Havoc by E. Phillips Oppenheim - HTML preview
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"What's wrong, old man?" Bellamy asked quickly.
Dorward from a side table had seized the bottle of whiskey and a siphon, and was mixing himself a drink with trembling fingers. He tossed it off before he spoke a word. Then he turned around and faced his companion. "Bellamy," he ordered, "lock the door."
Bellamy obeyed. He had no doubt now but that Dorward had lost his head in the Chancellor's presence - had made some absurd attempt to gain the knowledge which they both craved, and had failed.
"Bellamy," Dorward exclaimed, speaking hoarsely and still a little out of breath, "I guess I've had the biggest slice of luck that was ever dealt out to a human being. If only I can get safe out of this city, I tell you I've got the greatest scoop that living man ever handled."
"You don't mean that - "
Dorward wiped his forehead and interrupted.
"It's the most amazing thing that ever happened," he declared, "but I've got it here in my pocket, got it in black and white, in the Chancellor's own handwriting."
"Why, what you and I, an hour ago, would have given a million for," Dorward replied.
Bellamy's expression was one of blank but wondering incredulity.
"You can't mean this, Dorward!" he exclaimed. "You may have something - just what the Chancellor wants you to print. You're not supposing for an instant that you've got the whole truth?"
Dorward's smile was the smile of certainty, his face that of a conqueror.
"Here in my pocket," he declared, striking his chest, "in the Chancellor's own handwriting. I tell you I've got the original verbatim copy of everything that passed and was resolved upon this afternoon between the Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of Germany. I've got it word for word as the Chancellor took it down. I've got their decision. I've got their several undertakings."
Bellamy for a moment was stricken dumb. He looked toward the door and back into his friend's face aglow with triumph. Then his power of speech returned.
"Do you mean to say that you stole it?" Dorward struck the table with his fist.
"Not I! I tell you that the Chancellor gave it to me, gave it to me with his own hands, willingly, - pressed it upon me. No, don't scoff!" he went on quickly. "Listen! This is a genuine thing. The Chancellor's mad. He was lying in a fit when I left the Palace. It will be in all the evening papers. You will hear the boys shouting it in the streets within a few minutes. Don't interrupt and I'll tell you the whole truth. You can believe me or not, as you like. It makes no odds. I arrived punctually and was shown up into the anteroom. Even from there I could hear loud voices in the inner chamber and I knew that something was up. Presently a little fellow came out to me - a dark-bearded chap with gold-rimmed glasses. He was very polite, introduced himself as the Chancellor's physician, regretted exceedingly that the Chancellor was unwell and could see no one, - the excitement and hard work of the last few days had knocked him out. Well, I stood there arguing as pleasantly as I could about it, and then all of a sudden the door of the inner room was thrown open. The Chancellor himself stood on the threshold. There was no doubt about his being ill; his face was as pale as parchment, his eyes were simply wild, and his hair was all ruffled as though he had been standing upon his head. He began to talk to the physician in German. I didn't understand him until he began to swear, - then it was wonderful! In the end he brushed them all away and, taking me by the arm, led me right into the inner room. For a long time he went on jabbering away half to himself, and I was wondering how on earth to bring the conversation round to the things I wanted to know about. Then, all of a sudden, he turned to me and seemed to remember who I was and what I wanted. 'Ah!' he said, 'you are Dorward, the American journalist. I remember you now. Lock the door.' I obeyed him pretty quick, for I had noticed they were mighty uneasy outside, and I was afraid they'd be disturbing us every moment. 'Come and sit down,' he ordered. I did so at once. 'You're a sensible fellow,' he declared. 'To-day every one is worrying me. They think that I am not well. It is foolish. I am quite well. Who would not be well on such a day as this?' I told him that I had never seen him looking better in my life, and he nodded and seemed pleased. 'You have come to hear the truth about the meeting of my master with the Czar and the Emperor of Germany?' he asked. 'That's so,' I told him. 'America 's more than a little interested in these things, and I want to know what to tell her.' Then he leaned across the table. 'My young friend,' he said, 'I like you. You are straightforward. You speak plainly and you do not worry me. It is good. You shall tell your country what it is that we have planned, what the things are that are coming. Yours is a great and wise country. When they know the truth, they will remember that Europe is a long way off and that the things which happen there are really no concern of theirs.' 'You are right,' I assured him, - 'dead right. Treat us openly, that's all we ask.' 'Shall I not do that, my young friend?' he answered. 'Now look, I give you this.' He fumbled through all his pockets and at last he drew out a long envelope, sealed at both ends with black sealing wax on which was printed a coat of arms with two tigers facing each other. He looked toward the door cautiously, and there was just that gleam in his eyes which madmen always have. 'Here it is,' he whispered, 'written with my own hand. This will tell you exactly what passed this afternoon. It will tell you our plans. It will tell you of the share which my master and the other two are taking. Button it up safely,' he said, 'and, whatever you do, do not let them know outside that you have got it. Between you and me,' he went on, leaning across the table, 'something seems to have happened to them all to-day. There's my old doctor there. He is worrying all the time, but he himself is not well. I can see it whenever he comes near me.' I nodded as though I understood and the Chancellor tapped his forehead and grinned. Then I got up as casually as I could, for I was terribly afraid that he wouldn't let me go. We shook hands, and I tell you his fingers were like pieces of burning coal. Just as I was moving, some one knocked at the door. Then he began to storm again, kicked his chair over, threw a paperweight at the window, and talked such nonsense that I couldn't follow him. I unlocked the door myself and found the doctor there. I contrived to look as frightened as possible. 'His Highness is not well enough to talk to me,' I whispered. 'You had better look after him.' I heard a shout behind and a heavy fall. Then I closed the door and slipped away as quietly as I could - and here I am."
Bellamy drew a long breath.
"My God, but this is wonderful!" he muttered. "How long is it since you left the Palace?"
"About ten minutes or a quarter of an hour," Dorward answered.
"They'll find it out at once," declared the other. "They'll miss the paper. Perhaps he'll tell them himself that he has given it to you. Don't let us run any risks, Dorward. Tear it open. Let us know the truth, at any rate. If you have to part with the document, we can remember its contents. Out with it, man, quick!. They may be here at any moment."
Dorward drew a few steps back. Then he shook his head.
"I guess not," he said firmly.
Bellamy regarded his friend in blank and uncomprehending amazement.
"What do you mean?" he exclaimed. "You're not going to keep it to yourself? You know what it means to me - to England?"
"Your old country can look after herself pretty well," Dorward declared. "Anyhow, she'll have to take her chance. I am not here as a philanthropist. I am an American journalist, and I'll part to nobody with the biggest thing that's ever come into any man's bands."
Bellamy, with a tremendous effort, maintained his self-control.
"What are you going to do with it?" he asked quickly. "I tell you I'm off out of the country to-night," Dorward declared. "I shall head for England. Pearce is there himself, and I tell you it will be just the greatest day of my life when I put this packet in his hand. We'll make New York hum, I can promise you, and Europe too."
Bellamy's manner was perfectly quiet - too quiet to be altogether natural. His hand was straying towards his pocket.
"Dorward," he said, speaking rapidly, and keeping his back to the door, "you don't realize what you're up against. This sort of thing is new to you. You haven't a dog's chance of leaving Vienna alive with that in your pocket. If you trust yourself in the Orient Express to-night, you'll never be allowed to cross the frontier. By this time they know that the packet is missing; they know, too, that you are the only man who could have it, whether the Chancellor has told them the truth or not. Open it at once so that we get some good out of it. Then we'll go round to the Embassy. We can slip out by the back way, perhaps. Remember I have spent my life in the service, and I tell you that there's no other place in the city where your life is worth a snap of the fingers but at your Embassy or mine. Open the packet, man."
"I think not," Dorward answered firmly. "I am an American citizen. I have broken no laws and done no one any harm. If there's any slaughtering about, I guess they'll hesitate before they begin with Arthur Dorward. . . . Don't be a fool, man!"
He took a quick step backward, - he was looking into the muzzle of Bellamy's revolver.
"Dorward," the latter exclaimed, "I can't help it! Yours is only a personal ambition - I stand for my country. Share the knowledge of that packet with me or I shall shoot."
"Then shoot and be d--d to you!" Dorward declared fiercely. "This s my show, not yours. You and your country can go to - "
He broke off without finishing his sentence. There was a thunderous knocking at the door. The two men looked at one another for a moment, speechless. Then Bellamy, with a smothered oath, replaced the revolver in his pocket.
"You've thrown away our chance," he said bitterly.
The knocking was repeated. When Bellamy with a shrug of the shoulders answered the summons, three men in plain clothes entered. They saluted Bellamy, but their eyes were traveling around the room.
"We are seeking Herr Dorward, the American journalist!" one exclaimed. "He was here but a moment ago."
Bellamy pointed to the inner door. He had had too much experience in such matters to attempt any prevarication. The three men crossed the room quickly and Bellamy followed in the rear. He heard a cry of disappointment from the foremost as he opened the door. The inner room was empty!