Bellamy and Louise, from a window in Fleet Street, watched him go by. Prince Rosmaran had been specially bidden to the luncheon, but he, too, had been with them earlier in the morning. Afterwards they turned their backs upon the city, and as soon as the crowd had thinned made their way to one of the west-end restaurants.
"It seems too good to be true," declared Louise. Bellamy nodded.
"Nevertheless I am convinced that it is true. The humor of the whole thing is that it was our friends in Germany themselves who pressed the Czar not to altogether cancel his visit for fear of exciting suspicion. That, of course, was when there seemed to be no question of the news of the Vienna compact leaking out. They would never have dared to expose a man to such a trial as the Czar must have faced when the resume of the Vienna proceedings, in the Chancellor's own handwriting, was read to him at Windsor."
"You saw the telegram from Paris?" Louise interposed. "The special mission from St. Petersburg has been recalled."
"It all goes to prove what I say," he went on. "Any morning you may expect to hear that Austria and Germany have received an ultimatum."
"I wonder," she remarked, "what became of Streuss."
"He is hiding somewhere in London, without a doubt," Bellamy answered. "There's always plenty of work for spies."
"Don't use that word," she begged.
He made a little grimace.
"You are thinking of my own connection with the profession, are you not?" he asked. "Well, that counts for nothing now. I hope I may still serve my country for many years, but it must be in a different way."
"What do you mean?" she demanded.
"I heard from my uncle's solicitors this morning," Bellamy continued, "that he is very feeble and cannot live more than a few months. When he dies, of course, I must take my place in the House of Lords. It is his wish that I should not leave England again now, so I suppose there is nothing left for me but to give it up. I have done my share of traveling and work, after all," he concluded, thoughtfully.
"Your share, indeed," she murmured. "Remember that but for that document which was read to the Czar at Windsor, Servia must have gone down, and England would have had to take a place among the second-class Powers. There may be war now, it is true, but it will be a glorious war."
"Louise, very soon we shall know. Until then I will say nothing. But I do not want you altogether to forget that there has been something in my life dearer to me even than my career for these last few years."
Her blue eyes were suddenly soft. She looked across towards him wistfully.
"Dear," she whispered, "things will be altered with you now. I am not fit to be the wife of an English peer—I am not noble."
"I am afraid," he assured her, "that I am democrat enough to think you one of the noblest women on earth. Why should I not? Your life itself has been a study in devotion. The modern virtues seem almost to ignore patriotism, yet the love of one's country is a splendid thing. But don't you think, Louise, that we have done our work that it is time to think of ourselves?"
She gave him her hand.
"Let us see," she said. "Let us wait for a little time and see what comes."
That night another proof of the popular feeling, absolutely spontaneous, broke out in one of the least expected places. Louise was encored for her wonderful solo in a modern opera of bellicose trend, and instead of repeating it she came alone on the stage after a few minutes' absence, dressed in Servian national dress. For a short time the costume was not recognized. Then the music—the national hymn of Servia, and the recollection of her parentage, brought the thing home to the audience. They did not even wait for her to finish. In the middle of her song the applause broke like a crash of thunder. From the packed gallery to the stalls they cheered her wildly, madly. A dozen times she came before the curtain. It seemed impossible that they would ever let her go. Directly she turned to leave the stage, the uproar broke out again. The manager at last insisted upon it that she should speak a few words. She stood in the centre of the stage amid a silence as complete as the previous applause had been unanimous. Her voice reached easily to every place in the House.
"I thank you all very much," she said. "I am very happy indeed to be in London, because it is the capital city of the most generous country in the world—the country that is always ready to protect and help her weaker neighbors. I am a Servian, and I love my country, and therefore," she added, with a little break in her voice,—"therefore I love you all."
It was nearly midnight before the audience was got rid of, and the streets of London had not been so impassable for years. Crowds made their way to the front of Buckingham Palace and on to the War Office, where men were working late. Everything seemed to denote that the spirit of the country was roused: The papers next morning made immense capital of the incident, and for the following twenty-four hours suspense throughout the country was almost at fever height. It was known that the Cabinet Council had been sitting for six hours. It was known, too, that without the least commotion, with scarcely any movements of ships that could be called directly threatening, the greatest naval force which the world had ever known was assembling off Dover. The stock markets were wildly excited. Laverick, back again in his office, found that his return to his accustomed haunts occasioned scarcely any comment. More startling events were shaping themselves. His own remarkable adventure remained, curiously enough, almost undiscussed.
He left the office shortly before his usual time, notwithstanding the rush of business, and drove at once to the little house in Theobald Square. Zoe was lying on the sofa, still white, but eager to declare that the pain had gone and that she was no longer suffering.
"It is too absurd," she declared, smiling, "my having this nurse here. Really, there is nothing whatever the matter with me. I should have gone to the theatre, but you see it is no use."
She passed him the letter which she had been reading, and which contained her somewhat curt dismissal. He laughed as he tore it into pieces.
"Are you so sorry, Zoe? Is the stage so wonderful a place that you could not bear to think of leaving it?"
She shook her head.
"It is not that," she whispered. "You know that it is not that."
He smiled as he took her confidently into his arms.
"There is a much more arduous life in front of you, dear," he said. "You have to come and look after me for the rest of your days. A bachelor who marries as late in life as I do, you know, is a trying sort of person."
She shrank away a little.
"You don't mean it," she murmured.
"You know very well that I mean it," he answered, kissing her. "I think you knew from the very first that sooner or later you were doomed to become my wife."
She sighed faintly and half-closed her eyes. For the moment she had forgotten everything. She was absolutely and completely happy.
Later on he made her dress and come out to dinner, and afterwards, as they sat talking, he laid an evening paper before her.
"Zoe," he declared, "the best thing that could has happened. You will not be foolish, dear, about it, I know. Remember the alternative—and read that."
She glanced at the few lines which announced the finding of Arthur Morrison in a house in Bloomsbury Square. The police had apparently tracked him down, and he had shot himself at the final moment. The details of his last few hours were indescribable. Zoe shuddered, and her eyes filled with tears. She smiled bravely in his face, however.
"It is terrible," she whispered simply, "but, after all, he was no relation of mine, and he tried to do you a frightful injury. When I think of that, I find it hard even to be sorry."
There was indeed almost a pitiless look in her face as she folded up the paper, as though she felt something of that common instinct of her sex which transforms a gentle woman so quickly into a hard, merciless creature when the being whom she loves is threatened.
"Let us go out into the streets," he said, "and hear what all this excitement is about."
They bought a late edition, and there it was at last in black and white. An ultimatum had been presented at Berlin and Vienna. Certain treaty rights which had been broken with regard to Austria's action in the East were insisted upon by Great Britain. It was demanded that Austria should cease the mobilization of her troops upon the Servian frontier, and renounce all rights to a protectorate over that country, whose independence Great Britain felt called upon, from that time forward, to guarantee. It was further announced that England, France, and Russia were acting in this matter in complete concert, and that the neutrality of Italy was assured. Further, it was known that the great English fleet had left for the North Sea with sealed orders.
Laverick took Zoe home early and called later at Bellamy's rooms. Bellamy greeted him heartily. He was on the point of going out, and the two men drove off together in the latter's car.
"See, my dear friend," Bellamy exclaimed, "what great things come from small means! The document which you preserved for us, and for which we had to fight so hard, has done all this."
"It is marvelous!" Laverick murmured.
"It is very simple," Bellamy declared. "That meeting in Vienna was meant to force our hands. It is all a question of the balance of strength. Germany and Austria together, with Russia friendly,—even with Russia neutral,—could have defied Europe. Germany could have spread out her army westwards while Austria seized upon her prey. It was a splendid plot, and it was going very well until the Czar himself was suddenly confronted by our King and his Ministers with a revelation of the whole affair. At Windsor the thing seemed different to him. The French Government behaved splendidly, and the Czar behaved like a man. Germany and Austria are left plante la. If they fight, well, it will be no one-sided affair. They have no fleet, or rather they will have none in a fortnight's time. They have no means of landing an army here. Austria, perhaps, can hold Russia, but with a French army in better shape than it has been for years, and the English landing as many men as they care to do, with ease, anywhere on the north coast of Germany, the entire scheme proved abortive. Come into the club and have a drink, Laverick. To-day great things have happened to me."
"And to me," Laverick interposed.
"You can guess my news, perhaps," Bellamy said, as they seated themselves in easy-chairs. "Mademoiselle Idiale has promised to be my wife."
Laverick held out his hand.
"I congratulate you heartily!" he exclaimed. "I have been an engaged man myself for something like half-an-hour."
A FAREWELL APPEARANCE
"One thing, at least, these recent adventures should teach whoever may be responsible for the government of this country," Bellamy remarked to his wife, as he laid down the morning paper. "For the first time in many years we have taken the aggressive against Powers of equal standing. We were always rather good at bullying smaller countries, but the bare idea of an ultimatum to Germany would have made our late Premier go lightheaded."
"And yet it succeeded," Louise reminded him.
"Absolutely," he affirmed. "To-day's news makes peace a certainty. If your country knew everything, Louise, they'd give us a royal welcome next month."
"You really mean that we are to go there, then?" she asked.
"It isn't exactly one of my privileges," he declared, "to fix upon the spot where we shall take our belated honeymoon, but I haven't been in Belgrade for years, and I know you'd like to see your people."
"It will be more happiness than I ever dreamed of," she murmured. "Do you think we shall be safe in passing through Vienna?"
"Remember," he said, "that I am no longer David Bellamy, with a silver greyhound attached to my watch-chain and an obnoxious reputation in foreign countries. I am Lord Denchester of Denchester, a harmless English peer traveling on his honeymoon. By the way, I hope you like the title."
"I shall love it when I get used to it," she declared. "To be an English Countess is dazzling, but I do think that I ought not to go on singing at Covent Garden."
"To-morrow will be your last night," he reminded her. "I have asked Laverick and the dear little girl he is going to marry to come with me. Afterwards we must all have supper together."
"How nice of you!" she exclaimed.
"I don't know about that," Bellamy said, smiling. "I really like Laverick. He is a decent fellow and a good sort. Incidentally, he was thundering useful to us, and pretty plucky about it. He interests me, too, in another way. He is a man who, face to face with a moral problem, acted exactly as I should have done myself!"
"You mean about the twenty thousand pounds?" she asked.
"He was practically dishonest," he pointed out. "He had no right to use that money and he ought to have taken the pocket-book to the police-station. If he had done so—that is to say, if he had waited there for the police, if he had been seen to hold out that pocket-book, to have discussed it with any one, it is ten to one that there would have been another tragedy that night. At any rate, the document would never have come to us."
"My moral judgment is warped," she asserted, "from the fact that Laverick's decision brought us the document."
"Perhaps so," he agreed, "and yet, there was the man face to face with ruin. The use of that money for a few hours did no one any harm, and saved him. I say that such a deed is always a matter of calculation, and in this case that he was justified."
"I wonder what he really thinks about it himself," she remarked.
"Perhaps I'll ask him."
But when the time came, and he sat in the box with Laverick and Zoe, he forgot everything else in the joy of watching the woman whom he had loved so long. She moved about the stage that night as though her feet indeed fell upon the air. She appeared to be singing always with restraint, yet with some new power in her voice, a quality which even in her simpler notes left the great audience thrilled. Already there was a rumor that it was her last appearance. Her marriage to Bellamy had been that day announced in the Morning Post. When, in the last act, she sang alone on the stage the famous love song, it seemed to them all that although her voice trembled more than once, it was a new thing to which they listened. Zoe found herself clasping Laverick's hand in tremulous excitement. Bellamy sat like a statue, a little back in the box, his clean-cut face thrown into powerful relief by the shadows beyond. Yet, as he listened, his eyes, too, were marvelously soft. The song grew and grew till, with the last notes, the whole story of an exquisite and expectant passion seemed trembling in her voice. The last note came from her lips almost as though unwillingly, and was prolonged for an extraordinary period. When it died away, its passing seemed something almost unrealizable. It quivered away into a silence which lasted for many seconds before the gathering roar of applause swept the house. And in those last few seconds she had turned and faced Bellamy. Their eyes met, and the light which flashed from his seemed answered by the quivering of her throat. It was her good-bye. She was singing a new love-song, singing her way into the life of the man whom she loved, singing her way into love itself. Once more the great house, packed to the ceiling, was worked up to a state of frenzied excitement. Bellamy was recognized, and the significance of her song sent a wave of sentiment through the house whose only possible form of expression took to itself shape in the frantic greetings which called her to the front again and again. But the three in the box were silent. Bellamy stood back in the shadows. Laverick and Zoe seemed suddenly to become immersed in themselves. Bellamy threw open the door of the box and pointed outside.
"At Luigi's in half-an-hour," said he softly. "You will excuse me for a few minutes? I am going to Louise."