Thursday, February 16, 2012

On The Map (The Three Hostages)

     Other things, which I did not know about, were happening that evening.  From a certain modest office near Tower Hill a gentleman emerged to seek his rooms in Mayfair.  His car was waiting for him at the street corner, but to his surprise as he got into it some on entered also from the other side, and the address to which the car ultimately drove was not Clarges Street.  The office, too, which he had left locked and bolted, was presently open, and men were busy there till far into the night – men who did not belong to his staff.  An eminent publicist, who was the special patron of the distressed populations of Central Europe, was starting out to dine at his club, where he was unaccountably delayed, and had to postpone his dinner.  The Spanish copper company in London Wall had been doing little business of late, except to give luncheons to numerous gentlemen, but that night its rooms were lit, and people who did not look like city clerks were investigating its documents.  In Paris a certain French count of royalist proclivities, who had a box that night for the opera and was giving a little dinner beforehand, did not keep his appointment, to the discomfiture of his guests, and a telephone message to his rooms near the Champs-Elysées elicited no reply.  There was a gruff fellow at the other end who discouraged conversation.   


     A worthy Glasgow accountant, an elder of the kirk and a prospective candidate for Parliament, did not return that evening to his family, and the police, when appealed to, gave curious answers.  The office, just off Fleet Street of the Christian Advocate of Milwaukee, a paper which cannot have had much of a circulation in England, was filled about six o’clock with silent, preoccupied people, and the manager, rather surprised and wild of eye, was taken off in a taxi by two large gentlemen who had not previously the honour of his acquaintance.  Odd things seemed to be happening up and down the whole world.  More than one ship did not sail at the appointed hour because of the interest of certain people in the passenger lists; a meeting of decorous bankers in Genoa was unexpectedly interrupted by the police; offices of utmost respectability were occupied and examined by the blundering minions of the law; several fashionable actresses did not appear to gladden their admirers, and more than one pretty dancer was absent from the scene of her usual triumphs.   A Senator in Western America, a high official in Rome, and four deputies in France found their movements restricted, and a Prince of the Church, after receiving a telephone message, fell to his prayers.   A mining magnate in Westphalia, visiting Antwerp on business, found that he was not permitted to catch the train he had settled on.  Five men, all highly placed, and one woman, for no cause apparent to their relatives, chose to rid themselves of life between the hours of six and seven.  There was an unpleasant occurrence in a town on the Loire, where an Englishman, motoring to the south of France – a typical English squire, well known in hunting circles in Shropshire – was visited at his hotel by two ordinary Frenchmen, whose conversation seemed unpalatable to him.  He was passing something from his waistcoat pocket to his mouth, when they had the audacity to lay violent hands on him, and slip something over his wrists.   

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