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Title: Ashes to ashes
Author: Ostrander, Isabel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Ashes to ashes" ***

Ashes to Ashes

by Isabel Ostrander


      I  The Lie
     II  The Trap
    III  The Blow
     IV  The Long Night
      V  When Morning Dawned
     VI  The Verdict
    VII  The Letter
   VIII  The Truth
     IX  The Escape
      X  A Chance Meeting
     XI  Luck
    XII  Mirage
   XIII  The Black Bag
    XIV  In His Hands
     XV  Ashes to Ashes
    XVI  The Second Vigil
   XVII  Missing
  XVIII  The Girl in the Watch Case
    XIX  Found
     XX  Marked
    XXI  The Unconsidered Trifle
   XXII  At the Club
  XXIII  The Scourge of Memory
   XXIV  If George Knew
    XXV  The Final Test
   XXVI  The Key
  XXVII  In the Library
 XXVIII  Just a Moment Please

Chapter I

The Lie

“Well, that’s the situation.” Wendle Foulkes’ keen old eyes narrowed
as they gazed into the turbulent ones of his client across the wide
desk. “This last batch of securities is absolutely all that you have
left of your inheritance from your father. Leave them alone where they
are and you are sure of three thousand a year for yourself and for
Leila after you.”

Norman Storm struck the desk impatiently, and his lean, aristocratic
face darkened.

“Three thousand a year! It wouldn’t cover the running expenses of the
car and our country club bills alone!” he exclaimed. “I tell you,
Foulkes, this investment is a sure thing; it will pay over thirty per
cent in dividends in less than four years. I have straight inside
information on it—”

“So you had on all the other impulsive, ill-judged ventures that have
wiped out your capital, Norman.” The attorney sighed wearily. “I don’t
want to rub it in, but do you realize that you have squandered nearly
four hundred thousand dollars in the past ten years on wildcat schemes
and speculations? You’ve come to the end now; think it over. Your
salary with the Mammoth Trust Company is fifteen thousand a year—on
eighteen you and your wife ought to be living fairly comfortably. I
grant you that three thousand income per annum isn’t much to leave
Leila in the event of your death, but it is better than the risk of
utter insolvency, and she’s been spending her own money pretty fast

“It is hers, to do with as she pleases!” Storm retorted sulkily and
then flushed as the school-boyishness of his own attitude was borne in
upon his consciousness. “You cannot make big money unless you take a
chance. I’ve been unlucky, that’s all. My father made all his in Wall
Street, and his father before him——”

“In solid investments, not speculations; and they were on the inside
themselves. They had the capital to take a gambler’s chance and the
acumen to play the game.” Foulkes rose and laid his hand paternally
upon the younger man’s shoulder. “Forgive me, my boy, but you haven’t
the temperament, the knowledge of when to stop and the strength to do
it. Of course, this money is yours unreservedly; you may have it if
you want to risk this last venture, but it will take some time for me
to convert the securities into cash. Remember, you have reached the
bottom of the basket; I only want you to stop and consider, and not to
jeopardize the last few thousand you have in the world.”

Outside in the bright May sunshine once more, Storm shouldered his way
through the noon-tide throng on the busy pavement with scant ceremony,
his resentment hot against the man he had just left. Confound old
Foulkes! Why didn’t he keep his smug counsels for those who came
sniveling to him for them? As if he, an official of a huge and noted
corporation, were a mere lad once more, to be lectured for
over-spending his allowance!

The fact that the position he held with the trust company entailed no
financial responsibility and was practically an honorary one, granted
him solely because of his father’s former connection with that
institution, was a point which did not present itself to his mind. He
was occupied in closing his mental eyes to the truth of the lawyer’s
arraignment, bolstering his defiance with excuses for the repeated
fiascos of his past ventures, and the secret knowledge that Foulkes
had read him aright only added fuel to the flames.

Still inwardly seething, he crossed Broadway and plunged into another
narrow, crowded cross-street lined by towering office buildings whose
walls rose like cliffs on either side. From the tallest of these, an
imposing structure of white stone which reared a shaft high above its
neighbors, a woman emerged and mingled with the hurrying host before
him. She was not a toiler of the financial district; that was evident
from the costly simplicity of the smart little toque upon her shining
golden hair and the correct lines of her severely tailored costume.
She was undeniably pretty with the delicate, tender irregularity of
feature which just escapes actual beauty; yet it was not that which
caused Norman Storm to halt and drove from him all thought of the late

It was his wife. Leila! What possible errand could have brought her to
the city and to this portion of it? Surely an unexpected one, for she
had not told him of any such intention; indeed, to his knowledge she
had never before invaded the precincts of finance, and he could
conceive of no possible reason for her presence there.

As he paused, momentarily petrified with astonishment, a stout little
man upon the opposite curb also caught sight of the young woman’s
hurrying figure, and he, too, stopped in surprise, a smile lighting
his plain, commonplace features. Then, as though drawn by a magnet,
his pale, rather faded blue eyes traveled straight to where Norman
Storm stood, the surprise deepened, and with a half-audible
exclamation he started across the street toward him; but a long double
line of drays and motor trucks barred his way.

Meanwhile Leila had vanished utterly in the crowd, and Storm realizing
the futility of an attempt to overtake her, dismissed the matter from
his thoughts with a shrug. She would tell him of her errand, of
course, on his return home; and a conference of importance awaited his
immediate presence at the office of the trust company.

The conference developed complications which delayed him until long
after the closing hour, forcing him to forego an engagement with
Millard for a round of golf at the country club. He likewise missed
his accustomed train bearing the club car out to Greenlea and was
compelled to herd in with commuters bound for the less exclusive
suburban communities on the line.

Storm was not a snob, but the atmosphere of petty clerking and its
attendant interests grated upon his tired, highly strung
sensibilities; the unsatisfactory interview of the morning with
Foulkes returned to exasperate him further and he was in no very
genial frame of mind when he alighted at the station.

But Barker was on hand promptly with the smart little car which
consumed such an incredible amount of gasolene, and the air of the
soft spring twilight was infinitely grateful after the smoke and
stuffiness of the train. As they drove swiftly past the rolling lawns
of one spacious landscape garden after another, each burgeoning with
its colorful promise of the blossoming year, his taut nerves relaxed,
and he settled back in contented ease. What if he had been unlucky in
past speculations, if old Foulkes did consider him an unstable
weakling? Leila believed in him, and she was his, all his!

The glimmer of white upon the veranda half-hidden in the trees
resolved itself into a slender, fairy-like figure, and as he alighted
from the car and mounted the steps she caught his hands in the eager,
childish way which was one of her chief charms.

“Oh, Norman, how late you are! Poor dear, did they keep him at that
wretched old office and make him miss his golf?” She lifted her face
for his evening kiss, and her soft, blue eyes glowed with a deep, warm
light. “George is here; I mean, he ’phoned from the Millards’. He’s
coming over for dinner.”

“That’s the reason for the début of the new white gown, eh?” Storm
laughed. “By Jove, I believe I ought to be jealous of old George! When
a man’s wife and his best friend——”

“Don’t!” There was a quick note almost of distress in Leila’s tones.
“I don’t like to hear you joke that way about him, dear. He seems so
lonely, standing just outside of life, somehow. He hasn’t anything of

She waved her little hands in a comprehensive gesture as if to take in
the whole atmosphere of the home, and her husband laughed carelessly
once more.

“It’s his own fault, then. Don’t waste any sympathy on him on that
score, Leila. George is a confirmed old bachelor; he would run a mile
from a suggestion of domesticity.” At the door he turned. “Oh, I say

But Leila was already down the steps and had started across the lawn,
at the farther side of which Storm discerned a short stout commonplace
figure approaching; and turning once more he hastened to his room to

George Holworthy, two years his senior, had been a classmate
of Storm’s at the university twenty years before, and the
companionship—rather a habit of association than a friendship—which
had grown up between the undisciplined, high-spirited boy and his
duller, more phlegmatic comrade had proved a lasting one despite the
wide dissimilarity in their natures. Storm was too fastidious,
Holworthy too seriously inclined, for dissipation to have attracted
either of them, but while the former had drifted, plunging recklessly
from one speculation to another, the latter had plodded slowly,
steadily ahead until at forty-two he had amassed a comfortable fortune
and attained a position of established recognition among his business

An hour later, as they sat drinking their after-dinner coffee on the
veranda, Leila’s words returned to his mind, and Storm found himself
eying his guest in half-disparaging appraisal. Good, stupid old
George! How stodgy and middle-aged he was getting to be! His hair was
noticeably thin on top and peppered with gray and he looked like
anything but an assured, successful man of affairs as he lounged,
round-shouldered, in his chair, his mild eyes blinking nearsightedly
at Leila, who sat on the veranda steps cradling one chiffon clad knee
between her clasped hands.

George looked every day of fifty. Now, if he would only patronize a
smart tailor, join a gymnasium and work some of that adipose tissue
off, he wouldn’t be half bad-looking. Unconsciously Norman Storm
squared his shoulders and drew his slim, lithe form erect in his
chair. Then his muscles tightened convulsively and he sat with every
nerve tense, for a snatch of the disjointed conversation had
penetrated his abstraction and its import stunned him.

“You weren’t in town to-day, then?” The question, seemingly a
repetition of some statement of Leila’s, came stammeringly from
Holworthy’s lips.

“Oh, dear, no!” Her laugh tinkled out upon the soft air. “I haven’t
been in perfect ages! It doesn’t attract me now that spring is here.”

Not in town! But he had seen her himself! Sheer surprise held Storm
silent for a moment.

When he spoke his voice sounded strange to his own ears.

“Where were you all day, Leila? What did you do with yourself?”

“I—I lunched out at the Ferndale Inn with Julie Brewster.” Her tone
was low, and she did not turn her head toward him as she replied,
adding hurriedly: “George, when are you going to give up those stuffy
rooms of yours in town and take a bungalow out here? You can keep
bachelor hall just as well; lots of nice men are doing it . . .”

Through the desultory talk which followed, Storm sat as if in a
trance. If the blue tailored frock and hat with its saucy quill had
not been familiar to him in every line, he could still not have
mistaken that glimpse of her profile, the carriage of her head, the
coil of shining, spun-gold hair. Ferndale Inn was twenty miles away, a
good sixty from town, and inaccessible save by motor; she could not
possibly have reached there in time for luncheon, for it was after
twelve when she had passed him on that crowded, downtown street. She
had told a deliberate falsehood; but why?

“I think if you don’t mind, George, I’ll say good night.” Leila rose
at last, her white gown shimmering in the darkness. “I feel a bit
tired and headachey——”

“Not faint, Leila?” Holworthy spoke in quick solicitude.

“One of my old attacks you mean?” She laughed lightly. “Indeed, no! I
haven’t had one in ever so long. It is nothing that a good, early
sleep won’t put right. I suppose it is no use to ask you to stay
overnight, George?”

He shook his head.

“Must be at the office early to-morrow. I’ll catch the ten-forty train
to town. Good night, Leila. Sleep well.”

“Good night.” She touched her husband’s cheek softly with her
finger-tips as she passed him, and he felt that they were icy cold.
“Put on your coat if you go to the station with George, dear; these
early Spring nights are deceptive.”

Deceptive! And she, who had never lied to him before in the ten years
of their married life, was going to her rest with a falsehood between
them! Storm felt as if someone had struck him suddenly, unfairly
between the eyes. The fact in itself was a staggering one, but a score
of questions beat upon his brain. Why, if she wished to conceal her
errand to town, had she not been content merely to deny her presence
there? Why drag in the Ferndale Inn and Julie Brewster?

As if his thoughts had in some way communicated themselves to his
companion, the latter asked suddenly:

“What sort of a place is this Ferndale Inn, Norman?”

“Oh, the usual thing. Imitation Arcadia at exorbitant prices. Why?”

“Oh, I’ve heard things.” The tip of Holworthy’s cigar described a
glowing arc as he gestured vaguely. “I guess it is quiet enough; Leila
wouldn’t see anything wrong there in a million years unless she
happened to run into some of her own set in an indiscreet hour. I’m
informed that it is quite a rendezvous for those who are misunderstood
at their own firesides.”

“George, you’re getting to be a scandal-monger!” Storm laughed
shortly, his thoughts still centered on his problem. “The Inn is under
new management this season, and anyway you needn’t take a crack at our
set out here. They’re up-to-date, a bit unconventional, perhaps, but
never step out of bounds. The trouble with you, old man, is that
you’re old-fashioned and narrow; you don’t get about enough——”

“I get about enough to hear things!” Holworthy retorted with unusual
acerbity. “Your crowd here at Greenlea is no different from any other
small community of normal people thrown together intimately under the
abnormal conditions created by too much money and not enough to do. I
don’t mean you two, but look around you. This Julie Brewster of whom
Leila spoke just now; she is Dick Brewster’s wife, isn’t she? I don’t
discuss women as a rule, but she’s going it rather strong with young
Mattison. Dick’s not a fool; he’ll either blow up some day or find
somebody’s else wife to listen to his tale of woe and hand out the
sympathy. That is merely a case in point.”

“And just before your arrival, Leila was bemoaning the fact that you’d
missed domestic happiness!”

“Was she? Well, there are different kinds of happiness in this world,
you know; perhaps I’ve found mine in just looking on.” He rose, “I’ll
get on down to the station now, old man. No, don’t rout out Barker;
I’d rather walk.”

“I’ll stroll down with you, then.” Storm paused to light a cigarette,
then followed his guest down the veranda steps. He shrank from facing
Leila again that night; he would wait until the morning, and perhaps
later she would explain. Perhaps the explanation of her prevarication
lay in the fact of George’s presence; whatever her errand, she might
not have cared to discuss it before him. As this solution presented
itself to his mind Storm grasped at it eagerly. That was it, of
course! What a fool he had been to worry, to doubt her! He could have
laughed aloud in sheer relief.

“This is a great little place you have out here, Norman.” Holworthy
halted at the gate to glance back at the house outlined in the
moonlight. “I don’t wonder you’re proud of it. The grounds are
perfect, too; that little corner there, where the hill dips down and
the trout stream runs through, couldn’t have been laid out better if
you had planned it.”

“It wouldn’t be a little corner if that old rascal Jaffray would sell
me that stretch of land which cuts into mine, confound him!” Storm
plunged with renewed zest into a topic ever rankling with him. “I’ve
tried everything to force his hand, but the scoundrel hangs on to it
through nothing in the world but blasted perversity! I tell you,
George, it spoils the whole place for me sometimes, and I feel like
selling out!”

“Leave all this after the years you and Leila have put in beautifying
it because you can’t have an extra bit that belongs to someone else?”
Holworthy shook his head. “Don’t be a fool, Norman! If you can only
get another head gardener as good as MacWhirter was——”

“I’ll have MacWhirter himself back in a month,” Storm interrupted.
“Didn’t Leila tell you? She saw him yesterday at the Base Hospital. He
has lost a leg, but he’ll stump around as well as ever on an
artificial one, and if he had to be wheeled about in a chair Leila
wouldn’t hear of not having him back. She is the most loyal little
soul in the world.”

“Of course she is!” Holworthy assented hastily. “You’re the luckiest
man living, Norman, and she is the best of women!”

He paused abruptly, and when he spoke again there was an odd,
constrained note in his usually placid tones.

“How about the South American investment? I wish you wouldn’t go into

“So, evidently, does Foulkes!” Storm retorted. “I had it out with him
to-day, and the old pettifogger talked as though I were the original
Jonah; told me to my face that I had no head for business——”

“Well, he’s right on that,” remarked the other, with the candor of
long association. “This South American thing isn’t sound; I’ve looked
into it, and I know. The big fellows would have taken hold of it long
ago if it had been worth while. You certainly cannot afford to take a
chance where they won’t.”

The discussion which ensued lasted until the station was reached and
Holworthy, with a final wave of his hand, disappeared into the smoker
of the train which was just pulling out.

Storm had had rather the better of the argument, as usual, for the
other’s slower mind was not sufficiently agile to grasp his brilliant
but shallow points and turn them against him, and he started homeward
in high good humor. How peaceful and still everything lay under the
pale shimmering haze of moonlight! Leila would be fast asleep by now.
What a child she was at heart, in spite of her twenty-eight years! How
she had hesitated, even over that little white lie that she had been
to Ferndale Inn with Julie Brewster, and how stupid he had been to
force it by questioning her before George!

The house as he approached it lay cloaked in darkness amid the shadow
of the trees save only the subdued ray of light which shone out from
the hall door, which in the custom of Greenlea he had left ajar. His
footsteps made no sound on the soft, springing turf of the lawn, but
when he reached the veranda the sharp, insistent shrill of the
telephone came to his ears.

As he started forward it ceased abruptly, and to his amazement he
heard Leila’s voice in a murmur of hushed inquiry. The murmur was
prolonged, and after a moment he slipped into the hall and stood
motionless, unconscious of his act, listening with every nerve
strained to the words which issued from the library.

“It is a frightful risk, dear! . . . I know, I’ve had to fib about it
already to him . . . No, of course he doesn’t, but what if
others . . . . Yes, but he has only gone to the station with George
Holworthy; he’ll be back any minute, and then what can I say? . . . .
Of course I will, I promised, but you must be mad! . . . Yes, in ten

Storm heard the receiver click and had only time to shrink back into
the embrasure of the window when Leila emerged from the library, still
clad in her dinner gown, and passing him swiftly, seized a long, dark
cloak from the rack and sped noiselessly out of the door.

Storm’s breath caught harshly in his throat, and he took an impetuous
step or two after her, Then he halted, and with head erect and
clenched hands he turned and mounted the stairs.

Chapter II

The Trap

“Didn’t you sleep well, dear? You look dreadfully tired.” Leila’s eyes
fluttered upward to meet her husband’s across the breakfast table and
then lowered as she added hesitatingly: “I—I didn’t hear you come in
last night.”

“No?” Storm gazed at her in studied deliberation as he responded. “I
did not wish to disturb you.”

She looked as fresh and sparkling as the morning, and the sudden
wild-rose color which flooded her cheeks beneath his scrutiny
heightened the charm of the picture she made; yet it sent a surge of
hot resentment to his heart. Her solicitude was not for him, but in
fear lest he had discovered her absence on that nocturnal errand!

He wondered at himself, at his stoic outward calm as he accepted his
cup of coffee from her hands. Every fiber of him cried out to seize
her hand and wring the truth from her lips, but the pride which had
held him back from following her on the previous night still dominated
him after sleepless hours of nerve-racking doubt. He would make sure
of the truth without whining for explanations or dogging her

Leila glanced at him furtively more than once as he forced himself to
eat, then left her own breakfast almost untasted and turned with a
sigh to the little pile of letters beside her plate. As she scanned
them Storm saw her expression change, and she thrust one of the
envelopes hastily beneath the rest; but not before his eyes had caught
two words of the superscription upon the upper left hand corner.

“Leicester Building.” That was the name of the skyscraper from which
he had seen her emerge on the previous day! His hands clenched and he
thrust back his chair with a harsh, grating noise as he rose.

“I must go. I am late,” he muttered thickly.

“But Norman, dear, Barker hasn’t brought the car around yet.” Leila,
too, rose from her chair and with a quick movement thrust the
tell-tale letter into her belt.

“No matter, I’ll walk.” He turned to the door with a blind instinct of
flight before he betrayed himself. If his suspicions were after all
capable of an explanation other than the one his jealous fury
presented he would not play the fool. But he must know!

“Will you be home early this afternoon?” Leila bent to rearrange the
daffodils in a low glass bowl as she spoke, and her face was averted
from him. “Early enough for your golf, I mean?”

“No, I shan’t be out here until late. Don’t wait dinner for me.” A
swift thought came to him, and he added deliberately: “There is to be
a special meeting at the club in town; I’ll try to catch the midnight
train, but in the event that I decide to stay over, I’ll ’phone, of

She followed him out upon the veranda for his customary farewell kiss,
but to his relief he spied a familiar runabout halting at the gate and
escaped from her with a wave of his hand.

“There’s Millard! I’ll ride down with him. Good-bye.”

Millard was a golf enthusiast, and his detailed description of the
previous day’s game lasted throughout the interval at the station, but
it fell upon deaf ears.

Storm’s thoughts were in a turmoil. At one moment he felt that he
could no longer endure the strain of the attitude he had assumed; that
he must stop the train, rush back to his wife and demand from her the
truth. At the next, his pride once more came uppermost; his pride, and
the underlying doubt that his worst suspicions were actually founded
on fact, which made him fear to render himself ridiculous in her eyes.
It was true that she had lied about her presence in the city on the
previous day, but she had gone openly to an office building at broad
noon and left it alone. She had received a letter from someone in that
building which she tried to keep from his observation, but her
expression when she picked it up, although furtive, had not been
guilty; rather, it had been full of pleased expectancy, as quickly
masked. That visit, that letter might be simply explained, but the
telephone call which he had overheard, the errand that had caused her,
his wife, to steal from her house at midnight like a thief——!

There could be no other construction than the obvious one! He recalled
her cool, unruffled assurance at the breakfast table, her charming air
of solicitude at his own haggard appearance, and his blood boiled with
rage. Did she think to deceive him, to keep him indefinitely in the
state of fatuous complacency in which he had pitied other husbands?
Was he to be spoken of, for instance, as George Holworthy had spoken
of Dick Brewster the night before?

With the thought Storm glanced about him at his neighbors in the club
car. If what he suspected were true, did any of them know already?
Were any of them pitying him with that careless, half-contemptuous
pity reserved for the deceived? He detected no sign of it, but the
idea was like a knife turned in a wound, and he hurried from them as
soon as the train drew in to the city station.

There he found himself mechanically making his way toward the
Leicester Building, with no very clear impression of what he meant to
do on arrival. Among its myriad offices, representing scores of varied
financial and commercial activities, he could scarcely hope to obtain
a clue to the purpose of his wife’s visit; and yet the place drew him
like a magnet.

Within the entrance he halted before the huge directory board with its
rows of names alphabetically arranged; halted, and then stood as
though transfixed. Midway down the first column a single name had
leaped out to him, and its staring letters of white upon the black
background seemed to dance mockingly before his vision.

“Brewster, Richard E. Insurance Broker.”

Dick Brewster! The husband of that light-headed, irresponsible little
Julie, the very man to whom his thoughts had turned in the train not a
half-hour since! The man of whom George Holworthy had spoken—and what
was it that George had said?

“She’s going it rather strong with young Mattison. Dick’s not a fool;
he’ll either blow up some day or find somebody’s else wife to
sympathize——” Was that the solution? Could old George, obtuse as he
was, have divined the truth and been trying in his stupid, blundering
fashion, to warn him? Could it actually be that the woman who bore his
name, who belonged to him, his property, had dared to flout his
possession of her, to supplant him with another, to make of him a
byword, a thing of pitying contempt?

How long he stood there before the directory he never afterward knew.
He came dimly to realize at last that in the passing crowd which
brushed by him more than one turned to stare curiously at him; and,
turning, he stumbled blindly toward the elevator. Alighting at
Brewster’s floor, he made his way to the number which had been
indicated opposite the name upon the board below, and, wrenching open
the door, he strode into the office.

A languid stenographer looked up from behind her typewriter.

“Mr. Brewster won’t be in town to-day. Do you want to leave any

“No. I’ll call again,” Storm muttered. “Not—not in town to-day, you

“He ’phoned just now from his country place; he’ll be in to-morrow.
Did you have an appointment with him?”

Storm shook his head, and, ignoring the card and pencil which the girl
laid suggestively before him, he turned to the door.

“I’ll call up to-morrow.”

The elevator whirled him down to the street level once more, and as he
made his way from the building his senses gradually cleared.

What an escape! That was his first thought. Had Brewster been there,
in his uncontrollable rage he must have betrayed himself, given the
other an opportunity to gloat over him! His fastidious soul writhed
from the thought of a vulgar, sordid scene; yet the one thing in all
his domineering life which he had been unable to master was his own
temper, and he knew and secretly feared it. After all, suppose his
wife had called at Brewster’s office, that it was Brewster who had
telephoned to her, Brewster whom she had gone at midnight to meet?
Suppose the worst were true, these were all the facts he held with
which to confront them; they could explain them away with some shallow
lie and laugh in his very face! He must master himself, must bide his
time until they should have played into his hands.

He strode on abruptly, heedless of the direction, shouldering from his
path those who crowded in against him, unconscious of aught save the
struggle which was taking place within him.

That it should have been Dick Brewster, of all men! Brewster, with his
dapper little mustache and weak, effeminate face! Yet he was
goodlooking, damn him, and attractive to women; younger, too, almost
as young as Leila herself. Was that what George had meant when he
spoke of people being thrown together intimately with too much money
and not enough to do? Had he been trying to excuse them on the score
of propinquity? When Storm in his own easy, complacent sophistry had
twitted the other with being old-fashioned, George had asserted, with
what seemed now to have added significance, that he went about enough
to “hear things”. So this was what he had been driving at!

And Leila herself? At thought of her Storm felt his rage rising again
in an overwhelming wave. Her tenderness, the years of their happiness,
their love, were blotted out in the swift fury which consumed him at
this affront to his pride, his dominance. Her beauty, her charm in
which he had reveled almost as a personal attribute to himself, seemed
all at once hideous, baleful to him. As her smiling face rose up
before his memory he could have struck it down with his bare hands. If
this despicable thing were true——!

He fought back the thought, succeeded at last in forcing a measure of
calmness and dragged himself to his own office, where the interminable
hours wore to a close. Then he went to a club; not that which he
usually frequented when in town where the small-talk of his friends
would madden him, but to an older, more sedate affair, a remnant of an
earlier aristocracy to a membership in which his birth had
automatically elected him. There he ordered a solitary meal and
afterward sat in the somber, silent library with his eyes fixed upon
the solemn clock. He had said that he would take the midnight
train . . . .

Leila, after an equally solitary dinner had ensconced herself in her
own dainty library at home that she might be near the telephone,
should he call as he had tentatively suggested doing. No summons came,
however, and it was after ten o’clock when a step sounded upon the
veranda, and she sprang up, thrusting between the leaves of her book
the letter over which she had been exulting; a letter which bore the
superscription of the Leicester Building.

It was not her husband who stood before her when she opened the door.
She paused, and then from the gloom of the veranda a voice spoke

“It is I, Mrs. Storm; Dick Brewster. I hope you and Norman will pardon
the lateness of this call, but I must see you, if you will grant me a
few minutes.” His quiet, pleasantly modulated voice seemed oddly
shaken, and a quick constraint fell also upon Leila’s manner, but she
held the door wide.

“Come in, of course, Mr. Brewster. My husband is not at home yet, and
I am waiting up for him, You—you wanted to see him?”

“No. That is, I wished especially to see you.”

He followed her into the library and took the chair she indicated,
while she seated herself in her own once more and regarded him with an
air of grave, troubled inquiry. His face was pale, and beneath the
glow of the lamp she saw that it was working as though with some
strong emotion, although he strove to remain calm.

“Mrs. Storm, I want to ask you a personal question, and I hope you
will not be offended. I should not have intruded at this hour, I
should not have come to you at all, if your reply had not been vital
to me. Will you tell me where you were yesterday?”

Leila laughed lightly but with an unmistakable note of confusion.

“That is a very simple question, Mr. Brewster. I was with Julie. We
motored out to the Ferndale Inn——”

“Alone, Mrs. Storm?”

“Alone, of course. We went with Julie’s new roadster.” She paused, and
then the words came in a little rush. “We didn’t start out with
any—any definite object, but it was such a beautiful day and it grew
late, almost noon before we knew it, and we found ourselves further
from home than we had realized, so we ’phoned back—at least, I did——”

“Where did you ’phone from?”

“From the Inn, when we decided to stop there for lunch. But really,
Mr. Brewster, I cannot quite understand——”

“I will explain in a moment. Tell me, was anyone there at the Inn whom
you knew?”

Leila hesitated, biting her lips.

“The—the Featherstones——”

“Did you see them, Mrs. Storm?”

“No, I—I had gone to the dressing-room to rearrange my hair, and when
I rejoined Julie she told me they had just left.”

“I see.” Brewster nodded slowly. “Will you answer one more question,
please? How did you reach home?”

“Why, the way we came, of course, in Julie’s car.” Leila’s voice
trembled slightly and her eyes wavered.

“You did not, Mrs. Storm.” His tone was gently deferential, but there
was a note of finality in it which she could not combat.

“Not all the way,” she amended hurriedly. “Julie dropped me at the
house of some friends of mine over on Harper’s Ridge, and they brought
me home later.”

He shook his head.

“You did not leave the Ferndale Inn with Julie.”

“Mr. Brewster!” Leila rose. “I have listened to you and I have
answered your questions very patiently, but now I must ask you to
excuse me. You have no right to question me, my conduct is no concern
of yours——”

“Except where it touches upon my wife’s.” Her guest, too, had risen,
and although he spoke quietly his voice quivered. “Your story is
substantially the same as hers, but you both ignored one detail—that
the Featherstones might have caught a glimpse of her companion and
that others might have seen them both leave the Inn. Please believe,
Mrs. Storm, that I am not attempting to censure you. Your loyalty to
my wife, your effort to shield her is very praiseworthy from the
standpoint of friendship, but there is something holier than that
which has been violated.”

“Oh, not that!” Leila cried. “Julie hasn’t done anything really wrong!
You must believe that, Mr. Brewster! Oh, I warned her not to go, that
it was foolishly indiscreet!”

“Yet she went.” Brewster’s lips twisted in a wry smile. “I only came
here to learn the truth beyond possibility of a mistake. I won’t
detain you any longer.”

He bowed and turned to the door, but Leila sprang forward and caught
his arm.

“Oh, what are you going to do?”

Brewster drew himself up, and his slight, dapper figure assumed a
sudden dignity it had not borne before.

“I am going to turn her out of my house! To send her to this puppy,
Mattison, whom she loves!”

“She doesn’t! Mr. Brewster, you must listen to me, you shall! You are
on the point of making a terrible mistake, a mistake that will wreck
both your lives!” Leila pleaded frantically. “Julie is not in love
with Ted Mattison! It is only a flirtation; that luncheon yesterday
was the merest escapade——”

“Like the other luncheons and motor trips and tétes-a-téte which have
made her the talk of Greenlea for weeks past, while I was supposed to
be blind and deaf and dumb?” Brewster shook off his hostess’ detaining
hand. “I have reached the end now——”

“But she hasn’t. Will you drive her to it? She is young, only a girl,
and irresponsible, but she is innocent now of any actual wrong. What
if she is infatuated for the moment with Ted Mattison? It isn’t love,
I know that, and you—oh, I have no right to say it, but you have come
to me and I cannot let you go without opening your eyes to the truth!
You have neglected her for your new business, left her alone and
lonely, forced her to seek companionship elsewhere. You are at least
equally to blame for the situation, and now, instead of driving her
from you for a mere indiscretion, now when she needs you most, you owe
it to her and to yourself to win her back; not _take_ her back
patronizingly, forgiving and magnifying her fault, but win her, regain
the love you have almost lost!” Leila paused and added softly: “You
love her, and she cares for you in her heart. She is only deeply hurt
at your neglect, and I think she began this affair with Ted in a
childish effort just to pay you back. She is only waiting a word to
turn to you again. Will you speak that word? You have your great
chance now, to-night, for happiness or misery, to save her or to drive
her to despair. Will you let this chance pass you by forever?”

There was a pause, and then Brewster turned away, his head bowed.

“I love her, God knows!” he groaned. “You may be right about neglect;
I never thought of that, I was only working for her! If I could only
believe that there was still a chance——! But I have heard and seen too
much, things have gone too far——”

“They haven’t. You must believe me!” Leila followed him a step or two
and then halted. “Julie has been foolish, but no more. You admit that
you still love her; then go home and tell her so. Tell her every day,
over and over, until she believes _you_ again, and realizes that her
happiness lies with you.”

Brewster turned once more, his head held high, and the tears glistened
unashamed in his eyes.

“I will, Mrs. Storm! You can never know what you have done for me, for
us both! I came here to-night the most miserable of men, but you have
shown me the way to happiness again.”

Leila gave him both her hands with a glad little cry.

“Oh, I knew that you would understand, that you would see! I have done
nothing, it is you yourself——”

“You have made me the happiest man in the world! I shall always
remember my hour here to-night with you, and if ever doubt comes to me
again, if my faith wavers, I shall think of what you have given me!”

He bent reverently and kissed her hands, and she bowed her head, the
happy tears glistening in her own eyes.

Neither of them were aware of the soft opening and closing of the
front door, neither saw the figure which halted for a moment in the
doorway behind them, in time to catch the last speech which fell from
Brewster’s lips and witness the salutation which concluded it; neither
of them heard the muffled, almost noiseless footsteps as the figure
withdrew as silently as it had come and disappeared in the further
recesses of the house.

Chapter III

The Blow

In his little den at the rear of the house Storm closed the door
softly before, with shaking fingers, he sought the chain of the low
light upon his desk. Then, dropping into a chair beside it, he raised
clenched fists to his head as though to beat out the hideous
confirmation which drummed at his brain.

It was true! His wife had betrayed him, That soft, pliant, docile
thing of pink and white flesh which in his fatuous idolatry he had
believed imbued with the soul of loyalty had slipped airily from his
grasp, given herself, her love to another!—Love! What did she know of
love or loyalty? This creature whom he had honored had dragged, was
dragging his name in the dust, setting him aside as an unimportant
factor, a mere dispenser of bounty to be cajoled and tolerated for his
generosity, his protection, while she indulged her desires for fresh
admiration, new conquests!

Curiously enough, his enmity was not active against the man he
believed to be his rival. Brewster, for the moment, was a secondary
consideration in his eyes; had it not been he it would have been
another. The woman was to blame!

How blind she must think him! How easily she had fallen into the first
simple trap he had laid for her feet! How in her fancied security, she
must be laughing at him! The little acts of wifely forethought and
service, evidences of which surrounded him even there in his sanctum,
were but as particles of sand thrown in his eyes! His humidor freshly
filled, his golf sticks of last year cleaned and laid out across the
table that he might choose which ones to take to the country club for
the opening of the new season!—Faugh! Did she hope by such puerile
trivialities as these to prolong his unquestioning faith in her.

Against his will, the past came thronging to his mind in ever-changing
scenes which he strove in vain to shut out. That summer at Bar Harbor,
the moonlit nights, the little, golden-haired maid just out of
school. . . . How fast and furious his wooing had been! The dim,
rustling, crowded church, the Easter lilies which banked the
altar—God! he could smell their cloying fragrance now!—that radiant,
fairy-like white figure moving slowly toward him down the
aisle . . . .

Storm groaned, and involuntarily covered his eyes as other pictures
formed before his mental vision. Their honeymoon at the Hot Springs,
that brilliant first season in town, and then her sudden illness and
the dark weeks during which he had feared that she would be taken from
him and he had crouched in impotent supplication before the door he
might not enter. Than that exultant moment when he learned that his
prayers had been answered, that she would live; poor fool, what thanks
he had given!

Her convalescence had seemed to draw them more closely, tenderly
together even than before; and pitilessly, mockingly his thoughts
ranged through the quiet, happy years which had followed in the
planning and beautifying of their home; this home which she had

Brewster’s words rang in his ears. “You have made me the happiest man
in the world! I shall always remember my hour here to-night with you—”
And then that adoring salutation, that impassioned kissing of her

Checking the harsh laugh which rose to his lips and unable longer to
contain himself, Storm sprang up and paced the floor. Brewster’s
happiness would be of short duration; his hour was over! Softly, under
his breath, Storm began to curse them both with horrible, meaningless
curses; blood surged to his temples, pounded in his ears. A lurid red
mist rose before his eyes, blinding him so that he staggered,
stumbling against the furniture in his path. He, Norman Storm, had
been flouted, betrayed; and by that smiling, lying, corrupt creature
there beneath his roof whom he had trusted, idolized!

All at once through the roaring in his ears he heard his name called
in wondering accents and turned. The door had opened, and Leila stood
before him; a pale and trembling Leila, with wide, apprehensive eyes.

“Norman! When did you come in? Why do you look at me so strangely?
What has happened?”

The mist cleared before him, the leaping blood was stilled as though a
cold hand had tightened about his temples, and in a voice of dangerous
calm he replied: “A great deal has happened. For one thing, I have
found you out, my dear!”

“‘Found me out?’” she repeated advancing toward him in sheer
wonderment. “Norman, what do you mean?”

“I returned home somewhat earlier than you expected, did I not?” He
smiled, but the light in his eyes grew steely. “A trite, time-worn
trick of the deceived husband, I admit, but it served! You thought
yourself secure, didn’t you? Or perhaps you gave no thought whatever
to my possible intrusion; you fancied you had sufficiently pulled the
wool over my eyes to blind me indefinitely?”

“Deceived husband!” Her voice had sunk to a whisper of incredulous
horror. “You cannot know what you are saying, Norman. You must be

“On the contrary, I have never known a saner moment. My madness lay in
trusting you as I have all these years, loving you with an idolatry
which could conceive of no wrong.”

“But I—I have done no wrong——”

“Don’t lie now!” he cried harshly. “Can’t you realize that it will
avail you nothing, that it did not deceive me even yesterday? And
to-night I come home and find your lover here beneath my roof thanking
you for the happiest hour of his life!”

“My——!” Leila shuddered and drew herself up abruptly. “Norman, you go
too far! The construction you have placed on Mr. Brewster’s visit here
to-night would be ridiculous, ludicrous under the circumstances if it
were not so hideous, so unspeakably vile! I will leave you until you
come to your senses.”

She turned, but he sprang before her and locking the door dropped the
key into his pocket.

“You will stay here! I’m through with evasions. We’re going to have
this out between us here now. You went to the Ferndale Inn with Julie
Brewster yesterday, didn’t you?”

Leila eyed him steadily for a moment, then her eyelids drooped and she
moistened her lips nervously.

“I have told you——”

“A lie! You were not at the Ferndale Inn yesterday, you were in New
York, in the Leicester Building, in that rat Brewster’s office!”

“Brewster’s office!” she repeated. Then comprehension dawned, and she
smiled sadly with infinite reproach. “Norman, you will regret that
accusation bitterly when you learn the truth.”

“I know it now.” His tones shook, but a strange, tense calm had
settled upon his seething brain, and even as he voiced his accusations
a monstrous resolve was forming within him. “You received a letter
from there this morning which you tried to hide from me. Couldn’t your
poor, pitiful, complacent mind conceive that a mere child would have
seen through your evasions and shallow subterfuges?”

“Stop! Stop!” She retreated from him with her hands over her ears as
if to shut out the sound of his voice. “I tell you, you are mad! I can

“It’s too late for that.” His tone had steadied, and a hint of his
dawning, implacable purpose glinted in his eyes. “You called him ‘mad’
last night, too, over the telephone, yet you called him ‘dear’ also,
and when he held you to your promise you stole out of my house to meet
him in the darkness, like a thief. You did not know that I stood
listening, close enough to have touched you as you passed!”

“This is infamous!” Leila turned upon the hearth rug and faced him,
her head proudly erect to meet the menace in his eyes. “You were
eavesdropping, spying upon me in your insane, unfounded jealousy and
suspicion! Why did you not follow me as well? Then you would have
learned the truth for yourself!”

“It was not necessary. It was sheer accident that I came upon you at
the telephone, but I did not have to dog your footsteps to learn the
truth. My judgment was better than yours; I knew that you would walk
into the first trap I set for you, that you would give yourself into
my hands. And you have!”

“You will unlock that door and permit me to go now, if you please.”
The quiet dignity of her tone was filled with cold contempt. “You are
beside yourself; I will not listen a moment longer to your wild
accusations, your insults! I have offered to explain, but you said it
was too late. Take care that you do not make it forever too late!”

Storm read disdain in the defiance of her eyes, mockery in the faint
curl of her lips, and his swift resolve crystallized.

“It is you who have made it too late! Take that damnable smile from
your lips, do you hear?” As he advanced toward her his outflung hand
touched something smooth and hard, and closed upon it. “I tell you
I’ve caught you, I’ve found you out! You’ve had your hour, you and the
man for whom you deceived me! I’ll settle with him later, but now
you’ll pay!—Damn you, stop smiling!”

Blindly in the sudden unleashing of his rage he struck, and the small,
colorless face with its tantalizing, disdainful curl of the lips
vanished as though the red swirling mist which rose again before him
had closed over it and blotted it out.

No sound reached him at first but the drumming of the pulse in his
ears and his hoarse, sobbing breath as he stood swaying, tearing with
one free hand at the collar which seemed tightening about his throat.
Then gradually for the second time the lurid haze lifted, and as the
space before him cleared a great trembling seized him.

“Stop smiling! Stop smiling! Stop smiling!”

What queer, grating whisper was that which repeated the words
endlessly over and over in unison with the throbbing in his brain?
Dimly he became aware that it issued from his own lips and moved his
hands up from his throat to still the sound.

His other hand still grasped the smooth, hard object upon which it had
closed in that moment of vengeance, and now he gazed down stupidly
upon it. It was a driver, one of that collection of golf clubs from
the table, and upon its glittering, rounded, hardwood knob was a
smudge of red . . . .

His wavering gaze traveled on and downward. Then it fastened upon
something which lay at his feet, and slowly his face stiffened and
grew leaden.

It was Leila, huddled and still, with one side of her forehead blotted
out in a crushed, oozing mass of crimson.

The driver dropped with a soft thud from his relaxed hand, and he
knelt, lifting the limp body which sagged so horribly, with such
unexpected weight. Shaking as he was, he managed to raise it to a half
sitting posture, the shoulders supported against his knee; but as,
mechanically, he whispered her name, the head rolled back, its jaw
hanging grotesquely; and from between the half-crossed lids her eyes
stared dully back at him in a cold, fixed, basilisk gaze.

As confirmation came to him, the body slipped from his nerveless grasp
and with a soft, silken rustle rolled over and fell face downward,
settling into the hearth rug with the dishevelled golden head against
the fender.

He had killed her! He meant to do it, of course; he had been conscious
of that resolve before she defied him, while she had stood there
vainly striving to maintain her attitude of injured innocence; but now
he realized that it must have been his unacknowledged intention from
the moment suspicion changed to conviction. The stupendous fact,
however, and the consequences which it portended, held him suddenly at

He had committed murder, and he would be called upon to pay the
penalty! It was not death he feared———how easily it had been meted
out, there in that little room!—but the dragging, infernal machinery
of legalizing his punishment; the trial, the publicity, the hideous
disgrace, the sordidness of the whole wretched proceeding!

No tinge of grief or remorse colored his thoughts. She had wronged
him, had richly deserved what had come to her. That dead thing lying
there had become simply a menace to his own life, and the immediate
future in all its horrors ranged before his mental vision. The
discovery, the arrest, the stark headlines in the papers——Wall Street,
the Trust Company, the clubs, all his world ringing with it! Then the
legal battle, long drawn out, the sentence, the weeks of tortured
waiting in an ignominious cell and at last the end, hideous,

How life-like she looked, lying there, lying there with no hint of the
tell-tale wound visible! She might almost have fainted and slipped
from that huge armchair behind her with her head against the
fender . . . .

_Why could she not have fallen so to-night?_ The thought seared across
his brain like a flash of lightning, and Storm drew his breath in
sharply. He was safe, so far! No one knew of what had taken place in
that room; no one knew yet that he had even returned to the house.
Brewster had not seen him, and Brewster was the only living person who
could suspect a motive for the crime.

A motive? But what was he thinking? There would be no question of
motive, for there would be no suggestion of crime. Since childhood
Leila had been a victim of petit mal, that mild form of catalepsy
which, while it baffles cure, yet is in itself not harmful; a moment
of faintness, of unconsciousness followed by slight weakness, that was
all. Everyone knew of these attacks of hers; George Holworthy had
referred to that tendency only last night when she had complained of
feeling not quite herself. The chance that she might injure herself in
falling when the fainting spell came was the sole danger attached to
her old malady. That danger was what must seem to have overtaken her

Storm rose weakly, his eyes averted from the thing lying there upon
the floor, and strove with all his mental force to collect himself.
She had come here to his den and seated herself in that chair to await
his return. Faintness had overcome her, and she had fallen forward,
striking her temple there on the heavy brass knob on the corner of the
fender. That was the solution, that was what the world must think,
must believe without question.

And he? What must be his part in this drama which he was staging? Not
an active one; caution whispered to him to keep as much in the
background as would be consistent. He must remember to eliminate this
hour wholly from his calculations; this hour and the events which had
led up to it. He knew nothing of her visit to the Leicester Building
in town; of the telephone summons, her secret nocturnal meeting with
Brewster, the letter she had tried to conceal or the fellow’s visit
there that evening. Only by erasing from his future train of thought
all such memories could he hope to succeed in conducting himself down
to the smallest detail as though all had been as usual between them.

In the ordinary course of events, on returning as late as this and
finding the house dark—for the single low light in the den far at the
rear of the house would not be calculated to attract his attention—he
would have concluded that Leila had long since gone to bed, and would
himself retire without disturbing her. In the early morning the
housemaid would discover what lay in the den and raise the alarm.

He would then have only to play the rôle of the dazed, grief-stricken
husband, and none—not even Brewster—would suspect. There would be the
formality of a medical examination, the funeral, the conventional
condolences, and soon their little world would forget.

What was that! Was there a stir, a vibration from somewhere in the
house above? A cold sweat broke out at every pore, and fear gripped
him, but he flung it off and tiptoed to the door, turning the knob and
striving to open it. Then he remembered, and taking the key from his
pocket unlocked the door and pulled it toward him inch by inch. Except
for the pin-point of light from the lamp on the newel post at the foot
of the staircase, the house was in absolute darkness, and his
straining ears detected no repetition of that sound, if sound there
had been.

Closing the door at length, Storm set himself resolutely to the task
which remained before him. At his feet lay the driver where he had
dropped it when the full realization of his act swept over him. There
had been a smudge upon it——God! had it marked the rug?

Before he touched it, however, he went to the window, assured himself
that no aperture between its heavy curtains would permit a ray of
stronger light to be visible from within, and then switched on the
wall brackets, flooding the room with a dazzling radiance.

Next he examined the driver itself. The blow had been delivered with
the rounded knob, and to the sinister clot of red upon it there
adhered a single golden hair which glinted accusingly in the light.
Storm plucked it off with trembling fingers and approaching the hearth
coiled it over the knob on the corner of the fender, close to that
shining, inert head.

Then with his handkerchief he wiped the driver carefully, polishing it
until even to his super-critical eye it appeared immaculate once more,
and replaced it among the others on the table.

Shudderingly, he glanced down at the square of linen crushed in his
hand, and as his fingers slowly opened a hideous crimson stain
appeared. It seemed to his horrified gaze to be growing, spreading,
and he felt an almost irresistible impulse to cast it wildly from him.
Her blood! Her life-blood, still warm and red and all but pulsing as
it had come from her veins!

To his distorted imagination it seemed to be still a part of her, and
alive, clinging to his hand in futile, mute appeal. It must be
obliterated, must cease to be! That inert body could not accuse him;
the driver lay in spotless seeming innocence among its fellows; even
that single golden hair which might have proved his undoing had been
made to serve as a link in the circumstantial chain he was forging;
but this most damning evidence of all remained! He must rid himself of
it at once, must destroy it utterly! But how?

The stout linen would not tear easily, and even though he ripped it
apart the torn strips would still bear their revealing stains; if he
took it to his room and washed it there would be no place where he
could hang it to dry without Agnes finding it, and she would think
such a proceeding strange. Moreover every instinct within him shrank
from the thought of pocketing the gruesome thing and clamored for its

Dared he burn it? What if the betraying odor lingered in the room? To
start a blaze in the fireplace which had been swept clean for the
coming summer was not to be thought of, yet burning was the only means
left to him.

His roving glance fell upon the desk. There lay the sealing wax, tray
and spirit lamp with which it had been his pride to stamp the Storm
coat of arms upon his letters. In an instant he had touched a match to
the tiny wick, and a flame, narrow and curling like a bluish, tinseled
ribbon, sprang into being.

He waited until it had steadied, and then at arm’s length he dipped a
corner of the handkerchief into the flame and held it there. God, how
it smoked! The linen charred slowly at the edges as the blue tongue of
fire licked it hungrily, and a pungent odor permeated his nostrils,
but no answering flame appeared. Would it never catch?

At last a tiny dart of red shot out and ran around the border, and
Storm snuffed out the wick and held the handkerchief over the little
bronze tray. Slowly, creepingly the tiny flame ate into the linen, and
flakes of fine light ash drifted down into the receptacle beneath. The
sinister stains still stood out glaringly in the curling smoke, and as
though possessed of a very demon the flame eluded them, skirting about
them in sheer mockery. Would even the elements defy him in his plan?

Then the crimson turned to brown, and a darker curl of smoke arose,
while a strange, acrid odor mingled with the dry smell of burning
linen. Her blood was being consumed there before him, just as her body
would later be consumed by the earth in which it would lie! A thought
of the ancient human sacrifice came to him, and he trembled anew. This
blood-stained rag, this symbol of her living body, was being offered
on the altar of his self-preservation!

The flakes were dropping now like sifting, gray-white down, and the
handkerchief was a mere wisp. Slowly the brown stains crumbled and
disappeared and the smoke lightened, but that dreadful, sinister odor
still lingered. Thread by thread the linen was consumed, but Storm
held the last shred until the diminished flame seared his fingers,
then dropped it into the tray and stood watching it with somber eyes
until the lingering flame died and only the little heap of ashes

Gone! That hideous, accusing stain had been swept into nothingness,
obliterated by the breath of clean fire. Only that unclean odor still
prevailed, and the contents of the tray must be disposed of. If the
room were subjected to a minute examination and the ashes analyzed,
all that he had done would go for naught. If he could scatter them,
sow them to the winds——

Storm listened. The night breeze was rising, blowing briskly, strongly
about the house. Without, the flower garden and broad lawns with a
border of hedge and clustering trees screened him from his neighbors.
With a quick gesture he switched off the lights and tiptoed to the
window, thrusting back the curtains and opening it wide. The fresh,
sweet, blossom-laden air rushed in upon him, and he breathed it in
great gulps before he turned and felt his way to the desk.

Picking up the little bronze tray he turned to the window and stood
for a moment gazing out. Under the pale glow of the rising moon,
Leila’s flowers which she had tended with such loving care lay
sleeping tranquilly, their small myriad faces glistening beneath a
spangled veil of dew. She had brought them into being, and now her
ashes, these ashes which held a part of her, were to fertilize and
give them renewed life!

He thrust the thought from him in a paroxysm of physical revulsion,
and as a gust of wind swept about the house he cast the contents of
the tray far into the air. It seemed to him that he could see the
ashes, swirling like a faint, driven mist before him, settling
lingeringly among the flowers, and he stared half-fearfully as though
anticipating that a phantom would rise from them; but the sudden gust
of wind died, and the garden slept on, unconcerned.

The tray, swept clean of the last flake, shimmered faintly in his
hand, and he replaced it on the desk. Then, seizing the window
curtains, he waved them about until even his overstimulated senses
could detect no lingering whiff of smoke. Closing the windows at last,
he drew the curtains as carefully as before and switched on the

The first thing that met his blinking gaze was the burnt match with
which he had lighted the spirit lamp, and he thrust it into his pocket
as he bent to examine the desk top. No single flake of ash remained to
bear witness against him, and with a sigh he turned to the work yet
before him.

He had marked the exact spot upon the rug where the impromptu weapon
had rested; but here, too, a prolonged scrutiny revealed no slightest
trace, and he arose from his knees with a sigh of relief.

After all, he was not preparing for a rigid police inquiry; only the
most casual inspection would be given the room, with the cause of
death so self-evidently manifested, yet the slightest overlooked clue
would bring crashing down upon him the whole circumstantial structure
he was so painstakingly erecting.

Was that armchair in the exact position from which the body would have

He studied it, moved it an inch or two, and then turned his attention
to the body itself. The wound was upon the right temple, and,
shuddering, he raised the head and rested it upon the corner of the
fender. It settled back upon the rug once more as he released it, but
he saw to his satisfaction that the knob of brass was no longer
bright; a smear of crimson marred its surface, and a loosened strand
of her hair trailed over the fender into the hearth.

As Storm stepped backward to regard his handiwork something metallic
grated against his heel. A gold hairpin! He picked it up meditatively.
Had Leila really fallen forward that pin, jarred from her head by the
force of the impact, would have shot across the fender; he reached
over and dropped it upon the hearth.

No flaw remained now in the scene he had arranged, and with its
consummation a traitorous wave of horror rose within him, an
hysterical desire almost of panic to flee from that silent, sinister
room. He switched off the wall brackets, and approached the desk. His
hat and gloves were all that remained to indicate his presence, and he
caught them up and reached out to extinguish the low reading lamp
before remembrance stayed his hand.

The housemaid must find the lamp still burning brightly in the morning
when she came to set the room to rights. Was his nerve failing him
that he should have almost overlooked so vital a detail? The horror
was mounting now, but he forced himself to a final, searching survey;
his hideous task was accomplished!

A few hurried, cautious steps, a moment of hesitation, and he stood at
last outside the door. He felt an overmastering impulse to close it,
to seal that room and its gruesome contents away from the living
world, but he reminded himself sternly that it would not be a logical
move. Leila, awaiting his coming, would have left the door ajar that
she might hear him. He reached behind him and drew it close to its
casing until only a narrow line of light cleaved the darkness with
dimmed radiance; then, repressing a mad desire to run, he tiptoed
noiselessly down the hall.

At the foot of the stairs he paused and glanced back. Only the
faintest lightening of the shadows betrayed what lay beyond, and
extinguishing the lamp upon the newel post he crept up to his room.

From Leila’s empty dressing-room adjoining, the yawning blackness
seemed to rush out menacingly to envelop him, but he shut it away with
the closing door and, moving to his window, flung it wide.

Soft moonlight everywhere, silvering the treetops and shimmering upon
the trout stream beyond. Moonlight and the whispering night winds and
the peace and hush of a sleeping world.

It was over! He had done his utmost to forestall any possible doubt or
suspicion, had nullified every clue, had set the scene for the farce
which would start with the rising curtain of dawn and felt confident
that he was prepared at all points to meet the issue.

But what of the hours that lay between, the long night before him?

Chapter IV

The Long Night

Storm turned from the window with a sudden realization that his task,
instead of having been finished, had only begun. If he were to keep up
this farce it would not be enough to attempt to obliterate from his
memory the hour which had just passed; he must live from this moment
as though it had never been. He must remember that, tempted by the
beauty of the spring night, he had not come directly home by way of
the short cut, but had chosen the winding path which skirted the club
grounds and the lake. That would account for the time that had elapsed
since the arrival and departure of the train.

He had only just come in, and finding the house dark had proceeded at
once up here to his room. He would suppose Leila to be asleep in
there, behind that closed door, and he would therefore move about
softly, so as not to waken her. Every nerve shrank in revolt from the
thought of retiring, of courting sleep and the nightmares which might
arise from his subconsciousness to haunt him, yet he must proceed in
all things as though this were but a usual homecoming.

He must at least prepare for bed. He reached for the pendant chain of
the reading lamp and then paused. The servants’ rooms were directly
above; what if the bright square of light shining from his open window
awoke one of them and she came downstairs? The next minute he was
cursing himself beneath his breath. Was his light not often going as
late as this, or later, and had he ever before paused to think or care
whether it disturbed the servants or not? Tonight must be as all other
nights! Why could he not bear that in mind?

Nevertheless, he crossed to the window once more and closed the
shutters; that concession, at least, was not an unusual precaution,
for an early night moth or two, lured by the prematurely warm weather,
had already made its appearance. Then he turned on the light
resolutely and started to undress. The suit he was wearing was of dark
blue serge with a white pin-head stripe, and as he divested himself of
it a new thought sprang up to his mind. Suppose it, too, bore
traces——? That head with its shattered, gaping wound had rested
against his knee. . . .

Seizing the garments he moved close to the bed-stand, and beneath the
powerful rays of the lamp he examined every thread with straining
eyes. No stain was visible; even his shirt cuffs by a miracle had
escaped contact, and with a sigh of relief he plunged his hands in the
various pockets to remove his keys and small change.

The first object his fingers touched was the burnt match with which he
had ignited the spirit lamp, and impatiently he filliped it out of the

Everything was there in his pockets which he normally carried except
his handkerchief. That was gone, reduced to ashes and flung to the
winds of the night; but it would not have been had his homecoming been
as he must pretend even to himself.

Storm frowned. He would in all likelihood never wear that suit again;
even if it were not for the fact that mourning garb alone must be his
for many months to come, he could still never look upon it again,
remembering . . . .

He thrust that thought violently aside and continued with his
reasoning. Agnes always went through the pockets of the clothes he had
worn during the week for stray handkerchiefs when she was collecting
the laundry. Would she note that he had used one less than usual?

It was not so much the fear of that, however, as the mental urge to
play up to his part, to make all things seem as though that hour in
the den had never been, that prompted Storm to go to his dresser and
take a fresh handkerchief from the drawer. Without effeminacy, his
fastidious taste inclined toward a dash of delicate scent, and several
varieties stood before him.

Tentatively he lifted a bottle of rose toilet water, but the first
whiff of fragrance made him replace it with a shudder. It brought back
too vividly the remembrance of that garden below where the opening
buds were even now scattered with filmy ashes. The lilac water he also
thrust aside—Leila had met him at the gate only a week before with her
arms filled with white lilac, and as she stood there, her head looming
fair and golden above them, he had thought her very like a picture of
the Annunciation . . . .

Finally he sprayed a few drops of eau de Cologne on the handkerchief
and stuffed it in the pocket of his coat lying across the chair. Then,
clad in his pajamas, he glanced at the clock on the mantel.

Half-past twelve! It would be half-past six in the ordinary course of
events when Agnes would descend to dust the first floor and set the
breakfast table. Six hours to wait! Three hundred and sixty slow,
dragging minutes! How could he ever live through them? How did the
condemned spend the last hours before the end? He had read, marveling,
that some hardy criminals slept unconcernedly, some raved, some
prayed . . . .

God, why did such hideous thoughts intrude themselves now? He would
never stand in their shoes, no breath of suspicion would ever approach
him; he had laid his plans too well, had fortified himself against any
contingency which might arise. The scene had been perfectly staged
with not a detail missing to break the continuity of the version of
what had occurred which must impress itself upon those who would view

Crossing the room, he seated himself on the side of the bed and
lighted a cigarette. He could keep the light going a little longer
without occasioning remark should one of the maids wake up, for he had
often read until past one. He must not overdo it, though; he must not
overdo anything. That would be the one great danger; he must hold
himself impervious against self-betrayal.

He smoked cigarette after cigarette until a single stroke tinkled from
the little clock, and, rousing himself from his reverie, Storm reached
over and extinguished the lamp. The darkness seemed sinister,
overwhelming, but as his eyes gradually accustomed themselves to it he
saw pale, silvery moonbeams creeping in between the slats of the
shutters, lying in shimmering bars across the floor and lightening the
gloom with a faint, almost spiritual effulgence. The stillness of the
night, too, was all at once broken by a myriad sounds which had not
penetrated his consciousness before: strange creaks and groans in the
walls as though something invisible were abroad, sibilant whispers in
the chimney and the liquid, monotonous tap of water dripping from the
faucet in the bathroom. Outside, the wind blew gustily, and somewhere
about the house a loose shutter banged with a dismal, hollow sound.

What a hideous thing night was! There was something about it which
loosened a fellow’s thoughts, freed them from his stern control and
let them wander where they would, unrestrained. Only one other such
vigil had Storm kept: that of the crisis in Leila’s desperate illness
after their marriage. Every hour of it was branded on his brain, every
detail arose again to attack his senses: the pungent, penetrating odor
of carbolic, that strange, high voice which babbled and was still, the
white-clad nurse, gravely noncommittal, shutting the door behind which
he might not pass, the taste of his own blood as he caught his lip
between his teeth to keep back the groan of utter despair.

The night then had seemed interminable, but in the end had come the
glorious promise that she would live! Now the dawn would bring only
tidings of death, but he would not call her back again if he could;
would not undo what he had done even if it lay in his power. His Leila
had never existed; the pedestal was empty, that was all!

Gad, if only he could smoke! His nerves shrieked for the solace of
nicotine, but he dared not light another cigarette. The smoke curling
up from his opened window to that of one of the maids upstairs would
tell her, should she also be awake, that her master was keeping vigil
there in the darkness alone. She would think nothing of it now,
perhaps, but later when the discovery was made she might wonder. He
must manage, somehow, to get through the night without even the slight
comfort that he craved!

With a whirring of soft wings, some tiny creature of the night came
and beat upon the shutter, and Storm started violently. The bars of
moonlight had traveled a barely perceptible inch or two across the
floor, and from the distance there came the crowning note of
desolation: the long-drawn, mournful howling of a dog.

Storm shivered. An old superstition which his Irish nurse had
instilled into his mind in the nursery days swept over him. A dog’s
howl was the sign of death! _How could the beast know?_ In all that
sleeping countryside, there was one who shared his vigil, one who
raised his voice in warning and lament!

Storm rose and, tiptoeing to the window, opened the shutters wide and
fastened them noiselessly back against the house wall while he
strained his eyes in the direction from which the dismal baying of the
dog rose once more. Was it nearer now? Could it be that the beast, led
by some instinct more subtle and unerring than man could fathom, had
picked up the scent—the scent of the drifting ashes? Bridget had told
him that a dog could sense the presence of death though it were miles
away and would come to cry the news of it. What if the creature were
to appear suddenly there between the trees and leap across the lawn to
crouch beneath the curtained window of the den downstairs and howl its
dread message?

The next minute Storm’s tense attitude relaxed. What a fool he was to
be stirred by the idle superstition of an old-wives’ tale! His nerves
must be going back on him, what with that accursed howling and the
shifting shadows of the moonlight which were worse than utter darkness
could be. Would it never end?

As if in answer the mellow chime of the clock sounded upon his ears.
It must be three o’clock at least, possibly four——! He waited
breathlessly. A second note pealed forth softly to die away in a
vibrating echo, and then silence. Only two o’clock! Nearly five hours
more! God, could he endure it and keep his sanity? Doyle’s gruesome
story of Lady Sannox came to his mind. Would he be found in the
morning as the great physician had been after the night of horror, a
gibbering idiot trying to thrust both feet into one leg of his
trousers and babbling meaninglessly? Lady Sannox had been unfaithful,
too, but it was the lover, not the husband, who paid!

He forced the hideous picture from his thoughts and turned for one
final glance at the garden below. How still everything was! The
howling of the dog had ceased, and the wind had died down to a mere
rustling, whispering breeze. The moonlight, too, was paling, and
beneath its waning radiance the garden still slumbered undisturbed as
it had when he cast the ashes forth upon the air. From these ashes
would spring the phoenix, not of love, but of murder; of hatred,
vengeance and the lust to kill! What had he not loosed upon the world!

He covered his eyes as if to shut out the scene of false peace, of
menacing, brooding calm before the crimson dawn; and staggering back
to the bed, he sank down upon it once more. The touch of the smooth,
cool linen beneath his fevered hand steadied him and brought a moment
of tranquility to his reeling senses, but he could not stretch himself
out upon it. The space beside him where Leila had so often lain was
blank and empty, yet oddly her presence seemed near. He could almost
hear her light tap upon the connecting door, almost see it open and
her slender, white-clad form appear with the two heavy ropes of golden
hair falling over her shoulders. She would come to him swiftly,
tenderly, and he would take her in his arms and hold her close . . . .

But no tapping came upon the door, no form appeared, his arms were
empty! Great God, why could he not forget!

The clock struck three, the moonlight faded and vanished, swallowed up
in the darkest hour which comes before the dawn, and still Storm
crouched there at the bed’s foot sunk in a reverie of retrospection.

In just such another springtime as this they had gone upon their
honeymoon. The awe and ecstasy of those days like a half-forgotten
fragrance stole again over his spirit and thrilled him anew. How
wonderful she had been, how wondrously sweet her shy confidences, her
little outbursts of tenderness, her bewitching, bewildering changes of
mood! How he reveled in each new phase of her nature as it revealed
itself to him; how he had worshipped her, gloried in the possession of
her! In the golden years that followed, the first ecstasy had not
faded; it had but stabilized, deepened into a steady glow of
unquestioning devotion, and the honeymoon had never really ended until
this hour!

Impotently he struck his forehead with his clenched fist. Why must he
go on thinking, thinking! The past was dead, buried beyond hope of
resurrection! Why must it come trooping back to rob him of his
strength and lull him to forgetfulness of the immediate future and the
crisis which impended? The night had been years long! Would it never
come to an end? Would this hideous darkness envelop him forever?

Four o’clock! Thank God, he had missed an hour! Only two more now, or
three at the most, and then the cry of alarm would come winging up
from below and the curtain would rise!

A chill dampness as of the grave itself stole in at the window, and
Storm shivered although he was bathed in sweat. His pulse slowed and
weakness descended upon him, while a swift, unnerving fear laid its
clammy hands upon his throat.

He fought it off desperately. This was the dreaded hour before the
dawn, the hour of lowered vitality when life’s guard is down and death
stalks in upon those awaiting it, those whose time has come and who
slip out into the unknown quietly, peacefully. But for those who are
hurled into it suddenly, hideously, by shot or stab or crashing

He dropped his wretched head upon his hands. This was madness! He must
not succumb to it, he must marshal his resources, steady his brain,
gather strength for the coming of day!

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the darkness was changing from black to
gray. The eastern sky was unbroken, but a mist which could rather be
felt than seen was rising from the darker shadows, and the wind had
been succeeded by a dead calm. A hushed expectancy seemed to brood
over the world, and Storm waited, too, dreading yet longing for the
end of this prolonged suspense.

The clock ticked with maddening precision, and he tried to count the
minutes, to keep his traitorous thoughts from wandering into
dangerous, forbidden channels. His weakness had fallen from him, his
pulse quickened and a mounting excitement drove from him all thought
of fear. He would be ready when the time came to meet the issue. But
would the time ever come?

There were faint gray streaks in the sky now, the shadows had
sharpened and suddenly, piercingly, a cock crew. Storm welcomed the
strident sound with uplifted head and squared shoulders. The dawn was
coming at last!

He turned, crossed his arms on the foot of the bed and, resting his
chin upon them, stared out through the open window at the lightening

Five liquid, mellow notes sounded from the mantel, and he smiled
grimly. One hour more and he could begin to listen for the maid’s step
upon the stair! His nerves were tingling in anticipation, and without
urging his thoughts leaped ahead. He must be ready when the cry came,
but not too obviously prepared. Surprise must come before alarm,
consternation before a show of grief. The maid herself must lead him
to her discovery. His face and manner must reveal no slightest inkling
of his knowledge of the truth.

Both of the servants were undeniably stupid. He had anathematized them
many a time for their crass density and ignorance, but now he blessed
it. They would suspect nothing, would seize upon any explanation of
the tragedy which was subtly planted in their shallow brains and make
it their own.

Of the outsiders, Carr must be called in first. He was a country
practitioner of the old-fashioned sort who had been established there
when Greenlea was known as Whigham’s Corners, and croup and gout with
their intermediate ills had been the range of his experience. He, too,
could be counted upon to see only what was placed before him, and the
details of the aftermath could safely be left in his hands.

A score of vague, anticipatory visions passed through Storm’s brain.
How shocked the crowd out here would be; and old George! He was
probably fast asleep now, filling the air with contented snores. What
would he say and do when the early edition of the evening papers
brought the tidings to him? Storm thanked heaven that neither he nor
Leila had relatives to come flocking with tears and questions and
advice. He would be free at least from prying eyes beneath his own
roof after the official medical inquiry had been concluded.

Gray turned to rose in the eastern sky, the mist lifted, and the world
showed delicately green beneath it. The lone cock’s crowing had been
augmented by a chorus, and the birds stirred and twittered in the
trees. All life was waking to greet the new day, but Leila. . . .

What time was it? Storm rose weakly and tottered to the mantel. The
clock’s face was plainly visible in the half-light, and he drew his
breath sharply. Five minutes to six!

The pink glow deepened to crimson, and the sun in a blaze of glory
peeped over the low-lying hills, but Storm did not see the spectacle
for which he had waited through interminable tortured hours. He had
caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror and stood gazing in
incredulous dismay at the face which gazed back at him. Could it be
his own with that sickly, bluish pallor, unshaven jaw, and haunted,
sunken eyes which stared from dark-rimmed sockets?

Great heavens, if he appeared like that before even the servants his
guilt would be patent to all the world!—But would it? The maids would
surely be too agitated to note him in the shock of the discovery; and
later, when the doctor came, horror and natural grief would account
for the change in his appearance. His night of vigil had provided him
with that which would perhaps be an asset rather than a danger.

What was that? He whirled about and stood listening. The floors and
ceilings were thick, and no ordinary sound could penetrate from above;
but had he not heard a step upon the stair? He waited in an intensity
of strained attention, for several moments. The silence within the
house remained unbroken.

With a sigh he glanced back at the clock. It must have struck the hour
while he stood glaring at the apparition the mirror had revealed, for
now the hands pointed to a quarter after six. Could it be that
perverse fate would ordain that the maids should over-sleep this day
of all days and prolong his agony?

Then his glance fell upon the bed. Its pillows were smooth and
untouched, its covers creased but not tumbled about. The veriest child
could see that it had not been slept in, the most casual glance would
reveal the secret of his night-long vigil!

In three strides he had reached it and thrown back the covers,
pommeling the pillows and crumpling the sheets. What a narrow escape!
He paused, breathless, when his task was completed and gazed fearfully
about him for other overlooked evidence.

His light had been burning until one o’clock. Hastily he picked up a
book at random from those on the table and opening it laid it face
downward upon the bed-stand. The stubs and ashes of the cigarettes he
had smoked would occasion no remark; and the most painstakingly minute
scrutiny failed to reveal any other incongruity in the room.

While he paused anew a sound came to his ears about which there could
be no doubt; cautious but naturally heavy footsteps were descending
the stairs from above. His heart leaped, and the blood raced in his
veins, but he stood motionless as the steps passed his door and
descended again.

It would come now, the cry for which he had waited! He held his breath
until his ear-drums seemed bursting, and the minutes lengthened, but
still the summons did not come. What could the girl be doing? Would
she set all the other rooms to rights before approaching the den, or
did she mean to shirk it altogether? Surely that streak of artificial
light burning in the daytime must catch her eye as she passed along
the hall! Was she gossiping with the milkman, idling on the porch? The
suspense was unbearable!

He had borne with it through the long watches of the night, but now he
could contain himself no longer. Every nerve was strained to the
breaking point, and his nails bit into the flesh of his clenched
hands. Was this agony to be stretched out interminably?

And then it came at last! A piercing, prolonged scream rang suddenly
through the quiet house, to break and rise again, echoing back from
the very walls.

Storm dropped his head in his hands, and an answering cry of
unconscious blasphemy trembled on his lips.

“Thank God!”

Chapter V

When Morning Dawned

While Storm hesitated, relaxed in that moment of utter abandon to
relief, it came again; a wild shriek mounting from below in a high
feminine voice and dying away in a quivering wail!

The long awaited discovery had come; now he must play his part. One
false move!——But he put that resolutely from his thoughts as he flung
his dressing gown about him and started for the door.

“What is it? What has happened?” He was leaning Over the stair-rail
now, and his voice, although subdued, held just the proper note of
sharp inquiry. Even as he spoke he heard a heavy foot along the hall
above and was conscious of the cook’s head peering down affrightedly.

“Oh, Mr. Storm, sir! Mr. Storm!”

Agnes, the housemaid, sped along the lower hall and collapsed at the
foot of the stairs.

“Well, what is it?” Storm demanded peremptorily, but still in that
subdued tone. “Burglars here in the night? Don’t you know better than
to scream like that? You’ll frighten Mrs. Storm——”

He paused, and the girl’s shocked wail arose once more.

“Mrs. Storm! She’s down here, sir, in the den. Oh, come quick!”


The word died in Storm’s throat, and still conscious of the cook’s
eyes he turned, dashed open the door of his wife’s empty room, uttered
a loud ejaculation and then plunged down the stairs.

“I thought she was asleep in her room!” he exclaimed. “Where——?”

“In the den, sir!” Agnes scrambled to her feet and stood clinging to
the newel post as Storm passed her and rushed down the hall. “Oh, may
God have mercy——!”

He heard a startled cry from above and lumbering feet hastily
descended the stairs as he burst into the den and then stopped short.
Leila’s body was lying face upward now upon the rug, her waxen
features clamped in the rigidity of marble, a hideous brown clot
enmeshing the soft gold of her hair and smeared across her forehead.

The cry of horror which burst from Storm’s lips was not all
simulation, for anticipated as it was, the sight brought a sickening
qualm to him. He had conquered it the next moment, however, and
crossing to the body knelt and forced himself to touch it, to raise it
until it rested against his knee just as he had done the moment the
blow was struck. It was cold and stiff, the neck rigid, the eyes half
open and unwinking in their stare.

As the trembling servants appeared in the doorway he laid the body
gently back upon the rug and, rising, dashed his hand across his eyes.
He remembered that gesture; he had often seen a favorite tragedian use
it upon the stage.

“She is dead!” Horror, grief unutterable rang in his tones, and the
maids began to sob hysterically.

Without seeming to note their presence Storm staggered past them to
the telephone in the library.

“Greenlea 42 . . . . Dr. Carr, please . . . . Doctor, this is Storm,
Norman Storm. For God’s sake get over here as quickly as you
can! . . . . No, I can’t go into details, but it’s a matter of life
and death! . . . . All right, hurry, man!”

For a moment he sat there hunched over the silent instrument while the
sweat poured in rivulets down his face. So far, so good. His shaking
nerves were aiding him in the rôle he was playing, but he must not let
them get the upper hand.

The early morning sun streamed in at the long French windows which
opened on the veranda, and the twitter and chirp of birds came to him
from the lawn outside, mingling with the muffled wail from the rear.
He must go back. God! If only it were all over!

Agnes had collapsed again in a little heap in the den doorway, but
Ellen, the cook, knelt by the body, crooning pitifully over it as
Storm reentered. She made a grotesque figure clad only in the blanket
which she had thrown over her voluminous nightgown, her iron-gray hair
screwed back in a tight knob and tears streaming down her round,
honest face.

“Oh, sir!” She looked up, her eyes tragic with horror. “Who in the
world did it, sir?”

Storm started. A suspicion of murder already, and from the source
which he had least anticipated! If stupid, unimaginative Ellen had
leaped to such a conclusion could he hope after all that the truth
would not reveal itself to Dr. Carr and the authorities? He moistened
his lips with his tongue and stammered:

“She—she must have fallen—one of those fainting spells. It looks as
though she had struck her head on the fender, there.” He added
quickly, “When I came home late I supposed Mrs. Storm was asleep in
her room and did not disturb her. How did she come to be here?”

“Must have been waiting up for you, sir.” Agnes lifted her head from
her hands. “The mistress didn’t expect you home for dinner, and I
served her on the little table out on the veranda. She was sitting out
there still when Ellen and me went to bed, along about nine. I asked
her should I wait to lock up or see if you wanted a bit of cold
supper, sir, but she said no, that she would attend to it herself. If
only I’d known one of those attacks was coming on I wouldn’t have left
her for a minute! I’ll never forgive myself! But the mistress seemed
all right, as ever she was in her life, and I was that tired——”

Storm eyed her steadily:

“You would have heard Mrs. Storm had she called for help?”

“I don’t know, sir.” The girl twisted her hands. “I’m a pretty heavy
sleeper, and I never heard a thing during the night. I’ll never forget
the turn it gave me when I came down this morning and found the light
still on and her lying there on the floor——”

“God rest her soul!” Ellen ejaculated piously. “Sure we wouldn’t have
heard, away up there on the top floor at the back, unless she’d
screamed fit to wake the dead. I’d had a full day’s ironing, and I was
asleep the minute my head touched the pillow. The first I knew was
when Agnes here let that yell out of her awhile back. The best lady
ever I worked for and the kindest! She must have been took sudden to
fall over like that!”

Storm drew a breath of relief. It was evident that they were telling
the truth and that neither of them was aware of Brewster’s visit on
the previous night, nor had an inkling of its aftermath. He sank into
a chair and buried his face in his hands, the better to think. He must
get rid of them some way; their chatter and lamentations were driving
him mad!

“’Tis God’s will, sir,” Ellen ventured, in a hesitating effort at
consolation, though the tears still coursed unchecked down her cheeks.
“Couldn’t we move her, sir? ’Tis terrible to leave her lying here,
poor lady——”

“Not until the doctor comes.” Storm’s tones were hoarse and muffled.
“Please go away, both of you. I want to be alone. Mind you say not a
word of what has happened to the milkman or anyone else who may come
to the door until the doctor has taken charge. We should have all the
neighbors about our ears.”

“We won’t breathe a word.” Agnes scrambled to her feet. “You’ll ring,
sir, if you want anything? A cup of coffee, now——?”

“Nothing!” Storm waved aside the suggestion with a shudder of disgust.
“I only wish to be alone.”

When the maids had withdrawn and their sobs were cut off by the
closing of the pantry door, Storm’s hands dropped to his knees. They
had accepted his suggestion of the cause of death without question,
but would it be safe for him to volunteer that theory as a foregone
conclusion to the keener mind of the doctor? He knew the strength of
first impressions; were the circumstantial proofs of accidental death
obvious enough to preclude all suspicion of foul play? The evidence
which had seemed so impregnable to him when he first conceived it
crumbled before the wave of torturing doubt that assailed him. He did
not find it as easy as he had planned to put behind him forever his
secret knowledge of the truth. What would his thought processes have
been had he indeed believed his wife to be sleeping safe in her room
and come down to find her lying dead here?

The whirr of a light-running motor outside galvanized Storm into
action, and he sprang up from his chair and hurried down the hall,
flinging the front door wide just as the doctor mounted the veranda
steps. A fine, grizzled stubble adorned the latter’s usually
clean-shaven jaw, and his light ulster was buttoned close up about his
neck as though to conceal deficiencies in his hastily donned attire.

“What is it, old man?” he began genially, and then at sight of the
other’s face he paused abruptly.


Without another word Storm turned and led the way to the den, and the
physician followed in silence. At the door the former, with a gesture,
stepped aside, and Dr. Carr’s glance fell upon the body.

Stifling an exclamation he advanced and made a brief, deft
examination. Then, shaken from his professional calm, he rose.

“There—is nothing I can do,” he announced jerkily. “She has been dead
for several hours—seven or eight, at least. Good God, Storm, what does
this mean?”

The gaze of the physician was filled with blank amazement and horror,
but to the other man it seemed sternly accusing, and he stammered

“I don’t know! She must have been here all night like this, while I
thought her safe in bed and asleep! It is horrible! Horrible!”

He hid his face in his hands to shut out those keen eyes bent upon
him, and Dr. Carr advanced and forced him gently down into a chair.

“Here, man, don’t give way now! Pull yourself together! Do you mean
that you only just discovered——?”

“A minute before I telephoned to you. It was the housemaid who found
Leila like this when she came down to dust around, and her screams
awakened me.” Storm paused. A detailed explanation would look too much
like an attempt at an alibi; he must wait for the other to drag the
facts from him. “Oh, why didn’t I speak, why didn’t I look in her room
when I came home last night! But I was afraid of disturbing her——”

He paused, and Dr. Carr asked quickly:

“You returned late and thought she had retired?”

“Yes. It was after eleven—I took the ten o’clock train from town—and
when I got here the house was all dark and silent, and Leila’s bedroom
and dressing-room doors were closed.” Storm’s hands dropped to the
arms of his chair, and he stared straight ahead of him as he added
deliberately: “I went to bed as quietly as I could so as not to waken
her, for she hadn’t been well; she was threatened with one of these
fainting attacks the night before last. I should never have left her!
But you know how it has been, Doctor; you never could tell when they
were coming on, and she had never done any real harm to herself

“‘Fainting attacks?’” the doctor repeated sharply. He wheeled and
approached the body once more and Storm watched him with bated breath.
“The right temple bone has been crushed in, as if with some heavy,
blunt instrument!”

“That knob on the corner of the fender——” Storm felt his way
carefully. “It—it’s all covered with blood! She must have fallen——”

The doctor glanced at it and then turned swiftly to him.

“Look here, Storm, have you questioned the servants? What do they know
of this?”

“Nothing. I’ve been too nearly crazed to question them coherently, but
from what I gathered they went to bed early and left her sitting out
on the veranda, and the housemaid said something about Leila having
told her that she would wait up for me, Think of it, Doctor! She must
have come in here——”

“Hold on a minute. Was the body lying just like this, face upturned,
when you saw it first?”

Storm nodded.

“Yes. I rushed to her and started to lift her up, but when I saw
that—that she was dead——”

He bowed his head on his breast as if unable to continue, but he saw
the physician measure with a swift eye the distance from the chair to
the body, and then stoop to examine the fender again. Storm’s knuckles
whitened as he gripped the chair-arms in an agony of suspense. Would
his implied suggestion bear fruit? Had he too palpably ignored the
other’s intimation that a blow had been struck? Would it have been
more natural for him to have presupposed violence, murder, as the
physician obviously had done? It was too late now for him to question
the wisdom of his course; he could brace himself for the next step in
the ghastly farce.

“Has anyone touched the body?” Dr. Carr spoke with professional

“Yes; when I came back here after telephoning to you both the servants
were in the room, and Ellen was bending over my poor wife—I can’t
speak of it, Doctor; I can’t realize it! I feel as if I should go mad!

“I know, old man, but we’ve got to get at the bottom of this thing.
Try to collect yourself and think back. You said you were awakened by
the housemaid’s screams when she discovered the body. Do you know if
she touched it before you got down here?”

Storm shook his head.

“I never asked.” He kept his eyes lowered carefully to hide a glint of
triumph. When Carr discovered that Agnes had found the body lying face
down, the case he had manufactured would be complete. “I wish
you—you’d talk to them, Doctor. I—I can’t, just now. I’m all in!”

“I will. Don’t think about them.” Dr. Carr glanced at the low light on
the desk which still glowed brazenly in the gloom of the curtained
room. “Who turned on that light instead of drawing aside the

“It must have been on all night. Agnes said that was the first thing
she noticed when she got to the door here; that the light was still
going. Then she saw the body——” he halted again and added in studied
ingenuousness: “I might have observed it when I came home last night,
I suppose, but it is scarcely perceptible from the front hall, and
finding it all dark there except for the lamp on the newel post which
Leila always leaves lighted for me, I went straight upstairs. It never
occurred to me that she would be waiting up for me, and in here,
although she has done so occasionally. I was pretty tired. My God,
Doctor, if I had seen the light and come in here, I might have been
able to save her! There might have been something I could do—!”

“No, Storm, no one could have done anything for her. Death was
instantaneous. You heard nothing after you went upstairs? No sound of
a fall, or disturbance of any kind?”

“Nothing.” Storm started from his chair. “It couldn’t have happened
after I retired! Surely, if Leila had been alive when I entered the
house she would have heard me! The servants sleep like logs, but I
waken at the slightest sound. I would have known——!”

“That’s so. Of course, you would, old man.” Dr. Carr’s tone was
soothingly compassionate. “You’d better go upstairs now and put on
some clothes; you haven’t even slippers on your feet. I’ll have a word
with the servants while you’re gone——”

“But Leila!” Storm forced his shrinking eyes to turn yearningly toward
the still form. “I can’t bear to leave her lying like that! Ellen
wanted to lift her to the couch, but I thought we’d better wait until
you came——”

“Why?” The doctor shot the question at him, and Storm, realizing his
slip, swiftly countered:

“I didn’t know what to think! I tell you, Doctor, when I first came in
and saw her it looked almost like murder! My brain isn’t clear yet
from the shock of it, although when I saw the blood on the fender, of
course, I knew she must have fallen, and then I remembered her
condition—those fainting spells, and all that. There isn’t a soul in
the world who would harm a hair of Leila’s head!” He threw up his
hands with an impotent gesture. “I felt dazed, helpless! I had to
depend on you, and I wanted you to see everything just as it was.”

“You can rely on me, old man!” The doctor patted his arm and led him
to the door. “We must not move her yet, however. Under the
circumstances we’ll have to notify the authorities, merely as a matter
of form, and they may want to investigate for themselves. I’ll call
them up and then come and give you something to steady your nerves.
You’re bearing up splendidly, but we can’t have you going to pieces
until the formalities have been concluded. Is there anyone you would
like me to send for; any member of the family, or friend?”

“Yes!” Storm exclaimed in a sudden flash of inspiration. “Get old
George for me, will you, Doctor? George Holworthy, you know; 0328
Stuyvesant. Tell him to come out here on the first train, that I need
him. Don’t—don’t go into details, but make him understand that it’s
serious, desperate! I’m not a weakling, I won’t break down, but I’d
feel stronger if George were here. We’ve been friends for years.”

“I know; I’ll get him.” Dr. Carr drew out his handkerchief and mopped
his forehead. “Get into some clothes now. I’ll be right with you.”

“I would rather stay here with Leila, alone with her——” Storm murmured
mendaciously. “I won’t touch her, Doctor; let me stay!”

“No.” The physician transferred the key to the outside of the door and
locked it decisively as he spoke. “It wouldn’t do you any good, Storm.
You’ve got to brace up. You have put this affair in my hands now, and
I order you to pull yourself together. Get upstairs and take a cold
shower and then I’ll give you a sedative.”

With a last glance at the closed door, Storm stumbled to the stairs
and mounted, lurching against the banisters as though overcome by
weakness; but in reality his brain was seething with the thought of
the danger yet ahead.

He closed the door of his room softly behind him, and then paused.
What if Carr’s sympathetic, friendly manner had been assumed to cloak
a suspicion of the truth? The physician had seemed to accept his
theory, but he had not committed himself. Suppose he were following,
tiptoeing up the stairs now to peer in at the keyhole——!

The thought was madness, yet Storm turned instinctively. The key of
his door had been mislaid long ago and never replaced, but a heavy
lounging robe hung from a peg on the center panel. Catching a fold of
it he drew it back over the door-knob so that it trailed before the
lock like a curtain, thick and impenetrable. His bathroom had no
entrance leading to the hall, and the only other door—that opening on
Leila’s dressing-room was protected by a cretonne portière.

He realized that he had no need for secrecy, there was nothing to be
done now which all the world might not safely see—and yet an insane
desire came to him to conceal himself from all eyes. He must have a
moment of respite from the rôle he was playing, a moment of peace and
calmness to gird himself anew for what the immediate future might

Did Carr accept the situation at its face value? The man whom in the
night he had half-scornfully dismissed from his mind as a simple
country practitioner now appeared in a vastly different light. For the
moment he held in his hands Storm’s immunity from suspicion, and the
latter’s disquietude increased.

There was his step upon the stair! What would his face reveal?

With a quick revulsion of feeling, Storm sprang to the door and opened

The smile with which the benign physician greeted him removed all
lingering doubt.

“Not taken your shower? Come, Storm, this won’t do! I’ve ’phoned, and
the coroner’s assistant is on his way over from the county seat.” He
held out a small glass, and the other took it mechanically. “Drink
this and pull yourself together, for there are some trying hours

Chapter VI

The Verdict

“You were right, unquestionably, Storm,” Dr. Carr announced twenty
minutes later as the other joined him in the library. “I don’t mind
admitting that my thoughts—my sensations, rather—when first I saw the
body were identical with what yours had been, but there’s only one
possible conclusion. Mrs. Storm must have been seated in that big
chair by the hearth when she felt suddenly faint; and in trying to
rise, she must have fallen forward, striking her forehead with
crushing force against that solid brass knob on the fender. Agnes
tells me that she found her mistress lying face downward against it,
and thinking she had merely fainted, turned the body over. It was only
when she saw the wound that she screamed. Of one thing you may be
sure; Mrs. Storm didn’t suffer. She never knew what struck her. Death
came instantly.”

Storm sank into a chair, his twitching face turned from the light. If
Carr only knew!

“I must try to think that!” he murmured. “Did you get George Holworthy
on the ’phone, Doctor?”

“Yes. He is on his way out here by now. Agnes gave me some coffee, and
I told her to bring a tray for you—No protests!” as Storm made a
gesture of repugnance. “You are under my orders, remember, and you’ve
got to keep going.”

Storm drank the coffee obediently enough when it came, conscious of a
craving for its stimulus. The first and most hazardous milestone was
passed; Dr. Carr had fallen for his game, had been completely
hoodwinked by the circumstantial evidence he had arranged. He had won
an unconscious yet powerful ally, and the way seemed clear before him,
but the glow of elation was past.

While the physician droned on in a soothing monotone, seeking for
words of consolation to assuage the grief of his patient and neighbor,
the humming of a high-powered car reached their ears as it turned in
at the gate and ploughed up the driveway, and Storm sank back.

“That is the coroner’s man now.” Dr. Carr strode to the window. “Oh,
he has sent young Daly, and the chief medical examiner is with him.
That will simplify matters tremendously. I know them both, and I’ll
see that they don’t bother you any more than is absolutely necessary.”

Agnes ushered in a tall, lanky young man and his stouter, elderly
companion who nodded in brisk, professional gravity.

“This is Mr. Daly and Dr. Bellowes, Mr. Storm.” Carr presented them
smoothly. “Sorry to have brought you so far on a mere matter of form,
gentlemen. I am prepared to issue a certificate of accidental death,
but I should like to have you examine the body. This way, please;
nothing has been touched.”

Storm rose as the physician turned to lead the others to the den, but
the young man called Daly waved him back.

“Your presence won’t be necessary, Mr. Storm.” His tone was
deferential, but there was a note of authority in it that brooked no
opposition. “I will have to ask you a few questions later, but we
won’t trouble you now.”

Storm bowed and waited until their footsteps diminished down the hall,
and the door of the den closed definitely behind them, Then, with
nervously clenching hands, he turned to the window. What a fool he was
to harass himself with idle fears! Had not everything gone like
clockwork, exactly as he had anticipated? He had been complete master
of the situation so far, and he would be until the end. He must not,
could not fail!

Old George would come soon, now. That had been a master stroke, that
summoning of him! Besides being the natural, logical thing to have
done under the circumstances, it provided a staunch, reliable buffer
between himself and curious, sensation-seeking eyes. George’s dense
stupidity and blind affection would be in itself a safeguard, and he
anticipated no difficulty in dissembling before him. What if George
had suspected or even known of Leila’s affair with Brewster? He would
never dream that Storm himself had discovered it, much less that he
had killed her.

What were the officials doing in there so long? Storm paced the floor
restlessly. Surely the case was obvious enough; he couldn’t have
overlooked anything, after all! Why didn’t they have done with it and
get out of his house? He wanted time to think, a breathing space in
which to prepare himself for the onslaught of neighbors and reporters
when the truth came out.

As if timed to his thought, a familiar runabout which was passing
halted at the gate just as it had on the previous day, and Millard,
after gazing for a moment in blank amazement at the official car drawn
up at the veranda steps, descended and came hurriedly up the path.

Storm saw him from the window and muttered in exasperation. To be
annoyed now by that he-gossip was unthinkable! He’d soon send him
about his business——!

He caught himself up suddenly. This was the moment for him to court
sympathy, not brusquely repel it and awaken an antagonism which might
beget dark rumor and suspicion. He hurried to the door, and when
Millard puffed fussily up the steps of the veranda he found his host
awaiting him with outstretched hands.

“Millard! It was good of you to stop. I hoped you would when I saw you

“What’s wrong, old chap? That’s the Chief Medical Examiner’s car,
isn’t it? I was afraid——” He broke off as the other raised his eyes.
“Heavens, Storm, what is it?”

“My wife!” Storm bowed his head, and added brokenly: “She’s dead,
Millard! Died suddenly, sometime during the night.”

“Mrs. Storm!” Millard fell back a step, his apoplectic face paling.
“What——? How? God, this is frightful! What caused it?”

“Dr. Carr says it was one of her fainting spells. She must have fallen
and struck her head. I—we only found her this morning.”

“Terrible! I—I don’t know what to say, old chap!” Millard stammered.
His small, beady eyes strayed eagerly past his host into the darkened
hallway, and he advanced, but Storm’s figure barred the entrance. “I’m
simply aghast! Poor, dear little woman! I can’t believe it! You have
all my sympathy, dear fellow, but words can’t seem to express it just
now. How—how did it happen——?”

“We don’t know yet.” Storm gripped the agitated little man’s arm for a
moment as if for support. “I can’t talk of it! Carr will tell you all
about it later, but I don’t think he wants the news to get about until
the formalities have been concluded with the coroner’s men. I can
depend on you——?”

“You know that, old chap!” Millard interrupted him warmly. “I say,
isn’t there anything that I can do? The car’s right here, you know,
and I’m glad to be of service——”

“Why, yes.” Storm eyed him gratefully. “I’ve sent for George
Holworthy, but he hasn’t been told what has happened. He ought to be
here on the next train, and it is due any minute. Would you mind
running down to the station and bringing him back here, and—and break
the news to him for me?”

“Certainly, dear fellow!” Millard clapped his hand to the other’s
shoulder. “I’ll go at once, Storm. There doesn’t seem to be anything a
chap can say at a time like this, but I’m right here if you want me!
Remember that, and try to—to bear it, some way. I’ll be back in no

He bustled off down the veranda steps and toward his waiting car, and
Storm closed the door with a grim smile. He was well aware that
Millard—who was known facetiously about the Country Club as the “town
crier”—would spread the news of the tragic “accident” far and wide,
and he had carefully planted in the other’s mind the impression that
Dr. Carr was responsible for the theory of accident. He had always
maintained a certain reserve with Millard, and realized that his
confidence now had immeasurably flattered the little man, cementing a
friendship which would prove valuable if by any chance ugly whispers

Then, too, he had avoided the task of breaking the news to old George.
Difficult as it had been to play his rôle before the tearful servants,
the cautious physician and the county officials, he shrank far more
from the ordeal of facing his friend with the story he had fabricated.
It would be easy, of course; almost too easy. It was a battle of wits,
a fair fight with others, but with slow-witted, loyal old George . . .
He had turned back to the library when a voice speaking his name
aroused him swiftly from his reverie.

“Mr. Storm, I’d like to see you for a moment.” It was Daly. “Don’t be
alarmed, please. Dr. Bellowes is quite satisfied that Mrs. Storm’s
death was accidental, but the circumstances are so unusual that as a
mere matter of form I want a statement from you to file in my report.
Will you tell me, please, what occurred from the time of your arrival
home last evening until you summoned Dr. Carr at seven o’clock this

Haltingly, as if still dazed with the shock, but with every nerve
tinglingly on guard, Storm repeated his story exactly as he had told
it to Dr. Carr, and Daly listened attentively, punctuating it with
quick nods of satisfaction, as though he were mentally checking off
each detail.

At its conclusion he made no comment, but instead asked a question
which brought a start of renewed apprehension to the other man.

“Do you know, Mr. Storm, if your wife had any enemies? Is there anyone
who will profit by her death or who had any reason for wishing her out
of the way?”

“Good heavens, no!” Storm could feel the blood ebbing from his face,
and his voice had grown suddenly husky. “You don’t mean——?”

“I don’t mean anything,” Mr. Daly retorted calmly. “I told you this
was a mere matter of form, Mr. Storm. Do you know of any enmity which
your wife might have incurred?”

“None. Everyone who knew her loved her; she hadn’t an enemy in the
world,” Storm stammered. “No one could profit by her death, and as
to—to wishing her out of the way——”

“That is all right, sir. I don’t want to distress you, but these facts
must be clearly established.” Mr. Daly paused. “How long have you been
married, and what was Mrs. Storm’s maiden name?”

“Leila Talmage. We were married ten years ago.” Storm controlled his
wildly leaping pulses and forced himself to reply calmly, weariedly,
as though the subject caused him infinite pain. “She was an orphan,
the ward of a friend of our family, and has no living relatives of
whom I ever heard.”

“Did she have any money of her own?” the other pursued.

“Very little. Ten or twelve thousand, I believe.” Storm moistened his
lips and drew himself up slightly. “My attorney, Wendle Foulkes, took
charge of it for her at her request, but I have never made any
inquiries concerning her expenditure of it. It was hers, to do with as
she pleased.”

“Then you don’t know the value of her estate now?”


“Nor whether she left a will?”

“I do not, Mr. Daly. My attorney can answer all such questions far
better than I.” Storm drew his hand once more across his eyes. Why did
the fellow stare so infernally at him? “I must refer you to him. He
will have to be notified, of course; I hadn’t thought of that. My
mind—I cannot collect myself! It is horrible that there should be even
a thought of foul play in connection with my poor wife; it is almost a
profanation! Her life was an open book, she was the soul of honor and
goodness and charity——”

His voice broke realistically, and his inquisitor rose.

“I don’t doubt you, but you will understand that we have to take every
possibility into consideration in a case of this sort. The Chief will
want to see you when he’s through in there, but won’t detain you

His searching gaze lowered at last, and he turned and left the room.

Storm listened to his retreating footsteps in a maze of conflicting
emotion. Had that inquisition been merely the formality that the young
official claimed, or had they stumbled on the truth? If Daly’s efforts
had been directed toward establishing a possible motive, Storm
congratulated himself that he had more than held his ground. He had
succeeded in placing on record a statement of absolute faith and trust
in his wife, and surely his bearing as a grief-stricken husband had
been seemingly sincere beyond question! If they suspected, though; if
they unearthed that damnable affair of hers with Brewster, discovered
that he had been in that house on the previous night and could prove
that Storm himself returned before the other’s departure . . . .

The impudent chug-chug of a runabout broke in upon his troubled
thought, and he turned to the hall just as the housemaid appeared on
the stairs.

“Agnes, I’m going to my room. Mr. Millard has just brought Mr.
Holworthy up from the station, I think. Send Mr. Holworthy up to me,
but tell Mr. Millard I’ll call him on the ’phone later. I can’t see
him now.”

“Yes, sir.” Agnes sniffed and lowered her red-lidded eyes. “The other

“They’re still here. Let me know, please, when they want me.”

She stepped aside and he passed her, mounting to his room. It was in
order, and with rare tact the girl had left the door leading to
Leila’s apartments closed; yet as plainly as though it were open Storm
could see before him every intimate detail: the little silver articles
on the dressing table, the quaint old four-poster bed which had been
his mother’s, the absurdly low chairs piled with cushions, Leila’s
favorite books scattered about——

A sudden dizziness seized him; the same sickening qualm which had
assailed him that morning when he entered the den swept over him in an
overwhelming flood. He had been keyed up since with the need of
self-preservation, but now a swift reaction came, and he flung himself
into a chair, his head buried in his arms outflung across the table.
He had killed her, and she deserved it; she had been faithless! It was
done and over with, and yet——!

Her presence seemed nearer him, the years of their love and life
together rose before him, and something very like a dry, harsh sob
burst from his throat.

“Norman! God, it isn’t true! It can’t be!”

The broken cry from the doorway fell like a dash of icy water on his
rising emotion, and instantly on guard once more, Storm raised his

George Holworthy stood there, his homely face working grotesquely,
tears starting unashamed from his faded blue eyes.

“I never dreamed—I was afraid when I got Carr’s message that she was
ill, but that a thing like this should have come——!”

“George!” Storm rose and their hands clasped. “I sent for you as soon
as I could! I can’t talk about it, I can’t realize it! It is like some
horrible nightmare! You won’t leave me? You’ll stay here and see me

“I’m here, ain’t I?” George gulped fiercely. “I suppose you’ve been
badgered enough, and I won’t add to it, but for God’s sake tell me a
little! Remember, I loved her, too!”

“I know you did, and she had a very real affection for you.” Storm
averted his head, for the sight of the other’s genuine sorrow was

“All I could get out of Millard was that you found her dead this
morning, and that Carr said it was her old trouble, that
catalepsy—_petit mal_, they call it, don’t they? I never thought it
could prove fatal!”

“It didn’t. But she fell, striking her head——!” Storm paused
eloquently. “When you see her, George, you’ll understand. It’s too
awful, I can’t——”

“But where is she? What have they done with her?” George glanced
toward the closed door, and Storm shook his head.

“In the den. Agnes found her there and screamed——”

But Agnes herself appeared in the doorway, cutting his sentence short.

“If you please, Mr. Storm, the gentlemen downstairs would like to
speak to you.”

“I’ll be down.” By a supreme effort he braced himself to meet the
verdict. “You’ll come too, George?”

George nodded and blew his nose resoundingly.

“I’m with you,” he said simply, and together they descended the

Dr. Bellowes met them at the library door.

“We have concluded our examination,” he announced. “As my colleague,
Doctor Carr, had already surmised, Mrs. Storm’s death was due to a
fracture of the right temporal caused by a fall while suffering an
attack of _petit mal_.”

Storm closed his eyes, and for an instant the earth seemed to rock
beneath his feet.

It was over and he had won! He had fooled them all!

“I feared it, Doctor,” he remarked quietly, and congratulated himself
at the calmness of his tone. “I should not have left her alone last
night after the warning we had of a possible attack the day before—but
I must try not to think of that now. Can’t I offer you something
before you start on your ride back? A cup of coffee perhaps?”

Dr. Bellowes shook his head, but his eyes traveled to the humidor on
the table, and Storm followed his glance.

“A cigar, then?” He opened the humidor and passed it around. “The
matches are just in there——”

He lighted one, watching his hand curiously meanwhile. How steady it
was! Not a tremor to reveal the excitement mounting within him. He had
pulled off the greatest, grimmest scheme in the world, and yet not the
flicker of an eyelash betrayed him!

Dr. Bellowes blew out a cloud of smoke.

“Yes, Mr. Storm,” he resumed, “it was unquestionably an accident; a
most unusual and unfortunate one. Unofficially, I should like to
tender to you my most sincere sympathy.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

Storm bowed and stood quite still as George showed them out.

If anyone had told him that such a plan could have been conceived and
carried out successfully without a single hitch, he would have laughed
him to scorn. He would not have believed anyone capable of such
combined ingenuity and self-control, least of all himself!

The position of the body, the smear upon the brass knob of the fender,
the blood-stained driver cleaned, the handkerchief and its ashes
eliminated, the hair pin, the single golden hair, the light left
burning—he mentally reviewed each clue in the case, recalled each step
of the investigation, and realized that there had been no flaw.

It had been a supreme battle of wits, his against all the rest, and he
had beaten them! He had won!

Chapter VII

The Letter

Despite his sense of victory the day was a long-drawn-out period of
torture for Storm.

Upon the departure of Dr. Carr and the officials, George Holworthy had
to be told in detail the story of the night’s tragic event, and its
reiteration drew heavily upon the store of self-control which was left
to his companion after the ordeal through which he had passed; but
Storm narrated it carefully, with a critical consciousness of every

“I don’t know what is the matter with me!” he cried dramatically in
conclusion. “I can’t break down, I can’t seem to feel, George! I saw
her as she lay there, I tell myself that this ghastly, unbelievable
thing is true, and yet it has no meaning for me! I catch myself
listening for her step, waiting to hear her voice! Am I going mad?”

“It’s the shock,” George said quietly. “The stark horror of the thing
has stunned you, Norman. You can’t feel it yet, you are numb, I

He looked curiously shrunken and withered and years older as he sat
hunched in his chair, his faded, red-rimmed eyes blinking fast. Storm
felt a sense of impatience, almost of repugnance as he regarded him.
His evident sorrow was a subtle reproach before which the other
writhed. Could he endure his presence in the days which must decently
elapse before the funeral? George would be useful, however, in the
interim, and when it was all over he could shut himself away from

“That’s why I sent for you,” he observed. “I can’t seem to get a grip
on things, and I thought you would take charge for me and keep off the
mob of sympathizers——”

“I will. I’ll attend to everything, old man. There’s bound to be a
certain amount of publicity, you know, but I’ll see the reporters
myself, and fend off the neighbors. Carr will send in the undertaker,
and I’ll ’phone Foulkes. Is there anyone else you want me to notify?”

George did indeed prove invaluable, for Millard had spread the tidings
and soon the house was besieged by horror-stricken friends of the dead
woman. They came from all walks of life, from the humblest
country-folk about to the most arrogant of the aristocratic colony, in
mute testimony to the breadth of her kindliness and the affection she
had inspired. From earliest afternoon, too, reporters began filtering
in on every train, but George held them off with surprising tact and
diplomacy, and by nightfall a semblance of peace had fallen upon the
bereft household.

The den was restored to its normal state, the door locked, and in the
dainty drawing-room across the hall from the library Leila lay as if
asleep, her golden hair falling low to hide the cruel wound and all
about her the early spring flowers she had loved.

Now that they were alone together, George’s presence proved
insufferable, and Storm, professing complete nervous exhaustion,
suggested that they retire early.

George, worn out with his own emotions and the strain of the day,
acquiesced in evident relief. He had dreaded a night-long vigil with
his bereaved friend and rejoiced that the strange, seemingly dazed
apathy which had held him in its grip was giving way to the demands of
over-taxed nature.

Sleep, however, was furthest from Storm’s intentions. There was work
still to be done, and in secret. Foulkes had signified his intention
of coming out on the first train in the morning, and it was possible
that he might suggest going over Leila’s papers. If that letter which
she had tried to conceal the day before were found, or any other
correspondence from Brewster, it might precipitate the rise of a
suspicion which otherwise seemed now to be eliminated.

Leila’s desk was down in the library, and waiting only until he felt
assured that the occupant of the guest chamber across the hall had
fallen asleep, Storm put on soft felt slippers, drew his dressing gown
about him, and descended.

How still the house was! Still, yet vibrant with something unseen but
palpitating as though the spirit had not wholly departed from that
immobile form lying amid the blossoms, whose fragrance stole out with
cloying, sinister sweetness upon the air.

Storm closed the library door noiselessly behind him, switched on the
light and crossing to the little rose-wood desk stood transfixed.

A book lay upon it, and from between its leaves protruded, as if
carelessly or hastily thrust there, what appeared to be the very
letter he sought. “Leicester Building”. The engraved letters stood out
as he drew the envelope forth, but above them was a line which made
him start.

“National Tool & Implement Company”.

But Brewster was an insurance broker! The name had an oddly familiar
ring, too. What could it mean?

With shaking fingers he drew the enclosure from the envelope and read:

  Mrs. Norman Storm:
  Dear Madam:-

  I have reconsidered my decision of this morning and am willing to
  sell to you the strip of land adjoining your property at the price
  you named, on condition that the deal be consummated with you
  personally. I will enter into no negotiations with your husband. If
  you will call at my office to-morrow, the ninth inst., with your
  check I will have the deed and bill of sale ready.

    Your obedient servant,
      Alpheus Jaffray

Storm crushed the letter in his hands. The trout stream! Leila had
bearded their irascible neighbor in his town office and induced him to
sell her the property which he himself had been unable to force or
cajole the old scoundrel to relinquish! But why had she been so
secretive about it? Why had she lied about her presence in town,
sought to conceal the letter, striven to make a mystery where no cause
for one existed?

The queries which hammered at his brain were swiftly swept aside by
the one dominating fact. Her visit had not concerned Brewster, her lie
had concealed no act of guilt or even indiscretion! What if—Great God!
If he had made a hideous mistake——? But no! He had seen them together,
she and her lover, in that very room not twenty-four hours before; had
heard Brewster’s impassioned words, witnessed his act of devotion!
Whatever motive had prompted her secret purchase of the trout stream,
it was beside the point at issue. There must be proof in her desk,
proof to augment and support the evidence of his own eyes.

He tore the drawers open one after another, scattering the neat piles
of correspondence, social notes, cards of invitation, receipted bills,
memoranda and household accounts—his feverish fingers sought in vain
among them for a single line of an intimate or sentimental nature. But
then, Leila would scarcely have kept secret love letters in an open
desk. Somewhere in her apartments upstairs, perhaps, she had arranged
a hiding place for them.

Then a swift remembrance came to him. The secret compartment! Back of
the small drawer between the pigeon-holes on the desk top was a small
space to which access could be had only by pressing a hidden knob.
Leila had found it by accident one day and had been almost childishly
delighted with her discovery.

Storm removed the drawer, pressed the spring, and the false back slid
aside revealing two packets of letters. One was bound by a bit of
white satin ribbon, yellowing now and slightly frayed; the other
encircled with a rubber band.

The sight of them brought a grimace of triumph, to Storm’s lips, but
it changed quickly as he tore the ribbon from the first packet. The
letters were all postmarked prior to ten years ago and were in his
handwriting—his own love letters, written during the period of their
engagement and before. One end of the ribbon was knotted about a dried
flower; an orange blossom! It must have been from her wedding bouquet.

A strange tightness constricted his throat, and he thrust the packet
hastily aside. He did not want to be reminded at this hour of the
happiness, the fool’s paradise in which he had lived before
enlightenment came. No sentimentality about the past must be permitted
to weaken his self-control now.

But the second packet, too, contained only his letters; those written
since their marriage, mere notes of a most prosaic sort, some of them,
sent to her during his infrequent absences from home and reminding her
of trivial, every-day matters which required attention. The last,
dated only a month before, concerned the reinstatement of MacWhirter,
their ante-bellum gardener. Why had Leila kept every scrap of his
handwriting as though she treasured it, as though it were precious to

For a long time he sat there staring at the scattered envelopes, the
first vague, terrible stirring of doubt which had come when he read
Jaffray’s letter returning again to torture his spirit. Then once more
the scene of the previous night in that room arose in reassuring
condemnation, and with a smothered oath he seized the letters and tore
them viciously, the older packet with the rest, until nothing remained
but a heap of infinitesimal scraps and the bit of yellowed ribbon.

He wanted them out of his sight, destroyed utterly, but where——? The
fire in the kitchen range would have been banked for the night, but he
could rake the coals aside. Sweeping the torn letters into a newspaper
together with the ribbon, he made his way quietly to the kitchen. The
range balked him at first. He strove vainly to coax a blaze from the
livid coals, but with the aid of kindling wood and after much
manipulation of the dampers he succeeded in producing a tiny flame.
Upon this he thrust handfuls of the paper scraps, and when they caught
and blazed up he thrust the ribbon deep among them.

How slowly they burned! The edges of the ribbon charred and it curled
up, writhing like a living thing in agony. The flame was dying down,
and Storm had turned frantically to the wood-box to pile on more fuel,
when suddenly there came a grayish puff, a leaping tongue of fire, and
the ribbon vanished, leaving only a heap of pale flakes against the
darker, coarser ashes.

Storm scattered them and was placing an extra stick of wood upon the
glowing coals to make sure that the evidences of his work would be
wholly obliterated, when the utterance of his name in surprised
accents made him wheel as though a blow had been dealt to him from

“Norman! I thought you were in bed!” George, his short, obese figure,
grotesque in an ugly striped bathrobe, stood blinking in the doorway.
“What on earth are you doing down here? And what’s burning? There’s a
funny odor——”

“Wretched green wood. No wonder the cook grumbles about this range; I
thought I should never get it going!” Storm interrupted hastily. “I
couldn’t sleep, and wanted a cup of coffee. There was no use in
disturbing the servants.”

“Why didn’t you call me?” demanded the other. “I could have made it
for you. You look all done up, Norman. Did you take that sleeping
stuff Carr left for you?”

Storm shook his head.

“It would take more than that to bring sleep to me to-night,” he said.

“Well, anyway, I don’t know what you are poking about in here for!”
objected George. “You’re a chump to try to get the range going at this
hour when you’ve got that electric percolator in the dining-room.
Here’s the coffee; come on in there and I’ll have it ready for you in
no time!”

Storm followed him in silence, only too glad to get him away from the
kitchen, and watched him as in deft bachelor fashion he manipulated
the percolator.

Storm drank the coffee when it was made and then dragged George off to
the library where the latter at length fell asleep upon the couch; but
Storm sat huddled in his chair, dry-eyed and brooding, until the dawn.

Wendle Foulkes appeared at nine o’clock, his keen old face very
solemn, and almost his first words, when his condolences were made,
set at rest a question which Daly had raised on the previous day.

“You know, of course, that Leila left no will,” he began. “At least,
none to my knowledge, and I am certain she would have consulted me had
she entertained any thought of making one. Death was farthest from her
imagining, poor child! What she left is yours, of course, but we will
have to comply with the law and advertise for heirs.”

Storm made a gesture of wearied impatience, and the attorney went on:

“There is something I must tell you, Norman. You were not my first
visitor on Monday morning. Leila had been before you; she left only a
few minutes before your arrival, but she had requested me to say
nothing to you of her coming.”

“But why?” Storm stared.

“She came to consult me about a piece of property which she wanted to
buy: that strip of land next your place here, over which you and
Alpheus Jaffray have haggled and fought for years. She had gotten in
the old man’s good graces somehow, and she believed that she could
persuade him to sell it to her even though he was so violently
antagonistic to you. I don’t mind telling you frankly that I advised
against it, Norman. It would have taken all that she had left of her
original capital, and I knew how yours was dwindling, but she won me
over.” He paused and wiped his eyeglasses, clearing his throat
suspiciously meanwhile. “She ordered me to keep the proposed
transaction a secret from you, and I promised, but now it is only
right that you should know. She left to go to Jaffray’s office, over
in the Leicester Building.”

George Holworthy, who was hovering in the background, drew in his
breath sharply, but Storm repeated with dogged insistence:

“Why should my wife have wanted to keep such a secret from me? I
cannot understand it! She told me everything——” He paused
involuntarily, biting his lip. There was one other thing she had not
told him, had not confessed even at the last!

“You would not have been kept in ignorance long.” The attorney’s tone
was pitying. “Have you forgotten what day to-morrow is?”

“‘To-morrow?’” Storm repeated blankly.

“Your birthday.”

“God!” The exclamation came from George. “And the funeral!”

Storm sat as if turned to stone. It had been for him! Her secret trip
to town, her innocent, pitiful subterfuges, her joy over the letter
which had told her that the surprise she had planned was within her
grasp! All for him!

Then a swift revulsion of feeling came. Bah! It may have been to throw
more dust in his eyes, to render his confidence in her doubly assured;
a sop to her own conscience, perhaps. The infinite reproach in her
eyes when he had accused her there in the den, her air of conscious
righteousness when she had said: “You will regret that accusation
bitterly when you learn the truth——” What a consummate actress she had

Fate had played into his hands, though; he had witnessed her perfidy
with his own eyes. Had it not been for his opportune return that
night, how easily his suspicions would have been allayed! How contrite
he would have been at his doubt of her, and how she and her lover
would have gloated over the ease with which he had been deceived!

But the others were looking at him, amazed at his silence, and with an
effort he pulled himself together.

“Her last thought was for me!” His voice shook with the irony of it,
but to the two men it was an evidence of purely natural emotion. “The
thought of it only makes what has come harder for me to bear! Her
unselfishness, her devotion——!”

“I know, boy, I know.” Foulkes laid his hand for a moment on Storm’s
shoulder. “You must try to remember that you have been far luckier
than most men; you have had ten years of such perfect happiness as
falls to the lot of few of us!”

“That is true.” Storm bowed his head to conceal the sneer of
bitterness which rose unbidden to his lips. “I cannot realize that it
has come so suddenly, so horribly to an end!”

A brief discussion of business affairs ensued, and then Wendle Foulkes
took his departure. A silence had fallen between the other two which
was broken at last by George.

“So that was it!” he murmured as if to himself. “That was why she
invented that luncheon at the Ferndale Inn—”

“What?” demanded Storm, aghast. How much did George know? “Invented
what luncheon?”

“Don’t you remember when I dined here with you——God! Was it only last
Monday night?—and Leila told us she had lunched that day at the
Ferndale Inn, when in reality she had been to the city? I repeated
that remark, because I could scarcely believe my ears, but she stuck
to her little fib. I did wonder at your surprise for I had seen you
both in town at noon.”

“You had—seen us both?” Storm repeated.

“Yes. I was going through Cortlandt Street coming out of the Leicester
Building and saw you standing there staring after her as though you
had seen a ghost,” George explained innocently. “I started to hail you
and tried to cross, but a line of traffic got in the way and when the
street was clear you had disappeared. I meant to tell you that night
but I didn’t.”

“Why, that’s so! It must have been Leila, after all, whom I saw.”
Storm weighed each word carefully. “I wasn’t sure, you know, she
passed me so quickly, and when she spoke that night of having been to
the Ferndale Inn I naturally concluded that I must have been mistaken;
it couldn’t have been she I saw. It did not occur to me for a moment
that she was telling even a little white lie, for Leila has never kept
anything from me in all her life, George.”

He spoke with a deliberate emphasis, striving desperately to eradicate
from the other’s mind the thought that he had been aware of her
deception. Confound the fellow! Why had he, out of all in the city,
been the one to witness that unexpected meeting! His silence later was
significant, too. Had he an inkling of Storm’s state of mind that

“I see. Couldn’t imagine why she should have kept her little
expedition to herself, but it wasn’t any affair of mine, of course.”
George spoke with an elaborate carelessness which did not seem wholly
convincing to the critical ears of the other man. “Funny it should
have deceived you, for she didn’t take me in for a minute, she fibbed
so—so clumsily, bless her! I thought it probably some little joke she
was planning, but your approaching birthday never occurred to me. It
is odd, isn’t it, that we should have talked of old Jaffray and that
trout stream when you walked to the station with me later?”

“Leila knew how I had set my heart upon it,” Storm returned. It would
do no good to revert to the topic of the lie. Reiterated explanation
of his attitude would only deepen any suspicion which George might
still entertain. To ignore it, to pass it by as a thing of no moment,
was the only course. “Do you remember that she complained of feeling
ill that night?”

George nodded.

“That was the first thing I thought of when Millard broke the news to
me, after I could begin to think at all,” he observed. “She must have
had a warning that one of those attacks was coming on. I spoke of it
to her, as you may recall, but she denied it; afraid of worrying you,
I suppose. To think that it should have come the very next night when
she was alone and helpless!”

Storm drew a deep breath. At least, George had no shadow of a
suspicion as to the real cause of her death.

“Don’t talk about it!” he implored. “I’ve reproached myself a hundred
times with not being at hand, but how could I know?”

“Forgive me! You couldn’t, of course. No one could have anticipated
it. It was to be, that’s all one could say, though God only knows why!
You were not to blame.”

He threw his arms across the other’s shoulders in an affectionate,
consoling clasp, and in his mild, candid eyes Storm read only pity,
sorrow and an abiding trustfulness.

Chapter VIII

The Truth

“I am the resurrection and the life——” The white-frocked minister’s
voice rose solemnly above the subdued rustlings and sighing whispers
in the little vine-wreathed church, and the stirring ceased. A robin
peered in curiously at one of the open windows from his perch on a
maple bough and chirped inquiringly, and the scent of lilacs was
wafted in from the rector’s garden to mingle with the heavier
fragrance of lilies and white roses heaped about the casket at the
altar steps.

It was such a small casket, almost like that of a child, and fairly
buried beneath the weight of the floral offerings which banked it; a
varied collection of offerings, for the costliest of hot-house set
pieces mingled with sheaves of home-grown blossoms, and rare orchids
nestled beside humble wild violets, but each had their place.

The congregation, too, was a heterogeneous one. Rich and poor, smart
and shabby, the country club colony and the villagers met in a common
democracy to do honor to their dead friend.

“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away——” The minister went on to
the end, and then the voices of a hidden choir chanted softly: “Lord,
thou hast been our refuge: from one generation to another . . . .”

In the front pew Norman Storm rested his sleek head upon his
black-gloved hand, and George Holworthy beside him cleared his throat
huskily. In the moment of stillness which followed the Psalm, a
woman’s sob rose from somewhere back in the church, the sound jangling
in Storm’s ears like a touch upon naked nerves.

The last act of the farce, and then peace! Peace in which to plan for
the future, to gain strength with which to shut out vain, maddening
memories, to meet and cope with the change which his own act had
wrought in his life. But would peace come?

Everything had gone smoothly; his scheme to evade justice and preserve
himself from danger had been crowned with success; but in fortifying
himself against suspicion and accusation from outside, he had not
thought that a more subtle enemy might arise to be faced and
vanquished or forever hold him in miserable thrall.

His love for Leila had not died with her. Despite her unfaithfulness,
to the thought of which he clung doggedly, he could not exorcise her
gentle influence. Everything in the house spoke mutely to him of her,
everywhere he turned were evidences of her care and thoughtfulness and
charm. In vain he reminded himself that it was over and done with, a
closed chapter never to be recalled. He was beginning to fear himself,
to dread the hours of solitude ahead as much as he looked forward to
them. The voice of his conscience was whispering, threatening, and he
must silence it or know no peace.

George glanced furtively at him now and then as the service went on,
but he gave no sign. It drew to a close at last, and still he sat
there immersed in his own thoughts until a touch upon his arm roused
him to a consciousness of the present. Half-way down the aisle Richard
and Julie Brewster with exalted faces and hands clasped like children
stood aside to let him pass, but he did not even see them, and those
who pressed forward and would have spoken paused at sight of his face.
Pitying shocked murmurs followed him as he and George stepped into the
car, but he did not heed them, and the long ride to the cemetery
progressed in silence.

The brief, simple service of committal, the clods of earth falling
dully, heavily into the grave and then came the interminable drive
home. George’s glances were less furtive now, more openly charged with
amazement. Storm had not shed a tear, had not vouchsafed an utterance
of emotion throughout those solemn hours. His friends wondered how
great the reaction would be from such long, pent-up grief, and as they
swept into the driveway before the silent, empty house which awaited
them he ventured a suggestion.

“Norman, don’t you want to pack up and come and stay in town with me
for a few days? The change will do you good and give you time to—to
get used to things.”

Storm stifled the exasperated rejoinder which rose to his lips and
replied quietly:

“Thanks, old man, but I want to be here, alone. I’ve got to face facts
sooner or later, to bring myself to a realization that she has gone,
and I’m better off here.”

“Well, maybe that’s so,” George conceded. “Country air’s the best, and
I’ll run out now and then to cheer you up. You’ll take to playing golf
again after a bit——”

“Don’t!” The cry was wrung from Storm’s very soul. Never again would
he hold a golf-stick in his hands! He could see now before him that
driver with the dark stains spattered upon it, and he recoiled
shuddering from the apparition, while George inwardly cursed his own
tactlessness, the while wholly ignorant of how his clumsy, well-meant
effort at consolation had pierced the armor of the other man’s

The fickle May sunshine vanished, and before the coming of twilight a
bank of heavy gray clouds formed in the west, presaging a storm. They
made a pretense of dining, while the rising wind swept gustily about
the house and moaned in the chimneys like a thing in pain.

Storm still preserved his stoic calm, and George’s perturbation grew.
It wasn’t natural, wasn’t like the Norman he had known from college
days. The younger man had always been outwardly reserved, but such
stern, almost deliberate self-repression was new to him and filled his
friend with vague alarm.

“You didn’t close your eyes during the night before last, and you
couldn’t have slept much last night, Norman, for I heard you walking
the floor at all hours,” he remarked. “Don’t you think it would be
well to call in Carr and have him look you over and give you something
quieting? You’ll be ill if you keep this up.”

“I’m all right!” Storm responded with a touch of impatience. “Don’t
worry about me, George. I’ll turn in early and by to-morrow I’ll get a
fresh grip on myself——”

“I think you’ve got too tight a grip on yourself as it is,” George

“What do you mean?” Storm shot the question at him almost fiercely.
Was he under surveillance, his every mood and gesture subject to
analysis? Why couldn’t the other let him alone?

“You’re not meeting this normally,” replied George in all seriousness.
“Hang it all, I’d rather see you violent than like this! There’s
something horrible about your calmness, the way you are clamping down
your feelings! If you would just give way——”

“I can’t,” Storm protested in the first wholly honest speech which had
passed his lips. “I’m all frozen up. For God’s sake, don’t nag me,
George, because I’m about all in!”

The other subsided, but Storm could feel his eyes upon him, and their
mute solicitude drove him to an inward frenzy. At all costs he must
get away from that insistent scrutiny! He would lock himself in his
room, feign sleep, illness, anything! George had served his turn, and
Storm thanked fortune that business would of necessity demand the
fussy, faithful little man’s presence in town the next day.

He was casting about for an excuse as they rose from the table when
all at once the front door knocker sounded faintly, almost

“I can’t see anyone! I won’t!” The haggard lines deepened about
Storm’s mouth. “In Heaven’s name, can’t they respect my—my grief? I’m
going upstairs. George, you get rid of them. Send them away, whoever
they are!”

But George did not send them away. Listening from above, Storm heard
the front door open and close, heard George’s low rumble, and a reply
in higher but softly modulated feminine tones. Then came a masculine
voice which made him grip the stair rail in sudden fury not unmixed
with consternation.

Richard Brewster! It couldn’t be; the fellow would not dare intrude
his presence here, even though he fancied his secret unshared by any
living soul! But that was unmistakably Julie’s voice raised in almost
tearful pleading, and then Brewster spoke again.

What had brought them here? Why didn’t George get rid of them as he
had been told to do? Could it be that Julie had discovered the truth
of her husband’s unfaithfulness, and with a woman’s hysterical notion
of justice had brought Brewster here to force his confession to the
man he had wronged? It was evident from the sounds that reached his
ears that George was showing them into the library, was taking it upon
himself to disregard Storm’s express commands. Damn them all! Why
couldn’t they let him alone?

A brief colloquy ensued, and then George mounted the stairs.

“Look here!” he began in a sepulchral whisper. “It’s the Brewsters,
Norman, and I think you ought to see them for a minute. There’s
something they want to tell you——”

“I don’t want to hear it!” interrupted Storm fiercely. “Good God, man,
can’t you see I’m in no condition to listen to a lot of vapid
condolences? I told you to send them away!”

“I would have done so, but I think you ought to let them tell you,”
George insisted with the meek, unyielding tenacity which the other man
had always found exasperating. “Julie Brewster is terribly wrought up;
she says that in justice to—to Leila’s memory you must hear what she
has to say.”

In justice to Leila’s memory! Storm gave a sudden, involuntary start.
There could be no ambiguity about that phrase. With a feeling as if
the world were crashing down about his ears, he thrust George
unceremoniously aside and descended the stairs.

They were standing side by side on the hearth rug awaiting him, Julie
in tears but with her face bravely lifted to his, Brewster meeting his
eyes without a tremor.

“It is good of you to see us, Mr. Storm.” Julie was making an obvious
effort to control her emotion. “We wouldn’t have intruded, but I
wanted you to know the truth; I couldn’t bear the thought that the
shadow of even the slightest misunderstanding should rest between you
and—and Leila’s memory now, especially when it was all my fault.”

“‘Your fault’?” Storm repeated. “Sit down, please. I don’t

“We won’t detain you long, old man.” It was Brewster who spoke, but
his words failed to pierce the tumult in the other’s brain. “We felt
it would comfort you as much as anything could to know that almost her
last thought on earth had been for the happiness of others.”

Storm’s eyes had never left the woman’s face, and to their mute
command she responded:

“I’m not going to try your patience with a long story of my own
foolishness, but I did a wicked, selfish thing in dragging poor Leila
into my troubles just to save myself. She was so generous, so
self-sacrificing that she did not murmur at the risk to herself, and I
never realized until she—she was dead that I might have been the cause
of a misunderstanding between you at the very last. It has almost
killed me to think of it, and I simply had to come and tell you the
truth about the whole affair!”

Storm tried to collect his reeling senses, but only one clear thought
came to his rescue. These people must never know, never suspect that
any trouble had arisen between him and Leila.

He steadied his voice with an effort at composure.

“I don’t know what you mean, Mrs. Brewster. If my poor wife was able
to help you out of any difficulty—I am glad, but I know nothing of it.
You speak of a risk——?”

“Yes. I have been very foolish—wilfully, blindly foolish—in the way
I’ve acted for weeks past.” She paused and then hurried on
shamefacedly. “You see, I thought Dick was neglecting me, and to pay
him out I’ve been flirting outrageously with Ted Mattison. Leila tried
to influence me, but I wouldn’t listen to her, and when Dick woke up
to what was going on and ordered me not even to speak to Ted again I—I
resented it and defied him.

“Last Monday I motored out to the Ferndale Inn for lunch alone with
Ted, and some horrid, gossipy people were there who knew how I’d been
trotting about. I didn’t think they had caught a glimpse of Ted then,
but I was sure that if they had recognized me they would put two and
two together and tell Dick, and I was afraid; terribly afraid, for
Dick had threatened to leave me if I disobeyed him.

“As soon as I reached home that afternoon I rushed to Leila, told her
the whole thing and made her promise to say that she had been to the
Inn with me. It never occurred to me that that promise would make her
tell you a lie; I’m afraid I didn’t think about anything except the
trouble I was in and how I could manage to get out of it.”

So that was it! They had come to explain about that paltry lie!
Brewster dared to stand there while his wife made her trivial
confession, while all the time—! A turbulent flame of rage arose in
Storm’s heart, but he quelled it rigorously. Caution, now! Brewster
must not suspect!

“I knew that my wife had not been with you.” Could that be his own
voice speaking with such quiet restraint? “In fact, I had seen her
myself in town at noon, although she did not know it. Please don’t
distress yourself further, Mrs. Brewster; I know what her errand was
in town and why she wished to keep it from me.”

“Oh!” Julie started for a moment and then added miserably: “Leila was
sure that you guessed she had fibbed to you. The very next day—the
last day of her life!—she begged me to absolve her from her promise,
for she said you had seemed so strange and cold to her that morning
she was afraid you suspected, and it was the first time she had ever
told you an untruth!”

“She must have imagined a change in my attitude,” Storm said hastily.
“I was preoccupied and in a hurry to get to town, but that little
white lie never gave me a moment’s uneasiness. I would have chaffed
her about it only I did not want to spoil her surprise.”

“Surprise!” Julie echoed.

“Yes. When I had seen her in town the day before she was just coming
out of Alpheus Jaffray’s office in the Leicester Building.” He felt a
measure of grim satisfaction at Brewster’s uncontrollable start. “She
had been there to arrange to purchase from him the trout stream which
adjoins the property here and which he had refused to sell me; you
know as well as the rest of the crowd what a veritable feud has
existed between the old fellow and me. I learned the truth from my
attorney, whom Leila had consulted previously about the transaction.
My poor wife intended it as a birthday surprise for me. My birthday is

He turned away to hide the rage which was fast getting beyond his
control at the smug, hypocritical presence of that other man, but his
emotion was misread by both his companions.

“To-day! How terrible for you, Storm!” began Brewster, but his wife

“If Leila had only guessed! But that untruth made her positively
wretched! Why, when I telephoned to her late that night and she came
out to meet me——”

“You telephoned to her! She met you——!” The room whirled and grew
black before Storm’s eyes, and the woman’s voice, although clear and
distinct, seemed to come from far away.

“Yes. I’d had a terrible row with Dick when he came home that night,
and I knew he had heard something more about Ted, though I didn’t know
what. I was nearly crazy, Mr. Storm, and when he rushed out of the
house in anger I ’phoned Leila and begged her to meet me and help me;
tell me what to do! She had promised that afternoon to come to me if I
needed her. You had gone to the station with Mr. Holworthy when I
called up, and Leila did meet me, at the edge of the golf course.

“She urged me to tell Dick everything, but I wouldn’t. I might just as
well have done so, though, for those horrid people had seen Ted with
me at the Inn, after all, and they went straight to Dick the next day.
If only I hadn’t persuaded Leila to lie for me! It wasn’t any use, and
it made some of her last hours unhappy. I shall never forgive myself,
never!—Oh, don’t look at me like that, Mr. Storm! I can’t bear it!”

Storm had slowly risen from his chair, one hand clutching the table
edge as though for support, his eye fixed in an unwavering gaze of
horror at the one thing visible in the whirling vortex about him: the
white face of Julie. In his dazed brain a hideous fact was taking
shape and form, and his soul cowered before it.

He essayed to speak, but no sound issued from his dry lips, and
Brewster stepped forward.

“Try not to blame Julie too much, old man,” he begged. “You see, the
poor little girl was desperate. I was as much at fault in the
situation between us as she was; your dead wife showed me that and
brought me to reason. The last act of her life was to save me from
wrecking both mine and Julie’s, and we can never be grateful enough to
her memory. That is why we had to come here to-night to tell you.”

Slowly Storm’s gaze shifted to the other man’s face, and the
inexorable truth of Brewster’s sincerity was forced upon his wretched
consciousness. Still he could find no words, and the other continued:

“When I confronted Julie and she stuck to her story, I came here to
your wife to confirm the truth of what I had heard. She was loyal to
Julie, she tried to make me believe that she had accompanied her to
the Inn, but she was too inherently honest to brave it out, and I
practically tricked her into admitting the truth. I was going to rush
home then in my jealous rage and break with Julie forever, but your
wife restrained me, Storm; she convinced me that Julie hadn’t done
anything really wrong, anything that I could not forgive, and showed
me where I, too, had been at fault in neglecting her for my business,
even though it was for her that I wanted to succeed. She made me see
that we could begin all over again on a firmer basis even than before,
just when I thought everything was ended and the future held nothing
but separation and despair.

“I can’t tell you what it meant to me, that quiet talk with your wife
here in this very room! It was Tuesday night, you know, and death must
have come to her shortly after. I can’t realize it even now, she
seemed so radiant, so splendidly alive! I’ll never forget what she did
for me, and if I thought that—that the excitement of our interview——!
I’m afraid I made rather a scene! If it hurt her, brought on that
stroke, or fainting spell——!”

“No. It was a form of catalepsy, you know.” A totally strange voice
was speaking in a monotonous, dragging undertone. Storm did not
recognize it as his own. Blind instinct alone braced him to a last
effort to dissemble. “No one could predict when it was coming on or
what caused it . . . . No one was to blame.”

The lie died in his throat, and all at once he began to tremble
violently as if the chill of the grave itself were upon him. He caught
at the table again, his whole body shaking, collapsing, and with a
harsh, strangling cry the floodgates were opened at last. Sinking to
his knees, he buried his face in his arms lest the guilt which
consumed him be revealed, and sobbed out his anguish unrestrained. He
did not feel Julie’s arms about him, her tears against his cheek, nor
know when her husband led her gently away. He was face to face with
the warped and blackened thing which was his soul, and with that
vision he descended to the nethermost depths.

Chapter IX

The Escape

When Storm came to himself he was lying on the library couch with the
gray dawn seeping in at the curtained windows and George’s rotund
figure in the hideous striped bathrobe looming up grotesquely from an
improvised bed formed of two arm-chairs.

Storm felt a vague sense of irritation. What was he doing there,
dressed save for his shoes and collar, instead of being in pajamas in
his own bed, and why was George hanging around?

Then the mists of sleep cleared from his brain, and remembrance came.
Leila was innocent, and he had killed her! True to him in every act
and word and thought, yet he had flung a monstrous accusation at her,
and struck her down. His Leila! He saw her again as she lay huddled at
his feet, and could have cried aloud in his anguish.

If he could but take back that blow! If only it were given him to live
over once more the time which had passed since he saw her on that
crowded street and doubt first entered his mind! If he could only
speak to her, tell her——!

Then a measure of sanity returned to him. She was dead. He had killed
her. Nothing could alter that, nothing could bring her back. No
reparation, no expiation would undo his mad act and restore the life
that he had taken. If he himself were to live, to go on, he must put
behind him all thought of the past; crush back this creeping menace of
remorse which threatened to overwhelm him. Regret would avail him
nothing now. He had loved the woman who had shared his life for ten
years, but she was gone and the future was before him, long years in
which, since he could not atone, he must school himself to forget.

At least no one would ever suspect the secret which he carried in his
heart. The worst was over, he had fooled them all! But with the
thought a new terror gripped him by the throat. What had he done, what
had he said when the revelation of Leila’s innocence swept him from
his moorings of self-control? The Brewsters had been there, both of
them, staring at him as though the ghost of Leila herself had risen to
accuse him! George must have been hovering about somewhere, too; must
have taken care of him, helped him to the couch, watched over him
throughout those hours of unconsciousness, _and listened!_ Great God!
Had he betrayed himself?

The light was growing brighter now, bringing out the familiar shapes
of the furniture against the gloom and revealing in startling clarity
the tired lines in the relaxed face of his self-appointed nurse. Storm
sat up and scrutinized it half fearfully. Could George sleep like
that, exhausted though he well might be, if he had gained an inkling
of the truth? It seemed impossible, and yet Storm felt that he must
know the worst. A direct accusation, even, would be better than this
suspense. The first look would tell, the first glance that passed
between them.

Storm coughed, and George’s eyes opened sleepily, wandered vaguely
about and then as they came to bear on the upright figure on the
couch, warmed with a sudden clear light of affectionate compassion.

“Norman, old boy! How do you feel? Can I get you anything?”

Storm sank back with a sigh of relief.

“No. I—a drink of water——” he mumbled and closed his eyes as George
rose and padded off in his flapping slippers down the hall. There
still remained the Brewsters, and his sudden collapse in their
presence was enough of itself to arouse their suspicion aside from the
wild words which might have issued unbidden from his lips. He must
learn what had taken place!

When George returned with the glass Storm drained it and then asked

“Went to pieces, didn’t I?”

“You sure did, but it was coming to you,” George affirmed. “You’re all
right now, though, so just rest and try not to think of anything. Carr
fixed you up in good shape——”

“Oh, Lord!” groaned Storm. “Carr! I didn’t even know he was here! How
did you get rid of the Brewsters?”

“Well, it wasn’t easy!” A faint smile lighted George’s tired face.
“Dick’s got sense enough, but that little scatter-brained wife of his
wanted to stay and take care of you! It was all I could do to persuade
her to go home.”

“And all that while I was making an exhibition of myself before them!”
Storm exclaimed bitterly.

“You were not,” retorted George. “You broke down, of course, just as I
knew you must, sooner or later. I hadn’t been easy in my mind about
you all day, and I didn’t like the look on your face when you went
down to the library to see them, so I stuck around, not eavesdropping,
old boy, but to be at hand in case you needed me. I could hear their
voices, and then you gave a kind of a cry, and I butted in.

“I found Julie fussing over you, and I motioned to her husband to get
her away into the drawing-room. He came back and we put you on the
couch, and that’s all there is to it. I told them to stop in at Carr’s
and send him here.”

“What did I say? I mean,” Storm hastily amended, “I don’t remember
anything. Julie and Dick came to tell me how Leila had brought them
together again when they were on the point of a separation. You
remember when she told us that she had been out to the Ferndale Inn
with Julie? That wasn’t only to keep her visit to old Jaffray’s office
secret, but because she had promised Julie to lie for her. They
thought I might have misunderstood, and that it would comfort me to
know she had made peace between them, but instead it—it broke me up!
The full realization came over me of all that I had lost, and I went
off my head, I guess. Tell me what I said, George.”

“Why, nothing! You just—hang it all, man, you gave way to your
feelings, that’s all! You didn’t say anything,” George replied
uncomfortably. “When the doctor came he gave you a good stiff
hypodermic, and you dropped off to sleep like a baby. You’re bound to
feel rocky, you know, but you’re over the worst of it!”

“Poor old George!” With renewed confidence there came to Storm a
twinge of compunction. “You look as though you needed the doctor
yourself! You must have had a rotten night.”

“Never you mind about me!” returned George gruffly. “Here! Carr said
you were to take this when you woke up and not to talk too much.”

Obediently Storm took the medicine and almost immediately drifted off
into troubled sleep.

It was broad noon when he awakened once more with the fragrant odor of
coffee in the air and George standing before him, dressed for

“Sorry, old boy, but I’ve got to run up to town, you know. You’ll be
all right for a few hours, and I’ll be back before night. Drink your
coffee, take a cold bath and get out on the veranda in the sun.
Nobody’ll bother you; I’ve seen to that.”

Storm tried faintly to protest against George’s return; he didn’t need
any care, he would be better off alone, and the other mustn’t neglect
his business affairs any longer. But George was not to be swerved from
his purpose, and after a few hours of solitude Storm was in a mood to
welcome his return. In his weakened state he did not find it easy to
keep his truant thoughts from straying to the past, and a horror which
he was unable to combat made him shun his own society.

For the next few days, while the flood of condolences still poured in,
he clung to George as to an anchor; but when the last dismal
conventions had been observed and the household had settled down to
something like order, his old feeling of irritation against his friend
returned. George’s eternal pussy-footing about the house as though
death yet lingered there, his lugubrious face and labored attempts at
cheer and consolation became insupportable, and his host breathed a
sigh of relief when he ultimately departed.

Spring advanced, and with returning strength Storm’s nerves steadied;
and, secure in the knowledge that his guilt was buried forever, he
took up the daily round once more.

A week after the funeral, he returned to his sinecure at the offices
of the Mammoth Trust Company. The neighbors, possibly because of
George’s forewarning, had left him considerately alone in the interim,
but now as he stood on the station platform awaiting his customary
train for the city, the ubiquitous Millard advanced beaming.

“By Jove, this is good, old chap! Glad you are getting back into the
harness again; best thing for you!” he exclaimed. “Fine weather we’re
having now, and the course is in wonderful condition; never better!
I’m in topping form, if I do say it myself; and I haven’t missed a

Despite his volubility, there was an odd constraint in his manner, and
Storm eyed him curiously. Could it be a latent suspicion?

“You’ll be going in for the tournament?” he enquired briefly.

“Surest thing you know! Too bad you——” Millard caught himself up. “I
say, though, why don’t you get up early now and then and play a round
or two with me before breakfast? Nobody else out then, it would do you
no end of good. How about to-morrow?”

Storm shook his head, checking the shudder which came involuntarily at
the suggestion.

“Thanks, but I’m not quite up to it. I think I’ll let golf alone for a
while,” he replied, adding hastily as he saw signs of remonstrance in
the other’s face, “I’ve got too much to do, reinvestments to make and
that sort of thing.”

“Of course,” Millard nodded. “You’ll have your hands full, but you
would find that an occasional round would set you up wonderfully.
Nothing like it to straighten you out and take your mind off things.
Just ’phone me if you feel like it any day, old chap, and I’ll join

The appearance of several belated fellow-commuters saved Storm from
the necessity of a reply, and as they came up to greet him he eyed
each in turn furtively.

They were cordial enough, but none alluded directly to his
bereavement, and the same constraint was evident in their bearing that
Millard had manifested. He continued to study them on the train from
behind the shelter of his newspaper. Unmistakable relief had
registered itself on their faces when the train came, and now a few of
them were ostentatiously buried in the market reports; but for the
most part, in groups of two and three, they were discussing their
business affairs, and to the listener their tones seemed unnecessarily
raised. Not one had ventured to take the vacant seat beside him.

Had the Brewsters spread broadcast the story of his emotional outburst
in their presence, and could it have occasioned remark, started vague
rumor and conjecture which might yet lead to the discovery of the
truth? In vain he told himself that he was over-analytical, that these
old friends shrank not from him but from dilating upon his tragic
loss. To his apprehensive imagination their manner held a deeper
significance than that of mere masculine inability to voice their
sympathy, and with gnawing persistency the menacing possibilities
rankled in his brain.

At the office, after the formal condolences of his associates, Storm
slipped mechanically into the old, well-ordered routine; but here,
too, he fancied that he was being eyed askance. He could at least
avoid running the gauntlet of his clubs for a time without occasioning
remark, but the thought of Greenlea itself and all that it held for
him had become obnoxious, hideous! The return to that empty house day
after day; could he endure it without going mad?

He caught the club car in a mood of surly defiance, but he had
scarcely taken his accustomed place when Richard Brewster appeared and
without waiting for an invitation seated himself beside him.

“Awfully glad to see you on the job again.” He spoke heartily, and his
beaming face corroborated his words. “We were worried about you, you
know, the other night; Julie wanted to stay and take care of you, but
Holworthy wouldn’t hear of it. I hope you’ve forgiven us for

Storm eyed him watchfully, but the guileless friendliness of the
younger man was patent, and the other sighed in relief.

“I understand your motive, and I thank you both for coming,” he said
after a moment’s pause. “Sorry I lost control of myself, but I’d been
keeping up for so long——”

“It was only natural,” Brewster interrupted. “You’ll be leaving us, I
suppose, for a time anyway, as soon as you’ve got the estate settled.
We’ll miss you——”

“Leaving?” Storm stared.

“You’ll go away for a—a rest, won’t you? New scenes and all that sort
of thing? It will be hard for you to go on here——” The younger man
broke off and added hastily: “Julie was saying only this morning at
breakfast that if you decided to keep the house open you would need a
housekeeper, and she knows of a splendid woman, an elderly widow in
reduced circumstances——”

Storm halted him with an abrupt gesture of negation.

“I haven’t made any plans yet, Brewster. The maids I’ve got are used
to my ways and capable of running things temporarily, although it will
be necessary to make other arrangements, of course, if I decide to
remain in Greenlea.” The reply was mechanical, for his thoughts were
busied with the new vista which the other’s assumption had opened
before his mental vision. “I am grateful to Mrs. Brewster for her
interest, and if I need the woman of whom she spoke I will let her
know. Just now I am drifting; I haven’t looked ahead.”

Barker met him as usual at the station, and during the short drive
home he glanced about him at the smug, familiar scene with a buoyant
sense of coming escape. To get away! To cut loose now, at once, from
all these prying people, the petty social intercourse, the thousand
and one things which reminded him of Leila and of what he had done!
The revulsion of feeling from the contentment of past years which had
swept over him that day culminated with a sudden rush of hatred for it
all. The house loomed before him a veritable nightmare, and the coming
days had appeared each a separate ordeal from the prospect of which he
shrank with unutterable loathing.

He had felt chained to the old order of things by the fear of arousing
suspicion if he ran away precipitately, but the one man of whose
opinion he had been most apprehensive had himself suggested the way
out as the most natural course in the world.

Storm could have laughed at his uneasiness of the morning; the other
fellows had been merely embarrassed, that was all, reluctant to
mention his tragic bereavement, and trying with awkward constraint to
bridge over the chasm. If they took it for granted, as Brewster did,
that he would seek a temporary change of scene, the main obstacle was
removed from his path. It would be a simple matter to sell the house,
and then the world would be before him.

On the hall table he found a letter from George Holworthy, and tore it
open with an absent-minded smile. He would soon be free even from old

  Dear Norman, (he read):

  Tried to get out to see you to-night, but must meet Abbott. Had a
  talk with Jim Potter yesterday. The firm has ordered him to the
  Coast immediately and he is winding up his affairs here and wants to
  get rid of his apartment. Willing to rent furnished, just as it
  stands, cheap, until his lease is up in October. It is a bully
  little place up on the Drive and the stuff he has there is all a
  fellow would want to keep a bachelor hall. Why don’t you take it off
  his hands and close up the house out there? Jim will take his man
  with him, but you can get another, and New York is the best little
  old summer resort in the world. Take my advice and get out of that
  place for a while anyway. I told Jim I’d write you, but you’ve got
  to speak quick if you want to take him up on it. Think it over.


Storm folded the letter slowly. He knew Potter, knew the comfortable,
even luxurious sort of place his ease-loving soul would have demanded,
yet he had wished to go farther afield. The first thought of escape
had entailed a vague dream of other countries—South America, perhaps,
or the Far East—but now he forced himself sternly back to the
realities of the situation.

Such an adventure would mean money, more ready cash than he could
command at the moment. It would mean waiting until the house was sold,
and burning his bridges as far as the Trust Company was concerned.
Moreover, the few thousands the house would bring would not last long,
and unless he connected with new business wherever he went, he had
nothing to fall back upon but the beggarly three thousand a year which
was left from his share of his father’s estate. He must convert the
capital into cash, and Foulkes had warned him that that would take
time. Could he wait there, within those four walls which had witnessed
what he had done?

He dined in a meditative silence, oblivious of the anxious
ministrations of Agnes. The empty place opposite, the chair in its
new, unaccustomed position against the wall, the silence and shadows
all worked upon his mood. Potter’s quarters in town would at least
bear no reminders to mock and accuse him at every turn, and drag his
treacherous thoughts back to a past which must be buried. He would be
free, too, from Brewster and Millard and the rest of them; but on the
other hand George would be constantly thrusting his society upon him.

Undecided, he wandered out to the veranda, but the vines which Leila
had tended peered at him over the rail and whispered together; in the
library her books, her desk, the foolish, impractical reading lamp she
had bought for him all mutely recalled her vanished presence. There
remained only the drawing-room, where her body had lain, the den—!

With a shudder he turned and mounted the stairs. The blank, closed
door of her room stared at him, and within his own were evidences on
every hand of feminine thoughtfulness and care. Her influence vibrated
like a living thing, all about him, clutching him by the throat,
smothering him! Anything, anywhere would be preferable to this!

It was only half-past nine. He could not go to the country club, he
shrank from the society of any of his neighbors; he could neither
sleep, nor read, nor find a corner which did not cry aloud of Leila!
There would be other nights like this, weeks of them . . . .

In swift rebellion he descended to the library and seized the

. . . . “Mr. Holworthy, please . . . . That you, George? . . . . Yes,
Norman. I’ve got your letter and you’re right. I can’t stand it out
here. I’ll take Potter’s rooms at his own price, and I want possession
by Monday . . . . All right, fix it, will you? . . . . No, but it’s
got on my nerves; I can’t go on. I—it’s hell!”

Chapter X

A Chance Meeting

“Told you you’d like it here.” George Holworthy crossed one pudgy knee
over the other and eyed his friend’s back at the window with immense
satisfaction, “Old Jim certainly knows how to live, doesn’t he, from
percolators to night-lights? You’ll be mighty comfortable here,

Storm turned slowly from his contemplation of the shadowed park below,
the broad sweep of the river and twinkle of the Palisades beyond.

“It’s great!” he declared briefly but with a ringing, buoyant note
which had long been absent from his tones. “I tell you George, old
boy, I feel like a new man already! I never knew until now how
stagnant a backwater like Greenlea can make a fellow become! Same
old trains, same old country-club, same old crowd of petty-minded
busybodies! Lord, I don’t see how I stood it all these years!”

The outburst was spontaneous, and not until he saw the look of
reproachful amazement which crossed George’s face did he realize that
he had lowered his guard.

“You were happy,” ventured George.

“Of course,” Storm hastened to acquiesce. “That made all the
difference. But alone——”

He shrugged and turned away lest the other read too clearly the change
which had come with his escape from the scene of his crime.
Significant of that change was the fact that he could think of his
deed as a crime now without shrinking. After the first shock of horror
and remorse had passed together with the fear of detection, a sense of
triumph began to dominate him, a sort of pride in himself and his
achievement. He had hoodwinked them all! He, who had fancied himself a
weakling merely because luck had been against him in the past, had
proved his strength, his invincibility now. Old George, sitting there
so placidly, blinking at him with those good-natured, near-sighted
eyes of his: how little he suspected, how little he could ever suspect
of the truth! The rest of them, with their smug condolences and pity!

Gad, how easy it had been!

“What do you think of Homachi?” George’s question broke in upon his

“The Jap you got for me? He’s an improvement on Agnes, I can tell
you!” Storm opened the bronze humidor and offered it. “Smoke?—You’ve
no idea how that girl’s sniffling got on my nerves! Of course I
appreciated her feelings, but hang it all, a man can’t buck up and
carry on with other people constantly thrusting his own sorrow at him!
Homachi is a cheerful, grinning little cuss, and he certainly can make
an omelette. Come up and have breakfast some Sunday morning and you’ll

“Thanks.” George spoke a trifle drily. “Glad you like him. Have you
made any plans yet about the disposition of the Greenlea house?”

The constraint in his tone warned Storm that for the second time he
had shown his hand too plainly, and he forced a look of pained

“Disposition of the house?” he echoed. “Heavens, no! It’s closed up,
of course, and I’ve left MacWhirter there as caretaker. It was one of
Leila’s last wishes, you know, to give him employment when he came out
of the Base Hospital. I hadn’t dreamed of disposing of it; I couldn’t
bear to think of strangers in her garden, under her roof, in the home
she loved! If I’m glad to be out of it, it’s not that I am callous,
but that everything about it affects me too much, George. You ought to
be able to understand. If I hug my grief I’ll just simply go under,
and Leila herself wouldn’t want that.”

“I do understand, old man.” George’s voice trembled now with quick
sympathy, and Storm hid a smile of relief. “You’re trying to be brave
for her sake, and it is fine of you! Stay away from the place by all
means while it makes you feel that way. You could do worse than take a
lease here for yourself next year when Jim’s expires.”

Storm shook his head.

“I’ve been thinking that I’d like to take a trip somewhere, later on,”
he said slowly, watching the other’s face through narrowed lids. “A
long trip; China or South America or way up North. I could come back
and start all over again——”

“But your position with the Trust Company?” George sputtered. “They
couldn’t put a man in your place and then oust him for you when you
came back.”

“I wouldn’t expect them to,” Storm responded. “To tell you the truth,
I feel that I’ve been stagnating there, too. It’s a sinecure and I’ve
been content to drift along sure of the income and not taking chances,
but I’m responsible for no one else now and I can afford a risk.”

George rose.

“Don’t do anything rash,” he advised. “Fifteen thousand a year is a
mighty safe little bet in these uncertain times, and you’ve never
known what it is to get out for yourself, you know. You’ve got the
habit of luxury——”

“And no business head? Thanks,” drawled his host pleasantly. “I’m not
going to make a fool of myself and kill the goose until I find golden
eggs elsewhere. That notion of a trip was just an impulse. I may get
over this restless fit and settle down here permanently, after all. I
like these rooms of Jim’s, and town looks good to me.”

Nevertheless, the next day found him in Wendle Foulkes’ office facing
the keen old attorney with an air of quiet command which brooked no

“How long will it take you to convert my securities into cash?” he
demanded. “When we talked about it a fortnight ago I listened to you
because of my wife, but now I’ve only myself to consider, and I have a
right to take a risk with my own if I feel inclined.”

“Of course you have, my boy,” Foulkes returned slowly. “I have gone
beyond my province, perhaps, in trying to influence you, but I
promised your father—however, I’ve nothing more to say. I will have
the cash for you in ten days. You have exactly fifty thousand dollars,
on which you’ve been getting six per cent; I hope you’ll be able to
better it.”

“Thanks.” Storm was conscious of an air of defeat in the old man’s
manner and he resented it vaguely, then shrugged. What did it matter,
anyway? He would be free from this pettifogging nuisance soon enough.
“About the other matter——?”

“You mean Leila’s estate?” Foulkes’ tone softened. “I have the papers
all here for you to look over. We must advertise for claims for six
months, of course—a mere formality in this case—and then what she left
can be turned over to you. She had just fourteen thousand when she
married you and spent eleven of it. Here are the accounts. It was a
matter of pride with her to buy your Christmas and birthday presents
with her own money, Norman, and I couldn’t gainsay her. Two thousand
went for that black pearl scarf-pin, three thousand——”

“Don’t!” Storm cried sharply. “I don’t want to hear all that! Send the
papers up to my rooms. Can’t you see——?”

He stopped with a gesture of repugnance, and the attorney, ignorant of
the source of the other’s emotion, nodded compassionately.

“I know, my boy, but I want you to see how matters stand. There are
three thousand left, of the principal, which were to have been paid to
Jaffray for that land adjoining yours, and accrued interest on the
constantly depleted original capital which aggregates almost as much
again. Her estate, roughly speaking, will amount to between five and
six thousand dollars; I’ll send you the exact figures.”

“I don’t care about them! I’m not thinking of what she left; it isn’t
that.” Storm rose, unable to meet the kindly gaze of the older man. “I
only want to get the whole thing settled and done with. I can’t bear
to discuss it; these details are horrible, impossible for me to
contemplate sanely just yet!”

“I quite understand, Norman, but they must be attended to, you know.”
Foulkes rose and held out his hand. “I’ll render you an accounting in
six months, and then it will be over.—About your own affairs. You have
never taken the advice I volunteered with very good grace, and I shall
not offer any now. I am getting old, and you are no longer a boy; you
know your own mind. However, if in the future you feel the need of
disinterested counsel or help you know where to come for it.”

“Thank you, sir.” Storm felt an odd sense of contrition. “I’m not
going into that South American scheme. I shall look around before
deciding definitely on what I have in mind, and I’m sorry if I have
seemed to resent your interest in the past. A man can’t be in
leading-strings all his life, you know, and I have a good,
conservative proposition now.”

He had. Storm chuckled grimly to himself as he departed. Fifty
thousand would carry him far away, give him a year or two of utterly
care-free existence, and leave a respectable sum to start in some
fresh venture. The European countries were practically bankrupt; a
little cash would bring monumental return and in some continental
capital he could start a new life. Just as the thought of escape from
Greenlea had made his surroundings there suddenly intolerable, so now
the contemplation of utter freedom and a wider vista brought with it
an impatience, a longing for instant action. The lease on Potter’s
rooms, the trumpery five thousand from Leila’s estate—these details
need not deter or delay him!

Another thought did, however. It was one thing, and a perfectly
natural one, under the circumstances, for him to have closed the house
and moved in town; it would be quite another question were he to throw
up a fifteen-thousand-a-year job, seize all the cash he could lay his
hands upon and rush out of the country. No man in his sane senses
would take such a step unless some more urgent and sinister motive
actuated him than a mere desire for forgetfulness of grief in strange
scenes and a new environment.

Forcing himself to regard it from a detached point of view, he saw the
madness of that course. His imagination conjured up the blank
amazement which would ensue not only among the Greenlea people, but in
his town clubs, in the Trust Company. There would be hints that grief
had unsettled his reason, then darker whispers still; whispers which
would grow in volume until the echo of them reached him wherever he
might be, at the uttermost ends of the earth.

He must not spoil all now by a precipitate move; he must possess his
soul in patience until a favorable opportunity presented itself. He
had inserted an opening wedge in mentioning his tentative intention to
George; in a few weeks he would refer to it again, speaking of it
casually but frequently, as a trip with definitely planned
limitations, and hinting at a sound business proposition which awaited
his return. The idea must filter through the clubs and out to
Greenlea, must have become an old story before he finally acted upon
it, so that his going would occasion no remark.

Once away, it would be simple enough to cable his instructions
regarding the sale of the house and postpone his return from time to
time until the old crowd had practically forgotten him. George would
remember, but old George wouldn’t suspect the truth if he vanished

With the onus of fear lifted from him, Storm still shrank from
solitude. Decency and convention precluded an immediate return to his
clubs, and he desired above all things to avoid the society of those
who knew him and the details of the recent tragedy. He took to
satisfying his gregarious need by seeking out-of-the-way hotels and
restaurants frequented for the most part by the visiting foreigners
who thronged the city, where, sitting long over his coffee, he could
lose himself in the study of his neighbors.

On an evening a few days after his interview with Foulkes he was
seated at a table in an old-fashioned French hostelry far downtown,
listening to the snatches of staccato conversation which rose above
the subdued cadences of the orchestra and watching the scene brilliant
with the uniforms of half a dozen nations, when to his annoyance he
heard his name uttered in accents of cheery surprise.

Turning swiftly he beheld Millard, flushed and evidently slightly
exhilarated, rising from the corner table where he had been seated
with a sallow-faced, distinguished looking stranger in mufti.

He bowed coldly and returned with ostentatious deliberation to his
entrèe, hoping to discourage the other’s advance; but Millard was in
no mood to comprehend a rebuff.

“By Jove, old chap, delighted to find you here!” He shook Storm’s
reluctant hand and without invitation pulled out the opposite chair
and seated himself. “That’s the boy! Get around a bit and work up an
interest in life. No use moping. We miss you out home, but as I told
Dick Brewster, change is the thing for you, change——”

“What are you doing here?” Storm interrupted him brusquely. “Thought
you were wedded to the three-forty; it’s been a bully afternoon for

“Business!” Millard waved a pompous hand toward the table he had just
quitted. “Golf’s not in it with high finance, and this is the greatest
proposition you ever heard of! Hundred per cent profit in three months
and safe as a church; good deal safer than the churches on the other
side have been!”

He grinned expansively at his own witticism, then his face clouded

“Can’t go into it, though; wife won’t hear of it, and you know what it
is, Storm, when a woman holds the purse strings. You know how I’m

Storm nodded. Everyone in Greenlea knew that Millard had married a
rich woman and suffered the pangs of hope deferred ever since. Then he
glanced up and frowned.

“Your friend is coming over,” he remarked in bored impatience. “When
you gestured toward him he must have taken it for an invitation.”

“’S all right!” Millard responded easily. “Wonderful chap, Du Chainat.
Wonderful proposition—Look here! You spoke of making some
reinvestments; here’s chance of a lifetime! Never heard of anything
like it! Gilt-edged—”

The stranger halted by the table and Millard made as if to rise and
then thought better of it.

“Storm, let me present Monsieur Maurice du Chainat. My old pal and
neighbor, Mr. Norman Storm.”

The Frenchman bowed with courtly suavity, and Storm could do no less
than proffer him a chair at the table and beckon to a waiter.

“Mentioned your little proposition, old chap,” the irrepressible
Millard continued, adding airily as a shade of protestation passed
over Monsieur du Chainat’s mobile countenance: “Oh I know it’s
confidential, but Storm’s all right. He wants to make some
reinvestments, and now’s his golden opportunity!”

“Mr. Millard has told me nothing of the nature of your proposition,
Monsieur,” Storm hastened to reassure the Frenchman. “He merely
mentioned it in passing.”

For a long minute, Monsieur du Chainat regarded him in courteous but
unmistakable appraisal. Then a genial smile lifted the ends of his
small black mustache.

“It is a confidential matter, as Monsieur Millard says, but there is
nothing—how do you say?—equivocal concerning it. We of France do not
make our transactions ordinarily as you do in America; we discuss, we
deliberate, we wait. And yet in this affair which I have undertaken
haste is, alas, of the utmost need. Time is of value; such value that
I will pay twice over for three hundred thousand francs.”

“You see, it’s a factory in one of the devastated towns,” Millard
interjected eagerly. “Old feud, trying to get ahead of the other
fellow. It means sixty thousand in our money, and the French
government’s giving him a grant of a hundred and twenty thousand in
three months, but it means ruin to wait. Other man’s got his capital

“But, my friend, Monsieur Storm is perhaps not interested; we bore
him,” Monsieur du Chainat interrupted. “The letter which our consul
here has given me to your great banker, Monsieur Whitmarsh, has
interested him to such an extent that the affair is all but closed.”

“Whitmarsh?” Storm pricked up his ears. The proposition must be good
if that most astute of international financiers considered it.

“But, yes.” The Frenchman shrugged deprecatingly. “It is, of course, a
trifling matter to engage his attention, but I am to have a second
interview with him to-morrow at three. I shall be happy to conclude my
mission, for there is attached to it the sentiment as well as what you
call business.”

A second interview! Whitmarsh wasted no time, and this must mean a
deal. Sixty thousand dollars, and doubled in three months! Storm
leaned impulsively across the table.

“What is your proposition, Monsieur, if I may ask? It sounds a
trifle—er, unusual.”

“It is.” The Frenchman smiled again. “You will understand, Monsieur
Storm, that in France it is not the custom to develop a manufacturing
concern until it grows too big for us and then sell out to a
corporation. With us business descends from generation to generation,
it becomes at once the idol and life of the family.

“My father-in-law, Henri Peronneau of Lille, has a soap factory
established by his grandfather. Twenty years ago, a dishonest chemist
in his employ stole the formula which rendered the Peronneau soap
famous and set up a rival factory. Both, of course, were dismantled
during the German occupation.

“Monsieur Peronneau has been granted a loan of six hundred thousand
francs from the government, but it cannot be obtained for three months
yet; meanwhile our rival has acquired more than that sum from an
English house, and if his factory is the first in operation it will
steal all our old trade, and Monsieur Peronneau, who is already
ruined, will have no opportunity to recoup. He is in frail health from
the slavery of the invasion, and his heart will be broken. Three
hundred thousand francs now will enable him to compete with his rival,
for his factory is in far better condition, and for that he is willing
to pay the entire sum which the government will lend him.

“I admit that I have tried to obtain the amount at a sacrifice less
great, but there is no time for lengthy investigation, and I have
found that people even in your generous America are afraid to trust my
credentials and the sponsorship of our consul. Only a man of Monsieur
Whitmarsh’s experience and caliber could comprehend that the affair is
bona fide, that he takes no risk. _Voyez_, here is the personal letter
which I have received from him.”

Storm glanced over the single sheet of terse, typed sentences ending
in the well-known, crabbed signature, and returned it to the

“I congratulate you, Monsieur. I know Whitmarsh’s methods and this
looks as if he intended to take you up on it.”

Monsieur du Chainat flushed with pleasure.

“It is of great happiness to me,” he said simply. “Almost I have
despaired of my mission. At the Hotel Belterre, where I am staying,
there are so many of my compatriots here also to try to borrow that
they may rehabilitate themselves, and with so little success that I,
too, feared failure. But Monsieur Whitmarsh is shrewd; he knows—what
you say?—‘a good thing,’ and he makes no mistakes.”

The conversation drifted into desultory topics and after a half hour
Monsieur du Chainat took his leave, dragging the reluctant Millard
with him. As for Storm, he sat long over his cooling coffee, and until
far into the night he pondered the possibilities which this chance
meeting opened before him. The difference between sixty thousand
dollars and a hundred and twenty meant the difference between
luxurious living and the petty economies which would try his soul;
between independence for years of travel and care-free pleasure, and
the necessity of knuckling down after a brief respite to uncongenial
money-grubbing. It must be all right if Whitmarsh were going into it,
and his letter left no room for doubt on that score.

If he, Storm, had only met the Frenchman first!

In the morning he tried to concentrate on the affairs of the Trust
Company, but it was of no avail. The glittering opportunity aroused
all his gambling instinct and seemed all the more alluring in that it
was out of his reach. But was it? Perhaps Whitmarsh would fail, for
some reason, to accept the proposition; not from lack of faith in its
genuineness, for he must have looked into it with his usual caution
before going so far in the negotiations; but he had been known to turn
down deals of much greater magnitude at the last moment through sheer

If Du Chainat could offer bona fide securities and he himself could
obtain a mortgage of ten thousand on the Greenlea house, he could add
that to his capital and take the plunge.

At noon, Storm telephoned to the Belterre and asked for Monsieur du

“This is Storm talking, Millard’s friend,” he answered. “I called up,
Monsieur, to tell you that if by any chance the Whitmarsh deal falls
through, I might consider your proposition myself . . . Yes, call me
up at my rooms, 0519 Riverside, at six. Good-bye.”

He hung up the receiver slowly. Suppose, after all, the man should be
an impostor? He would be risking all he had in the world in the event
that Whitmarsh did not take the proposition; all that stood between
him and the accursed treadmill of existence here within reach of the
memories which thrust out their tentacles to crush him. If that Lille
soap factory were a myth——!

He reached for the receiver once more and called the French consulate.
Yes, Monsieur Henri Peronneau, of Lille, was well known to them. His
son-in-law, Monsieur Maurice du Chainat, was now in this country
negotiating a loan to reconstruct the Peronneau factory. If Mr. Storm
were interested, a meeting could be arranged . . . .

Storm turned away from the booth with sparkling eyes. If Whitmarsh
refused the loan he would take a chance! Luck must be with him still;
that marvelous luck which had enabled him to elude the consequences of
his crime was yet running strong, At six o’clock he would know!

Chapter XI


Promptly at six that evening the telephone in Storm’s apartment
shrilled, and it had scarcely ceased vibrating when he sprang to it
and caught up the receiver.

He uttered a quick monosyllabic assent to some evident query, listened
intently for a minute and then threw back his head in a smile of
elation. The next instant he was speaking calmly, quietly.

“Too small a proposition for him to tackle, eh?” he observed. “Well,
I’m not a magnate, Monsieur du Chainat, but I would like to talk
it over with you. How about dining with me in an hour at the
Rochefoucauld where we met last night? . . . . Bring along
your papers, and we can come back here later and go into the
details . . . . Very good, at seven.”

His luck was holding! Old Whitmarsh had turned the loan down as too
petty a transaction to interest him. The chance was his now, make or
break! But pshaw! he couldn’t lose; not if Du Chainat’s securities
were all right. Past failures had made him skeptical, but now fortune
had changed. A hundred and twenty thousand!

He whistled exultantly as he changed from one somber suit of mourning
to another, and only paused when a casual glance in the mirror brought
home to him with a shock the incongruity between his expression and
his attire. He threw back his shoulders defiantly.

“The past is dead!” he muttered. “Three months, and I shall be free to

Monsieur du Chainat met him in the hotel lobby and greeted him with
undiminished enthusiasm.

“I am delighted, Monsieur, that you find yourself interested,” he
remarked, after their order had been given. “Since I telephoned to you
an hour ago I have received yet another offer to take up the loan,
this from an associate of Monsieur Whitmarsh, whom he must have
consulted; a Monsieur Nicholas Langhorne. You perhaps have heard of

Storm nodded.

“I know him,” he said briefly, forbearing to add that the gentleman in
question was the president of the Trust Company which he ornamented
with his presence. To get ahead of old Langhorne! That would be
gratification enough were the profits cut to a minimum.

“I have replied to him that the affair is already under
consideration”—Monsieur du Chainat poised a fragment of hors d’oeuvre
gracefully upon his fork,—“but should you not, after examining the
documents I have brought, desire to close, Monsieur, I will see him

“‘To-morrow!’” Storm echoed in dismay. “I should like a little longer
time than that in which to decide. It may take me some days to convert
my capital into cash, and there are other contingencies——”

“But Monsieur forgets that to me time is of paramount importance.” The
Frenchman’s face had clouded. “It is for that we pay one hundred per
cent interest in three months! When I have acquired the loan I do not
even wait for the ship which takes me back; I cable to my _beau-père_
the money, that the work may start without an hour’s delay. You
comprehend, Monsieur, how urgent is our need by the extent of our
sacrifice. I shall have an inheritance from my uncle soon, and I shall
aid Père Peronneau in paying off the government loan for which he is
responsible when he repays it with the debt we incur here. There is
the sentiment as well as the business, as I told you last night,
Monsieur. If you could but see the _beau-père_——”

He drew a simple but graphic word picture of the old manufacturer, but
his listener was distrait. Could he get the fifty thousand from
Foulkes at such short order, to say nothing of arranging the mortgage
on the Greenlea house? Monsieur du Chainat’s haste seemed plausible
enough, and then there was Langhorne only too ready to snap up the

By heavens, if the Frenchman’s security looked good to him, he would
raise the money, come what might!

And the security did look more than good when later they repaired to
his rooms, and Monsieur du Chainat produced his sheaf of multitudinous
documents. There were the unassailable correspondence on the letter
heads of the consulate, Henri Peronneau’s authorization of his
son-in-law, Maurice Pierre du Chainat as his agent, duly signed and
attested to by the notary of Lille, a deed formally making over to the
lender of three hundred thousand francs—the space for whose name was
left significantly blank—the government loan of six hundred thousand
in its entirety, and lastly a formidable-appearing document of the
French government itself announcing the grant of the loan.

“For further evidence of our good faith,”—Monsieur du Chainat drew a
second packet of papers from his pocket,—“I have here a deed to the
factory itself which can be held as security. As you can see from this
photograph, Monsieur, the factory is a mere shell now, but a stout and
solid shell, and the land upon which it stands is worth more than the
sum we require. Our government has not asked this security of us but
accepted instead some undeveloped coal properties to the south. Here
are the documents attesting to that and also those which prove the
factory to be the property of Monsieur Peronneau, free of lien or

They talked until far into the night, and when the Frenchman at length
took his departure he bore with him Storm’s agreement to advance the

The morning brought no breath of misgiving, save anxiety lest he
should fail in his efforts to secure the cash in the space of
twenty-four hours specified by Du Chainat. The Trust Company would
assume the mortgage on the Greenlea house, he knew, and waive
technicalities to give him the ten thousand at once, but there
remained Foulkes to be managed, and if the old rascal knew that haste
was imperative to the transaction he would balk it in sheer

On one point Storm was determined; he would not take Foulkes into his
confidence, nor anyone.

He had a stormy session with the old attorney, adjourned at noon only
to be renewed with more wordy violence an hour later; but in the end
Storm emerged triumphant, with a certified check for fifty thousand
dollars and Foulkes’ dismal prophecies ringing in his ears. The
mortgage on the house was, as he had anticipated, a simple matter to
arrange, and on the following morning he handed to Monsieur du Chainat
the sixty thousand dollars which were to return to him twofold.

The momentous transaction concluded, he repaired to his desk at the
Trust Company, gloating over the unconscious bald head of Nicholas
Langhorne. He had put one over on him, beaten that conservative
financier by a matter of hours! Du Chainat had shown him Langhorne’s
letter, and he read between the lines the latter’s eagerness to grasp
the coveted opportunity which he had himself placed within Storm’s
reach by taking up the mortgage. How he would writhe if he knew who
had forestalled him, just as he and the rest would writhe if they
realized the enormity of that other affair which he had put over on
all the world!

They would never learn the truth about Leila’s death; that was buried
forever. But he would give much to tell Langhorne how he had outwitted
him, and watch the old fox’s face! Perhaps he would tell him some day,
the day on which his six hundred thousand francs came and he resigned
from the Trust Company!

George Holworthy found him a strange companion for the rest of the
week. The faithful friend could not understand his moods, for Storm,
never easily comprehended by the other’s slow-moving brain, seemed all
at once to develop a complexity which utterly baffled him.

Storm himself found it difficult to preserve a calm and resigned
demeanor to mask his thoughts which seethed with plans for the future.
When haunting memories came unbidden, he thrust them fiercely aside,
smothered them beneath the exultation of having escaped the lax hands
of justice.

“Upon my soul, Norman, I don’t know what to make of you!” George
complained one evening as they strolled up the Drive. “If you were a
woman, I’d swear you were hysterical!”

Storm halted, glad of the semi-obscurity of the trees which tempered
the searching street lights.

“You’re crazy!” he retorted.

“No, I’m not,” insisted George in serious refutation. “You’re down in
the dumps one minute and all excited the next. You haven’t been
speculating again?”

“Good Lord, no!” Storm breathed more freely. He must be careful! If
old George thought his manner odd, how would it impress others? “I’m
through with all that sort of thing.”

“Well, I didn’t know,” the other said lamely. “There’s a streak
of recklessness in you, and when you get in one of those
don’t-give-a-hang moods of yours you are apt to pull off some fool

“My dear George!” Storm’s tone was pained. “I’ve been through enough,
God knows, in the last few weeks to sober me down——”

“But it hasn’t!” George persevered. “You seem hardened, defiant, just
in the frame of mind to do something desperate! I tell you I’ve been
worried about you these days.”

Storm shrugged ironically.

“Sorry I can’t set your mind at rest,” he replied. “I don’t seem to be
taking what’s come to me according to your notions. First, you are
disappointed because I don’t rant around and tear my hair, and now you
accuse me of hysteria!”

“That’s it; that’s what I don’t like!” exclaimed George, “That
callousness; it isn’t natural, it isn’t you! You’re putting it on
because your trouble has made you defiant, bitter. I know you, Norman,
you can’t fool me; I’m only trying to help you, to keep you from doing
anything you will have cause to regret.”

“Don’t you worry,” Storm reassured him, the while his face twitched
with mirth. George knew him, did he? He couldn’t fool him? He checked
an impulse to laugh aloud and added quietly: “I’m not in such a
desperate mood as you imagine, old man; I can’t seem to settle down to
the new order of things just yet, that’s the trouble, but I’ve no
intention of going to the dogs, financially or any other way. I’ll get
a grip on myself soon.”

But as the days passed Storm did not find it so easy to control
himself. He had gained complete ascendancy over the faint twinges of
conscience which assailed him now with less and less frequency, but
with the assurance of absolute safety came a dangerous, almost insane
tendency to test that safety. Although he had no desire to revisit the
scene of Leila’s death, and shrank from any reference to her, the
subject of crime in general began to exert an inordinate fascination
for him, and with it his pride in his own achievement increased.

He eagerly awaited the news of Du Chainat’s arrival in France, and his
occasional glimpses of President Langhorne filled him with renewed
complacency. He would most assuredly tell him about getting in ahead
on that little deal one of these days!

The temptation became overwhelming one morning after a brief interview
with his august superior during which the latter had called him to
account, courteously but firmly, for a trifling dereliction. The sting
rankled, and at the door he turned, the impulse to retaliate mastering

“Oh, Mr. Langhorne, you’ve heard of a man named Du Chainat, I

The president looked up in surprise at his subordinate’s presumption.

“Du Chainat? Can’t say I have,” he responded shortly.

Storm smiled and raised his eyebrows in polite incredulity.

“The agent in that little deal Whitmarsh was considering only last
week; a loan for the reconstruction of a French factory——”

“I am not in Mr. Whitmarsh’s confidence, Mr. Storm.” President
Langhorne darted a keen glance at the other and added: “May I ask why
you assume that I know anything of this particular affair?”

“I understood that you were interested in it.” Storm paused
expectantly, but the president shook his head.

“Never heard of it,” he asseverated. “You’ve been misinformed, Mr.
Storm. The man you mention is absolutely unknown to me.”

He turned pointedly to his desk and Storm withdrew, still smiling
covertly. The old fox wouldn’t admit that he had tried to get in on
the game, of course, now that someone else had beaten him to it. Wait
until he learned who that someone was! The joke was so good that it
would keep a little longer, especially since Storm had given him
something to puzzle over. He would have been a fool to give it away
now; old Langhorne could make it infernally unpleasant for him around
the office if he chose.

The three months stretched interminably before him, and George with
dog-like fidelity seemed determined to stick close and make it as
irksome as he could. God, if only he were free from them all!

Storm had left his own car locked in the garage at Greenlea, but on an
impulse he hired another when his work was finished for the afternoon
and had himself driven out to a shore resort for dinner. The season
had not yet opened, and the place was semi-deserted, yet the isolation
fitted in with his mood. George would in all probability put in an
appearance at the apartment that evening, and to avoid him Storm
lingered deliberately over his meal and ordered the chauffeur to take
the longest way home.

He would not admit even to himself that the sudden aversion to the
companionship of the man he had for so long regarded with amused,
half-condescending tolerance had sprung from the fact that George
unconsciously brought to his mind the aspects of his crime which he
was most determined to put behind him. George was a constant reminder
of the years which must be forgotten; his grief at the loss of the
woman who had given him a valued friendship was a constant reproach.

How easy it had been to blind him to the truth! How easy it had been
to blind everybody! Why, a man with sufficient intelligence could pull
off almost anything in this world and get away with it if he had only
enough nerve and self-control!

Storm was still smiling at the thought as he entered his apartment
house long after ten o’clock and found George sitting patiently in the
hall, his near-sighted eyes glued to a newspaper.

“I waited for you,” the latter explained, happily oblivious to the
coolness of the reception. “Knew you wouldn’t be late, and I wanted a
little talk with you.”

“Come on in,” Storm invited wearily, opening the door and switching on
the lights. “I ran out of town for a breath of clean air.—The cigars
are in the humidor; help yourself.”

George settled himself comfortably in a huge leather chair and smoked
in silence for a space, while Storm moved restlessly about the room.

“I came,” remarked the visitor at length, “to ask you what you know
about Millard’s nephew. He applied to us for a job, and the only thing
open is a rather responsible position.”

“Don’t know anything about him,” snapped his host. “He held some sort
of minor clerical position in Washington during the war. Weak chest
and the only-son-of-his-mother stuff kept him from active service.
He’s a likable enough chap, plays good golf——”

George shook his head.

“Hardly material to the point,” he observed. “I want to know whether
he’s dependable or not; conscientious and steady, not given up to
these quick-rich ideas that get so many young fellows. I tell you we
can’t be too careful nowadays——”

Storm laughed shortly.

“My dear George, I wouldn’t give you an opinion on any man’s honesty.
Given the incentive and the opportunity, how do we know where anyone
gets off?”

“Oh, come, Norman!” George’s tone was scandalized. “That’s a pretty
broad assertion. We’re not all potential criminals!”

“No?” Storm paused to light a cigar. “Well, if we’re not you must
admit that the opportunities lie around thick enough. The wonder of it
is that there isn’t more crookedness going on!”

“The example of what happens to the fellow who has tried it is a
deterrent, I imagine,” George observed sententiously. “When he’s

“And when _is_ he caught except through his own negligence and loss of
nerve?” demanded Storm, the train of thought which had occupied his
mind an hour before recurring to him. “Certainly it isn’t through the
extraordinary ability of society at large to track him down. A man
gives himself away; he is safe until he makes a mistake.”

“Then every crook in the world must be a bungler, for they’re all
caught, sooner or later,” George retorted. “The cleverest ones
over-reach themselves in time.—Take this fellow Jan Martens, or
whatever his real name is. To be sure, he hasn’t been caught yet, but
his game is up; he tried it once too often.”

“Martens?” Storm repeated absently, his mind fixed upon his own

“Haven’t you looked at the evening papers?” asked George. “He’s been
working an old con. game with a new twist and getting the suckers for
anything from five to fifty thousand. Worked Boston and Philadelphia
before he came here and got away with a tremendous haul. They only got
the goods on him to-day, but he had skipped. It was a clever stunt,
too; he played upon a combination of sympathy and cupidity in his
victims that only failed when he tackled a wise one. His line was
getting loans on forged securities for rebuilding demolished property
in France and Belgium——”


Storm was not conscious that he had spoken, that he had turned and was
staring at his visitor with wild eyes. He only knew that George’s
solid, compact figure was wavering oddly, and his voice seemed to come
from far away.

“He rather upsets your theory, Norman,” George continued complacently,
ignorant of the effect of his disclosure. “He wasn’t giving himself
away, by a long shot, and his paraphernalia was certainly elaborate
and imposing enough in all conscience! In Boston he posed as Jan
Martens, a Belgian looking for a loan to rebuild the family chateau
and giving forged Congo properties as security. It worked so well that
when he came here he tried to improve on it, and over-reached himself,
as I contended a few minutes ago.

“A lot of foreigners are over here now trying to negotiate perfectly
legitimate loans on the same order, but with bona fide securities to
offer, and he fell in with one of them who was vouched for at the
French consulate here, a citizen of Lille named Du Chainat.”

Storm drew a long breath.

“But this—Du Chainat is all right, you say?” he stammered. “His
proposition was legitimate?”

“Absolutely. He must have taken this Martens into his confidence,
shown him his papers and left them where the crook could get at them,
for Martens forged a duplicate set,—they found the stacks of
counterfeit government deeds and grants, both Belgian and French, in
his room to-day together with official letter-heads from the
consulates,—and then when Du Chainat returned to France he
impersonated him. Du Chainat had put through his loan all right with

“When——” Storm moistened his dry lips. “When did this Du Chainat leave

“Three weeks ago, according to the paper. The impostor was only
exposed through a woman, too, a rich widow whom he approached
yesterday with his proposition; but he didn’t take into consideration
the fact that she had lived abroad. As it happened, she knew the Du
Chainat family in Lille, but by the time she made up her mind to risk
notoriety and inform the police of the attempted swindle the bird had

He paused, but Storm had heard only the first three words of his
utterance. “Three weeks ago”! And only a week had passed since he
handed to the bogus Du Chainat every cent he had in the world! It
couldn’t be true! There must be some hideous mistake!

“Here, it’s all in the paper. I was reading about it while I waited
for you. Want to see it?”

George picked up the newspaper from the table where he had dropped it
on entering, and Storm seized it, hoping blindly, doggedly against all
hope. His luck could not have deserted him! Fate would not play him
such a ghastly trick now!

But the headlines stared at him in uncompromising type, and the
article itself left no room for doubt. He had been despoiled of his
only means of freedom! Penniless, he was chained forever to the
environs of the past, to the friends who had been Leila’s, the life of
which she had been a part. The curse was upon him, and he might not
even flee from the memories which dogged him! He was bound hand and
foot, held fast!

Chapter XII


Storm realized later when the dawn brought coherency of thought that
it was blind instinct alone, not conscious will, which had enabled him
to shield the death blow that had been given him from George
Holworthy’s peering eyes. The crumbling of his air castles had left
him stunned, and he remembered nothing of the rest of the interview
save that George had moralized interminably and in leaving at last had
harked back to the Millard boy. Surely he would not have droned on of
trivialities had he gleaned an inkling of the tumult in his host’s

Until the morning light stole in at the windows Storm paced the floor
in a frenzy of consternation. He had one slender hope: that the false
Du Chainat would be apprehended. If he appeared against the scoundrel
or entered a complaint the resultant revelation of how easily he had
been fleeced would be a bitter pill to swallow. Old Langhorne would
recall that conversation of the previous day, and it would be his turn
to smile, while Foulkes and George would descend upon him with galling
criticism and reproach.

He could endure it all, however, if only it would mean the recovery of
his money or even a portion of it! As his hope of getting away
vanished, the absolute need of such escape grew in his thoughts until
it assumed the proportions of an obsession. He felt as if something he
could not name were tightening about him slowly but inexorably and he
struggled wildly to free himself from the invisible fetters.

If he had to stay on at the trust company, suffer George’s continual
presence, run the daily gauntlet of mingled sympathy and curiosity of
his friends, he should go mad! Other men lived down tragedies, went on
in the same old rut until the end of time, but he could not.

And then all at once the truth burst upon him! If Leila had died a
natural death as the world supposed; if she had been taken from him in
the high tide of their love and happiness, he might have gone on with
existence again in time with no thought of cutting himself adrift from
the past. It was the secret knowledge of his guilt which was driving
him forth, which rendered unendurable all the familiar things of his
every-day life!

Yet he must endure them! Unless the bogus Du Chainat were caught there
was no way out for him.

Unconscious of irony, his breast swelled with virtuous indignation at
thought of the swindler and dire were the anathemas he heaped upon the
departed one. He searched the papers feverishly, made what inquiries
he dared without drawing undue attention to himself and haunted the
Belterre grill for news, but all to no avail; and as day succeeded day
he developed a savage moroseness which rebuffed even George’s
overtures. He would take no one into his confidence; there would be
time enough for admitting that he had played the fool when the
miscreant was caught. If he were not, Storm determined to accept the
inevitable in silence; but day by day the obsession of flight
increased. Somehow, at any price, he must get away!

The papers still played up the pseudo Du Chainat as further exploits
of that wily adventurer were brought to light, and the press gleefully
baited the police for their inability to discover whither he had
flown. The flickering hope that he would be apprehended died slowly in
Storm’s breast, and the blankness of despair settled upon him.

One morning Nicholas Langhorne sent for him, and before the president
spoke Storm sensed a subtle difference in his manner. The pompous
official attitude seemed to have been laid aside, for once a warmly
personal note crept into his voice.

“Sit down, Storm; I want to have a little talk with you.” The other
seated himself and waited, but Langhorne seemed in no hurry to begin.
He took off his glasses, wiped them, replaced them and then sat
meditatively fingering a pen. At last he threw it aside and turned
abruptly to face his subordinate.

“Storm, I knew your father well. We both started here away down on the
lowest rung of the ladder, and although he soon branched out into a
wider, less conservative field we never allowed our friendship to
flag. It was on his account that we took you, and because of his
memory you were given preference over more experienced men.”

He paused and Storm stiffened, but he replied warily:

“I am aware of that, Mr. Langhorne. I hope that I have executed my

Langhorne waved him to silence.

“I have no complaint to make. I sent for you because my personal
interest in you as the son of my old friend has caused me a certain
amount of disquietude. When you came to me a fortnight ago and
requested that I arrange an immediate mortgage on your suburban
property I waived the usual procedure and complied at once. It was not
my province to question your need or use of the money, although I knew
of your previous unfortunate ventures, and I hoped that you had not
again been ill-advised.

“A week later—ten days ago, to be exact—you came to me and mentioned a
person named Du Chainat, whom you said had been in negotiation with
Mr. Whitmarsh. This Du Chainat, or rather the man impersonating him,
has been exposed as a swindler on a rather large scale. I trust that
you yourself did not fall a victim to him?”

Storm’s eyes flashed, but he held himself rigidly in control. Bleat to
this fathead and give him an opportunity to gloat? He would see him
damned first!

“Hardly, Mr. Langhorne.” He allowed the ghost of a smile to lift the
corners of his mouth. “The investment I had in mind was quite another

Langhorne frowned doubtfully.

“You appeared to take it for granted that I knew this Du Chainat. May
I ask what your motive was in mentioning him to me?”

Storm hesitated and then replied with seeming candor:

“Well, if you want the truth, Mr. Langhorne, I—er, I believed that you
yourself were one of his intended victims.”

“I, sir?” The president stared.

“Yes. I met this man in the Rochefoucauld grill one night, and he
worked his usual game; told me of the loan he was attempting to
negotiate and said Whitmarsh had turned it down because it wasn’t a
big enough proposition for him. Du Chainat, as he called himself,
showed me your letter, and as I had reason to distrust him I ventured
to mention the matter to you, thinking that I might be of service in
warning you of the whispers I had heard against him.”

“My letter?” Langhorne gripped the arms of his chair. “I never wrote a
letter to the man in my life!”

“When you denied having heard of him,” Storm continued, unmoved by the
other’s expostulation, “I naturally concluded that you resented my
intrusion into your private affairs, and said nothing more. The man
was exposed in the evening papers that very night, as I remember.”

“You saw a letter purporting to have been written by me?” the
president demanded.

“I would have been willing to swear to your signature, Mr. Langhorne,”
replied Storm.

“Forgery!” The clenched hand came down upon his desk. “That signature
was forged! I’ll look into this when the fellow is caught. His
effrontery is astounding! What was the gist of this letter, Storm?”

“An intimation that you would advance the loan,” he responded dully.
There was no mistaking now the sincerity of the other’s indignation.
“The letter was a forgery, of course, as you say, but it was a
remarkably clever one. The signature was almost identical in every
detail with yours.”

“I wish you had told me of this before!” The president fumed. “This
may cause a vast amount of trouble. However, I am glad to be assured
that you were not victimized by this person. By the way, this is not
my custom—in fact it is emphatically against my rule, especially where
officers of the company are concerned—but I shall be glad to make an
exception in your case, Storm. I may be able to give you a little
advance information, strictly confidential, you understand, on a
certain investment later, if you are looking for one.”

“Thank you, Mr. Langhorne. I’m not thinking of making any just now.”
He smiled again, reading the other’s motive, and added pointedly: “I
have mentioned the Du Chainat letter to no one else, of course, nor
shall I do so.”

The president flushed but dismissed him with forced cordiality, and
Storm returned to his own sanctum in a bitter mood. Even the small
satisfaction of believing that Langhorne, too, had fallen for the
alluring proposition was denied him!

At noon, as he left the trust company building to go to the luncheon
club of which he was a member, he collided with Millard.

“Hello, there! Just coming in to see you.” The little man’s usually
apoplectic face was pale, and his small, beady eyes shifted nervously
beneath Storm’s gaze. “Where are you off to?”

“Lunch,” replied the other briefly. Confound the little golf hound! It
was he who got him into the Du Chainat affair!

“Then have it with me, do!” Millard urged. “I want to talk to you.
Let’s run in to Peppini’s where we can be quiet.”

Storm was on the point of refusal, but something in the other’s manner
made him change his mind.

“If you like.” He turned, and Millard fell into step beside him.
“How’s the golf coming along?”

“Hang golf!” Millard exploded. “I’ve had other things on my mind,
Storm, old chap! I’ve been in the very devil of a hole, and Mrs.
M.—well, you know what she is when she has got anything on me! I
haven’t had a minute’s peace.”

“What’s the trouble?” Storm asked perfunctorily as they entered the
little restaurant and made for a corner table. Millard did not reply
until the waiter had taken their order and departed. Then he leaned
confidentially across the table.

“It’s all about the scoundrel, Du Chainat,” he began. “You remember
him; chap I introduced to you in the Rochefoucauld. By Jove, I owe you
an apology for that!”

“Not at all.” A hidden thought made Storm’s lips curl in grim humor.
“We are all of us apt to be mistaken in the people we think we know.”

“That’s what I say!” corroborated Millard eagerly. “How’re you going
to tell a crook nowadays? The fellow took me in absolutely! And now,
to hear Mrs. M. talk you would think I had been in league with him!”

“You tried to get her to go into one of his schemes, didn’t you?”
Storm asked. The other nodded gloomily.

“I did, and I shall never be permitted to hear the last of it!” he
observed. “That isn’t what is worrying me, though. You see, I
introduced him around pretty generally, and if any of my friends fell
for his graft I should feel personally responsible. There you are, for
instance; that’s what I wanted to see you about, Storm; I hope to the
Lord that you didn’t——”

“Not by a damn sight!” Storm retorted savagely. Was he to go through a
repetition of the scene with Langhorne? “What do you take me for? I’m
not looking to line the pockets of every adventurer that comes along.”

Millard winced.

“All right, old chap, only I was anxious. You seemed interested that

“I was, in the man himself; he was a new type to me, but I don’t mind
telling you now that I didn’t trust him.” Storm smiled patronizingly.
“I don’t wonder his little proposition looked good to you. It did to
me; too good. Money isn’t so scarce for a legitimate deal that a man
has to offer one hundred per cent profit in three months. You would
have realized that yourself if you had stopped to think. The trouble
with you was that the man’s personality blinded you, Millard. I’ll
admit that he was a plausible rascal, but if anyone had been fool
enough to fall for his game they deserved what was coming to them.”

“I suppose so,” Millard mumbled shamefacedly. “Anyhow, they’ve got him

“What!” Storm sat back in his chair.

“Fact. I’ve just come from Police Headquarters.” Millard nodded,
visibly cheered by the impression his announcement had made. “It has
been established beyond a doubt that he is on board the _Alsace_ en
route for France. He’ll be arrested the moment they reach Havre.”

Storm’s brain whirled, yet he strove mightily to command himself.
Millard must not know, must not guess! Could it be after all that luck
had not deserted him? Hope had died so utterly that he found it
difficult to believe this sudden turn of fortune.

“How can they be sure?” he stammered. “There may be some mistake.”

“Not a chance!” Millard, his equanimity restored, chattered on. “His
movements have been traced from the moment he left the hotel until he
walked up the gangplank, and they’ve got him dead to rights. Nervy of
him to go back to France when he knew the Government was out after
him, wasn’t it? I suppose he banked on that; that they would never
dream he would dare to return. He’s under a different name, of course,
and all that, but the detectives have been in wireless communication
with the captain of the _Alsace_ and there isn’t a loophole of escape
for him. He is cornered like a rat in a trap and a good job, too!”

The garrulity of his companion had given Storm time to collect
himself. He must learn all that he could and yet not seem too eager.
He shrugged.

“His cleverness didn’t get him far, did it?” he remarked with
elaborate carelessness. “Let’s see; the _Alsace_ sailed three days
ago, if I am not mistaken.”

“Four,” the other corrected him. “She won’t reach port for another
three days, however; traveling slow, for there has been a report of
some floating mines having been sighted in her path. It is just a wild
rumor, of course; the sweepers gathered them in pretty thoroughly
after the war. Don’t know what they’ll do about extraditing him, for
both countries want him badly. The main thing his victims want, I
imagine, is to get their money back.”

In this Storm concurred heartily but in silence. After a pause he
observed, still in that detached, bored tone:

“I fancy that won’t be difficult, if he has it with him.”

“He has,” Millard affirmed. “He must have cleared more than half a
million, they tell me at Headquarters, and they’ve proved that he
didn’t dispose of any of it here. Think of it! Half a million in cash!
I wonder how he planned to explain it to the custom’s officials on the
other side?”

“He could stow it about him, I suppose,” Storm responded absently. “If
he had laid his plans carefully and believed himself immune from
suspicion he would have no reason to anticipate a personal search.
What on earth were you doing at Headquarters?”

Millard squirmed uneasily.

“We-ell, when all this racket came out about Du Chainat I felt that it
was my duty to go down and tell all I knew about the fellow. In the
course of justice, you know, old chap——”

“Precisely,” Storm grinned. “You had rather identified yourself with
him, hadn’t you? I don’t blame you for clearing your own skirts. It
would be deucedly awkward for you if some of these people you
presented him to——”

“Don’t!” protested Millard. “How was I to know? He came to me with a
forged letter purporting to be from Harry Wheeler, of Boston. I
haven’t seen Harry in years; wouldn’t know his handwriting from Adam,
but it looked all right. When I explained, they understood the
situation immediately at Headquarters, I assure you.”

“Don’t ‘assure’ me, Millard; I know you!” Storm laughed; then his face
sobered. “How is everyone out at the Country Club?”

“Fine!” Millard waxed enthusiastic at the welcome change of topic.
“We’ve taken on some more members; a new family or two from out Summit
View way, and a most attractive widow. We talk of you a lot, Storm.
You can’t think what a gap your poor wife’s death and your leaving us
has made in the community! She was a wonderful little woman! You’ve no
idea how she is missed.”

“I think I have,” Storm responded quietly.

“Oh, forgive me, old chap!” Millard flushed with honest contrition.
“You more than anyone else in the world must feel—but I’m glad to see
that you are not taking it too hard.”

Storm shot a quick glance at him. Was there a suggestion of criticism
in the other’s tone?

“One cannot always see,” he said stiffly. “Sometimes a thing cuts too
deep to show on the surface. But I can’t talk about it even yet,
Millard. I can’t find words.”

He couldn’t. One thought alone was racing through his brain. His sixty
thousand was safe, after all! It would be given into his hands again,
and he would be free! Free from these hypocritical mouthings about a
dead past, these constant reminders of the old life!

What a fool he had been to disclaim so emphatically to both Langhorne
and Millard the fact that he had been victimized! How they would laugh
at him when the truth came out! Well, let them! Unconsciously he
squared his shoulders. He would have the last laugh, sixty thousand of
them! God, what a reprieve!

The afternoon passed in a glamor of renewed hope and revived plans. No
more trifling with investments for him! When once the money was safely
in his possession again he would throw up his position without a day’s
delay and catch the first steamer that sailed, no matter for what port
she cleared. Anywhere! Any war-riddled, God-forsaken corner of the
globe would be heaven after this caged existence, surrounded by
potential spies—and judges!

He was dimly aware that those with whom he came in contact that
afternoon gazed at him curiously, but for once he was heedless of
their possible criticism. The exalted mood lasted throughout his
solitary dinner, and on returning to his apartments he ignored a
painfully spelled message which Homachi had left requesting him to
call up ‘Mr. Holworti’ and paced the floor in utter abandonment to the
joy which consumed him.

His days of slavery and imprisonment were over! Just at the moment
when life had looked blackest to him and all hope was gone, the
shackles were struck from him and the way lay open to a new existence.
Never again would he decry his luck! His capital, which had shrunk to
insignificance before the wild idea of doubling it, now loomed large
before him. It meant freedom, life!

He would go to the Far East. Many changes were bound to come there,
many opportunities would arise in the general upheaval of worldwide
readjustment to the new order of things, and the colorful atmosphere
there had always held a fascination for him. Europe would do later,
but at first he would lose himself in the glamor of a new world.

He halted, drawn from his reverie by the sound of confused, raucous
shouting in the street, and realized vaguely that it had been going on
for some time. His apartment was on the ground floor, and he opened a
window of the living-room and leaned out. The Drive seemed deserted,
but on the block below he descried two retreating figures with flat
white bundles beneath their arms.

Their shrill call came again to his ears.

“Wuxtry! Turr’ble disaster! . . . All on board!”

A train wreck, perhaps. Storm was withdrawing his head when from the
second newsboy came the cry which struck terror to his heart.

“French steamer wrecked at sea! Awful loss of life!”

The _Alsace_! For a moment Storm stood as though petrified; then,
turning, he dashed hatless from the apartment and out into the street.
The newsboy raced toward him and he tore a paper from the grasp of the
foremost, thrust some silver into his hand and made for the apartment
once more. He dared not halt beneath a street lamp to read the staring
headlines; he must be secure from observation behind closed doors when
he learned the truth.

It might be some other ship. It must be! Fate would not hold out this
promise of a reprieve to him only to snatch it away just as his
fingers closed upon it!

Again in his apartment, he approached the lamp and spread the paper
out with shaking fingers. There in bold black letters which seemed to
dance mockingly before him he read:—

“S. S. Alsace Lost at Sea. No survivors.”

He tried to read on, but the letters ran together before his eyes, and
he dashed the paper to the floor. The walls of his prison closed in
upon him again, stiflingly, relentlessly! The cup had once more been
dashed from his lips, and a groan of utter despair surged up from his
heart while the bitterness of death settled upon him.

Chapter XIII

The Black Bag

Morning found Storm with a desperate, hunted look in his eyes still
pacing the floor, his heart sick within him. Why had that blundering
ass, Millard, told him yesterday? Why had he been plunged in the
madness of a fool’s paradise for a few short hours, only to be drawn
back into an existence that had become all the more unbearable by

He had contrived a sufficient measure of calmness in the late hours to
read the amplification of the damning headlines. The _Alsace_ was
supposed to have struck one of the floating mines of which she had
been warned, and to have gone down with all on board. No calls for
help had been received by wireless, no survivors picked up. Another
liner, westward bound, had run into a mass of wreckage on the course
of the unfortunate ship; wreckage which denoted a fearful explosion
and fragments of which bore the name “_Alsace_”. That was all; but it
was conclusive, damning to Storm’s last hope.

The morning’s news had little to add save a verification of the ocean
tragedy in a message radioed from a second ship which had encountered
the flotsam of the wreck. It was evident beyond peradventure of a
doubt that the ill-fated _Alsace_ had been blown to atoms, and all on
board must have perished instantly with her.

The article was followed by a copy of the passenger list together with
brief obituaries of the more prominent of the wreck’s victims, and
beneath it was a terse paragraph which verified Millard’s disclosures
of the previous day. The notorious swindler, Jan Martens, alias
Maurice du Chainat, was known to have been on board, and arrangements
had been made to take him in custody upon the arrival of the ship at
her destination; in fact he had been placed nominally under arrest by
the captain of the _Alsace_, as the last wireless message known to
have been sent out from the unfortunate ship announced. It was feared
that the bulk of the money netted by his gigantic swindle had gone
down with him.

Storm left his breakfast untasted, deaf to the polite concern of
Homachi, and took his miserable way to the trust company. God, how he
loathed it all! The very sight of his desk, familiar through long
years of usage, awoke anew the spirit of senseless, futile revolt;
doubly futile now since the mirage of a different future had risen
again only to be blotted out.

In the bitterness of soul which surpassed anything he had known in his
blackest hours, Storm forced himself to go through with the dreary
round; but the close of day found him desperate, at bay. He could not
go on! What was the use, anyway? What did the future hold for him now?
Only memories which rose up in the silent hours to take him by the
throat, from which there could be no escape while life lasted!

With the waning afternoon the sky had become overcast, and twilight
brought a gentle summer rain through which Storm plodded doggedly.
Food was distasteful, the thought of a restaurant was abhorrent to him
in his morose mood, and yet he shrank from hours of solitude in his
apartment. He was afraid of himself, afraid to think, and he longed
desperately for the companionship of a fellow being; not George nor
anyone connected with his life of the past ten years, but someone
unconcerned in his affairs, someone with whom he could talk and

He had seized upon the trivial excuse of a call at his cigarette
importer’s as an expedient to while away a half hour. The
tobacconist’s shop was just across the street from the Grand Central
Station, and as Storm passed among the arrivals who swarmed out of the
edifice one face in the crowd caught his eye. Little of it was
visible, the collar of his light summer ulster turned up to meet it,
and he tramped along beneath his umbrella without glancing to right or

Storm caught him impulsively by the arm.

“Jack!” he cried. “Where on earth did you drop from?”

The stranger shook him off unceremoniously.

“Your mistake, I’m afraid———” he mumbled.

“I beg your pardon.” Storm stepped aside. “Sorry to have accosted you,
sir. I thought that you were—yes, by Jove! You _are_ Jack Horton!
Don’t you know me, old man?”

The stranger hesitated and then with a hearty ring in his voice which
he checked instantly as he glanced cautiously about him.

“You’ve got me!” he exclaimed with subdued joviality. “I’m Jack, all
right, and of course I know you, Norman, you old scout! I meant to
pass you up, though; fact is, I’ve got no business to stop in town
now. For the love of Pete, if you’ve got nothing to do, take me
somewhere where we can get a bite and have a good old chin without a
lot of folks giving us the once-over!”

Storm was mystified. This pal of his freshman year at college whom
Providence had thrust in his path this night of all nights when he
needed human companionship seemed to be in some strange predicament,
but he did not stop to question. He was only too glad of the promised
relief from solitude.

“Come along! I’ve got just the place. Lord, but it’s good to see you!
We’ll go straight up to my own rooms. My man will have gone, but I can
rustle up some grub and anything else you feel like having.”

He gestured toward the line of waiting taxicabs, but Horton drew back.

“Where are you living?” he asked, with a trace of nervousness.

“Riverside Drive,” Storm replied impatiently. “Come on, old man, your
umbrella’s leaking.”

“Is there a subway station near you?”

“Yes, of course, only a block or two away. But what in the——”

“Never mind now. Let’s go up that way,” his friend proposed. “I’m not
stuck on these taxis under the present circumstances. A lot of the
fellows that drive them are crooks, and you never can tell——. Me for
the subway, and don’t talk too much on the way up, Norman. This is
serious business.”

“All right,” Storm acquiesced shortly. “But let me carry that bag,
won’t you? You’ve got enough with that umbrella and brief case.”

“Not on your life!” responded Horton with emphasis. “I’ll carry it
myself. You lead the way, Norman.”

Storm obeyed. He had known little of Horton in the past and nothing of
how or where the years since their college days had been passed.
Without having much in common, they had traveled in the same crowd
during the first term at the university, and many had been the
scrapes, engendered by Horton’s reckless love of fun and Storm’s
rebellion against discipline, which they had shared.

Horton had been compelled to leave college at the end of the freshman
year by his father’s failure and gradually had dropped from sight of
his old classmates. In the first few years he had been heard of now
and then in widely different parts of the country, employed in
positions of minor responsibility, but of late no news had come and
Storm had forgotten him completely until this passing glimpse of his
face recalled old associations.

In the subway he studied his companion furtively. Horton’s figure had
grown heavier with the years, his face more full but healthily tanned,
while the prominent jaw and clear, steady eyes betokened added
strength of character. Storm speculated on his possible circumstances;
his clothes were of good quality but obviously ready-made, and the
bluff heartiness of his manner suggested an association with men of a
rougher caliber than Storm himself counted among his friends. Here was
a man who had mastered circumstances, not permitted himself to be
enslaved by them! Storm wondered what the other would do in his place.
At least he would not allow penury to hold him chained to an existence
which had become unendurable! Then he dismissed the idea with a shrug.
Horton could never stand in his place; he would not have the
cleverness to cloak murder in the guise of accident, or the quick wit
and self-control to see it through. No one could have done it save
Storm himself!

When they reached his station he touched Horton lightly on the arm to
appraise him of the fact and was amazed at the latter’s quick,
defensive start. What did the man fear? His secretiveness, his evident
intention at first to deny his identity: what could they portend?
Could it be that Horton was a fugitive from justice? Storm smiled at
the thought. Why, he himself, if the world only knew——!

But Horton’s ebullient spirits bubbled over when they emerged on the
street level, and a hasty glance about assured him that no other
pedestrians were near.

“Lord, but it’s good to be in New York again, Norman!” he exclaimed.
“The old burg is the greatest little spot on God’s green earth, let me
tell you! The sight and sound and smell of it get into a fellow’s
blood. Talk about the East a-calling! It’s deaf and dumb compared to
the urge of little old Manhattan!”

“Feel that way about it?” Storm’s lips curled as he remembered his own
glowing, futile dreams of the Far East.

“You bet I do!” Horton shifted his umbrella to grasp more firmly the
small black bag which he was carrying. “Do you know, Norman, there
have been nights down in Mexico and up in Alaska and out on the plains
when I would have given five years of my life for an hour here! Mind
you, it isn’t so much the bright lights—I can’t afford, for more
reasons than one, to cut loose as I used to—but it’s what these
literary cusses call ‘atmosphere’, I guess; there’s something in life
here, any phase of it, that gets under a guy’s skin and makes him itch
to get back!”

“Mexico? Alaska?” repeated Storm with unconscious envy. “You’ve been
about a bit, Jack, haven’t you?”

“Surest thing you know!” The other laughed, adding, as Storm halted:
“This where you hang out? Oh, boy! Some class to you!”

“I took these rooms off the hands of a friend only lately,” Storm
replied, wincing in spite of himself at Horton’s uncouth appreciation.
“I have lived out of town for years.”

He opened the apartment door and switched on the lights, and his
companion gave a low whistle.

“Some class!” he repeated admiringly. “You must have made good,

There was an element of surprise in his tone that nettled his host.

“I’m an official of the Mammoth Trust Company, you know,” he said
loftily. “Let me take your coat, Jack, and just put your bag down

Horton allowed himself to be divested of his coat and hat, but when he
followed Storm into the living-room he was still carrying the black
bag, which he deposited on a corner of the couch, seating himself
beside it.

“Mammoth Trust, eh?” he repeated. “Your old man was a big bug there at
one time, wasn’t he? I remember you used to talk about it in the old
days; said he was going to get you an easy berth there when you
graduated. By Gad, you did fall in soft!”

Storm flushed at the imputation, although he found no words with which
to deny it. What a rough boor Jack had become! He almost regretted
that he had brought him home. Still, even he was better than no one.

“Cocktail?” he asked suggestively.

Horton shook his head.

“I’m off the fancy stuff,” he replied. “The fact is, I’m not supposed
to be touching anything at all, but I may as well take the lid off
since we’re going to make a night of it. Got any Scotch?”

Storm produced the bottle, siphon and two tall glasses, and went into
the kitchen to crack some ice. His guest followed him to the door
after a quick backward glance at his bag.

“Great little place you’ve got here.” He glanced about him and back at
his host. Then for the first time he noted the latter’s mourning garb,
and his eyes widened. “Look here, Norman, you—you’ve lost someone. Not
your wife——?” Storm nodded.

“You don’t say! I’m confoundedly sorry, old scout!” Horton exclaimed
with real feeling. “I knew you were married, of course; saw your
wife’s picture in the society papers more than once a few years ago.
When you brought me here and I lamped it was a typical bachelor’s
diggings, I didn’t like to ask questions; divorces here are thicker
than fleas below the border, and you never can tell. When did it
happen, Norman?”

“A little over a month ago.” Storm turned to the ice chest as if to
cut off further questions or attempt at sympathy, but Horton was as
impervious to snubs as a good-natured puppy.

“Isn’t it hell?” he soliloquized. “When a fellow’s happy, something
rotten always happens. Beautiful woman, wasn’t she? Any kids?”

“No,” replied his host shortly. “Come on, let’s have our drink and
then we’ll see what we can dig up for dinner. Homachi usually stuffs
the pantry shelves pretty well.”

The glasses were filled and Horton raised his, somewhat uncomfortably
oppressed with the lack of fitting words. Storm forestalled him

“I don’t talk much about my trouble, Jack. Let’s try to forget it for
to-night. This is a reunion, and I’m damn glad to have you here! Happy

Horton nodded and drank deeply, drawing a long breath of satisfaction.

“That’s the stuff!” he approved. “Some kick to it, all right! Do you
ever see anything of the old crowd?”

“I run into one or another of them at the club now and then.” Storm
put down his glass. “I’ll go and investigate the pantry; you must be

“I could do with a little nourishment,” Horton acquiesced. “Let me
help you rustle the grub. You don’t look as if you were much of a hand
at it.”

“Are you?”

Horton laughed boisterously.

“Just watch me!” he cried. “I’ve been roughing it for years, in one
way and another; mining camps, oil leases, cattle ranches and even a
tramp steamer.”

“Really? You haven’t told me a thing about yourself yet, Jack. The
last I heard of you, you were working in a bank out in Chicago.”

“Yeah!” Horton snorted disgustedly. “Nice kid-glove-and-silk-hat job;
thirty bucks a week and a bum lung.—Say, where can I put this bag of

“Why, leave it here.” Storm stared. “Nobody is going to walk off with

“Not if I know it, they’re not!” returned his guest with emphasis.
“I’ve got some mighty important stuff in here. Got any place where I
can lock it up? I’d feel easier in my mind——”

“Why, of course!” Storm threw open a closet door. “Here, keep the key
yourself if it will give you any satisfaction. Now come on; I’m
hungry, myself.”

They found the pantry well stocked and made a hearty meal. Storm,
usually an abstemious drinker, poured out a second Scotch and under
its influence grew expansive. He regaled his guest with tales of high
finance, adroitly registering his own importance in the trust company
and his intimacy with men of large affairs. It was only later when
they returned again to the living-room that he became conscious of a
seeming reticence on the part of his friend.

“But tell me about yourself,” he demanded. “Will you smoke? Try one of

He offered the humidor, and Horton selected a cigar and eyed it almost

“A fifty-center!” he exclaimed. “Gee, you’re hitting the high spots,
all right, and I don’t wonder after what you’ve been telling me! As to
myself—well, I’m no great shakes, but I’m not kicking. I’ve had a
pretty good time of it, by and large.”

“But you said something about lung trouble.” Storm lit his own
cigarette and held the match to the other’s cigar. “You certainly
don’t look it now.”

“Fact, though,” Horton nodded. “Good thing, too, or I would have been
a pasty-faced, pretty-mannered bank clerk to this day. It was a
question of living out in the open or dying in a hall room, and the
West looked good to me. I started in as paymaster in a mining camp,
and believe me it was some job for a tenderfoot who had never been
nearer to a gun than across the footlights at a melodrama! I learned
to travel heeled and be quick on the draw and a few other things;
human nature generally. It’s funny the fascination other’s people’s
money has for some folks. Never felt that way myself; I guess that’s
why I’ve usually had charge of the payroll.”

Storm smiled bitterly, his thoughts reverting to the pseudo Du Chainat
and his own money lying now at the bottom of the sea. He had boasted
of his affluence to Horton to soothe his wounded self-esteem at the
latter’s naïve appraisement of him, but his own predicament had
returned with crushing force. Happily, Horton was aware of no lack of
response on the part of the host.

“Yes, _sir_!” he continued. “It’s no credit to me that I’ve run
straight, but it kind of gives a fellow a damned good feeling to know
that folks realize without question that he’s worthy of trust. Why,
right now——!” He broke off and added in a lower tone: “I’m a hell of a
fellow to pin medals on myself! I ought to be miles away this minute
and going fast. Couldn’t resist a glimpse of the old town, though, and
I reckon I can take care of myself. I thought I would just look ’round
a bit and then be on my way, but you came along——”

“And you tried to pass me up!” Storm recalled the other’s furtive
manner. “What is the game, anyway, Jack? Where are you bound for?”

“A jumping-off place back in the Alleghanies.” Horton grimaced. “Some
different from your berth here, isn’t it? You’ve got a nice mahogany
roll-top, I suppose, and nothing on your mind but your hat, while I
travel with my eyes peeled and my finger on the trigger. See this?”

He reached in his hip pocket and produced a blunt-nosed pistol which
winked wickedly in the light.

“Good heavens! What do you carry that thing around with you for?”
Storm gasped.

“Looks like business, doesn’t it? Fact is, I’m pay-master now for one
of the biggest coal companies in Pennsylvania, and when you’ve got
charge of a small fortune every month and an army of Hunkies and
general riff-raff know it, it’s just as well to be on the look-out.”
He laid the weapon on the table and ground out the stub of his cigar
regretfully in the ash-tray. “That was some smoke!”

“Have another,” Storm invited. “I only smoke cigarettes myself, but
these cigars are supposed to be pretty good, I believe.”

“They are that!” his guest agreed with unction. “Lord, I don’t know
when I’ve had a feed like this, and three good hookers of Scotch and
such tobacco!” He lighted a fresh cigar and sprawled back in his chair
with a sigh of content. “This is certainly the life!”

“There’s more Scotch——” Storm began suggestively, but Horton shook his

“Not for mine, thanks. I’m at peace with the world. If it weren’t for
that bag of mine——”

“What’s in it, anyway?” Storm asked idly. “Money for your gang out

“You’ve guessed it, son.” Horton sat up suddenly. “I’ll show you
something that will make your eyes pop out, for all your big deals!
You fellows who write checks and tear off coupons don’t know what
money is; it is only when you handle the actual coin in bulk that you
realize what it stands for.”

He crossed to the closet and unlocked it while Storm watched him,
diverted in spite of himself at the other’s complacency.

“Here you are!” Horton placed the bag on the table and opened it.
“Have a look!”

Storm obeyed. Packets of yellow-backed bills, sheaves on sheaves of
them, met his gaze, and cylinders of coins. The bag was filled to the
brim with them!

“All gold!” Horton explained, pointing to the cylinders. “Some of the
Hunkies won’t take anything else. Do you know how much I’ve got here,
old scout? One hundred and twelve thousand, five hundred and fifty-two
dollars and eighty-four cents!”

Chapter XIV

In His Hands

In contemplation of the money Storm was stirred despite his
sang-froid. Horton’s psychology had been sound; it was one thing to
deal in figures and quite another to view the actual cash before one.

“This is some money!” He unconsciously adopted his companion’s slang.
“I don’t wonder you go heeled, as you call it, with that much at

“I’ve handled twice as much during the war, when we were speeding up
production to the limit,” Horton boasted as he fastened the bag and
placed it on the floor at his feet. “Twice as much and then some, and
never lost a cent! I’m not taking any chances, though; the
constabulary down there do their part, and a wonderful lot of fellows
they are, but they can’t be everywhere at once. The last guy that held
my job was found in a thicket by the road with his head bashed in. The
birds that got him were caught, but a lot of good it did him! No,
_sir_. I take mighty good care not to land in his shoes!”

A hundred and twelve thousand dollars! The figures themselves held an
odd fascination for Storm, and he could not keep his eyes from
straying to the bag.

“I had an experience out in Montana in the early days when I was new
to the game.” Horton settled back once more luxuriously into his
chair. “I was only carrying five thousand then, but it looked as big
as a million to me, and I don’t mind telling you that I was plumb
scared of the responsibility. I had a wild bit of road to cover
between the town and the mine, and I jumped at every shadow. We had a
rough lot out there, too; scum of the earth, even for a raw mining
camp. One night four guys that we had turned off laid for me; they’d
have done for me, too, only by sheer dumb luck I got the drop on them
first. I held ’em there, all four of ’em, till a gang of our own men
came along, but it was a narrow squeak for me! Lord, but I was one
sick _hombre_!”

He chuckled reminiscently, but his host did not smile. Instead, his
lips tightened and an avid gleam came into his eyes. A hundred and
twelve thousand dollars! What it would mean to him! If he had Jack’s

“There was another time down in Mexico.” His guest was in the flood
tide of garrulity now, all unconscious of the train of thought his
innocent display had evoked. “A couple of greasers tried to stick me
up, but I drilled a hole in one of them, and the other beat it for the
hills. It’s tame here in the East compared to those days, but there’s
always a chance of trouble in my game.”

How ridiculously small and flimsy the black bag looked to contain such
tremendous potentialities! All that Du Chainat’s alluring proposition
had held out, and more, was there before him in the custody of this
smirking, self-assured boor! Storm felt a wave of unaccountable hatred
for the other man sweeping over him. What right had Jack Horton to
flaunt that money in his face? God, if it were only his!

He roused himself to realize that the other was eying him in a
crestfallen fashion, disappointed that his narrative had seemed to
make no impression, and Storm collected his vagrant thoughts.

“I envy you your experiences,” he said. “The element of danger must be
exhilarating. To walk out of the station, as you did to-night, and
realize that if the very men who rubbed shoulders with you in the
street knew what was in that bag your life might not be worth

“Say, look here!” Horton showed traces of alarm. “I told you in
confidence, old scout! For the love of Pete, don’t mention it! It
would mean my job if the company heard that I had been flashing the
payroll! They must never get onto it that I stopped off in town; no
one must know! You’ll keep it a secret that you met me?”

“Of course.” Storm nodded. “You don’t know how well I can keep a
secret, Jack!”

“You’re the only living soul who knows where I am this minute!” The
other chuckled, reassured. “Not that I’ll be missed for these few
hours. The company don’t check me up on time nor keep tabs on me; they
know I’m honest, and the money is as safe in my care as though it were
still in the bank.”

“_The only living soul who knows where I am!_” The words rang in
Storm’s ears with the insistence of a tolling bell, and a tremendous,
sinister idea was born. Nothing stood between him and the money there
before his eyes, within reach of his hand, but this cocksure fathead!
If he could get it away from him, secretly, without the other’s
knowing——But that was impossible! The fool knew his business too well
to be tricked; he had learned it in the roughest, wildest parts of the
country, and here they were in the midst of the crowded city, where a
single outcry would bring immediate investigation. Jack Horton would
guard that bag while he lived. _While he lived!_

“No one will ever learn from me that I saw you to-night,” Storm said
slowly. “You needn’t worry about that.”

Horton nodded.

“Knew I could trust you, old scout! You know, now that I’m here,
though, I’m damned if I wouldn’t like to telephone a certain party.”
He turned speculative eyes on the instrument on the desk. “She needn’t
know where the call came from; I could tell her I was in Trenton or
Scranton or Altoona, and she wouldn’t get me in a million years. I’d
kind of like to hear her voice——”

“You’re crazy!” Storm interrupted in rough haste. “This wire is
listed! Don’t you know a call can be traced? Suppose this woman,
whoever she is, thinks of something else she wants to tell you after
you have rung off, and gets Central to call you back on the wire? It
isn’t always possible for them to do it, but they have been known to.
It is nothing to me, of course, but you know how women talk; if you
want her to know that you spent the evening here in town——”

“Not on your life, I don’t!” ejaculated Horton. “She’s all right;
greatest little kid in the world, but I’m not giving anybody anything
on me; especially when I’m in charge of the company’s money.”

Storm nodded acquiescence. No plan was as yet forming itself in his
mind, but the sinister idea was becoming a resolution. He must have
that money! Fate, after robbing him of his own, had replaced it
twofold within his grasp. If Horton would not surrender it—and that
was not worth considering—then Horton must be eliminated. He had done
it once and gotten away with it; why not again? But he must feel his
way carefully, he must learn just where Horton stood, what his ties
were. He must know from what quarter to expect inquiries if—he tried
to say it to himself calmly, but his senses reeled at the immensity of
it—if Horton disappeared.

“But you haven’t told me anything about yourself, Jack; only about
your work. You’re not married, I suppose?”

“Not me!” the other laughed, then amended: “At least, not yet. I’ve
looked ’em all over, from Tampico to Nome and from ’Frisco to Boston,
but I haven’t seen one yet that I’d tie up to for keeps; except maybe
this little dame I wanted to talk to just now. Prettiest little thing
you ever saw in your life, Norman, and got a lot of horse sense
besides. Want to see the picture?”

He pulled out his watch, snapped the case open and extended it across
the table.

The face in the little photograph was undeniably pretty, but the style
of coiffure was over-elaborate, and even to Storm’s untrained
masculine eye the gown seemed cheaply ornate; not the sort of thing
that Leila or any of her set would have worn.

“Who is she?” he asked; then correcting himself hastily, “I mean,
where does she come from? She is mighty pretty,” he added as he
snapped the watch shut and handed it back.

“You’ve guessed it; she’s no New Yorker; comes from Pennsylvania, out
Bethlehem way. Her daddy made a pot of money in steel during the war,
and she’s on here trying to catch up with the procession. She’ll do
it, too, with the old man’s cash and her looks.” Horton grinned
fatuously. “She’s strong for your Uncle Jack, all right.”

What an ass he looked, blithering there about a girl while at his feet
lay the price of his life! But Storm must know more.

“Then I suppose congratulations are in order?” he queried, eying his
guest through narrowed lids.

“Not yet. I don’t mean to brag, but I have an idea they will be as
soon as I make up my mind to say the word.” He paused to lay his cigar
stub with the others in the tray, and Storm’s eyes followed the motion
as if fascinated. The mounting heap of pale gray ashes reminded him
suddenly of certain ashes which he had scattered in a garden at
midnight a month before. They were so like them, light and flakey,
tossed by a light wind, gone forever at the twist of an arm! How
easily that had been accomplished! Not only the destruction of the
handkerchief, but of all other clues! How easily he had outwitted them
all, and then he had been a mere amateur and handicapped by the fact
that the blow had been unpremeditated; when he started to build up the
circumstantial evidence of accident he had been compelled to make what
use he could of conditions as they lay. Sinister but intoxicating
reflections came to him. He had succeeded then; could he fail now when
the opportunity was his to prepare beforehand each step of the way?

“How about your family, Jack? I haven’t heard, you know, since I lost
track of you.” He must keep the conversation going somehow until he
formed a plan.

“Haven’t any.” Horton shrugged. “My dad died right after his
failure—you knew that?—and mother went in two years, while my kid
brother was killed in France. There’s no one left except an uncle in
Omaha, and I cut loose from him years ago. It’s too bad mother didn’t
live; she’d have liked ’Genie.”


“Old man Saulsbury’s daughter; girl in the watch. Her own mother is
dead, and she’s staying here on Madison Avenue with some old widow who
is long on the family tree business and short on cash. She’s going to
fit ’Genie out properly and put her through her paces.”

“You may lose her if she gets into the social game,” Storm remarked
absently, his mind intent on his problem. On one thing he was
determined; Horton should not leave that door with the money! Yet to
kill him here was unthinkable. A phrase which the other had used in
telling of his predecessor’s fate returned to Storm like a flash of
inspiration: “_found in a thicket by the road with his head bashed
in_”——The Drive! Later it would be deserted enough; but how to get
Horton out there——?

“Lose ’Genie?” Horton repeated. “Not a chance! There’s no nonsense
about her, I can tell you! She is only doing this to please her daddy,
but she’ll never get stung by the society bug. I knew her before the
old man made his pile, and it hasn’t changed her a mite. She’d stick
to me through thick and thin, but when a fellow has led the free life
I have, he isn’t in too much of a hurry to settle down in double
harness, even if it is silver mounted.”

“There is no one else?” Storm regarded him quizzically. “For you, I
mean? No other girl in the running?”

“No, _sir_! I never bothered much with them, anyway; been too busy.
This Mid-Eastern Consolidated Coal Corporation is the biggest job I’ve
had yet, and I’m planning to stick right with them and go on up. They
know me, and once I get on the inside——!” Horton paused and reached
for the humidor. “I’m eating up your cigars, old scout! Look at that
pile of ashes.”

“Help yourself.” Storm tossed the match box across the table. “That’s
what they’re here for. Damn the ashes.”

“Well, it’s my last.” Horton glanced at his watch. “Great Scott!
Eleven thirty! I ought to be changing at Altoona right now for a
little jerkwater road up into the mountains!—Oh, what’s the odds! It’s
been worth it, this powwow with you, Norman. I’ll catch the

“Why? I thought you were going to stay over night!” stammered his
host, aghast at this sudden hitch in his half-formulated plan. “I’m
all alone here, as you see, and we can turn in any time you feel like

“I—I oughtn’t to!” Horton hesitated, and Storm seized upon his

“You’re safer here with that bag than you would be traveling at night.
You can get a train at almost any hour in the morning, and you said
they didn’t check up on your time.” He paused, and as the other still
visibly wavered he added persuasively: “Tell you what I’ll do, Jack.
I’ve got some business to attend to in Philadelphia that would require
my presence there in a day or two, anyway; if you’ll wait over I’ll go
part of the way with you to-morrow. It isn’t often that two chaps who
were such good pals at college meet after so many years, and we have a
lot to talk over yet.”

“That’s so,” Horton agreed. “A few hours more or less won’t make any
difference, I guess, and I’ll be mighty glad to have your company part
of the way in the morning. I’m not due back until late in the
afternoon; got through my business to-day ahead of time. That’s how I
came to think of stopping off for a look at the old town.”

“It would make trouble if you weren’t there to-morrow, though?” Storm
asked slowly. “I mean, if you should stay over with me——?”

“Trouble? Say!” Horton leaned forward impressively. “If I weren’t
there by six o’clock to-morrow night every wire in the east would be
hot from efforts to locate me. I’m not so precious to them, but their
little old hundred thousand odd—wow!”

He flickered the ashes from his cigar, and a few flakes missed the
tray and fell on the shining surface of the table top. Storm watched
them settle, just as those other ashes must have settled among the
flowers . . . God, why did he have to think of that now? ‘_In a
thicket with his head bashed in_’! There was a spot up the Drive past
the viaduct where the path turned sharply, and on the other side of
the low wall was a sheer drop of fifty feet or more with stout bushes
clinging to it all the way down. A living man could grab them and save
himself, perhaps, but a dead body, hurtled over the wall——

“You’ll get there, all right.” Storm forced himself to speak casually.
“You’re traveling light, but I can make you comfortable for the

“Comfortable?” Horton spread his legs out luxuriously. “I’m so darned
comfortable right now that I wouldn’t change places with a king! Lord,
but it’s like old times to see you again, Norman! Twenty years is a
long stretch, but it seems only yesterday that we sat smoking together
in your old rooms, and usually planning some devilment, too! Remember
the love letters on pink paper that we sent to the old chemistry
prof.—what was his name? Oh, yes, Peebles. Gad, we kept them up for
weeks until he was afraid to look even the president’s old maid sister
in the face!”

He chuckled reminiscently, and Storm’s lips twisted in a smile. ‘_Head
bashed in!_’ How could he do it? What sort of weapon——? From where he
sat he could look over his guest’s shoulder into the hall, and the
umbrella stand was in a direct line of vision. Potter had been rather
a connoisseur of canes, and among those he had left behind him in his
hurried departure was a curious one with a loaded head. A tap with it
would crack a skull like an egg-shell! But not if that skull were
covered by a thick, soft felt hat, such as Horton wore when they met.
If he could contrive to make him put on an old golf cap, on some
pretext; could get him up the Drive to that lonely spot where the wall
sheered down, he would have but to strike once and the bag and its
precious contents would be his! He listened. Had the rain stopped? It
was no longer beating against the window. He must make an excuse to
look out and see.

“We certainly pulled off a few stunts in the old days!” he observed.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit stuffy in here? Let’s get some of the
smoke out.”

He rose and strolled to the window, trembling with inward excitement,
but forcing himself to walk slowly, casually. He raised the window.
The pavement was still wet and glistening, but overhead the stars
winked down at him.

“Hello, it’s clearing off!” he announced “We might have a stroll
later, before we turn in.”

“What for?” Horton asked unenthusiastically. “I’ve been on the jump
all day. It is good enough for me right here.”

“Then what do you say to a little drink?” Storm heard the footsteps of
a lone pedestrian approaching, and hurriedly closing the window,
pulled down the shade. Horton was seated where the light played
strongly on his face, and he would be plainly visible from the street.
A passer-by glancing in would think nothing strange about seeing a man
sitting quietly smoking there, but he might chance to remember the
face; he might recall it later when a hue and cry was raised and
pictures were printed in the newspapers. . . . “As long as you’re
staying on here with me to-night another little nip or two won’t do
you any harm. This is an occasion, you know!”

Rigidly as he held himself in control, there was a note of suppressed
eagerness in his tone which the unsuspicious Horton misread.

“On with the dance!” he cried gaily. “I’m with you, old scout! Just
one, though; got to have a clear head in the morning. Booze is a good
thing to let alone in my business, but I know when I’ve had enough. Do
you remember the time we got pickled in Dutch Jake’s, and you wanted
to go and serenade the whole faculty?”

While he chattered on serenely Storm moved in and out bringing
glasses, ice and a fresh siphon. He mixed as stiff a drink as he dared
for his guest, a light one for himself, and raised his glass.

“To ourselves!” he exclaimed with a reckless laugh. “That’s the best
toast in the world, Jack, and the most honest one. To us!”

“And our next meeting.” Horton drank, nor noticed that his host set
his glass down untasted while a faint shudder swept over him. “Phew!
but that’s a strong one! I need a little more fizz in that, old
scout.” He reached for the siphon. “Say, what wouldn’t I give if we
could all be together again, just once; the old crowd, I mean! There
was Van Tries and Caldwell and Holworthy and Swain and McKnight. I
wonder what has become of them all!”

“Holworthy is here in town; I run into him now and then.” Storm raised
his glass slowly, watching the hand that held it. Steady as a die!

“That so?” Horton looked up, interested. “What is his line?”

“Real estate. He’s the same old plodding George, except that he is
getting fat. McKnight died in the prison camp at Rastatt and Swain
went under in Wall Street and blew the top of his head off.”

Horton’s ruddy face sobered.

“That makes three of the old crowd gone, for Caldwell was killed in a
motor smash-up,” he said. “I remember reading about it in the papers.
All violent deaths, too! Well, maybe we’re none of us fated to die in
our own beds.”

Storm started nervously and glanced at him. Was there something
prophetic in Horton’s speech? Then he shook himself angrily. Bah! he
was getting morbid. Morbid, with a hundred thousand dollars at his
feet, waiting for him to stoop and pick it up!

Horton, too, stirred in his chair as though shaking off unwelcome
thoughts, and added:

“Anyway, here we are! You’re well fixed, and I’m on the road to it;
that leaves only Van Tries, of our bunch. Ever hear anything from

“Not since he beat it for Japan with another man’s wife.”

“You don’t say!” Horton’s eyes widened. “Well, he always was a wild
one; too much money and no responsibility. I tell you, Norman, money
is a comfortable thing to have, but it causes a hell of a lot of
trouble in this world! Not that mine will bother me very much, but
fellows like Van Tries. They don’t know the value of it till it’s
gone, and then they’re out for the count because they’ve never learned
to do anything except spend.”

His tone dropped to a monotonous drawl with a note of fatigue in it,
and Storm drew a deep breath. It was nearly one o’clock. His plan was
complete and there remained only to put it to the test. How quickly
the inspiration had come to him! How simple it was and yet how
masterly! Perhaps that first murder had sharpened his wits for this!
There was no reason for waiting longer; it must be now or never! He

“What do you say to a little stroll, Jack, before we hit the hay?” he
asked with a studied carelessness. “Not a long one, for I know you
must be tired after traveling all day; but I don’t sleep very well
unless I get a bit of fresh air just before I turn in.”

Breathlessly he watched the other. What if Horton should suggest that
he go alone? What if——?

“I’m with you.” Horton rose equably. “We must be smoked up like a
couple of hams.”

He reached out a hand for his pistol, but Storm stopped him with a
nervous laugh.

“Here! There’s a Sullivan law in this town against carrying concealed
weapons! You don’t want that thing with you; put it in the table
drawer there.”

“All right.” Horton opened the drawer and then hesitated. “The money!
There have been hold-ups on the Drive. I’ve read of them——”

“Good Lord, you weren’t going to cart that bag along, were your”
Storm’s tone was a perfect blend of amusement and good-natured
expostulation. “Why, man, we’ll only be gone ten minutes, fifteen at
most! Lock it up again in the closet; no one is going to break in

Horton shook his head obstinately.

“I never leave it out of my sight when I’m on the job,” he said. “You
never can tell, you know, Norman.”

“I suppose some sneak thief is clairvoyant enough to know that money
is here to-night of all nights, in a bag in a locked closet!” Storm
shrugged. “Camouflage it behind some hat boxes and things on the shelf
if you like. I tell you we’ll only be gone a few minutes, and the
watchman is right outside.”

“It’s a big chance,” Horton responded doubtfully. “I suppose it sounds
foolish to you, but I’ve learned to play safe. Still, if it is only
five minutes——”

He picked up the bag and started for the closet. Storm watched him
stow it carefully away with a smile of triumph. The fool was taking
such pains—for him! He put on his own coat and then caught up
Horton’s. The felt hat which the latter had worn rolled to the floor,
limp and sodden.

“I say, your hat is drenched!” He could scarcely keep the note of
exultation from sounding in his voice. The last obstacle removed!
Everything was playing into his hands; he couldn’t fail! “I told you
that your umbrella leaked! Just reach up on the top shelf there and
get a golf cap. There is a stack of my old ones up there, and none of
my hats would fit you. There is no sense in getting a cold in the head
from wearing that wet thing, and you’ll have to get it reblocked
before train time to-morrow. It’s a mess.”

“It sure is!” Horton eyed it ruefully and reaching up into the closet
brought out a golf cap of thin, dark blue cloth. Storm himself locked
the closet door and held out the key.

“You’ll feel safer if you’ve got it yourself,” he remarked. “Now come

Horton dropped the key in his vest pocket and then drew on the cap
with a ludicrous grimace at his reflection in the hall mirror.

“I look like a bally yachtsman!” he commented. “I suppose I’ll have to
go in for golf and all the rest of it if I land in right with the
Mid-Eastern Consolidated and hitch up with the little girl, eh, what?”

“You’d be a shark at it, too.” Storm switched off the lights and
opened the door, stepping aside for his guest to precede him. “I don’t
play any more, but it’s a great little game.”

As Horton crossed the threshold Storm’s hand closed over the head of
the heavy cane, and he drew it out of the stand. Then the door closed
behind them.

Chapter XV

Ashes to Ashes

The night elevator man was almost slumbering peacefully before the
telephone switchboard as they traversed the hall to the vestibule, and
the street itself seemed deserted, but from afar echoed the measured
tread of the watchman approaching upon his rounds.

“Let’s cut across to the path,” suggested Storm with a hint of
nervousness in his lowered tones. “It is better walking, and you can
get a really magnificent view of the river lights from a few blocks
further up.”

He led his companion across the driveway and bridle road to the path
deeply enshrouded by trees and bordered by the low stone wall which
ran along the edge of the embankment. The night was moonless, but
overhead the stars shone brightly and the broad sweep of the river
below them at their left was dotted with the lights of ships and
barges riding at anchor or moving slowly out with the tide.

“By jingo, it’s some night!” Horton thrust back his shoulders and drew
in a deep breath as he strode along at the rapid, vigorous gait of one
habituated to covering long distances afoot. “Glad you thought of
getting a bit of air, Norman; this is great! Look at the old river
down there, and the Palisades beyond! I tell you there isn’t a spot on
the face of the earth that can touch little old New York!”

“I like it out here myself. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I walk along
this path for hours, watching the lights and the river; there is a
bigness and impersonality about it that is restful.” Storm spoke
truly, but back of his mind was the shuddering consciousness that
never again would he find peace and tranquility in this nocturnal
haunt. After tonight the shadows would be peopled with ghosts, the
dark river would run red and the frowning cliffs on the farther bank
would echo with the doings of this hour.——What matter? He would be far
away with the means to live his own life and not a trace left behind
him! Unconsciously his grip tightened on the cane, and he glanced
speculatively at his companion. How easy it was going to be! Just a
moment of steady courage, of carefully calculated effort; one
smash—and the task would be accomplished! A few more blocks, a quarter
mile at most——!

“You ought to see the harbor at Yokohama,” Horton remarked. “Prettiest
sight in the world when a ship comes in, if you didn’t have to use
your nose at the same time! All the sampans come out with their
strings of colored lights and I can tell you they beat our barges any
day in the week for picturesqueness! You hear the coolies chanting and
the samyens and samisens tinkling, and the very taste of the East is
in your mouth. Oh, I’m not getting poetic from the effects of your
Scotch, old scout! It’s all ugly enough and dirty and mean and
distorted in the daylight, but there is a witchery over it at night.
Here you don’t get that; there’s a hard-and-fast realism about it that
dispels any illusion. It is a sort of bigness, as you say, but it
doesn’t hit me with any _dolce-far-niente_ stuff; it means bustle to
me, and commerce and adventure and wealth. Gee, when I’ve made my pile
I’d like to sit in at the window of one of those white stone fronts
over there and watch my coal barges slouching along on the end of a
tow line and my cranes and winches and flat-cars getting busy along
the docks! Fine pipe dream for a guy whose only contact with big money
is in handling other people’s, eh?”

He laughed boyishly, without cynicism, and Storm clapped him on the
shoulder with assumed heartiness.

“You’ll get there yet, Jack! Perhaps you’re on the way to it now, who
knows?” Only six blocks more and then they would reach that turn in
the path! The unintended double significance in his words swept over
him, and he felt an insane desire to laugh aloud. “You say you are in
right with this Mid-Eastern Consolidated Corporation, and your wife
will have money——”

“I’m not marrying her for what her old man has got!” Horton
interrupted hastily. “It may be convenient some time for her to be
able to help me swing something big, but you understand I like that
little girl for herself. She’s a thoroughbred, if her mother did run a
miner’s boarding house in the old days, and she’s got the pep to keep
a fellow right up on his toes and make him make good on his own
account. I kind of wish I had telephoned to her to-night; it’ll be a
couple of weeks at least before I can hit this burg again, and I’d
like to have heard her voice——”

“You can ’phone in the morning,” Storm suggested, his eyes intent upon
the path ahead. A figure was advancing toward them out of the
darkness, and midway between them a street lamp shed broad rays. They
would meet the stranger directly beneath it if they kept up their
present gait. Storm halted deliberately and drew out his cigarette
case. “Wait half a second till I get a light. Tell you what you can
do, Jack. Stop over a train in Philadelphia with me to-morrow and call
the lady up from there.”

Horton shook his head decisively.

“Not me! Once I get on my way in the morning I’m going to keep right
on going,” he declared. “I don’t feel right in my mind yet about this
little stop-over, but it sure has been worth it! The next time I come
to town——”

The advancing figure passed under the rays of the lamp and was
revealed as a blue-coated policeman swinging along idly but with a
certain brisk watchfulness. Storm blew out his match and fell in step
once more beside his companion.

“The next time you come, drop me a line ahead and we’ll fix up a
little dinner with Holworthy and any of the rest I can find lying
around the club,” he said suavely. “It is a good thing to get in touch
with the old crowd now and then; livens a chap up and keeps him in the

The policeman passed with only a casual glance at the two obviously
respectable citizens, and his footsteps died away behind them. Only
four blocks more!

“You bet it does!” Horton assented heartily. “Why, just running into
you to-night like this and having a chat over old times has given me a
new lease of life! I’ll like first rate to see old Holworthy and the
rest again, but most of all I want you to meet my girl. She’s aces
high, Norman, and you’ll agree with me when you know her. We’ll get
her to shake the old lady for an evening and come to dinner—” he
paused suddenly and added: “Say, we’ve come further than I thought.
Hadn’t we better be getting back? I don’t want to cut short your
stroll, but that bag back there is on my mind.”

“All right. Just let us go to the top of the hill here around the
turn.” Storm threw his cigarette away and strove to speak casually,
but his throat had become all at once parched and strained, and a
tremor of excitement threatened his tones. “There’s a down-stream boat
almost due, and I want you to see it come round the bend. I watch for
it here nearly every night, and it’s a sight worth seeing. I suppose
you’ll be taking a trip somewhere on your honeymoon?”

“Haven’t got as far as that yet!” Horton protested laughingly. “Oh,
the little girl knows what is in the wind, all right—trust a woman for
that!—but I haven’t put it up to her in so many words. I want to lay
my pipes with the Mid-Eastern first and see where I’m likely to stand
before I tackle her old man. He likes me fast enough, but when it
comes to me horning in on the family he’ll expect me to spread my
cards on the table, and I have not got much to show for the last
twenty years except the trust of the people I’ve worked for.”

“That is a pretty big asset,” muttered Storm, his eyes on the brow of
the hill just ahead. If he could keep Horton going, keep him talking
until they reached that dark stretch and then, unsuspected, fall a
step or two behind——! “It is a long step of the way toward success to
gain the trust of your associates.”

“Sure!” the other responded with pardonable pride. “But it is not so
much of an asset as an income producer to an old guy who has struggled
all his life and then struck it rich all of a sudden; so rich and so
easy that he figures any fellow who hasn’t done the same is a dub. But
I’m not worrying; I’ve got it pretty good out there, and two or three
more trips with the payroll will about be my finish. There’s going to
be a big reorganization soon, and I mean to edge in then on the

Storm glanced hurriedly, keenly behind him. Not a figure was in sight,
no sound broke the stillness save his companion’s voice and the
whispering of the wind in the rows of trees along the deserted drive.
On the other side of the low wall the ground dropped away into
seemingly limitless space, while outward and far below the broad river
waited. A few yards more, a few steps——

A sudden raucous honk blared upon the air, and over the top of the
hill appeared a wildly careening motor car which bore down upon them
and passed in a bedlam of screeching brakes and maudlin song.

An oath borne of his keyed-up nerves burst unbidden from Storm’s lips,
and Horton turned.

“Gave you a start, eh?” he remarked. “This is a nice stretch of road
on which to be flirting with death like that, isn’t it? Thirty miles
an hour and a chance to see the scenery, that’s my motto; but then as
I told you I’ve learned to play safe.”

“My nerves aren’t what thy used to be,” Storm admitted, listening
intently. The roar of the car had diminished in the distance to a low
humming whirr which seemed only to accentuate the silence. “Just at
the turn of the path there ahead—I think the boat is coming. Do you
see any lights on the river?”

Horton quickened his pace, peering expectantly out over the wall. He
was sensible that Storm had fallen back and heard the click of his
cigarette case and the rasp of a match.

“Just those bobbing down there on some tugs,” he announced. “A river
steamer is a pretty sight at night, isn’t she? I remember——”

The words ended in a gasp as something crashed down hideously upon him
from behind, and the world was blotted out. His body lurched, sagged,
and slumped down in a crumpled heap against the wall.

Storm’s arm sank nervelessly to his side and a sickening wave of
horror swept over him. Had Horton cried out, or had he himself? It
seemed to him for an instant that tumultuous shouting rang in his
ears, that footsteps were beating upon the pavement behind him, a
myriad of lights flashing in his eyes. Then silence and darkness
descended again, and a shuddering sigh escaped him. The blow had been
struck, but had it been sufficiently heavy? Suppose Horton still
lived! What if he survived to be found in the morning by some damnable
chance and to name his assailant?

Storm bent swiftly over the body, and his groping fingers came in
contact with the back of the head, only to be shrinkingly withdrawn.
God, but that sturdy stick had done its work well! He had only to
possess himself of the key to the closet and heave the body over the

Then a swift thought brought beads of sweat out upon his brow. The
cap! The maker’s name and his own initials were inside; suppose he had
forgotten it! With fumbling, sticky fingers he felt about on the wet
pavement. Thank heaven the puddles left by the rain had not dried!

The sinister stains would be obliterated, washed away——But where was
the cap? Horton had been leaning toward the wall when the blow reached
him; could the cap have fallen over and down, to be found on the
morrow and traced?

With wild fear clutching at his heart, Storm straightened and groped
feverishly along the wall. Was this to be the end, after his scheme
had worked so smoothly; was he to be betrayed by the merest detail,
one of the details which he had himself worked out to insure success?
He felt along to the very edge of the wall, and then a sob of relief
welled up in his throat; for his fingers had closed at last upon the
cap, caught by a clutching tendril of vine as it must have fallen from
the head of his victim.

He stuffed it into his coat pocket and stooping once more thrust his
hand beneath that crumpled body and after a moment produced the key to
the closet which contained the treasure. His! One hundred and twelve

But what was that light, quick tapping like hastily running feet?
Storm recoiled and turned instinctively to flee, then by a supreme
effort of will stayed the wild impulse. The tapping sounded there upon
the wall close at hand; it was just a dead branch of the vine whipping
in the wind. What a fool he was! Where had his nerve gone?

He must finish his job and quickly. That policeman would pass shortly
again upon his rounds, or if not he, some strolling night prowler
might appear at any moment to stumble over the body and raise an
alarm. Every minute that he lingered there increased his danger, and
yet he felt a loathsome repugnance at the thought of touching Horton

Nerving himself desperately he slipped his arms beneath the body and
gave a convulsive heave. It jerked, swayed suddenly but slumped back
again, and Storm’s breath came in a sobbing gasp. God, how heavy it
was! Could he ever get it up to the top of the wall? The sweat poured
like rain down his face, and with a mighty effort of strained and
snapping muscles he lifted it from the pavement, poised it for a
moment on the edge of the abyss and sent it crashing over and down.

Weak and trembling in the nausea of sickening reaction, he cowered
back and listened. Would the thing ever stop rolling? The first thud
and crash of underbrush was followed by a sound as of mighty beasts
trampling through a forest, then a pattering hail of pebbles and then,
at last, silence.

Swaying drunkenly, Storm groped for the cane, found it and turned.
Every instinct impelled him to frenzied flight, to run while wind and
limb retained strength to obey his will; yet beneath the shuddering
terror which obsessed him he realized that he must walk slowly,
casually, that no chance passer-by might connect this strolling
pedestrian with the horror which lay behind.

Quivering with the effort to stay the mad impulse, he moved stiffly
off down the path nor dared glance once behind him, although he could
feel the gooseflesh rising upon his neck with the sensation of being
watched by something supernatural, unclean! He must pass beneath the
first street lamp, but in the shadows midway the block he could cross
the bridle road and driveway and continue south on the sidewalk. It
would not do to remain on the path; if he should encounter the
policeman again, and the latter recognizing him, should question him,
should question why only one returned where two had gone——

Each dragging step sent a spasm of nervous torture through his frame,
but he gritted his teeth and held himself erect as he passed beneath
the light, even giving a jaunty swing to the cane which seemed to gain
weight with every moment that went. Twenty yards further he turned to
cut across the driveway to the sidewalk, and as he did so a sound came
from behind him that stilled the blood in his veins. It was merely the
hoot of the fog horn on the river, but it came to him like the
long-drawn wail of a soul in pain.

A sense of utter desolation swept over him with its echo, but he
rallied it with a savage defiance. In spite of everything, in spite of
fate itself, had he not won? The money was his, money for a life-time
of travel and ease and forgetfulness! No one could trace him, not a
clue had been overlooked. What if commonplace Jack Horton with his
petty affairs and affections and ambitions had been snuffed out? He
had taken one chance too many, that was all, and the Mid-Eastern could
well afford their loss, while to Storm the contents of that bag meant
reason, life itself!

Still that odd sense of loneliness oppressed him, and in spite of his
eagerness to examine and gloat over his treasure, as he neared the
apartment house his steps lagged. He realized all at once that he
missed Horton’s presence, his easy, self-centered chatter. How
confidently the fellow had boasted of his ‘girl’ and his prospects,
talked of the future as a condition already brought to pass; and then
at one blow, one single muscular effort of another, he had been sent
into eternity!

What an easy thing it was to take a life and to evade the
consequences, if only one used a modicum of courage and caution!
Murder was nothing more, after all, than the twang of a pea shooter at
a bird, the tap of a butcher’s hammer! A stealthy glow of elation
stole over Storm’s spirit, stilling the qualms which had beset him,
and a heady exhilaration coursed through his veins like wine. The
future was his; he was invincible!

The elevator man still slumbered in the same position as when Storm
had left the house, and he let himself into his own apartment with
infinite caution, closing the door noiselessly behind him. He longed
to drag the bag from its hiding place and thrust his hands into its
contents in a very orgy of triumphant possession, but he reminded
himself sternly that an imperative task still lay before him. Homachi
must find no traces of a visitor when he came in the morning. Then,
too, there were other possible evidences to consider . . .

Storm switched on the lights and examined his hands and clothing with
minute care. The latter bore no stains which he could discover, but
upon his fingers were brownish smears which made his gorge rise, and
about the thumb-nail of his left hand—the hand which had come in
contact with Horton’s fallen head—a thread of dull crimson had

He turned to the bathroom in revolted haste when a fresh thought made
him pause and grope for the pocket of his overcoat. The cap! Had the
glancing but deadly blow which knocked it off to catch it by a miracle
upon the vine spattered it with Horton’s blood? He drew it forth and
smoothed it into a semblance of shape with shaking hands. It was damp
and crumpled, but no spot marred its surface or lining; the blow had
been too swift and sure!

Tossing it upon the rack, Storm made for the bathroom, where he
scrubbed his hands until the flesh smarted before turning his
attention to the cane itself. When he had dropped it upon the path in
order to raise the body it must have fallen into a puddle left by the
storm, for it bore no marks save the discoloration of dampness; yet to
make sure he carried it into the kitchen and held its heavy head
beneath the strong bow of water from the faucet in the sink, then
polished it with a rough towel until it shone. How it reminded him of
that other rounded knob of wood with the sinister smudge of blood upon
it and the single golden hair . . .

What a timorous, morbid weakling he had been that night! Afraid of his
own shadow, of every move and breath! Nothing could touch him now,
nothing could harm him; no one could ever know!

He replaced the cane in the umbrella-stand and was turning again
toward the kitchen when his eyes fell upon the center table in the
living-room. There beneath the lamp lay the bronze ash tray ringed
with cigar butts and filled with ashes. Again the thought came to him
of that other tray with similar contents which he had scattered to the
winds. Why not these also? _Ashes to ashes._

Those other ashes had been symbolic of his deed and vanished at a mere
gesture; these were the concrete evidences of Horton’s presence
beneath his roof and yet might be as easily dispelled.

With a quick movement he pressed the button of the living-room switch,
plunging the room in semi-gloom. Then, by the faint light which came
in from the hallway, he made his way to the window and opened it. Not
a soul in sight, not a sound save the rustle of the wind in the trees
across the drive!

Storm caught up the tray from the table and gripping it firmly flung
its contents far outward with all his strength lest any of the cigar
stumps fall upon the sidewalk or in the gutter directly before him. On
the instant the wind rose in a sweeping gust, and it seemed to him
that he could see the gray handful spread out in a haze and swirl away
into the void of night.

There stole over him once more that glow of achievement, as of some
strange and pagan ritual performed, and he was closing the window when
again there came the lingering, challenging, deep-throated note of a
ship’s fog horn upon the river. He shivered, in spite of himself, for
to his distorted imagination it held no longer a wail as of a passing
soul; rather, it sounded a menace and a warning, an awesome portent of

Chapter XVI

The Second Vigil

With an almost physical effort Storm flung off the vague, harrowing
suggestion which had laid itself upon him; and shrouding the window
carefully with its curtains he turned on the lights once more, and
glanced at the tall clock in the corner.

Quarter past two! Scarcely an hour had passed since, he and Horton had
left that room to start upon the little stroll which was to end so
momentously for them both. For Horton it meant obliteration, the end
of all things, but for him the beginning of a new life, a life which
should begin with no memories, which should be crammed so full of
color and motion and excitement that thought itself would be crowded

The money! He must know that it was still there even though he dared
not lose himself in the joy of contemplation of it until every last
trace of the visitor’s presence had been removed.

He turned to the closet and halted suddenly. There on the settee
before him lay Horton’s felt hat, shapeless and sodden and somehow
oddly pathetic. Storm put the womanish thought from him and gazed at
the storm-battered object in momentary disquietude. He must get rid of
it in some way, but that would resolve itself later. Now he must
assure himself that the prize for which he had risked all was within
his grasp.

With eager, trembling fingers he produced the key, opened the closet
door and felt about on the shelf. Horton had hidden the bag well, poor
confident fool! He had made sure that none but knowing hands should
seek out its hiding-place.——There it was! Storm felt the grained
surface of the leather, the hard, square edges of the packets which
bulged its sides, and a light of exultation gleamed in his eyes. His!
All his! That afternoon, a few short hours before, he had been the
most miserable, hopeless of men, and now, through his courage, his
resourcefulness and cunning, he had changed the face of destiny!

But he was wasting precious time in pandering now to the obsession
which filled him. Storm caught the golf cap from the rack and tossed
it lightly upon the closet shelf where it had rested so brief a time
before, then reluctantly closed the door. Moving to the living-room
once more, he collected the glasses, siphon and bottle and carried
them to the kitchen where with scrupulous care he cleared away the
debris of the earlier repast. As he applied himself to his
unaccustomed task his thoughts raced forward to the magic years ahead,
and if the lingering specter of a lonely, huddled, battered form lying
somewhere out in the night intruded itself to block the vision he
thrust it sternly aside.

Nothing could stop him now! The cup of forgetfulness, of hope and
adventure and rejuvenation which had been held to his lips and
snatched away was at last safe within his grasp, and he meant to drink
of it to the full! That picture of Yokohama harbor which Horton had
drawn; he should see it, too, and soon! The bobbing lights and
tinkling notes of the samisens, and taste of the East in his mouth; it
should be his, all of it, until he was satiated with it and turned to
other lands!

He looked about the conventional, luxurious rooms as though already
they were strange to him, lost in a haze of half-forgotten memories.
How soon they would be wholly forgotten, merged with those other more
poignant thoughts of Greenlea in the blankness of a descending
curtain! Not a memento should go with him into his new life; every
thread must be clipped short on the day when he finally shook the dust
of the past from his feet. And that would be soon, soon! There was
nothing now to wait for, no lack of funds to hold him back. He would
hang about, of course, until the little flurry of Horton’s
disappearance had blown over and been forgotten, and then he would set

When all was in order again Storm gave a final approving glance about
the kitchen and turned out the light. Homachi would note the quantity
of food which had been consumed, of course, but that could be casually
explained, and of Horton’s hour there remained no other indication.

The gold! He could revel in it now, feel its solid, reassuring touch,
know that for each separate clinking coin and crackling bill he could
demand of the world full measure in all that he had thought denied to
him forever! He dragged the bag from its hiding place, and dropping
unheedingly into the same chair which Horton had occupied two hours
before, he opened it, working the secret spring as he had seen the
other do. There it all lay before him; the few neat cylinders of gold,
the many compact piles of yellow-backs! He fondled them in a strange
ecstasy of possession, drunk with the knowledge of his own power. Had
a glimpse of his face been vouchsafed him at the moment, he would not
have recognized it as his own, so distorted was it by the passion
which consumed him. Avarice had never laid its clutching fingers on
him before, he had never known the rapacious hunger for wealth which
assailed others; and it was not now the money itself over which he
gloated, but all that it stood for, all that it would mean to him.

He had known the galling shackles of necessity which bound him to the
wheel of circumstance, and now at one blow he had struck them off! He
was free!

How long he crouched there he never knew, but after a time the first
ecstasy passed and a measure of sanity returned. The money was his
now; but he could not make instant use of his fortune, nor could he
leave it in that bag. The logical thing would be to place it in the
safe built into the wall of his bedroom, of which Potter had shown him
the combination before he departed. The gold and banknotes would form
too bulky a package to be concealed from Homachi’s sharp eyes anywhere
else in the apartment, and Storm repelled the thought of conveying it
secretly to some safe deposit vault. He must keep it in his immediate
possession, within reach of his hand.

He rose and carried the bag into the bedroom where he carefully
counted out its contents upon the bed. One thousand, ten, twenty,
fifty, one hundred, a hundred and twelve! He gasped at the immensity
of it spread out before him! A hundred and twelve thousand dollars;
and there were still some smaller gold coins and a two-dollar bill! As
he lifted the bag something clinked within it, and investigating an
inner pocket he discovered eight shining new dimes and four bright
pennies. Five hundred and fifty-two dollars and eighty-four cents in
addition to the thousands! He recalled Horton’s statement of the
amount, and an ironic smile curved his lips. What a methodical,
cautious, conscientious protector of other people’s money he had been,
and how little it had availed him or them when the blow fell!

Storm opened the safe, deposited the money within it down to the last
penny, and closing it slid the panel back into place. The bag remained
to be disposed of, and there was Horton’s hat and pistol, too, in the
drawer of the living-room table. He must get rid of them at the
earliest possible moment, and in a manner which could not be traced.
Of course, there was a chance that Horton’s body would not be
discovered until all means of identification had been obliterated; but
it was so unlikely that Storm dismissed it from his thoughts. He could
not afford to gamble on a favorable long shot now; he must look at
this situation as squarely as he had the first desperate one of a
month before, and prepare himself for every contingency.

Horton’s clothing must surely contain papers revealing his identity
and attesting to his connection with the Mid-Eastern coal people. In
the event that his body were found on the morrow, they would be
communicated with, perhaps even before they had time to grow uneasy
over the non-appearance of their paymaster. In a few hours, twelve at
most, that ordinary looking bag might become the most important and
sought-after article in the country, its description down to the
minutest detail spread broadcast in the press.

How could he rid himself of it and of the pistol and hat as well?
Gruesome accounts recurred to his mind of dismembered bodies having
been wrapped in clumsy packages and dropped overboard in midstream
from ferryboats. But something had always gone wrong; some sharp-eyed
passenger had observed the action and marked the luckless individual
for future identification, or the package itself had been recovered
and the murderer traced by some such trivial detail as the wrapping or
string which enclosed it. Clearly that means was not to be considered;
and yet something must be done, and Storm could conceive of nothing
more difficult to destroy than a stout leather bag. If he could only
pack the other damning evidence—the hat and pistol—into it and ship it
somewhere far away or else check it at some parcel repository——

Why not! The audacity of the thought made him gasp, and yet its
feasibility instantly took hold upon his mind. If he attempted to
express or send it by parcel post he would be compelled to write an
address, and handwriting could be traced; but if he went to one of the
great railroad terminals at the morning rush hour and checked the bag
at the parcel desk he would merely be handed a numbered paper tag
which could be easily destroyed, and in the hurrying crowd his
identity would surely be lost. Better still, he could employ a stolid
porter to check the bag for him, and it would be held for ten days or
more before investigated as unclaimed.

Of course, there was the danger of his being recognized by some
acquaintance in the passing throng of travelers, but it would be a
simple matter to provide himself with a plausible excuse for his
presence there. The bag itself was inconspicuous in appearance—Horton
had seen to that!—and it bore no signs to reveal the purpose for which
it had been used. The more Storm pondered, the more favorable the idea
impressed him. He would have to get out in the morning without
Homachi’s observation and that of the elevator boy, but it could be
managed. For the rest he must trust to luck until he had finally rid
himself of it; it was the only possible solution.

He took the pistol from the table drawer and weighed it thoughtfully
in his hand. It would not make the bag heavy enough to occasion
remark, and yet it must be packed in carefully; the bag must have the
outward appearance of being filled with the ordinary concomitants of
travel. The hat would help, and for the rest paper would serve——

Then Storm remembered and blessed his valet’s saving propensity. On an
unused upper shelf in the pantry were a pile of old newspapers, some
of them left from the litter of Potter’s departure, but most of them
painstakingly collected and preserved for some purpose known only to
Homachi’s Asiatic mind.

Storm procured a sheaf of them, and was on the point of wrapping up
the pistol to stow it into the bag when on the front page of the
topmost newspaper he saw roughly scrawled in pencil the characters,
“One-A”. It was the number of his apartment—the newsdealer’s or house
superintendent’s guide for the delivery of the papers—a common
practice, as he knew, all over the city, and yet it might furnish a

Whipping off the outer sheets of each newspaper, he folded them and
replaced them on the kitchen shelf, then crumpled the others and lined
the bag with them, nesting the pistol secure from movement or jar in
their depths. The hat, folded into a wad, came next, and then more
paper until the bag was full. When closed it had a comfortably bulging
appearance, and Storm snapped the secret spring into place and set it
on the floor between the dressing table and wall where it would escape
Homachi’s eyes when he came to call his master in the morning.

Morning? Already a dim gray effulgence was stealing in between the
curtains of the window, and Storm smiled to himself. How different was
the vigil from the one of a month ago when he had sat quaking and
bathed in sweat upon the foot of his bed, longing for yet dreading the
coming of the dawn, waiting through tortured ages for the cry to echo
up from below which would tell him that the body of his first victim
had been discovered!

Now he knew that he had nothing to fear. He was master of this
situation as he had been of the other, had he but realized it fully
then. He extinguished all the lights except the low wall bracket at
the bed’s head and disrobed lazily, glorying in his steady nerve, his
iron control of himself.

No compunction came to him at the thought of the night’s work. Jack
Horton had played so small a part in his life in the all but forgotten
college days that the reminiscences had awakened no responsive chord.
Hungry as he had been for human companionship in his despondency, the
commonplace, cocksure stranger who spoke with the easy familiarity of
an old friend had bored and slightly repelled him until he displayed
his treasure. Even then he had not become a personality, but merely a
wall of flesh and blood which stood between Storm and that which
became in a twinkling of an eye imperative to his whole future

How every circumstance had played into his hands! The remarkable
coincidence of their meeting, the need of caution on Horton’s part
which had prevented their taking a taxicab, prevented the
establishment of any clue which would lead to this apartment on the
Drive! From the moment when Horton stepped from the train until sooner
or later his body would be discovered up there among the bushes above
the rail road track which skirted the Hudson, there would be a blank
which the most astute detectives in the world could not fill in! The
bag and its contents would be discovered and identified in time, of
course, but the treasure which it had contained would never be traced;
it would seep out gradually through the vast market places of the
world in exchange for the good things of life!

Horton’s easy surrender to the proffered hospitality, the fortuitous
clearing away of the storm which made that nocturnal stroke possible,
the accident of the rain-soaked hat which had necessitated a change to
headgear that offered no protection from that blow——all these had
contributed miraculously to the result; but had it not been for
Storm’s instant conception of the masterly scheme, his nerve and
cleverness in carrying it out, his foresight in arranging for every
possible contingency, the money would within a few short hours have
been forever beyond his reach! Such chances come to but few men and
then only once in a life-time; yet what man but he would have had the
genius to grasp it!

Remorse? He choked back a laugh that rose in his throat at the very
thought. What did it matter that a clod like Horton had dropped out of
existence? Yet somehow Storm could not quite dispel the memory of that
shrunken, inert figure slumped helplessly against the wall; he could
not quite close his ears to that good-natured voice prattling of the
trust reposed in him, of the love of the girl who was “aces high”.

Bah! Was he getting squeamish now? One could only rise on the
shoulders of another, and it had been the way of the world through
countless ages that the strong, the ruthless, the resourceful should
triumph! There had been something dog-like about Horton’s unaffected
pleasure at their meeting, his unquestioning acceptance of the
hospitality offered, the gusto with which he relished the unaccustomed
luxuries, his open-hearted affection and confidence. . . .

Storm thumped his pillow viciously. Dogs had been kicked from the path
before and would be again! There, within reach of his hand behind the
panel lay the price of all that he asked of the future! A little more
of George Holworthy’s puttering solicitude, of Nicholas Langhorne’s
sleek patronage and domineering authority, a week or two still perhaps
of the mask of mourning, the treadmill of the office, the dodging of
hypocritical, unctuous sympathy over Leila’s loss; and then freedom!
Freedom at last and the wide world in which to forget it all!

Chapter XVII


When Homachi, usually as punctual as a time-clock, arrived twenty
minutes late in the morning he found his employer already risen and
attired for the day. His elaborate protestations of apology were
summarily cut short.

“That’s all right, Homachi, only get me some coffee. I’m in a devil of
a hurry this morning.” Storm checked himself. “Er—I cooked a bite for
myself last night and rather messed up things, but I fancy you can
find enough left for breakfast.”

Homachi’s slant eyes widened.

“Any time you want me I stay, sir,” he declared reproachfully. “I
please cook dinner. Unhappy cars no run this morning, sir. I hurry

He slipped away to the kitchen with his noiseless, catlike tread, and
Storm glanced uneasily toward the corner where the bag lay. Could
Homachi have seen it from where he stood in the doorway?

He gulped his coffee hastily when it was prepared, keeping the valet
busy with trivial services lest he enter the bedroom. The man held his
coat for him, presented his hat and stick and then stood waiting to
usher him out. Confound the fellow’s obsequiousness! Was he waiting
purposely to spy upon him? Inwardly fuming, Storm turned with an
assumed start toward the desk in the living-room.

“Forgot those papers!” he muttered for the other’s benefit, adding
carelessly: “Go ahead and clear up the breakfast things, Homachi. By
the way, I shall not be home until late. You may go this afternoon at
the usual hour.”

Homachi bowed and departed while Storm made a pretense of rummaging
through the papers on the desk. How rocky his nerves were! He must
pull himself together, he must be prepared to face the risk of the
next hour.——That fellow was dawdling unconscionably! Would he ever
clear out?

At last Storm heard the sound of running water in the kitchen and the
subdued clatter of dishes. He tiptoed into the bedroom, seized the
bag, and holding it under his coat made for the door.

Luck was with him! The telephone operator sat at the switchboard with
his back squarely turned, and the elevator had ascended. The way was

Closing the door behind him Storm walked briskly down the hall and out
into the sunshine, swinging the bag casually in plain view. It seemed
to him to be increasing in dimension and weight at every step, to be
growing to colossal size, dragging his arm from its socket! He had
purposely chosen an early rush hour when clerks and shop people would
be hurrying to their work, but he felt that the eyes of every
passer-by were fastened upon him, boring into the burden that he

Suppose Horton had been followed on the previous night after all by
some emissary of the company whose funds were in his charge? In spite
of the heat of the morning, the thought brought a cold sweat out upon
Storm’s brow. Horton had boasted volubly of the trust reposed in him;
but what if, unknown to him, the company had placed a guard or checker
upon him? Surely it would not be unusual when a man was carrying sums
of such magnitude in cash? Suppose the watcher had lost sight of him
at the terminal the night before; was Storm running too great a risk
by returning to the same station? If the fellow were hanging about and
should recognize the bag——!

A thousand wild apprehensions flashed through his brain, but he fought
them back resolutely. He must get rid of the bag at once, and boldness
was his best course. Every moment that he retained it in his
possession increased his danger, and he could not trail over the town
with it in broad day. Even now the body might have been discovered and
identified and messages might be humming back and forth from
Pennsylvania to New York raising the alarm for the bag and its
precious contents. He could not hesitate; he must go on!

The subway express train was crowded to the doors with a heterogeneous
mass of the city’s toilers, and Storm wedged himself on the platform
of one of the rearward cars among a group of laborers and clerks,
hoping fervently that he might escape recognition before he reached
his destination. Remembering the loaded pistol, he guarded the bag as
well as he was able from the jostling throng, his heart in his mouth
at every lurch of the speeding train. He was glad that he had not
thought to remove the cartridges, for he might have left fingerprints
in handling the weapon; but his nervousness increased as he neared his
station. Dared he trust a porter? Suppose the bag were dropped——

“Grand Central!” called the guard, and Storm braced himself. He must
go through with it now; the moment had come.

He made his way out into the vast terminal and mingled with a crowd of
commuters pouring through one of the gates from an arriving train. His
hat, with its decorous mourning band, was pulled low over his eyes,
and he averted his face, fearing every minute to feel a hand upon his
shoulder and hear his name uttered by some acquaintance; but he passed
on unmolested until he found himself confronted by a red-capped

“Carry yo’ bag, suh? Taxi, suh?”

Storm eyed the dusky, stolid countenance keenly for a moment, and then
made his decision.

“No, I want the bag checked. Take it to the parcel room, will you?”

“It’ll be a dime, suh,” the porter announced, taking over the burden

Storm produced the dime and a quarter more.

“Get me the check as quick as you can. I’m in a hurry.”

The porter scurried off, intent on finishing the job and obtaining a
new client, and Storm followed as well as he was able through the
crowd, keeping his eyes upon the bobbing red cap ahead. He saw the
porter worm his way through a queue of people waiting before a long
counter, saw the bag slammed down upon it to be grasped by a hand from
the other side and disappear. A cry of relief surged up from his
heart, and the impulse to turn and flee before the porter could return
with the check almost overmastered him, but he fought it down. No
question must be raised now about the bag; the porter must have no
cause to recall his appearance later.

“Here yo’ is, suh. Want a taxi?”

Storm pocketed the check, shook his head and turning hurried from the
station in the throng which surged out upon the sidewalk once more. It
was done! No link remained to connect him with the dead paymaster
except the money securely locked away in his safe, and that bit of
numbered cardboard in his pocket. His apprehensions of the early
morning fell from him, and he felt as though he were treading on air.
Now he had only to wait until the news came out and the nine-days
wonder over the murder and the missing money had subsided, and then he
could start upon his journey.

On arrival at the Mammoth Trust Building he went at once to a washroom
downstairs and locked himself in. Then, secure from observation, he
took the parcel check from his pocket. It bore the number “39”, and as
he tore it in strips he wondered whether in the near future those
numerals would stare out at him in scare-head type from the
newspapers. Twisting the strips of thin cardboard together, he touched
a match to them and watched them blaze down to a pinch of smoldering
ashes in the hand-basin. He washed these away carefully, leaving no
slightest smudge behind and then hurried out and up to his office.
More ashes! Ashes now of the last menacing bit of evidence against

A tiresome conference awaited him, and more than once during its
course Storm had to take a fresh grip on himself to keep from allowing
the secret elation within him to show upon his face. What would they
think, what would they do—these smug-faced, pompous, eminently
conventional members of society who surrounded the table—if they knew
what he had done? Two murders in the space of a few short weeks, two
lives wiped out in the very heart of civilization, and not a question
raised against him, not a breath of suspicion! By God, he was immune,
invincible! He could commit any crime on the calendar and get away
with it! There wasn’t a living soul clever enough to hunt him down! He
was the greatest murderer of the age, the cleverest man in the world!

The madness of exultation had passed when the noon hour came, but his
spirits were still dangerously high. The sedate luncheon club did not
appeal to his mood and he turned into Peppini’s where he had lunched
with Millard only a few days before.

A voice hailed him from the corner table, and Millard himself rose
with extended hand.

“Hello, old chap! I say, if you’re alone won’t you join me?”

To his surprise Storm found himself responding almost jovially.

“If you’ll lunch with me; I see you are just starting. How is
everything out at Greenlea?”

“Fine! We’ve got a new pro. out at the club and he’s running things in
fine shape; but there isn’t much that he can teach us old boys, eh?”
Millard lowered his voice. “I say, you have seen the papers?”

Storm started. Could it be that already——? Then he checked himself
half angrily. What did Millard know of Horton?

“Papers?” he repeated vaguely.

“Yesterday. The loss of the _Alsace_. You remember I told you that Du
Chainat, as he called himself, was on board.”

“Oh, that!” Storm laughed loudly, so loudly that Millard stared at him
in surprise. “Odd thing, wasn’t it? Fancy how the people he swindled
must have felt when they read that he had escaped their clutches!”

Millard looked shocked.

“Terrible thing, I call it,” he said slowly. “It makes a chap believe
that there is such a thing as retributive justice, after all.”

“Bosh!” Storm waved his hand in contempt. “Where is the justice in the
loss of six or seven hundred lives just to drown one rat of a swindler
and sink all his loot with him? It was chance, that’s all. I tell you,
Millard, if a chap is clever enough he can get away with anything
these days.”

“There isn’t any such clever animal!” Millard shook his head. “I tell
you, after what I learned at Headquarters when I went to explain about
my acquaintance with Du Chainat, I wouldn’t like to pull anything in
this town and hope to get away with it. We who live a normal,
well-ordered, conventional existence haven’t the least conception of
their organization down there; it is perfect!”

Storm shrugged skeptically.

“If Du Chainat had been careful enough of the details of his getaway,
I’ll lay you a wager that they would never have discovered he was on
board the _Alsace_. No organization can be flawless; it is the
individual, one-man system that is perfect, if that man has the
mentality and courage and patience. Given such a man, I’d pit him
against the whole Department any day.”

“You wouldn’t if you knew the inner workings of that department, their
tremendous ramifications——” Millard broke off and added eagerly: “I
say, would you care to run over to Headquarters with me sometime? I’ll
introduce you to a chap there who will show you all over the shop, and
you’ll be dumbfounded, as I was, at the thoroughness of their methods
of investigation. It’s an eye-opener, Storm! Of course, if you’re not

“But I am,” Storm said slowly. Millard’s suggestion was at once a
challenge and temptation. The authorities, all unknowing, had become
his natural enemies now. To enter their stronghold voluntarily, place
himself in their hands and have them exploit for his benefit the very
weapons which would be turned against him if they but dreamed of what
he had done! No criminal of the century, of the ages, would have dared
such a move! It would be a test, a secret test of his own strength,
but it would be a triumph! “I am tremendously interested, Millard. In
fact, I’d like nothing better. When can you arrange it?” Storm decided
to make a bold test of himself.

“To-morrow, if you can spare an hour. Excuse me, and I’ll ’phone my
friend there and find out the best time to take you through.” The
other rose. “Funny business for two respectable, suburban golf
enthusiasts like us to be poking our noses into the methods of crime
detection, isn’t it? It is fascinating, though, as you’ll admit.”

While he was gone Storm sat back in his chair, a little smile playing
about his mouth. By to-morrow, Horton’s body might have been found; by
to-morrow, at any rate, the alarm would have been sent broadcast for
him and the money which had been in his charge. To hear the affair
discussed perhaps in his presence by these so-called experts; to watch
the machinery in motion which was designed to reveal and crush him and
to know that not in a thousand years would it attain its object, to
face them all and laugh in his soul!

What a tremendous situation! He would have to guard himself carefully,
more carefully than he had that morning; he had noted Millard’s look
of surprise at his laughter when Du Chainat was mentioned; but Millard
was an egregious ass, anyway, and there had been no need of
restraining his amusement. What did he care about Du Chainat now? Was
he not possessed of more than the latter had stolen from him, almost
as much, in fact, as he had promised? Had he not gained it in one
stroke by his own adroitness and nerve? Gad, but to-morrow would bring
the rarest sport in the world!

“At four o’clock!” Millard bustled back to the table. “My friend is a
high official there and it means open sesame all over the place. He
says there is nothing very big on now since the Du Chainat affair went
to the wall; but you never can tell when a sensational case is due,
you know, and you’ll be interested in the workings of their system.
Won’t you come out to Greenlea afterward with me for dinner? We can
put you up for the night——”

Storm shook his head.

“No thanks, old man. I don’t feel quite up to the old surroundings
just yet.” He did not have to inject the tremor in his tone. In the
midst of his exultant thoughts the mention of Greenlea had brought
back a thrill of the old horror, a sudden vision, clearer than it had
come to him for days, of Leila lying there in the den as he had struck
her down. God, would the memory of it never rest? That other blow
struck in the dark only a few hours before seemed less real, less
vivid, than the image which had been mirrored on his brain for the
month past. Was he never to be free from it?—Never, he assured himself
savagely, until he had cut absolutely adrift from all such as this
blundering fool Millard, who kept dragging the past back and spreading
it before him! Ah, well, the time would be short now . . .

“I understand how you feel, of course, Storm. Forgive me.” Millard
nodded sympathetically. “Later on, perhaps, you’ll run out for a few

“Perhaps.” The tremor was gone from his tones, and Storm’s face was
inscrutable as he took leave of his garrulous companion after
arranging a meeting for the following day. His thoughts had swerved
back into the old, impatient, maddening channel. How soon could he get
away? How long would it be before Horton’s death was established and
the hue and cry for the lost money subsided?

There was no link connecting him, Norman Storm, with his classmate of
twenty years before. There was no reason why he, his constitution
impaired by grief over the accidental death of his wife, should not
resign from his position at the trust company and go in search of
forgetfulness and health on a long sea voyage since, as far as the
world knew, he had ample means left from his father’s estate.

And yet Storm realized all at once that he could not go! He was bound
even more irrevocably than by the lack of funds which yesterday had
oppressed him to the environs of this latest act of his. In vain he
told himself that it was mere morbid curiosity; that he didn’t care,
it couldn’t matter to him how or when the crime was discovered. He
knew in advance what the result of the investigation would be and how
the furore over the disappearance of the money would die out in sheer
lack of evidence upon which to continue the search. Morbid or no,
there was a secret spell upon him, a secret fascination which would
hold him there until the case had run its course and been relegated to
the limbo of forgotten things.

In lesser degree, the same impatience which had filled him during that
night-long vigil when he waited for the servant’s cry to announce
Leila’s death now assailed him to learn of the discovery of Horton’s
body. He bought the early editions of the afternoon papers and scanned
them eagerly, but they bore no reference to such an episode. Had the
body, in its fall down that steep declivity, been arrested by the
branches of some clump of underbrush, to lie concealed perhaps until
autumn stripped the foliage away? The thought was unendurable, the
prolonged suspense would drive him mad!

The money, too, began to worry him. Was its hiding place really
secure? What if Homachi had discovered and made away with it? He tried
to concentrate on the routine work of his office, but the effort was
futile, and at four o’clock he closed his desk and hurried home to his

Homachi had departed for the day, and Storm pushed back the panel in
the wall and opened the safe with shaking hands. There lay the neat
piles of bills and roulades of gold just as he had placed them on the
previous night; and the sight of them calmed his jangling nerves like
a potent, soothing draught.

As he stood lost in contemplation of them there came a double ring at
the bell, and he cursed softly beneath his breath as he closed the
safe and pushed the panel back into place. That was George Holworthy’s
ring, and George was the last person he cared to see in his present
mood. Perhaps if he did not reply the other would go away——

But the bell rang again, and resigning himself to the inevitable Storm
opened the door.

“Hello, Norman.” George’s placid face broadened with a smile of
assured welcome. “I stopped in at the trust company for you but they
said you had left early and I was afraid you were ill. You do look
rather seedy.”

“Oh, I’m all right,” Storm answered shortly. “Didn’t sleep very well
last night, that’s all. Come on in.”

“Suppose you come out?” suggested the other. “I’ve borrowed Abbott’s
car and we can run up the road to some quiet little joint for a bite
of dinner; the air will do you good.”

A sense of relief pervaded Storm. He had dreaded the thought of seeing
George seated where Horton had sat last night, smoking the same cigars
and piling up the ashes on the same tray. He assented readily enough
to the plan, and soon they were seated in the little car with George
at the wheel heading up the Drive.

“Where shall it be?” the latter asked. “The manse or Bryan’s or out on
the Post Road?”

Storm did not reply. They were chugging over the viaduct and around
the turn where he and Horton had walked the night before. They were
nearing the top of the incline where the wall sheered down—was that a
crowd collecting there on the path? He strained his eyes ahead and
unconsciously a muttered exclamation arose in his throat. The next
moment they were upon a little group, and he saw it was composed of a
gossipping phalanx of nurse-maids with baby carriages, lingering in
the last, slanting rays of the westering sun.

He sank back with a sigh, and the little car plodded on.

“What’s the matter with you?” George demanded in good-natured sarcasm.
“Getting deaf, or something? I asked you where you wanted to go.”

“Eh?—Oh, anywhere,” Storm responded absently. “As long as it isn’t one
of those jazz places. Don’t go too far; I don’t feel like a long walk
home, and you are bound to strip the gears or do some fool thing.”

“I like that!” the other retorted. “I only did that once to your car
and then Leila——”

He paused, biting his lip, and Storm clenched his hands. He could
have turned and struck the man beside him!—Leila! Greenlea! Damn them
all, would they never allow him to forget, even for a moment? Wasn’t
there enough on his mind—with that body lying somewhere back there
undiscovered and the thought of the alarm which must be even
now manifesting itself out at the Mid-Eastern plant in the
Alleghanies—without recalling that first hideous affair?

“I—I’ve learned to drive all right now,” George amended hastily. “Wait
till we get up to the road where I can let her out and you’ll see!”

The drive thereafter was a silent one. George, dismayed by his
blundering touch upon his friend’s supposed grief, felt contrite and
self-conscious, and Storm was buried in his own thoughts. What would
George say when he read in the papers of Horton’s disappearance? The
two men had not been over congenial at college, for George had
disapproved of the other’s wild pranks, but there had been a certain
camaraderie between them. Storm felt an almost irresistible impulse to
speak Horton’s name, to hear George talk of him. It was madness, he
knew; the fellow had not been mentioned between them for years, and if
he were to do so now the coincidence, in the face of the news which
must soon come, would strike even George’s dull perceptions. Yet as
they drew up at a cosy little inn and settled themselves before a
table on the vine-screened veranda, the desire persisted, dominating
all other thoughts.

Wholly innocent of subtleties as he was, it seemed as though George
himself had some divination of his companion’s mental trend, for as he
glanced about him he remarked:

“This is like old times, isn’t it? Away back, I mean. Doesn’t this put
you in mind of that little place outside Elmhaven where we used to
drive for those wonderful shore dinners in our college days?”

Storm started almost guiltily, but George chattered on:

“What was the name of it?—Oh, Bailey’s! You remember it, don’t you,

“Of course,” Storm responded cautiously. “We had some great old times
there, didn’t we?”

“Rather.” A reminiscent glow came in to George’s faded blue eyes.
“Pretty good crowd, too. I wonder what has become of them all?”

Storm’s hand trembled as he started to raise his glass to his lips,
and he set it down hastily. Horton had uttered those same words only
the night before! With an effort he collected himself and steadied his

“Let’s see,” he began deliberately. “There were Swain and McKnight and
Van Tries and you and I——”

He paused and George nodded.

“Swain and McKnight are gone, but you’re forgetting Caldwell and
Horton. I haven’t heard of either of them in years, have you?”

Storm shook his head, unable to frame a word. In a quick revulsion of
feeling, he wished fervently that he might change the subject, but his
dry lips refused their office.

“Jack Horton was a wild fellow, but there was no real harm in him,”
George pursued. “Just the irresponsibility of youth, I guess. He’s
probably settled down somewhere now and making good.”

Storm gritted his teeth. ‘Making good’! He could have laughed aloud at
the irony of it. God! if he could only silence George before his
self-control broke down!

“You can’t tell what a man will be in twenty years’ time.” Was that
his own voice speaking so coolly, so casually? “Our old crowd has
scattered all over the face of the globe.—Let’s order; I’m starved.”

The talk drifted off to other topics, to his unutterable relief, but
contrary to his assertion Storm scarcely touched the food which was
placed before him. He hoped that George would take a different route
home, but shrank from suggesting it and instead lapsed into a morose
silence. As they passed again that ominous spot upon which his
thoughts centered, he strove to pierce the darkness, but the path was
deserted and no sound came to his ears but the humming of the motor.

Sleep did not come to him until nearly dawn and he was awakened from a
troubled dream by the sharp, insistent ring of the telephone.

Springing up to reply, he heard George’s excited tones over the wire,
and the words themselves drove all the haze of nightmare from his

“Say, have you seen the papers yet? I didn’t mean to wake you up, but
this is the damnedest thing! One of the very fellows we were talking
about last night—Jack Horton—is spread all over the front page. He has
been employed of late years as paymaster for the Mid-Eastern Coal
Corporation, and he is missing with a hundred thousand dollars!”

Chapter XVIII

The Girl in the Watch Case

Storm received the news with outward composure, feigning a natural
irritation at being aroused from sleep to mask the chaos of his
thoughts, and cut George off as soon as he was able to stem the tide
of his volubility. Then, throwing a bathrobe about his shoulders, he
stumbled to the hall door and opened it. His own morning paper lay on
the mat, and even before he picked it up the staring headlines met his

“$112,000 Missing. Trusted Employee Of Mid-Eastern Disappears With
Huge Sum In Cash”.

He shut the door and sinking into the nearest chair read on

“John M. Horton, pay clerk for the Mid-Eastern Consolidated Coal
Corporation, disappeared on the sixth inst. with a black leather
handbag in his possession containing the total sum of $112,552.84
which he had just drawn from the Mid-Eastern Trust Company’s
Poughkeepsie branch. He was last seen boarding a train in the latter
city at four-forty P. M. for New York en route to Altoona, Pa., and
the alarm was not sent out until late yesterday afternoon.
Representatives of the Mid-Eastern C. C. C. who have been interviewed
loyally declare their faith in the missing man and assert that he must
have met with foul play. When last seen ‘Jack’ Horton, as he is known,
wore a dark green felt hat, black overcoat, blue serge suit and low
tan shoes. He is about forty years of age——”

Storm’s eyes traveled on to the last line of the personal description
and the few meager details added, and the paper dropped from his
listless fingers. This was a contingency which he had not forseen. He
had taken it for granted that the body would be discovered and
identified before the Mid-Eastern people would have time to take alarm
and send out tracers after the missing man.

To his mind in its warped state came no reminder of his own treachery,
no thought of the hospitality betrayed, the blow struck in the dark
from behind. He felt no animosity toward Horton; he had killed him
because the latter stood between him and the money he coveted. It had
been a necessary, even a brilliant stroke, and he felt no remorse for
the dead.

But suppose Horton’s body were not found? An aspersion of theft might
logically follow in the course of time, but it could not harm him now,
and that solution would end any local search. It might be as well,
after all . . .

As he dressed a vague desire came over him to revisit the scene of
that sudden, crafty blow. It could do no harm to stroll up along that
path and just glance over the wall. No suspicion could be attached to
him for that if the body were found later, and he longed to see for
himself if no trace of it could be discerned from above.

Then he thrust that trend of thought from him in a wave of horror.
Great heavens, was he going mad? Murderers had been known to haunt the
scenes of their crimes; that was the way in which they were frequently
caught! He must avoid that spot as he would the plague! Yet the vague,
terrifying sensation of being drawn toward it persisted, and in sheer
desperation he fled downtown earlier than was his wont and plunged
feverishly into the business of the day. It had a steadying effect
upon his nerves, and when noon came he had quite recovered command of

George telephoned again, asking him to lunch, but he pleaded another
engagement. If he had to listen to old George’s theories and
speculations it would madden him, and he wanted to have himself well
in hand for his visit to Police Headquarters with Millard.

As the hour drew near his keen anticipation mounted. Millard had said
that there was nothing very big on, but that was yesterday; the
disappearance of a man with a hundred thousand dollars in his
possession would be a sensation even in the manifold events of so huge
a city, and he was eager to hear what view had been taken of the case
by the authorities. As on the previous afternoon, he purchased the
earliest editions of the evening papers; but although they contained
lengthy accounts of the Mid-Eastern affair, no mention was made of the
discovery of a dead man near the Drive.

Millard was bubbling with enthusiasm when they met.

“Come along!” he said gaily. “Shouldn’t be surprised if we heard
something about this Horton affair. You read of it, of course?”

Storm pondered. It was far from his intention to draw any possible
limelight on himself, yet if his companion ran into George the latter
would be sure to mention that Horton was an old friend of them both,
and Millard might think it strange that he had made no reference to

“Yes.” He nodded carelessly. “Rather a shock, too. There was a chap in
our freshman class at college of that name. Holworthy thinks it may be
the same fellow, but I doubt it. We lost track of him years ago,

“They’ll get him,” Millard asserted with conviction. “He won’t get
far, even with that bank-roll. I tell you, I wouldn’t steal a pewter
golf cup—and that’s the nearest thing to temptation of that sort that
I can imagine—with that organization down here after me!”

At Headquarters, while Millard searched for the official who was to be
their guide, Storm gazed reflectively at the ornate brass plate let
into the wall on which were inscribed the names of the former Chiefs
and Commissioners. Each had held his own pet theories of the detection
of crime, each had had his widely published successes, his obscure
failures, and each of them in turn had passed on and out of the
office. He could have faced them all just as he was about to face
their successor, and he could have beaten them at their own game!
Surely no other man in the world with such a secret as he carried
would have had the supreme audacity to enter this building on so
innocent an errand and converse calmly with the very men who would be
hot upon his trail if they knew! It was immense!

Millard returned with a secretary of the Commissioner, and they were
conducted through the small octagonal anteroom to the inner sanctum of
the great man himself. The latter greeted them with brisk geniality,
and during the brief talk which followed the introduction, Storm
studied him blandly. He was a comparatively young man, not much older
than Storm himself, with a pleasant, mildly intelligent face and
frank, terse manner. He might have been a mere broker or bank
official, courteous but pressed for time, Storm reflected
contemptuously; a business man in a political job! What had he to fear
from an organization with such a man at its head?

His eyes wandered to the tall glass cases which lined one wall. The
shelves were filled with a miscellaneous collection of small objects;
pistols and revolvers of every caliber and pattern, ugly looking
bludgeons and sawed-off lengths of lead pipe swathed in frayed,
stained cloth and various small phials half-filled with tablets and
liquids of ominous color. As Storm stared idly at the curious
collection, his eye was caught by a strangely incongruous object on
one of the lower shelves. It was a pale blue satin slipper, absurdly
small, inconsequentially gay and flippant among its grim neighbors,
lying on its side with the narrow sole and heel turned toward him as
though its wearer had kicked it carelessly aside. Then he saw that
imbedded in the heel was an odd sliver of steel like a coarse needle
on a strong, slender, curved wire, and he started involuntarily.

The Chatsworth case! Less than a year before, the city had resounded
with the sensational death without apparent cause of the beautiful
Mrs. Chatsworth. Then that infinitesimal wound had been discovered
upon her heel, the subtle poison traced and the secret spring in the
slipper revealed. Storm remembered vaguely that the Commissioner
himself was said to have taken a hand in the work of the Homicide
Bureau, and that a timely suggestion of his had much to do with the
solution of the affair.

The insolently gay little slipper seemed all at once more sinister
than the grimmest of the weapons which flanked it, and Storm’s eyes
were still fastened upon it when he became aware that the Commissioner
was addressing him.

“It’s the wickedest of the lot, Mr. Storm, isn’t it? It looks
strangely out of place there at the first glance—just a bit of woman’s
finery among those crime relics; and yet it is the most deadly weapon
of them all.”

Storm turned to the other in surprise. Could he have uttered his
thoughts aloud?

“I—er, I didn’t——” he began, but the Commissioner smiled.

“It was a simple matter to follow your trend of thought, Mr. Storm.
You were surprised at seeing such a thing there, naturally; then you
noticed the needle on the spring and recalled the case which put the
dainty, innocent little slipper in a different light to you. It was an
extraordinary case, too much so for the ingenious gentleman who
conceived it to have hoped for success. Its bizarre, unusual features
rendered it all the more simple to solve. The casual, unpremeditated
cases are the ones which give us the most trouble because as a rule
they leave fewer clues. The man who plans a crime most carefully is
bound to over-reach himself in some particular, but the one who picks
up a weapon lying innocently or accidentally to his hand, strikes with
it and lays it down again, is the man who gives us the longest run.”

Storm could feel the blood ebbing from his face. Could this genial,
smiling person be reading his mind, probing to the depths of the
secret he guarded; or was he merely voicing his own favorite theory?
At any rate, Storm realized that his previously formed opinion of the
Commissioner was undergoing a swift reversal.

He murmured a polite phrase or two of interest, and the Commissioner

“I wish I had time to tell you the history of even a few of the things
there, for each is a relic of some case celebrated in the annals of
the Department. However, I suppose you gentlemen would like to have a
look at the Homicide Bureau and the Bureau of Missing Persons; they
are usually the most interesting departments to outsiders. My
secretary will introduce you.”

He took leave of them with hearty cordiality, and once outside the
anteroom Storm smiled quietly to himself. The Commissioner’s unique
collection lacked two specimens which might have graced it: a certain
golf club known as a driver, and a cane with a wickedly heavy head.
But the Commissioner, astute as he was, would never miss them! His
theory was all very well in its way, Storm conceded, but it did not go
quite far enough. What of the man who did not over-reach himself; the
man who perfected his coup in advance and left no clues whatever
behind? All unconsciously the Commissioner had been lauding Storm’s
own achievements, and his sense of elation heightened.

“Nothing doing in the Homicide Bureau this afternoon that would
interest you, I am afraid,” the secretary announced. “We’ll try the
Bureau of Missing Persons; there is usually something going on there.”

He led them down the wide stairs and along the echoing corridor to a
door at the left, and Storm saw a large room divided by a rail and
subdivided again at the end by partitions forming two smaller offices.
An older man with a delicate, high-bred, sensitive face came forward,
and as he was presented to the Captain, Storm watched the latter’s
quick changes of expression with something of the contempt with which
he had at first discounted the Commissioner’s frank, genial manner.
This man, he reflected, might have been a scholar or priest; a father
confessor, but surely not an analyst of human nature; a pedant, not a
person of quick decision and unerring action. Pah! The Captain would
be a mere tool in his hands; he could deceive him, trick him, beat him
at his own game as easily as he had tricked the Greenlea officials and
the simple-minded, guileless community out there.

He had already beaten him! Storm smiled again at the thought. The
Captain must be combing the country now for a man whose body had lain
exposed more than thirty-six hours within the limits of the city, and
Storm alone knew where! One word from him would set that quiet office
in a furore! And this was the man who had located the supposed Du
Chainat on board the _Alsace_! Du Chainat must have been more of a
bungler than Storm had believed!

While the secretary was explaining the object of their visit, Millard
drew Storm through the opened door of one of the inner offices and
pointed out the swinging files of photographs which stood out from the

“Unidentified dead,” he remarked pompously with the assurance of a
privileged visitor. “Morgue cases and Potter’s Field, you know, mostly
derelicts. Dreadful looking lot, aren’t they?”

Storm shuddered in spite of himself. The relaxed faces leering
maudlinly or with jaw wide in a seeming snarl stared fixedly at him
with a look of supreme sophistication, and his own eyes dropped before
them. To his super-sensitized imagination they seemed to be crying
mutely in a silent chorus: “We know!” Jack Horton knew, also!

“Horrible!” Storm ejaculated in answer to his companion’s comment.
“Millard I believe you are an inherent ghoul! You’ve been coming here
gloating over these wretched things and regaling the country club with
a nice lot of cheery anecdotes, haven’t you? I’ll wager half the
members have taken to drink!”

Millard laughed and turned as the Captain entered.

“Not as bad as all that!” he disclaimed, adding to the official; “I
suppose you’re all working over time on that Horton case that the
papers were full of this morning; chap who disappeared with the
payroll of the Mid-Eastern coal people. My friend here knows him.”

“You do?” The voice which had greeted them so gently took on in the
instant a keen, knife-like edge, and the paternal, rather dreamy eyes
narrowed in swift focus like the lens of a camera. Storm felt himself
flush beneath the gaze, and he could have annihilated the garrulous

“To be perfectly frank, sir, I don’t know.” His tone was disarmingly
candid. “When Mr. Millard spoke of the case I mentioned the fact that
there was a chap in my class at Elmhaven of that name. He only stayed
for one term and I shouldn’t know him now if I met him, I’m afraid.
That was twenty years ago.”

He smiled deprecatingly, but the steady glance of the Captain did not
waver. “You haven’t seen him since?”

“No.” Then, realizing the inevitable question to follow, he
volunteered: “The last I heard of our Jack Horton, and then most
indirectly, was that he held some sort of minor position in a bank in
Chicago. I’m inclined to doubt that this is the same fellow.”

The Captain’s face softened, and he said, with a swift return of his
old genial manner:

“Twenty years can change a man, Mr. Storm. It is the same Jack Horton,
I am afraid. We have his record and he attended college at Elmhaven at
the time you mention. But it is not certain that he absconded, you
know; if it were, the case would not be up to this department. He is
merely officially ‘missing’ as yet.”

“With a hundred thousand in cash!” Millard smirked. “Not much danger
of his having suffered an attack of aphasia, is there, Captain? By
Jove, if I had that much money about me, I might forget my own name

The typewriters clicking behind the rail in the outer office ceased
all at once as the door leading to the corridor opened slowly, and a
girl appeared, hesitating on the threshold. She was an undeniably
pretty little girl despite the fact that her eyes were reddened and
swollen, but her light summer frock was oddly out of place in that
grim setting. She peered slowly about until her eyes caught the
Captain’s, and rested there.

“Is this,” she began in a high, strained voice, “is this the place
where they find people who have disappeared?”

“We try to.” The Captain’s tone had mellowed and a persuasive,
paternal note crept into it. “Tell me for whom you are looking.”

He seated himself at his desk, motioning her to a chair beside it, and
drew a blank form toward him. Millard was staring in goggle-eyed
interest, and Storm stared also, but from far different motives. Where
had he seen that pretty, piquant, slightly sullen face before?

As for the girl, she stood undecidedly, twisting the chain of her
platinum mesh bag between her hands.

At length she burst forth half-confidentially, half-shyly:

“For—for Mr. Horton! Oh, you must know who I mean! Mr. John Horton,
the paymaster of the Mid-Eastern Consolidated Coal Corporation. The
papers say this morning that he has disappeared, but it cannot be
true! I was told that if I came here——”

The girl in Horton’s watch case! Storm drew a sharp, quick breath and
did not need Millard’s nudge to rivet his attention. The girl! He had
not calculated upon her taking a possible hand in the game.

At a sign from Captain Nairn the stenographers had filed into the
second of the inner offices, and to all appearance he and his client
were alone.

“Who are you, my dear?” His fatherly tones showed no indication of
change or added interest.

The girl hesitated again.

“I’m just a—a friend, but I felt that I had to come to you. If Jack
has really disappeared, you know what terrible things will be said
about him soon, since he had all that money in his possession. If he
hasn’t returned to the colliery it is because something frightful must
have happened to him. He must have been set upon by thieves; killed,
or hurt and perhaps held prisoner somewhere! Oh, if you don’t find

“Your name, please?” A note of sternness crept into the Captain’s

“I am Eugenia Saulsbury.” A little quick color came and went in the
girl’s cheeks, but she held her head proudly erect.

“You reside here in New York?”

“No. I am visiting an old friend of my mother, Mrs. Van Alen on
Madison Avenue, but I live with my father near Bethlehem in
Pennsylvania. He will be annoyed, I am afraid, that I have courted
publicity in coming to you like this, but he—he thought a great deal
of Jack, and I know he will back up any investigation to find him to
the limit of his resources.” She paused. “I—I have thought of hiring
the best private detectives I could find—I wired Daddy so—but I felt
that I simply had to come to you, too! I do not believe that Jack ever
reached the city.”

“Why not, Miss Saulsbury?” The stern note quickened to imperative

“Because if he had I am sure he would have made an attempt to
communicate with me.” She sank into a chair and fumbled in her bag for
her handkerchief, her eyes blinded by sudden tears. “He—I—you see,
we—we were very good friends! I know that he is honorable to a fault,
and something dreadful must have happened if he cannot be found! You
are the head of this bureau, are you not?”

“I am Captain Nairn,” the official nodded gravely. “Have you any
reason for thinking that he met with foul play other than the fact of
his disappearance, Miss Saulsbury? Do you know of any enemies——?”

“A hundred thousand dollars in cash would invite the enmity of a great
many people if they knew it was in your possession, wouldn’t it?” she
observed, with unconscious cynicism. “Jack was always armed when he
had the company’s payroll in charge, but I warned him that he was too
confident, too sure of his ability to protect it. You see, Captain
Nairn, he would never believe any evil of anybody; that was one of the
strongest traits in his character. He has had some narrow escapes
before, but they were from rough characters down in the mountains. If
he took that train at Poughkeepsie, as they say, he must be somewhere
between there and here, and if he is not dead, he is badly hurt and
unable to communicate with his friends. Please, please lose no time in
finding him!”

“If what you think proves to be the case he will undoubtedly be
discovered,” the Captain began soothingly, but the girl interrupted,
wringing her hands.

“Every hour, every minute counts, not only if he is hurt physically,
but to save him from mental torture! If he is lying injured and
helpless somewhere and thinking that people may consider him
dishonest, he will be suffering more from that than from what may have
been done to him, and the thought is driving me mad! It would be
better, almost, to know the—the worst!”

The telephone shrilled once at the Captain’s elbow and he picked up
the receiver and listened. His face, which Storm had thought mobile,
had become a mere expressionless mask. The girl was dabbing at her
eyes, but her tears had ceased and her small chin came out

Captain Nairn uttered the one word “Right!” in reply to the
communication which had come to him, then hung up the receiver and
turned once more to his visitor. —

“Miss Saulsbury, no effort will be spared to find your friend, you may
be sure of that.”

“But you—you believe he hasn’t taken that money, don’t you? You’ll
find out if he has been hurt or imprisoned somewhere?” She had taken
his assurance as a dismissal and, rising, held out her hand in appeal.

The Captain shook it gravely.

“We will do our best to find him, Miss Saulsbury, dead or alive.”

When she had withdrawn and the clicking of her small shoes diminished
in the corridor outside, Millard stepped forward.

“That was mighty interesting, Captain! Don’t mind our listening! So
that little lady was in love with Horton, eh? Saulsbury—from
Bethlehem! She must be the daughter of ‘Big Jim’ Saulsbury, of
International Steel! Do you think she was trying to—er, stall?”

“No.” The Captain shook his head. “Her motive was honest and
straightforward enough, I think. She made only one misstatement, or
attempt at evasion.”

“What was that?”

Storm drew closer to catch the reply.

“That she intended to put the case in the hands of private detectives;
she has already done so.—At eleven o’clock this morning, to be exact.
You see, gentlemen, her house has been watched since midnight and she
has been under surveillance every moment. We could take no chances,
and in cases of this sort we look first for the woman!”

Chapter XIX


When, a few minutes later, they came down the steps of the building,
Millard was still descanting on the infallible methods of the bureau
they had just quitted; but Storm was silent, although in his heart he
gave grudging assent to the eulogy. They were thorough, for a fact; he
had not anticipated such extensive work on the part of the police in
so short a time. The alarm sent out at sundown from Pennsylvania for
the missing man, and by midnight his record known and the house in
which his sweetheart lived placed under surveillance!

To Millard and himself as mere curious visitors no information had
been dropped, and he had an uneasy idea that the mental reservation
indicated by Captain Nairn’s attitude concealed a far deeper knowledge
of the case than had been given out to the press. In the latter’s
manner, especially when they shook hands at the moment of departure,
he felt that, had the Captain chosen to speak, he might have learned
something of vital importance to himself. Had the bag been already
discovered at the station, and was the porter’s memory for faces more
keen than he had judged? Were detectives even now scouring the city
for a man of his personal description?

“I’ll wager that telephone message had something to do with the Horton
affair,” Millard remarked suddenly. “Maybe he was caught then!”

Storm roused himself from his meditations with a start.

“Why do you think that?”

“Well, you see, I’ve watched the Captain before,” replied Millard.
“You saw how quickly his expression could change when he wanted it to.
By Jove, that chap should have been an actor! He put me over the jumps
for a solid hour, I don’t mind telling you, when I went in to explain
about my acquaintance with Du Chainat, and although he did it in a
perfectly courteous, kid-glove manner I felt as limp as a rag when I
came out. His expression ran the gamut from bland incredulity to
direct accusation, and if I had had anything to confess he would have
broken me down absolutely. Those fellows at Headquarters could force a
confession from the cleverest crook in Christendom!”

“And what has this to do with the telephone message to-day?” Storm
inquired in bored disgust at his companion’s garrulousness.

“Everything, my boy!” Millard retorted. “While he was talking to Big
Jim’s daughter just now and drawing her out, his face was alive with
expression, but after he had heard the first few words which came to
him over the ’phone he looked absolutely blank and wooden. He got some
information right then that he did not mean to convey, or I am very
much mistaken. I say, there was something rather fine, wasn’t there,
about that girl?”

“She was rather pretty,” Storm admitted, with a shrug.

“I don’t mean that!” exclaimed the other impatiently. “She was gotten
up like a circus queen! I mean her attitude, her loyalty toward your
friend Horton. Jolly white of her, I thought it!”

“Oh, when a woman is in love!” Storm sneered and added in cold
displeasure, “Don’t call Horton my friend, please. I doubt still that
this fellow is the one I knew at college.”

“But the Captain told you he was at Elmhaven——”

“After I had myself informed him that there was a chap of that name
there; don’t forget that, Millard. A mere play to the gallery.” Storm
laughed. “Captain Nairn is highly successful, I have no doubt, in
cases of lost children and runaway girls, but I must confess I see no
basis for your remarkable faith in the powers of the Department.
They’ve failed in other cases just as they will in this.”

“You wait and see!” Millard’s tone was distinctly ruffled. “I’ve known
the Commissioner’s secretary for years and I’m going to get him to let
me in on this case from the inside and watch how they work it. I’ll
bet you fifty dollars they get that man Horton!”

“_And_ the hundred thousand?” Storm was still laughing, but there was
a reckless glint in his eyes.

“And the hundred thousand!” Millard repeated with emphasis.

“Any time limit?”

“Oh, well, if the fellow succeeds in getting out of the country——”
Millard hedged.

“Shall we say six months?—Done! Come up and dine with me at my rooms
on Tuesday night, and we’ll let George Holworthy hold the stakes.”
Storm held out his hand in a sudden volatile accession of cordiality.
“Good-bye, and thanks for a most interesting afternoon, old man,

After he had left Millard, however, a quick revulsion of mood came and
he cursed the impulse which had led him to extend the invitation. The
voluble little man bored him horribly, but he had felt an impish
desire to goad him on in his laudation of the Department, and to seal
the compact of the wager within a few feet of where the money lay
securely hidden had seemed a great joke at the moment. It might be a
wise move, at that, to keep in with Millard if the latter managed
through his boasted friendship with the Commissioner’s secretary to
obtain any inside information on the progress of the case. He would be
sure to retail it in defense of his argument, and in spite of his
sense of security Storm determined to be forewarned of any possible

He dined alone at an old down-town hotel which he frequented when the
mood for solitude came upon him. It was a Stately place with an air of
faded grandeur about it, left far behind in the upward march of the
city, but still retaining a remnant of its ancient patronage.

As he sat over his coffee, Storm idly studied the diners scattered
about at the nearby tables. They were elderly for the most part with a
solid air of conscious rectitude and well-being, and they ate with the
deliberation and grave relish due to the reputation of the cuisine. A
shining bald pate above a coat of magisterial black at the next table
caught Storm’s eye by its glistening expanse. The man was sitting back
luxuriously reading a paper which he held outstretched to aid some
defect of vision, and over one ample shoulder a few letters of the
headline jumped out in staring type.

“—ton’s Body——”

Storm caught his breath, and for a moment the page wavered and blurred
before his eyes. Could it mean Horton’s body? Had it been discovered?
He craned his neck, leaning as far forward and to one side as he
dared; but by a perverse fate the older man moved also, his shoulder
effectually concealing the rest of the message.

Storm cursed him softly beneath his breath, still maneuvering
desperately to read the lines so tantalizingly withheld from him.
Confound the old dotard! If he would shift that paper only a bit to
one side, hold it a matter of a few inches higher, the whole article
could be read, for he sat so near that even the small type would be
plainly legible to Storm’s sharp eyes.

While he writhed impotently the unconscious reader turned the page,
and in the flirt of the paper Storm caught a fleeting glimpse of the
last word on the headline. It looked like “Found,” but he dared not
trust the evidence of that swift glance. He felt an almost
uncontrollable impulse to stride across to the other man and tear the
paper from his hands; but the reader must have lost the thread of the
article in which he was engrossed, for even as Storm struggled with
his maddened impatience he turned back, raising the paper so that the
whole upper part was in plain view.

“Horton’s Body Found.”

His instinct had been right, after all! Storm’s heart hammered in his
chest, and for a second time his vision blurred, only to clear the
next instant; and he read without effort through to the end of the
brief news item. It told only what he of all men already knew, what he
had wished the world to learn.

The older man folded his paper, yawned, and departed, and Storm called
for his check and strolled out of the hotel with a serenely detached
air; but although the night was warm he shivered as if a sudden chill
had swept over him. That phase of the investigation was over; now the
search would begin in earnest for the black bag.

Suddenly he recalled Millard’s conviction about the telephone message
which Chief Nairn had received in their presence and the added
reservation in the latter’s manner when he bade them good-bye. Millard
must have been right; that message was a report of the finding of the

As he journeyed homeward he felt a sense of relief that the suspense
was over. Horton was no longer lying out there—but what did Horton
matter? He was dead and that was an end of it. How easily his skull
had caved in beneath the force of that single blow! How easily the
whole thing had been accomplished!

But was the money really safe in his apartment now that the search
would narrow down to the bag and its contents? Would it not be wiser
if he were to hire a safe-deposit box somewhere under an assumed
name——? But even as the thought came he negatived it. Wise or not, he
realized that he could not know a moment’s rest with the money for
which he had risked so much out of his immediate possession. He would
wait until the bag was discovered and the news of it had been
forgotten and then slip unostentatiously away. This might come at any
day; he must be prepared.

Thank heaven he had mentioned his proposed trip to George long before
Horton crossed his path once more! Now his suddenly announced decision
would call forth no surprise from that devoted friend, and George
could be depended upon in the depths of his innocence to explain the
situation to any curious acquaintances.

“Poor old Norman!” he would say, shaking his head sadly. “Went all to
pieces over the loss of his wife. Health gave out completely, you
know; couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, racked with nerves! Sea voyage is
the best thing for him, and he’ll come back a new man.”

Storm laughed at his own conceit, but by morning his resolve had
strengthened and definite plans began to form themselves in his mind.
When he was safely away—in Japan, perhaps,—he would change some of the
banknotes at a foreign branch of one of the banking houses and send
back a draft to old Foulkes to take up that mortgage on the Greenlea
house with Langhorne; he could get a far better price for the property

Still later he could write to old George and deputize him to sell it.
George would be pained, of course, but what did that matter? He could
explain that he meant to extend his trip and could never, in any
event, bring himself to a return to Greenlea. He could tell George
also to dispose of what personal belongings still remained of Leila’s
among her friends there and to sell the house as it stood.

The morning papers threw no further light on the subject of Horton’s
murder, yet Storm knew that no stone would be left unturned in the
search for the bag, and he felt that its discovery might be imminent.
A week or two at most after that took place and the whole affair would
vanish from the public mind.

He would be prepared to sail at once, but in cutting absolutely adrift
from the old life he meant in no sense to become a pariah. When he was
satiated with travel he would settle down in some Continental city and
enjoy life untrammeled by memories.

That night he took stock of his own belongings. He had left the
details of his removal from Greenlea in George’s hands, and the latter
had made a free selection. When Storm had weeded them out from
Potter’s effects he looked at the conglomeration in despair. He meant
to travel light, taking only his fresh mourning attire with him, which
could be discarded readily enough as soon as he was away from his
circle of condoling friends; and his old clothes could be given to

But George had added a collection of junk which could not be so easily
disposed of without opening even that credulous individual’s eyes to
the real state of Storm’s mind. His glance swept in exasperation over
the room; that reading lamp, for instance, his favorite edition of
Balzac, the antique clock, the bronze desk set! George’s infernal
sentiment must have directed his choice, for these had all been gifts
from Leila; they couldn’t very well be given or thrown away!

The impulse came to Storm to tumble them all into an old trunk and
ship them back to Greenlea, and his mood demanded instant action. He
might as well get them out of the way now and have done with it! There
would be plenty to do in the days ahead, and at least he would have
the cursed things out of his sight.

Whistling cheerily he took off his coat, dragged the trunk out from
the storeroom and opened it. He had scarcely started upon his task,
however, when there came an insistent double ring at the bell.

George, again! Storm sat down deliberately and swore. But it would not
do to offend him, and the time would be so short . . . .

He rose and opened the door to disclose George, beaming, his arms
filled with awkwardly held paper bags and bundles. As he moved, one of
them crashed down upon the mat and a thin line of white liquid
meandered from it.

“Ouch! There goes the cream, I am afraid!” George’s smile faded, and
he gazed ruefully down at the mess. “I thought we might make a
rarebit, and I stopped——”

“Well, never mind! Come in. There is more cream in the ice chest.”
Storm pulled his guest unceremoniously within and closed the door.
“Homachi can clean the mat in the morning. Here, I’ll take all that
stuff to the kitchen.”

“Just finished a rubber of bridge over at the Abbott’s and as I hadn’t
seen you in two days——” George explained to the empty air. “Why, what

His ejaculation reached Storm in the kitchen and the latter returned
to find his guest staring in surprise from the opened trunk to the
disordered room.

“I’m packing up some stuff to send back to Greenlea,” Storm explained
briefly. “All those things Leila gave me, you know; I can’t stand
seeing them around me any longer.”

“I’m sorry. I thought they would make it more homelike for you here,”
George said simply, in honest contrition. “I might have known you
wouldn’t want them about just yet, to remind you——Here, let me help
pack them.”

Storm masked a smile. Old George was almost too easy!

“All right, then, if you want to,” he acquiesced. “Take off your coat
and we’ll pitch in. There is a pile of old newspapers on the pantry

George trotted obediently off and returned with the papers.

“I say, wasn’t that a fierce thing about poor Jack Horton!” he
exclaimed. “You saw it in the papers, of course? He was found

“I know!” Storm interrupted hastily. “Mind what you are doing with
that clock!—Yes, it was very sad, of course, but a chap in his line of
work takes chances, and I suppose he took one too many.”

“It doesn’t seem possible! Poor old Jack!” George’s tone trembled with
real feeling. “It is odd that we should have been talking about him
only two nights ago; I don’t think we’ve even mentioned his name
before in years. And at that very time he was lying dead out there on
the Drive, and no one knew! It’s horrible! Why, we passed twice right
within a few feet of the spot!”

“That’s so, we did,” Storm said slowly.

“Did you see the latest editions of the papers to-night?” George
pursued, and then not waiting for the other to reply, he went on:
“That young girl who was in love with him—Big Jim Saulsbury’s
daughter—gave an interview to the reporters in which she said she
would never rest until his murderers were discovered and convicted.
Big Jim is backing her up, too. He came on here to New York, and
although he refuses to talk for publication it is understood that he
has hired the best private detectives in the country to supplement the
authorities. By Jingo, I hope they get them!”

“Do they think some gang were out after him?” Storm asked.

“They don’t seem to think anything!” George waxed indignant. “I tell
you, things are in a pretty state in this town when a chap can be
decoyed off a train, robbed of a hundred thousand dollars and murdered
in cold blood! Where were the police, I should like to know?”

Storm smiled.

“We had a little talk about crime not so long ago, if you remember,”
he observed. “You didn’t quite agree with me when I suggested that a
person could commit any sort of crime and get away with it if he used
his brains, but this looks like a case in point, eh?”

Suddenly he caught his breath. It had occurred to him that George’s
glance had fallen idly upon the sheets of newspaper with which they
were packing the articles into the trunk, and remembrance came to him.
They were using the outer sheets only from the top of the pile on the
pantry shelf; the inner sheets of those papers were wrapped about
Horton’s pistol in the bag! Had George noted anything unusual? His
manner certainly did not show it, and he was packing with a
preoccupation which boded ill for the safe arrival of the fragile lamp
at Greenlea.

To test him, Storm repeated:

“It looks as if the fellow was going to get away with it in this case,
at any rate.”

“They’ve only just started,” George replied significantly, adding as
he eyed the half-filled trunk: “We should have put those books on the
bottom, but never mind now. Does this desk set go in, too?”

“Yes.” Storm breathed more easily, but his vaunted foresight had
received a shock. Why hadn’t he destroyed those confounded outer
sheets of the newspaper?

The thought brought a swift reminder to him. Why not get rid now of
the cap which Horton had worn on that fateful walk? There was room in
the trunk . . . .

He dashed to the closet.

“Wait a minute, George. When you packed up my things to move in town
you brought along a lot of old clothes that I shan’t have any use for
in a dog’s age. Might as well ship some of them back to Greenlea now
and have done with it.”

“Sure!” responded George equably. “Bring them along.”

Storm returned, his arms filled with a miscellaneous collection of
coats and headgear. Among the latter was a certain cap of thin dark
blue cloth, and as he saw it disappear into the trunk he heaved a sigh
of relief. That, too, was gone! He turned to his companion.

“Oh, did I tell you that I saw Horton’s girl yesterday; this Miss

“Where?” George demanded, staring.

“At Police Headquarters. A friend of Millard showed us around.”

Storm told in detail of the scene at the Bureau of Missing Persons,
and George listened with deep interest.

“Mighty loyal of that girl to stand up for poor Jack when the whole
world was ready to condemn him as an absconder, wasn’t it?” he
commented, as Millard had done. “Even I—well, it did look pretty black
against him, didn’t it? They’ll get his murderers, sure!”

“So Millard thinks. He is crazy about the work of the Department since
he has been given a glimpse behind the scenes, and he swears they
can’t fail.” Storm laughed. “In fact, we have a little wager on about
it, and you are to hold the stakes. He is coming up to dinner next
Tuesday night.”

“Well, for an old friend of Jack, you’ve taken a queer stand, it seems
to me,” George said slowly. “Anybody would think you didn’t want to
see his murderers punished!”

“Not at all!” Storm retorted coolly: “There is nothing personal in
this; it is a purely abstract question. Millard believes in the
infallibility of the Department, and I don’t. What have they done so
far? Horton was last seen alive in Poughkeepsie on Wednesday
afternoon; he is murdered in New York some time that night, and his
body is not even discovered until Friday afternoon. This is Saturday
night, and what progress has been made in the case? Exactly none! They
don’t know how Horton came to be out there on the Drive, who killed
him or where the money is!”

“They’ve found the bag it was in, anyway.”

“What?” Storm stared at him as though he could scarcely believe he had
heard aright.

“Uh-huh. The last edition of all the papers is playing it up big. The
bag with poor old Jack’s hat and a pistol and a lot of old newspapers
inside was discovered in the parcel-checking room of the Grand Central
Station.” George paused and added: “Isn’t that marvelous police work
for you? They must have doped it out that because he disappeared
presumably from the terminal the bag would be found somewhere around
there, and by Jingo, it was! Think of conceiving the idea of searching
the parcel room and then tell me a fellow can get away with anything
in this town when such minds as those are on the job after him!
Wonderful work, I call it! When they find out who checked that bag
there, they’ve got Jack Horton’s murderer!”

Chapter XX


They finished packing the trunk, made and devoured the rarebit, and
still George lingered. His mind had been jarred from its placid
routine by the tragic death of their former classmate, and he dwelt
upon the reminiscences which were an added torture to Storm’s
perturbed mental state.

The bag had been discovered, but did the porter remember checking it?
Did he remember the face of the man who had given it into his charge?
That was a paramount question. He had not noticed that the papers he
brought home with him were not the final edition, and now it was too
late to procure one even if he could get rid of George. He felt that
he could not wait till morning; he must know! Dare he ask his
companion for particulars? Surely it would be only natural for him to
show as much casual interest as that in the mystery surrounding an old
friend’s death!

“What do you think about the case yourself?” he queried at last,
abruptly cutting off the flow of reminiscence. “What is your theory as
to how Jack came to his death?”

“Well,” George helped himself to a cigar. “He may not have been killed
on the Drive, you know. His body may have been brought there by
automobile and thrown over the wall, and a high-powered car travels
fast; the murder may have taken place miles away. I’m going down and
have a look at old Jack to-morrow if they will let me—I have a theory
about the whole thing that I would like to try out for my own

“And what is that?” Storm inquired with a jarring note of sarcasm in
his tones.

“Oh, I don’t pretend to be any amateur detective,” George returned
mildly. “But I knew old Jack! They’re all taking it for granted that
he wasn’t killed in New York because he had no business to be here; at
least, he was supposed to have gone right on through. Now, his
character may have steadied down and grown more dependable with the
years—it must have, since he has been so uniformly trusted in such
responsible positions—but you can’t change a person’s natural
propensities, and Jack was always keen for a good time. Understand,
I’m not casting any aspersions on him; I don’t say he would have taken
a chance of trouble with that money in his care, but what if he didn’t
think he was taking chances? What if he ran into some people he knew
and trusted as he would himself, was persuaded to stop over and then
taken unawares?”

“But what grounds are there for such a supposition?” The sarcasm had
gone from Storm’s tones and they were muffled and oddly constrained.
“Didn’t the papers speak of a struggle? That doesn’t look as if Horton
were caught off guard by people he might have been chumming with.”

“That’s why I want to see the body,” responded George. “It could have
been banged about and the clothes torn by that fall over the wall and
down that steep, rocky incline.”

“Of course,” Storm commented; “but ordinary footpads could have set
upon him from behind——”

“Ordinary footpads would not have known the contents of that bag,”
objected the other. “Now, if he really boarded that train alive in
broad daylight, he must have left it willingly, and therefore he must
have done so at the terminal in New York, for no amount of persuasion
or coercion would have made him get off at an intermediate station
with that bag in his possession.”

“And since the bag was found at the terminal, you think he was
murdered there?” Storm laughed shortly.

“No, but I do think he was murdered somewhere within the city limits;
you couldn’t get a dead or drugged or resisting man off a train in
broad daylight without attracting attention, and as a matter of fact
the autopsy shows that Jack wasn’t drugged. He may have met some old
pal on the train or in the station and decided to wait over for an
hour or so in town before continuing on his journey, and it must have
been someone he knew well. If he left Poughkeepsie on that
four-something train, he must have reached New York in time for
dinner, and it has been established that he wasn’t killed until around
midnight. It seems to me that if the police would look up what friends
of his were in New York that night, they might learn something to
their advantage.”

“You are getting to be quite an analyst, George; I should never have
suspected it.” Storm yawned openly and tossed away his cigarette.
“What about the bag? You said that when they found the man who checked
it they would have Horton’s murderer. It has been established, then,
that a man did check it? They have a description of him, perhaps?”

He waited breathlessly for the answer, but George merely shrugged.

“No. It was checked some time on Thursday; that’s all they know. The
hat and pistol were in it, wadded out with newspapers, but not another
scrap of evidence.” George rose. “Guess I’ll be getting on downtown.
If I can get Abbott’s car to-morrow afternoon, do you want to run out
somewhere for dinner? You’re not looking up to the mark lately, old
man; too much brooding and sticking around by yourself. The air will
do you good.”

Storm assented absently, and after he had shown his visitor out he
sprung the light in the bathroom and examined his face in the mirror.
It bore a grayish, unhealthy pallor, and there were lines about his
mouth which certainly had not been there a month before. His eyes,
too: there was a look in them which Storm himself did not care to
meet, and for the first time he noted a faint touch of gray in the
dark hair at his temples. He shrugged and turned away.

Ah, well, a few days now and he would be on his way to new fields. A
few gray hairs: what did they matter? It was this ceaseless strain of
being on guard, the constant rankling torture of memory! Let him once
start afresh, with the past behind him, and he would soon regain his
own old snap and vigor.

Since that memorable Wednesday evening his rooms had become as hateful
to him as the house at Greenlea. Horton had only passed a few hours
there, yet he had left a vivid impression behind him as disturbing as
the effect of Leila’s influence in the home. Every time Storm entered
the living-room he seemed to see Horton’s figure seated in that heavy
armchair, his legs stretched out luxuriously, and the smoke curling up
from his cigar. The empty walls echoed with his loud, self-satisfied
voice, his coarse, good-natured laugh.

Storm felt that the end must come soon; he must get away, come what
might, from these surroundings.

The next day when he and George were bowling along the Long Island
roads in Abbott’s car, he broached the subject.

“Do you remember that I said some time ago I would like to chuck the
trust company job and get away somewhere for a time? I’ve just about
made up my mind to do it.”

“Don’t be a fool, Norman!” George advised with the roughness of sudden
feeling in his tones. “I know you are dragging your anchor just now,
but you’ll come up in the wind all right. We all get over things in
time; we have to. You would never get such a position as you have with
the Mammoth Trust, and you haven’t the temperament to start out for

“I’m not dependent on that position, as it happens,” Storm remarked
coldly, but his pulses leaped at the inward significance of the
statement. What was fifteen thousand a year in a treadmill of
precedent and prejudice to a hundred and twelve thousand and the world
before him?

“I know you are not, but the remains of your father’s estate won’t
last you long.” George spoke with dogged patience. “You are not the
sort to tie yourself down later to an inferior position where you
would feel galled and embittered by the driving methods of the average
commercial concern. You’ve got it pretty easy there, Norman, with the
Mammoth people.”

“I don’t care! I have enough for myself if I never do another stroke
of work and I have no one else to consider. I want to be my own
master! I want to be free!”

The cry was wrung from him in an unguarded upward surge of
exasperation, but George shook his head.

“We are none of us that, ever,” he said slowly. “We think that we can
fly from our memories, but we can’t old man. It is only from within us
that resignation comes, and peace, and finally, if we are strong and
patient enough, something that passes for happiness.”

“How do you know all this?” Storm demanded. “Where did you get your

“From sticking it out.” George stared straight ahead of him, and his
tone was a trifle grim. “Don’t think you are the only one who has had
to make the best of things and go on; I tell you, you can get used to
anything in time.”

“I don’t propose to!” Storm cried recklessly. “I’ve had enough of
this, I tell you; I’ve got to get away!—Not permanently, you
understand, but for a good long trip.”

He added the latter as a sense of caution returned to him, and George

“What at the end of it? You’ve got luxurious habits; there is no sense
in blinking the truth. After you’ve wandered around the world lonelier
than you are now and spent all your capital, you’ll come home to find
your position gone and nothing in store for you. You’ve been through
the worst of it; stick it out now and try to work all the harder.”

“I tell you I’ve come to the end!” Storm cried desperately. “I don’t
mean to be violent, old man, but I’ve got to have a change or I shall
go mad! I thought if I left Greenlea and moved into town things would
adjust themselves, that I should feel better; but I don’t. I haven’t
the least intention of beggaring myself as you seem to think; why, I
shan’t be away more than a few months at most, and I have other things
in view for my return. I’ve been sticking too long at the trust
company, practically rusting. I need fresh interests, a new impetus.
This whole damned town stifles me!”

“Then why not ask for a month’s vacation and come upstate on a fishing
trip with me?” George asked after a moment. “Abbott can look after my
affairs, and it isn’t too late for the trout. You used to be fond of

Storm moved impatiently in his seat.

“I don’t want to do any thing I’m used to!” he declared. “I want
complete change, new scenes, everything! Can’t you understand?”

“I think I can.” George kept his eyes carefully trained ahead, and he
seemed to be choosing his words with unusual deliberation. “But you
can’t fight anything, you can’t forget anything, by running away from
it, Norman.”

“I’m not running away!” The denial came hotly from the other’s lips,
and he eyed his companion in swift, furtive alarm. “I’m worn out and
my nerves are gone; that is all there is to it! You are so
confoundedly phlegmatic, George, that you could keep on in the same
old rut if the heavens fell! This isn’t a wild impulse; I’ve had it in
mind ever since—since Leila left me. Don’t be surprised if you hear of
my pulling up stakes any day.”

George had no more to say, but Storm felt uneasily that his
announcement had not been received quite as he had hoped it would be.
To his own mind his proposed trip seemed natural enough on the face of
it, but it was evident that to his conservative friend the deliberate
relinquishment of a life-long sinecure was not justified by his mere
desire for a change of scene. George was not proving as easy to
handle, after all, as he had anticipated; and if he thought the
proposed departure strange, how would the rest of their world look
upon it?

But what did it matter what any of them thought? Leila’s death had
been declared accidental, and that incident was closed forever, while
no possible link remained to connect him with the murder of Horton.
Storm told himself angrily that this utterly unwarranted apprehension
showed the state his nerves were in. He must get away!

That night, obsessed with the idea, he looked up sailing dates. This
was the tenth of June; if he left New York on the following Saturday,
the sixteenth, he could journey by rail across the continent, allow a
day or two in which to look about San Francisco and catch the
_Chikamatzu_ from that port for Yokohama. It would be a simple matter
to make his way from there to the China coast when Japan palled, and
from there to India, to Egypt . . . .

Six days more! He could possess his soul in patience for that brief
period, and it would be none too long to enable him to put his affairs
in final order. The investigation into Horton’s death and the
disappearance of the money had reached the point which he had
anticipated; now it would remain at a standstill until finally dropped
for lack of further evidence. As far as he personally was concerned,
the affair was over.

With his decision made and the date of departure fixed in his mind,
all nervous misgivings fell from him, and the news of the two
succeeding days contained nothing to reawaken any disquietude.

The police were noncommittal, but it was evident that they had nothing
to offer in response to the clamor of the press for a report of
progress in the case. The private detectives working at the behest of
‘Big Jim’ Saulsbury’s daughter and those of the Mid-Eastern
Corporation were assiduously following chimerical clues. The
investigation appeared to be indeed at a standstill, and Storm’s
spirits soared.

He even anticipated with a certain sly amusement the dinner on Tuesday
evening when the wager with Millard was to be ratified in George’s
presence. Those two wiseacres, with their convention-bound souls and
orthodox respect for the majesty of the law, should dine calmly within
arm’s length of the money the disappearance of which they would so
solemnly discuss! How he would draw them out, listen to their fatuous
exposition of their theories and laugh in his sleeve at them both!

Homachi was eager to exhibit his culinary ability, and master and man
planned a perfectly appointed little repast, the former with a nice
discrimination as to wines. His guest must be in a mellow, receptive
mood, for he meant to take this occasion to announce his imminent
departure definitely; he could depend on Millard to spread the news
about Greenlea, and the attitude in which he received it would
indicate the spirit in which he would disseminate it.

George was the first to appear on the scene, and his good-natured face
wore a little, worried frown as he shook hands.

“I heard downtown today that you had closed out your account at the
bank, Norman,” he began. “You are not actually preparing to go away,
are you?”

“I told you on Sunday,” Storm reminded him grimly.

“I know, but I—I really hoped you would think better of it.” George
shook his head. “I can’t stand by without a remonstrance and see my
best friend throw his whole future away on a mere restless whim. You
know you are fixed for life with the Mammoth people, and no man in his
senses would turn his back on an assured and ample income to gratify
such a suddenly aroused desire for travel. What is it, Norman? What is
on your mind?”

“What do you mean?” Storm’s eyes narrowed and his voice was ominously
calm. “What should be on my mind, George?”

“I don’t know! Hang it, I wish I did!” the other retorted. “It just
isn’t reasonable, that’s all. I don’t want to—to touch on anything
that will add to your sorrow, Norman, but I can’t help feeling that
there is something more in this than just an attempt to forget your
grief over Leila’s death. A man might naturally hanker for new scenes,
but he wouldn’t sacrifice his whole future for a few months’ change.
Tell me what is at the bottom of this crazy move of yours, won’t you?
I know you think I’m just a stodgy old fool, but maybe I can help.”

His tone was pleading, his affectionate concern so evident, that Storm
felt a twinge of compunction even as his annoyance at the other’s
persistence arose.

“Your attitude is not very flattering, George,” he responded coldly.
“You talk as though I were an hereditary pensioner of the Mammoth
Trust, as though I would not be worth my salt in any other capacity. I
do not owe you or any one else an explanation of my conduct——”

“Norman!” George’s face flushed with pain and mortification, and he
half rose from the chair.

“Sit down, old man. I know you mean this in pure friendship, but I’m
not in the mood for advice.” Storm controlled himself with an effort
and went on carefully. “The fact is that even if I did not contemplate
this trip I should sever my connection with the trust company. There
you have it straight. I’m not getting the right deal there, and I mean
to branch out for myself; I should have done so long ago, but I did
not want to take a chance on Leila’s account. You will forgive me if I
do not discuss my future plans with you at the moment. They are not
sufficiently matured, and incidentally I mean to travel for a few
months. That is the whole thing in a nutshell.”

“I am sorry,” George said stiffly. “I didn’t mean to butt in. I shall
miss you.”

The constrained tone, the wounded expression in his faithful, faded
eyes only fanned his host’s dull anger; but the entrance of Millard,
pompous and radiating a spirit of self-satisfied elation, brought an
end to the situation.

“Aha! How are you both?” the newcomer asked breezily. “Had to finesse
to get off this evening; bridge party on at the house and a devil of a
row over it, but it was worth it, I assure you! Great old diggings you
have here, Storm! How is the real estate game, Holworthy?”

The latter responded while Storm went out to the pantry to perform
certain functions with a cocktail shaker. When he returned he found
that the irrepressible Millard had already plunged into the subject of
the wager.

“Really, you know, in the interests of law and order you should drink
to my victory, Storm!” the latter declared jovially.

“By all means!” Storm smiled. “For the good of the commonwealth as
well as to avenge the memory of the man I knew at college, I hope that
Horton’s murderers will be brought to justice; but as a mere matter of
personal opinion, backed by fifty dollars, I do not believe that the
authorities are equal to the task.”

Millard drank with a consciously superior air and then produced his

“Here’s my fifty to declare that they are!” he said.

“The murderers _and_ the money?” Storm laughed.

“_And_ the money!” retorted his guest.

“I say, I don’t like this transaction a little bit, at least as far as
my part in it is concerned,” George objected. “Holding the stakes on a
bet of this sort seems scarcely decent, to me. Jack Horton was my

Jokingly they overruled his scruples and went in to dinner; but from
time to time Storm found himself eying Millard askance. The latter
bore himself with an air of ill-concealed mystery which augmented his
natural self-importance, and his knowing smile was irritating to a
degree. More than once as the meal progressed he seemed on the point
of volunteering a statement, but each time he checked himself, though
Storm plied him assiduously with the contents of the cob-webbed

Storm himself drank more than was his wont, but his brain remained
clear and became if anything more coolly, keenly critical. It was
evident that Millard had something which he was eager to impart, but
an unusual caution weighed upon him. Was it merely a theory of his own
concerning the murder, or had he really succeeded in learning anything
at Headquarters which had been withheld from the public despite the
taunts of the press?

After the wager had been settled, Millard had sedulously avoided all
reference to the crime, and Storm’s efforts to reopen the subject met
with no response from him. At length the latter desisted and allowed
the conversation to drift to other topics, although he kept his
guests’ glasses constantly filled.

George left his almost untouched, and his face grew graver as
Millard’s became more flushed. Storm knew that he was brooding in his
dull, ruminative fashion over the situation which Millard’s entrance
had interrupted, and as the meal drew to a close he decided to make
his announcement and have it over with.

“I am especially glad to have you two good friends here with me
to-night——” he began.

“Hear! Hear!” Millard interjected.

“No; this is no speech, but it is probably the last occasion on which
we three shall meet for some time,” Storm pursued. “I’m leaving town
in a few days—making quite an extended trip, in fact,—and I doubt if I
shall be back much before it is time for George to hand me your fifty
dollars, Millard.”

“Going away!” Millard exclaimed blankly. “Where, old chap? What’s the

“I’m not very well; nerves gone to pieces. I need a long sea voyage to
buck me up, the doctor says, and I’m planning a trip to the East,”
Storm explained. “When I come back I am thinking of going into
something new. The Mammoth Trust is all very well, but it doesn’t
offer a wide enough scope for the future. I am out after something
big, but I want a rest first, and change.”

Millard nodded solemnly.

“Best thing for you,” he said. “Change, and all that, and then strike
out for yourself. Dry rot in most of those old, conservative
institutions. Hope you’ll come back to Greenlea in time for the
election of the club officers in the Fall. Here’s luck, but don’t
count on that fifty of mine! If you knew what I do, you’d kiss your
own good-bye!”

As he spoke he knocked the ash from the cigar which he had just
lighted and a few flecks fell upon his host’s knee. Storm brushed them
off with a quick gesture of loathing. Ashes! God, could there be
something prophetic in Millard’s words?

He leaned forward in his chair.

“Look here, what have you got up your sleeve?” he demanded. “The bet
goes as it lays, but I hope you haven’t been letting them jolly you at
Headquarters into believing that you are coming out an easy winner.
They always pretend secret progress when they are stalled on a case,
and they are at a deadlock now.”

“Deadlock, nothing!” Millard crowed, his caution forgotten at the
jibe. “That’s what the chaps who did for Horton are thinking right
now, but just wait till they try to pass one of those bills from the
wad they stole!”

“Why?” Storm was not conscious that he had spoken, that he was
clutching the table edge in a grip that embedded his nails in the

“Why? Because their numbers have been flashed all over the United
States; the Chief of Police in every big city has been warned to be on
the lookout for them, and long before the scoundrels can reach another
country, provided they succeed in getting out of this one, the news
will have preceded them!” Millard waved his pudgy hands excitedly.
“You didn’t suppose they would give the bills out to Horton at the
trust company without jotting down the numbers in case of error or
accident, did you? It really wasn’t sporting of me to bet on a sure
thing; but do you think now that your man has a chance of getting away
with the money?”

“Millard, you’re going to win!” It was George who spoke, and firm
conviction rang in his tones.

“Win? Hah!” Millard sat back in his chair. “The minute one of those
bills makes its appearance, the man who offers it will be held for

Chapter XXI

The Unconsidered Trifle

Baffled fury that was half despair swept over Storm at Millard’s
words, but he controlled himself by a mighty effort. More vital than
at any moment in the past was his need now of quick, coherent thought,
and he forced himself to rise above the crushing blow. The bills were
numbered and traceable! He should have thought of that! But the gold!
The gold!

His throat was dry and parched, but he dared not lift his glass lest
the shaking of his hand betray him. He swallowed and forced a laugh,
but it sounded strained and unnatural in his own ears.

“Is that the big secret?” He was mortally afraid that his voice would
crack, but it was evident that so far the others had noted nothing
amiss; and emboldened he went on: “Good Lord, Millard, the criminals
may be plain thugs, but are your friends at Headquarters such utter
fools as to think they wouldn’t realize the bills were numbered? They
won’t take any chances on them, you may be sure of that. It was the
gold they were after! No attempt was made to check up on that, was
there? I mean, it wasn’t a fresh coinage or anything of that sort,
with some mark that could be traced?”

Ages seemed to pass before Millard slowly shook his head, crestfallen
that his news had been so tamely received.

“No,” he admitted. “But there isn’t such a lot of gold in circulation,
you know. Anyone trying to get rid of it in large quantities will be
open to suspicion. Besides, there hasn’t been a line in the papers
about the bills being spotted, and you can’t credit gangsters and
highway robbers with the intelligence you or I would have. It is ten
to one those bills will show up before long.”

Storm drew a deep breath and in a quick gesture raised his glass and
drained it. How much of that hoard for which he had risked all was in
the now useless banknotes and how much in precious gold? His whole
future hung on the answer. He had counted it so carefully when he
stored it away! Why couldn’t he remember?

He opened his lips to voice the query, but George forestalled him.

“I have maintained from the very beginning that Jack Horton was not
assaulted by mere gangsters or thugs,” he remarked. “I don’t believe
there was any struggle; I told Norman so. The condition of the body as
the papers described it could have been due to its having been flung
over the wall; all except the single blow on the back of the head
which caused death, of course. I tried to see the body at the
undertaker’s on Sunday, just to satisfy myself on that point, but it
had already been shipped. I tell you, I think poor old Jack was taken
unawares by that one foul blow when he thought he was safe among
friends; or with one supposed friend, for that matter. It would have
taken only one man to commit the crime, if Jack trusted him
sufficiently to place himself in his hands.”

Millard had been listening with all his ears, and now he brought his
hand down on the table with a blow which made the glasses tinkle.

“By Jove, I believe you’ve got it!” he exclaimed. “It’s hard to see
how a man constantly on guard as he was could have been spirited off
the train from Poughkeepsie against his will, and he wasn’t killed
until hours later. Now if he had met a friend—— I must really suggest
that at Headquarters!”

“Another cigar?” The urbane host, quite his old self again, smiled as
he leaned across the table. “Try some of that 1812 brandy, Millard;
you’ll appreciate it. Old George here has been full of theories since
Horton’s murder, but I am afraid they are not practicable, and you
won’t find much sympathy for amateur efforts at Headquarters. I think
myself that the body was brought there in a machine from the Lord
knows what distance and thrown over the wall, but beyond that who can

“Well, there is something in support of that theory.” Millard bristled
again with an assumption of his former importance. “Just between
ourselves, it is known that a machine came tearing down the Drive at a
little after one o’clock that night going to beat the devil and it
must have passed that spot. The occupants were yelling and carrying
on, and the policeman who tried to hold them up at One Hundred and
Tenth Street thought they were just a bunch of drunks out on a joy
ride. I don’t mind telling you they’ve been scouring the city for that
machine ever since.”

Storm gazed into his liqueur glass with inscrutable eyes. He
remembered that car and its roisterous crew. It had passed just
before. . . . He roused himself to hear George’s dogged, mildly
insistent tones.

“It isn’t logical to suppose that people on such an errand would draw
attention to themselves. I don’t mean that Jack walked deliberately at
that time of night to the spot where he was found murdered, but——”

“It is possible that he may have done just that.” Millard paused to
sniff the bouquet of his brandy with the air of a connoisseur and
added: “The policeman on the beat reported that two men passed him
going north on the Drive toward that identical spot at approximately
the hour of the murder. They were walking briskly and talking together
in a casual sort of way, and he did not notice them particularly; but
from what description he was able to give, one of them might have been
Horton.—I say, old chap, you _have_ done it! That cognac is worth its
weight in gold!”

The stem of Storm’s glass had snapped between his fingers. That
policeman! Thank the fates they had not passed him beneath the street
lamp! In spite of himself his mind had been diverted from thought of
the money by Millard’s revelations; but the latter’s final word
recalled it, and as he dropped the broken fragments of glass upon a
plate he murmured:

“Habit of mine. These are Potter’s glasses, too! All this is highly
interesting, but it won’t lead anywhere. The authorities will do well
to keep their efforts centered on the recovery of that money. By the
way, how much of it was in bills and how much in gold?”

“Only about ten thousand in gold, I believe,” Millard responded
carelessly. “The more ignorant of the miners for whose wages the money
was intended demand gold, you know; they hoard it away and take no
stock in paper certificates, but they are in the minority. Roughly
speaking, a hundred thousand of it was in greenbacks.”

A hundred thousand of his capital swept away at a word! Storm could
have flung himself upon that smiling, selfsatisfied wretch across the
table in bitter rage and disappointment! A hundred thousand; only a
paltry ten thousand left, little more than enough to get him out of
the country! What next would the cursed fates have in store for him?

Then a swift thought made his blood run cold. He should have
remembered that the bills would be spotted, of course; that was the
one flaw in his reasoning. The fact remained that he had not done so,
however. What if he had not gotten Millard here to-night and loosened
his tongue? If he had not been so providentially forewarned, all the
structure he had so carefully built up might have fallen about him and
carried him to ruin beneath it at his first attempt to make use of his
newly acquired wealth!

“I wonder if it could have been Jack Horton and another man whom the
policeman saw?” George cogitated. “That couple walking, I mean? If it
were, it would bear out my theory. Of course, we don’t know who
Horton’s intimates were of late years, nor what he could have been
doing up in this part of the city so long after he should have been on
his way; but it is not impossible, as you say. The policeman doesn’t
remember hearing anything a little later? A cry or anything of that
sort? Why on earth didn’t he follow them? Two men on that lonely
stretch of drive at such an hour! He might have known there would be
foul play——!”

“My dear George!” Storm laughed, but his hand shook as he refilled
Millard’s glass so that a drop or two of the pale golden liquid fell
on the cloth. “Don’t try to endow the Department with supernatural
powers of divination! You and I have taken many a midnight stroll on
the Drive since I took over Potter’s rooms here. Would you have had a
policeman dog our footsteps to see that we didn’t murder each other?
It is inconceivable that it could have been Jack Horton; remember that
his bag, with the hat and pistol inside, were found in the Grand
Central Station. If he had been killed out there where he was found it
would have been far simpler for his murderers to have left them there
with the body and just made away with the money.”

To this George found no answer, but Millard smiled a trifle crookedly
as he set down his glass, and a knowing leer spread over his flushed

“Something more was found in the bag besides the hat and pistol,” he
observed. “This isn’t supposed to be known, but I’ve got inside dope
on it straight from Headquarters. Lot of old newspapers were wadded
around the pistol. You might say there would be nothing in that, but
there was something funny about those newspapers; the outside sheet
was missing from every one of them!”

Storm drew a deep breath that was almost a sob and a great fear
gripped him. Only three nights before when they were packing the trunk
to be sent back to Greenlea, they had used the outer sheets of those
same newspapers, and the old doubt returned to him. Had George
noticed? He had said nothing, and his manner as Storm recalled it
conveyed no intimation that his thoughts had been even momentarily
distracted from the discussion then under way. Storm stole a furtive
glance at him, but George seemed not to have heard. He was playing
idly with the cigar-lighter, and his face wore a frown of labored

If it were only possible to silence Millard! But the latter continued
with evident relish:

“And why was it missing? Because those papers weren’t bought haphazard
at a news-stand; they’d been delivered from day to day by a regular
vendor, and the outer sheets had been removed because they bore the
name of the person to whom they had been consigned.” Millard produced
a small notebook from his pocket and ruffled its pages importantly.
“Look here! I jotted down the dates of those papers: May
twenty-eighth, thirtieth, thirty-first, and June first, third and
fourth, of this year, too! Not so old, eh? They come down to within a
day or two of the murder! I guess that’s bad evidence! Those
newspapers had been delivered to the person who packed that bag, old
chap, or he wouldn’t have been so infernally careful, and he is one of
those who murdered Horton!”

“You cannot trace parts of newspapers if they have no distinguishing
mark on them!” Storm said hastily, casting about in desperation for a
change of theme. “Your friends at Headquarters are remarkably
painstaking, but have they considered the possibility that Horton may
have stopped over in New York to see this girl in whom he was
interested, and been waylaid——?”

“There’s not a chance of that.” Millard shook his head. “She has told
all she knows, and it has been proven that he never went near her;
never even communicated with her, although so many hours elapsed
between the time his train reached the city and the murder. Oh, it’s a
poser, all right, but they’ll solve it. I’ll win my wager yet, old

He cast a wavering and reluctant eye upon the clock and rose.

“You’re not going yet?” Storm asked mechanically. “Have another

“Must be getting on if I’m going to catch the midnight, and if I don’t
there’ll be the deuce to pay!” Millard’s tone was frankly regretful.
“Wish I could stay and make a night of it, dear boy, but you know how
it is! You know how I’m situated! It’s been some evening, though,
hasn’t it? I envy you, Storm; such rooms, such a cook, and call your
soul your own!”

“Yet I am anxious to start on my trip,” Storm remarked. “I want to get

“I know, dear old boy! Memories!” Millard heaved a lugubrious sigh. “I
don’t blame you, but we’ll all look forward to having you with us
again. I’ll look in on you before you start, of course.——Coming my
way, Holworthy?”

“Eh?” George glanced up with a start, as if suddenly aroused, his
near-sighted eyes blinking. But Storm intervened.

“Oh, George will stop for another smoke and a chat. It is early for
him yet, you know; he’s a bachelor!”

He fairly hustled his departing guest into his coat in fear lest
George should insist upon accompanying him. They must not leave
together, presenting an opportunity for Millard to expatiate on his
theme of the newspapers! Dense as he was, few things escaped George.
He might have only subconsciously noted the trivial episode of the
other night; but would he remember it later? Storm felt the moisture
start suddenly upon his forehead, and the smoke-wreathed air seemed
dense and choking.

“Yes, I—I’ll stay a little while,” George said absently. “You don’t
know that policeman’s number, do you, Millard? The one who passed
those two men on the Drive?”

“No, but I fancy you’ll find him out there almost any night about the
same time.” Millard paused at the door. “Run out to Greenlea and dine
with us soon, Holworthy; I suppose it is no good asking you, Storm?
Well, thanks for a top-hole evening and don’t forget our wager!”

The door closed behind him at last, and Storm turned to face his
remaining guest with the cold fear still clutching at his heart.

“Beastly bore, Millard,” he commented, lighting a cigarette with a
critical eye on the hand that held the match. God, how it trembled!
Had George seen? “That is a rotten way for a host to talk, I know, but
he gets on a fellow’s nerves with his everlasting chatter. I made the
wager with him to shut him up, but it had the opposite effect.
Personally, I don’t believe he knows anything more of what is being
done in the case than is given out to the press; they certainly
wouldn’t take a he-gossip of his stamp into their confidence at
Headquarters. He made all that stuff up just to create an impression.”

George shook his head slowly.

“I don’t know. He must be right about the numbered bills. I thought of
that myself and wondered why the papers didn’t make a point of it. The
men, too, on the Drive; I would like to have a talk with that

“Are you going to turn detective, too?” Storm’s laugh grated
unpleasantly on his own ears.

“No, but I believe if the authorities followed that lead they would be
on their way to the truth,” George responded gravely. “I can’t help
feeling that I’m right about poor old Jack. He would never have taken
his hand off his number if he had not been absolutely sure of his

“It seems to me that you are a little over-confident of the character
of a man you haven’t seen in twenty years!” Storm sneered, his
equanimity partially restored. It was evident that George suspected
nothing. “How do you know what he might have done, what impulses may
have guided him?”

“A man’s whole nature doesn’t change, even in a generation,” the other
observed. “I studied him at college as I did the rest of the crowd,
and subsequent events have proved that my judgment in any of them
wasn’t far wrong. Moreover, the testimony of this Saulsbury girl, of
his employers and everyone who was associated with him in these later
years bears out my estimate of him. Jack was done in at a single blow
by someone he knew and trusted, and I say it is a damned shame and

“Well, don’t get excited about it,” his host advised coolly. “It won’t
help the poor chap now, you know. I take more stock myself in that
story of the motor car on the Drive than the possibility of one of the
two pedestrians having been Jack.”

“The fact that the bag was found at the terminal, of which you
reminded me, would have no more bearing on the theory that his body
was brought there than that he had walked to the spot where he was
murdered,” George contended tenaciously. “Odd about those papers which
were stuffed into the bag, wasn’t it? About the outside sheets being
missing, I mean. They were for the twenty-eighth, thirtieth and
thirty-first of May, and the first, third and fourth of June, he said;
didn’t he? I wish I had thought to ask him what newspapers they were.
It presents a rather nice little problem.”

Storm’s breath fluttered in his throat, but he contrived to reply with
an assumption of carelessness.

“Oh, that’s nothing! Newspapers cannot be traced. That was just a mere

George had heard, after all, but the incident of the previous Saturday
night had utterly escaped him! In the wave of relief which swept over
him Storm felt ironically that he had never before appreciated the
virtue of his old friend’s density. But for his slow wit and lack of
imagination the man sitting there smoking so placidly before him might
have been his accuser!

“Mere details left unguarded are what show up many a criminal,” George
remarked sententiously. “The unconsidered trifles are what turn the
scale of evidence against an intelligent man more often than a big
error in judgment.”

Storm writhed inwardly, but the mask of half-contemptuous amusement
still veiled his face.

“It doesn’t take much intelligence to hit a man over the head!” he
observed. “You’re talking through your hat, George. If they succeed in
landing the murderers, which I very much doubt, you’ll find your
theory knocked to smithereens. Horton may have left the train in
company with a crowd he trusted, all right, but remember he has led a
rough sort of life for years in mining camps and collieries, and his
associates are bound to have been men of a coarse, elemental stamp.
They have probably laid for him for weeks, planned this ahead and made
their get-away before the body was even discovered.”

“Well,”—George rose with a touch of weariness in his manner—“I must
get home. Time will tell, but I’ve a feeling that poor old Jack’s
murder will be avenged. I was sorry to hear that you have planned an
immediate departure. You won’t reconsider and try a fishing trip with
me first? It might buck you up and give you a fresh outlook on

Storm shook his head.

“Thanks, old man, but I’ve got to get away from everything and
everyone, even myself. I can’t bring her back, and I can’t forget
while there is anything about to remind me of the old life.”

“I suppose you are right,” George admitted slowly. “I am afraid you
will regret it, though, from a monetary standpoint. Look in on me
to-morrow at the office if you get time, Norman. Good night.”

After he had gone Storm shot the bolt in the door and dashing into his
bedroom pushed aside the panel which concealed the safe. He must see
for himself if it were true that all but a mere fraction of his money
would be forever useless to him.

Homachi had departed hours before, the shades were drawn and in his
solitude Storm spread the packets of bills out upon the bed and
counted them feverishly. It was true! A hundred thousand dollars which
would have meant years of ease and luxurious travel had been
transformed by the magic of a few words into mere worthless scraps of
green paper!

The numbers upon them seemed to dance diabolically before him, and
wild thoughts of the possibility of erasing them flashed through his
mind, but he realized the futility of such a hope. He knew nothing of
the use of acids or chemicals in such a procedure, and to take anyone
into his confidence was unthinkable even had he known where or how to
find a man for the task.

Then a quick revulsion of feeling came, and his mercurial spirits
rebounded. The money those bills represented was not lost to him
forever! In spite of Millard’s boast that their numbers were known,
there would be plenty of places in far-away corners of the globe where
they would be accepted without question. As long as they were genuine,
the money changers of Japan and Egypt and even the cosmopolitan
continental centers would not look for the numbers upon them, and he
had more than sufficient gold to get him out of the country and to
some haven where he might safely begin to turn this paper into coin of
the realm.

Had his fortune been in gold it would have been impossible, through
its sheer weight, for him to have transported even a quarter of it.
The greenbacks in any event were far safer. No bag for him! He could
fasten those packets beneath his coat over his heart where he could
feel them with each beat!

He laughed aloud at Millard’s cocksure statement. He would show them

George’s attitude worried him, however. The former had all the
obstinacy of the man of few ideas, and Storm knew that he would cling
to his theory of Horton’s death through any amount of argument and
ridicule. The fact that that theory was dangerously near the
truth—was, in so far as it went, the truth itself—did not tend to
allay his anxiety. If once the merest inkling of the real identity of
the murderer came to George, it would mean the end. That coincidence
of the newspapers would have been sufficient to arouse his suspicion
if he had noticed the fact of the missing parts the other night. It
was sheer luck that he had not done so; but would that luck hold in
other respects?

Storm lay for long hours staring into the darkness and grappled with
the new problem which confronted him. Dense as he was, George had felt
that there was something deeper than mere grief back of Storm’s
determination to leave the country. Suppose, after he had gone,
George’s eyes were opened to the truth? Storm well knew that no corner
of the globe could hide him from the authorities and the agents of the
Mid-Eastern, and George had a queer, old-fashioned sense of justice.
If he suspected, he would speak! Perhaps it would be as well to defer
his departure and stick to George until the affair had completely
blown over; but Great Heavens, what a bore!

He was not yet free! The bonds which held him were invisible,
intangible, yet he felt their pressure and writhed beneath it. God!
Would he ever succeed in breaking them? Must he be forever a prisoner
in these chains of his own forging?

Chapter XXII

At the Club

On the following day, to George’s surprise and gratification Storm
appeared at his office at noon and dragged him unceremoniously off for
lunch. In the course of their long friendship he had been almost
invariably the one to seek out his more brilliant companion, and he
was touched at this evidence of a need of him.

“I must say you look pretty bad, Norman,” he began with tactless
solicitude. “And you were as nervous as a woman last night; I could
see it. You are not taking care of yourself——”

“I don’t sleep well,” Storm interrupted shortly. “I wanted to talk
things over with you. I’ve been thinking about that trip I proposed

“Yes?” George urged eagerly as he paused.

“Well, I don’t know but what you are right if I can only pull myself
together somehow.” Storm weighed each word with care. “You cannot
appreciate what I have been through in the last month or you would
realize how desperately I want to get away from all reminders of my—my
grief; but if I can fight it without cutting myself adrift and losing
my connection with the trust company, it would be foolish to sacrifice
such a sinecure, especially when I have nothing else absolutely
definite in view.”

He could invent that ‘something else’ easily enough, he reflected as
he watched George’s glowing face, when the moment came for departure.
Meanwhile, he had decided to play safe; it would not be long! As the
words formed in his mind he shuddered involuntarily; that had been
Jack Horton’s expression! He had boasted of playing safe in the very
hour of his death!

“Of course it would! I knew you would come to your senses, old man!”
George cried warmly. “I do realize what you must have suffered, but
the only way to forget is to fight it. You—you can count on me, you

Storm nodded.

“I am sure of that.” He paused and added: “About that little fishing
trip you suggested; do you think you could get away?”

“Surest thing you know! I’m feeling seedy myself, and it will do us
both good. Shall we ask Millard to join us?”

“Heavens, no! He is an infernal nuisance!” Storm exclaimed hastily.
Through the long night hours he had planned his trip for the express
purpose of keeping George and his inconvenient theories away from the
too loquacious disseminator of news from Headquarters. “I only want
you, George. How soon do you think you can get away?”

In secret distaste he watched the other’s puppy-like wriggle of
affectionate gratification at this mark of favor. What a fool he had
been to fear him! Yet there might still be a chance for George to
suspect, and if he did he would not rest until he had ferreted out the

“Let’s see; this is Wednesday,” George responded. “I ought to be able
to make it by the first of next week. I’ll talk to Abbott about it
this afternoon and let you know later. Say, why don’t you meet me at
the Club?”

Storm made a quick gesture of rejection.

“I haven’t been there since——”

“I know, and that’s just why it will do you good,” George urged.
“You’ve got to take the plunge some time, you know. There is no good
in isolating yourself and brooding, as you have been doing. Most of
the fellows are away now for the hot weather; you won’t find half a
dozen there before dinner.”

“We-ell,” Storm conceded. The ubiquitous Millard would not be present,
at any rate, nor would anyone else who had the slightest interest in
the murder of an obscure paymaster; and now that the suggestion had
been made he felt a vague desire to see the old club once more. “I’ll
meet you there at half-past five.”

The papers were still devoting much front-page space to the murder and
robbery, but it was concerned principally with the activities of the
detectives employed by Miss Saulsbury and those of the Mid-Eastern
Corporation. The Police Department was reported as making progress,
but its nature was not disclosed; and Storm smiled to himself as he
read. No mention was made of the two men seen walking on the Drive,
but the incident of the motor car was prominently exploited, and the
generally accepted theory seemed to be that the body had been brought
from some undetermined distance and flung over the wall.

All reference to the bag and its contents when found at the terminal
had been permitted to drop, and he looked in vain for any suggestion
that the numbers of the bills were known.

When he reached the club that afternoon he found that George had not
yet arrived; but a tall, lanky figure arose with outstretched hand
from the window seat.

“Hello, old fellow! Glad to see you back! We’ve been asking about

“Thanks, Griffiths. I’ve not been away,” Storm replied briefly. “Just
haven’t felt sociable, that’s all.”

“I know. We heard of course. Very sad! We all felt for you.”

The lawyer, who was noted for his eloquence in court, halted now in a
constrained fashion, and Storm replied quietly. “I’m sure of that.
Everyone has been very good, but this is the sort of thing one has to
bear alone. I am thinking of getting away shortly for a trip——”

“There was another matter, too, of which I was sorry to learn,”
Griffiths interrupted him. “You were badly hit in the Mertens-Du
Chainat swindle, weren’t you?”

“I?” Storm’s surprise at the question was unfeigned, and his eyes
shifted beneath the other’s level gaze. “Indeed, no! Where did you
hear that?”

“From a rather direct source,” the lawyer responded slowly. “In fact,
from a private examination of some papers belonging to the pseudo Du
Chainat which were unearthed after his departure. A client of mine
happens to have been among his victims, and I was in a conference of
attorneys who were permitted to make an examination of the effects
which Du Chainat overlooked or had no time to destroy. Among them was
a list of his victims, together with the amount he had obtained from
each; a methodical scoundrel, wasn’t he? He had you down for sixty
thousand, and as all the other items on the list were verified by the
victims themselves I naturally concluded that his plans had gone
through in your case. Sorry if I have made a stupid mistake.”

“Not stupid!” Storm smiled frigidly. “Natural enough, under the
circumstances. I met the fellow and he put his proposition up to me; I
didn’t bite, but I let him down so easily that probably he considered
me one of his prospects. To tell you the truth he interested me as a
type, but I wasn’t fool enough to fall for his game.”

“I am glad for your own sake.” There still remained that dry note of
mental reservation in the lawyer’s tone. “He victimized some of the
most astute business men in the country. ——Hello, Holworthy!”

Storm turned as if stung. George was coming forward from the door with
a preternaturally grave expression upon his wide, ingenuous face. How
long had he been standing there? Confound his pussy-footing ways! How
much had he heard? Storm was inwardly seething with rage at Griffith’s
interference in his affairs as well as at George’s inopportune
arrival, but he forced himself to greet the newcomer equably, striving
to learn from his manner if the conversation had reached his ears.

“I was late because Abbott kept me going over some details at the
office,” the latter explained quietly. “He thinks I can get away all
right by Monday. Suppose instead of the Beaverkill we try the north
woods? The bass ought to be running well up there——”

“So that’s the trip you meant, eh?” Griffiths interrupted. “Gad, wish
I could join you! I’d like to get a breath of the big woods in the
silence and peace of it after the eternal court wrangles of this last
term, but there isn’t a chance for me. I envy you two fellows!”

Two more members, a banker and the editor of one of the big dailies,
joined them, refreshments were ordered, and to Storm’s relief the talk
drifted off on general topics; but he studied George furtively. If he
had heard, would he accept Storm’s denial that he had been victimized
by Du Chainat? The lawyer had evidently remained skeptical, but he was
not as conversant with Storm’s affairs and financial position as was
George. If the latter believed that his friend had been hard hit,
would he not naturally wonder where he had obtained the money for the
long overseas trip he contemplated, and wondering, blunder upon the

A half hour passed, the little group broke up and Storm and his
companion were on the point of departure when a hearty, good-humored
voice boomed from the doorway and an elderly man with a bluff military
swagger bore down upon them.

“Great Guns, Storm, but it’s good to see you here again! I wrote
you—you got my letter?—when I heard of your loss. Terrible thing,
terrible! Damn fine little lady——”

He paused, clearing his throat and clapping Storm resoundingly on the

“Thanks, Colonel; yes, I received your letter,” the latter responded.
“Meant to reply to it, but George here can tell you that I’ve been
rather unsettled——”

“Heard you had moved to town and taken somebody’s rooms up on the
Drive,” Colonel Walker interrupted. “We’ve needed you here for a
fourth at bridge; had to take on Paine, and he’s rotten——”

“I like that!” the editor retorted indignantly. “Who revoked twice in
one evening——?”

“That was because we were playing for low stakes. I’m never on my
mettle unless the game is away over my head.” The Colonel laughed and
added: “Saw you the other night, Storm, and tried to hail you but you
got away in the crowd. I wanted to drag you off to a stag house party
up in Westchester. Let’s see; that was last Wednesday night, over by
the Grand Central Station——”

“You must have been mistaken!” Storm interrupted hastily. He could
feel George’s eyes upon him, and this fresh turn of affairs left him

“No, I’m not,” Colonel Walker insisted bluntly. “It was Wednesday
night, I remember, just around dinner time, for it was raining like
blazes and you were dodging along under your umbrella——”

“Oh, yes!” Storm parried desperately. “I recall it now, but I didn’t
see you, old chap. I was on my way to my tobacconist’s. By the way,
that was a wonderful brand of cigarettes you used to get from Turkey
before the war. I’ve been trying to remember the name——”

The colonel’s laugh boomed out in good humored derision.

“Much good it would do you now! They aren’t made any more; in fact I
doubt if that grade of tobacco is grown over there since the world
turned upside down! I’ve found something new, however; try one of

He passed around a cigarette case and the hoped-for diversion was
created, but Storm’s heart felt like lead within him and he dared not
meet George’s eyes. He tried to think collectedly, but the very weight
of his own guilt prevented him from viewing the case sanely from an
unbiassed attitude. Here, within the hour, the last links in the chain
of circumstantial evidence had been forged against him in George’s
eyes had the latter but the sense to grasp the full significance of
what he had learned. The reported loss of his capital, his presence at
the terminal at the time of Horton’s supposed arrival, George’s own
theory that Horton had been a victim of someone he knew and trusted,
the proximity of the place where the body was found to Storm’s rooms,
the testimony of the policeman as to the two pedestrians, the
coincidence of the newspapers in Horton’s bag supplying the missing
parts of those in Storm’s possession; why, the thing was patent on the
face of it!

Only George’s ignorance concerning the newspapers, his blind faith in
his friend and the improbability of his grasping so monstrous a
solution stood between Storm and certain exposure. But was it an
improbability? Was George even now putting the facts together and
waiting to strike?

Storm sat back in silence, puffing his cigarette and leaving the
burden of conversation to the others. He heard the Colonel’s deep
bass, Griffiths’ keen, incisive tones and George’s measured,
phlegmatic voice with no change in its unemotional timbre, but they
came to him as from a distance. Did George know? The thought held him
as in a vice and he longed for yet dreaded the moment when they should
be alone together, which he felt must reveal the truth.

At length George rose somewhat heavily and turned to his friend.

“Shall we be getting on, Norman? Unless you would prefer to dine here,
of course——”

“No.” Storm, too, got out of his chair. “We’ve a lot of things to
settle about our trip.”

They took leave of their friends and left the club, and still George’s
manner remained, to the other man’s over-analytical state of mind,
significantly grave and reticent. He could endure the suspense no
longer, and a spirit of bravado entered into him.

“That did me good, rather; to get to the club and see some of the old
fellows again,” Storm declared mendaciously. “What are you silent
about, old man?”

“Nothing; I’ve been thinking,” George responded. “All your fishing
gear is down at Greenlea, isn’t it? Can you write to MacWhirter and
get it here by Monday?”

Storm gave a furtive sidelong glance at him, but George was plodding
along with an inscrutable countenance.

“I can run down overnight and pick out what I need,” Storm asserted
shortly. “We can make out a list to-night. Suppose we stop at the
Blenheim Grill here for a bite and then go on up to my rooms?”

George accepted without comment, and they were soon ensconced at a
table as far as possible from the blatant orchestra, in a corner half
screened by palms. As Storm studied the menu he glanced up to find his
companion’s eyes fixed upon him in troubled, questioning scrutiny, and
he flung the card aside.

“What is it?” he demanded savagely. As well to have it over here and
now! He could endure the suspense no longer. “There’s been something
wrong with you ever since we left the club. For heaven’s sake get it
off your chest!”

“Well,” George responded slowly. “I couldn’t help hearing what
Griffiths said as I came in, and to tell you the truth, old man, I am
rather hurt at your lack of confidence in me.”

Storm unconsciously braced himself. It was coming!

“You mean about the Du Chainat affair?” he blustered. “That meddlesome
old fool knows nothing about my business! I call it infernal cheek,
his attempting to say the man ever victimized me! There’s not a word
of truth in it.”

“I read of the swindle in the newspapers, and I remember that I was
the one to tell you of the Du Chainat exposure; I showed the article
to you myself.” George spoke more to himself than to the other man, as
though correlating his thoughts aloud. “I recall that you seemed
interested about it, even excited, but you never mentioned the fact
that you knew the man, much less that he had tried to take you in on
his schemes. It wasn’t like you, Norman; you’ve told me everything,
ever since we were boys, and I am wondering where I could have failed

An injured, plaintive note had crept into his patient voice, and in a
sudden access of hope Storm seized upon his opportunity.

“You haven’t failed me, dear old George! It was my accursed pride, as
usual. I wouldn’t admit it to Griffiths for worlds, but I did pretty
nearly fall for that fellow’s bunk! When you showed me that the whole
thing was a swindle I was aghast at my narrow escape, and I made up my
mind I wouldn’t give you the chance to preach at me again about
reckless investments. If I had told you how nearly I came to letting
Du Chainat hoodwink me you would have been as worried as a maiden aunt
about any future venture I might want to make, and I didn’t care to
have you know what an ass I had been!” His tone was a perfect
simulation of shame-faced confidence. “Millard might have told you
that I knew the pseudo Du Chainat. He introduced me to him himself,
and if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Millard, who holds the purse strings,
the old boy would have been one of Du Chainat’s victims. He was strong
for the scheme, but for once I had a gleam of sense and held out.”

George shook his head.

“I’m sorry if I have seemed to preach at you,” he said. “Your money is
your own, of course, to do with as you please, and you are a man
grown, but you have always been to me the impulsive, reckless boy I
knew at college——”

“Whom you helped out of many a scrape!” Storm put in quickly. “You
don’t think I have ever forgotten, do you, old man? It wasn’t lack of
confidence, but fear of ‘I told you so’ that prevented me from telling
you what I knew personally of Du Chainat. Griffiths was all wrong in
that, however. Du Chainat may have put me down for a boob, but I never
dropped a cent in his scheme.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” George remarked earnestly, but to Storm’s
apprehensive ear there was the same hint of skepticism in his voice
that the lawyer’s had evinced, and he burst out recklessly:

“Look here, you don’t think I am holding out on you now, do you? You
don’t think I was such a fool? If I had put all my capital in Du
Chainat’s hands, and he had taken it to the bottom of the sea with
him, where on earth would I have gotten the money for this long trip I
proposed taking or investment in a new concern when I got back?”

He could have bitten his tongue out the instant the words had left his
lips. What a consummate fool to open the way for suspicion to enter
George’s mind, if it were not there already! But while he sat inwardly
cursing himself for his mad indiscretion, the other’s face cleared as
if by magic.

“Of course, Norman! I have been worrying a little for the last hour,
but I might have known you hadn’t gone into the scheme, for it would
have pretty well cleaned you out, wouldn’t it? Now that you are going
to stay on at the trust company——” he broke off and added: “I’m sure
that you are! Our fishing trip will buck you up wonderfully, and
you’ll come back in fine form!”

“I hope so.” Storm breathed freely. The danger point was past! But he
must cinch it in the other’s mind . . . . “I’ve still got my capital,
you know; what there is left of it from that copper gamble two years

“Well, nothing is sure but death and taxes, you must remember. Even
the Mammoth Trust might go under, so don’t regard your fifty thousand
as velvet and take some wild flyer with it, without consulting Foulkes
or me.” George checked himself with a sheepish grin. “There I go
preaching again! I vow I won’t any more—Say! That waiter has been
hovering about for the last twenty minutes. What are we going to

Dinner ordered, the conversation turned upon their forthcoming
expedition, and as the meal progressed all of Storm’s wonted
self-confidence returned to him in full measure. These vague fears
about old George and his suspicions were nothing but the chimera of
exhausted nerves, and he was a fool to permit them to give him a
moment’s disquietude. Millard and his damned wager had worked upon
him, but Millard was an ass! The very way that he had fallen for Du
Chainat proved—— Storm caught himself up in his chain of reasoning
with a grimace of ironic disgust. He, too, had fallen for Du Chainat,
and harder even than had Millard. Gad, was he getting so that he
believed his own lies?

At any rate, the result of the wager was a foregone conclusion. He
could not fail to carry on successfully to the end now; his plans had
been laid too well! Not one single setback had occurred and no one,
nothing could touch him. He could endure old George’s unadulterated
company for a week or so, and the sojourn in the woods would steady
his nerves and give him time to plan cool-headedly for the future.

By the time they returned, the Horton investigation would have slumped
to a mere nominal affair, and soon thereafter he might announce his
adherence to his original plan, to which George could then have no
opposition to offer since his own suggestion would have failed of its
object. Everything would work out smoothly, perfectly; the greatest
stunt of the age would go through without a hitch; and it was all due
to his foresight, his genius for detail! There was nothing he could
not accomplish in the future, no one living who was his master; and
the best of it all was that no one suspected his greatness! Not a
living soul with whom he came in contact realized that he was other
than a pleasant enough fellow, a gentleman born and bred but without
much business head or executive ability; a tame, futile sort of
person, who would never set the Thames on fire. God, it was the
biggest joke perpetrated on the community since time began! It was
almost too good to keep!

But as they left the grill and made their way to his rooms, in the
midst of his exultation there came to him another dampening thought.
Had George noticed the coincidence of his having been near the Grand
Central Station at the very hour of Horton’s supposed arrival, as
revealed by Colonel Walker’s unlucky chance remark? Storm dared not
draw his attention to the coincidence itself if it had escaped him,
yet a perverse instinct drove him on to ascertain if he had noted the
significance of the date mentioned.

“Old Walker is putting on flesh again since demobilization took
place,” he began tentatively. “I hear he has been hitting it up quite
a little lately.”

“He is a pretty good fellow,” George replied tolerantly. “Likes to
swagger and make out that he’s a regular devil, but there is no real
harm in him.—Say, we’d better get some new G. lines, and if I were you
I’d look over that four-and-a-half-ounce rod of yours.”

“That’s all right.” Storm returned insistently to his point. “I wonder
who was giving the stag house-party up in Westchester for which the
Colonel was bound when he hailed me? Odd that I should not have heard
him, for he bellows like a bull.”

“Oh, well, in a crowd——” George’s tone was absent and he broke off to
announce with vigor. “I’ll tell you one thing; if you expect any luck
you had better get a Montreal or two. The pet Parmachini Belle of
yours would make any bass in the lake give you a laugh!”

Another dangerous chance eliminated!——Danger? Storm chuckled with
amusement at the thought. To test old George further was like taking
milk from a blind kitten! Only a miracle could harm him now and the
age of miracles was past. He was invincible, indeed!

“_Ashes be damned!_”

Chapter XXIII

The Scourge of Memory

The next morning as Storm was on the point of starting for his office
Homachi ushered in a visitor. He was a sturdy, well-built man with
sandy hair and a lean, lantern-jawed face, and as he advanced and
stood fumbling with his cap only a slight limp and sag of one hip
betrayed the artificial limb which replaced the one he had left in

“Well, MacWhirter,” Storm began cordially, and then his tone
sharpened. “There isn’t anything wrong at Greenlea?”

“No, sir.” The erstwhile gardener shifted uneasily. “Everything is
right as can be. Since you left me there as caretaker there’s been
nothing for me to do; not even a stray dog to be warned off the

“Then sit down, man, and tell me what brings you here.” There was a
trace of impatience now in Storm’s voice. Another reminder of Greenlea
and what had happened there!

“Well, sir, it’s just that; I’ve not enough to do.” MacWhirter eased
himself down gingerly upon the edge of a chair. “I’m not earning what
you pay me and I’m well fit——”

He flushed, glancing down at his curiously stiffened leg, and Storm
said hastily:

“Of course you are! You’re in every way as efficient as you were
before the war. I put you in charge because you are a responsible man
and I trusted you. All I want is to have the place guarded and looked
after during my absence.”

“I know, sir. I’ve kept the flowers up, though you told me not to
bother, because it’s a rare fine garden to go to waste and because the
mistress took such pride in it, begging your pardon, sir. I’ve never
forgot her kindness in keeping my place open for me and sending me
word at the hospital that no matter how bad I was hurt I was to come
back.” The man’s honest eyes misted and his voice grew unsteady, but
he controlled it respectfully after a moment’s pause. “If I felt that
the place or you, sir, actually needed me I’d stay on, but——”

“You want to leave, eh?” Storm interrupted shortly. “Well, you must
please yourself, MacWhirter. You are getting a head gardener’s wages

“Yes, Mr. Storm, and I’m not earning it, though I’m as able to as any
man alive. If I keep on being just a caretaker, folks’ll think I’m not
fit for anything else. I’m a farseeing man, and I’ve got to look out
for the future.” The shrewd, kindly Scotch eyes narrowed and then
swiftly darkened as he added in a lowered tone, “It isn’t only that,
sir; it’s main lonesome out there now.”

“In Greenlea, with all the neighbors about?”

“Not Greenlea; I mean the place itself. There’s something about it
since—since it has been closed up that fair gives me the creeps, sir!
Something uncanny, like! I—I’d rather not stay on, sir.”

There was a note of superstitious awe in the man’s tones which awoke
an unexpected answering chord in Storm, and his anger rose swiftly to
combat it.

“You’re a fool, MacWhirter!” He exclaimed roughly. “There’s nothing
wrong with the place. However, as you say, I don’t really need you
there; the night watchman at the country club can look after things
for me. I hope for your own sake that you have another position in

“They’ll take me on as assistant ground keeper at the club, sir.”
MacWhirter’s tone was abashed. “Please don’t think I’m ungrateful——”

Storm waved that aside.

“It will be mean less wages.” He watched the man closely.

“Yes, sir. But I——” MacWhirter’s eyes fell. “I’d rather take it, sir,
if you don’t mind.”

Storm shrugged.

“It is all the same to me, MacWhirter. Let me see; your month is

“Tomorrow, sir.” There was unconcealed eagerness in the man’s tone.
“Of course, if you were thinking of getting another caretaker, I could

“I shan’t.” Storm spoke with sudden decision. “I’m going away on a
long trip myself, and I have closed out my bank account, but I’ll pay
you off now in cash. Put the place in good order and mail me the keys

“I’ve brought them with me, sir.” MacWhirter rose, placed a bunch of
keys upon the table and gravely accepted the money. “Thank you, sir.
You’ll find the place in perfect order and the garden doing brave and
fine if you run out before you go away. I appreciate what you’ve done
for me, Mr. Storm, and I wouldn’t speak of leaving but for the
lonesomeness and my being of no real use.”

Storm cut the man’s protestations short and got rid of him with a
curtness but poorly masked. His manner more than his words had
conjured up a picture of the silent, deserted house standing amid the
bright flowers like a corpse decked for the funeral which made Storm’s
senses recoil as before a vision of something sinister and full of

For the life of him he could not put from his mind the swiftly
recurring memory of that sleeping garden on the night when he had cast
the handful of ashes out upon it and then drawn the curtains that the
coming moon might not peer through at what lay within. Had those ashes
of his first crime bred a fatal growth there among the flowers? Had a
phoenix risen from them to cry the deed in tones audible only to
MacWhirter’s susceptible Celtic ear?

In vain he cursed himself for a superstitious fool. Of course the
place was lonesome, but thank God! he was rid of the man and his silly
whims and fancies! No caretaker was needed there, anyway, and in the
fall he would cable George to sell it for him. Every closed, deserted
house in the country bore an aspect which the ignorant would term
‘uncanny’, but there could be nothing real, nothing tangible in the
sensations which had driven MacWhirter away; no lingering influence of
that night’s event could remain to manifest itself to those who might
come within its aura.

He would like to have asked MacWhirter to explain himself, had not
common sense forbade. He felt an inordinate curiosity as to the
latter’s sensations, and a sort of dread fascination settled itself
upon him, a desire to see for himself if that house at Greenlea
retained the power to thrill or unnerve him.

Then with a supreme effort he cast aside the spell which had held him
in thrall. What utter rot such superstitions were in these
materialistic days! MacWhirter was lonely, and he had made use of the
first excuse which came handy to get out of an uncongenial job. No
ghosts walked save those which lived in memory, and Storm would soon
be free from them forever! But he must go soon! Such a mood as this
could not have fastened upon him had he not been near the breaking
point; not now, when everything had gone so splendidly, when with
consummate skill and daring he had attained all his aims, overcome all
obstacles, turned the very weapons of fate into tools to serve his own

He told himself defiantly that everything was before him, but he was
deucedly tired, that was all. He would rest thoroughly in the woods,
recoup his nerves and then start upon the real adventure. Meanwhile,
for the sake of his continued sanity he must put all morbid thoughts
of MacWhirter’s nonsense and of Greenlea from his mind.

Yet when he presented himself before Nicholas Langhorne in the
latter’s sanctum at a little before noon his haggard face was
sufficient excuse for his errand.

“I wanted to know if it would be convenient for me to turn my work
over to someone else for the next week or two, Mr. Langhorne,” he
began. “I’m not feeling quite up to the mark; thought if I got away
for a time——”

“My dear Storm, I was going to suggest it to you myself.” Langhorne
waved him to a chair. “I’ve noticed that you were looking badly, and
it is natural enough under the circumstances. You really should have
taken a good rest at the time—er, a month ago. Arrange for as long a
vacation as you need to put yourself in shape again. Sherwood or Bell
or any of the minor officials can take over your work.”

Storm flushed in resentment at the unconscious imputation. So that was
how his services were regarded by this pompous old idiot! That was how
he was appreciated!

“Thank you,” he said stiffly, adding in swift irony: “If you can
possibly get along without me I should like to leave town almost

Langhorne nodded blandly.

“Just turn over your books to Sherwood to-morrow morning and don’t
give another thought to business until you return. Where have you
planned to go, my boy?”

The note of personal interest was as unusual as the paternal address,
but Storm still glowered.

“Up in the north woods, I think, for some bass fishing. I shall not be
gone longer than about ten days.” He rose. “I’m glad you can spare me
for I feel about all in.”

“Fishing!” Langhorne mused. “There is a lot of malaria in those woods,
Storm, and the discomforts of camp are abominable, to say nothing of
the indigestible cooking provided by the average guide. Now, if you
will take my advice, you will pick out some nice, quiet country club
with a good green and play your eighteen holes every day. There is
nothing like golf to set a man up; gentleman’s game, steadies the
nerve, clears the eye, fills the lungs with good fresh air and not too
strenuous. Golf——”

“I’ve played it,” Storm interrupted quietly, but the cold fury which
possessed him trembled in his tones. “I prefer fishing and I want to
rough it for a time. I won’t detain you any longer, Mr. Langhorne. My
books are in perfect order and can be turned over to-morrow.”

He withdrew, inwardly seething. Great God, must everyone he
encountered remind him? That driver, with the smudge of blood and the
long golden hair clinging to it, rose again before him as it had so
many times before, and in the privacy of his own office once more he
buried his face in his hands to ward off the vision. When, in heaven’s
name, would he be free from them all?

At least, his dismal treading of the eternal mill here had ceased
forever. When he turned over his books to Sherwood on the morrow and
locked his desk, he knew that he would never reopen it. When he
returned from the fishing trip it would be easy to plead further
ill-health until the moment came to send in his resignation. This
phase of existence was over.

He raised his head and looked about at the small but luxuriously
appointed office, grown familiar through more than fifteen years of
occupancy; revoltingly familiar, he told himself bitterly. He loathed
it all! How had the smug, complacent years slipped by without arousing
rebellion in his soul before this? He had been a mere cog in the
machine——No! Not even that!—a useless appendage, tolerated because of
his father! And all the time, how little these daily associates of his
had known of the real man, of his possibilities, his subsequent

He had fooled them, deceived them all, gotten away with two stupendous
crimes under their very noses, by gad, and not one of them had an
inkling of the truth!

A tap upon the ground glass door interrupted his self-laudation, and
Millard entered.

“Hello, Storm. Came to see if you would run out and have a bite of
lunch with me,” he began. “Glad you’ve reconsidered your decision to
take that long trip. Holworthy told me the news. Deucedly hot to-day,
isn’t it?”

“Holworthy?” Storm repeated in unguarded annoyance. What perverse fate
had brought those two together?

“Yes,” Millard replied to the unvoiced query. “When he ’phoned to me
this morning I asked him out to Greenlea, but he said he couldn’t
come; had to work late at the office with Abbott putting him in touch
with his details for the next fortnight because you and he—Holworthy,
I mean—were going off fishing together. Delighted to hear it, old
chap; only I wish I could join you, but you know how I am tied up at
home. It will do you a lot more good than months of poking around by
yourself thousands of miles from home.”

He chattered on, but Storm scarcely heard. What had George telephoned
to him about? The Horton case had not even been mentioned between them
on the previous night, but Storm knew well the tenacity of George’s
grasp of an opinion or theory. Had he been sufficiently interested to
try to probe Millard for further news? But what news could there be?

This time he voiced the thought aloud.

“How about our wager, Millard? Still think you are going to win?”

“I wish I were as sure of eternal salvation!” the other retorted
stoutly. “Of course I’ll win, Storm; that man and the money will be

“So it is ‘that’ man now, eh?” Storm watched him narrowly. “Your
friends at Headquarters have given up the idea of a gang, then? They
think it was a one-man job?”

“Well, no, not exactly.” Millard wriggled uncomfortably in the chair
in which he had seated himself, uninvited. “I haven’t learned anything
further from that source, but Holworthy’s theory the other night
sounded mighty feasible to me. It is a lot more likely that Horton met
some close friend and went off quietly to make a night of it than that
he trusted himself with that bag in his possession to a crowd; and he
couldn’t very well have been kidnapped. Holworthy is getting to be as
much of a bug on the case as I am. Said his one regret in leaving town
was that he would not be able to keep in touch with it. He told me
when he called me up to ask about the papers——”

“What papers?” Storm interrupted.

“Why, those that were found wadded around the pistol in the bag,”
explained the other. “He wanted to know what the names of them were
and I told him they were all ‘Daily Bulletins’ of May twenty-eighth,

“Oh, for the Lord’s sake Millard, don’t go over all that again!” Storm
cried in uncontrollable exasperation.

Millard snickered.

“That’s what Holworthy said, or words to that effect. He had the dates
all down pat.” Then his face grew grave. “You may laugh at it if you
like, but I think it is a very important clue and one that is apt to
be a big factor in the solution of the case.”

“If you are basing your hopes of winning the money on a wad of
unmarked sheets of newspapers, I’ll get it from Holworthy and spend it
for you now.” Storm laughed a trifle grimly. “You two are a couple of
nuts over this thing! I hope Holworthy will leave his theories behind
him when he hits the woods trail with me!”

Millard took the hint and rose.

“You’ll see!” he declared. “How about lunch?”

Storm shook his head.

“Sorry. Like to, old man, but I’m turning my books over to an
associate to-morrow and I’m up to my ears in work. By the way, I’ve
dismissed my gardener, MacWhirter, who has been looking after the
house out at Greenlea. It really doesn’t require a caretaker, you
know, and he has got a job as assistant ground keeper at the club.”

“He is a very good man,” Millard observed. “He kept your garden in
wonderful shape in the old days. How proud your poor wife was of her
flowers!—Well, I’ll run on. Hope I shall see you again before you
start on your trip, but if I don’t, I wish you the best of luck!”

“And you, with your wager,” Storm called after him. “Remember, the
money _and_ the man, Millard!”

When the door had closed he sprang from his chair. Leila and her
flowers! Would no one let him forget? On a sudden impulse he had told
Millard a modified version of MacWhirter’s defection in order to
silence any idle gossip which might spring up at the club and in so
doing he had brought that tactless reminder down about his own ears.

He could see her now in a soft cotton frock standing out under a
towering old lilac bush, its top just burgeoning in clusters of misty
lavender, the sun glinting down between the branches on her golden
hair. When she was warm it used to curl in little moist tendrils about
her forehead and the nape of her slender, white neck, and it felt like
spun silk between one’s fingers. . . .

Storm struck his forehead sharply with his clenched fist. What was the
matter with him to-day? Why couldn’t he control his treacherous,
wandering thoughts? This last unnerving vision had been Millard’s
fault, curse him! Well, he was through with Millard, just as he was
through with Langhorne and all the crew here and at the club! They
were out of his path from this moment on! Only George remained to be
tolerated a while longer for discretion’s sake——

Then the thought recurred to him of George’s telephoned query to
Millard. What on earth did he care about the papers that were found in
the bag? Horton had been a mere acquaintance of his of years gone by;
why should he take such a profound interest in the murder?

Could old George have begun to suspect the truth after all? During the
long evening in his rooms on the previous night nothing had been
discussed save the proposed fishing trip, and at its end they had not
definitely decided where to go; but George had seemed full of plans
and as carefree and eager as a boy for the anticipated outing. Could
this have been all a blind?

He remembered, too, how George had evaded comment on Colonel Walker’s
disclosure. Storm had concluded then that the whole thing had gone
miles over George’s head; but what if it had struck home? What if he
were mulling the affair over in secret in his slow, plodding mind,
correlating the facts he had learned, fitting them in with his theory?

But the most important link of all, the keystone upon which any
structure of circumstantial evidence against Storm could have been
built in the other’s thoughts, was the one thing which had assuredly
escaped his notice: the fact that the newspapers with which they had
packed the trunk had been incomplete, and the significance of the
dates. Amid the turmoil of Storm’s own brain that loomed as a clear
conviction beyond all doubt, and once more his fears subsided and
confidence was reborn.

George had expounded his theory as far as it went, and it pointed
merely to some unknown friend of Horton’s, some presumable associate
of his later years. Pah! Let George play upon that string until it
broke; let him spend the rest of the summer trying to ferret out
Horton’s immediate past and round up the latter’s acquaintances, if he
had become such a “bug” about the case as Millard had asserted! Let
them both work themselves into a fine frenzy over the missing sheets
of the “Bulletin,” memorize the dates, hang about Headquarters, make
asses of themselves generally!

Once and for all, he was done with weak misgivings and unwarranted
fears! They would never learn the truth; no one would ever know it. It
was locked in the breast of the one man in the world who had the
genius to conceive such a brilliant, sublimely simple coup, the
courage to carry it out and the patience and strategy to await the
assured outcome. What had he to do with these lesser minds and their
quibbling and straw-splitting?

A bit of current slang came whimsically to his mind, and Storm smiled
as he slammed down his desk and reached for his hat. He had put this
stunt over; now let them all come!

Chapter XXIV

If George Knew

After a hasty and solitary lunch Storm returned to his office, and
forcing all other thoughts aside he devoted himself throughout the
long afternoon to getting his books and files in order to hand over to
Sherwood the next day. He had always been as methodical as a machine
in the affairs of the trust company, and his task itself was not
difficult, although he found it no easy matter to concentrate, and his
head ached dully.

The first real heat of the summer had come in a blaze of tropic
intensity which seemed to rise in blasting waves from the baking
streets, and as Storm worked he felt a strange lassitude creeping over
him. What if he were to be ill? That was one consideration which had
not occurred to him, and, stifling as he was, a chill seemed to strike
at the core of his being. Illness might mean delirium, and in delirium
men babbled of the most secret, hidden things! He imagined himself
lying inert and helpless, the guard of consciousness loosed from his
tongue, his disordered brain stealing back over the forbidden hours of
the past; and in fancy he could hear the words which should spell his
doom issuing from his fevered lips.

It must not come to pass! By sheer force of will alone he must not
permit himself to fall ill, at least until he had left the city and
all who knew him forever behind; until he was in a strange land, where
his very language would not be understood!

Bright spots were dancing before his eyes, and the pain in his head
had increased; but by a supreme effort he flung off the lethargy which
had settled upon him and completed his task. The building was almost
deserted when he made his way out at last; the rush hour had started,
and he turned disgustedly from the swarms of wilted, wearied toilers
who blocked the entrance to elevated staircases and subways. Thank God
that to-morrow would be his last day of all this!

Sunset had brought no relief, and the reeking asphalt seemed to melt
and sink beneath his feet as he dragged himself over to the Square for
a taxi. Was it only the heat that was affecting him so strangely or
could it be really illness after all? Would Homachi find him in the
morning muttering and raving at the two shadowy figures which delirium
would bring to stand at his bedside? Would strange doctors come to
listen and wonder and finally summon the police?

Shuddering with horror at the vision, Storm climbed into the first
open taxi that he saw and giving his Riverside Drive address, sank
back against the cushions with closed eyes. He felt that never in his
life had he so wanted human companionship, not even on that night when
he had encountered Jack Horton in the rain; yet he dared not summon
anyone. George would drop his affairs with Abbott and come, of course,
but George was the last person in the world whom he would want near if
he were not to be in full possession of his faculties. There was no
one he could trust; he stood alone! In health and strength, with the
guard of reticence about him, he could walk among men, but at the
first weakening, the first inkling of the truth all mankind would be
upon him like a pack of wolves, tearing him down!

As the taxi turned into the Drive at length a breath of cooler air
blew up from the river, and when they reached the door of his
apartment house Storm felt more at ease, although his head still
throbbed and a weight seemed dragging at his limbs.

His rooms, as he let himself in with his latchkey, were dim and cool
and inviting, and with a shiver of distaste at the thought of food he
threw himself across the bed and almost at once fell into a heavy,
troubled sleep.

When he awoke the moonlight was flooding the room, casting vague,
fantastic shadows in the corners and grouping them about the head of
his bed. Storm sat up, bewildered. His throat felt drawn and parched,
his head ached splittingly and a vague but insistent craving assailed

Then he remembered and got weakly to his feet. He had had no dinner,
nothing since that hasty, unappetizing noonday meal. He groped his way
to the light switch in the living-room and turning it on, blinked
dazedly at the clock. It was after midnight! He must have lain for
many hours in that exhausted sleep as if drugged.

But he felt better, at any rate; the lassitude was gone and his head
was clearer, even though it ached. He would be all right in the
morning. . . .

Foraging about, he found bread and cheese in the pantry and milk and
fruit in the ice chest and upon these he made a simple but satisfying

It was cooler; there was no doubt about it. A freshening breeze was
sweeping up from the river and blowing in the curtains at the
living-room windows.

Storm decided impulsively upon a stroll before turning in again. He
had not indulged in one of his nocturnal walks since that momentous
one with Jack Horton the week before; but he need not bring that back
too vividly by venturing in the same direction, and his throbbing head
demanded the fresh night air. Why should he think of Horton now? Last
week was past and dead, as dead as last month, as this whole,
wretched, nerve-racking time would be a year from now when he would be
far away, and all of this forgotten!

Yet when he reached the path he found his feet insensibly turning
toward the incline beyond the viaduct, around that turn where the
ground sloped so sharply down from the wall. With returning strength
the impulse came to test himself, to see if he had sufficient nerve to
stroll past that spot where in the darkness he had struck that single,
sure blow. Why not? Surely no suspicion could attach to him for that!
It was public property, the path was free to all and there would be
nothing strange about a midnight stroll after the terrific heat of the
day should anyone chance to cross his path.

Could he do it? Could he bring himself to walk slowly, steadily up
that incline, to pass without faltering that place against the wall
where Horton’s body had crumpled; to go on without a backward glance
into the shadows that would lurk behind? Surely no other man in the
world would dare such a supreme test of his fortitude, his strength!
Could he see it through?

Storm threw back his shoulders and with measured, determined tread
started upon the path. The moon was sinking behind a cloud, the breeze
blew in sharper, angrier gusts and the stir in the treetops had become
a sibilant, whispering chorus. It might be that a storm was brewing,
but it would not come until long after he was safe at home again, and
he was rather glad that the moon’s eerie light was fading; it had a
tricky way of bringing unfamiliar angles into sharp relief, casting
weird shadows to creep after one, filling one with a senseless desire
to walk faster, to glance behind. . . .

Here was where they had walked when Horton boasted so about his girl!
What a complacent, self-satisfied creature he had been! Common, too;
how a few years of roughing it brought out the bourgeois streak in a
man! Everything about him had grated, repelled; his swagger, his
laugh, the animal-like gusto with which he ate and drank and smoked.
What a boor!

Yonder was the street lamp and here the place where Storm himself had
halted ostensibly to light a cigarette, but in reality to wait until
the approaching figure of the policeman should have advanced into the
surrounding shadows. There was no policeman to-night; no living thing
seemed to be abroad save himself, and the path ahead looked all at
once lonely and foreboding.

It rose sharply now; he had reached the foot of the incline. This was
where Horton had first suggested going back, and he had argued for the
sight of the river steamer when she came around the turn. Horton had
been descanting on his future with the Mid-Eastern people; his future,
which had come to an end there ahead where the wall sloped! He had
been so sure of himself!

But surely the wind was rising! These summer showers came up with
amazing suddenness; perhaps it would be as well——?

No! Storm shook himself angrily and plodded doggedly on. He would make
no weak excuses to himself, pander to no womanish impulse to evade.
This was a moral test and he would see it through!

It was just here that the automobile had appeared, roaring and
careening down the road. What fools the authorities were to make such
a point of its wild progress! Even old George, dense as he was, had
seen the improbability of its connection with that night’s event.

There was the turn in the path just ahead, where the shadows lay
thickest. Storm could feel the moisture gathering beneath the band of
his hat, and it seemed to him that an ever-increasing weight was
attached to his feet, dragging them back. The whisper in the trees had
changed to a rising moan, and the swaying branches threw clutching
shadows out across the path.

Here was the spot, at last! Here was where he had suggested that
Horton look to see if the steamer were coming, where he himself had
stepped back, rasping a dead match against his cigarette case that the
other might hear and not wonder why his companion loitered; where he
had gripped that heavy cane part way down its length, where he had
raised it—— A-ah!

A sharp, hissing gasp escaped from Storm’s lips, to be caught up and
carried away on a gust of wind, and he halted, staring at the figure
which had seemed to rise from nowhere to confront him.

Then for a fleeting instant a rift in the cloud wrack sent a streak of
pale moonlight shimmering down, and by its glow Storm saw the familiar
blue uniform of a policeman.

“Good-evening, Officer.” Was that his own voice, that casually cordial

“’Evening, sir.” The other’s tone was civil enough, but was not his
glance a trifle too keen, too questioning?

“Looks as though we were going to have a storm.”

“It does that, sir.”

What was the fellow waiting for? Why didn’t he go on about his
business? Storm felt that he himself could not move. He seemed held to
the spot as by invisible chains. Why was the policeman eying him so

“I’ve walked further than I meant, myself, but I guess I’ll get home
before it starts.” He forced a laugh. “Couldn’t sleep and came out for
a stroll and then remembered about that murder last week; thought I’d
have a look at the spot, but I can’t seem to find it from the
newspaper description. It happened somewhere about here, didn’t it,

“_Just_ here, sir. You’re standing on the very spot now,” the
policeman responded with emphasis. “See that place on the wall there
by the bush? That’s where they figure the body was thrown over. As for
the murder itself: well, it’s not come out yet where that was done,
but ’twas just down from here that the body was found.”

“Indeed! Are you sure?” Storm assumed an unconsciously clever
imitation of Millard’s eager curiosity.

“I ought to be, sir! I’ve pointed it out enough of times since.” There
was a touch of weariness in the official’s tones. “What with them
operatives from the private agency, and the coal company’s men, to say
nothing of the nuts and cranks——”

He paused significantly and Storm took up the cue.

“I’m coming back here in the daytime; I’ve a theory of my own about
this case!” he announced confidentially. “Let me see; I’ll know the
spot by that clump of trees and the bench. You know, Officer——”

“Excuse _me_, sir!” the policeman interrupted in utter boredom. “I’ve
got to be getting on down my beat.”

“I’ll walk on with you,” proposed Storm equably. “I live down the
Drive a bit and it is too dark for me to poke around up here now.”

The other accepted his companionship with resignation, and they
started down the path while Storm inwardly congratulated himself upon
the skill with which he had handled the situation. It was unique,
unheard-of! That he, the murderer, should encounter an officer of the
law on the very scene of his crime, successfully foster the belief
that he was a harmless crank and presently slip through that
official’s fingers——! Oh, it was colossal!

“I’ve read every word the papers have printed about this affair,” he
went on, still in that guileless, confidential tone. “I can’t conceive
why the body wasn’t found before.”

“Reason enough!” the officer asserted with warmth. “There’s no path
down there, nothing but a steep slope of shale and bushes between the
wall and the railroad tracks, and no one’s ever along there but a
track walker now and then. There’s a dump and two docks near, but the
road leads down from under the Drive at the viaduct. If it hadn’t been
for them boys playing around, the body mightn’t have been found till
Christmas, and no blame to the Department!”

Every nerve in Storm’s body shook with the tension, and he could feel
the sweat starting from his pores; but they had left that spot behind
and every slow, swinging step took them further from it. He had no
intention of permitting the policeman to note the street near which he
lived; a few blocks further on and he would take leave of him and cut
across the Drive. A few blocks—but he must play up, he must not drop
his rôle for an instant.

“I don’t think that automobile that the papers make so much of had
anything to do with it, do you, Officer?” he asked in a loquacious
tone, adding: “A friend of mine has a friend at Headquarters who told
him that two men were seen walking together on the Drive here only a
little before the time when the murder was supposed to have been
committed, and one of them——”

“Say!” the other interrupted disgustedly. “Some guy at Headquarters
must have a mighty big mouth! You’re the second that’s been after me
about that!”

“After you!” Storm repeated.

“Sure. I’m the one seen them,” the policeman retorted. “And what of
it? I’ve had no orders since I’ve been on the Force to interfere with
two respectable-appearing gentlemen walking along cold sober and
peaceable, and minding their own business, just as you come to be out
here to-night yourself, sir! They’d no more to do with the murder than
you had! Of course, when the body was found I had to report them, but
that would have been the end of it if some guy down there hadn’t been
shooting his mouth off!”

“But if you are the officer who passed them,” Storm insisted, “my
friend says he was told that your description of one of them fitted
the dead man——”

“As it would fit any big, well-built fellow you met in the dark!” the
policeman snorted contemptuously. “Besides, as far as I made out from
a passing look at him he was wearing a cap of some kind. There was
none found anywhere near the dead man, and his own hat was hid away in
that bag down at the Grand Central Station. If that boob at

“But the other man who was with him——?” Storm steadied his voice
carefully. “Did you get a good look at him, Officer? What was he

“Look here, what are you after, anyway?” the policeman demanded in
exasperation. “What’s it to you? I’m not here on my beat to be
answering questions and I had enough last night with that little fat
guy pestering me for an hour! I’ve nothing to say, sir! Go to the
friend of your friend at Headquarters and get what you can out of

‘Last night—little fat guy’! The words struck Storm with the force of
a blow, and he recalled that the officer had complained only a few
minutes before: ‘You’re the second that has been after me’! Who could
that other have been? Not Millard, surely! He voiced the doubt aloud:

“It couldn’t have been my friend who bothered you about it last night,
Officer. He’s getting stout, but he is not short.”

“Well, this guy was, and with a big bald spot on top, too, as I saw
when he took off his hat to wipe his forehead under the lamp there! He
kept squinting at me with his near-sighted eyes and jotting down what
I said in a little book till I felt as if I was up before the Board!”
The officer’s tone had grown slightly mollified. “You’ll excuse me for
being short with you, sir, but this thing happening on my beat and all
has made me fair sick. I’ve not eyes on the back of my head nor yet
the kind that can see in the dark, and I can’t be in two places at
once! You’d think to hear some of the knocks I’ve had right in my own
platoon that I’d been asleep on the job!”

‘Bald—nearsighted——!’ George! The questioner had been George

“I don’t know how you could be expected to see a dead man being
brought to that spot on the hill up there and dumped over the wall if
you were down—well, here, say,” Storm remarked consolingly, but his
tone was absent. He must get away from his companion at once; he must
be alone to think.

“Great Scott, I’ve passed my street and I believe—yes, it’s beginning
to rain! Good night, Officer! I’m glad of this little talk——”

“Don’t mention it, sir!” The other’s words had been balm to his sore
spirit, and the policeman beamed. “Good night, sir!”

Storm crossed the Drive, and despite the rain which came pattering
down in a quickening shower he turned north again to make good his
statement. At the end of the block he halted beneath a jutting cornice
and waited until he calculated that the policeman must be a safe
distance away, then retraced his steps and hurried on down the Drive
to his own rooms, heedless of the torrent which drenched him.

So Millard was right! George had become a ‘bug’ about the Horton case!
Storm recalled that at the dinner on Tuesday, when Millard told of the
encounter on the Drive with the two men which the policeman had
reported, George had announced that he would like to talk with the
officer. Millard said he could be found on his beat at about the same
time on any night, and George had evidently taken him at his word. He
must have hunted up the policeman immediately after leaving Storm’s
rooms on the previous night. What could have put the impulse into his
head? For a wonder, the murder had not even been mentioned between the
two during the entire evening.

Why had he not announced his intention? Storm could not conceive of
deliberate reticence on the part of old George! No, he couldn’t have
planned it; he probably ran into the policeman by accident after he
left the house, and remembering the incident which Millard had
described he must have plied him with questions until the good-natured
official writhed.

Yet he had jotted down the replies in a little book, and in the
morning he had called up Millard for further information as to the
name of newspapers found in Horton’s bag. He could not have an inkling
of the truth, of course. It must be as Storm had concluded that
morning; that George, still adhering to his theory of the murder
having been a one-man job, was seeking to confirm it in his own mind
before trying to locate some recent associate or crony of Horton’s who
might have been with him on that night.

He would never reach the true solution, of course, but it was just as
well, all things considered, that he was to be dragged away on that
fishing trip and compelled to drop his self-imposed rôle of
investigator until the police themselves relegated the case to the

Storm had removed his dripping garments, and arrayed himself in his
pajamas, and as he turned off the light and went to bed a thought came
which made him smile grimly in the darkness.

He had done it twice, and gotten away with it. He could do it a third
time! If George knew, if George betrayed the least sign of being on
the right track, then he, too, must be eliminated!

Up there in the woods alone Storm could sound him, could analyze every
word and inflection and look; there would be no habitation near, no
one within sight or hearing for days. If murder could be so simply,
successfully accomplished here in the heart of the city, what mere
child’s play it would be up in there in the wilderness!

He chuckled aloud, unconscious that he was giving audible voice to his

“One thing is sure; nothing must interfere with that trip! _I’ve got
to go fishing with George!_”

Chapter XXV

The Final Test

When Storm arose in the morning his head still ached in a dull,
insistent way; but his energy had returned, and the thought which had
been his last before sleep had crystallized into a definite decision.
He must study George’s every move during that fishing trip, probe him
on every point of the case, weigh with a clear, unprejudiced mind
every slightest possibility of his learning the truth and then act as
his final judgment dictated.

The midnight shower had cooled the air, and Storm reached his office
early, determined to conclude the formalities there in as short order
as possible. He found Sherwood awaiting him, and they put in a busy
morning over the transfer of the books and files. He listened in a
sort of grim apathy to the kindly expressions of good-wishes for the
pleasure and benefit which his vacation might bring to him, took leave
of his associates, shook the flabby hand of Nicholas Langhorne and
made his escape.

At last! He was through! Through forever with the dull grind, the
hypocritical sympathy of his colleagues, the maddening patronage of
that pompous old millionaire, who hadn’t one-tenth of the brains, the
genius that was his! How little they had known him through all those
years; how little they suspected that this brief vacation would be
extended for a lifetime, that he had shaken the sanctimonious dust of
that most aristocratic institution from his feet forever!

He had laid his plans in that long hour before sleep came to him, and
now he hurried to the nearest telegraph office, sent off several
despatches and then called up George.

“Say!” that individual expostulated over the wire. “How on earth are
we going to start on Monday if you don’t make up your mind where you
want to go? I expected to hear from you all day yesterday——”

“That’s all right; I’ve fixed it!” Storm responded. “Come up to my
rooms to-night. I’ll have Homachi give us a little dinner and we can
talk over the final arrangements then.”

“Did you get those bass flies?” demanded George.

“No. I will, this afternoon.”

“Well, have you sent word out to MacWhirter to have your fishing gear
brought in? How about your clothes? Will he know what to pack?”
George’s tone was filled with an anxious solicitude that was almost
ludicrously maternal. “You needn’t bother about mourning up there, you
know; you’ll want the oldest clothes you’ve got, and your hip boots,
and don’t forget about that rod——”

“I know, I—I’ll attend to it,” stammered Storm. “Come up about seven,
will you?”

He rang off, his mind in a quandary. George had known nothing of
MacWhirter’s defection, but his words had reminded the other that the
house at Greenlea was locked up and there was no one to pack up his
fishing gear unless he went out and did it for himself. He could not
send Homachi, who would not know where to find anything, and the
thought of telephoning to one of the neighbors of the Greenlea colony
and enlisting their aid was out of the question; they, male or female,
would like nothing better than a chance to go through the house
unmolested and pry into every detail of the home which had been so
tragically broken up.

He must go himself; that was plain. He thought of MacWhirter’s manner
on the previous day and shivered involuntarily; then the episode of
the night recurred to him and he smiled. He had tested himself and in
the test had encountered the unforseen, but it had not daunted him.
His strength, his nerve, his ingenuity had been equal to the
situation, would be equal to any exigency of the future! What was
there now in all the world for him to fear?

He would go back to Greenlea, and George should go with him! They
would spend the night there, and then whatever ghosts of memory the
old house held for him would be laid forever.

His decision made, he stopped at a sporting goods shop, purchased the
flies, lines and a new reel, and then returned to his rooms to await
the replies to his telegrams of the morning.

Here a new difficulty confronted him. The money! Those packets of
greenbacks and tiny roulades of gold which he had taken life itself to
gain! He could not go away for a week or more and leave them reposing
there in that flimsy safe! There were duplicates of it in every
apartment in the house. It was even conceivable that Potter himself
might have missed something of value and thinking that he had left it
in the safe, return unexpectedly and open it. There might be a fire!
Any of a hundred possibilities could happen which would betray his
secret to the world.

Yet it was out of the question for him to take it with him. He could
not carry it about him, for in the enforced intimacy of camp life he
would be unable to conceal it from George; and he well knew that the
latter would rummage at will in every article of hand-baggage.
Moreover, the packets of bills were too bulky, and the ten thousand
dollars in gold alone must weigh approximately forty pounds.

But where could he secrete it during his absence?

Storm sat with his head upon his hands, wrestling with the problem.
The fishing trip could not be given up now. He must go with George,
must try him out and then if he were likely to prove a menace, must
destroy him. But the money! There was no hiding place in the world
where it would be safe. . . .

Then the solution burst full grown into being, and he sprang from his

Greenlea! There was a place in the cellar of the house where the
concrete floor had been removed to lay some pipes and had never been
replaced. Sand and soft loam filled the space, and it would be easy
enough to bury a tin despatch box there. Several such boxes were in
the attic, he knew, and packed carefully in one of them the bills and
gold would be safe from discovery for the brief time he would be away.

But if George accompanied him, how could he——? Bah! He had nothing now
to fear from George or anyone! He could pack the money into a bag and
carry it down under George’s very nose and he would suspect nothing!
It would take nerve, of course, but was he not master of himself,

He would keep the bag close beside him throughout the night, and in
the morning, at the last moment, he would contrive an excuse to remain
behind George. There would be so much to do in town that the latter
would be compelled to take an early train back, and after his
departure it would not be the work of half an hour to stuff the money
into the despatch box and bury it in that open space in the cellar.
The thing was as good as done now!

Sending Homachi out to purchase supplies for the dinner, Storm waited
only until the door had closed after him, and then, rushing to the
storeroom, he dragged out a huge, battered old valise. Into this he
transferred the money, packing it carefully between layers of old
clothing, lest the cylinders of gold become unrolled and clink
together. When it was all safely stowed away he filled the top of the
valise with discarded linen and closing it, lifted it experimentally
from the floor.

Its weight seemed prodigious, and he was badly out of condition, he
knew. Would his flabby muscles stand the strain of carrying it? Storm
set his lips resolutely. He must force himself to do it; there was no
other way. He had whipped his faltering strength into obeying his will
before, and his will was absolutely supreme!

When George arrived promptly at seven he found his host in a more
genial mood than he had exhibited for weeks, with a hint of eager
anticipation in his manner which recalled the old, high-spirited
Norman of days long gone.

“You look better already!” George beamed at him. “Where are we going,
anyway? You said over the ’phone that you’d fixed it, but I don’t——”

Storm gathered up a sheaf of telegrams from the desk and seizing his
guest by the arm dragged him off to the dining-room.

“Come on and let us have dinner. We can talk while we eat; we haven’t
any too much time.”

“Time!” repeated George. “We’re not going anywhere this evening!”

“Aren’t we?” Storm laughed. “Homachi has a chicken casserole for us
to-night and some new asparagus with a sauce which he fondly believes
to be Hollandaise. I hope you are good and hungry; I know I am.”

“But what’s all this mystery?” George demanded, after Homachi had
served them. “Who are all those telegrams from? I hope you haven’t
gone and arranged some long trip, Norman, You know we can’t stay away
for more than a week, and we’ll get mighty little fishing if we spend
most of the time on the cars!”

George was a poor traveler and knew it. Storm smiled.

“Do you remember that old hunting lodge up on Silver Run where we
camped when we went fishing one year a good while ago? I happen to
know that it has been unoccupied for several seasons, and I wired to
the owners to borrow it. Pierre, my old guide, lives only about twenty
miles away, at Three Forks Carry, and I sent a telegram to him to go
and get it ready for us. Here are the replies.” Storm produced two of
the messages and handed them across the table. “The others were to
fellows whose camps I thought we might use if the lodge wasn’t
available, but they are all occupied.”

“It sounds good,” George said slowly as he passed the telegrams back.
“But did you arrange for this Pierre to stay and look out for us? You
know you are not much on roughing it, and I—I’m getting confoundedly

“Lazy dub!” Storm jeered. Then his tone grew pleading, although he
could feel his face flushing, in spite of himself, beneath the other’s
candid, inquiring gaze. “That’s just it! We don’t want Pierre, or
anyone. That was the trouble with all those places you suggested; they
were too civilized, too popular. I don’t want to go and live at a club
or farmhouse and whip up a stream where you are likely to meet a dozen
other fishermen in a day! I don’t even want to have a guide fussing
around; I want to be just alone with you. I thought if we could get
away absolutely by ourselves and tramp and fish and do our own bit of
cooking and sleep out in the open on the ground if we felt like it,
that it would be immense!”

He paused, waiting with keen anxiety for the reply. Would George rise
to the bait?

“You’ve caught any number of fish, but did you ever clean ’em?” the
other asked doubtfully at length. “You know you hate cold water, and
the last time we went to the Reel and Rifle Club you kicked like a
steer because the beds were so hard——”

“Oh, if you want modern plumbing and silver platters, don’t come;
that’s all!” Storm interrupted in well simulated disgust. He had
detected the signs of yielding in George’s manner and knew that the
way was clear. “I tell you I really want to go back to primitive
things. I’m sick of the world and everything in it! I wish I had stuck
to my original plan and thrown over everything here and gone out to
the East——”

“All right!” George exclaimed hurriedly. “I was only thinking of you.
I would like it first rate, and this Pierre of yours says that the
bass are running fine! Only, if you come back with sciatica from this
open air sleeping stunt, don’t blame me! I shall take a hammock!”

“Good old sport! I was sure you would see it my way. We’ll have the
time of our lives!” Storm touched the bell. “Homachi, bring our coffee
in a hurry, will you, and whatever else you have? We’ve got to be

“Off where?” George betrayed symptoms of anxiety. “I thought we were
going to pack!”

“Pack what?” demanded Storm coolly. “I haven’t a blessed thing here,
old man.”

“Norman! I told you——!” George paused. “And to-morrow is Saturday.”

“I know, but I forgot to tell you; there is nobody out at Greenlea.”
Storm chose his words carefully. “MacWhirter came in yesterday and
told me that he had been offered another position with bigger money
immediately, and as his month was up I was forced to let him go.”

“There’s gratitude for you!” George snorted indignantly. “And all your
stuff down there——”

“I never thought of that until you mentioned it over the telephone
to-day.” Storm sighed, watching his friend furtively. “I’ll have to go
myself, of course. I will not have time to-morrow, and if I appeared
in Greenlea on Sunday you know how the crowd would all come trooping
in to see me and condole with me all over again. It would drive me
mad! There is only to-night, George, and the thought of spending it
alone in that house—I thought perhaps you would come down with me and
see it through——”

“Of course I will!” George said warmly. “I wouldn’t think of having
you down there all alone in that empty place in your state! What train
can we get? I haven’t anything with me——”

“We can catch the nine o’clock if we start soon. We will find
everything that we may need for the night down there.” Storm’s face
was inscrutable. “I’m taking down an old valise with some things in it
that I want to leave there; stuff I forgot to put in that trunk we
sent down last week. If you have finished your coffee, I’ll ring for a

When the car came Homachi stood ready to take his employer’s bag out
to it, but Storm waved him aside.

“I’ll carry it myself,” he said.

“It looks deucedly heavy,” George remarked, eying the valise
critically as they passed out of the entrance. “What’s in it anyway?”

“Just some old clothes, some account books and a—a packet of letters
that I brought up with me myself.” Storm deposited the bag carefully
on the floor of the taxi between his feet and then sank back with his
face in the shadow.

“I thought I might like to look them over but I—I can’t, just yet.”

George’s hand gripped his shoulder for a minute in silent sympathy,
and Storm suppressed a smile. What a sentimental, gullible fool! One
reference to Leila, however vague, and he became the conventional
mourner at once. He was really too easy!

When they reached the station Storm left the other to pay the taxi and
holding his valise so that his arm would not betray the strain upon it
too obviously, went ahead through the gates.

There was no one on the train whom they knew, and during the brief
ride out to Greenlea they discussed the fishing trip in desultory
fashion. George was evidently apprehensive of the effect upon his
friend’s spirits of this return to old scenes saddened with tragic
memories, but Storm himself felt no depression.

The money was there at his feet! The money to take him away from all
this forever! When he cabled George later to sell the house, let _him_
come out here and weep over the relics if he felt like it! This was
just another final test of his own nerve, that was all, and he defied
the house or its memories to break him down. The past was dead, and
this was just a visit to its grave, nothing more.

They found a jitney at the Greenlea station, and this time George
stooped for the valise, but Storm forestalled him.

“No, thanks, old man. I don’t mind carrying it.”

“But you are tired. Let me——”

“For heaven’s sake go on!” Storm exclaimed irritably. “I want to carry
it myself, I tell you!”

Once in the jitney, however, he essayed swiftly to efface the effect
of the outburst.

“Don’t mind me, George; I’m not quite myself. It is a little trying,
you know, to come out here again, but I didn’t mean to act like a
spoiled kid over such a trifle.”

“That’s all right, Norman; you’re tired.” George’s tone was
affectionately magnanimous. “Go to bed to-night as soon as you feel
sleepy and I’ll finish the packing. I know every inch of the house and
just what you will need to take with you.”

Nothing more was said until they drove up before the veranda.
Everything was dark and abysmally silent, and the vines had grown in a
tangled riot over the steps. Storm stumbled with his precious burden
and almost fell, but he caught himself in time, shaking with sudden
fear. God, if he had dropped that old valise and it had split asunder
scattering the gold and banknotes in the darkness!

Chapter XXVI

The Key

“By Jove, old man, I forgot that I have had the gas and electricity
turned off!” Storm’s voice echoed back eerily, mockingly, from the
silent rooms to where George had halted on the threshold. “The water
is on still, though, thank the Lord! and the telephone, too. We’ll
need that in the morning to ’phone for a car to take us to the
station, for we both forgot to tell that jitney driver to come back
for us.—I know where there are a lot of candles upstairs. You wait
here and I’ll get them.”

George stood obediently by the open door and heard Storm’s fumbling
footsteps pass up the stair. Then they died away into silence. The
jitney had chugged off down the road, and only the sound of the night
breeze rustling the vines on the veranda came to him. Unimaginative as
he was, the house was so filled for him with memories of his friend’s
wife that it seemed to him a gentle presence slept there, waiting only
for light and the sound of their voices to call it into being. He
could not have spoken aloud at that moment to save his life, so
profoundly stirred was he; and he wondered at Storm’s fortitude. It
was only a bluff, of course, a brave attempt to hide his breaking
heart, and George felt a swift, strong wave of compassionate
admiration for his friend. Poor old Norman!

Presently he heard him moving about overhead, and at last a light
appeared, dim and wavering, at the head of the stairs. Other lights
sprang up and then Storm descended.

“I’ve left four burning up there; got to go back and get the rods and
bags and stuff,” he announced. George noticed that he had left the
heavy valise upstairs. “Here! You hold this and we’ll light more and
stick them around.”

“Not all over the place!” George objected. “Get all your things
together in one room and we’ll pack there.”

“All right. The library, then.” Storm made for the door, his candle
held aloft over his head, and paused. “Hello! MacWhirter had that
trunk I sent down dumped in here!—Never mind, it won’t be in our way.”

George had moved about the room, lighting candles and placing them in
every available receptacle with a fine disregard of the dropping wax;
and now he turned to his companion.

“Where is your old camp outfit?” he asked.

“Oh, Pierre will have all the blankets and pots and pans and things of
that sort,” replied Storm carelessly. “We will take our supplies from
town. All we need from here are clothes and fishing gear and the bags
to pack them in. The clothes are in the closets upstairs and the rest
of the stuff in the attic.”

“Well, let us assemble it all here first and then sort it out,”
suggested George. “If I once get it all together you can go to bed
whenever you like and I’ll finish the job. You look about all in.”

Storm shook his head, but he realized the truth of his friend’s words.
The continued strain of the past days had been terrific, and the
effort to nerve himself for this final test of his own strength and
endurance had proved greater than he knew. The pain in his head, which
had throbbed ceaselessly for two days, was gone, but he felt a sense
of mental and physical fatigue which was akin to exhaustion.

The test had proved to be no test, after all. This dark, silent,
dismantled house had seemed utterly strange to him from the moment
when the first echoes of his voice had died away. Even the familiar
furniture was distorted and unreal in the flickering flames of the
candles. Daylight perhaps would bring poignant memories, but to-night
he was too tired. It did not seem that he and Leila had ever lived
there, and the events of that hideous night were like a dream. The
only real, vital thing in all that house to him was that valise
beneath his bed upstairs. If ghosts stalked in the morning he would
have but to fix his mind on that and they would vanish!

“If you are too tired I can get the stuff together myself.” George’s
patient voice broke in upon his musing, and he roused himself with a

“No. Come along. It won’t take long.”

Together they made several trips, and soon a heterogeneous collection
of clothes, boots, bags, baskets and fishing paraphernalia overflowed
from the couch and chairs into great heaps upon the floor.

“Oh, Lord!” groaned Storm. “What an infernal mess! We’ll never get it
straightened out, George!”

The other made no response. He was running a practised eye over the
conglomeration, and at length he glanced up.

“Where is that four-and-a-half-ounce rod?” he demanded.

“Isn’t it there? We must have overlooked it.” Storm rose wearily from
the top of the trunk where he had perched himself. “It wasn’t with the
others, so I may have quite a search for it, worse luck!”

“Let me——” George offered, but Storm shook his head.

“No. I want to be sure I didn’t leave any candles burning up there,

While Storm was gone George made a swift inventory. In his own mind he
believed privately that his impulsive companion would tire in a few
days of the discomforts of camping without a guide and would himself
suggest going to the nearest club. That would be the Reel and Rifle,
George reflected, and there was a passable nine-hole course there.
Storm would want his golf sticks along, but where were they? Surely
they had not been taken to town . . . .

Then he closed his eyes and his face contorted in a spasm of swift
pain. The last time he had seen those golf sticks they were lying
across the table in the den while Leila’s body, mercifully composed on
the couch after the coroner’s visit, lay awaiting the last sad

They were there still in all probability, and George decided to get
them himself before Storm returned. It would be needless cruelty to
suggest that his friend enter that room again.

Taking a candle, he made his way down the hall. The den door was
closed but not locked, and he threw it open and stepped reverentially
across the threshold.

The room was in order, but it had not been dismantled as had the
others; and although a thin film of dust lay everywhere, it seemed,
curiously enough, more cosy, giving out the atmosphere of having been
more lately occupied than the rest of the house. Could that be because
the presence of the woman who had died there seemed still to linger?

George’s faded eyes blurred and the candle shook in his hand, but he
advanced to the table. There lay the golf sticks just as he had
supposed; and gathering them up he left the den, closing the door
behind him, and as he entered the other’s eyes traveled to his burden,
and a sound very like an oath escaped his lips.

“Where did you get those?” he demanded roughly.

“I—I thought we might run over to the Reel and Rifle and you would
need them,” George stammered. “You ought to take it up once more,

Storm threw his hands out with an uncontrollable gesture of horror.

“I shall never play again!” he cried hoarsely. “Take those sticks away
out of my sight!”

With a pained, bewildered expression George turned obediently and
deposited his burden with a clatter in the corner of the hall. He did
not quite understand his old friend these days, and seemed to be
forever offending when he meant only to be kind and thoughtful. Of
course Storm and Leila had played golf together always, but they had
gone on fishing trips together, too, and Storm did not appear to mind
the prospect of that. Why should golf hold such particularly poignant
memories for him?

Storm meanwhile was fighting hard to regain the mastery over himself
that the unexpected sight of those wretched golf sticks had for a
moment overthrown. Curse that meddlesome fool! Why had he taken it
upon himself to suggest that damned game, above everything else, and
how had he dared to get those sticks without even asking!

But the fire of rage died out within him as quickly as it had arisen.
Let old George think what he pleased; it didn’t matter. He was too
tired to dissemble, and besides it would not be worth the effort.
George would put it down as just one of his moods, that was all.

Then another thought came to him, and he moved swiftly to the table
and opened the drawer. His pistol lay within, and as he picked it up a
grim smile twisted the corners of his mouth. It was quite improbable,
of course, but there was just a chance that he might find use for it
on that fishing trip!

“What are you doing with that?” George demanded from the doorway, much
as Storm had spoken the moment before.

The latter laughed jerkily.

“It’s not loaded! I was looking to see if it was all right, for we’ll
take it with us, of course.” He threw it carelessly to the couch and
reached in the drawer once more. “Here is a box of cartridges. Put
them in, too, old man.”

“I don’t see what you want it for!” George grumbled anxiously. “If two
men can’t protect themselves against anything they met in those woods
without a gun——”

“Silver Run isn’t the Beaver Kill, you know!” Storm retorted in a
significant tone as he reached into his hip pocket and produced a
silver mounted flask. “I’m confoundedly tired; think I’ll take a
bracer.—Have one?”

George shook his head and Storm drank deeply, then replaced the flask
in his pocket with a sigh.

“About that pistol, though. I really prefer to take it along.”

“All right.” George acquiesced somewhat dubiously. “I never did any
hunting, and I am not crazy about having firearms lying around; but if
you’ll be careful of it and see that it doesn’t go off——”

“We won’t even load it until we get to the lodge.” Storm yawned and
sweeping a pile of old corduroys off the nearest chair, sank into it.
“Give me those lines and reels and I’ll sort them out.”

George complied, and for a time they worked in silence while the
candles burned low and a fat, furry moth or two thumped against the
window pane. Storm took another long drink, but his languor increased,
his hands moved more slowly among the tangled lines and at length
dropped inertly to his knees. George glanced up to find the other’s
head fallen forward upon his breast and his eyes closed.

“Norman! Norman, old fellow!”

Storm’s head came up with a jerk, and he blinked in the flickering

“I—I must have dozed off,” he mumbled. “It’s funny, but I don’t think
I ever felt so tired in my life.”

“Then go to bed, do! You are worn out, and sleep is just what you
need,” urged George.

“And leave you with all this to do alone?”

“It won’t be as bad as it looks. When I finish picking out what we’ll
need I can get it stowed away in the bags in no time.”

Storm hesitated, and once more a slang phrase came whimsically to his
mind. Well, “let George do it,” if he wanted to take it upon himself.
He was intoxicatingly sleepy, in a spirit of utter relaxation such as
he had not known for many weary days. Oh, for one night untroubled by
rankling, corroding thoughts and yet more hideous dreams! He felt that
he could sleep at last, and nothing else mattered. No harm could come.

“All right, I think I will go to bed, then, if you don’t mind.” He
dragged himself to his feet. “Your old room is all ready, George; the
front guest one. Just turn in whenever you are ready, but be sure to
put out the candles.”

“I will, old man.” George nodded from the floor where he sat sprawled,
a fat bag braced between his knees. “If you want anything, just call.
Good night, and try to get a good rest.”

“Good night,” Storm responded, and taking up a candle he left the
library and went slowly up the stairs.

God! how tired he was! His own bed looked soft and inviting, and he
took a pair of old pajamas from a drawer and disrobed as quickly as
his fumbling fingers could perform their task, tumbling the contents
of his pockets out in a heap on the corner of the bureau. Then he
flung himself into the bed and blew out the candle.

Ghosts? Bah! Nothing could trouble him now, and nothing could harm him
in the future, for the means was there, within reach of his hand, to
carry him far beyond the reach of memories.

With a last waking effort he stretched his arms down and pulled the
valise half out from under the bed, where his hand could rest upon it.
It was good to feel that bulge beneath the leather! Money was real,
all else was but the chimera of one’s thought. There was no yesterday,
only to-morrow . . . . His reflections dulled, dissolved in chaos, and
he slept.

Below in the library George had replenished the candles and returned
to his task. He was tired, too, and this return to the old house had
depressed him, but he was glad to have relieved Norman of the packing,
glad the poor old fellow was going to get one night’s tranquil rest.

The fishing gear took the longest to sort and stow away, but when that
was finished he turned to the boots and clothing with a relieved mind.
A half hour more and he would be through.

The pistol and cartridges he laid gingerly upon the table. They must
go in last, and Norman should carry that bag himself. George wished
that he would not take it, for in his nervous state he might peg away
at some other fishermen by mistake, and there would be the devil to
pay! No thought of thwarting his old friend crossed his mind, however;
if Norman wanted twenty pistols with him he should have them, if only
he returned from this expedition more like his old self!

His task was completed at length, and with a sigh of satisfaction
George started to close the last bag when a sudden thought struck him.
He had packed everything but headgear. Norman must have some old caps
lying around somewhere; old golf caps would be just the thing. He
hadn’t seen any when they poked about in the closets upstairs. They
must be in Norman’s rooms in town.

Then his gaze fell upon the trunk. Why, the caps were in there, of
course! He had helped to pack them himself only a week ago. Norman
must have the key to it on his ring, and it would be a pity to disturb
him now; still, George felt that it would be better not to leave it
till the morning. In his methodical, bachelor existence he liked to
finish a thing once he had started it.

But perhaps he could get the key-ring and open the trunk without
disturbing old Norman! If he walked very softly the other need not
awaken, and he could give him back his keys in the morning.

George took up a candle, and shielding its flame carefully with his
hand he started up the stairs, tiptoeing with exaggerated care. Once a
loose board creaked beneath his feet and he paused, as apprehensive as
though he were bent upon committing a burglary.

From the stillness above came a long-drawn, reassuring snore, and
relieved he plodded on again until he reached the top.

Storm’s door was closed, but he turned the handle noiselessly and
opening it inch by inch, peered within. Storm was fast asleep, his jaw
drooping and upon his relaxed face the hint of an expression which
George had never seen before. He looked almost as if he were smiling;
smiling at something that was not pleasant to see.

Then George’s eyes softened as they traveled down the out-flung arm to
the inert hand resting against the valise. Poor old Norman! Even in
sleep he cared for her, he reached out to touch the receptacle in
which were her letters, all that remained to him of her! No one else
could realize how much he had cared, he was so self-contained, but
George knew!

He glanced somewhat doubtfully at the clothes tumbled upon a chair.
Would the key-ring be there in one of the pockets? Somehow, he didn’t
quite like the idea of going through them. His eyes traveled to the
bureau and rested upon the little heap of coins and a watch and other
small objects, and he tiptoed over to examine them. There lay the

He picked it up and, turning, gave one last look at the sleeper. At
that moment Storm’s face twitched and the hand against the valise
flexed, then slowly relaxed again. Still thinking of her!

George tiptoed out the door and closed it noiselessly behind him.

Chapter XXVII

In the Library

George returned to the library, and sorting the smaller keys from the
others on the ring he tried them one after the other in the lock of
the trunk. He was beginning to despair when at length one fitted, and
snapping down the hasps he threw back the lid.

They could not have packed very well, he and Norman, or else the
expressmen had been unusually rough in handling the trunk. Its
contents had been flung about in wild disorder, and George thought
ruefully of the delicate clock and the glass ink-well of the desk set.

He picked out the caps and a mackinaw which might come in handy, and
was on the point of closing the trunk when he hesitated. It might be
as well to see if that clock were damaged or not; it had been Leila’s
gift and George knew how much Norman thought of it.

He lifted the other garments out and then the books, revealing the
remaining articles wrapped loosely in newspaper. He felt about among
them until he found the clock, and as he took it up the paper fell
from it and partially opened as it dropped to the floor.

The clock looked all right; its works might be damaged, but at least
it was not smashed!

With a sigh of thankfulness George stooped to pick up the paper, when
the printed line upon the top margin caught his eye.

“Daily Bulletin, June 1st.”

That was an odd coincidence! His thoughts strayed back to the notes he
had taken from Millard’s disclosures in the Horton case. How many
thousands of those newspapers were scattered throughout the city and
its environs! Somewhere, someone had put a copy identical with this to
its sinister use. Poor Horton!

These were only the outside sheets, too! That was funny! The inside
ones must be about another package in the trunk, of course. On a
sudden impulse George picked up the desk blotter and unwrapped it. Its
covering proved to be the outer double page of the ‘Daily Bulletin’
for May 28th! Another of the corresponding dates to those on the
papers in Horton’s bag!

By jingo, there was something queer about this! Without consciously
following his bewildered train of thought any farther, George took
each package one by one from the trunk and unwrapped it carefully,
laying the papers in a neat pile. When he had finished and the trunk
was empty he took the newspapers to the table, and spreading them out
with trembling hands he sorted them.

Four were complete copies of the ‘Bulletin’ for June sixth, seventh,
eighth, and ninth; the remainder were the outside pages of that paper
for——he caught his breath sharply as he examined them——for _May
twenty-eighth_, _thirtieth_, and _thirty-first_, _June first_,
_third_, and _fourth_! And on each of them was scrawled a rough circle
with Storm’s apartment number, “_One-A_”, within it!

No other scrap of newspaper was visible anywhere, and George knew they
had left none about in that living-room in town when they finished
packing. Where could the inside pages be?—He must be mistaken in the
dates of those papers found in Horton’s bag! His memory had failed

With shaking fingers he tore the notebook from his pocket and read the
entry, his eyes fairly starting from his head. No, there had been no
mistake! The dates were identical!

This was the most extraordinary, unheard-of coincidence in all the
world! But even as his slow-moving mind strove to grasp it, the
conviction came that it _could_ not be a coincidence! One newspaper,
maybe, or two, but not six and only six with the inner sheets gone;
_the same six_ whose outer pages were missing from those in Horton’s

As the monstrous, almost unbelievable fact was borne in upon him,
George started back from the table, both hands clutching at the meager
hair on his temples. He must be going mad! His mind, usually slow and
groping, raced back over the events of the past few days, seizing upon
events scarcely considered then but now standing out in awful

On Wednesday afternoon at the club Colonel Walker had told of meeting
Storm near the Grand Central Station on Wednesday of the previous week
around dinner time; the day and hour at which the train Horton took
from Poughkeepsie arrived! Storm had tried to deny it, but when Walker
added that it was raining as additional proof of the day, Storm
hurriedly admitted an errand to his tobacconist’s. _Why had he denied
it at first?_

Then, too, when George arrived at the club he heard Griffiths
commiserating with Storm over having been swindled by Du Chainat, and
Storm indignantly denying that, too. He remembered the conversation
later at dinner in the grill-room, when he had taxed Storm with
concealing his acquaintance with the swindler from him. Storm said
that he had not told him of it because he was ashamed to admit that Du
Chainat had almost duped him. _Almost?_ Had Storm not been fleeced, he
would not have concealed his acquaintance with the swindler! His
egotism would have made him boast of his escape at the moment of the
furore over the Du Chainat exposure!

Griffiths had said that Storm was down in the swindler’s list for
sixty thousand; that would have meant every cent and more than George
knew Storm possessed in the world! From whence, if he had indeed lost
that, had come the money for this long foreign trip so suddenly
decided upon without apparent reason?

George recalled his own theory of Horton’s death: that he had met
someone he knew well and trusted absolutely, and placing himself
utterly in the supposed friend’s hands, had been done to death without

It could not have been Norman Storm! Not that old friend of twenty
years, sleeping so peacefully upstairs! George tried to thrust the
thought from him in an agony of unspeakable horror, but it remained
and would not be exorcised.

Suppose by sheer accident or stroke of fate Horton and Storm had met
near the station and the latter had taken Horton to his rooms? His
rooms, which were so near the place on the Drive where the body was
afterward found! Suppose Horton had told of the huge amount in cash
that he carried, exhibited it, perhaps, and the sight proved too great
a temptation for Storm, already half-crazed with the loss of the last
of his fortune?

George could not conceive of the man he had loved as a brother
deliberately planning a cold-blooded murder, but every known fact
fitted in with this hideous supposition. Storm could not have killed
Horton in his own rooms and conveyed the body to the place where it
was found, but if he could have induced Horton to accompany him there
on some pretext——

Then the testimony of the policeman whom he himself had met and
questioned on Wednesday evening recurred to George’s mind, and he
commenced to pace the floor in short, nervous steps as though to get
away from the fearful thought that hounded him.

The policeman’s description of the heavier set of the two pedestrians
whom he had passed on the night of the murder might have fitted
Horton—according to the newspaper report on the body—or any of a
million other men, perhaps. But his account of the taller man——!
George picked up his notebook from the floor where it had fallen from
his paralyzed fingers in the shock of the verification of his
discovery and read the description again:—“Tall, thin, with a
smooth-shaved face and small hands——I saw that much when he put a
match to his cigarette. He was dressed all in dark clothes; black,

George closed the notebook and put it back slowly into his pocket.
Tall, thin, smooth-shaven, in mourning, with the inevitable cigarette!
It was Storm to the life! His heart, all the accumulating affection of
years cried out against the justice of that verdict. A tall, thin man
dressed in dark clothes; were there not thousands in the city? But
that methodical, inexorable brain of George’s had gone back swiftly to
the night after that on which the murder must have taken place, when
he and Storm had motored out in Abbott’s car up the road for dinner.

They passed twice by the very spot where Horton’s body must still have
been lying, and on the first occasion——God! how it had all come
back!—Storm had leaned forward, staring, then uttered a sharp
exclamation and sank back in his seat; George had had to speak to him
twice before he answered. _He knew then what lay beyond that wall!_

The visit to the Police Headquarters, the wager with Millard: all that
had been sheer bravado. But what horrible manner of man was this whom
he had thought he knew so well! With what outward calm he had received
Millard’s revelations at that dinner on Tuesday night! The fact that
the newspapers stuffed in Horton’s bag—from which he had thought to
remove all clues by taking off these outer sheets with the apartment
number on them—had been made special note of must have been a shock to
him, and also the news that the bills were marked and a warning had
been sent out for them. But perhaps he had already discounted that,
perhaps he was depending on the ten thousand in gold to get him out of
the country.

But why should he go? His salary at the trust company each year was
that amount and half again as much. Unless he were quite mad he would
not have dreamed of throwing up such a position and committing murder
for a comparatively paltry sum in order to gratify a sudden whim for a
few months of travel in the East.

George’s heart rebounded in a sudden leap of loyalty, and he sought
eagerly for evidence in rebuttal. That desperately tired, harassed man
who was his friend; that man whose presence was so near, who even now
was sleeping the sleep of utter exhaustion upstairs was not guilty of
this fearful thing! Storm would certainly have been mad to commit a
crime; but Storm was certainly not mad! He was nervous and worn out
and grief-stricken, but he was unquestionably sane. By what ruse could
he have gotten Horton’s pistol from him? How separated him from the
bag in his charge and how and why become possessed of his hat?

These were but trivial details and immaterial to the mass of
circumstantial evidence, George realized, and his heart sank once
more. Storm could easily have persuaded Horton to leave the bag and
pistol there in his own rooms while they went for a short midnight
stroll. But what of the hat——?

The policeman’s testimony again! He had said that the stocky,
heavy-built man wore a cap of some sort! George’s eyes traveled
shrinkingly to those he had taken from the trunk. No cap had been
found near the body. Perhaps—perhaps it was one of these, here in this

If events had really occurred as he was mentally evolving them, the
bag, together with the hat and pistol, would be all the evidence of
the crime except the money itself which remained in Storm’s hands; and
he could very readily have been the one to check the bag with the
other articles inside at the terminal the next morning as the easiest
method of disposing of them. But what had he done with the money?
Where was it now?

George dropped limply into a chair, his mind struggling with the
problem. It did not matter so much at the moment what had become of
the money as why Storm had done this fearful thing.

For he must have done it! Here was the evidence of the outer sheets of
the newspapers, with the apartment number scrawled upon them to
corroborate the police theory as to why they had been removed; and
every fact, known and surmised, bore out the hideous truth!

Why had he killed Horton? The obvious reason, of course, was the
possession of the money, but although his capital must have been swept
away if he had really been duped by the swindler, he had still his
comfortable income in a life-long sinecure. Only desperate men kill,
but why was Storm desperate? To get away?

Surely that mere impulse would not have been strong enough to force
him to murder! What had he to get away from? Only grief-stricken
memories of his dead wife; and other men lived down such sorrow. Grief
alone could not drive a man from his assured place in the world to
become a wanderer in strange lands, a self-exiled pariah! Nothing but
the consciousness of guilt could do that, and the fear of retributive
justice; but Storm had been guiltless of anything then. George could
well imagine his desire to flee the country after Horton was found
with his head crushed in—

_So, too, had Leila died!_ George sprang from his chair with both
clenched fists raised above his head. She, too, had been found with
her head crushed, as though by the blow of some heavy, blunt

But, no! No! He was going crazy! Poor Leila had suffered an attack of
_petit mal_, she had fallen and struck her head on that rounded brass
knob of the fender! _But had she?_ Storm had told him that Dr. Carr
had advanced that theory, but George recalled in a sickening wave of
horror that the doctor himself had unconsciously contradicted that
statement when he was called hurriedly to attend Storm on the night
after the funeral; after the visit of the Brewsters with their
confession, when Storm had broken down for the first time.

Carr had said then that it was Storm who suggested the accidental
cause of Leila’s death, but George had been too worried and upset to
note the discrepancy at the time.

It could not be! It was too vile, too impossible! He was letting his
mind run away with him! What cause could Storm have had to kill the
thing he loved best in all the world? Leila had been a perfect wife,
their happiness was unalloyed. Men only did such a fearful thing in a
fit of jealous rage or madness, and Leila had been the last woman in
the world——

Then the Brewster’s visit recurred to him once more, and Leila’s
little white lie which he himself had called forth. And then, without
warning, that almost forgotten scene of the morning on the down-town
street, before the entrance to the Leicester Building to which he had
been a wholly inadvertent witness flashed before his mental vision as
though thrown upon a screen, and the whole truth was revealed.

George cowered back aghast as from the mouth of a yawning abyss, but
he could not deny what his inmost soul confirmed.

Storm could not have learned of her birthday surprise for him. His
face as George had seen it from across the street had revealed utter
stupefaction at seeing his wife issue from the Leicester Building.
Then that same evening on the veranda when Leila denied having been in
town for weeks and told that palpable falsehood about lunch at the
Ferndale Inn: what murderous demon must have entered his breast with
the jealous conviction that his wife was deceiving him! George knew
his pride, his swift, uncontrollable passion; the thought must have
been like a white-hot iron searing his brain!

But who could he have imagined had supplanted him? The answer came
even as the question formed itself in his mind. Brewster! Richard
Brewster had called on Leila the following night to ask about his own
wife’s affair. Could Storm have returned early and in secret and found
him there? Brewster’s office was in the Leicester Building, too;
George had called there on him more than once. Why, the thing was as
clear as day!

Storm and Leila must have had a fearful scene in the den after
Brewster’s departure, and the culmination must have come with that
swift, awful blow which laid her dead at her husband’s feet! But with
what weapon had that blow been struck?

George closed his eyes, shuddering, and visualized the room which was
as familiar to him as his own. It contained nothing which could have
been put effectively to such a foul use. Even the poker had been
removed from the fireplace when it had been banked with ferns for the

Horton might have been killed—and probably was—by the blow from a
heavy cane, but there was none in the den——

The golf sticks! They had been lying there across the den table where
he had found them to-night. Storm’s oath when George had brought them
here to the library a few hours ago, his gesture of horror and
repulsion, his cry to take them out of his sight, that he should never
play again—how comprehensible it all was now!

All but overcome with the horror of the thought, George went silently
out into the hall, gathered up the sticks and returned to the library.
As he did so a bestial, raucous snore drifted down from above, and for
a minute the very soul of him shook with the longing to rush up the
stairs and destroy with his bare hands the vile thing which lay there.
The years of friendship were gone wholly now, blotted by his hideous
knowledge of the truth. The Norman Storm whom he had known had
vanished; indeed, had never existed. In his stead this dissembling
creature with a murderer’s black heart had walked among men, free
until this hour!

Trembling, George laid the sticks one by one across the couch and
examined them. No mid-iron could have struck that blow; it would have
crashed through the temple and left a frightful, gaping, ragged wound.
It must have been something round and smooth, not unlike the brass
knob on the fender, since the doctor and coroner had both been easily
deceived. Not the putter nor the brassie nor the cleek,—the driver!
George picked it up and carried it close to one of the candles. Could
it be that he really saw a faint tinge of brown upon its hardwood

He laid it aside with a sigh and started once more his restless pacing
up and down, as his thoughts returned to the events immediately
following Leila’s death, from the moment when he himself had been
summoned to the house.

No wonder Storm had collapsed in the presence of Richard and Julie
Brewster. They had all unconsciously revealed to him his wife’s
innocence of the sin for which he had taken her life. It had been not
grief alone, but remorse which struck him down! What credulous fools
they had all been not to have seen the truth!

A confirming memory came to him of Storm’s manner when he awakened
from his drugged sleep on the following morning. How anxious he had
been to know what he had said during his unconsciousness! That was an
effort to learn if he had betrayed himself. How they had all played
into his hands!

No wonder, too, that later, after George had returned to town, when he
telephoned to Storm that Potter’s rooms were to be vacant, he had
required little urging to escape from the scene of his unspeakable
crime! No wonder that he had said it was “hell” at Greenlea!

The consciousness of the undeserved fate which he had visited upon the
woman who at the altar had placed her life in his keeping must have
driven him all but mad!

And yet how quickly his conscience, if he had ever possessed one, had
died in the quick fire of his egotism at the ease with which he had
evaded justice! George recalled his wild talk about crime; how a man
could do anything and get away with it if he only had brains enough.
His remorse had been swallowed up by his malevolent, distorted pride
of achievement.

How easy it was now to trace the subsequent steps! The constantly
reiterated condolences of his acquaintances on every hand must have
driven him to frenzy; and then had come the chance of miraculous
wealth through Du Chainat, for Griffiths must have been right. A
lawyer of his brains and reputation would not have referred to it
unless he had seen the virtual proof, and George remembered the
skepticism with which he had received Storm’s hasty denial.

Storm had staked his all on the chance, and lost! Then, hounded by
guilty memories and desperate, he had encountered Horton, and the rest
was explained.

But the money! Where could it be? Having risked so much for it, he
would scarcely be likely to leave it out of his immediate possession,
and a bag full of money——

_The valise upstairs!_ The obviously heavy valise which he would not
permit George to touch, which no one else must carry but
himself!——Leila’s letters? George’s lip curled in bitter self-scorn.
How credulous he had been!

Storm must have intended to secrete the money here about the house
somewhere until their return from the fishing trip and then make his
getaway. But why had he so suddenly changed his mind and evinced
willingness to go on the trip at all? Was it to get out of sight and
still keep in touch with the progress of the investigation until it
had ceased through lack of further evidence to engage the activities
of the police?

Or was it to get George himself away? Storm knew his theory; George
cursed himself for his stupidity, his blindness! He had descanted at
length upon his idea of the murder, and Storm, realizing how
dangerously near the truth it was, may have planned to keep him out of
mischief until the case was dropped.

_But was that all he had planned?_ George stood still, stunned with
the thought which came to him. Storm had killed two people and gotten
away with it; why not a third? Why not George himself, if he suspected
that George was likely to come upon the truth? The red trilogy!

That selection of a deserted lodge hidden miles away in the heart of
the wilderness far from the beaten paths for their headquarters during
the fishing trip; the determination to be absolutely alone with
George, without even the services of a guide; the insistence upon
taking the pistol along——!

George eyed the thing with horror and loathing as it lay in the top of
the open bag. Then he walked grimly over to it, and picking it up
together with the box of cartridges he took it to the table and loaded
it with awkward, unaccustomed hands.

There was no doubt in his mind as to the course he must pursue; there
had been no question of it, from the first moment when conviction came
to him that Storm had killed Horton. Now, at the thought of Leila, a
passionate regret that his part was not to be a more active one filled
his soul, but it brought no hesitation.

Laying the pistol down he crossed to the door, and as he closed it
softly that harsh, stertorous snore came down the stairs once more,
and again that primitive instinct to destroy laid hold upon George;
but he shook it off resolutely and returned to the desk. Yet with his
hand upon the receiver of the telephone he paused.

Dare he speak? That man lying there upstairs in brutish
unconsciousness was surely the vilest thing that lived! Yet dare he
speak and throw out into the world the knowledge of this fearful

Slowly, determinedly, George lifted the receiver.

Chapter XXVIII

Just a Moment Please

George slipped into the bedroom, and drawing a chair close to the
sleeper he bent forward and uttered one word which cleaved the silence
like a clarion call.


“Ah-h!” The answering cry of stark terror echoed back from the night
as Storm started up, convulsed, in his bed. “Take her away! Take
her—George! My God, don’t look at me like that!”

He cowered, trying to cover his face with his shaking hands, but the
other’s eyes held him.

“You killed her with—this!” George suddenly produced the driver, and
Storm shrank away in horror.

“No, no! For God’s sake, George!”

“You killed Jack Horton!” The inexorable voice went on. “His money is
here in this valise at my feet. You would have killed me, too, up
there in the woods, but I beat you to it!”

Great beads of sweat glistened upon Storm’s brow and rolled like tears
down his gray, pinched face as he made a terrified, ineffectual
attempt to deny; but the other cut him short.

“I’ve got you, you can’t get away, and they’re coming for you, do you
understand? They’re on their way!—Sure, smoke if you want to!”

The hunted eyes had turned instinctively toward the cigarettes on the
stand, and Storm lighted one feebly. Its tip glowed crimson, then
dulled as the surface became filmed with ashes.

George smiled grimly as a swift memory came to him.

“You owe Millard fifty dollars!”

A dull, sodden look came over Storm’s face, and his body slumped as
though slowly disintegrating before the other’s eyes. As he fell back
the scream of an approaching siren cut the stillness, and the ashes
from the cigarette fell in a soft, crumbling mass upon his breast.

The End

Transcriber’s Note

This transcription follows the text of the edition published by Robert
M. McBride & Company in 1919. The following alterations have been made
to correct what are believed to be unambiguous printer’s errors:

  * “inheritence” to “inheritance” (Ch. I);
  * “anum” to “annum” (Ch. I);
  * “testatively” to “tentatively” (Ch. IV);
  * “noncommital” to “noncommittal” (Ch. IV);
  * “hershe” to “herself” (Ch. IV);
  * “irration” to “irritation” (Ch. IX);
  * “negotations” to “negotiations” (Ch. X);
  * “undveloped” to “undeveloped” (Ch. XI);
  * “possesssion” to “possession” (Ch. XII);
  * “thicker than flees” to “thicker than fleas” (Ch. XIII);
  * “satisisfaction” to “satisfaction” (Ch. XIII);
  * “tremondous” to “tremendous” (Ch. XIV);
  * “gussed” to “guessed” (Ch. XIV);
  * “comfortabe” to “comfortable” (Ch. XIV);
  * “nervelesly” to “nervelessly” (Ch. XV);
  * “tumultous” to “tumultuous” (Ch. XV);
  * “caught up the try” to “caught up the tray” (Ch. XV);
  * “purposly” to “purposely” (Ch. XVII);
  * “organizatin” to “organization” (Ch. XVII);
  * “innividual” to “individual” (Ch. XVII);
  * “susided” to “subsided” (Ch. XVII);
  * “comosed” to “composed” (Ch. XVII);
  * “adressing” to “addressing” (Ch. XVIII);
  * “serenly” to “serenely” (Ch. XIX);
  * “scarely” to “scarcely” (Ch. XIX);
  * “dependant” to “dependent” (Ch. XX);
  * “interupted” to “interrupted” (Ch. XXII);
  * “wondeful” to “wonderful” (Ch. XXII);
  * “accuresd” to “accursed” (Ch. XXII);
  * “twenty-eigth” to “twenty-eighth” (Chs. XXIII & XXVII);
  * “wthout” to “without” (Ch. XXVII).

Any other apparent errors and/or inconsistencies have been preserved.

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