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Charles Neville Buck
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When Monsieur François Jusseret, the cleverest unattached ambassador of
France's Cabinet Noir, had first met the Countess Astaride, his
sardonic eyes had twinkled dry appreciation.
This meeting had seemed to be the result of a chance introduction. It
had in reality been carefully designed by the French manipulator of
underground wires. Louis Delgado he already knew, and held in contempt,
yet Louis was the only possible instrument for use in converting certain
vague possibilities into definite realities. Changing the nebulous into
the concrete; shifting the dotted line of a frontier from here to there
on a map; changing the likeness that adorned a coin or postage-stamp:
these were things to which Monsieur Jusseret lent himself with the same
zest that actuates the hunting dog and makes his work also his passion.
If the vacillation of Louis Delgado could be complemented by the strong
ambition of a woman, perhaps he might be almost as serviceable as though
the strength were inherent. And Paris knew that Louis worshiped at the
shrine of the Countess Astaride. The Countess was therefore worth
The presentation occurred in Paris, when the Duke took his acquaintance
to the charming apartments overlooking the Arc de Triomphe, where the
lady poured tea for a small salon enlisted from that colony of
ambitious and broken-hearted men and women who hold fanatically to the
faith that some throne, occupied by another, should be their own. Here
with ceremony and stately etiquette foregathered Carlists and
Bonapartists and exiled Dictators from South America. Here one heard the
gossip of large conspiracies that come to nothing; of revolutions that
go no farther than talk.