[By Selina Dolabo.] BOOK IL—VIENNA. CHAPTER 11. A FOUTICAI. COMMISSION. At three o'clock that afternoon, clad in the most hewitihing of wrappers, Mrs Bradley Daehton lay curled up in an armchair before her fire, expectant. It cannot b3 said that her features were free from care, for there's many a slip 'twixt the fingers and ten thousand pounds; still, sho was more hopeful than she had been in tho morning, for Sohoulofl's prompt reply to her note and his obedience to her summons pointed to the fact that there was something she could do for him, and Prince SchoulofFs service, though one of danger and intricacy, was excellently well paid. The miniature cathedral chimes of the carriage clock on the mantelpiece had hardly struck three when Mrs Dashton heard a hansom checking its mad career at her door, and, a moment after, Schouloff entered the room. She did not rise, but extended to him her hand, which the Russian bent himself reverentially to kiss.
"And how goes it with my charming ally?" he began. "Pretty well, thanks. At this moment I'm bored. I want something to do—some thing exciting. That's why I asked you to call."
"Ah! I thought a% much. Well, how much is it this time?" he asked, in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.
" Ten thousand pounda." " Dear me ! is that all ?" "That's all for the present," said she, ignoring the sarcasm. " Only ten thousand pounds !" repeated Prince Schouloff. "Can I have it?" "Well, 1 hope so. It will depend on yourself." "Yon don't mean to say," she said, evgerly, "that there's anything lean do for you that's worth ten thousand pounds ? I want it by Monday." " If you will do what I want, your work will be done by midnight. At 1 a.m., unbss you fear I might compromise you by so untimely a call, I will come here and pay you ten thousand pounds, in notes or gold. How do you want them ?" "Don't play with me, Schouloff," _ said the woman nervously r "I can't bear it. I want this money awfully, badly." " I am not playing. I was never more serious in my life. I heard that his lordship needed ten thousand pounds, and obtained the money yesterday in the hope that you could earn it."
" Earn it! It's a large sum !" "An enormous sum—the greatest I have ever paid for an individual service."_ "I suppose you want something impossible." "To a woman so beautiful and talented as Mrs Bradley Daahton nothing should be impossible." The woman sat watching him. She knew her man, and the thought that the money was within her reach was so sweet that she postponed as far as possible the stating of the condition which she felt sure must Bhatter her hopes. " Well," she said, at last, " what do you want me to do 5" Schouloff became suddenly very grave.
"'Emily Dashtou," he said, "I know no EDglish woman who can work with your promptitude aud finesse. You have often served me in what may be called police cases: I have never employed you in political Intrigue. lam going to give you a commission higher than any you have executed hitherto." "Why don't you give it to BallaPemonia?" asked she, suspiciously. "Because the Baroness Altdorffis at this moment in Turkey—for her health." " Well, what is it ? I'll do your commission—whatever it is," concluded she, desperately. " Good ! If you can, I know you will; but it is something higher than the stealing of a letter or the extortion of a confession. Listen ! You are bidden to a dinner at Lord Arlingford's to-night," " Yes." " To meet Captain Aubyn Goddard." " Ye*." "'He starts by the night express from Charing Cross by Dover, for Vienna, en route for Constantinople, with Governmental despatches of the highest importance.'' j " Yes, yes. Go on." «' He must not go." "What?" " He must be detained." " And who is to detain him ?" asked the woman, with an expressive shrug of the shoulders. " You." "Exactly." "Prince Schouloff, do you realise what you have asked 1" '■ Do you realise that you have asked for ten thousand pounds?" • " Do you know Aubyn Goddard ':" " By reputation—well." " And how do you suppose he is to be pnvenfced from doing his duty ?'' " I have not the vaguest idea. If I had, I should save ten thousand pounds." For a full minute the two sat looking at each other, the man deadly calm, the woman evidently profoundly agitated. At last she spoke : " If this is the price of the money, I had better abandon all hope of it. The thing is grotesquely impossible. You know, aa well as I do, that from the moment he leaves Arlingford's till he enters the train at Calais he will be watched by armed men. How oin he be stopped?" "He cannot be stopped. Besides, I do not want him stopped—only detained; till to-morrow morning will be sufficient. The delay of his despatches for a few hours is all that is neceasary. Force is out of the iiuestion ; he must not start." "And you expect me to prevent him—to keep him in London ?" " You knew him in India, did you not ?' "Yea," answered the woman, with a flush, " but that was all over years ago. I have no more power over him than—than yon have." . "Well," said Schouloff, looking at his watch, "I must go. It is four o'clock. Between this and midnight a woman like you might wreck an empire. Think it over ; do not throw down your cards before you have played a single one. I dine at the Duke's to-night; at ten I shall drop in at the Arlingfords'. At eleven you will put your scheme, whatever it may be, into operation. At twelve the mail will go without the Queen's Messenger —I hope. And at one I Bhall have the honor of waiting npon you with ten thousand pounds—l hope. Now, au iJaixir and a bkntit." And before Mrs Dashton could say another word he had left the room. As the rattle of his cab wheels died away in the distance, Mrß Dashton dropped into her chair, and lay there motionless, her eyes fastened on the wall before her. (To be continued.)
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BELLA-DEMONIA., Evening Star, Issue 7970, 27 July 1889, Supplement
BELLA-DEMONIA. Evening Star, Issue 7970, 27 July 1889, Supplement
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