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Chapter 6 SOME EXPLANATIONS

  • Karl Breitmann! Fitzgerald pulled off a shoe, and carefully deposited it o_he floor beside his chair. Private secretary to Rear Admiral Killigrew, retired; Karl Breitmann! He drew off the second shoe, and placed it, wit_ilitary preciseness, close to the first. Absently, he rose, with th_ntention of putting the pair in the hall, but remembered before he got as fa_s the door that it was not customary in America to put one's shoes outside i_he halls. Ultimately, they would have been stolen or have remained there til_he trump of doom.
  • Could there be two Breitmanns by the name of Karl? Here and there, across th_orld, he had heard of Breitmann, but never had he seen him since that meetin_n Paris. And, simply because he had proved to be an enthusiastic student o_apoleon, like himself, he had taken the man to dinner. But that was nothing.
  • Under the same circumstances he would have done the same thing again. Ther_ad been something fascinating about the fellow, either his voice or hi_anner. And there could be no doubting that he had been at ebb tide; the shin_oat, the white, but ragged linen, the cracked patent leathers.
  • A baron, and to reach the humble grade of private secretary to an eccentri_illionaire—for the admiral, with all his kindliness and common sense, wa_ccentric—this was a fall. Where were his newspapers? There was a dignity t_oreign work, even though in Europe the pay is small. There was trouble goin_n here and there, petty wars and political squabbles. Yes, where were hi_ewspapers? Had he tried New York? If not, in that case, he—Fitzgerald—coul_e of some solid assistance. And Cathewe knew him, or had met him.
  • Fitzgerald had buffeted the high and low places; he seldom made mistakes i_udging men offhand, an art acquired only after many initial blunders. Thi_an Breitmann was no sham; he was a scholar, a gentleman, a fine linguist, versed in politics and war. Well, the little mystery would be brushed aside i_he morning. Breitmann would certainly recognize him.
  • But to have forgotten the girl! To have permitted a course of events t_iscover her! Shameful! He jumped into bed, and pulled the coverlet close t_is nose, and was soon asleep, sleep broken by fantastic dreams, in which th_ast and present mixed with the improbable chances of the future.
  • Thump-thump, thump-thump! To Fitzgerald's fogged hearing, it was like th_ulse beating in the bowels of a ship, only that it stopped and began at od_ntervals, intermittently. At the fourth recurrence, he sat up, to find tha_t was early morning, and that the sea lay; gray and leaden, under the pearl_aze of dawn. Thump-thump! He rubbed his eyes, and laughed. It could be n_ess a person than the old sailor in the summer-yachting toggery. Drat 'em!
  • These sailors were always trying to beat sun-up. At length, the peg left th_oom above, and banged along the hall and bumped down the stairs. Then al_ecame still once more, and the listener snuggled under the covers again, an_lept soundly till eight. Outside, the day was full, clear, and windy.
  • On the way to the dining-room, he met the man. The scars were a little deepe_n color and the face was thinner, but there was no shadow of doubt i_itzgerald's mind.
  • "Breitmann?" he said, with a friendly hand.
  • The other stood still. There was no recognition in his eyes; at least, Fitzgerald saw none.
  • "Breitmann is my name, sir," he replied courteously.
  • "I am Fitzgerald; don't you remember me? We dined in Paris last year, after w_ad spent the afternoon with the Napoleonic relics. You haven't forgotte_acedonia?"
  • Breitmann took the speaker by the arm, and turned him round. Fitzgerald ha_een standing with his back to the light. The scrutiny was short. The eyes o_he Bavarian softened, though the quizzical wrinkles at the corners remaine_nchanged. All at once his whole expression warmed.
  • "It is you? And what do you here?" extending both hands.
  • Some doubt lingered in Fitzgerald's mind; yet the welcome was perfect, fro_hichever point he chose to look. "Come in to breakfast," he said, "and I'l_ell you."
  • "My table is here; sit by the window. Who was it said that the world is small?
  • Do you know, that dinner in Paris was the first decent meal I had had in _eek? And I didn't recognize you at once! _Herr Gott_!" with sudden weariness.
  • "Perhaps I have had reason to forget many things. But you?"
  • Fitzgerald spread his napkin over his knees. There was only one other ma_reakfasting. He was a small, wiry person, white of hair, and spectacled, an_as at that moment curiously employed. He had pinned to the table a smal_utterfly, yellow, with tiny dots on the wings. He was critically inspectin_is find through a jeweler's glass.
  • "I am visiting friends here," began Fitzgerald. "Rear Admiral Killigrew was a_ld friend of my father's. I did not expect to remain, but the admiral and hi_aughter insisted; so I am sending to New York for my luggage, and will go u_his morning." He saw no reason for giving fuller details.
  • "So it must have been you who brought the admiral's note. It is fate. Thanks.
  • Some day that casual dinner may give you good interest"
  • The little man with the butterfly bent lower over his prize.
  • "Do you believe in curses?" asked Breitmann.
  • "Ordinary, every-day curses, yes; but not in Roman anathemas."
  • "Neither of those. I mean the curse that sometimes dogs a man, day and night; the curse of misfortune. I was hungry that night in Paris; I have been hungr_any times since, I have held honorable places; to-day, I become a servant a_eventy-five dollars a month and my bread and butter. A private secretary."
  • "But why aren't you with some newspaper?" asked Fitzgerald, breaking his eggs.
  • Breitmann drew up his shoulders. "For the same reason that I am renting m_rains as a private secretary. It was the last thing I could find, and stil_etain a little self-respect. My heart was dead when the admiral told me h_ad already engaged a secretary. But your note brought me the position."
  • "But the newspapers?"
  • "None of them will employ me."
  • "In New York, with your credentials?"
  • "Even so."
  • "I don't quite understand."
  • "It would take too long to explain."
  • "I can give you some letters."
  • "Thank you. It would be useless. Secretly and subterraneously, I have had th_ottom knocked out from under my feet. Why, God knows! But no more of that.
  • Some day I will give you my version."
  • The little man smiled over his butterfly, took out a wallet, something on th_attern of a fisherman's, and put the new-found specimen into one of the mic_ompartments, in which other dead butterflies of variant beauty reposed.
  • "So I become a private secretary, till the time offers something better."
  • Breitmann stared at the sea.
  • "I am sorry. I wish I could help you. Better let me try." Fitzgerald stirre_is coffee. "You are convinced that there is some cabal working against you i_he newspaper business? That seems strange. Some of them must have heard o_our work—London, Paris, Berlin. Have you tried them all?"
  • "Yes. Nothing for me, but promises as thick as yonder sands."
  • The little man rose, and walked out of the room, smiling.
  • "Splendid!" he murmured. "What a specimen to add to my collection!"
  • "Do you know what your duties will be?" Fitzgerald inquired.
  • "They will consist of replying to begging letters from the needy an_eserving, from crazy inventors, and ministers. In the meantime, I am to d_ranslating, together with indexing a vast library devoted to pirates. Droll, isn't it?" Breitmann laughed, but this time without bitterness.
  • "It is a harmless hobby," rather resenting Breitmann's tone.
  • "More than that," quickly; "it is philanthropic, since it will employ me fo_ome length of time."
  • "When do they expect you?"
  • "At half-after ten."
  • "We'll go up together, then. Did you see the admiral's daughter?"
  • "A daughter? Has he one?" Breitmann accepted this news with an expression o_isfavor.
  • "Yes; and charming, I can tell you. It's all very odd. In Paris that night, they both sat at the next table."
  • "Why did you not speak to them?"
  • "Didn't know who they were. The admiral was one of my father's boyhoo_riends, and I did not meet them till very recently;" which was all tru_nough. For some unaccountable reason, Fitzgerald found that he was on guard.
  • "I have ordered an open carriage. If you have any trunks, I can take them u_or you."
  • "It will be good of you."
  • They proceeded to finish the repast, and then sought the office, for thei_eckoning. Later, they strolled toward the water front. Fitzgerald, durin_oments when the talk lagged, thought over the meeting. There was a false rin_o it somewhere. If Breitmann had been turned down in all the offices in Ne_ork, there must have been some good cause. Newspapers were not passing ove_en of this fellow's experience, unless he had been proved untrustworthy.
  • Breitmann had not told him everything; he had even told him too little. Still, he would withhold his judgment till he heard from New York on the subject.
  • Cathewe hadn't been enthusiastic over the name; but Cathewe was never incline_o enthusiasms.
  • Passing the angle of the freight depot brought the little harbor into ful_iew. A fine white yacht lay tugging at her cables.
  • "There's a beauty," said Fitzgerald admiringly.
  • "She looks as if she could take care of herself. How fresh the green water- line looks! She'll be fast in moderate weather; a fair thousand tons, perhaps."
  • "A close guess."
  • "I understand she belongs to my employer. I hope he takes the sea soon. _uppose you know that I have knocked about some as a sailor."
  • "That will help you into the good graces of the admiral."
  • "How dull and uninteresting the coast-lines are here! No gardens, no palms, nothing of beauty."
  • "You must remember the immensity of this coast and that our summers are reall_ess than three months. Here comes one who can tell us about the yacht," crie_itzgerald, espying the peg-legged sailor. "I say!" he hailed, as the ol_ailor drew nigh; "you are on the _Laura_ , are you not?"
  • "Yessir. An' I've bin on her since she wus commissioned as a pleasure yacht, sir. Capt'n."
  • "Ah!"
  • "Fought under th' commodore in th' war, sir; an' he knows me, an' I knows him; an' when Flanagan is on th' bridge, he doesn't signal no pilots between Ke_est an' St. Johns."
  • "I am visiting the admiral," said Fitzgerald, amused.
  • "Oh!" Captain Flanagan ducked, with his hand to his cap. On land, he wa_ikely to imitate landsmen in manners and politeness; but on board he tippe_is hat to nobody; leastwise, to nobody but Miss Laura, bless her heart! "_eckon one o' you is th' new sec'rety."
  • "Yes, I am the new secretary," replied Breitmann, unsmiling.
  • "Furrin parts?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Well, well!" as if, while he couldn't help the fact, it was none the less t_e pitied. "You'll be comin' aboard soon, then. Off for th' Banks. Take m_ord for it, you'll find her as stiddy as one o' your floatin' hotels, sir, where you don't see no sailor but a deck hand as swabs th' scuppers when _eam sea's on. Good mornin'!" And Captain Flanagan stumped off toward th_illage.
  • Breitmann shrugged contemptuously.
  • "He may not be in European yachting form," admitted Fitzgerald, "but he's th_ind of man who makes a navy a good fighting machine."
  • "But we usually pick out gentlemen to captain our private yachts."
  • "Oh, this Flanagan is an exception. There is probably a fighting bond betwee_im and the admiral; that makes some difference. You observed, he called th_wner by the title of commodore, as he did thirty-five years ago. Ten o'clock; we should be going up."
  • The carriage was at the hotel when they returned. They bundled in their traps, and drove away.
  • The little man now dropped into the railway station, and stuck his head int_he ticket aperture. The agent, who was seated before the telegraph keys, looked up.
  • "No tickets before half-past ten, sir."
  • "I am not wanting a ticket. I wish to know if I can send a cable from here."
  • "A cable? Sure. Where to?"
  • "Paris."
  • "Yes, sir. I telegraph it to the cable office in New York, and they do th_est. Here are some blanks."
  • The other wrote some hieroglyphics, which made the address impossible t_ecipher, save that it was directed mainly to Paris. The body of the cablegra_ontained a single word. The writer paid the toll, and went away.
  • "Now, what would you think of that?" murmured the operator, scratching hi_ead in perplexity. "Well, the company gets the money, so it's all the same t_e. Butterflies; and all the rest in French. Next time it'll be bugs. Al_ight; here goes!"