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ination. Application for passport under the name of Alexis Triona, soi-disant Russian subject, would involve an investigation leading to inevitable exposure. His civic status was that of John Briggs, late naval rating. He had all his papers jealously locked up, together with the little black notebook, in his despatch case. As John Briggs, British subject, he was freeman of the civilized world. But John Briggs was dead and done for. It was impossible to wander over the globe as Alexis Triona with a passport bearing the name of John Briggs. He would be held up and turned back at any frontier. And it was beyond his power of deception to induce Olivia to travel with him round the world under the incognito of Mrs. John Briggs.
Rigid, so that he should not wake the beloved woman, he stared for hours and hours into the darkness, vainly seeking a solution. And there was none.
He might blind Olivia into the postponement of their adventure, and in the meanwhile change his name by deed poll. But that would involve the statutory publicity in the Press. The declaration in The Times that he, John Briggs, would henceforth take the name of Alexis Triona would stultify him in the social and literary world—and damn him in the eyes of Olivia.
In those early days after the War, the Foreign Office granted passports grudgingly. British subjects had to show very adequate reasons for desiring to go abroad, and foreign visas were not over-readily given. In the process of obtaining a passport, a man's identity had to be established beyond question.
He remembered now having heard vague talk of spies; but he had paid no attention to it. Now he realized that which he had heard was cruelly definite.
There was no solution. John Briggs was dead, and Alexis Triona had no official existence.
He could not get as far as Boulogne, let alone Japan. And there was Olivia by his side dreaming of the Fortunate Isles.
BUT for Olivia's unquestioning faith in him he would not have pulled through this passport quagmire. At every fresh lie he dreaded lest her credulity should reach the breaking point. For he had to lie once more—and this time with revulsion and despair.
He began the abominable campaign the next evening after dinner. He had been absent all day, on the vague plea of business. In reality he had walked through London and wandered about the docks, Ratcliffe Highway, the Isle of Dogs. He had returned physically and spiritually worn out. Her solicitude smote him. It was nothing. A little worry which the sight of her would dispel. They dined and went into the drawing-room. She sat on the arm of his chair.
"And now the worry, poor boy. Anything I can do?"
He stared into the fire. "It's our trip."
"Why, what has gone wrong?"
"Everything," he groaned.
"But, darling!" She gripped his shoulder. "What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid it's a beautiful dream, my dear. We must call it off."
She uttered a breathless "Why?"
"It's far beyond our means."
She broke into her gay laugh and hugged him and called him a silly fellow. Hadn't they settled all that side of it long ago? Her fingers were itching to draw cheques. She had scarcely put pen to pink paper since their marriage. Hadn't he insisted on supporting her?"
"And I'll go on insisting," said he. "I'm not the man
to live on my wife's money. No, no "with uplifted
hand he checked her generous outburst. "I know what you're going to say, sweetheart, but it can't be done. I was willing for you to advance a certain amount. But I would have paid it back—well, I would have accepted it if it gave you pleasure. Anyhow, things are different now. Suddenly different."
He writhed under the half-truths, the half-sincerities he was speaking. In marrying her his conscience absolved him of fortune seeking. It had been the pride of his Northumbrian blood to maintain his wife as she should be maintained, out of his earnings—this draft on her fortune for the jaunt he had made up a Tyneside mind to repay. Given the passport, the whole thing was as simple as signing a cheque. But no passports to be given, he had to lie. How else, in God's name, to explain?
"My dear," said he, in answer to her natural question, "there's one thing about myself I've not told you. It has seemed quite unimportant. In fact, I had practically forgotten it. But this is the story. During my last flight through Russia a friend, one of the old Russian nobility, gave me shelter. He was in hiding, dressed as a peasant. His wife and children had escaped the Revolution and were, he was assured, in England. He entrusted me with a thousand pounds in English bank-notes which he had hidden in a scapulary hanging round his neck, and which I was to give to his family on my arrival. I followed his example and hung the few paper roubles I had left, together with his money, round my neck. As you know, I was torpedoed. I was hauled out of the water in shirt and drawers, and landed penniless. The string of the scapulary had broken, and all the money was at the bottom of the North Sea. I went to every conceivable Russian agency in London to get information about the Vronsky family. There was no trace of them. I came to the conclusion that they had never landed in England, and to-day I found I was right. They hadn't. They had disappeared off the face of the earth." "To-day?" queried Olivia.
"This morning. I had a letter from Vronsky forwarded by the publishers."
"Why didn't you tell me?" cried Olivia. "I had an idea you weren't quite yourself."
"I didn't want to worry you without due reason," he explained, "and I was upset. It was like a message from the dead. For, not having heard of him all this time, I concluded he had perished, like so many others, at the hands of the Bolsheviks. Anyhow, there he was alive in a little hotel in Bloomsbury. Of course, I had to go and rout him out."
"Naturally," said Olivia.
"Well, I found him. He had managed to escape, with the usual difficulties, and was now about to search Europe for his family."
"What a terrible quest," said Olivia, with a shudder.
"Yes. It's awful, isn't it?" replied Triona in a voice of deep feeling—already half beginning himself to believe in the genuineness of his story—"I spent a heart