall’s hands.

“One wastes much time nowadays,” he remarked, “with these fugitive journals. It seems to me that much is written which is not worth the ink.”

“I gather that you are not a journalist!”

“I am not,” was the quiet reply. “Clever men, no doubt, but what they are responsible for! Half the wars in the world are caused by the Press. Every grievance of mankind is nurtured by their pens. News itself is good, but news is the last thing one finds–in the evening papers, at any rate. The one you have there is engaged in an unholy crusade. It is doing great harm in the city. It is stirring up bad feeling in this place of beautiful things and kindly people.”

“Did I not see you an hour ago in Benjamin’s bank?” Mildenhall asked.

“You did indeed, sir. Mr. Leopold Benjamin is one of the men I admire most in the world. He is a great philanthropist, a great artist, a lover of the human race, a good man. But life for him at the present moment is poisoned by the campaign in a certain section of the Press.”

Mildenhall nodded sympathetically.

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