Naida, deserted by her father, who
had found a taxicab to take him back to the purlieus
of Piccadilly and auction bridge, sauntered along at
the back of the tennis nets until she arrived at the
court where Nigel and his party were playing.
“I should like to watch this
game for a few minutes,” she told her companion.
“The men are such opposite types and yet both
so good-looking. And Lady Maggie fascinates me.”
Immelan fetched two chairs, and they
settled down to watch the set. Nigel, with his
clean, well-knit figure, looked his best in spotless
white flannels. Chalmers, a more powerful and
muscular type, also presented a fine appearance.
The play was fast and sometimes brilliant. Nigel
had Maggie for a partner, and Chalmers one of her friends,
and the set was as nearly equal as possible.
Naida leaned forward in her chair, following every
stroke with interest.
“I find this most fascinating,”
she murmured. “I hope that Lord Dorminster
and his cousin will win. Your sympathies, of course,
are on the other side.”
“You are right,” Immelan
assented. “My sympathies are on the other
There was a lull in the game for a
moment or two. The sun was troublesome, and the
players were changing courts. Naida turned towards
her companion thoughtfully.
“My friend,” she said,
glancing around as though to be sure that they were
not overheard, “there are times when you move
me to wonder. In the small things as well as
the large, you are so unchanging. I think that
you would see an Englishman die, whether he were your
friend or your enemy, very much as you kick a poisonous
snake out of your path.”
“It is quite true,” was the calm reply.
“But America was once your enemy,”
she continued, watching Chalmers’ powerful service.
“With America we made peace,”
he explained. “With England, never.
If you would really appreciate and understand the
reason for that undying hatred which I and millions
of my fellow countrymen feel, it will cost you exactly
one shilling. Go to any stationer’s and
buy a copy of the Treaty of Versailles. Read
it word by word and line by line. It is the most
brutal document that was ever printed. It will
help you to understand.”
She nodded slowly.
“Paul always declared,”
she said, “that in those days England had no
statesmen no one who could feel what lay
beyond the day-by-day horizon. When I think of
that Treaty, my friend, I sympathise with you.
It is not a great thing to forge chains of hate for
a beaten enemy.”
“If you realise this, are you
not then our friend?” Immelan asked.
She appeared for a few moments to
be engrossed in the tennis. Her companion, however,
waited for her answer.
“In a way,” she acknowledged,
“I find something magnificent in your wonderfully
conceived plans for vengeance, and in the spirit which
has evolved and kept them alive through all these
years. Then, on the other hand, I look at home,
and I ask myself whether you do not make what they
would call over here a cat’s-paw of my country.”
“Ours is the most natural and
most beneficial of all possible alliances,”
Immelan insisted. “Germany and Russia, hand
in hand, can dominate the world.”
“I am not sure that it is an
equal bargain, though, which you seek to drive with
us,” she said. “Germany aims, of course,
at world power, but you are still fettered by the
terms of that Treaty. You cannot build a great
fleet of warships or aeroplanes; you cannot train great
armies; you cannot lay up for yourselves all the store
that is necessary for a successful war. So you
bring your brains to Russia, and you ask us to do
these things; but Russia does not aim at world power.
Russia seeks only for a great era of self-development.
She, too, has a mighty neighbour at her gates.
I am not sure that your bargain is a fair one.”
“It is the first time that I
have heard you talk like this,” Immelan declared,
with a little tremor in his tone.
“I have been in England twice
during the last few months,” Naida said.
“You know very well at whose wish I came, I have
been studying the conditions here, studying the people
so far as I can. I find them such a kindly race.
I find their present Government so unsuspicious, so
genuinely altruistic. After all, that Treaty belongs
to an England that has passed. The England of
to-day would never go to war at all. They believe
here that they have solved the problem of perpetual
Immelan smiled a little bitterly.
“Dear lady,” he said,
“if I lose your help, if you go back to Petrograd
and talk to Paul Matinsky as you are talking to me,
do you know that you will break the heart of a nation?”
She shook her head.
“Paul does not look upon me
as infallible,” she protested. “Besides,
there are other considerations. And now, please,
we will talk of the tennis. I do not know whether
it is my fancy, but that man there to your left, in
grey, seems to me to be taking an interest in our conversation.
He cannot possibly overhear, and he has not glanced
once in our direction, yet I have an instinct for
Immelan glanced in the direction of
the stranger, a quiet-looking, spare man
dressed in a grey tweed suit, clean-shaven and of early
middle-age. There was nothing about his appearance
to distinguish him from a score or more of other loiterers.
“You are quite right,”
her companion admitted. “One should not
talk of these things even where the birds may listen,
but it is so difficult. As for that man, he could
not possibly hear, but there might be others.
One passes behind on the grass so noiselessly.”
They relapsed into silence. Naida,
leaning a little forward, became once more engrossed
in the play. Her eyes were fixed upon Nigel.
It was his movements which she followed, his strokes
which she usually applauded. Immelan sat by her
side and watched.
“They are well matched,” he remarked presently.
“Mr. Chalmers has a wonderful
service,” she declared, “but Lord Dorminster
has more skill. Oh, bravo!”
The set at that moment was finished
by a backhanded return from Nigel, which skimmed over
the net at a great pace, completely out of reach of
the opposing couple. The players strolled across
to the seats under the trees. Naida smiled at
Nigel, and he came over to her side. Once again
he was conscious of that peculiar sense of pleasure
and well-being which he felt in her company.
“You play tennis very well, Lord Dorminster,”
“I found inspiration,” he answered.
“In your partner?”
“Maggie is always charming to
play with. I was thinking of the onlookers.”
“Mr. Immelan is very interested
in tennis,” she remarked, with a smile which
“Even more so.”
“Tell me about games in Russia,”
he begged, seating himself on the grass by her side.
“We have none,” she replied.
“I learnt my tennis at Cannes, where, curiously
enough, I saw you play three years ago.”
“You were there then?” he asked with interest.
“For a few days only. We
were motoring from Spain to Monte Carlo. Cannes
was very crowded, but you see I remembered.”
Her voice seemed to have some lingering
charm in it, some curiously potent suggestion of personal
interest which stirred his pulses. He looked
up and met her eyes. For a moment the world of
tennis fields, of pleasant chatter and of holiday-makings,
passed away. He rose abruptly to his feet.
This time he avoided looking at her.
“You must come over and speak
to Maggie,” he begged. “Perhaps Mr.
Immelan will spare you for a few moments.”
Immelan bowed, sphinxlike but coldly
furious. The two strolled away together.
When the next set was over, Naida,
who had rejoined her companion, had disappeared.
On one of their vacated chairs was seated the quiet-looking
stranger in grey. Chalmers passed his arm through
Nigel’s and led him in that direction.
“I want you two to know each
other,” he said. “Jesson, this is
Lord Dorminster Mr. Gilbert Jesson Lord
The two men shook hands, Nigel a little
vaguely. He was at first unable to place this
“Mr. Jesson,” Chalmers
explained, dropping his voice a little, “was
a highly privileged and very much valued member of
our Intelligence Department, until he resigned a few
months ago. I think that if you could spare an
hour or two any time this evening, Dorminster, it would
interest you very much to know exactly the reason for
Mr. Jesson’s resignation.”
“I should be very pleased indeed,”
Nigel replied. “Won’t you both come
and dine in Belgrave Square to-night? I was going
to ask you, anyhow, Chalmers. Naida Karetsky
has promised to come, and my cousin will be hostess.”
“It will give me very great
pleasure,” Jesson acquiesced. “You
will understand,” he added, “that the
information which Mr. Chalmers has just given you
concerning myself is entirely confidential.”
“We three will have a little
talk to ourselves afterwards,” he suggested.
“At eight o’clock Number 17,
Jesson strolled away after a little
desultory conversation. Chalmers looked after
“Harmless-looking chap, isn’t
he?” he observed. “Yet I’ll
let you in on this, Dorminster: there isn’t
another living person who knows so much of what is
going on behind the scenes in Europe as that man.”
“Why has he chucked his job, then?” Nigel
“He will tell you that to-night,” was
Chalmers’ quiet reply.