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?"
"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."
"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.
"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?"
"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!"