THE PAWNS COUNT
THE PAWNS COUNT
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM
"I am for England and England only" John Lutchester the Englishman
"I am for Japan and Japan only" Nikasti the Jap insisted.
"I am for Germany first and America afterwards" Oscar Fischer the
"I am for America first America only America always" Pamela Van
Teyl the American girl declared.
They were all right except the German-American.
Les Oreilles Ennemies Vous Ecoutent!
The usual little crowd was waiting in the lobby of a fashionable London
restaurant a few minutes before the popular luncheon hour. Pamela Van
Teyl a very beautiful American girl dressed in the extreme of
fashion which she seemed somehow to justify directed the attention of
her companions to the notice affixed to the wall facing them.
"Except" she declared "for you poor dears who have been hurt that is
the first thing I have seen in England which makes me realise that you
are at war."
The younger of her two escorts Captain Richard Holderness who wore
the uniform of a well-known cavalry regiment glanced at the notice a
"What rot it seems!" he exclaimed. "We get fed up with that sort of
thing in France. It's always the same at every little railway station
and every little inn. 'Mefiez-vous! Taisez-vous!' They might spare us
John Lutchester a tall clean-shaven man dressed in civilian clothes
raised his eyeglass and read out the notice languidly.
"Well I don't know" he observed. "Some of you Service fellows--not
the Regulars of course--do gas a good deal when you come back. I don't
suppose you any of you know anything so it doesn't really matter" he
added glancing at his watch.
"Army's full of Johnnies who come from God knows where nowadays"
Holderness assented gloomily. "No wonder they can't keep their mouths
"Seems to me you need them all" Miss Pamela Van Teyl remarked with a
"Of course we do" Holderness assented "and Heaven forbid that any of
us Regulars should say a word against them. Jolly good stuff in them
too as the Germans found out last month."
"All the same" Lutchester continued still studying the notice "news
does run over London like quicksilver. If you step down to the American
bar here for instance you'll find that Charles is one of the
best-informed men about the war in London. He has patrons in the Army
in the Navy and in the Flying Corps and it's astonishing how
communicative they seem to become after the second or third cocktail."
"Cocktail mark you Miss Van Teyl" Holderness pointed out. "We poor
Englishmen could keep our tongues from wagging before we acquired some
of your American habits."
"The habits are all right" Pamela retorted. "It's your heads that are
"The most valued product of your country" Lutchester murmured "is
more dangerous to our hearts than to our heads."
She made a little grimace and turned away holding out her hand to a
new arrival--a tall broad-shouldered man with a strong cold face and
keen grey eyes aggressive even behind his gold-rimmed spectacles.
There was a queer change in his face as his eyes met Pamela's. He
seemed suddenly to become more human. His pleasure at seeing her was
certainly more than the usual transatlantic politeness.
"Mr. Fischer" she exclaimed "they are saying hard things about our
country! Please protect me."
He bowed over her fingers. Then he looked up. His tone was impressive.
"If I thought that you needed protection Miss Van Teyl--"
"Well I can assure you that I do" she interrupted laughing. "You
know my friends don't you?"
"I think I have that pleasure" the American replied shaking hands
with Lutchester and Holderness.
"Now we'll get an independent opinion" the former observed pointing
to the wall. "We were discussing that notice Mr. Fischer. You're
almost as much a Londoner as a New Yorker. What do you think?--is it
superfluous or not?"
Fischer read it out and smiled.
"Well" he admitted "in America we don't lay much store by that sort
of thing but I don't know as we're very good judges about what goes on
over here. I shouldn't call this place anyway a hotbed of intrigue.
He moved off to greet some incoming guests--a well-known stockbroker
and his partner. Lutchester looked after him curiously.
"Is Mr. Fischer one of your typical millionaires Miss Van Teyl?" he
She shrugged her shoulders.
"We have no typical millionaires" she assured him. "They come from all
classes and all States."
"Fischer is a Westerner isn't he?"
Pamela nodded but did not pursue the conversation. Her eyes were fixed
upon a girl who had just entered and who was looking a little
doubtfully around a girl plainly but smartly dressed with fluffy
light hair dark eyes and a very pleasant expression. Pamela who was
critical of her own sex found the newcomer attractive.
"Is that by any chance one of our missing guests Captain
Holderness?" she inquired turning towards him. "I don't know why but
I have an idea that it is your sister."
"By Jove yes!" the young man assented stepping forward. "Here we are
Molly and at last you are going to meet Miss Van Teyl. I've bored
Molly stiff talking about you" he explained as Pamela held out her
The girls who stood talking together for a moment presented rather a
striking contrast. Molly Holderness was pretty but usual. Pamela was
beautiful and unusual. She had the long slim body of a New York girl
the complexion and eyes of a Southerner the savoir faire of a
Frenchwoman. She was extraordinarily cosmopolitan and yet
extraordinarily American. She impressed every one as she did Molly
Holderness at that moment with a sense of charm. One could almost
accept as truth her own statement--that she valued her looks chiefly
because they helped people to forget that she had brains.
"I won't admit that I have ever been bored Miss Van Teyl" Molly
Holderness assured her "but Dick has certainly told me all sorts of
wonderful things about you--how kind you were in New York and what a
delightful surprise it was to see you down at the hospital at Nice. I
am afraid he must have been a terrible crock then."
"Got well in no time as soon as Miss Van Teyl came along" Holderness
declared. "It was a bit dreary down there at first. None of my lot were
sent south and a familiar face means a good deal when you've got your
lungs full of that rotten gas and are feeling like nothing on earth. I
wonder where that idiot Sandy is. I told him to be here a quarter of an
hour before you others--thought we might have had a quiet chat first.
Will you stand by the girls for a moment Lutchester while I have a
look round?" he added.
He hobbled away one of the thousands who were thronging the streets
and public places of London--brave simple-minded young men all of
them with tangled recollections in their brains of blood and fire and
hell and a game leg or a lost arm to remind them that the whole thing
was not a nightmare. He looked a little disconsolately around and was
on the point of rejoining the others when the friend for whom he was
searching came hurriedly through the turnstile doors.
"Sandy old chap" Holderness exclaimed with an air of relief "here
you are at last!"
"Cheero Dick!" was the light-hearted reply. "Fearfully sorry I'm late
but listen--just listen for one moment."
The newcomer threw his hat and coat to the attendant. He was a rather
short freckled young man with a broad high forehead and
light-coloured hair. His eyes just now were filled with the enthusiasm
which trembled in his tone.
"Dick" he continued gripping his friend's arm tightly "I'm late I
know but I've great news. I've motored straight up from Salisbury
Plain. I've done it! I swear to you Dick I've done it!"
"Done what?" Holderness demanded a little bewildered.
"I've perfected my explosive--the thing I was telling you about last
week" was the triumphant reply. "The whole world's struggling for it
Dick. The German chemists have been working night and day for three
years just for one little formula and I've got it! One of my shells
which fell in a wood at daylight this morning killed every living
thing within a mile of it. The bark fell off the trees and the
labourers in a field beyond threw down their implements and ran for
their lives. It's the principle of intensification. The poison feeds on
its own vapours. The formula--I've got it in my pocket-book--"
"Look here old fellow" Holderness interrupted "it's all splendid of
course and I'm dying to hear you talk about it but come along now and
be introduced to Miss Van Teyl. Molly's over there waiting and we're
all half starved."
"So am I" was the cheerful answer. "Hullo Lutchester how are you?
Just one moment. I must get a wash I motored straight through and I'm
choked with dust. Where do I go?"
"I'll show you" Lutchester volunteered. "Hurry up."
The two men sprang up the stairs towards the dressing-room and
Holderness strolled back to where his sister and Pamela were talking to
a small dark young man with rather high cheek-bones and olive
complexion. Pamela turned around with a smile.
"I have found an old friend" she told him. "Baron Sunyea--Captain
Holderness. Baron Sunyea used to be in the Japanese Embassy at
The two men shook hands.
"I was interested" the Japanese said slowly "in your conversation
just now about that notice. Your young friend was telling you news very
loudly indeed it seemed to me which you would not like known across
the North Sea. Am I not right?"
"In a sense you are of course" Holderness admitted "but here at
Henry's--why the place is like a club. Where are the enemies' ears to
come from I should like to know?"
"Where we least expect to find them as a rule" was the grave reply.
"Quite right" Lutchester who had just rejoined them agreed. "They
still say you know that our home Secret Service is just as bad as our
foreign Secret Service is good."
Holderness smiled in somewhat superior fashion.
"Can't say that I have much faith in that spy talk" he declared. "No
doubt there was any quantity of espionage before the war but it's
pretty well weeded out now. I say how good civilisation is!" he went
on his eyes dwelling lovingly on the interior of the restaurant.
"Tophole isn't it Lutchester--these smart girls with their furs and
violets and perfumes the little note of music in the distance the
cheerful clatter of plates the smiling faces of the waiters and the
undercurrent of pleasant voices. Don't laugh at me please Miss Van
Teyl. I've three weeks more of it by George--perhaps more. I don't go
up before my Board till Thursday fortnight. Dash it I wish Sandy would
"You never told me how you got your wound" Pamela observed as the
conversation flagged for a moment.
"Can't even remember" was the careless reply. "We were all scrapping
away as hard as we could one afternoon and nearly a dozen of us got
the knock all at the same time. It's quite all right now though
except for the stiffness. It was the gas did me in.... What a fellow
Sandy is! You people must be starving."
They waited for another five minutes. Then Holderness limped towards
the stairs with a little imprecation. Lutchester stopped him.
"Don't you go Holderness" he begged. "I'll find him and bring him
down by the scruff of the neck."
He strode up the stairs on a mission which ended in unexpected failure.
Presently he returned a slight frown upon his forehead.
"I am awfully sorry" he announced "but I can't find him anywhere. I
left him washing his hands and he said he'd be down in a moment. Are
you quite sure that we haven't missed him?"
"There hasn't been a sign of him" Molly declared promptly. "I am so
hungry that my eyes have been glued upon the staircase all the time."
Pamela who had slipped away a few moments before rejoined them with a
little expression of surprise.
"Isn't Captain Graham here yet?" she asked incredulously.
"Not a sign of him" Holderness replied. "Queer set out isn't it? We
won't wait a moment longer. Take my sister and Miss Van Teyl in will
you?" he went on laying his hand on Lutchester's shoulder. "Ferrani
will look after you. I'll follow directly."
The chief maitre d'hotel advanced to meet them with a gesture of
invitation and led them to a table arranged for five. The restaurant
was crowded and the coloured band from the space against the wall on
their left was playing a lively one-step. Ferrani was buttonholed by
an important client as they crossed the threshold and they lingered
for a moment waiting for his guidance. Whilst they stood there a
curious thing happened. The leader of the orchestra seemed to draw his
fingers recklessly across the strings of his instrument and to produce
a discord which was almost appalling. A half-pained half-amused
exclamation rippled down the room. For a moment the music ceased. The
conductor who was responsible for the disturbance was sitting
motionless his hand hanging down by his side. His features remained
imperturbable but the gleam of his white teeth and a livid little
streak under his eyes gave to his usually good-humoured face an utterly
altered almost a malignant expression. Ferrani stepped across and
spoke to him for a moment angrily. The man took up his instrument
waved his hand and the music re-commenced in a subdued note. Pamela
turned to the chief maitre d'hotel who had now re-joined them.
"What an extraordinary breakdown!" she exclaimed. "Is your leader a man
"Never have I heard such a thing in all my days" Ferrani assured them
fervently. "Joseph is one of the most wonderful performers in the
world. His control over his instrument is marvellous.... Captain
Holderness asked particularly for this table."
They seated themselves at the table reserved for them against the wall.
Their cicerone was withdrawing with a low bow but Pamela leaned over
to speak to him.
"Your music" she told him "is quite wonderful. The orchestra consists
entirely of Americans I suppose?"
"Entirely madam" Ferrani assented. "They are real Southern darkies
from Joseph the leader down to little Peter who blows the
Pamela's interest in the matter remained unabated.
"I tell you it makes one feel almost homesick to hear them play" she
went on with a little sigh. "Did they come direct from the States?"
Ferrani shook his head.
"From Paris madam. Before that for a little time they were at the
Winter Garden in Berlin. They made quite a European tour of it before
they arrived here."
"And he is the leader--the man whom you call Joseph" Pamela observed.
"A broad good-humoured face--not much intelligence I should imagine."
Ferrani's protest was vigorous and gesticulatory. He evidently had
ideas of his own concerning Joseph.
"More perhaps than you would think madam" he declared. "He knows
how to make a bargain believe me. It cost us more than I would like to
tell you to get these fellows here."
Pamela looked him in the eyes.
"Be careful Monsieur Ferrani" she advised "that it does not cost you
more to get rid of them."
She leaned back in her place apparently tired of the subject and
Ferrani a little puzzled made his bow and withdrew. The music was
once more in full swing. Their luncheon was served and Lutchester did
his best to entertain his companions. Their eyes however every few
seconds strayed towards the door. There was no sign of the missing
Molly Holderness for whom Graham's absence possessed perhaps more
significance than the others relapsed very soon into a strained and
anxious silence. Pamela and Lutchester on the other hand divided
their attention between a very excellent luncheon and an even flow of
personal almost inquisitorial conversation.
"You will find" Pamela warned her companion almost as they took their
places "that I am a very curious person. I am more interested in
people than in events. Tell me something about your work at the War
"I am not at the War Office" he replied.
"Well what is it that you do then?" she asked. "Captain Holderness
told me that you had been out in France fighting but that you had
some sort of official position at home now."
"I am at the Ministry of Munitions" he explained.
"Well tell me about that then?" she suggested. "Is it as exciting as
He shook his head.
"It has advantages" he admitted "but I should scarcely say that
excitement figured amongst them."
She looked at him thoughtfully. Lutchester was a little over
thirty-five years of age tall and of sinewy build. His colouring was
neutral his complexion inclined to be pale his mouth straight and
firm his grey eyes rather deep-set. Without possessing any of the
stereotyped qualifications he was sufficiently good-looking.
"I wonder you didn't prefer soldiering" she observed.
He smiled for a moment and Pamela felt unreasonably annoyed at the
twinkle in his eyes.
"I am not a soldier by profession" he said "but I went out with the
Expeditionary Force and had a year of it. They kept me here after a
slight wound to take up my old work again."
"Your old work" she repeated. "I didn't know there was such a thing as
a Ministry of Munitions before the war."
He deliberately changed the conversation directing Pamela's attention
to the crowded condition of the room.
"Gay scene isn't it?" he remarked.
"Very!" she assented drily.
"Do you come here to dance?" he inquired.
She shook her head.
"You must remember that I have been living in Paris for some months"
she told him. "You won't be annoyed if I tell you that the way you
English people are taking the war simply maddens me. Your young
soldiers talk about it as though it were a sort of picnic your
middle-aged clubmen seem to think that it was invented to give them a
fresh interest in their newspapers and the rest of you seem to think
of nothing but the money you are making. And Paris.... No I don't
think I should care to dance here!"
Lutchester nodded but Pamela fancied somehow or other that his
attitude was not wholly sympathetic. His tone with its slight note of
admonition irritated her.
"You must be careful" he said "not to be too much misled by
Pamela opened her lips for a quick reply but checked herself.
Captain Holderness and Ferrani had entered the room and were