The Light Beyond - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Light Beyond ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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In this remarkable 1927 novel by E. Phillips Oppenheim, a great conference has been called in London to renegotiate the war debt. It is clear that Germany is suffering, and all of Europe is affected. The great Financier Felix Dukane is in London with his beautiful daughter Estelle. It is rumored that he stands ready to loan Germany One Billion Pounds if the conference is able to limit the total debt. The outcome of the conference hinges on military and industrial secrets. The novel presents a fascinating picture of the political mindset of the day to go along with the twists and turns of the story. Interestingly, unlike most of Oppenheim’s novels, many of the main characters act dishonorably at various points in the novel.

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Liczba stron: 397

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Contents

BOOK ONE

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

BOOK TWO

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

BOOK THREE

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

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER I

Of the three men who lunched together at the comer table at the Ritz, Raoul de Fontanay was perhaps the most distinguished in appearance, Henry Dorchester the best-looking, and Van Stratton the most attractive. In their outlook upon life, as well as in their personal tastes, they were so far removed from one another that their friendship was an easy thing. Not one of the three was in the least disputative, and controversy merely added an appetite to discussion. They even ventured, on this particular May morning, to speak of the other sex.

“To lunch without women,” Raoul de Fontanay observed, “is now and then a relief.”

“If one would converse seriously,” Dorchester assented, “it is a necessity. Women are too distracting. They force our thoughts into an absolutely fanciful groove. They make rational conversation impossible. I am convinced that the realisation of this fact is the reason why our forefathers banished them from the dining-table at the earliest possible opportunity.”

“Better not let any of my countrywomen hear you speak like that,” Van Stratton observed.

The Frenchman smiled.

“Your countrywomen are adorable,” he declared, “but if they have a fault, it is that they take themselves too seriously. They will not admit or recognise the impassable boundaries which divide the sexes. I cannot talk to a woman seriously; I need a man to understand what I am aiming at–to understand what I would hope and work for. Woman is our best helpmate when she leaves our careers alone, when she is simply amusing and beautiful, and perhaps affectionate.”

“That is all very well for one’s mistress,” Dorchester conceded, “but no one in this country, at any rate, can altogether keep his wife out of the serious side of his life.”

“You English!” Raoul de Fontanay murmured, with a little shrug of the shoulders. “Ah, well!…Still, as we must talk of women, let us ask one another this; we are all fond of them, and yet not one of us is married or even engaged. How does that come about?”

“I shall marry some day,” Dorchester announced. “Up to now, my work has been too absorbing.”

“I have looked around,” Mark Van Stratton admitted, “but so far–well, there doesn’t seem to have been anything doing. I admire Frenchwomen more than any in the world, but they’re a trifle too exigeant for us Americans. They either keep you dangling at their heels all the time, or else, in the most charming way possible, fill your place. The English girls I have met are all right for sport, but they are either too reserved, and cold, or so slangy they’re almost incomprehensible, and a bit too quick off the mark. I suppose when I do marry, it will be one of my own country-women.”

“As for me,” Raoul de Fontanay pronounced, “I am the only one of us who has a logical reason for his celibacy. I shall never marry, because there is something ugly to me in infidelity, and I am too conscious of my limitations. I could never be faithful for a lifetime, or a quarter of it. What about you, Mark?”

The young American had been looking steadfastly across the room. His face had become curiously intent, his eyes fixed. He did not reply for a moment. Then he drew a little breath, and answered without withdrawing his gaze.

“I could be faithful all my life,” he declared, “to the girl who has just come in, and whom I shall probably some day marry–the girl in grey with the chinchilla furs and the rose-coloured hat.”

The speech itself might have sounded banal, but for Van Stratton’s intense earnestness–an earnestness which his two friends realised from the first.

“This is distinctly intriguing,” Raoul de Fontanay declared, thrusting his monocle into his eye, and looking across the room.

“Thrilling,” Dorchester assented. “A trifle on the melodramatic side, perhaps, but atoned for by Mark’s obvious earnestness. Would it be possible, without exciting too much attention, to indicate the favoured lady?”

“You cannot possibly mistake her,” Mark replied, “There is no one else. She is just sitting down now, facing you, at the table by the window, with an elderly man. She is in grey, with some chinchilla furs, and a sort of crushed rose-coloured hat. She is not the most beautiful, but she certainly is the most attractive girl I have ever seen in my life.”

De Fontanay glanced in the direction indicated and his manner changed a little. He dropped his monocle, and whistled softly under his breath. Dorchester seemed to have caught his friend’s enthusiasm.

“She’s awfully good-looking,” he pronounced, “like a piece of Dresden china. Who is she, Mark?”

“I don’t know–yet.”

“I do,” de Fontanay answered. “I know her name, at any rate. That is her father with her.”

“Tell us her name then–quickly,” Mark demanded.

De Fontanay’s surprise was obvious.

“Do you mean to say that you neither of you know who he is?”

“I have no idea whatever,” Mark confessed.

“Neither have I,” Dorchester affirmed.

Raoul de Fontanay sipped his wine approvingly. He had a sense of the dramatic, and he paused for a moment to give weight to his words–besides, the wine was of a wonderful vintage, and far too good to be hurried over.

“That,” he confided, “is one of the best known men on paper and the least known personally in the world. The Press, when they try to find adjectives for him, are sometimes lyrical, sometimes hysterical. Sometimes he is the world’s greatest hero, the mightiest potentate of modern times; at others he is the direct descendant of Barrabas, riding one of the evil steeds of the Apocalypse, spreading ruin and destruction over a stricken world. It depends entirely upon which side of the market you are on. That is Felix Dukane.”

“Felix Dukane!” Mark gasped.

“Dukane!” Dorchester repeated wonderingly. “He isn’t in the least like what I expected.”

“There is a personalty to excite one’s imagination!” de Fontanay continued. “He is very seldom seen in a restaurant–very seldom seen anywhere, as a matter of fact. They say that he has never been interviewed in his life, and that he beat the only photographer who ever succeeded in taking a snapshot of him, with a loaded stick which he always carries, and smashed the camera. Look at those shoulders! You would have to respect them if you were his enemy, for he is really prodigiously strong.”

Mark’s national respect for wealth kept him a little awed. Dorchester’s imagination was fired with this unexpected encounter with the “Mystery Man” of the world.

“Felix Dukane!” the former muttered. “The only man who single-handed has ever created a panic in Wall Street.”

“It isn’t his enormous wealth alone,” de Fontanay observed, “but he has the power of raising more money than any other born financier. If he speaks the word, the banks in London, New York and Paris obey. I should call him the most unwholesome factor in modern finance. It is a wicked thing for any one man to be able to influence the money market of the world in the way he does.”

“I wonder,” Dorchester reflected, “what he is doing in London?”

“I, too, am curious,” de Fontanay confessed, “for, to tell you the truth, it is the one city which he dislikes, and seldom visits. There must be some mischief brewing.”

Mark remained profoundly uninterested in all such considerations.

“Say, Raoul,” he demanded, “how is it, if you know the old man, that you have never met the daughter?”

“Alas,” the Frenchman replied, “how does one obtain the chance? Socially, Dukane does not exist. People in every capital have grown tired of sending him invitations; he never even answers them. I chanced to see them both in Monte Carlo last season. They arrived in his yacht, and they left within the week–people said because he was annoyed it the sensation his presence had created.”

“Of what nationality is he?” Mark enquired.

“No one knows exactly. I believe his passport would describe him as English. His wife, I know, was a Greek. She was the daughter of a former Prime Minister. I never saw her, but I remember her being spoken of in Paris as a famous beauty.”

“Listen here, Raoul,” Mark continued, “if you’ve never met the daughter, do you know the father well enough to present me?”

De Fontanay shook his head thoughtfully.

“I am afraid that I do not,” he acknowledged. “With anyone else in the world, I would try to gratify you, but Felix Dukane is a law unto himself. Observe the way he looks round the room. His stare is absolutely stony. He has probably recognised me long ago, but I doubt whether he will take the slightest notice of my existence.”

“That seems unfortunate,” Mark said doggedly, “because I’ve got to get to know her somehow, and it must be soon.”

“As a matter of fact,” Dorchester affirmed, with unusual seriousness, “I, too, am interested.”

The service of luncheon proceeded, but the continuity of the discussion between the three men seemed to have become broken, and conversation was only fitful. The attention of both Dorchester and Mark seemed entirely engrossed by observation more or less surreptitious of the table at which Felix Dukane and his daughter were seated. De Fontanay, whose turn it was that day to be host, suffered their neglect patiently, and even watched them both with slightly cynical amusement. As they passed out of the restaurant at the conclusion of the luncheon, he took each by the arm, and spoke half banteringly of their obsession.

“My friends,” he said, “it is a fact that both of you regard women a little more seriously than I–racial instinct, perhaps. Well, let me tell you this: the joy of a woman’s love is great, but the joy of such a friendship as exists between us three is, I think, a greater thing. You will not forget it, either of you?”

“Of course not,” Dorchester assented firmly.

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