light from that one lamp seemed to fall full upon Madame Christophor's
"I loved my boy," she went on. "It was part of my husband's cruelty to
detach him from me. He has the law on his side. I may not even see
Rudolf. Very well, I do my best to steel my heart. I come here to live.
I have many friends, but Falkenberg is the only man to whom I have ever
belonged, and he has treated me as he would have treated one of those
others - his companions for the moment. I have occupied myself here in
work of different sorts. I have tried in my way to do good among women
less happy, even, than I. Wherever I went I saw that every woman who
has sinned, every woman who is miserable, every woman who has become a
blot upon the earth, is what she is by reason of man's selfishness.
Can you wonder that I have grown a little bitter?"
"I wonder at nothing in the woman who has been Falkenberg's wife,"
Julien replied. "He seems to me the most unscrupulous person who ever
breathed. Yet in his way he is marvelously attractive."
"He is," she admitted. "I fell in love with him against my will.
Directly my reason intervened, the madness was over. How old do you
think I am, Sir Julien?"
Julien was a little startled.
"How old?" he repeated.
"A foolish question, of course," she continued. "How could you be
honest! I am twenty-nine years old. I believe that I am the richest
woman in Paris. I am tired of being called brilliant and cynical, of
showing fortune-hunters to the door, of living my life in loneliness.
Falkenberg has sworn that if I take any steps to make a divorce
possible, I shall never see my boy again. I have not seen him, as it
is, for nearly two years. The threat is losing its terrors.... You are
listening, my friend?"
She turned to the butler. The other servants had already left the room.
"Bring coffee into the winter-garden," she ordered. "Come, Sir Julien."
She lit a cigarette and threw it away almost immediately. Her eyes were
gleaming like stars. She laid her fingers upon his arm as they passed
out into the perfumed air of the conservatory, and he seemed to feel
some touch of the fire that was burning in her veins. She swayed a
little towards him. The color in her cheeks was brilliant. Her bosom
was rising and falling quickly. She was splendidly handsome, nerved up
to great things, a woman inspired by a purpose. Julien was afraid. He,
too, felt something of the excitement of the moment, but his brain
seemed numbed. There was nothing he could say. She threw herself back
into a low chair and drew him down to her side. With her other hand she
caught hold of a cluster of pink roses and pressed their cool blossoms
to her cheek.
"Sir Julien," she murmured, "I have looked so steadfastly into life, I
have striven so hard to find a place there. I have something to give. I
do not come empty-handed. I can place offerings upon the altar of the
great god. I have myself, my brains such as they are, and the golden
key which unlocks the wonderful doors. Can you wonder that I ask for
something in return? I have stood in the marketplace of life, I have
passed down between the stalls, and I am humiliated. There is no life,
there is no career upon this world for a woman. It is a strange
doctrine, perhaps, to preach in these days, but I have searched and I
know it to be the truth. Nature meant woman for man, and if she rebels
there is no seat for her alone among the mighty places. Alone I can win
none of the things I desire. You see, I talk to you like this, nakedly,
because we are of the order of those who understand. You very nearly
married a duke's daughter and became a middle-class politician. Don't
do it. Don't think of it any more, Julien. You were meant for the great
places, and I think - I think - that I was meant to hold the torch to
light you there!"
She started at his tone. In the splendid arrogance of her assured
position, her brilliant gifts, her almost inspired individuality,
failure had never occurred to her. Even now she refused to read the
message in his set face.
"You feel, perhaps," she went on, leaning towards him, "that you are
pledged to Lady Anne. Dear Sir Julien, rub your eyes! I want you to
see - all the way to the skies. Lady Anne is a sweet girl who will look
nice at the head of any one's table. She will read the papers and take
an intelligent interest in her husband's work, and ask him trite and
obvious questions to prove that she understands all about it. She will
give you phenacetin when you have a headache, she will fill your house
with the right sort of people. She will be very amiable and very
satisfied. She'll always read the debates and she'll sit up for you at
night in a pretty dressing-gown. And all the time the wall will grow,
brick by brick, and you will look up to the skies and find them empty,
and listen for the music and hear none, and a web will be spun about
your heart, and your brain will be clogged, and the fine thoughts will
go, and you'll never be anything but a successful politician. You
know very well that all the paths to the great pit of unhappiness are
crowded with men who have been successful in their profession."
She swayed even closer towards him, her head a little thrown back, her
eyes inviting him. He scrambled to his feet. Still she held out her
"Won't you trust me?" she begged. "Believe me that I know the way into
the great places, Julien."
"Listen!" he cried hoarsely. "You have offered me everything except
your love. Thank Heaven you did not offer me that! I love Lady Anne."
"Everything _except_ my love!" she exclaimed, with the first note
of trouble in her tone. "Everything _except_ my love! Are you mad?"
"I love Lady Anne!" he repeated, setting his teeth.
They stood facing one another. She tore a handful of the blossoms from
a syringa tree and commenced crushing them in her fingers. The sound of
footsteps scarcely disturbed her. The butler appeared, followed by Lady
Anne. The former excused himself with a grave face.
"Madame," he announced, "the Prince von Falkenberg is here."
Madame Christophor turned slowly around.
"The Prince von Falkenberg! Where?"
"In the waiting-room, madame."
She moved away. She did not glance towards Julien.
"I come," she announced.
Lady Anne had some letters in her hand, which she handed to Julien. He
threw them hastily aside and drew her suddenly into his arms and into
the shadow of the giant palm.
"Anne," he pleaded, "not because of your mother, not because you would
make me a suitable wife, but because I love you, will you marry me?"
He felt her relax in his arms.
"Julien!" she murmured.
"I didn't finish the sentence," he went on, - "to-morrow at the
"It's the only way," he insisted confidently. "We couldn't be married
in London. All the tribe of Harbord would come and boo, and it would
save no end of gossip and bother when we got back. Anne - I love you
very much and I want you just as soon as I can get you!"
"Of course, if you put it like that," she said softly, -
"This is the only frock I have."
"The Rue de la Paix is at our gates," he reminded her.
"Be sensible," she begged. "You can't show your-self about Paris.
Something terrible will happen."
"Not it!" he replied confidently. "It's too late."
His arm crept a little further around her waist, he drew her even
further back among the drooping palms.
"I think that I like this better than the last time you asked me!" she
FALKENBERG'S LAST EFFORT
"Madame," Prince Falkenberg declared, with a formal bow, "I owe you a
thousand apologies for this visit."
Madame Christophor looked at him across the room, and in her eyes there
was no welcome nor any anger - only surprise.
"You break," she reminded him, "the word of a prince!"
Falkenberg smiled icily.
"There are cataclysms in life," he said, "whirlpools into which one may
sometimes be drawn. One's will is overborne. I myself am in that
Madame Christophor looked steadfastly at her visitor. Was it her fancy
or was he really growing older, this man of iron? The story of the last
few weeks was written into his face, there were shadows under his eyes,
a deep line across his forehead.
"Since you are here, be seated," she invited, sinking herself wearily
into a chair. "Tell me as quickly as you can what has brought you?"
"Portel has brought me," Falkenberg answered grimly. "They tell me that
he has taken shelter under the shadow of your petticoats."
"Shelter from your assassins!"
"Precisely!" Falkenberg admitted.
"I do not admire your methods," Madame Christophor remarked. "They seem
to me not only brutal but clumsy. You killed seven men and injured
several others, to no purpose."
"Madame," Falkenberg declared, "to secure the death of that man I would
have destroyed a whole quarter of Paris and every person in it."
Madame Christophor shivered.
"Thorough, as usual, my dear Prince," she murmured. "Nevertheless, I
find such statements loathsome. We should have outlived the days of
barbarity. I do not understand men who deal in such fashion with their
"There is something between us greater than personal enmity," he
retorted fiercely. "My personal enemy I would deal with in such a
manner as I make no doubt would commend itself to your scruples. Julien
Portel is more than that. He is the enemy of my country. Upon him,
therefore, I shall have no mercy."
"I will not argue with you," she replied. "There is a plainer issue
before us. In passing my threshold you have broken your word of honor.
What do you want?"
"I want Julien Portel!"
Madame Christophor shrugged her shoulders.
"You have wanted him for some little time."
"Never so badly as at this instant," Falkenberg declared bitterly. "He
has set all Europe in a ferment with those infernal letters. He knows
too much. He knows whence came the money which bought _Le Jour_.
He knows every detail of my campaign here."
"There are surely others," she objected, "who must have guessed - "
"But there was no one else," he interrupted, "who had the special
knowledge which Portel has. He came from the Foreign Office, with the
records of the last two years in his mind. At Berlin he and I crossed
swords. He is the only Englishman who has ever caused me a moment's
"Are you sure," she asked, "that your campaign here has been a wise
"The wisdom of Solomon," he replied grimly, "can be made to look like
folly by the accident of failure. There is no doubt as to its wisdom.
No one has studied these matters as I have studied them. No one has
seen the truth more clearly. An alliance between England and America is
a matter of a few years only, and when it comes the progress of Germany
is set back for a generation. The one absolute necessity before me was
to cut the bonds between England and France and to settle with England
alone and quickly - diplomatically, if possible; by force of arms as a
last resource. We don't seek war, Henriette. We are not really a
bloodthirsty nation. We seek territory. We need new lands - fruitful
lands, trade, the command of the seas. If we cannot get what we want
by peaceful means, then it must be war. England for the present is
weakly governed. She is in the throes of labor troubles. Her political
parties are ill-balanced. There is a puppet at the Foreign Office. Now
is the time to strike."
"Is it wise to tell me your secrets?" she inquired coldly. "I have no
sympathy for you or your country."
"I have a bargain to strike with you and you must understand," he
answered. "Twenty-four hours ago we dispatched a gunboat to a certain
neutral port which comes under the influence of England. We paid a
German to go there and send us word that he was in danger. We have sent
an intimation to the French and English Governments. To England it is
an insult. I have taken the chance that France has had enough of this
_entente_. Now you understand why I must have Julien Portel before
they can get him back to the Foreign Office, before he can do more
mischief. A strong man in Downing Street at this juncture might upset
"I understand well enough why you need Julien Portel," she admitted. "I
am still in the dark, however, as to why you imagine that I shall give
"Because I am going to buy him from you," Falkenberg asserted.
She glanced across the room at him, half curiously, half scornfully.
"Buy him! You!"
"Exactly," he replied. "You smile because you do not understand. I
offer you a dispensation for your divorce, and your son."
A little tremor seemed to pass through her whole frame. For a moment
she closed her eyes. Then she sprang to her feet and stood quivering
"This is one of your traps!" she exclaimed. "You don't mean it!"
"To prove that I do," he insisted, "I have brought Rudolf with me to
Paris. He can be in your arms in a few minutes. Look into the street,
if you will."
She crossed the room hastily and lifted the curtain. A low cry broke
from her lips. In the tonneau of the great touring car outside a little
boy was lying back amongst the cushions, asleep.
"He is tired," Falkenberg said slowly, with his eyes fixed upon the
woman. "He has come all the way from Berlin without an hour's rest. Am
I to take him back to-morrow? It is for you to decide."
Madame Christophor turned toward the door. Falkenberg barred the way.
"Not yet!" he declared. "Do you accept my terms?"
"But he is hungry!" she cried. "I can see that he is hungry! And he is
so pale - let me fetch him in."
"Of course he is hungry," his father agreed. "He has also been asking
me questions about you all the way. He believes that he is going to see
you. I, too, believe that. You consent?"
"Tell me exactly what it is that you require?" she demanded.
"Take me to Portel," he answered swiftly. "Inform him that you cannot
any longer permit him the shelter of your roof."
She sat down and began to laugh, softly but in unnatural fashion.
Falkenberg watched her with grim curiosity.
"And then?" she inquired.
"I have made some plans," he said slowly. "If he passes outside your
doors to-night, he will write no more articles!"
"But the whole of the English Press is clamoring for his return to
power! There will be no need for his pen - he will take up his old
"Precisely!" Falkenberg assented. "It is not my intention that he shall
return to that position!"
Madame Christophor sat with her eyes fixed upon the wall. Then she
began to laugh once more in the same strange manner. Falkenberg was
"You find my intentions amusing?" he asked.
"I find the situation amusing," she replied. "Half an hour ago I
offered Sir Julien Portel what is left of my life."
Falkenberg stood perfectly still, watching her closely. Then his eyes
filled with a sudden bright light.
"You!" he exclaimed. "You - Princess von Falkenberg - offered yourself to
this man and were refused?"
"You are indeed a genius," she admitted. "I was refused."
There was a brief silence. Falkenberg waited. Madame Christophor
remained silent. Her attitude puzzled him a little. He was afraid to
speak for fear of striking the wrong note. Nevertheless, the onus of
speech was thrust upon him.
"Madame," he said at last, "I anticipate your reply. This man has put
an intolerable insult upon you. While he lives you could never forget
it. There are some privileges still belonging to me. I claim the right
of avenging that affront."
"It comes conveniently - the affront!" she remarked, through her
"Conveniently or not, the affront exists!" he cried. "You cannot refuse
me now! You would not have him go unpunished!"
"I am not sure that he was to blame."
"Not to blame?" Falkenberg repeated, with emphasis. "Would you have me
believe that you threw yourself at his head unasked, without
encouragement - you, the proudest woman in France? One does not believe
"Nevertheless, it is the truth," Madame Christophor declared.
Falkenberg smiled incredulously, but he said nothing. Madame
Christophor had found her way once more to the window. She stood there,
looking down into the car. The boy was still asleep. She gripped the
window-curtains with both her hands. He was so pale, so tired, and how
he had grown!
"I give you even his heritage," Falkenberg promised. "Make of him a
Frenchman or an American, if you will. He is your own son. Take him. I
give my firstborn for my country. You will not refuse what I offer?"
Madame Christophor made no answer. Falkenberg, however, saw the longing
in her face. It was enough! He suddenly changed his tactics.
"This Julien Portel," he said, - "it is another woman he prefers."
He saw her bosom heave. The storm against which she had been struggling
all the time seemed on the point of bursting. The hot blood was singing
in her ears, her eyes were aflame. She crossed the room and rang the
bell. Falkenberg was content to wait. He felt that he had won! The
butler appeared almost immediately.
"You will conduct the Prince von Falkenberg into the winter-garden,"
she directed. "He desires to speak to Sir Julien Portel."
"And you?" Falkenberg asked, turning towards her.
A swift gesture showed him her disordered countenance. It was
"I follow," she announced.
DEFEAT FOR FALKENBERG
Among the palms of Madame Christophor's conservatory, Julien and Lady
Anne were living through a brief new chapter of their history. The
wonderful thing had come to them. It was amazing - almost unrealizable!
A new glamor enveloped the merest trifles. They spoke in halting
sentences, they were at times almost incoherent. The marvel of it was
Lady Anne was the first to hear the sound of approaching footsteps. She
listened. It was not Madame Christophor who returned. She laid her hand
upon Julien's arm.
"It is Jean, the butler, who comes," she whispered. "He conducts some
On the threshold of the winter-garden, only a short distance away, they
heard Jean's voice.
"Monsieur le Prince will find Sir Julien Portel a few steps further
"Monsieur le Prince!" Anne faltered, with whitening face. "Julien, what
does it mean?"
Julien rose to his feet. The footsteps were close at hand now upon the
tessellated pavement. Then through the drooping palm boughs they saw
him. Julien was standing tense and prepared, his uninjured arm was
ready to strike. Falkenberg was there.
"You!" Julien exclaimed. "Well?"
The iron prince had disappeared. It was Herr Freudenberg, maker of
toys, suave, genial, fascinating, who bowed before them.
"Why so surprised, Sir Julien?" he asked. "You forget that this is my
wife's house. The little difficulties which have existed between us
have to-day, I am happy to say, been removed. I have restored her son
to Madame la Princesse. We are reunited. Henceforth my wishes are the
wishes also of madame. You will present me? It is Lady Anne Clonarty, I
They were both bewildered. For the moment Falkenberg was supreme. He
bowed low upon the hesitating words of introduction.
"Dear Lady Anne," he murmured, "do not be prejudiced against me. Sir
Julien believes that I am his enemy. I am not. I am his sincere and
Lady Anne's eyebrows were slowly raised.
"You have surely," she remarked, "a strange manner of showing such
Falkenberg smiled whimsically. He had the expression of a penitent boy
who has misbehaved.
"It is at least consistent," he pleaded. "I admire Sir Julien's talents
to such an extent that I am perhaps a trifle too anxious that he should
not use them against my country."
"You haven't forced your way in here to bandy phrases," Julien asserted
a little harshly. "What is it that you want?"
"You!" Falkenberg answered softly. "You, my friend! Madame la
Princesse - my wife, whom you have known as Madame Christophor - finds it
impossible, against my wishes, to offer you any longer the shelter of
her roof. I am here to escort you, if you will, to your new
quarters - to follow you, if I cannot reconcile you to my company."
Julien was startled, Lady Anne incredulous.
"I do not believe," the former declared, "that Madame Christophor
intends any such act of inhospitality."
"As to that," Falkenberg replied pleasantly, "my wife will be here
herself in a few moments. You shall hear what she has to say from her
own lips. You must remember that I have paid a price. I have given up
the guardianship of my son. You yourself," he continued, looking
steadfastly at Julien, "may know if any other cause exists likely to
have influenced my wife in granting my request."
Julien set his teeth, but he did not flinch.
"What is it that you want with me, Prince Falkenberg?" he demanded.
"Another brutal attempt at massacre? I owe you this," he added, raising
his bandaged arm. "Do you imagine that you can continue to use the
methods of other generations with impunity? The thing is absurd. There
are too many who know already the secret of Herr Freudenberg, maker of
toys! There are too many who will know, also, before long, the secret
of the explosion in the Rue de Montpelier!"
Falkenberg nodded gravely.
"I understand," he admitted. "One moves, of course, always, with the
knife at one's heart. Yet, until now, I, personally, am safe. Another
man dies to-night, even as we talk here, and confesses himself guilty
of the Rue de Montpelier affair. But let that pass. We have crossed
swords, Sir Julien, and I frankly admit, although I have gained my end
to-night, that I am worsted. The money I spent to purchase _Le
Jour_ has been thrown away. The months of careful intrigue, the
sacrifices and efforts I have made to destroy the _entente_, have
been rendered almost futile by your diabolical pen. Very well, for what
you have done I will accept defeat - I will accept defeat without
malice. But there is the future."
"What of it?" Julien asked.
"I do not intend," Falkenberg declared, in a low, firm tone, "to have
you back, a member of any English Government. I prefer Carraby and such
"You flatter me!" Julien remarked grimly.
"Not in the least," Falkenberg objected. "You know the position as well
as I. The political party of which you are a member is in power for a
long time. You have got hold of the middle class, you've bought the
Irish vote, you've bought labor. In the ranks of your party there isn't
a man whom I fear - only you. I will not have you go back."
"But as it happens," Julien announced, "I am going back. I have heard
from England this evening. Your friend Carraby is resigning."
Falkenberg shook his head. He remained calm, but there was an ominous
flash in his eyes.
"You would make a mistake," he asserted. "No one ever goes
back - successfully. Do I not know - I who am twenty years your senior, I
who have felt my way into all the corners and crevices of life? Listen
to me, please."
He drew a chair towards them and sat down, crossing his knees and
looking towards them both in friendly fashion.
"Sir Julien," he said, "and you, my dear young lady, your entire future
depends upon this little conversation. Can you not put it out of your
minds for a few moments that I am the dangerous Falkenberg, the
mischief-maker, the ogre of all respectable Britons? Can you not
remember only that I am a well-meaning, not unkindly old gentleman who
has some good advice to offer? You at least will listen to me, Lady
Anne. Do I look like an assassin by choice? Do I seem like the sort of
person to indulge in these dangerous exercises for mere amusement? You
are both young, you have both your lives before you. Why do you, Sir
Julien, voluntarily put the yoke about your neck? Why do you, my
gracious young lady, suffer the man with whom your life is to be linked
to deliver himself over voluntarily into a state of bondage? Politics
lose all glamor to those who have dwelt within the walls. Sir Julien
has dwelt there and so have I. He knows in his heart whether it is
worth while. One lives always amidst a clamor of evil tongues, a
pestilent trail of poisonous suspicions. One gives up one's life to be
flouted and misunderstood, to be accused of evil motives and every
imaginable crime. When it is all over, when one has time to think of
all that one has missed, one feels that all one has done could have
been done just as well by the next man in the street. That is the end
of it. And against all that, you two have the world before you. You can