Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: From Place to Place
Author: Cobb, Irvin S. (Irvin Shrewsbury), 1876-1944
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 "From Place to Place" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



FROM PLACE TO PLACE

The Works of

IRVIN S. COBB



[Illustration: Emblem]


The Review of Reviews Corporation
Publishers New York
Published by Arrangement with George H. Doran Company

Copyright, 1920,
by George H. Doran Company
Copyright, 1918, 1919, by the Curtis Publishing Company
Copyright, 1918, by the Frank A. Munsey Co.
Copyright, 1913, 1918, by the Red Book Corporation

Printed in the United States of America



TO

CHARLES R. FLINT, ESQ.



CONTENTS


        CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

           I THE GALLOWSMITH                                      11

          II THE BROKEN SHOELACE                                  55

         III BOYS WILL BE BOYS                                    96

          IV THE LUCK PIECE                                      156

           V QUALITY FOLKS                                       206

          VI JOHN J. COINCIDENCE                                 259

         VII WHEN AUGUST THE SECOND WAS APRIL THE FIRST          302

        VIII HOODWINKED                                          332

          IX THE BULL CALLED EMILY                               382



FROM PLACE TO PLACE



CHAPTER I

THE GALLOWSMITH


This man that I have it in mind to write about was, at the time of which
I write, an elderly man, getting well along toward sixty-five. He was
tall and slightly stooped, with long arms, and big, gnarled,
competent-looking hands, which smelled of yellow laundry soap, and had
huge, tarnished nails on the fingers. He had mild, pale eyes, a light
blue as to colour, with heavy sacs under them, and whitish whiskers,
spindly and thin, like some sort of second-growth, which were so cut as
to enclose his lower face in a nappy fringe, extending from ear to ear
under his chin. He suffered from a chronic heart affection, and this
gave to his skin a pronounced and unhealthy pallor. He was neat and prim
in his personal habits, kind to dumb animals, and tolerant of small
children. He was inclined to be miserly; certainly in money matters he
was most prudent and saving. He had the air about him of being lonely.
His name was Tobias Dramm. In the town where he lived he was commonly
known as Uncle Tobe Dramm. By profession he was a public hangman. You
might call him a gallowsmith. He hanged men for hire.

So far as the available records show, this Tobias Dramm was the only man
of his calling on this continent. In himself he constituted a specialty
and a monopoly. The fact that he had no competition did not make him
careless in the pursuit of his calling. On the contrary, it made him
precise and painstaking. As one occupying a unique position, he realized
that he had a reputation to sustain, and capably he sustained it. In the
Western Hemisphere he was, in the trade he followed, the nearest modern
approach to the paid executioners of olden times in France who went,
each of them, by the name of the city or province wherein he was
stationed, to do torturing and maiming and killing in the gracious name
of the king.

A generous government, committed to a belief in the efficacy of capital
punishment, paid Tobias Dramm at the rate of seventy-five dollars a head
for hanging offenders convicted of the hanging crime, which was murder.
He averaged about four hangings every three months or, say, about nine
hundred dollars a year--all clear money.

The manner of Mr. Dramm's having entered upon the practise of this
somewhat grisly trade makes in itself a little tale. He was a lifelong
citizen of the town of Chickaloosa, down in the Southwest, where there
stood a State penitentiary, and where, during the period of which I am
speaking, the Federal authorities sent for confinement and punishment
the criminal sweepings of half a score of States and Territories. This
was before the government put up prisons of its own, and while still it
parcelled out its human liabilities among State-owned institutions,
paying so much apiece for their keep. When the government first began
shipping a share of its felons to Chickaloosa, there came along, in one
clanking caravan of shackled malefactors, a half-breed, part Mexican and
the rest of him Indian, who had robbed a territorial post-office and
incidentally murdered the postmaster thereof. Wherefore this half-breed
was under sentence to expiate his greater misdeed on a given date,
between the hours of sunrise and sunset, and after a duly prescribed
manner, namely: by being hanged by the neck until he was dead.

At once a difficulty and a complication arose. The warden of the
penitentiary at Chickaloosa was perfectly agreeable to the idea of
keeping and caring for those felonious wards of the government who were
put in his custody to serve terms of imprisonment, holding that such
disciplinary measures fell within the scope of his sworn duty. But when
it came to the issue of hanging any one of them, he drew the line most
firmly. As he pointed out, he was not a government agent. He derived
his authority and drew his salary not from Washington, D. C., but from a
State capital several hundreds of miles removed from Washington.
Moreover, he was a zealous believer in the principle of State
sovereignty. As a soldier of the late Southern Confederacy, he had
fought four years to establish that doctrine. Conceded, that the cause
for which he fought had been defeated; nevertheless his views upon the
subject remained fixed and permanent. He had plenty of disagreeable jobs
to do without stringing up bad men for Uncle Sam; such was the attitude
the warden took. The sheriff of the county of which Chickaloosa was the
county-seat, likewise refused to have a hand in the impending affair,
holding it--and perhaps very properly--to be no direct concern of his,
either officially or personally.

Now the government very much wanted the hybrid hanged. The government
had been put to considerable trouble and no small expense to catch him
and try him and convict him and transport him to the place where he was
at present confined. Day and date for the execution of the law's
judgment having been fixed, a scandal and possibly a legal tangle would
ensue were there delay in the premises. It was reported that a full
pardon had been offered to a long-term convict on condition that he
carry out the court's mandate upon the body of the condemned mongrel,
and that he had refused, even though the price were freedom for
himself.

In this serious emergency, a volunteer in the person of Tobias Dramm
came forward. Until then he had been an inconspicuous unit in the life
of the community. He was a live-stock dealer on a small scale, making
his headquarters at one of the town livery stables. He was a person of
steady habits, with a reputation for sobriety and frugality among his
neighbours. The government, so to speak, jumped at the chance. Without
delay, his offer was accepted. There was no prolonged haggling over
terms, either. He himself fixed the cost of the job at seventy-five
dollars; this figure to include supervision of the erection of the
gallows, testing of the apparatus, and the actual operation itself.

So, on the appointed day, at a certain hour, to wit, a quarter past six
o'clock in the morning, just outside the prison walls, and in the
presence of the proper and ordained number of witnesses, Uncle Tobe,
with a grave, untroubled face, and hands which neither fumbled nor
trembled, tied up the doomed felon and hooded his head in a black-cloth
bag, and fitted a noose about his neck. The drop fell at eighteen
minutes past the hour. Fourteen minutes later, following brief tests of
heart and pulse, the two attending physicians agreed that the half-breed
was quite satisfactorily defunct. They likewise coincided in the
opinion that the hanging had been conducted with neatness, and with
swiftness, and with the least possible amount of physical suffering for
the deceased. One of the doctors went so far as to congratulate Mr.
Dramm upon the tidiness of his handicraft. He told him that in all his
experience he had never seen a hanging pass off more smoothly, and that
for an amateur, Dramm had done splendidly. To this compliment Uncle Tobe
replied, in his quiet and drawling mode of speech, that he had studied
the whole thing out in advance.

"Ef I should keep on with this way of makin' a livin' I don't 'low ever
to let no slip-ups occur," he added with simple directness. There was no
suggestion of the morbid in his voice or manner as he said this, but
instead merely a deep personal satisfaction.

Others present, having been made sick and faint by the shock of seeing a
human being summarily jerked into the hereafter, went away hurriedly
without saying anything at all. But afterward thinking it over when they
were more composed, they decided among themselves that Uncle Tobe had
carried it off with an assurance and a skill which qualified him most
aptly for future undertakings along the same line; that he was a born
hangman, if ever there was one.

This was the common verdict. So, thereafter, by a tacit understanding,
the ex-cattle-buyer became the regular government hangman. He had no
official title nor any warrant in writing for the place he filled. He
worked by the piece, as one might say, and not by the week or month.
Some years he hanged more men than in other years, but the average per
annum was about twelve. He had been hanging them now for going on ten
years.

It was as though he had been designed and created for the work. He
hanged villainous men singly, sometimes by pairs, and rarely in groups
of threes, always without a fumble or a hitch. Once, on a single
morning, he hanged an even half-dozen, these being the chief fruitage of
a busy term of the Federal court down in the Indian country where the
combination of a crowded docket, an energetic young district attorney
with political ambitions, and a businesslike presiding judge had
produced what all unprejudiced and fair-minded persons agreed were
marvellous results, highly beneficial to the moral atmosphere of the
territory and calculated to make potential evil-doers stop and think.
Four of the six had been members of an especially desperate gang of
train and bank robbers. The remaining two had forfeited their right to
keep on living by slaying deputy marshals. Each, with malice
aforethought and with his own hands, had actually killed some one or had
aided and abetted in killing some one.

This sextuple hanging made a lot of talk, naturally. The size of it
alone commanded the popular interest. Besides, the personnel of the
group of villains was such as to lend an aspect of picturesqueness to
the final proceedings. The sextet included a full-blooded Cherokee; a
consumptive ex-dentist out of Kansas, who from killing nerves in teeth
had progressed to killing men in cold premeditation; a lank West
Virginia mountaineer whose family name was the name of a clan prominent
in one of the long-drawn-out hill-feuds of his native State; a plain bad
man, whose chief claim to distinction was that he hailed originally from
the Bowery in New York City; and one, the worst of them all, who was
said to be the son of a pastor in a New England town. One by one,
unerringly and swiftly, Uncle Tobe launched them through his scaffold
floor to get whatever deserts await those who violate the laws of God
and man by the violent shedding of innocent blood. When the sixth and
last gunman came out of the prison proper into the prison enclosure--it
was the former dentist, and being set, as the phrase runs, upon dying
game, he wore a twisted grin upon his bleached face--there were six
black boxes under the platform, five of them occupied, with their lids
all in place, and one of them yet empty and open. In the act of mounting
the steps the condemned craned his head sidewise, and at the sight of
those coffins stretching along six in a row on the gravelled courtyard,
he made a cheap and sorry gibe. But when he stood beneath the cross-arm
to be pinioned, his legs played him traitor. Those craven knees of his
gave way under him, so that trusties had to hold the weakening ruffian
upright while the executioner snugged the halter about his throat.

On this occasion Uncle Tobe elucidated the creed and the code of his
profession for a reporter who had come all the way down from St. Louis
to report the big hanging for his paper. Having covered the hanging at
length, the reporter stayed over one more day at the Palace Hotel in
Chickaloosa to do a special article, which would be in part a character
sketch and in part a straight interview, on the subject of the hangman.
The article made a full page spread in the Sunday edition of the young
man's paper, and thereby a reputation, which until this time had been
more or less local, was given what approximated a national notoriety.
Through a somewhat general reprinting of what the young man had written,
and what his paper had published, the country at large eventually became
acquainted with an ethical view-point which was already fairly familiar
to nearly every resident in and about Chickaloosa. Reading the
narrative, one living at a distance got an accurate picture of a
personality elevated above the commonplace solely by the rôle which its
owner filled; a picture of an old man thoroughly sincere and thoroughly
conscientious; a man dull, earnest, and capable to his limits; a man who
was neither morbid nor imaginative, but filled with rather a stupid
gravity; a man canny about the pennies and affectionately inclined
toward the dollars; a man honestly imbued with the idea that he was a
public servant performing a necessary public service; a man without
nerves, but in all other essentials a small-town man with a small-town
mind; in short, saw Uncle Tobe as he really was. The reporter did
something else which marked him as a craftsman. Without stating the fact
in words, he nevertheless contrived to create in the lines which he
wrote an atmosphere of self-defence enveloping the old man--or perhaps
the better phrase would be self-extenuation. The reader was made to
perceive that Dramm, being cognizant and mildly resentful of the
attitude in which his own little world held him, by reason of the fatal
work of his hands, sought after a semiapologetic fashion to offer a plea
in abatement of public judgment, to set up a weight of moral evidence in
his own behalf, and behind this in turn, and showing through it, might
be sensed the shy pride of a shy man for labour undertaken with good
motives and creditably performed. With no more than a pardonable
broadening and exaggeration of the other's mode of speech, the reporter
succeeded likewise in reproducing not only the language, but the wistful
intent of what Uncle Tobe said to him. From this interview I propose now
to quote to the extent of a few paragraphs. This is Uncle Tobe
addressing the visiting correspondent:

    "It stands to reason--don't it?--that these here
    sinful men have got to be hung, an' that somebody
    has got to hang 'em. The Good Book says an eye fur
    an eye an' a tooth fur a tooth an' a life fur a
    life. That's perzactly whut it says, an' I'm one
    whut believes the Bible frum kiver to kiver. These
    here boys that they bring in here have broke the
    law of Gawd an' the law of the land, an' they jest
    natchelly got to pay fur their devilment. That's
    so, ain't it? Well, then, that bein' so, I step
    forward an' do the job. Ef they was free men,
    walkin' around like you an' me, I wouldn't lay the
    weight of my little finger on 'em to harm a single
    hair in their haids. Ef they hadn't done nothin'
    ag'in' the law, I'd be the last one to do 'em a
    hurt. I wisht you could make that p'int plain in
    the piece you aim to write, so's folks would
    understand jest how I feel--so's they'd understand
    that I don't bear no gredge ag'inst any livin'
    creature.

    "Ef the job was left to some greenhawn he'd mebbe
    botch it up an' make them boys suffer more'n
    there's any call fur. Sech things have happened, a
    plenty times before now ez you yourself doubtless
    know full well. But I don't botch it up. I ain't
    braggin' none whilst I'm sayin' this to you; I'm
    jest tellin' you. I kin take an oath that I ain't
    never botched up one of these jobs yit, not frum
    the very fust. The warden or Dr. Slattery, the
    prison physician, or anybody round this town that
    knows the full circumstances kin tell you the
    same, ef you ast 'em. You see, son, I ain't never
    nervoused up like some men would be in my place.
    I'm always jest ez ca'm like ez whut you are this
    minute. The way I look at it, I'm jest a chosen
    instrument of the law. I regard it ez a trust that
    I'm called on to perform, on account of me havin' a
    natchel knack in that 'special direction. Some men
    have gifts fur one thing an' some men have gifts
    fur another thing. It would seem this is the
    perticular thing--hangin' men--that I've got a gift
    fur. So, sech bein' the case, I don't worry none
    about it beforehand, nor I don't worry none after
    it's all over with, neither. With me handlin' the
    details the whole thing is over an' done with
    accordin' to the law an' the statutes an' the
    jedgment of the high court in less time than some
    people would take fussin' round, gittin' ready. The
    way I look at it, it's a mercy an' a blessin' to
    all concerned to have somebody in charge that knows
    how to hang a man.

    "Why, it's come to sech a pass that when there's a
    hangin' comin' off anywhere in this part of the
    country they send fur me to be present ez a kind of
    an expert. I've been to hangin's all over this
    State, an' down into Louisiana, an' wunst over into
    Texas in order to give the sheriffs the benefit of
    my experience an' my advice. I make it a rule not
    never to take no money fur doin' sech ez that--only
    my travelin' expenses an' my tavern bills; that's
    all I ever charge 'em. But here in Chickaloosa the
    conditions is different, an' the gover'mint pays me
    seventy-five dollars a hangin'. I figger that it's
    wuth it, too. The Bible says the labourer is worthy
    of his hire. I try to be worthy of the hire I git.
    I certainly aim to earn it--an' I reckin I do earn
    it, takin' everything into consideration--the
    responsibility an' all. Ef there's any folks that
    think I earn my money easy--seventy-five dollars
    fur whut looks like jest a few minutes' work--I'd
    like fur 'em to stop an' think ef they'd consider
    themselves qualified to hang ez many men ez I have
    without never botchin' up a single job."

That was his chief boast, if boasting it might be called--that he never
botched the job. It is the common history of common hangmen, so I've
been told, that they come after a while to be possessed of the devils of
cruelty, and to take pleasure in the exercise of their most grim
calling. If this be true, then surely Uncle Tobe was to all outward
appearances an exception to the rule. Never by word or look or act was
he caught gloating over his victims; always he exhibited a merciful
swiftness in the dread preliminaries and in the act of execution itself.
At the outset he had shown deftness. With frequent practise he grew
defter still. He contrived various devices for expediting the
proceeding. For instance, after prolonged experiments, conducted in
privacy, he evolved a harnesslike arrangement of leather belts and
straps, made all in one piece, and fitted with buckles and snaffles.
With this, in a marvellously brief space, he could bind his man at
elbows and wrists, at knees and ankles, so that in less time almost than
it would take to describe the process, the latter stood upon the trap,
as a shape deprived of motion, fully caparisoned for the end. He fitted
the inner side of the crosspiece of the gallows with pegs upon which the
rope rested, entirely out of sight of him upon whom it was presently to
be used, until the moment when Uncle Tobe, stretching a long arm upward,
brought it down, all reeved and ready. He hit upon the expedient of
slickening the noose parts with yellow bar soap so that it would run
smoothly in the loop and tighten smartly, without undue tugging. He
might have used grease or lard, but soap was tidier, and Uncle Tobe, as
has been set forth, was a tidy man.

After the first few hangings his system began to follow a regular
routine. From somewhere to the west or southwest of Chickaloosa the
deputy marshals would bring in a man consigned to die. The prison
people, taking their charge over from them, would house him in a cell of
a row of cells made doubly tight and doubly strong for such as he; in
due season the warden would notify Uncle Tobe of the date fixed for the
inflicting of the penalty. Four or five days preceding the day, Uncle
Tobe would pay a visit to the prison, timing his arrival so that he
reached there just before the exercise hour for the inmates of a certain
cell-tier. Being admitted, he would climb sundry flights of narrow iron
stairs and pause just outside a crisscrossed door of iron slats while a
turnkey, entering that door and locking it behind him, would open a
smaller door set flat in the wall of damp-looking grey stones and invite
the man caged up inside to come forth for his daily walk. Then, while
the captive paced the length and breadth of the narrow corridor back and
across, to and fro, up and down, with the futile restlessness of a cat
animal in a zoo, his feet clumping on the flagged flooring, and the
watchful turnkey standing by, Uncle Tobe, having flattened his lean form
in a niche behind the outer lattice, with an appraising eye would
consider the shifting figure through a convenient cranny of the wattled
metal strips. He took care to keep himself well back out of view, but
since he stood in shadow while the one he marked so keenly moved in a
flood of daylight filtering down through a skylight in the ceiling of
the cell block, the chances were the prisoner could not have made out
the indistinct form of the stranger anyhow. Five or ten minutes of such
scrutiny of his man was all Uncle Tobe ever desired. In his earlier days
before he took up this present employment, he had been an adept at
guessing the hoof-weight of the beeves and swine in which he dealt.
That early experience stood him in good stead now; he took no credit to
himself for his accuracy in estimating the bulk of a living human being.

Downstairs, on the way out of the place, if by chance he encountered the
warden in his office, the warden, in all likelihood, would say: "Well,
how about it this time, Uncle Tobe?"

And Uncle Tobe would make some such answer as this:

"Well, suh, accordin' to my reckonin' this here one will heft about a
hund'ed an' sixty-five pound, ez he stands now. How's he takin' it,
warden?"

"Oh, so-so."

"He looks to me like he was broodin' a right smart," the expert might
say. "I jedge he ain't relishin' his vittles much, neither. Likely he'll
worry three or four pound more off'n his bones 'twixt now an' Friday
mornin'. He oughter run about one hund'ed an' sixty or mebbe
one-sixty-one by then."

"How much drop do you allow to give him?"

"Don't worry about that, suh," would be the answer given with a
contemplative squint of the placid, pale eye. "I reckin my calculations
won't be very fur out of the way, ef any."

They never were, either.

On the day before the day, he would be a busy man, what with
superintending the fitting together and setting up of the painted
lumber pieces upon which tomorrow's capital tragedy would be played;
and, when this was done to his liking, trying the drop to see that the
boards had not warped, and trying the rope for possible flaws in its
fabric or weave, and proving to his own satisfaction that the mechanism
of the wooden lever which operated to spring the trap worked with an
instantaneous smoothness. To every detail he gave a painstaking
supervision, guarding against all possible contingencies. Regarding the
trustworthiness of the rope he was especially careful. When this
particular hanging was concluded, the scaffold would be taken apart and
stored away for subsequent use, but for each hanging the government
furnished a brand new rope, especially made at a factory in New Orleans
at a cost of eight dollars. The spectators generally cut the rope up
into short lengths after it had fulfilled its ordained purpose, and
carried the pieces away for souvenirs. So always there was a new rope
provided, and its dependability must be ascertained by prolonged and
exhaustive tests before Uncle Tobe would approve of it. Seeing him at
his task, with his coat and waistcoat off, his sleeves rolled back, and
his intent mien, one realised why, as a hangman, he had been a success.
He left absolutely nothing to chance. When he was through with his
experimenting, the possibility of an exhibition of the proneness of
inanimate objects to misbehave in emergencies had been reduced to a
minimum.

Before daylight next morning Uncle Tobe, dressed in sober black, like a
country undertaker, and with his mid-Victorian whiskers all cleansed and
combed, would present himself at his post of duty. He would linger in
the background, an unobtrusive bystander, until the condemned sinner had
gone through the mockery of eating his last breakfast; and, still making
himself inconspicuous during the march to the gallows, would trail at
the very tail of the line, while the short, straggling procession was
winding out through gas-lit murky hallways into the pale dawn-light
slanting over the walls of the gravel-paved, high-fenced compound built
against the outer side of the prison close. He would wait on, always
holding himself discreetly aloof from the middle breadth of the picture,
until the officiating clergyman had done with his sacred offices; would
wait until the white-faced wretch on whose account the government was
making all this pother and taking all this trouble, had mumbled his
farewell words this side of eternity; would continue to wait, very
patiently, indeed, until the warden nodded to him. Then, with his
trussing harness tucked under his arm, and the black cap neatly folded
and bestowed in a handy side-pocket of his coat, Uncle Tobe would
advance forward, and laying a kindly, almost a paternal hand upon the
shoulder of the man who must die, would steer him to a certain spot in
the centre of the platform, just beneath a heavy cross-beam. There
would follow a quick shifting of the big, gnarled hands over the
unresisting body of the doomed man, and almost instantly, so it seemed
to those who watched, all was in order: the arms of the murderer drawn
rearward and pressed in close against his ribs by a broad girth
encircling his trunk at the elbows, his wrists caught together in
buckled leather cuffs behind his back; his knees and his ankles fast in
leathern loops which joined to the rest of the apparatus by means of a
transverse strap drawn tautly down the length of his legs, at the back;
the black-cloth head-bag with its peaked crown in place; the noose
fitted; the hobbled and hooded shape perhaps swaying a trifle this way
and that; and Uncle Tobe on his tiptoes stepping swiftly over to a
tilted wooden lever which projected out and upward through the planked
floor, like the handle of a steering oar.

It was at this point that the timorous-hearted among the witnesses
turned their heads away. Those who were more resolute--or as the case
might be, more morbid--and who continued to look, were made aware of a
freak of physics which in accord, I suppose, with the laws of
horizontals and parallels decrees that a man cut off short from life by
quick and violent means and fallen prone upon the earth, seems to shrink
up within himself and to grow shorter in body and in sprawling limb,
whereas one hanged with a rope by the neck has the semblance of
stretching out to unseemly and unhuman lengths all the while that he
dangles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having repossessed himself of his leather cinches, Uncle Tobe would
presently depart for his home, stopping _en route_ at the Chickaloosa
National Bank to deposit the greater part of the seventy-five dollars
which the warden, as representative of a satisfied Federal government,
had paid him, cash down on the spot. To his credit in the bank the old
man had a considerable sum, all earned after this mode, and all drawing
interest at the legal rate. On his arrival at his home, Mr. Dramm would
first of all have his breakfast. This over, he would open the second
drawer of an old black-walnut bureau, and from under a carefully folded
pile of spare undergarments would withdraw a small, cheap book, bound in
imitation red leather, and bearing the word "Accounts" in faded script
upon the cover. On a clean, blue-lined page of the book, in a cramped
handwriting, he would write in ink, the name, age, height, and weight of
the man he had just despatched out of life; also the hour and minute
when the drop fell, the time elapsing before the surgeons pronounced the
man dead; the disposition which had been made of the body, and any other
data which seemed to him pertinent to the record. Invariably he
concluded the entry thus: "Neck was broke by the fall. Everything passed
off smooth." From his first time of service he had never failed to make
such notations following a hanging, he being in this, as in all things,
methodical and exact.

The rest of the day, in all probabilities, would be given to small
devices of his own. If the season suited he might work in his little
truck garden at the back of the house, or if it were the fall of the
year he might go rabbit hunting; then again he might go for a walk. When
the evening paper came--Chickaloosa had two papers, a morning paper and
an evening paper--he would read through the account given of the event
at the prison, and would pencil any material errors which had crept into
the reporter's story, and then he would clip out the article and file it
away with a sheaf of similar clippings in the same bureau drawer where
he kept his account-book and his underclothing. This done he would eat
his supper, afterward washing and wiping the supper dishes and,
presently bedtime for him having arrived, he would go to bed and sleep
very soundly and very peacefully all night. Sometimes his heart trouble
brought on smothering spells which woke him up. He rarely had dreams,
and never any dreams unpleasantly associated with his avocation.
Probably never was there a man blessed with less of an imagination than
this same Tobias Dramm. It seemed almost providential, considering the
calling he followed, that he altogether lacked the faculty of
introspection, so that neither his memory nor his conscience ever
troubled him.

Thus far I have made no mention of his household, and for the very good
reason that he had none. In his youth he had not married. The forked
tongue of town slander had it that he was too stingy to support a wife,
and on top of that expense, to run the risk of having children to rear.
He had no close kindred excepting a distant cousin or two in
Chickaloosa. He kept no servant, and for this there was a double cause.
First, his parsimonious instincts; second, the fact that for love or
money no negro would minister to him, and in this community negroes were
the only household servants to be had. Among the darkies there was
current a belief that at dead of night he dug up the bodies of those he
had hanged and peddled the cadavers to the "student doctors." They said
he was in active partnership with the devil; they said the devil took
over the souls of his victims, paying therefor in red-hot dollars, after
the hangman was done with their bodies. The belief of the negroes that
this unholy traffic existed amounted with them to a profound conviction.
They held Mr. Dramm in an awesome and horrified veneration, bowing to
him most respectfully when they met him, and then sidling off hurriedly.
It would have taken strong horses to drag any black-skinned resident of
Chickaloosa to the portals of the little three-roomed frame cottage in
the outskirts of the town which Uncle Tobe tenanted. Therefore he lived
by himself, doing his own skimpy marketing and his own simple
housekeeping. Loneliness was a part of the penalty he paid for following
the calling of a gallowsmith.

Among members of his own race he had no close friends. For the most part
the white people did not exactly shun him, but, as the saying goes in
the Southwest, they let him be. They were well content to enshrine him
as a local celebrity, and ready enough to point him out to visitors, but
by an unwritten communal law the line was drawn there. He was as one set
apart for certain necessary undertakings, and yet denied the intimacy of
his kind because he performed them acceptably. If his aloof and solitary
state ever distressed him, at least he gave no outward sign of it, but
went his uncomplaining way, bearing himself with a homely, silent
dignity, and enveloped in those invisible garments of superstition which
local prejudice and local ignorance had conjured up.

Ready as he was when occasion suited, to justify his avocation in the
terms of that same explanation which he had given to the young reporter
from St. Louis that time, and greatly though he may have craved to gain
the good-will of his fellow citizens, he was never known openly to rebel
against his lot. The nearest he ever came to doing this was once when he
met upon the street a woman of his acquaintance who had suffered a
recent bereavement in the death of her only daughter. He approached her,
offering awkward condolences, and at once was moved to a further
expression of his sympathy for her in her great loss by trying to shake
her hand. At the touch of his fingers to hers the woman, already in a
mood of grief bordering on hysteria, shrank back screaming out that his
hand smelled of the soap with which he coated his gallows-nooses. She
ran away from him, crying out as she ran, that he was accursed; that he
was marked with that awful smell and could not rid himself of it. To
those who had witnessed this scene the hangman, with rather an injured
and bewildered air, made explanation. The poor woman, he said, was
wrong; although in a way of speaking she was right, too. He did, indeed,
use the same yellow bar soap for washing his hands that he used for
anointing his ropes. It was a good soap, and cheap; he had used the same
brand regularly for years in cleansing his hands. Since it answered the
first purpose so well, what possible harm could there be in slicking the
noose of the rope with it when he was called upon to conduct one of his
jobs over up at the prison? Apparently he was at a loss to fathom the
looks they cast at him when he had finished with this statement and had
asked this question. He began a protest, but broke off quickly and went
away shaking his head as though puzzled that ordinarily sane folks
should be so squeamish and so unreasonable. But he kept on using the
soap as before.

       *       *       *       *       *

Until now this narrative has been largely preamble. The real story
follows. It concerns itself with the birth of an imagination.

In his day Uncle Tobe hanged all sorts and conditions of men--men who
kept on vainly hoping against hope for an eleventh-hour reprieve long
after the last chance of reprieve had vanished, and who on the gallows
begged piteously for five minutes, for two minutes, for one minute more
of precious grace; negroes gone drunk on religious exhortation who died
in a frenzy, sure of salvation, and shouting out halleluiahs; Indians
upborne and stayed by a racial stoicism; Chinamen casting stolid,
slant-eyed glances over the rim of the void before them and filled with
the calmness of the fatalist who believes that whatever is to be, is to
be; white men upon whom at the last, when all prospect of intervention
was gone, a mental numbness mercifully descended with the result that
they came to the rope's embrace like men in a walking coma, with glazed,
unseeing eyes, and dragging feet; other white men who summoned up a
mockery of bravado and uttered poor jests from between lips drawn back
in defiant sneering as they gave themselves over to the hangman, so that
only Uncle Tobe, feeling their flesh crawling under their grave-clothes
as he tied them up, knew a hideous terror berode their bodies. At
length, in the tenth year of his career as a paid executioner he was
called upon to visit his professional attentions upon a man different
from any of those who had gone down the same dread chute.

The man in question was a train-bandit popularly known as the Lone-Hand
Kid, because always he conducted his nefarious operations without
confederates. He was a squat, dark ruffian, as malignant as a moccasin
snake, and as dangerous as one. He was filthy in speech and vile in
habit, being in his person most unpicturesque and most unwholesome, and
altogether seemed a creature more viper than he was man. The sheriffs of
two border States and the officials of a contiguous reservation sought
for him many times, long and diligently, before a posse overcame him in
the hills by over-powering odds and took him alive at the cost of two of
its members killed outright and a third badly crippled. So soon as
surgeons plugged up the holes in his hide which members of the vengeful
posse shot into him after they had him surrounded and before his
ammunition gave out, he was brought to bar to answer for the unprovoked
murder of a postal clerk on a transcontinental limited. No time was
wasted in hurrying his trial through to its conclusion; it was felt that
there was crying need to make an example of this red-handed desperado.
Having been convicted with commendable celerity, the Lone-Hand Kid was
transferred to Chickaloosa and strongly confined there against the day
of Uncle Tobe's ministrations upon him.

From the very hour that the prosecution was started, the Lone-Hand Kid,
whose real name was the prosaic name of Smith, objected strongly to this
procedure which in certain circles is known as "railroading." He
insisted that he was being legally expedited out of life on his record
and not on the evidence. There were plenty of killings for any one of
which he might have been tried and very probably found guilty, but he
reckoned it a profound injustice that he should be indicted, tried, and
condemned for a killing he had not committed. By his code he would not
have rebelled strongly against being punished for the evil things he
himself had done; he did dislike, though, being hanged for something
some rival hold-up man had done. Such was his contention, and he
reiterated it with a persistence which went far toward convincing some
people that after all there might be something in what he said, although
among honest men there was no doubt whatsoever that the world would be a
sweeter and a healthier place to live in with the Lone-Hand Kid entirely
translated out of it.

Having been dealt with, as he viewed the matter, most unfairly, the
condemned killer sullenly refused to make submission to his appointed
destiny. On the car journey up to Chickaloosa, although still weak from
his wounds and securely ironed besides, he made two separate efforts to
assault his guards. In his cell, a few days later, he attacked a turnkey
in pure wantonness seemingly, since even with the turnkey eliminated,
there still was no earthly prospect for him to escape from the steel
strong-box which enclosed him. That was what it truly was, too, a
strong-box, for the storing of many living pledges held as surety for
the peace and good order of the land. Of all these human collaterals who
were penned up there with him, he, for the time being, was most precious
in the eyes of the law. Therefore the law took no chance of losing him,
and this he must have known when he maimed his keeper.

After this outbreak he was treated as a vicious wild beast, which,
undoubtedly, was exactly what he was. He was chained by his ankles to
his bed, and his food was shoved in to him through the bars by a man who
kept himself at all times well out of reach of the tethered prisoner.
Having been rendered helpless, he swore then that when finally they
unbarred his cell door and sought to fetch him forth to garb him for his
journey to the gallows, he would fight them with his teeth and his bare
hands for so long as he had left an ounce of strength with which to
fight. Bodily force would then be the only argument remaining to him by
means of which he might express his protest, and he told all who cared
to listen that most certainly he meant to invoke it.

There was a code of decorum which governed the hangings at Chickaloosa,
and the resident authorities dreaded mightily the prospect of having it
profaned by spiteful and unmannerly behaviour on the part of the
Lone-Hand Kid. There was said to be in all the world just one living
creature for whom the rebellious captive entertained love and respect,
and this person was his half-sister. With the good name of his prison at
heart, the warden put up the money that paid her fare from her home down
in the Indian Territory. Two days before the execution she arrived, a
slab-sided, shabby drudge of a woman. Having first been primed and
prompted for her part, she was sent to him, and in his cell she wept
over the fettered prisoner, and with him she pleaded until he promised
her, reluctantly, he would make no physical struggle on being led out to
die.

He kept his word, too; but it was to develop that the pledge of
non-resistance, making his body passive to the will of his jailers, did
not, according to the Lone-Hand Kid's sense of honour, include the
muscles of his tongue. His hour came at sunup of a clear, crisp, October
morning, when a rime of frost made a silver carpet upon the boarded
floor of the scaffold, and in the east the heavens glowed an irate red,
like the reflections of a distant bale-fire. From his cell door before
the head warder summoned him forth, he drove away with terrible oaths
the clergyman who had come to offer him religious consolation. At
daylight, when the first beams of young sunlight were stealing in at the
slitted windows to streak the whitewashed wall behind him with a barred
pattern of red, like brush strokes of fresh paint, he ate his last
breakfast with foul words between bites, and outside, a little later, in
the shadow of the crosstree from which shortly he would dangle in the
article of death, a stark offence before the sight of mortal eyes, he
halted and stood reviling all who had a hand in furthering and
compassing his condemnation. Profaning the name of his Maker with every
breath, he cursed the President of the United States who had declined to
reprieve him, the justices of the high court who had denied his appeal
from the verdict of the lower, the judge who had tried him, the district
attorney who had prosecuted him, the grand jurors who had indicted him,
the petit jurors who had voted to convict him, the witnesses who had
testified against him, the posse men who had trapped him, consigning
them all and singly to everlasting damnation. Before this pouring flood
of blasphemy the minister, who had followed him up the gallows steps in
the vain hope that when the end came some faint sign of contrition might
be vouchsafed by this poor lost soul, hid his face in his hands as
though fearing an offended Deity would send a bolt from on high to
blast all who had been witnesses to such impiety and such impenitence.

The indignant warden moved to cut short this lamentable spectacle. He
signed with his hand for Uncle Tobe to make haste, and Uncle Tobe,
obeying, stepped forward from where he had been waiting in the rear rank
of the shocked spectators. Upon him the defiant ruffian turned the
forces of his sulfurous hate, full-gush. First over one shoulder and
then over the other as the executioner worked with swift fingers to bind
him into a rigid parcel of a man, he uttered what was both a dreadful
threat and a yet more dreadful promise.

"I ain't blamin' these other folks here," he proclaimed. "Some of 'em
are here because it's their duty to be here, an' ef these others kin git
pleasure out of seem' a man croaked that ain't afeared of bein' croaked,
they're welcome to enjoy the free show, so fur ez I'm concerned. But
you--you stingy, white-whiskered old snake!--you're doin' this fur the
little piece of dirty money that's in it fur you.

"Listen to me, you dog: I know I'm headin' straight fur hell, an' I
ain't skeered to go, neither. But I ain't goin' to stay there. I'm
comin' back fur you! I'm comin' back this very night to git you an' take
your old, withered, black soul back down to hell with me. No need fur
you to try to hide. Wharever you hide I'll seek you out. You can't git
away frum me. You kin lock your door an' you kin lock your winder, an'
you kin hide your head under the bedclothes, but I'll find you wharever
you are, remember that! An' you're goin' back down there with me!

"Now go ahead an' hang me--I'm all set fur it ef you are!"

Through this harangue Uncle Tobe worked on, outwardly composed. Whatever
his innermost emotions may have been, his expression gave no hint that
the mouthings of the Lone-Hand Kid had sunk in. He drew the peaked black
sack down across the swollen face, hiding the glaring eyes and the lips
that snarled. He brought the rope forward over the cloaked head and drew
the noose in tautly, with the knot adjusted to fit snugly just under the
left ear, so that the hood took on the semblance of a well-filled,
inverted bag with its puckered end fluting out in the effect of a dark
ruff upon the hunched shoulders of its wearer. Stepping back, he gripped
the handle of the lever-bar, and with all his strength jerked it toward
him. A square in the floor opened as the trap was flapped back upon its
hinges, and through the opening the haltered form shot straight downward
to bring up with a great jerk, and after that to dangle like a plumb-bob
on a string. Under the quick strain the gallows-arm creaked and whined;
in the silence which followed the hangman was heard to exhale his breath
in a vast puff of relief. His hand went up to his forehead to wipe
beads of sweat which for all that the morning was cool almost to
coldness, had suddenly popped out through his skin. He for one was
mighty glad the thing was done, and, as he in this moment figured, well
done.

But for once and once only as those saw who had the hardihood to look,
Uncle Tobe had botched up a job. Perhaps it was because of his great
haste to make an end of a scandalous scene; perhaps because the tirade
of the bound malefactor had discomfited him and made his fingers fumble
this one time at their familiar task. Whatever the cause, it was plainly
enough to be seen that the heavy knot had not cracked the Lone-Hand
Kid's spine. The noose, as was ascertained later, had caught on the edge
of the broad jawbone, and the man, instead of dying instantly, was
strangling to death by degrees and with much struggling.

In the next half minute a thing even more grievous befell. The broad
strap which girthed the murderer's trunk just above the bend of the
elbows, held fast, but the rest of the harness, having been improperly
snaffled on, loosened and fell away from the twitching limbs so that as
the elongated body twisted to and fro in half circles, the lower arms
winnowed the air in foreshortened and contorted flappings, and the freed
legs drew up and down convulsively.

Very naturally, Uncle Tobe was chagrined; perhaps he had hidden within
him emotions deeper than those bred of a personal mortification. At any
rate, after a quick, distressed glance through the trap at the writhing
shape of agony below, he turned his eyes from it and looked steadfastly
at the high wall facing him. It chanced to be the western wall, which
was bathed in a ruddy glare where the shafts of the upcoming sun,
lifting over the panels at the opposite side of the fenced enclosure,
began to fall diagonally upon the whitewashed surface just across. And
now, against that glowing plane of background opposite him, there
appeared as he looked the slanted shadow of a swaying rope framed in at
right and at left by two broader, deeper lines which were the shadows
marking the timber uprights that supported the scaffold at its nearer
corners; and also there appeared, midway between the framing shadows,
down at the lower end of the slender line of the cord, an exaggerated,
wriggling manifestation like the reflection of a huge and misshapen
jumping-jack, which first would lengthen itself grotesquely, and then
abruptly would shorten up, as the tremors running through the dying
man's frame altered the silhouette cast by the oblique sunbeams; and
along with this stencilled vision, as a part of it, occurred shifting
shadow movements of two legs dancing busily on nothing, and of two
foreshortened arms, flapping up and down. It was no pretty picture to
look upon, yet Uncle Tobe, plucking with a tremulous hand at the ends of
his beard, continued to stare at the apparition, daunted and
fascinated. To him it must have seemed as though the Lone-Hand Kid, with
a malignant pertinacity which lingered on in him after by rights the
last breath should have been squeezed out of his wretched carcass, was
painting upon those tall planks the picture and the presentiment of his
farewell threat.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nearly half an hour passed before the surgeons consented that the body
should be taken down and boxed. His harness which had failed him having
been returned to its owner, he made it up into a compact bundle and
collected his regular fee and went away very quietly. Ordinarily,
following his habitual routine, he would have gone across town to his
little house; would have washed his hands with a bar of the yellow
laundry soap; would have cooked and eaten his breakfast, and then, after
tidying up the kitchen, would have made the customary entry in his
red-backed account-book. But this morning he seemed to have no appetite,
and besides, he felt an unaccountable distaste for his home, with its
silence and its emptiness. Somehow he much preferred the open air, with
the skies over him and wide reaches of space about him; which was doubly
strange, seeing that he was no lover of nature, but always theretofore
had accepted sky and grass and trees as matters of course--things as
inevitable and commonplace as the weathers and the winds.

Throughout the day and until well on toward night he was beset by a
curious, uncommon restlessness which made it hard for him to linger long
in any one spot. He idled about the streets of the town; twice he
wandered aimlessly miles out along roads beyond the town. All the while,
without cessation, there was a tugging and nagging at his nerve-ends, a
constant inward irritation which laid a hold on his thoughts, twitching
them off into unpleasant channels. It kept him from centering his
interest upon the casual things about him; inevitably it turned his mind
back to inner contemplations. The sensation was mental largely, but it
seemed so nearly akin to the physical that to himself Uncle Tobe
diagnosed it as the after-result of a wrench for his weak heart. You
see, never before having experienced the reactions of a suddenly
quickened imagination, he, naturally, was at a loss to account for it on
any other ground.

Also he was weighted down by an intense depression that his clean record
of ten years should have been marred by a mishap; this regret,
constantly recurring in his thoughts, served to make him unduly
sensitive. He had a feeling that people stared hard at him as they
passed and, after he had gone by, that they turned to stare at him some
more. Under this scrutiny he gave no sign of displeasure, but inwardly
he resented it. Of course these folks had heard of what had happened up
at the prison, and no doubt among themselves would be commenting upon
the tragedy and gossiping about it. Well, any man was liable to make a
slip once; nobody was perfect. It would never happen again; he was sure
of that much.

All day he mooned about, a brooding, uneasy figure, speaking to scarcely
any one at all, but followed wherever he went by curious eyes. It was
late in the afternoon before it occurred to him that he had eaten
nothing all day, and that he had failed to deposit the money he had
earned that morning. It would be too late now to get into the bank; the
bank, which opened early, closed at three o'clock. To-morrow would do as
well. Although he had no zest for food despite his fast, he figured
maybe it was the long abstinence which was filling his head with such
flighty notions, so he entered a small, smelly lunch-room near the
railroad station, and made a pretense of eating an order of ham and
eggs. He tried not to notice that the black waiter who served him shrank
away from his proximity, shying off like a breechy colt, from the table
where Uncle Tobe sat, whenever his business brought him into that part
of the place. What difference did a fool darky's fears make, anyway?

Dusk impended when he found himself approaching his three-room house,
looming up as a black oblong, where it stood aloof from its neighbours,
with vacant lands about it. The house faced north and south. On the
nearer edge of the unfenced common, which extended up to it on the
eastern side, he noted as he drew close that somebody--perhaps a boy, or
more probably a group of boys--had made a bonfire of fallen autumn
leaves and brushwood. Going away as evening came, they had left their
bonfire to burn itself out. The smouldering pile was almost under his
bedroom window. He regretted rather that the boys had gone; an urgent
longing for human companionship of some sort, however remote--a yearning
he had never before felt with such acuteness--was upon him. Tormented,
as he still was, by strange vagaries, he had almost to force himself to
unlock the front door and cross the threshold into the gloomy interior
of his cottage. But before entering, and while he yet wrestled with a
vague desire to retrace his steps and go back down the street, he
stooped and picked up his copy of the afternoon paper which the carrier,
with true carrierlike accuracy, had flung upon the narrow front porch.

Inside the house, the floor gave off sharp little sounds, the warped
floor squeaking and wheezing under the weight of his tread.
Subconsciously, this irritated him; a lot of causes were combining to
harass him, it seemed; there was a general conspiracy on the part of
objects animate and inanimate to make him--well, suspicious. And Uncle
Tobe was not given to nervousness, which made it worse. He was ashamed
of himself that he should be in such state. Glancing about him in a
furtive, almost in an apprehensive way, he crossed the front room to the
middle room, which was his bed chamber, the kitchen being the room at
the rear. In the middle room he lit a coal-oil lamp which stood upon a
small centre table. Alongside the table he opened out the paper and
glanced at a caption running half-way across the top of the front page;
then, fretfully he crumpled up the printed sheet in his hand and let it
fall upon the floor. He had no desire to read the account of his one
failure. Why should the editor dwell at such length and with so prodigal
a display of black head-line type upon this one bungled job when every
other job of all the jobs that had gone before, had been successful in
every detail? Let's see, now, how many men had he hanged with precision
and with speed and with never an accident to mar the proceedings? A
long, martialed array of names came trooping into his brain, and along
with the names the memories of the faces of all those dead men to whom
the names had belonged. The faces began to pass before him in a mental
procession. This wouldn't do. Since there were no such things as ghosts
or haunts; since, as all sensible men agreed, the dead never came back
from the grave, it was a foolish thing for him to be creating those
unpleasant images in his mind. He shook his head to clear it of
recollections which were the better forgotten. He shook it again and
again.

He would get to bed; a good night's rest would make him feel better and
more natural. It was an excellent idea--this idea of sleep. So he raised
the bottommost half of the curtain-less side window for air, drew down
the shade by the string suspended from its lower cross breadth, until
the lower edge of the shade came even with the window sash, and
undressed himself to his undergarments. He was about to blow out the
light when he remembered he had left the money that was the price of his
morning's work in his trousers which hung, neatly folded, across the
back of a chair by the centre table. He was in the act of withdrawing
the bills from the bottom of one of the trouser-pockets when right at
his feet there was a quick, queer sound of rustling. As he glared down,
startled, out from under the crumpled newspaper came timorously creeping
a half-grown, sickly looking rat, minus its tail, having lost its tail
in a trap, perhaps, or possibly in a battle with other rats.

At best a rat is no pleasant bedroom companion, and besides, Uncle Tobe
had been seriously annoyed. He kicked out with one of his bare feet,
taking the rat squarely in its side as it scurried for its hole in the
wainscoting. He hurt it badly. It landed with a thump ten feet away and
sprawled out on the floor kicking and squealing feebly. Holding the wad
of bills in his left hand, with his right Uncle Tobe deftly plucked up
the crushed vermin by the loose fold of skin at the nape of its neck,
and with a quick flirt of his arm tossed it sidewise from him to cast it
out of the half-opened window. He returned to the table and bent over
and blew down the lamp chimney, and in the darkness felt his way across
the room to his bed. He stretched himself full length upon it, drew the
cotton comforter up to cover him, and shoved the money under the pillow.

His fingers were relaxing their grip on the bills when he saw
something--something which instantly turned him stiff and rigid and
deathly cold all over, leaving him without will-power or strength to
move his head or shift his gaze. Over the white, plastered wall
alongside his bed an unearthly red glow sprang up, turning a deeper,
angrier red as it spread and widened. Against this background next stood
out two perpendicular masses like the broad shadows of uprights--like
the supporting uprights of a gallows, say--and in the squared space of
brightness thus marked off, depending midway from the shadow crossing it
at right angles at the top, appeared a filmy, fine line, which
undoubtedly was the shadow of a cord, and at the end of the cord dangled
a veritable jumping-jack of a silhouette, turning and writhing and
jerking, with a shape which in one breath grotesquely lengthened and in
the next shrank up to half its former dimensions, which kicked out with
indistinct movements of its lower extremities, which flapped with
foreshortened strokes of the shadowy upper limbs, which altogether so
contorted itself as to form the likeness of a thing all out of
perspective, all out of proportion, and all most horribly reminiscent.

       *       *       *       *       *

A heart with valves already weakened by a chronic affection can stand
just so many shocks in a given time and no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

A short time later in this same night, at about eight-forty-five
o'clock, to be exact, a man who lived on the opposite side of the
unfenced common gave the alarm of fire over the telephone. The
Chickaloosa fire engine and hose reels came at once, and with the
machines numerous citizens.

In a way of speaking, it turned out to be a false alarm. A bonfire of
leaves and brush, abandoned at dusk by the boys who kindled it, had,
after smouldering a while, sprung up briskly and, flaming high, was now
scorching the clap-boarded side of the Dramm house.

There was no need for the firemen to uncouple a line of hose from the
reel. While two of them made shift to get retorts of a patent
extinguisher from the truck, two more, wondering why Uncle Tobe, even if
in bed and asleep at so early an hour, had not been aroused by the
noise of the crowd's coming, knocked at his front door. There being no
response from within at once, they suspected something must be amiss.
With heaves of their shoulders they forced the door off its hinges, and
entering in company, they groped their passage through the empty front
room into the bedroom behind it, which was lighted after a fashion by
the reflection from the mounting flames without.

The tenant was in bed; he lay on his side with his face turned to the
wall; he made no answer to their hails. When they bent over him they
knew why. No need to touch him, then, with that look on his face and
that stare out of his popped eyes. He was dead, all right enough; but
plainly had not been dead long; not more than a few minutes, apparently.
One of his hands was shoved up under his pillow with the fingers
touching a small roll containing seven ten-dollar bills and one
five-dollar bill; the other hand still gripped a fold of the coverlet as
though the fatal stroke had come upon the old man as he lifted the
bedclothing to draw it up over his face. These incidental facts were
noted down later after the coroner had been called to take charge; they
were the subject of considerable comment next day when the inquest took
place. The coroner was of the opinion that the old man had been killed
by a heart seizure, and that he had died on the instant the attack came.

However, this speculation had no part in the thoughts of the two
startled firemen at the moment of the finding of the body. What most
interested them, next only to the discovery of the presence of the dead
man there in the same room with them, was a queer combination of shadows
which played up and down against the wall beyond the bed, it being
plainly visible in the glare of the small conflagration just outside.

With one accord they turned about, and then they saw the cause of the
phenomenon, and realised that it was not very much of a phenomenon after
all, although unusual enough to constitute a rather curious
circumstance. A crippled, tailless rat had somehow entangled its neck in
a loop at the end of the dangling cord of the half-drawn shade at the
side window on the opposite side of the room and, being too weak to
wriggle free, was still hanging there, jerking and kicking, midway of
the window opening. The glow of the pile of burning leaves and brush
behind and beyond it, brought out its black outlines with remarkable
clearness.

The patterned shadow upon the wall, though, disappeared in the same
instant that the men outside began spraying their chemical compound from
the two extinguishers upon the ambitious bonfire to douse it out, and
one of the firemen slapped the rat down to the floor and killed it with
a stamp of his foot.



CHAPTER II

THE BROKEN SHOELACE


I

In the aching, baking middle of a sizzling New York's summer, there
befell New York's regular "crime wave." When the city is a brazen
skillet, whereon mankind, assailed by the sun from above and by the
stored-up heat from below, fries on both sides like an egg; when nerves
are worn to frazzle-ends; when men and women, suffocating by tedious
degrees in the packed and steaming tenements, lie there and curse the
day they were born--then comes the annual "crime wave," as the papers
love to name it. In truth the papers make it first and then they name
it. Misdeeds of great and small degree are ranged together and displayed
in parallel columns as common symptoms of a high tide of violence, a
perfect ground swell of lawlessness. To a city editor the scope of a
crime wave is as elastic a thing as a hot weather "story," when under
the heading of Heat Prostrations are listed all who fall in the streets,
stricken by whatsoever cause. This is done as a sop to local pride,
proving New York to be a deadlier spot in summer than Chicago or St.
Louis.

True enough, in such a season, people do have shorter tempers than at
other times; they come to blows on small provocation and come to words
on still less. So maybe there was a real "crime wave," making men
bloody-minded and homicidal. Be that as it may, the thing reached its
apogee in the murder of old Steinway, the so-called millionnaire miser
of Murray Hill, he being called a millionnaire because he had money, and
a miser because he saved it.

It was in mid-August that the aged Steinway was choked to death in his
rubbishy old house in East Thirty-ninth Street, where by the current
rumour of the neighbourhood, he kept large sums in cash. Suspicion fell
upon the recluse's nephew, one Maxwell, who vanished with the discovery
of the murder.

The police compiled and widely circulated a description of the suspect,
his looks, manners, habits and peculiarities; and certain distant
relatives and presumptive heirs of the dead man came forward promptly,
offering a lump sum in cash for his capture, living; but all this labour
was without reward. The fugitive went uncaptured, while the summer
dragged on to its end, burning up in the fiery furnace of its own heat.

For one dweller of the city--and he, I may tell you, is the central
figure in this story--it dragged on with particular slowness. Judson
Green, the hero of our tale--if it has any hero--was a young man of some
wealth and more leisure. Also he was a young man of theories. For
example, he had a theory that around every corner of every great city
romance lurked, ready for some one to come and find it. True, he never
had found it, but that, he insisted, was because he hadn't looked for
it; it was there all right, waiting to be flushed, like a quail from a
covert.

Voicing this belief over a drink at a club, on an evening in June, he
had been challenged promptly by one of those argumentative persons who
invariably disagree with every proposition as a matter of principle, and
for the sake of the debate.

"All rot, Green," the other man had said. "Just plain rot. Adventure's
not a thing that you find yourself. It's something that comes and finds
you--once in a life-time. I'll bet that in three months of trying you
couldn't, to save your life, have a real adventure in this town--I mean
an adventure out of the ordinary. Elopements and automobile smash-ups
are barred."

"How much will you bet?" asked Judson Green.

"A hundred," said the other man, whose name was Wainwright.

Reaching with one hand for his fountain pen, Judson Green beckoned a
waiter with the other and told him to bring a couple of blank checks.


II

So that was how it had started, and that was why Judson Green had spent
the summer in New York instead of running away to the north woods or the
New England shore, as nearly everybody he knew did. Diligently had he
sought to win that hundred dollars of the contentious Wainwright;
diligently had he ranged from one end of New York to the other, seeking
queer people and queer things--seeking anything that might properly be
said to constitute adventure. Sometimes a mildly interested and mildly
satirical friend accompanied him; oftener he went alone, an earnest and
determined young man. Yet, whether with company or without it, his luck
uniformly was poor. The founts of casual adventure had, it seemed, run
stone dry; such weather was enough to dry up anything.

Yet he had faithfully tried all those formulas which in the past were
supposed to have served the turns of those seeking adventure in a great
city. There was the trick of bestowing a thousand-dollar bill upon a
chance vagrant and then trailing after the recipient to note what
happened to him, in his efforts to change the bill. Heretofore, in
fiction at least, the following of this plan had invariably brought
forth most beautiful results. Accordingly, Judson Green tried it.

He tried it at Coney Island one July evening. He chose Coney Island
deliberately, because of all the places under the sun, Coney Island is
pre-eminently the home and haunt of the North American dime. At Coney, a
dime will buy almost anything except what a half-dime will buy. On Surf
Avenue, then, which is Coney's Greatest Common Divisor, he strolled back
and forth, looking for one of an aspect suitable for this experiment.
Mountain gorges of painted canvas and sheet-tin towered above him;
palace pinnacles of lath and plaster speared the sky; the moist salt
air, blowing in from the adjacent sea, was enriched with dust and with
smells of hot sausages and fried crabs, and was shattered by the bray of
bagpipes, the exact and mechanical melodies of steam organs, and the
insistent, compelling, never-dying blat of the spieler, the barker and
the ballyhoo. Also there were perhaps a hundred thousand other smells
and noises, did one care to take the time and trouble to classify them.
And here the very man he sought to find, found him.

There came to him, seeking alms, one who was a thing of shreds and
patches and broken shoes. His rags seemed to adhere to him by the power
of cohesive friction rather than by any visible attachments; it might
have been years since he had a hat that had a brim. It was in the faint
and hungered whine of the professional that he asked for the money to
buy one cup of coffee; yet as he spoke, his breath had the rich
alcoholic fragrance of a hot plum pudding with brandy sauce.

The beggar made his plea and, with a dirty palm outstretched, waited in
patient suppliance. He sustained the surprise of his whole panhandling
life. He was handed a new, uncreased one-thousand-dollar bill. He was
told that he must undertake to change the bill and spend small
fractional parts of it. Succeeding here, he should have five per cent of
it for his own. As Judson Green impressed these details upon the ragged
vagrant's dazed understanding, he edged closer and closer to his man,
ready to cut off any sudden attempt at flight.

The precaution was entirely unnecessary. Perhaps it was because this
particular panhandler had the honour of his profession--in moments of
confidence he might have told you, with some pride, that he was no
thief. Or possibly the possession of such unheard-of wealth crippled his
powers of imagination. There are people who are made financially
embarrassed by having no money at all, but more who are made so by
having too much. Our most expensive hotels are full of whole families
who, having become unexpectedly and abruptly wealthy, are now suffering
from this painful form of financial embarrassment; they wish to disburse
large sums freely and gracefully, and they don't know how. They lack the
requisite training. In a way of speaking, this mendicant of Coney Island
was perhaps of this class. With his jaw lolling, he looked at the
stranger dubiously, uncertainly, suspiciously, meanwhile studying the
stranger's yellow-back.

"You want me to git this here bill changed?" he said dully.

"That is the idea," said Judson Green, patiently. "You are to take it
and change it--and I will trail behind you to see what happens. I'm
merely making an experiment, with your help, and I'm willing to pay for
it."

"This money ain't counterfeit?" inquired the raggedy one. "This ain't no
game to git me in bad?"

"Well, isn't it worth taking a chance on?" cross-fired Green. The
pimpled expanse of face lost some of its doubt, and the owner of the
face fetched a deep breath.

"You're on," he decided. "Where'bouts'll I start?"

"Anywhere you please," Judson Green told him. "You said you were
hungry--that for two days you hadn't eaten a bite?"

"Aw, boss, that was part of the spiel," he confessed frankly. "Right now
I'm that full of beef stew I couldn't hold another bite."

"Well, how about a drink? A long, cool glass of beer, say? Or anything
you please."

The temporary custodian of the one-thousand-dollar bill mentally
considered this pleasing project; his bleared eye glinted brighter.

"Naw," he said, "not jist yit. If it's all the same to you, boss, I'll
wait until I gits a good thirst on me. I think I'll go into that show
yonder, to start on." He pointed a finger towards a near-by amusement
enterprise. This institution had opened years before as "The Galveston
Flood." Then, with some small scenic changes, it had become "The Mount
Pelee Disaster," warranted historically correct in all details; now it
was "The Messina Earthquake," no less. Its red and gold gullet of an
entrance yawned hungrily, not twenty yards from where they stood.

"Go ahead," ordered Judson Green, confirming the choice with a nod. "And
remember, my friend, I will be right behind you."

Nothing, however, seemed further from the panhandler's thoughts than
flight. His rags fluttered freely in the evening air and his sole-less
shoes flopped up and down upon his feet, rasping his bare toes, as he
approached the nearest ticket booth.

Behind the wicket sat a young woman of much self-possession. By all the
outward signs she was a born and bred metropolitan and therefore one
steeled against surprise and armed mentally against trick and device.
Even before she spoke you felt sure she would say _oily_ if she meant
_early_, and _early_ if she meant _oily_--sure linguistic marks of the
native-born New York cockney.

To match the environment of her employment she wore a costume that was
fondly presumed to be the correct garbing of a Sicilian peasant maid,
including a brilliant bodice that laced in front and buttoned behind, an
imposing headdress, and on both her arms, bracelets of the better known
semi-precious metals.

Coming boldly up to her, the ragged man laid upon the shelf of the
wicket his precious bill--it was now wadded into a greenish-yellow wisp
like a sprig of celery top--and said simply, "One!"

With a jangle of her wrist jewelry, the young woman drew the bill in
under the bars and straightened it out in front of her. She considered,
with widening gaze, the numeral 1 and the three naughts following it.
Then through the bars she considered carefully him who had brought it.
From one to the other and back again she looked.

"Woit one minute," she said. It is impossible to reproduce in cold type
the manner in which this young woman uttered the word _minute_. But
there was an "o" in it and a labial hint of an extra "u."

"Woit, please," she said again, and holding the bill down flat with one
hand she turned and beckoned to some one at her left.

A pace behind the panhandler, Judson Green watched. Now the big comedy
scene was coming, just as it always came in the books. Either the
tattered possessor of the one-thousand-dollar bill would be made welcome
by a gratified proprietor and would be given the liberty of the entire
island and would have columns written about him by a hundred gratified
press-agents, or else there would be a call for the police and for the
first time in the history of New York a man would be locked up, not for
the common crime of having no money, but for having too much money.

Obedient to the young woman's request, the panhandler waited. At her
beck there came a stout person in a green coat and red trousers--Italian
soldiers wear these colours, or at least they often do at Coney
Island--and behind her free hand the young woman whispered in his ear.
He nodded understandingly, cast a sharp look at the opulent individual
in the brimless hat, and then hurried away toward the inner recesses of
the entrance. In a minute he was back, but not with determined police
officers behind him. He came alone and he carried in one hand a heavy
canvas bag that gave off a muffled jingling sound, and in the other, a
flat green packet.

The young woman riffled through the packet and drove a hand into the
jingling bag. Briskly she counted down before her the following items in
currency and specie:

Four one-hundred-dollar bills, six fifty-dollar bills, twelve
twenty-dollar bills, five ten-dollar bills, one five-dollar bill, four
one-dollar bills, one fifty-cent piece, one quarter, two dimes and one
nickel. Lifting one of the dimes off the top of this pleasing structure,
she dropped it in a drawer; then she shoved the remaining mound of
money under the wicket, accompanying it by a flat blue ticket of
admission, whisked the one-thousand-dollar bill out of sight and calmly
awaited the pleasure of the next comer.

All downcast and disappointed, Green drew his still bewildered
accomplice aside, relieved him of the bulk of his double handful of
change, endowed him liberally with cash for his trouble, and making his
way to where his car waited, departed in haste and silence for
Manhattan. A plan that was recommended by several of the leading fiction
authorities as infallible, had, absolutely failed him.


III

Other schemes proved equally disappointing. Choosing mainly the cool of
the evening, he travelled the town from the primeval forests of the
Farther Bronx to the sandy beaches of Ultimate Staten Island, which is
in the city, and yet not of it. He roamed through queer streets and
around quaint by-corners, and he learned much strange geography of his
city and yet had no delectable adventures.

Once, acting on the inspiration of the plot of a popular novel that he
had read at a sitting, he bought at an East Side pawnshop a strange
badge, or token, of gold and black enamel, all mysteriously embossed
over with intertwined Oriental signs and characters. Transferring this
ornament from the pawnshop window to the lapel of his coat, he went
walking first through the Syrian quarter, where the laces and the
revolutionary plots come from, and then through the Armenian quarter,
where the rugs come from, and finally in desperation through the Greek
quarter, where the plaster statues and the ripe bananas come from.

By rights,--by all the rights of fiction,--he, wearing this jewelled
emblem in plain sight, should have been hailed by a bearded foreigner
and welcomed to the inner councils of some secret _Bund_, cabal, council
or propaganda, as one coming from afar, bearing important messages. It
should have turned out so, certainly. In this case, however, the sequel
was very different and in a great measure disappointing.

A trifle foot-weary and decidedly overheated, young Mr. Green came out
of the East Side by way of Nassau Street, and at Fulton turned north
into Broadway. Just across from the old Astor House, a man wearing a
stringy beard and a dusty black suit stood at the curbing, apparently
waiting for a car. He carried an umbrella under one arm and at his feet
rested a brown wicker suit-case with the initials "G. W. T." and the
address, "Enid, Oklahoma," stencilled on its side in black letters.
Plainly he was a stranger in the city. Between glances down the street
to see whether his car was nearing him, he counted the upper stories of
the near-by skyscrapers and gazed at the faces of those who streamed
past him.

His roving eye fell upon a splendid badge of gold enamel gleaming
against a background of blue serge, and his face lighted with the joy of
one meeting a most dear friend in a distant land. Shifting his umbrella
from the right hand to the left, he gave three successive and careful
tugs at his right coat lapel, all the while facing Judson Green.
Following this he made a military salute and then, stepping two paces
forward, he undertook to engage Green's hand in a peculiar and difficult
cross-fingered clasp. And he uttered cabalistic words of greeting in
some strange tongue, all the while beaming gladly.

In less than no time, though, his warmth all changed to indignation; and
as Green backed away, retreating in poor order and some embarrassment,
he gathered from certain remarks thrown after him, that the outraged
brother from Enid was threatening him with arrest and prosecution as a
rank impostor--for wearing, without authority, the sacred insignia of an
Imperial Past Potentate of the Supreme Order of Knightly Somethings or
Other--he didn't catch the last words, being then in full flight. So the
adventure-seeker counted that day lost too and buried the Oriental
emblem at the bottom of a bureau drawer to keep it out of mischief.

He read the papers closely, seeking there the seeds of adventure. In one
of them, a pathetic story appeared, telling of a once famous soldier of
fortune starving in a tenement on Rivington Street, a man who in his
day--so the papers said--had made rulers and unmade them, had helped to
alter the map of more than one continent. Green investigated personally.
The tale turned out to be nine-tenths reporter's imagination, and
one-tenth, a garrulous, unreliable old man.

In another paper was an advertisement richly laden with veiled pleadings
for immediate aid from a young woman who described herself as being in
great danger. He looked into this too, but stopped looking, when he ran
into an affable and accommodating press-agent. The imperilled young
lady was connected with the drama, it seemed, and she sought free
advertisement and was willing to go pretty far to get it.

Coming away from a roof garden show one steaming night, a
slinky-looking, slightly lame person asked Green for the time, and as
Green reached for his watch he endeavoured to pick Green's pocket. Being
thwarted in this, the slinky person made slowly off. A _Van Bibber_
would have hired vigilant aides to dog the footsteps of the disappointed
thief and by harrying him forth with threats from wherever he stopped,
would speedily have driven him desperate from lack of sleep and lack of
food. Green had read somewhere of this very thing having been done
successfully. He patterned after the plan. He trailed the gimpy one to
where he mainly abided and drove him out of one lunchroom, and
dispossessed him from one lodging house; and at that, giving his pursuer
malevolent looks, the "dip" went limping to the Grand Central and caught
the first train leaving for the West.

And then, at the fag end of the summer, when all his well-laid plans had
one by one gone agley, chance brought to Green an adventure--sheer
chance and a real adventure. The circumstance of a deranged automobile
was largely responsible--that and the added incident of a broken
shoe-string.


IV

It was in the first week in September and Judson Green, a tired, badly
sunburned young man, disappointed and fagged, looked forward ten days to
the expiration of the three months, when confessing himself beaten, and
what was worse, wrong, he must pay over one hundred dollars to the
jubilant Wainright. With him it wasn't the money--he had already spent
the amount of the wager several times over in the prosecution of his
vain campaigning after adventure--it was the upsetting of his pet
theory; that was the worst part of it.

I believe I stated a little earlier in this narrative that Judson Green
was a young man of profoundly professed theories. It came to pass,
therefore, that on the Saturday before Labour Day, Judson Green, being
very much out of sorts, found himself very much alone and didn't know
what to do with himself. He thought of the beaches, but dismissed the
thought. Of a Saturday afternoon in the season, the sea beaches that lie
within the city bounds are a-crawl with humans. There is small pleasure
in surf-bathing where you must share every wave with from one to a dozen
total strangers.

Mr. Green climbed into his car and told his driver to take him to Van
Cortlandt Park, which, lying at the northernmost boundaries of New York
City, had come, with successive northerly shifts of the centre of
population, to be the city's chief playground.

When, by reason of a confusion of tongues, work was knocked off on the
Tower of Babel, if then all hands had turned to outdoor sports, the
resultant scene would have been, I imagine, much like the picture that
is presented on most Saturdays on the sixty-acre stretch of turf known
as Indian Field, up in Van Cortlandt Park. Here there are baseball games
by the hundred and football games by the score--all the known varieties
of football games too, Gaelic, Soccer, Rugby and others; and coal black
West Indian negroes in white flannels, with their legs buskined like the
legs of comic opera brigands, play at cricket, meanwhile shouting in the
broadest of British accents; and there is tennis on the tennis courts
and boating on the lake near-by and golf on the links that lie beyond
the lake. Also, in odd corners, there are all manners of queer
Scandinavian and Latin games, for which no one seems to know the name;
and on occasion, there are polo matches.

Accordingly, when his car drew up at the edge of the parking space, our
young man beheld a wide assortment of sporting events spread before his
eyes. The players disported themselves with enthusiasm, for there was
now a soft coolness in the air. But the scars of a brutal summer still
showed, in the turf that was burnt brown and crisp, and in the withered
leaves on the elms, and in white dust inches deep on the roadways.

Young Mr. Green sat at his ease and looked until he was tired of
looking, and then he gave the order for a home-bound spin. Right here
was where chanced stepped in and diverted him from his appointed paths.
For the car, now turned cityward, had rolled but a few rods when a smell
of overheated metals assailed the air, and with a tired wheezing
somewhere down in its vital organs, the automobile halted itself. The
chauffeur spent some time tinkering among its innermost works before he
stood up, hot and sweaty and disgusted, to announce that the breakdown
was serious in character. He undertook to explain in highly technical
terms the exact nature of the trouble, but his master had no turn for
mechanics and small patience for listening. He gathered that it would
take at least an hour to mend the mishap, perhaps even longer, and he
was not minded to wait.

"I'll walk across yonder and catch the subway," he said. "You mend the
car and bring it downtown when you get it mended."

At its farthest point north, the Broadway subway, belying its name,
emerges from the earth and becomes an elevated structure, rearing high
above the ground. Its northernmost station stands aloft, butt-ended and
pierced with many windows, like a ferry-boat cabin set up on stilts.
Through a long aisle of sun-dried trees, Judson Green made for this
newly risen landmark. A year or two years before, all this district had
been well wooded and sparsely inhabited. But wherever a transit line
goes in New York it works changes in the immediate surroundings, and
here at this particular spot, the subway was working them, and many of
them. Through truck patches and strips of woodland, cross-streets were
being cut, and on the hills to the westward, tall apartment houses were
going up. On the raw edge of a cut, half of an old wooden mansion stood,
showing tattered strips of an ancient flowered wallpaper and a
fireplace, clinging like a chimney-swift's nest to a wall, where the
rest of the room had been sheared away bodily. Along Broadway, beyond a
huddle of merry-go-rounds and peanut stands, a row of shops had sprung
up, as it were, overnight; they were shiny, trim, citified shops,
looking a trifle strange now in this half-transformed setting, but sure
to have plenty of neighbours before long. There was even a barber shop,
glittering inside and out with the neatness of newness, and complete,
even to a manicuring table and a shoe-shining stand. The door of the
shop was open; within, electric fans whirred in little blurs of rapid
movement.

See now how chance still served our young man: Crossing to the station,
Judson Green took note of this barber shop and took note also that his
russet shoes had suffered from his trudge through the dusty park.
Likewise one of the silken strings had frayed through; the broken end
stood up through the top eyelet in an untidy fringed effect. So he
turned off short and went into the little place and mounted the new tall
chair that stood just inside the door. The only other customer in the
place was in the act of leaving. This customer got up from the manicure
table opposite the shoe-shining stand, slipped a coin into the palm of
the manicure girl and passed out, giving Green a brief profile view of a
thin, bearded face. Behind the back of her departing patron, the
manicure girl shrugged her shoulders inside of an ornate bodice and
screwed up her nose derisively. It was plainly to be seen that she did
not care greatly for him she had just served.

From where he was languidly honing a razor, the head barber, he who
presided over the first of the row of three chairs, spoke:

"You ought'nter be making faces at your regular steadies, Sadie. If you
was to ask me, I think you've got a mash on that there gent."

The young person thus addressed shook her head with a sprightly motion.

"Not on your life," she answered. "There's certainly something about
that man I don't like."

"It don't never pay to knock a stand-by," opined the head barber,
banteringly.

As though seeking sympathy from these gibes, the young lady denominated
as Sadie turned toward the well-dressed, alert-looking young man who had
just come in. Apparently he impressed her as a person in whom she might
confide.

"Speaking about the fella that just went out," she said. "August yonder
is all the time trying to guy me about him. I should worry! He ain't my
style. Honest, I think he's nutty."

Politely Green uttered one of those noncommittal sounds that may be
taken to mean almost anything. But the manicure lady was of a
temperament needing no prompting. She went on, blithe to be talking to a
new listener.

"Yes, sir, I think he's plumb dippy. He first came in here about two
weeks ago to have his nails did, and I don't know whether you'll believe
it or not--but August'll tell you it's the truth--he's been back here
every day since. And the funniest part of it is I'm certain sure he
never had his nails done in his life before then--they was certainly in
a untidy state the first time he came. And there's another peculiar
thing about him. He always makes me scrape away down under his nails,
right to the quick. Sometimes they bleed and it must hurt him."

"Apparently the gentleman has the manicuring habit in a serious form,"
said Green, seeing that Miss Sadie had paused, in expectation of an
answer from him.

"He sure has--in the most vi'lent form," she agreed. "He's got other
habits too. He's sure badly stuck on the movies."

"I beg your pardon--on the what?"

"On the movies--the moving pictures," she explained. "Well, oncet in a
while I enjoy a good fillum myself, but I'm no bigot on the subject--I
can take my movies or I can let 'em be. But not that man that just now
went out. All the time I'm doing his nails he don't talk about nothing
else hardly, except the moving pictures, he's seen that day or the day
before. It's right ridiculous, him being a grown-up man and everything.
I actually believe he never misses a new fillum at that new moving
picture place three doors above here, or at that other one, that's
opened up down by Two Hundred an' Thirtieth Street. He seems to
patronise just those two. I guess he lives 'round here somewhere. Yet he
don't seem to be very well acquainted in this part of town neither.
Well, it sure takes all kind of people to make a world, don't it?"

Temporarily Miss Sadie lapsed into silence, never noticing that what she
said had caused her chief auditor to bend forward in absorbed interest.
He sat with his eyes on the Greek youth who worked over his shoes, but
his mind was busy with certain most interesting speculations.

When the bootblack had given his restored and resplendent russets a
final loving rub, and had deftly inserted a new lace where the old one
had been, Mr. Green decided that he needed a manicure and he moved
across the shop, and as the manicure lady worked upon his nails he
siphoned the shallow reservoir of her little mind as dry as a bone. The
job required no great amount of pump-work either, for this Miss Sadie
dearly loved the sound of her own voice and was gratefully glad to tell
him all she knew of the stranger who favoured such painful manicuring
processes and who so enjoyed a moving picture show. For his part, Green
had seen only the man's side face, and that casually and at a fleeting
glance; but before the young lady was through with her description, he
knew the other's deportment and contour as though he had passed him a
hundred times and each time had closely studied him.

To begin with, the man was sallow and dark, and his age was perhaps
thirty, or at most thirty-two or three. His beard was newly grown; it
was a young beard, through which his chin and chops still showed. He
smoked cigarettes constantly--the thumb and forefinger of his right hand
were stained almost black, and Miss Sadie, having the pride of her
craft, had several times tried unsuccessfully to bleach them of their
nicotine disfigurements.

He had a manner about him which the girl described as "kind of
suspicious and scary,"--by which Green took her to mean that he was shy
and perhaps furtive in his bearing. His teeth, his eyes, his expression,
his mode of dress--Mr. Green knew them all before Miss Sadie gave his
left hand a gentle pat as a sign that the job was concluded. He tipped
her generously and caught the next subway train going south.


V

Southbound subway trains run fast, especially when the rush of traffic
is northward. Within the hour Judson Green sat in the reading room of
his club, industriously turning the pages of the club's file of the
_World_ for the past month. Presently he found what he was seeking. He
read a while, and for a while then he took notes. Pocketing his notes,
he ate dinner alone and in due season thereafter he went home and to
bed. But before this, he sent off a night lettergram to the Byrnes
private detective agency down in Park Row. He wanted--so in effect the
message ran--the best man in the employ of that concern to call upon him
at his bachelor apartments in the Hotel Sedgwick, in the morning at ten
o'clock. The matter was urgent, important--and confidential.

If the man who knocked at Green's sitting-room door that next morning at
ten was not the best man of the Byrnes staff he looked the part. He was
square-jawed, with an appraising eye and a good pair of shoulders. He
had the right kind of a name for a detective, too. The name was
Cassidy--Michael J.

"Mr. Cassidy," said Judson Green, when the preliminaries of introduction
were over, "you remember, don't you, what the papers said at the time of
the Steinway murder about the suspect Maxwell, the old man's
nephew--the description they printed of him, and all?"

"I ought to," said Cassidy. "Our people had that case from the start--I
worked on it myself off and on, up until three days ago." From memory he
quoted: "Medium height, slender, dark-complected, smooth-faced and about
thirty-one years old; a good dresser and well educated; smokes
cigarettes constantly; has one upper front tooth crowned with gold--" He
hesitated, searching his memory for more details.

"Remember anything else about him that was striking?" prompted Green.

"Let's see?" pondered Mr. Cassidy. Then after a little pause, "No,
that's all I seem to recall right now."

"How about his being a patron of moving pictures?"

"That's right," agreed the other, "that's the only part of it I forgot."
He repeated pretty exactly the language of the concluding paragraph of
the official police circular that all the papers had carried for days:
"Formerly addicted to reading cheap and sensational novels, now an
inveterate attendant of motion-picture theatres." He glanced at Judson
Green over his cigar. "What's the idea?" he asked. "Know something about
this case?"

"Not much," said Green, "except that I have found the man who killed old
Steinway."

Forgetting his professional gravity, up rose Mr. Cassidy, and his chair,
which had been tilted back, brought its forelegs to the floor with a
thump.

"No!" he said, half-incredulously, half-hopefully.

"Yes," stated Mr. Green calmly. "At least I've found Maxwell. Or anyway,
I think I have."

Long before he was through telling what he had seen and heard the
afternoon before, Mr. Cassidy, surnamed Michael J., was almost sitting
in his lap. When the younger man had finished his tale the detective
fetched a deep and happy breath.

"It sounds good to me," he commented, "it certainly sounds to me like
you've got the right dope on this party. But listen, Mr. Green, how do
you figure in this here party's fad for getting himself manicured as a
part of the lay-out--I can see it all but that?"

"Here is how I deduced that element of the case," stated Green.
"Conceding this man to be the fugitive Maxwell, it is quite evident that
he has a highly developed imagination--his former love of trashy
literature and his present passion for moving pictures would both seem
to prove that. Now then, you remember that all the accounts of that
murder told of the deep marks of finger-nail scratches in the old man's
throat. If this man is the murderer, I would say, from what we know of
him, that he cannot rid himself of the feeling that the blood of his
victim is still under his nails. And so, nursing that delusion, he goes
daily to that manicure girl----"

He got no farther along than that. Mr. Cassidy extended his large right
hand in a congratulatory clasp, and admiration was writ large upon his
face.

"Colonel," he said, "you're immense--you oughter be in the business.
Say, when are we going to nail this guy?"

"Well," said Green, "I think we should start watching his movements at
once, but we should wait until we are pretty sure of the correctness of
our theory before acting. And of course, in the meanwhile, we must
deport ourselves in such a way as to avoid arousing his suspicions."

"Just leave that to me. You do the expert thinking on this here case;
I'll guarantee a good job of trailing."

Inside of forty-eight hours these two, working discreetly, knew a good
deal of their man. For example, they knew that under the name of
Morrison he was living in a summer boarding house on a little hill
rising to the west of the park; that he had been living there for a
little more than a fortnight; that his landlady didn't know his
business, but thought that he must be an invalid. Among the other
lodgers the impression prevailed that he suffered from a nervous
trouble. Mornings, he kept to his room, sleeping until late. In fact, as
well as the couple occupying the room below his might judge, he did most
of his sleeping in the daytime--they heard him night after night,
walking the floor until all hours.

A maid-servant of ultra conversational tendencies gratuitously furnished
most of these valued details, after Michael J. Cassidy had succeeded in
meeting her socially.

Afternoons, the suspect followed a more or less regular itinerary. He
visited the manicure girl at the new barber shop; he patronized one or
both of the moving picture places in the vicinity, but usually both, and
then he went for a solitary walk through the park, and along toward dusk
he returned to the boarding house, ate his supper and went to his room.
He had no friends, apparently; certainly he had no callers. He received
no letters and seemingly wrote none. Cassidy was convinced; he burned
with eagerness to make the arrest without further delay. For this would
be more than a feather in the Cassidy cap; it would be a whole war
bonnet.

"You kin stay in the background if you want to," he said. "Believe me,
I'm perfectly willing to take all the credit for pulling off this
pinch."

As he said this they were passing along Broadway just above the subway
terminal. The straggling line of new shops was on one side and the park
stretched away on the other. Green was on the inner side of the
pavement. Getting no answer to his suggestion, Mr. Cassidy started to
repeat it.

"I heard you," said Green, stopping now dead short, directly in front of
the resplendent front of the Regal Motion Picture Palace. He
contemplated with an apparently unwarranted interest the illuminated and
lithographed announcements of the morrow's bill.

"I'm perfectly willing to stay in the background," he said. "But--but
I've just this very minute thought of a plan that ought to make us
absolutely sure of our man--providing the plan works! Are you at all
familiar with the tragedy of 'Macbeth'?"

"I don't know as I am," admitted Mr. Cassidy honestly. "When did it
happen and who done it?"

Again his employer seemed not to hear him.

"Let's go into this place," he said, turning in towards the hospitable
portals of the Regal. "I want to have a business talk with the
proprietor of this establishment, if he's in."

The manager was in, and they had their talk; but after all it was
money--which in New York speaks with such a clarion-loud and convincing
voice--that did most of the talking. As soon as Judson Green had
produced a bill-roll of august proportions, the proprietor, doubtful
until that moment, showed himself to be a man open to all reasonable
arguments. Moreover, he presently scented in this enterprise much free
advertisement for his place.


VI

On the following afternoon, the weather being rainy, the Regal opened
its doors for the three-o'clock performance to an audience that was
smaller than common and mostly made up of dependable neighbourhood
patrons. However, there were at least two newcomers present. They sat
side by side, next to central aisle, in the rearmost row of
chairs--Judson Green and Michael J. Cassidy. Their man was almost
directly in front of them, perhaps halfway down toward the stage. Above
a scattering line of heads of women and children they could see, in the
half light of the darkened house, his head and shoulders as he bent his
body forward at an interested angle.

Promptly on the hour, a big bull's-eye of light flashed on, making a
shimmering white target in the middle of the screen. The music started
up, and a moving-picture soloist with a moving-picture soloist's voice,
appeared in the edge of the illuminated space and rendered a
moving-picture ballad, having reference to the joys of life down in Old
Alabam', where the birds are forever singing in the trees and the
cotton-blossoms bloom practically without cessation. This, mercifully,
being soon over, a film entitled "The Sheriff's Sweetheart" was offered,
and for a time, in shifting pictures, horse-thieves in leather "chaps,"
and heroes in open-necked shirts, and dashing cow-girls in divided
skirts, played out a thrilling drama of the West, while behind them
danced and quivered a background labelled Arizona, but suggesting New
Jersey. When the dashing and intrepid sheriff had, after many trials,
won his lady love, the ballad singer again obliged throatily, and then
from his coop in the little gallery the lantern man made an
announcement, in large, flickering letters, of a film depicting William
Shakespeare's play, "Macbeth."

Thereupon scene succeeded scene, unfolding the tragic tale. The
ill-fated Duncan was slain; the Witches of Endor capered fearsomely
about their fearsome cauldron of snaky, froggy horrors; and then--taking
some liberties with the theme as set down by the original author--the
operator presented a picture wherein Macbeth, tortured by sleeplessness
and hag-ridden with remorse, saw, in imagination, the dripping blood
upon his hands and vainly sought to scour it off.

Right here, too, came another innovation which might or might not have
pleased the Bard of Avon. For as Macbeth wrestled with his fears, the
phantom of the murdered Duncan, a cloaked, shadowy shape, crossed slowly
by him from right to left, traversing the breadth of the screen, while
the orchestra rendered shivery music in appropriate accompaniment.

Midway of the lighted space the ghost raised its averted head and
looked out full, not at the quivering Macbeth, but, with steady eyes and
set, impassive face, into the body of the darkened little theatre. In an
instant the sheeted form was gone--gone so quickly that perhaps no
keen-eyed juvenile in the audience detected the artifice by which,
through a skilful scissoring and grafting and doctoring of the original
film, the face of the actor who played the dead and walking Duncan had
been replaced by the photographed face, printed so often in the
newspapers, of murdered Old Man Steinway!

There was a man near the centre of the house who got instantly upon his
legs and stumbling, indeed almost running in his haste, made up the
centre aisle for the door; and in the daylight which strengthened as he
neared the open, it might be seen that he wore the look of one stunned
by a sudden blighting shock. And at once Green and Cassidy were noisily
up too, and following close behind him, their nerves a-tingle.

All unconscious of surveillance, the suspect was out of the door, on the
pavement, when they closed on him. At the touch of Cassidy's big hand
upon his shoulder he spun round, staring at them with wide-open,
startled eyes. Above his scraggy beard his face was dappled white and
red in patches, and under the mottled skin little muscles twitched
visibly.

"What--what do you want?" he demanded in a shaken, quick voice. A
gold-capped tooth showed in his upper jaw between his lips.

"We want a word or two with you," said Cassidy, with a sort of
threatening emphasis.

"Are you--are you officers?" He got the question out with a separate
gulp for each separate word.

"Not exactly," answered Cassidy, and tightened his grip on the other's
shoulder the least bit more firmly. "But we can call one mighty easy if
you ain't satisfied to talk to us a minute or two. There's one yonder."

He ducked his head toward where, forty yards distant, a middle-aged and
somewhat pursy patrolman was shepherding the traffic that eddied in
small whirls about the steps of the subway terminal.

"All right, all right," assented the captive eagerly. "I'll talk to you.
Let's go over there--where it's quiet." He pointed a wavering finger,
with a glistening, highly polished nail on it, toward the opposite side
of the street; there the park came right up to the sidewalk and ended.
They went, and in a minute all three of them were grouped close up to
the shrub-lined boundary. The mottled-faced man was in the middle. Green
stood on one side of him and Cassidy on the other, shouldering up so
close that they blocked him off, flank and front.

"Now, then, we're all nice and cozy," said Cassidy with a touch of that
irony which a cat often displays, in different form, upon capturing a
live mouse. "And we want to ask you a few questions. What's your
name--your real name?" he demanded roughly.

"Morrison," said the man, licking with his tongue to moisten his lips.

"Did you say Maxwell?" asked Cassidy, shooting out his syllables hard
and straight.

"No, no--I said Morrison." The man looked as though he were going to
collapse then and there.

"One name's as good as another, I guess, ain't it?" went on the
detective. "Well, what's your business?"

"My business?" He was parrying as though seeking time to collect his
scattered wits. "Oh, I haven't any business--I've been sick lately."

"Oh, you've been sick lately--well, you look sick right now." Cassidy
shoved his hands in his pockets and with a bullying, hectoring air
pushed his face, with the lower jaw undershot, into the suspect's face.
"Say, was it because you felt sick that you came out of that there
moving-picture show so sudden?"

Just as he had calculated, the other jumped at the suggestion.

"Yes--yes," he nodded nervously. "That was it--the heat in there made me
faint." He braced himself tauter. "Say," he said, and tried to put
force into his tones, "what business have you men got spying on me and
asking me these things? I'm a free American citizen----"

"Well now, young fellow, that all depends," broke in Cassidy, "that all
depends." He sank his voice almost to a whisper, speaking deliberately.
"Now tell us why you didn't feel real sick until you seen your dead
uncle's face looking at you----"

"Look out!" screamed the prisoner. He flinched back, pointing with one
arm wildly, and flinging up the other across his face as though to shut
out a sight of danger. There was a rattle of wheels behind them.

Judson Green pivoted on his heel, with the thought of runaways springing
up to his mind. But Mr. Cassidy, wiser in the tricks of the hunter and
the hunted, made a darting grab with both hands for the shoulder which
he had released. His greedy fingers closed on space. The suspect, with a
desperate and unexpected agility, had given his body a backward nimble
fling that carried him sprawling through a gap between the ornamental
bushes fringing the park sward. Instantly he was up and, with never a
backward glance, was running across the lower, narrower verge of Indian
Field, making for the trees which edged it thickly upon the east. He
could run fast, too. Nor were there men in front to hinder him, since
because of the rain, coming down in a thin drizzle, the wide, sloped
stretch of turf was for this once bare of ball-players and cricket
teams.

Upon the second, Cassidy was through the hedge gap and hot-foot after
him, with Green coming along only a pace or two behind. Over his
shoulder Cassidy whooped a call for aid to the traffic policeman in the
roadway. But that stout person, who had been exiled to these faraway
precincts by reason of his increasing girth and a tendency toward fallen
arches, only took one or two steps upon his flat feet and then halted,
being in doubt as to what it was all about. Before he could make up his
mind whether or not to join the chase, it was too late to join it. The
fugitive, travelling a straight course, had crossed the field at its
narrowest point and had bounded into the fringe of greenery bordering
the little lake, heading apparently for the thick swampy place lying
between the ball ground and the golf links. The two pursuers, legging
along behind, did their best to keep him in sight, but, one thing sure,
they were not gaining on him.

As a matter of truth, they were losing. Twice they lost him and twice
they spied him again--once crossing a bit of open glade, once weaving in
and out among the tree trunks farther on. Then they lost him altogether.
Cassidy had shown the better pair of legs at the start of the race, but
now his wind began to fail. Panting and blowing fit to shame porpoises,
he slackened his speed, falling back inch by inch, while the slighter
and younger man took the lead. Green settled to a steady, space-eating
jog-trot, all the time watching this way and that. There were singularly
few people in sight--only a chronic golfer here and there up on the
links--and these incurables merely stared through the rain-drops at him
as he forced his way among the thickets below them.

Cassidy, falling farther and farther behind, presently met a mounted
policeman ambling his horse along a tree-shaded roadway that crossed the
park from east to west, and between gulps for breath told what he knew.
Leaning half out of his saddle, the mounted man listened, believed--and
acted. Leaving Cassidy behind, he spurred his bay to a walloping gallop,
aiming for the northern confines of the park, and as he travelled, he
spread the alarm, gathering up for the man-chase such recruits as two
park labourers and a park woodchopper and an automobile party of young
men, so that presently there was quite a good-sized search party abroad
in the woodland.

As for Judson Green, he played his hand out alone. Dripping wet with
rain and his own sweat, he emerged from a mile-long thicket upon an
asphalted drive that wound interminably under the shouldering ledges of
big gray rocks and among tall elms and oaks. Already he had lost his
sense of direction, but he ran along the deserted road doggedly, pausing
occasionally to peer among the tree trunks for a sight of his man. He
thought, once, he heard a shot, but couldn't be sure, the sound seemed
so muffled and so far away.

On a venture he left the road, taking to the woods again. He was working
through a small green tangle when something caught at his right foot and
he was spun about so that he faced the opposite direction from the one
in which he had been travelling, and went down upon his hands and knees,
almost touching with his head a big licheny boulder, half buried in
vines and grass. Glancing back, he saw what had twisted him off his
course and thrown him down--it was an upward-aimed tree-root, stubby and
pointed, which had thrust itself through his right shoe lacing. The low
shoe had been pulled half-way off his foot, and, under the strain, the
silken lace had broken short off.

In the act of raising himself upright, he had straightened to a
half-crouch when, just beyond the big green-masked boulder, he saw that
which held him petrified in his pose. There, in a huddle among the
shrubs, where he would never have seen it except for the chance
shifting-about of his gaze, was the body of a man lying face downward
the head hidden under the upturned skirts of the coat.

He went to it and turned it over. It was the body of the man he
sought--Maxwell--and there was a revolver in Maxwell's right hand and a
hole in Maxwell's right temple, and Maxwell was dead.

Judson Green stood up and waited for the other pursuers. He had won a
hundred-dollar bet and Cassidy had lost a thousand-dollar reward.



CHAPTER III

BOYS WILL BE BOYS


When Judge Priest, on this particular morning, came puffing into his
chambers at the courthouse, looking, with his broad beam and in his
costume of flappy, loose white ducks, a good deal like an old-fashioned
full-rigger with all sails set, his black shadow, Jeff Poindexter, had
already finished the job of putting the quarters to rights for the day.
The cedar water bucket had been properly replenished; the upper flange
of a fifteen-cent chunk of ice protruded above the rim of the bucket;
and alongside, on the appointed nail, hung the gourd dipper that the
master always used. The floor had been swept, except, of course, in the
corners and underneath things; there were evidences, in streaky scrolls
of fine grit particles upon various flat surfaces, that a dusting brush
had been more or less sparingly employed. A spray of trumpet flowers,
plucked from the vine that grew outside the window, had been draped over
the framed steel engraving of President Davis and his Cabinet upon the
wall; and on the top of the big square desk in the middle of the room,
where a small section of cleared green-blotter space formed an oasis in
a dry and arid desert of cluttered law journals and dusty documents, the
morning's mail rested in a little heap.

Having placed his old cotton umbrella in a corner, having removed his
coat and hung it upon a peg behind the hall door, and having seen to it
that a palm-leaf fan was in arm's reach should he require it, the Judge,
in his billowy white shirt, sat down at his desk and gave his attention
to his letters. There was an invitation from the Hylan B. Gracey Camp of
Confederate Veterans of Eddyburg, asking him to deliver the chief
oration at the annual reunion, to be held at Mineral Springs on the
twelfth day of the following month; an official notice from the clerk of
the Court of Appeals concerning the affirmation of a judgment that had
been handed down by Judge Priest at the preceding term of his own court;
a bill for five pounds of a special brand of smoking tobacco; a notice
of a lodge meeting--altogether quite a sizable batch of mail.

At the bottom of the pile he came upon a long envelope addressed to him
by his title, instead of by his name, and bearing on its upper
right-hand corner several foreign-looking stamps; they were British
stamps, he saw, on closer examination.

To the best of his recollection it had been a good long time since Judge
Priest had had a communication by post from overseas. He adjusted his
steel-bowed spectacles, ripped the wrapper with care and shook out the
contents. There appeared to be several inclosures; in fact, there were
several--a sheaf of printed forms, a document with seals attached, and a
letter that covered two sheets of paper with typewritten lines. To the
letter the recipient gave consideration first. Before he reached the end
of the opening paragraph he uttered a profound grunt of surprise; his
reading of the rest was frequently punctuated by small exclamations, his
face meantime puckering up in interested lines. At the conclusion, when
he came to the signature, he indulged himself in a soft low whistle. He
read the letter all through again, and after that he examined the forms
and the document which had accompanied it.

Chuckling under his breath, he wriggled himself free from the snug
embrace of his chair arms and waddled out of his own office and down the
long bare empty hall to the office of Sheriff Giles Birdsong. Within,
that competent functionary, Deputy Sheriff Breck Quarles, sat at ease in
his shirt sleeves, engaged, with the smaller blade of his pocketknife,
in performing upon his finger nails an operation that combined the fine
deftness of the manicure with the less delicate art of the farrier. At
the sight of the Judge in the open doorway he hastily withdrew from a
tabletop, where they rested, a pair of long thin legs, and rose.

"Mornin', Breck," said Judge Priest to the other's salutation. "No,
thank you, son, I won't come in; but I've got a little job fur you. I
wisht, ef you ain't too busy, that you'd step down the street and see ef
you can't find Peep O'Day fur me and fetch him back here with you. It
won't take you long, will it?"

"No, suh--not very." Mr. Quarles reached for his hat and snuggled his
shoulder holster back inside his unbuttoned waistcoat. "He'll most
likely be down round Gafford's stable. Whut's Old Peep been doin',
Judge--gettin' himself in contempt of court or somethin'?" He grinned,
asking the question with the air of one making a little joke.

"No," vouchsafed the Judge; "he ain't done nothin'. But he's about to
have somethin' of a highly onusual nature done to him. You jest tell him
I'm wishful to see him right away--that'll be sufficient, I reckin."

Without making further explanation, Judge Priest returned to his
chambers and for the third time read the letter from foreign parts.
Court was not in session, and the hour was early and the weather was
hot; nobody interrupted him. Perhaps fifteen minutes passed. Mr. Quarles
poked his head in at the door.

"I found him, suh," the deputy stated. "He's outside here in the hall."

"Much obliged to you, son," said Judge Priest. "Send him on in, will
you, please?"

The head was withdrawn; its owner lingered out of sight of His Honour,
but within earshot. It was hard to figure the presiding judge of the
First Judicial District of the state of Kentucky as having business with
Peep O'Day; and, though Mr. Quarles was no eavesdropper, still he felt a
pardonable curiosity in whatsoever might transpire. As he feigned an
absorbed interest in a tax notice, which was pasted on a blackboard just
outside the office door, there entered the presence of the Judge a man
who seemingly was but a few years younger than the Judge himself--a man
who looked to be somewhere between sixty-five and seventy. There is a
look that you may have seen in the eyes of ownerless but
well-intentioned dogs--dogs that, expecting kicks as their daily
portion, are humbly grateful for kind words and stray bones; dogs that
are fairly yearning to be adopted by somebody--by anybody--being
prepared to give to such a benefactor a most faithful doglike devotion
in return.

This look, which is fairly common among masterless and homeless dogs, is
rare among humans; still, once in a while you do find it there too. The
man who now timidly shuffled himself across the threshold of Judge
Priest's office had such a look out of his eyes. He had a long, simple
face, partly inclosed in grey whiskers. Four dollars would have been a
sufficient price to pay for the garments he stood in, including the
wrecked hat he held in his hands and the broken, misshaped shoes on his
feet. A purchaser who gave more than four dollars for the whole in its
present state of decrepitude would have been but a poor hand at
bargaining.

The man who wore this outfit coughed in an embarrassed fashion and
halted, fumbling his ruinous hat in his hands.

"Howdy do?" said Judge Priest heartily. "Come in!"

The other diffidently advanced himself a yard or two.

"Excuse me, suh," he said apologetically; "but this here Breck Quarles
he come after me and he said ez how you wanted to see me. 'Twas him ez
brung me here, suh."

Faintly underlying the drawl of the speaker was just a suspicion--a mere
trace, as you might say--of a labial softness that belongs solely and
exclusively to the children, and in a diminishing degree to the
grandchildren, of native-born sons and daughters of a certain small
green isle in the sea. It was not so much a suggestion of a brogue as it
was the suggestion of the ghost of a brogue; a brogue almost
extinguished, almost obliterated, and yet persisting through the
generations--South of Ireland struggling beneath south of Mason and
Dixon's Line.

"Yes," said the Judge; "that's right. I do want to see you." The tone
was one that he might employ in addressing a bashful child. "Set down
there and make yourself at home."

The newcomer obeyed to the extent of perching himself on the extreme
forward edge of a chair. His feet shuffled uneasily where they were
drawn up against the cross rung of the chair.

The Judge reared well back, studying his visitor over the tops of his
glasses with rather a quizzical look. In one hand he balanced the large
envelope which had come to him that morning.

"Seems to me I heared somewheres, years back, that your regular
Christian name was Paul--is that right?" he asked.

"Shorely is, suh," assented the ragged man, surprised and plainly
grateful that one holding a supremely high position in the community
should vouchsafe to remember a fact relating to so inconsequent an atom
as himself. "But I ain't heared it fur so long I come mighty nigh
furgittin' it sometimes, myself. You see, Judge Priest, when I wasn't
nothin' but jest a shaver folks started in to callin' me Peep--on
account of my last name bein' O'Day, I reckin. They been callin' me so
ever since. 'Fust off, 'twas Little Peep, and then jest plain Peep; and
now it's got to be Old Peep. But my real entitled name is Paul, jest
like you said, Judge--Paul Felix O'Day."

"Uh-huh! And wasn't your father's name Philip and your mother's name
Katherine Dwyer O'Day?"

"To the best of my recollection that's partly so, too, suh. They both of
'em up and died when I was a baby, long before I could remember anything
a-tall. But they always told me my paw's name was Phil, or Philip. Only
my maw's name wasn't Kath--Kath--wasn't whut you jest now called it,
Judge. It was plain Kate."

"Kate or Katherine--it makes no great difference," explained Judge
Priest. "I reckin the record is straight this fur. And now think hard
and see ef you kin ever remember hearin' of an uncle named Daniel
O'Day--your father's brother."

The answer was a shake of the tousled head.

"I don't know nothin' about my people. I only jest know they come over
from some place with a funny name in the Old Country before I was born.
The onliest kin I ever had over here was that there no-'count triflin'
nephew of mine--Perce Dwyer--him that uster hang round this town. I
reckin you call him to mind, Judge?"

The old Judge nodded before continuing:

"All the same, I reckin there ain't no manner of doubt but whut you had
an uncle of the name of Daniel. All the evidences would seem to p'int
that way. Accordin' to the proofs, this here Uncle Daniel of yours
lived in a little town called Kilmare, in Ireland." He glanced at one of
the papers that lay on his desktop; then added in a casual tone: "Tell
me, Peep, whut are you doin' now fur a livin'?"

The object of this examination grinned a faint grin of extenuation.

"Well, suh, I'm knockin' about, doin' the best I kin--which ain't much.
I help out round Gafford's liver' stable, and Pete Gafford he lets me
sleep in a little room behind the feed room, and his wife she gives me
my vittles. Oncet in a while I git a chancet to do odd jobs fur folks
round town--cuttin' weeds and splittin' stove wood and packin' in coal,
and sech ez that."

"Not much money in it, is there?"

"No, suh; not much. Folks is more prone to offer me old clothes than
they are to pay me in cash. Still, I manage to git along. I don't live
very fancy; but, then, I don't starve, and that's more'n some kin say."

"Peep, whut was the most money you ever had in your life--at one time?"

Peep scratched with a freckled hand at his thatch of faded whitish hair
to stimulate recollection.

"I reckin not more'n six bits at any one time, suh. Seems like I've
sorter got the knack of livin' without money."

"Well, Peep, sech bein' the case, whut would you say ef I was to tell
you that you're a rich man?"

The answer came slowly.

"I reckin, suh, ef it didn't sound disrespectful, I'd say you was
prankin' with me--makin' fun of me, suh."

Judge Priest bent forward in his chair.

"I'm not prankin' with you. It's my pleasant duty to inform you that at
this moment you are the rightful owner of eight thousand pounds."

"Pounds of whut, Judge?" The tone expressed a heavy incredulity.

"Why, pounds in money."

Outside, in the hall, with one ear held conveniently near the crack in
the door, Deputy Sheriff Quarles gave a violent start; and then, at
once, was torn between a desire to stay and hear more and an urge to
hurry forth and spread the unbelievable tidings. After the briefest of
struggles the latter inclination won; this news was too marvellously
good to keep; surely a harbinger and a herald was needed to spread it
broadcast.

Mr. Quarles tiptoed rapidly down the hall. When he reached the sidewalk
the volunteer bearer of a miraculous tale fairly ran. As for the man who
sat facing the Judge, he merely stared in a dull bewilderment.

"Judge," he said at length, "eight thousand pounds of money oughter make
a powerful big pile, oughten it?"

"It wouldn't weigh quite that much ef you put it on the scales,"
explained His Honour painstakingly. "I mean pounds sterlin'--English
money. Near ez I kin figger offhand, it comes in our money to somewheres
between thirty-five and forty thousand dollars--nearer forty than
thirty-five. And it's all yours, Peep--every red cent of it."

"Excuse me, suh, and not meanin' to contradict you, or nothin' like
that; but I reckin there must be some mistake. Why, Judge, I don't
scursely know anybody that's ez wealthy ez all that, let alone anybody
that'd give me sech a lot of money."

"Listen, Peep: This here letter I'm holdin' in my hand came to me by
to-day's mail--jest a little spell ago. It's frum Ireland--frum the town
of Kilmare, where your people came frum. It was sent to me by a firm of
barristers in that town--lawyers we'd call 'em. In this letter they ask
me to find you and to tell you whut's happened. It seems, frum whut they
write, that your uncle, by name Daniel O'Day, died not very long ago
without issue--that is to say, without leavin' any children of his own,
and without makin' any will.

"It appears he had eight thousand pounds saved up. Ever since he died
those lawyers and some other folks over there in Ireland have been
tryin' to find out who that money should go to. They learnt in some way
that your father and your mother settled in this town a mighty long
time ago, and that they died here and left one son, which is you. All
the rest of the family over there in Ireland have already died out, it
seems; that natchelly makes you the next of kin and the heir at law,
which means that all your uncle's money comes direct to you.

"So, Peep, you're a wealthy man in your own name. That's the news I had
to tell you. Allow me to congratulate you on your good fortune."

The beneficiary rose to his feet, seeming not to see the hand the old
Judge had extended across the desktop toward him. On his face, of a
sudden, was a queer, eager look. It was as though he foresaw the coming
true of long-cherished and heretofore unattainable visions.

"Have you got it here, suh?"

He glanced about him as though expecting to see a bulky bundle. Judge
Priest smiled.

"Oh, no; they didn't send it along with the letter--that wouldn't be
regular. There's quite a lot of things to be done fust. There'll be some
proofs to be got up and sworn to before a man called a British consul;
and likely there'll be a lot of papers that you'll have to sign; and
then all the papers and the proofs and things will be sent acrost the
ocean. And, after some fees are paid out over there--why, then you'll
git your inheritance."

The rapt look faded from the strained face, leaving it downcast. "I'm
afeared, then, I won't be able to claim that there money," he said
forlornly.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know how to sign my own name. Raised the way I was, I
never got no book learnin'. I can't neither read nor write."

Compassion shadowed the Judge's chubby face; and compassion was in his
voice as he made answer:

"You don't need to worry about that part of it. You can make your
mark--just a cross mark on the paper, with witnesses present--like
this."

He took up a pen, dipped it in the ink-well and illustrated his meaning.

"Yes, suh; I'm glad it kin be done thataway. I always wisht I knowed how
to read big print and spell my own name out. I ast a feller oncet to
write my name out fur me in plain letters on a piece of paper. I was
aimin' to learn to copy it off; but I showed it to one of the hands at
the liver' stable and he busted out laughin'. And then I come to find
out this here feller had tricked me fur to make game of me. He hadn't
wrote my name out a-tall--he'd wrote some dirty words instid. So after
that I give up tryin' to educate myself. That was several years back and
I ain't tried sence. Now I reckin I'm too old to learn. . . . I wonder,
suh--I wonder ef it'll be very long before that there money gits here
and I begin to have the spendin' of it?"

"Makin' plans already?"

"Yes, suh," O'Day answered truthfully; "I am." He was silent for a
moment, his eyes on the floor; then timidly he advanced the thought that
had come to him: "I reckin, suh, it wouldn't be no more'n fair and
proper ef I divided my money with you to pay you back fur all this
trouble you're fixin' to take on my account. Would--would half of it be
enough? The other half oughter last me fur whut uses I'll make of it."

"I know you mean well and I'm much obliged to you fur your offer,"
stated Judge Priest, smiling a little; "but it wouldn't be fittin' or
proper fur me to tech a cent of your money. There'll be some court dues
and some lawyers' fees, and sech, to pay over there in Ireland; but
after that's settled up everything comes direct to you. It's goin' to be
a pleasure to me to help you arrange these here details that you don't
understand--a pleasure and not a burden."

He considered the figure before him.

"Now here's another thing, Peep: I judge it's hardly fittin' fur a man
of substance to go on livin' the way you've had to live durin' your
life. Ef you don't mind my offerin' you a little advice I would suggest
that you go right down to Felsburg Brothers when you leave here and git
yourself fitted out with some suitable clothin'. And you'd better go to
Max Biederman's, too, and order a better pair of shoes fur yourself
than them you've got on. Tell 'em I sent you and that I guarantee the
payment of your bills. Though I reckin that'll hardly be necessary--when
the news of your good luck gits noised round I misdoubt whether there's
any firm in our entire city that wouldn't be glad to have you on their
books fur a stiddy customer.

"And, also, ef I was you I'd arrange to git me regular board and
lodgin's somewheres round town. You see, Peep, comin' into a property
entails consider'ble many responsibilities right frum the start."

"Yes, suh," assented the legatee obediently. "I'll do jest ez you say,
Judge Priest, about the clothes and the shoes, and all that; but--but,
ef you don't mind, I'd like to go on livin' at Gafford's. Pete Gafford's
been mighty good to me--him and his wife both; and I wouldn't like fur
'em to think I was gittin' stuck up jest because I've had this here
streak of luck come to me. Mebbe, seein' ez how things has changed with
me, they'd be willin' to take me in fur a table boarder at their house;
but I shorely would hate to give up livin' in that there little room
behind the feed room at the liver' stable. I don't know ez I could ever
find any place that would seem ez homelike to me ez whut it is."

"Suit yourself about that," said Judge Priest heartily. "I don't know
but whut you've got the proper notion about it after all."

"Yes, suh. Them Gaffords have been purty nigh the only real true
friends I ever had that I could count on." He hesitated a moment. "I
reckin--I reckin, suh, it'll be a right smart while, won't it, before
that money gits here frum all the way acrost the ocean?"

"Why, yes; I imagine it will. Was you figurin' on investin' a little of
it now?"

"Yes, suh; I was."

"About how much did you think of spendin' fur a beginnin'?"

O'Day squinted his eyes, his lips moving in silent calculation.

"Well, suh," he said at length, "I could use ez much ez a silver dollar.
But, of course, sence----"

"That sounds kind of moderate to me," broke in Judge Priest. He shoved a
pudgy hand into a pocket of his white trousers. "I reckin this detail
kin be arranged. Here, Peep"--he extended his hand--"here's your
dollar." Then, as the other drew back, stammering a refusal, he hastily
added: "No, no, no; go ahead and take it--it's yours. I'm jest advancin'
it to you out of whut'll be comin' to you shortly.

"I'll tell you whut: Until sech time ez you are in position to draw on
your own funds you jest drap in here to see me when you're in need of
cash, and I'll try to let you have whut you require--in reason. I'll
keep a proper reckinin' of whut you git and you kin pay me back ez soon
ez your inheritance is put into your hands.

"One thing more," he added as the heir, having thanked him, was making
his grateful adieu at the threshold: "Now that you're wealthy, or about
to be so, I kind of imagine quite a passel of fellers will suddenly
discover themselves strangely and affectionately drawed toward you.
You're liable to find out you've always had more true and devoted
friends in this community than whut you ever imagined to be the case
before.

"Now friendship is a mighty fine thing, takin' it by and large; but it
kin be overdone. It's barely possible that some of this here new crop of
your well-wishers and admirers will be makin' little business
propositions to you--desirin' to have you go partners with 'em in
business, or to sell you desirable pieces of real estate; or even to let
you loan 'em various sums of money. I wouldn't be surprised but whut a
number of sech chances will be comin' your way durin' the next few days,
and frum then on. Ef sech should be the case I would suggest to you
that, before committin' yourself to anybody or anything, you tell 'em
that I'm sort of actin' as your unofficial adviser in money matters, and
that they should come to me and outline their little schemes in person.
Do you git my general drift?"

"Yes, suh," said Peep. "I won't furgit; and thank you ag'in, Judge,
specially fur lettin' me have this dollar ahead of time."

He shambled out with the coin in his hand; and on his face was again
the look of one who sees before him the immediate fulfillment of a
delectable dream.

With lines of sympathy and amusement crisscrossing at the outer corners
of his eyelids, Judge Priest, rising and stepping to his door, watched
the retreating figure of the town's newest and strangest capitalist
disappear down the wide front steps of the courthouse.

Presently he went back to his chair and sat down, tugging at his short
chin beard.

"I wonder, now," said he, meditatively addressing the emptiness of the
room, "I wonder whut a man sixty-odd-year old is goin' to do with the
fust whole dollar he ever had in his life!"

It was characteristic of our circuit judge that he should have voiced
his curiosity aloud. Talking to himself when he was alone was one of his
habits. Also, it was characteristic of him that he had refrained from
betraying his inquisitiveness to his late caller. Similar motives of
delicacy had kept him from following the other man to watch the
sequence.

However, at secondhand, the details very shortly reached him. They were
brought by no less a person than Deputy Sheriff Quarles, who, some
twenty minutes or possibly half an hour later, obtruded himself upon
Judge Priest's presence.

"Judge," began Mr. Quarles, "you'd never in the world guess whut Old
Peep O'Day done with the first piece of money he got his hands on out
of that there forty thousand pounds of silver dollars he's come into
frum his uncle's estate."

The old man slanted a keen glance in Mr. Quarles' direction.

"Tell me, son," he asked softly, "how did you come to hear the glad
tidin's so promptly?"

"Me?" said Mr. Quarles innocently. "Why, Judge Priest, the word is all
over this part of town by this time. Why, I reckin twenty-five or fifty
people must 'a' been watchin' Old Peep to see how he was goin' to act
when he come out of this courthouse."

"Well, well, well!" murmured the Judge blandly. "Good news travels
almost ez fast sometimes ez whut bad news does--don't it, now? Well,
son, I give up the riddle. Tell me jest whut our elderly friend did do
with the first installment of his inheritance."

"Well, suh, he turned south here at the gate and went down the street,
a-lookin' neither to the right nor the left. He looked to me like a man
in a trance, almost. He keeps right on through Legal Row till he comes
to Franklin Street, and then he goes up Franklin to B. Weil & Son's
confectionary store; and there he turns in. I happened to be followin'
'long behind him, with a few others--with several others, in fact--and
we-all sort of slowed up in passin' and looked in at the door; and
that's how I come to be in a position to see whut happened.

"Old Peep, he marches in jest like I'm tellin' it to you, suh; and Mr.
B. Weil comes to wait on him, and he starts in buyin'. He buys hisself a
five-cent bag of gumdrops; and a five-cent bag of jelly beans; and a
ten-cent bag of mixed candies--kisses and candy mottoes, and sech ez
them, you know; and a sack of fresh roasted peanuts--a big sack, it was,
fifteen-cent size; and two prize boxes; and some gingersnaps--ten cents'
worth; and a coconut; and half a dozen red bananas; and half a dozen
more of the plain yaller ones. Altogether I figger he spent a even
dollar; in fact, I seen him hand Mr. Weil a dollar, and I didn't see him
gittin' no change back out of it.

"Then he comes on out of the store, with all these things stuck in his
pockets and stacked up in his arms till he looks sort of like some new
kind of a summertime Santy Klaws; and he sets down on a goods box at the
edge of the pavement, with his feet in the gutter, and starts in eatin'
all them things.

"First, he takes a bite off a yaller banana and then off a red banana,
and then a mouthful of peanuts; and then maybe some mixed candies--not
sayin' a word to nobody, but jest natchelly eatin' his fool head off. A
young chap that's clerkin' in Bagby's grocery, next door, steps up to
him and speaks to him, meanin', I suppose, to ast him is it true he's
wealthy. And Old Peep says to him, 'Please don't come botherin' me now,
sonny--I'm busy ketchin' up,' he says; and keeps right on a-munchin'
and a-chewin' like all possessed.

"That ain't all of it, neither, Judge--not by a long shot it ain't!
Purty soon Old Peep looks round him at the little crowd that's gathered.
He didn't seem to pay no heed to the grown-up people standin' there; but
he sees a couple of boys about ten years old in the crowd, and he
beckons to them to come to him, and he makes room fur them alongside him
on the box and divides up his knick-knacks with them.

"When I left there to come on back here he had no less'n six kids
squatted round him, includin' one little nigger boy; and between 'em all
they'd jest finished up the last of the bananas and peanuts and the
candy and the gingersnaps, and was fixin' to take turns drinkin' the
milk out of the coconut. I s'pose they've got it all cracked out of the
shell and et up by now--the coconut, I mean. Judge, you oughter stepped
down into Franklin Street and taken a look at the picture whilst there
was still time. You never seen sech a funny sight in all your days, I'll
bet!"

"I reckin 'twould be too late to be startin' now," said Judge Priest.
"I'm right sorry I missed it. . . . Busy ketchin' up, huh? Yes; I reckin he
is. . . . Tell me, son, whut did you make out of the way Peep O'Day acted?"

"Why, suh," stated Mr. Quarles, "to my mind, Judge, there ain't no
manner of doubt but whut prosperity has went to his head and turned it.
He acted to me like a plum' distracted idiot. A grown man with forty
thousand pounds of solid money settin' on the side of a gutter eatin'
jimcracks with a passel of dirty little boys! Kin you figure it out any
other way, Judge--except that his mind is gone?"

"I don't set myself up to be a specialist in mental disorders, son,"
said Judge Priest softly; "but, sence you ask me the question, I should
say, speakin' offhand, that it looks to me more ez ef the heart was the
organ that was mainly affected. And possibly"--he added this last with a
dry little smile--"and possibly, by now, the stomach also."

       *       *       *       *       *

Whether or not Mr. Quarles was correct in his psychopathic diagnosis, he
certainly had been right when he told Judge Priest that the word was
already all over the business district. It had spread fast and was still
spreading; it spread to beat the wireless, travelling as it did by that
mouth-to-ear method of communication which is so amazingly swift and
generally as tremendously incorrect. Persons who could not credit the
tale at all, nevertheless lost no time in giving to it a yet wider
circulation; so that, as though borne on the wind, it moved in every
direction, like ripples on a pond; and with each time of retelling the
size of the legacy grew.

The _Daily Evening News_, appearing on the streets at 5 P. M., confirmed
the tale; though by its account the fortune was reduced to a sum far
below the gorgeously exaggerated estimates of most of the earlier
narrators. Between breakfast and supper-time Peep O'Day's position in
the common estimation of his fellow citizens underwent a radical and
revolutionary change. He ceased--automatically, as it were--to be a town
character; he became, by universal consent, a town notable, whose every
act and every word would thereafter be subjected to close scrutiny and
closer analysis.

The next morning the nation at large had opportunity to know of the
great good fortune that had befallen Paul Felix O'Day, for the story had
been wired to the city papers by the local correspondents of the same;
and the press associations had picked up a stickful of the story and
sped it broadcast over leased wires. Many who until that day had never
heard of the fortunate man, or, indeed, of the place where he lived, at
once manifested a concern in his well-being.

Certain firms of investment brokers in New York and Chicago promptly
added a new name to what vulgarly they called their "sucker" lists.
Dealers in mining stocks, in oil stocks, in all kinds of attractive
stocks, showed interest; in circular form samples of the most optimistic
and alluring literature the world has ever known were consigned to the
post, addressed to Mr. P. F. O'Day, such-and-such a town, such-and-such
a state, care of general delivery.

Various lonesome ladies in various lonesome places lost no time in
sitting themselves down and inditing congratulatory letters; object
matrimony. Some of these were single ladies; others had been widowed,
either by death or request. Various other persons of both sexes,
residing here, there and elsewhere in our country, suddenly remembered
that they, too, were descended from the O'Days of Ireland, and wrote on
forthwith to claim proud and fond relationship with the particular O'Day
who had come into money.

It was a remarkable circumstance, which instantly developed, that one
man should have so many distant cousins scattered over the Union, and a
thing equally noteworthy that practically all these kinspeople, through
no fault of their own, should at the present moment be in such
straitened circumstances and in such dire need of temporary assistance
of a financial nature. Ticker and printer's ink, operating in
conjunction, certainly did their work mighty well; even so, several days
were to elapse before the news reached one who, of all those who read
it, had most cause to feel a profound personal sensation in the
intelligence.

This delay, however, was nowise to be blamed upon the tardiness of the
newspapers; it was occasioned by the fact that the person referred to
was for the moment well out of touch with the active currents of world
affairs, he being confined in a workhouse at Evansville, Indiana.

As soon as he had rallied from the shock this individual set about
making plans to put himself in direct touch with the inheritor. He had
ample time in which to frame and shape his campaign, inasmuch as there
remained for him yet to serve nearly eight long and painfully tedious
weeks of a three-months' vagrancy sentence. Unlike most of those now
manifesting their interest, he did not write a letter; but he dreamed
dreams that made him forget the annoyances of a ball and chain fast on
his ankle and piles of stubborn stones to be cracked up into fine bits
with a heavy hammer.

We are getting ahead of our narrative, though--days ahead of it. The
chronological sequence of events properly dates from the morning
following the morning when Peep O'Day, having been abruptly translated
from the masses of the penniless to the classes of the wealthy, had
forthwith embarked upon the gastronomic orgy so graphically detailed by
Deputy Sheriff Quarles.

On that next day more eyes probably than had been trained in Peep
O'Day's direction in all the unremarked and unremarkable days of his
life put together were focused upon him. Persons who theretofore had
regarded his existence--if indeed they gave it a thought--as one of the
utterly trivial and inconsequential incidents of the cosmic scheme, were
moved to speak to him, to clasp his hand, and, in numerous instances, to
express a hearty satisfaction over his altered circumstances. To all
these, whether they were moved by mere neighbourly good will, or
perchance were inspired by impulses of selfishness, the old man
exhibited a mien of aloofness and embarrassment.

This diffidence or this suspicion--or this whatever it was--protected
him from those who might entertain covetous and ulterior designs upon
his inheritance even better than though he had been brusque and rude;
while those who sought to question him regarding his plans for the
future drew from him only mumbled and evasive replies, which left them
as deeply in the dark as they had been before. Altogether, in his
intercourse with adults he appeared shy and very ill at ease.

It was noted, though, that early in the forenoon he attached to him
perhaps half a dozen urchins, of whom the oldest could scarcely have
been more than twelve or thirteen years of age; and that these
youngsters remained his companions throughout the day. Likewise the
events of that day were such as to confirm a majority of the observers
in practically the same belief that had been voiced by Mr.
Quarles--namely, that whatever scanty brains Peep O'Day might have ever
had were now completely ruined by the stroke of luck that had befallen
him.

In fairness to all--to O'Day and to the town critics who sat in judgment
upon his behaviour--it should be stated that his conduct at the very
outset was not entirely devoid of evidences of sanity. With his troupe
of ragged juveniles trailing behind him, he first visited Felsburg
Brothers' Emporium to exchange his old and disreputable costume for a
wardrobe that, in accordance with Judge Priest's recommendation, he had
ordered on the afternoon previous, and which had since been undergoing
certain necessary alterations.

With his meagre frame incased in new black woollens, and wearing, as an
incongruous added touch, the most brilliant of neckties, a necktie of
the shade of a pomegranate blossom, he presently issued from Felsburg
Brothers' and entered M. Biederman's shoe store, two doors below. Here
Mr. Biederman fitted him with shoes, and in addition noted down a
further order, which the purchaser did not give until after he had
conferred earnestly with the members of his youthful entourage.

Those watching this scene from a distance saw--and perhaps marvelled at
the sight--that already, between these small boys, on the one part, and
this old man, on the other, a perfect understanding appeared to have
been established.

After leaving Biederman's, and tagged by his small escorts, O'Day went
straight to the courthouse and, upon knocking at the door, was admitted
to Judge Priest's private chambers, the boys meantime waiting outside in
the hall. When he came forth he showed them something he held in his
hand and told them something; whereupon all of them burst into excited
and joyous whoops.

It was at that point that O'Day, by the common verdict of most grown-up
onlookers, began to betray the vagaries of a disordered intellect. Not
that his reason had not been under suspicion already, as a result of his
freakish excess in the matter of B. Weil & Son's wares on the preceding
day; but the relapse that now followed, as nearly everybody agreed, was
even more pronounced, even more symptomatic than the earlier attack of
aberration.

In brief, this was what happened: To begin with, Mr. Virgil Overall, who
dealt in lands and houses and sold insurance of all the commoner
varieties on the side, had stalked O'Day to this point and was lying in
wait for him as he came out of the courthouse into the Public Square,
being anxious to describe to him some especially desirable bargains, in
both improved and unimproved realty; also, Mr. Overall was prepared to
book him for life, accident and health policies on the spot.

So pleased was Mr. Overall at having distanced his professional rivals
in the hunt that he dribbled at the mouth. But the warmth of his
disappointment and indignation dried up the salivary founts instantly
when the prospective patron declined to listen to him at all and,
breaking free from Mr. Overall's detaining clasp, hurried on into Legal
Row, with his small convoys trotting along ahead and alongside him.

At the door of the Blue Goose Saloon and Short Order Restaurant its
proprietor, by name Link Iserman, was lurking, as it were, in ambush. He
hailed the approaching O'Day most cordially; he inquired in a warm voice
regarding O'Day's health; and then, with a rare burst of generosity, he
invited, nay urged, O'Day to step inside and have something on the
house--wines, ales, liquors or cigars; it was all one to Mr. Iserman.
The other merely shook his head and, without a word of thanks for the
offer, passed on as though bent upon an important mission.

Mark how the proofs were accumulating: The man had disdained the company
of men of approximately his own age or thereabout; he had refused an
opportunity to partake of refreshment suitable to his years; and now he
stepped into the Bon Ton toy store and bought for cash--most
inconceivable of acquisitions!--a little wagon that was painted bright
red and bore on its sides, in curlicued letters, the name Comet.

His next stop was made at Bishop & Bryan's grocery, where, with the aid
of his youthful compatriots, he first discriminatingly selected, and
then purchased on credit, and finally loaded into the wagon, such
purchases as a dozen bottles of soda pop, assorted flavours; cheese,
crackers--soda and animal; sponge cakes with weather-proof pink icing on
them; fruits of the season; cove oysters; a bottle of pepper sauce; and
a quantity of the extra large sized bright green cucumber pickles known
to the trade as the Fancy Jumbo Brand, Prime Selected.

Presently the astounding spectacle was presented of two small boys, with
string bridles on their arms, drawing the wagon through our town and out
of it into the country, with Peep O'Day in the rôle of teamster walking
alongside the laden wagon. He was holding the lines in his hands and
shouting orders at his team, who showed a colty inclination to shy at
objects, to kick up their heels without provocation, and at intervals to
try to run away. Eight or ten small boys--for by now the troupe had
grown in number and in volume of noise--trailed along, keeping step with
their elderly patron and advising him shrilly regarding the management
of his refractory span.

As it turned out, the destination of this preposterous procession was
Bradshaw's Grove, where the entire party spent the day picnicking in the
woods and, as reported by several reliable witnesses, playing games. It
was not so strange that holidaying boys should play games; the amazing
feature of the performance was that Peep O'Day, a man old enough to be
grandfather to any of them, played with them, being by turns an Indian
chief, a robber baron, and the driver of a stagecoach attacked by Wild
Western desperadoes.

When he returned to town at dusk, drawing his little red wagon behind
him, his new suit was rumpled into many wrinkles and marked by dust and
grass stains; his flame-coloured tie was twisted under one ear; his new
straw hat was mashed quite out of shape; and in his eyes was a light
that sundry citizens, on meeting him, could only interpret to be a spark
struck from inner fires of madness.

Days that came after this, on through the midsummer, were, with
variations, but repetitions of the day I have just described. Each
morning Peep O'Day would go to either the courthouse or Judge Priest's
home to turn over to the Judge the unopened mail which had been
delivered to him at Gafford's stables; then he would secure from the
Judge a loan of money against his inheritance. Generally the amount of
his daily borrowing was a dollar; rarely was it so much as two dollars;
and only once was it more than two dollars.

By nightfall the sum would have been expended upon perfectly useless and
absolutely childish devices. It might be that he would buy toy pistols
and paper caps for himself and his following of urchins; or that his
whim would lead him to expend all the money in tin flutes. In one case
the group he so incongruously headed would be for that one day a gang of
make-believe banditti; in another, they would constitute themselves a
fife-and-drum corps--with barreltops for the drums--and would march
through the streets, where scandalised adults stood in their tracks to
watch them go by, they all the while making weird sounds, which with
them passed for music.

Or again, the available cash resources would be invested in provender;
and then there would be an outing in the woods. Under Peep O'Day's
captaincy his chosen band of youngsters picked dewberries; they went
swimming together in Guthrie's Gravel Pit, out by the old Fair Grounds,
where his spare naked shanks contrasted strongly with their plump
freckled legs as all of them splashed through the shallows, making for
deep water. Under his leadership they stole watermelons from Mr. Dick
Bell's patch, afterward eating their spoils in thickets of grapevines
along the banks of Perkins' Creek.

It was felt that mental befuddlement and mortal folly could reach no
greater heights--or no lower depths--than on a certain hour of a certain
day, along toward the end of August, when O'Day came forth from his
quarters in Gafford's stables, wearing a pair of boots that M.
Biederman's establishment had turned out to his order and his
measure--not such boots as a sensible man might be expected to wear, but
boots that were exaggerated and monstrous counterfeits of the
red-topped, scroll-fronted, brass-toed, stub-heeled, squeaky-soled
bootees that small boys of an earlier generation possessed.

Very proudly and seemingly unconscious of or, at least, oblivious to the
derisive remarks that the appearance of these new belongings drew from
many persons, the owner went clumping about in them, with the rumply
legs of his trousers tucked down in them, and ballooning up and out over
the tops in folds which overlapped from his knee joints halfway down his
attenuated calves.

As Deputy Sheriff Quarles said, the combination was a sight fit to make
a horse laugh. It may be that small boys have a lesser sense of humour
than horses have, for certainly the boys who were the old man's
invariable shadows did not laugh at him, or at his boots either.

Between the whiskered senior and his small comrades there existed a
freemasonry that made them all sense a thing beyond the ken of most of
their elders. Perhaps this was because the elders, being blind in their
superior wisdom, saw neither this thing nor the communion that
flourished. They saw only the farcical joke. But His Honour, Judge
Priest, to cite a conspicuous exception, seemed not to see the
lamentable comedy of it.

Indeed, it seemed to some almost as if Judge Priest were aiding and
abetting the befogged O'Day in his demented enterprises, his peculiar
excursions and his weird purchases. If he did not actually encourage him
in these constant exhibitions of witlessness, certainly there were no
evidences available to show that he sought to dissuade O'Day from his
strange course.

At the end of a fortnight one citizen, in whom patience had ceased to be
a virtue and to whose nature long-continued silence on any public topic
was intolerable, felt it his duty to speak to the Judge upon the
subject. This gentleman--his name was S. P. Escott--held, with others,
that, for the good name of the community, steps should be taken to abate
the infantile, futile activities of the besotted legatee.

Afterward Mr. Escott, giving a partial account of the conversation with
Judge Priest to certain of his friends, showed unfeigned annoyance at
the outcome.

"I claim that old man's not fittin' to be runnin' a court any longer,"
he stated bitterly. "He's too old and peevish--that's whut ails him! Fur
one, I'm certainly not never goin' to vote fur him again. Why, it's
gettin' to be ez much ez a man's life is worth to stop that there
spiteful old crank on the street and put a civil question to him--that's
whut's the matter!"

"What happened, S. P.?" inquired someone.

"Why, here's whut happened!" exclaimed the aggrieved Mr. Escott. "I
hadn't any more than started in to tell him the whole town was talkin'
about the way that daffy Old Peep O'Day was carryin' on, and that
somethin' had oughter be done about it, and didn't he think it was
beholdin' on him ez circuit judge to do somethin' right away, sech ez
havin' O'Day tuck up and tried fur a lunatic, and that I fur one was
ready and willin' to testify to the crazy things I'd seen done with my
own eyes--when he cut in on me and jest ez good ez told me to my own
face that ef I'd quit tendin' to other people's business I'd mebbe have
more business of my own to tend to.

"Think of that, gentlemen! A circuit judge bemeanin' a citizen and a
taxpayer"--he checked himself slightly--"anyhow, a citizen, thataway! It
shows he can't be rational his own self. Personally I claim Old Priest
is failin' mentally--he must be! And ef anybody kin be found to run
against him at the next election you gentlemen jest watch and see who
gits my vote!"

Having uttered this threat with deep and significant emphasis Mr.
Escott, still muttering, turned and entered the front gate of his
boarding house. It was not exactly his boarding house; his wife ran it.
But Mr. Escott lived there and voted from there.

But the apogee of Peep O'Day's carnival of weird vagaries of deportment
came at the end of two months--two months in which each day the man
furnished cumulative and piled-up material for derisive and jocular
comment on the part of a very considerable proportion of his fellow
townsmen.

Three occurrences of a widely dissimilar nature, yet all closely
interrelated to the main issue, marked the climax of the man's new rôle
in his new career. The first of these was the arrival of his legacy; the
second was a one-ring circus; and the third and last was a nephew.

In the form of certain bills of exchange the estate left by the late
Daniel O'Day, of the town of Kilmare, in the island of Ireland, was on a
certain afternoon delivered over into Judge Priest's hands, and by him,
in turn, handed to the rightful owner, after which sundry
indebtednesses, representing the total of the old Judge's day-to-day
cash advances to O'Day, were liquidated.

The ceremony of deducting this sum took place at the Planters' Bank,
whither the two had journeyed in company from the courthouse. Having,
with the aid of the paying teller, instructed O'Day in the technical
details requisite to the drawing of personal checks, Judge Priest went
home and had his bag packed, and left for Reelfoot Lake to spend a week
fishing. As a consequence he missed the remaining two events, following
immediately thereafter.

The circus was no great shakes of a circus; no grand, glittering,
gorgeous, glorious pageant of education and entertainment, travelling
on its own special trains; no vast tented city of world's wonders and
world's champions, heralded for weeks and weeks in advance of its coming
by dead walls emblazoned with the finest examples of the lithographer's
art, and by half-page advertisements in the _Daily Evening News_. On the
contrary, it was a shabby little wagon show, which, coming overland on
short notice, rolled into town under horse power, and set up its ragged
and dusty canvases on the vacant lot across from Yeiser's drug store.

Compared with the street parade of any of its great and famous rivals,
the street parade of this circus was a meagre and disappointing thing.
Why, there was only one elephant, a dwarfish and debilitated-looking
creature, worn mangy and slick on its various angles, like the cover of
an old-fashioned haircloth trunk; and obviously most of the closed cages
were weather-beaten stake wagons in disguise. Nevertheless, there was a
sizable turnout of people for the afternoon performance. After all, a
circus was a circus.

Moreover, this particular circus was marked at the afternoon performance
by happenings of a nature most decidedly unusual. At one o'clock the
doors were opened: at one-ten the eyes of the proprietor were made glad
and his heart was uplifted within him by the sight of a strange
procession, drawing nearer and nearer across the scuffed turf of the
common, and heading in the direction of the red ticket wagon.

At the head of the procession marched Peep O'Day--only, of course, the
proprietor didn't know it was Peep O'Day--a queer figure in his rumpled
black clothes and his red-topped brass-toed boots, and with one hand
holding fast to the string of a captive toy balloon. Behind him, in an
uneven jostling formation, followed many small boys and some small
girls. A census of the ranks would have developed that here were
included practically all the juvenile white population who otherwise,
through a lack of funds, would have been denied the opportunity to
patronise this circus or, in fact, any circus.

Each member of the joyous company was likewise the bearer of a toy
balloon--red, yellow, blue, green or purple, as the case might be. Over
the line of heads the taut rubbery globes rode on their tethers, nodding
and twisting like so many big iridescent bubbles; and half a block away,
at the edge of the lot, a balloon vender, whose entire stock had been
disposed of in one splendid transaction, now stood, empty-handed but
full-pocketed, marvelling at the stroke of luck that enabled him to take
an afternoon off and rest his voice.

Out of a seemingly bottomless exchequer Peep O'Day bought tickets of
admission for all. But this was only the beginning. Once inside the tent
he procured accommodations in the reserved-seat section for himself and
those who accompanied him. From such superior points of vantage the
whole crew of them witnessed the performance, from the thrilling grand
entry, with spangled ladies and gentlemen riding two by two on
broad-backed steeds, to the tumbling bout introducing the full strength
of the company, which came at the end.

They munched fresh-roasted peanuts and balls of sugar-coated pop corn,
slightly rancid, until they munched no longer with zest but merely
mechanically. They drank pink lemonade to an extent that threatened
absolute depletion of the fluid contents of both barrels in the
refreshment stand out in the menagerie tent. They whooped their
unbridled approval when the wild Indian chief, after shooting down a
stuffed coon with a bow and arrow from somewhere up near the top of the
centre pole while balancing himself jauntily erect upon the haunches of
a coursing white charger, suddenly flung off his feathered headdress,
his wig and his fringed leather garments, and revealed himself in pink
fleshings as the principal bareback rider.

They screamed in a chorus of delight when the funny old clown, who had
been forcibly deprived of three tin flutes in rapid succession, now
produced yet a fourth from the seemingly inexhaustible depths of his
baggy white pants--a flute with a string and a bent pin affixed to
it--and, secretly hooking the pin in the tail of the cross ringmaster's
coat, was thereafter enabled to toot sharp shrill blasts at frequent
intervals, much to the chagrin of the ringmaster, who seemed utterly
unable to discover the whereabouts of the instrument dangling behind
him.

But no one among them whooped louder or laughed longer than their
elderly and bewhiskered friend, who sat among them, paying the bills. As
his guests they stayed for the concert; and, following this, they
patronised the side show in a body. They had been almost the first upon
the scene; assuredly they were the last of the audience to quit it.

Indeed, before they trailed their confrère away from the spot the sun
was nearly down; and at scores of supper tables all over town the tale
of poor old Peep O'Day's latest exhibition of freakishness was being
retailed, with elaborations, to interested auditors. Estimates of the
sum probably expended by him in this crowning extravagance ranged well
up into the hundreds of dollars.

As for the object of these speculations, he was destined not to eat any
supper at all that night. Something happened that so upset him as to
make him forget the meal altogether. It began to happen when he reached
the modest home of P. Gafford, adjoining the Gafford stables, on Locust
Street, and found sitting on the lowermost step of the porch a young man
of untidy and unshaven aspect, who hailed him affectionately as Uncle
Paul, and who showed deep annoyance and acute distress upon being
rebuffed with chill words.

It is possible that the strain of serving a three-months' sentence, on
the technical charge of vagrancy, in a workhouse somewhere in Indiana,
had affected the young man's nerves. His ankle bones still ached where
the ball and chain had been hitched; on his palms the blisters induced
by the uncongenial use of a sledge hammer on a rock pile had hardly as
yet turned to calluses. So it is only fair to presume that his nervous
system felt the stress of his recent confining experiences.

Almost tearfully he pleaded with Peep O'Day to remember the ties of
blood that bound them; repeatedly he pointed out that he was the only
known kinsman of the other in all the world, and, therefore, had more
reason than any other living being to expect kindness and generosity at
his uncle's hands. He spoke socialistically of the advisability of an
equal division; failing to make any impression here he mentioned the
subject of a loan--at first hopefully, but finally despairingly.

When he was done Peep O'Day, in a perfectly colourless and unsympathetic
voice, bade him good-by--not good night but good-by! And, going inside
the house, he closed the door behind him, leaving his newly returned
relative outside and quite alone.

At this the young man uttered violent language; but, since there was
nobody present to hear him, it is likely he found small satisfaction in
his profanity, rich though it may have been in metaphor and variety. So
presently he betook himself off, going straight to the office in Legal
Row of H. B. Sublette, attorney at law.

From the circumstance that he found Mr. Sublette in, though it was long
past that gentleman's office hours, and, moreover, found Mr. Sublette
waiting in an expectant and attentive attitude, it might have been
adduced by one skilled in the trick of putting two and two together that
the pair of them had reached a prior understanding sometime during the
day; and that the visit of the young man to the Gafford home and his
speeches there had all been parts of a scheme planned out at a prior
conference.

Be this as it may, as soon as Mr. Sublette had heard his caller's
version of the meeting upon the porch he lost no time in taking certain
legal steps. That very night, on behalf of his client, denominated in
the documents as Percival Dwyer, Esquire, he prepared a petition
addressed to the circuit judge of the district, setting forth that,
inasmuch as Paul Felix O'Day had by divers acts shown himself to be of
unsound mind, now, therefore, came his nephew and next of kin praying
that a committee or curator be appointed to take over the estate of the
said Paul Felix O'Day, and administer the same in accordance with the
orders of the court until such time as the said Paul Felix O'Day should
recover his reason, or should pass from this life, and so forth and so
on; not to mention whereases in great number and aforesaids abounding
throughout the text in the utmost profusion.

On the following morning the papers were filed with Circuit Clerk Milam.
That vigilant barrister, Mr. Sublette, brought them in person to the
courthouse before nine o'clock, he having the interests of his client at
heart and perhaps also visions of a large contingent fee in his mind. No
retainer had been paid. The state of Mr. Dwyer's finances--or, rather,
the absence of any finances--had precluded the performance of that
customary detail; but to Mr. Sublette's experienced mind the prospects
of future increment seemed large.

Accordingly he was all for prompt action. Formally he said he wished to
go on record as demanding for his principal a speedy hearing of the
issue, with a view to preventing the defendant named in the pleadings
from dissipating any more of the estate lately bequeathed to him and now
fully in his possession--or words to that effect.

Mr. Milam felt justified in getting into communication with Judge Priest
over the long-distance phone; and the Judge, cutting short his vacation
and leaving uncaught vast numbers of bass and perch in Reelfoot Lake,
came home, arriving late that night.

Next morning, having issued divers orders in connection with the
impending litigation, he sent a messenger to find Peep O'Day and to
direct O'Day to come to the courthouse for a personal interview.

Shortly thereafter a scene that had occurred some two months earlier,
with His Honour's private chamber for a setting, was substantially
duplicated: There was the same cast of two, the same stage properties,
the same atmosphere of untidy tidiness. And, as before, the dialogue was
in Judge Priest's hands. He led and his fellow character followed his
leads.

"Peep," he was saying, "you understand, don't you, that this here
fragrant nephew of yours that's turned up from nowheres in particular is
fixin' to git ready to try to prove that you are feeble-minded? And, on
top of that, that he's goin' to ask that a committee be app'inted fur
you--in other words, that somebody or other shall be named by the court,
meanin' me, to take charge of your property and control the spendin' of
it frum now on?"

"Yes, suh," stated O'Day. "Pete Gafford he set down with me and made hit
all clear to me, yestiddy evenin', after they'd done served the papers
on me."

"All right, then. Now I'm goin' to fix the hearin' fur to-morrow mornin'
at ten. The other side is askin' fur a quick decision; and I rather
figger they're entitled to it. Is that agreeable to you?"

"Whutever you say, Judge."

"Well, have you retained a lawyer to represent your interests in court?
That's the main question that I sent fur you to ast you."

"Do I need a lawyer, Judge?"

"Well, there have been times when I regarded lawyers ez bein'
superfluous," stated Judge Priest dryly. "Still, in most cases litigants
do have 'em round when the case is bein' heard."

"I don't know ez I need any lawyer to he'p me say whut I've got to say,"
said O'Day. "Judge, you ain't never ast me no questions about the way
I've been carryin' on sence I come into this here money; but I reckin
mebbe this is ez good a time ez any to tell you jest why I've been
actin' the way I've done. You see, suh----"

"Hold on!" broke in Judge Priest. "Up till now, ez my friend, it would
'a' been perfectly proper fur you to give me your confidences ef you
were minded so to do; but now I reckin you'd better not. You see, I'm
the judge that's got to decide whether you are a responsible
person--whether you're mentally capable of handlin' your own financial
affairs, or whether you ain't. So you'd better wait and make your
statement in your own behalf to me whilst I'm settin' on the bench. I'll
see that you git an opportunity to do so and I'll listen to it; and I'll
give it all the consideration it's deservin' of.

"And, on second thought, p'raps it would only be a waste of time and
money fur you to go hirin' a lawyer specially to represent you. Under
the law it's my duty, in sech a case ez this here one is, to app'int a
member of the bar to serve durin' the proceedin's ez your guardian _ad
litem_.

"You don't need to be startled," he added as O'Day flinched at the sound
in his ears of these strange and fearsome words. "A guardian _ad litem_
is simply a lawyer that tends to your affairs till the case is settled
one way or the other. Ef you had a dozen lawyers I'd have to app'int him
jest the same. So you don't need to worry about that part of it.

"That's all. You kin go now ef you want to. Only, ef I was you, I
wouldn't draw out any more money frum the bank 'twixt now and the time
when I make my decision."

       *       *       *       *       *

All things considered, it was an unusual assemblage that Judge Priest
regarded over the top rims of his glasses as he sat facing it in his
broad armchair, with the flat top of the bench intervening between him
and the gathering. Not often, even in the case of exciting murder
trials, had the old courtroom held a larger crowd; certainly never had
it held so many boys. Boys, and boys exclusively, filled the back rows
of benches downstairs. More boys packed the narrow shelf-like balcony
that spanned the chamber across its far end--mainly small boys,
barefooted, sunburned, freckled-faced, shock-headed boys. And, for
boys, they were strangely silent and strangely attentive.

The petitioner sat with his counsel, Mr. Sublette. The petitioner had
been newly shaved, and from some mysterious source had been equipped
with a neat wardrobe. Plainly he was endeavouring to wear a look of
virtue, which was a difficult undertaking, as you would understand had
you known the petitioner.

The defending party to the action was seated across the room, touching
elbows with old Colonel Farrell, dean of the local bar and its most
florid orator.

"The court will designate Col. Horatio Farrell as guardian _ad litem_
for the defendant during these proceedings," Judge Priest had stated a
few minutes earlier, using the formal and grammatical language he
reserved exclusively for his courtroom.

At once old Colonel Farrell had hitched his chair up alongside O'Day;
had asked him several questions in a tone inaudible to those about them;
had listened to the whispered answers of O'Day; and then had nodded his
huge curly white dome of a head, as though amply satisfied with the
responses.

Let us skip the preliminaries. True, they seemed to interest the
audience; here, though, they would be tedious reading. Likewise, in
touching upon the opening and outlining address of Attorney-at-Law
Sublette let us, for the sake of time and space, be very much briefer
than Mr. Sublette was. For our present purposes, I deem it sufficient to
say that in all his professional career Mr. Sublette was never more
eloquent, never more forceful, never more vehement in his allegations,
and never more convinced--as he himself stated, not once but
repeatedly--of his ability to prove the facts he alleged by competent
and unbiased testimony. These facts, he pointed out, were common
knowledge in the community; nevertheless, he stood prepared to buttress
them with the evidence of reputable witnesses, given under oath.

Mr. Sublette, having unwound at length, now wound up. He sat down,
perspiring freely and through the perspiration radiating confidence in
his contentions, confidence in the result and, most of all, unbounded
confidence in Mr. Sublette.

Now Colonel Farrell was standing up to address the court. Under the
cloak of a theatrical presence and a large orotund manner, and behind a
Ciceronian command of sonorous language, the colonel carried concealed a
shrewd old brain. It was as though a skilled marksman lurked in ambush
amid a tangle of luxuriant foliage. In this particular instance,
moreover, it is barely possible that the colonel was acting on a cue,
privily conveyed to him before the court opened.

"May it please Your Honour," he began, "I have just conferred with the
defendant here; and, acting in the capacity of his guardian _ad litem_,
I have advised him to waive an opening address by counsel. Indeed, the
defendant has no counsel. Furthermore, the defendant, also acting upon
my advice, will present no witnesses in his own behalf. But, with Your
Honour's permission, the defendant will now make a personal statement;
and thereafter he will rest content, leaving the final arbitrament of
the issue to Your Honour's discretion."

"I object!" exclaimed Mr. Sublette briskly.

"On what grounds does the learned counsel object?" inquired Judge
Priest.

"On the grounds that, since the mental competence of this man is
concerned--since it is our contention that he is patently and plainly a
victim of senility, an individual prematurely in his dotage--any
utterances by him will be of no value whatsoever in aiding the
conscience and intelligence of the court to arrive at a fair and just
conclusion regarding the defendant's mental condition."

Mr. Sublette excelled in the use of big words; there was no doubt about
that.

"The objection is overruled," said Judge Priest. He nodded in the
direction of O'Day and Colonel Farrell. "The court will hear the
defendant. He is not to be interrupted while making his statement. The
defendant may proceed."

Without further urging, O'Day stood up, a tall, slab-sided rack of a
man, with his long arms dangling at his sides, half facing Judge Priest
and half facing his nephew and his nephew's lawyer. Without hesitation
he began to speak. And this was what he said:

"There's mebbe some here ez knows about how I was raised and fetched up.
My paw and my maw died when I was jest only a baby; so I was brung up
out here at the old county porehouse ez a pauper. I can't remember the
time when I didn't have to work for my board and keep, and work hard.
While other boys was goin' to school and playin' hooky, and goin' in
washin' in the creek, and playin' games, and all sech ez that, I had to
work. I never done no playin' round in my whole life--not till here jest
recently, anyway.

"But I always craved to play round some. I didn't never say nothin'
about it to nobody after I growed up, 'cause I figgered it out they
wouldn't understand and mebbe'd laugh at me; but all these years, ever
sence I left that there porehouse, I've had a hankerin' here inside of
me"--he lifted one hand and touched his breast--"I've had a hankerin' to
be a boy and to do all the things a boy does; to do the things I was
chiselled out of doin' whilst I was of a suitable age to be doin' 'em. I
call to mind that I uster dream in my sleep about doin' 'em; but the
dream never come true--not till jest here lately. It didn't have no
chancet to come true--not till then.

"So, when this money come to me so sudden and unbeknownstlike I said to
myself that I was goin' to make that there dream come true; and I
started out fur to do it. And I done it! And I reckin that's the cause
of my bein' here to-day, accused of bein' feeble-minded. But, even so, I
don't regret it none. Ef it was all to do over ag'in I'd do it jest the
very same way.

"Why, I never knowed whut it was, till here two months or so ago, to
have my fill of bananas and candy and gingersnaps, and all sech
knickknacks ez them. All my life I've been cravin' secretly to own a
pair of red-topped boots with brass toes on 'em, like I used to see
other boys wearin' in the wintertime when I was out yonder at that
porehouse wearin' an old pair of somebody else's cast-off shoes--mebbe a
man's shoes, with rags wropped round my feet to keep the snow frum
comin' through the cracks in 'em, and to keep 'em frum slippin' right
spang off my feet. I got three toes frostbit oncet durin' a cold spell,
wearin' them kind of shoes. But here the other week I found myself able
to buy me some red-top boots with brass toes on 'em. So I had 'em made
to order and I'm wearin' 'em now. I wear 'em reg'lar even ef it is
summertime. I take a heap of pleasure out of 'em. And, also, all my life
long I've been wantin' to go to a circus. But not till three days ago I
didn't never git no chancet to go to one.

"That gentleman yonder--Mister Sublette--he 'lowed jest now that I was
leadin' a lot of little boys in this here town into bad habits. He said
that I was learnin' 'em nobody knowed whut devilment. And he spoke of my
havin' egged 'em on to steal watermelons frum Mister Bell's watermelon
patch out here three miles frum town, on the Marshallville gravel road.
You-all heared whut he jest now said about that.

"I don't mean no offence and I beg his pardon fur contradictin' him
right out before everybody here in the big courthouse; but, mister,
you're wrong. I don't lead these here boys astray that I've been runnin'
round with. They're mighty nice clean boys, all of 'em. Some of 'em are
mighty near ez pore ez whut I uster be; but there ain't no real harm in
any of 'em. We git along together fine--me and them. And, without no
preachin', nor nothin' like that, I've done my best these weeks we've
been frolickin' and projectin' round together to keep 'em frum growin'
up to do mean things.

"I use chawin' tobacco myself; but I've tole 'em, I don't know how many
times, that ef they chaw it'll stunt 'em in their growth. And I've got
several of 'em that was smokin' cigarettes on the sly to promise me
they'd quit. So I don't figger ez I've done them boys any real harm by
goin' round with 'em. And I believe ef you was to ast 'em they'd all
tell you the same, suh.

"Now about them watermelons: Sence this gentleman has brung them
watermelons up, I'm goin' to tell you-all the truth about that too."

He cast a quick, furtive look, almost a guilty look, over his shoulder
toward the rear of the courtroom before he went on:

"Them watermelons wasn't really stole at all. I seen Mister Dick Bell
beforehand and arranged with him to pay him in full fur whutever damage
mout be done. But, you see, I knowed watermelons tasted sweeter to a boy
ef he thought he'd hooked 'em out of a patch; so I never let on to my
little pardners yonder that I'd the same ez paid Mister Bell in advance
fur the melons we took out of his patch and et in the woods. They've all
been thinkin' up till now that we really hooked them watermelons. But ef
that was wrong I'm sorry fur it.

"Mister Sublette, you jest now said that I was fritterin' away my
property on vain foolishment. Them was the words you used--'fritterin''
and 'vain foolishment.' Mebbe you're right, suh, about the fritterin'
part; but ef spendin' money in a certain way gives a man ez much
pleasure ez it's give me these last two months, and ef the money is
his'n by rights, I figger it can't be so very foolish; though it may
'pear so to some.

"Excusin' these here clothes I've got on and these here boots, which
ain't paid fur yet, but are charged up to me on Felsburg Brothers'
books and Mister M. Biederman's books, I didn't spend only a dollar a
day, or mebbe two dollars, and once three dollars in a single day out of
whut was comin' to me. The Judge here, he let me have that out of his
own pocket; and I paid him back. And that was all I did spend till here
three days ago when that there circus come to town. I reckin I did spend
a right smart then.

"My money had come frum the old country only the day before; so I went
to the bank and they writ out one of them pieces of paper which is
called a check, and I signed it--with my mark; and they give me the
money I wanted--an even two hundred dollars. And part of that there
money I used to pay fur circus tickets fur all the little boys and
little girls I could find in this town that couldn't 'a' got to the
circus no other way. Some of 'em are settin' back there behind you-all
now--some of the boys, I mean; I don't see none of the little girls.

"There was several of 'em told me at the time they hadn't never seen a
circus--not in their whole lives! Fur that matter, I hadn't, neither;
but I didn't want no pore child in this town to grow up to be ez old ez
I am without havin' been to at least one circus. So I taken 'em all in
and paid all the bills; and when night come there wasn't but 'bout nine
dollars left out of the whole two hundred that I'd started out with in
the mornin'. But I don't begredge spendin' it. It looks to me like it
was money well invested. They all seemed to enjoy it; and I know I done
so.

"There may be bigger circuses'n whut that one was; but I don't see how a
circus could 'a' been any better than this here one I'm tellin' about,
ef it was ten times ez big. I don't regret the investment and I don't
aim to lie about it now. Mister Sublette, I'd do the same thing over
ag'in ef the chance should come, lawsuit or no lawsuit. Ef you should
win this here case mebbe I wouldn't have no second chance.

"Ef some gentleman is app'inted ez a committee to handle my money it's
likely he wouldn't look at the thing the same way I do; and it's likely
he wouldn't let me have so much money all in one lump to spend takin' a
passel of little shavers that ain't no kin to me to the circus and to
the side show, besides lettin' 'em stay fur the grand concert or
after-show, and all. But I done it once; and I've got it to remember
about and think about in my own mind ez long ez I live.

"I'm 'bout finished now. There's jest one thing more I'd like to say,
and that is this: Mister Sublette he said a minute ago that I was in my
second childhood. Meanin' no offence, suh, but you was wrong there too.
The way I look at it, a man can't be in his second childhood without
he's had his first childhood; and I was cheated plum' out of mine. I'm
more'n sixty years old, ez near ez I kin figger; but I'm tryin' to be a
boy before it's too late."

He paused a moment and looked round him.

"The way I look at it, Judge Priest, suh, and you-all, every man that
grows up, no matter how old he may git to be, is entitled to 'a' been a
boy oncet in his lifetime. I--I reckin that's all."

He sat down and dropped his eyes upon the floor, as though ashamed that
his temerity should have carried him so far. There was a strange little
hush filling the courtroom. It was Judge Priest who broke it.

"The court," he said, "has by the words just spoken by this man been
sufficiently advised as to the sanity of the man himself. The court
cares to hear nothing more from either side on this subject. The
petition is dismissed."

Very probably these last words may have been as so much Greek to the
juvenile members of the audience; possibly, though, they were made aware
of the meaning of them by the look upon the face of Nephew Percival
Dwyer and the look upon the face of Nephew Percival Dwyer's attorney. At
any rate, His Honour hardly had uttered the last syllable of his
decision before, from the rear of the courtroom and from the gallery
above, there arose a shrill, vehement, sincere sound of
yelling--exultant, triumphant and deafening. It continued for upward of
a minute before the small disturbers remembered where they were and
reduced themselves to a state of comparative quiet.

For reasons best known to himself, Judge Priest, who ordinarily stickled
for order and decorum in his courtroom, made no effort to quell the
outburst or to have it quelled--not even when a considerable number of
the adults present joined in it, having first cleared their throats of a
slight huskiness that had come upon them, severally and generally.

Presently the Judge rapped for quiet--and got it. It was apparent that
he had more to say; and all there hearkened to hear what it might be.

"I have just this to add," quoth His Honour: "It is the official
judgment of this court that the late defendant, being entirely sane, is
competent to manage his own affairs after his preferences.

"And it is the private opinion of this court that not only is the late
defendant sane but that he is the sanest man in this entire
jurisdiction. Mister Clerk, court stands adjourned."

Coming down the three short steps from the raised platform of the bench,
Judge Priest beckoned to Sheriff Giles Birdsong, who, at the tail of the
departing crowd, was shepherding its last exuberant members through the
doorway.

"Giles," said Judge Priest in an undertone, when the worthy sheriff had
drawn near, "the circuit clerk tells me there's an indictment fur
malicious mischief ag'in this here Perce Dwyer knockin' round amongst
the records somewheres--an indictment the grand jury returned several
sessions back, but which was never pressed, owin' to the sudden
departure frum our midst of the person in question.

"I wonder ef it would be too much trouble fur you to sort of drap a hint
in the ear of the young man or his lawyer that the said indictment is
apt to be revived, and that the said Dwyer is liable to be tuck into
custody by you and lodged in the county jail sometime during the ensuin'
forty-eight hours--without he should see his way clear durin' the
meantime to get clean out of this city, county and state! Would it?"

"Trouble? No, suh! It won't be no trouble to me," said Mr. Birdsong
promptly. "Why, it'll be more of a pleasure, Judge."

And so it was.

Except for one small added and purely incidental circumstance, our
narrative is ended. That same afternoon Judge Priest sat on the front
porch of his old white house out on Clay Street, waiting for Jeff
Poindexter to summon him to supper. Peep O'Day opened the front gate and
came up the gravelled walk between the twin rows of silver-leaf poplars.
The Judge, rising to greet his visitor, met him at the top step.

"Come in," bade the Judge heartily, "and set down a spell and rest your
face and hands."

"No, suh; much obliged, but I ain't got only a minute to stay," said
O'Day. "I jest come out here, suh, to thank you fur whut you done to-day
on my account in the big courthouse, and--and to make you a little kind
of a present."

"It's all right to thank me," said Judge Priest; "but I couldn't accept
any reward fur renderin' a decision in accordance with the plain facts."

"'Tain't no gift of money, or nothin' like that," O'Day hastened to
explain. "Really, suh, it don't amount to nothin' at all, scursely. But
a little while ago I happened to be in Mr. B. Weil & Son's store, doin'
a little tradin', and I run acrost a new kind of knickknack, which it
seemed like to me it was about the best thing I ever tasted in my whole
life. So, on the chancet, suh, that you might have a sweet tooth, too, I
taken the liberty of bringin' you a sack of 'em and--and--and here they
are, suh; three flavors--strawberry, lemon and vanilly."

Suddenly overcome with confusion, he dislodged a large-sized paper bag
from his side coat pocket and thrust it into Judge Priest's hands; then,
backing away, he turned and clumped down the graveled path in great and
embarrassed haste.

Judge Priest opened the bag and peered down into it. It contained a
sticky, sugary dozen of flattened confections, each moulded round a
short length of wooden splinter. These sirupy articles, which have since
come into quite general use, are known, I believe, as all-day suckers.

When Judge Priest looked up again, Peep O'Day was outside the gate,
clumping down the uneven sidewalk of Clay Street with long strides of
his booted legs. Half a dozen small boys, who, it was evident, had
remained hidden during the ceremony of presentation, now mysteriously
appeared and were accompanying the departing donor, half trotting to
keep up with him.



CHAPTER IV

THE LUCK PIECE


Until now Trencher--to give him the name by which of all the names he
used he best was known--had kept his temper in hobbles, no matter what
or how great the provocation. As one whose mode of livelihood was trick
and device outside the law it had behooved him ever to restrain himself
from violent outbreaks, to school and curb and tame his natural
tendencies as a horsebreaker might gentle a spirited colt. A man who
held his disposition always under control could think faster than any
man who permitted his passions to jangle his nerves. Besides, he had the
class contempt of the high-grade confidence man--the same being the
aristocrat of the underworld--for the crude and violent and therefore
doubly dangerous codes of the stick-up, who is a highwayman; and the
prowler, who is a burglar; and the yegg, who is a safe blower of sorts.

Until now Trencher had held fast by the self-imposed rules of his
self-imposed discipline, and so doing had lived well and lived safe. It
was an unfortunate thing all round that this little rat of a Sonntag had
crossed him at an hour when he was profoundly irritated by the collapse
of their elaborately planned and expensive scheme to divest that
Cheyenne cattleman of his bank roll at the wire game. And it was a
doubly unfortunate thing for Sonntag seeing that Sonntag had just been
shot three times with his own automatic and was now dead or should be.

It was like Sonntag--and most utterly unlike Trencher--to whine over
spilt milk and seek to shift the blame for the failure of their plot to
any pair of shoulders rather than his own thin pair. And to the very
life it was like Sonntag that at the climax of the quarrel he should
have made a gun play. As Trencher now realised, it had been his mistake
in the first place that he took Sonntag on for a partner in the thwarted
operation; but it had been Sonntag's great, fatal mistake that he had
drawn a weapon against a man who could think faster and act faster in
emergencies than Sonntag ever had been able to do. Having drawn it
Sonntag should have used it. But having drawn it he had hesitated for a
space not to be measured in computable time--and that delay had been his
undoing.

The gun-pulling episode had taken place in Thirty-ninth Street, between
Sixth Avenue and Broadway, but nearer Broadway than Sixth Avenue, at a
moment when that block of Thirty-ninth Street was as near empty as ever
it gets to be. The meeting in the darkened place, just where the portico
at the side entrance of the old Jollity Theatre, extending out across
the sidewalk, made a patch of obscurity in the half-lit street, had been
a meeting by chance so far as Trencher was concerned. He had not been
looking for Sonntag; hadn't wanted to see Sonntag. Whether Sonntag had
been seeking him was something which nobody probably would ever know
this side the hereafter.

To the best of Trencher's belief there had been but one possible
eyewitness to the actual shooting. Out of the tail of his eye, just
before he and Sonntag came to grips, he had caught a glimpse of this
surmisable third party. He had sensed rather than seen that an elderly
bearded man, perhaps the watchman of the closed theatre, passed along
the sidewalk, going east. It was Trencher's impression that the man had
gone on by without halting. However, on that point he could not be sure.
What the onlooker had seen--if indeed there were an onlooker--could have
been only this: Two men, one fairly tall and dressed in a sprightly
fashion, one short and dark, engaged in a vehement but whispered quarrel
there in the cloaking shadow close up to the locked double doors of the
Jollity; a sudden hostile move on the part of the slighter man, backing
away and reaching for his flank; a quick forward jump by the taller man
to close with the other; a short sharp struggle as the pair of them
fought for possession of the revolver which the dark man had jerked from
his flank pocket; then the tall man, victorious, shoving his antagonist
clear of him and stepping back a pace; and on top of this the three
sharp reports and the three little spurts of fire bridging the short gap
between the sundered enemies like darting red hyphens to punctuate the
enacted tragedy.

Now the tall man, the one conspicuously dressed, had been Trencher. The
shooting accomplished he stood where he was only long enough to see
Sonntag fold up and sink down in a slumped shape in the doorway. He had
seen men, mortally stricken, who folded up in that very same way;
therefore he appraised Sonntag as one already dead, or at least as one
who would die very speedily.

As he stepped out across the sidewalk into the roadway he let the
automatic fall alongside the curb. The instant he had done this the heat
of his hate departed from him leaving him cool and clear-minded and
alert. It was as though the hot fumes of rage had all evaporated from
his brain in the same twentieth part of a second that he had spent in
discarding the weapon. For the reason that he was again entirely
himself, resourceful and steady, he did not fall into the error of
running away. To run away in this instant was to invite pursuit.
Instead he walked to the middle of the street, halted and looked about
him--the picture of a citizen who had been startled by the sound of
shots. This artifice, he felt sure, served to disarm possible suspicion
on the part of any one of the persons who came hurrying up from east and
west and from the north, across the street. Two or three of these first
arrivals almost brushed him as they lunged past, drawing in toward the
spot where Sonntag's doubled-up body made a darker blot in the darkened
parallelogram beneath the portico.

Trencher had been in close places before now--close places when
something smacking of violence had occurred--and he knew or felt he knew
what next would happen to give him the precious grace of seconds and
perhaps of minutes. Those who came foremost upon the scene would,
through caution, hesitate for a brief space of time before venturing
close up to where the hunched shape lay. Then having circled and drawn
in about the victim of the shooting they would for another brief period
huddle together, asking excited and pointless questions of one another,
some of them perhaps bending down and touching the victim to see whether
he lived, some of them looking round for a policeman, some of them doing
nothing at all--except confusedly to get in the way of everybody else.
This would be true of ninety-nine average individuals out of an average
hundred of city population. But the hundredth man would keep his wits
about him, seeking for the cause of the thing rather than concerning
himself with the accomplished effect. For the moment it was this
hundredth man Trencher would have to fear. Nevertheless, it would never
do for him to show undue haste. Bearing himself in the matter of a
disinterested citizen who had business that was not to be interfered
with by street brawls, he turned away from the south, toward which he
had been looking, shrugged his shoulders, and moving briskly, but
without any seeming great haste, he made for the revolving door at the
Thirty-ninth Street entrance to Wallinger's Hotel, diagonally across
from the Jollity. With one hand on a panel of the door he stopped again
and looked back.

Already, so soon, a crowd was gathering over the way--a little
crowd--which at once inevitably would become a dense jostling crowd. A
policeman, not to be mistaken even at a distance of seventy feet or more
for anyone but a policeman, had turned the corner out of Broadway and
was running down the opposite pavement. The policeman's arrival was to
be expected; it would be his business to arrive at the earliest possible
moment, and having arrived to lead the man hunt that would follow. What
Trencher, peering over his shoulder, sought for, was the hundredth
man--the man who, ignoring the lesser fact of a dead body, would strive
first off to catch up the trail of whosoever had done this thing.

Trencher thought he made him out. There was to be seen an elderly man,
roughly dressed, possibly the same man whose proximity Trencher had felt
rather than observed just before Sonntag made the gun play, and this man
was half-squatted out on the asphalt with his back to where the rest
circled and swirled about the body. Moreover, this person was staring
directly in Trencher's direction. As Trencher passed within the
revolving door he saw the man pivot on his heels and start at an angle
toward the policeman just as the policeman was swallowed up in the rings
of figures converging into the theatre doorway.

If the policeman were of a common-enough type of policeman--that is to
say, if he were the sort of policeman who would waste time examining
Sonntag's body for signs of life and then waste more time asking
questions of those who had preceded him to the place, and yet more time
peering about for the weapon that had been used; or if, in the
excitement with everybody shouting together, the one man who possibly
had a real notion concerning the proper description of the vanished
slayer found difficulty in securing the policeman's attention--why then,
in any one of these cases, or better still, in all of them, Trencher had
a chance. With a definite and intelligently guided pursuit starting
forthwith he would be lost. But with three minutes, or two even, of
delay vouchsafed him before the alarm took shape and purpose he might
make it.

Accepting the latter contingency as the assured one he formed a plan
instantaneously. Indeed, it sprang full-formed into his mind as the door
swung round behind him. It added to the immediate difficulties of his
present situation that he was most notably marked--by his garb. He had
the dramatic sense well developed, as any man must have who succeeds at
his calling. When Trencher played a part he dressed the part. In the
staging of the plot for the undoing of the Cheyenne cattleman his had
been the rôle of the sporting ex-telegraph operator, who could get
"flashes" on the result of horse races before the names of the winners
came over an imaginary tapped wire to the make-believe pool room where
the gull was stripped; and he had been at some pains and expense to
procure a wardrobe befitting the character.

The worst of it was that he now wore the make-up--the short
fawn-coloured overcoat with its big showy buttons of smoked pearl, the
brown derby hat with its striking black band, and the pair of light-tan
spats. Stripped of these things he would be merely a person in a costume
in nowise to be distinguished from the costumes of any number of other
men in the Broadway district. But for the moment there was neither
opportunity nor time to get rid of all of them without attracting the
attention that would be fatal to his prospects. Men who have nothing to
hide do not remove spats in a hotel lobby, nor do they go about public
places bareheaded in the nighttime. Now he could do but one thing to
alter his appearance.

Midway of the cross hall which he had entered and which opened into the
main lobby he slowed his gait long enough to undo the overcoat and slip
out of it. The top button caught fast in its buttonhole, the coat being
new and its buttonholes being stiff. He gave a sharp tug at the
rebellious cloth, and the button, which probably had been insecurely
sewed on in the first place, came away from its thread fastenings and
lodged in the fingers of his right hand. Mechanically he dropped it into
a side pocket of the overcoat and a moment later, with the garment
turned inside out so that only its silk lining showed, and held under
his arm, he had come out of the sideway and was in the lobby proper.

He was prepared mentally to find signs of an alarm here--to encounter
persons hurrying toward the Thirty-ninth Street side of the building.
But nothing of the sort was afoot. A darky orchestra was playing a jazz
tune very loudly in the café at the left of the Broadway entrance, so it
was not only possible but very likely that the sounds of the shots had
not been heard inside the hotel at all. Certainly his eye, sweeping the
place, discovered no evidences of any unusual stir. Perhaps half a
dozen individuals were traversing the tiled floor, but none of them in
any seeming hurry.

With no suggestion of agitation about him anywhere and with nothing
furtive or stealthy in his movements, Trencher boldly passed the corner
of the desk, crossed the lobby, went along the front of the news stand,
where a young woman stood among her wares, and through another set of
revolving doors came out upon Broadway. It was that one hour of the
night--a quarter of eleven o'clock, while the last acts are still going
on and before the theatres give up their audiences--when Broadway's
sidewalks are not absolutely overflowing with jostling, pouring currents
of people. Numbers were abroad, for numbers always are abroad in this
part of the town, be the time of day or of night what it may, but there
was no congestion. This was as it should be; it suited this man's
purposes exactly.

He issued forth, and a few rods north of the corner saw the person for
whom he was seeking; at least he saw a most likely candidate--a ragged
darky, in a district where ragged darkies unless they be beggars are not
often seen, who with his hands in his pockets and his coat collar turned
up was staring into the window of a small clothing shop two doors above
the narrow-fronted hotel. Trencher made for him. Remember, all
this--from the moment of the shooting until now--had taken much less
time than has been required for me to describe it in sequence or for
you to read about it.

He tapped the darky on the arm.

"Boy," he said sharply, "want to pick up some easy money quick?"

"Yas, suh, I does!" The negro's eyes shone.

"Listen then: I've got to catch a train--sooner than I expected. My
bag's packed and waiting for me up here at my boarding house in West
Forty-fifth Street--Number 374 is the address--just west of
Broadway--tall brownstone house with a high stoop. Get me? The bag's
downstairs in the hall. The hall boy--a coloured fellow named Fred--is
watching it for me. If I go in a cab I may not get to the station in
time. If you go after it for me at a run I may catch my train. See?
Here's a dollar down in advance. Tell Fred Mr. Thompson sent you--that's
me, Thompson. He'll give it to you--I told him I'd send for it. I'll be
waiting right here. If you get back with it in seven minutes I'll give
you another dollar--and if you get back inside of seven minutes I'll
make it two dollars more. Got the number in your mind?"

"Yas, suh--three seventy-fo' Wes' Forty-fift', you said."

"Correct. Now run like the very devil up Broadway to Forty-fifth and
turn west!"

"Boss," cried the darky, "Ise gone!"

He was, too. His splay feet in their broken shoes fairly spurned the
sidewalk as he darted northward, boring his way through the lanes of
pedestrians, knocking people aside out of their stride and followed as
he went by a wake of curses and grunts and curious glances. On a street
where nearly everyone trots but few gallop, the sight of a running man
catches the popular interest instantly, the common theory being that the
runner has done something wrong and is trying to get away, else he would
not run.

The instant the negro turned his back on him, Trencher slid inside the
recessed entrance of the clothing store and flattened himself against
its door. If chance had timed the occurrence just right he would win the
reprieve that he required for what he meant next to undertake. And sure
enough, as it turned out, chance had so timed it.

       *       *       *       *       *

For just as he pressed his bulk into the recess the man hunt manifested
itself. Bursting headlong out of the front of Wallinger's Hotel came a
policeman--doubtlessly the one already seen by Trencher--and just behind
the policeman a roughly dressed bearded man, and with these two, at
their heels, a jostling impetuous swarm of other men, to be joined
instantly by yet more men, who had run round the corner of the hotel
from Thirty-ninth Street, instead of passing through its lobby. For the
veriest fraction of time they all slowed down, casting about them with
their eyes for a trail to follow.

Trencher, looking slantwise to the south, could see them plainly. The
foremost members of the hesitating and uncertain group were not sixty
feet from him. He forgot to breathe.

Then, all together, half a dozen pointing arms were flung out to the
north.

"There he goes, officer, runnin'! See 'im yonder? See 'im?"

With a forward surge and a great clatter of feet the hunt was renewed.
Past Trencher's refuge, with never a look this way or that, the
policeman, the bearded man, all the rest of them, went pelting along the
sidewalk, giving tongue like beagles. He could have put forth his hand
and touched some of them as they sped by him. Numbers of foot travellers
joined in the tail of the chase. Those who did not join it faced about
to watch. Knowing that for a bit he would practically be free of the
danger of close scrutiny, Trencher stepped out upon the sidewalk and
looking north caught a glimpse of a bent fleeing figure scuttling up
Broadway a block and a half beyond.

By this trick he had broken the trail and sent the pack off on a wrong
scent. So far so good. He figured the outlook after this fashion: Set
upon earning the double fee promised him the deluded darky, as he could
tell, was still going at top speed, unconscious of any pursuit. If he
continued to maintain his gait, if none tripped him, the probabilities
were he would be round the corner in Forty-fifth Street, trying to find
a mythical boarding house and a mythical hall boy named Fred, before the
foremost of the runners behind overtook and seized him. Then would
follow shouts, yells, a babble of accusations, denials of all wrongful
intent by the frightened captive and explanations by him to the
policeman of his reason for running so hard.

Following on this the chase would double back on its tracks, and at once
policemen in numbers, along with volunteers, would be combing the
district for the real fugitive. Still, barring the unforeseen, a few
minutes must intervene before this neighbourhood search would be getting
under way; and meanwhile the real fugitive, calmly enough, was moving
along in the rear of the rearmost of those who ran without knowing why
they ran. He did not go far though--he dared not go far. Any second the
darky might be tackled and thrown by someone on ahead, and besides there
might be individuals close at hand who had not joined in the hue and
cry, but who in some way had learned that the man so badly wanted wore
such-and-such distinguishing garments.

It was because of this latter contingency that Trencher had not tried to
slip back into Thirty-ninth Street. That had been his first impulse, but
he discarded the thought as it came to him. His mind peopled the
vicinity immediately south and east of him with potential enemies. To
the north alone, in the wake of the chase, could he count upon a hope of
transient security, and that would last only for so long as the negro
kept going. He could not get away from the spot--yet. And still it would
be the height of recklessness for him, dressed as he was, to linger
there. Temporarily he must bide where he was, and in this swarming,
bright-as-day place he must find a hiding place from which he could see
without being seen, spy without being spied upon or suspected for what
he was. Even as he calculated these obstacles he figured a possible way
out of the double-ended dilemma, or at any rate he figured his next step
toward safety from detection for the moment, and, with continued luck,
toward ultimate escape from a perilous spot where now no measure of
immunity could be either long-lived or dependable.

I have said he did not go far to reach sanctuary. To be exact he did not
go the length of the block between Thirty-ninth and Fortieth. He went
only as far as the Clarenden, newest and smartest, and, for the time
being, most popular of typical Broadway cafés, standing three buildings
north of the clothing shop, or a total distance from it, let us say, of
ninety feet. It was while he traversed those ninety feet that Trencher
summed up the contingencies that hedged him in and reached his
conclusion.

In front of the Clarenden against the curbing stood a short line of
waiting motor vehicles. With one exception they were taxicabs. At the
lower end of the queue, though, was a vast gaudy limousine, a bright
blue in body colour, with heavy trimmings of brass--and it was empty.
The chauffeur, muffled in furs, sat in his place under the overhang of
the peaked roof, with the glass slide at his right hand lowered and his
head poked out as he peered up Broadway; but the car itself, Trencher
saw, contained no occupant.

Trencher, drawing up alongside the limousine, was searching vainly for a
monogram, a crest or a name on its varnished flank while he spoke.

"Driver," he said sharply, "whose car is this?"

"Mr. O'Gavin's," the chauffeur answered without turning to look at the
person asking the question.

Trencher played a blind lead and yet not such a very blind lead either.
Big as New York was there was likely to be but one O'Gavin in it who
would have a car such as this one anchored in front of the
Clarenden--and that would be the noted bookmaker. Trencher played his
card.

"Jerome O'Gavin's, eh?" he inquired casually as though stating a
foregone conclusion.

"Yes, sir; it's his car." And now the driver twisted his body and
half-faced Trencher. "Say, boss, what's all the row about yonder?"

"Crowd chasing a pickpocket, I imagine," said Trencher indifferently.
Then putting a touch of impatience in his voice: "Where is
O'Gavin--inside?"

"Yes, sir! Said he'd be ready to go uptown at eleven. Must be near that
now."

"Pretty near it. I was to meet him here at eleven myself and I thought I
recognised his car."

"You'll find him in the grill, I guess, sir," said the driver, putting
into the remark the tone of deference due to someone who was a friend of
his employer's. "I understood him to say he had an appointment with some
gentleman there. Was it you?"

"No, but I know who the gentleman is," said Trencher. "The other man's
not such a very good friend of mine--that's why I'd rather wait outside
for Jerome than to go in there." He made a feint at looking at his
watch. "Hum, ten minutes more. Tell you what I think I'll do, driver: I
think I'll just hop inside the car until O'Gavin comes out--better than
loafing on the sidewalk, eh?"

"Just as you say. Make yourself comfortable, sir. Shall I switch on the
lights?"

"No, never mind the lights, thank you." Trencher was already taking
shelter within the limousine, making himself small on the wide back seat
and hauling a thick rug up over his lap. Under the rug one knee was bent
upward and the fingers of one hand were swiftly undoing the buttons of
one fawn-coloured spat. If the chauffeur had chanced to glance back he
would have seen nothing unusual going on. The chauffeur, though, never
glanced back. He was staring dead ahead again.

"Say, boss, they've caught the pickpocket--if that's what he was," he
cried out excitedly. "They're bringing him back."

"Glad they nailed him," answered Trencher through the glass that was
between them. He had one spat off and was now unfastening its mate.

"It looks like a nigger," added the chauffeur, supplying a fresh
bulletin as the captive was dragged nearer. "It is a nigger! Had his
nerve with him, trying to pull off a trick in this part of town."

Through the right-hand side window Trencher peered out as the mass moved
by--in front a panting policeman with his one hand gripped fast in the
collar of Trencher's late messenger, and all about the pair and behind
them a jostling, curious crowd of men and women.

"De gen'l'man dat sent me fur his bag is right down yere, I keeps
tellin' you," Trencher heard the scared darky babbling as he was yanked
past Trencher's refuge.

"All right then, show him to me, that's all," the officer was saying
impatiently.

The chauffeur twisted about in his place, following the spectacle with
his eyes. But Trencher had quit looking that way and was looking another
way. The centre of excitement had been moved again--instead of being
north of him it was now approximately ninety feet south, and he, thanks
to the shift, was once more behind it. Peering through the glass he
watched the entrance to the Clarenden.

There he saw what he wanted to see--a tall man in a wide-brimmed soft
dark hat and a long dark topcoat going up the short flight of steps that
led from the pavement into the building. Trencher wadded the spats
together and rammed them down out of sight between the back cushion and
the under cushion of the car seat, and with his overcoat inside out on
his left arm he opened the door and stepped out of the car. This retreat
had served his purpose admirably; it was time to abandon it.

"Changed my mind," he said, in explanation. "If O'Gavin doesn't hurry up
we'll be late for an engagement we've got uptown. I'm going in after
him."

"Yes; all right, sir," assented the chauffeur with his attention very
much elsewhere.

In long steps Trencher crossed the sidewalk and ran up the steps so
briskly that he passed through the door at the top of the short flight
directly behind and almost touching the tall man in the dark hat and
black coat. His heart beat fast; he was risking everything practically
on the possibilities of what this other man meant to do.

The other man did exactly what Trencher was hoping he would do. He
turned left and made for the Clarenden's famous Chinese lounging room,
which in turn opened into the main restaurant. Trencher slipped nimbly
by his quarry and so beat him to where two young women in glorified
uniforms of serving maids were stationed to receive wraps outside the
checking booth; a third girl was inside the booth, her job being to take
over checked articles from her sister helpers.

It befell therefore that Trencher surrendered his brown derby and his
short tan coat, received a pasteboard check in exchange for them and saw
them passed in over a flat shelf to be put on a hook, before the other
man had been similarly served. When the other, now revealed as wearing a
dinner jacket, came through the Orientalised passageway into the lounge,
Trencher was quite ready for him. In his life Trencher had never picked
a pocket, but as one thoroughly versed in the professionalism of the
crime world, in which he was a distinguished figure, he knew how the
trick, which is the highest phase of the art of the pickpocket, is
achieved.

The thing was most neatly and most naturally accomplished. As the man in
the dinner coat came just opposite him Trencher, swinging inward as
though to avoid collision with the end of an upholstered couch, bumped
into him, breast to breast.

"I beg your pardon," he said in contrite tones for his seeming
awkwardness, and as he said it two darting fingers and the thumb of his
right hand found and invaded the little slit of the stranger's waistcoat
pocket, whisking out the check which the stranger had but a moment
before, with Trencher watching, deposited there.

"Granted--no harm done," said the man who had been jostled, and passed
on leaving Trencher still uttering apologetic sounds. Palming the
precious pasteboard, which meant so much to him, Trencher stood where he
was until he saw the unsuspecting victim pass on through into the café
and join two other men, who got up from a table in the far corner near
one of the front windows to greet him.

Trencher followed leisurely to where a captain of waiters stood guard at
the opening in the dividing partition between the lounge and the
restaurant. Before him at his approach this functionary bowed.

"Alone, sir?" he inquired obsequiously.

"Yes and no," replied Trencher; "I'm alone now but I'll be back in half
an hour with three others. I want to engage a table for four--not too
close to the orchestra." He slipped a dollar bill into the captain's
hand.

"Very good, sir. What name, sir?"

"Tracy is the name," said Trencher.

"Quite so, sir."

The captain turned to serve a party of men and women, and Trencher fell
back. He idled back through the Chinese room, vigilant to note whether
any of the persons scattered about it were regarding him with more than
a casual interest or, more important still, whether any there present
knew him personally.

Reassured on this point he stepped out of the room and along with a
quarter for a tip tendered to one of the maids the check he had just
pilfered, meanwhile studying her face closely for any signs that she
recalled him as one who had dealt with her within the space of a minute
or so. But nothing in her looks betrayed recognition or curiosity as she
bestirred herself to reclaim the articles for which the check was a
voucher of ownership, and to help him into them.

Ten seconds later Trencher, a personality transformed, stood quite at
his ease on the top step of the flight outside the entrance to the
Clarenden looking into Broadway. The long dark overcoat which he now
wore, a commonplace roomy garment, fitted him as though it had been his
own. With its collar turned up about his cheeks it helped admirably to
disguise him. The soft black hat was a trifle large for his head. So
much the better--it came well down over his face.

The huge illuminated hands of a clock set in the middle of a winking,
blinking electric sign a few blocks north, at the triangular gore where
Seventh Avenue crosses Broadway, told him the time--six minutes of
eleven. To Trencher it seemed almost that hours must have passed since
he shot down Sonntag, and yet here was proof that not more than ten
minutes--or at the most, twelve--had elapsed. Well, he had worked fast
and with results gratifying. The spats that might have betrayed him
were safely hidden in one place--yonder between the seat cushions of
O'Gavin's car, which stood where he had left it, not thirty feet
distant. His telltale overcoat and his derby hat were safely bestowed in
the café check room behind him awaiting a claimant who meant never to
return. Even if they should be found and identified as having been worn
by the slayer of Sonntag, their presence there, he figured, would but
serve to confuse the man hunt. Broadway's living tides flowed by, its
component atoms seemingly ignorant of the fact that just round the
corner below a man had been done to death. Only at the intersection of
Thirty-ninth Street was there evidence, in the quick movement of
pedestrians out of Broadway into the cross street, that something
unusual served to draw foot passengers off their course.

In front of the clothing shop three doors south of him no special
congestion of traffic revealed itself; no scrouging knot of citizens was
to be seen, and by that Trencher reasoned that the negro had been taken
elsewhere by his captors--very probably to where the body would still be
lying, hunched up in the shadow before the Jollity's side doors. From
the original starting point the hunt doubtlessly was now reorganising.
One thing was certain--it had not eddied back this far. The men of the
law would be working on a confused basis yet awhile, anyhow. And
Trencher meant to twistify the clews still further, for all that he
felt safe enough already. For the first time a sense of security
exhilarated him. Almost it was a sense of exultation.

He descended the steps and went straight to the nearest of the rank of
parked taxicabs. Its driver was nowhere in sight. A carriage starter for
the café, in gorgeous livery, understood without being told what the
tall muffled-up gentleman desired and blew a shrill blast on a whistle.
At that the truant driver appeared, coming at a trot from down the
street.

"'Scuse me, mister," he said as he mounted to his seat at the wheel.
"Been a shootin' down the street. Guy got croaked, they say, and they
can't find the guy that croaked um."

"Never mind the shooting," said Trencher as he climbed into the cab,
whose door the starter had opened for him.

"Where to, gent?"

"Harty's Palm Garden," said Trencher, naming a restaurant a mile and a
half away, straight up Broadway. His main thought now was to get
entirely out of this part of town.

Riding along uptown Trencher explored the pockets of the pilfered
overcoat. The search produced a pair of heavy gloves, a wadded
handkerchief, two cigars, a box of matches, and, last of all, a
triangular brass token inscribed with a number and a firm name. Without
the imprint of the name Trencher would have recognised it, from its
shape alone. It had come from the check room in the upper-tier waiting
room of the Grand Central Station. Discovery of it gave him a new
idea--an idea involving no added risk but having in it added
possibilities for insuring the ultimate success of his get-away. In any
event there could be neither harm nor enhanced danger in putting it into
execution.

Therefore, when he had emerged from the cab at Harty's and had paid the
fare and had seen the driver swing his vehicle about and start off back
downtown, he walked across Columbus Circle to the west curve of it,
climbed into another taxicab and was driven by way of Fifty-ninth Street
and Fifth Avenue to the Grand Central. Here at the establishment of the
luggage-checking concessionaire on the upper level of the big terminal
he tendered the brass token to a drowsy-eyed attendant, receiving in
exchange a brown-leather suit case with letters stenciled on one end of
it, like this:

        M. K. P.
        STAMFORD, CONN.

Waving aside a red-capped negro porter, Trencher, carrying the spoil of
his latest coup, departed via one of the Vanderbilt Avenue exits.
Diagonally across the avenue was a small drug store still open for
business at this hour, as the bright lights within proved. Above its
door showed the small blue sign that marked it as containing a
telephone pay booth. For Trencher's purposes a closed booth in a small
mercantile establishment was infinitely to be preferred to the public
exchange in the terminal--less chance that the call could be traced back
to its source, less chance, too, that some inquisitive operator, trying
to kill time during a dull hour, might listen in on the wire, and so
doing overhear things not meant for her ears. He crossed over and
entered the drug store.

Except for a sleepy clerk at the rear there was no one visible within
the place. Trencher crowded his bulk into the booth, dropped the
requisite coin in the slot and very promptly got back the answering hail
from a certain number that he had called--a number at a place in the
lower fringe of the old Tenderloin.

"Is that the Three Deuces?" asked Trencher. Then: "Who's speaking--you,
Monty? . . . Know who this is, at this end? . . . Yes, that's right.
Say, is the Kid there--Kid Dineen? . . . Good! Call him to the phone,
will you, Monty? And tell him to hurry--it's devilish important."

A short pause followed and when Trencher spoke again he had dropped his
voice to a cautious half-whisper, vibrant and tense with urgency. Also
now he employed some of the argot of the underworld:

"Hello, Kid, hello! Recognise my voice, don't you? . . . Good! Now listen:
I'm in a jam. . . . What? . . . Never mind what it is; you'll know when you
see the papers in the morning if you don't know sooner. I've got to lam,
and lam quick. Right now I've got the bulls stalled off good and proper,
but I can't tell how long they'll stay stalled off. Get me? So I don't
want to be showing my map round any ticket windows. So here's what I
want you to do. Get some coin off of Monty, if you haven't got enough on
you. Then you beat it over to the Pennsylvania Station and buy me a
ticket for Pittsburgh and a section in the sleeper on the train that
leaves round one-twenty-five to-night. Then go over on Ninth Avenue to
Silver's place----What? . . . Yes; sure, that's the place. Wait for me
there in the little room upstairs over the bar, on the second floor.
They've got to make a bluff of closing up at one, but you know how to
get up into the room, don't you? . . . Good! Wait for me till I show up, or
if I get there first I'll wait for you. I ought to show inside of an
hour from now--maybe in less time than that if things keep on breaking
right. Then I'll get the ducats off of you and beat it across through
the Hudson Tube to the Manhattan Transfer and grab the rattler over
there in Jersey when she comes along from this side. That'll be all. Now
hustle!"

From the drug store he went, carrying the brown suit case with
him, round into Forty-second Street. He had taken a mental note
of the initials on the bag, but to make sure he was right he looked
at them again before he entered the big Bellhaven Hotel by its
Forty-second-Street door. At sight of him a bell boy ran across the
lobby and took from him his burden. The boy followed him, a pace in
the rear, to the desk, where a spruce young gentleman awaited their
coming. "Can I get a room with bath for the night--a quiet inside
room where I'll be able to sleep as late as I please in the morning?"
inquired Trencher.

"Certainly, sir." The room clerk appraised Trencher with a practiced
eye. "Something for about four dollars?"

"That'll do very well," agreed Trencher, taking the pen which the clerk
had dipped in ink and handed over to him.

Bearing in mind the letters and the address on the suit case, Trencher
registered as M. K. Potter, Stamford, Conn. Meanwhile the clerk had
taken a key from a rack containing a vast number of similar keys.

"I won't leave a call--and I don't want to be disturbed," warned
Trencher.

"Very well, sir. Front! Show the gentleman to 1734." Five minutes later
Trencher, in an inner room on the seventeenth floor, with the door
locked on the inside, had sprung the catch of the brown suit case and
was spreading its contents out upon the bed, smiling his satisfaction as
he did so. Plainly fortune was favouring him at each new turning.

For here was a somewhat rumpled black suit and along with it a
blue-striped shirt, showing slight signs of recent wear, a turndown
collar that was barely soiled, and a plain black four-in-hand tie.
Trencher went through the pockets of the suit, finding several letters
addressed to Marcus K. Parker at an address in Broad Street, down in the
financial district. Sewn in the lining of the inner breast pocket of the
coat was a tailor's label also bearing the same name. At the sight
Trencher grinned. He had not missed it very far. He had registered as
Potter, whereas now he knew that the proper owner of the suit case must
be named Parker.

Parker, he figured, belonged to the race of commuters; evidently he
lived in Stamford and did business in New York. Accepting this as the
correct hypothesis the rest of the riddle was easy to read. Mr. Parker,
coming to town that morning, had brought with him his dinner rig in a
suit case.

Somewhere, probably at his office, he had changed from his everyday garb
to the clothes he brought with him, then he had packed his street
clothes into the bag and brought it uptown with him and checked it at
the Grand Central, intending after keeping his evening engagements to
reclaim the baggage before catching a late train for Stamford.

Fine! Results from Trencher's standpoint could hardly have been more
pleasing. Exulting inwardly over the present development and working
fast, he stripped off his clothing down to his shoes and his
undergarments--first, though, emptying his own pockets of the money they
contained, both bills and silver, and of sundry personal belongings,
such as a small pocketknife, a fountain pen, a condensed railway guide
and the slip of pasteboard that represented the hat and coat left behind
at the Clarenden. Then he put on the things that had come out of the
Stamford man's bag--the shirt, the collar and the tie, and finally the
outer garments, incidentally taking care to restore to Parker's coat
pocket all of Parker's letters.

This done he studied himself in the glass of the chiffonier and was
deeply pleased. Mirrored there he saw a different man from the one who
had rented the room. When he quit this hotel, as presently he meant to
do, he would not be Trencher, the notorious confidence man who had shot
a fellow crook, nor yet would he be the Thompson who had sent a darky
for a bag, nor the Tracy who had picked a guest's pocket at a
fashionable restaurant, nor yet the Potter who had engaged a room with
bath for a night. From overcoat and hat to shoes and undergarments he
would be Mr. Marcus K. Parker, a thoroughly respectable gentleman,
residing in the godly town of Stamford and engaged in reputable
mercantile pursuits in Broad Street--with opened mail in his pocket to
prove it.

The rest would be simplicity. He had merely to slip out of the hotel,
carrying the key to 1734 with him. Certainly it would be as late as noon
the following day before chambermaid or clerk tried to rouse the
supposed occupant of the empty room. In all likelihood it would be later
than noon. He would have at least twelve hours' start, even though the
authorities were nimble-witted enough to join up the smaller mystery of
an abandoned suit case belonging to one man and an abandoned outfit of
clothing belonging to another, with the greater and seemingly
unconnected mystery of the vanishment of the suspect in the Sonntag
homicide case. Long before this potential eventuality could by any
chance develop, he meant, under another name and in another disguise, to
be hidden away at a quiet boarding house that he knew of in a certain
obscure factory town on a certain trolley line leading out from
Pittsburgh.

Now to clear out. He bestowed in various pockets his money, his knife,
his pen and his railway guide, not one of these having upon it any
identifying marks; he pouched his small change and his roll of bills.
Nothing remained to be disposed of or accounted for save the pasteboard
square that represented the coat and hat left behind at the Clarenden.
When this had been torn into fine and indistinguishable bits and when as
a final precaution the fragments had been tossed out of the window, the
last possible evidence to link the pseudo Parker with the real Trencher
in this night's transactions would be gone.

He had the slip in his hands and his fingers were in the act of twisting
it in halves when the thought that something had been overlooked--something
vitally important--came to him; and he paused to cogitate. What had been
forgotten? What had he overlooked? What had he left undone that should
have been done? Then suddenly appreciation of the thing missing came to
him and in a quick panic of apprehension he felt through all the pockets
of Parker's suit and through the pockets of his own garments, where he
had flung them down on the bed, alongside the rifled suit case.

His luck piece was gone--that was it! The old silver trade dollar, worn
thin and smooth by years of handling and with the hole drilled through
the centre of it--that was what was gone--his token, his talisman, his
charm against evil fortune. He had carried it for years, ever since he
had turned crook, and for nothing in this world would he have parted
from it.

In a mounting flurry of superstitious terror he searched the pockets
again, with fingers that shook--this man who had lost faith in human
beings, who had no hope and no fear for the hereafter, who had felt no
stabs of regret or repentance for having killed a man, whose thoughts
had never known remorse for any misdeed of his. The second hunt and the
third and the fourth were fruitless as his first one had been;
Trencher's luck piece was gone.

Those wise men, the alienists, say that all of us are insane on certain
subjects, however sane we may be upon other subjects. Certainly in the
mental composition of every one of us is some quirk, some vagary, some
dear senseless delusion, avowed or private. As for Trencher, the one
crotchet in his cool brain centred about that worthless trade dollar.
With it in his possession he had counted himself a winner, always.
Without it he felt himself to be a creature predestined and foreordained
to disaster.

To it he gave all the credit for the fact that he had never served a
prison sentence. But once, and once only, had he parted company with it,
even temporarily. That was the time when Murtha, that crafty old
Central-Office hand, had picked him up on general principles, had taken
him to headquarters, and first stripping him of all the belongings on
his person, had carried him to the Bertillon Bureau, and then and there,
without shadow of legal right, since Trencher was neither formally
accused of nor formally indicted for any offence and had no previous
record of convictions, had forced him to undergo the ordeals, ethically
so repugnant to the instincts of the professional thief, of being
measured and finger-printed and photographed, side face and full face.
He had cursed and protested and pleaded when Murtha confiscated the
luck piece; he had rejoiced when Murtha, seeing no harm in the thing,
had restored it to him before lodging him in a cell under the
all-embracing technical charge of being a suspicious person. Because he
had so speedily got it back, Trencher had gone free again with the loss
of but two days of liberty--or anyway, so Trencher firmly believed. But
because it had left his custody for no more than an hour his pictures
were now in the Gallery, and Murtha had learned the secret of Trencher's
one temperamental weakness, one fetish.

And now--at this time, of all times--it was gone again. But where had it
gone? Where could it have gone? Mentally he reconstructed all his acts,
all his movements since he had risen that morning and dressed--and then
the solution came to him, and with the solution complete remembrance. He
had slipped it into the right-hand pocket of the new tan-coloured
topcoat--to impregnate the garment with good luck and to enhance the
prospects for a successful working-out of the scheme to despoil the
Wyoming cattleman; and he had left it there. And now here he was up on
the seventeenth floor of the Bellhaven Hotel and the fawn-coloured coat
with the luck piece in one of its pockets dangled on a hook in the cloak
booth of the Clarenden café, less than a block away from the spot where
he had shot Sonntag.

He marvelled that without his talisman he had escaped arrest up to now;
it was inconceivable that he had won his way thus far. But then the
answer to that was, of course, that he had retained the pasteboard
square that stood for possession of the coat itself. He gave thanks to
the unclean spirits of his superstition that apprehension of his loss
had come to him before he destroyed the slip. Had he gone ahead and torn
it up he would now count himself as doomed. But he hadn't torn it up.
There it lay on the white coverlet of the bed.

He must make a try to recover his luck piece; no other course occurred
to him. Trying would be beset with hazards, accumulated and thickening.
He must venture back into the dangerous territory; must dare deadfalls
and pitfalls; must run the chance of possible traps and probable nets.
By now the police might have definitely ascertained who it was that
killed Sonntag; or lacking the name of the slayer they might have
secured a reasonably complete description of him; might have spread the
general alarm for a man of such and such a height and such and such a
weight, with such a nose and such eyes and such hair and all the rest of
it. It might be that the Clarenden was being watched, along with the
other public resorts in the immediate vicinity of where the homicide had
been committed. It might even be that back in the Clarenden he would
encounter the real Parker face to face. Suppose Parker had finished his
supper and had discovered his loss--losses rather--and had made a
complaint to the management; and suppose as a result of Parker's
indignation that members of the uniformed force had been called in to
adjudicate the wrangle; suppose through sheer coincidence Parker should
see Trencher and should recognise the garments that Trencher wore as his
own. Suppose any one of a half dozen things. Nevertheless, he meant to
go back. He would take certain precautions--for all the need of haste,
he must take them--but he would go back.

He put the pink check into his waistcoat pocket, switched out the room
light, locked the door of the room on the outside, took the key with him
and went down in an elevator, taking care to avoid using the same
elevator that shortly before brought him up to this floor level.
Presently he was outside the hotel, hurrying afoot on his return to
Broadway. On the way he pitched the key into an areaway.

Turning out of Forty-second Street into Broadway and thence going south
to a point just below the intersection with Fortieth Street, he
approached the Clarenden from the opposite side of Broadway. There was
motive in this. One coming across from the opposite side and looking
upward at a diagonal slant could see through the windows along the front
side of the Clarenden with some prospect of making out the faces of such
diners as sat at tables near the windows. Straining his eyes as he
crossed over, Trencher thought he recognised his man. He was almost
sure he made out the outlined head and shoulders of Parker sitting at a
corner table alongside the last window in the row. He trusted he was
right and trusted still more fervently that Parker would bide where he
was for three or four minutes longer.

Tucking his head well down inside his upturned collar and giving the
brim of his hat a tug to bring it still farther forward over his eyes,
he took a long breath, like a man preparing for a dive in cold water,
and went up the flight of stairs from the sidewalk into the building. No
one inside made as if to halt him; no one so far as he could tell gave
him in passing even an impersonal look. There was a wash room, as
Trencher knew, at the back end of the ornate hall which separated the
Chinese lounge and the main café on one side, from the private dining
rooms and tea rooms on the other. That wash room was his present
destination.

He reached it without mishap, to find it deserted except for a boy in
buttons. To the boy he surrendered hat and overcoat, and then in the
midst of a feint at hitching up his shirt cuffs, as though meaning to
wash his hands, he snapped his fingers impatiently.

"I forgot something," he said for the boy's benefit; "left it in the
café. Say, kid, watch my hat and coat, will you? I'll be back in a
minute."

"Yes, sir," promised the youth. "I'll take good care of 'em."

Bareheaded as he now was and lacking the overcoat, Trencher realised the
chief elements of his disguise were missing; still there had been for
him no other course to follow than this risky one. He could not claim
ownership of one coat and one hat while wearing another coat and another
hat--that was certain. As he neared his goal he noted that both the
maids on the outside of the booth were for the instant engaged in
helping the members of a group of men and women on with their outdoor
wraps. So much the better for him. He headed straight for the third girl
of the force, the one whose station was within the open-fronted booth.
In front of her on the flat shelf intervening between them he laid down
the numbered pink slip, which in the scheme of his hopes and fears stood
for so much.

"Never mind my hat, miss," he said, making his tone casual; "I'm not
through with my supper yet. But just let me have my coat for one minute,
will you, please? I want to get something out of one of the pockets to
show to a friend."

There was nothing unusual, nothing unconventional about the request. The
girl glanced at the figures on the check, then stepped back into her
cuddy, seeking among rows of burdened hooks for whatsoever articles
would be on the hook bearing corresponding figures. To Trencher,
dreading the advent of the Stamford man out of the Chinese room
alongside him and yet not daring to turn his head to look, it seemed she
was a very long time finding the hook. In reality the time she took was
to be gauged by seconds rather than by minutes.

"Is this the garment you desired, sir?" Speaking with an affected
English drawl and with neither curiosity nor interest in her face, the
girl laid across her counter the tan-coloured overcoat, one of its big
smoked-pearl buttons glinting dimly iridescent in the light as she
spread it out.

"That's it, thank you. Just one moment and I'll give it back to you."

Trencher strove to throttle and succeeded fairly well in throttling the
eager note in his voice as he took up the coat by its collar in his left
hand.

The fingers trembled in spite of him as he thrust his right hand into
the right-hand pocket. Twitching and groping they closed on what was
hidden there--a slick, cool, round, flat, thin object, trade-dollar
size. At the touch of the thing he sought and for all, too, that he
stood in such perilous case, Trencher's heart jumped with relief and
gratification. No need for him to look to make sure that he had his luck
piece. He knew it by its feel and its heft and its size; besides the tip
of one finger, sliding over its smooth rimless surface, had found in the
centre of it the depression of the worn hole, and the sensitive nerves
had flashed the news to his brain. He slid it into a trousers pocket and
passed the coat back to the girl; and almost before she had restored it
to its appointed hook, Trencher had regained the shelter of the wash
room and was repossessing himself of the slouch hat and the long black
overcoat.

Back once more to the street he made the journey safely, nothing
happening on the way out into the November night to alarm him. The
winking, blinking electrically jewelled clock in the sign up the street
told him it was just five minutes past midnight. He headed north, but
for a few rods only. At Fortieth Street he turned west for a short block
and at Seventh Avenue he hailed a south-bound trolley car. But before
boarding the car he cast a quick backward scrutiny along the route he
had come. Cabs moved to and fro, shuttle fashion, but seemingly no
pedestrians were following behind him.

He was not particularly fearful of being pursued. Since he had cleared
out from the Clarenden without mishap it was scarcely to be figured that
anyone would or could now be shadowing him. He felt quite secure
again--as secure as he had felt while in the locked room in the
Bellhaven, because now he had in his custody that which gave him, in
double and triple measure, the sense of assurance. One hand was thrust
deep into his trousers pocket, where it caressed and fondled the flat
perforated disk that was there. It pleased him to feel the thing grow
warmer under his fingers, guaranteeing him against mischance. He did not
so much as twist his head to glance out of the car window as the car
passed Thirty-ninth Street.

At Thirtieth Street he got off the car and walked west to Silver's
place. Ninth Avenue was almost empty and, as compared with Broadway, lay
in deep shadows. The lights of the bar, filtering through the filmed
glass in one window of Silver's, made a yellowish blur in what was
otherwise a row of blank, dead house fronts. Above the saloon the
squatty three-story building was all dark, and from this circumstance
Trencher felt sure he had come to the rendezvous before the Kid arrived.
Alongside the saloon door he felt his way into a narrow entryway that
was as black as a coal bunker and went up a flight of wooden steps to
the second floor. At the head of the steps he fumbled with his hand
until he found a doorknob. As he knew, this door would not be locked
except from the inside; unless it contained occupants it was never
locked. He knew, too, what furniture it contained--one table and three
or four chairs. Steering a careful course to avoid bumping into the
table, which, as he recalled, should be in the middle of the floor, he
found the opposite wall and, after a moment's search with his hands, a
single electric bulb set in a wall bracket. He flipped on the light.

"That's right," said a voice behind him. "Now that you've got your mitts
up, keep 'em up!"

As regards the position of his hands Trencher obeyed. He turned his head
though, and over his shoulder he looked into the middle-aged face of
Murtha, of the Central Office. Murtha's right hand was in his coat
pocket and Trencher knew that Murtha had him covered--through the cloth
of the coat.

"Hello, Murtha," said Trencher steadily enough, "what's the idea?"

"The idea is for you to stand right where you are without making any
breaks until I get through frisking you," said Murtha.

On noiseless feet he stepped across the floor, Trencher's back being
still to him, and one of his hands, the left one, with deft movements
shifted about over Trencher's trunk, searching for a weapon.

"Got no gat on you, eh?" said Murtha. "Well, that's good. Now then,
bring your hands down slow, and keep 'em close together. That's
it--slow. I'm taking no chances, understand, and you'd better not take
any either."

Again Trencher obeyed. Still standing behind him Murtha slipped his arms
about Trencher's middle and found first one of Trencher's wrists and
then the other. There was a subdued clicking of steel mechanisms.

"Now then," said Murtha, falling back a pace or two, "I guess you can
turn round if you want to."

Trencher turned round. He glanced at his hands, held in enforced
companionship by the short chain of the handcuffs, and then steadily at
his captor.

"Why so fussy, Murtha?" he asked in a slightly contemptuous tone. "You
never heard of me starting any rough stuff when there was a pinch coming
off, did you?"

"That's true," said the detective; "but when a gun's just bumped off one
guy he's liable to get the habit of bumping off other guys. Even a swell
gun like you is. So that's why I've been just a trifle particular."

"You're crazy, man! Who says I bumped anybody off?"

"I do, for one," replied Murtha cheerfully. "Still that's neither here
nor there, unless you feel like telling me all about what came off over
in Thirty-ninth Street to-night.

"You've always been a safety player so far as I know--and I'm curious to
know what made you start in using a cannon on folks all of a sudden. At
that, I might guess--knowing Sonntag like I did."

"I don't know what you're talking about," parried Trencher. "I tell you
you've got me wrong. You can't frame me for something I didn't do. If
somebody fixed Sonntag it wasn't me. I haven't seen him since
yesterday. I'm giving it to you straight."

"Oh well, we won't argue that now," said Murtha affably. In his manner
was something suggestive of the cat that has caught the king of the
rats. A tremendous satisfaction radiated from him. "You can stall some
people, son, but you can't stall me. I've got you and I've got the goods
on you--that's sufficient. But before you and me glide down out of here
together and start for the front office I'd like to talk a little with
you. Set down, why don't you, and make yourself comfortable?" He
indicated a chair.

Trencher took the chair and Murtha, after springing a catch which he
found on the inner side of the door, sat down in another.

"I've got to hand it to you, Trencher," went on the detective
admiringly. "You sure do work swift. You didn't lose much time climbing
into that outfit you're wearing. How did you get into it so quick? And,
putting one thing with another, I judge you made a good fast get-away
too. Say, listen, Trencher, you might as well come clean with me. I'll
say this for Sonntag--he's been overdue for a croaking this long time.
If I've got to spare anybody out of my life I guess it might as well be
him--that's how I stand. He belonged to the Better-Dead Club to start
with, Sonntag did. If it was self-defence and you can prove it, I've got
no kick coming. All I want is the credit for nailing you all by my
lonesome. Why not slip me the whole tale now, and get it off your chest?
You don't crave for any of this here third-degree stuff down at
headquarters, and neither do I. Why not spill it to me now and save
trouble all round?"

His tone was persuasive, wheedling, half friendly. Trencher merely shook
his head, forcing a derisive grin to his lips.

"Can the bull, Murtha," he said. "You haven't got a thing on me and you
know it."

"Is that so? Well, just to play the game fair, suppose I tell you some
of the things I've got on you--some of them. But before I start I'm
going to tell you that your big mistake was in coming back to where
you'd left that nice new yellow overcoat of yours. Interested, eh?" he
said, reading the expression that came into Trencher's face in spite of
Trencher's efforts. "All right then, I'll go on. You had a good prospect
of getting out of town before daylight, but you chucked your chance when
you came back to the Clarenden a little while ago. But at that I was
expecting you; in fact, I don't mind telling you that I was standing
behind some curtains not fifteen feet from that check room when you
showed up. I could have grabbed you then, of course, but just between
you and me I didn't want to run the risk of having to split the credit
fifty-fifty with any bull, in harness or out of it, that might come
butting in. The neighbourhood was lousy with cops and plain-clothes men
hunting for whoever it was that bumped off Sonntag; they're still there,
I guess, hunting without knowing who it is they're looking for, and
without having a very good description of you, either. I was the only
fellow that had the right dope, and that came about more by accident
than anything else. So I took a chance, myself. I let you get away and
then I trailed you--in a taxi.

"All the time you was on that street car I was riding along right behind
you, and I came up these steps here not ten feet behind you. I wanted
you all for myself and I've got you all by myself."

"You don't hate yourself, exactly, do you?" said Trencher. "Well,
without admitting anything--because there's nothing to admit--I'd like
to know, if you don't mind, how you dope it out that I had anything to
do with Sonntag's being killed--that is if you're not lying about him
being killed?"

"I don't mind," said Murtha blithely. "It makes quite a tale, but I can
boil it down. I wasn't on duty to-night--by rights this was a night off
for me. I had a date at the Clarenden at eleven-thirty to eat a bite
with a brother-in-law of mine and a couple of friends of his--a fellow
named Simons and a fellow named Parker, from Stamford.

"I judge it's Parker's benny and dicer you're wearing now.

"Well, anyhow, on my way to the Clarenden about an hour or so ago I butt
right into the middle of all the hell that's being raised over this
shooting in Thirty-ninth Street. One of the precinct plain-clothes men
that's working on the case tells me a tall guy in a brown derby hat and
a short yellow overcoat is supposed to have pulled off the job. That
didn't mean anything to me, and even if it had I wouldn't have figured
you out as having been mixed up in it. Anyway, it's no lookout of mine.
So I goes into the Clarenden and has a rarebit and a bottle of beer with
my brother-in-law and the others.

"About half-past eleven we all start to go, and then this party, Parker,
can't find his coat check. He's sure he stuck it in his vest pocket when
he blew in, but it ain't there. We look for it on the floor but it's not
there, either. Then all of a sudden Parker remembers that a man in a
brown derby, with a coat turned inside out over his arm, who seemed to
be in a hurry about something, came into the Clarenden along with him,
and that a minute later in that Chinese room the same fellow butts into
him. That gives me an idea, but I don't tell Parker what's on my mind. I
sends the head waiter for the house detective, and when the house
detective comes I show him my badge, and on the strength of that he lets
me and Parker go into the cloak room. Parker's hoping to find his own
coat and I'm pretending to help him look for it, but what I'm really
looking for is a brown derby hat and a short yellow coat--and sure
enough I find 'em. But Parker can't find his duds at all; and so in
putting two and two together it's easy for me to figure how the switch
was made. I dope it out that the fellow who lifted Parker's check and
traded his duds for Parker's is the same fellow who fixed Sonntag's
clock. Also I've got a pretty good line on who that party is; in fact I
practically as good as know who it is.

"So I sends Parker and the others back to the table to smoke a cigar and
stick round awhile, and I hang round the door keeping out of sight
behind them draperies where I can watch the check room. Because, you
see, Trencher, I knew you were the guy and I knew you'd come back--if
you could get back."

He paused as though expecting a question, but Trencher stayed silent and
Murtha kept on.

"And now I'm going to tell you how I come to know you was the right
party. You remember that time about two years ago when I ran you in as a
suspect and down at headquarters you bellyached so loud because I took a
bum old coin off of you? Well, when I went through that yellow overcoat
and found your luck piece, as you call it, in the right-hand pocket, I
felt morally sure, knowing you like I did, that as soon as you missed it
you'd be coming back to try to find it. And sure enough you did come
back. Simple, ain't it?

"The only miscalculation I made was in figuring that when you found it
gone from the pocket you'd hang round making a hunt for it on the floor
or something. You didn't though. I guess maybe you lost your nerve when
you found it wasn't in that coat pocket. Is that right?"

"But I did find it!" exclaimed Trencher, fairly jostled out of his pose
by these last words from his gloating captor. "I've got it now!"

Murtha's hand stole into his trousers pocket and fondled something
there.

"What'll you bet you've got it now?" he demanded gleefully. "What'll you
bet?"

"I'll bet my life--that's all," answered Trencher. "Here, I'll show
you!"

He stood up. Because his wrists were chained he had to twist his body
sidewise before he could slip one hand into his own trousers pocket.

He groped in its depths and then brought forth something and held it out
in his palm.

The poor light of the single electric bulb glinted upon an object which
threw off dulled translucent tints of bluish-green--not a trade dollar,
but a big overcoat button the size of a trade dollar--a flat, smooth,
rimless disk of smoked pearl with a tiny depression in the middle where
the thread holes went through. For a little space of time both of them
with their heads bent forward contemplated it.

Then with a flirt of his manacled hands Trencher flung it away from
him, and with a sickly pallor of fright and surrender stealing up under
the skin of his cheeks he stared at the detective.

"You win, Murtha," he said dully. "What's the use bucking the game after
your luck is gone? Come on, let's go down-town. Yes, I bumped off
Sonntag."



CHAPTER V

QUALITY FOLKS


In our town formerly there were any number of negro children named for
Caucasian friends of their parents. Some bore for their names the names
of old masters of the slavery time, masters who had been kindly and
gracious and whose memories thereby were affectionately perpetuated;
these were mainly of a generation now growing into middle age. Others--I
am speaking still of the namesakes, not of the original bearers of the
names--had been christened with intent to do honour to indulgent and
well-remembered employers of post-bellum days. Thus it might befall, for
example, that Wadsworth Junius Courtney, Esquire, would be a prominent
advocate practicing at the local bar and that Wadsworth Junius Courtney
Jones, of colour, would be his janitor and sweep out his office for him.
Yet others had been named after white children--and soon after--for the
reason that the white children had been given first names having a fine,
full, sonorous sound or else a fascinatingly novel sound.

Of these last there were instances amounting in the aggregate to a small
host.

I seem to remember, for example, that once a pink girl-mite came into
the world by way of a bedroom in a large white house on Tilghman Avenue
and was at the baptismal font sentenced for life to bear the Christian
name of Rowena Hildegarde.

Or is Rowena Hildegarde a Christian name?

At any rate, within twelve months' time, there were to be found in more
crowded and less affluent quarters of our thriving little city four more
Rowena Hildegardes, of tender years, or rather, tender months--two black
ones, one chrome-yellow one, and one sepia-brown one.

But so far as the available records show there was but one white child
in our town who bore for its name, bestowed upon it with due knowledge
of the fact and with deliberate intent, the name of a person of
undoubted African descent. However, at this stage to reveal the
circumstances governing this phenomenon would be to run ahead of our
tale and to precipitate its climax before the groundwork were laid for
its premise. Most stories should start at the beginning. This one must.

       *       *       *       *       *

From round the left-hand corner of the house came with a sudden blare
the sound of melody--words and music--growing steadily louder as the
unseen singer drew nearer. The music was a lusty, deep-volumed
camp-meeting air, with long-drawn quavers and cadences in it. The words
were as follows:

        _Had a lovin' mother,_
        _Been climbin' up de hill so long;_
        _She been hopin' git to heaben in due time_
        _Befo' dem heaben do's close!_

And then the chorus, voicing first a passionate entreaty, then rising in
the final bars to a great exultant shout:

        _Den chain dat lion down, Good Lawd!_
        _Den chain dat lion down!_
            _Oh, please!_
        _Good Lawd, done chained dat lion down!_
        _Done chained dat deadly lion down!_
            _Glor-e-e-e!_

The singer, still singing, issued into view, limping slightly--a wizen
woman, coal-black and old, with a white cloth bound about her head,
turban fashion, and a man's battered straw hat resting jauntily upon the
knotted kerchief. Her calico frock was voluminous, unshapely and
starch-clean. Her under lip was shoved forward as though permanently
twisted into a spout-shape by the task of holding something against the
gums of her lower front teeth, and from one side of her mouth protruded
a bit of wood with the slivered bark on it. One versed in the science of
forestry might have recognised the little stub of switch as a
peach-tree switch; one bred of the soil would have known its purpose.
Neither puckered-out lip nor peach-tree twig seemed to interfere in the
least with her singing. She flung the song out past them--over the lip,
round the twig.

With her head thrown away back, her hands resting on her bony hips, and
her feet clunking inside a pair of boys' shoes too large for her, she
crossed the lawn at an angle. In all things about her--in her gait,
despite its limp, in her pose, her figure--there was something
masterful, something dominating, something tremendously proud.
Considering her sparseness of bulk she had a most astoundingly big
strong voice, and in the voice as in the strut was arrogant pride.

She crossed the yard and let herself out of a side gate opening upon an
empty side street and went out of sight and ultimately out of hearing
down the side street in the hot sunshine of the late afternoon. But
before she was out of hearing she had made it plain that not only a
loving mother and a loving father, but likewise a loving brother and a
loving sister, a loving nephew and a loving uncle, a loving grandmother
and divers other loving relatives--had all been engaged in the
hill-climbing pilgrimage along a lion-guarded path.

The hush that succeeded her departure was a profound hush; indeed, by
comparison with the clamorous outburst that had gone before it seemed
almost ghastly. Not even the shrieks of the caucusing blue jays that
might now be heard in the oak trees upon the lawn, where they were
holding one of their excited powwows, served to destroy the illusion
that a dead quiet had descended upon a spot lately racked by loud
sounds. The well-dressed young man who had been listening with the air
of one intent on catching and memorising the air, settled back in the
hammock in which he was stretched behind the thick screen of vines that
covered the wide front porch of the house.

"The estimable Aunt Charlotte appears to be in excellent voice and
spirits to-day," he said with a wry smile. "I don't know that I ever
heard her when her top notes carried farther than they did just now."

The slender black-haired girl who sat alongside him in a porch chair
winced.

"It's perfectly awful--I know it," she lamented. "I suppose if Mildred
and I have asked her once not to carry on like that here at the front of
the house we've asked her a hundred times. It's bad enough to have her
whooping like a wild Indian in the kitchen. But it never seems to do any
good."

"Why don't you try getting rid of her altogether as a remedy?" suggested
the young man.

"Get rid of Aunt Sharley! Why, Harvey--why, Mr. Winslow, I mean--we
couldn't do that! Why, Aunt Sharley has always been in our family! Why,
she's just like one of us--just like our own flesh and blood! Why, she
used to belong to my Grandmother Helm before the war----"

"I see," he said dryly, breaking in on her. "She used to belong to your
grandmother, and now you belong to her. The plan of ownership has merely
been reversed, that's all. Tell me, Miss Emmy Lou, how does it feel to
be a human chattel, with no prospect of emancipation?" Then catching the
hurt look on her flushed face he dropped his raillery and hastened to
make amends. "Well, never mind. You're the sweetest slave girl I ever
met--I guess you're the sweetest one that ever lived. Besides, she's
gone--probably won't be back for half an hour or so. Don't hitch your
chair away from me--I've got something very important that I want to
tell you--in confidence. It concerns you--and somebody else. It concerns
me and somebody else--and yet only two persons are concerned in it."

He was wrong about the time, however, truthful as he may have been in
asserting his desire to deal confidentially with important topics.
Inside of ten minutes, which to him seemed no more than a minute, seeing
that he was in love and time always speeds fast for a lover with his
sweetheart, the old black woman came hurrying back up the side street,
and turned in at the side gate and retraversed the lawn to the back of
the old house, giving the vine-screened porch a swift searching look as
she hobbled past its corner.

Her curiosity, if so this scrutiny was to be interpreted, carried her
further. In a minute or two she suddenly poked her head out through the
open front door. She had removed her damaged straw headgear, but still
wore her kerchief. Hastily and guiltily the young man released his hold
upon a slim white hand which somehow had found its way inside his own.
The sharp eyes of the old negress snapped. She gave a grunt as she
withdrew her head. It was speedily to develop, though, that she had not
entirely betaken herself away. Almost immediately there came to the ears
of the couple the creak-creak of a rocking-chair just inside the hall,
but out of view from their end of the porch.

"Make the old beldam go away, won't you?" whispered the man.

"I'll try," she whispered back rather nervously. Then, raising her
voice, she called out in slightly strained, somewhat artificial voice,
which to the understanding of the annoyed young man in the hammock
appeared to have almost a suggestion of apprehension in it:

"Is--is that you, Aunt Sharley?"

The answer was little more than a grunt.

"Well, Aunt Sharley, hadn't you better be seeing about supper?"

"Num'mine 'bout supper. Ise tendin' to de supper. Ise bound de supper'll
be ready 'fo' you two chillens is ready fur to eat it."

Within, the chair continued to creak steadily.

The girl spread out her hands with a gesture of helplessness.

"You see how it is," she explained under her breath. "Auntie is so set
in her ways!"

"And she's so set in that rocking-chair too," he retorted grimly. Saying
what he said next, he continued to whisper, but in his whisper was a
suggestion of the proprietorial tone. Also for the first time in his
life he addressed her without the prefix of Miss before her name. This
affair plainly was progressing rapidly, despite the handicaps of a
withered black duenna in the immediate offing.

"Emmy Lou," he said, "please try again. Go in there yourself and speak
to her. Be firm with her--for once. Make her get away from that door.
She makes me nervous. Don't be afraid of the old nuisance. This is your
house, isn't it--yours and your sister's? Well, then, I thought
Southerners knew how to handle darkies. If you can handle this one,
suppose you give me a small proof of the fact--right now!"

Reluctantly, as though knowing beforehand what the outcome would be,
Emmy Lou stood up, revealing herself as a straight dainty figure in
white. She entered the door. Outside in the hammock Harvey strained his
ears to hear the dialogue. His sweetheart's voice came to him only in a
series of murmurs, but for him there was no difficulty about
distinguishing the replies, for the replies were pitched in a strident,
belligerent key which carried almost to the yard fence. From them he was
able to guess with the utmost accuracy just what arguments against the
presence of the negress the girl was making. This, then, was what he
heard:

". . . Now, Mizz Emmy Lou, you mout jes' ez well hush up an' save yore
breath. You knows an' I knows, even ef he don't know it, dat 'tain't
proper fur no young man to be cotein' a young lady right out on a front
po'ch widout no chaperoner bein' clost by. Quality folks don't do sech
ez dat. Dat's why I taken my feet in my hand an' come hurryin' back yere
f'um dat grocery sto' where I'd done went to git a bottle of lemon
extractors. I seen yore sister settin' in dat Mistah B. Weil's candy
sto', drinkin' ice-cream sody wid a passel of young folks, an' by dat I
realise' I'd done lef' you 'lone in dis house wid a young man dat's a
stranger yere, an' so I come right back. And yere I is, honey, and yere
I stays. . . . Whut's dat you sayin'? De gen'l'man objec's? He do, do he?"
The far-carrying voice rose shrilly and scornfully. "Well, let him!
Dat's his privilege. Jes' let him keep on objectin' long ez he's a mind
to. 'Tain't gwine 'fluence me none. . . . I don't keer none ef he do heah
me. Mebbe it mout do him some good ef he do heah me. Hit'll do him good,
too, ef he heed me, I lay to dat. Mebbe he ain't been raised de way we
is down yere. Ef so, dat's his misfortune." The voice changed. "Whut
would yore pore daid mother say ef she knowed I wuz neglectin' my plain
duty to you two lone chillen? Think I gwine run ary chancet of havin'
you two gals talked about by all de low-down pore w'ite trash
scandalisers in dis town? Well, I ain't, an' dat's flat. No, sir-ree,
honey! You mout jes' ez well run 'long back out dere on dat front po'ch,
'ca'se I'm tellin' you I ain't gwine stir nary inch f'um whar I is twell
yore sister git back yere."

Beaten and discomfited, with one hand up to a burning cheek, Emmy Lou
returned to her young man. On his face was a queer smile.

"Did--did you hear what she said?" she asked, bending over him.

"Not being deaf I couldn't well help hearing. I imagine the people next
door heard it, too, and are no doubt now enjoying the joke of it."

"Oh, I know she's impossible," admitted Emmy Lou, repeating her lament
of a little while before, but taking care even in her mortification to
keep her voice discreetly down. "There's no use trying to do anything
with her. We've tried and tried and tried, but she just will have her
way. She doesn't seem to understand that we've grown up--Mildred and I.
She still wants to boss us just as she did when we were children. And
she grows more crotchety and more exacting every day."

"And I--poor benighted Yank that I am--came down here filled with a
great and burning sympathy for the down-trodden African." Harvey said
this as though speaking to himself.

The girl forgot her annoyance in her instinct to come to the defence of
her black mentor.

"Oh, but she has been like a mother to us! After mamma died I don't know
what we should have done--two girls left alone in this old house--if it
hadn't been for Aunt Sharley. She petted us, she protected us, she
nursed us when we were sick. Why, Harvey, she couldn't have been more
loyal or more devoted or more self-sacrificing than she has been through
all these years while we were growing up. I know she loves us with every
drop of blood in her veins. I know she'd work her fingers to the bone
for us--that she'd die in her tracks fighting for us. We try to remember
the debt of gratitude we owe her now that she's getting old and fussy
and unreasonable and all crippled with rheumatism."

She paused, and then, womanlike, she added a qualifying clause: "But I
must admit she's terribly aggravating at times. It's almost unbearable
to have her playing the noisy old tyrant day in and day out. I get
awfully out of patience with her."

Over on Franklin Street the town clock struck.

"Six o'clock," said Harvey. Reluctantly he stirred and sat up in the
hammock and reached for his hat.

"I could be induced, you know, if sufficiently pressed, to stay on for
supper," he hinted. For one Northern born, young Mr. Harvey Winslow was
fast learning the hospitable customs of the town of his recent adoption.

"I'd love to have you stay," stated Emmy Lou, "but--but"--she glanced
over her shoulder toward the open door--"but I'm afraid of Auntie. She
might say she wasn't prepared to entertain a visitor--'not fixed fur
company' is the way she would put it. You see, she regards you as a
person of great importance. That's why she's putting on so many airs
now. If it was one of the home boys that I've known always that was here
with me she wouldn't mind it a bit. But with you it's different, and
she's on her dignity--riding her high horse. You aren't very much
disappointed, are you? Besides, you're coming to supper to-morrow night.
She'll fuss over you then, I know, and be on tiptoe to see that
everything is just exactly right. I think Auntie likes you."

"Curious way she has of showing it then," said Harvey. "I guess I still
have a good deal to learn about the quaint and interesting tribal
customs of this country. Even so, my education is progressing by leaps
and bounds--I can see that."

After further remarks delivered in a confidential undertone, the purport
of which is none of our business, young Mr. Winslow took his departure
from the Dabney homestead. Simultaneously the vigilant warder abandoned
her post in the front hall and returned to her special domain at the
back of the house. Left alone, the girl sat on the porch with her
troubled face cupped in her hands and a furrow of perplexity spoiling
her smooth white brow. Presently the gate latch clicked and her sister,
a year and a half her junior, came up the walk. With half an eye anyone
would have known them for sisters. They looked alike, which is another
way of saying both of them were pretty and slim and quick in their
movements.

"Hello, sis," said Mildred by way of greeting. She dropped into a chair,
smoothing down the front of her white middy blouse and fanning her
flushed face with the broad ends of her sailor tie. Then observing her
sister's despondent attitude: "What are you in the dumps about? Has that
new beau of yours turned out a disappointment? Or what?"

In a passionate little burst Emmy Lou's simmering indignation boiled up
and overflowed.

"Oh, it's Aunt Sharley again! Honestly, Mil, she was absolutely
unbearable this evening. It was bad enough to have her go stalking
across the lawn with that old snuff stick of hers stuck in the corner of
her mouth, and singing that terrible song of hers at the very top of her
lungs and wearing that scandalous old straw hat stuck up on her
topknot--that was bad enough, goodness knows! I don't know what sort of
people Har--Mr. Winslow thinks we must be! But that was only the
beginning."

Followed a recapitulation of the greater grievance against the absent
offender. Before Emmy Lou was done baring the burden of her complaint
Mildred's lips had tightened in angered sympathy.

"It must have been just perfectly awfully horrible, Em," she said with a
characteristic prodigality of adjectives when the other had finished her
recital. "You just ought to give Aunt Sharley a piece of your mind about
the way she behaves. And the worst of it is she gets worse all the time.
Don't you think you're the only one she picks on. Why, don't you
remember, Em, how just here only the other day she jumped on me because
I went on the moonlight excursion aboard the _Sophie K. Foster_ with
Sidney Baumann?--told me right to my face I ought to be spanked and put
to bed for daring to run round with 'codfish aristocracy'--the very
words she used. What right has she, I want to know, to be criticising
Sidney Baumann's people? I'm sure he's as nice a boy as there is in this
whole town; seems to me he deserves all the more credit for working his
way up among the old families the way he has. I don't care if his father
was a nobody in this town when he first came here.

"Quality folks--quality folks! She's always preaching about our being
quality folks and about it being wrong for us to demean ourselves by
going with anybody who isn't quality folks until I'm sick and tired of
the words. She has quality folks on the brain! Does she think we are
still babies? You're nearly twenty-three and I'm past twenty-one. We
have our own lives to live. Why should we be so----"

She broke off at the sound of a limping footstep in the hall.

"Supper's ready," announced Aunt Sharley briefly. "You chillen come
right in an' eat it whilst it's hot."

Strangely quiet, the two sisters followed the old negress back to the
dining room. Aunt Sharley, who had prepared the meal, now waited upon
them. She was glumly silent herself, but occasionally she broke, or
rather she punctuated, the silence with little sniffs of displeasure.
Only once did she speak, and this was at the end of the supper, when she
had served them with blackberries and cream.

"Seem lak de cat done got ever'body's tongue round dis place to-night!"
she snapped, addressing the blank wall above the older girl's head.
"Well, 'tain't no use fur nobody to be poutin' an' sullin'. 'Tain't
gwine do 'em no good. 'Tain't gwine budge me nary hair's brea'th frum
whut I considers to be my plain duty. Ef folkses don't lak it so much de
wuss fur dem, present company not excepted. Dat's my say an' I done said
it!"

And out of the room she marched with her head held defiantly high.

That night there were callers. At the Dabney home there nearly always
were callers of an evening, for the two sisters were by way of being
what small-town society writers call reigning belles. Once, when they
had first returned from finishing school the year before, a neighbouring
lady, meeting Aunt Sharley on the street, had been moved to ask whether
the girls had many beaus, and Aunt Sharley, with a boastful flirt of her
under lip which made her side face look something like the profile of a
withered but vainglorious dromedary, had answered back:

"Beaus? Huh! Dem chillens is got beaus frum ever' state!" Which was a
slight overstretching of the real facts, but a perfectly pardonable and
proper exaggeration in Aunt Charlotte's estimation. At home she might
make herself a common scold, might be pestiferously officious and more
than pestiferously noisy. Abroad her worshipful pride in, and her
affection for, the pair she had reared shone through her old black face
as though a lamp of many candle power burned within her. She might chide
them at will, and she did, holding this to be her prerogative and her
right, but whosoever spoke slightingly of either of them in her
presence, be the speaker black or white, had Aunt Charlotte to fight
right there on the spot; she was as ready with her fists and her teeth
to assert the right of her white wards to immunity from criticism as
she was with her tongue lashings.

These things were all taken into consideration when Emmy Lou and Mildred
came that night to balance the account for and against the old woman--so
many, many deeds of thoughtfulness, of kindness, of tenderness on the
credit side; so many flagrant faults, so many shortcomings of temper and
behaviour on the debit page. The last caller had gone. Aunt Sharley,
after making the rounds of the house to see to door boltings and window
latchings, had hobbled upstairs to her own sleeping quarters over the
kitchen wing, and in the elder sister's room, with the lights turned
low, the two of them sat in their nightgowns on the side of Emmy Lou's
bed and tried the case of Spinster Charlotte Helm, coloured, in the
scales of their own youthful judgments. Without exactly being able to
express the situation in words, both realised that a condition which
verged upon the intolerable was fast approaching its climax.

Along with the impatience of youth and the thought of many grievances
they had within them a natural instinct for fairness; a legacy perhaps
from a father who had been just and a mother who had been mercifully
kind and gentle. First one would play the part of devil's advocate, the
while the other defended the accused, and then at the remembrance of
some one of a long record of things done or said by Aunt Sharley those
attitudes would be reversed.

There were times when both condemned the defendant, their hair braids
bobbing in emphasis of the intensity of their feelings; times when
together they conjured up recollections of the everlasting debt that
they owed her for her manifold goodnesses, her countless sacrifices on
behalf of them. The average Northerner, of whatsoever social status,
would have been hard put to it either to comprehend the true inwardness
of the relationship that existed between these girls of one race and
this old woman of another or to figure how there could be but one
outcome. The average Southerner would have been able at once to sense
the sentiments and the prejudices underlying the dilemma that now
confronted the orphaned pair, and to sympathise with them, and with the
old negress too.

To begin with, there were the fine things to be said for Aunt Charlotte;
the arguments in her behalf--a splendid long golden list of them
stretching back to their babyhood and beyond, binding them with ties
stronger almost than blood ties to this faithful, loving, cantankerous,
crotchety old soul. Aunt Charlotte had been born in servitude, the
possession of their mother's mother. She had been their mother's
handmaiden before their mother's marriage. Afterward she had been their
own nurse, cradling them in babyhood on her black breast, spoiling
them, training them, ruling them, overruling them, too, coddling them
when they were good, nursing them when they were ailing, scolding them
and punishing them when they misbehaved.

After their father's death their mother, then an invalid, had advised as
frequently with Aunt Sharley regarding the rearing of the two daughters
as with the guardians who had been named in her husband's will--and with
as satisfactory results. Before his death their father had urged his
wife to counsel with Aunt Sharley in all domestic emergencies. Dying, he
had signified his affectionate regard for the black woman by leaving her
a little cottage with its two acres of domain near the railroad tracks.
Regardless though of the fact that she was now a landed proprietor and
thereby exalted before the eyes of her own race, Aunt Sharley had
elected to go right on living beneath the Dabney roof. In the latter
years of Mrs. Dabney's life she had been to all intents a copartner in
the running of the house, and after that sweet lady's death she had been
its manager in all regards. In the simple economies of the house she had
indeed been all things for these past few years--housekeeper, cook,
housemaid, even seamstress, for in addition to being a poetess with a
cook-stove she was a wizard with a needle.

As they looked back now, casting up the tally of the remembered years,
neither Emmy Lou nor Mildred could recall an event in all their lives
in which the half-savage, half-childish, altogether shrewd and competent
negress had not figured after some fashion or other: as foster parent,
as unofficial but none the less capable guardian, as confidante, as
overseer, as dictator, as tirewoman who never tired of well-doing, as
arbiter of big things and little--all these rôles, and more, too, she
had played to them, not once, but a thousand times.

It was Aunt Sharley who had dressed them for their first real party--not
a play-party, as the saying went down our way, but a regular dancing
party, corresponding to a début in some more ostentatious and less
favoured communities. It was Aunt Sharley who had skimped and scrimped
to make the available funds cover the necessary expenses of the little
household in those two or three lean years succeeding their mother's
death, when dubious investments, which afterward turned out to be good
ones, had chiseled a good half off their income from the estate. It was
Aunt Sharley who, when the question of going away to boarding school
rose, had joined by invitation in the conference on ways and means with
the girls' guardians, Judge Priest and Doctor Lake, and had cast her
vote and her voice in favour of the same old-fashioned seminary that
their mother in her girlhood had attended. The sisters themselves had
rather favoured an Eastern establishment as being more fashionable and
smarter, but the old woman stood fast in her advocacy of the other
school. What had been good enough for her beloved mistress was good
enough for her mistress' daughters, she insisted; and, anyhow, hadn't
the quality folks always gone there? Promptly Doctor Lake and Judge
Priest sided with her; and so she had her way about this important
matter, as she had it about pretty much everything else.

It was Aunt Sharley who had indignantly and jealously vetoed the
suggestion that a mulatto sewing woman, famed locally for her skill,
should be hired to assist in preparing the wardrobes that Emmy Lou and
Mildred must take with them. It was Aunt Sharley who, when her day's
duties were over, had sat up night after night until all hours,
straining her eyes as she plied needle and scissors, basting and hemming
until she herself was satisfied that her chillen's clothes would be as
ample and as ornate as the clothes which any two girls at the boarding
school possibly could be expected to have. It was Aunt Sharley who
packed their trunks for them, who kissed them good-by at the station,
all three of them being in tears, and who, when the train had vanished
down the tracks to the southward, had gone back to the empty house,
there to abide until they came home to her again. They had promised to
write to her every week--and they had, too, except when they were too
busy or when they forgot it. Finally, it was Aunt Sharley who never let
them forget that their grandfather had been a governor of the state,
that their father had been a colonel in the Confederacy, and that they
were qualified "to hole up they haids wid de fines' in de land."

When they came to this phase of the recapitulation there sprang into the
minds of both of them a recollection of that time years and years in the
past when Aunt Sharley, accompanying them on a Sunday-school picnic in
the capacity of nursemaid, had marred the festivities by violently
snatching Mildred out of a circle playing King Willyum was King James'
Son just as the child was about to be kissed by a knickerbockered
admirer who failed to measure up to Aunt Sharley's jealous requirements
touching on quality folks; and, following this, had engaged in a fight
with the disappointed little boy's coloured attendant, who resented this
slur upon the social standing of her small charge. Aunt Sharley had come
off victor in the bout, but the picnic had been spoiled for at least
three youngsters. So much for Aunt Sharley's virtues--for her loyalty,
her devotion, her unremitting faithfulness, her championship of their
destinies, her stewardship over all their affairs. Now to turn the
shield round and consider its darker side:

Aunt Sharley was hardly a fit candidate for canonisation yet. Either it
was too early for that--or it was too late. She was unreasonable, she
was crotchety, she was contentious, she was incredibly intolerant of the
opinions of others, and she was incredibly hardheaded. She had always
been masterful and arrogant; now more and more each day she was becoming
a shrew and a tyrant and a wrangler. She was frightfully noisy; she
clarioned her hallelujah hymns at the top of her voice, regardless of
what company might be in the house. She dipped snuff openly before
friends of the girls and new acquaintances alike. She refused
point-blank to wear a cap and apron when serving meals. She was forever
quarrelling with the neighbours' servants, with delivery boys, with
marketmen and storekeepers. By sheer obstinacy she defeated all their
plans for hiring a second servant, declaring that if they dared bring
another darky on the place she would take pleasure in scalding the
interloper with a kettle of boiling water. She sat in self-imposed
judgment upon their admirers, ruthlessly rejecting those courtiers who
did not measure up to her arbitrary standards for appraising the local
aristocracy; and toward such of the young squires as fell under the ban
of her disfavour she deported herself in such fashion as to leave in
their minds no doubt whatsoever regarding her hostility. In public she
praised her wards; in private she alternately scolded and petted them.
She was getting more feeble, now that age and infirmities were coming
upon her, wherefore the house showed the lack of proper care. They were
afraid of her, though they loved her with all their hearts and knew she
loved them to the exclusion of every living person; they were
apprehensive always of her frequent and unrestrained outbreaks of
temper. She shamed them and she humiliated them and she curbed them in
perfectly natural impulses--impulses that to them seemed perfectly
proper also.

Small enough were these faults when set up alongside the tally of her
goodnesses; moreover, neither of the two rebels against her authority
was lacking in gratitude. But it is the small things that are most
annoying usually, and, besides, the faults of the old woman were things
now of daily occurrence and recurrence, which chafed their nerves and
fretted them, whereas the passage of time was lessening the sentimental
value of her earlier labours and sacrifices in their behalf.

And here was another thing: While they had been getting older Aunt
Sharley had been getting old; they had grown up, overnight, as it were,
and she could not be made to comprehend the fact. In their case the
eternal conflict between youth and crabbed age was merely being
repeated--with the addition in this particular instance of unusual
complications.

For an hour or more the perplexed pair threshed away, striving to winnow
the chaff from the pure grain in Aunt Sharley's nature, and the upshot
was that Emmy Lou had a headache and Mildred had a little spell of
crying, and they agreed that never had there been such a paradox of part
saint and part sinner, part black ogre and part black angel, as their
Auntie was, created into a troubled world, and that something should be
done to remedy the evil, provided it could be done without grievously
hurting the old woman's feelings; but just what this something which
should be done might be neither of them could decide, and so they went
to bed and to sleep.

And the next day was another day exactly similar in its petty annoyances
to the day before.

But a day was to come before the summer ended when a way out was found.
The person who found the way out--or thought he did--was Mr. Harvey
Winslow, the hero or villain of the hammock episode previously described
in this narrative. He did not venture, though, to suggest a definite
course of action until after a certain moonlit, fragrant night, when two
happy young people agreed that thereafter these twain should be one.

Mildred knew already what was impending in the romance of Emmy Lou. So
perhaps did Aunt Sharley. Her rheumatism had not affected her eyesight
and she had all her faculties. All the same, it was to Aunt Sharley that
Emmy Lou went next morning to tell of the choice she had made. There was
no one whose consent had actually to be obtained. Both the girls were
of age; as their own master they enjoyed the use and control of their
cosy little inheritance. Except for an aunt who lived in New Orleans and
some cousins scattered over the West, they were without kindred. The
Dabneys had been an old family, but not a large one. Nevertheless, in
obedience to a feeling that told her Aunt Sharley should be the first,
next only to her sister, to share with her the happiness that had come
into her life, Emmy Lou sought out the old woman before breakfast time.

Seemingly Aunt Sharley approved. For if at the moment she mumbled out a
complaint about chillens too young to know their own minds being prone
to fly off with the first young w'ite gen'l'man that came along frum
nobody knowed whar, still there was nothing begrudged or forced about
the vocal jubilations with which she made the house ring during the
succeeding week. At prayer meeting on Wednesday night at Zion Coloured
Baptist Church and at lodge meeting on Friday night she bore herself
with an air of triumphant haughtiness which sorely irked her fellow
members. It was agreed privily that Sis' Charlotte Helm got mo' and mo'
bigotty, and not alone that, but mo' and mo' uppety, ever' day she
lived.

If young Mr. Winslow had been, indirectly, the cause for her prideful
deportment before her own colour, it was likewise Mr. Winslow who
shortly was to be the instrument for humbling her into the dust. Now
this same Mr. Winslow, it should be stated, was a masterful young man.
Only an abiding sense of humour kept him sometimes from being
domineering. Along with divers other qualities it had taken
masterfulness for him at twenty-nine to be superintendent of our
street-railway system, now owned and operated by Northern capitalists.
Likewise it had taken masterfulness for him to distance the field of
Emmy Lou's local admirers within the space of five short months after he
procured his transfer to our town from another town where his company
likewise had traction interests. He showed the same trait in the stand
he presently took with regard to the future status of Aunt Sharley in
the household of which he was to become a member and of which he meant
to be the head.

For moral support--which she very seriously felt she needed--Emmy Lou
took her sister with her on the afternoon when she invaded the kitchen
to break the news to Aunt Sharley. The girls came upon the old woman in
one of her busiest moments. She was elbows deep in a white mass which in
due time would become a batch of the hot biscuits of perfection.
"Auntie," began Emmy Lou in a voice which she tried to make
matter-of-fact, "we've--I've something I want to say to you."

"Ise lissenin', chile," stated the old woman shortly.

"It's this way, Auntie: We think--I mean we're afraid that you're
getting along so in life--getting so old that we----"

"Who say Ise gittin' ole?" demanded Aunt Sharley, and she jerked her
hands out of the dough she was kneading.

"We both think so--I mean we all think so," corrected Emmy Lou.

"Who do you mean by we all? Does you mean dat young Mistah Winslow,
Esquire, late of de North?" Her blazing eyes darted from the face of one
sister to the face of the other, reading their looks. "Uh-huh!" she
snorted. "I mout 'a' knowed he'd be de ver' one to come puttin' sech
notions ez dem in you chillens' haids. Well, ma'am, an' whut, pray, do
he want?" Her words fairly dripped with sarcasm.

"He thinks--in fact we all three do--that because you are getting along
in years--you know you are, Auntie--and because your rheumatism bothers
you so much at times that--that--well, perhaps that we should make a
change in the running of the house. So--so----" She hesitated, then
broke off altogether, anxious though she was to make an end to what she
foresaw must be a painful scene for all three of them. Poor Emmy Lou was
finding this job which she had nerved herself to carry through a
desperately hard job. And Aunt Sharley's attitude was not making it any
easier for her either.

"'So' whut?" snapped Aunt Sharley; then answered herself: "An' so de
wind blow frum dat quarter, do hit? De young gen'l'man ain't j'ined de
fambly yit an' already he's settin' hisse'f to run it. All right den. Go
on, chile--quit mumblin' up yore words an' please go on an' tell me whut
you got to say! But ef you's fixin' to bring up de subjec' of my lettin'
ary one of dese yere young flighty-haided, flibbertigibbeted, free-issue
nigger gals come to work on dis place, you mout ez well save yore breath
now an' yereafter, 'ca'se so long ez Ise able to drag one foot behine
t'other I p'intedly does aim to manage dis yere kitchen."

"It isn't that--exactly," blurted out Emmy Lou. "You see, Auntie," she
went on desperately, "we've decided, Harvey and I, that after our
marriage we'll live here. We couldn't leave Mildred alone, and until she
gets married this is going to be home for us all. And so we're
afraid--with one more coming into the household and everything--that the
added work is going to be too heavy for you to undertake. So we've
decided that--that perhaps it would be better all round if you--if
we--if you----"

"Go on, chile; say it, whutever it is."

"----that perhaps it would be better if you left here altogether and
went to live in that nice little house that papa left you in his will."

Perhaps they did not see the stricken look that came into the eyes of
the old negress or else she hid the look behind the fit of rage that
instantly possessed her. Perhaps they mistook the grey pallor that
overspread the old face, turning it to an ashen colour, for the hue of
temper.

"Do it all mean, den, dat after all dese yeahs you's tryin' to git shet
of me--tryin' to t'row me aside lak an' ole worn-out broom? Well, I
ain't gwine go!" Her voice soared shrilly to match the heights of her
tantrum.

"Your wages will go on just the same--Harvey insists on that as much as
we do," Emmy Lou essayed. "Don't you see, Auntie, that your life will be
easier? You will have your own little home and your own little garden.
You can come to see us--come every day if you want to. We'll come to see
you. Things between us will go on almost exactly the same as they do
now. You know how much we love you--Mildred and I. You know we are
trying to think of your comfort, don't you?"

"Of course you do, Aunt Sharley," Mildred put in. "It isn't as if you
were going clear out of our lives or we out of yours. You'll be ever so
much happier."

"Well, I jes' ain't gwine go nary step." The defiant voice had become a
passionate shriek. "Think Ise gwine leave yere an' go live in dat little
house down dere by dem noisy tracks whar all dem odds an' ends of pore
w'ite trash lives--dem scourin's an' sweepin's whut come yere to wuk in
de new cotton mill! Think Ise gwine be corntent to wuk in a gyarden
whilst I knows Ise needed right yere to run dis place de way which it
should be run! Think Ise gwine set quiet whilst Ise pulled up by de
roots an' transported 'way frum de house whar Ise spend purty nigh de
whole of my endurin' life! Well, I won't go--_I_ won't never go! I won't
go--'ca'se I jes' can't!" And then, to the intense distress of the
girls, Aunt Sharley slumped into a chair, threw her floury hands over
her face and with the big tears trickling out between her fingers she
moaned over and over again between her gulping breaths:

"Oh, dat I should live to see de day w'en my own chillens wants to drive
me away frum 'em! Oh, dat I should live to see dis day!"

Neither of them had ever seen Aunt Sharley weep like this--shaken as she
was with great sobs, her head bowed almost to her knees, her bared arms
quivering in a very palsy. They tried to comfort her, tried to put their
arms about her, both of them crying too. At the touch of their arms
stealing about her hunched shoulders she straightened, showing a spark
of the spirit with which they were more familiar. She wrenched her body
free of them and pointed a tremulous finger at the door. The two sisters
stole out, feeling terribly guilty and thoroughly miserable.

It was not the Aunt Sharley they knew who waited upon them that dusk at
supper. Rather it was her ghost--a ghost with a black mask of tragedy
for a face, with eyes swollen and reddened, with lips which shook in
occasional spasms of pain, though their owner strove to keep them firm.
With their own faces tear-streaked and with lumps in their throats the
girls kept their heads averted, as though they had been caught doing
something very wrong, and made poor pretense of eating the dishes that
the old woman placed before them. Such glances as they stole at her were
sidelong covert glances, but they marked plainly enough how her
shoulders drooped and how she dragged herself about the table.

Within a space of time to be measured by hours and almost by minutes she
seemed to have aged years.

It was a mute meal and a most unhappy one for the sisters. More than
once Aunt Sharley seemed on the point of saying something, but she, too,
held her tongue until they had risen up from their places. From within
the passageway leading to the rear porch she spoke then across the
threshold of the door at the back end of the dining room.

"You, nur nobody else, can't turn me out of dis house," she warned them,
and in her words was the dead weight of finality. "An' ef you does, I
ain't gwine leave de premises. Ise gwine camp right dere on de sidewalk
an' dere I means to stay twell de policemens teks me up fur a vagrom. De
shame of it won't be no greater fur me 'n 'tis fur you. Dat's all!" And
with that she was gone before they could answer, if indeed they had any
answer to make.

It was the next day that the _Daily Evening News_ announced the
engagement and the date of the marriage, which would follow within four
weeks. Congratulations in number were bestowed upon Emmy Lou; they came
by telephone and in letters from former schoolmates, but mainly they
came by word of mouth from townspeople who trooped in to say the things
which people always say on such occasions--such things, for example, as
that young Mr. Winslow should count himself a lucky man and that Emmy
Lou would make a lovely bride; that he should be the proudest young man
in the Union and she the happiest girl in the state, and all the rest of
it. Under this outpouring of kindly words from kindly folk the recipient
was radiant enough to all appearances, which was a tribute to her powers
as an actress. Beneath the streams of her happiness coursed sombre
undercurrents of distress and perplexity, roiling the waters of her joy
and her pride.

For nearly a week, with no outsider becoming privy to the facts, she
endured a situation which daily was marked by harassing experiences and
which hourly became more intolerable. Then, in despair, seeing no way
out at all, she went to a certain old white house out on Clay Street to
confide in one to whom many another had turned, seeking counsel in the
time of trouble. She went to see Judge William Pitman Priest, and she
went alone, telling no one, not even Mildred, of the errand upon which
she was bound.

The wide front porch was empty where the old Judge spent most of his
leisure hours when the weather suited, and knowing as she did the custom
of the house, and being, for a fact, almost as much at home beneath its
roof as beneath her own, Emmy Lou, without knocking, walked into the
hall and turning to the right entered the big sitting room. Its lone
occupant sat up with a jerk, wiping the drowsiness out of his eyes with
the back of his hand. He had been taking a cat nap on his ancient sofa;
his long white back hair was tousled up comically behind his bald pink
brow.

"Why, hello, honey!" he said heartily, rising to his feet and bowing
with a quaint ceremonial gesture that contrasted with and yet somehow
matched the homeliness of his greeting. "You slipped in so quiet on them
dainty little feet of yours I never heared you comin' a-tall." He took
her small hands in his broad pudgy ones, holding her off at arm's
length. "And don't you look purty! Mighty nigh any woman looks cool and
sweet when she's got on white fixin's, but when a girl like you puts 'em
on--well, child, there ain't no use talkin', you shorely are a sight to
cure sore eyes. And you git to favour your sweet mother more and more
every day you live. I can't pay you no higher compliment than that. Set
down in that cheer yonder, where I kin look at you whilst we visit."

"I'd rather sit here by you, sir, on the sofa, if you don't mind," she
said.

"Suit yourself, honey."

She settled herself upon the sofa and he let his bulky frame down
alongside her, taking one of her hands into his. Her free hand played
with one of the big buttons on the front of her starched linen skirt and
she looked, not at him, but at the shining disk of pearl, as he said:

"Well, Emmy Lou, whut brings you 'way out here to my house in the heat
of the day?"

She turned her face full upon him then and he saw the brooding in her
eyes and gave her hand a sympathetic little squeeze.

"Judge," she told him, "you went to so much trouble on my account and
Mildred's when we were still minors that I hate to come now worrying you
with my affairs. But somehow I felt that you were the one for me to turn
to."

"Emmy Lou," he said very gravely, "your father was one of the best men
that ever lived and one of the best friends ever I had on this earth.
And no dearer woman than your mother ever drawed the breath of life. It
was a mighty proud day fur me and fur Lew Lake when he named us two as
the guardians of his children, and it was a pleasure to both of us to
help look to your interests after he was took from us. Why, when your
mother went too, I'd a' liked the best in the world to have adopted you
two children outright." He chuckled a soft little chuckle. "I reckin I
would have made the effort, too, only it seemed like that old nigger
woman of yours appeared to have prior rights in the matter, and knowin'
her disposition I was kind of skeered to advance the suggestion.'"

"It was about Aunt Sharley that I came to see you to-day, Judge Priest."

"That so? I had a visit from her here the other day."

"What other day?" she asked, startled.

"Oh, it must have been a matter of three weeks ago--fully. Shall I tell
you whut she come to see me about? You'll laugh when you hear it. It
tickled me right smartly at the time. She wanted to know what I knew
about this here young Mr. Winslow--yes, that was it. She said all the
visible signs p'inted to a serious affair 'twixt you two young people,
and she said before it went any further she wanted to know ef he was the
kind of a young man to be gittin' hisself engaged to a member of the
Dabney family, and she wanted to know ef his folks were the real quality
folks and not this here codfish aristocracy: That was the very term she
used--'codfish aristocracy.' Well, I was able to reasshore her. You see,
honey, I'd took it on myself to do a little inquirin' round about Mr.
Winslow on my own responsibility--not that I wanted to be pryin' into
your business and not because I aimed to be tryin' to come between you
and the young man ef I wasn't altogether satisfied with the accounts I
got of him, but because I loved you and wanted to make sure in my own
mind that Tom Dabney's child wasn't makin' the wrong choice. You
understand, don't you? You see, ez fur back ez a month and a half ago,
or mebbe even further back than that, I was kind of given to understand
that you and this young man were gittin' deeply interested in each
other."

"Why, how could you?" inquired Emmy Lou. "We weren't even engaged then.
Who could have circulated such a report about us?"

"The very first time I seen you two young folks walkin' up Franklin
Street together you both were circulatin' it," he said, chuckling again.
"You may not 'a' knowed it, but you were. I may be gittin' old, but my
eyesight ain't entirely failed up on me yit--I could read the signs when
I was still half a block away frum you. It was right after that that I
started my own little private investigation. So you see I was qualified
to reasshore Aunt Sharley. I told her all the available information on
the subject proved the young gentleman in question was not only a mighty
clever, up-standin', manly young feller, but that where he hailed from
he belonged to the quality folks, which really was the p'int she seemed
most anxious about. That's whut I told her, and I was monstrous glad to
be able to tell her. A stranger might have thought it was pure impudence
on her part, but of course we both know, you and me, whut was in the
back part of her old kinky head. And when I'd got done tellin' her she
went down the street from here with her head throwed away back, singin'
till you could 'a' heard her half a mile off, I reckin."

"I never guessed it. She never told me she'd been to see you. And you
didn't tell me, either, when you came the other night to wish me joy,
Judge."

"I kind of figgered she wanted the matter treated confidential,"
explained Judge Priest. "So I respected whut I took to be her wishes in
the matter. But wasn't it fur all the world jest like that old black
woman?"

"Yes, it was just like her," agreed Emmy Lou, her face shadowed with
deepening distress. "And because it was just like her and because I know
now better than ever before how much she really loves me, those things
make it all the harder to tell you what I came here to tell you--make it
all the harder for me to decide what I should do and to ask your advice
before I do decide."

"Oh, I reckin it can't be so serious ez all that," said Judge Priest
comfortingly. "Betwixt us we oughter be able to find a way out of the
difficulty, whutever it is. S'pose, honey, you start in at the beginnin'
and give me all the facts in the matter that's worryin' you."

She started then and, though her voice broke several times, she kept on
until she came to the end of her tragic little recital. To Emmy Lou it
was very tragic indeed.

"So you see, Judge Priest, just how it is," she stated at the
conclusion. "From both sides I am catching the brunt of the whole thing.
Aunt Sharley won't budge an inch from the attitude she's taken, and
neither will Harvey budge an inch. He says she must go; she tells me
every day she won't go. This has been going on for a week now and I'm
almost distracted. At what should be the happiest time in a girl's life
I'm being made terribly unhappy. Why, it breaks my heart every time I
look at her. I know how much we owe her--I know I can never hope to
repay her for all she has done for me and my sister.

"But oh, Judge, I do want to be the right kind of wife to Harvey. All my
life long I mean to obey him and to look up to him; I don't want to
begin now by disobeying him--by going counter to his wishes. And I can
understand his position too. To him she's just an unreasonable,
meddlesome, officious, contrary old negro woman who would insist on
running the household of which he should be the head. She would too.

"It isn't that he feels unkindly toward her--he's too good and too
generous for that. Why, it was Harvey who suggested that wages should go
on just the same after she leaves us--he has even offered to double
them if it will make her any better satisfied with the move. I'm sure,
though, it can't be the question of money that figures with her. She
never tells anyone about her own private affairs, but after all these
years she must have a nice little sum saved up. I can't remember when
she spent anything on herself--she was always so thrifty about money. At
least she was careful about our expenditures, and of course she must
have been about her own. So it can't be that. Harvey puts it down to
plain stubbornness. He says after the first wrench of the separation is
over she ought to be happier, when she's taking things easy in her own
little house, than she is now, trying to do all the work in our house.
He says he wants several servants in our home--a butler, and a maid to
wait on me and Mildred, and a housemaid and a cook. He says we can't
have them if we keep Aunt Sharley. And we can't, either--she'd drive
them off the place. No darky could get along with her a week. Oh, I just
don't know what to do!"

"And whut does Aunt Sharley say?" asked the Judge.

"I told you. Sometimes she says she won't go and sometimes she says she
can't go. But she won't tell why she can't--just keeps on declaring up
and down that she can't. She makes a different excuse or she gives a
different reason every morning; she seems to spend her nights thinking
them up. Sometimes I think she is keeping something back from me--that
she isn't telling me the real cause for her refusal to accept the
situation and make the best of it. You know how secretive our coloured
people can be sometimes."

"All the time, you mean," amended the old man. "Northerners never seem
to be able to git it through their heads that a darky kin be
loud-mouthed and close-mouthed at the same time. Now you take that black
boy Jeff of mine. Jeff knows more about me--my habits, my likes and my
dislikes, my private business and my private thoughts and all--than I
know myself. And I know jest egsactly ez much about his real self--whut
he thinks and whut he does behind my back--ez he wants me to know, no
more and no less. I judge it's much the same way with your Aunt Sharley,
and with all the rest of their race too. We understand how to live with
'em, but that ain't sayin' we understand how they live."

He looked steadfastly at his late ward.

"Honey, when you come to cast up the account you do owe a lot to that
old nigger woman, don't you?--you and your sister both. Mebbe you owe
even more than you think you do. There ain't many left like her in this
new generation of darkies that's growed up--she belongs to a species
that's mighty nigh extinct, ez you might say. Us Southern people are
powerfully given, some of us, to tellin' whut we've done fur the black
race--and we have done a lot, I'll admit--but sometimes I think we're
prone to furgit some of the things they've done fur us. Hold on, honey,"
he added hastily, seeing that she was about to speak in her own defence.
"I ain't takin' issue with you aginst you nor yit aginst the young man
you're fixin' to marry. After all, you've got your own lives to live. I
was jest sort of studyin' out loud--not offerin' an argument in
opposition."

Still looking straight at her he asked a question:

"Tell me one thing, Emmy Lou, jest to satisfy my curiosity and before we
go any further with this here bothersome affair that's makin' you
unhappy. It seems like to me I heared somewheres that you first met this
young man of yours whilst you and little Mildred were off at Knollwood
Seminary finishin' your educations. Is that so or ain't it?"

"Yes, sir, that's true," she answered. "You see, when we first went to
Knollwood, Harvey had just been sent South to take a place in the office
of the trolley road at Knollwood.

"His people were interested in the line; he was assistant to the general
manager then. I met him there. And he--he was interested in me, I
suppose, and afterward, when he had worked his way up and had been
promoted to the superintendency, his company bought our line in, too,
and he induced them to transfer him here--I mean to say he was
transferred here. So that's how it all happened."

"I see," he said musingly. "You met him down there and he got
interested--'interested' was the word you used, wasn't it, honey?--and
then after a spell when you had left there he followed you here--or
rather it jest so happened by a coincidence that he was sent here. Well,
I don't know ez I blame him--for being interested, I mean. It strikes me
that in addition to bein' an enterprisin' young man he's also got
excellent taste and fine discrimination. He ought to go quite a ways in
the world--whut with coincidences favourin' him and everything."

The whimsical note died out of his voice. His tone became serious.

"Child," he said gently, "whut would you say--and whut's even more
important, whut would you do--ef I was to tell you that ef it hadn't
a-been fur old Aunt Sharley this great thing that's come into your life
probably never would have come into it? What ef I was to tell you that
if it hadn't a-been fur her you never would have knowed Mr. Harvey
Winslow in the first place--and natchelly wouldn't be engaged to marry
him now?"

"Why, Judge Priest, how could that be?" Her widened eyes betokened a
blank incredulity.

"Emmy Lou," he answered slowly, "in tellin' you whut I'm about to tell
you I'm breakin' a solemn pledge, and that's a thing I ain't much given
to doin'. But this time I figger the circumstances justify me. Now
listen: You remember, don't you, that in the first year or two following
after the time your mother left us, the estate was sort of snarled up?
Well, it was worse snarled up than you two children had any idea of. Two
or three of the heaviest investments your father made in the later years
of his life weren't turnin' out very well. The taxes on 'em amounted to
mighty nigh ez much ez whut the income frum 'em did. We didn't aim to
pester you two girls with all the details, so we sort of kept 'em to
ourselves and done the best we could. You lived simple and there was
enough to take care of you and to keep up your home, and we knowed we
could depend on Aunt Sharley to manage careful. Really, she knowed more
about the true condition of things than you did. Still, even so, you no
doubt got an inklin' sometimes of how things stood with regards to your
finances."

She nodded, saying nothing, and he went on:

"Well, jest about that time, one day in the early part of the summer I
had a visit frum Aunt Sharley. She come to me in my office down at the
courthouse, and I sent Jeff to fetch Lew Lake, and we both set down
there together with that old nigger woman, and she told us whut she had
to say. She told us that you children had growed up with the idea that
you'd go off to boardin' school somewheres after you were done with our
local schools, and that you were beginnin' to talk about goin' and that
it was high time fur you to be gittin' ready to go, and, in brief, she
wanted to know whut about it? We told her jest how things stood--that
under the terms of your father's will practically everything you owned
was entailed--held in trust by us--until both of the heirs had come of
age. We told her that, with your consent or without it, we didn't have
the power to sell off any part of the estate, and so, that bein' the
case, the necessary money to send you off to school jest natchelly
couldn't be provided noways, and that, since there was jest barely
enough money comin' in to run the home and, by stintin', to care fur you
and Mildred, any outside and special expense comin' on top of the
regular expenses couldn't possibly be considered--or, in other words,
that you two couldn't hope to go to boardin' school.

"I reckin you kin guess fur yourself whut that old woman done then. She
flared up and showed all her teeth. She said that the quality always
sent their daughters off to boardin' school to give 'em the final polish
that made fine ladies of 'em. She said her Ole Miss--meanin' your
grandmother--had gone to Knollwood and that your mother had gone there,
and that you two girls were goin' there, too, whether or no. We tried to
explain to her that some of the finest young ladies in the land and some
of the best-born ones never had the advantages of a college education,
but she said she didn't keer whut people somewheres else might do--that
the daughters of her kind of quality folks went to college and that you
two were goin', so that all through your lives you could hold up your
heads with the finest in the land. You never seen anybody so set and
determined about a thing ez that old woman was. We tried explainin' to
her and we tried arguin' with her, and Lew Lake tried losin' his temper
with her, him bein' somewhat hot-headed, but nothin' we could say seemed
to have any effect on her at all. She jest set there with her old skinny
arms folded on her breast like a major-general, and that old under lip
of hers stuck out and her neck bowed, sayin' over and over agin that you
girls were goin' to that boardin' school same ez the Dabneys and the
Helms had always done. So finally we throwed up our hands and told her
we were at the end of our rope and she'd kindly have to show us the way
to bring it all about.

"And then she up and showed us. You remember the night me and Lew Lake
come up to your house to talk over the matter of your college education
and I told you to call Aunt Sharley into the conference--you remember
that, don't you? And you remember she come out strong in favour of
Knollwood and that after a while we seemed to give in? Well, child, I've
got a little confession to make to you now along with a bigger one later
on: That was all a little piece of by-play that had been planned out in
advance. We knowed beforehand that Aunt Sharley was goin' to favour
Knollwood and that we were goin' to fall into line with her notions
about it at the end. She'd already licked us to a standstill there in my
office, and we were jest tryin' to save our faces.

"So you went to college and you both stayed there two full years. And I
mout ez well tell you right now that the principal reason why you had so
many purty fixin's to wear whilst you was away and why you had ez much
pin money to spend ez any other two girls there was because that old
woman lived on less'n it would take, seemin'ly, to keep a bird alive,
savin' every cent she could scrape up, and bringin' it to me to be sent
on to you ez part of your allowance."

"But I don't understand yet," cried out Emmy Lou. "Why, Judge, Aunt
Sharley just can write her own name. We had to print out the words in
the letters we wrote her so that she could read them. I don't understand
how the poor good old ignorant soul could figure out where the money
which paid for our schooling could be found when both you and Doctor
Lake----"

"I'm comin' to that part now," he told her. "Honey, you were right when
you guessed that Aunt Sharley has been holdin' somethin' back frum you
durin' this past week; but she's been tellin' you the truth too--in a
way of speakin'. She ain't got any money saved up--or at least ef she's
got any at all it ain't ez much ez you imagine. Whut she's got laid by
kin only represent the savin's of four or five years, not of a whole
lifetime. And when she said to you that she couldn't leave you to go to
live in that little house that your father left her in his will she
wasn't speakin' a lie. She can't go there to live because it ain't
hers--she don't own it any more. Over five years ago she sold it
outright, and she took the price she got fur it and to that price she
added whut she'd saved up ez the fruits of a life-time of toil spent in
your service and the service of your people before you, and that was the
money--her money, every cent of it--which paid fur your two years at
college. Now you know."

For a long half minute she stared at him, her face whitening and the
great tears beginning to run down her cheeks. They ran faster and
faster. She gave a great sob and then she threw her arms about the old
Judge's neck and buried her face on his shoulder.

"Oh, I never dreamed it! I never dreamed it! I never had a suspicion!
And I've been so cruel to her, so heartless! Oh, Judge Priest, why did
you and Doctor Lake ever let her do it? Why did you let her make that
sacrifice?"

He patted her shoulder gently.

"Well, honey, we did try at first to discourage her from the notion, but
we mighty soon seen it wasn't any use to try, and a little later on,
comin' to think it over, we decided mebbe we didn't want to try any
more. There're some impulses in this world too noble to be interfered
with or hampered or thwarted, and some sacrifices so fine that none of
us should try to spoil 'em by settin' up ourselves and our own wills in
the road. That's how I felt. That's how Lew Lake felt. That's how we
both felt. And anyhow she kept p'intin' out that she wouldn' never need
that there little house, because so long ez she lived she'd have a home
with you two girls. That's whut she said, anyway."

"But why weren't we allowed to know before now? Why didn't we
know--Mildred and I--ten days ago, so that she might have been spared
the cruel thing I've done? Why didn't she come out and tell us when we
went to her and I told her she must get off the place? Why didn't you
tell me, Judge, before now--why didn't you give me a hint before now?"

"Honey, I couldn't. I was under a solemn promise not to tell--a promise
that I've jest now broken. On the whole I think I'm glad I did break
it. . . . Lemme see ef I kin remember in her own words whut she said to us?
'Gen'l'mens,' she says, 'dem chillens is of de quality an' entitled to
hole up they haids wid de fines' in de land. I don't want never to have
dem demeaned by lettin' dem know or by lettin' ary other pusson know dat
an old black nigger woman furnished de money to help mek fine young
ladies of 'em. So long ez I live,' she says, 'dey ain't never to heah it
frum my lips an' you must both gimme yore word dat dey don't never heah
it frum yourn. W'en I dies, an' not befo' den, dey may know de truth. De
day dey lays me in de coffin you kin tell 'em both de secret--but not
befo'!' she says.

"So you see, child, we were under a pledge, and till to-day I've kept
that pledge. Nobody knows about the sale of that little piece of
property except Aunt Sharley and Lew Lake and me and the man who bought
it and the man who recorded the deed that I drew up. Even the man who
bought it never learned the real name of the previous owner, and the
matter of the recordin' was never made public. Whut's the good of my
bein' the circuit judge of this district without I've got influence
enough with the county clerk to see that a small real-estate transaction
kin be kept frum pryin' eyes? So you see only five people knowed
anything a-tall about that sale, and only three of them knowed the true
facts, and now I've told you, and so that makes four that are sharin'
the secret. . . . Don't carry on so, honey. 'Tain't ez ef you'd done
somethin' that couldn't be mended. You've got all your life to make it
up to her. And besides, you were in ignorance until jest now. . . . Now,
Emmy Lou, I ain't goin' to advise you; but I certainly would like to
hear frum your own lips whut you do aim to do?"

She raised her head and through the brimming tears her eyes shone like
twin stars.

"What am I going to do?" she echoed. "Judge, you just said nobody knew
except four of us. Well, everybody is going to know--everybody in this
town is going to know, because I'm going to tell them. I'll be a prouder
and a happier girl when they do know, all of them, than I've ever been
in my whole life. And I warn you that neither you nor Aunt Sharley nor
any other person alive can keep me from telling them. I'm going to glory
in telling the world the story of it."

"Lord bless your spunky little soul, honey, I ain't goin' to try to
hender you frum tellin'," said Judge Priest. "Anyhow, I expect to be
kept busy durin' the next few days keepin' out of that old nigger
woman's way. . . . So that's the very first thing you aim to do?"

"No, it isn't, either," she exclaimed, catching the drift of his
meaning. "That is going to be the second thing I do. But the first thing
I am going to do is to go straight back home as fast as I can walk and
get down on my knees before Aunt Sharley and beg her forgiveness for
being so unjust and so unkind."

"Oh, I reckin that won't hardly be necessary," said Judge Priest. "I
kind of figger that ef you'll jest have a little cryin' bee with her
that'll answer every purpose. Jest put your young arms round her old
neck and cry a spell with her. It's been my observation that, black or
white, cryin' together seems to bring a heap of comfort to the members
of your sex."

"I think perhaps I shall try that," she agreed, smiling in spite of
herself; and her smile was like sunshine in the midst of a shower. "I'll
begin by kissing her right smack on the mouth--like this." And she
kissed the Judge squarely on his.

"Judge Priest," she stated, "this town is due for more than one
surprise. Do you know who's going to be the matron of honour at my
wedding three weeks from now? I'll give you just one guess."

He glanced up at her quizzically.

"Whut do you s'pose the young man is goin' to have to say about that?"
he asked.

"If he doesn't like it he can find some other girl to marry him," she
said.

"Oh, I kind of imagine he'll listen to reason--especially comin' frum
you," said Judge Priest. "He will ef he's the kind of young man that's
worthy to marry Tom Dabney's daughter."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is possible that some of the bridegroom's kinspeople, coming down
from the North for the wedding, were shocked to find a wizen, coal-black
woman, who was lame of one leg, not only taking part in the ceremony,
filling a place next in importance to that of the contracting pair and
the maid of honour, but apparently in active and undisputed charge of
the principal details. However, being well-bred persons, they did not
betray their astonishment by word, look or deed. Perhaps they figured
it as one of the customs of the country that an old shrill-voiced
negress, smelling of snuff and black silk, should play so prominent a
rôle in the event itself and in the reception that followed.

However, all that is ancient history now. What I have to add is a
commingling of past local history and present local history. As I said
at the outset, there were formerly any number of black children in our
town who bore the names of white friends and white patrons, but to my
knowledge there was never but one white child named for a black person.
The child thus distinguished was a girl child, the first-born of Mr. and
Mrs. Harvey Winslow. Her full name was Charlotte Helm Winslow, but
nearly everybody called her Little Sharley. She is still called so, I
believe, though growing now into quite a sizable young person.



CHAPTER VI

JOHN J. COINCIDENCE


Somebody said once that facts are stubborn things, which is a lie. Facts
are almost the most flexible things known to man. The historian
appreciates the truth of this just as the fictionist recognises and is
governed by the opposite of it, each according to his lights. In
recording the actual, the authentic, the definite, your chronicler may
set down in all soberness things which are utterly inconceivable; may
set them down because they have happened. But he who deals with the
fanciful must be infinitely more conventional in his treatment of the
probabilities and the possibilities, else the critics will say he has
let his imagination run away with him. They'll tell him to put ice on
his brow and advise sending his creative faculty to the restcure.

Jules Verne was a teller of most mad tales which he conjured up out of
his head. The Brothers Wright and Edison and Holland, the submarine man,
worked out their notions with monkey wrenches and screw drivers and
things, thereby accomplishing verities far surpassing the limit where
common sense threw up a barrier across the pathway of Verne's genius. H.
G. Wells never dreamed a dream of a world war to equal the one which
William Hohenzollern loosed by ordering a flunky in uniform to transmit
certain dispatches back yonder in the last week of July and the first
week of August, 1914.

So always it has gone. So always, beyond peradventure, it must continue
to go.

If in his first act the playwright has his principal characters
assembled in a hotel lobby in Chicago and in Act II has them all bumping
into one another--quite by chance--in a dugout in Flanders, the
reviewers sternly will chide him for violating Rule 1 of the book of
dramatic plausibilities, and quite right they will be too. But when the
identical event comes to pass in real life--as before now it has--we
merely say that, after all, it's a small world now, isn't it? And so
saying, pass along to the next preposterous occurrence that has just
occurred. In fiction coincidence has its metes and bounds beyond which
it dare not step. In human affairs it has none.

Speaking of coincidences, that brings me round to the matter of a
certain sergeant and a certain private in our American Expeditionary
Force which is a case that is a case in point of what I have just been
saying upon this subject. If Old Man Coincidence had not butted into
the picture when he did and where he did and so frequently as he did,
there would be--for me--no tale to tell touching on these two, the
sergeant and the private. But he did. And I shall.

To begin at the remote beginning, there once upon a time was a fight in
front of the public school in Henry Street over on the East Side, in
which encounter one Pasquale Gallino licked the Semitic stuffings out of
a fellow-pupil of his--by name Hyman Ginsburg. To be explicit about it,
he made the Ginsburg boy's somewhat prominent nose to bleed extensively
and swelled up Hyman's ear until for days thereafter Hyman's head,
viewed fore or aft, had rather a lop-sided appearance, what with one ear
being so much thicker than its mate. The object of this mishandlement
was as good as whipped before he started by reason of the longer reach
and quicker fist play of his squat and swarthy opponent. Nevertheless,
facing inevitable and painful defeat, he acquitted himself with proper
credit and courage.

Bearing his honourable wounds, Master Ginsburg went home from battle to
a tenement in Allen Street, there to be licked again for having been
licked before; or, speaking with exactitude, for having been in a fight,
his father being one who held by the theory that diplomacy ever should
find the way out to peace when blows threatened to follow on
disputation. With view, therefore, to proving his profound distaste for
physical violence in any form he employed it freely upon the body of his
son, using to that end a strap. Scarred in new places, the victim of two
beatings in one day went weeping and supperless to bed.

Now this fight in Henry Street took place some sixteen years ago, and in
sixteen years a great deal of water runs under the bridges provided for
that purpose and for other purposes. Two separate currents of the water
that flowed caught up Hyman Ginsburg and Pasquale Gallino and carried
them along differing channels toward differing destinies. While Hyman
was in the grammar grades, a brag pupil, Pasquale was in the Protectory,
a branded incorrigible. While Hyman was attending high school, Pasquale
was attending reform school. When Hyman, a man grown, was taking his
examinations with the idea of getting on the police force, Pasquale was
constructing an alibi with the idea of staying out of Sing Sing. One
achieved his present ambition--that was Hyman.

The next period of their respective developments found this pair in a
fair way each to achieve a definite niche in his chosen profession.
Patrolman Hyman Ginsburg, after walking post for some months, had been
taken out of uniform and put into civilian garb as a plain-clothes man
on the Headquarters staff. Here he was making good. Having intelligence
and energy and the racial persistence which is as much a part of his
breed as their hands and their feet are, he was looked upon in the
department as a detective with a future ahead of him.

As for him who had once been Pasquale Gallino, he now occupied a
position of prominence amid congenial surroundings while following after
equally congenial pursuits. There was a gang. Despite the fact that it
was such a new gang, this gang before the eyes of law and order stood
high upon a pinnacle of evil eminence, overtopping such old-established
gangs as the Gas House and the Gophers, the Skinned Rabbits and the
Pearl Button Kid's. Taking title from the current name of its chieftain,
it was popularly known as the Stretchy Gorman gang. Its headquarters was
a boozing den of exceeding ill repute on the lower West Side. Its chief
specialties were loft robberies and dock robberies. Its favourite side
lines were election frauds and so-called strike-breaking jobs. The main
amusement of its members was hoodlumism in its broader and more general
phases. Its shield and its buckler was political influence of a sort;
its keenest sword was its audacious young captain. You might call it a
general-purposes gang. Contemporary gangsters spoke of it with respect
and admiration. For a thing so young it gave great promise.

A day came, though, when the protection under which the Stretchy Gormans
had flourished ceased to protect. It is not known, nor yet is it
written, what the reason for this was. Perhaps there was a breaking off
of the friendly relations theretofore existing between one of the
down-town district leaders and one of the powers--name deleted--higher
up. Perhaps the newspapers had scolded too shrilly, demanding the
house-cleaning of a neighbourhood which had become a bad smell in the
sensitive nostrils of honest taxpayers and valued advertisers. Certainly
burglaries in the wholesale silk district had occurred so numerously as
to constitute a public scandal.

Then, besides, there was the incident of the night watchman of a North
River freight pier, a worthy enough person though a nonvoter and
therefore of small account from the viewpoint of ward politics, who
stood up in single-handed defence of his employer's premises and goods
against odds of at least four to one. Swinging a cold chisel, someone
chipped a bit of bone out of the watchman's skull as expeditiously and
almost as neatly as a visiting Englishman chips the poll of his
breakfast egg; so that forever after the victim nursed an achesome and
slightly addled brain. Then there were other things.

Be the cause what it may, it certainly is the fact that on a pleasant
autumnal afternoon Inspector Krogan summoned to his presence two members
of the Central Office staff and told them to go get Stretchy Gorman.
Stretchy was to be gone after and got on the blanket charge--the rubber
blanket charge, as one might say, since it is so elastic and covers such
a multitude of sins--of being a suspicious character.

Now Stretchy Gorman had no character to speak of; so therein the
accusation appeared faulty. But equally was it true as Holy Gospel that
he was suspicious of nearly everybody on earth and that nearly everybody
on earth had reasons to be suspicious of him. So, balancing one word
against the other, the garment might be said to fit him. At any rate, it
was plain the supreme potentates had decreed for him that he was to wear
it.

One of the detectives detailed to this assignment was Hyman Ginsburg.
His partner on the job was a somewhat older man named Casane. These two
frequently worked together. Pulling in double harness they made a
dependable team. Both had wit and shrewdness. By sight, Casane knew the
individual they were deputed to take; Ginsburg, to his knowledge, had
never seen him.

Across his roll-top desk the inspector, speaking as follows, according
to the mode of the fellowcraft, gave them their instructions:

"You'll likely be findin' this here party at the Stuffed Owl. That's his
regular hang-out. My information is that he's usually there regular this
time of the day. I've just had word that he went in there fifteen
minutes ago; it's likely he'll be stayin' a while.

"Now, if he's in there don't you two go and send for him to come outside
to you; nothin' like that. See? You go right in after him and nail him
right in front of his own pals. Understand? I want him and his bunch and
the reporters all to know that this here alleged drag of his that the
newspapers've been beefin' so loud about is all bogus. And then you
fetch him here to me and I'll do the rest. Don't make no gun play nor
nothin' of that nature without you have to, but at the same time and
nevertheless don't take no foolish chances. This party may act up rough
and then again he may not. Get me? My guess is he won't. Still and
notwithstandin', don't leave no openin's. Now get goin'."

Sure enough it was at the sign of the Stuffed Owl, down in a basement
bat cave of a place and in the dusk of the evening, that they found
their man. To Ginsburg's curious eyes he revealed himself as a short,
swart person with enormously broad shoulders and with a chimpanzee's arm
reach. Look at those arms of his and one knew why he was called
Stretchy. How he had acquired his last name of Gorman was only to be
guessed at. It was fair to assume, though, he had got it by processes of
self-adoption--no unusual thing in a city where overnight a Finkelstein
turns into a Fogarty and he who at the going down of the sun was Antonio
Baccigaluppi has at the upcoming of the same become Joseph Brown. One
thing, though, was sure as rain: This particular Gorman had never been
a Gorman born.

Not the blackest of the "Black Irish," not the most brunette of brunette
Welshmen ever had a skin of that peculiar brownish pallor, like clear
water in a cypress swamp, or eyes like the slitted pair looking out
obliquely from this man's head.

Taking their cue of action from their superior's words, Casane and
Ginsburg, having come down the short flight of steps leading from the
sidewalk, went directly across the barroom to where their man sat at a
small table with two others, presumably both of his following, for his
companions.

The manner of the intruders was casual enough; casual and yet marked by
a businesslike air. They knew that at this moment they were not
especially attractive risks for an accident insurance company. The very
sawdust on the floor stank of villainy; the brass bar rail might have
been a rigid length of poison snake; the spittoons were small sinks of
corruption. Moreover, they had been commissioned to take a monarch off
his throne before the eyes of his courtiers, and history records that
this ever was a proceeding fraught with peril.

Still they went straight toward him. Before they spoke a word--almost
before they were well inside the street door--he must have recognised
them as Headquarters men. Being what he was, he instantly would have
appraised them for what they were had the meeting taken place in the
dead vast and middle of Sahara's sandy wastes. Even the seasoned
urbanite who is law-abiding and who has no cause to fear the thief-taker
can pick out a detective halfway up the block.

Besides, in the same instant that they descended from the street level,
the barkeeper with his tongue had made a small clucking sound, thrice
repeated, and with all four fingers of his right hand had gripped the
left lapel of his unbuttoned waistcoat. Thereat there had been a general
raising of heads all over the place. Since the days of Jonathan Wild and
even before that--since the days when the Romany Rye came out of the
East into England--the signal of the collar has been the sign of the
collar, which means the cop.

The man they sought eyed them contemptuously from under the down-tilted
visor of his cap as they approached him. His arms were folded upon the
table top and for the moment he kept them so.

"Evening," said Casane civilly, pausing alongside him. "Call yourself
Gorman, don't you?"

"I've been known to answer to that name," he answered back in the
curious flat tone that is affected by some of his sort and is natural
with the rest of them. "Wot of it?"

"There's somebody wants to have a talk with you up at the front
office--that's all," said Casane.

"It's a pinch, then, huh?" The gangster put his open hands against the
edge of the table as though for a rearward spring.

"I'm tellin' you all we know ourselves?" countered Casane. His voice was
conciliatory--soothing almost. But Ginsburg had edged round past Casane,
ready at the next warning move to take the gang leader on the flank with
a quick forward rush, and inside their overcoats, the shapes of both the
officers had tensed.

"Call it a pinch if you want to," went on Casane. "I'd call it more of
an invitation just to take a little walk with us two and then have a
chat with somebody else. Unless you or some of your friends here feel
like startin' something there'll be no rough stuff--that's orders. We're
askin' you to go along--first. How about it?"

"Oh, I'll go--I'll go! There's nobody got anything on me. And nobody's
goin' to get anything on me neither."

He stood up and with a quick movement jerked back the skirts of his
coat, holding them aloft so that his hip pockets and his waistband,
showed.

"Take notice!" he cried, invoking as witnesses all present. "Take notice
that I'm carryin' no gat! So don't you bulls try framin' me under the
Sullivan Law for havin' a gat on me. There's half a dozen here knows I
ain't heeled and kin swear to it--case of a frame-up. Now go ahead and
frisk me!"

"That'll be all right--we could easy take your word for it," said
Casane, still maintaining his placating pose. Nevertheless he signed to
Ginsburg and the latter moved a step nearer their man and his practiced
fingers ran swiftly over the unresisting form, feeling beneath the arms,
down the flanks, about the belt line and even at the back of the neck
for a suspicious hard bulge inside the garments, finally giving the side
coat pockets a perfunctory slap.

"Unless you make it necessary, we won't be callin' for the wagon,"
Casane stated. "Just the three of us'll take a little stroll, like I'm
telling you--just stroll out and take the air up to Headquarters."

He slipped into position on one side of the gangster, Ginsburg on the
other. Over his shoulder the man thus placed between them looked round
to where his two underlings still sat at the table, both silent as the
rest of the company were, but both plainly prepared for any
contingencies; both ready to follow their chief's lead in whatsoever
course, peaceable or violent, he might next elect to follow.

"Here you, Louie," he bade one of them, "jump to the telephone and
notify a certain party to have me mouthpiece at Headquarters by the time
I kin get there with these two dicks. Tell him the cops've got nothin'
on me, but I wants me mouthpiece there just the same--case of a tie."

Until now the preliminaries had been carried on with a due regard for
the unwritten but rigid code of underworld etiquette. From neither side
had there issued a single unethical word. The detectives had been
punctilious to avoid ruffling the sensibilities of any and all. All the
same, the prisoner chose of a sudden to turn nasty. It was at once
manifest that he aimed to give offence without giving provocation or
real excuse for reprisals on the part of the invaders. He spat sidewise
across Casane's front and as he took the first step forward he brought
the foot down upon one of Ginsburg's feet, grinding his heel sharply
into the toes beneath. Ginsburg winced at the pain but did not speak; he
had not spoken at all up until now, leaving it to Casane as the elder
man to conduct the preliminaries.

"Why don't you say something, you Jew!" taunted the prisoner. "Don't you
even know enough to excuse yourself when you stick your fat feet in
people's way?"

"That'll be all right," said Ginsburg crisply. It was his business to
avoid the issue of a clash. "And it'll be all right your calling me a
Jew. I am a Jew and I'm proud of it. And I'm wearing the same name I
started out with too."

"Is that so?"

Except in the inspired pages of fiction city thugs are singularly barren
of power to deliver really snappy, really witty retorts.

"Is that so, Jew?" He stared at Ginsburg and a derisive grin opened a
gap in his broad dark face. "Oh, be chee! We ain't strangers--you and
me ain't! We've met before--when we was kids. Down in Henry Street, it
was. I put me mark on you oncet, and if I ever feel like it I'll do it
again sometime."

Like a match under shavings the words kindled half-forgotten memories in
the young detective's brain and now--for his part--recognition came
flashing back out of the past.

"I thought so," he said, choosing to ignore the gangster and addressing
Casane. "I thought from the first Gorman wasn't his right name. I've
forgotten what his right name is, but it's nothing that sounds like
Gorman. He's a wop. I went to the same school with him over on the East
Side a good many years ago."

"Don't forget to tell him how the wop licked the Jew," broke in the
prisoner. "Remember how the scrap started?"

He spat again and this time he did not miss. Ginsburg put up his gloved
hand and wiped clean a face that with passion had turned a mottle of
red-and-white blotches. His voice shook from the strain of his effort to
control himself.

"I'll get you for that," he said quietly. "And I'll get you good. The
day'll come when I'll walk you in broad daylight up to the big chief,
and I'll have the goods on you too."

"Forget it," jeered the ruffian triumphantly. Before the eyes of his
satellites he had--by his standards--acquitted himself right
creditably. "You got nothin' on me now, Jew, and you never will have.
Well, come on, you bulls, let's be goin' along. I wouldn't want the
neither one of you for steady company. One of you is too polite and the
other'n too meek for my tastes."

       *       *       *       *       *

The man who was called Stretchy Gorman spoke a prophetic word when he
said the police had nothing on him. Since they had nothing on him, he
was let go after forty-eight hours of detention; but that is not saying
they did not intend, if they could--and in such cases they usually
can--to get something on him.

No man in the department had better reason to crave that consummation
than Hyman Ginsburg had. With him the hope of achieving revenge became
practically an obsession. It rode in his thoughts. Any hour, in a
campaign to harry the gangster to desperation by means of methods that
are common enough inside the department, he might have invoked competent
and willing assistance, for the word had filtered down from on high,
where the seats of the mighty are, that those mysterious forces aloft
would look complacently upon the eternal undoing of the Stretchy Gormans
and their titular leader, no matter how accomplished.

But this notion did not match in with the colour of Ginsburg's desires.
Single-handed, he meant to do the trick. Most probably then the credit
would be all his; assuredly the satisfaction would. When he considered
this prospect his mind ran back along old grooves to the humiliating
beating he had suffered in front of the Henry Street school so long
before and of a most painful strapping that followed; these being
coupled always with a later memory scar of a grievous insult endured in
the line of duty and all the more hateful because it had been endured.

Once Ginsburg had read a book out of a public library--a book which
mentally he called Less Miserables. Through the pages of that book there
had walked a detective whom Ginsburg in his mind knew by the name of
Jawbert. Now he recalled how this Jawbert spent his life tracking down
an offender who was the main hero of the book. He told himself that in
the matter of Stretchy Gorman he would be as another Jawbert.

By way of a beginning he took advantage of leisure hours to trace out
the criminal history of his destined victim. In the gallery he found
numbered and classified photographs; in the Bertillon bureau, finger
prints; and in the records, what else he lacked of information--as an
urchin, so many years spent in the protectory; as a youth, so many years
in the reformatory; as a man, a year on Blackwell's Island for a
misdemeanour and a three-year term at Sing Sing for a felony; also he
dug up the entry of an indictment yet standing on which trial had never
been held for lack of proof to convict; finally a long list of arrests
for this and that and the other thing, unproved. From under a succession
of aliases he uncovered Gorman's real name.

But a sequence of events delayed his fuller assumption of the rôle of
Jawbert. He was sent to Rio de Janeiro to bring back an absconder of
note. Six months he worked on the famous Gonzales child-stealing
mystery. He made two trips out to the Pacific Coast in connection with
the Chappy Morgan wire-tapping cases. Few of the routine jobs about the
detective bureau fell to him. He was too good for routine and his
superiors recognised the fact and were governed thereby.

By the rules of tradition, Ginsburg--as a successful detective--should
have been either an Irishman or of Irish descent. But in the second
biggest police force in the world, wherein twenty per cent of the
personnel wear names that betoken Jewish, Slavic or Latin forebears,
tradition these times suffers many a body wallop.

On a night in early April, Ginsburg, coming across from New Jersey,
landed off a ferryboat at Christopher Street. He had gone across the
river to gather up a loose end of the evidence accumulating against
Chappy Morgan, king of the wireless wire-tappers. It was nearly midnight
when he emerged from the ferryhouse. In sight was no surface car; so he
set out afoot to walk across town to where he lived on the East Side.

Going through a side street in a district which mainly is given over to
the establishments of textile jobbers, he observed, half a block away, a
fire escape that bore strange fruit. The front line of a stretch of
tallish buildings stood out in relief against the background of a wet
moon and showed him, high up on the iron ladder which flighted down the
face of one house of the row, two dark clumps, one placed just above the
other.

Ginsburg slipped into a protecting ledge of shadow close up against the
buildings and edged along nearer. The clumps resolved into the figures
of men. One--the uppermost shape of a man--was receiving from some
unseen sources flat burdens that came down over the roof coping and
passing them along to the accomplice below. The latter in turn stacked
them upon the grilled floor of the fire balcony that projected out into
space at the level of the fourth floor, the building being five floors
in height. By chance Ginsburg had happened upon a loft-robbing
enterprise.

He shifted his revolver from his hip pocket to the side pocket of his
overcoat and crept closer, planning for the pair so intently engaged
overhead a surprise when they should descend with their loot. There was
no time now to seek out the patrolman on the post; the job must be all
his.

Two doors from the building that had been entered he crept noiselessly
down into a basement and squatted behind an ash barrel. It was inky
black in there; so inkily black he never suspected that the recess held
another tenant. Your well-organised loft-robbing mob carries along a
lookout who in case of discovery gives warning; in case of attack,
repels the attack, and in case of pursuit acts as rear guard. In
Stretchy Gorman's operations Stretchy acted as his own lookout, and a
highly competent one he was, too, with a preference for lurking in
areaways while his lieutenants carried forward the more arduous but less
responsible shares of the undertaking.

In the darkness behind Ginsburg where he crouched a long gorilla's arm
of an arm reached outward and downward, describing an arc. You might
call it the long arm of coincidence and be making no mistake either. At
the end of the arm was a fist and in the fist a length of gas pipe
wrapped in rags. This gas pipe descended upon the back of Ginsburg's
skull, crushing through the derby hat he wore. And the next thing
Ginsburg knew he was in St. Vincent's Hospital with a splitting headache
and the United States Government had gone to war against the German
Empire.

Ginsburg did not volunteer. The parent who once had wielded the
disciplinary strap-end so painstakingly had long since rejoined his
bearded ancestors, but there was a dependent mother to be cared for and
a whole covey of younger brothers and sisters to be shepherded through
school and into sustaining employment. So he waited for the draft, and
when the draft took him and his number came out in the drawing, as it
very soon did, he waived his exemptions and went to training camp
wearing an old suit of clothes and an easy pair of shoes. Presently he
found himself transferred to a volunteer outfit--one of the very few
draft men who were to serve with that outfit.

In camp the discipline he had acquired and the drilling he had done in
his prentice days on the force stood him in good stead. Hard work
trimmed off of him the layers of tissue he had begun to take on; plain
solid food finished the job of unlarding his frame. Shortly he was
Corporal Ginsburg--a trim upstanding corporal. Then he became Sergeant
Ginsburg and soon after this was Second Sergeant Ginsburg of B Company
of a regiment still somewhat sketchy and ragged in its make-up, but with
promise of good stuff to emerge from the mass of its material. When his
regiment and his division went overseas, First Sergeant Ginsburg went
along too.

The division had started out by being a national guard division; almost
exclusively its rank and file had been city men--rich men's sons from
uptown, poor men's sons with jaw-breaking names from the tenements. At
the beginning the acting major general in command had been fond of
boasting that he had representatives of thirty-two nations and
practitioners of fifty-four creeds and cults in his outfit. Before very
long he might truthfully expand both these figures.

To stopper the holes made by the wear and tear of intensive training,
the attritions of sickness and of transfers, the losses by death and by
wounding as suffered in the first small spells of campaigning,
replacements came up from the depots, enriching the local colour of the
division with new types and strange accents. Southern mountaineers,
Western ranch hands and farm boys from the Middle States came along to
find mates among Syrians, Jews, Italians, Armenians and Greeks. Cotton
Belt, Corn Belt, Wheat Belt and Timber Belt contributed. Born feudists
became snipers, counter jumpers became fencibles, yokels became
drillmasters, sweat-shop hands became sharpshooters, aliens became
Americans, an ex-janitor--Austrian-born--became a captain, a rabble
became an organised unit; the division became a tempered mettlesome
lance--springy, sharp and dependable.

This miracle so often repeated itself in our new army that it ceased to
be miraculous and became commonplace. During its enactment we as a
nation accepted it with calmness, almost with indifference. I expect our
grandchildren will marvel at it and among them will be some who will
write large, fat books about it.

On that great day when a new definition for the German equivalent of the
English word "impregnable" was furnished by men who went up to battle
swearfully or prayerfully, as the case might be, a-swearing and
a-praying as they went in more tongues than were babbled at Babel Tower;
in other words, on the day when the never-to-be-broken Hindenburg line
was broken through and through, a battalion of one of the infantry
regiments of this same polyglot division formed a little individual
ground swell in the first wave of attack.

That chill and gloomy hour when condemned men and milkmen rise up from
where they lie, when sick folk die in their beds and the drowsy birds
begin to chirp themselves awake found the men of this particular
battalion in shallow front-line trenches on the farther edge of a birch
thicket. There they crouched, awaiting the word. The flat cold taste of
before sunup was clammy in their throats; the smell of the fading
nighttime was in their nostrils.

And in the heart of every man of them that man over and over again asked
himself a question. He asked himself whether his will power--which meant
his soul--was going to be strong enough to drag his reluctant body along
with it into what impended. You see, with a very few exceptions none of
this outfit had been beyond the wires before. They had been under fire,
some of them--fire of gas shells and of shrapnel and of high explosives
in dugouts or in rear positions or as they passed along roads lying
under gun range of the enemy. But this matter would be different; this
experience would widely differ from any they had undergone. This meant
going out into the open to walk up against machine-gun fire and
small-arm fire. So each one asked himself the question.

Take a thousand fighting men. For purposes of argument let us say that
when the test of fighting comes five men out of that thousand cannot
readjust their nerves to the prospect of a violent end by powder and
ball from unseen sources. Under other circumstances any one of the five
might face a peril greater than that which now confronts him.
Conceivably he might flop into a swollen river to save a drowning puppy;
might dive into a burning building after some stranger's pet tabby cat.
But this prospect which lies before him of ambling across a field with
death singing about his ears, is a thing which tears with clawing
fingers at the tuggs and toggles of his imagination until his flesh
revolts to the point where it refuses the dare. It is such a man that
courts-martial and the world at large miscall by the hateful name of
coward.

Out of the remaining nine hundred and ninety-five are five more--as we
allow--who have so little of perception, who are so stolid, so dull of
wit and apprehension that they go into battle unmoved, unshaken,
unthinking. This leaves nine hundred and ninety who are afraid--sorely
and terribly afraid. They are afraid of being killed, afraid of being
crippled, afraid of venturing out where killings and cripplings are
carried on as branches of a highly specialised business.

But at the last they find that they fear just one thing more than they
fear death and dismemberment; and that this one supremest thing is the
fear that those about them may discover how terribly afraid they are. It
is this greater fear, overriding all those lesser terrors, that makes
over ordinary men into leaders of forlorn hopes, into holders of last
ditches, into bearers of heroic blazons, into sleepers under memorial
shafts erected by the citizens of a proud, a grateful and a sorrowing
country. A sense of self-respect is a terrific responsibility.

Under this double stress, torn in advance of the actual undertaking by
primitive emotions pulling in opposite directions, men bear themselves
after curious but common fashions. To a psychologist twenty men chosen
at random from the members of the battalion, waiting there in the edge
of the birch thicket for their striking hour to come, would have offered
twenty contrasting subjects for study.

Here was a man all deathly white, who spoke never a word, but who
retched with sharp painful sounds and kept his free hand gripped into
his cramping belly. That dread of being hit in the bowels which so many
men have at moments like this was making him physically sick.

Here again was a man who made jokes about cold feet and yellow streaks
and the chances of death and the like and laughed at his own jokes. But
there was a quiver of barely checked hysteria in his laughing and his
eyes shone like the eyes of a man in a fever and the sweat kept popping
out in little beads on his face.

Here again was a man who swore constantly in a monotonous undertone.
Always I am reading where a man of my race under strain or provocation
coins new and apt and picturesque oaths; but myself, I have never seen
such a man. I should have seen him, too, if he really existed anywhere
except in books, seeing that as a boy I knew many steamboat mates on
Southern waters and afterward met socially many and divers mule drivers
and horse wranglers in the great West.

But it has been my observation that in the matter of oaths the
Anglo-Saxon tongue is strangely lacking in variety and spice. There are
a few stand-by oaths--three or four nouns, two or three adjectives, one
double-jointed adjective--and these invariably are employed over and
over again. The which was undeniably true in this particular instance.
This man who swore so steadily merely repeated, times without number and
presumably with reference to the Germans, the unprettiest and at the
same time the most familiar name of compounded opprobrium that our
deficient language yields.

For the fiftieth time in half as many minutes, a captain--his name was
Captain Griswold and he was the captain of B Company--consulted the
luminous face of his wrist watch where he stooped behind shelter. He
spoke then, and his voice was plainly to be heard under the whistle and
whoop of the shells passing over his head from the supporting batteries
behind with intent to fall in the supposed defences of the enemy in
front. Great sounds would have been lost in that crashing tumult; by one
of the paradoxes of battle lesser sounds were easily audible.

"All right," said Captain Griswold, "it's time! If some damn fool hasn't
gummed things up the creeping barrage should be starting out yonder and
everything is set. Come on, men--let's go!"

They went, each still behaving according to his own mode. The man with
the gripes who retched was still retching as he heaved himself up over
the parapet; the man who had laughed was still laughing; the man who had
sworn was mechanically continuing to repeat that naughty pet name of his
for the Fritzies. Nobody, though, called on anybody else to defend the
glory of the flag; nobody invited anybody to remember the _Lusitania_;
nobody spoke a single one of the fine speeches which the bushelmen of
fiction at home were even then thinking up to put into the mouths of
men moving into battle.

Indeed, not in any visible regard was the scene marked by drama. Merely
some muddied men burdened with ironmongery and bumpy with gas masks and
ammunition packs climbed laboriously out of a slit in the wet earth and
in squads--single filing, one man behind the next as directly as might
be--stepped along through a pale, sad, slightly misty light at rather a
deliberate pace, to traverse a barb-wired meadowland which rose before
them at a gentle incline. There was no firing of guns, no waving of
swords. There were no swords to wave. There was no enemy in sight and no
evidence as yet that they had been sighted by any enemy. As a matter of
fact, none of them--neither those who fell nor those who lived--saw on
that day a single living individual recognisable as a German.

A sense of enormous isolation encompassed them. They seemed to be all
alone in a corner of the world that was peopled by diabolical sounds,
but not by humans. They had a feeling that because of an error in the
plans they had been sent forward without supports; that they--a puny
handful--were to be sacrificed under the haunches of the Hindenburg line
while all those thousands of others who should have been their
companions upon this adventure bided safely behind, held back by the
countermand which through some hideous blunder had failed to reach them
in time. But they went on. Orders were to go on--and order, plus
discipline, plus the individual's sense of responsibility, plus that
fear of his that his mates may know how fearful of other things he
is--make it possible for armies to be armies instead of mobs and for
battles to be won.

They went on until they came to an invisible line drawn lengthwise
across the broad way of the weed field, and here men began to drop down.
Mainly those stricken slid gently forward to lie on their stomachs. Only
here and there was there a man who spun about to fall face upward. Those
who were wounded, but not overthrown, would generally sit down quite
gently and quite deliberately, with puzzled looks in their eyes. Since
still there was neither sign nor sight of the well-hidden enemy the
thought took root in the minds of the men as yet unscathed that,
advancing too fast, they had been caught in the drop curtain of their
own barrage.

Sergeant Hyman Ginsburg, going along at the head of his squad, got this
notion quite well fixed in his mind. Then, though, he saw smoke jets
issuing from bushes and trees on ahead of him where the ridges of the
slope sharpened up acutely into a sort of natural barrier like a wall;
and likewise for the first time he now heard the tat-tat-tat of machine
guns, sounding like the hammers of pneumatic riveters rapidly operated.
To him it seemed a proper course that his squad should take such cover
as the lay of the land afforded and fire back toward the machine guns.
But since the instructions, so far as he knew them, called for a steady
advance up to within a few rods of the enemy's supposed position and
then a quick rush forward, he gave no such command to his squad.

Suddenly he became aware that off to the right the forward movement of
the battalion was checking up. Then, all in an instant, men on both
sides were falling back. He and his squad were enveloped in a reverse
movement. It seemed too bad that the battalion should be driven in after
suffering these casualties and without having dealt a blow in return for
the punishment it had undergone. But what did it matter if, after all,
they were being sacrificed vainly as the result of a hideous mistake at
divisional headquarters? Better to save what was left.

So far as he could tell, nobody gave the word to retire. He found
himself going back at the tail of his squad where before he had been its
head. Subconsciously he was surprised to observe that the copse from
which they had emerged but a minute or two earlier, as he had imagined,
was a considerable distance away from them, now that they had set their
faces toward it. It did not seem possible that they could have left it
so far behind them. Yet returning to it the men did not perceptibly
hurry their steps. They retreated without evidences of disorder--almost
reluctantly--as though by this very slowness of movement to signify
their disgust for the supposed fiasco that had enveloped them, causing
them to waste lives in an ill-timed and futile endeavour.

Ginsburg reëntered the covert of birches with a sense of gratitude for
its protection and let himself down into the trench. He faced about,
peering over its rim, and saw that his captain--Captain Griswold--was
just behind him, returning all alone and looking back over his shoulder
constantly.

Captain Griswold was perhaps twenty yards from the thicket when he
clasped both hands to the pit of his stomach and slipped down flat in
the trampled herbage. In that same moment Ginsburg saw how many
invisible darting objects, which must of course be machine-gun bullets,
were mowing the weed stems about the spot where the captain had gone
down. Bits of turf flew up in showers as the leaden blasts, spraying
down from the top of the ridge, bored into the earth.

Well, somebody would have to bring the captain in out of that. He laid
his rifle against the wall of the trench and climbed out again into
plain view. So far as he knew he was going as a solitary volunteer upon
this errand. He put one arm across his face, like a man fending off rain
drops, and ran bent forward.

The captain, when he reached him, was lying upon his side with his face
turned away from Ginsburg and his shrapnel helmet half on and half off
his head. Ginsburg stooped, putting his hands under the pits of the
captain's arms, and gave a heave. The burden of the body came against
him as so much dead heft; a weight limp and unresponsive, the trunk
sagging, the limbs loose and unguided.

Ginsburg felt a hard buffet in his right side. It wasn't a blow exactly;
it was more like a clout from a heavily-shod blunt-ended brogan. His
last registered impression as he collapsed on top of the captain was
that someone, hurrying up to aid him, had stumbled and driven a booted
toe into his ribs. Thereafter for a space events--in so far as
Ginsburg's mind recorded them--were hazy, with gaps between of complete
forgetfulness. He felt no pain to speak of, but busybodies kept
bothering him. It drowsily annoyed him to be dragged about, to be lifted
up and to be put down again, to be pawed over by unseen, dimly
comprehended hands, to be ridden in a careening, bumping vehicle for
what seemed to him hours and hours. Finally, when he was striving to
reorganise his faculties for the utterance of a protest, someone put
something over his nose and he went sound asleep.

Ensued then a measureless period when he slept and dreamed strange
jumbled dreams. He awakened, clear enough in his thoughts, but beset
with a queer giddiness and a weakness, in a hospital sixteen miles from
where the mix-up had started, though he didn't know about that of course
until subsequent inquiry enabled him to piece together a number of
fragmentary recollections. For the present he was content to realise
that he lay on a comfortable cot under a tight roof and that he had his
full complement of arms and legs and could move them, though when he
moved the right leg the ankle hurt him. Also he had a queer squeezed-in
sensation amidships as though broad straps had been buckled tightly
about his trunk.

Upon top of these discoveries came another. Sitting up in the next-hand
cot to his on the right was a member of his own company, one Paul
Dempsey, now rather elaborately bandaged as to his head and shoulders,
but seemingly otherwise in customary good order and spirits.

"Hello, Dempsey," he said.

"Hello, sarge," answered back Dempsey. "How you feelin' by now--all
right?"

"Guess so. My ankle is sprained or something and my side feels sort of
funny."

"I shouldn't wonder," said Dempsey. "I got a dippy kind of feelin'
inside my own headpiece--piece of shell casin' come and beaned me. It
don't amount to much, though; just enough to get me a wound stripe.
You're the lucky guy, sarge. Maybe it's so you won't have to go back and
prob'ly I will."

The speaker sighed and grinned and then confessed to a great perception
which many before him had known and which many were to know afterward,
but which some--less frank than he--have sought to conceal.

"I'll go back of course if they need me--and if I have to--but I'd just
as lief not. You kin take it from me, I've had plenty of this gettin'
all-shot-up business. Oncet is enough for First-Class Private Dempsey.

"Say," he went on, "looks like you and me are goin' partners a lot here
lately. I get mine right after you get yours. We ride back here together
in the same tin Lizzie--you and me do--and now here we are side by each
again. Well, there's a lot of the fellows we won't neither of us see no
more. But their lives wasn't wasted, at that. I betcher there's a lot of
German bein' spoke in hell these last two or three days.

"Oh, you ain't heard the big news, have you? Bein' off your dip and out
of commission like you was. Well, we busted old Mister Hindenburg's line
in about nine places and now it looks like maybe we'll eat Thanksgivin'
dinner in Berlin or Hoboken--one."

Dempsey went on and every word that he uttered was news--how the
seemingly premature advance of the battalion had not been a mistake at
all; how the only slip was that the battalion walked into a whole cote
of unsuspected machine-gun nests, but how the second battalion going up
and round the shore of the hill to the left had taken the boche on the
flank and cleaned him out of his pretty little ambuscade; how there were
tidings of great cheer filtering back from all along the line and so
forth and so on. Ginsburg broke in on him:

"How's Captain Griswold?"

"Oh, the cap was as good as dead when this here guy, Goodman, fetched
him in on his back after he'd went out after you fell and fetched you
back in first. I seen the whole thing myself--it was right after that
that I got beaned. One good scout, the cap was. And there ain't nothin'
wrong with this Goodman, neither; you kin take it from me."

"Goodman?" Ginsburg pondered. The name was a strange one. "Say, was it
this Goodman that kicked me in the ribs while I was tryin' to pick up
the captain?"

"Kicked you nothin'! You got a machine-gun bullet glancin' on your short
ribs and acrost your chest right under the skin--that was what put you
down and out. And then just as Goodman fetched you in acrost over the
top here come another lot of machine-gun bullets, and one of 'em drilled
you through the ankle and another one of them bored Goodman clean
through the shoulder; but that didn't keep him from goin' right back out
there, shot up like he was, after the captain. Quick as a cat that guy
was and strong as a bull. Naw, Goodman he never kicked you--that was a
little chunk of lead kicked you."

"But I didn't feel any pain like a bullet," protested Ginsburg. "It was
more like a hard wallop with a club or a boot."

"Say, that's a funny thing too," said Dempsey. "You're always readin'
about the sharp dartin' pain a bullet makes, and yet nearly everybody
that gets hit comes out of his trance ready to swear a mule muster
kicked him or somethin'. I guess that sharp-dartin' pain stuff runs for
Sweeney; the guys that write about it oughter get shot up themselves
oncet. Then they'd know."

"This Goodman, now?" queried Ginsburg, trying to chamber many
impressions at once. "I don't seem to place him. He wasn't in B
Company?"

"Naw! He's out of D Company. He's a new guy. He's out of a bunch of
replacements that come up for D Company only the day before yistiddy.
Well, for a green hand he certainly handled himself like one old-timer."

Dempsey, aged nineteen, spoke as the grizzled veteran of many campaigns
might have spoken.

"Yes, sir! He certainly snatched you out of a damn bad hole in jig
time."

"I'd like to have a look at him," said Ginsburg. "And my old mother back
home would, too, I know."

"Your mother'll have to wait, but you kin have your wish," said Dempsey
gleefully. He had been saving his biggest piece of news for the last.
"If you've got anything to ask him just ask him. He's layin'
there--right over there on the other side of you. We all three of us
rode down here together in the same amb'lance load."

Ginsburg turned his head. Above the blanket that covered the figure of
his cot neighbour on the right he looked into the face of the man who
had saved him--looked into it and recognised it. That dark skin, clear
though, with a transparent pallor to it like brown stump water in a
swamp, and those black eyes between the slitted lids could belong to but
one person on earth. If the other had overheard what just had passed
between Ginsburg and Dempsey he gave no sign. He considered Ginsburg
steadily, with a cool, hostile stare in his eyes.

"Much obliged, buddy," said Ginsburg. Something already had told him
that here revealed was a secret not to be shared with a third party.

"Don't mention it," answered his late rescuer shortly. He drew a fold of
the blanket up across his face with the gesture of one craving solitude
or sleep.

"Huh!" quoth Dempsey. "Not what I'd call a talkative guy."

This shortcoming could not be laid at his own door. He talked steadily
on. After a while, though, a reaction of weariness began to blunt
Dempsey's sprightly vivacity. His talk trailed off into grunts and he
slept the sleep of a hurt tired-out boy.

Satisfied that Dempsey no longer was to be considered in the rôle of a
possible eavesdropper, Ginsburg nevertheless spoke cautiously as again
he turned his face toward the motionless figure stretched alongside him
on his left.

"Listening?" he began.

"Yes," gruffly.

"When did you begin calling yourself Goodman?"

"That's my business."

"No, it's not. Something has happened that gives me the right to know.
Forget that I used to be on the cops. I'm asking you now as one soldier
to another: When did you begin calling yourself Goodman?"

"About a year ago--when I first got into the service."

"How did you get in?"

"Enlisted."

"Where? New York?"

"No. Cleveland."

"What made you enlist?"

"Say, wot's this--thoid-degree stuff?"

"I told you just now that I figured I had a right to know. When a man
saves your life it puts him under an obligation to you--I mean puts you
under an obligation to him," he corrected.

"Well, if you put it that way--maybe it was because I wanted to duck out
of reach of you bulls. Maybe because I wanted to go straight a while.
Maybe because I wanted to show that a bad guy could do somethin' for his
country. Dope it out for yourself. That used to be your game--dopin'
things out--wasn't it?"

"I'm trying to, now. Tell me, does anybody know--anybody in the Army, I
mean--know who you are?"

"Nobody but you; and you might call it an accident, the way you come to
find out."

"Something like that. How's your record since you joined up?"

"Clean as anybody's."

"And what's your idea about keeping on going straight after the war is
over and you get out of service?

"Don't answer unless you feel like it; only I've got my own private
reasons for wanting to know."

"Well, I know a trade--learnt it in stir, but I know it. I'm a
steamfitter by trade, only I ain't never worked much at it. Maybe when I
get back I'd try workin' at it steady if you flatties would only keep
off me back. Anything else you wanted to find out?" His tone was
sneering almost. "If there's not, I think I'll try to take a nap."

"Not now--but I'd like to talk to you again about some things when we're
both rested up."

"Have it your own way. I can't get away from you for a while--not with
this hole drilled in me shoulder."

However, Ginsburg did not have it his own way. The wound in his leg gave
threat of trouble and at once he was shifted south to one of the big
base hospitals. An operation followed and after that a rather long, slow
convalescence.

In the same week of November that the armistice was signed, Ginsburg,
limping slightly, went aboard a troopship bound for home. It befell,
therefore, that he spent the winter on sick leave in New York. He had
plenty of spare time on his hands and some of it he employed in business
of a more or less private nature. For example, he called on the district
attorney and a few days later went to Albany and called upon the
governor. A returned soldier whose name has been often in the paper and
who wears on his uniform tunic two bits of ribbon and on his sleeves
service and wound stripes is not kept waiting in anterooms these times.
He saw the governor just as he had seen the district attorney--promptly.
In fact, the governor felt it to be an honour to meet a soldier who had
been decorated for gallantry in action and so expressed himself. Later
he called in the reporters and restated the fact; but when one of the
reporters inquired into the reasons for Sergeant Ginsburg's visit at
this time the governor shook his head.

"The business between us was confidential," he said smilingly. "But I
might add that Sergeant Ginsburg got what he came for. And it wasn't a
job either. I'm afraid, though, that you young gentlemen will have to
wait a while for the rest of the details. They'll come out in time no
doubt. But just for the present a sort of surprise is being planned for
someone and while I'm to be a party to it I don't feel at liberty to
tell about it--yet."

       *       *       *       *       *

Now it is a part of the business of newspaper men to put two and two
together and get four. Months later, recalling what the governor had
said to the Albany correspondents, divers city editors with the aid of
their bright young staff men did put two and two together and they got a
story. It was a peach of a bird of a gem of a story that they got on the
day a transport nosed up the harbour bearing what was left of one of the
infantry regiments of the praiseworthy Metropolitan Division.

Even in those days of regardless receptions for home-arriving troops it
did not often happen that a secretary to the governor and an assistant
from the office of the district attorney went down the bay on the same
tug to meet the same returning soldier--and he a private soldier at
that. Each of these gentlemen had put on his long-tailed coat and his
two-quart hat for the gladsome occasion; each of them carried a document
for personal presentation to this private soldier.

And the sum total of these documents was: Firstly, to the full legal
effect that a certain indictment of long standing was now by due
processes of law forever and eternally quashed; and secondly, that the
governor had seen fit to remove all disabilities against a certain
individual, thereby restoring the person named to all the rights, boons,
benefits and privileges of citizenship; and thirdly, that in accordance
with a prior and privy design, now fully carried out, the recipient of
these documents had official guaranty, stamped, sealed and delivered,
that when he set foot on the soil of these United States he would do so
without cloud upon his title as a sovereign voter, without blemish on
his name and without fear of prosecution in his heart. And the upshot of
it all was that the story was more than a peach; it was a pippin. The
rehabilitation of Private Pasquale Gallino, sometime known as Stretchy
Gorman, gangster, and more latterly still as P. Goodman, U. S. A.,
A. E. F., was celebrated to the extent of I don't know how many gallons
of printer's ink.

Having landed in driblets and having been reassembled in camp as a
whole, the division presently paraded, which made another story deemed
worthy of columns upon columns in print. Our duty here, though, is not
to undertake a description of that parade, for such was competently done
on that fine day when the crowd that turned out was the largest crowd
which that city of crowds, New York, had seen since the day when the
crowding Dutchmen crowded the Indians off the shortly-to-be-crowded
island of Manhattan.

Those who followed the daily chronicles of daily events saw then,
through the eyes of gifted scribes, how Fifth Avenue was turned into a
four-mile stretch of prancing, dancing glory; and how the outpouring
millions, in masses fluid as water and in strength irresistible as a
flood, broke the police dams and made of roadway and sidewalks one
great, roaring, human sluiceway; and how the khaki-clad ranks marched
upon a carpet of the flowers and the fruit and the candy and the
cigarettes and the cigars and the confetti and the paper ribbons that
were thrown at them and about them. These things are a tale told and
retold. For us the task is merely to narrate one small incident which
occurred in a side street hard by Washington Square while the parade was
forming.

Where he stood marking time in the front row of the honour men of his
own regiment--there being forty-six of these honour men, all bearing
upon their proudly outbulged bosoms bits of metal testifying to valorous
deeds--First Sergeant Hyman Ginsburg, keeping eyes front upon the broad
back of the colonel who would ride just in advance of the honour squad
and speaking out of the side of his mouth, addressed a short, squat,
dark man in private's uniform almost directly behind him at the end of
the second file.

"Pal," he said, casting his voice over his shoulder, "did you happen to
read in the paper this morning that the police commissioner--the new
one, the one that was appointed while we were in France--would be in the
reviewing stand to-day?"

"No, I didn't read it; but wot of it?" answered the person addressed.

"Nothing, only it reminded me of a promise I made you that night down at
the Stuffed Owl when we met for the first time since we were kids
together. Remember that promise, don't you?"

"Can't say I do."

"I told you that some day I'd get you with the goods on you and that I'd
lead you in broad daylight up the street to the big chief. Well, to-day,
kid, I make good on that promise. The big chief's waiting for us up
yonder in the reviewing stand along with the governor and the mayor and
the rest. And you've got the goods on you--you're wearing them on your
chest. And I'm about to lead you to him."

Whereupon old Mr. John J. Coincidence, standing in the crowd, took out
his fountain pen and on his shirt cuff scored a fresh tally to his own
credit.



CHAPTER VII

WHEN AUGUST THE SECOND WAS APRIL THE FIRST


How Ethan A. Pratt, formerly of South New Medford, in the State of
Vermont, came to be resident manager and storekeeper for the British
Great Eastern Company, Ltd., on Good Friday Island, in the South Seas,
is not our present concern. Besides, the way of it makes too long a tale
for telling here. It is sufficient to say he was.

Never having visited that wide, long, deep and mainly liquid backside of
the planet known broadly as the South Seas but always intending to do
so, I must largely depend for my local colour upon what Ethan Pratt
wrote back home to South New Medford; on that, plus what returned
travellers to those parts have from time to time told me. So if in this
small chronicle those paragraphs which purport to be of a descriptive
nature appear incomplete to readers personally acquainted with the spots
dealt with or with spots like them the fault, in some degree at least,
must rest upon the fact that I have had my main dependence in the
preserved letters of one who was by no means a sprightly correspondent,
but on the contrary was by way of being somewhat prosy, not to say
commonplace, on his literary side.

From the evidence extant one gathers that for the four years of his life
he spent on Good Friday Island Ethan Pratt lived in the rear room of a
two-room house of frame standing on a beach with a little village about
it, a jungle behind it, a river half-mooning it and a lagoon before it.
In the rear room he bedded and baited himself. The more spacious front
room into which his housekeeping quarters opened was a store of sorts
where he retailed print goods staple, tinned foods assorted and
gimcracks various to his customers, these mostly being natives. The
building was crowned with a tin roof and on top of the roof there
perched a round water tank, like a high hat on a head much too large for
it. The use of this tank was to catch and store up rain water, which ran
into it from the sloping top of a larger and taller structure standing
partly alongside and partly back of the lesser structure. The larger
building--a shed it properly was; a sprawling wide-eaved barracks of a
shed--was for the storing of copra, the chief article for export
produced on Good Friday Island.

Copra, as all know--or as all should know, since it has come to be one
of the most essential vegetable products of the world, a thing needful
in the manufacture of nearly every commercial output in which fatty
essences are required--is the dried meat of the nut of the coconut palm.
So rich is it in oils that soap makers--to cite one of the industries
employing it--scarce could do without it; but like many of this earth's
most profitable and desirable yieldings it has its unpretty aspects. For
one thing it stinks most abominably while it is being cured, and after
it has been cured it continues to stink, with a lessened intensity. For
another thing, the all-pervading reek of the stuff gets into food that
is being prepared anywhere in its bulked vicinity.

Out in front of the establishment over which Ethan Pratt presided, where
the sandy beach met the waters, was a rickety little wharf like a hyphen
to link the grit with the salt. Down to the outer tip of the wharf ran a
narrow-gauge track of rusted iron rails, and over the track on occasion
plied little straddlebug handcars. Because the water offshore was shoal
ships could not come in very close but must lie well out in the lagoon
and their unloadings and their reloadings were carried on by means of
whale-boats ferrying back and forth between ship side and dock side with
the push cars to facilitate the freight movement at the land end of the
connection. This was a laborious and a vexatious proceeding,
necessitating the handling and rehandling of every bit of incoming or
outbound cargo several times. But then, steamers did not come very
often to Good Friday Island; one came every two months about.

The expanse upon which Ethan Pratt looked when he turned his eyes
outward was of an incredible whiteness. You would have thought it to be
the whitest, most blinding thing in the world until you considered the
road that skirted it and some of the buildings that bordered it. For the
road was built of crushed coral, so dazzlingly white that to look
fixedly at it for thirty seconds in bright weather was to make the
eyeballs ache; and the buildings referred to were built of blocks of
white coral like exaggerated cubes of refined sugar. These buildings
were the chapels and churches--Methodist, Catholic, Seventh Day
Adventist, English Wesleyan and American Mormon. When the sun shone
clear the water on beyond became a shimmering blazing shield of
white-hot metal; and an hour of uninterrupted gazing upon it would have
turned an argus into a blinkard. But other times--early morning or
evening or when stormy weather impended--the lagoon became all a
wonderful deep clear blue, the colour of molten stained glass. One
peering then into its depths saw, far down below, marvellous sea gardens
all fronded and ferny and waving; and through the foliage of this
fairy-land went darting schools and shoals of fish queerly shaped and as
brilliantly coloured as tropical birds.

At the top of the beach, girdling it on its land side, and stencilling
themselves against the sky line, ran a fringing of coconut palms. The
trunks were naked almost to the tops, where the foliage revealed itself
in flaring clumps of green. Viewed separately a tree was suggestive of a
great bird standing on one leg with its head hidden under its wing, its
rump up-reared and its splayed tail feathers saluting the skies. Viewed
together they made a spectacle for which nothing in the temperate zones,
animal or vegetable, offers a measurable comparison. When the wind blew
softly the trees whispered among themselves. When the wind blew hard and
furiously, as often it did, or when the trade breeze swelled to
hurricane speed, the coconuts in their long bearded husks would be
wrenched free and would come hurtling through the air like fletched
cannon balls. When one of them struck a tin roof there resulted a
terrific crashing sound fit to wake the dead and to stun the living.

Living there Pratt's diet was mainly tinned salmon, which tasted faintly
of tin and strongly of copra; and along with the salmon, crackers, which
in this climate were almost always flabby with dampness and often were
afflicted with greenish mould. Salmon and crackers had come to be his
most dependable stand-bys in the matter of provender. True the natives
brought him gifts of food dishes; dishes cooked without salt and
pleasing to the Polynesian palate. Coming out upon his balcony of a
morning he would find swinging from a cross-beam a basket made of the
green palm leaves and containing a chicken or a fish prepared according
to the primitive native recipe, or perhaps a mess of wild greens baked
on hot stones; or maybe baked green bananas or taro or yams or hard
crusty halves of baked breadfruit.

To the white man yams and taro taste mighty good at first, but
eventually he sickens of them. Pratt sickened sooner than some white men
had; and almost from the first the mere sight and savour of a
soft-fleshed baked fish had made his gorge rise in revolt. So he fell
back upon staples of his own land and ate salmon and crackers.

This island where he lived was an island of smells and insects. Consider
first the matter of the prevalent smells: When the copra was curing and
the village green was studded with thousands of little cusps, each being
brown without and milk-white within, and each destined to remain there
until the heat had dried the nut meats to the proper brownish tone,
there rose and spread upon the air a stench so thick and so heavy as to
be almost visible; a rancid, hot, rottenish stench. Then, when the wind
blew off the seas it frequently brought with it the taint of rotted
fish. Sniffing this smell Ethan Pratt would pray for a land breeze; but
since he hated perfumed smells almost as intensely as he hated
putrescent ones, a land breeze was no treat to his nose either, for it
came freighted with the sickish odour of the frangipane and of a plant
the islanders call _mosooi_, overpowering in their combined sweetness.

In his letters he complained much of these smells and likewise much of
the heat, but more than of either he complained of the insects. It would
appear that the mosquitoes worked on him in shifts. By day there came
day mosquitoes, creatures of the sunlight and matching it in a way,
seeing that they were big grey-striped fellows with keen and strident
voices. By night there were small vicious mosquitoes, in colour an
appropriate black and in habit more bloodthirsty than Uhlans. After dark
the flame of his kerosene lamp was to them as the traditional light in
the traditional casement is to returning wanderers. It brought them in
millions, and with them tiny persistent gnats and many small
coffin-shaped beetles and hosts of pulpy, unwholesome-looking moths of
many sizes and as many colours. Screens and double screens at the window
openings did not avail to keep these visitors out. Somehow they found a
way in. The mosquitoes and the gnats preyed upon him; the beetles and
the moths were lured by the flame to a violent end. To save the wick
from being clogged by their burnt bodies he hooded the top of the lamp
with netting. This caused the lamp chimney to smoke and foul itself with
soot. To save his shins from attack he wrapped his legs in newspaper
buskins. For his hands and his face and his neck and his ears he could
devise no protection.

To be encountered just outside the door were huge flying cockroaches
that clung in his hair or buffeted him in the face as they blundered
along on purposeless flights. Still other insects, unseen but none the
less busy, added to the burden of his jeremiad. Borers riddled the pages
of his books; and the white ant, as greedy for wood pulp as a paper
baron, was constantly sapping and mining the underpinnings of his house.

Touching on the climate his tone was most rebellious. By all accounts
the weather was rarely what one born in Vermont would regard as
seasonable weather. According to him its outstanding characteristics
were heat, moistness and stickiness. If he took a nap in the afternoon
he rose from it as from a Turkish bath. His hair was plastered to his
head all day with dampness; his forehead and his face ran sweat; his
wrists were as though they had been parboiled and freshly withdrawn from
the water. Perspiration glued his garments to his frame. His shoes
behind the door turned a leprous white from mildew and rotted to pieces
while yet they were new.

The forest, into which he sometimes ventured, was a place of dampness,
deepness and smells; a place of great trees, fat fungoids, sprawling
creepers, preposterous looking parasites, orchids, lianas; a place of
things that crawled and climbed and twined and clung. It was filled
with weird sounds--the booming of wild pigeons; a nagging, tapping sound
as though woodchoppers were at work far off in its depths; and a
constant insane chattering sound, as though mad children, hidden all
about him, were laughing at him. Dusk brought from their coverts the
flying foxes, to utter curious notes as they sailed through the
gloaming, and occasionally sharp squeaks as of mortal agony or intense
gratification--he couldn't make up his mind which. After nightfall if he
flung a burning cigar stump out upon the sand he could see it moving off
in the darkness apparently under its own motive power. But the truth was
that a land crab, with an unsolvable mania for playing the rôle of
torchbearer, would be scuttling away with the stub in one of its claws.

The forest sheltered no dangerous beasts and no venomous reptiles but in
it were stinging nettles the touch of which was like fire to a sensitive
white skin. Also, the waters of the lagoon were free from man-eaters,
but wading close to shore one was almost sure to bark one's shanks on
the poisoned coral, making sores that refused to heal. Against the
river, which flowed down out of the interior to the sea, Pratt likewise
bore a grudge, because it was in the river that a brown woman washed his
clothes on the stones, returning them with the buttons pounded off; but
for every missing button there was sure to be a bright yellow,
semi-indelible stain, where the laundress had spread the garments to dry
upon a wild berry bush.

Every two months the steamer came. Then the white population of the
station doubled and trebled itself. Traders and storekeepers came by
canoe from outlying islands or from remote stations on the farther side
of his own island, for Good Friday Island had but one port of entry and
this was it. Beachcombers who had been adopted into villages in the
interior sauntered in over jungle trails. Many of them were deserters
from whalers or from naval vessels; nearly all were handsome chaps in an
animal sort of way.

For this common sharing of a common comeliness among them there was a
reason. In a land where physical perfection literally is worshipped,
good-looking men, brawny and broad, are surest of winning an asylum and
wives and tribal equality. To Pratt it seems to have been a source of
wonderment that almost without exception they were blue-eyed and
light-haired; he could understand of course why their skins, once fair
and white, had changed to the colour of well-tanned calfskin. The sun
beating upon their naked bodies had done that.

There also would be present a party of overseers and managers from a big
German plantation on an adjacent island. The traders and the Germans
would appear in white ducks with white shoes smartly pipe-clayed, and
white straw hats. The beachcombers would be in clean pyjama suits with
bright-coloured neckties. Ordinarily these latter went about
bare-headed, bare-legged and bare-bodied except for the lava-lava made
of fibre from the paper mulberry tree and worn like a kilt about the
hips; but now, in white men's garments, they sought to prove that they
still were white men and civilised white men too. If the steamer were
late, as very often happened, some of the visitors would take advantage
of the wait to make themselves roaring drunk on gin.

So much briefly, for the stage setting of Ethan Pratt's environment; now
for the personality of the man: Of all the breeds and the mixed breeds
that have gravitated out of white lands into these sea islands of
darker-skinned peoples, there surely was never a more incongruous, more
alien figure than this man presented. For you should know that in all
things he was most typical of what is most typical in a certain
cross-section of New England life--not the coastwise New England of a
seafaring, far-ranging, adventurous race, but the New England of
long-settled remote interior districts. He came of a farming stock and a
storekeeping stock, bred out of the loins of forbears made hard by the
task of chiselling a livelihood off of flinty hillsides, made narrow by
the pent-up communal system of isolated life, made honest and truthful
by the influences behind them and the examples before them of
generations of straight-walking, strait-laced, God-dreading folk.

That form of moral dyspepsia known as the Puritanical conscience was his
by right of inheritance. In his nature there was no flexibility, no
instinct for harmonious adaptability to any surroundings excepting those
among which he had been born and in which he intended to end his days.
Temperamentally he was of a fast colour. The leopard cannot change the
spots and neither could he change his; nor did he will so to do. In
short he was what he was, just as God and prenatal reactions had
fashioned him, and so he would remain to the end of the chapter.

For all the four years he had spent out there the lure of the South
Seas--about which so much has been written that it must be a verity and
not a popular myth--had never laid hold upon him. Its gorgeous physical
beauty, its languor, its voluptuous colour and abandon, its prodigally
glorious dawns and its velvety nights--held for him no value to be
reckoned as an offset against climatic discomforts; it left him
untouched. In it he never saw the wonderland that Stevenson made so
vivid to stay-at-homes, nor felt for one instant the thrill that
inspired Jack London to fine rhapsodising. In it he saw and he felt only
the sense of an everlasting struggle against foreign elements and
hostile forces.

Among the missionaries he had acquaintances but no friends. He despised
the swaggering beachcombers who had flung off the decencies of
civilisation along with the habiliments of civilisation and who found a
marrowy sweetness in the husks of the prodigal. Even more he despised
the hectoring Germans with their flaming red and yellow beards, their
thick-lensed spectacles, their gross manners when among their own kind
and their brutishness in all their dealings with the natives--a
brutishness so universal among them that no Polynesian would work at any
price for a German, and every German had to depend for his plantation
labour upon imported black boys from the Solomons and from New Guinea,
who having once been trapped or, to use the trade word, indented, were
thereafter held in an enforced servitude and paid with the bond-man's
wage of bitter bread and bloody stripes.

He had never been able to get under the skin of a native; indeed he had
never tried. In all the things that go to make up an understanding of a
fellow mortal's real nature they still were to him as completely
strangers as they had been on the day he landed in this place. Set down
in the midst of a teeming fecundity he nevertheless remained as truly a
castaway as though he had floated ashore on a bit of wreckage. He could
have been no more and no less a maroon had the island which received him
been a desert island instead of a populous one.

When a chief paid him a formal visit, bringing a gift of taro root and
sitting for hours upon his veranda, the grave courtesy of the ceremony,
in which a white man differently constituted might have taken joy,
merely bored him unutterably. As for the native women, they had as
little of sex appeal for him as he had for them--which was saying a good
deal now, because he was short and of a meagre shape, and the scorn of
the Polynesian girl for a little man is measureless. The girls of Good
Friday Island called him by a name which sounded like "Pooh-pooh."

Among an English-speaking people it would have been a hard-enough lot to
be pooh-poohed through life by every personable female one met. Here the
coupled syllables carried an added sting of contemptuousness. In the
language of the country they meant runty, mean-figured, undersized. A
graceful girl, her naked limbs glistening with coconut oil, a necklet of
flowers about her throat and a hibiscus bloom pasted to her cheek like a
beauty spot, meeting him in the road would give him a derisive smile
over her shoulder and with the unconscious cruelty of primitive folk
would softly puff out "Pooh-pooh" through her pursed lips as she passed
him by. And it hurt. Certain of the white residents called him Pooh-pooh
too, which hurt more deeply.

How he hated the whole thing--the dampness which mildewed his shoes and
rusted out his nettings; the day heat which kept him bathed in
clamminess; the pestiferous insects; the forest with its voices like
sobbings and hammerings and demoniac chatterings; the food he had to
eat; the company he had to keep; the chiefs who bored him; the girls who
derided him; the beachcombers who nauseated him; the white sands, the
blue waters, the smells, the sounds, the routine of existence with one
day precisely like another--the whole thing of it. We may picture him as
a humid duck-legged little man, most terribly homesick, most
tremendously lonely, most distressingly alien. We may go further and
picture him as a sort of combination of Job with his afflictions,
Robinson Crusoe with no man Friday to cheer him in his solitude, and
Peter the Hermit with no dream of a crusade to uplift him. In these four
years his hair had turned almost white, yet he was still under forty.

To all about him, white people and brown people alike, the coming of the
steamer was an event of supremest importance. For the islanders it meant
a short season of excitement, most agreeable to their natures. For the
whites it meant a fleeting but none the less delectable contact with the
world outside, with lands beyond, upon which all of them, for this
reason or that, had turned their backs, and to which some of them dared
never return.

In his case the world did not mean the world at large but merely the
small circumscribed world of South New Medford, which was his world. To
him South New Medford comprehended and summed up all that was really
worth while. He welcomed the steamer not because it brought news of wars
and rumours of wars nor tales of great events on this continent or in
that archipelago, but because it brought to him a sheaf of letters, all
addressed in the same prim handwriting and bearing the same postmark;
and a sheaf of copies of the South New Medford _Daily Republican_. The
letters he read at once greedily, but with the newspapers he had a
different way. He shucked them out of their wrappers, arranged them in
proper chronological order with those bearing the later dates at the
bottom and those bearing the older dates upon the top of the heap, then
stacked them on a shelf in his living room. And each morning he read a
paper.

In the beginning of his sojourn on Good Friday Island he had made a
grievous mistake. Following the arrival of the first steamer after he
took over his duties as resident manager for the _British Great Eastern_
he had indulged himself in a perfect orgy of reading. He had read all
his _Daily Republicans_ in two days' time, gorging himself on home news,
on mention of familiar names and on visions of familiar scenes. Then had
ensued sixty-odd days of emptiness until the steamer brought another
batch of papers to him.

From that time on he read one paper a day and one only. Reading it he
lived the life of the town and became one of its citizens; a sharer at
long distance in its joys, its sorrows and its small thrills. But never
now did he read more than one paper in a single day; the lesson of those
two months had sunk in. No temptation, howsoever strong--the desire to
know how the divorce trial of the H. K. Peabodys turned out, the itch of
yearning to learn whether the body of the man found drowned in Exeter
Pond was identified--proved potent enough to pull him away from his
rule. That the news he read was anywhere from ten weeks to four months
old when it reached him did not matter; in fact he very soon forgot that
such was the case. For two precious hours a day he was translated back
to the day and date that the rumpled sheet in his hands carried on its
first page. Afterward he reverted quite naturally and without conscious
jar to the proper time of the year as advertised by the calendar.

His routine would be like this: He would rise early, before the heat of
the day was upon Good Friday Island to make it steam and sweat and give
off smells. He would shave himself and bathe and put on clean loose
garments, all white except where the stains of the wild, yellow berries
had blotched them. His breakfast he prepared himself, afterward washing
the dishes. Then he would light his pipe or his cigar and take from the
shelf the uppermost copy of the pile of _Daily Republicans_ there. With
the love for tidiness and kemptness that was a part of him he would
smooth out its creases, then sit down on his veranda to read it.
Immediately he became detached from all his surroundings. By his
concentration he was isolated from and insulated against all external
influences. He was not in Good Friday Island then; he was in South New
Medford.

Each morning he read his paper through from the top line of the first
column of the first page to the bottom line of the last column of the
fourth, or last, page. He read it all--news matter, local items,
clippings, advertisements, want notices, church notices, lodge notices,
patent insides of boiler plate, fashion department, household hints,
farm hints, reprint, Births, Weddings and Deaths; syndicate stuff, rural
correspondence--no line of its contents did he skip. With his eyes shut
he could put his finger upon those advertisements which ran without
change and occupied set places on this page or that; such, for instance,
as the two-column display of J. Wesley Paxon, Livery Barn, Horses Kept
and Baited, Vehicles at all hours, Funeral Attendance a Specialty; and
the two-inch notice of the American Pantorium and Pressing Club,
Membership $1.00 per Month, Garments Called For and Delivered, Phone No.
41, M. Pincus, Prop. He was like a miser with a loaf; no crumb, however
tiny, got away from him. To him there was more of absorbing interest in
the appearance of the seventeen-year locust in Chittenden County than in
a Balkan outbreak; less of interest in the failing state of health of
the Czar than in the prospects for the hay crop in the Otter Creek
valley.

When he had read on through to the last ink-smudged line he would reread
the accounts of those matters which particularly attracted him on their
first reading. Then reluctantly and still in his state of absorption, he
would put the paper aside and going inside to a small desk would write
his daily chapter in a bulky letter, the whole to be posted on the next
steamer day. It was characteristic of the man that in his letter writing
he customarily dealt in comment upon the minor affairs of South New
Medford as they had passed in review before him in the printed columns,
rather than in observations regarding witnessed occurrences in Good
Friday Island. This writing stunt done, his day was done. The rest was
dulness. Unutterable, grinding dulness--the monotony of dealing out
wares to customers, of keeping his accounts, of posting his records to
date, of performing his domestic chores.

From this dulness, though, there was sometimes an escape. To relieve the
monotony of his cheerless grind of duties and obligations there came to
him visions. And these visions, we may be very sure, mainly were induced
by what he had that day read and that day written. By virtue of a
special conjury residing in these waking dreams of his, the little man
peering nearsightedly at the shimmering white beach saw instead of a
beach the first heavy fall of snow upon the withers of the Green
Mountains; saw not unchanging stretches of sand but a blanket of purest
fleece, frilled and flounced and scrolled after the drift wind had
billowed it up in low places but otherwise smooth and fair except where
it had been rutted by sleigh runners and packed by the snow-boltered
hoofs of bay Dobbins and sorrel Dollies, the get of Morgan stock.

In the insane forest voices he heard the contented cacklings of fat hens
scratching for provender beneath the gnarled limbs of ancient apple
trees whose trunks all were so neatly whitewashed up to the lowermost
boughs. Looking upon the settlement where he lived, set as it was like a
white-and-green jewel in a ring of lush barbaric beauty, his fancy
showed him the vista of a spinsterish-looking Main Street lined by
dooryards having fences of pointed painted pickets, and behind the
pickets, peonies and hollyhocks encroaching upon prim flagged walks
which led back to the white-panelled doors of small houses buried almost
to their eaves in lilac bushes and golden glow.

The magic of it made all things to match in with the image: Thus, for
example, the tall palms with their feather-duster tops, bending
seaward, turned into broad elms standing in regular double rank, like
Yankee militiamen on a muster day. And night times, when through his
windows there came floating in the soft vowelsome voices of native
fishermen paddling their canoes upon the lagoon and singing as they
paddled, he felt himself translated many thousands of miles away to
Wednesday evening prayer meeting in a squat, brick church with a wooden
belfry rearing above its steep slated roof.

But in this last conjuring-up of a beloved scene there lay at the back
of the trick more of reminiscence than imagination, since the airs the
fishermen chanted were based, nearly all, upon Christian songs that the
earlier missionaries had brought hither; the words might be Polynesian
but the cadence that carried the words was likely to be the cadence of
some pioneer hymnster.

And ever and always the vision had a certain delectable climax; a
definite consummation most devoutly wished for. For its final upshot
would be that Ethan Pratt would behold himself growing old in the
peaceful safe harbour of South New Medford, anchored fast by his
heartstrings to a small white cottage, all furbished and plenished
within, all flowers and shrubs roundabout, with a kitchen garden at its
back, and on beyond an orchard of whitewashed trees where buff cochins
clucked beneath the ripening fruit, and on beyond this in turn a hay
meadow stretching away toward rising foothills.

He saw himself working in the flowers and tilling the vegetable garden.
He watched himself quitting this haven to walk a sedate way to worship
of a Sunday morning. With his mind's eye he followed his own course in a
buggy along a country road in the fall of the year when the maples had
turned and the goldenrod spread its carpet of tawny glory across the
fields. And invariably his companion in these simple homely comfortable
employments was a little woman who wore gold-rimmed glasses and starchy
print frocks.

Into the picture no third figure ever obtruded. With her alone he
conceived of himself as walking side by side through all the remaining
days of his life. For this mousy methodical little man had his great
romance. Unsuspected and undetected, inside the commonplace cover of his
body it burned with a clear and a steady flame. It had burned there,
never flickering, never wavering, through all the days of his faring
into far and foreign parts. Since childhood the two of them had been
engaged. It was she who wrote him the letters that came, a fat sheaf of
them, by every steamer; it was to her that he wrote in reply. It was for
the sake of her and in the intention of making a home for her that
through four years he had endured this imprisonment or this martyrdom or
this whatever you may be pleased to call it, away off here on the
opposite side of the world from her. She was saving and he was saving,
both for a common purpose. Back there at home it cost her little to
live, and out here it cost him less. In fact, it cost him almost
nothing. Ninety per cent of his pay went into his share of the pool.

Within another year the requisite sum which this pair of canny prudent
souls had set as their modest goal would be reached; and then he could
bid an everlasting farewell to these hated islands and go sailing
home--home to South New Medford and to Miss Hetty Stowe. And then she
would surrender the place she had held for so long as the teacher of
District School Number Four, to become Mrs. Ethan Allen Pratt, a wife
honoured, a helpmate well-beloved.

So to him the coming of the steamer meant more than an orgy of drunken
beachcombers and a bustle of life and activity upon the beach; it meant
more than a thin-strained taste of contact with a distant world of white
men and white men's ways; meant more, even, than letters and papers. To
him it was a renewal of the nearing prospect of an eternal departure out
of these lands. By the steamer's movements he marked off into spaced
intervals the remaining period of his exile, he thought of the passage
of time not in terms of days or weeks but in terms of two-month
stretches. Six visits more of the ship, or possibly seven, and this
drear life would come to an end and another life, the one of his hopes
and plans, would begin.

For its next time of coming the boat was due on or about August the
first. She failed to come on the first, but on the second, early in the
morning, she came nosing into the lagoon. In a canoe with a brown man to
paddle him Pratt put off for her. He was alongside by the time her
anchor chains had rattled out, and the skipper with his own hands passed
down to him a mail bag. He brought it ashore and from it took out his
packet of letters and his sheaf of _Daily Republicans_. These he carried
to his quarters.

First he read the letters, finding them many fewer in number than was
usual. By his private system of chronological accounting there should
have been one letter for every day from the eighteenth of March well on
into May. But here were but a scant dozen instead of the expected
fifty-odd. On the other hand there seemed to be a fairly complete file
of the papers, except that about ten or twelve of the earlier-dated
numbers were missing. By some freakishness in the handling of the post
at this port or that a batch of the older papers and a larger batch of
the newer letters had failed of ultimate delivery to the steamer; so he
figured it. This thing had happened before, causing a vexatious break in
his routine. Plainly it had happened again. Well, away out here off the
beat of travel such upsettings must be endured.

He arranged the papers upon their proper shelf and in their proper
order; then, as was his wont, he turned to the letters and read them
one by one. To another they might have seemed stiff and precise in their
language; almost formal, faintly breathing as they did the restrained
affections of a woman no longer young and coming of a breed of women who
almost from the cradle are by precept and example taught how to cloak
the deeper and the more constant emotions beneath the ice skim of a
ladylike reserve. But they satisfied their reader; they were as they
always had been and as they always would be. His only complaint,
mentally registered, was that the last one should bear the date of March
twenty-ninth.

Having read them all he filed them away in a safe place, then brought
the topmost copy of his just-received file of newspapers out upon the
veranda and sat himself down to read it.

The first column always contained local news. He read of the wand drill
given by the graduating class of the South New Medford Girls' High
School; of a demonstration of Wheat-Sweet Breakfast Food in the show
window of Cody's drug store; of a fire from unknown causes in Lawyer
Horace Bartlett's offices upstairs over G. A. R. Hall, damage eighty
dollars; of the death of Aunt Priscilla Lyon, aged ninety-two; of a
bouncing, ten-pound boy born to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Purdy, mother and
child doing well--all names familiar to him. He came to the department
devoted to weddings. There was but one notice beneath the single-line
head; it made a single paragraph.

He read it and as he read the words of it burned into his brain like a
fiery acid. He read it, and it ran like this:

"We are informed that a surprise marriage took place this morning at
Rutland. In that city Miss Hetty Stowe, of near this place, was united
in the holy bonds of wedlock to Mr. Gabriel Eno, of Vergennes. We did
not get the name of the officiating minister. The bride is an estimable
lady who for years past has taught District School Number Four in the
county. We have not the pleasure of the happy bridegroom's acquaintance
but assume he is in every way worthy of the lady he has won for a wife.
Ye Editor extends congratulations to the happy pair and will print
further details when secured."

He read it through again, to the last blurred word. And as he reread a
roaring and a crashing filled his ears. It was the castle of his hopes
crashing down in ruins. So this, then was why the sequence of letters
had been so abruptly broken off. She had lacked the courage to tell him
of her faithlessness; she had chosen the course of silence, leaving him
to learn of the treachery through other sources. It was cruelty piled
upon cruelty compounded.

For such a sorry ending he had cut four years out of his life. For this
reward of all his constancy he had endured what had been wellnigh
unendurable--loneliness, homesickness, isolation, discomfort. For this
he had kept his body clean and his soul clean where all about him was
sloth and slackness. He thought backward upon that which he had
undergone; he thought forward upon the dreary purposeless prospect that
stretched unendingly before him. Never now could he bring himself to go
back to the spot of his shattered dreams. And to him that was the one
place in all the world worth going back to.

He put his face down upon his crossed arms, and presently there began to
escape from him strangled sobs sounding most grotesquely like some
strange mimicry of the name the native girls had for him--"Pooh-pooh,
pooh-pooh, pooh-pooh," over and over again repeated. Beyond his doorstep
the life of the station hummed and throbbed, quickened into joyous
activity by the coming of the steamer. He was not conscious of it. That
roaring still was in his ears.

Now between his racking sobs he began to pray aloud a broken prayer. He
did not pray for divine forgiveness of the thing he meant to do. By the
narrow tenets of his faith his soul, through the deliberate act of his
hands, would go forth from the body, doomed to everlasting torment. It
did not appear feasible to him that God might understand. The God he
believed in was a stern God of punishments, sitting in strict judgment
upon mortal transgressions. So he prayed not for mercy but for strength
to carry him through that which faced him.

In a cupboard in the inner room was a single-barreled, muzzle-loading
fowling piece made at Liege, in Belgium, many years before. His
predecessor in the station had left it behind him and Pratt had
succeeded to possession of it. He knew how to load and fire and clean
it. Occasionally he had used it in shooting at wood pigeons. He went
inside and took it from its place and charged it with black powder from
an old-fashioned metal powder flask and with heavy shot from a worn shot
pouch. For wadding he tore apart the front page of the uppermost copy of
the file of _Daily Republicans_ lying upon the shelf where he had placed
them less than half an hour before.

He rammed the charge home, with wadding between powder and shot, with
more wadding on top of the shot. He withdrew the ramrod and cast it
aside; he brought the hammer back to full cock and fixed a cap upon the
nipple. He stood the gun upright upon the floor and leaned forward, the
muzzle against his upper chest, the stock braced against the edge of a
crack in the planking. With the great toe of his bare right foot he
pressed the trigger.

Two natives, passing, heard the booming report and ran in to see what
had caused it. They quickly ran out again and brought white men. After
the body had been moved from where it had fallen but before the scanty
personal belongings of the dead man had been sealed up and before the
store had been put under lock and key, the white men made search about
the place for any farewell message, or lacking that, any physical
evidence that might furnish a possible explanation for the cause of the
suicide. They found neither message nor clew. In searching about one of
them came upon a tattered scrap of newspaper. Its burnt edges and its
general singed condition proved that it had been used for wadding. The
force of the discharge had blown it out, almost intact, to flutter off
into a corner.

Moved by a curiosity natural under the circumstances the finder
deciphered the smudged and blackened reading that he found upon the two
surfaces of the fragment. On one side appeared part of an advertisement
of a merchant tailor; on the other side he made out this, which he read
with a casual interest only:

"The Editor regrets exceedingly that in yesterday's issue he was
victimised and imposed upon to the extent of printing an erroneous and
entirely incorrect item, for which mistake we now hasten to make prompt
correction and due amends. Some person unknown, taking advantage of the
fact that yesterday was April the first, or All Fools' Day, telephoned
to our sanctum the information that Miss Hetty Stowe, the well-known
teacher, of near here, had been married yesterday morning at Rutland to
a Mr. Gabriel Eno, of Vergennes. Accepting the report in good faith,
this paper printed it in good faith, as an item of news. We now learn
that the entire story was untrue, being, not to mince words, a lie
manufactured out of the whole cloth. We learn that Miss Stowe knows the
gentleman whose name was given as bridegroom but very slightly, having
met him but once, as we are now reliably informed. In fact, nothing
could be farther from her thoughts than marriage with the gentleman in
question, he being considerably her junior in years. The cruelty of the
hoax thus perpetrated is increased by the fact that for the past several
days Miss Stowe has been confined to the bed of illness, suffering from
a sudden and violent attack of fever, which illness has naturally been
enhanced by the embarrassing position in which she has been placed
through the act of an anonymous practical joker. Such jokes are entirely
out of place and cannot be too strongly reprehended. In correcting this
falsehood the _Daily Republican_ wishes to state that the perpetrator of
the same is deserving of severe----"

Here the fragment was torn across.

To the tale there is no moral unless it be an indirect moral to be
derived from contemplation of a strange contradiction in our modern
life, to wit: That practical burglary is by law sternly discouraged and
practical joking is not.



CHAPTER VIII

HOODWINKED


Spy stories rather went out of fashion when the armistice was signed.
But this one could not have been told before now, because it happened
after the armies had quit fighting and while the Peace Conference was
busily engaged in belying its first name. Also, in a strict manner of
speaking, it is not a spy story at all.

So far as our purposes are concerned, it began to happen on an afternoon
at the end of the month of March of this present year, when J. J.
Mullinix, of the Secret Service, called on Miss Mildred Smith, the
well-known interior decorator, in her studio apartments on the top floor
of one of the best-looking apartment houses in town. For Mullinix there
was a short delay downstairs because the doorman, sharp on the lookout
to bar pestersome intruders who might annoy the tenants, could not at
first make up his mind about Mullinix. In this building there was a rule
against solicitors, canvassers, collectors, pedlar men and beggar men;
also one against babies, but none against dogs--excepting dogs above a
certain specified size, which--without further description--should
identify our building as one standing in what is miscalled the exclusive
residential belt of Manhattan Island.

The doorman could not make up his mind offhand whether Mullinix was to
be classified as a well-dressed mendicant or an indifferently dressed
book agent; he was pretty sure, though, that the stranger fell somewhere
within the general ban touching on dubious persons having dubious
intentions. This doubt on the part of the doorman was rather a
compliment to Mullinix, considering Mullinix's real calling. For
Mullinix resembled neither the detective of fiction nor yet the
detective of sober fact, which is exactly what the latter usually is--a
most sober fact; sober, indeed, often to the point of a serious and
dignified impressiveness. This man, though, did not have the eagle-bird
eye with which the detective of fiction so often is favoured. He did not
have the low flattened arches--frontal or pedal--which frequently
distinguish the bona-fide article, who comes from Headquarters with a
badge under his left lapel and a cigar under his right moustache to
question the suspected hired girl. About him there was nothing
mysterious, nothing portentous, nothing inscrutable. He had a face which
favourably would have attracted a person taking orders for enlarging
family portraits. He had the accommodating manner of one who is willing
to go up when the magician asks for a committee out of the audience to
sit on the stage.

Not ten individuals alive knew of his connection with the Secret Service.
Probably in all his professional life not ten others--outsiders--had ever
appraised him for what he was. His finest asset was a gift of Nature--a
sort of protective colouration which enabled him to hide in the
background of commonplaceness and do his work with an assurance which
would not have been possible had he worn an air of assurance. In short
and in fine, Mullinix no more resembled the traditional hawkshaw than
Miss Mildred Smith resembled the fashionable conception of a fashionable
artist. She never gestured with an upturned thumb; nor yet made a
spy-glass of her cupped hand through which to gaze upon a painting. She
had never worn a smock frock in her life.

The smartest of smart tailor-mades was none too smart for her. Nothing
was too smart for her, who was so exquisitely fine and well-bred a
creature. She was wearing tailor-mades, with a trig hat to match, when
she opened the door of her entry hall for Mullinix.

"Just going out, weren't you?" he asked as they shook hands.

"No, just coming in," she said. "I had only just come in when the hall
man called me up saying you were downstairs."

"I had trouble getting him to send up my name at all," he said with a
half smile on his face. "He insisted on knowing all about me and my
business before he announced me. So I told him everything nearly--except
the truth."

"I gathered from his tone he was a bit doubtful about you; but I was
glad to get the word. This is the third time you've favoured me with a
visit and each of the other times something highly exciting followed.
Come in and let me make you a cup of tea, won't you? Is it business that
brings you?"

"Yes," he said, "it's business."

They sat down in the big inner studio room; on one side of the fireplace
the short, slow-speaking, colourless-looking man who knew the inner
blackness of so many whited sepulchres; and on the other side, facing
him from across the tea table, this small patrician lady who, having
rich kinfolk and friends still richer and a family tree deep-rooted in
the most Knickerbockian stratum of the Manhattan social schist,
nevertheless chose to earn her own living; and while earning it to find
opportunity for service to her Government in a confidential capacity.
Not all the volunteers who worked on difficult espionage jobs through
the wartime carried cards from the Intelligence Department.

"Yes," he repeated, "it's business--a bigger piece of business and a
harder one and probably a more interesting one than the last thing you
helped on. If it weren't business I wouldn't be coming here to-day,
taking up your time. I know how busy you are with your own affairs."

"Oh, I'm not busy," she said. "This is one of my loafing days. Since
lunch time I've been indulging in my favourite passion. I've been
prowling through a secondhand bookstore over on Lexington Avenue,
picking up bargains. There's the fruit of my shopping."

She indicated a pile of five or six nibbled-looking volumes in dingy
covers resting upon one corner of the low mantelshelf.

"Works on interior decorating?" he guessed.

"Goodness, no! Decorating is my business; this is my pleasure. The top
one of the heap--the one bound in red--is all about chess."

"Chess! Did anybody ever write a whole book about chess?"

"I believe more books have been written on chess than on any other
individual subject in the world, barring Masonry," she said. "And the
next one to it--the yellow-bound one--is a book about old English games;
not games of chance, but games for holidays and parties. I was glancing
through it in my car on the way here from the shop. It's most
interesting. Why, some of the games it tells about were played in
England before William the Conqueror landed; at least so the author
claims. Did you ever hear of a game called Shoe the Wild Mare? It was
very popular in Queen Elizabeth's day. The book yonder says so."

"No, I never heard of it. From the name it sounds as though it might be
rather a rough game for indoors," commented Mullinix. "For a busy woman
who's made such a big success at her calling, I wonder how you find time
to dig into so many miscellaneous subjects."

"I don't call the time wasted," she said. "For example, there's one book
in that lot dealing with mushroom culture. It seems there's ever so much
to know about mushrooms. Besides, who knows but what some day I might
have a wealthy client who would want me to design him a mushroom cellar,
combining practicability with the decorative. Then, you see, I would
have the knowledge at my finger tips." She smiled at the conceit,
busying herself with the tea things.

"Well, I suppose I'm a one-idea-at-a-time sort of person," he said.

"No, you aren't! You only think you are," she amended. "Just now I
suppose you are all so wrapped up in the business you mentioned a moment
ago that you can't think of anything else."

"That's a fact," he confessed. "And yet all my thinking doesn't seem to
have got me anywhere in particular." He paused to glance about. "Where's
your maid? Is she, by any chance, where she could overhear us?"

"No, she's out. This is her afternoon off."

"Good! Then I'll start at the beginning and tell you in as few words as
possible the whole thing. But before I do begin, let me ask you a
question. It may simplify matters. Anyhow it has a bearing on my
principal reason for coming to see you to-day. Isn't Mrs. Howard
Hadley-Smith your cousin?"

"Only by marriage. Her husband was my second cousin. He belonged to the
branch of the family that owns the hyphen and most of the money. He died
six or seven years ago. He was not the most perfect creature in the
world, but Claire, his wife--his widow, I mean--is a trump. She's one of
the finest women and one of the sanest in New York."

"I'm glad to hear that. Because before we're through with this job--you
see I'm assuming in advance that you are going to be willing to help me
on it--I say, before we get through it, providing of course we do get
through it, it may be necessary to take her into our confidence. That
is, if you are sure we can trust absolutely to her discretion."

"We can. But please remember that I don't know what the business is all
about."

"I'm coming to that. Oh, by the way, there is one question more:
To-morrow night your cousin is giving a costume party or a fancy-dress
party of some sort or other, isn't she?"

"Yes; an All Fools' Day party; not a very large one though."

"And you will be going to it, won't you?"

"Yes, indeed! I'm doing the decorating and acting as sort of assistant
director of the affair. But what can my cousin and her April Fools' Day
party and all that have to do with the matter that brings you here?"

"A good deal, I hope. But I expect I had better go back to the beginning
and tell you the tale in some sort of orderly way. Of course I am
telling it to you as one responsible representative of our Government to
another."

"I understand. But go ahead, won't you? My curiosity is increasing by
the moment."

"Well then, here it is: Six days ago there arrived from the conference
at Versailles a high army officer, acting for this occasion as a
confidential messenger of the Administration. He brought with him a
certain communication--a single small sheet or strip of parchment paper
containing about twelve or fifteen typewritten lines. But those few
lines were about as important and, under certain circumstances, as
dangerous a collection of typewritten lines as it is possible to
conceive of."

"Weren't they in code?"

"Naturally. But the signature was not. The signature was in the
handwriting of the man--let us say the personage--who dictated the
wording of the dispatch. You would know that handwriting if you saw it.
Nearly every man, woman and child in this country who can read would
know it and would recognise it at a glance. Even between us, I take it
that there is no need of mentioning the name."

"No. Please go on. The thing has a thrilling sound already."

"That communication dealt directly with perhaps the most important
single issue now in controversy at the Peace Conference--a phase of the
Asiatic muddle. In fact, it was an outline of the private agreement that
has been reached as between our envoys and the envoys representing
sundry friendly powers in regard to this particular question. If it
should fall into the hands of a certain other power--and be
translated--the entire negotiation would be jeopardised. Almost
inevitably at least one Oriental nation would withdraw from the
conference. The future of the great thing for which our own statesmen
and the statesmen of some of the countries provisionally leagued
together with us are working--well, that result, to put the thing
mildly, would be jeopardised. The very least that could happen would be
that four governments would be tremendously embarrassed.

"Indeed it is hard offhand to calculate the possibilities of disaster,
but this much is quite sure: Our enemy--and Germany is as much our enemy
now as she was during active hostilities--would almost inevitably
succeed in the very thing she has been plotting to bring about, which is
the sowing of discord among the Allies, not to mention the increase of a
racial distrust and a racial antagonism which exist in certain quarters,
and, on top of all that, the widening and deepening of a problem which
already has been sufficiently difficult and delicate."

"I see. Well?"

"Well, naturally everything possible was done at Washington to
safeguard a dispatch of such tremendous importance. No copies of the
communication were made. The original was put in a place where it was
presumed to be absolutely safe. But within forty-eight hours it
disappeared from the place where it had been put."

"How did it disappear? Is that known?"

"It was stolen. A government clerk named Westerfeltner, a man who held a
place of trust and confidence, was the man who stole it. For it he was
offered a sum of money which would make him independent for life, and
under the temptation he weakened and he stole it. But first he stole the
key to the cipher, which would make it possible for anyone having both
the key and the message to decode the message. Once this is done the
damage is done, for the signature is ample proof of the validity of the
document. That is the one thing above all others we are trying to
prevent now."

"But why couldn't the thief have decoded the dispatch?"

"He might have, excepting for two things. In the first place his
principal, the man who corrupted him to betray his honour and
incidentally to betray his Government, would not trust him to do this.
The head plotter demanded the original paper. In the second place an
interval of a day and a half elapsed between the theft of the code and
the theft of the dispatch. Before the thief secured the dispatch the
key had already passed out of his possession."

"How do you know these things with such certainty?"

"Because Westerfeltner has confessed. He confessed to me at three
o'clock yesterday morning after the thefts had practically been traced
to his door. He made a clean breast of it all right enough. The high
points of his confession have all been verified. I am sure that he was
honest with me. Fear and remorse together made him honest. At present he
is--well, let's call it sequestered. No outsider knows he is now under
arrest; or perhaps I should say in custody. No interested party is
likely to feel concern regarding his whereabouts, because so far as he
was concerned the crooked contract had been carried out and completed
before he actually fell under suspicion."

"Meaning by that, what?"

"Meaning just this: On the night he secured possession of the key he
handed it over to his principal, who still has it unless he has
destroyed it. It is fair to assume that this other man, being a code
expert, already has memorised the key so that he can read the dispatch
almost offhand. At least that is the assumption upon which I am going."

"All this happened in Washington, I suppose?"

"Yes, in Washington. The original understanding was that as soon as
possible after stealing the dispatch Westerfeltner would turn it over
to the other man. But something--we don't know yet just what--frightened
the master crook out of town. With the job only partially accomplished
he left Washington and came to New York. But before leaving he gave to
Westerfeltner explicit instructions for the delivery of the
dispatch--when he had succeeded in getting his hands on it--to a third
party, a special go-between, with whom Westerfeltner was to communicate
by telephone.

"Late the next day Westerfeltner did succeed in getting his hands on the
document. That same evening, in accordance with his instructions, he
called up from his house a certain number. He had been told to call this
number exactly at eight o'clock and to ask for Mrs. Williams. Without
delay he got Mrs. Williams on the wire. Over the wire a woman's voice
told him to meet her at the McPherson Statue in McPherson Square at
eleven-fifteen o'clock that night. He was there at the appointed hour,
waiting. According to what he tells me, almost precisely on the minute a
woman, wearing plain dark clothes and heavily veiled, came walking along
the path that leads to the statue from Fifteenth Street. It was dark
there, anyhow, and for obvious reasons both the conspirators kept
themselves well shielded in the shadows.

"As she came up and saw him waiting there, she uttered the catchwords
which made him know her for the right person. The words were simple
enough. She merely said to him 'Did you go to the pawnshop?' He answered
'Yes, I went there and I got your keepsake.' 'Thank you,' she answered,
'then give it to me.' 'Here it is, safe and sound,' he replied and
passed to her the paper, which was wadded up, he says, in a pellet about
the size of a hazelnut.

"Up to this point the pair had been speaking in accordance with a sort
of memorised ritual, each knowing from the instructions given to both by
their employer what the other would say. But before they parted they
exchanged a few other words. Westerfeltner tells me that, having his own
safety in mind as well as a natural anxiety for the safe delivery of the
paper to its real purchaser, he said to her: 'I hope you understand that
you should keep this thing in your possession for every minute of the
time until you hand it over to our mutual friend.'

"As he recalls her answer, as nearly as possible in the words she used,
she said: 'Certainly I do. It will be kept on my person where I can put
my hand on it, but where no one else can see it and where no one else
will ever suspect it of being.' Then she asked him: 'Was there anything
else you wanted to say to me?' He told her there was nothing else and
she said good night to him and turned and walked away in the direction
from which she had come. He waited a minute or so and then walked off,
leaving the square on the opposite side--the Vermont Avenue side. He
went directly home and went to bed.

"He is unmarried and lives alone, taking his luncheons and dinners out,
but preparing his own breakfasts in his rooms. At three o'clock in the
morning he was in bed and asleep when I rang his doorbell. In his night
clothes he got up and let me in; and as soon as I was in I accused him.
As a matter of fact the double theft had been discovered the evening
before, but unfortunately by then several hours had elapsed from the
time the dispatch was taken, and already, as you know, the dispatch had
changed hands.

"Within an hour after the discovery of the loss I had been set to work
on the job. At once suspicion fell upon three men, one after the other.
It didn't take very long to convince me that two of these men were
innocent. So these two having been eliminated by deductive processes, I
personally went after the third man, who was this Westerfeltner. The
moment I walked in on him I was convinced from his behaviour that I had
made no mistake. So I took a chance. I charged him point-blank with
being the thief. Almost immediately he weakened. His denials turned to
admissions. As a conspirator Westerfeltner is a lame duck. I only wish I
had started after him three or four hours earlier than I did; if only I
had done so I'm satisfied the paper would be back where it belongs and
no damage done. Well, anyhow, if I am one to judge, he told me
everything frankly and held back nothing."

"Well, then, who is the woman in the case?"

"He didn't know. To his best knowledge he had never seen her before that
night. He is sure that he had never heard her voice before. Really, all
he does know about her is that she is a small, slender woman with rather
quick, decided movements and that her voice is that of a refined person.
He is sure she is a young woman, but he can furnish no better
description of her than this. He claims he was very nervous at the time
of their meeting. I figure he was downright excited, filled as he was
with guilty apprehensions, and no doubt because of his excitement he
took less notice of her than he otherwise might. Besides, you must
remember that the place of rendezvous was a fairly dark spot on rather a
dark night."

"He has absolutely no idea of his own, then, as to the identity of Mrs.
Williams?"

"He hasn't; but I have. The telephone number which figures in the case
is the number of a pay station in an all-night drug store in Washington.
Westerfeltner freely gave me the number. Both the proprietor of this
drug store and his clerk remember that night before last, shortly before
eight o'clock, a rather small, slight woman wearing a black street
costume with a dark veil over her face came into the place and said she
was expecting a telephone call for Mrs. Williams. Within two or three
minutes the bell rang and the clerk answered and somebody asked for Mrs.
Williams. The woman entered the booth, came out almost immediately, and
went away. All that the drugstore man and his clerk remember about her
is that she was a young woman, plainly dressed but well-groomed. The
druggist is positive she had dark hair; the clerk is inclined to think
her hair was a deep reddish-brown. Neither of them saw her face; neither
of them remarked anything unusual about her. To them she was merely a
woman who came in to keep a telephone engagement, and having kept it
went away again. So, having run into a blind alley at that end of the
case, I started in at the other end of it to find the one lady to whom
naturally the chief conspirator would turn for help in the situation
that confronted him when he ran away from Washington. And I found
her--both of her in fact."

"Both of her! Then there are two women involved?"

"No, only one; but which one of two suspects she is I can't for the life
of me decide. I know who she is, and yet I don't know. I'll come to that
part of it in a minute or two. I haven't told you the name of the head
devil of the whole intrigue yet, have I? You've met him, I imagine. At
any rate you surely have heard of him.

"You know him, or else you surely know of him, as the Hon. Sidney
Bertram Goldsborough, of London, England, and Shanghai, China."

"Goodness gracious me!" In her astonishment Miss Smith had recourse to
an essentially feminine exclamation. "Why, that does bring it close to
home! Why, he is among the persons invited to my cousin's house
to-morrow night. I remember seeing his name on the invitation list.
That's why you asked me about her party a while ago. My cousin met him
somewhere and liked him. I've never seen him, but I've heard about him.
A big mining engineer, isn't he?"

"A big international crook, posing as a mining engineer and ostensibly
in this country to finance some important Korean concessions--that's
what he is. His real name is Geltmann. Here's his pedigree in a
nutshell: Born in Russia of mixed German and Swiss parentage. Educated
in England, where he acquired his accent and the monocle habit.
Perfected himself in scoundrelism in the competent finishing schools of
the Far East. Speaks half a dozen languages, including Chinese and
Japanese. Carries gilt-edged credentials made in the Orient. That,
briefly, is your Hon. Mr. Sidney Bertram Goldsborough, when you undress
him. He was officially suspected of being something other than what he
claimed to be, even before Westerfeltner divulged his name. In fact, he
fell under suspicion shortly after he turned up in Paris in January of
this year, he having obtained a passport for France on the strength of
his credentials and on the representation that he wanted to go abroad to
interest European financiers in that high-sounding Korean development
scheme of his--which, by the way, is purely imaginary. He hung about
Paris for three months. How he found out about the document which the
army officer was bringing home, and how he found out that the
officer--in order to save time--would travel on a French liner instead
of on a transport, are details that are yet to be cleared up by our
people on the other side. There has been no time yet of course to take
up the chase over there in Paris. But obviously there must have been a
leak somewhere. Either some one abroad was in collusion with him or
perhaps indiscreetness rather than guilty connivance was responsible for
his learning what he did learn. As to that, I can't say.

"But the point remains that Geltmann sailed on the same ship that
brought the army officer. Evidently he hoped to get possession of the
paper the officer carried on the way over. Failing there, he tried other
means. He followed the officer down to Washington, seduced Westerfeltner
by the promise of a fat bribe, and then, just when his scheme was about
to succeed, became frightened and returned to New York, trusting to a
woman confederate to deliver the paper to him here. And now he's here,
awaiting her arrival, and from all the evidence available he expects to
get it from her to-morrow night at your cousin's party."

"Then the woman is to be there too?" Miss Smith's eyes were stretched
wide.

"She certainly is."

"And who is she--or, rather, who do you think she is?"

"Miss Smith, prepare for a shock. Either that woman is Mme. Josephine
Ybanca, the wife of the famous South American diplomat, or else she is
Miss Evelyn Ballister, sister of United States Senator Hector Ballister.
And I am pretty sure that you must know both of them."

"I do! I do! I know Miss Ballister fairly well, and I have met Madame
Ybanca twice--once here in New York, once at Washington. And let me say
now, that at first blush I do not find it in my heart to suspect either
of them of deliberate wrongdoing. I don't think they are that sort."

"I don't wonder you say that," answered Mullinix. "Also I think I know
you well enough to feel sure that the fact that both of them are to be
guests of your cousin, Mrs. Hadley-Smith, to-morrow night has no
influence upon you in forming your judgments of these two young women."

"I know Miss Ballister has been invited and has accepted. But I think
you must be wrong when you say Madame Ybanca is also expected."

"When was the last time you saw your cousin?"

"The day before yesterday, I think it was, but only for a few minutes."

"Well, yesterday she sent a telegram to Madame Ybanca saying she
understood Madame Ybanca would be coming up from Washington this week
and asking her to waive formality and come to the party."

"You say my cousin sent such a wire?"

"I read the telegram. Likewise I read Madame Ybanca's reply, filed at
half after six o'clock yesterday evening, accepting the invitation."

"But surely"--and now there was mounting incredulity and indignation in
Miss Smith's tone--"but surely no one dares to assert that my cousin is
conniving at anything improper?"

"Certainly not! If I thought she was doing anything wrong I would hardly
be asking you to help trap her, would I? Didn't I tell you that we might
even have to enlist your cousin's co-operation? But I imagine, when you
make inquiry, as of course you will do at once, you'll find that since
you saw your cousin she has seen Goldsborough, or Geltmann--to give him
his real name--and that he asked her to send the wire to Madame Ybanca."

"That being assumed as correct, the weight of the proof would seem to
press upon the madame rather than upon Miss Ballister, wouldn't it?"

"Frankly I don't know. At times to-day, coming up here on the train, I
have thought she must be the guilty one, and at times I have felt sure
that she was not. But this much I do know: One of those two ladies is
absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing, and the other one--pardon my
language--is as guilty as hell. But perhaps it is only fair to both that
you should suspend judgment altogether until I have finished telling you
the whole business, as far as I know it.

"Let us go back a bit. Half an hour after I had heard Westerfeltner's
confession and fifteen minutes after I had seen the druggist and his
clerk, the entire machinery of our branch of the service had been set in
motion to find out what women in Washington were friends of Geltmann.
For Geltmann spent most of last fall in Washington. Now while in
Washington he was noticeably attentive to just two women--Miss Ballister
and Madame Ybanca. Now mark a lengthening of the parallel: Both of them
are small women; both of them are slender; both are young, and both of
course have refined voices. Neither speaks with any special accent, for
the madame, though married to a Latin, is an American woman. She has
black hair, while Miss Ballister's hair is a golden red-brown. So far,
you see, the vague description furnished by the three men who spoke to
the mythical Mrs. Williams might apply to either."

"Then which of the two is supposed to have been most attracted to
Geltmann, as you call him?"

Mullinix smiled a trifle.

"I was rather expecting that question would come along about here," he
said. "I only wish I could tell you; it might simplify matters. But so
far as the available evidence points, there is nothing to indicate that
either of them really cared for him or he for either of them. The
attentions which he paid them both, impartially, were those which a man
might pay to any woman, whether she was married or unmarried, without
creating gossip. There is no suggestion here of a dirty scandal. The
woman who is serving Geltmann's ends is doing it, not for love of him
and not even because she is fascinated by him, but for money. She has
agreed to sell out her country, the land she was born in, for hire. I'm
sure of that much."

"Then which of them is presumed to be in pressing need of funds?"

"Again you score. I was expecting that question too. As a matter of fact
both of them need money. Madame Ybanca belongs to a bridge-playing
set--a group of men and women who play for high stakes. She has been a
heavy loser and her husband, unlike many politically prominent South
Americans, is not a fabulously wealthy man. I doubt whether he would be
called wealthy at all, either by the standards of his own people or of
ours. As for Miss Ballister, I have reports which prove she has no
source of income except a modest allowance from her brother, the
senator, who is in moderate circumstances only; yet it is common talk
about Washington that she is extravagant beyond her means. She owes
considerable sums to tradesmen for frocks and furs, millinery, jewelry
and the like. It is fair to assume that she is harassed by her debts. On
the other hand, Madame Ybanca undoubtedly wants funds with which to meet
her losses at bridge. So the presumption in this direction runs as
strongly against one as against the other."

"Well then, barring these slight clews--which to my way of thinking
really aren't clews at all--and when you have eliminated the
circumstance of Goldsborough's having paid perfectly proper attentions
to both of them simultaneously, what is there to justify the belief that
one or the other must be guilty?"

Miss Smith's voice still carried a suggestion of scepticism.

"I'm coming to that. Of course their positions being what they are,
neither I nor any other Secret Service operative would dare question
either one or both of them. On a mere hazard you cannot go to the
beautiful young wife of the distinguished representative of a friendly
nation, and a woman besides of irreproachable character, and accuse her
of being in the pay of an international crook. You cannot do this any
more than you could attempt a similar liberty with regard to an equally
beautiful woman of equally good repute who happens to be a prominent
figure in the most exclusive circles of this country and the favourite
sister of a leader on the Administration side in the United States
Senate. Of course since the developments began to focus suspicion upon
them, they have been watched. Yesterday at church Miss Ballister's wrist
bag was picked. Along with things of no apparent significance, it
contained a note received by her the day before from Goldsborough--Geltmann
rather--reminding her that they were to meet to-morrow night at your
cousin's party. Later in the afternoon Madame Ybanca received a telegram
and sent an answer, as I have told you; a telegram inviting her to the
very same party. Putting two and two together, I think I see Geltmann's
hand showing. Having put two and two together, I came to New York to get
in touch with you and to enlist your help."

"But why me?"

"Why not you? I remembered that Mrs. Hadley-Smith was related to you. I
felt pretty sure that you would be going to her party. And I am morally
sure that at the party Geltmann means to meet his confederate--Miss
Ballister or Madame Ybanca, as the case may be--and to receive from her
the bit of paper that means so much to him and to those he is serving in
the capacity of a paid agent. It will be easy enough to do the thing
there; whereas a meeting in any other place, public or private, might be
dangerous for both of them.

"Miss Ballister will be coming over from Washington to-morrow. She has a
chair-car reservation on the Pennsylvania train leaving there at ten
o'clock in the morning. I don't know what train Madame Ybanca will take,
but the news will be coming to me by wire before she is aboard the
train. Each one of them is now being shadowed; each one of them will be
shadowed for every moment while she is on her way and during her stay
here; and of course Geltmann cannot stir a step outside his suite at the
Hotel Atminster, on Fortieth Street, without being under observation. He
didn't know it, but he was under observation when he woke up yesterday
morning.

"But I think these precautions are of mighty little value; I do not
expect any important result from them. On the other hand, I am convinced
that the transfer of the dispatch will be attempted under your cousin's
roof. I do not need to tell you why Geltmann should have sought to
insure the presence of both women here at one time. He is smart enough;
he knows that in this case there is an added element of safety for him
in numbers--that it is better to have both present. Then unwittingly the
innocent one will serve as a cover for the guilty one. I think he
figures that should discovery of the theft come soon--he not knowing it
already has come--then in such case there will be a divided trail for us
to follow, one end pointing toward Miss Ballister and the other toward
the madame. Or, at least, so I diagnose his mental processes.

"If I have diagnosed them correctly, the big part of the job, Miss
Smith, is now up to you. We figure from what she told Westerfeltner that
the paper will be concealed on the person of the woman we are after--in
her hair perhaps, or in her bosom; possibly in that favourite cache of a
woman--her stocking. At any rate she will have it hidden about her; that
much we may count on for a certainty. And so it must be your task to
prevent that paper from changing hands; better still, to get it into
your own possession before it possibly can come under Geltmann's eyes
even for a moment. But there must be no scene, no violence used, no
scandal; above all things there must be no publicity. Publicity is to be
dreaded almost as much as the actual transfer.

"For my part I can promise you this: I shall be in the house of your
cousin to-morrow night, if you want me to be there. That detail we can
arrange through her: but naturally I must stay out of sight. You must do
your work practically unaided. I guarantee though to insure you plenty
of time in which to do it. Geltmann will not reach the party until later
than he expects. The gentleman will be delayed by one or a number of
annoying but seemingly unavoidable accidents. Beyond these points I
have to confess myself helpless. After those two women pass inside Mrs.
Hadley-Smith's front door the real job is in your hands. You must find
who has the paper and you must get it away from its present custodian
without making threats, without using force--in short, without doing
anything to rouse the suspicions beforehand of the person we are after,
or to make the innocent woman aware that she is under scrutiny.

"Above all, nothing must occur to make any of the other guests realise
that anything unusual is afoot. For that would mean talk on the outside,
and talk on the outside means sensational stories in the newspapers. You
can make no mistake, and yet for the life of me I cannot see how you are
going to guard against making them. Everything depends on you, and that
everything means a very great deal to our country. Yes, everything
depends on you, because I am at the end of my rope."

He finished and sat back in his chair, eyeing her face. Her expression
gave him no clew to any conclusions she might have reached.

"I'll do my best," she said simply, "but I must have full authority to
do it in my own way."

"Agreed. I'm not asking anything else from you."

In a study she rose and went to the mantelpiece and took one book from
the heap of books there. She opened it and glanced abstractedly through
the leaves as they flittered under her fingers.

With her eyes on the page headings she said to him: "I quarrel with one
of your premises."

"Which one?"

"The one that the woman we want will have the paper hidden in her hair
or in her corsage or possibly in her stocking."

"Well, I couldn't think of any other likely place in which she might
hide it. She wouldn't have it in a pocket, would she? Women don't have
pockets in their party frocks, do they?"

Disregarding his questions she asked one herself:

"You say it is a small strip of paper, and that probably it is rolled up
into a wad about the size of a hazelnut?"

"It was rolled up so when Westerfeltner parted from it--that's all I can
tell you. Why do you ask that?"

"Oh, it doesn't particularly matter. I merely was thinking of various
possibilities and contingencies."

Apparently she now had found the place in the book which, more or less
mechanically, she had been seeking. She turned down the upper corner of
a certain page for a marker and closed the book.

"Well, in any event," she said, "I must get to work. I think I shall
begin by calling up my cousin to tell her, among other things, that her
party may have some rather unique features that she had not included in
her program. And where can I reach you by telephone or by
messenger--say, in an hour from now?"

A number of small things, seemingly in no wise related to the main
issue, occurred that evening and on the following morning. In the
evening, for example, Mrs. Hadley-Smith revised the schedule of
amusements she had planned for her All Fools' party, incorporating some
entirely new notions into the original scheme. In the morning Miss
Mildred Smith visited the handkerchief counter of a leading department
store, where she made selections and purchases from the stocks, going
thence to a shop dealing in harness and leather goods. Here she gave a
special commission for immediate execution.

Toward dusk of the evening of April first a smallish unobtrusive-looking
citizen procured admittance to Mrs. Hadley-Smith's home, on East
Sixty-third Street just off Fifth Avenue. With the air of a man having
business on the premises he walked through the front door along with a
group of helpers from the caterer's. Once inside, he sent a name by the
butler to Mrs. Hadley-Smith, who apparently awaited such word, for
promptly she came downstairs and personally escorted the man to a small
study at the back of the first floor; wherein, having been left alone,
he first locked the door leading to the hall and drew the curtains of
the windows giving upon a rear courtyard, and proceeded to make himself
quite at home.

He ate a cold supper which he found spread upon a table and after that
he used the telephone rather extensively. This done, he lit a cigar and
stretched himself upon a sofa, smoking away with the air of a man who
has finished his share of a given undertaking and may take his ease
until the time arrives for renewed action upon his part. Along toward
nine-thirty o'clock, when he had smoked his third cigar, there came a
soft knock thrice repeated upon the door, whereupon he rose and unlocked
the door, but without opening it to see who might be outside he went
back to his couch, lay down and lit a fourth cigar. For the next little
while we may leave him there to his comfortable solitude and his smoke
haze.

Meanwhile the Hon. Sidney Bertram Goldsborough, so called and so
registered at the Hotel Atminster, grew decidedly peevish over the
unaccountable failure of his order to arrive from a theatrical
costumer's, where he had selected it some three days earlier. He was
morally sure it had been sent hours earlier by special messenger from
the costume shop. In answer to his vexed inquiries the parcels
department of the hotel was equally sure that no box or package
consigned to Mr. Goldsborough had been received. Finally, after ten
o'clock, the missing costume was brought to the gentleman's door with a
message of profound regret from the assistant manager, who expressed
sorrow that through the stupidity of some member or members of his force
a valued guest had been inconvenienced. Hastily slipping into the
costume and putting a light overcoat on over it Mr. Goldsborough started
in a taxicab up Fifth Avenue. But at Forty-eighth Street a government
mail van, issuing suddenly out of the sideway, smashed squarely into the
side of the taxicab bearing him, with the result that the taxi lost a
wheel and Mr. Goldsborough lost another half hour.

This second delay was due to the fact that his presence upon the spot
was required by a plain-clothes man who took over the investigation of
the collision from the patrolman on the post. To Mr. Goldsborough,
inwardly fuming but outwardly calm and indifferent, it seemed that the
plain-clothes person took an unreasonably long time for his inquiries
touching on the accident. At length, with apologies for detaining him,
the headquarters man--now suddenly become accommodating where before he
had been officially exact and painstaking in his inquisition into causes
and circumstances--personally hailed another taxicab for Mr.
Goldsborough and sent him upon his way.

But, Mr. Goldsborough's chapter of petty troubles was not yet ended; for
the driver of the second taxi stupidly drove to the wrong address,
landing his fare at a house on West Sixty-third Street, clear across
Central Park and nearly halfway across town from Mrs. Hadley-Smith's
home. So, what with first one thing and then another, eleven o'clock had
come and gone before the indignant passenger finally was set down at his
proper destination.

We go back to nine-thirty, which was the hour set and appointed for
inaugurating the All Fools' Day party. Nine-thirty being the hour, very
few of the prospective celebrants arrived before ten. But by ten, or a
little later, most of them were assembled in the big twin drawing-rooms
on the first floor of the Hadley-Smith establishment. These two rooms,
with the study behind them and the wide reception hall that ran
alongside them, took up the most of the first-floor ground space of the
town house. As the first arrivals noted, they had been stripped of
furniture for dancing. One room was quite empty, save for decorations;
the other contained only a table piled with favours. Even the chairs had
been removed, leaving clear spaces along the walls.

It was not such a very large party as parties go, for Mrs. Hadley-Smith
had a reputation for doing her entertaining on a small but an
exceedingly smart scale. All told, there were not more than fifty on
hand--and accounted for--by ten o'clock. A good many had come in
costume--as zanies, Pantaloons, witches, Pierrots, Columbines, clowns
and simples. For those who wore evening dress the hostess had provided a
store of dunce caps and dominos of gay colours. Nearly everybody
present already knew nearly everybody else. There were only five or six
guests from out of town, and of these Mme. Josephine Ybanca, wife of the
great South American diplomat, and Miss Evelyn Ballister, sister of the
distinguished Western statesman, were by odds the handsomest. Of women
there were more than men; there usually are more women than men in
evidence at such affairs.

At about ten o'clock, Mrs. Hadley-Smith stood out on the floor under the
arch connecting but not exactly separating the joined rooms.

"Listen, please, everybody!" she called, and the motley company, obeying
the summons, clustered about her. "The musicians won't be here until
midnight. After they have come and after we've had supper there will be
dancing. But until midnight we are going to play games--old games, such
as I'm told they played in England two hundred years ago on May Day and
on All Fools' Day and on Halloween. There'll be no servants about and no
one to bother us and we'll have these rooms to ourselves to do just as
we please in."

A babble of politely enthusiastic exclamations rose. The good-looking
widow could always be depended upon to provide something unusual when
she entertained.

"I've asked my cousin, Mildred, to take charge of this part of our
party," went on the hostess. "She has been studying up on the subject,
I believe." She looked about her. "Oh, Mildred, where are you?"

"Here," answered Miss Smith, emerging from a corner, pretty Madame
Ybanca coming with her. "Madame Ybanca has on such marvellous,
fascinating old jewelry to-night; I was just admiring it. Are you ready
to start?"

"Quite ready, if you are."

Crossing to the one table in sight Miss Smith took the party-coloured
cover from a big square cardboard box. Seemingly the box was filled to
the top with black silk handkerchiefs; thick, heavy black handkerchiefs
they were.

"As a beginning," she announced, "we are going to play a new kind of
Blind Man's Buff. That is to say, it may be new to us, though some of
our remote ancestors no doubt played it a century or so back. In the
game we played as children one person was blindfolded and was spun about
three times and then had to lay hands upon one of the others, all of
whom were duty bound to stand where they were, without moving or
speaking--but you remember, I'm sure, all of you? In this version the
rules are different, as you'll see.

"First we'll draw lots to see who's going to be It, as we used to say
when we were kiddies. Wait a minute though--it will take too long to
choose from among so many. I think I'll save time by finding a victim in
this little crowd here." And she indicated ten or twelve who chanced to
be clustered at her right.

"You, Mr. Polk, and you, Miss Vane, and you and you and you--and, oh
yes, I'll take in Madame Ybanca too; she makes an even dozen. I shan't
include myself, because I rather think I had better act as referee and
general factotum until you learn the game."

The chosen group faced her while the others pressed up in anticipation.
From a pocket in her red-and-white clown's blouse Miss Smith produced a
sheaf of folded bits of tissue paper.

"One of these papers bears a number," she went on, as she made a
selection of twelve slips from the handful. "All the others are blank. I
know which one is marked, but no one else does. Now then, take a slip,
each of you. The person who draws the numbered slip is It."

In mock solemnity each of the selected twelve in turn drew from between
Miss Smith's fingers a colored scrap.

"Mine's a blank," called out Miss Vane, opening her bit of paper.

"Mine too."

"And mine."

"And mine is."

"Who has it, then?"

"I seem to have drawn the fatal number," said Madame Ybanca, holding up
her slip for all to see the markings on it.

"So you have," agreed Miss Smith. "Now then, everybody pick out a black
handkerchief from this box--they're all exactly alike. Not you, though,
madame. I'll have to prepare you for your rôle myself." So saying, she
took one of the handkerchiefs and folded it into a long flat strip.

"Now, madame, please put your arms back of you--so! You see, I'm going
to tie your hands behind your back."

"Oh, does everybody have to be tied?" demanded Miss Vane.

"No, but everybody excepting the madame must be blindfolded," stated
Miss Smith. "I'll explain in just one minute when I'm done with the
madame here." With fast-moving fingers she firmly drew the handkerchief
about the young matron's crossed wrists. Madame Ybanca uttered a sharp
little "Ouch!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Miss Smith. "Am I binding you too tightly?"

"No, not that; but I think you are making one of my bracelets press into
my flesh. It's such a thick cumbersome thing anyway."

"Shall I slip it farther up your arm?" asked Miss Smith.

"No, take it off entirely, won't you, and keep it for me? It fastens
with a little clasp."

So Miss Smith undid the bracelet, which was a band of curiously chased
heavy gold, studded with big bosses containing blue stones, and dropped
it into her handy blouse pocket.

Then swiftly she finished her task of knotting the handkerchief ends and
Madame Ybanca, very securely bound, stood forth in the midst of a
laughing ring, making a pretty and appealing picture, her face slightly
flushed by embarrassment.

"One thing more for your adornment and you'll be ready," promised Miss
Smith.

Burrowing beneath the remaining handkerchiefs in the box she produced a
collarlike device of soft russet leather, all hung with fat silver
sleigh bells which, being loosely sewed to the fabric by means of
twisted wire threads, jingled constantly and busily. The slightest
movement set the wires to quivering like antennae and the bells to
making music. Miss Smith lifted the leather circlet down over Madame
Ybanca's head so that it rested upon her shoulders, looping across just
below the base of the throat.

"Take a step forward," she bade the madame, and as the latter obeyed,
all the bells tinkled together with a constant merry clamour.

"Behold!" said Miss Smith. "The lady of the bells is caparisoned for her
part. Now then, let each person blindfold his or her eyes with the
handkerchief you have; but take care that you are well blinded.

"Oh, Miss Ballister, let me adjust your handkerchief, won't you? I'm
afraid you might disarrange that lovely hair ornament of yours unless
you have help. There! How's that! Can you see anything at all? How many
fingers do I hold up?"

"Oh, I'm utterly in the dark," said Miss Ballister. "I can't see a
thing."

"Are you all hooded?" called Miss Smith.

A chorus of assents went up.

"Good! Then listen a moment: It will be Madame Ybanca's task to catch
hold of some one of you with her hands fastened as they are behind her.
It is your task to keep out of her way; the bells are to warn you of her
approach. Whoever is caught takes her place and becomes It.

"Ready--go!"

Standing a moment as though planning a campaign Madame Ybanca made a
quick dash toward where the others were grouped the thickest. But her
bells betrayed her. From before her they scattered and broke apart,
stumbling, groping with outstretched hands to find the wall, jostling
into one another, caroming off again, whooping with laughter. Fast as
Madame Ybanca advanced, the rest all managed to evade her. She halted,
laughing in admission of the handicap upon her, when before she had been
so confident of a capture; then, changing her tactics, she undertook to
stalk down some member of the blindfolded flock by stealthy, gentle
forward steps. But softly though she might advance, the telltale bells
gave ample notice of her whereabouts, and the troop fled. Moreover, even
when she succeeded--as she soon did--in herding someone into a corner,
the prospective victim, a man, managed to slip past her out of danger,
being favoured by the fact that to grasp him with one of her fettered
hands she must turn entirely about. So he was able to wriggle out of
peril and her clutching fingers closed only on empty air.

"It's not so easy as it seemed," she confessed.

"Keep trying," counselled the referee, keeping pace with her. Miss
Smith's eyes were darting everywhere at once, watching the hooded
figures keenly, as though to detect any who might seek to cheat by
lifting his or her mufflings. "You're sure to catch somebody presently.
They can't dodge you every time, you know."

So Madame Ybanca tried again. Ahead of her the fugitives stampeded,
milling about in uncertain circles, gliding past her along the walls,
fleeing from one room to the other and back again--singly, by pairs and
threes. They touched her often, but by reason of her hampered state she
never could touch, with her hands, any of them in their flight.

As Mrs. Hadley-Smith, fleeing alone, came through the doorway with both
her arms outstretched to fend off possible collisions, a sharp low
whisper spoken right alongside of her made her halt. The whisperer was
her cousin. Unobserved by the madame and unheard by any one else, Miss
Smith spoke a word or two in her cousin's ear. The next instant almost
Mrs. Hadley-Smith, apparently becoming confused as to the direction from
which the sounds of bells approached, hesitated in indecision and was
fairly trapped by the pursuer.

"Who's caught? Who's caught?" cried several together.

"You're not supposed to know--that makes the fun all the better," cried
Miss Smith. "You may halt a bit to get your breath, but nobody is to
touch his or her blindfold."

"I'm sure you took pity on me and let me tag you," said Madame Ybanca in
an undertone to her victim as Miss Smith, deftly freeing the younger
woman's hands, proceeded to bind the hostess' wrists at her back.

"Not at all," replied Mrs. Hadley-Smith, also under her breath. "I was
stupid or awkward or perhaps both at once--that's all."

A moment later when the collar of bells had been shifted to the new
wearer's shoulders, the madame, covering up her own eyes, moved away to
join the ranks of the blindfolded.

Before taking up the chase Mrs. Hadley-Smith cast a quick look toward
her cousin and the cousin replied with a nod and a significant glance
toward a certain quarter of the same room in which they stood. Raising
her eyebrows to show she understood the widow moved toward the place
that had been indicated. From her path the gaily clad figures retreated,
eddying and tacking in uncertain flight away from the jingle of the
bells.

Had any third person there had the use of his or her eyes that person
would have witnessed now a strange bit of byplay and--given a fair
share of perception--would have realised that something more important
than a petty triumph in the playing of a game was afoot. Having vision
this third person would have seen how Mrs. Hadley-Smith, disregarding
easier chances to make a capture, strove with all her power to touch one
particular chosen quarry; would have seen how twice, by a quick twist of
a graceful young body, the hunted one eluded those two tied hands
outthrust to seize her; how at the third time of trying the huntress
scored a victory and laid detaining hold upon a fold of the fugitive's
costume; and how at this Miss Smith, so eagerly watching the chase, gave
a gesture of assent and satisfaction over a thing accomplished, as she
hurried toward the pair of them to render her self-appointed service
upon the winner and the loser.

But having for the moment no eyes with which to see, no third person
there witnessed these little interludes of stratagem and design, though
it was by no means hard for them to sense that again a coup had been
scored. What they did not know was that the newest victim was Evelyn
Ballister.

"Oh, somebody else has been nabbed! Goody! Goody! I'm glad I got away,"
shouted Miss Vane, who was by nature exuberant and of a high spirit. "I
wonder who it is now?" She threw back her head, endeavouring to peep out
along her tilted nose. "I hope it's a man this time. It's more
exciting--being pursued by a man."

"Don't forget--no one is to look," warned Miss Smith as keeper of the
rules. "It would spoil the sport if you knew who'll be pursuing you
next."

Already she had stripped the blindfold from about Miss Ballister's head
and with a quick jerk at the master knot had freed her cousin from
bondage. With flirting motions she twisted the folded kerchief into a
rope. Practice in the work seemed to have given to her added deftness
and speed, for in no more time than it takes to tell of it she had drawn
Miss Ballister's smooth arms round behind their owner's back and was
busied at the next step of her offices. Almost it seemed the girl
surrendered reluctantly, as though she were loath to go through with the
rôle that had fallen to her by penalty of being tagged. But if Miss
Smith felt unwillingness in the sudden rebellious tensing of the limbs
she touched, the only response on her part was an added quickness in her
fingers as she placed one veined wrist upon the other and with double
wraps made them snugly fast.

"It hurts--it pinches! You've bound me too tightly," murmured the
prisoner, as involuntarily she strained against the pull of the
trussings.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," whispered Miss Smith. "I'll ease you in just a
second." But despite her promise she made no immediate move to do so.
Instead she concerned herself with lifting the collaret of bells off
over Mrs. Hadley-Smith's head and bestowing it upon the rounded
shoulders of the girl. As she brought the jingling harness down in its
place her hands lingered for one fleeting space where a heavy, quaint,
old-fashioned gold locket--an heirloom that might have come down from a
grandmother's days--was dangling from a gold chain that encircled the
girl's neck. Apparently she caught a finger in the chain and before she
could free it she had given a sharp tug at the chain, thereby lifting
the locket from where it rested against the white flesh of its wearer's
throat.

"I--I'm afraid I can't play," Miss Ballister almost gasped out the
words; then drawing in her breath with a sharp catch: "This room--it's
so warm. I feel a bit faint, really I do. Please untie me. I shan't be
able to go on." Her voice, though pitched still in a low key, was
sharpened with a nervous entreaty.

"I will of course if you really do feel badly," said Miss Smith. Then an
inspiration seemed to come to her. Her eyes sparkled.

"Oh," she said, "I've a beautiful idea! We'll play an April Fools' joke
on them. We'll make them all think you still are here and while they're
dodging about trying to keep away from you we'll slip away together and
be at the other end of the house." By a gesture of one hand and with a
finger of the other across her lips to impress the need of secrecy, she
brought Mrs. Hadley-Smith into the little conspiracy.

"Don't blindfold yourself, Claire," she whispered. "You must help Miss
Ballister and me to play a joke on the others. You are to keep the bells
rattling after we are gone. See? This way."

With that she shifted the leathern loop from about Miss Ballister's neck
and replaced it over Mrs. Hadley-Smith's head which bent forward to
receive it. Smiling in appreciation of the proposed hoax the widow took
a step or two.

"Watch!" whispered Miss Smith in Miss Ballister's ear. "See how well the
trick works. There--what did I tell you?"

For instantly all the players, deceived by the artifice, were falling
back, huddling away from the fancied danger zone as Mrs. Hadley-Smith
went toward them. In the same instant Miss Smith silently had opened the
nearest door and, beckoning to Miss Ballister to follow her, was
tiptoeing softly out into the empty hall. The door closed gently behind
them.

Miss Ballister laughed a forced little laugh. She turned, presenting her
back to Miss Smith.

"Now untie me, please do." In her eagerness to be free she panted out
the words.

"Surely," agreed Miss Smith. "But I think we should get entirely away,
out of sight, before the bells stop ringing and the hoax begins to dawn
on them. There's a little study right here at the end of the hall. Shall
we go there and hide from them? I'll relieve you of that handkerchief
then."

"Yes, yes; but quickly, please!" Miss Ballister's note was insistent;
you might call it pleading, certainly it was agitated. "Being tied this
way gives one such a trapped sort of feeling--it's horrid, really it is.
I'll never let any one tie my hands again so long as I live. It's enough
to give one hysterics--honestly it is.

"I understand. Come on, then."

With one hand slipped inside the curve of the other's elbow Miss Smith
hurried her to the study door masked beneath the broad stairs, and
opening it, ushered her into the inner room.

It contained an occupant: a smallish man with mild-looking gray eyes,
who at their entrance rose up from where he sat, staring steadily at
them. At sight of the unexpected stranger Miss Ballister halted. She
uttered a shocked little exclamation and recoiled, pulling away from her
escort as though she meant to flee back across the threshold. But her
shoulders came against the solid panels.

The door so soon had been shut behind her, cutting off retreat.

"Well?" said the stranger.

Miss Smith stood away from the shrinking figure, leaving it quite alone.

"This is the woman," she said, and suddenly her voice was accusing and
hard. "The stolen paper is in that necklace she is wearing round her
neck."

For proof of the truth of the charge Mullinix had only to look into
their captive's face. Her first little fit of distress coming on her so
suddenly while she was being bound had made her pale. Now her pallor was
ghastly. Little blemishes under the skin stood out in blotches against
its dead white, and out of the mask her eyes glared in a dumb terror.
She made no outcry, but her lips, stiff with fright, twisted to form
words that would not come. Her shoulders heaved _as_--futilely--she
strove to wrench her arms free. Then quickly her head sank forward and
her knees began to bend under her.

"Mind--she's going to faint!" warned Mullinix.

Both of them sprang forward and together they eased the limp shape down
upon the rug. She lay there at their feet, a pitiable little bundle. But
there was no compassion, no mercifulness in their faces as they looked
down at her.

Alongside the slumped form Miss Smith knelt down and felt for the clasp
of the slender chain and undid it. She pressed the catch of the locket
and opened it, and from the small receptacle revealed within, where a
miniature might once have been, she took forth a tightly folded half
sheet of yellow parchment paper, which had it been wadded into a ball
would have made a sphere about the size of the kernel of a fair-sized
filbert.

Mullinix grasped it eagerly, pressed it out flat and took one glance at
the familiar signature, written below the close-set array of seemingly
meaningless and unrelated letters.

"You win, young lady," he said, and there was thanksgiving and
congratulation in the way he said it. "But how did you do it? How was it
done?"

She looked up from where she was casting off the binding about the
relaxed hands of the unconscious culprit.

"It wasn't hard--after the hints you gave me. I made up my mind
yesterday that the paper would probably be hidden in a piece of
jewelry--in a bracelet or under the setting of a ring possibly; or in a
hair ornament possibly; and I followed that theory. Two tests that I
made convinced me that Madame Ybanca was innocent; they quite eliminated
Madame Ybanca from the equation. So I centred my efforts on this girl
and she betrayed herself soon enough."

"Betrayed herself, how?"

"An individual who has been temporarily deprived of sight will
involuntarily keep his or her hands upon any precious object that is
concealed about the person--I suppose you know that. And as I watched
her after I had blindfolded her----"

"After you had what?"

"Blindfolded her. Oh, I kept my promise," she added, reading the
expression on his face. "There was no force used, and no violence. She
suffered herself to be blindfolded--indeed, I did the blinding myself.
Well, after she had been blindfolded with a thick silk handkerchief I
watched her, and I saw that while with one hand she groped her way
about, she kept the other hand constantly clutched upon this locket, as
though to make sure of the safety of something there. So then I was
sure; but I was made doubly sure by her actions while I was tying her
hands behind her. And then, after I had her tied and helpless, I could
experiment further--and I did--and again my experiment convinced me I
was on the right track."

"Yes--but tying her hands--didn't she resist that?"

"No; you see, she let me tie her hands too. It was a part of a game.
They all played it."

"Some of the others were blinded, eh?"

"All of them were; every single one of them was. They still are, I
imagine, providing my cousin is doing her part--and I am sure she is.
There'll be no suspicion of the truth, even after their eyes are
unhooded. Claire has her explanations all ready. They'll miss this girl
of course and wonder what has become of her, but the explanation
provides for that: She was taken with a sudden indisposition and slipped
away with me, not wishing to spoil the fun by staying on after she
began to feel badly. That's the story they'll be told, and there's no
reason why they shouldn't accept it as valid either. See! She's coming
to."

"Then I'll get out and leave you to attend to her. Keep her here in this
room until she's better, and then you may send her back to her hotel.
You might tell her that there is to be no prosecution and no unpleasant
notoriety for her if only she keeps her mouth shut about all that's
happened. Probably she'll be only too glad to do that, for I figure she
has learned a lesson."

"You won't want to question her, then, after she has been revived?"

"It's quite unnecessary. I have the other ends of the case in my hands.
And besides I must go outside to meet our dear friend Geltmann when he
arrives. He should be driving up to the house pretty soon--I had a
telephone message five minutes ago telling me to expect him shortly. So
I'm going out to break some sad news to him on the sidewalk. He doesn't
know it yet, but he's starting to-night on a long, long trip; a trip
that will take him clear out of this country--and he won't ever, ever be
coming back.

"But I'll call on you to-morrow, if I may--after I've seen to getting
him off for the West. I want to thank you again in behalf of the Service
for the wonderful thing you've done so wonderfully well. And I want to
hear more from you about that game you played."

"I'll do better than that," she promised: "I'll let you read about it in
a book--an old secondhand book, it is; you saw it yesterday. Maybe I can
convert you to reading old books; they're often full of things that
people in your line should know."

"Lady," he said reverently, "you've made a true believer of me
already."



CHAPTER IX

THE BULL CALLED EMILY


We were sitting at a corner table in a certain small restaurant hard by
where Sixth Avenue's L structure, like an overgrown straddlebug, wades
through the restless currents of Broadway at a sharpened angle. The dish
upon which we principally dined was called on the menu _Chicken a la
Marengo_. We knew why. Marengo, by all accounts, was a mighty tough
battle, and this particular chicken, we judged, had never had any
refining influences in its ill-spent life. From its present defiant
attitude in a cooked form we figured it had pipped the shell with a
burglar's jimmy and joined the Dominecker Kid's gang before it shed its
pin-feathers. There were two of us engaged in the fruitless attack upon
its sinewy tissues--the present writer and his old un-law-abiding
friend,--Scandalous Doolan.

For a period of minutes Scandalous wrestled with the thews of one of the
embattled fowl's knee-joints. After a struggle in which the honours
stood practically even, he laid down his knife and flirted a thumb
toward a bottle of peppery sauce which stood on my side of the table.

"Hey, bo," he requested, "pass the liniment, will you? This sea gull's
got the rheumatism."

The purport of the remark, taken in connection with the gesture which
accompanied it, was plain enough to my understanding; but for the nonce
I could not classify the idiom in which Scandalous couched his request.
It could not be Underworld jargon; it was too direct and at the same
time too picturesque. Moreover, the Underworld, as a rule, concerns
itself only with altering such words and such expressions as strictly
figure in the business affairs of its various crafts and pursuits. Nor
to me did it sound like the language of the circus-lot, for in such case
it probably would have been more complex. So by process of elimination I
decided it was of the slang code of the burlesque and vaudeville stage,
with which, as with the other two, Scandalous had a thorough
acquaintance. I felt sure, then, that something had set his mind to
working backward along the memory-grooves of some one or another of his
earlier experiences in the act-producing line of endeavour, and that,
with proper pumping, a story might be forthcoming. As it turned out, I
was right.

"Where did you get that one, Scandalous?" I asked craftily. "Your own
coinage, or did you borrow it from somebody else?"

He only grinned cryptically. After a bit he hailed the attendant waiter,
who because he plainly suffered from fallen arches had already been
rechristened by Scandalous as Battling Insteps.

"Say, Battling," he said, "take away the emu; he's still the undefeated
champion of the ages. Tidy him up a little and serve him to the next guy
that feels like he needs exercise more'n he does nourishment. The gravy
may be mussed up a trifle, but the old ring-general ain't lost an ounce.
I fought him three rounds and didn't put a bruise on him."

"Couldn't I bring you somethin' else?" said the waiter. "The Wiener
Schnitzel with noodles is very----"

"Nix," said Scandalous; "if the cassowary licked us, what chance would
we stand against the bison? That'll be all for the olio; I'll go right
into the after-show now. Slip me a dipper of straight chicory and one of
those Flor de Boiled Dinners, and then you can break the bad news to my
pal here." By this I knew he meant that he craved a cup of black coffee
and one of the domestic cigars to which he was addicted, and that I
could pay the check.

He turned to me:

"How're you goin' to finish your turn?" he asked. "They've got mince pie
here like Mother Emma Goldman used to make. Only you want to be careful
it don't explode in your hand."

I shook my head. "I'll nibble at these," I said, "until you get
through." And I reached for a little saucer of salted peanuts that
lurked in the shadow of the bowl containing the olives and the celery.
For this, you should know, was a table d'hôte establishment, and no such
place is complete without its drowned olives and its wilted celery.

"Speaking of peanuts," he said, "I don't seem to care deeply for such. I
lost my taste for them dainties quite some time back."

"What was the occasion?" I prompted, for I saw the light of reminiscence
smouldering in his eye.

"It wasn't no occasion," he said; "it was a catastrophe. Did I ever
happen to tell you about the time I furnished the financial backing for
Windy Jordan and his educated bull, and what happened when the blow-off
came?"

I shook my head and in silence hearkened.

"It makes quite an earful," he continued. "Business for gents in my
profession was very punk here on the Main Stem that season. By reason of
the dishonest police it was mighty hard for an honest grafter to make a
living. It certainly was depressing to trim an Ezra for his roll and
then have to cut up the net proceeds with so many central-office guys
that you had to go back and borrow car-fare from the sucker to get home
on. Besides, I was somewhat lonely and low in my peace of mind on
account of my regular side-kick the Sweet Caps Kid being in the
hospital. He'd made the grievous mistake of trying to sell a
half-interest in the Aquarium to a visiting Swede. Right in the middle
of the negotiations something came up that made the Swede doubtful that
all was not well, and he betrayed his increasing misgivings by hauling
out a set of old-fashioned genuine antique brass knucks and nicking up
Sweet Caps' scalp to such an extent my unfortunate companion had to
spend three weeks on the flat of his back in the casualty ward, with a
couple of doctors coming in every morning to replace the divots. Pending
his recovery, I was sort of figuring on visiting Antioch, Gilead, Zion
and other religious towns up State with a view of selling the haymakers
some Bermuda oats for their fall planting, when along came Windy Jordan
and broached a proposition.

"This here Windy Jordan was one of them human draughts; hence the name.
At all hours there was a strong breeze blowing out of him in the form of
words. If he wasn't conversing, it was a sign he had acute sore throat.
But to counteract that fault he was the sole proprietor of the smartest
and the largest bull on this side of the ocean, which said bull answered
to the name of Emily."

"Did you say a bull?" I asked.

"Sure I said a bull. Why not? Ain't you wise to what a bull is?"

"Certainly I am, but a bull named Emily----"

"Listen, little one: To them that follow after the red wagon and the
white top, all elephants is bulls, disregardless of genders, just the
same as all regular bulls is he-cows to refined maiden ladies residin'
in New England and points adjacent. Only, show-people ain't got any
false modesty that way. In the show-business a bull is a bull, whether
it's a lady-bull or a gentleman-bull. So very properly this here bull,
being one of the most refined and cultured members of her sex, answers
to the Christian name of Emily.

"Well, this Emily is not only the joy and the pride of Windy Jordan's
life, but she's his entire available assets. Bull and bulline, she'd
been with him from early childhood. In fact, Windy was the only parent
Emily ever knew, she having been left a helpless orphan on account of a
railroad wreck to the old Van Orten shows back yonder in
eighteen-eighty-something. So Windy, he took her as a prattling infant
in arms when she didn't weigh an ounce over a ton and a half, and he
adopted her and educated her and pampered her and treated her as a
member of his own family, only better, until she repaid him by becoming
not only the largest bull in the business but the most highly
cultivated.

"Emily knew nearly everything there was to know, and what she didn't
know she suspected very strongly. Likewise, as I came to find out later,
she was extremely grateful for small favours and most affectionate by
nature. To be sure, being affectionate with a bull about the size and
general specifications of a furniture-car had its drawbacks. She was
liable to lean up against you in a playful, kittenish kind of a way, and
cave in most of your ribs. It was like having a violent flirtation with
a landslide to venture up clost to Emily when she was in one of her
tomboy moods. I've know' her to nudge a friend with one of her front
elbows and put both his shoulder-blades out of socket. But she never
meant no harm by it, never. It was just a little way she had.

"It seems like Windy and Emily were aiming to join out that season with
a tent-show, but the deal fell through some way, and for the past few
weeks Windy had been infesting a lodging-house for members of the
profession over here on East Eleventh Street, and Emily had been in a
livery barn down in Greenwich Village, just naturally eating her old
India-rubber head off. Windy, having run low as to coin, wasn't able to
pay up Emily's back board, and the liveryman was holding her for the
bill.

"So, hearing some way that I'm fairly well upholstered with currency, he
comes to me and suggests that if I'll dig up what's necessary to get
Emily out of hock, he can snare a line of bookings in vaudeville, and
we'll all three go out on the two-a-day together, him as trainer and me
as manager and Emily as the principal attraction. The proceeds is to be
cut up fifty-fifty as between me and him.

"The notion don't sound like such a bad one. That was back in the days
when refined vaudeville was running very strongly to trained-animal acts
and leading ladies that had quit leading but hadn't found out about it
yet. Nowadays them ex-queens of tragedy can go into the movies and draw
down so much money that if they only get half as much as they say
they're getting, they're getting almost twice as much as anybody would
give 'em; but them times, vaudeville was their one best bet. And next to
emotional actrines who could emosh twicet daily for twenty minutes on a
stretch, without giving way anywhere, a good trained-animal turn had the
call. It might be a troupe of educated Potomac shad or an educated ape
or a city-broke Gila monster or a talking horse or what not. In our case
'twas Emily, the bull.

"First thing, we goes down to the livery-stable where Emily is spending
the Indian summer and consuming half her weight in dry provender every
twenty-four hours. The proprietor of this here fodder-emporium is named
McGuire, and when I tells him I'm there to settle Emily's account in
full, he carries on as though entirely overcome by joyfulness--not that
he's got any grudge against Emily, understand, but for other good and
abundant sufficiencies. He states that so far as Emily's personal
conduct is concerned, during her enforced sojourn in his midst, she's
always deported herself like a perfect lady. But she takes up an awful
lot of room, and one of the hands is now on the verge of nervous
prostration from overexertions incurred in packing hay to her, and, it
seems she's addicted to nightmares. She gets to dreaming that a mouse
nearly an inch and a half long is after her,--all bulls is terrible
afraid, you know, that some day a mouse is going to come along and eat
'em,--and when she has them kind of delusions, she cries out in her
sleep and tosses around and maybe knocks down a couple of steel beams or
busts in a row of box-stalls or something trivial like that. Then, right
on top of them petty annoyances, McGuire some days previous has made the
mistake of feeding Emily peanuts, which peanuts, as he then finds out,
is her favourite tidbit.

"'Gents,' says McGuire to me and Windy Jordan, 'I shore did make the
error of my life when I done that act of kindness. I merely meant them
peanuts as a special treat, but Emily figures it out that they're the
start of a fixed habit,' he says. 'Ever since then, if I forget to bring
her in her one five-cent bag of peanuts per diem, per day, she calls
personally to inquire into the oversight. She waits very patient and
ladylike until about eleven o'clock in the morning, and if I ain't made
good by then, she just pulls up her leg hobble by the roots and drops in
on me to find out what's the meaning of the delay.

"'She ain't never rough nor overbearing, but it interferes with trade
for me to be sitting here in my office at the front of the stable
talking business with somebody, and all of a sudden the front half of
the largest East Indian elephant in the world shoves three or four
thousand pounds of herself in at that side door and begins waving her
trunk around in the air, meanwhile uttering fretful, complaining sounds.
I've lost two or three customers that way,' he says. 'They get right up
and go away sudden,' he says, 'and they don't never come back no more,
not even for their hats and umbrellas. They send for 'em.

"'That ain't the worst of it,' he says. Yesterday,' he says, 'I rented
out my whole string of coaches and teams for a burial turnout over here
on McDougal Street. Being as it's a big occasion, I'm driving the first
carriage containing the sorrowing family of deceased. Naturally, with a
job like that on my hands, I don't think about Emily at all; my mind's
all occupied up with making the affair pass off in a tasty and pleasant
fashion for all concerned. Well, the cortege is just leaving the late
residence of the remainders, when around the corner comes bulging Emily,
followed at a suitable distance by eight or nine thousand of the
populace. She's missed me, and she wants her peanuts, and she's been
trailing me; and now, by heck, she's found me.

"'Emily gives a loud, glad snort of recognition, wheels herself around
and then falls in alongside the front hack and gets ready to accompany
us, all the time poking her snout over at me and uttering plaintive
remarks in East Indian to me. Gents,' he says, 'you can see for
yourselves, a thing like that, occurring right at the beginning of a
funeral procession, is calculated to distract popular attention away
from the main attraction. Under the circumstances I wouldn't blame no
corpse on earth for feeling jealous--let alone a popular and prominent
corpse like this here one was, a party that had been a district leader
at Tammany Hall in his day, and after that the owner of the most
fashionable retail liquor store in the entire neighbourhood, and who's
now riding along with solid silver handles up and down both sides, and
style just wrote all over him. Here, with an utter disregard for
expense, he's putting on all this dog for his last public appearance,
and a strange elephant comes along and grabs the show right away from
him.

"'The bereaved family don't care for it, neither. I gathers as much from
the remarks they're making out of the windows of the coach. But Emily
just won't take a hint. She sticks along until I stops the procession
and goes in a guinea fruitstore on the next block and buys her a bag of
peanuts. That's all she wants. She takes it, and she leaves us and goes
on back to the stable.

"'But, as the feller says, it practically ruined the entire day for them
berefts. I lost their patronage right there--and them a nice sickly
family, too. A lot of the friends and relatives also resented it; they
were telling me so all the way back from the cemet'ry. There ain't no
real harm in Emily, and I've got powerfully attached to her, but taking
one thing with another, I ain't regretting none that you've come down
all organised financially to take her out of pawn. You have my best
wishes, and so has she.'

"So we settles up the account to date, which the same makes quite a nick
in the bank-roll, and then we goes back to the rear of the stable where
Emily is quartered, and she falls on Windy's neck, mighty nigh
dislocating it, and he introduces me to Emily, and we shakes hands
together,--I means trunks,--and then Windy unshackles her, and she
follows us along just as gentle as a kitten to them freight-yards over
on Tenth Avenue where her future travelling home is waiting for her.
It's a box-car, with one end rigged up with bunks as a boudoir for me
and Windy, and the rest of it fitted out as a private stateroom for
Emily.

"From that time on, for quite a spell, we're just the same as one big
happy family, as we goes a-jauntily touring from place to place.

"We're playin' the Big Time, which means week stands and no hard jumps.
Emily's a hit, a knock-out and a riot wherever she appears. She knows it
too, but success don't go to her head, and she don't never get no
attacks of this here complaint which they calls temper'ment. I always
figgered out that temper'ment, when a grand wopra singster has it, is
just plain old temper when it afflicts a bricklayer. I don't know what
form it would take if it should seize on a bull, but Emily appears to be
absolutely immune. Give her a ton of hay and one sack of peanuts a day,
and she's just as placid as a great gross of guinea pigs. Behind the
scenes she never makes no trouble, but chums with the stage-hands and
even sometimes with the actors, thus proving that she ain't stuck up.

"When the time comes for Emily to do her turn, she just goes ambling on
behind Windy and cuts up more didoes than any trick-mule that ever
lived. She smokes a pipe, and she toots on a brass horn, and waits on
table while Windy pretends to eat, and stands on her head, and plays
baseball with him and so forth and so on, for fifteen minutes, winding
up by waving the Amurikin flag over her head. But all this time she's
keeping one eye on me, where I'm standing in the wings with a sack of
peanuts in my pocket waiting for her to come off. Every time she works
over toward my side of the stage, she makes little hoydenish remarks to
me in her native language. It ain't long until I can make out everything
she says. I've been pedling the bull too long not to be able to
understand it when spoke by a native.

"For upwards of two months things goes along just beautiful. Then we
strikes a town out in Illinois where business ain't what it used to be,
if indeed it ever was. Along about the middle of the week the young
feller that's doing the press-work for the house comes to me and asks me
if I ain't got an idea in my system that might make a good press-stunt.

"There's an inspiration comes to me and I suggests to him that maybe he
might go ahead and make an announcement that following the Saturday
matinêe, Emily the Pluperfect, Ponderous, Pachydermical Performer,
direct from the court of the reigning Roger of Simla County, India, will
hold a reception on the stage to meet her little friends, each and every
one of whom will be expected to bring her a bag of peanuts.

"'That listens all right,' says this lad, 'providing she likes peanuts.'

"'Providing she likes 'em?' I says. 'Son,' I says, 'if that bull ever
has to take the cure for the drug-habit, it'll be on account of peanuts.
If you don't think she likes peanuts, a dime will win you a trip to the
Holy Lands,' I says. 'Why,' I says, 'Emily's middle name is _Peanuts_.
Offhand,' I says, 'I don't know precisely how many peanuts there are,' I
says, 'because if I ever heard the exact figures, I've forgot 'em, but
I'd like to lay you a little eight to five that Emily can chamber all
the peanuts in the world and then set down right where she happens to
be, to wait for next year's crop to come onto the market. That's how
much she cares for peanuts,' I says.

"Well, that convinces him, and he hurries off to write his little piece
about Emily's peanut reception. The next day, which is Friday, the
announcement is in both the papers. Saturday after lunch when I strolls
round to the show-shop for the matinêe, one glance around the corner
from the stage entrance proves to me that our little social function is
certainly starting out to be a success. The street in front is lined on
both sides with dagos with peanut-stands, selling peanuts to the
population as fast as they can pass 'em out; and there's a long line,
mainly kids, at the box-office. I goes on in and takes a flash at the
front of the house through the peephole in the curtain, and the place is
already jam full. If there's one kid out there, there's a thousand, and
every tiny tot has got a sack of peanuts clutched in his or her chubby
fist, as the case may be. And say, listen: there's a smell in the air
like a prairie fire running through a Georgia goober-king's plantation.

"I goes back to where Emily is hitched, and she's weaving to and fro on
her legs and watering at the mouth until she just naturally can't
control her own riparian rights. She's done smelt that smell too.

"'Honey gal,' I says to her, 'it shore looks to me like you're due to
get your fullupances of the succulential ground-pea of the Sunny
Southland this day.'

"She's so grateful she tries to kiss me, but I ducks. All through her
turn she dribbles from the chin like a defective fire-hydrant, and I
can tell that she ain't got her mind on her business. She's too busy
thinking about peanuts. When she's got through and taken her bows, the
manager leaves the curtain up and Emily steps back behind a rope that a
couple of the hands stretches acrosst the stage, with me standing on one
side of her and Windy on the other; and then a couple more hands shoves
a wooden runway acrosst the orchestra rail down into one of the side
aisles; and then the house-manager invites Emily's young friends to
march up the runway and crosst over from left to right, handing out
their free-will offerings to her as they pass.

"During this pleasant scene, as the manager explains, Emily's dauntless
owner, the world-famous Professor Zendavesta Jordan, meaning Windy, will
lecture on the size, dimensions, habits and quaint peculiarities of this
wondrous creature. That last part suits Windy right down to the ground,
him being, as I told you before, the kind of party who's never so happy
as when he's started his mouth and gone away and left it running.

"For maybe a half a minute after the house-manager finishes his little
spiel, the kids sort of hang back. Then the rush starts; and take it
from me, little one, it's some considerable rush. Here they come up that
runway--tiny tots in blue, and tiny tots in red, and tiny tots in white;
tiny tots with their parents, guardians or nurses, and tiny tots
without none; tiny tots that are beginning to outgrow the tiny tottering
stage, and other varieties of tiny tots too numerous to mention. And
clutched in each and every tiny tot's chubby hand is a bag of peanuts,
five-cent size or ten-cent size, but mostly five-cent size. As Emily
sees 'em coming, she smiles until she looks in the face like one of
these here old-fashioned red-brick Colonial fireplaces, with an
overgrown black Christmas stocking hanging down from the centre of the
mantel.

"Up comes the first and foremost of the tiny tots. The Santy Claus
stocking reaches out and annexes the free-will offering. There's a faint
crunching sound; that there sack of peanuts has went to the bourne from
out which no peanut, up until that time, has ever been known to return;
and Emily is smiling benevolently and reaching out for the next sack.
And behind the second kid is the third kid, and behind the third kid
still more kids, and as far as the human eye can reach, there ain't
nothing on the horizon of that show-shop but just kids--kids and
peanuts.

"It certainly was a beauteous spectacle to behold so many of the dear
little ones advancing up that runway with peanuts. To myself I says: 'I
guess I'm a bad little suggester, eh, what? Here's Emily getting all
this free provender and Windy talking his fool head off and the house
getting all this advertising and none of us out a cent for any part of
it.'

"In about ten minutes, though, I'm struck by the fact that Emily's
original outburst of enthusiasm appears slightly on the wane. It seems
to me she ain't reaching out for the free-will offerings with quite so
much eagersomeness as she was displaying a spell back. Also I takes
notice that the wrinkles in her tum-tum are filling out so that she's
beginning to lose some of that deflated or punctured look so common
amongst bulls.

"Still, I don't have no apprehensions, but thinks to myself that any
bull which can eat half a ton of hay for breakfast certainly is
competent to take in a couple of wagon-loads of peanuts for five o'clock
tea. Even at that I figgers that it won't do no harm to coach Emily
along a little.

"'Go to it, baby mine,' I says to her. 'You ain't hardly started. Here's
a chance,' I says, 'to establish a new world's record for peanuts.'

"That remark appears to spur her up for a minute or so, but something
seems to keep on warning me that her heart ain't in the work to the
extent it has been. Windy don't see nothing out of the way, he being
congenially engaged in shooting off his face, but I'm more or less
concerned by certain mighty significant facts. For one thing, Emily
ain't eatin' sacks and all any more; she's emptying the peanuts out and
throwing the paper bags aside. Likewise her work ain't clean and smooth
like it was. Her underlip is swinging down, and she's beginning to
drool loose goobers off the lower end of it, and her low but intelligent
forehead is all furrowed up as if with deep thought.

"Observing all of which, I says to myself, I says: 'If ever Emily should
start to cramp, the world's cramping record is also in a fair way to be
busted this afternoon. I certainly do hope,' I says, 'that Emily don't
go and get herself overextended.'

"You see, I'm trusting for the best, because I realises that it wouldn't
do to call off the reception right in the middle of it on account of the
disappointment amongst the tiny tots that ain't passed in review yet and
the general ill-feeling that's sure to follow.

"I should say about two hundred tiny tots have gone by, with maybe five
hundred more still in line waiting their turn, when there halts in front
of Emily a fancy-dressed tiny tot which he must've been the favourite
tiny tot of the richest man in town, because he's holding in his hands a
bag of peanuts fully a foot deep. It couldn't of cost a cent less'n half
a dollar, that bag. Emily reaches for the contribution, fondles it for a
second or two and starts to upend it down her throat; and then with a
low, sad, hopeless cry she drops it on the stage and sort of shrugs her
front legs forward and stands there with her head bent and her ears
twitching same as if she's listening for something that's still a long
ways off but coming closter fast. And at that precise instant I sees the
first cramp start from behind her right-hand shoulder-blade and begin
to work south. Say, it was just like being present at the birth of an
earthquake.

"Moving slow and deliberate, Emily turns around in her tracks, shivering
all over, and then I sees the cramp ripple along until it reaches her
cargo-hold and strikes inward. It lifts all four of her feet clean off
the floor, and when she comes down again, she comes down travelling.
There's some scenery in her way, and some furniture and props and one
thing and other, but she don't trouble to go round 'em. She goes through
'em, as being a more simple and direct way, and a minute later she steps
out through the stage entrance into the crowded marts of trade with half
of a centre door fancy hung around her neck. Me and Windy is trailing
along, urging her to be ca'm but keeping at a reasonably safe distance
while doing so. Behind us as we comes forth we can hear the voices of
many tiny tots upraised in skeered cries.

"Being a Saturday afternoon, the business section is fairly well crowded
with people, and I suppose it's only natural that the unexpected
appearance upon the main street of the largest bull in captivity,
wearing part of a cottage set for a collar and making sounds through her
snout like a switch-engine in distress, should cause some surprised
comment amongst the populace. In fact, I should say the surprised
comment might of been heard for fully half a mile away.

"Emily hesitates as she reaches the sidewalk, as though she ain't
decided yet in her own mind just where she'll go, and then her agonised
eye falls on all them peanut-roasters standing in a double row alongside
the curbings on both sides of the street. The Italian and Greek gents
who owns 'em are already departing hence in a hurried manner, but
they've left their outfits behind, and right away it's made plain to me
by her actions that Emily regards the sight as a part of a general
conspiracy to feed her some peanuts when she already has more peanuts
than what she really required for personal use. She reaches out for the
first peanut-machine in the row, curls her trunk around it and slams it
against a brick wall so hard that it immediately begins to look
something like a flivver car which has been in a severe collision and
something like a tin accordion that's had hard treatment from a careless
owner. With this for a beginning, Emily starts in to get real rough with
them roasters. For about three minutes it's rainin' hot charcoal and hot
peanuts and wooden wheels and metal cranks and sheet-iron drums all over
that part of the fair city.

"Having put the enemy's batteries out of commission, Emily now swings
around and heads back in the opposite direction with everybody giving
her plenty of room. I heard afterward that some citizens went miles out
of their way in order to give her room. Emily's snout is aimed straight
up as though she's craving air, and her tail is standing straight out
behind, stiff as a poker except that about every few seconds a painful
quiver runs through it from the end that's nearest Emily to the end
that's furtherest away from her. Windy is hoofing it along about fifty
feet back of her, uttering soothing remarks and entreating her to listen
to reason, and I'm trailing Windy; but for oncet Emily don't hearken
none to her master's voice.

"Out of the tail of my eye I see a fat lady start to faint, and when
she's right in the middle of the faint, change her mind about it and do
a back flip into a plumber's shop, the purtiest you ever seen. I see a
policeman dodge out from behind a lamp-post as Emily approaches, and
reach for his gun. I yells to him not to shoot, but it's unnecessary
advice, because he's only chucking his hardware away so's to lighten him
up for a couple of hundred yards of straightaway sprinting. I see Emily
make a side-swipe with her nozzle at a stout gent who's in the act of
climbing a telegraph-pole hand over hand. She misses the seat of his
pants by a fraction of an inch, and as he reaches the first cross-arm
out of her reach, and drapes his form acrosst it, the reason for her
sudden animosity towards him is explained. A glass jar falls out of one
of his hip pockets and is dashed to fragments on the cruel bricks far
below, and its contents is then seen to be peanut butter.

"I sees these things as if in a troubled dream, and then, all of a
sudden, me and Emily are all alone in a deserted city. Exceptin' for us
two, there ain't a soul in sight nowheres. Even Windy has mysteriously
vanished. And now Emily, in passing along, happens to look inside a
fruitstore, and through the window her unhappy glance rests upon a bin
full of peanuts. So she just presses her face against the pane like
_Little Mary_ in the po'm, and at that the entire front end of that
establishment seems to give away in a very simultaneous manner, and
Emily reaches in through the orifices and plucks out the contents of
that there store, including stock, fixtures and good will, and throws
'em backward over her shoulder in a petulant and hurried way. But I
takes notice that she throws the bin of peanuts much farther than the
grapefruit or the pineapples or the glass show-cases containing the
stick candy. The proprietor must of been down in the cellar at the
moment, else I judge she'd of fetched him forth too.

"Thus we continues on our way, me and Emily, in the midst of a vast but
boisterous solitude,--for while we can't see the inhabitants, we can
hear 'em,--until we arrive at the foot of Main Street, and there we
beholds the railroad freight-depot looming before us. I can tell that
Emily is wishful to pass through this structure. There ain't no opening
on the nigh side of it, but that don't hinder Emily none. She gives one
heave with her shoulders and makes a door and passes on in and out again
on the far side by the same methods. I arrives around the end of the
shed just in time to see her slide down a steep grade through somebody's
truck-garden and sink down upon her heaving flank in a little hollow. As
I halts upon the brow of the hill, she looks up at me very reproachful,
and I can see that her prevalent complexion is beginning to turn awful
wan and pale. Son, take it from me, when a full-grown she-bull gets wan,
she's probably the wannest thing there is in the world.

"'Stand back, Scandalous,' she moans to me in bull-language. 'I don't
bear you no grudge,--it was a mistake in judgment on the part of all of
us,--but stand back and give me room. Up till this time,' she says,
'I've been po'rly, but something seems to tell me that now I'm about to
be what you might call real indisposed.'

"Which she certainly was.

"So, after a while, a part of the police force come along, stepping slow
and cautious, and they halts themselves in the protecting shadows of the
freight-shed or what's left of it, and they beckon me to come near 'em,
and when I responds, they tell me I'm under arrest for inciting riots
and disturbances and desecration of property and various other crimes
and misdemeanours. I suggests to 'em that if they're really craving to
arrest anybody, they should oughter begin with Emily, but they don't
fall in with the idea. They marches me up to the police-station, looking
over their shoulders at frequent intervals to be sure the anguished
Emily ain't coming too, and when we get there, I find Windy in the act
of being forcibly detained in the front office.

"Immediately after I arrived, the payoff started and continued unabated
for quite a period of time. First we settled in full with the late
proprietors of them defunct peanut-roasting machines; and then the owner
of the wrecked fruitstore, and the man that owned the opera-house, and
the stout lady who'd fainted from the waist up but was now entirely
recovered, and the fleshy gent who'd climbed the telegraph-pole, and the
railroad agent and some several hundred others who had claims for
property damage or mental anguish or shockages to their nervous systems
or shortage of breath or loss of trade or other injuries--all these were
in line, waiting.

"We was reduced to a case ten-spot before the depot agent, who came
last, lined up for his'n; but he took one good look and said he wouldn't
be a hog about it--we could keep that ten-specker, and he'd be satisfied
just to take over our private car in consideration of the loss inflicted
by Emily to his freight-shed. I was trying to tell him how much we
appreciated his kindness, but the chief of police wouldn't let me
finish--said he couldn't permit that kind of language to be used in a
police-station, said it might corrupt the morals of some of his young
policemen.

"So everything passed off very pleasant and satisfactory at the
police-station, but Emily spent the evening and the ensuing night right
where she was, voicing her regrets at frequent intervals. Along toward
morning she felt easier, although sadly depleted in general appearance,
and about daylight her and Windy bid me good-by and went off
acrosst-country afoot, aiming to catch up with Ringbold Brothers'
circus, which was reported to be operating somewhere in that vicinity.
As for me, I'd had enough for the time being of the refined amusement
business. I took my half of that lone sawbuck which was all that was
left to us from our frittered and dissipated fortunes, and I started
east, travelling second class and living very frugally on the way. And
that was about all that happened, worthy of note, with the exception of
a violent personal dispute occurring between me and a train-butch coming
out of Ashtabula."

"What was the cause?" I asked as Scandalous stood up and smoothed down
his waistcoat.

"I had just one thin dime left," said Scandalous, "and I explained my
predicament to the butch, saying as how I wanted what was the most
filling thing he had for the price--and he offered me a sack of
peanuts!"



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's Notes:

   Obvious punctuation errors corrected.

   Inconsistent hyphenation was retained where a majority
   consensus could not be ascertained.

   Page vii, "wrs" changed to "was" (Second was April)

   Page 88, "noisely" changed to "noisily" (noisily up too)





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "From Place to Place" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home