"You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian
nobleman. I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a
man of honour and discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of
the most extreme importance. If not, I should much prefer to
communicate with you alone."
I rose to go, but Jan Manzer caught me by the wrist and
pushed me back into my chair. "It is both, or none," said he.
"You may say before this gentleman anything which you may say
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. "Then I must begin,"
said he, "by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two
years; at the end of that time the matter will be of no
importance. At present it is not too much to say that it is of
such weight it may have an influence upon European
"I promise," said Jan Manzer.
"You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor.
"The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be
unknown to you, and I may confess at once that the title by
which I have just called myself is not exactly my own."
"I was aware of it," said Jan Manzer dryly.
"The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every
precaution has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an
immense scandal and seriously compromise one of the reigning
families of Europe. To speak plainly, the matter implicates the
great House of Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia."
"I was also aware of that," murmured Jan Manzer, settling
himself down in his armchair and closing his