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A Diplomatic Adventure by S. Weir Mitchell







Copyright, 1906, by


_Published April, 1906_


[Illustration: "She was in an agony of alarm."]



No man has ever been able to write the history of the greater years of a nation so as to include the minor incidents of interest. They pass unnoted, although in some cases they may have had values influential in determining the course of events. It chanced that I myself was an actor in one of these lesser incidents, when second secretary to our legation in France, during the summer of 1862. I may possibly overestimate the ultimate importance of my adventure, for Mr. Adams, our minister of the court of St. James, seems to have failed to record it, or, at least, there is no allusion to it in his biography. In the perplexing tangle of the diplomacy of the darker days of our civil war, many strange stories must have passed unrecorded, but surely none of those remembered and written were more singular than the occurrences which disturbed the quiet of my uneventful official life in the autumn of 1862.

At this time I had been in the legation two years, and was comfortably lodged in pleasant apartments in the Rue Rivoli.

Somewhere about the beginning of July I had occasion to engage a new servant, and of this it becomes needful to speak because the man I took chanced to play a part in the little drama which at last involved many more important people.

I had dismissed a stout Alsatian because of my certainty that, like his predecessor, he was a spy in the employ of the imperial police. There was little for him to learn; but to feel that I was watched, and, once, that my desk had been searched, was disagreeable. This time I meant to be on safer ground, and was inquiring for a suitable servant when a lean, alert little man presented himself with a good record as a valet in England and France. He was very neat and had a humorous look which caught my fancy. His name was Alphonse Duret. We agreed easily as to wages and that he was to act as valet, take care of my salon, and serve as footman at need. Yes, he could come at once. Upon this I said:

"A word more and I engage you." And then, sure that his reply would be a confident negative, "Are you not a spy in the service of the police?" To my amused surprise he said:

"Yes, but will monsieur permit me to explain?"


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