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The Red Symbol

The Red Symbol

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A CRY FOR HELP

A dusky flush rose to his face, and his blue eyes flashed ominously. I noticed that a little vein swelled and
pulsed in his temple, close by the strip of flesh-colored plaster that covered the wound on his forehead.

But, although he appeared almost equally angry and surprised, he held himself well in hand.

"Truly you seem in possession of much information, Mr. Wynn," he said slowly. "I must ask you to explain
yourself. Do you know this lady?"

"Yes."

"How do you know she is in danger?"

"Chiefly from my own observation."

"You know her so well?" he asked incredulously. "Where have you met her?"

"In London."

The angry gleam vanished from his eyes, and he stood frowning in perplexed thought, resting one of his fine,
muscular white hands on the back of a tawdry gilt chair.

"Strange," he muttered beneath his mustache. "She said nothing. By what name did you know her--other than
those pseudonyms you have mentioned?"

"Miss Anne Pendennis."

"Ah!"

I thought his face cleared.

"And what is this danger that threatens her?"

"I think you may know that better than I do," I retorted, with a glance at the flower--the red symbol--that made
a vivid blot of color like a splash of blood on the white table-cloth.

"That is true; although you appear to know so much. Therefore, why have you spoken of her at all?"

Again I got that queer feeling in my throat.

"Because you love her!" I said bluntly. "And I love her, too. I want you to know that; though I am no more to
her than--than the man who waits on her at dinner, or who opens a cab door for her and gets a smile and a coin
for his service!"

It was a childish outburst, perhaps, but it moved Loris Solovieff to a queer response.

"I understand," he said softly in French.

CHAPTER XIV

52

He spoke English admirably, but in emotional moments he lapsed into the language that is more familiar than
their mother-tongue to all Russians of his rank.

"It is so with us all. She loves Russia,--our poor Russia, agonizing in the throes of a new birth; while we--we
love her, the woman. She will play with us, use us, fool us, even betray us, if by so doing she can serve her
country; and we--accept the situation--are content to serve her, to die for her. Is that not so, Monsieur?"

"That is so," I said, marvelling at the way in which he had epitomized my own ideas, which, it seemed, were
his also. Yet Von Eckhardt had asserted that she--Anne Pendennis--loved this man; and it was difficult to
think of any woman resisting him.

"Then we are comrades?" he cried, extending his hand, which I gripped cordially. "Though we were half
inclined to be jealous of each other, eh? But that is useless! One might as well be jealous of the sea. And we
can both serve her, if she will permit so much. For the present she is in a place of comparative safety. I shall
not tell you where it is, but at least it is many leagues from Russia; and she has promised to remain there,--but
who knows? If the whim seizes her, or if she imagines her presence is needed here, she will return."

"Yes, I guess she will," I conceded. (How well he understood her.)

"She is utterly without fear, utterly reckless of danger," he continued. "If she should be lured back to Russia,
as her enemies on both sides will endeavor to lure her, she will be in deadly peril, from which even those who
would give their lives for her may not be able to save her."

"At least you can tell me if her father has joined her?" I asked.

"Her father? No, I cannot tell you that; simply because I do not know. But, as I have said, so long as she
remains in the retreat that has been found for her she will be safe. As for this--" he took up the blossom and
rubbed it to a morsel of pulp, between his thumb and finger, "you will be wise to conceal your knowledge of
it, Mr. Wynn; that is, if you value your life. And now I must leave you. We shall meet again ere long, I trust. I
am summoned to Peterhof; and I may be there for some time. If you wish to communicate with me--"

He broke off, and remained silent, in frowning thought, for a few seconds.

"I will ask you this," he resumed. "If you should have any news of--her--you will send me word, at once, and
in secret? Not openly; I am surrounded by spies, as we all are here! Mishka shall remain here, and accompany
you to Petersburg. He will show you where and how you can leave a message that will reach me speedily and
infallibly. For the present good-bye--and a swift recovery!"

He saluted me, and clanked out of the room. I heard him speaking to Mishka, who had remained on guard
outside the door. A minute or two later there was a bustle in the courtyard below, whence, for some time past,
had sounded the monotonous clank of a stationary motor car.

I went to the window, walking rather unsteadily, for I felt sick and dizzy after this strange and somewhat
exciting interview. Two magnificent cars were in waiting, surrounded by a little crowd of officers in uniform
and soldiers on guard. After a brief interval the Grand Duke came out of the hotel and entered the first car,
followed by the stout rubicund officer I had seen in attendance on him at Wirballen. A merry little man he
seemed, and as he settled himself in his seat he said something which drew a laugh from the Duke. Looking
down at his handsome debonnaire face, it was difficult to believe that he was anything more than a
light-hearted young aristocrat, with never a care in the world. And yet I guessed then--I know now--that he
was merely bluffing an antagonist in a game that he was playing for grim stakes,--nothing less than life and
liberty!

CHAPTER XIV

53

Three days later I arrived, at last, in Petersburg, to find letters from England awaiting me,--one from my
cousin Mary, to whom I had already written, merely telling her that I missed Anne at Berlin, and asking if she
had news of her. There could be no harm in that. Anne had played her part so well that, though Jim had
evidently suspected her,--I wondered now how he came to do so, though I'd have to wait a while before I
could hope to ask him,--Mary, I was certain, had not the least idea that her stay with them was an episode in a
kind of game of hide and seek. To her the visit was but the fulfilment of the promise made when they were
school-girls together. And I guessed that Anne would keep up the deception, which was forced upon her in a
way, and that she would write to Mary. She would lie to her, directly or indirectly; that was almost inevitable.
But she would write, just because she loved Mary, and therefore would not willingly cause her anxiety. I was
sure of that in my own mind; and I hungered for news of her; even second-hand news. But she had not
written!

"I am so anxious about Anne," my cousin's letter ran. "We've had no word from her since that post-card from
Calais, and I can't think why! She has no clothes with her, to speak of, for she only took her dressing-bag; and
I don't like to send her things on till I hear from her; besides, I hoped she would come back to us soon! Did
you see her at Berlin?"

I put the letter aside; I could not answer it at present. Mary would receive mine from Dunaburg, and would
forward me any news that might have reached her in the interval.

And meanwhile I had little to distract my mind. Things were very quiet, stagnant in fact, in Petersburg during
those hot days of early summer; even the fashionable cafés in the Nevski Prospekt were practically deserted,
doubtless because the heat, that had set in earlier than usual, had driven away such of their gay frequenters as
were not detained in the city on duty.

I slept ill during those hot nights, and was usually abroad early. One lovely June morning my matutinal stroll
led me,--aimlessly I thought, though who knows what subtle influences may direct our most seemingly
purposeless actions, and thereby shape our destiny--along the Ismailskaia Prospekt,--which, nearly a year
back, had been the scene of the assassination of De Plehve, the man who for two years had controlled
Petersburg with an iron hand.

There were comparatively few people abroad, and they were work-people on their way to business, and
vendors setting out their wares on the stalls that line the wide street on either side.

Suddenly a droshky dashed past, at a pace that appeared even swifter than the breakneck rate at which the
Russian droshky driver loves to urge his horses along. It was evidently a private one, drawn by three horses
abreast, and I glanced at it idly, as it clattered along with the noise of a fire-engine. Just as it was passing me
one of the horses slipped on the cobblestones, and came down with a crash.

There was the usual moment of confusion, as the driver objurgated vociferously, after the manner of his class,
and a man jumped out of the vehicle and ran to the horse's head.

I stood still to watch the little incident; there was no need for my assistance, for the clever little beast had
already regained his footing.

Then a startling thing occurred.

A woman's voice rang out in an agonized cry, in which fear and joy were strangely blended.

"Maurice! Maurice Wynn! Help! Save me!"

On the instant the man sprang back into the droshky, and it was off again on its mad career; but in that instant

CHAPTER XIV

54

I had caught a glimpse of a white face, the gleam of bright hair; and knew that it was Anne--Anne
herself--who had been so near me, and was now being whirled away.

Something white fluttered on the cobblestones at my feet. I stooped and picked it up. Only a handkerchief, a
tiny square of embroidered cambric, crumpled and soiled,--her handkerchief, with her initials "A. P." in the
corner!

[Illustration: In that instant I had caught a glimpse of a white face. Page 102]

CHAPTER XIV

55

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