The Day. Or The Passing of a Throne - Fred M. White - ebook

The Day. Or The Passing of a Throne ebook

Fred M White

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Many stories by Fred M. White have a spy theme. This story is no exception. The events take place during the First World War. Two men, Manuel and his young companion Luigi, are on a mission. The men have a problem: namely, a German wireless transmitter that they desperately wanted to find and stop.

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Contents

I. On Secret Service

II. Found!

III. The Spider’s Web

IV. Veiled Eyes

V. On The Roof

VI. A Check All Round

VII. The Dead Of Night

VIII. On German Soil

IX. The Trustful Britain

X. The Terror Of The Air

XI. Inside St. Paul’s

XII. The Tower Bridge

XIII. The Wells Of Truth

XIV. The First Awakening

XV. A City Of The Dead

XVI. In The Royal Palace

XVII. Dog Rob Dog

XVIII. Towards The North

XIX. The Chartered Vagabonds

XX. The Abner Lightship

XXI. The Battle Of The Sands

XXII. At Bay

XXIII. In The Ritter-Saal

XXIV. The Eye Of The Brotherhood

XXV. A Crowded Night

XXVI. The Road To Freedom

XXVII. The Refugees

XXVIII. Cut Off

XXIX. “The City Of Dreadful Night”

XXX. In Palace Yard

XXXI. The Mystery Ship

XXXII. On The Track

XXXIII. The House On The Cliff

XXXIV. The Dead Bird

XXXV. The Lace Curtains

XXXVI. “Made In Germany”

XXXVII. Brothers-In-Arms

XXXVIII. A Safe Return

XXXIX. The Face Of The Envelope

XL. All Eyes To The North

XLI A Nation’s Nerves

XLII. “Light, Light, More Light!”

XLIII. On The Brighton-Road

XLIV. Under Fire

XLV. The Night Of Terror

XLVI. The Other Spider

XLVII. The Hour That Mattered

XLVIII. Beyond The Power Of Evil

XLIX. What Of The Harvest?

L. The Harvest Ripens

LI. The Day Dawns

LII. The Real Day

LIII. The Evening Of “The Day”

LIV. What Of The Morrow?

I. ON SECRET SERVICE

The two men in the back room behind the little Italian pastrycook’s shop in Stanton-street were making history. As yet they did not know it; they were to find it out later on. The elder of the two, the man with the grey moustache ferociously cooked and the cook’s cap on the back of his head, was known locally as Manuel Serano, and his younger companion as Luigi Serrai; but as a matter of fact the leader was Stuart Hallett, of the Secret Service, and the other Paul Rosslyn, his chief assistant. It was what they called early closing day so that they were free to discuss the knotty problem which had been worrying them for the past month.

“Now what do you make of it?” Hallett asked. “Have you got any further with the cipher? I suppose you are quite convinced that somebody is working a pretty powerful wireless within the four-mile radius. The question is. Can you locate it?”

“I believe I have done so,” Rosslyn said quietly. “But don’t you think, sir, it would be a mistake to raid the place? Those people are quite convinced that we have overlooked them and that their code is absolutely beyond detection. Well it isn’t. As you know, I haven’t been making a study of wireless in connection with aeroplanes the last three years for nothing. Now I believe I’ve got one of last night’s messages decoded.“Rosslyn took from his pocket what appeared to be a mass of mathematical formula. As he explained the position and value of certain letters and figures, Hallett nodded approvingly. A few moments later and he was reading for himself the last message dispatched from the mysterious wireless station on the previous evening. He read the message aloud, slowly and carefully thus:–

“The Mailed Fist is torn and bruised. The steel gauntlet is filled with its wearer’s blood. The time has come to cut it off.”

There was no more than that but Hallett laughed aloud in the sheer joy of discovery. He patted Rosslyn on the back.

“Egad, the chap who sent that message is right there. For three months now the Mailed Fist has been hammering against Liege and Namur and the French advance until every nuckle is broken. By gad, who would have thought three months ago that little Belgium could have held the Mad Dog by his tongue all this time. And what would the German people say if they knew the truth?”

“Heaven only knows. It strikes me that the man who sent that message wants them to know. Any way we are aware of the fact that he is a German and evidently no friend of the tin Napoleon. No; my theory is this. Somewhere in the City these people have got an office, or perhaps an whole building. It would be a building preferably which carried on the roof a telephone standard sustaining a hundred or two wires. Now you can quite see how easy it would be to mix up the aerial with these. If you have a dynamo in the basement with sufficient power you could send messages any practical distance–certainly as far as Berlin, which is what our mysterious friend seems to be aiming at.”

“Wouldn’t the game be spotted?” Hallett asked.

“I don’t think so. Let us suppose that the basement is occupied by a firm of engineers or motor agents, anything to give them a plausible excuse for running machinery night and day. I don’t want to be unduly sanguine, but I believe I have found the place; anyhow I shall know for certain to-morrow. The question is are we going to raid the show, or wouldn’t it pay us better to lie low for a bit now that the cipher is no longer a secret to us? I should like to hear your opinion.”

“Festina lente,” Hallett said, “I think you are right. Anyhow there is nothing more to be done for the moment, and now you can go off and dine with your friend Pierre Leroux and that charming daughter of his. My dear boy, there is no reason why you should grin so uncomfortably. She is a most beautiful and fascinating girl, and when you get the authorities to see the beauties of that now silent aeroplane engine of yours you will be able to pose as a millionaire. And now good-night, and a pleasant evening to you.”

Rosslyn laughed as he removed his baker’s cap and big white apron, and revealed his dress clothes below. A great deal of information had found its way to the War Office through the little pastry cook’s shop, and as yet nobody had guessed the identity of the two men who posed as Italian pastrycooks. Many a spy had been tracked in this way, and many a danger removed. But for the moment Rosslyn put all this out of his mind. He was not concerning himself with the troubles of Germany and the hideous breakdown of the Kaiser’s plan. He knew that the war could have but one end, he knew that Germany was being slowly strangled between the locked arms of France and Russia, and that the silent sentinels guarding the Seven Seas were bringing the Teuton to his knees in the throes of starvation. But that mysterious wireless worried him. What manner of man, he asked himself, was it who flung these messages out upon the air, and what was his feeling towards Germany? It sounded like one revolutionary calling to another. It might have been a warning to Berlin, sign for the beginning of strife, the trumpet blast summoning a nation to free itself from the grip of a tyrant. Like other men who knew the truth, Rosslyn had no enmity in his heart for Germany as a nation. He knew perfectly well that she would never have gone to war had she not been dragged into it by the visionary at Potsdam and the gang who flattered him and fooled him to the top of his bent. He had every sympathy for a country brow beaten and held in bondage by a madman. He knew that the destruction of Germany would be the ruin of hundreds of thousands of Englishmen who had their money invested there. He knew that Germany wiped out would mean a dislocation of trade so great that the whole world would reel before it. And in a way his heart went out to the man who was evidently trying to tell Berlin the truth which was being so sedulously suppressed.

Still he would know to-morrow for certain, perhaps to-night if one of his trusted subordinates was successful in obtaining certain information. He was feeling pleased with the world in general as he rang the door bell of the flat in Medhurst-gardens.

II. FOUND!

Pierre Leroux was a naturalised Englishman who had come over from Alsace three or four years before to London, where he had established a highly successful business as a wine importer in the City of London. He occupied a suite of offices at the top of a building in Cannon-street, where until the war broke out, he had employed a large staff of clerks. Now, with the exception of two elderly men, the staff had gone back to the colours, and the business was at a standstill. Leroux spent most of his day there and some of his evenings in Cannon-street, but this, as he observed, was more a matter of habit than anything else.

It was a charming flat that he had in Medhurst-gardens, presided over by his daughter Vera, and Rosslyn was always certain of a warm welcome there. He had it now as he entered the cosily-furnished drawing-room there; it thrilled him to feel the pressure of Vera’s slim fingers and see the light in those lovely hazel eyes of hers. As yet nothing had been said on either side, but the understanding was there, and Leroux tacitly encouraged it.

He was a typical Frenchman, a little stout, a little bald, but withal active enough, and a magnificent hand with a rapier. He discoursed eloquently on the war as they sat round the perfectly-appointed diner-table, and, Frenchman though he was, spoke in the kindliest way of the German people. His deep and abiding hatred was for the Kaiser and the militant party who had bred all these misfortunes. His eyes gleamed and his hands shook as he spoke.

“I have scores of good friends in Germany,” he cried. “I would do anything to help them. Ah, to think that all this bloodshed could be brought about by one man. A man! A moustache! I laugh and I weep in the same breath when I think of him. And all this while Germany knows not the truth. They are told lies, lies of imaginary victories, whilst Berlin is on the verge of starvation. And that fool of a ruler refused to learn anything from a war which cost you English two hundred millions of money and a river of your best blood. He laugh and say you English, you are cowards. He make fun of your Lord Methuen and the defence by the Boers of Modder River. But he don’t laugh no longer when the brave Belgians show him that there are others not too wise to learn. He does not laugh when the Belgians smash up his plan of campaign and make Europe smile at him. Ah, if I could get the truth through to my friends in Berlin–”

He threw up his hands in an eloquent gesture. Rosslyn hesitated for a moment before he spoke. They were all friends together.

“I believe somebody’s trying to do it,” he said.

But Leroux was not listening. He seemed to be utterly carried away by the force of his passionate anger.

“The Mailed Fist is torn and bruised,” he cried. “The Steel Gauntlet is filled with its wearer’s blood. The time has come–”

Rosslyn started as if something had stung him. For here was this peaceful Frenchman using exactly the same phase as the message which had been sent over the mysterious wireless. It was a discovery that brought Rosslyn up all standing and threw him into absolute confusion.

It was only a moment before he recovered himself again, but Vera had noticed, and there were a dozen questions in her eyes as she watched him. He saw the blood leave her face all white and anxious. Then she interrupted her father in his wild tirade.

“Did you hear what Mr. Rosslyn said?” she asked. “He said that there was someone here in London using a secret wireless station to communicate with the Kaiser’s enemies in his own country. I believe that Mr. Rosslyn knows all about it.”

“Gott im Himmel, ist das so?”

The words burst from Leroux like a shell. It was not a Frenchman who was speaking now, but a German, and the significance of it went home to Rosslyn, pierced his brain, and set him instantly on his guard. He showed no further sign of surprise or agitation. And Leroux, too, was smiling and apologising in the next breath.

“That is how a German would have put it,” he said. “I know so many of them that I can speak English as they do. Ah, they told me I had a fortune if I went on the stage.”

He turned the conversation adroitly, he chattered with ease as a man of the world on many things. But the little air of constraint was there, the chill atmosphere of suspicion. And there had been, too, one significant glance between father and daughter which had not been lost on Rosslyn. He felt quite relieved when presently he was summoned to the telephone to speak to his assistant, who whispered the fact that he had important news for him.

“I am afraid I shall have to go at once,” he explained. “That is the worst of being the slave of a Government.”

“Ah, but you are doing a great work, my boy,” Leroux cried. “So make no excuses. Vera, my child, as our friend is going, I think I will just walk as far as the club.”

But once he had parted from Rosslyn, Leroux turned his steps eastward. A taxicab deposited him presently at Cannon-street Station, where he took a first-class ticket to Blackheath. But not for use. He slid unobserved into a lavatory compartment, and when he emerged a moment later he was beyond recognition. Then he made his way rapidly to a block of business buildings, the basements of which, were given over to some engineering industry, and, late as it was, some machinery was still at work. But this did not seem to interest Leroux in the least. Quite unobserved he opened the front door with a latchkey and then toiled silently to the top of the building. There was a small office in a kind of turret, and this Leroux entered by passing through a strong door sheathed with steel on the inside, which he opened with a Chubb key. He flashed on the light and disclosed what appeared to be an apartment given over entirely to telegraphy of some kind, for here was everything necessary, including telephone accessories. Down a ladder leading to the roof a second man crept, and stood evidently waiting Leroux’s instructions. The latter smiled grimly.

“We are in danger, Ludwig,” he said. “And, what’s more, the danger comes from the very man we have the most need of.”

“Ach, you don’t mean to say that Rosslyn–”

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