How self-centred is man, and how darkly
do his own petty interests overshadow the giant things
of life. Thrones may totter and fall, monarchs
pass to the limbo of memories, whilst we wrestle with
an intractable collar-stud. Had another than
Inspector Sheffield been driving to Buckingham Palace
that day, he might have found his soul attuned to
the martial tone about him; for “War! War!”
glared from countless placards, and was cried aloud
by countless newsboys. War was in the air.
Nothing else, it seemed, was thought of, spoken of,
But Sheffield at that time was quite
impervious to the subtle influences which had inspired
music-hall song writers to pour forth patriotic lyrics;
which had adorned the button-holes of sober citizens
with miniature Union Jacks. For him the question
of the hour was: “Shall I capture Severac
He reviewed, in the space of a few
seconds, the whole bewildering case, from the time
when this incomprehensible man had robbed Park Lane
to scatter wealth broadcast upon the Embankment up
to the present moment when, it would appear, having
acted as best man at a Society wedding, he now was
within the precincts of Buckingham Palace.
It was the boast of Severac Bablon,
as Sheffield knew, that no door was closed to him.
Perhaps that boast was no idle one. Who was Severac
Bablon? Inspector Sheffield, who had asked himself
that question many months before, when he stood in
the British Museum before the empty pedestal which
once had held the world-famed head of Caesar, asked
it again now. Alas! it was a question to which
he had no answer.
The cab stopped in front of Buckingham Palace.
Sheffield paid the man and walked
up to the gates. He was not unknown to those
who sat in high places, having been chosen to command
the secret bodyguard of Royalty during one protracted
foreign tour. An unassuming man, few of his acquaintances,
perhaps, knew that he shared with the Lord Mayor of
London the privilege of demanding audience at any hour
of the day or night.
It was a privilege which hitherto
he had never exercised. He exercised it now.
Some five minutes later he found himself
in an antechamber, and by the murmur of voices which
proceeded from that direction he knew a draped curtain
alone separated him from a hastily summoned conference.
A smell of cigar smoke pervaded the apartment.
Suddenly, he became quite painfully
nervous. Was it intended that he should hear
so much? Short of pressing his fingers to his
ears, he had no alternative.
“We had all along desired that
amicable relations be maintained in this matter, Baron.”
That was the Marquess of Evershed.
Sheffield knew his voice well.
“It has not appeared so from your attitude,
Whom could that be? Probably Baron Hecht.
“Your intense patriotism, your
admirable love of country, Baron, has led you to misconstrue,
as affronts, actions designed to promote our friendly
Only one man in England possessed
the suave, polished delivery of the last speaker-the
Right Honourable Walter Belford.
“I have misconstrued nothing;
my instructions have been explicit.”
“Fortunately, no further occasion
exists for you to carry them out.”
Sheffield knew that voice too.
“A Foreign Service Messenger
Mr. Maurice Anerly left for my capital this morning
“Captain Searles has been instructed
to intercept him. His dispatch will not be delivered.”
Inspector Sheffield, who had been
vainly endeavouring to become temporarily deaf, started.
Whose voice was that? Could he trust his ears?
There followed the sound as of the
clapping of hands upon someone’s shoulders.
“Baron Hecht I hold a most
sacred trust-the peace of nations.
No one shall rob me of it. Believe me your great
master already is drafting a friendly letter
The musical voice again, with that
vibrant, forceful note.
“In short, Baron” (Sheffield
tried not to hear; for he knew this voice too), “there
is a power above the Eagle, a power above the Lion:
the power of wealth! Lacking her for ally, no
nation can war with another! The king of that
power has spoken-and declared for peace!
I am glad of it, and so, I know, are you!”
Following a short interval, a shaking
of hands, as the unwilling eavesdropper divined.
Then, by some other door, a number of people withdrew,
amid a hum of seemingly friendly conversation.
A gentleman pulled the curtain aside.
“Come in, Sheffield!” he said genially.
Chief Inspector Sheffield bowed very
low and entered a large room, which, save for the
gentleman who had admitted him, now was occupied only
by the Right Hon. Walter Belford, Home Secretary.
“How do you do, Inspector?” asked Mr.
“Thank you, sir,” replied
the detective with diffidence; “I am quite well,
and trust you are.”
“I think I know what has brought
you here” continued the Home Secretary.
“You have been following
“Severac Bablon! Yes, sir!”
“As I supposed. Well, it
will be expedient, Inspector, religiously to keep
that name out of the Press in future! Furthermore-er-any
warrant that may be in existence must be cancelled!
This is a matter of policy, and I am sending the necessary
instructions to the Criminal Investigation Department.
In short-drop the case!”
Chief Inspector Sheffield looked rather dazed.
“No doubt, this is a surprise
to you,” continued Mr. Belford; “but do
not allow it to be a disappointment. Your tactful
conduct of the case, and the delicate manner in which
you have avoided compromising anyone-in
which you have handicapped yourself, that others might
not be implicated-has not been overlooked.
Your future is assured, Inspector Sheffield.”
The gentleman who had admitted Sheffield
had left the apartment almost immediately afterwards.
Now he returned, and fastened a pin in the detective’s
“By way of apology for spoiling
your case, Sheffield!” he said.
What Sheffield said or did at that
moment he could never afterwards remember. A
faint recollection he had of muttering something about
“Severac Bablon !”
“Ssh!” Mr. Belford had
replied. “There is no such person!”
It was at the moment of his leave-taking
that his eyes were drawn to an ash-tray upon the big
table. A long tongue of bluish-grey smoke licked
the air, coiling sinuously upward from amid cigar ends
and ashes. It seemingly possessed a peculiar
and pungent perfume.
And it proceeded from the smouldering
fragment of a yellow cigarette.
When Inspector Sheffield fully recovered
his habitual composure and presence of mind, he found
himself proceeding along Piccadilly. War was
in the breeze; War was on all the placards. Would-be
warriors looked out from every club window. “Rule,
Britannia” rang out from every street organ.
Then came running a hoarse newsboy,
aproned with a purple contents-bill, a bundle of Gleaners
under his arm. His stock was becoming depleted
at record speed. He could scarce pass the sheets
and grab the halfpence rapidly enough.
For where all else spoke of war, his
bill read and his blatant voice proclaimed:
Again the power of the Seal had been
exercised in the interests of the many, although popularly
it was believed, and maintained, that Britain’s
huge, efficient, and ever-growing air-fleet contributed
not a little to this peaceful conclusion.
The Gleaner assured its many
readers that such was indeed the case. To what
extent the Gleaner spoke truly, and to what
extent its statements were inspired, you are as well
equipped to judge as I.
And unless some future day shall free
my pen, I have little more to tell you of Severac
Bablon. Officially, as the Holder of the Seal,
his work, at any rate for the time, in England was
done. Some day, Sheard may carry his history
farther, and he would probably begin where I leave
This, then, will be at a certain pier-head,
on a summer’s day, and at a time when, far out
near the sky-line, grey shapes crept southward-battleships-the
flying squadron which thirty-six hours earlier had
proceeded to a neighbour’s water-gate to demonstrate
that the command of the seas had not changed hands
since the days of Nelson. The squadron was returning
to home waters. It was a concrete message of
peace, expressed in terms of war.
Nearer to the shore, indeed at no
great distance from the pier-head, lay a white yacht,
under steam. A launch left her side, swung around
her stern, and headed for the pier.
In a lower gallery, shut off from
the public promenades, where thousands of curious
holiday-makers jostled one another for a sight of the
great yacht, or for a glimpse of those about to join
her, a tall man leaned upon the wooden rail and looked
out to sea. A girl in while drill, whose pretty
face was so pale that fashionable New York might have
failed to recognise Zoe Oppner, the millionaire’s
daughter, stood beside him.
“Though I have been wrong,”
he said slowly, “in much that I have done, even
you will agree that I have been right in this.”
He waved his hand towards the fast disappearing squadron.
“Even I?” said Zoe sharply.
“Even you. For only you have shown me my
“You admit, then, that your !”
“Not that of course! But your -
“I did not mean that either.
The means you have adopted have often been violent,
though the end always was good. But no really
useful reform can be brought about in such a way,
I am sure.”
The man turned his face and fixed his luminous eyes
“It may be so,” he said; “but even
now I see no other way.”
Zoe pointed to the almost invisible battleships.
“Ah!” continued Severac
Bablon, “that was a problem of a different kind.
In every civilised land there is a power above the
throne. Do you think that, unaided, Prussia ever
could have conquered gallant France? The people
who owe allegiance to the German Emperor are a great
people, but, in such an undertaking as war, without
the aid of that people who owe allegiance to me,
they are helpless as a group of children! Had
I been in 1870 what I am to-day, the Prussian arms
had never been carried into Paris!”
“You mean that a nation, to
carry on a war, requires an enormous sum of money?”
“Which can only be obtained from certain sources.”
“From the Jews?”
“In part, at least. The
finance of Europe is controlled by a group of Jewish
“But they are not all
“Amenable to my orders?
True. But the outrages with which you reproach
me have served to show that when my orders are disobeyed
I have power to enforce them! Where I am not
respected I am feared. I refused my consent to
the loan by aid of which Great Britain’s enemies
had designed to prosecute a war against her.
None of those theatrical displays with which sometimes
I have impressed the errant vulgar were necessary.
The greatest name in European finance was refused
to the transaction-and the Great War died
in the hour of its birth!”
His eyes gleamed with almost fanatic ardour.
“For this will be forgotten all my errors, and
forgiven all my sins!”
“I am sure of that” said
Zoe earnestly. “But-whatever
you came to do
“I have not done-you
would say? Only in part. Where I made my
home in London, you have seen a curtained recess.
It held the Emblem of my temporal power.”
He moved his hand, and the sunlight
struck green beams from the bezel of the strange ring
upon his finger. Zoe glanced at it with something
that was almost like fear.
“This,” he said, replying,
as was his uncanny custom to an unspoken question,
“is but the sign whereby I may be known for the
holder of that other Emblem. My house is empty
now; the Emblem returns to the land where it was fashioned.”
“You are abandoning your projects-your
“Perhaps because the sword is
too heavy for the wielder. Perhaps because I
am only a man-and lonely.”
The launch touched the pier, below them.
“You are the most loyal friend
I have made in England-in Europe-in
the world,” said Severac Bablon. “Good-bye.”
Zoe was very pale.
“Do you mean-for-always?”
“When you have said ‘Good-bye’ to
me I have nothing else to stay for.”
Zoe glanced at him once and looked
away. Her charming face suddenly flushed rosily,
and a breeze from the sea curtained the bright eyes
with intractable curls.
“But if I won’t say ’Good-bye’?”