OCR Interpretation


Audubon County journal. (Exira, Iowa) 1884-1993, May 06, 1915, Image 3

Image and text provided by State Historical Society of Iowa

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87057934/1915-05-06/ed-1/seq-3/

What is OCR?


Thumbnail for

'SL4sk
"Pardon, M.
I
but tend to this mat!*1 which
them when you need?
good screen this year
BUCk
IKIMI
Secrets of the Courts of Europe
An Old Ambassador's Revelations of the
Inner History of Famous Episodes
Heretofore Cloaked in Mystery
Chronicled by ALLEN UPWARD
THE WHITE THREAD
l'Ambassadeur,
but
there is a piece of thread on the back'
of your coat."
We were about to go forth for a
stroll en the boulevards—1 had just
helped his excellency on with his over
coat. As I bent forward to remove the
strand of white cotton which had at
tracted my attention, the ambassador
turned his head with a startled move
ment. I even fancied that he gave a
slight shiver as I picked off the thread
and cast it away.
"A thousand thanks," he murmured
mechanically, glancing after the thread
with a strange -expression. But he
realized that I had observed his singu
lar agitation, for he immediately went
on to Bay:
"You ask yours^Tf, perhaps, what it
Is that has disturbed me so much in
this trivial circumstance? Do me the
justice to believe, notwithstanding,
that I have not been agitated without
a real cause.
"It was not long after the mysterious
affair, which I have related to you, in
connection with the ddath of Abdul
Aziz," began his excellency, "and 1
liad just been promoted to the rank of
charge d'affaires. In this capacity I
was entrusted with the French mission
to the court of one pf those barbarous
principalities in the southeast of Eu
rope, which have hardly yet recovered
from their centuries of vassalage to
the Turks. In these unsettled societies
acts of lawlessness and violence are
rendered possible at which more civil
ized countries would be dismayed.
"At the time of my arrival in the
principality to the court of which I had
been accredited, I found things in a
very disturbed condition. As is always
the case in these petty states in the
region of the Danube, Russia and Aus
tria were intriguing for the predomi
nance, and the whole population was
rent into factions accordingly, which
pursued each other with the bitterest
hatred.
"This rivalry between the twcF pow
ers I have named had even extended to
the palace, where the Austrian incli
nations of George, the reigning prince,
were counterbalanced by the Russo
phile sympathies of his consort, Cath
erine, a princess of Russian extraction.
"While I was preparing to walk
warily among the pitfalls which sur
rounded me, I was surprised one day
shortly after my arrival by a visit from
the Russian minister. Baron Douren
ski.
'I have come,' he said, as soon as
he had taken a seat and exchanged the
usual compliments, 'to inform you that
I am obliged to leave for Russia in two
days' time. The business which re
quires my presence is important, and
will, perhaps, detain me four or five
weeks.'
"I bowed, and murmured a polite ex
pression of regret at the idea of losing
the society of the minister for so long
a period.
'That is not all, however,' he pro
ceeded tofsay. 'I have at the legation
no one whom I can trust to take my
place properly while I am away. Shall
I be trespassing tpo much on your good
nature if I ask you to take charge of
the interests of Russia for these few
weeks?'
'I am too much honored by the
confidence you place in me,' I laid,
'but recollect, if you please, my dear
Dourenski, that I have only recently
arrived in this country, and know
nothing of the political situation. Had
you not better apply to some colleague
of older standing—to Sir Graham, for
Instance, the British charge d'affaires?'
"He* made an emphatic gesture of
disapproval as I pronounced thi3 name.
"'Not for worlds, my dear fellow!
That man is a mere tool of the Aus
trian minister's. No, I must have some
one whom I can trust, someone of real
Independence and judgment. Besides,
our two countries are friendly I
should leave the affairs of my legation
in your hands with the same confi
dence as in those of a fellow-country
man.'
^Thus pressed, I could find no ex
ctioo for declining the honor which
Dourp* "lU/tSP confer on me.
Jr
the lega
te find
.ivitch,

we have just received a brai
doors. We have somethin
screen doors this year and
higher. Come in add look tll^84
We haven't one screen or scree
we have carried ovei.
K\eiy 01^
LEG^i Bay LumL
yon of ip»d*{&2Sf P„„i»
•iiuitt on cuw«f». ne is est
Tk« cvttarUftantMb
W. N. U., DES Mt
[I^IMJU. IUII,MI IJLJILNIJ%II
1
observed cynically. 'Should any unex
pected difficulty arise while I am away,
involving the interests of Russia, you^
would not do badly to consult him.'
"The matter was thus arranged. In
due course the Russian handed over
the care of his legation to me, and
took his departure.
"Shortly after he had left the capi
tal a banquet was given at the palace,
to which I received an invitation. The
affair was not one of state, but a good
many distinguished functionaries were
present, including the Austrian minis
ter and M. Starovitch.
"I was received graciously by Prince
George," and with still more cordiality
by his beautiful and distinguished con
sort. When we eat down to dinner I
found myself on the left of the
princess, who sat between me and the
prince, while the prime minister was
on my other side. The Austrian min
ister occupied the post of honor on
Prince George's right. I mention these
details for a reason which you will
perceive presently.
"I have said That the banquet was
not a state one. Nevertheless the pres
ence of so many high functionaries im
parted to it a more or less political
air. As the evening advanced, I even
began to perceive something in the
atmosphere which warned me that this
gathering had some hidden signify,
cance. The prlnc&, who was drinking
freely, had hardly exchanged a word
with his wife since we sat down, while
he kept indulging in long confidential
whispers with the Austrian minister.
"I had not long to wait for the key
to all this. As soon as the dessert was
placed before us, Prince George rose
to his feet with an abrupt air, and fill
ing his glass to the brim, called out
with marked intonation:
"'Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you
to drink the health of my very good
friend and couein, the Emperor Fran
cis Joseph!'
"It was a demonstration. It was im
possible to mistake the significance of
these words. They meant that Prince
George had arrived at an understand
ing with the court of Vienna, and that
the friends of Russia in the princi
pality were crushed.
"I turned from the exultant face of
the Austrian envoy, who saw this
triumph of his diplomacy, to the
Princess Catherine. She had turned
deadly pale as she rose from her seat
in compliance with -the prince's ex
ample, and slowly lifted her glass to
her lips, as if each drop that it con
tained were the most deadly polsbn.
"The prime minister managed to
conceal his chagrin with more skill.
He drank the toast as though it were
a meaningless ceremony, and quietly
resumed his seat by my side. But as
soon as the attention of those near
us was diverted for a moment, he
•^whispered softly in my ear:
IBaron Dourenski la a prudent
man. His absence has been well
timed.
'There are certain precautions
which the baron foresaw might be
come necessary in the event of any
thing of this kind taking place. The
necessity having now arisen,. I am
compelled to ask you, as his repre
sentative, to come to my assistance. I
have in my pocket at this moment an
envelope containing certain papers of
the highest importance, which it is es
sential that I should entrust to your
care for a time.'
"I could not restrain a look of an
noyance at this suggestion. It was by
no means pleasant to find myself in
volved in the tortuous mazes of Rus
sian underground diplomacy, a diplo
macy of which I had heard a good
deal, but with which I had not previ-'
ously come into direct contact.
'You may bring the packet you
speak of to my residence tomorrow, if
you please,' I answered coldly. 'I will
put it in a place of safety till my
colleague returns.'
"M. Starovitch gave a slight frown.
'I dare not wait till tomorrow,' he
returned quickly. 'The papers are of
too much importance, and it is impos
sible to forese^what may follow this
move. I must beg you to let me pass
this envelope to you now, under the
shelter of the table. We do not know
who may be observing us.' \t"
"While I was endeavoring to give
.my attention to their highnesses, I
became conscious of a light touch on
my knee. Affecting to play with my
serviette, I gradually allowed my left!
hand ,to descend out of sight beneath
the table, and my fingers at once
came In contact with the envelope of
which Starovitch had spoken. I care
fully took hold of it, and seizing the
moment when the prince's eyes
61-6
lyned aw&y.
1
... Packet up under my coat and into.
managed to get
brea8t pocket Whether
nade OI sat the table perceived the move
it was impossible for me to tell.
TlVrtly afterwards his highness
1 lie signal to rise, and giving his
'His consort, led the company
drawing-room. Here we sep
small groups, and I ob-
White
anyone
Mistrian minister approach
8- though to pay court to
M. R. Tei"elved
hIm with a
1 to accentuate the
V4y
ll,1^" lv
opposition between the sentiments of
the royal pair.
"As soon as she had got rid of the
Austrian, I saw her highness fix her
eyes upon me with a look which plain
ly intimated that she had something
of importance to say to me. Accord
ingly I contrived to shake off the min
ister of justice, who had button-holed
me directly we left the table, and
edged my way cautiously towards the
princess.
"She received me at first with well
acted indifference but as soon as a
slight movement of the crowd had left
us alone for a moment, she bent to
wards me and addressed me in these
significant words:
"'Pardon me, monsieur, but if you
have anything which you wish to put
away in safety, do not remain here
another moment'
"I waa overwhelmed, as you may
Imagine, at this proof of her acquaint
ance with the transaction at the din
ner-table, and it was with difficulty
that I restrained myself from allowing
my dismay to be visible. At the same
time the serious character of the
warning which she had given me
served to increase the uneasiness
which I had labored under for some
time. I bowed gravely to show that I
understood what to do, and after al
lowing a short time to elapse, so as
to prevent remark, I made my way to
where Prince George was standing,
and asked permission to retire.
"The prince was engaged at the mo
ment in talking to Starovitch himself.
It was of course a breach of etiquette
for me to leave before his highnesB
himself withdrew, but he graciously
accepted the excuse which I had pre
pared, and made no effort to detain
me.
"I fancied that I caught a look in the
prime minister's eye, as if he would
have liked to accompany me, but it
was of course impossible for him to
AB
di8"
AUDUBON COUNTY JOURNAL
soon as I got in, I went
straight to my safe and locked away
the mysterious packet which had been
confided to me by M. Starovitch. As
I did so I observed that the envelope
was sealed with yellow wax, bearing
the Russian impertal arms. I then
sat down to a quiet game of chess
with my attache, to tranquillze my
nerves before going to bed.
HI
",l"1 yT"
"We had been pfeying for some
time, and I was just developing my
final attack on his position, when-we
were disturbed by a loud commotion
in the street outside. I cannot explain
why it w'as, but this noise caused me
the most dreadful shock. I sprang to
my feet, pushing away the board, and
commanded the attache to go out and
ascertain the meaning of the disturb
ance.
"He came back in a minute or two,
looking as white as the chessmen he
had been playing with.
'Sir,' he cried hoarsely, *M. Staro
vitch has just been assassinated!
They are carrying the body home.'
"A groan of horror escaped my lips.
Hardly conscious of what I was doing,
I snatched my hat and coat and began
to put them on.
'Where are you going?' demanded
Montalembert, in surprise. Montalem
bert was the young man's name.'
"I made no reply, and-he quickly
prepared himself. We left the house
arm-in-arm, and ten minutes' walk
brought us to the prime minister's of
ficial residence.
"The street outside the building was
blocked by an immense crowd, which
broke out every moment into fierce
groans. As I came nearer I could
make out that one part of the crowd
was groaning for Austria, while the
other was groaning for Russia. On
one point they were evidently agreed,
namely, the political significance to
be attached to the crime which had
just taken place.
"The police on guard at the en
trance were at first reluctant to let me
pass, without consulting their chief,
who had not yet arrived. But I knew
the character of these men, and a
handful of roubles soon gained me ad
mittance.
"Inside the spacious entrance hall. I
encountered a frightful spectacle. On
s.
I,
"Pardon Me, Monsieur, But If You Have Anything Which You Wish *o
Away in Safety, Do Not Remain Her® Another Moment
make the suggestion and I went out
of the room, escorted by an equerry.
"In the vestibule of the palace I
paused to put on an overcoat.
"As I was drawing it on the equerry
who had followed me made the remark
—almost In the same words which you
have used this evening:
'Pardon, baron, but there is a white
thread on the back of your coat.'
"I thanked him, and turned the coat
over to look for it. On the back I
found a long piece of cotton. It was
ordinary enough in appearance, but
when I took hold of one end to remove
it, I found to my surprise that it was
firmly attached to the material of the
coat.
'My tailor must be a "very careless
fellow,' I muttered, as I broke it off
short. 'It must have come through
from the lining.'
"I drew the coat on again, think
ing no more of this trivial incident,
said 'good-night' to the equerry, and
started to walk home by myself. There
was a bright moon, but the streets
were deserted, unusually so, consid
ering that the hour was by no means
a late one.
"When I had proceeded some dis
tance, however, I perceived in front of
me a miserable-looking creature on
crutches, with a bandage over one eye,
who boldly stopped me, and began to
beg for alms.
"While I was trying to shake him
off, another man came up from behind.
He paused a moment, as if to ascer
tain what was the matter, whereupon
the beggar left me, and commenced
to assail the newcomer. I seized the
opportunity to make my escape, and
reached my house without further in
cident
"But the events of this night were
not over.
the floor,' in the center of a crowd of
attendants, lay the man who had Bat
at the dinner-table with me an hour
before, still extended on the shutter on
which he must have been brought
there from the scene of the crime, and
literally weltering in his blood. Some
oNtais clothes had been removed and
flung into a corner, when I arrived,
and a doctor, who must have preceded
me by barely a minute, was turning
over the body of the unconscious man,
in his search for the fatal wound.
"I was just in time to see it—a hide
ous pit in the back, into which I could
have thrust my two Angers, and from
which the thick black blood began to
ooze afresh as the doctor Lhifted the
position of the victim.
"I turned my eyes away, with a
feeling of sickness, while the doctor
began to call for lint and warm wa
ter. A child could have seen that no
remedies were destined to be of the
slightest avail. As my averted gaze
wandered round the hall, it was ar
rested by the pile of clothing which
I have already mentioned.
"Something which I could not under
stand drew me towards these blood
stained garments with a horrible fas
cination. The overcoat, coat and
waistcoat of the murdered man had
apparently been stripped off together,
and lay on the floor at the foot of the
stairs in a confused heap. I stepped
towards the spot slowly and looked
round. No one was observing my
movements every eye was turned on
the dying man. With my foot I softly
turned over the clothes, till I came to
the overcoat. As I did so, I suddenly
caught sight of something which
caused me to gasp and reel back as if
I had been struck a blow.
"There, on the back, within an inch
of the bloody rent made by the as
sassin's knife, was a long white thread,
identical in every respect with the one
which I had found on my own coat
within the very hour!
"Urged by a terrible suspicion, I
bent down hastily and snatched a£the
thread. It was firmly fastened tothe
cloth!
"In the meantime a commotion bad
N'.:
arisen among those who were sur
rounding the body. I pressed through
the ring and saw that poor Starovitch
had at length unclosed his eyes. The
next moment his glance fell on me,
and he showed unmistakably his anx
iety to address me.
"I stepped hastily to his side, and
knelt down to catch the faintest whis
per.
"Can you speak?' I asked. 'If so,
tell me how this happened?'
"He made a feeble movement as
though to rise. I bent over him with
my ear close to his lips.
'The cripple—the papers—* he
gasped, and ceased*.
"That was all. I was destined to
hear no more. Corpses .make no con
fessions."
The ambassador allowed a decent
interval to paps as if to proclaim his
respect1 for the memory of the mur
dered statesman. Then he resumed:
"Poor Starovitch bad hardly drawn
his last breath when the chief of- police
rushed in, at the head of a staff of of
ficers. He frowned when his glance
encountered me there by the side of
the dead man but instantly softening
his expression, he advanced respectful
ly, and said to me:
'"I perceive that I have arrived too
late. Perhaps, M. le Baron, your friend
was able to give you some hint as to
the author of this abominable crime?'
"I looked him steadily in" the face,
and replied with the most perfect cool
ness:
'No, unfortunately. M. Starovitch
expired, on the contrary, just as he
was on the point of commencing a
declaration.'
"The truth of this assertion was con
firmed by the doctor and the other per
sons who had been present during the
scene.
"'In that case,' said the chief, pre
serving his composure, 'I must proceed
to make my investigation from the
clues which are already in my pos
session.'
"I bowed in silence, and took my de
parture, returning home with Montal
embert, to whom I said nothing about
the anxieties which were torturing me.
"The moment I had reached my own
house however, I sat down and wrote
an order to a certain manufacturer in
Vienna with whom I had formerly had
dealings, to forward me without delay
one of those shirts composed of steel
links which are sometimes worn .by of
ficers engaged in warfare among sav
age tribes.
"You will haye recognized, of course,
my .motives for saying nothing to the
police officials. Where political con
siderations are involved, the police are
not to be depended on. If the crime
which had just been committed were
the work of private individuals, on the
other hand, I had no doubt that the po
lice would prove equal to the task of
bringing them to justice."
"All I did was to dispatch a tele
gram to Dourenskl.j in the cipher which
he had requested me to employ, in
forming him of wha$ jipd occurred, and
urging him to return immediately.
"The news of the trkgedy inust in
any case have reached him within a
few hours. The most profound im
pression was created all over Europe
by this assassination of a statesman
whose name was as familiar to the
public as that of Prince George him
self.
"It is needless for me to describe the
sensation produced in the principality
itself. So great was the agitation and
alarm In the capital, that the govern
ment gave orders that the funeral of
the murdered premier should take
place at night, and should be attended
by no one except a few public func
tionaries, and the immediate relatives
and friends of the deceased.
"The funeral was fixed for the sec
ond night after the murder, and it was
of course necessary that I should be
present. In accordance with the cus
tom of the country there were to be no
carriages, the coffin being carried by
friends, and the other mourners follow
ing on foot. This was the first time
that I had ventured outside my door
since the events I have described, and
before putting on my overcoat I could
not forbear glancing fearfully at.fthe
place where I had discovered the
white thread.
"Judge of my consternation, when I
tell you that I beheld the fatal token
there once more! The assassins had
foreseen that I should be obliged to at
tend fhe funeral, and had conceived
the atrocious idea of dispatching me
on my return.
"My first feeling was one of over
powering horror my next, of truly un
governable rage. Leaving the thread
in its place, I swore that 1 would keep
the assignation which these wretches
had prepared for me, and teach them
the danger of attacking a brave man.
"Luckily my mail shirt had arrived
from Vienna that very day and I con
gratulated myself on having had it
sent to me from a quarter the least
likely to provoke suspicion. I retired
to my room instantly and put it on.
While I was adjusting it, I sent for my
attache and told him everything—that
is to say, everything except what bore
on my suspicions as to the real motive
of the conspiracy.
"Montalembert was a young man
who had real courage and intelligence.
As soon as I had explained my inten
tions, he eagerly consented to accom
pany me, and to assist me in the man
ner which I pointed out to him. We
then left the house together and ar
rived in time to join the funeral pro
cession just as it was setting out for
the cemetery.
"As soon as the service was over,
and the coffin had been lowered into
the earth, the torches were all extin
guished, and the crowd prepared to
disperse. At this moment I gave the
last whispered direction to my com
panion and turned my stepB slowly
sJ\
~rrt T-
homeward, leaving him to drop grad
ually behind.
"By degrees the various members of
the crowd separated from each other,
every one going in his own direction.
On my part I was careful not to allow
myself to be joined by any chance ac
quaintance, so that I soon found my
self walking alone, though I fancied I
could hear the cautious footsteps of
Montalembert dogging me from be
hind.
"Carefully refraining from any back
ward glance, I pursued my way till I
came to a long and rather narrow
street which led directly into the one
in which my house was situated. As I
turned into it, I saw something which
caused my heart to beat violently. Ad
vancing towards me in the obscurity,
from the far end of the street, was the
figure of a man. The next moment the
moon penetrated the clouds which had
muffled it and I perceived that the
approaching figure was my cripple of
the night of the murder.
"Peering up into my face with the
one eye which was not hidden by the
bandage, the fellow commenced to de
mand money in the usual whine of his
class. I affected to hesitate, stopped,
and put my hand into my pocket. At
the same moment my intent ears
caught a light, swift footfall on the
road behind me.
"I can hardly describe how the rest
happened. I felt something strike-'me
violently in the back, then came a
crash of splintered steel, an oath, and
a loud cry in Montalembert's voice as
he came running up from the Tear.
Leaving him to deal with the ruffian
behind me, I sprang forward and
clutched the one in front.
"As I had anticipated, his lameness
was a feint. Instead, I found myselt
engaged with an active, powerful man,
who let fall his crutches, and struggled
so desperately in my grasp that It was
all I could do to prevent his escape till
Montalembert came to my assistance.
"The other man, it appears, had
been too quick for him. He had taken
to his heels the moment he heard Mon
talembert approaching, and being a
good runner, had soon made pursuit
hopeless. Nor did ,I ever find,out who
vv
u.
he really was, though I imagine him
to have been a mere subordinate in
strument.
"With regard to his companion it
was different. By our united efforts
we succeeded in securing him and
dragging him into the house a prison
er. There, his bandages torn off and
some false hair removed, his identity,
was quickly disclosed. It was the"
chief of police himself!
"I need not repeat the expressions
which I addressed to him, and which*
he received with obstinate silence. But
it did not take me long to realize that
it was useless to talk of punishing him
for his crimes. The only advantage I
could gain from my victory was to ex
tort a confession of the real authors N
and motives of this villainy.
"As soon as I had exhausted myself
In reproaches, therefore. I said to him:
'But it is not you with whom I am
concerned, but those from whom you
received your instructions. Your fate
is fn your own hands. Tell me thef"
whole of fhe cJ^rpipjistarices frankly,
and you shall go unharmed ?efuseTi
and I will take you back to the spot
where you attempted my life and shoot
you down as I might have done at the
time.'
"He turned pale at this threat, which
he had evidently not expected. These
gentry who undertake to play fast and
loose with the lives of others, always
attach an extraordinary value to their
own miserable existences.
'M. le Baron, I swear to you that I
am speaking the truth when I say that
I know absolutely nothing of this af
fair beyond the orders which I re
ceived. Those orders were to waylay
M. Starovitch and.you, and if either ofv
you should be wearing a white thread
on his back, to kill him. You know
yourself that the first time, two nights
ago, I let you go, because my agent
failed to see the white thread and 1
have been severely blamed for it since.
The thread must have come off.'
"'Yes, I took It off that night, be
cause It was not convenient to me to
deal with you then." I said, seeking to
impress him with the idea that I knew
everything. 'But now you have 'not
yet told me from whom you received
these orders you speak of.'
"I took out my revolver and laid it
on the table.
"'Well, then, if I must say it—fi[om
Prince George himself.' -j
"'Thank you, that is enough. Now
as soon as you have written that down
and-signed it in the presence of this
gentleman and myself, you may go
home.'
"Ten minutes later he had gone,
leaving me in possession of a docu
ment which regarded as not less val
uable than the papers entrusted to me
by poor Starovitch.
"Afterwards, the affair passed out
of my hands. You may imagine that I
had had enough of Russian diplomatic
methods to last me my lifetime. 1
simply gave Dourenski his packet,
with the seal unbroken, together with
the written confession of the chiet of
police.
"Dourenski went straight to the pal
ace. What exactly transpired between
the prince and him I cannot say. But
the following week ^Europe was
startled by the news that Prince
George had abdicated in favor of his
son, a boy of thirteen.
"I have sometimes suspected that
the contents of the packet were not po
litical, and that this clever Dourenski
had laid a little trq.p for the prince,
and nad omitted to take Princess
Catherine into his confidence. But, for
the honor of the diplomatic body, I pre
fer to think that he did-not foresee the
extreme measures to which Princa
George would resort"
v-".

xml | txt