The Romance of the Secret Service Fund - Fred M. White - ebook

The Romance of the Secret Service Fund ebook

Fred M White

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There are several families, without any secrets or rumors, and the Amory were no exception to this rule. Servants in the house and people in the village used to talk about Lady Amory with a significant look or smile, depending on the circumstances. Sir Gabriel Amory spent most of his time in the south of France and was not in England for many years, while his wife was not seen until he died. All wealth passed to her. It will soon turn out that Lady Amory is not as „clean” as many think.

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Liczba stron: 167

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Contents

By Woman’s Wit

The Mazaroff Rifle

In The Express

The Almedi Concession

The Other Side Of The Chess Board

Three Of Them

I. BY WOMAN’S WIT

“GO TO DEATH; go to death; go to death; go to death. Your wife’s a bride; your wife’s a bride. Go to death; go to death; go to death; go to death. Your wife’s a bride; your wife’s a bride.”

The mad refrain was hammered into Newton Moore’s brain by the clang and roar of the flashing miles. A vivid streak of gold and crimson, enveloped in a cloud of vapor, crashed on over the silver-white metals–the fiery trail that men called the South East European Express.

The voice of the big compound engine spoke thus to Newton Moore. To all practical purposes he was going to his death, and was not his wife a bride still? The most valued and trusted servant of the British Secret Service Fund had kissed his wife once upon the lips, and turned his white face to the East at the bidding of his chief.

“It’s the toughest job you ever had,” Sir Gresham Welby had told him. “But come what may, you must get to the bottom of this business, or share the fate of Rigby and Long and Mercer. You have a free hand, and the whole of the resources of the Secret Service Fund behind you.”

Moore had shuddered. He was a man cursed with a vivid imagination, and unseen terrors always unmanned him. But it was when Moore was face to face with danger that he rose so triumphantly over circumstances. He had described himself as a coward, who was a hero in spite of himself. His imagination magnified the unseen danger, but the same fine inventiveness taught him the right moment to strike.

“Are you really equal to the task?” Sir Gresham had asked suddenly.

It seemed to him that Moore looked slight and pale. His pince-nez gave him a certain suggestion of mildness.

“I don’t know any other man on the staff who can undertake it,” he said. “And this is no ordinary matter. Three of the best men we have ever had have been murdered mysteriously, and we are no nearer the solution of the problem than before. And yet there is not so very much to find out.”

“I agree with you, Moore. We are almost ready to vouch for the integrity of Prince Boris of Contigua, and yet we know that Russia is using the Court and province to foment disaffection on the Indian frontier, and convey arms to the Mancunis. If this thing isn’t stopped we shall be face to face with the most serious trouble in India before long. Signs are not wanting, too, that the Contigeans are being stirred up against Prince Boris. If there is a revolution, Russia has a fine excuse to step in and annex the province. And you know as well as I do what that would mean.”

“I do,” Moore replied, “and I know the country well. My last novel was founded upon Contigean politics. Princess Natalie was very pleased with the book. And I am quite sure that she is on our side.”

“You are a curious mixture of a man,” said Sir Gresham. “Let us hope that your imagination will find some solution of the problem. We want no more tragedies. And remember that you have an absolutely free hand. Let us know who is working the mischief and we ask no more. For the present you are practically the embodiment of the Secret Service Fund.”

And now Moore was reaching his destination. Three of the bravest men he had ever served with had perished on the same mission, dying in a manner so mysterious that Her Majesty’s Government were powerless to fix the blame on anyone. They had been struck down one after the other, barely before they had set foot in Tenedos, the capital of Contigua, and, for aught he knew to the contrary, the same fate awaited him twenty miles away.

For the present he was horribly frightened. Passive danger always rendered him almost physically sick. His imagination thrilled him. He could not eat, he could do no more than smoke his ubiquitous cigarettes.

Presently the long rocking line of red and gold came vibrating to a standstill, for the frontier was reached and the weary business of the Customs had to be undertaken. All this was as nothing to Moore, for his baggage had been marked through two days before. He tumbled out of the carriage and made his way to the grimy refreshment-room, where little beyond coffee and crackers could be obtained.

“I must worry something down,” he muttered. “I’ve had nothing for thirty hours. I wonder if I could manage a cracker.”

One waiter only was in attendance. He brought hot coffee of acrid flavor and two large flat crackers on a platter. One of the thin flour cakes Moore managed, but he dubiously eyed the other. Listlessly he crumbled it with his finger. Some foreign substance–paper–fell out upon the plate. Moore grew rigid with a sudden comprehension. A less imaginative man would have ordered another cracker. Moore scented a plot here. He smoothed out the scrap of paper, and surely enough there was a message there.

“Do not take this train on to Tenedos,” it ran. “Contrive to miss it. In the village you can manage to obtain post horses to your destination. Do not start before six o’clock in the evening, and you will reach Tenedos by midnight. Ask to be directed to the large inn on the Varna Road.”

There was not much time to decide. The letter might come from the hand of a friend or equally from the hand of an enemy. Moore decided to act upon the impulse that seldom played him false. He remained.

The polyglot language of the country was no sealed book to him. Within an hour he was safely housed at the large rambling building on the Varna Road, where he had found it possible to obtain a pair of horses to take him to Tenedos later on in the day.

It might have been mere suspicion on the part of Moore, but it seemed to him that the obese old landlord with the silver rings in his ears was not altogether surprised at the advent of his visitor. The former’s fat countenance lacked repose, his little eyes followed Moore restlessly.

“His Excellency would like a private room?” he more than suggested.

Moore nodded carelessly. He was quite prepared to play the game according to the rules. A big, low apartment with dark panels was insufficiently lighted by two dreary candles in brass sconces. The atmosphere was dark and heavy. Moore turned the key in the lock, and hardly had he done so when another door opened and a woman entered.

The Princess stood before him, dark, beautiful, palpitating with emotion–a lovely woman with a history, an ambitious woman with a scorching hatred of Russia, and burning with a love for her own sterile country.

“Listen to me,” she said. “I knew that you were coming, but, what is more to the point, others know it also. Had you gone on to Tenedos as arranged, you would have been a dead man before morning. How glad, glad I am that you accepted my warning.”

“It was a sufficiently vague one, your Highness,” said Moore.

“Because I could not make it more definite. If you only knew the system of espionage by which I am hampered! There is a traitor in the camp, and that traitor has obtained a prevailing influence at the Court. The Prince is utterly in his power, and he is making the most unscrupulous use of his advantage. And, worse than all, he is an agent of Russia.”

All this Moore was quite prepared to hear. As Agent of the Secret Service Fund, it was his duty to come here and expose the Russian spy who was working all the mischief. This done, his task was practically complete. But, at the same time, he fully appreciated the danger that lay before him.

“Vour Highness is running a risk in coming here,” he suggested.

“To a certain extent, yes. But when I accidentally discovered that you were the Agent chosen by the British Government, I knew that it must be now or never. I arranged a hunting party for to-day close here, and so I managed to elude the rest of my party. The people here are faithful and devoted to my service. In a few moments I must slip away again and join the others.

“By missing your train you have for the time being baffled those who would destroy you. Under ordinary circumstances, they will not expect you now till to-morrow evening. You will lie quiet on your arrival, and late to-morrow afternoon advise the Prince that you are in Tenedos. Then you will be asked to join us at dinner to-morrow night. After that everything depends upon your nerve and courage. If you are brave you will not only gain your point, but you will absolutely save Contigua as well. It will be in your hands to expose Zouroff and render him powerless for the future. And as to his wife, she shall be my care.”

Even in the dim light Princess Natalie’s eyes flashed. This woman was moved by a chord more dominant even than her patriotism–by tbe desire to be avenged upon a woman who had wronged her.

“So Zouroff is the god in the car,” Moore observed. “A marvellously clever man, and absolutely unscrupulous. They say his wife is beyond compare.”

“She is certainly amazingly lovely,” the Princess admitted, “so lovely that she has obtained absolute sway over the husband who once loved me, nay, loves me still, were he but free from the fascinations of that beautiful witch. And Zouroff can force Boris from the throne when he chooses.”

“He has some secret hold over your husband the Prince?”

“He has. I had better be perfectly frank with you. You remember the abortive attempt ten years ago to federate this peninsula into one kingdom. The Powers deposed no fewer than three princes over that. The scheme was Zouroff’s, acting in the interest of Russia. And Zouroff has documentary evidence that Boris was one of the malcontents. Therefore you see how slender is our grasp of our position. Day by day the influence of Boris wanes, day by day is Zouroff stirring up the party of revolution. And to-morrow night everything is arranged for a coup d’etat. If I can force the hand of my enemy, if I can show him degraded and bound to the mob in front of the palace windows, Contigua is saved, and your mission is simultaneously accomplished. That is why I came to you–because I could trust you, and you know the ways of my people. They love me yet, they would do anything at my bidding. At the same time they are like sheep without a shepherd. Will you help me?”

The Princess extended two trembling hands to Moore. He took them in his and raised them to his lips.

“It is both my duty and my inclination to do so,” he said. “But I see that you have some plan ready formed in your mind. If you will honor me with your confidence, I shall esteem it a great favor.”

The Princess spoke clearly and rapidly. Moore listened with interest and admiration. The plot was one that appealed directly to his imagination. It was dashing, and bold to the last degree. A lurid light shone in his eyes, his pale cheeks were aglow with an unwonted flare.

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.