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   Chapter 29 FOR HIS COUNTRY

Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 8798

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The minutes glided by as the two men sat together in the perfumed, shadowy darkness. From their feet the glittering canopy of lights swept upwards to the mountain-sides, even to the stars, but a chain of slowly drifting black clouds hung down in front of the moon, and until their eyes became accustomed to their surroundings it seemed to both of them as though they were sitting in a very pit of darkness.

"It is possible," Hunterleys whispered, after some time, "that we may have to wait for another hour yet."

Richard was suddenly tense. He sat up, and his foot reached for the self-starter.

"I don't think you will," he muttered. "Listen!"

Almost immediately they were conscious of some commotion in the direction of the villa, followed by a shot and then a cry.

"Start the engine," Hunterleys directed hoarsely, standing up in his place. "I'm afraid they've got him."

There were two more shots but no further cry. Then they heard the sound of excited voices and immediately afterwards rapidly approaching footsteps. A man came crashing through the shrubbery, but when he reached the fence over which, for a moment, his white face gleamed, he sank down as though powerless to climb. Hunterleys leapt to the ground and rushed to the fence.

"Hold up, Sidney, old fellow," he called softly. "We're here all right. Hold up for a moment and let me lift you."

Roche struggled to his feet. His face was ghastly white, the sweat stood out upon his forehead, his lips moved but no words came. Hunterleys got him by the arms, set his teeth and lifted. The task would have been too much for him, but Richard, springing from the car, came to his help. With an effort they hoisted him over the fence. Almost as they did so there was the sound of footsteps dashing through the shrubs, and a shot, the bullet of which tore the bark from the trunk of a tree close at hand. The car leapt off in fourth speed, Sidney supported in Hunterleys' arms. A loud shout from behind only brought Richard's foot down upon the accelerator.

"Stoop low!" he cried to Hunterleys. "Get your legs in, if you can."

A bullet struck the back of the car and another whistled over their heads. Then they dashed around the corner, and Richard, turning on the lights, jammed down his accelerator.

"Gee whiz! that's a bloodthirsty crew!" the young man exclaimed, his eyes fixed upon the road. "Is he hurt?"

Roche was lying back on the seat. Hunterleys was on his knees, holding on to the framework of the car.

"They've got me all right, Hunterleys," Roche faltered. "Listen. Everything went well with me at first. I could hear-nearly everything. The Frenchman kept his mouth shut-tight as wax. Grex did most of the talking. Russia sees nothing in the entente-England has nothing to offer her. She'd rather keep friends with Germany. Russia wants to move eastward-all Persia-India. She's only lukewarm, any way, about the French alliance as things stand at present, and dead off any truck with England. There's talk of Constantinople, and Germany to march three army corps through a weak French resistance to Calais. They talked of France acting to her pledges, putting her recruits in the front, taking a slight defeat, making a peace on her own account, with Alsace and Lorraine restored. She can pay. Germany wants the money. Germany-Germany-"

The words died away in a little groan. The wounded man's head fell back. Hunterleys passed his arm around the limp figure.

"Take the first turn to the right and second to the left, Richard," he directed. "We'll drive straight to the hospital. I made friends with the English doctor last night. He promised to be there till three. I paid him a fee on purpose."

"First to the right," Richard muttered, swinging around. "Second to the left, eh?"

Hunterleys was holding his brandy flask to Roche's lips as they swung through the white gates and pulled up outside the hospital. The doctor was faithful to his promise, and Roche, who was now unconscious, was carried in. In the hall he was laid upon an ambulance and borne off by two attendants. Hunterleys and Lane sat down to wait in the hall. After what seemed to them an interminable half-hour, the doctor reappeared. He came over to them at once.

"Your friend may live," he announced, "but in any case he will be unconscious for the next twenty-four hours. There is no need for you to stay

, or for you to fetch the young lady you spoke of, at present. If he dies, he will die unconscious. I can tell you nothing more until the afternoon."

Hunterleys rose slowly to his feet.

"You'll do everything you can, doctor?" he begged. "Money doesn't count."

"Money never counts here," the doctor replied gravely. "We shall save him if it is possible. You've nothing to tell me, I suppose, as to how he met with his wound?"

"Nothing."

They walked out together into the night. The bank of clouds had drifted away now and the moon was shining. Below them, barely a quarter of a mile away, they could see the flare of lights from the Casino. A woman was laughing hysterically through the open windows of a house on the other side of the way. Some one was playing a violin in a café at the corner of the street.

"Richard," Hunterleys said, "will you see me through? I have to get to Cannes as fast as I can to send a cable. I daren't send it from here, even in code."

"I'll drive you to Cannes like a shot," Richard assented heartily. "Just a brandy and soda on our way out, and I'll show you some pretty driving."

They stopped at the Café de Paris and left the car under the trees. Both men took a long drink and Richard filled his pocket with cigarettes. Then they re-entered the car, lit up, and glided off on the road for Cannes. Richard had become more serious. His boyish manner and appearance had temporarily gone. He drove, even, with less than his usual recklessness.

"That was a fine fellow," he remarked enthusiastically, after a long pause, "that fellow Roche!"

"And we've many more like him," Hunterleys declared. "We've men in every part of the world doing what seems like dirty work, ill-paid work, too, doing it partly, perhaps, because the excitement grows on them and they love it, but always, they have to start in cold blood. The papers don't always tell the truth, you know. There's many a death in foreign cities you read of as a suicide, or the result of an accident, when it's really the sacrifice of a hero for his country. It's great work, Richard."

"Makes me feel kind of ashamed," Richard muttered. "I've never done anything but play around all my life. Anyway, those sort of things don't come to us in our country. America's too powerful and too isolated to need help of that description. We shouldn't have any use for politicians of your class, or for Secret Service men."

"If you're in earnest," Hunterleys advised, "you go to Washington and ask them about it some day. The time's coming, if it hasn't already arrived, when your country will have to develop a different class of politicians. You see, whether she wants it or not, she is coming into touch, through Asia and South America, with European interests, and if she does, she'll have to adopt their methods more or less. Poor old Roche! There was something more he wanted to say, and if it's what I've been expecting, your country was in it."

"I guess I'll take Fedora over for our honeymoon," Richard decided softly. "Don't see why I shouldn't come into one of the Embassies. I'm a bit of a hulk to go about the world doing nothing."

Hunterleys laughed quietly.

"My young friend," he said, "aren't you taking your marriage prospects a little for granted? May I be there when you ask Augustus Nicholas Ivan Peter, Grand Duke of Vassura, Prince of Melinkoff, cousin of His Imperial Majesty the Czar, for the hand of his daughter in marriage!"

"So that's it, is it?" Lane murmured. "Why didn't you tell me before?"

Hunterleys shook his head. He gazed steadfastly along the road in front of him.

"It wasn't to my interest to have it known too generally," he said, "and I am afraid your little love affair didn't strike me as being of much importance by the side of the other things. But you've earned the truth, if it's any use to you."

"Well," Richard observed, "I wasn't counting on having any witnesses, but you can come along if you like. I suppose," he added, "I shall have to do him the courtesy of asking his permission, but-"

"But what?" Hunterleys asked curiously.

They were on a long stretch of straight, white road. Richard looked for a moment up to the sky, and Hunterleys, watching him, was amazed at the transformation.

"There isn't a Grand Duke or a Prince or an Imperial Majesty alive," he said, "who could rob me of Fedora!"

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