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- A Fascinating Traitor - 40/66 -
And there's a loving lass awaiting me! One I love--one who loves me--one you must know, for you must be the 'best man'!"
"Wait, only wait a couple of weeks, Eric!" said the Major, whose eyes were now turned daily to Simpson. "Then I'll put in my own application, and we'll go home together."
This bright hope was duly pledged in many a loving cup.
General Abercromby was far away on the road to Calcutta when Major-General Willoughby sent, posthaste, for Major Harry Hardwicke of the Corps of Engineers. The puzzled Commanding General was racking his brains to find out if his old friend Abercromby had committed any fatal error during his somewhat bacchanalian visit on "special duty."
"I'm glad he is gone" mused the stout-hearted, thick-headed old Commander, as he read, over and over, the Viceroy's cipher dispatch to the departed General.
"Do nothing further! Turn over all property, on invoice, to General Willoughby, and report here forthwith. Hold no communication with Johnstone, and guard an absolute silence. Report in person, instantly on your arrival."
"Something has surely gone wrong!" at last decided Willoughby. "Old Hugh Fraser Johnstone may have been too much for him. Strange, the Viceroy says nothing of him!" And then he read a second dispatch, with the Viceroy's orders to himself. "Notify Major Harry Hardwicke, Royal Engineers, to report in person, to the Viceroy for special duty, prepared to go in a week to England on duty. Absolute secrecy required. His leave application will be approved for any period, to take effect on his completion of duties assigned, in London. Special cipher orders will be sent to him this A.M. Deliver them and furnish him the code No. 2. No copies to be retained. Furnish Major Hardwicke with a captain and ten picked men to escort the property received by General Abercromby to Calcutta. Invoices to you to be signed by him. Property to be sent down in sealed pay-chests, with your seal and Major Hardwicke's. Report compliance, and telegraph in cipher No. 2 Hardwicke's departure for Calcutta. Special transportation has been ordered."
"There, my boy, you have your orders!" an hour later said General Willoughby when Major Hardwicke reported. "I am glad to have the whole thing off my hands. Here is the double-ciphered code. You are to translate for yourself, and, remember, then destroy your translation. Remember, also, one single whisper of your destination, and you are a ruined man! Evidently the Viceroy is bent on trapping old Hugh Johnstone. Damn him, for a sneaking civilian! I never trusted him!" And the old General rolled away for his family tiffin. "I'll see you when you have translated the private orders. Thank God, the Viceroy keeps me out of this dirty muddle! You see, I have no power over Johnstone--he is a blasted civilian." Two hours later, the grateful old General found Hardwicke pacing up and down impatiently. "I ought only to tell Murray," he murmured, "if I could! He is going home to be married, and I am to stand up with him."
"Just the thing!" gayly cried Willoughby. "Murray's captaincy is in the Gazette of to-day's mail. I will order him down with you, in command of the guard, and, at Calcutta, the Viceroy will release you from your promise, so as to let him know that you can meet him in London. His Excellency evidently wants to hoodwink all the gossips here, and, above all, to blind old Johnstone. Now, Harry, I feel like a brute to let you go without a poor send-off, but, by Heaven, the whole Willoughby clan will follow you in London, and pay off a part of our debt for that 'run-under fire' with my wounded boy. Name anything you want. Do you want any help to watch Johnstone?" The old General was eager.
"Ah! I fear that I must attend to him, alone!" sadly said Major Hardwicke, whose heart was racked, for a fair, dear face now afar must soon be clouded with sorrow and those dear eyes weep a father's shame.
"Call, day and night, for anything you want!" heartily said the loyal old father of the rescued officer. "The day before you go you must dine with us, alone, and Harriet will give you her last greeting."
As the day wore away, there was a jovial rapprochement in the special car where General Abercromby and Major Hawke were gayly extolling Madame Berthe Louison's perfections. "Mind you, General, I am no squire of dames," said the Major. "You must make your own running."
"Ah! my boy, you have earned your temporary rank as a Major of Staff, when you've introduced me. I flatter myself that I know women!" cried Abercromby as they cracked t'other bottle of Johnstone's champagne.
"Take me to her, and then, I'll take you to the Viceroy. I guarantee your rank!"
"It's a bargain!" cried the delighted Hawke. While Abercromby dreamed of the lovely lady of the Silver Bungalow, Major Alan Hawke leisurely examined a sheaf of letters from Europe which had been thrust in his pocket by Ram Lal at parting.
"Victory!" he cried, as he read a tender letter from Euphrosyne Delande, in which she promised her absolute compliance with his every wish. "Justine has written to me herself," was the underscored hint that the three might join fortunes. "It's about time for that Madras boat to get to Brindisi," mused Hawke, as they ran into Allahabad, "There maybe telegrams here now." And, while General Abercromby jovially feasted, Hawke ran over to his secret haunt to which he had ordered Ram Lal to send any telegrams, for one day only, and then, the rest would be safe with Ram's secret agent in Calcutta. "My God! This is my fortune! Bravo, Justine!" cried Hawke, "True and quickwitted. I now hold Berthe Louison in my hand."
He read the words--"Andrew Fraser, St. Agnes' Road, St. Heliers, Jersey." The dispatch was headed Brindisi, and signed "Justine." "A man might do worse than marry a woman as true and keen as that," smiled Hawke. "I am a devil for luck!" And then he gayly drank Justine's health, in silence, when he joined the amorous Abercromby at the table.
But the "devil for luck" did not know of a little scene at Brindisi, where the blushing Nadine Johnstone hid her face in her friend's bosom. "It is my life, my very existence, Justine!" she pleaded. "I will never forget you; we are both women, and my heart will break if you refuse!" And thus Justine Delande had learned at last of Nadine's easy victory over the frank-hearted cousin's prudence.
"What's the wrong--to tell her?" he had mused, under the spell of the loving eyes. "We go straight through, and I am in charge till my father takes her out of my hands! Poor girl, it will be a grim enough life with him. Not a man will ever set eyes on her face without old Hugh's written order!" And it was thus that Justine was enabled to warn her own lover when she had slipped away and cabled by her mistress's orders to the young Lochinvar at Delhi:
"Captain Harry Hardwicke, Royal Engineers, Delhi: Letters for you at Andrew Fraser's, St Agnes Road, St. Heliers, Jersey. Come."
The Swiss woman shuddered as she boldly signed Nadine! And this same dispatch when received by the young officer, now busied with the Viceroy's mandate, brought the sunlight of Love back into his darkened soul! The minutes seemed to lengthen into hours until the special train was ready. At the risk of his military future, the Major gave to the faithful Simpson his London Club address. "If anything happens here, you must go to General Willoughby. Tell him what you want me to know. He will send it on, and give you a five-pound note. Remember! Simpson, you'll die in my service if you stand true!"
"That I will, for your brave father's sake, and for the young lady's bright eyes! Bless her dear, sunny face! Tell her that I will work for her in life and death!" And when, in a few days the lengthened absence of Major Harry Hardwicke and Red Eric Murray was noted, the groups only conjectured a little junket to some near-by station, or a long shikaree trip. But Simpson and General Willoughby knew better. Simpson was a "lord" in these days, in the quarter, for Hardwicke had not left Delhi with a closed hand.
And old Hugh Johnstone, greatly relieved at heart, was now busied in secretly arranging for his own flitting. "I'll run down to Calcutta, see the Viceroy, give Abercromby a splendid dinner, and then slip off home, on the quiet, via Ceylon. I'll send Douglas back when I get to Jersey, and then I can put those jewels where no human being can ever trace them! Once that brother Andrew has my full orders as to Nadine, I will bar this she-devil forever from her side! On the excuse of a leisurely contemplated tour, I can have the rich Jew brokers of Amsterdam and Frankfort, with their agents in Cairo and Constantinople, divide up the jewels among the foreign crown-heads. I am then safe! safe! No human hand can ever touch me now," he gloated.
There was a clattering of aides-de-camp and great official bustle at the Government House in Calcutta when General Abercromby reported to the great statesman Viceroy, dwelling in the vast palace, builded by the Marquis of Wellesley.
General Abercromby, marveling at the abruptness of the Viceroy, was relieved to know that his "secret service" had been transferred to Major Hardwicke under the orders of Major-General Willoughby. His mind was intently occupied with the promised introduction to Madame Berthe Louison--"that little party"--and so he failed not to refer to the future value to the crown of Alan Hawke's services.
"He is here with me, Your Excellency!" respectfully said Abercromby, who had already posted off his leporello to call in due form at the banker's mansion, where the disguised Alixe Delavigne had taken refuge. "Send him to me at once, General. I need him! I will give him the local staff rank of Major and immediate employment. Willoughby has also written to me especially about his wonderful knowledge of our northern lines. Stay! Bring him yourself, to-morrow, at ten o'clock."
"Splendid! Splendid!" cried the love-lorn General, rubbing his hands, as he hastened away in his carriage to meet Alan Hawke! "I am ready for him, if he is ready for me! I wish she were at some one of the great hotels instead of being buried in the silver-gray respectability of the Manager's family circle. But--but--I will take her to the Viceroy. The bird shall then learn to test its wings. I will bring her out as a social star!"
Major Alan Hawke, with a beating heart, recounted to Madame Berthe Louison all the occurrences in Delhi, when they were left alone in the great banker's vast parlors. "She is a puzzle, this strange
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