As I came over the side of the yacht, Dorothy was at the rail and in a moment was in my arms. " Thank God ! Thank God ! you are back," she murmured. " You are back and the awful waiting is over, but how many wives and sweethearts will wait all the rest of their lives ! "
Tom was but a moment behind his sister. " Do you mean to say that every boat, without exception, has gone ? " he questioned.
" Every one within my range of vision. Between eighty and ninety in all," I answered.
" Good God ! What a catastrophe," said Tom dazedly. " I can't realize it."
My little yacht was still alongside, and the skipper now hailed us. " Mr. Orrington, sir, could somebody else take our boat in, and could we go with you ? I think, sir, we'd feel easier, if we could go with you."
There was something to do. In a few minutes an exchange had been made, and my crew was on the larger yacht. As they came over the rail, Tom met them with a low request to keep their mouths shut.
" Don't fear us," said my skipper. " We're alive, that's all we ask for. We don't have any call or wish to talk about it. Do we, mates ?" The other men shook their heads dumbly, and went slowly to their places.
"What became of your propeller ? " asked Tom, coming back towards us.
" Disappeared. Your rubber valves closed the hole."
" Then he tried to sink you."
" Undoubtedly," I answered. " It was your wooden boat and cage of caema which saved me."
As we made for Folkestone, we met other boats hurrying out on the Channel. Tom had ventured out farther than any one else. One by one, they hailed us, but our captain gave them no news and made on.
" I wish I knew what to do," I said wearily. " I can't write this thing. I feel stunned and broken. I'm not sure what I ought to do, anyway. Any ordinary or even extraordinary thing is proper journalistic stuff, but this is too big, somehow, for individual use. Yet the one thing that ought to be done is to get the news to the world as soon as possible."
" I don't know what to tell you," said Dorothy hesitatingly. " Isn't your London correspondent to be in Folkestone waiting for you ? "
" Yes," I said.
" Well, ask him. You and I will go ashore, and Tom can put out with the yacht. Then there will be no chance of the sailors' telling anything."
" All right," I answered. " I don't seem to care what happens."
Folkestone Pier was a black mass of people looking out to sea as we came in, and a surging crowd came towards us, as Dorothy and I landed, while our boat, with Tom in the stern, shot back towards the yacht. Had it not been for three or four policemen, we could not have forced our way through the jam, but by their aid we managed to struggle through, shaking our heads in response to the thousand questions. As the human tide ebbed back towards the end of the pier, I heard my name and turned. It was Maxwell, our London correspondent.
" What news.''" he asked eagerly, when he reached me.
" I'll tell you, if you'll get us out of this crowd," I answered.
" I've got a motor here. Come on," he said, and we made our way out, boarded the motor and started slowly off. I looked at the chauffeur.
" Run out to a quiet place where we can be alone, will you ? " I said to Maxwell.
In a few moments we had cleared the town, and were on the bluff above the sea. There was no one around. " This will do," I said.
As we descended, Maxwell looked questioningly at Dorothy.
"This is my fiancee, Miss Haldane," I explained. " I forgot to introduce you. She knows the whole story."
Just where we paused, an iron seat faced the wide expanse of blue and shining water, and for a moment I gazed out over the Channel and breathed a silent prayer of thankgiving for my escape, of remembrance for the men who lay beneath that flood. Then I turned, and began my story. Ere I had spoken a dozen words. Maxwell had his note book out, writing rapidly. Throughout, he wrote without a question, without a word. As I ended, he closed his note book slowly.
" What we want to know, Mr. Maxwell," said Dorothy anxiously, " is the right thing to do. Should this go straight to the paper, or ought it to go first to the English government ? You see there's probably no living man who saw this except Jim and his sailors, and we want to do right. We want to do right by the men that died, and the people that remain."
Wise, able, thoughtful, a scholar and a gentleman, a great journalist, a man who counted among his friends the greatest men of two countries, — no man could be found who could decide such a question better than Maxwell. He looked at Dorothy.
" That was the very question in my mind, Miss Haldane," he answered. " But I think there's only one answer. I believe we should take this straight to the King. He is at Buckingham Palace, and I believe we should go directly to him with the story. I have met him a number of times, and I know we can get an audience immediately."
" I'm very glad you think so," I said. " How about the trains ? "
" We can do it better in my car," he replied.
Ten minutes for gasolene, and we started off. Through quiet villages where red farmhouses stood framed in vivid green, by tower and manor house embowered in ancient oaks, through hedge-rowed land and city street we sped, till the rows of villas, each modelled from a single type, showed the outskirts of London. Then, at a slower pace, we passed through a smoky fog, across the river, by the Abbey, to the long front of Buckingham Palace. All the way we sat silent under the heavy burden of the news that brought the end of those long centuries of unconquerable British power. No enemy who could be conquered had they met. The day had come for peace, and Britain and Germany had been the greatest sufferers in the change of epochs.
Past the red-coated sentry, to the door of the palace we drove. A few words on a card brought a secretary with a startled face, and scarce five minutes had elapsed before Maxwell was ushered in. Dorothy and I remained in the car. As Maxwell left, he remarked, " Orrington, under any ordinary circumstances, I'd ask for an audience for you, but now there's no time to be lost. I can get an immediate interview alone, where I could not get one with you."
" That's all right," I said apathetically, " I'm glad not to be obliged to move."
We waited before the palace the better part of an hour before the door opened and Maxwell emerged. As he came towards us, I could see that he was blowing his nose vigorously, and that his eyes were moist. He got into the car without a word, but as we swung over the bridge into the Park, Maxwell made his first remark, staring off into vacancy, " I always thought the King was about the finest man that England held. Now I know it."
That was all I ever learned of the interview, but, as we came by the Abbey, I heard a newsboy crying, " Destruction of the fleets," and I looked inquiringly at Maxwell. He nodded in reply, " We published it first. I telephoned the news from the palace."
Weary and sad as I was, broken with the horror of the day, my purpose had become stronger than ever before. As we ran slowly through Whitehall and around to the Savoy, the thoughts of the past were disappearing in cogitations as to the effect this would have upon our search for " the man." Though every battleship in the world was sunk, my purpose held good. I would find the destroyer.
The next morning came a startling announcement. The King of England, the President of the United States, the President of the French Republic, the Mikado of Japan, and the Czar of Russia issued an immediate call for representatives of all nations to assemble at The Hague to consider the question of disarmament. That, in itself, differed but little from the other summonses which had resulted in academic discussions, but the paragraph which succeeded the call was one of the most extraordinary the world had ever seen. The five rulers who issued this invitation each pledged himself to do everything in his power to bring about complete disarmament, and to end war in the whole world. In view of the urgency of the situation, the meeting was to be held in a month at The Hague.
It was soon learned that the initiative in this step had come from the King of England, that the four other rulers had gladly joined with him in the action, when asked concerning it by wireless, and that the Emperor of Germany had been invited to make one of the number, but had refused. That seemed to leave Germany as the stumbling-block in the way. Complete disarmament was wholly possible if every nation were to agree. If a single powerful nation refused to disarm, it became practically an impossibility, — for no nation would give up her defenses, with a powerful armored foe at her gates.
I had scarcely finished reading the account in the morning paper, as a waiter approached with a wireless message from the office. " Take three weeks' vacation, and then go to Hague as special correspondent for peace conference."
" Confound it! " I ejaculated, as I read the missive. " Look at this," and I passed the paper over to Tom and Dorothy. Tom's face fell.
" Of course it's a good thing in a way," said Tom, " but it takes you right off the track of ' the man '. “
" I refuse to go off the track," I said warmly. " I'm going to wire them back refusing this."
" Oh, I wouldn't do that," interrupted Dorothy eagerly. " You stand almost, or quite as much of a chance to get news of ' the man ' at the peace conference, as elsewhere. We can take the wave-measuring machine right over to The Hague, and work from there. Besides, I want the three weeks' vacation."
" Better take the vacation, and put it in with me down at Cambridge," remarked Tom. "They're doing some work in one of the colleges that might help me with the Denckel machine. I'd like to watch it awhile, and see its bearing on the case. Dorothy would have enjoyed it once, but now she's hopeless. You two can come down, though, and roam round for three weeks there, as well as anywhere else. It's a jolly country, and we'll have a good time."
" Well, if you feel convinced it's the thing to do, I'll do it," I said resignedly. " But I want to put in three weeks here in London, getting things together. We've never run down that Cragent clue yet."
" You are neither of you going to do any such thing," remarked Dorothy firmly, " I'll tell you what you are going to do for the next three weeks. You're going to Paris with me."
" Oh, pshaw ! " said Tom disgustedly. " Paris is a hole. I want to go to Cambridge. Do you like Paris, Jim ? "
" Not particularly," I said, with some hesitation, " but then — "
" We're going," said Dorothy.
" What for ? " said Tom argumentatively.
" Well, if you must know," said Dorothy blushing, " I want to shop."
Tom burst into a roar of laughter, and I looked at him in bewilderment. He leaned over towards me.
" Got the cards engraved yet, Jim ? "
Dorothy blushed still more. I saw a sudden light.
" Of course we go to Paris," I said enthusiastically. " It's the place of places."
" And you'll sit round for hours, waiting in a dinky little cab or in a motor car on the Boulevard Haussmann, while Dorothy spends her patrimony inside. Is there a special duty on trousseaux, Dorothy ? " he asked, with an affectation of seriousness.
" I wish you'd stop," said Dorothy emphatically.
" All right," said Tom. " Only I thought I'd better wire my banker to see if my balance would leave us anything to go home on."
Three weeks in Paris, hours when I sat and smoked outside big shops and little shops, afternoons in the Bois, little " diners a trois " at great restaurants, life, and light, and joy. Three weeks with Dorothy, then the day express to The Hague, and a week of watching the arrival of the envoys, while Tom, who had run across an old assistant of Carl Denckel's, set up the wave-measuring machine, and spent his days working over it, in an attempt to widen its scope and bring it nearer to its ever present mission. It still remained our chief reliance for our search.
Anxious as I was to return to the quest of " the man," the work at The Hague proved fascinating in the extreme. My daily report told of the coming of representatives from almost every nation, and, best of all, told of the free and full powers given them to agree to complete disarmament, provided it could be universal. Day after day, in the month which intervened between the calling of the convention and the opening of the meeting, had come reports of parliaments and congresses hastily gathered together to consider the question, and of their eager passing of favorable votes. One by one they came, till every nation had joined in consent, save one. Germany still held aloof. Since the disappearance of the fleets, the German emperor had made no movement to advance the war, but kept his armies gathered, his transports riding at anchor in the ports. The Reichstag met, and discussed most favorably the call to The Hague, waiting anxiously for some sign from its imperial master, but none came. In absolute seclusion, in a lone castle in the depths of the Black Forest, he sulked like Achilles in his tent.
The first day of meeting came with every power represented save Germany. The second and third passed with no sign from Berlin. On the fourth, I began to see signs of difficulty. It was evident that the consent of the German empire was a sine qua non. Delegate after delegate arose and expressed the eager desire of his country to disarm and bring about universal peace, provided (and the provided was emphatic) all other nations did the same. On the evening of the fourth day, an American delegate rose, and by a powerful speech so roused the assembly that a delegation was appointed to meet the German Emperor and ask him, in the name of the conference, to join with the other nations. After the delegation was named, the meeting adjourned for three days, until they could return.
On the night when the delegates were to return, I was in my place in the correspondents' section of the hall of the conference. The meeting came to order, the preliminary business was finished, and the presiding officer arose to say that the delegates had been delayed in returning, but had telegraphed that they would be there within an hour. He had scarcely finished speaking, when a door opened, and a marshal announced " The delegation sent to His Majesty the Emperor of Germany."
Travel-worn and weary, the five men walked up the aisle to the space at the front. " Gentlemen, are you ready to report ? " said the presiding officer.
" We are," said the head of the delegation. " The Emperor of Germany refused absolutely to see us, pleading an indisposition. We were unable to obtain any satisfaction."
The grave assembly rose like the sea. Shouts, cries, requests for recognition, came in one clamorous volume, and the president sounded his gavel fiercely. The excitable Latins were shouting recriminations. It looked as if the seething mass would break up in utter disorder, and the great conference would end without result. Far off by the door, I could see a marshal forcing his way through the crowded aisles, imploring, struggling, fighting. He reached the rostrum, mounted it, and spoke in the president's ear. With a tremendous effort, he shouted, " Silence for important news." Little by little, the crowd stilled. In a resonant voice came the words, " An envoy from the Emperor of Germany desires to address the conference in person."
A hush came over the assembly, a hush so sudden, so profound, that I could hear the scratching of the fountain pen with which the secretary before the president wrote the words. The aisles cleared, and the ordered assembly sat silently in their seats. The great door opened and, preceded by a corps of marshals, the envoy from the great Hohenzollern entered. The stiff, unbending figure, the haughty head, the piercing eyes and high, upturned moustache of the field marshal envoy showed his imitation of his master, the war lord. Proudly, as on parade, he paced to the space where the president, who had descended to the floor to greet him, stood. He bowed coldly and turned.
" My master has sent me here," he said abruptly, " to address your conference. These are his words, ' I have believed that war, that armies made for the best good of my state; I believe it still. I do not believe in peace. But I cannot expose my navy to destruction, my sailors and my soldiers to death. I therefore agree to peace. My armies shall disband, my fortifications be torn down, my battleships sunk or turned to peaceful ends. My Reichstag will have confirmed my words ere now.'"
As one man, the assembly arose and cheered. Never, in his own city or from his own troops, came heartier greetings than that which rung out for the last ruler to take up the cause of peace. The field marshal stood there, while the tumult raged, his hands resting on the hilt of his sword, erect as ever, impassive as ever. As the cheering ended, he bowed to the assembly. Turning, he bowed to the president, and then, with martial step, he slowly withdrew. The delegates from Germany arrived the next day with power to disarm, and the business of signing the agreements and plans of disarmament went on so rapidly that the conference was able to adjourn in but a few days' time.
The day the conference closed, I rushed back from the telegraph office the moment I had sent off the last word of my final dispatch. I found Tom and Dorothy in the laboratory. " There, thank goodness," I cried exultantly, " that's over. Now I can go back to the hunt for ' the man ' with an easy conscience. What do you think that next move ought to be ? "
"Hold on, till we finish this," said Tom. "We'll talk things over as soon as I get this screw set."
I watched him idly as he worked. " What is he trying to do now ? " I asked Dorothy.
Just as I spoke, Tom moved his hand, the low buzz of a Ruhmkoff coil broke in on the silence of the room, and the glorious beauty of the tube of unknown gas that we had found in Heidenmuller's laboratory illumined the place.
" Why, there's the gas tube," I cried in amazement.
" Yes," said Dorothy. " From that tube has come a marvellous development of the Denckel apparatus. Tom has been able to receive with it right along, but never send. One day he thought of placing that tube of gas in the circuit, and now he can send, as well as receive. Tom has done a big thing. He can reverse the action of the machine, not only receive a message from any place, but shoot a wireless back across space, and have it strike exactly where he wishes. It's really a wonderful development, but I don't see how it's going to help us find ' the man,' and I don't want to give up. There, Tom is finishing. We'll talk things over now."
" If ' the man's ' crusade were not over, it might be even more effective," I remarked reflectively. " It would have been strange enough if we had found him by means of the gas released from metal destroyed by his terrific power."
" It would have been," answered Dorothy.
I stood watching Tom, as, pipe in mouth, he set the revolving belt in motion and watched the moving cylinders.
" To what strength of wave is it adjusted ? " I asked.
" I've put it on the high," said Tom. " It's fixed for ' the man's ' waves. I've got one new dodge, though, among others. I have it arranged so I could have told at any time whether ' the man' was sinking a ship or just experimenting. It's so delicate that when his waves strike a ship, the machine can tell it by the slight loss in power. See here," he turned on the switch in its revolution, " it's this." Flash went the beam.
A groan burst from Dorothy's lips. " He's at it again. There's a ship gone down."
Tom's face was ghastly. " That's right," he said. " Where is he ? "
Five minute's calculation brought it.
" He's in Tokio," said Dorothy.
Tom nodded. " What a fiend to have loose in the world. Here his mission is accomplished and war is over, and he keeps on."
Dorothy sprang from her chair. " No, it isn't that. I'm sure of it. He doesn't know that war is over. It must be that. We must tell him of it."