On the next evening Benton emerged from his rooms at the Grand Palace Hotel in Puntal, and threading his way through the loungers on the galleries, sought out a remote corner of the garden, where, under a blossom-freighted vine, he could hear the surge of the sea, and, in a tempered softness, the Viennese waltz of the hotel band.
At Piræus Von Ritz had secured a copy of the Figaro several days old, and the men had read its report of the Regency of Louis in Puntal. Then the yacht had called at Malta where the gray fortresses of Valetta frown out to sea, and Von Ritz had once more gone in quest of news. That had been yesterday. By common consent the two men refrained from allusions to State matters in the girl's presence.
The clerk, like all Puntal, was ignorant of what important matters had just missed happening, but he had instructions from this lady to assume ignorance as to her destination. Blanco, however, showed the seal ring which she had said would prove a passport to her presence and which Benton had left with him.
It was the sort of conspiracy in which the Frenchman took the keenest delight purely a military revolution. The peasant on the mountains, the agriculturist in his buttressed and terraced farm, the grape-grower in his vineyard and the artisan and laborer in Puntal did not know that there was dissatisfaction with the government.
The Grand Palace Hotel is above the town in large gardens.... If you choose you can remain there with your presence absolutely unknown, so far as the city proper is concerned. Also, the Marconi office has a station in the hotel grounds. With a code which we have yet to arrange, I can keep in touch with you...." The next day Benton was a passenger by steamer from Villefranche to Puntal.
We must find a way to set him free." "I have done all that could be done. I have stationed men whom I can trust throughout Puntal and Galavia. They are men Karyl likewise thinks he can trust. The distinction is that I know where he merely thinks." "And these men what have they done?" The Countess laid one gloved hand eagerly on the Frenchman's coat-sleeve.
To drive through the streets of Puntal with that half-stunned misery written clear in lips and eyes, she must, he knew, have reached the outmost border of endurance. Karyl bent solicitously forward and spoke, and she nodded as if answering in a dream, smiling wanly. It was all as some young Queen might have gone to the guillotine rather than to her coronation.
"She should leave Puntal, but she will not go, if it occurs to her that she is being sent away to escape danger. Her Majesty's courage might almost be called stubborn." The King made no immediate response. He was standing at a window, looking out at the serenity of sea and sky. His forehead was drawn in thought. He knew that Von Ritz was right.
Then all that remained were fired, and, by the flare of the blazing hulks as they drifted clear with the tide, Drake moved the fleet into the mouth of the Puntal channel, out of range of the batteries.
The message consisted of one word, and the word was "Cairo." Cara, with no suspicion of what was transpiring in Puntal, beguiled by the spell of smooth seas and dolce-far-niente softness of sky, was once more the frank and charming companion of the American days. The single word of the Marconigram had left the American in perplexity. Evidently either Karyl or Von Ritz was to meet them at Cairo.