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Title: Master Tales of Mystery, Volume 3
Author: Reynolds, Francis J. (Francis Joseph), 1867-1937 [Compiler]
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 "Master Tales of Mystery, Volume 3" ***

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MASTER TALES of MYSTERY

COLLECTED AND ARRANGED BY FRANCIS J. REYNOLDS

VOLUME III



CONTENTS


ARTHUR B. REEVE
  THE POISONED PEN
  THE INVISIBLE RAT
  THE SILENT BULLET
  THE DEADLY TUBS
  THE BLACK HAND
  THE STEEL DOOR

PAUL L. FORD
  GREAT K. & A. TRAIN ROBBERY

MAX PEMBERTON
  THE RISEN DEAD

GEO.B. McCUTCHEON
  COWARDICE COURT

BURTON E. STEVENSON
  THE CASE OF MRS. MAGNUS

JOSEPH ERNEST
  THE EPISODE or THE BLACK CASQUETTE

MARJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL
  CHEAP



The Poisoned Pen

BY ARTHUR B. REEVE


I


Kennedy's suit-case was lying open on the bed, and he was literally
throwing things into it from his chiffonier, as I entered after a
hurried trip up-town from the _Star_ office in response to an urgent
message from him.

"Come, Walter," he cried, hastily stuffing in a package of clean
laundry without taking off the wrapping-paper, "I've got your suit-case
out. Pack up whatever you can in five minutes. We must take the six
o'clock train for Danbridge."

I did not wait to hear any more. The mere mention of the name of the
quaint and quiet little Connecticut town was sufficient. For Danbridge
was on everybody's lips at that time. It was the scene of the now
famous Danbridge poisoning case--a brutal case in which the pretty
little actress, Vera Lytton, had been the victim.

"I've been retained by Senator Adrian Willard," he called from his
room, as I was busy packing in mine. "The Willard family believe that
that young Dr. Dixon is the victim of a conspiracy--or at least Alma
Willard does, which comes to the same thing, and--well, the senator
called me up on long-distance and offered me anything I would name in
reason to take the case. Are you ready? Come on, then. We've simply
got to make that train."

As we settled ourselves in the smoking-compartment of the Pullman,
which for some reason or other we had to ourselves, Kennedy spoke
again for the first time since our frantic dash across the city to
catch the train.

"Now let us see, Walter," he began. "We've both read a good deal about
this case in the papers. Let's try to get our knowledge in an orderly
shape before we tackle the actual case itself."

"Ever been in Danbridge?" I asked.

"Never," he replied. "What sort of place is it?"

"Mighty interesting," I answered; "a combination of old New England
and new, of ancestors and factories, of wealth and poverty, and above
all it is interesting for its colony of New-Yorkers--what shall I call
it?--a literary-artistic-musical combination, I guess."

"Yes," he resumed. "I thought as much. Vera Lytton belonged to the
colony. A very talented girl, too--you remember her in 'The Taming of
the New Woman' last season? Well, to get back to the facts as we know
them at present.

"Here is a girl with a brilliant future on the stage discovered by her
friend, Mrs. Boncour, in convulsions--practically insensible--with a
bottle of headache-powder and a jar of ammonia on her dressing-table.
Mrs. Boncour sends the maid for the nearest doctor, who happens to be
a Dr. Waterworth. Meanwhile she tries to restore Miss Lytton, but
with no result. She smells the ammonia and then just tastes the
headache-powder, a very foolish thing to do, for by the time Dr.
Waterworth arrives he has two patients."

"No," I corrected, "only one, for Miss Lytton was dead when he
arrived, according to his latest statement."

"Very well, then--one. He arrives, Mrs. Boncour is ill, the maid knows
nothing at all about it, and Vera Lytton is dead. He, too, smells the
ammonia, tastes the headache-powder--just the merest trace--and then
he has two patients, one of them himself. We must see him, for his
experience must have been appalling. How he ever did it I
can't imagine, but he saved both himself and Mrs. Boncour from
poisoning--cyanide, the papers say, but of course we can't accept that
until we see. It seems to me, Walter, that lately the papers have made
the rule in murder cases: When in doubt, call it cyanide."

Not relishing Kennedy in the humor of expressing his real opinion
of the newspapers, I hastily turned the conversation back again by
asking, "How about the note from Dr. Dixon?"

"Ah, there is the crux of the whole case--that note from Dixon. Let
us see. Dr. Dixon is, if I am informed correctly, of a fine and
aristocratic family, though not wealthy. I believe it has been
established that while he was an interne in a city hospital he became
acquainted with Vera Lytton, after her divorce from that artist
Thurston. Then comes his removal to Danbridge and his meeting and
later his engagement with Miss Willard. On the whole, Walter, judging
from the newspaper pictures, Alma Willard is quite the equal of Vera
Lytton for looks, only of a different style of beauty. Oh, well, we
shall see. Vera decided to spend the spring and summer at Danbridge in
the bungalow of her friend, Mrs. Boncour, the novelist. That's when
things began to happen."

"Yes," I put it, "when you come to know Danbridge as I did after that
summer when you were abroad, you'll understand, too. Everybody knows
everybody else's business. It is the main occupation of a certain set,
and the per-capita output of gossip is a record that would stagger the
census bureau. Still, you can't get away from the note, Craig. There
it is, in Dixon's own handwriting, even if he does deny it: 'This will
cure your headache. Dr. Dixon.' That's a damning piece of evidence."

"Quite right," he agreed hastily; "the note was queer, though, wasn't
is? They found it crumpled up in the jar of ammonia. Oh, there are
lots of problems the newspapers have failed to see the significance
of, let alone trying to follow up."

Our first visit in Danbridge was to the prosecuting attorney, whose
office was not far from the station on the main street. Craig had
wired him, and he had kindly waited to see us, for it was evident that
Danbridge respected Senator Willard and every one connected with him.

"Would it be too much to ask just to see that note that was found in
the Boncour bungalow?" asked Craig.

The prosecutor, an energetic young man, pulled out of a document-case
a crumpled note which had been pressed flat again. On it in clear,
deep black letters were the words, just as reported:

    This will cure your headache.

    DR. DIXON.

"How about the handwriting?" asked Kennedy.

The lawyer pulled out a number of letters. "I'm afraid they will have
to admit it," he said with reluctance, as if down in his heart he
hated to prosecute Dixon. "We have lots of these, and no handwriting
expert could successfully deny the identity of the writing."

He stowed away the letters without letting Kennedy get a hint as to
their contents. Kennedy was examining the note carefully.

"May I count on having this note for further examination, of course
always at such times and under such conditions as you agree to?"

The attorney nodded. "I am perfectly willing to do anything not
illegal to accommodate the senator," he said. "But, on the other hand,
I am here to do my duty for the state, cost whom, it may."

The Willard house was in a virtual state of siege. News-paper
reporters from Boston and New York were actually encamped at every
gate, terrible as an army, with cameras. It was with some difficulty
that we got in, even though we were expected, for some of the more
enterprising had already fooled the family by posing as officers of
the law and messengers from Dr. Dixon.

The house was a real, old colonial mansion with tall white pillars, a
door with a glittering brass knocker, which gleamed out severely at
you as you approached through a hedge of faultlessly trimmed boxwoods.

Senator, or rather former Senator, Willard met us in the library, and
a moment later his daughter Alma joined him. She was tall, like her
father, a girl of poise and self-control. Yet even the schooling of
twenty-two years in rigorous New England self-restraint could not
hide the very human pallor of her face after the sleepless nights and
nervous days since this trouble had broken on her placid existence.
Yet there was a mark of strength and determination on her face that
was fascinating. The man who would trifle with this girl, I felt, was
playing fast and loose with her very life. I thought then, and I said
to Kennedy afterward: "If this Dr. Dixon is guilty, you have no right
to hide it from that girl. Anything less than the truth will only
blacken the hideousness of the crime that has already been committed."

The senator greeted us gravely, and I could not but take it as a good
omen when, in his pride of wealth and family and tradition, he laid
bare everything to us, for the sake of Alma Willard. It was clear that
in this family there was one word that stood above all others, "Duty."

As we were about to leave after an interview barren of new facts, a
young man was announced, Mr. Halsey Post. He bowed politely to us, but
it was evident why he had called, as his eye followed Alma about the
room.

"The son of the late Halsey Post, of Post & Vance, silver-smiths, who
have the large factory in town, which you perhaps noticed," explained
the senator. "My daughter has known him all her life. A very fine
young man."

Later, we learned that the senator had bent every effort toward
securing Halsey Post as a son-in-law, but his daughter had had views
of her own on the subject.

Post waited until Alma had withdrawn before he disclosed the real
object of his visit.

In almost a whisper, lest she should still be listening, he said,
"There is a story about town that Vera Lytton's former husband--an
artist named Thurston--was here just before her death."

Senator Willard leaned forward as if expecting to hear Dixon
immediately acquitted. None of us was prepared for the next remark.

"And the story goes on to say that he threatened to make a scene over
a wrong he says he has suffered from Dixon. I don't know anything more
about it, and I tell you only because I think you ought to know what
Danbridge is saying under its breath."

We shook off the last of the reporters who affixed themselves to us,
and for a moment Kennedy dropped in at the little bungalow to see Mrs.
Boncour. She was much better, though she had suffered much. She had
taken only a pin-head of the poison, but it had proved very nearly
fatal.

"Had Miss Lytton any enemies whom you think of, people who were
jealous of her professionally or personally?" asked Craig.

"I should not even have said Dr. Dixon was an enemy," she replied
evasively.

"But this Mr. Thurston," put in Kennedy quickly. "One is not usually
visited in perfect friendship by a husband who has been divorced."

She regarded him keenly for a moment. "Halsey Post told you that," she
said. "No one else knew he was here. But Halsey Post was an old friend
of both Vera and Mr. Thurston before they separated. By chance he
happened to drop in the day Mr. Thurston was here, and later in the
day I gave him a letter to forward to Mr. Thurston, which had come
after the artist left. I'm sure no one else knew the artist. He was
there the morning of the day she died, and--and--that's every bit I'm
going to tell you about him, so there. I don't know why he came or
where he went."

"That's a thing we must follow up later," remarked Kennedy as we made
our adieus. "Just now I want to get the facts in hand. The next thing
on my programme is to see this Dr. Waterworth."

We found the doctor still in bed; in fact, a wreck as the result of
his adventure. He had little to correct in the facts of the story
which had been published so far. But there were many other details of
the poisoning he was quite willing to discuss frankly.

"It was true about the jar of ammonia?" asked Kennedy.

"Yes," he answered. "It was standing on her dressing-table with the
note crumpled up in it, just as the papers said."

"And you have no idea why it was there?"

"I didn't say that. I can guess. Fumes of ammonia are one of the
antidotes for poisoning of that kind."

"But Vera Lytton could hardly have known that," objected Kennedy.

"No, of course not. But she probably did know that ammonia is good
for just that sort of faintness which she must have experienced after
taking the powder. Perhaps she thought of sal volatile, I don't know.
But most people know that ammonia in some form is good for faintness
of this sort, even if they don't know anything about cyanides and--"

"Then it was cyanide?" interrupted Craig.

"Yes," he replied slowly. It was evident that he was suffering great
physical and nervous anguish as the result of his too intimate
acquaintance with the poisons in question. "I will tell you precisely
how is was, Professor Kennedy. When I was called in to see Miss Lytton
I found her on the bed. I pried open her jaws and smelled the sweetish
odor of the cyanogen gas. I knew then what she had taken, and at the
moment she was dead. In the next room I heard some one moaning. The
maid said that it was Mrs. Boncour, and that she was deathly sick.
I ran into her room, and though she was beside herself with pain I
managed to control her, though she struggled desperately against me. I
was rushing her to the bathroom, passing through Miss Lytton's room.
'What's wrong?' I asked as I carried her along. 'I took some of that,'
she replied, pointing to the bottle, on the dressing-table.

"I put a small quantity of its crystal contents on my tongue. Then
I realized the most tragic truth of my life. I had taken one of the
deadliest poisons in the world. The odor of the released gas of
cyanogen was strong. But more than that, the metallic taste and the
horrible burning sensation told of the presence of some form of
mercury, too. In that terrible moment my brain worked with the
incredible swiftness of light. In a flash I knew that if I added malic
acid to the mercury--perchloride of mercury or corrosive sublimate--I
would have calomel or subchloride of mercury, the only thing that
would switch the poison out of my system and Mrs. Boncour's.

"Seizing her about the waist, I hurried into the dining-room. On a
sideboard was a dish of fruit. I took two apples. I made her eat one,
core and all. I ate the other. The fruit contained the malic acid
I needed to manufacture the calomel, and I made it right there in
nature's own laboratory. But there was no time to stop. I had to act
just as quickly to neutralize that cyanide, too. Remembering the
ammonia, I rushed back with Mrs. Boncour, and we inhaled the fumes.
Then I found a bottle of peroxide of hydrogen. I washed out her
stomach with it, and then my own. Then I injected some of the
peroxide into various Parts of her body. The peroxide of hydrogen
and hydrocyanic acid, you know, make oxamide, which is a harmless
compound.

"The maid put Mrs. Boncour to bed, saved. I went to my house, a wreck.
Since then I have not left this bed. With my legs paralyzed I lie
here, expecting each hour to be my last."

"Would you taste an unknown drug again to discover the nature of a
probable poison?" asked Craig.

"I don't know," he answered slowly, "but I suppose I would. In such a
case a conscientious doctor has no thought of self. He is there to do
things, and he does them, according to the best that is in him. In
spite of the fact that I haven't had one hour of unbroken sleep since
that fatal day, I suppose I would do it again."

When we were leaving, I remarked: "That is a martyr to science. Could
anything be more dramatic than his willing penalty for his devotion to
medicine?"

We walked along in silence. "Walter, did you notice he said not a word
of condemnation of Dixon, though the note was before his eyes? Surely
Dixon has some strong supporters in Danbridge, as well as enemies."

The next morning we continued our investigation. We found Dixon's
lawyer, Leland, in consultation with his client in the bare cell of
the county jail. Dixon proved to be a clear-eyed, clean-cut young
man. The thing that impressed me most about him, aside from the
prepossession in his favor due to the faith of Alma Willard, was the
nerve he displayed, whether guilty or innocent. Even an innocent man
might well have been staggered by the circumstantial evidence against
him and the high tide of public feeling, in spite of the support that
he was receiving. Leland, we learned, had been very active. By prompt
work at the time of the young doctor's arrest he had managed to
secure the greater part of Dr. Dixon's personal letters, though the
prosecutor secured some, the contents of which had not been disclosed.

Kennedy spent most of the day in tracing out the movements of
Thurston. Nothing that proved important was turned up and even visits
to near-by towns failed to show any sales of cyanide or sublimate
to any one not entitled to buy them. Meanwhile, in turning over the
gossip of the town, one of the newspapermen ran across the fact that
the Boncour bungalow was owned by the Posts, and that Halsey Post, as
the executor of the estate, was a more frequent visitor than the mere
collection of the rent would warrant. Mrs. Boncour maintained a stolid
silence that covered a seething internal fury when the newspaperman
in question hinted that the landlord and tenant were on exceptionally
good terms.

It was after a fruitless day of such search that we were sitting in
the reading-room of the Fairfield Hotel. Leland entered. His face was
positively white. Without a word he took us by the arm and led us
across Main Street and up a flight of stairs to his office. Then he
locked the door.

"What's the matter?" asked Kennedy.

"When I took this case," he said, "I believed down in my heart that
Dixon was innocent. I still believe it, but my faith has been rudely
shaken. I feel that you should know about what I have just found. As I
told you, we secured nearly all of Dr. Dixon's letters. I had not read
them all then. But I have been going through them to-night. Here is a
letter from Vera Lytton herself. You will notice it is dated the day
of her death."

He laid the letter before us. It was written in a curious
grayish-black ink in a woman's hand, and read:

       *       *       *       *       *

DEAR HARRIS:

Since we agreed to disagree we have at least been good friends, if no
longer lovers. I am not writing in anger to reproach you with your
new love, so soon after the old. I suppose Alma Willard is far better
suited to be your wife than is a poor little actress--rather looked
down on in this Puritan society here. But there is something I wish to
warn you about, for it concerns us all intimately.

We are in danger of an awful mix-up if we don't look out. Mr.
Thurston--I had almost said my husband, though I don't know whether
that is the truth or not--who has just come over from New York, tells
me that there is some doubt about the validity of our divorce. You
recall he was in the South at the time I sued him, and the papers
were served on him in Georgia. He now says the proof of service was
fraudulent and that he can set aside the divorce. In that case you
might figure in a suit for alienating my affections.

I do not write this with ill will, but simply to let you know how
things stand. If we had married, I suppose I would be guilty of
bigamy. At any rate, if he were disposed he could make a terrible
scandal.

Oh, Harris, can't you settle with him if he asks anything? Don't
forget so soon that we once thought we were going to be the happiest
of mortals--at least I did. Don't desert me, or the very earth will
cry out against you. I am frantic and hardly know what I am writing.
My head aches, but it is my heart that is breaking. Harris, I am yours
still, down in my heart, but not to be cast off like an old suit for a
new one. You know the old saying about a woman scorned. I beg you not
to go back on

Your poor little deserted

Vera.

       *       *       *       *       *

As we finished reading, Leland exclaimed, "That never must come before
the jury."

Kennedy was examining the letter carefully. "Strange," he muttered.
"See how it was folded. It was written on the wrong side of the sheet,
or rather folded up with the writing outside. Where have these letters
been?"

"Part of the time in my safe, part of the time this afternoon on my
desk by the window."

"The office was locked, I suppose?" asked Kennedy. "There was no way
to slip this letter in among the others since you obtained them?"

"None. The office has been locked, and there is no evidence of any one
having entered or disturbed a thing."

He was hastily running over the pile of letters as if looking to see
whether they were all there. Suddenly he stopped.

"Yes," he exclaimed excitedly, "one of them _is_ gone." Nervously he
fumbled through them again. "One is gone," he repeated, looking at us,
startled.

"What was is about?" asked Craig.

"It was a note from an artist, Thurston, who gave the address of Mrs.
Boncour's bungalow--ah, I see you have heard of him. He asked Dixon's
recommendation of a certain patent headache medicine. I thought it
possibly evidential, and I asked Dixon about it. He explained it by
saying that he did not have a copy of his reply, but as near as he
could recall, he wrote that the compound would not cure a headache
except at the expense of reducing heart action dangerously. He says he
sent no prescription. Indeed, he thought it a scheme to extract advice
without incurring the charge for an office call and answered it only
because he thought Vera had become reconciled to Thurston again. I
can't find that letter of Thurston's. It is gone."

We looked at each other in amazement.

"Why, if Dixon contemplated anything against Miss Lytton, should he
preserve this letter from her?" mused Kennedy. "Why didn't he destroy
it?"

"That's what puzzles me," remarked Leland. "Do you suppose some one
has broken in and substituted this Lytton letter for the Thurston
letter?"

Kennedy was scrutinizing the letter, saying nothing. "I may keep it?"
he asked at length. Leland was quite willing and even undertook to
obtain some specimens of the writing of Vera Lytton. With these and
the letter Kennedy was working far into the night and long after I had
passed into a land troubled with many wild dreams of deadly poisons
and secret intrigues of artists.

The next morning a message from our old friend First Deputy O'Connor
in New York told briefly of locating the rooms of an artist named
Thurston in one of the co-operative studio apartments. Thurston
himself had not been there for several days and was reported to have
gone to Maine to sketch. He had had a number of debts, but before he
left they had all been paid--strange to say, by a notorious firm of
shyster lawyers, Kerr & Kimmel. Kennedy wired back to find out the
facts from Kerr & Kimmel and to locate Thurston at any cost.

Even the discovery of the new letter did not shake the wonderful
self-possession of Dr. Dixon. He denied ever having received it and
repeated his story of a letter from Thurston to which he had replied
by sending an answer, care of Mrs. Boncour, as requested. He insisted
that the engagement between Miss Lytton and himself had been broken
before the announcement of his engagement with Miss Willard. As for
Thurston, he said the man was little more than a name to him. He had
known perfectly all the circumstances of the divorce, but had had no
dealings with Thurston and no fear of him. Again and again he denied
ever receiving the letter from Vera Lytton.

Kennedy did not tell the Willards of the new letter. The strain had
begun to tell on Alma, and her father had had her quietly taken to
a farm of his up in the country. To escape the curious eyes of
reporters, Halsey Post had driven up one night in his closed car. She
had entered it quickly with her father, and the journey had been made
in the car, while Halsey Post had quietly dropped oft on the outskirts
of the town, where another car was waiting to take him back. It was
evident that the Willard family relied implicitly on Halsey, and his
assistance to them was most considerate. While he never forced himself
forward, he kept in close touch with the progress of the case, and now
that Alma was away his watchfulness increased proportionately, and
twice a day he wrote a long report which was sent to her.

Kennedy was now bending every effort to locate the missing artist.
When he left Danbridge, he seemed to have dropped out of sight
completely. However, with O'Connor's aid, the police of all New
England were on the lookout.

The Thurstons had been friends of Halsey's before Vera Lytton had ever
met Dr. Dixon, we discovered from the Danbridge gossips, and I, at
least, jumped to the conclusion that Halsey was shielding the artist,
perhaps through a sense of friendship when he found that Kennedy was
interested in Thurston's movement. I must say I rather liked Halsey,
for he seemed very thoughtful of the Willards, and was never too
busy to give an hour or so to any commission they wished carried out
without publicity.

Two days passed with not a word from Thurston. Kennedy was obviously
getting impatient. One day a rumor was received that he was in Bar
Harbor; the next it was a report from Nova Scotia. At last, however,
came the welcome news that he had been located in New Hampshire,
arrested, and might be expected the next day.

At once Kennedy became all energy. He arranged for a secret conference
in Senator Willard's house, the moment the artist was to arrive. The
senator and his daughter made a flying trip back to town. Nothing was
said to any one about Thurston, but Kennedy quietly arranged with the
district attorney to be present with the note and the jar of ammonia
properly safeguarded. Leland of course came, although his client could
not. Halsey Post seemed only too glad to be with Miss Willard, though
he seemed to have lost interest in the case as soon as the Willards
returned to look after it themselves. Mrs. Boncour was well enough
to attend, and even Dr. Waterworth insisted on coming in a private
ambulance which drove over from a near-by city especially for him. The
time was fixed just before the arrival of the train that was to bring
Thurston.

It was an anxious gathering of friends and foes of Dr. Dixon who sat
impatiently waiting for Kennedy to begin this momentous exposition
that was to establish the guilt or innocence of the calm young
physician who sat impassively in the jail not half a mile from the
room where his life and death were being debated.

"In many respects this is the most remarkable case that it has ever
been my lot to handle," began Kennedy. "Never before have I felt
so keenly my sense of responsibility. Therefore, though this is a
somewhat irregular proceeding, let me begin by setting forth the facts
as I see them.

"First, let us consider the dead woman. The question that arises here
is, Was she murdered or did she commit suicide? I think you will
discover the answer as I proceed. Miss Lytton, as you know, was, two
years ago, Mrs. Burgess Thurston. The Thurstons had temperament, and
temperament is quite often the highway to the divorce court. It was
so in this case. Mrs. Thurston discovered that her husband was paying
much attention to other women. She sued for divorce in New York, and
he accepted service in the South, where he happened to be. At least it
was so testified by Mrs. Thurston's lawyer.

"Now here comes the remarkable feature of the case. The law firm of
Kerr & Kimmel, I find, not long ago began to investigate the legality
of this divorce. Before a notary Thurston made an affidavit that he
had never been served by the lawyer for Miss Lytton, as she was now
known. Her lawyer is dead, but his representative in the South who
served the papers is alive. He was brought to New York and asserted
squarely that he had served the papers properly.

"Here is where the shrewdness of Mose Kimmel, the shyster lawyer, came
in. He arranged to have the Southern attorney identify the man he had
served the paper on. For this purpose he was engaged in conversation
with one of his own clerks when the lawyer was due to appear. Kimmel
appeared to act confused, as if he had been caught napping. The
Southern lawyer, who had seen Thurston only once, fell squarely into
the trap and identified the clerk as Thurston. There were plenty
of witnesses to it, and it was point number two for the great Mose
Kimmel. Papers were drawn up to set aside the divorce decree.

"In the meantime, Miss Lytton, or Mrs. Thurston, had become acquainted
with a young doctor in a New York hospital, and had become engaged to
him. It matters not that the engagement was later broken. The fact
remains that if the divorce were set aside an action would lie against
Dr. Dixon for alienating Mrs. Thurston's affections, and a grave
scandal would result. I need not add that in this quiet little town of
Danbridge the most could be made of such a suit."

Kennedy was unfolding a piece of paper. As he laid it down, Leland,
who was sitting next to me, exclaimed under his breath:

"My God, he's going to let the prosecutor know about that letter.
Can't you stop him?"

It was too late. Kennedy had already begun to read Vera's letter.
It was damning to Dixon, added to the other note found in the
ammonia-jar.

When he had finished reading, you could almost hear the throbbing in
the room. A scowl overspread Senator Willard's features. Alma Willard
was pale and staring wildly at Kennedy. Halsey Post, even solicitous
for her, handed her a glass of water from the table. Dr. Waterworth
had forgotten his pain in his intense attention, and Mrs. Boncour
seemed stunned with astonishment. The prosecuting attorney was eagerly
taking notes.

"In some way," pursued Kennedy in an even voice, "this letter was
either overlooked in the original correspondence of Dr. Dixon or it
was added to it later. I shall come back to that presently. My next
point is that Dr. Dixon says he received a letter from Thurston on the
day the artist visited the Boncour bungalow. It asked about a certain
headache compound, and his reply was brief and, as nearly as I can
find out, read, 'This compound will not cure your headache except at
the expense of reducing heart action dangerously.'

"Next comes the tragedy. On the evening of the day that Thurston left,
after presumably telling Miss Lytton about what Kerr & Kimmel had
discovered, Miss Lytton is found dying with a bottle containing
cyanide and sublimate beside her. You are all familiar with the
circumstances and with the note discovered in the jar of ammonia. Now,
if the prosecutor will be so kind as to let me see that note--thank
you, sir. This is the identical note. You have all heard the various
theories of the jar and have read the note. Here it is in plain, cold
black and white--in Dr. Dixon's own handwriting, as you know, and
read: 'This will cure your headache. Dr. Dixon.'"

Alma Willard seemed as one paralyzed. Was Kennedy, who had been
engaged by her father to defend her fiancé, about to convict him?

"Before we draw the final conclusion," continued Kennedy gravely,
"there are one or two points I wish to elaborate. Walter, will you
open that door into the main hall?"

I did so, and two policemen stepped in with a prisoner. It was
Thurston, but changed almost beyond recognition. His clothes were
worn, his beard shaved off, and he had a generally hunted appearance.

Thurston was visibly nervous. Apparently he had heard all that Kennedy
had said and intended he should hear, for as he entered he almost
broke away from the police officers in his eagerness to speak.

"Before God," he cried dramatically, "I am as innocent as you are of
this crime, Professor Kennedy."

"Are you prepared to swear before _me_." almost shouted Kennedy, his
eyes blazing, "that you were never served properly by your wife's
lawyers in that suit?"

The man cringed back as if a stinging blow had been delivered between
his eyes. As he met Craig's fixed glare he knew there was no hope.
Slowly, as if the words were being wrung from him syllable by
syllable, he said in a muffled voice:

"No, I perjured myself. I was served in that suit. But--"

"And you swore falsely before Kimmel that you were not?" persisted
Kennedy.

"Yes," he murmured. "But--"

"And you are prepared now to make another affidavit to that effect?"

"Yes," he replied. "If--"

"No buts or ifs, Thurston," cried Kennedy sarcastically. 'What did you
make that affidavit for? What is _your_ story?"

"Kimmel sent for me. I did not go to him. He offered to pay my debts
if I would swear to such a statement. I did not ask why or for whom. I
swore to it and gave him a list of my creditors. I waited until they
were paid. Then my conscience"--I could not help revolting at the
thought of conscience in such a wretch, and the word itself seemed to
stick in his throat as he went on and saw how feeble an impression he
was making on us--"my conscience began to trouble me. I determined to
see Vera, tell her all, and find out whether it was she who wanted
this statement. I saw her. When at last I told her, she scorned me. I
can confirm that, for as I left a man entered. I now knew how grossly
I had sinned, in listening to Mose Kimmel. I fled. I disappeared
in Maine. I travelled. Every day my money grew less. At last I was
overtaken, captured, and brought back here."

He stopped and sank wretchedly down in a chair and covered his face
with his hands.

"A likely story," muttered Leland in my ear.

Kennedy was working quickly. Motioning the officers to be seated by
Thurston, he uncovered a jar which he had placed on the table. The
color had now appeared in Alma's cheeks, as if hope had again sprung
in her heart, and I fancied that Halsey Post saw his claim on her
favor declining correspondingly.

"I want you to examine the letters in this case with me," continued
Kennedy. "Take the letter which I read from Miss Lytton, which was
found following the strange disappearance of the note from Thurston."

He dipped a pen into a little bottle, and wrote on a piece of paper:

       *       *       *       *       *

What is your opinion about Cross's Headache Cure? Would you recommend
it for a nervous headache?

Burgess Thurston,

c/o Mrs. S. Boncour.

       *       *       *       *       *

Craig held up the writing so that we could all see that he had written
what Dixon declared Thurston wrote in the note that had disappeared.
Then he dipped another pen into a second bottle, and for some time he
scrawled on another sheet of paper. He held it up, but it was still
perfectly blank.

"Now," he added, "I am going to give a little demonstration which I
expect to be successful only in a measure. Here in the open sunshine
by this window I am going to place these two sheets of paper side by
side. It will take longer than I care to wait to make my demonstration
complete, but I can do enough to convince you."

For a quarter of an hour we sat in silence, wondering what he would do
next. At last he beckoned us over to the window. As we approached he
said, "On sheet number one I have written with quinoline; on sheet
number two I wrote with a solution of nitrate of silver."

We bent over. The writing signed "Thurston" on sheet number one
was faint, almost imperceptible, but on paper number two, in black
letters, appeared what Kennedy had written: "Dear Harris: Since we
agreed to disagree we have at least been good friends."

"It is like the start of the substituted letter, and the other is like
the missing note," gasped Leland in a daze.

"Yes," said Kennedy quickly. "Leland, no one entered your office. No
one stole the Thurston note. No one substituted the Lytton letter.
According to your own story, you took them out of the safe and left
them in the sunlight all day. The process that had been started
earlier in ordinary light, slowly, was now quickly completed. In other
words, there was writing which would soon fade away on one side of the
paper and writing which was invisible but would soon appear on the
other.

"For instance, quinoline rapidly disappears in sunlight. Starch with a
slight trace of iodine writes a light blue, which disappears in air.
It was something like that used in the Thurston letter. Then, too,
silver nitrate dissolved in ammonia gradually turns black as it is
acted on by light and air. Or magenta treated with a bleaching-agent
in just sufficient quantity to decolorise it is invisible when used
for writing. But the original color reappears as the oxygen of the air
acts upon the pigment. I haven't a doubt but that my analyses of the
inks are correct and on one side quinoline was used and on the other
nitrate of silver. This explains the inexplicable disappearance of
evidence incriminating one person, Thurston, and the sudden appearance
of evidence incriminating another, Dr. Dixon. Sympathetic ink also
accounts for the curious circumstance that the Lytton letter was
folded up with the writing apparently outside. It was outside and
unseen until the sunlight brought it out and destroyed the other,
inside, writing--a chance, I suspect, that was intended for the police
to see after it was completed, not for the defence to witness as it
was taking place."

We looked at each other aghast. Thurston was nervously opening and
shutting his lips and moistening them as if he wanted to say something
but could not find the words.

"Lastly," went on Craig, utterly regardless of Thurston's frantic
efforts to speak, "we come to the note that was discovered so queerly
crumpled up in the jar of ammonia on Vera Lytton's dressing-table. I
have here a cylindrical glass jar in which I place some sal-ammoniac
and quicklime. I will wet it and heat it a little. That produces the
pungent gas of ammonia.

"On one side of this third piece of paper I myself write with this
mercurous nitrate solution. You see, I leave no mark on the paper as
I write. I fold it up and drop it into the jar--and in a few seconds
withdraw it. Here is a very quick way of producing something like the
slow result of sunlight with silver nitrate. The fumes of ammonia have
formed the precipitate of black, mercurous nitrate, a very distinct
black writing which is almost indelible. That is what is technically
called invisible rather than sympathetic ink."

We leaned over to read what he had written. It was the same as the
note incriminating Dixon:

       *       *       *       *       *

This will cure your headache.

Dr. Dixon.

       *       *       *       *       *

A servant entered with a telegram from New York. Scarcely stopping in
his exposure, Kennedy tore it open, read it hastily, stuffed it into
his pocket, and went on.

"Here in this fourth bottle I have an acid solution of iron chloride,
diluted until the writing is invisible when dry," he hurried on. "I
will just make a few scratches on this fourth sheet of paper--so. It
leaves no mark. But it has the remarkable property of becoming red in
vapor of sulpho-cyanide. Here is a long-necked flask of the gas, made
by sulphuric acid acting on potassium sulpho-cyanide. Keep back, Dr.
Waterworth, for it would be very dangerous for you to get even a whiff
of this in your condition. Ah! See--the scratches I made on the paper
are red."

Then hardly giving us more than a moment to let the fact impress
itself on our minds, he seized the piece of paper and dashed it into
the jar of ammonia. When he withdrew it, it was just a plain sheet
of white paper again. The red marks which the gas in the flask had
brought out of nothingness had been effaced by the ammonia. They had
gone and left no trace.

"In this way I can alternately make the marks appear and disappear by
using the sulpho-cyanide and the ammonia. Whoever wrote this note
with Dr. Dixon's name on it must have had the doctor's reply to
the Thurston letter containing the words, 'This will not cure your
headache.' He carefully traced the words, holding the genuine note up
to the light with a piece of paper over it, leaving out the word 'not'
and using only such words as he needed. This note was then destroyed.

"But he forgot that after he had brought out the red writing by the
use of the sulpho-cyanide, and though he could count on Vera Lytton's
placing the note in the jar of ammonia and hence obliterating the
writing, while at the same time the invisible writing in the mercurous
nitrate involving Dr. Dixon's name would he brought out by the ammonia
indelibly on the other side of the note--he forgot"--Kennedy was now
speaking eagerly and loudly--"that the sulpho-cyanide vapors could
always be made to bring back to accuse him the words that the ammonia
had blotted out."

Before the prosecutor could interfere, Kennedy had picked up the note
found in the ammonia-jar beside the dying girl and had jammed the
state's evidence into the long-necked flask of sulpho-cyanide vapor.

"Don't fear," he said, trying to pacify the now furious prosecutor,
"it will do nothing to the Dixon writing. That is permanent now, even
if it is only a tracing."

When he withdrew the note, there was writing on both sides, the black
of the original note and something in red on the other side.

We crowded around, and Craig read it with as much interest as any of
us:

"Before taking the headache-powder, be sure to place the contents of
this paper in a jar with a little warm water."

"Hum," commented Craig, "this was apparently written on the outside
wrapper of a paper folded about some sal-ammoniac and quicklime. It
goes on:

       *       *       *       *       *

"'Just drop the whole thing in, _paper and all_. Then if you feel a
faintness from the medicine the ammonia will quickly restore you. One
spoonful of the headache-powder swallowed quickly is enough.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

No name was signed to the directions, but they were plainly written,
and "_paper and all_" was underscored heavily.

Craig pulled out some letters. "I have here specimens of writing of
many persons connected with this case, but I can see at a glance which
one corresponds to the writing on this red death-warrant by an
almost inhuman fiend. I shall, however, leave that part of it to the
handwriting experts to determine at the trial. Thurston, who was the
man whom you saw enter the Boncour bungalow as you left--the constant
visitor?"

Thurston had not yet regained his self-control, but with trembling
forefinger he turned and pointed to Halsey Post.

"Yes, ladies and gentlemen," cried Kennedy as he slapped the telegram
that had just come from New York down on the table decisively, "yes,
the real client of Kerr & Kimmel, who bent Thurston to his purposes,
was Halsey Post, once secret lover of Vera Lytton till threatened by
scandal in Danbridge--Halsey Post, graduate in technology, student
of sympathetic inks, forger of the Vera Lytton letter and the other
notes, and dealer in cyanides in the silver-smithing business,
fortune-hunter for the Willard millions with which to recoup the Post
& Vance losses, and hence rival of Dr. Dixon for the love of Alma
Willard. That is the man who wielded the poisoned pen. Dr. Dixon is
innocent."



THE INVISIBLE RAY

BY ARTHUR B. REEVE


"I won't deny that I had some expectations from the old man myself."

Kennedy's client was speaking in a low, full-chested, vibrating voice,
with some emotion, so low that I had entered the room without being
aware that any one was there until it was too late to retreat.

"As his physician for over twelve years," the man pursued, "I
certainly had been led to hope to be remembered in his will. But,
Professor Kennedy, I can't put it too strongly when I say that there
is no selfish motive in my coming to you about the case. There is
something wrong--depend on that."

Craig had glanced up at me and, as I hesitated, I could see in an
instant that the speaker was a practitioner of a type that is rapidly
passing away, the old-fashioned family doctor.

"Dr. Burnham, I should like to have you know Mr. Jameson," introduced
Craig. "You can talk as freely before him as you have to me alone. We
always work together."

I shook hands with the visitor.

"The doctor has succeeded in interesting me greatly in a case which
has some unique features," Kennedy explained. "It has to do with
Stephen Haswell, the eccentric old millionaire of Brooklyn. Have you
ever heard of him?"

"Yes, indeed," I replied, recalling an occasional article which had
appeared in the newspapers regarding a dusty and dirty old house in
that part of the Heights in Brooklyn whence all that is fashionable
had not yet taken flight, a house of mystery, yet not more mysterious
than its owner in his secretive comings and goings in the affairs of
men of a generation beyond his time. Further than the facts that he
was reputed to be very wealthy and led, in the heart of a great city,
what was as nearly like the life of a hermit as possible, I knew
little or nothing, "What has he been doing now?" I asked.

"About a week ago," repeated the doctor, in answer to a nod of
encouragement from Kennedy, "I was summoned in the middle of the night
to attend Mr. Haswell, who, as I have been telling Professor Kennedy,
had been a patient of mine for over twelve years. He had been suddenly
stricken with total blindness. Since then he appears to be failing
fast, that is, he appeared so the last time I saw him, a few days ago,
after I had been superseded by a younger man. It is a curious case and
I have thought about it a great deal. But I didn't like to speak to
the authorities; there wasn't enough to warrant that, and I should
have been laughed out of court for my pains. The more I have thought
about it, however, the more I have felt it my duty to say something
to somebody, and so, having heard of Professor Kennedy, I decided to
consult him. The fact of the matter is, I very much fear that there
are circumstances which will bear sharp looking into, perhaps a scheme
to get control of the old man's fortune."

The doctor paused, and Craig inclined his head, as much as to signify
his appreciation of the delicate position in which Burnham stood in
the case. Before the doctor could proceed further, Kennedy handed me a
letter which had been lying before him on the table. It had evidently
been torn into small pieces and then carefully pasted together.

The superscription gave a small town in Ohio and a date about a
fortnight previous.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dear Father [it read]: I hope you will pardon me for writing, but I
cannot let the occasion of your seventy-fifth birthday pass without a
word of affection and congratulation. I am alive and well--Time has
dealt leniently with me in that respect, if not in money matters. I
do not say this in the hope of reconciling you to me. I know that is
impossible after all these cruel years. But I do wish that I could see
you again. Remember, I am your only child and even if you still think
I have been a foolish one, please let me come to see you once before
it is too late. We are constantly traveling from place to place, but
shall be here for a few days.

Your loving daughter,

GRACE HASWELL MARTIN.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Some fourteen or fifteen years ago," explained the doctor as I looked
up from reading the note, "Mr. Haswell's only daughter eloped with an
artist named Martin. He had been engaged to paint a portrait of the
late Mrs. Haswell from a photograph. It was the first time that
Grace Haswell had ever been able to find expression for the artistic
yearning which had always been repressed by the cold, practical sense
of her father. She remembered her mother perfectly since the sad
bereavement of her girlhood and naturally she watched and helped the
artist eagerly. The result was a portrait which might well have been
painted from the subject herself rather than from a cold photograph.

"Haswell saw the growing intimacy of his daughter and the artist. His
bent of mind was solely toward money and material things, and he at
once conceived a bitter and unreasoning hatred for Martin, who, he
believed, had 'schemed' to capture his daughter and an easy living.
Art was as foreign to his nature as possible. Nevertheless they went
ahead and married, and, well, it resulted in the old man disinheriting
the girl. The young couple disappeared bravely to make their way by
their chosen profession and, as far as I know, have never been heard
from since until now. Haswell made a new will and I have always
understood that practically all of his fortune is to be devoted to
founding the technology department in a projected university of
Brooklyn."

"You have never seen this Mrs. Martin or her husband?" asked Kennedy.

"No, never. But in some way she must have learned that I had some
influence with her father, for she wrote to me not long ago, enclosing
a note for him and asking me to intercede for her. I did so. I took
the letter to him as diplomatically as I could. The old man flew into
a towering rage, refused even to look at the letter, tore it up into
bits, and ordered me never to mention the subject to him again. That
is her note, which I saved. However, it is the sequel about which I
wish your help."

The physician folded up the patched letter carefully before he
continued. "Mr. Haswell, as you perhaps know, has for many years
been a prominent figure in various curious speculations or rather in
loaning money to many curious speculators. It is not necessary to go
into the different schemes which he has helped to finance. Even though
most of them have been unknown to the public they have certainly given
him such a reputation that he is much sought after by inventors.

"Not long ago Haswell became interested in the work of an obscure
chemist over in Brooklyn, Morgan Prescott. Prescott claims, as I
understand, to be able to transmute copper into gold. Whatever you
think of it offhand, you should visit his laboratory yourselves,
gentlemen. I am told it is wonderful, though I have never seen it
and can't explain it. I have met Prescott several times while he was
trying to persuade Mr. Haswell to back him in his scheme, but he was
never disposed to talk to me, for I had no money to invest. So far as
I know about it the thing sounds scientific and plausible enough. I
leave you to judge of that. It is only an incident in my story and I
will pass over it quickly. Prescott, then, believes that the elements
are merely progressive variations of an original substance or base
called 'protyle,' from which everything is derived. But this fellow
Prescott goes much further than any of the former theorists. He does
not stop with matter. He believes that he has the secret of life also,
that he can make the transition from the inorganic to the organic,
from inert matter to living protoplasm, and thence from living
protoplasm to mind and what we call soul, whatever that may be."

"And here is where the weird and uncanny part of it comes in,"
commented Craig, turning from the doctor to me to call my attention
particularly to what was about to follow.

"Having arrived at the point where he asserts that he can create and
destroy matter, life, and mind," continued the doctor, as if himself
fascinated by the idea, "Prescott very naturally does not have to
go far before he also claims a control over telepathy and even a
communication with the dead. He even calls the messages which he
receives by a word which he has coined himself, 'telepagrams.' Thus
he says he has unified the physical, the physiological, and the
psychical--a system of absolute scientific monism."

The doctor paused again, then resumed. "One afternoon, about a week
ago, apparently, as far as I am able to piece together the story,
Prescott was demonstrating his marvellous discovery of the unity of
nature. Suddenly he faced Mr. Haswell.

"'Shall I tell you a fact, sir, about yourself?' he asked quickly.
'The truth as I see it by means of my wonderful invention? If it
is the truth, will you believe in me? Will you put money into my
invention? Will you share in becoming fabulously rich?"

"Haswell made some noncommittal answer. But Prescott seemed to look
into the machine through a very thick plate-glass window, with Haswell
placed directly before it. He gave a cry. 'Mr. Haswell,' he exclaimed,
'I regret to tell you what I see. You have disinherited your daughter;
she has passed out of your life and at the present moment you do not
know where she is.'

"'That's true,' replied the old man bitterly, 'and more than that I
don't care. Is that all you see? That's nothing new.'

"'No, unfortunately, that is not all I see. Can you bear something
further? I think you ought to know it. I have here a most mysterious
telepagram.'

"'Yes. What is it? Is she dead?'

"'No, it is not about her. It is about yourself. To-night at midnight
or perhaps a little later,' repeated Prescott solemnly, 'you will lose
your sight as a punishment for your action.'

"'Pouf!' exclaimed the old man in a dudgeon, 'if that is all your
invention can tell me, good-bye. You told me you were able to make
gold. Instead, you make foolish prophecies. I'll put no money into
such tomfoolery. I'm a practical man,' and with that he stamped out of
the laboratory.

"Well, that night, about one o'clock, in the silence of the lonely old
house, the aged caretaker, Jane, whom he had hired after he banished
his daughter from his life, heard a wild shout of 'Help! Help!'
Haswell, alone in his room on the second floor, was groping about in
the dark.

"'Jane,' he ordered, 'a light--a light.'

"'I have lighted the gas, Mr. Haswell,' she cried.

"A groan followed. He had himself found a match, had struck it, had
even burnt his fingers with it, yet he saw nothing.

"The blow had fallen. At almost the very hour which Prescott, by means
of his weird telepagram, had predicted, old Haswell was stricken.

"'I'm blind,' he gasped. 'Send for Dr. Burnham.'"

"I went to him immediately when the maid roused me, but there was
nothing I could do except prescribe perfect rest for his eyes and
keeping in a dark room in the hope that his sight might be restored as
suddenly and miraculously as it had been taken away.

"The next morning, with his own hand, trembling and scrawling in his
blindness, he wrote the following on a piece of paper:

       *       *       *       *       *

"MRS. GRACE MARTIN--Information wanted about the present whereabouts
of Mrs. Grace Martin, formerly Grace Haswell of Brooklyn.

STEPHEN HASWELL,

--Pierrepont St., Brooklyn.

       *       *       *       *       *

"This advertisement he caused to be placed in all the New York papers
and to be wired to the leading Western papers. Haswell himself was a
changed man after his experience. He spoke bitterly of Prescott, yet
his attitude toward his daughter was completely reversed. Whether he
admitted to himself a belief in the prediction of the inventor, I do
not know. Certainly he scouted such an idea in telling me about it.

"A day or two after the advertisements appeared a telegram came to the
old man from a little town in Indiana. It read simply: 'Dear Father:
Am starting for Brooklyn to-day. Grace."

"The upshot was that Grace Haswell, or rather Grace Martin, appeared
the next day, forgave and was forgiven with much weeping, although the
old man still refused resolutely to be reconciled with and receive her
husband. Mrs. Martin started in to clean up the old house. A vacuum
cleaner sucked a ton or two of dust from it. Everything was
changed. Jane grumbled a great deal, but there was no doubt a great
improvement. Meals were served regularly. The old man was taken care
of as never before. Nothing was too good for him. Everywhere the touch
of a woman was evident in the house. The change was complete. It even
extended to me. Some friend had told her of an eye and ear specialist,
a Dr. Scott, who was engaged. Since then, I understand, a new will
has been made, much to the chagrin of the trustees of the projected
school. Of course I am cut out of the new will, and that with the
knowledge at least of the woman who once appealed to me, but it does
not influence me in coming to you."

"But what has happened since to arouse suspicion?" asked Kennedy,
watching the doctor furtively.

"Why, the fact is that, in spite of all this added care, the old man
is failing more rapidly than ever. He never goes out except attended
and not much even then. The other day I happened to meet Jane on the
street. The faithful old soul poured forth a long story about his
growing dependence on others and ended by mentioning a curious red
discoloration that seems to have broken out over his face and hands.
More from the way she said it than from what she said I gained the
impression that something was going on which should be looked into."

"Then you perhaps think that Prescott and Mrs. Martin are in some way
connected in this case?" I hazarded.

I had scarcely framed the question before he replied in an emphatic
negative. "On the contrary, it seems to me that if they know each other
at all it is with hostility. With the exception of the first stroke of
blindness"--here he lowered his voice earnestly--"practically every
misfortune that has overtaken Mr. Haswell has been since the advent of
this new Dr. Scott. Mind, I do not wish even to breathe that Mrs. Martin
has done anything except what a daughter should do. I think she has
shown herself a model of forgiveness and devotion. Nevertheless the turn
of events under the new treatment has been so strange that almost it
makes one believe that there might be something occult about it--or
wrong with the new doctor."

"Would it be possible, do you think, for us to see Mr. Haswell?" asked
Kennedy, when Dr. Burnham had come to a full stop after pouring forth
his suspicions. "I should like to see this Dr. Scott. But first I
should like to get into the old house without exciting hostility."

The doctor was thoughtful. "You'll have to arrange that yourself," he
answered. "Can't you think up a scheme? For instance, go to him with
a proposal like the old schemes he used to finance. He is very much
interested in electrical inventions. He made his money by speculation
in telegraphs and telephones in the early days when they were more or
less dreams. I should think a wireless system of television might at
least interest him and furnish an excuse for getting in, although I am
told his daughter discourages all tangible investment in the schemes
that used to interest his active mind."

"An excellent idea," exclaimed Kennedy. "It is worth trying anyway.
It is still early. Suppose we ride over to Brooklyn with you. You can
direct us to the house and we'll try to see him."

It was still light when we mounted the high steps of the house of
mystery across the bridge. Mrs. Martin, who met us in the parlor,
proved to be a stunning looking woman with brown hair and beautiful
dark eyes. As far as we could see the old house plainly showed the
change. The furniture and ornaments were of a period long past, but
everything was scrupulously neat. Hanging over the old marble mantel
was a painting which quite evidently was that of the long since
deceased Mrs. Haswell, the mother of Grace. In spite of the hideous
style of dress of the period after the war, she had evidently been a
very beautiful woman with large masses of light chestnut hair and
blue eyes which the painter had succeeded in catching with almost
life-likeness for a portrait.

It took only a few minutes for Kennedy, in his most engaging and
plausible manner, to state the hypothetical reason of our call. Though
it was perfectly self-evident from the start that Mrs. Martin would
throw cold water on anything requiring an outlay of money Craig
accomplished his full purpose of securing an interview with Mr.
Haswell. The invalid lay propped up in bed, and as we entered he heard
us and turned his sightless eyes in our direction almost as if he saw.

Kennedy had hardly begun to repeat and elaborate the story which he
had already told regarding his mythical friend who had at last a
commercial wireless "televue," as he called it on the spur of the
moment, when Jane, the aged caretaker, announced Dr. Scott. The
new doctor was a youthfully dressed man, clean-shaven, but with an
undefinable air of being much older than his smooth face led one to
suppose. As he had a large practice, he said, he would beg our pardon
for interrupting but would not take long.

It needed no great, powers of observation to see that the old man
placed great reliance on his new doctor and that the visit partook of
a social as well as a professional nature. Although they talked low
we could catch now and then a word or phrase. Dr. Scott bent down and
examined the eyes of his patient casually. It was difficult to believe
that they saw nothing, so bright was the blue of the iris.

"Perfect rest for the present," the doctor directed, talking more to
Mrs. Martin than to the old man. "Perfect rest, and then when his
health is good, we shall see what can be done with that cataract."

He was about to leave, when the old man reached up and restrained him,
taking hold of the doctor's wrist tightly, as if to pull him nearer in
order to whisper to him without being overheard. Kennedy was sitting
in a chair near the head of the bed, some feet away, as the doctor
leaned down. Haswell, still holding his wrist, pulled him closer. I
could not hear what was said, though somehow I had an impression that
they were talking about Prescott, for it would not have been at all
strange if the old man had been greatly impressed by the alchemist.

Kennedy, I noticed, had pulled an old envelope from his pocket and was
apparently engaged in jotting down some notes, glancing now and then
from his writing to the doctor and then to Mr. Haswell.

The doctor stood erect in a few moments and rubbed his wrist
thoughtfully with the other hand, as if it hurt. At the same time he
smiled on Mrs. Martin. "Your father has a good deal of strength yet,
Mrs. Martin," he remarked. "He has a wonderful constitution. I feel
sure that we can pull him out of this and that he has many, many years
to live."

Mr. Haswell, who caught the words eagerly, brightened visibly, and the
doctor passed out. Kennedy resumed his description of the supposed
wireless picture apparatus which was to revolutionize the newspaper,
the theatre, and daily life in general. The old man did not seem
enthusiastic and turned to his daughter with some remark.

"Just at present," commented the daughter, with an air of finality,
"the only thing my father is much interested in is a way in which
to recover his sight without an operation. He has just had a rather
unpleasant experience with one inventor. I think it will be some time
before he cares to embark in any other such schemes."

Kennedy and I excused ourselves with appropriate remarks of
disappointment. From his preoccupied manner it was impossible for me
to guess whether Craig had accomplished his purpose or not.

"Let us drop in on Dr. Burnham since we are over here," he said when
we had reached the street. "I have some questions to ask him."

The former physician of Mr. Haswell lived not very far from the house
we had just left. He appeared a little surprised to see us so soon,
but very interested in what had taken place.

"Who is this Dr. Scott?" asked Craig when we were seated in the
comfortable leather chairs of the old-fashioned consulting-room.

"Really, I know no more about him than you do," replied Burnham. I
thought I detected a little of professional jealousy in his tone,
though he went on frankly enough, "I have made inquiries and I can
find out nothing except that he is supposed to be a graduate of some
Western medical school and came to this city only a short time ago. He
has hired a small office in a new building devoted entirely to doctors
and they tell me that he is an eye and ear specialist, though I cannot
see that he has any practice. Beyond that I know nothing about him."

"Your friend Prescott interests me, too," remarked Kennedy, changing
the subject quickly.

"Oh, he is no friend of mine," returned the doctor, fumbling in a
drawer of his desk. "But I think I have one of his cards here which
he gave me when we were introduced some time ago at Mr. Haswell's. I
should think it would be worth while to see him. Although he has no
use for me because I have neither money nor influence, still you might
take this card. Tell him you are from the university, that I have
interested you in him, that you know a trustee with money to
invest--anything you like that is plausible. When are you going to see
him?"

"The first thing in the morning," replied Kennedy. "After I have seen
him I shall drop in for another chat with you. Will you be here?"

The doctor promised, and we took our departure.

Prescott's laboratory, which we found the next day from the address
on the card, proved to be situated in one of the streets near the
waterfront under the bridge approach, where the factories and
warehouses clustered thickly. It was with a great deal of anticipation
of seeing something happen that we threaded our way through the maze
of streets with the cobweb structure of the bridge, carrying its
endless succession of cars arching high over our heads. We had nearly
reached the place when Kennedy paused and pulled out two pairs of
glasses, those huge round tortoiseshell affairs.

"You needn't mind these, Walter," he explained. "They are only plain
glass, that is, not ground. You can see through them as well as
through air. We must be careful not to excite suspicion. Perhaps a
disguise might have been better, but I think this will do. There--they
add at least a decade to your age. If you could see yourself you
wouldn't speak to your reflection. You look as scholarly as a Chinese
mandarin. Remember, let me do the talking and do just as I do."

We had now entered the shop, stumbled up the dark stairs, and
presented Dr. Burnham's card with a word of explanation along the
lines which he had suggested. Prescott, surrounded by his retorts,
crucibles, burettes, and condensers, received us much more graciously
than I had had any reason to anticipate. He was a man in the late
forties, his face covered with a thick beard, and his eyes, which
seemed a little weak, were helped out with glasses almost as scholarly
as ours.

I could not help thinking that we three bespectacled figures lacked
only the flowing robes to be taken for a group of mediaeval alchemists
set down a few centuries out of our time in the murky light of
Prescott's sanctum. Yet, though he accepted us at our face value, and
began to talk of his strange discoveries there was none of the old
familiar prating about matrix and flux, elixir, magisterium, magnum
opus, the mastery and the quintessence, those alternate names for the
philosopher's stone which Paracelsus, Simon Forman, Jerome Cardan, and
the other mediaeval worthies indulged in. This experience at least was
as up-to-date as the Curies, Becquerel, Ramsay, and the rest.

"Transmutation," remarked Prescott, "was, as you know, finally
declared to be a scientific absurdity in the eighteenth century. But I
may say that it is no longer so regarded. I do not ask you to believe
anything until you have seen; all I ask is that you maintain the same
open mind which the most progressive scientists of to-day exhibit in
regard to the subject."

Kennedy had seated himself some distance from a curious piece or
rather collection of apparatus over which Prescott was working. It
consisted of numerous coils and tubes.

"It may seem strange to you, gentlemen," Prescott proceeded, "that a
man who is able to produce gold from, say, copper should be seeking
capital from other people. My best answer to that old objection is
that I am not seeking capital, as such. The situation with me is
simply this. Twice I have applied to the patent office for a patent
on my invention. They not only refuse to grant it, but they refuse to
consider the application or even to give me a chance to demonstrate my
process to them. On the other hand, suppose I try this thing secretly.
How can I prevent any one from learning my trade secret, leaving me,
and making gold on his own account? Men will desert as fast as I
educate them. Think of the economic result of that; it would turn the
world topsy-turvy. I am looking for some one who can be trusted to the
last limit to join with me, furnish the influence and standing while
I furnish the brains and the invention. Either we must get the
government interested and sell the invention to it or we must get
government protection and special legislation. I am not seeking
capital; I am seeking protection. First let me show you something."

He turned a switch, and a part of the collection of apparatus began to
vibrate.

"You are undoubtedly acquainted with the modern theories of matter,"
he began, plunging into the explanation of his process. "Starting
with the atom, we believe no longer that it is indivisible. Atoms
are composed of thousands of ions, as they are called--really little
electric charges. Again, you know that we have found that all the
elements fall into groups. Each group has certain related atomic
weights and properties which can be and have been predicted in advance
of the discovery of missing elements in the group. I started with the
reasonable assumption that the atom of one element in a group could
be modified so as to become the atom of another element in the group,
that one group could perhaps be transformed into another, and so on,
if only I knew the force that would change the number or modify the
vibrations of these ions composing the various atoms.

"Now for years I have been seeking that force or combination of forces
that would enable me to produce this change in the elements--raising
or lowering them in the scale, so to speak. I have found it. I am not
going to tell you or any other man whom you may interest the secret of
how it is done until I find some one I can trust as I trust myself.
But I am none the less willing that you should see the results. If
they are not convincing, then nothing can be."

He appeared to be debating whether to explain further, and finally
resumed: "Matter thus being in reality a manifestation of force or
ether in motion, it is necessary to change and control that force and
motion. This assemblage of machines here is for that purpose. Now a
few words as to my theory."

He took a pencil and struck a sharp blow on the table. "There you have
a single blow," he said, "just one isolated noise. Now if I strike
this tuning fork you have a vibrating note. In other words, a
succession of blows or wave vibrations of a certain kind affects
the ear and we call it sound, just as a succession of other wave
vibrations affects the retina and we have sight. If a moving picture
moves slower than a certain number of pictures a minute you see the
separate pictures; faster it is one moving picture.

"Now as we increase the rapidity of wave vibration and decrease the
wave length we pass from, sound waves to heat waves or what are known
as the infra-red waves, those which lie below the red in the spectrum
of light. Next we come to light, which is composed of the seven colors
as you know from seeing them resolved in a prism. After that are what
are known as the ultra-violet rays, which lie beyond the violet of
white light. We also have electric waves, the waves of the alternating
current, and shorter still we find the Hertzian waves, which are used
in wireless. We have only begun to know of X-rays and the alpha, beta,
and gamma rays from them, of radium, radioactivity, and finally of
this new force which I have discovered and call 'protodyne,' the
original force.

"In short, we find in the universe Matter, Force, and Ether. Matter
is simply ether in motion, is composed of corpuscles, electrically
charged ions, or electrons, moving units of negative electricity about
one one-thousandth part of the hydrogen atom. Matter is made up of
electricity and nothing but electricity. Let us see what that leads
to. You are acquainted with Mendeléeff's periodic table?"

He drew forth a huge chart on which all the eighty or so elements were
arranged in eight groups or octaves and twelve series. Selecting one,
he placed his finger on the letters "Au," Under which was written the
number, 197.2. I wondered what the mystic letters and figures meant.

"That," he explained, "is the scientific name for the element gold and
the figure is its atomic weight. You will see," he added, pointing
down the second vertical column on the chart, "that gold belongs to
the hydrogen group--hydrogen, lithium, sodium, potassium, copper,
rubidium, silver, caesium, then two blank spaces for elements yet
to be discovered to science, then gold, and finally another unknown
element."

Running his finger along the eleventh, horizontal series, he
continued: "The gold series--not the group--reads gold, mercury,
thallium, lead, bismuth, and other elements known only to myself. For
the known elements, however, these groups and series are now perfectly
recognized by all scientists; they are determined by the fixed weight
of the atom, and there is a close approximation to regularity.

"This twelfth series is interesting. So far only radium, thorium, and
uranium are generally known. We know that the radioactive elements are
constantly breaking down, and one often hears uranium, for instance,
called the 'parent' of radium. Radium also gives off an emanation,
and among its products is helium, quite another element. Thus the
transmutation of matter is well known within certain bounds to all
scientists to-day like yourself, Professor Kennedy. It has even
been rumored but never proved that copper has been transformed into
lithium--both members of the hydrogen-gold group, you will observe.
Copper to lithium is going backward, so to speak. It has remained for
me to devise this protodyne apparatus by which I can reverse that
process of decay and go forward in the table, so to put it--can change
lithium into copper and copper into gold. I can create and destroy
matter by protodyne."

He had been fingering a switch as he spoke. Now he turned it on
triumphantly. A curious snapping and crackling noise followed,
becoming more rapid, and as it mounted in intensity I could smell a
pungent odor of ozone which told of an electric discharge. On went
the machine until we could feel heat radiating from it. Then came a
piercing burst of greenish-blue light from a long tube which looked
like a curious mercury vapor lamp.

After a few minutes of this Prescott took a small crucible of black
lead. "Now we are ready to try it," he cried in great excitement.
"Here I have a crucible containing some copper. Any substance in the
group would do, even hydrogen if there was any way I could handle the
gas. I place it in the machine--so. Now, if you could watch inside you
would see it change; it is now rubidium, now silver, now caesium. Now
it is a hitherto unknown element which I have named after myself,
presium, now a second unknown element, cottium--ah! there we have
gold."

He drew forth the crucible, and there glowed in it a little bead or
globule of molten gold.

"I could have taken lead or mercury and by varying the process done
the same thing with the gold series as well as the gold group," he
said, regarding the globule with obvious pride. "And I can put this
gold back and bring it out copper or hydrogen, or better yet, can
advance it instead of cause it to decay, and can get a radioactive
element which I have named morganium--after my first name, Morgan
Prescott. Morganium is a radioactive element next in the series to
radium and much more active. Come closer and examine the gold."

Kennedy shook his head as if perfectly satisfied to accept the result.
As for me I knew not what to think. It was all so plausible and there
was the bead of gold, too, that I turned to Craig for enlightenment.
Was he convinced? His face was inscrutable.

But as I looked I could see that Kennedy had been holding concealed
in the palm of his hand a bit of what might be a mineral. From my
position I could see the bit of mineral glowing, but Prescott could
not.

"Might I ask," interrupted Kennedy, "what that curious greenish or
bluish light from the tube is composed of?"

Prescott eyed him keenly for an instant through his thick glasses.
Craig had shifted his gaze from the bit of mineral in his own hand,
but was not looking at the light. He seemed to be indifferently
contemplating Prescott's hand as it rested on the switch.

"That, sir," replied Prescott slowly, "is an emanation due to this new
force, protodyne, which I use. It is a manifestation of energy, sir,
that may run changes not only through the whole gamut of the elements,
but is capable of transforming the ether itself into matter, matter
into life, and life into mind. It is the outward sign of the unity of
nature, the--"

"The means by which you secure the curious telepagrams I have heard
of?" inquired Kennedy eagerly.

Prescott looked at him sharply, and for a moment I thought his face
seemed to change from a livid white to an apoplectic red, although it
may have been only the play of the weird light. When he spoke it was
with no show of even suppressed surprise.

"Yes," he answered calmly. "I see that you have heard something of
them. I had a curious case a few days ago. I had hoped to interest a
certain capitalist of high standing in this city. I had showed him
just what I have showed you, and I think he was impressed by it. Then
I thought to clinch the matter by a telepagram, but for some reason
or other I failed to consult the forces I control as to the wisdom
of doing so. Had I, I should have known better. But I went ahead in
self-confidence and enthusiasm. I told him of a long banished daughter
with whom, in his heart, he was really wishing to become reconciled
but was too proud to say the word. He resented it. He started to stamp
out of this room, but not before I had another telepagram which told
of a misfortune that was soon to overtake the old man himself. If he
had given me a chance I might have saved him, at least have flashed a
telepagram to that daughter myself, but he gave me no chance. He was
gone.

"I do not know precisely what happened after that, but in some way
this man found his daughter, and to-day she is living with him. As for
my hopes of getting assistance from him, I lost them from the moment
when I made my initial mistake of telling him something distasteful.
The daughter hates me and I hate her. I have learned that she never
ceases advising the old man against all schemes for investment
except those bearing moderate interest and readily realized on. Dr.
Burnham--I see you know him--has been superseded by another doctor,
I believe. Well, well, I am through with that incident. I must get
assistance from other sources. The old man, I think, would have
tricked me out of the fruits of my discovery anyhow. Perhaps I am
fortunate. Who knows?"

A knock at the door cut him short. Prescott opened it, and a messenger
boy stood there. "Is Professor Kennedy here?" he inquired.

Craig motioned to the boy, signed for the message, and tore it open.
"It is from Dr. Burnham," he exclaimed, handing the message to me.

"Mr. Haswell is dead," I read. "Looks to me like asphyxiation by gas
or some other poison. Come immediately to his house. Burnham."

"You will pardon me," broke in Craig to Prescott, who was regarding us
without the slightest trace of emotion, "but Mr. Haswell, the old man
to whom I know you referred, is dead, and Dr. Burnham wishes to see
me immediately. It was only yesterday that I saw Mr. Haswell and he
seemed in pretty good health and spirits. Prescott, though there was
no love lost between you and the old man, I would esteem it a great
favor if you would accompany me to the house. You need not take any
responsibility unless you desire."

His words were courteous enough, but Craig spoke in a tone of quiet
authority which Prescott found it impossible to deny, Kennedy had
already started to telephone to his own laboratory, describing a
certain suitcase to one of his students and giving his directions. It
was only a moment later that we were panting up the sloping street
that led from the river front. In the excitement I scarcely noticed
where we were going until we hurried up the steps to the Haswell
house.

The aged caretaker met us at the door. She was in tears. Upstairs in
the front room where we had first met the old man we found Dr. Burnham
working frantically over him. It took only a minute to learn what had
happened. The faithful Jane had noticed an odor of gas in the hall,
had traced it to Mr. Haswell's room, had found him unconscious, and
instinctively, forgetting the new Dr. Scott, had rushed forth for Dr.
Burnham. Near the bed stood Grace Martin, pale but anxiously watching
the efforts of the doctor to resuscitate the blue-faced man who was
stretched cold and motionless on the bed.

Dr. Burnham paused in his efforts as we entered. "He is dead, all
right," he whispered, aside. "I have tried everything I know to bring
him back, but he is beyond help."

There was still a sickening odor of illuminating gas in the room,
although the windows were now all open.

Kennedy, with provoking calmness in the excitement, turned from and
ignored Dr. Burnham. "Have you summoned Dr. Scott?" he asked Mrs.
Martin.

"No," she replied, surprised. "Should I have done so?"

"Yes. Send Jane immediately. Mr. Prescott, will you kindly be seated
for a few moments."

Taking off his coat, Kennedy advanced to the bed where the emaciated
figure lay, cold and motionless. Craig knelt down at Mr. Haswell's
head and took the inert arms, raising them up until they were extended
straight. Then be brought them down, folded upward at the elbow at
the side. Again and again he tried this Sylvester method of inducing
respiration, but with no more result than Dr. Burnham had secured. He
turned the body over on its face and tried the new Schaefer method.
There seemed to be not a spark of life left.

"Dr. Scott is out," reported the maid breathlessly, "but they are
trying to locate him from his office, and if they do they will send
him around immediately."

A ring at the doorbell caused us to think that he had been found, but
it proved to be the student to whom Kennedy had telephoned at his own
laboratory. He was carrying a heavy suitcase and a small tank.

Kennedy opened the suitcase hastily and disclosed a little motor, some
long tubes of rubber fitting into a small rubber cap, forceps, and
other paraphernalia. The student quickly attached one tube to the
little tank, while Kennedy grasped the tongue of the dead man with the
forceps, pulled it up off the soft palate, and fitted the rubber cap
snugly over his mouth and nose.

"This is the Draeger pulmotor," he explained as he worked, "devised
to resuscitate persons who have died of electric shock, but actually
found to be of more value in cases of asphyxiation. Start the motor."

The pulmotor began to pump. One could see the dead man's chest rise as
it was inflated with oxygen forced by the accordion bellows from the
tank through one of the tubes into the lungs. Then it fell as the
oxygen and the poisonous gas were slowly sucked out through the other
tube. Again and again the process was repeated, about ten times a
minute.

Dr. Burnham looked on in undisguised amazement. He had long since
given up all hope. The man was dead, Medically dead, as dead as ever
was any gas victim at this stage on whom all the usual methods of
resuscitation had been tried and had failed.

Still, minute after minute, Kennedy worked faithfully on, trying to
discover some spark of life and to fan it into flame. At last, after
what seemed to be a half-hour of unremitting effort, when the oxygen
had long since been exhausted and only fresh air was being pumped into
the lungs and out of them, there was a first faint glimmer of life in
the heart and a touch of color in the cheeks. Haswell was coming to.
Another half-hour found him muttering and rambling weakly.

"The letter--the letter," he moaned, rolling his glazed eyes about.
"Where is the letter? Send for Grace."

The moan was so audible that it was startling. It was like a voice
from the grave. What did it all mean? Mrs. Martin was at his side in a
moment.

"Father, father,--here I am--Grace. What do you want?"

The old man moved restlessly, feverishly, and pressed his trembling
hand to his forehead as if trying to collect his thoughts. He was
weak, but it was evident that he had been saved.

The pulmotor had been stopped. Craig threw the cap to his student to
be packed up, and as he did so he remarked quietly, "I could wish
that Dr. Scott had been found. There are some matters here that might
interest him."

He paused and looked slowly from the rescued man lying dazed on the
bed toward Mrs. Martin. It was quite apparent even to me that she did
not share the desire to see Dr. Scott, at least not just then. She was
flushed and trembling with emotion. Crossing the room hurriedly she
flung open the door into the hall.

"I am sure," she cried, controlling herself with difficulty and
catching at a straw, as it were, "that you gentlemen, even if you have
saved my father, are no friends of either his or mine. You have merely
come here in response to Dr. Burnham, and he came because Jane lost
her head in the excitement and forgot that Dr. Scott is now our
physician."

"But Dr. Scott could not have been found in time, madame," interposed
Dr. Burnham with evident triumph.

She ignored the remark and continued to hold the door open.

"Now leave us," she implored, "you, Dr. Burnham, you, Mr. Prescott,
you, Professor Kennedy, and your friend Mr. Jameson, whoever you may
be."

She was now cold and calm. In the bewildering change of events we had
forgotten the wan figure on the bed still gasping for the breath of
life. I could not help wondering at the woman's apparent lack of
gratitude, and a thought flashed over my mind. Had the affair come to
a contest between various parties fighting by fair means or foul for
the old man's money--Scott and Mrs. Martin perhaps against Prescott
and Dr. Burnham.

No one moved. We seemed to be waiting on Kennedy. Prescott and Mrs.
Martin were now glaring at each other implacably.

The old man moved restlessly on the bed, and over my shoulder I could
hear him gasp faintly, "Where's Grace? Send for Grace."

Mrs. Martin paid no attention, seemed not to hear, but stood facing
us imperiously as if waiting for us to obey her orders and leave the
house. Burnham moved toward the door, but Prescott stood his ground
with a peculiar air of defiance. Then he took my arm and started
rather precipitately, I thought, to leave.

"Come, come," said somebody behind us, "enough of the dramatics."

It was Kennedy, who had been bending down, listening to the muttering
of the old man.

"Look at those eyes of Mr. Haswell," he said. "What color are they?"

We looked. They were blue.

"Down in the parlor," continued Kennedy leisurely, "you will find a
portrait of the long deceased Mrs. Haswell. If you will examine that
painting you will see that her eyes are also a peculiarly limpid blue.
No couple with blue eyes ever had a black-eyed child. At least, if
this is such a case, the Carnegie Institution investigators would
be glad to hear of it, for it is contrary to all that they have
discovered on the subject after years of study of eugenics. Dark-eyed
couples may have light-eyed children, but the reverse, never. What do
you say to that, madame?"

"You lie," screamed the woman, rushing frantically past us. "I am his
daughter. No interlopers shall separate us Father!"

The old man moved feebly away from her.

"Send for Dr. Scott again," she demanded. "See if he cannot be found.
He must be found. You are all enemies, villains."

She addressed Kennedy, but included the whole room in her
denunciation.

"Not all," broke in Kennedy remorselessly. "Yes, madame, send for Dr.
Scott. Why is he not here?"

Prescott, with one hand on my arm and the other on Dr. Burnham's, was
moving toward the door.

"One moment, Prescott," interrupted Kennedy, detaining him with a
look. "There was something I was about to say when Dr. Burnham's
urgent message prevented it. I did not take the trouble even to find
out how you obtained that little globule of molten gold from the
crucible of alleged copper. There are so many tricks by which the gold
could have been 'salted' and brought forth at the right moment that it
was hardly worth while. Besides, I had satisfied myself that my first
suspicions were correct. See that?"

He held out the little piece of mineral I had already seen in his hand
in the alchemist's laboratory.

"That is a piece of willemite. It has the property of glowing or
fluorescing under a certain kind of rays which are themselves
invisible to the human eye. Prescott, your story of the transmutation
of elements is very clever, but not more clever than your real story.
Let us piece it together. I had already heard from Dr. Burnham how Mr.
Haswell was induced by his desire for gain to visit you and how you
had most mysteriously predicted his blindness. Now, there is no such
thing as telepathy, at least in this case. How then was I to explain
it? What could cause such a catastrophe naturally? Why, only those
rays invisible to the human eye, but which make this piece of
willemite glow--the ultra-violet rays."

Kennedy was speaking rapidly and was careful not to pause long enough
to give Prescott an opportunity to interrupt him.

"These ultra-violet rays," he continued, "are always present in an
electric arc light though not to a great degree unless the carbons
have metal cores. They extend for two octaves above the violet of the
spectrum and are too short to affect the eye as light, although they
affect photographic plates. They are the friend of man when he uses
them in moderation as Finsen did in the famous blue light treatment.
But they tolerate no familiarity. To let them--particularly the
shorter of the rays--enter the eye is to invite trouble. There is no
warning sense of discomfort, but from six to eighteen hours after
exposure to them the victim experiences violent pains in the eyes and
headache. Sight may be seriously impaired, and it may take years to
recover. Often prolonged exposure results in blindness, though a
moderate exposure acts like a tonic. The rays may be compared in this
double effect to drugs, such as strychnine. Too much of them may be
destructive even to life itself."

Prescott had now paused and was regarding Kennedy contemptuously.
Kennedy paid no attention, but continued: "Perhaps these mysterious
rays may shed some light on our minds, however. Now, for one thing,
ultra-violet light passes readily through quartz, but is cut off by
ordinary glass, especially if it is coated with chromium. Old Mr.
Haswell did not wear glasses. Therefore he was subject to the
rays--the more so as he is a blond, and I think it has been
demonstrated by investigators that blonds are more affected by them
than are brunettes.

"You have, as a part of your machine, a peculiarly shaped quartz
mercury vapor lamp, and the mercury vapor lamp of a design such as
that I saw has been invented for the especial purpose of producing
ultra-violet rays in large quantity. There are also in your machine
induction coils for the purpose of making an impressive noise, and
a small electric furnace to heat the salted gold. I don't know what
other ingenious fakes you have added. The visible bluish light from
the tube is designed, I suppose, to hoodwink the credulous, but the
dangerous thing about it is the invisible ray that accompanies that
light. Mr. Haswell sat under those invisible rays, Prescott, never
knowing how deadly they might be to him, an old man.

"You knew that they would not take effect for hours, and hence you
ventured the prediction that he would be stricken at about midnight.
Even if it was partial or temporary, still you would be safe in your
prophecy. You succeeded better than you hoped in that part of your
scheme. You had already prepared the way by means of a letter sent to
Mr. Haswell through Dr. Burnham. But Mr. Haswell's credulity and fear
worked the wrong way. Instead of appealing to you he hated you. In
his predicament he thought only of his banished daughter and turned
instinctively to her for help. That made necessary a quick change of
plans."

Prescott, far from losing his nerve, turned on us bitterly. "I knew
you two were spies the moment I saw you," he shouted. "It seemed as if
in some way I knew you for what you were, as if I knew you had seen
Mr. Haswell before you came to me. You, too, would have robbed an
inventor as I am sure he would. But have a care, both of you. You may
be punished also by blindness for your duplicity. Who knows?"

A shudder passed over me at the horrible thought contained in his
mocking laugh. Were we doomed to blindness, too? I looked at the
sightless man on the bed in alarm.

"I knew that you would know us," retorted Kennedy calmly. "Therefore
we came provided with spectacles of Euphos glass, precisely like those
you wear. No, Prescott, we are safe, though perhaps we may have some
burns like those red blotches on Mr. Haswell, light burns."

Prescott had fallen back a step and Mrs. Martin was making an effort
to appear stately and end the interview.

"No," continued Craig, suddenly wheeling, and startling us by the
abruptness of his next exposure, "it is you and your wife here--Mrs.
Prescott, not Mrs. Martin--who must have a care. Stop glaring at each
other. It is no use playing at enemies longer and trying to get rid of
us. You overdo it. The game is up."

Prescott made a rush at Kennedy, who seized him by the wrist and held
him tightly in a grasp of steel that caused the veins on the back of
his hands to stand out like whipcords.

"This is a deep-laid plot," he went on calmly, still holding Prescott,
while I backed up against the door and cut off his wife; "but it is
not so difficult to see it after all. Your part was to destroy the
eyesight of the old man, to make it necessary for him to call on his
daughter. Your wife's part was to play the rôle of Mrs. Martin, whom
he had not seen for years and could not see now. She was to persuade
him, with her filial affection, to make her the beneficiary of his
will, to see that his money was kept readily convertible into cash.

"Then, when the old man was at last out of the way, you two could
decamp with what you could realize before the real daughter cut off
somewhere across the continent could hear of the death of her father.
It was an excellent scheme. But Haswell's plain material newspaper
advertisement was not so effective for your purposes, Prescott, as the
more artistic 'telepagram,' as you call it. Although you two got in
first in answering the advertisement, it finally reached the right
person after all. You didn't get away quickly enough.

"You were not expecting that the real daughter would see it and turn
up so soon. But she has. She lives in California. Mr. Haswell in his
delirium has just told of receiving a telegram which I suppose you,
Mrs. Prescott, read, destroyed, and acted upon. It hurried your plans,
but you were equal to the emergency. Besides, possession is nine
points in the law. You tried the gas, making it look like a suicide.
Jane, in her excitement, spoiled that, and Dr. Burnham, knowing
where I was, as it happened, was able to summon me immediately.
Circumstances have been against you from the first, Prescott."

Craig was slowly twisting up the hand of the inventor, which he still
held. With his other hand he pulled a paper from his pocket. It was
the old envelope on which he had "written upon the occasion of our
first visit to Mr. Haswell when we had been so unceremoniously
interrupted by the visit of Dr. Scott.

"I sat here yesterday by this bed," continued Craig, motioning toward
the chair he had occupied, as I remembered "Mr. Haswell was telling
Dr. Scott something in an undertone. I could not hear it. But the old
man grasped the doctor by the wrist to pull him closer to whisper
to him. The doctor's hand was toward me and I noticed the peculiar
markings of the veins.

"You perhaps are not acquainted with the fact, but the markings of
the veins in the back of the hand are peculiar to each individual--as
infallible, indestructible, and ineffaceable as finger prints or the
shape of the ear. It is a system invented and developed by Professor
Tamassia of the University of Padua, Italy. A superficial observer
would say that all vein patterns were essentially similar, and many
have said so, but Tamassia has found each to be characteristic and
all subject to almost incredible diversities. There are six general
classes--in this case before us, two large veins crossed by a few
secondary veins forming a V with its base near the wrist.

"Already my suspicions had been aroused. I sketched the arrangement of
the veins standing out on that hand. I noted the same thing just now
on the hand that manipulated the fake apparatus in the laboratory.
Despite the difference in make-up Scott and Prescott are the same.

"The invisible rays of the ultra-violet light may have blinded Mr.
Haswell, even to the recognition of his own daughter, but you can
rest assured, Prescott, that the very cleverness of your scheme will
penetrate the eyes of the blindfolded goddess of justice. Burnham, if
you will have the kindness to summon the police, I will take all the
responsibility for the arrest of these people."



THE SILENT BULLET

BY ARTHUR B. REEVE


"Detectives in fiction nearly always make a great mistake," said
Kennedy one evening after a conversation on crime and science. "They
almost invariably antagonize the regular detective force. Now in real
life that's impossible--it's fatal."

"Yes," I agreed, looking up from reading an account of the failure
of a large Wall Street brokerage house, Kerr Parker & Co., and the
peculiar suicide of Kerr Parker. "Yes, it's impossible, just as it is
impossible for the regular detectives to antagonize the newspapers.
Scotland Yard found that out in the Crippen case."

"My idea of the thing, Jameson," continued Kennedy, "is that the
professor of criminal science ought to work with, not against, the
regular detectives. They're all right. They're indispensable, of
course. Half the secret of success nowadays is organization. The
professor of criminal science should be merely what the professor in
a technical school often is--a sort of consulting engineer. For
instance, I believe that organization plus science would go far toward
clearing up that Wall Street case I see you are reading."

I expressed some doubt as to whether the regular police were
enlightened enough to take that view of it.

"Some of them are," he replied. "Yesterday the chief of Police in a
Western city sent a man East to see me about the Price murder--you
know the case?"

Indeed I did. A wealthy banker of the town had been murdered on the
road to the golf club, no one knew why or by whom. Every clue had
proved fruitless, and the list of suspects was itself so long and so
impossible as to seem most discouraging.

"He sent me a piece of a torn handkerchief with a deep blood-stain
on it," pursued Kennedy. "He said it clearly didn't belong to the
murdered man, that it indicated that the murderer had himself been
wounded in the tussle, but as yet it had proved utterly valueless as a
clue. Would I see what I could make of it?

"After his man had told me the story I had a feeling that the murder
was committed by either a Sicilian laborer on the links or a negro
waiter at the club. Well, to make a short story shorter, I decided to
test the blood-stain. Probably you didn't know it, but the Carnegie
Institution has just published a minute, careful, and dry study of the
blood of human beings and of animals. In fact, they have been able to
reclassify the whole animal kingdom on this basis, and have made some
most surprising additions to our knowledge of evolution. Now I don't
propose to bore you with the details of the tests, but one of the
things they showed was that the blood of a certain branch of the
human race gives a reaction much like the blood of a certain group of
monkeys, the chimpanzees, while the blood of another branch gives a
reaction like that of the gorilla. Of course there's lots more to it,
but this is all that need concern us now.

"I tried the tests. The blood on the handkerchief conformed strictly
to the latter test. Now the gorilla was, of course, out of the
question--this was no _Rue Morgue_ murder. Therefore it was the negro
waiter."

"But," I interrupted, "the negro offered a perfect alibi at the start,
and--"

"No buts, Walter. Here's a telegram I received at dinner:
'Congratulations. Confronted Jackson your evidence as wired.
Confessed.'"

"Well, Craig, I take off my hat to you," I exclaimed. "Next you'll be
solving this Kerr Parker case for sure."

"I would take a hand in it if they'd let me," said he simply.

That night, without saying anything, I sauntered down to the imposing
new police building amid the squalor of Center Street. They were very
busy at headquarters, but having once had that assignment for the
_Star_, I had no trouble in getting in. Inspector Barney O'Connor of
the Central Office carefully shifted a cigar from corner to corner of
his mouth as I poured forth my suggestion to him.

"Well, Jameson," he said at length, "do you think this professor
fellow is the goods?"

I didn't mince matters in my opinion of Kennedy. I told him of the
Price case and showed him a copy of the telegram. That settled it.

"Can you bring him down here to-night?" he asked quickly.

I reached for the telephone, found Craig in his laboratory finally,
and in less than an hour he was in the office.

"This is a most baffling case, Professor Kennedy, this case of Kerr
Parker," said the inspector, launching at once into his subject. "Here
is a broker heavily interested in Mexican rubber. It looks like a good
thing--plantations right in the same territory as those of the Rubber
Trust. Now in addition to that he is branching out into coastwise
steamship lines; another man associated with him is heavily engaged in
a railway scheme for the United States down into Mexico. Altogether
the steamships and railroads are tapping rubber, oil, copper, and
I don't know what other regions. Here in New York they have been
pyramiding stocks, borrowing money from two trust companies which they
control. It's a lovely scheme--you've read about it, I suppose. Also
you've read that it comes into competition with a certain group of
capitalists whom we will call 'the System.'

"Well, this depression in the market comes along. At once rumors are
spread about the weakness of the trust companies; runs start on both
of them. The System--you know them--make a great show of supporting
the market. Yet the runs continue. God knows whether they will spread
or the trust companies stand up under it to-morrow after what happened
to-day. It was a good thing the market was closed when it happened.

"Kerr Parker was surrounded by a group of people who were in his
schemes with him. They are holding a council of war in the directors'
room. Suddenly Parker rises, staggers toward the window, falls, and is
dead before a doctor can get to him. Every effort is made to keep the
thing quiet. It is given out that he committed suicide. The papers
don't seem to accept the suicide theory, however. Neither do we. The
coroner, who is working with us, has kept his month shut so far, and
will say nothing till the inquest. For, Professor Kennedy, my first
man on the spot found that--Kerr--Parker--was--murdered.

"Now here comes the amazing part of the story. The doors to the
offices on both sides were open at the time. There were lots of people
in each office. There was the usual click of typewriters, and the buzz
of the ticker, and the hum of conversation. We have any number of
witnesses of the whole affair, but as far as any of them knows no shot
was fired, no smoke was seen, no noise was heard, nor was any weapon
found. Yet here on my desk is a thirty-two calibre bullet. The
coroner's physician probed it out of Parker's neck this afternoon and
turned it over to us."

Kennedy reached for the bullet, and turned it thoughtfully in his
fingers for a moment. One side of it had apparently struck a bone in
the neck of the murdered man, and was flattened. The other side was
still perfectly smooth. With his inevitable magnifying-glass he
scrutinized the bullet on every side. I watched his face anxiously,
and I could see that he was very intent and very excited.

"Extraordinary, most extraordinary," he said to himself as he turned
it over and over. "Where did you say this bullet struck?"

"In the fleshy part of the neck, quite a little back of and below his
ear and just above his collar. There wasn't much bleeding. I think it
must have struck the base of his brain."

"It didn't strike his collar or hair?"

"No," replied the inspector.

"Inspector, I think we shall be able to put our hand on the
murderer--I think we can get a conviction, sir, on the evidence that I
shall get from this bullet in my laboratory."

"That's pretty much like a story-book," drawled the inspector
incredulously, shaking his head.

"Perhaps," smiled Kennedy. "But there will still be plenty of work for
the police to do, too. I've only got a clue to the murderer. It
will tax the whole organization to follow it up, believe me. Now,
Inspector, can you spare the time to go down to Parker's office and
take me over the ground? No doubt we can develop something else
there."

"Sure," answered O'Connor, and within five minutes we were hurrying
down town in one of the department automobiles.

We found the office under guard of one of the Central Office men,
while in the outside office Parker's confidential clerk and a few
assistants were still at work in a subdued and awed manner. Men were
working in many other Wall Street offices that night during the panic,
but in none was there more reason for it than here. Later I learned
that it was the quiet tenacity of this confidential clerk that saved
even as much of Parker's estate as was saved for his widow--little
enough it was, too. What he saved for the clients of the firm no one
will ever know. Somehow or other I liked John Downey, the clerk, from
the moment I was introduced to him. He seemed to me, at least, to be
the typical confidential clerk who would carry a secret worth millions
and keep it.

The officer in charge touched his hat to the inspector, and Downey
hastened to put himself at our service. It was plain that the murder
had completely mystified him, and that he was as anxious as we were to
get at the bottom of it.

"Mr. Downey," began Kennedy, "I understand you were present when this
sad event took place."

"Yes, sir, sitting right here at the directors' table," he replied,
taking a chair, "like this."

"Now can you recollect just how Mr. Parker acted when he was shot?
Could you--er--could you take his place and show us just how it
happened?"

"Yes, sir," said Downey. "He was sitting here at the head of the
table. Mr. Bruce, who is the 'Co.' of the firm, had been sitting here
at his right; I was at the left. The inspector has a list of all the
others present. That door to the right was open, and Mrs. Parker and
some other ladies were in the room--"

"Mrs. Parker?" broke in Kennedy.

"Yes. Like a good many brokerage firms we have a ladies' room. Many
ladies are among our clients. We make a point of catering to them. At
that time I recollect the door was open--all the doors were open. It
was not a secret meeting. Mr. Bruce had just gone into the ladies'
department, I think to ask some of them to stand by the firm--he was
an artist at smoothing over the fears of customers, particularly
women. Just before he went in I had seen the ladies go in a group
toward the far end of the room--to look down at the line of depositors
on the street, which reached around the corner from one of the trust
companies, I thought. I was making a note of an order to send into the
outside office there on the left, and had just pushed this button
here under the table to call a boy to carry it. Mr. Parker had just
received a letter by special delivery, and seemed considerably puzzled
over it. No, I don't know what it was about. Of a sudden I saw him
start in his chair, rise up unsteadily, clap his hand on the back of
his head, stagger across the floor--like this--and fall here."

"Then what happened?"

"Why, I rushed to pick him up. Everything was confusion. I recall
someone behind me saying, 'Here, boy, take all these papers off the
table and carry them into my office before they get lost in the
excitement.' I think it was Bruce's voice. The next moment I heard
someone say, 'Stand back, Mrs. Parker has fainted.' But I didn't pay
much attention, for I was calling to someone not to get a doctor over
the telephone, but to go down to the fifth floor where one has an
office. I made Mr. Parker as comfortable as I could. There wasn't much
I could do. He seemed to want to say something to me, but he couldn't
talk. He was paralyzed, at least his throat was. But I did manage to
make out finally what sounded to me like, 'Tell her I don't believe
the scandal, I don't believe it.' But before he could say whom to tell
he had again become unconscious, and by the time the doctor arrived he
was dead. I guess you know everything else as well as I do."

"You didn't hear the shot fired from any particular direction?" asked
Kennedy.

"No, sir."

"Well, where do you think it came from?"

"That's what puzzles me, sir. The only thing I can figure out is that
it was fired from the outside office--perhaps by some customer who had
lost money and sought revenge. But no one out there heard it either,
any more than, they did in the directors' room or the ladies'
department."

"About that message," asked Kennedy, ignoring what to me seemed to
be the most important feature of the case, the mystery of the silent
bullet. "Didn't you see it after all was over?"

"No, sir; in fact I had forgotten about it till this moment when you
asked me to reconstruct the circumstances exactly. No, sir, I don't
know a thing about it. I can't say it impressed itself on my mind at
the time, either."

"What did Mrs. Parker do when she came to?"

"Oh, she cried as I have never seen a woman cry before. He was dead by
that time, of course. Mr. Bruce and I saw her down in the elevator to
her car. In fact, the doctor, who had arrived, said that the sooner
she was taken home the better she would be. She was quite hysterical."

"Did she say anything that you remember?"

Downey hesitated.

"Out with it, Downey," said the inspector. "What did she say as she
was going down in the elevator?"

"Nothing."

"Tell us. I'll arrest you if you don't."

"Nothing about the murder, on my honor," protested Downey.

Kennedy leaned over suddenly and shot a remark at him, "Then it was
about the note."

Downey was surprised, but not quickly enough. Still he seemed to be
considering something, and in a moment he said:

"I don't know what it was about, but I feel it is my duty, after all,
to tell you. I heard her say, 'I wonder if he knew.'"

"Nothing else?"

"Nothing else."

"What happened after you came back?"

"We entered the ladies' department. No one was there. A woman's
automobile-coat was thrown over a chair in a heap. Mr. Bruce picked it
up. 'It's Mrs. Parker's,' he said. He wrapped it up hastily, and rang
for a messenger."

"Where did he send it?"

"To Mrs. Parker, I suppose. I didn't hear the address."

We next went over the whole suite of offices, conducted by Mr. Downey.
I noted how carefully Kennedy looked into the directors' room through
the open door from the ladies' department. He stood at such an angle
that had he been the assassin he could scarcely have been seen except
by those sitting immediately next Mr. Parker at the directors' table.
The street windows were directly in front of him, and back of him was
the chair on which the motor-coat had been found.

In Parker's own office we spent some time, as well as in Bruce's.
Kennedy made a search for the note, but finding nothing in either
office, turned out the contents of Bruce's scrap-basket. There didn't
seem to be anything in it to interest him, however, even after he had
pieced several torn bits of scraps together with much difficulty, and
he was about to turn the papers back again, when he noticed something
sticking to the side of the basket. It looked like a mass of wet
paper, and that was precisely what it was.

"That's queer," said Kennedy, picking it loose. Then he wrapped it up
carefully and put it in his pocket. "Inspector, can you lend me one
of your men for a couple of days?" he asked, as we were preparing
to leave. "I shall want to send him out of town to-night, and shall
probably need his services when he gets back."

"Very well. Riley will be just the fellow. We'll go back to
headquarters, and I'll put him under your orders."

It was not until late in the following day that I saw Kennedy again.
It had been a busy day on the _Star_. We had gone to work that morning
expecting to see the financial heavens fall. But just about five
minutes to ten, before the Stock Exchange opened, the news came in
over the wire from our financial man on Broad Street: "The System has
forced James Bruce, partner of Kerr Parker, the dead banker, to sell
his railroad, steamship, and rubber holdings to it. On this condition
it promises unlimited support to the market."

"Forced!" muttered the managing editor, as he waited on the office
'phone to get the, composing-room, so as to hurry up the few lines in
red ink on the first page and beat our rivals on the streets with the
first extras. "Why, he's been working to bring that about for the past
two weeks. What that System doesn't control isn't worth having--it
edits the news before our men get it, and as for grist for the divorce
courts, and tragedies, well--Hello, Jenkins, yes, a special extra.
Change the big heads--copy is on the way up--rush it."

"So you think this Parker case is a mess?" I asked.

"I know it. That's a pretty swift bunch of females that have been
speculating at Kerr Parker & Co.'s. I understand there's one
Titian-haired young lady--who, by the way, has at least one husband
who hasn't yet been divorced--who is a sort of ringleader, though she
rarely goes personally to her brokers' office. She's one of those
uptown plungers, and the story is that she has a whole string of
scalps of alleged Sunday-school superintendents at her belt. She
can make Bruce do pretty nearly anything, they say. He's the latest
conquest. I got the story on pretty good authority, but until I
verified the names, dates and places, of course I wouldn't dare print
a line of it. The story goes that her husband is a hanger-on of the
System, and that she's been working in their interest, too. That was
why he was so complacent over the whole affair. They put her up to
capturing Bruce, and after she had acquired an influence over him they
worked it so that she made him make love to Mrs. Parker. It's a long
story, but that isn't all of it. The point was, you see, that by
this devious route they hoped to worm out of Mrs. Parker some inside
information about Parker's rubber schemes, which he hadn't divulged
even to his partners in business. It was a deep and carefully planned
plot, and some of the conspirators were pretty deeply in the mire,
I guess. I wish I'd had all the facts about who this red-haired
Machiavelli was--what a piece of muckraking it would have made! Oh,
here comes the rest of the news story over the wire. By Jove, it is
said on good authority that Bruce will be taken in as one of the board
of directors. What do you think of that?"

So that was how the wind lay--Bruce making love to Mrs. Parker and she
presumably betraying her husband's secrets. I thought I saw it all:
the note from somebody exposing the scheme, Parker's incredulity,
Bruce sitting by him and catching sight of the note, his hurrying out
into the ladies' department, and then the shot. But who fired it?
After all, I had only picked up another clue.

Kennedy was not at the apartment at dinner, and an inquiry at the
laboratory was fruitless also. So I sat down to fidget for a while.
Pretty soon the buzzer on the door sounded, and I opened it to find a
messenger-boy with a large brown paper parcel.

"Is Mr. Bruce here?" he asked.

"Why, no, he doesn't--" then I checked myself and added: "He will be
here presently. You can leave the bundle."

"Well, this is the parcel he telephoned for. His valet told me to
tell him that they had a hard time to find it but he guesses it's all
right. The charges are forty cents. Sign here."

I signed the book, feeling like a thief, and the boy departed. What it
all meant I could not guess.

Just then I heard a key in the lock, and Kennedy came in.

"Is your name Bruce?" I asked.

"Why?" he replied eagerly. "Has anything come?"

I pointed to the package. Kennedy made a dive for it and unwrapped it.
It was a woman's pongee automobile-coat. He held it up to the light.
The pocket on the right-hand side was scorched and burned, and a hole
was torn clean through it. I gasped when the full significance of it
dawned on me.

"How did you get it?" I exclaimed at last in surprise.

"That's where organization comes in," said Kennedy. "The police at
my request went over every messenger call from Parker's office that
afternoon, and traced every one of them up. At last they found one
that led to Bruce's apartment. None of them led to Mrs. Parker's home.
The rest were all business calls and satisfactorily accounted for. I
reasoned that this was the one that involved the disappearance of the
automobile-coat. It was a chance worth taking, so I got Downey to call
up Bruce's valet. The valet of course recognized Downey's voice and
suspected nothing. Downey assumed to know all about the coat in the
package received yesterday. He asked to have it sent up here. I see
the scheme worked."

"But, Kennedy, do you think she--" I stopped, speechless, looking at
the scorched coat.

"Nothing to say--yet," he replied laconically. "But if you could tell
me anything about that note Parker received I'd thank you."

I related what our managing editor had said that morning. Kennedy only
raised his eyebrows a fraction of an inch.

"I had guessed something of that sort," he said merely. "I'm glad to
find it confirmed even by hearsay evidence. This red-haired young lady
interests me. Not a very definite description, but better than nothing
at all. I wonder who she is. Ah, well, what do you say to a stroll
down the White Way before I go to my laboratory? I'd like a breath of
air to relax my mind."

We had got no further than the first theatre when Kennedy slapped me
on the back. "By George, Jameson, she's an actress, of course."

"Who is? What's the matter with you, Kennedy? Are you crazy?"

"The red-haired person--she must be an actress. Don't you remember the
auburn-haired leading lady in the Follies'--the girl who sings that
song about 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary'? Her stage name, you know, is
Phoebe La Neige. Well, if it's she who is concerned in this case
I don't think she'll be playing to-night. Let's inquire at the
box-office."

She wasn't playing, but just what it had to do with anything in
particular I couldn't see, and I said as much.

"Why, Walter, you'd never do as a detective. You lack intuition.
Sometimes I think I haven't quite enough of it, either. Why didn't
I think of that sooner? Don't you know she is the wife of Adolphus
Hesse, the most inveterate gambler in stocks in the System? Why, I had
only to put two and two together and the whole thing flashed on me
in an instant. Isn't it a good hypothesis that she is the red haired
woman in the case, the tool of the System in which her husband is so
heavily involved? I'll have to add her to my list of suspects."

"Why, you don't think she did the shooting?" I asked, half hoping, I
must admit, for an assenting nod from him.

"Well," he answered dryly, "one shouldn't let any preconceived
hypothesis stand between him and the truth. I've made a guess at the
whole thing already. It may or it may not be right. Anyhow she will
fit into it. And if it's not right, I've got to be prepared to make a
new guess, that's all."

When we reached the laboratory on our return, the inspector's man
Riley was there, waiting impatiently for Kennedy.

"What luck?" asked Kennedy.

"I've got a list of purchasers of that kind of revolver," he said. "We
have been to every sporting-goods and arms-store in the city which
bought them from the factory, and I could lay my hands on pretty
nearly every one of the weapons in twenty-four hours--provided, of
course, they haven't been secreted or destroyed."

"Pretty nearly all isn't good enough," said Kennedy. "It will have to
be all, unless--"

"_That_ name is in the list," whispered Riley hoarsely.

"Oh, then it's all right," answered Kennedy, brightening up. "Riley, I
will say that you're a wonder at using the organization in ferreting
out such things. There's just one more thing I want you to do. I want
a sample of the notepaper in the private desks of every one of these
people." He handed the policeman a list of his "suspects," as he
called them. It included nearly every one mentioned in the case.

Riley studied it dubiously and scratched his chin thoughtfully.
"That's a hard one, Mr. Kennedy, sir. You see, it means getting into
so many different houses and apartments. Now you don't want to do it
by means of a warrant, do you, sir? Of course not. Well, then, how can
we get in?"

"You're a pretty good-looking chap yourself, Riley," said Kennedy. "I
should think you could jolly a housemaid, if necessary. Anyhow, you
can get the fellow on the beat to do it--if he isn't already to
be found in the kitchen. Why, I see a dozen ways of getting the
notepaper."

"Oh, it's me that's the lady-killer, sir," grinned Riley. "I'm a
regular Blarney stone when I'm out on a job of that sort. Sure, I'll
have some of them for you in the morning.'

"Bring me what you get, the first thing in the morning, even if
you've landed only a few samples," said Kennedy, as Riley departed,
straightening his tie and brushing his hat on his sleeve.

"And now, Walter, you too must excuse me to-night," said Craig "I've
got a lot to do, and sha'n't be up to our apartment till very late--or
early. But I feel sure I've got a strangle-hold on this mystery. If I
get those papers from Riley in good time to-morrow I shall invite you
and several others to a grand demonstration here to-morrow night.
Don't forget. Keep the whole evening free. It will be a big story."

Kennedy's laboratory was brightly lighted when I arrived early the
next evening. One by one his "guests" dropped in. It was evident that
they had little liking for the visit, but the coroner had sent out the
"invitations," and they had nothing to do but accept. Each one was
politely welcomed by the professor and assigned a seat, much as he
would have done with a group of students. The inspector and the
coroner sat back a little. Mrs. Parker, Mr. Downey, Mr. Bruce,
myself, and Miss La Neige sat in that order in the very narrow and
uncomfortable little armchairs used by the students during lectures.

At last Kennedy was ready to begin. He took his position behind the
long, flat-topped table which he used for his demonstrations before
his classes. "I realize, ladies and gentlemen," he began formally,
"that I am about to do a very unusual thing; but, as you all know, the
police and the coroner have been completely baffled by this terrible
mystery and have requested me to attempt to clear up at least certain
points in it. I will begin what I have to say by remarking that the
tracing out of a crime like this differs in nothing, except as regards
the subject-matter, from the search for a scientific truth. The
forcing of man's secrets is like the forcing of nature's secrets. Both
are pieces of detective work. The methods employed in the detection
of crime are, or rather should be, like the methods employed in the
process of discovering scientific truth. In a crime of this sort, two
kinds of evidence need to be secured. Circumstantial evidence must
first be marshalled, and then a motive must be found. I have been
gathering facts. But to omit motives and rest contented with mere
facts would be inconclusive. It would never convince anybody or
convict anybody. In other words, circumstantial evidence must
first lead to a suspect, and then this suspect must prove equal
to accounting for the facts. It is my hope that each of you may
contribute something that will he of service in arriving at the truth
of this unfortunate incident."

The tension was not relieved even when Kennedy stopped speaking and
began to fuss with a little upright target which he set up at one end
of his table. We seemed to be seated over a powder-magazine which
threatened to explode at any moment. I, at least, felt the tension so
greatly that it was only after he had started speaking again that
I noticed that the target was composed of a thick layer of some
putty-like material.

Holding a thirty-two-calibre pistol in his right hand and aiming it at
the target, Kennedy picked up a large piece of coarse homespun from
the table and held it loosely over the muzzle of the gun. Then he
fired. The bullet tore through the cloth, sped through the air, and
buried itself in the target. With a knife he pried it out.

"I doubt if even the inspector himself could have told us that when an
ordinary leaden bullet is shot through a woven fabric the weave of the
fabric is in the majority of cases impressed on the bullet, sometimes
clearly, sometimes faintly."

Here Kennedy took up a piece of fine batiste and fired another bullet
through it.

"Every leaden bullet, as I have said, which has struck such a fabric
bears an impression of the threads which is recognizable even when the
bullet has penetrated deeply into the body. It is only obliterated
partially or entirely when the bullet has been flattened by striking a
bone or other hard object. Even then, as in this case, if only a part
of the bullet is flattened the remainder may still show the marks of
the fabric. A heavy warp, say of cotton velvet, or as I have here,
homespun, will be imprinted well on the bullet, but even a fine
batiste, containing one hundred threads to the inch, will show marks.
Even layers of goods such as a coat, shirt, and undershirt may each,
leave their marks, but that does not concern us in this case. Now I
have here a piece of pongee silk, cut from a woman's automobile-coat.
I discharge the bullet through it--so. I compare the bullet now with
the others and with the one probed from the neck of Mr. Parker. I find
that the marks on that fatal bullet correspond precisely with those on
the bullet fired through the pongee coat."

Startling as was this revelation, Kennedy paused only an instant
before the next.

"Now I have another demonstration. A certain note figures in this
case. Mr. Parker was reading it, or perhaps re-reading it, at the time
he was shot. I have not been able to obtain that note--at least not in
a form such as I could use in discovering what were its contents. But
in a certain wastebasket I found a mass of wet and pulp-like paper. It
had been cut up, macerated, perhaps chewed; perhaps it had been also
soaked with water. There was a wash-basin with running water in this
room. The ink had run, and of course was illegible. The thing was so
unusual that I at once assumed that this was the remains of the
note in question. Under ordinary circumstances it would be utterly
valueless as a clue to anything. But to-day science is not ready to
let anything pass as valueless.

"I found on microscopic examination that it was an uncommon linen bond
paper, and I have taken a large number of microphotographs of the
fibres in it. They are all similar. I have here also about a hundred
microphotographs of the fibres in other kinds of paper, many of them
bonds. These I have accumulated from time to time in my study of the
subject. None of them, as you see, shows fibres resembling this one in
question, so we may conclude that it is of uncommon quality. Through
an agent of the police I have secured samples of the notepaper of
every one who could be concerned, as far as I could see, with this
case. Here are the photographs of the fibres of these various
notepapers, and among them all is just one that corresponds to the
fibres in the wet mass of paper I discovered in the scrap-basket. Now
lest anyone should question the accuracy of this method I might cite a
case where a man had been arrested in Germany charged with stealing a
government bond. He was not searched till later. There was no evidence
save that after the arrest a large number of spitballs were found
around the courtyard under his cell window. This method of comparing
the fibres with those of the regular government paper was used, and by
it the man was convicted of stealing the bond. I think it is almost
unnecessary to add that in the present case we know precisely who--"

At this point the tension was so great that it snapped. Miss La Neige,
who was sitting beside me, had been leaning forward involuntarily.
Almost as if the words were wrung from her she whispered hoarsely:
"They put me up to doing it; I didn't want to. But the affair had gone
too far. I couldn't see him lost before my very eyes. I didn't want
her to get him. The quickest way out was to tell the whole story to
Mr. Parker and stop it. It was the only way I could think to stop this
thing between another man's wife and the man I loved better than my
own husband. God knows, Professor Kennedy, that was all--"

"Calm yourself, madame," interrupted Kennedy soothingly. "Calm
yourself. What's done is done. The truth must come out. Be calm. Now,"
he continued, after the first storm of remorse had spent itself and we
were all outwardly composed again, "we have said nothing whatever of
the most mysterious feature of the case, the firing of the shot. The
murderer could have thrust the weapon into the pocket or the folds of
this coat"--here he drew forth the automobile coat and held it aloft,
displaying the bullet hole--"and he or she (I will not say which)
could have discharged the pistol unseen. By removing and secreting
the weapon afterward one very important piece of evidence would be
suppressed. This person could have used such a cartridge as I have
here, made with smokeless powder, and the coat would have concealed
the flash of the shot very effectively. There would have been no
smoke. But neither this coat nor even a heavy blanket would have
deadened the report of the shot.

"What are we to think of that? Only one thing. I have often wondered
why the thing wasn't done before. In fact I have been waiting for
it to occur. There is an invention that makes it almost possible to
strike a man down with impunity in broad daylight in any place where
there is sufficient noise to cover up a click, a slight 'Pouf!' and
the whir of the bullet in the air.

"I refer to this little device of a Hartford inventor. I place it
over the muzzle of the thirty-two-calibre revolver I have so far been
using--so. Now, Mr. Jameson, if you will sit at that typewriter over
there and write--anything so long as you keep the keys clicking. The
inspector will start that imitation stock-ticker in the corner. Now we
are ready. I cover the pistol with a cloth. I defy anyone in this room
to tell me the exact moment when I discharged the pistol. I could have
shot any of you, and an outsider not in the secret would never have
thought that I was the culprit. To a certain extent I have reproduced
the conditions under which this shooting occurred.

"At once on being sure of this feature of the case I despatched a man
to Hartford to see this inventor. The man obtained from him a complete
list of all the dealers in New York to whom such devices had been
sold. The man also traced every sale of those dealers. He did not
actually obtain the weapon, but if he is working on schedule-time
according to agreement he is at this moment armed with a
search-warrant and is ransacking every possible place where the person
suspected of this crime could have concealed his weapon. For, one of
the persons intimately connected with this case purchased not long ago
a silencer for a thirty-two-calibre revolver, and I presume that that
person carried the gun and the silencer at the time of the murder of
Kerr Parker."

Kennedy concluded in triumph, his voice high pitched, his eyes
flashing. Yet to all outward appearance not a heart-beat
was quickened. Someone in that room had an amazing store of
self-possession. The fear flitted across my mind that even at the last
Kennedy was baffled.

"I had anticipated some such anti-climax," he continued after a
moment. "I am prepared for it."

He touched a bell, and the door to the next room opened. One of
Kennedy's graduate students stepped in.

"You have the records, Whiting?" he asked.

"Yes, Professor."

"I may say," said Kennedy, "that each of your chairs is wired under
the arm in such a way as to betray on an appropriate indicator in the
next room every sudden and undue emotion. Though it may be concealed
from the eye, even of one like me who stand facing you, such emotion
is nevertheless expressed by physical pressure on the arms of
the chair. It is a test that is used frequently with students to
demonstrate various points of psychology. You needn't raise your arms
from the chair, ladies and gentlemen. The tests are _all over_ now.
What did they show, Whiting?"

The student read what he had been noting in the next room. At the
production of the coat during the demonstration of the markings of the
bullet, Mrs. Parker had betrayed great emotion, Mr. Bruce had done
likewise, and nothing more than ordinary emotion had been noted for
the rest of us. Miss La Neige's automatic record during the tracing
out of the sending of the note to Parker had been especially
unfavorable to hear; Mr. Bruce showed almost as much excitement; Mrs.
Parker very little and Downey very little. It was all set forth in
curves drawn by self-recording pens on regular ruled paper. The
student had merely noted what took place in the lecture-room as
corresponding to these curves.

"At the mention of the noiseless gun," said Kennedy, bending over the
record, while the student pointed it out to him and we leaned forward
to catch his words, "I find that the curves of Miss La Neige, Mrs.
Parker, and Mr. Downey are only so far from normal as would be
natural. All of them were witnessing a thing for the first time with
only curiosity and no fear. The curve made by Mr. Bruce shows great
agitation and--"

I heard a metallic click at my side and turned hastily. It was
Inspector Barney O'Connor, who had stepped out of the shadow with a
pair of hand-cuffs.

"James Bruce, you are under arrest," he said.

There flashed on my mind, and I think on the minds of some of the
others a picture of another electrically wired chair.



THE DEADLY TUBE

BY ARTHUR B. REEVE


"For Heaven's sake, Gregory, what is the matter?" asked Craig Kennedy
as a tall, nervous man stalked into our apartment one evening.
"Jameson, shake hands with Dr. Gregory. What's the matter, Doctor?
Surely your X-ray work hasn't knocked you out like this?"

The doctor shook hands with me mechanically. His hand was icy. "The
blow has fallen," he exclaimed, as he sank limply into a chair and
tossed an evening paper over to Kennedy.

In red ink on the first page, in the little square headed "Latest
News," Kennedy read the caption, "Society Woman Crippled for Life by
X-Ray Treatment."

"A terrible tragedy was revealed in the suit begun to-day," continued
the article, "by Mrs. Huntington Close against Dr. James Gregory, an
X-ray specialist with offices at--Madison Avenue, to recover damages
for injuries which Mrs. Close alleges she received while under his
care. Several months ago she began a course of X-ray treatment to
remove a birthmark on her neck. In her complaint Mrs. Close alleges
that Dr. Gregory has carelessly caused X-ray dermatitis, a skin
disease of cancerous nature, and that she has also been rendered a
nervous wreck through the effects of the rays. Simultaneously with
filing the suit she left home and entered a private hospital. Mrs.
Close is one of the Most popular hostesses in the smart set, and her
loss will be keenly felt."

"What am I to do, Kennedy?" asked the doctor imploringly. "You
remember I told you the other day about this case--that there was
something queer about it, that after a few treatments I was afraid to
carry on any more and refused to do so? She really has dermatitis and
nervous prostration, exactly as she alleges in her complaint. But,
before Heaven, Kennedy, I can't see how she could possibly have been
so affected by the few treatments I gave her. And to-night just as I
was leaving the office, I received a telephone call from her husband's
attorney, Lawrence, very kindly informing me that the case would be
pushed to the limit. I tell you, it looks black for me."

"What can they do?"

"Do? Do you suppose any jury is going to take enough expert testimony
to outweigh the tragedy of a beautiful woman? Do? Why, they can ruin
me, even if I get a verdict of acquittal. They can leave me with a
reputation for carelessness that no mere court decision can ever
overcome."

"Gregory, you can rely on me," said Kennedy. "Anything I can do to
help you I will gladly do. Jameson and I were on the point of going
out to dinner. Join us, and after that we will go down to your office
and talk things over."

"You are really too kind," murmured the doctor. The air of relief that
was written on his face was pathetically eloquent.

"Now not a word about the case till we have had dinner," commanded
Craig. "I see very plainly that you have been worrying about the blow
for a long time. Well, it has fallen. The next thing to do is to look
over the situation and see where we stand."

Dinner over, we rode down-town in the subway, and Gregory ushered
us into an office-building on Madison Avenue, where he had a very
handsome suite of several rooms. We sat down in his waiting-room to
discuss the affair.

"It is indeed a very tragic case," began Kennedy, "almost more tragic
than if the victim had been killed outright. Mrs. Huntington Close is
or rather I suppose I should say was--one of the famous beauties of
the city. From what the paper says, her beauty has been hopelessly
ruined by this dermatitis, which, I understand, Doctor, is practically
incurable."

Dr. Gregory nodded, and I could not help following his eyes as he
looked at his own rough and scarred hands.

"Also," continued Craig, with, his eyes half closed and his
finger-tips together, as if he were taking a mental inventory of the
facts in the case, "her nerves are so shattered that she will be years
in recovering, if she ever recovers."

"Yes," said the doctor simply. "I myself, for instance, am subject to
the most unexpected attacks of neuritis. But, of course, I am under
the influence of the rays fifty or sixty times a day, while she had
only a few treatments at intervals of many days."

"Now, on the other hand," resumed Craig, "I know you, Gregory, very
well. Only the other day, before any of this came out, you told me the
whole story with your fears as to the outcome. I know that the lawyer
of Close's has been keeping this thing hanging over your head for a
long time. And I also know that you are one of the most careful X-ray
operators in the city. If this suit goes against you, one of the most
brilliant men of science in America will be ruined. Now, having said
this much, let me ask you to describe just exactly what treatments you
gave Mrs. Close."

The doctor led us into his X-ray room adjoining. A number of X-ray
tubes were neatly put away in a great glass case, and at one end of
the room was an operating-table with an X-ray apparatus suspended
over it. A glance at the room showed that Kennedy's praise was not
exaggerated.

"How many treatments did you give Mrs. Close?" asked Kennedy.

"Not over a dozen, I should say," replied Gregory. "I have a record of
them and the dates, which I will give you presently. Certainly
they were not numerous enough or frequent enough to have caused a
dermatitis such as she has. Besides, look here. I have an apparatus
which, for safety to the patient, has few equals in the country. This
big lead-glass bowl, which is placed over my X-ray tube when in
use, cuts off the rays at every point except exactly where they are
needed."

He switched on the electric current, and the apparatus began to
sputter. The pungent odor of ozone from the electric discharge filled
the room. Through the lead-glass bowl I could see the X-ray tube
inside suffused with its Peculiar, yellowish-green light, divided into
two hemispheres of different shades. That, I knew, was the cathode
ray, not the X-ray, for the X-ray itself, which streams outside the
tube, is invisible to the human eye. The doctor placed in our hands a
couple of fluoroscopes, an apparatus by which X-rays can be detected.
It consists simply of a closed box with an opening to which the eyes
are placed. The opposite end of the box is a piece of board coated
with a salt such as platino-barium cyanide. When the X-ray strikes
this salt it makes it glow, or fluoresce, and objects held between the
X-ray tube and the fluoroscope cast shadows according to the density
of the parts which the X-rays penetrate.

With the lead-glass bowl removed, the X-ray tube sent forth its
wonderful invisible radiation and made the back of the fluoroscope
glow with light. I could see the bones of my fingers as I held them up
between the X-ray tube and the fluoroscope. But with the lead-glass
bowl in position over the tube, the fluoroscope was simply a black box
into which I looked and saw nothing. So very little of the radiation
escaped from the bowl that it was negligible--except at one point
where there was an opening in the bottom of the bowl to allow the rays
to pass freely through exactly on the spot on the patient where they
were to be used.

"The dermatitis, they say, has appeared all over her body,
particularly on her head and shoulders," added Dr. Gregory. "Now I
have shown you my apparatus to impress on you how really impossible it
would have been for her to contract it from her treatments here. I've
made thousands of exposures with never an X-ray burn before--except to
myself. As for myself, I'm as careful as I can be, but you can see I
am under the rays very often, while the patient is only under them
once in a while."

To illustrate his care he pointed out to us a cabinet directly back
of the operating-table, lined with thick sheets of lead. From this
cabinet he conducted most of his treatments as far as possible.
A little peep-hole enabled him to see the patient and the X-ray
apparatus, while an arrangement of mirrors and a fluorescent screen
enabled him to see exactly what the X-rays were disclosing, without
his leaving the lead-lined cabinet.

"I can think of no more perfect protection for either patient or
operator," said Kennedy admiringly. "By the way, did Mrs. Close come
alone?"

"No, the first time Mr. Close came with her. After that, she came with
her Trench maid."

The next day we paid a visit to Mrs. Close herself at the private
hospital. Kennedy had been casting about in his mind for an excuse to
see her, and I had suggested that we go as reporters from the _Star_.
Fortunately after sending up my card on which I had written Craig's
name we were at length allowed to go up to her room.

We found the patient-reclining in an easy chair, swathed in bandages,
a wreck of her former self. I felt the tragedy keenly. All that social
position and beauty had meant to her had been suddenly blasted.

"You will pardon my presumption," began Craig, "but, Mrs. Close, I
assure you that I am actuated by the best of motives. We represent the
New York _Star_--"

"Isn't it terrible enough that I should suffer so," she interrupted,
"but must the newspapers hound me, too?"

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Close," said Craig, "but you must be aware
that the news of your suit of Dr. Gregory has now become public
property. I couldn't stop the _Star_, much less the other papers, from
talking about it. But I can and will do this, Mrs. Close. I will see
that justice is done to you and all others concerned. Believe me, I
am not here as a yellow journalist to make newspaper copy out of
your misfortune. I am here to get at the truth sympathetically.
Incidentally, I may be able to render you a service, too."

"You can render me no service except to expedite the suit against that
careless doctor--I hate him."

"Perhaps," said Craig. "But suppose someone else should be proved to
have been really responsible? Would you still want to press the suit
and let the guilty person escape?"

She bit her lip. "What is it you want of me?" she asked. I merely want
permission to visit your rooms at your home and to talk with your
maid. I do not mean to spy on you, far from it; but consider, Mrs.
Close, if I should be able to get at the bottom of this thing, find
out the real cause of your misfortune, perhaps show that you are the
victim of a cruel wrong rather than of carelessness, would you not
be willing to let me go ahead? I am frank to tell you that I suspect
there is more to this affair than you yourself have any idea of."

"No, you are mistaken, Mr. Kennedy. I know the cause of it. It was my
love of beauty. I couldn't resist the temptation to get rid of even a
slight defect. If I had left well enough alone I should not be here
now. A friend recommended Dr. Gregory to my husband, who took me
there. My husband wishes me to remain at home, but I tell him I feel
more comfortable here in the hospital. I shall never go to that house
again--the memory of the torture of sleepless nights in my room there
when I felt my good looks going, going"--she shuddered--"is such that
I can never forget it. He says I would be better off there, but no,
I cannot go. Still," she continued wearily, "there can be no harm in
your talking to my maid."

Kennedy noted attentively what she was saying. "I thank you, Mrs.
Close," he replied. "I am sure you will not regret your permission.
Would you be so kind as to give me a note to her?"

She rang, dictated a short note to a nurse, signed it, and languidly
dismissed us.

I don't know that I ever felt as depressed as I did after that
interview with one who had entered a living death to ambition, for
while Craig had done all the talking I had absorbed nothing but
depression. I vowed that if Gregory or anybody else was responsible I
would do my share toward bringing on him retribution.

The Closes lived in a splendid big house in the Murray Hill section.
The presentation of the note quickly brought Mrs. Close's maid down to
us. She had not gone to the hospital because Mrs. Close had considered
the services of the trained nurses quite sufficient.

Yes, the maid had noticed how her mistress had been failing, had
noticed it long ago, in fact almost at the time when she had begun the
X-ray treatment. She had seemed to improve once when she went away for
a few days, but that was at the start, and directly after her return
she grew worse again, until she was no longer herself.

"Did Dr. Gregory, the X-ray specialist, ever attend Mrs. Close at her
home, in her room?" asked Craig.

"Yes, once, twice, he call, but he do no good," she said with her
French accent.

"Did Mrs. Close have other callers?"

"But, m'sieur, everyone in society has many. What does m'sieur mean?"

"Frequent callers--a Mr. Lawrence, for instance?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Lawrence frequently."

"When Mr. Close was at home?"

"Yes, on business and on business, too, when he was not at home. He is
the attorney, m'sieur."

"How did Mrs. Close receive him?"

"He is the attorney, m'sieur," Marie repeated persistently.

"And he, did he always call on business?"

"Oh, yes, always on business, but--well, madame, she was a very
beautiful woman. Perhaps he like beautiful women--_eh bien?_ That was
before the Doctor Gregory treated madame. After the doctor treated
madame M'sieur Lawrence do not call so often. That's all."

"Are you thoroughly devoted to Mrs. Close? Would you do a favor for
her?" asked Craig pointblank.

"Sir, I would give my life, almost, for madame. She was always so good
to me."

"I don't ask you to give your life for her, Marie," said Craig, "but
you can do her a great service, a very great service."

"I will do it."

"To-night," said Craig. "I want you to sleep in Mrs. Close's room. You
can do so, for I know that Mr. Close is living at the St. Francis Club
until his wife returns from the sanitarium. To-morrow morning come to
my laboratory"--Craig handed her his card--"and I will tell you what
to do next. By the way, don't say anything to anyone in the house
about it, and keep a sharp watch on the actions of any of the servants
who may go into Mrs. Close's room."

"Well," said Craig, "there is nothing more to be done immediately." We
had once more regained the street and were walking up-town. We walked
in silence for several blocks.

"Yes," mused Craig, "there is something you can do, after all, Walter.
I would like you to look up Gregory and Close and Lawrence. I already
know something about them. But you can find out a good deal with your
newspaper connections. I would like to have every bit of scandal that
has ever been connected with them, or with Mrs. Close, or," he added
significantly, "with any other woman. It isn't necessary to say that
not a breath of it must be published--yet."

I found a good deal of gossip, but very little of it, indeed, seemed
to me at the time to be of importance. Dropping in at the St. Francis
Club, where I had some friends, I casually mentioned the troubles
of the Huntington Closes. I was surprised to learn that Close spent
little of his time at the Club, none at home, and only dropped into
the hospital to make formal inquiries as to his wife's condition. It
then occurred to me to drop into the office of _Society Squibs_, whose
editor I had long known. The editor told me, with that nameless look
of the cynical scandalmonger, that if I wanted to learn anything about
Huntington Close I had best watch Mrs. Frances Tulkington, a very
wealthy Western divorcée about whom the smart set were much excited,
particularly those whose wealth made it difficult to stand the pace of
society as it was going at present.

"And before the tragedy," said the editor with another nameless look,
as if he were imparting a most valuable piece of gossip, "it was the
talk of the town, the attention that Close's lawyer was paying to Mrs.
Close. But to her credit let me say that she never gave us a chance to
hint at anything, and--well, you know us; we don't need much to make
snappy society news."

The editor then waxed even more confidential, for if I am anything
at all, I am a good listener, and I have found that often by sitting
tight and listening I can get more than if I were a too-eager
questioner.

"It really was a shame the way that man Lawrence played his game," he
went on. "I understand that it was he who introduced Close to Mrs. T.
They were both his clients. Lawrence had fought her case in the courts
when she sued old Tulkington for divorce, and a handsome settlement
he got for her, too. They say his fee ran up into the hundred
thousands--contingent, you know. I don't know what his game was"--here
he lowered his voice to a whisper--"but they say Close owes him a good
deal of money. You can figure it out for yourself as you like. Now,
I've told you all I know. Come in again, Jameson, when you want some
more scandal, and remember me to the boys down on the _Star_."

The following day the maid visited Kennedy at his laboratory while I
was reporting to him on the result of my investigations.

She looked worn and haggard. She had spent a sleepless night and
begged that Kennedy would not ask her to repeat the experiment.

"I can promise you, Marie," he said, "that you will rest better
to-night. But you must spend one more night in Mrs. Close's room. By
the way, can you arrange for me to go through the room this morning
when you go back?"

Marie said she could, and an hour or so later Craig and I quietly
slipped into the Close residence under her guidance. He was carrying
something that looked like a miniature barrel, and I had another
package which he had given me, both carefully wrapped up. The butler
eyed us suspiciously, but Marie spoke a few words to him and I think
showed him Mrs. Close's note. Anyhow he said nothing.

Within the room that the unfortunate woman had occupied Kennedy took
the coverings off the packages. It was nothing but a portable electric
vacuum cleaner, which he quickly attached and set running. Up and down
the floor, around and under the bed he pushed the cleaner. He used the
various attachments to clean the curtains, the walls, and even the
furniture. Particularly did he pay attention to the base board on the
wall back of the bed. Then he carefully removed the dust from the
cleaner and sealed it up in a leaden box.

He was about to detach and pack up the cleaner when another idea
seemed to occur to him. "Might as well make a thorough job of it,
Walter," he said, adjusting the apparatus again. "I've cleaned
everything but the mattress and the brass bars behind the mattress
on the bed. Now I'll tackle them. I think we ought to go into the
suction-cleaning business--more money in it than in being a detective,
I'll bet."

The cleaner was run over and under the mattress and along every crack
and cranny of the brass bed. This done and this dust also carefully
stowed away, we departed, very much to the mystification of Marie
and, I could not help feeling, of other eyes that peered in through
keyholes or cracks in doors.

"At any rate," said Kennedy exultingly, "I think we have stolen a
march on them. I don't believe they were prepared for this, not at
least at this stage in the game. Don't ask me any questions, Walter.
Then you will have no secrets to keep if anyone should try to pry them
loose. Only remember that this man Lawrence is a shrewd character."

The next day Marie came, looking even more careworn than before.

"What's the matter, mademoiselle?" asked Craig. "Didn't you pass a
better night?"

"Oh, mon Dieu, I rest well, yes. But this morning while I am at
breakfast, Mr. Close send for me. He say that I am discharged. Some
servant tell of your visit and he ver-ry angr-ry. And now what is to
become of me--will madame his wife give a recommendation now?"

"Walter, we have been discovered," exclaimed Craig with considerable
vexation. Then he remembered the poor girl who had been an involuntary
sacrifice to our investigation. Turning to her he said: "Marie, I know
several very good families, and I am sure you will not suffer for what
you have done by being faithful to your mistress. Only be patient a
few days. Go live with some of your folks. I will see that you are
placed again."

The girl was profuse in her thanks as she dried her tears and
departed.

"I hadn't anticipated having my hand forced so soon," said Craig after
she had gone, leaving her address. "However, we are on the right
track. What was it that you were going to tell me when Marie came in?"

"Something that may be very important, Craig," I said, "though I don't
understand it myself. Pressure is being brought to bear on the _Star_
to keep this thing out of the papers, or at least to minimize it."

"I'm not surprised," commented Craig. "What do you mean by pressure
being brought?"

"Why, Close's lawyer, Lawrence, called up the editor this morning--I
don't suppose that you know, but he has some connection with the
interests which control the _Star_--and said that the activity of
one of the reporters from the _Star_, Jameson by name, was very
distasteful to Mr. Close and that this reporter was employing a man
named Kennedy to assist him.

"I don't understand it, Craig," I confessed, "but here one day they
give the news to the papers, and two days later they almost threaten
us with suit if we don't stop publishing it."

"It is perplexing," said Craig, with the air of one who was not a bit
perplexed, but rather enlightened.

He pulled down the district telegraph messenger lever three times, and
we sat in silence for a while.

"However," he resumed, "I shall be ready for them to-night."

I said nothing. Several minutes elapsed. Then the messenger rapped on
the door.

"I want these two notes delivered right away," said Craig to the boy;
"here's a quarter for you. Now mind you don't get interested in a
detective story and forget the notes. If you are back here quickly
with the receipts I'll give you another quarter. Now scurry along."

Then, after the boy had gone, he said casually to me: "Two notes to
Close and Gregory, asking them to be present with their attorneys
to-night. Close will bring Lawrence, and Gregory will bring a young
lawyer named Asche, a very clever fellow. The notes are so worded that
they can hardly refuse the invitation."

Meanwhile I carried out an assignment for the _Star_, and telephoned
my story in so as to be sure of being with Craig at the crucial
moment. For I was thoroughly curious about his next move in the game.
I found him still in his laboratory attaching two coils of thin wire
to the connections on the outside of a queer-looking little black box.

"What's that?" I asked, eyeing the sinister-looking little box
suspiciously. "An infernal machine? You're not going to blow the
culprit into eternity, I hope."

"Never mind what it is, Walter. You'll find that out in due time. It
may or it may not be an infernal machine--of a different sort than any
you have probably ever heard of. The less you know now the less likely
you are to give anything away by a look or an act. Come now, make
yourself useful as well as ornamental. Take these wires and lay them
in the cracks of the floor, and be careful not to let them show. A
little dust over them will conceal them beautifully."

Craig now placed the black box back of one of the chairs well down
toward the floor, where it could hardly have been perceived unless one
were suspecting something of the sort. While he was doing so I ran the
wires across the floor, and around the edge of the room to the door.

"There," he said, taking the wires from me. "Now I'll complete the job
by carrying them into the next room. And while I'm doing it, go over
the wires again and make sure they are absolutely concealed."

That night six men gathered in Kennedy's laboratory. In my utter
ignorance of what was about to happen I was perfectly calm, and so
were all the rest, except Gregory. He was easily the most nervous of
us all, though his lawyer Asche tried repeatedly to reassure him.

"Mr. Close," began Kennedy, "if you and Mr. Lawrence will sit over
here on this side of the room while Dr. Gregory and Mr. Asche sit on
the opposite side with Mr. Jameson in the middle, I think both of
you opposing parties will be better suited. For I apprehend that at
various stages in what I am about to say both you, Mr. Close, and you
Dr. Gregory, will want to consult your attorneys. That, of course,
would be embarrassing, if not impossible, should you be sitting near
each other. Now, if we are ready, I shall begin."

Kennedy placed a small leaden casket on the table of his lecture hall.
"In this casket," he commenced solemnly, "there is a certain substance
which I have recovered from the dust swept up by a vacuum cleaner in
the room of Mrs. Close."

One could feel the very air of the room surcharged with excitement.
Craig drew on a pair of gloves and carefully opened the casket. With
his thumb and forefinger he lifted out a glass tube and held it
gingerly at arm's length. My eyes were riveted on it, for the bottom
of the tube glowed with a dazzling point of light.

Both Gregory and his attorney and Close and Lawrence whispered to each
other when the tube was displayed, as indeed they did throughout the
whole exhibition of Kennedy's evidence.

"No infernal machine was ever more subtle," said Craig, "than the
tube which I hold in my hand. The imagination of the most sensational
writer of fiction might well be thrilled with the mysteries of this
fatal tube and its power to work fearful deed. A larger quantity of
this substance in the tube would produce on me, as I now hold it,
incurable burns, just as it did on its discoverer before his death.
A smaller amount, of course, would not act so quickly. The amount in
this tube, if distributed about, would produce the burns inevitably,
providing I remained near enough for a long-enough time."

Craig paused a moment to emphasize his remarks.

"Here in my hand, gentlemen, I hold the price of a woman's beauty."

He stopped again for several moments, then resumed.

"And now, having shown it to you, for my own safety I will place it
back in its leaden casket."

Drawing off his gloves, he proceeded.

"I have found out by a cablegram to-day that seven weeks ago an order
for one hundred milligrams of radium bromide at thirty-five dollars a
milligram from a certain person in America was filled by a corporation
dealing in this substance."

Kennedy said this with measured words, and I felt a thrill run through
me as he developed his case.

"At that same time, Mrs. Close began a series of treatments with an
X-ray specialist in New York," pursued Kennedy. "Now, it is not
generally known outside scientific circles, but the fact is that in
their physiological effects the X-ray and radium are quite one and
the same. Radium possesses this advantage, however, that no elaborate
apparatus is necessary for its use. And, in addition, the emanation
from radium is steady and constant, whereas the X-ray at best varies
slightly with changing conditions of the current and vacuum in the
X-ray tube. Still, the effects on the body are much the same.

"A few days before this order was placed I recall the following
despatch which appeared in the New York papers. I will read it:

       *       *       *       *       *

"'Liege, Belgium, Oct.--, 1910. What is believed to be the first
criminal case in which radium figures as a death-dealing agent is
engaging public attention at this university town. A wealthy old
bachelor, Pailin by name, was found dead in his flat. A stroke of
apoplexy was at first believed to have caused his death, but a close
examination revealed a curious discoloration of his skin. A specialist
called in to view the body gave as his opinion that the old man had
been exposed for a long time to the emanations of X-ray or radium.
The police theory is that M. Pailin was done to death by a systematic
application of either X-ray or radium by a student in the university
who roomed next to him. The student has disappeared.'

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now here, I believe, was the suggestion which this American criminal
followed, for I cut it out of the paper rather expecting sooner or
later that some clever person would act on it. I have thoroughly
examined the room of Mrs. Close. She herself told me she never wanted
to return to it, that her memory of sleepless nights in it was too
vivid. That served to fix the impression that I had already formed
from reading this clipping. Either the X-ray or radium had caused her
dermatitis and nervousness. Which was it? I wished to be sure that I
would make no mistake. Of course I knew it was useless to look for an
X-ray machine in or near Mrs. Close's room. Such a thing could never
have been concealed. The alternative? Radium! Ah! that was different.
I determined on an experiment. Mrs. Close's maid was prevailed on to
sleep in her mistress's room. Of course radiations of brief duration
would do her no permanent harm, although they would produce their
effect, nevertheless. In one night the maid became extremely nervous.
If she had stayed under them several nights no doubt the beginning of
a dermatitis would have affected her, if not more serious trouble. A
systematic application, covering weeks and months, might in the end
even have led to death.

"The next day I managed, as I have said, to go over the room
thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner--a new one of my own which I had
bought myself. But tests of the dust which I got from the floors,
curtains, and furniture showed nothing at all. As a last thought I
had, however, cleaned the mattress of the bed and the cracks and
crevices in the brass bars. Teats of that dust showed it to be
extremely radioactive. I had the dust dissolved, by a chemist who
understands that sort of thing, recrystallized, and the radium salts
were extracted from the refuse. Thus I found that I had recovered
all but a very few milligrams of the radium that had been originally
purchased in London. Here it is in this deadly tube in the leaden
casket.

"It is needless to add that the night after I had cleaned out this
deadly element the maid slept the sleep of the just--and would have
been all right when next I saw her but for the interference of the
unjust on whom I had stolen a march."

Craig paused while the lawyers whispered again to their clients. Then
he continued: "Now three persons in this room had an opportunity to
secrete the contents of this deadly tube in the crevices of the metal
work of Mrs. Close's bed. One of these persons must have placed an
order through a confidential agent in London to purchase the radium
from the English Radium Corporation. One of these persons had a
compelling motive, something to gain by using this deadly element.

"The radium in this tube in the casket was secreted, as I have said,
in the metal work of Mrs. Close's bed, not in large enough quantities
to be immediately fatal, but mixed with dust so as to produce the
result more slowly but no less surely, and thus avoid suspicion.
At the same time Mrs. Close was persuaded--I will not say by
whom--through her natural pride, to take a course of X-ray treatment
for a slight defect. That would further serve to divert suspicion. The
fact is that a more horrible plot could hardly have been planned or
executed. This person sought to ruin her beauty to gain a most selfish
and despicable end."

Again Craig paused to let his words sink into our minds.

"Now I wish to state that anything you gentlemen may say will be used
against you. That is why I have asked you to bring your attorneys. You
may consult with them, of course, while I am getting ready my next
disclosure."

As Kennedy had developed his points in the case I had been more and
more amazed. But I had not failed to notice how keenly Lawrence was
following him.

With half a sneer on his astute face, Lawrence drawled: "I cannot
see that you have accomplished anything by this rather extraordinary
summoning of us to your laboratory. The evidence is just as black
against Dr. Gregory as before. You may think you're clever, Kennedy,
but on the very statement of facts as you have brought them out there
is plenty of circumstantial evidence against Gregory--more than there
was before. As for anyone else in the room, I can't see that you have
anything on us--unless perhaps this new evidence you speak of may
implicate Asche, or Jameson," he added, including me in a wave of his
hand, as if he were already addressing a jury. "It's my opinion that
twelve of our peers would be quite as likely to bring in a verdict of
guilty against them as against anyone else even remotely connected
with this case, except Gregory. No, you'll have to do better than this
in your next case, if you expect to maintain that so-called reputation
of yours for being a professor of criminal science."

As for Close, taking his cue from his attorney, he scornfully added:
"I came to find out some new evidence against the wretch who wrecked
the beauty of my wife. All I've got is a tiresome lecture on X-rays
and radium. I suppose what you say is true. Well, it only bears out
what I thought before. Gregory treated my wife at home, after he saw
the damage his office treatments had done. I guess he was capable of
making a complete job of it--covering up his carelessness by getting
rid of the woman who was such a damning piece of evidence against his
professional skill."

Never a shade passed Craig's face as he listened to this tirade.
"Excuse me a moment," was all he said, opening the door to leave
the room. "I have just one more fact to disclose. I will be back
directly."

Kennedy was gone several minutes, during which Close and Lawrence fell
to whispering behind their hands, with the assurance of those who
believed that this was only Kennedy's method of admitting a defeat.
Gregory and Asche exchanged a few words similarly, and it was plain
that Asche was endeavoring to put a better interpretation on something
than Gregory himself dared hope.

As Kennedy re-entered, Close was buttoning up his coat preparatory to
leaving, and Lawrence was lighting a fresh cigar.

In his hand Kennedy held a notebook. "My stenographer writes a very
legible shorthand; at least I find it so--from long practice, I
suppose. As I glance over her notes I find many facts which will
interest you later--at the trial. But--ah, here at the end--let me
read:

"'Well, he's very clever, but he has nothing against me, has he?'

"'No, not unless he can produce the agent who bought the radium for
you.'

"'But he can't do that. No one could ever have recognized you on your
flying trip to London disguised as a diamond merchant who had just
learned that he could make his faulty diamonds good by applications of
radium and who wanted a good stock of the stuff.'

"'Still, we'll have to drop the suit against Gregory after all, in
spite of what I said. That part is hopelessly spoiled.'

"'Yes, I suppose so. Oh, well, I'm free now. She can hardly help but
consent to a divorce now, and a quiet settlement. She brought it on
herself--we tried every other way to do it, but she--she was too good
to fall into it. She forced us to it.'

"'Yes, you'll get a good divorce now. But can't we shut up this man
Kennedy? Even if he can't prove anything against us, the mere rumor
of such a thing coming to the ears of Mrs. Tulkington would be
unpleasant."

Go as far as you like, Lawrence. You know what the marriage will mean
to me. It will settle my debts to you and all the rest.'

"'I'll see what I can do, Close. He'll be back in a moment.'"

Close's face was livid. "It's a pack of lies!" he shouted, advancing
toward Kennedy, "a pack of lies! You are a fakir and a blackmailer.
I'll have you in jail for this, by God--and you too, Gregory."

"One moment, please," said Kennedy calmly. "Mr. Lawrence, will you be
so kind as to reach behind your chair? What do you find?"

Lawrence lifted up the plain black box and with it he pulled up the
wires which I had so carefully concealed in the cracks of the floor.

"That," said Kennedy, "is a little instrument called the microphone.
Its chief merit lies in the fact that it will magnify a sound sixteen
hundred times, and carry it to any given point where you wish to place
the receiver. Originally this device was invented for the aid of the
deaf, but I see no reason why it should not be used to aid the law.
One needn't eavesdrop at the key-hole with this little instrument
about. Inside that box there is nothing but a series of plugs from
which wires, much finer than a thread, are stretched taut. Yet a fly
walking near it will make a noise as loud as a draft-horse. If the
microphone is placed in any part of the room, especially if near the
persons talking--even if they are talking in a whisper--a whisper such
as occurred several times during the evening and particularly while
I was in the next room getting the notes made by my stenographer--a
whisper, I say, is like shouting your guilt from the house-tops.

"You two men, Close and Lawrence, may consider yourselves under arrest
for conspiracy and whatever other indictments will lie against such
creatures as you. The police will be here in a moment. No, Close,
violence won't do now. The doors are locked--and see, we are four to
two."



THE BLACK HAND

BY ARTHUR B. REEVE


Kennedy and I had been dining rather late one evening at Luigi's, a
little Italian restaurant on the lower West Side. We had known the
place well in our student days, and had made a point of visiting it
once a month since, in order to keep in practice in the fine art of
gracefully handling long shreds of spaghetti. Therefore we did not
think it strange when the proprietor himself stopped a moment at our
table to greet us. Glancing furtively around at the other diners,
mostly Italians, he suddenly leaned over and whispered to Kennedy:

"I have heard of your wonderful detective work, Professor. Could you
give a little advice in the case of a friend of mine?"

"Surely, Luigi. What is the case?" asked Craig, leaning back in his
chair.

Luigi glanced around again apprehensively and lowered his voice. "Not
so loud, sir. When you pay your check, go out, walk around Washington
Square, and come in at the private entrance. I'll be waiting in the
hall. My friend is dining privately upstairs."

We lingered a while over our chianti, then quietly paid the check and
departed.

True to his word, Luigi was waiting for us in the dark hall. With a
motion that indicated silence, he led us up the stairs to the second
floor, and quickly opened a door into what seemed to be a fair-sized
private dining-room. A man was pacing the floor nervously. On a table
was some food, untouched. As the door opened I thought he started
as if in fear, and I am sure his dark face blanched, if only for an
instant. Imagine our surprise at seeing Gennaro, the great tenor,
with whom merely to have a speaking acquaintance was to argue oneself
famous.

"Oh, it is you, Luigi," he exclaimed in perfect English, rich and
mellow. "And who are these gentlemen?"

Luigi merely replied, "Friends," in English also, and then dropped off
into a voluble, lowtoned explanation in Italian.

I could see, as we waited, that the same, idea had flashed over
Kennedy's mind as over my own. It was now three or four days since the
papers had reported the strange kidnapping of Gennaro's five-year-old
daughter Adelina, his only child, and the sending of a demand for
ten thousand dollars ransom, signed, as usual, with the mystic Black
Hand--a name to conjure with in blackmail and extortion.

As Signor Gennaro advanced toward us, after his short talk with Luigi,
almost before the introductions were over, Kennedy anticipated him
by saying: "I understand, Signor, before you ask me. I have read
all about it in the papers. You want someone to help you catch the
criminals who are holding your little girl."

"No, no!" exclaimed Gennaro excitedly. "Not that. I want to get my
daughter first. After that, catch them if you can--yes, I should like
to have someone do it. But read this first and tell me what you think
of it. How should I act to get my little Adelina back without
harming a hair of her head?" The famous singer drew from a capacious
pocketbook a dirty, crumpled letter, scrawled on cheap paper.

Kennedy translated it quickly. It read:

       *       *       *       *       *

Honorable sir: Your daughter is in safe hands. But, by the saints, if
you give this letter to the police as you did the other, not only she
but your family also, someone near to you, will suffer. We will not
fail as we did Wednesday. If you want your daughter back, go yourself,
alone and without telling a soul, to Enrico Albano's Saturday night
at the twelfth hour. You must provide yourself with $10,000 in bills
hidden in Saturday's _Il Progresso Italiano_. In the back room you
will see a man sitting alone at a table. He will have a red flower
on his coat. You are to say, "A fine opera is 'I Pagliacci.'" If he
answers, "Not without Gennaro," lay the newspaper down on the table.
He will pick it up, leaving his own, the _Bolletino_. On the third
page you will find written the place where your daughter has been left
waiting for you. Go immediately and get her. But, by the God, if you
have so much as a shadow of the police near Enrico's your daughter
will be sent to you in a box that night. Do not fear to come. We
pledge our word to deal fairly if you deal fairly. This is a last
warning. Lest you shall forget we will show one other sign of our
power to-morrow.

LA MANO NERA.

       *       *       *       *       *

The end of this ominous letter was gruesomely decorated with a skull
and cross-bones, a rough drawing of a dagger thrust through a bleeding
heart, a coffin, and, under all, a huge black hand. There was no doubt
about the type of letter that it was. It was such as have of late
years become increasingly common in all our large cities, baffling the
best detectives.

"You have not showed this to the police, I presume?" asked Kennedy.

"Naturally not."

"Are you going Saturday night?"

"I am afraid to go and afraid to stay away," was the reply, and the
voice of the fifty-thousand-dollars-a-season tenor was as human as
that of a five-dollar-a-week father, for at bottom all men, high or
low, are one.

"'We will not fail as we did Wednesday,'" reread Craig. "What does
that mean?"

Gennaro fumbled in his pocketbook again, and at last drew forth a
typewritten letter bearing the letter-head of the Leslie Laboratories,
Incorporated.

"After I received the first threat," explained Gennaro, "my wife and
I went from our apartments at the hotel to her father's, the banker
Cesare, you know, who lives on Fifth Avenue. I gave the letter to
the Italian Squad of the police. The next morning my father-in-law's
butler noticed something peculiar about the milk. He barely touched
some of it to his tongue, and he has been violently ill ever since. I
at once sent the milk to the laboratory of my friend Doctor Leslie to
have it analyzed. This letter shows what the household escaped."

"My dear Gennaro," read Kennedy. "The milk submitted to us for
examination on the 10th inst. has been carefully analyzed, and I beg
to hand you herewith the result:

  "Specific gravity 1.036 at 15 degrees Cent.

  Water       84.60 per cent.
  Casein       3.49   "   "
  Albumin     56      "   "
  Globulin     1.32   "   "
  Lactose      5.08   "   "
  Ash         72      "   "
  Fat          3.42   "   "
  Ricin        1.19   "   "

"Ricin is a new and little-known poison derived from the shell of the
castor-oil bean. Professor Ehrlich states that one gram of the pure
poison will kill 1,500,000 guinea pigs. Ricin was lately isolated by
Professor Robert, of Rostock, but is seldom found except in an impure
state, though still very deadly. It surpasses strychnin, prussic
acid, and other commonly known drugs. I congratulate you and yours on
escaping and shall of course respect your wishes absolutely regarding
keeping secret this attempt on your life. Believe me,

"Very sincerely yours,

"C.W. Leslie."

As Kennedy handed the letter back, he remarked significantly: "I can
see very readily why you don't care to have the police figure in your
case. It has got quite beyond ordinary police methods."

"And to-morrow, too, they are going to give another sign of their
power," groaned Gennaro, sinking into the chair before his untasted
food.

"You say you have left your hotel?" inquired Kennedy.

"Yes. My wife insisted that we would be more safely guarded at the
residence of her father, the banker. But we are afraid even there
since the poison attempt. So I have come here secretly to Luigi, my
old friend Luigi, who is preparing food for us, and in a few minutes
one of Cesare's automobiles will be here, and I will take the food up
to her--sparing no expense or trouble. She is heart-broken. It will
kill her, Professor Kennedy, if anything happens to our little
Adelina.

"Ah sir, I am not poor myself. A month's salary at the opera-house,
that is what they ask of me. Gladly would I give it, ten thousand
dollars--all, if they asked it, of my contract with Herr
Schleppencour, the director. But the police--bah!--they are all for
catching the villains. What good will it do me if they catch them and
my little Adelina is returned to me dead? It is all very well for the
Anglo-Saxon to talk of justice and the law, but I am--what you call
it?--an emotional Latin. I want my little daughter--and at any cost.
Catch the villains afterward--yes. I will pay double then to catch
them so that they cannot blackmail me again. Only first I want my
daughter back."

"And your father-in-law?"

"My father-in-law, he has been among you long enough to be one of you.
He has fought them. He has put up a sign in his banking-house, 'No
money paid on threats.' But I say it is foolish. I do not know America
as well as he, but I know this: the police never succeed--the ransom
is paid without their knowledge, and they very often take the credit.
I say, pay first, then I will swear a righteous vendetta--I will bring
the dogs to justice with the money yet on them. Only show me how, show
me how."

"First of all," replied Kennedy, "I want you to answer one question,
truthfully, without reservation, as to a friend. I am your friend,
believe me. Is there any person, a relative or acquaintance of
yourself or your wife or your father-in-law, whom you even have reason
to suspect of being capable of extorting money from you in this way?
I needn't say that that is the experience of the district attorney's
office in the large majority of cases of this so-called Black Hand."

"No," replied the tenor without hesitation. "I know that, and I have
thought about it. No, I can think of no one. I know you Americans
often speak of the Black Hand as a myth coined originally by a
newspaper writer. Perhaps it has no organization. But, Professor
Kennedy, to me it is no myth. What if the real Black Hand is any gang
of criminals who choose to use that convenient name to extort money?
Is it the less real? My daughter is gone!"

"Exactly," agreed Kennedy. "It is not a theory that confronts you.
It is a hard, cold fact. I understand that perfectly. What is, the
address of this Albano's?"

Luigi mentioned a number on Mulberry Street, and Kennedy made a note
of it.

"It is a gambling saloon," explained Luigi. "Albano is a Neapolitan,
a Camorrista, one of my countrymen of whom I am thoroughly ashamed,
Professor Kennedy."

"Do you think this Albano had anything to do with the letter?"

Luigi shrugged his shoulders.

Just then a big limousine was heard outside. Luigi picked up a huge
hamper that was placed in a corner of the room and, followed closely
by Signer Gennaro, hurried down to it. As the tenor left us he grasped
our hands in each of his.

"I have an idea in my mind," said Craig simply. "I will try to think
it out in detail to-night. Where can I find you to-morrow?"

"Come to me at the opera-house in the afternoon, or if you want me
sooner at Mr. Cesare's residence. Good night, and a thousand thanks
to you, Professor Kennedy, and to you, also, Mr. Jameson. I trust you
absolutely because Luigi trusts you."

We sat in the little dining-room until we heard the door of the
limousine bang shut and the car shoot off with the rattle of the
changing gears.

"One more question, Luigi," said Craig as the door opened again. "I
have never been on that block in Mulberry Street where this Albano's
is. Do you happen to know any of the shopkeepers on it or near it?"

"I have a cousin who has a drug-store on the corner below Albano's, on
the same side of the street."

"Good! Do you think he would let me use his store for a few minutes
Saturday night--of course without any risk to himself?"

"I think I could arrange it."

"Very well. Then to-morrow, say at nine in the morning, I will stop
here, and we will all go over to see him. Good night, Luigi, and many
thanks for thinking of me in connection with this case. I've enjoyed
Signor Gennaro's singing often enough at the opera to want to render
him this service, and I'm only too glad to be able to be of service to
all honest Italians; that is, if I succeed in carrying out a plan I
have in mind."

A little before nine the following day Kennedy and I dropped into
Luigi's again. Kennedy was carrying a suitcase which he had taken over
from his laboratory to our rooms the night before. Luigi was waiting
for us, and without losing a minute we sallied forth.

By means of the tortuous twists of streets in old Greenwich village we
came out at last on Bleecker Street and began walking east amid the
hurly-burly of races of lower New York. We had not quite reached
Mulberry Street when our attention was attracted by a large crowd on
one of the busy corners, held back by a cordon of police who were
endeavoring to keep the people moving with that burly good nature
which the six-foot Irish policeman displays toward the five-foot
burden-bearers of southern and eastern Europe who throng New York.

Apparently, we saw, as we edged up into the front of the crowd, here
was a building whose whole front had literally been torn off and
wrecked. The thick plate-glass of the windows was smashed to a mass
of greenish splinters on the sidewalk, while the windows of the upper
floors and for several houses down the block in either street were
likewise broken. Some thick iron bars which had formerly protected the
windows were now bent and twisted. A huge hole yawned in the floor
inside the doorway, and peering in we could see the desks and chairs a
tangled mass of kindling.

"What's the matter?" I inquired of an officer near me, displaying my
reporter's fire-line badge, more for its moral effect than in the hope
of getting any real information in these days of enforced silence
toward the press.

"Black Hand bomb," was the laconic reply.

"Whew!" I whistled. "Anyone hurt?"

"They don't usually kill anyone, do they?" asked the officer by way of
reply to test my acquaintance with such things.

"No," I admitted. "They destroy more property than lives. But did they
get anyone this time? This must have been a thoroughly over-loaded
bomb, I should judge by the looks of things."

"Came pretty close to it. The bank hadn't any more than opened when,
bang! went this gas-pipe-and-dynamite thing. Crowd collected before
the smoke had fairly cleared. Man who owns the bank was hurt, but not
badly. Now come, beat it down to headquarters if you want to find
out any more. You'll find it printed on the pink slip--the 'squeal
book'--by this time. 'Gainst the rules for me to talk," he added with
a good-natured grin, then to the crowd: "G'wan, now. You're blockin'
traffic. Keep movin'."

I turned to Craig and Luigi. Their eyes were riveted on the big gilt
sign, half broken, and all askew overhead. It read:

  CIRO DI CESARE & CO. BANKERS

  NEW YORK, GENOA, NAPLES, ROME, PALERMO

"This is the reminder so that Gennaro and his father-in-law will not
forget," I gasped.

"Yes," added Craig, pulling us away, "and Cesare himself is wounded,
too. Perhaps that was for putting up the notice refusing to pay.
Perhaps not. It's a queer case--they usually set the bombs off at
night when no one is around. There must be more back of this than
merely to scare Gennaro. It looks to me as if they were after Cesare,
too, first by poison, then by dynamite."

We shouldered our way out through the crowd and went on until we came
to Mulberry Street, pulsing with life. Down we went past the little
shops, dodging the children, and making way for women with huge
bundles of sweat-shop clothing accurately balanced on their heads or
hugged up under their capacious capes. Here was just one little colony
of the hundreds of thousands of Italians--a population larger than the
Italian population of Rome--of whose life the rest of New York knew
and cared nothing.

At last we came to Albano's little wine-shop, a dark, evil, malodorous
place on the street level of a five-story, alleged "new-law" tenement.
Without hesitation Kennedy entered, and we followed, acting the part
of a slumming party. There were a few customers at this early hour,
men out of employment and an inoffensive-looking lot, though of course
they eyed us sharply. Albano himself proved to be a greasy, low-browed
fellow who had a sort of cunning look. I could well imagine such
a fellow spreading terror in the hearts of simple folk by merely
pressing both temples with his thumbs and drawing his long bony
fore-finger under his throat--the so-called Black Hand sign that has
shut up many a witness in the middle of his testimony even in open
court.

We pushed through to the low-ceilinged back room, which was empty, and
sat down at a table. Over a bottle of Albano's famous California "red
ink" we sat silently. Kennedy was making a mental note of the place.
In the middle of the ceiling was a single gas-burner with a big
reflector over it. In the back wall of the room was a horizontal
oblong window, barred, and with a sash that opened like a transom.
The tables were dirty and the chairs rickety. The walls were bare and
unfinished, with beams innocent of decoration. Altogether it was as
unprepossessing a place as I had ever seen.

Apparently satisfied with his scrutiny, Kennedy got up to go,
complimenting the proprietor on his wine. I could see that Kennedy had
made up his mind as to his course of action.

"How sordid crime really is," he remarked as we walked on down the
street. "Look at that place of Albano's. I defy even the police news
reporter on the _Star_ to find any glamour in that."

Our next stop was at the corner at the little store kept by the cousin
of Luigi, who conducted us back of the partition where prescriptions
were compounded, and found us chairs.

A hurried explanation from Luigi brought a cloud to the open face of
the druggist, as if he hesitated to lay himself and his little fortune
open to the blackmailers. Kennedy saw it and interrupted.

"All that I wish to do," he said, "is to put in a little instrument
here and use it to-night for a few minutes. Indeed, there will be no
risk to you, Vincenzo. Secrecy is what I desire, and no one will ever
know about it."

Vincenzo was at length convinced, and Craig opened his suit-case.
There was little in it except several coils of insulated wire, some
tools, a couple of packages wrapped up, and a couple of pairs of
overalls. In a moment Kennedy had donned overalls and was smearing
dirt and grease over his face and hands. Under his direction I did the
same.

Taking the bag of tools, the wire, and one of the small packages, we
went out on the street and then up through the dark and ill-ventilated
hall of the tenement. Half-way up a woman stopped us suspiciously.

"Telephone company," said Craig curtly. "Here's permission from the
owner of the house to string wires across the roof."

He pulled an old letter out of his pocket, but as it was too dark to
read even if the woman had cared to do so, we went on up as he had
expected, unmolested. At last we came to the roof, where there were
some children at play a couple of houses down from us.

Kennedy began by dropping two strands of wire down to the ground in
the back yard behind Vincenzo's shop. Then he proceeded to lay two
wires along the edge of the roof.

We had worked only a little while when the children began to collect.
However, Kennedy kept right on until we reached the tenement next to
that in which Albano's shop was.

"Walter," he whispered, "just get the children away for a minute now."

"Look here, you kids," I yelled, "some of you will fall off if you get
so close to the edge of the roof. Keep back."

It had no effect. Apparently they looked not a bit frightened at the
dizzy mass of clothes-lines below us.

"Say, is there a candy-store on this block?" I asked in desperation.

"Yes, sir," came the chorus.

"Who'll go down and get me a bottle of ginger ale?" I asked.

A chorus of voices and glittering eyes was the answer. They all would.
I took a half-dollar from my pocket and gave it to the oldest.

"All right now, hustle along, and divide the change."

With the scamper of many feet they were gone, and we were alone.
Kennedy had now reached Albano's and as soon as the last head had
disappeared below the scuttle of the roof he dropped two long strands
down into the back yard, as he had done at Vincenzo's.

I started to go back, but he stopped me.

"Oh, that will never do," he said. "The kids will see that the wires
end here. I must carry them on several houses farther as a blind and
trust to luck that they don't see the wire leading down below."

We were several houses down, still putting up wires when the crowd
came shouting back, sticky with cheap trust-made candy and black with
East Side chocolate. We opened the ginger ale and forced ourselves
to drink it so as to excite no suspicion, then a few minutes later
descended the stairs of the tenement, coming out just above Albano's.

I was wondering how Kennedy was going to get into Albano's again
without exciting suspicion. He solved it neatly.

"Now, Walter, do you think you could stand another dip into that red
ink of Albano's?"

I said I might in the interests of science and justice--not otherwise.

"Well, your face is sufficiently dirty," he commented, "so that with
the overalls you don't look very much as you did the first time you
went in. I don't think they will recognize you. Do I look pretty
good?"

"You look like a coal-heaver out of a job," I said. "I can scarcely
restrain my admiration."

"All right. Then take this little glass bottle. Go into the back room
and order something cheap, in keeping with your looks. Then when you
are all alone break the bottle. It is full of gas drippings. Your nose
will dictate what to do next. Just tell the proprietor you saw the gas
company's wagon on the next block and come up here and tell me."

I entered. There was a sinister-looking man, with a sort of
unscrupulous intelligence, writing at a table. As he wrote and puffed
at his cigar, I noticed a scar on his face, a deep furrow running from
the lobe of his ear to his mouth. That, I knew, was a brand set upon
him by the Camorra. I sat and smoked and sipped slowly for several
minutes, cursing him inwardly more for his presence than for his
evident look of the "_mala vita_." At last he went out to ask the
bar-keeper for a stamp.

Quickly I tiptoed over to another corner of the room and ground the
little bottle under my heel. Then I resumed my seat. The odor that
pervaded the room was sickening.

The sinister-looking man with the scar came in again and sniffed. I
sniffed. Then the proprietor came in and sniffed.

"Say," I said in the toughest voice I could assume, "you got a leak.
Wait. I seen the gas company wagon on the next block when I came in.
I'll get the man."

I dashed out and hurried up the street to the place where Kennedy was
waiting impatiently. Rattling his tools, he followed me with apparent
reluctance.

As he entered the wine-shop he snorted, after the manner of gas-men,
"Where's de leak?"

"You find-a da leak," grunted Albano. "What-a you get-a pay for? You
want-a me do your work?"

"Well, half a dozen o' you wops get out o' here, that's all. D'youse
all wanter be blown ter pieces wid dem pipes and cigarettes? Clear
out," growled Kennedy.

They retreated precipitately, and Craig hastily opened his bag of
tools.

"Quick, Walter, shut the door and hold it," exclaimed Craig, working
rapidly. He unwrapped a little package and took out a round, flat,
disc-like thing of black vulcanized rubber. Jumping up on a table, he
fixed it to the top of the reflector over the gas-jet.

"Can you see that from the floor, Walter?" he asked under his breath.

"No," I replied, "not even when I know it is there."

Then he attached a couple of wires to it and let them across the
ceiling toward the window, concealing them carefully by sticking them
in the shadow of a beam. At the window he quickly attached the wires
to the two that were dangling down from the roof and shoved them
around out of sight.

"We'll have to trust that no one sees them," he said. "That's the best
I can do at such short notice. I never saw a room so bare as this,
anyway. There isn't another place I could put that thing without its
being seen."

We gathered up the broken glass of the gas-drippings bottle, and I
opened the door.

"It's all right, now," said Craig, sauntering out before the bar.
"Only de next time you has anyt'ing de matter call de company up. I
ain't supposed to do dis wit'out orders, see?"

A moment later I followed, glad to get out of the oppressive
atmosphere, and joined him in the back of Vincenzo's drugstore, where
he was again at work. As there was no back window there, it was quite
a job to lead the wires around the outside from the back yard and
in at a side window. It was at last done, however, without exciting
suspicion, and Kennedy attached them to an oblong box of weathered oak
and a pair of specially constructed dry batteries.

"Now," said Craig, as we washed off the stains of work and stowed the
overalls back in the suit-case, "that is done to my satisfaction. I
can tell Gennaro to go ahead safely now and meet the Black-Handers."

From Vincenzo's we walked over toward Centre Street, where Kennedy and
I left Luigi to return to his restaurant, with instructions to be at
Vincenzo's at half-past eleven that night.

We turned into the new police headquarters and went down the long
corridor to the Italian Bureau. Kennedy sent in his card to Lieutenant
Giuseppe in charge, and we were quickly admitted. The lieutenant was
a short, full-faced, fleshy Italian, with lightish hair and eyes that
were apparently dull, until you suddenly discovered that that was
merely a cover to their really restless way of taking in everything
and fixing the impressions on his mind, as if on a sensitive plate.

"I want to talk about the Gennaro case," began Craig. "I may add that
I have been rather closely associated with Inspector O'Connor of the
Central Office on a number of cases, so that I think we can trust each
other. Would you mind telling me what you know about it if I promise
you that I, too, have something to reveal?"

The lieutenant leaned back and watched Kennedy closely without seeming
to do so. "When I was in Italy last year," he replied at length, "I
did a good deal of work in tracing up some Camorra suspects, I had a
tip about some of them to look up their records--I needn't say where
it came from, but it was a good one. Much of the evidence against some
of those fellows who are being tried at Viterbo was gathered by the
Carabinieri as a result of hints that I was able to give them--clues
that were furnished to me here in America from the source I speak of.
I suppose there is really no need to conceal it, though. The original
tip came from a certain banker here in New York."

"I can guess who it was," nodded Craig.

"Then, as you know, this banker is a fighter. He is the man who
organized the White Hand--an organization which is trying to rid
the Italian population of the Black Hand. His society had a lot of
evidence regarding former members of both the Camorra in Naples and
the Mafia in Sicily, as well as the Black Hand gangs in New York,
Chicago, and other cities. Well, Cesare, as you know, is Gennaro's
father-in-law.

"While I was in Naples looking up the record of a certain criminal
I heard of a peculiar murder committed some years ago. There was an
honest old music master who apparently lived the quietest and most
harmless of lives. But it became known that he was supported by Cesare
and had received handsome presents of money from him. The old man was,
as you may have guessed, the first music teacher of Gennaro, the man
who discovered him. One might have been at a loss to see how he could
have an enemy, but there was one who coveted his small fortune. One
day he was stabbed and robbed. His murderer ran out into the street,
crying out that the poor man had been killed. Naturally a crowd rushed
up in a moment, for it was in the middle of the day. Before the
injured man could make it understood who had struck him the assassin
was down the street and lost in the maze of old Naples where he well
knew the houses of his friends who would hide him. The man who is
known to have committed that crime--Francesco Paoli--escaped to New
York. We are looking for him to-day. He is a clever man, far above the
average--son of a doctor in a town a few miles from Naples, went to
the university, was expelled for some mad prank--in short, he was the
black sheep of the family. Of course over here he is too high-born to
work with his hands on a railroad or in a trench, and not educated
enough to work at anything else. So he has been preying on his more
industrious countrymen--a typical case of a man living by his wits
with no visible means of support.

"Now I don't mind telling you in strict confidence," continued the
lieutenant, "that it's my theory that old Cesare has seen Paoli here,
knew he was wanted for that murder of the old music master, and gave
me the tip to look up his record. At any rate Paoli disappeared right
after I returned from Italy, and we haven't been able to locate him
since. He must have found out in some way that the tip to look him up
had been given by the White Hand. He had been a Camorrista, in Italy,
and had many ways of getting information here in America."

He paused, and balanced a piece of cardboard in his hand. "It is my
theory of this case that if we could locate this Paoli we could solve
the kidnapping of little Adelina Gennaro very quickly. That's his
picture."

Kennedy and I bent over to look at it, and I started in surprise. It
was my evil-looking friend with the scar on his cheek.

"Well," said Craig, quietly handing back the card, "whether or not
he is the man, I know where we can catch the kidnappers to-night,
Lieutenant."

It was Giuseppe's turn to show surprise now.

"With your assistance I'll get this man and the whole gang to-night,"
explained Craig, rapidly sketching over his plan and concealing just
enough to make sure that no matter how anxious the lieutenant was
to get the credit he could not spoil the affair by premature
interference.

The final arrangement was that four of the best men of the squad were
to hide in a vacant store across from Vincenzo's early in the evening,
long before anyone was watching. The signal for them to appear was to
be the extinguishing of the lights behind the colored bottles in the
druggist's window. A taxicab was to be kept waiting at headquarters
at the same time with three other good men ready to start for a given
address the moment the alarm was given over the telephone.

We found Gennaro awaiting us with the greatest anxiety at the
opera-house. The bomb at Cesare's had been the last straw. Gennaro had
already drawn from his bank ten crisp one-thousand-dollar bills, and
already had a copy of _Il Progresso_ in which he had hidden the money
between the sheets.

"Mr. Kennedy," he said, "I am going to meet them to-night. They may
kill me. See, I have provided myself with a pistol--I shall fight,
too, if necessary for my little Adelina. But if it is only money they
want, they shall have it."

"One thing I want to say," began Kennedy.

"No, no, no!" cried the tenor. "I will go--you shall not stop me."

"I don't wish to stop you," Craig reassured him. "But one thing--do
exactly as I tell you, and I swear not a hair of the child's head will
be injured and we "will get the blackmailers, too."

"How?" eagerly asked Gennaro. "What do you want me to do?"

"All I want you to do is to go to Albano's at the appointed time. Sit
down in the back room. Get into conversation with them, and, above
all, Signor, as soon as you get the copy of the _Bolletino_ turn to
the third page, pretend not to be able to read the address. Ask the
man to read it. Then repeat it after him. Pretend to be overjoyed.
Offer to set up wine for the whole crowd. Just a few minutes, that is
all I ask, and I will guarantee that you will be the happiest man in
New York to-morrow."

Gennaro's eyes filled with tears as he grasped Kennedy's hand. "That
is better than having the whole police force back of me," he said. "I
shall never forget, never forget."

As we went out Kennedy remarked: "You can't blame them for keeping
their troubles to themselves. Here we send a police officer over to
Italy to look up the records of some of the worst suspects. He loses
his life. Another takes his place. Then after he gets back he is set
to work on the mere clerical routine of translating them. One of his
associates is reduced in rank. And so what does it come to? Hundreds
of records have become useless because the three years within which
the criminals could be deported have elapsed with nothing done.
Intelligent, isn't it? I believe it has been established that all
but about fifty of seven hundred known Italian suspects are still at
large, mostly in this city. And the rest of the Italian population
is guarded from them by a squad of police in number scarcely
one-thirtieth of the number of known criminals. No, it's our fault if
the Black Hand thrives."

We had been standing on the corner of Broadway, waiting for a car.

"Now, Walter, don't forget. Meet me at the Bleecker Street station of
the subway at eleven-thirty. I'm off to the university. I have some
very important experiments with phosphorescent salts that I want to
finish to-day."

"What has that to do with the case?" I asked mystified.

"Nothing," replied Craig. "I didn't say it had. At eleven-thirty,
don't forget. By George, though, that Paoli must be a clever
one--think of his knowing about ricin. I only heard of it myself
recently. Well, here's my car. Good-bye."

Craig swung aboard an Amsterdam Avenue car, leaving me to kill eight
nervous hours of my weekly day of rest from the _Star_.

They passed at length, and at precisely the appointed time Kennedy and
I met. With suppressed excitement, at least on my part, we walked over
to Vincenzo's. At night this section of the city was indeed a black
enigma. The lights in the shops where olive oil, fruit, and other
things were sold, were winking out one by one; here and there strains
of music floated out of wine-shops, and little groups lingered on
corners conversing in animated sentences. We passed Albano's on the
other side of the street, being careful not to look at it too closely,
for several men were hanging idly about--pickets, apparently, with
some secret code that would instantly have spread far and wide the
news of any alarming action.

At the corner we crossed and looked in Vincenzo's window a moment,
casting a furtive glance across the street at the dark empty store
where the police must be hiding. Then we went in and casually
sauntered back of the partition. Luigi was there already. There were
several customers still in the store, however, and therefore we had
to sit in silence while Vincenzo quickly finished a prescription and
waited on the last one.

At last the doors were locked and the lights lowered, all except those
in the windows which were to serve as signals.

"Ten minutes to twelve," said Kennedy, placing the oblong box on the
table. "Gennaro will be going in soon. Let us try this machine now and
see if it works. If the wires have been cut since we put them up this
morning Gennaro will have to take his chances alone."

Kennedy reached over and with a light movement of his forefinger
touched a switch.

Instantly a babel of voices filled the store, all talking at once,
rapidly and loudly. Here and there we could distinguish a snatch of
conversation, a word, a phrase, now and then even a whole sentence
above the rest. There was a clink of glasses. I could hear the
rattle of dice on a bare table, and an oath. A cork popped. Somebody
scratched a match.

We sat bewildered, looking at Kennedy for an explanation.

"Imagine that you are sitting at a table in Albano's back room," was
all he said. "This is what you would be hearing. This is my 'electric
ear'--in other words the dictograph, used, I am told, by the Secret
Service of the United States. Wait, in a moment you will hear Gennaro
come in. Luigi and Vincenzo, translate what you hear. My knowledge of
Italian is pretty rusty."

"Can they hear us?" whispered Luigi in an awe-struck whisper.

Craig laughed. "No, not yet. But I have only to touch this other
switch, and I could produce an effect in that room that would rival
the famous writing on Belshazzar's wall--only it would be a voice from
the wall instead of writing."

"They seem to be waiting for someone," said Vincenzo. "I heard
somebody say: 'He will be here in a few minutes. Now get out.'"

The babel of voices seemed to calm down as men withdrew from the room.
Only one or two were left.

"One of them says the child is all right. She has been left in the
back yard," translated Luigi.

"What yard? Did he say?" asked Kennedy.

"No; they just speak of it as the 'yard,'" replied Luigi.

"Jameson, go outside in the store to the telephone booth and call up
headquarters. Ask them if the automobile is ready, with the men in
it."

I rang up, and after a moment the police central answered that
everything was right.

"Then tell central to hold the line clear--we mustn't lose a moment.
Jameson, you stay in the booth. Vincenzo, you pretend to be working
around your window, but not in such a way as to attract attention, for
they have men watching the street very carefully. What is it, Luigi?"

"Gennaro is coming. I just heard one of them say, 'Here he comes.'"

Even from the booth I could hear the dictograph repeating the
conversation in the dingy little back room of Albano's, down the
street.

"He's ordering a bottle of red wine," murmured Luigi, dancing up and
down with excitement.

Vincenzo was so nervous that he knocked a bottle down in the window,
and I believe that my heart-beats were almost audible over the
telephone which I was holding, for the police operator called me down
for asking so many times if all was ready.

"There it is--the signal," cried Craig. "'A fine opera is "I
Pagliacci."' Now listen for the answer."

A moment elapsed, then, "Not without Gennaro," came a gruff voice in
Italian from the dictograph.

A silence ensued. It was tense.

"Wait, wait," said a voice which I recognized instantly as Gennaro's.
"I cannot read this. What is this 23-1/2 Prince Street?"

"No, 33-1/2. She has been left in the back yard," answered the voice.

"Jameson," called Craig, "tell them to drive straight to 33-1/2 Prince
Street. They will find the girl in the back yard quick, before the
Black Handers have a chance to go back on their word."

I fairly shouted my orders to the police headquarters. "They're off,"
came back the answer, and I hung up the, receiver.

"What was that?" Craig was asking of Luigi. "I didn't catch it. What
did they say?"

"That other voice said to Gennaro, 'Sit down while I count this.'"

"Sh! he's talking again."

"If it is a penny less than ten thousand or I find a mark on the bills
I'll call to Enrico, and your daughter will he spirited away again,"
translated Luigi.

"Now, Gennaro is talking," said Craig. "Good--he is gaining time.
He is a trump. I can distinguish that all right. He's asking the
gruff-voiced fellow if he will have another bottle of wine. He says he
will. Good. They must be at Prince Street now--we'll give them a few
minutes more, not too much, for word will be back to Albano's like
wildfire, and they will get Gennaro after all. Ah, they are drinking
again. What was that, Luigi? The money is all right, he says? Now,
Vincenzo, out with the lights!"

A door banged open across the street, and four huge dark figures
darted out in the direction of Albano's.

With his finger Kennedy pulled down the other switch and shouted:
"Gennaro, this is Kennedy! To the street! _Polizia! Polizia!_"

A scuffle and a cry of surprise followed. A second voice, apparently
from the bar, shouted, "Out with the lights, out with the lights!"

Bang! went a pistol, and another.

The dictograph, which had been all sound a moment before, was as mute
as a cigar-box.

"What's the matter?" I asked Kennedy, as he rushed past me.

"They have shot out the lights. My receiving instrument is destroyed.
Come on, Jameson; Vincenzo, stay back, if you don't want to appear in
this."

A short figure rushed by me, faster even than I could go. It was the
faithful Luigi.

In front of Albano's an exciting fight was going on. Shots were being
fired wildly in the darkness, and heads were popping out of tenement
windows on all sides. As Kennedy and I flung ourselves into the crowd
we caught a glimpse of Gennaro, with blood streaming from a cut on his
shoulder, struggling with a policeman while Luigi vainly was trying to
interpose himself between them. A man, held by another policeman, was
urging the first officer on. "That's the man," he was crying. "That's
the kidnapper. I caught him."

In a moment Kennedy was behind him. "Paoli, you lie. You are the
kidnapper. Seize him--he has the money on him. That other is Gennaro
himself."

The policeman released the tenor, and both of them seized Paoli.
The others were beating at the door, which was being frantically
barricaded inside.

Just then a taxicab came swinging up the street. Three men jumped out
and added their strength to those who were battering down Albano's
barricade.

Gennaro, with a cry, leaped into the taxicab. Over his shoulder I
could see a tangled mass of dark brown curls, and a childish voice
lisped: "Why didn't you come for me, papa? The bad man told me if I
waited in the yard you would come for me. But if I cried he said he
would shoot me. And I waited, and waited--"

"There, there, 'Lina; papa's going to take you straight home to
mother."

A crash followed as the door yielded, and the famous Paoli gang was in
the hands of the law.



The Steel Door

BY ARTHUR B. REEVE


It was what, in college, we used to call "good football weather"--a
crisp autumn afternoon that sent the blood tingling through brain and
muscle. Kennedy and I were enjoying a stroll on the drive, dividing
our attention between the glowing red sunset across the Hudson and the
string of homeward-bound automobiles on the broad parkway. Suddenly a
huge black touring-car marked with big letters, "P.D.N.Y.," shot past.

"Joy-riding again in one of the city's cars," I remarked. "I thought
the last Police Department shake-up had put a stop to that."

"Perhaps it has," returned Kennedy. "Did you see who was in the car?"

"No, but I see it has turned and is coming back."

"It was Inspector--I mean, First Deputy O'Connor. I thought he
recognized us as he whizzed along, and I guess he did, too. Ah,
congratulations, O'Connor! I haven't had a chance to tell you before
how pleased I was to learn you had been appointed first deputy. It
ought to have been commissioner, though," added Kennedy.

"Congratulations nothing," rejoined O'Connor. "Just another new
deal--election coming on, mayor must make a show of getting some
reform done, and all that sort of thing. So he began with the Police
Department, and here I am, first deputy. But, say, Kennedy," he added,
dropping his voice, "I've a little job on my mind that I'd like to
pull off in about as spectacular a fashion as I--as you know how. I
want to make good, conspicuously good, at the start--understand?
Maybe I'll be 'broke' for it and sent to pounding the pavements of
Dismissalville, but I don't care, I'll take a chance. On the level,
Kennedy, it's a big thing, and it ought to be done. Will you help me
put it across?"

"What is it?" asked Kennedy with a twinkle in his eye at O'Connor's
estimate of the security of his tenure of office.

O'Connor drew us away from the automobile toward the stone parapet
overlooking the railroad and river far below, and out of earshot of
the department chauffeur. "I want to pull off a successful raid on the
Vesper Club," he whispered earnestly, scanning our faces.

"Good heavens, man," I ejaculated, "don't you know that Senator
Danfield is interested in--"

"Jameson," interrupted O'Connor reproachfully, "I said 'on the level'
a few moments ago, and I meant it. Senator Danfield be--well, anyhow,
if I don't do it the district attorney will, with the aid of the
Dowling law, and I am going to beat him to it, that's all. There's
too much money being lost at the Vesper Club, anyhow. It won't hurt
Danfield to be taught a lesson not to run such a phony game. I may
like to put up a quiet bet myself on the ponies now and then--I won't
say I don't, but this thing of Danfield's has got beyond all reason.
It's the crookedest gambling joint in the city, at least judging by
the stories they tell of losses there. And so beastly aristocratic,
too. Read that."

O'Connor shoved a letter into Kennedy's hand, a dainty perfumed and
monogramed little missive addressed in a feminine hand. It was such a
letter as comes by the thousand to the police in the course of a year,
though seldom from ladies of the smart set:

       *       *       *       *       *

Dear Sir: I notice in the newspapers this morning that you have just
been appointed first deputy commissioner of police and that you have
been ordered to suppress gambling in New York. For the love that you
must still bear toward your own mother, listen to the story of a
mother worn with anxiety for her only son, and if there is any justice
or righteousness in this great city close up a gambling hell that is
sending to ruin scores of our finest young men. No doubt you know or
have heard of my family--the DeLongs are not unknown in Hew York.
Perhaps you have also heard of the losses of my son Percival at the
Vesper Club. They are fast becoming the common talk of our set. I am
not rich, Mr. Commissioner, in spite of our social position, but I am
human, as human as a mother in any station of life, and oh, if there
is any way, close up that gilded society resort that is dissipating
our small fortune, ruining an only son, and slowly bringing to the
grave a gray-haired widow, as worthy of protection as any mother of
the poor whose plea has closed up a little poolroom or low policy
shop.

Sincerely, (Mrs.) JULIA M. DELONG.

P.S.--Please keep this confidential--at least from my son Percival.

J.M. DEL.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well," said Kennedy, as he handed back the letter, "O'Connor, if you
do it, I'll take back all the hard things I've ever said about
the police system. Young DeLong was in one of my classes at the
university, until he was expelled for that last mad prank of his.
There's more to that boy than most people think, but he's the wildest
scion of wealth I have ever come in contact with. How are you going to
pull off your raid--is it to be down through the skylight or up from
the cellar?"

"Kennedy," replied O'Connor in the same reproachful tone with which
he had addressed me, "talk sense. I'm in earnest. You know the Vesper
Club is barred and barricaded like the National City Bank. It isn't
one of those common gambling joints which depend for protection on
what we call 'ice-box doors.' It's proof against all the old methods.
Axes and sledge-hammers would make no impression there."

"Your predecessor had some success at opening doors with a hydraulic
jack, I believe, in some very difficult raids," put in Kennedy.

"A hydraulic jack wouldn't do for the Vesper Club, I'm afraid,"
remarked O'Connor wearily. "Why, sir, that place has been proved
bomb-proof--bomb-proof, sir. You remember recently the so-called
'gamblers' war' in which some rivals exploded a bomb on the steps? It
did more damage to the house next door than to the club. However,
I can get past the outer door, I think, even if it is strong. But
inside--you must have heard of it--is the famous steel door, three
inches thick, made of armor-plate. It's no use to try it at all unless
we can pass that door with reasonable quickness. All the evidence we
shall get will be of an innocent social club-room down-stairs. The
gambling is all on the second floor, beyond this door, in a
room without a window in it. Surely you've heard of that famous
gambling-room, with its perfect system of artificial ventilation and
electric lighting that makes it rival noonday at midnight. And don't
tell me I've got to get on the other side of the door by strategy,
either. It is strategy-proof. The system of lookouts is perfect.
No, force is necessary, but it must not be destructive of life or
property--or, by heaven, I'd drive up there and riddle the place with
a fourteen-inch gun," exclaimed O'Connor.

"H'm!" mused Kennedy as he flicked the ashes off his cigar and
meditatively watched a passing freight-train on the railroad below us.
"There goes a car loaded with tons and tons of scrap-iron. You want me
to scrap that three-inch steel door, do you?"

"Kennedy, I'll buy that particular scrap from you at--almost its
weight in gold. The fact is, I have a secret fund at my disposal such
as former commissioners have asked for in vain. I can afford to pay
you well, as well as any private client, and I hear you have had some
good fees lately. Only deliver the goods."

"No," answered Kennedy, rather piqued, "it isn't money that I am
after. I merely wanted to be sure that you are in earnest. I can get
you past that door as if it were made of green baize."

It was O'Connor's turn to look incredulous, but as Kennedy apparently
meant exactly what he said, he simply asked, "And will you?"

"I will do it to-night if you say so," replied Kennedy quietly. "Are
you ready?"

For answer O'Connor simply grasped Craig's hand, as if to seal the
compact.

"All right, then," continued Kennedy. "Send a furniture-van, one of
those closed vans that the storage warehouses use, up to my laboratory
any time before seven o'clock. How many men will you need in the raid?
Twelve? Will a van hold that many comfortably? I'll want to put some
apparatus in it, but that won't take much room."

"Why, yes, I think so," answered O'Connor. "I'll get a well-padded van
so that they won't be badly jolted by the ride down-town. By George!
Kennedy, I see you know more of that side of police strategy than I
gave you credit for."

"Then have the men drop into my laboratory singly about the same time.
You can arrange that so that it will not look suspicious, so far
up-town. It will be dark, anyhow. Perhaps, O'Connor, you can make up
as the driver yourself--anyhow, get one you can trust absolutely. Then
have the van down near the corner of Broadway below the club, driving
slowly along about the time the theatre crowd is out. Leave the rest
to me. I will give you or the driver orders when the time comes."

As O'Connor thanked Craig, he remarked without a shade of
insincerity, "Kennedy, talk about being commissioner, you ought to be
commissioner."

"Wait till I deliver the goods," answered Craig simply. "I may fall
down and bring you nothing but a lawsuit for damages for unlawful
entry or unjust persecution, or whatever they call it."

"I'll take a chance at that," called back O'Connor as he jumped into
his car and directed, "Headquarters, quick."

As the car disappeared, Kennedy filled his lungs with air as if
reluctant to leave the drive. "Our constitutional," he remarked, "is
abruptly at an end, Walter."

Then he laughed, as he looked about him.

"What a place in which to plot a raid on Danfield's Vesper Club! Why,
the nurse-maids have hardly got the children all in for supper and
bed. It's incongruous. Well, I must go over to the laboratory and
get some things ready to put in that van with the men. Meet me about
half-past seven, Walter, up in the room, all togged up. We'll dine at
the Café Riviera to-night in style. And, by the way, you're quite a
man about town--you must know someone who can introduce us into the
Vesper Club."

"But, Craig," I demurred, "if there is any rough work as a result, it
might queer me with them. They might object to being used--"

"Oh, that will be all right. I just want to look the place over and
lose a few chips in a good cause. No, it won't queer any of your
_Star_ connections. We'll be on the outside when the time comes for
anything to happen. In fact I shouldn't wonder if your story
would make you all the more solid with the sports. I take all the
responsibility; you can have the glory. You know they like to hear the
inside gossip of such things, after the event. Try it. Remember, at
seven-thirty. We'll be a little late at dinner, but never mind; it
will be early enough for the club."

Left to my own devices I determined to do a little detective work on
my own account, and not only did I succeed in finding an acquaintance
who agreed to introduce us at the Vesper Club that night about nine
o'clock, but I also learned that Percival DeLong was certain to be
there that night, too. I was necessarily vague about Kennedy, for fear
my friend might have heard of some of his exploits, but fortunately he
did not prove inquisitive.

I hurried back to our apartment and was in the process of transforming
myself into a full-fledged boulevardier, when Kennedy arrived in
an extremely cheerful frame of mind. So far, his preparations had
progressed very favorably, I guessed, and I was quite elated when he
complimented me on what I had accomplished in the meantime.

"Pretty tough for the fellows who are condemned to ride around in that
van for four mortal hours, though," he said as he hurried into his
evening clothes, "but they won't be riding all the time. The driver
will make frequent stops."

I was so busy that I paid little attention to him until he had nearly
completed his toilet. I gave a gasp.

"Why, whatever are you doing?" I exclaimed as I glanced into his room.

There stood Kennedy arrayed in all the glory of a sharp-pointed
moustache and a goatee. He had put on evening clothes of decidedly
Parisian cut, clothes which he had used abroad and had brought back
with him, but which I had never known him to wear since he came back.
On a chair reposed a chimney-pot hat that would have been pronounced
faultless on the "continong," but was unknown, except among
impresarios, on Broadway.

Kennedy shrugged his shoulders--he even had the shrug.

"Figure to yourself, monsieur," he said. "Ze great Kennedy, ze
detectif Américain--to put it tersely in our own vernacular, wouldn't
it be a fool thing for me to appear at the Vesper Club where I should
surely be recognized by someone if I went in my ordinary clothes and
features? _Un faux pas_, at the start? _Jamais!_"

There was nothing to do but agree, and I was glad that I had been
discreetly reticent about my companion in talking with the friend who
was to gain us entrance to the Avernus beyond the steel door.

We met my friend at the Riviera and dined sumptuously. Fortunately he
seemed decidedly impressed with my friend Monsieur Kay--I could do no
better on the spur of the moment than take Kennedy's initial, which
seemed to serve. We progressed amicably from oysters and soup down to
coffee, cigars, and liqueurs, and I succeeded in swallowing Kennedy's
tales of Monte Carlo and Ostend and Ascot without even a smile. He
must have heard them somewhere, and treasured them up for just such an
occasion, but he told them in a manner that was verisimilitude itself,
using perfect English with just the trace of an accent at the right
places.

At last it was time to saunter around to the Vesper Club without
seeming to be too indecently early. The theatres were not yet out, but
my friend said play was just beginning at the club and would soon be
in full swing.

I had a keen sense of wickedness as we mounted the steps in the yellow
flare of the flaming arc-light on the Broadway corner not far below
us. A heavy, grated door swung open at the practised signal of my
friend, and an obsequious negro servant stood bowing and pronouncing
his name in the sombre mahogany portal beyond, with its green marble
pillars and handsome decorations. A short parley followed, after which
we entered, my friend having apparently satisfied someone that we were
all right.

We did not stop to examine the first floor, which doubtless was
innocent enough, but turned quickly up a flight of steps. At the foot
of the broad staircase Kennedy paused to examine some rich carvings,
and I felt him nudge me. I turned. It was an enclosed staircase, with
walls that looked to be of re-enforced concrete. Swung back on hinges
concealed like those of a modern burglar-proof safe was the famous
steel door.

We did not wish to appear to be too interested, yet a certain amount
of curiosity was only proper.

My friend paused on the steps, turned, and came back.

"You're perfectly safe," he smiled, tapping the door with his cane
with a sort of affectionate respect. "It would take the police ages to
get past that barrier, which would be swung shut and bolted the moment
the lookout gave the alarm. But there has never been any trouble. The
police know that it is so far, no farther. Besides," he added with
a wink to me, "you know, Senator Danfield wouldn't like this pretty
little door even scratched. Come up, I think I hear DeLong's voice
up-stairs. You've heard of him, monsieur? It's said his luck has
changed. I'm anxious to find out."

Quickly he led the way up the handsome staircase and into a large,
lofty, richly furnished room. Everywhere there were thick, heavy
carpets on the floors, into which your feet sank with an air of
satisfying luxury.

The room into which we entered was indeed absolutely windowless. It
was a room built within the original room of the old house. Thus the
windows overlooking the street from the second floor in reality bore
no relation to it. For light it depended on a complete oval of lights
overhead so arranged as to be themselves invisible, but shining
through richly stained glass and conveying the illusion of a slightly
clouded noon-day. The absence of windows was made up for, as I learned
later, by a ventilating device so perfect that, although everyone was
smoking, a most fastidious person could scarcely have been offended by
the odor of tobacco.

Of course I did not notice all this at first. What I did notice,
however, was a faro-layout and a hazard-board, but as no one was
playing at either, my eye quickly traveled to a roulette-table which
stretched along the middle of the room. Some ten or a dozen men in
evening clothes were gathered watching with intent faces the spinning
wheel. There was no money on the table, nothing but piles of chips of
various denominations. Another thing that surprised me as I looked was
that the tense look on the faces of the players was anything but the
feverish, haggard gaze I had expected. In fact, they were sleek,
well-fed, typical prosperous New-Yorkers rather inclined to the
noticeable in dress and carrying their avoirdupois as if life was an
easy game with them. Most of them evidently belonged to the financial
and society classes. There were no tragedies; the tragedies were
elsewhere--in their offices, homes, in the courts, anywhere, but not
here at the club. Here all was life, light, and laughter.

For the benefit of those not acquainted with the roulette-wheel--and I
may as well confess that most of my own knowledge was gained in that
one crowded evening--I may say that it consists, briefly, of a wooden
disc very nicely balanced and turning in the center of a cavity set
into a table like a circular wash-basin, with an outer rim turned
slightly inward. The "croupier" revolves the wheel to the right. With
a quick motion of his middle finger he flicks a marble, usually of
ivory, to the left. At the Vesper Club, always up-to-date, the ball
was of platinum, not of ivory. The disc with its sloping sides is
provided with a number of brass rods, some perpendicular, some
horizontal. As the ball and the wheel lose momentum the ball strikes
against the rods and finally is deflected into one of the many little
pockets or stalls facing the rim of the wheel.

There are thirty-eight of these pockets; two are marked "0" and
"00," the other numbered from one to thirty-six in an irregular and
confusing order and painted alternately red and black. At each end of
the table are thirty-six large squares correspondingly numbered and
colored. The "0" and "00" are of a neutral color. Whenever the ball
falls in the "0" or "00" the bank takes the stakes, or sweeps the
board. The Monte Carlo wheel has only one "0," while the typical
American has two, and the Chinese has four.

To one like myself who had read of the Continental gambling-houses
with the clink of gold pieces on the table, and the croupier with
his wooden rake noisily raking in the winnings of the bank, the
comparative silence of the American game comes as a surprise.

As we advanced, we heard only the rattle of the ball, the click of the
chips, and the monotonous tone of the spinner: "Twenty-three, black.
Eight, red. Seventeen, black." It was almost like the boys in a
broker's office calling off the quotations of the ticker and marking
them up on the board.

Leaning forward, almost oblivious to the rest, was Percival DeLong, a
tall, lithe, handsome young man, whose boyish face ill comported
with the marks of dissipation clearly outlined on it. Such a boy, it
flashed across my mind, ought to be studying the possible plays of
football of an evening in the field-house after his dinner at the
training-table, rather than the possible gyrations of the little
platinum ball on the wheel.

"Curse the luck!" he exclaimed, as "17" appeared again.

A Hebrew banker staked a pile of chips on the "17" to come up a third
time. A murmur of applause at his nerve ran through the circle. DeLong
hesitated, as one who thought, "Seventeen has come out twice--the odds
against its coming again are too great, even though the winnings would
be fabulous, for a good stake." He placed his next bet on another
number.

"He's playing Lord Rosslyn's system, to-night," whispered my friend.

The wheel spun, the ball rolled, and the croupier called again,
"Seventeen, black." A tremor of excitement ran through the crowd. It
was almost unprecedented.

DeLong, with a stiffed oath, leaned back and scanned the faces about
the table.

"And '17' has precisely the same chance of turning up in the next
spin as if it had not already had a run of three," said a voice at my
elbow.

It was Kennedy. The roulette-table needs no introduction when curious
sequences are afoot. All are friends.

"That's the theory of Sir Hiram Maxim," commented my friend, as he
excused himself reluctantly for another appointment. "But no true
gambler will believe it, monsieur, or at least act on it."

All eyes were turned on Kennedy, who made a gesture of polite
deprecation, as if the remark of my friend were true, but--he
nonchalantly placed his chips on the "17."

"The odds against '17' appearing four consecutive times are some
millions," he went on, "and yet, having appeared three times, it is
just as likely to appear again as before. It is the usual practice
to avoid a number that has had a run, on the theory that some other
number is more likely to come up than it is. That would be the case if
it were drawing balls from a bag full of red and black balls--the more
red ones drawn the smaller the chance of drawing another red one. But
if the balls are put back in the bag after being drawn the chances of
drawing a red one after three have been drawn are exactly the same as
ever. If we toss a cent and heads appear twelve times, that does not
have the slightest effect on the thirteenth toss--there is still an
even chance that it, too, will be heads. So if '17' had come up five
times to-night, it would be just as likely to come the sixth as if the
previous five had not occurred, and that despite the fact that before
it had appeared at all odds against a run of the same number six times
in succession are about two billion, four hundred and ninety-six
million, and some thousands. Most systems are based on the old
persistent belief that occurrences of chance are affected in some way
by occurrences immediately preceding, but disconnected physically. If
we've had a run of black for twenty times, system says play the red
for the twenty-first. But black is just as likely to turn up the
twenty-first as if it were the first play of all. The confusion
arises because a run of twenty on the black should happen once in one
million, forty-eight thousand, five hundred and seventy-six coups. It
would take ten years to make that many coups, and the run of twenty
might occur once or any number of times in it. It is only when one
deals with infinitely large numbers of coups that one can count on
infinitely small variations in the mathematical results. This game
does not go on for infinity--therefore anything, everything, may
happen. Systems are based on the infinite; we play in the finite."

"You talk like a professor I had at the university," ejaculated DeLong
contemptuously as Craig finished his disquisition on the practical
fallibility of theoretically infallible systems. Again DeLong
carefully avoided the "17," as well as the black.

The wheel spun again; the ball rolled. The knot of spectators around
the table watched with bated breath.

Seventeen won!

As Kennedy piled up his winnings superciliously, without even the
appearance of triumph, a man behind me whispered, "A foreign nobleman
with a system--watch him."

"_Non_, monsieur," said Kennedy quickly, having overheard the remark,
"no system, sir. There is only one system of which I know."

"What?" asked DeLong eagerly.

Kennedy staked a large sum on the red to win. The black came up, and
he lost. He doubled the stake and played again, and again lost. With
amazing calmness Craig kept right on doubling.

"The martingale," I heard the men whisper behind me. "In other words,
double or quit."

Kennedy was now in for some hundreds, a sum that was sufficiently
large for him, but he doubled again, still cheerfully playing the red,
and the red won. As he gathered up his chips he rose.

"That's the only system," he said simply.

"But, go on, go on," came the chorus from about the table.

"No," said Kennedy quietly, "that is part of the system, too--to quit
when you have won back your stakes and a little more."

"Huh!" exclaimed DeLong in disgust. "Suppose you were in for some
thousands--you wouldn't quit. If you had real sporting blood you
wouldn't quit, anyhow!"

Kennedy calmly passed over the open insult, letting it be understood
that he ignored this beardless youth.

"There is no way you can beat the game in the long run if you keep at
it," he answered simply. "It is mathematically impossible. Consider.
We are Croesuses--we hire players to stake money for us on every
possible number at every coup. How do we come out? If there are no '0'
or '00,' we come out after each coup precisely where we started--we
are paying our own money back and forth among ourselves; we have
neither more nor less. But with the '0' and '00' the bank sweeps the
board every so often. It is only a question of time when, after paying
our money back and forth among ourselves, it has all filtered through
the 'O' and 'OO' into the bank. It is not a game of chance for
the bank--ah, it is exact, mathematical--_c'est une question
d'arithmétique seulement, n'est-ce pas, messieurs?_"

"Perhaps," admitted DeLong, "but it doesn't explain why I am losing
to-night while everyone else is winning."

"We are not winning," persisted Craig. "After I have had a bite to eat
I will demonstrate how to lose--by keeping on playing." He led the way
to the café.

DeLong was too intent on the game to leave, even for refreshments. Now
and then I saw him beckon to an attendant, who brought him a stiff
drink of whiskey. For a moment his play seemed a little better, then
he would drop back into his hopeless losing. For some reason or other
his "system" failed absolutely.

"You see, he is hopeless," mused Kennedy over our light repast. "And
yet of all gambling games roulette offers the player the best odds,
far better than horse-racing, for instance. Our method has usually
been to outlaw roulette and permit horse-racing; in other words,
suppress the more favorable and permit the less favorable. However,
we're doing better now; we're suppressing both. Of course what I say
applies only to roulette when it is honestly played--DeLong would lose
anyhow, I fear."

I started at Kennedy's tone and whispered hastily: "What do you mean?
Do you think the wheel is crooked?"

"I haven't a doubt of it," he replied in an undertone. "That run
of '17' _might_ happen--yes. But it is improbable. They let me win
because I was a new player--new players always win at first. It is
proverbial, but the man who is running this game has made it look
like a platitude. To satisfy myself on that point I am going to play
again--until I have lost my winnings and am just square with the game.
When I reach the point that I am convinced that some crooked work is
going on I am going to try a little experiment, Walter. I want you to
stand close to me so that no one can see what I am doing. Do just as I
will indicate to you."

The gambling-room was now fast filling up with the first of the
theatre crowd. DeLong's table was the centre of attraction, owing to
the high play. A group of young men of his set were commiserating with
him on his luck and discussing it with the finished air of roués of
double their ages. He was doggedly following his system.

Kennedy and I approached.

"Ah, here is the philosophical stranger again," DeLong exclaimed,
catching sight of Kennedy. "Perhaps he can enlighten us on how to win
at roulette by playing his own system."

"_Au contraire_, monsieur, let me demonstrate how to lose," answered
Craig with a smile that showed a row of faultless teeth beneath his
black moustache, decidedly foreign.

Kennedy played and lost, and lost again; then he won, but in the main
he lost. After one particularly large loss I felt his arm on mine,
drawing me closely to him. DeLong had taken a sort of grim pleasure in
the fact that Kennedy, too, was losing. I found that Craig had paused
in his play at a moment when DeLong had staked a large sum that a
number below "18" would turn up--for five plays the numbers had been
between "18" and "36." Curious to see what Craig was doing, I looked
cautiously down between us. All eyes were fixed on the wheel. Kennedy
was holding an ordinary compass in the crooked-up palm of his hand.
The needle pointed at me, as I happened to be standing north of it.

The wheel spun. Suddenly the needle swung around to a point between
the north and south poles, quivered a moment, and came to rest in that
position. Then it swung back to the north.

It was some seconds before I realized the significance of it. It
had pointed at the table--and DeLong had lost again. There was some
electric attachment at work.

Kennedy and I exchanged glances, and he shoved the compass into my
hand quickly. "You watch it, Walter, while I play," he whispered.

Carefully concealing it, as he had done, yet holding it as close to
the table as I dared I tried to follow two things at once without
betraying myself. As near as I could make out, something happened at
every play. I would not go so far as to assert that whenever the large
stakes were on a certain number the needle pointed to the opposite
side of the wheel, for it was impossible to be at all accurate about
it. Once I noticed the needle did not move at all, and he won. But
on the next play he staked what I knew must be the remainder of his
winnings on what seemed a very good chance. Even before the wheel was
revolved and the ball set rolling, the needle swung about, and when
the platinum ball came to rest Kennedy rose from the table, a loser.

"By George, though," exclaimed DeLong, grasping his hand. "I take it
all back. You are a good loser, sir. I wish I could take it as well as
you do. But then, I'm in too deeply. There are too many 'markers' with
the house up against me."

Senator Danfield had just come in to see how things were going. He was
a sleek, fat man, and it was amazing to see with what deference his
victims treated him. He affected not to have heard what DeLong said,
but I could imagine what he was thinking, for I had heard that he had
scant sympathy with anyone after he "went broke"--another evidence of
the camaraderie and good-fellowship that surrounded the game.

Kennedy's next remark surprised me. "Oh, your luck will change,
D.L.,"--everyone referred to him as "D.L.," for gambling-houses have
an aversion for real names and greatly prefer initials--"your luck
will change presently. Keep right on with your system. It's the best
you can do to-night, short of quitting."

"I'll never quit." replied the young man under his breath.

Meanwhile Kennedy and I paused on the way out to compare notes. My
report of the behavior of the compass only confirmed him in his
opinion.

As we turned to the stairs we took in a full view of the room.

A faro-layout was purchasing Senator Danfield a new touring-car every
hour at the expense of the players. Another group was gathered about
the hazard-board, deriving evident excitement, though I am sure none
could have given an intelligent account of the chances they were
taking. Two roulette-tables were now going full blast, the larger
crowd still about DeLong's. Snatches of conversation came to us now
and then, and I caught one sentence, "DeLong's in for over a hundred
thousand now on the week's play, I understand; poor boy--that about
cleans him up."

"The tragedy of it, Craig," I whispered, but he did not hear.

With his hat tilted at a rakish angle and his opera-coat over his arm
he sauntered over for a last look.

"Any luck yet?" he asked carelessly.

"The devil--no," returned the boy.

"Do you know what my advice to you is, the advice of a man who has
seen high play everywhere from Monte Carlo to Shanghai?"

"What?"

"Play until your luck changes if it takes until to-morrow."

A supercilious smile crossed Senator Danfield's fat face.

"I intend to," and the haggard young face turned again to the table
and forgot us.

"For Heaven's sake, Kennedy," I gasped as we went down the stairway,
"what do you mean by giving him such advice--you?"

"Not so loud, Walter. He'd have done it anyhow, I suppose, but I want
him to keep at it. This night means life or death to Percival DeLong
and his mother, too. Come on, let's get out of this."

We passed the formidable steel door and gained the street, jostled by
the late-comers who had left the after-theatre restaurants for a few
moments of play at the famous club that so long had defied the police.

Almost gaily Kennedy swung along toward Broadway. At the corner he
hesitated, glanced up and down, caught sight of the furniture-van in
the middle of the next block. The driver was tugging at the harness of
the horses, apparently fixing it. We walked along and stopped beside
it.

"Drive around in front of the Vesper Club slowly," said Kennedy as the
driver at last looked up.

The van lumbered ahead, and we followed it casually. Around the corner
it turned. We turned also. My heart was going like a sledge-hammer as
the critical moment approached. My head was in a whirl. What would
that gay throng back of those darkened windows down the street think
if they knew what was being prepared for them?

On, like the Trojan horse, the van lumbered. A man went into the
Vesper Club, and I saw the negro at the door eye the oncoming van
suspiciously. The door banged shut.

The next thing I knew, Kennedy had ripped off his disguise, had flung
himself up behind the van, and had swung the doors open. A dozen men
with axes and sledge-hammers swarmed out and up the steps of the club.

"Call the reserves, O'Connor," cried Kennedy. "Watch the roof and the
back yard."

The driver of the van hastened to send in the call.

The sharp raps of the hammers and the axes sounded on the thick
brass-bound oak of the out-side door in quick succession. There was
a scurry of feet inside, and we could hear a grating noise and a
terrific jar as the inner, steel door shut.

"A raid! A raid on the Vesper Club!" shouted a belated passer-by. The
crowd swarmed around from Broadway, as if it were noon instead of
midnight.

Banging and ripping and tearing, the outer door was slowly forced. As
it crashed in, the quick gongs of several police patrols sounded. The
reserves had been called out at the proper moment, too late for them
to "tip off" the club that there was going to be a raid, as frequently
occurs.

Disregarding the mêlée behind me, I leaped through the wreckage with
the other raiders. The steel door barred all further progress with its
cold blue impassibility. How were we to surmount this last and most
formidable barrier?

I turned in time to see Kennedy and O'Connor hurrying up the steps
with a huge tank studded with bolts like a boiler, while two other men
carried a second tank.

"There," ordered Craig, "set the oxygen there," as he placed his own
tank on the opposite side.

Out of the tanks stout tubes led, with stop-cocks and gages at the
top. From a case under his arm Kennedy produced a curious arrangement
like a huge hook, with a curved neck and a sharp beak. Really it
consisted of two metal tubes which ran into a sort of cylinder, or
mixing chamber, above the nozzle, while parallel to them ran a third
separate tube with a second nozzle of its own. Quickly he joined the
ends of the tubes from the tanks to the metal hook, the oxygen-tank
being joined to two of the tubes of the hook, and the second tank
being joined to the other. With a match he touched the nozzle
gingerly. Instantly a hissing, spitting noise followed, and an intense
blinding needle of flame.

"Now for the oxy-acetylene blowpipe," cried Kennedy as he advanced
toward the steel door. "We'll make short work of this."

Almost as he said it, the steel beneath the blowpipe became
incandescent.

Just to test it, he cut off the head of a three-quarter-inch steel
rivet--taking about a quarter of a minute to do it. It was evident,
though, that that would not weaken the door appreciably, even if the
rivets were all driven through. Still they gave a starting-point for
the flame of the high-pressure acetylene torch.

It was a brilliant sight. The terrific heat from the first nozzle
caused the metal to glow under the torch as if in an open-hearth
furnace. From the second nozzle issued a stream of oxygen under which
the hot metal of the door was completely consumed. The force of the
blast as the compressed oxygen and acetylene were expelled carried a
fine spray and the disintegrated metal visibly before it. And yet it
was not a big hole that it made--scarcely an eighth of an inch wide,
but clear and sharp as if a buzz saw were eating its way through a
three-inch plank of white pine. With tense muscles Kennedy held this
terrific engine of destruction and moved it as easily as if it had
been a mere pencil of light. He was easily the calmest of us all as we
crowded about him at a respectful distance.

"Acetylene, as you may know," he hastily explained, never pausing for
a moment in his work, "is composed of carbon and hydrogen. As it burns
at the end of the nozzle it is broken into carbon and hydrogen--the
carbon gives the high temperature, and the hydrogen forms a cone that
protects the end of the blowpipe from being itself burnt up."

"But isn't it dangerous?" I asked, amazed at the skill with which he
handled the blowpipe.

"Not particularly--when you know how to do it. In that tank is a
porous asbestos packing saturated with acetone, under pressure. Thus I
can carry acetylene safely, for it is dissolved, and the possibility
of explosion is minimized. This mixing chamber by which I am holding
the torch, where the oxygen and acetylene mix, is also designed in
such a way as to prevent a flash-back. The best thing about this style
of blowpipe is the ease with which it can be transported and the
curious uses--like the present--to which it can be put."

He paused a moment to test the door. All was silence on the other
side. The door itself was as firm as ever.

"Huh!" exclaimed one of the detectives behind me, "these new-fangled
things ain't all they're cracked up to be. Now if I was runnin' this
show, I'd dynamite that door to kingdom come."

"And wreck the house and kill a few people," I returned, hotly
resenting the criticism of Kennedy. Kennedy affected not to hear.

"When I shut off the oxygen in this second jet," he resumed as if
nothing had been said, "you see the torch merely heats the steel.
I can get a heat of approximately sixty-three hundred degrees
Fahrenheit, and the flame will exert a pressure of fifty pounds to the
square inch."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed O'Connor, who had not heard the remark of his
subordinate and was watching with undisguised admiration. "Kennedy,
how did you ever think of such a thing?"

"Why, it's used for welding, you know," answered Craig as he continued
to work calmly in the growing excitement. "I first saw it in actual
use in mending a cracked cylinder in an automobile. The cylinder was
repaired without being taken out at all. I've seen it weld new teeth
and build up old worn teeth on gearing, as good as new."

He paused to let us see the terrifically heated metal under the flame.

"You remember when we were talking on the drive about the raid,
O'Connor? A car-load of scrap-iron went by on the railroad below us.
They use this blowpipe to cut it up, frequently. That's what gave me
the idea. See. I turn on the oxygen now in this second nozzle. The
blowpipe is no longer an instrument for joining metals together, but
for cutting them asunder. The steel burns just as you, perhaps, have
seen a watch-spring burn in a jar of oxygen. Steel, hard or soft,
tempered, annealed, chrome, or Harveyized, it all burns just as fast
and just as easily. And it's cheap too. This raid may cost a couple of
dollars, as far as the blowpipe is concerned--quite a difference from
the thousands of dollars' loss that would follow an attempt to blow
the door in."

The last remark was directed quietly at the doubting detective. He had
nothing to say. We stood in awe-struck amazement as the torch slowly,
inexorably, traced a thin line along the edge of the door.

Minute after minute sped by, as the line burned by the blowpipe cut
straight from top to bottom. It seemed hours to me. Was Kennedy going
to slit the whole door and let it fall in with a crash?

No, I could see that even in his cursory examination of the door
he had gained a pretty good knowledge of the location of the bolts
imbedded in the steel. One after another he was cutting clear through
and severing them, as if with a super-human knife.

What was going on on the other side of the door, I wondered. I could
scarcely imagine the consternation of the gamblers caught in their own
trap.

With a quick motion Kennedy turned off the acetylene and oxygen. The
last bolt had been severed. A gentle push of the hand, and he swung
the once impregnable door on its delicately poised hinges as easily as
if he had merely said, "Open Sesame." The robbers' cave yawned before
us.

We made a rush up the stairs. Kennedy was first, O'Connor next, and
myself scarcely a step behind, with the rest of O'Connor's men at our
heels.

I think we were all prepared for some sort of gun-play, for the crooks
were desperate characters, and I myself was surprised to encounter
nothing but physical force, which was quickly overcome.

In the now disordered richness of the rooms, waving his "John Doe"
warrant in one hand and his pistol in the other, O'Connor shouted:
"You're all under arrest, gentlemen. If you resist further it will go
hard with you."

Crowded now in one end of the room in speechless amazement was the
late gay party of gamblers, including Senator Danfield himself. They
had reckoned on toying with any chance but this. The pale white face
of DeLong among them was like a spectre, as he stood staring blankly
about and still insanely twisting the roulette wheel before him.

Kennedy advanced toward the table with an ax which he had seized from
one of our men. A well-directed blow shattered the mechanism of the
delicate wheel.

"DeLong," he said, "I'm not going to talk to you like your old
professor at the university, nor like your recent friend, the
Frenchman with a system. This is what you have been up against, my
boy. Look."

His forefinger indicated an ingenious, but now tangled and twisted,
series of minute wires and electro-magnets in the broken wheel before
us. Delicate brushes led the current into the wheel. With another blow
of his axe, Craig disclosed wires running down through the leg of the
table to the floor and under the carpet to buttons operated by the man
who ran the game.

"Wh-what does it mean?" asked DeLong blankly.

"It means that you had little enough chance to win at a straight game
of roulette. But the wheel is very rarely straight, even with all the
odds in favor of the bank, as they are. This game was electrically
controlled. Others are mechanically controlled by what is sometimes
called the 'mule's ear,' and other devices. You _can't_ win. There
wires and magnets can be made to attract the little ball into any
pocket the operator desires. Each one of those pockets contains a
little electro-magnet. One set of magnets in the red pockets is
connected with one button under the carpet and a battery. The other
set in the black pockets is connected with another button and
the battery. This ball is not really of platinum. Platinum is
non-magnetic. It is simply a soft iron hollow ball, plated with
platinum. Whichever set of electro-magnets is energized attracts the
ball and by this simple method it is in the power of the operator
to let the ball go to red or black as he may wish. Other similar
arrangements control the odd or even, and other combinations from
other push buttons. A special arrangement took care of that '17'
freak. There isn't an honest gambling-machine in the whole place--I
might almost say the whole city. The whole thing is crooked from start
to finish--the men, the machines--the--"

"That machine could be made to beat me by turning up a run of '17' any
number of times, or red or black, or odd or even, over '18' or under
'18,' or anything?"

"Anything, DeLong."

"And I never had a chance," he repeated, meditatively fingering the
wires. "They broke me to-night. Danfield"--DeLong turned, looking
dazedly about in the crowd for his former friend, then his hand
shot into his pocket, and a little ivory-handled pistol flashed
out--"Danfield, your blood is on your own head. You have ruined me."

Kennedy must have been expecting something of the sort, for he seized
the arm of the young man, weakened by dissipation, and turned the
pistol upward as if it had been in the grasp of a mere child.

A blinding flash followed in the farthest corner of the room and a
huge puff of smoke. Before I could collect my wits another followed in
the opposite corner. The room was filled with a dense smoke.

Two men were scuffling at my feet. One was Kennedy. As I dropped down
quickly to help him I saw that the other was Danfield, his face purple
with the violence of the struggle.

"Don't be alarmed, gentlemen," I heard O'Connor shout, "the explosions
were only the flash-lights of the official police photographers.
We now have the evidence complete. Gentlemen, you will now go down
quietly to the patrol-wagons below, two by two. If you have anything
to say, say it to the magistrate of the night court."

"Hold his arms, Walter," panted Kennedy.

I did. With a dexterity that would have done credit to a pickpocket,
Kennedy reached into Danfield's pocket and pulled out some papers.

Before the smoke had cleared and order had been restored, Craig
exclaimed: "Let him up, Walter. Here, DeLong, here are the I.O.U.'s
against you. Tear them up--they are not even a debt of honor."



The Great K.& A. Train Robbery


BY PAUL LEICESTER FORD



CHAPTER I

THE PARTY ON SPECIAL NO. 218


Any one who hopes to find in what is here written a work of literature
had better lay it aside unread. At Yale I should have got the sack in
rhetoric and English composition, let alone other studies, had it not
been for the fact that I played half-back on the team, and so the
professors marked me away up above where I ought to have ranked. That
was twelve years ago, but my life since I received my parchment has
hardly been of a kind to improve me in either style or grammar. It is
true that one woman tells me I write well, and my directors never
find fault with my compositions; but I know that she likes my letters
because, whatever else they may say to her, they always say in some
form, "I love you," while my board approve my annual reports
because thus far I have been able to end each with "I recommend the
declaration of a dividend of ---- per cent from the earnings of the
current year." I should therefore prefer to reserve my writings for
such friendly critics, if it did not seem necessary to make public a
plain statement concerning an affair over which there appears to be
much confusion. I have heard in the last five years not less than
twenty renderings of what is commonly called "the great K.& A. train
robbery,"--some so twisted and distorted that but for the intermediate
versions I should never have recognized them as attempts to narrate
the series of events in which I played a somewhat prominent part. I
have read or been told that, unassisted, the pseudo-hero captured a
dozen desperadoes; that he was one of the road agents himself; that he
was saved from lynching only by the timely arrival of cavalry; that
the action of the United States government in rescuing him from the
civil authorities was a most high-handed interference with State
rights; that he received his reward from a grateful railroad by being
promoted; that a lovely woman as recompense for his villainy--but
bother! it's my business to tell what really occurred, and not what
the world chooses to invent. And if any man thinks he would have done
otherwise in my position, I can only say that he is a better or a
worse man than Dick Gordon.

Primarily, it was football which shaped my end. Owing to my skill in
the game, I took a post-graduate at the Sheffield Scientific School,
that the team might have my services for an extra two years. That led
to my knowing a little about mechanical engineering, and when I felt
the "quad" for good I went into the Alton Railroad shops. It wasn't
long before I was foreman of a section; next I became a division
superintendent, and after I had stuck to that for a time I was
appointed superintendent of the Kansas & Arizona Railroad, a line
extending from Trinidad in Kansas to The Needles in Arizona, tapping
the Missouri Western System at the first place, and the Great Southern
at the other. With both lines we had important traffic agreements,
as well as the closest relations, which sometimes were a little
difficult, as the two roads were anything but friendly, and we had
directors of each on the K. & A. board, in which they fought like
cats. Indeed, it could only be a question of time when one would
oust the other and then absorb my road. My headquarters were at
Albuquerque, in New Mexico, and it was there, in October, 1890, that
I received the communication which was the beginning of all that
followed.

This initial factor was a letter from the president of the Missouri
Western, telling me that their first vice-president, Mr. Cullen (who
was also a director of my road), was coming out to attend the annual
election of the K. & A., which under our charter had to be held in Ash
Fork, Arizona. A second paragraph told me that Mr. Cullen's family
accompanied him, and that they all wished to visit the Grand Cañon of
the Colorado on their way. Finally the president wrote that the
party travelled in his own private car, and asked me to make myself
generally useful to them. Having become quite hardened to just such
demands, at the proper date I ordered my superintendent's car on to
No. 2, and the next morning it was dropped off at Trinidad.

The moment No. 3 arrived, I climbed into the president's special, that
was the last car on the train, and introduced myself to Mr. Cullen,
whom, though an official of my road, I had never met. He seemed
surprised at my presence, but greeted me very pleasantly as soon as I
explained that the Missouri Western office had asked me to do what I
could for him, and that I was there for that purpose. His party were
about to sit down to breakfast, and he asked me to join them: so we
passed into the dining-room at the forward end of the car, where I was
introduced to "My son," "Lord Ralles," and "Captain Ackland." The son
was a junior copy of his father, tall and fine-looking, but, in place
of the frank and easy manner of his sire, he was so very English that
most people would have sworn falsely as to his native land. Lord
Ralles was a little, well-built chap, not half so English as Albert
Cullen, quick in manner and thought, being in this the opposite of
his brother Captain Ackland, who was heavy enough to rock-ballast a
roadbed. Both brothers gave me the impression of being gentlemen, and
both were decidedly good-looking.

After the introductions, Mr. Cullen said we would not wait, and his
remark called my attention to the fact that there was one more place
at the table than there were people assembled. I had barely noted
this, when my host said, "Here's the truant," and, turning, I faced a
lady who had just entered. Mr. Cullen said, "Madge, let me introduce
Mr. Gordon to you." My bow was made to a girl of about twenty, with
light brown hair, the bluest of eyes, a fresh skin and a fine figure,
dressed so nattily as to be to me after my four years of Western life,
a sight for tired eyes. She greeted me pleasantly, made a neat little
apology for having kept us waiting, and then we all sat down.

It was a very jolly breakfast-table, Mr. Cullen and his son being
capital talkers, and Lord Ralles a good third, while Miss Cullen was
quick and clever enough to match the three. Before the meal was over I
came to the conclusion that Lord Ralles was in love with Miss Cullen,
for he kept making low asides to her; and from the fact that she
allowed them, and indeed responded, I drew the conclusion that he was
a lucky beggar, feeling, I confess, a little pang that a title was
going to win such a nice American girl.

One of the first subjects spoken of was train-robbery, and Miss
Cullen, like most Easterners, seemed to take a great interest in it,
and had any quantity of questions to ask me.

"I've left all my jewelry behind, except my watch," she said, "and
that I hide every night. So I really hope we'll be held up, it would
be such an adventure."

"There isn't any chance of it, Miss Cullen," I told her; "and if we
were, you probably wouldn't even know that it was happening, but would
sleep right through it."

"Wouldn't they try to get our money and our watches?" she demanded.

I told her no, and explained that the express and mail-cars were the
only ones to which the road agents paid any attention. She wanted to
know the way it was done: so I described to her how sometimes the
train was flagged by a danger signal, and when it had slowed down the
runner found himself covered by armed men; or how a gang would board
the train, one by one, at way stations, and then, when the time came,
steal forward, secure the express agent and postal clerk, climb over
the tender, and compel the runner to stop the train at some lonely
spot on the road. She made me tell her all the details of such
robberies as I knew about, and, though I had never been concerned in
any, I was able to describe several, which, as they were monotonously
alike, I confess I colored up a bit here and there, in an attempt to
make them interesting to her. I seemed to succeed, for she kept the
subject going even after we had left the table and were smoking our
cigars in the observation saloon. Lord Ralles had a lot to say about
the American lack of courage in letting trains containing twenty and
thirty men be held up by half a dozen robbers.

"Why," he ejaculated, "my brother and I each have a double express
with us, and do you think we'd sit still in our seats? No. Hang me if
we wouldn't pot something."

"You might," I laughed, a little nettled, I confess, by his speech,
"but I'm afraid it would be yourselves."

"Aw, you fancy resistance impossible?" drawled Albert Cullen.

"It has been tried," I answered, "and without success. You can see
it's like all surprises. One side is prepared before the other side
knows there is danger. Without regard to relative numbers, the odds
are all in favor of the road agents."

"But I wouldn't sit still, whatever the odds," asserted his lordship.
"And no Englishman would."

"Well, Lord Ralles," I said, "I hope for your sake, then, that you'll
never be in a hold-up, for I should feel about you as the runner of a
locomotive did when the old lady asked him if it was'nt very painful
to him to run over people. 'Yes, madam,' he sadly replied: 'there is
nothing musses an engine up so.'"

I don't think Miss Cullen liked Lord Ralles's comments on American
courage any better than I did, for she said--you take Lord Ralles
and Captain Ackland into the service of the K. & A., Mr. Gordon, as a
special guard?"

"The K. & A. has never had a robbery yet, Miss Cullen," I replied,
"and I don't think that it ever will have."

"Why not?" she asked.

I explained to her how the Cañon of the Colorado to the north, and the
distance of the Mexican border to the south, made escape so almost
desperate that the road agents preferred to devote their attentions to
other routes. "If we were boarded, Miss Cullen," I said, "your jewelry
would be as safe as it is in Chicago, for the robbers would only clean
out the express and mail-cars; but if they should so far forget their
manners as to take your trinkets, I'd agree to return them to you
inside of one week."

"That makes it all the jollier," she cried, eagerly. "We could have
the fun of the adventure, and yet not lose anything. Can't you arrange
for it, Mr. Gordon?"

"I'd like to please you, Miss Cullen," I said, "and I'd like to give
Lord Ralles a chance to show us how to handle those gentry; but it's
not to be done." I really should have been glad to have the road
agents pay us a call.

We spent that day pulling up the Raton pass, and so on over the
Glorietta pass down to Lamy, where, as the party wanted to see Sante
Fé, I had our two cars dropped off the overland, and we ran up the
branch line to the old Mexican city. It was well-worn ground to me,
but I enjoyed showing the sights to Miss Cullen, for by that time I
had come to the conclusion that I had never met a sweeter or jollier
girl. Her beauty, too, was of a kind that kept growing on one, and
before I had known her twenty-four hours, without quite being in love
with her, I was beginning to hate Lord Ralles, which was about the
same thing, I suppose. Every hour convinced me that the two understood
each other, not merely from the little asides and confidences they
kept exchanging, but even more so from the way Miss Cullen would take
his lordship down occasionally. Yet, like a fool, the more I saw to
confirm my first diagnosis, the more I found myself dwelling on the
dimples at the corners of Miss Cullen's mouth, the bewitching uplift
of her upper lip, the runaway curls about her neck, and the curves and
color of her cheeks.

Half a day served to see everything in Santa Fé worth looking at, but
Mr. Cullen decided to spend there the time they had to wait for his
other son to join the party. To pass the hours, I hunted up some
ponies, and we spent three days in long rides up the old Santa Fé
trail and to the outlying mountains. Only one incident was other than
pleasant, and that was my fault. As we were riding back to our cars
on the second afternoon, we had to cross the branch road-bed, where a
gang happened to be at work tamping the ties.

"Since you're interested in road agents, Miss Cullen," I said, "you
may like to see one. That fellow standing in the ditch is Jack Drute,
who was concerned in the D.& R.G. hold-up three years ago."

Miss Cullen looked where I pointed, and seeing a man with a gun, gave
a startled jump, and pulled up her pony, evidently supposing that
we were about to be attacked. "Sha'n't we run?" she began, but then
checked herself, as she took in the facts of the drab clothes of the
gang and the two armed men in uniform. "They are convicts?" she asked,
and when I nodded, she said, "Poor things!" After a pause, she asked,
"How long is he in prison for?"

"Twenty years," I told her."

"How harsh that seems!" she said. "How cruel we are to people for a
few moments' wrong-doing, which the circumstances may almost have
justified!" She checked her pony as we came opposite Drute, and said,
"Can you use money?"

"Can I, lyedy?" said the fellow, leering in an attempt to look
amiable. "Wish I had the chance to try."

The guard interrupted by telling her it wasn't permitted to speak to
the convicts while out of bounds, and so we had to ride on. All Miss
Cullen was able to do was to throw him a little bunch of flowers she
had gathered in the mountains. It was literally casting pearls before
swine, for the fellow did not seem particularly pleased, and when,
late that night, I walked down there with a lantern I found the
flowers lying in the ditch. The experience seemed to sadden and
distress Miss Cullen very much for the rest of the afternoon, and I
kicked myself for having called her attention to the brute, and could
have knocked him down for the way he had looked at her. It is curious
that I felt thankful at the time that Drute was not holding up a train
Miss Cullen was on. It is always the unexpected that happens. If I
could have looked into the future, what a strange variation on this
thought I should have seen!

The three days went all too quickly, thanks to Miss Cullen, and by the
end of that time I began to understand what love really meant to a
chap, and how men could come to kill each other for it. For a fairly
sensible, hard-headed fellow it was pretty quick work, I acknowledge;
but let any man have seven years of Western life without seeing a
woman worth speaking of, and then meet Miss Cullen, and if he didn't
do as I did, I wouldn't trust him on the tailboard of a locomotive,
for I should put him down as defective both in eyesight and in
intellect.



CHAPTER II

THE HOLDING-UP OF OVERLAND NO. 3


On the third day a despatch came from Frederic Cullen telling his
father he would join us at Lamy on No. 8 that evening. I at once
ordered 97 and 218 coupled to the connecting train, and in an hour we
were back on the main line. While waiting for the overland to arrive,
Mr. Cullen asked me to do something which, as it later proved to have
considerable bearing on the events of that night, is worth mentioning,
trivial as it seems. When I had first joined the party, I had given
orders for 97 to be kicked in between the main string and their
special, so as not to deprive the occupants of 218 of the view from
their observation saloon and balcony platform. Mr. Cullen came to me
now and asked me to reverse the arrangement and make my car the tail
end. I was giving orders for the splitting and kicking in when No. 3
arrived, and thus did not see the greeting of Frederic Cullen and his
family. When I joined them, his father told me that the high altitude
had knocked his son up so, that he had to be helped from the ordinary
sleeper to the special and had gone to bed immediately. Out West we
have to know something of medicine, and my car had its chest of drugs:
so I took some tablets and went into his state-room. Frederic was like
his brother in appearance, though not in manner, having a quick, alert
way. He was breathing with such difficulty that I was almost tempted
to give him nitroglycerin, instead of strychnine, but he said he would
be all right as soon as he became accustomed to the rarefied air,
quite pooh-poohing my suggestion that he take No. 2 back to Trinidad;
and while I was still urging, the train started. Leaving him the vials
of digitalis and strychnine, therefore, I went back, and dined _solus_
on my own car, indulging at the end in a cigar, the smoke of which
would keep turning into pictures of Miss Cullen. I have thought about
those pictures since then, and have concluded that when cigar-smoke
behaves like that, a man might as well read his destiny in it, for it
can mean only one thing.

After enjoying the combination, I went to No. 218 to have a look
at the son, and found that the heart tonics had benefited him
considerably. On leaving him, I went to the dining-room, where the
rest of the party were still at dinner, to ask that the invalid have a
strong cup of coffee, and after delivering my request Mr. Cullen asked
me to join them in a cigar. This I did gladly, for a cigar and Miss
Cullen's society were even pleasanter than a cigar and Miss Cullen's
pictures, because the pictures never quite did her justice, and,
besides, didn't talk.

Our smoke finished, we went back to the saloon, where the gentlemen
sat down to poker, which Lord Ralles had just learned, and liked. They
did not ask me to take a hand, for which I was grateful, as the salary
of a railroad superintendent would hardly stand the game they probably
played; and I had my compensation when Miss Cullen also was not asked
to join them. She said she was going to watch the moonlight on the
mountains from the platform, and opened the door to go out, finding
for the first time that No. 97 was the "ender." In her disappointment
she protested against this and wanted to know the why and wherefore.

"We shall have far less motion, Madge," Mr. Cullen explained, "and
then we sha'n't have the rear-end man in our car at night."

"But I don't mind the motion," urged Miss Cullen, "and the flagman is
only there after we are all in our rooms. Please leave us the view."

"I prefer the present arrangement, Madge," insisted Mr. Cullen, in a
very positive voice.

I was so sorry for Miss Cullen's disappointment that on impulse I
said, "The platform of 97 is entirely at your service, Miss Cullen."
The moment it was out I realized that I ought not to have said it, and
that I deserved a rebuke for supposing she would use my car.

Miss Cullen took it better than I hoped for, and was declining the
offer as kindly as my intention had been in making it, when, much to
my astonishment, her father interrupted by saying--

"By all means, Madge. That relieves us of the discomfort of being the
last car, and yet lets you have the scenery and moonlight."

Miss Cullen looked at her father for a moment as if not believing
what she had heard. Lord Ralles scowled and opened his mouth to say
something, but checked himself and only flung his discard down as if
he hated the cards.

"Thank you, papa," responded Miss Cullen, "but I think I will watch
you play."

"Now, Madge, don't be foolish," said Mr. Cullen, irritably. "You might
just as well have the pleasure, and you'll only disturb the game if
you stay here."

Miss Cullen leaned over and whispered something, and her father
answered her. Lord Ralles must have heard, for he muttered something,
which made Miss Cullen color up; but much good it did him, for she
turned to me and said, "Since my father doesn't disapprove, I will
gladly accept your hospitality, Mr. Gordon," and after a glance at
Lord Ralles that had a challenging "I'll do as I please" in it, she
went to get her hat and coat. The whole incident had not taken ten
seconds, yet it puzzled me beyond measure, even while my heart beat
with an unreasonable hope; for my better sense told me that it simply
meant that Lord Ralles disapproved, and Miss Cullen, like any girl
of spirit, was giving him notice that he was not yet privileged to
control her actions. Whatever the scene meant, his lordship did not
like it, for he swore at his luck the moment Miss Cullen had left the
room.

When Miss Cullen returned we went back to the rear platform of 97. I
let down the traps, closed the gates, got a camp-stool for her to sit
upon, with a cushion to lean back on, and a footstool, and fixed her
as comfortably as I could, even getting a traveling-rug to cover her
lap, for the plateau air was chilly. Then I hesitated a moment, for I
had the feeling that she had not thoroughly approved of the thing and
therefore she might not like to have me stay. Yet she was so charming
in the moonlight, and the little balcony the platform made was such a
tempting spot to linger on, while she was there, that it wasn't easy
to go. Finally I asked--

"You are quite comfortable, Miss Cullen?"

"Sinfully so," she laughed.

"Then perhaps you would like to be left to enjoy the moonlight and
your meditations by yourself?" I questioned. I knew I ought to have
just gone away, but I simply couldn't when she looked so enticing.

"Do you want to go?" she asked.

"No!" I ejaculated, so forcibly that she gave a little startled jump
in her chair. "That is--I mean," I stuttered, embarrassed by my own
vehemence, "I rather thought you might not want me to stay."

"What made you think that?" she demanded.

I never was a good hand at inventing explanations, and after a
moment's seeking for some reason, I plumped out, "Because I feared
you might not think it proper to use my car, and I suppose it's my
presence that made you think it."

She took my stupid fumble very nicely, laughing merrily while saying,
"If you like mountains and moonlight, Mr. Gordon, and don't mind the
lack of a chaperon, get a stool for yourself, too." What was more, she
offered me half of the lap-robe when I was seated beside her.

I think she was pleased by my offer to go away, for she talked very
pleasantly, and far more intimately than she had ever done before,
telling me facts about her family, her Chicago life, her travels, and
even her thoughts. From this I learned that her elder brother was an
Oxford graduate, and that Lord Ralles and his brother were classmates,
who were visiting him for the first time since he had graduated. She
asked me some questions about my work, which led me to tell her pretty
much everything about myself that I thought could be of the least
interest; and it was a very pleasant surprise to me to find that she
knew one of the old team, and had even heard of me from him.

"Why," she exclaimed, "how absurd of me not to have thought of it
before! But, you see, Mr. Colston always speaks of you by your first
name. You ought to hear how he praises you."

"Trust Harry to praise any one," I said. "There were some pretty low
fellows on the old team--men who couldn't keep their word or their
tempers, and would slug every chance they got; but Harry used to
insist there wasn't a bad egg among the lot."

"Don't you find it very lonely to live out here, away from old
friends?" she asked.

I had to acknowledge that it was, and told her the worst part was the
absence of pleasant women. "Till you arrived, Miss Cullen," I said, "I
hadn't seen a well-gowned woman in four years." I've always noticed
that a woman would rather have a man notice and praise her frock than
her beauty, and Miss Cullen was apparently no exception, for I could
see the remark pleased her.

"Don't Western women ever get Eastern gowns?" she asked.

"Any quantity," I said, "but you know, Miss Cullen, that it isn't the
gown, but the way it's worn, that gives the artistic touch." For a
fellow who had devoted the last seven years of his life to grades and
fuel and rebates and pay-rolls, I don't think that was bad. At least
it made Miss Cullen's mouth dimple at the corners.

The whole evening was so eminently satisfactory that I almost believe
I should be talking yet, if interruption had not come. The first
premonition of it was Miss Cullen's giving a little shiver, which made
me ask if she was cold.

"Not at all," she replied. "I only--what place are we stopping at?"

I started to rise, but she checked the movement and said, "Don't
trouble yourself. I thought you would know without moving. I really
don't care to know."

I took out my watch, and was startled to find it was twenty minutes
past twelve. I wasn't so green as to tell Miss Cullen so, and merely
said, "By the time, this must be Sanders."

"Do we stop long?" she asked.

"Only to take water," I told her, and then went on with what I had
been speaking about when she shivered. But as I talked it slowly
dawned on me that we had been standing still some time, and presently
I stopped speaking and glanced off, expecting to recognize something,
only to see alkali plain on both sides. A little surprised, I looked
down, to find no siding. Rising hastily, I looked out forward. I could
see moving figures on each side of the train, but that meant nothing,
as the train's crew, and, for that matter passengers, are very apt to
alight at every stop. What did mean something was that there was no
water-tank, no station, nor any other visible cause for a stop.

"Is anything the matter?" asked Miss Cullen.

"I think something's wrong with the engine or the roadbed, Miss
Cullen," I said, "and, if you'll excuse me a moment, I'll go forward
and see."

I had barely spoken when "bang! bang!" went two shots. That they were
both fired from an English "express" my ears told me for no other
people in this world make a mountain howitzer and call it a rifle.

Hardly were the two shots fired when "crack! crack! crack! crack!"
went some Winchesters.

"Oh! what is it?" cried Miss Cullen.

"I think your wish has been granted," I answered hurriedly. "We are
being held up, and Lord Ralles is showing us how to--"

My speech was interrupted. "Bang! bang!" challenged another "express,"
the shots so close together as to be almost simultaneous. "Crack!
crack! crack!" retorted the Winchesters, and from the fact that
silence followed I drew a clear inference. I said to myself, "That is
an end of poor John Bull."



CHAPTER III

A NIGHT'S WORK ON THE ALKALI PLAINS


I hurried Miss Cullen into the car, and, after bolting the rear door,
took down my Winchester from its rack.

"I'm going forward," I told her, "and will tell my darkies to bolt the
front door: so you'll be as safe in here as in Chicago."

In another minute I was on my front platform. Dropping down between
the two cars, I crept along beside--indeed, half under--Mr. Cullen's
special. After my previous conclusion, my surprise can be judged when
at the farther end I found the two Britishers and Albert Cullen,
standing there in the most exposed position possible. I joined them,
muttering to myself something about Providence and fools.

"Aw," drawled Cullen, "here's Mr. Gordon, just too late for the sport,
by Jove."

"Well," bragged Lord Ralles, "we've had a hand in this deal, Mr.
Superintendent, and haven't been potted. The scoundrels broke for
cover the moment we opened fire."

By this time there were twenty passengers about our group, all of them
asking questions at once, making it difficult to learn just what had
happened; but, so far as I could piece the answers together, the
poker-players' curiosity had been aroused by the long stop, and,
looking out, they had seen a single man with a rifle standing by the
engine. Instantly arming themselves, Lord Ralles let fly both barrels
at him, and in turn was the target for the first four shots I had
heard. The shooting had brought the rest of the robbers tumbling off
the cars, and the captain and Cullen had fired the rest of the shots
at them as they scattered, I didn't stop to hear more, but went
forward to see what the road agents had got away with.

I found the express agent tied hand and foot in the corner of his car,
and, telling a brakeman who had followed me to set him at liberty, I
turned my attention to the safe. That the diversion had not come a
moment too soon was shown by the dynamite cartridge already in place,
and by the fuse that lay on the floor, as if dropped suddenly. But the
safe was intact.

Passing into the mail-car, I found the clerk tied to a post, with a
mail-sack pulled over his head, and the utmost confusion among the
pouches and sorting-compartments, while scattered over the floor were
a great many letters. Setting him at liberty, I asked him if he
could tell whether mail had been taken, and, after a glance at the
confusion, he said he could not know till he had examined.

Having taken stock of the harm done, I began asking questions. Just
after we had left Sanders, two masked men had entered the mail-car,
and while one covered the clerk with a revolver the other had tied
and "sacked" him. Two more had gone forward and done the same to the
express agent. Another had climbed over the tender and ordered the
runner to hold up. All this was regular programme, as I had explained
to Miss Cullen, but here had been a variation which I had never heard
of being done, and of which I couldn't fathom the object. When the
train had been stopped, the man on the tender had ordered the fireman
to dump his fire, and now it was lying in the road-bed and threatening
to burn through the ties; so my first order was to extinguish it,
and my second was to start a new fire and get up steam as quickly as
possible. From all I could learn, there were eight men concerned in
the attempt, and I confess I shook my head in puzzlement why that
number should have allowed themselves to be scared off so easily.

My wonderment grew when I called on the conductor for his tickets.
These showed nothing but two from Albuquerque, one from Laguna, and
four from Coolidge. This latter would have looked hopeful but for the
fact that it was a party of three women and a man. Going back beyond
Lamy didn't give anything, for the conductor was able to account for
every fare as either still in the train or as having got off at some
point. My only conclusion was that the robbers had sneaked onto the
platforms at Sanders; and I gave the crew a good dressing down for
their carelessness. Of course they insisted it was impossible; but
they were bound to do that.

Going back to 97, I got my telegraph instrument, though I thought it
a waste of time, the road agents being always careful to break the
lines. I told a brakeman to climb the pole and cut a wire. While he
was struggling up, Miss Cullen joined me.

"Do you really expect to catch them?"

"I shouldn't like to be one of them," I replied.

"But how can you do it?"

"You could understand better, Miss Cullen, if you knew this country.
You see every bit of water is in use by ranches, and those fellows
can't go more than fifty miles without watering. So we shall have word
of them, wherever they go."

"Line cut, Mr. Gordon," came from overhead at this point, making Miss
Cullen jump with surprise.

"What was that?" she asked.

I explained to her, and after making connections, I called Sanders.
Much to my surprise, the agent responded. I was so astonished that for
a moment I could not believe the fact.

"That is the queerest hold-up of which I ever heard," I remarked to
Miss Cullen.

"Aw, in what respect?" asked Albert Cullen's voice, and, looking up, I
found that he and quite a number of the passengers had joined us.

"The road agents make us dump our fire," I said, "and yet they haven't
cut the wires in either direction. I can't see how they can escape
us."

"What fun!" cried Miss Cullen.

"I don't see what difference either makes in their chance of
escaping," said Lord Ralles.

While he was speaking, I ticked off the news of our being held up, and
asked the agent if there had been any men about Sanders, or if he had
seen any one board the train there. His answer was positive that no
one could have done so, and that settled it as to Sanders. I asked the
same questions of Allantown and Wingate, which were the only places we
had stopped at after leaving Coolidge, getting the same answer. That
eight men could have remained concealed on any of the platforms from
that point was impossible, and I began to suspect magic. Then I called
Coolidge, and told of the holding up, after which I telegraphed the
agent at Navajo Springs to notify the commander at Fort Defiance, for
I suspected the road agents would make for the Navajo reservation.
Finally I called Flagstaff as I had Coolidge, directed that the
authorities be notified of the facts, and ordered an extra to bring
out the sheriff and posse.

"I don't think," said Miss Cullen, "that I am a bit more curious than
most people, but it has nearly made me frantic to have you tick away
on that little machine and hear it tick back, and not understand a
word."

After that I had to tell her what I had said and learned.

"How clever of you to think of counting the tickets and finding out
where people got on and off! I never should have thought of either,"
she said.

"It hasn't helped me much," I laughed, rather grimly, "except to
eliminate every possible clue."

"They probably did steal on at one of the stops," suggested a
passenger.

I shook my head. "There isn't a stick of timber nor a place of
concealment on these alkali plains," I replied, "and it was bright
moonlight till an hour ago. It would be hard enough for one man to
get within a mile of the station without being seen, and it would be
impossible for seven or eight."

"How do you know the number?" asked a passenger.

"I don't," I said. "That's the number the crew think there were; but I
myself don't believe it."

"Why don't you believe the men?" asked Miss Cullen.

"First, because there is always a tendency to magnify, and next,
because the road agents ran away so quickly."

"I counted at least seven," asserted Lord Ralles.

"Well, Lord Ralles," I said, "I don't want to dispute your eyesight,
but if they had been that strong they would never have bolted, and if
you want to lay a bottle of wine, I'll wager that when I catch those
chaps we'll find there weren't more than three or four of them."

"Done!" he snapped.

Leaving the group, I went forward to get the report of the mail agent.
He had put things to right, and told me that, though the mail had
been pretty badly mixed up, only one pouch at worst had been rifled.
This--the one for registered mail--had been cut open, but, as if to
increase the mystery, the letters had been scattered, unopened, about
the car, only three out of the whole being missing, and those very
probably had fallen into the pigeon-holes and would be found on a more
careful search.

I confess I breathed easier to think that the road agents had got away
with nothing, and was so pleased that I went back to the wire to
send the news of it, that the fact might be included in the press
despatches. The moon had set, and it was so dark that I had some
difficulty in finding the pole. When I found it, Miss Cullen was still
standing there. What was more, a man was close beside her, and as I
came up I heard her say, indignantly--

"I will not allow it. It is unfair to take such advantage of me. Take
your arm away, or I shall call for help."

That was enough for me. One step carried my hundred and sixty pounds
over the intervening ground, and, using the momentum of the stride to
help, I put the flat of my hand against the shoulder of the man and
gave him a shove. There are three or four Harvard men who can tell
what that means and they were braced for it, which this fellow wasn't.
He went staggering back as if struck by a cow-catcher, and lay down on
the ground a good fifteen feet away. His having his arm around Miss
Cullen's waist unsteadied her so that she would have fallen too if I
hadn't put my hand against her shoulder. I longed to put it about her,
but by this time I didn't want to please myself, but to do only what I
thought she would wish, and so restrained myself.

Before I had time to finish an apology to Miss Cullen, the fellow was
up on his feet, and came at me with an exclamation of anger. In my
surprise at recognizing the voice as that of Lord Ralles, I almost
neglected to take care of myself; but, though he was quick with his
fists, I caught him by the wrists as he closed, and he had no chance
after that against a fellow of my weight.

"Oh, don't quarrel!" cried Miss Cullen.

Holding him, I said, "Lord Ralles, I overheard what Miss Cullen was
saying, and, supposing some man was insulting her, I acted as I did."
Then I let go of him, and, turning, I continued, "I am very sorry,
Miss Cullen, if I did anything the circumstances did not warrant,"
while cursing myself for my precipitancy and for not thinking that
Miss Cullen would never have been caught in such a plight with a man
unless she had been half willing; for a girl does not merely threaten
to call for help if she really wants aid.

Lord Ralles wasn't much mollified by my explanation. "You're too
much in a hurry, my man," he growled, speaking to me as if I were a
servant. "Be a bit more careful in the future."

I think I should have retorted--for his manner was enough to make a
saint mad--if Miss Cullen hadn't spoken.

"You tried to help me, Mr. Gordon, and I am deeply grateful for that,"
she said. The words look simple enough set down here. But the tone in
which she said them, and the extended hand and the grateful little
squeeze she gave my fingers, all seemed to express so much that I was
more puzzled over them than I was over the robbery.



CHAPTER IV

SOME RATHER QUEER ROAD AGENTS


"You had better come back to the car, Miss Cullen," remarked Lord
Ralles, after a pause.

But she declined to do so, saying she wanted to know what I was going
to telegraph; and he left us, for which I wasn't sorry. I told her of
the good news I had to send, and she wanted to know if now we would
try to catch the road agents. I set her mind at rest on that score. "I
think they'll give us very little trouble to bag," I added, "for they
are so green that it's almost pitiful."

"In not cutting the wires?" she asked.

"In everything," I replied. "But the worst botch is their waiting till
we had just passed the Arizona line. It they had held us up an hour
earlier, it would only have been State's prison."

"And what will it be now?"

"Hanging."

"What?" cried Miss Cullen.

"In New Mexico train-robbing is not capital, but in Arizona it is," I
told her.

"And if you catch them they'll be hung?" she asked.

"Yes."

"That seems very hard."

The first signs of dawn were beginning to show by this time, and as
the sky brightened I told Miss Cullen that I was going to look for the
trail of the fugitives. She said she would walk with me, if not in the
way, and my assurance was very positive on that point. And here I want
to remark that it's saying a good deal if a girl can be up all night
in such excitement and still look fresh and pretty, and that she did.

I ordered the crew to look about, and then began a big circle around
the train. Finding nothing, I swung a bigger one. That being equally
unavailing, I did a larger third. Not a trace of foot or hoof within a
half-mile of the cars! I had heard of blankets laid down to conceal a
trail, of swathed feet, even of leathern horse-boots with cattle-hoofs
on the bottom, but none of these could have been used for such a
distance, let alone the entire absence of any signs of a place where
the horses had been hobbled. Returning to the train, the report of the
men was the same.

"We've ghost road agents to deal with, Miss Cullen," I laughed. "They
come from nowhere, bullets touch them not, their lead hurts nobody,
they take nothing, and they disappear without touching the ground."

"How curious it is!" she exclaimed. "One would almost suppose it a
dream,"

"Hold on," I said. "We do have something tangible, for if they
disappeared they left their shells behind them." And I pointed to
some cartridge-shells that lay on the ground beside the mail-car. "My
theory of aerial bullets won't do."

"The shells are as hollow as I feel," laughed Miss Cullen.

"Your suggestion reminds me that I am desperately hungry," I said.
"Suppose we go back and end the famine."

Most of the passengers had long since returned to their seats or
berths, and Mr. Cullen's party had apparently done the same, for 218
showed no signs of life. One of my darkies was awake, and he broiled a
steak and made us some coffee in no time, and just as they were ready
Albert Cullen appeared, so we made a very jolly little breakfast. He
told me at length the part he and the Britishers had borne, and only
made me marvel the more that any one of them was alive, for apparently
they had jumped off the car without the slightest precaution, and
had stood grouped together, even after they had called attention to
themselves by Lord Ralles's shots. Cullen had to confess that he heard
the whistle of the four bullets unpleasantly close.

"You have a right to be proud, Mr. Cullen," I said. "You fellows did
a tremendously pluckly thing, and, thanks to you, we didn't lose
anything."

"But you went to help too, Mr. Gordon," added Miss Cullen.

That made me color up, and, after a moment's hesitation, I said--

"I'm not going to sail under false colors, Miss Cullen. When I went
forward I didn't think I could do anything. I supposed whoever had
pitched into the robbers was dead, and I expected to be the same
inside of ten minutes."

"Then why did you risk your life," she asked, "if you thought it was
useless?"

I laughed, and, though ashamed to tell it, replied, "I didn't want you
to think that the Britishers had more pluck than I had."

She took my confession better than I hoped she would, laughing with
me, and then said, "Well, that was courageous, after all."

"Yes," I confessed, "I was frightened into bravery."

"Perhaps if they had known the danger as well as you, they would have
been less courageous," she continued; and I could have blessed her for
the speech.

While we were still eating, the mail clerk came to my car and reported
that the most careful search had failed to discover the three
registered letters, and they had evidently been taken. This made me
feel sober, slight as the probable loss was. He told me that his
list showed they were all addressed to Ash Fork, Arizona, making
it improbable that their contents could be of any real value. If
possible, I was more puzzled than ever.

At six-ten the runner whistled to show he had steam up. I told one of
the brakemen to stay behind, and then went into 218. Mr. Cullen was
still dressing, but I expressed my regrets through the door that I
could not go with his party to the Grand Cañon, told him that all the
stage arrangements had been completed, and promised to join him there
in case my luck was good. Then I saw Frederic for a moment, to see how
he was (for I had nearly forgotten him in the excitement), to find
that he was gaining all the time, and preparing even to get up. When I
returned to the saloon, the rest of the party were there, and I bade
good-bye to the captain and Albert. Then I turned to Lord Ralles, and,
holding out my hand, said--

"Lord Ralles, I joked a little the other morning about the way you
thought road agents ought to be treated. You have turned the joke very
neatly and pluckily, and I want to apologize for myself and thank you
for the railroad."

"Neither is necessary," he retorted airily, pretending not to see my
hand.

I never claimed to have a good temper, and it was all I could do to
hold myself in. I turned to Miss Cullen to wish her a pleasant trip,
and the thought that this might be our last meeting made me forget
even Lord Ralles.

"I hope it isn't good-bye, but only _au revoir_," she said. "Whether
or no, you must let us see you some time in Chicago, so that I may
show you how grateful I am for all the pleasure you have added to our
trip." Then, as I stepped down off my platform, she leaned over the
rail of 218, and added, in a low voice, "I thought you were just as
brave as the rest, Mr. Gordon, and now I think you are braver."

I turned impulsively, and said, "You would think so, Miss Cullen, if
you knew the sacrifice I am making." Then, without looking at her, I
gave the signal, the bell rang, and No. 3 pulled off. The last thing I
saw was a handkerchief waving off the platform of 218.

When the train dropped out of sight over a grade, I swallowed the lump
in my throat and went to the telegraph instrument. I wired Coolidge to
give the alarm to Fort Wingate, Fort Apache, Fort Thomas, Fort Grant,
Fort Bayard, and Fort Whipple, though I thought the precaution a mere
waste of energy. Then I sent the brakeman up to connect the cut wire.

"Two of the bullets struck up here, Mr. Gordon," the man called from
the top of the pole.

"Surely not!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, sir," he responded. "The bullet-holes are brand-new."

I took in the lay of the land, the embers of the fire showing me how
the train had lain. "I don't wonder nobody was hit," I exclaimed, "if
that's a sample of their shooting. Some one was a worse rattled man
than I ever expect to be. Dig the bullets out, Douglas, so that we can
have a look at them."

He brought them down in a minute. They proved to be Winchesters, as I
had expected, for they were on the side from which the robbers must
have fired.

"That chap must have been full of Arizona tangle-foot, to have fired
as wild as he did," I ejaculated, and walked over to where the
mail-car had stood, to see just how bad the shooting was. When I got
there and faced about, it was really impossible to believe any man
could have done so badly, for raising my own Winchester to the pole
put it twenty degrees out of range and nearly forty degrees in the
air. Yet there were the cartridge-shells on the ground, to show that I
was in the place from which the shots had been fired.

While I was still cogitating over this, the special train I had
ordered out from Flagstaff came in sight, and in a few moments was
stopped where I was. It consisted of a string of three flats and a box
car, and brought the sheriff, a dozen cowboys whom he had sworn in as
deputies, and their horses. I was hopeful that with these fellows'
greater skill in such matters they could find what I had not, but
after a thorough examination of the ground within a mile of the
robbery they were as much at fault as I had been.

"Them cusses must have a dugout nigh abouts, for they couldn't 'a' got
away without wings," the sheriff surmised.

I didn't put much stock in that idea, and told the sheriff so.

"Waal, round up a better one," was his retort.

Not being able to do that, I told him of the bullets in the telegraph
pole, and took him over to where the mail-car had stood.

"Jerusalem crickets!" was his comment as he measured the aim. "If
that's where they put two of their pills, they must have pumped the
other four inter the moon."

"What other four?" I asked.

"Shots," he replied sententiously.

"The road agents only fired four times," I told him.

"Them and your pards must have been pretty nigh together for a minute,
then," he said, pointing to the ground.

I glanced down, and sure enough, there were six empty
cartridge-shells. I stood looking blankly at them, hardly able to
believe what I saw; for Albert Cullen had said distinctly that the
train-robbers had fired only four times, and that the last three
Winchester shots I had heard had been fired by himself. Then, without
speaking, I walked slowly back, searching along the edge of the
road-bed for more shells; but, though I went beyond the point where
the last car had stood, not one did I find. Any man who has fired a
Winchester knows that it drops its empty shell in loading, and I could
therefore draw only one conclusion--namely, that all seven discharges
of the Winchesters had occurred up by the mail-car. I had heard of men
supposing they had fired their guns through hearing another go off;
but with a repeating rifle one has to fire before one can reload. The
fact was evident that Albert Cullen either had fired his Winchester up
by the mail-car, or else had not fired it at all. In either case he
had lied, and Lord Ralles and Captain Ackland had backed him up in it.



CHAPTER V

A TRIP TO THE GRAND CAÑON


I stood pondering, for no explanation that would fit the facts seemed
possible. I should have considered the young fellow's story only an
attempt to gain a little reputation for pluck, if in any way I could
have accounted for the appearance and disappearance of the robbers.
Yet to suppose--which seemed the only other horn to the dilemma--that
the son and guests of the vice-president of the Missouri Western, and
one of our own directors, would be concerned in train-robbery was to
believe something equally improbable. Indeed, I should have put the
whole thing down as a practical joke of Mr. Cullen's party, if it had
not been for the loss of the registered letters.

Even a practical joker would hardly care to go to the length of
cutting open government mail-pouches; for Uncle Sam doesn't approve of
such conduct.

Whatever the explanation, I had enough facts to prevent me from
wasting more time on that alkali plain. Getting the men and horses
back onto the cars, I jumped up on the tailboard and ordered the
runner to pull out for Flagstaff. It was a run of seven hours, getting
us in a little after eight, and in those hours I had done a lot of
thinking which had all come to one result--that Mr. Cullen's party was
concerned in the hold-up.

The two private cars were on a siding, but the Cullens had left for
the Grand Cañon the moment they had arrived, and were about reaching
there by this time. I went to 218 and questioned the cook and waiter,
but they had either seen nothing or else had been primed, for not
a fact did I get from them. Going to my own car, I ordered a quick
supper, and while I was eating it I questioned my boy. He told me that
he had heard the shots, and had bolted the front door of my car, as I
had ordered when I went out; that as he turned to go to a safer place,
he had seen a man, revolver in hand, climb over the off-side gate of
Mr. Cullen's car, and for a moment he had supposed it a road agent,
till he saw that it was Albert Cullen.

"That was just after I had got off?" I asked.

"Yis, sah.

"Then it couldn't have been Mr. Cullen, Jim," I declared, "for I found
him up at the other end of the car."

"Tell you it wuz, Mr. Gordon," Jim insisted. "I done seen his face
clar in de light, and he done go into Mr. Cullen's car whar de old
gentleman wuz sittin'."

That set me whistling to myself, and I laughed to think how near I
had come to giving nitroglycerin to a fellow who was only shamming
heart-failure; for that it was Frederic Cullen who had climbed on the
car I hadn't the slightest doubt, the resemblance between the two
brothers being quite strong enough to deceive any one who had never
seen them together. I smiled a little, and remarked to myself, "I
think I can make good my boast that I would catch the robbers; but
whether the Cullens will like my doing it, I question. What is more,
Lord Ralles will owe me a bottle." Then I thought of Madge, and didn't
feel as pleased over my success as I had felt a moment before.

By nine o'clock the posse and I were in the saddle and skirting the
San Francisco peaks. There was no use of pressing the ponies, for our
game wasn't trying to escape, and, for that matter, couldn't, as the
Colorado River wasn't passable within fifty miles. It was a lovely
moonlight night, and the ride through the pines was as pretty a one as
I remember ever to have made. It set me thinking of Madge and of our
talk the evening before, and of what a change twenty-four hours
had brought. It was lucky I was riding an Indian pony, or I should
probably have landed in a heap. I don't know that I should have cared
particularly if a prairie-dog burrow had made me dash my brains out,
for I wasn't happy over the job that lay before me.

We watered at Silver Spring at quarter-past twelve. From that point we
were clear of the pines and out on the plain, so we could go a better
pace. This brought us to the half-way ranch by two, where we gave the
ponies a feed and an hour's rest. We reached the last relay station
just as the moon set, about three-forty; and, as all the rest of the
ride was through coconino forest, we held up there for daylight,
getting a little sleep meanwhile.

We rode into the camp at the Grand Cañon a little after eight, and the
deserted look of the tents gave me a moment's fright, for I feared
that the party had gone. Tolfree explained, however, that some had
ridden out to Moran Point, and the rest had gone down Hance's trail.
So I breakfasted and then took a look at Albert Cullen's Winchester.
That it had been recently fired was as plain as the Grand Cañon
itself; throwing back the bar, I found an empty cartridge shell still
oily from the discharge. That completed the tale of seven shots. I
didn't feel absolutely safe till I had asked Tolfree if there had been
any shooting of echoes by the party, but his denial rounded out my
chain of evidence.

Telling the sheriff to guard the bags of the party carefully, I took
two of the posse and rode over to Moran's Point. Sure enough there
were Mr. Cullen, Albert, and Captain Ackland. They gave a shout at
seeing me, and even before I had reached them they called to know how
I could come so soon, and if I had caught the robbers. Mr. Cullen
started to tell his pleasure at my rejoining the party, but my
expression made him pause, and it seemed to dawn on all three that
the Winchester across my saddle, and the cowboys' hands resting
nonchalantly on the revolvers in their belts, had a meaning.

"Mr. Cullen," I explained, "I've got a very unpleasant job on hand,
which I don't want to make any worse than need be. Every fact points
to your party as guilty of holding up the train last night and
stealing those letters. Probably you weren't all concerned, but I've
got to go on the assumption that you are all guilty, till you prove
otherwise."

"Aw, you're joking," drawled Albert.

"I hope so," I said, "but for the present I've got to be English and
treat the joke seriously."

"What do you want to do?" asked Mr. Cullen.

"I don't wish to arrest you gentlemen unless you force me to," I said,
"for I don't see that it will do any good. But I want you to return to
camp with us."

They assented to that, and, single file, we rode back. When there I
told each that he must be searched, to which they submitted at once.
After that we went through their baggage. I wasn't going to have the
sheriff or cowboys tumbling over Miss Cullen's clothes, so I looked
over her bag myself. The prettiness and daintiness of the various
contents were a revelation to me, and I tried to put them back as
neatly as I had found them, but I didn't know much about the articles,
and it was a terrible job trying to fold up some of the things. Why,
there was a big pink affair, lined with silk, with bits of ribbon and
lace all over it, which nearly drove me out of my head, for I would
have defied mortal man to pack it so that it shouldn't muss. I had a
funny little feeling of tenderness for everything, which made fussing
over it all a pleasure, even while I felt all the time that I was
doing a sneak act and had really no right to touch her belongings. I
didn't find anything incriminating, and the posse reported the same
result with the other baggage. If the letters were still in existence,
they were either concealed somewhere or were in the possession of the
party in the Cañon. Telling the sheriff to keep those in the camp
under absolute surveillance, I took a single man, and saddling a
couple of mules, started down the trail.

We found Frederic and "Captain" Hance just dismounting at the Rock
Cabin, and I told the former he was in custody for the present, and
asked him where Miss Cullen and Lord Ralles were. He told me they were
just behind; but I wasn't going to take any risks, and, ordering the
deputy to look after Cullen, I went on down the trail. I couldn't
resist calling back--

"How's your respiration, Mr. Cullen?"

He laughed, and called, "Digitalis put me on my feet like a flash."

"He's got the most brains of any man in this party," I remarked to
myself.

The trail at this point is very winding, so that one can rarely see
fifty feet in advance, and sometimes not ten. Owing to this, the first
thing I knew I plumped round a curve on to a mule, which was patiently
standing there. Just back of him was another, on which sat Miss
Cullen, and standing close beside her was Lord Ralles. One of his
hands held the mule's bridle; the other held Madge's arm, and he was
saying, "You owe it to me, and I will have one. Or if--"

I swore to myself, and coughed aloud, which made Miss Cullen look up.
The moment she saw me she cried, "Mr. Gordon! How delightful!" even
while she grew as red as she had been pale the moment before. Lord
Ralles grew red too, but in a different way.

"Have you caught the robbers?" cried Miss Cullen.

"I'm afraid I have," I answered.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

I smiled at the absolute innocence and wonder with which she spoke,
and replied, "I know now, Miss Cullen, why you said I was braver than
the Britishers."

"How do you know?"

I couldn't resist getting in a side-shot at Lord Ralles, who had
mounted his mule and sat scowling. "The train-robbers were such
thoroughgoing duffers at the trade," I said, "that if they had left
their names and addresses they wouldn't have made it much easier. We
Americans may not know enough to deal with real road agents, but we
can do something with amateurs."

"What are we stopping here for?" snapped Lord Ralles.

"I'm sure I don't know," I responded. "Miss Cullen, if you will kindly
pass us, and then if Lord Ralles will follow you, we will go on to the
cabin. I must ask you to keep close together."

"I stay or go as I please, and not by your orders," asserted Lord
Ralles, snappishly.

"Out in this part of the country," I said calmly, "it is considered
shocking bad form for an unarmed man to argue with one who carries
a repeating rifle. Kindly follow Miss Cullen." And, leaning over, I
struck his mule with the loose ends of my bridle, starting it up the
trail.

When we reached the cabin the deputy told me that he had made Frederic
strip and had searched his clothing, finding nothing. I ordered Lord
Ralles to dismount and go into the cabin.

"For what?" he demanded.

"We want to search you," I answered.

"I don't choose to be searched," he protested. "You have shown no
warrant, nor--"

I wasn't in a mood toward him to listen to his talk. I swung my
Winchester into line and announced, "I was sworn in last night as a
deputy-sheriff, and am privileged to shoot a train-robber on sight.
Either dead or alive, I'm going to search your clothing inside of ten
minutes; and if you have no preference as to whether the examination
is an ante or post-mortem affair, I certainly haven't."

That brought him down off his high horse--that is, mule--and I sent
the deputy in with him with directions to toss his clothes out to me,
for I wanted to keep my eye on Miss Cullen and her brothers, so as to
prevent any legerdemain on their part.

One by one the garments came flying through the door to me. As fast as
I finished examining them I pitched them back, except--Well, as I have
thought it over since then, I have decided that I did a mean thing,
and have regretted it. But just put yourself in my place, and think of
how Lord Ralles had talked to me as if I was his servant, had refused
my apology and thanks, and been as generally "nasty" as he could, and
perhaps, you won't blame me that, after looking through his trousers,
I gave them a toss which, instead of sending them back into the hut,
sent them over the edge of the trail. They went down six hundred feet
before they lodged in a poplar, and if his lordship followed the trail
he could get round to them, but there would then be a hundred feet of
sheer rock between the trail and the trousers. "I hope it will
teach him to study his Lord Chesterfield to better purpose, for if
politeness doesn't cost anything, rudeness can cost considerable," I
chuckled to myself.

My amusement did not last long, for my next thought was, "If those
letters are concealed on any one, they are on Miss Cullen." The
thought made me lean up against my mule, and turn hot and cold by
turns.

A nice situation for a lover!



CHAPTER VI

THE HAPPENINGS DOWN HANCE'S TRAIL


Miss Cullen was sitting on a rock apart from her brother and Hance, as
I had asked her to do when I helped her dismount. I went over to where
she sat, and said, boldly--

"Miss Cullen, I want those letters."

"What letters?" she asked, looking me in the eyes with the most
innocent of expressions. She made a mistake to do that, for I knew her
innocence must be feigned, and so didn't put much faith in her face
for the rest of the interview.

"And what is more," I continued, with a firmness of manner about as
genuine as her innocence, "unless you will produce them at once, I
shall have to search you."

"Mr. Gordon!" she exclaimed, but she put such surprise and grief and
disbelief into the four syllables that I wanted the earth to swallow
me then and there.

"Why, Miss Cullen," I cried, "look at my position. I'm being paid to
do certain things, and--"

"But that needn't prevent your being a gentleman," she interrupted.

That made me almost desperate. "Miss Cullen," I groaned, hurriedly,
"I'd rather be burned alive than do what I've got to, but if you won't
give me those letters, search you I must."

"But how can I give you what I haven't?" she cried, indignantly,
assuming again her innocent expression.

"Will you give me your word of honor that those letters are not
concealed in your clothes?"

"I will," she answered.

I was very much taken aback, for it would have been so easy for Miss
Cullen to have said so before that I had become convinced she must
have them.

"And do you give me your word?"

"I do," she affirmed, but she didn't look me in the face as she said
it.

I ought to have been satisfied, but I wasn't, for, in spite of her
denial, something forced me still to believe she had them, and looking
back now, I think it was her manner. I stood reflecting for a minute,
and then requested, "Please stay where you are for a moment." Leaving
her, I went over to Fred.

"Mr. Cullen," I said, "Miss Cullen, rather than be searched, has
acknowledged that she has the letters, and says that if we men will go
into the hut she'll get them for me."

He rose at once. "I told my father not to drag her in," he muttered,
sadly. "I don't care about myself, Mr. Gordon, but can't you keep her
out of it? She's as innocent of any real wrong as the day she was
born."

"I'll do everything in my power," I promised. Then he and Hance went
into the cabin, and I walked back to the culprit.

"Miss Cullen," I said gravely, "you have those letters, and must give
them to me."

"But I told you--" she began.

To spare her a second untruth, I interrupted her by saying, "I trapped
your brother into acknowledging that you have them."

"You must have misunderstood him," she replied, calmly, "or else he
didn't know that the arrangement was changed."

Her steadiness rather shook my conviction, but I said, "You must give
me those letters, or I must search you."

"You never would!" she cried, rising and looking me in the face.

On impulse I tried a big bluff. I took hold of the lapel of her waist,
intending to undo just one button. I let go in fright when I found
there was no button--only an awful complication of hooks or some
other feminine method for keeping things together--and I grew red and
trembled thinking what might have happened had I, by bad luck, made
anything come undone. If Miss Cullen had been noticing me, she would
have seen a terribly scared man.

But she wasn't, luckily, for the moment my hand touched her dress, and
before she could realize that I snatched it away, she collapsed on the
rock, and burst into tears. "Oh! oh!" she sobbed, "I begged papa not
to, but he insisted they were safest with me. I'll give them to you,
if you'll only go away and not--" Her tears made her inarticulate, and
without waiting for more I ran into the hut, feeling as near like a
murderer as a guiltless man could.

Lord Ralles by this time was making almost as much noise as an engine
pulling a heavy freight up grade under forced draft, swearing over his
trousers, and was offering the cowboy and Hance money to recover them.
When they told him this was impossible he tried to get them to sell or
hire a pair, but they didn't like the idea of riding into camp minus
those essentials any better than he did. While I waited they settled
the difficulty by strapping a blanket round him, and by splitting it
up the middle and using plenty of cord they rigged him out after a
fashion; but I think if he could have seen himself and been given an
option he would have preferred to wait till it was dark enough to
creep into camp unnoticed.

Before long Miss Cullen called, and when I went to her she handed me,
without a word, three letters. As she did so she crimsoned violently,
and looked down in her mortification. I was so sorry for her that,
though a moment before I had been judging her harshly, I now couldn't
help saying--

"Our positions have been so difficult, Miss Cullen, that I don't think
we either of us are quite responsible for our actions."

She said nothing, and, after a pause, I continued--

"I hope you'll think as leniently of my conduct as you can, for I
can't tell you how grieved I am to have pained you."

Cullen joined us at this point, and, knowing that every moment we
remained would be distressing to his sister, I announced that we would
start up the trail. I hadn't the heart to offer to help her mount, and
after Frederic had put her up we fell into single file behind Hance,
Lord Ralles coming last.

As soon as we started I took a look at the three letters. They were
all addressed to Theodore E. Camp, Esq., Ash Fork, Arizona--one of the
directors of the K. & A. and also of the Great Southern. With this
clue, for the first time things began to clear up to me, and when the
trail broadened enough to permit it, I pushed my mule up alongside of
Cullen and asked--

"The letters contain proxies for the K. & A. election next Friday?"

He nodded his head. "The Missouri Western and the Great Southern are
fighting for control," he explained, "and we should have won but for
the three blocks of Eastern stock that had promised their proxies to
the G.S. Rather than lose the fight, we arranged to learn when those
proxies were mailed--that was what kept me behind--and then to hold up
the train that carried them."

"Was it worth the risk?" I ejaculated.

"If we had succeeded, yes. My father had put more than was safe into
Missouri Western and into California Central. The G.S. wants control
to end the traffic agreements, and that means bankruptcy to my
father."

I nodded, seeing it all as clear as day, and hardly blaming the
Cullens for what they had done; for any one who has had dealings with
the G.S. is driven to pretty desperate methods to keep from being
crushed, and when one is fighting an antagonist that won't regard the
law, or rather one that, through control of legislatures and judges,
makes the law to suit its needs, the temptation is strong to use the
same weapons one's self.

"The toughest part of it is," Fred went on, "that we thought we had
the whole thing 'hands down,' and that was what made my father go in
so deep. Only the death of one of the M.W. directors, who held eight
thousand shares of K. & A., got us in this hole, for the G.S. put up a
relation to contest the will, and so delayed the obtaining of letters
of administration, blocking his executors from giving a proxy. It was
as mean a trick as ever was played."

"The G.S. is a tough customer to fight," I remarked, and asked, "Why
didn't you burn the letters?" really wishing they had done so.

"We feared duplicate proxies might get through in time, and thought
that by keeping these we might cook up a question as to which were
legal, and then by injunction prevent the use of either."

"And those Englishmen," I inquired, "are they real?"

"Oh, certainly," he rejoined. "They were visiting my brother, and
thought the whole thing great larks." Then he told me how the thing
had been done. They had sent Miss Cullen to my car, so as to get me
out of the way, though she hadn't known it. He and his brother got off
the train at the last stop, with the guns and masks, and concealed
themselves on the platform of the mail-car. Here they had been joined
by the Britishers at the right moment, the disguises assumed, and the
train held up as already told. Of course the dynamite cartridge was
only a blind, and the letters had been thrown about the car merely to
confuse the clerk. Then while Frederic Cullen, with the letters, had
stolen back to the car, the two Englishmen had crept back to where
they had stood. Here, as had been arranged, they opened fire, which
Albert Cullen duly returned, and then joined them. "I don't see now
how you spotted us," Frederic ended.

I told him, and his disgust was amusing to see. "Going to Oxford may
be all right for the classics," he growled, "but it's destructive to
gumption."

We rode into camp a pretty gloomy crowd, and those of the party
waiting for us there were not much better; but when Lord Ralles
dismounted and showed up in his substitute for trousers there was a
general shout of laughter. Even Miss Cullen had to laugh for a moment.
And as his lordship bolted for his tent, I said to myself, "Honors are
easy."

I told the sheriff that I had recovered the lost property, but did not
think any arrests necessary as yet; and, as he was the agent of the K.
& A. at Flagstaff, he didn't question my opinion. I ordered the stage
out, and told Tolfree to give us a feed before we started, but a more
silent meal I never sat down to, and I noticed that Miss Cullen didn't
eat anything, while the tragic look on her face was so pathetic as
nearly to drive me frantic.

We started a little after five, and were clear of the timber before it
was too dark to see. At the relay station we waited an hour for the
moon, after which it was a clear track. We reached the half-way ranch
about eleven, and while changing the stage horses I roused Mrs.
Klostermeyer, and succeeded in getting enough cold mutton and bread to
make two rather decent-looking sandwiches. With these and a glass of
whiskey and water I went to the stage, to find Miss Cullen curled up
on the seat asleep, her head resting in her brother's arms.

"She has nearly worried herself to death ever since you told her that
road agents were hung," Frederic whispered; "and she's been crying
to-night over that lie she told you, and altogether she's worn out
with travel and excitement."

I screwed the cover on the traveling-glass, and put it with the
sandwiches in the bottom of the stage. "It's a long and a rough ride,"
I said, "and if she wakes up they may give her a little strength. I
only wish I could have spared her the fatigue and anxiety."

"She thought she had to lie for father's sake, but she's nearly
broken-hearted over it," he continued. I looked Frederic in the face
as I said, "I honor her for it," and in that moment he and I became
friends.

"Just see how pretty she is!" he whispered, with evident affection and
pride, turning back the flap of the rug in which she was wrapped.

She was breathing gently, and there was just that touch of weariness
and sadness in her face that would appeal to any man. It made me gulp,
I'm proud to say; and when I was back on my pony, I said to myself,
"For her sake, I'll pull the Cullens out of this scrape, if it costs
me my position."



CHAPTER VII

A CHANGE OF BASE


We did not reach Flagstaff till seven, and I told the stageload to
take possession of their car, while I went to my own. It took me some
time to get freshened up, and then I ate my breakfast; for after
riding seventy-two miles in one night even the most heroic purposes
have to take the side-track. I think, as it was, I proved my devotion
pretty well by not going to sleep, since I had been up three nights,
with only such naps as I could steal in the saddle, and had ridden
over a hundred and fifty miles to boot. But I couldn't bear to think
of Miss Cullen's anxiety, and the moment I had made myself decent, and
finished eating, I went into 218.

The party were all in the dining-room, but it was a very
different-looking crowd from the one with which that first breakfast
had been eaten, and they all looked at me as I entered as if I were
the executioner come for victims.

"Mr. Cullen," I began, "I've been forced to do a lot of things that
weren't pleasant, but I don't want to do more than I need. You're not
the ordinary kind of road agents, and, as I presume your address is
known, I don't see any need of arresting one of our own directors as
yet. All I ask is that you give me your word, for the party, that none
of you will try to leave the country."

"Certainly, Mr. Gordon," he responded. "And I thank you for your great
consideration."

"I shall have to report the case to our president, and, I suppose, to
the Postmaster-General, but I sha'n't hurry about either. What they
will do, I can't say. Probably you know how far you can keep them
quiet."

"I think the local authorities are all I have to fear, provided time
is given me."

"I have dismissed the sheriff and his posse, and I gave them a hundred
dollars for their work, and three bottles of pretty good whiskey I had
on my car. Unless they get orders from elsewhere, you will not hear
any further from them.

"You must let me reimburse what expense we have put you to, Mr.
Gordon. I only wish I could as easily repay your kindness."

Nodding my head in assent, as well as in recognition of his thanks, I
continued, "It was my duty, as an official of the K. & A., to recover
the stolen mail, and I had to do it."

"We understand that," said Mr. Cullen, "and do not for a moment blame
you."

"But," I went on, for the first time looking at Madge, "it is not my
duty to take part in a contest for control of the K. & A., and I shall
therefore act in this case as I should in any other loss of mail."

"And that is--?" asked Frederic.

"I am about to telegraph for instructions from Washington," I replied.
"As the G.S. by trickery has dishonestly tied up some of your proxies,
they ought not to object if we do the same by honest means; and I
think I can manage so that Uncle Sam will prevent those proxies from
being voted at Ash Fork on Friday."

If a galvanic battery had been applied to the group about the
breakfast table, it wouldn't have made a bigger change. Madge clapped
her hands in joy; Mr. Cullen said "God bless you!" with real feeling;
Frederic jumped up and slapped me on the shoulder, crying, "Gordon,
you're the biggest old trump breathing;" while Albert and the captain
shook hands with each other, in evident jubilation. Only Lord Ralles
remained passive.

"Have you breakfasted?" asked Mr. Cullen, when the first joy was over.

"Yes," I said. "I only stopped in on my way to the station to
telegraph the Postmaster-General."

"May I come with you and see what you say?" cried Fred, jumping up.

I nodded, and Miss Cullen said, questioningly, "Me too?" making me
very happy by the question, for it showed that she would speak to me.
I gave an assent quite as eagerly and in a moment we were all walking
toward the platform. Despite Lord Ralles, I felt happy, and especially
as I had not dreamed that she would ever forgive me.

I took a telegraph blank, and, putting it so that Miss Cullen could
see what I said, wrote--

"Postmaster-General, Washington, D.C. I hold, awaiting your
instructions, the three registered letters stolen from No. 3 Overland
Missouri Western Express on Monday, October fourteenth, loss of which
has already been notified you."

Then I paused and said, "So far, that's routine, Miss Cullen. Now
comes the help for you," and I continued--

"The letters may have been tampered with, and I recommend a special
agent. Reply Flagstaff, Arizona. RICHARD GORDON, Superintendent K. &
A.R.R."

"What will that do?" she asked.

"I'm not much at prophecy, and we'll wait for the reply," I said.

All that day we lay at Flagstaff, and after a good sleep, as there was
no use keeping the party cooped up in their car, I drummed up
some ponies and took the Cullens and Ackland over to the Indian
cliff-dwellings. I don't think Lord Ralles gained anything by staying
behind in a sulk, for it was a very jolly ride, or at least that was
what it was to me. I had of course to tell them all how I had settled
on them as the criminals, and a general history of my doings. To hear
Miss Cullen talk, one would have inferred I was the greatest of living
detectives.

"The mistake we made," she asserted, "was not securing Mr. Gordon's
help to begin with, for then we should never have needed to hold the
train up, or if we had we should never have been discovered."

What was more to me than this ill-deserved admiration were two things
she said on the way back, when we two had paired off and were a bit
behind the rest.

"The sandwiches and the whiskey were very good," she told me, "and I'm
so grateful for the trouble you took."

"It was a pleasure," I said.

"And, Mr. Gordon," she continued, and then hesitated for a
moment--"my--Frederic told me that you--you said you honored me
for--?"

"I do," I exclaimed energetically, as she paused and colored.

"Do you really?" she cried. "I thought Fred was only trying to make me
less unhappy by saying that you did."

"I said it, and I meant it," I told her.

"I have been so miserable over that lie," she went on; "but I thought
if I let you have the letters it would ruin papa. I really wouldn't
mind poverty myself, Mr. Gordon, but he takes such pride in success
that I couldn't be the one to do it. And then, after you told me that
train-robbers were hung, I had to lie to save them. I ought to have
known you would help us."

I thought this a pretty good time to make a real apology for my
conduct on the trail, as well as to tell her how sorry I was at not
having been able to repack her bag better. She accepted my apology
very sweetly, and assured me her belongings had been put away so
neatly that she had wondered who did it. I knew she only said this out
of kindness, and told her so, telling also of my struggles over that
pink-beribboned and belaced affair, in a way which made her laugh. I
had thought it was a ball gown, and wondered at her taking it to the
Cañon; but she explained that it was what she called a "throw"--which
I told her accounted for the throes I had gone through over it. It
made me open my eyes, thinking that anything so pretty could be used
for the same purposes for which I use my crash bath-gown, and while my
eyes were open I saw the folly of thinking that a girl who wore such
things would, or in fact could, ever get along on my salary. In that
way the incident was a good lesson for me, for it made me feel that,
even if there had been no Lord Ralles, I still should have had no
chance.

On our return to the cars there was a telegram from the
Postmaster-General awaiting me. After a glance at it, as the rest of
the party looked anxiously on, I passed it over to Miss Cullen, for I
wanted her to have the triumph of reading it aloud to them. It read--

"Hold letters pending arrival of special agent Jackson, due in
Flagstaff October twentieth."

"The election is the eighteenth," Frederic laughed, executing a war
dance on the platform. "The G.S.'s dough is cooked."

"I must waltz with some one," cried Madge, and before I could offer
she took hold of Albert and the two went whirling about, much to my
envy. The Cullens were about the most jubilant road agents I had ever
seen.

After consultation with Mr. Cullen, we had 218 and 97 attached to No.
1 when it arrived, and started for Ash Fork. He wanted to be on the
ground a day in advance, and I could easily be back in Flagstaff
before the arrival of the special agent.

I took dinner in 218, and they toasted me, as if I had done something
heroic instead of merely having sent a telegram. Later four sat down
to poker, while Miss Cullen, Fred and I went out and sat on the
platform of the car while Madge played on her guitar and sang to us.
She had a very sweet voice, and before she had been singing long
we had the crew of a "dust express"--as we jokingly call a gravel
train--standing about, and they were speedily reinforced by many
cowboys, who deserted the medley of cracked pianos or accordions of
the Western saloons to listen to her, and who, not being overcareful
in the terms with which they expressed their approval, finally by
their riotous admiration drove us inside. At Miss Cullen's suggestion
we three had a second game of poker, but with chips and not money. She
was an awfully reckless player, and the luck was dead in my favor, so
Madge kept borrowing my chips, till she was so deep in that we both
lost account. Finally, when we parted for the night she held out her
hand, and, in the prettiest of ways, said--

"I am so deeply in your debt, Mr. Gordon, that I don't see how I can
ever repay you."

I tried to think of something worth saying, but the words wouldn't
come, and I could only shake her hand. But, duffer as I was, the way
she had said those words, and the double meaning she had given them,
would have made me the happiest fellow alive if I could only have
forgotten the existence of Lord Ralles.



CHAPTER VIII

HOW DID THE SECRET LEAK OUT?


I made up for my three nights' lack of sleep by not waking the next
morning till after ten. When I went to 218, I found only the _chef_,
and he told me the party had gone for a ride. Since I couldn't talk to
Madge, I went to work at my desk, for I had been rather neglecting my
routine work. While I still wrote, I heard horses' hoofs and, looking
up, saw the Cullens returning. I went out on the platform to wish
them good-morning, arriving just in time to see Lord Ralles help
Miss Cullen out of her saddle; and the way he did it, and the way he
continued to hold her hand after she was down, while he said something
to her, made me grit my teeth and look the other way. None of the
riders had seen me, so I slipped into my car and went back to work.
Fred came in presently to see if I was up yet, and to ask me to lunch,
but I felt so miserable and down-hearted that I made an excuse of my
late breakfast for not joining them.

After luncheon the party in the other special all came out and walked
up and down the platform, the sound of their voices and laughter only
making me feel the bluer. Before long I heard a rap on one of my
windows, and there was Miss Cullen peering in at me. The moment I
looked up, she called--

"Won't you make one of us, Mr. Misanthrope?"

I called myself all sorts of a fool, but out I went as eagerly as if
there had been some hope. Miss Cullen began to tease me over my sudden
access of energy, declaring that she was sure it was a pose for their
benefit, or else due to a guilty conscience over having slept so late.

"I hoped you would ride with us, though perhaps it wouldn't have paid
you. Apparently there is nothing to see in Ash Fork."

"There is something that may interest you all," I suggested, pointing
to a special that had been dropped off No. 2 that morning.

"What is it?" asked Madge.

"It's a G.S. special," I said, "and Mr. Camp and Mr. Baldwin and two
G.S. officials came in on it."

"What do you think he'd give for those letters?" laughed Fred.

"If they were worth so much to you, I suppose they can't be worth any
less to the G.S.," I replied.

"Fortunately, there is no way that he can learn where they are," said
Mr. Cullen.

"Don't let's stand still," cried Miss Cullen. "Mr. Gordon, I'll run
you a race to the end of the platform." She said this only after
getting a big lead, and she got there about eight inches ahead of me,
which pleased her mightily. "It takes men so long to get started," was
the way she explained her victory. Then she walked me beyond the end
of the boarding to explain the working of a switch to her. That it was
only a pretext she proved to me the moment I had relocked the bar, by
saying--

"Mr. Gordon, may I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," I assented.

"It is one I should ask papa or Fred, but I am afraid they might not
tell me the truth. You will, won't you?" she begged, very earnestly.

"I will," I promised.

"Supposing," she continued, "that it became known that you have those
letters? Would it do our side any harm?"

I thought for a moment, and then shook my head. "No new proxies could
arrive here in time for the election," I said, "and the ones I have
will not be voted."

She still looked doubtful, and asked, "Then why did papa say just now,
'Fortunately'?"

"He merely meant that it was safer they shouldn't know."

"Then it is better to keep it a secret?" she asked, anxiously.

"I suppose so," I said, and then, added, "Why should you be afraid of
asking your father?"

"Because he might--well, if he knew, I'm sure he would sacrifice
himself; and I couldn't run the risk."

"I am afraid I don't understand?" I questioned.

"I would rather not explain," she said, and of course that ended the
subject.

Our exercise taken, we went back to the Cullens' car, and Madge left
us to write some letters. A moment later Lord Ralles remembered he had
not written home recently, and he too went forward to the dining-room.
That made me call myself--something, for not having offered Miss
Cullen the use of my desk in 97. Owing to this the two missed part of
the big game we were playing; for barely were they gone when one
of the servants brought a card to Mr. Cullen, who looked at it and
exclaimed, "Mr. Camp!" Then, after a speaking pause, in which we all
exchanged glances, he said, "Bring him in."

On Mr. Camp's entrance he looked so much surprised as we had all done
a moment before. "I beg your pardon for intruding, Mr. Cullen," he
said. "I was told that this was Mr. Gordon's car, and I wish to see
him."

"I am Mr. Gordon."

"You are traveling with Mr. Cullen?" he inquired, with a touch of
suspicion in his manner.

"No," I answered. "My special is the next car, and I was merely
enjoying a cigar here."

"Ah!" said Mr. Camp. "Then I won't interrupt your smoke, and will only
relieve you of those letters of mine."

I took a good pull at my cigar, and blew the smoke out in a cloud
slowly to gain time. "I don't think I follow you," I said.

"I understand that you have in your possession three letters addressed
to me."

"I have," I assented.

"Then I will ask you to deliver them to me."

"I can't do that."

"Why not?" he challenged. "They're my property."

I produced the Postmaster-General's telegram and read it to him.

"Why, this is infamous!" Mr. Camp cried. "What use will those letters
be after the eighteenth? It's a conspiracy."

"I can only obey instructions," I said.

"It shall cost you your position if you do," Mr. Camp threatened.

As I've already said, I haven't a good temper, and when he told me
that I couldn't help retorting--

"That's quite on a par with most G.S. methods."

"I'm not speaking for the G.S., young man," roared Mr. Camp. "I speak
as a director of the Kansas & Arizona. What is more, I will have those
letters inside of twenty-four hours."

He made an angry exit, and I said to Fred, "I wish you would stroll
about and spy out the proceedings of the enemy's camp. He may
telegraph to Washington, and if there's any chance of the
Postmaster-General revoking his order I must go back to Flagstaff on
No. 4 this afternoon."

"He sha'n't do anything that I don't know about till he goes to bed,"
Fred promised. "But how the deuce did he know that you had those
letters?"

That was just what we were all puzzling over, for only the occupants
of No. 218 and myself, so far as I knew, were in a position to let Mr.
Camp hear of that fact.

As Fred made his exit he said, "Don't tell Madge that there is a new
complication, for the dear girl has had worries enough already."

Miss Cullen not rejoining us, and Lord Ralles presently doing so, I
went to my own car, for he and I were not good furniture for the same
room. Before I had been there long, Fred came rushing in.

"Camp and Baldwin have been in consultation with a lawyer," he said,
"and now the three have just boarded those cars," pointing out the
window at the branch-line train that was to leave for Phoenix in two
minutes.

"You must go with them," I urged, "and keep us informed as to what
they do, for they evidently are going to set the law on us, and the
G.S. has always owned the Territorial judges, so they'll stretch a
point to oblige them."

"Have I time to fill a bag?"

"Plenty," I assured him, and, going out, I ordered the train held till
I should give the word.

"What does it all mean?" asked Miss Cullen, joining me.

I laughed, and replied, "I'm doing a braver thing even than your party
did; I'm holding up a train all by my lonesome."

"But my brother came dashing in just now and said he was starting for
Phoenix."

"Let her go," I called to the conductor, as Fred jumped aboard; and
the train pulled out.

"I hope there's nothing wrong?" Madge questioned, anxiously.

"Nothing to worry over," I laughed. "Only a little more fun for our
money. By the way, Miss Cullen," I went on, to avoid her questions,
"if you have your letters ready, and will let me have them at once, I
can get them on No. 4, so that they'll go East to-night."

Miss Cullen blushed as if I had said something I ought not to have,
and stammered, "I--I changed my mind, and--that is--I didn't write
them, after all."

"I beg your pardon--I ought to have known; I mean, it's very natural,"
I faltered and stuttered, thinking what a dunce I had been not to
understand that both hers and Lord Ralles's letters had been only a
pretext to get away from the rest of us.

My blundering apology and evident embarrassment deepened Miss Cullen's
blush five-fold, and she explained, hurriedly, "I found I was tired,
and so, instead of writing, I went to my room and rested."

I suppose any girl would have invented the same yarn, yet it hurt me
more than the bigger one she had told on Hance's trail. Small as the
incident was, it made me very blue, and led me to shut myself up in my
own car for the rest of that afternoon and evening. Indeed, I couldn't
sleep, but sat up working, quite forgetful of the passing hours, till
a glance at my watch startled me with the fact that it was a quarter
of two. Feeling like anything more than sleep, I went out on the
platform, and, lighting a cigar, paced up and down, thinking of--well,
thinking.

The night agent was sitting in the station, nodding, and after I had
walked for an hour I went in to ask him if the train to Phoenix had
arrived on time. Just as I opened the door, the telegraph instrument
began clicking, and called Ash Fork. The man, with the curious ability
that operators get of recognizing their own call, even in sleep, waked
up instantly and responded, and, not wishing to interrupt him, I
delayed asking my question till he should be free. I stood there
thinking of Madge, and listening heedlessly as the instrument ticked
off the cipher signature of the sending operator, and the "twenty-four
paid." But as I heard the clicks ..... .... which meant ph, I suddenly
became attentive, and when it completed "Phoenix" I concluded Fred was
wiring me, and listened for what followed the date. This is what the
instrument ticked:--

  ... .... . . .. .. .-. .-. .. .. .- ...- .- ..... .- .. ..
  . . . .. ..- -. - .. .. .- ... .... .-. . . . .. -.- ... .- .
  .. .. ... . . . -. .- -... . .- - . .. .- .. - .. . . .- -..
  ...- . - - .. . . - . - .... . .. . . .-. . . . .. - .. .. .-.
  .. ...- . - . . -.. .- .. .. -. . - - . . - - . .. .- ..
  -. .- .- .. . .. .. ...- .. -. - -. .-. . .. . . - - .....
  .... . . . -. .. .-.. ..... . .. . ..... .- .- - . -.. - . .
  .. -- -- . - .. .- - . - .. .. ... . . .. ...- . .....
  . . .. . - - ..... - . . . .. .. .. - - .- -. -.. .- - - ..-
  ... .. ... ... ..- . -.. -... .. .. -.-. ..- - .. -.. - -. .- -
  ..-... . . -. ... .. - -. - .... . . . -.. . . . .. . . ..
  . .- - - .....

That may not look particularly intelligible, but if the Phoenix
operator had been talking over the 'phone to me he couldn't have said
any plainer--

"Sheriff yavapai county ash forks arizona be at rail road station
three forty-five today to meet train arriving from phoenix prepared to
immediately serve peremptory mandamus issued tonight by judge wilson
sig theodore e camp."

My question being pretty thoroughly answered, I went back and
continued my walk; but before five minutes had passed, the operator
came out, and handed me a message. It was from Fred, and read thus:--

"Camp, Baldwin, and lawyer went at once to house of Judge Wilson,
where they stayed an hour. They then returned with judge to station,
and after despatching a telegram have taken seats in train for Ash
Fork, leaving here at three twenty-five. I shall return with them."

A bigger idiot than I could have understood the move. I was to be
hauled before Judge Wilson by means of mandamus proceedings, and, as
he was notoriously a G.S. judge, and was coming to Ash Fork solely
to oblige Mr. Camp, he would unquestionably declare the letters the
property of Mr. Camp and order their delivery.

Apparently I had my choice of being a traitor to Madge, of going to
prison for contempt of court, or of running away, which was not far
off from acknowledging that I had done something wrong. I didn't like
any one of the options.



CHAPTER IX

A TALK BEFORE BREAKFAST


Looking at my watch, I found it was a little after three, which meant
six in Washington: allowing for transmission, a telegram would reach
there in time to be on hand with the opening of the Departments. I
therefore wired at once to the following effect:--

"Postmaster-General, Washington, D.C. A peremptory mandamus has been
issued by Territorial judge to compel me to deliver to addressee the
three registered letters which by your directions, issued October
sixteenth, I was to hold pending arrival of special agent Jackson.
Service of writ will be made at three forty-five to-day unless
prevented. Telegraph me instructions how to act."

That done I had a good tub, took a brisk walk down the track, and felt
so freshened up as to be none the worse for my sleepless night. I
returned to the station a little after six, and, to my surprise, found
Miss Cullen walking up and down the platform.

"You are up early!" we both said together.

"Yes," she sighed. "I couldn't sleep last night."

"You're not unwell, I hope?"

"No--except mentally."

I looked a question, and she went on: "I have some worries, and then
last night I saw you were all keeping some bad news from me, and so I
couldn't sleep."

"Then we did wrong to make a mystery of it, Miss Cullen," I said, "for
it really isn't anything to trouble about. Mr. Camp is simply taking
legal steps to try to force me to deliver those letters to him."

"And can he succeed?"

"No."

"How will you stop him?"

"I don't know yet just what we shall do, but if worse comes to worse I
will allow myself to be committed for contempt of court."

"What would they do with you?"

"Give me free board for a time."

"Not send you to prison?"

"Yes."

"Oh!" she cried, "that mustn't be. You must not make such a sacrifice
for us."

"I'd do more than that for _you_," I said, and I couldn't help putting
a little emphasis on the last word, though I knew I had no right to do
it.

She understood me, and blushed rosily, even while she protested, "It
is too much--"

"There's really no likelihood," I interrupted, "of my being able to
assume a martyr's crown, Miss Cullen; so don't begin to pity me till
I'm behind the bars."

"But I can't bear to think--"

"Don't," I interrupted again, rejoicing all the time at her evident
anxiety, and blessing my stars for the luck they had brought me. "Why,
Miss Cullen," I went on, "I've become so interested in your success
and the licking of those fellows that I really think I'd stand about
anything rather than that they should win. Yesterday, when Mr. Camp
threatened to--" Then I stopped, as it suddenly occurred to me that it
was best not to tell Madge that I might lose my position, for it would
look like a kind of bid for her favor, and, besides, would only add to
her worries.

"Threatened what?" asked Miss Cullen.

"Threatened to lose his temper," I answered.

"You know that wasn't what you were going to say," Madge said
reproachfully.

"No, it wasn't," I laughed.

"Then what was it?"

"Nothing worth speaking about."

"But I want to know what he threatened."

"Really, Miss Cullen," I began; but she interrupted me by saying
anxiously--

"He can't hurt papa, can he?"

"No," I replied.

"Or my brothers?"

"He can't touch any of them without my help. And he'll have work to
get that, I suspect."

"Then why can't you tell me?" demanded Miss Cullen. "Your refusal
makes me think you are keeping back some danger to them."

"Why, Miss Cullen," I said, "I didn't like to tell his threat, because
it seemed--well, I may be wrong, but I thought it might look like an
attempt--an appeal--Oh, pshaw!" I faltered, like a donkey--"I can't
say it as I want to put it."

"Then tell me right out what he threatened," begged Madge.

"He threatened to get me discharged."

That made Madge look very sober, and for a moment there was silence.
Then she said--

"I never thought of what you were risking to help us, Mr. Gordon. And
I'm afraid it's too late to--"

"Don't worry about me," I hastened to interject. "I'm a long way from
being discharged, and, even if I should be, Miss Cullen, I know my
business, and it won't be long before I have another place."

"But it's terrible to think of the injury we may have caused you,"
sighed Madge, sadly. "It makes me hate the thought of money."

"That's a very poor thing to hate," I said, "except the lack of it."

"Are you so anxious to get rich?" asked Madge, looking up at me
quickly, as we walked--for we had been pacing up and down the platform
during our chat.

"I haven't been till lately."

"And what made you change?" she questioned.

"Well," I said, fishing round for some reason other than the true one,
"perhaps I want to take a rest."

"You are the worst man for fibs I ever knew," she laughed.

I felt myself getting red, while I exclaimed, "Why, Miss Cullen, I
never set up for a George Washington, but I don't think I'm a bit
worse liar than nine men in--"

"Oh," she cried, interrupting me, "I didn't mean that way. I meant
that when you try to fib you always do it so badly that one sees right
through you. Now, acknowledge that you wouldn't stop work if you
could?"

"Well, no, I wouldn't," I owned up. "The truth is, Miss Cullen, that
I'd like to be rich, because--well, hang it, I don't care if I do say
it--because I'm in love."

Madge laughed at my confusion, and asked, "With money?"

"No," I said. "With just the nicest, sweetest, prettiest girl in the
world."

Madge took a look at me out of the corner of her eye, and remarked,
"It must be breakfast time."

Considering that it was about six-thirty, I wanted to ask who was
telling a taradiddle now; but I resisted the temptation, and replied--

"No. And I promise not to bother you about my private affairs any
more."

Madge laughed again merrily, saying, "You are the most obvious man I
ever met. Now why did you say that?"

"I thought you were making breakfast an excuse," I said, "because you
didn't like the subject."

"Yes, I was," said Madge, frankly. "Tell me about the girl you are
engaged to."

I was so taken back that I stopped in my walk, and merely looked at
her.

"For instance," she asked coolly, when she saw that I was speechless,
"what does she look like?"

"Like, like--" I stammered, still embarrassed by this bold carrying of
the war into my own camp--"like an angel."

"Oh," said Madge, eagerly, "I've always wanted to know what angels
were like. Describe her to me."

"Well," I said, getting my second wind, so to speak, "she has the
bluest eyes I've ever seen. Why, Miss Cullen, you said you'd never
seen anything so blue as the sky yesterday; but even the atmosphere of
'rainless Arizona' has to take a back seat when her eyes are round.
And they are just like the atmosphere out here. You can look into them
for a hundred miles, but you can't get to the bottom."

"The Arizona sky is wonderful," said Madge. "How do the scientists
account for it?"

I wasn't going to have my description of Miss Cullen sidetracked, for,
since she had given me the chance, I wanted her to know just what I
thought of her. Therefore I didn't follow lead on the Arizona skies,
but went on--

"And I really think her hair is just as beautiful as her eyes. It's
light brown, very curly, and--"

"Her complexion!" exclaimed Madge. "Is she a mulatto? And, if so, how
can a complexion be curly?"

"Her complexion," I said, not a bit rattled, "is another great beauty
of hers. She has one of those skins--"

"Furs are out of fashion at present," she interjected, laughing
wickedly.

"Now look here, Miss Cullen," I cried indignantly, "I'm not going to
let even you make fun of her."

"I can't help it," she laughed, "when you look so serious and
intense."

"It's something I feel intense about, Miss Cullen," I said, not a
little pained, I confess, at the way she was joking. I don't mind a
bit being laughed at, but Miss Cullen knew, about as well as I, whom I
was talking about, and it seemed to me she was laughing at my love for
her. Under this impression I went on, "I suppose it is funny to you;
probably so many men have been in love with you that a man's love for
a woman has come to mean very little in your eyes. But out here we
don't make a joke of love, and when we care for a woman we care--well,
it's not to be put in words, Miss Cullen."

"I really didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Mr. Gordon," said Madge,
gently, and quite serious now. "I ought not to have tried to tease
you."

"There!" I said, my irritation entirely gone. "I had no right to lose
my temper, and I'm sorry I spoke so unkindly. The truth is, Miss
Cullen, the girl I care for is in love with another man, and so I'm
bitter and ill-natured in these days."

My companion stopped walking at the steps of 218, and asked, "Has she
told you so?"

"No," I answered. "But it's as plain as she's pretty."

Madge ran up the steps and opened the door of the car. As she turned
to close it, she looked down at me with the oddest of expressions, and
said--

"How dreadfully ugly she must be!"



CHAPTER X

WAITING FOR HELP


If ever a fellow was bewildered by a single speech, it was Richard
Gordon. I walked up and down that platform till I was called to
breakfast, trying to decide what Miss Cullen had meant to express,
only to succeed in reading fifty different meanings into her parting
six words. I wanted to think that it was her way of suggesting that
I deceived myself in thinking that there was anything between Lord
Ralles and herself; but, though I wished to believe this, I had seen
too much to the contrary to take stock in the idea. Yet I couldn't
believe that Madge was a coquette; I became angry and hot with myself
for even thinking it for a moment.

Puzzle as I did over the words, I managed to eat a good breakfast, and
then went into the Cullens' car and electrified the party by telling
them of Camp's and Fred's despatches, and how I had come to overhear
the former. Mr. Cullen and Albert couldn't say enough about my
cleverness in what had really been pure luck, and seemed to think I
had sat up all night in order to hear that telegram. The person for
whose opinion I cared the most--Miss Cullen--didn't say anything, but
she gave me a look that set my heart beating like a trip-hammer and
made me put the most hopeful construction on that speech of hers. It
seemed impossible that she didn't care for Lord Ralles, and that she
might care for me; but, after having had no hope whatsoever, the
smallest crumb of a chance nearly lifted me off my feet.

We had a consultation over what was best to be done, but didn't reach
any definite conclusion till the station-agent brought me a telegram
from the Postmaster-General. Breaking it open, I read aloud--

       *       *       *       *       *

"Do not allow service of writ, and retain possession of letters
according to prior instructions. At the request of this department,
the Secretary of War has directed the commanding officer at Fort
Whipple to furnish you with military protection, and you will call
upon him at once, if in your judgment it is necessary. On no account
surrender United States property to Territorial authorities. Keep
Department notified."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, splendid!" cried Madge, clapping her hands.

"Mr. Camp will find that other people can give surprise parties as
well as himself," I said cheerfully.

"You'll telegraph at once?" asked Mr. Cullen.

"Instantly," I said, rising, and added, "Don't you want to see what I
say, Miss Cullen?"

"Of course I do," she cried, jumping up eagerly.

Lord Ralles scowled as he said, "Yes; let's see what Mr.
Superintendent has to say."

"You needn't trouble yourself," I remarked, but he followed us into
the station. I was disgusted, but at the same time it seemed to me
that he had come because he was jealous; and that wasn't an unpleasant
thought. Whatever his motive, he was a third party in the writing of
that telegram, and had to stand by while Miss Cullen and I discussed
and draughted it. I didn't try to make it any too brief, not merely
asking for a guard and when I might expect it, but giving as well a
pretty full history of the case, which was hardly necessary.

"You'll bankrupt yourself," laughed Madge. "You must let us pay."

"I'll let you pay, Miss Cullen, if you want," I offered. "How much is
it, Welply?" I asked, shoving the blanks in to the operator.

"Nothin' for a lady," said Welply, grinning.

"There, Miss Cullen," I asked, "does the East come up to that in
gallantry?"

"Do you really mean that there is no charge?" demanded Madge,
incredulously, with her purse in her hand.

"That's the size of it," said the operator.

"I'm not going to believe that!" cried Madge. "I know you are only
deceiving me, and I really want to pay."

I laughed as I said, "Sometimes railroad superintendents can send
messages free, Miss Cullen."

"How silly of me!" exclaimed Madge. Then she remarked, "How nice it is
to be a railroad superintendent, Mr. Gordon! I should like to be one
myself."

That speech really lifted me off my feet, but while I was thinking
what response to make, I came down to earth with a bounce.

"Since the telegram's done," said Lord Ralles to Miss Cullen, in a
cool, almost commanding tone, "suppose we take a walk."

"I don't think I care to this morning," answered Madge.

"I think you had better," insisted his lordship, with such a manner
that I felt inclined to knock him down.

To my surprise, Madge seemed to hesitate, and finally said, "I'll walk
up and down the platform, if you wish."

Lord Ralles nodded, and they went out, leaving me in a state of
mingled amazement and rage at the way he had cut me out. Try as I
would, I wasn't able to hit upon any theory that supplied a solution
to the conduct of either Lord Ralles or Miss Cullen, unless they were
engaged and Miss Cullen displeased him by her behavior to me. But
Madge seemed such an honest, frank girl that I'd have believed
anything sooner than that she was only playing with me.

If I was perplexed, I wasn't going to give Lord Ralles the right of
way, and as soon as I had made certain that the telegram was safely
started I joined the walkers. I don't think any of us enjoyed the hour
that followed, but I didn't care how miserable I was myself, so long
as I was certain that I was blocking Lord Ralles; and his grumpiness
showed very clearly that my presence did that. As for Madge, I
couldn't make her out. I had always thought I understood women a
little, but her conduct was beyond understanding.

Apparently Miss Cullen didn't altogether relish her position, for
presently she said she was going to the car. "I'm sure you and Lord
Ralles will be company enough for each other," she predicted, giving
me a flash of her eyes which showed them full of suppressed merriment,
even while her face was grave.

In spite of her prediction, the moment she was gone Lord Ralles and I
pulled apart about as quickly as a yard-engine can split a couple of
cars.

I moped around for an hour, too unsettled mentally to do anything but
smoke, and only waiting for an invitation or for some excuse to go
into 218. About eleven o'clock I obtained the latter in another
telegram, and went into the car at once.

"Telegram received," I read triumphantly. "A detail of two companies
of the Twelfth Cavalry, under the command of Captain Singer, is
ordered to Ash Fork, and will start within an hour, arriving at five
o'clock. C.D. OLMSTEAD, Adjutant."

"That won't do, Gordon," cried Mr. Cullen. "The mandamus will be here
before that."

"Oh, don't say there is something more wrong!" sighed Madge.

"Won't it be safer to run while there is still time?" suggested
Albert, anxiously.

"I was born lazy about running away," I said.

"Oh, but please, just for once," Madge begged. "We know already how
brave you are."

I thought for a moment, not so much objecting, in truth, to the
running away as to the running away from Madge.

"I'd do it for you," I said, looking at Miss Cullen so that she
understood this time what I meant, without my using any emphasis, "but
I don't see any need of making myself uncomfortable, when I can make
the other side so. Come along and see if my method isn't quite as
good."

We went to the station, and I told the operator to call Rock Butte;
then I dictated:

"Direct conductor of Phoenix No. 3 on its arrival at Rock Butte to
hold it there till further orders. RICHARD GORDON, Superintendent."

"That will save my running and their chasing," I laughed; "though I'm
afraid a long wait in Rock Butte won't improve their tempers."

The next few hours were pretty exciting ones to all of us, as can
well be imagined. Most of the time was spent, I have to confess, in
manoeuvres and struggles between Lord Ralles and myself as to which
should monopolize Madge, without either of us succeeding. I was so
engrossed with the contest that I forgot all about the passage of
time, and only when the sheriff strolled up to the station did I
realize that the climax was at hand. As a joke I introduced him to
the Cullens and we all stood chatting till far out on the hill to the
south I saw a cloud of dust and quietly called Miss Cullen's attention
to it. She and I went to 97 for my field-glasses, and the moment Madge
looked through them she cried--

"Yes, I can see horses, and, oh, there are the stars and stripes! I
don't think I ever loved them so much before."

"I suppose we civilians will have to take a back seat now, Miss
Cullen?" I said; and she answered me with a demure smile worth--well,
I'm not going to put a value on that smile.

"They'll be here very quickly," she almost sang.

"You forget the clearness of the air," I said, and then asked the
sheriff how far away the dust-cloud was.

"Yer mean that cattle-drive?" he asked. "'Bout ten miles."

"You seem to think of everything," exclaimed Miss Cullen, as if my
knowing that distances are deceptive in Arizona was wonderful. I
sometimes think one gets the most praise in this world for what least
deserves it.

I waited half an hour to be safe, and then released No. 3, just as we
were called to luncheon; and this time I didn't refuse the invitation
to eat mine in 218.

We didn't hurry over the meal, and toward the end I took to looking at
my watch, wondering what could keep the cavalry from arriving.

"I hope there is no danger of the train arriving first, is there?"
asked Madge.

"Not the slightest," I assured her. "The train won't be here for an
hour, and the cavalry had only five miles to cover forty minutes ago.
I must say, they seem to be taking their time."

"There they are now!" cried Albert.

Listening, we heard the clatter of horses' feet, going at a good pace,
and we all rose and went to the windows, to see the arrival. Our
feelings can be judged when across the tracks came only a mob of
thirty or forty cowboys, riding in their usual "show-off" style.

"The deuce!" I couldn't help exclaiming, in my surprise. "Are you sure
you saw a flag, Miss Cullen?"

"Why--I--thought--" she faltered. "I saw something red, and--I
supposed of course--"

Not waiting to let her finish, I exclaimed, "There's been a fluke
somewhere, I'm afraid; but we are still in good shape, for the train
can't possibly be here under an hour. I'll get my field-glasses and
have another look before I decide what--"

My speech was interrupted by the entrance of the sheriff and Mr. Camp!



CHAPTER XI

THE LETTERS CHANGE HANDS AGAIN


What seemed at the moment an incomprehensible puzzle had, as we
afterward learned, a very simple explanation. One of the G.S.
directors, Mr. Baldwin, who had come in on Mr. Camp's car, was the
owner of a great cattle-ranch near Rock Butte. When the train had been
held at that station for a few minutes, Camp went to the conductor,
demanded the cause for the delay, and was shown my telegram. Seeing
through the device, the party had at once gone to this ranch, where
the owner, Baldwin, mounted them, and it was their dust-cloud we
had seen as they rode up to Ash Fork. To make matters more serious,
Baldwin had rounded up his cowboys and brought them along with him, in
order to make any resistance impossible.

I made no objection to the sheriff serving the paper, though it nearly
broke my heart to see Madge's face. To cheer her I said, suggestively,
"They've got me, but they haven't got the letters, Miss Cullen. And,
remember, it's always darkest before the dawn, and the stars in their
courses are against Sisera."

With the sheriff and Mr. Camp I then walked over to the saloon, where
Judge Wilson was waiting to dispose of my case. Mr. Cullen and Albert
tried to come too, but all outsiders were excluded by order of the
"court." I was told to show cause why I should not forthwith produce
the letters, and answered that I asked an adjournment of the case so
that I might be heard by counsel. It was denied, as was to have been
expected; indeed, why they took the trouble to go through the forms
was beyond me. I told Wilson I should not produce the letters, and
he asked if I knew what that meant. I couldn't help laughing and
retorting--

"It very appropriately means 'contempt of the court,' your honor."

"I'll give you a stiff term, young man," he said.

"It will take just one day to have habeas corpus proceedings in a
United States court, and one more to get the papers here," I rejoined
pleasantly.

Seeing that I understood the moves too well to be bluffed, the judge,
Mr. Camp, and the lawyer held a whispered consultation. My surprise
can be imagined when, at its conclusion, Mr. Camp said--

"Your honor, I charge Richard Gordon with being concerned in the
holding up of the Missouri Western Overland No. 3 on the night of
October 14, and ask that he be taken into custody on that charge."

I couldn't make out this new move, and puzzled over it, while Judge
Wilson ordered my commitment. But the next step revealed the object,
for the lawyer then asked for a search-warrant to look for stolen
property. The judge was equally obliging, and began to fill one out on
the instant.

This made me feel pretty serious, for the letters were in my
breast-pocket, and I swore at my own stupidity in not having put
them in the station safe when I had first arrived at Ash Fork. There
weren't many moments in which to think while the judge scribbled away
at the warrant, but in what time there was I did a lot of head-work,
without, however, finding more than one way out of the snarl. And when
I saw the judge finish off his signature with a flourish, I played a
pretty desperate card.

"You're just too late, gentlemen," I said, pointing out the side
window of the saloon. "There come the cavalry."

The three conspirators jumped to their feet and bolted for the window;
even the sheriff turned to look. As he did so I gave him a shove
toward the three which sent them all sprawling on the floor in a
pretty badly mixed-up condition. I made a dash for the door, and as I
went through it I grabbed the key and locked them in. When I turned to
do so I saw the lot struggling up from the floor, and, knowing that
it wouldn't take them many seconds to find their way out through the
window, I didn't waste much time in watching them.

Camp, Baldwin, and the judge had left their horses just outside the
saloon, and there they were still patiently standing, with their
bridles thrown over their heads, as only Western horses will stand.
It didn't take me long to have those bridles back in place, and as
I tossed each over the peak of the Mexican saddle I gave two of the
ponies slaps which started them off at a lope across the railroad
tracks. I swung myself into the saddle of the third, and flicked him
with the loose ends of the bridle in a way which made him understand
that I meant business.

Baldwin's cowboys had most of them scattered to the various saloons of
the place, but two of them were standing in the door-way of a store. I
acted so quickly, however, that they didn't seem to take in what I was
about till I was well mounted. Then I heard a yell, and fearing that
they might shoot--for the cowboy does love to use his gun--I turned
sharp at the saloon corner and rode up the side street, just in time
to see Camp climbing through the window, with Baldwin's head in view
behind him.

Before I had ridden a hundred feet I realized that I had a done-up
horse under me, and, considering that he had covered over forty miles
that afternoon in pretty quick time, it was not surprising that there
wasn't very much go left in him. I knew that Baldwin's cowboys could
get new mounts in plenty without wasting many minutes, and that then
they would overhaul me in very short order. Clearly there was no use
in my attempting to escape by running. And, as I wasn't armed, my only
hope was to beat them by some finesse.

Ash Fork, like all Western railroad towns, is one long line of
buildings running parallel with the railway tracks. Two hundred feet,
therefore, brought me to the edge of the town, and I wheeled my pony
and rode down behind the rear of the buildings. In turning, I looked
back, and saw half a dozen mounted men already in pursuit, but I lost
sight of them the next moment. As soon as I reached a street leading
back to the railroad I turned again, and rode toward it, my one
thought being to get back, if possible, to the station, and put the
letters into the railroad agent's safe.

When I reached the main street I saw that my hope was futile, for
another batch of cowboys were coming in full gallop toward me, very
thoroughly heading me off in that direction. To escape them, I headed
up the street away from the station, with the pack in close pursuit.
They yelled at me to hold up, and I expected every moment to hear the
crack of revolvers, for the poorest shot among them would have found
no difficulty in dropping my horse at that distance if they had wanted
to stop me. It isn't a very nice sensation to keep your ears pricked
up in expectation of hearing the shooting begin, and to know that any
moment may be your last. I don't suppose I was on the ragged edge more
than thirty seconds, but they were enough to prove to me that to keep
one's back turned to an enemy as one runs away takes a deal more pluck
than to stand up and face his gun. Fortunately for me, my pursuers
felt so sure of my capture that not one of them drew a bead on me.

The moment I saw that there was no escape, I put my hand in my
breast-pocket and took out the letters, intending to tear them into
a hundred pieces. But as I did so I realized that to destroy United
States mail not merely entailed criminal liability, but was off color
morally. I faltered, balancing the outwitting of Camp against State's
prison, the doing my best for Madge against the wrong of it. I think
I'm as honest a fellow as the average, but I have to confess that I
couldn't decide to do right till I thought that Madge wouldn't want me
to be dishonest, even for her.

I turned across the railroad tracks, and cut in behind some
freight-cars that were standing on a siding. This put me out of view
of my pursuers for a moment, and in that instant I stood up in my
stirrups, lifted the broad leather flap of the saddle, and tucked
the letters underneath it, as far in as I could force them. It was a
desperate place in which to hide them, but the game was a desperate
one at best, and the very boldness of the idea might be its best
chance of success.

I was now heading for the station over the ties, and was surprised to
see Fred Cullen with Lord Ralles on the tracks up by the special, for
my mind had been so busy in the last hour that I had forgotten that
Fred was due. The moment I saw him, I rode toward him, pressing my
pony for all he was worth. My hope was that I might get time to give
Fred the tip as to where the letters were; but before I was within
speaking distance Baldwin came running out from behind the station,
and, seeing me, turned, called back and gesticulated, evidently to
summon some cowboys to head me off. Afraid to shout anything which
should convey the slightest clue as to the whereabouts of the letters,
as the next best thing I pulled a couple of old section reports from
my pocket, intending to ride up and run into my car, for I knew that
the papers in my hand would be taken to be the wanted letters,
and that if I could only get inside the car even for a moment the
suspicion would be that I had been able to hide them. Unfortunately,
the plan was no sooner thought of than I heard the whistle of a
lariat, and before I could guard myself the noose settled over my
head. I threw the papers toward Fred and Lord Ralles, shouting, "Hide
them!" Fred was quick as a flash, and, grabbing them off the ground,
sprang up the steps of my car and ran inside, just escaping a bullet
from my pursuers. I tried to pull up my pony, for I did not want to be
jerked off, but I was too late, and the next moment I was lying on the
ground in a pretty well shaken and jarred condition, surrounded by a
lot of men.



CHAPTER XII

AN EVENING IN JAIL


Before my ideas had had time to straighten themselves out, I was
lifted to my feet, and half pushed, half lifted to the station
platform. Camp was already there, and as I took this fact in I saw
Frederic and his lordship pulled through the doorway of my car by the
cowboys and dragged out on the platform beside me. The reports were
now in Lord Ralles's hands.

"That's what we want, boys," cried Camp. "Those letters."

"Take your hands off me," said Lord Ralles, coolly, "and I'll give
them to you."

The men who had hold of his arms let go of him, and quick as a flash
Ralles tore the papers in two. He tried to tear them once more, but,
before he could do so, half a dozen men were holding him, and the
papers were forced out of his hands.

Albert Cullen--for all of them were on the platform of 218 by this
time--shouted, "Well done, Ralles!" quite forgetting in the excitement
of the moment his English accent and drawl.

Apparently Camp didn't agree with him, for he ripped out a string of
oaths which he impartially divided among Ralles, the cowboys, and
myself. I was decidedly sorry that I hadn't given the real letters,
for his lordship clearly had no scruple about destroying them, and I
knew few men whom I would have seen behind prison-bars with as little
personal regret. However, no one had, so far as I could see, paid the
slightest attention to the pony, and the probabilities were that he
was already headed for Baldwin's ranch, with no likelihood of his
stopping till he reached home. At least that was what I hoped; but
there were a lot of ponies standing about, and, not knowing the
markings of the one I had ridden, I wasn't able to tell whether he
might not be among them.

Just as the fragments of the papers were passed over to Mr. Camp, he
was joined by Baldwin and the judge, and Camp held the torn pieces up
to them, saying--

"They've torn the proxies in two."

"Don't let that trouble you," said the judge. "Make an affidavit
before me, reciting the manner in which they were destroyed, and
I'll grant you a mandamus compelling the directors to accept them as
bona-fide proxies. Let me see how much injured they are."

Camp unfolded the papers, and I chuckled to myself at the look of
surprise that overspread his face as he took in the fact that they
were nothing but section reports. And, though I don't like cuss-words,
I have to acknowledge that I enjoyed the two or three that he promptly
ejaculated.

When the first surprise of the trio was over, they called on the
sheriff, who arrived opportunely, to take us into 97 and search the
three of us--a proceeding that puzzled Fred and his lordship not a
little, for they weren't on to the fact that the letters hadn't been
recovered. I presume the latter will some day write a book dwelling on
the favorite theme of the foreigner, that there is no personal privacy
in America, and I don't know but his experiences justify the view. The
running remarks as the search was made seemed to open Fred's eyes, for
he looked at me with a puzzled air, but I winked and frowned at him,
and he put his face in order.

When the papers were not found on any of us, Camp and Baldwin both
nearly went demented. Baldwin suggested that I had never had the
papers, but Camp argued that Fred or Lord Ralles must have hidden them
in the car, in spite of the fact that the cowboys who had caught them
insisted that they couldn't have had time to hide the papers. Anyway,
they spent an hour in ferreting about in my car, and even searched my
two darkies, on the possibility that the true letters had been passed
on to them.

While they were engaged in this, I was trying to think out some way of
letting Mr. Cullen and Albert know where the letters were. The problem
was to suggest the saddle to them, without letting the cowboys
understand, and by good luck I thought I had the means. Albert had
complained to me the day we had ridden out to the Indian dwellings
at Flagstaff that his saddle fretted some galled spots which he had
chafed on his trip to Moran's Point. Hoping he would "catch on," I
shouted to him--

"How are your sore spots, Albert?"

He looked at me in a puzzled way, and called, "Aw, I don't understand
you."

"Those sore spots you complained about to me the day before
yesterday," I explained.

He didn't seem any the less befogged as he replied, "I had forgotten
all about them."

"I've got a touch of the same trouble," I went on; "and, if I were
you, I'd look into the cause."

Albert only looked very much mystified, and I didn't dare say more,
for at this point the trio, with the sheriff, came out of my car. If I
hadn't known that the letters were safe, I could have read the story
in their faces, for more disgusted and angry-looking men I have rarely
seen.

They had a talk with the sheriff, and then Fred, Lord Ralles, and I
were marched off by the official, his lordship loudly demanding sight
of a warrant, and protesting against the illegality of his arrest,
varied at moments by threats to appeal to the British consul, minister
plenipo., her Majesty's Foreign Office, etc., all of which had about
as much influence on the sheriff and his cowboy assistants as a Moqui
Indian snake-dance would have in stopping a runaway engine. I confess
to feeling a certain grim satisfaction in the fact that if I was to be
shut off from seeing Madge, the Britisher was in the same box with me.

Ash Fork, though only six years old, had advanced far enough toward
civilization to have a small jail, and into that we were shoved. Night
was come by the time we were lodged there, and, being in pretty good
appetite, I struck the sheriff for some grub.

"I'll git yer somethin'," he said, good-naturedly; "but next time yer
shove people, Mr. Gordon, just quit shovin' yer friends. My shoulder
feels like--" perhaps it's just as well not to say what his shoulder
felt like. The Western vocabulary is expressive, but at times not
quite fit for publication.

The moment the sheriff was gone, Fred wanted the mystery of the
letters explained, and I told him all there was to tell, including as
good a description of the pony as I could give him. We tried to hit on
some plan to get word to those outside, but it wasn't to be done. At
least it was a point gained that some one of our party besides myself
knew where the letters were.

The sheriff returned presently with a loaf of canned bread and a tin
of beans. If I had been alone, I should have kicked at the food and
got permission for my darkies to send me up something from 97; but I
thought I'd see how Lord Ralles would like genuine Western fare, so I
said nothing. That, I have to state, is more--or rather less--than
the Britisher did, after he had sampled the stuff; and really I don't
blame him, much as I enjoyed his rage and disgust.

It didn't take long to finish our supper, and then Fred, who hadn't
slept much the night before, stretched out on the floor and went to
sleep. Lord Ralles and I sat on boxes--the only furniture the room
contained--about as far apart as we could get, he in the sulks, and
I whistling cheerfully. I should have liked to be with Madge, but
he wasn't; so there was some compensation, and I knew that time was
playing the cards in our favor: so long as they hadn't found the
letters we had only to sit still to win.

About an hour after supper, the sheriff came back and told me Camp and
Baldwin wanted to see me. I saw no reason to object, so in they came,
accompanied by the judge. Baldwin opened the ball by saying genially--

"Well, Mr. Gordon, you've played a pretty cute gamble, and I suppose
you think you stand to win the pot."

"I'm not complaining," I said.

"Still," snarled Camp, angrily, as if my contented manner fretted him,
"our time will come presently, and we can make it pretty uncomfortable
for you. Illegal proceedings put a man in jail in the long run."

"I hope you take your lesson to heart," I remarked cheerfully, which
made Camp scowl worse than ever.

"Now," said Baldwin, who kept cool, "we know you are not risking loss
of position and the State's prison for nothing, and we want to know
what there is in it for you?"

"I wouldn't stake my chance of State's prison against yours,
gentlemen. And, while I may lose my position, I'll be a long way from
starvation."

"That doesn't tell us what Cullen gives you to take the risk."

"Mr. Cullen hasn't given, or even hinted that he'll give, anything."

"And Mr. Gordon hasn't asked, and, if I know him, wouldn't take a cent
for what he has done," said Fred, rising from the floor.

"You mean to say you are doing it for nothing?" exclaimed Camp,
incredulously.

"That's about the truth of it," I said; though I thought of Madge as I
said it, and felt guilty in suggesting that she was nothing.

"Then what is your motive?" cried Baldwin.

If there had been any use, I should have replied, "The right;" but I
knew that they would only think I was posing if I said it. Instead I
replied: "Mr. Cullen's party has the stock majority in their favor,
and would have won a fair fight if you had played fair. Since you
didn't, I'm doing my best to put things to right."

Camp cried, "All the more fool--" but Baldwin interrupted him by
saying--

"That only shows what a mean cuss Cullen is. He ought to give you ten
thousand, if he gives you a cent."

"Yes," cried Camp, "those letters are worth money, whether he's
offered it or not."

"Mr. Cullen never so much as hinted paying me," said I.

"Well, Mr. Gordon," said Baldwin, suavely, "we'll show you that we can
be more liberal. Though the letters rightfully belong to Mr. Camp, if
you'll deliver them to us we'll see that you don't lose your place,
and we'll give you five thousand dollars."

I glanced at Fred, whom I found looking at me anxiously, and asked
him--

"Can't you do better than that?"

"We could with any one but you," said Fred.

I should have liked to shake hands over this compliment, but I only
nodded, and turning to Mr. Camp, said--

"You see how mean they are."

"You'll find we are not built that way," said Baldwin. "Five thousand
isn't a bad day's work, eh?"

"No," I said, laughing; "but you just told me I ought to get ten
thousand if I got a cent."

"It's worth ten to Mr. Cullen, but--"

I interrupted by saying, "If it's worth ten to him, it's worth a
hundred to me."

That was too much for Camp. First he said something best omitted,
and then went on, "I told you it was waste of time trying to win him
over."

The three stood apart for a moment whispering, and then Judge Wilson
called the sheriff over, and they all went out together. The moment we
were alone, Frederic held out his hand, and said--

"Gordon, it's no use saying anything, but if we can ever do--"

I merely shook hands, but I wanted the worst way to say--

"Tell Madge what I've done, and the thing's square."



CHAPTER XIII

A LESSON IN POLITENESS


Within five minutes we had a big surprise, for the sheriff and Mr.
Baldwin came back, and the former announced that Fred and Lord Ralles
were free, having been released on bail. When we found that Baldwin
had gone on the bond, I knew that there was a scheme of some sort
in the move, and, taking Fred aside, I warned him against trying to
recover the proxies.

"They probably think that one or the other of you knows where the
letters are hidden," I whispered, "and they'll keep a watch on you; so
go slow."

He nodded, and followed the sheriff and Lord Ralles out.

The moment they were gone, Mr. Camp said, "I came back to give you a
last chance."

"That's very good of you," I said.

"I warn you," he muttered threateningly, "we are not men to be beaten.
There are fifty cowboys of Baldwin's in this town, who think you were
concerned in the holding up. By merely tipping them the wink, they'll
have you out of this, and after they've got you outside I wouldn't
give the toss of a nickel for your life. Now, then, will you hand over
those letters, or will you go to ---- inside of ten minutes?"

I lost my temper in turn. "I'd much prefer going to some place where
I was less sure of meeting you," I retorted; "and as for the cowboys,
you'll have to be as tricky with them as you want to be with me before
you'll get them to back you up in your dirty work."

At this point the sheriff called back to ask Camp if he was coming.

"All right," cried Camp, and went to the door. "This is the last
call," he snarled, pausing for a moment on the threshold.

"I hope so," said I, more calmly in manner than in feeling, I have to
acknowledge, for I didn't like the look of things. That they were in
earnest I felt pretty certain, for I understood now why they had let
my companions out of jail. They knew that angry cowboys were a trifle
undiscriminating, and didn't care to risk hanging more than was
necessary.

A long time seemed to pass after they were gone, but in reality it
wasn't more than fifteen minutes before I heard some one steal up
and softly unlock the door. I confess the evident endeavor to do
it quietly gave me a scare, for it seemed to me it couldn't be an
above-board movement. Thinking this, I picked up the box on which I
had been sitting and prepared to make the best fight I could. It was a
good deal of relief, therefore, when the door opened just wide enough
for a man to put in his head, and I heard the sheriff's voice say,
softly--

"Hi, Gordon!"

I was at the door in an instant, and asked--

"What's up?"

"They're gettin' the fellers together, and sayin' that yer shot a
woman in the hold-up."

"It's an infernal lie," I said.

"Sounds that way to me," assented the sheriff; "but two-thirds of the
boys are drunk, and it's a long time since they've had any fun."

"Well," I said, as calmly as I could, "are you going to stand by me?"

"I would, Mr. Gordon," he replied, "if there was any good, but there
ain't time to get a posse, and what's one Winchester against a mob of
cowboys like them?"

"If you'll lend me your gun," I said, "I'll show just what it is
worth, without troubling you."

"I'll do better than that," offered the sheriff, "and that's what I'm
here for. Just sneak, while there's time."

"You mean--?" I exclaimed.

"That's it. I'm goin' away, and I'll leave the door unlocked. If yer
get clear let me know yer address, and later, if I want yer, I'll send
yer word." He took a grip on my fingers that numbed them as if they
had been caught in an air-brake, and disappeared.

I slipped out after the sheriff without loss of time. That there
wasn't much to spare was shown by a crowd with some torches down the
street, collected in front of a saloon. They were making a good deal
of noise, even for the West; evidently the flame was being fanned. Not
wasting time, I struck for the railroad, because I knew the geography
of that best, but still more because I wanted to get to the station.
It was a big risk to go there, but it was one I was willing to take
for the object I had in view, and, since I had to take it, it was
safest to get through with the job before the discovery was made that
I was no longer in jail.

It didn't take me three minutes to reach the station. The whole place
was black as a coal-dumper, except for the slices of light which shone
through the cracks of the curtained windows in the specials, the dim
light of the lamp in the station, and the glow of the row of saloons
two hundred feet away. I was afraid, however, that there might be a
spy lurking somewhere, for it was likely that Camp would hope to get
some clue of the letters by keeping a watch on the station and the
cars. Thinking boldness the safest course, I walked on to the platform
without hesitation, and went into the station. The "night man" was
sitting in his chair, nodding, but he waked up the moment I spoke.

"Don't speak my name," I said, warningly, as he struggled to his feet;
and then in the fewest possible words I told him what I wanted of
him--to find if the pony I had ridden (Camp's or Baldwin's) was in
town and, if so, to learn where it was, and to get the letters on the
quiet from under the saddle-flap. I chose this man, first because I
could trust him, and next, because I had only one of the Cullens as an
alternative, and if any of them went sneaking round, it would be sure
to attract attention. "The moment you have the letters, put them in
the station safe," I ended, "and then get word to me."

"And where'll you be, Mr. Gordon?" asked the man.

"Is there any place about here that's a safe hiding spot for a few
hours?" I asked. "I want to stay till I'm sure those letters are safe,
and after that I'll steal on board the first train that comes along."

"Then you'll want to be near here," said the man. "I'll tell you, I've
got just the place for you. The platform's boarded in all round, but I
noticed one plank that's loose at one end, right at this nigh corner,
and if you just pry it open enough to get in, and then pull the board
in place, they'll never find you."

"That will do," I said; "and when the letters are safe, come out on
the platform, walk up and down once, bang the door twice, and then
say, 'That way freight is late.' And if you get a chance, tell one of
the Cullens where I'm hidden."

I crossed the platform boldly, jumped down, and walked away. But after
going fifty feet I dropped down on my hands and knees and crawled
back. Inside of two minutes I was safely stowed away under the
platform, in about as neat a hiding-place as a man could ask. In fact,
if I had only had my wits enough about me to borrow a revolver of the
man, I could have made a pretty good defence, even if discovered.

Underneath the platform was loose gravel, and, as an additional
precaution, I scooped out, close to the side-boarding, a trough long
enough for me to lie in. Then I got into the hole, shovelled the sand
over my legs, and piled the rest up in a heap close to me, so that by
a few sweeps of my arm I could cover my whole body, leaving only my
mouth and nose exposed, and those below the level. That made me feel
pretty safe, for, even if the cowboys found the loose plank and
crawled in, it would take uncommon good eyesight, in the darkness, to
find me. I had hollowed out my living grave to fit, and if I could
have smoked, I should have been decidedly comfortable. Sleep I dared
not indulge in, and the sequel showed that I was right in not allowing
myself that luxury.

I hadn't much more than comfortably settled myself, and let thoughts
of a cigar and a nap flit through my mind, when a row up the street
showed that the jail-breaking had been discovered. Then followed
shouts and confusion for a few moments, while a search was being
organized. I heard some horsemen ride over the tracks, and also down
the street, followed by the hurried footsteps of half a dozen men.
Some banged at the doors of the specials, while others knocked at the
station door.

One of the Cullens' servants opened the door of 218, and I heard the
sheriff's voice telling him he'd got to search the car. The darky
protested, saying that the "gentmun was all away, and only de miss
inside." The row brought Miss Cullen to the door, and I heard her ask
what was the matter.

"Sorry to trouble yer, miss," said the sheriff, "but a prisoner has
broken jail, and we've got to look for him."

"Escaped!" cried Madge, joyfully. "How?"

"That's just what gits away with me," marvelled the sheriff. "My idee
is--"

"Don't waste time on theories," said Camp's voice, angrily. "Search
the car."

"Sorry to discommode a lady," apologized the sheriff, gallantly, "but
if we may just look around a little?"

"My father and brothers went out a few minutes ago," said Madge,
hesitatingly, "and I don't know if they would be willing."

Camp laughed angrily, and ordered, "Stand aside, there."

"Don't yer worry," said the sheriff. "If he's on the car, he can't
git away. We'll send a feller up for Mr. Cullen, while we search Mr.
Gordon's car and the station."

They set about it at once, and used up ten minutes in the task. Then I
heard Camp say--

"Come, we can't wait all night for permission to search this car. Go
ahead."

"I hope you'll wait till my father comes," begged Madge.

"Now go slow, Mr. Camp," said the sheriff: "We mustn't discomfort the
lady if we can avoid it."

"I believe you're wasting time in order to help him escape," snapped
Camp.

"Nothin' of the kind," denied the sheriff.

"If you won't do your duty, I'll take the law into my own hands, and
order the car searched," sputtered Camp, so angry as hardly to be able
to articulate.

"Look a here," growled the sheriff, "who are yer sayin' all this to
anyway? If yer talkin' to me, say so right off."

"All I mean," hastily said Camp, "is that it's your duty, in your
honorable position, to search this car."

"I don't need no instructing in my dooty as sheriff," retorted the
official. "But a bigger dooty is what is owin' to the feminine sex.
When a female is in question, a gentleman, Mr. Camp--yes, sir, a
gentleman--is in dooty bound to be perlite."

"Politeness be ---- ----!" swore Camp.

"Git as angry as yer ---- please," roared the sheriff wrathfully, "but
---- my soul to ---- if any ---- ---- cuss has a right to use such
---- ---- talk in the presence of a lady!"



CHAPTER XIV

"LISTENERS NEVER HEAR ANYTHING GOOD"


Before I had ceased chuckling over the sheriff's indignant declaration
of the canons of etiquette, I heard Mr. Cullen's voice demanding to
know what the trouble was, and it was quickly explained to him that I
had escaped. He at once gave them permission to search his car, and
went in with the sheriff and the cowboys. Apparently Madge went in
too, for in a moment I heard Camp say, in a low voice--

"Two of you fellows get down below the car and crawl in under the
truck where you can't be seen. Evidently that cuss isn't here, but
he's likely to come by and by. If so, nab him if you can, and if you
can't, fire two shots. Mosely, are you heeled?"

"Do I chaw terbaccy?" asked Mosely, ironically, clearly insulted at
the suggestion that he would travel without a gun.

"Then keep a sharp lookout, and listen to everything you hear,
especially the whereabouts of some letters. If you can spot their lay,
crawl out and get word to me at once. Now, under you go before they
come out."

I heard two men drop into the gravel close alongside of where I lay,
and then crawl under the truck of 218. They weren't a moment too
soon, for the next instant I heard two or three people jump on to the
platform, and Albert Cullen's voice drawl, "Aw, by Jove, what's the
row?" Camp not enlightening them, Lord Ralles suggested that they
get on the car to find out, and the three did so. A moment later the
sheriff came to the door and told Camp that I was not to be found.

"I told yer this was the last place to look for the cuss, Mr. Camp,"
he said. "We've just discomforted the lady for nothin'."

"Then we must search elsewhere," spoke up Camp. "Come on, boys."

The sheriff turned and made another elaborate apology for having had
to trouble the lady.

I heard Madge tell him that he hadn't troubled her at all, and then,
as the cowboys and Camp walked off, she added, "And, Mr. Gunton, I
want to thank you for reproving Mr. Camp's dreadful swearing."

"Thank yer, miss," said the sheriff. "We fellers are a little rough at
times, but ---- me if we don't know what's due to a lady."

"Papa," said Madge, as soon as he was out of hearing, "the sheriff is
the most beautiful swearer I ever heard."

For a while there was silence round the station; I suppose the party
in 218 were comparing notes, while the two cowboys and I had the best
reasons for being quiet. Presently, however, the men came out of the
car and jumped down on the platform. Madge evidently followed them to
the door, for she called, "Please let me know the moment something
happens or you learn anything."

"Better go to bed, Madgy," Albert called. "You'll only worry, and it's
after three."

"I couldn't sleep if I tried," she answered.

Their footsteps died away in a moment, and I heard her close the door
of 218. In a few moments she opened it again, and, stepping down to
the station platform, began to pace up and down it. If I had only
dared, I could have put my finger through the crack of the planks and
touched her foot as she walked over my head, but I was afraid it might
startle her into a shriek, and there was no explaining to her what it
meant without telling the cowboys how close they were to their quarry.

Madge hadn't walked from one end of the platform to the other more
than three or four times, when I heard some one coming. She evidently
heard it also, for she said--

"I began to be afraid you hadn't understood me."

"I thought you told me to see first if I were needed," responded a
voice that even the distance and the planks did not prevent me from
recognizing as that of Lord Ralles.

"Yes," said she. "You are sure you can be spared?"

"I couldn't be of the slightest use," asserted Ralles, getting on to
the platform and joining Madge. "It's as black as ink everywhere, and
I don't think there's anything to be done till daylight."

"Then I'm glad you came back, for I really want to say something--to
ask the greatest favor of you."

"You only have to tell me what it is," said his lordship.

"Even that is very hard," murmured Madge. "If--if--Oh! I'm afraid I
haven't the courage, after all."

"I'll be glad to do anything I can."

"It's--well--Oh, dear, I can't. Let's walk a little, while I think how
to put it."

They began to walk, which took a weight off my mind, as I had been
forced to hear every word thus far spoken, and was dreading what might
follow, since I was perfectly helpless to warn them. The platform was
built around the station, and in a moment they were out of hearing.

Before many seconds were over, however, they had walked round the
building, and I heard Lord Ralles say--

"You really don't mean that he's insulted you?"

"That is just what I do mean," cried Madge, indignantly. "It's been
almost past endurance. I haven't dared to tell any one, but he had the
cruelty, the meanness, on Hance's trail to threaten that--"

At that point the walkers turned the corner again, and I could not
hear the rest of the sentence. But I had heard more than enough to
make me grow hot with mortification, even while I could hardly believe
I had understood aright. Madge had been so kind to me lately that I
couldn't think she had been feeling as bitterly as she spoke. That
such an apparently frank girl was a consummate actress wasn't to be
thought, and yet--I remembered how well she had played her part on
Hance's trail; but even that wouldn't convince me. Proof of her
duplicity came quickly enough, for, while I was still thinking, the
walkers were round again, and Lord Ralles was saying--

"Why haven't you complained to your father or brothers?"

"Because I knew they would resent his conduct to me, and--"

"Of course they would," cried her companion, interrupting. "But why
should you object to that?"

"Because of the letters," explained Madge. "Don't you see that if we
made him angry he would betray us to Mr. Camp, and--"

Then they passed out of hearing, leaving me almost desperate, both at
being an eavesdropper to such a conversation, and that Madge could
think so meanly of me. To say it, too, to Lord Ralles made it cut all
the deeper, as any fellow who had been in love will understand.

Round they came again in a moment, and I braced myself for the lash
of the whip that I felt was coming. I didn't escape it, for Madge was
saying--

"Can you conceive of a man pretending to care for a girl and yet
treating her so? I can't tell you the grief, the mortification, I
have endured." She spoke with a half-sob in her throat, as if she was
struggling not to cry, which made me wish I had never been born. "It's
been all I could do to control myself in his presence, I have come so
utterly to hate and despise him," she added.

"I don't wonder," growled Lord Ralles. "My only surprise is--"

With that they passed out of hearing again, leaving me fairly
desperate with shame, grief, and, I'm afraid, with anger.

I felt at once guilty and yet wronged. I knew my conduct on the trail
must have seemed to her ungentlemanly because I had never dared
to explain that my action there had been a pure bluff, and that I
wouldn't have really searched her for--well, for anything; but though
she might think badly of me for that, yet I had done my best to
counter-balance it, and was running big risks, both present and
eventual, for Madge's sake. Yet here she was acknowledging that thus
far she had used me as a puppet, while all the time disliking me. It
was a terrible blow, made all the harder by the fact that she was
proving herself such a different girl from the one I loved--so
different, in fact, that, despite what I had heard, I couldn't quite
believe it of her, and found myself seeking to extenuate and even
justify her conduct. While I was doing this, they came within hearing,
and Lord Ralles was speaking.

"--with you," he said. "But I still do not see what I can do, however
much I may wish to serve you."

"Can't you go to him and insist that he--or tell him what I really
feel toward him--or anything, in fact, to shame him? I really can't go
on acting longer."

That reached the limit of my endurance, and I crawled from my burrow,
intending to get out from under that platform, whether I was caught or
not. I know it was a foolish move; after having heard what I had, a
little more or less was quite immaterial. But I entirely forgot my
danger, in the sting of what Madge had said, and my one thought was to
stand face to face with her long enough to--I'm sure I don't know what
I intended to say.

Just as I reached the plank, however, I heard Lord Ralles ask--

"Who's that?"

"It's me," said a voice,--"the station agent." Then I heard a
door close. Some one walked out to the centre of the platform and
remarked--

"That 'ere way freight is late."

At least the letters were recovered.



CHAPTER XV

THE SURRENDER OF THE LETTERS


If the letters were safe, that was a good deal more than I was. The
moment the station-master had made his agreed-upon announcement, he
said to the walkers--

"Had any news of Mr. Gordon?"

"No," replied Lord Ralles. "And, as the lights keep moving in the
town, they must still be hunting for him."

"I reckon they'll do considerable more huntin' before they find him up
there," chuckled the man, with a self-important manner. "He's hidden
away under this ere platform."

"Not right here?" I heard Madge cry, but I had too much to do to take
in what followed. I was lying close to the loose plank, and even
before the station-master had completed his sentence I was squirming
through the crack. As I freed my legs I heard two shots, which I knew
was the signal given by the cowboys, followed by a shriek of fright
from Madge, for which she was hardly to be blamed. I was on my feet in
an instant and ran down the tracks at my best speed. It wasn't with
much hope of escape, for once out from under the planking I found,
what I had not before realized, that day was dawning, and already
outlines at a distance could be seen. However, I was bound to do my
best, and I did it.

Before I had run a hundred feet I could hear pursuers, and a moment
later a revolver cracked, ploughing up the dust in front of me.
Another bullet followed, and, seeing that affairs were getting
desperate, I dodged round the end of some cars, only to plump into a
man running at full speed. The collision was so unexpected that we
both fell, and before I could get on my feet one of my pursuers
plumped down on top of me and I felt something cold on the back of my
neck.

"Lie still, yer sneakin' coyote of a road agent," said the man, "or
I'll blow yer so full of lead that yer couldn't float in Salt Lake."

I preferred to take his advice, and lay quiet while the cowboys
gathered. From all directions I heard them coming, calling to each
other that "the skunk that shot the woman is corralled," and other
forms of the same information. In a moment I was jerked to my feet,
only to be swept off them with equal celerity, and was half carried,
half dragged, along the tracks. It wasn't as rough handling as I have
taken on the foot-ball-field, but I didn't enjoy it.

In a space of time that seemed only seconds, I was close to a
telegraph-pole; but, brief as the moment had been, a fellow with a
lariat tied round his waist was half-way up the post. I knew the
mob had been told that I had killed a woman in the hold-up, for the
cowboy, bad as he is, has his own standards, beyond which he won't go.
But I might as well have tried to tell my innocence to the moon as
to get them to listen to denials, even if I could have made my voice
heard.

The lariat was dropped over the cross-piece, and as a man adjusted the
noose a sudden silence fell. I thought it was a little sense of what
they were doing, but it was merely due to the command of Baldwin, who,
with Camp, stood just outside the mob.

"Let me say a word before you pull," he called, and then to me he
said, "Now will you give up the property?"

I was pretty pale and shaky, but I come of stiffish stock, and I
wouldn't have backed down then, it seemed to me, if they had been
going to boil me alive. I suppose it sounds foolish, and if I had had
plenty of time I have no doubt my common-sense would have made me
crawl. Not having time, I was on the point of saying "No," when the
door of 218, which lay about two hundred yards away, flew open, and
out came Mr. Cullen, Fred, Albert, Lord Ralles, and Captain Ackland,
all with rifles. Of course it was perfect desperation for the five to
tackle the cowboys, but they were game to do it, all the same.

How it would have ended I don't know, but as they sprang off the car
platform Miss Cullen came out on it, and stood there, one hand holding
on to the door-way, as if she needed support, and the other covering
her heart. It was too far for me to see her face, but the whole
attitude expressed such suffering that it was terrible to see. What
was more, her position put her in range of every shot the cowboys
might fire at the five as they charged. If I could have stopped them I
would have done so, but, since that was impossible, I cried--

"Mr. Camp, I'll surrender the letters."

"Hold on, boys," shouted Baldwin; "wait till we get the property he
stole." And, coming through the crowd, he threw the noose off my neck.

"Don't shoot, Mr. Cullen," I yelled, as my friends halted and raised
their rifles, and, fortunately, the cowboys had opened up enough to
let them hear me and see that I was free of the rope.

Escorted by Camp, Baldwin, and the cowboys, I walked toward them. On
the way Baldwin said, in a low voice, "Deliver the letters, and we'll
tell the boys there has been a mistake. Otherwise--"

When we came up to the five, I called to them that I had agreed to
surrender the letters. While I was saying it, Miss Cullen joined them,
and it was curious to see how respectfully the cowboys took off their
hats and fell back.

"You are quite right," Mr. Cullen called. "Give them the letters at
once."

"Oh, do, Mr. Gordon," said Madge, still white and breathless with
emotion. "The money is nothing. Don't think--" It was all she could
say.

I felt pretty small, but with Camp and Baldwin, now reinforced by
Judge Wilson, I went to the station, ordered the agent to open the
safe, took out the three letters, and handed them to Mr. Camp,
realizing how poor Madge must have felt on Hance's trail. It was a
pretty big take down to my pride I tell you, and made all the worse by
the way the three gloated over the letters and over our defeat.

"We've taught you a lesson, young man," sneered Camp, as after opening
the envelopes, to assure himself that the proxies were all right, he
tucked them into his pocket. "And we'll teach you another one after
to-day's election."

Just as he concluded, we heard outside the first note of a bugle, and
as it sounded "By fours, column left," my heart gave a big jump, and
the blood came rushing to my face. Camp, Baldwin, and Wilson broke
for the door, but I got there first, and prevented their escape. They
tried to force their way through, but I hadn't blocked and interfered
at football for nothing, and they might as well have tried to break
through the Sierras. Discovering this, Camp whipped out his gun, and
told me to let them out. Being used to the West, I recognized the
goodness of the argument and stepped out on the platform, giving them
free passage. But the twenty seconds I had delayed them had cooked
their goose, for outside was a squadron of cavalry swinging a circle
round the station; and we had barely reached the platform when the
bugle sounded "Halt," quickly followed by "Forward left." As the ranks
wheeled, and closed up as a solid line about us, I could have cheered
with delight. There was a moment's dramatic hush, in which we could
all hear the breathing of the winded horses, and then came the clatter
of sword and spurs, as an officer sprang from his saddle.

"I want Richard Gordon," the officer called.

I responded, "At your service, and badly in need of yours, Captain
Singer."

"Hope the delay hasn't spoilt things," said the captain. "We had a
cursed fool of a guide, who took the wrong trail and ran us into
Limestone Cañon, where we had to camp for the night."

I explained the situation as quickly as I could, and the captain's
eyes gleamed. "I'd have given a bad quarter to have got here ten
minutes sooner and ridden my men over those scoundrels," he muttered.
"I saw them scatter as we rode up, and if I'd known what they'd been
doing we'd have given them a volley." Then he walked over to Mr. Camp
and said, "Give me those letters."

"I hold those letters by virtue of an order--" Camp began.

"Give me those letters," the captain interrupted.

"Do you intend a high-handed interference with the civil authorities?"
Judge Wilson demanded.

"Come, come," said the captain, sternly. "You have taken forcible
possession of United States property. Any talk about civil authorities
is rubbish, and you know it."

"I will never--" cried Mr. Camp.

"Corporal Jackson, dismount a guard of six men," rang the captain's
voice, interrupting him.

Evidently something in the voice or order convinced Mr. Camp, for the
letters were hastily produced and given to Singer, who at once handed
them to me. I turned with them to the Cullens, and, laughing, quoted,
"'All's well that ends well.'"

But they didn't seem to care a bit about the recovery of the letters,
and only wanted to have a hand-shake all round over my escape. Even
Lord Ralles said, "Glad we could be of a little service," and didn't
refuse my thanks, though the deuce knows they were badly enough
expressed, in my consciousness that I had done an ungentlemanly trick
over those trousers of his, and that he had been above remembering it
when I was in real danger. I'm ashamed enough to confess that when
Miss Cullen held out her hand I made believe not to see it. I'm a bad
hand at pretending, and I saw Madge color up at my act.

The captain finally called me off to consult about our proceedings. I
felt no very strong love for Camp, Baldwin, or Wilson, but I didn't
see that a military arrest would accomplish anything, and after a
little discussion it was decided to let them alone, as we could well
afford to do, having won.

This matter decided, I said to the captain, "I'll be obliged if you'll
put a guard round my car. And then, if you and your officers will come
inside it, I have a--something in a bottle, recommended for removing
alkali dust from the tonsils."

"Very happy to test your prescription," responded Singer, genially.

I started to go with him, but I couldn't resist turning to Mr. Camp
and his friends and saying--

"Gentlemen, the G.S. is a big affair, but it isn't quite big enough to
fight the U.S."



CHAPTER XVI

A GLOOMY GOOD-BY


At that point my importance ceased. Apparently seeing that the game
was up, Mr. Camp later in the morning asked Mr. Cullen to give him an
interview, and when he was allowed to pass the sentry he came to the
steps and suggested--

"Perhaps we can arrange a compromise between the Missouri Western and
the Great Southern?"

"We can try," Mr. Cullen assented. "Come into my car." He made way for
Mr. Camp, and was about to follow him, when Madge took hold of her
father's arm, and, making him stoop, whispered something to him.

"What kind of a place?" asked Mr. Cullen, laughing.

"A good one," his daughter replied.

I thought I understood what was meant. She didn't want to rest under
an obligation, and so I was to be paid up for what I had done by
promotion. It made me grit my teeth, and if I hadn't taught myself not
to swear, because of my position, I could have given sheriff Gunton
points on cursing. I wanted to speak up right there and tell Miss
Cullen what I thought of her.

Of the interview which took place inside 218, I can speak only at
second-hand, and the world knows about as well as I how the contest
was compromised by the K. & A. being turned over to the Missouri
Western, the territory in Southern California being divided between
the California Central and the Great Southern, and a traffic
arrangement agreed upon that satisfied the G.S. That afternoon a
Missouri Western board for the K. & A. was elected without opposition,
and they in turn elected Mr. Cullen president of the K. & A.; so when
my report of the holding-up went in, he had the pleasure of reading
it. I closed it with a request for instructions, but I never received
any, and that ended the matter. I turned over the letters to the
special agent at Flagstaff, and I suppose his report is slumbering in
some pigeon-hole in Washington, for I should have known of any attempt
to bring the culprits to punishment. Mr. Cullen had taken a big risk,
but came out of it with a great lot of money, for the Missouri Western
bought all his holdings in the K. & A. and C.C. But the scare must
have taught him a lesson, for ever since then he's been conservative,
and talks about the foolishness of investors who try to get more than
five per cent, or who think of anything but good railroad bonds.

As for myself, a month after these occurrences I was appointed
superintendent of the Missouri Western, which by this deal had become
one of the largest railroad systems in the world. It was a big step
up for so young a man, and was of course pure favoritism, due to Mr.
Cullen's influence. I didn't stay in the position long, for within two
years I was offered the presidency of the Chicago & St. Paul, and
I think that was won on merit. Whether or not, I hold the position
still, and have made my road earn and pay dividends right through the
panic.

All this is getting away ahead of events, however. The election
delayed us so that we couldn't couple on to No. 4 that afternoon, and
consequently we had to lie that night at Ash Fork. I made the officers
my excuse for keeping away from the Cullens, as I wished to avoid
Madge. I did my best to be good company to the bluecoats, and had a
first-class dinner for them on my car, but I was in a pretty glum
mood, which even champagne couldn't modify. Though all necessity of a
guard ceased with the compromise, the cavalry remained till the next
morning, and, after giving them a good breakfast, about six o'clock we
shook hands, the bugle sounded, and off they rode. For the first time
I understood how a fellow disappointed in love comes to enlist.

When I turned about to go into my car, I found Madge standing on the
platform of 218 waving a handkerchief. I paid no attention to her, and
started up my steps.

"Mr. Gordon," she said--and when I looked at her I saw that she was
flushing--"what is the matter?"

I suppose most fellows would have found some excuse, but for the life
of me I couldn't. All I was able to say was--

"I would rather not say, Miss Cullen."

"How unfair you are!" she cried. "You--without the slightest reason
you suddenly go out of your way to ill-treat--insult me, and yet will
not tell me the cause."

That made me angry. "Cause?" I cried. "As if you didn't know of a
cause! What you don't know is that I overheard your conversation with
Lord Ralles night before last."

"My conversation with Lord Ralles?" exclaimed Madge, in a bewildered
way.

"Yes," I said bitterly, "keep up the acting. The practice is good,
even if it deceives no one."

"I don't understand a word you are saying," she retorted, getting
angry in turn. "You speak as if I had done wrong--as if--I don't know
what; and I have a right to know to what you allude."

"I don't see how I can be any clearer," I muttered. "I was under the
station platform, hiding from the cowboys, while you and Lord Ralles
were walking. I didn't want to be a listener, but I heard a good deal
of what you said."

"But I didn't walk with Lord Ralles," she cried, "The only person I
walked with was Captain Ackland."

That took me very much aback, for I had never questioned in my mind
that it wasn't Lord Ralles. Yet the moment she spoke, I realized how
much alike the two brothers' voices were, and how easily the blurring
of distance and planking might have misled me. For a moment I was
speechless. Then I replied coldly--

"It makes no difference with whom you were. What you said was the
essential part."

"But how could you for an instant suppose that I could say what I did
to Lord Ralles?" she demanded.

"I naturally thought he would be the one to whom you would appeal
concerning my 'insulting' conduct."

Madge looked at me for a moment as if transfixed. Then she laughed,
and cried--

"Oh, you idiot!"

While I still looked at her in equal amazement, she went on, "I beg
your pardon, but you are so ridiculous that I had to say it. Why, I
wasn't talking about you, but about Lord Ralles."

"Lord Ralles!" I cried.

"Yes."

"I don't understand," I exclaimed.

"Why, Lord Ralles has been--has been--oh, he's threatened that if I
wouldn't--that--"

"You mean he--?" I began, and then stopped, for I couldn't believe my
ears.

"Oh," she burst out, "of course you couldn't understand, and you
probably despise me already, but if you knew how I scorn myself, Mr.
Gordon, and what I have endured from that man, you would only pity
me."

Light broke on me suddenly. "Do you mean, Miss Cullen," I cried
hotly, "that he's been cad enough to force his attentions upon you by
threats?"

"Yes. First he made me endure him because he was going to help us, and
from the moment the robbery was done, he has been threatening to tell.
Oh, how I have suffered!"

Then I said a very silly thing. "Miss Cullen," I groaned, "I'd give
anything if I were only your brother." For the moment I really meant
it.

"I haven't dared to tell any of them," she explained, "because I knew
they would resent it and make Lord Ralles angry, and then he would
tell, and so ruin papa. It seemed such a little thing to bear for his
sake, but, oh, it's been--suppose you despise me!"

"I never dreamed of despising you," I said. "I only thought, of
course--seeing what I did--and--that you were fond--No--that is--I
mean--well--The beast!" I couldn't help exclaiming.

"Oh," said Madge, blushing, and stammering breathlessly, "you mustn't
think--there was really--you happened to--usually I managed to
keep with papa or my brothers, or else run away, as I did when he
interrupted my letter-writing--when you thought we had--but it was
nothing of the--I kept away just--but the night of the robbery I
forgot, and on the trail his mule blocked the path. He never--there
really wasn't--you saved me the only time he--he--that he was really
rude; and I am so grateful for it, Mr. Gordon."

I wasn't in a mood to enjoy even Miss Cullen's gratitude. Without
stopping for words, I dashed into 218, and, going straight to Albert
Cullen, I shook him out of a sound sleep, and before he could well
understand me I was alternately swearing at him and raging at Lord
Ralles.

Finally he got the truth through his head, and it was nuts to me, even
in my rage, to see how his English drawl disappeared, and how quick he
could be when he really became excited.

I left him hurrying into his clothes, and went to my car, for I didn't
dare to see the exodus of Lord Ralles, through fear that I couldn't
behave myself. Albert came into 97 in a few moments to say that the
Englishmen were going to the hotel as soon as dressed, the captain
having elected to stay by his brother.

"I wouldn't have believed it of Ralles. I feel jolly cut up, you
know," he drawled.

I had been so enraged over Lord Ralles that I hadn't stopped to reckon
in what position I stood myself toward Miss Cullen, but I didn't have
to do much thinking to know that I had behaved about as badly as was
possible for me. And the worst of it was that she could not know that
right through the whole I had never quite been able to think badly of
her. I went out on the platform of the station, and was lucky enough
to find her there alone.

"Miss Cullen," I said, "I've been ungentlemanly and suspicious, and
I'm about as ashamed of myself as a man can be and not jump into the
Grand Cañon. I've not come to you to ask your forgiveness, for I can't
forgive myself, much less expect it of you. But I want you to know how
I feel, and if there's any reparation, apology, anything, that you'd
like, I'll--"

Madge interrupted my speech there by holding out her hand.

"You don't suppose," she said, "that, after all you have done for us,
I could be angry over what was merely a mistake?"

That's what I call a trump of a girl, worth loving for a lifetime.

Well, we coupled on to No. 2 that morning and started East, this time
Mr. Cullen's car being the "ender." All on 218 were wildly jubilant,
as was natural, but I kept growing bluer and bluer. I took a farewell
dinner on their car the night we were due in Albuquerque, and
afterward Miss Cullen and I went out and sat on the back platform.

"I've had enough adventures to talk about for a year," Madge said, as
we chatted the whole thing over, "and you can no longer brag that the
K. & A. has never had a robbery, even if you didn't lose anything."

"I have lost something," I sighed sadly.

Madge looked at me quickly, started to speak, hesitated, and then
said, "Oh, Mr. Gordon, if you only could know how badly I have felt
about that, and how I appreciate the sacrifice."

I had only meant that I had lost my heart, and, for that matter,
probably my head, for it would have been ungenerous even to hint to
Miss Cullen that I had made any sacrifice of conscience for her sake,
and I would as soon have asked her to pay for it in money as have told
her.

"You mustn't think--" I began.

"I have felt," she continued, "that your wish to serve us made you do
something you never would have otherwise done, for--Well, you--any one
can see how truthful and honest--and it has made me feel so badly that
we--Oh, Mr. Gordon, no one has a right to do wrong in the world, for
it brings such sadness and danger to innocent--And you have been so
generous--"

I couldn't let this go on. "What I did," I told her, "was to fight
fire with fire, and no one is responsible for it but myself."

"I should like to think that, but I can't," she said. "I know we all
tried to do something dishonest, and while you didn't do any real
wrong, yet I don't think you would have acted as you did except for
our sake. And I'm afraid you may some day regret--"

"I sha'n't," I cried; "and, so far from meaning that I had lost my
self-respect, I was alluding to quite another thing."

"Time?" she asked.

"No."

"What?"

"Something else you have stolen."

"I haven't," she denied.

"You have," I affirmed.

"You mean the novel?" she asked; "because I sent it in to 97
to-night."

"I don't mean the novel."

"I can't think of anything more but those pieces of petrified wood,
and those you gave me," she said demurely. "I am sure that whatever
else I have of yours you have given me without even my asking, and if
you want it back you've only got to say so."

"I suppose that would be my very best course," I groaned.

"I hate people who force a present on one," she continued, "and then,
just as one begins to like it, want it back."

Before I could speak, she asked hurriedly, "How often do you come to
Chicago?"

I took that to be a sort of command that I was to wait, and though
longing to have it settled then and there, I braked myself up and
answered her question. Now I see what a duffer I was--Madge told
me afterward that she asked only because she was so frightened and
confused that she felt she must stop my speaking for a moment.

I did my best till I heard the whistle the locomotive gives as it
runs into yard limits, and then rose. "Good-by, Miss Cullen," I said,
properly enough, though no death-bed farewell was ever more gloomily
spoken; and she responded, "Good-by, Mr. Gordon," with equal
propriety.

I held her hand, hating to let her go, and the first thing I knew, I
blurted out, "I wish I had the brass of Lord Ralles!"

"I don't," she laughed, "because, if you had, I shouldn't be willing
to let you--"

And what she was going to say, and why she didn't say it, is the
concern of no one but Mr. and Mrs. Richard Gordon.



THE RISEN DEAD

BY MAX PEMBERTON



CHAPTER I


The sun was setting on the second day of June, in the year 1701, when
Pietro Falier, the Captain of the Police of Venice, quitted his office
in the Piazzetta of St. Mark and set out, alone, for the Palace of
Frà Giovanni, the Capuchin friar, who lived over on the Island of the
Guidecca.

"I shall return in an hour," he said to his subordinate as he stepped
into the black gondola which every Venetian knew so well. "If any has
need of me, I am at the house of Frà Giovanni."

The subordinate saluted, and returned slowly toward the ducal palace.
He was thinking that his Captain went over-much just then to the house
of that strange friar who had come to Venice so mysteriously, and so
mysteriously had won the favor of the republic.

"Saint John!" he muttered to himself, "that we should dance attendance
on a shaven crown--we, who were the masters of the city a year ago!
What is the Captain thinking of? Are we all women, then, or have
women plucked our brains that it should be Frà Giovanni this and Frà
Giovanni that, and your tongue snapped off if you so much as put a
question. To the devil with all friars, say I."

The good fellow stopped a moment in his walk to lay the flat of his
sword across the shoulders of a mountebank, who had dared to remain
seated at the door of his booth while so great a person passed. Then
he returned to his office, and whispered in the ear of his colleague
the assurance that the Captain was gone again to the island of the
Jews, and that his business was with the friar.

"And look you, Michele," said he, "it is neither to you nor to me that
he comes nowadays. Not a whisper of it, as I live, except to this
friar, whom I could crush between my fingers as a glass ball out of
Murano."

His colleague shook his head.

"There have been many," said he, "who have tried to crush Frà
Giovanni. They grin between the bars of dungeons, my friend--at least,
those who have heads left to grin with. Be warned of me, and make an
ally of the man who has made an ally of Venice. The Captain knows well
what he is doing. If he has gone to the priest's house now, it is that
the priest may win rewards for us again, as he has won them already a
hundred times.

He spoke earnestly, though, in truth, his guess was not a good one.
The Captain of the Police had not gone to the Island of the Guidecca
to ask a service of the friar; he had gone, as he thought, to save the
friar's life. At the moment when his subordinates were wagging their
heads together, he himself stood in the priest's house, before the
very table at which Frà Giovanni sat busy with his papers and his
books.

"I implore you to listen to me, Prince!" he had just exclaimed very
earnestly, as he repeated the news for the second time, and stood
clamorous for the answer to his question.

The friar, who was dressed in the simple habit of the Capuchins, and
who wore his cowl over his head so that only his shining black eyes
could be seen, put down his pen when he heard himself addressed as
"Prince."

"Captain," he said sharply, "who is this person you come here to warn?
You speak of him as 'Prince.' It is some other, then, and not myself?"

The Captain bit his lip. He was one of the four in Venice who knew
something of Frà Giovanni's past.

"Your Excellency's pardon," he exclaimed very humbly; "were we not
alone, you would find me more discreet. I know well that the Prince
of Iseo is dead--in Venice at least. But to Frà Giovanni, his near
kinsman, I say beware, for there are those here who have sworn he
shall not live to say Mass again."

For an instant a strange light came into the priest's eyes. But he
gave no other sign either of surprise or of alarm.

"They have sworn it--you know their names, Captain?"

"The police do not concern themselves with names, Excellency."

"Which means that you do not know their names, Captain?"

Pietro Falier sighed. This friar never failed to humble him, he
thought. If it were not for the honors which the monk had obtained for
the police since he began his work in Venice, the Captain said that he
would not lift a hand to save him from the meanest bravo in Italy.

"You do not know their names, Captain--confess, confess," continued
the priest, raising his hand in a bantering gesture; "you come to me
with some gossip of the bed-chamber, your ears have been open in
the market-place, and this tittle-tattle is your purchase--confess,
confess."

The Captain flushed as he would have done before no other in all
Venice.

"I do not know their names, Excellency," he stammered; "it is gossip
from the _bravo's_ kitchen. They say that you are to die before Mass
to-morrow. I implore you not to leave this house to-night. We shall
know how to do the rest if you will but remain indoors."

It was an earnest entreaty, but it fell upon deaf ears. The priest
answered by taking a sheet of paper and beginning to write upon it.

"I am indebted to you, Signor Falier," said he, quietly, "and you know
that I am not the man to forget my obligations. None the less, I fear
that I must disregard your warning, for I have an appointment in the
market to-night, and my word is not so easily broken. Let me reassure
you a little. The news that you bring to me, and for which I am your
debtor, was known to me three days ago. Here upon this paper I have
written down the name of the woman and of her confederates who have
hired the _bravo_ Rocca to kill me to-night in the shadow of the
church of San Salvatore. You will read that paper and the woman's
name--when you have my permission."

Falier stepped back dumb with amazement.

"The woman's name, Excellency," he repeated, so soon as his surprise
permitted him to speak, "you know her, then?"

"Certainly, or how could I write it upon the paper?"

"But you will give that paper to me, here and now. Think, Excellency,
if she is your enemy, she is the enemy also of Venice. What forbids
that we arrest her at once? You may not be alive at dawn!"

"In which case," exclaimed the priest, satirically, "the Signori of
the Night would be well able to answer for the safety of the city. Is
it not so, Captain?"

Falier stammered an excuse.

"We have not your eyes, Excellency; we cannot work miracles--but at
least we can try to protect you from the hand of the assassin. Name
this woman to me, and she shall not live when midnight strikes."

Frà Giovanni rose from his chair and put his hand gently upon the
other's shoulder.

"Signer Falier," said he, "if I told you this woman's name here and
now as you ask, the feast of Corpus Christi might find a new Doge in
Venice."

"You say, Excellency--?"

"That the city is in danger as never she was before in her history."

"And your own life?"

"Shall be given for Venice if necessary. Listen to this: you seek to
be of service to me. Have you any plan?"

"No plan but that which posts guards at your door and keeps you within
these walls--"

"That the enemies of Venice may do their work. Is that your reason,
Signor Falier?"

"I have no other reason, Excellency, but your own safety and that of
the city."

"I am sure of it, Captain, and being sure I am putting my life in your
hands to-night--"

"To-night; we are to follow you to the Merceria, then?"

"Not at all; say rather that you are to return to the palace and to
keep these things so secret that even the Council has no word of them.
But, at ten o'clock, take twenty of your best men and let your boat
lie in the shadow of the church of San Luca until I have need of you.
You understand, Captain Falier?"

Falier nodded his head and replied vaguely. Truth to tell, he
understood very little beyond this--that the friar had been before him
once more, and that he could but follow as a child trustingly. And the
city was in danger! His heart beat quick when he heard the words.

"Excellency," he stammered, "the boat shall be there--at ten
o'clock--in the shadow of the church of San Luca. But first--"

"No," said the priest, quickly, "we have done with our firstly--and
your gondola waits, I think, signorè!"



CHAPTER II


The bells of the Chapel of St. Mark were striking the hour of eight
o'clock when, Frà Giovanni stepped from his gondola, and crossed the
great square toward that labyrinth of narrow streets and winding
alleys they call the Merceria.

The Piazza itself was then ablaze with the light of countless lamps;
dainty lanterns, colored as the rainbow, swayed to the soft breeze
between the arches of the colonnade. Nobles were seated at the doors
of the splendid cafés; the music of stringed instruments mingled with
the louder, sweeter music of the bells; women, whose jewels were as
sprays of flame, many-hued and dazzling, hung timidly upon the arms of
lovers; gallants swaggered in costly velvets and silks which were the
spoil of the generous East; even cassocked priests and monks in their
sombre habits passed to and fro amidst that glittering throng, come
out to herald the glory of a summer's night.

And clear and round, lifting themselves up through the blue haze to
the silent world of stars above, were the domes and cupolas of the
great chapel itself--the chapel which, through seven centuries, had
been the city's witness to the God who had made her great, and who
would uphold her still before the nations.

The priest passed through the crowd swiftly, seeming to look neither
to the right nor to the left. The brown habit of the Capuchins was his
dress, and his cowl was drawn so well over his head that only his eyes
were visible--those eyes which stand out so strangely in the many
portraits which are still the proud possession of Venice. Though he
knew well that an assassin waited for him in the purlieus of the
church of San Salvatore, his step was quick and brisk; he walked as
a man who goes willingly to a rendezvous, and anticipates its climax
with pleasure. When he had left the great square with its blaze of
lanterns and its babel of tongues, and had begun to thread the narrow
streets by which he would reach the bridge of the Rialto, a smile
played for a moment about his determined mouth, and he drew his capuce
still closer over his ears.

"So it is Rocca whom they send--Rocca, the poltroon! Surely there is
the hand of God in this."

He raised his eyes for a moment to the starlit heaven, and then
continued his brisk walk. His way lay through winding alleys; over
bridges so narrow that two men could not pass abreast; through
passages where rogues lurked, and repulsive faces were thrust grinning
into his own. But he knew the city as one who had lived there all his
life; and for the others, the thieves and scum of Venice, he had
no thought. Not until he came out before the church of Santa Maria
Formosa did he once halt or look behind him. The mystery of the night
was a joy to him. Even in the shadow of the church, his rest was but
for a moment; and, as he rested, the meaning smile hovered again upon
his wan face.

"The play begins," he muttered, while he loosened slightly the girdle
of his habit and thrust his right hand inside it; "the God of Venice
give me courage."

A man was following him now--he was sure of it. He had seen him as
he turned to cross the bridge which would set him on the way to the
church of San Salvatore--a short, squat man, masked and dressed from
head to foot in black. Quick as the movements of the fellow were,
dexterous his dives into porches and the patches of shadow which
the eaves cast, the priest's trained eye followed his every turn,
numbered, as it were, the very steps he took. And the smile upon Frà
Giovanni's face was fitful no more. He walked as a man who has a great
jest for his company.

"Rocca the fool, and alone! They pay me a poor compliment, those new
friends of mine; but we shall repay, and the debt will be heavy."

He withdrew his hand from his habit, where it had rested upon the hilt
of a dagger, for he knew that he had no need of any weapon. His gait
was quick and careless; he stopped often to peer into some windowless
shop where a sickly lamp burned before the picture of a saint; and
wares, which had not tempted a dead generation, appealed unavailingly
to a living one. The idea that his very merriment might cost him his
life never entered his head. He played with the assassin as a cat
with a mouse, now tempting him to approach, now turning suddenly, and
sending him helter-skelter into the door of a shop or the shadow of a
bridge. He was sure of his man, and that certainty was a delight to
him.

"If it had been any other but Rocca the clown!" he said to himself,
his thoughts ever upon the jest; "surely we shall know what to say to
him."

He had come almost to the church of San Salvatore by this time. His
walk had carried him out to the bank of a narrow, winding canal, at
whose quays once-splendid gondolas were rotting in neglect. It seemed
to him that here was the place where his tactics might well be changed
and the _rôle_ of the hunted put aside for that of the hunter. Quick
to act, he stepped suddenly behind one of the great wooden piles
driven into the quay for the warping of barges. The _bravo_, who did
not perceive that he had been detected, and who could not account for
the sudden disappearance of his prey, came straight on, his cloak
wrapped about his face, his naked sword in his hand. The wage would be
earned easily that night, he was telling himself. No one would miss a
beggarly monk--and he, Rocca, must live. A single blow, struck to the
right side of the back, and then--and then--

This pleasant anticipation was cut short abruptly by the total
disappearance of the man whose death was a preliminary to the wage he
anticipated so greedily. Mystified beyond measure, he let his cloak
fall back again, and began to peer into the shadows as though some
miracle had been wrought and the priest carried suddenly from earth to
that heaven whither he had meant to send him so unceremoniously.

"Blood of Paul!" he exclaimed angrily, turning about and about again,
"am I losing my eyes? A plague upon the place and the shadows."

He stamped his foot impotently, and was about to run back by the way
he had come when a voice spoke in the shadows; and at the sound of the
voice, the sword fell from the man's hand and he reeled back as from a
blow.

"Rocca Zicani, the Prince is waiting for you."

The assassin staggered against the door of a house, and stood there as
one paralyzed. He had heard those words once before in the dungeons of
Naples. They had been spoken by the Inquisitors who came to Italy with
one of the Spanish princes. Instantly he recalled the scene where
first he had listened to them--the dungeon draped in black--the
white-hot irons which had seared his flesh; the rack which had maimed
his limbs, the masked men who had tortured him.

"Great God!" he moaned, "not that--not that--"

The priest stepped from the shadows and stood in a place where the
feeble light of an oil lamp could fall upon his face. The laugh
hovered still about his lips. He regarded the trembling man with a
contempt he would not conceal.

"Upon my word, Signer Rocca," he exclaimed, "this is a poor welcome to
an old friend."

The _bravo_, who had fallen on his knees, for he believed that a trick
had again delivered him into the hands of his enemies, looked up at
the words, and stared at the monk as at an apparition.

"Holy Virgin!" he cried, "it is the Prince of Iseo."

The priest continued in the jester's tone:

"As you say, old comrade, the Prince of Iseo. Glory to God for the
good fortune which puts you in my path to-night! Oh, you are very glad
to see me, Signor Rocca, I'll swear to that. What, the fellow whom my
hands snatched from the rack in the house of the Duke of Naples--has
he no word for me? And he carries his naked sword in his hand; he has
the face of a woman and his knees tremble. What means this?"

He had seemed to speak in jest, but while the cowed man was still
kneeling before him, he, of a sudden, struck the sword aside, and,
stooping, he gripped the _bravo_ by the throat and dragged him from
the shelter of the porch to the water's edge. As iron were the
relentless hands; the man's eyes started from his head, the very
breath seemed to be crushed out of him in the grip of the terrible
priest.

"Signor Rocca, what means this?" the friar repeated. "A naked sword in
your hand and sweat upon your brow. Oh, oh! a tale, indeed! Shall I
read it to you, or shall I raise my voice and fetch those who will
read it for me--those who have the irons heated, and the boot so made
for your leg that no last in Italy shall better it. Speak, rascal,
shall I read you the tale?"

"Mercy, Prince, for the love of God!"

The priest released the pressure of his hands and let the other sink
at his feet.

"Who sent you, rogue?" he asked. "Who pays your wage?"

"I dare not tell you, Excellency."

"Dare not! _you_ dare not--you, whom a word will put to torture
greater than any you have dreamed of in your worst agonies; _you_ dare
not."

"Excellency, the Countess of Treviso; I am her servant."

"And the man who sent her to the work--his name?"

"Andrea, Count of Pisa, Excellency."

The priest stepped back as one whose curiosity was entirely satisfied.

"Ah! I thought so. And the price they paid you, knave?"

"Forty silver ducats, Excellency,"

"Ho, ho! so that is the price of a friar in Venice."

The _bravo_ sought to join in the jest.

"Had they known it was the Prince of Iseo, it had been a hundred
thousand, Excellency."

Frà Giovanni did not listen to him. His quick brain was solving a
strange problem--the problem of the price that these people, in their
turn, should pay to Venice. When he had solved it, he turned to the
cringing figure at his feet.

"Signor Rocca," he said, "do you know of what I am thinking?"

"Of mercy, Excellency; of mercy for one who has not deserved it."

"But who can deserve it?"

"Excellency, hearken to me. I swear by all the saints--"

"In whose name you blaspheme, rascal. Have I not heard your oath in
Naples when the irons seared your flesh? Shall I listen again when the
fire is being made ready, and there is burning coal beneath the bed
you will lie upon to-night, Signor Rocca?"

"Oh! for God's sake, Excellency!"

"Not so; for the sake of Venice, rather."

"I will be your slave--I swear it on the cross--I will give my life--"

"Your precious life, Signor Rocca!--nay, what a profligate you are!"

Frà Giovanni's tone, perhaps, betrayed him. The trembling man began to
take heart a little.

"Prove me Excellency," he whined; "prove me here and now."

The friar made a pretence of debating it. After a little spell of
silence he bade the other rise.

"Come," he said, "your legs catch cold, my friend, and will burn
slowly. Stretch them here upon the Campo while I ask you some
questions. And remember, for every lie you tell me there shall be
another wedge in the boot you are about to wear. You understand that,
signorè?"

"Excellency, the man that could lie to the Prince of Iseo has yet to
be born."

It was a compliment spoken from the very heart; but the priest ignored
it.

"Let us not speak of others, but of you and your friends. And,
firstly, of the woman who sent you. She is now--"

"In the Palazzo Pisani waiting news of you."

"You were to carry that news to her?"

"And to receive my wage, Excellency. But I did not know what work it
was--Holy God, I would not have come for--"

Frà Giovanni cut him short with a gesture of impatience.

"Tell me," he exclaimed, "the Count of Pisa, is he not the woman's
lover?"

"They say so, signorè."

"And he is at her house to-night?"

The man shook his head.

"Before Heaven, I do not know, Excellency. An hour ago, he sat at a
café in the great square."

"And the woman--was she alone when you left her?"

"There were three with her to sup."

The priest nodded his head.

"It is good!" he said; "we shall even presume to sup with her."

"To sup with her--but they will kill you, Excellency!"

"Ho, ho! see how this assassin is concerned for my life.

"Certainly I am. Have you not given me mine twice? I implore you not
to go to the house--"

He would have said more, but the splash of an oar in the narrow
canal by which they walked cut short his entreaties. A gondola was
approaching them; the cry of the gondolier, awakening echoes beneath
the eaves of the old houses, gave to Frà Giovanni that inspiration he
had been seeking now for some minutes.

"Rocca Zicani," he exclaimed, standing suddenly as the warning cry,
"_Stalè_," became more distinct, "I am going to put your professions
to the proof."

"Excellency, I will do anything--"

"Then, if you would wake to-morrow with a head upon your shoulders,
enter that gondola, and go back to those who sent you. Demand your
wage of them--"

"But, Excellency--"

"Demand your wage of them," persisted the priest, sternly, "and say
that the man who was their enemy lies dead before the church of San
Salvatore. You understand me?"

A curious look came into the _bravo's_ eyes.

"Saint John!" he cried, "that I should have followed such a one as
you, Excellency!"

But the priest continued warningly:

"As you obey, so hope for the mercy of Venice. You deal with those who
know how to reward their friends and to punish their enemies. Betray
us, and I swear that no death in all Italy shall be such a death as
you will die at dawn to-morrow."

He raised his voice, and summoned the gondolier to the steps of the
quay. The _bravo_ threw himself down upon the velvet cushions with the
threat still ringing in his ears.

"Excellency," he said, "I understand. They shall hear that you are
dead."



CHAPTER III


Frà Giovanni stepped from his gondola, and stood at the door of the
Palazzo Pisani exactly at a quarter to ten o'clock. Thirty minutes had
passed since he had talked with the _bravo_, Rocca, and had put him
to the proof. The time was enough, he said; the tale would have been
told, the glad news of his own death already enjoyed by those who
would have killed him.

Other men, perhaps, standing there upon the threshold of so daring an
emprise, would have known some temptation of fear or hesitation in
such a fateful moment; but the great Capuchin friar neither paused nor
hesitated. That strange confidence in his own mission, his belief
that God had called him to the protection of Venice, perchance even a
personal conceit in his own skill as a swordsman, sent him hurrying to
the work. It was a draught of life to him to see men tremble at his
word; the knowledge which treachery poured into his ear was a study
finer than that of all the manuscripts in all the libraries of Italy.
And he knew that he was going to the Palazzo Pisani to humble one of
the greatest in the city--to bring the sons of Princes on their knees
before him.

There were many lights in the upper stories of the great house, but
the ground floor, with its barred windows and cell-like chambers, was
unlighted. The priest saw horrid faces grinning through the bars; the
faces of fugitives, fleeing the justice of Venice, outcasts of the
city, murderers. But these outcasts, in their turn, were silent when
they saw who came to the house, and they spoke of the strange guest in
muted exclamations of surprise and wonder.

"Blood of Paul! do you see that? It is the Capuchin himself and alone.
Surely there will be work to do anon."

"Ay, but does he come alone? Saint John! I would sooner slit a hundred
throats than have his shadow fall on me. Was it not he that hanged
Orso and the twelve! A curse upon the day he came to Venice."

So they talked in whispers, but the priest had passed already into the
great hall of the palace and was speaking to a lackey there.

"My friend," he said, "I come in the name of the Signori. If you would
not hear from them to-morrow, announce me to none."

The lackey drew back, quailing before the threat.

"Excellency," he exclaimed, "I am but a servant--"

"And shall find a better place as you serve Venice faithfully."

He passed on with noiseless steps, mounting the splendid marble
staircase upon which the masterpieces of Titian and of Paolo Veronese
looked down. At the head of the stairs, there was a painted door,
which he had but to open to find himself face to face with those who
were still telling each other that he was dead.

For an instant, perhaps, a sense of the danger of his mission
possessed him. He knew well that one false step, one word
undeliberated, would be paid for with his own blood. But even in the
face of this reckoning he did not hesitate. He was there to save
Venice from her enemies; the God of Venice would protect him. And
so without word or warning, he opened the door and stood, bold and
unflinching, before those he had come to accuse.

There were four at table, and one was a woman. The priest knew
her well. She had been called the most beautiful woman in
Venice--Catherine, Countess of Treviso. Still young, with a face which
spoke of ambition and of love, her white neck glittered with the
jewels it carried, her dress of blue velvet was such a dress as only a
noblewoman of Venice could wear. A queenly figure, the friar said, yet
one he would so humble presently that never should she hold up her
head again.

As for the others, the men who had cloaked conspiracy with a woman's
smile, he would know how to deal with them. Indeed, when he scanned
their faces and began to remember the circumstances under which he had
met them before, his courage was strengthened, and he forgot that he
had ever reasoned with it.

He stood in the shadows; but the four, close in talk, and thinking
that a lackey had entered the room, did not observe him. They were
laughing merrily at some jest, and filling the long goblets with the
golden wine of Cyprus, when at last he strode out into the light and
spoke to them. His heart beat quickly; he knew that this might be the
hour of his death, yet never had his voice been more sonorous or more
sure.

"Countess," he exclaimed, as he stepped boldly to the table and
confronted them, "I bring you a message from Andrea, the lord of
Pisa!"

He had expected that the woman would cry out, or that the men would
leap to their feet and draw their swords; but the supreme moment
passed and no one spoke. A curious silence reigned in the place. From
without there floated up the gay notes of a gondolier's carol. The
splash of oars was heard, and the low murmur of voices. But within the
room you could have counted the tick of a watch--almost the beating of
a man's heart. And the woman was the first to find her tongue. She had
looked at the friar as she would have looked at the risen dead; but,
suddenly, with an effort which brought back the blood to her cheeks,
she rose from her seat and began to speak.

"Who are you?" she asked; "and why do you come to this house?"

Frà Giovanni advanced to the table so that they could see his face.

"Signora," he said, "the reason of my coming to this house I have
already told you. As to your other question, I am the Capuchin friar,
Giovanni, whom you desired your servant Rocca to kill at the church of
San Salvatore an hour ago."

The woman sank back into the chair; the blood left her face; she would
have swooned had not curiosity proved stronger than her terror.

"The judgment of God!" she cried.

Again, for a spell, there was silence in the room. The priest stood at
the end of the table telling himself that he must hold these four
in talk until the bells of San Luca struck ten o'clock, or pay for
failure with his life. The men, in their turn, were asking themselves
if he were alone.

"You are the Capuchin friar, Giovanni," exclaimed one of them
presently, taking courage of the silence, "what, then, is your message
from the Count of Pisa?"

"My message, signorè, is this--that at ten o'clock to-night, the Count
of Pisa will have ceased to live."

A strange cry, terrible in its pathos, escaped the woman's lips. All
had risen to their feet again. The swords of the three leaped from
their scabbards. The instant of the priest's death seemed at hand. But
he stood, resolute, before them.

"At ten o'clock," he repeated sternly, "the Count of Pisa will have
ceased to live. That is his message, signori, to one in this house.
And to you, the Marquis of Cittadella, there is another message."

He turned to one of the three who had begun to rail at him, and raised
his hand as in warning. So great was the curiosity to hear his words
that the swords were lowered again, and again there could be heard the
ticking of a clock in the great room.

"For me--a message! Surely I am favored, signorè."

"Of that you shall be the judge, since, at dawn to-morrow, your head
will lie on the marble slab between the columns of the Piazzetta."

They greeted him with shouts of ridicule.

"A prophet--a prophet!"

"A prophet indeed," he answered quietly, "who has yet a word to speak
to you, Andrea Foscari."

"To me!" exclaimed the man addressed, who was older than the others,
and who wore the stola of the nobility.

"Ay, to you, who are about to become a fugitive from the justice of
Venice. Midnight shall see you hunted in the hills, my lord; no house
shall dare to shelter you; no hand shall give you bread. When you
return to the city you would have betrayed, the very children shall
mock you for a beggar."

Foscari answered with an oath, and drew back. The third of the men, a
youth who wore a suit of white velvet, and whose vest was ablaze with
gold and jewels, now advanced jestingly.

"And for me, most excellent friar?"

"For you, Gian Mocenigo, a pardon in the name of that Prince of Venice
whose house you have dishonored."

Again they replied to him with angry gibes.

"A proof--a proof--we will put you to the proof, friar--here and now,
or, by God, a prophet shall pay with his life."

He saw that they were driven to the last point. While the woman stood
as a figure of stone at the table, the three advanced toward him and
drove him back before their threatening swords. The new silence was
the silence of his death anticipated. He thought that his last word
was spoken in vain. Ten o'clock would never strike, he said. Yet even
as hope seemed to fail him, and he told himself that the end had come,
the bells of the city began to strike the hour, and the glorious music
of their echoes floated over the sleeping waters.

"A proof, you ask me for a proof, signori," he exclaimed triumphantly.
"Surely, the proof lies in yonder room, where all the world may see
it."

He pointed to a door opening in the wall of mirrors, and giving access
to a smaller chamber. Curiosity drove the men thither. They threw open
the door; they entered the room; they reeled back drunk with their own
terror.

For the body of Andrea, lord of Pisa, lay, still warm, upon the marble
pavement of the chamber, and the dagger with which he had been stabbed
was yet in his heart.

"A proof--have I not given you a proof?" the priest cried again, while
the woman's terrible cry rang through the house, and the three stood
close together, as men upon whom a judgment has fallen.

"Man or devil--who are you?" they asked in hushed whispers.

He answered them by letting his monk's robe slip from his shoulders.
As the robe fell, they beheld a figure clad in crimson velvet and
corselet of burnished gold; the figure of a man whose superb limbs had
been the envy of the swordsmen of Italy; whose face, lighted now with
a sense of power and of victory, was a face for which women had given
their lives.

"It is the Prince of Iseo," they cried, and, saying it, fled from the
house of doom.

At that hour, those whose gondolas were passing the Palazzo Pisani
observed a strange spectacle. A priest stood upon the balcony of the
house holding a silver lamp in his hand; and as he waited, a boat
emerged from the shadows about the church of San Luca and came swiftly
toward him.

"The Signori of the Night," the loiterers exclaimed in hushed
whispers, and went on their way quickly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Very early next morning, a rumor of strange events, which had happened
in Venice during the hours of darkness, drew a great throng of the
people to the square before the ducal palace.

"Have you not heard it," man cried to man--"the Palazzo Pisani lacks
a mistress to-day? The police make their toilet in the boudoir of my
lady. And they say that the lord of Pisa is dead."

"Worse than that, my friends," a gondolier protested, "Andrea Foscari
crossed to Maestre last night, and the dogs are even now on his
heels."

"Your news grows stale," croaked a hag who was passing; "go to the
Piazzetta and you shall see the head of one who prayed before the
altar ten minutes ago."

They trooped off, eager for the spectacle. When they reached the
Piazzetta, the hag was justified. The head of a man lay bleeding upon
the marble slab between the columns. It was the head of the Marquis of
Cittadella.

In the palace of the police, meanwhile, Pietro Falier, the Captain,
was busy with his complaints.

"The lord of Pisa is dead," he said, "the woman has gone to the
Convent of Murano; there is a head between the columns; Andrea Foscari
will die of hunger in the hills--yet Gian Mocenigo goes free. Who is
this friar that he shall have the gift of life or death in Venice?"

His subordinate answered--

"This friar, Captain, is one whom Venice, surely, will make the
greatest of her nobles to-day."



COWARDICE COURT

BY GEO.B. McCUTCHEON



CHAPTER I

IN WHICH A YOUNG MAN TRESPASSES


"He's just an infernal dude, your lordship, and I'll throw him in the
river if he says a word too much."

"He has already said too much, Tompkins, confound him, don't you
know."

"Then I'm to throw him in whether he says anything or not, sir?"

"Have you seen him?"

"No, your lordship, but James has. James says he wears a red coat
and--"

"Never mind, Tompkins. He had no right to fish on this side of that
log. The insufferable ass may own the land on the opposite side, but
confound his impertinence, I own it on this side."

This concluding assertion of the usually placid but now irate Lord
Bazelhurst was not quite as momentous as it sounded. As a matter of
fact, the title to the land was vested entirely in his young American
wife; his sole possession, according to report, being a title much
less substantial but a great deal more picturesque than the large,
much-handled piece of paper down in the safety deposit vault--lying
close and crumpled among a million sordid, homely little slips called
coupons.

It requires no great stretch of imagination to understand that Lord
Bazelhurst had an undesirable neighbor. That neighbor was young Mr.
Shaw--Randolph Shaw, heir to the Randolph fortune. It may be fair to
state that Mr. Shaw also considered himself to be possessed of an
odious neighbor. In other words, although neither had seen the other,
there was a feud between the owners of the two estates that had all
the earmarks of an ancient romance.

Lady Bazelhurst was the daughter of a New York millionaire; she was
young, beautiful, and arrogant. Nature gave her youth and beauty;
marriage gave her the remaining quality. Was she not Lady Bazelhurst?
What odds if Lord Bazelhurst happened to be a middle-aged, addle-pated
ass? So much the better. Bazelhurst castle and the Bazelhurst estates
(heavily encumbered before her father came to the rescue) were among
the oldest and most coveted in the English market. Her mother noted,
with unctuous joy, that the present Lady Bazelhurst in babyhood had
extreme difficulty in mastering the eighth letter of the alphabet,
certainly a most flattering sign of natal superiority, notwithstanding
the fact that her father was plain old John Banks (deceased), formerly
of Jersey City, more latterly of Wall street and St. Thomas's.

Bazelhurst was a great catch, but Banks was a good name to conjure
with, so he capitulated with a willingness that savored somewhat of
suspended animation (so fearful was he that he might do something to
disturb the dream before it came true). That was two years ago. With
exquisite irony, Lady Bazelhurst decided to have a country-place in
America. Her agents discovered a glorious section of woodland in the
Adirondacks, teeming with trout streams, game haunts, unparalleled
scenery; her ladyship instructed them to buy without delay. It was
just here that young Mr. Shaw came into prominence.

His grandfather had left him a fortune and he was looking about for
ways in which to spend a portion of it. College, travel, and society
having palled on him, he hied himself into the big hills west of Lake
Champlain, searching for beauty, solitude, and life as he imagined it
should be lived. He found and bought five hundred acres of the most
beautiful bit of wilderness in the mountains.

The same streams coursed through his hills and dales that ran through
those of Lady Bazelhurst, the only distinction being that his portion
was the more desirable. When her ladyship's agents came leisurely up
to close their deal, they discovered that Mr. Shaw had snatched up
this choice five hundred acres of the original tract intended for
their client. At least one thousand acres were left for the young
lady, but she was petulant enough to covet all of it.

Overtures were made to Mr. Shaw, but he would not sell. He was
preparing to erect a handsome country-place, and he did not want to
alter his plans. Courteously at first, then somewhat scathingly he
declined to discuss the proposition with her agents. After two months
of pressure of the most tiresome persistency, he lost his temper
and sent a message to his inquisitors that suddenly terminated all
negotiations. Afterward, when he learned that heir client was a
lady, he wrote a conditional note of apology, but, if he expected
a response, he was disappointed. A year went by, and now, with the
beginning of this narrative, two newly completed country homes
glowered at each other from separate hillsides, one envious and
spiteful, the other defiant and a bit satirical.

Bazelhurst Villa looks across the valley and sees Shaw's Cottage
commanding the most beautiful view in the hills; the very eaves of
her ladyship's house seem to have wrinkled into a constant scowl
of annoyance. Shaw's long, low cottage seems to smile back with
tantalizing security, serene in its more lofty altitude, in its more
gorgeous raiment of nature. The brooks laugh with the glitter of
trout, the trees chuckle with the flight of birds, the hillsides
frolic in their abundance of game, but the acres are growling like
dogs of war. "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is not printed on the
boards that line the borders of the two estates. In bold black letters
the sign-boards laconically say: "No trespassing on these grounds.
Keep off!"

"Yes, I fancy you'd better put him off the place if he comes down here
again to fish, Tompkins," said his lordship, in conclusion. Then he
touched whip to his horse and bobbed off through the shady lane in a
most painfully upright fashion, his thin legs sticking straight out,
his breath coming in agonized little jerks with each succeeding return
of his person to the saddle.

"By Jove, Evelyn, it's most annoying about that confounded Shaw chap,"
he remarked to his wife as he mounted the broad steps leading to the
gallery half an hour later, walking with the primness which suggests
pain. Lady Bazelhurst looked up from her book, her fine aristocratic
young face clouding with ready belligerence.

"What has he done, Cecil dear?"

"Been fishing on our property again, that's all. Tompkins says he
laughed at him when he told him to get off. I say, do you know, I
think I'll have to adopt rough methods with that chap. Hang it all,
what right has he to catch our fish?"

"Oh, how I hate that man!" exclaimed her ladyship petulantly.

"But I've given Tompkins final instructions."

"And what are they?"

"To throw him in the river next time."

"Oh, if he only _could_!" rapturously.

"_Could_? My dear, Tompkins is an American. He can handle these chaps
in their own way. At any rate, I told Tompkins if his nerve failed
him at the last minute to come and notify me. _I'll_ attend to this
confounded popinjay!"

"Good for you, Cecil!" called out another young woman from, the broad
hammock in which she had been dawdling with half-alert ears through
the foregoing conversation. "Spoken like a true Briton. What is this
popinjay like?"

"Hullo, sister. Hang it all, what's he like? He's like an ass, that's
all. I've never seen him, but if I'm ever called upon to--but you
don't care to listen to details. You remember the big log that lies
out in the river up at the bend? Well, it marks the property line. One
half of its stump belongs to the Shaw man, the other half to m--to
us, Evelyn. He shan't fish below that log--no, sir!" His lordship
glared fiercely through his monocle in the direction of the far-away
log, his watery blue eyes blinking as malevolently as possible, his
long, aristocratic nose wrinkling at its base in fine disdain. His
five feet four of stature quivered with illy-subdued emotion, but
whether it was rage or the sudden recollection of the dog-trot through
the woods, it is beyond me to suggest.

"But suppose our fish venture into his waters, Cecil; what then? Isn't
that trespass?" demanded the Honorable Penelope Drake, youngest and
most cherished sister of his lordship.

"Now, don't he silly, Pen," cried her sister-in-law. "Of course we
can't regulate the fish."

"But I daresay his fish will come below the log, so what's the odds?"
said his lordship quickly. "A trout's a lawless brute at best."

"Is he big?" asked the Honorable Penelope lazily.

"They vary, my dear girl."

"I mean Mr. Shaw."

"Oh, I thought you meant the--but I don't know. What difference does
that make? Big or little, he has to stay off my grounds." Was it a
look of pride that his tall young wife bestowed upon him as he drew
himself proudly erect or was it akin to pity? At any rate, her gay
young American head was inches above his own when she arose and
suggested that they go inside and prepare for the housing of the
guests who were to come over from the evening train.

"The drag has gone over to the station, Cecil, and it should be here
by seven o'clock."

"Confound his impudence, I'll show him," grumbled his lordship as he
followed her, stiff-legged, toward the door.

"What's up, Cecil, with your legs?" called his sister. "Are you
getting old?" This suggestion always irritated him.

"Old? Silly question. You know how old I am. No; it's that beastly
American horse. Evelyn, I told you they have no decent horses in this
beastly country. They jiggle the life out of one--" but he was obliged
to unbend himself perceptibly in order to keep pace with her as she
hurried through the door.

The Honorable Penelope allowed her indolent gaze to follow them. A
perplexed pucker finally developed on her fair brow and her thought
was almost expressed aloud: "By Jove, I wonder if she really loves
him." Penelope was very pretty and very bright. She was visiting
America for the first time and she was learning rapidly. "Cecil's a
good sort, you know, even--" but she was loyal enough to send her
thoughts into other channels.

Nightfall brought half a dozen guests to Bazelhurst Villa. They were
fashionable to the point where ennui is the chief characteristic, and
they came only for bridge and sleep. There was a duke among them and
also a French count, besides the bored New Yorkers; they wanted brandy
and soda as soon as they got into the house, and they went to bed
early because it was so much easier to sleep lying down than sitting
up.

All were up by noon next day, more bored than ever, fondly praying
that nothing might happen before bedtime. The duke was making
desultory love to Mrs. De Peyton and Mrs. De Peyton was leading him
aimlessly toward the shadier and more secluded nooks in the park
surrounding the Villa. Penelope, fresh and full of the purpose of
life, was off alone for a long stroll. By this means she avoided the
attentions of the duke, who wanted to marry her; those of the count
who also said he wanted to marry her but couldn't because his wife
would not consent; those of one New Yorker, who liked her because she
was English; and the pallid chatter of the women who bored her with
their conjugal cynicisms.

"What the deuce is this coming down the road?" queried the duke,
returning from the secluded nook at luncheon time.

"Some one has been hurt," exclaimed his companion. Others were looking
down the leafy road from the gallery.

"By Jove, it's Penelope, don't you know," ejaculated the duke,
dropping his monocle and blinking his eye as if to rest it for the
time being.

"But she's not hurt. She's helping to support one of those men."

"Hey!" shouted his lordship from the gallery, as Penelope and two
dilapidated male companions abruptly started to cut across the park
in the direction of the stables. "What's up?" Penelope waved her hand
aimlessly, but did not change her course. Whereupon the entire house
party sallied forth in more or less trepidation to intercept the
strange party.

"Who are these men?" demanded Lady Bazelhurst, as they came up to the
fast-breathing young Englishwoman.

"Don't bother me, please. We must get him to bed at once. He'll have
pneumonia," replied Penelope.

Both men were dripping wet and the one in the middle limped painfully,
probably because both eyes were swollen tight and his nose was
bleeding. Penelope's face was beaming with excitement and interest.

"Who are you?" demanded his lordship planting himself in front of the
shivering twain.

"Tompkins," murmured the blind one feebly, tears starting from the
blue slits and rolling down his cheeks.

"James, sir," answered the other, touching his damp forelock.

"Are they drunk?" asked Mrs. De Peyton, with fresh enthusiasm.

"No, they are not, poor fellows," cried Penelope. "They have taken
nothing but water."

"By Jove, deuced clever that," drawled the duke. "Eh?" to the New
Yorker.

"Deuced," from the Knickerbocker.

"Well, well, what's it all about?" demanded Bazelhurst.

"Mr. Shaw, sir," said James.

"Good Lord, couldn't you rescue him?" in horror.

"He rescued us, sir," mumbled Tompkins.

"You mean--"

"He throwed us in and then had to jump in and pull us out, sir.
Beggin' your pardon, sir, but _damn_ him!"

"And you didn't throw him in, after all? By Jove, extraordinary!"

"Do you mean to tell us that he threw you great hulking creatures into
the river? Single-handed?" cried Lady Bazelhurst, aghast.

"He did, Evelyn," inserted Penelope. "I met them coming home, and poor
Tompkins was out of his senses. I don't know how it happened, but--"

"It was this way, your ladyship," put in James, the groom. "Tompkins
and me could see him from the point there, sir, afishin' below the
log. So we says to each other 'Come on,' and up we went to where he
was afishin'. Tompkins, bein' the game warden, says he to him 'Hi
there!' He was plainly on our property, sir, afishin' from a boat for
bass, sir. 'Hello, boys,' says he back to us. 'Get off our land,' says
Tompkins. 'I am,' says he; 'it's water out here where I am.' Then--"

"You're wrong," broke in Tompkins. "He said 'it's wet out here where I
am.'"

"You're right. It was wet. Then Tompkins called him a vile name, your
lordship--shall I repeat it, sir?"

"No, no!" cried four feminine voices.

"Yes, do," muttered the duke.

"He didn't wait after that, sir. He rowed to shore in a flash and
landed on our land. 'What do you mean by that?' he said, mad-like. 'My
orders is to put you off this property,' says Tompkins, 'or to throw
you in the river.' 'Who gave these orders?' asked Mr. Shaw. 'Lord
Bazelhurst, sir, damn you--' beg pardon, sir; it slipped out. 'And who
the devil is Lord Bazelhurst?' said he. 'Hurst,' said Tompkins.
'He owns this ground. Can't you see the mottoes on the trees--No
Trespassin'?'--but Mr. Shaw said: 'Well, why don't you throw me in the
river?' He kinder smiled when he said it. 'I will,' says Tompkins, and
made a rush for him. I don't just remember why I started in to help
Tompkins, but I did. Somehow, sir, Mr. Shaw got--"

"Don't call him _Mr_. Shaw. Just Shaw; he's no gentleman," exploded
Lord Bazelhurst.

"But he told us both to call him 'Mister,' sir, as long as we lived.
I kinder got in the habit of it, your lordship, up there. That is,
that's what he told us after he got through with us. Well, anyhow, he
got the start of us an'--there's Tompkins' eyes, sir, and look at my
ear. Then he pitched us both in the river."

"Good Lord!" gasped the duke.

"Diable!" sputtered the count.

"Splendid!" cried Penelope, her eyes sparkling.

"Hang it all, Pen, don't interrupt the count," snorted Bazelhurst, for
want of something better to say and perhaps hoping that Deveaux might
say in French what could not be uttered in English.

"Don't say it in French, count," said little Miss Folsom. "It deserves
English."

"Go on, James," sternly, from Lady Bazelhurst.

"Well, neither of us can swim, your ladyship, an' we'd 'a' drowned if
Mr.--if Shaw hadn't jumped in himself an' pulled us out. As it was,
sir, Tompkins was unconscious. We rolled him on a log, sir, an' got a
keg of water out of him. Then Mr.--er--Shaw told us to go 'ome and get
in bed, sir."

"He sent a message to you, sir," added Tompkins, shivering mightily.

"Well, I'll have one for him, never fear," said his lordship, glancing
about bravely. "I won't permit any man to assault my servants and
brutally maltreat them. No, sir! He shall hear from me--or my
attorney."

"He told us to tell you, sir, that if he ever caught anybody from this
place on his land he'd serve him worse than he did us," said Tompkins.

"He says, 'I don't want no Bazelhursts on my place,'" added James in
finality.

"Go to bed, both of you!" roared his lordship.

"Very good, sir," in unison.

"They can get to bed without your help, I daresay, Pen," added his
lordship caustically, as she started away with them. Penelope with a
rare blush and--well, one party went to luncheon while the other went
to bed.

"I should like to see this terrible Mr. Shaw," observed Penelope at
table. "He's a sort of Jack-the-Giant-Killer, I fancy."

"He is the sort one _has_ to meet in America," lamented her ladyship.

"Oh, I say now," expostulated the New York young man, wryly.

"I don't mean in good society," she corrected, with unconscious irony.

"Oh," said he, very much relieved.

"He's a demmed cad," Said his lordship conclusively.

"Because he chucked your men into the river?" asked Penelope sweetly.

"She's dooced pretty, eh?" whispered the duke to Mrs. De Peyton
without taking his eyes from his young countrywoman's face.

"Who?" asked Mrs. De Peyton. Then he relinquished his gaze and turned
his monocle blankly upon the American beside him.

"I shall send him a warning that he'll have to respect, cad or no
cad," said Bazelhurst, absently spreading butter upon his fingers
instead of the roll.

"_Send_ him a warning?" asked his queenly wife. "Aren't you going to
see him personally? You can't trust the servants, it seems."

"My dear, I can't afford to lose my temper and engage in a row with
that bounder, and there's no end of trouble I might get into--"

"I shall see him myself, if you won't," said her ladyship firmly.
There was frigid silence at the table for a full minute, relieved only
when his lordship's monocle dropped into the glass of water he was
trying to convey to his lips. He thought best to treat the subject
lightly, so he laughed in his most jovial way.

"You'd better take a mackintosh with you, my dear," he said. "Remember
what he told Tompkins and James."

"He will not throw _me_ into the river. It might be different if you
went. Therefore I think--"

"Throw me in, would he?" and Bazelhurst laughed loudly. "I'm no groom,
my dear. You forget that it _is_ possible for Mr. Shaw to be soused."

"He was good enough to souse himself this morning," volunteered
Penelope. "I rather like him."

"By Jove, Cecil, you're not afraid to meet him, are you?" asked the
duke with tantalizing coolness. "You know, if you are, I'll go over
and talk to the fellow."

"Afraid? Now, hang it all, Barminster, that's rather a shabby thing to
suggest. You forget India."

"I'm trying to. Demmed miserable time I had out there. But this fellow
fights. That's more than the beastly natives did when we were out
there. Marching isn't fighting, you know."

"Confound it, you forget the time--"

"Mon Dieu, are we to compare ze Hindoo harem wiz ze American feest
slugger?" cried the count, with a wry face.

"What's that?" demanded two noblemen in one voice. The count
apologized for his English.

"No one but a coward would permit this disagreeable Shaw creature to
run affairs in such a high-handed way," said her ladyship. "Of course
Cecil is not a coward."

"Thank you, my dear. Never fear, ladies and gentlemen; I shall attend
to this person. He won't soon forget what I have to say to him,"
promised Lord Bazelhurst, mentally estimating the number of brandies
and soda it would require in preparation.

"This afternoon?" asked his wife, with cruel insistence.

"Yes, Evelyn--if I can find him."

And so it was that shortly after four o'clock, Lord Bazelhurst,
unattended at his own request, rode forth like a Lochinvar, his steed
headed bravely toward Shaw's domain, his back facing his own home with
a military indifference that won applause from the assembled house
party.

"I'll face him alone," he had said, a trifle thickly, for some unknown
reason, when the duke offered to accompany him. It also might have
been noticed as he cantered down the drive that his legs did not stick
out so stiffly, nor did his person bob so exactingly as on previous
but peaceful expeditions.

In fact, he seemed a bit limp. But his face was set determinedly for
the border line and Shaw.



CHAPTER II

IN WHICH A YOUNG WOMAN TRESPASSES


Mr. Shaw was a tall young man of thirty or thereabouts, smooth-faced,
good-looking and athletic. It was quite true that he wore a red
coat when tramping through his woods and vales, not because it was
fashionable, but because he had a vague horror of being shot at by
some near-sighted nimrod from Manhattan. A crowd of old college
friends had just left him alone in the hills after spending several
weeks at his place, and his sole occupation these days, aside from
directing the affair's about the house and grounds, lay in the efforts
to commune with nature by means of a shotgun and a fishing-rod. His
most constant companion was a pipe, his most loyal follower a dog.

As he sauntered slowly down the river road that afternoon, smiling
retrospectively from time to time as he looked into the swift, narrow
stream that had welcomed his adversaries of the morning, he little
thought of the encounter in store for him. The little mountain stream
was called a river by courtesy because it was yards wider than the
brooks that struggled impotently to surpass it during the rainy
season. But it was deep and turbulent in places and it had a roar at
times that commanded the respect of the foolhardy.

"The poor devils might have drowned, eh, Bonaparte?" he mused,
addressing the dog at his side. "Confounded nuisance, getting wet
after all, though. Lord Bazelhurst wants war, does he? That log down
there is the dividing line in our river, eh? And I have to stay on
this side of it. By George, he's a mean-spirited person. And it's his
wife's land, too. I wonder what she's like. It's a pity a fellow can't
have a quiet, decent summer up here in the hills. Still"--lighting his
pipe--"I daresay I can give as well as I take. If I stay off his land,
they'll have to keep off of mine. Hullo, who's that? A man, by George,
but he looks like a partridge. As I live, Bonaparte is pointing. Ha,
ha, that's one on you, Bony." Mr. Shaw stepped into the brush at the
side of the path and watched the movements of the man at the "log,"
now less than one hundred yards away.

Lord Bazelhurst, attired in his brown corduroys and his tan waistcoat,
certainly suggested the partridge as he hopped nimbly about in the
distant foreground, cocking his ears from time to time with all the
aloofness of that wily bird. He was, strange to relate, some little
distance from Bazelhurst territory, an actual if not a confident
trespasser upon Shaw's domain. His horse, however, was tethered to
a sapling on the safe side of the log, comfortably browsing on
Bazelhurst grass. Randolph Shaw, an unseen observer, was considerably
mystified by the actions of his unusual visitor.

His lordship paced back and forth with a stride that grew firmer as
time brought forth no hostile impediments. His monocle ever and anon
was directed both high and low in search of Shaw or his henchmen,
while his face was rapidly resolving itself into a bloom of rage.

"Confound him," his lordship was muttering, looking at his timepiece
with stern disapproval; "he can't expect me to wait here all day. I'm
on his land and I'll stay here as long as I like." (At this juncture
he involuntarily measured the distance between himself and the log.)
"I knew it was all a bluff, his threat to put me off. Hang it all,
where is the fellow? I won't go up to his beastly house. I won't
gratify him by going up there even to give him his orders. Demmed cad,
blowhard! Five o'clock, confound him! I daresay he's seen me and has
crawled off into the underbrush. He's afraid of me; he's a coward. It
is as I feared. I can't see the rascal. There's only one thing left
for me to do. I'll pin a note to this tree. Confound him, he shall
hear from me; he'll _have_ to read it."

Whereupon his lordship drew forth a large envelope from his pocket and
proceeded to fasten it to the trunk of a big tree which grew in the
middle of the road, an act of premeditation which showed strange
powers of prophecy. How could he, except by means of clairvoyance,
have known before leaving home that he was not to meet his enemy face
to face?

As Mr. Shaw afterward read the note and tossed it into the river, it
is only fair that the world should know its contents while it hung
unfolded to the bark of the tall tree. It said, in a very scrawling
hand: "Mr. Shaw, I have looked all over this end of your land for you
this afternoon. You doubtless choose to avoid me. So be it. Let me
state, once and for all, that your conduct is despicable. I came here
personally to tell you to keep off my land, henceforth and forever. I
will not repeat this warning, but will instead, if you persist, take
such summary measures as would befit a person of your instincts.
I trust you will feel the importance of keeping off." To this his
lordship bravely signed himself.

"There," he muttered, again holding his watch and fob up for close
inspection. "He'll not soon overlook what I've said in that letter,
confound him."

He had not observed the approach of Randolph Shaw, who now stood, pipe
in hand, some twenty paces behind him in the road.

"What the devil are you doing?" demanded a strong bass voice. It had
the effect of a cannon shot.

His lordship leaped half out of his corduroys, turned with agonizing
abruptness toward the tall young man, and gasped "Oh!" so shrilly that
his horse looked up with a start. The next instant his watch dropped
forgotten from his fingers and his nimble little legs scurried
for territory beyond the log. Nor did he pause upon reaching that
supposedly safe ground. The swift glance he gave the nearby river was
significant as well as apprehensive. It moved him to increased but
unpolished haste.

He leaped frantically for the saddle, scorning the stirrups landing
broadside but with sufficient nervous energy in reserve to scramble
on and upward into the seat. Once there, he kicked the animal in the
flanks with both heels, clutching with his knees and reaching for the
bridle rein in the same motion. The horse plunged obediently, but came
to a stop with a jerk that almost unseated the rider; the sapling
swayed; the good but forgotten rein held firm.

"Ha!" gasped his lordship as the horrid truth became clear to him.

"Charge, Bonaparte!" shouted the man in the road.

"Soldiers?" cried the rider with a wild look among the trees.

"My dog," called back the other. "He charges at the word."

"Well, you know, I saw service in the army," apologized his lordship,
with a pale smile. "Get ep!" to the horse.

"What's your hurry?" asked Shaw, grinning broadly as he came up to the
log.

"Don't--don't you dare to step over that log," shouted Bazelhurst.

"All right. I see. But, after all, what's the rush?" The other was
puzzled for the moment.

"I'm practising, sir," he said unsteadily. "How to mount on a run,
demmit. Can't you see?"

"In case of fire, I imagine. Well, you made excellent time. By the
way, what has this envelope to do with it?"

"Who are you, sir?"

"Shaw. And you?"

"You'll learn when you read that document. Take it home with you."

"Ah, yes, I see it's for me. Why don't you untie that hitch rein?
And what the dickens do you mean by having a hitch rein, anyway? No
rider--"

"Confound your impudence, sir, I did not come here to receive
instructions from you, dem you," cried his lordship defiantly. He had
succeeded at that moment in surreptitiously slashing the hitch rein in
two with his pocket-knife. There was nothing now to prevent him
from giving the obtrusive young man a defiant farewell. "I am Lord
Bazelhurst. Good day, sir!"

"Just a minute, your lordship," called Shaw. "No doubt you were timing
yourself a bit ago, but that's no reason why you should leave your
watch on my land. Of course, I've nothing against the watch, and,
while I promise you faithfully that any human being from your side of
the log who ventures over on my side shall be ejected in one way or
another, it would seem senseless for me to kick this timepiece into
the middle of next week."

"Don't you dare kick that watch. It's a hundred years old."

"Far be it from me to take advantage of anything so old. Don't you
want it any longer?"

"Certainly, sir. I wouldn't part from it."

"Then why don't you come over and get it? Do you expect me to break
the rule by coming over on to your land to hand it to you?"

"I shouldn't call _that_ trespassing, don't you know," began his
lordship.

"Ah? Nevertheless, if you want this watch you'll have to come over and
get it."

"By Jove, now, that's a demmed mean trick. I'm mounted. Beastly
annoying. I say, would you mind _tossing_ it up to me?"

"I wouldn't touch it for ten dollars. By the way, I'll just read this
note of yours." Lord Bazelhurst nervously watched him as he read; his
heart lightened perceptibly as he saw a good-humored smile struggle to
the tall young man's face. It was, however, with some misgiving that
he studied the broad shoulders and powerful frame of the erstwhile
poacher. "Very good of you, I'm sure, to warn me."

"Good of me? It was imperative, let me tell you, sir. No man can abuse
my servants and trample all over my land and disturb my fish--"

"Excuse me, but I haven't time to listen to all that. The note's
sufficient. You've been practising the running mount until it looks
well nigh perfect to me, so I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll step back
thirty paces and then you come over and get the watch--if you're not
afraid of me--and I'll promise--"

"Afraid? Demmit, sir, didn't I say I was Lord Bazelhurst? Of the
Guards, sir, and the Seventy-first? Conf--"

"You come over and get the watch and then see if you can get back to
the horse and mount before I get to the log. If I beat you there, you
lose. How's that?"

"I decline to make a fool of myself. Either you will restore my watch
to me, or I shall instantly go before the authorities and take out
a warrant. I came to see you on business, sir, not folly. Lady
Bazelhurst herself would have come had I been otherwise occupied,
and I want to assure you of her contempt. You are a disgrace to her
countrymen. If you ever put foot on our land I shall have you thrown
into the river. Demmit, sir, it's no laughing matter. My watch, sir."

"Come and get it."

"Scalawag!"

"By George, do you know if you get too personal I _will_ come over
there." Randolph Shaw advanced with a threatening scowl.

"Ha, ha!" laughed his lordship shrilly; "I dare you!" He turned his
horse's head for home and moved off a yard or more. "Whoa! Curse you!
This is the demdest horse to manage I've ever owned. Stand still,
confound you! Whoa!"

"He'll stand if you stop licking him."

"Halloa! Hey, Bazelhurst!" came a far distant voice. The adversaries
glanced down the road and beheld two horsemen approaching from
Bazelhurst Villa--the duke and the count.

"By Jove!" muttered his lordship, suddenly deciding that it would not
be convenient for them to appear on the scene at its present stage.
"My friends are calling me. Her ladyship doubtless is near at hand.
She rides, you know--I mean dem you! Wouldn't have her see you for
a fortune. Not another word, sir! You have my orders. Stay off or
I'll--throw you off!" This last threat was almost shrieked and was
plainly heard by the two horsemen.

"By Jove, he's facing the fellow," said the duke to the count.

"Ees eet Shaw? Parbleu!"

"I'll send some one for that watch. Don't you dare to touch it," said
his lordship in tones barely audible. Then he loped off to meet his
friends and turn them back before they came too close for comfort.
Randolph Shaw laughed heartily as he watched the retreat. Seeing the
newcomers halt and then turn abruptly back into their tracks he picked
up the watch and strolled off into the woods, taking a short out for
the dirt road which led up to his house.

"I had him begging for mercy," explained his lordship as he rode
along. "I was on his land for half an hour before he would come within
speaking distance. Come along. I need a drink."

Young Mr. Shaw came to the road in due time and paused, after his
climb, to rest on a stone at the wayside. He was still a mile from
home and in the loneliest part of his domain. The Bazelhurst line was
scarcely a quarter of a mile behind him. Trees and underbrush grew
thick and impenetrable alongside the narrow, winding road; the light
of heaven found it difficult to struggle through to the highway below.
Picturesque but lonely and sombre indeed were his surroundings.

"Some one coming?" he said aloud, as Bonaparte pricked up his ears and
looked up the road. A moment later a horse and rider turned the bend a
hundred yards away and came slowly toward him. He started to his feet
with an exclamation. The rider was a woman and she was making her way
leisurely toward the Bazelhurst lands. "Lady Bazelhurst, I'll bet my
hat," thought he with a quiet whistle. "By George, this is awkward. My
first trespasser is in petticoats. I say, she's a beauty--a ripping
beauty. Lord, Lord, what do such women mean by giving themselves to
little rats like Bazelhurst? Oh, the shame of it! Well, it's up to
me! If I expect to 'make good,' I've just got to fire her off these
grounds."

Naturally he expected to be very polite about it--instinctively so; he
could not have been otherwise. The horsewoman saw him step into the
middle of the road, smiling oddly, but deferentially; her slim figure
straightened, her color rose, and there was a--yes, there was a
relieved gleam in her eyes. As she drew near he advanced, hat in hand,
his face uplifted in his most winning smile--savoring more of welcome
than of repellence.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "doubtless you are not aware that this
is proscribed land."

"Then you _are_ Mr. Shaw?" she asked, checking her horse with
premeditated surprise and an emphasis that puzzled him.

"Yes, madam," he responded gravely, "the hated Shaw. Permit me," and
he politely grasped the bridle rein. To her amazement he deliberately
turned and began to lead her horse, willy nilly, down the road, very
much as if she were a child taking her first riding lesson.

"What are you doing, sir?" she exclaimed sharply. There was a queer
flutter of helplessness in her voice.

"Putting you off," he answered laconically. She laughed in delight and
he looked up with a relieved smile. "I'm glad you don't mind. I have
to do it. These feuds are such beastly things, you know. One has to
live up to them whether he likes it or not."

"So you are putting me off your place? Oh, how lovely!"

"It isn't far, you know--just down by those big rocks. Your line is
there. Of course," he went on politely, "you know that there _is_ a
feud."

"Oh, yes; I've heard you discussed. Besides, I met Tompkins and James
this morning. Pardon me, Mr. Shaw, but I fancy I can get on without
being led. Would you mind--"

"My dear madam, there is no alternative. I have taken a solemn vow
personally to eject all Bazelhurst trespassers from my place. You
forget that I am, by your orders, to be thrown into the river and all
that. Don't be alarmed! I don't mean to throw you into the river."

"By my orders? It seems to me that you have confused me with Lord
Bazelhurst."

"Heaven has given me keener perception, your ladyship. I have seen his
lordship."

"Ah, may I inquire whether he was particularly rough with afternoon?"

"I trust I am too chivalrous to answer that question."

"You are quite dry."

"Thank you. I deserve the rebuke, all right."

"Oh, I mean you haven't been in the river."

"Not since morning. Am I walking too fast for you?"

"Not at all. One couldn't ask to be put off more considerately."

"By Jove," he said involuntarily, his admiration getting the hotter of
him.

"I beg your pardon," with the slightly elevated eyebrows.

"Do you know, you're not at all what I imagined you'd be."

"Oh? And I fancy I'm not at all _whom_ you imagined me to be."

"Heavens! Am I ejecting an innocent bystander? You _are_ Lady
Bazelhurst?"

"I am Penelope Drake. But"--she added quickly--"I _am_ an enemy. I am
Lord Bazelhurst's sister."

"You--you don't mean it?"

"Are you disappointed? I'm sorry."

"I am staggered and--a bit skeptical. There is no resemblance."

"I _am_ a bit taller," she admitted carefully. "It isn't dreadfully
immodest, is it, for one to hold converse with her captor? I am in
your power, you see."

"On the contrary, it is quite the thing. The heroine always converses
with the villain in books. She tells him what she thinks of him."

"But this isn't a book and I'm not a heroine. I am the adventuress.
Will you permit me to explain my presence on your land?"

"No excuse is necessary. You were caught red-handed and you don't have
to say anything to incriminate yourself further."

"But it is scarcely a hundred feet to our line. In a very few minutes
I shall be hurled relentlessly from your land and may never have
another chance to tell why I dared to venture over here. You see, you
have a haunted house on your land and I--" She hesitated.

"I see. The old Renwood cottage on the hill. Been deserted for years.
Renwood brought his wife up here in the mountains long ago and
murdered her. She comes back occasionally, they say; mysterious noises
and lights and all that. Well?"

"Well, I'm very much interested in spooks. In spite of the feud I rode
over here for a peep at the house. Dear me, it's a desolate looking
place. I didn't go inside, of course. Why don't you tear it down?"

"And deprive the ghost of house and home? That would be heartless.
Besides, it serves as an attraction to bring visitors to my otherwise
unalluring place. I'm terribly sorry the fortunes of war prevent me
from offering to take you through the house. But as long as you remain
a Bazelhurst I can't neglect my vow. Of course, I don't mean to say
that you _can't_ come and do what you please over here, but you shall
be recognized and treated as a trespasser."

"Oh, that's just splendid! Perhaps I'll come to-morrow."

"I shall be obliged to escort you from the grounds, you know."

"Yes, I know," she said agreeably. He looked dazed and delighted. "Of
course, I shall come with stealth and darkly. Not even my brother
shall know of my plans."

"Certainly not," he said with alacrity. (They were nearing the line.)
"Depend on me."

"Depend on you? Your only duty is to scare me off the place."

"That's what I mean. I'll keep sharp watch for you up at the haunted
house."

"It's more than a mile from the line," she advised him.

"Yes, I know," said he, with his friendliest smile. "Oh, by the way,
would you mind doing your brother a favor, Miss Drake? Give him this
watch. He--er--he must have dropped it while pursuing me."

"You _ran_?" she accepted the watch with surprise and unbelief.

"Here is the line, Miss Drake," he evaded. "Consider yourself
ignominiously ejected. Have I been unnecessarily rough and
expeditious?"

"You have had a long and tiresome walk," she said, settling herself
for a merry clip. "Please don't step on our side." He released the
bridle rein and doffed his hat.

"I shall bring my horse to-morrow," he remarked significantly.

"I may bring the duke," she said sweetly.

"In that case I shall have to bring an extra man to lead his horse. It
won't matter."

"So this rock is the dividing line?"

"Yes; you are on the safe side now--and so am I, for that matter. The
line is here," and he drew a broad line in the dust from one side of
the road to the other. "My orders are that you are not to ride across
that line, at your peril."

"And you are not to cross it either, at _your_ peril."

"Do you dare me?" with an eager step forward.

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye! I say, are you sure you can find the Kenwood cottage?" he
called after her. The answer came back through the clatter of hoofs,
accompanied by a smile that seduced his self-possession.

"I shall find it in time."

For a long time he stood watching her as she raced down the road.

"At my peril," he mused, shaking his head with a queer smile. "By
George, that's fair warning enough. She's beautiful."

At dinner that night the Honorable Penelope restored the watch to her
brother, much to his embarrassment, for he had told the duke it was
being repaired in town.

"It wasn't this watch that I meant, old chap," he announced,
irrelevantly, to the duke, quite red in the face. "Where did you find
it, Pen?" She caught the plea in his eye and responded loyally.

"You dropped it, I daresay, in pursuing Mr. Shaw."

The positive radiance which followed dismay in his watery eyes
convinced her beyond all doubt that her brother's encounter with
the tall Mr. Shaw was not quite creditable to Bazelhurst arms. She
listened with pensive indifference to the oft-repeated story of how
he had routed the "insufferable cad," encouraged by the support of
champagne and the solicited approval of two eye-witnesses. She could
not repress the mixed feelings of scorn, shame, and pity, as she
surveyed the array of men who so mercilessly flayed the healthy,
fair-faced young man with the gentle strength.

The house party had been augmented during the day by the arrival of
half a dozen men and women from, the city brain-fagged, listless, and
smart. The big cottage now was full, the company complete for
three weeks at least. She looked ahead, this fresh, vigorous young
Englishwoman, and wondered how she was to endure the staleness of
life.

There was some relief in the thought that the men would make love
to the good-looking young married women--at least part of the
time--and--but it depressed her in turn to think of the left-over
husbands who would make love to her.

"Why is it that Evelyn doesn't have real men here--like this Mr.
Shaw?" she found herself wondering vaguely as the night wore on.



CHAPTER III

IN WHICH A DOG TRESPASSES


Penelope was a perverse and calculating young person. She was her own
mistress and privileged to ride as often as she pleased, but it seemed
rather odd--although splendidly decorous--that she did not venture
upon Mr. Shaw's estate for more than a week after her first encounter
with the feudal baron. If she found a peculiarly feminine satisfaction
in speculating on his disappointment, it is not to be wondered at.
Womanly insight told her that Randolph Shaw rode forth each day and
watched with hawk-like vigilance for the promised trespasser. In his
imagination, she could almost hear him curse the luck that was helping
her to evade the patrol.

One morning, after a rain, she rode with the duke to the spot where
Shaw had drawn his line in the road. She felt a thrill of something
she could not define on discovering that the wet soil on the opposite
side of the line was disfigured by a mass of fresh hoof-prints. She
rejoiced to find that his vigil was incessant and worthy of the
respect it imposed. The desire to visit the haunted house was growing
more and more irresistible, but she turned it aside with all the
relentless perverseness of a woman who feels it worth while to
procrastinate.

Truth to tell, Randolph Shaw was going hollow-eyed and faint in his
ceaseless, racking watch for trespassers.

Penelope laughed aloud as she gazed upon the tangle of hoof-print. The
duke looked as surprised as it was possible for him to look after the
wear of the past night.

"Hang it all, Penelope," he said. "I didn't say anything, don't you
know."

"I was just thinking," she said hastily, "what fun it would be for us
to explore the haunted house."

"Oh, I say, Pen, that's going out of the way for a little fun, isn't
it? My word, it's a filthy old house with rats and mice and all
that--no place for a ghost, much less a nice little human being like
you. They're all like that."

"I think you are afraid to go," said she.

"Afraid of ghosts? Pshaw!" sniffed the duke, sticking out his chest.

"Yes, Shaw! That's whom you're afraid of."

"Now, see here, Pen, you shouldn't say that. Shaw's a d----, a cad.
See what Cecil did to him. Remember that? Well, pooh! What would _I_
do to him?" Penelope looked him over critically.

"I'll admit that you're larger and younger than Cecil," she confessed
grudgingly. "But they say Mr. Shaw is a giant-killer." The duke
dropped his monocle and guffawed loudly.

"Good!" he cried in the ecstasy of pride. His worn, dissipated face
lighted up with unwonted interest. "I say, Pen, that's the nicest
thing you've said to me in a week. You've been so deuced cold of late.
I don't understand. I'm not such a bad lot, you know."

"Tell that to Mrs. De Peyton and Mrs. Corwith. They're looking for the
good in everything."

"By Jove, I believe you're jealous! This is the proudest moment of my
life."

"Don't be silly! And don't try to make love to me any more. Wait until
I'm married," she added with a laugh, the irony of which escaped him.

"But, hang it all, suppose you should marry some one else and not me."

"That's what I mean."

"Oh!" he said, perplexed. Then, as if his stupidity called for an
explanation: "I had a beastly night. Didn't go to bed till four. But,
I say, why can't I have the same privilege as these other chaps?
Corwith makes love to you and so does Odwell, and, hang it, they're
both married. It's rotten mean of--"

"Their wives are accountable for their manners, not I. But, come; will
you go to Renwood's with me?"

"I'd rather talk to you in that nice little corner of the
billiard-room, at home, if you--"

"But I don't need a brandy and soda. Oh!" This exclamation came with
the discovery of an approaching horseman. "It's Mr. Shaw--I'm sure."

Randolph Shaw, loyal to his feudal promise, appeared in the road a
couple of hundred yards away. He drew rein and from that distance
surveyed the two who were so near to encroaching upon his preserves.
He sat straight and forbidding in the saddle. For a full minute
the two factions stared at each other. Then, without a sign of
recognition, Shaw turned and rode rapidly away.

"He rides like a gentleman," commented Miss Drake, after reflection.

"Indian blood in him," remarked her companion.

"Let us go home," said she, whirling her horse like a flash. The duke
had some difficulty in keeping abreast of her during the ride and
he lost sight of her altogether after they dismounted at Bazelhurst
Villa.

The momentary glimpse of a real man set Penelope's opinions on edge
for the remainder of the day and night. Shaw, whatever else he might
be, was a man. Even while others addressed her in conversation she was
absent-mindedly recalling to memory certain English gentlemen at home
who could stand comparison with this handsome fellow across the danger
line. But to compare any one of the men in Lady Bazelhurst's house
party--oh, it was absurd! She looked them over. Dull-eyed, blase,
frayed by the social whirl, worn out, pulseless, all of them. They
talked automobile, bridge, women, and self in particular; in the
seclusion of a tête-à-tête they talked love with an ardor that lost
most of its danger because it was from force of habit. One of the men
was even now admitting in her ear that he had not spent an evening
alone with his wife in four years.

"There's always something doing," he said. "A week or two ago, by
Jove, you wouldn't believe it, but we had an evening turn up without a
thing on hand. Strangest thing I ever knew. Neither of us had a thing
on. We said we'd stay at home and go to bed early, just to see how it
felt. Well, what do you think? We sat up and read till half past ten
o'clock and then both of us thought of it at the same time. We dressed
and went down to Hector's and waited for the theatres to let out.
Three o'clock when we got home. You can't imagine what a queer
experience it is, being all alone with one's wife."

"Don't you love your wife, Mr. Odwell?"

"Certainly! but there's always a crowd." Both of them glanced over at
pretty Mrs. Odwell. She was looking down at her plate demurely while
Reggie Van Voort talked straight into her pink ear, his eyes gleaming
with the zest of invasion. "I say, Miss Drake, you won't mind talking
to me a while after dinner, will you?" went on Odwell, something like
relief in his voice.

After dinner she was obliged to set him straight in a little
matter. They were sitting on the terrace and he had thrown away his
half-smoked cigarette, an act in itself significant. She had been
listening patiently, from sheer habit and indifference, to what he was
saying, but at last she revolted.

"Don't! You shall not say such things to me. I am not your kind, I
fancy, Mr. Odwell," she said. "I don't know why you should tell me of
your chorus-girl friends--of your suppers and all that. I don't care
to hear of them and I don't intend that you shall use me as a subject
of illustration. I am going upstairs."

"Oh, come now, that's rather rough, just as we were getting on so
well. All the fellows do the same--"

"I know. You need not tell me. And you all have wives at home, too,"
with intense scorn.

"Now, that's where you wrong us. They're _not_ at home, you know.
That's just it."

"Never mind, Mr. Odwell; I'm going in." She left him and entered the
house. For a minute or two he looked after her in wonder, and then,
softly whistling, made his way over to where De Peyton, through some
oversight, was talking to his own wife. De Peyton unceremoniously
announced that he was going upstairs to write a letter.

Penelope, flushed with disgust and humiliation, drew near a crowd of
men and women in the long living-room. Her brother was haranguing the
assemblage, standing forth among them like an unconquered bantam. In
spite of herself, she felt a wave of shame and pity creep over her as
she looked at him.

"Barminster says the fellow ran when he saw him to-day," his lordship
was saying. "But that doesn't help matters. He had been on my land
again and again, Tompkins says, and Tompkins ought to know."

"And James, too," said the duke with a brandied roar.

"Can't Tompkins and his men keep that man off my land?" demanded Lady
Bazelhurst. Every one took note of the pronoun. Her ladyship's temples
seemed to narrow with hatred. Bazelhurst had told the men privately
that she was passing sleepless nights in order to "hate that fellow
Shaw" to her full capacity.

"My dear, I have given positive orders to Tompkins and he swears he'll
carry them out," said he hastily.

"I suppose Tompkins is to throw him into the river again."

"He is to shoot that fellow Shaw if he doesn't keep off our land. I've
had enough of it. They say he rode his confounded plough horse all
over the west end the other day." Penelope smiled reflectively.
"Trampled the new fern beds out of existence and all that. Hang him,
Tompkins will get him if he persists. He has told the men to take a
shot at the rascal on sight. Tompkins doesn't love him, you know."

Penelope went her way laughing and--forgot the danger that threatened
Randolph Shaw.

The next morning, quite early, she was off for a canter. Some magnetic
force drew her toward that obliterated line in the roadway. Almost as
she came up to it and stopped, Randolph Shaw rode down the hillside
through the trees and drew rein directly opposite, the noses of their
horses almost touching. With a smile he gave the military salute even
as she gasped in self-conscious dismay.

"On duty, Miss Drake. No trespassing," he said. There was a glad ring
in his voice. "Please don't run away. You're on the safe side."

"I'm not going to run," she said, her cheek flushing. "How do you know
where the line is? It has been destroyed by the ravages of time."

"Yes. It has seemed a year. This thing of acting sentinel so
religiously is a bit wearing." His great, friendly dog came across the
line, however, and looked bravely up into the enemy's face, wagging
his tail. "Traitor! Come back, Bonaparte," cried his master.

"What a beautiful dog," she cried, sincere admiration in her eyes. "I
love a big dog. He is your best friend, I'll wager.'

"'Love me, love my dog,' is my motto."

The conversation was not prolonged. Penelope began to find herself on
rather friendly terms with the enemy. Confusion came over her when
she remembered that she was behaving in a most unmaidenly manner.
Doubtless that was why she brought the meeting to a close by galloping
away.

The ways of fortune are strange, look at them from any point of view.
Surprising as it may seem, a like encounter happened on the following
day and--aye, on the day after and every day for a week or more.
Occasions there were when Penelope was compelled to equivocate
shamefully in order to escape the companionship of the duke, the
count, or others of their ilk. Once, when the guardian of the road
was late at his post, she rode far into the enemy's country, actually
thrilled by the joy of adventure. When he appeared far down the road,
she turned and fled with all the sensations of a culprit. And he
thundered after her with vindictiveness that deserved better results.
Across the line she drew rein and faced him defiantly, her hair blown
awry, her cheeks red, her eyes sparkling.

"No trespass!" she cried, holding up her gloved hand. He stopped
short, for that was one of the terms of truce.

The next day he again was missing, but she was not to be caught by his
stratagem. Instead of venturing into the trap he had prepared for her,
she remained on her side of the line smiling at the thought of him in
hiding far up the road. If any one had suggested to her that she was
developing too great an interest in this stalwart gentleman, she would
have laughed him to scorn. It had not entered her mind to question
herself as to the pleasure she found in being near him. She was
founding her actions on the basis that he was a real man and that the
little comedy of adventure was quite worth while.

At length an impatient line appeared on her fair brow, a resentful
gleam in her eyes. His remissness was an impertinence! It was the last
time she would come--but a sudden thought struck her like a blow. She
turned white and red by turns. Had he tired of the sport? Had the
novelty worn off? Was he laughing at her for a silly coquette? The
riding crop came down sharply upon her horse's flank and a very deeply
agitated young woman galloped off toward Bazelhurst Villa, hurrying as
though afraid he might catch sight of her in flight.

A quarter of a mile brought a change in her emotions. British
stubbornness arose to combat an utter rout. After all, why should she
run away from him? With whimsical bravado, she turned off suddenly
into the trail that led to the river, her color deepening with the
consciousness that, after all, she was vaguely hoping she might see
him somewhere before the morning passed. Through the leafy pathway she
rode at a snail's pace, brushing the low-hanging leaves and twigs from
about her head with something akin to petulance. As she neared the
river the neighing of a horse hard by caused her to sit erect with
burning ears. Then she relapsed into a smile, remembering that it
might have come from the game warden's horse. A moment later her
searching eyes caught sight of Shaw's horse tied to a sapling and on
Bazelhurst ground, many hundred feet from his own domain. She drew in
sharply and looked about in considerable trepidation. Off to the right
lay the log that divided the lands, but nowhere along the bank of the
river could she see the trespasser. Carefully she resumed her way,
ever on the lookout, puzzled not a little by the unusual state of
affairs.

Near the river trail she came upon the man, but he paid no heed to her
approach. He sat with his face in his hands and--she could not believe
her eyes and ears--he was sobbing bitterly. For an instant her lips
curled in the smile of scornful triumph and then something like
disgust came over her. There was mockery in her voice as she called
out to him.

"Have you stubbed your toe, little boy?"

He looked up, dazed. Then he arose, turning his back while he dashed
his hand across his eyes. When he glanced back at her he saw that she
was smiling. But she also saw something in his face that drove the
smile away. Absolute rage gleamed in his eyes.

"So it is real war," he said hoarsely, his face quivering. "Your
pitiful cowards want it to be real, do they? Well, that's what it
shall be, hang them! They shall have all they want of it! Look! This
is their way of fighting, is it? Look!"

He pointed to his feet. Her bewildered eyes saw that his hand was
bloody and a deathly sickness came over her. He was pointing to the
outstretched, inanimate form of the dog that had been his friend
and comrade. She knew that the beast was dead and she knew that her
brother's threat had not been an idle one. A great wave of pity and
horror swept over her. Moisture sprang to her eyes on the moment.

"He--he is dead?" she exclaimed.

"Yes--and killed by some cowardly brute whose neck I'd like to wring.
That dog--my Bonaparte--who knew no feud, who did no wrong! Your
brother wants war, does he? Well, I'll give him all--"

"But my brother could not have done a thing like this," she cried,
slipping from her saddle and advancing toward him quickly. "Oh, no,
no! Not this! He is not that sort, I know. It must have been an
accident and--"

"Accident! Don't come near me! I mean it. God, my heart is too full of
vengeance. Accident? Is this blood on my arm accidental? Bah! It was a
deliberate attempt to murder me!"

"You? You, too?" she gasped, reeling.

"Yes--they've winged me, too. Oh, God, if I only had been armed. There
_would_ have been a killing!"

"Let me see--let me help you!" she cried, coming up to his side,
white-faced and terrified. "I won't stay away! You are hurt. Please!
Please! I am not your enemy."

For a long minute he held back, savagely resentful, glowering upon
her, then his face softened and his hand went out to clasp hers.

"I knew you had nothing to do with it. Forgive me--forgive my
rudeness. Don't be alarmed about me. Two or three scattered shot
struck me in the arm. The fellow's aim was bad when it came to me.
But he--he got the dog! Poor old Bonaparte! It's as if he were a--a
brother, Miss Drake. I loved him and he loved me."

"You must let me see your arm. I will not take no for an answer. It
must need attention--"

"Believe me, it is nothing. I have tied my handkerchief about it--two
little shot, that's all. The first charge riddled the dog. But I
forget. I am still on your sister's land. At any minute I may be shot
from behind some tree. I--I couldn't help crying, Miss Drake. It was
cruel--fiendish! Now, if you'll permit me, I'll take my dead off of
your land."

"Stop! I must know about it. Tell me; how did it happen?"

"I can't talk about it to you."

"Why not? Do you think I condone this outrage? Do you think I can
support such means of warfare? You do not know me, Mr. Shaw; you do
not know an Englishwoman's love of fairness."

"By Jove, do you mean it?" his eyes lighted up. "But, after all, you
belong to the other camp," he added dejectedly. "I--I wish to heavens,
Miss Drake, you were not one of them!"

"My brother--Cecil would not have permitted this," she tried to
apologize, remembering with a cold heart that Lord Bazelhurst had
given the very instructions of which this was the result.

"We can't discuss it, Miss Drake. Some one from your side of the line
killed my dog and then fired at me. I'll admit I was trespassing, but
not until the dog was shot. He was on Lady Bazelhurst's land when he
was shot. It was not until after that that I trespassed, if you are
pleased to call it such. But I was unarmed; hang the luck!" The way he
said it conveyed much to her understanding.

"Tell me, please."

"I've had murder in my heart for half an hour, Miss Drake. Somehow you
soothe me." He sat down on the log again and leaned his head upon his
hand. With his eyes upon the dead dog he went on, controlling his
anger with an effort: "I rode down the river road this morning for a
change, intending to go up later on to our trysting place through the
wood." She heard him call it a trysting place without a thought of
resentment or shame. "When I came to the log there I stopped, but
Bonaparte, lawless old chap, kept on. I paid no attention to him,
for I was thinking of--of something else. He had raced around in the
forbidden underbrush for some time before I heard the report of a gun
near at hand. The dog actually screamed like a human being. I saw him
leap up from the ground and then roll over. Of course, I--well, I
trespassed. Without thinking of my own safety I flew to where the dog
was lying. He looked up into my face and whined just as he died. I
don't remember how I got off the horse. The next I knew I was rushing
blindly into the brush toward a place where I saw smoke, cursing like
a fiend. Then came the second shot and the stinging in my arm. It
brought me to my senses. I stopped and a moment later I saw a man
running down along the bank of the stream. I--oh, well, there isn't
any more to tell. I don't know who fired the shots. I couldn't see his
face."

"It was Tompkins," she cried. "I know it was. He had his orders--" but
she checked herself in confusion.

"His orders? Do you mean to say--Miss Drake, did your brother instruct
him to kill me?" She quailed beneath his look.

"--I can't say anything more about it, Mr. Shaw," she murmured, so
piteously that he was touched. For a seemingly interminable length of
time his hard eyes looked into hers and then they softened.

"I understand," he said simply. "You cannot talk about it. I'll not
ask any questions."

"My brother is weak in her hands," she managed to say in extenuation.

"After all, it isn't a pleasant subject. If you don't mind we'll let
it drop--that is, between you and me, Miss Drake! I hope the war won't
break off our--"

"Don't suggest it, please! I'd rather you wouldn't. We are friends,
after all. I thought it was playing at war--and I can't tell you how
shocked I am."

"Poor old Bonaparte!" was all he said in reply. She stooped and laid
her hand on the fast-chilling coat of the dog. There were tears in
her eyes as she arose and turned away, moving toward her horse. Shaw
deliberately lifted the dead animal into his arms and strode off
toward his own land. She followed after a moment of indecision,
leading the horse. Across the line he went and up the side of the
knoll to his right. At the foot of a great tree he tenderly deposited
his burden. Then he turned to find her almost beside him.

"You won't mind my coming over here, will you?" she asked softly.
He reached out and clasped her hand, thoughtlessly, with his
blood-covered fingers. It was not until long afterward that she
discovered his blood upon the hand from which she had drawn her riding
glove.

"_You_ are always welcome" he said. "I am going to bury him here this
afternoon. No, please don't come. I'll bring the men down to help me.
I suppose they think I'm a coward and a bounder over at your place. Do
you remember the challenge you gave me yesterday? You dared me to come
over the line as far into Bazelhurst land as you had come into mine.
Well, I dared last night."

"You dared? You came?"

"Yes, and I went farther than you have gone, because I thought it was
play, comedy, fun. I even sat upon your gallery, just outside the
billiard-room--and smoked two cigarettes. You'll find the stubs on the
porch railing if her ladyship's servants are not too exemplary." She
was looking at him in wide-eyed unbelief. "I was there when you came
out on the lawn with the Frenchman."

"Did you hear what he was--what we were saying?" she asked, nervously
and going pale.

"No. I was not eavesdropping. Besides, you returned to the house very
abruptly, if you remember."

"Yes, I remember," she said, a sigh of relief accompanying the warm
glow that came to her cheek. "But were you not afraid of being
discovered? How imprudent of you!"

"It was a bit risky, but I rather enjoyed it. The count spoke to me as
I left the place. It was dark and he mistook me for one of your party.
I couldn't wait to see if you returned to renew the tête-à-tête--"

"I did not return," she said. It was his turn to be relieved.



CHAPTER IV

IN WHICH THE TRUTH TRESPASSES


Lord and Lady Bazelhurst, with the more energetic members of their
party, spent the day in a so-called hunting excursion to the hills
south of the Villa. Toward nightfall they returned successfully
empty-handed and rapacious for bridge. Penelope, full of smouldering
anger, had spent the afternoon in her room, disdaining every call of
sociability. She had awakened to the truth of the situation in so far
as she was concerned. She was at least seeing things from Shaw's point
of view. Her resentment was not against the policy of her brother, but
the overbearing, petulant tyranny of her American sister-in-law. From
the beginning she had disliked Evelyn; now she despised her. With the
loyal simplicity of a sister she absolved Cecil of all real blame in
the outrage of the morning, attributing everything to the cruelty and
envy of the despot who held the purse-strings from which dangled
the pliable fortunes of Bazelhurst. The Bazelhursts, one and
all--ancestors thrown in--swung back and forth on the pendulum of her
capriciousness. Penelope, poor as a church mouse, was almost wholly
dependent upon her brother, who in turn owed his present affluence to
the more or less luckless movement of the matrimonial market. The girl
had a small, inadequate income--so small it was almost worth jesting
about.

Here was Penelope, twenty-two, beautiful, proud, fair-minded, and
healthy, surveying herself for the first time from a new and an
entirely different point of view. She was not pleased with the
picture. She began to loathe herself more than she pitied her brother.
Something like a smile came into her clouded face as she speculated on
Randolph Shaw's method of handling Evelyn Banks had she fallen to him
as a wife. The quiet power in that man's face signified the presence
of a manhood that--ah, and just here it occurred to her that Lady
Bazelhurst felt the force of that power even though she never had seen
the man. She hated him because he was strong enough to oppose her, to
ignore her, to laugh at her impotence.

The smouldering anger and a growing sense of fairness combined at
length in the determination to take her brother and his wife to task
for the morning's outrage, let the consequences be what they might.
When she joined the people downstairs before dinner, there was a red
spot in each cheek and a steady look in her eyes that caused the duke
to neglect woefully the conversation he was carrying on with Mrs.
Odwell.

Dinner was delayed for nearly half an hour while four of the guests
finished their "rubber." Penelope observed that the party displayed
varying emotions. It afterward transpired that the hunters had spent
most of the afternoon in her ladyship's distant lodge playing bridge
for rather high stakes. Little Miss Folsom was pitifully unresponsive
to the mirth of Mr. Odwell. She could ill afford to lose six hundred
dollars. Lady Bazelhurst was in a frightful mood. Her guests had so
far forgotten themselves as to win more than a thousand dollars of
the Banks legacy and she was not a cheerful loser--especially as his
lordship had dropped an additional five hundred. The winners were
riotously happy. They had found the sport glorious. An observer,
given to deductions, might have noticed that half of the diners were
immoderately hilarious, the other half studiously polite.

Lord Bazelhurst wore a hunted look and drank more than one or two
highballs. From time to time he cast furtive glances at his wife. He
laughed frequently at the wrong time and mirthlessly.

"He's got something on his mind," whispered Odwell in comment.

"Yes; he always laughs when there is anything on his mind," replied
Mrs. De Peyton. "That's the way he gets it off."

After dinner no one proposed cards. The party edged off into twos and
threes and explained how luck had been with or against them. Penelope,
who could not afford to play for stakes, and had the courage to say
so, sat back and listened to the conversation of her brother and the
group around him.

The duke was holding forth on the superiority of the Chinese over the
Japanese as servants and Bazelhurst was loudly defending the Japanese
navy.

"Hang it all, Barminster, the Japs could eat 'em up," he proclaimed.
"Couldn't they?" to the crowd.

"I'm talking about servants, Cecil," observed the duke.

"And shoot? Why, they're the greatest gunners in the world. By Jove, I
read somewhere the other day that they had hit what they shot at three
million times out of--or, let me see, was it the Prussians who fired
three million rounds and--"

"Oh, let's change the subject," said the duke in disgust. "What's
become of that Shaw fellow?" Penelope started and flushed, much to her
chagrin. At the sound of Shaw's name Lady Bazelhurst, who was passing
with the count, stopped so abruptly that her companion took half a
dozen paces without her.

"Shaw? By Jove, do you know, I'd completely forgotten that fellow,"
exclaimed Cecil.

"I thought you were going to shoot him, or shoot at him, or something
like that. Can't you get him in range?"

"Oh, I wasn't really in earnest about that, Barminster. You know we
couldn't shoot at a fellow for such a thing--"

"Nonsense, Cecil," said his wife. "You shoot poachers in England."

"But this fellow isn't a poacher. He's a--a gentleman, I daresay--in
some respects--not all, of course, my dear, but--"

"Gentleman? Ridiculous!" scoffed his wife.

"I--yes, quite right--a ridiculous gentleman, of course. Ha, ha! Isn't
he, Barminster? But with all that, you know, I couldn't have Tompkins
shoot him. He asked me the other day if he should take a shot at
Shaw's legs, and I told him not to do anything so absurd." Penelope's
heart swelled with relief, and for the first time that evening she
looked upon her brother with something like sisterly regard.

"It didn't matter, however," said Lady Evelyn sharply, "I gave him
instructions yesterday to shoot any trespasser from that side of the
line. I can't see that we owe Mr. Shaw any especial consideration. He
has insulted end ignored me at every opportunity. Why should he be
permitted to trespass more than any other common lawbreaker? If he
courts a charge of birdshot he should not expect to escape scot free.
Birdshot wouldn't kill a man, you know, but it would--"

But Penelope could restrain herself no longer. The heartlessness of
her sister-in-law overcame her prudence, and she interrupted the
scornful mistress of the house, her eyes blazing, but her voice under
perfect control. Her tall young figure was tense, and her fingers
clasped the back of Miss Folsom's chair rather rigidly.

"I suppose you know what happened this morning," she said, with such
apparent restraint that every one looked at her expectantly.

"Do you mean in connection with Mr.--with Jack-the-Giant-Killer?"
asked her ladyship, her eyes brightening.

"Some one of your servants shot him this morning," said Penelope with
great distinctness. There was breathless silence in the room.

"Shot him?" gasped Lord Bazelhurst, his thin red face going very
white.

"Not--not fatally?" exclaimed Evelyn, aghast in spite of herself.

"No. The instructions were carried out. His wound in the arm is
trifling. But the coward was not so generous when it came to the life
of his innocent, harmless dog. He killed the poor thing. Evelyn,
it's--it's like murder."

"Oh," cried her ladyship, relieved. "He killed the dog. I daresay
Mr. Shaw has come to realize at last that we are earnest in this. Of
course I am glad that the man is not badly hurt. Still, a few shot in
the arm will hardly keep him in bounds. His legs were intended," she
laughed lightly. "What miserable aim Tompkins must take."

"He's a bit off in his physiology, my dear," said Cecil, with a
nervous attempt at humor. He did not like the expression in his
sister's face. Somehow, he was ashamed.

"Oh, it's bad enough," said Penelope. "It was his left arm--the upper
arm, too. I think the aim was rather good."

"Pray, how do you know all of this, Penelope?" asked her ladyship,
lifting her eyebrows. "I've heard that you see Mr. Shaw occasionally,
but you can't be his physician, I'm sure."

Penelope flushed to the roots of her hair, but suppressed the retort
which would have been in keeping with the provocation.

"Oh, dear, no!" she replied. "I'm too soft-hearted to be a physician.
I saw Mr. Shaw just after the--ah--the incident."

"You shaw Saw--I mean you saw Shaw?" gasped Bazelhurst.

"She sees him frequently, Cecil. It was not at all unusual that she
should have seen him to-day. I daresay he waited to show you his wound
before going to a surgeon."

Penelope could not resist the temptation to invent a story befitting
the moment. Assuming a look of concern, she turned to her brother and
said: "He is coming to see you about it to-morrow, and he is coming
armed to, the teeth, attended by a large party of friends. My. Shaw
says he will have satisfaction for the death of that dog if he has to
shoot everybody on the place."

"Good Lord!" cried the duke. There was instant excitement. "I believe
the wretch will do it, too."

"Oh, I say, Bazelhurst, settle with him for the dog," said De Peyton
nervously. He looked at his watch and then at his wife. The entire
party now was listening to the principal speakers.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Lady Evelyn. "He won't come. It's all bluster.
Don't let it frighten you, Cecil. I know the manner of man."

"I wish you could have seen him this morning," murmured Penelope,
thoroughly enjoying the unexpected situation. Her conscience was not
troubled by the prevarication.

"By Jove, I think it would be wise to send over and find out what he
valued the brute at," said Cecil, mopping his brow.

"Good. We'll send Penelope to act as ambassador," said her ladyship.
"She seems to be on friendly terms with the enemy."

"To act as ambassador from Cowardice Court?" questioned Penelope,
loftily, yet with cutting significance. "No, I thank you. I decline
the honor. Besides," with a reflective frown, "I don't believe it is
diplomacy he's after."

"I say what the deuce do you suppose the confounded savage has in
mind?" exclaimed the duke. "I've heard of the way these cowboys settle
their affairs. You don't imagine--" and he paused significantly.

"It looks like it's going to be a da--rather disagreeable affair,"
said De Peyton sourly.

"Good heavens, what are we to do if he comes here with a lot of
desperadoes and begins to shoot?" cried Mrs. Odwell, genuinely
alarmed. "I've read so much of these awful mountain feuds."

"Don't be alarmed. Lord Bazelhurst will attend to the gentleman," said
Lady Evelyn blandly. His lordship's monocle clattered down and the ice
rattled sharply in his glass.

"To--to be sure," he agreed. "Don't be in the least worried. I'll
attend to the upstart. What time's he coming, Pen?"

A door banged noisily near by, and every one jumped as though a gun
had been fired. While the "ohs" were still struggling from their lips,
Hodder, the butler, came into the room, doing his best to retain his
composure under what seemed to be trying circumstances.

"What is it, Hodder?" demanded her ladyship.

"The cook, your ladyship. She's fallen downstairs and broken her
leg," announced Hodder. He did not betray it, but he must have been
tremendously surprised by the sigh of relief that went up on all
sides. Lord Bazelhurst went so far as to laugh.

"Ha, ha! is that all?"

"Oh, dear, I'm so glad!" cried Miss Folsom, impulsively. "I was
frightened half to death. It might have been Mr.--"

"Don't he silly, Rose," said Lady Bazelhurst. "Where is she, Hodder?"

"In the laundry, your ladyship. There are two fractures."

"By Jove, two legs instead of one, then--worse than I thought," cried
Bazelhurst, draining his glass.

"Send at once for a doctor, Hodder, and take her to her room. Isn't it
annoying," said her ladyship. "It's so difficult to keep a cook in the
mountains."

"Don't see how she can get away without legs," observed De Peyton.

"I'll come with you, Hodder. Perhaps I can do something for her," said
Penelope, following the butler from the room.

"Don't take too many patients on your hands, my dear," called the
mistress, with a shrill laugh.

"Yes; remember to-morrow," added the duke. Then, suddenly: "I believe
I'll lend a hand." He hurried after Penelope, rather actively for him.

Lord Bazelhurst visited his wife's room later in the night, called
there by a more or less peremptory summons. Cecil had been taking time
by the forelock in anticipation of Shaw's descent in the morning and
was inclined to jocundity.

"Cecil, what do you think of Penelope's attitude toward Mr. Shaw?" she
asked, turning away from the window which looked out over the night in
the direction of Shaw's place.

"I didn't know she had an attitude," replied he, trying to focus his
wavering gaze upon her.

"She meets him clandestinely and she supports him openly. Isn't that
an attitude, or are you too drunk to see it?"

"My dear, remember you are speaking of my sister," he said with fine
dignity but little discrimination. "Besides, I am not too drunk.
I _do_ see it. It's a demmed annoying attitude. She's a traitor,
un'stand me? A traito-tor. I intend to speak to her about it."

"It is better that you should do it," said his wife. "I am afraid I
could not control my temper."

"Penelope's a disgrace--an absolute disgrace. How many legs did Hodder
say she'd--she'd broken?"

"Oh, you're disgusting!" cried Lady Evelyn. "Go to bed! I thought I
could talk to you to-night, but I can't. You scarcely can stand up."

"Now, Evelyn, you do me injustice. I'm only holding to this chair to
keep it from moving 'round the room. See that? Course I c'n stan' up,"
he cried, triumphantly.

"I am utterly disgusted with you. Oh, for a man! A man with real blood
in his veins, a man who could do something besides eat and drink at my
cost. I pay your debts, clothe you, feed you--house your ungrateful
sister--and what do I get in return? _This_!"

Lord Bazelhurst's eyes steadied beneath this unexpected assault, his
legs stiffened, his shoulders squared themselves in a pitiful attempt
at dignity.

"Lady Bazelhurst, you--you--" and then he collapsed into the chair,
bursting into maudlin tears. She stood over by the dressing-table and
looked pitilessly upon the weak creature whose hiccoughing sobs filled
the room. Her color was high, her breathing heavy. In some way it
seemed as though there was so much more she could have said had the
circumstances been different.

There came a knock at the door, but she did not respond. Then the door
opened quietly and Penelope entered the room, resolutely, fearlessly.
Evelyn turned her eyes upon the intruder and stared for a moment.

"Did you knock?" she asked at last.

"Yes. You did not answer."

"Wasn't that sufficient?"

"Not to-night, Evelyn. I came to have it out with you and Cecil. Where
is he?"

"There!"

"Asleep?" with a look of amazement.

"I hope not. I should dislike having to call the servants to carry him
to his room."

"I see. Poor old chap!" She went over and shook him by the shoulder.
He sat up and stared at her blankly through his drenched eyes. Then,
as if the occasion called for a supreme effort, he tried to rise,
ashamed that his sister should have found him in his present
condition. "Don't get up, Cecil. Wait a bit and I'll go to your room
with you."

"What have you to say to me, Penelope?" demanded Evelyn, a green light
in her eyes.

"I can wait. I prefer to have Cecil--understand," she said, bitterly.

"If it's about our affair with Shaw, it won't make any difference
whether Cecil understands or not. Has your friend asked you to plead
for him? Does he expect me to take him up on your account and have him
here?"

"I was jesting when I said he would come to-morrow," said Penelope,
ignoring the thrust and hurrying to her subject. "I couldn't go to
sleep to-night if I neglected to tell you what I think of the outrage
this morning. You and Cecil had no right to order Tompkins to shoot at
Mr. Shaw. He is not a trespasser. Some one killed his dog to-day. When
he pursued the coward, a second shot was fired at him. He was wounded.
Do you call that fair fighting? Ambushed, shot from behind a tree.
I don't care what you and Cecil think about it, I consider it
despicable. Thank God, Cecil was not really to blame. It is about the
only thing I can say to my brother's credit."

Lady Bazelhurst was staring at her young-sister-in-law with wide eyes.
It was the first time in all her petted, vain life that any one had
called her to account. She was, at first, too deeply amazed to resent
the sharp attack.

"Penelope Drake!" was all she could say. Then the fury in her soul
began to search for an outlet. "How dare you? How dare you?"

"I don't mean to hurt you. I am only telling you that your way of
treating this affair is a mistake. It can be rectified. You don't want
to be lawless; you don't understand what a narrow escape from murder
you have had. Evelyn, you owe reparation to Mr. Shaw. He is--"

"I understand why you take his side. You cheapen and degrade yourself
and you bring shame upon your brother and me by your disgraceful
affair with this ruffian. Don't look shocked! You meet him secretly,
I know--how much farther you have gone with him I don't know. It is
enough that you--"

"Stop! You shall not say such things to me!"

"You came in here to have it out with me. Well, we'll have it out. You
think because you're English, and all that that you are better than I.
You show it in your every action; you turn up your nose at me because
I am an American. Well, what if I am? Where would you be if it were
not for me? And where would _he_ be? You'd starve if it were not
for me. You hang to me like a leech--you sponge on me, you gorge
yourself--"

"That is enough, Evelyn. You have said all that is necessary. I
deserve it, too, for meddling in your affairs. It may satisfy you to
know that I have always despised you. Having confessed, I can only add
that we cannot live another hour under the same roof. You need not
order me to go. I shall do so of my own accord--gladly." Penelope
turned to the door. She was as cold as ice.

"It is the first time you have ever done anything to please me. You
may go in the morning."

"I shall go to-night!"

"As you like. It is near morning. Where do you expect to go at this
hour of night?"

"I am not afraid of the night. To-morrow I shall send over from the
village for my trunks." She paused near the door and then came back to
Cecil's side. "Good-bye, Cecil. I'll write. Good-bye." He looked up
with a hazy smile.

"G'night," he muttered thickly.

Without another word or so much as a glance at Lady Bazelhurst,
Penelope Drake went swiftly from the room. The big hall clock struck
the half-hour after eleven. Some one--a woman--was laughing in the
billiard-room below; the click of the balls came to her ears like
the snapping of angry teeth. She did not hesitate; it was not in
her nature. The room in which she had found so much delight was now
loathsome to her. With nervous fingers she threw the small things
she most cherished into a bag--her purse, her jewels, her little
treasures. Somehow it seemed to her as if she were hurrying to catch a
night train, that was all. With her own strong young arms she dragged
the two huge trunks from the closet. Half an hour later they were full
and locked. Then she looked about with a dry, mirthless smile.

"I wonder where I _am_ to go?" she murmured, half aloud, A momentary
feeling of indecision attacked her. The click of the balls had ceased,
the clock had struck twelve. It was dark and still, and the wind was
crying in the trees.

       *       *       *       *       *

"She won't go," Lady Bazelhurst was saying to herself, as she sat,
narrow-eyed and hateful, in her window looking out into the night.
"Life is too easy here." The light from the porch lanterns cast a
feeble glow out beyond the porte-cochère and down the drive. As
she stared across the circle, the figure of a woman suddenly cut a
diametric line through it, and lost itself in the wall of blackness
that formed the circumference. Lady Evelyn started and stared
unbelievingly into the darkness, striving to penetrate it with her
gaze.

"It was she--Penelope," she cried, coming to her feet. "She's really
gone--she meant it." For many minutes she peered out into the night,
expecting to see the shadow returning. A touch of anxious hope
possessing her, she left the window and hurried down the corridor to
Penelope's room. What she found there was most convincing. It was
not a trick of the lanterns. The shadow had been real. It must be
confessed that the peevish heart of Lady Bazelhurst beat rather
rapidly as she hastened back to the window to peer anxiously out into
the sombre park with its hooting owls and chattering night-bugs. The
mournful yelp of a distant dog floated across the black valley.
The watcher shuddered as she recalled stories of panthers that had
infested the great hills. A small feeling of shame and regret began to
develop with annoying insistence.

An hour dragged itself by before she arose petulantly, half terrified,
half annoyed in spite of herself. Her husband still was sitting in the
big chair, his face in his hands. His small, dejected figure appealed
to her pity for the first time in the two years of their association.
She realized what her temper had compelled her to say to him and to
his sister; she saw the insults that at least one of them had come to
resent.

"I hope that foolish girl will come back," she found herself saying,
with a troubled look from the window. "Where can the poor thing go?
What will become of her? What will everyone say when this becomes
known?" she cried, with fresh selfishness. "I--I should not have let
her go like this."

Even as she reproached herself, a light broke in upon her
understanding; a thought whirled into her brain and a moment later a
shrill, angry, hysterical laugh came from her lips.

"She knew where she could go! How simple I am. Shaw will welcome her
gladly. She's with him by this time--his doors have opened to her. The
little wretch! And I've been trying so hard to pity her!" She laughed
again so shrilly that his lordship stirred and then looked up at her
stupefied, uncertain.

"Hullo," he grunted. "What time is it?"

"Oh, you're awake, are you?" scornfully.

"Certainly. Have I been dozing? What's there to laugh at, my dear?" he
mumbled, arising very unsteadily. "Where's Pen?"

"She's gone. She's left the house," she said, recurring dread and
anxiety in her voice. A glance at the darkness outside brought back
the growing shudders.

"What--what d'ye mean?" demanded he, bracing up with a splendid
effort.

"She's left the house, that's all. We quarrelled. I don't know where
she's gone. Yes, I do know. She's gone to Shaw's for the night. She's
with him. I saw her going," she cried, striving between fear and
anger.

"You've--you've turned her out?" gasped Lord Bazelhurst, numbly. "In
the night? Good Lord, why--why did you let her go?" He turned and
rushed toward the door, tears springing to his eyes. He was sobering
now and the tears were wrenched from his hurt pride. "How long ago?"

"An hour or more. She went of her own accord. You'll find her at
Shaw's," said her ladyship harshly. She hated to admit that she was to
blame. But as her husband left the room, banging the door after him,
she caught her breath several times in a futile effort to stay the
sobs, and then broke down and cried, a very much abused young woman.
She hated everybody and everything.



CHAPTER V

IN WHICH DAN CUPID TRESPASSES


Lady Bazelhurst was right. Penelope was making her way through the
blackest of nights toward the home of Randolph Shaw. In deciding upon
this step, after long deliberation, she had said to herself: "Randolph
Shaw is the only real man I've seen since coming to the mountains. I
can trust him to help me to-night."

It was fully three miles to Shaw's place, most of the way over the
narrow valley road. She knew she would encounter but few tortuous
places. The last half-mile, however, was steep, rugged, and unfamiliar
to her. She had ventured no nearer to his home than Renwood's deserted
cottage, lying above and to the south of the road, almost at the base
of the long hill on whose side Shaw had built his big home. To climb
that hill was no easy task in daylight; at midnight, with the stars
obscured by clouds and tree-tops, there was something perilously
uncertain in the prospect.

Only the knowledge that patience and courage eventually would bring
her to the end made the journey possible. Time would lead her to the
haven; care would make the road a friend; a stout heart was her best
ally. Strength of limb and strength of purpose she had, in use and in
reserve. No power could have made her turn back willingly. Her anxious
eyes were set ahead in the blackness; her runaway feet were eager in
obedience to her will.

"Why couldn't I have put it off until morning?" she was saying to
herself as she passed down the gravelled drive and advanced to meet
the wall of trees that frowned blackly in her face. "What will he
think? What will he say? Oh, he'll think I'm such a silly, romantic
fool. No, he won't. He'll understand. He'll help me on to Plattsburg
to-morrow. But will he think I've done this for effect? Won't he think
I'm actually throwing myself at his head? No, I can't turn back. I'd
rather die than go back to that house. It won't matter what he thinks;
I'll be away from all of it to-morrow. I'll he out of his life and I
won't care what he thinks. England! Goodness, what's that?" She had
turned a bend in the drive and just ahead there was a light. A sigh of
relief followed the question. It came from the lantern which hung to a
stake in the road where the new stone gate-posts were being built by
workmen from town. Bazelhurst Villa was a quarter of a mile, through
the park, behind her; the forest was ahead.

At the gate she stopped between the half-finished stone posts and
looked ahead with the first shiver of dismay. Her limbs seemed ready
to collapse. The flush of anger and excitement left her face; a white,
desolate look came in its stead. Her eyes grew wide and she blinked
her lashes with an awed uncertainty that boded ill for the stability
of her adventure. An owl hooted in mournful cadence close by and she
felt that her hair was going straight on end. The tense fingers of one
hand gripped the handle of the travelling-bag while the other went
spasmodically to her heart.

"Oh!" she gasped, moving over quickly to the stake on which the
lantern hung. The wind was rushing through the tree-tops with
increased fervor; the air was cool and wet with the signs of rain; a
swirl of dust flew up into her face; the swish of leaves sounded like
the splashing of water in the air. Holding her heart for minutes, she
at last regained some of the lost composure. A hysterical laugh fell
from her lips. "What a goose! It was an owl and I've heard hundreds of
them up here. Still, they _do_ sound different outside of one's own
room. It's going to rain. What wretched luck! Dear me, I can't stand
here all night. How black it is ahead there. Oooh! Really, now, it
does seem a bit terrifying. If I only had a lantern it wouldn't
be so--" her gaze fell upon the laborers' lantern that clattered
aimlessly, uselessly against the stake. An instant later she had
jerked it from its fastening with a cry of joy. "I'll send it back
when they go for my trunks. What luck!"

Without a second's hesitation she started off briskly into the
woodland road, striding along with the splendid swing of the healthy
Englishwoman who has not been trained to dawdle. Her walking-skirt
gave free play to her limbs; she was far past the well-known "line in
the road" before she paused to take a full breath and to recapitulate.
Her heart beat faster and the sudden glow in her cheek was not from
the exercise. Somehow, out there alone in the world, the most amazing
feeling of tenderness sped on ahead to Randolph Shaw. She tried to
put it from her, but it grew and grew. Then she blushed deep within
herself and her eyes grew sweet with the memory of those stolen,
reprehensible hours along the frontier. Something within her breast
cried out for those shining, gone-by moments, something seemed to
close down on her throat, something flooded her eyes with a softness
that rolled up from her entire being. Their line! Their insurmountable
barrier! An absurd yet ineffable longing to fall down and kiss that
line came over her with compelling force.

Her head grew light with the thought of those moments when their
horses stood with muzzles together as if kissing by proxy--the flush
grew deeper, though her blood went cold and she trembled.

A pitiful confusion seized her, an inexplicable timidity crept into
her heart, replacing the bold assurance that had been recklessly
carrying her on to him. It was as though some one had whispered the
truth into her ear and she was beginning to believe.

From that moment her courage began to fail. The glow from her lantern
was a menace instead of a help. A sweet timorousness enveloped her and
something tingled--she knew not what.

Spattering raindrops whizzed in her face, ominous forerunners from the
inky sky. The wind was whistling with shrill glee in the tree-tops and
the tree-tops tried to flee before it. A mile and a half lay between
her and the big cottage on the hillside--the most arduous part of the
journey by far. She walked and ran as though pursued, scudding over
the road with a swiftness that would have amazed another, but which
seemed the essence of slowness to her. Thoughts of robbers, tramps,
wild beasts, assailed her with intermittent terrors, but all served
to diminish the feeling of shyness that had been interfering with her
determination.

Past Renwood's cottage she sped, shuddering as she recognized the
stone steps and path that ran up the hillside to the haunted house.
Ghosts, witches, hobgoblins fell into the procession of pursuers,
cheered on by the shrieking wind that grew more noisome as her feet
carried her higher up the mountain. Now she was on new ground. She had
never before explored so far as this. The hill was steep and the road
had black abysses out beyond its edges....

She was breathless, half dead from fatigue and terror when at last her
feet stumbled up the broad steps leading to his porch. Trembling, she
sank into the rustic bench that stood against the wall. The lantern
clattered to her feet, and the bag with her jewels, her letter of
credit, and her curling irons slid to the floor behind the bench. Here
was his home! What cared she for the storm?

Even as she lay there gasping for breath, her eyes on the shadowy moon
that was breaking its way through the clouds, three men raced from the
stables at Bazelhurst Villa bent on finding the mad young person who
had fled the place. Scarcely knowing what direction he took, Lord
Bazelhurst led the way, followed by the duke and the count, all of
them supplied with carriage lamps, which, at any other time, would
have been sickening in their obtrusiveness. Except for Lady Evelyn,
the rest of the house slept the sleep of ease.

Gradually Penelope recovered from the effects of the mad race up the
hill. The sputtering flame in the lantern called her into action.
Clutching it from the floor of the porch, she softly began a tour of
inspection, first looking at her watch to find that it was the unholy
hour of two! Had some one yelled boo! she would have swooned, so tense
was every nerve. Now that she was here, what was she to do? Her heart
came to her mouth, her hand shook, but not with fear; a nervous smile
tried to wreak disaster to the concern in her eyes.

The house was dark and still. No one was stirring. The porch was
littered with rugs and cushions, while on a small table near the end
stood a decanter, a siphon, and two glasses. Two? He had said he was
alone except for the housekeeper and the servants. A visitor, then.
This was not what she had expected. Her heart sank. It would be hard
to face the master of the house, but--a stranger? Cigarette stubs met
her bewildered, troubled gaze--many of them. Deduction was easy out
there in the lonely night. It was easy to see that Shaw and his
companion sat up so late that the servants had gone to bed.

Distractedly she looked about for means of shelter on the porch until
daylight could abet her in the flight to the village beyond. The storm
was sure to come at no far distant time. She knew and feared the
violence of the mountain rains.

"By all that's holy," came in a man's voice, low-toned and uncertain;
"it _isn't_ a dream, after all!"

She turned like a flash, with a startled exclamation and an
instinctive movement as if to shield herself from unbidden gaze. Her
lips parted and her heart pounded like a hammer. Standing in the
doorway was Randolph Shaw, his figure looming up like a monstrous,
wavering genie in the uncertain light from the shaking lantern. His
right hand was to his brow and his eyes were wide with incredulous
joy. She noticed that the left sleeve of his dinner jacket hung limp,
and that the arm was in a white sling beneath.

"Is it really you?" he cried, his hand going instinctively to his
watch-pocket as if doubting that it was night instead of morning.

"I've--I've run away from them," she stammered. "It's two
o'clock--don't look! Oh, I'm so sorry now--why did I--"

"You ran away?" he exclaimed, coming toward her. "Oh, it can't be a
dream. You are there, aren't you?" She was a pitiable object as she
stood there, powerless to retreat, shaking like a leaf. He took her by
the shoulder. "Yes--it is _you_. Good Lord, what does it mean? What
has happened? How did you come here? Are you alone?"

"Utterly, miserably alone. Oh, Mr. Shaw!" she cried despairingly. "You
_will_ understand, won't you?"

"Never! Never as long as I live. It is beyond comprehension. The
wonderful part of it all is that I was sitting in there dreaming of
you--yes, I was. I heard some one out here, investigated and found
you--_you_, of all people in the world. And I was dreaming that I held
you in my arms. Yes, I was! I was dreaming it--"

"Mr. Shaw! You shouldn't--"

"And I awoke to find you--not in my arms, not in Bazelhurst Villa, but
here--here on my porch."

"Like a thief in the night," she murmured. "What _do_ you think of
me?"

"Shall I tell you--really?" he cried. The light in his eyes drove her
back a step or two, panic in her heart.

"N--no, no--not now!" she gasped, but a great wave of exaltation swept
through her being. He turned and walked away, too dazed to speak.
Without knowing it, she followed with hesitating steps. At the edge of
the porch he paused and looked into the darkness.

"By Jove, I _must_ be dreaming," she heard him mutter.

"No, you are not," she declared desperately. "I _am_ here. I ask your
protection for the night. I am going away--to England--to-morrow. I
couldn't stay there--I just couldn't. I'm sorry I came here--I'm--"

"Thank haven, you _did_ come," he exclaimed, turning to her
joyously. "You are like a fairy--the fairy princess come true. It's
unbelievable! But--but what was it you said about England?" he
concluded, suddenly sober.

"I am go--going home. There's no place else. I can't live with her,"
she said, a bit tremulously.

"To England? At once? Your father--will he--"

"My father? I have no father. Oh!" with a sudden start. Her eyes met
his in a helpless stare. "I never thought. My home was at Bazelhurst
Castle--their home. I can't go there. Good heavens, what am I to do?"

A long time afterward she recalled his exultant exclamation, checked
at its outset--recalled it with a perfect sense of understanding. With
rare good taste he subdued whatever it was that might have struggled
for expression and simply extended his right hand to relieve her of
the lantern.

"We never have been enemies, Miss Drake," he said, controlling his
voice admirably. "But had we been so up to this very instant, I am
sure I'd surrender now. I don't know what has happened at the Villa.
It doesn't matter. You are here to ask my protection and my help. I am
at your service, my home is yours, my right hand also. You are tired
and wet and--nervous. Won't you come inside? I'll get a light in a
jiffy and Mrs. Ulrich, my housekeeper, shall be with you as soon as
I can rout her out. Come in, please." She held back doubtfully, a
troubled, uncertain look in her eyes.

"You _will_ understand, won't you?" she asked simply.

"And no questions asked," he said from the doorway. Still she held
back, her gaze going involuntarily to the glasses on the table. He
interpreted the look of inquiry. "There were two of us. The doctor was
here picking out the shot, that's all. He's gone. It's all right. Wait
here and I'll get a light." The flame in her lantern suddenly ended
its feeble life.

She stood inside his doorway and heard him shuffle across the floor in
search of the lamps.

"Dark as Egypt, eh?" he called out from the opposite side of the room.

"Not as dark as the forest, Mr. Shaw."

"Good heavens, what a time you must have had. All alone, were you?"

"Of course. I was not eloping."

"I beg your pardon."

"Where were you sitting when I came up?"

"Here--in the dark. I was waiting for the storm to come and dozed
away, I daresay. I love a storm, don't you?"

"Yes, if I'm indoors. Ah!" He had struck a match and was lighting the
wick of a lamp beside the huge fireplace. "I suppose you think I'm
perfectly crazy. I'm horrid."

"Not at all. Sit down here on the couch, please. More cheerful, eh?
Good Lord, listen to the wind. You got here just in time. Now, if
you'll excuse me, I'll have Mrs. Ulrich down in a minute. She'll take
good care of you. And I'll make you a nice hot drink, too. You need
it." In the door of the big living-room he turned to her, a look of
extreme doubt in his eyes. "By Jove, I bet I _do_ wake up. It can't
be true." She laughed plaintively and shook her head in humble
self-abasement. "Don't be lonesome. I'll he back in a minute."

"Don't hurry," she murmured apologetically. Then she settled back
limply in the wide couch and inspected the room, his footsteps noisily
clattering down the long hallway to the left. She saw, with some
misgiving, that it was purely a man's habitation. Shaw doubtless had
built and furnished the big cottage without woman as a consideration.
The room was large, comfortable, solid; there was not a suggestion of
femininity in it--high or low--except the general air of cleanliness.
The furniture was rough-hewn and built for use, not ornamentation; the
walls were hung with English prints, antlers, mementoes of the hunt
and the field of sport; the floor was covered with skins and great
"carpet rag" rugs. The whole aspect was so distinctly mannish that her
heart fluttered ridiculously in its loneliness. Her cogitations were
running seriously toward riot when he came hurriedly down the hall and
into her presence.

"She'll be down presently. In fact, so will the cook and the
housemaid. Gad, Miss Drake, they were so afraid of the storm that all
of them piled into Mrs. Ulrich's room. I wonder at your courage in
facing the symptoms outdoors. Now, I'll fix you a drink. Take off your
hat--be comfortable. Cigarette? Good! Here's my sideboard. See? It's a
nuisance, this having only one arm in commission; affects my style as
a barkeep. Don't stir; I'll be able--"

"Let me help you. I mean, please don't go to so much trouble. Really
I want nothing but a place to sleep to-night. This couch will
do--honestly. And some one to call me at daybreak, so that I may be
on my way." He looked at her and laughed quizzically. "Oh, I'm in
earnest, Mr. Shaw. I wouldn't have stopped here if it hadn't been for
the storm."

"Come, now, Miss Drake, you spoil the fairy tale. You _did_ intend to
come here. It was the only place for you to go--and I'm glad of it. My
only regret is that the house isn't filled with chaperons."

"Why?" she demanded with a guilty start.

"Because I could then say to you all the things that are in my
heart--aye, that are almost bursting from my lips. I--I can't say them
now, you know," he said, and she understood his delicacy. For some
minutes she sat in silence watching him as he clumsily mixed the
drinks and put the water over the alcohol blaze. Suddenly he turned
to her with something like alarm in his voice. "By George, you don't
suppose they'll pursue you?"

"Oh, wouldn't that be jolly? It would be like the real story-book--the
fairy and the ogres and all that. But," dubiously, "I'm sorely afraid
they consider me rubbish, Still--" looking up encouragingly--"my
brother would try to find me if he--if he knew that I was gone."

To her surprise, he whistled softly and permitted a frown of anxiety
to creep over his face. "I hadn't thought of that," he observed
reflectively. Then he seemed to throw off the momentary symptoms of
uneasiness, adding, with a laugh: "I daresay nothing will happen. The
storm would put a stop to all idea of pursuit."

"Let them pursue," she said, a stubborn light in her eyes. "I am my
own mistress, Mr. Shaw. They can't take me, willy nilly, as if I were
a child, you know."

"That's quite true. You don't understand," he said slowly, his back to
her.

"You mean the law? Is it different from ours?"

"Not that. The--er--situation. You see, they might think it a trifle
odd if they found you here--with me. Don't you understand?" He turned
to her with a very serious expression. She started and sat bolt
upright to stare at him comprehensively.

"You mean--it--it isn't quite--er--"

"Regular, perhaps," he supplied "Please keep your seat! I'm not the
censor; I'm not even an opinion. Believe me, Miss Drake, my only
thought was and is for your good."

"I see. They would believe evil of me if they knew I had come to you,"
she mused, turning quite cold.

"I know the kind of people your sister-in-law has at her place, Miss
Drake. Their sort can see but one motive in anything--You know them,
too, I daresay."

"Yes, I know them," she said uneasily. "Good heavens, what a fool I've
been," she added, starting to her feet. "I might have known they'll
say all sorts of terrible things. They must not find me here. Mr.
Shaw, I'm--I am so ashamed--I wonder what you are thinking of me." Her
lip trembled and there was such a pleading look in her dark eyes that
he controlled himself with difficulty. It was only by imposing the
severest restraint upon his susceptibilities that he was able to
approach her calmly.

"I can't tell you now--not here--what I am thinking. It isn't the
place. Maybe--maybe you can read my thought, Penel--Miss Drake. Look
up, please. Can't you read--oh, there now--I beg your pardon! You come
to me for protection and I--well, don't be too hard on me just yet.
I'll find the time and place to tell you." He drew away almost as
his hand was ready to clasp hers--all because her sweet eyes met his
trustingly--he could have sworn--lovingly.

"Just now I am a poor little reprobate," she sighed ever so miserably.
"You are very good. I'll not forget."

"I'll not permit you to forget," he said eagerly.

"Isn't the housekeeper a long time in coming?" she asked quickly. He
laughed contentedly.

"We've no reason to worry about her. It's the pursuers from Bazelhurst
that should trouble us. Won't you tell me the whole story?" And she
told him everything, sitting there beside him with a hot drink in her
hand and a growing shame in her heart. It was dawning upon her with
alarming force that she was exposing a hitherto unknown incentive. It
was not a comfortable awakening. "And you champion me to that extent?"
he cried joyously. She nodded bravely and went on.

"So here I am," she said in conclusion. "I really could not have
walked to Ridgely to-night, could I?"

"I should say not."

"And there was really nowhere else to come but here?" dubiously.

"See that light over there--up the mountain?" he asked, leading her
to a window. "Old man Grimes and his wife live up there. They keep a
light burning all night to scare Renwood's ghost away. By Jove, the
storm will be upon us in a minute. I thought it had blown around us."
The roll of thunder came up the valley. "Thank heaven, you're safe
indoors. Let them pursue if they like. I'll hide you if they come, and
the servants are close-mouthed."

"I don't like the way you put it, Mr. Shaw."

"Hullo, hullo--the house," came a shout from the wind-ridden night
outside. Two hearts inside stopped beating for a second or two. She
caught her breath sharply as she clasped his arm.

"They are after me!" she gasped.

"They must not find you here. Really, Miss Drake, I mean it. They
wouldn't understand. Come with me. Go down this hall quickly. It leads
to the garden back of the house. There's a gun-room at the end of the
hall. Go in there, to your right. Here, take this! It's an electric
saddle-lantern. I'll head these fellows off. They shan't find you.
Don't be alarmed."

She sped down the narrow hall and he, taking time to slip into a long
dressing-coat, stepped out upon the porch in response to the now
prolonged and impatient shouts.

"Who's there?" he shouted. The light from the windows revealed several
horsemen in the roadway.

"Friends," came back through the wind. "Let us in out of the storm.
It's a terror."

"I don't know you." There was a shout of laughter and some profanity.

"Oh, yes, you do, Mr. Shaw. Open up and let us in. It's Dave Bank and
Ed Hunter. We can't make the cabin before the rain." Shaw could see
their faces now and then by the flashes of lightning and he recognized
the two woodsmen, who doubtless had been visiting sweethearts up
toward Ridgely.

"Take your horses to the stable, boys, and come in," he called,
laughing heartily. Then he hurried off to the gun-room. He passed Mrs.
Ulrich coming downstairs yawning prodigiously; he called to her to
wait for him in the library.

There was no one in the gun-room; the door leading to the back porch
was open. With an exclamation he leaped outside and looked about him.

"Good heavens!" he cried, staggering back.

Far off in the night, a hundred yards or more up the road, leading
to Grimes' cabin he saw the wobbling, uncertain flicker of a light
wending its way like a will-o'-the-wisp through the night. Without
a moment's hesitation and with something strangely like an oath, he
rushed into the house, almost upsetting the housekeeper in his haste.

"Visitors outside. Make 'em comfortable. Back soon," he jerked out as
he changed his coat with small respect for his injured arm. Then he
clutched a couple of rain-coats from the rack and flew out of the back
door like a man suddenly gone mad.



CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH A GHOST TRESPASSES


The impulse which drove Penelope out for the second time that night
may he readily appreciated. Its foundation was fear; its subordinate
emotions were shame, self-pity and consciousness of her real feeling
toward the man of the house. The true spirit of womanhood revolted
with its usual waywardness.

She was flying down the stony road, some distance from the cottage,
in the very face of the coming tornado, her heart beating like a
trip-hammer, her eyes bent on the little light up the mountain-side,
before it occurred to her that this last flight was not only senseless
but perilous. She even laughed at herself for a fool as she recalled
the tell-tale handbag on the porch and the damning presence of a
Bazelhurst lantern in the hallway.

The storm which had been raging farther down the valley was at
last whirling up to the hill-tops, long delayed as if in gleeful
anticipation of catching her alone and unprotected. The little
electric saddle-lamp that she carried gave out a feeble glow, scarce
opening the way in the darkness more than ten feet ahead. Rough and
irksome was the road, most stubborn the wall of wind. The second
threat of the storm was more terrifying than the first; at any instant
it was likely to break forth in all its slashing fury--and she knew
not whither she went.

Even as she lost heart and was ready to turn wildly back in an effort
to reach Shaw's home before the deluge, the lightning flashes revealed
to her the presence of a dwelling just off the road not two hundred
feet ahead. She stumbled forward, crying like a frightened child.
There were no lights. The house looked dark, bleak, unfriendly.
Farther up the hillside still gleamed the little light that was meant
to keep Renwood's ghost from disturbing the slumbers of old man Grimes
and his wife. She could not reach that light, that much she knew.
Her feet were like hundredweights, her limbs almost devoid of power;
Grimes' hut appeared to be a couple of miles away. With a last,
breathless effort, she turned off the road and floundered through
weeds and brush until she came to what proved to be the rear of the
darkened house. Long, low, rangy it reached off into the shadows,
chilling in its loneliness. There was no time left for her to climb
the flight of steps and pound on the back door. The rain was swishing
in the trees with a hiss that forbade delay.

She threw herself, panting and terror-stricken, into the cave-like
opening under the porch, her knees giving way after the supreme
effort. The great storm broke as she crouched far back against the
wall; her hands over her ears, her eyes tightly closed. She was safe
from wind and rain, but not from the sounds of that awful conflict.
The lantern lay at her feet, sending its ray out into the storm with
the senseless fidelity of a beacon light.

"Penelope!" came a voice through the storm, and a second later a
man plunged into the recess, crashing against the wall beside her.
Something told her who it was, even before he dropped beside her and
threw his strong arm about her shoulders. The sound of the storm died
away as she buried her face on his shoulder and shivered so mightily
that he was alarmed. With her face burning, her blood tingling, she
lay there and wondered if the throbbing of her heart were not about to
kill her.

He was crying something into her ear--wild, incoherent words
that seemed to have the power to quiet the storm. And she was
responding--she knew that eager words were falling from her lips,
but she never knew what they were--responding with a fervor that was
overwhelming her with joy. Lips met again and again and there was no
thought of the night, of the feud, the escapade, the Renwood ghost--or
of aught save the two warm living human bodies that had found each
other.

The storm, swerving with the capricious mountain winds, suddenly swept
their refuge with sheets of water. Randolph Shaw threw the raincoats
over his companion and both laughed hysterically at their plight,
suddenly remembered.

"We can't stay here," he shouted.

"We can't go out into it," she cried. "Where are we?"

"Renwood's," he called back. Their position was untenable. He was
drenched; the raincoats protected her as she crouched back into the
most remote corner. Looking about he discovered a small door leading
to the cellar. It opened the instant he touched the latch. "Come,
quick," he cried, lifting her to her feet. "In here--stoop! I have the
light. This is the cellar. I'll have to break down a door leading to
the upper part of the house, but that will not be difficult. Here's an
axe or two. Good Lord, I'm soaked!"

"Whe--where are we going?" she gasped, as he drew her across the
earthern floor.

"Upstairs. It's comfortable up there." They were at the foot of the
narrow stairway. She held back.

"Never! It's the--the haunted house! I can't--Randolph."

"Pooh! Don't be afraid. I'm with you, dearest."

"I know," she gulped. "But you have only one arm. Oh, I can't!"

"It's all nonsense about ghosts. I've slept here twenty times,
Penelope. People have seen my light and my shadow, that's all. I'm a
pretty substantial ghost."

"Oh, dear! What a disappointment. And there are no spooks? Not even
Mrs. Renwood?"

"Of course she may come back, dear, but you'd hardly expect a
respectable lady spook to visit the place with me stopping here. Even
ghosts have regard for conventionalities. She _couldn't_--"

"How much more respectable than I," Penelope murmured plaintively.

"Forgive me," he implored.

"I would--only you are so wet."

The door above was locked, but Shaw swung the axe so vigorously that
any but a very strong-nerved ghost must have been frightened to death
once more.

"It's my house, you know," he explained from the top step. "There we
are! Come up, Penelope. The fort is yours."

She followed him into the hall above. In silence they walked along the
bare floors through empty rooms until at last he opened a door in what
proved to be the left wing. To her surprise, this room was comfortably
furnished. There were ashes in the big fireplace and there were lamps
which had been used recently--for they were filled with oil.

"Here's where I read sometimes," he explained. "I have slept on that
couch. Last winter I came up here to hunt. My cottage wasn't finished,
so I stayed here. I'll confess I've heard strange sounds--now, don't
shiver! Once or twice I've been a bit nervous, but I'm still alive,
you see." He lighted the wicks in the two big lamps while she looked
on with the chills creeping up and down her back. "I'll have a bully
fire in the fireplace in just a minute."

"Let me help you," she suggested, coming quite close to him with
uneasy glances over her shoulders.

Ten minutes later they were sitting before a roaring fire, quite
content even though there was a suggestion of amazed ghosts lurking in
the hallway behind them. No doubt old man Grimes and his wife, if they
awoke in the course of the night, groaned deep prayers in response
to the bright light from the windows of the haunted house. Shaw
and Penelope smiled securely as they listened to the howling storm
outside.

"Well, this _is_ trespassing," she said, beaming a happy smile upon
him.

"I shall be obliged to drive you out, alas," he said reflectively. "Do
you recall my vow? As long as you are a Bazelhurst, I must perforce
eject you."

"Not to-night!" she cried in mock dismay.

"But, as an alternative, you'll not be a Bazelhurst long," he went on
eagerly, suddenly taking her hands into his, forgetful of the wounded
left. "I'm going to try trespassing myself. To-morrow I'm going to see
your brother. It's regular, you know. I'm going to tell the head of
your clan that you are coming over to Shaw, heart and hand."

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "You--you--no, no! You must not do that!"

"But, my dear, you _are_ going to marry me."

"Yes--I--suppose so," she murmured helplessly. "That isn't what I
meant. I mean, it isn't necessary to ask Cecil. Ask me; I'll consent
for him."

Half an hour passed. Then he went to the window and looked out into
the storm.

"You _must_ lie down and get some sleep," he insisted, coming back
to her. "The storm's letting up, but we can't leave here for quite a
while. I'll sit up and watch. I'm too happy to sleep." She protested,
but her heavy eyes were his allies. Soon he sat alone before the fire;
she slept sound on the broad couch in the corner, a steamer rug across
her knees. A contented smile curved his lips as he gazed reflectively
into the flames. He was not thinking of Mrs. Renwood's amiable ghost.

How long she had been asleep, Penelope did not know. She awoke with a
start, her flesh creeping. A nameless dread came over her; she felt
that she was utterly alone and surrounded by horrors. It was a full
minute--a sickening hour, it seemed--before she realized that she was
in the room with the man she loved. Her frightened eyes caught sight
of him lying back in the chair before the dying fire in the chimney
place. The lights were low, the shadows gaunt and chill.

A terrified exclamation started to her lips. Her ears again caught the
sound of some one moving in the house--some alien visitor. There
was no mistaking the sound--the distant, sepulchral laugh and the
shuffling of feet, almost at the edge of the couch it seemed.

"Randolph!" she whispered hoarsely. The man in the chair did not move.
She threw off the blanket and came to a sitting posture on the side of
the couch, her fingers clutching the covering with tense horror. Again
the soft, rumbling laugh and the sound of footsteps on the stairway.
Like a flash she sped across the room and clutched frantically at
Randolph's shoulders. He awoke with an exclamation, staring bewildered
into the horrified face above.

"The--the ghost!" she gasped, her eyes glued upon the hall door. He
leaped to his feet and threw his arms about her.

"You've had a bad dream," he said. "What a beast I was to fall asleep.
Lord, you're frightened half out of your wits. Don't tremble so,
dearest. There's no ghost. Every one knows--"

"Listen--listen!" she whispered. Together they stood motionless,
almost breathless before the fire, the glow from which threw their
shadows across the room to meet the mysterious invader.

"Good Lord," he muttered, unwilling to believe his ears. "There _is_
some one in the house. I've--I've heard sounds here before, but not
like these." Distinctly to their startled ears came the low, subdued
murmur of a human voice and then unmistakable moans from the very
depth of the earth--from the grave, it seemed.

"Do you hear?" she whispered. "Oh, this dreadful place! Take me away,
Randolph, dear--"

"Don't be afraid," he said, drawing her close. "There's nothing
supernatural about those sounds. They come from lips as much alive as
ours. I'll investigate." He grabbed the heavy poker from the chimney
corner, and started toward the door. She followed close behind, his
assurance restoring in a measure the courage that had temporarily
deserted her.

In the hallway they paused to look out over the broad porch. The storm
had died away, sighing its own requiem in the misty tree-tops. Dawn
was not far away. A thick fog was rising to meet the first glance of
day. In surprise Shaw looked at his watch, her face at his shoulder.
It was after five o'clock.

"Ghosts turn in at midnight, dear," he said with a cheerful smile.
"They don't keep such hours as these."

"But who can it be? There are no tramps in the mountains," she
protested, glancing over her shoulder apprehensively.

"Listen! By Jove, that voice came from the cellar."

"And the lock is broken," she exclaimed. "But how silly of me! Ghosts
don't stop for locks."

"I'll drop the bolts just the same," he said, as they hurried down
the hallway. At the back stairs they stopped and listened for many
minutes. Not a sound came up to them from below. Softly he closed the
door and lowered two heavy bars into place. "If there's any one down
there they probably think they've heard spooks trotting around up
here."

"Really, it's quite thrilling, isn't it?" she whispered, in her
excitement.

"In any event, we're obliged to remain under cover until they depart,"
he said thoughtfully. "We can't be seen here dearest."

"No," she murmured, "not even though it is _our_ house."

They returned to the big room as softly as mice and he left her a
moment later to close the heavy window shutters on the porch. When
he returned there was a grim smile on his face and his voice shook a
little as he spoke.

"I've heard the voices again. They came from the laundry I think. The
Renwoods were downright Yankees, Penelope; I will swear that these
voices are amazingly English."



CHAPTER VII

IN WHICH THE AUTHOR TRESPASSES


This narrative has quite as much to do with the Bazelhurst side of the
controversy as it has with Shaw's. It is therefore but fair that the
heroic invasion by Lord Cecil should receive equal consideration from
the historian. Shaw's conquest of one member of the force opposing him
was scarcely the result of bravery; on the other hand Lord Cecil's
dash into the enemy's country was the very acme of intrepidity. Shaw
had victory fairly thrust upon him; Lord Bazelhurst had a thousand
obstacles to overcome before he could even so much as stand face to
face with the enemy. Hence the expedition that started off in the wake
of the deserter deserves more than passing mention.

Down the drive and out into the mountain road clattered the three
horsemen. Lady Bazelhurst, watching at the window casement, almost
swooned with amazement at the sight of them. The capes of their
mackintoshes seemed to flaunt a satirical farewell in her face; their
owners, following the light of the carriage lamps, swept from view
around a bend in the road.

His lordship had met the duke in the hall, some distance from that
nobleman's room, and, without observing Barminster's apparent
confusion, commanded him to join in the pursuit. Barminster explained
that he was going to see how the cook was resting; however, he would
go much farther to be of service to the runaway sister of his host.

"She's broken-hearted," half sobbed the brother.

"Yes," agreed the duke; "and what's a broken leg to a broken heart?
Penelope's heart, at that. Demme, I can't find the cook's room,
anyway."

"It's in the servants' wing," said Cecil, anxious to be off.

"To be sure. Stupid ass I am. I say, old chap, here's Deveaux's door.
Let's rout him out. We'll need some one to hold the horses if we have
to force our way into Shaw's house."

The count was not thoroughly awake until he found himself in the
saddle some time later; it is certain that he did not know until long
afterward why they were riding off into the storm. He fell so far
behind his companions in the run down the road that he could ask no
questions. Right bravely the trio plunged into the dark territory
over which the enemy ruled. It was the duke who finally brought the
cavalcade to a halt by propounding a most sensible question.

"Are you sure she came this way, Cecil?"

"Certainly. This is Shaw's way, isn't it?"

"Did she say she was going to Shaw's?"

"Don't know. Evelyn told me. Hang it all, Barminster, come along.
We'll never catch up to her."

"Is she riding?"

"No--horses all in."

"Do you know, we may have passed her. Deuce take it, Bazelhurst, if
she's running away from us, you don't imagine she'd be such a silly
fool as to stand in the road and wait for us. If she heard us she'd
hide among the trees."

"But she's had an hour's start of us."

"Where ees she coming to?" asked the count, with an anxious glance
upward just in time to catch a skirmishing raindrop with his eye.

"That's just it. We don't know," said the duke.

"But I must find her," cried Lord Cecil. "Think of that poor girl
alone in this terrible place, storm coming up and all that. Hi,
Penelope!" he shouted in his most vociferous treble. The shrieking
wind replied. Then the three of them shouted her name. "Gad, she may
be lost or dead or--Come on, Barminster. We must scour the whole
demmed valley." They were off again, moving more cautiously while the
duke threw the light from his lamp into the leafy shadows beside
the roadway. The wind was blowing savagely down the slope and
the raindrops were beginning to beat in their faces with ominous
persistency. Some delay was caused by an accident to the rear-guard. A
mighty gust of wind blew the count's hat far back over the travelled
road. He was so much nearer Bazelhurst Villa when they found it that
he would have kept on in that direction for the sake of his warm bed
had not his companions talked so scornfully about cowardice.

"He's like a wildcat to-night," said the duke in an aside to the
little Frenchman, referring to his lordship. "Demme, I'd rather not
cross him. You seem to forget that his sister is out in all this
fury."

"Mon Dieu, but I do not forget. I would gif half my life to hold her
in my arms thees eenstan'."

"Dem you, sir, I'd give her the other half if you dared try such a
thing. We didn't fetch you along to hold her. You've got to hold the
horses, that's all."

"Diable! How dare you to speak to--"

"What are you two rowing about?" demanded his lordship. "Come along!
We're, losing time. Sit on your hat, Deveaux."

Away they swept, Penelope's two admirers wrathfully barking at one
another about satisfaction at some future hour.

The storm burst upon them in all its fury--the maddest, wildest storm
they had known in all their lives. Terrified, half drowned, blown
almost from the saddles, the trio finally found shelter in the lee of
a shelving cliff just off the road. While they stood there shivering,
clutching the bits of their well-nigh frantic horses, the glimmer of
lights came down to them from windows farther up the steep. There
was no mistaking the three upright oblongs of light; they were tall
windows in the house, the occupants of which doubtless had been
aroused at this unearthly hour by the fierceness of the storm.

"By Jove," lamented the duke, water running down his neck in floods.
"What a luxury a home is, be it ever so humble, on a night like this."

"Mon Dieu! Mon Dieu!" groaned the count. "How comfortab' zey look. And
here? _Eh bien! Qui fait trembler la terre!_ I am seeck! I die!"

"Penelope is out in all this," moaned his lordship.

"I am not so sure of that. Trust a woman to find a place where she
can't ruin her hat. My word for it, Cecil, she's found a safe roost.
I say, by Jove!" The duke was staring more intently than ever at the
windows far above. "I have it! Isn't it rather odd that a house should
be lighted so brilliantly at this hour of night?"

"Demmed servants forgot to put out the lamps," groaned Bazelhurst
without interest.

"Nonsense! I tell you what: some one has roused the house and asked
shelter from the storm. Now, who could that be but Penelope?"

"By Jove, you're a ripping clever ass, after all, Barminster--a
regular Sherlock Holmes. That's just it! She's up there where the
windows are. Come on! It's easy sailing now," cried his lordship, but
the duke restrained him.

"Don't rush off like a fool. Whose house is it?"

"How the devil do I know? This is Shaw's land, and he hasn't been
especially cordial about--"

"Aha! See what I mean? Shaw's land, to be sure. Well, hang your
stupidity, don't you know we're looking at Shaw's house this very
instant? He lives there and she's arrived, dem it all. She's up there
with him--dry clothes, hot drinks and all that, and we're out here
catching pneumonia. Fine, isn't it?"

"Gad! You're right! She's with that confounded villain. My God, what's
to become of her?" groaned Lord Cecil, sitting down suddenly and
covering his face with his hands.

"We must rescue her!" shouted the duke. "Brace up, Cecil. Don't be a
baby. We'll storm the place."

"Not in zis rain!" cried the count.

"You stay here in the shade and hold the horses, that's what you do,"
said the duke scornfully.

A council of war was held. From their partially sheltered position the
invaders could see, by the flashes of lightning, that a path and some
steps ascended the hill. The duke was for storming the house at once,
but Lord Cecil argued that it would be foolish to start before the
storm abated. Moreover he explained, it would be the height of folly
to attack the house until they were sure that Penelope was on the
inside.

After many minutes there came a break in the violence of the storm and
preparations were at once made for the climb up the hill. Deveaux was
to remain behind in charge of the horses. With their bridle reins in
his hands he cheerfully maintained this position of trust, securely
sheltered from the full force of the elements. Right bravely did the
duke and his lordship venture forth into the spattering rain. They had
gone no more than three rods up the path when they were brought to a
halt by the sounds of a prodigious struggle behind them. There was a
great trampling of horses' hoofs, accompanied by the frantic shouts of
the count.

"I cannot hold zem! Mon Dieu! Zey are mad! Ho! Ho! Help!"

He was in truth having a monstrous unpleasant time. His two
friends stumbled to his assistance, but not in time to prevent the
catastrophe. The three horses had taken it into their heads to bolt
for home; they were plunging and pulling in three directions at the
same time, the count manfully clinging to the bridle reins, in great
danger of being suddenly and shockingly dismembered.

"Hold to 'em!" shouted Lord Cecil.

"Help!" shouted the count, at the same moment releasing his grip on
the reins. Away tore the horses, kicking great chunks of mud over him
as he tumbled aimlessly into the underbrush. Down the road clattered
the animals, leaving the trio marooned in the wilderness. Groaning and
half dead, the unfortunate count was dragged from the brush by his
furious companions. What the duke said to him was sufficient without
being repeated, here or elsewhere. The count challenged him as they
all resumed the march up the hill to visit the house with the lighted
windows.

"Here is my card, m'sieur," he grated furiously.

"Demme, I know you!" roared the duke. "Keep your card and we'll send
it in to announce our arrival to Shaw."

In due course of time, after many slips and falls, they reached the
front yard of the house on the hillside. It was still raining lightly;
the thunder and lightning were clashing away noisily farther up the
valley. Cautiously they approached through the weeds and brush.

"By Jove!" exclaimed his lordship, coming to a standstill. He turned
the light of his lantern toward the front elevation of the house.
"Every door and window, except these three, are boarded up. It can't
be Shaw's home."

"That's right, old chap. Deuced queer, eh? I say, Deveaux, step up and
pound on the door. You've got a card, you know."

"Que diable!" exclaimed the count, sinking into the back-ground.

"We might reconnoitre a bit," said Bazelhurst. "Have a look at the
rear, you know."

Around the corner of the house they trailed, finally bringing up at
the back steps. The windows were not only dark but boarded up. While
they stood there amazed and uncertain, the rain came down again in
torrents, worse than before if possible. They scampered for cover,
plunging three abreast beneath the same steps that had sheltered
Penelope and Shaw such a short time before.

"Ouch! Get off my foot!" roared the duke.

"Zounds! Who are you punching, demme! Hullo! What's this? A door and
open, as I live." The trio entered the cellar door without ceremony.
"Thank God, we're out of the rain, at least."

It was not until they had explored the basement and found it utterly
without signs of human occupancy that the truth of the situation began
to dawn upon them. Barminster's face was white and his voice shook as
he ventured the horrid speculation:

"The good Lord save us--it's that demmed haunted house Pen was talking
about!"

"But ze lights?" queried the count.

"Ghosts!"

"Let's get out of this place," said Lord Bazelhurst, moving toward the
door. "It's that beastly Renwood house. They say he comes back and
murders her every night or so."

"Mon Dieu!"

"Penelope isn't here. Let's move on," agreed the duke readily. But
even fear of the supernatural was not strong enough to drive them out
into the blinding storm. "I say! Look ahead there. By Harry, _there's_
Shaw's place."

Peering through the door they saw for the first time the many lights
in Shaw's windows, scarce a quarter of a mile away. For a long time
they stood and gazed at the distant windows. Dejectedly they sat down,
backs to the wall, and waited for the storm to spend its fury. Wet,
cold, and tired, they finally dozed. It was Lord Cecil who first saw
the signs of dawn. The rain storm had come to a mysterious end, but a
heavy fog in its stead loomed up. He aroused his companions and with
many groans of anguish they prepared to venture forth into the white
wall beyond.

Just as they were taking a last look about the wretched cellar
something happened that would have brought terror to the stoutest
heart. A wild, appalling shriek came from somewhere above, the cry of
a mortal soul in agony.

The next instant three human forms shot through the narrow door and
out into the fog, hair on end, eyes bulging but sightless, legs
traveling like the wind and as purposeless. It mattered not that the
way was hidden; it mattered less that weeds, brush, and stumps lurked
in ambush for unwary feet. They fled into the foggy dangers without a
thought of what lay before them--only of what stalked behind them.

Upstairs Randolph Shaw lay back against the wall and shook with
laughter. Penelope's convulsed face was glued to the kitchen window,
her eyes peering into the fog beyond. Shadowy figures leaped into the
white mantle; the crash of brush came back to her ears, and then,
like the barking of a dog, there arose from the mystic gray the fast
diminishing cry:

"Help! Help! Help!" Growing fainter and sharper the cry at last was
lost in the phantom desert.

They stood at the window and watched the fog lift, gray and
forbidding, until the trees and road were discernible. Then, arm in
arm, they set forth across the wet way toward Shaw's cottage. The
mists cleared as they walked along, the sun peeped through the hills
as if afraid to look upon the devastation of the night; all the world
seemed at peace once more.

"Poor Cecil!" she sighed. "It was cruel of you." In the roadway they
found a hat which she at once identified as the count's. Farther on
there was a carriage lamp, and later a mackintosh which had been cast
aside as an impediment. "Oh, it _was_ cruel!" She smiled, however, in
retrospection.

An hour later they stood together on the broad porch, looking out over
the green, glistening hills. The warm fresh air filled their lungs and
happiness was overcrowding their hearts. In every direction were signs
of the storm's fury. Great trees lay blasted, limbs and branches were
scattered over the ground, wide fissures split the roadway across
which the deluge had rushed on its way down the slope.

But Penelope was warm and dry and safe after her thrilling night. A
hot breakfast was being prepared for them; trouble seemed to have gone
its way with the elements.

"If I were only sure that nothing serious had happened to Cecil," she
murmured anxiously.

"I'm sorry, dear, for that screech of mine," he apologized.

Suddenly he started and gazed intently in the direction of the haunted
house. A man--a sorry figure--was slowly, painfully approaching from
the edge of the wood scarce a hundred yards away. In his hand he
carried a stick to which was attached a white cloth--doubtless a
handkerchief. He was hatless and limped perceptibly. The two on the
porch watched his approach in amazed silence.

"It's Cecil!" whispered Penelope in horror-struck tones. "Good heaven,
Randolph, go to him! He is hurt."

It was Lord Bazelhurst. As Shaw hurried down the drive to meet him,
no thought of the feud in mind, two beings even more hopelessly
dilapidated ventured from the wood and hobbled up behind the
truce-bearer, who had now paused to lift his shoulders into a position
of dignity and defiance. Shaw's heart was touched. The spectacle was
enough to melt the prejudice of any adversary. Lord Cecil's knees
trembled; his hand shook as if in a chill. Mud-covered, water-soaked,
and bruised, their clothes rent in many places, their hats gone and
their hair matted, their legs wobbly, the trio certainly inspired
pity, not mirth nor scorn.

"One moment, sir," called his lordship, with a feeble attempt at
severity. His voice was hoarse and shaky. "We do not come as friends,
dem you. Is my sister here?"

"She is, Lord Bazelhurst. We'll talk this over later on," said Shaw in
his friendliest way. "You are worn out and done up, I'm sure--you and
your friends. Come! I'm not as bad as you think. I've changed my
mind since I saw you last. Let's see if we can't come to an amicable
understanding. Miss Drake is waiting up there. Breakfast soon will be
ready--hot coffee and all that. Permit me, gentlemen, to invite you to
partake of what we have. What say you?"

"Confound you, sir, I--I--" but his brave effort failed him. He
staggered and would have fallen had not the duke caught him from
behind.

"Thanks, old chap," said Barminster to Shaw. "We will come in for a
moment. I say, perhaps you could give us a dry dud or two. Bazelhurst
is in a bad way and so is the count. It was a devil of a storm."

"_Mon Dieu! c'était épouvantable_!" groaned the count.

Penelope came down from the porch to meet them. Without a word she
took her brother's arm. He stared at her with growing resentment.

"Dem it all, Pen," he chattered, "you're not at all wet, are you? Look
at me! All on your account, too."

"Dear old Cecil! All on Evelyn's account, you mean," she said softly,
wistfully.

"I shall have an understanding with her when we get home," he said
earnestly. "She sha'n't treat my sister like this again."

"No," said Shaw from the other side; "she sha'n't."

"By Jove, Shaw, are you _with_ me?" demanded his lordship in surprise.

"Depends on whether you are with me," said the other. Penelope flushed
warmly.

Later on, three chastened but ludicrous objects shuffled into the
breakfast-room, where Shaw and Penelope awaited them. In passing, it
is only necessary to say that Randolph Shaw's clothes did not fit the
gentlemen to whom they were loaned. Bazelhurst was utterly lost in
the folds of a gray tweed, while the count was obliged to roll up the
sleeves and legs of a frock suit which fitted Shaw rather too snugly.
The duke, larger than the others, was passably fair in an old
swallow-tail coat and brown trousers. They were clean, but there was
a strong odor of arnica about them. Each wore, besides, an uncertain,
sheepish smile.

Hot coffee, chops, griddle cakes, and maple syrup soon put the
contending forces at their ease. Bazelhurst so far forgot himself as
to laugh amiably at his host's jokes. The count responded in his most
piquant dialect, and the duke swore by an ever-useful Lord Harry that
he had never tasted such a breakfast.

"By Jove, Pen," exclaimed her brother, in rare good humor, "it's
almost a sin to take you away from such good cooking as this."

"You're not going to take her away, however," said Shaw. "She has come
to stay."

There was a stony silence. Coffee-cups hung suspended in the journey
to mouths, and three pairs of eyes stared blankly at the smiling
speaker.

"What--what the devil do you mean, sir?" demanded Lord Cecil, his
coffee-cup shaking so violently that the contents overflowed.

"She's going over to Plattsburg with me to-day, and when she comes
back she will be Mrs. Randolph Shaw. That's what I mean, your
lordship."

Three of his listeners choked with amazement and then coughed
painfully. Feebly they set their cups down and gulped as if they had
something to swallow. The duke was the first to find his tongue, and
he was quite at a loss for words.

"B--by Jove," he said blankly, "that's demmed hot coffee!"

"Is this true, Penelope?" gasped his lordship.

"Yes, Cecil. I've promised to marry him."

"Good God! It isn't because you feel that you have no home with me?"

"I love him. It's a much older story than you think," she said simply.

"I say, that hits me hard," said the duke, with a wry face. "Still, I
join in saying God bless you."

"We're trying to end the feud, you see," said Penelope.

Tears came into his lordship's pale eyes. He looked first at one and
then at the other, and then silently extended his hand to Randolph
Shaw. He wrung it vigorously for a long time before speaking. Then, as
if throwing a weight off his mind, he remarked:

"I say, Shaw, I'm sorry about that dog. I've got an English
bull-terrier down there that's taken a ribbon or so. If you don't
mind, I'll send him up to you. He--he knows Penelope."



THE CASE OF MRS. MAGNUS

BY BURTON E. STEVENSON



CHAPTER I


The position of confidential family adviser is not without its
drawbacks, and it was with a certain reluctance that I told the office
boy to show Mrs. Magnus in. For Mrs. Magnus was that _bête noire_
of the lawyer--a woman recently widowed, utterly without business
experience, and yet with a firm belief in her ability to manage her
husband's estate. If Mrs. Magnus chose to ruin herself there was, of
course, no reason why I should worry, but it is annoying to have a
person constantly asking for advice and as constantly disregarding it.
I never really understood why Mrs. Magnus asked for advice at all.

She was a woman of about fifty, thin and nervous, with a curious habit
of compressing her lips into a tight knot, under the impression, I
suppose, that the result indicated strength of character. Peter
Magnus had married her when he was only an obscure clerk in the great
commission house which he was afterward to own, and she was a school
teacher or governess, or something of that sort. Perhaps she was a
little ahead of him intellectually at the start, but he had broadened
and developed, while she had narrowed and dried up, but she never lost
the illusion of her mental supremacy, nor the idea that she had, in
some dim way, married beneath her.

There were no children, and for the past ten years the old Magnus
house on Twenty-third Street had been for her a kind of hermitage from
which she seldom issued. Great business blocks sprang up on either
side of it, but she would never permit her husband to sell it and move
farther uptown.

For Magnus, on the other hand, the house became in time merely a sort
of way station between the busy terminals of his life. I dare say he
grew indifferent to his wife. That however, has nothing to do with
this story.

Mrs. Magnus usually entered my office as one intrenched in conscious
strength, but this morning it was evident that something had occurred
to disturb her calm assurance. Her lips seemed more shrunken than
ever; there were little lines of worry about her eyes, and dark
circles under them, and as she dropped into the chair I placed for
her, I saw that her hands were trembling. As I sat down in my own
chair and swung around to face her, the conviction struck through me
that she was badly frightened.

"Mr. Lester," she began, after a moment in which she was visibly
struggling for self-control, "I want fifty thousand dollars in
currency."

"Why--why, of course," I stammered, trying to accept the demand as
quite an ordinary one. "When?"

"By eight o'clock to-night."

"Very well," I said. "But I suppose you know that, to secure the money
so quickly, some of your securities will have to be sacrificed. It's a
bear market."

"I don't care--sacrifice them. Only I must have that sum to-night."

"Very well," I said again. "But I hope you will tell me, if you can,
what the money is for, Mrs. Magnus. Perhaps my advice--"

"No, it won't," she broke in. "This isn't a case for advice. There's
nothing else for me to do. I've been fighting it and fighting
it--but--"

She ended with a little gesture of helplessness and resignation.

"Perhaps we might borrow the money," I suggested, "until a better
market--"

"No," she broke in again, "you know I won't borrow. So don't talk
about it."

It was one of the fundamental tenets of this woman's financial creed
that on no account was money to be borrowed.

"Very well," I said a third time; "I will get the money. I will look
over the market and decide how it would best be done. Have you any
suggestions to make?"

"No," she answered; "I leave it all to you."

This was almost more astonishing than the demand for the money had
been. Mrs. Magnus was clearly upset.

"I shall probably have to send some papers up to you this afternoon
for your signature," I added.

"I shall be at home. And remember I must have the money without fail."

"I will bring it to you myself. I think you said eight o'clock?"

"Yes--not later than that."

"I will have it there by that time," I assured her.

She started to rise, then sank back in her chair and looked at me.
Yes, she was frightened.

"Mr. Lester," she said, her voice suddenly hoarse and broken, "I think
I will tell you--what I can. I--I have no one else."

For the first time in my life I found myself pitying her. It was
true--she had no one else.

"Don't think that I've been gambling or speculating or anything of
that sort," she went on. "I have hesitated a long time before asking
for this money--I don't enjoy giving away fifty thousand dollars."

"Giving it away?" I repeated. Certainly she was not the woman to enjoy
doing that!

"Yes--giving it away! But--I must have peace! Another such night as
last night--"

A sudden pallor spread across her face, and she touched her
handkerchief hastily to lips and eyes.

"My--my husband wishes it," she added, almost in a whisper.

I don't know what there was about that sentence that sent a little
shiver along my spine. Perhaps it was the tense of the verb. Perhaps
it was the voice in which the words were uttered. Perhaps it was the
haggard glance which accompanied them. Whatever the cause, I found
that some of my client's panic was communicating itself to me.

"You mean he indicated his wish before he died?" I asked.

She shook her head.

"Or left a note of it, perhaps?"

"Yes," she said, "he has left a note of it," and she opened the bag
she carried on her arm. "Here it is."

I took the sheet of paper she held out to me. It bore these words,
written in the crabbed and somewhat uncertain hand which had belonged
to Peter Magnus:

MY DEAR WIFE: It is my wish that you leave at once on this desk the
sum of fifty thousand dollars in currency.

"On this desk?" I repeated, reading the words over again.

"On his desk at home," she explained.

"Then what is to become of it?"

"I don't know."

"But surely--" I said, bewildered. "Look here, Mrs. Magnus, you aren't
telling me everything. Where did you find this?"

"On his desk."

"When?"

"Three nights ago."

"You mean it had been lying there unnoticed ever since his death?"

"No," she answered hoarsely. "It had not been lying there unnoticed.
It was written that night."

I could only stare at her--at her trembling lips, at her bloodshot
eyes, at her livid face.

"Then it's an imposture of some sort," I said at last.

"It is not an imposture," she answered, more hoarsely than ever. "My
husband wrote those words."

"Nonsense!" I retorted impatiently. "Somebody's trying to impose on
you, Mrs. Magnus. Leave this with me, and I'll get to the bottom of
it."

"I tell you," she repeated, rising to her feet in her earnestness, "my
husband wrote those words three nights ago."

"How do you know he did?" I questioned, in some amusement.

"Because I saw him do it!" she answered, and fell back into her chair
again, her hands fumbling feebly at her bag.

She was evidently on the verge of collapse, and I hastened to get her
a glass of water, but when I returned with it, she had her smelling
bottle to her nose and was almost herself again. She waved the glass
away impatiently.

"I shall be all right in a moment," she murmured, and I sat down again
and watched her, wondering if there had ever been any insanity in Mrs.
Magnus' family.

I suppose my thought must have been reflected in my face, for Mrs.
Magnus flushed angrily as she caught my eye.

"No, I'm not mad," she said "though I feared last night that I would
be. What I have told you is perfectly true. I saw my husband write
that note three nights ago--it is not the only one. He can have no
peace until that money is paid--neither can I. You must not fail me."

"I will not," I assured her. "I will bring it to you myself."

"Thank you," she said, and arose to go. "I shall want you to be
present to-night."

"I shall be glad to help you in any way I can."

"Thank you," she said again, and I opened the door for her and watched
her for a moment as she crossed the outer office. Then I closed the
door and went back to my desk.

The note was lying where I had dropped it, and I picked it up and
examined it again. Then I got out some samples of Magnus' writing and
compared them with the note, but so far as I could tell the hands were
the same. Besides, she had said she had seen her husband write it.

This gave me pause. How could she have seen him? How had he appeared
to her? Perhaps she had written it herself, in her sleep, under some
sort of self-hypnosis--but, in that case, would the handwriting have
been her husband's? Or did hypnosis involve that, too? I ended by
turning to the phone and calling for 3100 Spring. That, as you may
know, is for 300 Mulberry Street; and 300 Mulberry Street is the
drab building in which the police system of New York has its
headquarters--or did have until the other day.

"Is Jim Godfrey there?" I asked.

"I'll see; hold the line."

A moment later I heard Godfrey's voice ask: "Hello? What is it?"

"It's Lester, Godfrey," I said. "I wish you would run over to the
office and see me this morning."

"All right," he replied; "I'll be over right away."

I hung up the receiver with a sigh of relief. If anybody could see
through the puzzle, I knew that Godfrey could. I had met him first
in connection with the Holladay case, when he had deserted the force
temporarily to accept a place as star reporter on the yellowest of the
dailies; but he had resigned that position in a moment of pique, and
the department had promptly gobbled him up again.

Fifteen minutes later his card was brought in to me, and I had him
shown in at once.

"How are you, Lester?" he said, and I can't tell you what a tonic
there was in the grip of his hand. "What's wrong this morning?"

"You know Mrs. Magnus?" I asked.

"Widow of Peter? Yes; I've heard of her."

"Somebody's trying to do her out of fifty thousand dollars," I said,
and tossed the note across to him. "What do you make of that?"

"Tell me about it," he said, and studied it carefully, while I
repeated the story Mrs. Magnus had told me.

"And now what do you make of it?" I asked again.

"I think the answer's blackmail," he said quietly.

"But that note?"

"A fake."

"And the story?"

"Also a fake."

"You mean she didn't see him write it?"

"Look here, Lester," demanded Godfrey impatiently, "you don't mean to
say that you believe any such rot?"

"No," I answered; "I don't see how I can believe it--and yet, what did
she tell it for?"

"She had to tell something."

"That's just it," I objected; "she didn't."

"Well, then, she wanted to tell something to throw you off the track.
That was the best thing she could think of."

"Why should she want to throw me off the track?"

"There are some women who would rather have a ghost in the family
than a scandal. I don't suppose you know that Magnus had another wife
living over in Jersey?"

"Another wife?"

"Oh, of course not a wife really--your Mrs. Magnus has the prior
claim. But I fancy Number Two has asked to be provided for."

I sat silent for a moment, casting this over in my mind.

"It's just like a fool woman," I said at last, "to try to throw dust
in the eyes of the one man who might have helped her. Heaven help
a woman who won't tell the truth to her lawyer! I suppose there's
nothing to do but turn over the money?"

"Of course not. Mrs. Magnus can afford it, and if it will give her
peace of mind, why--"

"All right," I said. "And thank you, Godfrey, for telling me. I was
imagining that either Mrs. Magnus was crazy or that some one was
trying to bunco her. This is different. If she wants to lie to me,
why, let her."

"You'll take it up to her yourself?"

"Yes. I promised to have it at the house at eight o'clock to-night."

I fancied that Godfrey's eyes paused on mine for the merest instant as
though he was about to say something more, but he merely nodded and
said good-by and was off.

And I turned to the task of deciding which of Mrs. Magnus' securities
I should sell in order to get the best out of the market. But more
than once in the course of the afternoon a vague uneasiness seized me.
For, after all, Godfrey's explanation did not account for Mrs. Magnus'
strained and frightened manner. If the story she had told me was a
lie, she was certainly a consummate actress. I had never credited her
with any ability in that direction.

A consummate forger, too!

The thought stung me upright. Of course, if her story was a lie, she
herself had written the note. Had Godfrey thought of that? Or was it
Godfrey who was trying to throw dust in my eyes?



CHAPTER II


It was raining when I left my apartment at the Marathon that night--a
cold and disagreeable drizzle--and the thought occurred to me as I
turned up my coat collar and stepped into the cab I had summoned, that
it was a somewhat foolhardy thing to be driving about the streets of
New York with fifty thousand dollars in my hand bag. I glanced at the
lights of the Tenderloin police station, just across the street, and
thought for an instant of going over and asking for an escort. Then I
sank back into the seat with a little laugh at my own nervousness.

"One-twenty West Twenty-third," I said, as the cabman slammed the
apron shut.

He nodded, spoke to his horse, and we were off.

The asphalt was gleaming with the rain, and a thin fog was in the air,
which formed a nimbus around the street lamps and drew a veil before
the shop windows. Far away I heard the rattle of the elevated and the
never-ceasing hum of Sixth Avenue and Broadway, but, save for these
reminders of the city's life, the silence of the street was broken
only by the click-clack of our horse's hoofs.

We swung sharply around a corner, and then another. A moment later the
cab drew up at the curb, and the driver sprang from his box.

"Here we are, sir," he said, and as I stepped to the pavement, I saw
the old Magnus house frowning down upon me.

I had never before seen it at night, and for the first time I really
appreciated its gloomy situation. In its day it had been part of
a fashionable residential district, of which it was now the only
survival. It was of brownstone, with a flight of steps mounting
steeply to the door, and stood back from the street at the bottom of a
cañon formed by the towering walls of the adjacent office buildings.
Why any woman who could afford to live where she chose should choose
to live here was a riddle past my solving.

Musing over this, I mounted the steps and rang the bell.

"I am Mr. Lester," I said, to the maid who opened the door. "Mrs.
Magnus is expecting me."

She stood aside for me to enter, and as I passed I happened to glance
at her face. It was that of a woman no longer young, and yet scarcely
middle-aged; not a repulsive face; indeed, rather attractive in a
way, except for a certain hardness of expression which told of lost
illusions. And as she took my coat and hat, I noticed that the little
finger of her left hand was missing.

"This way, sir," she said, and motioned me into a room at the right.
"Mrs. Magnus will be down in a minute."

I heard her step recede along the hall, and then somewhere a clock
struck eight. As the sound died away the rustle of skirts came down
the stair, and Mrs. Magnus appeared in the doorway. Her panic of the
morning had passed, and she was perfectly self-controlled.

"Ah, Mr. Lester," she said, "you are prompt. You have the money?" she
added in a lower tone.

"Yes," I answered, and then stopped, for I fancied I heard a stealthy
footstep at the door.

"Let us go up to the study. We will be more comfortable there," and
she led the way out into the hall.

I was close at her heels, and looked quickly to right and left. But
there was no one in sight.

Mrs. Magnus went before me up the stair, turned toward the front of
the house in the hall above, and ushered me into a small room which
seemed to have been fitted up as an office. Its principal piece of
furniture was a massive, roll-top desk. The top was up at the moment,
and disclosed rows of pigeon-holes, some full of papers and some
empty. Below them were the usual small drawers. The desk was one of
the largest I have ever seen, and I wondered how it had been got into
the room. An office chair of the usual swing type stood in front of
it.

Something told me that this was _the_ desk. It stood in one corner of
the room; not closely in the corner, but at an angle to it, its back
touching the wall on either side and leaving a little triangle of
space behind it. The reason of this was evident enough, for, placed
in this way, the person sitting at the desk got the advantage of
the light from the window at his right, and also the heat from the
fireplace at his left.

The thought flashed through my mind that, before I placed the money on
the desk, I would take occasion to glance over into the space back of
it.

"Sit down, Mr. Lester," said Mrs. Magnus, and herself drew up a chair
to one side of the fireplace, where a wood fire crackled cheerily,
throwing out a warmth just strong enough to be grateful on this damp
evening. "The money is in that bag?"

"Yes," I said. "I have it in hundred-dollar bills--five packets of one
hundred each. I thought perhaps you--your husband would prefer it in
that form."

She nodded, and sat for a moment staring absently into the fire.

"This was Mr. Magnus' workroom, I suppose?" I said at last.

"Yes; when he was first really succeeding in business, he used always
to bring some work home with him in the evening. But he outgrew
that"--a shade of bitterness crept into her voice--"and during the
last ten years of his life he used the room hardly at all. But he is
using it again now," she added, in another tone. "Every night."

I stared across at her, wondering if she could be in earnest.
Certainly her countenance gave every impression of earnestness.

"He will be here to-night," she went on. "It is a little early yet. He
usually comes at eight-thirty."

"You mean he is here in the spirit," I said, trying to speak lightly.

"In the spirit, of course."

I breathed a sigh of relief. I fancied that I began to understand.

"Many people believe that their dead watch over them," I said.

"Oh, Mr. Magnus isn't watching over me," said my companion quickly.
"There is a certain thing he desires me to do. Once that is done, I
don't believe he will bother me any more. I left his note with you
this morning. Did you bring it with you?"

"Yes," I said, and got it out of my pocket and handed it to her.
"But really, Mrs. Magnus," I continued, "you don't mean to tell me
seriously that you saw him write this?"

"I certainly did. He wrote it under my eyes, sitting at that desk
three nights ago."

Again I looked at her to see if she was speaking seriously.

"I see you do not believe me," she added.

"Pardon me, Mrs. Magnus," I corrected; "of course I believe you--that
is, I believe that you believe. But I cannot but think you are being
imposed upon in some way."

A flush of anger crept into her cheeks.

"Do you think I am a woman easily imposed upon?" she asked. "Let me
tell you the story, Mr. Lester."

"That is what I have been hoping you would do," I said. "I am very
anxious to hear it."

"After my husband's death," she began, "I decided to use this room as
my office or workroom. I went through his desk and cleared it out.
There were no papers of importance there; but I found one thing
which gave me a shock. That was a letter, pushed back and I suppose
forgotten in one of the drawers, which proved to me that my husband
had been unfaithful."

I was not surprised, of course, after what Godfrey had told me, but I
managed to murmur some polite incredulity.

"Oh, it was true," she went on bitterly. "I knew he had grown away
from me, but I never suspected that--that he could be so vulgar!"
That, of course, was the way in which it would appeal to her--as
vulgar.

"It is that which is worrying him now," she added.

"You mean--"

"No matter. He shall have the money to-night, and that will be ended.
Let me go on with my story. As I said, I began to use this room. I
kept my papers in the desk yonder, and worked there regularly every
day. But one morning, when I came in, I noticed something unusual--an
odor of tobacco. You know Mr. Magnus was a great smoker."

"Yes," I said.

"You may have noticed that he always smoked a heavy black cigar which
he had made for him especially in Cuba. It had a quite distinctive
odor."

"Yes," I said again. I had noticed more than once the sweet, heavy
aroma of Magnus' cigars.

"I recognized the odor at once," went on Mrs. Magnus. "It was from one
of his cigars. When I opened the desk, I found a little heap of ashes
on his ash tray, which I had been using to keep pins in, and the
remnant of the cigar he had been smoking."

"He?" I repeated. "But why should you think--"

"Wait," she interrupted, "till you hear the rest. I cleaned off the
tray and went through my day's work as usual. The next morning I found
the same thing--and something more. Some one had been trying to write
on the pad of paper on the desk."

"_Trying to write_?" I echoed.

"Yes, trying--as though some force were holding him back."

She went over to the desk, unlocked a little drawer, and took out
several sheets of paper.

"Here is what I found that morning," she said, and handed me a sheet
from an ordinary writing pad.

I saw scrawled across it an indecipherable jumble of words. She had
expressed it exactly--it seemed as though some one had been trying to
write with a weight clogging his hand. And there was something about
this scrap of paper--something convincing and authentic--which struck
heavily at my skepticism. Here was what a lawyer would call evidence.

"It kept on from day to day," continued Mrs. Magnus, sitting down
again. "Every morning the little heap of ashes and fragment of cigar,
and a scrawl like that--until finally, one morning, I understood what
was happening in this room, for three words were legible."

She handed me another sheet of paper. At the top were the words, "My
dear wife," and under them again an indecipherable scrawl.

"Did you tell any one of all this?" I asked.

"Not a word to any one. But I decided to investigate."

"How?"

"By staying in this room at night."

I could guess from her tone what the resolution had cost her.

"And you did?"

"Yes. I came up right after dinner, leaving word that I was not to be
disturbed. I went first to the desk to assure myself that the tray was
empty and that there was no writing on the top sheet of paper. Then I
switched off the light and sat down here by the fire and waited."

"That was brave," I said. "What happened?"

"For an hour, nothing. Then I was suddenly conscious of an odor of
tobacco, as though some one smoking a cigar had entered the room, and
an instant later I heard that chair before the desk creak as though
it had been swung around. I switched on the light at once. The chair
_had_ turned. It had been facing away from the desk, and it was now
faced toward it."

She stopped a moment, and I saw that her excitement of the morning was
returning. Indeed, my own heart was beating with a quickened rhythm
as I glanced around at the desk. I saw that the chair was facing away
from it.

"The odor of tobacco grew stronger," went on Mrs. Magnus, "and, even
as I watched, a little mass of ashes fell into the tray."

"From nowhere?"

"Apparently from nowhere, but of course it was from the cigar that he
was smoking."

"Did you see the smoke?"

"No; how could I?"

Really, I didn't know. I wished that I had given more study to the
details of spirit manifestation. I didn't remember that I had ever
heard of a ghost smoking a cigar, but doubtless such cases existed.
The point was this: Why, if the ashes from the ghost's cigar became
visible when knocked off, shouldn't the smoke become visible when
expired? Or did the fact that it had been inside an invisible object
render it permanently invisible? I fancied this was what Mrs. Magnus
had meant by her question. Perhaps she had studied the subject. At any
rate, it was too deep for me.

"A moment later," she went on, "another mass of ashes fell; then
perhaps five minutes passed, and I saw the remnant of the cigar placed
on the tray. I confess that my nerves gave way at that point, and I
fled from the room."

"Locking the door after you?"

"No; but I came back and locked it ten or fifteen minutes later."

"Did you enter the room?"

"Yes; I had left the light burning and entered to turn it off. I found
on the desk another note beginning, 'My dear wife.'"

"And then what?"

"I was here the next night and the next. There was something about it
that fascinated me, and I saw that there was no reason for fear. In
the end it came to seem almost natural--almost as if he were here in
the flesh."

"And always the same things happened?"

"Yes, or nearly so, the writing growing more legible all the time."

"And then?"

"Then, three nights ago, I grew brave enough to go and stand by the
desk, and look over his shoulder, as it were, while he wrote the note
which I showed you this morning."

"You mean that he actually did write it while you were looking over
his shoulder?"

"I mean that the words formed themselves on the sheet of paper under
my eyes, precisely as they flowed off his pen."

"And there wasn't any pen?"

"There wasn't anything. Only the ashes and the odor of tobacco."

I glanced across at Mrs. Magnus sharply. Could it be possible that she
was inventing all of this incredible tale?

"No," she said, answering my thought; "it happened precisely as I tell
it. I am hoping that you will see for yourself before long. It is
almost time for him to come."

I felt the hair crawling up my scalp as I glanced around again at the
desk. Like everybody else, I had always professed a lively interest in
ghosts and a desire to meet one; but now that it seemed about to be
gratified, the desire weakened perceptibly.

"I didn't at first intend to give him the money," she went on. "I
didn't see why I should. He was dead. It was mine. He had never, in
his life, given me fifty thousand dollars. But when, the next night,
the money wasn't there, he expackets over to Mrs. Magnus.

"In writing?"

She nodded and held another sheet of paper out to me. On it, in Peter
Magnus' hand, was written:

MY DEAR WIFE: Do not delay. I must right a great wrong before either
of us can rest in peace.

"And from this you judge that he wants the money to--to--"

"Yes," she said, not waiting for me to finish. "Even then I hesitated.
I did not see that I had any concern in his misdeeds. But last
night--"

She stopped, and I saw sweep across her face the sudden, pallor I had
noted in the morning.

"Yes," I encouraged, "last night--"

She was clutching the chair arms convulsively, trying to force her
trembling lips to form the words. What horrible thing was it had
happened last night? What--

And at that instant I was conscious of the odor of tobacco in the air,
and distinctly heard the low grating of the office chair as it swung
around.



CHAPTER III


I suppose the student of the supernatural always has to fight against
the excitement of the unknown--an excitement which clouds the judgment
and confuses reason. Certainly, as I turned my head and sprang to my
feet, I was very far from being a cool and collected observer; yet,
indisputably, the chair _had_ turned. Indeed, I snapped my head around
in time to see the last of its movement toward the desk. And at the
same instant my nostrils caught more strongly the sweet and heavy odor
of Peter Magnus' cigar. For a moment all was still. Then Mrs. Magnus
rose and beckoned me forward.

"Come," she said, and with an effort I compelled my feet to follow
her.

It was a battle between instinct and reason. Instinct was trying to
hurl me out of the room and out of the house. Reason was telling
me--in a very faint voice, it is true--that there was nothing to be
afraid of. I have always been proud of the fact that I _did_ approach
the desk, instead of making for the door.

And I was even brave enough to glance behind it. One glance was
sufficient. The triangular space between the walls and the back of
the desk was empty. I don't know why that should have afforded me any
relief, but it did.

Then, before my eyes, not three feet away from them, a little gob of
ashes dropped from the empty air into the tray.

I am free to confess that that sight swept away any remnant of doubt I
may have had in the reality of the unreal--if I may use such a term.
Peter Magnus was sitting in that chair. There could be, to my mind, no
question of it.

But if any doubt had existed, it would have been ended by what
followed.

For my eye was caught by the pad of paper on the desk, and, even as I
watched it, I saw unfold upon it, one after another, these words:

MY DEAR WIFE: Place the money on this desk and leave me. I shall be at
rest. Good-by.

I wish I could describe to you the sensation which shook me as I
witnessed this miracle. For there the words were, and I had seen them
flow smoothly from an invisible pen--from Peter Magnus' pen, for the
writing was his.

"I have the money," I said, and I caught up my bag from the floor,
unlocked it, and took out the five sealed packets. "There are one
hundred hundred-dollar bills in each," I explained, almost as if he
could hear me--indeed, I was quite sure at the moment that he did hear
me; and I passed the packets over to Mrs. Magnus.

Without a word she placed them on the desk, then turned to me.

"Come," she said. "That is all. Good-by, Peter," she added, and there
was a little sob in her voice. "God bless you."

Was it my fancy, or did something like a sigh come from that unseen
presence in the chair? It was in a sort of maze that I followed Mrs.
Magnus from the room. She switched off the light and then closed the
door.

"Thank God that is over," she said.

I suddenly realized that my face was dripping with perspiration, and I
mopped it feverishly with my handkerchief.

"I would never have believed," I began stammeringly; "I never
thought--why, it's a miracle--it's--"

"Yes, a miracle," repeated Mrs. Magnus. "Though there have been many
instances of the dead returning."

"Have there?" I asked. "Well, of course, I have heard of them, but I
never thought them worthy of belief. But now--"

We had reached the foot of the stairs, and I got my coat down from the
rack and struggled into it. I found that I had mechanically picked up
my bag as I left the room overhead.

"I want to thank you, Mr. Lester," said Mrs. Magnus, facing me, "for
coming here to-night. You have been of the greatest help to me."

"Certainly," I agreed. "Very happy--a great privilege."

I felt that I was talking nonsense, but what, in Heaven's name, is a
man to say who has just been through an experience like that? But Mrs.
Magnus seemed to understand.

"Thank you," she said, and gave me her hand. Then she opened the
street door, and a moment later I found myself groping my way down the
steps. Once down, I paused for a deep breath; then I started up the
street. But I had scarcely taken a dozen steps when a hand fell upon
my arm and drew me into the shadow of a doorway.



CHAPTER IV


For an instant, with the thought of spirits still upon me, I tried to
shake away the hand; then, as I started around at my assailant, I saw
that it was Godfrey.

"Well, Lester," he said, "did you leave the fifty thousand?"

I nodded; I was even yet scarcely capable of connected speech.

Godfrey looked at me curiously.

"You look like you'd seen a ghost," he said.

"I have."

He laughed amusedly.

"Peter Magnus?"

I nodded.

"How is the old boy?"

"Look here, Godfrey," I said, "this isn't a thing to speak of in that
tone. There's something sacred about it."

His face sobered as he looked at me. It grew serious enough to suit
even my mood.

"So you were imposed on, too," he said at last.

I didn't like the words, nor the tone in which they were uttered.

"No, I wasn't imposed on," I said tartly. "I must be getting along,
Godfrey. I haven't anything to tell you."

"Not just yet," he said. "Come over here across the street, Lester,
where I can have an eye on the Magnus house. Don't you see--if I was
wrong this morning, then you were right."

"Right?"

"If she told you the truth, some one is trying to do her out of fifty
thousand dollars."

"She's given it to her husband," I said. "She thinks he's going to use
it as you said."

"Given it to her husband?"

"Well, placed it on the desk in front of him."

"Did you _see_ him?"

"I saw him write a note," I said doggedly. "You can't see a spirit,
you know--its impalpable."

By this time we were deep in the shadow of another doorway across
the street, and Godfrey leaned back against a pillar and mused for a
moment.

"Of course," he said at last, "I don't want you to do anything
unprofessional, Lester, but I really think you'd better tell me. You
didn't hesitate to call me in this morning."

"I thought then that somebody was trying to bunco Mrs. Magnus."

"And I think so now," said Godfrey. "Surely you know you can trust
me."

I demurred a while longer, but finally told him the whole story. When
I had ended, he gave a little low whistle of amazement.

"Well," he said, "that's what I call clever. There's a certain
artistic touch about it--only one man--"

He fell silent again, absently gnawing his under lip.

"How long are you going to stay here?" I demanded at last.

"Not long," he answered. "Only until that light goes out over yonder."

He nodded toward one of the upper windows of the Magnus house. Even as
I looked at it, the light disappeared.

"Now," he said, "we'd better be moving up a little closer, Lester.
Around this way, so we can't be seen from the door."

"You mean you think somebody is coming out of that house?"

"Certainly. The ghost's coming out. You didn't expect him to stay
there all night, did you? That would be a little--well--indelicate,
don't you think?"

"But how--"

"How am I going to see him? Well, I think I'll see him all right.
Besides, the money would be visible, wouldn't it? Or does it become
invisible when the ghost puts it in his pocket?"

"The cigar was invisible," I said weakly, "and the pen."

Really, out here with Godfrey, it _did_ seem pretty ridiculous.

I was going to say something more--perhaps to try to excuse myself for
my credulity--but Godfrey silenced me with a gesture. We had crept
along in the shadow of the adjoining building until we were beside the
entrance to the Magnus house.

"Maybe he'll go out the back way," I breathed.

"There isn't any back way. All built up. It's this way, or none."

The thought occurred to me that a brick wall would make no difference
to a spirit, but I felt that I was lapsing into a state of imbecility,
and stood silent, shivering a little. For it had started to drizzle
again.

Then from the direction of the house came the sound of a door softly
closing, and I saw a shadow flit down the steps. It certainly looked
like a ghost; but I heard Godfrey chuckle softly; then, with a bound,
he was upon the figure and had it by the throat. I caught the sound
of a sharp struggle, but it was over before I could collect myself
sufficiently to go to Godfrey's assistance.

When I did get there I found him grimly surveying a small and wizened
creature, whose arm he had linked to his own by means of a handcuff.

"Lester," he said, "allow me to introduce you to the ghost of Peter
Magnus--otherwise Mr. Jemmy Blum, the Tom Thumb of con men. Jemmy," he
added, "aren't you ashamed to be playing such tricks on my friend, Mr.
Lester?"

The small creature's eyes twinkled maliciously as he glanced up at me.

"Ho," he said contemptuously, "'twasn't no trick to fool _him_. But I
didn't know he was _your_ friend. If I had, I'd 'a' let him alone."



CHAPTER V


I deserved the taunt, of course, but I winced a little at Godfrey's
chuckle.

"You'd fool the devil himself, Jemmy," said his captor. "And now I'll
thank you to pass over to me those five little packets which my friend
here left on that desk up yonder."

Without a word Jemmy unbuttoned his coat and produced the five
packets. I could not but admire the coolness with which he accepted
defeat.

"Take 'em, Lester," said Godfrey, "and put 'em back in your bag. We'll
leave 'em over at the Tenderloin station, where we'll lodge this
gentleman for the night. No use to disturb Mrs. Magnus till morning,"
he added, with a glance at the gloomy house. "Then we'll have Jemmy
give us a special performance of his impersonation of the ghost of
Peter Magnus."

The prisoner laughed.

"Glad to," he said. "I think you'll find it A one."

"No doubt," assented Godfrey. "As soon as Lester told me the story I
knew you were the only man who could have worked it. And then there
was the desk."

"Of course," agreed the prisoner. "You'd see that."

This was all Greek to me, but I knew the explanation would come in
time. Meanwhile I carefully stowed away the five precious packets in
my bag.

"Why can't we go over to my rooms at the Marathon and hear the story?"
I suggested. "It's right across the street from the station."

"All right," said Godfrey, and led the way down the street, with Jemmy
keeping step with him as well as his short legs would permit. Five
minutes later we were in my rooms, and I switched on the lights and
got out the cigars.

"If you'll see that the doors are locked, Lester, I'll open this
handcuff temporarily," said Godfrey. "But first," and he ran his hands
over his prisoner's person. "Ah, I thought so," he said, and produced
a small revolver of exquisite workmanship. "You always were a
connoisseur, Jemmy," he added, examining the weapon, and then slipping
it into his own pocket. "All right. Now you sit down over there and be
good."

"Oh, I'll be good," said Jemmy. "I guess I know when I'm crimped.
Thanks," he added, accepting the smoke I offered him.

When the cigars were drawing nicely we were ready to hear the story.
Not until then did I fully realize what a little fellow Jemmy was.
Now I saw that he was almost a dwarf, little if any over four feet in
height, and very slightly built. His face, shrunken and wrinkled, had
that look of prenatural wisdom which dwarfs sometimes have, and his
little black eyes were incredibly bright. He was evidently something
of a dandy, for his clothes were immaculate. I admired again the
aplomb with which he accepted the situation.

"Well," he began, "to make a long story short, I started on this
lay just after old Magnus' death, when a friend of mine in the
fortune-tellin' line told me Mrs. Magnus was a spiritualist."

"A spiritualist?" I queried, in surprise.

"Oh, yes; had been for years. That give me my clue, so I--ah--got into
the house."

"How?" demanded Godfrey.

"That's telling."

"Bribed a servant, of course," said Godfrey. "We'll look them over in
the morning. Go on."

"I got inside the house, looked over the ground, an' decided on my
line of operation. I wanted something neat an' effective, an' I worked
on it a good while before I had it goin' just right. There were so
many little details. It took a lot of practice--these things do--an'
then I had to remodel the inside of the desk--shorten up the drawers,
an' make room for myself behind them. Luckily I'm little, an' the desk
was one of the biggest I ever saw."

"So you were in the desk?" I asked.

"Sure," he chuckled. "Where else? Lookin' at you out of one of the
pigeon-holes, an' wonderin' if I'd better risk it."

"And you decided you would?"

"Yes," said Jemmy slyly; "I saw you were scart to death, an' I was
afraid if I didn't demonstrate for the old lady, I wouldn't get the
money."

"How did you know she had it?"

"I heard you tell her you'd brought it, down in the parlor."

"Oh," I said; "then it was your step I heard in the hall?"

"I guess so, if you heard one. I just had time to get upstairs an'
make my plant before you came in. The rest was easy."

"But the ashes?" I said.

"Flicked out through a pigeonhole. That's what took practice, to make
'em fall just right. Also the cigar."

"And the odor of tobacco?"

He got a little vial out of his pocket, uncorked it, and again I
caught the sweet and heavy odor of Peter Magnus' cigar.

"An' here's a fine point I'm proud of," said Jemmy. "I had this made
from half a dozen of Magnus' cigars I found in a box in his room. So
the smell was just right. I thought for a while of showin' some smoke,
but didn't dare risk it."

"But the note," I said. "That was the cleverest of all."

Jemmy chuckled and glanced at Godfrey.

"You'll understand that, Jim," he said. "You remember I worked it
backward in that National City Bank case."

Godfrey nodded.

"I remember the signature disappeared from old Murgatroyd's check."

"Backward or forward, it don't make no difference. It all depends on
the acid."

"What acid?"

"Ah," chuckled Jemmy, "you'd like to know, wouldn't you? You never
will. But it all depends on it. If I put the acid in before the salt,
the writin' disappears at the end of two hours; if I put the salt in
before the acid, the writin' don't appear for the same length of time.
It took me five years to work it out."

"But the writing didn't all appear at once," I objected.

"Of course not," said Jemmy impatiently. "It wasn't all wrote at once,
was it? It appeared just like it was wrote."

"How could you time it?"

"Why," answered Jemmy still more impatiently, "I began operations
at the same time every night, didn't I? I timed the writin' for
eight-forty-five."

"But the chair?" I persisted.

Jemmy shot a disgusted glance at Godfrey.

"Any faker on Sixth Avenue can do that," he said. "A hook on a thread.
Anything else?"

"Yes," I said, "one thing. What horror did you perpetrate last night?"

Jemmy grinned mechanically as he looked at me, and I even fancied he
reddened a little.

"Did she tell you about that?" he asked.

"She tried to, but couldn't. What was it?"

"Well, you know," said Jemmy apologetically, "I had to bring matters
to a head some way, for the old girl certainly did hate to shell out.
I was sorry to have to scare her, but I couldn't help it."

"But what did you do?"

Jemmy blew a ring, and watched it fade away in front of him.

"I don't think I'll tell," he said at last.

Godfrey had been listening with an amused smile.

"We'll get that detail from Mrs. Magnus," he said. "Accept my
compliments, Jemmy. It was cleverly done. I'm almost sorry you didn't
get away with it."

"Oh," answered Jemmy, with studied indifference, "that's all in the
day's work, you know. But thank you all the same, Jim."

He was flicking the ashes from the end of his cigar as he spoke, and I
saw that he didn't meet Godfrey's eyes.

The latter looked at him an instant; then, with a low exclamation,
sprang to his feet, and snapped open the bag in which I had stowed the
packets Jemmy had given me. He ripped one of them open, and disclosed,
not ten thousand dollars in currency, but a neat bundle of blank
paper!

Jemmy was looking at him now, and his face was alight with triumph.

"How did you know I was there?" Godfrey demanded.

"I didn't," grinned Jemmy. "But I wasn't takin' any chances."

"Who was your pal?"

"That's tellin'," answered Jemmy easily.

"Did you see any of the servants, Lester?"

"Only one," I said. "I didn't notice anything about her, except that
she was rather good-looking, and--oh, yes--the little finger of her
left hand was missing."

Godfrey grabbed the telephone, and I heard him call headquarters, and
give terse orders to send a detail at once to the Magnus house, to
watch all ferries and trains, and to search all the thieves' haunts
in the city for Kate Travis--"Lady" Kate. Headquarters seemed to know
perfectly whom he meant.

"You won't get her," said Jemmy calmly, as Godfrey hung up the
receiver. "She got away as soon as we turned the corner. She's got a
good half hour's start."

"Come along," said Godfrey roughly, and snapped the handcuffs on
again. I could see that he was deeply chagrined. "Good night, Lester.
I've made a botch of this thing. I've got to catch that woman."

But he hasn't caught her yet, and I suppose, when Jemmy finishes his
term, he will find his share of that fifty thousand dollars waiting
for him.

I hope so, anyway.



THE EPISODE OF THE BLACK CASQUETTE

BY JOSEPH ERNEST


Yes, I have encountered him at last, the veritable birdman! Almost I
had commenced to believe that such an individual did not in effect
exist--with the exception, _bien entendu_, of myself. For, as I told
them when they offered me a _vin d'honneur_ on the occasion of my
decoration with the Cross of the Legion, the recognition was long
overdue. Indeed, I assured them, the only circumstance that prevented
me from flying at the age of three was the fact that messieurs the
inventors had not then produced an aeroplane.

But now I have encountered, as I say, another such instinctive aviator
to whom flight appears to be as natural as walking. And thou seest
by my bandages, my poor friend, what it is that has in consequence
arrived to me!

Unhappy meeting! It is with pain and difficulty still that I lift an
arm. I can no more, since my accident, illustrate my remarks
with appropriate gesture. Forgive, therefore, _mon ami_, a story
inadequately picturesque, vivid, _mouvant._ And yet--we have brought
each other fortune, this young Monsieur Power and I. Fix a little the
pillows up, and you shall hear.

A man-eagle, I assure you! A veritable condor of the Andes hatched
in human shape, who has, nevertheless, discovered his gift only to
renounce it at once and forever.

Our first meeting was curiously disturbing. He appeared suddenly at a
door of my ateliers on the flying ground at Mineola, very tall, very
_soigné_, smiling in the way he had that showed all his strong,
square teeth as he recognized me in conversation, with my faithful
mechanician, Georges. This latter, grown portly and nervous since
marrying a Montmartre shopkeeper, I have since promoted to be my chief
designer.

"Pardon the intrusion," said the stranger. "I perceive you are about
to murder the stout gentleman. I will wait your convenience."

"Quite on the contrary, monsieur," I explained, bowing. "We discuss
merely the theory of the explosion turbine. If monsieur will give
himself the trouble to enter--"

"That is my card," he replied, advancing. "I want a strong, swift
biplane, and a mechanic to attend to it."

I glanced from the card to this extraordinary young man with interest.
For the name itself, John Hamlin Power, told me of a career in Wall
Street--brief, but conspicuous in its daring and success; a career in
which this immaculate, smiling young cotillion leader had made the
very monarchs of finance fear the élan of his attack, the relentless
quality of his grip.

"I have taken a fancy," he went on, "to possess the identical machine
with which you accomplished your recent Mount McKinley record. It is
perhaps for sale?"

"Perfectly, if monsieur wishes," I responded, with another bow. "But
it is a machine of unusual speed and power. Monsieur can already fly,
no doubt?"

"I do not anticipate any difficulty. As a matter of fact, I have not
yet attempted it. It is for that purpose that I have come to buy a
machine. It would be a favor if you would arrange to deliver it to me
in Westchester to-morrow. The mechanic will, of course, arrive at the
same time, as I shall wish to commence practice at once."

He turned aside to inspect a motor that lay dismounted on a wooden
stand, as if there were nothing further to discuss. Indeed, though
his speech was rapid and incisive, and his every movement full of an
_allure_ that spoke of splendidly poised muscles, he was in face and
manner alike the most singularly immobile man I had ever met. He gave
the impression of employing neither words nor actions except in case
of clear necessity.

I exchanged glances with Georges, who had turned up his eyes, spread
his arms, and allowed them to fall again limply to his sides. I
coughed. Monsieur Power drew himself up from his inspection of the
motor and smiled again expectantly.

"But the question of tuition?" I stammered. "Monsieur has no doubt
arranged for the services of an instructor?"

There was the slightest twinkle in that steadfast gaze of his. He had
the bravest, and yet the tenderest, eyes in the world.

"I'm afraid I have not sufficient time for the regular course,"
he said. "I am a rather busy man, as you possibly know. I have
consequently taken lessons in advance, by mail. May I expect the
machine to-morrow as arranged?"

I murmured something to the effect that he had perhaps underestimated
the difficulties of aviation.

"Are they not exaggerated?" he inquired. "You taught my friend, Miss
Hamilton Warren, to fly, did you not?"

"Mademoiselle, it is true, flies here almost daily," I admitted.

"Just so! It does not seem to me that there can be anything very
difficult in what a girl can do. However, if you will be so good as to
deliver the biplane we will see."

Under that clear, steady gaze of his I was powerless to protest.
Behind him I could see the good Georges struggling palpably for
breath, and waving his hands to the rafters. I contented myself with
a profound bow; whereupon, with the same quick, alert movement with
which he had appeared, this strange young man departed. Georges and I
fell gasping upon each others' necks, and stared together after his
tall, receding figure.

"Without doubt he is mad, this Monsieur Power," I said at last. "You
remember that he has just made two millions in a bear raid. Doubtless
it has turned his brain. Name of a name! He pretends to have taken
flying lessons from an institute of correspondence, and I have
promised him a biplane of one hundred horse power! Georges, _mon ami_,
you must yourself accompany it and give him counsel lest he break his
neck!"

Not satisfied with this precaution, I myself flew the biplane over
to Westchester on the morrow, and explained the controls to Monsieur
Power in an extended passenger flight. He was, it appeared, an amateur
of the balloon, and accustomed to great heights. When I handed the
machine over to him, with the engine throttled down so that he might
try rolling practice on the ground, he waited until he was out of our
reach, whipped the motor into its full power, heaved himself into the
air, and flew back the whole length of his grounds--alighting gently
as a falling leaf.

"It seems pretty simple," he said, as he swung himself out of the
nacelle. "I do not think I need detain you, Monsieur Lacroix, if your
assistant Georges will be good enough to consider himself my guest,
and keep the motor running."

It was in vain that I besought him to have patience. He replied only
that his time was limited, and that he had given the subject careful
study in theory.

And with that assurance I had to depart, little content. First,
however, I warned him of one or two pitfalls--as, for instance,
that he must never stop his engine in an emergency, as one does
instinctively in an auto, because the greater the danger the more need
he would have of motive power to get him out of it. Also, I told him
not to fly above trees or water, where the currents would suck him
downward, but to steer over the darkest patches of land, where the
heat of the sun is absorbed, and the air in consequence rises.

In what state of emotion I was maintained by the letters of Georges
during the ensuing fortnight, I will make you judge.

"_A moi_!" he writes to me in the first week. "I am in the clutch of a
madman! Each morning I am awakened at six, that I may plunge with him
in the lake of cold water attached to the mansion, he having first
made _la boxe_ noisily with a fist ball on the floor directly above.
To-day in his machine he has described figures of eight in the space
of his grounds even, banking the planes at an inclination _affreuse_!"

Again he writes: "I am now to accompany him on a cross-country raid.
Farewell to my wife and little one. I will die like a Montmartrois for
the honor of France!"

Finally an appeal--urgent, pitiful, telegraphic:

"Take me away, _je t'en prie!_ This maniac wishes now to discuss the
possibility of a somersault in the air. I can no more--Georges."

Thereupon I replaced him with another mechanic, and he returned,
appearing worn and noticeably thinner.

"It seems to me, _tout de même_," I remarked, "that this young
monsieur knows very well what he is about. We have not been asked to
repair a single stick of his machine."

"True," replied Georges. "But that is not his ambition, to break wood.
It was his neck that he wished to break, and incidentally my own.
Wait, my friend, until you have seen him fly. I, who speak to you,
have faced death daily these weeks past, and my clothes hang loose
upon me!"

And I was fated to see this monsieur, also, before very long, on the
occasion of his dramatic appearance upon the grounds of my flying
school. I must explain that Mineola had become a social institution,
for already I taught the younger members of the rich sportsman set
the new diversion that science had placed within their reach. Crowds
assembled each fine day to witness the first flutterings or the
finished flights of their friends.

On this occasion the lawn before the hangars was bright with flowers
and gay with the costumes of pretty women, in deference to whom I had
even permitted what the society reporters began to call "aviation
teas," placing little tables about the grass, where the chatter was
not too much interrupted by the vicious rattle and the driving smoke
of motors under test. I did this the more readily as it prevented
the uninstructed from wandering into the path of the machines, which
buzzed about the grounds like crippled beetles trying to rise into the
air.

The grounds, particularly in expectation of a flight by Miss Warren,
bore very much in consequence the appearance of a garden party, and
I looked with pride upon a scene such as only the historic flying
schools of my dear France had hitherto witnessed.

It was with a start that I recognized, while gazing upon this throng
of flower-like women and gallant young men, the figure so tall, so
commanding of the aged Monsieur Warren himself. I knew that he did
not belong to this plutocratic young sporting set, of which he even
disapproved. Moreover, the old financier had never before condescended
to recognize the prowess of his daughter as an aviator. Indeed, I
understood that the least reference to it had been forbidden in his
presence. I hastened forward to welcome him, with joy in this new and
powerful convert to the science of flight, and together we watched
the preparation of Miss Warren's great French biplane, her beautiful
_Cygne_, which she had insisted upon bringing with her from Paris.

Ah, _mon vieux_, I cannot describe to you the emotion that seized me
as she advanced from the hangars, this beautiful girl, to mount her
great white bird! The Comte de Châlons, who had followed her from
Europe, and rarely left her side, hurried after her with her leather
flying gauntlets--for while it was warm on the ground, there came from
aloft reports of a chilling wind. I saw the tall, bent old man, her
father, gaze with eyes moist with pride and affection on that superb
figure of young womanhood as she swung gracefully out toward the
gallant machine that awaited her in the sunlight, chatting gayly with
her companion as she walked. She wore a thick-knitted jersey of brown
silk, a simple brown skirt, and leather gaiters, and a brown leather
automobile cap covered her shining, dark hair. Like a slim, brown
statue she stood at last on the step of her biplane in the breeze, and
I saw the Comte de Châlons bend over her hand as he assisted her into
the nacelle.

Well, he had reason, that one! She is a better flier than I can ever
make out of him.

A run of fifty yards, and she was aloft with the practiced leap of the
expert pilot. The next minute she was breasting the breeze far above
our heads, the rear edges of the huge planes quivering transparent
against the sky, her motor roaring impetuously. As she passed, I had a
single glimpse of her face--bathed in full sunlight, radiant, joyous!

I looked then with curiosity upon the aged Monsieur Warren. The great
financier leaned upon his cane, and I saw that the hand that held it
was blue and trembling. As he gazed skyward, his breath came deeply as
in a sob.

"Ah, monsieur," I thought, with a surge of pride, "it is I, Lacroix,
who have enabled you to enjoy a parallel triumph. She is your daughter
whom they applaud, truly--but she is also my pupil!"

Figure to yourself my surprise, therefore, when he turned to me
suddenly in appeal, and, with a hand that trembled on my arm, besought
me to take him away.

"I cannot stand it, my dear Lacroix--it isn't safe!" he said, in a low
voice.

He repeated these words several times, his lip quivering like that
of a child who suffers, as I led him into the drawing office of the
ateliers. There he seated himself, bent and gray, upon the edge of an
armchair.

"It's no use, I can't stand it," he said again. "I assure you that I
could see the thing shaking, as it passed overhead, in every stick
and wire of it. It can't be safe! And there she is, five hundred feet
high, with her life hanging on a thread."

"I assure you also, monsieur," I protested, "that I have this very
morning examined every nut and bolt, every brace and valve and stay in
the entire _appareil_. Never have I permitted your daughter to ascend
without such an inspection. I would stake my life upon the perfect
integrity of the machine."

He smiled, a little querulously.

"You are accustomed to stake your life, Monsieur Lacroix. As for me, I
am an old man. The old are obstinate and selfish. I abhor the entire
proceeding."

Plaudits came from the gay crowd outside as mademoiselle's machine
again roared above the hangars. The old man shook his massive head.

"Of course, you don't see it as I do," he went on. "If you had
considered risks, you would have accomplished nothing. It is natural
that you should think only of the glory and conquest of flight. But I
think of the little girl I held on my knee the night her mother died,
and I can neither stay away in peace when Ella flies, nor can I bear
to watch her."

"But you are powerful, Monsieur Warren," I said, "a commander of the
captains of finance. If you said even that a country should not
make war, its cannon would rust in the parks, and its soldiers play
leapfrog in the casernes. Surely you can bend the will of a young girl
who is also your daughter?"

The old man's smile became grim.

"I may be all that you say," he sighed. "But, nevertheless, if you
chose to wring my neck at this moment, I could do little to prevent
you. Neither dare I stand between an American girl and the desire of
her heart."

I looked with sympathy upon this gaunt, mighty, old warrior of Wall
Street, bent under the shadow of apprehension and anxiety, and I
knew why he had at last visited Mineola. And as I looked, I, too, my
friend, saw clearly for the first time the reverse of the bright medal
of aerial conquest. I saw the graves of lost comrades, I saw the homes
in mourning, I saw mothers who wept for their bravest boys. Truly the
price was heavy, and I knew in my heart that it had not been paid in
full.

"Monsieur knows," I said, "that I was once a poor mechanician. What I
am now, flight has made me, and I have worked for the glory of flight.
But now I perceive that in encouraging mademoiselle your daughter to
fly, I have perhaps done wrong. I promise you that in future I will do
my best to dissuade her."

He rose, and pressed my hand in gratitude.

"I am wealthy," he said. "I am rich beyond dreams. I can buy anything
for my little girl that she desires--except a single moment's safety
up in the air, or a single moment's true happiness on the earth. And
in pursuit of this flying craze of hers, she may easily miss both."

He frowned suddenly as we emerged into the sunlight and saw the Comte
de Châlons hasten to assist mademoiselle to dismount. Above the
hangars the red storm cone had been hoisted, prohibiting further
flight by pupils. Already the treetops were swaying ominously.

"After all, there are some things that can happen to a girl," said
Monsieur Warren bitterly, "that may well be worse than breaking her
neck in an aeroplane."

He departed in search of his automobile without another word. But I
thought I knew what he meant.

It was at this moment that I first saw him fly, this marvelous birdman
of a Hamlin Power. Away in the direction of New York, so high that
he seemed to hang motionless just under the driving clouds, the
spectators had caught sight of his huge biplane, and had delayed their
departure to watch his approach. It was Georges, dancing on the grass
beside me, who first proclaimed his identity.

"It is he, the crazy pupil!" he cried. "I have seen through my glass
the little silk flag he attached to the nacelle. Now you are going to
marvel that I still live!"

In a few moments the sound of his motor fell faintly on our ears as a
whisper from the clouds. Then--_chut_!--it stopped, and in a single
leap he dived a sheer thousand feet.

That in itself was amazing temerity for one who had flown just long
enough to justify him in piloting an aero bus in a dead calm. But
I was little prepared for what followed. Instead of continuing his
flight horizontally at the end of that headlong dive, this tyro pulled
up his elevator, sweeping through a sharp curve into an upward leap
with all the dizzy impetus gained in his descent.

The crowd gasped. At my side Georges danced with anxiety upon the
turf.

"You are right," I said. "He is certainly crazy, this young Monsieur
Power."

"He calls it the _montagnes russes_, this trick," said Georges. "I
have told him that everybody who ever did it is long dead, with the
single exception of yourself, but that to him is entirely equal. See,
he has dived again only just in time!"

And, in truth, another moment of upward flight would infallibly have
caused him to lose headway, and fall backward, to flatten himself upon
the ground. But he had with superb coolness entered upon a second dive
of the most impressive, continuing his species of switchback descent
until within a few hundred feet of the hangars. I saw his head
protruding from the nacelle, incased in a flying helmet of perfectly
black leather. At that height the _remous_ and gusts hit him at
unexpected angles, and his machine rose and fell and rocked, as if
upon the waves of an invisible ocean. It was buffeted about until I
knew that he could not be on his seat half the time. First one wing
tip and then the other was blown upward, threatening irrevocable side
slip, but always at the last moment his instinct--for it could have
been nothing else--saved him in masterly fashion.

At one moment, indeed, as he banked high to turn down wind, it seemed
that he was lost, and a woman in front of me turned away with a little
cry of horror, her hands before her eyes.

But no! Blown like a leaf straight toward us, he wheeled again into
the teeth of the wind at the same astonishing angle, finally landing
neatly in front of the hangars. It was with an exclamation of relief
that I saw him leap from his machine safe and sound.

With a number of mechanicians, I ran to greet him, and he held out a
gloved hand, smiling in boyish delight and complete unconcern, and
showing all his square, white teeth. I burst at once into protests.

"Bunk!" he exclaimed, with an irreverent laugh. "You fellows make a
voodoo mystery of flight because it pays you. There's nothing very
difficult about it, after all. One has only to keep cool."

I was going to reply with I know not what appeal to his reason, when
the clear, contralto voice of Miss Warren came suddenly from behind
me. She hastened to meet him, holding out both her hands.

"Jack, this is good of you!" she cried. "It's just your generous
way--you couldn't possibly have forgiven me more gracefully. To
think that you, of all people, should be the mysterious airman of
Westchester who has set every one talking and wondering! Why, it was
the pleasantest surprise in life to see you get down from that machine
after such a wonderful flight. And my father has been here to-day,
also. Two such converts in one afternoon is a coincidence that seems
too good to be true."

The young Monsieur Power was regarding her, I noticed, with a sort of
curious reserve.

"Maybe there's something in that," he said. "You mustn't get the idea
that I've altered my ground in the least, Ella."

"But you are flying yourself, now!"

"Certainly, but that doesn't mean that I approve of it as an amusement
for you."

"When did you begin?"

"Last month, when I bought the machine. Since then I've been
practicing around home."

The girl started from him in amazement.

"Last month! Why, don't you know you might have killed yourself,
cutting capers on a day like this?"

"Precisely what I have allowed myself to point out to monsieur," I
interposed. "He attempted feats full of danger even for the expert."

"Well, I guess that's all right," he responded shortly. "A man's life
wasn't given to him to nurse. Besides, flying is a great relief after
a week in the city."

I turned aside, then, to superintend the disposal of the aeroplanes in
their sheds, as it had become evident that a gale was in prospect. It
was some minutes later that I received a sudden intimation from Miss
Warren that she desired my presence outside her hangar.

"Mademoiselle wishes you to denounce the young American monsieur,"
added on his own account the mechanic who brought the message.

I found her confronting Monsieur Power, who was leaning in an attitude
characteristically immobile against the landing carriage of his
machine. The Comte de Châlons stood on one side, pulling at his
mustache and staring from one to the other. Monsieur Power chewed a
grass stem and smiled in a fashion a little _narquois_.

"Why not give in, Ella, and admit you have been in the wrong? You know
you'll have to come to it, sooner or later."

He spoke quite pleasantly, but the girl's magnificent dark eyes were
blazing with suppressed anger.

Give in! A thing unheard! She had never suffered compulsion in a young
lifetime of following her own sweet way, this dollar princess. As
they gazed upon each other, I could see a titanic battle of wills in
progress beneath the outward calm of the discussion.

"You would not be so foolhardy, Jack," she said, controlling her voice
with an effort. "You know, or at least if you don't know, Monsieur
Lacroix and everybody else does, that you couldn't live two minutes in
this wind."

"Monsieur Power, you are annoying mademoiselle in a grave degree,"
broke in the count, suddenly glaring. "My friends will lose no time in
waiting on you."

The American swung round with one of those rapid, definite movements
so habitual with him.

"Don't trouble your friends," he replied. "We can do without them.
Come up and fly with me right away. We'll toss a quarter to decide who
steers."

"It would be madness!" exclaimed the count, and his jaw dropped.

"Then kindly mind your own business," said Monsieur Power, chewing
again on his grass stem, and talking through his teeth. "Now, Ella,
time's up! Am I to go?"

The girl bit her lip, and seemed to struggle vainly for a reply, but
the look in her eyes would have withered any man less accustomed to
strife than this iron-jawed young soldier of fortune from Wall Street.
In my turn, anger seized me as I saw her hesitate.

"You will pardon a further interruption, monsieur," I cried. "I can
permit no such madness on my flying ground, and no such discourtesy to
my pupils."

I beckoned the head mechanician.

"You will at once remove to a hangar the biplane of Monsieur Power," I
told him, "and disconnect the ignition. Should he attempt to enter the
nacelle again, you will cause him to evacuate it in march time and
three movements!"

"And the first dago that tries it will get hurt," added Monsieur Power
pleasantly.

"It's cowardly, Jack!" she cried hotly. "It's unworthy of you, a
childish bluff like this!"

He must have been planning all the time how he would spring into his
seat and start the motor, for when I looked round he was already
there, and the great tractor screw was spinning as the exhaust
spluttered viciously, making it impossible to reach him except from
behind. With all my legs I ran round to the tail, calling upon the
mechanicians to aid me.

Too late! The exhaust ripped out as he whipped his motor into her full
horse power, and he leaped into the teeth of the wind with a swerve
that almost tore off his lower plane against the ground.

"Imbecile!" I roared, but he no longer heard me. To save myself from
a violent collision with his tail planes I was compelled to cling
desperately to the frail wood and wire girder of the fuselage, and
it was in this position that I was carried the length of the flying
ground. The gale tore at my hair and distended my cheeks, the turf
slipped away beneath me as smooth as green water in the speed of his
mad attempt to force the machine into the air.

Slowly and with extreme care I edged my way inch by inch along the
fuselage toward the main planes and the pilot's seat. Casting back a
glance I saw the hangars, a mere white bar across the plain. A few
spectators who had pursued us in a desultory, ineffectual manner stood
now at long intervals in our wake, and gesticulated spasmodically.

The next moment we ran into a hollow, and they were lost to view
behind the grassy slope.

It was then that the young American looked behind him for the first
time, and realized that he had a passenger. Promptly he throttled down
his engine into a slow splutter, and turned in his seat as the machine
came to a standstill.

"I suppose you've had an uncomfortable minute or two," he grinned.
"But it really wasn't your affair. I am perfectly entitled to fly
whenever I feel like it."

Pleading that the roar of the motor had deafened me, I climbed up onto
the passenger seat.

"It is beyond doubt, monsieur, that you are sane," I said. "But it is
equally certain that you propose the act of a madman. Fortunately I
have accompanied you, and it is impossible to rise from the ground
with my weight on the tail, and my grip upon the elevator wires."

"Meaning that you refuse to let me ascend?"

"Most categorically!"

"But why?" he demanded. "Do you want Miss Warren to think that I was
only bluffing, after all? I promised to show her something startling,
and I'm going ahead with it."

"To begin with, it would be suicide," I rejoined. "In addition, you
would be inflicting gratuitous distress upon mademoiselle."

At this he rose from his seat with the first sign of emotion I had
seen in his manner.

"And what is it that she has inflicted for months on me?" he demanded
hotly. "And on her father, too, and on all her friends? We can't pick
up a newspaper any day, without going cold with fear that we will read
of her maimed or dead in some accident. After all, it's only her own
medicine."

He took off the black leather helmet, placed it on the seat, and wiped
the motor grease from his brow. When he spoke again, it was in the
even tones of a man who issues an ultimatum against an intolerable
situation.

"There has been altogether too much of this flying business. It's no
game for a girl. There is getting to be too much of this count thing.
We don't want his sort around here. I've known Ella Warren since she
was as big as a glass of milk! Do you think I am going to stand down
for the first scented dago--forgive me if I speak disrespectfully of
your countryman--whom she chooses to bring across the Atlantic at her
heels? No, sir! It has to be stopped somewhere."

He halted a moment, and regarded me carefully. I could see that he was
measuring with his eye the distance between us.

"I'm going to scare her stiff," he said, nodding. "Get down off this
plane, Monsieur Lacroix!"

"Pardon me," I replied, with a low bow. "But that is for you to do."

And before he could seize me, with one blow of the foot planted
suddenly in his chest I shot the young Monsieur Power squarely off his
biplane onto the grass. Even as he measured his long length on the
ground, I had seized the controls, and the aeroplane spurted fifty
yards ahead of him. Ever since he had removed the black casquette, a
wild idea, of a dramatic quality irresistible, had formed itself in my
brain. I now seized the helmet and thrust it down upon my own head.

"It shall be finished as you wish," I cried. "But it is I, Lacroix,
who am best qualified for the task!"

For I had seen, during that wild flight over the ground as I clung to
the frail framework of the tail, a figure that I loved--a figure in
brown, tall and graceful before the white hangars, a figure that
clasped its hands in terror. And some instinct told me that the life
of this Monsieur Power was necessary to the happiness of my beloved
mademoiselle. I knew also that I alone without undue risk might break
down the barrier of iron pride that had arisen between these two
autocratic young people.

_Qu'est-ce que tu veux que je te dise?_ I might have paid more heavily
for the mad intoxication of that last flight. In a month or two I
shall be again aloft.

I have often maintained that sooner or later a moment of emotion, of
sheer joy in the struggle and risk, will cause the soberest pilot to
throw discretion to the winds. It was so in this case.

_Parbleu!_ I leap, I dive, I twist in figures of eight, I fight my
way by inches against the wind, and, turning, I shoot back upon its
current with the speed of a projectile. I am shaken and buffeted until
I gasp for breath. I swerve, I dance, I caracole--I pirouette on a
wing tip, catching my side slips on the rudder as one plays cup and
ball. I dangle myself at the end of a single wire on the brink of
eternity, crying defiance to the winds! _C'était de la folie_--the
madness of battle. Far below me I could see an occasional spectator
running like a rabbit, grotesquely waving his arms.

"Oh, yes, he is doubtless clever, this Power," I cry in my pride. "But
he is, after all, nothing but a buzzard. It is I, Lacroix, who am
alone veritable king of the air!"

_Coquin de sort!_ I do not know exactly when the wire controlling the
right _aileron_ parted. I became aware merely that that side of the
machine canted downward and refused to rise again in response to the
lever. Like a flash, I thrust forward the elevator, hoping to reach
the earth by a glide. But I arrived by a quicker maneuver--a whirling
gust, a _tourbillon_ of the most terrific, hurled the biplane sidelong
to destruction.

The man who has been accustomed to face death meets it at last with a
gentle sneer on his lip, as one who is vanquished by an enemy whom he
knows to be in reality his inferior.

"So here he is at last, then, this Death," I said to myself. "Well,
let us see what he will do!"

And in that instant the graceful biplane crashed into splinters, and I
lay pinned in the wreckage beneath a shroud of torn white canvas. In
the black casquette, later, they discovered a hole two inches wide,
torn by the jagged edge of a broken stay.


I found them at my bedside when I awoke some days later, my
Mademoiselle Warren and Monsieur Power. They leaned together, arm in
arm, upon the rail at the foot, and the lovely face of my dear pupil
was radiant with sympathy and happiness.

"Ha! What is it that it is, then?" I demand.

"Mr. Power won," said Miss Warren.

The young broker smiled with all his teeth.

"But he was unfairly abetted by a certain Monsieur Lacroix," went on
Miss Warren. "That was a terrible practical joke you played on me with
the black casquette, you know. They carried us away in the same auto,
and they tell me that I looked as lifeless as you."

"And now I have lost my pupil!" I exclaimed ruefully.

"Dear Monsieur Lacroix, I had no choice," she responded, and moved to
the bedside and held my hand. "I cannot oppose the wishes of all the
people I love. Besides, it is a fair bargain. We have promised each
other, Mr. Power and I, never to fly again."

"It is in one way a pity," I murmured. "For monsieur is without
doubt a species of born birdman. But any one would make a parallel
renunciation to stand in his shoes."

"You are dangerously romantic, Monsieur Jules," said mademoiselle. "If
it were not your supreme virtue, it would be your principal fault."

"Too true, mademoiselle," I replied. "But it cannot be denied that I
am at the same time a very pretty flier."

It was not until some time after they had departed that I found upon
the table among my medicines two envelopes. One, small and dainty, was
a formal announcement of the fiançailles of Miss Warren and the
young Monsieur Power. The other, long and of an official shape,
contained--ah, what do you guess?

It was a draft of the incorporation of a company to control my flying
schools, and realize my dream of the all-steel monoplane of stability
positively automatic. At the head I read the names of Messieurs Warren
and Power as guarantors. There remain only blank spaces requiring my
signature.

_Bien alors_! In a few days more I shall be able to hold a pen!



CHEAP

BY MARJORIE L.C. PICKTHALL


Ransome said that you might pick up specimens of all the unprettiest
afflictions of body and soul in Herares ten years ago. He also said
that when he saw any particularly miserable bit of human wreckage,
white or brown, adrift on the languid tides of life about the jetty,
he always said without further inquiry, "It's Henkel's house you're
looking for. Turn to the left, and keep on turning to the left. And if
God knew what went on under these trees. He'd have mercy on you."

The house was the last house on the last road of the town. You don't
find it now, for no one would live in it after Henkel; and in a season
or two the forest had swamped it as the sea swamps a child's boat on
the beach. It was a white house in a garden, and after rain the scent
of vanilla and stephanotis rose round it like a fog. The fever rose
round it like a fog, too, and that's why Henkel got it so cheap.
No fever touched him. He lived there alone with a lot of
servants--Indians. And they were all wrecks, Ransome said, broken down
from accident or disease--wrecks that no one else would employ. He got
them very cheap. When they died he got more.

Henkel was a large, soft, yellowish man. Ransome said, "I don't mind
a man being large and yellowish, or even soft in reason; but when
he shines, too, I draw the line." Henkel had thick hands with bent
fingers, and large, brown eyes. He was a Hollander, and in that place
he stood apart. For he didn't drink, or gamble, or fight, or even buy
rubber. He was just a large, peaceful person who bought things cheap.

He was very clever. He always knew the precise moment, the outmost
low-water mark, of a bargain. His house was full of things he'd bought
cheap from wrecked companies or dying men, from the mahogany logs in
the patio to the coils of telegraph wire in the loft. His clothes
never fitted him, for they belonged to men whom the fever had met on
the way up the Mazzaron, and who had therefore no further use for
clothes. The only things for which Henkel ever paid a fair price were
butterflies.

"I went to his house once," said Ransome--"had to. A lame Indian in
a suit of gaudy red-and-white stripes opened the door. I knew that
striped canvas. It was the awnings of the old _Lily Grant_, and I saw
along the seams the smoke-marks of the fire that had burnt her innards
out.... Then the Indian opened the jalousies with a hand like a bundle
of brown twigs, and the light shone through green leaves on the walls
of the room. From ceiling to floor they flashed as if they were
jeweled, only there are no jewels with just that soft bloom of color.
They were the cases full of Henkel's butterflies.

"The Indian limped out and Henkel came in. He was limping, too. I
looked at his feet and I saw that they were in a pair of some one
else's tan shoes. That and a whiff from the servants' quarters made
me feel a bit sick. I wanted to say what I had to say and get out as
quick as I could. But Henkel would show me his butterflies. Most of us
in that place were a little mad on some point. I was, myself. Henkel
was mad on the subject of his butterflies. He told me the troubles
he'd had getting them from Indians and negroes, and how his men
cheated him. He took it very much to heart, and snuffled as he spoke.
'And there's one I haven't got,' he said, 'one I've heard of but can't
find, and my lazy hounds of _hombres_ can't find it either, it seems.
It's one of the clearwings--transparent. Here's a transparent silver
one. But this new one is gold, transparent gold, and the spots are
opaque gold.' His mouth fairly watered. 'I tell you, I will spend
anything, pay anything, to get that gold butterfly. And if the natives
can't or won't find it for me, my friend, I'll send for some one who
can and will.'

"I quite believed him, though I was no friend of his. I didn't know
much about butterflies, but I guessed that in Paris or London his
collection would be beyond price. But I wasn't prepared, two months
later, for Scott and his friend.

"Derek Scott. Ever meet him? A very ordinary kind of young Northerner.
He was remarkable only in having everything a little in excess of his
type--a little squarer in jaw and shoulder, a little longer in nose
and leg, a little keener of eye and slower of tongue. I'd never have
looked at him twice, as he landed from the dirty steamer with a lot of
tin boxes, if it hadn't been that he was hale and sound, with hope in
his eyes. Health and hope, at Herares!

"Then little Daurillac ran up the gangway, laughing. I looked at
him--every one did--and wondered. And then, to cap the wonder, the two
came up to me with their friendly, confident young faces, and asked
for Henkel's house.

"'Turn to the left,' I said. And then I added, 'You'll excuse me, but
what does Henkel want of you?'

"Scott didn't answer at first, but looked me over with his considering
eyes, and I remembered a collarless shirt and a four days' beard.
But Daurillac said, 'He wants butterflies of us, Monsieur. I am an
entomologist, and my friend he assists me.' He drew up very straight,
but his eyes were laughing at himself. Then we exchanged names and
shook hands, and I watched them going along the path to Henkel's.

"Next day Scott came down to the jetty. He sat on a stump and stared
at everything. He was ready enough to talk, in his guarded way. Yes,
he was new to the tropics; in some ways they were not what he had
expected, but he was not disappointed. He was here for the novelty,
the experience. But his friend, Louis Daurillac, had been in the
Indies, and with some of Meyer's men in Burma after orchids. Louis's
father was a great naturalist, and Louis was very clever. Yes, Henkel
had got hold of him through Meyer. He wanted some one to find this
butterfly for him--this golden butterfly at the headwaters of the
Mazzaron--some one whose name was yet in the making, some one he could
get cheap.... So Louis had come. He was very keen on it. Henkel was to
bear all costs, to supply food, ammunition, trade-goods, etc., and pay
them according to the number of the new specimens that they found. 'So
you see,' said Scott, with his clean smile, 'Louis and I can't lose by
it.'

"We talked a bit more, and then young Scott said to me, suddenly:
'Henkel has everything ready, and we start in the morning. You seem to
be the only white man about here. Come and see us off, will you?' I
said yes; afterward it struck me as curious that he should not have
counted Henkel as a white man. He laughed and apologized for the touch
of sentiment. 'It's like plunging head first into a very deep sea,'
he explained, 'and one likes to have some one on the shore. You'll be
here when we come back?' And I said yes, I'd be either unloading on
the jetty or in the new cemetery by the canal. But he didn't smile.
His light Northern eyes were gravely considering this land where life
was held on a short lease, and he looked at me as if he were sorry for
me.

"I saw them off the next day. There were six or eight men of Henkel's,
loaded with food and trade-goods, and I saw that two of them were
sickening where they stood. I looked in Daurillac's brilliant young
face, and I hadn't the courage to say anything but, 'Have you plenty
of quinine?' He tapped a big tin case, and I nodded. 'And what are you
taking for the Indies?' I asked.

"He fairly bubbled over with laughter. 'You would never guess,
Monsieur, but we take clocks, little American clocks. The Indies of
the Mazzaron desire nothing but little clocks; they like the tick.'

"Their men had turned down one of the jungle paths. They shook hands
with me, and Scott met my eyes with his grave smile. 'Just drawing
breath for the plunge,' he said, with a glance at the forest beyond
the last white roof. Daurillac slipped his arm through Scott's, and
drew him after their slow-going _hombres_. At the bend of the path
they turned and waved to me--Scott with a quick lift of the hand. But
little Daurillac swept off his hat and stood half turned for a minute;
the sun splashed on his dark head, on his Frenchified belt and
puttees, on his white breeches, and on an outrageous pink shirt Henkel
seemed to have supplied him with. He looked suddenly brilliant and
unsubstantial, a light figure poised on the edge of the dark.... One
gets curious notions in Herares. The next moment they were gone. The
jungle had shut down on them, swallowed them up. They were instantly
lost in it as a bubble is lost in the sea.

"Two days before I hadn't known of their existence. But I was there to
see them off, and I was there when Scott came back.

"It was well on into the rainy season, and I was down with fever. I
was in my house, in my hammock, and the wind was swinging it. It was
probably the hammock that did all the swinging, but I thought it was
the house, and I had one foot on the floor to try and steady it. But
it was no use. The walls lifted and sank all in one rush, like the
sides of a ship at sea. Outside I could see a pink roof, a white roof,
a tin roof, and then the forest, with the opening of a path like the
black mouth of a tunnel. I wanted to watch this tunnel, because I had
an idea I'd seen something crawl along it a good while before. But
I couldn't manage it; I had to shut my eyes. And then I felt the
scratching on my boot.

"I caught hold of the sides of the hammock, but it was some time
before I could manage to pull myself up. Then I looked down.

"A man was lying on the floor, face down, just as he had crawled into
my hut and fallen. The yellowish fingers of one hand clawed on my
boot, and that was the only sign that he was alive. He lay quite
still, except for the slow working of his fingers; and I sat still,
also, staring down at him with the infinite leisure that follows a
temperature of one hundred and five. It was only by slow degrees
that I realized that this was Derek Scott come back, and that he was
probably dying.

"I got to my feet and bent over him, but I wasn't strong enough to
raise him, of course. I was afraid he'd die before any one came. So I
took my revolver and aimed as well as I could at that tin roof beneath
which my man Pedro was eating his dinner. The barrel went up and down
with the walls of the hut, but I must have hit the roof, for the next
thing there was a lot of smoke and noise, and Pedro's face, eyes, and
mouth open, rushing out of it. There seemed no interval before I found
myself sitting in the hammock and saying over and over again, 'But
where's the little chap? Where's the little French chap?'

"Scott was still on the floor, but his head was on my man's shoulder,
and Pedro was gently feeding him with sips of brandy and condensed
milk. He turned and looked at me, and his eyes were clear and
considering as ever, though his answer didn't sound quite sane. He
said, 'The clocks wouldn't tick.'

"He said it as if it explained everything. Then he unstrapped a tin
case from his belt, laid his head on it, and was instantly asleep.

"I cried out, 'Is it the fever, Pedro?' But my man said: 'No, Señor,
it is the hunger.' He rolled Scott up very cleverly in a blanket.
'This señor has had the fever, but it is not upon him now. Without
doubt he is a little mad from being in the forest so long. But when
he wakes he will be stronger.' So much I heard, and no more.
Unconsciousness came down on me like a wave. But into the dark heart
of that wave I carried the certainty that Pedro knew all about the
matter and that he hated Henkel. How or why I was certain of this I
don't know. But I was.

"I woke in the cool of the evening. The fresh wind off the river was
like the breath of life, and Pedro's face, thrust close to mine, no
longer grew large and small by fits. I noticed that it was quite gray,
and that his lips twitched as he muttered, 'Señor, Señor--'

"I said: 'Where is the Señor Scott?'

"'He woke a little while ago, and called for water to wash in, and a
clean coat, and he used the hair-brush. Then he took the little tin
box and went out--went out.'

"I got to my feet, threw an arm over Pedro's shoulder, and he ran with
me out into the moonlit street. The track to the fountain lay like a
ribbon of silver, and the houses were like silver blocks. And every
house was shuttered and silent--breathless. Not a man lounged under
the shade of the walls, not a girl went late to draw water, not a dog
barked. The little place was deserted in the hold of the forest. It
lay like a lonely, luminous raft, in the midst of a black sea. Only
ahead of me a man stumbled slowly in the center of the road, and his
shadow staggered beside him. I have said there was no other living
thing visible. Yet, as this man stumbled past the shuttered houses
the very blades of grass, the very leaves on the wall, seemed to have
conscious life and to be aware of him. When the wind moved the trees,
every branch seemed to be straining to follow him as Pedro and I
followed.

"We followed, but we could not gain on him. It was like the dreams of
delirium. Pedro and I seemed to be struggling through the silence of
Herares as if it were something heavy and resistant, and Scott reeled
from side to side, but always kept the same distance ahead. We were
still behind when we turned into Henkel's garden, and the scent of the
flowers beat in our faces like heat. At the veranda steps we met the
servant who had admitted Scott.

"The man was running away. He was a cripple, and he came down the
steps doubled up, bundled past us, and was gone. Somewhere a door
clashed open. There was no other sound. But in a moment the garden
seemed, full of stampeding servants, all maimed, or ill, or aged. They
melted silently into the bushes as rats melt into brushwood, and they
took no notice of us. I heard Pedro catch his breath quickly. But when
a light flared up in one of the rooms it showed no more than Scott
talking with Henkel.

"They showed like moving pictures in a frame, and the frame was of
dark leaves about the window, which was open. I leaned against the
side of it, and Pedro squatted at my feet, his head thrust forward as
if he were at a cockfight. I did not know just why I was there. Henkel
sat at a table, wagging his head backward and forward; Scott was
sitting opposite him. And he looked as Lazarus might have looked when
first he heard the Voice and stirred.

"Henkel was saying, 'Dear me, dear me, but why should this have
happened?' And Scott answered as he had answered me, in that strange,
patient voice:

"'The clocks wouldn't tick.'

"'But they were good clocks,' cried Henkel.

"Scott shook his head. 'No, they were not good clocks,' he explained,
gently; 'they were too cheap. They would not go at all in the jungle.
An Indian of the Mazzaron does not care what time his clock tells, but
he likes it to tick. These were no good. And the food was not good.
The things in tins were bad when we opened them.'

"'Mismanagement, mismanagement,' said Henkel, but Scott went on as if
he had not heard:

"'We followed the river for two days, and then turned east. In a week
after that two of your men were dead. They died of fever. No, the
quinine was no good; there was a lot of flour in it. Two days more,
and another man died, but he would have died anyhow. It was very hard
to see them die and be able to do nothing.

"'The men who were left went so slowly that nearly all our food was
gone when we reached the country of the Indies. We made our camp and
I shot a pig. That gave us strength, but Louis was very bad then with
the fever.

"'The Indies came down, and we spoke with their head men. They thought
we were mad, but the clocks pleased them; and they sat round our tents
and shook them to make them tick louder until Louis cried out in his
fever that all the world was a great clock that ticked. They gave us
leave to hunt in their country for butterflies, and the head men told
off six to help us. One was very clever. He used to wear his net
on his head, with the stick hanging down behind, and he snared the
butterflies with a loop of grass as if they were birds.

"'Our tents were of cheap cotton stuff that would not keep the rain
out, and the wet came in on Louis and made him worse. But he was
young, and I saw to it that he had food, and your men loved him. I do
not think he would have died if the clocks had ticked properly.'

"'I do not understand,' said Henkel, blinking his heavy brown eyes.

"'No? They were so cheap that they broke at the first winding. The
Indies brought them back and asked for better ones. I had no better
ones.'

"'Still I do not understand,' said Henkel, smoothly, and blinked in
the lamplight.

"Scott's tired voice went on. 'The Indios were very angry. They
brought us no more butterflies, and no more food. And presently, as
we went about the camp, or the paths of the forest, the little arrows
began to fall in front of us and behind us, though we never saw those
who shot at us.'

"'The little arrows?' asked Henkel, heavily. 'I do not understand. Go
on.'

"'There is very little to tell. Only a nightmare of hunger, of wet,
of fever, of silence, and the little poisoned arrows quivering
everywhere. And one day a little dart flickered through a rent in the
cotton tenting and struck Louis. He died in five minutes. Then I and
the men who were left broke through and came down the Mazzaron. The
Indies followed us, and I am the only one left. It is a pity the
clocks wouldn't tick, Mister Henkel.'

"'Ya, ya,' said Henkel, leaning over the table, 'but the butterfly?
The golden butterfly? You have found it?'

"Scott opened the tin case slowly and clumsily, drew out the perfect
insect, and laid it on the table. But it is wrong to speak of that
wide-winged loveliness of glittering and transparent gold as an
'insect.' Henkel sat staring at it, one big yellowish hand curved on
either side of it, too happy to speak. His lips moved, and I fancied
he was saying to himself, 'Cheap, cheap.'

"'It is very good,' he said at last, cunningly, 'but I am sorry there
is only one. I do not know that it is worth very much. But now I will
pay you as I promised. There was no agreement that you should receive
the other young man's share, and there is only one insect. But I will
pay you.'

"Scott was fumbling in his belt. 'Yes,' he said, 'you will pay me,'
and he leaned forward with something in his hand. We saw Henkel's face
turn to yellow wax, and he tried to stand up, but he was too stout to
lift himself quickly. He had no time to turn before Scott shot him
through the heart.

"When I broke through the vines, Scott was moving the butterfly out of
the way. He looked up at me with his old, considering look, his old
clean smile. 'It was cheap at the price,' he said, touching one golden
wing with his finger."





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