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Title: A Man and His Money
Author: Isham, Frederic Stewart
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Man and His Money" ***

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



A MAN AND HIS MONEY



_By_

FREDERIC S. ISHAM



_Author of_

Under the Rose, Half a Chance,
The Social Bucaneer, Etc.



ILLUSTRATIONS BY

MAX J. SPERO



1912



A MAN AND HIS MONEY



CHAPTER I


THE COACH OF CONCORD

"Well? What can I do for you?"

The speaker--a scrubby little man--wheeled in the rickety office chair
to regard some one hesitating on his threshold. The tones were not
agreeable; the proprietor of the diminutive, run-down establishment,
"The St. Cecilia Music Emporium," was not, for certain well defined
reasons, in an amiable mood that morning. He had been about to reach
down for a little brown jug which reposed on the spot usually allotted
to the waste paper basket when the shadow of the new-comer fell
obtrusively, not to say offensively, upon him.

It was not a reassuring shadow; it seemed to spring from an
indeterminate personality. Mr. Kerry Mackintosh repeated his question
more bruskly; the shadow (obviously not a customer,--no one ever sought
Mr. Mackintosh's wares!) started; his face showed signs of a vacillating
purpose.

"A mistake! Beg pardon!" he murmured with exquisite politeness and began
to back out, when a somewhat brutal command on the other's part to "shut
that d---- door d---- quick, and not let any more d---- hot air out"
arrested the visitor's purpose. Instead of retreating, he advanced.

"I beg pardon, were you addressing me?" he asked. The half apologetic
look had quite vanished.

The other considered, muttered at length in an aggrieved tone something
about hot air escaping and coal six dollars a ton, and ended with: "What
do you want?"

"Work." The visitor's tone relapsed; it was now conspicuous for its want
of "success waves"; it seemed to imply a definite cognizance of
personal uselessness. He who had brightened a moment before now spoke
like an automaton. Mr. Mackintosh looked at him and his shabby garments.
He had a contempt for shabby garments--on others!

"Good day!" he said curtly.

But instead of going, the person coolly sat down. The proprietor of the
little shop glanced toward the door and half started from his chair.
Whereupon the visitor smiled; he had a charming smile in these moments
of calm equipoise, it gave one an impression of potential possibilities.
Mr. Mackintosh sank back into his chair.

"Too great a waste of energy!" he murmured, and having thus defined his
attitude, turned to a "proof" of new rag-time. This he surveyed
discontentedly; struck out a note here, jabbed in another there. The
stranger watched him at first casually. By sundry signs the caller's
fine resolution and assurance seemed slowly oozing from him; perhaps he
began to have doubts as to the correctness of his position, thus to
storm a man in his own castle, or office--even if it were such a
disreputable-appearing office!

He shifted his feet thoughtfully; a thin lock of dark hair drooped more
uncertainly over his brow; he got up. The composer dashed a blithe
flourish to the tail of a note.

"Hold on," he said. "What's your hurry?" Sarcastically.

"Didn't know I was in a hurry!" There was no attempted levity in his
tone,--he spoke rather listlessly, as one who had found the world, or
its problems, slightly wearisome. The composer-publisher now arose; a
new thought had suddenly assailed him.

"You say you are looking for work. Why did you drift in here?"

"The place looked small. Those big places have no end of applicants--"

"Shouldn't think that would phase you. With _your_ nerve!"

The visitor flushed. "I seem to have made rather a mess of it," he
confessed. "I usually do. Good day."

"A moment!" said Mr. Mackintosh. "One of my men"--he emphasized "one,"
as if their number were legion--"disappointed me this morning. I expect
he's in the lockup by this time. Have you got a voice?"

"A what?"

"Can you sing?"

"I really don't know; haven't ever tried, since"--a wonderful
retrospection in his tones--"since I was a little chap in church and
wore white robes."

"Huh!" ejaculated the proprietor of the Saint Cecilia shop. "Mama's
angel boy! That must have been a long time ago." The visitor did not
answer; he pushed back uncertainly the uncertain lock of dark hair and
seemed almost to have forgotten the object of his visit.

"Now see here"--Mr. Mackintosh's voice became purposeful, energetic; he
seated himself before a piano that looked as if it had led a hard
nomadic existence. "Now see here!" Striking a few chords. "Suppose you
try this stunt! _What's the Matter with Mother_? My own composition!
Kerry Mackintosh at his best! Now twitter away, if you've any of that
angel voice left!"

The piano rattled; the new-comer, with a certain faint whimsical smile
as if he appreciated the humor of his position, did "twitter away"; loud
sounds filled the place. Quality might be lacking but of quantity there
was a-plenty.

"Bully!" cried Mr. Mackintosh enthusiastically. "That'll start the tears
rolling. _What's the Matter with Mother_? Nothing's the matter with
mother. And if any one says there is--Will it go? With that voice?" He
clapped his hand on the other's shoulder. "Why, man, they could hear you
across Madison Square. You've a voice like an organ. Is it a 'go'?" he
demanded.

"I don't think I quite understand," said the new-comer patiently.

"You don't, eh? Look there!"

A covered wagon had at that moment stopped before the door. It was drawn
by a horse whose appearance, like that of the piano, spoke more
eloquently of services in the past than of hopeful promises for the
future. On the side of the vehicle appeared in large letters: "_What's
the Matter with Mother_? Latest Melodic Triumph by America's Greatest
Composer, Mr. Kerry Mackintosh." A little to the left of this
announcement was painted a harp, probably a reminder of the one Saint
Cecilia was supposed to have played. This sentimental symbol was
obviously intended to lend dignity and respectability to the otherwise
disreputable vehicle of concord and its steed without wings, waiting
patiently to be off--or to lie down and pay the debt of nature!

"Shall we try it again, angel voice?" asked Mr. Mackintosh, playing the
piano, or "biffing the ivories," as he called it.

"Drop it," returned the visitor, "that 'angel' dope."

"Oh, all right! Anything to oblige."

Before this vaguely apologetic reply, the new-comer once more relapsed
into thoughtfulness. His eye passed dubiously over the vehicle of
harmony; he began to take an interest in the front door as if again
inclined to "back out." Perhaps a wish that the horse _might_ lie down
and die at this moment (no doubt he would be glad to!) percolated
through the current of his thoughts. That would offer an easy solution
to the proposal he imagined would soon be forthcoming--that _was_
forthcoming--and accepted. Of course! What alternative remained? Needs
must when an empty pocket drives. Had he not learned the lesson--beggars
must not be choosers?

"And now," said Mr. Mackintosh with the air of a man who had cast from
his shoulders a distinct problem, "that does away with the necessity of
bailing the other chap out. What's your name?"

The visitor hesitated. "Horatio Heatherbloom."

The other looked at him keenly. "The right one," he said softly.

"You've got the only one you'll get," replied the caller, after an
interval.

Mr. Mackintosh bestowed upon him a knowing wink. "Sounds like a _nom de
plume_," he chuckled. "What was your line?"

"I don't understand."

"What did you serve time for? Shoplifting?"

"Oh, no," said the other calmly.

"Burglarizing?" With more respect in his tones.

"What do you think?" queried the caller in the same mild voice.

"Not ferocious-looking enough for that lay, I should have thought.
However, you can't always tell by appearances. Now, I wonder--"

"What?" observed Mr. Heatherbloom, after an interval of silence.

"Yes! By Jove!" Mr. Mackintosh was speaking to himself. "It might
work--it might add interest--" Mr. Heatherbloom waited patiently. "Would
you have any objections," earnestly, "to my making a little addenda to
the sign on the chariot of cadence? _What's the Matter with Mother_?
'The touching lyric, as interpreted by Horatio Heatherbloom, the
reformed burglar'?"

"I _should_ object," observed the caller.

"My boy--my boy! Don't be hasty. Take time to think. I'll go further;
I'll paint a few iron bars in front of the harp. Suggestive of a
prisoner in jail thinking of mother. Say 'yes'."

"No."

"Too bad!" murmured Mr. Mackintosh in disappointed but not altogether
convinced tones. "You could use another alias, you know. If you're
afraid the police might pipe your game and nab--"

"Drop it, or--"

"All right, Mr. Heatherbloom, or any other blooming name!" Recovering
his jocular manner. "It's not for me to inquire the 'why,' or care a rap
for the 'wherefore.' Ethics hasn't anything to do with the realm of
art."

As he spoke he reached under the desk and took out the jug. "Have some?"
extending the tumbler.

The thin lips of the other moved, his hand quickly extended but was
drawn as suddenly back. "Thanks, but I'm on the water wagon, old chap."

"Well, I'm not. Do you know you said that just like a gentleman--to the
manner born."

"A gentleman? A moment ago I was a reformed burglar."

"You might be both."

Mr. Heatherbloom looked into space; Mr. Mackintosh did not notice a
subtle change of expression. That latter gentleman's rapt gaze was
wholly absorbed by the half-tumblerful he held in mid air. But only for
a moment; the next, he was smacking his lips. "We'll have a bite to eat
and then go," he now said more cheerfully. "Ready for luncheon?"

"I could eat"

"Had anything to-day?"

"Maybe."

"And maybe, not!" Half jeeringly. "Why don't you say you've been
training down, taking the go-without-breakfast cure? Say, it must be
hell looking for a job when you've just 'got out'!"

"How do you know I just 'got out'?"

"You look it, and--there's a lot of reasons. Come on."

Half an hour or so later the covered wagon drove along Fourteenth
street. Near the curb, not far from the corner of Broadway, it separated
itself from the concourse of vehicles and stopped. Close by, nickel
palaces of amusement exhibited their yawning entrances, and into these
gilded maws floated, from the human current on the sidewalk, a stream of
men, women and children. Encamped at the edge of this eddy, Mr.
Mackintosh sounded on the nomadic piano, now ensconced within the coach
of concord, the first triumphal strains of the maternal tribute in
rag-time.

He and the conspiring instrument were concealed in the depths of the
vehicle from the gaze of the multitude, but Mr. Heatherbloom at the back
faced them on the little step which served as concert stage. There were
no limelights or stereopticon pictures to add to the illusion,--only the
disconcerting faces and the light of day. He never before knew how
bright the day could be but he continued to stand there, in spite of the
ludicrous and trying position. He sang, a certain daredevil light in
his eye now, a suspicion of a covert smile on his face. It might be
rather tragic--his position--but it was also a little funny.

His voice didn't sound any better out of doors than it did in; the
"angel" quality of the white-robed choir days had departed with the soul
of the boy. Perhaps Mr. Heatherbloom didn't really feel the pathos of
the selection; at any rate, those tears Mr. Mackintosh had prophesied
would be rolling down the cheeks of the listening multitude weren't
forthcoming. One or two onlookers even laughed.

"Pigs! Swine!" murmured the composer, now passing through the crowd with
copies of the song. He sold a few, not many; on the back step Mr.
Heatherbloom watched with faint sardonic interest.

"Have I earned my luncheon yet?" he asked the composer when that
aggrieved gentleman, jingling a few dimes, returned to the equipage of
melody.

"Haven't counted up," was the gruff reply. "Give 'em another verse! They
ain't accustomed to it yet. Once they git to know it, every boot-black
in town will be whistling that song. Don't I know? Didn't I write it?
Ain't they all had mothers?"

"Maybe they're all Topsies and 'just growed'," suggested Mr.
Heatherbloom.

"Patience!" muttered the other. "The public may be a little coy at
first, but once they git started they'll be fighting for copies. So
encore, my boy; hammer it into them. We'll get them; you see!"

But the person addressed didn't see, at least with Mr. Mackintosh's
clairvoyant vision. Mr. Heatherbloom's gaze wandering quizzically from
the little pool of mask-like faces had rested on a great shining
motor-car approaching--slowly, on account of the press of traffic. In
this wide luxurious vehicle reposed a young girl, slender, exquisite; at
her side sat a big, dark, distinguished-appearing man, with a closely
cropped black beard; a foreigner--most likely Russian.

The girl was as beautiful as the dainty orchids with which the superb
car was adorned, and which she, also, wore in her gown--yellow orchids,
tenderly fashioned but very insistent and bright. Upon this patrician
vision Mr. Heatherbloom had inadvertently looked, and the pathetic
plaint regarding "Mother" died on the wings of nothingness. With
unfilial respect he literally abandoned her and cast her to the winds.
His eyes gleamed as they rested on the girl; he seemed to lose himself
in reverie.

Did she, the vision in orchids, notice him? Perhaps! The chauffeur at
that moment increased the speed of the big car; but as it dashed past,
the crimson mouth of the beautiful girl tightened and hardened into a
straight line and those wonderful starlike eyes shone suddenly with a
light as hard as steel. Disdainful, contemptuous; albeit, perhaps,
passionate! Then she, orchids, shining car and all were whirled on.

Rattle! bang! went the iron-rimmed wheels of other rougher vehicles.
Bing! bang! sounded the piano like a soul in torment.

Horatio Heatherbloom stood motionless; then his figure swayed slightly.
He lifted the music, as if to shield his features from the others--his
many auditors; but they didn't mind that brief interruption; it afforded
a moment for that rough and ready dialogue which a gathering of this
kind finds to its liking.

"Give him a trokee! Anybody got a cough drop?"

"It's soothing syrup he wants."

"No; it's us wants that."

"What the devil--" Mr. Mackintosh looked out of the wagon.

Mr. Heatherbloom suddenly laughed, a forced reckless laugh. "Guess it
was the dampness. I'm like some artists--have to be careful where I
sing."

"Have a tablet, feller, do!" said a man in the audience.

Horatio looked him in the eye. "Maybe it's you want something."

The facetious one began to back away; he had seen that look before, the
steely glint that goes before battle.

"The chord now, if you please!" said Mr. Heatherbloom to the composer
in a still quiet voice.

Mr. Mackintosh hit viciously; Mr. Heatherbloom sang again; he did more
than that. He outdid himself; he employed bombast,--some thought it
pathos. He threw a tremolo into his voice; it passed for emotion. He
"caught 'em", in Mr. Mackintosh's parlance, and "caught 'em hard". Some
more people bought copies. The alert Mr. Mackintosh managed to gather in
about a dollar, and saw, in consequence, great fortune "coming his way"
at last; the clouds had a golden lining.

"Say, you're the pard I've been a-looking for!" he jubilantly told Mr.
Heatherbloom as they prepared to move on. "We'll make a beautiful team.
Isn't it a peach?"

"What?"

"That song. It made them look like a rainy day. Git up!" And Mr.
Mackintosh prodded the bony ribs of their steed.

Mr. Heatherbloom absent-mindedly gazed in the direction the big shining
motor had vanished.



CHAPTER II


VARYING FORTUNES

Mr. Heatherbloom's new-found employment proved but ephemeral. The next
day the sheriff took possession of the music emporium and all it
contained, including the nomadic piano and the now empty jug. The
contents of the last the composer-publisher took care to put beyond
reach of his many creditors whom he, in consequence, faced with a
seemingly care-free, if artificial, jocularity. Mr. Heatherbloom walked
soberly forth from the shop of concord.

He had but turned the corner of the street when into the now dissonant
"hole in the wall", amid the scene of wreck and disaster, stepped a tall
dark man, with a closely cropped beard, who spoke English with an accent
and who regarded the erstwhile proprietor and the minions of the law
with ill-concealed arrogance and disfavor.

"You have," he began in halting tones, "a young man here who sings on
the street like the minstrels of old, the--what you call
them?--troubadours."

"We _had_," corrected Mr. Mackintosh. "He has just 'jumped the coup,' or
rather been 'shooed out'."

The new-comer fastened his gaze upon the other; he had superb, almost
mesmeric eyes. "Will you kindly speak the language as I understand it?"
he said. And the other did, for there was that in the caller's manner
which compelled immediate compliance. Immovably he listened to the
composer-publisher's explanation.

"_Eh bien!"_ he said, his handsome, rather barbaric head high when Mr.
Mackintosh had concluded. "He is gone; it is well; I have fulfilled my
mission." And walking out, the imposing stranger hailed a taxi and
disappeared from the neighborhood.

Meanwhile Mr. Horatio Heatherbloom had walked slowly on; he was now
some distance from the one-time "emporium." Where should he go? His
fortunes had not been enhanced materially by his brief excursion into
the realms of melody; he had thirty cents in cash and a
"dollar-and-a-half appetite." An untidy place where they displayed a
bargain assortment of creature comforts attracted his gaze. He thought
of meals in the past--of caviar, a la Russe, three dollars and a half a
portion; peaches Melba, three francs each at the Café de Paris; truffled
capon from Normandy; duck after the manner of the incomparable Frederic.
About half a dozen peaches Melba would have appealed to him now; he
looked, instead, with the eyes of longing at a codfish ball. Oh,
glorious appetite, mocking recollections of hours of satiety!

Should he yield to temptation? He stopped; then prudence prevailed. The
day was yet too young to give way recklessly to casual gastronomic
allurements, so he stepped on again quickly, averting his head from shop
windows. Lest his caution and conservatism might give way, he started
to turn into a side street--but didn't.

Instead, he laughed slightly to himself. What! flee from an outpost of
time-worn celery? beat an inglorious retreat before a phalanx of
machine-made pies? He would look them (figuratively) in the eye. Having,
as it were, fairly stared out of countenance the bland pies and beamed
with stern contempt upon the "droopy," Preraphaelite celery, he went,
better satisfied, on his way. It is these little victories that count;
at that moment Mr. Heatherbloom marched on like a knight of old for
steadfastness of purpose. His lips veiled a covert smile, as if behind
the hard mask of life he saw something a little odd and whimsical,
appealing to some secret sense of humor that even hunger could not
wholly annihilate. The lock of hair seemed to droop rather pathetically
at that moment; his sensitive features were slightly pinched; his face
was pale. It would probably be paler before the day was over;
_n'importe!_ The future had to be met--for better, or worse. Multitudes
passed this way and that; an elevated went crashing by; devastating
influences seemed to surround him. His slender form stiffened.

When next he stopped it was to linger, not in front of an eating
establishment, but before a bulletin-board upon which was pasted a page
of newspaper "want ads" for "trained" men, in all walks of life.
"Trained" men? Hateful word! How often had he encountered it! Ah, here
was one advertisement without the "trained"; he devoured it eagerly. The
item, like an oasis in the desert of his general incapacity and
uselessness, exercised an odd fascination for him in spite of the
absolute impossibility of his professing to possess a fractional part of
those moral attributes demanded by the fair advertiser. She--a Miss Van
Rolsen--was seeking a paragon, not a person. Nevertheless, he resolved
to assail the apparently unassailable, and repaired to a certain
ultrafashionable neighborhood of the town.

Before a brownstone front that bore the number he sought, he paused a
moment, drew a deep breath and started to walk up the front steps. But
with a short laugh he came suddenly to a halt half-way up; looked over
the stone balustrade down at the other entrance below--the
tradesmen's--the butchers', the bakers', the candlestick makers'--and,
yes, the servants'--their way in!--his?

He went down the steps and walked on and away as a matter of course, but
once more stopped. He had done a good deal of going this way and that,
and then stopping, during the last few months. Things had to be worked
out, and sometimes his brain didn't seem to move very quickly.

To be worked out! He now surveyed the butchers' and the bakers' (and
yes, the servants') entrance with casual or philosophic interest from
the vantage point of the other side of the street. It wasn't different
from any other of the entrances of the kind but it held his gaze. Then
he walked across the street again and went in--or down. It didn't really
seem now such a bad kind of entrance when you came to investigate it, in
a high impersonal way; not half so bad as the subway, and people didn't
mind that.

Still Mr. Heatherbloom experienced a peculiar thrill when he put up his
thumb, pressed a button, and wondered what next would happen. Who
answered doors down here,--the maid--the cook--the laundress? He felt
himself to be very indistinct and vague standing there in the shadow,
and tried to assume a nonchalant bearing. He wondered just what bearing
_was_ proper under the circumstances; he cherished indistinct
recollections of having heard or read that the butcher's boy is usually
favored with a broadly defying and independent visage; that he comes in
whistling and goes forth swaggering. A cat-meat man he had once looked
upon from the upper lodge of front steps somewhere in the dim long ago,
had possessed a melancholy manner and countenance.

How should he comport himself; what should he say--when the inevitable
happened; when the time came to say something? How lead the conversation
by natural and easy stages to the purport of his visit? He rehearsed a
few sentences, then straightway forgot them. Why did they keep him
waiting so long? Did they always keep people as long as that--down here?
He put his thumb again--

"Well, what do you want?" The door had opened and a buxom female, arms
akimbo, regarded him. Mr. Heatherbloom repaid her gaze with interest; it
_was_ the cook, then, who acted as door tender of these regions
subterranean. He feared by her expression that he had interrupted her in
the preparation of some esculent delicacy, and with the fear was born a
parenthetical inquiry; he wondered what that delicacy might be? But
forbearing to inquire he stated his business.

"You'll be the thirteenth that's been 'turned down' to-day for that
job!" observed cook blandly. With which cheering assurance she consigned
him to some one else--a maid with a tipped-up nose--and presently he
found himself being "shown up"; that was the expression used.

The room into which he was ushered was a parlor. Absently he seated
himself. The maid tittered. He looked at her--or rather the tipped-up
nose, an attractive bit of anatomy. Saucy, provocative! Mr.
Heatherbloom's head tilted a little; he surveyed the detail with the
look of a connoisseur. She colored, went; but remained in the hall to
peer. There were many articles of virtu lying around--on tables or in
cabinets--and the caller's appearance was against him. He would bear
watching; he had the impudence--Just fancy his sitting there in a chair!
He was leaning back now as if he enjoyed that atmosphere of luxury;
surveying, too, the paintings and the bronzes with interest. But for no
good reason, thought the maid; then gave a start of surprise. The hand
of the suspicious-looking caller had lifted involuntarily to his breast
pocket; a mechanical movement such as a young gentleman might make who
was reaching for a cigarette case. Did he intend--actually intend
to--but the caller's hand fell; he sat forward suddenly on the edge of
his chair and seemed for the first time aware that his attitude partook
of the anomalous; for gathering up his shabby hat from the gorgeous
rug, he abruptly rose.

Just in time to confront, or be confronted by, an austere lady in stiff
satin or brocade and with bristling iron-gray hair! He noticed, however,
that unlike the maid, she had a very prominent nose--that _now_ sniffed!

"Good heavens! What a frightful odor of gasolene. Jane, where are my
salts?"

Jane rushed in; at the same time four or five dogs that had followed in
the lady's wake began to bark as if they, too, were echoing the plaint:
"What a frightful odor! Salts, Jane, salts!" And as they barked in many
keys, but always fortissimo, they ran frantically this way and that as
though chased by somebody, or something (perhaps the odor of gasolene),
or chasing one another in a mad outburst of canine exuberance.

"Sardanapolis! Beauty! Curly! Naughty!" the lady called out.

But in vain. Sardanapolis continued to cut capers; Beauty's conduct was
not beautiful; while as for Naughty (all yellow bows and black curls)
he seemed endeavoring to live up to the fullest realization of his name.

"Dear me! What _shall_ I do?"

"Just let 'em alone, ma'am," ventured Jane, "and they'll soon tire
themselves out."

Fortunately, by this time, the be-ribboned pets showed signs of reaching
that state of ennui.

"Dear me!" said now the lady anxiously. "How wet the poor dears' tongues
are!"

"Nature of the b--poor dears, ma'am!" commented Jane.

The lady looked at her. "_You_ don't like dogs," she said. "You can go."
And then to Mr. Heatherbloom: "What brought you here? Don't answer at
once. Stand farther back."

Mr. Heatherbloom, who seemed to have been rather enjoying this little
impromptu entertainment, straightened with a start; he retired a few
paces, observing in a mild explanatory tone something about spots on his
garments and the necessity for having them removed at a certain little
Greek shop, before doing himself the honor of calling and--

"You're another answer to the advertisement then, I suppose?" the
lady's voice unceremoniously interrupted.

He confessed himself Another Answer, and in that capacity proceeded now
to reply as best he might to a merciless and rapid fire of questions.
She would have made an excellent cross-examiner for the prosecution; Mr.
Heatherbloom did not seem to enjoy the grilling. A number of queries
he answered frankly; others he evaded. He seemed--ominous
circumstance!--especially secretive regarding certain details of his
past. He did not care to say where he was born, or who his parents were.
What had he done? What occupations had he followed?

Well--he seemed to hesitate a good deal--he had once tried washing
dishes; but--dreamily--they had discharged him; the man said something
about there being a debit balance on account of damaged crockery. He had
essayed the rôle of waiter but had lasted only through the first
courses; down to the entrées, he thought; certainly not much past the
pottage. He believed he bumped into another waiter; a few guests within
range had seemed put out; afterward, he himself was put out. And
then--well, he had somehow drifted, more or less.

"Drifted!" said the lady ominously.

"Oh, yes! Tried his hand at this and that," he added rather blithely. He
once worked for a moving-picture firm; fell from a six-story window for
them. That is, he started to fall; something--a net or a platform--was
supposed to catch him at the fifth, and then a dummy completed the
descent and got smashed on the sidewalk. He was a little doubtful about
their intercepting him at the fifth and that he, instead of the
dummy--But he didn't seem to mind taking the risk--reflectively. They
said he was a great success falling through the air, and they had him,
in consequence, fall from all kinds of places,--through drawbridges into
the water, for example. That's where he contracted a bad cold, and when
he had recovered, another man had been found for the heavier-than-air
rôle--

"What are you talking about?" The lady's back was stiffer than a poker.

"If ever you go to a moving-picture palace of amusement, Madam, and see
a streak in the air, you might reasonably conclude you are"--he
bowed--"beholding me. I went once; it seemed funny. I hardly recognized
myself in the part. I certainly seemed to be 'going some'," he murmured
seriously. "Is there anything else, Madam, you would care to question me
about?"

"I think," she said significantly, "what I have learned is quite
sufficient. If the occupations you have told me about are so
disreputable--what were those you have kept so carefully concealed? For
example, where were you and what were you doing four--five--six--years
ago? You have already refused to answer. You relate only a few
inconsequential and outré trifles. To cover up--What? What?" she
repeated.

Then she transfixed him with her eye; the dogs transfixed him with their
eyes. Accusingly? Not all of them. Naughty's glance expressed approval;
his tail underwent a friendly agitation.

"Naughty!" said the lady sharply. Naughty gamboled around Horatio.

"How odd!" murmured the mistress, more to herself than the other. "How
very extraordinary!"

"What, Madam?" he ventured.

"That Naughty, who so seldom takes to strangers, should--" she found
herself saying.

"Perhaps it's the scent of the gasolene," he suggested.

"It's _in spite of_ the gasolene," she retorted sharply.

And for some moments ruminated. It was not until afterward Mr.
Heatherbloom learned that her confidence in Naughty's instinct amounted
to a hobby. Only once had she thought him at fault in his likes or
dislikes of people; when he had showed a predilection for the assistant
rector's shapely calves. But after that gentleman's elopement with a
lady of the choir and his desertion of wife and children, Naughty's
erstwhile disrespect for the cloth, which Miss Van Rolsen had grieved
over, became illumined with force and significance. Thereafter she had
never doubted him; he had barked at all twelve of Mr. Heatherbloom's
predecessors--the dozen other answers to the advertisement; but here he
was sedulous for fondlings from Horatio. Extraordinary truly! The lady
hesitated.

"I suppose we shall all be murdered in our beds," she said half to
herself, "but," with sudden decision, "I've concluded to engage you."

"And my duties?" ventured Mr. Heatherbloom. "The advertisement did not
say."

"You are to exercise the darlings every day in the park."

"Ah!" Horatio's exclamation was noncommittal. What he might have added
was interrupted by a light footstep in the hall and the voice of some
one who stopped in passing before the door.

"I am going now, Aunt," said a voice.

Mr. Heatherbloom started; his hand tightened on the back of a chair;
from where he stood he could see but the rim of a wonderful hat. He
gazed at a few waving roses, fitting notes of color as it were, for the
lovely face behind, concealed from him by the curtain.

The elderly lady answered; Mr. Heatherbloom heard a Prince Someone's
name mentioned; then the roses were whisked back; the voice--musical as
silver bells--receded, and the front door closed. Mr. Heatherbloom gazed
around him--at the furnishings in the room--she who stood before him. He
seemed bewildered.

"And now as to your wages," said a voice--not silver bells!--sharply.

"I hardly think I should prove suitable--" he began in somewhat
panic-stricken tones, when--

"Nonsense!" The word, or the energy imparted to it, appeared to crush
for the moment further opposition on his part; his faculties became
concentrated on a sound without, of a big car gathering headway in front
of the door. Mr. Heatherbloom listened; perhaps he would have liked to
retreat then and there from that house; but it was too late! Fate had
precipitated him here. A mad tragic jest! He did not catch the amount
of his proposed stipend that was mentioned; he even forgot for the
moment he was hungry. He could no longer hear the car. It had gone; but,
it would return. Return! And then--? His head whirled at the thought.



CHAPTER III


AN ENCOUNTER

Mr. Heatherbloom, a few days later, sat one morning in Central Park. His
canine charges were tied to the bench and while they chafed at restraint
and tried vainly to get away and chase squirrels, he scrutinized one of
the pages of a newspaper some person had left there. What the young man
read seemed to give him no great pleasure. He put down the paper; then
picked it up again and regarded a snap-shot illustration occupying a
conspicuous position on the society page.

"Prince Boris Strogareff, riding in the park," the picture was labeled.
The newspaper photographer had caught for his sensational sheet an
excellent likeness of a foreign visitor in whom New York was at the time
greatly interested. A picturesque personality--the prince--half
distinguished gentleman, half bold brigand in appearance, was depicted
on a superb bay, and looked every inch a horseman. Mr. Heatherbloom
continued to stare at the likeness; the features, dark, rather
wild-looking, as if a trace of his ancient Tartar ancestry had survived
the cultivating touch of time. Then the young man on the bench once more
turned his attention to the text accompanying the cut.

"Reported engagement of Miss Elizabeth Dalrymple to Prince Boris
Strogareff ... the prince has vast estates in Russia and Russia-Asia ...
his forbears were prominent in the days when Crakow was building and the
Cossacks and the Poles were engaged in constant strife on the steppe ...
Miss Dalrymple, with whom this stalwart romantic personage is said to be
deeply enamored, is niece and heiress of the eccentric Miss Van Rolsen,
the third richest woman in New York, and, probably, in the world ...
Miss Dalrymple is the only surviving daughter of Charles Dalrymple of
San Francisco, who made his fortune with Martin Ferguson of the same
place, at the time--"

The paper fell from Mr. Heatherbloom's hand; for several moments he sat
motionless; then he got up, unloosened his charges and moved on. They
naturally became once more wild with joy, but he heeded not their
exuberances; even Naughty's demonstrations brought no answering touch of
his hand, that now lifted to his breast and took something from his
pocket--an article wrapped in a pink tissue-paper. Mr. Heatherbloom
unfolded the warm-tinted covering with light sedulous fingers and looked
steadily and earnestly at a miniature. But only for a brief interval; by
this time Curly et al. had become an incomprehensible tangle of dog and
leading strings about Mr. Heatherbloom's legs. So much so, indeed, that
in the effort to extricate himself he dropped the tiny picture; with a
sudden passionate exclamation he stooped for it. The anger that
transformed his usually mild visage seemed about to vent itself on his
charges but almost at once subsided.

Carefully brushing the picture on his coat, he replaced it in his
pocket and quietly started to disentangle his charges from himself. This
was at length accomplished; he knew, however, that the unraveling would
have to be done all over again ere long; it constituted an important
part of his duties. The promenade was punctuated by about so many
"mix-ups"; Mr. Heatherbloom accepted them philosophically, or
absent-mindedly. At any rate, while untying knots or disengaging things,
he usually exhibited much patience.

It might have been noticed some time later that Mr. Heatherbloom,
retracing his footsteps to Miss Van Rolsen's, betrayed a rather
vacillating and uncertain manner, as if he were somewhat reluctant to go
into, or to approach too near the old-fashioned stiff and stately house.
For fear of meeting some one, or a dread of some sudden encounter? With
Miss Van Rolsen's niece? So far he had not seen her since that first
day. Perhaps he congratulated himself on his good fortune in this
respect. If so, he reckoned without his host.

It is possible for two people to frequent the same house for quite a
while without meeting when one of them lives on the avenue side and
flits back and forth via the front steps, while the other comes and goes
only by the subterranean route; but, sooner or later, though belonging
to widely different worlds, these two are bound to come face to face,
even in spite of the determination of one of the persons to avert such a
contingency!

Mr. Heatherbloom always peered carefully about before venturing from the
house with his pampered charges; he was no less watchfully alert when he
returned. He could not, however, having only five senses, tell when the
front door might be suddenly opened at an inopportune moment. It was
opened, this very morning, on the third day of his probation at such a
moment. And he had been planning, after reading the newspaper article in
the park, to tender his resignation that very afternoon!

It availed him nothing now to regret indecision, his being partly
coerced by the masterful mistress of the house into remaining as long
as he had remained; or to lament that other sentiment, conspiring to
this end--the desire or determination, not to flee from what he most
feared. Empty bravado! If he could but flee now! But there was no
fleeing, turning, retreating, or evading. The issue had to be met.

Miss Dalrymple, gowned in a filmy material which lent an evanescent
charm to her slender figure, came down the front steps as he was about
to enter the area way below. The girl looked at him and her eyes
suddenly widened; she stopped. Mr. Heatherbloom, quite pale, bowed and
would have gone on, when something in her look, or the first word that
fell from her lips, held him.

"You!" she said, as if she did not at all comprehend.

He repaid her regard with less steady look; he had to say something and
he didn't wish to. Why couldn't people just meet and pass on, the way
dumb creatures do? The gift of speech has its disadvantages--on
occasions; it forces one to insufficient answer or superfluous
explanation. "Yes," he said, "your--Miss Van Rolsen engaged me. I
didn't really want to stay, but it came about. Some things do, you know.
You see," he added, "I didn't know she was your aunt when I answered the
advertisement."

She bent her gaze down upon him as if she hardly heard; beneath the
bright adornment of tints, the lovely face--it was a very proud
face--had become icy cold; the violet eyes were hard as shining crystal.
To Mr. Heatherbloom that slender figure, tensely poised, seemed at once
overwhelmingly near and inexpressibly remote. He started to lean on an
iron picket but changed his mind and stood rather too stiffly, without
support. Before his eyes the flowers in her hat waved and waved; he
tried to keep his eyes on them.

"I had been intending," he observed in tones he endeavored to make
light, "to tell Miss Van Rolsen she must find some one else to take my
place. It would not be very difficult. It is not a position that
requires a trained man."

"Difficult?" She seemed to have difficulty in speaking the word; her
cold eyes suddenly lighted with unutterable scorn. If any one in this
world ever experienced thorough disdain for any one else, her expression
implied it was she that experienced it for him. "Valet for dogs!"

Mr. Heatherbloom flushed. "They are very nice dogs," he murmured.
"Indeed, they are exceptional."

She gave an abrupt, frozen little laugh; then bent down her face
slightly. "And do you wash and curl and perfume them?" she asked, her
small white teeth setting tightly after she spoke.

"Well, I don't perfume them," answered Mr. Heatherbloom. "Miss Van
Rolsen attends to that herself. She knows the particular essences better
than I." A slightly strained smile struggled about his lips. "You see
Beauty has one kind, and Naughty another. At least, I think so. While
Sardanapolis isn't given any at all."

Can violet eyes shine fiercely? Hers certainly seemed to. "How," she
said, examining him as one would study something very remote and
impersonal, "did my aunt happen to employ--you? I know she is very
particular--about recommendations. What ones did you have? Were they
forged ones," suddenly, "or stolen ones?" The red lips like rosebuds had
become straightly drawn now.

"No," answered Mr. Heatherbloom. "I didn't have any. I just came, and--"

"Saw and conquered!" said the girl. But there was no levity in her tone.
She continued to gaze at him and yet through him; at something
beyond--afar--"I don't understand why she should have taken you--"

"Shall I explain?"

"And I don't care why she did!" Not noticing his interruption. "The
principal thing is, why did you want this position? What ulterior motive
lay behind?" She was speaking now almost automatically, as if he were
not present. "For, of course, there was some other motive."

"The truth is," observed Mr. Heatherbloom lightly, but passing an
uncertain hand over his brow, "I had reached that point--I should
qualify by saying I have long been at the point where one is willing to
take any 'honest work of any kind'. I suppose you have heard the phrase
before; it's a common one. But believe me, it was quite by accident I
came here; quite!"

"'Believe you'," said the girl, as one would address an inferior for the
purpose of putting him into the category where he belongs. "'Honest
work'! When have you been particular as to that; whether or not"--with
mocking irony in the pitiless violet eyes--"it was 'honest'?"

Mr. Heatherbloom started; his gaze met hers unwaveringly. "You don't
think, then, that I--"

"Think?" said the girl. "I know."

"Would you mind--explaining?" he asked quietly. He didn't need any
support now, but stood with head well back, a steady gleam in his look.
"What you--know?"

"I know--you are a thief!" She spoke the Words fiercely.

His face twitched. "How do you know?"

"By the kind of evidence I can believe."

"And that?" he said in the same quiet voice.

"The evidence of my own eyes!"

He was still, as if thinking. He looked down; then away.

"Why don't you protest?" she demanded.

"Protest," he repeated.

"Or ask me to explain further--"

"Well, explain further," he said patiently.

"Put your mind back three weeks ago--at about eleven o'clock in the
morning. Where were you? what were you doing? what was happening?"

Mr. Heatherbloom looked very thoughtful.

"At the corner of"--she mentioned the streets--"not far from Riverside
Drive. We passed at that time in the car. Need I say more?"

His head was downbent. "I think I understand." His hand stroked
tentatively his chin.

The silence grew; Beauty barked, but neither seemed to notice.

"Of course you can't deny?" she observed.

"Of course not," he said, without moving.

"You won't defend yourself; plead palliating causes?" ironically.

He picked at the ground with the toe of a shoe. "If I told you, on my
honor, I am not--what you have called me just now, would you believe
me?" he asked gravely.

"On your honor," said the girl with a cruel smile. "Yours? No!"

"Then," he spoke as if to himself, "I don't suppose there's any use in
denying. Your mind is made up."

"My mind!" she answered. "Can I not see; hear? Can _you_ not hear--those
voices? Do they not follow you?"

He seemed striving for an answer but could not find it. Once he looked
into the violet eyes questioningly, deeply, as if seeking there to read
what he should say, but they flashed only the hard rays of diamonds at
him, and he turned his head slowly away.

"I see," she remarked, "you remember; but you do not care."

"I--you reconcile the idea of my being _that_ very easily with--"

"It fits perfectly," said the girl, "with the rest of the picture; what
one has already pieced together; it is just another odd-shaped black bit
that goes in snugly. You appreciate the comparison?"

"I think I do," answered Mr. Heatherbloom. "You are alluding to picture
puzzles. Is there anything more?" He started as if to go.

"One moment--of course, you can't stay here," said the girl.

"I had intended to go at once, as I told you," observed Mr.
Heatherbloom.

"You had? You mean you will?"

"No; I won't go now. That is," he added, "of my own volition."

"You do well to qualify. Would you not prefer to go of your own volition
than to have me inform my aunt who you are--what you are?"

He shook his head. "I won't resign now," he said.

"And so show yourself a fool as well as--" She did not speak the word,
but it trembled on the sweet passionate lips.

He did not answer.

"Suppose," she went on, "I offer you the chance and do not speak, if you
will go--immediately?"

"I can't," he answered.

Her brows bent; her little hand seemed to clench. But he stood without
looking at her, appearing absorbed in a tiny bit of cloud in the sky.

"Very well!" she said, a dangerous glint in her eyes.

He looked quite insignificant at the moment; she was far above him; his
clothes were threadbare, the way thieves' clothes, or pickpockets',
usually are.

"If you expect any mercy from me--" she began.

But she did not finish; a figure, approaching, caught her eye--the
handsome stalwart figure of a man; whose features lighted at sight of
her.

"Ah, Miss Dalrymple!"

Her face changed. "An unexpected pleasure, Prince," she said with
almost an excess of gaiety.

He answered in kind; she came down the steps quickly, offering him her
hand. And as he gallantly raised the small perfumed fingers to his lips,
Mr. Heatherbloom seemed to fade away into the dark subterranean
entrance.



CHAPTER IV


FATE AT THE DOOR

Although Mr. Heatherbloom waited expectantly that day for his dismissal,
it did not come. This surprised him somewhat; then he reflected that
Miss Elizabeth Dalrymple was probably so absorbed in the
prince--remembering her rather effusive greeting of that fortunate
individual--she had forgotten such a small matter as having the dog
valet ejected from the premises. She would remember on the morrow, of
course.

But she didn't! The hours passed, and he was suffered to go about the
even, or uneven, tenor of his way. This he did mechanically; he scrubbed
and combed Beauty beautifully. With a dire sense of fate knocking at the
door, he passed her on to Miss Van Rolsen, to be freshly be-ribboned by
that lady's own particular hand. The thin bony finger he thought would
be pointed accusingly at him, busied itself solely with the knots and
bows of a new ribbon; after which the grim lady dismissed him--from her
presence, not the house--curtly.

Several days went by; still no one accused him; he was still suffered to
remain. Why? He could not understand. At the end of a long--seemingly
interminable week--he put himself deliberately in the way of finding
out. Coming to, or going from the house, he lingered around the area
entrance, purposely to encounter her whom he had heretofore, above all
others, wished to avoid. A feverish desire possessed him to meet the
worst, and then go about his way, no matter where it might lead him. He
was past solicitude in that regard. He did at length manage to meet
her--not as before in the full daylight but toward dusk, as she
returned, this time on foot, to the house.

"Miss Dalrymple, may I speak to you?" he said to the indistinctly seen,
slender figure that started lightly up the front steps.

She did not even stop, although she must have heard him; a moment he
saw her like a shadow; then the front door opened. He heard a crisp
metallic click; the door closed. Slowly with head a little downbent he
walked out, up the way she had come; then around the corner a short
distance to the stables over which he had his room.

It was a nice room, he had at first thought, probably because he liked
horses. They--four or five thoroughbreds--whinnied as he opened the
door. He had started up the dark narrow stairs to his chamber, but
stopped at that sound and groped about from stall to stall passing
around the expected lumps of sugar. After which all seemed well as far
as he and they were concerned.

Only that other problem!--he could not shake it from him. To resign
now?--under fire? How he wished he might! But to remain?--his situation
was intolerable. He went up to his room feeling like a ghost; his mind
was full of dark presences, as if he had lived a thousand times before
and had been surrounded only by hostile influences that now came back
in the still watches of the night to haunt him.

He dreaded going to the house the next day, but he went. Perhaps, he
reflected, she was only allowing him to retain his present position
under a kind of espionage; to trap him and put him beyond the pale of
respectable society. He remembered the cruel lips, the passionate
dislike--contempt--even hatred--in her eyes. Yes; that might be it--the
reason for her temporary silence; the house was full of valuable things;
sooner or later--

"Are you quite satisfied, Madam, with my services?" said Mr.
Heatherbloom that afternoon to Miss Van Rolsen.

"You seem to do well enough," she answered shortly.

He brightened. "Perhaps some one else would do better."

"Perhaps," she returned dryly. "But I'm not going to try."

"But," he said desperately, "I--I don't think they--the dogs, like me
quite so much as they did. Naughty, in particular," he added quickly.
"I--I thought yesterday he would have liked to--growl and nip at me."

"Did he," she asked, studying him with disconcerting keenness, "actually
do that?"

"No. But--"

"Do I understand you wish to give me notice?" she interrupted sharply.

"Not at all." In an alarmed tone. "I couldn't--I mean I wouldn't do
that. Only I thought you might have felt dissatisfied--people usually do
with me," he added impressively. "So if you would like to give me--"

She made a gesture. "That will do. I am very busy this morning. The
begging list, though smaller than usual--only three hundred and
seventy-six letters--has to be attended to."

Thus the matter of Mr. Heatherbloom's staying or going continued, much
to that person's discomfiture, _in statu quo_. It is true he found,
later, a compromising course; a way out of the difficulty--as he
thought, little knowing the extraordinary new web he was weaving!--but
before that time came, several things happened. In the first place he
discovered that Miss Dalrymple was not entirely pleased at the
publication of the story of her engagement to the prince; her
position--her family's and that of Miss Van Rolsen, was such that
newspaper advertising or notoriety could not but be distasteful.

"I hope people won't think I keep a social secretary," Mr. Heatherbloom
heard her say.

Yes, heard her. He was in the dogs' "boudoir"; the conservatory
adjoined. He could not help being where he was; he belonged there at the
time. Nor could he help hearing; he didn't try to listen; he certainly
didn't wish to, though she had a very sweet voice--that soothed one to a
species of lotus dream--forgetfulness of soap-suds, or the odor of
canine disinfectant permeating the white foam--

"Why should they think you have a social secretary?" the voice of a
man--the prince--inquired.

He had deep fine tones; truly Russian tones, with a subtle vibration in
them.

"Because when such things are published about people their secretaries
usually put them in," returned the girl.

He was silent a moment; Mr. Heatherbloom thought he heard the breaking
of the stem of a flower.

"You were very much irritated--angry?" observed the prince at length,
quietly.

"Weren't you?" she asked.

"I? No. It is a bourgeois confession, perhaps."

Mr. Heatherbloom sat up straighter; the water dripped from his fingers.

"I was pleased," went on the sonorous low voice. "I wished--it were so!"

There was a sudden movement in the conservatory; a rustling of leaves,
or of a gown; then--Mr. Heatherbloom relaxed in surprise--a peal of
merry laughter filled the air.

"How apropos! How well you said that!"

"Miss Dalrymple!" There was a slightly rising inflection in the man's
tones. "You doubt my sincerity?"

"The sincerity of a Russian prince? No, indeed!" she returned gaily.

"I am in earnest," he said simply.

"Don't be!" Mr. Heatherbloom could, in fancy, see the flash of a white
hand amid red flowers; eyes dancing like violets in the wind. He could
perceive, also, as plainly as if he were in that other room, the deep
ardent eyes of the prince downbent upon the blither ones, the commanding
figure of the man near that other slender, almost illusive presence. A
flower to be grasped only by a bold wooer, like the prince!

"Don't be," she repeated. "You are so much more charming when you are
not. I think I heard that line in a play once. One of the Robertson
kind; it was given by a stock company in San Francisco. That's where I
came from, you know. Have you ever been there?"

"No," said the prince slowly.

Dark eyes trying to beat down the merriment in the blue ones! Mr.
Heatherbloom could, in imagination, "fill in" all the stage details. If
it only were "stage" dialogue; "stage" talk; not "playing with love", in
earnest!

"Playing with love!" He had read a book of that name once; somewhere.
In Italy?--yes. It sounded like an Italian title. Something very
disagreeable happened to the heroine. A woman, or a girl, can not
lightly "play with love" with a Sicilian. But, of course, the prince
wasn't a Sicilian.

"No," he was saying now with admirable poise, in answer to her question,
"I haven't visited your wonderful Golden Gate, but I hope to go there
some day--with you!" he added. His words were simple; the accent alone
made them sound formidable; it seemed to convey an impregnable purpose,
one not to be shaken or disturbed.

Mr. Heatherbloom felt vaguely disturbed; his heart pounded oddly. He
half started to get up, then sank back. He waited for another peal of
laughter; it didn't come. Why?

"Of course I should have no objection to your being one of a train
party," said Miss Dalrymple at length.

"That isn't just what I mean," returned the prince in his courtliest
tones. But it wasn't hard to picture him now with a glitter in his
gaze,--immovable, sure of himself.

There was a rather long pause; broken once more by Miss Dalrymple:
"Shall we not return to the music room?"

That interval? What had it meant? Mute acquiescence on her part, a
down-turning of the imperious lashes before the steadfastness of the
other's look?--tacit assent? The casting off of barriers, the opening of
the gates of the divine inner citadel? Mr. Heatherbloom was on his feet
now. He took a step toward the door, but paused. Of course! Something
clammy had fallen from his hand; lay damp and dripping on the rag. He
stared at it--a bar of soap.

What had he been about to do--he!--to step in there--into the
conservatory, with his bar of soap?--grotesque anomaly! His face wore a
strange expression; he was laughing inwardly. Oh, how he was laughing at
himself! Fortunately he had a saving sense of humor.

What had next been said in the conservatory? What was now being said
there? He heard words but they had no meaning for him. "I will send you
the second volume of _The Fire and Sword_ trilogy," went on the prince.
"One of my ancestors figures in it. The hero--who is not exactly a hero,
perhaps, in the heroine's mind, for a time--does what he must do; he has
what he must have. He claims what nature made for him; he knows no other
law than that of his imperishable inner self. I, too, must rise to those
heights my eyes are set on. It must be; it is written. We are fatalists,
we Russians near the Tartar line! And you and I"--fervently--"were
predestined for each other."

Mr. Heatherbloom had but dimly heard the prince's words and failed to
grasp them; he didn't want to; his head was humming. Her light answer
sounded as if she might be very happy. Yes; naturally. She was made to
be happy, to dance about like sunshine. He liked to think of the
picture. The prince, too, was necessary to complete it; necessary,
reaffirmed Mr. Heatherbloom to himself, pulling with damp fingers at
the inconsequential lock of hair over his brow. Of course, if the prince
could be eliminated from that mental picture of her felicity?--but he
was a part of the composition; big, barbaric, romantic looking! In fact,
it wouldn't have been an adequate composition at all without him; no,
indeed!

And something rose in Mr. Heatherbloom's throat; one of his eyes--or was
it both of them?--seemed a little misty. That confounded soap! It was
strong; a bit of it in the corner of the eyes made one blink.

The two in the conservatory said something more; but the young man in
the "boudoir" didn't catch it at all well. By some intense mental
process, or the sound of the scrubber on the edge of the tub, he found
he could shut a definite cognizance of words almost entirely from his
sense of hearing. The prince's voice seemed slightly louder; that, in a
general way, was patent; no doubt the occasion warranted more fervor on
his part. Mr. Heatherbloom tried to imagine what she would look like
in--so to say, a very complaisant mood; not with flaming glance full of
aversion and scorn!

Violet eyes replete only with love lights! Mr. Heatherbloom bent lower
over the tub; his four-footed charge Beauty, contentedly immersed to the
neck in nice comfortably warm water, licked him. He did not feel the
touch; the fragrance of orchids seemed to come to him above that other
more healthful, less agreeable odor of special cleansing preparation.

Her accents were heard once more. Those final words sounded like a soft
command. Naturally! She could command the prince--now! Mr. Heatherbloom
heard a door close--a replica of the harsh click he had listened to when
she had shut the front door so unceremoniously on him a short time
before. Then he heard nothing more. He gazed around him as he sat with
his hands tightly closed. Had it been only a dream? Naughty whined;
Sardanapolis edged toward him and mechanically he began to brush him
down until he shone as sleek and shining as his Assyrian namesake.



CHAPTER V


A CONTRETEMPS

More days passed and Mr. Heatherbloom continued to linger in his last
position. It promised to be a record-making situation from the
standpoint of longevity; he had never "lasted" at any one task so long
before. Miss Van Rolsen, to his consternation, seemed to unbend somewhat
before him, as if she were beginning--actually!--to be more prepossessed
in his favor. These evidences that he was rising in the stern lady's
good graces filled Mr. Heatherbloom with new dismay; destiny certainly
seemed to be making a mock of him.

A week went by; two weeks--three, and still twice a day he continued to
march to and from the park with his charges. The faces of all the
nurse-maids and others who frequented the big parallelogram of green
became familiar to him; he learned to know by sight the people who rode
in the park and had a distant acquaintance with the squirrels.

He became, for the first time, aware one day, from the perusal of a
certain newspaper he always purchased now, that the prince had returned
to Russia. Although Miss Dalrymple refused to be interviewed, or to
confirm or deny any statement, it was generally understood (convenient
phrase!) that the wedding would take place in the fall at the old Van
Rolsen home. The prince had left America in his yacht--the _Nevski_--for
St. Petersburg, announced the society editor. After a special interview
with the czar and a few necessary business arrangements, the nobleman
would return at once for his bride. And, perhaps, he--Mr.
Heatherbloom--would still be at his post of duty at the Van Rolsen
house!

Since the day the prince had been with Miss Dalrymple in the
conservatory, Mr. Heatherbloom had not seen, or rather heard, that
gentleman at the house. But then he--Mr. Heatherbloom--belonged in the
rear, and, no doubt, the prince had continued to be a daily, or twice,
or three-times-a-day visitor to Miss Van Rolsen's elegant, if somewhat
stiff, reception rooms. Now, however, he would come no more until he
came finally to "take with him the bride--"

The thought was in Horatio's mind when for a third time he encountered
her, face to face, on a landing, near a stair, or somewhere in the
house, he couldn't afterward just exactly recall where, only that she
looked through him, without recognition, speech or movement of an
eyelash, as if he had been a thing of thin air! But a thing that became
suddenly imbued with real life; inspired with purpose! She had permitted
him to remain in the house, knowing his professed helplessness in the
matter--she _must_ have divined that--playing with him as a tigress with
a victim (yes; a tigress! Mr. Heatherbloom wildly, on the spur of the
moment, compared her in his mind to that fierce beautiful creature). He
would force her to tell him to go; she would certainly not suffer him
to remain there another day if he told her--

"Miss Dalrymple, there is something I ought to say. I could not help
overhearing you and the prince, one day, several weeks ago, in the
conservatory."

After he said it, he asked himself what excuse he had for saying it. If
he had stopped to analyze the impulse, he would have seen how absurd,
unreasonable and uncalled for his words were. But he had no time to
analyze; like a diver who plunges suddenly, on some mad impulse, into a
whirlpool, he had cast himself into the vortex.

She looked at him and there was nothing _in nubibus_ to her about his
presence now. The violet eyes saw a substance--such as it was;
recognized a reality--of its kind! Before the clouds gathering in their
depths, Mr. Heatherbloom felt inclined to excuse himself and go on; but
instead, he waited. There was even a furtive smile on his lips that
belied a quick throbbing in his breast; he thrust one hand as debonairly
as possible into his trousers pocket. His attitude might have been
interpreted to express indifference, recklessness, or one or more of the
synonymous feelings. She thought so badly of him already that she
couldn't think much worse, and--

"So,"--had she been paler than her wont, or had excess of passion sent
the color from her face?--"you are a spy as _well!_"

His head shot back a little at the accent on the "well", but he thrust
his hand yet deeper into the pocket and strove not to lose that assumed
expression of ease.

"I--a spy? I did not intend to--you--" He paused; if he wished to set
himself right in her eyes, why should he have spoken at all? Mr.
Heatherbloom saw he had not quite argued out this matter as he should
have done; his bearing became less assured.

"Is there"--her voice low and tense--"anything despicable, mean, paltry
enough that you are not?"

Mr. Heatherbloom moistened his lips; he strove to think of a reply,
sufficiently comprehensive to cover all the features of the case, but
not finding one at once apologetic and yet not so, remained silent. He
made, however, a little gesture with his hand--the one that wasn't in
the pocket. That seemed to imply something; he didn't quite know what.

She came slightly closer and his heart began to pound harder. A breath
of perfume seemed to ascend between them; the arrows in her eyes darted
into his. "How much--_what_ did you hear?" she demanded.

"I--am really not sure--" Was it the orchids which perfumed the air? He
had always heard they were odorless. The question intruded; his brain
seemed capable of a dual capacity, or of a general incapacity of
simultaneous considerations. He might possibly have stepped back a
little now but there was a wall, the broad blank wall behind him. He
wished he were that void she had first seemed to see--or not to see--in
him. "I didn't hear very much--the first part, I imagine--"

"The first part?" Roses of anger burned on her cheek. "And
afterward?--spy!" Her little hands were tight against her side.

He hesitated; her foot moved; all that was passionate, vibrant in her
nature seemed concentrated on him.

"I don't think I caught much; but I heard him say something about fate,
or destiny, and men coming into their own--that old Greek kind of talk,
don't you know--" He spoke lightly. Why not? There was no need of being
melodramatic. What had to be must be. He couldn't alter her, or what she
would think. "Then--then I was too busy to catch more--that is, if I had
wanted to--which I didn't!" He was forced to add the last; it burst from
his lips with sudden passion; then they curved a little as if to ask
excuse for a superfluity.

She continued to look at him, and he looked at her now, squarely; a
strange calm descended upon him.

"And that," he said, "is all I heard, or knew, until this morning, when
I saw in the paper," dreamily, "he was coming back in the fall for--"

The color concentrated with sudden swift brightness in her cheeks. "You
saw that--any one--every one saw--Oh--"

She started to speak further, then bit her lip, while the lace stirred
beneath the white throat. Mr. Heatherbloom had not followed what she
said, was cognizant only of her anger. Her eyes were fastened on
something beyond him, but returned soon, very soon.

"Oh," she said, "I might have known--if I let you stay, through pity,
you would--"

"Pity!" said Mr. Heatherbloom.

"Because I did not want to turn you out into the street--"

She spoke the words fiercely. Mr. Heatherbloom seemed now quite
impervious to stab or thrust.

"I permitted you to remain for"--she stopped--"remembering what you once
were; who your people were! What"--flinging the words at him--"you might
have been. Instead--of what you are!"

Mr. Heatherbloom gazed now without wincing; an unnatural absence of
feeling seemed to have passed over his features, making them almost
mask-like. It was as if he stood in some new pellucid atmosphere of his
own.

"Of course," he said, as half speaking to himself, "I must have earned
my salary, or Miss Van Rolsen wouldn't have retained me. So I am not a
recipient of charity. Therefore,"--did the word suggest far-away
school-boy lessons on syllogisms and sophistries--"I have no right to
feel offended in that you let me remain, you say, 'through pity', when
as a matter of fact it was impossible for me to tender my resignation,
in view of--" He finished the rest of a rather involved logical
conclusion to himself, taking his hand out of his pocket now and passing
it lightly, in a somewhat dragging fashion, over his eyes. Then he gazed
momentarily beyond, as if he saw something appertaining to the "auld
lang syne", but recalled himself with a start to the beautiful face, the
threads of gold, the violet eyes.

"You will see to it now, of course"--his manner became brisk, almost
businesslike--"that I, as a factor, am eliminated here? That, I may
conclude, is your intention?"

"Perhaps," said the girl, a sibyl for intentness now, "you would prefer
to go? To be asked to! You would find the streets"--with swift
discerning contempt--"more profitable for your purpose than here, where
you are known."

"Perhaps," assented Mr. Heatherbloom. He spoke quite airily; then
suddenly stiffened.

At his words, the sight of him as he uttered them, she came abruptly yet
nearer; her breath swept and seemed to scorch his cheek.

"I should think," she said, "you would be ashamed to live!"

"Ashamed?" he began; then stopped. There was no need of speaking further
for she had gone.



CHAPTER VI


PLOT AND COUNTER-PLOT

Mr. Heatherbloom drifted; not "looking for a way", one was forced upon
him. It came to him unexpectedly; chance served him. He would have
thrust it from him but could not. During his more or less eccentric
peregrinations in Central Park he had formed visual acquaintances with
sundry folk; pictures of some of them were very dimly impressed on his
consciousness, others--and the major part--on his subconsciousness.

Flat faces, big faces, red faces, pale faces! One countenance in the
last class made itself a trifle more insistent than the others. Its
possessor had watched with interest his progress, interrupted with
entanglements, and had listened to the music of his march, the canine
fantasia, staccato, affettuoso! Mr. Heatherbloom's halting footsteps
in the park generally led him to the heights; it wasn't a very high
point, but it was the highest he could find, and he could look off on
something--a lake, or reservoir of water, he didn't know just which, and
a jagged sky-line.

The person that exhibited casual curiosity in his movements and his
coming thither was a woman. She seemed slight and sinuous, sitting there
against the stone parapet, and deep dark eyes accentuated the pallor of
her face. He did not think it strange she should always be at this spot
when he came; in fact, it was quite a while before he noticed the almost
daily coincidence of their mutual presence at the same place, at about
the same time. After her first half-sly, half-sedulous regard of him,
she would look away; her face then wore a soft and melancholy
expression; she appeared very sad.

It took quite a while for this fact to be communicated to Mr.
Heatherbloom. Though she shifted her figure often, as if to call
attention to the pale profile of her face against a leaden sky, his
thoughts remained introspective. Only the sky-line seemed to interest
him. But one day something white came dancing in the breeze to his feet.
Absorbed in deep neutral tones afar, he did not see it; his four-footed
charges, however, were quick to perceive the object.

"Oh!" said the lady.

Mr. Heatherbloom looked. "Is--is it yours?" he asked.

"It--was," she remarked with a slight accent on the last word.

He got up; there seemed little use endeavoring to rescue the
handkerchief now.

"I'm afraid I've been rather slow," he remarked. "Quite stupid, I'm
sure."

She may have had her own opinion but maintained a discreet silence. Mr.
Heatherbloom stooped and gathered in the remnants. "You will permit me,"
he observed, "to replace it, of course."

"But it was not your fault."

"It was that of my charges, then."

"No; the wind. Let's blame it on the wind." She laughed, her dark eyes
full on his, though Mr. Heatherbloom seemed hardly to see them.

After that when they met on this little elevation, she bowed to him and
sometimes ventured a remark or two. He did not seem over-anxious to talk
but he met her troubled face with calm and unvarying, though somewhat
absent-minded courtesy. He replied to her questions perfunctorily, told
her whom he served, betraying, however, in turn, no inquisitiveness
concerning her. For him she was just some one who came and went, and
incidentally interfered with his study of the sky-line.

By degrees she confided in him; as one so alone she was glad of almost
any one to confide in. She wanted, indeed, needed badly, a situation as
lady's maid or second maid. She had tried and tried for a position;
unfortunately her recommendations were mostly foreign--from Milan,
Moscow, Paris. People either scrutinized them suspiciously, or _mon
Dieu_! couldn't read them. It was hard on her; she had had such a time!
She, a Viennese, with all her experience in France, Italy, Russia,
found herself at her wits' end in this golden America. Wasn't it odd,
_très drôle?_ She had laughed and laughed when she hadn't cried about
it.

She had even tried singing in a little music-hall, a horribly common
place, but her voice had failed her. Perhaps there was a vacancy at Miss
Van--what was her name? There _was_ a place vacant; the maid with the
saucy nose, Mr. Heatherbloom indifferently vouchsafed, had just left to
marry out of service.

"How fortunate!" the fair questioner cried; then sighed. Miss Van
Rolsen, being a maiden lady, would probably be most particular about
recommendations; that they should be of the home-made, intelligible
brand, from people you could call up by telephone and interrogate. Had
she been very particular in his case? Mr. Heatherbloom said "no"--not
joyfully, and explained. Though she drew words from him, he talked to
the sky-line. She listened; seemed thinking deeply.

"You are not pleased to be there?" Keenly.

"I?--Oh, of course!" Quickly.

She did not appear to note his changed manner. "This Miss
Van Rolsen,--isn't she the one whose niece--Miss Elizabeth
Dalrymple--recently refused the hand and heart of a Russian prince?" she
said musingly.

"Refused?" he cried suddenly. "You mean--" He stopped; the words had
been surprised from him.

"Accepted?" She looked at him closer. "Of course; I remember now seeing
it in the paper; I was thinking of some one else. One of the other
lords, dukes, or noblemen the town is so full of just now."

He got up rather suddenly, bowed and went. With narrowing eyes she
watched him walk away, but when he had gone all melancholy disappeared
from her face; she stretched herself and laughed. "_Voila!_ Sonia
Turgeinov, comédienne!"

Mr. Heatherbloom did not repair to the point of elevation the next day,
nor the day after; but she met him the third day near the Seventy-second
Street entrance. More than that, she insinuated herself at his side; at
first rather to his discomfort. Later he forgot the constraint her
presence occasioned him, when something she said caused him to look upon
her with new favor. Beauty had momentarily escaped his vigilance and
enjoyed a mad romp after a squirrel before she was captured.

What, his companion laughingly suggested, would have happened if Beauty
had really escaped, and he, Mr. Heatherbloom, had been forced to return
to the house without her? What? Mr. Heatherbloom started. He might lose
his position, _n'est-cepas?_ He did not answer.

The idea was born; why _not_ lose Beauty? No, better still, Naughty; the
prime favorite, Naughty. He looked into Naughty's eyes, and they seemed
full of liquid reproach. Naughty had been his friend--supposititiously,
and to abandon him now to the world, a cold place devoid of French lamb
chops? A hard place for homeless dogs and men, alike! About to waive the
temptation, Mr. Heatherbloom paused; the idea was capable of
modification or expansion. Most ideas are.

But he shortly afterward dismissed the entire matter from his mind; it
would, at best, be but a compromise, an evasion of the pact he had made
with himself. It was not to be thought of. At this moment his companion
swayed and Mr. Heatherbloom had just time to put out his arm; then
helped her to a bench.

She partly recovered; it was nothing, she remarked bravely. One gets
sometimes a little faint when--it was the old, old story of privation
and want that now fell with seeming reluctance from her lips. Mr.
Heatherbloom had become all attention. More than that he seemed greatly
distressed. A woman actually in need, starving--no use mincing
words!--in Central Park, the playground of the most opulent metropolis
of the world. It was monstrous; he tendered her his purse, with several
weeks' pay in it. Her reply had a spirited ring; he felt abashed and
returned the money to his pocket. She sat back with eyes half-closed; he
saw now that her face looked drawn and paler than usual.

He, thought and thought; had he not himself found out how difficult it
was to get a position, to procure employment without friends and
helpers? He, a man, had walked in search of it, day after day and felt
the griping pangs of hunger; had wished for night, and, later, wished
for the morn, only to find both equally barren.

Suddenly he spoke--slowly, like a man stating a proposition he has
argued carefully in his own mind. She listened, approved, while hope
already transfigured her face. She would have thanked him profusely but
he did not remain to hear her. In fact, he seemed hardly to see her now;
his features had become once more reserved and introspective.

He reappeared at the Van Rolsen house that day without Naughty. Miss Van
Rolsen, when she heard the news, burst into tears; then became furious.
She was sure he had sold Naughty, winner of three blue ribbons, and "out
of the contest" no end of times because superior to all competition!

A broken leash! Fiddlesticks! She penned advertisements wildly and
summoned her niece. That young lady responded to protestations and
questions with a slightly indifferent expression on her proud languid
features. What did she think of it? She didn't really know; her manner
said she really didn't care.

Mr. Heatherbloom, standing with the light of the window falling
pensively upon him, she didn't seem to see at all; he had once more
become a nullity. He rather preferred that rôle, however; perhaps he
felt it was easier to impersonate annihilation, in the inception, than
to have it, or a wish for it, thrust later too strongly upon him.

"I adhere to my opinion that he sold Naughty. I should never have
employed this man," asserted Miss Van Rolsen, fastening her fiery eyes
on Mr. Heatherbloom. "Why don't you speak, my dear, and give me your
opinion?" To her niece.

"I haven't any, Aunt."

"You are discerning; you have judgment." Miss Van Rolsen spoke almost
hysterically. "Remember he"--pointing a finger--"came without our
knowing anything about him."

Miss Dalrymple did not stir; a bunch of bizarre-looking orchids on her
gown moved to her even rhythmical breathing. "What was he? Who was he?
Maybe, nothing more than--" She paused for want of breath, not of words,
to characterize her opinion of Mr. Heatherbloom.

He readjusted his posture. It was very bright outdoors; people went by
briskly, full of life and importance; children whirled along on roller
skates.

"When I asked your opinion, my dear, as to the wisdom of having employed
this person in the first place, under the circumstances, why did you
keep silent?" Was Miss Van Rolsen still talking, or rambling on to the
impervious beautiful girl? "You should have called me foolish,
eccentric; yes, that's what I was, to have taken him in as I did."

Miss Dalrymple raised her brows and moved to a piano to adjust the
flowers in a vase; she smiled at them with soft enigmatic lips.

"If I may venture an opinion, Madam," observed Mr. Heatherbloom in a
far-away voice, "I should say Naughty will surely return, or be
returned."

"You venture an opinion!" said Miss Van Rolsen. "You!"

Miss Dalrymple breathed the fragrance of the flowers; she apparently
liked it.

"You are discharged!" said Miss Van Rolsen violently to Mr.
Heatherbloom. "I give you the two-weeks' notice agreed upon."

"I'll waive the notice," suggested the young man at the window quickly.

"You'll do nothing of the sort." Sharply. "It'll take me that time to
find another incompetent keeper for them. And, meanwhile, you may be
sure," grimly, "you will be very well watched."

"Under the circumstances, I should prefer--since you _have_ discharged
me--to leave at once."

"Your preferences are a matter of utter indifference. You were employed
with a definite understanding in this regard."

Mr. Heatherbloom gazed rather wildly out of the window; two weeks.--that
much longer! He was about to say he would not be well watched; he would
take himself off--that she couldn't keep him; but paused. A contract was
a contract, though orally made; she could hold him yet a little. But why
did she wish to? He had not calculated upon this; he tried to think but
could not. He looked from the elder to the younger woman. The latter did
not look at him.

Miss Dalrymple had seated herself at the piano; her fingers--light as
spirit touches--now swept the keys; a Debussey fantasy, almost as
pianissimo as one could play it, vibrated around them. Outside the whir!
whir! of the skates went on. A little girl tumbled. Mr. Heatherbloom
regarded her; ribbons awry; fat legs in the air. The music continued.

"You may go," said a severe voice.

He aroused himself to belated action, but at the door he looked back.
"I'm sure it will be all right," he repeated to Miss Van Rolsen. "On my
word"--more impetuously.

At the piano some one laughed, and Mr. Heatherbloom went.

"Why on earth, Aunt, did you want to keep him two weeks longer?" he
heard the girl's now passionate tones ask as he walked away.

"For a number of reasons, my dear," came the response. "One, because he
wanted to leave me in the lurch. Another--it will be easier to keep an
eye on him until Naughty is returned, or"--her voice had the vindictive
ring of a Roman matron's--"this person's culpability is proven. Naughty
is a valuable dog and--"

Mr. Heatherbloom's footsteps hastened; he had caught quite enough, but
as he disappeared to the rear, the dream chords on the piano, now
louder, continued to follow him.



CHAPTER VII


DEVELOPMENTS

That night, as if his rest were not already sufficiently disturbed, a
disconcerting possibility occurred abruptly to Mr. Heatherbloom. It was
born in the darkness of the hour; he could not dispel it. What if the
person in whom he had confided in the park were not all she seemed? He
hated the insinuating suggestion but it insisted on creeping into his
brain. He had once, not so long ago, in his search for cheap lodgings,
stumbled upon a roomful of alleged cripples and maimed disreputables who
made mendicancy a profession; their jibes and jests on the credulity of
the public yet rang in his ears. What if she--his casual acquaintance of
the day before--belonged to that yet greater class of dissemblers who
ply their arts and simulations with more individualism and intelligence?

Mr. Heatherbloom sat up in bed. Naughty might be worth five or even ten
thousand dollars. He remembered having read at some previous time about
a certain canine whose proud mistress and owner was alleged to have
refused twenty thousand for him. The perspiration broke out on Mr.
Heatherbloom's face. Was Naughty of this category? He looked very
"classy," as if there couldn't be another beast quite like him in the
world. What had been the twenty-thousand-dollar mistress' name; not
Van--impossible!

But the more he told himself "impossible", the more positive grew a
certain perverse inner asseveration that it was quite possible. And what
if the person in the park had known it? He reviewed the circumstances of
their different meetings; details that had not impressed themselves upon
him at the time--that had almost escaped his notice, now stood out
clearer--too clear, in his mind. He remembered how she had brightened
astonishingly after the brief fainting spell when he had made his
ill-advised proposal. It had been as elixir to her. He recalled how she
had met him every day. Had it been mere chance? Or--disconcerting
suspicion!--had she deliberately planned--

For Mr. Heatherbloom there was no sleep that night. At the first signs
of dawn he was up and out, directing his steps toward the park, as a
criminal returns to the haunts of his crime. No faces of any kind now
greeted him there; only trees confronted him, gaunt, ghostlike in the
early morning mists. Even the squirrels were yet abed in their miniature
Swiss chalets in the air. The sun rose at last, red and threatening. He
now met a policeman who looked at him questioningly. Mr. Heatherbloom
greeted him with a blitheness at variance with his mood. Officialdom
only growled and gazed after the young man as if to say: "We'll gather
you in, yet."

It was past nine o'clock before Mr. Heatherbloom ventured to approach
the house; as he did so, the front door closed; some one had been
admitted. He himself went in through the area way; from above came
joyous barks, a woman's voice; pandemonium. Mr. Heatherbloom listened.
Later he learned what had happened; a young woman had brought back
Naughty; a very honest young woman who refused all reward.

"Sure," said the cook, who had the story from the butler, "and she spoke
loike a quane. 'I can take nothing for returning what doesn't belong to
me, ma'am. I am but doing my jooty. But if ye plaze, would ye be lookin'
over these recommends av mine--they're from furriners--and if yez be
havin' ony friends who be wanting a maid and yez might be so good as to
recommind me, I'd be thankin' of yez, for it's wurrk I wants.' Think av
that now. Only wurrk! Who says there arn't honest servin' gurrls,
nowadays? The mistress was that pleased with her morals an' her
manners--so loidy-loike!--she gave her the job that shlip av a Jane had;
wid an advance av salary on the sphot."

"You mean Miss Van Rolsen has actually engaged her?" Mr. Heatherbloom,
face abeam, repeated.

"Phawt have I been saying just now?" Scornfully. "Sure, an' is it ears
you have on your head?"

Mr. Heatherbloom, a weight lifted from his shoulders, departed from the
kitchen. He had wronged her--this poor girl, or young woman, who, in her
dire distress, had appealed to him. How he despised now the uncharitable
dark thoughts of the night! How he could congratulate himself he had
obeyed impulse, and not stopped to reason too closely, or to question
too suspiciously, when he had decided to act the day before!

All is well that ends well. All he had to do now was to complete as
unostentatiously as possible his term of service--But perhaps he would
be released at once?

No; not at once! Those anxious to supersede him began to dribble in, it
is true; but they faded away, one by one, after interviews with Miss Van
Rolsen, and returned no more. They were a mournful lot, these would-be,
ten-dollar-a-week custodians; Mr. Heatherbloom wondered if his own
physiognomy in a general way would merge nicely in a composite
photograph of them?

His duties he performed now as quietly as he could. Two weeks more, ten
days, nine, eight! Then? Ah, then!

He did not see Miss Van Rolsen again nor Miss Dalrymple. He encountered
the fair unknown, though, his acquaintance of the park, occasionally, as
she in demure cap and white ruffled apron glided softly her allotted
way. Sometimes he nodded to her in distant fashion, sometimes she got by
before he actually realized he had passed her. She seemed to move so
quickly and with such little ado; or, it may be, he was not very
observant. He didn't feel very keen on mere minor details these days; he
experienced principally the sensation of one who was now merely "marking
time", as it were--figuratively performing a variety of goose-step, the
way the German soldiers do.

But one day she--Marie, they called her--stopped him.

"I understand from one of the servants that it cost you your position
to--do what you did. You know what I mean--"

He looked alarmed. "Don't worry about that."

"But shouldn't I?" Steady dark eyes upon him.

"On the contrary!" Vigorously.

"I don't understand--unless.--"

"The salary--it is nothing here"--Mr. Heatherbloom gestured airily. "I
should do much better--one of my ability, you understand!--elsewhere."

"Could you?" She regarded him doubtfully. "But, perhaps, they--It was
not very pleasant for you here, anyway. Miss Van Rolsen--her niece, Miss
Dalrymple--does not like you." He started. "It was easy to see that;
when I mentioned regretfully that the good fortune that brought me where
there is plenty; to eat should have been the cause of your being in
disfavor, she stopped me short." Mr. Heatherbloom studied the distance.
"'The person you speak of intended leaving anyhow,' she said, and her
voice was--_mon Dieu_!--ice."

The listener swallowed. "Quite so," he said jauntily. "Miss Dalrymple
is absolutely correct."

She regarded him an instant with sudden, very mature gaze. "I can't
quite make you out."

"No one ever can. Don't try. It isn't worth while. Which reminds me"--he
rattled on--"I did you an injury; an injustice--"

"Ah?" she said quickly.

"In my mind! You will excuse me, but do you know that night after I had
consigned him to your care in the park, I afterward felt quite
anxious--"

"For what?" She came closer.

"Wondering if you--Ha! ha!" Mr. Heatherbloom stopped; in his confusion,
his endeavor to turn the conversation from himself and Miss Dalrymple,
he seemed to be getting into deep waters.

"You wondered what?" In a low tone.

Since he now felt obliged to speak, he did, coolly enough. "If you had
some ulterior motive!" he said with a quiet smile.

She it was who now started back, and her face paled slightly.
"Why?--what ulterior motive? What do you mean?"

He told her in plain words. She breathed more evenly; then smiled
sweetly. She had a strange face sometimes. "Thank you," she said. "You
are very frank, _mon ami_. I like you none the less for it. Though you
did so injure me--in your thoughts!" Her eyes had an enigmatic light.
"Well, I must go now to Miss Dalrymple. She is beginning to be so fond
of me." She drawled the last words as if she liked to linger on them.
"You see I, too, have a little Russian blood in me." Mr. Heatherbloom
looked down. "And I think she loves to hear me tell of that wonderful
country--the white nights of St. Petersburg--the splendid steppes--the
grandeur of our Venice of the north. Of course, she is immensely
interested in Russia now." Significantly. "Its ostentation, its
splendor, its barbaric picturesqueness! But tell me, what is her prince
like? He is very handsome, naturally! Or she would not so dote on him!"

Mr. Heatherbloom's features had hardened; he did not answer directly.
"She likes to talk about Russia?" he said, half to himself.

Marie shrugged. "Is it not to be her country some day?"

"No, it isn't!" The words seemed forced from his lips; he spoke almost
fiercely. "She may live there with him, but it will never be her
country. This is her country. She is its product; an American to her
finger-tips. And all the grand dukes and princes of the Winter Palace
can't change her. She belongs to old California; she grew up among the
orange trees and the flowers, and her heart will ever yearn for them in
your frozen land of tyranny!"

"Oh! oh! oh!" said Mademoiselle Marie. "How eloquent monsieur can be!
Quite an orator! One would say he, too, has known this land of orange
trees and flowers!"

"I?" Mr. Heatherbloom bit his lip.

But she only shook a finger. "Oh! oh!" Altogether like a different
person from his casual acquaintance of the park! He gazed at her
closer; how quickly the marks of trouble, anxiety, had faded from her
face; as if they had never existed.

"What do you mean?" he asked, looking into eyes now full of a new and
peculiar understanding.

"Nothing," she said and vanished.

He gazed where she had been; he could not account for a sudden strange
emotion, as if some one had trailed a shadow over him. A premonition of
something going to happen; that could not be foreseen, or averted!
Something worse than anything that had gone before! What nonsense! He
pressed his lips tightly and went about his duties like an automaton.

Eight days--seven days--six days more!--only six--



CHAPTER VIII


THE UNEXPECTED

The blow fell, a thunderbolt from the clear sky. It dazed certain people
at first; it was difficult to realize what had happened, or if anything
_had_ really happened. For might not what seemed a deep and dire mystery
turn out to be nothing so very mysterious after all? A message would
soon come; everything would then be "cleared up" and those most
concerned would laugh at their apprehensions. But the hours went by, and
the affair remained inexplicable; no word was heard concerning Miss
Dalrymple's whereabouts; she seemed to have disappeared as completely as
if she had vanished on the Persian magic carpet. What could it mean? The
circumstances briefly were:

Miss Dalrymple, four or five days before Mr. Heatherbloom's term of
service came to an end, had expressed a desire to revisit her old home
and friends in the West. One of a party made up mostly of other
Californians--now residents of New York city--the girl had failed to
appear on the private car at the appointed time, and the train had
pulled out, leaving her behind. At the first important stop a telegram
had been handed to a gentleman of the party from Miss Dalrymple; it
expressed her regret at having reached the station too late owing to
circumstances she would explain later, and announced her intention of
coming on, with her maid, in a few days. They were not to wait anywhere
for her but to go right along.

The party did; it was sorry to have lost one of its most popular members
but no one thought anything more of the matter until at Denver, after a
telegram had been forwarded to the Van Rolsen house, in New York, asking
just when Miss Dalrymple would arrive, as camping preparations for a
joyous pilgrimage in the mountains were in progress.

Miss Van Rolsen gasped when this message reached her. Miss Dalrymple
and her maid--a young woman newly engaged by Miss Van Rolsen--had left
the house for the train to which the private car was attached; neither
had been heard from since. The aunt had, of course, presumed her niece
had gone as planned; she had received no word from her, but supposing
she was of a light-hearted, heedless company thought nothing of that. It
was possible Miss Dalrymple had actually missed her train; but if so,
why had she not returned to her aunt's house?

Where had she gone? What had become of her? No trace of her could be
found. Certain forces in the central railroad office at New York could
not discover any evidence that the young girl had taken a subsequent
train. There was no record of her name at any ticket office; no
state-room had been reserved by, or for her; in fact, telegrams to
officials in Chicago and other points west failed to elicit satisfactory
information of any kind.

Miss Van Rolsen found herself with something real to worry about; she
rose to the occasion; her niece, after all, was everything to her. The
Van Rolsen millions were ultimately for her, and the old lady's every
ambition was centered in the girl. She had been proud of her beauty, her
social triumphs.

With great determination she set herself to solve the puzzling problem.
Could people thus completely disappear nowadays? It seemed impossible,
she asserted, sitting behind closed doors in her library, to the private
agent of the secret-service bureau whom she had just "called in."

He begged to differ from her and pointed to a number of cases which had
seemed just as strange and mysterious in the beginning. Ransom--the
"Black Hand"--Who could say what secret influences had been at work in
this case? It was a very important one; Miss Dalrymple had money of her
own; she was known to be her aunt's heiress. The conclusion?--But this
was not Morocco, or Turkey, Miss Van Rolsen somewhat vehemently
returned.

True; we have had, however, our "civilized" Ransuilis, answered the
agent and mentioned a number of names in support of his theory. No
doubt, after an interval, Miss Van Rolsen would have news of her
niece--through those who had perpetrated the outrage; or she might even
receive a few written words from the girl herself. After that it was a
question of negotiating, or, while professing to deal with the
perpetrators, to ferret them out if one could. The latter course was
dangerous, for those who stoop to this particular crime are usually of a
desperate type; he and Miss Van Rolsen could consider that question
later. Meanwhile she must avoid worry as much as possible. The young
girl would, no doubt, be well treated.

Had the speaker looked around at this moment, he might have observed
that the heavy curtains, drawn before the door leading into the hall and
closed by Miss Van Rolsen, moved suddenly, but neither the agent nor
Miss Van Rolsen, engrossed at the far end of the room, noticed. The
drapery wavered a moment; then settled once more into its folds.

The telegram purporting to be from Miss Dalrymple to one of the party on
the train, could--the agent went on--very easily have been sent by some
one else; no doubt, had been. The miscreants had seized upon a lucky
combination of circumstances; for two or three days, while Miss
Dalrymple was supposed to be speeding across the continent, they,
unsuspected and unmolested, would be afforded every opportunity to
convey her to some remote and, for them, safe refuge. It was a cleverly
planned coup, and could not have been conceived and consummated
without--here he spoke slowly--inside assistance.

The curtain at the doorway again stirred.

"And now, Madam, we come to your servants," said the police agent. "I
should like to know something about them."

"My servants, sir, are, for the most part, old and trusted."

"'For the most part'!" He caught at the phrase. "We will deal first with
those who do _not_ come in that category."

"There's a young man recently employed that I have not been at all
pleased with. He leaves to-morrow."

"Ah!" said the visitor. "Not the person I met going out of the area
way, with the dogs as I came in?"

She answered affirmatively.

"H--mn!" He paused. "But tell me why you have not been pleased with him,
and, in brief, all the circumstances of his coming here."

Miss Van Rolsen did so in a voice she strove to make patient although
she could not disguise its tremulousness, or the feverish anxiety that
consumed her. She related the most trivial details, seeming
irrelevances, but the visitor did not interrupt her. Instead, he studied
carefully her face, pinched and worn; the angular figure, slightly bent;
the fingers, nervously clasping and unclasping as she spoke. He watched
her through habit; and still forbore speaking, even when she referred to
the escape of her canine favorite from his caretaker and how the dog had
later been returned, though the listener's eyes had, at this point,
dilated slightly.

"After his carelessness in this matter, he seemed to want to get away
from the house at once," observed Miss Van Rolsen, "without availing
himself of the two-weeks' notice I had agreed to give him."

The visitor relapsed into his chair; an ironical light appeared in his
eyes.

"Perhaps," added Miss Van Rolsen, "you attach no significance to the
fact?"

"On the contrary, I attach every importance to it. Has it not occurred
to you there was a little collusion in this matter of the lost dog?"

"Collusion?" Miss Van Rolsen's accents expressed incredulity. "You must
be wrong. Why, the young woman wouldn't even accept the reward. And it
was not a small one!"

"Two hundred or so dollars, ma'am! Not her stake!" he murmured
satirically. "I am afraid two hundred thousand dollars would be nearer
the mark these people have set for themselves!"

"But she didn't ask for a place here; only for me to look over her
references--one was from a lady I knew in Paris--and to recommend her to
my friends--"

"She knew your other maid had left; this confederate had, of course,
told her. It was all arranged that she should come here. Rest assured of
that. And having accomplished her purpose--clever that she is!--she at
once started to ingratiate herself with your niece, to make herself
useful. As a mistress of languages she _was_ useful, in fact more so
than any ordinary maid. Where did she come from? Find out whom she
represents, and--we'll have the key to the mystery. But she, too, has
disappeared; after turning the game over to the others, perhaps. I would
suggest cabling those foreign references this young woman gave you. They
will, of course, including your Paris friend, know nothing of her; the
name she gave you was not her own."

"But by what unfortunate combination of circumstances"--Miss Van Rolsen
spoke somewhat incoherently--"should these people have been led to
settle on my niece as the victim of their cowardly designs? There are so
many others--"

"You forget the publicity concerning this prince your niece is to
marry." The old lady stiffened. "Pardon my mentioning it, but Miss
Dalrymple has in this connection been very much before the public gaze."

"Against her wish, sir, and mine!" snapped Miss Van Rolsen.
"She--I--have both lamented the fact. But what can one do? The
journalists settled on the prince as a fruitful source for speculation.
He is of noble family, very wealthy, no fortune-hunter; which has made
it all the more distressing for him and us." She seemed about to say
something further; then her lips suddenly tightened. "As I say, it has
been very distressing," she ended, after a pause. "I expect it was one
of the reasons my niece wanted to get away from New York for a time."

"No doubt!" The caller's voice was courtesy itself although he probably
but half-credited Miss Van Rolsen's protestations in the matter. People
liked to complain of the press and newspaper notoriety, when in their
hearts, perhaps, they were not so displeased to be in that terrible
lime-light; especially when the person associated with them happened to
be a count, or a duke, or a prince. "Unfortunately, one has to put up
with these things," he now added. "But you are positive you have told me
everything?"

An instant she seemed to hesitate. "I am positive you know everything
relative to the subject."

He arose. "In that event"--his manner indicated a sudden
resolution--"there is one little preliminary to be attended to."

"Which is--"

"To arrest this fellow, Heatherbloom!"

"Arrest? When?"

"At once! There is no time to be lost. Already--" He gave a sudden
exclamation.

"What is it?" she asked.

He stepped toward the curtain; it moved perceptibly.

"Some one has been listening," exclaimed Miss Van Rolsen excitedly.

"Yes, some one." Significantly. As he spoke he threw back the curtain
and revealed the door partly ajar.

"It must have been--Not one of my old servants--- They would not
have--"

He stopped her. "There's the front way out of this house and the area
way below," he said rapidly. "Is there any other way of escaping to the
street?"

"No."

He darted out of the room to the front door. She followed.

"Quite in time!" he said, casting a quick look both ways along the
avenue and then letting his glance fall to the servants' entrance below.

"You think he will try to--"

He regarded her swiftly. "While I stand guard here, would you mind
getting some one to 'phone my office and ask two or three of my men to
step over at once? Not that I doubt my own ability to cope with the
case"--fingering the handle of a weapon on his pocket--"only it is
always well to take no chances. Especially now!"

"Now?"

"Since he has practically convicted himself and confirmed my theory. We
shall get at the truth through him. We're nearer the solution of the
matter than I dared hope for."

"I'll telephone myself!" she cried. And started back to do so when an
excited face confronted her.

"If ye plase, ma'am!" It was the cook.

"What is it?" Miss Van Rolsen spoke sharply.

"If ye plase, I think, ma'am, this Mr. Heatherbloom has taken lave av
his senses."

"Why, what has he been doing?"

"He has, faith, just jumped over the fence into our neighbor's yard on
the corner, and--"

The man on the steps did not wait to hear more; with something that
sounded like an imprecation he sprang quickly down to the sidewalk and
ran toward the corner.



CHAPTER IX


WHO FIGHTS AND RUNS

As Mr. Heatherbloom prepared to issue from his neighbor's gate opening
on the side street, the feminine voice of one of the servants in the
rear of the corner house called out in alarm at sight of the strange
figure speeding across their metropolitan imitation of a back yard. If
anything were needed to stimulate the fugitive's footsteps, it was the
sound of that voice. He stayed not on the order of his going, but
pushing back the heavy bolt--fortunately his egress was not barred by a
locked door--he tore open the gate and sprang to the sidewalk. Then
without stopping, he ran on, away from the fashionable avenue. The
street he traversed like many thoroughfares of its kind was
comparatively deserted most of the time; nobody impeded his progress,
though one or two people gazed after him from their windows.

He had gone about three-quarters of a block when the window spectators
discerned a heavier built figure come lumbering around the corner,
apparently in hot pursuit. Mr. Heatherbloom, glancing over his shoulder,
also observed this person; his capture and subsequent incarceration
seemed inevitable. Already the fugitive was drawing near to busier
Fourth Avenue; there he would be obliged to relax his pace; he could not
sprint down that thoroughfare without attracting undue attention.
Behind, the pursuer called out; he was, however, too short of breath for
compelling vocal effect.

Mr. Heatherbloom, on the contrary, had good control of his breathing and
was, moreover, yet fresh and physically capable. Which fact made it the
more difficult for him to settle down to a forced, albeit sharp walk as
he approached the corner, when his gait suddenly accelerated once more.

A street-car had just started not very far from him and Mr. Heatherbloom
ran after it. A fine pretext for speed was offered him; as he "let
himself go" in the way he had once gone somewhere in the past in a
hundred-yards' dash, he felt joyously conscious both of covering space
quickly and that he did so without making himself particularly
prominent. Fools who ran after street-cars were born every moment; he
was happy to be relegated to that idiotic class by any onlookers. He
caught the car while it was going; he didn't want it to stop for him.

Neither did it stop to pick up any one else for several blocks; there
was a space before it unobstructed by traffic. The motorman turned on
more power and Mr. Heatherbloom listened gratefully to the humming
wheels. At the same time he looked back; at the corner where he had
turned into Fourth avenue he fancied a number of people were gathering.
He could surmise the cause; the stockily-built man--his pursuer--was
asking questions; he had learned what had become of the fugitive and was
presumably looking around for a "taxi." In vain. At least, Mr.
Heatherbloom so concluded, because one did not appear in hot chase
behind them.

The motorman still gave "rapid service"; the conductor looked at his
watch, by which Mr. Heatherbloom imagined they had time to make up. He
hoped so, then resented a pause at a corner for an old lady. How he
wished she had not been afflicted with rheumatism, and could have got on
without help! But at length the light-weight conductor did manage to
pull the heavy-weight passenger aboard. Time lost, thirty seconds! The
motorman manipulated the lever more deliberately now and they gathered
headway slowly. Mr. Heatherbloom dared not remain longer where he was;
as the car approached a corner near an elevated station, he got off. He
was obliged to walk now a short distance but he did so hastily. Drawing
near the iron steps, leading upward, he once more looked back; a "taxi"
_was_ whirling after him and he had no doubt as to its occupant. The
street-car could easily have been kept in sight and his leaving it been
noted.

Mr. Heatherbloom now threw discretion to the winds; dashing toward the
stairway he ran up. Just as he reached the ticket window, the pursuing
vehicle stopped below. Some one sprang out, did not pause to pay the
chauffeur, but calling out to him his name, started after Mr.
Heatherbloom. That gentleman had by this time boarded the train waiting
above; he stood on the rear platform. Any moment the pursuer would
appear. He did appear as the gates of the train were closed and the cars
had started on their way.

Yet he did not give up for running alongside the last car he called out
to the guard:

"Fugitive from justice! Criminal--on this train! Open the gate for me!"

An instant the guard hesitated; rules, however, were rules.

"Five hundred dollars if you let me on!" the voice panted.

The guard in his own mind decided he would let the other on--too late;
the last car dashed past the end of the platform. A faint sigh of relief
from Mr. Heatherbloom was drowned in the tumult of the wheels; then he
endeavored to appear indifferent, apathetic. It was not easy to do so;
the secret-service agent had been heard by many others.

A "fugitive from justice" on the train! Mr. Heatherbloom tried to look
as little the part as possible, to simulate by his expression a
preoccupied young business man of heavy responsibilities. Fortunately
the train was crowded; nevertheless he fancied people glanced especially
at him. He wished now he were better dressed; good clothes may cover a
multitude of sins. Still there was no reason why he should be suspected
more than sundry other indifferently-dressed people. He would dismiss
the thought, tell himself he was going down town on some little errand;
he even devised what that errand should be--to procure theater tickets.
But his brain did not seem quite capable of concentrating itself solely
on desirable orchestra chairs; it constantly and perversely reverted to
that other disagreeable subject--a "fugitive from--"

Whoever could the fellow be? He endeavored by a mental process to
eliminate himself and see but a mythical some one else in a mythical
background. A short person; a tall one? What kind of person would the
imaginary individual be, anyhow? And what had he done, what crime
committed? Mr. Heatherbloom tried to think with the minds of all these
other people on the train, to put himself figuratively in their shoes.

One young sprig of a girl, about fourteen, with sallow complexion and
bead-like black eyes, kept regarding him. He conceived a profound
dislike for her, shifted a foot; then straightened and banished her
peremptorily from his environment. His principal interest lay now in
casual glimpses of windows and speculation as to what was behind them.
He varied this employment in a passing endeavor to decipher sundry signs
that obtruded incidentally within range of vision.

He had made out only a few when the, train slackened and came to a
standstill. Mr. Heatherbloom told himself he would get off as quickly as
possible; then changed his mind and remained. People would, of course,
argue that, under the circumstances, the unknown criminal would be
among those to leave the train at the first opportunity.

A number got out; Mr. Heatherbloom noted the passengers who remained
aboard and watched closely the departing ones. A few of the latter
seemed slightly self-conscious, notably, an elderly spinster who, having
never done anything wrong, was possessed of an unusual sensitiveness.

"See that slouchy chap--By jove, I believe--"

"Does look like a tough customer--"

"On the contrary, he just looks poor." Mr. Heatherbloom turned upon the
two speakers warmly.

Why could he not have kept silent; why was he obliged to obtrude his
opinion into their conversation?

They stared and he half turned as the train banged itself along once
more. Where should he go? Reaching for a paper that some one had
discarded, he sank into a vacant seat and opened the sheet with
misgiving.

What would the big types say? Nothing! Miss Van Rolsen had managed to
keep the strange affair of her niece's disappearance out of the columns
of the papers. They knew nothing about it as yet--Only a single little
item in the shipping news, in fine print, which suddenly caught his gaze
bore in any way, and that a remote one, upon her niece and her affairs.
Mr. Heatherbloom regarded it with dull glance. The few lines meant
nothing to him--then; later he had cause to turn to them with abrupt
wondering avidity. Now his eyes swept with simulated interest the
general news of the day; he professed to read cable dispatches.

But an odd reaction seemed to have settled on him; the excitement of the
chase became, for the moment, forgotten. The scope of his mental
visuality no longer included the figure of the agent from the private
detective bureau. An anxiety more poignant moved him; his thoughts
centered on that other matter--the cause of Miss Van Rolsen's
apprehensions--the while those emotions that had held him a listener
behind the curtain in her library again stirred in his breast. He had
not played the eavesdropper for any selfish purpose or through a sense
of personal apprehension. The sudden realization of his own danger, had,
perforce, awakened in him the need for quick action if he would save
himself.

If? What chance had he? But for one compelling reason, one consuming
purpose, he would not have fled at all; he would have faced them,
instead! But he had work to do--he! A fugitive, a logical candidate for
the prison cell! Ironical situation! Even now he heard a voice at his
elbow.

"Mr. Heatherbloom!" Some one spoke suddenly to him and he wheeled with
abrupt swift fierceness.

"Well, are you going to eat me up?" the voice laughed.

He looked into the pert face of Jane--the maid with the provoking
nose--who had been at Miss Van Rolsen's. She had got on at the other end
of the car at the last station, and after waiting a few moments for him
to see her, had moved toward him, or a seat at his side just then
vacated by some one preparing to leave. Mr. Heatherbloom's face cleared;
he banished the belligerent expression.

"You look edible enough!" he said with forced jocularity.

"Indeed?" she retorted, surprised at such gallantry from one who had
heretofore not deigned to pay her compliments. "I'll have to tell my
husband about you." Playfully. "But how are things at Miss Van Rolsen's?
Anything new?"

Mr. Heatherbloom murmured something about the customary routine; then,
even as he spoke, became conscious of a sudden new disconcerting
circumstance. The tracks for the up and the down trains on the elevated
had widely separated and ran now on the extreme sides of the broad
thoroughfare. From his side of the car the young man was afforded a view
of the pavement below, between the two sustaining iron structures. A
chill shot through him and his smile became set. Gazing down he
discerned, on the street beneath and a little to one side of them, a
motor-car, speeding fast, apparently bent on keeping up with them.

"How--how's your husband?" he said irrelevantly. The car _was_ keeping
up with them.

"Very well, thank you." (Would _it_ reach the next station before them?)

"You--you have a pleasant home?" he asked. (A slight blockade below
impeded, momentarily, the "taxi". Mr. Heatherbloom raised his
handkerchief to his moist brow.)

"Lovely," she answered. "Are you going far?"

"Brooklyn," he said at random. What _were_ they talking about? (The car
was once more under way; fortunately their progress overhead would not
be impeded by a press of vehicles.)

"That's where we live--Brooklyn," she said.

"Is it? Got a nice house?" He had practically asked this question
before; but he hardly knew what he was saying. A policeman had stopped
the "taxi" and was shaking his head, as at a rather "fishy" story. Mr.
Heatherbloom by a species of telepathy, seemed to overhear the excited
talk waging below.

"Oh, yes; lovely!" Jane's accents were but parenthetical to something
else. The "taxi" had been allowed to proceed, in spite of the detaining
thought-waves Mr. Heatherbloom had launched toward the officer of the
law. The occupant had probably showed a badge; Mr. Heatherbloom
stretched his neck out of the window.

"You can come around and see, sometime, if you want to." Pride in her
voice. "And meet my husband." Husband was a very substantial baker.

"Charmed, I'm sure! Ha! ha!" He suddenly laughed.

"What is it?" She looked startled.

"Funniest accident!" He waved his hat, as at some one, out of the
window. "See that taxi! Bumped into a dray. Ha! ha!"

"I don't see anything so funny in that." Straightening.

"No? You should have seen the expression on his face--"

"His? Whose?"

"The--ah, drayman's, of course! He--looked so mad."

"I should have thought," she observed, "the man in the car would have
been the maddest It couldn't have hurt the dray much."

"No? Perhaps that's what made it seem so funny to me."

"Well," she said, "I never noticed before that you had a great sense of
humor."

"You never knew me." Jauntily.

They got off at Brooklyn Bridge together. As they made their way through
the crowd, Mr. Heatherbloom appeared most care-free and very sedulous of
his companion's welfare, especially when they passed one or two
loiterers who seemed eying the passengers rather closely.

"Two for Brooklyn." Mr. Heatherbloom laid down a dime at the ticket
office.

Soon, unmolested, he sped on once more; but as they crossed the busy
river all his light-heartedness seemed suddenly to desert him; the
questions he had been vainly asking himself earlier that day were
reiterated in his brain. Where was she? What had become of her? His
hands clasped closely. A red spot burned on his cheek.



CHAPTER X


A NEW-FOUND THEORY

"No; the prince isn't coming back to America, and she--Miss
Dalrymple--isn't going to marry him!"

Jane's voice, running on rather at random, suddenly with unusual force
penetrated Mr. Heatherbloom's consciousness.

"Not going--isn't--What are you talking about?" The young man's wavering
attention focused itself on her now with swift completeness. He had
hardly heard her, until a few moments before, when her conversation had
first drifted to that ever fascinating feminine topic of foreign lords
and American heiresses, then narrowed down, much to his inward
disapproval, to one particular titled individual and one particular
heiress "But you are mistaken, of course!" he said bruskly.

"Oh, am I?" she retorted. "I suppose you believe everything you read in
the newspapers?"

Mr. Heatherbloom did not answer now; he was staring out of the window.
Against the sky the jutting lines of buildings seemed to waver; new
extraordinary angles and jogs seemed to assert themselves. His gaze had
a glittering brightness when it turned. "Have you any better authority?"

His tone was a challenge. "I heard her tell him so myself," she said
succinctly. "That she could never marry him and that he must never come
back."

Mr. Heatherbloom's hand crumpled the newspaper; then mechanically he
folded it and put it in his pocket. His look was once more bent outward;
tiny specks, that were big steamboats going very fast, seemed motionless
on the sparkling surface of the water afar. His thoughts scattered; he
tried to collect them, to realize where he was, how he happened to be
there; the identity of the speaker and what she had been saying! Certain
preconceived, fixed ideas and conclusions had been toppled over,
brushed aside in an instant. Was it possible?

"I was waiting to trim and fill the lamps," said Jane. (Miss Van Rolsen
clung to oil lamps for reading.) "The prince and she were in the
library. He has a loud voice, you know."

The young man did. "But why--"

"Search me!" Vivaciously. "He was the very pick of the whole cargo of
dukes and the like. There isn't another girl in New York would have done
it."

"But surely," scarcely hearing her last words, "no newspaper would dare
to announce such a thing without--"

"Oh, wouldn't it? When it called up the house every day, almost, and
got: 'There is nothing to say'? Didn't I answer the 'phone once or twice
myself? 'Miss Van Rolsen declines to be interviewed concerning her
niece. She has nothing to say.' I think I once giggled, the man's voice
at the other end was so aggressive. He said he was the city editor
himself. Is that very high up?"

Mr. Heatherbloom did not seem to hear. He scarcely saw his companion
now; nevertheless, he was conscious of a desire to be alone, in order to
concentrate, consider, reach for light and find it. But where could he
discover a safe spot; his problem was a dual one; primarily, he must
consider himself; he must not forget his own desperate situation and
danger. The train, beginning to slacken, brought the sense of it once
more poignantly to mind. His companion hadn't reached the station yet
but he suddenly rose. The car stopped with a jerk; Mr. Heatherbloom
murmured something hurriedly and dived for the door.

On the street he breathed deeply, standing as in a daze while the
thunder of iron-rimmed wheels surrounded him. He was cognizant
principally of certain words humming in his brain: The prince and she
were not engaged! The nobleman not returning to America in the fall!
Never coming back!

But that item in fine print in the newspaper he had in his pocket--what
did it mean? Nothing, of course, beyond what it said; still--

Some one bumped into Mr. Heatherbloom; whereupon he suddenly realized
that he was standing on one of the busiest corners and had been making
himself as conspicuous as possible. Hastily he moved on. To what
destination? He glanced toward a convenient saloon; it looked hospitable
and inviting. Then he remembered they--man-hunters, in general--always
searched the saloons first for criminals.

He started toward a side street but paused, reasoning that he was more
prominent on comparatively isolated thoroughfares than on the swarming
ones. A stream of women flowing into a big department store, exercised
an odd attraction for him. Safety lay, perhaps, among numbers; at least,
for the time, until he could devise a course of action. If he could
conceive of one! If--

He must; he would. Every nerve in his body seemed to respond. Had he not
embarked before this on desperate adventures; had he not fought in the
face of overwhelming odds, and managed to hold his head up? A peculiar
little smile played around the corner of his thin lips; it was like the
flash of light on a blade. He joined the inflowing eddy.

Bargain day! He was crushed and crumpled but found himself ultimately on
a stool in the rear of the store. No; he didn't want any marked-down
collars or cuffs; he conveyed an impression to the solicitous clerk of
some one waiting for some one. Patiently, uncomplainingly! With an
unseeing eye for the hurrying and scurrying myriads! Time passed; he
remained oblivious to the babble of voices. Timon in the wilderness,
Diogenes in his tub, could not have been mentally more isolated from
annoying human consociation than was at the moment Mr. Heatherbloom,
perched on a rickety stool amid a conglomeration of females struggling
for lingerie.

Suddenly he stirred. "Have you a book department?" he asked an employee.

"Straight across; last aisle to the left."

Mr. Heatherbloom got up; his tread was slow; a somnambulistic gleam
appeared in his eye. Yet he was very much awake; he had never felt more
keenly alert. He reached the book section.

Did they have any Russian fiction? Oh, yes; what kind did he want,
nihilistic or psychological? _The Fire and Sword_ kind, whatever that
was; the second volume of the trilogy, if they had it in stock? Sure
they had; but had he read the first volume? No; he didn't want that; he
would begin in the middle of the trilogy. He always read trilogies that
way.

The young lady in charge looked what she thought as she handed him the
book. He paid her; unfortunately it cost more than the popular novels of
the day. He rather gravely contemplated the few small bills he had left;
the amount of his capital would not carry him very far, especially if
unusual expenses should occur. Miss Van Rolsen still owed him a little
money but he didn't see how he could collect that now.

Mr. Heatherbloom, armed with his book, sought a different part of the
store--- a small reception-room, where customers of both sexes were at
liberty to read, write, or indulge in mental rest-cure, after bargain
purchases. There he perused hurriedly, and by snatches, the volume;
there was plenty of fire and plenty of sword in it; human passions
bubbled and seethed. Suddenly he sat up straight and a suppressed
exclamation fell from his lips; he closed the book sharply.

One or two old ladies looked at him but he did not see them. His vision,
clairvoyant-like, seemed to have lifted, to traverse broad seas,
limitless steppes. His hands opened and closed, as if striving to reach
and clutch something beyond flame of battle, scenes of rapine.

He got up dizzily. As he stepped once more into the street, the shadows
had lengthened; twilight was falling. He stopped at a pawnbroker's,
purchased a revolver and cartridges. He might need the weapon now more
than ever. And money--he needed far more of that than he had. He spread
in his palm the little wad of greenbacks he took from his pocket;
counted them and a few silver pieces. Then seeking a ticket office, he
made a few casual inquiries; a shadow rested on his countenance as he
emerged from the place.

Next door to it a pile of gold pieces in a bank window shone mockingly
before his eyes. So near--with only the plate-glass between him and the
bright discs! Mechanically he began to count them, but suddenly turned
from that profitless occupation and stood with his back to the window.

What availed resolution without dollars? His purpose might be strong,
but poverty, a Brobdingnagian giant, laid its hand on his shoulder,
crushing him down, holding him there, impotent, until the stocky man and
his cohorts of the private detective office should come over and get
him--to send him to the little island he had thought of when crossing
the bridge to Brooklyn!

He fell back into a doorway. More money!--he must get it; must! He
folded his arms tight over his breast. To think that this should be his
one great, crying need--his!

Above, he heard footsteps descending the stairway at the foot of which
he stood; Mr. Heatherbloom slipped out of the passage to the sidewalk
and moved on. Chance took him back the way he had come; he had no choice
of direction. Now he looked once more at the window of the pawnbroker,
where he had stopped a short time before. He regarded the unredeemed
pledges; seal-rings, watches, flutes, old violins; what not? If he only
had something left; but all had gone--long ago.

All? He started slightly; considered; walked on. But he turned around,
hesitatingly, and came slowly back. As he approached the door, his step
grew more resolute. He walked briskly in. Without giving the proprietor
time to come to the front of the shop, Mr. Heatherbloom moved at once to
the back where the other sat behind his dusty glass cases.

"Here I am once more." He spoke with forced gaiety.

"What you want to buy now?"

"I don't want to buy anything; I want to sell something."

The pawnbroker's interest in the visitor at once departed.

"I have everythings! Everythings!" he grumbled. "Nearly every one wants
to sell. I have no room for noddings more. Good night!"

"But I've something special," said Mr. Heatherbloom. As he spoke he took
from an inner pocket a little parcel in pink tissue-paper; he fingered
it a moment, removing an ivory miniature from a frame, passed the paper
quickly about the picture once more, and returned it to his pocket. Then
he handed the frame, over the case, to the pawnbroker. "What do you
think of that, my Christian friend?" he said with a show of jocularity
that didn't ring quite true.

The pawnbroker bent his dull face close to the article; it was gold. A
pretty trinket, set with a number of brilliants, it might have come from
the Rue Royale or the Rue de la Paix.

"Cost about five hundred francs," observed Mr. Heatherbloom, watching
the other closely. "One hundred dollars, without the duty."

"Where'd you get it?"

"None of your business." With a smile.

The man moved toward a telephone at his back. "Do you know what I'm
going to do?"

"I am curious."

"'Phone the police."

"Is that an invitation for me to depart? If so--" Mr. Heatherbloom
reached for the little gold frame.

"Oh, no," said the man, retaining the graceful article. "The police will
find out who this belongs to."

"Tut! tut!" observed Mr. Heatherbloom lightly. Something on the edge of
the showcase pointed over it; the hand the proprietor professed to raise
toward the telephone fell to his side; he seemed about to call out.
"Don't!" said the visitor. "It's loaded; you saw me put in the
cartridges yourself. Your little game is very passe; I had it worked on
me once before, and placed you in your class--a fourth-rater, with a
crib for loot!"

The other considered; this customer's manner was ominously quiet and
easy; he didn't like it. A telepathic message that flashed from the
gleaming gaze above the shining tube suggested an utterly frivolous
indifference to tragic consequences. The proprietor moved away from the
telephone.

"Fifteen dollars," he said.

"Twenty," breathed Mr. Heatherbloom insinuatingly.

The man put his hand in his pocket and counted out the money. The caller
took it, said something in those same blithe significant accents about
what would happen if the other made a move in the next two or three
minutes, then vanished from the store. He did not keep to the busy
thoroughfare now, but shot into a side street. Would the pawnbroker hide
the frame and then call the police? It was quite possible he might thus
seek to get into their good graces and revenge himself at the same time.
Mr. Heatherbloom turned from dark byway to dark byway. He knew there was
a possibility that he might keep going throughout the night without
being taken; but what would he attain by so doing, how would that profit
him?

He had to get back to New York at once, and as speedily as possible!
The shining face of a street clock that a short time before he had
looked at, admonished him there were no moments to spare, if he would
carry out his plan, his headstrong purpose--to verify or disprove a
certain wild theory--which would take him where, lead to what? No
matter! Above, between black shadows of tall buildings, he saw a star,
bright, beautiful. Something in him seemed to leap up to it--to that
light as frostily clear as her eyes! A taxi passed; he hailed it.

"How much to Jersey City?" he asked in feverish tones.

The man approximated a figure; it was large, but Mr. Heatherbloom at
once got in.

"All right," he said. "Only let her go! I've a train to catch."

"You don't want to land us in the police court, do you?" asked the
chauffeur.

Mr. Heatherbloom devoutly hoped not.



CHAPTER XI


MISCALCULATIONS

Two days later, on a bright afternoon, a young man stood on the edge of
a sea-wall called the Battery. It was not _the_ Battery, commanding a
view of the outgoing and incoming maritime traffic of the continent's
metropolis, but another Battery, overlooking another harbor, or estuary,
landlocked save for an entrance about a mile in width. Behind him lay,
not a great, but a little, city; hardly more than a big town; before him
a few vessels of moderate tonnage placidly plied the main or swash
channels.

The scene was tranquilizing; nevertheless the young man appeared out of
harmony with it. His face wore a feverish flush; his eyes had a restless
gleam. He had only a short time before come to town, entering in
unconventional fashion. As the train had slackened at a siding on the
outskirts he had quietly, and unperceived, slipped off the back platform
of the rear car; then made his way by devious and little frequented side
streets to the sea-front.

There, his eager gaze scanned the craft, moving in the open, or
motionless at the distant wharfs. An expression of acute disappointment
passed over his features; his eyes did not find what they sought. Had
that mad flight been for nothing? Had he but run into a new kind of
"pocket" here, all to no purpose?

Mr. Heatherbloom sat down; he was weary and worn. The dancing sparkles
laughed at him; he did not feel like "laughing back". Even as he leaned
against the parapet a newsboy close at hand called out:

"All about the mysterious abduction! One of the miscreants traced to
this city! Superintendent of police warned of his probable arrival!"

The lad looked at Mr. Heatherbloom as he shouted; that gentleman
returned his gaze with unflinching stolidness.

"What abduction?" he asked.

"Beautiful New York heiress."

The voice passed on; the fugitive was once more alone with his thoughts.
If they had been wild, turbulent before, what were they now? His hands
closed; at the moment he did not bemoan his own probable fate, only the
fact that the clue bringing him here had been false--false!

Another voice--this time a man's--accosted him. Mr. Heatherbloom sprang
swiftly to his feet but the person, an old darky, did not appear very
formidable.

"Got a match, boss?" he inquired mildly.

Mr. Heatherbloom's bright suspicious glance shot into the good-humored,
open look of the other; that person's manner betrayed no ulterior
motive. Perhaps he had not yet heard the newsboy; did not
know--Mechanically the young man answered that he did not possess the
article required, but the intruder still lingered; he had accosted the
other partly because of a desire for desultory conversation. Mr.
Heatherbloom, after a moment's careful scrutiny, showed a disposition to
be accommodating in this regard; he even took the initiative--suddenly,
asking question after question about this boat and that. Her name; when
she had come; where she was going; of what her cargo consisted? The
other replied willingly. Like many of his kind in the port, although he
could not read or write, he was wise in harbor-front knowledge, knew all
the floating tramps and the sailing craft.

"I suppose it's always about the same old boats drop in here?" Mr.
Heatherbloom, after a little, observed insinuatingly.

"Yes, always de same ole tubs," assented the darky.

A shadow crossed the other's face, but he managed to assume a light air.
"Battered hulks and sailing brigs of a past generation, eh?" He put the
case strongly, but the darky only nodded smilingly. His strong point in
conversation was in agreeing with people; he even forgot patriotism
toward his own port in being amiable.

Mr. Heatherbloom glanced now beyond them to the right and the left; but
no one whom he had reason to fear came within scope of his vision. His
figure relaxed. When would they come to take him? The newsboy's words
reiterated themselves in his mind. "Traced to this city!" Of course;
Miss Van Rolsen's millions were at the command of the secret-service
bureau; his description had been telegraphed far and wide. And when it
should be fruitful of results, what would become of his theory?
Nevertheless, he would go on, while he could, to the last.

If he tried to explain they would consider it but a paltry blind to
cover his own criminality. He could expect no help from them; he had to
triumph or fail through his own efforts. To fail, certainly; it was
decreed.

For the moment something in his breast pocket seemed to burn there, a
tiny object, now without the frame. Involuntarily he raised his hand;
then his figure swayed; the street waved up and down. He had eaten
little during the last two or three days. Scornfully in his own mind he
berated that momentary weakness and steadied himself. His eyes, cold and
clear, now returned to the colored man; he groped for and took up the
thread of the talk where he had left it.

"Old hulks and brigs! You don't ever happen to have any really fine
boats come in here, do you? Like Mr. Morgan's big private yacht, for
example?"

"No; we ain't never seen dat craft yere. Dis port's more for lumber
and--"

Mr. Heatherbloom looked down. "I saw an item in the paper"--he strove to
speak unconcernedly--"a Marconigram--that a certain Russian prince's
private yacht--the _Nevski_--had damaged her propeller, or some other
part of her gear, and was being towed into this harbor for emergency
repairs."

"Oh, yes, boss!" said the man. The listener took a firmer grip on the
parapet. "You done mean de big white boat w'at lies on de odder side ob
de island; can't see her from yere. Dey done fix her up mighty quick an'
she gwine ter lebe to-night."

"Leave to-night!" Mr. Heatherbloom's face changed; suppressed eagerness,
expectancy shone from his eyes; he turned away to conceal it from the
other. "Looks like good fishing over there near the island," he observed
after a pause.

"Tain't so much for fishin' as crabbin'," returned the other.

"Crabbing!" repeated Mr. Heatherbloom. "A grand sport! Now if--are you a
crabber?" The darky confessed that crabbing was his main occupation; his
boat swung right over there; for a dollar he would give the other
several hours' diversion.

Mr. Heatherbloom accepted the offer with alacrity. A few moments later,
seated in a dilapidated cockle-shell, he found himself slamming over the
water. The boat didn't ship the tops of many seas but it took in enough
spray over the port bow to drench pretty thoroughly the passenger. In
the stern, the darky handling the sheet of a small, much patched sail,
kept himself comparatively dry. But Mr. Heatherbloom didn't seem to mind
the drenching; though the briny drops stung his cheek, his face
continued ever bent forward, toward a point of land to the right of
which lay the island that came ever nearer, but slowly--so slowly!

He could see the top of the spars of a vessel now over the high
sand-hills; his body bent toward it; in his eyes shone a steely light.
Their little boat drew closer to the near side of the island; the
hillocks stood up higher; the tapering topmasts of the craft on the
other side disappeared. The crabber's cockle-shell came to anchor in a
tranquil sandy cove.

Mr. Heatherbloom, although inwardly chafing, felt obliged to restrain
impatience; he could not afford to awaken the darky's suspicions,
therefore he simulated interest and--"crabbed". He enjoyed a streak of
good luck, but his artificial enthusiasm soon waned. He at length
suggested trying the other side of the island, whereupon his pilot
expostulated.

What more did his passenger want? The latter thought he would stretch
his legs a bit on the shore; it made him stiff to sit still so long. He
would get out and walk around--he had a predilection for deserted
islands. While he was gratifying his fancy the darky could return to his
more remunerative business of gathering in the denizens of the deep.

Five minutes later Mr. Heatherbloom stood on the sandy beach; he started
as if to walk around the island but had not gone far before he turned
and moved at a right angle up over the sand-hill. The dull-hued bushes
that somehow found nourishment on the yellow mound now concealed his
figure from the boatman; the same hardy vegetation afforded him a
shelter from the too inquisitive gaze of any persons on the yacht when
he had gained the summit of the sands.

There, he peered through the leaves down upon a beautiful vessel. She
lay near the shore; whatever her injury, it seemed to have been repaired
by this time for few signs of life were apparent on or about her. Steam
was up; a faint dun-colored smoke swept, pennon-like, from her white
funnels. Some one was inspecting her stern from a platform swung over
the rail, and to Mr. Heatherbloom's strained vision this person's
interest, or concern, centered in the mechanism of her rudder. The
trouble had been there no doubt, and if so, the yacht had probably come,
or been brought near the island at high water, and at low tide any
damage she might have suffered had been attended to. Her injury must
have been more vexatious than serious. Would she, as the darky had
affirmed, leave when the tide was once more at its full? Her lying in
the outer, instead of in the inner harbor, seemed significant. Time
passed; the person on the platform regained the deck and disappeared. In
the bushes the watcher suddenly started.

Something at one of the port windows had caught his glance. A ribbon? A
fluttering bit of lace? A woman's features that phantom-like had come
and vanished? He looked hard--so steadily that spots began to dance
before his sight, but he could not verify that first impression. Yet he
remained. The shadows on the furze grew longer, falling in strange
angular shapes down the hillside; the sun dipped low. At length Mr.
Heatherbloom, after the manner of one who had made up his mind to
something, abruptly rose.

He walked back toward the cove where he had disembarked. As he drew near
the darky caught sight of him, pulled up "anchor" and paddled his boat
to the shore. But Mr. Heatherbloom did not at once get in; his eyes
rested on the bushel or so of freshly caught, bubble-blowing crabs. He
strove to appear calm and matter-of-fact.

"What do you expect to get for them?" he asked, pointing.

"'Bout fifty cents de dozen, boss. Crab market ain't what it ought ter
be jest now."

"Why don't you try to sell them to the yacht over there?" Mr.
Heatherbloom managed to speak carelessly but it was a difficult task.

"Jest becos she is 'over there', boss," returned the darky lazily.
"Mighty swift tide sweeping around de head of dat island!" he
explained.

"And you don't like rowing against it?" Quickly. "See here, I'll tell
you what I'll do. I like a bit of exercise, and just for the gamble,
I'll give you sixty cents a dozen for the lot, and keep all I can get
over that. The owner of that craft is a Russian and all Russians like
sea food. When they can't get caviar, they'll no doubt make a bid for
crabs."

"Dat sounds like berry good argumentation, boss. Make it
seventy"--avarice struggling on the dusky countenance--"an'--"

"Done!" said Mr. Heatherbloom, endeavoring to disguise the fierce
eagerness welling within him. "Here's on account!" Tossing his last bill
to the other. "And now, get out. It'll be easier pulling without you."

The darky grinned and obeyed. This was a strenuous passenger truly, not
averse to stiff rowing, after a stiff walk, "jest for pleasure". But the
dusky pilot had met these anomalous white beings before--"spo'tsmen",
they called themselves. And a certain sense of humor, as Mr.
Heatherbloom sat down to the oars, caused the colored man involuntarily
to hum: _I'se got a white man a-workin' for me_. He had only finished a
bar or two, however, when the tune abruptly ceased on his lips. "Dat's
too bad," he said. "I guess de deal's off, boss." Regretfully.

"Eh?" Mr. Heatherbloom looked around. He meant to keep the man to his
bargain now, by force if necessary.

"Look dar!" continued the darky.

Mr. Heatherbloom did look in the direction indicated. A puff of black
smoke could be seen rising over the island, and--significant fact!--the
dark smudge seemed to be crawling along beyond the sky-line of the
sand-hill. The young man turned pale.

"It's de Russian yacht, boss. She's under way all right!"

Mr. Heatherbloom continued to gaze. Where the island was lower he saw
the topmasts moving along--then the boat herself, white, beautiful,
swinging out from behind, with bow pointed seaward and steaming fast.

"Dat's too bad," murmured the colored man. "I done be powerful
disappointed, boss!"

The other did not answer. Going! going! He had waited too long to board
her. He could not reach her now--he would never reach her. The flame of
the dying sun flared in Mr. Heatherbloom's face, but he continued
motionless.



CHAPTER XII


ON THE ROAD

Gone! It was the only word he, could think of. Every thought, every
emotion centered around it. He could not reason or argue. No plan
occurred to him now. He continued to sit still, seeing but one
picture--a boat vanishing. Night had begun to fall as they returned to
the city. Its lights played mockingly in the darkness. Mr. Heatherbloom
viewed them with apathetic gaze. The secret-service man, the chief of
police and his assistants were on shore somewhere waiting to capture
him, but he did not care. Let them take him now! What did it matter?

When the boat reached land he got out like an automaton. Perhaps he made
answer to the darky's last cheerful good night, but if so he spoke
without knowing it. The boatman let him go, willingly; Mr. Heatherbloom
hadn't asked for his last bill back again and the other overlooked
reminding him of his remissness. The greenback was considerably more
than the fare.

Indifferent to his fate, Mr. Heatherbloom moved on; no one molested him.
He walked along dark highways, not through fear of being apprehended,
but because his mood was dark. He did not even notice where he went; he
just kept going. He forgot he was hungry, but at length, as in a dream,
he began to realize a physical weariness. Overwrought nature asserted
itself; he was not made of iron; his muscles responded reluctantly.
Without observing his surroundings, he sank listlessly to the earth; the
cool grass received his exhausted frame. Beyond, some distance away, the
lights of the city threw now a sullen glow on the sky. All was
comparatively still about him; the noise of the city was replaced by the
lighter sound of vehicles on the well kept, almost non-resounding
country road. It seemed to be a main thoroughfare, but with little life
and animation about it at that evening hour. A buggy did go by
occasionally, however, and, not far from Mr. Heatherbloom, at a curb,
stood a motor-car.

He had suffered himself to relax on the ground in front of a small house
set well back among spectral-looking trees and surrounded by a stone
wall overgrown with foliage. Mr. Heatherbloom remained unmindful of his
surroundings. The lamps of the car near by were not lighted; a single
figure on the front seat was barely distinguishable. Now this person got
down and lighted a cigarette; he seemed restless, walked to and fro, and
glanced once or twice at the house. From a single window a faint light
gleamed; then it vanished, only to reappear a few moments later at
another window. Among the masses of foliage fireflies glistened; a
tree-toad began to make a sound but almost immediately stopped. The
front door had apparently opened and some person or persons came out.
The faint crunchings on the gravel indicated more than one person. Now
they stepped on the grass, for there were no audible indications of
their approach. The man near the machine threw quickly away his
cigarette and opened the door of the car. Several people, issuing from
the gate, crossed the sidewalk and got in. Mr. Heatherbloom was hardly
aware of the fact; they seemed but unmeaning shadows.

The driver bent over and lighted one of his lamps. As he did so, the
flare revealed for an instant his face--square, rather handsome and
bearded. A faint flicker of interest, for some reason undefinable to
himself at the moment, swept over Mr. Heatherbloom. He had been lying
where the grass was tall and now raised himself on his elbow, the better
to peer over the waving tops. The car had gathered headway and swung out
into the road, when suddenly some one in it laughed and uttered an
exclamation in a foreign tongue. That musical note--a word he did not
understand--was wafted to Mr. Heatherbloom. It acted upon him like a
galvanic shock; he sprang to his feet and, bewildered, stared after the
machine. What had happened; was he dreaming? He could hardly at first
believe the evidence of his senses, for the laugh, coming back to him in
the night, was that of the woman for whom he had procured employment at
Miss Van Rolsen's. He could have sworn to the fact now. And the man
whose countenance he had so briefly seen was, no doubt, of her own
nationality--a Russian!

Involuntarily, without realizing what he did, Mr. Heatherbloom started
to run in the direction the car had gone, but he soon stopped. What
madness!--to attempt to catch a sixty-horse-power machine! Why, it was
nearly a mile away already. The young man stood stock-still while a
cogent reaction swept over him. The woman had passed within fifty feet
of where he had lain, head near the earth, moping. A mocking desire to
atone for a great remissness found him impotent. There seemed nothing
for him to do now but to reconcile himself to the irreconcilable, to
stay here, while every desire urged him to follow her, to learn why this
woman was in the car and who was with her. Naturally, he had expected
she would be on the yacht now steaming away out to sea, and here she
was. A new enigma confronted him.

Mr. Heatherbloom continued to stand in the center of the road. His head
whirled; he panted hard, out of breath from his recent dash. A loud
honk! honk! from another machine coming unexpectedly up behind, caused
him to leap aside just in time. The second car whizzed by, although
obeying an impulse born on the instant, he called out wildly, waving his
arms to bring it to a halt. If they saw his strange motions--which was
unlikely, the night being dark--they did not heed them. Soon the second
machine was some distance away; then its rear light gleamed like a
vanishing coal and suddenly disappeared altogether around a bend of the
road.

He looked back; no other vehicle of any description was in sight now.
But it profited nothing to continue passive, immovable. He had to act,
to walk on, no matter how slowly; his face, at least, was set in the
direction the woman had gone. How long it took him to reach the turn of
the thoroughfare he could not tell, but at length there, he came again
to an abrupt stop. Some distance ahead in the road appeared a machine,
motionless--waiting, or broken down.

Which car was it? The one containing the woman, or the other that came
after? If the former--He pressed on eagerly, yet keeping to the shadows,
alive once more to the need of caution. His heart pounded hard; he could
see a form passing in front of the machine; the light of the lamp
enabled him now to make out the other occupants--three men. No woman was
with them. This became poignantly, irrefutably evident as he drew
nearer. He could see plainly the empty car and the trio of figures; he
could hear them talking but was not yet able to distinguish what they
said. These were the people whose attention he had tried to attract back
there in the road. His purpose then, occurring to him in a flash,
renewed itself strongly now. He would ask their aid; circumstances might
enable him to do so now with better grace. He had had a good deal of
experience with cars of divers kinds and makes at different times in the
past. Why not proffer these strangers his fairly expert services? He
felt sure he could soon learn, and repair, what was wrong with the
machine. Having made himself useful, he could then intimate that a
"lift" down the road would be acceptable. And he would probably get it.

But he did not carry out his intention. Something he heard as he came
closer to them caused him to hesitate and reconsider. Mixed with
anathemas directed against the car, of rather a cheap type, were words
that had for him more than passing significance. These men were after
some one, and that the some one was none other than himself, Mr.
Heatherbloom soon became fully convinced. Fate had been kinder to him
than he knew when he had endeavored, and failed, to win their notice. He
crouched back now against a rail fence; their low disgruntled tones were
still borne to him. For some moments they continued to work over the
machine without apparently being able to set it to rights.

"If this goes on much longer," said one of them, "he'll get away from
Brownville."

"Providin' he's there!" grumbled another. "People are always seeing an
escaped criminal in a dozen different localities at the same time."

Brownville! The listener soon divined, from a sentence dropped here and
there, that the place was a little fishing village a short distance down
the coast. He surmised, also, that they had by this time the main harbor
of the city fairly watched as far as outgoing vessels were concerned,
and were reaching out to prevent a possible exit from the smaller
community. Fishing craft leaving from there could easily take out a
fugitive and thus enable him to escape. This contingency the authorities
were now endeavoring to avert; that they also had some kind of a clue,
pointing to their present destination and inciting them to make haste
thither, was evident from the skeptical remark Mr. Heatherbloom had
overheard.

A series of explosions, as sudden as spasmodic, broke in on the
listener's thoughts. "Hurray!" said one. "We're off!"

And they were, quickly. Mr. Heatherbloom also moved with extreme
abruptness and expedition. Waiting in the shadow until they had all
sprung into the car and the machine had fairly started, he then darted
forward, seized a strap and clinging as best he might, hoisted himself
to the place in the rear designed for a trunk. One desire only, in
resorting to this expedient, moved him--to get in touch as soon as
possible, if possible, with the other car. This machine, of inferior
build, suggested, it is true, a dubious way to that end but it was the
best that offered.

He did not see the incongruity of his position, of being a passenger,
though secretly and surreptitiously, of the car containing those
embarked on a mission so closely concerning himself. Instead of fleeing
from them he was actually courting their company, pursuing himself, as
it were! At another time he might have smiled; now the situation had for
him nothing of the comic; it was tragically grim, also decidedly
unpleasant. A strong odor of gasolene permeated his nostrils until he
was nearly suffocated by it and all the dust, stirred by their flight,
swirled up on him, making it difficult to refrain from coughing.
Fortunately the machine had a monopoly on noises, and any sound from him
would have passed unnoticed. He had ridden the "bumpers" not so long ago
on freights, and, perforce, indulged in kindred uncomfortable methods of
free transportation in the course of his recent career, but he had never
experienced anything quite so little to be desired as this.

The driver had begun to speed; as if to make up for lost time, he was
forcing the engine to its limit. The machine, of light construction,
shook violently, negotiated the steep places with jumps and slid down on
the other side with breakneck velocity. The dust thickened about Mr.
Heatherbloom's head so that he could scarcely see. His arms ached and
every bump nearly tore him loose. He wound the strap around his wrist
and strove to ensconce himself deeper in a place not large enough for
him. He was on an edge all the time, and felt as if he were falling
over every moment; the edge, too, was sharp and dug into him.

Mr. Heatherbloom, however, had little thought of bodily discomfort; he
was more concerned in making progress and the difficulty of maintaining
his position. His only fear was that he would be compelled to abandon
his place because his physical energy might not be equal to the demands
put upon it. He set his teeth now and began to count the seconds. The
faster they went, the better was his purpose served; he strove to find
encouragement in the thought. The other car could make a superior
showing in the way of speed, but it might stop voluntarily somewhere
after a while, or something might happen to arrest its progress. The
race did not always belong to the swift. He endeavored to formulate some
plan as to just what he would do if he did finally manage to overtake
the woman and her party, but at length ceased trying. Sufficient unto
the moment were the problems thereof; he could but strive in the
present. He dispelled the fear that he could not hold on much longer,
and filled himself with new determination not to yield. But even as he
did so, a bigger bump than any they had yet encountered jerked him
abruptly from his place.

When finally he managed to collect himself and his senses and sit up
uncertainly in the road, the car was far away. The snap of exploding
gasolene grew faint--fainter--then ceased altogether.



CHAPTER XIII


IN THE NIGHT

A wayworn figure, some time thereafter, moved slowly along the deserted
road, where it ran like a winding ribbon over the top of a great bluff.
A sea wind, coming in varying gusts, bent low the long grass and rustled
in the bushes. The moon had escaped from behind dark clouds in a stormy
sky and threw its rays far and wide. They imparted a frosty sheen to the
wavy surface between road and sea and brightened the thoroughfare,
which, lengthening tortuously, disappeared beneath in a tangle of forest
or underbrush.

Mr. Heatherbloom gazed wearily down the road, then over the grass. In
the latter direction, afar, a strip of ocean lay like an argent stream
flowing between the top of the bank and the horizon. Toward that
illusory river he, leaving the main highway, walked in somewhat
discouraged fashion. It might avail him little, so much time had
elapsed, but from the edge of the bluff he would be afforded a view of
the surrounding country and the topography of the coast.

A vast spread of the ocean unfolded to his gaze before he had reached
the brink of the prominence. His heavy-lidded eyes, sweeping to the
right, rested on a heterogeneous group of dwellings scattered well above
the sands and directly below a wooded uprising of land. Myriad specks of
light glimmered amid shadowy roofs. Brownville? Undoubtedly! A board
walk ran along the ocean and a small pier extended like an arm over the
water. On the faintly glistening sands old boats, drawn up here and
there, resembled so many black footprints.

Not far from where Mr. Heatherbloom stood a path went downward, a
shorter way to the village than by the road he had just left. He stared
unthinkingly a moment at the narrow walk; then began mechanically to
descend. A dull realization weighed on him that when he reached his
destination the woman would be far away. He wondered why he had gone on,
under the circumstances--why he had ever thought he stood a ghost of a
chance of overtaking her? Only the hopelessness of the situation, in all
its grim verity, faced him now.

The path zigzagged through the bushes. At a turn the village was lost to
sight; in front was a sheer fall to the sea. As he kept on, projecting
branches struck him and raising his hand to guard his face, he, tripped
and almost fell. Recovering himself, he glanced down; something had
caught on his shoe and he leaned over to loosen it. His fingers closed
on a long strip of soft substance--a veil, the kind worn by women
motoring! Mr. Heatherbloom's eyes rested on it apathetically, then with
a sudden flash of interest; a faint but heavy perfume emanated from the
silky filament. It was darkish in hue--brown, he should say; the Russian
woman was partial to that color. The thought came to him quickly; he
stood bewildered. What if it were hers? Then how had it come here, on
this narrow foot-path, unless--Had the big car stopped at the top of the
promontory and discharged its passengers there? But why should it have
done so; for what possible reason?

He could think of none. Other women came this way--the path was not
difficult. Other women wore brown veils. And yet that odd familiar
fragrance--It seemed to belong to a foreign bizarre personality such as
Sonia Turgeinov's.

Crushing in his palm the veil he thrust it into his pocket. He would
find out more below, possibly; if she had actually passed this way. A
feverish zest was born anew; the authorities were looking for her as
well as for himself, he remembered. She, apparently, had so far cleverly
evaded them; if he could but lead them to her he would not mind so much
his own apprehension. Her presence in the locality at the same time the
_Nevski_ had been in the harbor would fairly prove the correctness of
his theory of Miss Dalrymple's whereabouts. If he could now deliver the
Russian woman into the hands of the law, he would have a wedge to force
the powers that be to give credence to at least the material part of his
story--that the prince had left port with the young girl--and to compel
them to see the necessity of acting at once. That he, himself, would be
held equally culpable with the woman was of no moment.

Fatigue seemed to fall from his shoulders. He went along more swiftly,
inspired with new vague hopes. Down--down! The voice of the sea grew
nearer; now he could hear the dull thud of the waves, then the weird
whistling sounds that succeeded. Springing from a granite out-jutting to
the sands, he looked eagerly, searchingly, this way and that. He saw no
one. His gaze lowered and he walked from the dry to the wet strand.
There he stopped, an exclamation escaping his lips.

A faint light, falling between black rocks, revealed fresh footprints on
the surface of the sands, and, yes!--a long furrow--the marks of the
keel of a boat. He studied the footprints closer, but without
discovering signs of a woman's; only the indentations of heavy seamen's
boots were in evidence. Mr. Heatherbloom experienced a keen
disappointment; then felt abruptly reassured. The impress of her lighter
tread had been eliminated by the men in lifting and pushing to launch
the boat. Their boots had roughly kicked up the sand thereabouts.

He was fairly satisfied the woman had embarked. The seclusion of the
spot favored the assumption; the fishing-boats were all either stranded,
or at anchor, nearer the village. But why and whither had she gone? The
ocean, in front, failed to answer the latter question, and his glance
turned. On the one hand was the village; on the other, high, almost
perpendicular rocks ran seaward, obscuring the view. It would not be
easy to get around that point; without a boat it could not be done.

Mr. Heatherbloom began to walk briskly toward the village; the moon
threw his shadow in odd bobbing motions here and there. Once he stopped
abruptly; some one on the beach afar was approaching. A fisherman? Mr.
Heatherbloom crouched back among the rocks, when the person came to a
halt. Clinging to the shadows on the landward side of the beach the
young man continued to advance, but cautiously, for a single voice might
now start a general hue and cry. Beyond, closer to town, he could see
other forms, small dark moving spots. Not far distant, however, lay the
nearest boat; to get to her he had to expose himself to the pale
glimmer. No alternative remained. He stepped quickly across the sand,
reached the craft and strove to launch her. But she was clumsy and
heavy, and resisted his efforts. The man, whoever he might be, was
coming closer; he called out and Mr. Heatherbloom pushed and struggled
more desperately--without avail! He cast a quick glance over his
shoulder; the man was running toward him--his tones now rang out loudly,
authoritatively. Mr. Heatherbloom did not obey that stern command to
halt; instead he made a wild abrupt dash for the sea. The report of a
revolver awoke the echoes and a bullet whizzed close. Recklessly he
plunged into the water.

The man on the shore emptied his weapon, but with what success he could
not tell. A head amid the dark waves was not easily discernible. Another
and larger object, however, was plainly apparent about a hundred yards
from land--a fishing-boat that swung at anchor. Would the other succeed
in reaching it, for that was, no doubt, his purpose, or had one of the
leaden missives told? The man, with weapon hot, waited. He scanned the
water, then looked toward the town. A number of figures on the beach
were hastening in his direction; from the pier afar, a naphtha put out;
he could hear faintly the sound of the engine.

Suddenly, above the boat at anchor near the man on shore, a sail shot
up, then fluttered and snapped in the wind. A moment later it was drawn
in, the line holding the craft to the buoy slipped out, and the bow
swung sharply around. Mr. Heatherbloom worked swiftly; one desire moved
him--to get around that point before being overtaken--to discover what
lay beyond. Then let happen what would! He reached for a line and
hoisted a jib, though it was almost more canvas than his small craft
could carry. She careened and plunged, throwing the spray high. He
turned a quick glance back toward the naphtha. The sky had become
overcast, and distant objects were not so easily discernible on the
surface of the water, but he made out her lights--two! She was head on
for him.

He looked steadily ahead again. The grim line of out-jutting rocks--a
black shadow against the sky--exercised a weird fascination for him. He
was well out in the open now where the wind blew a half-gale. His figure
was wet from the sea but he felt no chill. Suddenly the hand gripping
the tiller tightened, and his heart gave a great bound; then sank. Not
far from that portentous point of land he saw another light--green! A
boat was emerging from the big basin of water beyond. The starboard
signal, set high above the waves, belonged to no small craft such as the
woman had embarked in. The sight of it fitted a contingency that had
flashed through his brain on the beach. The realization left him
helpless now--his last opportunity was gone!

He shifted the tiller violently, recklessly. At that moment a shrill
whistle from behind reminded him once more of the naphtha; he could have
laughed. What was the wretched little puffing thing to him now? The
single green light--that alone was the all in all. It belonged to the
_Nevski_ he was sure; for one reason or another she had but made
pretense of going to sea, and, instead, had come here--to wait. The
woman was on her now, and, also--The thought maddened him.

Again that piercing whistle! The naphtha was coming up fast; amid the
turmoil of his thoughts he realized this vaguely. He did not wish to
find himself delivered unto them yet--not just yet! A wilder
recklessness seized him. Clouds sped across the heavens like gripping
furies' hands; the water ran level to his boat's gunwales but he refused
to ease her. All the while he was drawing nearer the single green
light--a mocking light, signal of a mocking chase that had led, and
could lead, to nothing. Still he went on, tossed by the waves--sport of
them. He had to play the play out. Oh, to see better, to visualize to
the utmost the last scene of his poignant drama of failure!

In the naphtha some one's voice belched through a megaphone; he laughed
outright now. Come and get him, if they wanted him! He would give them
as merry a dash as possible. His boat raced madly through the
water--nearer, yet nearer the green light. Now a large dark outline
loomed before him; he would have to stop, to come about in a moment,
or--A great wave struck him, half filling his boat, but he did not seem
to notice.

A dazzling white glow suddenly surrounded him; from the naphtha a
search-light had been flashed. It fell on him fully, sprinkled over on
the wild hurtling waves beyond, and just touched the side of the
outgoing vessel. Mr. Heatherbloom looked toward the vessel and his
pupils dilated. The light leaped into the air with the motion of the
naphtha, and, in an instant was gone, but the impress of a single detail
remained on his retina--of a side ladder, lowered, no doubt, for the
woman, and not yet hoisted into place on the big boat.

The wildness of the sea seemed to surge through Mr. Heatherbloom's
veins; he did not come about; he did not try to. Now it was too late!
That ladder!--he would seize it as they swept by. Closer his boat ran; a
swirl of water caught him, threw him from his course. He made a frantic
effort to regain it but without avail. The big steel bow of the great
boat struck and overwhelmed the little craft.



CHAPTER XIV


THE CRISIS

On the _Nevski_, the lookout forward walked slowly back and forth. Once
or twice he shook his head. But a few moments before the yacht had run
down a small boat, he had reported the matter, and--the _Nevski_ had
continued ahead, full speed. She had not even slackened long enough to
make the usual futile pretense of extending assistance to the
unfortunate occupant, or occupants. His excellency, Prince Boris,
evidently did not wish, or had no time, to bother with blunderers; if
they got in his way so much the worse for them. The lookout, pausing to
stare once more ahead, suddenly started. Though apathetic, like most of
the lower class of his countrymen, he uttered a faint guttural of
surprise and peered over the bow. A voice had seemed to rise from the
very seething depths of the sea. Naturally superstitious, he made the
sign of the cross on his breast while tales of dead seamen who came back
played through his dull fancy.

Once more he heard it--that voice that seemed to mingle with the wailing
tones of the deep! The little swinging lantern beneath the bowsprit
played on his bearded face as he bent farther forward, and, with growing
wonder not unmixed with fear, now made out something dark clinging to
one of the steel lines that ran from the projecting timber to the ship.
It took the lookout a few moments to realize that this dark object that
had a voice--albeit a faint one--could not be other than a recent
occupant of the small boat he had seen disappear. This person must have
leaped upward at the critical moment, and caught one of the taut strands
upon which he had somehow managed to hoist himself and to which he now
clung desperately. It was a precarious position and one that the motion
of the yacht made but briefly tenable.

Satisfied that the dark object was a reality and not an unwonted
visitation, the lookout began deliberately to unloosen a gasket. Moments
might be eternity to the man below, but Muscovite slowness is not to be
hurried. The yacht's bow poised in mid air a breathless instant; chaos
seemed leaping upward toward Mr. Heatherbloom, when something--a
line--struck and rubbed against his cheek. He seized and trusted himself
to it eagerly. The sailor was strong; he pulled in the rope. Mr.
Heatherbloom came up, but his strength was almost gone. He would have
let go when iron fingers closed on his wrists, and after that he
remembered no more.

He awoke in a berth in a fo'castle, and it was daylight. Through a
partly-opened hatch he could see the fine spray that came over the side
of the yacht. Amid misty particles touched by the sun shone a tiny
segment of rainbow. This Mr. Heatherbloom watched with a kind of
childish interest; then stretched himself more luxuriously on the hard
bunk. It was very fine having nothing more important and arduous to do
than watching prismatic hues; his thoughts floated back to long
forgotten wonder-days when he had possessed that master-marvel of toys,
a kaleidoscope, and on occasion had importantly permitted the
golden-haired child in the big house on the top of the hill to--

The dream was abruptly dispelled by some one laying a tarry hand on his
shoulder. Mr. Heatherbloom raised himself. The person had a
characteristic Russian face. For a moment the young man stared at the
stolid features, then looked around him. He saw the customary
furnishings of such a place; hammocks, bags and chests, several of the
last marked with Russian characters. A trace of color sprang to Mr.
Heatherbloom's face; he realized now what boat he was actually on, and
what it all meant to him. He could hardly believe, however, and
continued to regard the upside down odd lettering, when the sailor, who
had so unceremoniously disturbed him, motioned him to get out. Mr.
Heatherbloom obeyed; he felt very stiff and somewhat light-headed, but
he steadied himself against the woodwork. The sailor drew a dipperful
of hot tea from a samovar and thrust it into his hand. He drank with
avidity; after which the sailor made him to understand he was to follow.

The young man hesitated--a new risk confronted him. To whom would he be
taken? The prince? He had once been standing in the area way of the Van
Rolsen house when the nobleman had approached. Had the distinguished
visitor then been so absorbed in the sight of Miss Dalrymple coming down
the steps that he had utterly failed to observe the humble caretaker of
canines? Possibly--and again possibly not. In the former contingency he
might yet have a brief breathing-spell to think--to plan for the future,
unless--There was another to reckon with--the woman he had met in the
park, whose automobile he had attempted to follow. She, too, was on the
boat! He had been her dupe once. Was he now to become her victim?

The young man's jaw set. There was no holding back now, however; he had
to go on--and he did, with seeming indifference and bold enough step.
At the top of the ladder the sailor passed him on to some one else--an
officer--who led him this way and that until they reached a secluded
part of the deck, where, near the rail, stood a tall dark figure, glass
in hand. Until the last moment Mr. Heatherbloom had hoped it might be
only the captain he would be called on to encounter, and that that
august person would summarily dispose of him, ordering him somewhere out
of sight, below, to work his passage in the sailors' galley, perhaps. He
would have welcomed the most ignominious service to have found now a
respite--to be enabled to escape discovery a little longer. But the
wished-for contingency had not arisen. He faced the inevitable.

"The man, your Excellency!"

His excellency looked. He had been scanning the horizon and his
expression was both moody and preoccupied. Mr. Heatherbloom bent
slightly forward; his lids fell to conceal a sudden glitter in his eyes;
his hand touched something hard in his pocket. If his excellency
recognized him--There was one way--a last mad desperate way to serve,
to save her. It would be the end-all for him, but his life was a very
small thing to give to her. He did not value it greatly--that physical
self that had been such an ill servant. He gazed at the prince now with
veiled expectancy, his attitude seemingly relaxed, innocent of
strenuosity. Would the prince's gaze flare back with a spark of
remembrance? If in that tense instant it had done so, then--

But his excellency regarded Mr. Heatherbloom blankly; his eyes were
emotionless.

"You mean the fellow we ran down?" The prince spoke as if irritated by
the intrusion.

"The same, Excellency!" The officer stepped back. Mr. Heatherbloom did
not move.

"What did you get in our way for?" The prince's voice had a metallic
ring; he towered, harshly arrogant, over his uninvited passenger. "Don't
you know enough to get out of the way?"

"It appears not, sir." Heatherbloom wondered at the sound of his own
voice. It seemed to come, small and quiet, from so far off. His
excellency had not recognized him, but was he suspicious? Maybe not. No
one would be fool enough to get deliberately in the way of the
fast-steaming _Nevski_. Small craft were numerous in the bay and
accidents to them would happen. There was nothing so out of the ordinary
for a big boat to run down a tiny craft. It was somewhat uncommon for
any one in the wee boat to save himself, truly, but even in this feature
of the present case the prince experienced but a mild interest.

"Who are you?" he said. "A fisherman?"

"Not exactly," answered Mr. Heatherbloom, "though sometimes I crab. I
was crabbing yesterday."

As he spoke his gaze swept beyond to not far-distant cabin doors and
windows. He and the prince were standing on the starboard side of the
boat; it was this side that had faced the island when the young man had
gazed down upon the yacht from the big sand-hill, and fancied he had
seen--

"What am I going to do with you?" The prince seemed more out of temper
now. "My crew are all Russians and I don't want any of your--" He
stopped; shifting lights played ominously in his gaze; a few
dissatisfied lines on his face deepened. "I didn't ask you to come
aboard," he ended with an angry gesture.

"Sorry to intrude!" Mr. Heatherbloom spoke at random. "But I really
couldn't help it, don't you know. No time to ask permission."

His excellency frowned. Did he suspect in these words an attempt at that
insidious American humor he had often vainly endeavored to fathom? Mr.
Heatherbloom gazed at him now with seemingly innocent but really very
attentive eyes.

A superb specimen of over six feet of masculinity, the prince was
picturesquely attired in Russian yachting-garb while a Cossack cap
adorned a visage as bold and romantic as any young woman might wish to
gaze upon. And gazing upon it himself--that rather stunning picture the
prince presented on his own yacht--a sudden chill ran through Mr.
Heatherbloom. This titled paragon refused by Miss Dalrymple? A feudal
lord who made your dapper French counts and Hungarian barons appear but
small fry indeed, by contrast! The light of the sea seemed suddenly to
dazzle Mr. Heatherbloom. A wild thought surged through his brain. Betty
Dalrymple, bewildering, confusing, made up of captivating
inconsistencies, had sometimes been accused by people of a capacity for
doing the wildest things. Had she for excitement--or any other
reason--eloped with the prince? Were they, perhaps, married even now? He
dismissed the thought quickly. All the circumstances pointed against
this theory; his original one was--must be--correct.

"Well, now you are here, I suppose I've got to keep you." The prince had
again spoken.

"I suppose so," said Mr. Heatherbloom absently. He was studying now the
near-by cabin windows. One, with beautiful lace and glimpses of pink
beyond, caught his glance.

"What can you do?" Sharply.

"Oh, a lot of things!" Had the curtain waved? His heart thumped hard--he
scarcely saw the prince now.

"Not manage a sail-boat, I'm convinced." He forced himself to turn
again, as through a mist was aware of his excellency's sneering
countenance. "Judging from your recent performance!"

"That was hardly a fair test," Mr. Heatherbloom replied anyhow. His
thoughts were keyed to a straining-point; his glance _would_ swerve; he
strove his best to control it. She was there--there--Shrouds and stays
seemed to sing the words. He would have sworn he caught the flash of a
white wrist.

"Why not?" Was the prince still examining, questioning him? Again a
primal impulse was suppressed, though his muscles were like whipcords.
He yet compelled himself to endure the ordeal. What was the query about?
Ah, he remembered.

"Well, you see, I must have lost my head." It was not a bright answer
but he did not care; it was the best that occurred.

The prince strode restlessly away a few paces, then returned. "Were you
ever at sea before?"

"I once owned a y----" Mr. Heatherbloom paused--with an effort resumed
his part and a smile somewhat strained: "I once went on a cruise on a
gentleman's yacht." Some one _was_ in the state-room; was overhearing.
His head hummed; the refrain of the taut lines rang louder.

"What as? Cabin-boy, cook?"

"Why, you see--" The prince certainly did not see him--he was once more
staring away, over the dark water--"I acted in a good many capacities.
Kind of general utility, as it were. Doing this, that, and the other!"

"'The other', I should surmise." Contemptuously.

Mr. Heatherbloom moved; the curtain had moved again. "Where are you
going?" he asked a little wildly. "You see I might have important
business on shore." Foolish talk,--yet it fitted in as well as anything.

The prince, for his part, did not at first seem to catch the other's
words; when he did he laughed loudly, sardonically. "That is good;
excellent! _You_ have 'important business'!"

"Yes; important," repeated Mr. Heatherbloom. "I--" He got no further.
His eyes met another's at the window, rested a moment on a woman's face
which then suddenly vanished. But not before he realized that she, too,
had seen him--seen and recognized. He had caught in that fleeting
instant, wonder, irony, incredulity--a growing understanding! Then he
heard a soft laugh--a musical but devilish laugh--Sonia Turgeinov's!



CHAPTER XV


THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES

Mr. Heatherbloom stood as if stunned, his face very pale. For the
instant all his suppressed emotion concentrated on this woman--his evil
genius--who had betrayed him before and who would betray him again, now.
He waited, breathing hard. Why did she not appear? Why did not the blow
fall? He could not understand that interval--nothing happening. Was she
but playing with him? The prince had abruptly turned; apparently he had
not heard that very low laugh. Bored, no doubt, by the interview, he had
started to walk away, almost at the same time Mr. Heatherbloom had
caught sight of the face at the window. As in a dream Mr. Heatherbloom
now heard his excellency's brusk voice addressing a command to the
officer, listened to the latter a moment or two later, addressing him.

"Come along!" The officer's English was labored and guttural.

Mr. Heatherbloom's eyes swung swiftly from the near-by door through
which he had momentarily expected the woman to emerge. Involuntarily he
would have stepped after the vanishing figure of the prince--what to do,
he knew not, when--

"_Non, non_," said the officer, intervening. "Hees excellenz dislikes to
be--importuned." The last word cost the speaker an effort; to the
listener it was hardly intelligible, but the officer's manner indicated
plainly his meaning. Mr. Heatherbloom managed to hold himself still; he
seemed standing in the center of a vortex. The prince had by this time
gone; the woman did not step forth. This lame and impotent conclusion
was out of all proportion to the seemingly inevitable. He could scarcely
realize it was he--actually he!--who, after another pause, followed the
officer, with scant interest, hardly any at all, to some inferno where
flames leaped and hissed.

He could not but be aware of them, although the voice telling him that
he would remain here, make himself useful, and, incidentally, work his
way among the stokers, sounded very far off. He could have exclaimed
scoffingly after the disappearing officer, not anxious to linger any
longer than necessary here. Work his way, indeed! How long would he be
permitted to do so? When would he be again sent for, and dealt with--in
what manner?

He shoveled coal feverishly though the irony of the task smote him, for
in feeding the insatiable beds, he was with his own hand helping to
furnish the energy that wafted her, he would have served, farther and
farther from the home land. Every additional mile put between that shore
and the boat, increased the prince's sense of power. He was working for
his excellency and against her. In a revulsion of feeling he leaned on
his shovel, whereupon a besooted giant of the lower regions tapped his
shoulder. This person--foreman of the gang--pointed significantly to the
inactive implement. His brow was low, brutish, and he had a fist like a
hammer. Mr. Heatherbloom lifted the shovel and looked at the low brow
but, fortunately, he did not act on the impulse. It was as if some
detaining angel reached down into those realms of Pluto and, at the
critical moment, laid a white hand where the big paw had touched him.

The young man resumed his toil. After all, what did it matter?--some one
would shovel the stuff. That brief revolt had been spasmodic,
sentimental. Here where the heat was almost intolerable and the red
tongues sprang like forked daggers before dulled eyes, brutality and
hatred alone seemed to reign. The prince might be the prodigal,
free-handed gentleman to his officers; he was the slave-driver, by
proxy, to his stokers. He who dominated in that place of torment had
been an overseer from one of the villages the prince owned; these men
were the descendants of serfs.

Once or twice Heatherbloom rather incoherently tried to engage one or
two of them in conversation, to learn where the yacht was going--to
Southern seas, across the Atlantic?--but they only stared at him as if
he were some strange being quite beyond their ken. So he desisted; of
course they could not understand him, and, of course, they knew nothing
he wished to know. In this prison a sense of motion and direction was as
naught.

Fortunately Mr. Heatherbloom's muscles were in good condition and there
was not a superfluous ounce on him, but he needed all his energies to
escape the fist and the boot that day, to keep pace with the others. The
perspiration poured from his face in sooty rivulets; he knew if he gave
way what kind of consideration to expect. He was being tested. The
foreman's eyes, themselves, seemed full of sparks; there was something
tentative, expectant in their curious gleam as they rested on him.
Heatherbloom now could hardly keep to his feet; his own eyes burned. The
flames danced as if with a living hatred of him; in a semi-stupor he
almost forgot the sword, without, that swung over him, held but by a
thread that might be cut any instant.

He could not have lasted many minutes more when relief came; sodden
sullen men took the places. Heatherbloom staggered out with his own
herd; he felt the need of food as well as rest. He groped his way
somewhere--into a dark close place; he found black-looking bread--or,
was it handed to him? He ate, threw himself down, thought of her!--then
ceased to think at all. The sword, his companions or specters no longer
existed for him.

It may be some spiritual part of him during that physical coma, drew
from a supermundane source beatific drafts, for he awoke refreshed, his
mind clear, even alert. He gazed around; he, alone, moved. His
companions resembled so many bags of rags cast here and there; only the
snores, now diminuendo, then crescendo, dispelled the illusion. A
smoking lamp threw a paucity of light and a good deal of odor around
them. Was it night? The shadows played hide-and-seek in corners; there
was no sound of the sea.

Mr. Heatherbloom moved toward a door. His pulses seemed to throb in
rhythm with the engines whose strong pulsations shook those limp
unconscious forms. He opened the iron door and looked out. Only
blackness, relieved by a low-power electric light, met his gaze. He
crept from the place.

Why did not some one rise up to detain him? Surely he was watched. He
experienced an uncanny sense of being allowed to proceed just so far,
when invisible fingers would pounce upon him, to hurl him back. The soot
still lay on his face; he had seen no bucket and water. At the mouth of
a tunnel-like aperture, he hesitated, but still no one sprang in front,
or glided up from behind to interfere with his progress. He went on; a
perpendicular iron ladder enabled him to reach an open space on the
deserted lower deck. Another ladder led to the upper deck. Could he
mount it and still escape detection? And in that case--to what end?

A bell struck the hour. Nine o'clock! He counted the strokes. Much time
had, indeed, passed since leaving port. The yacht, he judged, should be
capable of sixteen knots. Where were they now? And where was she--in
what part of the boat had they confined the young girl? Come what might,
he would try to ascertain. Creeping softly up the second ladder, he
peered around. Still he saw no one. It was a dark night; a shadow lay
like a blanket on the sea. He felt for his revolver--they had not taken
it from him--- and started to make his way cautiously aft, when
something he saw brought him to an abrupt halt.

A figure!--a woman's!--or a young girl's?--not far distant, looking
over the side. The form was barely discernible; he could but make out
the vague flutterings of a gown. Was it she whom he sought? How could he
find out? He dared not speak. She moved, and he realized he could not
let her go thus. It might be an opportunity--no doubt they would suffer
the young girl the freedom of the deck. It would be along the line of a
conciliatory policy on the prince's part to attempt to reassure her as
much as possible after the indignities' she had suffered. The watcher's
eyes strained. She was going. He half started forward--to risk all--to
speak. His lips formed a name but did not breathe it, for at that moment
the swaying of the boat had thrown a flicker of light on the face and
Mr. Heatherbloom drew back, the edge of his ardor dulled.

The woman moved a few steps, this way and that; he heard the swish of
her skirts. Now they almost touched him, standing motionless where the
shadows were deepest, and at that near contact a blind anger swept over
him, against her--who held him in her power to eliminate, when she
would--When? What was her cue? But, of course, she must have spoken
already--it was inconceivable otherwise. Then why had the prince not
acted at once, summarily? His excellency was not one to hesitate about
drastic measures. Mr. Heatherbloom could not solve the riddle at all. He
could only crouch back farther now and wait.

Through the gloom he divined a new swiftness in her step, a certain
sinuosity of movement that suddenly melted into immobility. A red spot
had appeared close by, burned now on blackness; it was followed by
another's footstep. A man, cigar in hand, joined her.

"Ah, Prince!" she said.

He muttered something Heatherbloom did not catch.

"What?" she exclaimed lightly. "No better humored?"

His answer was eloquent. A flicker of light he had moved toward revealed
his face, gallant, romantic enough in its happier moments, but now
distinctly unpleasant, with the stamp of ancestral Sybarites of the
Petersburg court shining through the cruelty and intolerance of
semi-Tartar forbears.

The woman laughed. How the young man, listening, detested that musical
gurgle! "Patience, your Highness!"

The red spark leaped in the air. "What have I been?"

"That depends on the standpoint--yours, or hers," she returned in the
same tone.

"It is always the same. She is--" The spark described swift angry
motions.

"What would you--at first?" she retorted laughingly. "After all that
has taken place? _Mon Dieu_! You remember I advised you against this
madness--I told you in the beginning it might not all be like Watteau's
masterpiece--the divine embarkation!"

"Bah!" he returned, as resenting her attitude. "You were ready enough
for your part."

She shrugged. "_Eh bien?_ Our little Moscow theatrical company had come
to grief. New York--cruel monster!--did not want us. _C'en est fait de
nous_! Your Excellency met and recognized me as one you had once been
presented to at a merry party at the Hermitage in our beloved city of
churches. Would I play the _bon camarade_ in a little affair of the
heart, or should I say _une grande passion_? The honorarium offered was
enormous for a poor ill-treated player whose very soul was ready to sing
_De Profundis_. Did it tempt her--forlorn, downhearted--"

She paused. Close by, the spark brightened, dimmed--brightened, dimmed!
Mr. Heatherbloom bent nearer. "At any rate, she was honest enough to
attempt to dissuade you--in vain! And then"--her voice changed--"since
you willed it so, she yielded. It sounded wild, impossible, the plan you
broached. Perhaps because it did seem so impossible it won over poor
Sonia Turgeinov--she who had thrown her cap over the windmills. There
would be excitement, fascination in playing such a thrilling part in
real life. Were you ever hungry, Prince?" She broke off. "What an absurd
question! What is more to the point, tell me it was all well done--the
device, or excuse, of substituting another motor-car for her own, the
mad flight far into the night, down the coast where save for that
mishap--But I met all difficulties, did I not? And, believe me, it was
not easy--to keep your little American inamorata concealed until the
_Nevski_ could be repaired and meet us elsewhere than we had originally
planned. _Dieu merci!_ I exclaimed last night when the little spitfire
was brought safely aboard." Mr. Heatherbloom breathed quickly. Betty
Dalrymple, then, had been with the woman in the big automobile--

"Why don't you praise me?" the woman went on. "Tell me I well earned
the _douceur_? Although"--her accents were faintly scoffing--"I never
dreamed _you_ would not afterward be able to--" Her words leaped into a
new channel. "What can the child want? _Est-ce-qu'elle aime un autre_?
That might explain--"

An expletive smacking more of Montmartre than of the Boulevard
Capucines, fell from the nobleman's lips. He brushed the ash fiercely
from his cigar. "It is not so--it won't explain anything," he returned
violently. "Didn't I once have it from her own lips that, at least, she
was not--" He stopped. "_Mon Dieu!_ That contingency--"

Suddenly she again laughed. "Delicious!"

"What?"

"Nothing. My own thoughts. By the way, what has become of the man we
picked up from the sail-boat?"

The prince made a gesture. "He's down below--among the stokers. Why do
you ask?"

"It is natural, I suppose, to take a faint interest in a poor fisherman
you've almost drowned."

"Not I!" Brutally.

"No?" A smile, enigmatical, played around her lips. "How droll!"

"Droll?"

"Heartless, then. But you great nobles are that, a little, eh, _mon
ami_?"

He shrugged and returned quickly to that other more interesting subject.

"_Elle va m'epouser!_" he exclaimed violently. "I will stake my life on
it. She will; she must!"

"Must!" The woman raised her hand. "You say that to an American girl?"

"We're not at the finis yet!" An ugly crispness was manifest in his
tones. "There are ports and priests a-plenty, and this voyage is apt to
be a long one, unless she consents--"

"Charming man!" She spoke almost absently now.

"Haven't I anything to offer? _Diable_! One would think I was a beggar,
not--am I ill-looking, repugnant? Your sex," with a suspicion of a
sneer, "have not always found me so. I have given my heart before, you
will say! But never as now! For she is a witch, like those that come out
of the reeds on the Volga--to steal, alike, the souls of fisherman and
prince." He paused; then went on moodily. "I suppose I should have
gone--allowed myself to be dismissed as a boy from school. 'I have
played with you; you have amused me; you no longer do so. Adieu!' So she
would have said to me, if not in words, by implication. No, _merci_," he
broke off angrily. "_Tant s'en faut_! I, too, shall have something to
say--and soon--to-night--!"

He made a swift gesture, threw his cigar into the sea and walked off.

"How tiresome!" But the words fell from the woman's lips uneasily. She
stretched her lithe form and looked up into the night. Then she, too,
disappeared. Mr. Heatherbloom stood motionless. She knew who he was and
yet she had not revealed his secret to the prince. Because she deemed
him but a pawn, paltry, inconsequential? Because she wished to save the
hot-headed nobleman from committing a deed of violence--a crime,
even--if he should learn?

The reason mattered little. In Mr. Heatherbloom's mind his excellency's
last words--all they portended--excluded now consideration of all else.
He gazed uncertainly in the direction the nobleman had gone; suddenly
started to follow, stealthily, cautiously, when another person
approached. Mr. Heatherbloom would have drawn back, but it was too
late--he was seen. His absence from the stokers' quarters had been
discovered; after searching for him below and not finding him, the giant
foreman had come up here to look around. He was swinging his long arms
and muttering angrily when he caught sight of his delinquent helper. The
man uttered a low hoarse sound that augured ill for Mr. Heatherbloom.
The latter knew what he had to expect--that no mercy would be shown him.
He stepped swiftly backward, at the same time looking about for
something with which to defend himself.



CHAPTER XVI


THE DESPOT

Prince Boris, upon leaving Sonia Turgeinov, ascended to the officers'
deck. For some moments he paced the narrow confines between the
life-boats, then stepped into the wheel-house.

"How is she headed?"

An officer standing near the man at the helm, answered in French.

"This should bring us to"--the nobleman mentioned a group of
islands--"by to-morrow night?"

"Hardly, Excellency."

The prince stared moodily. "Have you sighted any other vessels?"

"One or two sailing-craft that have paid no attention to us. The only
boat that seemed interested since we left port was the little naphtha."

The nobleman stood as if he had not heard this last remark. About to
move away, he suddenly lifted his head and listened. "What was that?" he
said sharply.

"What, your Highness?"

"I thought I heard a sound like a cry."

"I heard nothing, Excellency. No doubt it was but the wind--it is loud
here."

"No doubt." A moment the nobleman continued to listen, then his
attention relaxed.

"Shall I come to your excellency later for orders?" said the officer as
the prince made as if to turn away.

"It will not be necessary. If I have any I can 'phone from the cabin--I
do not wish to be disturbed," he added and left.

"His excellency seems in rather an odd mood to-night," the officer,
gazing after, muttered. "Nothing would surprise me--even if he commanded
us to head for the pole next. Eh, Fedor?" The man at the helm made
answer, moving the spokes mechanically. Nor' west, or sou' east--it was
all one to him.

Prince Boris walked back; before a little cabin that stood out like an
afterthought, he again paused.

Click! click! The wireless! His excellency, stepping nearer, peered
through a window in upon the operator, a slender young man--French. A
message was being received. Who were they that thus dared span space to
reach out toward him? _Ei! ei_! "The devil has long arms." He recalled
this saying of the Siberian priests and the mad Cossack answer:
"Therefore let us ride fast!" The swaying of the yacht was like the
rhythmic motion of his Arab through the long grass beyond the Dnieper,
in that wild land where conventionality and laws were as naught.

He saw the operator now lean forward to write. The apparatus, which had
become silent again, spoke; the words came now fast, then slow. Flame of
flames! What an instrument that harnessed the sparks, chased destiny
itself with them! They crackled like whips. The operator threw down his
pen.

"Excellency!" He almost ran into the tall motionless figure. "Pardon! A
message--they want to establish communication with the _Nevski_--to
learn if we picked up a man from--"

"Have I not told you to receive all messages but to establish
communication with no one? _Mon Dieu_! If I thought--"

"Your excellency, can depend upon me," Francois protested. "Did not my
father serve your illustrious mother, the Princess Alix, all his life at
her palace at Biarritz? Did not--"

The prince made a gesture. "I can depend upon you because it is to your
advantage to serve me well," he said dryly. "Also, because if you
didn't--" He left the sentence unfinished but Francois understood; in
that part of the Czar's kingdom where the prince came from, life was
held cheap. Besides, the lad had heard tales from his father--a
garrulous Gascon--of his excellency's temper--those mad outbursts even
when a child. There was a trace of the fierce, or half-insane
temperament of the great Ivan in the uncontrollable Strogareff line, so
the story went. Francois returned to his instrument; his excellency's
look swept beyond. He heard now only the sound of the sea--restless, in
unending tumult. The wind blew colder and he went below.

But not to rest! He was in no mood for that. What then? He hesitated, at
war with himself. "Patience! patience!" What fool advice from Sonia
Turgeinov! He helped himself liberally from a decanter on a Louis Quinze
sideboard in the beautiful _salle à manger_. The soft lights revealed
him, and him only, a solitary figure in that luxurious place--master of
all he surveyed but not master of his own thoughts. He could order his
men, but he could not order that invisible host. They made him their
servant. He took a few steps back and forth; then suddenly encountered
his own image reflected in a mirror.

"Boris, the superb"; "a tartar toreador of hearts"; "Prince of roubles
and kopecs"! So they had jestingly called him in his own warm-cold
capital of the north, or in that merry-holy city of four hundred
churches. His glance now swept toward a distant door. "Faint heart ne'er
won--"

Had he a faint heart? In the past--no! Why, then, now? The passionate
lines of the poets sang in his ears--rhythms to the "little dove", the
"peerless white flower"! He passed a big hand across his brow. His
heart-beats were like the galloping hoofs of a horse, bearing him
whither? Gold of her hair, violet of her eyes! Whither? The raving mad
poets! Wine seemed running in his blood; he moved toward the distant
door.

It was locked--of course! For the moment he had forgotten. Thrusting his
hand into his pocket, he drew out a key and unsteadily fitted it. But
before turning it he stood an instant listening. No sound! Should he
wait until the morrow? Prudence dictated that course; precipitancy,
however, drove him on. Now, as well as ever! Better have an
understanding! She would have to accede to his plans, anyway--and the
sooner, the better. He had burned his bridges; there was no drawing back
now--

He turned slowly the knob, applied a sudden pressure to the door and
entered.

A girl looked up and saw him. It was a superbly decorated salon he had
invaded. Soft-hued rugs were on the floor and draperies of cloth of gold
veiled the shadows. Betty Dalrymple had been standing at a window,
gazing out at night--only night--or the white glimmer from an electric
light that frosting the rail, made the dark darker. She appeared neither
surprised nor perturbed at the appearance of the nobleman--doubtlessly
she had been expecting that intrusion. He stopped short, his dark eyes
gleaming. It was enough for the moment just to look at her. Place and
circumstance seemed forgotten; the spirit of an old ancestor--one of the
great khans--looked out in his gaze. Passion and anger alternated on his
features; when she regarded him like that he longed to crush her to him;
instead, now, he continued to stand motionless.

"Pardon me," he could say it with a faint smile. Then threw out a hand.
"Ah, you are beautiful!" All that was oriental in him seemed to vibrate
in the words.

Betty Dalrymple's answer was calculated to dispel illusion and glamour.
"Don't you think we can dispense with superfluous words?" Her voice was
as ice. "Under the circumstances," she added, full mistress of herself.

His glance wavered, again concentrated on her, slender, warm-hued as an
houri in the ivory and gold palace of one of the old khans--but an houri
with disconcerting straightness of gaze, and crisp matter-of-fact
directness of utterance. "You are cruel; you have always been," he said.
"I offer you all--everything--my life, and you--"

"More superfluous words," said Betty Dalrymple in the same tone, the
flash of her eyes meeting the darkening gleam of his. "Put me ashore,
and as soon as may be. This farce has gone far enough."

"Farce?" he repeated.

"You have only succeeded in making yourself absurd and in placing me in
a ridiculous position. Put me ashore and--"

"Ask of me the possible--the humanly possible--" He moved slightly
nearer; her figure swayed from him.

"You are mad--mad--"

"Granted!" he said. "A Russian in love is always a madman. But it was
you who--"

"Don't!" she returned. "It is like a play--" The red lips curved.

He looked at them and breathed harder. Her words kindled anew the flame
in his breast. "A play? That is what it has been for you. A mild comedy
of flirtation!" The girl flushed hotly. "Deny it if you can--that you
didn't flirt, as you Americans call it, outrageously."

An instant Betty Dalrymple bit her lip but she returned his gaze
steadily enough. "The adjective is somewhat strong. Perhaps I might have
done what you say, a little bit--for which," with an accent of
self-scorn, "I am sorry, as I have already told you."

He brought together his hands. "Was it just a 'little bit' when at
Homburg you danced with me nearly every time at the grand duchess' ball?
_Sapristi_! I have not forgotten. Was it only a 'little bit' when you
let me ride with you at Pau--those wild steeplechases!--or permitted
me to follow you to Madrid, Nice, elsewhere?--wherever caprice took
you?"

"I asked you not to--"

"But with a sparkle in your eyes--a challenge--"

"I knew you for a nobleman; I thought you a gentleman," said Betty
Dalrymple spiritedly.

Prince Boris made a savage gesture. "You thought--" He broke off. "I
will tell you what you thought: That after amusing yourself with me you
could say, _'Va-t-en!'_ with a wave of the hand. As if I were a clod
like those we once had under us! American girls would make serfs of
their admirers. Their men," contemptuously, "are fools where their women
are concerned. You dismiss them; they walk away meekly. Another comes.
_Voila!_" He snapped his fingers. "The game goes on."

A spark appeared in her eyes. "Don't you think you are slightly
insulting?" she asked in a low tense tone.

"Is it not the truth? And more"--with a harsh laugh--"I am even told
that in your wonderful country the rejected suitor--_mon Dieu!_--often
acts as best man at the wedding--that the body-guard on the holy
occasion may be composed of a sad but sentimental phalanx from the army
of the refused. But with us Russians these matters are different. We can
not thus lightly control affairs of the heart; they control us,
and--those who flirt, as you call it, must pay. The code of our honor
demands it--"

"Your honor?" It was Betty Dalrymple who laughed now.

"You find that--me--very diverting?" slowly. "But you will learn this is
no jest."

She disdained to answer and started toward a side door.

"No," he said, stepping between her and the threshold.

"Be good enough!" Miss Dalrymple's voice sounded imperiously; her eyes
flashed.

"One moment!" He was fast losing self-control. "You hold yourself from
me--refuse to listen to me. Why? Do you know what I think?" Vehemently.
The words of Sonia Turgeinov--"_Est ce qu'elle aime un autre_?"--flamed
through his mind. "That there is some one else; that there always was.
And that is the reason you were so gay--so very gay. You sought to
forget--"

A change came over Betty Dalrymple's face; she seemed to grow whiter--to
become like ice--

"You let me think there wasn't any one; but there was. That story of
some one out west?--you laughed it away as idle gossip. And I believed
you then--but not now. Who is he--this American?" With a half-sneer.

"There is no one!--there never has been!" said the girl with sudden
passion, almost wildly. "I told you the truth."

"Ah," said Prince Boris. "You speak with feeling. When a woman denies in
a voice like that--"

"Let me by!" The violet eyes were black now.

"Not yet!" He studied her--the cheeks aflame like roses. "He shall never
have you, that some one--I will meet him and kill him first--I swear
it--"

"Let me by!"

"_Carissima!_ Your eyes are like stars--the stars that look down on one
alone on the wild steppe. Your lips are red flowers--poppies to lure to
destruction. They are cruel, but the more beautiful--"

He suddenly reached out, took her in his arms.

The cry on her lips was stifled as his sought and almost touched them.
At the same moment the door of the cabin, by which the prince had
entered, was abruptly thrown open.



CHAPTER XVII


THE PRINCE IS PUZZLED

His excellency turned. The intruder's eyes were bloodshot from the glare
of the furnaces, his face black, unrecognizable, from the soot. "What
the dev--" began the nobleman, as if doubting the evidence of his
senses.

He must have relaxed his hold, for the girl tore herself loose. She did
not pause, but running swiftly to the inner door she had just turned
toward, she hastily closed and locked it behind her. As she disappeared
Mr. Heatherbloom stopped an instant to gaze after her; but the prince,
with sagging jaw and amazement in his eyes, continued to regard only
him.

"Who the--" he began again furiously.

The intruder's reply was a silent one. His excellency would have stepped
back but it was too late. Mr. Heatherbloom's fist struck him fairly on
the forehead. Behind the blow was the full impetus of the lithe form
fairly launched across the spacious cabin. The prince went down,
striking hard.

But he was up in a moment and, mad with rage, made a rush. The other,
quick, agile, evaded him. The prince's muscles had lost some of their
hardness from high living and he was, moreover, unversed in the great
Anglo-American pastime. He strove to seize his aggressor, to strangle
him, but his fingers failed to grip what they sought. At the same time
Mr. Heatherbloom's arms shot up, down and around, with marvelous
precision, seeking and finding the vulnerable spots. The prince soon
realized he was being badly punished and the knowledge did not serve to
improve his temper. Had he only been able to get hold of his opponent he
could have crushed him with his superior weight. A stationary table,
however, in the center of the room assisted Mr. Heatherbloom in eluding
the wild dashes, the while he continued to lunge and dodge in a most
businesslike manner.

Panting, the prince had, at length, to pause. His face revealed several
marks of the contest and the sight did not seem displeasing to Mr.
Heatherbloom. A quiet smile strained his lips; a cold satisfaction shone
in the bloodshot eyes.

"Come on," he said, stepping a little from the table.

The prince did not respond to the invitation. His dazed mind was working
now. Through bruised lids he regarded the soot-masked intruder--a
nihilist, no doubt! His excellency had had one or two experiences with
members of secret societies in the past. There was a nest of them in New
Jersey. Though how one of them could have managed to get aboard the
_Nevski_, he had no time just then to figure out. The nobleman looked
over his shoulder toward a press-button.

"Come on!" repeated Mr. Heatherbloom softly.

The nobleman sprang, instead, the other way, but he did not reach what
he sought. Mr. Heatherbloom's arm described an arc; the application
was made with expert skill and effectiveness. His excellency swayed,
relaxed, and, this time, remained where he fell. Mr. Heatherbloom locked
the door leading into the dining _salle_--the other, opening upon the
deck, he had already tried and found fastened--and drew closer the
draperies before the windows. Then returning to the prince, he prodded
gently the prostrate figure.

"Get up!" His excellency moved, then staggered with difficulty to his
feet and gazed around. "You'll be able to think all right in a moment,"
said Heatherbloom. "Sit down. Only," in crisp tones, "I wouldn't move
from the chair if I were you. Because--" His excellency understood;
something bright gleamed close.

"Are you going to murder me?" he breathed hoarsely. His excellency's
cousin--a grand duke--had been assassinated in Russia.

"I wouldn't call it that." The prince made a movement. "Sit still." The
cold object pressed against the nobleman's temples. "If ever a scoundrel
deserved death, it is you."

Plain talk! The prince could scarcely believe he heard aright; yet the
thrill of that icy touch on his forehead was real. His dark face showed
growing pallor. One may be brave--heroic even, but one does not like to
die like a dog, to be struck down by a miserable unclean
terrorist--hardly, from his standpoint, a human being--unfortunately,
however, something that must be dealt with--not at first, under these
circumstances, with force--but afterward! Ah, then? The prince's eyes
seemed to grow smaller, to gleam with Tartar cunning.

"What do you want?" he said.

"Several things." Mr. Heatherbloom's own eyes were keen as darts.
"First, you will give orders that the _Nevski_ is to change her
course--to head for the nearest American port."

"Impossible!" the prince exclaimed violently.

"On the contrary, it is quite possible. We have the fuel, as I can
testify."

His excellency's thoughts ran riot; it was difficult to collect them,
with that aching head. The fellow must be crazy; people of his class
usually are, more or less, though they generally displayed a certain
method in their madness, while this one--

"I must remind your excellency that time is of every importance to me,"
murmured Mr. Heatherbloom. "Hence, you will do what I ask, _at once_,
or--"

"Very well." His excellency spoke quickly--too quickly. "I'll give the
order." And, rising, he started toward the door.

"Stop!"

The prince did. Venom and apprehension mingled in his look. Mr.
Heatherbloom made a gesture. "You will give the order; but here--and as
I direct." His voice was cold as the gleaming barrel. "That 'phone,"
indicating one on the wall, "connects with the bridge, of course. Don't
deny. It will be useless."

His excellency didn't deny; he had a suspicion of what was coming.

"You will call up the officer in command on the bridge and give him the
order to make at once for the nearest American port. You will ask him
how far it is and how soon we can get there? Beyond that, you will say
nothing, make no explanations, or utter a single superfluous word."

"Very well." The prince, seemingly acquiescent, but with a dangerous
glitter in his eyes, moved toward the telephone.

"One moment!"

The nobleman stopped with his hand near a receiver. His fingers
trembled.

"You will speak in French. A syllable of Russian, just one, and--" Mr.
Heatherbloom's expression left no doubt as to his meaning.

"Dog!" His excellency's swollen face became the hue of paper. An instant
he seemed about to spring--then managed to control himself. "But why
should I not speak in Russian? My officers know no French."

"A lie! Nearly all Russian officers speak French. I happen to know yours
do." A newspaper article had made the statement and he did not doubt it.
"Anyhow, you give the order in French and we'll see what happens."

The blood surged in the nobleman's face. The fierce desire to avenge
himself at once on this man who threw the lie at him--august,
illustrious--mingled, however, with yet another feeling--one of
bewilderment. The fellow had spoken these last words in French, and
choice French at that. His accents had all the elegance of the Faubourg
Saint Germain.

"Quick!" The decision in the intruder's manner was unmistakable. "I have
wasted all the time I intend to. My finger trembles on the trigger."

The prince, perforce, _was_ quick. The telephone of foreign design, had
two receivers. His excellency took one. Mr. Heatherbloom reached for the
other and held it to his ear with his left hand. His right, holding the
weapon, was behind the prince, as the latter poignantly realized.
Ill-suppressed rage made his excellency's tones now slightly wavering:

"Are you there, M. le Capitaine?"

"Steady!" Mr. Heatherbloom whispered warningly in his excellency's free
ear, emphasizing the caution with a significant pressure from his right
hand. At the same time he caught the answer from afar--a deferential
voice:

"_Oui,_ Excellence." There was, fortunately, on the wires a singing
sound that would serve to drown evidences of emotion in the nobleman's
tone. "Excellence wishes to speak with me?" went on the distant voice.

"I do." The prince breathed fast--paused. "You will change the boat's
course, and--" He spoke with difficulty. A warmer breath fanned his
cheek; he felt a sensation like ice on the back of his neck. "Make for
the nearest American port. How far is it?" Mr. Heatherbloom's prompting
whisper was audible only to his excellency.

"Five hours," came over the wire.

Mr. Heatherbloom experienced a thrill of satisfaction. They were nearer
the coast than he had supposed. He knew the yacht had been taking a
southerly course; he had considered that when the bold idea came to act
as he was doing. Possibly the prince had been driven out of the last
port by the publicity attendant upon Mr. Heatherbloom's presence there,
before certain needed repairs had been completed. These, Mr.
Heatherbloom now surmised, it was his excellency's intention to have
attended to in some island harbor before proceeding with a longer
voyage.

Only five hours!

"Good-by!" now burst from the nobleman so violently that Mr.
Heatherbloom's momentary exultation changed to a feeling of
apprehension. But M. le Capitaine had evidently become accustomed to
occasional explosive moments from his august patron. He concerned
himself only with the command, not the manner in which it was given.

"Eh? _Mon Dieu_! Do I hear your excellency aright?" His accents
expressed surprise, but not of an immoderate nature. He, no doubt,
received many arbitrary and unexpected orders when his excellency went
a-cruising.

"Repeat the order." Heatherbloom's whisper seemed fairly to sting the
nobleman's disengaged ear.

The latter did repeat--savagely--jerkily, but the humming wires tempered
the tones. M. le Capitaine understood fully; he said as much; his
excellency should be obeyed--Mr. Heatherbloom pushed the nobleman's head
abruptly aside, covering the mouthpiece with his hand. Perhaps he
divined that irresistible malediction about to fall from his
excellency's lips.

"Hang it up," he said.

The nobleman's breath was labored but he placed his receiver where it
belonged; Mr. Heatherbloom did likewise. Both now stepped back. Upon the
prince's brow stood drops of perspiration. The yacht had already slowed
up and was turning. His excellency listened.

"May I ask how much longer you are desirous of my company here?"

"Oh, yes; you may ask."

The boat had begun to quiver again; she was going at full speed once
more. Only now she headed directly for the land Mr. Heatherbloom wished
to see. Five hours to an American port! Then? He glanced toward the door
through which the girl had disappeared. Since that moment he had caught
no sound from her. Had she heard, did she know anything of what was
happening--that the yacht was now turned homeward? He dared not linger
on the thought. The prince was watching him with eyes that seemed to
dilate and contract. A moment's carelessness, the briefest cessation of
watchfulness would be at once seized upon by his excellency, enabling
him to shift the advantage. The young man met that expectant gleam.

"Sorry to seem officious, but if your excellency will sit down once
more? Not here--over there!" Indicating a stationary arm-chair before a
desk in a recess of the room.

The prince obeyed; he had no alternative. The fellow must, of course, be
a madman, the prince reiterated in his own mind unless--

"I told your excellency I had no wish for a long sea voyage." A mocking
voice now made itself heard.

The nobleman started, and looked closer; a mist seemed to fall from
before his gaze. He recognized the fellow now--the man they had run
down. The shock of that terrible experience, the strain of the
disaster, had turned the fellow's brain. That would explain
everything--this extraordinary occurrence. There was nothing to do but
to humor him for the moment, though it was awkward--devilish!--or might
soon be!--if this game should be continued much longer.

Mr. Heatherbloom glided silently toward the hangings near the alcove.
What now?--the prince asked with his eyes. Mr. Heatherbloom unloosened
from a brass holder a silk cord as thick as his thumb.

"If your excellency will permit me--" He stepped to the prince's side.

That person regarded the cord, strong as hemp.

"What do you mean?" burst from him.

"It is quite apparent."

An oath escaped the prince's throat; regardless of consequences, he
sprang to his feet. "Never!"

A desperate determination gleamed in his eyes. This crowning outrage!
He, a nobleman!--to suffer himself to be bound ignominiously by some
low _polisson_ of a raffish mushroom country! It was inconceivable.
"_Jamais!_" he repeated.

"Ah, well!" said Mr. Heatherbloom resignedly. "Nevertheless, I shall
make the attempt to do what I propose, and if you resist--"

"You will assassinate me?" stammered the nobleman.

"We won't discuss how the law might characterize the act. Only," the
words came quickly, "don't waste vain hopes that I won't assassinate
you, if it is necessary. I never waste powder, either--can clip a coin
every time. One of my few accomplishments." Enigmatically. "And"--as the
prince hesitated one breathless second--"I can get you straight, first
shot, sure!"

His excellency believed him. He had heard how in this bizarre America a
single man sometimes "held up" an entire train out west and had his own
sweet way with engineer, conductor and passengers. This madman, on the
slightest provocation now, was evidently prepared to emulate that
extraordinary and undesirable type. What might he not do, or attempt to
do? The nobleman's figure relaxed slightly, his lips twitched. Then he
sank back once more into the strong solid chair at the desk.

"Good," said Mr. Heatherbloom. A cold smile like a faint ripple on a
mountain lake swept his lips. "Now we shall get on faster."



CHAPTER XVIII


THE COUP

Mr. Heatherbloom, with fingers deft as a sailor's, secured the prince.
The single silken band did not suffice; other cords, diverted from the
ornamental to a like practical purpose, were wound around and around his
excellency's legs and arms, holding him so tightly to the chair he could
scarcely move. Having completed this task, Mr. Heatherbloom next, with
vandal hands, whipped from the wall a bit of priceless embroidery, threw
it over the nobleman's head and, in spite of sundry frenzied objections,
effectually gagged him. Then drawing the heavy curtains so that they
almost concealed the bound figure in the dim recess, the young man
stepped once more out into the salon.

How still it suddenly seemed! His glance swept toward the door through
which the young girl had vanished. Why had he heard no sound from her?
Why did she not appear now? She must have caught something of what had
been going on. He went swiftly to the door.

"Miss Dalrymple!"

No answer. He rapped again--louder--then tried the door. It resisted; he
shook it.

"Betty!" Yes; he called her that in the alarm and excitement of the
moment. "It's--it's all right. Open the door."

Again that hush--nothing more. Mr. Heatherbloom pulled rather wildly at
the lock of hair over his brow; then a sudden frenzy seemed to seize
him. He launched himself forward and struck fairly with his
shoulder--once--twice. The door, at length, yielded with a crash. He
rushed in--fell to his knees.

"Betty! Oh, Betty!" For the moment he stared helplessly at the
motionless form on the floor, then, lifting the girl in his arms, he
laid her on a couch. One little white hand swung limp; he seized it with
grimy fingers. It was oddly cold, and a shiver went over him. He felt
for her pulse--her heart--at first caught no answering throb, for his
own heart was beating so wildly. The world seemed to swim--then he
straightened. The filmy dress, not so white now in spots, had fluttered
beneath her throat. He gazed rapturously.

"It'll be all right," he said again. "Darling!"

He could say it now, when she couldn't hear. "Darling! Darling!" he
repeated. It constituted his vocabulary of terms of endearment. He felt
the need of no other. She lay like a lily. He saw nothing anomalous in
certain stains of soot, even on the wonderful face where his had
unconsciously touched it when he had raised her and strained her to him
one mad instant in his arms. In fact, he did not see those stains; his
eyes were closed to such details--and the crimson marks, too, on her
gown! His knuckles were bleeding; he was unaware of it. He was not,
outwardly, a very presentable adorer but he became suddenly a most
daring one. His grimy hand touched the shining hair, half-unbound; he
raised one of the marvelous tresses--his hungry lips swept it
lightly--or did he but breathe a divine fragrance? By some inner process
his spirit seemed to have come that instant very near to hers. He forgot
where he was; time and space were annihilated.

He was brought abruptly back to the living present by a sudden knock at
the door without, which he had locked after entering that way from the
deck. Mr. Heatherbloom listened; the person, whoever he was, on
receiving no response, soon went away. Had they discovered what had
happened to the foreman of the stokers whom Heatherbloom had struck down
with a heavy iron belaying-pin? The man had attacked him with murderous
intent. In defending himself, Heatherbloom believed he had killed the
fellow. The chance blow he had delivered with the formidable weapon had
been one of desperation and despair. It had been more than a question of
his life or the other's. Her fate had been involved in that critical
moment. He had dragged the unconscious figure to the shadows behind a
life-boat. They would not be likely to stumble across the incriminating
evidence while it was dark. Nor was it likely that the foreman's absence
below would cause the men to look for him. The overworked stokers would
be but too pleased to escape, for a spell, their tyrannous master.

Mr. Heatherbloom, standing near the threshold of the dressing-room,
glanced now toward the little French clock without. Over four hours yet
to port! How slowly time went. He turned out all the lights, save one
shaded lamp of low candle-power in the cabin; then he did the same in
the room where the girl was. No one must peer in on him from unexpected
places. He looked up, and saw that the skylights were covered with
canvas. Mr. Heatherbloom remained in the salon; he needed to continue
master of his thoughts. In the dressing-room he had just now forgotten
himself. That would not do; he must concentrate all his faculties, every
energy, to bringing this coup, born on the inspiration of the moment,
to a successful conclusion. Desperate as his plan was, he believed now
he would win out. By the vibrations he knew the boat was still steaming
full speed on her new course. The conditions were all favorable. They
would reach port before dawn; at break of day the health officers would
come aboard. And after that--

The telephone suddenly rang. Should he answer that imperious summons?
Perhaps the man who had just knocked at the door had been one of the
officers, or the captain himself, come in person to speak with his
excellency about the unexpected change in the boat's course, or some
technical question or difficulty that might have arisen in consequence
thereof.

He looked toward the recess; between the curtains he caught sight of the
prince's eyes and in the dim light he fancied they shone with sudden
hope--expectancy. The nobleman must have heard the crashing of the door
to the dressing-room. What he had thought was of no moment. A viperish
fervor replaced that other brief expression in his excellency's gaze.

Once more that metallic call--harsh, loud, as not to be denied! Mr.
Heatherbloom made up his mind; perhaps all depended on his decision; he
would answer. Stepping across the salon, he took down the receivers. The
singing on the wires had been pronounced; he could imitate the prince's
autocratic tones, and the person at the other end would not discover, in
all likelihood, the deception.

"Well?" said Mr. Heatherbloom loudly, in French. "What do you want?
Haven't I given orders not to be--"

His voice died away; he nearly dropped the receivers. A woman answered.
Moreover, the wires did not seem to "sing" so much now. Sonia
Turgeinov's tones were transmitted in all their intrinsic, flute-like
lucidity.

"What has happened, your Excellency?" she asked anxiously.

"Happened?" the young man managed to say. "Nothing."

"Then why has the yacht's course been changed? I can tell by the stars
from my cabin window that we are not headed at all in the same direction
we were going--"

He tried to speak unconcernedly: "Just changed for a short time on
account of some reefs and the currents! Go to sleep," he commanded, "and
leave the problems of navigation to others."

"Sleep? _Mon Dieu_! If I only could--"

Mr. Heatherbloom dared talk no more, so rang off. The prince might have
been capable of such bruskness. Sonia Turgeinov had not seemed to
suspect anything wrong; she had merely been inquisitive, and had taken
it for granted the nobleman was at the other end of the wire. Mr.
Heatherbloom strode restlessly to and fro. Seconds went by--minutes. He
counted the tickings of the clock--suddenly wheeled sharply.

       *       *       *       *       *

The young girl stood in the doorway--he had heard and now saw her. She
came forward quickly, though uncertainly; in the dim light she looked
like a shadow. He drew in his breath.

"Miss--" he began, then stopped.

Her gaze rested on him, almost indistinguishable on the other side of
the salon.

"What does it mean? Who are you?" She spoke intrepidly enough but he saw
her slender form sway.

Who was he? About to explain in a rush of words, Mr. Heatherbloom
hesitated. To her he had been, of course, but a conspirator of the
Russian woman in the affair. Miss Van Rolsen had deemed him culpable;
the detective had been sure of it. Would Miss Dalrymple think more
leniently of him than mere unprejudiced people, those who knew less of
him than she? His very presence on the yacht, although somewhat
inexplicably complicated in recent occurrences, was _per se_ a primal
damning circumstance. But she spared him the necessity of answering. She
divined now from his blackened features what his position on the yacht
must be. He was only a poor stoker, but--

"You are a brave fellow," cried Betty Dalrymple, "and I'll not forget
it. You interfered--I remember--"

"A brave fellow!" It was well he had not betrayed himself. Let her think
that of him, for the moment. A poignant mockery lent pain to the thrill
of her words.

"You rushed in, struck him. What then?"

"He won't play the bully and scoundrel again for some time!" burst from
Mr. Heatherbloom. His tones were impetuous; once more he seemed to see
what he had seen during those last moments on the deck--when he had been
unable to restrain himself longer--and had yielded to a single
hot-blooded impulse. "The big brute!" he muttered.

She seemed to regard him in slight surprise. "Where is he? What has
become of him?"

"He is safe--"

"You mean you conquered him, beat him--you?" Her voice thrilled.

"You bet I did," said Mr. Heatherbloom with the least evidence of
incoherency. Her words had been verbal champagne to him. "I gave him
the dandiest best licking--" He stopped. Perhaps he realized that his
explanation was beginning to seem slightly tinged with too great
evidence of personal satisfaction if not boastfulness. "You see I had a
gun," he murmured rather apologetically.

"But," said the girl, coming nearer, "I don't understand."

He started to meet that advance, then backed away a little. "I've got
him safe, where he can't move, or bother you any more." Mr. Heatherbloom
glanced over his shoulder; but he did not tell her where he "had him".
"And the yacht's going back to the nearest American port," he couldn't
help adding, impetuously, to reassure her.

"Going back? Impossible!" Wonder, incredulity were in her voice.

"It's true as shooting, Bet--"

She was too bewildered to notice that slight slip of the tongue. "It's a
fact, miss," he added more gruffly.

"But how?" Her tones betrayed reticence in crediting the miracle. Yet
this blackened figure must have prevailed over the prince or the latter
would not have so mysteriously disappeared. "How did it happen?"

"Well, you see I just happened around."

"You, a stoker?"

Stokers, he was reminded by her tone, did not usually "happen around" on
decks of palatial private yachts. He must seek a different, more
definite explanation. He thought he saw a way; he could let her know
part of the truth. "The fact is, I was looking for this boat at the last
port she stopped at. I had cause to think you would be on her. Couldn't
stop the yacht from going to sea, for reasons too numerous to mention,
so I just slipped out and came aboard in a kind of disguise--"

"A disguise? Then you are a detective?"

"I think I may truthfully say I am, but in a sort of private capacity.
When a really important case occurs, it interests me. Now this was an
important case, and--and it interested me." He hardly knew what he was
saying, her eyes were so insistent. Betty Dalrymple had always had the
most disconcerting eyes. "Because, you see, your--your aunt was so
anxious--and"--with a flash of inspiration--"the reward was a big one."

"The reward? Of course." Her voice died away. "You hoped to get it. That
is the reason--"

He let his silence answer in the affirmative; he felt relieved now. She
had not recognized him--yet. In the recess behind the draperies the
chair in which his excellency was bound, creaked. Was he struggling to
release himself? Mr. Heatherbloom had faith in the knots and the silken
cords. The girl turned her head.

"Don't you think it would be better"--he spoke quickly--"for you to
return to your cabin? I'll let you know when I want you and--"

"But if I prefer to stay here? May I not turn on the lights?"

"Not for worlds!" Hastily. "It is necessary they should not see me. If
they did--"

He was obliged to explain a little of the real situation to her; of the
stratagem he had employed. This he did in few words. She listened
eagerly. The mantle of the commonplace, which to her eyes had fallen a
few moments before on his shoulders, became at least partly withdrawn.
She divined the great hazard, the danger he had faced--was facing now.
Detective or not, it had been daringly done. Her voice, with a warm
thrill in it, said as much. Her eyes shone like stars. She came of a
live virile stock, from men and women who had done things themselves.

"If only I, too, had a weapon!" she said, leaning toward him. "In case
they should discover--"

"No, no. It wouldn't do at all."

"Why not?" the warm lips breathed. "I can shoot. Some one once taught
me--"

She stopped short. A chill seemed descending. "You were saying--" he
prompted eagerly.

But she did not answer. The sweep of her hair made a shadowy veil around
her; his mind harked swiftly back. She had always had wondrous hair. It
had taken two big braids to hold it; most girls could get their hair in
one braid. He had been very proud, for her, of those two
braids--once--with their blue or pink ribbons that had popped below the
edge of her skirts. He continued to see blue and pink ribbons now.

Both were for some time silent. At length she stirred--seated herself.
Mr. Heatherbloom mechanically did likewise, but at a distance from her.
He tried not to see her, to become mentally oblivious of her presence,
to concentrate again solely on the matter in hand. A long, long interval
passed. Chug! chug! the engines continued to grind. How far away they
sounded. Another sound, too, at length broke the stillness--a stealthy
footfall on the deck. It sent him at once softly to the window; he gazed
out. She followed.

"Are--are we getting anywhere near port?"

He did not tell her that it was not port he was looking for so soon as
he gazed out searchingly into the night.

"What is it?" She had drawn the curtain a little. Her shoulder touched
him.

Suddenly his arm swept her back. "What do you mean"--he turned on her
sternly--"by drawing that curtain?"

"Was any one there?"

"Any one--" he began almost fiercely; then paused. The figure he had
seen in that flash looked like that of the foreman of the stokers. In
that case, then, the fellow was not dead; he had recovered. Through a
mistaken sense of mercy Mr. Heatherbloom had not slipped the seemingly
lifeless body over the side. Now he, and she, too, were likely to pay
dearly for that clemency. Bitterly he clenched his hands. Had the man
caught a glimpse of him at the window? A flicker of electric light,
without, shone on it.

The girl started again to speak. "Hush!" He drew her back yet farther.
Above, some one had raised the corner of the canvas covering the
skylight. It was too dark, however, for the person, whoever it might be,
to discern very much below. Neither Mr. Heatherbloom nor his companion
now moved. The tenseness and excitement of the moment held them. The
girl breathed quickly; her hand was at his sleeve. Even in that moment
of suspense and peril he was conscious of the nearness of her--the lithe
young form so close!

The creaking of the chair in the recess was again heard. Had his
excellency caught sight of the person above? Was he endeavoring to
attract attention? And could the observer at the skylight discern the
nobleman? It seemed unlikely. The glass above did not appear to extend
quite over the recess. Through a slight opening of the draperies Mr.
Heatherbloom, however, could see his captive and noticed he seemed to be
trying to tip back farther in his chair, to reach out behind with his
bound hands--toward what? The young man abruptly realized, and half
started to his feet--but not in time! The chair went over backward and
came down with a crash, but not before his excellency's fingers had
succeeded in touching an electric button near the desk. A flood of light
filled the place.

It was answered by a shout--a signal for other voices. Fragments of
glass fell around; a figure dropped into the salon; others followed. The
door to the deck yielded to force from without. Mr. Heatherbloom, though
surprised and outnumbered, struggled as best he might; his weapon rang
out; then, as they pressed closer, he defended himself with the butt of
his revolver and his fist.

There could be but one end to the unequal contest. The girl--a helpless
spectator--realized that, though she could with difficulty perceive what
took place, it was all so chaotic. She tried to draw nearer, but bearded
faces intervened; rough hands thrust her back. She would have called out
but the words would not come. It was like an evil dream. As through a
mist she saw one among many who had entered from the deck--a giant in
size. He carried an oaken bar in his hand and now stole sidewise with
murderous intent toward the single figure striving so gallantly.

"No, no!" Betty Dalrymple's voice came back to her suddenly; she
exclaimed wildly, incoherently.

But the foreman of the stokers raised the bar, waited. He found his
opportunity; his arm descended.



CHAPTER XIX


AND THEN--

Mr. Heatherbloom regained consciousness, or semi-consciousness, in an
ill-smelling place. His first impulse was to raise his hands to his
aching head, but he could not do this on account of two iron bands that
held his wrists to a stanchion. His legs, too, he next became vaguely
aware, were fastened by a similar contrivance to the deck. He closed his
eyes, and leaned back; the throbbings seemed to beat on his brain like
the angry surf, smiting harder and harder until nature at length came to
his relief and oblivion once more claimed him.

How long it was before he again opened his eyes he could not tell. The
shooting throes were still there but he could endure them now and even
think in an incoherent fashion. He gazed around. The light grudgingly
admitted by a small port-hole revealed a bare prison-like cell.
Realization of what it all meant, his being there, swept over him, and,
in a semi-delirious frenzy, he tugged at his fastenings. He did not
succeed in releasing himself; he only increased the hurtling waves of
pain in his head. What did she think of her valiant rescuer now, he who
had raised her hopes so high but to dash them utterly?

Some one, some time later, brought him water and gave him bread,
releasing his wrists while he ate and fastening them again when he had
finished. The hours that seemed days passed. During that time he half
thought he had another visitor but was not sure. The delirium had
returned; he strove to think lucidly, but knew himself very
light-headed. He imagined Sonia Turgeinov came to him, that she looked
down on him.

"_Mon Dieu_! It is my canine keeper; the man with the dogs. What a lame
and impotent conclusion for one so clever! I looked for something better
from you, my intrepid friend, who dared to come aboard in that
thrilling manner--who managed to follow me, through what arts, I do not
know. How are the mighty fallen!"

Her tone was low, mocking. He disdained to reply.

"Really, I am disappointed, after my not having betrayed who you were to
the prince."

"Why didn't you?" he said.

She laughed. "Perhaps because I am an artist, and it seemed inartistic
to intervene--to interrupt the action at an inopportune moment--to
stultify what promised to be an unusually involved complication. When
first I saw and recognized you on the _Nevski_, it was like one of those
divine surprises of the master dramatist, M. Sardou. Really, I was
indebted for the thrill of it. Besides, had I spoken, the prince might
have tossed you overboard; he is quite capable of doing so. That, too,
would have been inartistic, would have turned a comedy of love into rank
melodrama."

Rank nonsense! Of course such a conversation could not be real. But he
cried out in the dream: "What matter if his excellency had tossed me
overboard? What good am I here?"

"To her, you mean?"

"To her, of course." Bitterly.

The vision's eyes were very bright; her plastic, rather mature form bent
nearer. He felt a cool hand at the bandage, readjusting it about his
head. That, naturally, could not be. She who had betrayed Betty
Dalrymple to the prince would not be sedulous about Mr. Heatherbloom's
injury.

"Foolish boy!" she breathed. Incongruous solicitude! "Who are you? No
common dog-tender--of that I am sure. What have you been?"

"What--" Wildly.

"There! there!" said half-soothingly that immaterial, now maternal
visitant. "Never mind."

"How is she? Where is she?" he demanded, incoherently.

"She is well, and is going to be, very soon now, the prince's bride."

"Never."

"Don't let his excellency hear you say so in that tone. He thinks you
only a detective, not an ardent, though secret wooer yourself. The
Strogareffs brook no rivals," she laughed, "and he is already like a
madman. I should tremble for your life if he dreamed--"

"Help me to help her--" he said. "It will be more than worth your while.
You did this for--"

She shook her head. "I have descended very low, indeed, but not so low
as that. Like the bravos of old"--was it she who spoke bitterly
now?--"Sonia Turgeinov is, at least, true to him who has given her the
little _douceur_. No, no; do not look to me, my young and Quixotic
friend. You have only yourself to depend upon--"

"Myself!" He felt the sharp iron cut his flesh. That seemed
indubitable--no mere fantasy of pain but pain itself.

"Let well enough alone," she advised. "The prince will probably put you
ashore somewhere--I'll beg him to do that. He'll be better natured
after--after the happy event," she laughed. "Perhaps, he'll even slip a
little purse into your pocket though you did hurt a few of his men. Not
that he cares much for them--mere serfs. You could find a little
consolation, eh? With a bottle, perhaps. Besides, I have heard these
island girls have bright eyes." He could not speak. "Are you adamant,
save for one?" she mocked. "Content yourself with what must be. It is a
good match for her. The little fool might scour the world for a better
one. As for you--your crazy infatuation--what have you to offer? _Très
drôle!_ Do dog-tenders mate with such as she? No; destiny says to her,
be a grand lady at the court of Petersburg. I am doing her a great
favor. Many American families would pay me well, I tell you--"

She paused. "You will smile at it all, some day, my friend. You played
and lost. At least, it was daringly done. You deceived even me over the
telephone. 'Go to sleep,' forsooth! You commanded in a right princely
tone. And I obeyed."

An instant her hand lingered once more near the bandage. It was
ridiculous, that tentative, almost sympathetic touch. Then, she--a
figment of disordered imagination--receded; there was no doubt about his
light-headedness now.

They sent again bread and water, and, after what seemed an intolerable
interval, he found himself eating with zest; he was exceedingly hungry.
He also began to feel mentally normal, although his thoughts were the
reverse of agreeable. Days had, no doubt, gone by. He chafed at this
enforced inaction, but sometimes through sheer weariness fell into a
semblance of natural sleep despite the sitting posture he was obliged to
maintain. On one such occasion he was abruptly awakened by a light
thrown suddenly on his face. He would have started to his feet but the
fetters restrained him.

It was night; a lantern, held by a hand that shook slightly, revealed a
face he did not know. He felt assured, however, of his mental lucidity
at the moment. The new-comer, though a stranger, was undoubtedly flesh
and blood.

"What do you want?" said the prisoner.

"A word with you, Monsieur." The speaker had a smooth face and dark
soulful eyes. His manner was both furtive and constrained. He looked
around as if uncomfortable at finding himself in that place.

"Well, I guess you can have it. I can't get away," muttered the manacled
man.

"Miss Dalrymple sent me."

Mr. Heatherbloom's interest was manifest; he strove to suppress outward
signs of it. "What--what for?"

"She wanted to make sure you were not dead."

The prisoner did not answer; his emotion was too great at the moment to
permit his doing so. She was in trouble, yet she considered the poor
detective. That was like her--straight as a string--true blue--

The visitor started to go. "Hold on!" said Mr. Heatherbloom, whose ideas
were surging fast. This youth had managed to come here at her
instigation. Had she made a friend of him, an ally? He did not appear an
heroic one, but he was, no doubt, the best that had offered. Betty
Dalrymple was not one to sit idly; she would seek ways and means. She
was clever, knew how to use those violet eyes. (Did not Mr. Heatherbloom
himself remember?) Who was he--this nocturnal caller? Not an officer--he
was too young. Cabin-boy, perhaps? More likely the operator. Mr.
Heatherbloom had noticed that the yacht was provided with the wireless
outfit.

"How long have I been here?" he now asked abruptly.

"It is three days since monsieur was knocked on the head."

Mr. Heatherbloom looked down. "Three days? Well, it cost me a fortune,"
he sighed, remembering the rôle of detective that had been thrust upon
him. "I could have stood for the sore head."

The other had his foot at the threshold but he lingered. "How much of a
fortune? What was the reward?" He strove to speak carelessly but there
was a trace of eagerness in his tones.

"You mean what _is_ it?" returned Mr. Heatherbloom, and named an amount
large enough to make the soulful eyes open. "And to think," watchfully,
"one little message to the shore might procure for the sender such a
sum!"

"Monsieur!" Indignantly. "You think that I would--"

"Then you _are_ the wireless operator?"

"I was." Francois spoke more calmly. "His excellency has had the
apparatus destroyed. He will take no chances of other spies or
detectives being aboard who might understand its use."

The prisoner hardly heard the last words; for the moment he was
concerned only with his disappointment. A sudden hope had died almost as
soon as it had been born. "Too bad!" he murmured. Then--"How did you get
here?"

"The third officer has the keys and our cabins are adjoining. I seized
an opportune moment, slipped in, and took a wax impression of what I
wanted. Then with an old key and a file--Monsieur is a great detective,
perhaps, but I, too," with Gaston boastfulness, "can aspire to a little
cleverness."

"A great deal," said Mr. Heatherbloom, the while his brain worked
rapidly. Betty Dalrymple must have paid the youth well for serving her
thus far. Thrift, as well as sentiment, seemed to shine from Francois'
eloquent dark eyes. Could he be induced to espouse her cause yet
further?

"Monsieur must not think I would prove disloyal to his excellency, my
employer," spoke up the youth as if reading what had been passing
through the other's mind. "There could be no harm in a mere inquiry as
to monsieur's state of health."

"None at all," assented the prisoner quickly. "Though"--a sudden
inspiration came to Mr. Heatherbloom--"contingencies may arise when one
can best serve those who employ him by secretly opposing them."

"I don't understand, Monsieur," said Francois cautiously.

"The prince is a madman. By incurring the enmity of his Imperial Master
he would rush on to his own destruction. Suppose by this misalliance,
the very map of Europe itself were destined to be changed?"

The words sounded portentous, and Francois stared. He had imagination.
The beautiful American girl had told him that this man before him was a
great and daring detective. He spoke now even as an emissary of the czar
himself. The prince was a high lord, close to the throne. These were
deep waters. The youth looked troubled; Mr. Heatherbloom allowed the
thought he had inspired to sink in.

"What is our first port?" his voice, more authoritative, now demanded.

Francois mentioned an island.

"When do we get there?"

"We are near it to-night but on account of the rocks and reefs, I heard
the captain say we would slow down, so as not to enter the harbor until
daybreak."

Daybreak! And then? Mr. Heatherbloom closed his eyes; when he again
opened them they revealed none of the poignant emotion that had swept
over him. "What time is it now?"

"About ten."

"My jailer--the third officer, you say--visits this cell once every
night. Do you know what time he comes?"

"I shouldn't be here, Monsieur, at this moment, if I didn't know that.
He comes in an hour, after his watch is over, with the bread and
water--monsieur's frugal fare. And now"--those apprehensions,
momentarily dulled by wonderment seemed returning to Francois--"I will
bid monsieur--"

"Stay! One moment!" Mr. Heatherbloom's accents were feverish,
commanding. "You must--in the name of the czar!--for the prince's
sake!--for hers--for--for the reward--"

"Monsieur!" Again that flicker of indignation.

Mr. Heatherbloom swept it aside. "She has asked you to help her escape?"
he demanded swiftly.

Francois did not exactly deny. There were no listeners here. "It would
be impossible for her to escape," he answered rather sullenly.

"Then she did broach a plan--one you refused to accede to. What was it?"

"Mere madness!" Scoffingly. "Mademoiselle may be generous, and _mon
Dieu_! very persuasive, but she doesn't get me to--"

"What _was_ her proposal? Answer." Sternly. "You can't incriminate
yourself here."

Francois knew that. The cell was remote. There could be no harm in
letting the talk drift a little further. He replied, briefly outlining
the plan.

"Excellent!" observed Mr. Heatherbloom.

"Mere madness!" reiterated Francois.

"Not at all. But if it were, some people would, under the
circumstances," with subtle accent, "gladly undertake it--just as you
will!" he added.

"Oh, will I?" Ironically.

"Yes, when you hear all I have to say. In the first place, I relinquish
all claim to the reward. Sufficient for me--" And Mr. Heatherbloom
mumbled something about the czar.

"Bah! That sounds very well, only there wouldn't be any reward,"
retorted Francois. "The prince would only capture us again and then--"
He shrugged. "I know his temper and have no desire for the longer voyage
with old man Charon--"

"Wait!" More aggressively. "I have not done. No one will suspect that
you have been here to-nigh't?" he asked.

"Does monsieur think I am a fool? No, no! And now my little errand for
mademoiselle being finished--"

"You can do as Miss Dalrymple wishes, achieve an embarrassment of
riches, and run no risk whatever yourself."

"Indeed?" Starting slightly.

"At least, no appreciable one." Mr. Heatherbloom explained his plan
quickly. Francois listened, at first with open skepticism, then with
growing interest.

"_Mon Dieu_! If it were possible!" he muttered. South-of-France
imagination had again been appealed to. "But no--"

"Remember all the reward will be for you"--swiftly--"sufficient to buy
vineyards and settle down for a life of peace and plenty--" Francois'
eyes wavered; any Frenchman would have found the picture enticing.
Already the beautiful American girl had, as Mr. Heatherbloom suspected,
surreptitiously thrust several valuable jewels upon the youth as a
reward for this preliminary service. Having experienced a foretaste of
riches, Francois perhaps secretly longed for more of the glittering gems
and for some of those American dollars which sounded five times as large
in francs. Besides, this man, the great detective, or emissary, inspired
confidence; his tones were vibrant, compelling.

"And for you, Monsieur?--the risk for you--" Francois faltered.

"Never mind about me. You consent?"

The other swallowed, muttered a monosyllable in a low tone.

"Then--" Heatherbloom murmured a few instructions. "Miss Dalrymple is
not to know."

"I understand," said Francois quickly. And going out stealthily, he
closed and locked the door behind him.



CHAPTER XX


INTO THE INFINITE

The midnight hour drew near, and, above deck, tranquillity reigned. It
was, however, the comparative quiet that follows a storm. A threatening
day had culminated in a fierce tropical downpour--a cloud-burst--when
the very heavens had seemed to open. The _Nevski_, steaming forward at
half speed, had come almost to a stop; struck by the masses of water,
she had fairly staggered beneath the impact. Now she lay motionless,
while every shroud and line dripped; the darkness had become inky. Only
the light from cabin windows which lay on the wet deck like shafts of
silver relieved that Cimmerian effect. The sea moaned from the lashing
it had received--a faint undertone, however, that became suddenly
drowned by loud and harsh clangor, the hammering on metal somewhere
below. Possibly something had gone wrong with a hatch or iron
compartment door inadvertently left open, or one of the ventilators may
have got jammed and needed adjusting. The captain, as he hastened down a
companionway, muttered angrily beneath his breath about water in the
stoke room. The decks, in the vicinity of the cabins, seemed now
deserted, when from the shadows, a figure that had merged in the general
gloom, stepped out and passed swiftly through one of the trails of
light. Gliding stealthily toward the stern, this person drew near the
rail, and, peering cautiously over, looked down on one of the small
boats swung out in readiness for the landing party at dawn.

"Mademoiselle," he breathed low.

"Is that you, Francois?" came up softly from the boat.

He murmured something. "Is all in readiness?"

"Quite! Make haste."

The person above, about to swing himself over the rail, paused; a cabin
door, near by, had been thrown open and a stream of light shot near him.
Some one came out; moreover, she--for the some one was a woman--did not
close the door. The youth crouched back, trying to draw himself from
sight but the woman saw him, and coming quickly forward spoke. She
thought him, no doubt, one of the sailors. He did not answer, perhaps
was too frightened to do so, and his silence caused her to draw nearer.
More sharply she started to address him in her own native Russian but
the words abruptly ceased; a sudden exclamation fell from her lips. He,
as if made desperate by what the woman, now at the rail, saw or divined,
seemed imbued with extraordinary strength. The success or failure of the
enterprise hung on how he met this unexpected emergency. Heroic, if
needs be, brutal measures were demanded. Her outcry was stifled but
Sonia Turgeinov was strong and resisted like a tigress. Perhaps she
thought he meant to kill her, and in an excess of fear she managed to
call out once. Fortunately for the youth, the hammering below
continued, but whether she had made herself heard or not was uncertain.
Confronted by a dire possibility, he exerted himself to the utmost to
still that warning voice. In frenzied haste he seized the heavy scarf
she had thrown around her shoulders upon leaving the cabin and wound it
about her face and head. The sinuous body seemed to grow limp in his
arms. His was not a pleasant task but a necessary one. This woman had
delivered the girl to the prince in the first place; would now attempt
to frustrate her escape. Any moment some one else might come on deck and
discover them.

"Quick! Why don't you come?" Betty Dalrymple's anxious voice ascended
from the darkness.

The youth knew well that no time must be lost, but what to do? He could
not leave the woman. She might be only feigning unconsciousness. And
anyway they would soon find her and learn the truth. That would mean
their quick recapture. Already he thought he heard a footstep descending
from the bridge--approaching--With extraordinary strength for one of
Francois' slender build, he swung the figure of the woman over the side,
dropped her into the boat and followed himself. A breathless moment of
suspense ensued; he listened. The approaching footsteps came on; then
paused, and turned the other way. The youth waited no longer. The little
boat at the side was lowered softly; it touched the water and floated
away from the _Nevski_ like a leaf. Then the darkness swallowed it.


"How far are we from the yacht now, Francois?"

"Only a few miles, Mademoiselle."

"Do you think we'll be far enough away at daybreak so they can't see
us?"

"Have no fear, Mademoiselle." The voice of Francois in the stern,
thrilled. "There's a fair sailing wind."

"Isn't it strange"--Betty Dalrymple, speaking half to herself, regarded
the motionless form in the bottom of the boat--"that she, of all
persons, and I, should be thus thrust together, in such a tiny craft,
on such an enormous sea?"

"I really couldn't help it, Mademoiselle"--apologetically--"bringing her
with us. There was no alternative."

"Oh, I'm not criticizing you, who did so splendidly." The girl's eyes
again fell. "She is unconscious a long time, Francois."

The youth's reply was lost amid the sound of the waters. Only the sea
talked now, wildly, moodily; flying feathers of foam flecked the night.
The boat took the waves laboriously and came down with shrill seething.
She seemed ludicrously minute amid that vast unrest. The youth steered
steadily; to Betty Dalrymple he seemed just going on anyhow, dashing
toward a black blanket with nothing beyond. It was all very wonderful
and awe-inspiring as well as somewhat fearsome. The waves had a cruel
sound if one listened to them closely. A question floating in her mind
found, after a long time, hesitating but audible expression:

"Do you think there's any doubt about our being able to make one of the
islands, Francois?"

"None whatever!" came back the confident, almost eager reply. "Not the
slightest doubt in the world, Mademoiselle. The islands are very near
and we can't help seeing one of them at daybreak."

"Daybreak?" she said. "I wish it were here now."

Swish! swish! went the sea with more menacing sound. For the moment
Francois steered wildly, and the boat careened; he brought her up
sharply. The girl spoke no more. Perhaps the motion of the little craft
gradually became more soothing as she accustomed herself to it, for,
before long, her head drooped. It was dry in the bow; a blanket
protected her from the wind, and, weary with the events of the last few
days, she seemed to rest as securely on this wave-rocked couch as a
child in its cradle. The youth, uncertain whether she slept or not,
forbore to disturb her. Hours went by.

As the night wore on a few stars came out in a discouraged kind of way.
Heretofore he had been steering by the wind; now, that scanty
peripatetic band, adrift on celestial highways, assisted him in keeping
his course. When one sleepy-eyed planet went in, another, not far away
(from the human scope of survey) came out, and Francois, with the
perspicacity of a follower of the sea, seemed to have learned how to
gage direction by a visual game of hide-and-seek with the pin-points of
infinitude. Between watching the stars, the sea and the sail, he found
absorbing occupation for mind and muscle. Sometimes, in the water's
depressions, a lull would catch them, then when the wind boomed again
over the tops of the crests, slapping fiercely the canvas, a brief
period of hazard had to be met. The boat, like a delicate live creature,
needed a fine as well as a firm hand.

His faculties thus concentrated, Francois had remained oblivious to the
dark form in the center of the boat, although long ago Sonia Turgeinov
had first moved and looked up. If she made any sound, he whose glance
passed steadily over her had not heard it. She raised herself slightly;
sat a long time motionless, an arm thrown over a seat, her eyes
alternating in direction, from the seas near the downward gunwale, to
the almost indistinguishable figure of him in the stern, the while her
fingers played with a scarf--the one that had been wound around her
head. Once she leaned back, her cheek against the sharp thwart, her gaze
heavenward. She remained thus a long while, with body motionless, though
her fingers continued to toy with the bit of heavy silk, as if keeping
pace with some mercurial rush of thoughts.

A wastrel, she had been in many strange places, but never before had she
found herself in a situation so extraordinary. To her startled outlook,
the boat might well have seemed a chip tossed on the mad foam of chaos.
This figure, almost indistinguishable, yet so steadfastly present at the
stern of the little craft, appeared grim and ghostlike. But that he was
no ghost--His grip had been real; certainly that. He had been, too,
perforce, a master of action. She leaned her head on her elbow.
Strangely, she felt no resentment.

The tired stars, as by a community of interest and common
understanding, slowly faded altogether. The woman bent her glance
bow-ward. The day--what would it reveal? She understood a good deal, yet
much still puzzled her. As through a dream, she had seemed to hear the
name, "Francois"--to listen to a crystalline voice, fresh as the
tinkling bells in some temple at the dawn. The darkness of the sky fused
into a murky gray, and as that somber tone began, in turn, to be
replaced by a lighter neutral tint, she made out dimly the figure of the
girl. As by a species of fascination, she continued to look at her while
the morn unfolded slowly. From behind a dark promontory of vapor,
Aurora's warm hand now tossed out a few careless ribbons. They lightened
the chilly-looking sea; they touched a golden tress--just one, that
stole out from under the gray blanket. The girl's face could not be
seen; the heavy covering concealed the lines of the lithe young form.

As she continued to sleep--undisturbed by the first manifestations of
the dawn--the woman's glance swept backward to him at the helm. The
shafts of light showed now his face, worn and set, yet strangely
transfigured. He did not seem to notice her; beneath heavy lids his
quick glances shot this way and that to where wisps of mist on the
surface of the sea partly obscured the outlook. Sonia Turgeinov divined
his purpose; he was looking for the _Nevski_. But although he continued
to search in the direction of the yacht, he did not catch sight of her.
Only the winding and twining diaphanous veils played where he feared she
might have been visible. An expression of great satisfaction passed over
his features.

Then he swayed from sheer weariness; he could have dropped gladly to the
bottom of the boat. Brain as well as sinew has its limitations and the
night had been long and trying. He had done work that called for
tenseness and mental concentration every moment. He had outlasted divers
and many periods when catastrophe might have overwhelmed them, and now
that the blackness which had shrouded a thousand unseen risks and perils
had been swept aside, an almost overpowering reaction claimed him. This
natural lassitude became the more marked after he had scanned the
horizon in vain for the prince's pleasure-yacht.

His task, however, was far from over, and he straightened. To Sonia
Turgeinov, his gaze and his expression were almost somnambulistic. He
continued steering, guiding their destinies as by force of habit.
Luckily the breeze had waned and the boat danced more gaily than
dangerously. It threw little rainbows of spray in the air; he blinked at
them, his eyes half closed. In the bow the old dun-colored blanket
stirred but he did not see it. A glorious sun swept up, and began to lap
thirstily the wavering mists from the surface of the sea.

Sonia Turgeinov spoke now softly to the steersman. What she said he did
not know; his lack-luster gaze met hers. All dislike and disapproval
seemed to have vanished from it; he saw her only as one sees a face in a
daguerreotype of long ago, or looks at features limned by a soulless
etcher.

"Do you see it?" he asked.

"What?"

"Trees? Aren't those trees?"

"I see nothing."

"You do. You must. They are there." He spoke almost roughly, as if she
irritated him.

"Oh, yes. I think I do see something," she said, and started. "Like a
speck?--a film?--a bird's wing, perhaps?"

In the bow the blanket again stirred. Then, as from the dull chrysalis
emerge brightness and beauty, so from those dun folds sprang into the
morning light a red-lipped, lovely vision.

"Trees," repeated the steersman to Sonia Turgeinov. "I am positive--" he
went on, but lost interest in his own words. Fatigue seemed to fall from
him in an instant; he stared.

From beneath her golden hair Betty Dalrymple's eyes flashed full upon
him.

"You!" she said.

Mr. Heatherbloom appeared to relapse; his expression--that smile--vague,
indefinite--again partook of the somnambulistic.



CHAPTER XXI


AN ANOMALOUS SITUATION

The most unexpected and extraordinary thing in the world had happened,
yet Betty Dalrymple asked no questions. Had she done so, it is probable
that Mr. Heatherbloom would have been physically unequal to the
labyrinthine explanation the occasion demanded. For a brief spell the
girl had continued to regard him and she had seemed about to speak
further. Then the blue light of her gaze had slowly turned and her lips
remained mute. He was glad of this; of course he would later have to
tell something, but sufficient unto that unlucky hour were the
perplexities thereof. Sonia Turgeinov had been surprised, too, but it
was Betty Dalrymple's surprise that had most awakened her wonder. "Why,
didn't you know it was he?" the dark eyes seemed to say to the young
girl. "Who else, on earth, did you think it was?" The mystery for her,
as well as for Betty Dalrymple, deepened. Only for Mr. Heatherbloom
there existed no mystery; it was all now clear as day. He had done what
he had set out to do. She would soon be enabled to find her way back to
civilization. His present concern lay with the occupation of the moment.

The tree _was_ a tree; this was the most momentous immediate
consideration; a few more miles had established that fact with
positiveness. But distances on the water are long, and they three would
have to journey together on the sea yet a while. He bethought him of his
duties, as host; these--his two passengers-were in his care.

"You should find biscuits in a basket and water in a cask," he said,
speaking to both of them, and, at the same time, to immeasurable
distance. "If you don't mind looking--I can't very well."

At that, a nervous laugh welled from Sonia Turgeinov's throat; she had
to give way. Possibly the absurd thought seized her that all the
tragedies and comedies might be simmered down to one thing. Were there
biscuits in the basket? But Betty Dalrymple did not laugh; her eyes were
like stars on a wintry night; her face was white as paper. It was turned
now from the steersman--ahead. She saw the blur before them become a
definite line of green; later she made out details, the large heads of
small trees. The former looked like big overflowing cabbages; the
trunks, beneath, sprawled this way and that, as the vagaries of the wind
had directed their growth. In front of them and the vernal strip, a
white line slowly resolved itself into moving foam. She--they all could
hear it now, faintly--they were very near; no thunderous anthem it
pealed forth; its voice seethed in soft cadences.

Mr. Heatherbloom, with sheet taut, ran his craft toward the sands but
the boat grounded some little distance from the shore. It was useless to
attempt to go farther so he let his sail out, got up and stepped
overboard. The water was rather more than knee deep; he tugged at the
boat and attempted to draw her up farther without much success. She was
too heavy, and desisting from his efforts, he approached Miss Dalrymple.
The young girl shrank back slightly, but seeming not to notice that
first instinctive movement, he reached over and lifted her out. It was
done in a businesslike manner and with no more outward concern than a
Kikuji porter might have displayed in meeting the exigencies of a like
situation. The bubbles seethed around Mr. Heatherbloom's legs; unmindful
of them or the shifting sands beneath foot, he strode straight as might
be for the shore. His burden was not a heavy one but it seemed very
still and unyielding. He released her at the earliest possible
opportunity and in the same matter-of-fact way (still that of a human
ferry on the banks of the turbulent Chania) he returned for his other
passenger. Around Sonia Turgeinov's rich lips a mocking smile seemed to
play; she arose at once.

"How charming! How very gallant!" she murmured. "First, you nearly
strangle one, and then--"

Her soft arm stole about his neck, and her warm breath swept his cheek
as, stony-faced, he trudged along. This time his burden was heavier,
although there were men who would not have minded that under the
circumstances. The dark eyes, full of sparkles and enigmas, turned upon
his frosty ones. But she did not see very far into that so-called medium
of the soul; she received only an impression one gets in looking at a
wall.

He put her down--gently. Whereupon, her dark brows lifted ironically.
He, gentle--to her? Did she dream? She felt again that fierce clasp of
the night before, and mentally told herself she would like to label him
an artistic study in contrasts. Really the adventure began to be "worth
while"; she felt almost reconciled to it. He had carried her off as the
rough, old-fashioned pirates bear away feminine prizes from a town they
have looted. From dog-tender to bucaneer--he appealed to her
imagination. She experienced a childlike desire to sit down where he had
left her and play with the shells. But instead she looked toward Betty
Dalrymple. That young girl, however, did not return her regard, though
the golden head, a few moments before, had lifted once, with a swift,
bird-like motion toward Sonia Turgeinov, en route beachward. Now the
girl's features were steadfastly bent away; whatever gladness she may
have felt in thus, after many vicissitudes, reaching land safely, she
kept to herself.

Mr. Heatherbloom resumed the task of porter; his next burden--the
water-cask--was the heaviest of all. He struggled with it and once
nearly went down, so tired was he, but he got it ashore, and the basket
of biscuits, too, and some other things. The boat, floating more
lightly, he now pulled to the strand; then he took out the spar and the
sail. This done, he gazed around; the place was deserted by man, though
of birds and crabs and other crawling objects there were a-plenty. Mr.
Heatherbloom stood with knitted brow; it was a time for contemplation,
visual and mental. For the latter he did not feel very fit as he strove
to think what was best to do next. The other two--he still forced
himself to keep to the purely impersonal aspect of the case--were his
charges. Being women, they were mutually and equally (the mockery of
it!) dependent on him. He was responsible for their welfare and
well-being. In the sail-boat he had been captain; ashore, he became
commandant, an answerable factor. He began to plan.

What kind of place had they come to?--was it big or small?--inhabited,
or deserted? All this would have to be ascertained, later. Meanwhile,
temporary headquarters were needed; he would erect a tent. The spar and
boom served for the ridge and front poles, the sail for the canvas
covering, the sheet and halyards for the restraining lines. Sonia
Turgeinov again watched him; her interest was now of that vague kind she
had sometimes experienced when the manager appeared on a darkened stage,
with a fresh crackling manuscript. Then she had lolled back and listened
to the first reading. She would have lolled back now--for the air was
soporific--but, instead, she started suddenly. The old wound on Mr.
Heatherbloom's head, heretofore concealed by the cap Francois had
procured for him, had reopened as he exerted himself; he raised his hand
quickly and seemed a little at a loss. She stepped to him at once.

"The scarf, Monsieur?"

"Thank you." He took it absently.

"It serves divers purposes," she murmured. And Mr. Heatherbloom,
remembering the more violent employment he had found for it the night
before, flushed slightly.

She added delicate emphasis to her remark by assisting him. With her own
fingers she tied a knot, and rather painstakingly spread out the ends.
He endured grimly. Miss Dalrymple appeared not to have observed the
episode but, of course, it had in reality been all quite fully revealed
to her. It was in keeping with certain circumstances of the past that
the Russian woman should not be unmindful of him, her confrère in the
conspiracy. That much was patent; but other happenings were not so
easily reconciled. What had taken place on the deck of the _Nevski_ in
those breathless last few moments as they were escaping, was in ill
conformity with those amicable relations which should have existed
between the two. This man's presence in the boat, in the place of
Francois, could be explained by no logical process with the premises she
had at her command.

The bandage possessed a subtly weird and bizarre interest for the young
girl. He had been injured. How? For what reason? Betty Dalrymple's mind
swept, seemingly without very definite cause, to another scene, one of
violence. Again she heard the crashing of glass and saw forms leaping
into the cabin. Her thoughts reverted, on the instant, to the unknown
helper she had been obliged to leave behind. Somehow, real as he had
been, he seemed at this moment strangely apart, something in the
abstract. Then all illusive speculations merged abruptly into a
realization that needed no demonstration. Sonia Turgeinov possessed a
certain outré attractiveness the young girl had never noted before. The
violet eyes, shining through the long shading lashes, rested a moment on
her; then passed steadily beyond.

"I'm off for a look around." Mr. Heatherbloom, having transferred their
meager possessions to the tent, now addressed Miss Dalrymple, or Sonia
Turgeinov, or an indefinite space between them. "Better stay right here
while I'm gone." His tones had a firm accent. "Sorry there are only
biscuits for breakfast, but perhaps there'll be better fare before long.
If you should move around"--his eye lingered authoritatively on Betty
Dalrymple--"keep to the beach."

"How very solicitous!" laughed Sonia Turgeinov as the young man strode
off. "That was intended especially for you, Mademoiselle. As for me, it
does not matter." With a shrug. "I might stroll into the wood, be
devoured by wild beasts, and who would care?"

Betty Dalrymple did not answer.

"A truce, Mademoiselle!" said the other in the same gay tone. "I know
very well what you think of me. You told me very clearly on the
_Nevski_, and before that, on shore. In this instance, however, since it
is through no fault or choice of mine that we are thrown thus closely
together, would it not be well to make the best of the situation?"

"There seems, indeed, no choice in the matter," answered the young girl
coldly.

"None, unless like those in the admirable play, we elect to pitch our
respective camps at different parts of the beach. But that would be
absurd, wouldn't it? Besides, I have my punishment--no light one for
Sonia Turgeinov who herself has been accustomed to a little adulation in
the past. I am _de trop_."

"_De trop_?" There was a faint uplifting of the brow. "_You_ should not
be altogether that."

"You mean I should be very friendly with him, my colleague and
confidant, _n'est ce pas_?" Sonia's dark eyes swept swiftly the proud
lovely face. "In truth he proved an able assistant." Her voice was a
little mocking. "What if I should tell you it was he who planned it all
--devised the ways and means?" A statue could, not have been more
immovable than Betty Dalrymple. "Or," suddenly, "what if I should say
quite--_au contraire_." The girl stirred. Sonia Turgeinov seemed to
ruminate. "Should I be so forgiving--after last night?" she murmured.
"It would be inconsistent, wouldn't it?--or angelic? And I am no angel."

The girl's lips started to form a question but she did not speak. Afar,
Mr. Heatherbloom's figure could be seen, almost at the vanishing point.
He was toiling up an incline. Then the green foliage swallowed him.
Sonia Turgeinov smiled at vacancy. "Though I do owe him a little," she
went on, half meditative. "He _was_ kind to me in the park. He was sorry
for me. Think of it, and without admiring me. Other men have professed
for poor Sonia Turgeinov a little interest or solicitude at divers times
and places, but it has always been accompanied with something else. Is
that beyond the understanding of your pure soul, nourished in a
hothouse, Mademoiselle?" There was a sudden hard ring of rebellion in
her tones. "Am I handsome? Your eyes said it not long ago. _Ma foi_!"
Her voice becoming light again. "It was Parsifal himself who talked with
me in the park--that place for rendezvous and romances." Her thoughts
leaped over time and space. "The first light of the sun revealed to you
this day the last face you expected to see. It was as if a bit of
miracle, or a little diablerie had happened. I, too, was in a haze, not
so great--though on the deck the night before I little expected to
encounter one I had last seen in chains, a prisoner--"

"A prisoner--in chains--he--" Betty Dalrymple stared.

"You did not know? What on earth did you expect? That the prince would
give him the _suite de luxe_ after the beating his excellency
received--"

"The beating?" half-stammered the girl. "Then the man in the salon who
claimed to be a detective was--"

"What? He claimed that?" laughed Sonia Turgeinov. "_Très drôle!"_

But Betty Dalrymple did not laugh. Her eyes, bent seaward, saw nothing
now of the leaping waves; her face was fixed as a cameo's. Only her hair
stirred, wind-tossed, all in motion like her thoughts. And regarding
her, Sonia Turgeinov's eyes began to harden a little. Did the woman
regret for the moment what she had said, divining again some play within
a play? Yet what could there be in common between this beautiful heiress
and the _gardeurde chiens_? No! it was absurd to conceive anything of
the kind. Nevertheless Sonia Turgeinov unaccountably began to experience
a vague hostility for the young girl; this she might partly attribute to
the great gaps of convention separating them. Her own life, in confused
pictures, surged panorama-like before her mental vision: The garret
beginning; the cold and hunger hardships; the beatings, when a child;
the girl problems--so hard; the woman's--Faugh! what a life! Would that
the flame of the artist had burned more brightly or not at all. She
tried to imagine what she would have been, if she, too, had been born to
a golden cradle.

A great ennui swept over her. How old she felt on a sudden! And how
homesick, too. Yes; that was it--homesickness. She could have stretched
out her arms toward her much beloved and, sometimes, a little hated,
Russia. The bright domes of her native city seemed to shine now in her
eyes. She walked in spirit the stony pavement of the Kremlin. Cruelty,
intolerance, suffering--all these reigned in the city of extremes, but
she would have kissed even the cold marble at the feet of dead tyrants,
the way the people did, if she could have stood at that moment in one of
the old, old sacred places. Her brief flight into the new world had led
her to no pots of gold at rainbow end. The little honorarium from his
excellency for her part in this adventure, she did not want now. She
regretted that she had ever embarked upon it. What penalty might she not
have to pay yet? The law, with dragon fingers would reach out--no doubt
was reaching out now--to grip her. Well, let it.

A crisp, matter-of-fact voice--concealing any agitation the speaker may
have felt--broke in upon these varied reflections. Mr. Heatherbloom,
rather out of breath but quiet and determined, stood before them.

"Miss Dalrymple!--Mademoiselle! There is no occasion for alarm but it
will be necessary; for us to leave here at once!"



CHAPTER XXII


AN UNEXPECTED OFFER

"To leave?" It was Sonia Turgeinov who spoke. "You mean--" Her eyes
turned oceanward but saw nothing.

He made a quick gesture toward a break in the outline of the shore where
the island swept around. "Beyond!" he said succinctly and she had no
doubt as to his meaning. The tent he had put up where it could not be
seen from the sea. But their boat--He looked at the little craft, a too
distinct object on the sands. Those on a vessel skirting the shore could
not fail to discover that incriminating bit of evidence with their
glasses. And there was no way of getting rid of it. He could not destroy
it with his bare hands. It was unsinkable. If he set it adrift, wind and
sea would drive it straight back.

"They probably discovered our absence about daybreak and surmised
correctly the direction the breeze would carry us," he muttered half
bitterly. "We must go at once." These last words he spoke firmly.

"But where?" Again it was Sonia Turgeinov who questioned him. Betty
Dalrymple remained silent; her eyes shone with a new inscrutable light;
her cheek, though pale, had the warmth of a live pearl. She touched the
sands with the tip of her shoe.

But he did not regard her, nor did he answer Sonia Turgeinov. Going to
the tent, he bent over the basket of biscuits and hastily filled his
pockets. Then, throwing a woman's heavy cloak over his arm, he stepped
quickly to Miss Dalrymple's side.

"Come," he said laconically.

Her foot, Cinderella's for daintiness, ceased its motion; she turned at
once. Around her lips a strange little smile flitted but faded almost
immediately. Save for her straightness and that proud characteristic
poise of the head, she might have seemed, at that moment of emergency,
a veritable Griselda for acquiescence. He started to walk away, when--

"What about me?" cried Sonia Turgeinov.

"You can come or you can stay," said Mr. Heatherbloom. "The chances are
that the prince will see the boat, land and get you."

"And if he doesn't?"

"There are plenty of biscuits, and I'll send back for you when I can."

"That prospect is not very inviting," she demurred. "Suppose I elect not
to risk it--to go with you?"

"It is for you to decide, and quickly," he said in a cold crisp tone.

"You dismiss my fate bruskly, Monsieur," she returned.

"There is no time to bandy words, Madam," he retorted warmly. "I am not
oblivious to you--I trust I would not be to any woman--but every minute
now is precious."

"Of course!" An instant she looked at the girl and a spark appeared in
the dark eyes. Then Sonia Turgeinov's features abruptly relaxed and she
waved her hand carelessly. "I have decided," she said in her old
manner. "Go! My best adieus, Monsieur--Mademoiselle." With a gay
courtesy. "Farewell! babes in the wood!" Her voice was once more
mocking. They moved silently away but before they had gone far enough to
disappear in the forest she suddenly ran toward them. "No, no!" she said
in a different voice. "I have changed my mind. It is such a tiny, thing,
that boat--in the glare and shine. They might not see it, and then--"
She shuddered, "How frightfully lonesome!--the terrible nights--"

He made an impatient gesture. "After me, then! You, Miss Dalrymple, will
come last."

"Ah, you think I am coming because I may wish to help them?" Sonia
Turgeinov said quickly.

"I intend to take no chances," he returned in the same tone. And the
three moved on.

He set a sharp pace; if there was need for haste at all it was now, at
the beginning of their flight. They plunged deeper into the forest; no
one spoke; only the crackling under foot and certain wood sounds broke
the stillness. Unfortunately the soil was soft so that their footprints
might be followed by any one versed in woodcraft. At times they were
forced to skirt unusually thick places, but in spite of these deviations
Mr. Heatherbloom was enabled generally to keep to their course by
consulting a small compass he had found in the boat. It was essential to
maintain as straight a line as possible. People sometimes walked round
and round in forests; he took no chance of that; better a moment lost
now and then, while stopping to wait for the quivering pointer to
settle, than returning, perhaps, to the very spot they had left.

As thus they advanced, often he looked around to reassure himself that
the young girl, in spite of the roughness of the way, yet followed. Once
Sonia Turgeinov arrested that swift backward look; her own shone with
curiosity.

"How in heaven's name did you do it, Monsieur?" she asked suddenly,
drawing nearer. "Get out of that cell, I mean. When last I saw you on
the ship, you were as securely fastened as a prisoner in the fortress at
Petersburg. Of course you must have had some one to help--"

He answered coldly, recalling a promise to protect Francois. He could,
however, and did, tell her the truth in this without involving the
youth. "When the third officer, my jailer, came to the cell and released
my hands--well, I did the best I could, surprised him, got the keys and
left him there in my stead. A little Jap trick for handling men that I
learned in San Francisco long ago," he added.

Her dark eyes lingered on him not without a trace of admiration.
"Mademoiselle is fortunate, indeed, in her champion," she murmured. "And
yet that does not explain the preparations for departure--the provisions
in the boat--other little details. How came you by that compass, for
example?"

"It explains all that will be explained."

"Which means, once more, you do not trust me?" She shrugged. "_Eh
bien_!" And again they went on in silence.

Toward noon, reaching a fringe of the forest, they found before them a
wide open space where the ground was higher and dry, but the walking
more difficult. The grass, long and tenacious, twined snake-like around
their ankles; they had to go more slowly, but reached, at length, the
top of the eminence. Here Mr. Heatherbloom stopped. They ate their
biscuit and rested, but only for a brief while. Scanning the distance,
in the direction they had come, he suddenly discerned moving forms on
the farthest edge of the open space--forms which advanced toward them.
No doubt as to their purpose could be entertained; his excellency had
landed and was already in pursuit. A smoldering fire leaped from Mr.
Heatherbloom's eyes while rage that she should thus be driven harder
filled his breast. Fool! that he had not killed the prince when
opportunity had offered that night in the cabin. His clemency
might--probably would--cost her dear.

"We've got to go on, and faster," said the young man. His hands were
clenched; his arms were stiff at his side. "Can you do it?" he asked
Betty Dalrymple. She answered; standing in a green recess, she had never
appeared more beautiful to him than in that moment of peril. Green and
red things flashed behind her--tiny feathered creatures that shone like
jewels. The dewdrops from the branches in sunless places were glistening
brilliants in the gold of her hair. But he had no time to gaze. The
figures were drawing nearer.

"You used to be able to run, Betty. It seems as if it's all my
fault"--hoarsely--"but you'll have to do so now."

Again that ready response from her! Did she, in the excitement of the
moment, call him by a Christian name not Horatio? He did not take
cognizance of it; neither did Sonia Turgeinov seem to.

The latter spoke quickly: "I remain here."

"Of course," said Mr. Heatherbloom, with a glance back toward the open
space.

She overlooked the significance or bitterness in his accent. "Keep to
the right," she said swiftly. "Believe me or not, I'll send them to the
left. It's your only chance. Otherwise they would overtake you in an
hour. Among the prince's men are Cossacks trained to feats of
endurance."

"You would do that?" He looked at her quickly. The dark eyes did not
swerve from the gray ones.

"Did I betray you on the boat?" said Sonia Turgeinov rather haughtily.

"No," he conceded.

"And yet I knew you! You know that," she affirmed.

"Yes; you knew me." Slowly.

"Did I tell his excellency who you were, when he had you, a prisoner?"
she demanded.

And--"No," he was obliged to say again.

"See." She took from her breast a tiny cross. "I had that as a child.
Would I kiss it, and--tell you a lie in the next breath?" He did not
answer. "I have lived up to the letter of my contract with his
excellency. It is at an end. Perhaps I am a little sorry for my own
part"--with a laugh slightly reckless--"or maybe"--with a flash of
seriousness--- "I have become, in the least, afraid. Your laws are very
severe, and--I had not counted on mademoiselle's steadfast resistance
to--_mon Dieu!_--a prince who had been considered irresistible--whose
principality is larger than one of your states--who would have made her,
in truth, a czaritza. I had fancied," in a rush of words, "the mad
episode might end as it did in the prince's favorite _Fire and Sword_
trilogy, with wedding-bells and rejoicing." She paused abruptly. "I had
also not counted on the all-important possibility that mademoiselle
might have bestowed her heart on another--"

"Madam!" It was Betty Dalrymple who spoke quickly.

Sonia Turgeinov laughed maliciously. "Go," she said, "or"--almost
fiercely--"I may change my mind."

They went; Sonia Turgeinov turned and looked out over the open space.
The approaching figures were now much nearer.



CHAPTER XXIII


STARLIGHT

Dusk had begun to fall, but still two figures went on through the
forest--slowly, with obvious effort. One turned often to the other, held
back a branch, or proffered such service as he might over rough places,
for Betty Dalrymple's movements were no longer those of a lithe
wood-nymph; she had never felt so weary before. The first shades of
twilight made it harder to distinguish their way amid intervening
objects, and once an elastic bit of underbrush struck her sharply in the
face. The blow smarted like the touch of a whip but she only smiled
faintly. The momentary sting spurred her on faster, until her foot
caught and she stumbled and would have fallen except that Mr.
Heatherbloom had turned at that moment and put out an arm.

"Forgive me." His voice was full of contrition. "It has been brutal to
make you go on like this, but I had to."

"It doesn't matter." The slender form slid from him over-quickly. "You,
too, must be very tired," she said with breath coming fast.

He glanced swiftly back; listened. "We'll rest here," he commanded.
"We've got to. I should have stopped before, but"--the words came in a
harsher staccato--"I dared not."

"I'll be all right in a few moments," she answered, resting on a fallen
log, "and then--"

"No, no," he said in a tone of finality. "After all, there is small
likelihood they'll find us now. Besides, it will soon be too dark to go
on. Fortunately, the night is warm, and I've got this cloak for you."

"And for yourself?" Her voice was very low and quiet, or perhaps it
seemed so because here, in the little recess in the great wood, the hush
was most pronounced.

"Me?" he laughed. "You seem to forget I'm one of the happy brotherhood
that just drop down anywhere. Shouldn't know what to do with a silk
eiderdown if I had one."

His gaiety sounded rather forced. She was silent and the quietude
seemed oppressive. The girl leaned back to a great tree trunk and looked
up. The sky wore an ocher hue against which the branches quivered in
zigzags of blackness. Mr. Heatherbloom moved apart to watch, but still
he neither saw nor heard sign of any one drawing near. The sad ocher
merged into a somber blue; the stars came out, one by one, then in
shoals. She could hardly see him now, so fast had the tropical night
descended, but she heard his step, returning.

"Quite certain there's no danger," he reassured her. "Went back a way."

"Thank you," she said. And added: "For all."

"Betty." The stars twinkled madly. Pulsating waves seemed to vibrate in
the air. A moment he continued to stare into the darkness, then again
turned. He had not seen how the girl's hand had suddenly closed, and her
slender form had swayed. As restlessly he resumed his sentinel's duty,
Sonia Turgeinov's last words once more recurred to him. How often had
he thought of them that long afternoon, and wondered who was the one the
young girl would now shortly be free to turn to? There had been many in
the past who had sought her favor. Perhaps the unknown was one of these;
or, more likely, one of the newer many that had arisen, no doubt, since,
in the gayer larger world of New York, or the continent. Betty
Dalrymple's manner at the Russian woman's words indicated that the
latter had--how Mr. Heatherbloom could not imagine--hit upon a great
kernel of truth. Again, in fancy, he saw on her cheek that swift flush
of warm blood. Lucky, thrice lucky, the man who had caused it! Softly
Mr. Heatherbloom moved nearer.

Was she sleeping? He, himself, felt too fagged to sleep. Like Psyche, in
the glade, she was covered all with starlight. He ventured closer, bent
over; the widely opened eyes looked suddenly into his.

"The woman told me you had nothing to do with it--that plot of hers and
the prince," she said slowly. "I know now why you were on the boat,
and--all the rest--what it meant for me, your being there."

"You know, then"--embarrassed--"the awful mess I made of it all--"

"You dared a great deal," she said softly.

"And came an awful cropper!"

She did not answer directly. "At first Francois was most reluctant to
risk going with me," she went on. "I thought it odd, at the time, he
should change so suddenly, become so brave. Now I understand, at least,
a little--in a general way. I have been over-quick to think evil of you,
ever since we met again. Perhaps, in the past, too"--slowly--"I have
been--"

"Betty!" he cried uneasily, and seemed about once more to move away,
when--

"Don't go," she said. "I'll not talk if you command me not to. You've
been the master to-day, you know," with subtle accent.

"Have I?" His voice showed evidence of distress. "I didn't really
mean--it was necessary," he ended firmly.

"Of course it was," said the girl. Her accent conveyed no note of
displeasure. Profile-wise he saw her face now--the young moon beyond.
"Don't think I'm blaming you. I'm not quite so hard, perhaps, as I once
was." Mr. Heatherbloom stood back a little farther in the shadow.
"Maybe, my poor little standard of judgment--" she stopped. "I have been
heedless, heartless, perhaps--"

"You!" he exclaimed. "You!" There was only unfaltering adoration in his
tone--faith, unchanged and unchangeable.

She spoke with a little catch in her voice: "Oh, I haven't cared. I
_did_ flirt with the prince; he accused me of that. He was right. What
did it matter to me, if I made others suffer? I haven't always had so
good a time as I seemed to--" There was a ring of passion in her tone
now. "What happened?" she said, turning on him swiftly. "What has
happened? I want to know all--"

"You mean about the prince?"

"I know all I want to know about him," scornfully. "I mean"--her slender
figure bent toward Mr. Heatherbloom--"you! What has taken place, and
why has it? What does it all mean? Don't you understand?"

He drew in his breath slowly.

"Tell me," she said, still tensely poised, her eyes insistent in the
shadow of her hair.

"Miss Dalrymple--Betty--" he half stammered.

"I want to know," she repeated. There was an inexorable demand in her
gaze. Mr. Heatherbloom straightened. The ordeal?--it must be met--though
that box of Pandora were best left unopened. He could not refuse her
anything; this she asked of him was not easy to grant, however.

"Where shall I begin?" he said uncertainly. "You know a great deal.
There doesn't seem much worth talking about."

"Begin where we left off--"

"Our boy-and-girl engagement? You broke it. Quite right of you!" She
stirred slightly. "It was, at best, but a perfunctory business, half
arranged by our parents to keep the millions together--"

"You never blamed me a little, then?" she asked.

"I--blame you?" wonderingly. "You were as far from me as a star. What
you thought of me, you told me; it was all right--true stuff. Though it
sank in like a blade. I was nothing--worse than nothing. A rich man's
son!--a commonplace type. A good fellow some called me at Monte Carlo,
Paris, elsewhere." He paused. A moment he seemed another
personality--that other one. She saw it anew, caught a glimpse of it
like a flash on a mirror; then he seemed to relapse farther back into
the shadow. "I really don't want to bore you," he said perfunctorily,
raising an uncertain hand to the stray; lock on his forehead.

"You aren't--doing that. Go on." Her eyes were full of questions. "After
I saw you that last time"--he nodded--"you disappeared. No one ever
heard anything of you; again, or knew what had become of you."

"As no one cared," he said with a short laugh, "what did it matter?"

"You were lost to the world--had vanished completely," she went on.
"Sometimes I thought--feared you were dead." Her voice changed.

"Feared?" he repeated. "Ah, yes! You did not want me to go out like
that."

"No," she said slowly. "Not like that."

He looked at her comprehendingly; in spite of the bitter passionate
repudiation of him, she had been a little in earnest--had cared, in the
least, how he went down.

"Why," he said, with a forced smile, "I didn't think you'd bother to
give the matter a thought."

"You had some purpose?" she persisted, studying him. "I see--seem to
feel it now. It all--you--were incomprehensible. I mean, when I saw you
again that first time, in New York, after so long--"

"It was funny, wasn't it?" he said with rather strained lightness. "The
Chariot of Concord--_What's the Matter with Mother_?--the gaping or
jibing crowd--then you, going by--"

Her eyelids drooped; he stood now erect and motionless; in spite of the
determination to maintain that matter-of-fact pose, visions appeared
momentarily in his eyes. The glamour of the instant he had referred to
caught him. All he had felt then at the unexpected sight of
her--beautiful, far-away--returned to him. She was near now, but still
immeasurably distant. He pulled himself together; he hadn't explained
very much yet. He was forced to go on; her eyes once more seemed to draw
the story from him.

"Yes; I had some purpose in going away like that. The idea came to me at
the sanatorium, when I was about 'all in'. They'd managed to keep the
drugs and the drink from me, and one day I seemed to wake up and realize
I hadn't ever really lived. Just been a tail-ender who had 'gone the
pace'. Hadn't even had a beginning. Was it too late to start over again?
Probably." His voice came in crisp accents. "But it was a last chance--a
feeble one--a straw to the drowning," he laughed. "That sounds absurd
to you but I don't know how to explain it better."

"No; it doesn't sound absurd," she said.

"The idea of mine?--how to carry it out? Ways and means were not hard to
find. I went to"--he mentioned a name--"an old friend of my father's. He
thought I was a fool," bruskly, "but in the end he approved, or seemed
to. Anyhow, I persuaded him to take all my bonds, securities and the
rest of (for me) cursed stuff. At the end of a certain time, if I wanted
back the few millions I hadn't yet run through, he was to give them to
me, minus commissions, wage, etc."

"You mean," said the girl, "that was the way you took to go back to the
beginning, as you call it?" Her eyes were like stars. "You practically
gave away all your money so as to start by yourself."

"How could I start with it?" he asked, with a faint smile. "Don't you
see, Betty"--in a momentary eagerness he forgot himself--"there couldn't
be any compromising? Besides, it came to me--you will laugh"--she did
not laugh--"that some day, somewhere else, if not here, I'd have to make
that beginning, to be something myself. Remember that old Hindu fellow
with a red turban who sat on your front lawn, beneath the palms, and had
the women gathered around him in a kind of hypnotic state? He said
something like that--I thought him an old fakir at the time. He used a
lot of flowery language, but I guess, boiled down, it meant start at the
bottom of the ladder. Build yourself up, the way my father did," with a
certain wistful pride. "You remember him?"

Her head moved. "Fine looking, wasn't he?" ruminatively. "He got there
with his hands and brains, and honestly. While I hadn't ever used
either. I hope," he broke off, "all this doesn't sound like preaching."

"No," she said.

An instant his gaze lingered on her. "You're sleepy now," he spoke
suddenly.

"No, I am not. You found it a little hard, at first?"

"A little. When a man is relaxed and the reaction is on him--" He
stopped.

"Tell me--tell me all," she breathed. "Every bit of it, Harry."

His lips twitched. To hear his almost forgotten name spoken again by
her! A moment he seemed to waver. Temptation of violet eyes; wonder of
the rapt face! Oh, that he might catch her in his arms, claim her anew;
this time for all time! But again he mastered himself and went on
succinctly, as quickly as possible. Between the lines, however, the girl
might read the record of struggles which was very real to her. He had
reverted "to the beginning" with poor tools and most scanty experience.
And there was that other fight that made it a double fight, the fiercer
conflict with self. Hunger, privation, want, which she might divine,
though he did not speak of them, became as lesser details. She listened
enrapt.

"I guess that's about all," he said at last.

She continued to look at him, his features, clear-cut in the white
light. "And you didn't ever really go back--to undo it all?"

"Once I did go back to 'Frisco"--he told her of the relapse with cold
candor--"out at heels, and ready to give up. I wanted the millions. They
were gone."

"You mean, lost?"

"Yes; he had speculated; was dead. Poor fellow!"

"You say that? And you have never tried to get any of the money back?"

"Fortunately, he died bankrupt," said Mr. Heatherbloom calmly.

"And you failed to show the world he was a--thief?" Something in the
word seared her.

"What was the use? He left a wife and children. Besides, he really
served me by what the world would call robbing me. I _had_ to continue
at the beginning. It was the foot of the ladder, all right," he added.

Her face showed no answering gaiety. "You are going to amount to a great
deal some day," she said. "I think very few of us in this world find
ourselves," she added slowly.

"Perhaps some don't have to hunt so hard as others," observed Mr.
Heatherbloom.

"Don't they?" Her lips wore an odd little smile.

He threw back his shoulders. "Good night, now. You are very tired, I
know."

She put out her hand. He took it--how soft and small and cold! The
seconds were throbbing hours; he couldn't release it, at once. The
little fingers grew warmer--warmer in his palm--their very pulsations
seemed throbbing with his. Suddenly he dropped her hand.

"Good night," he said quickly.

He remembered he was nothing to her--that they would soon part for ever.

"Good night," she answered softly.

Then, silence.



CHAPTER XXIV


AN EXPLANATION

Morn came. They had heard or seen nothing of the prince and his men. Mr.
Heatherbloom walked back for a cold plunge in a stream that had
whispered not far from their camping spot throughout the night. He and
Betty Dalrymple breakfasted together on an old log; it wasn't much of a
meal--a few crackers and crumbs that were left--but neither appeared to
mind the meagerness of the fare. With much gaiety (the dawn seemed to
have brought with it a special allegrezza of its own) she insisted upon
a fair and equitable division of their scanty store, even to the
apportioning of the crumbs into two equal piles. Then, prodigal-handed
for a castaway who knew not where her next meal might come from, she
tossed a bit or two to the birds, and was rewarded by a song.

All this seemed very wonderful to Mr. Heatherbloom; there had never
before been such a breakfast; compared to it, the _dejeuner à la
fourchette_ of a Durand or a Foyot was as starvation fare. It was
surprising how beautiful the dark places of the night before looked now;
daylight metamorphosed the spot into a sylvan fairyland. Mr.
Heatherbloom could have lingered there indefinitely. The soft moss wooed
him, somewhat aweary with world contact; she filled his eyes. The faint
shadowy lines beneath hers which he had noted at the dawn had now
vanished; the same sun-god that ordered the forest flowers to lift their
gay heads commanded the rosebuds to unfold their bright petals on her
cheeks. Her lips were as red berries; the cobwebs, behind, alight with
sunshine, gleamed no more than the tossed golden hair. She had striven
as best she might with the last, not entirely to her own satisfaction
but completely to Mr. Heatherbloom's. His untutored masculine sense
rather gloried in the unconventionally of a superfluous tangle or two;
he found her most charming with a few rents in her gown from branch or
brier. They seemed to establish a new bond of camaraderie, to make
blithe appeal to his nomadic soul. It was as if fate had directed her
footsteps until they had touched and lingered on the outer circle of his
vagabondage. Both seemed to have forgotten all about his excellency.

"Rested?" queried Mr. Heatherbloom.

"Quite," she answered. There was no trace of weariness in her voice.
"And you?"

"Ditto," he laughed. Then, more gravely, "You see, I fell asleep while
watching," he confessed.

"I'm glad."

"You'd make a lenient commanding officer. Shall we go on?"

"Where?"

"I don't exactly know," he confessed.

"That's lovely." Then, tentatively, "It's nice here."

"Fine," he assented. There was no hardness in the violet eyes as they
rested on him. He did not pause to analyze the miracle; he only
accepted it. A moment he yielded to the temptation of the lotus-eater
and continued to luxuriate in the lap of Arcadia. Then he bestirred
himself uneasily; it was not sufficient just to breathe in the golden
gladness of the moment. "Yes; it's fine," he repeated, "only you see--"

"Of course!" she said with a little sigh, and rose. "_I_ see you are
going to be very domineering, the way you were yesterday."

"I? Domineering?"

"Weren't you?" she demanded, looking at him from beneath long lashes.

"I'm sure I didn't intend--" He stopped for she was laughing at him.
They went on and her mood continued to puzzle him. Never had he seen her
so blithe, so gay. She waved her hand back at the woodland spot.
"Good-by," she said.

Then they came upon the little town suddenly--so suddenly that both
appeared bewildered. Only a hillock had separated them from the sight of
it the night before. They looked and looked. It lay beneath an upward
sweep of land, in a cosy indenture of a great circle that swept far
around and away, fringed with cocoanut trees. Small wisps or corkscrews
of smoke defiled the blue of the sky; a wharf, with a steamer at the
end, obtruded abruptly upon the curve of the shore. Mr. Heatherbloom
regarded the boat--a link from Arcadia to the mundane world. He should
have been glad but he didn't seem overwhelmed at the sight; he stood
very still. He hardly felt her hand on his sleeve; the girl's eyes were
full of sparkles.

"What luck!" he said at length, his voice low and somewhat more formal.

"Isn't it?" she answered. And drawing in her breath--"I can scarcely,
believe it."

"It's there all right." He spoke slowly. "Come." And they went down. A
colored worker in the fields stared at them, but Betty nodded gaily, and
asked what town it was and the name of the island. He told them, growing
wonderment in his gaze. How could they be here and not know that; where
had they come from? To him they were as mysterious as two visitants
from Mars. Regardless of the effect they produced on the dusky toiler
they walked on. The island proved to be larger than they had thought and
commercially important. They had, the day before, but crossed a neck of
it.

Soon now they reached the verge of the town and stood on its main artery
of traffic; the cobblestone pavement resounded with the rattling of
carts and rough native vehicles. At a curb stood a dilapidated public
conveyance to which was attached a horse of harmoniously antique aspect.
Miss Dalrymple got in and Mr. Heatherbloom took his place at her side.

"The cable office," said the girl briefly, whereupon a lad of mixed
ancestry began to whack energetically the protuberant ribs of the drowsy
steed. It woke him and they clattered down the narrow way. Mr.
Heatherbloom leaned back, his gaze straight ahead, but Betty Dalrymple
looked around with interest at the people of divers shades and hues,
and, for the most part, in costumes of varying degrees of picturesque
originality. After having narrowly escaped running over a small
proportion of the juvenile colored population overflowing from odd
little shops and houses, they reached the transportable zinc shed that
served as a cable office. Here Miss Dalrymple indited rapidly a most
voluminous message, paid the clerk in a businesslike manner, and,
unmindful of his amazed expression as he read what she had written,
tranquilly re-entered the carriage.

"Miss Van Rolsen will be relieved when she gets that," observed Mr.
Heatherbloom mechanically. "It'll be a happy moment for her,"
meditatively.

"And won't she be gladder still when she sees us?" answered the girl
gaily.

The use of the plural slightly disconcerted Mr. Heatherbloom for the
moment, but he dismissed it as an inadvertence. "Where now?" he asked.

"Where do you think?" with dancing eyes. "Shopping, of course.
Fortunately I drew plenty of money before starting for California."

An hour or so later Mr. Heatherbloom sat with parcels in his arms and
bundles galore around him. He accepted the situation gracefully; indeed,
displayed an almost tender solicitude for those especial packages she
herself handed him.

"What next?" She had at length exhausted the somewhat limited resources
of the thoroughfare.

"Drive to the best hotel," was her command. She laughed at the picture
he made, or at something in her own thoughts. She had unconsciously
assumed toward him a manner in the least proprietary, but if he noticed
he did not resent it. They went faster; her voice was a low thread of
music running through an accompaniment of crashing dissonances. She wore
a hat now--the best she could find. He considered it most "fetching",
but her thrilling derision overwhelmed his expression of opinion. Though
the way was so rough that they were occasionally thrown rather violently
one against another, they arrived in high spirits at their destination,
Mr. Heatherbloom having performed the commendable feat of preserving
intact the parcels and bundles en route. In the "best hotel" they were
given two rooms overlooking a courtyard redolent with orchids. The girl
nodded a brief farewell to him from the threshold of her room.

"In about an hour, please, come back."

He did, brushed up and with shoes shined, as presentable as possible.
She wore the same gown, but the sundry rents were mended and there had
occurred other changes he could divine rather than define. He brought
her information--not agreeable, he said. He was very sorry, but the next
boat for the United States would not call at the island for a fortnight.
He expected her to show dismay, but she received the news with
commendable fortitude, if not resignation.

"I can cable aunt every day--so there can be no cause for worry--and she
will only be the more pleased when we actually do arrive."

Again the plural! And once more that prophetic picture which included
Mr. Heatherbloom within the pale of the venerable and austere Miss Van
Rolsen's jubilation. He looked embarrassed but said nothing. During the
hour of his exclusion from Miss Dalrymple's company he had sallied forth
on a small but necessary financial errand of his own. Francois had
placed in the basket of biscuits a revolver, and this latter Mr.
Heatherbloom, rightfully construing it as his own personal property in
lieu of the weapon his excellency had deprived him of, had exchanged for
a bit of cardboard and a greenback. The last named, reinforced by the
small amount Mr. Heatherbloom had left upon reaching the _Nevski_ and of
which the prince had not deprived him, would relieve his necessities for
the moment. After that? Well, he would take up the problem presently; he
had no time for it now. This day, at least, should be consecrated to
Betty Dalrymple.

He had an inkling that on the morrow he would see less of her; the
girl's story would get around. The American consul would call and tender
his services. The governor, too, Sir Charles Somebody, whose palatial
residence looked down on the town from the side of the hill, might be
expected to become officially and paternally interested. The little
cable office, despite rules and regulations, could not long retain its
prodigious secret; moreover Mr. Heatherbloom, in an absent-minded
moment, had inscribed Miss Dalrymple's name on the register, or
visitors' book. He recalled how the eyes of the old mammy, the
proprietress, had fairly rolled with curiosity. No; he would not be
permitted long to have her to himself, he ruminated; better make the
most of his opportunity now. Besides, his present monetary position
forbade his presence for more than a day or two at the "best hotel"; its
rates were for him distinctly prohibitive. The exigencies of financial
differences would soon separate them; she could draw on Miss Van Rolsen
for thousands; he had but five dollars and twelve cents--or was it
thirteen?--to his name.

He kept these reflections, however, to himself and continued to bask in
the sunshine of a fool's paradise. They rode, walked and explored. They
went to the fruit and the flower market. He bought her a great bunch of
flowers, and she not only took it but wore it. For a time he stepped on
air; his flowers constituted a fine splash of color on the girl's gown.
Her heart beat beneath them; the thought was as wine.

"Shall we?" They had partaken of tea (or nectar) in a small shop, and
now she paused before that most modern manifestation of a restless
civilization, a begilded, over-ornamented nickelodeon. "Think of finding
one of them way off here! Just as at home!"

"More extraordinary your wanting to go in!" he laughed.

"Why not? It will be an experience."

They entered; the place was half filled and they took seats toward the
back. There were films, and songs of the usual character; it was very
gay. Gurgles of merriment from Creoles and darkies were heard on all
sides. They, too, yielded freely, gladly to its infection. Happy
Creoles! happy darkies! happy Betty Dalrymple and Horatio
Heatherbloom--heiress and outcast! There is a democracy in laughter; yon
darky smiled at Miss Dalrymple, while Mr. Heatherbloom laughed with
her, with them, and the world. For was she not near, right there by his
side? To Mr. Heatherbloom the tinsel palace had become a temple of
felicity and wonder. Suddenly he started and his face changed.

"The Great Diamond Robbery," one of the films, was in progress, and
there, depicted on the canvas, amid many figures, he saw himself, the
most pronounced in that realistic group. And Betty Dalrymple saw the
semblance of him, also, for she gave a slight gasp and sat more erect.
In the moving picture he was running away from a crowd.

"Shall--shall we go?" The face of the flesh-and-blood Mr. Heatherbloom
was very red; he looked toward the door.

She did not answer; her eyes continued bent straight before her, and she
saw the whole quick scene of the drama unfolded. Then the street became
cleared, the fleeing figure had turned a corner as an automobile, not
engaged for the performance, came around it and went by. A big car--her
own--she was in it. She caught, like a flash on the canvas, a glimpse of
herself looking around; then the scene came to an end. Betty Dalrymple
laughed--a little hysterically.

"Oh," she said. "Oh, oh!"

He became, if possible, redder.

"Oh," she repeated. Then, "Why"--with eyes full of mingled tragedy and
comedy--"did you not explain it all that day, when--"

Of course she knew even as she spoke why he could not, or would not.

"You had cause to think so many things," he murmured.

"But that! How--how strange! I saw you, and--"

He laughed. "And the manager told me I was a 'rotten bad' actor! Those
were his words; not very elegant. But I believed him, until now--"

"Say something harsh and hard to me," she whispered, almost fiercely. "I
deserve it."

The violet eyes were passionate. "Betty!" he exclaimed wonderingly.

"Do you call that harsh?" she demanded mockingly. "You--you should be
cross with me--scold me--punish me--"

"Well," he said calmly, "you haven't believed _that_, lately, anyhow."

"No; I just set it aside as something incomprehensible, not to be
thought of, or to be considered any more. I believed in you, with all my
soul, since last night--a good deal before that, yes, yes!--in my
innermost heart! You believe me, don't you?"

He answered, he hardly knew what. Some one was singing _Put on Your Old
Gray Bonnet_. Her shoulder touched his arm and lingered there. "Oh, my
dear!" she was saying to herself. The pianist banged; the vocalist
bawled, while Mr. Heatherbloom sat in ecstasy.



CHAPTER XXV


GAIETIES

They took her away the next day. The governor--Sir Charles Somebody--had
heard of her and came and claimed her. His lady--portly,
majestic--arrived with him. Their carriage was the finest on the island
and their horses were the best. The coachman and footman were covered
with the most approved paraphernalia and always constituted an unending
source of wonder and admiration for the natives. The latter gathered in
front of the best hotel on this occasion; they did not quite know what
was taking place, but the sight of the big carriage there drew them
about like flies.

Mr. Heatherbloom did not linger to speculate or to survey. He had seen
but not spoken to Miss Dalrymple that morning; she had smiled at him
across space, behind orchids. A moment or two he had sat dreaming how
fine it would be to live for ever in such a courtyard, with Betty
Dalrymple's face on the other side, then the hubbub below disturbed and
dispelled his reflections. He went down to investigate and to retreat.
Sir Charles and his lady were in the hall; they seemed to charge the
entire hostelry with their presence. Mr. Heatherbloom walked
contemplatively out and down the street.

His mind, with a little encouragement, would have flitted back to
courtyards and orchids, but he forced it along less fanciful lines.
Mundane considerations were imperative and courtyards were a luxury of
the rich. He calculated that, after paying his bill at the best hotel,
he wouldn't have much more than half a dollar, or two English shillings,
left. The situation demanded calm practical reflection; he strove to
bestow upon it the necessary measure of orderly thinking. Yesterday,
with its nickelodeon, or temple of wonder, was yesterday; to-day, with
its problems, was to-day. He had lingered in the happy valley, or
kingdom of Micomicon, but the carriage was before the door--the golden
chariot had come to bear away the beautiful princess.

Mr. Heatherbloom asked for employment at the wharf and got it. The
supercargo of the boat, loading there, had been indulging, not wisely
but too well, in "green swizzles", an insidious drink of the country,
and, when last seen was oblivious to the world. A red-haired mate, with
superfluous utterance, informed the applicant he could come that
afternoon and temporarily essay the delinquent one's duties, checking up
the bags of merchandise and bananas the natives were bringing aboard,
and otherwise making himself useful. Mr. Heatherbloom tendered his
thanks and departed.

He wandered aimlessly for a while, but the charm of the town had
vanished; he gazed with no interest upon quaint bits most attractive
yesterday, and stolidly regarded now those happy faces he had liked so
much but a short time before. He shook himself; this would not do; but
the work would soon cure him of vain imaginings.

He returned to the hotel and settled with the landlady. Betty Dalrymple
was gone. Of course, there could be no denying Sir Charles and his lady;
one of the young girl's place and position in the world could not, with
reason or good grace, refuse the governor's hospitality. Mr.
Heatherbloom was hardly a suitable chaperon. But she had left a hasty
and altogether charming note for him which he read the last few moments
he spent in the courtyard room. "Come soon;" that was the substance of
it. What more could mortal have asked? Mr. Heatherbloom gazed at an
empty window where he had last seen her (had they been there only
twenty-four hours?), then he took a bit of painting on ivory from his
pocket and wrapped the message around it. Before noon he had engaged
cheap but neat lodgings at the home of an old negro woman.

Several days passed. After waiting in vain for him to call at the
governor's mansion, Betty Dalrymple drove herself to the hotel; here she
learned that he had gone without leaving an address; a message from Sir
Charles for Mr. Heatherbloom, formally offering to put the latter up at
government house, had not been delivered. Mr. Heatherbloom had failed to
call for his mail.

"Really, my dear, such solicitude!" murmured the governor's wife, when
Miss Dalrymple came out of the hotel. "An ordinary secret-service man,
too."

"Oh, no; not an ordinary one," said the girl a little confusedly. She
had not taken the liberty of speaking of Mr. Heatherbloom's private
affairs to her august hosts. His true name, or his story, were his to
reveal when or where he saw fit. In taking her into his confidence he
had sealed her lips until such time as she had his permission to speak.

"Well, don't worry about the man," observed the elder lady rather
loftily. "There has been a big reward offered, of course, and he'll
appear in due time to claim it."

"He'll not," began Betty Dalrymple indignantly, and stopped.

She had been obliged to explain in some way Mr. Heatherbloom's presence,
and the subterfuge he had himself employed toward her on the _Nevski_
had been the only one that occurred to her. A brave secret-service
officer who had aided her--that's what Mr. Heatherbloom was to the
governor and his better half. Hence the distinct formality of Sir
Charles' note to Mr. Heatherbloom, indited at Miss Dalrymple's special
request and somewhat against the good baronet's own secret judgment. A
police agent may be valiant as a lion, but he is not a gentleman.

Something of this axiomatic truth the excellent hosts strove to instill
by means, more or less subtle, in the mind of their young guest; but she
clung with odd tenacity to her own ingenuous point of view. Whereupon
Sir Charles figuratively shrugged. Reprehensible democracy of the new
world! She, with the perversity of American womankind, actually spoke
of, and, no doubt, desired to treat the fellow as an equal.

She found him one morning, a day or two later. She came down to the
wharf, alone, and on foot. He held a note-book and pencil, but that he
had not been above lending physical assistance, on occasion, to the
natives bearing bags and other merchandise, was evident from his hands
which were grimy as a stevedore's. His shirt was open at the throat, and
his face, too, bore marks of toil. Betty Dalrymple stepped impetuously
toward him; she looked as fresh as a flower, and held out a hand gloved
in immaculate white.

"Dare I?" he laughed.

"If you don't!" Her eyes dared him not to take it.

He looked at the hand, such a delicate thing, and seemed still in the
least uncertain; then his fingers closed on it.

"You see I managed to find you," she said. "Who is that man who stares
so?"

"That," answered Mr. Heatherbloom smiling, "is my boss."

"Well," she observed, "I don't like his face."

"Some of the darkies he's knocked down share, I believe, your opinion,"
he laughed. "Excuse me a moment." And Mr. Heatherbloom stepped to the
dumfounded person in question, handed him the note-book and pencil,
with a request to keep tab for a moment, and then returned to the girl.
"Now, I'm at your command," he said with a smile.

"Suppose we take a walk?" she suggested. "We can talk better if we do."

A moment Mr. Heatherbloom wavered. "Sorry," he then said, "but I've
promised to stick by the job. You see the old tub sails to-morrow for
South America and it'll be a task to get her loaded before night. Some
of the hands, as well as the supercargo, have been bowled over by
fire-water."

"I see." There was a strained look about her lips. Before them heavily
laden negroes and a few sailors passed and repassed. The burly
red-headed mate often looked at her; amazement and curiosity were
depicted on his features; he almost forgot the duties Mr. Heatherbloom
had, for a brief interval, thrust upon him. Betty Dalrymple, however,
had ceased to observe him; he, the others, no longer existed for her.
She saw only Mr. Heatherbloom now; what he said, she knew he meant; she
realized with an odd thrill of mingled admiration and pain that even she
could not cause him to change his mind. He would "stick to his job",
because he had said he would.

"I'm interrupting, I fear," she said, a feeling of strange humility
sweeping over her. "When is your day's work done?"

"About six, I expect."

"The governor gives a ball for me to-night," she said.

"Excellent. All the elite of the port will be there, and," with slow
meditative accent, "I can imagine how you'll look!"

"Can you?" she asked, bending somewhat nearer.

"Yes." His gaze was straight ahead.

The white glove stole toward the black hand. "Why don't you come?"

"I?" He stared.

"Yes; the governor has sent you an invitation. He thinks you a
secret-service officer."

Mr. Heatherbloom continued to look at her; then he glanced toward the
boat. Suddenly his hand closed; he hardly realized the white glove was
in it. "I'll do it, Betty," he exclaimed. "That is, if I can. And--there
may be a way. Yes; there will be."

"You mean, you may be able to rent them?" With a sparkle in her glance.

"Exactly," he answered gaily, recklessly.

Both laughed. Then her expression changed; she suppressed an
exclamation, but gently withdrew her hand.

"How many dances will you give me, Betty?" He had not even noticed that
he had hurt her; his voice was low and eager.

"Ask and see," she said merrily, and went. But outside the shed, she
stretched her crushed fingers; he was very strong; he had spoiled a new
pair of gloves; she did not, however, seem greatly to mind. As for Mr.
Heatherbloom, for the balance of the day he plunged into his task with
the energy of an Antaeus.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Charles regarded rather curiously that night one of his guests who
arrived late. Mr. Heatherbloom's evening garments were not a Poole fit,
and his white gloves, though white enough, had obviously been used and
cleaned often. But the host observed, also, that Mr. Heatherbloom held
himself well, said just the right thing to the hostess, and moved
through the assemblage with quite the proper poise. He didn't look
bored, neither did he appear overimpressed by the almost palatial
elegance of the ball-room. He even managed to suppress any outward signs
of elation at the sight of Miss Dalrymple with whom he had but the
opportunity for a word or two, at first. Naturally the center of
attraction, the young girl found herself forced to dance often. He, too,
whirled around with others, just whom, he did not know; he dipped into
Terpsichorean gaiety to escape the dowager's inquisition regarding that
haphazard flight from the _Nevski_ and other details he did not wish to
converse about. But his turn came with Betty at last, and sooner than he
had reason to expect.

"Ours is the next?" she said, passing him.

Was it? He had ventured to write his name thrice on her card, but
neither of the dances he had claimed was the next.

"I put your name down for this one myself," she confessed to him a few
moments later. "Do you mind?"

Did he? The evening wore away but too soon; he held her to him a little
while, only over-quickly to be obliged to yield her to another. And now,
after a third period of waiting, the time came for their last dance. He
went for it as soon as the number preceding was over; he wanted, not
only to miss none of it, but he hungered to snatch all the prelude he
could. The conventional-looking young personage she had been dancing
with regarded the approaching Mr. Heatherbloom rather resentfully, but
he moved straight as an arrow for her. At once she stepped toward him,
and he soon found himself walking with her across the smooth shining
floor, on into the great conservatory. Here were soft shadows and
wondrous perfumes. Mr. Heatherbloom breathed deeply.

"But a few days more, and we're en route for home." It was the girl who
spoke first--lightly, gaily--though there was a thrill in her tones.

He started and did not answer at once. "That will be great, won't it?"
His voice, too, was light, but it did not seem so spontaneously glad as
her own.

"You _are_ pleased, aren't you?" she said suddenly.

"Pleased? Of course!"

A brief period of inexplicable constraint! He looked at one of her hands
resting on the edge of a great vase--at a flower she held in her
fingers.

"May I?" he said, and just touched it.

"Of course!" she laughed. "A modest request, after all you've done for
me!"

Her fingers placed it in the rented coat.

"There!" she murmured in a matter-of-fact tone, stepping back.

His face, turned to the light, appeared paler; his eyes looked
studiously beyond her.

"It will be jolly on the steamer, won't it?" she went on.

"Jolly? Oh, yes," he assented, with false enthusiasm, when a black and
white apparition appeared before them, no less a person than Sir
Charles.

The governor, as the bearer of particular news, had been looking for
her. Mr. Heatherbloom hardly appreciated the preamble or the importance
of what followed. Sir Charles imparted a bit of confidential information
they were not to breathe to any one until he had verified the
particulars. Word had just been brought to him that the _Nevski_ had
gone on a reef near a neighboring island and was a total wreck. A
passing steamer had stood by, taken off the prince and his crew and
landed them. Still Mr. Heatherbloom but vaguely heard; he felt little
interest at the moment in his excellency or his boat. Betty Dalrymple's
face, however, showed less indifference to this startling intelligence.

"The _Nevski_ a wreck?" she murmured.

"It must all seem like an evil dream to you now," Mr. Heatherbloom spoke
absently. "Your having ever been on her!"

"Not all an evil one," she answered. They stood again on the ball-room
floor. "Much good has come from it. I no longer hate the prince. I only
blame myself a great deal for many things--"

He seemed to hear only her first words. "'Good come from it?' I don't
understand."

"But for the _Nevski_, and what happened to me, I should have gone on
thinking, as I did, about you."

"And--would that have made such a difference?" quickly.

She raised her eyes. "What do you think?"

"Betty!"

The music had begun. He who had heretofore danced perfectly, now guided
wildly.

"Take care!" she whispered.

But discretion seemed to have left him; he spoke he knew not what--wild
mad words that would not be suppressed. They came in contact with
another couple and were brought to an abrupt stop. Flaming poppies shone
on her cheeks; her eyes were brightly beaming. But she laughed and they
went on. He swept her out of the crowded ball-room now, on to the broad
veranda where a few other couples also moved in the starlight. On her
curved lips a smile rested; it seemed to draw his head lower.

"Betty, do you mean it?" Again the words were wrested from him, would
come. "What your eyes said just now?"

She lifted them again, gladly, freely--not only that--

"Yes; I mean it--mean it," said her lips. "Of course! Foolish boy! I
have long meant it--"

"Long?" he cried.

"You heard what the Russian woman said--"

"About there being some one? Then it was--"

"Guess." The sweet laughing lips were close; his swept them
passionately. He found the answer; the world seemed to go round.

But later, that night, there was no joy on Mr. Heatherbloom's face. In
his room in the old negro woman's house, he indited a letter. It was
brought to Betty Dalrymple the next morning as the early sunshine
entered her chamber overlooking the governor's park.

"Darling: Forgive me. I am sailing at dawn on the old tub, for South
America--"

Here the note fell from the girl's hand. Long she looked out of the
window. Then she went back to the bit of paper, took it and held it
against her breast before she again read. She seemed to know now what
would be in it; the strange depression that had come over her after he
had left last night was accounted for. Of course, he would not go back
to New York with her; he would, or could, accept nothing, in the way she
wished, from her or her aunt. It was necessary for him still to be Mr.
Heatherbloom; he had not yet "found himself" fully; the beginning he had
spoken of was only begun. The influential friends of his father in the
financial world had become impossible aids; he had to continue as he had
planned, to go his own way, and his, alone. It would have been easy for
him, as his father's son and the prospective nephew of the influential
Miss Van Rolsen, to have obtained one of those large salaried positions,
or "sinecures", with little to do. But that would be only beginning at
the end once more.

Again she essayed to read. The letter would have been a little
incomprehensible to any one except herself, but she understood. There
were three "darlings"; inexcusable tautology! She kissed them all, but
she kissed oftenest the end: "You will forgive me for forgetting
myself--God knows I didn't intend to--and you will wait; have faith? It
is much to ask--too much; but if you will, I think my father's son and
he whom you have honored by caring for, may yet prove a little worthy--"

The words brought a sob to her throat; she threw herself back on the
bed. "A little?" she cried, still holding the note tight in her hand.
But after a spell of weeping, once more she got up and looked out of the
window. The sunshine was very bright, the birds sang to her. Did she
take heart a little? A great wave of sadness bowed her down, but
courage, too, began to revive in her.

"Have faith?" She looked up at the sky; she would do as he asked--unto
the grave, if need be. Then, very quietly, she dressed and went
down-stairs.



EPILOGUE


It is very gay at the Hermitage, in Moscow, just after Easter, and so it
was natural that Sonia Turgeinov should have been there on a certain
bright afternoon some three years later. The theater, at which she once
more appeared, was closed for the afternoon, and at this season
following Holy Week and fasting, fashionables and others were wont to
congregate in the spacious café and grounds, where a superb orchestra
discourses classical or dashing selections. The musicians played now an
American air.

"Some one at a table out there on the balcony sent a request by the head
waiter for it," said a member of Sonia Turgeinov's party--a Parisian
artist, not long in Moscow.

"An American, no doubt," she answered absently, sipping her wine. The
three years had treated her kindly; the few outward changes could be
superficially enumerated: A little more embonpoint; a tendency toward a
slight drooping at the corners of the mobile lips, and moments when the
shadows seemed to stay rather longer in the deep eyes.

"That style of music should appeal to you, Madam," observed the
Frenchman. "You who have been among those favored artists to visit the
land of the free. Did you have to play in a tent, and were you literally
showered with gold?"

"Both," she laughed. "It is a land of many surprises."

"I have heard _es ist alles_ 'the almighty dollar'," said a musician
from Berlin, one of the gay company.

"Exaggeration, _mein Herr_!" she retorted, with a wave of the hand. "It
is also a _komischer romantischer_ land." For a moment she seemed
thinking.

"Isn't that his excellency, Prince Boris Strogareff?" inquired abruptly
a young man with a beyond-the-Volga physiognomy.

She started. "The prince?" An odd look came into her eyes. "Do you
believe in telepathic waves, Monsieur?" she said gaily to the Frenchman.

"Not to any great extent, Madam. _Mais pourquoi?"_

"Nothing. But I don't see this prince you speak of."

"He has disappeared now," replied her countryman, a fellow-player
recently come from Odessa. "It is his first dip again into the gaieties
of the world. For several years," with the proud accents of one able to
impart information concerning an important personage, "he has been
living in seclusion on his vast estates near the Caspian Sea--ruling a
kingdom greater than many a European principality. But have you never
met the prince?" To Sonia Turgeinov. "He used to be a patron of the
arts, according to report, before the sad accident that befell him."

"I think," observed Sonia Turgeinov, with brows bent as if striving to
recollect, "I did meet him once. But a poor actress is forced to meet
so many princes and nobles, nowadays," she laughed, "that--"

"True! Only one would not easily forget the prince, the handsomest man
in Asia."

She yawned slightly.

"What was this 'sad accident' you were speaking of, _mein Herr_?
observed the German, with a mind trained to conversational continuity.

"The prince was cruising somewhere and his yacht was wrecked," said the
young Roscius from Odessa. "A number of the crew were drowned; his
excellency, when picked up, was unconscious. A blow on the head from a
falling timber, or from being dashed on the rocks, I'm not sure which.
At any rate, for a long time his life was despaired of, but he recovered
and is as strong and sound as ever. Only, there is a strange sequel; or
not so strange," reflectively, "since cases of its kind are common. The
injury was on his head, as I remarked, and his mind became--"

"Affected, Monsieur?" said the Frenchman. "You mean this great noble of
the steppe is no longer right, mentally?"

"He is one of the keenest satraps in Asia, Monsieur. His brain is as
alert as ever, only he has suffered a complete loss of memory."

Sonia Turgeinov's interest was of a distinctly artificial nature; she
tapped on the floor with her foot; then abruptly arose. "Shan't we go
into the garden for our coffee?" she said. "It is close here."

They got up and walked out. As they did so they passed a couple at one
of the tables on the balcony and a slight exclamation fell from Sonia
Turgeinov's lips. For an instant she exhibited real interest, then
hastening down the steps, she selected a place some distance aside. A
great bunch of flowers was in the center of the table and she moved her
chair behind them.

"You see some one you know, _gnädige_ Madam?" asked the observant
Teuton.

"A great many people," she answered.

"There's that American over there who asked for the Yankee piece of
music," said the Frenchman, with eyes on the two people Sonia Turgeinov
had started at sight of, a moment before. "_Mon Dieu!_ What charm! What
beauty!"

"_Der Herr Amerikaner?_" blurted the surprised Berliner.

"No--_diable!_ His _belle_ companion!"

"Where?" said Sonia Turgeinov, well knowing. A face that her table
companion regarded, she, too, saw beyond the flowers. The afternoon
sunshine touched the golden hair of her she looked at; the violet eyes
shone with delight upon bizarre details: of the scene--the waiters in
blouses resembling street "white wings" in American cities, the coachmen
outside, big as balloons in their quilted cloaks.

"_Der Herr Amerikaner_ has the passionate eyes of an admirer, a devout
lover," murmured the sentimental musician from Berlin.

"Or an American husband!" said Roscius from Odessa.

"Sometimes!" added the Frenchman cynically.

"I haf met him," observed the _Herr Musikaner_, "at the hotel.
We haf talked together, once or twice. He has been in South
America--Argentine, _ich glaube_--and has made a fortune there. And
madam, his wife, and he are making a grand tour of the world. Their
wedding trip, I believe. _Sie kommt von einer der ersten Familien_--the
Dalrymples. _Der Herr Direktor_ of the Russicher-Chinese bank told me.
He cashes the drafts--_Her Gott_--_nicht kleine!_"

These prosaic details the Frenchman, pictorially occupied, hardly,
heard. "_Mon Dieu_! What a _chapeau_!" he sighed. "No wonder he looks
enchanted at that wonderful creation of the Rue de la Paix."

"He seems quite an exception to some husbands in that respect!" remarked
the Berliner in deep gutturals.

Sonia Turgeinov lighted a cigarette and blew the smoke at the flowers.
There was a resentful cynicism in the act; she leaned back with greater
abandon in her chair. "After all, the unities have been observed," she
said with an odd laugh.

"What unities?" asked Roscius, becoming keen as a young hound on the
scent, at the sound of the trite phrase.

"Oh, I was thinking of a play." Stretching more comfortably. Suddenly
her cigarette waved; behind the flowers, her eyes dilated. Prince Boris
Strogareff was coming down the steps; he passed the American couple they
had been talking about and looked at them. A light of involuntary
admiration shone from his gaze, but there was no recognition in it--only
the instinctive tribute that a man of the world and a gallant Russian is
ever prone to pay at the sight of an unusually charming member of the
other sex. Then, once more impassive--a striking handsome figure--he
moved leisurely down and out of the gardens. The couple, engrossed at
the time in a conversation of some intimate nature or in each other, had
not even seen or noticed the august nobleman.

Sonia Turgeinov drew harder on the cigarette; a laugh welled from her
throat. "Oh, I wouldn't have missed it for worlds!" she said.

Young Roscius with the Tartar eyes stared at her. She threw away the
smoking cylinder.

"I'm off!"

"Why--"

"Has not the curtain descended?" enigmatically.

"I don't see any curtain," said the Frenchman.

"No? But it's there." At the gate, however, once more she paused--to
listen, to laugh.

"_Was jetzt_?" asked the mystified Berliner.

She only shrugged.

The orchestra, having played a few conventional selections after
_Dixie_, had now plunged into _Marching through Georgia_.

As Sonia Turgeinov disappeared through the gate, the golden head
surmounted by the "wonderful _chapeau_", bent toward the clean-cut,
strong-looking face of the young man on the other side of the small
table.

"It's awfully extravagant of you, Harry,--twenty roubles, a tip for
those musicians. But it makes it seem like home, doesn't it?"

"Yes, darling," he answered.


THE END





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