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Title: Laughing Bill Hyde and Other Stories
Author: Beach, Rex Ellingwood, 1877-1949
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Laughing Bill Hyde and Other Stories" ***

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STORIES***


LAUGHING BILL HYDE

And Other Stories

By REX BEACH

AUTHOR OF

"Rainbow's End," "Heart of the Sunset," "The Spoilers," Etc.

1917



[Illustration: "LIKE ME?" HE ASKED. PONATAH TURNED AWAY BLINDLY]



Mr. William Hyde was discharged from Deer Lodge Penitentiary a changed
man. That was quite in line with the accepted theory of criminal
jurisprudence, the warden's discipline, and the chaplain's prayers.
Yes, Mr. Hyde was changed, and the change had bitten deep; his
humorous contempt for the law had turned to abiding hatred; his
sunburned cheeks were pallid, his lungs were weak, and he coughed
considerably. Balanced against these results, to be sure, were the
benefits accruing from three years of corrective discipline at the
State's expense; the knack of conversing through stone walls, which
Mr. Hyde had mastered, and the plaiting of wonderful horsehair
bridles, which he had learned. Otherwise he was the same "Laughing
Bill" his friends had known, neither more nor less regenerate.

Since the name of Montana promised to associate itself with unpleasant
memories, Mr. Hyde determined at once to bury his past and begin life
anew in a climate more suited to weak lungs. To that end he stuck up a
peaceful citizen of Butte who was hurrying homeward with an armful of
bundles, and in the warm dusk of a pleasant evening relieved him
of eighty-three dollars, a Swiss watch with an elk's-tooth fob, a
pearl-handled penknife, a key-ring, and a bottle of digestive tablets.

Three wasted years of industry had not robbed Mr. Hyde of the
technique of his trade, hence there was nothing amateurish or
uproarious about the procedure. He merely back-heeled the pedestrian
against a bill-board, held him erect and speechless by placing his
left hand upon his victim's shoulder and pressing his left forearm
firmly across the gentleman's apple, the while with his own dexterous
right mit he placed the eighty-three dollars in circulation. During
the transaction he laughed constantly. An hour later he was en route
for the sunny South, there being good and sufficient reasons why he
preferred that direction to any other.

Arizona helped Mr. Hyde's lungs, for the random town which he selected
was high and dry, but, unfortunately, so was Laughing Bill soon after
his arrival, and in consequence he was forced to engage promptly in
a new business enterprise. This time he raised a pay-roll. It was an
easy task, for the custodian of the pay-roll was a small man with a
kindly and unsuspicious nature. As a result of this operation Bill was
enabled to maintain himself, for some six weeks, in a luxury to which
of late he had been unaccustomed. At the end of this time the original
bearer of the payroll tottered forth from the hospital and, chancing
to overhear Mr. Hyde in altercation with a faro dealer, he was struck
by some haunting note in the former's laughter, and lost no time in
shuffling his painful way to the sheriff's office.

Seeing the man go, Laughing Bill realized that his health again
demanded a change of climate, and since it lacked nearly an hour of
train time he was forced to leave on horseback. Luckily for him he
found a horse convenient. It was a wild horse, with nothing whatever
to indicate that it belonged to any one, except the fact that it
carried a silver-mounted saddle and bridle, the reins of which were
fastened to a post in front of a saloon.

Mr. Hyde enjoyed the ride, for it kept him out in the open air. It
grieved him to part with the horse, a few hours later, but being
prodigal with personal property he presented the animal to a poor
Mexican woman, leaving her to face any resulting embarrassments. Ten
minutes later he swung himself under a west-bound freight, and in
due time arrived in California, somewhat dirty and fatigued, but in
excellent humor.

Laughing Bill's adventures and his aliases during his slow progress up
the coast form no part of this story. It might be said, with a great
deal of truth, that he was missed, if not mourned, in many towns.
Finally, having found the climates of California, Oregon and
Washington uniformly unsuited to one of his habits, force of
circumstance in the shape of numerous hand-bills adorned with an
unflattering half-tone of himself, but containing certain undeniably
accurate data such as diameter of skull, length of nose, angle of ear,
and the like, drove him still north and west. Bill was a modest man;
he considered these statistics purely personal in character; to see
them blazoned publicly on the walls of post-offices, and in the
corridors of county buildings, outraged his finer feelings, so he went
away from there, in haste, as usual.

Having never sailed the sea, he looked forward to such an experience
with lively anticipation, only to be disappointed in the realization.
It was rough off Flattery, and he suffered agonies strange and
terrifying. In due time, however, he gained his sea legs and, being
forever curious, even prying, he explored the ship. His explorations
were interesting, for they took him into strange quarters--into
the forecastle, the steerage, even into some of the first-class
state-rooms, the doors of which had been left "on the hook" while
their occupants were at meals. No small benefit accrued to Mr. Hyde
from these investigations.

One day during the dinner-hour, as he was occupied in admiring the
contents of a strange suit-case, a voice accosted him over his
shoulder, and he looked up to discover a face in the cabin window.
Bill realized that an explanation was due, for it was evident that
the speaker had been watching him for some little time; but under the
circumstances, even though the face in the window was round, youthful,
good-humored, explanations promised to be embarrassing.

"How d'y?" said Mr. Hyde.

"What luck?" inquired the stranger.

Mr. Hyde sat back upon his heels and grinned engagingly. "Not much,"
he confessed. "Can't find it nowhere. This guy must be a missionary."

The new-comer opened the door and entered. He was a medium-sized,
plump young man. "Oh, I say!" he protested. "Is it as bad as that?"
Bill nodded vaguely, meanwhile carefully measuring the physical
proportions of the interloper. The latter went on:

"I saw that you knew your business, and--I was hoping you'd manage to
find something I had missed."

Mr. Hyde breathed deep with relief; his expression altered. "You been
through ahead of me?" he inquired.

"Oh, several times; daily, in fact." The speaker tossed a bunch of
keys upon the berth, saying: "Glance through the steamer-trunk while
you're here and declare me in on anything-you find."

Mr. Hyde rose to his feet and retreated a step; his look of relief was
replaced by one of dark suspicion. As always, in moments of extremity,
he began to laugh.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"I? Why, I live here. That's my baggage. I've been through it, as
I told you, but--" The young man frowned whimsically and lit a
cigarette. "It doesn't diagnose. I can't find a solitary symptom of
anything worth while. Sit down, won't you?"

Mr. Hyde's manner changed for a second time. He was embarrassed,
apologetic, crestfallen. "_Your_ cabin? Why, then--it's my mistake!"
he declared. "I must 'a' got in the wrong flat. Mac sent me up for a
deck of cards, but--Say, that's funny, ain't it?"

He began to see the joke upon himself, and the youth echoed his
laughter.

"It _is_ funny," the latter agreed. "For Heaven's sake, don't spoil
it. Sit down and have a smoke; I'm not going to eat you."

"See here! You don't mean--? D'you think for a minute--?" Mr.
Hyde began with rotund dignity, but the other waved his cigarette
impatiently, saying:

"Oh, drop that stuff or I'll page your friend 'Mac' and show you up."

In assuming his air of outraged innocence Laughing Bill had arched
his hollow chest and inhaled deeply. As a result he began to cough,
whereupon his new acquaintance eyed him keenly, saying:

"That's a bad bark. What ails you?"

"Con," said Laughing Bill.

"Pardon me. I wouldn't have smoked if I'd known." The speaker dropped
his cigarette and placed a heel upon it. "What are you doing here?
Alaska's no place for weak lungs."

Gingerly seating himself upon the narrow settee Mr. Hyde murmured,
wonderingly: "Say! You're a regular guy, ain't you?" He began to laugh
again, but now there was less of a metallic quality to his merriment.
"Yes sir, dam' if you ain't." He withdrew from his pocket a
silver-mounted hair-brush and comb, and placed them carefully upon the
washstand. "I don't aim to quit winner on a sport like you."

"Thanks, awfully!" smiled the young man. "I'd have fought you for that
comb and brush. Girl stuff, you understand? That's she." He pointed to
a leather-framed photograph propped against the mirror.

Laughing Bill leaned forward and studied the picture approvingly.
"Some queen, all right. Blonde, I reckon."

"Sure. You like blondes?"

"Who, me? I ain't strong for no kind of women. You hate her, don't
you?"

The young man smiled more widely, his whole face lit up. "I hate her
so much that I kissed her good-by and sailed away to make a quick
fortune. I hope Alaska's unhealthy."

"Yeah?"

"You see, I'm a doctor. I'm a good doctor, too, but it takes a long
time to prove it, out in the States, and I can't wait a long time."

Mr. Hyde pondered briefly. "I don't see's you got much on me, Doc," he
said. "I frisk 'em while they're good and healthy, and you 'take' 'em
when they're feeble. I don't see no difference to speak of."

"It's an interesting viewpoint," the physician agreed, seriously
enough, "and I respect every man's opinion. Tell me, how did you
acquire that cough?"

"Livin' in a ground-floor apartment."

"What's your business?"

"Harness-maker."

"Hm-m! You'll do well up here." The doctor was highly entertained. "I
understand there's a horse at Nome."

"_A_ horse!"

"Alaska isn't a stock country."

Laughing Bill was genuinely surprised. "No horses!" he murmured. "How
the hell do you get away?"

"You don't. You stay and face the music."

"Now what do you know about that?" There was a brief silence. "Well, I
bet I'll turn my hand to something."

"No doubt. You impress me as a man of resource." The doctor's eyes
twinkled and Bill smiled. A bond of friendly understanding had already
sprung up between the two men. "Now then, I'm interested in your case.
I've a notion to try to cure you."

"Nothing doin' on the fees. I'm a dead card."

"Oh, I won't charge you anything! I'm merely interested in obscure
ailments, and, if I'm not mistaken, you suffer from more than
one--well, disease. I think you need curing about as badly as any man
I ever saw."

Now Laughing Bill was not skilled in subtleties, and his relief at
extricating himself from a trying predicament banished any resentment
he might have felt at the doctor's double meaning. Since the latter
was a good-natured, harmless individual he decided to humor him, and
so, after they had visited for an hour or more, Mr. Hyde discreetly
withdrew. But, oddly enough, during the days immediately following,
Laughing Bill grew to like the young fellow immensely. This in itself
was a novel experience, for the ex-convict had been a "loner" all
his-life, and had never really liked any one. Dr. Evan Thomas,
however, seemed to fill some long-felt want in Hyde's hungry make-up.
He fitted in smoothly, too, and despite the latter's lifelong habit of
suspicion, despite his many rough edges, he could not manage to hold
the young man at a distance.

Thomas was of a type strange to the wanderer, he was educated, he had
unfamiliar airs and accomplishments, but he was human and natural
withal. He was totally ignorant of much that Mr. Hyde deemed
fundamental, and yet he was mysteriously superior, while his
indifferent good nature, his mild amusement at the antics of the world
about him covered a sincere and earnest nature. He knew his business,
moreover, and he revolutionized Bill's habits of hygiene in spite of
the latter's protests.

But the disease which ravaged Mr. Hyde's constitution had its toes dug
in, and when the steamer touched at St. Michaels he suffered a severe
hemorrhage. For the first time in his life Laughing Bill stood face to
face with darkness. He had fevered memories of going over side on a
stretcher; he was dimly aware of an appalling weakness, which grew
hourly, then an agreeable indifference enveloped him, and for a long
time he lived in a land of unrealities, of dreams. The day came when
he began to wonder dully how and why he found himself in a freezing
cabin with Doctor Thomas, in fur cap and arctic overshoes, tending
him. Bill pondered the phenomenon for a week before he put his query
into words.

"I've had a hard fight for you, old man," the doctor explained. "I
couldn't leave you here to die."

"I guess I must 'a' been pretty sick."

"Right! There's no hospital here, so I took this cabin--borrowed it
from the Company. We don't burn much fuel, and expenses aren't high."

"You been standin' off the landlord?"

"Yes."

There was a considerable silence, then Bill said, fervently: "You're a
regular guy, like I told you! But you got your pill business to attend
to. I'm all right now, so you better blow."

Thomas smiled dubiously. "You're a long way from all right, and
there's no place to 'blow' to. The last boat sailed two weeks ago."

"Last boat for where?"

"For anywhere. We're here for the winter, unless the mail-carrier will
take us to Nome, or up the Yukon, after the trails open."

"I bet you'll do a good business right here, when folks see what you
done for me," Bill ventured.

"Just wait till you look at the town--deserted warehouses, some young
and healthy watchmen, and a Siwash village. You're the only possible
patient in all of St. Michaels."

Bill lay silent for an hour, staring through the open cabin window
at a gray curtain of falling snowflakes; then he shook his head and
muttered:

"Well, I be danged!"

"Anything you want?" Thomas inquired, quickly.

"I was just thinking about that gal." Bill indicated the
leather-framed photograph which was prominently featured above the
other bunk. "You ain't gettin' ahead very fast, are you?"

This time the young medical man smiled with his lips only--his eyes
were grave and troubled. "I've written her all the circumstances, and
she'll understand. She's that sort of a girl." He turned cheerfully
back to his task. "I found that I had a few dollars left, so we won't
starve."

Mr. Hyde felt impelled to confess that in his war-bag there was a roll
of some seven hundred dollars, title to which had vested in him on the
northward trip, together with certain miscellaneous objects of virtu,
but he resisted the impulse, fearing that an investigation by his
nurse might lead the latter to believe that he, Bill, was not a
harness-maker at all, but a jewelry salesman. He determined to spring
that roll at a later date, and to present the doctor with a very thin,
very choice gold watch out of State-room 27. Bill carried out this
intention when he had sufficiently recovered to get about.

Later, when his lungs had healed, Bill hired the mail-man to take him
and his nurse to Nome. Since he was not yet altogether strong, he rode
the sled most of the way, while the doctor walked. It was a slow and
tiresome trip, along the dreary shores of Behring Sea, over timberless
tundras, across inlets where the new ice bent beneath their weight and
where the mail-carrier cautiously tested the footing with the head of
his ax. Sometimes they slept in their tent, or again in road-houses
and in Indian villages.

Every hour Laughing Bill grew stronger, and with his strength of
body grew his strength of affection for the youthful doctor. Bill
experienced a dog-like satisfaction in merely being near him; he
suffered pangs when Thomas made new friends; he monopolized him
jealously. The knowledge that he had a pal was new and thrilling; it
gave Bill constant food for thought and speculation. Thomas was always
gentle and considerate, but his little services, his unobtrusive
sacrifices never went unnoticed, and they awoke in the bandit an
ever-increasing wonderment. Also, they awoke a fierce desire to square
the obligation.

The two men laid over at one of the old Russian towns, and Thomas, as
was his restless custom, made investigation of the native village.
Of course Bill went with him. They had learned by this time to enter
Indian houses without knocking, so, therefore, when they finally came
to a cabin larger and cleaner than the rest they opened the door and
stepped inside, quite like experienced travelers.

A squaw was bent over a tub of washing, another stood beside the tiny
frosted window staring out. Neither woman answered the greeting of the
white men.

"Must be the chief's house," Thomas observed.

"Must be! I s'pose the old bird is out adding up his reindeer.
'Sapolio Sue' is prob'ly his head wife." Laughing Bill ran an
interested eye over the orderly interior. "Some shack, but--I miss the
usual smell."

Neither woman paid them the least attention, so they continued to talk
with each other.

"I wonder what she is washing," Doctor Thomas said, finally.

The figure at the window turned, exposing the face of a comely young
Indian girl. Her features were good, her skin was light. She eyed the
intruders coolly, then in a well-modulated voice, and in excellent
English, she said:

"She is washing a pair of sealskin pants."

Both men removed their caps in sudden embarrassment. Thomas exclaimed:

"I beg your pardon! We thought this was just an ordinary native house,
or we wouldn't have intruded."

"You haven't intruded. This is 'Reindeer Mary's' house." The girl had
again turned her back.

"Are you Reindeer Mary?"

"No, I am Ponatah. Mary befriended me; she lets me live with her."

"Allow me to introduce Mr. Hyde. I am Doctor Thomas. We were very
rude--"

"Oh, everybody comes here." The men recognized instantly in the
speaker's face, as well as in her voice, that education had set its
stamp. "Will you sit down and wait for her?"

"You overwhelm us." After an awkward moment the physician queried,
"How in the world did you learn to speak such good English?"

"A missionary took an interest in me when I was a little girl. He sent
me to Carlisle."

Laughing Bill had been an attentive listener, now he ventured to say:
"I know this Carlisle. He's a swell football player, or something."

Ponatah smiled, showing a row of small, white teeth. "Carlisle is an
Indian school."

"What made you come back?" Thomas inquired, curiously.

Ponatah shrugged her shoulders. "There was an end to the money. What
could I do? At first I thought I'd be able to help my people, but--I
couldn't. They will learn from the white people, but not from one of
their own kind."

"Your parents--?"

"They died when I was a baby. Mary took me in." The girl spoke in a
flat, emotionless tone.

"It must be tough to come back to this, now that you know what life
really is," said Thomas, after a time.

Ponatah's eyes were dark with tragedy when she turned them to the
speaker. "_God!_" she cried, unexpectedly, then abruptly she faced
the window once more. It was a moment before she went on in fierce
resentment:

"Why didn't they leave me as they found me? Why did they teach me
their ways, and then send me back to this--this dirt and ignorance and
squalor? Sometimes I think I can't stand it. But what can I do? Nobody
understands. Mary can't see why I'm different from her and the others.
She has grown rich, with her reindeer; she says if this is good enough
for her it should be good enough for me. As for the white men who come
through, they can't, or they won't, understand. They're hateful to me.
Petersen, the mail-carrier, for instance! I don't know why I'm telling
you this. You're strangers. You're probably just like Petersen."

"I know why you're telling us," Thomas said, slowly. "It's because
I--because we're _not_ like Petersen and the others; it's because
I--we can help you."

"Help me?" sneered the girl. "How?"

"I don't know, yet. But you're out of place here. There's a place for
you somewhere; I'll find it."

Ponatah shook her head wearily. "Mary says I belong here, with my
people."

"No. You belong with white people--people who will treat you well."

This time the girl smiled bitterly. "They have treated me worse than
my own people have. I know them, and--I hate them."

"Ain't you the sore-head, now?" Laughing Bill murmured. "You got a
hundred-per-cent. grouch, but if the old medicine-man says he'll put
you in right, you bet your string of beads he'll do it. He's got a
gift for helpin' down-and-outers. You got class, Kid; you certainly
rhinestone this whole bunch of red men. Why, you belong in French
heels and a boodwar cap; that's how I dope you."

"There must be a chance for a girl like you in Nome," Thomas
continued, thoughtfully. "You'd make a good hand with children.
Suppose I try to find you a place as governess?"

"_Would_ you?" Ponatah's face was suddenly eager. "Children? Oh yes!
I'd work my fingers to the bone. I--I'd do _anything_--"

"Then I'll do what I can."

For some time longer the three of them talked, and gradually into the
native girl's eyes there came a light, for these men were not like the
others she had met, and she saw the world begin to unfold before her.
When at last they left she laid a hand upon the doctor's arm and said,
imploringly:

"You won't forget. You--promise?"

"I promise," he told her.

"He don't forget nothing," Bill assured her, "and if he does I'll see
that he don't."

After they had gone Ponatah stood motionless for a long time, then she
whispered, breathlessly:

"Children! Little white children! I'll be very good to them."

"She's a classy quilt," Laughing Bill said, on the way back to the
road-house.

"She's as pretty as a picture, and little more than a child," the
doctor admitted.

"You made a hit. She'd do 'most anything for you." The doctor
muttered, absent-mindedly. "She's stood off Petersen and these
red-necks, but she'd fall for you." Mr. Hyde was insinuating.

Thomas halted; he stared at his partner curiously, coldly. "Say! Do
you think that's why I offered to help her?" he inquired.

"Come clean!" The invalid winked meaningly. "You're a long ways from
home, and I've knew fellers to do a lot worse. You can grab her, easy.
And if you do--"

Thomas grunted angrily. "I've put up with a lot from you," he said,
then he strode on.

"And if you do," the other resumed, falling into step with him, "I'll
bust you right where you're thickest."

"Eh?"

"I'll bust you wide open. Oh, me 'n' that gal in the leather frame had
a long talk while I was sick in St. Mikes, and she asked me to keep
you in the middle of the trail. Well, I'm the little guy that can do
it."

"Bill!" Evan Thomas's eyes were twinkling. "I believe I'm going to
cure you, after all," said he.

Late that afternoon Mr. Hyde disappeared; he did not show up until
after dark.

"I been to see Lo, the poor squaw," he readily confessed. "She ain't
the pure domestic leaf, she's a blend--part Rooshian, or something.
Seems there was a gang of Rooshians or Swedes or Dagoes of some sort
used to run this country. She says they horned into some of the best
Injun families, and she's one of the 'overs.'"

"They were Russians."

"Rooshians is a kind of white people, ain't they? Well, that's how she
come so light-complected. You remember she said our folks had treated
her bad? It's a fact, Doc. She spilled the story, and it made a
mouthful. It's like this: when Nome was struck a Swede feller she
had knew staked her a claim, but she couldn't hold it, her bein' a
squab--under age, savvy? There's something in the law that prevents
Injuns gettin' in on anything good, too; I don't rightly recollect
what it is, but if it's legal you can bet it's crooked. Anyhow, Uncle
Sam lets up a squawk that she's only eighteen, goin' on nineteen, and
a noble redskin to boot, and says his mining claims is reserved for
Laps and Yaps and Japs and Wops, and such other furrin' slantheads of
legal age as declare their intention to become American citizens if
their claims turn out rich enough so's it pays 'em to do so.

"Well, Ponatah's Swede friend gets himself froze, somehow, so she has
to pass the buck. Naturally, she turns to her pals, the missionaries.
There's a he-missionary here--head mug of the whole gang. He's a godly
walloper, and he tears into Satan bare-handed every Sunday. He slams
the devil around something shameful, and Ponatah thinks he's a square
guy if ever they come square, so she asks him to re-locate her claim,
on shares, and hold it for the joint account. Old Doctor M.E. Church
agrees to split fifty-fifty, half to her and half to heaven, then he
vamps to Nome and chalks his monaker over the Kid's. Now get me: the
claim turns out good, and Ponatah's heavenly pilot makes a Mexican
divvy--he takes the money and gives her his best wishes. He grabs
everything, and says he never knew nobody by the name of Ponatah--he
gets so he can't even pronounce it. He allows her face is familiar,
but he can't place her, and the partnership idea allus was repugnant
to him. He never was partners with nobody, understand? He blows the
show; he bows out and leaves the Kid flat. He forsakes the Milky Way
for the Great White one, and he's out there now, smokin' Coronas and
wearin' a red vest under his black coat, with a diamond horseshoe
in his tie. It looks to me like the James boys could 'a' learned
something from this gospel hold-up."

"Do you believe her story?" Thomas inquired.

"She don't know enough to lie, and you can't trust a guy that wears
his collar backwards."

"She should go to court."

Mr. Hyde shook his head. "I been there, often, but I never picked up a
bet. Somehow or other courts is usually right next to jails, and you
got to watch out you don't get in the wrong place. You can't win
nothing in either one. I thought I'd tell you the story, so if you
ever meet up with this shave-tail preacher and he wants a headache
pill you can slip him some sugar-coated arsenic."

In the days immediately following Doctor Thomas's arrival at Nome
he was a busy man, but he did not forget Ponatah. He was allowed no
opportunity of doing so, for Bill frequently reminded him of her, and
as a result it was not long before he found a place for his charge, in
the home of a leading merchant. Arrangements made, Bill went in search
of the mail-carrier.

Petersen was drinking with two friends at the bar of the Last Chance,
and he pressed his late passenger to join them. But alcoholism was not
one of Mr. Hyde's weaknesses. The best of Bill's bad habits was much
worse than drink; he had learned from experience that liquor put a
traitor's tongue in his head, and in consequence he was a teetotaler.

"I got a job for you, Pete," he announced. "I got you another
sled-load for your next trip. You know Ponatah?"

"Ponatah? Sure Aye know 'im." Petersen. spoke with enthusiasm.

"Well, bring her along when you come. Me 'n' the little Doc will
settle."

"Dat's good yob for me, all right. Vot mak' you tank she'll come? Aye
ask her plenty tams, but she ant like me."

"You slip her this billy-ducks and she'll come."

Petersen pocketed the letter which Bill handed him; his eyes
brightened; the flush in his face deepened. "You bet your gum boots
Aye bring her. She's svell, ant she, Bill? She's yust some svell like
white voman."

"Who's this?" queried one of Petersen's companions.

"Ponatah. She's jung sqvaw. Aye got eyes on dat chicken long tam
now." The burly mail-man laughed loudly and slapped his friend on the
shoulder.

Mr. Hyde appeared to share in the general good nature. Carelessly,
smilingly he picked up Petersen's dog-whip, which lay coiled on the
bar; thoughtfully he weighed it. The lash was long, but the handle was
short and thick, and its butt was loaded with shot; it had much the
balance of a black-jack--a weapon not unknown to Mr. Hyde.

"Pretty soft for you mail-men." The former speaker grinned.

"Ja! Pretty soft. Aye bet Aye have good tam dis trip. Yust vait. You
don't know how purty is Ponatah. She--"

Petersen's listeners waited. They are waiting yet, for the mail-man
never completed his admiring recital of the Indian girl's charms,
owing to the fact that the genial Mr. Hyde without warning tapped his
late friend's round head with the leather butt of the dog-whip. Had
it not been for the Norseman's otter cap it is probable that a new
mail-carrier would have taken the St. Michaels run.

Petersen sat down upon his heels, and rested his forehead against the
cool brass foot-rail; the subsequent proceedings interested him not
at all. Those proceedings were varied and sudden, for the nearest and
dearest of Petersen's friends rushed upon Mr. Hyde with a roar. Him,
too, Bill eliminated from consideration with the loaded whip handle.
But, this done, Bill found himself hugged in the arms of the other
man, as in the embrace of a bereaved she-grizzly. Now even at his best
the laughing Mr. Hyde was no hand at rough-and-tumble, it being his
opinion that fisticuffs was a peculiarly indecisive and exhausting way
of settling a dispute. He possessed a vile temper, moreover, and once
aroused half measures failed to satisfy it.

After Mr. Hyde's admirable beginning those neutrals who had seen the
start of the affray were prepared to witness an ending equally quick
and conclusive. They were surprised, therefore, to note that Bill put
up a very weak struggle, once he had come to close quarters. He made
only the feeblest resistance, before permitting himself to be borne
backward to the floor, and then as he lay pinned beneath his opponent
he did not even try to guard the blows that rained upon him; as a
matter of fact, he continued to laugh as if the experience were highly
diverting.

Seeing that the fight was one-sided, the bartender hastened from his
retreat, dragged Petersen's champion to his feet, and flung him back
into the arms of the onlookers, after which he stooped to aid the
loser. His hands were actually upon Bill before he understood the
meaning of that peculiar laughter, and saw in Mr. Hyde's shaking
fingers that which caused him to drop the prostrate victim as if he
were a rattlesnake.

"God'l'mighty!" exclaimed the rescuer. He retreated hurriedly whence
he had come.

Bill rose and dusted himself off, then he bent over Petersen, who was
stirring.

"Just give her that billy-ducks and tell her it's all right. Tell her
I say you won't hurt her none." Then, still chuckling, he slipped into
the crowd and out of the Last Chance. As he went he coughed and spat a
mouthful of blood.

Once the mail-carrier had been apprised of the amazing incidents which
had occurred during his temporary inattention, he vowed vengeance in
a mighty voice, and his threats found echo in the throats of his two
companions. But the bartender took them aside and spoke guardedly:

"You better lay off of that guy, or he'll fatten the graveyard with
all three of you. I didn't 'make' him at first, but I got him now, all
right."

"What d'you mean? Who is he?"

"His name's Hyde, 'Laughing Bill.'"

"'Laughing Bill' Hyde!" One of Petersen's friends, he who had come
last into the encounter, turned yellow and leaned hard against the
bar. A sudden nausea assailed him and he laid tender hands upon his
abdomen. "'Laughing Bill' Hyde! That's why he went down so easy! Why,
he killed a feller I knew--ribboned him up from underneath, just
that way--and the jury called it self-defense." A shudder racked the
speaker's frame.

"Sure! He's a cutter--a reg'lar gent's cutter and fitter. He'd 'a' had
you all over the floor in another minute; if I hadn't pried you apart
they'd 'a' sewed sawdust up inside of you like you was a doll. He had
the old bone-handled skinner in his mit; that's why I let go of him.
Laughing Bill! Take it from me, boys, you better walk around him like
he was a hole in the ice."

It may have been the memory of that heavy whip handle, it may have
been the moral effect of stray biographical bits garnered here and
there around the gambling-table, or it may have been merely a high
and natural chivalry, totally unsuspected until now, which prompted
Petersen to treat Ponatah with a chill and formal courtesy when he
returned from St. Michaels. At any rate, the girl arrived in Nome with
nothing but praise for the mail-man. Pete Petersen, so she said, might
have his faults, but he knew how to behave like a perfect gentleman.

Ponatah took up her new duties with enthusiasm, and before a month had
passed she had endeared herself to her employers, who secretly assured
Doctor Thomas that they had discovered a treasure and would never part
with her. She was gentle, patient, sweet, industrious; the children
idolized her. The Indian girl had never dreamed of a home like this;
she was deliriously happy.

She took pride in discharging her obligations; she did not forget the
men who had made this wonder possible. They had rented a little cabin,
and, after the fashion of men, they make slipshod efforts at keeping
house. Since it was Ponatah's nature to serve, she found time somehow
to keep the place tidy and to see to their comfort.

Laughing Bill was a hopeless idler; he had been born to leisure and
was wedded to indigence, therefore he saw a good deal of the girl on
her visits. He listened to her stories of the children, he admired her
new and stylish clothes, he watched her develop under the influence of
her surroundings. Inasmuch as both of them were waifs, and beholden
to the bounty of others, thy had ties in common--a certain
mutuality--hence they came to know each other intimately.

Despite the great change in her environment, Ponatah remained in many
ways quite aboriginal. For instance, she was embarrassingly direct and
straightforward; she entirely lacked hypocrisy, and that which puzzled
or troubled her she boldly put into words. There came a time when Bill
discovered that Ponatah's eyes, when they looked at him, were more
than friendly, that most of the services she performed were aimed at
him.

Then one day she asked him to marry her.

There was nothing brazen or forward about the proposal; Ponatah merely
gave voice to her feelings in a simple, honest way that robbed her of
no dignity.

Bill laughed the proposal off. "I wouldn't marry the Queen of Sheby,"
said he.

"Why?"

"I ain't that kind of a bird, that's why."

"What kind of a bird are you?" Ponatah eyed him with grave curiosity.
"All men marry. I'm reading a great many books, and they're all about
love and marriage. I love you, and I'm pretty. Is it because I'm an
Indian--?"

"Hell! That wouldn't faze me, Kiddo. You skin the white dames around
this village. But you better cut out them books."

"I'd make you a good wife."

"Sure! You're aces. But I'd make a bum husband. I ain't got the breath
to blow out a candle." Mr. Hyde chuckled; the idea of marriage plainly
amused him. "How you know I ain't got a covey of wives?" he inquired.

"Oh, I know!" Ponatah was unsmiling. "I'm simple, but I can see
through people. I can tell the good ones and the bad ones. You're a
good man, Billy."

Now this praise was anything but agreeable to Mr. Hyde, for above all
things he abhorred so-called "good" people. Good people were suckers,
and he prided himself upon being a wise guy, with all that was meant
thereby.

"You lay off of me, Kid," he warned, darkly, "and you muffle them
wedding bells. You can't win nothing with that line of talk. If I
was fifty inches around the chest, liked to work, and was fond of
pas'ment'ries I'd prob'ly fall for you, but I ain't. I'm a good man,
all right--to leave alone. I'll be a brother to you, but that's my
limit." The subject was embarrassing, so he changed it. "Say! I been
thinking about that claim of yours. Didn't you get no paper from that
missionary?"

"No."

"Then his word's as good as yours."

"That's what the lawyer told me. I offered to give him half, but he
wouldn't touch the case."

"It was a dirty deal, but you better forget it."

"I'll try," the girl promised. "But I don't forget easily."

Laughing Bill's rejection of Ponatah's offer of marriage did not in
the least affect their friendly relations. She continued to visit the
cabin, and not infrequently she reverted to the forbidden topic, only
to meet with discouragement.

Doctor Thomas had opened an office, of course, but business was light
and expenses heavy. Supplies were low in Nome and prices high; coal,
for instance, was a hundred dollars a ton and, as a result, most
of the idle citizens spent their evenings---but precious little
else--around the saloon stoves. When April came Laughing Bill
regretfully decided that it was necessary for him to go to work. The
prospect was depressing, and he did not easily reconcile himself to
it, for he would have infinitely preferred some less degraded and
humiliating way out of the difficulty. He put up a desperate battle
against the necessity, and he did not accept the inevitable until
thoroughly convinced that the practice of medicine and burglary could
not be carried on from the same residence without the risk of serious
embarrassment to his benefactor.

However, to find employment in a community where there were two men to
one job was not easy, but happily--or unhappily--Bill had a smattering
of many trades, and eventually there came an opening as handy-man at a
mine. It was a lowly position, and Bill had little pride in it, for
he was put to helping the cook, waiting on table, washing dishes,
sweeping cabins, making beds, and the like. He had been assured that
the work was light, and so it was, but it was also continuous. He
could summon not the slightest interest in it until he discovered that
this was the very claim which rightfully belonged to Ponatah. Then,
indeed, he pricked up his ears.

The Aurora Borealis, as the mine was now called, had been working all
winter, and gigantic dumps of red pay-dirt stood as monuments to the
industry of its workmen. Rumor had it that the "streak" was rich, and
that Doctor Slayforth, the owner, would be in on the first boat to
personally oversee the clean-ups. The ex-missionary, Bill discovered,
had the reputation of being a tight man, and meanly suspicious in
money matters. He reposed no confidence in his superintendent, a
surly, saturnine fellow known as Black Jack Berg, nor in Denny Slevin,
his foreman. So much Laughing Bill gathered from camp gossip.

It soon became evident that Black Jack was a hard driver, for sluicing
began with the first trickle of snow water--even while the ditches
were still ice-bound--and it continued with double shifts thereafter.
A representative of Doctor Slayforth came out from Nome to watch the
first clean-up, and Bill, in his capacity as chambermaid, set up a cot
for him in the cabin shared by Black Jack and Denny. While so engaged
the latter discovered him, and gruffly ordered him to remove the cot
to the bunk-house.

"Put him in with the men," growled Slevin. "Serves the dam' spy
right."

"Spy? Is he a gum-shoe?" Mr. Hyde paused, a pillow slip between his
teeth.

"That's what! Me and Jack was honest enough to run things all
winter, but we ain't honest enough to clean up. That's like old
Slayforth--always lookin' to get the worst of it. I'm square, and so's
Jack. Makes me sick, this spyin' on honest folks. Everybody knows we
wouldn't turn a trick."

Now it was Laughing Bill's experience that honesty needs no boosting,
and that he who most loudly vaunts his rectitude is he who is least
certain of it.

"The boss must be a good man, him being a sort of psalm-singer," Bill
ventured, guilelessly.

Denny snorted: "Oh, sure! He's good, all right. He's 'most too
good--to be true. Billy, my boy, when you've seen as many crooks as I
have you'll know 'em, no matter how they come dressed."

As he folded the cot Mr. Hyde opined that worldly experience must
indeed be a fine thing to possess.

"You go gamble on it!" Slevin agreed. "Now then, just tell that
Hawkshaw we don't want no dam' spies in our house. We're square guys,
and we can't stomach 'em."

That evening Black Jack called upon the handy-man to help with the
clean-up, and put him to tend the water while he and Denny, under the
watchful eye of the owner's representative, lifted the riffles, worked
down the concentrates, and removed them from the boxes.

Bill was an experienced placer miner, so it was not many days before
he was asked to help in the actual cleaning of the sluices. He was
glad of the promotion, for, as he told himself, no man can squeeze a
lemon without getting juice on his fingers. It will be seen, alas!
that Mr. Hyde's moral sense remained blunted in spite of the refining
influence of his association with Doctor Thomas. But Aurora dust
was fine, and the handy-man's profits were scarcely worth the risks
involved in taking them.

One morning while Bill was cleaning up the superintendent's cabin
he noticed a tiny yellow flake of gold upon the floor in front of
Slevin's bed. Careful examination showed him several "colors" of the
same sort, so he swept the boards carefully and took up the dust in
a "blower." He breathed upon the pile, blowing the lighter particles
away. A considerable residue of heavy yellow grains remained. With
a grin Bill folded them in a cigarette paper and placed them in his
pocket. But it puzzled him to explain how there came to be gold on the
cabin floor. His surprise deepened when, a few days later, he found
another "prospect" in the same place. His two sweepings had yielded
perhaps a pennyweight of the precious metal--enough to set him to
thinking. It seemed queer that in the neighborhood of Black Jack's
bunk he could find no pay whatever.

Slevin had left his hip boots in the cabin, and as Laughing Bill
turned down their tops and set them out in the wind to dry his sharp
eye detected several yellow pin-points of color which proved, upon
closer investigation, to be specks of gold clinging to the wet lining.

"Well, I be danged!" said Mr. Hyde. Carefully, thoughtfully, he
replaced the boots where he had found them. The knowledge that he was
on a hot trail electrified him.

At the next clean-up Laughing Bill took less interest in his part of
the work and more in Denny Slevin's. When the riffles were washed,
and the loose gravel had been worked down into yellow piles of rich
concentrates, Slevin, armed with whisk broom, paddle, and scoop,
climbed into the sluices. Bill watched him out of a corner of his eye,
and it was not long before his vigilance was rewarded. The hold-up
man turned away with a feeling of genuine admiration, for he had
seen Slevin, under the very nose of the lookout, "go south" with a
substantial amount of gold.

The foreman's daring and dexterity amazed Bill and deepened his
respect. Slevin's work was cunning, and yet so simple as to be almost
laughable. With his hip boots pulled high he had knelt upon one knee
in the sluice scooping up the wet piles of gold and black iron sand,
while Berg held a gold pan to receive it. During the process Black
Jack had turned to address the vigilant owner's representative, and,
profiting by the brief diversion, Bill had seen Denny dump a heaping
scoop-load of "pay" into the gaping pocket-like top of his capacious
rubber boot.

"The sons-of-a-gun!" breathed Laughing Bill. "The double-crossing
sons-of-a-gun! Why, it begins to look like a big summer for me."

Bill slept well that night, for now that he knew the game which was
going on he felt sure that sooner or later he would take a hand in it.
Just how or when the hand would fall he could not tell, but that did
not worry him in the least, inasmuch as he already held the trumps. It
seemed that a kindly fortune had guided him to the Aurora; that fate
had decreed he should avenge the wrongs of Ponatah. The handy-man fell
asleep with a smile upon his lips.

The first ship arrived that very evening, and the next day Doctor
Slayforth in person appeared at the Aurora. He was a thin, restless
man with weak and shifting eyes; he said grace at dinner, giving
thanks for the scanty rations of hash and brown beans over which his
hungry workmen were poised like cormorants. The Aurora had won the
name of a bad feeder, but its owner seemed satisfied with his meal.
Later Bill overheard him talking with his superintendent.

"I'm disappointed with the clean-ups," Slayforth confessed. "The pay
appears to be pinching out."

"She don't wash like she sampled, that's a fact," said Black Jack.

"I'm afraid we shall have to practise economies--"

"Look here! If you aim to cut down the grub, don't try it," counseled
Berg. "It's rotten now."

"Indeed? There appeared to be plenty, and the quality was excellent. I
fear you encourage gluttony, and nothing so interferes with work. We
must effect a saving somehow; there is too great a variation between
theoretical and actual values."

"Huh! You better try feeding hay for a while," sourly grumbled the
superintendent. "If you ain't getting what you aimed to get it's
because it ain't in the cards."

This conversation interested Bill, for it proved that the robbers had
helped themselves with a liberal hand, but how they had managed to
appropriate enough gold to noticeably affect the showing of the
winter's work intensely mystified him; it led him to believe that
Black Jack and Denny were out for a homestake.

That such was indeed the case and that Slevin was not the only thief
Bill soon discovered, for after the next clean-up he slipped away
through the twilight and took stand among the alders outside the rear
window of the shack on the hill. From his point of concealment he
could observe all that went on inside.

It was a familiar scene. By the light of an oil lamp Black Jack was
putting the final touches to the clean-up. Two gold pans, heaped high
with the mingled black sand and gold dust, as it came out of the
sluices, were drying on the Yukon stove, and the superintendent was
engaged in separating the precious yellow particles from the worthless
material which gravity had deposited with it. This refining process
was slow, painstaking work, and was effected with the help of a flat
brass scoop--a "blower." By shaking this blower and breathing upon its
contents the lighter grains of iron sand were propelled to the edge,
as chaff is separated from wheat, and fell into a box held between the
superintendent's knees. The residue, left in the heel of the blower
after each blowing process, was commercial "dust," ready for the bank
or the assay office. Doctor Slayforth, with his glasses on the end of
his nose, presided at the gold scales, while Denny Slevin looked on.
As the dust was weighed, a few ounces at a time, it was dumped into a
moose-skin sack and entered upon the books.

Black Jack had the light at his back, he was facing the window,
therefore Laughing Bill commanded an unobstructed view of his
adept manipulations. It was not long before the latter saw him
surreptitiously drop a considerable quantity of gold out of the scoop
and into the box between his knees, then cover it up with the black
sand. This sleight-of-hand was repeated several times, and when
the last heap of gold had been weighed Bill estimated that Doctor
Slayforth was poorer by at least a hundred ounces--sixteen hundred
dollars. There was no question about it now; these were not common
thieves; this was becoming a regular man's game, and the stakes were
assuming a size to give Laughing Bill a tingling sensation along his
spine. Having discovered the _modus operandi_ of the pair, and having
read their cards, so to speak, he next set himself to discover where
they banked their swag. But this was by no means easy. His utmost
vigilance went unrewarded by so much as a single clue.

Berg and Slevin had a habit of riding into town on Saturday nights,
and the next time they left the claim Bill pleaded a jumping toothache
and set out afoot for medical attention.

It was late when he arrived at Nome, nevertheless a diligent search
of the Front Street saloons failed to locate either man. He was still
looking for them when they came riding in.

With their delayed arrival Bill's apprehensions vanished, as likewise
did his imaginary toothache. He had feared that they were in the habit
of bringing the gold to Nome, there perhaps to bank it with some
friend; but now he knew that they were too cautious for that, and
preferred instead to cache it somewhere in the hills. This simplified
matters immensely, so Bill looked up his little doctor for a sociable
visit.

Thomas was in his office; he greeted Bill warmly.

"Say! Pill-rolling must be brisk to keep you on the job till
midnight," the latter began.

"Business is rotten!" exclaimed the physician. "And it's a rotten
business."

"Nobody sick? That's tough. Open a can of typhoid germs, and I'll put
'em in the well. Anything to stir up a little trade."

"I've just balanced my books and--I've just heard from Alice."

"Do the books balance?"

"Oh, perfectly--nothing equals nothing--it's a perfect equilibrium.
Alice wants me to come home and start all over, and I'm tempted to do
so."

"Ain't going to throw up your tail, are you?"

"I can't get along without her." Thomas was plainly in the depths; he
turned away and stared moodily out into the dim-lit street. It was
midnight, but already the days were shortening, already there was an
hour or two of dusk between the evening and the morning light.

"Of course you can't get along without her," the ex-bandit agreed. "I
seen that when I looked at her picture. Why don't you bring her in?"

"Bring her in--_here_?" Thomas faced about quickly. "Humph! Not much."

"Well, this ain't no doll's village, that's a fact. It's full of
wicked men, and the women ain't wuth braggin' over. S'pose we go out
and marry her?"

"We?" Thomas smiled for the first time.

"Sure. I'll stick to the bitter finish."

"I'm broke, Bill."

"Pshaw, now! Don't let that worry you. I got money."

"You?" The doctor was surprised. "Where did you get it?"

"Well, I _got_ it! That's the main thing. It was--left to me."

"Honestly?"

"What d'you mean, 'honestly'?"

"How much?"

"I dunno, exactly. You see, I ain't got it actually in my mit--"

"Oh!"

"But I'll have it, all righto. It's just waiting for me to close down
on it. I reckon there must be a thousand gold buzzards in the stack,
mebby more. It's all yours."

"Thanks!" said the physician, unimpressed.

"Look me in the eye." Bill spoke earnestly. "Twenty thousand iron men
ain't so bad. It'll buy a lot of doll's clothes. We can have a big
party--I ain't kidding!" Then reading amused incredulity in his
friend's face he demanded: "How you know I ain't got a rich uncle that
raised me from a colt and that broke his heart at me runnin' away and
turning out wild, and has had lawyers gunnin' for me ever since he
knew he was gettin' old and going to croak? How you know that, eh?"

"I don't know. I don't know anything about you, Bill. That's one of
the most interesting features of our friendship."

"Well, pay a little attention to me. Now then, I figger it like this:
I got lungs like a grasshopper, and the money won't do me no good, so
I'll stake you and Miss Alice to it."

Doctor Thomas eyed the speaker curiously. "I believe you would," said
he, after a moment.

"Would I? Say! You ever seen a feather bed tied up with a rope? You
sit tight and I'll slip you a roll just that size."

"Of course you know I wouldn't take it?"

"Why not? It's more'n likely it'll get me into evil company or gimme
some bad habit, and I'll gargle off before I've had a chance to spend
it. I ain't strong."

"I'll earn what I get, Billy."

"All right. If you feel like that I'll bet it for you on a crap game,
and you can take the winnings--"

"Nothing doing. I want honest money--money that I can look in the
face."

Mr. Hyde was out of patience. "All money's honest, after you get it!"
he cried. "It's gettin' it that draws blood. I never knew the silver
bird to fly off a dollar and scratch a guy, did you?"

"I want to make money--that's why I came up to this God-forsaken
place--but--when your uncle's draft arrives you cash it."

"Ain't you the champeen bone-dome?" muttered Bill. Such an attitude
seemed to him both senseless and quixotic, for he had never attached
the least sentiment to money. Money was an elemental necessity,
therefore he looked upon it with practical, unromantic eyes,
and helped himself to it as he helped himself to such elemental
necessities as air or water. Most of life's necessaries had fallen
into monopolistic hands and were used to wring tribute from
unfortunate mortals who had arrived too late to share in the graft, as
witness, for instance, Standard Oil. So ran Bill's reasoning when he
took the trouble to reason at all. Men had established arbitrary rules
to govern their forays upon one another's property, to be sure, but
under cover of these artificial laws they stole merrily, and got away
with it. Eagles did not scruple to steal from one another, horses ate
one another's fodder; why human beings should not do likewise had
always puzzled Mr. Hyde. The basic principle held good in both cases,
it seemed to him, and Doctor Thomas's refusal to share in the coming
legacy struck him as silly; it was the result of a warped and unsound
philosophy. But argue as he would he could not shake his friend's
opinion of the matter.

One evening, not long after his visit to town, Bill's toothache
returned again to plague him. He raised groans and hoarse profanities,
and then, while the crew was still at supper, he abandoned his work
and set out in search of relief. But he did not go to Nome. Once
out of sight of the mine he doubled back and came out behind the
superintendent's cabin. A moment later he was stretched out in the
narrow, dark space beneath Black Jack's bunk. Dust irritated Bill's
lungs, therefore he had carefully swept out the place that morning;
likewise he had thoughtfully provided himself with a cotton comforter
as protection to his bones. He had no intention of permitting himself
to be taken at a disadvantage, and knowing full well the painful
consequences of discovery he opened his bone-handled pocket-knife and
tested its keen edge with his thumb. In the interests of peace and
good-fellowship, however, he hoped he could go through the night
without coughing.

Slevin was the first to return from supper. He went directly to his
bunk, drew a bottle of whisky from beneath his pillow, poured himself
a drink, and replaced the bottle. When Berg entered he went through a
similar procedure, after which a fire was built, the men kicked off
their boots, lit their pipes, and stretched out upon their beds.

"I've been thinking it over," the superintendent began, "and you can't
do it."

"Why not?" queried Slevin. "I told his nibs I was sick of the grub."

"Foremen don't quit good jobs on account of the grub. You've got to
stick till fall; then we'll both go. We'll strike the old man for a
raise--"

"Humph! He'll let us go, quick enough, when we do that. Let's strike
him now. I'm through."

"Nothing stirring," Berg firmly declared. "We'll play out the string.
I'm taking no chances."

"Hell! Ain't we takin' a chance every day we stay here? I'm getting
so I don't sleep. I got enough to do me; I ain't a hog. I got a bully
corner all picked out, Jack--best corner in Seattle for a gin-mill."

"It'll wait. Corners don't get up and move. No, I won't hold the
bag for you or for anybody," declared the former speaker. "We'll go
through, arm in arm. Once we're away clean you can do what you like.
Me for the Argentine and ten thousand acres of long-horns. You better
forget that corner. Some night you'll get stewed and spill the beans."

"Who, me?" Slevin laughed in disdain. "Fat chance!" There was a long
silence during which the only sound was the bubbling of a pipe. "I
s'pose I'll have to stick, if you say so," Denny agreed finally, "but
I'm fed up. I'm getting jumpy. I got a hunch the cache ain't safe; I
feel like something was goin' to happen."

Mr. Slevin's premonition, under the circumstances, was almost uncanny;
it gave startling proof of his susceptibility to outside influences.

"You _are_ rickety," Black Jack told him. "Why, there ain't any
danger; nobody goes up there." Laughing Bill held his breath, missing
not a word. "If they did we'd pick 'em up with the glasses. It's open
country, and we'd get 'em before they got down."

"I s'pose so. But the nights are getting dark."

"Nobody's out at night, either, you boob. I ain't losing any slumber
over that. And I ain't going to lose any about your quitting ahead of
me. That don't trouble me none." Berg yawned and changed the subject.
Half an hour later he rose, languidly undressed and rolled into his
bed. Slevin followed suit shortly after, and the rapidity with which
both men fell asleep spoke volumes for the elasticity of the human
conscience.

Now, Laughing Bill had come prepared to spend the night, but his
throat tickled and he had a distressing habit of snoring, therefore he
deemed it the part of caution to depart before he dropped off into the
land of dreams. He effected the manoeuver noiselessly.

Bill lingered at the spring hole on the following morning, and lost
himself in an attentive study of the surrounding scenery. It was
fairly impressive scenery, and he had a keen appreciation of nature's
beauty, but Black Jack's words continued to puzzle him. "Nobody goes
up there." Up where? The Aurora lay in a valley, therefore most of the
country round about was "up"--it was open, too. The ridges were bold
and barren, garbed only with shreds and patches of short grass and
reindeer moss. "We'd pick 'em up with the glasses--we'd get 'em before
they got down." Manifestly the cache was in plain sight, if one only
knew where to look for it, but Mr. Hyde's sharp eyes took in ten
thousand likely hiding-places, and he reasoned that it would be worse
than folly to go exploring blindly without more definite data than he
possessed.

It was clever of the pair to hide the swag where they could oversee it
every hour of the day, and they had chosen a safe location, too, for
nobody wasted the effort to explore those domes and hogbacks now that
they were known to contain no quartz. There was Anvil Mountain, for
instance, a bold schist peak crowned with a huge rock in the likeness
of a blacksmith's anvil. It guarded the entrance to the valley, rising
from the very heart of the best mining section; it was the most
prominent landmark hereabouts, but not a dozen men had ever climbed
it, and nowadays nobody did.

As Bill pondered the enigma, out from his bed in the willows came Don
Antonio de Chiquito, a meek and lowly burro, the only member of the
Aurora's working force which did not outrank in social importance the
man-of-all-work. Don Antonio was the pet of the Aurora Borealis, and
its scavenger. He ate everything from garbage to rubber boots--he was
even suspected of possessing a low appetite for German socks. It was,
in fact, this very democratic taste in things edible which caused
him to remain the steadiest of Doctor Slayforth's boarders. Wisdom,
patience, the sagacity of Solomon, lurked in Don Antonio's eyes, and
Laughing Bill consulted him as a friend and an equal.

"Tony," said he, "you've done a heap of prospecting and you know the
business. There's a rich pocket on one of them hills. Which one is
it?"

Don Antonio de Chiquito had ears like sunbonnets; he folded them back,
lifted his muzzle toward Anvil rock, and brayed loudly.

"Mebbe you're right," said the man. He fitted the Chinese yoke to his
skinny shoulders, and took up his burden. The load was heavy, the yoke
bruised his bones, therefore he was moved to complain: "The idea of
me totin' water for the very guys that stole my uncle's money! It's
awful--the darned crooks!"

It was a rainy evening when business next took Black Jack Berg and
Denny Slevin to town. Having dined amply, if not well, they donned
slickers, saddled a pair of horses, and set out down the creek. Few
people were abroad, therefore they felt secure from observation when
they swung off the trail where it bends around the foot of Anvil
Mountain and bore directly up through the scattered alders. The grass
was wet, the rain erased the marks of their horses' feet almost in the
passing. Tethering their mounts in the last clump of underbrush the
riders labored on afoot up a shallow draw which scarred the steep
slope. The murk of twilight obscured them, but even in a good light
they would have run small risk of discovery, for slow-moving human
figures would have been lost against the dark background.

The climb was long and arduous; both men were panting when they
breasted the last rise and looked down into the valley where lay the
Aurora Borealis. This was a desolate spot, great boulders, fallen from
the huge rock overhead, lay all about, the earth was weathered by
winter snows and summer rains. Ghostly fingers of mist writhed over
the peak; darkness was not far distant.

The robbers remained on the crest perhaps twenty minutes, then they
came striding down. They passed within a hundred yards of Laughing
Bill Hyde, who lay flat in the wet grass midway of their descent.
He watched them mount and ride out of sight, then he continued his
painful progress up the hillside.

Weak lungs are not suited to heavy grades and slippery footing. Bill
was sobbing with agony when he conquered the last rise and collapsed
upon his face. He feared he was dying, every cough threatened a
hemorrhage; but when his breath came more easily and he missed the
familiar taste of blood in his mouth he rose and tottered about
through the fog. He could discover no tracks; he began to fear the
night would foil him, when at last luck guided his aimless footsteps
to a slide of loose rock banked against a seamy ledge. The surface of
the bank showed a muddy scar, already half obliterated by the rain;
brief search among the near-by boulders uncovered the hiding-place of
a pick and shovel.

For once in his life Mr. Hyde looked upon these tools with favor, and
energetically tackled the business end of a "Number 2." He considered
pick-and-shovel work the lowest form of human endeavor; nevertheless
he engaged in it willingly enough, and he had not dug deeply before
he uncovered the side of a packing-case, labeled "Choice California
Canned Fruits." Further rapid explorations showed that the box was
fitted with a loose top, and that the interior was well-nigh filled
with stout canvas and moose skin bags. Bill counted them; he weighed
one, then he sat down weakly and his hard, smoke-blue eyes widened
with amazement.

"Suffering cats!" he whispered. He voiced other expletives, too, even
more forcefully indicative of surprise. He was not an imaginative man;
it did not occur to him to doubt his sanity or to wonder if he were
awake, nevertheless he opened one of the pokes and incredulously
examined its contents. "I'm dam' if it ain't!" he said, finally. "I
should reckon they _was_ ready to quit. Argentine! Why, Jack'll bust
the bottom out of a boat if he takes this with him. He'll drown a lot
of innocent people." Mr. Hyde shook his head and smiled pityingly. "It
ain't safe to trust him with it. It ain't safe--the thievin' devil!
There's five hundred pounds if there's an ounce!" He began to figure
with his finger on the muddy shovel blade. "A hundred thousand bucks!"
he announced, finally. "Them boys is _all right_!"

Slowly, reluctantly, he replaced the gold sacks, reburied the box, and
placed the tools where he had found them; then he set out for home.

Don Antonio de Chiquito was contentedly munching an empty oat sack,
doubtless impelled thereto by the lingering flavor of its former
contents, when on the following morning Bill accosted him.

"Tony, I got to hand it to you," the man said, admiringly. "You're
some pocket miner, and you speak up like a gent when you're spoken to.
I got some nice egg-shells saved up for you." Then his voice dropped
to a confidential tone. "We're in with a passel of crooks, Tony. Evil
associates, I call 'em. They're bound to have a bad influence over
us--I feel it a'ready, don't you? Well, s'pose you meet me to-night at
the gap in the hedge and we'll take a walk?"

Don Antonio appeared in every way agreeable to the proposal, but to
make certain that he would keep his appointment Bill led him down
into the creek bottom and tied him securely, after which he removed a
pack-saddle and a bundle of hay from the stable. The saddle he hid in
the brush, the hay he spread before his accomplice, with the generous
invitation: "Drink hearty; it's on the house!" In explanation he went
on: "It's this way, Tony; they left the elevator out of that Anvil
skyscraper, and I can't climb stairs on one lung, so you got to be my
six-cylinder oat-motor. We got a busy night ahead of us."

That evening Laughing Bill ascended Anvil Mountain for a second time,
but the exertion did not wind him unduly, for he made the ascent at
the end of Don Antonio's tail. He was back in camp for breakfast, and
despite his lack of sleep he performed his menial duties during the
day with more than his usual cheerfulness.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Speed up, can't you?" Slevin paused midway of the steepest slope and
spoke impatiently to his partner below.

"I'm coming," Black Jack panted. Being the heavier and clumsier of the
two, the climb was harder for him. "You're so spry, s'pose you just
pack this poke!" He unslung a heavy leather sack from his belt and
gave it to Denny.

"We'd ought to 'a' got an early start," the latter complained. "The
days are gettin' short and I had a rotten fall going down, last time."

Relieved of some fifteen pounds of dead, awkward weight--and nothing
is more awkward to carry than a sizable gold sack--Berg made better
speed, arriving at the cache in time to see Slevin spit on his hands
and fall to digging.

"Every time we open her up I get a shiver," Denny confessed, with a
laugh. "I'm scared to look."

"Humph! Think she's going to get up and walk out on us?" Berg seated
himself, lit his pipe, and puffed in silence for a while. "We ain't
never been seen," he declared, positively. "She's as safe as the Bank
of England as long as you don't get drunk."

"Me drunk! Ha! Me and the demon rum is divorced forever." Slevin's
shovel struck wood and he swiftly uncovered the box, then removed its
top. He, stood for a full minute staring into its interior, then he
cried, hoarsely, "_Jack_!"

Berg was on his feet in an instant; he strode to the excavation and
bent over it. After a time he straightened himself and turned blazing
eyes upon his confederate. Denny met his gaze with the glare of a man
demented.

"Wha'd I tell you?" the latter chattered. "I told you they'd get it.
By God! They have!"

He cast an apprehensive glance over his shoulder. Far below the lights
of the valley were beginning to twinkle, in the direction of Nome the
cross on the Catholic church gleamed palely against the steel-gray
expanse of Behring Sea.

Berg was a man of violent temper; he choked and gasped; his face was
bloated with an apoplectic rage. He began to growl curses deep in his
throat. "_Who_ got it?" he demanded. "Who d'you mean by '_they_'?"

"'Sh-h!" Slevin was panic-stricken; he flung out a nervous, jerky
hand. "Mebbe they're here--now. Look out!"

"Who d'you mean by '_they_'?" the larger man repeated.

"I--God! I dunno! But there must 'a' been more'n one. Five hundred
pounds! One man couldn't pack it!"

"You said '_they_'!" Berg persisted in an odd tone.

Slevin's madly roving gaze flew back and settled upon the discolored
visage thrust toward him, then his own eyes widened. He recoiled,
crying:

"Look here! You don't think I--?" His words ended in a bark.

"I ain't said what I think, but I'm thinkin' fast. Nobody knew it but
us--"

"How d'you know?"

"I know."

Slowly Slevin settled himself. His muscles ceased jumping, his bullet
head drew down between his shoulders. "Well, it wasn't me, so it must
'a' been--_you_!"

"Don't stall!" roared the larger man. "It won't win you anything. You
can't leave here till you come through."

"That goes double, Jack. I got my gat, too, and you ain't going to run
out on me."

"You wanted to quit. You weakened."

"You're a liar!"

The men stared fixedly at each other, heads forward, bodies tense; as
they glared the fury of betrayal grew to madness.

"Where'd you put it?" Berg ground the words between his teeth.

"I'm askin' you that very thing," the foreman answered in a thin,
menacing voice. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he widened the distance
between himself and his accuser. It was not a retreat, he merely drew
himself together defensively, holding himself under control with the
last supreme effort of his will.

The tension snapped suddenly.

With a harsh, wordless cry of fury Black Jack tore his six-shooter
from its resting-place. But Slevin's right hand stirred in unison and
it moved like light. Owing to the fact that he carried his gun beneath
his left armpit he was the first to fire, by the fraction of a second.
It was impossible to miss at this distance. Berg went to his knees
as if hit by a sledge. But he fired from that position, and his shot
caught Slevin as the latter crow-hopped nimbly. Both men were down
now. Slevin, however, seemed made of rubber; he was up again almost
instantly, and zigzagging toward the shelter of the nearest rocks.
Berg emptied his Colt at the running target, then a shout burst from
his lips as he saw Denny pitch forward out of sight.

With shaking, clumsy fingers Black Jack reloaded his hot weapon. With
his left hand pressed deep into his side he rose slowly to his feet
and lurched forward.

"You rat!" he yelled. "Double-cross _me_, will yeh?" He heard the
sound of a body moving over loose stones and halted, weaving in his
tracks and peering into the gloom.

"Come out!" he ordered. "Come out and own up and I'll let yeh off."

There was a silence. "I see yeh!" He took unsteady aim at a shadow and
fired. "Never mind, I'll get yeh!" After a little while he stumbled
onward between the boulders, shouting a challenge to his invisible
opponent. He had gone perhaps fifty feet when the darkness was stabbed
by the blaze of Slevin's gun. Three times the weapon spoke, at little
more than arm's-length, and Black Jack spun on his heels, then rocked
forward limply. It was a long time before the sound of his loud, slow
breathing ceased. Not until then did Denny Slevin move. With a rattle
in his throat the foreman crept out from hiding and went down the
mountain-side upon his hands and knees.

It occasioned considerable speculation at the Aurora Borealis when
neither the superintendent nor the foreman appeared for breakfast.
Later, a telephone message to Doctor Slayforth having elicited the
startling intelligence that neither man had been seen in town during
the night, there came a flicker of excitement. This excitement blazed
to white heat when Slayforth rode up on a muddy horse, accompanied by
the town marshal and the chief of police. Followed more telephoning
and some cross-examination. But the men were gone. They had
disappeared.

It was a mystery baffling any attempt at explanation, for there were
no ships in the roadstead, and hence it was impossible for the pair
to have taken French leave. While a search party was being organized
there came word that the missing saddle-horses had been found on the
slope of Anvil Mountain, and by the time Slayforth's party had reached
the ground more news awaited them. Up near the head of the draw some
one had discovered the body of Denny Slevin. There was a rush thither,
and thence on up the trail Slevin had left, to the scene of the
twilight duel, to Black Jack Berg and the cache in the slide.

The story told itself down to the last detail; it was the story of a
thieves' quarrel and a double killing. Doctor Slayforth fell upon
his bag of gold as a mother falls upon her babe; he voiced loud,
hysterical condemnation of the deed; he wept tears of mingled
indignation and thanksgiving; he gabbled scriptural quotations about
the wages of sin. Then, remembering that the wages of his men were
going on, he sent them back to their work, and determined to dock half
their morning's pay.

The story of the tragedy was still the sensation of Nome when, a
fortnight later, Laughing Bill Hyde showed up in town with the
cheerful announcement that he had been fired. Ponatah was at the cabin
when he arrived, and she did not try to conceal her joy at seeing him
again.

"I've been so unhappy," she told him. "You've never been out of my
thoughts, Billy."

"Ain't you got nothing better to think about than me?" he asked, with
a smile. "Well, the psalm-shouter let me out--jerked the piller-slip
from under me, you might say--and turned me adrift. He's got a
high-chested, low-browed Swede in my place. It takes a guy with hair
down to his eyebrows to be a buck chamber-maid."

"The old rascal!" Ponatah's face darkened with anger. "No wonder those
men robbed him. I wish they had taken all his gold, and escaped."

"You're pretty sore on his heavenly nibs, ain't you?" Ponatah clenched
her hands and her eyes blazed. "Well, you got this consolation, the
Aurora ain't as rich as it was."

"It would have been rich enough for us."

"Us?"

"Yes. You'd marry me if I were rich, wouldn't you?"

"No, I wouldn't," Bill declared, firmly. "What's the use to kid you?"

"Why wouldn't you? Are you ashamed of me?"

Bill protested, "Say, what is this you're giving me, the third
degree?"

"If I were as rich as--well, as Reindeer Mary, wouldn't you marry me?"
Ponatah gazed at the unworthy object of her affections with a yearning
that was embarrassing, and Laughing Bill was forced to spar for wind.

"Ain't you the bold Mary Ann--makin' cracks like that?" he chided.
"I'm ashamed of you, honest. I've passed up plenty of frills in my
time, and we're all better off for it. My appetite for marriage ain't
no keener than it used to be, so you forget it. Little Doc, he's the
marrying kind."

"Oh yes. He tells me a great deal about his Alice. He's very much
discouraged. If--if I had the Aurora I wouldn't forget him; I'd give
him half."

"Would you, now? Well, he's the one stiffneck that wouldn't take it.
He's funny that way--seems to think money 'll bite him, or something.
I don't know how these pullanthrofists get along, with proud people
always spurning their gifts. He's got my nan. You take my tip, Kid,
and cling to your coin. Salt it down for winter. That's what I'm doing
with mine."

"Are you?" Ponatah was not amused, she was gravely interested. "I
thought you were broke, Billy."

"Where'd you get that at?" he demanded. "I've always got a pinch of
change, I have. I'm lucky that way. Now then, you run along and don't
never try to feint me into a clinch. It don't go."

Laughing Bill enjoyed a good rest in the days that followed. He rested
hard for several weeks, and when he rested he lifted his hand to
absolutely nothing. He was an expert idler, and with him indolence was
but a form of suspended animation. In spite of himself, however, he
was troubled by a problem; he was completely baffled by it, in fact,
until, without warning and without conscious effort, the solution
presented itself. Bill startled his cabin mate one day by the
announcement that he intended to go prospecting.

"Nonsense!" said Thomas, when the first shock of surprise had passed.
"This country has been run over, and every inch is staked."

"I bet I'll horn in somewhere. All I want is one claim where I got
room to sling myself."

"If that's all you want I'll give you a claim. It has twenty acres. Is
that room enough?"

"Plenty. Where is it?"

"It's on Eclipse Creek, I believe. A patient gave it to me for a
bill."

"He won't call for a new deal if I strike it rich?"

"No. I paid his fare out of the country. But why waste your valuable
time? Your time _is_ valuable, I presume?"

"Sure! I ain't got much left. You don't believe in hunches, do
you? Well, I do. I've seen 'em come out. Look at Denny Slevin, for
instance! I heard him say he had a hunch something unpleasant was
going to happen to him, and it did. We'll go fifty-fifty on this
Eclipse Creek."

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. "Suit yourself. Fresh air won't
hurt you."

The first frosts of autumn had arrived before Laughing Bill returned
to town with the announcement that he had struck a prospect. Doctor
Thomas was at first incredulous, then amazed; finally, when the
true significance of those tiny yellow grains came home to him, his
enthusiasm burst all bounds. He was for at once closing his office and
joining actively in his partner's work, but Bill would not hear to
such a thing.

"Stick to the pills and powders, Doc," he counseled. "You know that
game and I know this. It's my strike and I don't want no amachoors
butting in. I got options on the whole creek--she's eclipsed for
fair--'cause I don't like neighbors. You shut your trap till spring
and sit tight, then we'll roll our packs, stomp on the fire, and call
the dog. Old Home Week for us."

"But, Billy, we can't work out that claim in one winter," protested
the physician.

"How d'you know we can't? Mebbe it's just a pocket."

"We'll find other pockets. We have the whole creek--"

"Say, how much d'you need to satisfy you?" Bill inquired, curiously.

"I--don't know. A hundred thousand dollars, perhaps."

"A hundred thousand! Whew! You got rich tastes! This ain't no
bonanza."

"But if it's any good at all it will net us that much, probably more."

Bill considered briefly, then he announced: "All right, bo, I got
your idea. When I hand you a hundred thousand iron men we quit--no
questions, no regrets; Is that it? But you've hiked the limit on me; I
dunno's I'll make good."

By the time snow flew the tent on Eclipse Creek had been replaced by a
couple of warm shacks, provisions had been bought, and a crew hired.
Work commenced immediately, and it continued throughout the winter
with Bill in charge. The gravel was lean-looking stuff, but it seemed
to satisfy the manager, and whenever Thomas came out from town he
received encouraging reports from his partner. Hyde ceased playing
solitaire long enough to pan samples in his tub of snow water. Now had
the younger man been an experienced placer miner he might have noted
with suspicion that whenever Bill panned he chewed tobacco--a new
habit he had acquired--and not infrequently he spat into the tub of
muddy water. But Thomas was not experienced in the wiles and artifices
of mine-salters, and the residue of yellow particles left in the pan
was proof positive that the claim was making good. It did strike him
as strange, however, that when he selected a pan of dirt and washed
it unassisted he found nothing. At such times Bill explained
glibly enough that no pay dump carried steady values, and that an
inexperienced sampler was apt to get "skunked" under the best of
circumstances. Concentrates lay in streaks and pockets, he declared.
Then to prove his assertions Bill would help his partner pan, and
inasmuch as he wore long finger-nails, underneath which colors of gold
could be easily concealed, it was not surprising that he succeeded in
finding a prospect where the doctor had failed. For fear Thomas should
still entertain some lingering doubts, Bill occasionally sent him down
into the shaft alone, to sample the pay streak, but in each instance
he took pains to go down beforehand with a shot-gun and some shells of
his own loading and to shoot a few rounds into the face of the thawed
ground.

The winter passed quickly enough, Bill's only concern arising from the
fact that his strike had become common knowledge, and that men were
clamoring to buy or to lease a part of the creek. It was a tiny creek,
and he had it safely tied up under his options, therefore he was in a
position to refuse every offer. By so doing he gained the reputation
of being a cautious, cagey man and difficult to deal with.

Bill paid off his crew out of the first spring cleanup, from the dust
he had managed to dump into the sluices at night. Thereafter he sent
the gold to town by Doctor Thomas, who came after it regularly. When
he closed down the works, in June, he and his partner held bank
deposit slips for a trifle over one hundred thousand dollars. Rumor
placed their profits at much more.

Bill saw little of Ponatah after his return to Nome, for the girl
avoided him, and when he did see her she assumed a peculiar reserve.
Her year and a half of intimate association with cultured people had
in reality worked an amazing improvement in her, and people no longer
regarded her as an Indian, but referred to her now as "that Russian
governess," nevertheless she could retreat behind a baffling air
of stolidity--almost of sullenness--when she chose, and that was
precisely the mask she wore for Bill. In reality she was far from
stolid and anything but sullen.

For his part he made no effort to break down the girl's guard; he
continued to treat her with his customary free good nature.

Notwithstanding the liberal margin of profit on his winter's
operations, Bill realized that he was still shy approximately half
of the sum which Doctor Thomas had set as satisfactory, and when the
latter began planning to resume work on a larger scale in the fall Mr.
Hyde was stricken with panic. Fearing lest his own lack of enthusiasm
in these plans and his indifference to all affairs even remotely
concerning Eclipse Creek should awaken suspicion, he determined to
sell out his own and his partner's interests in accordance with their
original understanding. Without consulting Thomas he called upon
Doctor Slayforth.

The pious mine-owner was glad to see him; his manner was not at all
what it had been when Bill worked for him. His words of greeting
fairly trickled prune juice and honey.

"Say, Doc, I got a load on my chest! I'm a strayed lamb and you being
a sort of shepherd I turns to you," Bill began.

"I trust you have not come in vain." The ex-missionary beamed
benignly. "It has been my duty and my privilege to comfort the
afflicted. What troubles you, William?"

"There's a school of sharks in this village, and I don't trust 'em.
They're too slick for a feller like me,"

"It _is_ an ungodly place," the doctor agreed. "I have felt the call
to work here, but my duties prevent. Of course I labor in the Lord's
vineyard as I pass through, but--I am weak."

"Me, too, and getting weaker daily." Bill summoned a hollow cough.
"Listen to that hospital bark,' I gotta blow this place, Doc, or
they'll button me up in a rosewood overcoat. I gotta sell Eclipse
Creek and beat it." Again he coughed.

"I am distressed. But why do you come here?"

"I aim to sell out to you."

"What is your price, William?"

"A hundred and fifty thousand, cash."

Slayforth lifted protesting palms. "My dear man--"

"That's cheaper'n good advice, and you know it. I took out 'most that
much last winter with a scowegian gang of six. Here's the bank's O.K.
But I ain't got use for a lot of money, Doc. I wouldn't know how to
run a vineyard like you do. All I want is a nice little corner saloon
or a cattle ranch."

"It is a large sum of money you ask. There is always an element of
uncertainty about placer mining." Doctor Slayforth failed to conceal
the gleam of avarice in his eyes.

"Doc, take it from me; there ain't a particle of uncertainty about
Eclipse Creek," Bill earnestly assured his hearer. "If I told you
what's there you wouldn't believe me. But Thomas, he's got a gal and I
got a cough. They both need attention, and he's the only guy that can
give it. We're willing to hand you Eclipse Creek if you'll take it."

There was considerable conversation, and a visit to Eclipse Creek, but
the doctor, it proved, was willing to take any good bargain, and a few
days later the transfer was made. When the larger part of Slayforth's
winter's clean-up had changed hands the two partners adjourned to
Thomas's little office.

"Well!" The physician heaved a deep sigh of relief. "It's all over,
and--I feel as if I were dreaming."

"The _Oregon_ sails to-morrow. It's time to stomp on the fire."

"I--I wonder if we were wise to sell out at that price," the doctor
mused, doubtfully.

"You lay a bet on it, bo. Something tells me that soul-saver will go
bust on Eclipse Creek. I got a hunch that way." Mr. Hyde's seamy face
wrinkled into a broad grin.

"Well, I've more faith in your hunches than I used to have. You've
been a good friend, Bill, and a square one." The speaker choked, then
wrung his partner's hand. "I've cabled Alice to meet us. I want you to
know her and--I want her to see that I cured you, after all."

"I'd admire to meet her, but my taste has allus run more to
brunettes," said Mr. Hyde. Then, since he abhorred emotional display,
he continued, briskly: "Now call the dog. I'm off to buy our duckets."

Laughing Bill purchased three tickets instead of two, then he went in
search of Ponatah. It so chanced that he found her alone. Now neither
he nor any other man had ever called upon her, therefore she was
dumfounded at his coming.

"Well, Kid," he announced, "me 'n' the Doc have sold Eclipse Creek,
and we bow out tomorrow on the big smoke."

Ponatah opened her lips, but no sound issued. She possessed a strong
young body, but the strength, the life, seemed suddenly to go out of
it, leaving her old and spiritless.

"Got a kind word for us?" the man inquired, with a twinkle.

"I'm glad you struck it rich," she murmured, dully. "You--you'll take
care of yourself, Billy?"

"Who, me? I don't s'pose so. I don't know how to take care of
nothing." There was a moment of silence. "Like me?" he asked.

Ponatah turned away blindly, but as she did so Laughing Bill put his
hand gently upon her shoulder, saying:

"Cheer up, Kid. You're going to join the troupe. I've come to get
you."

There was amazement, incredulity, in the girl's face as she lifted it
to his. "What do you--mean?" she quavered. "Are you going to--marry
me?"

"You guessed it!" he laughed. "I been aiming to put up that job on you
for a long time, but I had a lot of deals on my hands. I was a sort
of power-of-attorney for a coupla simps, and it kept me busy. If
you think the two of us can do with three lungs, why, we'll grab a
psalm-shouter and--"

"Billy! Billy!" Ponatah clung to him fiercely, hungrily. "Oh,
Billy--I'll make you well. We'll go to Arizona, Colorado,
Montana--where it is high and dry--"

"I been to them places," he told her, dubiously, "and I 'most stopped
breathing altogether."

"New Mexico, then. You won't be ashamed of me there."

"Say, Kid! I wouldn't be ashamed of a harelip and warts in New Mexico.
But you got me wrong; I'm plumb proud of you, and just to prove it
I aim to make you carry our bank-roll in your name. That's how she
stands at the bank, and that's how she's goin' to stand. From time to
time you can gimme a check for what you think I'm wuth. Now then, do
with me as you will; grab your lid; we'll join hands and be soldered
up."

Laughing Bill stared after the girl as she hurried away; musingly he
said: "The little Doc got in on no pair, for it was all her coin, of
course. But she'd 'a' had to split, fifty-fifty, with a lawyer, so it
ain't a bad deal all around."



THE NORTH WIND'S MALICE


It had snowed during the night, but toward morning it had grown cold;
now the sled-runners complained and the load dragged heavily. Folsom,
who had been heaving at the handle-bars all the way up the Dexter
Creek hill, halted his dogs at the crest and dropped upon the sled,
only too glad of a breathing spell. His forehead was wet with sweat;
when it began to freeze in his eyebrows he removed his mittens and
wiped away the drops, then watched them congeal upon his fingers.
Yes, it was all of thirty below, and a bad morning to hit the trail,
but--Folsom's face set itself--better thirty below in the open than
the frigid atmosphere of an unhappy home.

Harkness, who had led the way up the hill, plodded onward for a time
before discovering that his companion had paused; then, through the
ring of hoar frost around his parka hood, he called back:

"I'll hike down to the road-house and warm up."

Folsom made no answer, he did not even turn his head. Taciturnity was
becoming a habit with him, and already he was beginning to dislike his
new partner. For that matter he disliked everybody this morning.

Below him lay the level tundra, merging indistinguishably with the
white anchor-ice of Behring Sea; beyond that a long black streak of
open water, underscoring the sky as if to emphasize the significance
of that empty horizon, a horizon which for many months would remain
unsmudged by smoke. To Folsom it seemed that the distant stretch of
dark water was like a prison wall, barring the outside world from him
and the other fools who had elected to stay "inside."

Fools? Yes; they were all fools!

Folsom was a "sour-dough." He had seen the pranks that Alaskan winters
play with men and women, he had watched the alteration in minds and
morals made by the Arctic isolation, and he had considered himself
proof against the malice that rides the north wind--the mischief that
comes with the winter nights. He had dared to put faith in his perfect
happiness, thinking himself different from other men and Lois superior
to other wives, wherefore he now called himself a fool!

Sprawled beside the shore, five miles away, was Nome, its ugliness of
corrugated iron, rough boards, and tar paper somewhat softened by the
distance. From the jumble of roofs he picked out one and centered his
attention upon it. It was his roof--or had been. He wondered, with a
sudden flare of wrathful indignation, if Lois would remember that fact
during his absence. But he banished this evil thought. Lois had pride,
there was nothing common about her; he could not believe that she
would affront the proprieties. It was to spare that very pride of
hers, even more than his own, that he had undertaken this adventure to
the Kobuk; and now, as he looked back upon Nome, he told himself that
he was acting handsomely in totally eliminating himself, thus allowing
her time and freedom in which to learn her heart. He hoped that before
his return she would have chosen between him and the other man.

It was too cold to remain idle long. Folsom's damp body began
to chill, so he spoke to his team and once more heaved upon the
handle-bars.

Leaving the crest of the ridge behind, the dogs began to run; they
soon brought up in a tangle at the road-house door. When Harkness
did not appear in answer to his name Folsom entered, to find his
trail-mate at the bar, glass in hand.

"Put that down!" Folsom ordered, sharply.

Harkness did precisely that, then he turned, wiping his lips with
the back of his hand. He was a small, fox-faced man; with a grin he
invited the new-comer to "have one."

"Don't you know better than to drink on a day like this?" the latter
demanded.

"Don't worry about me. I was raised on 'hootch,'" said Harkness.

"It's bad medicine."

"Bah! I'll travel further drunk than--" Harkness measured his critic
with an insolent eye--"than some folks sober." He commenced to warm
himself at the stove, whereupon the other cried, impatiently:

"Come along. We can't stop at every cabin."

But Harkness was in no hurry, he consumed considerable time. When
he finally followed Folsom out into the air the latter, being in a
peculiarly irritable mood, warned him in a voice which shook with
anger:

"We're going to start with an understanding. If you take another drink
during the daytime I'll leave you flat."

"Rats! How you aim to get to the Kobuk without me?" asked Harkness.

"I'll manage somehow."

The smaller man shot a startled glance at the speaker, then his
insolence vanished. "All right, old top," he said, easily. "But don't
cut off your nose to spite your face. Remember, I promised if you'd
stick to me you'd wear gold-beaded moccasins." He set off at a trot,
with the dogs following.

This fellow Harkness had come with the first snow into Nome, bearing
news of a strike on the Kobuk, and despite his braggadocio he had made
rather a good impression. That luck which favors fools and fakers had
guided him straight to Folsom. He had appeared at a psychological
moment in the latter's affairs, two disastrous seasons having almost
broken Folsom and rendered him eager to grasp at anything which
promised quick returns; moreover, the latter had just had a serious
quarrel with his wife. Harkness had offered a half interest in his
Kobuk claims for a grubstake and a working partner, and, smarting
under the unaccustomed sting of domestic infelicity, the other had
accepted, feeling sure in his own mind that Lois would not let him
leave her when the time came to go. But the time had come, and Lois
had offered no objection. She had acted strangely, to be sure, but she
had made no effort to dissuade him. It seemed as if the proposal to
separate for the winter had offended rather than frightened her. Well,
that was the way with women; there was no pleasing them; when you
tried to do the decent thing by them they pretended to misunderstand
your motives. If you paid them the compliment of utter confidence they
abused it on the pretext that you didn't love them; if you allowed
your jealousy to show, they were offended at your lack of trust.

So ran the husband's thoughts. He hoped that six months of widowhood
would teach Lois her own mind, but it hurt to hit the trail with
nothing more stimulating than a listless kiss and a chill request to
write when convenient. Now that he was on his way he began to think of
the pranks played by malicious nature during the long, dark nights,
and to wonder if he had acted wisely in teaming up with this footless
adventurer. He remembered the malice that rides the winter winds, the
mischief that comes to Arctic widows, and he grew apprehensive.

The travelers put up that night at the Tin Road-house, a comfortless
shack sheathed with flattened kerosene cans, and Folsom's irritation
at his new partner increased, for Harkness was loud, boastful, and
blatantly egotistical, with the egotism that accompanies dense
ignorance.

The weather held cold, the snow remained as dry as sand, so they made
slow progress, and the husband had ample time to meditate upon his
wrongs, but the more he considered them the less acutely they smarted
him and the gentler became his thoughts of Lois. The solitudes were
healing his hurt, the open air was cooling his anger.

At Kougarok City, a miserable huddle of cottonwood cabins, Harkness
escaped his partner's watchful eye and got drunk. Folsom found the
fellow clinging to the bar and entertaining a crowd of loafers with
his absurd boastings. In a white fury he seized the wretch, dragged
him from the room, and flung him into his bunk, then stood guard over
him most of the night.

It was during the quieter hours when the place rumbled to snores that
Folsom yielded to his desire to write his wife, a desire which had
been growing steadily. He was disgusted with Harkness, disappointed
with the whole Kobuk enterprise, and in a peculiarly softened mood,
therefore, he wrote with no attempt to conceal his yearning, homesick
tenderness.

But when he read the letter in the morning it struck him as weak and
sentimental, just the sort of letter he would regret having written if
it should transpire that Lois did not altogether share his feelings.
So he tore it up.

Those were the days of faint trails and poor accommodations; as yet
the road to the Arctic was little traveled and imperfectly known, so
Harkness acted as guide. He had bragged that he knew every inch of the
country, but he soon proved that his ideas of distance were vague and
faulty--a serious shortcoming in a land with no food, no shelter, and
no firewood except green willows in the gulch-bottoms. Folsom began to
fear that the fellow's sense of direction was equally bad, and taxed
him with it, but Harkness scoffed at the idea.

Leaving the last road-house behind them, they came into a hilly
section of great white domes, high hog-backs, and ramifying creeks,
each one exactly like its neighbor; two days' travel through this,
according to Harkness, should have brought them to the Imnachuck,
where there was food and shelter again. But when they pitched camp for
the second night Folsom felt compelled to remind his partner that they
were behind their schedule, and that this was the last of their grub.

"Are you sure you're going right?" he inquired.

"Sure? Of course I'm sure. D'you think I'm lost?"

Folsom fed some twisted willow-tops into the sheet-iron stove. "I
wouldn't recommend you as a pathfinder," said he. "You said we'd sleep
out one night. This is two, and to-morrow we'll walk hungry."

"Well, don't blame me!" challenged the other. "I'm going slow on your
account."

Now nothing could have galled Folsom more than a reflection upon
his ability to travel. His lips whitened, he was upon the point of
speaking his mind, but managed to check himself in time. Harkness's
personality rasped him to the raw, and he had for days struggled
against an utterly absurd but insistent desire to seize the little
coxcomb by the throat and squeeze the arrogance out of him as juice is
squeezed out of a lemon. There is flesh for which one's fingers itch.

"I notice you're ready to camp when I am," the larger man muttered.
"Understand, this is no nice place to be without grub, for it's liable
to storm any hour, and storms last at this season."

"Now don't get cold feet." Harkness could be maddeningly patronizing
when he chose. "Leave it to me. I'll take you a short cut, and we'll
eat lunch in a cabin to-morrow noon."

But noon of the next day found Harkness still plodding up the river
with the dogs close at his heels. The hills to the northward were
growing higher, and Folsom's general knowledge of direction told him
that they were in danger of going too far.

"I think the Imnachuck is over there," said he.

Harkness hesitated, then he nodded: "Right-o! It's just over that
low saddle." He indicated a sweeping hillside ahead, and a half-mile
further on he left the creek and began to climb. This was heavy work
for the dogs, and mid-afternoon came before the partners had gained
the summit only to discover that they were not upon a saddleback
after all, but upon the edge of a vast rolling tableland from which a
fanlike system of creeks radiated. In all directions was a desolate
waste of barren peaks.

Folsom saw that the sky ahead was thick and dark, as if a storm
impended, and realizing only too well the results of the slightest
error in judgment he called to Harkness. But the latter pretended
not to hear, and took advantage of the dogs' fatigue to hurry out of
earshot. It was some time before the team overhauled him.

"Do you know where you are?" Folsom inquired.

"Certainly." Harkness studied the panorama spread before him. "That
blue gulch yonder is the Imnachuck." He pointed to a valley perhaps
four miles away.

A fine snow began to sift downward. The mountain peaks to the
northward became obscured as by thin smoke, the afternoon shortened
with alarming swiftness. Night, up here with a blizzard brewing, was
unthinkable, so after a while the driver called another halt.

"Something informs me that you're completely lost," he said, mildly.

"Who, me? There she is." Harkness flung out a directing hand once
more.

Folsom hesitated, battling with his leaping desires, and upon that
momentary hesitation hinged results out of all proportions to the
gravity of the situation--issues destined to change the deepest
channels of his life. Folsom hesitated, then he yielded to his
impulse, and the luxury of yielding made him drunk. He walked around
the sled, removing his mittens with his teeth as he went. Without a
word he seized his companion by the throat and throttled him until his
eyes protruded and his face grew black and bloated. He relaxed his
stiff fingers finally, then he shook the fellow back to consciousness.

"Just as I thought," he cried, harshly. "That's not the gulch you
pointed out before. You're lost and you won't admit it."

Harkness pawed the air and fought for his breath. There was abject
terror in his eyes. He reeled away, but saw there was no safety in
flight.

"Own up!" Folsom commanded.

"You--said this was the way," the pathfinder whimpered. "You made
me--turn off--" Folsom uttered a growl and advanced a step, whereupon
his victim gurgled: "D-don't touch me! That's the Imnachuck, so help
me God! I'm--I'm almost sure it is."

"_Almost_!" The speaker stooped for his mittens and shook the snow out
of them; he was still struggling to control himself. "Look here, Mr.
Know-It-All, I've never been here before, and you have; somewhere in
your thick skull there must be some faint remembrance of the country.
You got us into this fix, and I'm going to give you one more chance
to get us out of it. Don't try to think with your head, let your feet
think for you, and maybe they'll carry you to the right gulch. If they
don't--" Folsom scanned the brooding heavens and his lips compressed.
"We're in for a storm and--we'll never weather it. Take one look while
there's light to see by, then turn your feet loose and pray that they
lead you right, for if they don't, by God, I'll cut you loose!"

It soon proved that memory lay neither in Harkness's head nor in his
feet; when he had veered aimlessly about for half an hour, evidently
fearing to commit himself to a definite course, and when the wind came
whooping down, rolling a twilight smother ahead of it, Folsom turned
his dogs into the nearest depression and urged them to a run. The
grade increased, soon brittle willow-tops brushed against the speeding
sled: this brush grew higher as the two men, blinded now by the gale,
stumbled onward behind the team. They emerged from the gulch into a
wider valley, after a while, and a mile further on the dogs burst
through a grove of cottonwoods and fetched up before a lighted cabin
window.

Harkness pulled back his parka hood and cried, boastfully: "What did I
tell you? I knew where I was all the time." Then he went in, leaving
his partner to unhitch the team and care for it.

Friendships ripen and enmities deepen quickly on the trail, seeds of
discord sprout and flourish in the cold. Folsom's burst of temper had
served to inflame a mutual dislike, and as he and Harkness journeyed
northward that dislike deepened into something akin to hatred, for the
men shared the same bed, drank from the same pot, endured the same
exasperations. Nothing except their hope of mutual profit held
them together. In our careless search for cause and effect we are
accustomed to attribute important issues to important happenings,
amazing consequences to amazing deeds; as a matter of fact it is the
trivial action, the little thing, the thing unnoticed and forgotten
which bends our pathways and makes or breaks us.

Harkness was a hare-brained, irresponsible person, incapable of
steadiness in thought or action, too weak to cherish actual hatred,
too changeable to nurse a lasting grudge. It is with such frail
instruments that prankish fate delights to work, and, although he
never suspected it, the luxury of yielding to that sudden gust of
passion cost Folsom dear.

Arrived finally at the Kobuk the miner examined the properties covered
by his option, and impressed by the optimism of the men who had made
the gold discovery he paid Harkness the price agreed upon. The deal
completed, he sent the fellow back to Candle Creek, the nearest
post, for supplies. Folsom's mood had altogether changed by now, so,
strangling his last doubt of Lois, he wrote her as he had written at
Kougarok City, and intrusted the letter to his associate.

Harkness, promptly upon his arrival at Candle, got drunk. He stayed
drunk for three days, and it was not until he was well started on his
way back to the Kobuk that he discovered Folsom's letter still in his
pocket.

Now, to repeat, the man was not malicious, neither was he bad, but as
he debated whether he should back-track there came to him the memory
of his humiliation on the Imnachuck divide.

So! His brains were in his feet, eh? Folsom had strangled him until he
kicked, when, all the time, they had been on the right trail. Harkness
felt a flash of rage, like the flare of loose gunpowder, and in the
heat of it he tore the letter to atoms. It was a womanish, spiteful
thing to do, and he regretted it, but later when he greeted the
husband he lied circumstantially and declared he had given the missive
into the hands of the mail-carrier on the very hour of his departure.
By this time, doubtless, it was nearly to Nome. Soon thereafter
Harkness forgot all about the incident.

Folsom was a fast worker. He hired men and cross-cut the most
promising claim. Bed-rock was shallow, and he soon proved it to be
barren, so he went on to the next property. When he had prospected
this claim with no better results than before he wrote his wife
confessing doubts of the district and voicing the fear that his
winter's work would be wasted. Again he let his pen run as it would;
the letter he gave to a neighbor who was leaving for Candle Creek in
the morning.

Folsom's neighbor was a famous "musher," a seasoned, self-reliant man,
thoroughly accustomed to all the hazards of winter travel, but ten
miles from his destination he crossed an inch-deep overflow which
rendered the soles of his muk-luks slippery, and ten yards further on,
where the wind had laid the glare-ice bare, he lost his footing. He
fell and wrenched his ankle and came hobbling into Candle half an hour
after the monthly mail for Nome had left.

Three weeks later Folsom wrote his wife for the third time, and again
a month after that. All three letters joined company in Candle Creek;
for meanwhile the mail-man's lead dog had been killed in a fight with
a big malamute at Lane's Landing, causing its owner to miss a trip.
Now dog-fights are common; by no logic could one attribute weighty
results to the loss of a sixty-pound leader, but in this instance it
so happened that the mail-carrier's schedule suffered so that his
contract was canceled.

Meanwhile a lonely woman waited anxiously in Nome, and as the result
of a stranger's spite, a wet muk-luk, and a vicious malamute her
anxiety turned to bitterness and distrust.

It is never difficult to forward mail in the north, for every "musher"
is a postman. When news came to Candle Creek that the Government
service had been discontinued the storekeeper, one end of whose bar
served as post-office, sacked his accumulated letters and intrusted
them to some friends who were traveling southward on the morrow. The
trader was a canny man, but he loved to gamble, so when his friends
offered to bet him that they could lower the record from Candle to
Nome he went out into the night, sniffed the air and studied the
stars, then laid them a hundred dollars that they could not.

Excited to recklessness by this wager the volunteer mail-men cut
down their load. They left their stove and tent and grub-box behind,
planning to make a road-house every night except during the long jump
from the Imnachuck to Crooked River. They argued that it was worth a
hundred dollars to sleep once under the open sky.

The fruits of that sporting enterprise were bitter; the trader won his
bet, but he never cashed it in. Somewhere out on the high barrens a
storm swooped down upon the travelers. To one who has never faced an
Arctic hurricane it seems incredible that strong men have died within
call of cozy cabins or have frozen with the lashings of their sleds
but half untied. Yet it is true. The sudden awful cold, the shouting
wind, the boiling, blinding, suffocating rush of snow; the sweaty
clothes that harden into jointless armor; the stiff mittens and the
clumsy hands inside--these tell a tale to those who know.

The two mail-carriers managed to get into their sleeping-bags, but the
gale, instead of drifting them over with a protective mantle of snow,
scoured the mountain-side bare to the brittle reindeer moss, and they
began to freeze where they lay. Some twenty hours they stood it, then
they rose and plunged ahead of the hurricane like bewildered cattle.
The strongest man gave up first and lay down, babbling of things
to eat. His companion buried him, still alive, and broke down the
surrounding willow-tops for a landmark, then he staggered on. By some
miracle of good luck, or as a result of some unsuspected power of
resistance, he finally came raving into the Crooked River Road-house.
When the wind subsided they hurried him to Nome, but he was
frightfully maimed and as a result of his amputations he lay gabbling
until long after the spring break-up.

Folsom did not write again. In fact, when no word came from Lois, he
bitterly regretted the letters he had written. He heard indirectly
from her; new-comers from Nome told him that she was well, but that
was all. It was enough. He did not wish to learn more.

Spring found him with barely enough money to pay his way back. He was
blue, bitter, disheartened, but despite the certainty that his
wife had forsaken him he still cherished a flickering hope of a
reconciliation. Strangely enough he considered no scheme of vengeance
upon the other man, for he was sane and healthy, and he loved Lois too
well to spoil her attempt at happiness.

It so happened that the Arctic ice opened up later this spring than
for many seasons; therefore the short summer was well under way before
the first steam-schooner anchored off the Kobuk. Folsom turned his
back upon the wreck of his high hopes, his mind solely engaged with
the problem of how to meet Lois and ascertain the truth without undue
embarrassment to her and humiliation to himself. The prospect of
seeing her, of touching her, of hearing her voice, affected him
painfully. He could neither eat nor sleep on the way to Nome, but
paced the deck in restless indecision. He had come to consider himself
wholly to blame for their misunderstanding, and he wished only for a
chance to win back her love, with no questions asked and no favors
granted.

When there were less than fifty miles to go the steamer broke her
shaft. There was no particular reason why that shaft should break,
but break it did, and for eighteen hours--eighteen eternities to
Folsom--the ship lay crippled while its engine-room crew labored
manfully.

Folsom had been so long in the solitudes that Nome looked like a
big city when he finally saw it. There were several ships in the
roadstead, and one of them was just leaving as the Kobuk boat came to
anchor. She made a splendid sight as she gathered way.

The returning miner went ashore in the first dory and as he stepped
out upon the sand a friend greeted him:

"Hello there, old settler! Where you been all winter?"

"I've been to the Kobuk," Folsom told him.

"Kobuk? I hear she's a bum."

"'Bum' is right. Maybe she'll do to dredge some day."

"Too bad you missed the _Oregon_; there she goes now." The man pointed
seaward.

"Too bad?"

"Sure! Don't you know? Why, Miz Folsom went out on her!"

Folsom halted; after a momentary pause he repeated, vaguely, "Went
out?"

"Exactly. Didn't you know she was going?"

"Oh yes--of course! The _Oregon_!" Folsom stared at the fading plume
of black smoke; there was a curious brightness in his eyes, his face
was white beneath its tan. "She sailed on the _Oregon_ and I missed
her, by an hour! That broken shaft--" He began to laugh, and turning
his back upon the sea he plodded heavily through the sand toward the
main street.

Folsom found no word from his wife, his house was empty; but he
learned that "the man" had also gone to the States, and he drew his
own conclusions. Since Lois had ordered her life as she saw fit there
was nothing to do but wait and endure--doubtless the divorce would
come in time. Nevertheless, he could not think of that broken shaft
without raving.

Being penniless he looked for work, and his first job came from a
small Jewish merchant, named Guth, who offered him a hundred dollars
to do the assessment work on a tundra claim. For twenty days Folsom
picked holes through frozen muck, wondering why a thrifty person like
Guth would pay good money to hold such unpromising property as this.

The claim was in sight of Nome, and as Folsom finished his last day's
labor he heard bells ringing and whistles blowing and discovered that
the town was ablaze. He hurried in to find that an entire block in
the business center of the city had been destroyed and with it Guth's
little store, including all its contents. He found the Jew in tears.

"What a misfortune!" wailed the merchant. "Ruined, absolutely--and by
a match! It started in my store--my little girl, you understand?
And now, all gone!" He tore his beard and the tears rolled down his
cheeks.

The little man's grief was affecting, and so Folsom inquired more
gently than he intended, "I'm sorry, of course, but how about my money
for the Lulu assessment?"

"Money? There's your money!" Guth pointed sadly into the smoldering
ruins. "Go find it--you're welcome to anything I have left. Gott! What
a country! How can a man get ahead, with no insurance?"

Folsom laughed mirthlessly. His hard luck was becoming amusing and
he wondered how long it would last. He had counted on that hundred
dollars to get away from Nome, hoping to shake misfortune from his
heels, but a match in the hands of a child, like that broken propeller
shaft, had worked havoc with his plans. Well, it was useless to cry.

To the despairing Hebrew he said: "Don't lose your grip, old man. Buck
up and take another start. You have your wife and your little girl, at
least, and you're the sort who makes good."

"You think so?" Guth looked up, grateful for the first word of
encouragement he had heard.

"It's a cinch! Only don't lose your courage."

"I--I'll do what's right by you, Mr. Folsom," declared the other.
"I'll deed you a half interest in the Lulu."

But Folsom shook his head. "I don't want it. There's nothing there
except moss and muck and salmon berries, and it's a mile to bed-rock.
No, you're welcome to my share; maybe you can sell the claim for
enough to make a new start or to buy grub for the wife and the kid.
I'll look for another job."

For a month or more the lonesome husband "stevedored," wrestling
freight on the lighters, then he disappeared. He left secretly, in the
night, for by now he had grown fanciful and he dared to hope that he
could dodge his Nemesis. He turned up in Fairbanks, a thousand miles
away, and straightway lost himself in the hills.

He had not covered his tracks, however, for bad luck followed him.

Now no man starves in Alaska, for there is always work for the
able-bodied; but whatever Folsom turned his hand to failed, and by and
by his courage went. He had been a man of consequence in Nome; he
had made money and he had handled other men, therefore his sense of
failure was the bitterer.

Meanwhile, somewhere in him there remained the ghost of his faith
in Lois, the faintly flickering hope that some day they would come
together again. It lay dormant in him, like an irreligious man's
unacknowledged faith in God and a hereafter, but it, too, vanished
when he read in a Seattle newspaper, already three months old, the
announcement of his wife's divorce. He flinched when he read that it
had been won on the grounds of desertion, and thereafter he shunned
newspapers.

Spring found him broke, as usual. He had become bad company and men
avoided him. It amused him grimly to learn that a new strike had been
made in Nome, the biggest discovery in the camp's history, and to
realize that he had fled just in time to miss the opportunity of
profiting by it. He heard talk of a prehistoric sea-beach line, a
streak of golden sands which paralleled the shore and lay hidden below
the tundra mud. News came of overnight fortunes, of friends grown
prosperous and mighty. Embittered anew, Folsom turned again to the
wilderness, and he did not reappear until the summer was over. He came
to town resolved to stay only long enough to buy bacon and beans, but
he had lost his pocket calendar and arrived on a Sunday, when the
stores were closed.

Even so little a thing as the loss of that calendar loomed big in the
light of later events, for in walking the streets he encountered a
friend but just arrived from the Behring coast.

The man recognized him, despite his beard and his threadbare mackinaws
and they had a drink together.

"I s'pose you heard about that Third Beach Line?" the new-comer
inquired. Folsom nodded. "Well, they've opened it up for miles, and
it's just a boulevard of solid gold. 'Cap' Carter's into it big, and
so are the O'Brien boys and Old Man Hendricks. They're lousy with
pay."

"I did the work on a tundra claim," said Folsom; "the Lulu--"

"The _Lulu_!" Folsom's friend stared at him. "Haven't you heard about
the Lulu? My God! Where you been, anyhow? Why, the Lulu's a mint! Guth
is a millionaire and he made it all without turning a finger."

Folsom's grip on the bar-rail tightened until his knuckles were white.

"I'm telling you right, old man; he's the luckiest Jew in the country.
He let a lay to McCarthy and Olson, and they took out six hundred
thousand dollars, after Christmas."

"Guth offered me a--half interest in the Lulu when his store burned
and--I turned it down. He's never paid me for that assessment work."

The Nomeite was speechless with amazement. "The son-of-a-gun!" he
said, finally. "Well, you can collect now. Say! That's what he meant
when he told me he wanted to see you. Guth was down to the boat when I
left, and he says: 'If you see Folsom up river tell him to come back.
I got something for him.' Those were his very words. That little Jew
aims to pay you a rotten hundred so you won't sue him for an interest.
By Gorry, I wouldn't take it! I'd go back and make him do the right
thing. I'd sue him. I'd bust him in the nose! A half interest--in the
Lulu! My God!" The speaker gulped his drink hastily.

After consideration, Folsom said: "He'll do the right thing. Guth
isn't a bad sort."

"No. But he's a Jew; trust him to get his."

"I wouldn't ask him to do more than pay his debt. You see I refused
his offer."

"What of that? I'd give it a try, anyhow, and see if he wouldn't
settle. There's lots of lawyers would take your case. But say, that's
the toughest tough-luck story I ever heard. You've sure got a jinx on
you."

"I'm going back, but I won't sue Guth. I'm sick of Alaska; it has
licked me. I'm going out to God's country."

Folsom indeed acknowledged himself beaten. The narrow margin by which
he had missed reward for his work and his hardships bred in him such
hatred for Alaska that he abruptly changed his plans. He had no heart,
perversity had killed his courage. It exasperated him beyond all
measure to recall what little things his luck had hinged upon, what
straws had turned his feet. A moment of pique with Lois, a broken
piece of steel, a match, a momentary whim when Guth offered him
payment. It was well that he did not know what part had been played by
his quarrel with Harkness, that wet muk-luk, that vicious lead dog,
and the storekeeper's wager.

Folsom carried cord-wood to pay for a deck passage down river. He
discovered en route that Guth had really tried to get in touch with
him, and in fact appeared greatly concerned over his failure to do so,
for at Tanana he received another message, and again at St. Michaels.
He was grimly amused at the little Jew's craftiness, yet it sorely
offended him to think that any one should consider him such a welcher.
He had no intention of causing trouble, for he knew he had no legal
claim against the fellow, and he doubted if he possessed even a moral
right to share in the Lulu's riches. To play upon the Hebrew's fears,
therefore, savored of extortion. Nevertheless, he was in no agreeable
frame of mind when he arrived at his destination and inquired for
Guth.

The new-made millionaire was in his office; Folsom walked in
unannounced. He had expected his arrival to create a scene, and he was
not disappointed. But Guth's actions were strange, they left the new
arrival dazed, for the little man fell upon him with what appeared to
be exuberant manifestations of joy.

"Mr. Folsom!" he cried. "You have come! You got my letters, eh? Well,
I wrote you everywhere, but I was in despair, for I thought you must
be dead. Nobody knew what had become of you."

"I got your message in Fairbanks."

"You heard about the Lulu, eh? Gott! She's a dandy."

"Yes. I can hardly believe it. So, you're rich. Well, I congratulate
you, and now I can use that hundred."

Guth chuckled. "Ha! You will have your joke, eh? But the Lulu is no
joke. Come, we will go to the bank; I want them to tell you how much
she has yielded. You'll blame me for leasing her, but how was I to
know what she was?"

"I--Why should I blame--" Folsom stared at the speaker. "It's none of
my business what the Lulu has yielded. In fact, I'll sleep better if I
don't know."

Little Guth paused and his mouth opened. After a moment he inquired,
curiously: "Don't you understand?" There was another pause, then he
said, quietly, "I'm a man of my word."

Folsom suddenly saw black, the room began to spin, he passed his hand
across his eyes. "Wait! Let's get this straight," he whispered.

"It is all very simple," Guth told him. "We are equal partners in
the Lulu--we have been, ever since the day my store burned. It was a
little thing you said to me then, but the way you said it, the fact
that you didn't blame me, gave me new heart. Did you think I'd renig?"
When Folsom found no answer the other nodded slowly. "I see. You
probably said, 'That Guth is a Jew and he'll do me up if he can.'
Well, I am a Jew, yes, and I am proud of it; but I am an honest man,
too, like you."

Folsom turned to the wall and hid his face in the crook of his arm,
but with his other hand he groped for that of the Hebrew.

The story of the Lulu is history now; in all the north that mine is
famous, for it made half a dozen fortunes. In a daze, half doubting
the reality of things, Folsom watched a golden stream pour into his
lap. All that winter and the next summer the Lulu yielded wondrously,
but one of the partners was not happy, his thoughts being ever of the
woman who had left him. Prosperity gave him courage, however, and when
he discovered that Lois had not remarried he determined to press his
luck as a gambler should.

When the second season's sluicing was over and the ground had frozen
he went outside.

The day after he sailed Lois arrived in Nome, on the last boat. She
was older, graver; she had heard of the Lulu, but it was not that
which had brought her back. She had returned in spite of the Lulu to
solve an aching mystery and to learn the why of things. Her husband's
riches--she still considered him her husband--merely made the task
more trying.

Advised that Folsom had passed almost within hailing distance of her,
she pressed her lips together and took up her problem of living. The
prospect of another lonely Alaskan winter frightened her, and yet
because of the Lulu she could not return by the ship she had come on.
Now that Folsom was a Croesus she could not follow him too closely--he
might misunderstand. After all, she reflected, it mattered little to
her where she lived.

Guth called at her cabin, but she managed to avoid seeing him, and
somehow continued to avoid a meeting.

Late in December some travelers from Candle Creek, while breaking a
short cut to the head of Crooked River, came upon an abandoned sled
and its impedimenta. Snow and rain and summer sun had bleached its
wood, its runners were red streaks of rust, its rawhide lashings had
been eaten off, but snugly rolled inside the tarpaulin was a sack
of mail. This mail the travelers brought in with them, and the Nome
newspapers, in commenting upon the find, reprinted the story of that
tragic fight for life in the Arctic hurricane, now almost forgotten.

Folsom's three letters reached their destination on Christmas Day.
They were stained and yellow and blurred in places, for they were
three years old, but the woman read them with eyes wide and wondering,
and with heart-beats pounding, for it seemed that dead lips spoke to
her. Ten minutes later she was standing at Guth's door, and when he
let her in she behaved like one demented. She had the letters hidden
in her bosom, and she would not let him see them, but she managed to
make known the meaning of her coming.

"You know him," she cried, hysterically. "You made him rich. You've
lived alongside of him. Tell me then, has he--has he--changed? These
letters are old. Does he still care, or--does he hate me, as he
should?"

Guth smiled; he took her shaking hands in his, his voice was gentle.
"No, no! He doesn't hate you. He has never mentioned your name to me,
or to any one else, so far as I know, but his money hasn't satisfied
him. He is sad, and he wants you. That is what took him to the States,
I'm sure."

Lois sank into a chair, her face was white, her twisting fingers
strained at each other. "I can't understand. I can't make head or tail
of it," she moaned. "It seems that I wronged him, but see what ruin he
has made for me! Why? Why--?"

"Who can understand the 'why' of anything?" inquired the little
Hebrew. "I've heard him curse the perversity of little things, and
rave at what he called the 'malice of the north wind.' I didn't dare
to ask him what he meant, but I knew he was thinking of the evil which
had come between you two. Who was to blame, or what separated you, he
never told me. Well, his bad luck has changed, and yours, too; and I'm
happy. Now then, the wireless. You can talk to him. Let us go."

An hour later a crackling message was hurled into the empty Christmas
sky, a message that pulsed through the voids, was relayed over ice and
brine and drifted forests to a lonely, brooding man three thousand
miles away.

The answer came rushing back:

"Thank God! Am starting north tomorrow. Love and a million kisses.
Wait for me."

Folsom came. Neither ice nor snow, neither winter seas nor trackless
wastes, could daunt him, for youth was in his heart and fire ran
through his veins. North and west he came by a rimy little steamer, as
fast as coal could drive her, then overland more than fifteen hundred
miles. His record stands unbroken, and in villages from Katmai to the
Kuskokwim the Indians tell of the tall white man with the team of
fifteen huskies who raced through as if a demon were at his heels; how
he bored headlong into the blizzards and braved January's fiercest
rage; how his guides dropped and his dogs died in their collars. That
was how Folsom came.

He was thin and brown, the marks of the frost were bitten deep into
his flesh when, one evening in early March, he drove into Nome. He
had covered sixty miles on the last day's run, and his team was
staggering. He left the dogs in their harnesses, where they fell, and
bounded through the high-banked streets to Lois's cabin.

It was growing dark, a light gleamed from her window; Folsom glimpsed
her moving about inside. He paused to rip the ice from his bearded
lips, then he knocked softly, three times.

As he stood there a gentle north wind fanned him. It was deadly cold,
but it was fresh and clean and vastly invigorating. There was no
malice in it.

At his familiar signal he heard the clatter of a dish, dropped from
nerveless fingers, he heard a startled voice cry out his name, then he
pressed the latch and entered, smiling.



HIS STOCK IN TRADE


"The science of salesmanship is quite as exact as the science of
astronomy," said Mr. Gross, casting his eyes down the table to see
that he had the attention of the other boarders, "and much more
intricate. The successful salesman is as much an artist in his line as
the man who paints pictures or writes books."

"Oh, there's nothing so artistic as writing books," protested Miss
Harris, the manicurist. "Nothing except acting, perhaps. Actors are
artistic, too. But salesmen! I meet lots in my business, and I'm not
strong for them."

Mr. Gross smiled at her indulgently; it was an expression that became
him well, and he had rehearsed it often.

"The power to sell goods is a talent, my dear Miss Harris, just like
the power to invent machinery or to rule a city, or--or--to keep a set
of books. Don't you agree with me, Mrs. Green?"

Mrs. Green, the landlady, a brown, gray woman in black, smiled
frigidly. "You're _so_ original, Mr. Gross," said she, "it's a
pleasure to hear you, I'm sure."

Gross was an impressive talker, due to the fact that he plagiarized
office platitudes; he ran on pompously, dropping trade mottoes and
shop-worn bits of philosophy until young Mitchell, unable longer to
endure the light of admiration he saw in Miss Harris's eyes, rolled
up his napkin to the size of a croquette and interrupted by noisily
shoving back his chair and muttering under his breath:

"That stuff comes on printed cards. They give it away."

Mrs. Green called to him, "It's bread pudding, Mr. Mitchell, and very
nice."

"Thanks! My gout is bad again," he said, at which some of the more
frivolous-minded boarders snickered.

"Mitchell is a bright boy--in many ways," Gross remarked, a moment
later, "but he's too fresh. I don't think he'll last long at the
office."

Instead of climbing to his hall kennel on the fourth floor rear, Louis
Mitchell went out upon the rusty little porch of the boarding-house
and sat down on the topmost step, reflecting gloomily that a clerk has
small chance against a head bookkeeper.

Life at Mrs. Green's pension--she called it that, rates six dollars
up, terms six dollars down--had not been the same for the youthful
hermit of the hall bedroom since Gross had met him and Miss Harris in
the park a few Sundays before and, falling under the witchery of the
manicurist's violet eyes, had changed his residence to coincide with
theirs. Gross now occupied one of the front rooms, and a corresponding
place in the esteem of those less fortunate boarders to whom the mere
contemplation of ten dollars a week was an extravagance. Mitchell had
long adored the blonde manicurist, but once the same roof sheltered
her and the magnificent head bookkeeper, he saw his dream of love and
two furnished rooms with kitchenette go glimmering.

Time was when Miss Harris had been content with Sundays in the park,
vaudeville--first balcony--on Wednesdays, and a moving picture now and
then. These lavish attentions, coupled with an occasional assault upon
some delicatessen establishment, had satisfied her cravings for the
higher life. Now that Gross had appeared and sown discord with his
prodigality she no longer cared for animals and band concerts, she had
acquired the orchestra-seat habit, had learned to dance, and, above
all, she now possessed a subtle refinement in regard to victuals. She
criticized Marlowe's acting, and complained that cold food gave her
indigestion. No longer did she sit the summer evenings out with
Mitchell, holding his hand in her lap and absent-mindedly buffing his
nails, warning him in sweet familiarity that his cuticle was "growing
down." In consequence of her defection, fierce resentment smoldered in
the young man's breast. He was jealous; he longed to out-squander
the extravagant Mr. Gross; he lusted to spend money in unstinted
quantities, five dollars an evening if or when necessary.

But there seemed little hope of his ever attaining such a purse-proud
position, for while he loomed fairly large in the boarding-house
atmosphere of Ohio Street--or had so loomed until the advent of the
reckless bookkeeper--he was so small a part of the office force of
Comer & Mathison, jobbers of railway supplies, as to resemble nothing
multiplied by itself. He received twelve dollars a week, to be sure,
for making telephone quotations and extending invoices between times;
but when, as the evening shadows of pay-day descended and he drew his
envelope, the procedure reminded him vaguely of blackmail, for any
office-boy who did not stutter could have held his job.

When at seven forty-five Miss Harris appeared upon the porch with her
hat and gloves and two-dollar-ticket air, and tripped gaily away in
company with Mr. Gross, young Mitchell realized bitterly that the cost
of living had increased and that it was up to him to raise his salary
or lose his lady.

He recalled Gross's words at supper-time, and wondered if there really
could be a science to business; if there could be anything to success
except hard work. Mr. Comer, in his weekly talks to the office
force, had repeatedly said so--whence the origin of the bookkeeper's
warmed-over wisdom--but Mitchell's duties were so simple and so
constricted as to allow no opening for science, or so, at least, it
seemed to him. How could he be scientific, how could he find play for
genius when he sat at the end of a telephone wire and answered routine
questions from a card? Every day the General Railway Sales Manager
gave him a price-list of the commodities which C. & M. handled, and
when an inquiry came over the 'phone all he was required, all he
was permitted, to do was to read the figures and to quote time of
delivery. If this resulted in an order the Sales Manager took the
credit. An open quotation, on the other hand, made Mitchell the
subject of brusque criticism for offering a target to competitors, and
when he lost an order he was the goat, not the General Railway Sales
Manager.

No one around the office was too lowly to exact homage from the
quotation clerk, and no one was tongue-tied in the matter of
criticism, hence his position was neither one of dignity nor one
that afforded scope for talent in the money-making line. And yet if
salesmanship really were a science, Mitchell reasoned, there must
be some way in which even a switchboard operator could profit by
acquiring it. What if he were buckled to the end of a wire? Human
nature is the same, face to face or voice to voice; surely then, if
he set his mind to the task, he could make himself more than a mere
string of words over a telephone. Heretofore he had been working
wholly with his fingers, his ear-drums, and his vocal cords; he
determined henceforth to exercise his intelligence, if he had any. It
was indeed high time, for Miss Harris was undoubtedly slipping away,
lured by luxuries no clerk could afford, and, moreover, he, Mitchell,
was growing old; in a scant two years he would be able to vote. He
began forthwith to analyze the situation.

There wasn't much to it. His telephone calls came almost wholly
from the purchasing departments of the various railroads. Daily
requisitions were filled by the stenographers in those railway
offices, young ladies who through their long experience were allowed
to attend to the more unimportant purchases. It was in quoting prices
on these "pick-ups" that Mitchell helloed for eight hours a day.
Of course no large orders ever came over his wire, but this small
business carried an unusual profit for supply houses like Comer &
Mathison, and in consequence it was highly prized.

After a period of intense and painful thought the young man realized,
for the first time, that it was not the telephone itself which asked
for price and time of delivery, but a weak, imaginative human being,
like himself, at the other end of the wire. He reasoned further that
if he could convince that person that the voice from Conner & Mathison
likewise issued from a human throat, then it might be possible to get
away, in a measure at least, from the mechanical part of the business
and establish altogether new relations. If there were really a
science to salesmanship, it would work at long distance as well as at
collar-and-elbow holds, and Mitchell's first task, therefore, should
be to project his own personality into the railroad offices. He went
to bed still trying to figure the matter out.

His opportunity to test his new-born theory came on the following
morning when an irritable female voice over at the Santa Fé asked the
price on twenty kegs of rivets.

"Good morning, Santa Fe-male," he answered, cheerily.

There was a moment of amazed silence, then the young lady snapped:
"'Good morning'? What is this, the Weather Bureau? I want Comer &
Mathison."

"Gee! Can't a fellow display a little courtesy in business?" Mitchell
inquired. "I'd rather be nice to you than not."

"All right, Mr. Comer," the voice replied, sarcastically. "Make a nice
price on those rivets--and cut out the kidding."

"Listen; my name's not Comer; it's Mitchell. I'm not kidding, either.
I want you to ask for me whenever you call up. Every little bit helps,
you know."

"Oh, I see. You want the carriage man to call your number. All right,
Mitch. If you're out at lunch with Mr. Carnegie the next time I want a
dozen number ten sheets I'll have you paged at the Union League Club."

If the speaker liked this kind of blank verse, she had called up the
right supply house, for Mitchell came back with:

"Say, if I ever get _your_ number, I'll do the calling, Miss Santa
Fé."

"_W-what_?" came the startled reply.

"I mean what I say. I'd love to call--"

"Is that so? Well, I do all the calling for our, family, and I'm going
to call you right now. What's the price of those rivets?"

"Two sixty-five."

"Too high! Good-by."

"Wait a minute." Mitchell checked the lady before she could "plug out"
on him. "Now that you've got those rivets out of your system, may I
get personal for an instant?"

"Just about an instant."

"I could listen to _you_ all day."

"Oops, Horace; he loves me!" mocked the lady's voice.

"See here, I'm a regular person--with references. I've been talking to
you every day for six months, so I feel that we're acquainted. Some
pleasant evening, when your crew of hammock gladiators palls on you,
let me come around and show you the difference."

"What difference?"

"I'll show you what a real porch-climber is like."

"Indeed! I'll think it over."

Ten minutes later Miss Santa Fe called up again.

"Hello! I want Mitchell, the junior partner."

"This is Mitchell."

"Did you say those rivets were two-fifty?"

"Should they be?"

"They should."

"They are."

"Ship them to Trinidad."

"That's bully of you, Miss Santa Claus. I want to--" But the wire was
dead.

Mitchell grinned. Personality did count after all, and he had proved
that it could be projected over a copper wire.

An hour later when Miss Northwestern called him for a price on
stay-bolt iron she did not ring off for fifteen minutes, and at the
end of that time she promised to take the first opportunity of having
another chat. In a similar manner, once the ice had been broken at
the C. & E.I., Mitchell learned that the purchasing agent was at West
Baden on his vacation; that he had stomach trouble and was cranky;
that the speaker loved music, particularly Chaminade and George Cohan,
although Beethoven had written some good stuff; that she'd been to
Grand Haven on Sunday with her cousin, who sold hats out of Cleveland
and was a prince with his money, but drank; and that the price on
corrugated iron might be raised ten cents without doing any damage.

On the following afternoon Murphy, the Railroad Sales Manager, stopped
on his way past Mitchell's desk to inquire:

"Say, have you been sending orchids to Miss Dunlap over at the Santa
Fe? I was in there this morning, and she wanted to know all about
you."

"Did you boost me?" Louis inquired. "It won't hurt your sales to plug
my game."

"She said you and she are 'buddies' over the wire. What did she mean?"

"Oh, wire pals, that's all. What kind of a looker is she, Mr. Murphy?"

The Sales Manager shrugged his shoulders. "She looks as if she was
good to her mother." Then he sauntered away.

Mitchell, in the days that followed, proceeded to become acquainted
with the Big Four, and in a short time was so close to the Lackawanna
that he called her Phoebe Snow. The St. Paul asked for him three times
in one afternoon, and the Rock Island, chancing to ring up while he
was busy, threatened to hang crêpe on the round-house if he were not
summoned immediately to enter an order for a manhole crab.

Within a week he became the most thoroughly telephoned person in the
office, and had learned the tastes, the hopes, the aims, and the
ambitions of his respective customers. Miss C. & E.I., for instance,
whose real name was Gratz, was a bug on music; Miss Northwestern was
literary. She had read everything Marion Crawford ever wrote, and
considered her the greatest writer Indiana had produced, but was sorry
to learn from Mitchell that her marriage to Capt. Jack Crawford had
turned out so unhappily--some men were brutes, weren't they? There was
a hidden romance gnawing at the Big Four's heart, and Phoebe Snow
had a picture of James K. Hackett on her desk and wanted to start a
poultry farm. The Santa Fé had been married once, but had taken her
maiden name, it was so much pleasanter in business.

As Mitchell's telephone orders piled up, day after day, Murphy began
to treat him more like an employee than a "hand," and finally offered
him a moderate expense account if he cared to entertain his railroad
trade. When the young man's amazement at this offer had abated
sufficiently for him to accept he sent the office-boy around to the
Santa Fe on the run, instructing him to size up Miss Dunlap and
report. It was the first order he had ever issued in the office, and
the news spread quickly that he had been "raised."

Mr. Gross took occasion to congratulate the despised underling with
pompous insincerity, whereat Louis admonished him scowlingly to beat
it back to his trial balance or he'd bounce a letter-press on his
dome.

When the office-boy reappeared he turned in a laconic report, "She's a
peach!"

Mitchell sweated the lad for further details, then nearly strained a
tendon in getting to the telephone booth.

"Hello, Miss Dunlap," he called. "Are you tied up for to-night?"

"I'm knot. The k is silent."

"Will you go to the theater with me?"

"Nickelodeon?"

"No, Montgomery and Stone."

The lady muttered something unintelligible, then she tittered
nervously. "Those top balconies make me dizzy."

"How about the orchestra--sixth row? Could you keep your head there?"

"You must own a bill-board."

"No, it's a bank-book; same initials, you see. I'm an heiress."

"See here, Mitch"--Miss Dunlap became serious--"you're a good little
copper-wire comedian, but I don't know you nor your people."

"Well, I come from one of the oldest families in Atwood, Michigan, and
that town was settled over thirty years ago."

"But you don't know me," the lady demurred.

"I do, too. You're a tall blonde, gray eyes, blue dress; you have a
dimple--"

"Well, I declare! All right, then; seven-thirty to-night, six hundred
and twelve Filbert Street, fourth apartment, and many thanks."

Fifteen minutes before the appointed time Louis Mitchell was fidgeting
nervously outside the Filbert Street cold-water "walk-up" known as
Geraldine Manor, wondering if Miss Dunlap would notice his clothes.
Twelve dollars a week had starved his wardrobe until it resembled the
back-drop for a "Pity the Blind" card; but promptly on the minute
he punched the button at the fourth apartment. An instant later he
realized that no matter how he looked he had it on Miss Dunlap by
eighty per cent.

She was a blonde, to be sure, for the time being, and by the grace of
H_{2}O_{2}. One glance convinced her caller of two things--_viz_.,
that his office-boy did not care much for peaches, and that the Santa
Fé purchasing agent had a jealous wife. The most that possibly could
be said in praise of Miss Dunlap's appearance was that she was the
largest stenographer in Chicago. Then and there, however, her caller
qualified as a salesman; he smiled and he chatted in a free and easy
way that had the lady roped, thrown, and lashed to his chariot in
three minutes by her alarm-clock.

They went to the theater, and when Montgomery sprang a joke or Stone
did a fall Miss Dunlap showed her appreciation after the fashion of a
laughing hyena. Between times she barked enthusiastically, giving vent
to sounds like those caused when a boy runs past a picket fence with a
stick in his hand. She gushed, but so does Old Faithful. Anyhow, the
audience enjoyed her greatly.

At supper Mitchell secured parking space for his companion at the
Union Café, and there he learned how a welsh rabbit may be humiliated
by a woman. During the _débâcle_ he fingered the money in his pocket,
then shut his eyes and ordered a bottle of champagne, just to see if
it could be done. Contrary to his expectation, the waiter did not
swoon; nor was he arrested. Root-beer had been Mitchell's main
intoxicant heretofore, but as he and the noisy Miss Dunlap sipped the
effervescing wine over their ice-cream, they pledged themselves to
enjoy Monday evenings together, and she told him, frankly:

"Mitch, you're the nickel-plated entertainer, and I'll never miss
another Monday eve unless I'm in the shops or the round-house. You
certainly have got class."

At breakfast Miss Harris regarded Lotus darkly, for Mr. Gross had told
her just enough to excite her curiosity.

"Where were you last night?" she inquired.

"I went to a show."

"Were the pictures good?"

"They don't have pictures at the Grand."

"Oh--h!" The manicurist's violet eyes opened wide. "Louis--you _drank_
something. You're awful pale. What was it?"

"Clicquot! That's my favorite brand."

Miss Harris clutched the table-cloth and pulled a dish into her lap.
After a moment she said: "Maybe you'll take me somewhere to-night. We
haven't been out together for the longest time."

"Oh, I see! This is Gross's night at the Maccabbees', isn't it?" Louis
gloated brutally over her confusion. "Sorry, but I'll probably have to
entertain some more customers. The firm is keeping me busy."

At the office things went most pleasantly for the next few weeks;
sixty per cent. of the city's railroad business came to Comer &
Mathison; the clerks began to treat Mitchell as if he were an equal;
even Gross lost his patronizing air and became openly hateful, while
Murphy--Louis no longer called him Mister--increased his assistant's
expense account and confided some of his family affairs to the latter.
Mr. Comer, the senior partner, began to nod familiarly as he passed
the quotation clerk's desk.

Nor were Louis's customers all so eccentric as Miss Dunlap. Phoebe
Snow, for instance, was very easy to entertain, and the Northwestern
took to his custody like a hungry urchin to a barbecue. He gave them
each one night a week, and in a short time all his evenings were
taken, as a consequence of which he saw less and less of Miss Harris.
But, although he and his manicurist were becoming strangers, he soon
began to call the waiters at Rector's by their given names, and a
number of the more prominent cab-drivers waved at him.

One morning when, for the tenth successive time, he slid into his
desk-chair an hour late, Mr. Comer bowed to him, not only familiarly,
but sarcastically, then invited him to step into his private office
and see if he could locate the center of the carpet. It was a
geometrical task that Louis had been wishing to try for some time.

The senior partner began with elaborate sarcasm. "I notice you're
not getting down until nine o'clock lately, Mr. Mitchell. Is your
automobile out of order?"

"I have no automobile, Mr. Comer," the youth replied, respectfully.

"No? I'm surprised. Well, if eight sharp is too early, you may set
your time."

Mitchell tried his best to appear disconcerted. "You know I'm busy
every evening with my trade," said he.

"Nonsense. I've seen you out with a different dressmaker every night
that I've been down-town."

"Those are not dressmakers, they are stenographers from the railroad
offices. I'm sorry you're not satisfied with me, but I'm glad you
called me in, for I've been meaning to speak to you about this very
thing. You see, I have practically all the railroad business in the
city, and it takes too much of my time keeping it lined up. I have no
leisure of my own. I'll quit Saturday night, if convenient."

Mr. Comer grunted like a man who has stepped off a flight of stairs
one step too soon. "I didn't know it was really business. Of course,
if it is, why, you needn't quit--exactly--"

"I'm afraid I'll have to." Mitchell dropped his eyes demurely. "I've
had a number of offers, and in justice to myself--"

"Offers? _You_? How much?"

"One hundred a month and expenses."

Mr. Comer removed his glasses, he polished them carefully, then he
readjusted them and leaned forward, looking the young man over from
head to foot, as if he had never until this moment seen more than his
vague outlines.

"Um-m! You're nineteen years old, I believe!"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, then, an hour's delay won't be serious. Now you go back to
your desk and send Mr. Murphy here. I'll let you know shortly whether
Saturday night or this noon will be convenient."

It was perhaps a half-hour before lunch-time when Mr. Comer again
called for Mitchell, greeting him with the gruff inquiry:

"See here, do you think I'm going to advance you from twelve to
twenty-five a week at one clip?"

"No, sir."

"Humph! I'm not. I had a talk with Murphy. I think he's a liar, but
I'm going to make it fifteen hundred a year and expenses. Now get busy
and work your 'trade' for all it's worth."

Young Mitchell's knees wabbled, but, having learned the value of a
black mask and a gun, he went through his victim thoroughly while he
had him down.

"I'd like a traveling position the first of the year, sir, if you
don't mind."

"All right! If you hold your present gait I'll give you the Western
roads. Anything else you'd like? Well, then, git!"

That day Louis switched from the narrow-countered bakery-lunch route
to regular standard-gauge restaurants; he ordered clothes like a
bookmaker's bride and he sent a cubic foot of violets to Miss Harris.
At dinner-time he patronized Mr. Gross so tantalizingly that the
latter threatened to pull his nose out until it resembled a yard of
garden hose.

The whole boarding-house was agog at Mitchell's good fortune and
Miss Harris smiled on him in a manner reminiscent of the good old
ante-bookkeeper--one might say "ante-vellum"--days. She hinted that
Mr. Gross's company did not wholly satisfy her soul-hunger, and even
confessed that she was lonely; but this was Mitchell's Rock Island
evening, and although the frank surrender in Miss Harris's eyes caused
him to gasp as if he were slowly settling into a barrel of ice-water,
he tore himself from her side.

Louis's batting average would have reached one thousand had it not
been for the Monon. Miss Day, the young lady there, had a vocabulary
limited to "Hello," "Too high," and "Good-by," and it became
particularly galling to learn that the fellow at James & Naughten's
was pulling down the business, so Mitchell went to Murphy with a
proposition which showed that his mental growth had kept pace with his
financial advancement.

"You need a new stenographer," he declared.

"Oh, do I? Why do I need a new stenographer, Mr. Bones?"

"Well, it would be a good investment, and I know a corker."

"Who is she?"

"Miss Day, of the Monon."

"I didn't know you cared for Miss Day."

"I don't. That's the reason I want her to work for you."

Murphy coughed slightly, then he agreed. "You're learning the game.
We'll give her a three-dollar raise, and take her on."

Shortly thereafter Mitchell began to get acquainted with the new Miss
Monon along the right lines, and gave her Thursday nights. She was a
great improvement over Miss Day; she was, in fact, quite different
from any of the others. She was small and winsome, and she didn't care
to run around. She liked her home, and so did Mitchell after he had
called a few times. Before long he began to look forward eagerly
to Thursday nights and Miss Monon's cozy corner with its red-plush
cushions--reminiscent of chair-cars, to be sure--and its darkness
illumined dimly by red and green signal lamps. Many a pleasant evening
the two spent there, talking of locomotive planished iron, wire
nails, and turnbuckles, and the late lunch Miss Monon served beat the
system's regular buffet service a city block. Of course they lit the
red fire in front of James & Naughten's and turned the green light
Mitchell's way. He had the right of way on the Monon after that, and
other salesmen were side-tracked.

But this was too easy to last. Human affairs never run smoothly; it is
a man's ability to surmount the hummocks and the pressure ridges that
enables him to penetrate to the polar regions of success. The first
inkling of disaster came to Mitchell when Miss Dunlap began to tire
of the gay life and chose to spend her Monday evenings at home, where
they might be alone together. She spoke of the domestic habits she had
acquired during her brief matrimonial experience; she boldly declared
that marriage was the ideal state for any man, and that two could live
as cheaply as one, although personally she saw no reason why a girl
should quit work the instant she became a wife, did he? She confessed
that Monday evenings had become so pleasant that if Louis could
arrange to drop in on Fridays also, the week would be considerably
brightened thereby and her whole disposition improved. Now Fridays
were cinched tightly to the Big Four, but the young man dared not
acknowledge it, so he confessed that all his evenings except Monday
were taken up with night school, whereupon Miss Dunlap, in order
to keep abreast of his mental development, decided to take a
correspondence course in Esperanto.

It transpired also that his attentions toward the Lackawanna had
been misconstrued, for one night when Phoebe bade him adieu in the
vestibule she broke down and wept upon his shoulder, saying that his
coldness hurt her. She confessed that a rate clerk in the freight
department wanted to marry her, and she supposed she'd have to accept
his dastardly proposal because a girl couldn't go on working all
her life, could she? Then Miss Gratz, of the C. & E.I., following a
red-letter night at Grand Opera, succeeded by a German pancake and a
stein at the Edelweiss and a cab-ride home, took Louis gravely to task
for his extravagance and hinted that he ought to have a permanent
manager who took an interest in him, one who loved music as he did and
whose tastes were simple and Teutonic.

When the literary lady of the Northwestern declined a trip to the
White City and began to read Marion Crawford aloud to him Louis awoke
to the gravity of the situation.

But before he had worked the matter out in his own mind that rate
clerk of whom Miss Lackawanna had spoken dropped in at Comer &
Mathison's, introduced himself to Mitchell and told him, with a degree
of firmness which could not be ignored, that his attentions to Miss
Phoebe Snow were distasteful. He did not state to whom. Louis's caller
had the physical proportions of a "white hope," and he wasted few
words. He had come to nail up a vacate notice, and he announced simply
but firmly that Miss Snow's Wednesday evenings were to be considered
open time thereafter, and if Mitchell elected to horn his way in it
was a hundred-to-one shot that he'd have to give up solid foods for a
month or more and take his nourishment through a glass tube.

Nor were the young man's troubles confined to the office. Miss Harris,
it seemed, had seen him with a different lady each night she and Mr.
Gross had been out, and had drawn her own conclusions, so, therefore,
when he tried to talk to her she flared up and called him a dissipated
roué, and threatened to have the head bookkeeper give him a thrashing
if he dared to accost her again.

Now the various apartments where Mitchell had been calling, these past
months, were opulently furnished with gifts from the representatives
of the various railway supply houses of the city, each article being
cunningly designed to cement in the mind of the owner a source of
supply which, coupled with price and delivery, would make for good
sales service. He was greatly surprised one day to receive a brass
library lamp from the Santa Fé the initial destination of which had
evidently been changed. Then came a mission hall-clock in the original
package, redirected in the hand of Miss Gratz, of the C. & E.I., and
one day the office-boy from the Lackawanna brought him a smoking-set
for which Miss Phoebe Snow had no use. Gifts like these piled
up rapidly, many of them bearing witness to the fact that their
consignment originated from Mitchell's very rivals in the railroad
trade. Judging from the quantity of stuff that ricocheted from the
Santa Fé it was Miss Dunlap's evident desire to present him with a
whole housekeeping equipment as quickly as possible. Louis's desk
became loaded with ornaments, his room at Mrs. Green's became filled
with nearly Wedgwood vases, candlesticks, and other bric-à-brac. He
acquired six mission hall-clocks, a row of taborets stood outside of
his door like Turkish sentinels, and his collection of ash-receivers
was the best in Chicago.

Miss Harris continued to ignore him, however, and he learned with a
jealous pang that she was giving Mr. Gross a gratuitous course of
facial massage and scalp treatments. No longer did Mitchell entertain
his trade; they entertained him. They tried to help him save his
money, and every evening he was forced to battle for his freedom.

In desperation he finally went to Murphy begging quick promotion to a
traveling position, but the Sales Manager told him there was no chance
before the first of the year, then asked him why he had lost his grip
on the Lackawanna business.

As a matter of fact, since Miss Phoebe's rate clerk had declared
himself Mitchell had slipped a few Wednesday nights, trusting to
hold the Lackawanna trade by virtue of his past performances, but he
realized in the light of Murphy's catechism that eternal visiting is
the price of safety. He sighed, therefore, and called up the lady,
then apprehensively made a date.

That visit issued in disaster, as he had feared. The rate clerk,
gifted with some subtle second sight, had divined his treachery and
was waiting. He came to meet the caller gladly, like a paladin. Louis
strove to disarm the big brute by the power of the human eye, then
when that did not work he explained, politely, earnestly, that his
weekly calls were but part and parcel of his business, and that there
was nothing in his mind so remote as thoughts of matrimony. But the
rate clerk was a stolid, a suspicious person, and he was gnawed by
a low and common jealousy. Reason failing, they came together,
amalgamating like two drops of quicksilver.

On the following morning Mitchell explained to Mr. Comer that
in stepping out of the bathtub he had slipped and wrenched both
shoulders, then while passing through the dark hall had put his face
into mourning by colliding with an open door. His ankles he had
sprained on the way down-town.

About nine-thirty Miss Dunlap called up, but not to leave an order.
When she had finally rung off Louis looked dazedly at the wire to see
if the insulation had melted. It seemed impossible that rubber and
gutta-percha could withstand such heat as had come sizzling from the
Santa Fé. From what the lady had said it required no great inductive
powers to reason that the rate clerk had told all. Coming victorious
to Miss Lackawanna's door to have his knuckles collodionized he had
made known in coarse, triumphant language the base commercialism of
his rival.

The result had been that Phoebe arose in her wrath. Just to verify the
story she had called up the other railroad offices this morning,
and the hideous truth had come out. It had come out like a herd of
jack-rabbits ahead of a hound. Miss Dunlap was shouting mad, but
Phoebe herself, when she called up, was indignant in a mean, sarcastic
manner that hurt. The Northwestern rang Mitchell to say good-by
forever and to hope his nose was broken; the Big Four promised that
her brother, who was a puddler in the South Chicago steel mills, would
run in and finish the rate clerk's job; Miss Gratz, of the C.&E.I.,
was tearfully plaintive and, being German, spoke of suicide. Of course
all business relations with these offices were at an end.

During that whole day but one 'phone order came, and that was from
Miss Monon. Mitchell had been steeling himself to hear from her, but
it seemed that she took the whole thing as rather a good joke. She
told him she had known all the time why he came to see her, and when
he reminded her that it was Thursday she invited him to call if he
thought it worth while.

When he saw Miss Harris at supper-time and undertook to explain his
black eyes she assured him coldly that he and his ebony gig-lamps
mattered nothing in her young life, as evidence of which she flashed a
magnificent three-quarter carat diamond solitaire on her third finger.
She and Mr. Gross expected to be married inside of two or three years
if all went well, she told him.

At eight o'clock, disguised behind a pair of blue goggles, Louis
headed for Miss Monon's door, glad that the cozy corner was so dimly
lighted. When he arrived she bathed his battle-scarred features with
hamamelis, which is just the same as Pond's Extract, but doesn't cost
so much, and told him the other girls had acted foolishly. She was
very sweet and gentle with him and young Mitchell, imperfect as was
his vision, saw something in her he had never seen before.

A week went by, during which it seemed that all the railroads except
the Monon had suddenly gone out of business. It was as if a strike had
been declared. Another week passed and Mitchell's sales were scarcely
noticeable, so Mr. Comer called him in to ask:

"Is your 'phone disconnected?"

"No, sir."

"Do you know the price of our goods?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't you sleep well at home?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then what has become of those pick-ups?"

"I seem to have lost--my trade."

"Your 'trade'! Bah! Young man, you've been dissipating. That expense
account turned your head. You've been blowing in our money on your
friends and you've let your customers go. If you can't hold the
railroad business we'll get some fellow who can. Cut out your
sewing-circle wine suppers and your box parties to the North Shore
débutantes and get busy. You've got a week to make good. One week."

There wasn't the slightest chance, and Mitchell told Miss Monon
so when Thursday came around. He told her all about that promised
position on the road and what it meant to him, and then he told her
that beginning Monday he'd have to hunt a new berth at twelve dollars
per. She was very quiet, very sympathetic--so sympathetic, in fact,
that he told her some other things which no young man on a diminishing
salary should tell. She said little at the moment, but she did
considerable thinking, and she got busy on her 'phone early the next
morning. The first number she called was the Santa Fé's. When she had
finished talking with Miss Dunlap that hempen-haired sentimentalist
was dabbing her eyes with her handkerchief and blowing her nose,
assuring Miss Monon, at the same time, that she was a dear and that
it was all right now that she knew the truth. Miss Monon blushed
prettily, thanked her, and confessed that she had felt it coming on
for some time. Thereupon they took turns calling the others, from the
Big Four to the C.&E.I., with the result that Mitchell's wire began to
heat up.

Phoebe Snow called him to say that she hadn't meant what she said,
that he was a good old scout, and that the rate clerk was sorry also,
and wanted to stand treat for a Dutch lunch. Then she left an order
for a ton and a half of engine bolts.

Miss Gratz cried a little when she heard Mitchell's voice and told him
to make his own price on forty kegs of washers and suit himself about
delivery.

Miss Dunlap confessed that it was her pride which had spoken, and,
anyhow, she knew altogether too much about marriage to take another
chance. She'd rather have one man friend than three husbands.

One by one the flock returned, and Saturday night Mitchell sent five
pounds of chocolates and a sheaf of red roses to the one who had made
it all come out right. He got his share of business after that, and
when the holidays came they brought him his promotion.

Murphy, who knew most of the facts, was the first to congratulate him.
"Jove!" he said, "that little Monon lady saved your bacon, didn't she?
By. the way, you never told me what her name was."

Young Mitchell's cheeks assumed a shell-pink shade as he replied: "It
doesn't matter what her name was, it's Mitchell now. We were married
yesterday and--all the roads were represented at the wedding."



WITH BRIDGES BURNED


Louis Mitchell knew what the telegram meant, even though it was brief
and cryptic. He had been expecting something of the sort ever since
the bottom dropped out of the steel business and prices tobogganed
forty dollars a ton. Nevertheless, it came as an undeniable shock, for
he had hoped the firm would keep him on in spite of hard times. He
wondered, as he sadly pocketed the yellow sheet, whether he had in him
the makings of a good life-insurance agent, or if he had not better
"join out" with a medicine show. This message led him to think his
talents must lie along the latter line. Certainly they did not lie in
the direction of metal supplies.

He had plenty of time to think the situation over, however, for it is
a long jump from Butte to Chicago; when he arrived at the latter place
he was certain of only one thing, he would not stand a cut in salary.
Either Comer & Mathison would have to fire him outright or keep him on
at his present wage; he would not compromise as the other salesmen had
done and were doing.

Twenty-five hundred a year is a liberal piece of money where people
raise their own vegetables, but to a man traveling in the West it is
about equal to "no pair." Given two hundred dollars a month and a fair
expense account a salesman can plow quite a respectable furrow around
Plymouth Rock, but out where they roll their r's and monogram their
live stock he can't make a track. Besides the loss of prestige and all
that went with it, there was another reason why young Mitchell could
not face a cut. He had a wife, and she was too new, too wonderful;
she admired him too greatly to permit of such a thing. She might, she
doubtless would, lose confidence in him if he took a step backward,
and that confidence of hers was the most splendid thing in Mitchell's
life. No, if Comer & Mathison wanted to make any change, they would
have to promote him. Ten minutes with the "old man," however, served
to jar this satisfactory determination to its foundation. Mr. Comer
put the situation clearly, concisely.

"Business is rotten. We've got to lay all the younger men off or we'll
go broke," he announced.

"But--I'm married," protested the young salesman.

"So am I; so is Mathison; so are the rest of the fellows. But, my boy,
this is a panic. We wouldn't let you go if we could keep you."

"I can sell goods--"

"That's just it; we don't want you to. Conditions are such that we
can't afford to sell anything. The less business we do the fewer
losses we stand to make. Good Lord, Louis, this is the worst year the
trade has ever known!"

"B-but--I'm married," blankly repeated Mitchell.

Comer shook his head. "We'd keep you in a minute if there was any way
to do it. You go home and see the wife. Of course if you can show
us where you're worth it, we'll let you stay; but--well, you can't.
There's no chance. I'll see you to-morrow."

Ordinarily Mitchell would not have allowed himself the extravagance
of a cab, but to-day the cars were too slow. He wondered how the girl
would take this calamity, their very first. As a matter of fact, she
divined the news even before he had voiced his exuberant greetings,
and, leading him into the neat little front room, she curled up at his
side, demanding all the reasons for his unexpected recall. He saw that
she was wide-eyed and rather white. When he had broken the bad news
she inquired, bravely:

"What is your plan, boy?"

"I haven't any."

"Nonsense!"

"I mean it. What can I do? I don't know anything except the steel
business. I can lick my weight in wildcats on my own ground--but--"
The wife nodded her blonde head in complete agreement. "But that lets
me out," he concluded, despondently. "I can sell steel because I know
it from the ground up; it's my specialty."

"Oh, we mustn't think about making a change."

"I've handled more big jobs than any man of my age and experience on
the road, and yet--I'm fired." The husband sighed wearily. "I built
that big pipe line in Portland; I sold those smelters in Anaconda, and
the cyanide tanks for the Highland Girl. Yes, and a lot of other jobs,
too. I know all about the smelter business, but that's no sign I can
sell electric belts or corn salve. We're up against it, girlie."

"Have people quit building smelters?"

"They sure have--during this panic. There's nothing doing anywhere."

The wife thought for a moment before saying, "The last time you were
home you told me about some Western mining men who had gone to South
Africa--"

"Sure! To the Rand! They've made good, too; they're whopping big
operators, now."

"You said there was a large contract of some sort coming up in
London."

"Large! Well, rather! The Robinson-Ray job. It's the biggest ever, in
my line. They're going to rebuild those plants the Boers destroyed. I
heard all about it in Montana."

"Well!" Mrs. Mitchell spoke with finality. "That's the place for you.
Get the firm to send you over there."

"Um-m! I thought about that, but it scared me out. It's too big. Why,
it's a three-million-dollar job. You see, we've never landed a large
foreign contract in this country as yet." Mitchell sat up suddenly.
"But say! This panic might--" Then he relaxed. "Oh, what's the use?
If there were a chance the firm wouldn't send me. Comer would go
himself--he'd take the whole outfit over for a job like that. Besides,
it's too big a thing for our people; they couldn't handle it."

Mrs. Mitchell's eyes were as round as buttons. "Three million dollars'
worth of steel in one contract! Do you think you could land it if you
went?"

"It's my line of work," the young man replied, doubtfully. "I'll bet
I know more about cyanide tanks than any salesman in Europe, and if I
had a decent price to work on--"

"Then it's the chance we've been waiting for."

The girl scrambled to her feet and, fetching a chair, began to talk
earnestly, rapidly. She talked for a long time, until gradually the
man's gray despondency gave way to her own bright optimism. Nor was
it idle theory alone that she advanced; Mitchell found that she knew
almost as much about the steel business as he did, and when she had
finished he arose and kissed her.

"You've put new heart into me, anyhow. If you're game to do your
share, why--I'll try it out. But remember it may mean all we've got in
the bank, and--" He looked at her darkly.

"It's the biggest chance we'll ever have," she insisted. "It's worth
trying. Don't let's wait to get rich until we are old."

When Mr. Comer returned from lunch he found his youngest salesman
waiting for him, and inside of ten minutes he had learned what
Mitchell had on his mind. With two words Comer blew out the gas.

"You're crazy," said he.

"Am I? It's worth going after."

"In the first place no big foreign job ever came to America--"

"I know all that. It's time we got one."

"In the second place Comer & Mathison are jobbers."

"I'll get a special price from Carnegie."

"In the third place it would cost a barrel of money to send a man to
England."

Mitchell swallowed hard. "I'll pay my own way."

Mr. Comer regarded the speaker with genuine astonishment. "_You'll_
pay your way? Why, you haven't got any money."

"I've got a thousand dollars--or the wife has. It's our nest-egg."

"It would take five thousand to make the trip."

"I'll make it on one. Yes, and I'll come back with that job. Don't you
see this panic makes the thing possible? Yes, and I'm the one man
to turn the trick; for it's right in my line. I'll see the Carnegie
people at Pittsburgh. If they quote the right price I'll ask you for a
letter, and that's all you'll have to do. Will you let me go?"

"What sort of a letter?"

"A letter stating that I am your general sales manager."

The steel merchant's mouth fell open.

"Oh, I only want it for this London trip," Mitchell explained. "I
won't use it except as a credential. But I've got to go armed, you
understand. Mr. Comer, if I don't land that Robinson-Ray contract, I
won't come back. I--I couldn't, after this. Maybe I'll drive a 'bus--I
hear they have a lot of them in London."

"Suppose, for instance, you should get the job on a profitable basis;
the biggest job this concern ever had and one of the biggest ever let
anywhere--" Mr. Comer's brow was wrinkled humorously. "What would you
expect out of it?"

Mitchell grinned. "Well, if I signed all those contracts as your
general sales manager, I'd probably form the habit."

"There's nothing modest about you, is there?" queried the elder man.

"Not a thing. My theory of business is that a man should either be
fired or promoted. If I get that job I'll leave it to you to do what's
right. I won't ask any questions."

"The whole thing is utterly absurd," Mitchell's employer protested.
"You haven't a chance! But--Wait!" He pressed a button on his desk.
"We'll talk with Mathison."

Louis Mitchell took the night train for Pittsburgh. He was back in
three days, and that afternoon Mr. Comer, in the privacy of his own
office, dictated a letter of which no carbon copy was preserved. He
gave it to the young man with his own hand, and with these words:
"You'd better think it over carefully, my boy. It's the most idiotic
thing I ever heard of, and there isn't one chance in a million. It
won't do you any good to fail, even on a forlorn hope like this."

But Mitchell smiled. "I can't fail--I'm married." Then when the other
seemed unimpressed by this method of reasoning, he explained: "I guess
you never saw my wife. She says I can do it."

It was only to this lady herself that Mitchell recited the details of
his reception at Pittsburgh, and of the battle he had fought in the
Carnegie office. The Carnegie men had refused to take him seriously,
had laughed at him as at a mild-mannered lunatic.

"But I got my price," he concluded, triumphantly, "and it sure looks
good to me. Now for the painful details and the sad good-bys."

"How long will you be gone?" his wife inquired.

"I can't stay more than a month, the bank-roll is too small."

"Oo-oo-h! A month! London is a long way off." Mrs. Mitchell's voice
broke plaintively and her husband's misgivings at once took fire.

"If I fail, as they all feel sure I will, what then?" he inquired.
"I'll be out of a job! I'll be a joke in the steel business; I'll be
broke. What will you do?"

She gave him a ravishing, dimpled smile, and her eyes were brave once
more. "Why, I haven't forgotten my shorthand, and there are always the
department stores." In a high, querulous tone she cried "Ca--a--sh!"
then laughed aloud at his expression. "Oh, it wouldn't hurt me any.
But--you won't fail--you can't! We're going to be rich. Now, we'll
divide our grand fortune." She produced a roll of currency from her
purse and took four twenty-dollar bills from it.

"Only eighty dollars?" he queried.

"It's more than enough for me. You'll be back in a month." She thrust
the remaining notes into his hand. "It's our one great, glorious
chance, dear. Don't you understand?"

Faith, hope and enthusiasm, the three graces of salesmanship, thrive
best in bright places. Had it not been for his wife's cheer during
those final hours young Mitchell surely would have weakened before it
came time to leave on the following day. It was a far cry to London,
and he realized 'way back in his head that there wasn't one chance in
a million of success. He began to doubt, to waver, but the girl seemed
to feel that her lord was bound upon some flaring triumph, and even
at the station her face was wreathed in smiles. Her blue eyes were
brimming with excitement; she bubbled with hopeful, helpful advice;
she patted her husband's arm and hugged it to her. "You're going to
win, boy. You're going to win," she kept repeating. For one moment
only--at the actual parting--she clung to him wildly, with all her
woman's strength, then, as the warning cry sounded, she kissed him
long and hungrily, and fairly thrust him aboard the Pullman. He did
not dream how she wilted and drooped the instant he had gone.

As the train pulled out he ran back to the observation car to wave
a last farewell, and saw her clinging to the iron fence, sobbing
wretchedly; a desolate, weak little girl-wife mastered by a thousand
fears. She was too blind with tears to see him. The sight raised a
lump in the young husband's throat which lasted to Fort Wayne.

"Poor little thoroughbred," he mused. "I just can't lose, that's all."

The lump was not entirely gone when the luncheon call came, so
Mitchell dined upon it, reasoning that this kind of a beginning
augured well for an economical trip.

Now that he was away from the warmth of his wife's enthusiasm
contemplation of his undertaking made the salesman rather sick. If
only he were traveling at the firm's expense, if only he had something
to fall back upon in case of failure, if only Comer & Mathison were
behind him in any way, the complexion of things would have been
altogether different. But to set out for a foreign land with no
backing whatever in the hope of accomplishing that which no American
salesman had ever been able to accomplish, and to finance the
undertaking out of his own pocket on a sum less than he would have
expected for cigarette money--well, it was an enterprise to test
a fellow's courage and to dampen the most youthful optimism. His
proposal to the firm to win all or lose all, he realized now, had
been in the nature of a bluff, and the firm had called it. There was
nothing to do, therefore, but go through and win; there could be no
turning back, for he had burned his bridges.

When one enters a race-horse in a contest he puts the animal in good
condition, he grooms it, he feeds it the best the stable affords,
he trains and exercises it carefully. Mitchell had never owned a
race-horse, but he reasoned that similar principles should apply to a
human being under similar conditions. He had entered a competition,
therefore he decided to condition himself physically and mentally for
the race. A doped pony cannot run, neither can a worried salesman sell
goods.

In line with this decision, he took one of the best state-rooms on the
_Lucania_, and denied himself nothing that the ship afforded. Every
morning he took his exercise, every evening a rub-down. He trained
like a fighter, and when he landed he was fit; his muscles were
hard, his stomach strong, his brain clear. He went first-class from
Liverpool to London; he put up at the Metropole in luxurious quarters.
When he stopped to think about that nine hundred and twenty, already
amazingly shrunken, he argued bravely that what he had spent had gone
to buy condition powders.

On the way across he had posted himself so far as possible about the
proposed Robinson-Ray plant. He learned that there were to be fifteen
batteries of cyanide tanks, two high--eighty-four in all--supported
by steel sub- and super-structures; the work to be completed at
Krugersdorpf, twenty miles out of Johannesburg, South Africa.
The address of the company was No. 42-1/2 Threadneedle Street.
Threadneedle Street was somewhere in London, and London was the
capital of a place called England.

He knew other African contracts were under consideration, but he
dismissed them from his thoughts and centered his forces upon
this particular job. Once he had taken a definite scent his early
trepidations vanished. He became obsessed by a joyous, purposeful,
unceasing energy that would not let him rest.

The first evening in London he fattened himself for the fray with a
hearty dinner, then he strove to get acquainted with his neighbors and
his environment. The nervous force within him needed outlet, but he
was frowned upon at every quarter. Even the waiter at his table made
it patent that his social standing would not permit him to indulge
in the slightest intimacy with chance guests of the hotel, while the
young Earl who had permitted Mitchell to register at the desk declined
utterly to go further with their acquaintance. Louis spent the evening
at the Empire, and the next morning, which was Sunday, he put in on
the top of a 'bus, laying himself open to the advances of anybody who
cared to pay him the slightest attention. But he was ignored; even
the driver, who spoke a foreign language, evidently considered him a
suspicious character. Like a wise general, Louis reconnoitered No.
42-1/2 Threadneedle Street during the afternoon, noting the lay of the
land and deciding upon modes of transportation to and from. Under
the pressure of circumstance he chose a Cannon Street 'bus, fare
"tuppence."

Now garrulity is a disease that must either break out or strike inward
with fatal results. When Sunday night came, Mitchell was about ready
to fare forth with gun and mask and take conversation away from
anybody who had it to spare. He had begun to fear that his vocal cords
would atrophy.

He was up early, had breakfasted, and was at 42-1/2 Threadneedle
Street promptly at nine, beating the janitor by some twenty minutes.
During the next hour and a half he gleaned considerable information
regarding British business methods, the while he monotonously pounded
the sidewalk.

At nine-thirty a scouting party of dignified office-boys made a
cautious approach. At nine-thirty-five there came the main army of
clerks, only they were not clerks, but "clarks"--very impressive
gentlemen with gloves, spats, sticks, silk hats and sack coats. At
this same time, evidently by appointment, came the charwomen--"char"
being spelled s-c-r-u-b, and affording an example of how pure English
has been corrupted out in the Americas.

After the arrival of the head "clarks" and stenographers at
nine-forty-five, there ensued fifteen minutes of guarded conversation
in front of the offices. During this time the public issues of the day
were settled and the nation's policies outlined. At ten o'clock the
offices were formally opened, and at ten-thirty a reception was
tendered to the managers who arrived dressed as for any well-conducted
afternoon function.

To Mitchell, who was accustomed to the feverish, football methods of
American business life, all this was vastly edifying and instructive;
it was even soothing, although he was vaguely offended to note that
passers-by avoided him as if fearful of contamination.

Upon entering 42-1/2 Threadneedle Street, he was halted by an
imperious office-boy. To him Louis gave his card with a request that
it be handed to Mr. Peebleby, then he seated himself and for an hour
witnessed a parade of unsmiling, silk-hatted gentlemen pass in and out
of Mr. Peebleby's office. Growing impatient, at length, he inquired of
the boy;

"Is somebody dead around here or is this where the City Council
meets?"

"I beg pardon?" The lad was polite in a cool, superior way.

"I say, what's the idea of the pall-bearers?"

The youth's expression froze to one of disapproval and suspicion.

"I mean the parade. Are these fellows Congress- or minstrel-men?"

His hearer shrugged and smiled vacuously, then turned away, whereupon
Mitchell took him firmly by the arm.

"Look here, my boy," he began. "There seems to be a lot of information
coming to both of us. Who are these over-dressed gentlemen I see
promenading back and forth?"

"Why--they're callers, customers, representatives of the firms we do
business with, sir."

"Is this Guy Fawkes Day?"

"No, sir."

"Are these men here on business? Are any of them salesmen, for
instance?"

"Yes, sir; some of them. Certainly, sir."

"To see Mr. Peebleby about the new construction work?"

"No doubt."

"So, you're letting them get the edge on me."

"I beg pardon?"

"Never mind, I merely wanted to assure you that I have some olive
spats, a high hat, and a walking-stick, but I left them at my hotel.
I'm a salesman, too. Now then let's get down to business. I've come
all the way from America to hire an office-boy. I've heard so much
about English office-boys that I thought I'd run over and get one.
Would you entertain a proposition to go back to America and become my
partner?"

The boy rolled his eyes; it was plain that he was seriously alarmed.
"You are ragging me, sir," he stammered, uncertainly.

"Perish the thought!"

"I--I--Really, sir--"

"I pay twenty-five dollars a week to office-boys. That's five 'pun' in
your money, I believe. But, meanwhile, now that I'm in London, I have
some business with Mr. Peebleby." Mitchell produced an American silver
dollar and forced it into the boy's hand, whereupon the latter blinked
in a dazed manner, then hazarded the opinion that Mr. Peebleby might
be at leisure if Mr. Mitchell had another card.

"Never mind the card; I can't trust you with another one. Just show me
the trail and I'll take it myself. That's a way we have in America."

A moment later he was knocking at a door emblazoned, "Director
General." Without awaiting an invitation, he turned the knob and
walked in. Before the astonished Mr. Peebleby could expostulate he had
introduced himself and was making known his mission.

Fortunately for Mitchell, Englishmen are not without a sense of
humor. The announcement that this young man had come all the way from
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., to bid on the Krugersdorpf work struck Mr.
Peebleby as amusing. Not only was the idea in itself laughable, but
also the fact that a mere beardless youth should venture to figure on
a contract of such gigantic proportions quite convulsed the Director
General, and in consequence he smiled. Then fearing that his dignity
had been jeopardized, he announced politely but firmly that the
proposition was absurd, and that he had no time to discuss it.

"I've come for that job, and I'm going to take it back with me,"
Mitchell averred, with equal firmness. "I know more about this class
of work than any salesman you have over here, and I'm going to build
you the finest cluster of cyanide tanks you ever saw."

"May I ask where you obtained this comprehensive knowledge of tank
construction?" Mr. Peebleby inquired, with some curiosity.

"Sure!" Mitchell ran through a list of jobs with which the Director
General could not have been unfamiliar. He mentioned work that caused
that gentleman to regard him more respectfully. For a time questions
and answers shot back and forth between them.

"I tell you, that is my line," Mitchell declared, at length. "I'll
read any blueprints you can offer. I'll answer any queries you can
formulate. I'm the accredited representative of a big concern, and I'm
entitled to a chance to figure, at least. That courtesy is due me."

"I dare say it is," the other reluctantly agreed. "I'm very busy, but
if that is the quickest way to end the discussion I'll give you the
prints. I assure you, nevertheless, it is an utter waste of your time
and mine." He pushed a button and five minutes later a clerk staggered
back into the room with an armful of blueprints that caused Mitchell
to gasp.

"The bid must be in Thursday at ten-thirty," Peebleby announced.

"Thursday? Why, good Lord! That's only three days, and there's a
dray-load of drawings!"

"I told you it was a waste of time. You should have come sooner."

Mitchell ran through the pile and his heart grew sick with dismay.
There were drawings of tanks, drawings of substructures and
superstructures in every phase of construction--enough of them
to daunt a skilled engineer. He realized that he had by no means
appreciated the full magnitude of this work, in fact had never figured
on a job anything like this one. He could see at least a week's hard,
constant labor ahead of him--a week's work to be done in three days.
There was no use trying; the time was too short; it was a physical
impossibility to formulate an intelligent proposition in such a
short length of time. Then to Mitchell's mind came the picture of
a wretched, golden-haired girl clinging to the iron fence of the
Pennsylvania depot. He gathered the rolls into his arms.

"At ten-thirty, Thursday," said he.

"Ten-thirty, sharp."

"Thank you. I'll have my bid in."

His muscles ached and his knees were trembling even before he had
reached the street. When he tried to board a 'bus he was waved away,
so he called a cab, piled his blueprints inside of it, and then
clambered in on top of them. He realized that he was badly frightened.

To this day the sight of a blueprint gives Louis Mitchell a peculiar
nausea and a fluttering sensation about the heart. At three o'clock
the next morning he felt his way blindly to his bed and toppled upon
it, falling straightway into a slumber during which he passed through
monotonous, maddening wastes of blue and white, over which ran
serpentine rows of figures.

He was up with the dawn and at his desk again, but by four that
afternoon he was too dazed, too exhausted to continue. His eyes were
playing him tricks, the room was whirling, his hand was shaking until
his fingers staggered drunkenly across the sheets of paper. Ground
plans, substructures, superstructures, were jumbled into a frightful
tangle. He wanted to yell. Instead he flung the drawings about the
room, stamped savagely upon them, then rushed down-stairs and devoured
a table d'hôte dinner. He washed the meal down with a bottle of red
wine, smoked a long cigar, then undressed and went to bed amid the
scattered blueprints. He slept like a dead man.

He arose at sun-up, clear-headed, calm. All day he worked like a
machine, increasing his speed as the hours flew. He took good care to
eat and drink, and, above all, to smoke at regular intervals, but he
did not leave his room. By dark he had much of the task behind him; by
midnight he began to have hope; toward dawn he saw the end; and when
daylight came he collapsed.

He had deciphered the tank and superstructure plans on forty-five sets
of blueprints, had formulated a proposition, exclusive of substructure
work, basing a price per pound on the American market then ruling,
f.o.b. tidewater, New York. He had the proposition in his pocket
when he tapped on the ground-glass door of Mr. Peebleby's office at
ten-twenty-nine Thursday morning.

The Director General of the great Robinson-Ray Syndicate was genuinely
surprised to learn that the young American had completed a bid in so
short a time, then requested him, somewhat absent-mindedly, to leave
it on his desk where he could look it over at his leisure.

"Just a moment," said his caller. "I'm going to sit down and talk to
you again. How long have you been using cyanide tanks, Mr. Peebleby?"

"Ever since they were adopted." Mr. Peebleby was visibly annoyed at
this interruption to his morning's work.

"Well, I can give you a lot of information about them."

The Director General raised his brows haughtily. "Ah! Suggestions,
amendments, improvements, no doubt."

"Exactly."

"In all my experience I never sent out a blueprint which some youthful
salesman could not improve upon. Generally the younger the salesman
the greater the improvement."

In Mitchell's own parlance he "beat Mr. Peebleby to the punch." "If
that's the case, you've got a rotten line of engineers," he frankly
announced.

"Indeed! I went over those drawings myself. I flattered myself that
they were comprehensive and up-to-date." Mr. Peebleby was annoyed,
nevertheless he was visibly interested and curious.

"Well, they're not," the younger man declared, eying him boldly.
"For instance, you call for cast-iron columns in your sub-and
super-structures, whereas they're obsolete. We've discarded them. What
you save in first cost you eat up, twice over, in freight. Not only
that, but their strength is a matter of theory, not of fact. Then,
too, in your structural-steel sections your factor of safety is
wrongly figured. To get the best results your lower tanks are twenty
inches too short and your upper ones nine inches too short. For
another thing, you're using a section of beam which is five per cent.
heavier than your other dimensions call for."

The Director General sat back in his chair, a look of extreme
alertness replacing his former expression.

"My word! Is there anything else?" He undertook to speak mockingly,
but without complete success.

"There is. The layout of your platework is all wrong--out of line with
modern practice. You should have interchangeable parts in every tank.
The floor of your lower section should be convex, instead of flat, to
get the run-off. You see, sir, this is my line of business."

"Who is your engineer?" inquired the elder man. "I should like to talk
to him."

"You're talking to him now. I'm him--it--them. I'm the party! I told
you I knew the game."

There was a brief silence, then Mr. Peebleby inquired, "By the way,
who helped you figure those prints?"

"Nobody."

"You did that _alone_, since Monday morning?" The speaker was
incredulous.

"I did. I haven't slept much. I'm pretty tired."

There was a new note in Mr. Peebleby's voice when he said: "Jove! I've
treated you badly, Mr. Mitchell, but--I wonder if you're too tired to
tell my engineers what you told me just now? I should like them to
hear you."

"Trot them in." For the first time since leaving this office three
days before, Mitchell smiled. He was getting into his stride at last.
After all, there seemed to be a chance.

There followed a convention of the draftsmen and engineers of the
Robinson-Ray Syndicate before which an unknown American youth
delivered an address on "Cyanide Tanks. How to Build Them; Where to
Buy Them."

It was the old story of a man who had learned his work thoroughly and
who loved it. Mitchell typified the theory of specialization; what he
knew, he knew completely, and before he had more than begun his talk
these men recognized that fact. When he had finished, Mr. Peebleby
announced that the bids would not be opened that day.

The American had made his first point. He had gained time in which
to handle himself, and the Robinson-Ray people had recognized a new
factor in the field. When he was again in the Director General's room,
the latter said:

"I think I will have you formulate a new bid along the lines you have
laid down."

"Very well."

"You understand, our time is up. Can you have it ready by Saturday,
three days from now?"

Mitchell laughed. "It's a ten days' job for two men."

"I know, but we can't wait."

"Then give me until Tuesday; I'm used to a twenty-four-hour shift
now. Meanwhile I'd like to leave these figures here for your chief
draftsman to examine. Of course they are not to be considered
binding."

"Isn't that a bit--er--foolish?" inquired Peebleby? "Aren't you
leaving a weapon behind you?"

"Yes, but not the sort of a weapon you suspect," thought Mitchell.
"This is a boomerang." Aloud, he answered, lightly: "Oh, that's all
right. I know I'm among friends."

When his request was granted he made a mental note, "Step number two!"

Again he filled a cab with drawings, again he went back to the
Metropole and to maddening columns of new figures--back to the
monotony of tasteless meals served at his elbow.

But there were other things besides his own bid to think of now.
Mitchell knew he must find what other firms were bidding on the job,
and what prices they had bid. The first promised to require some
ingenuity, the second was a Titan's task.

Salesmanship, in its highest development, is an exact science. Given
the data he desired, Louis Mitchell felt sure he could read the
figures sealed up in those other bids to a nicety, but to get that
data required much concentrated effort and much time. Time was what he
needed above all things; time to refigure these myriad drawings, time
to determine when the other bids had gone in, time to learn trade
conditions at the competitive plants, time to sleep. There were not
sufficient hours in the day for all these things, so he rigidly
economized on the least important, sleep. He laid out a program
for himself; by night he worked in his room, by day he cruised for
information, at odd moments around the dawn he slept. He began to feel
the strain before long. Never physically robust, he began to grow blue
and drawn about the nostrils. Frequently his food would not stay down.
He was forced to drive his lagging spirits with a lash. To accomplish
this he had to think often of his girl-wife. Her letters, written
daily, were a great help; they were like some God-given cordial that
infused fresh blood into his brain, new strength into his flagging
limbs. Without them he could not have held up.

With certain definite objects in view he made daily trips to
Threadneedle Street. Invariably he walked into the general offices
unannounced; invariably he made a new friend before he came out.
Peebleby seemed to like him; in fact asked his opinion on certain
forms of structure and voluntarily granted the young man two days of
grace. Two days! They were like oxygen to a dying man.

Mitchell asked permission to talk to the head draftsman and received
it, and following their interview he requested the privilege of
dictating some notes regarding the interview. In this way he met the
stenographer. When he had finished with her he flipped the girl a gold
sovereign, stolen from the sadly melted nine hundred and twenty.

As Mitchell was leaving the office the Director General yielded to a
kindly impulse and advised his new acquaintance to run over to Paris
and view the Exposition.

"You can do your figuring there just as well as here," said he.
"I don't want your trip from Chicago to be altogether wasted, Mr.
Mitchell."

Louis smiled and shook his head. "I can't take that Exposition back
with me, and I can take this contract. I think I'll camp with my bid."

In the small hours of that night he made a discovery that
electrified him. He found that the most commonly used section in his
specifications, a twelve-inch I-beam, was listed under the English
custom as weighing fifty-four pounds per foot, whereas the
standardized American section, which possessed the same carrying
strength, weighed four pounds less. Here was an advantage of eight
per cent. in cost and freight! This put another round of the ladder
beneath him; he was progressing well, but as yet he had learned
nothing about his competitors.

The next morning he had some more dictation for Peebleby's
stenographer, and niched another sovereign from his sad little
bank-roll. When the girl gave him his copy he fell into conversation
with her and painted a picture of Yankeeland well calculated to keep
her awake nights. They gossiped idly, she of her social obligations,
he of the cyanide-tank business--he could think of nothing else to
talk about. Adroitly he led her out. They grew confidential. She
admitted her admiration for Mr. Jenkins from Edinburgh. Yes, Mr.
Jenkins's company was bidding on the Krugersdorpf job. He was much
nicer than Mr. Kruse from the Brussels concern, and, anyhow, those
Belgian firms had no chance at this contract, for Belgium was
pro-Boer, and--well, she had heard a few things around the office.

Mitchell was getting "feed-box" information. When he left he knew
the names of his dangerous competitors as well as those whom, in all
likelihood, he had no cause to fear. Another step! He was gaining
ground.

In order to make himself absolutely certain that his figures would be
low, there still remained three things to learn, and they were matters
upon which he could afford to take no slightest chance of mistake.
He must know, first, the dates of those other bids; second, the
market-price of English steel at such times; and, third, the cost of
fabrication at the various mills. The first two he believed could
be easily learned, but the third promised to afford appalling
difficulties to a man unfamiliar with foreign methods and utterly
lacking in trade acquaintances. He went at them systematically,
however, only to run against a snag within the hour. Not only did he
fail to find the answer to question number one, but he could find no
market quotations whatever on structural steel shapes such as entered
into the Krugersdorpf job.

He searched through every possible trade journal, through reading
rooms and libraries, for the price of I-beams, channels, Z-bars, and
the like; but nowhere could he even find mention of them. His failure
left him puzzled and panic-stricken; he could not understand it. If
only he had more time, he reflected, time in which to learn the usages
and the customs of this country. But time was what he had not. He was
tired, very tired from his sleepless nights and hours of daylight
strain--and meanwhile the days were rushing past.

While engaged in these side labors, he had, of course, been working
on his draftsmen friends, and more assiduously even than upon his
blue-prints. On Tuesday night, with but one more day of grace ahead of
him, he gave a dinner to all of them, disregarding the fact that his
bank-roll had become frightfully emaciated.

For several days after that little party blue-printing in the
Robinson-Ray office was a lost art. When his guests had dined and had
settled back into their chairs, Mitchell decided to risk all upon one
throw. He rose, at the head of the table, and told them who he was. He
utterly destroyed their illusions regarding him and his position with
Comer & Mathison, he bared his heart to those stoop-shouldered, shabby
young men from Threadneedle Street and came right down to the nine
hundred and twenty dollars and the girl. He told them what
this Krugersdorpf job meant to him and to her, and to the four
twenty-dollar bills in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Those Englishmen listened silently. Nobody laughed. Perhaps it was the
sort of thing they had dreamed of doing some day, perhaps there were
other girls in other tiny furnished flats, other hearts wrapped up in
similar struggles for advancement. They were good mathematicians, it
seemed, for they did not have to ask Mitchell how the nine hundred
and twenty was doing, or to inquire regarding the health of the other
eighty. One of them, a near-sighted fellow with thick lenses, arose
with the grave assertion that he had taken the floor for the purpose
of correcting a popular fallacy; Englishmen and Yankees, he declared,
were not cousins, they were brothers, and their interests ever had
been and ever would be identical. He said, too, that England wanted
to do business with America, and as for this particular contract, not
only did the British nation as a whole desire America to secure it,
but the chaps who bent over the boards at No. 42-1/2 Threadneedle
Street were plugging for her tooth and nail. His hollow-chested
companions yelled their approval of this statement, whereupon Mitchell
again arose, alternately flushing and paling, and apologized for what
had happened in 1776. He acknowledged himself ashamed of the 1812
affair, moreover, and sympathized with his guests over their present
trouble with the Boers. When he had finished they voted him the best
host and the best little cyanide tank-builder known to them--and then
everybody tried to tell him something at once.

They told him among other things that every bid except his had been in
for two weeks, and that they were in the vault under the care of Mr.
Pitts, the head draftsman. They promised to advise him if any new bids
came in or if any changes occurred, and, most important of all, they
told him that in England all structural steel shapes, instead of being
classified as in America, are known as "angles," and they told him
just how and where to find the official reports giving the price of
the same for every day in the year.

The word "angles" was the missing key, and those official market
reports formed the lock in which to fit it. Mitchell had taken several
mighty strides, and there remained but one more step to take.

When his guests had finally gone home, swearing fealty, and declaring
this to be the best dinner they had ever drunk, he hastened back to
his room, back to the desert of blueprints and to the interminable
columns of figures, and over them he worked like a madman.

He slept two hours before daylight, then he was up and toiling again,
for this was his last day. Using the data he had gathered the night
before, he soon had the price of English and Scottish steel at the
time the last bids were closed. Given one thing more--namely, the cost
of fabrication in these foreign shops, and he would have reduced this
hazard to a certainty, he would be able to read the prices contained
in those sealed bids as plainly as if they lay open before him. But
his time had narrowed now to hours.

He lunched with John Pitts, the head draughtsman, going back to pick
up the boomerang he had left the week before.

"Have you gone over my first bid?" he asked, carelessly.

"I have--lucky for you," said Pitts. "You made a mistake."

"Indeed! How so?"

"Why, it's thirty per cent. too low. It would be a crime to give you
the business at those figures."

"But, you see, I didn't include the sub-structure. I didn't have time
to figure that." Mitchell prayed that his face might not show his
eagerness. Evidently it did not, for Pitts walked into the trap.

"Even so," said he; "it's thirty per cent. out of the way. I made
allowance for that."

The boomerang had finished its flight!

Once they had separated, Mitchell broke for his hotel like a
hunted man. He had made no mistake in his first figures. The great
Krugersdorpf job was his; but, nevertheless, he wished to make himself
absolutely sure and to secure as much profit as possible for Comer
& Mathison. Without a handsome profit this three-million-dollar job
might ruin a firm of their standing.

In order to verify Pitts's statement, in order to swell his proposed
profits to the utmost, Mitchell knew he ought to learn the "overhead"
in English mills; that is, the fixed charges which, added to shop
costs and prices of material, are set aside to cover office expenses,
cost of operation, and contingencies. Without this information
he would have to go it blind, after a fashion, and thereby risk
penalizing himself; with it he could estimate very closely the amounts
of the other bids and insure a safe margin for Comer & Mathison. In
addition to this precaution he wished to have his own figures checked
up, for even under normal conditions, if one makes a numerical error
in work of this sort, he is more than apt to repeat it time and again,
and Mitchell knew himself to be deadly tired--almost on the verge
of collapse. He was inclined to doze off whenever he sat down; the
raucous noises of the city no longer jarred or startled him, and his
surroundings were becoming unreal, grotesque, as if seen through the
spell of absinthe. Yes, it was necessary to check off his figures.

But who could he get to do the work? He could not go to Threadneedle
Street. He thought of the Carnegie representative and telephoned him,
explaining the situation and his crying need, only to be told that
no one in that office was capable of assisting him. He was referred,
however, to an English engineer who, it was barely possible, could
handle the job. In closing, the Carnegie man voiced a vague warning:

"His name is Dell, and he used to be with one of the Edinburgh
concerns, so don't let him know your inside figures. He might spring a
leak."

A half-hour later Mitchell, his arms full of blue-prints, was in Mr.
Dell's office. But the English engineer hesitated; he was very busy;
he had numerous obligations. Mitchell gazed over the threadbare rooms
and hastily estimated how much of the nine hundred and twenty dollars
would be left after he had paid his hotel bill. What there was to do
must be done before the next morning's sun arose.

"This job is worth ten sovereigns to me if it is finished tonight," he
declared, briskly.

Mr. Dell hesitated, stumbled, and fell. "Very well. We'll begin at
once," said he.

He unrolled the blue-prints, from a drawer he produced a sliding-rule.
He slid this rule up; he slid it down; he gazed through his glasses
at space; he made microscopic Spencerian figures in neat rows and
columns. He seemed to pluck his results from the air with necromantic
cunning, and what had taken the young man at his elbow days and nights
of cruel effort to accomplish--what had put haggard lines about his
mouth and eyes--the engineer accomplished in a few hours by means
of that sliding-rule. Meanwhile, with one weary effort of will, his
visitor summoned his powers and cross-examined him adroitly. Here was
the very man to supply the one missing link in the perfect chain;
but Mr. Dell would not talk. He did not like Americans nor American
methods, and he made his dislike apparent by sealing his lips.
Mitchell played upon his vanity at first, only to find the man wholly
lacking in conceit. Changing his method of attack, Mitchell built a
fire under Mr. Dell. He grilled everything British, the people, their
social customs, their business methods, even English engineers, and
he did it in a most annoying manner. Mr. Dell began to perspire.
He worked doggedly on for a while, then he arose in defense of his
country, whereupon Mitchell artfully shifted his attack to English
steel-mills. The other refuted his statements flatly. At length the
engineer was goaded to anger, he became disputative, indignant,
loquacious.

When Louis Mitchell flung himself into the dark body of his cab,
late that evening, and sank his legs knee-deep into those hateful
blue-prints, he blessed that engineer, for Dell had told him all he
wished to know, all he had tried so vainly to discover through other
sources. The average "overhead" in British mills was one hundred and
thirty per cent., and Dell _knew_.

The young man laughed hysterically, triumphantly, but the sound was
more like a tearful hiccough. To-morrow at ten-thirty! It was nearly
over. He would be ready. As he lolled back inertly upon the cushions
he mused dreamily that he had done well. In less than two weeks, in a
foreign country, and under strange conditions, without acquaintance or
pull or help of any sort, he had learned the names of his competitive
firms, the dates of their bids, and the market prices ruling on every
piece of steel in the Krugersdorpf job when those bids were figured.
He had learned the rules governing English labor unions; he knew all
about piece-work and time-work, fixed charges and shop costs, together
with the ability of every plant figuring on the Robinson-Ray contract
to turn out the work in the necessary time. All this, and more, he
had learned legitimately and without cost to his commercial honor.
Henceforth that South-African contract depended merely upon his own
ability to add, subtract, and multiply correctly. It was his just as
surely as two and two make four--for salesmanship is an exact science.

The girl would be very happy, he told himself. He was glad that she
could never know the strain it had been.

Again, through the slow, silent hours of that Wednesday night,
Mitchell fought the fatigue of death, going over his figures
carefully. There were no errors in them.

Dawn was creeping in on him when he added a clean thirty-per-cent.
profit for his firm, signed his bid, and prepared for bed. But he
found that he could not leave the thing. After he had turned in he
became assailed by sudden doubts and fears. What if he had made a
mistake after all? What if some link in his chain were faulty? What if
some other bidder had made a mistake and underfigured? Such thoughts
made him tremble. Now that it was all done, he feared that he had been
overconfident, for could it really be possible that the greatest steel
contract in years would come to him? He grew dizzy at the picture of
what it meant to him and to the girl.

He calmed himself finally and looked straight at the matter, sitting
up in bed, his knees drawn up under his chin. While so engaged he
caught sight of his drawn face in the mirror opposite and started
when he realized how old and heavy with fatigue it was. He determined
suddenly to shave that profit to twenty-nine per cent. and make
assurance doubly sure, but managed to conquer his momentary panic.
Cold reasoning told him that his figures were safe.

Louis Mitchell was the only salesman in Mr. Peebleby's office that
morning who did not wear a silk hat, pearl gloves, and spats. In
consequence the others ignored him for a time--but only for a time.
Once the proposals had been read, an air of impenetrable gloom spread
over the room. The seven Scotch, English, and Belgian mourners stared
cheerlessly at one another and then with growing curiosity at the
young man from overseas who had underbid the lowest of them by six
thousand pounds sterling, less than one per cent. After a while they
bowed among themselves, mumbled something to Mr. Peebleby, and
went softly out in their high hats, their pearl gloves, and their
spats--more like pall-bearers now than ever.

"Six hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred pounds sterling!"
said the Director General. "By Jove, Mitchell, I'm glad!" They shook
hands. "I'm really glad."

"That's over three million dollars in real money," said the youth.
"It's quite a tidy little job."

Peebleby laughed. "You've been very decent about it, too. I hope to
see something of you in the future. What?"

"You'll see my smoke, that's all."

"You're not going back right away?"

"To-morrow; I've booked my passage and cabled the girl to meet me in
New York."

"My word! A girl! She'll be glad to hear of your success."

"Oh, I've told her already. You see, I knew I'd won."

The Director General of the Robinson-Ray Syndicate stared in open
amazement, but Mitchell hitched his chair closer, saying:

"Now let's get at those signatures. I've got to pack."

That night Louis Mitchell slept with fifteen separate contracts under
his pillow. He double-locked the door, pulled the dresser in front of
it, and left the light burning. At times he awoke with a start and
felt for the documents. Toward morning he was seized with a sudden
fright, so he got up and read them all over for fear somebody had
tampered with them. They were correct, however, whereupon he read them
a second time just for pleasure. They were strangely interesting.

On the _Deutschland_ he slept much of the way across, and by the
time Liberty Statue loomed up he could dream of other things than
blue-prints--of the girl, for instance.

She had enough left from the eighty dollars to bring her to New York
and to pay for a week's lodging in West Thirty-fourth Street, though
how she managed it Mitchell never knew. She was at the dock, of
course. He knew she would be. He expected to see her with her arms
outstretched and with the old joyous smile upon her dimpled face, and,
therefore, he was sorely disappointed when he came down the gang-plank
and she did not appear. He searched high and low until finally he
discovered her seated over by the letter "M," where his trunk was
waiting inspection. There she was, huddled up on a coil of rope,
crying as if her heart would break; her nerve was gone, along with the
four twenty-dollar bills; she was afraid to face him, afraid there had
been an error in his cablegram.

Not until she lay in his arms at last, sobbing and laughing, her
slender body all aquiver, did she believe. Then he allowed her to feel
the fifteen contracts inside his coat. Later, when they were in a cab
bound for her smelly little boarding-house, he showed them to her. In
return she gave him a telegram from his firm--a telegram addressed as
follows:

Mr. LOUIS MITCHELL,

General Sales Manager, Comer & Mathison, New York City.

The message read:

That goes. COMER.

Mitchell opened the trap above his head and called up to the driver:
"Hey, Cabbie! We've changed our minds. Drive us to the Waldorf--at a
gallop."



WITH INTEREST TO DATE


This is the tale of a wrong that rankled and a great revenge. It is
not a moral story, nor yet, measured by the modern money code, is it
what could be called immoral. It is merely a tale of sharp wits
which clashed in pursuit of business, therefore let it be considered
unmoral, a word with a wholly different commercial significance.

Time was when wrongs were righted by mace and battle-ax, amid fanfares
and shoutings, but we live in a quieter age, an age of repression,
wherein the keenest thrust is not delivered with a yell of triumph nor
the oldest score settled to the blare of trumpets. No longer do the
men of great muscle lord it over the weak and the puny; as a rule
they toil and they lift, doing unpleasant, menial duties for
hollow-chested, big-domed men with eye-glasses. But among those very
spindle-shanked, terra-cotta dwellers who cower at draughts and eat
soda mints, the ancient struggle for supremacy wages fiercer than
ever. Single combats are fought now as then, and the flavor of victory
is quite as sweet to the pallid man back of a roll-top desk as to the
swart, bristling baron behind his vizored helmet.

The beginning of this story runs back to the time Henry Hanford went
with the General Equipment Company as a young salesman full of hope
and enthusiasm and a somewhat exaggerated idea of his own importance.
He was selling shears, punches, and other machinery used in the
fabrication of structural steel. In the territory assigned to him, the
works of the Atlantic Bridge Company stuck up like a sore thumb, for
although it employed many men, although its contracts were large and
its requirements numerous, the General Equipment Company had never
sold it a dollar's worth of anything.

In the course of time Hanford convinced himself that the Atlantic
Bridge Company needed more modern machinery, so he laid siege to
Jackson Wylie, Sr., its president and practical owner. He spent all of
six months in gaining the old man's ear, but when he succeeded he
laid himself out to sell his goods. He analyzed the Atlantic Bridge
Company's needs in the light of modern milling practice, and
demonstrated the saving his equipment would effect. A big order and
much prestige were at stake, both of which young Hanford needed
badly at the time. He was vastly encouraged, therefore, when the
bridge-builder listened attentively to him.

"I dare say we shall have to make a change," Mr. Wylie reluctantly
agreed. "I've been bothered to death by machinery salesmen, but you're
the first one to really interest me."

Hanford acknowledged the compliment and proceeded further to elaborate
upon the superiority of the General Equipment Company's goods over
those sold by rival concerns. When he left he felt that he had Mr.
Wylie, Sr., "going."

At the office they warned him that he had a hard nut to crack; that
Wylie was given to "stringing" salesmen and was a hard man to close
with, but Hanford smiled confidently. Granting those facts, they
rendered him all the more eager to make this sale; and the bridge
company really did need up-to-date machinery.

He instituted an even more vigorous selling campaign, he sent much
printed matter to Mr. Wylie, Sr., he wrote him many letters. Being a
thoroughgoing young saleman, he studied the plant from the ground up,
learning the bridge business in such detail as enabled him to talk
with authority on efficiency methods. In the course of his studies he
discovered many things that were wrong with the Atlantic, and spent
days in outlining improvements on paper. He made the acquaintance of
the foremen; he cultivated the General Superintendent; he even met Mr.
Jackson Wylie, Jr., the Sales Manager, a very polished, metallic young
man, who seemed quite as deeply impressed with Hanford's statements as
did his father.

Under our highly developed competitive system, modern business is done
very largely upon personality. From the attitude of both father and
son, Hanford began to count his chickens. Instead of letting up,
however, he redoubled his efforts, which was his way. He spent so much
time on the matter that his other work suffered, and in consequence
his firm called him down. He outlined his progress with the Atlantic
Bridge Company, declared he was going to succeed, and continued to
camp with the job, notwithstanding the firm's open doubts.

Sixty days after his first interview he had another visit with Wylie,
senior, during which the latter drained him of information and made an
appointment for a month later. Said Mr. Wylie:

"You impress me strongly, Hanford, and I want my associates to hear
you. Get your proposition into shape and make the same talk to them
that you have made to me."

Hanford went away elated; he even bragged a bit at the office, and the
report got around among the other salesmen that he really had done the
impossible and had pulled off something big with the Atlantic. It was
a busy month for that young gentleman, and when the red-letter day at
last arrived he went on to Newark to find both Wylies awaiting him.

"Well, sir, are you prepared to make a good argument?" the father
inquired.

"I am." Hanford decided that three months was not too long a time to
devote to work of this magnitude, after all.

"I want you to do your best," the bridge-builder continued,
encouragingly, then he led Hanford into the directors' room, where, to
his visitor's astonishment, some fifty men were seated.

"These are our salesmen," announced Mr. Wylie. He introduced Hanford
to them with the request that they listen attentively to what the
young man had to say.

It was rather nervous work for Hanford, but he soon warmed up and
forgot his embarrassment. He stood on his feet for two long hours
pleading as if for his life. He went over the Atlantic plant from end
to end; he showed the economic necessity for new machinery; then he
explained the efficiency of his own appliances. He took rival types
and picked them to pieces, pointing out their inferiority. He showed
his familiarity with bridge work by going into figures which bore out
his contention that the Atlantic's output could be increased and at
an actual monthly saving. He wound up by proving that the General
Equipment Company was the one concern best fitted to effect the
improvement.

It had taken months of unremitting toil to prepare himself for this
exposition, but the young fellow felt he had made his case. When he
took up the cost of the proposed instalment, however, Mr. Jackson
Wylie, Sr., interrupted him.

"That is all I care to have you cover," the latter explained. "Thank
you very kindly, Mr. Hanford."

Hanford sat down and wiped his forehead, whereupon the other stepped
forward and addressed his employees.

"Gentlemen," said he, "you have just listened to the best argument I
ever heard. I purposely called you in from the road so that you might
have a practical lesson in salesmanship and learn something from an
outsider about your own business. I want you to profit by this talk.
Take it to heart and apply it to your own customers. Our selling
efficiency has deteriorated lately; you are getting lazy. I want you
to wake up and show better results. That is all. You might thank this
young gentleman for his kindness."

When the audience had dispersed, Hanford inquired, blankly, "Don't you
intend to act on my suggestions?"

"Oh no!" said Mr. Wylie, in apparent surprise. "We are doing nicely,
as it is. I merely wanted you to address the boys."

"But--I've spent three months of hard labor on this! You led me to
believe that you would put in new equipment."

The younger Wylie laughed, languidly exhaling a lungful of cigarette
smoke. "When Dad gets ready to purchase, he'll let you know," said he.

Six months later the Atlantic Bridge Company placed a mammoth order
with Hanford's rival concern, and he was not even asked to figure on
it.

That is how the seeds of this story were sown. Of course the facts got
out, for those Atlantic salesmen were not wanting in a sense of humor,
and Hanford was joshed in every quarter. To make matters worse,
his firm called him to account for his wasted time, implying that
something was evidently wrong with his selling methods. Thus began a
lack of confidence which quickly developed into strained relations.
The result was inevitable; Hanford saw what was coming and was wise
enough to resign his position.

But it was the ridicule that hurt him most. He was unable to get
away from that. Had he been at all emotional, he would have sworn a
vendetta, so deep and lasting was the hurt, but he did not; he merely
failed to forget, which, after all, is not so different.

It seemed queer that Henry Hanford should wind up in the bridge
business himself, after attempting to fill several unsatisfactory
positions, and yet there was nothing remarkable about it, for that
three months of intense application at the Atlantic plant had given
him a groundwork which came in handy when the Patterson Bridge Company
offered him a desk. He was a good salesman; he worked hard and in
time he was promoted. By and by the story was forgotten--by every
one except Henry Hanford. But he had lost a considerable number of
precious years.

       *       *       *       *       *

When it became known that the English and Continental structural
shops were so full of work that they could not figure on the mammoth
five-million-dollar steel structure designed to span the Barrata River
in Africa, and when the Royal Commission in London finally advertised
broadcast that time was the essence of this contract, Mr. Jackson
Wylie, Sr., realized that his plant was equipped to handle the job in
magnificent shape, with large profit to himself and with great renown
to the Wylie name. He therefore sent his son, Jackson Wylie, the
Second, now a full-fledged partner, to London armed with letters to
almost everybody in England from almost everybody in America.

Two weeks later--the Patterson Bridge Company was not so aggressive
as its more pretentious rival--Henry Hanford went abroad on the same
mission, but he carried no letters of introduction for the very good
reason that he possessed neither commercial influence nor social
prestige. Bradstreets had never rated him, and _Who's Who_ contained
no names with which he was familiar.

Jackson Wylie, the Second had been to London frequently, and he was
accustomed to English life. He had friends with headquarters at
Prince's and at Romano's, friends who were delighted to entertain so
prominent an American; his letters gave him the entree to many of the
best clubs and paved his way socially wherever he chose to go.

It was Hanford's first trip across, and he arrived on British soil
without so much as a knowledge of English coins, with nothing in
the way of baggage except a grip full of blue-prints, and with no
destination except the Parliament buildings, where he had been led
to believe the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission was eagerly and
impatiently awaiting his coming. But when he called at the Parliament
buildings he failed not only to find the Commission, but even to
encounter anybody who knew anything about it. He did manage to locate
the office, after some patient effort, but learned that it was nothing
more than a forwarding address, and that no member of the Commission
had been there for several weeks. He was informed that the Commission
had convened once, and therefore was not entirely an imaginary body;
beyond that he could discover nothing. On his second visit to the
office he was told that Sir Thomas Drummond, the chairman, was inside,
having run down from his shooting-lodge in Scotland for the day. But
Sir Thomas's clerk, with whom Hanford had become acquainted at the
time of his first call, informed him that Mr. Jackson Wylie, the
Second, from America, was closeted with his lordship, and in
consequence his lordship could not be disturbed. Later, when Hanford
got more thoroughly in touch with the general situation, he began to
realize that introductions, influence, social prestige would in all
probability go farther toward landing the Barrata Bridge than mere
engineering, ability or close figuring--facts with which the younger
Wylie was already familiar, and against which he had provided. It also
became plain to Hanford as time went on that the contract would of
necessity go to America, for none of the European shops were in
position to complete it on time.

Owing to government needs, this huge, eleven-span structure had to be
on the ground within ninety days from the date of the signing of the
contract, and erected within eight months thereafter. The Commission's
clerk, a big, red-faced, jovial fellow, informed Hanford that price
was not nearly so essential as time of delivery; that although the
contract glittered with alluring bonuses and was heavily weighted
with forfeits, neither bonuses nor forfeitures could in the slightest
manner compensate for a delay in time. It was due to this very fact,
to the peculiar urgency of the occasion, that the Commissioners were
inclined to look askance at prospective bidders who might in any way
fail to complete the task as specified.

"If all that is true, tell me why Wylie gets the call?" Hanford
inquired.

"I understand he has the very highest references," said the
Englishman.

"No doubt. But you can't build bridges with letters of introduction,
even in Africa."

"Probably not. But Sir Thomas is a big man; Mr. Wylie is one of his
sort. They meet on common ground, don't you see?"

"Well, if I can't arrange an interview with any member of the
Commission, I can at least take you to lunch. Will you go?"

The clerk declared that he would, indeed, and in the days that
followed the two saw much of each other. This fellow, Lowe by name,
interested Hanford. He was a cosmopolite; he was polished to the
hardness of agate by a life spent in many lands. He possessed a cold
eye and a firm chin; he was a complex mixture of daredeviltry and
meekness. He had fought in a war or two, and he had led hopes quite
as forlorn as the one Hanford was now engaged upon. It was this bond,
perhaps, which drew the two together.

In spite of Lowe's assistance Hanford found it extremely difficult,
nay, almost impossible, to obtain any real inside information
concerning the Barrata Bridge; wherever he turned he brought up
against a blank wall of English impassiveness: he even experienced
difficulty in securing the blue-prints he wanted.

"It looks pretty tough for you," Lowe told him one day. "I'm afraid
you're going to come a cropper, old man. This chap Wylie has the rail
and he's running well. He has opened an office, I believe."

"So I understand. Well, the race isn't over yet, and I'm a good
stayer. This is the biggest thing I ever tackled and it means a lot to
me--more than you imagine."

"How so?"

Hanford recited the story of his old wrong, to Lowe's frank amazement.

"What a rotten trick!" the latter remarked.

"Yes! And--I don't forget."

"You'd better forget this job. It takes pull to get consideration from
people like Sir Thomas, and Wylie has more than he needs. A fellow
without it hasn't a chance. Look at me, for instance, working at a
desk! Bah!"

"Want to try something else?"

"I do! And you'd better follow suit."

Hanford shook his head. "I never quit--I can't. When my chance at this
bridge comes along--"

Lowe laughed.

"Oh, the chance will come. Chances always come; sometimes we don't see
them, that's all. When this one comes I want to be ready. Meanwhile, I
think I'll reconnoiter Wylie's new office and find out what's doing."

Day after day Henry Hanford pursued his work doggedly, seeing much of
Lowe, something of Wylie's clerk, and nothing whatever of Sir Thomas
Drummond or the other members of the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission.
He heard occasional rumors of the social triumphs of his rival,
and met him once, to be treated with half-veiled amusement by that
patronizing young man. Meanwhile, the time was growing short and
Hanford's firm was not well pleased with his progress.

Then the chance came, unexpectedly, as Hanford had declared chances
always come. The remarkable thing in this instance was not that the
veiled goddess showed her face, but that Hanford was quick enough
to recognize her and bold enough to act. He had taken Lowe to the
Trocadero for dinner, and, finding no seats where they could watch the
crowd, he had selected a stall in a quiet corner. They had been there
but a short time when Hanford recognized a voice from the stall
adjacent as belonging to the representative of the Atlantic Bridge
Company. From the sounds he could tell that Wylie was giving a
dinner-party, and with Lowe's aid he soon identified the guests as
members of the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission. Hanford began to
strain his ears.

As the meal progressed this became less of an effort, for young
Wylie's voice was strident. The Wylie conversation had ever been
limited largely to the Wylies, their accomplishments, their purposes,
and their prospects; and now having the floor as host, he talked
mainly about himself, his father, and their forthcoming Barrata Bridge
contract. It was his evident endeavor this evening to impress his
distinguished guests with the tremendous importance of the Atlantic
Bridge Company and its unsurpassed facilities for handling big jobs.
A large part of young Wylie's experience had been acquired by
manipulating municipal contracts and the aldermen connected therewith;
he now worked along similar lines. Hanford soon learned that he was
trying in every way possible to induce Drummond and his associates
to accompany him back to America for the purpose of proving
beyond peradventure that the Atlantic could take care of a
five-million-dollar contract with ease.

"As if they'd go!" Lowe said, softly. "And yet--by Jove! he talks as
if he had the job buttoned up."

The Englishman was alert, his dramatic instinct was at play;
recognizing the significance of Wylie's offer and its possible bearing
upon Hanford's fortunes, he waved the waiter away, knowing better than
to permit the rattle of dishes to distract his host's attention.

Meanwhile, with clenched teeth and smoldering eyes Henry Hanford heard
his rival in the next compartment identify the State of New Jersey by
the fact that the works of the Atlantic Bridge Company were located
therein, and dignify it by the fact that the Jackson Wylies lived
there.

"You know, gentlemen," Wylie was saying, "I can arrange the trip
without the least difficulty, and I assure you there will be no
discomfort. I am in constant cipher communication with my father, and
he will be delighted to afford you every courtesy. I can fix it up by
cable in a day."

Hanford arose with a silent gesture to his guest, then, although the
meal was but half over, he paid the bill. He had closed his campaign.
Right then and there he landed the great Barrata Bridge contract.

Lowe, mystified beyond measure by his friend's action, made no comment
until they were outside. Then he exclaimed:

"I say, old top, what blew off?"

Hanford smiled at him queerly. "The whole top of young Wylie's head
blew off, if he only knew it. It's my day to settle that score, and
the interest will be compounded."

"I must be extremely stupid."

"Not at all. You're damned intelligent, and that's why I'm going to
need your help." Hanford turned upon the adventurer suddenly. "Have
you ever been an actor?"

Lowe made a comical grimace. "I say, old man, that's pretty rough. My
people raised me for a gentleman."

"Exactly. Come with me to my hotel. We're going to do each other a
great favor. With your help and the help of Mr. Jackson Wylie the
Second's London clerk, I'm going to land the Barrata Bridge."

Hanford had not read his friend Lowe awrong, and when, behind locked
doors, he outlined his plan, the big fellow gazed at him with
amazement, his blue eyes sparkling with admiration.

"Gad! That appeals to me. I--think I can do it." There was no timidity
in Lowe's words, merely a careful consideration of the risks involved.

Hanford gripped his hand. "I'll attend to Wylie's clerk," he declared.
"Now we'd better begin to rehearse."

"But what makes you so positive you can handle his clerk?" queried
Lowe.

"Oh, I've studied him the same way I've studied you! I've been doing
nothing else for the last month."

"Bli' me, you're a corker!" said Mr. Lowe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Back in Newark, New Jersey, Jackson Wylie, Sr., was growing impatient.
In spite of his son's weekly reports he had begun to fret at the
indefinite nature of results up to date. This dissatisfaction it was
that had induced him to cable his invitation to the Royal Commission
to visit the Atlantic plant. Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., had a mysterious
way of closing contracts once he came in personal contact with the
proper people. In the words of his envious competitors, he had "good
terminal facilities," and he felt sure in his own mind that he could
get this job if only he could meet some member of that Commission who
possessed the power to act. Business was bad, and in view of his son's
preliminary reports he had relied upon the certainty of securing this
tremendous contract; he had even turned work away so that his plant
might be ready for the rush, with the result that many of his men now
were idle and that he was running far below capacity. But he likewise
had his eye upon those English bonuses, and when his associates rather
timidly called his attention to the present state of affairs he
assured them bitingly that he knew his business. Nevertheless, he
could not help chafing at delay nor longing for the time to come to
submit the bid that had lain for a month upon his desk. The magnitude
of the figures contained therein was getting on Mr. Wylie's nerves.

On the tenth of May he received a cablegram in his own official cipher
which, translated, read:

Meet Sir Thomas Drummond, Chairman Royal Barrata Bridge Commission,
arriving Cunard Liner _Campania_, thirteenth, stopping Waldorf.
Arrange personally Barrata contract. Caution.

The cablegram was unsigned, but its address, "Atwylie," betrayed not
only its destination, but also the identity of its sender. Mr. Jackson
Wylie, Sr., became tremendously excited. The last word conjured up
bewildering possibilities. He was about to consult his associates when
it struck him that the greatest caution he could possibly observe
would consist of holding his own tongue now and henceforth. They had
seen fit to criticize his handling of the matter thus far; he decided
he would play safe and say nothing until he had first seen Sir Thomas
Drummond and learned the lay of the land. He imagined he might then
have something electrifying to tell them. He had "dealt from the
bottom" too often, he had closed too many bridge contracts in his
time, to mistake the meaning of this visit, or of that last word
"caution."

During the next few days Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., had hard work to hold
himself in, and he was at a high state of nervous tension when, on
the morning of the fourteenth day of May, he strolled into the
Waldorf-Astoria and inquired at the desk for Sir Thomas Drummond.

There was no Sir Thomas stopping at the hotel, although a Mr. T.
Drummond from London had arrived on the _Campania_ the day before. Mr.
Jackson Wylie placed the heel of his right shoe upon the favorite corn
of his left foot and bore down upon it heavily. He must be
getting into his dotage, he reflected, or else the idea of a
five-million-dollar job had him rattled. Of course Sir Thomas would
not use his title.

At the rear desk he had his card blown up through the tube to "Mr. T.
Drummond," and a few moments later was invited to take the elevator.

Arriving at the sixth floor, he needed no page to guide him; boots
pointed his way to the apartment of the distinguished visitor as plainly
as a lettered sign-board; boots of all descriptions--hunting-boots,
riding-boots, street shoes, lowshoes, pumps, sandals--black ones and tan
ones--all in a row outside the door. It was a typically English display.
Evidently Sir Thomas Drummond was a personage of the most extreme
importance and traveled in befitting style, Mr. Wylie told himself.
Nothing was missing from the collection, unless perhaps a pair of rubber
hip-boots.

A stoop-shouldered old man with a marked accent and a port-wine nose
showed Mr. Wylie into a parlor where the first object upon which
his active eyes alighted was a mass of blue-prints. He knew these
drawings; he had figured on them himself. He likewise noted a hat-box
and a great, shapeless English bag, both plastered crazily with hotel
and steamship labels hailing from every quarter of the world. It was
plain to be seen that Sir Thomas was a globe-trotter.

"Mr. Drummond begs you to be seated," the valet announced, with what
seemed an unnecessary accent on the "mister," then moved silently out.

Mr. Wylie remarked to himself upon the value of discreet servants.
They were very valuable; very hard to get in America. This must be
some lifelong servitor in his lordship's family.

There was no occasion to inquire the identity of the tall, florid
Englishman in tweeds who entered a moment later, a bundle of estimates
in his hand. "Sir Thomas Drummond, Chairman of the Royal Barrata
Bridge Commission," was written all over him in large type.

His lordship did not go to the trouble of welcoming his visitor, but
scanned him frigidly through his glasses.

"You are Mr. Jackson Wylie, Senior?" he demanded, abruptly.

"That is my name."

"President of the Atlantic Bridge Company, of Newark, New Jersey?"

"The same."

"You received a cablegram from your son in London?"

"Yes, your lordship."

Sir Thomas made a gesture as if to forego the title. "Let me see it,
please."

Mr. Wylie produced the cablegram, and Drummond scanned it sharply.
Evidently the identification was complete.

"Does any one besides your son and yourself know the contents of this
message?"

"Not a soul."

"You have not told any one of my coming?"

"No, sir!"

"Very well." Sir Thomas appeared to breathe easier; he deliberately
tore the cablegram into small bits, then tossed the fragments into
a wastepaper basket before waving his caller to a chair. He still
remained very cold, very forceful, although his stiff formality had
vanished.

"Do you understand all about this bridge?" he inquired.

Wylie senior took the cue of brusqueness and nodded shortly.

"Can you build it in the time specified?"

"With ease."

"Have you submitted your bid?"

"Not yet. I--"

"What is the amount of your proposal?"

The president of the Atlantic Bridge Company gasped. This was the
boldest, the coldest work he had ever experienced. Many times he had
witnessed public officials like Sir Thomas Drummond approach this
delicate point, but never with such composure, such matter-of-fact
certainty and lack of moral scruple. Evidently, however, this
Englishman had come to trade and wanted a direct answer. There was no
false pose, no romance here. But Jackson Wylie, Sr., was too shrewd a
business man to name a rock-bottom price to begin with. The training
of a lifetime would not permit him to deny himself a liberal leeway
for hedging, therefore he replied, cautiously:

"My figures will be approximately £1,400,000 sterling." It was his
longest speech thus far.

For what seemed an hour to the bridge-builder Sir Thomas Drummond
gazed at him with a cold, hard eye, then he folded his papers,
rolled up his blue-prints, placed them in the big traveling-bag, and
carefully locked it. When he had finished he flung out this question
suddenly:

"Does that include the Commissioners?"

Up to this point Mr. Jackson Wylie had spoken mainly in monosyllables;
now he quit talking altogether; it was no longer necessary. He merely
shook his head in negation. He was smiling slightly.

"Then I shall ask you to add £200,000 sterling to your price," his
lordship calmly announced. "Make your bid £1,600,000 sterling, and
mail it in time for Wednesday's boat. I sail on the same ship.
Proposals will be opened on the twenty-fifth. Arrange for an English
indemnity bond for ten per cent. of your proposition. Do not
communicate in any manner whatsoever with your son, except to forward
the sealed bid to him. He is not to know of our arrangement. You will
meet me in London later; we will take care of that £200,000 out of the
last forty per cent. of the contract price, which is payable thirty
days after completion, inspection, and acceptance of the bridge. You
will not consult your associates upon leaving here. Do I make myself
clear? Very well, sir. The figures are easy to remember: £1,600,000;
£1,400,000 to you. I am pleased with the facilities your plant offers
for doing the work. I am confident you can complete the bridge on
time, and I beg leave to wish you a very pleasant good day."

Jackson Wylie, Sr., did not really come to until he had reached
the street; even then he did not know whether he had come down the
elevator or through the mail-chute. Of one thing only was he certain:
he was due to retire in favor of his son. He told himself that
he needed a trip through the Holy Land with a guardian and a
nursing-bottle; then he paused on the curb and stamped on his corn for
a second time.

"Oh, what an idiot I am!" he cried, savagely. "I could have
gotten £1,600,000 to start with, but--by gad, Sir Thomas is the
coldest-blooded thing I ever went against! I--I can't help but admire
him."

Having shown a deplorable lack of foresight, Mr. Wylie determined to
make up for it by an ample display of hindsight. If the profits on the
job were not to be so large as they might have been, he would at
least make certain of them by obeying instructions to the letter. In
accordance with this determination, he made out the bid himself, and
he mailed it with his own hand that very afternoon. He put three blue
stamps on the envelope, although it required but two. Then he called
up an automobile agency and ordered a foreign town-car his wife had
admired. He decided that she and the girls might go to Paris for the
fall shopping--he might even go with them, in view of that morning's
episode.

For ten days he stood the pressure, then on the morning of the
twenty-fourth he called his _confrères_ into the directors' room, that
same room in which young Hanford had made his talk a number of years
before. Inasmuch as it was too late now for a disclosure to affect the
opening of the bids in London, he felt absolved from his promise to
Sir Thomas.

"Gentlemen, I have the honor to inform you," he began, pompously,
"that the Barrata Bridge is ours! We have the greatest structural
steel job of the decade." His chest swelled with justifiable pride.

"How? When? What do you mean?" they cried.

He told them of his mysterious but fruitful interview at the Waldorf
ten days previously, enjoying their expressions of amazement to the
full; then he explained in considerable detail the difficulties he had
surmounted in securing such liberal figures from Sir Thomas.

"We were ready to take the contract for £1,300,000, as you will
remember, but by the exercise of some diplomacy"--he coughed
modestly--"I may say, by the display of some firmness and
independence, I succeeded in securing a clean profit of $500,000 over
what we had expected." He accepted, with becoming diffidence, the
congratulations which were showered upon him. Of course, the news
created a sensation, but it was as nothing to the sensation that
followed upon the receipt of a cablegram the next day which read:

ATWYLIE,

Newark, New Jersey.

Terrible mistake somewhere. We lost. Am coming home to-day.

Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., also went home that day--by carriage, for,
after raving wildly of treachery, after cursing the name of some
English nobleman, unknown to most of the office force, he collapsed,
throwing his employees into much confusion. There were rumors of
an apoplectic stroke; some one telephoned for a physician; but the
president of the Atlantic Bridge Company only howled at the latter
when he arrived.

What hit the old man hardest was the fact that he could not explain to
his associates--that he could not even explain to himself, for that
matter. He could make neither head nor tail of the affair; his son was
on the high seas and could not be reached; the mystery of the whole
transaction threatened to unseat his reason. Even when his sorrowing
heir arrived, a week after the shock, the father could gather nothing
at first except the bare details.

All he could learn was that the Royal Barrata Bridge Commission
had met on the twenty-fifth day of May, for the second time in its
history, with Sir Thomas Drummond in the chair. In the midst of an
ultra-British solemnity the bids had been opened and read--nine of
them--two Belgian, one German, two French, one English, one Scottish,
and two American.

The only proposals that conformed to the specifications in every
respect were the last named. They were perfect. The Atlantic Bridge
Company, of Newark, New Jersey, offered to do the work as specified
for £1,600,000 sterling. The Patterson Bridge Company, through its
authorized agent, Mr. Henry Hanford, named a price of £1,550,000. The
rest was but a matter of detail.

Having concluded this bald recital, Jackson Wylie, the Second, spread
his hands in a gesture of despair. "I can't understand it," he said,
dolefully. "I thought I had it cinched all the time."

"_You_ had it cinched!" bellowed his father. "_You_! Why, you ruined
it all! Why in hell did you send him over here?"

"I? Send who? What are you talking about?"

"That man with the boots! That lying, thieving scoundrel, Sir Thomas
Drummond, of course."

The younger Wylie's face showed blank, uncomprehending amazement. "Sir
Thomas Drummond was in London all the time I was there. I saw him
daily," said he.

Not until this very moment did the president of the Atlantic Bridge
Company comprehend the trap he had walked into, but now the whole
hideous business became apparent. He had been fooled, swindled, and in
a way to render recourse impossible; nay, in a manner to blacken his
reputation if the story became public. He fell actually ill from the
passion of his rage and not even a long rest from the worries of
business completely cured him. The bitter taste of defeat would not
down. He might never have understood the matter thoroughly had it not
been for a missive he received one day through the mail. It was a bill
from a London shoe-store for twelve pairs of boots, of varying styles,
made out to Henry Hanford, and marked "paid."

Mr. Jackson Wylie, Sr., noted with unspeakable chagrin that the last
word was heavily under-scored in ink, as if by another hand. Hanford's
bill was indeed paid, and with interest to date.



THE CUB REPORTER


Why he chose Buffalo Paul Anderson never knew, unless perhaps it
had more newspapers than Bay City, Michigan, and because his ticket
expired in the vicinity of Buffalo. For that matter, why he should
have given up an easy job as the mate of a tugboat to enter the
tortuous paths of journalism the young man did not know, and, lacking
the introspective faculty, he did not stop to analyze his motives. So
far as he could discover he had felt the call to higher endeavor, and
just naturally had heeded it. Such things as practical experience and
educational equipment were but empty words to him, for he was young
and hopeful, and the world is kind at twenty-one.

He had hoped to enter his chosen field with some financial backing,
and to that end, when the desire to try his hand at literature had
struck him, he had bought an interest in a smoke-consumer which a
fireman on another tugboat had patented. In partnership with the
inventor he had installed one of the devices beneath a sawmill boiler
as an experiment. Although the thing consumed smoke surprisingly well,
it likewise unharnessed such an amazing army of heat-units that it
melted the crown-sheet of the boiler; whereupon the sawmill men, being
singularly coarse and unimaginative fellows, set upon the patentee and
his partner with ash-rakes, draw-bars, and other ordinary, unpatented
implements; a lumberjack beat hollowly upon their ribs with a peavy,
and that night young Anderson sickened of smoke-consumers, harked anew
to the call of journalism, and hiked, arriving in Buffalo with seven
dollars and fifty cents to the good.

For seven dollars, counted out in advance, he chartered a furnished
room for a week, the same carrying with it a meal at each end of the
day, which left in Anderson's possession a superfluity of fifty cents
to be spent in any extravagance he might choose.

Next day he bought a copy of each newspaper and, carefully scanning
them, selected the one upon which to bestow his reportorial gifts.
This done, he weighed anchor and steamed through the town in search of
the office. Walking in upon the city editor of _The Intelligencer_, he
gazed with benevolent approval upon that busy gentleman's broad back.
He liked the place, the office suited him, and he decided to have his
desk placed over by the window.

After a time the editor wheeled, displaying a young, smooth, fat face,
out of which peered gray-blue eyes with pin-point pupils.

"Well?" he queried.

"Here I am," said Anderson.

"So it appears. What do you want?"

"Work."

"What kind?"

"Newspapering."

"What can you do?"

"Anything."

"Well, well!" cried the editor. "You don't look much like a newspaper
man."

"I'm not one--yet. But I'm going to be."

"Where have you worked?"

"Nowhere! You see, I'm really a playwright."

The editor's face showed a bit of interest. "Playwright, eh? Anderson!
Anderson!" he mused. "Don't recall the name."

"No," said Paul; "I've never written any plays yet, but I'm going
to. That's why I want to sort of begin here and get the hang of this
writing game."

A boy entered with some proofs at that moment and tossed them upon
the table, distracting the attention of the newspaper man. The latter
wheeled back to his work and spoke curtly over his shoulder.

"I'm not running a school of journalism. Good-by."

"Maybe you'd like me to do a little space work--?"

"I'd never like you. Get out. I'm busy."

Anderson retired gracefully, jingling his scanty handful of nickels
and dimes, and a half-hour later thrust himself boldly in upon another
editor, but with no better result. He made the rounds of all the
offices; although invariably rebuffed he became more firmly convinced
than ever that journalism was his designated sphere.

That night after dinner he retired to his room with the evening
papers, wedged a chair against his bed, and, hoisting his feet upon
the wash-stand, absorbed the news of the day. It was ineffably sweet
and satisfying to be thus identified with the profession of letters,
and it was immeasurably more dignified than "tugging" on the Saginaw
River. Once he had schooled himself in the tricks of writing, he
decided he would step to higher things than newspaper work, but for
the present it was well to ground himself firmly in the rudiments of
the craft.

In going through the papers he noted one topic which interested him, a
"similar mystery" story on the second page. From what he could gather,
he judged that much space had already been given to it; for now,
inasmuch as no solution offered, the item was dying slowly, the major
portion of each article being devoted to a rehash of similar unsolved
mysteries.

Anderson read that the body of the golden-haired girl still lay at the
Morgue, unidentified. Bit by bit he pieced together the lean story
that she was a suicide and that both the police and the press had
failed in their efforts to unearth the least particle of information
regarding her. In spite of her remarkable beauty and certain unusual
circumstances connected with her death investigation had led nowhere.

On the following day Anderson again walked into the editorial-rooms
of _The Intelligencer_ and greeted the smooth, fat-faced occupant
thereof.

"Anything doing yet?" he inquired.

"Not yet," said the newspaper man, with a trace of annoyance in his
voice. As the applicant moved out he halted him at the door with the
words: "Oh! Wait!"

Anderson's heart leaped. After all, he thought, perseverance would--

"Not yet, nor soon." The editor smiled broadly, and Paul realized that
the humor in those pin-point eyes was rather cruel.

Five other calls he made that day, to be greeted gruffly in every
instance except one. One man encouraged him slightly by saying:

"Come back next week; I may have an opening then."

In view of the "pay-as-you-enter" policy in vogue at Anderson's
boarding-house he knew there could be no next week for him, therefore
he inquired:

"How about a little space work in the meantime? I'm pretty good at
that stuff."

"You are?"

"Surest thing you know."

"Did you ever do any?"

"No. But I'm good, just the same."

"Huh!" the editor grunted. "There's no room now, and, come to think of
it, you needn't bother to get around next week. I can't break in new
men."

That evening young Anderson again repaired to his room with his
harvest of daily papers, and again he read them thoroughly. He was by
no means discouraged as yet, for his week had just begun--there
were still five days of grace, and prime ministers have been made
overnight, nations have fallen in five days. Six calls a day for five
days, that meant thirty chances for a job. It was a cinch!

Hidden away among the back pages once more he encountered the
golden-haired-girl story, and although one paper featured it a bit
because of some imaginary clue, the others treated it casually, making
public the information that the body still lay at the Morgue, a
silent, irritating thing of mystery.

On the third day Paul made his usual round of calls. He made them more
quickly now because he was recognized, and was practically thrown out
of each editorial sanctum. His serenity remained unruffled, and
his confidence undisturbed. Of all the six editors, Burns, of _The
Intelligencer_, treated him worst, adding ridicule to his gruffness, a
refinement of cruelty which annoyed the young steamboat man. Anderson
clenched his hard-knuckled hand and estimated the distance from
editorial ear to point of literary chin, but realized in time that
steamboat methods were out of place here in the politer realms of
journalism.

Four times more he followed his daily routine, and on Monday morning
arose early to avoid his landlady. His week was up, his nickels and
dimes were gone, nevertheless he spent the day on his customary
rounds. He crept in late at night, blue with the cold and rather dazed
at his bad luck; he had eaten nothing since the morning before, and
he knew that he dared not show up at the breakfast-table the next
morning. For the time being discouragement settled upon him; it
settled suddenly like some heavy smothering thing; it robbed him of
hope and redoubled his hunger. He awoke at daylight, roused by the
sense of his defeat, then tiptoed out while yet the landlady was abed,
and spent the day looking for work along the water-front. But winter
had tied up the shipping, and he failed, as he likewise failed at
sundry employment agencies where he offered himself in any capacity.

At noon he wandered into the park, and, finding a sheltered spot,
sunned himself as best he could. He picked up the sheets of a
wind-scattered paper and read until the chill December afternoon
got into his bones and forced him to his feet. The tale of the
unidentified girl at the Morgue recurred to him when he read the
announcement that she would be buried two days later in the Potter's
Field. Perhaps the girl had starved for lack of work, he reflected.
Perhaps hunger and cold had driven her to her death. Certainly those
two were to blame for many a tragedy calculated to mystify warmly clad
policemen and well-fed reporters.

When he stole, shivering, into his bleak bedroom, late that night, he
found a note pinned upon his pillow. Of course the landlady needed her
rent--all landladies were in need of money--and of course he would get
out in the morning. He was glad she had not turned him out during the
day, for this afforded him sanctuary for another night at least. After
to-morrow it would be a park bench for his.

He left his valise behind in the morning, rather lamenting the fact
that the old lady could not wear the shirts it contained, and hoping
that she would realize a sufficient sum from their sale to pay his
bill.

It was late afternoon when he commenced his listless tramp toward the
newspaper offices. Since Burns had become his pet aversion, he saved
him for the last, framing a few farewell remarks befitting the death
of hopes like his, and rehearsing an exit speech suitable to mark his
departure from the field of letters.

When he finally reached _The Intelligencer_ editorial-rooms, Burns
rounded on him angrily.

"For the love of Mike! Are you here again?" he demanded.

"I thought you might like to have some space work--"

"By heavens! You're persistent."

"Yes."

"We editors are an unfeeling lot, aren't we?" the fat young man
inquired. "No temperament, no appreciation." He laughed noiselessly.

"Give me a job," Anderson cried, his voice breaking huskily. "I'll
make good. I'll do anything."

"How long do you intend to keep bothering me?" questioned Burns.

Anderson's cheeks were blue and the backs of his legs were trembling
from weakness, but he repeated, stolidly: "Give me a job. I--I won't
bother you after that. I'll make good, see if I don't."

"You think well of yourself, don't you?"

"If you thought half as well of me as I do," Paul assured him, "I'd be
your star reporter."

"Star hell!" testily cried the editor. "We haven't got such a thing.
They don't know they're alive, except on pay-day. Look at this blond
girl at the Morgue--they've wasted two weeks on that case." He paused
suddenly, then his soft lips spread, showing his sharp, white teeth.
Modifying his tone, he continued: "Say, I rather like you, Anderson,
you're such a blamed nuisance. You've half convinced me that you're a
genius."

The younger man's hunger, which had given up in despair, raised its
head and bit into his vitals sharply.

"Maybe I--"

"I've a notion to give you a chance."

"That's all I want," the caller quavered, in a panic. "Just give me a
toe-hold, that's all," His voice broke in spite of his effort to
hold it steady. Burns wasn't a bad sort, after all; just grouchy and
irritable. Perhaps this was merely his way.

Burns continued: "Well, I will give you an assignment, a good
assignment, too, and if you cover it I'll put you on permanently. I'll
do more than that, I'll pay you what we pay our best man, if you make
good. That's fair, isn't it?"

He smiled benignly, and the soon-to-be reporter's wits went capering
off in a hysterical stampede. Anderson felt the desire to wring the
fellow's hand.

"All that counts in this office is efficiency," the latter went on.
"We play no favorites. When a man delivers the goods we boost him;
when he fails we fire him. There's no sentiment here, and I hold my
job merely because I'm the best man in the shop. Can you go to work
to-night?"

"Why--why--yes, sir!"

"Very well. That's the spirit I like. You can take your time on the
story, and you needn't come back till you bring it."

"Yes, sir."

"Now pay attention, here it is. About two weeks ago a blond girl
committed suicide in a Main Street boarding-house. The body's down at
the Morgue now. Find out who she is." He turned back to his desk and
began to work.

The hungry youth behind him experienced a sudden sinking at the
stomach. All at once he became hopelessly empty and friendless, and he
felt his knees urging him to sit down. He next became conscious
that the shoulders of Mr. Burns were shaking a bit, as if he had
encountered a piece of rare humor. After an instant, when Anderson
made no move to go, the man at the desk wheeled about, exposing a
bloated countenance purple with suppressed enjoyment.

"What's the matter?" he giggled. "Don't you want the job? I can't tell
you any more about the girl; that's all we know. The rest is up to
you. You'll find out everything, won't you? Please do, for your own
sake and the sake of _The Intelligencer_. Yes, yes, I'm sure you will,
because you're a good newspaper man--you told me so yourself." His
appreciation of the jest threatened to strangle him.

"Mr. Burns," began the other, "I--I'm up against it. I guess you don't
know it, but I'm hungry. I haven't eaten for three days."

At this the editor became positively apoplectic.

"Oh yes--yes, I do!" He nodded vigorously. "You show it in your face.
That's why I went out of my way to help you. He! He! He! Now you run
along and get me the girl's name and address while I finish this
proof. Then come back and have supper with me at the Press Club."
Again he chortled and snickered, whereupon something sullen and fierce
awoke in young Anderson. He knew of a way to get food and a bed and a
place to work even if it would only last thirty days, for he judged
Burns was the kind of man who would yell for the police in case of an
assault. Paul would have welcomed the prospect of prison fare, but he
reasoned that it would be an incomplete satisfaction merely to mash
the pudgy face of Mr. Burns and hear him clamor. What he wanted at
this moment was a job; Burns's beating could hold over. This suicide
case had baffled the pick of Buffalo's trained reporters; it had
foiled the best efforts of her police; nevertheless, this fat-paunched
fellow had baited a starving man by offering him the assignment. It
was impossible; it was a cruel joke, and yet--there might be a chance
of success. Even while he was debating the point he heard himself say:

"Very well, Mr. Burns. If you want her name I'll get it for you."

He crammed his hat down over his ears and walked out, leaving the
astonished editor gazing after him with open mouth.

Anderson's first impulse had been merely to get out of Burns's office,
out of sight of that grinning satyr, and never to come back, but
before he had reached the street he had decided that it was as well to
starve striving as with folded hands. After all, the dead girl had a
name.

Instead of leaving the building, he went to the files of the paper
and, turning back, uncovered the original story, which he cut out with
his pen-knife, folded up, and placed in his pocket. This done, he
sought the lobby of a near-by hotel, found a seat near a radiator, and
proceeded to read the clipping carefully.

It was a meager story, but it contained facts and was free from the
confusion and distortions of the later accounts, which was precisely
what he wished to guard against. Late one afternoon, so the story
went, the girl had rented a room in a Main Street boarding-house, had
eaten supper and retired. At eleven o'clock the next day, when she did
not respond to a knock on her door, the room had been broken into and
she had been found dead, with an empty morphine-bottle on the bureau.
That was all. There were absolutely no clues to the girl's identity,
for the closest scrutiny failed to discover a mark on her clothing
or any personal articles which could be traced. She had possessed no
luggage, save a little hand-satchel or shopping-bag containing a few
coins. One fact alone stood out in the whole affair. She had paid for
her room with a two-dollar Canadian bill, but this faint clue had been
followed with no result. No one knew the girl; she had walked out of
nowhere and had disappeared into impenetrable mystery. Those were the
facts in the case, and they were sufficiently limited to baffle the
best efforts of Buffalo's trained detective force.

It would seem that there can be no human creature so obscure as to
have neither relatives, friends, nor acquaintances, and yet this
appeared to be the case, for a full description of this girl had
been blazoned in the papers of every large city, had been exposed in
countless country post-offices, and conveyed to the police of every
city of the States and Canada. It was as if the mysterious occupant of
the Morgue had been born of the winter wind on that fateful evening
two weeks before. The country had been dragged by a net of publicity,
that marvelous, fine-meshed fabric from which no living man is small
or shrewd enough to escape, and still the sad, white face at the
Morgue continued to smile out from its halo of gold as if in gentle
mockery.

For a long time Paul Anderson sat staring into the realms of
speculation, his lips white with hunger, his cheeks hollow and
feverish from the battle he had waged. His power of exclusion was
strong, therefore he lost himself to his surroundings. Finally,
however, he roused himself from his abstraction and realized the irony
of this situation. He, the weakest, the most inexperienced of all the
men who had tried, had been set to solve this mystery, and starvation
was to be the fruit of his failure.

He saw that it had begun to snow outside. In the lobby it was warm and
bright and vivid with jostling life; the music of a stringed orchestra
somewhere back of him was calling well-dressed men and women in to
dinner. All of them seemed happy, hopeful, purposeful. He noted,
furthermore, that three days without food makes a man cold, even in
a warm place, and light-headed, too. The north wind had bitten him
cruelly as he crossed the street, and now as he peered out of the
plate-glass windows the night seemed to hold other lurking horrors
besides. His want was like a burden, and he shuddered weakly,
hesitating to venture out where the wind could harry him. It was a
great temptation to remain here where there was warmth and laughter
and life; nevertheless, he rose and slunk shivering out into the
darkness, then laid a course toward the Morgue.

While Anderson trod the snowy streets a slack-jowled editor sat at
supper with some friends at the Press Club, eating and drinking
heartily, as is the custom of newspaper men let down for a moment from
the strain of their work. He had told a story, and his caustic way
of telling it had amused his hearers, for each and every one of them
remembered the shabby applicant for work, and all of them had wasted
baffling hours on the mystery of this girl with the golden hair.

"I guess I put a crimp in him," giggled Mr. Burns. "I gave him a
chance to show those talents he recommends so highly."

"The Morgue, on a night like this, is a pretty dismal place for a
hungry man," said one of the others. "It's none too cheerful in the
daytime."

The others agreed, and Burns wabbled anew in his chair in appreciation
of his humor.

Young Anderson had never seen a morgue, and to-night, owing to his
condition, his dread of it was child-like. It seemed as if this
particular charnel-house harbored some grisly thing which stood
between him and food and warmth and hope; the nearer he drew to it the
greater grew his dread. A discourteous man, shrunken as if from the
chill of the place, was hunched up in front of a glowing stove. He
greeted Anderson sourly:

"Out into that courtyard; turn to the left--second door," he directed.
"She's in the third compartment."

Anderson lacked courage to ask the fellow to come along, but stumbled
out into a snow-filled areaway lighted by a swinging incandescent
which danced to the swirling eddies.

Compartment! He supposed bodies were kept upon slabs or tables, or
something like that. He had steeled himself to see rows of unspeakable
sights, played upon by dripping water, but he found nothing of the
sort.

The second door opened into a room which he discovered was colder than
the night outside, evidently the result of artificial refrigeration.
He was relieved to find the place utterly bare except for a sort of
car or truck which ran around the room on a track beneath a row of
square doors. These doors evidently opened into the compartments
alluded to by the keeper.

Which compartment had the fellow said? Paul abruptly discovered that
he was rattled, terribly rattled, and he turned back out of the place.
He paused shortly, however, and took hold of himself.

"Now, now!" he said, aloud. "You're a bum reporter, my boy." An
instant later he forced himself to jerk open the first door at his
hand.

For what seemed a full minute he stared into the cavern, as if
petrified, then he closed the door softly. Sweat had started from his
every pore. Alone once more in the great room, he stood shivering.
"God!" he muttered. This was newspaper training indeed.

He remembered now having read, several days before, about an Italian
laborer who had been crushed by a falling column. To one unaccustomed
to death in any form that object, head-on in the obscurity of the
compartment, had been a trying sight. He began to wonder if it were
really cold or stiflingly hot.

The boy ground his teeth and flung open the next door, slamming it
hurriedly again to blot out what it exposed. Why didn't they keep them
covered? Why didn't they show a card outside? Must he examine every
grisly corpse upon the premises?

He stepped to the third door and wrenched it open. He knew the girl at
once by her wealth of yellow hair and the beauty of her still, white
face. There was no horror here, no ghastly sight to weaken a man's
muscles and sicken his stomach; only a tired girl asleep. Anderson
felt a great pity as he wheeled the truck opposite the door and
reverently drew out the slab on which the body lay. He gazed upon her
intently for some time. She was not at all as he had pictured her, and
yet there could be no mistake. He took the printed description from
his pocket and reread it carefully, comparing it point by point. When
he had finished he found that it was a composite word photograph,
vaguely like and yet totally unlike the person it was intended to
portray, and so lacking in character that no one knowing the original
intimately would have been likely to recognize her from it.

So that was why no word had come in answer to all this newspaper
publicity. After all, this case might not be so difficult as it had
seemed; for the first time the dispirited youth felt a faint glow of
encouragement. He began to formulate a plan.

Hurriedly he fumbled for his note-book, and there, in that house
of death, with his paper propped against the wall, he wrote a
two-hundred-word description; a description so photographically exact
that to this day it is preserved in the Buffalo police archives as a
perfect model.

He replaced the body in its resting-place and went out. There was no
chill in him now, no stumbling nor weakness of any sort. He had found
a starting-point, had uncovered what all those trained newspaper men
had missed, and he felt that he had a chance to win.

Twenty minutes later Burns, who had just come in from supper, turned
back from his desk with annoyance and challenge in his little, narrow
eyes.

"Well?"

"I think I've got her, Mr. Burns."

"Nonsense!"

"Anyhow, I've got a description that her father or her mother or
her friends can recognize. The one you and the other papers printed
disguised her so that nobody could tell who she was--it might have
covered a hundred girls."

Rapidly, and without noting the editor's growing impatience, Paul read
the two descriptions, then ran on, breathlessly:

"All we have to do is print ten or twenty thousand of these and mail
them out with the morning edition--separate sheets, posters, you
understand?--so they can be nailed up in every post-office within two
hundred miles. Send some to the police of all the cities, and we'll
have a flash in twenty-four hours."

Burns made no comment for a moment. Instead, he looked the young man
over angrily from his eager face to his unblacked shoes. His silence,
his stare, were eloquent.

"Why? Why not?" Anderson demanded, querulously. "I tell you this
description isn't right. It--it's nothing like her, nothing at all."

"Say! I thought I'd seen the last of you," growled the corpulent man.
"Aren't you on to yourself yet?"

"Do you--mean that your talk this evening don't go?" Paul demanded,
quietly. "Do you mean to say you won't even give me the chance you
promised?"

"No! I don't mean that. What I said goes, all right, but I told _you_
to identify this girl. I didn't agree to do it. What d'you think this
paper is, anyhow? We want stories in this office. We don't care who or
what this girl is unless there's a story in her. We're not running a
job-print shop nor a mail-order business to identify strayed females.
Twenty thousand posters! Bah! And say--don't you know that no two men
can write similar descriptions of anybody or anything? What's the
difference whether her hair is burnished gold or 'raw gold' or her
eyes bluish gray instead of grayish blue? Rats! Beat it!"

"But I tell you--"

"What's her name? Where does she live? What killed her? That's what I
want to know. I'd look fine, wouldn't I, circularizing a dead story?
Wouldn't that be a laugh on me? No, Mr. Anderson, author, artist, and
playwright, I'm getting damned tired of being pestered by you, and you
needn't come back here until you bring the goods. Do I make myself
plain?"

It was anger which cut short the younger man's reply. On account of
petty economy, for fear of ridicule, this editor refused to relieve
some withered old woman, some bent and worried old man, who might be,
who probably were, waiting, waiting, waiting in some out-of-the-way
village. So Anderson reflected. Because there might not be a story in
it this girl would go to the Potter's Field and her people would never
know. And yet, by Heaven, they _would_ know! Something told him there
_was_ a story back of this girl's death, and he swore to get it. With
a mighty effort he swallowed his chagrin and, disregarding the insult
to himself, replied:

"Very well. I've got you this time."

"Humph!" Burns grunted, viciously.

"I don't know how I'll turn the trick, but I'll turn it." For the
second time that evening he left the office with his jaws set
stubbornly.

Paul Anderson walked straight to his boarding-house and bearded his
landlady. "I've got a job," said he.

"I'm very glad," the lady told him, honestly enough. "I feared you
were going to move out."

"Yes!" he repeated. "I've got a job that carries the highest salary
on the paper. You remember the yellow-haired girl who killed herself
awhile ago?" he asked.

"Indeed I do. Everybody knows about that case."

"Well, it got too tough for the police and the other reporters, so
they turned it over to me. It's a bully assignment, and my pay starts
when I solve the mystery. Now I'm starved; I wish you'd rustle me some
grub."

"But, Mr. Anderson, you're bill for this week? You know I get paid
in--"

"Tut, tut! You know how newspapers are. They don't pay in advance, and
I can't pay you until they pay me. You'll probably have to wait until
Saturday, for I'm a little out of practice on detective stuff. But
I'll have this thing cleared up by then. You don't appreciate--you
_can't_ appreciate--what a corking assignment it is."

Anderson had a peculiarly engaging smile, and five minutes later he
was wrecking the pantry of all the edibles his fellow-boarders had
overlooked, the while his landlady told him her life's history, wept
over the memory of her departed husband, and confessed that she hoped
to get out of the boarding-house business some time.

A good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast put the young man in fine
fettle, and about ten o'clock he repaired to a certain rooming-house
on Main Street, the number of which he obtained from the clipping in
his pocket.

A girl answered his ring, but at sight of him she shut the door
hurriedly, explaining through the crack:

"Mrs. MacDougal is out and you can't come in."

"But I want to talk to you."

"I'm not allowed to talk to reporters," she declared. "Mrs. MacDougal
won't let me."

A slight Scotch accent gave Anderson his cue. "MacDougal is a good
Scotch name. I'm Scotch myself, and so are you." He smiled his
boarding-house smile, and the girl's eyes twinkled back at him.
"Didn't she tell you I was coming?"

"Why, no, sir. Aren't you a reporter?"

"I've been told that I'm not. I came to look at a room."

"What room?" the girl asked, quickly. "We haven't any vacant rooms."

"That's queer," Anderson frowned. "I can't be mistaken. I'm sure Mrs.
MacDougal said there was one."

The door opened slowly. "Maybe she meant the one on the second floor."

"Precisely." An instant later he was following his guide up-stairs.

Anderson recognized the room at a glance, from its description, but
the girl did not mention the tragedy which had occurred therein, so
he proceeded to talk terms with her, prolonging his stay as long as
possible, meanwhile using his eyes to the best advantage. He invented
an elaborate ancestry which he traced backward through the pages of
_Scottish Chiefs_, the only book of the sort he had ever read, and by
the time he was ready to leave the girl had thawed out considerably.

"I'll take the room," he told her, "and I'm well pleased to get it. I
don't see how such a good one stands vacant in this location."

There was an instant's pause, then his companion confessed: "There's a
reason. You'll find it out sooner or later, so I may as well tell you.
That's where the yellow-haired girl you hear so much about killed
herself. I hope it won't make any difference to you, Mr.--"

"Gregor. Certainly not. I read about the case. Canadian, wasn't she?"

"Oh yes! There's no doubt of it. She paid her rent with a Canadian
bill, and, besides, I noticed her accent. I didn't tell the reporters,
however, they're such a fresh lot."

Paul's visit, it appeared, had served to establish one thing, at
least, a thing which the trained investigators had not discovered.
Canadian money in Buffalo was too common to excite comment, therefore
none of them had seen fit to follow out that clue of the two-dollar
bill.

"The papers had it that she was some wealthy girl," the former speaker
ran on, "but I know better."

"Indeed? How do you know?"

"Her hands! They were good hands, and she used them as if she knew
what they were made for."

"Anything else?"

"No. She seemed very sad and didn't say much. Of course I only saw her
once."

Anderson questioned the girl at some further length, but discovered
nothing of moment, so he left, declaring that he would probably move
into the room on the following day.

Prom the rooming-house he went directly to the Morgue, and for a
second time examined the body, confining his attention particularly to
the hands. The right one showed nothing upon which to found a theory,
save that it was, indeed, a capable hand with smooth skin and
well-tended nails; but on examining the left Paul noted a marked
peculiarity. Near the ends of the thumb and the first finger the skin
was roughened, abrased; there were numerous tiny black spots
beneath the skin, which, upon careful scrutiny, he discovered to be
microscopic blood-blisters.

For a long time he puzzled over this phenomenon which had escaped all
previous observers, but to save him he could invent no explanation for
it. He repaired finally to the office of the attendant and asked for
the girl's clothes, receiving permission to examine a small bundle.

"Where's the rest?" he demanded.

"That's all she had," said the man.

"No baggage at all?"

"Not a thing but what she stood up in. The coroner has her jewelry and
things of that sort."

Anderson searched the contents of the bundle with the utmost care, but
found no mark of any sort. The garments, although inexpensive, were
beautifully neat and clean, and they displayed the most marvelous
examples of needlework he had ever seen. Among the effects was a plush
muff, out of which, as he picked it up, fell a pair of little knitted
mittens--or was there a pair? Finding but the one, he shook the muff
again, then looked through the other things.

"Where's the other mitten?" he inquired.

"There 'ain't been but the one," the attendant told him.

"Are you sure?"

"See here, do you think I'm trying to hold out a yarn mitten on you?
I say there 'ain't been but the one. I was here when she came, and I
know."

Discouraged by the paucity of clues which this place offered, Anderson
went next to the coroner's office.

The City Hall newspaper squad had desks in this place, but Paul paid
no attention to them or to their occupants. He went straight to the
wicket and asked for the effects of the dead girl.

It appeared that Burns had told his practical joke broadcast, for
the young man heard his name mentioned, and then some one behind him
snickered. He paid no attention, however, for the clerk had handed him
a small leather bag or purse, together with a morphine-bottle, about
the size and shape of an ordinary vaseline-bottle. The bag was cheap
and bore no maker's name or mark. Inside of it was a brooch, a ring, a
silver chain, and a slip of paper. Stuck to the bottom of the reticule
was a small key. Paul came near overlooking the last-named article,
for it was well hidden in a fold near the corner. Now a key to an
unknown lock is not much to go on at best, therefore he gave his
attention to the paper. It was evidently a scrap torn from a sheet of
wrapping-paper, and bore these figures in pencil:

  9.25
  6.25
  ----
  3.00

While he was reading these figures Paul heard a reporter say, loudly,
"Now that I have written the paper, who will take it?"

Another answered, "I will."

"Who are you?" inquired the first voice.

"Hawkshaw, the detective."

Anderson's cheeks flushed, but he returned the bag and its contents
without comment and walked out, heedless of the laughter of the
six reporters. The injustice of their ridicule burnt him like a
branding-iron, for his only offense lay in trying the impossible.
These fellows had done their best and had failed, yet they jeered at
him because he had tackled a forlorn hope. They had taken the trail
when it was hot and had lost it; now they railed at him when he took
it cold.

All that afternoon he tramped the streets, thinking, thinking, until
his brain went stale. The only fresh clues he had discovered thus
far were the marks on finger and thumb, the fact that the girl was a
Canadian, and that she had possessed but one mitten instead of two.
This last, for obvious reasons, was too trivial to mean anything, and
yet in so obscure a case it could not be ignored. The fact that she
was a Canadian helped but little, therefore the best point upon which
to hang a line of reasoning seemed to be those black spots on the left
hand. But they stumped Anderson absolutely.

He altered his mental approach to the subject and reflected upon the
girl's belongings. Taken in their entirety they showed nothing save
that the girl was poor, therefore he began mentally to assort them,
one by one. First, clothes. They were ordinary clothes; they betrayed
nothing. Second, the purse. It was like a million other purses and
showed no distinguishing mark, no peculiarity. Third, the jewelry. It
was cheap and common, of a sort to be found in any store. Fourth, the
morphine-bottle. Paul was forced likewise to dismiss consideration of
that. There remained nothing but the scrap of paper, torn from the
corner of a large sheet and containing these penciled figures:

  9.25
  6.25
  ----
  3.00

It was a simple sum in subtraction, a very simple sum indeed; too
simple, Anderson reflected, for any one to reduce to figures unless
those figures had been intended for a purpose. He recalled the face
at the morgue and vowed that such a girl could have done the sum
mentally. Then why the paper? Why had she taken pains to tear off a
piece of wrapping-paper, jot down figures so easy to remember,
and preserve them in her purse? Why, she did so because she was
methodical, something answered. But, his alter ego reasoned, if she
had been sufficiently methodical to note a trivial transaction so
carefully, she would have been sufficiently methodical to use some
better, some more methodical method. She would not have torn off a
corner of thick wrapping-paper upon which to keep her books. There was
but one answer, memorandum!

All right, memorandum it was, for the time being. Now then, in what
business could she have been engaged where she found it necessary to
keep memoranda of such inconsiderable sums? Oh, Lord! There were a
million! Paul had been walking on thin ice from the start; now it gave
way beneath him, so he abandoned this train of thought and went back
once more to the bundle of clothes. Surely there was a clue concealed
somewhere among them, if only he could find it. They were poor
clothes, and yet, judging by their cut, he fancied the girl had looked
exceedingly well in them--nay, even modish. She had evidently spent
much time on them, as the beautiful needlework attested. At this point
Anderson's mind ran out on to thin ice again, so he reverted to the
girl herself for the _n_th time. She was Canadian, her hands were
useful, there were tiny blood-blisters on the left thumb and index
finger, and the skin was roughened and torn minutely, evidently by
some sharp instrument. What instrument? He answered the question
almost before he had voiced it. A needle, of course!

Paul stopped in his walk so abruptly that a man poked him in the back
with a ladder; but he paid no heed, for his mind was leaping. That
thickening of the skin, those tiny scratches, those blood-blisters,
those garments without mark of maker, yet so stylish in cut and so
carefully made, and furthermore that memorandum:

  9.25
  6.25
  ----
  3.00

"Why, she was a dressmaker!" said Anderson, out loud. He went back
over his reasoning, but it held good--so good that he would have
wagered his own clothes that he was right. Yes, and those figures
represented some trifling purchases or commission--for a customer, no
doubt.

It followed naturally that she was not a Buffalo dressmaker, else she
would have been identified long since; nor was it likely that she came
from any city, for her clothes had not given him the impression of
being city-made, and, moreover, the publicity given to the case
through the press, even allowing for the fact that the printed
description had been vague, would have been sure to uncover her
identity. No, she was a Canadian country seamstress.

The young man's mind went back a few years to his boyhood on a
Michigan farm, where visiting dressmakers used to come and stay by the
week to make his mother's clothes. They usually carried a little
flat trunk filled with patterns, yard sticks, forms, and other
paraphernalia of the trade. Paul remembered that the owners used to
buy the cloths and materials at the country stores, and render a
strict accounting thereof to his mother. Well, where was the trunk
that went with this country dressmaker?

The question of baggage had puzzled him from the start. Had the girl
been possessed of a grip or bundle of any kind at the time of her
death that question would have been answered. But there was absolutely
nothing of the sort in her room. Her complete lack of luggage had
made him doubt, at first, that she was an out-of-town visitor; but,
following his recent conclusions, he decided now that directly the
opposite was true. She had come to Buffalo with nothing but a trunk,
otherwise she would have taken her hand-luggage with her to the Main
Street rooming-house. It remained to find that trunk.

This problem threatened even greater difficulties than any hitherto,
and Paul shivered as the raw Lake wind searched through his clothes.
He wondered if it had been as cold as this when the girl arrived in
Buffalo. Yes, assuredly. Then why did she go out with only one mitten?
His reason told him that the other one had been lost by the police.
But the police are careful, as a rule. They had saved every other
article found in the girl's possession, even to a brooch and pin and
scrap of paper. Probably the girl herself had lost it. But country
dressmakers are careful, too; they are not given to losing mittens,
especially in cold weather. It was more reasonable to believe that she
had mislaid it among her belongings; inasmuch as those belongings,
according to Paul's logic, were doubtless contained in her trunk, that
was probably where the missing mitten would be found. But, after all,
had she really brought a trunk with her?

Like a flash came the recollection of that key stuck to the bottom of
the girl's leather purse at the coroner's office. Ten minutes later
Paul was back at the City Hall.

For a second time he was greeted with laughter by the reportorial
squad; again he paid no heed.

"Why, you saw those things not two hours ago," protested the coroner's
clerk, in answer to his inquiry.

"I want to see them again."

"Well, I'm busy. You've had them once, that's enough."

"Friend," said Anderson, quietly, "I want those things and I want them
quick. You give them to me or I'll go to the man higher up and get
them--and your job along with them."

The fellow obeyed reluctantly. Paul picked the key loose and examined
it closely. While he was thus engaged, one of the reporters behind him
said:

"Aha! At last he has the key to the mystery."

The general laughter ceased abruptly when the object of this banter
thrust the key into his pocket and advanced threateningly toward the
speaker, his face white with rage. The latter rose to his feet; he
undertook to execute a dignified retreat, but Anderson seized him
viciously, flung him back, and pinned him against the wall, crying,
furiously:

"You dirty rat! If you open your face to me again, I'll brain you, and
that goes for all of this death-watch." He took in the other five men
with his reddened eyes. "When you fellows see me coming, hole up.
Understand?"

His grip was so fierce, his mouth had such a wicked twist to it, that
his victim understood him perfectly and began to grin in a sickly,
apologetic fashion. Paul reseated the reporter at his desk with
such violence that a chair leg gave way; then he strode out of the
building.

For the next few hours Anderson tramped the streets in impotent anger,
striving to master himself, for that trifling episode had so upset him
that he could not concentrate his mind upon the subject in hand. When
he tried to do so his conclusions seemed grotesquely fanciful and
farfetched. This delay was all the more annoying because on the morrow
the girl was to be buried, and, therefore, the precious hours
were slipping away. He tried repeatedly to attain that abstract,
subconscious mood in which alone shines the pure light of inductive
reasoning.

"Where is that trunk? Where is that trunk? Where is that trunk?" he
repeated, tirelessly. Could it be in some other rooming-house? No. If
the girl had disappeared from such a place, leaving her trunk behind,
the publicity would have uncovered the fact. It might be lying in the
baggage-room of some hotel, to be sure; but Paul doubted that, for the
same reason. The girl had been poor, too; it was unlikely that she
would have gone to a high-priced hotel. Well, he couldn't examine all
the baggage in all the cheap hotels of the city--that was evident.
Somehow he could not picture that girl in a cheap hotel; she was too
fine, too patrician. No, it was more likely that she had left her
trunk in some railroad station. This was a long chance, but Paul took
it.

The girl had come from Canada, therefore Anderson went to the Grand
Trunk Railway depot and asked for the baggage-master. There were other
roads, but this seemed the most likely.

A raw-boned Irish baggage-man emerged from the confusion, and of a
sudden Paul realized the necessity of even greater tact here than he
had used with the Scotch girl, for he had no authority of any sort
behind him by virtue of which he could demand so much as a favor.

"Are you a married man?" he inquired, abruptly.

"G'wan! I thought ye wanted a baggage-man," the big fellow replied.

"Don't kid me; this is important."

"Shure, I am, but I don't want any accident insurance. I took a chance
and I'm game."

"Have you any daughters?"

"Two of them. But what's it to ye?"

"Suppose one of them disappeared?"

The baggage-man seized Anderson by the shoulder; his eyes dilated;
with a catch in his voice he cried:

"Love o' God, speak out! What are ye drivin' at?"

"Nothing has happened to your girls, but--"

"Then what in hell--?"

"Wait! I had to throw a little scare into you so you'd understand what
I'm getting at. Suppose one of your girls lay dead and unidentified
in the morgue of a strange city and was about to be buried in the
Potter's Field. You'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?"

"Are ye daft? Or has something really happened? If not, it's a damn
fool question. What d'ye want?"

"Listen! You'd want her to have a decent burial, and you'd want her
mother to know how she came to such a pass, wouldn't you?"

The Irishman mopped his brow uncertainly. "I would that."

"Then listen some more." Paul told the man his story, freely,
earnestly, but rapidly; he painted the picture of a shy, lonely girl,
homeless, hopeless and despondent in a great city, then the picture of
two old people waiting in some distant farmhouse, sick at heart and
uncertain, seeing their daughter's face in the firelight, hearing
her sigh in the night wind. He talked in homely words that left the
baggage-man's face grave, then he told how Burns, in a cruel jest, had
sent a starving boy out to solve the mystery that had baffled the best
detectives. When he had finished his listener cried:

"Shure it was a rotten trick, but why d'ye come here?"

"I want you to go through your baggage-room with me till we find a
trunk which this key will fit."

"Come on with ye. I'm blamed if I don't admire yer nerve. Of course
ye understand I've no right to let ye in--that's up to the
station-master, but he's a grouchy divil." The speaker led Paul into
a room piled high with trunks, then summoned two helpers. "We'll move
every dam' wan of them till we fit your little key," he declared; then
the four men fell to.

A blind search promised to be a job of hours, so Paul walked down the
runway between the piles of trunks, using his eyes as he went. At
least he could eliminate certain classes of baggage, and thus he might
shorten the search; but half-way down the row he called sharply to the
smashers:

"Come here, quick!" At his tone they came running. "Look! that one in
the bottom row!" he cried. "That's it. Something tells me it is."

On the floor underneath the pile was a little, flat, battered tin
trunk, pathetically old-fashioned and out of place among its more
stylish neighbors; it was the kind of trunk Paul had seen in his
mother's front room on the farm. It was bound about with a bit of
rope.

His excitement infected the others, and the three smashers went at the
pile, regardless of damage. Anderson's suspense bid fair to choke him;
what if this were not the one? he asked himself. But what if it were
the right one? What if this key he clutched in his cold palm should
fit the lock? Paul pictured what he would see when he lifted the lid:
a collection of forms, hangers, patterns, yard-sticks, a tape measure,
and somewhere in it a little black yarn mitten. He prayed blindly for
courage to withstand disappointment.

"There she is," panted his Irish friend, dragging the object out into
the clear. The other men crowded closer. "Come on, lad. What are ye
waitin' for?"

Anderson knelt before the little battered trunk and inserted the key.
It was the keenest moment he had ever lived. He turned the key; then
he was on his feet, cold, calm, his blue eyes glittering.

"Cut those ropes. Quick!" he ordered. "We're right."

The man at his side whipped out a knife and slashed twice.

"Come close, all of you," Paul directed, "and remember everything we
find. You may have to testify."

He lifted the lid. On the top of the shallow tray lay a little black
yarn mitten, the mate to that one in the city Morgue.

Anderson smiled into the faces of the men at his side. "That's it," he
said, simply.

The tall Irishman laid a hand on his shoulder, saying: "Yer all right,
boy. Don't get rattled,"

Paul opened the till and found precisely the paraphernalia he had
expected: there were forms, hangers, patterns, yard-sticks, and a tape
measure. In the compartment beneath were some neatly folded clothes,
the needlework of which was fine, and in one corner a bundle of
letters which Anderson examined with trembling fingers. They were
addressed to "Miss Mabel Wilkes, Highland, Ontario, Canada, Care of
Captain Wilkes."

The amateur detective replaced the letters carefully; he closed and
locked the trunk; then he thanked his companions.

"If I had a dollar in the world," said he, "I'd ask you boys to have a
drink, but I'm broke." Then he began to laugh foolishly, hysterically,
until the raw-boned man clapped him on the back again.

"Straighten up, lad. Ye've been strained a bit too hard. I'll
telephone for the cops."

In an instant Paul was himself. "You'll do nothing of the sort," he
cried. "Why, man, you'll spoil the whole thing. I've worked this out
alone, and if the police hear of it they'll notify all the papers and
I'll have no story. Burns won't give me that job, and I'll be hungry
again."

"True! I forgot that fat-headed divil of an editor. Well, you say the
word and nobody won't know nothin' from us. Hey, boys?"

"Sure not," the other men agreed. This lad was one of their kind; he
was up against it and fighting for his own, therefore they knew how to
sympathize. But Paul had been seized with terror lest his story might
get away from him, therefore he bade them a hasty good-by and sped
up-town. His feet could not carry him swiftly enough.

Burns greeted him sourly when he burst into the editorial sanctum. It
was not yet twenty-four hours since he had sent this fellow away with
instructions not to return.

"Are you back again?" he snarled. "I heard about your assaulting Wells
down at the City Hall. Don't try it on me or I'll have you pinched."

Paul laughed lightly. "I don't have to fight for my rights any more."

"Indeed! What are you grinning about? Have you found who that girl
is?"

"I have."

"_What?_" Burns's jaw dropped limply; he leaned forward in his chair.

"Yes, sir! I've identified her."

The fat man was at first incredulous, then suspicious. "Don't try any
tricks on me," he cried, warningly. "Don't try to put anything over--"

"Her name is Mabel Wilkes. She is the daughter of Captain Wilkes, of
Highland, Ontario. She was a country dressmaker and lived with her
people at that place. Her trunk is down at the Grand Trunk depot with
the rest of her clothes in it, together with the mate to the mitten
she had when she killed herself. I went through the trunk with the
baggage-master, name Corrigan. Here's the key which I got from her
purse at the coroner's office."

Burns fixed his round eyes upon the key, then he shifted them slowly
to Anderson's face. "Why--why--this is amazing! I--I--" He cleared his
throat nervously. "How did you discover all this? Who told you?"

"Nobody told me. I reasoned it out."

"But how--Good Lord! Am I dreaming?"

"I'm a good newspaper man. I've been telling you that every day. Maybe
you'll believe me now."

Burns made no reply. Instead, he pushed a button and Wells, of the
City Hall squad, entered, pausing abruptly at sight of Anderson.
Giving the latter no time for words, Mr. Burns issued his
instructions. On the instant he was the trained newspaper man again,
cheating the clock dial and trimming minutes: his words were sharp and
decisive.

"That suicide story has broken big and we've got a scoop. Anderson has
identified her. Take the first G.T. train for Highland, Ontario, and
find her father, Captain Wilkes. Wire me a full story about the girl
Mabel, private life, history, everything. Take plenty of space. Have
it in by midnight."

Wells's eyes were round, too; they were glued upon Paul with a
hypnotic stare, but he managed to answer, "Yes, sir!" He was no longer
grinning.

"Now, Anderson," the editor snapped, "get down-stairs and see if you
can write the story. Pile it on thick--it's a corker."

"Very good, sir, but I'd like a little money," that elated youth
demanded, boldly. "Just advance me fifty, will you? Remember I'm on
top salary."

Burns made a wry face. "I'll send a check down to you," he promised,
"but get at that story and make it a good one or I'll fire you
tonight."

Anderson got. He found a desk and began to write feverishly. A
half-hour later he read what he had written and tore it up. Another
half-hour and he repeated the performance. Three times he wrote the
tale and destroyed it, then paused, realizing blankly that as a
newspaper story it was impossible. Every atom of interest surrounding
the suicide of the girl grew out of his own efforts to solve the
mystery. Nothing had happened, no new clues had been uncovered, no one
had been implicated in the girl's death, there was no crime. It was
a tale of Paul Anderson's deductions, nothing more, and it had no
newspaper value. He found he had written about himself instead of
about the girl.

He began again, this time laboriously eliminating himself, and when he
had finished his story it was perhaps the poorest journalistic effort
ever written.

Upon lagging feet he bore the copy to Burns's office. But the editor
gave him no time for explanation, demanding, fiercely:

"Where's that check I sent you?"

"Here it is." The youth handed it to him. "Make a mistake?"

"I certainly did." Burns tore up the check before saying, "Now you get
out, you bum, and stay out, or take the consequences."

"Get out? What for?"

"You know what for." Burns was quivering with rage. "You ran a good
bluff and you nearly put it over; but I don't want to advertise myself
as a jackass, so I shan't have you pinched unless you come back."

"Come back? I intend to stay. What's the matter?"

"I had an idea you were fourflushing," stormed the editor, "so I went
down to the G.T. depot myself. There's no trunk of the sort there;
Corrigan never saw you or anybody like you. Say, why didn't you walk
out when you got that check? What made you come back?"

Anderson began to laugh softly. "Good old Corrigan! He's all right,
isn't he? Well, he gets half of that check when you rewrite it, if I
don't laugh myself to death before I get to the bank."

"What d'you mean?" Burns was impressed by the other's confidence.

"Nothing, except that I've found one square man in this village. One
square guy is a pretty big percentage in a town the size of Buffalo.
Corrigan wouldn't let you see the depot if I wasn't along. Put on your
coat and come with me--yes, and bring a couple of hired men if it will
make you feel any better."

At the depot he called the baggage-master to him, and said:

"Mr. Corrigan, this is Mr. Burns, the city editor of _The
Intelligencer_."

"That's what he told me," grinned the Irishman, utterly ignoring the
young editor; "but you didn't give him no references, and I wouldn't
take a chance."

Burns maintained a dignified silence; he said little even when the
contents of the trunk were displayed to him. Nor did he open his mouth
on the way back to the office. But when he was seated at his desk and
had read Anderson's copy he spoke.

"This is the rottenest story ever turned in at this office," said he.

"I know it is," Paul agreed, frankly, then explained his difficulty in
writing it.

"I'll do it myself," Burns told him. "Now, you go home and report
to-morrow."

A very tired but a very happy young man routed out the landlady of a
cheap boarding-house that night and hugged her like a bear, explaining
joyously that he had done a great big thing. He waltzed her down the
hall and back, while she clutched wildly at her flapping flannel
wrapper and besought him to think of her other boarders. He waltzed
her out of her bedroom slippers, gave her a smacking big kiss on her
wrinkled cheek, then left her, breathless and scandalized, but all
aflutter.

The city had read the story when Anderson awoke the next morning, for
_The Intelligencer_ had made a clean "beat," and Burns had played up
the story tremendously, hence it was with jumping pulses that Paul
scanned the front page of that journal. The further he read, however,
the greater grew his indignation.

The history of Mabel Wilkes, under the magic touch of Burns, had,
to be sure, become a wonderful, tragic story; but nowhere in it was
mention made of Paul Anderson. In the patient and ingenious solution
of the mystery of the girl's identity no credit was given to him. The
cleverness and the perseverance of _The Buffalo Intelligencer_ was
exploited, its able reportorial staff was praised, its editorial
shrewdness extolled, but that was all. When he had concluded reading
the article Anderson realized that it was no more than a boost for the
city editor, who it was plain to be seen, had uncovered the story
bit by bit, greatly to the confusion of the police and the detective
bureau.

It astounded as well as angered Paul to realize how cleverly Burns had
covered him up, therefore the sense of injustice was strong in him
when he entered the office. His enemy recognized his mood, and seemed
to gloat over it.

"That was good work you did," he purred, "and I'll keep you on as long
as you show ability. Of course you can't write yet, so I'll let you
cover real-estate transactions and the market. I'll send for you when
you're needed."

Anderson went back to his desk in silent rage. Real estate! Burns
evidently intended to hold him down. His gloomy meditations were
somewhat lightened by the congratulations of his fellow-reporters, who
rather timidly ventured to introduce themselves. They understood the
facts and they voiced a similar indignation to his. Burns had played
him a rotten trick, they agreed. Not content with robbing his new
reporter of the recognition which was justly his, the fellow was
evidently determined to vent his spite in other ways. Well, that was
like Burns. They voiced the opinion that Anderson would have a tough
job getting through interference of the kind that their editor would
throw in his way.

Hour after hour Paul sat around the office nursing his disappointment,
waiting for Burns to send him out. About two o'clock Wells hurried
into the office, bringing with him the afternoon papers still wet from
the press. In his eyes was an unwonted sparkle. He crossed directly to
Anderson and thrust out his palm.

"Old man, I want to shake with you," said he. "And I want to apologize
for being a rotter."

Paul met him half-way, and the fellow went on:

"Burns gave us the wrong tip on you--said you were a joke--that's why
we joshed you. But you showed us up, and I'm glad you did."

"Why--thank you!" stammered the new reporter, upon whom this manly
apology had a strong effect. "It--it was more luck than anything."

"Luck nothing! You're a genius, and it's a dirty shame the way the
boss tried to steal your credit. However, it seems he overreached
himself." Wells began to laugh.

"_Tried_ to steal it! Good Lord! he did steal it! How do you mean he
overreached himself?"

"Haven't you seen the afternoon papers?"

"No."

"Well! Read 'em!" Mr. Wells spread his papers out before Paul, whose
astonished eyes took in for a second time the story of the Wilkes
suicide. But what a story!

He read his own name in big, black type; he read head-lines that told
of a starving boy sent out on a hopeless assignment as a cruel joke;
he read the story as it had really occurred, only told in the third
person by an author who was neither ashamed nor afraid to give
credit where it was due. The egotistical pretense of _The Buffalo
Intelligencer_ was torn to shreds, and ridicule was heaped upon its
editor. Paul read nervously, breathlessly, until Wells interrupted
him.

"I'm to blame for this," said he. "I couldn't stand for such a crooked
deal. When I got in this morning and saw what that fat imbecile had
done to you I tipped the true facts off to the others--all of the
facts I knew. They got the rest from Corrigan, down at the Grand Trunk
depot. Of course this means my job, if the old man finds it out; but I
don't give a damn."

As yet Anderson was too dazed to grasp what had happened to him, but
the other continued:

"The boys have had it in for Burns, on the quiet, for months, and now
I guess they're even."

"I--I don't know how to thank you," stammered Anderson.

"Don't try. You're a born reporter, and the other papers will give you
a job even if the baby hippo in yonder fires you."

A boy touched Paul on the arm with the announcement, "Mr. Burns wants
to see you."

"Oho!" cried Wells. "He's got the bad news. Gee! I'd like to hear what
he says. I'll bet he's biting splinters out of his desk. Let me know
what comes off, will you?"

When Anderson entered the office of his editor he was met by a
white-faced man whose rage had him so by the throat that speech for a
moment was impossible. Beneath Mr. Burns's feet, and strewn broadcast
about the room, were the crumpled sheets of the afternoon papers.
Burns glared at the newcomer for a moment, then he extended a shaking
finger, crying, furiously:

"You did this!"

"Did what?"

"You put up this job. You made a fool of me!"

"No, sir! I did not. Your parents saw to that."

"Don't tell me you didn't, you--you damned ungrateful--" Burns seemed
about to assault his reporter, but restrained himself. "You're fired!
Do you understand? Fired--discharged."

"Say, Burns--"

"Not a word. I'm done with you. I--"

"Just a minute," young Anderson cried, in a tone that stilled the
other. "I'm fired, am I, for something I didn't do? Very well!
I'm glad of it, for now you can't stand in my way. You tried to
double-cross me and failed. You robbed me of what was mine and got
caught at it. You're a big man, in your way, Burns, but some day
people will tell you that the biggest thing you ever did was to fire
Paul Anderson. That's how small you'll be, and that's how big I'm
going to grow. You've 'welched' on your own word; but there's one
thing you gave me that you can't take away, and that's the knowledge
that I'm a newspaper man and a good one. Now just one thing more: I'm
broke today, but I'm going to lick you as soon as I save up enough for
the fine."

With studied insolence the speaker put on his hat, slammed the door
behind him, and walked out of _The Intelligencer_ office, leaving the
apoplectic editor thereof secure in the breathless knowledge that for
once in his life he had heard the truth spoken. Mr. Burns wondered how
long it would take that young bully to save up ten dollars and costs.



OUT OF THE NIGHT


"There is but one remedy for your complaint." Doctor Suydam settled
deeper into his chair. "Marry the girl."

"That is the only piece of your professional advice I ever cared to
follow. But how?"

"Any way you can--use force if necessary--only marry her. Otherwise I
predict all sorts of complications for you--melancholia, brain-fag,
bankruptcy--"

Austin laughed. "Could you write me a prescription?"

"Oh, she'll have you, Bob. You don't seem to realize that you are a
good catch."

Austin finished buckling his puttee before rising to his full height.
"That doesn't mean anything to her. She doesn't need to make a catch."

"Nonsense! She's just like all the others, only richer and nicer. Go
at her as if she were the corn-market; she won't be half so hard to
corner. You have made a name for yourself, and a blamed sight more
money than you deserve; you are young--comparatively, I mean."

The elder man stroked his shock of iron-gray hair for answer.

"Well, at any rate you are a picturesque personage, even if you can't
wear riding-clothes."

"Doesn't a man look like the devil in these togs?" Austin posed
awkwardly in front of a mirror.

"There's only one person who can look worse in riding-clothes than a
man--that's a woman."

"What heresy, particularly in a society doctor! But I agree with you.
I learned to ride on her account, you know. As a matter of fact, I
hate it. The sight of a horse fills me with terror."

Doctor Suydam laughed outright at this. "She tells me that you have a
very good seat."

"Really!" Austin's eyes gleamed suddenly. "You know I never had
a chance to ride when I was a youngster--in fact, I never had an
opportunity to do anything except work. That's what makes me so crude
and awkward. What I know I have picked up during the last few years."

"You make me tired!" declared the former. "You aren't--"

"Oh, I don't skate on waxed floors nor spill tea, nor clutch at my
chauffeur in a tight place, but you know what I mean. I feel lonesome
in a dress-suit, a butler fills me with gloom, and--Well, I'm not one
of you, that's all."

"Perhaps that's what makes a hit with Marmion. She's used to the other
kind."

"It seems to me that I have always worked," ruminated the former
speaker. "I don't remember that I ever had time to play, even after
I came to the city. It's a mighty sad thing to rob a boy of his
childhood; it makes him a dull, unattractive sort when he grows up.
I used to read about people like Miss Moore, but I never expected to
know them until I met you. Of course, that corn deal rather changed
things."

"Well, I should rather say it did!" Suydam agreed, with emphasis.

"The result is that when I am with her I forget the few things I have
done that are worth while, and I become the farm-hand again. I'm
naturally rough and angular, and she sees it."

"Oh, you're too sensitive! You have a heart like a girl underneath
that saturnine front of yours, and while you look like the Sphinx,
you are really as much of a kid at heart as I am. Where do you ride
to-day?"

"Riverside Drive."

"What horse is she riding?"

"Pointer."

The doctor shook his head. "Too many automobiles on the Drive. He's a
rotten nag for a woman, anyhow. His mouth is as tough as a stirrup,
and he has the disposition of a tarantula. Why doesn't she stick to
the Park?"

"You know Marmion."

"Say, wouldn't it be great if Pointer bolted and you saved her life?
She couldn't refuse you then."

Austin laughed. "That's not exactly the way I'd care to win her.
However, if Pointer bolted I'd probably get rattled and fall off my
own horse. I don't like the brutes. Come on, I'm late."

"That's right," grumbled the other, "leave me here while you make
love to the nicest girl in New York. I'm going down to the office and
amputate somebody."

They descended the single flight to the street, where Austin's groom
was struggling with a huge black.

"It's coming pretty soft for you brokers," the doctor growled, as his
companion swung himself into the saddle. "The next time I get a friend
I'll keep him to myself."

Austin leaned forward with a look of grave anxiety upon his rugged
features and said: "Wish me luck, Doc. I'm going to ask her to-day."

"Good for you, old fellow." There was great fondness in the younger
man's eyes as he wrung the rider's hand and waved him adieu, then
watched him disappear around the corner.

"She'll take him," he mused, half aloud. "She's a sensible girl even
if all New York has done its best to spoil her." He hailed a taxicab
and was hurried to his office.

It was perhaps two hours later that he was called on the telephone.

"Hello! Yes, yes! What is it?" he cried, irritably. "Mercy Hospital!
_What_?" The young physician started. "Hurt, you say? Run-away? Go on,
quick!" He listened with whitening face, then broke in abruptly: "Of
course he sent for me. I'll be right up."

He slammed the receiver upon its hook and, seizing his hat, bolted out
through a waiting-room full of patients. His car was in readiness, and
he called to his chauffeur in such tones that the fellow vaulted to
his seat.

"Go up Madison Avenue; there's less traffic there. And for God's sake
_hurry_!"

During two years' service with New York's most fashionable physician
the driver had never received a command like this, and he opened up
his machine. A policeman warned him at Thirty-third Street and the car
slowed down, at which Suydam leaned forward, crying, roughly:

"To hell with regulations! There's a man dying!"

The last word was jerked from him as he was snapped back into his
seat. Regardless of admonitory shouts from patrolmen, the French
car sang its growing song, while truck-drivers bellowed curses
and pedestrians fled from crossings at the scream of its siren. A
cross-town car blocked them, and the brakes screeched in agony, while
Doctor Suydam was well-nigh catapulted into the street; then they were
under way again, with the car leaping from speed to speed. It was the
first time the driver had ever dared to disregard those upraised,
white-gloved hands, and it filled his joy-riding soul with exultation.
A street repair loomed ahead, whereupon, with a sickening skid, they
swung into a side street; the gears clashed again, and an instant
later they shot out upon Fifth Avenue. At the next corner they lay
motionless in a blockade, while the motor shuddered; then they dodged
through an opening where the mud-guards missed by an inch and were
whirling west toward Broadway. At 109th Street a bicycle officer
stared in amazement at the dwindling number beneath the rear axle,
then ducked his head and began to pedal. He overhauled the speeding
machine as it throbbed before the doors of Mercy Hospital, to be
greeted by a grinning chauffeur who waved him toward the building and
told of a doctor's urgency.

Inside, Doctor Suydam, pallid of face and shaking in a most
unprofessional manner, was bending over a figure in riding-clothes,
the figure of a tall, muscular man who lay silent, deaf to his words
of greeting.

They told him all there was to tell in the deadly, impersonal way
of hospitals, while he nodded swift comprehension. There had been a
runaway--a woman on a big, white-eyed bay, that had taken fright at an
automobile; a swift rush up the Driveway, a lunge over the neck of
the pursuing horse, then a man wrenched from his saddle and dragged
beneath cruel, murderous hoofs. The bay had gone down, and the woman
was senseless when the ambulance arrived, but she had revived and
had been hurried to her home. In the man's hand they had found the
fragment of a bridle rein gripped with such desperation that they
could not remove it until he regained consciousness. He had asked
regarding the girl's safety, then sighed himself into oblivion again.
They told Suydam that he would die.

With sick heart the listener cursed all high-spirited women and
high-strung horses, declaring them to be works of the devil, like
automobiles; then he went back to the side of his friend, where other
hands less unsteady were at work.

"Poor lonely old Bob!" he murmured. "Not a soul to care except Marmion
and me, and God knows whether she cares or not."

       *       *       *       *       *

But Robert Austin did not die, although the attending surgeons said
he would, said he should, in fact, unless all the teachings of their
science were at fault. He even offended the traditions of the hospital
by being removed to his own apartments in a week. There Suydam, who
had watched him night and day, told him that Miss Moore had a broken
shoulder and hence could not come to see him.

"Poor girl!" said Austin, faintly. "If I'd known more about horses I
might have saved her."

"If you'd known more about horses you'd have let Pointer run,"
declared his friend. "Nobody but an idiot or a Bob Austin would have
taken the chance you did. How is your head?"

The sick man closed his eyes wearily. "It hurts all the time. What's
the matter with it?"

"We've none of us been able to discover what isn't the matter with it!
Why in thunder did you hold on so long?"

"Because I--I love her, I suppose."

"Did you ask her to marry you?" Suydam had been itching to ask the
question for days.

"No, I was just getting to it when Pointer bolted. I--I'm slow at such
things." There was a moment's pause. "Doc, what's the matter with my
eyes? I can't see very well."

"Don't talk so much," ordered the physician. "You're lucky to be here
at all. Thanks to that copper-riveted constitution of yours, you'll
get well."

But it seemed that the patient was fated to disappoint the predictions
of his friend as well as those of the surgeons at Mercy Hospital. He
did not recover in a manner satisfactory to his medical adviser, and
although he regained the most of his bodily vigor, the injury to his
eyes baffled even the most skilled specialists.

He was very brave about it, however, and wrung the heart of Doctor
Suydam by the uncomplaining fortitude with which he bore examination
after examination. Learned oculists theorized vaporously about optic
atrophies, fractures, and brain pressures of one sort and another; and
meanwhile Robert Austin, in the highest perfection of bodily vigor, in
the fullest possession of those faculties that had raised him from an
unschooled farm-boy to a position of eminence in the business world,
went slowly blind. The shadows crept in upon him with a deadly,
merciless certainty that would have filled the stoutest heart with
gloom, and yet he maintained a smiling stoicism that deceived all but
his closest associates. To Doctor Suydam, however, the incontestable
progress of the malady was frightfully tragic. He alone knew the man's
abundant spirits, his lofty ambitions, and his active habits. He alone
knew of the overmastering love that had come so late and was
destined to go unvoiced, and he raved at the maddening limits of his
profession. In Austin's presence he strove to be cheerful and to
lighten the burden he knew was crushing the sick man; but at other
times he bent every energy toward a discovery of some means to check
the affliction, some hand more skilled than those he knew of. In time,
however, he recognized the futility of his efforts, and resigned
himself to the worst. He had a furious desire to acquaint Marmion
Moore with the truth, and to tell her, with all the brutal frankness
he could muster, of her part in this calamity. But Austin would not
hear of it.

"She doesn't dream of the truth," the invalid told him. "And I don't
want her to learn. She thinks I'm merely weak, and it grieves her
terribly to know that I haven't recovered. If she really knew--it
might ruin her life, for she is a girl who feels deeply. I want to
spare her that; it's the least I can do."

"But she'll find it out some time."

"I think not. She comes to see me every day--"

"Every day?"

"Yes. I'm expecting her soon."

"And she doesn't know?"

Austin shook his head. "I never let her see there's anything the
matter with my sight. She drives up with her mother, and I wait for
her there in the bay-window. It's getting hard for me to distinguish
her now, but I recognize the hoofbeats--I can tell them every time."

"But--I don't understand."

"I pretend to be very weak," explained the elder man, with a guilty
flush. "I sit in the big chair yonder and my Jap boy waits on her. She
is very kind." Austin's voice grew husky. "I'm sorry to lose sight of
the Park out yonder, and the trees and the children--they're growing
indistinct. I--I like children. I've always wanted some for myself.
I've dreamed about--that." His thin, haggard face broke into a wistful
smile. "I guess that is all over with now."

"Why?" questioned Suydam, savagely. "Why don't you ask her to marry
you, Bob? She couldn't refuse--and God knows you need her."

"That's just it; she couldn't refuse. This is the sort of thing a
fellow must bear alone. She's too young, and beautiful, and fine to be
harnessed up to a worn-out old--cripple."

"Cripple!" The other choked. "Don't talk like that. Don't be so blamed
resigned. It tears my heart out. I--I--why, I believe I feel this more
than you do."

Austin turned his face to the speaker with a look of such tragic
suffering that the younger man fell silent.

"I'm glad I can hide my feelings," Austin told him, slowly, "for that
is what I have to do every instant she is with me. I don't wish to
inflict unnecessary pain upon my friends, but don't you suppose I know
what this means? It means the destruction of all my fine hopes, the
death of all I hold dear in the world. I love my work, for I am--or I
was--a success; this means I must give it up. I'm strong in body and
brain; this robs me of my usefulness. All my life I have prayed that
I might some time love a woman; that time has come, but this means
I must give her up and be lonely all my days. I must grope my way
through the dark with never a ray of light to guide me. Do you know
how awful the darkness is?" He clasped his hands tightly. "I must go
hungering through the night, with a voiceless love to torture me. Just
at the crowning point of my life I've been snuffed out. I must fall
behind and see my friends desert me."

"Bob!" cried the other, in shocked denial.

"Oh, you know it will come to that. People don't like to feel pity
forever tugging at them. I've been a lonely fellow and my friends are
numbered. For a time they will come to see me, and try to cheer me up;
they will even try to include me in their pleasures; then when it is
no longer a new story and their commiseration has worn itself out they
will gradually fall away. It always happens so. I'll be 'poor Bob
Austin,' and I'll go feeling my way through life an object of pity, a
stumbling, incomplete thing that has no place to fill, no object to
work for, no one to care. God! I'm not the sort to go blind! Where's
the justice of it? I've lived clean. Why did this happen to me? Why?
Why? I know what the world is; I've been a part of it. I've seen the
spring and the autumn colors and I've watched the sunsets. I've looked
into men's faces and read their souls, and when you've done that you
can't live in darkness. I can't and--I won't!"

"What do you mean?"

"I'm going away."

"When? Where?"

"When I can no longer see Marmion Moore and before my affliction
becomes known to her. Where--you can guess."

"Oh, that's cowardly, Bob! You're not that sort. You mustn't! It's
unbelievable," his friend cried, in a panic.

Austin smiled bitterly. "We have discussed that too often, and--I'm
not sure that what I intend doing is cowardly. I can't go now, for the
thing is too fresh in her memory, she might learn the truth and hold
herself to blame; but when she has lost the first shock of it I shall
walk out quietly and she won't even suspect. Other interests will come
into her life; I'll be only a memory. Then--" After a pause he went
on, "I couldn't bear to see her drop away with the rest."

"Don't give up yet," urged the physician. "She is leaving for the
summer, and while she is gone we'll try that Berlin chap. He'll be
here in August."

"And he will fail, as the others did. He will lecture some clinic
about me, that's all. Marmion will hear that my eyes have given out
from overwork, or something like that. Then I'll go abroad, and--I
won't come back." Austin, divining the rebellion in his friend's
heart, said, quickly: "You're the only one who could enlighten her,
Doc, but you won't do it. You owe me too much."

"I--I suppose I do," acknowledged Suydam, slowly. "I owe you more than
I can ever repay--"

"Wait--" The sick man raised his hand, while a sudden light blazed up
in his face. "She's coming!"

To the doctor's trained ear the noises of the street rose in a
confused murmur, but Austin spoke in an awed, breathless tone, almost
as if he were clairvoyant.

"I can hear the horses. She's coming to--see me."

"I'll go," exclaimed the visitor, quickly, but the other shook his
head.

"I'd rather have you stay."

Austin was poised in an attitude of the intensest alertness, his
angular, awkward body was drawn to its full height, his lean face was
lighted by some hidden fire that lent it almost beauty.

"She's getting out of the carriage," he cried, in a nervous voice;
then he felt his way to his accustomed arm-chair. Suydam was about to
go to the bay-window when he paused, regarding his friend curiously.

"What are you doing?"

The blind man had begun to beat time with his hand, counting under his
breath: "One! Two! Three!--"

"She'll knock when I reach twenty-five. 'Sh! 'sh!" He continued his
pantomime, and Suydam realized that from repeated practice Austin had
gauged to a nicety the seconds Marmion Moore required to mount the
stairs. This was his means of holding himself in check. True to
prediction, at "Twenty-five" a gentle knock sounded, and Suydam opened
the door.

"Come in, Marmion."

The girl paused for the briefest instant on the threshold, and the
doctor noted her fleeting disappointment at seeing him; then she took
his hand.

"This _is_ a surprise," she exclaimed. "I haven't seen you for ever so
long."

Her anxious glance swept past him to the big, awkward figure against
the window's light. Austin was rising with apparent difficulty, and
she glided to him.

"Please! Don't rise! How many times have I told you not to exert
yourself?"

Suydam noted the gentle, proprietary tone of her voice, and it amazed
him.

"I--am very glad that you came to see me." The afflicted man's voice
was jerky and unmusical. "How are you to-day, Miss?"

"He shouldn't rise, should he?" Miss Moore appealed to the physician.
"He is very weak and shouldn't exert himself."

The doctor wished that his friend might see the girl's face as he saw
it; he suddenly began to doubt his own judgment of women.

"Oh, I'm doing finely," Austin announced. "Won't you be seated?" He
waved a comprehensive gesture, and Suydam, marveling at the manner
in which the fellow concealed his infirmity, brought a chair for the
caller.

"I came alone to-day. Mother is shopping," Miss Moore was saying.
"See! I brought these flowers to cheer up your room." She held up a
great bunch of sweet peas. "I love the pink ones, don't you?"

Austin addressed the doctor. "Miss Moore has been very kind to me; I'm
afraid she feels it her duty--"

"No! No!" cried the girl.

"She rarely misses a day, and she always brings flowers. I'm very fond
of bright colors."

Suydam cursed at the stiff formality in the man's tone. How could any
woman see past that glacial front and glimpse the big, aching
heart beyond? Austin was harsh and repellent when the least bit
self-conscious, and now he was striving deliberately to heighten the
effect.

The physician wondered why Marmion Moore had gone even thus far in
showing her gratitude, for she was not the self-sacrificing kind. As
for a love match between two such opposite types, Suydam could not
conceive of it. Even if the girl understood the sweet, simple nature
of this man, even if she felt her own affections answer to his, Suydam
believed he knew the women of her set too well to imagine that she
could bring herself to marry a blind man, particularly one of no
address.

"We leave for the mountains to-morrow," Marmion said, "so I came to
say good-by, for a time."

"I--shall miss your visits," Austin could not disguise his genuine
regret, "but when you return I shall be thoroughly recovered. Perhaps
we can ride again."

"Never!" declared Miss Moore. "I shall never ride again. Think of the
suffering I've caused you. I--I--am dreadfully sorry."

To Suydam's amazement, he saw the speaker's eyes fill with tears. A
doubt concerning the correctness of his surmises came over him and he
rose quickly. After all, he reflected, she might see and love the real
Bob as he did, and if so she might wish to be alone with him in this
last hour. But Austin laughed at his friend's muttered excuse.

"You know there's nobody waiting for you. That's only a pretense to
find livelier company. You promised to dine with me." To Miss Moore he
explained: "He isn't really busy; why, he has been complaining for an
hour that the heat has driven all his patients to the country, and
that he is dying of idleness."

The girl's expression altered curiously. She shrank as if wounded; she
scanned the speaker's face with startled eyes before turning with a
strained smile to say:

"So, Doctor, we caught you that time. That comes from being a
high-priced society physician. Why don't you practise among the
masses? I believe the poor are always in need of help."

"I really have an engagement," Suydam muttered.

"Then break it for Mr. Austin's sake. He is lonely and--I must be
going in a moment."

The three talked for a time in the manner all people adopt for a
sick-room, then the girl rose and said, with her palm in Austin's
hand:

"I owe you so much that I can never hope to repay you, but you--you
will come to see me frequently this season. Promise! You won't hide
yourself, will you?"

The blind man smiled his thanks and spoke his farewell with
meaningless politeness; then, as the physician prepared to see her to
her carriage, Miss Moore said:

"No! Please stay and gossip with our invalid. It's only a step."

She walked quickly to the door, flashed them a smile, and was gone.

Suydam heard his patient counting as before.

"One! Two! Three--!"

At "Twenty-five" the elder man groped his way to the open bay-window
and bowed at the carriage below. There came the sound of hoofs and
rolling wheels, and the doctor, who had taken stand beside his friend,
saw Marmion Moore turn in her seat and wave a last adieu. Austin
continued to nod and smile in her direction, even after the carriage
was lost to view; then he felt his way back to the arm-chair and sank
limply into it.

"Gone! I--I'll never be able to see her again."

Suydam's throat tightened miserably. "Could you see her at all?"

"Only her outlines; but when she comes back in the fall I'll be as
blind as a bat." He raised an unsteady hand to his head and closed his
eyes. "I can stand anything except that! To lose sight of her dear
face--" The force of his emotion wrenched a groan from him.

"I don't know what to make of her," said the other. "Why didn't you
let me go, Bob? It was her last good-by; she wanted to be alone with
you. She might have--"

"That's it!" exclaimed Austin. "I was afraid of myself; afraid I'd
speak if I had the chance." His voice was husky as he went on. "It's
hard--hard, for sometimes I think she loves me, she's so sweet and so
tender. At such times I'm a god. But I know it can't be; that it is
only pity and gratitude that prompts her. Heaven knows I'm uncouth
enough at best, but now I have to exaggerate my rudeness. I play
a part--the part of a lumbering, stupid lout, while my heart is
breaking." He bowed his head in his hands, closing his dry, feverish
eyes once more. "It's cruelly hard. I can't keep it up."

The other man laid a hand on his shoulder, saying: "I don't know
whether you're doing right or not. I half suspect you are doing
Marmion a bitter wrong."

"Oh, but she can't--she _can't_ love me!" Austin rose as if
frightened. "She might yield to her impulse and--well, marry me, for
she has a heart of gold, but it wouldn't last. She would learn some
time that it wasn't real love that prompted the sacrifice. Then I
should die."

The specialist from Berlin came, but he refused to operate, declaring
bluntly that there was no use, and all during the long, hot summer
days Robert Austin sat beside his open window watching the light
die out of the world, waiting, waiting, for the time to make his
sacrifice.

Suydam read Marmion's cheery letters aloud, wondering the while at the
wistful note they sounded now and then. He answered them in his own
handwriting, which she had never seen.

One day came the announcement that she was returning the first week in
October. Already September was partly gone, so Austin decided to sail
in a week. At his dictation Suydam wrote to her, saying that the
strain of overwork had rendered a long vacation necessary. The doctor
writhed internally as he penned the careful sentences, wondering if
the hurt of the deliberately chosen words would prevent her sensing
the truth back of them. As days passed and no answer came he judged it
had.

The apartment was stripped and bare, the trunks were packed on the
afternoon before Austin's departure. All through the dreary mockery of
the process the blind man had withstood his friend's appeal, his stern
face set, his heavy heart full of a despairing stubbornness. Now,
being alone at last, he groped his way about the premises to fix them
in his memory; then he sank into his chair beside the window.

He heard a knock at the door and summoned the stranger to enter, then
he rose with a gasp of dismay. Marmion Moore was greeting him with
sweet, yet hesitating effusiveness.

"I--I thought you were not coming back until next week," he stammered.

"We changed our plans." She searched his face as best she could in the
shaded light, a strange, anxious expression upon her own. "Your letter
surprised me."

"The doctor's orders," he said, carelessly. "They say I have broken
down."

"I know! I know what caused it!" she panted. "You never recovered from
that accident. You did not tell me the truth. I've always felt that
you were hiding something from me. Why? Oh, why?"

"Nonsense!" He undertook to laugh, but failed in a ghastly manner.
"I've been working too hard. Now I'm paying the penalty."

"How long will you be gone?" she queried.

"Oh, I haven't decided. A long time, however." His tone bewildered
her. "It is the first vacation I ever had; I want to make the most of
it."

"You--you were going away without saying good-by to--your old
friends?" Her lips were white, and her brave attempt to smile would
have told him the truth had he seen it, but he only had her tone to go
by, so he answered, indifferently:

"All my arrangements were made; I couldn't wait."

"You are offended with me," Miss Moore said, after a pause. "How have
I hurt you? What is it; please? I--I have been too forward, perhaps?"

Austin dared not trust himself to answer, and when he made no sign the
girl went on, painfully:

"I'm sorry. I didn't want to seem bold. I owe you so much; we were
such good friends--" In spite of her efforts her voice showed her
suffering.

The man felt his lonely heart swell with the wild impulse to tell her
all, to voice his love in one breathless torrent of words that would
undeceive her. The strain of repression lent him added brusqueness
when he strove to explain, and his coldness left her sorely hurt.
His indifference filled her with a sense of betrayal; it chilled the
impulsive yearning in her breast. She had battled long with herself
before coming and now she repented of her rashness, for it was plain
he did not need her. This certainty left her sick and listless,
therefore she bade him adieu a few moments later, and with aching
throat went blindly out and down the stairs.

The instant she was gone Austin leaped to his feet; the agony of death
was upon his features. Breathlessly he began to count:

"One! Two! Three--!"

He felt himself smothering, and with one sweep of his hand ripped the
collar from his throat.

"Five! Six! Seven--!"

He was battling like a drowning man, for, in truth, the very breath of
his life was leaving him. A drumming came into his ears. He felt that
he must call out to her before it was too late. He was counting aloud
now, his voice like the moan of a man on the rack.

"Nine! Ten--!"

A frenzy to voice his sufferings swept over him, but he held himself.
Only a moment more and she would be gone; her life would be spared
this dark shadow, and she would never know, but he--he would indeed be
face to face with darkness.

Toward the last he was reeling, but he continued to tell off the
seconds with the monotonous regularity of a timepiece, his every power
centered on that process. The idea came to him that he was counting
his own flickering pulse-throbs for the last time. With a tremendous
effort of will he smoothed his face and felt his way to the open
window, for by now she must be entering the landau. A moment later
and she would turn to waft him her last adieu. Her last! God! How the
seconds lagged! That infernal thumping in his ears had drowned the
noises from the street below. He felt that for all time the torture of
this moment would live with him.

Then he smiled! He smiled blindly out into the glaring sunlight, and
bowed. And bowed and smiled again, clinging to the window-casing to
support himself. By now she must have reached the corner. He freed one
hand and waved it gaily, then with outflung arms he stumbled back into
the room, the hot tears coursing down his cheeks.

Marmion Moore halted upon the stairs and felt mechanically for her
gold chatelaine. She recalled dropping it upon the center-table as she
went forward with hands outstretched to Austin; so she turned back,
then hesitated. But he was leaving to-morrow; surely he would
not misinterpret the meaning of her reappearance. Summoning her
self-control, she remounted the stairs quickly.

The door was half ajar as she had left it in her confusion. Mustering
a careless smile, she was about to knock, then paused. Austin was
facing her in the middle of the room, beating time. He was counting
aloud--but was that his voice? In the brief instant she had been gone
he had changed astoundingly. Moreover, notwithstanding the fact that
she stood plainly revealed, he made no sign of recognition, but merely
counted on and on, with the voice of a dying man. She divined that
something was sadly amiss; she wondered for an instant if the man had
lost his senses.

She stood transfixed, half-minded to flee, yet held by some pitying
desire to help; then she saw him reach forward and grope his way
uncertainly to the window. In his progress he stumbled against a
chair; he had to feel for the casing. Then she knew.

Marmion Moore found herself inside the room, staring with wide,
affrighted eyes at the man whose life she had spoiled. She pressed her
hands to her bosom to still its heavings. She saw Austin nodding down
at the street below; she saw his ghastly attempt to smile; she heard
the breath sighing from his lungs and heard him muttering her name.
Then he turned and lurched past her, groping, groping for his chair.
She cried out, sharply, in a stricken voice:

"Mr. Austin!"

The man froze in his tracks; he swung his head slowly from side to
side, as if listening.

"What!" The word came like the crack of a gun. Then, after a moment,
"Marmion!" He spoke her name as if to test his own hearing. It was the
first time she had ever heard him use it.

She slipped forward until within an arm's-length of him, then
stretched forth a wildly shaking hand and passed it before his
unwinking eyes, as if she still disbelieved. Then he heard her moan.

"Marmion!" he cried again. "My God! little girl, I--thought I heard
you go!"

"Then this, _this_ is the reason," she said. "Oh-h-h!"

"What are you doing here? Why did you come back?" he demanded,
brutally.

"I forgot my--No! God sent me back!"

There was a pause, during which the man strove to master himself; then
he asked, in the same harsh accents:

"How long have you been here?"

"Long enough to see--and to understand."

"Well, you know the truth at last. I--have gone--blind." The last word
caused his lips to twitch. He knew from the sound that she was weeping
bitterly. "Please don't. I've used my eyes too much, that is all. It
is--nothing."

"No! No! No!" she said, brokenly. "Don't you think I understand? Don't
you think I see it all now? But why--why didn't you tell me? Why?"
When he did not answer she repeated: "God sent me back. I--I was not
meant to be so unhappy."

Austin felt himself shaken as if by a panic. He cried, hurriedly:
"You see, we've been such good friends. I knew it would distress you.
I--wanted to spare you that! You were a good comrade to me; we were
like chums. Yes, we were chums. No friend could have been dearer to me
than you, Miss Moore. I never had a sister, you know. I--I thought of
you that way, and I--" He was struggling desperately to save the girl,
but his incoherent words died on his lips when he felt her come close
and lay her cheek against his arm.

"You mustn't try to deceive me any more," she said, gently. "I was
here. I know the truth, and--I want to be happy."

Even then he stood dazed and disbelieving until she continued:

"I know that you love me, and that I love you."

"It is pity!" he exclaimed, hoarsely. "You don't mean it."

But she drew herself closer to him and turned her tear-stained face up
to his, saying, wistfully, "If your dear eyes could have seen, they
would have told you long ago."

"Oh, my love!" He was too weak to resist longer. His arms were
trembling as they enfolded her, but in his heart was a gladness that
comes to but few men.

"And you won't go away without me, will you?" she questioned,
fearfully.

"No, no!" he breathed. "Oh, Marmion, I have lost a little, but I have
gained much! God has been good to me."



THE REAL AND THE MAKE-BELIEVE


On his way down-town Phillips stopped at a Subway news-stand and
bought all the morning papers. He acknowledged that he was vastly
excited. As he turned in at the stage door he thrilled at sight of
the big electric sign over the theater, pallid now in the morning
sunshine, but symbolizing in frosted letters the thing for which he
had toiled and fought, had hoped and despaired these many years. There
it hung, a dream come true, and it read, "A Woman's Thrall, By Henry
Phillips."

The stage-door man greeted him with a toothless smile and handed him a
bundle of telegrams, mumbling: "I knew it would go over, Mr. Phillips.
The notices are swell, ain't they?"

"They seem to be."

"I ain't seen their equal since 'The Music Master' opened. We'll run a
year."

This differed from the feverish, half-hysterical praise of the
evening before. Phillips had made allowances then for the spell of a
first-night enthusiasm and had prepared himself for a rude awakening
this morning--he had seen too many plays fail, to put much faith
in the fulsomeness of first-nighters--but the words of the doorman
carried conviction. He had felt confident up to the last moment, to be
sure, for he knew he had put his life's best work into this drama, and
he believed he had written with a master's cunning; nevertheless, when
his message had gone forth a sudden panic had seized him. He had begun
to fear that his judgment was distorted by his nearness to the play,
or that his absorption in it had blinded him to its defects. It was
evident now, however, that these fears had been ill-founded, for no
play could receive such laudatory reviews as these and fail to set
New-Yorkers aflame.

Certain printed sentences kept dancing through his memory: "Unknown
dramatist of tremendous power," "A love story so pitiless, so true,
that it electrifies," "The deep cry of a suffering heart," "Norma
Berwynd enters the galaxy of stars."

That last sentence was the most significant, the most wonderful of
all. Norma Berwynd a star! Phillips could scarcely credit it; he
wondered if she had the faintest notion of how or why her triumph had
been effected.

The property man met him, and he too was smiling.

"I just came from the office," he began. "Say! they're raving. It's
the biggest hit in ten years."

"Oh, come now! It's too early for the afternoon papers--"

"The papers be blowed! It's the public that makes a play; the whole
town knows about this one already. It's in and over, I tell you;
we'll sell out tonight. Believe me, this is a knock-out--a regular
bull's-eye. It won't take no government bonds to bridge us over the
next two weeks."

"Did you get the new props?"

"Sure! The electrician is working on the drop light for the first act;
we'll have a better glass crash tonight, and I've got a brand-new
dagger. That other knife was all right, but Mr. Francis forgot how to
handle it."

"Nevertheless, it's dangerous. We came near having a real tragedy last
evening. Don't let's take any more chances."

"It wasn't my fault, on the level," the property man insisted.
"Francis always 'goes up' at an opening."

"Thank Heaven the papers didn't notice it."

"Huh! We could _afford_ to kill an actor for notices like them. It
would make great advertising and please the critics. Say! I knew this
show was a hit."

Under the dim-lit vault of the stage Phillips found the third-act
scenery set for the rehearsal he had called, then, having given his
instructions to the wardrobe woman, he drew a chair up before a bunch
light and prepared to read for a second time the morning reviews.

He had attempted to read them at breakfast, but his wife--The
playwright sighed heavily at the memory of that scene. Léontine had
been very unjust, as usual. Her temper had run away with her again and
had forced him to leave the house with his splendid triumph spoiled,
his first taste of victory like ashes in his mouth. He was, in a way,
accustomed to these endless, senseless rows, but their increasing
frequency was becoming more and more trying, and he was beginning to
doubt his ability to stand them much longer. It seemed particularly
nasty of Léontine to seize upon this occasion to vent her open dislike
of him--their relations were already sufficiently strained. Marriage,
all at once, assumed a very lopsided aspect to the playwright; he had
given so much and received so little.

With an effort he dismissed the subject from his mind and set himself
to the more pleasant task of looking at his play through the eyes of
the reviewers.

They had been very fair, he decided at last. Their only criticism
was one which he had known to be inevitable, therefore he felt no
resentment.

"Norma Berwynd was superb," he read; "she combined with rare beauty
a personality at once bewitching and natural. She gave life to her
lines; she was deep, intense, true; she rose to her emotional heights
in a burst of power which electrified the audience. We cannot but
wonder why such an artist has remained so long undiscovered."

The dramatist smiled; surely that was sufficient praise to compensate
him for the miserable experience he had just undergone. He read
further:

"Alas, that the same kind things cannot be said of Irving Francis,
whose name is blazoned forth in letters of fire above the theater. He
has established himself as one of America's brightest stars; but the
rôle of John Danton does not enhance his reputation. In his lighter
scenes he was delightful, but his emotional moments did not ring true.
In the white-hot climax of the third act, for instance, which is the
big scene of the play, he was stiff, unnatural, unconvincing. Either
he saw Miss Berwynd taking the honors of stardom away from him and
generously submerged his own talent in order to enhance her triumph,
or it is but another proof of the statement that husband and wife do
not make convincing lovers in the realm of the make-believe. It was
surely due to no lack of opportunity on his part--"

So the writer thought Irving Francis had voluntarily allowed his wife
to rival him. Phillips smiled at this. Some actors might be capable
of such generosity, but hardly Irving Francis. He recalled the man's
insistent demands during rehearsals that the 'script be changed to
build up his own part and undermine that of his wife; the many heated
arguments which had even threatened to prevent the final performance
of the piece. Irving's egotism had blinded him to the true result
of these quarrels, for although he had been given more lines, more
scenes, Phillips had seen to it that Norma was the one to really
profit by the changes. Author and star had been upon the verge
of rupture more than once during that heartbreaking period of
preparation, but Phillips was supremely glad now that he had held
himself in control. Léontine's constant nagging had borne fruit, after
all, in that it had at least taught him to bite down on his words, and
to smile at provocation.

Yes! Norma Berwynd was a star in spite of herself, in spite of her
husband. She was no longer merely the wife of Irving Francis, the
popular idol. Phillips was glad that she did not know how long it had
taken him to effect her independence, nor the price he had paid for
it, since, under the circumstances, the truth could help neither of
them.

He was aroused from his abstraction by the rustle of a woman's
garments, and leaped to his feet with a glad light in his eyes, only
to find Léontine, his wife, confronting him.

"Oh!" he said; then with an effort, "What is the matter?"

"Nothing."

"I didn't know you were coming down-town."

"Whom were you expecting?" Léontine mocked, with that slight accent
which betrayed her Gallic origin.

"No one."

She regarded him with fixed hostility. "I came down to see your
rehearsal. You don't object, I hope?"

"Why should I object?" Phillips turned away with a shrug. "I'm
surprised, that's all--after what you said this morning. Isn't your
interest in the play a trifle--tardy?"

"No! I've been greatly interested in it all the time. I read it
several times in manuscript."

"Indeed! I didn't know that. It won't be much of a rehearsal this
morning; I'm merely going to run over the third act with Mr. and Mrs.
Francis."

"You can rehearse her forty years and she'll never play the part."

"The critics don't agree with you; they rave over her. If Francis
himself--"

Mrs. Phillips uttered an exclamation of anger. "Oh, of course, _she_
is perfect! You wouldn't give me the part, would you? No. You gave it
to her. But it's mine by rights; I have the personality."

"I wrote it for her," said the husband, after a pause. "I can't see
you in it."

"Naturally," she sneered. "Well, _I_ can, and it's not too late to
make the change. I'll replace her. My name will help the piece."

"Léontine!" he exclaimed, in amazement. "What are you talking about?
The play is a tremendous success as it is, and Miss Berwynd is a big
hit. I'd be crazy to make a change."

"You won't give me the part?"

"Certainly not. You shouldn't ask it."

"Doesn't Léontine Murat mean more to the public than Norma Berwynd?"
she demanded.

"Until last night, yes. To-day--well, no. She has created this rôle.
Besides--you--couldn't play the part."

"And why not, if you please?"

"I don't want to hurt your feelings, Léontine."

"Go on!" she commanded, in a voice roughened by passion.

"In the first place you're not--young enough." The woman quivered. "In
the second place, you've grown heavy. Then, too, your accent--"

She broke out at him furiously. "So! I'm old and fat and foreign. I've
lost my beauty. You think so, eh? Well, other men don't. I'll show you
what men think of me--"

"This is no time for threats," he interrupted, coldly.

"Bah! I don't threaten." Seizing him by the arm, she swung him about,
for she was a large woman and still in the fullest vigor of her
womanhood. "Listen! You can't fool me. I know why you wrote this play.
I know why you took that girl and made a star of her. I've known the
truth all along."

"You have no cause to--"

"Don't lie!" she stormed at him. "I can read you like a book. But I
won't stand for it." She flung his arm violently from her and turned
away.

"I think you'd better go home," he told her. "You'll have the stage
hands talking in a minute."

She laughed disagreeably, ignoring his words. "I watched you write
this play! I have eyes, even if Irving Francis is blind. It's time he
knew what is going on."

"There is nothing going on," Phillips cried, heatedly; but his wife
merely shrugged her splendid shoulders and, opening her gold vanity
case, gave her face a deft going over with a tiny powder puff. After
a time the man continued: "I could understand your attitude if
you--cared for me, but some years ago you took pains to undeceive me
on that point."

Léontine's lip curled, and she made no answer.

"This play is a fine piece of property; it will bring us a great deal
of money; it is the thing for which I have worked years."

"I am going to tell Francis the truth about you and his wife!" she
said.

"But there's nothing to tell," the man insisted, with an effort to
restrain himself. "Besides, you must know the result if you start a
thing like that. He'll walk out and take his wife with him. That would
ruin--"

"Give me her part."

"I won't be coerced," he flared up, angrily. "You are willing to
ruin me, out of pique, I suppose, but I won't permit it. This is the
biggest thing I ever did, or ever will do, perhaps; it means honor and
recognition, and--you're selfish enough to spoil it all. I've never
spoken to Norma Berwynd in any way to which her husband or you could
object. Therefore I resent your attitude."

"My attitude! I'm your wife."

He took a turn across the stage, followed by her eyes. Pausing before
her at length, he said, quietly: "I've asked you to go home and now
I insist upon it. If you are here when I return I shall dismiss the
rehearsal. I refuse to allow our domestic relations to interfere with
my business." He strode out to the front of the house and then paced
the dark foyer, striving to master his emotions. A moment later he
saw his wife leave the stage and assumed that she had obeyed his
admonitions and gone home.

The property-man appeared with an armful of draperies and mechanical
appliances, interrupting his whistling long enough to call out.

"Here's the new hangings, Mr. Phillips, and the Oriental rugs. I've
got the dagger, too." He held a gleaming object on high. "Believe me,
it's some Davy Crockett. There's a newspaper guy out back and he wants
your ideas on the American drama. I told him they were great. Will you
see him?"

"Not now. Tell him to come back later."

"Say! That John Danton is some character. Why don't you let him have
the gal?"

"Because--well, because it doesn't happen in real life, and I've tried
to make this play real, more than anything else."

When Norma Berwynd and her husband arrived Phillips had completely
regained his composure, and he greeted them cordially. The woman
seemed awed, half-frightened, by her sudden rise to fame. She seemed
to be walking in a dream, and a great wonder dwelt in her eyes. As for
Francis, he returned the author's greeting curtly, making it plain
that he was in no agreeable temper.

"I congratulate you, Phillips," he said. "You and Norma have become
famous overnight."

The open resentment in his tone angered the playwright and caused him
to wonder if their long-deferred clash was destined to occur this
morning. He knew himself to be overwrought, and he imagined Francis to
be in no better frame of mind; nevertheless, he answered, pacifically:

"If that is so we owe it to your art."

"Not at all. I see now what I failed to detect in reading and
rehearsing the piece, and what you neglected to tell me, namely, that
this is a woman's play. There's nothing in it for me. There's nothing
in my part."

"Oh, come now! The part is tremendous; you merely haven't got the most
out of it as yet."

Francis drew himself up and eyed the speaker coldly. "You're quoting
the newspapers. Pray be more original. You know, of course, how I
stand with these penny-a-liners; they never have liked me, but as for
the part--" He shrugged. "I can't get any more out of it than there is
in it."

"Doubtless that was my fault at rehearsals. I've called this one so we
can fix up the weak spot in the third act."

"Well! We're on time. Where are the others?" Francis cast an inquiring
glance about.

"I'll only rehearse you and Mrs. Francis."

"Indeed!" The former speaker opened his mouth for a cutting rejoinder,
but changed his mind and stalked away into the shadowy depths of the
wings.

"Please make allowances for him," Norma begged, approaching Phillips
in order that her words might not be overheard. "I've never seen him
so broken up over anything. He is always unstrung after an opening,
but he is--terrible, this morning."

There was trouble, timidity, and another indefinable expression in the
woman's eyes as they followed the vanishing figure of her husband;
faint lines appeared at the corners of her mouth, lines which had
no place in the face of a happily married woman. She was trembling,
moreover, as if she had but recently played some big, emotional rôle,
and Phillips felt the old aching pity for her tugging at his heart. He
wondered if those stories about Francis could be true.

"It has been a great strain on all of us," he told her. "But you? How
do you feel after all this?" He indicated the pile of morning papers,
and at sight of them her eyes suddenly filled with that same wonder
and gladness he had noticed when she first arrived.

"Oh-h! I--I'm breathless. Something clutches me--here." She laid
her hand upon her bosom. "It's so new I can't express it yet,
except--well, all of my dreams came true in a night. Some fairy waved
her wand and, lo! poor ugly little me--" She laughed, although it was
more like a sob. "I had no idea my part was so immense. Had you?"

"I had. I wrote it that way. My dreams, also, came true."

"But why?" A faint flush stole into her cheeks. "There are so many
women who could have played the part better than I. You had courage to
risk your piece in my hands, Mr. Phillips."

"Perhaps I knew you better than you knew yourself." She searched his
face with startled curiosity. "Or better at least than the world knew
you. Tell me, there is something wrong? I'm afraid he--resents your--"

"Oh no, no!" she denied, hastily, letting her eyes fall, but not
before he had seen them fill again with that same expression of pain
and bewilderment. "He's--not himself, that's all. I--You--won't
irritate him? Please! He has such a temper."

Francis came out of the shadows scowling. "Well, let's get at it,"
said he.

Phillips agreed. "If you don't mind we'll start with your entrance. I
wish you would try to express more depth of feeling, more tenderness,
if you please, Mr. Francis. Remember, John Danton has fought this love
of his for many years, undertaking to remain loyal to his wife. He
doesn't dream that Diane returns his love, for he has never spoken,
never even hinted of his feelings until this instant. Now, however,
they are forced into expression. He begins reluctantly, frightened at
the thing which makes him speak, then when she responds the dam breaks
and his love over-rides his will power, his loyalty, his lifelong
principles; it sweeps him onward and it takes her with him. The truth
appals them both. They recognize its certain consequences and yet they
respond freely, fiercely. You can't overplay the scene, Mr. Francis."

"Certainly I can overplay it," the star declared. "That's the danger.
My effects should come from repression."

"I must differ with you. Repressive methods are out of place here. You
see, John Danton loses control of himself--"

"Nonsense!" Francis declared, angrily.

"The effectiveness of the scene depends altogether upon its--well, its
savagery. It must sweep the audience off its feet in order that the
climax shall appear logical."

"Nonsense again! I'm not an old-school actor, and I can't chew
scenery. I've gained my reputation by repressive acting, by
intensity."

"This is not acting; this is real life."

Francis's voice rose a tone in pitch, and his eyes flashed at this
stubborn resistance to his own set ideas.

"Great heavens, Phillips! Don't try to tell me my own business.
People don't behave that way in real life; they don't explode under
passion--not even jealousy or revenge; they are reserved. Reserve!
That's the real thing; the other is all make-believe."

Seeing that it was useless to argue with the man, Phillips said
nothing more, so Francis and his wife assumed their positions and
began their lines.

It was a long scene and one demanding great force to sustain. It was
this, in fact, which had led to the choice of Irving Francis for the
principal rôle, for he was a man of tremendous physical power. He had
great ability, moreover, and yet never, even at rehearsals, had he
been able to invest this particular scene with conviction. Phillips
had rehearsed him in it time and again, but he seemed strangely
incapable of rising to the necessary heights. He was hollow,
artificial; his tricks and mannerisms showed through like familiar
trade marks. Strangely enough, the girl also had failed to get the
most out of the scene, and this morning, both star and leading woman
seemed particularly cold and unresponsive. They lacked the spark, the
uplifting intensity, which was essential, therefore, in desperation,
Phillips finally tried the expedient of altering their "business," of
changing positions, postures, and crosses; but they went through the
scene for a second time as mechanically as before.

Knowing every line as he did, feeling every heart throb, living and
suffering as John Danton was supposed to be living and suffering,
Phillips was nearly distracted. To him this was a wanton butchery of
his finest work. He interrupted, at last, in a heart-sick, hopeless
tone which sorely offended the already irritated Francis.

"I'm--afraid it's no use. You don't seem to get it."

"What is it I don't get?" roughly demanded the actor.

"You're not genuine--either of you. You don't seem to feel it."

"Humph! We're married!" said the star, so brutally that his wife
flushed painfully. "I tell you I get all it's possible to get out of
the scene. You wrote it and you see a lot of imaginary values; but
they're not there. I'm no superman--no god! I can't give you more than
the part contains."

"Look at it in this light," Phillips argued, after a pause. "Diane is
a married woman; she, too, is fighting a battle; she is restrained by
every convention, every sense of right, every instinct of wifehood and
womanhood. Now, then, you must sweep all that aside; your own fire
must set her ablaze despite--"

"I? _I_ must do all this?" mocked the other, furiously. "Why must _I_
do it all? Make Norma play up to me. She underplays me all the time;
she's not in my key. That's what's the matter--and I'm damned tired of
this everlasting criticism."

There was a strained silence, during which the two men faced each
other threateningly, and a panic seized the woman.

She managed to say, uncertainly: "Perhaps I--should play up to you,
Irving."

"On the contrary, I don't think the fault is yours," Phillips said,
stiffly.

Again there was a dramatic silence, in which there was no element of
the make-believe. It was the clash of two strong men who disliked each
other intensely and whose masks were slipping. Neither they nor the
leading woman detected a figure stealing out from the gloom, as if
drawn by the magnetism of their anger.

"My fault, as usual," Francis sneered. "Understand this, Phillips, my
reputation means something to me, and I won't be forced out of a good
engagement by a--well, by you or by any other stage manager."

Phillips saw that same fearful look leap into the woman's eyes, and it
checked his heated retort. "I don't mean to find fault with you," he
declared, evenly. "I have the greatest respect for your ability as an
actor, but--"

The star tossed his massive head in a peculiarly aggravating manner.
"Perhaps you think you can play the part better than I?"

"Irving! _Please_!" breathed his wife.

"Show me how it should be done, if you feel it so strongly."

"Thank you, I will," Phillips answered, impulsively. "I'm not an
actor, but I wrote this piece. What's more, I lived it before I wrote
it. It's my own story, and I think I know how it should be played."

Francis smiled mockingly. "Good!" said he; "I shall learn something."

"Do you mind?" The author turned to the real Diane, and she shook her
head, saying, uncertainly:

"It's--very good of you."

"Very well. If you will hold the manuscript, Mr. Francis, I'll try to
show what I feel the scene lacks. However, I don't think I'll need any
prompting. Now, then, we'll begin at John Danton's entrance."

With the mocking smile still upon his lips, Francis took the
manuscript and seated himself upon the prompter's table.

It was by no means remarkable that Henry Phillips should know
something about acting, for he had long been a stage manager, and in
emergencies he has assumed a good many divergent rôles. He felt no
self-consciousness, therefore, as he exchanged places with Francis;
only an intense desire to prove his contentions. He nerved himself to
an unusual effort, but before he had played more than a few moments he
forgot the hostile husband and began to live the part of John Danton
as he had lived it in the writing, as he invariably lived it every
time he read the play or saw it acted.

Nor, as he had said, did he need prompting, for the lines were not the
written speeches of another which had been impressed upon his brain
by the mechanical process of repetition; they were his own thoughts
expressed in the simplest terms he knew, and they came forth unbidden,
hot, eager. Once he began to voice them he was seized by that same
mighty current which had drawn them from him in the first place and
left them strewn upon paper like driftwood after a flood. He had
acted every part of his play; he had spoken every line many times in
solitude; but this was the first time he had faced the real Diane. He
found himself mastered by a fierce exultation; he forgot that he
was acting or that the woman opposite him was playing a rôle of his
creation; he began to live his true life for the first time since he
had met the wife of Irving Francis. Clothed in the make-believe, the
real Henry Phillips spoke freely, feelingly. His very voice changed in
timbre, in quality; it became rich, alive; his eyes caressed the woman
and stirred her to a new response.

As for Irving Francis, he watched the transformation with
astonishment. Grudgingly, resentfully, he acknowledged that this was
indeed fine acting. He realized, too, that his blind egotism had
served merely to prove the truth of the author's criticism and
to emphasize his own shortcomings. The idea enraged him, but the
spectacle held him enthralled.

Norma Berwynd was not slow to appreciate the truth. Accustomed
thoroughly to every phase of the make-believe world in which she
dwelt, she recognized unerringly in the new John Danton's words and
actions something entirely unreal and apart from the theatrical. The
conviction that Henry Phillips was not acting came to her with a
blinding suddenness, and it threw her into momentary confusion, hence
her responses were mechanical. But soon, without effort on her part,
this embarrassment fell away and she in turn began to blaze. The flame
grew as Phillips breathed upon it. She realized wildly that her heart
had always hungered for words like these, and that, coming from his
lips, they carried an altogether new and wondrous meaning; that they
filled some long-felt, aching want of which she had been ignorant
until this moment. The certainty that it was Phillips himself who
spoke, and not a mere character of his creation, filled her with an
exultant recklessness. She forgot her surroundings, her husband's
presence, even the fact that the lines she spoke were not of her own
making.

Never had the scene been played like this. It grew vital, it took on
a tremendous significance. No one could have observed it and remained
unresponsive. Francis let fall the manuscript and stared at the actors
wonderingly. Since he was an actor, nothing was so real to him,
nothing so thrilling, as the make-believe. He realized that this was
indeed a magnificent exhibition of the artificial. With parted lips
and pulse athrob he followed the wooing of that imaginary John Danton,
in whom he could see no one but himself.

After a time he became conscious of a presence at his side, and heard
some one breathing heavily. Turning with a start, he found Léontine
Phillips at his shoulder. She, too, was aroused, but in her sneering
visage was that which brought the actor abruptly out of his spell. She
had emerged from the shadows noiselessly, and was leaning forward, her
strong hands gripping the edge of the table littered with its many
properties.

Mrs. Phillips had played emotional scenes herself, but never with such
melodramatic intensity as she now unconsciously displayed. Her whole
body shook as with an ague, her dark face was alive with a jealous fury
which told Irving Francis the story he had been too dull to suspect. The
truth, when it came home, smote him like a blow; his hatred for the
author, which had been momentarily forgotten--momentarily lost in his
admiration of the artist--rose up anew, and he recognized this occult
spell which had held him breathless as the thrall of a vital reality,
not, after all, the result of inspired acting. Instantly he saw past the
make-believe, into the real, and what he saw caused him to utter a
smothered cry.

Léontine turned her face to him. "You fool!" she whispered through
livid lips.

Francis was a huge, leonine man; he rose now to his full height, as a
cat rises. But the drama drew his gaze in spite of himself; he could
not keep his eyes from his wife's face. Léontine plucked at his sleeve
and whispered again:

"You _fool_!"

Something contorted the actor's frame bitterly, and he gasped like a
man throttled. Léontine could feel his muscles stiffen.

But the two players were in Elysium. They had reached the climax of
the scene; Danton had told his love as only a great, starved love can
tell itself, and with swimming eyes and fluttering lids, with heart
pounding beneath her folded hands, Diane swayed toward him and his
arms enfolded her. Her body met his, yielded; her face was upturned;
her fragrant, half-opened lips were crushed to his in a fierce,
impassioned kiss of genuine ecstasy.

Up to this moment the intensity of Francis's rage had held him
paralyzed, despite the voice which was whispering so constantly at his
ear; but now, when he saw his wife swooning upon the breast of the man
who had played his part, he awoke.

"She knows he loves her," Léontine was saying. "You let him tell her
in front of your face. He has taken her away from you!"

Mrs. Phillips's eyes fell upon the working fingers of the man as they
rested beside her own. They were opening and closing hungrily. She
also saw the naked knife which lay upon the table, and she moved it
forward cautiously until the eager fingers twined about it. Then she
breathed, "Go!" and shoved him forward fiercely.

It was Irving Francis's cry of rage as he rushed upon them which
aroused Norma Berwynd from her dream, from her intoxication. She saw
him towering at Phillips's back, and with a scream she tried to save
the latter.

The husband's blow fell, however; it was delivered with all the savage
fury that lay in Irving Francis's body, and his victim was fairly
driven to his knees beneath it. The latter rose, then staggered, and,
half sliding through the woman's sheltering embrace, crumpled limply
into a massive upholstered chair. He, too, was dazed by the sudden
transition from his real world to his make-believe.

When his eyes cleared he saw Norma Berwynd struggling with her
husband, interposing her own slender body in his path. Francis was
cursing her foully for her unfaithfulness; his voice was thick and
brutal.

"Yes! It's true!" she cried, with hysterical defiance. "I never knew
till now; but it's true! It's _true_!"

"You've killed him!" Léontine chattered, shrilly, and emerged from the
shadows, her dark features ashen, her eyes ringed with white. Mrs.
Francis turned from her husband and flung her arms about the recumbent
man, calling wildly to him.

The dénouement had come with such swiftness that it left all four of
them appalled at their actions. Seeing what his brief insanity had led
him into, Francis felt his strength evaporate; his face went white,
his legs buckled beneath him. He scanned the place wildly in search of
means of escape.

"My God! My God!" Léontine was repeating. "Why doesn't somebody come?"

Now that his brain had cleared, and he knew what hand had smitten him,
and why, Phillips was by far the calmest of the four. He saw the knife
at his feet and smiled, for no steel could rob him of that gladness
which was pulsing through his veins. He was still smiling when he
stooped and picked up the weapon. He arose, lifting Norma to her feet;
then his hand slid down and sought hers.

"You needn't worry," he said to Francis. "You see--this is the new
dagger I got for the end of the act."

He held it out in his open palm for all of them to see, and they noted
that it was strangely shortened--that the point of the sliding blade
was barely exposed beneath the hilt.

Francis wiped his wet face, then shuddered and cursed weakly with
relief, meanwhile groping at the prompter's table for support. "Sold!
A prop knife!" he cried.

"You--you're not really--" Norma swayed forward with eyes closed.

Léontine laughed.

"By God! I meant it," the star exclaimed, uncertainly. "You can't
deny--" He gasped and tugged at his collar.

"I believe there is nothing to deny," the author said, quietly. He
looked first at his wife, then at his enemy, and then down at the
quivering, white face upturned to his. "There is nothing to deny, is
there?" he inquired of Norma.

"Nothing!" she said. "I--I'm glad to know the truth, that's all."

Francis glared first at one, then at the other, and as he did so he
began to realize the full cost of his action. When it came home to
him in terms of dollars and cents, he showed his true character by
stammering:

"I--I made a frightful mistake. I'm--not myself; really, I'm not. It
was your wife's fault." In a panic he ran on, unmindful of Léontine's
scorn. "She did it, Mr. Phillips. She gave me the knife. She whispered
things--she made me--I--I'm very sorry--Mr. Phillips, and I'll play
the part the way you want it. I will, indeed."

Léontine met her husband's look defiantly; hence it was as much to her
as to the cringing actor that the playwright said:

"Your salary will go on as usual, under your contract, Mr.
Francis--that is, until the management supplies you with a new play;
but I'm the real John Danton, and I shall play him tonight and
henceforth."

"Then, I'm--discharged? Norma--d'you hear that? We're canceled.
Fired!"

"No, Miss Berwynd's name will go up in lights as the star, if she
cares to stay," said Phillips. "Do you wish to remain?" He looked down
at the woman, and she nodded.

"Yes, oh yes!" she said. "I _must_ stay. I daren't go back." That
hunted look leaped into her eyes again, and Phillips recognized it now
as fear, the abject physical terror of the weaker animal. "I want to
go--forward--not backward, if there is any way."

"I'll show you the way," he told her, gently. "We'll find it
together."

He smiled reassuringly, and with a little gasping sigh she placed her
hand in his.



RUNNING ELK


Up from the valley below came the throb of war drums, the faint rattle
of shots, and the distant cries of painted horsemen charging. From
my vantage-point on the ridge I had an unobstructed view of the
encampment, a great circle of tepees and tents three miles in
circumference, cradled in a sag of the timberless hills. The sounds
came softly through the still Dakota air, and my eye took in every
sharp-drawn detail of the scene--ponies grazing along the creek
bottom, children playing beneath the blue smoke of camp-fires, the
dense crowd ringed about a medicine pole in their center, intent on a
war-dance.

Five thousand Sioux were here in all their martial splendor. They were
painted and decked and trapped for war, living again their days of
plenty, telling anew their tales of might, and repeating on a mimic
scale their greatest battles. Five days the feasting had continued;
five mornings had I been awakened at dawn to see a thousand ochered,
feathered horsemen come thundering down upon the camp, their horses
running flat, their rifles popping, while the valley rocked to their
battle-cries and to the answering clamor of the army which rode forth
to meet them. Five sultry days had I spent wandering unnoticed,
ungreeted, and disdained, an alien in a hostile land, tolerated but
unwelcome. Five evenings had I witnessed the tents begin to glow and
the campfires kindle until the valley became hooped about as if by a
million giant fireflies. Five nights had I strayed, like a lost soul,
through an unreal wilderness, harkening to the drone of stories told
in an unfamiliar tongue, to the minor-keyed dirges of an unknown race,
to the thumping of countless moccasined feet in the measures of queer
dances. The odors of a savage people had begun to pall on me, and the
sound of a strange language to annoy; I longed for another white man,
for a word in my own tongue.

It was the annual "Give-away" celebration, when all the tribe
assembles to make presents, to race, to tell stories, and to recount
the legends of their prowess. They had come from all quarters of the
reservation, bringing their trunks, their children, and their dogs. Of
the last named more had come, by far, than would go back, for this was
a week of feasting, and every day the air was heavy with the smell
of singeing hair, and the curs that had been spared gnawed at an
ever-increasing pile of bones.

I had seen old hags strangle dogs by pulling on opposite ends of a
slip-noose, or choke them by laying a tent-pole on their throats and
standing on the ends; I had seen others knock them down with billets
of wood, drag them kicking to the fires, and then knock them down
again when they crawled out of the flames. All in all, I had acquired
much information regarding the carnival appetites of the noble red
man, learning that he is poetic only in the abstract.

It was drawing on toward sunset, so I slipped into my camera strap and
descended the slope. I paused, however, while still some distance
away from my tent, for next to it another had been erected during my
absence. It was a tiny affair with a rug in front of it, and upon the
rug stood a steamer-chair.

"Hello, inside!" I shouted, then ran forward, straddling papooses and
shouldering squaws out of my way.

"Hello!" came an answer, and out through the flap was thrust the head
of my friend, the Government doctor.

"Gee! I'm glad to see you!" I said as I shook his hand. "I'm as
lonesome as a deaf mute at a song recital."

"I figured you would be," said the doctor, "so I came out to see the
finish of the feast and to visit with you. I brought some bread from
the Agency."

"Hoorah! White bread and white conversation! I'm hungry for both."

"What's the matter? Won't the Indians talk to you?"

"I guess they would if they could, but they can't. I haven't found one
among the whole five thousand who can understand a word I say. Your
Government schools have gone back in the betting with me, Doc. You
must keep your graduates under lock and key."

"They can all speak English if they want to--that is, the younger
ones. Some few of the old people are too proud to try, but the others
can talk as well as we can, until they forget."

"Do you mean to say these people have been fooling me? I don't believe
it," said I. "There's one that can't talk English, and I'll make a bet
on it." I indicated a passing brave with an eagle-feather head-dress
which reached far down his naked legs. He was a magnificent animal;
he was young and lithe, and as tall and straight as a sapling. "I've
tried him twice, and he simply doesn't understand."

My friend called to the warrior: "Hey, Tom! Come here a minute."
The Indian came, and the doctor continued, "When do you hold the
horse-races, Thomas?"

"To-morrow, at four o'clock, unless it rains," said the fellow.
He spoke in an odd, halting dialect, but his words were perfectly
understandable.

"Are you going to ride?"

"No; my race-horse is sick."

As the ocher-daubed figure vanished into the dusk the old man turned
to me, saying, "College man."

"What?"

"Yes. B.A. He's a graduate."

"Impossible!" I declared. "Why, he talks like a foreigner, or as if he
were just learning our language."

"Exactly. In another three years he'll be an Indian again, through and
through. Oh, the reservation is full of fellows like Tom." The
doctor heaved a sigh of genuine discouragement. "It's a melancholy
acknowledgment to make, but our work seems to count for almost
nothing. It's their blood."

"Perhaps they forget the higher education," said I; "but how about the
Agency school, where you teach them to farm and to sew and to cook, as
well as to read and to write? Surely they don't forget that?"

"I've heard a graduating class read theses, sing cantatas, and deliver
sounding orations; then I've seen those same young fellows, three
months later, squatting in tepees and eating with their fingers. It's
a common thing for our 'sweet girl graduates' to lay off their white
commencement-day dress, their high-heeled shoes and their pretty hats,
for the shawl and the moccasin. We teach them to make sponge-cake and
to eat with a fork, but they prefer dog-soup and a horn spoon. Of
course there are exceptions, but most of them forget much faster than
they learn."

"Our Eastern ideas of Mr. Lo are somewhat out of line with the facts,"
I acknowledged. "He's sort of a hero with us. I remember several
successful plays with romantic Indians in the lead."

"I know!" My friend laughed shortly. "I saw some of them. If you like,
however, I'll tell you how it really happens. I know a story."

When we had finished supper the doctor told me the story of Running
Elk. The night was heavy with unusual odors and burdened by weird
music; the whisper of a lively multitude came to us, punctuated at
intervals by distant shouts or shots or laughter. On either hand the
campfires stretched away like twinkling stars, converging steadily
until the horns joined each other away out yonder in the darkness. It
was a suitable setting for an epic tale of the Sioux.

"I've grown gray in this service," the old man began, "and the longer
I live the less time I waste in trying to understand the difference
between the Indian race and ours. I've about reached the conclusion
that it's due to some subtle chemical ingredient in the blood. One
race is lively and progressive, the other is sluggish and atavistic.
The white man is ever developing, he's always advancing, always
expanding; the red man is marking time or walking backward. It is only
a matter of time until he will vanish utterly. He's different from the
negro. The negro enlarges, up to a certain limit, then he stops. Some
people claim, I believe, that his skull is sutured in such a manner as
to check his brain development when his bones finally harden and set.
The idea sounds reasonable; if true, there will never be a serious
conflict between the blacks and the whites. But the red man differs
from both. To begin with, his is not a subject race by birth.
Physically he is as perfect as either; Nature has endowed him with
an intellect quite as keen as the white man's, and with an open
articulation of the skull which permits the growth of his brain.
Somewhere, nevertheless, she has cunningly concealed a flaw, a flaw
which I have labored thirty years to find.

"I have a theory--you know all old men have theories--that it is
a physical thing, as tangible as that osseous constriction of the
cranium which holds the negro in subjection, and that if I could lay
my finger on it I could raise the Indian to his ancient mastery and
to a dignified place among the nations; I could change them from a
vanishing people into a race of rulers, of lawgivers, of creators. At
least that used to be my dream.

"Some years ago I felt that I was well on my way to success, for I
found a youth who offered every promise of great manhood. I studied
him until I knew his every trait and his every strength--he didn't
seem to have any weaknesses. I raised him according to my own ideas;
he became a tall, straight fellow, handsome as a bronze statue of a
god. Physically he was perfect, and he had a mind as fine as his body.
He had the best blood of his nation in him, being the son of a war
chief, and he was called Thomas Running Elk. I educated him at the
Agency school under my own personal supervision, and on every occasion
I studied him. I spent hours in shaping his mind and in bending him
away from the manners and the habits of his tribe. I taught him to
think like a white man. He responded like a growing vine; he became
the pride of the reservation--a reserved but an eager youth, with an
understanding and a wit beyond that of most white boys of his age.
Search him as rigorously as I might, I couldn't find a single flaw. I
believed I was about to prove my theory.

"Running Elk romped through our school, and he couldn't learn fast
enough; when he had finished I sent him East to college, and, in order
to wean him utterly away from the past, instead of sending him to
an Indian school I arranged for him to enter one of the big Eastern
universities, where no Indian had ever been, where constant
association with the flower of our race would by its own force raise
him to a higher level. Well, it worked. He led his classes as a
stag leads a herd. He was a silent, dignified, shadowy figure; his
fellow-students considered him unapproachable, nevertheless they
admired and they liked him. In all things he excelled; but he was
best, perhaps, in athletics, and for this I took the credit--a Jovian
satisfaction in my work.

"News of his victories on track and field and gridiron came to me
regularly, for his professors were interested in my experiment. As for
the boy himself, he never wrote; it was not his nature. Nor did he
communicate with his people. He had cut himself off from them, and I
think he looked down upon them. At intervals his father came to the
Agency to inquire about Running Elk, for I did not allow my protégé
to return even during vacations. That was a part of my plan. At my
stories of his son's victories the father made no comment; he merely
listened quietly, then folded his blanket about him and slipped away.
The old fellow was a good deal of a philosopher; he showed neither
resentment nor pleasure, but once or twice I caught him smiling oddly
at my enthusiasm. I know now what was in his mind.

"It was in Running Elk's senior year that a great thing came to him,
a thing I had counted upon from the start. He fell in love. A girl
entered his life. But this girl didn't enter as I had expected, and
when the news reached me I was completely taken aback. She was a girl
I had dandled on my knees as a child, the only daughter of an old
friend. Moreover, instead of Running Elk being drawn to her, as I had
planned, she fell desperately in love with him.

"I guess the gods were offended at my presumption and determined by
one hair's-breadth shift to destroy the balance of my whole structure.
They're a jealous lot, the gods. I didn't understand, at that time,
how great must have been the amusement which I offered them.

"You've heard of old Henry Harman? Yes, the railroad king. It was his
daughter Alicia. No wonder you look incredulous.

"In order to understand the story you'll have to know something about
old Henry. You'll have to believe in heredity. Henry is a self-made
man. He came into the Middle West as a poor boy, and by force of
indomitable pluck, ability, and doggedness he became a captain of
industry. We were born on neighboring farms, and while I, after a
lifetime of work, have won nothing except an underpaid Government
job, Henry has become rich and mighty. He had that indefinable,
unacquirable faculty for making money, and he became a commanding
figure in the financial world. He's dominant, he's self-centered, he's
one-purposed; he's a rough-hewn block of a man, and his unbounded
wealth, his power, and his contact with the world have never smoothed
nor rounded him. He's just about the same now as when he was a section
boss on his own railroad. His daughter Alicia is another Henry Harman,
feminized. Her mother was a pampered child, born to ease and enslaved
to her own whims. No desire of hers, however extravagant, ever went
ungratified, and right up to the hour of her death old Henry never
said no to her--partly out of a spirit of amusement, I dare say, and
partly because she was the only unbridled extravagance he had ever
yielded to in all his life. Well, having sowed the wind, he reaped the
whirlwind in Alicia. She combined the distinguishing traits of both
parents, and she grew up more effectively spoiled than her mother.

"When I got a panicky letter from one of Running Elk's professors
coupling her name vaguely with that of my Indian, I wavered in
my determination to see this experiment out; but the analyst is
unsentimental, and a fellow who sets out to untangle the skein of
nature must pay the price, so I waited.

"That fall I was called to Washington on department business--we
were fighting for a new appropriation--and while there I went to the
theater one night. I was extremely harassed, and my mind was filled
with Indian matters, so I went out alone to seek an evening's relief,
not caring whither my feet took me.

"The play was one of those you spoke of; it told the story of a young
Indian college man in love with a white girl. Whether or not it was
well written I don't know; but it seemed as if the hand of destiny had
led me to it, for the hero's plight was so similar to the situation of
Running Elk that it seemed almost uncanny, and I wondered if this play
might afford me some solution of his difficulty.

"You will remember that the Indian in the play is a great football
hero, and a sort of demi-god to his fellows. He begins to consider
himself one of them--their equal--and he falls in love with the sister
of his chum. But when this fact is made known his friends turn
against him and try to show him the barrier of blood. At the finish a
messenger comes bearing word that his father is dead and that he has
been made chief in the old man's place. He is told that his people
need him, and although the girl offers to go with him and make her
life his, he renounces her for his duty to the tribe.

"Well, it was all right up to that point, but the end didn't help me
in shaping the future of Running Elk, for his father was hale, hearty,
and contented, and promised to hang on in that condition as long as we
gave him his allowance of beef on Issue Day.

"That night when I got back to the hotel I found a long-distance
call from old Henry Harman. He had wired me here at the Agency, and,
finding I was in Washington, he had called me from New York. He didn't
tell me much over the 'phone, except that he wanted to see me at once
on a matter of importance. My work was about finished, so I took the
train in the morning and went straight to his office. When I arrived I
found the old fellow badly rattled. There is a certain kind of worry
which comes from handling affairs of importance. Men like Henry Harman
thrive upon it; but there's another kind which searches out the joints
in their coats of mail and makes women of them. That's what Henry was
suffering from.

"'Oh, Doc, I'm in an awful hole!' he exclaimed. 'You're the only man
who can pull me out. It's about Alicia and that damned savage of
yours.'

"'I knew that was it,' said I.

"'If you've heard about it clear out there,' Harman declared, with a
catch in his voice, 'it's even worse than I thought.' He strode up and
down his office for a few moments; then he sank heavily into his chair
and commenced to pound his mahogany desk, declaring, angrily:

"'I won't be defied by my own flesh and blood! I won't! That's
all there is to it. I'm master of my own family. Why, the thing's
fantastic, absurd, and yet it's terrible! Heavens! I can't believe
it!'

"'Have you talked with Alicia?'

"'Not with her, _to_ her. She's like a mule. I never saw such a will
in a woman. I--I've fought her until I'm weak. Where she got her
temper I don't know.' He collapsed feebly and I was forced to smile,
for there's only one thing stubborn enough to overcome a Harman's
resistance, and that is a Harman's desire.

"'Then it isn't a girlish whim?' I ventured.

"'_Whim!_ Look at me!' He held out his trembling hands. 'She's licked
me, Doc. She's going to marry that--that--' He choked and muttered,
unintelligibly: 'I've reasoned, I've pleaded, I've commanded. She
merely smiles and shrugs and says I'm probably right, in the abstract.
Then she informs me that abstract problems go to pieces once in a
while. She says this--this--Galloping Moose, this yelping ghost-dancer
of yours, is the only real man she ever met.'

"'What does he have to say?'

"'Humph!' grunted Harman. 'I offered to buy him off, but he threatened
to serve me up with dumplings and wear my scalp in his belt. Such
insolence! Alicia wouldn't speak to me for a week.'

"'You made a mistake there,' said I. 'Running Elk is a Sioux. As for
Alicia, she's thoroughly spoiled. She's never been denied any single
thing in all her life, and she has your disposition. It's a difficult
situation.'

"'Difficult! It's scandalous--hideous!'

"'How old is Alicia?'

"'Nineteen. Oh, I've worn out that argument! She says she'll wait. You
know she has her own money, from her mother.'

"'Does Running Elk come to your house?'

"At this my old friend roared so fiercely that I hastened to say:
'I'll see the boy at once. I have more influence with him than anybody
else.'

"'I hope you can show him how impossible, how criminal, it is to ruin
my girl's life.' Harman said this seriously. 'Yes, and mine, too,
for that matter. Suppose the yellow newspapers got hold of this!' He
shuddered. 'Doc, I love that girl so well that I'd kill her with my
own hands rather than see her disgraced, ridiculed--'

"'Tut, tut!' said I. 'That's pride--just plain, selfish pride.'

"'I don't care a damn what it is, I'd do it. I earned my way in the
world, but she's got blue blood in her and she was born to a position;
she goes everywhere. When she comes out she'll be able to marry into
the best circles in America. She could marry a duke, if she wanted to.
I'd buy her one if she said the word. Naturally, I can't stand for
this dirty, low-browed Injun.'

"'He's not dirty,' I declared, 'and he's not as low-browed as some
foreigner you'd be glad to pick out for her.'

"'Well, he's an Injun,' retorted Harman, 'and that's enough. We've
both seen 'em tried; they all drop back where they started from. You
know that as well as I do.'

"'I don't know it,' said I, thinking of my theories. 'I've been using
him to make an experiment, but--the experiment has gotten away from
me. I dare say you're right. I wanted him to meet and to know white
girls, but I didn't want him to marry one--certainly not a girl like
Alicia. No, we must put a stop to this affair. I'll see him right
away.'

"'To-morrow is Thanksgiving,' said Henry. 'Wait over and go up with us
and see the football game.'

"'Are you going?'

"Harman grimaced. 'Alicia made me promise. I'd rather take her than
let her go with friends--there's no telling what she might do.'

"'Why let her go at all?' I objected.

"The old fellow laughed mirthlessly. 'Why _let_ her? Running Elk plays
full-back! How _stop_ her? We'll pick you up at your hotel in the
morning and drive you up in the car. It's the big game of the year.
You'll probably enjoy it. I won't!'

"Miss Harman seemed glad to see me on the following day. She must have
known that I was in her father's confidence, but she was too well
schooled to show it. As we rode out in the big limousine I undertook
to study her, but the reading of women isn't my game. All I could see
was a beautiful, spirited, imperious girl with the Harman eyes and
chin. She surprised me by mentioning Running Elk of her own free will;
she wasn't the least bit embarrassed, and, although her father's face
whitened, she preserved her quiet dignity, and I realized that she was
in no wise ashamed of her infatuation. I didn't wonder that the old
gentleman chose to accompany her to this game, although he must
have known that the sight of Running Elk would pain him like a
branding-iron.

"It was the first great gridiron battle I had ever seen, and so I was
unprepared for the spectacle. The enthusiasm of that immense crowd
astonished me, and in spite of the fact that I had come as a tired old
man, it got into my veins until my heart pounded and my pulses leaped.
The songs, the shouts, the bellows of that multitude were intensely
thrilling, for youth was in them. I grew young again, and I was half
ashamed of myself until I saw other people of my own age who had also
become boys and girls for the day. And the seriousness of it! Why, it
was painful! Not one of those countless thousands was a disinterested
spectator; they were all intensely partisan, and you'd have thought
life or death hung on the victory.

"Not one, did I say? There was one who held himself aloof from all the
enthusiasm. Old Henry sat like a lump of granite, and out of regard
for him I tried to restrain myself.

"We had a box, close to the side lines, with the _élite_ of the East
on either hand--people whose names I had read. They bowed and smiled
and waved to our little party, and I felt quite important.

"You've probably seen similar games, so there's no need of my
describing this one, even if I could. It was my first experience,
however, and it impressed me greatly. When the teams appeared I
recognized Running Elk at a distance. So did the hordes of madmen
behind us, and I began to understand for the first time what it was
that the old man in the seat next to mine was combating.

"A dancing dervish in front of the grandstand said something through a
megaphone, then he waved a cane, whereupon a tremendous barking, 'Rah!
Rah! Rah!' broke out. It ended with my Sioux boy's name, and I wished
the old chief back in Dakota were there to see his son and to witness
the honor done him by the whites.

"Quite as impressive to me as this demonstration was the death-like
silence which settled over that tremendous throng when the teams
scattered out in readiness. The other side kicked off, and the ball
sailed high and far. As it settled in its downward flight, I saw a
lithe, tall shadow of a man racing toward it, and I recognized my
boy. I'd lost his position for the moment, but I knew that hungry,
predatory stride which devoured the yards as if he were a thing of the
wind. He was off with the ball in the hollow of his arm, right back
into the heart of his enemies, dodging, darting, leaping, twisting,
always advancing. They tore his interference away from him, but,
nevertheless, he penetrated their ranks and none of them could lay
hands upon him. He was running free when tackled; his assailant
launched himself with such savage violence that the sound of their
impact came to us distinctly. As he fell I heard Alicia Harman gasp.
Then the crowd gave tongue.

"From that time on to the finish of the game my eyes seldom left
Running Elk, and then only long enough to shoot covert glances at my
companions.

"Although the skill of my young Sioux overtopped that of all the other
contestants, the opposing team played as one man; they were like
a wonderful, well-oiled piece of machinery, and--they scored. All
through the first half our side struggled to retaliate, but at the
intermission they had not succeeded.

"So far Running Elk hadn't noticed our presence, but when the teams
returned for the second half he saw us. He didn't even know that I was
in the East; in fact, he hadn't laid eyes on me for more than three
years. The sight of me there in the box with Alicia and her father
must have been an unpleasant shock to him; my face must have seemed an
evil omen; nevertheless, he waved his hand at me and smiled--one of
his rare, reserved smiles. I couldn't help marveling at the fellow's
physical beauty.

"I had been secretly hoping that his side would be defeated, so that
Miss Harman might see him for once as a loser; but the knowledge of
our presence seemed to electrify him, and by the spark of his own
magnetism he fired his fellows until they commenced to play like
madmen; I have no doubt they were precisely that. His spirit was like
some galvanic current, and he directed them with a master mind. He was
a natural-born strategist, of course, for through him ran the blood of
the craftiest race of all the earth, the blood of a people who have
always fought against odds, to whom a forlorn hope is an assurance
of victory. On this day the son of a Sioux chief led the men of
that great university with the same skill that Hannibal led his
Carthaginian cohorts up to the gates of Rome. He led them with the
cunning of Chief Joseph, the greatest warrior of his people. He was
indefatigable, irresistible, magnificent--and he himself tied the
score.

"In spite of myself I joined madly in the cheering; but the boy didn't
let down. Now that his enemies recognized the source of their peril,
they focused upon him all their fury. They tried to destroy him. They
fell upon him like animals; they worried and they harried and they
battered him until I felt sick for him and for the girl beside me,
who had grown so faint and pale. But his body was of my making; I had
spent careful years on it, and although they wore themselves out, they
could not break Running Elk. He remained a fleeting, an elusive thing,
with the vigor of a wild horse. He tackled their runners with the
ferocity of a wolf.

"It was a grand exhibition of coolness and courage, for he was
everywhere, always alert and always ready--and it was he who won the
game.

"There came some sort of a fumble, too fast for the eye to follow, and
then the ball rolled out of the scrimmage. Before we knew what had
happened, Running Elk was away with it, a scattered field ahead of
him.

"I dare say you have heard about that run, for it occurred in the last
three minutes of play, and is famous in football annals to this day,
so I'm told. It was a spectacular performance, apparently devised by
fate to make more difficult the labors of old Henry and me. Every
living soul on those high-banked bleachers was on his feet at the
finish, a senseless, screaming demon. I saw Alicia straining forward,
her face like chalk, her very lips blanched, her whole high-strung
body aquiver. Her eyes were distended, and in them I saw a look which
told me that this was no mere girlish whim, that this was more than
the animal call of youth and sex. Running Elk had become a fetish to
her.

"The father must likewise have recognized this, for as we passed out
he stammered into my ear:

"'You see, Doc, the girl's mad. It's awful--awful. I don't know what
to do.'

"We had become momentarily separated from her, and therefore I urged
him: 'Get her away, quick, no matter how or where. Use force if you
have to, but get her out of this crowd, this atmosphere, and keep her
away. I'll see _him_ to-night.'

"The old fellow nodded. 'I--I'll kidnap her and take her to Europe,'
he mumbled. 'God! It's awful!'

"I didn't go back to the city with the Harmans; but I told Alicia
good-by at the running-board of the machine. I don't think she heard
me.

"Running Elk was glad to see me, and I spent that evening with him. He
asked all about his people; he told me of his progress, and he spoke
lightly of his victory that day. But sound him as I would, I could
elicit no mention of Alicia Harman's name. He wasn't much of a talker,
anyhow, so at last I was forced to bring up the subject myself. At my
first word the silence of his forefathers fell upon him, and all he
did was listen. I told him forcibly that any thoughts of her were
ridiculous and impossible.

"'Why?' said he, after I had finished.

"I told him a thousand reasons why; I recounted them cruelly,
unfeelingly, but he made no sign. As a matter of fact, I don't think
he understood them any more than he understood the affair itself. He
appeared to be blinded, confused by the splendor of what had come to
him. Alicia was so glorious, so different, so mysterious to him, that
he had lost all sense of perspective and of proportion. Recognizing
this, I descended to material things which I knew he could grasp.

"'I paid for your education,' said I, 'and it is almost over with. In
a few months you'll be turned out to make your own living, and then
you'll encounter this race prejudice I speak of in a way to effect
your stomach and your body. You're a poor man, Running Elk, and you've
got to earn your way. Your blood will bar you from a good many means
of doing it, and when your color begins to affect your earning
capacity you'll have all you can do to take care of yourself. Life
isn't played on a gridiron, and the first thing you've got to do is
to make a man of yourself. You've got no right to fill your head with
dreams, with insane fancies of this sort.'

"'Yes, sir!' said he, and that was about all I could get out of him.
His reticence was very annoying.

"I didn't see him again, for I came West the next day, and the weeks
stretched into months without word of him or of the others.

"Shortly before he was due to return I was taken sick--the one big
illness of my life, which came near ending me, which made me into the
creaking old ruin that I am. They sent me away to another climate,
where I got worse, then they shifted me about like a bale of goods,
airing me here and there. For a year and a half I hung over the edge,
one ailment running into another, but finally I straightened out a bit
and tottered back into Washington to resume operations.

"For six months I hung around headquarters, busied on department
matters. I had lost all track of things out here, meanwhile, for the
agent had been changed shortly after I left, and no one had taken
the trouble to keep me posted; but eventually I showed up on the
reservation again, reaching here on the first of July, three days
before the annual celebration of the people.

"Many changes had occurred in my two years' absence, and there was no
one to bring me gossip, hence I heard little during the first day or
two while I was picking up the loose ends of my work. One thing I did
find out, however--namely, that Running Elk had come straight home
from college, and was still on the reserve. I determined to look him
up during the festival.

"But on the morning of the Fourth I got the surprise of my life. The
stage from the railroad brought two women, two strange women, who came
straight to my office--Alicia Harman and her French maid.

"Well, I was fairly knocked endwise; but Alicia was as well-poised and
as self-contained as on that Thanksgiving morning in New York when
she and old Henry had picked me up in their automobile--a trifle more
stunning and a bit more determined, perhaps. Oh, she was a splendid
creature in the first glory of her womanhood, a perfectly groomed and
an utterly spoiled young goddess. She greeted me graciously, with that
queenly air of all great ladies.

"'Where is your father?' I asked, as she laid off her dust-coat.

"'He's in New York,' said she. 'I'm traveling alone.'

"'And where have you been all this time?'

"'In Europe, mainly; Rome, Naples, Cairo, India, St. Petersburg,
London--all about, in fact. Father took me abroad the day after
Thanksgiving--you remember? And he has kept me there. But I came of
age two weeks ago.'

"'Two weeks!' I ejaculated.

"'Yes, I took the first ship after my birthday. I've been traveling
pretty constantly ever since. This is a long way from the world out
here, isn't it?' She looked around curiously.

"'From your world, yes,' said I, and when she offered nothing further
I grew embarrassed. I started to speak; then, noting the maid, I
hesitated; but Alicia shook her head faintly.

"'Lisette doesn't understand a word of English,' said she.

"'Why have you come out here, Alicia?' I inquired. I was far more ill
at ease than she.

"'Do you need to ask?' She eyed me defiantly. 'I respected father's
wishes when I was in my minority. I traveled and studied and did all
the tiresome things he commanded me to do--as long as he had the right
to command. But when I became my own mistress I--took my full freedom.
He made his life to suit himself; I intend to make mine to suit
myself. I'm sorry I can't please him, but we don't seem to see things
the same way, and I dare say he has accepted the inevitable.'

"'Then you consider this--this move you evidently contemplate as
inevitable?'

"She lifted her dainty brows. 'Inevitable isn't a good word. I wish a
certain thing; I have wished it from the first; I have never ceased
for an instant to wish it; I feel that I must have it; therefore, to
all intents and purposes, it is inevtable. Anyhow, I'm going to have
it.'

"'You have--er--been in communication with--'

"'Never! Father forbade it.'

"'Then how did you know he is here?'

"'He wrote me when he left college. He said he was coming home. I've
heard nothing since. He is here, isn't he?'

"'So I believe. I haven't seen him yet; you know I've been away
myself.'

"'Will you take me to him?'

"'Have you really weighed this thing?' I remonstrated. 'Do you realize
what it means?'

"'Please don't.' She smiled wearily. 'So many people have tried to
argue me out of my desires. I shall not spoil my life, believe me; it
is too good a thing to ruin. That is precisely why I'm here.'

"'If you insist.' I gave in reluctantly. 'Of course I'll put myself
at your service. We'll look for him to-morrow.' All sorts of wild
expedients to thwart a meeting were scurrying through my mind.

"'We'll go to-day,' said she.

"'But--'

"'At once! If you're too busy I'll ask somebody else--'

"'Very well!' said I. 'We'll drive out to the encampment.' And I sent
for my buckboard.

"I was delayed in spite of myself until nearly sundown, and meanwhile
Alicia Harman waited in my office, pacing the floor with ill-concealed
impatience. Before starting I ventured one more remonstrance, for I
was filled with misgivings, and the more I saw of this girl the more
fantastic and unnatural this affair seemed. But the unbridled impulses
of her parents were bearing fruit, and no one could say her nay. She
afforded the most illuminating study in heredity that I have ever
witnessed.

"We didn't say much during our fifteen-mile drive, for I was worried
and Alicia was oddly torn between apprehension and exultation. We had
left the French maid behind. I don't know that any woman ever went to
her lover under stranger circumstances or in greater perturbation of
spirit than did this girl, behind whom lay a generation of selfishness
and unrestraint.

"It was well along in the evening when we came over the ridge and saw
the encampment below us. You can imagine the fairy picture it made
with its myriad of winking fires, with the soft effulgence of a
thousand glowing tents, and with the wonderful magic of the night over
it all. As we drew nearer, the unusual sounds of a strange merrymaking
came to us--the soft thudding of drums, the weird melody of the
dances, the stir and the confusion of crowded animal life. In the
daylight it would have been sufficiently picturesque, but under the
wizard hand of the darkness it became ten times more so.

"When I finally tied my horses and led the girl into the heart of it I
think she became a bit frightened, for these Indians were the Sioux of
a bygone day. They were barbaric in dress and in demeanor.

"I guided her through the tangle of tepees, through glaring fire-lit
circles and through black voids where we stumbled and had to feel our
way. We were jostled and elbowed by fierce warriors and by sullen
squaws. At every group I asked for Running Elk, but he was merely one
of five thousand and nobody knew his whereabouts.

"The people have ever been jealous of their customs, and as a result
we were frequently greeted by cold looks and sudden silences.
Recognizing this open resentment, my companion let down a thick
automobile veil which effectually hid her face. Her dust-coat was long
and loose and served further to conceal her identity.

"At one time we came upon a sight I would gladly have spared her--the
spectacle of some wrinkled hags strangling a dog by the light of a
fire. The girl at my side stifled a cry at the apparition.

"'What are they doing?' she gasped.

"'Preparing the feast,' I told her.

"'Do they--really--'

"'They do,' said I. 'Come!' I tried to force her onward, but she would
not stir until the sacrifice had been dragged to the flames, where
other carcasses were singeing among the pots and kettles. From every
side came the smell of cooking meat, mingled with the odor of burning
hair and flesh. I could hear Miss Harman panting as we went on.

"We circled half the great hoop before we came upon the trail of our
man, and were directed to a near-by tepee, upon the glowing walls of
which many heads were outlined in silhouette, and from which came the
monotonous voice of a story-teller.

"I don't know what hopes the girl had been nursing; she must have
looked upon these people not as kindred of Running Elk, but rather as
his servants, his slaves. Realizing that her quest was nearly ended,
her strength forsook her and she dropped behind me. The entrance to
the tepee was congested by those who could not find space inside, but
they rose silently, upon recognizing me, and made room. I lifted the
flap and peered within, clearing a view for Miss Harman.

"We beheld a circle of half-naked braves in full war regalia,
squatting haunch to haunch, listening to a story-teller. In front of
them was a confusion of blackened pails and steaming vessels, into
which they dipped with their naked fingers. Their faces were streaked
with paint, their lips were greasy with traces of the dish, the air
of the place was reeking from their breaths. My eyes were slower than
Alicia's, and so I did not distinguish our quarry at first, although a
slow sigh at my ear and a convulsive clutch at my arm told me that he
was there.

"And then I, too, saw Running Elk. It was he who was talking, to whom
the others listened. What a change two years had wrought! His voice
was harsh and guttural, his face, through the painted daubs and
streaks, was coarser and duller than when I had seen him. His very
body was more thin and shrunken.

"He finished his tale while we stared at him; the circle broke into
commendatory grunts, and he smiled in childlike satisfaction at the
impression he had made. He leaned forward and, scrutinizing the litter
of sooty pots, plunged his hand into the nearest one.

"Miss Harman stumbled back into the crowd and her place was taken by a
squaw.

"'Running Elk,' I called, over the heads of those next the entrance,
and, seeing my face against the night, he arose and came out, stepping
over the others.

"'How do you do?' I said. 'You haven't forgotten me, have you?'

"He towered head and shoulders above me, his feather head-dress adding
to his stature. The beaded patterns of his war-harness stood out dimly
in the half-light.

"'No, no! I will never forget you, doctor. You--you have been sick.'
The change in his speech was even more noticeable when he turned
his tongue to English. He halted over his words and he mouthed them
hesitatingly.

"'Yes, pretty sick. And you, what are you doing?'

"'I do what the rest do,' said he. 'Nothing! I have some horses and a
few head of cattle, that is all.'

"'Are you satisfied?' I demanded, sharply. He eyed me darkly for an
instant, then he answered, slowly:

"'I am an Indian. I am satisfied.'

"'Then education didn't do you any good, after all?' I was offended,
disappointed; I must have spoken gruffly.

"This time he paused a long while before he replied.

"'I had dreams,' said he, 'many dreams, and they were splendid; but
you told me that dreams were out of place in a Sioux, so I forgot
them, along with all the things I had learned. It is better so.'

"Alicia Harman called me in a voice which I did not recognize, so I
shook hands with Running Elk and turned away. He bowed his head and
slunk back through the tepee door, back into the heart of his people,
back into the past, and with him went my experiment. Since then I have
never meddled with the gods nor given them cause to laugh at me."

The doctor arose and stretched himself, then he entered his tent for
a match. The melancholy pulse of the drums and the minor-keyed chant
which issued out of the night sounded like a dirge sung by a dying
people.

"What became of Running Elk?" I inquired.

The old man answered from within. "That was he I asked about the
horse-races. He's the man you couldn't understand, who wouldn't talk
to you. He's nearly an Indian again. Alicia Harman married a duke."



THE MOON, THE MAID, AND THE WINGED SHOES


The last place I locked wheels with Mike Butters was in Idaho. I'd
just sold a silver-lead prospect and was proclaimin' my prosperity
with soundin' brass and ticklin' symbols. I was tuned up to G and
singin' quartettes with the bartender--opery buffet, so to speak--when
in Mike walked. It was a bright morning out-side and I didn't
reco'nize him at first against the sunlight.

"Where's that cholera-morbus case?" said he.

"Stranger, them ain't sounds of cramps," I told him. "It's me singin'
'Hell Amongst the Yearlin's.'" Then I seen who he was and I fell among
him.

When we'd abated ourselves I looked him over.

"What you doin' in all them good clothes?" I inquired.

"I'm a D.D.S."

"Do tell! All I ever took was the first three degrees. Gimme the grip
and the password and I'll believe you."

"That ain't a Masonic symbol," said he. "I'm a dentist--a bony fido
dentist, with forceps and a little furnace and a gas-bag and a
waitin'-rooms". He swelled up and bit a hang-nail off of his cigar.

"Yep! A regular toothwright."

Naturally I was surprised, not to say awed. "Have you got much of a
practice?" I made bold to ask.

"Um-m--It ain't what it ought to be, still I can't complain. It takes
time to work into a fashionable clienteel. All I get a whack at now is
Injuns, but I'm gradually beginnin' to close in on the white teeth."

Now this was certainly news to me, for Mike was a foot-racer, and a
good one, too, and the last time I'd seen him he didn't know nothing
about teeth, except that if you ain't careful they'll bite your
tongue. I figured he was lyin', so I said:

"Where did you get your degree--off of a thermometer?"

"Nothing of the tall. I run it down. I did, for a God's fact. It's
like this: three months ago I crep' into this burg lookin' for a
match, but the professions was overcrowded, there bein' fourteen
lawyers, a half-dozen doctors, a chiropodist, and forty-three
bartenders here ahead of me, not to speak of a tooth-tinker. That
there dentist thought he could sprint. He come from some Eastern
college and his pa had grub-staked him to a kit of tools and sent him
out here to work his way into the confidences and cavities of the
Idahobos.

"Well, sir, the minute I seen him I realized he was my custard. He
wore sofy cushions on his shoulders, and his coat was cut in at the
back. He rolled up his pants, too, and sometimes he sweetened the view
in a vi'lent, striped sweater. I watered at the mouth and picked my
teeth over him--he was that succ'lent.

"He'd been lookin' down on these natives and kiddin' 'em ever since he
arrived, and once a week, reg'lar, he tried to frame a race so's he
could wear his runnin'-pants and be a hero. I had no trouble fixin'
things. He was a good little runner, and he done his best; but when I
breasted the tape I won a quick-claim deed to his loose change, to a
brand-new office over a drug-store, and to enough nickel-plated pliers
for a wire-tapper. I staked him to a sleeper ticket, then I moved into
his quarters. The tools didn't have no directions on 'em, but I've
figgered out how to use most of 'em."

"I gather that this here practice that you're buildin' up ain't
exactly remunerative," I said to Mike.

"Not yet it ain't, but I'm widenin' out. There ain't a day passes that
I don't learn something. I was out drummin' up a little trade
when your groans convinced me that somebody in here had a jumpin'
toothache. If you ain't busy, mebbe you can help me get a patient."

This particular saloon had about wore out its welcome with me, so I
was game for any enterprise, and I allowed a little patient-huntin'
would prob'ly do me good. I drawed my six gun and looked her over.

"It's a new sport, but I bet I'll take to it," said I. "What d'you do,
crease 'em or cripple 'em?"

"Pshaw! Put up that hearse ticket," Mike told me. "Us doctors don't
take human life, we save it."

"I thought you said you was practisin' on Injuns."

"Injuns is human. For a fact! I've learned a heap in this business.
Not that I wouldn't bust one if I needed him, but it ain't necessary.
Come, I'll show you."

This here town had more heathens than whites in it, and before we'd
gone a block I seen a buck Injun and his squaw idlin' along, lookin'
into the store winders. The buck was a hungry, long-legged feller, and
when we neared him Mike said to me:

"Hist! There's one. I'll slip up and get him from behind. You grab him
if he runs."

This method of buildin' up a dental practice struck me as some
strange, but Butters was a queer guy and this was sort of a rough
town. When he got abreast of Mr. Lo, Mike reached out and garnered him
by the neck. The Injun pitched some, but Mike eared him down finally,
and when I come up I seen that one side of the lad's face was swelled
up something fearful.

"Well, well," said I. "You've sure got the dentist's eye. You must
have spied that swellin' a block away."

Mike nodded, then he said: "Poor feller! I'll bet it aches horrible.
My office is right handy; let's get him in before the marshal sees
us."

We drug the savage up-stairs and into Mike's dental stable, then we
bedded him down in a chair. He protested considerable, but we got him
there in a tollable state of preservation, barring the fact that he
was skinned up on the corners and we had pulled a hinge off from the
office door.

"It's a shame for a person to suffer thataway," Mike told me; "but
these ignorant aborigines ain't educated up to the mercies of science.
Just put your knee in his stummick, will you? What could be finer than
to alleviate pain? The very thought in itself is elevatin'. I'm in
this humanity business for life--Grab his feet quick or he'll kick out
the winder."

"Whoa!" I told the Injun. "Plenty fix-um!" I poked the swellin' on his
face and he let out a yelp.

"It's lucky we got him before multiplication set in," Mike assured me.
"I lay for 'em that-away at the foot of the stairs every day; but this
is the best patient I've had. I've a notion to charge this one."

"Don't you charge all of 'em?" I wanted to know.

"Nope. I got a tin watch off of one patient when he was under gas, but
the most of 'em ain't worth goin' through. You got to do a certain
amount of charity work."

"Don't look like much of a business to me," I said.

"There's something about it I like," Mike told me. "It sort of grows
on a feller. Now that you're here to help catch 'em, I calc'late to
acquire a lot of skill with these instruments. I've been playin' a
lone hand and I've had to take little ones that I could handle."

When Mike produced a pair of nickel-plated nail-pullers, Mr. Injun
snorted like a sea-lion, and it took both of us to hold him down; but
finally I tied his hair around the head-rest and we had him. His mane
was long and I put a hard knot in it, then I set on his moccasins
while Doctor Butters pried into his innermost secrets.

"There she is--that big one." Mike pointed out a tooth that looked
like the corner monument to a quartz claim.

"You're on the wrong side," I told him.

"Mebbe I am. Here's one that looks like it would come loose easier."
Mike got a half-Nelson over in the east-half-east quarter-section of
the buck's mouth and throwed his weight on the pliers.

The Injun had pretty well wore himself out by this time, and when
he felt those ice-tongs he just stiffened out--an Injun's dead game
that-away; he won't make a holler when you hurt him. His squaw was
hangin' around with her eyes poppin' out, but we didn't pay no
attention to her.

Somehow Mike's pinchers kept jumpin' the track and at every slip a new
wrinkle showed in the patient's face--patient is the right word, all
right--and we didn't make no more show at loosenin' that tusk than as
if we'd tried to pull up Mount Bill Williams with a silk thread. At
last two big tears come into the buck's eyes and rolled down his
cheeks. First time I ever seen one cry.

Now that weakness was plumb fatal to him, for right there and then he
cracked his plate with his missus. Yes, sir, he tore his shirt-waist
proper. The squaw straightened up and give him a look--oh, what a
look!

"Waugh!" she sniffed. "Injun heap big squaw!" And with that she
swished out of the office and left him flat. Yes, sir, she just blew
him on the spot.

I s'pose Mike would have got that tooth somehow--he's a perseverin'
party--only that I happened to notice something queer and called him
off.

"Here, wait a minute," said I, and I loosened him from the man's
chest. Mike was so engorsed in the pursuit of his profession that he
was astraddle of his patient's wishbone, gougin' away like a quartz
miner. "Take your elbow out of his mouth and lemme talk to him a
minute." When the savage had got his features together, I said to him,
"How you catch um bump, hey?" And I pointed to his jaw.

"Bzz-zz-zz!" said he.

I turned to Doctor Butters. "Hornet!" I declared.

When Mike had sized up the bee-sting he admitted that my diagnosis
was prob'ly correct. "That's the trouble with these patients," he
complained. "They don't take you into their confidence. Just the same,
I'm goin' to attend to his teeth, for there's no tellin' when I'll
catch another one."

"What's wrong with his teeth?" I questioned. "They look good to me,
except they're wore down from eatin' camus. If he was a horse I'd
judge him to be about a ten-year-old."

"You never can tell by lookin' at teeth what's inside of 'em. Anyhow,
a nice fillin' would set 'em off. I ain't tried no fillin's yet. Gimme
that Burley drill."

I wheeled out a kind of sewing-machine; then I pedaled it while Mike
dug into that Injun's hangin' wall like he had a round of holes to
shoot before quittin'-time. This here was more in my line, bein' a
hard-rock miner myself, and we certainly loaded a fine prospect of
gold into that native's bi-cuspidor. We took his front teeth because
they was the easiest to get at.

It was just like I said, this Injun's white keys was wore off short
and looked like they needed something, so we laid ourselves out to
supply the want. We didn't exactly fill them teeth; we merely riveted
on a sort of a plowshare--a gold sod-cutter about the size of your
finger-nail. How Mike got it to stick I don't know, but he must have
picked up quite a number of dentist's tricks before I came. Anyhow,
there she hung like a brass name-plate, and she didn't wabble hardly
at all. You'd of been surprised to see what a difference it made in
that redskin's looks.

We let our patient up finally and put a lookin'-glass in his hand. At
first he didn't know just what to make of that fillin'; but when he
seen it was real gold a grin broke over his face, his chest swelled
up, and he walked out of the office and across the street to a novelty
store. In a minute out he came with a little round lookin'-glass and a
piece of buckskin, and the last we seen of him he was hikin' down the
street, grinnin' into that mirror as happy as a child and polishin'
that tusk like it had started to rust.

"Which I sure entitle a gratifyin' operation," said Mike.

"I'm in no ways proud of the job," I told him. "I feel like I'd salted
a mine."

Well, me and Mike lived in them dental parlors for a couple of weeks,
decoyin' occasional natives into it, pullin', spilin', fillin', and
filin' more teeth than a few, but bimeby the sport got tame.

One day Mike was fakin' variations on his guitar, and I was washin'
dishes, when I said: "This line is about as excitin' as a game of
jack-straws. D'you know it's foot-racin' time with the Injuns?"

"What?"

"Sure. They're gettin' together at old Port Lewis to run races this
week. One tribe or the other goes broke and walks home every year. If
we could meet up with the winnin' crowd, down on the La Plata--"

I didn't have to say no more, for I had a hackamore on Mike's
attention right there, and he quit climbin' the "G" string and put up
his box.

The next day we traded out of the tooth business and rode south down
the old Navajo trail. We picked a good campin' spot--a little "flat"
in a bend of the river where the grazin' was good--and we turned the
ponies out.

We didn't have to wait long. A few evenings later, as we et supper we
heard a big noise around the bend and knew our visitors was comin'.
They must of had three hundred head of horses, besides a big outfit of
blankets, buckskin, baskets, and all the plunder that an Injun outfit
travels with. At sight of us in their campin'-place they halted, and
the squaws and the children rode up to get a look at us.

I stepped out in front of our tent and throwed my hand to my forehead,
shading my eyes--that's the Injun sign of friendship. An old chief and
a couple of warriors rode forrad, Winchester to pommel, but, seein' we
was alone, they sheathed their guns, and we invited 'em to eat.

It didn't take much urgin'. While we fed hot biscuits to the head men
the squaws pitched camp.

They was plumb elated at their winnin' up at Fort Lewis, and the
gamblin' fever was on 'em strong, so right after supper they invited
us to join 'em in a game of Mexican monte. I let Mike do the
card-playin' for our side, because he's got a pass which is the
despair of many a "tin-horn." He can take a clean Methodist-Episcopal
deck, deal three hands, and have every face card so it'll answer to
its Christian name. No, he didn't need no lookout, so I got myself
into a game of "bounce the stick," which same, as you prob'ly know, is
purely a redskin recreation. You take a handful of twigs in your hand,
then throw 'em on to a flat rock endways, bettin' whether an odd or an
even number will fall outside of a ring drawed in the dirt. After a
couple of hours Mike strolled up and tipped me the wink that he'd
dusted his victims.

"Say," he began, "there's the niftiest chicken down here that I ever
see."

"Don't start any didos with the domestic relations of this tribe," I
told him, "or they'll spread us out, and spread us thin. Remember,
you're here on business bent, and if you bend back and forrads, from
business to pleasure, and versy visa, you'll bust. These people has
scrooplous ideas regardin' their wives and I respect 'em."

"She ain't married," Mike told me. "She's the chief's daughter, and
she looks better to me than a silver mine."

Durin' that evening we give the impression that we was well heeled, so
the tribe wasn't in no hurry to break camp on the following morning.

Along about noon I missed Mike, and I took a stroll to look for him. I
found him--and the chief's daughter--alongside of a shady trout pool.
She was weavin' a horsehair bracelet onto his wrist, and I seen the
flash of his ring on her finger. Mike could travel some.

He was a bit flustered, it seemed to me, and he tried to laugh the
matter off, but the girl didn't. There was something about the look
of her that I didn't like. I've seen a whole lot of trouble come from
less than a horsehair bracelet. This here quail was mebbe seventeen;
she was slim and shy, and she had big black eyes and a skin like
velvet. I spoke to Mike in words of one syllable, and I drug him away
with me to our tent.

That afternoon some half-grown boys got to runnin' foot-races and Mike
entered. He let 'em beat him, then he offered to bet a pony that they
couldn't do it again. The kids was game, and they took him quick. Mike
faked the race, of course, and lost his horse, that bein' part of our
progam.

When it was all over I seen the chief's daughter had been watchin' us,
but she didn't say nuthin'. The next mornin', however, when we got up
we found a bully pinto pony tied to one of our tent stakes.

"Look who's here," said I. "Young Minnie Ha-ha has made good your
losin's."

"That pony is worth forty dollars," said Mike.

"Sure. And you're as good as a squaw-man this minute. You're
betrothed."

"Am I?" The idy didn't seem to faze Mike. "If that's the case," said
he, "I reckon I'll play the string out. I sort of like it as far as
I've gone."

"I wish she'd gave us that cream-colored mare or hers," I said. "It's
worth two of this one."

"I'll get it to-day," Mike declared. And sure enough, he lost another
foot-race, and the next morning the cream-colored mare was picketed in
front of our tent.

Well, this didn't look good to me, and I told Mike so. I never was
much of a hand to take money from women, so I served a warnin' on
him that if we didn't get down to business pretty quick and make our
clean-up I proposed to leave him flat on his back.

That day the young men of the tribe did a little foot-runnin', and
Mike begged 'em to let him in. It was comical to see how pleased
they was. They felt so sure of him that they began pro-ratin' our
belongin's among one another. They laid out a half-mile course, and
everybody in camp went out to the finish-line to see the contest and
to bet on it. The old chief acted as judge, bookmaker, clerk of the
course, referee, and stakeholder. I s'pose by the time the race was
ready to start there must of been fifty ponies up, besides a lot of
money, but the old bird kept every wager in his head. He rolled up a
couple of blankets and placed 'em on opposite sides of the track, and
showed us by motions that the first man between 'em would be declared
the winner. All the money that had been bet he put in little piles on
a blanket; then he give the word to get ready.

I had no trouble layin' our money at one to five, and our ponies at
the same odds; then, when everything was geared up, I called Mike from
his tent. Say, when he opened the fly and stepped out there was a
commotion, for all he had on was his runnin'-trunks and his spiked
shoes. The Injuns was in breech-cloths and moccasins, and, of course,
they created no comment; but the sight of a half-nekked white man was
something new to these people, and the first flash they got at Mike's
fancy togs told 'em they'd once more fell a victim to the white man's
wiles.

They was wise in a minute, and some of the young hot-bloods was for
smokin' us up, but the chief was a sport--I got to give the old bird
credit. He rared back on his hind legs and made a stormy palaver;
as near as I could judge he told his ghost-dancers they'd been
cold-decked, but he expected 'em to take their medicine and grin, and,
anyhow, it was a lesson to 'em. Next time they'd know better'n to
monkey with strangers. Whatever it was he said, he made his point, and
after a right smart lot of powwowin' the entertainment proceeded. But
Mike and me was as popular with them people as a couple of polecats at
a picnic.

Mike certainly made a picture when he lined up at the start; he stood
out like a marble statue in a slate quarry. I caught a glimpse of the
chief's daughter, and her eyes was bigger than ever, and she had her
hands clinched at her side. He must have looked like a god to her;
but, for that matter, he was a sight to turn any untamed female heart,
whether the owner et Belgian hare off of silver service or boiled
jack-rabbit out of a coal-oil can. Women are funny thataway.

It's a pot-hunter's maxim never to win by a big margin, but to nose
out his man at the finish. This Mike did, winnin' by a yard; then he
acted as if he was all in--faked a faint, and I doused him with a
sombrero of water from the creek. It was a spectacular race, at that,
for at the finish the runners was bunched till a blanket would of
covered 'em. When they tore into the finish I seen the chief's girl do
a trick. Mike was runnin' on the outside, and when nobody was watchin'
her the little squaw kicked one of them blanket bundles about two feet
down the course, givin' Mike that much the "edge." She done it clever
and it would have throwed a close race.

Them savages swallered their physic and grinned, like the chief had
told 'em, and they took it standin' up. They turned over the flower of
their pony herd to us, not to mention about six quarts of silver money
and enough blankets to fill our tent. The old chief patted Mike on the
back, then put both hands to his temples with his fingers spread out,
as much as to say, "He runs like a deer."

Bimeby a buck stepped up and begun makin' signs. He pointed to the sun
four times, and we gathered that he wanted us to wait four days until
he could go and get another man.

Mike tipped me the wink, sayin': "They're goin' after the champeen of
the tribe. That phony faint of mine done it. Will we wait? Why,
say, we'd wait four years, wouldn't we? Sweet pickin's, I call it.
Champeen, huh?"

"For me, I'd wait here till I was old folks," I said. "I don't aim to
leave these simple savages nothin'. Nothin' at all, but a lot of idle
regrets."

Well, sir, there was a heap of excitement in that camp for the next
three days. All them Injuns done, was to come and look at Mike and
feel of his legs and argue with one another. The first night after the
race Mike tuned up his guitar, and later on I heard snatches of the
"Spanish Fandango" stealin' up from the river bank. I knew what was
on; I knew without lookin' that the old chief's girl was right there
beside him, huggin' her knees and listenin' with both ears. I didn't
like to think about it, for she was a nice little yearlin', and it
looked to me like Mike was up to his usual devilment. Seemed like a
low-down trick to play on an injunoo like her, and the more I studied
it the warmer I got. It was a wonderful night; the moonlight drenched
the valley, and there was the smell of camp-fires and horses over
everything--just the sort of a night for a guitar, just the sort of a
night to make your blood run hot and to draw you out into the glitter
and make you race with your shadow.

When Mike moseyed in, along about ten o'clock, he was plumb loco;
the moon-madness was on him strong. His eyes was as bright as silver
coins, and his voice had a queer ring to it.

"What a night!" said he. "And what a life this is Lord! I'm tired of
pot-huntin'. I've trimmed suckers till I'm weary; I've toted a gold
brick in my pocket till my clothes bag. I'm sick of it. I'm goin' to
beat this Injun champeen, take my half of our winnin's, sell off the
runty ones, and settle down."

"Where do you aim to settle?" I inquired.

"Oh, anywhere hereabouts. These are good people, and I like 'em."

"You mean you're goin' to turn out with the Injuns?" I inquired, with
my mouth open. Mike had led so sudden that he had me over the ropes.

"I'm goin' to do that very little thing," he declared. "I dunno how to
talk much Navajo, but I'm learnin' fast, and she got my meanin'. We
understand each other, and we'll do better as time goes on. She calls
me 'Emmike'! Sweet, ain't it?" He heaved a sigh, then he gargled a
laugh that sounded like boilin' mush. "It ain't often a feller like me
gets a swell little dame that worships him. Horses, guns, camp-fires!
Can you beat it?"

"If that squaw had a soft palate or a nose like a eeclair, you
wouldn't be so keen for this simple life," I told him. "She has
stirred up your wickedness, Mike, and you've gone nutty. You're
moon-crazy, that's all. You cut it out."

I argued half the night; but the more I talked the more I seen that
Mike was stuck to be a renegade. It's a fact. If he hadn't of been
a nice kid I'd of cut his hobbles and let him go; but--pshaw! Mike
Butters could run too fast to be wasted among savages, and, besides,
it's a terrible thing for a white man to marry an Injun. The red never
dies out in the woman, but the white in the man always changes into a
dirty, muddy red. I laid awake a long while tryin' to figger out a way
to block his game, but the only thing I could think of was to tie him
up and wear out a cinch on him. Just as I was dozin' off I had an idy.
I didn't like it much at first; I had to swaller hard to down it, but
the more I studied it the better it looked, so for fear I'd weaken I
rolled over and went to sleep.

Mike was in earnest, and so was the girl; that much I found out
the next day. And she must of learned him enough Navajo to propose
marriage with, and he must of learned her enough English to say "yes,"
for she took possession of our camp and begun to order me around.
First thing she lugged our Navajo blankets to the creek, washed 'em,
then spread 'em over some bushes and beat 'em with a stick until they
were as clean and soft as thistle-down. I'll admit she made a pleasant
picture against the bright colors of them blankets, and I couldn't
altogether blame Mike for losin' his head. He'd lost it, all right.
Every time she looked at him out of them big black eyes he got as
wabbly as clabber. It was plumb disgustin'.

That evenin' he give her a guitar lesson. Now Mike himself was a sad
musician, and the sound of him fandangoin' uncertainly up and down the
fretful spine of that instrument was a tribulation I'd put up with on
account of friendship, pure and simple, but when that discord-lovin'
lady cliff-dweller set all evenin' in our tent and scraped
snake-dances out of them catguts with a fish-bone, I pulled my freight
and laid out in the moonlight with the dogs.

Mike's infatuation served one purpose, though; he spent so much time
with the squab that it give me an opportunity to work out my scheme.
That guitar lesson showed me that vig'rous measures was necessary, so
I dug up a file, a shoemaker's needle and some waxed thread, all of
which we had in our kit.

On the fourth morning there was a stir in the camp, and we knew that
the courier had got back with his runner. Pretty soon the whole
village stormed up to our tent in a body.

"Let's go out and look him over," I said.

"What's the use of lookin' at him?" Mike inquired. "All Injuns look
alike--except one."

I pulled back the tent fly and stepped out; then I called to Mike, for
the first thing I seen was that gold fillin' of ours. Yes, sir, right
there, starin' me in the eye, was the sole and shinin' monument to
me and Mike's brief whirl at the science of dentistry. The face
surroundin' it was stretched wide and welcome, and the minute this
here new-comer reco'nized me, he drawed back his upper lip and pointed
proudly to his ornament, then he dug up his lookin'-glass and his
polishin'-rag and begun to dust it off. It was plain to be seen that
he thought more of it than his right eye. And it impressed the other
Injuns, too; they crowded up and studied it. They took turns feelin'
of it, especially the squaws, and I bet if we'd had our dentist outfit
with us we could of got rich right there. The chief's daughter, in
particular, was took with the beauties of that gew-gaw, and she made
signs to us that she wanted one just like it.

"I never noticed he was so rangy," Mike told me, when he'd sized up
the new arrival. "Say, this guy looks good. He's split plumb to the
larynx and I bet he can run, for all of that wind-shield."

I noticed that Mike was pretty grave when he come back in the tent,
and more than once that day I caught him lookin' at the champeen, sort
of studyin' him out. But for that matter this new party was gettin'
his full share of attention; everywhere he went there was a trail of
kids at his heels, and every time he opened his mouth he made a hit
with the grown folks. The women just couldn't keep their eyes offen
him, and I seen that Mike was gettin' pretty sore.

In the evenin' he made a confession that tipped off the way his mind
was workin'. "This is the first time I ever felt nervous before a
race," said he. "Mebbe it's because it's goin' to be my last race;
mebbe it's because that Injun knows me and ain't scared of me. Anyhow,
I'm scared of _him_. That open-faced, Elgin-movement buck has got me
tickin' fast."

"That ain't what's got your goat," I told him.

"Your cooin' dove is dazzled by that show of wealth, and you know it."

"Hell! She's just curious, that's all. She's just a kid. I--I wish I'd
of known who he was when I treated him. I'd of drove a horse-shoe nail
in his knee."

But all the same Mike looked worried.

It rained hard that night, and the next morning the grass was pretty
wet. Mike tried it, first thing, and come back grinnin' till the top
of his head was an island.

"That sod is so slippery old Flyin' Cloud can't get a good stride in
his moccasins. Me, I can straddle out and take holt with my spikes.
Them spikes is goin' to put us on easy street. You see! I don't care
how good he is, they're goin' to give me four hundred head of broncs
and a cute little pigeon to look out for 'em. Me, I'm goin' to lay
back and learn to play the guitar. I'm goin' to learn it by note."

"You sure got the makin's of a squaw-man," I told him. "Seems like
I've over-read your hand. I used to think you had somethin' in you
besides a appetite, but I was wrong. You're plumb cultus, Mike."

"Don't get sore," he grinned. "I got my chance to beat the game and
I'm goin' to take it. I can't run foot-races, and win 'em, all my
life. Some day I'll step in my beard and sprain my ankle. Ambition's
a funny thing. I got the ambition to quit work. Besides, she--you
know--she's got a dimple you could lay your finger in. You'd ought to
hear her say 'Emmike'; it's certainly cute."

We bet everything we had--everything except that pinto pony and the
cream-colored mare. I held them two out, for I figgered we was goin'
to need 'em and need 'em bad, if my scheme worked out.

The course--it was a quarter-mile, straight-away--was laid out along
the bottom-land where the grass was thick and short. Me and the chief
and his girl set on a blanket among the little piles of silver, and
the rest of the merry villagers lined up close to the finish-line. We
white men had been the prime attraction up till now, but it didn't
take me long to see that we wasn't any more. Them people was all
wrapped up in the lad with the gold name-plate, and they was rootin'
for him frantic. Last thing he done was to give his eighteen-carat
squaw-catcher the once-over with his buckskin buffer, then he shined
it at the chief's girl and trotted down to the startin'-line. I
noticed that she glued her big-and-liquids on him and kept 'em there.

It was beautiful to watch those two men jockey for a start; the Injun
was lean and hungry and mighty smart--but Mike was smarter still. Of
course he got the jump.

It was a pretty start, and Mike held his lead for fifty yards or more.
I'll admit I was worked up. I've had my heart in my mouth so often
over his races that it's wore smooth from swallerin', but this time it
just wouldn't go down. Our dental patient was runnin' an awful race,
but it looked like Mike had him; then, just as the boy settled down
and reached out into that long, strong stride of his'n, something
happened. He slipped. He would have fell, except that he caught
himself. The next second he slipped again, and Mr. "Man in Love with a
Gold Fillin'" passed him.

With that them Injuns begun to speak. Some of their yells brought
hunks of throat with 'em, and that whole region begun to echo as far
south as the Rio Bravo.

My scheme had worked, all right. You see, when Mike was doin' his
heavy courtin' I'd planted my ace in the hole; I'd took off the outer
soles of his runnin'-shoes and filed the spikes almost in two, close
up to the plate. When I sewed the leather back on, it never showed,
but the minute he struck his gait they broke with him and he begin to
miss his pull. He might have won at that, for he's got the heart of a
lion, but I s'pose the surprise did as much as anything else to
beat him. It made my heart bleed to see the fight he put up, but he
finished six feet to the bad and fell across the mark on his face,
sobbin' like a child. It's the game ones that cry when they're licked;
analyze a smilin' loser and you'll find the yellow streak. I lifted
him to his feet, but he was shakin' like a bush in the wind.

"Them shoes!" he wailed. "Them damned shoes!" Then he busted out again
and blubbered like a kid.

Right then I done some actin'; but, pshaw! anybody can act when he has
to. If I'd of overplayed my hand a nickel's worth he'd of clumb up me
like a rat up a rafter and there would of been human reminders all
over that neighborhood. Not but what I would have got him eventually,
bein' as I had my side-arms, but I liked Mike and I wouldn't kill
nobody if I was sober.

It happened that he fell right at the feet of the chief's girl, and
when I lifted him up he seen her. But, say, it must have been a shock
to him. Her eyes was half shut, her head was throwed back, and she was
hissin' like a rattlesnake. Mike stiffened and sort of pawed at her,
but she drawed away just like that other squaw in our dentist office
had drawed away from her liege lord and master.

"Waugh! White man heap squaw!" said she, and with that she flirted her
braids and turned to the winner of the race. She went up to him and
lifted his lip with her thumb like she just had to have another look
at his gold tooth, then she smiled up into his face and they walked
away together without a glance in our direction.

Mike follered a step or two, then he stopped and stared around at the
crowd. It was a big minute for him, and for me, too, and I'll prob'ly
never forget the picture of that pantin' boy at bay among them
grinnin' barbarians. The curs was yappin' at his heels, the squaws
was gigglin' and makin' faces, the bucks was showin' their teeth and
pointin' at his tears.

Mike never said a word. He just stooped down and peeled off his
runnin'-shoes, then he throwed 'em as far as he could, right out into
the river. "Who the hell would marry a dame like that?" he sobbed.
"She's stuck on his jewelry."

"Come on, lad," said I; and I led him to our tent. Then, while he put
on his clothes, I saddled the pinto pony and the cream-colored mare,
for it was six days to the railroad.



FLESH

I


Should you chance, in crossing a certain mountain pass in southern
Catalonia, to find yourself poised above a little valley against the
opposite side of which lies a monastery, look to the heights above
it. Should you piece out from among the rocks the jagged ruins of a
castle, ask its name. Your guide will perhaps inform you that those
blackened stones are called "The Teeth of the Moor," and if he knows
the story he will doubtless tell it to you, crossing himself many
times during the recital. In all probability, however, he will merely
shrug his shoulders and say it is a place of bad repute, nothing more.

Even the monks of the monastery, who are considered well versed in
local history, have forgotten the reason for the name, although they
recall the legend that once upon a time the castle harbored a haughty
Moslem lord. Few of them ever heard the story of Joseph the Anchorite,
and how he sought flesh within its portals; those who have will not
repeat it. Time was, however, when the tale was fresh, and it runs
this wise:

Away back in the reign of Abderamus the Just, First Caliph of the
West, Hafiz, a certain warlike Moor, amazed at the fertility of
this region, established on the edge of the plateau a stronghold of
surprising security. His house he perched upon the crest of the cliff
overlooking the valley below. It was backed by verdant, sun-kissed
slopes which quickly yielded tribute in such quantity as to render
him rich and powerful. Hafiz lived and fought and died beneath the
Crescent banner, leaving in his place a son, who likewise waged war to
the northward on behalf of the Prophet and all True Believers, at the
same time farming his rich Catalonian acres.

Generations came and went, and, although the descendants of Hafiz
waxed strong, so also did the power of the hated Christians. Living
as they did upon the very fringe of the Mussulman empire, the
Moors beheld with consternation the slow encroachment of the
Unbelievers--more noticeable here than farther to the southward.
At intervals these enemies were driven back, but invariably they
reappeared, until at length, upon the plain beneath the castle, monks
came and built a monastery which they called San Sebastian. Beneath
the very eyes of Abul Malek, fourth descendant of Hafiz, they raised
their impious walls; although he chafed to wreak a bloody vengeance
for this outrage, his hands were tied by force of circumstance.
Wearied with interminable wars, the Moorish nation had sought respite;
peace dozed upon the land. Men rested and took from the earth new
strength with which to resume the never-ending struggle between the
Crescent and the Cross, wherefore Abul Malek's rage availed him
nothing. From his embrasured windows he beheld the cassocked enemies
of his creed passing to and fro about their business; he heard his
sacred hour of prayer desecrated by their Christian bells, and could
do no more than revile them for dogs, the while he awaited the will of
Allah. It was scant comfort for a man of his violent temper.

But the truce threatened never to be broken. Years passed and still
peace continued to reign. Meanwhile the Moor fed upon his wrongs and,
from incessant brooding over them, became possessed of a fury more
fanatical, more poisonous even than had been engendered by his many
battles.

Finally, when the wrong had bit too deep for him to endure, he
summoned all his followers, and selecting from their number one
hundred of the finest horsemen, he bade them make ready for a journey
to Cordova; then in their presence he kissed the blue blade of his
scimitar and vowed that the shackles which had hampered him and them
would be struck off.

For many days there ensued the bustle and the confusion of a great
preparation in the house of the Moor; men came and went, women sewed
and cleaned and burnished; horses were groomed, their manes were
combed and their hoofs were polished; and then one morning, ere the
golden sun was an hour high, down the winding trail past the monastery
of San Sebastian, came a brilliant cavalcade. Abul Malek led, seated
upon an Arabian steed whiter than the clouds which lay piled above the
westward mountains. His two sons, Hassam and Elzemah, followed astride
horses as black as night--horses the distinguished pedigrees of which
were cited in the books of Ibn Zaid. Back of them came one hundred
swarthy warriors on other coal-black mounts, whose flashing sides
flung back the morning rays. Their flowing linen robes were like the
snow, and from their turbans gleamed gems of value. Each horseman bore
at his girdle a purse, a kerchief, and a poinard; and in their purses
lay two thousand dinars of gold. Slaves brought up the rear of
the procession, riding asses laden with bales, and they led fifty
blood-red bays caparisoned as for a tournament.

With scowling glances at the monastery the band rode on across the
valley, climbed to the pass, and disappeared. After many days they
arrived at Cordova, then when they had rested and cleansed themselves,
Abul Malek craved audience of the Caliph, Aboul-Abbas El Hakkam. Being
of distinguished reputation, his wish was quickly granted; and on the
following day in the presence of the Hadjeb, the viziers, the white
and black eunuchs, the archers, and the cuirassiers of the guard, he
made a gift to his sovereign of those hundred northern horsemen and
their mounts, those fifty blooded bays and their housings, those bales
of aloe-wood and camphor, those silken pieces and those two thousand
dinars of yellow Catalonian gold. This done, he humbly craved a
favor in return, and when bade to speak, he began by telling of the
indignities rendered him by the monks of San Sebastian.

"Five generations my people have dwelt upon our lands, serving the
true God and His Prophet," he declared, with quivering indignation;
"but now those idolaters have come. They gibe and they mock at me
beneath my very window. My prayers are broken by their yammerings;
they defile my casement, and the stench of their presence assails my
nostrils."

"What do you ask of me?" inquired the Caliph.

"I ask for leave to cleanse my doorstep."

The illustrious Moslem shook his head, whereat Abul Malek cried:

"Does not the Koran direct us to destroy the unbelieving and the
impious? Must I then suffer these infidels to befoul my garden?"

"God is merciful; it is His will that for a time the Unbelievers shall
appear to flourish," said the Caliph. "We are bound by solemn compact
with the kings of Leon and Castile to observe an armistice. That
armistice we shall observe, for our land is weary of wars, our men are
tired, and their scars must heal. It is not for you or for me to say:
'This is good, or this is evil.' Allah's will be done!"

Abul Malek and his sons returned alone to their mountains, but when
they reined in at the door of their castle the father spat venomously
at the belfried roof of the monastery beneath and vowed that he would
yet work his will upon it.

Now that the Law forbade him to make way with his enemies by force, he
canvassed his brain for other means of effecting their downfall; but
every day the monks went on with their peaceful tasks, unmindful of
his hatred, and their impious religion spread about the countryside.
Abul Malek's venom passed them by; they gazed upon him with gentle
eyes in which there was no spleen, although in him they recognized a
bitter foe.

As time wore on his hatred of their religion became centered upon the
monks themselves, and he undertook by crafty means to annoy them. Men
said these Christian priests were good; that their lives were spent in
prayer, in meditation, and in works of charity among the poor; tales
came to the Moor of their spiritual existence, of their fleshly
renunciation; but at these he scoffed. He refused to credit them.

"Pah!" he would cry, tugging at his midnight beard; "how can these men
be aught but liars, when they live and preach a falsehood? Their creed
is impious, and they are hypocrites. They are not superior beings,
they are flesh like you or me. They have our passions and our faults,
but a thousand times multiplied, for they walk in darkness and dwell
in hypocrisy. Beneath their cassocks is black infamy; their hearts are
full of evil--aye, of lust and of every unclean thing. Being false to
the true God, they are false to themselves and to the religion they
profess; and I will prove it." Thus ran his reasoning.

In order to make good his boast Abul Malek began to study the
monks carefully, one after another. He tried temptation. A certain
gross-bellied fellow he plied with wine. He flattered and fawned upon
the simple friar; he led him into his cellars, striving to poison
the good man's body as well as his mind; but the visitor partook in
moderation, and preached the gospel of Christ so earnestly that the
Saracen fled from his presence, bathing himself in clean water to be
rid of the pollution.

Next he laid a trap for the Abbot himself. He selected the fairest of
his slaves, a well-rounded woman of great physical charm, and bribed
her with a girdle of sequins. She sought out the Abbot and professed
a hunger for his creed. Bound thus by secrecy to the pious man, she
lured him by every means at her command. But the Abbot had room for no
passion save the love of Christ, and her wiles were powerless against
this armor.

Abul Malek was patient; he renewed his vow to hold the false religion
up to ridicule and laughter, thinking, by encompassing the downfall
of a single advocate, thus to prove his contention and checkmate its
ever-widening influence. He became obsessed by this idea; he schemed
and he contrived; he used to the utmost the powers of his Oriental
mind. From his vantage-point above the cloister he heard the monks
droning at their Latin; his somber glances followed them at their
daily tasks. Like a spider he spun his web, and when one victim broke
through it he craftily repaired its fabric, luring another into its
meshes.

At times he shared his vigil with his daughter Zahra, a girl of
twelve, fast growing into womanhood; and since she had inherited
his wit and temperament, he taught her to share his hatred of the
black-robed men.

This Moorish maiden possessed the beauty of her mother, who had died
in childbirth; and in honor of that celebrated favorite of Abderamus
III. she had been christened "Flower of the World." Nor was the title
too immoderate, as all men who saw her vowed. Already the hot sun of
Catalonia had ripened her charms, and neighboring lords were beginning
to make extravagant overtures of marriage. But seeing in her a
possible weapon more powerful than any he had yet launched against the
monks of San Sebastian, the father refused to consider even the best
of them. He continued to keep her at his side, pouring his hatred into
her ears until she, too, was ablaze with it.

Zahra was in her fourteenth year when Abul Malek beheld, one day, a
new figure among those in the courtyard of the monastery below. Even
from his eminence the Saracen could see that this late-comer was
a giant man, for the fellow towered head and shoulders above his
brethren. Inquiry taught him that the monk's name was Joseph. Nor was
their meeting long delayed, for a sickness fell among the people of
the valley, and Abul Malek, being skilled in medicine, went out to
minister among the poor, according to his religion. At the sick-bed of
a shepherd the two men came face to face.

Joseph was not young, nor was he old, but rather he had arrived at the
perfect flower of his manhood, and his placid soul shone out through
features of unusual strength and sweetness. In him the crafty Moor
beheld a difference which for a time was puzzling. But eventually he
analyzed it. The other monks had once been worldly men--they showed it
in their faces; the countenance of Fray Joseph, on the contrary, was
that of a boy, and it was without track of temptation or trace of
evil. He had lived a sheltered life from his earliest youth, so it
transpired, and Abul Malek rejoiced in the discovery, it being his
belief that all men are flesh and that within them smolder flames
which some day must have mastery. If this monk had never let his youth
run free, if he had never met temptation and conquered it, those
pent-up forces which inhabit all of us must be gathering power, year
by year, and once the joint of this armor had been found, once it
could be pierced, he would become earthly like other men, and his
false religion would drop away, leaving him naked under the irksome
garb of priesthood.

Accordingly, the Moor tested Fray Joseph, as he had tested the Abbot
and the others, but to no avail, and he was in despair, until one day
the secret of his failure was unexpectedly revealed.

Being busied with his accounts, he had repaired to the shade of a
pomegranate grove near the cliff, the better to escape the heat; while
so engaged up the path from the monastery came the good brother. Just
abreast of Abul Malek's point of vantage Joseph paused to listen. A
songbird was trilling wondrously and the monk's face, raised toward
the pomegranate trees, became transfigured. He changed as if by
magic; his lips parted in a tender smile, his figure grew tense with
listening; not until the last note had died away did he move. Then
a great breath stirred his lungs, and with shining eyes and rapt
countenance he went on into the fields.

Abul Malek rose, his white teeth gleaming through his beard.

"Allah be praised!" he exclaimed. "It is music!" And rolling up his
papers, he went into the house.

Early on the following morning another cavalcade filed down past the
monastery of San Sebastian; but this procession was in great contrast
to the one that had gone by five years before. Instead of gaily
caparisoned warriors, it was composed mainly of women and slaves, with
a mere handful of guards to lead the way. There were bondmaidens and
seamstresses, an ancient nurse and a tutor of languages; while astride
of a palfrey at her father's side rode the youthful lady of the
castle. Her veil was wet upon her cheeks, her eyes were filled with
shadows; yet she rode proudly, like a princess.

Once more the train moved past the sun-baked walls of the monastery,
across the plain to the mountain road that led to the land of bounty
and of culture. Late that afternoon Brother Joseph learned from the
lips of a herdsman that the beauteous Zahra, flower of all the Moorish
race, had gone to Cordova to study music.


II


Abul Malek once more rode home alone to his castle; but this time as
he dismounted at his door he smiled at the monastery below.

Four years crept by, during which the Saracen lord brooded over the
valley and the monk Joseph went his simple way, rendering service
where he could, preaching, by the example of his daily life and his
unselfish devotion, a sermon more powerful than his lips could utter.
Through it all the Moor watched him carefully, safeguarding him as a
provident farmer fattens a sheep for the slaughter. Once a year the
father rode southward to Cordova, bringing news with his return that
delighted the countryside, news that penetrated even the walls of San
Sebastian and filled the good men therein with gladness. It seemed
that the maiden Zahra was becoming a great musician. She pursued her
studies in the famous school of Ali-Zeriab, and not even Moussali
himself, that most gifted of Arabian singers, could bring more tender
notes from the lute than could this fair daughter of Catalonia. Her
skill transcended that of Al Farabi, for the harp, the tabor, and the
mandolin were wedded to her dancing fingers; and, most marvelous of
all, her soul was so filled with poetry that her verses were sung from
Valencia to Cadiz. It was said that she could move men to laughter, to
tears, to deeds of heroism--that she could even lull them to sleep by
the potency of her magic. She had once played before the Caliph under
amazing circumstances.

The Prince of True Believers, so ran the story, had quarreled with
his favorite wife, and in consequence had fallen into a state of
melancholy so deep as to threaten his health and to alarm his
ministers. Do what they would, he still declined, until in despair the
Hadjeb sent for Zahra, daughter of Abul Malek. She came, surrounded by
her servants, and sang before El Hakkam. So cunningly did she contrive
her verses, so tender were her airs, so potent were her fluttering
fingers, that those within hearing were moved to tears, and the
unhappy lover himself became so softened that he sped to the arms of
his offended beauty and a reconciliation occurred. In token of his
gratitude he had despatched a present of forty thousand drachmas of
gold to the singer, and her renown went broadcast like a flame.

When Abul Malek heard of this he praised his God, and, gathering his
horsemen, he set out to bring his daughter home, for the time was
ripe.

One evening in early spring, that magic season when nature is most
charming, Fray Joseph, returning to his cell, heard from behind a
screen of verdure alongside his path a woman singing. But was this
singing? he asked himself. Could mortal lips give birth to melody like
this? It was the sighing of summer winds through rustling leaves, the
music of crystal brooks on stony courses, the full-throated worship
of birds. Joseph listened, enthralled, like a famished pilgrim in the
desert. His simple soul, attuned to harmonies of the woodland, leaped
in answer; his fancy, starved by years of churchly rigor, quickened
like a prisoner at the light of day. Not until the singer had ceased
did he resume his way, and through his dreams that night ran the song
of birds, the play of zephyrs, the laughter of bubbling springs.

A few evenings later he heard the voice again, and paused with lips
apart, with heart consumed by eagerness. It was some slave girl busied
among the vines of Abul Malek, he decided, for she translated all the
fragmentary airs that float through summer evenings--the songs of
sweethearts, the tender airs of motherhood, the croon of distant
waterfalls, the voice of sleepy locusts--and yet she wove them into an
air that carried words. It was most wonderful.

Joseph felt a strong desire to mingle his voice with the singer's, but
he knew his throat to be harsh and stiff from chanting Latin phrases.
He knew not whither the tune would lead, and yet, when she sang, he
followed, realizing gladly that she voiced the familiar music of his
soul. He was moved to seek her out and to talk with her, until he
remembered with a start that she was a woman and he a priest.

Each night he shaped his course so as to bring him past the spot
where the mysterious singer labored, and in time he began to feel the
stirring of a very earthly curiosity, the which he manfully fought
down. Through the long, heated hours of the day he hummed her airs and
repeated her verses, longing for the twilight hour which would bring
the angel voice from out the vineyard. Eventually the girl began to
sing of love, and Joseph echoed the songs in solitude, his voice as
rasping and untrue as that of a frog.

Then, one evening, he heard that which froze him in his tracks. The
singer accompanied herself upon some instrument the like of which he
had never imagined. The music filled the air with heavenly harmony,
and it set him to vibrating like a tautened string; it rippled
forth, softer than the breeze, more haunting than the perfume of the
frangipani. Joseph stood like a man in a trance, forgetful of all
things save these honeyed sounds, half minded to believe himself
favored by the music of the seraphim.

Never had he dreamed of such an intoxication. And then, as if to
intensify his wild exultation, the maiden sang a yearning strain of
passion and desire.

The priest began to tremble. His heart-beats quickened, his senses
became unbridled; something new and mighty awoke within him, and he
was filled with fever. His huge thews tightened, his muscles swelled
as if for battle, yet miracle of miracles, he was melting like a child
in tears! With his breath tugging at his throat, he turned off the
path and parted the verdure, going as soundlessly as an animal; and
all the while his head was whirling, his eyes took note of nothing. He
was drawn as by a thousand invisible strings, which wound him toward
the hidden singer.

But suddenly the music ended in a peal of rippling laughter and there
came the rustle of silken garments. Fray Joseph found himself in a
little open glade, so recently vacated that a faint perfume still
lingered to aggravate his nostrils. Beyond stretched the vineyard of
the Moor, a tangle of purpling vines into the baffling mazes of which
the singer had evidently fled.

So she had known of his presence all along, the monk reflected,
dizzily. It followed, therefore, that she must have waited every
evening for his coming, and that her songs had been sung for him. An
ecstasy swept over him. Regaining the path, he went downward to the
monastery, his brain afire, his body tingling.

Joseph was far too simple for self-analysis, and he was too enchanted
by those liquid strains to know what all this soul confusion foretold;
he merely realized that he had made the most amazing of discoveries,
that the music of the spheres had been translated for his privileged
ears, that a door had opened allowing him to glimpse a glory hidden
from other mortals. It was not the existence of the singer, but of the
music, that excited him to adoration. He longed to possess it, to take
it with him, and to cherish it like a thing of substance, to worship
it in his solitude.

The song had been of love; but, after all, love was the burden of his
religion. Love filled the universe, it kept the worlds a-swinging, it
was the thing that dominated all nature and made sweet even the rigid
life of an anchorite. It was doubtless love which awoke this fierce
yet tender yearning in him now, this ecstasy that threatened to
smother him. Love was a holy and an impersonal thing, nevertheless it
blazed and melted in his every vein, and it made him very human.

Through all that night Fray Joseph lay upon his couch, rapt, thankful,
wondering. But in the morning he had changed. His thoughts became
unruly, and he recalled again that tantalizing perfume, the shy tones
of that mischief laughter. He began to long intensely to behold the
author of this music-magic, to behold her just once, for imagination
graced her with a thousand witching forms. He wished ardently, also,
to speak with her about this miracle, this hidden thing called melody,
for the which he had starved his life, unknowingly.

As the afternoon aged he began to fear that he had frightened her,
and therefore when he came to tread his homeward path it was with a
strange commingling of eagerness and of dread. But while still at a
distance, he heard her singing as usual, and, nearing the spot, he
stopped to drink in her message. Again the maiden sang of love; again
the monk felt his spirit leaping as she fed his starving soul even
more adroitly than she fingered the vibrant strings. At last her wild,
romantic verses became more unrestrained; the music quickened until,
regardless of all things, Fray Joseph burst the thicket asunder and
stood before her, huge, exalted, palpitant.

"I, too, have sung those songs," he panted, hoarsely. "That melody has
lived in me since time began; but I am mute. And you? Who are you?
What miracle bestowed this gift--?"

He paused, for with the ending of the song his frenzy was dying and
his eyes were clearing. There, casting back his curious gaze, was a
bewitching Moorish maid whose physical perfection seemed to cause the
very place to glow. The slanting sunbeams shimmered upon her silken
garments; from her careless hand drooped an instrument of gold and of
tortoise-shell, an instrument strange to the eyes of the monk. Her
feet were cased in tiny slippers of soft Moroccan leather; her limbs,
rounded and supple and smooth as ivory, were outlined beneath wide
flowing trousers which were gathered at the ankles. A tunic of finest
fabric was flung back, displaying a figure of delicate proportions,
half recumbent now upon the sward.

The loveliness of Moorish women has been heralded to the world; it is
not strange that this maid, renowned even among her own people, should
have struck the rustic priest to dumbness. He stood transfixed; and
yet he wondered not, for it was seemly that such heavenly music should
have sprung from the rarest of mortals. He saw that her hair, blacker
than the night, rippled in a glorious cascade below her waist, and
that her teeth embellished with the whiteness of alabaster the
vermilion lips which smiled at him.

That same intoxicating scent, sweeter than the musk of Hadramaut,
enveloped her; her fingers were jeweled with nails which flashed in
rivalry with their burden of precious stones as she toyed with the
whispering strings.

For a time she regarded the monk silently.

"I am Zahra," she said at length, and Joseph thrilled at the tones of
her voice. "To me, all things are music."

"Zahra! 'Flower of the World,'" he repeated, wonderingly. After an
instant he continued, harshly, "Then you are the daughter of the
Moor?"

"Yes. Abul Malek. You have heard of me?"

"Who has not? Aye, you were rightly called 'Flower of the World.'
But--this music! It brought me here against my will; it pulls at me
like straining horses. Why is that? What wizardry do you possess? What
strange chemistry?"

She laughed lightly. "I possess no magic art. We are akin, you and I.
That is all. You, of all men, are attuned to me."

"No," he said, heavily. "You are an Infidel, I am a Christian. There
is no bond between us."

"So?" she mocked. "And yet, when I sing, you can hear the nightingales
of Aden; I can take you with me to the fields of battle, or to the
innermost halls of the Alhambra. I have watched you many times,
Brother Joseph, and I have never failed to play upon your soul as I
play upon my own. Are we not, then, attuned?"

"Your veil!" he cried, accusingly. "I have never beheld a Moorish
woman's face until now."

Her lids drooped, as if to hide the fire behind them, and she replied,
without heeding his words: "Sit here, beside me. I will play for you."

"Yes, yes!" he cried, eagerly. "Play! Play on for me! But--I will
stand."

Accordingly she resumed her instrument; and o'er its strings her
rosy fingers twinkled, while with witchery of voice and beauty she
enthralled him. Again she sang of love, reclinging there like an
_houri_ fit to grace the paradise of her Prophet; and the giant monk
became a puppet in her hands. Now, although she sang of love, it was a
different love from that which Joseph knew and worshiped; and as she
toyed with him his hot blood warred with his priestly devotion until
he was racked with the tortures of the pit. But she would not let him
go. She lured him with her eyes, her lips, her luscious beauty, until
he heard no song whatever, until he no longer saw visions of spiritual
beatitude, but flesh, ripe flesh, aquiver and awake to him.

A cry burst from him. Turning, he tore himself away and went crashing
blindly through the thicket like a bull pursued. On, on he fled, down
to the monastery and into the coolness of his cell, where, upon the
smooth, worn flags, he knelt and struggled with this evil thing which
accursed his soul.

For many days Joseph avoided the spot which had witnessed his
temptation; but of nights, when he lay spent and weary with his
battle, through the grating of his window came the song of the Saracen
maid and the whisper of her golden lute. He knew she was calling to
him, therefore he beat his breast and scourged himself to cure his
longing. But night after night she sang from the heights above, and
the burden of her song was ever the same, of one who waited and of one
who came.

Bit by bit she wore down the man's resistance, then drew him up
through the groves of citron and pomegrante, into the grape fields;
time and again he fled. Closer and closer she lured him, until one day
he touched her flesh--woman's flesh--and forgot all else. But now it
was her turn to flee.

She poised like a sunbeam just beyond his reach, her bosom heaving,
her lips as ripe and full as the grapes above, her eyes afire with
invitation. In answer to his cry she made a glowing promise, subtle,
yet warm and soft, as of the flesh.

"To-night, when the moon hangs over yonder pass, I shall play on the
balcony outside my window. Beneath is a door, unbarred. Come, for I
shall be alone in all the castle, and there you will find music made
flesh, and flesh made music." Then she was gone.

The soul of the priest had been in torment heretofore, but chaos
engulfed it during the hours that followed. He was like a man bereft
of reason; he burned with fever, yet his whole frame shook as from a
wintry wind. He prayed, or tried to, but his eyes beheld no vision
save a waiting Moorish maid with hair like night, his stammering
tongue gave forth no Latin, but repeated o'er and o'er her parting
promise:

"There you will find music made flesh and flesh made music."

He realized that the foul fiend had him by the throat, and undertook
to cast him off; but all the time he knew that when the moon came,
bringing with it the cadence of a song, he would go, even though his
going led to perdition. And go he did, groveling in his misery. His
sandals spurned the rocky path when he heard the voice of Zahra
sighing through the branches; then, when he had reached the castle
wall, he saw her bending toward him from the balcony above.

"I come to you," she whispered; and an instant later her form showed
white against the blackness of the low stone door in front of him.
There, in the gloom, for one brief instant, her yielding body met his,
her hands reached upward and drew his face down to her own; then out
from his hungry arms she glided, and with rippling laughter fled into
the blackness.

"Zahra!" he cried.

"Come!" she whispered, and when he hesitated, "Do you fear to follow?"

"Zahra!" he repeated; but his voice was strange, and he tore at the
cloth that bound his throat, stumbling after her, guided only by her
voice.

Always she was just beyond his reach; always she eluded him; yet never
did he lose the perfume of her presence nor the rustle of her silken
garments. Over and over he cried her name, until at last he realized
from the echo of his calling that he had come into a room of great
dimensions and that the girl was gone.

For an instant he was in despair, until her voice reached him from
above:

"I do but test you, Christian priest. I am waiting."

"'Flower of the World,'" he stammered, hoarsely. "Whence lead the
stairs?"

"And do you love me, then?" she queried, in a tone that set him all
ablaze.

"Zahra," he repeated, "I shall perish for want of you."

"How do you measure this devotion?" she insisted, softly. "Will it
cool with the dawn, or are you mine in truth forever and all time?"

"I have no thought save that of you. Come, Light of my Soul, or I
shall die."

"Do you then adore me above all things, earthly and heavenly, that you
forsake your vows? Answer, that my arms may enfold you."

He groaned like a man upon a rack, and the agony of that cry was proof
conclusive of his abject surrender.

Then, through the dead, black silence of the place there came a
startling sound. It was a peal of laughter, loud, evil, triumphant;
and, as if it had been a signal, other mocking voices took it up,
until the great vault rang to a fiendish din.

"Ho! Hassam! Elzemah! Close the doors!" cried the voice of Abul Malek.
"Bring the lights."

There followed a ponderous clanging and the rattle of chains, the
while Fray Joseph stood reeling in his tracks. Then suddenly from
every side burst forth the radiance of many lamps. Torches sprang into
flame, braziers of resin wood began to smoke, flambeaux were lit, and,
half blinded by the glare, the Christian monk stood revealed in the
hall of Abul Malek.

He cast his eyes about, but on every side he beheld grinning men of
swarthy countenance, and at sight of his terror the hellish merriment
broke forth anew, until the whole place thundered with it. Facing
him, upon an ornamental balcony, stood the Moor, and beside him, with
elbows on the balustrade and face alight with sinister enjoyment,
stood his daughter.

Stunned by his betrayal, Joseph imploringly pronounced her name, at
which a fresh guffaw resounded. Then above the clamor she inquired,
with biting malice:

"Dost thou any longer doubt, oh, Christian, that I adore thee?"
At this her father and her brothers rocked back and forth, as if
suffocated by the humor of this jest.

The lone man turned, in mind to flee, but every entrance to the hall
was closed, and at each portal stood a grinning Saracen. He bowed his
shaven head, and his shame fell slowly upon him.

"You have me trapped," he said. "What shall my punishment be?"

"This," answered the Moorish lord; "to acknowledge once again, before
us all, the falseness of your faith."

"That I have never done; that I can never do," said Joseph.

"Nay! But a moment ago you confessed that you adored my daughter above
all things, earthly or heavenly. You forswore your vows for her.
Repeat it, then."

"I have sinned before God; but I still acknowledge Him and crave His
mercy," said the wretched priest.

"Hark you, Joseph. You are the best of monks. Have you ever done evil
before this night?"

"My life has been clean, but the flesh is weak. It was the witchcraft
of Satan in that woman's music. I prayed for strength, but I was
powerless. My soul shall pay the penalty."

"What sort of God is this who snares His holiest disciple, with the
lusts of the flesh?" mocked Abul Malek. "Did not your prayers mount
up so high? Or is His power insufficient to forestall the devil? Bah!
There is but one true God, and Mohammed is His Prophet. These many
years have I labored to rend your veil of holiness asunder and
to expose your faith to ridicule and laughter. This have I done
to-night."

"Stop!" cried the tortured monk. "Bring forth a lance."

"Nay! Nay! You shall hear me through," gloated Abul Malek; and again
Joseph bowed his tonsured head, murmuring:

"It is my punishment."

Ringed about thus by his enemies, the priest stood meekly, while the
sweat came out upon his face; as the Saracen mocked and jeered at him
he made no answer, except to move his lips in whispered grayer. Had it
not been for this sign they might have thought him changed to stone,
so motionless and so patient did he stand. How long the baiting lasted
no one knew; it may have been an hour, then Joseph's passive silence
roused the anger of the overlord, who became demoniac in his rage.
His followers joined in harrying the victim, until the place became a
babel. Finally Elzemah stepped forward, torch in hand, and spat upon
the giant black-robed figure.

The monk's face whitened, it grew ghastly; but he made no movement.
Then in a body the infidels rushed forth to follow the example of
Abul Malek's son. They swarmed about the Christian, jeering, cursing,
spitting, snatching at his garments, until their master cried:

"Enough! The knave has water in his veins. His blood has soured.
Deserted by his God, his frame has withered and his vigor fled."

"Yes," echoed his daughter. "He is great only in bulk. Had he been a
Man I might have loved him; but the evil has fled out of him, leaving
nothing but his cassock. Off with his robe, Elzemah. Let us see if
aught remains."

With swift movement her brother tore at the monk's habit, baring his
great bosom. At this insult to his cloth a frightful change swept over
the victim. He upheaved his massive shoulders, his gleaming head rose
high, and in the glaring light they saw that his face had lost all
sweetness and humility; it was now the visage of a madman. All fleshly
passion stored through thirty years of cloister life blazed forth,
consuming reason and intelligence; with a sweep of his mighty arms he
cleared a space about him, hurling his enemies aside as if they were
made of straw. He raised his voice above the din, cursing God and men
and Moors. As they closed in upon him he snatched from the hands of a
lusty slave a massive wrought-iron brazier, and whirling it high above
his head, he sent its glowing coals flying into the farthest corners
of the room. Then with this weapon he laid about him right and left,
while men fell like grain before the reaper.

"At him!" shouted Abul Malek, from his balcony. "Pull down the weapons
from the walls! The fool is mad!"

Zahra clutched at her father's sleeve and pointed to a distant corner,
where a tongue of flame was licking the dry woodwork and hangings.
Her eyes were flashing and her lips were parted; she bent forward,
following the priest with eagerness.

"Allah be praised!" she breathed. "He is a Man!"

Elzemah strove to sheathe his poinard in the monk's bare breast, but
the brazier crushed him down. Across the wide floor raged the contest,
but the mighty priest was irresistible. Hassam, seeing that the priest
was fighting toward the balcony, flung himself upon the stairs, crying
to his father and his sister to be gone. By now the castle echoed with
a frightful din through which arose a sinister crackling. The light
increased moment by moment, and there came the acrid smell of smoke.

Men left the maniac to give battle to the other fury. Some fled to the
doors and fought with their clumsy fastenings, but as they flung
them back a draught sucked through, changing the place into a raging
furnace.

With his back against the stairs, Hassam hewed at the monk with his
scimitar; he had done as well had he essayed to fell an oak with a
single blow. Up over him rushed the giant, to the balcony above, where
Abul Malek and his daughter stood at bay in the trap of their own
manufacture. There, in the glare of the mounting flames, Fray Joseph
sank his mighty fingers through the Moor's black beard.

The place by now was suffocating, and the roar of the conflagration
had drowned all other sounds. Men wrapped their robes about their
heads and hurled themselves blindly at the doors, fighting with one
another, with the licking flames, with the dead that clogged the
slippery flags. But the maid remained. She tore at the tattered
cassock of the priest, crying into his ear:

"Come, Joseph! We may yet escape."

He let the writhing Abul Malek slip from out his grasp and peered at
her through the smother.

"Thou knowest me not?" she queried. "I am Zahra." Her arms entwined
his neck for a second time that night, but with a furious cry he
raised his hands and smote her down at his feet, then he fled back to
the stairs and plunged down into the billows that raged ahead of the
fresh night wind.

The bells of San Sebastian were clanging the alarm, the good monks
were toiling up the path toward the inferno which lit the heavens,
when, black against the glare, they saw a giant figure approaching. It
came reeling toward them, vast, mighty, misshapen. Not until it was in
their very midst did they recognize their brother, Joseph. He was
bent and broken, he was singed of body and of raiment, he gibbered
foolishly; he passed them by and went staggering to his cell. Long ere
they reached the castle it was but a seething mountain of flame; and
in the morning naught remained of Abul Malek's house but heated ruins.

Strange tales were rife concerning the end of the Moor and of his
immediate kin, but the monks could make little out of them, for they
were garbled and too ridiculous for belief. No Mussulman who survived
the fire could speak coherently of what had happened in the great
hall, nor could Fray Joseph tell his story, for he lay stricken with a
malady which did not leave him for many weeks. Even when he recovered
he did not talk; for although his mind was clear on most matters, nay,
although he was as simple and as devout as ever, a kind Providence had
blotted out all memory of Zahra, of his sin, and of the temptation
that had beset his flesh.

So it is that even to this day "The Teeth of the Moor" remains a term
of mystery to most of the monks of San Sebastian.





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