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Title: Once Upon A Time
Author: Davis, Richard Harding, 1864-1916
Language: English
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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 "Once Upon A Time" ***

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[Illustration: "Then, how did you suppose your sister was going to read
it?"]



ONCE UPON A TIME


BY


RICHARD HARDING DAVIS



ILLUSTRATED



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
NEW YORK 1912


Copyright, 1910, by

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



TO

GOUVERNEUR MORRIS



CONTENTS

A Question of Latitude               1

The Spy                             37

The Messengers                      73

A Wasted Day                        97

A Charmed Life                     125

The Amateur                        151

The Make-Believe Man               193

Peace Manoeuvres                   247



ILLUSTRATIONS

"Then, how did you suppose your sister was going to
read it?"                                         _Frontispiece_

                                                     FACING PAGE

Schnitzel was smiling to himself                             52

"Schnitzel, you certainly are a magnificent liar"            58

"I think," said Ainsley, "they have lost their way"          90

"Was it you," demanded young Andrews, in a puzzled
tone, "or your brother who tried to knife
me?"                                                        108

Mr. Thorndike stood irresolute, and then sank back
into his chair                                              116

"Do I look as easy as that, or are you just naturally
foolish?"                                                   182

She was easily the prettiest and most striking-looking
woman in the room                                           188



A QUESTION OF LATITUDE


Of the school of earnest young writers at whom the word muckraker had
been thrown in opprobrium, and by whom it had been caught up as a title
of honor, Everett was among the younger and less conspicuous. But, if in
his skirmishes with graft and corruption he had failed to correct the
evils he attacked, from the contests he himself had always emerged with
credit. His sincerity and his methods were above suspicion. No one had
caught him in misstatement, or exaggeration. Even those whom he
attacked, admitted he fought fair. For these reasons, the editors of
magazines, with the fear of libel before their eyes, regarded him as a
"safe" man, the public, feeling that the evils he exposed were due to
its own indifference, with uncomfortable approval, and those he
attacked, with impotent anger. Their anger was impotent because, in the
case of Everett, the weapons used by their class in "striking back" were
denied them. They could not say that for money he sold sensations,
because it was known that a proud and wealthy parent supplied him with
all the money he wanted. Nor in his private life could they find
anything to offset his attacks upon the misconduct of others. Men had
been sent to spy upon him, and women to lay traps. But the men reported
that his evenings were spent at his club, and, from the women, those who
sent them learned only that Everett "treats a lady just as though she
_is_ a lady."

Accordingly, when, with much trumpeting, he departed to investigate
conditions in the Congo, there were some who rejoiced.

The standard of life to which Everett was accustomed was high. In his
home in Boston it had been set for him by a father and mother who,
though critics rather than workers in the world, had taught him to
despise what was mean and ungenerous, to write the truth and abhor a
compromise. At Harvard he had interested himself in municipal reform,
and when later he moved to New York, he transferred his interest to the
problems of that city. His attack upon Tammany Hall did not utterly
destroy that organization, but at once brought him to the notice of the
editors. By them he was invited to tilt his lance at evils in other
parts of the United States, at "systems," trusts, convict camps,
municipal misrule. His work had met with a measure of success that
seemed to justify _Lowell's Weekly_ in sending him further afield; and
he now was on his way to tell the truth about the Congo. Personally,
Everett was a healthy, clean-minded enthusiast. He possessed all of the
advantages of youth, and all of its intolerance. He was supposed to be
engaged to Florence Carey, but he was not. There was, however, between
them an "understanding," which understanding, as Everett understood it,
meant that until she was ready to say, "I am ready," he was to think of
her, dream of her, write love-letters to her, and keep himself only for
her. He loved her very dearly, and, having no choice, was content to
wait. His content was fortunate, as Miss Carey seemed inclined to keep
him waiting indefinitely.

Except in Europe, Everett had never travelled outside the limits of his
own country. But the new land toward which he was advancing held no
terrors. As he understood it, the Congo was at the mercy of a corrupt
"ring." In every part of the United States he had found a city in the
clutch of a corrupt ring. The conditions would be the same, the methods
he would use to get at the truth would be the same, the result for
reform would be the same.

The English steamer on which he sailed for Southampton was one leased
by the Independent State of the Congo, and, with a few exceptions, her
passengers were subjects of King Leopold. On board, the language was
French, at table the men sat according to the rank they held in the
administration of the jungle, and each in his buttonhole wore the tiny
silver star that showed that for three years, to fill the storehouses of
the King of the Belgians, he had gathered rubber and ivory. In the
smoking-room Everett soon discovered that passengers not in the service
of that king, the English and German officers and traders, held aloof
from the Belgians. Their attitude toward them seemed to be one partly of
contempt, partly of pity.

"Are your English protectorates on the coast, then, so much better
administered?" Everett asked.

The English Coaster, who for ten years in Nigeria had escaped fever and
sudden death, laughed evasively.

"I have never been in the Congo," he said. "Only know what they tell
one. But you'll see for yourself. That is," he added, "you'll see what
they want you to see."

They were leaning on the rail, with their eyes turned toward the coast
of Liberia, a gloomy green line against which the waves cast up
fountains of foam as high as the cocoanut palms. As a subject of
discussion, the coaster seemed anxious to avoid the Congo.

"It was there," he said, pointing, "the _Three Castles_ struck on the
rocks. She was a total loss. So were her passengers," he added. "They
ate them."

Everett gazed suspiciously at the unmoved face of the veteran.

"_Who_ ate them?" he asked guardedly. "Sharks?"

"The natives that live back of that shore-line in the lagoons."

Everett laughed with the assurance of one for whom a trap had been laid
and who had cleverly avoided it.

"Cannibals," he mocked. "Cannibals went out of date with pirates. But
perhaps," he added apologetically, "this happened some years ago?"

"Happened last month," said the trader.

"But Liberia is a perfectly good republic," protested Everett. "The
blacks there may not be as far advanced as in your colonies, but they're
not cannibals."

"Monrovia is a very small part of Liberia," said the trader dryly. "And
none of these protectorates, or crown colonies, on this coast pretends
to control much of the Hinterland. There is Sierra Leone, for instance,
about the oldest of them. Last year the governor celebrated the
hundredth anniversary of the year the British abolished slavery. They
had parades and tea-fights, and all the blacks were in the street in
straw hats with cricket ribbons, thanking God they were not as other men
are, not slaves like their grandfathers. Well, just at the height of the
jubilation, the tribes within twenty miles of the town sent in to say
that they, also, were holding a palaver, and it was to mark the fact
that they _never_ had been slaves and never would be, and, if the
governor doubted it, to send out his fighting men and they'd prove it.
It cast quite a gloom over the celebration."

"Do you mean that only twenty miles from the coast--" began Everett.

"_Ten_ miles," said the Coaster. "Wait till you see Calabar. That's our
Exhibit A. The cleanest, best administered. Everything there is model:
hospitals, barracks, golf links. Last year, ten miles from Calabar, Dr.
Stewart rode his bicycle into a native village. The king tortured him
six days, cut him up, and sent pieces of him to fifty villages with the
message: 'You eat each other. _We_ eat white chop.' That was ten miles
from our model barracks."

For some moments the muckraker considered the statement thoughtfully.

"You mean," he inquired, "that the atrocities are not all on the side of
the white men?"

"Atrocities?" exclaimed the trader. "I wasn't talking of atrocities. Are
you looking for them?"

"I'm not running away from them," laughed Everett. "_Lowell's Weekly_ is
sending me to the Congo to find out the truth, and to try to help put an
end to them."

In his turn the trader considered the statement carefully.

"Among the natives," he explained, painstakingly picking each word,
"what you call 'atrocities' are customs of warfare, forms of punishment.
When they go to war they _expect_ to be tortured; they _know_, if
they're killed, they'll be eaten. The white man comes here and finds
these customs have existed for centuries. He adopts them, because--"

"One moment!" interrupted Everett warmly. "That does not excuse _him_.
The point is, that with him they have _not_ existed. To him they should
be against his conscience, indecent, horrible! He has a greater
knowledge, a much higher intelligence; he should lift the native, not
sink to him."

The Coaster took his pipe from his mouth, and twice opened his lips to
speak. Finally, he blew the smoke into the air, and shook his head.

"What's the use!" he exclaimed.

"Try," laughed Everett. "Maybe I'm not as unintelligent as I talk."

"You must get this right," protested the Coaster. "It doesn't matter a
damn what a man _brings_ here, what his training _was_, what _he is_.
The thing is too strong for him."

"What thing?"

"That!" said the Coaster. He threw out his arm at the brooding
mountains, the dark lagoons, the glaring coast-line against which the
waves shot into the air with the shock and roar of twelve-inch guns.

"The first white man came to Sierra Leone five hundred years before
Christ," said the Coaster. "And, in twenty-two hundred years, he's got
just twenty miles inland. The native didn't need forts, or a navy, to
stop him. He had three allies: those waves, the fever, and the sun.
Especially the sun. The black man goes bare-headed, and the sun lets him
pass. The white man covers his head with an inch of cork, and the sun
strikes through it and kills him. When Jameson came down the river from
Yambuya, the natives fired on his boat. He waved his helmet at them for
three minutes, to show them there was a white man in the canoe. Three
minutes was all the sun wanted. Jameson died in two days. Where you are
going, the sun does worse things to a man than kill him: it drives him
mad. It keeps the fear of death in his heart; and _that_ takes away his
nerve and his sense of proportion. He flies into murderous fits, over
silly, imaginary slights; he grows morbid, suspicious, he becomes a
coward, and because he is a coward with authority, he becomes a bully.

"He is alone, we will suppose, at a station three hundred miles from any
other white man. One morning his house-boy spills a cup of coffee on
him, and in a rage he half kills the boy. He broods over that, until he
discovers, or his crazy mind makes him think he has discovered, that in
revenge the boy is plotting to poison him. So he punishes him again.
Only this time he punishes him as the black man has taught him to
punish, in the only way the black man seems to understand; that is, he
tortures him. From that moment the fall of that man is rapid. The heat,
the loneliness, the fever, the fear of the black faces, keep him on
edge, rob him of sleep, rob him of his physical strength, of his moral
strength. He loses shame, loses reason; becomes cruel, weak, degenerate.
He invents new, bestial tortures; commits new, unspeakable 'atrocities,'
until, one day, the natives turn and kill him, or he sticks his gun in
his mouth and blows the top of his head off."

The Coaster smiled tolerantly at the wide-eyed eager young man at his
side.

"And you," he mocked, "think you can reform that man, and that hell
above ground called the Congo, with an article in _Lowell's Weekly_?"

Undismayed, Everett grinned cheerfully.

"That's what I'm here for!" he said.

By the time Everett reached the mouth of the Congo, he had learned that
in everything he must depend upon himself; that he would be accepted
only as the kind of man that, at the moment, he showed himself to be.
This attitude of independence was not chosen, but forced on him by the
men with whom he came in contact. Associations and traditions, that in
every part of the United States had served as letters of introduction,
and enabled strangers to identify and label him, were to the white men
on the steamer and at the ports of call without meaning or value. That
he was an Everett of Boston conveyed little to those who had not heard
even of Boston. That he was the correspondent of _Lowell's Weekly_
meant less to those who did not know that _Lowell's Weekly_ existed.
And when, in confusion, he proffered his letter of credit, the very fact
that it called for a thousand pounds was, in the eyes of a "Palm Oil
Ruffian," sufficient evidence that it had been forged or stolen. He soon
saw that solely as a white man was he accepted and made welcome. That he
was respectable, few believed, and no one cared. To be taken at his face
value, to be refused at the start the benefit of the doubt, was a novel
sensation; and yet not unpleasant. It was a relief not to be accepted
only as Everett the Muckraker, as a professional reformer, as one holier
than others. It afforded his soul the same relaxation that his body
received when, in his shirt-sleeves in the sweltering smoking-room, he
drank beer with a _chef de poste_ who had been thrice tried for
murder.

Not only to every one was he a stranger, but to him everything was
strange; so strange as to appear unreal. This did not prevent him from
at once recognizing those things that were not strange, such as corrupt
officials, incompetence, mismanagement. He did not need the missionaries
to point out to him that the Independent State of the Congo was not a
colony administered for the benefit of many, but a vast rubber
plantation worked by slaves to fill the pockets of one man. It was not
in his work that Everett found himself confused. It was in his attitude
of mind toward almost every other question.

At first, when he could not make everything fit his rule of thumb, he
excused the country tolerantly as a "topsy-turvy" land. He wished to
move and act quickly; to make others move quickly. He did not understand
that men who had sentenced themselves to exile for the official term of
three years, or for life, measured time only by the date of their
release. When he learned that even a cablegram could not reach his home
in less than eighteen days, that the missionaries to whom he brought
letters were a three months' journey from the coast and from each other,
his impatience was chastened to wonder, and, later, to awe.

His education began at Matadi, where he waited until the river steamer
was ready to start for Leopoldville. Of the two places he was assured
Matadi was the better, for the reason that if you still were in favor
with the steward of the ship that brought you south, he might sell you a
piece of ice.

Matadi was a great rock, blazing with heat. Its narrow, perpendicular
paths seemed to run with burning lava. Its top, the main square of the
settlement, was of baked clay, beaten hard by thousands of naked feet.
Crossing it by day was an adventure. The air that swept it was the
breath of a blast-furnace.

Everett found a room over the shop of a Portuguese trader. It was caked
with dirt, and smelled of unnamed diseases and chloride of lime. In it
was a canvas cot, a roll of evil-looking bedding, a wash-basin filled
with the stumps of cigarettes. In a corner was a tin chop-box, which
Everett asked to have removed. It belonged, the landlord told him, to
the man who, two nights before, had occupied the cot and who had died in
it. Everett was anxious to learn of what he had died. Apparently
surprised at the question, the Portuguese shrugged his shoulders.

"Who knows?" he exclaimed. The next morning the English trader across
the street assured Everett there was no occasion for alarm. "He didn't
die of any disease," he explained. "Somebody got at him from the
balcony, while he was in his cot, and knifed him."

The English trader was a young man, a cockney, named Upsher. At home he
had been a steward on the Channel steamers. Everett made him his most
intimate friend. He had a black wife, who spent most of her day in a
four-post bed, hung with lace curtains and blue ribbon, in which she
resembled a baby hippopotamus wallowing in a bank of white sand.

At first the black woman was a shock to Everett, but after Upsher
dismissed her indifferently as a "good old sort," and spent one evening
blubbering over a photograph of his wife and "kiddie" at home, Everett
accepted her. His excuse for this was that men who knew they might die
on the morrow must not be judged by what they do to-day. The excuse did
not ring sound, but he dismissed the doubt by deciding that in such heat
it was not possible to take serious questions seriously. In the fact
that, to those about him, the thought of death was ever present, he
found further excuse for much else that puzzled and shocked him. At
home, death had been a contingency so remote that he had put it aside as
something he need not consider until he was a grandfather. At Matadi, at
every moment of the day, in each trifling act, he found death must be
faced, conciliated, conquered. At home he might ask himself, "If I eat
this will it give me indigestion?" At Matadi he asked, "If I drink this
will I die?"

Upsher told him of a feud then existing between the chief of police and
an Italian doctor in the State service. Interested in the outcome only
as a sporting proposition, Upsher declared the odds were unfair,
because the Belgian was using his black police to act as his body-guard
while for protection the Italian could depend only upon his sword-cane.
Each night, with the other white exiles of Matadi, the two adversaries
met in the Café Franco-Belge. There, with puzzled interest, Everett
watched them sitting at separate tables, surrounded by mutual friends,
excitedly playing dominoes. Outside the café Matadi lay smothered and
sweltering in a black, living darkness, and, save for the rush of the
river, in a silence that continued unbroken across a jungle as wide as
Europe. Inside the dominoes clicked, the glasses rang on the iron
tables, the oil lamps glared upon the pallid, sweating faces of clerks,
upon the tanned, sweating skins of officers; and the Italian doctor and
the Belgian lieutenant, each with murder in his heart, laughed,
shrugged, gesticulated, waiting for the moment to strike.

"But why doesn't some one _do_ something?" demanded Everett. "Arrest
them, or reason with them. Everybody knows about it. It seems a pity not
to _do_ something."

Upsher nodded his head. Dimly he recognized a language with which he
once had been familiar. "I know what you mean," he agreed. "Bind 'em
over to keep the peace. And a good job, too! But who?" he demanded
vaguely. "That's what I say! Who?" From the confusion into which
Everett's appeal to forgotten memories had thrown it, his mind suddenly
emerged. "But what's the use!" he demanded. "Don't you see," he
explained triumphantly, "if those two crazy men were fit to listen to
_sense_, they'd have sense enough not to kill each other!"

Each succeeding evening Everett watched the two potential murderers with
lessening interest. He even made a bet with Upsher, of a bottle of fruit
salt, that the chief of police would be the one to die.

A few nights later a man, groaning beneath his balcony, disturbed his
slumbers. He cursed the man, and turned his pillow to find the cooler
side. But all through the night the groans, though fainter, broke into
his dreams. At intervals some traditions of past conduct tugged at
Everett's sleeve, and bade him rise and play the good Samaritan. But,
indignantly, he repulsed them. Were there not many others within
hearing? Were there not the police? Was it _his_ place to bind the
wounds of drunken stokers? The groans were probably a trick, to entice
him, unarmed, into the night. And so, just before the dawn, when the
mists rose, and the groans ceased, Everett, still arguing, sank with a
contented sigh into forgetfulness.

When he woke, there was beneath his window much monkey-like chattering,
and he looked down into the white face and glazed eyes of the Italian
doctor, lying in the gutter and staring up at him. Below his
shoulder-blades a pool of blood shone evilly in the blatant sunlight.

Across the street, on his balcony, Upsher, in pajamas and mosquito
boots, was shivering with fever and stifling a yawn. "You lose!" he
called.

Later in the day, Everett analyzed his conduct of the night previous.
"At home," he told Upsher, "I would have been telephoning for an
ambulance, or been out in the street giving the man the 'first-aid'
drill. But living as we do here, so close to death, we see things more
clearly. Death loses its importance. It's a bromide," he added. "But
travel certainly broadens one. Every day I have been in the Congo, I
have been assimilating new ideas." Upsher nodded vigorously in assent.
An older man could have told Everett that he was assimilating just as
much of the Congo as the rabbit assimilates of the boa-constrictor, that
first smothers it with saliva and then swallows it.

Everett started up the Congo in a small steamer open on all sides to
the sun and rain, and with a paddle-wheel astern that kicked her forward
at the rate of four miles an hour. Once every day, the boat tied up to a
tree and took on wood to feed her furnace, and Everett talked to the
white man in charge of the wood post, or, if, as it generally happened,
the white man was on his back with fever, dosed him with quinine. On
board, except for her captain, and a Finn who acted as engineer, Everett
was the only other white man. The black crew and "wood-boys" he soon
disliked intensely. At first, when Nansen, the Danish captain, and the
Finn struck them, because they were in the way, or because they were
not, Everett winced, and made a note of it. But later he decided the
blacks were insolent, sullen, ungrateful; that a blow did them no harm.

According to the unprejudiced testimony of those who, before the war, in
his own country, had owned slaves, those of the "Southland" were always
content, always happy. When not singing close harmony in the
cotton-fields, they danced upon the levee, they twanged the old banjo.
But these slaves of the Upper Congo were not happy. They did not dance.
They did not sing. At times their eyes, dull, gloomy, despairing,
lighted with a sudden sombre fire, and searched the eyes of the white
man. They seemed to beg of him the answer to a terrible question. It was
always the same question. It had been asked of Pharaoh. They asked it of
Leopold. For hours, squatting on the iron deck-plates, humped on their
naked haunches, crowding close together, they muttered apparently
interminable criticisms of Everett. Their eyes never left him. He
resented this unceasing scrutiny. It got upon his nerves. He was sure
they were evolving some scheme to rob him of his tinned sausages, or,
possibly, to kill him. It was then he began to dislike them. In reality,
they were discussing the watch strapped to his wrist. They believed it
was a powerful juju, to ward off evil spirits. They were afraid of it.

One day, to pay the chief wood-boy for a carved paddle, Everett was
measuring a _bras_ of cloth. As he had been taught, he held the cloth in
his teeth and stretched it to the ends of his finger-tips. The wood-boy
thought the white man was giving him short measure. White men always
_had_ given him short measure, and, at a glance, he could not recognize
that this one was an Everett of Boston.

So he opened Everett's fingers.

All the blood in Everett's body leaped to his head. That he, a white
man, an Everett, who had come so far to set these people free, should
be accused by one of them of petty theft!

He caught up a log of fire wood and laid open the scalp of the black
boy, from the eye to the crown of his head. The boy dropped, and
Everett, seeing the blood creeping through his kinky wool, turned ill
with nausea. Drunkenly, through a red cloud of mist, he heard himself
shouting, "The _black_ nigger! The _black nigger!_ He touched me! I
_tell_ you, he touched me!" Captain Nansen led Everett to his cot and
gave him fizzy salts, but it was not until sundown that the trembling
and nausea ceased.

Then, partly in shame, partly as a bribe, he sought out the injured boy
and gave him the entire roll of cloth. It had cost Everett ten francs.
To the wood-boy it meant a year's wages. The boy hugged it in his arms,
as he might a baby, and crooned over it. From under the blood-stained
bandage, humbly, without resentment, he lifted his tired eyes to those
of the white man. Still, dumbly, they begged the answer to the same
question.

During the five months Everett spent up the river he stopped at many
missions, stations, one-man wood posts. He talked to Jesuit fathers, to
_inspecteurs_, to collectors for the State of rubber, taxes, elephant
tusks, in time, even in Bangalese, to chiefs of the native villages.
According to the point of view, he was told tales of oppression, of
avarice, of hideous crimes, of cruelties committed in the name of trade
that were abnormal, unthinkable. The note never was of hope, never of
cheer, never inspiring. There was always the grievance, the spirit of
unrest, of rebellion that ranged from dislike to a primitive, hot hate.
Of his own land and life he heard nothing, not even when his face was
again turned toward the east. Nor did he think of it. As now he saw
them, the rules and principles and standards of his former existence
were petty and credulous. But he assured himself he had not abandoned
those standards. He had only temporarily laid them aside, as he had left
behind him in London his frock-coat and silk hat. Not because he would
not use them again, but because in the Congo they were ridiculous.

For weeks, with a missionary as a guide, he walked through forests into
which the sun never penetrated, or, on the river, moved between banks
where no white man had placed his foot; where, at night, the elephants
came trooping to the water, and, seeing the lights of the boat, fled
crashing through the jungle; where the great hippos, puffing and
blowing, rose so close to his elbow that he could have tossed his
cigarette and hit them. The vastness of the Congo, toward which he had
so jauntily set forth, now weighed upon his soul. The immeasurable
distances; the slumbering disregard of time; the brooding, interminable
silences; the efforts to conquer the land that were so futile, so puny,
and so cruel, at first appalled and, later, left him unnerved,
rebellious, childishly defiant.

What health was there, he demanded hotly, in holding in a dripping
jungle to morals, to etiquette, to fashions of conduct? Was he, the
white man, intelligent, trained, disciplined in mind and body, to be
judged by naked cannibals, by chattering monkeys, by mammoth primeval
beasts? His code of conduct was his own. He was a law unto himself.

He came down the river on one of the larger steamers of the State, and,
on this voyage, with many fellow-passengers. He was now on his way home,
but in the fact he felt no elation. Each day the fever ran tingling
through his veins, and left him listless, frightened, or choleric. One
night at dinner, in one of these moods of irritation, he took offence at
the act of a lieutenant who, in lack of vegetables, drank from the
vinegar bottle. Everett protested that such table manners were
unbecoming an officer, even an officer of the Congo; and on the
lieutenant resenting his criticism, Everett drew his revolver. The
others at the table took it from him, and locked him in his cabin. In
the morning, when he tried to recall what had occurred, he could
remember only that, for some excellent reason, he had hated some one
with a hatred that could be served only with death. He knew it could not
have been drink, as each day the State allowed him but one half-bottle
of claret. That but for the interference of strangers he might have shot
a man, did not interest him. In the outcome of what he regarded merely
as an incident, he saw cause neither for congratulation or
self-reproach. For his conduct he laid the blame upon the sun, and
doubled his dose of fruit salts.

Everett was again at Matadi, waiting for the _Nigeria_ to take on cargo
before returning to Liverpool. During the few days that must intervene
before she sailed, he lived on board. Although now actually bound north,
the thought afforded him no satisfaction. His spirits were depressed,
his mind gloomy; a feeling of rebellion, of outlawry, filled him with
unrest.

While the ship lay at the wharf, Hardy, her English captain, Cuthbert,
the purser, and Everett ate on deck under the awning, assailed by
electric fans. Each was clad in nothing more intricate than pajamas.

"To-night," announced Hardy, with a sigh, "we got to dress ship. Mr.
Ducret and his wife are coming on board. We carry his trade goods, and I
got to stand him a dinner and champagne. You boys," he commanded, "must
wear 'whites,' and talk French."

"I'll dine on shore," growled Everett.

"Better meet them," advised Cuthbert. The purser was a pink-cheeked,
clear-eyed young man, who spoke the many languages of the coast glibly,
and his own in the soft, detached voice of a well-bred Englishman. He
was in training to enter the consular service. Something in his poise,
in the assured manner in which he handled his white stewards and the
black Kroo boys, seemed to Everett a constant reproach, and he resented
him.

"They're a picturesque couple," explained Cuthbert. "Ducret was
originally a wrestler. Used to challenge all comers from the front of a
booth. He served his time in the army in Senegal, and when he was
mustered out moved to the French Congo and began to trade, in a small
way, in ivory. Now he's the biggest merchant, physically and every other
way, from Stanley Pool to Lake Chad. He has a house at Brazzaville built
of mahogany, and a grand piano, and his own ice-plant. His wife was a
supper-girl at Maxim's. He brought her down here and married her. Every
rainy season they go back to Paris and run race-horses, and they say the
best table in every all-night restaurant is reserved for him. In Paris
they call her the Ivory Queen. She's killed seventeen elephants with her
own rifle."

In the Upper Congo, Everett had seen four white women. They were pallid,
washed-out, bloodless; even the youngest looked past middle-age. For him
women of any other type had ceased to exist. He had come to think of
every white woman as past middle-age, with a face wrinkled by the sun,
with hair bleached white by the sun, with eyes from which, through
gazing at the sun, all light and lustre had departed. He thought of them
as always wearing boots to protect their ankles from mosquitoes, and
army helmets.

When he came on deck for dinner, he saw a woman who looked as though she
was posing for a photograph by Reutlinger. She appeared to have stepped
to the deck directly from her electric victoria, and the Rue de la Paix.
She was tall, lithe, gracefully erect, with eyes of great loveliness,
and her hair brilliantly black, drawn, _à la_ Merode, across a broad,
fair forehead. She wore a gown and long coat of white lace, as delicate
as a bridal veil, and a hat with a flapping brim from which, in a
curtain, hung more lace. When she was pleased, she lifted her head and
the curtain rose, unmasking her lovely eyes. Around the white, bare
throat was a string of pearls. They had cost the lives of many
elephants.

Cuthbert, only a month from home, saw Madame Ducret just as she was--a
Parisienne, elegant, smart, _soigné_. He knew that on any night at
Madrid or d'Armenonville he might look upon twenty women of the same
charming type. They might lack that something this girl from Maxim's
possessed--the spirit that had caused her to follow her husband into the
depths of darkness. But outwardly, for show purposes, they were even as
she.

But to Everett she was no messenger from another world. She was unique.
To his famished eyes, starved senses, and fever-driven brain, she was
her entire sex personified. She was the one woman for whom he had always
sought, alluring, soothing, maddening; if need be, to be fought for; the
one thing to be desired. Opposite, across the table, her husband, the
ex-wrestler, _chasseur d'Afrique_, elephant poacher, bulked large as an
ox. Men felt as well as saw his bigness. Captain Hardy deferred to him
on matters of trade. The purser deferred to him on questions of
administration. He answered them in his big way, with big thoughts, in
big figures. He was fifty years ahead of his time. He beheld the Congo
open to the world; in the forests where he had hunted elephants he
foresaw great "factories," mining camps, railroads, feeding gold and
copper ore to the trunk line, from the Cape to Cairo. His ideas were the
ideas of an empire-builder. But, while the others listened, fascinated,
hypnotized, Everett saw only the woman, her eyes fixed on her husband,
her fingers turning and twisting her diamond rings. Every now and again
she raised her eyes to Everett almost reproachfully, as though to say,
"Why do you not listen to him? It is much better for you than to look at
me."

When they had gone, all through the sultry night, until the sun drove
him to his cabin, like a caged animal Everett paced and repaced the
deck. The woman possessed his mind and he could not drive her out. He
did not wish to drive her out. What the consequences might be he did not
care. So long as he might see her again, he jeered at the consequences.
Of one thing he was positive. He could not now leave the Congo. He would
follow her to Brazzaville. If he were discreet, Ducret might invite him
to make himself their guest. Once established in her home, she _must_
listen to him. No man ever before had felt for any woman the need he
felt for her. It was too big for him to conquer. It would be too big for
her to resist.

In the morning a note from Ducret invited Everett and Cuthbert to join
him in an all-day excursion to the water-fall beyond Matadi. Everett
answered the note in person. The thought of seeing the woman calmed and
steadied him like a dose of morphine. So much more violent than the
fever in his veins was the fever in his brain that, when again he was
with her, he laughed happily, and was grandly at peace. So different was
he from the man they had met the night before, that the Frenchman and
his wife glanced at each other in surprise and approval. They found him
witty, eager, a most charming companion; and when he announced his
intention of visiting Brazzaville, they insisted he should make their
home his own.

His admiration, as outwardly it appeared to be, for Madame Ducret, was
evident to the others, but her husband accepted it. It was her due. And,
on the Congo, to grudge to another man the sight of a pretty woman was
as cruel as to withhold the few grains of quinine that might save his
reason. But before the day passed, Madame Ducret was aware that the
American could not be lightly dismissed as an admirer. The fact neither
flattered nor offended. For her it was no novel or disturbing
experience. Other men, whipped on by loneliness, by fever, by primitive
savage instincts, had told her what she meant to them. She did not hold
them responsible. Some, worth curing, she had nursed through the
illness. Others, who refused to be cured, she had turned over, with a
shrug, to her husband. This one was more difficult. Of men of Everett's
traditions and education she had known but few; but she recognized the
type. This young man was no failure in life, no derelict, no outcast
flying the law, or a scandal, to hide in the jungle. He was what, in her
Maxim days, she had laughed at as an aristocrat. He knew her Paris as
she did not know it: its history, its art. Even her language he spoke
more correctly than her husband or herself. She knew that at his home
there must be many women infinitely more attractive, more suited to him,
than herself: women of birth, of position; young girls and great ladies
of the other world. And she knew, also, that, in his present state, at a
nod from her he would cast these behind him and carry her into the
wilderness. More quickly than she anticipated, Everett proved she did
not over-rate the forces that compelled him.

The excursion to the rapids was followed by a second dinner on board the
_Nigeria_. But now, as on the previous night, Everett fell into sullen
silence. He ate nothing, drank continually, and with his eyes devoured
the woman. When coffee had been served, he left the others at table, and
with Madame Ducret slowly paced the deck. As they passed out of the
reach of the lights, he drew her to the rail, and stood in front of her.

"I am not quite mad," he said, "but you have got to come with me."

To Everett all he added to this sounded sane and final. He told her that
this was one of those miracles when the one woman and the one man who
were predestined to meet had met. He told her he had wished to marry a
girl at home, but that he now saw that the desire was the fancy of a
school-boy. He told her he was rich, and offered her the choice of
returning to the Paris she loved, or of going deeper into the jungle.
There he would set up for her a principality, a state within the State.
He would defend her against all comers. He would make her the Queen of
the Congo.

"I have waited for you thousands of years!" he told her. His voice was
hoarse, shaken, and thick. "I love you as men loved women in the Stone
Age--fiercely, entirely. I will not be denied. Down here we are cave
people; if you fight me, I will club you and drag you to my cave. If
others fight for you, I will _kill_ them. I love you," he panted, "with
all my soul, my mind, my body, I love you! I will not let you go!"

Madame Ducret did not say she was insulted, because she did not feel
insulted. She did not call to her husband for help, because she did not
need his help, and because she knew that the ex-wrestler could break
Everett across his knee. She did not even withdraw her hands, although
Everett drove the diamonds deep into her fingers.

"You frighten me!" she pleaded. She was not in the least frightened. She
only was sorry that this one must be discarded among the incurables.

In apparent agitation, she whispered, "To-morrow! To-morrow I will give
you your answer."

Everett did not trust her, did not release her. He regarded her
jealously, with quick suspicion. To warn her that he knew she could not
escape from Matadi, or from him, he said, "The train to Leopoldville
does not leave for two days!"

"I know!" whispered Madame Ducret soothingly. "I will give you your
answer to-morrow at ten." She emphasized the hour, because she knew at
sunrise a special train would carry her husband and herself to
Leopoldville, and that there one of her husband's steamers would bear
them across the Pool to French Congo.

"To-morrow, then!" whispered Everett, grudgingly. "But I must kiss you
now!"

Only an instant did Madame Ducret hesitate. Then she turned her cheek.
"Yes," she assented. "You must kiss me now."

Everett did not rejoin the others. He led her back into the circle of
light, and locked himself in his cabin.

At ten the next morning, when Ducret and his wife were well advanced
toward Stanley Pool, Cuthbert handed Everett a note. Having been told
what it contained, he did not move away, but, with his back turned,
leaned upon the rail.

Everett, his eyes on fire with triumph, his fingers trembling, tore open
the envelope.

Madame Ducret wrote that her husband and herself felt that Mr. Everett
was suffering more severely from the climate than he knew. With regret
they cancelled their invitation to visit them, and urged him, for his
health's sake, to continue as he had planned, to northern latitudes.
They hoped to meet in Paris. They extended assurances of their
distinguished consideration.

Slowly, savagely, as though wreaking his suffering on some human thing,
Everett tore the note into minute fragments. Moving unsteadily to the
ship's side, he flung them into the river, and then hung limply upon the
rail.

Above him, from a sky of brass, the sun stabbed at his eyeballs. Below
him, the rush of the Congo, churning in muddy whirlpools, echoed against
the hills of naked rock that met the naked sky.

To Everett, the roar of the great river, and the echoes from the land he
had set out to reform, carried the sound of gigantic, hideous laughter.



THE SPY


My going to Valencia was entirely an accident. But the more often I
stated that fact, the more satisfied was everyone at the capital that I
had come on some secret mission. Even the venerable politician who acted
as our minister, the night of my arrival, after dinner, said
confidentially, "Now, Mr. Crosby, between ourselves, what's the game?"

"What's what game?" I asked.

"You know what I mean," he returned. "What are you here for?"

But when, for the tenth time, I repeated how I came to be marooned in
Valencia he showed that his feelings were hurt, and said stiffly: "As
you please. Suppose we join the ladies."

And the next day his wife reproached me with: "I should think you could
trust your own minister. My husband _never_ talks--not even to me."

"So I see," I said.

And then her feelings were hurt also, and she went about telling people
I was an agent of the Walker-Keefe crowd.

My only reason for repeating here that my going to Valencia was an
accident is that it was because Schnitzel disbelieved that fact, and to
drag the hideous facts from me followed me back to New York. Through
that circumstance I came to know him, and am able to tell his story.

The simple truth was that I had been sent by the State Department to
Panama to "go, look, see," and straighten out a certain conflict of
authority among the officials of the canal zone. While I was there the
yellow-fever broke out, and every self-respecting power clapped a
quarantine on the Isthmus, with the result that when I tried to return
to New York no steamer would take me to any place to which any white man
would care to go. But I knew that at Valencia there was a direct line to
New York, so I took a tramp steamer down the coast to Valencia. I went
to Valencia only because to me every other port in the world was closed.
My position was that of the man who explained to his wife that he came
home because the other places were shut.

But, because, formerly in Valencia I had held a minor post in our
legation, and because the State Department so constantly consults our
firm on questions of international law, it was believed I revisited
Valencia on some mysterious and secret mission.

As a matter of fact, had I gone there to sell phonographs or to start a
steam laundry, I should have been as greatly suspected. For in Valencia
even every commercial salesman, from the moment he gives up his passport
on the steamer until the police permit him to depart, is suspected,
shadowed, and begirt with spies.

I believe that during my brief visit I enjoyed the distinction of
occupying the undivided attention of three: a common or garden
Government spy, from whom no guilty man escapes, a Walker-Keefe spy, and
the spy of the Nitrate Company. The spy of the Nitrate Company is
generally a man you meet at the legations and clubs. He plays bridge and
is dignified with the title of "agent." The Walker-Keefe spy is
ostensibly a travelling salesman or hotel runner. The Government spy is
just a spy--a scowling, important little beast in a white duck suit and
a diamond ring. The limit of his intelligence is to follow you into a
cigar store and note what cigar you buy, and in what kind of money you
pay for it.

The reason for it all was the three-cornered fight which then was being
waged by the Government, the Nitrate Trust, and the Walker-Keefe crowd
for the possession of the nitrate beds. Valencia is so near to the
equator, and so far from New York, that there are few who studied the
intricate story of that disgraceful struggle, which, I hasten to add,
with the fear of libel before my eyes, I do not intend to tell now.

Briefly, it was a triangular fight between opponents each of whom was in
the wrong, and each of whom, to gain his end, bribed, blackmailed, and
robbed, not only his adversaries, but those of his own side, the end in
view being the possession of those great deposits that lie in the rocks
of Valencia, baked from above by the tropic sun and from below by
volcanic fires. As one of their engineers, one night in the Plaza, said
to me: "Those mines were conceived in hell, and stink to heaven, and the
reputation of every man of us that has touched them smells like the
mines."

At the time I was there the situation was "acute." In Valencia the
situation always is acute, but this time it looked as though something
might happen. On the day before I departed the Nitrate Trust had cabled
vehemently for war-ships, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had refused to
receive our minister, and at Porto Banos a mob had made the tin sign of
the United States consulate look like a sieve. Our minister urged me to
remain. To be bombarded by one's own war-ships, he assured me, would be
a thrilling experience.

But I repeated that my business was with Panama, not Valencia, and that
if in this matter of his row I had any weight at Washington, as between
preserving the nitrate beds for the trust, and preserving for his
country and various sweethearts one brown-throated, clean-limbed
bluejacket, I was for the bluejacket.

Accordingly, when I sailed from Valencia the aged diplomat would have
described our relations as strained.

Our ship was a slow ship, listed to touch at many ports, and as early as
noon on the following day we stopped for cargo at Trujillo. It was there
I met Schnitzel.

In Panama I had bought a macaw for a little niece of mine, and while we
were taking on cargo I went ashore to get a tin cage in which to put it,
and, for direction, called upon our consul. From an inner room he
entered excitedly, smiling at my card, and asked how he might serve me.
I told him I had a parrot below decks, and wanted to buy a tin cage.

"Exactly. You want a tin cage," the consul repeated soothingly. "The
State Department doesn't keep me awake nights cabling me what it's
going to do," he said, "but at least I know it doesn't send a
thousand-dollar-a-minute, four-cylinder lawyer all the way to this fever
swamp to buy a tin cage. Now, honest, how can I serve you?" I saw it was
hopeless. No one would believe the truth. To offer it to this friendly
soul would merely offend his feelings and his intelligence.

So, with much mystery, I asked him to describe the "situation," and he
did so with the exactness of one who believes that within an hour every
word he speaks will be cabled to the White House.

When I was leaving he said: "Oh, there's a newspaper correspondent after
you. He wants an interview, I guess. He followed you last night from the
capital by train. You want to watch out he don't catch you. His name is
Jones." I promised to be on my guard against a man named Jones, and the
consul escorted me to the ship. As he went down the accommodation
ladder, I called over the rail: "In case they _should_ declare war,
cable to Curaçoa and I'll come back. And don't cable anything
indefinite, like 'Situation critical' or 'War imminent.' Understand?
Cable me, 'Come back' or 'Go ahead.' But whatever you cable, make it
_clear_."

He shook his head violently and with his green-lined umbrella pointed
at my elbow. I turned and found a young man hungrily listening to my
words. He was leaning on the rail with his chin on his arms and the brim
of his Panama hat drawn down to conceal his eyes.

On the pier-head, from which we now were drawing rapidly away, the
consul made a megaphone of his hands.

"That's _him_," he called. "That's Jones."

Jones raised his head, and I saw that the tropical heat had made Jones
thirsty, or that with friends he had been celebrating his departure. He
winked at me, and, apparently with pleasure at his own discernment and
with pity for me, smiled.

"Oh, of course!" he murmured. His tone was one of heavy irony. "Make it
'clear.' Make it clear to the whole wharf. Shout it out so's everybody
can hear you. You're 'clear' enough." His disgust was too deep for
ordinary words. "My uncle!" he exclaimed.

By this I gathered that he was expressing his contempt.

"I beg your pardon?" I said.

We had the deck to ourselves. Its emptiness suddenly reminded me that we
had the ship, also, to ourselves. I remembered the purser had told me
that, except for those who travelled overnight from port to port, I was
his only passenger.

With dismay I pictured myself for ten days adrift on the high
seas--alone with Jones.

With a dramatic gesture, as one would say, "I am here!" he pushed back
his Panama hat. With an unsteady finger he pointed, as it was drawn
dripping across the deck, at the stern hawser.

"You see that rope?" he demanded. "Soon as that rope hit the water I
knocked off work. S'long as you was in Valencia--me, on the job. Now,
_you_ can't go back, _I_ can't go back. Why further dissim'lation? _Who
am I?_"

His condition seemed to preclude the possibility of his knowing who he
was, so I told him.

He sneered as I have seen men sneer only in melodrama.

"Oh, of course," he muttered. "Oh, of course."

He lurched toward me indignantly.

"You know perfec'ly well Jones is not my name. You know perfec'ly well
who I am."

"My dear sir," I said, "I don't know anything about you, except that you
are a damned nuisance."

He swayed from me, pained and surprised. Apparently he was upon an
outbreak of tears.

"Proud," he murmured, "_and_ haughty. Proud and haughty to the last."

I never have understood why an intoxicated man feels the climax of
insult is to hurl at you your name. Perhaps because he knows it is the
one charge you cannot deny. But invariably before you escape, as though
assured the words will cover your retreat with shame, he throws at you
your full title. Jones did this.

Slowly and mercilessly he repeated, "Mr.--George--Morgan--Crosby. Of
Harvard," he added. "Proud and haughty to the last."

He then embraced a passing steward, and demanded to be informed why the
ship rolled. He never knew a ship to roll as our ship rolled.

"Perfec'ly satisfact'ry ocean, but ship--rolling like a stone-breaker.
Take me some place in the ship where this ship don't roll."

The steward led him away.

When he had dropped the local pilot the captain beckoned me to the
bridge.

"I saw you talking to Mr. Schnitzel," he said. "He's a little under the
weather. He has too light a head for liquors."

I agreed that he had a light head, and said I understood his name was
Jones.

"That's what I wanted to tell you," said the captain. "His name is
Schnitzel. He used to work for the Nitrate Trust in New York. Then he
came down here as an agent. He's a good boy not to tell things to.
Understand? Sometimes I carry him under one name, and the next voyage
under another. The purser and he fix it up between 'em. It pleases him,
and it don't hurt anybody else, so long as I tell them about it. I don't
know who he's working for now," he went on, "but I know he's not with
the Nitrate Company any more. He sold them out."

"How could he?" I asked. "He's only a boy."

"He had a berth as typewriter to Senator Burnsides, president of the
Nitrate Trust, sort of confidential stenographer," said the captain.
"Whenever the senator dictated an important letter, they say, Schnitzel
used to make a carbon copy, and when he had enough of them he sold them
to the Walker-Keefe crowd. Then, when Walker-Keefe lost their suit in
the Valencia Supreme Court I guess Schnitzel went over to President
Alvarez. And again, some folks say he's back with the Nitrate Company."

"After he sold them out?"

"Yes, but you see he's worth more to them now. He knows all the
Walker-Keefe secrets and Alvarez's secrets, too."

I expressed my opinion of every one concerned.

"It shouldn't surprise _you_," complained the captain. "You know the
country. Every man in it is out for something that isn't his. The pilot
wants his bit, the health doctor must get his, the customs take all your
cigars, and if you don't put up gold for the captain of the port and the
_alcalde_ and the commandant and the harbor police and the foreman of
the _cargadores_, they won't move a lighter, and they'll hold up the
ship's papers. Well, an American comes down here, honest and straight
and willing to work for his wages. But pretty quick he finds every one
is getting his squeeze but him, so he tries to get some of it back by
robbing the natives that robbed him. Then he robs the other foreigners,
and it ain't long before he's cheating the people at home who sent him
here. There isn't a man in this nitrate row that isn't robbing the crowd
he's with, and that wouldn't change sides for money. Schnitzel's no
worse than the president nor the canteen contractor."

He waved his hand at the glaring coast-line, at the steaming swamps and
the hot, naked mountains.

"It's the country that does it," he said. "It's in the air. You can
smell it as soon as you drop anchor, like you smell the slaughter-house
at Punta-Arenas."

"How do _you_ manage to keep honest," I asked, smiling.

"I don't take any chances," exclaimed the captain seriously. "When I'm
in their damned port I don't go ashore."

I did not again see Schnitzel until, with haggard eyes and suspiciously
wet hair, he joined the captain, doctor, purser, and myself at
breakfast. In the phrases of the Tenderloin, he told us cheerfully that
he had been grandly intoxicated, and to recover drank mixtures of raw
egg, vinegar, and red pepper, the sight of which took away every
appetite save his own. When to this he had added a bottle of beer, he
declared himself a new man. The new man followed me to the deck, and
with the truculent bearing of one who expects to be repelled, he asked
if, the day before, he had not made a fool of himself.

I suggested he had been somewhat confidential.

At once he recovered his pose and patronized me.

"Don't you believe it," he said. "That's all part of my game.
'Confidence for confidence' is the way I work it. That's how I learn
things. I tell a man something on the inside, and he says: 'Here's a
nice young fellow. Nothing standoffish about him,' and he tells me
something he shouldn't. Like as not what I told him wasn't true. See?"

I assured him he interested me greatly.

"You find, then, in your line of business," I asked, "that apparent
frankness is advisable? As a rule," I explained, "secrecy is what a--a
person in your line--a--"

To save his feelings I hesitated at the word.

"A spy," he said. His face beamed with fatuous complacency.

"But if I had not known you were a spy," I asked, "would not that have
been better for you?"

"In dealing with a party like you, Mr. Crosby," Schnitzel began
sententiously, "I use a different method. You're on a secret mission
yourself, and you get your information about the nitrate row one way,
and I get it another. I deal with you just like we were drummers in the
same line of goods. We are rivals in business, but outside of business
hours perfect gentlemen."

In the face of the disbelief that had met my denials of any secret
mission, I felt to have Schnitzel also disbelieve me would be too great
a humiliation. So I remained silent.

"You make your report to the State Department," he explained, "and I
make mine to--my people. Who they are doesn't matter. You'd like to
know, and I don't want to hurt your feelings, but--that's _my_ secret."

My only feelings were a desire to kick Schnitzel heavily, but for
Schnitzel to suspect that was impossible. Rather, he pictured me as
shaken by his disclosures.

As he hung over the rail the glare of the sun on the tumbling water lit
up his foolish, mongrel features, exposed their cunning, their utter
lack of any character, and showed behind the shifty eyes the vacant,
half-crooked mind.

Schnitzel was smiling to himself with a smile of complete
self-satisfaction. In the light of his later conduct, I grew to
understand that smile. He had anticipated a rebuff, and he had been
received, as he read it, with consideration. The irony of my politeness
he had entirely missed. Instead, he read in what I said the admiration
of the amateur for the professional. He saw what he believed to be a
high agent of the Government treating him as a worthy antagonist. In no
other way can I explain his later heaping upon me his confidences. It
was the vanity of a child trying to show off.

In ten days, in the limited area of a two-thousand-ton steamer, one
could not help but learn something of the history of so communicative a
fellow-passenger as Schnitzel. His parents were German and still
lived in Germany. But he himself had been brought up on the East Side.
An uncle who kept a delicatessen shop in Avenue A had sent him to the
public schools and then to a "business college," where he had developed
remarkable expertness as a stenographer. He referred to his skill in
this difficult exercise with pitying contempt. Nevertheless, from a room
noisy with typewriters this skill had lifted him into the private office
of the president of the Nitrate Trust. There, as Schnitzel expressed it,
"I saw 'mine,' and I took it." To trace back the criminal instinct that
led Schnitzel to steal and sell the private letters of his employer was
not difficult. In all of his few early years I found it lying latent. Of
every story he told of himself, and he talked only of himself, there was
not one that was not to his discredit. He himself never saw this, nor
that all he told me showed he was without the moral sense, and with an
instinctive enjoyment of what was deceitful, mean, and underhand. That,
as I read it, was his character.

[Illustration: Schnitzel was smiling to himself]

In appearance he was smooth-shaven, with long locks that hung behind
wide, protruding ears. He had the unhealthy skin of bad blood, and his
eyes, as though the daylight hurt them, constantly opened and shut. He
was like hundreds of young men that you see loitering on upper Broadway
and making predatory raids along the Rialto. Had you passed him in that
neighborhood you would have set him down as a wire-tapper, a racing
tout, a would-be actor.

As I worked it out, Schnitzel was a spy because it gave him an
importance he had not been able to obtain by any other effort. As a
child and as a clerk, it was easy to see that among his associates
Schnitzel must always have been the butt. Until suddenly, by one dirty
action, he had placed himself outside their class. As he expressed it:
"Whenever I walk through the office now, where all the stenographers
sit, you ought to see those slobs look after me. When they go to the
president's door, they got to knock, like I used to, but now, when the
old man sees me coming to make my report after one of these trips he
calls out, 'Come right in, Mr. Schnitzel.' And like as not I go in with
my hat on and offer him a cigar. An' they see me do it, too!"

To me, that speech seemed to give Schnitzel's view of the values of his
life. His vanity demanded he be pointed at, if even with contempt. But
the contempt never reached him--he only knew that at last people took
note of him. They no longer laughed at him, they were afraid of him. In
his heart he believed that they regarded him as one who walked in the
dark places of world politics, who possessed an evil knowledge of great
men as evil as himself, as one who by blackmail held public ministers at
his mercy.

This view of himself was the one that he tried to give me. I probably
was the first decent man who ever had treated him civilly, and to
impress me with his knowledge he spread that knowledge before me. It was
_sale_, shocking, degrading.

At first I took comfort in the thought that Schnitzel was a liar. Later,
I began to wonder if all of it were a lie, and finally, in a way I could
not doubt, it was proved to me that the worst he charged was true.

The night I first began to believe him was the night we touched at
Cristobal, the last port in Valencia. In the most light-hearted manner
he had been accusing all concerned in the nitrate fight with every crime
known in Wall Street and in the dark reaches of the Congo River.

"But, I know him, Mr. Schnitzel," I said sternly. "He is incapable of
it. I went to college with him."

"I don't care whether he's a rah-rah boy or not," said Schnitzel, "I
know that's what he did when he was up the Orinoco after orchids, and if
the tribe had ever caught him they'd have crucified him. And I know
this, too: he made forty thousand dollars out of the Nitrate Company on
a ten-thousand-dollar job. And I know it, because he beefed to me about
it himself, because it wasn't big enough."

We were passing the limestone island at the entrance to the harbor,
where, in the prison fortress, with its muzzle-loading guns pointing
drunkenly at the sky, are buried the political prisoners of Valencia.

"Now, there," said Schnitzel, pointing, "that shows you what the Nitrate
Trust can do. Judge Rojas is in there. He gave the first decision in
favor of the Walker-Keefe people, and for making that decision William
T. Scott, the Nitrate manager, made Alvarez put Rojas in there. He's
seventy years old, and he's been there five years. The cell they keep
him in is below the sea-level, and the salt-water leaks through the
wall. I've seen it. That's what William T. Scott did, an' up in New York
people think 'Billy' Scott is a fine man. I seen him at the Horse Show
sitting in a box, bowing to everybody, with his wife sitting beside him,
all hung out with pearls. An' that was only a month after I'd seen Rojas
in that sewer where Scott put him."

"Schnitzel," I laughed, "you certainly are a magnificent liar."

Schnitzel showed no resentment.

"Go ashore and look for yourself," he muttered. "Don't believe me. Ask
Rojas. Ask the first man you meet." He shivered, and shrugged his
shoulders. "I tell you, the walls are damp, like sweat."

The Government had telegraphed the commandant to come on board and, as
he expressed it, "offer me the hospitality of the port," which meant
that I had to take him to the smoking-room and give him champagne. What
the Government really wanted was to find out whether I was still on
board, and if it were finally rid of me.

I asked the official concerning Judge Rojas.

"Oh, yes," he said readily. "He is still _incommunicado_."

Without believing it would lead to anything, I suggested:

"It was foolish of him to give offence to Mr. Scott?"

The commandant nodded vivaciously.

"Mr. Scott is very powerful man," he assented. "We all very much love
Mr. Scott. The president, he love Mr. Scott, too, but the judges were
not sympathetic to Mr. Scott, so Mr. Scott asked our president to give
them a warning, and Señor Rojas--he is the warning."

"When will he get out?" I asked.

The commandant held up the glass in the sunlight from the open air-port,
and gazed admiringly at the bubbles.

"Who can tell," he said. "Any day when Mr. Scott wishes. Maybe, never.
Señor Rojas is an old man. Old, and he has much rheumatics. Maybe, he
will never come out to see our beloved country any more."

As we left the harbor we passed so close that one could throw a stone
against the wall of the fortress. The sun was just sinking and the air
became suddenly chilled. Around the little island of limestone the waves
swept through the sea-weed and black manigua up to the rusty bars of the
cells. I saw the barefooted soldiers smoking upon the sloping ramparts,
the common criminals in a long stumbling line bearing kegs of water,
three storm-beaten palms rising like gallows, and the green and yellow
flag of Valencia crawling down the staff. Somewhere entombed in that
blotched and mildewed masonry an old man of seventy years was shivering
and hugging himself from the damp and cold. A man who spoke five
languages, a just, brave gentleman. To me it was no new story. I knew
of the horrors of Cristobal prison; of political rivals chained to
criminals loathsome with disease, of men who had raised the flag of
revolution driven to suicide. But never had I supposed that my own
people could reach from the city of New York and cast a fellow-man into
that cellar of fever and madness.

[Illustration: "Schnitzel, you certainly are a magnificent liar"]

As I watched the yellow wall sink into the sea, I became conscious that
Schnitzel was near me, as before, leaning on the rail, with his chin
sunk on his arms. His face was turned toward the fortress, and for the
first time since I had known him it was set and serious. And when, a
moment later, he passed me without recognition, I saw that his eyes were
filled with fear.

When we touched at Curaçoa I sent a cable to my sister, announcing the
date of my arrival, and then continued on to the Hotel Venezuela. Almost
immediately Schnitzel joined me. With easy carelessness he said: "I was
in the cable office just now, sending off a wire, and that operator told
me he can't make head or tail of the third word in your cable."

"That is strange," I commented, "because it's a French word, and he is
French. That's why I wrote it in French."

With the air of one who nails another in a falsehood, Schnitzel
exclaimed:

"Then, how did you suppose your sister was going to read it? It's a
cipher, that's what it is. Oh, no, _you're_ not on a secret mission! Not
at all!"

It was most undignified of me, but in five minutes I excused myself, and
sent to the State Department the following words:

"Roses red, violets blue, send snow."

Later at the State Department the only person who did not eventually
pardon my jest was the clerk who had sat up until three in the morning
with my cable, trying to fit it to any known code.

Immediately after my return to the Hotel Venezuela Schnitzel excused
himself, and half an hour later returned in triumph with the cable
operator and ordered lunch for both. They imbibed much sweet champagne.

When we again were safe at sea, I said: "Schnitzel, how much did you pay
that Frenchman to let you read my second cable?"

Schnitzel's reply was prompt and complacent.

"One hundred dollars gold. It was worth it. Do you want to know how I
doped it out?"

I even challenged him to do so. "'Roses red'--war declared; 'violets
blue'--outlook bad, or blue; 'send snow'--send squadron, because the
white squadron is white like snow. See? It was too easy."

"Schnitzel," I cried, "you are wonderful!"

Schnitzel yawned in my face.

"Oh, you don't have to hit the soles of my feet with a night-stick to
keep me awake," he said.

After I had been a week at sea, I found that either I had to believe
that in all things Schnitzel was a liar, or that the men of the Nitrate
Trust were in all things evil. I was convinced that instead of the
people of Valencia robbing them, they were robbing both the people of
Valencia and the people of the United States.

To go to war on their account was to degrade our Government. I explained
to Schnitzel it was not becoming that the United States navy should be
made the cat's-paw of a corrupt corporation. I asked his permission to
repeat to the authorities at Washington certain of the statements he had
made.

Schnitzel was greatly pleased.

"You're welcome to tell 'em anything I've said," he assented. "And," he
added, "most of it's true, too."

I wrote down certain charges he had made, and added what I had always
known of the nitrate fight. It was a terrible arraignment. In the
evening I read my notes to Schnitzel, who, in a corner of the
smoking-room, sat, frowning importantly, checking off each statement,
and where I made an error of a date or a name, severely correcting me.

Several times I asked him, "Are you sure this won't get you into trouble
with your 'people'? You seem to accuse everybody on each side."

Schnitzel's eyes instantly closed with suspicion.

"Don't you worry about me and my people," he returned sulkily. "That's
_my_ secret, and you won't find it out, neither. I may be as crooked as
the rest of them, but I'm not giving away my employer."

I suppose I looked puzzled.

"I mean not a second time," he added hastily. "I know what you're
thinking of, and I got five thousand dollars for it. But now I mean to
stick by the men that pay my wages."

"But you've told me enough about each of the three to put any one of
them in jail."

"Of course, I have," cried Schnitzel triumphantly.

"If I'd let down on any one crowd you'd know I was working for that
crowd, so I've touched 'em all up. Only what I told you about my
crowd--isn't true."

The report we finally drew up was so sensational that I was of a mind
to throw it overboard. It accused members of the Cabinet, of our Senate,
diplomats, business men of national interest, judges of the Valencia
courts, private secretaries, clerks, hired bullies, and filibusters. Men
the trust could not bribe it had blackmailed. Those it could not
corrupt, and they were pitifully few, it crushed with some disgraceful
charge.

Looking over my notes, I said:

"You seem to have made every charge except murder."

"How'd I come to leave that out?" Schnitzel answered flippantly. "What
about Coleman, the foreman at Bahia, and that German contractor,
Ebhardt, and old Smedburg? They talked too much, and they died of
yellow-fever, maybe, and maybe what happened to them was they ate
knockout drops in their soup."

I disbelieved him, but there came a sudden nasty doubt.

"Curtis, who managed the company's plant at Barcelona, died of
yellow-fever," I said, "and was buried the same day."

For some time Schnitzel glowered uncertainly at the bulkhead.

"Did you know him?" he asked.

"When I was in the legation I knew him well," I said.

"So did I," said Schnitzel. "He wasn't murdered. He murdered himself. He
was wrong ten thousand dollars in his accounts. He got worrying about it
and we found him outside the clearing with a hole in his head. He left a
note saying he couldn't bear the disgrace. As if the company would hold
a little grafting against as good a man as Curtis!"

Schnitzel coughed and pretended it was his cigarette.

"You see you don't put in nothing against him," he added savagely.

It was the first time I had seen Schnitzel show emotion, and I was moved
to preach.

"Why don't you quit?" I said. "You had an A1 job as a stenographer. Why
don't you go back to it?"

"Maybe, some day. But it's great being your own boss. If I was a
stenographer, I wouldn't be helping you send in a report to the State
Department, would I? No, this job is all right. They send you after
something big, and you have the devil of a time getting it, but when you
get it, you feel like you had picked a hundred-to-one shot."

The talk or the drink had elated him. His fish-like eyes bulged and
shone. He cast a quick look about him. Except for ourselves, the
smoking-room was empty. From below came the steady throb of the engines,
and from outside the whisper of the waves and of the wind through the
cordage. A barefooted sailor pattered by to the bridge. Schnitzel bent
toward me, and with his hand pointed to his throat.

"I've got papers on me that's worth a million to a certain party," he
whispered. "You understand, my notes in cipher."

He scowled with intense mystery.

"I keep 'em in an oiled-silk bag, tied around my neck with a string. And
here," he added hastily, patting his hip, as though to forestall any
attack I might make upon his person, "I carry my automatic. It shoots
nine bullets in five seconds. They got to be quick to catch me."

"Well, if you have either of those things on you," I said testily, "I
don't want to know it. How often have I told you not to talk and drink
at the same time?"

"Ah, go on," laughed Schnitzel. "That's an old gag, warning a fellow not
to talk so as to _make_ him talk. I do that myself."

That Schnitzel had important papers tied to his neck I no more believe
than that he wore a shirt of chain armor, but to please him I pretended
to be greatly concerned.

"Now that we're getting into New York," I said, "you must be very
careful. A man who carries such important documents on his person might
be murdered for them. I think you ought to disguise yourself."

A picture of my bag being carried ashore by Schnitzel in the uniform of
a ship's steward rather pleased me.

"Go on, you're kidding!" said Schnitzel. He was drawn between believing
I was deeply impressed and with fear that I was mocking him.

"On the contrary," I protested, "I don't feel quite safe myself. Seeing
me with you they may think I have papers around _my_ neck."

"They wouldn't look at you," Schnitzel reassured me. "They know you're
just an amateur. But, as you say, with me, it's different. I _got_ to be
careful. Now, you mightn't believe it, but I never go near my uncle nor
none of my friends that live where I used to hang out. If I did, the
other spies would get on my track. I suppose," he went on grandly, "I
never go out in New York but that at least two spies are trailing me.
But I know how to throw them off. I live 'way down town in a little
hotel you never heard of. You never catch me dining at Sherry's nor the
Waldorf. And you never met me out socially, did you, now?"

I confessed I had not.

"And then, I always live under an assumed name."

"Like 'Jones'?" I suggested.

"Well, sometimes 'Jones,'" he admitted.

"To me," I said, "'Jones' lacks imagination. It's the sort of name you
give when you're arrested for exceeding the speed limit. Why don't you
call yourself Machiavelli?"

"Go on, I'm no dago," said Schnitzel, "and don't you go off thinking
'Jones' is the only disguise I use. But I'm not tellin' what it is, am
I? Oh, no."

"Schnitzel," I asked, "have you ever been told that you would make a
great detective?"

"Cut it out," said Schnitzel. "You've been reading those fairy stories.
There's no fly cops nor Pinks could do the work I do. They're pikers
compared to me. They chase petty-larceny cases and kick in doors. I
wouldn't stoop to what they do. It's being mixed up the way I am with
the problems of two governments that catches me." He added
magnanimously, "You see something of that yourself."

We left the ship at Brooklyn, and with regret I prepared to bid
Schnitzel farewell. Seldom had I met a little beast so offensive, but
his vanity, his lies, his moral blindness, made one pity him. And in ten
days in the smoking-room together we had had many friendly drinks and
many friendly laughs. He was going to a hotel on lower Broadway, and as
my cab, on my way uptown, passed the door, I offered him a lift. He
appeared to consider the advisability of this, and then, with much
by-play of glancing over his shoulder, dived into the front seat and
drew down the blinds. "This hotel I am going to is an old-fashioned
trap," he explained, "but the clerk is wise to me, understand, and I
don't have to sign the register."

As we drew nearer to the hotel, he said: "It's a pity we can't dine out
somewheres and go to the theatre, but--you know?"

With almost too much heartiness I hastily agreed it would be imprudent.

"I understand perfectly," I assented. "You are a marked man. Until you
get those papers safe in the hands of your 'people,' you must be very
cautious."

"That's right," he said. Then he smiled craftily.

"I wonder if you're on yet to which my people are."

I assured him that I had no idea, but that from the avidity with which
he had abused them I guessed he was working for the Walker-Keefe crowd.

He both smiled and scowled.

"Don't you wish you knew?" he said. "I've told you a lot of inside
stories, Mr. Crosby, but I'll never tell on my pals again. Not me!
That's _my_ secret."

At the door of the hotel he bade me a hasty goodbye, and for a few
minutes I believed that Schnitzel had passed out of my life forever.
Then, in taking account of my belongings, I missed my field-glasses. I
remembered that, in order to open a trunk for the customs inspectors, I
had handed them to Schnitzel, and that he had hung them over his
shoulder. In our haste at parting we both had forgotten them.

I was only a few blocks from the hotel, and I told the man to return.

I inquired for Mr. Schnitzel, and the clerk, who apparently knew him by
that name, said he was in his room, number eighty-two.

"But he has a caller with him now," he added. "A gentleman was waiting
for him, and's just gone up."

I wrote on my card why I had called, and soon after it had been born
skyward the clerk said: "I guess he'll be able to see you now. That's
the party that was calling on him, there."

He nodded toward a man who crossed the rotunda quickly. His face was
twisted from us, as though, as he almost ran toward the street, he were
reading the advertisements on the wall.

He reached the door, and was lost in the great tide of Broadway.

I crossed to the elevator, and as I stood waiting, it descended with a
crash, and the boy who had taken my card flung himself, shrieking, into
the rotunda.

"That man--stop him!" he cried. "The man in eighty-two--he's murdered."

The clerk vaulted the desk and sprang into the street, and I dragged the
boy back to the wire rope and we shot to the third story. The boy shrank
back. A chambermaid, crouching against the wall, her face colorless,
lowered one hand, and pointed at an open door.

"In there," she whispered.

In a mean, common room, stretched where he had been struck back upon the
bed, I found the boy who had elected to meddle in the "problems of two
governments."

In tiny jets, from three wide knife-wounds, his blood flowed slowly.
His staring eyes were lifted up in fear and in entreaty. I knew that he
was dying, and as I felt my impotence to help him, I as keenly felt a
great rage and a hatred toward those who had struck him.

I leaned over him until my eyes were only a few inches from his face.

"Schnitzel!" I cried. "Who did this? You can trust me. Who did this?
Quick!"

I saw that he recognized me, and that there was something which, with
terrible effort, he was trying to make me understand.

In the hall was the rush of many people, running, exclaiming, the noise
of bells ringing; from another floor the voice of a woman shrieked
hysterically.

At the sounds the eyes of the boy grew eloquent with entreaty, and with
a movement that called from each wound a fresh outburst, like a man
strangling, he lifted his fingers to his throat.

Voices were calling for water, to wait for the doctor, to wait for the
police. But I thought I understood.

Still doubting him, still unbelieving, ashamed of my own credulity, I
tore at his collar, and my fingers closed upon a package of oiled silk.

I stooped, and with my teeth ripped it open, and holding before him the
slips of paper it contained, tore them into tiny shreds.

The eyes smiled at me with cunning, with triumph, with deep content.

It was so like the Schnitzel I had known that I believed still he might
have strength enough to help me.

"Who did this?" I begged. "I'll hang him for it! Do you hear me?" I
cried.

Seeing him lying there, with the life cut out of him, swept me with a
blind anger, with a need to punish.

"I'll see they hang for it. Tell me!" I commanded. "Who did this?"

The eyes, now filled with weariness, looked up and the lips moved
feebly.

"My own people," he whispered.

In my indignation I could have shaken the truth from him. I bent closer.

"Then, by God," I whispered back, "you'll tell me who they are!"

The eyes flashed sullenly.

"That's my secret," said Schnitzel.

The eyes set and the lips closed.

A man at my side leaned over him, and drew the sheet across his face.



THE MESSENGERS


When Ainsley first moved to Lone Lake Farm all of his friends asked him
the same question. They wanted to know, if the farmer who sold it to him
had abandoned it as worthless, how one of the idle rich, who could not
distinguish a plough from a harrow, hoped to make it pay? His answer was
that he had not purchased the farm as a means of getting richer by
honest toil, but as a retreat from the world and as a test of true
friendship. He argued that the people he knew accepted his hospitality
at Sherry's because, in any event, they themselves would be dining
within a taxicab fare of the same place. But if to see him they
travelled all the way to Lone Lake Farm, he might feel assured that they
were friends indeed.

Lone Lake Farm was spread over many acres of rocky ravine and forest, at
a point where Connecticut approaches New York, and between it and the
nearest railroad station stretched six miles of an execrable wood road.
In this wilderness, directly upon the lonely lake, and at a spot
equally distant from each of his boundary lines, Ainsley built himself a
red brick house. Here, in solitude, he exiled himself; ostensibly to
become a gentleman farmer; in reality to wait until Polly Kirkland had
made up her mind to marry him.

Lone Lake, which gave the farm its name, was a pond hardly larger than a
city block. It was fed by hidden springs, and fringed about with reeds
and cat-tails, stunted willows and shivering birch. From its surface
jutted points of the same rock that had made farming unremunerative, and
to these miniature promontories and islands Ainsley, in keeping with a
fancied resemblance, gave such names as the Needles, St. Helena, the
Isle of Pines. From the edge of the pond that was farther from the house
rose a high hill, heavily wooded. At its base, oak and chestnut trees
spread their branches over the water, and when the air was still were so
clearly reflected in the pond that the leaves seemed to float upon the
surface. To the smiling expanse of the farm the lake was what the eye is
to the human countenance. The oaks were its eyebrows, the fringe of
reeds its lashes, and, in changing mood, it flashed with happiness or
brooded in sombre melancholy. For Ainsley it held a deep attraction.
Through the summer evenings, as the sun set, he would sit on the brick
terrace and watch the fish leaping, and listen to the venerable
bull-frogs croaking false alarms of rain. Indeed, after he met Polly
Kirkland, staring moodily at the lake became his favorite form of
exercise. With a number of other men, Ainsley was very much in love with
Miss Kirkland, and unprejudiced friends thought that if she were to
choose any of her devotees, Ainsley should be that one. Ainsley heartily
agreed in this opinion, but in persuading Miss Kirkland to share it he
had not been successful. This was partly his own fault; for when he
dared to compare what she meant to him with what he had to offer her he
became a mass of sodden humility. Could he have known how much Polly
Kirkland envied and admired his depth of feeling, entirely apart from
the fact that she herself inspired that feeling, how greatly she wished
to care for him in the way he cared for her, life, even alone in the
silences of Lone Lake, would have been a beautiful and blessed thing.
But he was so sure she was the most charming and most wonderful girl in
all the world, and he an unworthy and despicable being, that when the
lady demurred, he faltered, and his pleading, at least to his own ears,
carried no conviction.

"When one thinks of being married," said Polly Kirkland gently, "it
isn't a question of the man you can live with, but the man you can't
live without. And I am sorry, but I've not found that man."

"I suppose," returned Ainsley gloomily, "that my not being able to live
without you doesn't affect the question in the least?"

"You _have_ lived without me," Miss Kirkland pointed out reproachfully,
"for thirty years."

"Lived!" almost shouted Ainsley. "Do you call _that_ living? What was I
before I met you? I was an ignorant beast of the field. I knew as much
about living as one of the cows on my farm. I could sleep twelve hours
at a stretch, or, if I was in New York, I _never_ slept. I was a Day and
Night Bank of health and happiness, a great, big, useless puppy. And now
I can't sleep, can't eat, can't think--except of you. I dream about you
all night, think about you all day, go through the woods calling your
name, cutting your initials in tree trunks, doing all the fool things a
man does when he's in love, and I am the most miserable man in the
world--and the happiest!"

He finally succeeded in making Miss Kirkland so miserable also that she
decided to run away. Friends had planned to spend the early spring on
the Nile and were eager that she should accompany them. To her the
separation seemed to offer an excellent method of discovering whether or
not Ainsley was the man she could not "live without."

Ainsley saw in it only an act of torture, devised with devilish cruelty.

"What will happen to me," he announced firmly, "is that I will plain
_die_! As long as I can see you, as long as I have the chance to try and
make you understand that no one can possibly love you as I do, and as
long as I know I am worrying you to death, and no one else is, I still
hope. I've no right to hope, still I do. And that one little chance
keeps me alive. But Egypt! If you escape to Egypt, what hold will I have
on you? You might as well be in the moon. Can you imagine me writing
love-letters to a woman in the moon? Can I send American Beauty roses to
the ruins of Karnak? Here I can telephone you; not that I ever have
anything to say that you want to hear, but because I want to listen to
your voice, and to have you ask, 'Oh! is that _you_?' as though you were
glad it _was_ me. But Egypt! Can I call up Egypt on the long-distance?
If you leave me now, you'll leave me forever, for I'll drown myself in
Lone Lake."

The day she sailed away he went to the steamer, and, separating her
from her friends and family, drew her to the side of the ship farther
from the wharf, and which for the moment, was deserted. Directly below a
pile-driver, with rattling of chains and shrieks from her donkey-engine,
was smashing great logs; on the deck above, the ship's band was braying
forth fictitious gayety, and from every side they were assailed by the
raucous whistles of ferry-boats. The surroundings were not conducive to
sentiment, but for the first time Polly Kirkland seemed a little
uncertain, a little frightened; almost on the verge of tears, almost
persuaded to surrender. For the first time she laid her hand on
Ainsley's arm, and the shock sent the blood to his heart and held him
breathless. When the girl looked at him there was something in her eyes
that neither he nor any other man had ever seen there.

"The last thing I tell you," she said, "the thing I want you to
remember, is this, that, though I do not care--I _want_ to care."

Ainsley caught at her hand and, to the delight of the crew of a passing
tug-boat, kissed it rapturously. His face was radiant. The fact of
parting from her had caused him real suffering, had marked his face with
hard lines. Now, hope and happiness smoothed them away and his eyes
shone with his love for her. He was trembling, laughing, jubilant.

"And if you should!" he begged. "How soon will I know? You will cable,"
he commanded. "You will cable 'Come,' and the same hour I'll start
toward you. I'll go home now," he cried, "and pack!"

The girl drew away. Already she regretted the admission she had made. In
fairness and in kindness to him she tried to regain the position she had
abandoned.

"But a change like that," she pleaded, "might not come for years, may
never come!" To recover herself, to make the words she had uttered seem
less serious, she spoke quickly and lightly.

"And how could I _cable_ such a thing!" she protested. "It would be far
too sacred, too precious. You should be able to _feel_ that the change
has come."

"I suppose I should," assented Ainsley, doubtfully; "but it's a long way
across two oceans. It would be safer if you'd promise to use the cable.
Just one word: 'Come.'"

The girl shook her head and frowned.

"If you can't feel that the woman you love loves you, even across the
world, you cannot love her very deeply."

"I don't have to answer that!" said Ainsley.

"I will send you a sign," continued the girl, hastily; "a secret
wireless message. It shall be a test. If you love me you will read it at
once. You will know the instant you see it that it comes from me. No one
else will be able to read it; but if you love me, you will know that I
love you."

Whether she spoke in metaphor or in fact, whether she was "playing for
time," or whether in her heart she already intended to soon reward him
with a message of glad tidings, Ainsley could not decide. And even as he
begged her to enlighten him the last whistle blew, and a determined
officer ordered him to the ship's side.

"Just as in everything that is beautiful," he whispered eagerly, "I
always see something of you, so now in everything wonderful I will read
your message. But," he persisted, "how shall I be _sure_?"

The last bag of mail had shot into the hold, the most reluctant of the
visitors were being hustled down the last remaining gangplank. Ainsley's
state was desperate.

"Will it be in symbol, or in cipher?" he demanded. "Must I read it in
the sky, or will you hide it in a letter, or--where? Help me! Give me
just a hint!"

The girl shook her head.

"You will read it--in your heart," she said.

From the end of the wharf Ainsley watched the funnels of the ship
disappear in the haze of the lower bay. His heart was sore and heavy,
but in it there was still room for righteous indignation. "Read it in my
heart!" he protested. "How the devil can I read it in my heart? I want
to read it _printed_ in a cablegram."

Because he had always understood that young men in love found solace for
their misery in solitude and in communion with nature, he at once drove
his car to Lone Lake. But his misery was quite genuine, and the
emptiness of the brick house only served to increase his loneliness. He
had built the house for her, though she had never visited it, and was
associated with it only through the somewhat indefinite medium of the
telephone box. But in New York they had been much together. And Ainsley
quickly decided that in revisiting those places where he had been happy
in her company he would derive from the recollection some melancholy
consolation. He accordingly raced back through the night to the city;
nor did he halt until he was at the door of her house. She had left it
only that morning, and though it was locked in darkness, it still spoke
of her. At least it seemed to bring her nearer to him than when he was
listening to the frogs in the lake, and crushing his way through the
pines.

He was not hungry, but he went to a restaurant where, when he was host,
she had often been the honored guest, and he pretended they were at
supper together and without a chaperon. Either the illusion, or the
supper cheered him, for he was encouraged to go on to his club. There in
the library, with the aid of an atlas, he worked out where, after
thirteen hours of moving at the rate of twenty-two knots an hour, she
should be at that moment. Having determined that fact to his own
satisfaction, he sent a wireless after the ship. It read: "It is now
midnight and you are in latitude 40° north, longitude 68° west, and I
have grown old and gray waiting for the sign."

The next morning, and for many days after, he was surprised to find that
the city went on as though she still were in it. With unfeeling
regularity the sun rose out of the East River. On Broadway
electric-light signs flashed, street-cars pursued each other, taxicabs
bumped and skidded, women, and even men, dared to look happy, and had
apparently taken some thought to their attire. They did not respect even
his widowerhood. They smiled upon him, and asked him jocularly about
the farm and his "crops," and what he was doing in New York. He pitied
them, for obviously they were ignorant of the fact that in New York
there were art galleries, shops, restaurants of great interest, owing to
the fact that Polly Kirkland had visited them. They did not know that on
upper Fifth Avenue were houses of which she had deigned to approve, or
which she had destroyed with ridicule, and that to walk that avenue and
halt before each of these houses was an inestimable privilege.

Each day, with pathetic vigilance, Ainsley examined his heart for the
promised sign. But so far from telling him that the change he longed for
had taken place, his heart grew heavier, and as weeks went by and no
sign appeared, what little confidence he had once enjoyed passed with
them.

But before hope entirely died, several false alarms had thrilled him
with happiness. One was a cablegram from Gibraltar in which the only
words that were intelligible were "congratulate" and "engagement." This
lifted him into an ecstasy of joy and excitement, until, on having the
cable company repeat the message, he learned it was a request from Miss
Kirkland to congratulate two mutual friends who had just announced their
engagement, and of whose address she was uncertain. He had hardly
recovered from this disappointment than he was again thrown into a
tumult by the receipt of a mysterious package from the custom-house
containing an intaglio ring. The ring came from Italy, and her ship had
touched at Genoa. The fact that it was addressed in an unknown
handwriting did not disconcert him, for he argued that to make the test
more difficult she might disguise the handwriting. He at once carried
the intaglio to an expert at the Metropolitan Museum, and when he was
told that it represented Cupid feeding a fire upon an altar, he reserved
a state-room on the first steamer bound for the Mediterranean. But
before his ship sailed, a letter, also from Italy, from his aunt Maria,
who was spending the winter in Rome, informed him that the ring was a
Christmas gift from her. In his rage he unjustly condemned Aunt Maria as
a meddling old busybody, and gave her ring to the cook.

After two months of pilgrimages to places sacred to the memory of Polly
Kirkland, Ainsley found that feeding his love on post-mortems was poor
fare, and, in surrender, determined to evacuate New York. Since her
departure he had received from Miss Kirkland several letters, but they
contained no hint of a change in her affections, and search them as he
might, he could find no cipher or hidden message. They were merely
frank, friendly notes of travel; at first filled with gossip of the
steamer, and later telling of excursions around Cairo. If they held any
touch of feeling they seemed to show that she was sorry for him, and as
she could not regard him in any way more calculated to increase his
discouragement, he, in utter hopelessness, retreated to the solitude of
the farm. In New York he left behind him two trunks filled with such
garments as a man would need on board a steamer and in the early spring
in Egypt. They had been packed and in readiness since the day she sailed
away, when she had told him of the possible sign. But there had been no
sign. Nor did he longer believe in one. So in the baggage-room of an
hotel the trunks were abandoned, accumulating layers of dust and charges
for storage.

At the farm the snow still lay in the crevices of the rocks and beneath
the branches of the evergreens, but under the wet, dead leaves little
flowers had begun to show their faces. The "backbone of the winter was
broken" and spring was in the air. But as Ainsley was certain that his
heart also was broken, the signs of spring did not console him. At each
week-end he filled the house with people, but they found him gloomy and
he found them dull. He liked better the solitude of the midweek days.
Then for hours he would tramp through the woods, pretending she was at
his side, pretending he was helping her across the streams swollen with
winter rains and melted snow. On these excursions he cut down trees that
hid a view he thought she would have liked, he cut paths over which she
might have walked. Or he sat idly in a flat-bottomed scow in the lake
and made a pretence of fishing. The loneliness of the lake and the
isolation of the boat suited his humor. He did not find it true that
misery loves company. At least to human beings he preferred his
companions of Lone Lake--the beaver building his home among the reeds,
the kingfisher, the blue heron, the wild fowl that in their flight north
rested for an hour or a day upon the peaceful waters. He looked upon
them as his guests, and when they spread their wings and left him again
alone he felt he had been hardly used.

It was while he was sunk in this state of melancholy, and some months
after Miss Kirkland had sailed to Egypt, that hope returned.

For a week-end he had invited Holden and Lowell, two former classmates,
and Nelson Mortimer and his bride. They were all old friends of their
host and well acquainted with the cause of his discouragement. So they
did not ask to be entertained, but, disregarding him, amused themselves
after their own fashion. It was late Friday afternoon. The members of
the house-party had just returned from a tramp through the woods and had
joined Ainsley on the terrace, where he stood watching the last rays of
the sun leave the lake in darkness. All through the day there had been
sharp splashes of rain with the clouds dull and forbidding, but now the
sun was sinking in a sky of crimson, and for the morrow a faint moon
held out a promise of fair weather.

Elsie Mortimer gave a sudden exclamation, and pointed to the east.
"Look!" she said.

The men turned and followed the direction of her hand. In the fading
light, against a background of sombre clouds that the sun could not
reach, they saw, moving slowly toward them and descending as they moved,
six great white birds. When they were above the tops of the trees that
edged the lake, the birds halted and hovered uncertainly, their wings
lifting and falling, their bodies slanting and sweeping slowly, in short
circles.

The suddenness of their approach, their presence so far inland,
something unfamiliar and foreign in the way they had winged their
progress, for a moment held the group upon the terrace silent.

"They are gulls from the Sound," said Lowell.

"They are too large for gulls," returned Mortimer. "They might be wild
geese, but," he answered himself, in a puzzled voice, "it is too late;
and wild geese follow a leader."

As though they feared the birds might hear them and take alarm, the men,
unconsciously, had spoken in low tones.

"They move as though they were very tired," whispered Elsie Mortimer.

"I think," said Ainsley, "they have lost their way."

But even as he spoke, the birds, as though they had reached their goal,
spread their wings to the full length and sank to the shallow water at
the farthest margin of the lake.

As they fell the sun struck full upon them, turning their great pinions
into flashing white and silver.

"Oh!" cried the girl, "but they are beautiful!"

Between the house and the lake there was a ridge of rock higher than the
head of a man, and to this Ainsley and his guests ran for cover. On
hands and knees, like hunters stalking game, they scrambled up the face
of the rock and peered cautiously into the pond. Below them, less than
one hundred yards away, on a tiny promontory, the six white birds
stood motionless. They showed no sign of fear. They could not but know
that beyond the lonely circle of the pond were the haunts of men. From
the farm came the tinkle of a cow-bell, the bark of a dog, and in the
valley, six miles distant, rose faintly upon the stillness of the sunset
hour the rumble of a passing train. But if these sounds carried, the
birds gave no heed. In each drooping head and dragging wing, in the
forward stoop of each white body, weighing heavily on the slim, black
legs, was written utter weariness, abject fatigue. To each even to lower
his bill and sip from the cool waters was a supreme effort. And in their
exhaustion so complete was something humanly helpless and pathetic.

[Illustration: "I think," said Ainsley, "they have lost their way"]

To Ainsley the mysterious visitors made a direct appeal. He felt as
though they had thrown themselves upon his hospitality. That they showed
such confidence that the sanctuary would be kept sacred touched him. And
while his friends spoke eagerly, he remained silent, watching the
drooping, ghost-like figures, his eyes filled with pity.

"I have seen birds like those in Florida," Mortimer was whispering, "but
they were not migratory birds."

"And I've seen white cranes in the Adirondacks," said Lowell, "but never
six at one time."

"They're like no bird _I_ ever saw out of a zoo," declared Elsie
Mortimer. "Maybe they _are_ from the Zoo? Maybe they escaped from the
Bronx?"

"The Bronx is too near," objected Lowell. "These birds have come a great
distance. They move as though they had been flying for many days."

As though the absurdity of his own thought amused him, Mortimer laughed
softly.

"I'll tell you what they _do_ look like," he said. "They look like that
bird you see on the Nile, the sacred Ibis, they--"

Something between a gasp and a cry startled him into silence. He found
his host staring wildly, his lips parted, his eyes open wide.

"Where?" demanded Ainsley. "Where did you say?" His voice was so hoarse,
so strange, that they all turned and looked.

"On the Nile," repeated Mortimer. "All over Egypt. Why?"

Ainsley made no answer. Unclasping his hold, he suddenly slid down the
face of the rock, and with a bump lit on his hands and knees. With one
bound he had cleared a flower-bed. In two more he had mounted the steps
to the terrace, and in another instant had disappeared into the house.

"What happened to him?" demanded Elsie Mortimer.

"He's gone to get a gun!" exclaimed Mortimer. "But he mustn't! How can
he think of shooting them?" he cried indignantly. "I'll put a stop to
that!"

In the hall he found Ainsley surrounded by a group of startled servants.

"You get that car at the door in five minutes!" he was shouting, "and
you telephone the hotel to have my trunks out of the cellar and on board
the _Kron Prinz Albert_ by midnight. Then you telephone Hoboken that I
want a cabin, and if they haven't got a cabin I want the captain's. And
tell them anyway I'm coming on board to-night, and I'm going with them
if I have to sleep on deck. And _you_," he cried, turning to Mortimer,
"take a shotgun and guard that lake, and if anybody tries to molest
those birds--shoot him! They've come from Egypt! From Polly Kirkland!
She sent them! They're a sign!"

"Are you going mad?" cried Mortimer.

"No!" roared Ainsley. "I'm going to Egypt, and I'm going _now_!"

Polly Kirkland and her friends were travelling slowly up the Nile, and
had reached Luxor. A few hundred yards below the village their dahabiyeh
was moored to the bank, and, on the deck, Miss Kirkland was watching a
scarlet sun sink behind two palm-trees. By the grace of that special
Providence that cares for drunken men, citizens of the United States,
and lovers, her friends were on shore, and she was alone. For this she
was grateful, for her thoughts were of a melancholy and tender nature
and she had no wish for any companion save one. In consequence, when a
steam-launch, approaching at full speed with the rattle of a
quick-firing gun, broke upon her meditations, she was distinctly
annoyed.

But when, with much ringing of bells and shouting of orders, the
steam-launch rammed the paint off her dahabiyeh, and a young man flung
himself over the rail and ran toward her, her annoyance passed, and with
a sigh she sank into his outstretched, eager arms.

Half an hour later Ainsley laughed proudly and happily.

"Well!" he exclaimed, "you can never say I kept _you_ waiting. I didn't
lose much time, did I? Ten minutes after I got your C.Q.D. signal I was
going down the Boston Post Road at seventy miles an hour."

"My what?" said the girl.

"The sign!" explained Ainsley. "The sign you were to send me to tell
me"--he bent over her hands and added gently--"that you cared for me."

"Oh, I remember," laughed Polly Kirkland. "I was to send you a sign,
wasn't I? You were to 'read it in your heart,'" she quoted.

"And I did," returned Ainsley complacently. "There were several false
alarms, and I'd almost lost hope, but when the messengers came I knew
them."

With puzzled eyes the girl frowned and raised her head.

"Messengers?" she repeated. "I sent no message. Of course," she went on,
"when I said you would 'read it in your heart' I meant that if you
_really_ loved me you would not wait for a sign, but you would just
_come_!" She sighed proudly and contentedly. "And you came. You
understood that, didn't you?" she asked anxiously.

For an instant Ainsley stared blankly, and then to hide his guilty
countenance drew her toward him and kissed her.

"Of course," he stammered--"of course I understood. That was why I came.
I just couldn't stand it any longer."

Breathing heavily at the thought of the blunder he had so narrowly
avoided, Ainsley turned his head toward the great red disk that was
disappearing into the sands of the desert. He was so long silent that
the girl lifted her eyes, and found that already he had forgotten her
presence and, transfixed, was staring at the sky. On his face was
bewilderment and wonder and a touch of awe. The girl followed the
direction of his eyes, and in the swiftly gathering darkness saw coming
slowly toward them, and descending as they came, six great white birds.

They moved with the last effort of complete exhaustion. In the drooping
head and dragging wings of each was written utter weariness, abject
fatigue. For a moment they hovered over the dahabiyeh and above the two
young lovers, and then, like tired travellers who had reached their
journey's end, they spread their wings and sank to the muddy waters of
the Nile and into the enveloping night.

"Some day," said Ainsley, "I have a confession to make to you."



A WASTED DAY


When its turn came, the private secretary, somewhat apologetically, laid
the letter in front of the Wisest Man in Wall Street.

"From Mrs. Austin, probation officer, Court of General Sessions," he
explained. "Wants a letter about Spear. He's been convicted of theft.
Comes up for sentence Tuesday."

"Spear?" repeated Arnold Thorndike.

"Young fellow, stenographer, used to do your letters last summer going
in and out on the train."

The great man nodded. "I remember. What about him?"

The habitual gloom of the private secretary was lightened by a grin.

"Went on the loose; had with him about five hundred dollars belonging to
the firm; he's with Isaacs & Sons now, shoe people on Sixth Avenue. Met
a woman, and woke up without the money. The next morning he offered to
make good, but Isaacs called in a policeman. When they looked into it,
they found the boy had been drunk. They tried to withdraw the charge,
but he'd been committed. Now, the probation officer is trying to get
the judge to suspend sentence. A letter from you, sir, would--"

It was evident the mind of the great man was elsewhere. Young men who,
drunk or sober, spent the firm's money on women who disappeared before
sunrise did not appeal to him. Another letter submitted that morning had
come from his art agent in Europe. In Florence he had discovered the
Correggio he had been sent to find. It was undoubtedly genuine, and he
asked to be instructed by cable. The price was forty thousand dollars.
With one eye closed, and the other keenly regarding the inkstand, Mr.
Thorndike decided to pay the price; and with the facility of long
practice dismissed the Correggio, and snapped his mind back to the
present.

"Spear had a letter from us when he left, didn't he?" he asked. "What he
has developed into, _since_ he left us--" he shrugged his shoulders. The
secretary withdrew the letter, and slipped another in its place.

"Homer Firth, the landscape man," he chanted, "wants permission to use
blue flint on the new road, with turf gutters, and to plant silver firs
each side. Says it will run to about five thousand dollars a mile."

"No!" protested the great man firmly, "blue flint makes a country place
look like a cemetery. Mine looks too much like a cemetery now. Landscape
gardeners!" he exclaimed impatiently. "Their only idea is to insult
nature. The place was better the day I bought it, when it was running
wild; you could pick flowers all the way to the gates." Pleased that it
should have recurred to him, the great man smiled. "Why, Spear," he
exclaimed, "always took in a bunch of them for his mother. Don't you
remember, we used to see him before breakfast wandering around the
grounds picking flowers?" Mr. Thorndike nodded briskly. "I like his
taking flowers to his mother."

"He _said_ it was to his mother," suggested the secretary gloomily.

"Well, he picked the flowers, anyway," laughed Mr. Thorndike. "He didn't
pick our pockets. And he had the run of the house in those days. As far
as we know," he dictated, "he was satisfactory. Don't say more than
that."

The secretary scribbled a mark with his pencil. "And the landscape man?"

"Tell him," commanded Thorndike, "I want a wood road, suitable to a
farm; and to let the trees grow where God planted them."

As his car slid downtown on Tuesday morning the mind of Arnold
Thorndike was occupied with such details of daily routine as the
purchase of a railroad, the Japanese loan, the new wing to his art
gallery, and an attack that morning, in his own newspaper, upon his pet
trust. But his busy mind was not too occupied to return the salutes of
the traffic policemen who cleared the way for him. Or, by some genius of
memory, to recall the fact that it was on this morning young Spear was
to be sentenced for theft. It was a charming morning. The spring was at
full tide, and the air was sweet and clean. Mr. Thorndike considered
whimsically that to send a man to jail with the memory of such a morning
clinging to him was adding a year to his sentence. He regretted he had
not given the probation officer a stronger letter. He remembered the
young man now, and favorably. A shy, silent youth, deft in work, and at
other times conscious and embarrassed. But that, on the part of a
stenographer, in the presence of the Wisest Man in Wall Street, was not
unnatural. On occasions, Mr. Thorndike had put even royalty--frayed,
impecunious royalty, on the lookout for a loan--at its ease.

The hood of the car was down, and the taste of the air, warmed by the
sun, was grateful. It was at this time, a year before, that young Spear
picked the spring flowers to take to his mother. A year from now where
would young Spear be?

It was characteristic of the great man to act quickly, so quickly that
his friends declared he was a slave to impulse. It was these same
impulses, leading so invariably to success, that made his enemies call
him the Wisest Man. He leaned forward and touched the chauffeur's
shoulder. "Stop at the Court of General Sessions," he commanded. What he
proposed to do would take but a few minutes. A word, a personal word
from him to the district attorney, or the judge, would be enough. He
recalled that a Sunday Special had once calculated that the working time
of Arnold Thorndike brought him in two hundred dollars a minute. At that
rate, keeping Spear out of prison would cost a thousand dollars.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out of the sunshine Mr. Thorndike stepped into the gloom of an echoing
rotunda, shut in on every side, hung by balconies, lit, many stories
overhead, by a dirty skylight. The place was damp, the air acrid with
the smell of stale tobacco juice, and foul with the presence of many
unwashed humans. A policeman, chewing stolidly, nodded toward an
elevator shaft, and other policemen nodded him further on to the office
of the district attorney. There Arnold Thorndike breathed more freely.
He was again among his own people. He could not help but appreciate the
dramatic qualities of the situation; that the richest man in Wall Street
should appear in person to plead for a humble and weaker brother. He
knew he could not escape recognition, his face was too well known, but,
he trusted, for the sake of Spear, the reporters would make no display
of his visit. With a deprecatory laugh, he explained why he had come.
But the outburst of approbation he had anticipated did not follow.

The district attorney ran his finger briskly down a printed card. "Henry
Spear," he exclaimed, "that's your man. Part Three, Judge Fallon.
Andrews is in that court." He walked to the door of his private office.
"Andrews!" he called.

He introduced an alert, broad-shouldered young man of years of much
indiscretion and with a charming and inconsequent manner.

"Mr. Thorndike is interested in Henry Spear, coming up for sentence in
Part Three this morning. Wants to speak for him. Take him over with
you."

The district attorney shook hands quickly, and retreated to his private
office. Mr. Andrews took out a cigarette and, as he crossed the floor,
lit it.

"Come with me," he commanded. Somewhat puzzled, slightly annoyed, but
enjoying withal the novelty of the environment and the curtness of his
reception, Mr. Thorndike followed. He decided that, in his ignorance, he
had wasted his own time and that of the prosecuting attorney. He should
at once have sent in his card to the judge. As he understood it, Mr.
Andrews was now conducting him to that dignitary, and, in a moment, he
would be free to return to his own affairs, which were the affairs of
two continents. But Mr. Andrews led him to an office, bare and small,
and offered him a chair, and handed him a morning newspaper. There were
people waiting in the room; strange people, only like those Mr.
Thorndike had seen on ferry-boats. They leaned forward toward young Mr.
Andrews, fawning, their eyes wide with apprehension.

Mr. Thorndike refused the newspaper. "I thought I was going to see the
judge," he suggested.

"Court doesn't open for a few minutes yet," said the assistant district
attorney. "Judge is always late, anyway."

Mr. Thorndike suppressed an exclamation. He wanted to protest, but his
clear mind showed him that there was nothing against which, with reason,
he could protest. He could not complain because these people were not
apparently aware of the sacrifice he was making. He had come among them
to perform a kindly act. He recognized that he must not stultify it by a
show of irritation. He had precipitated himself into a game of which he
did not know the rules. That was all. Next time he would know better.
Next time he would send a clerk. But he was not without a sense of
humor, and the situation as it now was forced upon him struck him as
amusing. He laughed good-naturedly and reached for the desk telephone.

"May I use this?" he asked. He spoke to the Wall Street office. He
explained he would be a few minutes late. He directed what should be
done if the market opened in a certain way. He gave rapid orders on many
different matters, asked to have read to him a cablegram he expected
from Petersburg, and one from Vienna.

"They answer each other," was his final instruction. "It looks like
peace."

Mr. Andrews with genial patience had remained silent. Now he turned upon
his visitors. A Levantine, burly, unshaven, and soiled, towered
truculently above him. Young Mr. Andrews with his swivel chair tilted
back, his hands clasped behind his head, his cigarette hanging from his
lips, regarded the man dispassionately.

"You gotta hell of a nerve to come to see me," he commented cheerfully.
To Mr. Thorndike, the form of greeting was novel. So greatly did it
differ from the procedure of his own office, that he listened with
interest.

"Was it you," demanded young Andrews, in a puzzled tone, "or your
brother who tried to knife me?" Mr. Thorndike, unaccustomed to cross the
pavement to his office unless escorted by bank messengers and
plain-clothes men, felt the room growing rapidly smaller; the figure of
the truculent Greek loomed to heroic proportions. The hand of the banker
went vaguely to his chin, and from there fell to his pearl pin, which he
hastily covered.

"Get out!" said young Andrews, "and don't show your face here--"

The door slammed upon the flying Greek. Young Andrews swung his swivel
chair so that, over his shoulder, he could see Mr. Thorndike, "I don't
like his face," he explained.

A kindly eyed, sad woman with a basket on her knee smiled upon Andrews
with the familiarity of an old acquaintance.

"Is that woman going to get a divorce from my son," she asked, "now that
he's in trouble?"

"Now that he's in Sing Sing?" corrected Mr. Andrews. "I _hope_ so! She
deserves it. That son of yours, Mrs. Bernard," he declared emphatically,
"is no good!"

The brutality shocked Mr. Thorndike. For the woman he felt a thrill of
sympathy, but at once saw that it was superfluous. From the secure and
lofty heights of motherhood, Mrs. Bernard smiled down upon the assistant
district attorney as upon a naughty child. She did not even deign a
protest. She continued merely to smile. The smile reminded Thorndike of
the smile on the face of a mother in a painting by Murillo he had lately
presented to the chapel in the college he had given to his native town.

"That son of yours," repeated young Andrews, "is a leech. He's robbed
you, robbed his wife. Best thing I ever did for _you_ was to send him up
the river."

The mother smiled upon him beseechingly.

"Could you give me a pass?" she said.

Young Andrews flung up his hands and appealed to Thorndike.

"Isn't that just like a mother?" he protested. "That son of hers has
broken her heart, tramped on her, cheated her; hasn't left her a cent;
and she comes to me for a pass, so she can kiss him through the bars!
And I'll bet she's got a cake for him in that basket!"

[Illustration: "Was it you," demanded young Andrews, in a puzzled tone,
"or your brother who tried to knife me?"]

The mother laughed happily; she knew now she would get the pass.

"Mothers," explained Mr. Andrews, from the depth of his wisdom, "are all
like that; your mother, my mother. If you went to jail, your mother
would be just like that."

Mr. Thorndike bowed his head politely. He had never considered going to
jail, or whether, if he did, his mother would bring him cake in a
basket. Apparently there were many aspects and accidents of life not
included in his experience.

Young Andrews sprang to his feet, and, with the force of a hose flushing
a gutter, swept his soiled visitors into the hall.

"Come on," he called to the Wisest Man, "the court is open."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the corridors were many people, and with his eyes on the broad
shoulders of the assistant district attorney, Thorndike pushed his way
through them. The people who blocked his progress were of the class
unknown to him. Their looks were anxious, furtive, miserable. They stood
in little groups, listening eagerly to a sharp-faced lawyer, or, in
sullen despair, eying each other. At a door a tipstaff laid his hand
roughly on the arm of Mr. Thorndike.

"That's all right, Joe," called young Mr. Andrews, "he's with _me_."
They entered the court and passed down an aisle to a railed enclosure in
which were high oak chairs. Again, in his effort to follow, Mr.
Thorndike was halted, but the first tipstaff came to his rescue. "All
right," he signalled, "he's with Mr. Andrews."

Mr. Andrews pointed to one of the oak chairs. "You sit there," he
commanded, "it's reserved for members of the bar, but it's all right.
You're with _me_."

Distinctly annoyed, slightly bewildered, the banker sank between the
arms of a chair. He felt he had lost his individuality. Andrews had
become his sponsor. Because of Andrews he was tolerated. Because Andrews
had a pull he was permitted to sit as an equal among police-court
lawyers. No longer was he Arnold Thorndike. He was merely the man "with
Mr. Andrews."

Then even Andrews abandoned him. "The judge'll be here in a minute,
now," said the assistant district attorney, and went inside a railed
enclosure in front of the judge's bench. There he greeted another
assistant district attorney whose years were those of even greater
indiscretion than the years of Mr. Andrews. Seated on the rail, with
their hands in their pockets and their backs turned to Mr. Thorndike,
they laughed and talked together. The subject of their discourse was one
Mike Donlin, as he appeared in vaudeville.

To Mr. Thorndike it was evident that young Andrews had entirely
forgotten him. He arose, and touched his sleeve. With infinite sarcasm
Mr. Thorndike began: "My engagements are not pressing, but--"

A court attendant beat with his palm upon the rail.

"Sit down!" whispered Andrews. "The judge is coming."

Mr. Thorndike sat down.

The court attendant droned loudly words Mr. Thorndike could not
distinguish. There was a rustle of silk, and from a door behind him the
judge stalked past. He was a young man, the type of the Tammany
politician. On his shrewd, alert, Irish-American features was an
expression of unnatural gloom. With a smile Mr. Thorndike observed that
it was as little suited to the countenance of the young judge as was the
robe to his shoulders. Mr. Thorndike was still smiling when young
Andrews leaned over the rail.

"Stand up!" he hissed. Mr. Thorndike stood up.

After the court attendant had uttered more unintelligible words, every
one sat down; and the financier again moved hurriedly to the rail.

"I would like to speak to him now before he begins," he whispered. "I
can't wait."

Mr. Andrews stared in amazement. The banker had not believed the young
man could look so serious.

"Speak to him, _now_!" exclaimed the district attorney. "You've got to
wait till your man comes up. If you speak to the judge, _now_--" The
voice of Andrews faded away in horror.

Not knowing in what way he had offended, but convinced that it was only
by the grace of Andrews he had escaped a dungeon, Mr. Thorndike
retreated to his arm-chair.

       *       *       *       *       *

The clock on the wall showed him that, already, he had given to young
Spear one hour and a quarter. The idea was preposterous. No one better
than himself knew what his time was really worth. In half an hour there
was a board meeting; later, he was to hold a post mortem on a railroad;
at every moment questions were being asked by telegraph, by cable,
questions that involved the credit of individuals, of firms, of even
the country. And the one man who could answer them was risking untold
sums only that he might say a good word for an idle apprentice. Inside
the railed enclosure a lawyer was reading a typewritten speech. He
assured his honor that he must have more time to prepare his case. It
was one of immense importance. The name of a most respectable business
house was involved, and a sum of no less than nine hundred dollars. Nine
hundred dollars! The contrast struck Mr. Thorndike's sense of humor full
in the centre. Unknowingly, he laughed, and found himself as conspicuous
as though he had appeared suddenly in his night-clothes. The tipstaffs
beat upon the rail, the lawyer he had interrupted uttered an indignant
exclamation, Andrews came hurriedly toward him, and the young judge
slowly turned his head.

"Those persons," he said, "who cannot respect the dignity of this court
will leave it." As he spoke, with his eyes fixed on those of Mr.
Thorndike, the latter saw that the young judge had suddenly recognized
him. But the fact of his identity did not cause the frown to relax or
the rebuke to halt unuttered. In even, icy tones the judge continued:
"And it is well they should remember that the law is no respecter of
persons and that the dignity of this court will be enforced, no matter
who the offender may happen to be."

Andrews slipped into the chair beside Mr. Thorndike, and grinned
sympathetically.

"Sorry!" he whispered. "Should have warned you. We won't be long now,"
he added encouragingly. "As soon as this fellow finishes his argument,
the judge'll take up the sentences. Your man seems to have other
friends; Isaacs & Sons are here, and the typewriter firm who taught him;
but what _you_ say will help most. It won't be more than a couple of
hours now."

"A couple of hours!" Mr. Thorndike raged inwardly. A couple of hours in
this place where he had been publicly humiliated. He smiled, a thin,
shark-like smile. Those who made it their business to study his
expressions, on seeing it, would have fled. Young Andrews, not being
acquainted with the moods of the great man, added cheerfully: "By one
o'clock, anyway."

Mr. Thorndike began grimly to pull on his gloves. For all he cared now
young Spear could go hang. Andrews nudged his elbow.

"See that old lady in the front row?" he whispered. "That's Mrs. Spear.
What did I tell you; mothers are all alike. She's not taken her eyes
off you since court opened. She knows you're her one best bet."

Impatiently Mr. Thorndike raised his head. He saw a little, white-haired
woman who stared at him. In her eyes was the same look he had seen in
the eyes of men who, at times of panic, fled to him, beseeching,
entreating, forcing upon him what was left of the wreck of their
fortunes, if only he would save their honor.

"And here come the prisoners," Andrews whispered. "See Spear? Third man
from the last." A long line, guarded in front and rear, shuffled into
the court-room, and, as ordered, ranged themselves against the wall.
Among them were old men and young boys, well dressed, clever-looking
rascals, collarless tramps, fierce-eyed aliens, smooth-shaven,
thin-lipped Broadwayards--and Spear.

Spear, his head hanging, with lips white and cheeks ashen, and his eyes
heavy with shame.

Mr. Thorndike had risen, and, in farewell, was holding out his hand to
Andrews. He turned, and across the court-room the eyes of the financier
and the stenographer met. At the sight of the great man, Spear flushed
crimson, and then his look of despair slowly disappeared; and into his
eyes there came incredulously hope and gratitude. He turned his head
suddenly to the wall.

Mr. Thorndike stood irresolute, and then sank back into his chair.

The first man in the line was already at the railing, and the questions
put to him by the judge were being repeated to him by the other
assistant district attorney and a court attendant. His muttered answers
were in turn repeated to the judge.

"Says he's married, naturalized citizen, Lutheran Church, die-cutter by
profession."

The probation officer, her hands filled with papers, bustled forward and
whispered.

"Mrs. Austin says," continued the district attorney, "she's looked into
this case, and asks to have the man turned over to her. He has a wife
and three children; has supported them for five years."

"Is the wife in court?" the judge said.

A thin, washed-out, pretty woman stood up, and clasped her hands in
front of her.

"Has this man been a good husband to you, madam?" asked the young judge.

The woman broke into vehement assurances. No man could have been a
better husband. Would she take him back? Indeed she would take him back.
She held out her hands as though she would physically drag her husband
from the pillory.

[Illustration: Mr. Thorndike stood irresolute, and then sank back into
his chair]

The judge bowed toward the probation officer, and she beckoned the
prisoner to her.

Other men followed, and in the fortune of each Mr. Thorndike found
himself, to his surprise, taking a personal interest. It was as good as
a play. It reminded him of the Sicilians he had seen in London in their
little sordid tragedies. Only these actors were appearing in their
proper persons in real dramas of a life he did not know, but which
appealed to something that had been long untouched, long in disuse. It
was an uncomfortable sensation that left him restless because, as he
appreciated, it needed expression, an outlet. He found this, partially,
in praising, through Andrews, the young judge who had publicly rebuked
him. Mr. Thorndike found him astute, sane; his queries intelligent, his
comments just. And this probation officer, she, too, was capable, was
she not? Smiling at his interest in what to him was an old story, the
younger man nodded.

"I like her looks," whispered the great man. "Like her clear eyes and
clean skin. She strikes me as able, full of energy, and yet womanly.
These men when they come under her charge," he insisted, eagerly, "need
money to start again, don't they?" He spoke anxiously. He believed he
had found the clew to his restlessness. It was a desire to help; to be
of use to these failures who had fallen and who were being lifted to
their feet. Andrews looked at him curiously. "Anything you give her," he
answered, "would be well invested."

"If you will tell me her name and address?" whispered the banker. He was
much given to charity, but it had been perfunctory, it was extended on
the advice of his secretary. In helping here, he felt a genial glow of
personal pleasure. It was much more satisfactory than giving an Old
Master to his private chapel.

In the rear of the court-room there was a scuffle that caused every one
to turn and look. A man, who had tried to force his way past the
tipstaffs, was being violently ejected, and, as he disappeared, he waved
a paper toward Mr. Thorndike. The banker recognized him as his chief
clerk. Andrews rose anxiously. "That man wanted to get to you. I'll see
what it is. Maybe it's important."

Mr. Thorndike pulled him back.

"Maybe it is," he said dryly. "But I can't see him now, I'm busy."

       *       *       *       *       *

Slowly the long line of derelicts, of birds of prey, of sorry, weak
failures, passed before the seat of judgment. Mr. Thorndike had moved
into a chair nearer to the rail, and from time to time made a note upon
the back of an envelope. He had forgotten the time or had chosen to
disregard it. So great was his interest that he had forgotten the
particular derelict he had come to serve, until Spear stood almost at
his elbow.

Thorndike turned eagerly to the judge, and saw that he was listening to
a rotund, gray little man with beady, bird-like eyes who, as he talked,
bowed and gesticulated. Behind him stood a younger man, a more modern
edition of the other. He also bowed and, behind gold eye-glasses, smiled
ingratiatingly.

The judge nodded, and leaning forward, for a few moments fixed his eyes
upon the prisoner.

"You are a very fortunate young man," he said. He laid his hand upon a
pile of letters. "When you were your own worst enemy, your friends came
to help you. These letters speak for you; your employers, whom you
robbed, have pleaded with me in your favor. It is urged, in your behalf,
that at the time you committed the crime of which you are found guilty,
you were intoxicated. In the eyes of the law, that is no excuse. Some
men can drink and keep their senses. It appears you can not. When you
drink you are a menace to yourself--and, as is shown by this crime, to
the community. Therefore, you must not drink. In view of the good
character to which your friends have testified, and on the condition
that you do not touch liquor, I will not sentence you to jail, but will
place you in charge of the probation officer."

The judge leaned back in his chair and beckoned to Mr. Andrews. It was
finished. Spear was free, and from different parts of the court-room
people were moving toward the door. Their numbers showed that the
friends of the young man had been many. Mr. Thorndike felt a certain
twinge of disappointment. Even though the result relieved and pleased
him, he wished, in bringing it about, he had had some part.

He begrudged to Isaacs & Sons the credit of having given Spear his
liberty. His morning had been wasted. He had neglected his own
interests, and in no way assisted those of Spear. He was moving out of
the railed enclosure when Andrews called him by name.

"His honor," he said impressively, "wishes to speak to you."

The judge leaned over his desk and shook Mr. Thorndike by the hand. Then
he made a speech. The speech was about public-spirited citizens who, to
the neglect of their own interests, came to assist the ends of justice,
and fellow-creatures in misfortune. He purposely spoke in a loud voice,
and every one stopped to listen.

"The law, Mr. Thorndike, is not vindictive," he said. "It wishes only to
be just. Nor can it be swayed by wealth or political or social
influences. But when there is good in a man, I, personally, want to know
it, and when gentlemen like yourself, of your standing in this city,
come here to speak a good word for a man, we would stultify the purpose
of justice if we did not listen. I thank you for coming, and I wish more
of our citizens were as unselfish and public-spirited."

It was all quite absurd and most embarrassing, but inwardly Mr.
Thorndike glowed with pleasure. It was a long time since any one had had
the audacity to tell him he had done well. From the friends of Spear
there was a ripple of applause, which no tipstaff took it upon himself
to suppress, and to the accompaniment of this, Mr. Thorndike walked to
the corridor. He was pleased with himself and with his fellow-men. He
shook hands with Isaacs & Sons, and congratulated them upon their public
spirit, and the typewriter firm upon their public spirit. And then he
saw Spear standing apart regarding him doubtfully.

Spear did not offer his hand, but Mr. Thorndike took it, and shook it,
and said: "I want to meet your mother."

And when Mrs. Spear tried to stop sobbing long enough to tell him how
happy she was, and how grateful, he instead told her what a fine son she
had, and that he remembered when Spear used to carry flowers to town for
her. And she remembered it, too, and thanked him for the flowers. And he
told Spear, when Isaacs & Sons went bankrupt, which at the rate they
were giving away their money to the Hebrew Hospital would be very soon,
Spear must come back to him. And Isaacs & Sons were delighted at the
great man's pleasantry, and afterward repeated it many times, calling
upon each other to bear witness, and Spear felt as though some one had
given him a new backbone, and Andrews, who was guiding Thorndike out of
the building, was thinking to himself what a great confidence man had
been lost when Thorndike became a banker.

       *       *       *       *       *

The chief clerk and two bank messengers were waiting by the automobile
with written calls for help from the office. They pounced upon the
banker and almost lifted him into the car.

"There's still time!" panted the chief clerk.

"There is not!" answered Mr. Thorndike. His tone was rebellious,
defiant. It carried all the authority of a spoiled child of fortune.
"I've wasted most of this day," he declared, "and I intend to waste the
rest of it. Andrews," he called, "jump in, and I'll give you a lunch at
Sherry's."

The vigilant protector of the public dashed back into the building.

"Wait till I get my hat!" he called.

As the two truants rolled up the avenue the spring sunshine warmed them,
the sense of duties neglected added zest to their holiday, and young Mr.
Andrews laughed aloud.

Mr. Thorndike raised his eyebrows inquiringly.

"I was wondering," said Andrews, "how much it cost you to keep Spear out
of jail?"

"I don't care," said the great man guiltily; "it was worth it."



A CHARMED LIFE


She loved him so, that when he went away to a little war in which his
country was interested she could not understand, nor quite forgive.

As the correspondent of a newspaper, Chesterton had looked on at other
wars; when the yellow races met, when the infidel Turk spanked the
Christian Greek; and one he had watched from inside a British square,
where he was greatly alarmed lest he should be trampled upon by
terrified camels. This had happened before he and she had met. After
they met, she told him that what chances he had chosen to take before he
came into her life fell outside of her jurisdiction. But now that his
life belonged to her, this talk of his standing up to be shot at was
wicked. It was worse than wicked; it was absurd.

When the _Maine_ sank in Havana harbor and the word "war" was appearing
hourly in hysterical extras, Miss Armitage explained her position.

"You mustn't think," she said, "that I am one of those silly girls who
would beg you not to go to war."

At the moment of speaking her cheek happened to be resting against his,
and his arm was about her, so he humbly bent his head and kissed her,
and whispered very proudly and softly, "No, dearest."

At which she withdrew from him frowning.

"No! I'm not a bit like those girls," she proclaimed. "I merely tell you
_you can't go_! My gracious!" she cried, helplessly. She knew the words
fell short of expressing her distress, but her education had not
supplied her with exclamations of greater violence.

"My goodness!" she cried. "How can you frighten me so? It's not like
you," she reproached him. "You are so unselfish, so noble. You are
always thinking of other people. How can you talk of going to war--to be
killed--to me? And now, now that you have made me love you so?"

The hands, that when she talked seemed to him like swallows darting and
flashing in the sunlight, clutched his sleeve. The fingers, that he
would rather kiss than the lips of any other woman that ever lived,
clung to his arm. Their clasp reminded him of that of a drowning child
he had once lifted from the surf.

"If you should die," whispered Miss Armitage. "What would I do. What
would I do!"

"But my dearest," cried the young man. "My dearest _one_! I've _got_ to
go. It's our own war. Everybody else will go," he pleaded. "Every man
you know, and they're going to fight, too. I'm going only to look on.
That's bad enough, isn't it, without sitting at home? You should be
sorry I'm not going to fight."

"Sorry!" exclaimed the girl. "If you love me--"

"If I love you," shouted the young man. His voice suggested that he was
about to shake her. "How dare you?"

She abandoned that position and attacked from one more logical.

"But why punish me?" she protested. "Do _I_ want the war? Do _I_ want to
free Cuba? No! I want _you_, and if you go, you are the one who is sure
to be killed. You are so big--and so brave, and you will be rushing in
wherever the fighting is, and then--then you will die." She raised her
eyes and looked at him as though seeing him from a great distance.
"And," she added fatefully, "I will die, too, or maybe I will have to
live, to live without you for years, for many miserable years."

Fearfully, with great caution, as though in his joy in her he might
crush her in his hands, the young man drew her to him and held her
close. After a silence he whispered. "But, you know that nothing can
happen to me. Not now, that God has let me love you. He could not be so
cruel. He would not have given me such happiness to take it from me. A
man who loves you, as I love you, cannot come to any harm. And the man
_you_ love is immortal, immune. He holds a charmed life. So long as you
love him, he must live."

The eyes of the girl smiled up at him through her tears. She lifted her
lips to his. "Then you will never die!" she said.

She held him away from her. "Listen!" she whispered. "What you say is
true. It must be true, because you are always right. I love you so that
nothing can harm you. My love will be a charm. It will hang around your
neck and protect you, and keep you, and bring you back to me. When you
are in danger my love will save you. For, while it lives, I live. When
it dies--"

Chesterton kissed her quickly.

"What happens then," he said, "doesn't matter."

The war game had run its happy-go-lucky course briefly and brilliantly,
with "glory enough for all," even for Chesterton. For, in no previous
campaign had good fortune so persistently stood smiling at his elbow.
At each moment of the war that was critical, picturesque, dramatic, by
some lucky accident he found himself among those present. He could not
lose. Even when his press boat broke down at Cardenas, a Yankee cruiser
and two Spanish gun-boats, apparently for his sole benefit, engaged in
an impromptu duel within range of his megaphone. When his horse went
lame, the column with which he had wished to advance, passed forward to
the front unmolested, while the rear guard, to which he had been forced
to join his fortune, fought its way through the stifling underbrush.

Between his news despatches, when he was not singing the praises of his
fellow-countrymen, or copying lists of their killed and wounded, he
wrote to Miss Armitage. His letters were scrawled on yellow copy paper
and consisted of repetitions of the three words, "I love you,"
rearranged, illuminated, and intensified.

Each letter began much in the same way. "The war is still going on. You
can read about it in the papers. What I want you to know is that I love
you as no man ever--" And so on for many pages.

From her only one of the letters she wrote reached him. It was picked up
in the sand at Siboney after the medical corps, in an effort to wipe
out the yellow-fever, had set fire to the post-office tent.

She had written it some weeks before from her summer home at Newport,
and in it she said: "When you went to the front, I thought no woman
could love more than I did then. But, now I know. At least I know one
girl who can. She cannot write it. She can never tell you. You must just
believe.

"Each day I hear from you, for as soon as the paper comes, I take it
down to the rocks and read your cables, and I look south across the
ocean to Cuba, and try to see you in all that fighting and heat and
fever. But I am not afraid. For each morning I wake to find I love you
more; that it has grown stronger, more wonderful, more hard to bear. And
I know the charm I gave you grows with it, and is more powerful, and
that it will bring you back to me wearing new honors, 'bearing your
sheaves with you.'

"As though I cared for your new honors. I want _you, you, you_--only
_you_."

When Santiago surrendered and the invading army settled down to arrange
terms of peace, and imbibe fever, and General Miles moved to Porto Rico,
Chesterton moved with him.

In that pretty little island a command of regulars under a general of
the regular army had, in a night attack, driven back the Spaniards from
Adhuntas. The next afternoon as the column was in line of march, and the
men were shaking themselves into their accoutrements, a dusty, sweating
volunteer staff officer rode down the main street of Adhuntas, and with
the authority of a field marshal, held up his hand.

"General Miles's compliments, sir," he panted, "and peace is declared!"

Different men received the news each in a different fashion. Some
whirled their hats in the air and cheered. Those who saw promotion and
the new insignia on their straps vanish, swore deeply. Chesterton fell
upon his saddle-bags and began to distribute his possessions among the
enlisted men. After he had remobilized, his effects consisted of a
change of clothes, his camera, water-bottle, and his medicine case. In
his present state of health and spirits he could not believe he stood in
need of the medicine case, but it was a gift from Miss Armitage, and
carried with it a promise from him that he always would carry it. He had
"packed" it throughout the campaign, and for others it had proved of
value.

"I take it you are leaving us," said an officer enviously.

"I am leaving you so quick," cried Chesterton laughing, "that you won't
even see the dust. There's a transport starts from Mayaguez at six
to-morrow morning, and, if I don't catch it, this pony will die on the
wharf."

"The road to Mayaguez is not healthy for Americans," said the general in
command. "I don't think I ought to let you go. The enemy does not know
peace is on yet, and there are a lot of guerillas--"

Chesterton shook his head in pitying wonder.

"Not let me go!" he exclaimed. "Why, General, you haven't enough men in
your command to stop me, and as for the Spaniards and guerillas--! I'm
homesick," cried the young man. "I'm so damned homesick that I am liable
to die of it before the transport gets me to Sandy Hook."

"If you are shot up by an outpost," growled the general, "you will be
worse off than homesick. It's forty miles to Mayaguez. Better wait till
daylight. Where's the sense of dying, after the fighting's over?"

"If I don't catch that transport I sure _will_ die," laughed Chesterton.
His head was bent and he was tugging at his saddle girths. Apparently
the effort brought a deeper shadow to his tan, "but nothing else can
kill me! I have a charm, General," he exclaimed.

"We hadn't noticed it," said the general.

The staff officers, according to regulations, laughed.

"It's not that kind of a charm," said Chesterton. "Good-by, General."

The road was hardly more than a trail, but the moon made it as light as
day, and cast across it black tracings of the swinging vines and
creepers; while high in the air it turned the polished surface of the
palms into glittering silver. As he plunged into the cool depths of the
forest Chesterton threw up his arms and thanked God that he was moving
toward her. The luck that had accompanied him throughout the campaign
had held until the end. Had he been forced to wait for a transport, each
hour would have meant a month of torment, an arid, wasted place in his
life. As it was, with each eager stride of El Capitan, his little Porto
Rican pony he was brought closer to her. He was so happy that as he
galloped through the dark shadows of the jungle or out into the
brilliant moonlight he shouted aloud and sang; and again as he urged El
Capitan to greater bursts of speed, he explained in joyous, breathless
phrases why it was that he urged him on.

"For she is wonderful and most beautiful," he cried, "the most glorious
girl in all the world! And, if I kept her waiting, even for a moment, El
Capitan, I would be unworthy--and I might lose her! So you see we ride
for a great prize!"

The Spanish column that, the night before, had been driven from
Adhuntas, now in ignorance of peace, occupied both sides of the valley
through which ran the road to Mayaguez, and in ambush by the road itself
had placed an outpost of two men. One was a sharp-shooter of the picked
corps of the Guardia Civile, and one a sergeant of the regiment that lay
hidden in the heights. If the Americans advanced toward Mayaguez, these
men were to wait until the head of the column drew abreast of them, when
they were to fire. The report of their rifles would be the signal for
those in the hill above to wipe out the memory of Adhuntas.

Chesterton had been riding at a gallop, but, as he reached the place
where the men lay in ambush, he pulled El Capitan to a walk, and took
advantage of his first breathing spell to light his pipe. He had already
filled it, and was now fumbling in his pocket for his match-box. The
match-box was of wood such as one can buy, filled to the brim with
matches, for one penny. But it was a most precious possession. In the
early days of his interest in Miss Armitage, as they were once setting
forth upon a motor trip, she had handed it to him.

"Why," he asked.

"You always forget to bring any," she said simply, "and have to borrow
some."

The other men in the car, knowing this to be a just reproof, laughed
sardonically, and at the laugh the girl had looked up in surprise.
Chesterton, seeing the look, understood that her act, trifling as it
was, had been sincere, had been inspired simply by thought of his
comfort. And he asked himself why young Miss Armitage should consider
his comfort, and why the fact that she did consider it should make him
so extremely happy. And he decided it must be because she loved him and
he loved her.

Having arrived at that conclusion, he had asked her to marry him, and
upon the match-box had marked the date and the hour. Since then she had
given him many pretty presents, marked with her initials, marked with
his crest, with strange cabalistic mottoes that meant nothing to any
one save themselves. But the wooden match-box was still the most valued
of his possessions.

As he rode into the valley the rays of the moon fell fully upon him, and
exposed him to the outpost as pitilessly as though he had been held in
the circle of a search-light.

The bronzed Mausers pushed cautiously through the screen of vines. There
was a pause, and the rifle of the sergeant wavered. When he spoke his
tone was one of disappointment.

"He is a scout, riding alone," he said.

"He is an officer," returned the sharp-shooter, excitedly. "The others
follow. We should fire now and give the signal."

"He is no officer, he is a scout," repeated the sergeant. "They have
sent him ahead to study the trail and to seek us. He may be a league in
advance. If we shoot _him_, we only warn the others."

Chesterton was within fifty yards. After an excited and anxious search
he had found the match-box in the wrong pocket. The eyes of the
sharp-shooter frowned along the barrel of his rifle. With his chin
pressed against the stock he whispered swiftly from the corner of his
lips, "He is an officer! I am aiming where the strap crosses his heart.
You aim at his belt. We fire together."

The heat of the tropic night and the strenuous gallop had covered El
Capitan with a lather of sweat. The reins upon his neck dripped with it.
The gauntlets with which Chesterton held them were wet. As he raised the
match-box it slipped from his fingers and fell noiselessly in the trail.
With an exclamation he dropped to the road and to his knees, and groping
in the dust began an eager search.

The sergeant caught at the rifle of the sharp-shooter, and pressed it
down.

"Look!" he whispered. "He _is_ a scout. He is searching the trail for
the tracks of our ponies. If you fire they will hear it a league away."

"But if he finds our trail and returns--"

The sergeant shook his head. "I let him pass forward," he said grimly.
"He will never return."

Chesterton pounced upon the half-buried match-box, and in a panic lest
he might again lose it, thrust it inside his tunic.

"Little do you know, El Capitan," he exclaimed breathlessly, as he
scrambled back into the saddle and lifted the pony into a gallop, "what
a narrow escape I had. I almost lost it."

Toward midnight they came to a wooden bridge swinging above a ravine in
which a mountain stream, forty feet below, splashed over half-hidden
rocks, and the stepping stones of the ford. Even before the campaign
began the bridge had outlived its usefulness, and the unwonted burden of
artillery, and the vibrations of marching men had so shaken it that it
swayed like a house of cards. Threatened by its own weight, at the mercy
of the first tropic storm, it hung a death trap for the one who first
added to its burden.

No sooner had El Capitan struck it squarely with his four hoofs, than he
reared and, whirling, sprang back to the solid earth. The suddenness of
his retreat had all but thrown Chesterton, but he regained his seat, and
digging the pony roughly with his spurs, pulled his head again toward
the bridge.

"What are you shying at, now?" he panted. "That's a perfectly good
bridge."

For a minute horse and man struggled for the mastery, the horse spinning
in short circles, the man pulling, tugging, urging him with knees and
spurs. The first round ended in a draw. There were two more rounds with
the advantage slightly in favor of El Capitan, for he did not approach
the bridge.

The night was warm and the exertion violent. Chesterton, puzzled and
annoyed, paused to regain his breath and his temper. Below him, in the
ravine, the shallow waters of the ford called to him, suggesting a
pleasant compromise. He turned his eyes downward and saw hanging over
the water what appeared to be a white bird upon the lower limb of a dead
tree. He knew it to be an orchid, an especially rare orchid, and he
knew, also, that the orchid was the favorite flower of Miss Armitage. In
a moment he was on his feet, and with the reins over his arm, was
slipping down the bank, dragging El Capitan behind him. He ripped from
the dead tree the bark to which the orchid was clinging, and with wet
moss and grass packed it in his leather camera case. The camera he
abandoned on the path. He always could buy another camera; he could not
again carry a white orchid, plucked in the heart of the tropics on the
night peace was declared, to the girl he left behind him. Followed by El
Capitan, nosing and snuffing gratefully at the cool waters, he waded the
ford, and with his camera case swinging from his shoulder, galloped up
the opposite bank and back into the trail.

A minute later, the bridge, unable to recover from the death blow struck
by El Capitan, went whirling into the ravine and was broken upon the
rocks below. Hearing the crash behind him, Chesterton guessed that in
the jungle a tree had fallen.

They had started at six in the afternoon and had covered twenty of the
forty miles that lay between Adhuntas and Mayaguez, when, just at the
outskirts of the tiny village of Caguan, El Capitan stumbled, and when
he arose painfully, he again fell forward.

Caguan was a little church, a little vine-covered inn, a dozen one-story
adobe houses shining in the moonlight like whitewashed sepulchres. They
faced a grass-grown plaza, in the centre of which stood a great wooden
cross. At one corner of the village was a corral, and in it many ponies.
At the sight Chesterton gave a cry of relief. A light showed through the
closed shutters of the inn, and when he beat with his whip upon the
door, from the adobe houses other lights shone, and white-clad figures
appeared in the moonlight. The landlord of the inn was a Spaniard, fat
and prosperous-looking, but for the moment his face was eloquent with
such distress and misery that the heart of the young man, who was at
peace with all the world, went instantly out to him. The Spaniard was
less sympathetic. When he saw the khaki suit and the campaign hat he
scowled, and ungraciously would have closed the door. Chesterton,
apologizing, pushed it open. His pony, he explained, had gone lame, and
he must have another, and at once. The landlord shrugged his shoulders.
These were war times, he said, and the American officer could take what
he liked. They in Caguan were non-combatants and could not protest.
Chesterton hastened to reassure him. The war, he announced, was over,
and were it not, he was no officer to issue requisitions. He intended to
pay for the pony. He unbuckled his belt and poured upon the table a
handful of Spanish _doubloons_. The landlord lowered the candle and
silently counted the gold pieces, and then calling to him two of his
fellow-villagers, crossed the tiny plaza and entered the corral.

"The American pig," he whispered, "wishes to buy a pony. He tells me the
war is over; that Spain has surrendered. We know that must be a lie. It
is more probable he is a deserter. He claims he is a civilian, but that
also is a lie, for he is in uniform. You, Paul, sell him your pony, and
then wait for him at the first turn in the trail, and take it from him."

"He is armed," protested the one called Paul.

"You must not give him time to draw his revolver," ordered the landlord.
"You and Pedro will shoot him from the shadow. He is our country's
enemy, and it will be in a good cause. And he may carry despatches. If
we take them the commandante at Mayaguez he will reward us."

"And the gold pieces?" demanded the one called Paul.

"We will divide them in three parts," said the landlord.

In the front of the inn, surrounded by a ghost-like group that spoke its
suspicions, Chesterton was lifting his saddle from El Capitan and
rubbing the lame foreleg. It was not a serious sprain. A week would set
it right, but for that night the pony was useless. Impatiently,
Chesterton called across the plaza, begging the landlord to make haste.
He was eager to be gone, alarmed and fearful lest even this slight delay
should cause him to miss the transport. The thought was intolerable. But
he was also acutely conscious that he was very hungry, and he was too
old a campaigner to scoff at hunger. With the hope that he could find
something to carry with him and eat as he rode forward, he entered the
inn.

The main room of the house was now in darkness, but a smaller room
adjoining it was lit by candles, and by a tiny taper floating before a
crucifix. In the light of the candles Chesterton made out a bed, a
priest bending over it, a woman kneeling beside it, and upon the bed the
little figure of a boy who tossed and moaned. As Chesterton halted and
waited hesitating, the priest strode past him, and in a voice dull and
flat with grief and weariness, ordered those at the door to bring the
landlord quickly. As one of the group leaped toward the corral, the
priest said to the others: "There is another attack. I have lost hope."

Chesterton advanced and asked if he could be of service. The priest
shook his head. The child, he said, was the only son of the landlord,
and much beloved by him, and by all the village. He was now in the third
week of typhoid fever and the period of hemorrhages. Unless they could
be checked, the boy would die, and the priest, who for many miles of
mountain and forest was also the only doctor, had exhausted his store of
simple medicines.

"Nothing can stop the hemorrhage," he protested wearily, "but the
strongest of drugs. And I have nothing!"

Chesterton bethought him of the medicine case Miss Armitage had forced
upon him. "I have given opium to the men for dysentery," he said. "Would
opium help you?"

The priest sprang at him and pushed him out of the door and toward the
saddle-bags.

"My children," he cried, to the silent group in the plaza, "God has sent
a miracle!"

After an hour at the bedside the priest said, "He will live," and knelt,
and the mother of the boy and the villagers knelt with him. When
Chesterton raised his eyes, he found that the landlord, who had been
silently watching while the two men struggled with death for the life of
his son, had disappeared. But he heard, leaving the village along the
trail to Mayaguez, the sudden clatter of a pony's hoofs. It moved like a
thing driven with fear.

The priest strode out into the moonlight. In the recovery of the child
he saw only a demonstration of the efficacy of prayer, and he could not
too quickly bring home the lesson to his parishioners. Amid their
murmurs of wonder and gratitude Chesterton rode away. To the kindly care
of the priest he bequeathed El Capitan. With him, also, he left the gold
pieces which were to pay for the fresh pony.

A quarter of a mile outside the village three white figures confronted
him. Two who stood apart in the shadow shrank from observation, but the
landlord, seated bareback upon a pony that from some late exertion was
breathing heavily, called to him to halt.

"In the fashion of my country," he began grandiloquently, "we have come
this far to wish you God speed upon your journey." In the fashion of the
American he seized Chesterton by the hand. "I thank you, señor," he
murmured.

"Not me," returned Chesterton. "But the one who made me 'pack' that
medicine chest. Thank her, for to-night I think it saved a life."

The Spaniard regarded him curiously, fixing him with his eyes as though
deep in consideration. At last he smiled gravely.

"You are right," he said. "Let us both remember her in our prayers."

As Chesterton rode away the words remained gratefully in his memory and
filled him with pleasant thoughts. "The world," he mused, "is full of
just such kind and gentle souls."

       *       *       *       *       *

After an interminable delay he reached Newport, and they escaped from
the others, and Miss Armitage and he ran down the lawn to the rocks, and
stood with the waves whispering at their feet.

It was the moment for which each had so often longed, with which both
had so often tortured themselves by living in imagination, that now,
that it was theirs, they were fearful it might not be true.

Finally, he said: "And the charm never failed! Indeed, it was wonderful!
It stood by me so obviously. For instance, the night before San Juan, in
the mill at El Poso, I slept on the same poncho with another
correspondent. I woke up with a raging appetite for bacon and coffee,
and he woke up out of his mind, and with a temperature of one hundred
and four. And again, I was standing by Capron's gun at El Caney, when a
shell took the three men who served it, and only scared _me_. And
there was another time--" He stopped. "Anyway," he laughed, "here I am."

"But there was one night, one awful night," began the girl. She
trembled, and he made this an added excuse for drawing her closer to
him. "When I felt you were in great peril, that you would surely die.
And all through the night I knelt by the window and looked toward Cuba
and prayed, and prayed to God to let you live."

Chesterton bent his head and kissed the tips of her fingers. After a
moment he said: "Would you know what night it was? It might be curious
if I had been--"

"Would I know!" cried the girl. "It was eight days ago. The night of
the twelfth. An awful night!"

"The twelfth!" exclaimed Chesterton, and laughed and then begged her
pardon humbly. "I laughed because the twelfth," he exclaimed, "was the
night peace was declared. The war was over. I'm sorry, but _that_ night
I was riding toward you, thinking only of you. I was never for a moment
in danger."



THE AMATEUR

I


It was February off the Banks, and so thick was the weather that, on the
upper decks, one could have driven a sleigh. Inside the smoking-room
Austin Ford, as securely sheltered from the blizzard as though he had
been sitting in front of a wood fire at his club, ordered hot gin for
himself and the ship's doctor. The ship's doctor had gone below on
another "hurry call" from the widow. At the first luncheon on board the
widow had sat on the right of Doctor Sparrow, with Austin Ford facing
her. But since then, except to the doctor, she had been invisible. So,
at frequent intervals, the ill health of the widow had deprived Ford of
the society of the doctor. That it deprived him, also, of the society of
the widow did not concern him. _Her_ life had not been spent upon ocean
liners; she could not remember when state-rooms were named after the
States of the Union. She could not tell him of shipwrecks and salvage,
of smugglers and of the modern pirates who found their victims in the
smoking-room.

Ford was on his way to England to act as the London correspondent of the
New York _Republic_. For three years on that most sensational of the New
York dailies he had been the star man, the chief muckraker, the chief
sleuth. His interest was in crime. Not in crimes committed in passion or
inspired by drink, but in such offences against law and society as are
perpetrated with nice intelligence. The murderer, the burglar, the
strong-arm men who, in side streets, waylay respectable citizens did not
appeal to him. The man he studied, pursued, and exposed was the cashier
who evolved a new method of covering up his peculations, the dishonest
president of an insurance company, the confidence man who used no
concealed weapon other than his wit. Toward the criminals he pursued
young Ford felt no personal animosity. He harassed them as he would have
shot a hawk killing chickens. Not because he disliked the hawk, but
because the battle was unequal, and because he felt sorry for the
chickens.

Had you called Austin Ford an amateur detective he would have been
greatly annoyed. He argued that his position was similar to that of the
dramatic critic. The dramatic critic warned the public against bad
plays; Ford warned it against bad men. Having done that, he left it to
the public to determine whether the bad man should thrive or perish.

When the managing editor told him of his appointment to London, Ford had
protested that his work lay in New York; that of London and the English,
except as a tourist and sight-seer, he knew nothing.

"That's just why we are sending you," explained the managing editor.
"Our readers are ignorant. To make them read about London you've got to
tell them about themselves in London. They like to know who's been
presented at court, about the American girls who have married dukes; and
which ones opened a bazaar, and which one opened a hat shop, and which
is getting a divorce. Don't send us anything concerning suffragettes and
Dreadnaughts. Just send us stuff about Americans. If you take your meals
in the Carlton grill-room and drink at the Cecil you can pick up more
good stories than we can print. You will find lots of your friends over
there. Some of those girls who married dukes," he suggested, "know you,
don't they?"

"Not since they married dukes," said Ford.

"Well, anyway, all your other friends will be there," continued the
managing editor encouragingly. "Now that they have shut up the tracks
here all the con men have gone to London. They say an American can't
take a drink at the Salisbury without his fellow-countrymen having a
fight as to which one will sell him a gold brick."

Ford's eyes lightened in pleasurable anticipation.

"Look them over," urged the managing editor, "and send us a special.
Call it 'The American Invasion.' Don't you see a story in it?"

"It will be the first one I send you," said Ford.

The ship's doctor returned from his visit below decks and sank into the
leather cushion close to Ford's elbow. For a few moments the older man
sipped doubtfully at his gin and water, and, as though perplexed, rubbed
his hand over his bald and shining head. "I told her to talk to you," he
said fretfully.

"Her? Who?" inquired Ford. "Oh, the widow?"

"You were right about that," said Doctor Sparrow; "she is not a widow."

The reporter smiled complacently.

"Do you know why I thought not?" he demanded. "Because all the time she
was at luncheon she kept turning over her wedding-ring as though she
was not used to it. It was a new ring, too. I told you then she was not
a widow."

"Do you always notice things like that?" asked the doctor.

"Not on purpose," said the amateur detective; "I can't help it. I see
ten things where other people see only one; just as some men run ten
times as fast as other men. We have tried it out often at the office;
put all sorts of junk under a newspaper, lifted the newspaper for five
seconds, and then each man wrote down what he had seen. Out of twenty
things I would remember seventeen. The next best guess would be about
nine. Once I saw a man lift his coat collar to hide his face. It was in
the Grand Central Station. I stopped him, and told him he was wanted.
Turned out he _was_ wanted. It was Goldberg, making his getaway to
Canada."

"It is a gift," said the doctor.

"No, it's a nuisance," laughed the reporter. "I see so many things I
don't want to see. I see that people are wearing clothes that are not
made for them. I see when women are lying to me. I can see when men are
on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and whether it is drink or debt or
morphine--"

The doctor snorted triumphantly.

"You did not see that the widow was on the verge of a breakdown!"

"No," returned the reporter. "Is she? I'm sorry."

"If you're sorry," urged the doctor eagerly, "you'll help her. She is
going to London alone to find her husband. He has disappeared. She
thinks that he has been murdered, or that he is lying ill in some
hospital. I told her if any one could help her to find him you could. I
had to say something. She's very ill."

"To find her husband in London?" repeated Ford. "London is a large
town."

"She has photographs of him and she knows where he spends his time,"
pleaded the doctor. "He is a company promoter. It should be easy for
you."

"Maybe he doesn't want her to find him," said Ford. "Then it wouldn't be
so easy for me."

The old doctor sighed heavily. "I know," he murmured. "I thought of
that, too. And she is so very pretty."

"That was another thing I noticed," said Ford.

The doctor gave no heed.

"She must stop worrying," he exclaimed, "or she will have a mental
collapse. I have tried sedatives, but they don't touch her. I want to
give her courage. She is frightened. She's left a baby boy at home, and
she's fearful that something will happen to him, and she's frightened at
being at sea, frightened at being alone in London; it's pitiful." The
old man shook his head. "Pitiful! Will you talk to her now?" he asked.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Ford. "She doesn't want to tell the story of her
life to strange young men."

"But it was she suggested it," cried the doctor. "She asked me if you
were Austin Ford, the great detective."

Ford snorted scornfully. "She did not!" he protested. His tone was that
of a man who hopes to be contradicted.

"But she did," insisted the doctor, "and I told her your specialty was
tracing persons. Her face lightened at once; it gave her hope. She will
listen to you. Speak very gently and kindly and confidently. Say you are
sure you can find him."

"Where is the lady now?" asked Ford.

Doctor Sparrow scrambled eagerly to his feet. "She cannot leave her
cabin," he answered.

The widow, as Ford and Doctor Sparrow still thought of her, was lying on
the sofa that ran the length of the state-room, parallel with the lower
berth. She was fully dressed, except that instead of her bodice she wore
a kimono that left her throat and arms bare. She had been sleeping, and
when their entrance awoke her, her blue eyes regarded them
uncomprehendingly. Ford, hidden from her by the doctor, observed that
not only was she very pretty, but that she was absurdly young, and that
the drowsy smile she turned upon the old man before she noted the
presence of Ford was as innocent as that of a baby. Her cheeks were
flushed, her eyes brilliant, her yellow curls had become loosened and
were spread upon the pillow. When she saw Ford she caught the kimono so
closely around her throat that she choked. Had the doctor not pushed her
down she would have stood.

"I thought," she stammered, "he was an _old_ man."

The doctor, misunderstanding, hastened to reassure her. "Mr. Ford is old
in experience," he said soothingly. "He has had remarkable success. Why,
he found a criminal once just because the man wore a collar. And he
found Walsh, the burglar, and Phillips, the forger, and a gang of
counterfeiters--"

Mrs. Ashton turned upon him, her eyes wide with wonder. "But _my_
husband," she protested, "is not a criminal!"

"My dear lady!" the doctor cried. "I did not mean that, of course not. I
meant, if Mr. Ford can find men who don't wish to be found, how easy for
him to find a man who--" He turned helplessly to Ford. "You tell her,"
he begged.

Ford sat down on a steamer trunk that protruded from beneath the berth,
and, turning to the widow, gave her the full benefit of his working
smile. It was confiding, helpless, appealing. It showed a trustfulness
in the person to whom it was addressed that caused that individual to
believe Ford needed protection from a wicked world.

"Doctor Sparrow tells me," began Ford timidly, "you have lost your
husband's address; that you will let me try to find him. If I can help
in any way I should be glad."

The young girl regarded him, apparently, with disappointment. It was as
though Doctor Sparrow had led her to expect a man full of years and
authority, a man upon whom she could lean; not a youth whose smile
seemed to beg one not to scold him. She gave Ford three photographs,
bound together with a string.

"When Doctor Sparrow told me you could help me I got out these," she
said.

Ford jotted down a mental note to the effect that she "got them out."
That is, she did not keep them where she could always look at them. That
she was not used to look at them was evident by the fact that they were
bound together.

The first photograph showed three men standing in an open place and
leaning on a railing. One of them was smiling toward the photographer.
He was a good-looking young man of about thirty years of age, well fed,
well dressed, and apparently well satisfied with the world and himself.
Ford's own smile had disappeared. His eyes were alert and interested.

"The one with the Panama hat pulled down over his eyes is your husband?"
he asked.

"Yes," assented the widow. Her tone showed slight surprise.

"This was taken about a year ago?" inquired Ford. "Must have been," he
answered himself; "they haven't raced at the Bay since then. This was
taken in front of the club stand--probably for the _Telegraph?_" He
lifted his eyes inquiringly.

Rising on her elbow the young wife bent forward toward the photograph.
"Does it say that there," she asked doubtfully. "How did you guess
that?"

In his rôle as chorus the ship's doctor exclaimed with enthusiasm:
"Didn't I tell you? He's wonderful."

Ford cut him off impatiently. "You never saw a rail as high as that
except around a race-track," he muttered. "And the badge in his
buttonhole and the angle of the stand all show--"

He interrupted himself to address the widow. "This is an owner's badge.
What was the name of his stable?"

"I don't know," she answered. She regarded the young man with sudden
uneasiness. "They only owned one horse, but I believe that gave them the
privilege of--"

"I see," exclaimed Ford. "Your husband is a bookmaker. But in London he
is a promoter of companies."

"So my friend tells me," said Mrs. Ashton. "She's just got back from
London. Her husband told her that Harry, my husband, was always at the
American bar in the Cecil or at the Salisbury or the Savoy." The girl
shook her head. "But a woman can't go looking for a man there," she
protested. "That's, why I thought you--"

"That'll be all right," Ford assured her hurriedly. "It's a coincidence,
but it happens that my own work takes me to these hotels, and if your
husband is there I will find him." He returned the photographs.

"Hadn't you better keep one?" she asked.

"I won't forget him," said the reporter. "Besides"--he turned his eyes
toward the doctor and, as though thinking aloud, said--"he may have
grown a beard."

There was a pause.

The eyes of the woman grew troubled. Her lips pressed together as though
in a sudden access of pain.

"And he may," Ford continued, "have changed his name."

As though fearful, if she spoke, the tears would fall, the girl nodded
her head stiffly.

Having learned what he wanted to know Ford applied to the wound a
soothing ointment of promises and encouragement.

"He's as good as found," he protested. "You will see him in a day, two
days after you land."

The girl's eyes opened happily. She clasped her hands together and
raised them.

"You will try?" she begged. "You will find him for me"--she corrected
herself eagerly--"for me and the baby?"

The loose sleeves of the kimono fell back to her shoulders showing the
white arms; the eyes raised to Ford were glistening with tears.

"Of course I will find him," growled the reporter.

He freed himself from the appeal in the eyes of the young mother and
left the cabin. The doctor followed. He was bubbling over with
enthusiasm.

"That was fine!" he cried. "You said just the right thing. There will be
no collapse now."

His satisfaction was swept away in a burst of disgust.

"The blackguard!" he protested. "To desert a wife as young as that and
as pretty as that."

"So I have been thinking," said the reporter. "I guess," he added
gravely, "what is going to happen is that before I find her husband I
will have got to know him pretty well."

Apparently, young Mrs. Ashton believed everything would come to pass
just as Ford promised it would and as he chose to order it; for the next
day, with a color not born of fever in her cheeks and courage in her
eyes, she joined Ford and the doctor at the luncheon-table. Her
attention was concentrated on the younger man. In him she saw the one
person who could bring her husband to her.

"She acts," growled the doctor later in the smoking-room, "as though
she was afraid you were going to back out of your promise and jump
overboard.

"Don't think," he protested violently, "it's you she's interested in.
All she sees in you is what you can do for her. Can you see that?"

"Any one as clever at seeing things as I am," returned the reporter,
"cannot help but see that."

Later, as Ford was walking on the upper deck, Mrs. Ashton came toward
him, beating her way against the wind. Without a trace of coquetry or
self-consciousness, and with a sigh of content, she laid her hand on his
arm.

"When I don't see you," she exclaimed as simply as a child, "I feel so
frightened. When I see you I know all will come right. Do you mind if I
walk with you?" she asked. "And do you mind if every now and then I ask
you to tell me again it will all come right?"

For the three days following Mrs. Ashton and Ford were constantly
together. Or, at least, Mrs. Ashton was constantly with Ford. She told
him that when she sat in her cabin the old fears returned to her, and in
these moments of panic she searched the ship for him.

The doctor protested that he was growing jealous.

"I'm not so greatly to be envied," suggested Ford. "'Harry' at meals
three times a day and on deck all the rest of the day becomes
monotonous. On a closer acquaintance with Harry he seems to be a decent
sort of a young man; at least he seems to have been at one time very
much in love with her."

"Well," sighed the doctor sentimentally, "she is certainly very much in
love with Harry."

Ford shook his head non-committingly. "I don't know her story," he said.
"Don't want to know it."

The ship was in the channel, on her way to Cherbourg, and running as
smoothly as a clock. From the shore friendly lights told them they were
nearing their journey's end; that the land was on every side. Seated on
a steamer-chair next to his in the semi-darkness of the deck, Mrs.
Ashton began to talk nervously and eagerly.

"Now that we are so near," she murmured, "I have got to tell you
something. If you did not know I would feel I had not been fair. You
might think that when you were doing so much for me I should have been
more honest."

She drew a long breath. "It's so hard," she said.

"Wait," commanded Ford. "Is it going to help me to find him?"

"No."

"Then don't tell me."

His tone caused the girl to start. She leaned toward him and peered into
his face. His eyes, as he looked back to her, were kind and
comprehending.

"You mean," said the amateur detective, "that your husband has deserted
you. That if it were not for the baby you would not try to find him. Is
that it?"

Mrs. Ashton breathed quickly and turned her face away.

"Yes," she whispered. "That is it."

There was a long pause. When she faced him again the fact that there was
no longer a secret between them seemed to give her courage.

"Maybe," she said, "you can understand. Maybe you can tell me what it
means. I have thought and thought. I have gone over it and over it until
when I go back to it my head aches. I have done nothing else but think,
and I can't make it seem better. I can't find any excuse. I have had no
one to talk to, no one I could tell. I have thought maybe a man could
understand." She raised her eyes appealingly.

"If you can only make it seem less cruel. Don't you see," she cried
miserably, "I want to believe; I want to forgive him. I want to think he
loves me. Oh! I want so to be able to love him; but how can I? I can't!
I can't!"

In the week in which they had been thrown together the girl
unconsciously had told Ford much about herself and her husband. What she
now told him was but an amplification of what he had guessed.

She had met Ashton a year and a half before, when she had just left
school at the convent and had returned to live with her family. Her home
was at Far Rockaway. Her father was a cashier in a bank at Long Island
City. One night, with a party of friends, she had been taken to a dance
at one of the beach hotels, and there met Ashton. At that time he was
one of a firm that was making book at the Aqueduct race-track. The girl
had met very few men and with them was shy and frightened, but with
Ashton she found herself at once at ease. That night he drove her and
her friends home in his touring-car and the next day they teased her
about her conquest. It made her very happy. After that she went to hops
at the hotel, and as the bookmaker did not dance, the two young people
sat upon the piazza. Then Ashton came to see her at her own house, but
when her father learned that the young man who had been calling upon her
was a bookmaker he told him he could not associate with his daughter.

But the girl was now deeply in love with Ashton, and apparently he with
her. He begged her to marry him. They knew that to this, partly from
prejudice and partly owing to his position in the bank, her father would
object. Accordingly they agreed that in August, when the racing moved to
Saratoga, they would run away and get married at that place. Their plan
was that Ashton would leave for Saratoga with the other racing men, and
that she would join him the next day.

They had arranged to be married by a magistrate, and Ashton had shown
her a letter from one at Saratoga who consented to perform the ceremony.
He had given her an engagement ring and two thousand dollars, which he
asked her to keep for him, lest tempted at the track he should lose it.

But she assured Ford it was not such material things as a letter, a
ring, or gift of money that had led her to trust Ashton. His fear of
losing her, his complete subjection to her wishes, his happiness in her
presence, all seemed to prove that to make her happy was his one wish,
and that he could do anything to make her unhappy appeared impossible.

They were married the morning she arrived at Saratoga; and the same day
departed for Niagara Falls and Quebec. The honeymoon lasted ten days.
They were ten days of complete happiness. No one, so the girl declared,
could have been more kind, more unselfishly considerate than her
husband. They returned to Saratoga and engaged a suite of rooms at one
of the big hotels. Ashton was not satisfied with the rooms shown him,
and leaving her upstairs returned to the office floor to ask for others.

Since that moment his wife had never seen him nor heard from him.

On the day of her marriage young Mrs. Ashton had written to her father,
asking him to give her his good wishes and pardon. He refused both. As
she had feared, he did not consider that for a bank clerk a gambler made
a desirable son-in-law; and the letters he wrote his daughter were so
bitter that in reply she informed him he had forced her to choose
between her family and her husband, and that she chose her husband. In
consequence, when she found herself deserted she felt she could not
return to her people. She remained in Saratoga. There she moved into
cheap lodgings, and in order that the two thousand dollars Ashton had
left with her might be saved for his child, she had learned to
type-write, and after four months had been able to support herself.
Within the last month a girl friend, who had known both Ashton and
herself before they were married, had written her that her husband was
living in London. For the sake of her son she had at once determined to
make an effort to seek him out.

"The son, nonsense!" exclaimed the doctor, when Ford retold the story.
"She is not crossing the ocean because she is worried about the future
of her son. She seeks her own happiness. The woman is in love with her
husband."

Ford shook his head.

"I don't know!" he objected. "She's so extravagant in her praise of
Harry that it seems unreal. It sounds insincere. Then, again, when I
swear I will find him she shows a delight that you might describe as
savage, almost vindictive. As though, if I did find Harry, the first
thing she would do would be to stick a knife in him."

"Maybe," volunteered the doctor sadly, "she has heard there is a woman
in the case. Maybe she is the one she's thinking of sticking the knife
into?"

"Well," declared the reporter, "if she doesn't stop looking savage
every time I promise to find Harry I won't find Harry. Why should I act
the part of Fate, anyway? How do I know that Harry hasn't got a wife in
London and several in the States? How do we know he didn't leave his
country for his country's good? That's what it looks like to me. How can
we tell what confronted him the day he went down to the hotel desk to
change his rooms and, instead, got into his touring-car and beat the
speed limit to Canada. Whom did he meet in the hotel corridor? A woman
with a perfectly good marriage certificate, or a detective with a
perfectly good warrant? Or did Harry find out that his bride had a devil
of a temper of her own, and that for him marriage was a failure? The
widow is certainly a very charming young woman, but there may be two
sides to this."

"You are a cynic, sir," protested the doctor.

"That may be," growled the reporter, "but I am not a private detective
agency, or a matrimonial bureau, and before I hear myself saying, 'Bless
you, my children!' both of these young people will have to show me why
they should not be kept asunder."


II


On the afternoon of their arrival in London Ford convoyed Mrs. Ashton to
an old-established private hotel in Craven Street.

"Here," he explained, "you will be within a few hundred yards of the
place in which your husband is said to spend his time. I will be living
in the same hotel. If I find him you will know it in ten minutes."

The widow gave a little gasp, whether of excitement or of happiness Ford
could not determine.

"Whatever happens," she begged, "will you let me hear from you
sometimes? You are the only person I know in London--and--it's so big it
frightens me. I don't want to be a burden," she went on eagerly, "but if
I can feel you are within call--"

"What you need," said Ford heartily, "is less of the doctor's nerve
tonic and sleeping draughts, and a little innocent diversion. To-night I
am going to take you to the Savoy to supper."

Mrs. Ashton exclaimed delightedly, and then was filled with misgivings.

"I have nothing to wear," she protested, "and over here, in the evening,
the women dress so well. I have a dinner gown," she exclaimed, "but
it's black. Would that do?"

Ford assured her nothing could be better. He had a man's vanity in
liking a woman with whom he was seen in public to be pretty and smartly
dressed, and he felt sure that in black the blond beauty of Mrs. Ashton
would appear to advantage. They arranged to meet at eleven on the
promenade leading to the Savoy supper-room, and parted with mutual
satisfaction at the prospect.

       *       *       *       *       *

The finding of Harry Ashton was so simple that in its very simplicity it
appeared spectacular.

On leaving Mrs. Ashton, Ford engaged rooms at the Hotel Cecil. Before
visiting his rooms he made his way to the American bar. He did not go
there seeking Harry Ashton. His object was entirely self-centred. His
purpose was to drink to himself and to the lights of London. But as
though by appointment, the man he had promised to find was waiting for
him. As Ford entered the room, at a table facing the door sat Ashton.
There was no mistaking him. He wore a mustache, but it was disguise. He
was the same good-natured, good-looking youth who, in the photograph
from under a Panama hat, had smiled upon the world. With a glad cry
Ford rushed toward him.

"Fancy meeting _you_!" he exclaimed.

Mr. Ashton's good-natured smile did not relax. He merely shook his head.

"Afraid you have made a mistake," he said.

The reporter regarded him blankly. His face showed his disappointment.

"Aren't you Charles W. Garrett, of New York?" he demanded.

"Not me," said Mr. Ashton.

"But," Ford insisted in hurt tones, as though he were being trifled
with, "you have been told you look like him, haven't you?"

Mr. Ashton's good nature was unassailable.

"Sorry," he declared, "never heard of him."

Ford became garrulous, he could not believe two men could look so much
alike. It was a remarkable coincidence. The stranger must certainly have
a drink, the drink intended for his twin. Ashton was bored, but
accepted. He was well acquainted with the easy good-fellowship of his
countrymen. The room in which he sat was a meeting-place for them. He
considered that they were always giving each other drinks, and not only
were they always introducing themselves, but saying, "Shake hands with
my friend, Mr. So-and-So." After five minutes they showed each other
photographs of the children. This one, though as loquacious as the
others, seemed better dressed, more "wise"; he brought to the exile the
atmosphere of his beloved Broadway, so Ashton drank to him pleasantly.

"My name is Sydney Carter," he volunteered.

As a poker-player skims over the cards in his hand, Ford, in his mind's
eye, ran over the value of giving or not giving his right name. He
decided that Ashton would not have heard it and that, if he gave a false
one, there was a chance that later Ashton might find out that he had
done so. Accordingly he said, "Mine is Austin Ford," and seated himself
at Ashton's table. Within ten minutes the man he had promised to pluck
from among the eight million inhabitants of London was smiling
sympathetically at his jests and buying a drink.

On the steamer Ford had rehearsed the story with which, should he meet
Ashton, he would introduce himself. It was one arranged to fit with his
theory that Ashton was a crook. If Ashton were a crook Ford argued that
to at once ingratiate himself in his good graces he also must be a
crook. His plan was to invite Ashton to co-operate with him in some
scheme that was openly dishonest. By so doing he hoped apparently to
place himself at Ashton's mercy. He believed if he could persuade Ashton
he was more of a rascal than Ashton himself, and an exceedingly stupid
rascal, any distrust the bookmaker might feel toward him would
disappear. He made his advances so openly, and apparently showed his
hand so carelessly, that, from being bored, Ashton became puzzled, then
interested; and when Ford insisted he should dine with him, he
considered it so necessary to find out who the youth might be who was
forcing himself upon him that he accepted the invitation.

They adjourned to dress and an hour later, at Ford's suggestion, they
met at the Carlton. There Ford ordered a dinner calculated to lull his
newly made friend into a mood suited to confidence, but which had on
Ashton exactly the opposite effect. Merely for the pleasure of his
company, utter strangers were not in the habit of treating him to
strawberries in February, and vintage champagne; and, in consequence, in
Ford's hospitality he saw only cause for suspicion. If, as he had first
feared, Ford was a New York detective, it was most important he should
know that. No one better than Ashton understood that, at that moment,
his presence in New York meant, for the police, unalloyed satisfaction,
and for himself undisturbed solitude. But Ford was unlike any detective
of his acquaintance; and his acquaintance had been extensive. It was
true Ford was familiar with all the habits of Broadway and the
Tenderloin. Of places with which Ashton was intimate, and of men with
whom Ashton had formerly been well acquainted, he talked glibly. But, if
he were a detective, Ashton considered, they certainly had improved the
class.

The restaurant into which for the first time Ashton had penetrated, and
in which he felt ill at ease, was to Ford, he observed, a matter of
course. Evidently for Ford it held no terrors. He criticised the
service, patronized the head waiters, and grumbled at the food; and
when, on leaving the restaurant, an Englishman and his wife stopped at
their table to greet him, he accepted their welcome to London without
embarrassment.

Ashton, rolling his cigar between his lips, observed the incident with
increasing bewilderment.

"You've got some swell friends," he growled. "I'll bet you never met
_them_ at Healey's!"

"I meet all kinds of people in my business," said Ford. "I once sold
that man some mining stock, and the joke of it was," he added, smiling
knowingly, "it turned out to be good."

Ashton decided that the psychological moment had arrived.

"What _is_ your business?" he asked.

"I'm a company promoter," said Ford easily. "I thought I told you."

"I did not tell you that I was a company promoter, too, did I?" demanded
Ashton.

"No," answered Ford, with apparent surprise. "Are you? That's funny."

Ashton watched for the next move, but the subject seemed in no way to
interest Ford. Instead of following it up he began afresh.

"Have you any money lying idle?" he asked abruptly. "About a thousand
pounds."

Ashton recognized that the mysterious stranger was about to disclose
both himself and whatever object he had in seeking him out. He cast a
quick glance about him.

"I can always find money," he said guardedly. "What's the proposition?"

With pretended nervousness Ford leaned forward and began the story he
had rehearsed. It was a new version of an old swindle and to every
self-respecting confidence man was well known as the "sick engineer"
game. The plot is very simple. The sick engineer is supposed to be a
mining engineer who, as an expert, has examined a gold mine and reported
against it. For his services the company paid him partly in stock. He
falls ill and is at the point of death. While he has been ill much gold
has been found in the mine he examined, and the stock which he considers
worthless is now valuable. Of this, owing to his illness, he is
ignorant. One confidence man acts the part of the sick engineer, and the
other that of a broker who knows the engineer possesses the stock but
has no money with which to purchase it from him. For a share of the
stock he offers to tell the dupe where it and the engineer can be found.
They visit the man, apparently at the point of death, and the dupe gives
him money for his stock. Later the dupe finds the stock is worthless,
and the supposed engineer and the supposed broker divide the money he
paid for it. In telling the story Ford pretended he was the broker and
that he thought in Ashton he had found a dupe who would buy the stock
from the sick engineer.

As the story unfolded and Ashton appreciated the part Ford expected him
to play in it, his emotions were so varied that he was in danger of
apoplexy. Amusement, joy, chagrin, and indignation illuminated his
countenance. His cigar ceased to burn, and with his eyes opened wide he
regarded Ford in pitying wonder.

"Wait!" he commanded. He shook his head uncomprehendingly. "Tell me," he
asked, "do I look as easy as that, or are you just naturally foolish?"

Ford pretended to fall into a state of great alarm.

"I don't understand," he stammered.

"Why, son," exclaimed Ashton kindly, "I was taught that story in the
public schools. I invented it. I stopped using it before you cut your
teeth. Gee!" he exclaimed delightedly. "I knew I had grown
respectable-looking, but I didn't think I was so damned
respectable-looking as that!" He began to laugh silently; so greatly was
he amused that the tears shone in his eyes and his shoulders shook.

"I'm sorry for you, son," he protested, "but that's the funniest thing
that's come my way in two years. And you buying me hot-house grapes,
too, and fancy water! I wish you could see your face," he taunted.

Ford pretended to be greatly chagrined.

"All right," he declared roughly. "The laugh's on me this time, but just
because I lost one trick, don't think I don't know my business. Now
that I'm wise to what _you_ are we can work together and--"

[Illustration: "Do I look as easy as that, or are you just naturally
foolish?"]

The face of young Mr. Ashton became instantly grave. His jaws snapped
like a trap. When he spoke his tone was assured and slightly
contemptuous.

"Not with _me_ you can't work!" he said.

"Don't think because I fell down on this," Ford began hotly.

"I'm not thinking of you at all," said Ashton. "You're a nice little
fellow all right, but you have sized me up wrong. I am on the 'straight
and narrow' that leads back to little old New York and God's country,
and I am warranted not to run off my trolley."

The words were in the vernacular, but the tone in which the young man
spoke rang so confidently that it brought to Ford a pleasant thrill of
satisfaction. From the first he had found in the personality of the
young man something winning and likable; a shrewd manliness and tolerant
good-humor. His eyes may have shown his sympathy, for, in sudden
confidence, Ashton leaned nearer.

"It's like this," he said. "Several years ago I made a bad break and,
about a year later, they got on to me and I had to cut and run. In a
month the law of limitation lets me loose and I can go back. And you
can bet I'm _going_ back. I will be on the bowsprit of the first boat.
I've had all I want of the 'fugitive-from-justice' game, thank you, and
I have taken good care to keep a clean bill of health so that I won't
have to play it again. They've been trying to get me for several
years--especially the Pinkertons. They have chased me all over Europe.
Chased me with all kinds of men; sometimes with women; they've tried
everything except blood-hounds. At first I thought _you_ were a 'Pink,'
that's why--"

"I!" interrupted Ford, exploding derisively. "That's _good!_ That's one
on _you_." He ceased laughing and regarded Ashton kindly. "How do you
know I'm not?" he asked.

For an instant the face of the bookmaker grew a shade less red and his
eyes searched those of Ford in a quick agony of suspicion. Ford
continued to smile steadily at him, and Ashton breathed with relief.

"I'll take a chance with you," he said, "and if you are as bad a
detective as you are a sport I needn't worry."

They both laughed, and, with sudden mutual liking, each raised his glass
and nodded.

"But they haven't got me yet," continued Ashton, "and unless they get
me in the next thirty days I'm free. So you needn't think that I'll help
you. It's 'never again' for me. The first time, that was the fault of
the crowd I ran with; the second time, that would be _my_ fault. And
there ain't going to be any second time."

He shook his head doggedly, and with squared shoulders leaned back in
his chair.

"If it only breaks right for me," he declared, "I'll settle down in one
of those 'Own-your-own-homes,' forty-five minutes from Broadway, and
never leave the wife and the baby."

The words almost brought Ford to his feet. He had forgotten the wife and
the baby. He endeavored to explain his surprise by a sudden assumption
of incredulity.

"Fancy you married!" he exclaimed.

"Married!" protested Ashton. "I'm married to the finest little lady that
ever wore skirts, and in thirty-seven days I'll see her again.
Thirty-seven days," he repeated impatiently. "Gee! That's a hell of a
long time!"

Ford studied the young man with increased interest. That he was speaking
sincerely, from the heart, there seemed no possible doubt.

Ashton frowned and his face clouded. "I've not been able to treat her
just right," he volunteered. "If she wrote me, the letters might give
them a clew, and I don't write _her_ because I don't want her to know
all my troubles until they're over. But I know," he added, "that five
minutes' talk will set it all right. That is, if she still feels about
me the way I feel about her."

The man crushed his cigar in his fingers and threw the pieces on the
floor. "That's what's been the worst!" he exclaimed bitterly. "Not
hearing, not knowing. It's been hell!"

His eyes as he raised them were filled with suffering, deep and genuine.

Ford rose suddenly. "Let's go down to the Savoy for supper," he said.

"Supper!" growled Ashton. "What's the use of supper? Do you suppose cold
chicken and a sardine can keep me from _thinking_?"

Ford placed his hand on the other's shoulder.

"You come with me," he said kindly. "I'm going to do you a favor. I'm
going to bring you a piece of luck. Don't ask me any questions," he
commanded hurriedly. "Just take my word for it."

They had sat so late over their cigars that when they reached the
restaurant on the Embankment the supper-room was already partly filled,
and the corridors and lounge were brilliantly lit and gay with
well-dressed women. Ashton regarded the scene with gloomy eyes. Since he
had spoken of his wife he had remained silent, chewing savagely on a
fresh cigar. But Ford was grandly excited. He did not know exactly what
he intended to do. He was prepared to let events direct themselves, but
of two things he was assured: Mrs. Ashton loved her husband, and her
husband loved her. As the god in the car who was to bring them together,
he felt a delightful responsibility.

The young men left the coat-room and came down the short flight of steps
that leads to the wide lounge of the restaurant. Ford slightly in
advance, searching with his eyes for Mrs Ashton, found her seated alone
in the lounge, evidently waiting for him. At the first glance she was
hardly to be recognized. Her low-cut dinner gown of black satin that
clung to her like a wet bath robe was the last word of the new fashion;
and since Ford had seen her her blond hair had been arranged by an
artist. Her appearance was smart, elegant, daring. She was easily the
prettiest and most striking-looking woman in the room, and for an
instant Ford stood gazing at her, trying to find in the self-possessed
young woman the deserted wife of the steamer. She did not see Ford Her
eyes were following the progress down the hall of a woman, and her
profile was toward him.

The thought of the happiness he was about to bring to two young people
gave Ford the sense of a genuine triumph, and when he turned to Ashton
to point out his wife to him he was thrilling with pride and
satisfaction. His triumph received a bewildering shock. Already Ashton
had discovered the presence of Mrs. Ashton. He was standing transfixed,
lost to his surroundings, devouring her with his eyes. And then, to the
amazement of Ford, his eyes filled with fear, doubt, and anger. Swiftly,
with the movement of a man ducking a blow, he turned and sprang up the
stairs and into the coat-room. Ford, bewildered and more conscious of
his surroundings, followed him less quickly, and was in consequence only
in time to see Ashton, dragging his overcoat behind him, disappear into
the court-yard. He seized his own coat and raced in pursuit. As he ran
into the court-yard Ashton, in the Strand, was just closing the door of
a taxicab, but before the chauffeur could free it from the surrounding
traffic, Ford had dragged the door open, and leaped inside. Ashton was
huddled in the corner, panting, his face pale with alarm.

[Illustration: She was easily the prettiest and most striking-looking
woman in the room.]

"What the devil ails you?" roared Ford. "Are you trying to shake me?
You've got to come back. You must speak to her."

"Speak to her!" repeated Ashton. His voice was sunk to a whisper. The
look of alarm in his face was confused with one grim and menacing. "Did
you know she was there?" he demanded softly. "Did you take me there,
knowing--?"

"Of course I knew," protested Ford. "She's been looking for you--"

His voice subsided in a squeak of amazement and pain. Ashton's left hand
had shot out and swiftly seized his throat. With the other he pressed an
automatic revolver against Ford's shirt front.

"I know she's been looking for me," the man whispered thickly. "For two
years she's been looking for me. I know all about _her_! But, _who in
hell are you_?"

Ford, gasping and gurgling, protested loyally.

"You are wrong!" he cried. "She's been at home waiting for you. She
thinks you have deserted her and your baby. I tell you she loves you,
you fool, she _loves_ you!"

The fingers on his throat suddenly relaxed; the flaming eyes of Ashton,
glaring into his, wavered and grew wide with amazement.

"Loves me," he whispered. "_Who_ loves me?"

"Your wife," protested Ford; "the girl at the Savoy, your wife."

Again the fingers of Ashton pressed deep around his neck.

"That is not my wife," he whispered. His voice was unpleasantly cold and
grim. "That's 'Baby Belle,' with her hair dyed, a detective lady of the
Pinkertons, hired to find me. And _you_ know it. Now, who are _you?_"

To permit him to reply Ashton released his hand, but at the same moment,
in a sudden access of fear, dug the revolver deeper into the pit of
Ford's stomach.

"Quick!" he commanded. "Never mind the girl. _Who are you?_"

Ford collapsed against the cushioned corner of the cab. "And she begged
me to find you," he roared, "because she _loved_ you, because she wanted
to _believe_ in you!" He held his arms above his head. "Go ahead and
shoot!" he cried. "You want to know who I am?" he demanded. His voice
rang with rage. "I'm an amateur. Just a natural born fool-amateur! Go on
and shoot!"

The gun in Ashton's hand sank to his knee. Between doubt and laughter
his face was twisted in strange lines. The cab was whirling through a
narrow, unlit street leading to Covent Garden. Opening the door Ashton
called to the chauffeur, and then turned to Ford.

"You get off here!" he commanded. "Maybe you're a 'Pink,' maybe you're a
good fellow. I think you're a good fellow, but I'm not taking any
chances. Get out!"

Ford scrambled to the street, and as the taxicab again butted itself
forward, Ashton leaned far through the window. "Good-by, son," he
called. "Send me a picture-postal card to Paris. For I am off to
Maxim's," he cried, "and you can go to--"

"Not at all!" shouted the amateur detective indignantly. "I'm going back
to take supper with 'Baby Belle'!"



THE MAKE-BELIEVE MAN

I


I had made up my mind that when my vacation came I would spend it
seeking adventures. I have always wished for adventures, but, though I
am old enough--I was twenty-five last October--and have always gone
half-way to meet them, adventures avoid me. Kinney says it is my fault.
He holds that if you want adventures you must go after them.

Kinney sits next to me at Joyce & Carboy's, the woollen manufacturers,
where I am a stenographer, and Kinney is a clerk, and we both have rooms
at Mrs. Shaw's boarding-house. Kinney is only a year older than myself,
but he is always meeting with adventures. At night, when I have sat up
late reading law, so that I may fit myself for court reporting, and in
the hope that some day I may become a member of the bar, he will knock
at my door and tell me some surprising thing that has just happened to
him. Sometimes he has followed a fire-engine and helped people from a
fire-escape, or he has pulled the shield off a policeman, or at the bar
of the Hotel Knickerbocker has made friends with a stranger, who turns
out to be no less than a nobleman or an actor. And women, especially
beautiful women, are always pursuing Kinney in taxicabs and calling upon
him for assistance. Just to look at Kinney, without knowing how clever
he is at getting people out of their difficulties, he does not appear to
be a man to whom you would turn in time of trouble. You would think
women in distress would appeal to some one bigger and stronger; would
sooner ask a policeman. But, on the contrary, it is to Kinney that women
always run, especially, as I have said, beautiful women. Nothing of the
sort ever happens to me. I suppose, as Kinney says, it is because he was
born and brought up in New York City and looks and acts like a New York
man, while I, until a year ago, have always lived at Fairport. Fairport
is a very pretty harbor, but it does not train one for adventures. We
arranged to take our vacation at the same time, and together. At least
Kinney so arranged it. I see a good deal of him, and in looking forward
to my vacation, not the least pleasant feature of it was that everything
connected with Joyce & Carboy and Mrs. Shaw's boarding-house would be
left behind me. But when Kinney proposed we should go together, I could
not see how, without being rude, I could refuse his company, and when he
pointed out that for an expedition in search of adventure I could not
select a better guide, I felt that he was right.

"Sometimes," he said, "I can see you don't believe that half the things
I tell you have happened to me, really have happened. Now, isn't that
so?"

To find the answer that would not hurt his feelings I hesitated, but he
did not wait for my answer. He seldom does.

"Well, on this trip," he went on, "you will see Kinney on the job. You
won't have to take my word for it. You will see adventures walk up and
eat out of my hand."

Our vacation came on the first of September, but we began to plan for it
in April, and up to the night before we left New York we never ceased
planning. Our difficulty was that having been brought up at Fairport,
which is on the Sound, north of New London, I was homesick for a smell
of salt marshes and for the sight of water and ships. Though they were
only schooners carrying cement, I wanted to sit in the sun on the
string-piece of a wharf and watch them. I wanted to beat about the
harbor in a catboat, and feel the tug and pull of the tiller. Kinney
protested that that was no way to spend a vacation or to invite
adventure. His face was set against Fairport. The conversation of
clam-diggers, he said, did not appeal to him; and he complained that at
Fairport our only chance of adventure would be my capsizing the catboat
or robbing a lobster-pot. He insisted we should go to the mountains,
where we would meet what he always calls "our best people." In
September, he explained, everybody goes to the mountains to recuperate
after the enervating atmosphere of the sea-shore. To this I objected
that the little sea air we had inhaled at Mrs. Shaw's basement
dining-room and in the subway need cause us no anxiety. And so, along
these lines, throughout the sleepless, sultry nights of June, July, and
August, we fought it out. There was not a summer resort within five
hundred miles of New York City we did not consider. From the information
bureaus and passenger agents of every railroad leaving New York, Kinney
procured a library of timetables, maps, folders, and pamphlets,
illustrated with the most attractive pictures of summer hotels, golf
links, tennis courts, and boat-houses. For two months he carried on a
correspondence with the proprietors of these hotels; and in comparing
the different prices they asked him for suites of rooms and sun parlors
derived constant satisfaction.

"The Outlook House," he would announce, "wants twenty-four dollars a day
for bedroom, parlor, and private bath. While for the same accommodations
the Carteret Arms asks only twenty. But the Carteret has no tennis
court; and then again, the Outlook has no garage, nor are dogs allowed
in the bedrooms."

As Kinney could not play lawn tennis, and as neither of us owned an
automobile or a dog, or twenty-four dollars, these details to me seemed
superfluous, but there was no health in pointing that out to Kinney.
Because, as he himself says, he has so vivid an imagination that what he
lacks he can "make believe" he has, and the pleasure of possession is
his.

Kinney gives a great deal of thought to his clothes, and the question of
what he should wear on his vacation was upon his mind. When I said I
thought it was nothing to worry about, he snorted indignantly. "_You_
wouldn't!" he said. "If _I'd_ been brought up in a catboat, and had a
tan like a red Indian, and hair like a Broadway blonde, I wouldn't worry
either. Mrs. Shaw says you look exactly like a British peer in
disguise." I had never seen a British peer, with or without his
disguise, and I admit I was interested.

"Why are the girls in this house," demanded Kinney, "always running to
your room to borrow matches? Because they admire your _clothes_? If
they're crazy about clothes, why don't they come to _me_ for matches?"

"You are always out at night," I said.

"You know that's not the answer," he protested. "Why do the typewriter
girls at the office always go to _you_ to sharpen their pencils and tell
them how to spell the hard words? Why do the girls in the lunch-rooms
serve you first? Because they're hypnotized by your clothes? Is _that_
it?"

"Do they?" I asked; "I hadn't noticed."

Kinney snorted and tossed up his arms. "He hadn't noticed!" he kept
repeating. "He hadn't noticed!" For his vacation Kinney bought a
second-hand suit-case. It was covered with labels of hotels in France
and Switzerland.

"Joe," I said, "if you carry that bag you will be a walking falsehood."

Kinney's name is Joseph Forbes Kinney; he dropped the Joseph because he
said it did not appear often enough in the _Social Register_, and could
be found only in the Old Testament, and he has asked me to call him
Forbes. Having first known him as "Joe," I occasionally forget.

"My name is _not_ Joe," he said sternly, "and I have as much right to
carry a second-hand bag as a new one. The bag says _it_ has been to
Europe. It does not say that _I_ have been there."

"But, you probably will," I pointed out, "and then some one who has
really visited those places--"

"Listen!" commanded Kinney. "If you want adventures you must be somebody
of importance. No one will go shares in an adventure with Joe Kinney, a
twenty-dollar-a-week clerk, the human adding machine, the hall-room boy.
But Forbes Kinney, Esq., with a bag from Europe, and a Harvard ribbon
round his hat--"

"Is that a Harvard ribbon round your hat?" I asked.

"It is!" declared Kinney; "and I have a Yale ribbon, and a Turf Club
ribbon, too. They come on hooks, and you hook 'em on to match your
clothes, or the company you keep. And, what's more," he continued, with
some heat, "I've borrowed a tennis racket and a golf bag full of sticks,
and you take care you don't give me away."

"I see," I returned, "that you are going to get us into a lot of
trouble."

"I was thinking," said Kinney, looking at me rather doubtfully, "it
might help a lot if for the first week you acted as my secretary, and
during the second week I was your secretary."

Sometimes, when Mr. Joyce goes on a business trip, he takes me with him
as his private stenographer, and the change from office work is very
pleasant; but I could not see why I should spend one week of my holiday
writing letters for Kinney.

"You wouldn't write any letters," he explained. "But if I could tell
people you were my private secretary, it would naturally give me a
certain importance."

"If it will make you any happier," I said, "you can tell people I am a
British peer in disguise."

"There is no use in being nasty about it," protested Kinney. "I am only
trying to show you a way that would lead to adventure."

"It surely would!" I assented. "It would lead us to jail."

The last week in August came, and, as to where we were to go we still
were undecided, I suggested we leave it to chance.

"The first thing," I pointed out, "is to get away from this awful city.
The second thing is to get away cheaply. Let us write down the names of
the summer resorts to which we can travel by rail or by boat for two
dollars and put them in a hat. The name of the place we draw will be the
one for which we start Saturday afternoon. The idea," I urged, "is in
itself full of adventure."

Kinney agreed, but reluctantly. What chiefly disturbed him was the
thought that the places near New York to which one could travel for so
little money were not likely to be fashionable.

"I have a terrible fear," he declared, "that, with this limit of yours,
we will wake up in Asbury Park."

Friday night came and found us prepared for departure, and at midnight
we held our lottery. In a pillow-case we placed twenty slips of paper,
on each of which was written the name of a summer resort. Ten of these
places were selected by Kinney, and ten by myself. Kinney dramatically
rolled up his sleeve, and, plunging his bared arm into our grab-bag,
drew out a slip of paper and read aloud: "New Bedford, via New Bedford
Steamboat Line." The choice was one of mine.

"New Bedford!" shouted Kinney. His tone expressed the keenest
disappointment. "It's a mill town!" he exclaimed. "It's full of cotton
mills."

"That may be," I protested. "But it's also a most picturesque old
seaport, one of the oldest in America. You can see whaling vessels at
the wharfs there, and wooden figure-heads, and harpoons--"

"Is this an expedition to dig up buried cities," interrupted Kinney, "or
a pleasure trip? I don't _want_ to see harpoons! I wouldn't know a
harpoon if you stuck one into me. I prefer to see hatpins."

The _Patience_ did not sail until six o'clock, but we were so anxious to
put New York behind us that at five we were on board. Our cabin was an
outside one with two berths. After placing our suitcases in it, we
collected camp-chairs and settled ourselves in a cool place on the boat
deck. Kinney had bought all the afternoon papers, and, as later I had
reason to remember, was greatly interested over the fact that the young
Earl of Ivy had at last arrived in this country. For some weeks the
papers had been giving more space than seemed necessary to that young
Irishman and to the young lady he was coming over to marry. There had
been pictures of his different country houses, pictures of himself; in
uniform, in the robes he wore at the coronation, on a polo pony, as
Master of Fox-hounds. And there had been pictures of Miss Aldrich, and
of _her_ country places at Newport and on the Hudson. From the afternoon
papers Kinney learned that, having sailed under his family name of
Meehan, the young man and Lady Moya, his sister, had that morning landed
in New York, but before the reporters had discovered them, had escaped
from the wharf and disappeared.

"'Inquiries at the different hotels,'" read Kinney impressively,
"'failed to establish the whereabouts of his lordship and Lady Moya, and
it is believed they at once left by train for Newport.'"

With awe Kinney pointed at the red funnels of the _Mauretania_.

"There is the boat that brought them to America," he said. "I see," he
added, "that in this picture of him playing golf he wears one of those
knit jackets the Eiselbaum has just marked down to three dollars and
seventy-five cents. I wish--" he added regretfully.

"You can get one at New Bedford," I suggested.

"I wish," he continued, "we had gone to Newport. All of our _best_
people will be there for the wedding. It is the most important social
event of the season. You might almost call it an alliance."

I went forward to watch them take on the freight, and Kinney stationed
himself at the rail above the passengers' gangway where he could see the
other passengers arrive. He had dressed himself with much care, and was
wearing his Yale hat-band, but when a very smart-looking youth came up
the gangplank wearing a Harvard ribbon, Kinney hastily retired to our
cabin and returned with one like it. A few minutes later I found him and
the young man seated in camp-chairs side by side engaged in a
conversation in which Kinney seemed to bear the greater part. Indeed, to
what Kinney was saying the young man paid not the slightest attention.
Instead, his eyes were fastened on the gangplank below, and when a young
man of his own age, accompanied by a girl in a dress of rough tweed,
appeared upon it, he leaped from his seat. Then with a conscious look at
Kinney, sank back.

The girl in the tweed suit was sufficiently beautiful to cause any man
to rise and to remain standing. She was the most beautiful girl I had
ever seen. She had gray eyes and hair like golden-rod, worn in a fashion
with which I was not familiar, and her face was so lovely that in my
surprise at the sight of it, I felt a sudden catch at my throat, and my
heart stopped with awe, and wonder, and gratitude.

After a brief moment the young man in the real Harvard hat-band rose
restlessly and, with a nod to Kinney, went below. I also rose and
followed him. I had an uncontrollable desire to again look at the girl
with the golden-rod hair. I did not mean that she should see me. Never
before had I done such a thing. But never before had I seen any one who
had moved me so strangely. Seeking her, I walked the length of the main
saloon and back again, but could not find her. The delay gave me time to
see that my conduct was impertinent. The very fact that she was so
lovely to look upon should have been her protection. It afforded me no
excuse to follow and spy upon her. With this thought, I hastily returned
to the upper deck to bury myself in my book. If it did not serve to keep
my mind from the young lady, at least I would prevent my eyes from
causing her annoyance.

I was about to take the chair that the young man had left vacant when
Kinney objected.

"He was very much interested in our conversation," Kinney said, "and he
may return."

I had not noticed any eagerness on the part of the young man to talk to
Kinney or to listen to him, but I did not sit down.

"I should not be surprised a bit," said Kinney, "if that young man is no
end of a swell. He is a Harvard man, and his manner was most polite.
That," explained Kinney, "is one way you can always tell a real swell.
They're not high and mighty with you. Their social position is so secure
that they can do as they like. For instance, did you notice that he
smoked a pipe?"

I said I had not noticed it.

For his holiday Kinney had purchased a box of cigars of a quality more
expensive than those he can usually afford. He was smoking one of them
at the moment, and, as it grew less, had been carefully moving the gold
band with which it was encircled from the lighted end. But as he spoke
he regarded it apparently with distaste, and then dropped it overboard.

"Keep my chair," he said, rising. "I am going to my cabin to get my
pipe." I sat down and fastened my eyes upon my book; but neither did I
understand what I was reading nor see the printed page. Instead, before
my eyes, confusing and blinding me, was the lovely, radiant face of the
beautiful lady. In perplexity I looked up, and found her standing not
two feet from me. Something pulled me out of my chair. Something made me
move it toward her. I lifted my hat and backed away. But the eyes of the
lovely lady halted me.

To my perplexity, her face expressed both surprise and pleasure. It was
as though either she thought she knew me, or that I reminded her of some
man she did know. Were the latter the case, he must have been a friend,
for the way in which she looked at me was kind. And there was, besides,
the expression of surprise and as though something she saw pleased her.
Maybe it was the quickness with which I had offered my chair. Still
looking at me, she pointed to one of the sky-scrapers.

"Could you tell me," she asked, "the name of that building?" Had her
question not proved it, her voice would have told me not only that she
was a stranger, but that she was Irish. It was particularly soft, low,
and vibrant. It made the commonplace question she asked sound as though
she had sung it. I told her the name of the building, and that farther
uptown, as she would see when we moved into midstream, there was another
still taller. She listened, regarding me brightly, as though interested;
but before her I was embarrassed, and, fearing I intruded, I again made
a movement to go away. With another question she stopped me. I could see
no reason for her doing so, but it was almost as though she had asked
the question only to detain me.

"What is that odd boat," she said, "pumping water into the river?"

I explained that it was a fire-boat testing her hose-lines, and then as
we moved into the channel I gained courage, and found myself pointing
out the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
The fact that it was a stranger who was talking did not seem to disturb
her. I cannot tell how she conveyed the idea, but I soon felt that she
felt, no matter what unconventional thing she chose to do, people would
not be rude, or misunderstand.

I considered telling her my name. At first it seemed that that would be
more polite. Then I saw to do so would be forcing myself upon her, that
she was interested in me only as a guide to New York Harbor.

When we passed the Brooklyn Navy Yard I talked so much and so eagerly of
the battle-ships at anchor there that the lady must have thought I had
followed the sea, for she asked: "Are you a sailorman?"

It was the first question that was in any way personal.

"I used to sail a catboat," I said.

My answer seemed to puzzle her, and she frowned. Then she laughed
delightedly, like one having made a discovery.

"You don't say 'sailorman,'" she said. "What do you ask, over here, when
you want to know if a man is in the navy?"

She spoke as though we were talking a different language.

"We ask if he is in the navy," I answered.

She laughed again at that, quite as though I had said something clever.

"And you are not?"

"No," I said, "I am in Joyce & Carboy's office. I am a stenographer."

Again my answer seemed both to puzzle and to surprise her. She regarded
me doubtfully. I could see that she thought, for some reason, I was
misleading her.

"In an office?" she repeated. Then, as though she had caught me, she
said: "How do you keep so fit?" She asked the question directly, as a
man would have asked it, and as she spoke I was conscious that her eyes
were measuring me and my shoulders, as though she were wondering to what
weight I could strip.

"It's only lately I've worked in an office," I said. "Before that I
always worked out-of-doors; oystering and clamming and, in the fall,
scalloping. And in the summer I played ball on a hotel nine."

I saw that to the beautiful lady my explanation carried no meaning
whatsoever, but before I could explain, the young man with whom she had
come on board walked toward us.

Neither did he appear to find in her talking to a stranger anything
embarrassing. He halted and smiled. His smile was pleasant, but entirely
vague. In the few minutes I was with him, I learned that it was no sign
that he was secretly pleased. It was merely his expression. It was as
though a photographer had said: "Smile, please," and he had smiled.

When he joined us, out of deference to the young lady I raised my hat,
but the youth did not seem to think that outward show of respect was
necessary, and kept his hands in his pockets. Neither did he cease
smoking. His first remark to the lovely lady somewhat startled me.

"Have you got a brass bed in your room?" he asked. The beautiful lady
said she had.

"So've I," said the young man. "They do you rather well, don't they? And
it's only three dollars. How much is that?"

"Four times three would be twelve," said the lady. "Twelve shillings."

The young man was smoking a cigarette in a long amber cigarette-holder.
I never had seen one so long. He examined the end of his
cigarette-holder, and, apparently surprised and relieved at finding a
cigarette there, again smiled contentedly.

The lovely lady pointed at the marble shaft rising above Madison Square.

"That is the tallest sky-scraper," she said, "in New York." I had just
informed her of that fact. The young man smiled as though he were being
introduced to the building, but exhibited no interest.

"_Is_ it?" he remarked. His tone seemed to show that had she said, "That
is a rabbit," he would have been equally gratified.

"Some day," he stated, with the same startling abruptness with which he
had made his first remark, "our war-ships will lift the roofs off those
sky-scrapers."

The remark struck me in the wrong place. It was unnecessary. Already I
resented the manner of the young man toward the lovely lady. It seemed
to me lacking in courtesy. He knew her, and yet treated her with no
deference, while I, a stranger, felt so grateful to her for being what I
knew one with such a face must be, that I could have knelt at her feet.
So I rather resented the remark.

"If the war-ships you send over here," I said doubtfully, "aren't more
successful in lifting things than your yachts, you'd better keep them at
home and save coal!"

Seldom have I made so long a speech or so rude a speech, and as soon as
I had spoken, on account of the lovely lady, I was sorry.

But after a pause of half a second she laughed delightedly.

"I see," she cried, as though it were a sort of a game. "He means
Lipton! We can't lift the cup, we can't lift the roofs. Don't you see,
Stumps!" she urged. In spite of my rude remark, the young man she called
Stumps had continued to smile happily. Now his expression changed to one
of discomfort and utter gloom, and then broke out into a radiant smile.

"I say!" he cried. "That's awfully good: 'If your war-ships aren't any
better at lifting things--' Oh, I say, really," he protested, "that's
awfully good." He seemed to be afraid I would not appreciate the rare
excellence of my speech. "You know, really," he pleaded, "it is
_awfully_ good!"

We were interrupted by the sudden appearance, in opposite directions,
of Kinney and the young man with the real hat-band. Both were excited
and disturbed. At the sight of the young man, Stumps turned appealingly
to the golden-rod girl. He groaned aloud, and his expression was that of
a boy who had been caught playing truant.

"Oh, Lord!" he exclaimed, "what's he huffy about now? He _told_ me I
could come on deck as soon as we started."

The girl turned upon me a sweet and lovely smile and nodded. Then, with
Stumps at her side, she moved to meet the young man. When he saw them
coming he halted, and, when they joined him, began talking earnestly,
almost angrily. As he did so, much to my bewilderment, he glared at me.
At the same moment Kinney grabbed me by the arm.

"Come below!" he commanded. His tone was hoarse and thrilling with
excitement.

"Our adventures," he whispered, "have begun!"


II


I felt, for me, adventures had already begun, for my meeting with the
beautiful lady was the event of my life, and though Kinney and I had
agreed to share our adventures, of this one I knew I could not even
speak to him. I wanted to be alone, where I could delight in it, where I
could go over what she had said; what I had said. I would share it with
no one. It was too wonderful, too sacred. But Kinney would not be
denied. He led me to our cabin and locked the door.

"I am sorry," he began, "but this adventure is one I cannot share with
you." The remark was so in keeping with my own thoughts that with sudden
unhappy doubt I wondered if Kinney, too, had felt the charm of the
beautiful lady. But he quickly undeceived me.

"I have been doing a little detective work," he said. His voice was low
and sepulchral. "And I have come upon a real adventure. There are
reasons why I cannot share it with you, but as it develops you can
follow it. About half an hour ago," he explained, "I came here to get my
pipe. The window was open. The lattice was only partly closed. Outside
was that young man from Harvard who tried to make my acquaintance, and
the young Englishman who came on board with that blonde." Kinney
suddenly interrupted himself. "You were talking to her just now," he
said. I hated to hear him speak of the Irish lady as "that blonde." I
hated to hear him speak of her at all. So, to shut him off, I answered
briefly: "She asked me about the Singer Building."

"I see," said Kinney. "Well, these two men were just outside my window,
and, while I was searching for my pipe, I heard the American speaking.
He was very excited and angry. 'I tell you,' he said, 'every boat and
railroad station is watched. You won't be safe till we get away from New
York. You must go to your cabin, and _stay_ there.' And the other one
answered: 'I am sick of hiding and dodging.'"

Kinney paused dramatically and frowned.

"Well," I asked, "what of it?"

"What of it?" he cried. He exclaimed aloud with pity and impatience.

"No wonder," he cried, "you never have adventures. Why, it's plain as
print. They are criminals escaping. The Englishman certainly is
escaping."

I was concerned only for the lovely lady, but I asked: "You mean the
Irishman called Stumps?"

"Stumps!" exclaimed Kinney. "What a strange name. Too strange to be
true. It's an alias!" I was incensed that Kinney should charge the
friends of the lovely lady with being criminals. Had it been any one
else I would have at once resented it, but to be angry with Kinney is
difficult. I could not help but remember that he is the slave of his own
imagination. It plays tricks and runs away with him. And if it leads him
to believe innocent people are criminals, it also leads him to believe
that every woman in the Subway to whom he gives his seat is a great
lady, a leader of society on her way to work in the slums.

"Joe!" I protested. "Those men aren't criminals. I talked to that
Irishman, and he hasn't sense enough to be a criminal."

"The railroads are watched," repeated Kinney. "Do _honest_ men care a
darn whether the railroad is watched or not? Do you care? Do I care? And
did you notice how angry the American got when he found Stumps talking
with you?"

I had noticed it; and I also recalled the fact that Stumps had said to
the lovely lady: "He told me I could come on deck as soon as we
started."

The words seemed to bear out what Kinney claimed he had overheard. But
not wishing to encourage him, of what I had heard I said nothing.

"He may be dodging a summons," I suggested. "He is wanted, probably,
only as a witness. It might be a civil suit, or his chauffeur may have
hit somebody."

Kinney shook his head sadly.

"Excuse me," he said, "but I fear you lack imagination. Those men are
rascals, dangerous rascals, and the woman is their accomplice. What they
have done I don't know, but I have already learned enough to arrest them
as suspicious characters. Listen! Each of them has a separate state-room
forward. The window of the American's room was open, and his suit-case
was on the bed. On it were the initials H.P.A. The state-room is number
twenty-four, but when I examined the purser's list, pretending I wished
to find out if a friend of mine was on board, I found that the man in
twenty-four had given his name as James Preston. Now," he demanded, "why
should one of them hide under an alias and the other be afraid to show
himself until we leave the wharf?" He did not wait for my answer. "I
have been talking to Mr. H.P.A., _alias_ Preston," he continued. "I
pretended I was a person of some importance. I hinted I was rich. My
object," Kinney added hastily, "was to encourage him to try some of his
tricks on _me_; to try to rob _me_; so that I could obtain evidence.
I also," he went on, with some embarrassment, "told him that you, too,
were wealthy and of some importance."

I thought of the lovely lady, and I felt myself blushing indignantly.

"You did very wrong," I cried; "you had no right! You may involve us
both most unpleasantly."

"You are not involved in any way," protested Kinney. "As soon as we
reach New Bedford you can slip on shore and wait for me at the hotel.
When I've finished with these gentlemen, I'll join you."

"Finished with them!" I exclaimed. "What do you mean to do to them?"

"Arrest them!" cried Kinney sternly, "as soon as they step upon the
wharf!"

"You can't do it!" I gasped.

"I _have_ done it!" answered Kinney. "It's good as done. I have notified
the chief of police at New Bedford," he declared proudly, "to meet me at
the wharf. I used the wireless. Here is my message."

From his pocket he produced a paper and, with great importance, read
aloud: "Meet me at wharf on arrival steamer _Patience_. Two well-known
criminals on board escaping New York police. Will personally lay charges
against them.--Forbes Kinney."

As soon as I could recover from my surprise, I made violent protest. I
pointed out to Kinney that his conduct was outrageous, that in making
such serious charges, on such evidence, he would lay himself open to
punishment.

He was not in the least dismayed.

"I take it then," he said importantly, "that you do not wish to appear
against them?"

"I don't wish to appear in it at all!" I cried. "You've no right to
annoy that young lady. You must wire the police you are mistaken."

"I have no desire to arrest the woman," said Kinney stiffly. "In my
message I did not mention _her_. If you want an adventure of your own,
you might help her to escape while I arrest her accomplices."

"I object," I cried, "to your applying the word 'accomplice' to that
young lady. And suppose they _are_ criminals," I demanded, "how will
arresting them help you?"

Kinney's eyes flashed with excitement.

"Think of the newspapers," he cried; "they'll be full of it!" Already in
imagination he saw the headlines. "'A Clever Haul!'" he quoted. "'Noted
band of crooks elude New York police, but are captured by Forbes
Kinney.'" He sighed contentedly. "And they'll probably print my picture,
too," he added.

I knew I should be angry with him, but instead I could only feel sorry.
I have known Kinney for a year, and I have learned that his
"make-believe" is always innocent. I suppose that he is what is called a
snob, but with him snobbishness is not an unpleasant weakness. In his
case it takes the form of thinking that people who have certain things
he does not possess are better than himself; and that, therefore, they
must be worth knowing, and he tries to make their acquaintance. But he
does not think that he himself is better than any one. His life is very
bare and narrow. In consequence, on many things he places false values.
As, for example, his desire to see his name in the newspapers even as an
amateur detective. So, while I was indignant I also was sorry.

"Joe," I said, "you're going to get yourself into an awful lot of
trouble, and though I am not in this adventure, you know if I can help
you I will."

He thanked me and we went to the dining-saloon. There, at a table near
ours, we saw the lovely lady and Stumps and the American. She again
smiled at me, but this time, so it seemed, a little doubtfully.

In the mind of the American, on the contrary, there was no doubt. He
glared both at Kinney and myself, as though he would like to boil us in
oil.

After dinner, in spite of my protests, Kinney set forth to interview
him and, as he described it, to "lead him on" to commit himself. I
feared Kinney was much more likely to commit himself than the other, and
when I saw them seated together I watched from a distance with much
anxiety.

An hour later, while I was alone, a steward told me the purser would
like to see me. I went to his office, and found gathered there Stumps,
his American friend, the night watchman of the boat, and the purser. As
though inviting him to speak, the purser nodded to the American. That
gentleman addressed me in an excited and belligerent manner.

"My name is Aldrich," he said; "I want to know what _your_ name is?"

I did not quite like his tone, nor did I like being summoned to the
purser's office to be questioned by a stranger.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because," said Aldrich, "it seems you have _several_ names. As one of
them belongs to _this_ gentleman"--he pointed at Stumps--"he wants to
know why you are using it."

I looked at Stumps and he greeted me with the vague and genial smile
that was habitual to him, but on being caught in the act by Aldrich he
hurriedly frowned.

"I have never used any name but my own," I said; "and," I added
pleasantly, "if I were choosing a name I wouldn't choose 'Stumps.'"

Aldrich fairly gasped.

"His name is not Stumps!" he cried indignantly. "He is the Earl of Ivy!"

He evidently expected me to be surprised at this, and I _was_ surprised.
I stared at the much-advertised young Irishman with interest.

Aldrich misunderstood my silence, and in a triumphant tone, which was
far from pleasant, continued: "So you see," he sneered, "when you chose
to pass yourself off as Ivy you should have picked out another boat."

The thing was too absurd for me to be angry, and I demanded with
patience: "But why should I pass myself off as Lord Ivy?"

"That's what we intend to find out," snapped Aldrich. "Anyway, we've
stopped your game for to-night, and to-morrow you can explain to the
police! Your pal," he taunted, "has told every one on this boat that you
are Lord Ivy, and he's told me lies enough about _himself_ to prove
_he's_ an impostor, too!"

I saw what had happened, and that if I were to protect poor Kinney I
must not, as I felt inclined, use my fists, but my head. I laughed with
apparent unconcern, and turned to the purser.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" I cried. "I might have known it was Kinney;
he's always playing practical jokes on me." I turned to Aldrich. "My
friend has been playing a joke on you, too," I said. "He didn't know who
you were, but he saw you were an Anglomaniac, and he's been having fun
with you!"

"Has he?" roared Aldrich. He reached down into his pocket and pulled out
a piece of paper. "This," he cried, shaking it at me, "is a copy of a
wireless that I've just sent to the chief of police at New Bedford."

With great satisfaction he read it in a loud and threatening voice: "Two
impostors on this boat representing themselves to be Lord Ivy, my future
brother-in-law, and his secretary. Lord Ivy himself on board. Send
police to meet boat. We will make charges.--Henry Philip Aldrich."

It occurred to me that after receiving two such sensational telegrams,
and getting out of bed to meet the boat at six in the morning, the chief
of police would be in a state of mind to arrest almost anybody, and that
his choice would certainly fall on Kinney and myself. It was ridiculous,
but it also was likely to prove extremely humiliating. So I said,
speaking to Lord Ivy: "There's been a mistake all around; send for Mr.
Kinney and I will explain it to you." Lord Ivy, who was looking
extremely bored, smiled and nodded, but young Aldrich laughed
ironically.

"Mr. Kinney is in his state-room," he said, "with a steward guarding the
door and window. You can explain to-morrow to the police."

I rounded indignantly upon the purser.

"Are you keeping Mr. Kinney a prisoner in his state-room?" I demanded.
"If you are--"

"He doesn't have to stay there," protested the purser sulkily. "When he
found the stewards were following him he went to his cabin."

"I will see him at once," I said. "And if I catch any of your stewards
following _me_, I'll drop them overboard."

No one tried to stop me--indeed, knowing I could not escape, they seemed
pleased at my departure, and I went to my cabin.

Kinney, seated on the edge of the berth, greeted me with a hollow groan.
His expression was one of utter misery. As though begging me not to be
angry, he threw out his arms appealingly.

"How the devil!" he began, "was I to know that a little red-headed
shrimp like that was the Earl of Ivy? And that that tall blonde girl,"
he added indignantly, "that I thought was an accomplice, is Lady Moya,
his sister?"

"What happened?" I asked.

Kinney was wearing his hat. He took it off and hurled it to the floor.

"It was that damned hat!" he cried. "It's a Harvard ribbon, all right,
but only men on the crew can wear it! How was I to know _that?_ I saw
Aldrich looking at it in a puzzled way, and when he said, 'I see you are
on the crew,' I guessed what it meant, and said I was on last year's
crew. Unfortunately _he_ was on last year's crew! That's what made him
suspect me, and after dinner he put me through a third degree. I must
have given the wrong answers, for suddenly he jumped up and called me a
swindler and an impostor. I got back by telling him he was a crook and
that I was a detective, and that I had sent a wireless to have him
arrested at New Bedford. He challenged me to prove I was a detective,
and, of course, I couldn't, and he called up two stewards and told them
to watch me while he went after the purser. I didn't fancy being
watched, so I came here."

"When did you tell him I was the Earl of Ivy?"

Kinney ran his fingers through his hair and groaned dismally.

"That was before the boat started," he said; "it was only a joke. He
didn't seem to be interested in my conversation, so I thought I'd liven
it up a bit by saying I was a friend of Lord Ivy's. And you happened to
pass, and I happened to remember Mrs. Shaw saying you looked like a
British peer, so I said: 'That is my friend Lord Ivy.' I said I was your
secretary, and he seemed greatly interested, and--" Kinney added
dismally, "I talked too much. I am _so_ sorry," he begged. "It's going
to be awful for you!" His eyes suddenly lit with hope. "Unless," he
whispered, "we can escape!"

The same thought was in my mind, but the idea was absurd, and
impracticable. I knew there was no escape. I knew we were sentenced at
sunrise to a most humiliating and disgraceful experience. The newspapers
would regard anything that concerned Lord Ivy as news. In my turn I also
saw the hideous headlines. What would my father and mother at Fairport
think; what would my old friends there think; and, what was of even
greater importance, how would Joyce & Carboy act? What chance was there
left me, after I had been arrested as an impostor, to become a
stenographer in the law courts--in time, a member of the bar? But I
found that what, for the moment, distressed me most was that the lovely
lady would consider me a knave or a fool. The thought made me exclaim
with exasperation. Had it been possible to abandon Kinney, I would have
dropped overboard and made for shore. The night was warm and foggy, and
the short journey to land, to one who had been brought up like a duck,
meant nothing more than a wetting. But I did not see how I could desert
Kinney.

"Can you swim?" I asked.

"Of course not!" he answered gloomily; "and, besides," he added, "our
names are on our suitcases. We couldn't take them with us, and they'd
find out who we are. If we could only steal a boat!" he exclaimed
eagerly--"one of those on the davits," he urged--"we could put our
suitcases in it and then, after every one is asleep, we could lower it
into the water."

The smallest boat on board was certified to hold twenty-five persons,
and without waking the entire ship's company we could as easily have
moved the chart-room. This I pointed out.

"Don't make objections!" Kinney cried petulantly. He was rapidly
recovering his spirits. The imminence of danger seemed to inspire him.

"Think!" he commanded. "Think of some way by which we can get off this
boat before she reaches New Bedford. We _must!_ We must not be
arrested! It would be too awful!" He interrupted himself with an excited
exclamation.

"I have it!" he whispered hoarsely: "I will ring in the fire-alarm! The
crew will run to quarters. The boats will be lowered. We will cut one of
them adrift. In the confusion--"

What was to happen in the confusion that his imagination had conjured
up, I was not to know. For what actually happened was so confused that
of nothing am I quite certain. First, from the water of the Sound, that
was lapping pleasantly against the side, I heard the voice of a man
raised in terror. Then came a rush of feet, oaths, and yells; then a
shock that threw us to our knees, and a crunching, ripping, and tearing
roar like that made by the roof of a burning building when it plunges to
the cellar.

And the next instant a large bowsprit entered our cabin window. There
was left me just space enough to wrench the door open, and grabbing
Kinney, who was still on his knees, I dragged him into the alleyway. He
scrambled upright and clasped his hands to his head.

"Where's my hat?" he cried.

I could hear the water pouring into the lower deck and sweeping the
freight and trunks before it. A horse in a box stall was squealing like
a human being, and many human beings were screaming and shrieking like
animals. My first intelligent thought was of the lovely lady. I shook
Kinney by the arm. The uproar was so great that to make him hear I was
forced to shout. "Where is Lord Ivy's cabin?" I cried. "You said it's
next to his sister's. Take me there!"

Kinney nodded, and ran down the corridor and into an alleyway on which
opened three cabins. The doors were ajar, and as I looked into each I
saw that the beds had not been touched, and that the cabins were empty.
I knew then that she was still on deck. I felt that I must find her. We
ran toward the companionway.

"Women and children first!" Kinney was yelling. "Women and children
first!" As we raced down the slanting floor of the saloon he kept
repeating this mechanically. At that moment the electric lights went
out, and, except for the oil lamps, the ship was in darkness. Many of
the passengers had already gone to bed. These now burst from the
state-rooms in strange garments, carrying life-preservers, hand-bags,
their arms full of clothing. One man in one hand clutched a sponge, in
the other an umbrella. With this he beat at those who blocked his
flight. He hit a woman over the head, and I hit him and he went down.
Finding himself on his knees, he began to pray volubly.

When we reached the upper deck we pushed out of the crush at the gangway
and, to keep our footing, for there was a strong list to port, clung to
the big flag-staff at the stern. At each rail the crew were swinging the
boats over the side, and around each boat was a crazy, fighting mob.
Above our starboard rail towered the foremast of a schooner. She had
rammed us fair amidships, and in her bows was a hole through which you
could have rowed a boat. Into this the water was rushing and sucking her
down. She was already settling at the stern. By the light of a swinging
lantern I saw three of her crew lift a yawl from her deck and lower it
into the water. Into it they hurled oars and a sail, and one of them had
already started to slide down the painter when the schooner lurched
drunkenly; and in a panic all three of the men ran forward and leaped to
our lower deck. The yawl, abandoned, swung idly between the _Patience_
and the schooner. Kinney, seeing what I saw, grabbed me by the arm.

"There!" he whispered, pointing; "there's our chance!" I saw that, with
safety, the yawl could hold a third person, and as to who the third
passenger would be I had already made up my mind.

"Wait here!" I said.

On the _Patience_ there were many immigrants, only that afternoon
released from Ellis Island. They had swarmed into the life-boats even
before they were swung clear, and when the ship's officers drove them
off, the poor souls, not being able to understand, believed they were
being sacrificed for the safety of the other passengers. So each was
fighting, as he thought, for his life and for the lives of his wife and
children. At the edge of the scrimmage I dragged out two women who had
been knocked off their feet and who were in danger of being trampled.
But neither was the woman I sought. In the half-darkness I saw one of
the immigrants, a girl with a 'kerchief on her head, struggling with her
life-belt. A stoker, as he raced past, seized it and made for the rail.
In my turn I took it from him, and he fought for it, shouting: "It's
every man for himself now!"

"All right," I said, for I was excited and angry, "look out for
_yourself_ then!" I hit him on the chin, and he let go of the life-belt
and dropped.

I heard at my elbow a low, excited laugh, and a voice said: "Well
bowled! You never learned that in an office." I turned and saw the
lovely lady. I tossed the immigrant girl her life-belt, and as though I
had known Lady Moya all my life I took her by the hand and dragged her
after me down the deck.

"You come with me!" I commanded. I found that I was trembling and that a
weight of anxiety of which I had not been conscious had been lifted. I
found I was still holding her hand and pressing it in my own. "Thank
God!" I said. "I thought I had lost you!"

"Lost me!" repeated Lady Moya. But she made no comment. "I must find my
brother," she said.

"You must come with me!" I ordered. "Go with Mr. Kinney to the lower
deck. I will bring that rowboat under the stern. You will jump into it."

"I cannot leave my brother!" said Lady Moya.

Upon the word, as though shot from a cannon, the human whirlpool that
was sweeping the deck amidships cast out Stumps and hurled him toward
us. His sister gave a little cry of relief. Stumps recovered his balance
and shook himself like a dog that has been in the water.

"Thought I'd never get out of it alive!" he remarked complacently. In
the darkness I could not see his face, but I was sure he was still
vaguely smiling. "Worse than a foot-ball night!" he exclaimed; "worse
than Mafeking night!"

His sister pointed to the yawl.

"This gentleman is going to bring that boat here and take us away in
it," she told him. "We had better go when we can!"

"Right ho!" assented Stumps cheerfully. "How about Phil? He's just
behind me."

As he spoke, only a few yards from us a peevish voice pierced the
tumult.

"I tell you," it cried, "you must find Lord Ivy! If Lord Ivy--"

A voice with a strong and brutal American accent yelled in answer: "To
hell with Lord Ivy!"

Lady Moya chuckled.

"Get to the lower deck!" I commanded. "I am going for the yawl."

As I slipped my leg over the rail I heard Lord Ivy say: "I'll find Phil
and meet you."

I dropped and caught the rail of the deck below, and, hanging from it,
shoved with my knees and fell into the water. Two strokes brought me to
the yawl, and, scrambling into her and casting her off, I paddled back
to the steamer. As I lay under the stern I heard from the lower deck the
voice of Kinney raised importantly.

"Ladies first!" he cried. "Her ladyship first, I mean," he corrected.
Even on leaving what he believed to be a sinking ship, Kinney could not
forget his manners. But Mr. Aldrich had evidently forgotten his. I
heard him shout indignantly: "I'll be damned if I do!"

The voice of Lady Moya laughed.

"You'll be drowned if you don't!" she answered. I saw a black shadow
poised upon the rail. "Steady below there!" her voice called, and the
next moment, as lightly as a squirrel, she dropped to the thwart and
stumbled into my arms.

The voice of Aldrich was again raised in anger. "I'd rather drown!" he
cried.

Lord Ivy responded with unexpected spirit.

"Well, then, drown! The water is warm and it's a pleasing death."

At that, with a bump, he fell in a heap at my feet.

"Easy, Kinney!" I shouted. "Don't swamp us!"

"I'll be careful!" he called, and the next instant hit my shoulders and
I shook him off on top of Lord Ivy.

"Get off my head!" shouted his lordship.

Kinney apologized to every one profusely. Lady Moya raised her voice.

"For the last time, Phil," she called, "are you coming or are you not?"

"Not with those swindlers, I'm not!" he shouted. "I think you two are
mad! I prefer to drown!"

There was an uncomfortable silence. My position was a difficult one,
and, not knowing what to say, I said nothing.

"If one must drown!" exclaimed Lady Moya briskly, "I can't see it
matters who one drowns with."

In his strangely explosive manner Lord Ivy shouted suddenly: "Phil,
you're a silly ass."

"Push off!" commanded Lady Moya.

I think, from her tone, the order was given more for the benefit of
Aldrich than for myself. Certainly it was effective, for on the instant
there was a heavy splash. Lord Ivy sniffed scornfully and manifested no
interest.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, "he prefers to drown!"

Sputtering and gasping, Aldrich rose out of the water, and, while we
balanced the boat, climbed over the side.

"Understand!" he cried even while he was still gasping, "I am here under
protest. I am here to protect you and Stumps. I am under obligation to
no one. I'm--"

"Can you row?" I asked.

"Why don't you ask your pal?" he demanded savagely; "he rowed on last
year's crew."

"Phil!" cried Lady Moya. Her voice suggested a temper I had not
suspected. "You will row or you can get out and walk! Take the oars,"
she commanded, "and be civil!" Lady Moya, with the tiller in her hand,
sat in the stern; Stumps, with Kinney huddled at his knees, was stowed
away forward. I took the stroke and Aldrich the bow oars.

"We will make for the Connecticut shore," I said, and pulled from under
the stern of the _Patience_.

In a few minutes we had lost all sight and, except for her whistle, all
sound of her; and we ourselves were lost in the fog. There was another
eloquent and embarrassing silence. Unless, in the panic, they trampled
upon each other, I had no real fear for the safety of those on board the
steamer. Before we had abandoned her I had heard the wireless
frantically sputtering the "stand-by" call, and I was certain that
already the big boats of the Fall River, Providence, and Joy lines, and
launches from every wireless station between Bridgeport and Newport,
were making toward her. But the margin of safety, which to my thinking
was broad enough for all the other passengers, for the lovely lady was
in no way sufficient. That mob-swept deck was no place for her. I was
happy that, on her account, I had not waited for a possible rescue. In
the yawl she was safe. The water was smooth, and the Connecticut shore
was, I judged, not more than three miles distant. In an hour, unless
the fog confused us, I felt sure the lovely lady would again walk safely
upon dry land. Selfishly, on Kinney's account and my own, I was
delighted to find myself free of the steamer, and from any chance of her
landing us where police waited with open arms. The avenging angel in the
person of Aldrich was still near us, so near that I could hear the water
dripping from his clothes, but his power to harm was gone. I was
congratulating myself on this when suddenly he undeceived me. Apparently
he had been considering his position toward Kinney and myself, and,
having arrived at a conclusion, was anxious to announce it.

"I wish to repeat," he exclaimed suddenly, "that I'm under obligations
to nobody. Just because my friends," he went on defiantly, "choose to
trust themselves with persons who ought to be in jail, I can't desert
them. It's all the more reason why I _shouldn't_ desert them. That's why
I'm here! And I want it understood as soon as I get on shore I'm going
to a police station and have those persons arrested."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rising out of the fog that had rendered each of us invisible to the
other, his words sounded fantastic and unreal. In the dripping silence,
broken only by hoarse warnings that came from no direction, and within
the mind of each the conviction that we were lost, police stations did
not immediately concern us. So no one spoke, and in the fog the words
died away and were drowned. But I was glad he had spoken. At least I was
forewarned. I now knew that I had not escaped, that Kinney and I were
still in danger. I determined that so far as it lay with me, our yawl
would be beached at that point on the coast of Connecticut farthest
removed, not only from police stations, but from all human habitation.

As soon as we were out of hearing of the _Patience_ and her whistle, we
completely lost our bearings. It may be that Lady Moya was not a skilled
coxswain, or it may be that Aldrich understands a racing scull better
than a yawl, and pulled too heavily on his right, but whatever the cause
we soon were hopelessly lost. In this predicament we were not alone. The
night was filled with fog-horns, whistles, bells, and the throb of
engines, but we never were near enough to hail the vessels from which
the sounds came, and when we rowed toward them they invariably sank into
silence. After two hours Stumps and Kinney insisted on taking a turn at
the oars, and Lady Moya moved to the bow. We gave her our coats, and,
making cushions of these, she announced that she was going to sleep.
Whether she slept or not, I do not know, but she remained silent. For
three more dreary hours we took turns at the oars or dozed at the bottom
of the boat while we continued aimlessly to drift upon the face of the
waters. It was now five o'clock, and the fog had so far lightened that
we could see each other and a stretch of open water. At intervals the
fog-horns of vessels passing us, but hidden from us, tormented Aldrich
to a state of extreme exasperation. He hailed them with frantic shrieks
and shouts, and Stumps and the Lady Moya shouted with him. I fear Kinney
and myself did not contribute any great volume of sound to the general
chorus. To be "rescued" was the last thing we desired. The yacht or tug
that would receive us on board would also put us on shore, where the
vindictive Aldrich would have us at his mercy. We preferred the freedom
of our yawl and the shelter of the fog. Our silence was not lost upon
Aldrich. For some time he had been crouching in the bow, whispering
indignantly to Lady Moya; now he exclaimed aloud:

"What did I tell you?" he cried contemptuously; "they got away in this
boat because they were afraid of _me_, not because they were afraid of
being drowned. If they've nothing to be afraid of, why are they so
anxious to keep us drifting around all night in this fog? Why don't they
help us stop one of those tugs?"

Lord Ivy exploded suddenly.

"Rot!" he exclaimed. "If they're afraid of you, why did they ask you to
go with them?"

"They didn't!" cried Aldrich, truthfully and triumphantly. "They
kidnapped you and Moya because they thought they could square themselves
with _you_. But they didn't want _me!_" The issue had been fairly
stated, and no longer with self-respect could I remain silent.

"We don't want you now!" I said. "Can't you understand," I went on with
as much self-restraint as I could muster, "we are willing and anxious to
explain ourselves to Lord Ivy, or even to you, but we don't want to
explain to the police? My friend thought you and Lord Ivy were crooks,
escaping. You think _we_ are crooks, escaping. You both--"

Aldrich snorted contemptuously.

"That's a likely story!" he cried. "No wonder you don't want to tell
_that_ to the police!"

From the bow came an exclamation, and Lady Moya rose to her feet.

"Phil!" she said, "you bore me!" She picked her way across the thwart
to where Kinney sat at the stroke oar.

"My brother and I often row together," she said; "I will take your
place."

When she had seated herself we were so near that her eyes looked
directly into mine. Drawing in the oars, she leaned upon them and
smiled.

"Now, then," she commanded, "tell us all about it."

Before I could speak there came from behind her a sudden radiance, and
as though a curtain had been snatched aside, the fog flew apart, and the
sun, dripping, crimson, and gorgeous, sprang from the waters. From the
others there was a cry of wonder and delight, and from Lord Ivy a shriek
of incredulous laughter.

Lady Moya clapped her hands joyfully and pointed past me. I turned and
looked. Directly behind me, not fifty feet from us, was a shelving beach
and a stone wharf, and above it a vine-covered cottage, from the chimney
of which smoke curled cheerily. Had the yawl, while Lady Moya was taking
the oars, _not_ swung in a circle, and had the sun _not_ risen, in three
minutes more we would have bumped ourselves into the State of
Connecticut. The cottage stood on one horn of a tiny harbor. Beyond it,
weather-beaten shingled houses, sail-lofts, and wharfs stretched cosily
in a half-circle. Back of them rose splendid elms and the delicate spire
of a church, and from the unruffled surface of the harbor the masts of
many fishing-boats. Across the water, on a grass-grown point, a
whitewashed light-house blushed in the crimson glory of the sun. Except
for an oyster-man in his boat at the end of the wharf, and the smoke
from the chimney of his cottage, the little village slept, the harbor
slept. It was a picture of perfect content, confidence, and peace. "Oh!"
cried the Lady Moya, "how pretty, how pretty!"

Lord Ivy swung the bow about and raced toward the wharf. The others
stood up and cheered hysterically.

At the sound and at the sight of us emerging so mysteriously from the
fog, the man in the fishing-boat raised himself to his full height and
stared as incredulously as though he beheld a mermaid. He was an old
man, but straight and tall, and the oysterman's boots stretching to his
hips made him appear even taller than he was. He had a bristling white
beard and his face was tanned to a fierce copper color, but his eyes
were blue and young and gentle. They lit suddenly with excitement and
sympathy.

"Are you from the _Patience?_" he shouted. In chorus we answered that
we were, and Ivy pulled the yawl alongside the fisherman's boat.

But already the old man had turned and, making a megaphone of his hands,
was shouting to the cottage.

"Mother!" he cried, "mother, here are folks from the wreck. Get coffee
and blankets and--and bacon--and eggs!"

"May the Lord bless him!" exclaimed the Lady Moya devoutly.

But Aldrich, excited and eager, pulled out a roll of bills and shook
them at the man.

"Do you want to earn ten dollars?" he demanded; "then chase yourself to
the village and bring the constable."

Lady Moya exclaimed bitterly, Lord Ivy swore, Kinney in despair uttered
a dismal howl and dropped his head in his hands.

"It's no use, Mr. Aldrich," I said. Seated in the stern, the others had
hidden me from the fisherman. Now I stood up and he saw me. I laid one
hand on his, and pointed to the tin badge on his suspender.

"He is the village constable himself," I explained. I turned to the
lovely lady. "Lady Moya," I said, "I want to introduce you to my
father!" I pointed to the vine-covered cottage.

"That's my home," I said. I pointed to the sleeping town. "That," I
told her, "is the village of Fairport. Most of it belongs to father. You
are all very welcome."



PEACE MANOEUVRES


The scout stood where three roads cut three green tunnels in the pine
woods, and met at his feet. Above his head an aged sign-post pointed
impartially to East Carver, South Carver, and Carver Centre, and left
the choice to him.

The scout scowled and bit nervously at his gauntlet. The choice was
difficult, and there was no one with whom he could take counsel. The
three sun-shot roads lay empty, and the other scouts, who, with him, had
left the main column at sunrise, he had ordered back. They were to
report that on the right flank, so far, at least, as Middleboro, there
was no sign of the enemy. What lay beyond, it now was his duty to
discover. The three empty roads spread before him like a picture puzzle,
smiling at his predicament. Whichever one he followed left two
unguarded. Should he creep upon for choice Carver Centre, the enemy,
masked by a mile of fir trees, might advance from Carver or South
Carver, and obviously he could not follow three roads at the same time.
He considered the better strategy would be to wait where he was, where
the three roads met, and allow the enemy himself to disclose his
position. To the scout this course was most distasteful. He assured
himself that this was so because, while it were the safer course, it
wasted time and lacked initiative. But in his heart he knew that was not
the reason, and to his heart his head answered that when one's country
is at war, when fields and firesides are trampled by the iron heels of
the invader, a scout should act not according to the dictates of his
heart, but in the service of his native land. In the case of this
particular patriot, the man and scout were at odds. As one of the
Bicycle Squad of the Boston Corps of Cadets, the scout knew what, at
this momentous crisis in her history, the commonwealth of Massachusetts
demanded of him. It was that he sit tight and wait for the hated
foreigners from New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut to show
themselves. But the man knew, and had known for several years, that on
the road to Carver was the summer home of one Beatrice Farrar. As
Private Lathrop it was no part of his duty to know that. As a man and a
lover, and a rejected lover at that, he could not think of anything
else. Struggling between love and duty the scout basely decided to leave
the momentous question to chance. In the front tire of his bicycle was a
puncture, temporarily effaced by a plug. Laying the bicycle on the
ground, Lathrop spun the front wheel swiftly.

"If," he decided, "the wheel stops with the puncture pointing at Carver
Centre, I'll advance upon Carver Centre. Should it point to either of
the two other villages, I'll stop here."

"It's a two to one shot against me, any way," he growled.

Kneeling in the road he spun the wheel, and as intently as at Monte
Carlo and Palm Beach he had waited for other wheels to determine his
fortune, he watched it come to rest. It stopped with the plug pointing
back to Middleboro.

The scout told himself he was entitled to another trial. Again he spun
the wheel. Again the spokes flashed in the sun. Again the puncture
rested on the road to Middleboro.

"If it does that once more," thought the scout, "it's a warning that
there is trouble ahead for me at Carver, and all the little Carvers."

For the third time the wheel flashed, but as he waited for the impetus
to die, the sound of galloping hoofs broke sharply on the silence. The
scout threw himself and his bicycle over the nearest stone wall, and,
unlimbering his rifle, pointed it down the road.

He saw approaching a small boy, in a white apron, seated in a white
wagon, on which was painted, "Pies and Pastry. East Wareham." The boy
dragged his horse to an abrupt halt.

"Don't point that at me!" shouted the boy.

"Where do you come from?" demanded the scout.

"Wareham," said the baker.

"Are you carrying any one concealed in that wagon?"

As though to make sure the baker's boy glanced apprehensively into the
depths of his cart, and then answered that in the wagon he carried
nothing but fresh-baked bread. To the trained nostrils of the scout this
already was evident. Before sunrise he had breakfasted on hard tack and
muddy coffee, and the odor of crullers and mince pie, still warm,
assailed him cruelly. He assumed a fierce and terrible aspect.

"Where are you going?" he challenged.

"To Carver Centre," said the boy.

To chance Lathrop had left the decision. He believed the fates had
answered.

Dragging his bicycle over the stone wall, he fell into the road.

"Go on," he commanded. "I'll use your cart for a screen. I'll creep
behind the enemy before he sees me."

The baker's boy frowned unhappily.

"But supposing," he argued, "they see you first, will they shoot?"

The scout waved his hand carelessly.

"Of course," he cried.

"Then," said the baker, "my horse will run away!"

"What of it?" demanded the scout. "Are Middleboro, South Middleboro,
Rock, Brockton, and Boston to fall? Are they to be captured because
you're afraid of your own horse? They won't shoot _real_ bullets! This
is not a real war. Don't you know that?"

The baker's boy flushed with indignation.

"Sure, I know that," he protested; "but my horse--_he_ don't know that!"

Lathrop slung his rifle over his shoulder and his leg over his bicycle.

"If the Reds catch you," he warned, in parting, "they'll take everything
you've got."

"The Blues have took most of it already," wailed the boy. "And just as
they were paying me the battle begun, and this horse run away, and I
couldn't get him to come back for my money."

"War," exclaimed Lathrop morosely, "is always cruel to the innocent." He
sped toward Carver Centre. In his motor car, he had travelled the road
many times, and as always his goal had been the home of Miss Beatrice
Farrar, he had covered it at a speed unrecognized by law. But now he
advanced with stealth and caution. In every clump of bushes he saw an
ambush. Behind each rock he beheld the enemy.

In a clearing was a group of Portuguese cranberry pickers, dressed as
though for a holiday. When they saw the man in uniform, one of the women
hailed him anxiously.

"Is the parade coming?" she called.

"Have you seen any of the Reds?" Lathrop returned.

"No," complained the woman. "And we been waiting all morning. When will
the parade come?"

"It's not a parade," said Lathrop, severely. "It's a war!"

The summer home of Miss Farrar stood close to the road. It had been so
placed by the farmer who built it, in order that the women folk might
sit at the window and watch the passing of the stage-coach and the
peddler. Great elms hung over it, and a white fence separated the road
from the narrow lawn. At a distance of a hundred yards a turn brought
the house into view, and at this turn, as had been his manoeuvre at
every other possible ambush, Lathrop dismounted and advanced on foot. Up
to this moment the road had been empty, but now, in front of the Farrar
cottage, it was blocked by a touring-car and a station wagon. In the
occupants of the car he recognized all the members of the Farrar family,
except Miss Farrar. In the station wagon were all of the Farrar
servants. Miss Farrar herself was leaning upon the gate and waving them
a farewell. The touring-car moved off down the road; the station wagon
followed; Miss Farrar was alone. Lathrop scorched toward her, and when
he was opposite the gate, dug his toes in the dust and halted. When he
lifted his broad-brimmed campaign hat, Miss Farrar exclaimed both with
surprise and displeasure. Drawing back from the gate she held herself
erect. Her attitude was that of one prepared for instant retreat. When
she spoke it was in tones of extreme disapproval.

"You promised," said the girl, "you would not come to see me."

Lathrop, straddling his bicycle, peered anxiously down the road.

"This is not a social call," he said. "I'm on duty. Have you seen the
Reds?"

His tone was brisk and alert, his manner pre-occupied. The
ungraciousness of his reception did not seem in the least to disconcert
him.

But Miss Farrar was not deceived. She knew him, not only as a persistent
and irrepressible lover, but as one full of guile, adroit in tricks,
fertile in expedients. He was one who could not take "No" for an
answer--at least not from her. When she repulsed him she seemed to grow
in his eyes only the more attractive.

"It is not the lover who comes to woo," he was constantly explaining,
"but the lover's _way_ of wooing."

Miss Farrar had assured him she did not like his way. She objected to
being regarded and treated as a castle that could be taken only by
assault. Whether she wished time to consider, or whether he and his
proposal were really obnoxious to her, he could not find out. His policy
of campaign was that she, also, should not have time to find out. Again
and again she had agreed to see him only on the condition that he would
not make love to her. He had promised again and again, and had failed to
keep that promise. Only a week before he had been banished from her
presence, to remain an exile until she gave him permission to see her at
her home in New York. It was not her purpose to return there for two
weeks, and yet here he was, a beggar at her gate. It might be that he
was there, as he said, "on duty," but her knowledge of him and of the
doctrine of chances caused her to doubt it.

"Mr. Lathrop!" she began, severely.

As though to see to whom she had spoken Lathrop glanced anxiously over
his shoulder. Apparently pained and surprised to find that it was to him
she had addressed herself, he regarded her with deep reproach. His eyes
were very beautiful. It was a fact which had often caused Miss Farrar
extreme annoyance.

He shook his head sadly.

"'Mr. Lathrop?'" he protested. "You know that to you I am always
'Charles--Charles the Bold,' because I am bold to love you; but never
'Mr. Lathrop,' unless," he went on briskly, "you are referring to a
future state, when, as Mrs. Lathrop, you will make me--"

Miss Farrar had turned her back on him, and was walking rapidly up the
path.

"Beatrice," he called. "I am coming after you!"

Miss Farrar instantly returned and placed both hands firmly upon the
gate.

"I cannot understand you!" she said. "Don't you see that when you act as
you do now, I can't even respect you? How do you think I could ever
care, when you offend me so? You jest at what you pretend is the most
serious thing in your life. You play with it--laugh at it!"

The young man interrupted her sharply.

"It's like this," he said. "When I am with you I am so happy I can't be
serious. When I am _not_ with you, it is _so_ serious that I am utterly
and completely wretched. You say my love offends you, bores you! I am
sorry, but what, in heaven's name, do you think your _not_ loving me is
doing to _me_? I am a wreck! I am a skeleton! Look at me!"

He let his bicycle fall, and stood with his hands open at his sides, as
though inviting her to gaze upon the ruin she had caused.

Four days of sun and rain, astride of a bicycle, without food or sleep,
had drawn his face into fine, hard lines, had bronzed it with a healthy
tan. His uniform, made by the same tailor that fitted him with polo
breeches, clung to him like a jersey. The spectacle he presented was
that of an extremely picturesque, handsome, manly youth, and of that
fact no one was better aware than himself.

"Look at me," he begged, sadly.

Miss Farrar was entirely unimpressed.

"I am!" she returned, coldly. "I never saw you looking so well--and you
know it." She gave a gasp of comprehension. "You came here because you
knew your uniform was becoming!"

Lathrop regarded himself complacently.

"Yes, isn't it?" he assented. "I brought on this war in order to wear
it. If you don't mind," he added, "I think I'll accept your invitation
and come inside. I've had nothing to eat in four days."

Miss Farrar's eyes flashed indignantly.

"You're _not_ coming inside," she declared; "but if you'll only promise
to go away at once, I'll bring you everything in the house."

"In that house," exclaimed Lathrop, dramatically, "there's only one
thing that I desire, and I want that so badly that 'life holds no charm
without you.'"

Miss Farrar regarded him steadily.

"Do you intend to drive me away from my own door, or will you go?"

Lathrop picked his wheel out of the dust.

"Good-by," he said. "I'll come back when you have made up your mind."

In vexation Miss Farrar stamped her foot upon the path.

"I _have_ made up my mind!" she protested.

"Then," returned Lathrop, "I'll come back when you have changed it."

He made a movement as though to ride away, but much to Miss Farrar's
dismay, hastily dismounted. "On second thoughts," he said, "it isn't
right for me to leave you. The woods are full of tramps and hangers-on
of the army. You're not safe. I can watch this road from here as well as
from anywhere else, and at the same time I can guard you."

To the consternation of Miss Farrar he placed his bicycle against the
fence, and, as though preparing for a visit, leaned his elbows upon it.

"I do not wish to be rude," said Miss Farrar, "but you are annoying me.
I have spent fifteen summers in Massachusetts, and I have never seen a
tramp. I need no one to guard me."

"If not you," said Lathrop easily, "then the family silver. And think of
your jewels, and your mother's jewels. Think of yourself in a house
filled with jewels, and entirely surrounded by hostile armies! My duty
is to remain with you."

Miss Farrar was so long in answering, that Lathrop lifted his head and
turned to look. He found her frowning and gazing intently into the
shadow of the woods, across the road. When she felt his eyes upon her
she turned her own guiltily upon him. Her cheeks were flushed and her
face glowed with some unusual excitement.

"I wish," she exclaimed breathlessly--"I wish," she repeated, "the Reds
would take you prisoner!"

"Take me where?" asked Lathrop.

"Take you anywhere!" cried Miss Farrar. "You should be ashamed to talk
to me when you should be looking for the enemy!"

"I am _waiting_ for the enemy," explained Lathrop. "It's the same
thing."

Miss Farrar smiled vindictively. Her eyes shone.

"You need not wait long," she said.

There was a crash of a falling stone wall, and of parting bushes, but
not in time to give Lathrop warning. As though from the branches of the
trees opposite two soldiers fell into the road; around his hat each wore
the red band of the invader; each pointed his rifle at Lathrop.

"Hands up!" shouted one. "You're my prisoner!" cried the other.

Mechanically Lathrop raised his hands, but his eyes turned to Miss
Farrar.

"Did you know?" he asked.

"I have been watching them," she said, "creeping up on you for the last
ten minutes."

Lathrop turned to the two soldiers, and made an effort to smile.

"That was very clever," he said, "but I have twenty men up the road,
and behind them a regiment. You had better get away while you can."

The two Reds laughed derisively. One, who wore the stripes of a
sergeant, answered: "That won't do! We been a mile up the road, and you
and us are the only soldiers on it. Gimme the gun!"

Lathrop knew he had no right to refuse. He had been fairly surprised,
but he hesitated. When Miss Farrar was not in his mind his amateur
soldiering was to him a most serious proposition. The war game was a
serious proposition, and that, through his failure for ten minutes to
regard it seriously, he had been made a prisoner, mortified him keenly.
That his humiliation had taken place in the presence of Beatrice Farrar
did not lessen his discomfort, nor did the explanation he must later
make to his captain afford him any satisfaction. Already he saw himself
playing the star part in a court-martial. He shrugged his shoulders and
surrendered his gun.

As he did so he gloomily scrutinized the insignia of his captors.

"Who took me?" he asked.

"_We_ took you," exclaimed the sergeant.

"What regiment?" demanded Lathrop, sharply. "I have to report who took
me; and you probably don't know it, but your collar ornaments are upside
down." With genuine exasperation he turned to Miss Farrar.

"Lord!" he exclaimed, "isn't it bad enough to be taken prisoner, without
being taken by raw recruits that can't put on their uniforms?"

The Reds flushed, and the younger, a sandy-haired, rat-faced youth,
retorted angrily: "Mebbe we ain't strong on uniforms, beau," he snarled,
"but you've got nothing on us yet, that I can see. You look pretty with
your hands in the air, don't you?"

"Shut up," commanded the other Red. He was the older man, heavily built,
with a strong, hard mouth and chin, on which latter sprouted a three
days' iron-gray beard. "Don't you see he's an officer? Officers don't
like being took by two-spot privates."

Lathrop gave a sudden start. "Why," he laughed, incredulously, "don't
you know--" He stopped, and his eyes glanced quickly up and down the
road.

"Don't we know what?" demanded the older Red, suspiciously.

"I forgot," said Lathrop. "I--I must not give information to the
enemy--"

For an instant there was a pause, while the two Reds stood irresolute.
Then the older nodded the other to the side of the road, and in whispers
they consulted eagerly.

Miss Farrar laughed, and Lathrop moved toward her.

"I deserve worse than being laughed at," he said. "I made a strategic
mistake. I should not have tried to capture you and an army corps at the
same time."

"You," she taunted, "who were always so keen on soldiering, to be taken
prisoner," she lowered her voice, "and by men like that! Aren't they
funny?" she whispered, "and East Side and Tenderloin! It made me
homesick to hear them! I think when not in uniform the little one drives
a taxicab, and the big one is a guard on the elevated."

"They certainly are very 'New York,'" assented Lathrop, "and very
tough."

"I thought," whispered Miss Farrar, "those from New York with the Red
Army were picked men."

"What does it matter?" exclaimed Lathrop. "It's just as humiliating to
be captured by a hall-room boy as by a mere millionaire! I can't insist
on the invading army being entirely recruited from Harvard graduates."

The two Reds either had reached a decision, or agreed that they could
not agree, for they ceased whispering, and crossed to where Lathrop
stood.

"We been talking over your case," explained the sergeant, "and we see we
are in wrong. We see we made a mistake in taking you prisoner. We had
ought to shot you dead. So now we're going to shoot you dead."

"You can't!" objected Lathrop. "It's too late. You should have thought
of that sooner."

"I know," admitted the sergeant, "but a prisoner is a hell of a
nuisance. If you got a prisoner to look after you can't do your own
work; you got to keep tabs on him. And there ain't nothing in it for the
prisoner, neither. If we take you, you'll have to tramp all the way to
our army, and all the way back. But, if you're dead, how different! You
ain't no bother to anybody. You got a half holiday all to yourself, and
you can loaf around the camp, so dead that they can't make you work, but
not so dead you can't smoke or eat." The sergeant smiled ingratiatingly.
In a tempting manner he exhibited his rifle. "Better be dead," he urged.

"I'd like to oblige you," said Lathrop, "but it's against the rules. You
_can't_ shoot a prisoner."

The rat-faced soldier uttered an angry exclamation. "To hell with the
rules!" he cried. "We can't waste time on him. Turn him loose!"

The older man rounded on the little one savagely. The tone in which he
addressed him was cold, menacing, sinister. His words were simple, but
his eyes and face were heavy with warning.

"Who is running this?" he asked.

The little soldier muttered, and shuffled away. From under the brim of
his campaign hat, his eyes cast furtive glances up and down the road. As
though anxious to wipe out the effect of his comrade's words, the
sergeant addressed Lathrop suavely and in a tone of conciliation.

"You see," he explained, "him and me are scouts. We're not supposed to
waste time taking prisoners. So, we'll set you free." He waved his hand
invitingly toward the bicycle. "You can go!" he said.

To Miss Farrar's indignation Lathrop, instead of accepting his freedom,
remained motionless.

"I can't!" he said. "I'm on post. My captain ordered me to stay in front
of this house until I was relieved."

Miss Farrar, amazed at such duplicity, exclaimed aloud:

"He is _not_ on post!" she protested. "He's a scout! He wants to stop
here, because--because--he's hungry. I wouldn't have let you take him
prisoner, if I had not thought you would take him away with you." She
appealed to the sergeant. "_Please_ take him away," she begged.

The sergeant turned sharply upon his prisoner.

"Why don't you do what the lady wants?" he demanded.

"Because I've got to do what my captain wants," returned Lathrop, "and
he put me on sentry-go, in front of this house."

With the back of his hand, the sergeant fretfully scraped the three
days' growth on his chin. "There's nothing to it," he exclaimed, "but
for to take him with us. When we meet some more Reds we'll turn him
over. Fall in!" he commanded.

"No!" protested Lathrop. "I don't want to be turned over. I've got a
much better plan. _You_ don't want to be bothered with a prisoner. _I_
don't want to be a prisoner. As you say, I am better dead. You can't
shoot a prisoner, but if he tries to escape you can. I'll try to escape.
You shoot me. Then I return to my own army, and report myself dead. That
ends your difficulty and saves me from a court-martial. They can't
court-martial a corpse."

The face of the sergeant flashed with relief and satisfaction. In his
anxiety to rid himself of his prisoner, he lifted the bicycle into the
road and held it in readiness.

"You're all right!" he said, heartily. "You can make your getaway as
quick as you like."

But to the conspiracy Miss Farrar refused to lend herself.

"How do you know," she demanded, "that he will keep his promise? He may
not go back to his own army. He can be just as dead on my lawn as
anywhere else!"

Lathrop shook his head at her sadly.

"How you wrong me!" he protested. "How dare you doubt the promise of a
dying man? These are really my last words, and I wish I could think of
something to say suited to the occasion, but the presence of strangers
prevents."

He mounted his bicycle. "'If I had a thousand lives to give,'" he quoted
with fervor, "'I'd give them all to--'" he hesitated, and smiled
mournfully on Miss Farrar. Seeing her flushed and indignant countenance,
he added, with haste, "to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!"

As he started on his wheel slowly down the path, he turned to the
sergeant.

"I'm escaping," he explained. The Reds, with an enthusiasm undoubtedly
genuine, raised their rifles, and the calm of the Indian summer was
shattered by two sharp reports. Lathrop, looking back over his shoulder,
waved one hand reassuringly.

"Death was instantaneous," he called. He bent his body over the
handle-bar, and they watched him disappear rapidly around the turn in
the road.

Miss Farrar sighed with relief.

"Thank you very much," she said.

As though signifying that to oblige a woman he would shoot any number of
prisoners, the sergeant raised his hat.

"Don't mention it, lady," he said. "I seen he was annoying you, and
that's why I got rid of him. Some of them amateur soldiers, as soon as
they get into uniform, are too fresh. He took advantage of you because
your folks were away from home. But don't you worry about that. I'll
guard this house until your folks get back."

Miss Farrar protested warmly.

"Really!" she exclaimed; "I need no one to guard me."

But the soldier was obdurate. He motioned his comrade down the road.

"Watch at the turn," he ordered; "he may come back or send some of the
Blues to take us. I'll stay here and protect the lady."

Again Miss Farrar protested, but the sergeant, in a benign and fatherly
manner, smiled approvingly. Seating himself on the grass outside the
fence, he leaned his back against the gatepost, apparently settling
himself for conversation.

"Now, how long might it have been," he asked, "before we showed up, that
you seen us?"

"I saw you," Miss Farrar said, "when Mr.--when that bicycle scout was
talking to me. I saw the red bands on your hats among the bushes."

The sergeant appeared interested.

"But why didn't you let on to him?"

Miss Farrar laughed evasively.

"Maybe because I am from New York, too," she said. "Perhaps I wanted to
see soldiers from my city take a prisoner."

They were interrupted by the sudden appearance of the smaller soldier.
On his rat-like countenance was written deep concern.

"When I got to the turn," he began, breathlessly, "I couldn't see him.
Where did he go? Did he double back through the woods, or did he have
time to ride out of sight before I got there?"

The reappearance of his comrade affected the sergeant strangely. He
sprang to his feet, his under jaw protruding truculently, his eyes
flashing with anger.

"Get back," he snarled. "Do what I told you!"

Under his breath he muttered words that, to Miss Farrar, were
unintelligible. The little rat-like man nodded, and ran from them down
the road. The sergeant made an awkward gesture of apology.

"Excuse me, lady," he begged, "but it makes me hot when them rookies
won't obey orders. You see," he ran on glibly, "I'm a reg'lar; served
three years in the Philippines, and I can't get used to not having my
men do what I say."

Miss Farrar nodded, and started toward the house. The sergeant sprang
quickly across the road.

"Have you ever been in the Philippines, Miss?" he called. "It's a great
country."

Miss Farrar halted and shook her head. She was considering how far
politeness required of her to entertain unshaven militiamen, who
insisted on making sentries of themselves at her front gate.

The sergeant had plunged garrulously into a confusing description of the
Far East. He was clasping the pickets of the fence with his hands, and
his eyes were fastened on hers. He lacked neither confidence nor
vocabulary, and not for an instant did his tongue hesitate or his eyes
wander, and yet in his manner there was nothing at which she could take
offence. He appeared only amiably vain that he had seen much of the
world, and anxious to impress that fact upon another. Miss Farrar was
bored, but the man gave her no opportunity to escape. In consequence she
was relieved when the noisy approach of an automobile brought him to an
abrupt pause. Coming rapidly down the road was a large touring-car,
filled with men in khaki. The sergeant gave one glance at it, and leaped
across the road, taking cover behind the stone wall. Instantly he raised
his head above it and shook his fist at Miss Farrar.

"Don't tell," he commanded. "They're Blues in that car! Don't tell!"
Again he sank from sight.

Miss Farrar now was more than bored, she was annoyed. Why grown men
should play at war so seriously she could not understand. It was absurd!
She no longer would remain a party to it; and, lest the men in the car
might involve her still further, she retreated hastily toward the house.
As she opened the door the car halted at the gate, and voices called to
her, but she pretended not to hear them, and continued up the stairs.
Behind her the car passed noisily on its way.

She mounted the stairs, and crossing a landing moved down a long hall,
at the further end of which was her bedroom. The hall was uncarpeted,
but the tennis shoes she wore made no sound, nor did the door of her
bedroom when she pushed it open.

On the threshold Miss Farrar stood quite still. A swift, sinking nausea
held her in a vice. Her instinct was to scream and run, but her throat
had tightened and gone dry, and her limbs trembled. Opposite the door
was her dressing-table, and reflected in its mirror were the features
and figure of the rat-like soldier. His back was toward her. With one
hand he swept the dressing-table. The other, hanging at his side, held a
revolver. In a moment the panic into which Miss Farrar had been thrown
passed. Her breath and blood returned, and, intent only on flight, she
softly turned. On the instant the rat-faced one raised his eyes, saw her
reflected in the mirror, and with an oath, swung toward her. He drew the
revolver close to his cheek, and looked at her down the barrel. "Don't
move!" he whispered; "don't scream! Where are the jewels?"

Miss Farrar was not afraid of the revolver or of the man. She did not
believe either would do her harm. The idea of both the presence of the
man in her room, and that any one should dare to threaten her was what
filled her with repugnance. As the warm blood flowed again through her
body her spirit returned. She was no longer afraid. She was, instead,
indignant, furious.

With one step she was in the room, leaving the road to the door open.

"Get out of here," she commanded.

The little man snarled, and stamped the floor. He shoved the gun nearer
to her.

"The jewels, damn you!" he whispered. "Do you want me to blow your fool
head off? Where are the jewels?"

"Jewels?" repeated Miss Farrar. "I have no jewels!"

"You lie!" shrieked the little man. "He said the house was full of
jewels. We heard him. He said he would stay to guard the jewels."

Miss Farrar recognized his error. She remembered Lathrop's jest, and
that it had been made while the two men were within hearing, behind the
stone wall.

"It was a joke!" she cried. "Leave at once!" She backed swiftly toward
the open window that looked upon the road. "Or I'll call your
sergeant!"

"If you go near that window or scream," whispered the rat-like one,
"I'll shoot!"

A heavy voice, speaking suddenly from the doorway, shook Miss Farrar's
jangled nerves into fresh panic.

"She won't scream," said the voice.

In the door Miss Farrar saw the bulky form of the sergeant, blocking her
escape.

Without shifting his eyes from Miss Farrar, the man with the gun cursed
breathlessly at the other. "Why didn't you keep her away?" he panted.

"An automobile stopped in front of the gate," explained the sergeant.
"Have you got them?" he demanded.

"No!" returned the other. "Nothing! She won't tell where they are."

The older man laughed. "Oh, yes, she'll tell," he whispered. His voice
was still low and suave, but it carried with it the weight of a threat,
and the threat, although unspoken, filled Miss Farrar with alarm. Her
eyes, wide with concern, turned fearfully from one man to the other.

The sergeant stretched his hands toward her, the fingers working and
making clutches in the air. The look in his eyes was quite terrifying.

"If you don't tell," he said slowly, "I'll choke it out of you!"

If his intention was to frighten the girl, he succeeded admirably. With
her hands clasped to her throat, Miss Farrar sank against the wall. She
saw no chance of escape. The way to the door was barred, and should she
drop to the garden below, from the window, before she could reach the
road the men would overtake her. Even should she reach the road, the
house nearest was a half mile distant.

The sergeant came close, his fingers opening and closing in front of her
eyes. He raised his voice to a harsh, bellowing roar. "I'm going to make
you tell!" he shouted. "I'm going to choke it out of you!"

Although she was alone in the house, although on every side the pine
woods encompassed her, Miss Farrar threw all her strength into one long,
piercing cry for help. And upon the instant it was answered. From the
hall came the swift rush of feet. The rat-like one swung toward it. From
his revolver came a report that shook the room, a flash and a burst of
smoke, and through it Miss Farrar saw Lathrop hurl himself. He dived at
the rat-like one, and as on the foot-ball field he had been taught to
stop a runner, flung his arms around the other's knees. The legs of the
man shot from under him, his body cut a half circle through the air, and
the part of his anatomy to first touch the floor was his head. The floor
was of oak, and the impact gave forth a crash like the smash of a
base-ball bat, when it drives the ball to centre field. The man did not
move. He did not even groan. In his relaxed fingers the revolver lay,
within reach of Lathrop's hand. He fell upon it and, still on his knees,
pointed it at the sergeant.

"You're _my_ prisoner, now!" he shouted cheerfully. "Hands up!"

The man raised his arms slowly, as if he were lifting heavy dumb-bells.

"The lady called for help," he said. "I came to help her."

"No! No!" protested the girl. "He did _not_ help me! He said he would
choke me if I didn't--"

"He said he would--what!" bellowed Lathrop. He leaped to his feet, and
sent the gun spinning through the window. He stepped toward the man
gingerly, on the balls of his feet, like one walking on ice. The man
seemed to know what that form of approach threatened, for he threw his
arms into a position of defence.

"You bully!" whispered Lathrop. "You coward! You choke women, do you?"

He shifted from one foot to the other, his body balancing forward, his
arms swinging limply in front of him. With his eyes, he seemed to
undress the man, as though choosing a place to strike.

"I made the same mistake you did," he taunted. "I should have killed you
first. Now I am going to do it!"

He sprang at the man, his chin still sunk on his chest, but with his
arms swinging like the spokes of a wheel. His opponent struck back
heavily, violently, but each move of his arm seemed only to open up some
vulnerable spot. Blows beat upon his chin, upon his nose, his eyes;
blows jabbed him in the ribs, drove his breath from his stomach, ground
his teeth together, cut the flesh from his cheeks. He sank to his knees,
with his arms clasping his head.

"Get up!" roared Lathrop. "Stand up to it, you coward!"

But the man had no idea of standing up to it. Howling with pain, he
scrambled toward the door, and fled staggering down the hall.

At the same moment the automobile that a few minutes before had passed
up the road came limping to the gate, and a half-dozen men in uniform
sprang out of it. From the window Lathrop saw them spread across the
lawn and surround the house.

"They've got him!" he said. He pointed to the prostrate figure on the
floor. "He and the other one," he explained, breathlessly, "are New York
crooks! They have been looting in the wake of the Reds, disguised as
soldiers. I knew they weren't even amateur soldiers by the mistakes in
their make-up, and I made that bluff of riding away so as to give them
time to show what the game was. Then, that provost guard in the motor
car stopped me, and when they said who they were after, I ordered them
back here. But they had a flat tire, and my bicycle beat them."

In his excitement he did not notice that the girl was not listening,
that she was very pale, that she was breathing quickly, and trembling.

"I'll go tell them," he added, "that the other one they want is up
here."

Miss Farrar's strength instantly returned.

With a look of terror at the now groaning figure on the floor, she
sprang toward Lathrop, with both hands clutching him by his sleeves.

"You will _not!_" she commanded. "You will not leave me alone!"

Appealingly she raised her face to his startled countenance. With a
burst of tears she threw herself into his arms. "I'm afraid!" she
sobbed. "Don't leave me. Please, no matter what I say, never leave me
again!"

Between bewilderment and joy, the face of Lathrop was unrecognizable. As
her words reached him, as he felt the touch of her body in his arms, and
her warm, wet cheek against his own, he drew a deep sigh of content, and
then, fearfully and tenderly, held her close.

After a pause, in which peace came to all the world, he raised his head.

"Don't worry!" he said. "You can _bet_ I won't leave you!"





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