The Wrath to Come - E. Phillips Oppenheim - ebook

The Wrath to Come ebook

E. Phillips Oppenheim

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The mystery by E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946) starts out in the Sierra Nevada mountains, 500 miles from San Francisco, at a gold mining camp. Bryan came to America from England, chasing a man who may have papers which explain Bryan’s mysterious origins. Enter heroine, the beautiful orphan Myra Mercier who is arriving to the camp where women are not allowed. Murder and mayhem ensue before the pair escapes to San Francisco. Bryan abandons Myra and travels back to England alone, where he takes up residence in the country, near the home of Lady Helen, the ward of Lord Wessemer. Bryan seeks to improve himself, and his status, in order to win the hand of the beautiful, but cold, Lady Helen. Finally, Myra makes her way to England as a actress, and Bryan decide who to wed.

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Liczba stron: 465

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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

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

BOOK TWO

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

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER I

It is a passage which might well be haunted with memories of the famous courtesans, dignitaries, criminals “de luxe” and aristocrats of the world,–the long straight stretch of passage leading from the Hotel de Paris to the International Sporting Club of Monte Carlo. Nevertheless it seemed to Grant Slattery a strange place for this meeting which, during his last two years’ wandering about Europe, he had dreaded more than anything else on earth. Complete recognition came slowly. Each slackened speed as the distance between them diminished. When they came to a standstill there was a moment’s silence.

“Gertrude!” he exclaimed.

“Grant!” she murmured.

The purely automatic exercise of this conventional exchange of greetings helped him at first through what must always have been a bitter and terrible moment. For though Grant Slattery had every quality which goes to the making of a man, he had also, about some things, a woman’s sensitiveness.

“It is a long time,” she said softly.

“Time is entirely relative,” he remarked didactically.

She seemed a little helpless. It was an embarrassing situation for her and a painful one for him, this encounter with the girl who had jilted him publicly in the face of all Washington society and eloped with his rival. This meeting in the curved archway passage with a flunkey at either end was the first since he had taken leave of her at her house one night three years ago, after an evening at the opera. She had lain in his arms for a moment, her lips had met his willingly–even as he had often remembered since–with a touch of somewhat rare passion. And on the morrow she had become the Princess von Diss and had sailed for Berlin.

“This was bound to happen some day,” she said, regaining her self-possession almost to the point of calmness. “I hope that you are going to be nice to me.”

“I was prepared even to be grateful,” he answered, with a little bow. “Alas! now that I see you I find it impossible.”

“Very nice indeed,” she approved. “I don’t think I have changed much, have I?”

“You’re looking more beautiful than ever,” he assured her.

She smiled. His eyes told her that he spoke the truth.

“And you,” she went on, “you’re just the same–a little more dignified perhaps. They tell me that you have left the diplomatic service. Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“No work left,” he replied. “We move on towards the millennium.”

Their eyes met for a moment. There was a silent question in hers which he ignored.

“Where were you going?” she enquired.

“I’ve been lunching at the Club,” he answered. “I was just going to stroll across to the tennis courts for an hour.”

“You can come to the Rooms with me instead,” she suggested. “We will find two chairs and talk for a little time. We can’t part like this.”

He hesitated.

“Am I likely to meet your husband?”

“My husband is not in Monte Carlo at present. I hope you’re not going to be horrid about him. Grant–you won’t want to fight a duel or anything of that sort?”

“If I had felt that way about it,” he answered, “it would have been at an earlier stage of the proceedings. A woman has a right to change her mind. I have harboured no grievance against any one.”

He turned with her and they made their way to the Bar, almost deserted at that early hour, for it was barely four o’clock, and the Rooms were only just opened. They found two comfortable chairs and sat for a few moments in silence. Each was taking stock of the other. He had spoken the truth when he had declared that she was more beautiful than ever. She was very fair, her complexion exquisitely creamy, with scarcely a tinge of colour. Her eyes were so deep a blue that they seemed at times almost to attain to that rare and wonderful shade commonly termed violet. Her hair was yellow, the colour of the faint gold in the morning sky. Her lips were a little fuller than the delicacy of her features required, but beautifully shaped. Her figure he thought improved. She still possessed the grace of long limbs and a slender body, but she had passed from a threatened thinness to a gracious but still delicate shapeliness. He looked admiringly at her beautiful fingers as she withdrew her gloves.

“You always liked my hands,” she murmured, studying them for a moment.

His eyes were fixed upon a ring she wore,–a thin platinum guard with a single beautifully set pearl. She smiled at him.

“Terribly wrong of me to keep it, I know,” she admitted-“But I have. Do you want it back. Grant?”

“No,” he answered, a little brusquely. “But–”

“But what?”

“I am not going to flirt with you,” he declared.

She threw her head back and laughed.

“The same familiar Grant, honest to the point of pugnacity. Why, my dear man, how do you ever expect to shine as a diplomatist?”

“I have given up the idea,” he reminded her.

“So you are not going to flirt with me,” she sighed.

He avoided the challenge of her eyes, secretly delighted that he found it so easy.

“Since we are here, we must order something,” he insisted, summoning the waiter. “The fellow has been watching us reproachfully for the last five minutes.”

“It’s very early, but I’ll have some tea,” she acquiesced resignedly.

Grant gave the order and turned back to his companion. He was forced to make conversation in order to avoid drifting too rapidly into the intimacies of the past.

“You find life amusing in Berlin?” he asked politely.

“Not at all. Berlin bores me. That is why I’m here. And I can see perfectly well that you are going to do your best to bore me too. I am disappointed in you.”

“That,” he complained, “is a little hard. Now that I am a free man, I am full of intelligent interest in Berlin. I hoped that you might gratify my curiosity.”

“You were there yourself for two years,” she reminded him drily.

“But that was five years ago. The evidences of what I suppose must be called the Royalist movement had only just then begun to appear. Prince Frederick, for instance, was still at school–he had scarcely shown himself in public. Now they tell me that he is almost a popular idol.”

Gertrude von Diss gazed thoughtfully into her little gold mirror and used her powder puff with discretion.

“My husband being a member of the Government,” she said “I never discuss politics. I wonder if I shall find a place at one of the baccarat tables. I have lost so much in my small way at roulette that I think I shall give it up for a time. It is not amusing to lose always.”

“I’ll go and see, if you like,” he offered politely.

“Presently. Tell me about yourself. Why did you give up the Diplomatic Service?”

“Because there are no diplomatic activities left nowadays for the citizens of the United States,” he replied. “The whole world has become a gigantic mart for tradespeople to buy, sell, and exchange wares. Consuls can do our business. And then I came into the Van Roorden money and turned lazy, I suppose.”

“I don’t follow you at all,” she declared. “Even if commercial achievement has become the guiding lamp of the world, I don’t in the least know what you mean by saying that there is no diplomacy left for the United States, Commerce is one of the chief reasons for diplomatic exchanges, isn’t it? I know my adopted country people think so.”

He shrugged his shoulders,

“Very likely,” he confessed. “Don’t take me too seriously. I was only inventing a justification for my laziness.”

She indulged in a little grimace.

“You are distressingly uncommunicative,” she observed. “I begin to suspect that we are both very clever people. All the same,” she went on reflectively, “I don’t see why we shouldn’t exchange confidences. It might be amusing.”

“It wouldn’t be a fair bargain,” he assured her. “Your husband holds a high official position in Berhn. He must be brought into touch with people who are intimately acquainted with the trend of political thought in every country. I am nobody and I know nobody.”

A smile played for a moment at the corners of her lips.

“You have developed a new and most becoming trait,” she declared. “You’re the first modest man I’ve met for years. We don’t raise them in Berlin.”

“The conceit passed out of my system three years and two months ago,” he answered a little bitterly.

She laid her hand upon his. Her voice was almost caressing.

“There is something I shall tell you about that, some day,” she promised, “something which will help you to understand. Meanwhile try and believe that I too have suffered. I was not so callous as I seemed.”

The old spell was upon him for a moment but he told himself that it was only his senses which were enchained; the rest of him was free.

“I am glad to hear that,” he told her with well-simulated indifference.

The room was invaded by a crowd of young people, mostly in flannels, who had evidently come down from the tennis courts. The young woman who seemed to be the ringleader of their gaiety–a very attractive looking young person indeed in her white tennis clothes and smart hat–flashed a smile of welcome at Grant as she entered the room. The smile was modified as she glanced a little curiously at his companion. When they had settled down for tea at an adjacent table, however, she looked over her shoulder.

“We are having a riotous party to-night,” she announced, “dining first at the Villa, coming down here and going on to dance somewhere afterwards. Will you be my escort?”

“With the utmost pleasure,” he assented promptly. “But shan’t I be getting into trouble? What about Bobby?”

She shook her head dolefully and dropped her voice.

“Misbehaved,” she confided. “Seen at Nice when he ought to have been playing tennis, yesterday afternoon–terrible! Something Russian, covered with jewels! Bobby can’t afford that sort of thing, you know. We’re sending him to Coventry for at least two days.”

“Poor fellow!” Grant murmured sympathetically.

“Don’t be a hypocrite,” the girl laughed. “You know you’re glad. I don’t think I shall ever look at him again. And I’m all rebound! Not later than eight-thirty dinner, please. Dad told me that he wanted to see you, but we’re not going to leave you at home to study bridge problems.”

“I shall be punctual,” Grant assured her.

“Can’t talk any more,” she concluded, turning away. “These greedy people are eating up all the chocolate eclairs. As it is, every one’s had more than his share. You are a pig, Arthur!”

“Who is she?” Gertrude enquired under her breath. “I dislike her anyhow. I wanted you to dine with me.”

“I don’t know whether I ought to apologize,” he observed, “for having lost the American habit of introducing. Her name is Susan Yeovil. She’s very charming and very popular. Her little set keep things moving down here.”

“Is she by any chance the daughter of the English Prime Minister?” Gertrude asked eagerly.

Grant nodded.

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