The Pawns Count

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THE PAWNS COUNT

BY
E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM

1918

FOREWORD

“I am for England and England only,” John Lutchester, the Englishman,
asserted.

“I am for Japan and Japan only,” Nikasti, the Jap, insisted.

“I am for Germany first and America afterwards,” Oscar Fischer, the

German-American pronounced.

“I am for America first, America only, America always,” Pamela Van

Teyl, the American girl, declared.

They were all right except the German-American.

CHAPTER I

Mefiez-Vous!

Taisez-Vous!

Les Oreilles Ennemies Vous Ecoutent!

The usual little crowd was waiting in the lobby of a fashionable London
restaurant a few minutes before the popular luncheon hour. Pamela Van
Teyl, a very beautiful American girl, dressed in the extreme of
fashion, which she seemed somehow to justify, directed the attention of
her companions to the notice affixed to the wall facing them.

“Except,” she declared, “for you poor dears who have been hurt, that is
the first thing I have seen in England which makes me realise that you
are at war.”

The younger of her two escorts, Captain Richard Holderness, who wore
the uniform of a well-known cavalry regiment, glanced at the notice a
little impatiently.

“What rot it seems!” he exclaimed. “We get fed up with that sort of
thing in France. It’s always the same at every little railway station
and every little inn. ‘Mefiez-vous! Taisez-vous!’ They might spare us
over here.”

John Lutchester, a tall, clean-shaven man, dressed in civilian clothes,
raised his eyeglass and read out the notice languidly.

“Well, I don’t know,” he observed. “Some of you Service fellows—not
the Regulars, of course—do gas a good deal when you come back. I don’t
suppose you any of you know anything, so it doesn’t really matter,” he
added, glancing at his watch.

“Army’s full of Johnnies, who come from God knows where nowadays,”
Holderness assented gloomily. “No wonder they can’t keep their mouths
shut.”

“Seems to me you need them all,” Miss Pamela Van Teyl remarked with a
smile.

“Of course we do,” Holderness assented, “and Heaven forbid that any of
us Regulars should say a word against them. Jolly good stuff in them,
too, as the Germans found out last month.”

“All the same,” Lutchester continued, still studying the notice, “news
does run over London like quicksilver. If you step down to the American
bar here, for instance, you’ll find that Charles is one of the
best-informed men about the war in London. He has patrons in the Army,
in the Navy, and in the Flying Corps, and it’s astonishing how
communicative they seem to become after the second or third cocktail.”

“Cocktail, mark you, Miss Van Teyl,” Holderness pointed out. “We poor
Englishmen could keep our tongues from wagging before we acquired some
of your American habits.”

“The habits are all right,” Pamela retorted. “It’s your heads that are
wrong.”

“The most valued product of your country,” Lutchester murmured, “is
more dangerous to our hearts than to our heads.”

She made a little grimace and turned away, holding out her hand to a
new arrival—a tall, broad-shouldered man, with a strong, cold face and
keen, grey eyes, aggressive even behind his gold-rimmed spectacles.
There was a queer change in his face as his eyes met Pamela’s. He
seemed suddenly to become more human. His pleasure at seeing her was
certainly more than the usual transatlantic politeness.

“Mr. Fischer,” she exclaimed, “they are saying hard things about our
country! Please protect me.”

He bowed over her fingers. Then he looked up. His tone was impressive.

“If I thought that you needed protection, Miss Van Teyl—”

“Well, I can assure you that I do,” she interrupted, laughing. “You

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