Read SECRET NUMBER EIGHT of The Secrets of Potsdam , free online book, by William Le Queux, on


The Crown-Prince had accompanied the Emperor on board the Hohenzollern on his annual cruise up the Norwegian fjords, and the Kaiserin and the Crown-Princess were of the party.

I had been left at home because I had not been feeling well, and with relief had gone south to the Lake of Garda, taking up my quarters in that long, white hotel which faces the blue lake at Gardone-Riviera.  A truly beautiful spot, where the gardens of the hotel run down to the lake’s edge, with a long veranda covered with trailing roses and geraniums, peaceful indeed after the turmoil and glitter of our Court life in Germany.

One morning at luncheon, however, just as I had seated myself at my table set in the window overlooking the sunlit waters, a tall, rather thin-faced, bald-headed man entered, accompanied by an extremely pretty girl, with very fair hair and eyes of an unusual, child-like blue.  The man I judged to be about fifty-five, whose blotchy face marked him as one addicted to strong liquors, and whose dress and bearing proclaimed him to be something of a roue.  He walked jauntily to the empty table next mine, while his companion stared vacantly about her as she followed him to the place which the obsequious maitre d’hotel had indicated.

The stranger’s eyes were dark, penetrating, and shifty, while there was something about the young girl’s demeanour that aroused my interest.  Her face, undeniably beautiful, was marred by a stare of complete vacancy.  She glanced at me, but I saw that she did not see.  It was as though her thoughts were far away, or else that she was under the spell of some weird fascination.

That strange, blank expression in her countenance caused me to watch her.  On the one hand, the man had all the appearance of a person who had run the whole gamut of the vices; while the fair-haired, blue-eyed girl was the very incarnation of maiden innocence.

Perhaps it was because I kept my eyes upon her that the dark-eyed man knit his brows and stared at me in defiance.  Instinctively I did not like the fellow, for as they started their meal I saw plainly the rough, almost uncouth, manner in which he treated her.

At first I believed that they might be father and daughter, but this suggestion was negatived when, on inquiry at the bureau, I was told that the man was Martinez Aranda, of Seville, and that his companion was his niece, Lola Serrano.

The latter always appeared exquisitely dressed, and the gay young men, Italian officers and others, were all eager to make her acquaintance.  Yet it seemed to me that the man Aranda forbade her to speak to anyone.  Indeed, I watched the pair closely during the days following, and could plainly discern that the girl went in mortal fear of him.

On the third day, while walking along the terrace facing the lake, I came across the Spaniard, who, in affable mood, started a conversation, and as we leaned upon the stone balustrade, smoking and gossiping, the pretty girl with hair so fair even though she were a Southerner came up, and I was introduced.

She wore a cool white linen gown, a big sun-hat, and carried a pale blue sunshade.  But my eye, expert where a woman’s gown is concerned, told me that that linen frock was the creation of one of the Paris men-dressmakers, whose lowest charge for such a garment is one thousand francs.  Aranda and his pretty niece were certainly persons of considerable means.

“How very beautiful the lake always appears at any hour!” the girl exclaimed in French after her uncle had exchanged cards with me.  “Truly Italy is delightful.”

“Ah, Mademoiselle,” I replied.  “But your brilliant Spain is ever attractive.”

“You know Spain?” inquired the bald-headed man at once.

“Yes, I know Spain, but only as a spring visitor,” was my reply.

And from that conversation there grew in a few days quite an affable friendship.  We went together on excursions, all three of us, once by the steamer up to Riva, where on landing and passing through the Customs we sat at the cafe and sipped that delicious coffee topped by a foam of cream, the same as one got at the “Bristol” in Vienna, or the “Hungaria” in Budapest.  Then at evening, while the pretty Lola gossiped with a weedy old Italian Marchioness, whose acquaintance she had made, her uncle played billiards with me, and he was no bad player either!

As soon as the Spaniard learnt of my position as personal-adjutant of His Imperial Highness the Crown-Prince he became immediately interested, as most people were, and plied me with all sorts of questions regarding the truth of certain scandals that were at the moment afloat concerning “Willie.”  As you know, I am usually pretty discreet.  Therefore, I do not think that he learned very much from me.

We were alone in the billiard-room, having a game after luncheon one day, when a curious conversation took place.

“Ah, Count!  You must have a very intimate knowledge of life at the Berlin Court,” he remarked quite suddenly, in French.

“Yes.  But it is a strenuous life, I assure you,” I declared, laughing.

“The Crown-Prince sometimes goes abroad incognito,” he said, pausing and looking me straight in the face.

“Yes ­sometimes,” I admitted.

“He was in Rome in the first week of last December.  He disappeared from Potsdam, and the Emperor and yourself were extremely anxious as to what had become of him.  He had gone to Berlin alone, without any attendant, and completely disappeared.  Yet, while you were all making secret inquiries, and fearing lest the truth should leak out to the Press, His Imperial Highness was living as plain Herr Wilhelm Nebelthau in an apartment at Number Seventeen, Lungtevere Mellini.  Isn’t that so?”

I stared agape at the Spaniard.

I thought myself the only person who knew that fact ­a fact which the
Crown-Prince had revealed to me in the strictest secrecy.

Could this man Martinez Aranda be an agent of police?  Yet that seemed quite impossible.

“You appear to have a more intimate knowledge of His Highness’s movements than I have myself,” I replied, utterly amazed at the extent of the man’s information.

His dark, sallow face relaxed into a mysterious smile, and he bent to make another stroke without replying.

“His Highness should be very careful in the concealment of his movements when he is incognito,” he remarked presently.

“You met him there, eh?” I asked, eager to ascertain the truth, for that secret visit to Rome had been a most mysterious one, even to me.

“I do not think I need reply to that question,” he said.  “All I can say is that the Crown-Prince kept rather queer company on that occasion.”

Those words only served to confirm my suspicions.  Whenever “Willie” disappeared alone from Potsdam I could afterwards always trace the disappearance to his penchant for the eternal feminine.  How often, indeed, had I been present at scenes between the Crown-Princess and her husband, and how often I had heard the Emperor storm at his son in that high-pitched voice so peculiar to the Hohenzollerns when unduly excited.

The subject soon dropped, but his statements filled me with apprehension.  It was quite plain that this well-dressed, bald-headed Spaniard was in possession of some secret of the Crown-Prince’s, a secret which had not been revealed to me.

More than once in the course of the next few days, when we were alone together, I endeavoured to learn something of the nature of the secret which took his Highness to the Eternal City, but Aranda was very clever and discreet.  In addition, the attitude of the girl Lola became more than ever strange.  There was a blank look in those big, beautiful eyes of hers that betrayed something abnormal.  But what it was I failed to decide.

One evening after dinner I saw her walking alone in the moonlight along the terrace by the lake, and joined her.  So preoccupied she seemed that she scarcely replied to my remarks.  Then suddenly she halted, and as though unable to restrain her feelings longer I heard a low sob escape her.

“Mademoiselle, what is the matter?” I asked in French.  “Tell me.”

“Oh, nothing, Monsieur, nothing,” she declared in a low, broken voice.  “I ­I know I am very foolish, only ­”

“Only what?  Tell me.  That you are in distress I know.  Let me assist you.”

She shook her handsome head mournfully.

“No, you cannot assist me,” she declared in a tone that told me how desperate she had now become.  “My uncle,” she exclaimed, staring straight before her across the moonlit waters, whence the dark mountains rose from the opposite bank.  “Count, be careful!  Do ­my ­my uncle.”

“I don’t understand,” I said, standing at her side and gazing at her pale countenance beneath the full light of the moon.

“My uncle ­he knows something ­be careful ­warn the Crown-Prince.”

“What does he know?”

“He has never told me.”

“Are you in entire ignorance of the reason of the visit of His Highness to Rome?  Try and remember all you know,” I urged.

The girl put both her palms to her brow, and, shaking her head, said: 

“I can remember nothing ­nothing ­oh! my poor head!  Only warn the man who in Rome called himself Herr Nebelthau!”

She spoke in a low, nervous tone, and I could see that she was decidedly hysterical and much unstrung.

“Did you meet Herr Nebelthau?” I asked eagerly.

“Me?  Ah, no.  But I saw him, though he never saw me.”

“But what is the secret that your uncle knows?” I demanded.  “If I know, then I can warn the Crown-Prince.”

“I do not know,” she replied, again shaking her head.  “Only ­only ­well, by some means my uncle knew that you had left Potsdam, and we travelled here on purpose to meet you to obtain from you some facts concerning the Crown-Prince’s movements.”

“To meet me?” I echoed in surprise.  In a moment I saw that Aranda’s intentions were evidently evil ones.  But just at that juncture the Spaniard came forth in search of his niece.

“Why are you out here?” he asked her gruffly.  “Go in.  It is too cold for you.”

“I came out with the Count to see the glorious panorama of the lake,” explained the girl in strange humbleness, and then, turning reluctantly, she obeyed him.

“Come and have a hand at bridge,” her uncle urged cheerfully.  “The Signora Montalto and young Boileau are ready to make up the four.”

To this I agreed, and we followed the girl into the big, white-panelled lounge of the hotel.

Two days later, about four o’clock in the afternoon, Aranda received a telegram, and an hour later left with his niece, who, as she parted from me, whispered: 

“Warn the Crown-Prince, won’t you?”

I promised, and as they drove off to the station I stood waving my hand to the departing visitors.

A week later I had word from Cuxhaven of the arrival of the Hohenzollern from Trondhjem, and at once returned to the Marmor Palace, where on the night of my arrival the Crown-Prince, wearing his Saxon Uhlan uniform, entered my room, gaily exclaiming: 

“Well, Heltzendorff, how are things on the Lake of Garda, eh?”

I briefly explained where I had been, and then, as he lit a cigarette, standing astride near the fireplace, I asked permission to speak upon a confidential matter.

“More trouble, eh?” he asked, with a grin and a shrug of the shoulders.

“I do not know,” I said seriously, and then, in brief, I related how the man Aranda had arrived with the girl Lola at the hotel, and what had followed.

As soon as I mentioned the Lungtevere Mellini, that rather aristocratic street, which runs parallel with the Tiber on the outskirts of Rome, His Highness started, his face blanched instantly, and he bit his thin lip.

Himmel!” he gasped.  “The fellow knows that I took the name of Nebelthau!  Impossible!”

“But he does,” I said quietly.  “He is undoubtedly in possession of some secret concerning your visit to Rome last December.”

In His Highness’s eyes I noticed a keen, desperate expression which I had scarcely ever seen there before.

“You are quite certain of this, Heltzendorff, eh?” he asked.  “The man’s name is Martinez Aranda?”

“Yes.  He says he is from Seville.  His niece, Lola Serrano, told me to warn you that he means mischief.”

“Who is the girl?  Do I know her?”


“Why does she warn me?”

“I cannot say,” was my reply.  “As you are aware, I have no knowledge of the nature of Your Highness’s visit to Rome.  I merely report all that I could gather from the pair, who evidently went to Gardone to meet me.”

“Where are they now?”

“In Paris ­at the Hotel Terminus, Gare St. Lazare.  I found out that they had taken tickets to Verona and thence to Paris, therefore I telegraphed to my friend Pinaud, of the Sûreté, who quickly found them and reported to me by wire within twenty-four hours.”

“H’m!  This is serious, Heltzendorff ­infernally serious,” declared the Crown-Prince, with knit brows, as he commenced to pace the room with his hands clasped behind his back.

Suddenly he halted in front of me and smoothed his hair ­a habit of his when perplexed.

“First, the Emperor must know nothing, and the Crown-Princess must be kept in entire ignorance at all costs,” he declared.  “I can now foresee a great amount of trouble.  Curse the women!  I trusted one, and she ­ah!  I can see it all now.”

“Is it very serious?” I asked, still anxious to glean the truth.

“Serious!” he cried, staring at me wildly.  “Serious!  Why, Heltzendorff, it means everything to me ­everything!”

The Crown-Prince was not the kind of man to exhibit fear.  Though degenerate in every sense of the word, and without the slightest idea of moral obligations, yet he was, nevertheless, utterly oblivious to danger of any sort, being wildly reckless, with an entire disregard of consequences.  Here, however, he saw that the secret, which he had fondly believed to be his alone, was known to this mysterious Spaniard.

“I cannot understand why this girl, Lola ­or whatever she calls herself ­should warn me.  I wonder who she is.  What is she like?”

I described her as minutely as I could, more especially the unusual fairness of her hair, and the large, wide-open, blue eyes.  She had a tiny mole upon her chin, a little to the left.

The description seemed to recall some memory, for suddenly he exclaimed: 

“Really, the girl you describe is very like one that I met about a year ago ­a thief-girl in the Montmartre, in Paris, called Lizette Sabin.  I came across her one night in one of the cabarets.”

As he spoke he went across to a big antique chest of drawers, one of which he unlocked with his key, and after a long search he drew out a cabinet photograph and handed it to me.

I started.  It was a picture of the pretty Lola!

He watched my face, and saw that I recognized it.

Then he drew a long sigh, tossed his cigarette away savagely, and throwing back the photograph into the drawer, relocked it.

“Yes,” he declared, turning to me again.  “The situation is most abnormally disturbing, Heltzendorff.  A storm is brewing, without a doubt.  But the Emperor must know nothing, remember ­not the slightest suspicion.  Ah!  What an infernal fool I was to believe in that woman.  Bah!  They are all alike.  And yet ­” and he paused ­“and yet if it were not for the petticoat Germany’s secret diplomacy ­the preparation for the great ‘Day’ when we shall stagger the world ­could not proceed.  This, my dear Heltzendorff, has shown me that you may with advantage use a woman of whatever age as your catspaw, your secret agent, your bait when angling for important information, or your go-between in secret transactions; but never trust one with knowledge of your own personal affairs.”

“Then I take it that this girl-thief of the Montmartre whom you met when out for an evening’s amusement is the cause of all this trouble?  And yet she said that she did not know you!”

“Because it was to her advantage to disclaim knowledge of me.  Personally I do not think that the pretty Lizette is my enemy or she would not warn me against this infernal Spaniard, whoever he may be.”

“If the matter is so serious, had I not better go to Paris to-morrow and see Pinaud?” I suggested.

“Excellent!” he exclaimed.  “Watch must be kept upon them.  The one thing to bear in mind, however, is that neither the Emperor nor my wife learn anything.  Go to Paris to-morrow, and tell Pinaud from me to do his best on my behalf.”

Next morning I left for Paris, and on arrival spent half an hour with Georges Pinaud in his room at the Sûreté.

“So His Imperial Highness does not wish the arrest of the girl Lizette Sabin?” he exclaimed presently.  “I have her dossier here,” and he indicated a cardboard portfolio before him.  “It is a pretty bad one.  Her last sentence was one of twelve months for robbing an English baronet at a dancing-hall in the Rue du Bac.”

“His Highness does not wish for her arrest.  He only desires the pair to be kept under close observation.”

“The man Aranda is, I have discovered, a dangerous person,” said the famous detective, leaning back in his chair.  “He has served a sentence at Cayenne for the attempted murder of a woman in Lyons.  He is, of course, an adventurer of the most expert type.”

I longed to reveal to my friend Pinaud the whole facts, but this was against my instructions.  I merely asked him as a favour to institute a strict vigilance upon the pair, and to report to me by telegraph if either of them left Paris.

Aranda was still living at the Hotel Terminus, but the pretty Lizette had gone to stay with two girl friends, professional dancers, who lived on the third floor of a house half-way up the Rue Blanche.  So having discharged my mission, I returned on the following day to Potsdam, where, on meeting me, the Crown-Prince seemed much relieved.

His only fear ­and it was a very serious one ­was that to the Emperor there might be revealed the reason of that secret visit of his to Italy.  I confess that I myself began to regard that visit with considerable suspicion.  Its nature must have been, to say the least, unusual if he had been so aghast at the real truth being discovered.

In the strenuous days that followed, weeks, indeed, I frequently reflected, and found myself much mystified.  More than once His Highness had asked me:  “Any news from Pinaud?” And when I replied in the negative “Willie’s” relief was at once apparent.

One day I had been lunching in Berlin at the “Bristol,” in Unter den Linden, at a big party given by the Baroness von Buelow.  Among the dozen or so present were Von Ruxeben, the Grand Marshal of the Court of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; Gertrud, Baroness von Wangenheim, Grand Mistress of the Court of the Duchess; the Minister Dr. Rasch; and, of course, old “Uncle” Zeppelin, full of plans, as always, of new airships and of the destruction of London.  Indeed, he sat next me, and bored me to death with his assurances that on “The Day” he would in twenty-four hours lay London in ruins.

The guests around the table, a gay and clever circle, saw that “Uncle” had button-holed me, and knew from my face how utterly bored I was.  Truth to tell, I was much relieved when suddenly, when the meal was nearly over, a waiter whispered that somebody wished to see me out in the lounge.

It was a messenger from Potsdam with a telegram that had come over the private wire.  It read:  “Aranda left Paris two days ago.  Destination unknown. ­PINAUD.”

The information showed that the fellow had cleverly evaded the agents of the Sûreté, a very difficult feat in such circumstances.  That very fact went to prove that he was a cunning and elusive person.

Half an hour later I was sitting with Heinrich Wesener, Assistant-Director of the Secret Service of the General Staff.  I sought him in preference to the famous detective, Schunke, because, while matters passing through the Secret Service Bureau were always regarded as confidential, those submitted to the Berlin police were known to many subordinates who had access to the dossiers and informations.

I told Wesener but little ­merely that His Imperial Highness the Crown-Prince was desirous of knowing at the earliest moment if a Spaniard named Martinez Aranda should arrive in Berlin.

The curiosity of the Assistant-Director was immediately aroused.  So many scandals were rife regarding “Willie” that the stout, fair-haired official was hoping to obtain some further details.

“Excuse me for a moment,” he said, and, after ringing his bell, a clerk appeared.  To the man he gave orders to go across and inspect the police register of strangers, and ascertain if the man Aranda had arrived in the capital.

Ten minutes later the clerk returned, saying that a Spaniard named Aranda had arrived from Paris early that morning with a young lady named Sabin, and that they were staying at the Central Hotel, opposite the Friedrich-Straße Station.

Upon this information I went to the “Central,” and from the hall-porter discovered that Aranda had left the hotel an hour before, but that his supposed niece was upstairs in her room.

Afterwards I hurried back to Potsdam as quickly as possible, only to find that the Crown-Prince was out with Knof motoring somewhere.  Of the Crown-Princess I inquired whither he had gone, but, as usual, she had no idea.  “Willie” was ever erratic, and ever on the move.

Six o’clock had already struck when he returned, and the sentry informed him that I was extremely anxious to see him.  Therefore, without removing his coat, he ascended to my room, where he burst in breezily.

When I told him what I had discovered in Berlin the light died instantly out of his face.

“Is the fellow really here, Heltzendorff?” he gasped.  “I had a letter from him a week ago declaring his intention to come here.”

“You did not reply, I hope?”

“No.  The letter I found upon my dressing-table, but I have not discovered who placed it there,” he said.  “The fellow evidently intends to carry out his threat and expose me to the Emperor.”

“What can he expose?” I queried.

But “Willie” was not to be caught like that.  He merely replied: 

“Well ­something which must at all hazards be concealed.  How this Spaniard can know I cannot in the least imagine ­unless that woman gave me away!”

For the next two days I was mostly out with his Highness in the car, and in addition the Kaiser reviewed the Prussian Guard, a ceremony which always gave me much extra work.

On the third day I had in the morning been out to the Wildpark Station, and, passing the sentries, had re-entered the Palace, when one of the footmen approached me, saying: 

“Pardon, Count, but there is a gentleman to see his Imperial Highness.  He will give no name, and refuses to leave.  I called the captain of the guard, who has interrogated him, and he has been put into the blue ante-room until your return.”

At that moment I saw the captain of the guard striding down the corridor towards me.

“A bald-headed man is here to see His Highness, and will give no name,” he told me.  “He is waiting now.  Will you see him?”

“No,” I said, my suspicions aroused.  “I will first see the Crown-Prince.”

After some search I found the latter lolling at his ease in his own smoking-room in the private apartments, reading a French novel and consuming cigarettes.

“Hulloa, Heltzendorff!  Well, what’s the trouble?” he asked.  “I see something is wrong from your face.”

“The man Aranda is here,” I replied.

“Here!” he gasped, starting up and flinging the book aside.  “Who let him in?”

“I don’t know, but he is below demanding to see you.”

“Has he made any statement?  Has he told anybody what he knows?” demanded the Crown-Prince, who at that moment presented what might be termed a white-livered appearance, cowed, and even trembling.  In his slant eyes showed a look of undisguised terror, and I realized that the truth, whatever it might be, was a damning and most disgraceful one.

“I can’t see him, Heltzendorff,” he whined to me.  “See him; hear what he has to say ­and ­and you will keep my secret?  Promise me.”

I promised.  And I should have kept that promise were it not for his brutal and blackguardly acts after the outbreak of war ­acts which placed him, with his Imperial father, beyond the pale of respectable society.

I was turning to leave the room, when he sprang towards me with that quick agility of his, and, placing his white, manicured hand upon my arm, said: 

“Whatever he may say you will not believe ­will you?”

“And if he wants money?” I asked.

“Ascertain the amount, and come here to me.”

A quarter of an hour later Martinez Aranda sat in my room opposite my table.  I had told him that unfortunately His Imperial Highness was engaged, for the Emperor had come over from the Neues Palace for luncheon.  Then I inquired the nature of his business.

“Well, Count, you and I are not altogether strangers, are we?” was his reply, as he sat back calmly and crossed his legs, perfectly at his ease.  “But my business is only with His Highness, and with nobody else.”

“His Highness sees nobody upon business.  I am appointed to deal with all his business affairs, and anything told to me is the same as though spoken into his ear.”

The Spaniard from Montmartre was silent for a moment.

“If that is the case, then I would be glad if you will obtain his permission for me to speak.  He will remember my name.”

“I already received orders before I invited you up,” I said.  “His Highness wishes you to deal with me.  He knows that you are here to settle some delicate little piece of business concerning that secret visit of his to Rome ­eh?”

“Yes,” he answered, after a few seconds’ pause.  “I am well aware, Count, that for mention of the reason I am here you might call the guard to arrest me for blackmail.  But first let me assure His Highness that such action would not be advisable in the interests of either himself or of the Emperor.  I have already made arrangements for exposure in case His Highness endeavours to close my mouth by such means.”

“Good.  We understand each other.  What is your complaint?” I inquired.

“I know the truth concerning the mysterious death of the woman, Claudia Ferrona, in Rome last December,” he said briefly.

“Oh!” I exclaimed.  “Perhaps you will tell me next that the Crown-Prince is an assassin?  Come, that will be really interesting,” I laughed.  “Perhaps you will tell me how it all happened ­the extent of your knowledge.”

“Why should I do that?  Go to the Crown-Prince and tell him what I allege ­tell him that the girl, Lizette Sabin, whom he knows, was a witness.”

“Well, let us come to business,” I said.  “How much do you want for your silence?”

“I want nothing ­not a sou!” was the hard reply.  “All I want is to reveal to the Emperor that his son is responsible for a woman’s death.  And that is what I intend doing.  You hear that!  Well, Count von Heltzendorff, please go and tell him so.”

Quickly realizing the extreme gravity of the situation, I returned to the Crown-Prince and told him the startling allegation made against him.

His face went as white as paper.

“We must pay the fellow off.  Close his mouth somehow.  Help me, Heltzendorff,” he implored.  “What can I do?  He must not reveal the truth to the Emperor!”

“Then it really is the truth!” I exclaimed, astounded.

The Crown-Prince hung his head, and in a low, hoarse voice replied: 

“It is my accursed luck!  The woman must have told the truth to this scoundrel of a Spaniard before ­before she died!”

“And Lizette?” I asked.  “She is a witness, the fellow says.”

“No, no!” cried His Highness wildly, covering his white face with his hands as though to hide the guilt written upon his countenance.  “Say no more!  Ask the fellow’s price, and pay him.  We must not allow him to go to the Emperor.”

Three minutes later I went back to my room, but it was empty.  The Spaniard had walked out, and would, no doubt, be wandering somewhere in the private apartments.

At that instant the telephone rang, and, answering it, I heard that His Majesty had just arrived by car, and was on his way up to the room wherein I stood ­the room in which he generally met his son.

For a moment I was perplexed, but a few seconds later I held my breath when I saw coming down the corridor the Emperor, and walking with him the adventurer, who had apparently met him on his way downstairs.

I confess that at that most dramatic moment I was entirely nonplussed.  I saw how cleverly Aranda had timed his visit, and how, by some means, he knew of the internal arrangements of the Marmor Palace.

“Yes,” the Emperor exclaimed to the Spaniard.  “You wish to have audience.  Well?”

In a second I broke in.

“May I be permitted to say a word, Your Majesty?” I said.  “There is a little business matter pending between this gentleman and His Imperial Highness the Crown-Prince ­a little dispute over money.  I regret that Your Majesty should be disturbed by it.  The matter is in course of settlement.”

“Oh, money matters!” exclaimed the Emperor, who always hated mention of them, believing himself to be far too important a person to trouble about them.  “Of course, you will see to a settlement, Count.”  And the Emperor turned his back deliberately upon the man who accosted him.

“It is not money that I want,” shouted the adventurer from Paris, “but I ­”

I did not allow him to conclude his sentence, but hustled him into an adjoining room, closing the door after him.

“Now, Monsieur Aranda, you want money, I know.  How much?” I asked determinedly.

“Two hundred thousand marks,” was his prompt reply, “and also fifty thousand for Lola.”

I pretended to reflect.  He saw my hesitation, and then added: 

“For that sum, and not a sou less, I am prepared to sign a statement that I have lied, and that there is no truth in the allegation.”

“Of what?  Tell me the facts, as you know them, and I will then repeat them to His Imperial Highness.”

For a few seconds he was silent, then in a cold, hard voice he revealed to me what was evidently the truth of the Crown-Prince’s secret visit to Rome.  I listened to his statement utterly dumbfounded.

The allegations were terrible.  It seemed that a popular Spanish variety actress, whom the populace of Rome knew as “La Bella,” but whose real name was Claudia Ferrona, lived in a pretty apartment on the Lungtevere Mellini, facing the Tiber.  His Highness had met her in Coblenz, where she had been singing.  “La Bella” had as her particular friend a certain high official in the Italian Ministry of War, and through him she was enabled to furnish the Crown-Prince with certain important information.  The General Staff in the Wilhelmstrasse were eager to obtain some very definite facts regarding Italy’s new armaments, and His Highness had taken upon himself the task of obtaining it.

As Herr Nebelthau he went in secret to Rome as guest of the vivacious Claudia, whose maid was none other than the thief-girl of the Montmartre, Lizette Sabin.  This girl, whose intellect had become weakened, was entirely under the influence of the clever adventurer Aranda.  On the second night after the arrival of the Crown-Prince in Rome, he and the actress had taken supper together in her apartment, after which a fierce quarrel had arisen between them.

Seized by a fit of remorse, the variety singer blankly refused to further betray the man to whom her advancement in her profession was due, whereupon His Highness grew furious at being thwarted at the last moment.  After listening to his insults, “La Bella” openly declared that she intended to reveal the whole truth to the Italian official in question.  Then the Crown-Prince became seized by one of those mad, frenzied fits of uncontrollable anger to which he is at times, like all the Hohenzollerns, subject, and with his innate brutality he took up a bottle from the table and struck the poor girl heavily upon the skull, felling her like a log.  Afterwards with an imprecation on his lips, he walked out.  So terribly injured was the girl that she expired just before noon next day.  Not, however, before she had related the whole circumstances to the maid, Lizette, and to the man Aranda, who, truth to tell, had placed the maid in the actress’s service with a view of robbing her of her jewels.  He saw, however, that, with the death of Claudia Ferrona, blackmail would be much more profitable.

Having heard this amazing story, I was careful to lock the Spaniard in the room, and then returned to where the Crown-Prince was so anxiously awaiting me.

Half an hour later the adventurer left the Palace, bearing in his pocket a draft upon the private banking house of Mendelsohn, in the Jaegerstrasse in Berlin, for two hundred and fifty thousand marks.

In return for that draft the wily Spaniard signed a declaration that he had invented the whole story, and that there was not a word of truth in it.

It was only, however, when I placed that document into the hands of the Crown-Prince that His Imperial Highness breathed freely again.