Ua Maille’s Bruighean, or Hotel, stood on one side of the faithche, or green, in the centre of the town; a large fine building with spacious halls and rooms. The town was of some size, with a military training college, and the shops appeared in the wider streets as attractive as those of Athluain. It was not quite four when the Professor entered the hotel, and learnt that a gentleman had been there who expected to see him. He had gone away, but had left a message to say he would return. He had engaged a private room, to which the Professor was led.

The windows of this apartment looked upon the green, through which a wide walk ran between stately trees; flower-borders, fountains and statues ornamented the rest of the pleasant lawn. As he regarded the faces and dress of the passers by, the door opened, and a man entered the room. It was not MacSuibne. He was short, well-dressed, and wore glasses.

‘You are Herr Professor Schliemann,’ he said, in German, bowing.

The Professor studied him for a moment. ‘I am the Celtologist, Professor Schliemann of Berlin,’ he replied. ‘And you, sir, are the person who telegraphed to me, I suppose.’

The stranger uncovered his head. He had an air of good breeding and an intellectual brow. ‘I telegraphed to you, Herr Professor,’ he said. ‘The initials I used probably enlightened you as to whom you were to meet.’

‘Not at all, sir. I know no one with the initials V.A.’

The gentleman pointed to a chair. ‘Pray be seated, Herr Professor,’ he said, courteously. ‘My business is of a private and very important nature.’

Schliemann obeyed. Placing a hand on each knee he looked straight into the other’s face.

‘The initials,’ said the stranger, when he had drawn a chair close to the Professor, ‘the initials stand for a name’ – he suddenly lowered his voice – ‘for Von Arnheim.’

‘The Ambassador.’ The Professor’s voice had a tone of interest.

‘Yes. And I thought you would have understood this. I am attached to the Embassy, and have arranged the present interview by his Excellency’s command.’

‘I am glad of it,’ exclaimed the Professor. ‘The Count left Tlachtga before I could speak to him.

‘He was recalled to Baile-Átha-Cliath by important despatches. You are aware, of course, that relations are strained between the Courts of Berlin and Tara.’

Schliemann questioned with his eyes, but did not speak.

‘Now,’ went on the Attaché, ‘some very valuable and secret papers have to be transmitted at once to Berlin. His Excellency thinks it inexpedient to send them by any well-known member of the Embassy staff or by a courier. The Irish Ministry have their secret service agents everywhere, and the despatch of these papers at the present moment would be known to the Irish Government. In which case there would be a probability that they would never reach Berlin. It is highly important that they should be in the hands of our Government in not less than forty hours. Your supposed position as a well-known archaeologist, makes you, in his Excellency’s opinion, a suitable messenger. Up to this hour your identity has been admirably concealed, and not even MacSuibne, the cleverest detective in Ireland, has the faintest suspicion that you are a secret service agent or other than the famous professor.’

‘I am Professor Schliemann of Berlin, whose name is well-known to all European scholars.’

‘Exactly. That is what you are known as in Ireland, Herr Professor, and fits you for this important and secret mission. Your promotion is assured if his Excellency’s object is attained, namely, that these papers reach Berlin within forty hours. A fast train leaves Caislean-an-Barraig at eight this evening. You can book through from here via Dunleagiare, London, and Flushing, or you can sail direct from Baile-Átha-Cliath to Hamburg. The steamers have a fast service, and I recommend your going by this route, as you will thus avoid changes. You will be met at Hamburg by an accredited agent of our Government, in whose hands you will place the parcel. You will then proceed to Berlin, the agent following by the next train. In Berlin you will visit the Foreign Office and report the safety of the papers.’

Schliemann sat silent. The proposal to return to his native city so detained his thoughts that he took no cognisance for some moments of the mystery and elaboration of the plan laid before him. By obeying what was an order from an Ambassador representing his country in the independent and sovereign kingdom of Ireland, he could put to the test whether it were possible for him to leave his present environment, and remove or confirm the fear that he was held here by some abnormal power that at moments disquieted his mind.

‘The offer has some attractions,’ he said, presently, ‘and but for one fact I should be ready to obey it. I am interested in the pursuit of a man who has stolen two ancient manuscripts of great value, and I do not wish to leave Ireland till I can bring them with me, and lay those unique works before the Celtic scholars of Europe.’

‘I know what you allude to,’ replied the Attaché, ‘for the clever theft of these manuscripts has made a greater stir than you may be aware of. Ireland is about to take it seriously. Every paper in the country is writing on the subject, and public opinion is being aroused. From private sources we have heard that the thief is in Berlin.’

‘But he was at Clonard University three days ago.’

‘He may have been, though I do not think it likely. The man is enormously wealthy, and has advanced loans in Berlin that have made him friends, not alone in the Government, but has given him a claim upon the protection of the Kaiser. When Von Bulow was preparing his Navy Bill, a bill dictated by the Kaiser, it was this man Moss who guaranteed the fifteen million marks, the possession of which enabled the Government to force the Bill through the Reichstag. The Ambassador has heard that the manuscripts are at this moment in a Government Bank in Berlin.’

‘But his Majesty, whom I respect and honour, will not countenance a theft.’

‘His Majesty has not been informed upon the matter. But, here, in Ireland, through MacSuibne, the cleverest secret-service agent and detective in Europe, the Irish Government has learnt that Moss made the passing of the Navy Bill possible, and that his extradition will be opposed. The theft of the books means in a few days an international crisis, possibly war, if the fiery nature of the people of this country is not aroused.’

The Professor rose, and walked up and down the room for a few minutes. During the pause the Attaché drew from an inner pocket of his overcoat a parcel tied with green tape and sealed with wax of the same colour, bearing an address to a Herr Shultz, jeweller, Berlin. This he held in his hand, fixing his gaze meanwhile on the door. Presently Schliemann stopped and turned to him.

‘I will go,’ he said, decisively, and his lips closed firmly.

The Attaché stood up and smiled. ‘To have refused,’ he remarked, ‘would, of course, have meant your retirement from a service the heads of which would have no longer employment for you. Here is the parcel, and I advise you to carry it secured under your waistcoat.’

‘How shall I know the accredited agent?’, Schliemann asked, as he took it.

‘It will be a woman, about twenty-five, dressed in green and black. She will give you a paper with an order written in cipher, that used by the Secret Service, and after you have given her the parcel you will proceed at once to Berlin. Though this is an obscure country town it is wiser that we should not be in each other’s society longer than is necessary for the completion of my orders. And wishing you a safe journey, I bid you farewell.’

The Attaché bowed, and walked to the door. There he paused and regarded the Professor steadily for a few moments, as if mentally weighing his character and fitness for the work assigned him. Then turning the handle of the door, he opened it and went out.

Having secreted the packet, the Professor rang for paper, pen and ink. When these things were brought, he wrote a letter to the Historian, and then sent for the chauffeur. Giving him the letter, he told him to return at once to Tir-da-glas. Not long afterwards the Professor saw him drive away from the hotel, going at a careful pace through the crowded street.

Ordering his dinner for half-past six, he left the hotel, and walked through the streets. He looked at the faces of the people he passed for types of race. The women’s eyes struck him as pensive, veiled, even when the lips were smiling.

‘These western women,’ he reflected, ‘with their haunting, inscrutable eyes, are most probably bad cooks, and make each an indifferent haus frau; but I judge that they breed men who have faith in the unseen. The religious instinct wells up from some inner deep and, I grant, non-material source, and a belief in magic and the preternatural lurks in the corner of their minds.’

The train, as the Attaché had told him, was a fast one, running from Caislean-an-Barraig to Athluain without stopping, and breaking the run only twice again. As the inspector looked at his ticket, he told him that he would have to cross to platform five for the train for the Hamburg steamers. The Professor asked if he could not drive to the dock, for he wished to see the city. The man replied that he could, but he might miss the boat, and there would not be another till four hours later.

The Professor took the risk. Dublin he had known; the City of the Hurdles – what would it be like? Was it as Elizabeth’s Lord Deputies had left it, or would its streets be the same as those through which he had walked, and upon the top of whose trams he had ridden, before his visit to Dungeanain? With a consciousness that he was about to make an important discovery, and that within a brief space of time he was to settle the question whether he had been the victim of some extraordinary delusion, he stepped upon the platform. Lighted by large electroliers, he saw at once that the station was of great size, with many platforms and subways. His porter, learning his destination, would have taken him to a train, but the Professor abruptly ordered him to get a cab. On reaching the cab-yard the man asked swiftly what he should call.

‘Motor-carbad, noble one? Carr, carbad, rotha?’, he said.

‘The second,’ said the Professor, and two minutes later found himself driving out of the station on a car.

‘This vehicle at least remains,’ he thought, and turned his head from right to left.

The city lights whitened the sky. The car rolled over almost soundless streets.

‘Where is Sackville or O’Connell Street?’, he presently asked the driver.

‘Your pardon, noble one,’ the man answered.

The Professor repeated the question, he repeated it loudly and slowly.

‘Is it a boithrin[1]?’, asked the man. ‘I have been ten years in Baile-Átha-Cliath, but I never heard of it. It may be it was one of the boithrins that were cleared away for the marble baths in Cluain-tarbh some years ago.’

‘What street is this?’, the Professor asked, abruptly, ‘and where is the Liffey?’

‘The river is not far off, noble one. This is Sraid Tiroeghain.’

‘And that edifice?’, the Professor pointed to a vast building standing back from the street, with garden-lawns, marble-balustraded walks, and statuary before it.

‘The palace of Sean.’

‘The High King’s?’

‘The Ard Righ’s. The Five Princes of Ireland have their houses in this street. Over there is Connacht’ – the man pointed to a fine building – ‘we’ll pass Thomond in a few minutes.’

‘And these gardens before the palaces, are the public allowed to walk through them?’

‘They are open to the whole city; only the gardens behind are private.’

‘Nelson’s Pillar? Where is it?’

‘I don’t know, noble one.’

‘The Castle – you have a Castle?’

The Castle is off Sraid Beantighearna. The High King seldom stays in it. The Birmingham Tower belongs to the Prince of Tirconnell. The Forradh stands in the next street to it.’

‘The Forradh? Is that a meeting-place – Parliament, place of assembly?’

‘Yes, noble one. The members of the Ard-Fheis hold their session there for seven months. The first two months of the session is held at Tara.’

‘Trinity College – where is Trinity College?’

‘It is across the river in Sraid Ui Neill. The Gaels there – 2,000 they number – are the best hurlers in Ireland. There was a great match in the park of Iseult between them and Cluainmacnois, and the lads of the Holy Trinity won.’

‘Where are we now?’, asked the Professor, as the car turned into another wide street, with handsome buildings, some standing within gates.

‘In Sraid na Craoibhe Ruaidhe, noble one. Many of the nobles and gentry of Ireland have their houses here. But some of the buildings belong to the Government, and some are art galleries. Yonder is the War Office.’

The car turned off this noble broadway when a little distance down it, and crossing a park, drove through streets lined with shops, whose windows showed costly apparel, jewels, treasures of art, and the commerce of a great and wealthy city. Following the river, which for a time flowed between gardens ornamented with statues, fountains, marble tea-houses, and intersected by wide stairs leading down to the water, they eventually reached the neighbourhood of the docks, where the Professor found himself in the hum of a great shipping.

The car stopped at a gate guarded by the wharf-police, and, paying his fare, the Professor passed through. Engaging a dock porter, he followed him along the quay, threading his way through the throng of wharfsmen and sailors. A train had already brought down the ship’s passengers, who passed under cover to the vessel, which was now about to start. The porter quickened his pace, and standing by the gangway, looked back, and shouted; ‘Hasten, noble one, or you will be too late!’

But as he called, the gangway was drawn in, and the ship began to move.

‘Wait!’, Schliemann cried. Then he drew up, with a short-drawn breath, and stared at the side of the vessel gliding past with anxious, baffled eyes.

‘The gate that appeared open has closed,’ he muttered, and turned to see MacSuibne standing near, also regarding the vessel. Almost at the same moment, the detective looked round, and greeted him with a slight air of surprise.

‘We have both missed the boat, Herr Schliemann,’ he said, ‘that is, if you were going to Hamburg. Business kept me, and I knew my chance of catching the steamer was small. However, there is another at four.’

‘You have heard, then,’ said the Professor, ‘that Moss—’

‘Let us motor back,’ said MacSuibne. ‘I am free now until the next boat starts. Will you dine with me? Though, perhaps, I take too great a freedom in asking you to do so.’

‘It does not matter where I wait,’ replied the Professor. ‘I will return with you.’

They made their way through the throng to the dock gates, where, on a policeman calling for motor 206, a car glided up, and they got in. MacSuibne sat forward in the seat.

‘Bruighean na Righ,’ he said to the chauffeur.

As the car wheeled, the Professor suddenly realised his position. He had walked, like a man asleep, right into the net. He felt the weight of the parcel against his breast. But MacSuibne looked so young, so fresh, so boyish, that presently his uneasiness lessened. He proved, too, an entertaining companion, as he pointed out public buildings and the houses where distinguished persons lived. Schliemann, soon interested in his remarks, asked if Trinity College was not an important University, and hostile to Irish nationality. MacSuibne replied that Trinity was one of the five Colleges of the University of Baile-Átha-Cliath, and that in its career of three hundred years it had rivalled such centres of learning as Clonard and Cluainmacnois. A few minutes later they reached the hotel, and going into a dining-room, MacSuibne led the way to a table at the end of the long apartment.

[1] Small road.