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Title: Lord Stranleigh Abroad
Author: Barr, Robert, 1850-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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LORD STRANLEIGH ABROAD

by

ROBERT BARR

Author of "Young Lord Stranleigh," "Lord Stranleigh,
Philanthropist," "The Mutable Many," etc.



Ward, Locke & Co., Limited
London, Melbourne, and Toronto
1913



[Illustration: "'Why did you wish to murder me?'" (Page 189.)
_Frontispiece_]



CONTENTS.


                                                  PAGE

   I.--LORD STRANLEIGH ALL AT SEA                   7

  II.--AN AUTOMOBILE RIDE                          49

 III.--THE GOD IN THE CAR                          87

  IV.--THE MAD MISS MATURIN                       125

   V.--IN SEARCH OF GAME                          164

  VI.--THE BUNK HOUSE PRISONER                    209

 VII.--THE END OF THE CONTEST                     259



LORD STRANLEIGH ABROAD.



I.--LORD STRANLEIGH ALL AT SEA.


A few minutes before noon on a hot summer day, Edmund Trevelyan
walked up the gang-plank of the steamship, at that moment the largest
Atlantic liner afloat. Exactly at the stroke of twelve she would leave
Southampton for Cherbourg, then proceed across to Queenstown, and
finally would make a bee-line west for New York. Trevelyan was costumed
in rough tweed of subdued hue, set off by a cut so well-fitting and
distinguished that it seemed likely the young man would be looked upon
by connoisseurs of tailoring as the best-dressed passenger aboard. He
was followed by Ponderby, his valet, whose usually expressionless face
bore a look of dissatisfaction with his lot, as though he had been
accustomed to wait upon the nobility, and was now doomed to service with
a mere commoner. His lack of content, however, was caused by a dislike
to ocean travel in the first place, and his general disapproval of
America in the second. A country where all men are free and equal
possessed no charms for Ponderby, who knew he had no equal, and was not
going to demean himself by acknowledging the possibility of such.

Once on deck, his master turned to him and said--

"You will go, Ponderby, to my suite of rooms, and see that my luggage is
placed where it should be, and also kindly satisfy yourself that none of
it is missing."

Ponderby bowed in a dignified manner, and obeyed without a word, while
Trevelyan mounted the grand staircase, moving with an easy nonchalance
suited to a day so inordinately hot. The prospect of an ocean voyage in
such weather was in itself refreshing, and so prone is mankind to live
in the present, and take no thought of the morrow, that Trevelyan
had quite forgotten the cablegrams he read in the papers on his way
down from London, to the effect that New York was on the grill, its
inhabitants sweltering--sleeping on the house-tops, in the parks, on
the beach at Coney Island, or wherever a breath of air could be had.
On the upper deck his slow steps were arrested by an exclamation--

"Isn't this Mr. Trevelyan?"

The man who made the enquiry wore the uniform of the ship's company.

"Ah, doctor, I was thinking of you at this moment. I read in the papers
that you had been promoted, and I said to myself: 'After all, this is
not an ungrateful world, when the most skilful and most popular medical
officer on the Atlantic is thus appreciated.'"

"Ah, you put it delightfully, Trevelyan, but I confess I hesitated about
adding, at my time of life, to the burden I carry."

"Your time of life, doctor! Why you always make me feel an old man by
comparison with yourself; yet you'll find me skipping about the decks
like a boy."

"If you'll take the right-hand seat at my table, I'll keep an eye on
you, and prevent you from skipping overboard," laughed the doctor.

"Indeed, that was the boon I intended to crave."

"Then the seat is yours, Trevelyan. By the way, I read in the newspapers
that Evelyn Trevelyan is none other than Lord Stranleigh; but then, of
course, you can never believe what you see in the press, can you?"

"Personally, I make no effort to do so. I get my news of the day from
Ponderby, who is an inveterate reader of the principal journals favoured
by what he calls the 'upper classes.' But I assure you that Evelyn
Trevelyan is a name that belongs to me, and I wear it occasionally like
an old, comfortable-fitting coat."

"Ah, well, I'll not give you away. I'll see you at lunch between here
and Cherbourg." And the doctor hurried away to his duties.

The young man continued his stroll, smiling as he remembered some of the
doctor's excellent stories. He regarded his meeting with that friendly
officer as a good omen, but hoped he would encounter no one else who
knew him.

The next interruption of his walk proved to be not so pleasant. There
came up the deck with nervous tread a shabbily-dressed man, who appeared
from ten to fifteen years older than Stranleigh, although in reality
there was no great disparity in their ages. His face was haggard and
lined with anxiety, and his eyes had that furtive, penetrating glance
which distinguishes the inveterate gambler. Stranleigh watched his
oncoming with amazement.

The Hon. John Hazel had been a member of some of the most exclusive
clubs in London; but whether or not Nature had endowed him with a useful
talent, he had become notorious as a reckless cardsharper, quite
unscrupulous when it came to obtaining money. No one knew this better
than Lord Stranleigh, who had been so often his victim, yet had regarded
his losses lightly, and forgiven the Hon. John time and again. But
recently this younger son of an ancient and honourable house had
committed the unpardonable sin--he had been found out, and had been
permitted to resign from all his clubs but one, and from which he was
expelled by a committee not so lenient. After that he disappeared. He
was done for, so far as England was concerned, and he knew it.

"John, is this possible?" cried Lord Stranleigh, as the other
approached.

Hazel stopped, his eyes veiling over, as though he held a hand at poker
that was unbeatable.

"I haven't the pleasure of knowing you, sir," he said haughtily.

"I'm glad of that, because I'm Edmund Trevelyan at the moment, and was
just hoping I should meet no one on board who would recognise me."

"I don't know Edmund Trevelyan, and have no wish to make his
acquaintance," returned the other coldly.

"That's quite all right, and your wish does you credit. Trevelyan has no
desire to force his friendship on any man. Nevertheless, Jack, time was
when I helped you out of a hole, and, if occasion arose, I should be
glad to do it again."

"You could have prevented my expulsion from the Camperdown Club, had you
but cared to raise a finger," said the other hotly.

"Hazel, you are mistaken. I did all I could for you, as in other crises
of the same nature. The committee proved to be adamant, and rather
prided themselves on their independence, as if they were a group of
blooming Radicals. The House of Lords isn't what it was, Jack, as, alas,
you may learn, should you ever come into the title of your family,
although many people stand between you and it at the present moment.
Indeed, Jack, it has been on my conscience that my urgent advocacy
prejudiced your case instead of helping it."

"Ah, well, that's all past; it doesn't matter now," said the other, with
a sigh. "I have shaken the dust of England for ever from my feet."

"The mud, you mean."

"Oh, I admit I wallowed in the mud, but it was dust when I left London
this morning. Ah, we're off! I must be going." And he moved away from
the rail of the ship, where he had been gazing over the side.

"Going? Where?"

"Where I belong. I'm travelling third-class. The moment the steamer gets
under way, I have no right on the cabin deck. Before she left, I took
the liberty of a sightseer to wander over the steamship."

"My dear Jack," said his former friend, in a grave voice, "this will
never do; you cannot cross the Atlantic in the steerage."

"I have visited my quarters, and find them very comfortable. I have been
in much worse places recently. Steerage is like everything else
maritime--like this bewilderingly immense steamer, for example--vastly
improved since Robert Louis Stevenson took his trip third-class to New
York."

"Well, it is a change for a luxury-loving person like my friend the Hon.
John Hazel."

"It is very condescending of you to call me your friend. Nobody else
would do it," replied the Hon. John bitterly.

"Condescension be hanged! I'm rather bewildered, that's all, and wish
for further particulars. Are you turning over a new leaf, then?"

"A new leaf? A thousand of them! I have thrown away the old book, with
its blotches and ink-stains. I'm starting a blank volume that I hope
will bear inspection and not shock even the rectitude of the Camperdown
Committee."

"What's the programme?"

"I don't quite know yet; it will depend on circumstances. I think it's
the West for me--sort of back-to-the-land business. I yearn to become a
kind of moral cowboy. It seems the only thing I'm at all equipped for. I
can ride well and shoot reasonably straight."

"I thought," said Stranleigh, "that phase of life had disappeared with
Bret Harte. Is there any money in your inside pocket?"

"How could there be?"

"Then why not let me grub-stake you, which I believe is the correct
Western term."

"As how, for instance?"

"I'll secure for you a comfortable cabin, and you will pay the damage
when you strike oil out West, so, you see, there's no humiliating
condescension about the offer."

"I'm sure there isn't, and it's very good of you, Stranleigh, but I
can't dress the part."

"That's easily arranged. Ponderby always over-dresses me. His idea of
this world is that there is London, and the rest of the planet is a
wilderness. You could no more persuade him that a decent suit might be
made in New York than that I am the worst-dressed man in London. You and
I are about the same height and build. Ponderby will have in my
mountainous luggage anywhere from twenty-five to forty suits never yet
worn by me. I don't know on what principle he goes, but as the last time
we went to America he took twenty-five new suits, and we crossed in a
twenty-five thousand ton boat, he is likely to have at least forty-five
suits for this forty-five thousand ton steamship, and he will feel as
much pleasure in rigging you out as he took in the crowning of the new
King."

"Very good of you, Stranleigh, but I cannot accept."

"I am pleading for Ponderby's sake. Besides, there's one practical
point you have overlooked. If you attempt to land from the
steerage--travelling under an assumed name, I suppose----"

"Like yourself, Stranleigh."

"No, I own the name 'Trevelyan.' But, as I was saying, if you attempt to
land rather shabbily dressed and almost penniless, you will find
yourself turned back as an undesirable alien, whereas you can go ashore
from the first cabin unquestioned, save for those amazing queries the
U.S.A. Government puts to one, the answers to which Ponderby will be
charmed to write out for you."

Hazel without reply walked back to the rail, leaned his arms on it, and
fell into deep thought. Stranleigh followed him.

"Give me your ticket," he said.

Hazel took it from his pocket and handed it over.

"Have you any luggage?"

"Only a portmanteau, which I placed in my bunk. It contains a certain
amount of necessary linen."

"Wait here until I find out what there is to be had in the first cabin."

Stranleigh went down to the purser, and that overworked official threw
him a friendly glance, which nevertheless indicated that his time was
valuable.

"My name is Trevelyan," said the young man.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Trevelyan. You have our premier suite. How do you like
your accommodation?"

"I haven't seen it yet. I have just discovered a friend, a rather
eccentric man, who had made up his mind to cross the Atlantic in the
steerage. One of those silly bets, you know, which silly young men make
in our silly London clubs, and I have persuaded him out of it."

"Our steerage is supposed to be rather comfortable, Mr. Trevelyan."

"So he says, but I want his company on deck, and not on the steerage
deck at that. Have you got anything vacant along my avenue?"

The purser consulted his written list.

"Nobody with him?"

"He's quite alone."

"All the larger cabins are taken, but I can give him No. 4390."

"I suppose, like your steerage, it is comfortable?" said Stranleigh,
with a smile.

"It is, yet it's not a private hotel like your quarters."

"Oh, he'll not grumble. Will you send a steward to carry his portmanteau
from the number indicated on this steerage ticket to his new room?
Meanwhile, I'll have transferred to him his luggage that I brought from
London."

The purser rapidly wrote out a new ticket, and took the difference in
five-pound notes.

"Are you going to your quarters now?" the purser asked.

"Yes, I must give some instructions to my man."

"Then it will give me great pleasure to show you the way there," said
the purser, rising and locking the door; and in spite of Stranleigh's
protest against his taking the trouble, he led him to a series of rooms
that would have satisfied a much more exacting person than his young
lordship. When the purser had returned to his duties, Stranleigh said to
Ponderby--

"The Hon. John Hazel is aboard, and his cabin is No. 4390. He had to
leave London in a great hurry and without the necessary luggage."

Ponderby's eyes lit up with an expression which said--"I knew that would
happen sooner or later." But he uttered no word, and cast down his eyes
when he saw his master had noticed the glance. Stranleigh spoke coldly
and clearly.

"How many new suits have you provided for me?"

"Thirty-seven, my lord."

"Very well. Clear out one or two boxes, and pack a dress-suit and two
or three ordinary suits; in fact, costume the Hon. John Hazel just as
you would costume me. Call a steward, and order the box to be taken to
his room. Lay out for him an everyday garb, and get all this done as
quickly as possible."

His lordship proceeded leisurely to the upper deck once more, and found
Hazel just as he had left him, except that he was now gazing at the
fleeting shore, green and village-studded, of the Isle of Wight.

"Here you are," said Stranleigh breezily, handing the Hon. John the
cabin ticket.

There was a weak strain in Hazel's character, otherwise he would never
had come to the position in which he found himself, and he now exhibited
the stubbornness which has in it the infallible signs of giving way.

"I really cannot accept it," he said, his lower lip trembling
perceptibly.

"Tut, tut! It's all settled and done with. Your room is No. 4390. You
will find your bag there, and also a box from my habitation. Come
along--I'll be your valet. Luncheon will be on shortly, and I want your
company."

Stranleigh turned away, and Hazel followed him.

Cabin 4390 could not be compared with the luxurious suite that
Stranleigh was to occupy, yet, despite the purser's hesitation to
overpraise it, the cabin was of a size and promise of comfort that would
have been found in few liners a decade ago. Ponderby was on hand, and
saved his master the fag of valeting, and when finally the Hon. John
emerged, he was quite his old jaunty self again--a well-dressed man who
would not have done discredit even to the Camperdown Club.

"I have secured a place for you," said Stranleigh, "next to myself at
the doctor's table. I flatter myself on having made this transfer with
more tact than I usually display, for I am somewhat stupid in the main,
trusting others to carry out my ideas rather than endeavouring to shine
as a diplomatist myself. The purser--the only official aware of the
change--thinks you made a bet to go over steerage, and will probably
forget all about the matter. The question is, under what name shall I
introduce you to the doctor?"

"What would you advise?" asked Hazel. "The name on my steerage ticket is
William Jones."

"Oh, that's no good as a _nom de guerre_--too palpably a name chosen by
an unimaginative man. I should sail under your own colours if I were
you."

"Good! Then John Hazel I am, and so will remain. As a guarantee of good
faith, I promise you not to touch a card all the way across."

"A good resolution; see that you keep it." And thus they enjoyed an
appetising lunch together, and were regaled with one of the doctor's
best salads.

They got away from Cherbourg before the dinner hour, and after that meal
Stranleigh and Hazel walked together on the main deck, until the latter,
admitting he was rather fagged after the exciting events of the day,
went off to his cabin, and Stranleigh was left alone to smoke a final
cigar. He leaned on the rail and gazed meditatively at the smooth sea.

It was an ideal evening, and Stranleigh felt at peace with all the
world. There exists a popular belief that the rich are overburdened with
care. This may be true while they are in the money-making struggle, but
it is not a usual fault when the cash is in the bank or safely invested.
Stranleigh occasionally lost money, but an immense amount had been
bequeathed him, and he made many millions more than he had parted with,
although he claimed this was merely because of a series of flukes,
maintaining that, whenever he set to work that part of him known as his
brains, he invariably came a cropper.

"You are Mr. Trevelyan, are you not?" said a very musical feminine voice
at his elbow. Stranleigh turned in surprise, and seeing there a most
charming young woman, he flung his partially consumed cigar into the
sea.

"Yes," he replied, "my name is Trevelyan. How did you know?"

That rare smile came to his lips--a smile, people said, which made you
feel instinctively you could trust him; and many ladies who were quite
willing to bestow their trust, called it fascinating.

"I am afraid," said the girl, whose beautiful face was very serious, and
whose large dark eyes seemed troubled--"I am afraid that I enacted the
part of unintentional eavesdropper. I had some business with the
purser--business that I rather shrank from executing. You came to his
window just before I did, for I was hesitating."

"I am sorry," said Stranleigh, "if I obtruded myself between you and
that official. Being rather limited in intelligence, my mind can attend
to only one thing at a time, and I must confess I did not see you."

"I know you did not," retorted the girl. "There was no obtrusion. You
were first comer, and therefore should have been first served, as was
the case."

"I would willingly have given up my place and whatever rights I
possessed in the matter, had I known a lady was waiting."

"I am sure of it. However, your conversation with the purser gave me a
welcome respite, and, thinking over the crisis, I determined to consult
you before I spoke to him; thus I have taken the unusual step of
bringing myself to your notice."

"In what way can I assist you, madam?" asked Stranleigh, a return of his
usual caution showing itself in the instant stiffening of manner and
coldness of words.

"I learned you were exchanging, on behalf of a friend, a third-class
ticket for a place in the cabin. I judged from this that you are a
good-hearted man, and my attention was attracted when you introduced
yourself to the purser as Trevelyan, because Trevelyan is my own name."

"Really?" ejaculated his lordship. "Have you relatives near Wychwood?
You are English, are you not?"

"I am English, and a distant connection with the family of Trevelyan,
near Wychwood, none of whom, however, I have yet met, unless you happen
to belong to that branch."

"I do," said Stranleigh. "And now tell me, if you please, what is your
difficulty?"

"I wish to ask you if the steerage ticket you gave the purser was taken
in part payment for the cabin ticket, or did you forfeit it altogether?"

"That I can't tell you," said Stranleigh, with a laugh. "I am not
accustomed to the transaction of business, and this little arrangement
had to be made quickly."

Although his lordship spoke lightly and pleasantly the girl appeared to
have some difficulty in proceeding with her story. The large eyes were
quite evidently filling with tears, and of all things in the world
Stranleigh loathed an emotional scene. The girl was obviously deeply
depressed, whatever the cause.

"Well," he said jauntily and indeed encouragingly, "we were talking of
first and third-class tickets. What have you to say about them?"

"I speak of the steerage ticket only. If you haven't forfeited it, you
have the right to demand its return."

"I suppose so. Still, it is of no particular use to me."

"No, but it would be vital to me. Coming down in the train from London,
my purse was stolen, or perhaps I lost it when giving up my railway
ticket. So I am now without either money or transportation voucher."

"Was it for cabin passage?"

"Yes."

"In that case you will have no difficulty; your name will be on the
purser's list. Do you know the number of your state-room?"

"No, I do not, and, so far as my name goes, I can expect no help from
that quarter, because the name I travel under is not Miss Trevelyan."

"Good gracious," cried Stranleigh, "there are three of us! This ship
should be called _Incognita_. Was your money also in that purse?"

"Yes, all my gold and bank-notes, and I am left with merely some silver
and coppers."

"Then the third-class ticket would not be of the slightest use to you.
As I had to point out to another person on a similar occasion, you would
not be allowed to land, so we will let that third-class ticket drop into
oblivion. If you are even distantly related to the Trevelyan family, I
could not think of allowing you to travel steerage. Are you alone?"

"Yes," she murmured almost inaudibly.

"Well, then, it is better that you should make all arrangements with the
purser yourself. As I told you, I am not particularly good at business
affairs. You give to him the name under which you purchased your ticket.
You bought it in London, I suppose?"

"Yes," she murmured again.

"Mention to him the name you used then. He will look up his list, and
allot you the state-room you paid for. It is probable he may have the
power to do this without exacting any excess fare; but if such is not
the case, settle with him for your passage, and take his receipt. The
money will doubtless be refunded at New York. Here is a fifty-pound
note, and you can carry out the transaction much better than I. But
stop a moment. Do you remember how much you paid for the room?"

"Twenty-five pounds."

"That will leave you only the remaining twenty-five for New York, which
is an expensive place, so we must make the loan a hundred pounds. Leave
me your address, and if you do not hear from your people before that
loan is expended, you may have whatever more you need. You will, of
course, repay me at your convenience. I will give you the name of my New
York agents."

The eyes had by this time brimmed over, and the girl could not speak.
Stranleigh took from his pocket-book several Bank of England notes.
Selecting two for fifty pounds each, he handed them to her.

"Good-night!" he said hurriedly.

"Good-night!" she whispered.

After dinner on the day the liner left Queenstown, Lord Stranleigh sat
in a comfortable chair in the daintily furnished drawing-room of his
suite. A shaded electric light stood on the table at his elbow, and he
was absorbed in a book he had bought before leaving London. Stranleigh
was at peace with all the world, and his reading soothed a mind which he
never allowed to become perturbed if he could help it. He now thanked
his stars that he was sure of a week undisturbed by callers and free
from written requests. Just at this moment he was amazed to see the door
open, and a man enter without knock or other announcement. His first
thought was to wonder what had become of Ponderby--how had the stranger
eluded him? It was a ruddy-faced, burly individual who came in, and, as
he turned round to shut the door softly, Stranleigh saw that his thick
neck showed rolls of flesh beneath the hair. His lordship placed the
open book face downwards on the table, but otherwise made no motion.

"Lord Stranleigh, I presume?" said the stranger.

Stranleigh made no reply, but continued gazing at the intruder.

"I wish to have a few words with you, and considered it better to come
to your rooms than to accost you on deck. What I have to say is serious,
and outside we might have got into an altercation, which you would
regret."

"You need have no fear of any altercation with me," said Stranleigh.

"Well, at least you desire to avoid publicity, otherwise you would not
be travelling under an assumed name."

"I am not travelling under an assumed name."

The stout man waved his hand in deprecation of unnecessary talk.

"I will come to the point at once," he said, seating himself without any
invitation.

"I shall be obliged if you do so."

The new-comer's eyes narrowed, and a threatening expression overspread
his rather vicious face.

"I want to know, Lord Stranleigh, and I have a right to ask, why you
gave a hundred pounds to my wife."

"To your wife?" echoed Stranleigh in amazement.

"Yes. I have made a memorandum of the numbers, and here they are--two
fifty-pound notes. Bank of England. Do you deny having given them to
her?"

"I gave two fifty-pound notes to a young lady, whose name, I understood,
was Trevelyan--a name which I also bear. She informed me, and somehow I
believed her, that her purse containing steamship ticket and money, had
been lost or stolen."

A wry smile twisted the lips of the alleged husband.

"Oh, that's the story is it? Would you be surprised if the young lady in
question denied that _in toto_?"

"I should not be astonished at anything," replied his lordship, "if you
are in possession of the actual bank-notes I gave to her."

"She describes your having taken these flimsies from a number of others
you carry in your pocket. Would you mind reading me the number of others
you carry in your pocket. Would you mind reading me the number of the
next note in your collection?"

"Would you mind reading me the numbers on the notes you hold?" asked
Stranleigh, in cool, even tones, making no sign of producing his own
assets.

"Not at all," replied the other; whereupon he read them. The notes were
evidently two of a series, and the numbers differed only by a single
unit. Stranleigh nonchalantly took out his pocket-book, and the
intruder's eyes glistened as he observed its bulk. Stranleigh glanced at
the number on the top bank-note, and replaced his pocket-book, leaning
back in his easy chair.

"You are quite right," he said. "Those are the notes I gave to Miss
Trevelyan."

"I asked why."

"I told you why."

"That cock-and-bull story won't go down," said the other. "Even the
richest men do not fling money about in such reckless fashion. They do
it only for a favour given or a favour expected."

"I dare say you are right. But come to the point, as you said you
would."

"Is that necessary?"

"I don't know that it is. You want money--as large an amount as can be
squeezed from a man supposedly wealthy. You use your good-looking wife
as a decoy----"

"You are casting aspersion on a lady quite unknown to you!" cried his
visitor, with well-assumed indignation.

"Pardon me, you seem to be casting aspersion on her whom you say is your
wife. I don't know how these notes got into your hands, but I'd be
willing to stake double the amount that the lady is quite innocent in
the matter. She certainly is so far as I am concerned. If the lady is
your wife, what is her name? She told me she was travelling under a
different title from that written on the lost ticket."

"I am not ashamed of my name, if you are of yours. My name is Branksome
Poole."

"Ah, then she is Mrs. Branksome Poole?"

"Naturally."

Stranleigh reached out and drew towards him a passenger list. Running
his eye down the column of cabin passengers, he saw there the names:
"Mr. and Mrs. Branksome Poole."

"Well, Mr. Poole, we come to what is the final question--how much?"

"If you give me the roll of Bank of England notes which you exhibited
a moment ago, I shall say nothing further about the matter, and,
understand me, there is no coercion about my request. You may accept or
decline, just as you like. I admit that my wife and I do not get along
well together, and although I consider I have a grievance against you,
I am not assuming the injured husband _rôle_ at all. If you decline, I
shall make no scandal aboard ship, but will wait and take action against
you the moment we arrive in New York."

"Very considerate of you, Mr. Poole. I understand that in New York the
fountains of justice are perfectly pure, and that the wronged are
absolutely certain of obtaining redress. I congratulate you on your
choice of a battle-ground. Of course, you haven't the slightest thought
of levying blackmail, but I prefer to spend my money on the best legal
talent in America rather than trust any of it to you. It's a mere
case of obstinacy on my part. And now, if you will kindly take your
departure, I will get on with my book; I am at a most interesting
point."

"I shall not take my departure," said Poole doggedly, "until we have
settled this matter."

"The matter is settled." Stranleigh touched an electric button. An
inside door opened, and Ponderby entered, looking in amazement at his
master's visitor.

"Ponderby," said Lord Stranleigh, "in future I desire you to keep this
outer door locked, so that whoever wishes to see me may come through
your room. Take a good look at this gentleman, and remember he is not to
be allowed within my suite again on any pretext. Meanwhile, show him
into the corridor. Take him through your room, and afterwards return and
lock this other door."

Then occurred an extraordinary thing. Ponderby, for the first time in
his life, disobeyed his master's instructions. Approaching the seated
Poole, he said--

"Will you go quietly?"

"I'll not go, quietly or otherwise," answered the man stubbornly.

Ponderby opened the door by which Poole had entered, then, seizing him
by the collar, lifted him, led him to the door, and pitched him out of
the room across the corridor. Returning, he closed, locked, and bolted
the door.

"I beg your pardon, my lord," said the panting Ponderby to his amazed
master, "but I dare not take him through my room. His wife is there. She
appears to have followed him. Anyhow, she recognised his voice, and told
me hurriedly why she came. I locked the door to the passage, for, as I
heard her story, I felt it might be serious, and at least you ought to
hear what she has to say before you acted. I hope you will excuse the
liberty I have taken, my lord."

"Ponderby, as I have often told you, you are a gem! I will go into your
room, but you must remain there while I talk to this lady. No more
_tête-à-tête_ conversations with the unprotected for me."

"I think she is honest, my lord, but in deep trouble."

 [Illustration: "Reeling off what she had to say as if it were a task
 learned by rote."]

"I am glad to have my opinion corroborated by so good a judge of
character as yourself, Ponderby."

They went together to the valet's sitting-room, and there sat the woman,
with her dark head bowed upon arms outstretched along the table, her
shoulders shaking. She was plainly on the verge of hysterics, if,
indeed, she had not already crossed the boundary line.

"Here is Mr. Trevelyan, madam," said Ponderby. "You wanted to speak with
him."

She raised her head, dabbed her wet eyes nervously with her
handkerchief, and made an effort to pull herself together. When she
spoke, it was with rapid utterance, reeling off what she had to say as
if it were a task learned by rote.

"I have at last come to the end of my tether, and to-night, if there is
no prospect of freedom, I shall destroy myself. Before this I have often
thought of suicide, but I am a cowardly person, and cling to life. Five
years ago my father went out to America bent on a motor tour; he took me
with him. Among other servants he engaged Charles Branksome, who had
proved himself an expert chauffeur. He was English, and came to us well
recommended. He intimated that he was of good family, but had his living
to earn. He was handsome then, and had a most ingratiating manner. The
person who called on you to-night bears little resemblance to the
Branksome of five years ago. I had often gone motoring with him while
in America, and I was young, and rather flighty: a foolish person
altogether. Perhaps you read about it in the papers. I cannot dwell on
the appalling mistake I made.

"We became very well acquainted, and at last he professed to have fallen
in love with me, and I believed him. We were secretly married before a
justice of the peace in America, and I was not long left in doubt as to
the disaster that had befallen me. His sole desire was money. My father
being wealthy, he hoped to get all he cared to demand. My father,
however, is a very stubborn man, and, after his first shock on finding
the episode made much of by the American papers, he refused to pay
Branksome a penny, and returned forthwith to England. I never saw him
again, nor could I get into communication with him. Two years after my
mad act he died, and never even mentioned me in his will.

"My husband is a liar, a thief, a forger, a gambler, and a brute. He has
maltreated me so that I have been left once or twice for dead, but
finally he broke me to his will. He is known as a cheat in every
gambling resort in Europe, and on the Atlantic liners. Lately I have
been used as a decoy in the way of which you have had experience.
Somehow he learned--indeed, that is his business--who were the rich
travellers on this boat. He thought, as this was the newest and largest
steamship on the ocean, its staff would not at first be thoroughly
organised, and that he might escape detection. He pointed you out to me
as you came on board, and said you were Lord Stranleigh, travelling as
Mr. Trevelyan. The rest you know. He forced me to hand to him the money
you had given, and told me it might be necessary for me to go on the
witness-stand when we reached New York, but, as you were very wealthy,
it is not likely you would allow it to go so far as that. His plan
was to demand a very moderate sum at first, which was to be a mere
beginning, and each exaction would be but a prelude for the next. He is
old at the game, and is wanted now by the authorities in New York for
blackmailing a very well-known millionaire."

"Do you know the name of the millionaire?"

She gave him the information.

"Very well, madam. In the first place, you must do nothing reckless or
foolish. I shall see that this man is detained at New York on some
pretext or other--in fact, I shall arrange for this by wireless. You
should journey to one of the states where divorces are easily obtained.
If you will permit me, I shall be your banker. Even if Branksome
got free in New York, it will cost him dear, and his supplies are
precarious. You should experience no difficulty in evading him with
money in your possession. Do you agree?"

"Oh, yes!"

"That's settled, then. Ponderby, look into the corridor, and see that
the way of escape is clear."

"I am sorry, my lord," she said, rising, "to cause you such trouble and
inconvenience."

"No inconvenience at all," said Stranleigh, with his usual nonchalance,
"and I never allow myself to be troubled."

Ponderby reported the way open, and the lady disappeared silently along
the passage. Stranleigh betook himself to Room 4390, and had a long talk
with the Hon. John Hazel, who, for the first time during the voyage,
seemed to be enjoying himself.

Next morning the Hon. John paced up and down one deck after another, as
if in search of someone. On an almost deserted lower deck he met the
person whom he sought.

"I beg your pardon," said Hazel in his suavest manner, "but I am trying
to find three men as tired of this journey as I am. I have never been on
a voyage before, and I confess I miss London and the convenience of its
clubs. A quiet little game of poker in the smoking-room might help to
while away the time."

The keen eyes of Mr. Branksome Poole narrowed, as was a custom of
theirs, and he took in the points of the man who addressed him.

"I am not much of a hand at poker," he said hesitatingly and
untruthfully.

The Hon. John laughed.

"Don't mind that in the least," he said. "The requirement for this game
is cash. I have approached several men, and they object to playing for
money; but I confess I don't give a rap for sitting at a card-table
unless there's something substantial on."

"I'm with you there," agreed the stout man, his eyes glistening at the
thought of handling a pack of cards once more. His momentary hesitation
had been because he feared someone might recognise him, for he felt
himself quite able to cope with anyone when it came to the shuffle and
the deal. They were a strangely contrasted pair as they stood there,
the pleb and the patrician--the pleb grim and serious, the patrician
carrying off the situation with a light laugh--yet it was hard to say
which was the more expert scoundrel when it came to cards.

A little later four men sat down to a table. Hazel ordered a new pack of
cards from the smoke-room steward, broke the seal, and pulled off the
wrapper.

It is not worth while to describe the series of games: only the one
matters. At first Poole played very cautiously, watching out of the
tail of his eye for any officer who might spot him as one who had
been ordered off the green, and so expose him for what he was. The
consequence of this divided attention was soon apparent. He lost
heavily, and finally he drew a couple of fifty-pound notes from his
pocket-book. He fingered them for a moment as if loath to part with
paper so valuable.

"Where's that steward?" he asked.

"What do you want?" demanded Hazel, as though impatient for the game to
go on.

"Change for a fifty."

"I'll change it for you." And the Hon. John drew from his pocket a
handful of gold and five-pound bank-notes, counted out fifty pounds, and
shoved them across the table to Poole, who, still hesitating, was forced
reluctantly to give up the big bank-note. Now Poole began to play in
earnest, but still luck was against him, and soon the second fifty-pound
note was changed, for they were playing reasonably high. Hazel, after
glancing at the number on the note, thrust it carelessly into his
waistcoat pocket alongside its brother, as if it were of no more
account than a cigarette paper. Little did the pleb dream that he was up
against a man of brains. Hazel now possessed the two bank-notes that
could have been used in evidence against Lord Stranleigh, and he drew a
sigh of satisfaction. Poole only saw that here was a man, evidently
careless of money, possessing plenty of it, and extremely good-natured.
He had already recognised him as an aristocrat, and expected that,
whatever happened, he would treat it with a laugh, and perhaps leave the
table, so the pleb now began some fine work. Two games were played in
silence, and in the third it was the deal of Branksome Poole. Hazel
watched him like a beast of prey, conscious of every crooked move, yet
he did not seem in the least to be looking. He gazed at the cards dealt
him, rose to his feet, and spread the hand face upward on the table.

"Sir, you are cheating," he said crisply.

"You lie!" roared Branksome Poole, turning, nevertheless, a greenish
yellow, and moistening his parched lips. At the sound of the loud voice,
a steward came hurrying in.

"Show your hand, if you dare!" challenged Hazel. "You have dealt
yourself----" And here he named the concealed cards one after another.
Poole made an effort to fling his hand into the rest of the pack, but
Hazel stopped him.

"Show your hand! Show your hand!" he demanded. "These two gentlemen will
witness whether I have named the cards correctly or not. Steward, ask
the chief officer to come here, or, if he is not on duty, speak to the
captain."

The steward disappeared, and shortly returned with the chief officer, to
whom Hazel briefly and graphically related what had happened.

"Will you come with me to the captain's room?" requested the chief
officer.

Branksome Poole had been through the mill before, and he offered no
resistance.

When the wireless came in touch with the American shore, a dispatch
reached police headquarters in New York, informing them that Charles
Branksome, wanted for blackmailing Erasmus Blank, the millionaire, was
detained by the ship's authority for cheating at cards.

When the great vessel arrived at her berth, Mrs. Branksome Poole was
quite unmolested as she took her ticket for the West. She was amply
supplied with money, and among her newly-acquired funds were two
fifty-pound notes which had been previously in her possession.



II.--AN AUTOMOBILE RIDE.


When Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood came to New York under his family name
of Trevelyan, he had intended to spend several weeks in that interesting
metropolis, but newspaper men speedily scattered his incognito to the
winds, and, what with interviewers, photographers, funny paragraphists
and the like, the young lord's life was made a burden to him. Despite
his innate desire to be polite to everyone, he soon found it impossible
to receive even a tenth part of those who desired speech with him. This
caused no diminution of interviews or special articles regarding his
plans, and his object in revisiting America. The sensational papers
alleged that he had untold millions to invest; that he had placed cash
on all the available projects in Europe, and now proposed to exploit
the United States in his insatiable desire to accumulate more wealth.

Stranleigh changed his quarters three times, and with each move adopted
a new name. He endured it all with imperturbable good-nature, despite
the intense heat, but Ponderby was disgusted with the state of affairs,
and wished himself and his master back once more in that quiet village
known as London.

"By Jove! Ponderby," said Stranleigh, "they say three moves are as bad
as a fire, and the temperature to-day seems to corroborate this, for we
are making our third move. Have you anything to suggest?"

"I should suggest, my lord," said Ponderby, with as much dignity as the
sweltering day would allow, "that we return to London."

"A brilliant and original idea, Ponderby. Many thanks. Go down at once
to the steamship office, and book the best accommodation you can get on
the first big liner leaving New York."

Ponderby departed instantly, with a deep sigh of relief.

Stranleigh's life had been made more of a burden to him than was
necessary through the indefatigable exertions of a fellow countryman,
whose name was Wentworth Parkes. This individual brought with him a
letter of introduction from the Duke of Rattleborough. Rattleborough
was an acquaintance, but not a particular friend of Stranleigh's;
nevertheless, a Duke overtops a mere Earl in social eminence, much as
the Singer building overtops the structure next to it.

Wentworth Parkes told Stranleigh he had been in America for something
more than a year. He had been very successful, making plenty of money,
but expending it with equal celerity. Now he determined to get hold of
something that contained princely possibilities for the future. This he
had secured by means of an option on the Sterling Motor Company at
Detroit, and the plant alone, he alleged, was worth more than the
capital needed to bring the factory up to its full output. J. E.
Sterling, he went on to explain, knew more about automobile designing
than anyone else in the world, notwithstanding the fact that he was
still a young man. He would undoubtedly prove to be the true successor
of Edison, and everyone knew what fortunes had come to those who
interested themselves in the products of the great Thomas Alva, who up
to date had proved to be the most successful money-making inventor the
world had ever seen, to which Lord Stranleigh calmly agreed. Well, J. E.
Sterling was just such another, and all a man required to enter the
combination, was the small sum of one hundred thousand dollars. This
would purchase a share in the business which might be sold within a year
or two for millions. Detroit was the centre of automobile manufacturing
in America; a delightful city to live in; the finest river in the world
running past its doors, with a greater tonnage of shipping than passed
through the Suez Canal.

Mr. Parkes was a glib and efficient talker, who might have convinced
anyone with money to spare, but he felt vaguely that his fluency was not
producing the intended effect on Lord Stranleigh. His difficulty
heretofore had been to obtain access to men of means, and now that he
had got alongside the most important of them all, he was nonplussed to
notice that his eloquence somehow missed its mark. Stranleigh remained
scrupulously courteous, but was quite evidently not in the least
interested. So shrewd a man as Parkes might have known that it is not
easy to arouse enthusiasm in a London clubman under the most favourable
auspices, and this difficulty is enormously increased when the person
attacked is already so rich that any further access of wealth offers no
temptation to him.

Parkes had come to believe that the accumulation of gold was the only
thing the average man really cared about, so he failed, by moving
against the dead wall of Stranleigh's indifference towards money,
whereas he might have succeeded had he approached the sentimental side
of the young man. Indeed, Mr. Wentworth Parkes seemed to catch a
glimmering of this idea as his fairy visions of the future fell flat, so
he reversed his automobile talk, and backed slowly out.

Conversation lagging, his lordship asked a few casual questions about
the Duke of Rattleborough and other persons he knew in London, but
if any of these queries were intended to embarrass his visitor,
Stranleigh's failure was equal to that of Parkes himself. The latter
answered all enquiries so promptly and correctly that Stranleigh
inwardly chided himself for his latent distrust of the man who now,
quick to see how the land lay, got his motor car in position once
more, but took another direction. He mopped his forehead with his
handkerchief, and drew a slight sigh.

"You see," he said, in a discouraged tone, "a person brought up as I
have been, to do nothing in particular that is of any use to the world,
finds himself at a great disadvantage in a hustling land like the United
States, where the fellows are all so clever, and have been trained from
their very boyhood to be alert business men. I have a good thing in this
option, and if once I got upon my feet, I could soon build up a great
and profitable business. My chief trouble is to convince any capitalist
of this, and if he asks me whether or not the scheme will produce a
fortune within six months or a year, I am forced to admit there is
little chance of it. An American wishes to turn over his money quickly;
a long look into futurity is not for him. He wishes to buy one railway
on Monday, another on Tuesday, amalgamate them on Wednesday, and sell
out the stock to the public at several millions profit on Thursday, then
rake in the boodle on Friday, which proves an unlucky day for the
investors. When I truthfully confess it will be a year before I get
fairly under way, I am immediately at a discount. Capitalists won't
listen any further."

Parkes saw that for the first time during the interview Lord Stranleigh
began to show interest, reserved though it was.

"Do you know anything about cars?" asked his lordship.

"I can take apart any motor in the market, and put it together again,
always leaving it a little better than when I found it."

"And this machine--invented by the Detroit man--does it fill the bill?"

"It's the best motor in the world to-day," asserted Parkes, with a
return of his old confidence.

Stranleigh smiled slightly.

"I think," he said, "you have been very successful in catching the
enthusiasm of America. You deal glibly with superlatives. Mr. Sterling
is the most remarkable man on earth, Detroit the most beautiful city on
the globe, and your motor-car beats the universe."

"Well, my lord, I don't disclaim the superlatives, but I insist on their
truth. As I said, I deal in truth, and have suffered somewhat in pocket
by doing so."

A slight shade of perplexity came into the young earl's face. There was
something deferential in the tone used by Parkes when he enunciated the
phrase "my lord," which Stranleigh did not like. Neither phrase nor tone
would have been used by any person in his own circle of acquaintance
addressing another in the same set. His former distrust was again
aroused. As he remained silent, Parkes went on--

"You need not take my word for the automobile, which after all is the
crux of the situation. I have one of them here in New York. I tested it
very fully on the way from Detroit to this city, travelling in it the
whole distance. Let me take you for a drive. You doubtless know all
about a motor-car, for I was told in London that you owned at least a
dozen of them."

"I daresay it's true. I'm not sure. Nevertheless, I am so unfortunate as
to have only a slight knowledge of their mechanics. I have driven a good
deal, but not being so energetic as Prince Henry of Prussia, I leave
details to my chauffeurs."

"Very good. You are doubtless well acquainted with the merits of a car
from the owner's point of view. Come out with me in this Detroit motor,
and I will be your chauffeur, or you may drive the machine yourself, if
you remember that in this country you keep to the right side of the
road."

Thus the appointment was made, and was kept by Lord Stranleigh. At the
end of his run, he said to Parkes--

"The car seems to be a satisfactory piece of construction, but I own two
or three American cars in London, any one of which, I think, is equally
good; in fact, as Mark Twain said about his Jumping Frog--'I see no
points about this frog different from any other frog.' However, I will
consider your proposal, and will let you know the result. Meanwhile,
many thanks for a most interesting ride."

Stranleigh sauntered down town, and entered a cable office.

"Can I send a message to London, and leave a deposit here for the reply,
that it may not cost my London friend anything?"

"Certainly, sir."

Stranleigh wrote--

     "Duke of Rattleborough, Camperdown Club, London.

     "A man calling himself Wentworth Parkes presented a letter
     of introduction from you to me. Please cable whether or not
     he is reliable."

Two days later, Stranleigh received a reply--

     "Letter a forgery. Parkes was my valet for three years, then
     bolted, leaving a lot of little things behind him, but not
     if they were portable and valuable. Believe he is now
     abroad, though the London police are yearning for him.
     RATTLEBOROUGH."

Now began the persistent pursuit of Stranleigh, which culminated in his
sending Ponderby down to the steamship office to buy tickets for
England. The young man said nothing to anyone of the cablegram he had
received, nor did he inform the police of London the whereabouts of
their quarry. He rather pitied the poor wretch, as he called him, but he
had no use for a thief and a liar, so he refused to hold further
communication with him, or to make any explanation. Parkes, finding he
could not gain admission to Stranleigh, took to sending letters by
special messenger, first adopting an aggrieved tone, a reproachful
suggestion of injured innocence running through his correspondence
like a minor note in a piece of music; then he became the victim of
an unscrupulous millionaire, asserting that Stranleigh had promised
to finance the proposed company, and breathing threats of legal
proceedings. Indeed, as the recipient read these later communications,
he realised they were evidently written with a view to publicity in law
courts, for there emanated from them sentiments of great patriotism. The
United States, Stranleigh learned, would not put up with his villainy,
as would have been the case with legal proceedings in decadent England,
where judges were under the thumb of a debased aristocracy.

Stranleigh had no ambition to appear in the courts of either country, so
he removed from one hotel to another, but apparently he was watched, for
Parkes ran him down wherever he betook himself. Thus we come to the
moment when the sedate but overjoyed Ponderby returned with the
steamship tickets, which Stranleigh thrust into his pocket.

"Shall I pack up now, my lord?"

"I wish you would. The valet of the hotel will assist you. Prepare three
boxes; one for yourself and two for me, filling mine with such clothing
as I should take were I going to visit a friend in the country for a
week or two. Place the other luggage in charge of the manager of the
hotel, and say I will telegraph when I make up my mind where it is to be
sent."

And then, to Ponderby's amazement, the young man left for Boston, and
took passage in the steamer for St. John, New Brunswick.

"You see, Ponderby," said his lordship, when they got out into the
ocean, "the estimable Parkes, if he is watching us, is already aware
that you have booked for Southampton. He may possibly set the law in
motion, and appear with some emissaries thereof aboard the liner before
she sails, so we might be compelled to remain in this country which he
so ardently loves."

"But the steamship tickets, my lord? They cost a lot of money."

"Quite so, my economical Ponderby, but remember for your consolation
that when you step ashore from this boat, you will be under the British
flag. You may telegraph to the company and tell them to sell the
tickets, meanwhile sending them by post to New York. Here they are.
Whatever money the company returns, is to be retained by you further to
mitigate your disappointment. I have no doubt that in thus bolting for
Canada you feel like a culprit escaping from justice, but we are only
escaping from Parkes. Having pestered me as much about Detroit as he has
done, that city will be the last place in which he is likely to look for
me. We are making for Detroit, Ponderby, by the most roundabout route I
could choose, seeing that the Panama Canal is not yet open, and thus I
am unable to reach the autometropolis by way of San Francisco."

After passing through Canada, Lord Stranleigh settled himself very
comfortably in a luxurious suite of rooms situated near the top storey
of a luxurious hotel in the city of the Straits, under the assumed
commonplace name of Henry Johnson. The windows of his apartment afforded
wide and interesting views of skyscrapers and noble public edifices,
with a wilderness of roofs extending towards the misty horizon to the
west, north, and east, while to the south flowed the majestic river, its
blue surface enlivened by stately steamers and picturesque sailing
craft.

The gloomy valet did not share his master's admiration of the scene.
Ponderby was heart and soul a Londoner, and although forced to admit
that the Thames was grey and muddy, and its shipping for the most part
sombre and uncouth, that tidal water remained for him the model of all
other streams. He was only partially consoled by the fact that five
cents brought him across to the Canadian shore, where he might inhale
deep breaths of air that fluttered the Union Jack.

Stranleigh, confident that he had shaken off pursuit, enjoyed himself in
a thoroughly democratic manner, sailing up stream and down, on one of
the pearl white passenger boats, that carried bands which played the
immortal airs of Sousa.

He began his second week in Detroit by engaging a motor to make a tour
of the motor manufacturing district. He was amazed at the size and
extent of the buildings, and recognised, among the names painted
thereon, the designation of cars that were familiar to him. He had come
to believe Parkes such an untruthful person, that he had taken a big
discount from everything he said, and so was unprepared to find the
reality far in advance of the description. However, he saw no sign
bearing the name of the Sterling Motor Company, so asked his chauffeur
to convey him thither. The chauffeur, pondering a moment, was forced to
admit that he had never heard of the firm.

"Then be so good," requested Stranleigh, "as to drop into one of these
offices and enquire. It is likely that someone will know the names of
all other companies in the same line of manufacture."

"I don't doubt," said the chauffeur, "that they know all about it, but
it wouldn't be business to direct a possible customer to a rival firm."

Stranleigh smiled.

"I have not been in this country so long as you have," he said, "but I
think you will find an American business man ignores rivalry when he has
an opportunity of doing an act of courtesy."

The chauffeur drew up at a huge factory and went inside. Returning very
promptly, he informed his fare that they knew of no Sterling Motor
Company, but there was in Woodbridge Street a young engineer named J. E.
Sterling, who, they believed, made motor-cars.

"J. E. Sterling! That's the man I want. Where is Woodbridge Street?"

"Right away down town; next door, as you might say, to the river front."

"Very good; we'll go there. Just drive past Mr. Sterling's place, for if
I do not like the look of it I shall not go in."

By and by they turned into Woodward Avenue, and raced down town at a
speed which Stranleigh thought must surely exceed the legal limit, if
there was one. Woodbridge Street proved to be crowded with great
lumbering trucks, loaded with vegetables for the most part, and among
these vehicles the chauffeur threaded his way cautiously. They passed a
small, rather insignificant shop, above whose window was painted--

 "J. E. STERLING. Motor Engineer. Repairs
 promptly executed. Satisfaction guaranteed."

When the chauffeur came to a halt a little further on, Stranleigh said--

"The place doesn't look very inviting, but as Mr. Sterling guarantees
satisfaction, I think it but right to call upon him. I sha'n't need you
any more to-day."

The door being open, Stranleigh walked in unannounced. A two-seated
runabout, evidently brand new, stood by the window, where it could be
viewed by passers-by. Further down the room rested a chassis, over which
two men, one middle-aged and the other probably twenty-five, were
bending, with tools in their hands. They were dressed in grease-stained
blue overalls, and they looked up as Stranleigh entered.

"I wish to see Mr. J. E. Sterling," he said.

"My name is Sterling," replied the younger man, putting down his tools,
and coming forward.

"I understood," went on Stranleigh, "that there was a Sterling Motor Car
Company."

"There will be," answered the young man confidently, "but that's in the
sweet by and by. It hasn't materialised so far. What can I do for you?"

"Well, you can give me some information regarding J. E. Sterling. I want
to learn if it tallies with what I have heard."

The young man laughed.

"It depends on who has been talking about me. I daresay you have been
told things that might require explanation."

"I heard nothing but praise," his lordship assured him. "It was said you
were the true successor of Thomas Alva Edison."

Sterling laughed even more heartily than before.

"I'm afraid they were getting at you. A man may be a creditable
inventor, and a good, all-round engineer without being able to hold a
candle to Edison. Are you looking for an automobile?"

"No; as I told you at first, I am looking for J. E. Sterling."

"I was going to say that I am not yet prepared to supply cars. I do
repairing and that sort of thing, merely to keep the wolf from the door,
and leave me a little surplus to expend in my business. My real work,
however, is experimenting, and when I am able to turn out a machine that
satisfies me, my next business will be to form a company, for one can't
do anything in this trade without capital."

"The competition must be intense."

"It is, but there's always room for a first-rate article, and the
production of a first-rate article is my ambition."

"Is that your work in the window?"

"Yes."

"Does it come up to your expectations?"

The young man's face grew serious; his brow wrinkled almost into a
frown, and he remained silent for a few moments.

"Well, I can't exactly say that it does," he answered at last, "still, I
think the faults I have found can be remedied with a little patience. On
the other hand, I fear the improvement I have put in this car may not
be as great as I thought when I was working at it."

Lord Stranleigh looked at the young man with evident approval; his
frankness and honesty commended themselves to him.

"Do you mind showing me your improvement and explaining its function?"

"Not at all. You will remember, however, that this exhibition is
confidential, for I have not yet patented the mechanism."

"I shall not mention to anyone what you show me. You asked me a moment
ago if I wished to buy an automobile, and I said I did not. I have made
a little money in my time, but mostly, it seems to me, by flukes. I do
not pretend to be a business man, yet such is the conceit of humanity
that I wish to invest some of my money to back my own judgment. If I
lose the cash, it won't cripple me to any appreciable extent. On the
other hand, should the investment prove satisfactory, I shall have more
faith in my judgment than has hitherto been the case. In any event, I
promise to assist you in the formation of your company."

"That's all right!" cried the young engineer, with enthusiasm. "My own
judgment of men is frequently at fault, but somehow I'd stake my bottom
dollar on you. Come over to the window, and I'll show you how the wheels
go round."

The two men approached the car in the window, and as they did so a third
person on the pavement outside stopped suddenly, and regarded them with
evident astonishment. Neither of those inside saw him, but if one or the
other had looked through the glass, he would have recognised the
sinister face of Wentworth Parkes who, having satisfied himself as to
the visitor's identity, turned away and retraced his steps.

Sterling lifted up a leather curtain which hung down in front from the
passenger's seat and disclosed a line of three upright pegs, rising two
or three inches from the floor of the car. They were concealed when the
curtain was lowered.

"If you give the matter any thought," said Sterling, "you will discover
that the passenger in an automobile is in rather a helpless position.
His chauffeur may faint, or even die at his wheel from heart failure, as
has been the case in several instances I know of, or he may be drunk,
and therefore unreasonable or obstinate, driving the car with danger to
all concerned, yet if his master attempt to displace him while the car
is going at high speed, disaster is certain. Now, the centre peg here
will stop the engine and put on the brakes. A pressure by the foot on
the right-hand peg turns the car to the right; and on the left-hand to
the left. In the ordinary car the passenger can do nothing to save
himself, but here he may stop the car dead, or, if he prefers it, may
disconnect the steering wheel, and guide the car at his will."

"Why, I think that's an excellent device!" cried Stranleigh.

"I thought so, too, but there are disadvantages. The crises in which it
could be brought to play are rare. As a general rule, a chauffeur is
much more to be trusted than the owner, and if the owner happens to be a
nervous man, he might interfere, with deplorable results."

"Yes," said Stranleigh, "it's like the pistol in Texas. You may not need
it, but when you do you want it very badly. Has anyone else seen this
contrivance?"

"No one except my assistant."

"Could you lend me this car to-morrow?"

"Certainly."

"Then place the car in charge of a competent chauffeur, who knows
nothing of your safety device, and send it up to my hotel at eleven
o'clock. Tell him to ask for Henry Johnson. I'll take a little trip into
the country, where I can test the car on some unfrequented road."

"Better cross the river to Canada," said Sterling, with a smile. "Things
are quiet over there."

"Very well," agreed Stranleigh. "You are a busy man, and I have taken up
a considerable amount of your time. You must allow me to pay you for
it."

The young man's face grew red underneath its spots of grease, and he
drew back a step.

"You have spent your own time to an equal amount, so we'll allow one
expenditure to balance the other."

"My time is of no account. I'm a loafer."

"I could not accept any money, sir."

The two looked at one another for a moment, and gentlemen understand
each other even though one wears the greasy clothes of a mechanic.

"I beg your pardon," said Stranleigh, softly. "Now, let me ask you one
question. Have you given an option on this business to anyone?"

Sterling glanced up in surprise.

"Why, yes, I did give an option to an Englishman. By the way, you're
English, are you not?"

"I was born over there."

"This Englishman wasn't your sort. He was a most plausible talker, and
as I told you, my judgment of men is sometimes at fault. I gave him
an option for two months, but I think all he wanted was to get an
automobile for nothing. He said he represented a syndicate of English
capitalists, some of whom were in New York, and he borrowed the only car
I had completed at that time. That was four months ago. Like the
preacher after the futile collection, I wanted to get back my hat at
least, but although I wrote letter after letter, I never received any
answer. It wasn't worth my while to set the police on his track, so I
tried to forget him, and succeeded until you spoke of an option just
now."

"That agreement lapsed two months ago?"

"Yes."

"Then write out an option for me, good for a week. I'll pay you five
hundred dollars down, to be forfeited if I fail to do what I promise."

"I'll give you the document with pleasure, but it is unnecessary to make
a deposit."

"This is business, you know, Mr. Sterling. You are pretending you are as
bad a business man as I am. I don't know much about the law of America,
but I think you will find that unless a deposit is made, your instrument
would be invalid in a court of law. There must be value received, I
believe, when a bargain is made."

"All right," said Sterling, "but I'll give you back your money if you
regret the deal."

He went to a desk in the corner, and wrote out the agreement, in which
he acknowledged the receipt of five hundred dollars. Stranleigh selected
from his wallet five bills for a hundred dollars each, and handed them
over, then bidding farewell to the engineer, walked to his hotel,
followed at a discreet distance by Mr. Wentworth Parkes.

Having located his quarry, Parkes retraced his steps to Woodbridge
Street, deep in thought. His first resolution was to try bluster, but he
abandoned that idea for two reasons, each conclusive in its way. His
slight acquaintance with the engineer had convinced him that while much
could be done with Sterling by persuasion, he would not yield to force,
and secondly, the motor builder had no money. Whatever gold he was to
acquire in his deal must come from Lord Stranleigh. It was, therefore, a
mild and innocent lamb of a man who entered the machine shop of
Woodbridge Street.

"Hello!" cried Sterling, who seemed taken aback by the encounter. "What
have you done with my automobile, and why did you not answer my
letters?"

"Your automobile is here in Detroit; a little the worse for wear,
perhaps, but there is nothing wrong with it that you cannot put right in
short order. As for letters, I never received any. I thought I had
notified you of my changed address."

"As a matter of fact, you didn't."

"In that case, I apologise most humbly. The truth is, Mr. Sterling,
I have been working practically night and day, often under very
discouraging circumstances. Until quite recently there was nothing
hopeful to tell, and the moment I struck a bit of good luck, I came on
here in the car to let you know. You see, it was very difficult to
interest capital in a proposition that apparently has no substantiality
behind it. If you had possessed a big factory in going order, that I
could have shown a man over, the company would have been formed long
ago. It therefore surprised me exceedingly, when I passed your shop
less than a hour ago, to see standing in this window, while you were
explaining the car to him, the man on whom I chiefly depended. You must
put it down to my credit that instead of coming in as I had intended,
thus embarrassing him, and perhaps spoiling a deal by my interference, I
passed on, waited until he came out, and followed him to his hotel."

Sterling was plainly nonplussed.

"I wish you had come in an hour earlier," he said. "You couldn't have
interfered with a deal, because your option ran out two months ago."

"I know that," said Parkes regretfully, "but I thought the good work
on my part would have made up for a legal lapse. Indeed, Mr. Sterling,
if you will allow me to say so, I had such supreme faith in your
own honesty, that I believed you would not hesitate to renew our
arrangement."

"That's just the point," said Sterling. "Had you come in an hour sooner,
you would have been in time. As it is, I have granted a new option to
the man you saw here with me."

"What name did he give you? Trevelyan?"

"No; the name he mentioned was Henry Johnson."

Parkes laughed a little, then checked himself.

"He went under the name of Trevelyan in New York, but I know neither
that nor Johnson is his true title. Well, is he going in with you,
then?"

"He has asked for a week to decide."

Now Parkes laughed more heartily.

"I took him out in your motor in New York, and there also he asked for a
week in which to decide. He seems to have taken the opportunity to come
West, and try to forestall me."

"Oh, I don't believe he's that sort of man," cried Sterling,
impatiently.

"Perhaps I do him an injustice. I sincerely hope so. Of course you're
not compelled to show your hand, but I think, in the circumstances, you
might let me know just how far you've got."

"Yes, I think you are entitled to that. I remember I was rather
astonished when I learned he knew I had given a former option, but I
shall be very much disappointed if he doesn't run straight. Still, I
have been mistaken in men before. He took an option for a week, and paid
me five hundred dollars down in cash, to be forfeited if he does not
exercise it."

"Well, if the money is not counterfeit, that certainly looks like
running straight. And meanwhile, what are you to do?"

"I am to do nothing, except send this car up to his hotel with a
suitable chauffeur, at eleven o'clock to-morrow. He is going to test
it along the Canadian roads."

"Was anything said about the amount of capital he was to put up?"

"Not a word; we didn't get that far."

Parkes took a few turns up and down the room then he said suddenly:

"Have you any particular chauffeur in mind?"

"No; I was just going out to make arrangements."

"You don't need to make any arrangements. I'll be your chauffeur, and
can show off this car better than a stranger, who perhaps might be
interested in some other automobile, and try to get your customer away.
It's to my interest, having spent so much time on it, to see the deal
put through. Besides, I know your man, and now that I have encountered
him here in Detroit, he cannot deny that I sent him to your shop. I
think he owes me at least a commission for bringing you together. I
realise, of course, that I have no legal claim on either of you, yet I
am sure, if the facts were proved, any court would allow me an agent's
commission."

"I'll pay your commission," said Sterling.

"You haven't got the money, and he has."

"Very well; I will let you go as chauffeur, but I must inform him who
you are."

Parkes shook his head.

"My dear Sterling, you are the most honest and impractical man I ever
met. If you give him warning, he'll merely leave you in the lurch as he
did me."

"Do you intend to disguise yourself?"

"Certainly not."

"Then he will recognise you at once."

"I understand that class of Englishman much better than you do. He will
never see me, and I don't know that I shall call myself to his attention
at all. My own idea is to let the deal go through, claiming only
the privilege of being your adviser, and keeping altogether in the
background. I can give you valuable hints about dealing with this sort
of man. He will regard me as a servant, and unless I said to him: 'Lord
Stranleigh of Wychwood, why did you bolt so suddenly from New York?' he
would never have the least idea who was sitting beside him, and even
then he would exhibit no surprise."

"Lord Stranleigh?" echoed Sterling in amazement.

"Yes; that's the man you're dealing with, and he's worth untold
millions. I'll go up to this hotel now, and see him, if you prefer that
I should do so."

"No; you may take him out to-morrow, but I advise you to say nothing to
him about me or my business. Whatever arrangement we come to finally,
you shall be recompensed for your share in the negotiations."

Parkes' prediction regarding Stranleigh's non-recognition of him proved
accurate. The young man simply said--

"We will cross the ferry, and run up along the Canadian shore as far as
Lake St. Clair."

The road continued along the river bank, with no fences on the left
side. Although residences were fairly numerous, there was little
traffic on the highway. The car was running at a moderate pace when
the chauffeur suddenly diverted it towards the river, and with an
exceedingly narrow margin escaped tumbling down the bank.

"I say," murmured Stranleigh, "I don't like that you know."

"There's worse to come," said the chauffeur menacingly. "You will
promise to pay me a hundred thousand dollars, or I will dash you and the
car over the edge into the river. If you consider your life worth that
sum, speak quickly."

"Ah, it is you, Parkes? I hope you realise that you will dash yourself
over at the same time?"

"I know that, but I'm a desperate man. Just get that through your head."

"You are aware that a promise given under duress is not binding?"

"Stow talk!" roared Parkes. "Say 'yes' or 'no.'"

"I say 'No!'" replied Stranleigh, so quietly that the other was
unprepared for the prompt action which followed. Stranleigh flung his
arms around the man, and jerked him backward from his wheel. His
lordship was in good athletic condition; the ex-valet had looked too
much on the wine when it was red, and on the highball when it sparkled
in the glass. He felt helpless as a child.

"Now," said Stranleigh, "we will see who is the coward. I'll lay a wager
with you that this car tumbles off the bank before five minutes are
past."

Stranleigh with his heels was working the two outside pegs, and the car
acted as if it were drunker than a lord, and almost as drunk as the
valet.

"In God's name," cried the latter, "let me go. We shall be wrecked in a
moment."

"No, we won't."

"I implore you, Lord Stranleigh!"

"I'll save your life, but will give you a lesson against attempted
blackmail."

He steered to the edge of the bank, then pressed the middle peg, and
stopped the car. Rising and carrying Parkes with him, he hurled him
headlong over the slight earthy precipice into the water, which was
shallow at that point. Parkes arose spluttering, and found Stranleigh
had turned the car round, and with a smile on his face, was looking
down at his dripping victim.

"You'll suffer for this!" cried Parkes, shaking his fist at him. "We're
in a country, thank God, where we think very little of lords."

"Oh, I don't think much of lords myself, in any country," replied
Stranleigh suavely, "and even less of their valets, notwithstanding I've
a very good one myself. Now listen to my advice. I shall be in the
United States before you can reach a telephone, and I don't see how you
can get me back unless I wish to return. I advise you not to stir up the
police. The Duke of Rattleborough cabled to me that a certain section of
that useful body is anxious to hear of you. Call on Mr. Sterling, and
whatever he thinks is just compensation for your introduction I will
pay, but before you get the money, you must ensure both of us against
further molestation in any way."

Stranleigh drove up to the shop on Woodbridge Street, and listened to
the account Sterling gave of Parkes' visit and conversation, and his
explanation of how he had come to allow him to drive the car.

"That's quite all right and satisfactory," said his lordship. "I never
for a moment distrusted you. Still, I did get your name from Parkes, and
I owe him something for that. What do you think would be a fair payment
to make? I threw him into the river, but though it's clean, clear water,
I expect no reward."

"If you'll allow me to pay him the five hundred dollars you gave me
yesterday, I think the rogue will get much more than he deserves."

"Very good; I'll add another five hundred, but see that he signs some
legal promise not to molest us further. I'll capitalise your company to
the extent of any amount between a hundred thousand dollars and half a
million."



III.--THE GOD IN THE CAR.


Young Lord Stranleigh always proved a disappointment to a thorough-going
Radical, for he differed much from the conventional idea of what a
hereditary proud peer should be. He was not overbearing on the one hand,
nor condescending on the other, being essentially a shy, unassuming
person, easily silenced by any controversialist who uttered statements
of sufficient emphasis. He never seemed very sure about anything,
although undoubtedly he was a judge of well-fitting clothes, and the
tailoring of even the remoter parts of America rather pleased him.

One thing that met his somewhat mild disapproval was undue publicity. He
shrank from general notice, and tried to efface himself when reporters
got on his track. In order, then, to live the quiet and simple life,
his lordship modified a stratagem he had used on a previous occasion
with complete success. He arranged that the obedient but unwilling
Ponderby should enact the country gentleman of England, bent on
enlarging his mind, and rounding out his experiences by residence in
the United States. Ponderby wished to get back to the old country, but
was too well-trained to say so. Lord Stranleigh, under the humble
designation of Henry Johnson, set for himself the part of Ponderby's
chauffeur, a _rôle_ he was well fitted to fill, because of his love for
motoring, and his expertness in the art. He dressed the character to
perfection, being always particular in the matter of clothes, and was
quite admirable in raising his forefinger deferentially to the edge of
his cap, a salute whose effect Ponderby endangered by his unfortunate
habit of blushing.

Accustomed to self-suppression though he was, Ponderby could not
altogether conceal from Lord Stranleigh his dislike of the metamorphosis
that was proposed. He had been born a servant and brought up a servant,
with the result that he was a capable one, and posing as a gentleman was
little to his taste. Of course, he would do anything Lord Stranleigh
commanded, and that without consciously hinting disapproval, but the
earl shrank from giving a command as much as he would have disliked
receiving one. He was suave enough with the general public, but just a
little more so in dealing with those who depended on him.

"Did you ever visit the ancient village of Burford, Ponderby?" he asked
on this occasion.

"Burford in England, my lord?"

"Ponderby," pleaded Stranleigh, "kindly oblige me by omitting the
appellation."

"Burford in England, sir?"

"That's better," said the earl with a smile, "but we will omit the 'sir'
in future, also. I am a chauffeur, you know. Yes, I do mean Burford in
Oxfordshire, nestling cosily beside the brown river Windrush, a village
of very ancient houses."

"I have never been there." Ponderby swallowed the phrase "my lord" just
in time.

"Then you have not seen the priory of that place; the ruins of a
beautiful old English manor-house? It forms the background of a
well-known modern picture by Waller--'The Empty Saddle.' The estate was
purchased by Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons during the Long
Parliament. Kings have put up at the Priory, the last being William the
Third. Think of that, Ponderby! Royalty! I know how you will respect the
house on that account. One of Lenthall's descendants was served by an
ideal butler, who was happy, contented, well-paid; therefore, to all
outward appearances, satisfied. One day he fell heir to three thousand
pounds, which at present would be not quite fifteen thousand dollars,
but at that time was a good deal more. Against his master's protests, he
resigned his butlership.

"'I have always wished to live,' he confessed, 'at the rate of three
thousand a year; to live as a gentleman for that period. I will return
to you a year from to-day, and if you wish to engage me, I shall be
happy to re-enter your service.'

"He spent his long-coveted year and the three thousand pounds, returning
and taking up his old service again on the date he had set. Now,
Ponderby, there's a precedent for you, and I know how you love
precedents. Remembering this historical fact, I have placed in the bank
of Altonville fifteen thousand dollars to your credit. You cannot
return to old England just yet, but you may enjoy New England. Already
constituting myself your servant, I have taken a furnished house for
you, and all I ask in return is that I may officiate as your chauffeur.
I hope to make some interesting experiments with the modern American
automobile."

And so it was arranged. Lord Stranleigh at the wheel saw much of a
charming country; sometimes with Ponderby in the back seat, but more
often without him, for the inestimable valet was quite evidently
ill-at-ease through this change of their relative positions.

One balmy, beautiful day during the exceptionally mild Indian summer of
that year, Stranleigh left Altonville alone in his motor, and turned
into a road that led northward, ultimately reaching the mountains to be
seen dimly in the autumn haze far to the north. It was a favourite drive
of his, for it led along the uplands within sight of a group of crystal
lakes with well-wooded banks on the opposite shore. The district was
practically untouched by commerce, save that here and there along the
valley stood substantial mills, originally built to take advantage of
the water power from the brawling river connecting the lakes. Some
of these factories had been abandoned, and were slowly becoming as
picturesque as an old European castle. Others were still in going order,
and doubtless the valley had once been prosperous, but lagging behind
an age of tremendous progress, had lost step, as it were, with the
procession. Lack of adequate railway connection with the outside world
was the alleged cause, but the conservatism of the mill-owners, who, in
an age of combination, had struggled on individually to uphold the
gospel of letting well alone, a campaign that resulted in their being
left alone, had probably more to do with bringing about adversity than
the absence of railways. Some of the mills had been purchased by the
Trusts, and closed up. One or two still struggled on, hopelessly
battling for individualism and independence, everyone but themselves
recognising that the result was a foregone conclusion.

Yet for a man who wished to rest, and desired, like the old-fashioned
millers, to be left alone, this countryside was indeed charming. The
summer visitors had all departed, missing the sublimest time of the
year. Stranleigh had the road to himself, and there was no annoying
speed limit to hamper the energy of his machine. Without any thought of
his disconsolate valet moping about an unnecessarily large and
well-furnished house, the selfish young man breathed the exhilarating
air, and revelled in his freedom.

He passed a young couple, evidently lovers, standing on a grassy knoll,
gazing across a blue lake at the wooded banks on the other side,
seemingly at a fine old colonial mansion which stood in an opening of
the woods, with well-kept grounds sloping down to the water's edge.

A man driving a car enjoys small opportunity for admiring scenery and
architecture, so Stranleigh paid little regard to the view, but caught a
fleeting glimpse of a beautiful girl, in whose expression there appeared
a tinge of sadness which enhanced her loveliness; then he was past, with
the empty road before him. He fell into a reverie, a most dangerous
state of mind for a chauffeur, since a fall into a reverie on the part
of a driver may mean a fall into a ravine on the part of the machine.
The reverie, however, was interrupted by a shout, and then by another.
He slowed down, and looking back over his shoulder saw that the young
man was sprinting towards him at a record-breaking speed. Stranleigh
declutched his automobile, and applying the brakes came to a standstill.
The young man ran up breathlessly.

"You are the chauffeur of that Englishman in Altonville, are you not?"
he panted, breathing hard.

"Yes."

"Are you going to meet him, or anything of that sort?"

"No; I'm out for my own pleasure."

"I'll give you a dollar if you take my wife and me back to Altonville."

Stranleigh smiled.

"I'll go, my chief; I'm ready," he murmured. "It is not for your silver
bright, but for your winsome lady."

"My wife has sprained her ankle, and cannot walk," explained the young
man.

"I am sorry to hear that," replied Lord Stranleigh. "Get in, and we will
go back to her in a jiffy."

The young man sprang into the car, which the amateur chauffeur turned
very deftly, and in a few moments they drew up close to the grassy bank
where the girl was sitting. The young husband very tenderly lifted her
to the back seat, and the polite chauffeur, after again expressing his
regret at the accident, drove the car swiftly to Altonville, stopping at
the office of the only doctor.

The young man rang the bell, and before the door was opened, he had
carried the girl up the steps. Presently he returned, and found
Stranleigh still sitting in the chauffeur's seat, meditatively
contemplating the trafficless street. His late passenger thrust hand
in pocket, and drew forth a silver dollar.

"I am ever so much obliged," he said, "and am sorry to have detained you
so long."

"The detention was nothing. To be of assistance, however slight, is a
pleasure, marred only by the fact of the lady's misadventure. I hope to
hear that her injury is not serious, and then I shall be well repaid."

"You will not be repaid," returned the young man, with a slight frown on
his brow, "until you have accepted this dollar."

Stranleigh laughed gently.

"I told you at the beginning that I was not working for coin."

The young man came closer to the automobile.

"To tell the truth," he said earnestly, "I fear that now we are in
Altonville that pompous gentleman, your boss, may come along, and you
will get into trouble. Masters do not like their motors used for other
people's convenience."

"Don't worry about Mr. Ponderby. He is a very good-hearted person, and
his pomposity merely a mannerism. I am waiting to take madame and
yourself to your residence."

"It isn't much of a residence," laughed the young man rather grimly,
"only a couple of rooms and a small kitchen, and is less than a hundred
yards from this spot."

"Then I'll take you that hundred yards."

"I work in Fulmer's grist mill," explained the husband, "and business is
not very good, so I had the day off. This is a time of year when we
ought to be busy, but the trade is merely local. The huge concerns down
east, and further west, do practically all the grinding nowadays."

The door opened, and the doctor appeared at the top of the steps.

"It's all right, Mr. Challis," he said encouragingly. "Mrs. Challis must
stay indoors for a few days, and be careful to rest her foot. The cure
may be tedious, but not painful, thanks to prompt treatment."

Challis brought out his wife, and Stranleigh took them to the
two-storied frame house, of which they occupied part. When the young
man came out to thank the chauffeur, he found the street empty.

A week later, Stranleigh's passengers heard the purr of an automobile
outside the cottage. Challis opened the door in response to the
chauffeur's knock.

"Good morning," said Stranleigh, shaking hands cheerfully. "What a
lovely day! I am delighted to know that Mrs. Challis has completely
recovered. I did not care to trouble you with repeated calls, but the
doctor has been very kind, and has kept me informed of her progress. It
is with his permission that I come to offer you a spin in the car. I'll
take you anywhere you wish to go, and this invitation is extended with
the concurrence of Mr. Ponderby, so you may enjoy the run to the full.
My name's Johnson; not Jack, the celebrated, but Henry, the unknown."

Challis laughed.

"I'm delighted to meet you again," he said. "Come in and see my wife.
Her worry has been that she has never had the opportunity to thank you
for your former kindness. Yes; I shall be glad of a ride. I have been
too much in the house lately."

"Another day off, eh?"

"All days are off days now," growled Challis. "The grist mill has shut
down."

Mrs. Challis received the alleged Johnson with a graciousness that was
quite charming. She thanked him in a manner so winning that Stranleigh
sat there overcome with an attack of the shyness he had never been able
to shake off. He could not help noticing the subtle melancholy of her
beautiful face, a hint of which he had received in that brief first
glance as he passed in the automobile. He attributed it then to her
mishap, but now realised its cause was something deeper and more
permanent. He was astonished later to find her so resolute in refusing
his invitation. She wished her husband to go for a drive, but would not
avail herself of that pleasure. In vain Stranleigh urged the doctor's
dictum that it would be good for her especially as the day was so fine,
and she had endured a week of enforced idleness indoors.

"Some other day perhaps," she said, "but not now," and he speedily
recognised that her firmness was not to be shaken.

All her own powers of persuasiveness, however were turned upon her
husband.

"You must go, Jim," she insisted. "I have kept you a prisoner for a
week, and you need the fresh air much more than I do."

James Challis, protesting more and more faintly at last gave way,
and the two men drove off together while Mrs. Challis fluttered a
handkerchief from her window in adieu.

Challis had refused to sit in the back seat, and took his place beside
the chauffeur.

"Where shall we go?" asked the latter.

"Drive to the place where you found us," said his passenger, and there
they went. On the way thither, neither spoke, but at a sign from
Challis, Stranleigh stopped the car.

"You must not think," began the former, "that my wife did not wish to
come. I know from the expression of her eyes that she did. Her reason
for declining was one that I imagine any woman would consider adequate,
and any man the reverse."

"I am an exception so far as the men are concerned," said Stranleigh,
coming much nearer the truth than he suspected, "for I am sure that
whatever motive actuated Mrs. Challis, it was commendable and right."

"Thank you," responded the other. "I am with you there. It is all a
matter of clothes. My wife possesses no costume suitable for a motor
excursion."

"In that case," cried Stranleigh impulsively, "the defect is easily
remedied. I have saved a bit from the ample salary Mr. Ponderby allows
me, and if I may offer you----"

"I could not accept anything," interrupted Challis.

"Merely a temporary loan, until the grist mill begins operations."

Challis shook his head.

"That mill will never grind again with the water that is past, nor the
water that is to come. Fulmer has gone smash, and I could not accept a
loan that I do not see my way to repay. Nevertheless, I appreciate fully
the kindness of your offer, and if you don't mind, I will tell you how I
got myself entangled, for there is no use in concealing from you what
you must already have seen--that I am desperately poor, so much so that
I sometimes lose courage, and consider myself a failure, which is not a
pleasant state of mind to get into."

"Oh, I've often felt that way myself," said Stranleigh, "but nobody's a
failure unless he thinks he is. You strike me as a capable man. You have
youth and energy, and added to that, great good luck. I'm a believer in
luck myself."

This commendation did not chase the gloom from the face of Challis.

"You have knocked from under me," he said, "the one frail prop on which
I leaned. I have been excusing myself by blaming the run of horrid bad
luck I have encountered."

Stranleigh shook his head.

"You can't truthfully say that," he rejoined quietly, "while you have
had the supreme good fortune to enlist the affection of so clever and
charming a wife."

The gloom disappeared from Challis's countenance as the shadow of a
cloud at that moment flitted from the surface of the lake. He thrust
forth his hand, and there being no onlookers, Stranleigh grasped it.

"Shake!" cried Challis. "I'll never say 'ill-luck' again! I wish she
had come with us."

"So do I," agreed Stranleigh.

"I'd like her to have heard you talk."

"Oh, not for that reason. I'd like her to enjoy this scenery."

"Yes, and the deuce of it is, she practically owns the scene. Look at
that house across the lake."

"A mansion, I should call it."

"A mansion it is. That's where my wife came from. Think of my
selfishness in taking her from such a home to wretched rooms in a
cottage, and abject poverty."

"I prefer not to think of your selfishness, but rather of her nobility
in going. It revives in a cynical man like myself his former belief in
the genuine goodness of the world."

"It all came about in this way," continued Challis. "I graduated at a
technical college--engineering. I began work at the bottom of the
ladder, and started in to do my best, being ambitious. This was
appreciated, and I got on."

"In what line?" asked Stranleigh.

"In a line which at that time was somewhat experimental. The firm for
which I worked might be called a mechanical-medical association, or
perhaps 'surgical' would be a better term. We had no plant, no factory;
nothing but offices. We were advisers. I was sent here and there all
over the country, to mills that were not in a good state of health;
dividends falling off, business declining, competition too severe, and
what-not. I looked over the works, talked with managers and men, formed
conclusions, then sent a report to my firm containing details, and such
suggestions as I had to offer. My firm communicated with the proprietor
of the works accordingly, and collected its bill."

"That should be an interesting occupation," said Stranleigh, whose
attention was enlisted.

"It was. One day, I was sent up here to inspect the factory of Stanmore
Anson, a large stone structure which you could see from here were it not
concealed by that hill to the right. It has been in the Anson family for
three generations, and had earned a lot of money in its time, but is now
as old-fashioned as Noah's Ark. It was cruelly wasteful of human energy
and mechanical power. It should have had a set of turbines, instead of
the ancient, moss-grown, overshot waterwheels. The machinery was out of
date, and ill-placed. The material in course of manufacture had to go
upstairs and downstairs, all over the building, handled and re-handled,
backward and forward, instead of passing straight through the factory,
entering as raw material, and coming out the finished product.
I reported to my firm that the establishment needed a complete
overhauling; that it ought to have new machinery, but that if it
was compulsory to keep the old machines at work, they should be
entirely rearranged in accordance with the sketch I submitted, so that
unnecessary handling of the product might be avoided. I set down the
minimum expense that must be incurred, and also submitted an estimate
covering the cost of turbines and new machinery, which I admit was
large in the bulk, but really the most economical thing to do."

"I see. And the old man objected to the expense, or perhaps had not the
necessary capital to carry out your suggestion? What sort of a person
is he? Unreasonable, I suppose you consider him?"

"Strangely enough, I never met him in my life."

"And you married his daughter?"

"Had to. I was determined to take the girl away, whether I reformed
the factory or not, and here you see where good luck and the reverse
mingled. When I arrived at Mr. Anson's factory, the old man was in New
York, for the purpose, as I learned, of raising a loan, or of selling
the property, neither of which projects was he able to carry out."

"That was his misfortune, rather than his fault, wasn't it?"

"In a way, yes; still, the Trust had offered him a reasonable figure for
his factory. He not only refused, but he fought the Trust tooth and
nail, thinking that with low taxation, and country wages, he could meet
the competition, which, of course, with the factory in its present
state, he could not do. The fact that he was up against the Trust became
well known, so that he could neither borrow nor sell. While in New York,
he called several times on Langdon, Bliss, and Co., the firm that
employed me. When my report came in and was read to him, I understand he
fell into a tremendous rage, and characterised our company as a body of
swindlers. Mr. Langdon ordered him out of the office.

"That was the first spoke in my wheel. Mr. Langdon was a capable man,
always courteous and very calm when dealing with his fellows, so I am
sure that my father-in-law must have been exceedingly violent when he
provoked Langdon to vocal wrath. I judge that Langdon, when he recovered
from his outbreak, regretted it extremely, and was inclined to blame me
for rather muddling the affair of Anson's mill. I may say that I had
been placed in rather a difficult position. The proprietor was absent,
and had not taken his foreman into his confidence, therefore this
foreman put difficulties in the way of investigation. The employees were
suspicious, not knowing what this research by a stranger meant, so I
went to Anson's house, hoping to find there someone with sufficient
authority to enable me to get the information I must have.

"I met Mrs. Anson, a kindly woman, but realised in a moment that no
authority had been delegated to her. She appeared afraid to suggest
anything, but called in her only daughter to assist at our conference.
The girl at once said she would accompany me to the mill, and did so. I
shall never forget with what infinite tact and persuasiveness she won
over the foreman, and it was quite evident that the workmen all knew and
liked her, for her very presence appeared to dissipate distrust. I saw
Miss Anson home, and it seemed, as my investigations progressed, many
conferences became more and more necessary. You're a young man, and
doubtless you know how it is yourself."

"As a matter of fact, I don't," interjected Stranleigh, "but I can
guess."

"Well--your guess is right. We had no difficulty with Mrs. Anson, but
both mother and daughter were uneasy about how the father would take it.
I wrote him what I hoped was a straightforward letter, putting the case
to him as man to man. He answered with a very brief and terse letter
that left me no doubt regarding his opinion, but my own communication
had arrived at an unfortunate time; the day after he had been ordered
out of our office. He at once enclosed my letter to Mr. Langdon, saying
in effect:--

"'This is the sort of man you sent like a wolf in sheep's clothing to my
home.'"

"Langdon telegraphed, asking if this was true. I, of course, had to
admit it was, with the result of instant dismissal. I never would have
let either mother or daughter know about this, but my reticence was
vain, for Mr. Anson wrote a stinging letter to his daughter saying she
could do what she pleased about marrying me, but that he had secured my
dismissal. It is strange," Challis murmured reflectively, speaking more
to himself than to his companion, "it is strange that a father rarely
recognises that when he comes to a difference with one of his children,
he is meeting, in part at least, some of his own characteristics. I
wonder if I shall ever be so unreasonable as----"

Stranleigh's eye twinkled as he remembered how firm the girl had been in
refusing the automobile invitation, yet giving no explanation of that
refusal.

"What Gertrude said to me was, holding her head very proudly: 'I have
received my father's permission to marry you, and if you are ready for
an immediate ceremony, I am willing.'

"We were married before the old man returned from New York."

"Has there been no further communication between Mr. Anson and
yourself?"

"On my part, yes; ignored by him. It was Gertrude who wished to stay in
Altonville. She knew a financial crisis was threatening her father, and
she hoped that in some way I should be able to advise him. That was not
to be. She requested permission to take away her belongings. This was
refused. Everything she possessed, Mr. Anson said, had been purchased
with his money. They remained at his home, and she was welcome to use
them at his house, any time she chose to return, but having exchanged
his care for that of another man, it was the other man's duty to provide
what she needed. This ended our communication, and brings us to the
present moment."

"Can you drive a car?" asked Stranleigh.

"Yes."

"The immediate question strikes me as being that of wearing apparel. I
propose to return with at least a box full. I don't like to be baffled,
and I wish Mrs. Challis to come out with us for a run. Will you
exchange seats, and drive me down to the mill?"

"You're up against a tough proposition," demurred Challis.

"A proposition usually gives way if you approach it tactfully, as Miss
Anson approached the manager. If you have never seen her father, he will
not recognise you, so let us call at the mill."

"He would not recognise me, but the foreman would, also many of the
men."

"We must chance that."

The two young men exchanged seats, and Challis at the wheel, with more
caution than ever Stranleigh used, sent the car spinning down the
slightly descending road by the margin of the lake, until they came to
the water level. No word was spoken between them, but his lordship
studied with keen scrutiny from the corner of his eye, the profile of
the intent driver. He was immensely taken with the young man, and
meditated on the story to which he had listened. The effect left on his
mind by that recital surprised him. It was a feeling of sympathy with
the old man who had acted so obstreperously, and gradually he placed
this feeling to the credit of Challis, who had shown no rancour against
his father-in-law, either in word or tone. Yes; he liked Challis, and
was sorry for the elderly Anson, one evidently advanced in years,
battling against forces that were too much for him, stubbornly using
antiquated methods in a world that had out-grown them; the muzzle-loader
against the repeating rifle. These two men should be pulling together.

"There's the factory," said Challis, at last, and Stranleigh, looking
up, beheld further down the valley a three-storied structure,
unexpectedly huge, built apparently for all the ages. There was no sign
of activity about it; but the roar of waters came to their ears; idle
waters, nevertheless, that were turning no wheels, the muffled sound of
an unimpeded minor cataract.

"By Jove!" cried Stranleigh, jumping out as the car stopped.

Challis said nothing, but an expression of deep anxiety darkened his
countenance. There were plastered here and there on the stone walls
great white posters, bearing printing like the headings of a
sensational newspaper, magnified several hundred times.

                         AUCTION SALE.
               BY ORDER OF THE BANKRUPTCY COURT,

     that desirable property known as Anson's Mill, fully
     equipped with machinery, in condition for immediate use,
     with never-failing water power, which at slight expense may
     be enormously increased; together with ten acres of freehold
     land; without reserve to the highest bidder; on the
     Seventeenth of November!

"A desirable property," said Challis, sadly, "which nobody desires
except the Trust, and probably _it_ cares nothing about it now."

"You forget that it is desired by Stanmore Anson."

"I am afraid that even he is tired of it by this time. I am sorry, but
I feared it was inevitable."

Stranleigh looked up at him.

"Could you make this factory pay, if it were given into your charge?"

"Not in its present condition."

"I mean, of course, with your recommendations carried out. If the mill,
free from all encumbrances, filled with modern machinery, rightly
placed, were put under your management, could you make it pay?"

Challis did not answer for some moments. His brow was wrinkled in
thought, and he seemed making some mental calculations.

"There would need to be a suitable amount of working capital----"

"Yes, yes; all that is understood. Could you make it pay?"

"I am almost sure I could, but there is that incalculable factor, the
opposition of the Trust."

"Damn the Trust!" cried Stranleigh. "I beg your pardon; I should have
said, blow the Trust! I thought I had lost the power of becoming
excited, not to say profane. It must be the exhilarating air of America.
The sale is a good way off yet, and I think it will be further off
before I get through with it. If you will accept the management, and
your father-in-law proves at all reasonable, I guarantee to find the
necessary money."

"You mean that, Mr. Ponderby----"

"Exactly. I am his chief business adviser, as well as his only
chauffeur. But we are forgetting the matter in hand. We must rescue the
wardrobe of Mrs. Challis. Drive on to the mansion. You know the way, and
I don't."

"I'm a warned-off trespasser, but here goes."

"You won't be called on to trespass very much. You're my chauffeur, _pro
tem_. Perhaps you won't need to enter the house at all. I shall see Mrs.
Anson before I meet her husband, if possible, and will try to persuade
her to give me the wardrobe."

"She would not have the courage to do that without her husband's
permission, and he will never give it."

"We'll see about that. Ah, the mill is not the only piece of property to
be sold!"

They had turned into a well-shaded avenue, to the massive stone
gate-pillars of which were attached posters similar to those at the
mill, only in this case it was "This valuable, desirable and palatial
residence," with the hundreds of acres of land attached, that were to be
knocked down by the auctioneer's hammer.

"I might have known," commented Stranleigh, "that if Mr. Anson was
bankrupt at his mill, he was also bankrupt at his house."

They drew up at the entrance. Stranleigh stepped down, and rang the
bell, Challis remaining in the car. Shown into the drawing-room, the
visitor was greeted by a sad-looking, elderly woman.

"Mrs. Anson," said the young man, very deferentially, "I expect your
forgiveness for this intrusion on my part when I say that I am here in
some sense as an ambassador from your daughter."

"From my daughter!" gasped the old lady in astonishment. "Is she well,
and where is she?"

"She is very well, I am glad to say, and is living with her husband over
in the village."

"In her last letter she said her husband was taking her to New York.
There had been a--misunderstanding." The old lady hesitated for a moment
before using that mild term. "On the day her letter was received, I went
to the hotel at which they were stopping, and was told by the landlord
they had gone, he did not know where. Do you tell me they have been
living in Altonville all the time?"

"I think so, but cannot be sure. I met Mr. and Mrs. Challis for the
first time only a week ago."

"I hope she is happy."

"She is," said Stranleigh confidently, "and before the day is done her
mother will be happy also."

Mrs. Anson shook her head. She was on the verge of tears, which
Stranleigh saw and dreaded. So he said hurriedly:

"You will select me what you think she should have at once, and I will
take the box or parcel to Altonville in my car."

"When at last her father saw that everything we possessed must be sold,"
rejoined Mrs. Anson, "he packed up in trunks what belonged to Gertrude,
and as we could not learn where to send them, Mr. Asa Perkins, a friend
of ours, who lives in Boston, lent us a room in which to store the
things, and they are there now."

"How odd!" exclaimed Stranleigh. "I met Mr. Perkins just before he left
his summer residence, and took the place furnished, acting for the
present tenant. It is much too large for him, and some of the rooms are
locked. Do you happen to have the key?"

"No; it is in the possession of the housekeeper. She is there still, is
she not?"

"Yes; I took the house as it stood, servants and all."

"I'll write a note to the housekeeper, then. What name shall I say?"

"Please write it in the name of Mr. Challis. He's outside now, in my
car."

"May I bring him in?" she asked, eagerly.

"Certainly," said Stranleigh, with a smile. "It's your house, you know."

"Not for long," she sighed.

"Ah,----" drawled Stranleigh, "Mr. Challis and I propose that this sale
shall not take place. If I may have a short conversation with your
husband, I think we shall come to terms."

An expression of anxiety overspread her face.

"Perhaps I had better not ask Jim to come in," she hesitated.

"Your husband does not know him, and I would rather you did not tell him
who is with me. Just say that Henry Johnson and a friend wish to
negotiate about the factory."

Stanmore Anson proved to be a person of the hale old English yeoman
type, as portrayed by illustrators, although his ancestors originally
came from Sweden. His face was determined, his lips firm, and despite
his defeats, the lurking sparkle of combat still animated his eyes.

"Before we begin any conversation regarding a sale," he said, "you must
answer this question, Mr. Johnson. Are you connected in any way,
directly or indirectly, with the G.K.R. Trust?"

"I am not connected with it, directly or indirectly."

"You state that on your honour as a man?"

"No; I simply state it."

"You wouldn't swear it?"

"Not unless compelled by force of law."

"Then I have nothing further to say to you, sir."

The old man seemed about to withdraw, then hesitated, remembering he was
in his own house. Stranleigh sat there unperturbed.

"You have nothing further to say, Mr. Anson, because two thoughts are
sure to occur to you. First, a man whose word you would not accept
cannot be believed, either on his honour or his oath. Second, the Trust
doesn't need to send an emissary to you; it has only to wait until
November, and acquire your factory at its own figure. No one except
myself would bid against the Trust."

"That's quite true," agreed Anson. "I beg your pardon. What have you to
propose?"

"I wish to know the sum that will see you clear and enable you to tear
down those white posters at the gates, and those on the mill."

Stanmore Anson drew a sheet of paper from his pocket, glanced over it,
then named the amount.

"Very good," said Stranleigh, decisively. "I'll pay that for the mill
and the ten acres."

"They are not worth it," said Anson. "Wait till November, and even
though you outbid the Trust, you'll get it at a lower figure."

"We'll make the mill worth it. You may retain the residence and the rest
of the property."

"There is but one proviso," said the old man. "I wish to name the
manager."

"I regret I cannot agree to that, Mr. Anson, I have already chosen the
manager, and guarantee that he will prove efficient."

"I'll forego your generous offer of the house and property if you will
allow me to appoint the manager."

"I am sorry, Mr. Anson, but you touch the only point on which I cannot
give way."

"Very well," cried Anson, angrily, his eyes ablaze. "The arrangement is
off."

Both young men saw that Stanmore Anson was indeed difficult to deal
with, as his ancestors had been in many a hard-fought battle.

"Wait a moment! Wait a moment!" exclaimed Challis. "This will never do.
It is absurd to wreck everything on a point so trivial. I am the man
whom Mr. Johnson wishes to make manager. I now refuse to accept the
position, but if the bargain is completed, I'll give Mr. Anson and his
manager all the assistance and advice they care to receive from me, and
that without salary."

"Be quiet, Challis!" cried Stranleigh.

"Challis! Challis!" interrupted the old man, gazing fiercely at his
junior. "Is your name Challis?"

"Yes, sir."

"You're not my son-in-law?"

"I am, sir."

"I did you a great injustice," admitted Anson. "No man has a right to
deprive another of his livelihood. I have bitterly regretted it. It is
you I wish appointed manager."

"Challis," said Stranleigh, "take the car, and bring your wife. Say her
father wishes to see her."

Challis disappeared, and in an incredibly short space of time, during
which Anson and Stranleigh chatted together, the door opened, and
Gertrude Challis came in.

"Father," she cried, "Jim says he's going to scrap all the machinery in
the factory. Shall we throw our differences on that scrap-heap?"

The old man gathered her to his breast, and kissed her again and again.
He could not trust his voice.

[Illustration: "'Shall we throw our differences on that scrap-heap?'"]



IV.--THE MAD MISS MATURIN.


"Would you like to meet the most beautiful woman in America?" asked
Edward Trenton of his guest.

Lord Stranleigh drew a whiff or two from the favourite pipe he was
smoking, and the faint suggestion of a smile played about his lips.

"The question seems to hint that I have not already met her," he said at
last.

"Have you?"

"Of course."

"Where?"

"In every town of any size I ever visited."

"Oh, I daresay you have met many pretty girls, but only one of them is
the most beautiful in America."

Again Stranleigh smiled, but this time removed his pipe, which had gone
out, and gently tapped it on the ash tray.

"My dear Ned," he said at last, "on almost any other subject I should
hesitate to venture an opinion that ran counter to your own experience,
yet in this instance I think you wrong the great Republic. I am not
very good at statistics, but if you will tell me how many of your
fellow-countrymen are this moment in love, I'll make a very accurate
estimate regarding the number of most beautiful women there are in the
United States."

"Like yourself, Stranleigh, I always defer to the man of experience, and
am glad to have hit on one subject in which you are qualified to be my
teacher."

"I like that! Ned Trenton depreciating his own conquests is a popular
actor in a new _rôle_. But you are evading the point. I was merely trying
in my awkward way to show that every woman is the most beautiful in the
world to the man in love with her."

"Very well; I'll frame my question differently. Would you like to meet
one of the most cultured of her sex?"

"Bless you, my boy, of course not! Why, I'm afraid of her already. It is
embarrassing enough to meet a bright, alert man, but in the presence of
a clever woman, I become so painfully stupid that she thinks I'm putting
it on."

"Then let me place the case before you in still another form. Would your
highness like to meet the richest woman in Pennsylvania?"

"Certainly I should," cried Stranleigh, eagerly.

Trenton looked at him with a shade of disapproval on his brow.

"I thought wealth was the very last qualification a man in your position
would care for in a woman, yet hardly have I finished the sentence, than
you jump at the chance I offer."

"And why not? A lady beautiful and talented would likely strike me dumb,
but if she is hideously rich, I may be certain of one thing, that I
shall not be asked to invest money in some hare-brained scheme or
other."

"You are quite safe from that danger, or indeed from any other danger,
so far as Miss Maturin is concerned. Nevertheless, it is but just that
you should understand the situation, so that if you scent danger of any
kind, you may escape while there is yet time."

"Unobservant though I am," remarked Stranleigh, "certain signs have not
escaped my notice. This commodious and delightful mansion is being
prepared for a house-party. I know the symptoms, for I have several
country places of my own. If, as I begin to suspect, I am in the way
here, just whisper the word and I'll take myself off in all good humour,
hoping to receive an invitation for some future time."

"If that's your notion of American hospitality, Stranleigh, you've got
another guess coming. You're a very patient man; will you listen to a
little family history? Taking your consent for granted, I plunge. My
father possessed a good deal of landed property in Pennsylvania. This
house is the old homestead, as they would call it in a heart-throb
drama. My father died a very wealthy man, and left his property
conjointly to my sister and myself. He knew we wouldn't quarrel over the
division, and we haven't. My activity has been mainly concentrated in
coal mines and in the railways which they feed, and financially I have
been very fortunate. I had intended to devote a good deal of attention
to this estate along certain lines which my father had suggested, but I
have never been able to do so, living, as I did, mostly in Philadelphia,
absorbed in my own business. My sister, however, has in a measure
carried out my father's plans, aided and abetted by her friend, Miss
Constance Maturin. My sister married a man quite as wealthy as herself,
a dreamy, impractical, scholarly person who once represented his country
as Minister to Italy, in Rome. She enjoyed her Italian life very much,
and studied with great interest the progress North Italy was making in
utilising the water-power coming from the Alps. In this she was ably
seconded by Miss Maturin, who is owner of forests and farms and
factories further down the river which flows past our house. Her
property, indeed, adjoins our own, but she does not possess that
unlimited power over it which Sis and I have over this estate, for her
father, having no faith in the business capacity of woman, formed his
undertakings into a limited liability company where, although he owned
the majority of stock during his life, he did not leave his daughter
with untrammelled control. Had the old man known what trouble he was
bequeathing to his sole heir, I imagine he would have arranged things a
little differently. Miss Maturin has had to endure several expensive
law-suits, which still further restricted her power and lessened her
income. So she has ceased to take much interest in her own belongings,
and has constituted herself adviser-in-chief to my dear sister, who has
blown in a good deal of money on this estate in undertakings that,
however profitable they may be in the future, are unproductive up to
date. I am not criticising Sis at all, and have never objected to what
she has done, although I found myself involved in a very serious action
for damages, which I had the chagrin of losing, and which ran me into a
lot of expense, covering me with injunctions and things of that sort. No
rogue e'er felt the halter draw, with a good opinion of the law, and
perhaps my own detestation of the law arises from my having frequently
broken it. If this long diatribe bores you, just say so, and I'll cut it
short."

"On the contrary," said Stranleigh, with evident honesty, "I'm very much
interested. These two ladies, as I understand the case, have been
unsuccessful in law----"

"Completely so."

"And unsuccessful in the projects they have undertaken?"

"From my point of view, yes. That is to say, they are sinking pots of
money, and I don't see where any of it is coming back."

"Of what do these enterprises consist?"

"Do you know anything about the conservation controversy now going on
in this country?"

"I fear I do not. I am a woefully ignorant person."

"My father had ideas about conservation long before the United States
took it up. It is on these ideas that Sis has been working. You preserve
water in times of flood and freshet to be used for power or for
irrigation throughout the year. Her first idea was to make a huge lake,
extending several miles up the valley of this river. That's where I got
into my law-suit. The commercial interests down below held that we had
no right to put a huge concrete dam across this river."

"Couldn't you put a dam on your own property?"

"It seems not. If the river ran entirely through my own property, I
could. Had I paid more attention to what was being done, I might perhaps
have succeeded, by getting a bill through the Legislature. When I tried
that, I was too late. The interests below had already applied to the
courts for an injunction, which, quite rightly, they received.
Attempting to legalise the action, not only did I find the Legislature
hostile, but my clever opponents got up a muck-raking crusade against
me, and I was held up by the Press of this State as a soulless
monopolist, anxious to increase my already great wealth by grabbing what
should belong to the whole people. The campaign of personal calumny was
splendidly engineered, and, by Jupiter! they convinced me that I was
unfit for human intercourse. Tables of statistics were published to
prove how through railway and coal-mine manipulation I had robbed
everybody, and they made me out about a hundred times richer than
I am, although I have never been able to get any of the excess cash.
Sermons were preached against me, the Pulpit joining the Press in
denunciation. I had no friends, and not being handy with my pen, I
made no attempt at defence. I got together a lot of dynamite, blew up
the partially-constructed dam, and the river still flows serenely on."

"But surely," said Stranleigh, "I saw an immense dam on this very river,
when you met me at Powerville railway station the other day?"

Trenton laughed.

"Yes; that was Miss Maturin's dam."

"Miss Maturin's!" cried Stranleigh in astonishment.

"It was built years ago by her father, who went the right way about it,
having obtained in a quiet, effective way, the sanction of legislature.
Of course, when I say it belongs to Miss Maturin, I mean that it is
part of the estate left by her father, and the odd combination of
circumstances brought it about that she was one of my opponents in the
action-at-law, whereas in strict justice, she should have been a
defendant instead of a plaintiff. The poor girl was horrified to learn
her position in the matter, and my sister was dumbfounded to find in
what a dilemma she had placed me. Of course, the two girls should have
secured the advice of some capable, practical lawyer in the first place,
but they were very self-confident in those days, and Sis knew it was no
use consulting her husband, while her brother was too deeply immersed in
his own affairs to be much aid as a counsellor.

"Well, they kept on with their conservation scheme after a time, and
both on this property and on Miss Maturin's, dams have been erected on
all the streams that empty into the river; streams on either side that
take their rise from outlying parts of the estate. They have built roads
through the forest, and have caused to be formed innumerable lakes, all
connected by a serviceable highway that constitutes one of the most
interesting automobile drives there is in all the United States; a drive
smooth as a floor, running for miles through private property, and
therefore overshadowed by no speed limit."

"By Jove, Ned," exclaimed Stranleigh, "you must take me over that
course."

"I'll do better than that, my boy. Constance Maturin is one of the best
automobilists I know, and she will be your guide, for these dams are of
the most modern construction, each with some little kink of its own that
no one understands better than she does. There is a caretaker living in
a picturesque little cottage at the outlet of every lake, and in each
cottage hangs a telephone, so that no matter how far you penetrate
into the wilderness, you are in touch with civilisation. From this
house I could call up any one of these water-wardens, or send out a
general alarm, bringing every man of the corps to the 'phone, and the
instructions given from here would be heard simultaneously by the whole
force. I think the organisation is admirable, but it runs into a lot of
money."

     "'But what good came of it at last,
         Quoth little Peterkin,'"

asked Stranleigh. "Do these artificial lakes run any dynamos, or turn
any spindles? Now tell me all about the war, and what they dammed each
streamlet for."

"Ah, you have me there! The ladies have not taken me into their counsel:
I've got troubles enough of my own. One phase of the subject especially
gratifies me: their activities have in no instance despoiled the
landscape; rather the contrary. These lakes, wooded to their brims, are
altogether delightful, and well stocked with fish. A great many of them
overflow, causing admirable little cascades, which, although not quite
so impressive as Niagara, are most refreshing on a hot day, while the
cadence of falling waters serves as an acoustic background to the songs
of the birds; a musical accompaniment, as one might call it."

"Bravo, Ned; I call that quite poetical, coming as it does from a
successful man of business. I find myself eager for that automobile ride
through this forest lakeland. When do you say Miss Maturin will arrive?"

"I don't know. I expect my sister will call me up by telephone. Sis
regards this house as her own. She is fond of leaving the giddy whirl of
society, and settling down here in the solitude of the woods. I clear
out or I stay in obedience to her commands. You spoke of a house-party a
while ago. There is to be no house-party, but merely my sister and her
husband, with Miss Maturin as their guest. If you would rather not meet
any strangers, I suggest that we plunge further into the wilderness. At
the most remote lake on this property, about seven miles away, quite a
commodious keeper's lodge has been built, with room for, say, half a
dozen men who are not too slavishly addicted to the resources of
civilisation. Yet life there is not altogether pioneering. We could take
an automobile with us, and the telephone would keep us in touch with
the outside world. Fond of fishing?"

"Very."

"Then that's all right. I can offer you plenty of trout, either in pond
or stream, while in a large natural lake, only a short distance away, is
excellent black bass. I think you'll enjoy yourself up there."

Stranleigh laughed.

"You quite overlook the fact that I am not going. Unless ejected by
force, I stay here to meet your sister and Miss Maturin."

For a moment Trenton seemed taken aback. He had lost the drift of things
in his enthusiasm over the lakes.

"Oh, yes; I remember," he said at last. "You objected to meet anyone who
might wish you to invest good money in wild-cat schemes. Well, you're
quite safe as far as those two ladies are concerned, as I think I
assured you."

Ned was interrupted, and seemed somewhat startled by a sound of murmured
conversation ending in a subdued peal of musical laughter.

"Why, there's Sis now," he said, "I can tell her laugh anywhere."

As he rose from his chair, the door opened, and there entered a most
comely young woman in automobile garb, noticeably younger than Trenton,
but bearing an unmistakable likeness to him.

"Hello, Ned!" she cried. "I thought I'd find you here," then seeing his
visitor, who had risen, she paused.

"Lord Stranleigh," said Trenton. "My sister, Mrs. Vanderveldt."

"I am very glad to meet you, Lord Stranleigh," she said, advancing from
the door and shaking hands with him.

"Why didn't you telephone?" asked her brother.

His sister laughed merrily.

"I came down like a wolf on the fold, didn't I? Why didn't I telephone?
Strategy, my dear boy, strategy. This is a surprise attack, and I'd no
wish that the garrison, forewarned, should escape. I am sure, Lord
Stranleigh, that he has been descanting on the distraction of the woods
and the camp, or perhaps the metropolitan dissipation of Philadelphia,
depending on whether the yearning for sport, or his business in town was
uppermost in his mind."

"My dear Sis," cried Ned with indignation, "that is a libellous
statement. I never so much as mentioned Philadelphia, did I, Stranleigh?
You can corroborate what I say."

"I'm not so sure about that," said Stranleigh, lightly. "Your attempt
to drag me into your family differences at this point of the game is
futile. I'm going to lie low, and say nothing, as Brer Rabbit did, until
I learn which of you two is the real ruler of this house. I shall then
boldly announce myself on the side of the leader. My position here is
much too comfortable to be jeopardised by an injudicious partisanship."

"As for who's boss," growled Ned, "I cravenly admit at once that Sis
here is monarch of all she surveys."

"In that case," rejoined Stranleigh, heaving a deep sigh of apparent
relief, "I'm on the side of the angels. Mrs. Vanderveldt, he did
mention Philadelphia and his office there, speaking much about business
interests, coal-mines, and what not, during which recital I nearly went
to sleep, for I'm no business man. He also descanted on the lakes and
the waterfalls and the fishing, and on trout and black bass, and would
doubtless have gone on to whales and sea-serpents had you not come in at
the opportune moment. Please accept me as your devoted champion, Mrs.
Vanderveldt."

"I do, I do, with appreciation and gratitude," cried the lady merrily.
"I've long wished to meet you, Lord Stranleigh, for I heard such glowing
accounts of you from my brother here, with most fascinating descriptions
of your estates in England, and the happy hours he spent upon them while
he was your guest in the old country. I hope we may be able to make some
slight return for your kindness to this frowning man. He is always on
nettles when I am talking; so different from my husband in that
respect."

"Poor man, he never has a chance to get a word in edgewise," growled
Ned. "My soul is my own, I'm happy to say."

"Ah, yes," laughed the lady, "_pro tem_. But although I am saying so
much for myself, I speak with equal authority for my friend Constance
Maturin."

"Did you bring her with you, or is she coming later?" asked Trenton with
some anxiety.

"She is here, dear brother, but I could not induce her to enter this
room with me. Doubtless she wishes to meet you alone. She is a dear
girl, Lord Stranleigh, and it will be my greatest joy to welcome her as
a sister-in-law."

A warm flush was added to the frown on her brother's brow, but he made
no remark.

"Gracious me!" cried the lady, laughing again "have I once more put my
foot in it? Why Ned, what a fine confidential friend you are. If I were
a young man, and so sweet a girl had promised to marry me, I should
proclaim the fact from the house-tops."

"You wouldn't need to," groaned Ned, "if you had a sister."

"Never mind him," said Stranleigh, "you have betrayed no secret, Mrs.
Vanderveldt. His own confused utterances when referring to the young
lady, rendered any verbal confession unnecessary. I suspected how the
land lay at a very early stage of our conversation."

"Well, I think he may congratulate himself that you do not enter the
lists against him. You possess some tact, which poor Ned has never
acquired, and now I'll make him sit up by informing him that Connie
Maturin took a special trip over to England recently, in order to meet
you."

"To meet me?" cried Stranleigh in astonishment.

"Yes, indeed, and an amazed girl she was to learn that you had sailed
for America. She came right back by the next boat. She has a great plan
in her mind which requires heavy financing. My brother here isn't rich
enough, and I, of course, am much poorer than he is, so she thought if
she could interest you, as the leading capitalist of England----"

"Good heavens, girl," interrupted Ned, the perspiration standing out on
his brow, "do show some consideration for what you are saying! Why, you
rattle on without a thought to your words. Lord Stranleigh just made it
a proviso that----. Oh, hang it all, Sis; you've put your foot in it
this time, sure enough."

The lady turned on him now with no laughter on her lips, or merriment in
her tone.

"Why, Ned, you're actually scolding me. I promised Connie Maturin to
help her, and my way of accomplishing anything is to go directly for
it."

"Oh, heaven help me," murmured Ned, "the law courts have already taught
me that."

"Mrs. Vanderveldt," said the Earl of Stranleigh, very quietly, "please
turn to your champion, and ignore this wretched man, whose unnecessary
reticence is finding him out."

The only person to be embarrassed by this tangle of concealments and
revelations was Constance Maturin, who had indulged in neither the one
nor the other. The Earl of Stranleigh found it difficult to become
acquainted with her. She seemed always on her guard, and never even
approached the subject which he had been given to understand chiefly
occupied her thoughts.

On the day set for their automobile ride, Miss Maturin appeared at the
wheel of the very latest thing in runabouts; a six-cylindered machine
of extraordinary power, that ran as silently and smoothly as an
American watch, and all merely for the purpose of carrying two persons.
Stranleigh ran his eye over the graceful proportions of the new car with
an expert's keen appreciation, walking round it slowly and critically,
quite forgetting the girl who regarded him with an expression of
amusement. Looking up at last, he saw a smile playing about her pretty
lips.

"I beg your pardon," he said.

"I'm not sure that I shall grant it," she replied, laughing. "To be
ignored in this callous fashion for even the latest project of
engineering, is not in the least flattering."

"Not ignored, Miss Maturin," said Stranleigh, "for I was thinking of
you, although I may have appeared absorbed in the machine."

"Thinking of me!" she cried. "You surely can't expect me to believe
that! The gaze of a man fascinated by a piece of machinery is quite
different from that of a man fascinated by a woman. I know, because I
have seen both."

"I am sure you have seen the latter, Miss Maturin. But what I have just
been regarding is an omen."

"Really? How mysterious! I thought you saw only an automobile."

"No, I was looking through the automobile, and beyond, if I may put
it that way. I am quite familiar with the plan of this car, although
this is the first specimen that I have examined. The car is yours by
purchase, I suppose, but it is mine by manufacture. Your money bought
it, but mine made it, in conjunction with the genius of a young engineer
in whom I became interested. Perhaps you begin to see the omen. Some
time ago I was fortunate enough to be of assistance to a young man, and
the result has been an unqualified success. To-day perhaps I may be
permitted to aid a young woman with a success that will be equally
gratifying."

Stranleigh gazed steadily into the clear, honest eyes of the girl, who
returned his look with a half-amused smile. Now she seemed suddenly
covered with confusion, and flushing slightly, turned her attention to
the forest that surrounded them. Presently she said--

"Do you men worship only the god of success? You have used the word
three or four times."

"Most men wish to be successful, I suppose, but we all worship a
goddess, too."

"I'm sorry," said Miss Maturin, "that Mrs. Vanderveldt mentioned my
search for a capitalist. I have abandoned the quest. I am now merely
your guide to the lakes. Please take a seat in this automobile of yours,
Lord Stranleigh, and I will be your conductor."

The young man stepped in beside her, and a few moments later they were
gliding, rather than running over a perfect road, under the trees, in a
machine as noiseless as the forest. The Earl of Stranleigh had seen many
beautiful regions of this world, but never any landscape just like this.
Its artificiality and its lack of artificiality interested him. Nothing
could be more businesslike than the construction of the stout dams, and
nothing more gently rural than the limpid lakes, with the grand old
forest trees marshalled round their margins like a veteran army that had
marched down to drink, only to be stricken motionless at the water's
edge.

It seemed that the silence of the motor-car had enchanted into silence
its occupants. The girl devoted her whole attention to the machine and
its management. Stranleigh sat dumb, and gave himself up to the full
enjoyment of the Vallombrosic tour.

For more than half an hour no word had been spoken; finally the
competent chauffeur brought the auto to a standstill at a view-point
near the head of the valley, which offered a prospect of the brawling
main stream.

"We have now reached the last of the lakes in this direction," she said
quietly. "I think your automobile is admirable, Lord Stranleigh."

The young man indulged in a deep sigh of satisfaction.

"As a landscape gardener on a marvellous scale, you are without a
competitor, Miss Maturin."

The girl laughed very sweetly.

"That is a compliment to nature rather than to me. I have merely let
the wilderness alone, so far as road-making and dam-building would
allow me."

"In that very moderation lies genius--the leaving alone. Will you
forgive the inquisitiveness of a mere man whom you suspected at our
outset of success-worship, if he asks what practical object you have in
view?"

"Oh, I should have thought that was self-evident to an observant person
like yourself," she said airily. "These lakes conserve the water,
storing it in time of flood for use in time of scarcity. By means of
sluices we obtain partial control of the main stream."

"You flatter me by saying I am observant. I fear that I am rather the
reverse, except where my interest is aroused, as is the case this
morning. Is conservation your sole object, then?"

"Is not that enough?"

"I suppose it is. I know little of civil engineering, absorbing craft
though it is. I have seen its marvels along your own lines in America,
Egypt, India, and elsewhere. As we progressed I could not help noticing
that the dams built to restrain these lakes seemed unnecessarily
strong."

A slight shadow of annoyance flitted across the expressive countenance
of Constance Maturin, but was gone before he saw it.

"You are shrewder than you admit, Lord Stranleigh, but you forget what I
said about freshets. The lakes are placid enough now, but you should see
them after a cloud-burst back in the mountains."

"Nevertheless, the dams look bulky enough to hold back the Nile."

"Appearances are often deceitful. They are simply strong enough for the
work they have to do. American engineering practice does not go in for
useless encumbrance. Each dam serves two purposes. It holds back the
water and it contains a power-house. In some of these power-houses
turbines and dynamoes are already placed."

"Ah, now I understand. You must perceive that I am a very stupid
individual."

"You are a very persistent person," said the young woman decisively.

Stranleigh laughed.

"Allow me to take advantage of that reputation by asking you what you
intend to do with the electricity when you have produced it?"

"We have no plans."

"Oh, I say!"

"_What_ do you say?"

"That was merely an Anglicised expression of astonishment."

"Don't you believe me?"

"No."

They were sitting together on the automobile seat, deep in the shade
of the foliage above them, but when he caught sight of the indignant
face which she turned towards him, it almost appeared as if the sun
shone upon it. She seemed about to speak, thought better of it, and
reached forward to the little lever that controlled the self-starting
apparatus. She found his hand there before she could carry out her
intention.

"I am returning, Lord Stranleigh," she said icily.

"Not yet."

She leaned back in the seat.

"Mr. Trenton told me that you were the most polite man he had ever met.
I have seldom found him so mistaken in an impression."

"Was it a polite man you set out to find in your recent trip to Europe?"

As the girl made no reply, Stranleigh went on--

"My politeness is something like the dams we have been considering. It
contains more than appears on the surface. There is concealed power
within it. You may meet myriads of men well qualified to teach me
courtesy, but when this veneer of social observance is broken, you come
to pretty much the same material underneath. I seldom permit myself the
luxury of an escape from the conventions, but on rare occasions I break
through. For that I ask your pardon. Impressed by your sincerity, I
forgot for the moment everything but your own need in the present
crisis."

"What crisis?" she asked indignantly.

"The financial crisis caused by your spending every available resource
on this so-called conservation policy. To all intents and purposes you
are now a bankrupt. Mrs. Vanderveldt has contributed all she can, and
both you and she are afraid to tell her brother the true state of the
case. You fear you will get little sympathy from him, for he is absorbed
in coal-mines and railways, and both of you have already felt his
annoyance at the law-suit in which you have involved him. Hence your
desperate need of a capitalist. A really polite man would be a more
pleasant companion than I, but he is not worth that, Miss Maturin!"

Stranleigh removed his hand from the lever long enough to snap fingers
and thumb, but he instantly replaced it when he saw her determination to
start the machine.

"The man of the moment, Miss Maturin, is a large and reckless
capitalist. I am that capitalist."

He released his hold of the lever, and sat upright. The sternness of his
face relaxed.

"Now, Miss Maturin, turn on the power; take me where you like; dump me
into any of those lakes you choose; the water is crystal clear, and I'm
a good swimmer," and with this Stranleigh indulged in a hearty laugh,
his own genial self once more.

"You are laughing at me," she said resentfully.

"Indeed I am not. Another contradiction, you see! I am laughing at
myself. There's nothing I loathe so much as strenuousness, and here I
have fallen into the vice. It is the influence of that brawling river
below us, I think. But the river becomes still enough, and useful
enough, when it reaches the great lake at Powerville, which is big
enough to swallow all these little ponds."

The girl made no motion towards the lever, but sat very still, lost in
thought. When she spoke, her voice was exceedingly quiet.

"You complimented Nature a while ago, intending, as I suppose, to
compliment me, but I think after all the greater compliment is your
straight talk, which I admire, although I received it so petulantly.
I shall make no apology, beyond saying that my mind is very much
perturbed. Your surmise is absolutely correct. It isn't that I've spent
the whole of my fortune and my friend's fortune in this conservation
scheme. It is because I have built a model city on the heights above
Powerville. I was promised assistance from the banks, which is now
withheld, largely, I suspect, through the opposition of John L.
Boscombe, a reputed millionaire. To all intents and purposes Boscombe
and I are the owners of Powerville and the mills there, but although
this place was founded and built up by my father, I am a minority
stock-holder, and powerless. Boscombe exercises control. Any suggestions
or protests of mine are ignored, for Boscombe, like my father, has
little faith--no faith at all, in fact--in the business capacity of a
woman.

"I have tried, as I hinted, to enlist the co-operation of other
capitalists, but experience has taught me that any appeal is futile that
does not impinge directly upon cupidity. If there is the least hint of
philanthropy in the project, every man of money fights shy of it."

"I am an exception," said Stranleigh, eagerly. "Philanthropy used to be
a strong point with me, though I confess I was never very successful in
its exercise. What humanitarian scheme is in your mind, Miss Maturin?"

Again she sat silent for some moments, indecision and doubt on her fair
brow. Presently she said, as if pulling herself together--

"I will not tell you, Lord Stranleigh. You yourself have just admitted
disbelief, and my plan is so fantastic that I dare not submit it to
criticism."

"I suppose your new city is in opposition to the old town down in the
valley? You alone are going to compete with Boscombe and yourself."

"That is one way of putting it."

"Very well, I am with you. Blow Boscombe! say I. I've no head for
business, so I sha'n't need to take any advice. I shall do exactly what
you tell me. What is the first move?"

"The first move is to set your brokers in New York at work, and buy a
block of Powerville stock."

"I see; so that you and I together have control, instead of Boscombe?"

"Yes."

"That shall be done as quick as telegraph can give instructions. What
next?"

"There will be required a large sum of money to liquidate the claims
upon me incurred through the building of the city."

"Very good. That money shall be at your disposal within two or three
days."

"As for security, I regret----"

"Don't mention it. My security is my great faith in Ned Trenton, also in
yourself. Say no more about it."

"You are very kind, Lord Stranleigh, but there is one thing I must say.
This may involve you in a law-suit so serious that the litigation of
which Ned complains will appear a mere amicable arrangement by
comparison."

"That's all right and doesn't disturb me in the least. I love a legal
contest, because I have nothing to do but place it in the hands of
competent lawyers. No personal activity is required of me, and I am an
indolent man."

The second part of the programme was accomplished even sooner than
Stranleigh had promised, but the first part hung fire. The brokers in
New York could not acquire any Powerville stock, as was shown by their
application to Miss Maturin herself, neither had their efforts been
executed with that secrecy which Stranleigh had enjoined. He realised
this when John L. Boscombe called upon him. He went directly to the
point.

"I am happy to meet you, Lord Stranleigh, and if you'll excuse me, I'd
like to say that you are more greatly in need of advice at this moment
than any man in America."

"You are perfectly right, Mr. Boscombe. I am always in need of good
advice, and I appreciate it."

"An application was made to me from New York for a block of stock. That
stock is not for sale, but I dallied with the brokers, made
investigations, and traced the inquiry to you."

"Very clever of you, Mr. Boscombe."

"I learn that you propose to finance Miss Constance Maturin, who is a
junior partner in my business."

"I should not think of contradicting so shrewd a man as yourself, Mr.
Boscombe. What do you advise in the premises?"

"I advise you to get out, and quick, too."

"If I don't, what are you going to do to me?"

"Oh, I shall do nothing. She will do all that is necessary. That woman
is stark mad, Lord Stranleigh. Her own father recognised it when he
bereft her of all power in the great business he founded. If she had her
way, she'd ruin the company inside a year with her hare-brained schemes;
love of the dear people, and that sort of guff."

"I am sorry to hear that. I noticed no dementia on the part of Miss
Maturin, who seemed to me a most cultivated and very charming young
lady. You will permit me, I hope, to thank you for your warning, and
will not be surprised that I can give you no decision on the spur of the
moment. I am a slow-minded person, and need time to think over things."

"Certainly, certainly; personally I come to sudden conclusions, and once
I make up my mind, I never change it."

"A most admirable gift. I wish I possessed it."

Lord Stranleigh said nothing of this interview to Constance Maturin,
beyond telling her that the acquisition of stock appeared to be
hopeless, as indeed proved to be the case.

"Boscombe must be a stubborn person," he said.

"Oh, he's all that," the girl replied, with a sigh. "He cares for one
thing only, the making of money, and in that I must admit he has been
very successful."

"Well, we've got a little cash of our own," said Stranleigh, with a
laugh.

Miss Maturin and Mrs. Vanderveldt celebrated a national holiday by the
greatest entertainment ever given in that district. The mills had been
shut down for a week, and every man, woman and child in the valley city
had been invited up to the new town on the heights. There was a brass
band, and a sumptuous spread of refreshments, all free to the immense
crowd. The ladies, for days before, visited everyone in the valley, and
got a promise of attendance, but to make assurance doubly sure, an
amazing corps of men was organised, equipped with motor cars, which
scoured the valley from Powerville downwards, gathering in such remnants
of humanity as for any reason had neglected to attend the show. Miss
Maturin said she was resolved this entertainment should be a feature
unique in the history of the State.

The shutting down of the mills had caused the water in the immense dam
to rise, so that now the sluices at the top added to the picturesqueness
of the scene by supplying waterfalls more than sixty feet high, a
splendid view of which was obtainable from the new city on the heights.
Suddenly it was noticed that these waterfalls increased in power, until
their roar filled the valley. At last the whole lip of the immense dam
began to trickle, and an ever augmenting Niagara of waters poured over.

"Great heavens!" cried Boscombe, who was present to sneer at these
activities, "there must have been a cloud-burst in the mountains!"

He shouted for the foreman.

"Where are the tenders of the dam?" he cried. "Send them to lower those
sluices, and let more water out."

"Wait a moment," said Constance Maturin, who had just come out of the
main telephone building. "There can be no danger, Mr. Boscombe. You
always said that dam was strong enough, when I protested it wasn't."

"So it is strong enough, but not----"

"Look!" she cried, pointing over the surface of the lake. "See that
wave!"

"Suffering Noah and the Flood!" exclaimed Boscombe.

As he spoke, the wave burst against the dam, and now they had Niagara
in reality. There was a crash, and what seemed to be a series of
explosions, then the whole structure dissolved away, and before the
appalled eyes of the sight-seers, the valley town crumpled up like a
pack of cards, and even the tall mills themselves, that staggered at the
impact of the flood, slowly settled down, and were engulfed in the
seething turmoil of maddened waters.

[Illustration: "'This,' he cried, 'is murder.'"]

For a time no voice could be heard in the deafening uproar. It was
Boscombe who spoke when the waters began to subside.

"This," he cried, "is murder!"

He glared at Constance Maturin, who stood pale, silent and trembling.

"I told you she was mad," he roared at Stranleigh. "It is your money
that in some devilish way has caused this catastrophe. If any lives are
lost, it is rank murder!"

"It is murder," agreed Stranleigh, quietly. "Whoever is responsible for
the weakness of that dam should be hanged!"



V.--IN SEARCH OF GAME.


The warm morning gave promise of a blistering hot day, as Lord
Stranleigh strolled, in his usual leisurely fashion, up Fifth Avenue.
High as the thermometer already stood, the young man gave no evidence
that he was in the least incommoded by the temperature. In a welter of
heated, hurrying people, he produced the effect of an iceberg that had
somehow drifted down into the tropics. The New York tailor entrusted
with the duty of clothing him quite outdistanced his London rival, who
had given Lord Stranleigh the reputation of being the best-dressed man
in England. Now his lordship was dangerously near the point where he
might be called the best-dressed man in New York, an achievement worthy
of a Prince's ambition.

His lordship, with nothing to do, and no companionship to hope for,
since everyone was at work, strolled into the splendour of the
University Club and sought the comparative coolness of the smoking room,
where, seating himself in that seductive invitation to laziness, a
leather-covered arm chair, he began to glance over the illustrated
English weeklies. He had the huge room to himself. These were business
hours, and a feeling of loneliness crept over him, perhaps germinated by
his sight of the illustrated papers, and accentuated by an attempted
perusal of them. They were a little too stolid for a hot day, so
Stranleigh turned to the lighter entertainment of the American humorous
press.

Presently there entered this hall of silence the stout figure of Mr.
John L. Banks, senior attorney for the Ice Trust, a man well known to
Stranleigh, who had often sought his advice, with profit to both of
them. The lawyer approached the lounger.

"Hello, Banks, I was just thinking of you, reflecting how delightful it
must be in this weather to be connected, even remotely, with the ice
supply of New York."

Mr. Banks's panama hat was in one hand, while the other drew a
handkerchief across his perspiring brow.

"Well, Stranleigh, you're looking very cool and collected. Enacting the
part of the idle rich, I suppose?"

"No, I'm a specimen of labour unrest."

"Perhaps I can appease that. I'm open to a deal at fair compensation for
you. If you will simply parade the streets in that leisurely fashion we
all admire, bearing a placard 'Pure Ice Company,' I'll guarantee you a
living wage and an eight hours' day."

"Should I be required to carry about crystal blocks of the product?"

"No; you're frigid enough as it is. Besides, ice at the present moment
is too scarce to be expended on even so important a matter as
advertisement."

Banks wheeled forward an arm chair, and sat down opposite his lordship.
A useful feature of a panama hat is its flexibility. You may roll one
brim to fit the hand, and use the other as a fan, and this Banks did
with the perfection of practice.

"What's the cause of the unrest, Stranleigh?"

"Thinking. That's the cause of unrest all the world over. Whenever
people begin to think, there is trouble."

"I've never noticed any undue thoughtfulness in you, Stranleigh."

"That's just it. Thinking doesn't agree with me, and as you hint, I
rarely indulge in it, but this is a land that somehow stimulates
thought, and thought compels action. Action is all very well in
moderation, but in these United States of yours it is developed into
a fever, or frenzy rather, curable only by a breakdown or death."

"Do you think it's as bad as all that?"

"Yes, I do. You call it enterprise; I call it greed. I've never yet met
an American who knew when he'd had enough."

"Did you ever meet an Englishman who knew that?"

"Thousands of them."

Banks laughed.

"I imagine," he said, "it's all a matter of nomenclature. You think us
fast over here, and doubtless you are wrong; _we_ think _you_ slow over
there, and doubtless we are wrong. I don't think we're greedy. No man is
so lavish in his expenditure as an American, and no man more generous. A
greedy man does not spend money. Our motive power is interest in the
game."

"Yes; everyone has told me that, but I regard the phrase as an excuse,
not as a reason."

"Look here, Stranleigh, who's been looting you? What deal have you lost?
I warned you against mixing philanthropy with business, you remember."

Stranleigh threw back his head and laughed.

"There you have it. According to you a man cannot form an opinion that
is uninfluenced by his pocket. As a matter of fact, I have won all
along the line. I tried the game, as you call it, hoping to find it
interesting, but it doesn't seem to me worth while. I pocket the stakes,
and I am going home, in no way elated at my success, any more than I
should have been discouraged had I failed."

Leaning forward, Mr. Banks spoke as earnestly as the weather permitted.

"What you need, Stranleigh, is a doctor's advice, not a lawyer's. You
have been just a little too long in New York, and although New Yorkers
don't believe it, there are other parts of the country worthy of
consideration. Your talk, instead of being an indictment of life as you
find it, has been merely an exposition of your own ignorance, a sample
of that British insularity which we all deplore. I hope you don't mind
my stating the case as I see it?"

"Not at all," said Stranleigh. "I am delighted to hear your point of
view. Go on."

"Very well; here am I plugging away during this hot weather in this hot
city. Greed, says you."

"I say nothing of the kind," replied his lordship calmly. "I am merely
lost in admiration of a hard-working man, enduring the rigours of toil
in the most luxurious club of which I have ever been an honorary
member. Let me soften the asperities of labour by ordering something
with ice in it."

The good-natured attorney accepted the invitation, and then went on--

"We have a saying regarding any futile proposition to the effect that it
cuts no ice. This is the position of the Trust in which I am interested.
In this hot weather we cut no ice, but we sell it. Winter is a peaceable
season with us, and the harder the winter, the better we are pleased,
but summer is a time of trouble. It is a period of complaints and
law-suits, and our newspaper reading is mostly articles on the greed and
general villainy of the Trust. So my position is literally that of
what-you-may-call-him on the burning deck, whence almost all but he have
fled to the lakes, to the mountains, to the sea shore. Now, I don't
intend to do this always. I have set a limit of accumulated cash, and
when I reach it I quit. It would be high falutin' if I said duty held me
here, so I will not say it."

"A lawyer can always out-talk a layman," said Stranleigh, wearily, "and
I suppose all this impinges on my ignorance."

"Certainly," said Banks. "It's a large subject, you know. But I'll leave
theory, and come down to practice. As I said before, you've had too much
of New York. You are known to have a little money laid by against a
rainy day, so everybody wants you to invest in something, and you've got
tired of it. Have you ever had a taste of ranch life out West?"

"I've never been further West than Chicago."

"Good. When you were speaking of setting a limit to financial ambition,
I remembered my old friend, Stanley Armstrong, the best companion on a
shooting or fishing expedition I ever encountered. It is not to be
wondered at that he is an expert in sport, for often he has had to
depend on rod and gun for sustenance. He was a mining engineer, and very
few know the mining west as well as he does. He might have been a
millionaire or a pauper, but he chose a middle course, and set his limit
at a hundred thousand pounds. When land was cheap he bought a large
ranch, partly plain and partly foothills, with the eternal snow
mountains beyond. Now, if you take with you an assortment of guns and
fishing rods, and spend a month with Stanley Armstrong, your pessimism
will evaporate."

"A good idea," said Stranleigh. "If you give me a letter of introduction
to Mr. Armstrong, I'll telegraph at once to be sure of accommodation."

"Telegraph?" cried the lawyer. "He'd never get your message. I don't
suppose there's a telegraph office within fifty miles. You don't need a
letter of introduction, but I'll write you one, and give your name
merely as Stranleigh. You won't have any use for a title out there; in
fact, it is a necessary part of my prescription that you should get away
from yours, with the consequences it entails. Not that you're likely to
come across would-be investors, or any one with designs on your wealth.
As for accommodation, take a tent with you, and be independent. When I
return to my office, I'll dictate full instructions for reaching the
ranch."

"Is it so difficult of access as all that?"

"You might find it so. When you reach the nearest railway station, which
is a couple of days' journey from the ranch, you can acquire a horse for
yourself, and two or three men with pack mules for your belongings.
They'll guide you to Armstrong's place."

Stranleigh found no difficulty in getting a cavalcade together at
Bleachers' station, an amazingly long distance west of New York. A man
finds little trouble in obtaining what he wants, if he never cavils at
the price asked, and is willing to pay in advance. The party passed
through a wild country, though for a time the road was reasonably good.
It degenerated presently into a cart-track, however, and finally became
a mere trail through the wilderness. As night fell, the tent was put up
by the side of a brawling stream, through which they had forded.

Next morning the procession started early, but it was noon before it
came to the clearing which Stranleigh rightly surmised was the outskirts
of the ranch. The guide, who had been riding in front, reined in, and
allowed Stranleigh to come alongside.

"That," he said, pointing down the valley, "is Armstrong's ranch."

Before Stranleigh could reply, if he had intended doing so, a shot rang
out from the forest, and he felt the sharp sting of a bullet in his left
shoulder. The guide flung himself from the saddle with the speed of
lightning, and stood with both hands upraised, his horse between himself
and the unseen assailant.

"Throw up your hands!" he shouted to Stranleigh.

"Impossible!" was the quiet answer, "my left is helpless."

"Then hold up your right."

Stranleigh did so.

"Slide off them packs," roared the guide to his followers, whereupon
ropes were untied on the instant, and the packs slid to the ground,
while the mules shook themselves, overjoyed at this sudden freedom.

"Turn back!" cried the guide. "Keep your hand up, and they won't shoot.
They want the goods."

"Then you mean to desert me?" asked Stranleigh.

"Desert nothing!" rejoined the guide, gruffly.

"We can't stand up against these fellows, whoever they are. We're no
posse. To fight them is the sheriff's business. I engaged to bring you
and your dunnage to Armstrong's ranch. I've delivered the goods, and now
it's me for the railroad."

"I'm going to that house," said Stranleigh.

"The more fool you," replied the guide, "but I guess you'll get there
safe enough, if you don't try to save the plunder."

The unladen mules, now bearing the men on their backs, had disappeared.
The guide washed his hands of the whole affair, despite the fact that
his hands were upraised. He whistled to his horse, and marched up the
trail for a hundred yards or so, still without lowering his arms, then
sprang into the saddle, fading out of sight in the direction his men
had taken. Stranleigh sat on his horse, apparently the sole inhabitant
of a lonely world.

"That comes of paying in advance," he muttered, looking round at his
abandoned luggage. Then it struck him as ridiculous that he was enacting
the part of an equestrian statue, with his arm raised aloft. Still, he
remembered enough of the pernicious literature that had lent enchantment
to his early days, to know that in certain circumstances the holding up
of hands was a safeguard not to be neglected, so he lowered his right
hand, and took in it the forefinger of his left, and thus raised both
arms over his head, turning round in the saddle to face the direction
from whence the shots had come. Then he released the forefinger, and
allowed the left arm to drop as if it had been a semaphore. He winced
under the pain that this pantomime cost him, then in a loud voice he
called out:

"If there is anyone within hearing, I beg to inform him that I am
wounded slightly; that I carry no firearms; that my escort has vanished,
and that I'm going to the house down yonder to have my injury looked
after. Now's the opportunity for a parley, if he wants it."

He waited for some moments, but there was no response, then he gathered
up the reins, and quite unmolested proceeded down the declivity until he
came to the homestead.

The place appeared to be deserted, and for the first time it crossed
Stranleigh's mind that perhaps the New York lawyer had sent him on this
expedition as a sort of practical joke. He couldn't discover where the
humour of it came in, but perhaps that might be the density with which
his countrymen were universally credited. Nevertheless, he determined to
follow the adventure to an end, and slipped from his horse, making an
ineffectual attempt to fasten the bridle rein to a rail of the fence
that surrounded the habitation. The horse began placidly to crop the
grass, so he let it go at that, and advancing to the front door,
knocked.

Presently the door was opened by an elderly woman of benign appearance,
who nevertheless regarded him with some suspicion. She stood holding
the door, without speaking, seemingly waiting for her unexpected
visitor to proclaim his mission.

"Is this the house of Stanley Armstrong?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Is he at home? I have a letter of introduction to him."

"No; he is not at home."

"Do you expect him soon?"

"He is in Chicago," answered the woman.

"In Chicago?" echoed Stranleigh. "We must have passed one another on the
road. I was in Chicago myself, but it seems months ago; in fact, I can
hardly believe such a place exists." The young man smiled a little
grimly, but there was no relaxation of the serious expression with which
the woman had greeted him.

"What was your business with my husband?"

"No business at all; rather the reverse. Pleasure, it might be called. I
expected to do a little shooting and fishing. A friend in New York
kindly gave me a letter of introduction to Mr. Armstrong, who, he said,
would possibly accompany me."

"Won't you come inside?" was her reluctant invitation. "I don't think
you told me your name."

"My name is Stranleigh, madam. I hope you will excuse my persistence,
but the truth is I have been slightly hurt, and if, as I surmise, it is
inconvenient to accept me as a lodger, I should be deeply indebted for
permission to remain here while I put a bandage on the wound. I must
return at once to Bleachers, where I suppose I can find a physician more
or less competent."

"Hurt?" cried the woman in amazement, "and I've been keeping you
standing there at the door. Why didn't you tell me at once?"

"Oh, I think it's no great matter, and the pain is not as keen as I
might have expected. Still, I like to be on the safe side, and must
return after I have rested for a few minutes."

"I'm very sorry to hear of your accident," said Mrs. Armstrong, with
concern. "Sit down in that rocking-chair until I call my daughter."

The unexpected beauty of the young woman who entered brought an
expression of mild surprise to Stranleigh's face. In spite of her homely
costume, a less appreciative person than his lordship must have been
struck by Miss Armstrong's charm, and her air of intelligent refinement.

"This is Mr. Stranleigh, who has met with an accident," said Mrs.
Armstrong to her daughter.

"Merely a trifle," Stranleigh hastened to say, "but I find I cannot
raise my left arm."

"Is it broken?" asked the girl, with some anxiety.

"I don't think so; I fancy the trouble is in the shoulder. A rifle
bullet has passed through it."

"A rifle bullet?" echoed the girl, in a voice of alarm. "How did that
happen? But--never mind telling me now. The main thing is to attend to
the wound. Let me help you off with your coat."

Stranleigh stood up.

"No exertion, please," commanded the girl. "Bring some warm water and a
sponge," she continued, turning to her mother.

She removed Stranleigh's coat with a dexterity that aroused his
admiration. The elder woman returned with dressings and sponge, which
she placed on a chair. Stranleigh's white shirt was stained with blood,
and to this Miss Armstrong applied the warm water.

"I must sacrifice your linen," she said calmly. "Please sit down again."

In a few moments his shoulder was bare; not the shoulder of an athlete,
but nevertheless of a young man in perfect health. The girl's soft
fingers pressed it gently.

"I shall have to hurt you a little," she said.

Stranleigh smiled.

"It is all for my good, as they say to little boys before whipping
them."

The girl smiled back at him.

"Yes; but I cannot add the complementary fiction that it hurts me more
than it does you. There! Did you feel that?"

"Not more than usual."

"There are no bones broken, which is a good thing. After all, it is a
simple case, Mr. Stranleigh. You must remain quiet for a few days, and
allow me to put this arm in a sling. I ought to send you off to bed, but
if you promise not to exert yourself, you may sit out on the verandah
where it is cool, and where the view may interest you."

"You are very kind, Miss Armstrong, but I cannot stay. I must return to
Bleachers."

"I shall not allow you to go back," she said with decision.

Stranleigh laughed.

"In a long and comparatively useless life I have never contradicted a
lady, but on this occasion I must insist on having my own way."

"I quite understand your reason, Mr. Stranleigh, though it is very
uncomplimentary to me. It is simply an instance of man's distrust of a
woman when it comes to serious work. Like most men, you would be content
to accept me as a nurse, but not as a physician. There are two doctors
in Bleachers, and you are anxious to get under the care of one of them.
No--please don't trouble to deny it. You are not to blame. You are
merely a victim of the universal conceit of man."

"Ah, it is you who are not complimentary now! You must think me a very
commonplace individual."

She had thrown the coat over his shoulders, after having washed and
dressed the wound. The bullet had been considerate enough to pass right
through, making all probing unnecessary. With a safety-pin she attached
his shirt sleeve to his shirt front.

"That will do," she said, "until I prepare a regular sling. And now come
out to the verandah. No; don't carry the chair. There are several on the
platform. Don't try to be polite, and remember I have already ordered
you to avoid exertion."

He followed her to the broad piazza, and sat down, drawing a deep breath
of admiration. Immediately in front ran a broad, clear stream of water;
swift, deep, transparent.

"An ideal trout stream," he said to himself.

A wide vista of rolling green fields stretched away to a range of
foothills, overtopped in the far distance by snow mountains.

"By Jove!" he cried. "This is splendid. I have seen nothing like it out
of Switzerland."

"Talking of Switzerland," said Miss Armstrong, seating herself opposite
him, "have you ever been at Thun?"

"Oh, yes."

"You stopped at the _Thunerhof_, I suppose?"

"I don't remember what it was called, but it was the largest hotel in
the place, I believe."

"That would be the _Thunerhof_," she said. "I went to a much more modest
inn, the _Falken_, and the stream that runs in front of it reminded me
of this, and made me quite lonesome for the ranch. Of course, you had
the river opposite you at the _Thunerhof_, but there the river is half a
dozen times as wide as the branch that runs past the _Falken_. I used to
sit out on the terrace watching that stream, murmuring to its
accompaniment 'Home, sweet Home.'"

"You are by way of being a traveller, then?"

"Not a traveller, Mr. Stranleigh," said the girl, laughing a little,
"but a dabbler. I took dabs of travel, like my little visit to Thun. For
more than a year I lived in Lausanne, studying my profession, and during
that time I made brief excursions here and there."

"Your profession," asked Stranleigh, with evident astonishment.

"Yes; can't you guess what it is, and why I am relating this bit of
personal history on such very short acquaintance?"

The girl's smile was beautiful.

"Don't you know Europe?" she added.

"I ought to; I'm a native."

"Then you are aware that Lausanne is a centre of medical teaching and
medical practice. I am a doctor, Mr. Stranleigh. Had your wound been
really serious, which it is not, and you had come under the care of
either physician in Bleachers, he would have sent for me, if he knew I
were at home."

"What you have said interests me very much, Miss Armstrong, or should I
say Doctor Armstrong?"

"I will answer to either designation, Mr. Stranleigh, but I should
qualify the latter by adding that I am not a practising physician.
'Professor,' perhaps, would be the more accurate title. I am a member of
the faculty in an eastern college of medicine, but by and by I hope to
give up teaching, and devote myself entirely to research work. It is my
ambition to become the American Madame Curie."

"A laudable ambition, Professor, and I hope you will succeed. Do you
mind if I tell you how completely wrong you are in your diagnosis of the
subject now before you?"

"In my surgical diagnosis I am not wrong. Your wound will be cured in a
very few days."

"Oh, I am not impugning your medical skill. I knew the moment you spoke
about your work that you were an expert. It is your diagnosis of me that
is all astray. I have no such disbelief in the capacity of woman as you
credit me with. I have no desire to place myself under the ministrations
of either of those doctors in Bleachers. My desire for the metropolitan
delights of that scattered town is of the most commonplace nature. I
must buy for myself an outfit of clothes. I possess nothing in the way
of raiment except what I am wearing, and part of that you've cut up with
your scissors."

"Surely you never came all this distance without being well provided in
that respect?"

"No; I had ample supplies, and I brought them with me safely to a point
within sight of this house. In fact, I came hither like a sheik of the
desert, at the head of a caravan, only the animals were mules instead of
camels. All went well until we came to the edge of the forest, but the
moment I emerged a shot rang out, and it seemed to me I was stung by a
gigantic bee, as invisible as the shooter. The guide said there was a
band of robbers intent on plunder, and he and the escort acted as
escorts usually do in such circumstances. They unloaded the mules with
most admirable celerity, and then made off much faster than they came. I
never knew a body of men so unanimous in action. They would make a
splendid board of directors in a commercial company that wished to get
its work accomplished without undue discussion."

The girl had risen to her feet.

"And your baggage?" she asked.

"I suppose it is in the hands of the brigands by this time. I left it
scattered along the trail."

"But, Mr. Stranleigh, what you say is incredible. There are no brigands,
thieves or road agents in this district."

"The wound that you dressed so skilfully is my witness, and a witness
whose testimony cannot be impugned on cross-examination."

"There is a mistake somewhere. Why, just think of it; the most energetic
bandit would starve in this locality! There is no traffic. If your
belongings were scattered along the trail, they are there yet."

"Then why shoot the belonger of those belongings?"

"That's just what I must discover. Excuse me for a moment."

She passed through the house, and the young man heard a shrill whistle
blown, which was answered by a call some distance away. The girl
returned, and sat down again, her brow perplexed, and presently there
came on to the platform a stalwart, good-natured looking man, dressed in
what Stranleigh took to be a cowboy costume; at least, it was the kind
of apparel he had read about in books of the Wild West. His head was
covered with a broad-brimmed slouch hat, which he swept off in deference
to the lady.

"Jim," she said, "did you hear any shooting out by the Bleachers trail
about an hour ago?"

"No, Ma'am; I can't say that I did, except a rifle I shot off."

"That _you_ shot off! What were you shooting at?"

"Well," said Jim, with a humorous chuckle, "I guess perhaps it was this
gentleman."

"Why did you wish to murder _me_?" asked Stranleigh, with pardonable
concern.

"Murder you, sir? Why, I didn't try to murder you. I could have winged
you a dozen times while you were riding down to the house, if I'd wanted
to. Where were you hit?"

"In the left shoulder."

"Then that's all right. That's what I aimed to do. I just set out to nip
you, and scare you back where you came from."

"But why?" insisted the perplexed Stranleigh.

"You came along with a posse behind you, and I thought you were the
sheriff, but I wouldn't kill even a sheriff unless I had to. I'm the
peaceablest man on earth, as Miss Armstrong there will tell you."

"If that's your idea of peace," said Stranleigh, puzzled, "I hope next
time I'll fall among warlike people."

Jim grinned. It was Miss Armstrong who spoke, and, it seemed to
Stranleigh, with unexpected mildness, considering she knew so much of
the Eastern States and Europe.

"I understand," she said, "but next time, Jim, it will be as well merely
to fire the gun, without hitting anybody."

"Oh," explained Jim, in an off-hand manner, "our folk don't pay any
attention to the like of that. You've got to show them you mean
business. If this gentleman had come on, the next shot would have hit
him where it would hurt, but seeing he was peaceable minded, he was safe
as in a church."

"Is the baggage where he left it?"

"Certainly, Ma'am; do you wish it brought here?"

"Yes; I do."

"All right, Ma'am; I'll see to that. It's all a little mistake, sir," he
said amiably, as he turned to Stranleigh. "Accidents will happen in the
best regulated family, as the saying goes," and with a flourish of the
hat he departed.

Miss Armstrong rose as if to leave the verandah. As she did so
Stranleigh said in a tone of mild reproach:

"I confess I am puzzled."

"So am I," replied the girl, brightly. "I'm puzzled to know what I can
offer you in the way of books. Our stock is rather limited."

"I don't want to read, Miss Armstrong, but I do want to know why there
is such a prejudice here against a sheriff. In the land I came from a
sheriff is not only regarded with great respect, but even with
veneration. He rides about in a gilded coach, and wears magnificent
robes, decorated with gold lace. I believe that he develops ultimately
into a Lord Mayor, just as a grub, if one may call so glorious a
personage as a sheriff a grub, ultimately becomes a butterfly. We'd
never think of shooting a sheriff. Why, then, do you pot at sheriffs,
and hit innocent people, out here?"

The girl laughed.

"I saw the Lord Mayor of London once in his carriage, and behind it were
two most magnificent persons. Were they sheriffs?"

"Oh, dear no; they were merely flunkeys."

"_Our_ sheriffs are elected persons, drawn from the politician class,
and if you know America, you will understand what that means. Among the
various duties of a sheriff is that of seizing property and selling it,
if the owner of that property hasn't paid his debts."

"They act as bailiffs, then?"

"Very likely; I am not acquainted with legal procedure. But I must go,
Mr. Stranleigh, for whatever the position of a sheriff may be, mine is
that of assistant to my mother, who is just now preparing the dinner, a
meal that, further East, is called lunch. And now, what would you prefer
to read? The latest magazine or a pharmaceutical journal?"

"Thank you, Miss Armstrong; I prefer gazing at the scenery to either of
them."

"Then good-bye until dinner time," whereupon she disappeared into the
house.

The meal proved unexpectedly good. There was about it an enticing
freshness, and a variety that was surprising when the distance from the
house to the nearest market was considered. Stranleigh could not
remember any repast he had enjoyed so much, although he suspected that
horseback exercise in the keen air had helped his appreciation of it.
When he mentioned his gratification at so satisfactory a menu, the girl
smiled.

"Plain living and lofty thought is our motto on the ranch," she said.

"This is anything but plain living," he replied, "and I consider myself
no mean judge in such matters. How far away is your market town?"

"Oh, a market is merely one of those effete contrivances of
civilisation. What you buy in a market has been handled and re-handled,
and artificially made to look what it is not. The basis of our provender
is the farm. All round us here is what economists call, in a double
sense of the term, raw material. Farm house fare is often what it should
not be because art belongs to the city while nature belongs to the farm.
To produce a good result, the two must be united. We were speaking just
now of Thun. If, leaving that town, you proceed along the left hand road
by the lake, you will arrive at a large institution which is devoted
entirely to the art of cookery. The more I progressed with my studies at
Lausanne, the more I realised that the basis of health is good food,
properly prepared. So I interrupted my medical studies for a time,
entered that establishment, and learned to cook."

"Miss Armstrong, you are the most efficient individual I ever met."

"You are very complimentary, Mr. Stranleigh, because, like the various
meals you have enjoyed in different parts of the world, you must have
met a great many people. To enhance myself further in your eyes, I may
add that I have brought another much-needed accomplishment to the farm.
I am an expert accountant, and can manage business affairs in a way that
would startle you, and regarding this statement of mine, I should like
to ask you, hoping you won't think I am impertinent, are you a rich
man?"

Stranleigh was indeed startled--she had succeeded in that--and he
hesitated before he answered--

"I am considered reasonably well off."

"I am very glad to hear it, for it has been the custom of my father, who
is not a good business man, to charge boarders two or three dollars a
week when they come with their guns and fishing tackle. Now, we are in a
unique position. We have the advantage of being free from competition.
The hotels of New York are as thick as blackberries. They meet
competition in its fiercest form, yet the prices they charge are much
more per day than we charge for a month. I am determined that our prices
shall be equal to New York prices, but I think it is only fair to let
any customer know the fact before he is called upon to pay his bill."

"A very excellent arrangement," said Stranleigh, heartily, "and in my
case there will be an additional account for medical services. Will that
be on the basis of professional charges in London, New York, Vienna,
Berlin, or Lausanne?"

"Not on the basis of Lausanne, certainly, for there an excellent doctor
is contented with a fee of five francs, so if you don't object, I'll
convert francs into dollars."

"My admiration for your business capacity is waning, Miss Armstrong. If
this is to be an international matter, why choose your own country
instead of mine? Transpose your francs into pounds, Professor. There are
five francs in a dollar, but five dollars in a pound sterling. Let me
recommend to you my own currency."

"A very good idea, Mr. Stranleigh," rejoined Miss Armstrong, promptly.
"I shall at once take it into consideration, but I hope you won't be
shocked when the final round-up arrives."

"I shall have no excuse for astonishment, being so honestly forewarned,
and now that we are conversing so internationally, I'd like to carry it
a little further. In Italy they call an accident a 'disgrazia,' and when
you read in an Italian paper that a man is 'disgraced,' you realise that
he has met with an accident. Then the account ends by saying that the
patient is guaranteed curable in two days, or a week, or a month, as the
case may be. How long, then, doctor, must I rest under this 'disgrace'?"

"I should say a week, but that's merely an off-hand guess, as I suppose
is the case with the estimate of an Italian physician."

"I hope your orders won't be too strict. By the way, has my luggage
arrived?"

"It is all in the large room upstairs, but if you have any designs upon
it, you are disobeying orders."

"I must get at a portmanteau that is in one of the bundles."

"I will fetch what you want, so don't worry about that, but come and sit
on the verandah once more."

Stranleigh protested, and finally a compromise was arrived at. Miss
Armstrong would whistle for Jim, and he would do the unpacking. She saw
a shade of distrust pass over Stranleigh's face, and she reassured him
that Jim was the most honest and harmless man in the world, except,
perhaps, where sheriffs were concerned.

"Now," she continued, when he had seated himself, "you have talked
enough for one day, so you must keep quiet for the rest of the
afternoon. I will do the talking, giving you an explanation of our
brigandish conduct."

"I shall be an interested listener," said Stranleigh, resignedly. "But
permit me, before silence falls, to ask what you may regard an
impertinent question. Do you smoke?"

"Goodness, no!" she replied, with widely opened eyes.

"Many ladies do, you know, and I thought you might have acquired the
habit during your travels abroad. In that case, I should have been
delighted to offer you some excellent cigarettes from my portmanteau."

Jumping up, the girl laughed brightly.

"Poor man! I understand at last. You shall have the cigarettes in less
than five minutes. Give me your keys, please."

"That particular piece of luggage is not locked. I am so sorry to
trouble you, but after such a memorable dinner----"

"Yes, yes; I know, I know!" she cried, as she vanished.

"Interesting girl, that," murmured Stranleigh to himself, "and unusually
accomplished."

He listened for a whistle, but the first break in the silence was the
coming of Miss Armstrong, holding a box of cigars in one hand and a
packet of cigarettes in the other.

"Then you didn't call for help, after all," said Stranleigh, a shade of
reproach in his tone.

"Oh, it was quite easy. By punching the bundles I guessed what they
contained, and soon found where the portmanteau was concealed. Now,
light up," she continued, "lean back, and smoke. I'll do the talking.
My father, as I've told you, is a very poor business man, and that is
why I endeavoured to acquire some knowledge of affairs. He is generous
and sympathetic, believing no evil of anyone, consequently he is often
imposed upon to his financial disadvantage. Our position as father
and daughter is the reverse of what is usual in such relationships. I
attempt to guide him in the way he should go, and as a general thing
he accepts my advice and acts upon it, but on the occasion of which I
speak, I was at work in New York, and knew nothing of the disastrous
contract into which he had entered, until it was too late.

"I always come West and spend the vacation on the ranch, and this time
brought with me all the money I had saved, but it proved insufficient
to cope with the situation. In his early days my father was a mining
engineer. He was successful, and might have been a very rich man to-day
if---- But that 'if' always intervened. Nevertheless, he accumulated
money, and bought this ranch, determined to retire.

"The lower part of the ranch is good grazing ground, but the upper or
western part is rocky, rising to the foothills. My father was not a
success as a rancher, partly because we are too far from the markets,
and partly because he chose as cowboys men who did not understand their
business. I told you that my father is a sympathetic man. No one ever
appealed to him in vain. He has always been very popular, but it seems
to me that his friends are always poorer than himself. Thus it came
about that miners who knew him, and were out of work, applied for
something to do, and he engaged them as cowboys, until he had half a
dozen on his pay roll, and thus began the gradual loss of his money.
These men were excellent as miners, but useless as cowboys, and there
was no one here to teach them their duties, my father being himself a
miner. It seemed, then, a dispensation of Providence that as he rambled
over the western part of his property he struck signs of silver. He was
not mistaken in his prospecting. He and the cowboys took hilariously to
their old trade, and worked away at the rocks until all his money was
gone."

"Did they find any real silver?" asked Stranleigh, interested.

"Oh yes, plenty of it," answered the girl. "It is evident they have
opened a very rich mine."

"Then where is the difficulty?"

"The difficulty is the want of machinery, which there is no capital to
purchase. My father tried to get that capital in this district, but
there is very little ready money to be obtained out here. He enlisted
the interest of Mr. Ricketts, a lawyer in Bleachers, and reputed the
only rich man in the town. Ricketts came to the ranch with a mining
engineer, and they examined the opening. Seemingly they were not
impressed with the contents, and Ricketts advised my father to go East
and form a company.

"My father explained his financial situation, and Ricketts, with
apparent generosity, offered to lend him five thousand dollars on his
note, to be paid on demand, with the ranch as security. Thus my father
put himself entirely in the other's power. Ricketts gave him the
address of a lawyer in Chicago, who, he said, would be of assistance to
him. The latest word we received from my father is that this lawyer, in
one way or another, has got hold of all his money. Father telegraphed to
Ricketts for help, which was refused. So he left Chicago on foot,
determined to walk home, since he had not even money enough left to pay
his fare home. Where he is at present, we have no idea, except that he
is making for this ranch.

"Ricketts at once took action to sell the ranch. Apparently he is quite
within his legal rights, but there are formalities to be gone through,
and one of these is the arrival of the sheriff to seize the property.
That arrival the men, headed by Jim, are determined to prevent, and now,
perhaps, you understand why you rode into danger when you came from
Bleachers this morning.

"When I learnt of my father's predicament, I went out to Bleachers to
see Mr. Ricketts, offering him what money I had brought from New York if
he would hold his hand for a year. He refused, and from his conversation
I realised he was determined to secure the ranch for himself, and I
believe the whole transaction is a plot toward that end."

"Then the mine must be a valuable one?"

"I am sure it is; indeed, my father could make no mistake in that
matter."

"Well, the position seems very simple after all. What you need, Miss
Armstrong, is a change of creditors. You want a creditor who is not in a
hurry for his money. In other words, if you could transfer that debt,
you would be out of immediate danger. Would you allow me to go into
Bleachers to-morrow, and see Mr. Ricketts?"

"Most decidedly not!"

"How much money did you bring with you from New York?"

"Two thousand dollars."

"I brought just twice that amount, so I think the affair may be
arranged, and you can go to Ricketts to-morrow, and take up the note. I
think perhaps you had better have five thousand five hundred dollars
with you, as there will certainly be some interest and expenses to pay,
for if the case is as you state it, Ricketts will be reluctant to part
with the document. Is there another lawyer in Bleachers?"

"Yes."

"Well, get him to accompany you, and make formal tender of the money."

The girl had reddened while he was speaking, and now she said, in tones
of distress--

"I fear you completely misunderstood my object in telling you of my
difficulties. My object was not to borrow money, but to explain why Jim
Dean shot at you."

"Oh, I understand perfectly why you spoke as frankly as you did, and I
am very much obliged to you for doing so, but you must have no
diffidence in accepting the money. It is purely a business transaction,
and, as you say, you are a business woman. Therefore, as a matter of
business, it would be folly to reject an offer that is to our mutual
advantage. The security is ample."

"That is true, Mr. Stranleigh, but, you see, I have no power, no
authority, to give this ranch as security; it belongs to my father."

"True; but you are not nearly so competent a business woman as you would
have me believe. You will receive from Ricketts your father's promissory
note. That you will hand to me, then I shall be your debtor for two
thousand dollars. Those two thousand dollars I shall pay as soon as I
get some money from New York, and your father will become my debtor for
five thousand dollars. All perfectly simple, you see. In the first
instance I trust you for three thousand dollars, and in the second
instance you trust me for two thousand dollars. After I have paid you
the two thousand dollars, I hold the note, and can sell you up whenever
I please. I give you my word I won't do that, though even if I did you
would be no worse off than you are now."

"Very well, Mr. Stranleigh; I will take the money."

It was several days later when Miss Armstrong returned from Bleachers.
Her first interest was to satisfy herself of the patient's progress. He
had been getting on well.

"You are an admirable physician, Miss Armstrong," he said. "Now let me
know whether you are equally capable as a financier."

"I have failed completely," she answered, dejectedly. "Mr. Ricketts has
refused the money."

"Did you take the other lawyer with you?"

"Yes."

"What did he say?"

"He said Ricketts had no right to refuse, but a different question has
arisen. The guide who accompanied you to the ranch brought back news of
the shooting. Ricketts guessed at once why you were shot at, and the
sheriff has signed an affidavit, or some such instrument, to show that
his life, and his men's lives, are in danger if they go to seize the
property, so this complication has been overcome by some order from the
legislature, and the personal seizure is waived. The sale is announced
to take place in Bleachers two weeks from to-day. Mr. Timmins--that is
the other lawyer--fears that Ricketts is within his rights in refusing
the money at this stage."

"This is all very interesting, Miss Armstrong, but we have a fortnight
to turn round in."

"Yes; that is so."

"I am delighted, for now I shall have the pleasure of trying a fall with
the estimable Mr. Ricketts."



VI.--THE BUNK HOUSE PRISONER.


As the wound in his shoulder healed, Stranleigh began to enjoy himself
on the ranch. He was experiencing a life entirely new to him, and being
always a lover of waving woods and rushing waters, even in the tamed
state which England presents, he keenly appreciated these natural
beauties in the wilderness, where so-called human improvements had not
interfered with them. Without attempting to indulge in the sport for
which he had come, he wandered about the ranch a good deal, studying its
features, and at the same time developing an appetite that did justice
to the excellent meals prepared for him. He visited Jim Dean, who had
shot him, and tried to scrape acquaintance with his five aiders and
abettors in that drastic act, but they met his advances with suspicion,
naturally regarding him as a tenderfoot, nor were they satisfied that
his long residence among them was as friendly as he evidently wished it
to appear.

The men resided in a huge bunk house, which consisted of one room only,
with a shack outside where the cooking was done. In the large room were
a dozen bunks; half of them in a very dishevelled state, giving sleeping
accommodation for the company, while the other half were ready in case
of an accession of help, should the mine prosper.

The cabin was as securely built as a fortress, of the rugged stone which
had been blasted from the rocks in opening the mine. The mine itself was
situated about five hundred yards to the south of this edifice, but
instead of being dug downwards, as Stranleigh expected, it extended
westward on the level toward the heart of the mountain, so that a rudely
built truck could carry out the débris, and dump it down the steep hill.
To his æsthetic fancy this seemed a pity, because a short distance south
from the opening of the mine, the river formed a cascade descending a
hundred feet or more; a cascade of entrancing beauty, whose loveliness
would be more or less destroyed as the mining operations progressed.

The rising sun illumined the tunnel to its final wall, and Stranleigh
found no difficulty in exploring it to the remotest corner. He passed
the abandoned truck partly turned over beside an assortment of picks,
shovels, hand-drills and the like. To his unpractised eye there was no
sign of silver on walls, floor or ceiling. At the extreme end was piled
up a quantity of what appeared to be huge cartridges.

Before entering the cavern he had noticed three or four of the miners
standing in front of the bunk house, evidently watching him, but he paid
no attention to them, and while he was inside, the roar of the cataract
prevented him from hearing approaching footsteps. As he came out to the
lip of the mine, he found Jim and three others waiting for him. Each had
a rifle on his shoulder.

"Inspecting the property?" said Jim, casually.

"Yes," replied Stranleigh.

"What do you think of it?"

"My opinion would be of very little value. I know nothing of mining."

"The deuce you don't!" said Jim. "What are you doing with that lump of
rock in your hand?"

"Oh, that," said Stranleigh, "I happened to pick up. I wanted to examine
it in clear daylight. Is there silver in it?"

"How should I know?" replied Jim, gruffly. "I'm not a mining engineer. I
only take a hand at the drill or the pick, as the case may be. But when
you throw that back where you got it, throw it carefully, and not too
far."

"I don't intend to throw it," said Stranleigh. "I'm going to take it
down to the house."

"Oh, you think you're not going to throw it, but you are. We've just
come up to explain that to you."

"I see. If it is compulsory, why shouldn't I throw it as far as I can?"

"Because," explained Jim, politely, "there's a lot of dynamite stored
in the end of that hole, and dynamite isn't a thing to fool with, you
know."

Stranleigh laughed.

"I rather fancy you're right, though I know as little about dynamite as
I do about mines. But to be sure of being on the right side, I will
leave the tossing of the stone to you. Here it is," whereupon he handed
the lump of rock to Jim, who flung it carelessly into the mine again,
but did not join in his visitor's hilarity.

"You seem to regard me as a dangerous person?"

"Oh, not at all, but we do love a man that attends to his own business.
We understood that you came here for shooting and fishing."

"So I did, but other people were out shooting before I got a chance. A
man who's had a bullet through his shoulder neither hunts nor fishes."

"That's so," admitted Jim, with the suavity of one who recognises a
reasonable statement, "but now that you are better, what do you come
nosing round the mine for? Why don't you go on with your shooting and
your fishing?"

"Because Mr. Armstrong was to be my guide, and he, I regret to say, has
not yet returned home. As he is tramping from Chicago to the ranch, no
one knows when he will put in an appearance."

"Well, Mr. Stranleigh, we are plain, ordinary backwoods folks, that have
no reason for loving or trusting people who come from the city, as you
do. You say that shooting is your game. Now, we can do a bit of shooting
ourselves, and I tell you plainly that if any stranger was found
prowling around here, he'd have got a bullet in a more vital spot than
you did. Do you understand me?"

"Your meaning, sir, is perfectly plain. What do you want me to do? Go
away from here before Mr. Armstrong returns?"

"No; we don't say that, but we draw an imaginary line, such as they tell
me the equator is, past this end of the farm house, and we ask you not
to cross it westward. There's all the fishing you want down stream, but
there's none up here by the waterfall, neither is there any game to
shoot, so you see we're proposing no hardship if your intentions are
what you say they are."

"Sir, you speak so beautifully that I must address you less familiarly
than I am doing. My own name is Ned, but few take the liberty of calling
me by that title. I don't know that I should like it if they did. You
are already aware, perhaps, that I answer to the name of Stranleigh. May
I enquire what your name is?"

"I'm James Dean."

"Ah, the Dean of the Faculty? You are leader of this band of brothers?"

"In a manner of speaking, yes."

"Are they unanimous in restricting my liberty on this ranch?"

"You bet!"

"You've no right to do such a thing, and besides, it is inhospitable. I
came to this ranch properly accredited, with a letter of introduction to
Mr. Armstrong. He happens to be away; if he had been here, and I had
seen that my visit was unwelcome to him, I should instantly have taken
my leave, but I refuse to have my liberty restricted by Mr. Armstrong's
hired men."

"That's exactly where you're wrong, Mr. Stranleigh. In the first place,
we're not hired men; we're Mr. Armstrong's partners, and we don't
restrict your liberty on the ranch."

"A partner contributes his share to the expenses of the combination. I
understand Mr. Armstrong bears the burden alone."

"We contribute our labour, which is cash in another form, therefore
whether Mr. Armstrong is here, or whether he is away, we mean to defend
our property. So when you cross the imaginary line I spoke of, you are
trespassing, and no jury will convict a man who shoots a trespasser
after he has been fully warned, as we warn you."

"Well, Mr. Dean, I admit that you have right on your side, even if there
is not much wisdom at the back of it. There is just one more thing I
should like to know. Why do you treat me as an enemy?"

"As a possible enemy," corrected Dean.

"As a possible enemy, then?"

"Because we don't like your actions, and we don't think much of you.
You're a city man, and we don't trust any such."

"But Mr. Banks, who gave me the letter to your chief, is not only a city
man, but a lawyer. He has been here, and spoke highly of his reception."

"That was before the mine was opened, and as for being a lawyer, we hate
'em, of course, but they're like rattlesnakes. In some seasons of the
year they are harmless. The opening of the silver mine opened the
rattlesnake season, and that's why this lawyer snake in Bleachers is
trying to cheat Armstrong out of his ranch. He came over here with a
mining engineer and learnt the whole value of the ground. How do we know
you're not a mining engineer?"

"I regret to say I'm nothing so useful."

"And didn't you send Miss Armstrong into Bleachers to see that villain
Ricketts? What connection have you with him?"

"None at all, Mr. Dean. I never saw Ricketts in my life, and never heard
of him before the day you mistook me for the sheriff."

Dean glanced at his companions, who had taken no part in the colloquy,
but who listened with an interest at once critical and suspicious. It
was evident that their distrust could not be dissipated, or even
mitigated, by strenuous talk, and for a moment Stranleigh was tempted to
tell them that he had lent three thousand dollars to Miss Armstrong, in
the hope that this money, added to her own, would gain some sort of
concession from the obdurate lawyer. But he remembered that the girl was
in constant communication with these men, and if she had not already
informed them of his futile assistance, it was because she did not want
them to know.

Dean pondered for a few moments before he spoke. He seemed to have
gathered in the purport of his men's thoughts without the necessity for
words. At last he said:

"May I take it you agree hereafter to attend to your own business?"

Stranleigh laughed.

"There would be no use in my making that promise, for I have never in my
life attended to my own business. My business affairs are all looked
after by men who are experts. They live in New York and in London, and
although I make a decision now and then, I do that as seldom as
possible. It fatigues me."

"So you are a loafer?"

"That's it exactly, Mr. Dean, and I freely give you my promise not to
loaf about your silver mine."

"Are you so rich as all that?"

"You are not consistent, Mr. Dean. How can you ask me to attend to my
business if you do not attend to yours? Whether I am rich or poor is
none of your affair?"

"Quite true," agreed Jim, nonchalantly, "we will let it go at that."

Stranleigh, with a smile, bowed courteously to the group.

"I wish you a very good day," he said, and turning, strolled down to the
house at a leisurely gait, quite in keeping with his self-declared
character of loafer. His back offered an excellent target, but no man
raised his rifle, and Stranleigh never looked over his shoulder, never
hurried a step, but walked as one very sure of himself, and in no fear
of attack.

"Stuck up cuss," said Jim to his comrades. "I'd like to take that chap
down a peg. Let's get back to the bunk house and talk it over," so they,
too, left the pit mouth, and returned to their cabin.

When the Earl of Stranleigh entered the house, he was accosted by Miss
Armstrong, on whose fair face were traces of deep anxiety, which his
lordship thought were easily accounted for by the fact that the
homestead was to be sold in less than a fortnight.

"I have been anxious to see you, Mr. Stranleigh," she said. "Won't you
come out on the verandah where we can talk?"

"With great pleasure, Miss Armstrong."

When they were seated, she continued--

"You have been talking with the men?"

"Yes; we had a little chat together."

"Did they tell you anything of their intentions?"

"No; except in so far as they were determined not to let me examine the
mine."

"Ah; they have distrusted you from the first. Did you insist on visiting
it?"

"I have visited it."

"Without asking one of them to accompany you?"

"I regarded them as hired men. They say they are your father's
partners."

"So they are."

"Ah, well, if that is really the case, I must apologise to them. I
thought when you ordered Dean to bring in my luggage, and he obeyed with
such docility, that he was your servant. I intended to offer him some
money for that service, but I suppose I must not."

"Certainly not. Those men will do anything for a friend, but nothing for
one of whom they are suspicious. Their distrust, once aroused, is not
easily removed. I am sure, however, you were tactful with them."

Stranleigh smiled ruefully.

"I am not so certain of that myself. I fear I failed in diplomacy."

"I do wish my father were here," she said, ignoring his last remark. "I
am very much worried about the men."

"What do they know of your trouble with that man Ricketts?"

"They know all about it, and they now threaten to march into Bleachers
in a body and, as we say, shoot up the town, including Ricketts, of
course."

"When do they intend to do this?"

"On the day of the auction sale."

"Don't they understand that that would be futile?"

"It would cause an infinite amount of harm, and ultimately might result
in their being wiped out themselves. Not that Bleachers could do such a
thing, but because they would be pitting themselves against the United
States Government, which is a mere name to those men, carrying no
authority. All their lives have been spent in camps, where the only law
is that of the mob. I have tried my best to influence them, but they
regard me merely as a woman, and a woman from the East at that, who has
no knowledge of practical affairs, so I have every reason for wishing my
father were here."

"I should not trouble about that if I were you, Miss Armstrong. If they
intended to carry out their resolution to-morrow, or next day, there
might be reason for anxiety, but we have luckily plenty of time in which
to act. The one immediate thing is to find your father. I'll undertake
that task. He's travelling somewhere between here and Chicago, on foot.
May I see the latest letter he wrote you?"

The girl brought it to him.

"Might I take this with me?"

"Yes. What do you intend to do?"

Stranleigh smiled.

"Oh, I never do anything. As I was telling your men, who wished me to
mind my own business, I always have people to do that for me. I am a
great believer in the expert. Now, America seems to be the land of
experts, and the man to deal with this case is Detective Burns, of New
York. I shall get into touch with him by telegraph, and if he cannot
attend to the matter himself, he will select the best substitute that is
to be had, and as Burns and his men invariably track down anyone they
want, even though he be seeking to elude them, it will be an easy task
to find your father, who is tramping the straightest possible line
between Chicago and this ranch. I shall give instructions for two or
three hundred dollars to be handed to Mr. Armstrong, with directions to
take the next train to Bleachers, as we need his presence here. I shall
do nothing but send a telegram, and Mr. Burns will do the rest. Now, if
you will assist me by ordering out my horse, I shall be ready to start
within ten minutes. I'd order the horse myself, but I don't think your
men would obey me."

In less than the time mentioned, Jim brought the horse to the door.
All his men were standing in front of their cabin, looking on. They
quite naturally believed that their guest had taken alarm, and was
making off to some district where he would be in less danger. When his
lordship came downstairs and out to the front, Jim was overcome with
astonishment. His lordship was accoutred amazingly, after the fashion of
the English horseman. He had dressed himself in a riding costume such as
an English gentleman would wear at home. Jim and his comrades had never
seen such an outfit before, and they greeted his appearance with a roar
of laughter.

Stranleigh sprang into his saddle with the agility of a cowboy, and
smiling good-humouredly at his audience, raised his hat to them, and
rode off.

As Stranleigh's horse entered the forest the young man began to ponder
over the problem that confronted him. When the unfortunate Armstrong
borrowed money from Ricketts, he had, of course, fully explained the
situation. The lender had examined the property in company with a mining
engineer, and this expert doubtless took away with him some ore to
analyse at his leisure. Ricketts, being in possession of the engineer's
estimate of the pit's value, had probably formed a syndicate, or
perhaps made arrangements with other capitalists, to see him through
with the speculation. Undoubtedly Ricketts expected no competition when
the estate was put up at auction, but if he was a shrewd man, as was
almost certain to be the case, events had occurred which might stimulate
thought regarding his position.

Miss Armstrong had ridden out to Bleachers, having in her possession
five thousand dollars, the face value of the notes. Ricketts would
wonder how she had obtained the money. She possessed only two thousand
dollars on her first visit, as he knew from the fact that she had
offered it to him for refraining from action until her father returned.
Who could have given her the extra three thousand? Whoever had done so
must have known the girl could offer no security for its repayment. He
was therefore a rich man, or he could not afford to throw away a sum so
considerable.

It was likely that such reflections as these had put Ricketts on the
alert, and the sudden advent in Bleachers of a smartly costumed
stranger, a stranger coming from the direction of the ranch, would
almost certainly convince Ricketts that here was his opponent. In
Bleachers, too, each inhabitant very probably knew every one else's
business. That he could elude the astute Ricketts was therefore
exceedingly doubtful, and Stranleigh already knew enough about the
lawlessness of the district to believe that he might ride into
considerable danger. In that sparsely-settled country, people were not
too scrupulous in their methods of getting rid of an enemy.

He wondered how far down the line the next town was, for he was certain
that any telegraphing he did from Bleachers would speedily be known to
Ricketts. Would it be possible to deflect his course, and make for the
next station eastwards? He possessed no map of the State, however, and
there was little chance of meeting anyone, so there seemed nothing for
it but to push on to Bleachers.

At this point his meditations were interrupted by the dimly heard sound
of horses' hoofs on the trail behind him. He pulled up and listened.
Pausing for a few minutes, he heard nothing more, and so went on again,
with an uneasy feeling of being followed. He determined not to camp out
when night overtook him, but to hurry on until he reached Bleachers. He
had made a two days' journey to reach the ranch, but that was because
the laden mules were slow. Before dark he would be on the high road, and
after that he could not lose his way. After all, perhaps it was better
to reach Bleachers at night, and trust to rousing up the people in the
one tavern of the place.

It was after midnight when his task was accomplished, and having seen to
the accommodation of a very tired and hungry horse, Stranleigh threw
himself down, dressed as he was, upon the bed to which he was shown by a
sleepy ostler. He had had quite enough equestrian exercise for one day.

Ten o'clock had struck next morning before he woke, and went down to
breakfast. His mind had become clarified, and he knew now exactly what
he meant to do. To avoid the cognizance of Ricketts was impossible; of
that he was certain. His first object, then, was to draw a red herring
across the trail, so he enquired from the hotel-keeper the whereabouts
of Ricketts' office, and was directed to it.

He crossed the street and ascended a stair. Ricketts kept neither clerk
nor office boy, so Stranleigh knocked at the door, was gruffly commanded
to enter, and obeyed.

Silas A. Ricketts was seated at a large table strewn with books and
legal-looking documents, and he stared in astonishment at the figure
which presented itself. He, like the men on the ranch, had never seen
such a costume before.

"Are you Mr. Ricketts?" asked his lordship.

"Yes, sir."

"My name is Stranleigh. I took the liberty of calling upon you to learn,
if possible, the whereabouts of Mr. Stanley Armstrong."

"Why should I know anything of his whereabouts?" demanded Ricketts.

"Permit me to explain----"

"Now, before we go any further," interrupted the lawyer, "I want you to
know that this is a business office, and I'm a business man. My time is
valuable. I thought when you came in that you were a client. If you
have come here for aimless gossip, I'm not your man. I have my own
affairs to look after."

"You state the case very lucidly, Mr. Ricketts, and I congratulate your
clients. My own time is far from precious, for I'm here after sport. How
valuable is your time? How much does an hour's conference with you
cost?"

"It all depends on the business transacted."

"I can't agree with you, Mr. Ricketts. An hour is an hour. I want to buy
sixty minutes of your time and attention. What do you ask for it?"

"Five dollars!" snapped Ricketts.

Stranleigh drew forth a five-dollar bill, and placed it on the table.

"May I sit down?" he enquired. "No healthy man should be tired in the
morning, but I endured a long horseback ride yesterday, and had an
indifferent night's rest."

"Where did you come from?"

"I have been living for the past few days at Armstrong's ranch."

"Are you the man who was shot last week?"

"Yes; by mistake for your estimable sheriff I understand. You see, I
came here from New York with a letter of introduction to Mr. Armstrong,
being told that I might enjoy some good fishing and a little shooting,
while Armstrong was described as a most admirable guide to these sports.
I waited at the ranch day after day, hoping that Armstrong would return,
but nobody seems to know yet where he is, or when he will return, so I
came out here, hoping to get into telegraphic communication with him.
I'm well enough now to take part in the chase, and I am loth to return
to New York without having had any sport."

"I still don't understand why you come to me about the matter."

"I was told by his daughter that Armstrong had written to you. She does
not know in the least where he is, and so on the chance of your having
received a recent letter, I have called to enquire."

"I see. Armstrong's letter to me was written from Chicago. It was a
request for money. I had already loaned him a considerable sum and was
unable to accede to his further demand. I answered to this effect, but
have heard no more from him. It is likely that his own people have
received word since the letter to me was written. Of course, you don't
know the date of their last letter from him?"

"Yes, I do," said Stranleigh, "I have the letter with me. It contains
all the data of which Miss Armstrong is possessed, and she gave me the
letter to assist me in my search."

He drew the letter from his pocket, and showed the date to the lawyer,
who consulted his file, and then said--

"It is just as I expected. That letter was written ten days later than
the one I received. Sorry I am unable to give you any definite
assistance, Mr. Stranleigh."

Stranleigh rose.

"I am sorry also. I suppose there wouldn't be much use in telegraphing
to the address he gives in Chicago?"

"I see no object in that. The place is probably a boarding-house, and
he's not there."

"Thank you, Mr. Ricketts. Good morning."

Stranleigh went slowly down the steep stairs, and reaching the sidewalk,
almost fell into the arms of Jim Dean. Here, then, was the man who had
been following him.

"Good morning, Mr. Dean."

"Morning," snarled Jim, briefly.

"I've just been up to see Mr. Ricketts, whom I think you mentioned the
other day."

"So I supposed," agreed Dean.

"I expected to get some information from him about Mr. Armstrong, but he
doesn't appear to know very much."

"Well, you're the first man I ever heard say that S. A. Ricketts doesn't
know very much, but I think by and by you will find that others know a
great deal."

"Perhaps they know a great deal that is not so; there's a lot of
knowledge of that kind lying around loose."

"Very likely," remarked Jim, laconically, then turned on his heel and
walked down the street, while Stranleigh went towards the depôt to
enlist the services of a telegraph operator, and learn when the next
train left for the east.

Stranleigh found the telegraph operator dozing in a wooden chair tilted
back against the wall, his soft hat drawn over his eyes, his feet
resting on a rung of the chair. It was a hot day, and the commercial
inactivity of Bleachers called for very little exertion on the part of
the telegraphist. The young man slowly roused himself as the door opened
and shut. His unexpected customer nodded good morning to him.

"Could you oblige me with some forms?" asked the newcomer.

"Forms? Forms of what?" The operator's feet came down with a crash on
the board floor as he rose from his chair.

"Well, telegraph blanks, perhaps I should have said."

"Oh, certainly."

The young man fished one out from a drawer, and flung it on the counter.

"This will do excellently for a beginning," said Stranleigh, "but you'd
better let me have a dozen to go on with."

The young man was waking up. He supplied the demand, and with
ever-increasing amazement, watched his client write.

Stranleigh gave the New York detective particulars in great detail so
far as he possessed them, asked him to spare no expense, and requested
that Armstrong, when found, should be presented with two hundred dollars
or more, as he required, with admonition to take the first train home,
where his presence was urgently needed.

"Great Scott!" cried the operator, "is that all one message?"

"Yes," said Stranleigh.

"Where is it going?"

"I've written the address as plainly as I can. It's going to New York."

"I say, stranger," protested the telegraphist, "have you any idea what
it costs to send a message across the Continent to New York?"

"No, I haven't, but I expect to be in possession of that information as
soon as you have mastered my handwriting, and counted the words."

The operator was practically speechless when he reached the end of his
enumeration, but after making a note on the pad, he was sufficiently
recovered to remark--

"Say, stranger, you'll have to dig up a pretty big wad to pay for this.
We don't give credit in a Western Union office."

"I shouldn't think of asking credit from a downtrodden monopoly," said
Stranleigh, pulling out his pocket book, and liquidating his debt. "You
ought to be happy if you get a percentage."

"Worse luck, I don't."

"Well, I think you're entitled to one. I've given a fee this morning and
received no particular equivalent for it. Do you, being a useful man,
object to accepting a five-dollar bill?"

"Not on your life!" assented the operator with great earnestness.

Stranleigh passed it over.

"I'm expecting a reply. At what time shall I call for it?"

"You don't need to call, Mr. Stranleigh. When it comes, I'll lock up the
office, and find you if you're anywhere in town."

"I'm stopping over at the tavern."

"All right; you'll get it."

"Thanks. Good morning."

"See you later," said the now thoroughly-awakened operator, and
Stranleigh proceeded to the railway station. He took the next train to
the nearest town east, and there did some more telegraphing, but this
time the message was in cypher, and it was addressed to his agent in New
York. Translated, it read--

"Send me at once by express, registered and insured, twenty thousand
dollars in currency, made up of five dollar, ten dollar, and hundred
dollar bills."

The address was fully written out in plain English. He found there was
time for a satisfactory lunch before the west-bound train arrived, and
he partook of it in the chief hotel, whose accommodation was much
superior to that of the Bleachers tavern.

On his return to headquarters, he called in at the telegraph office. The
young man in charge, at once recognising him, announced--

"Nothing doing. The moment anything comes I'll take it over to the
tavern. Say, is there anything secret about that telegram you sent?"

"No; why do you ask?"

"Well, Mr. Ricketts, a lawyer here, came in about ten minutes ago, and
described you, and wanted to know if you had sent a telegram."

"What did you say to him?"

"I said nobody had sent a telegram, and that I knew nothing of you. He
seemed powerful anxious, and offered me a dollar to let him know if you
telegraphed anything. I went over to the tavern to tell you about it,
but they said you hadn't been in since breakfast."

"I suppose you haven't many chances of picking up an extra dollar in
Bleachers?"

"No; I haven't. Ricketts is always mighty curious about anyone who
arrives here, but I never knew him offer a cent for information before."

"I'm very much obliged to you. You go right over to Ricketts' office and
pick up his dollar, but don't say _I_ gave you the advice. By the way,
wouldn't you be breaking the rules of the Western Telegraph Company if
you divulged the purport of any message that passed through your hands?"

A look of trouble, almost of fear, came over the young man's face.

"If a telegram is secret," he said, "the sender usually writes it in
cypher."

"Quite so, but even in that case wouldn't you be punished if it became
known that you had shown Mr. Ricketts a private despatch entrusted to
your care?"

"Certainly," admitted the telegraphist, exhibiting more and more
uneasiness, "but I have not shown your telegram to anybody, and what I
told you was entirely in confidence."

"Oh, you need have no fear of my rounding on you. I am merely
endeavouring to put you in possession of that dollar without getting
your neck in a noose. Don't you see that you are placing yourself
entirely at Mr. Ricketts' mercy?"

"But you," protested the frightened young man, "advised me to do so."

"Undoubtedly. I want you to get that dollar, but not to place yourself
in jeopardy. From what I saw of Ricketts this morning, I should not like
to be in his power, yet his dollar is just as good as any other man's
dollar, and I want you to detach it from him with safety, and profit to
yourself. Let me have another telegraph blank."

Stranleigh wrote rapidly--

     "Pinkerton Detective Agency, Chicago.

     "I want to be put into communication with Stanley Armstrong,
     who left Chicago on foot ten days ago, for the West, and I
     am willing to pay one hundred dollars for the job.

                         "EDMUND STRANLEIGH.

     "White's Hotel, Bleachers."

"There," said Stranleigh, passing over the sheet to the operator, "you
show that to our inquisitive friend Ricketts, but don't send it over the
line."

Stranleigh slept that night at White's Hotel, and shortly after
breakfast next morning the telegraph clerk came across with a very
satisfactory telegram from New York. The sender could not positively
predict the finding of Armstrong, but anticipated no difficulty in the
task.

Stranleigh paid his bill at the hotel, ordered out his horse, and
trotted off towards the ranch. He saw no more of Ricketts, who, if on
any trail, was following the wrong one.

Dusk had fallen as he was about to emerge into the clearing which in
daylight would have afforded him a sight of Armstrong's house. Suddenly
and stealthily he was surrounded by six armed men, and the voice of Jim
Dean broke the stillness.

"Good evening, Mr. Stranleigh. I must ask you to get down from your
horse."

"Willingly," replied the rider. "I confess I have had enough equestrian
exercise for one day."

"We have supper ready for you at the bunk house."

"Why at the bunk house? I am perfectly satisfied with the fare that Mr.
Armstrong's family provides."

"We'd like a little conversation with you, and the conversation must
take place in private."

"In that case, Mr. Dean, you could hardly find a better spot than this."

"We're a kindly set of chaps, and couldn't think of keeping a hungry man
out here."

"But I'm not very hungry. I took a pocketful of sandwiches with me from
the tavern."

"Nevertheless, you are coming with us, either peaceably, or by force,
whichever you choose."

"Oh, quite willingly, of course. I should be ungrateful if I gave you
any unnecessary trouble, while accepting your hospitality. I may add
that I am unarmed, so if you keep your guns in readiness you need fear
no reprisal on my part."

"That's all right," responded Jim. "We're not easily scared, but are
prepared to protect ourselves should you try any funny business."

"Is Peter going to take my horse to the farm?"

"Sure; your horse will be put in its old quarters, and will be well
taken care of."

"Then I should be glad if Peter would oblige me by telling Miss
Armstrong that I have arrived safely, and will give her an account of my
journey when next I have the pleasure of meeting her."

 [Illustration: "'I may add that I am unarmed, so if you keep your guns
 in readiness you need fear no reprisal on my part.'"]

"I'm afraid Peter can't carry any messages; indeed, it's not at all
necessary. I've told Miss Armstrong that your horse will be brought
back, and that I saw you off on the east-bound train, which is quite
true. You've brought back the horse, and you did go east on the train.
Miss Armstrong thinks you have become tired of waiting for her father,
and that you've gone either to Chicago or New York."

"Am I to regard myself as your prisoner, then?"

"Prisoner is an ugly word, and we are not entitled to call ourselves
gaolers, but if you wouldn't mind looking on it in that way, it's all
the same to us."

"Well, truthful Jim, I'm your man in every sense of the word. Let us
begin our amicable journey. I yearn for the bunk house."

"You will keep silent? No shouting or calling for help? There's no help
to be had anyhow, and a noise would merely alarm the women."

"I recognise the necessity for silence, and I shall make no outcry.
Indeed, my whole future conduct while with you will be governed by the
strictest secrecy. When I get tired of the bunk house I shall merely
cut all your throats while you are asleep, and will do it in the
quietest and gentlest manner."

Jim laughed.

"I guess we can take care of our throats, but I'm much obliged for the
suggestion, which may come in handy if you get funny, as I said before."

They reached the bunk house by a circuitous route. A fine fire of logs
was blazing on the ample hearth, for even in summer a fire was good to
look at when night came on, at that elevation.

When Stranleigh sat down to supper, he regretted more than ever the
civilised fare of the farm house. The menu was rough, but plentiful, and
they all sat together at the long table. A meal was a serious event, and
they partook of it in silence. It was evident that the men were going to
adopt full precautions, for while they supped one of them sat by the
door, a rifle over his knees. He came in for the second course, and
another took his place. After the table was cleared, they all sat round
the big fire, and smoked.

Remembering that the best tobacco in the world came from the south-east
of their country, the aroma of the weed they had chosen was not as
grateful to Stranleigh's nostrils as might have been expected, so partly
for good fellowship, and partly for his own protection, he presented
each with a fine Havana cigar, such as would be welcomed in a London
club, where pipes are not permitted. The men amiably accepted this
contribution, but each put the cigar in his pocket against a future
occasion, and went on with his pipe. Cheap as was the tobacco they were
using, it was naturally scarce among men who had received no money for
some months.

"I don't wish to appear unduly inquisitive," began their guest, "but now
that we have all night before us, would you mind telling me why I am
thus taken charge of by strangers on whom I have no claim?"

"There are several reasons," replied Jim, who was always the spokesman
for the company, "and we are quite willing to mention them. You appear
to be a person of some intelligence----"

"Thanks," interjected Stranleigh.

Jim went on, unheeding the interruption--"and so perhaps you know that
we suspect you of being in cohoots with Ricketts."

"Does 'cohoots' mean co-partnership?"

"Something of that sort. You partly persuaded us that wasn't so, but I
followed you to make sure. Perhaps you remember that I caught you coming
out from Ricketts' office. You made for that office the moment you
reached Bleachers."

"Pardon me, but I went first to the hotel."

"Yes; and you enquired there where Ricketts hung out."

"Certainly; but that's in my favour. It showed that so far from being in
the employ of the lawyer, I didn't even know where he lived."

"It was a good bluff."

"It's very circumstantial evidence of my innocence. But for the sake of
argument, I will admit that I am in 'cohoots,' as you call it, with the
estimable Ricketts. What next?"

"The next thing is that you learnt from Miss Armstrong of our intention
to go into Bleachers and shoot up the town, including Ricketts."

"That is true."

"You didn't like the plan and said so."

"That also is correct."

"You said it should be stopped, not knowing the ways of this country."

"Certainly. Desirable as may be the shooting up of Bleachers, the odds
are too strongly against you."

"Oh, we'll chance that. But the next thing you do is to put your funny
clothes on, get out your horse, and ride directly to Mr. Ricketts. You
are an informer."

"An informer is always a despicable character, Mr. Dean. What's the next
item in the indictment?"

"Don't you think that's enough? Men have been hanged for less. An
informer is the most poisonous wretch in the world except a horse
thief."

"Then I am in danger of being hanged?"

"You sure are."

"Isn't there any way in which I can compound my felony?"

"Well, I don't quite know what confounding a felony is, but you're the
sleekest fellow I ever met, and if you think you can palaver us to let
you go, you've made the mistake of your life."

"I shouldn't think of attempting such a thing. I am merely endeavouring
to discover your state of mind. You're strong on muscle, Jim, and I
admire your build, but I'm beginning to doubt whether your brain equals
your frame. There was a time when your equipment would have been
victorious, but those days are long since past. Nowadays it's brain that
wins every time, and in every country. Physical force has had to give
way before it. Jimmy, my boy, you're out of date."

"Brain isn't going to help you any," said Dean, evidently annoyed by
these strictures on his mentality.

"Perhaps it won't, but if there was a corresponding brain in your head,
I'd appeal to it, and probably win. Are all your men here as stupid as
you, Jim?"

Jim rose up from his chair, a forbidding frown on his brow.

"Look here, stranger," he called out, "I've had enough of that line of
talk."

"Oh no, you haven't. Please sit down. This line of talk is only
beginning, and I say, Jim, lay aside that pipe, and smoke the Havana
cigar. It will put reason into your head if anything will."

Some of the company laughed, and Jim sat down, seeing that his opponent
failed to show any fear at his captors' threatening attitude. He tried
to change the course of the conversation into a less personal channel.

"You see, Mr. Stranleigh, we're short on tobacco, and I want to keep
this cigar until to-morrow. I can tell by the smell it's a good one."

"That's all right," said Stranleigh, "I have plenty more of them down at
the house, and when they are finished, I'll telegraph east for a fresh
supply. If you will let me know your favourite brand of tobacco, I'll
order a ton of it at the same time."

For a moment Jim's eyes twinkled, then they narrowed into their usual
caution.

"Was that what you meant by confusing a penalty? Well, stranger, it
doesn't go here. We ain't to be bought, even by a ton of tobacco."

"I hadn't thought of either buying or bribing you," said Stranleigh,
"therefore we will get back to our original subject, the difference
between brain and muscle. I see here on the table a pack of cards in a
deplorably greasy condition. If you were playing a game with an opponent
who was beating you, would you shoot him?"

"Yes," promptly replied Jim, "if I found he was cheating."

"Whereupon his friends would lynch you."

"A cheater hasn't any friends."

"Jim, I shouldn't like to sit down to a game with you. You would shoot
first, and think afterwards, while I, being unarmed, should be at a
disadvantage. That, indeed, is just what you are doing now. If you
succeed in holding me here you will spoil my game. What I propose to do
is not to attack Ricketts with a gun, but to learn his style of play,
and beat him at it. Any confounded fool can shoot off a gun; there's no
credit in that. It's a coward's trick."

"You say we'll spoil your game. You may bet your life we will. You
daren't tell us what it is."

"Oh yes, I dare, because I have a trick that will quite delude you."

"I know you'll try to do that."

"Exactly. Well, my trick is to tell the truth. The situation is very
simple. That morning when from the pit mouth you warned me off the
premises, I found Miss Armstrong very much worried because she had
learned of your intention to shoot up the town, and could not persuade
you to abandon so foolish a project. It then became my duty to prevent
you doing what you proposed."

"Do you think you can?"

"Of course; I knew it was no use attempting to reason with you, so the
instant necessity was to get one man of common sense to counteract the
stupidity of the bunk house. That I set out to do. I rode to Bleachers,
called on Lawyer Ricketts, paid him five dollars down for whatever
knowledge he could give me concerning the whereabouts of Mr. Armstrong.
He could give me none that I did not already possess. He kept the five
dollars, though. You saw me go off in the train. I merely went to the
next town, to do some telegraphing that might be more or less secret
from Ricketts. A detective agency will find Mr. Armstrong, and hand him
two hundred dollars, asking him at the same time to make for home by
the earliest train. Then, unless I'm much mistaken, Mr. Armstrong will
see the idiocy of what you propose, and will prevent you from carrying
out your scheme."

Jim pondered over this announcement for some minutes. At last he broke
the silence.

"What you say may be true, but I don't believe a word of it. It's more
likely Ricketts is your boss, and you went in to report to him and tell
him what we intended to do. Then he'll see that Bleachers is prepared to
meet us."

"Yes; that would be a simple way of turning the trick. There are good
points about it, but it happens not to be my way, as you will learn in a
few days when Mr. Armstrong returns."

Again Jim meditated for a while, and finally rose, walked to the further
end of the room, and engaged for some minutes in earnest cogitation with
his fellows, carried on in tones so low that Stranleigh could not hear.
Resuming his seat, he spoke with deliberation--

"You want us to believe that you are a friend of Mr. Armstrong?"

"I don't care whether you believe it or not. I can hardly be a friend of
Stanley Armstrong, because I've never seen him."

"Well, we'll put your good intentions to the test. When Mr. Armstrong
gets here, he will have no money. Stony broke, that's what he is. Now,
unless we shoot 'em up in Bleachers when they try to sell his place,
Armstrong will lose it. We take it you are a rich man. Will you promise
to lend him enough money to hold this ranch, and run the mine?"

"No; I won't," said Stranleigh, with decision.

"All right. Then you stay here until you cough up that cash. Even if
Armstrong comes, he will never know you're here, because we shall tell
him that you've gone East. Nobody else knows where you are, so there
isn't any chance of a search being made."

"This is rank brigandage," remarked Stranleigh.

"I guess that's the right title, but a man who brags so much of his
brains as you do, ought to see that if we're ready to shoot up a town,
we won't stop at such a trifle as brigandage."

"That's so. And now, gentlemen, I'm tired after my long journey, and I
think we've talked a great deal to very little purpose, so if you'll
show me what bunk I am to occupy, I'll turn in."

"There are six unused bunks, Mr. Stranleigh, and you can take your
choice. There's nothing mean about us."

Stranleigh made his selection, and rough as the accommodation was, he
slept as soundly as ever he had done in his London palace, or his
luxurious yacht.

Although the Earl of Stranleigh was naturally an indolent man, the
enforced rest of the next few days grew very irksome. He had expected
the guard set over him to relax as time went on, but this was not the
case. The genial Jim saw to that, and it was soon evident to Stranleigh
that Dean ruled his company with an iron hand. Such casual examination
of the premises as he was able to make impressed him more and more with
the difficulty of escape. Had the structure been built of logs, there
might have been some hope, but the imperviousness of the thick stone
walls was evident to the most stupid examiner. The place was lit in
daytime by two slits, one at each gable, which were without panes, and
narrow, so that they might as much as possible keep out the rain. No man
could creep through, even if he could reach the height at which they
were placed. During the day the stout door, fit to encounter a battering
ram, was open, but a guard sat constantly at the sill, with a rifle
across his knees. At night it was strongly locked. Stranleigh was
handicapped by the fact that heretofore he had never been required to
think out any difficult problem for himself. He had merely to give the
order, and other people did his thinking for him, and when a plan was
formed, there were others to carry it out, being well paid for doing so.
Thus it happened that the means of escape were so obvious that a ten
year old boy might have discovered them.

Each evening passed very pleasantly, for Stranleigh was a good
story-teller, and had many interesting tales to relate. In spite of the
fact that his gaolers were unanimous in their opinion that Stranleigh
was a useless encumbrance upon earth, they began rather to like him.
One night Stranleigh asked Jim if anything had yet been heard of Mr.
Armstrong, and Dean, after hesitating a moment, replied that there was
so far no news of him or from him.

"I'm sorry for Armstrong," said Stranleigh, more as if talking to
himself than to anyone else. "Poor fellow, away from home all this time,
and yet compelled to support six stalwart loafers without commonsense
enough to do the obvious thing."

"What is the obvious thing?" asked Dean.

"Why, to work, of course. There's your mine; you've got plenty of
dynamite to go on with, and yet you lounge about here not earning enough
to keep yourselves in tobacco. If there is silver in that hole, you
could by this time have had enough out to buy the ranch and furnish your
own working capital. You say you are partners in the scheme, but you
seem to be merely a blunderheaded lot of hired men, determined not to do
any work."

Jim answered with acerbity--

"If you weren't a fool you'd know we'd gone already as far as hand work
can go. We need a steam engine and a crusher."

"A steam engine?" echoed Stranleigh. "What on earth would you have to
pay for coal, with railway haulage, and the cost of getting it out here
from the line? Why, right there, rushing past you, is all the power you
need. You've only to make a water-wheel, with a straight log, thrown
across the falls as axle, and there you are. Pioneers have done that
sort of thing since civilisation began, and here you don't need even to
build a dam."

Jim was about to make an angry retort when the company were scattered by
a roar and a heavy fall of soot on the log fire. The chimney was ablaze,
but that didn't matter in the least, as the house was fireproof. In a
short time the flames had died out, and the party gathered round the
fire once more.

"Well," said Jim, "go on with your pretty advice."

Stranleigh replied dreamily, gazing into the fire.

"Oh, well, I think my advice doesn't amount to much, as you hinted. It
is none of my affair. You are a most capable body of men, I have no
doubt, only the fact has been concealed from me up to date. I find I am
developing the vice of talking too much, so I'm going to turn in.
Good-night!"

But the fall of soot had suggested to Stranleigh a method of escape.



VII.--THE END OF THE CONTEST.


A wood fire is an evanescent thing, having none of the calm
determination of coal combustion. A wood fire requires constant
replenishing, and that in the bunk house did not receive this attention.
When the men, tired with doing nothing, overcome by the lassitude
enduring an empty day had caused, turned into sleep, the wood fire, left
to itself, crumbled into a heap of ashes. The guarding of Stranleigh
became more perfunctory as time passed. He proved to be a model
prisoner, and usually the sentinel at the door fell into peaceful
slumber as night wore on. On the particular evening Stranleigh chose for
his attempt, Jim Dean sat on the chair against the door. Jim's jaw
worked so much during the day, he talked so incessantly, emptying his
mind of all it contained, that he was naturally exhausted when his turn
for watching came. Each of the men slumbered more or less soundly at his
post, but the confident Jim outdid them all, so Stranleigh selected him
as the man destined to hold the empty bag.

It was two hours after midnight when his lordship slipped down from his
bunk. The fire had long since gone out, and the stone chimney was
reasonably cool. The climbing of that ample flue presented no difficulty
to an athletic young man who in his time had ascended the Matterhorn.
The inside of the chimney offered to the amateur sweep walls of rough
stone, which projected here and there, forming an effective, if unequal
ladder. He attained the top with such ease that he wondered he had
remained so long a prisoner. Descending the roof silently, he let
himself down to the top of the lean-to which acted as kitchen and supply
store, and dropped from that elevation lightly to the ground. It was a
night of clear moonlight, and Stranleigh smiled to think how nearly he
must represent the popular idea of the devil, covered as he was with
soot from head to foot.

He made directly down the hill to the farm house by the stream, and
risked a few minutes of time in washing his face in the rapid current.
He now took off his boots, the better to enact the part of burglar. The
doors of the house, he knew, were never locked. First he secured his
favourite magazine rifle and a large quantity of cartridges, then as,
after all, he was entitled to the board he paid for, he penetrated
softly to the kitchen. Here he secured a couple of loaves of bread and a
cooked ham, together with some other things he wanted, including a
supply of tobacco, and thus overloaded as he had rarely been in his life
before, he stole softly outside, slipped his feet into his boots, and
slowly climbed the hill to the silver cavern. Depositing within his
goods and chattels, he examined his store carefully to learn whether
there was anything more he needed to stand a siege.

Bright as was the moonlight outside, the cavern was pitch dark, so
Stranleigh determined on another expedition to the house, and he brought
back a bunch of candles and an armful of bedclothes.

"Now for the night's work," he said to himself, and having lit a candle,
which he placed at the remote end of the cave, he began picking up
stones, and with them building a wall across the mouth of the pit. No
Roman wall was ever built with such care, and no Roman wall ever
contained within itself such possibilities of wholesale obliteration,
because the structure was intersticed with sticks of dynamite, which
Stranleigh carried with the most cautious tenderness from the rear to
the front of the cavern. When his task was completed the moon had gone
down, and the misty, luminous grey of the eastern sky betokened the
approach of dawn. The young man was thoroughly tired, and with a sigh of
relief he stretched himself out on the bedclothes he had brought from
the house.

The early sun shining on his face awakened him. He knew from experience
that the bunk house men were not afflicted with the vice of early
rising. There was no aperture in their habitation, unless the door was
open, through which the sun might shine upon them. He was therefore not
surprised that no one was visible anywhere near the sleeping quarters.
So he breakfasted in peace, alternating slices of bread with slices of
ham, thus constructing some admirable sandwiches.

A providential jug, which doubtless in its time had contained whisky,
was one of the utensils left when the mine was abandoned. Stranleigh
took this, and stepping over the dangerous wall, filled it three or four
times at the rushing cataract, rinsing out all indication of its former
use. He brought it back, filled with very clear and cold water. He could
not help thinking as he returned what an excellent place the waterfall
would be for the washing of dishes, if a person ran the risk of standing
upon spray-drenched, slippery rock ledges.

Stranleigh sat down where he could see the enemy's quarters, and
carefully examined his rifle, assured himself that the magazine was
full, then with the weapon over his knees in the fashion adopted by his
recent gaolers, watched the bunk house patiently, wishing he had a
morning paper to while away the time.

The laggard sentinel was the first to rouse himself. The broad door
opened, and Jim Dean, palpably bewildered, stepped out. With hand
shading his eyes he minutely examined the landscape, slowly turning his
head from left to right as he scrutinised the distant horizon and the
ground intervening. Stranleigh, kneeling, rested his rifle on the top of
the wall, and as Jim's left ear, a rather prominent feature, became
fully visible, the young man fired.

Jim's action instantaneously verified the Indian romances of
Stranleigh's youth. He sprang clear up into the air and clapped a hand
upon his wounded ear. He was at that moment the most astonished man on
the western hemisphere. His first instinct being to bolt for cover, he
did so without pausing to close the door, which opened outwards, and
this broad piece of woodwork now offered a much more prominent target
than Jim's ear had done a moment before.

Stranleigh, exercising a care that seemed unnecessary with so big a
target, fired out the cartridges of his magazine, then immediately
restocked it, and shot away the second charge. Putting in a third load,
he sat there with his customary nonchalance, awaiting the turn of
events. In that clear atmosphere, and with his sharp vision, he saw
that he had accomplished his intention, and had punctured the letter "S"
on the panel of the open door.

Meanwhile, there was commotion in the bunk house. The first sharp
report, accompanied by Jim's yell, woke every man within. The subsequent
fusilade engendered a belief that the enemy was in possession of a Maxim
gun, and brought every man to the floor, thankful that he was under
better cover than if he stood behind the door, through the panel of
which all the bullets had penetrated.

"How did he escape?" demanded one, addressing Jim, who was holding his
left hand to his ear.

"I don't know," said the wounded man ruefully. "You can search me."

"Seems from that shooting that we'd better search outside. What in the
fiend's name made him batter the door?"

"Sorry he left us, I suppose," muttered Dean, grimly. "Knocking because
he wanted to come in again."

"How did he get his gun?"

"Hanged if I know," said the questioned man, impatiently.

"But you were on guard. You ought to know something about it."

"Look here," said Jim. "There's no use in talking. He got out some way,
and he's got his gun some way. He's holding us up, and we must make
terms with him."

"But where is he?"

"I tell you I don't know! The bullet came from the direction of the
mine. Now, one of you boys throw up your hands, and go outside and hail
him."

At this command, Jim met the first rebellion against his authority.

"Go outside yourself. It is you who have brought all this upon us. You
shot him through the shoulder; you proposed capturing him, and it was
you who fell asleep last night and let him escape."

Jim did not combat their charges.

"All right," he said. "I'll go out, and you sit here and shiver while I
enjoy a little conversation with him."

Raising his hands above his head, Dean stepped across the threshold
into the open, and stood like an oriental about to begin his prayers. He
saw at once the wall that had been built during the night, and then
caught sight of Stranleigh standing behind it. Pulling out a white
handkerchief, and waving it, Dean proceeded towards the mine.

"Have you got a revolver?" shouted Stranleigh.

"No," answered Dean.

"Then put down your hands, and approach as a Christian should."

Jim obeyed.

"Now stand where you are," said Stranleigh, when the other was within
four or five yards of the wall. "I see your ear is bleeding. That was
rather a neat shot of mine, don't you think?"

"It was," admitted Dean, without enthusiasm.

"When you shot at my shoulder, you had a bigger mark."

"Oh, not so very much," growled Dean. "My ears are celebrated for their
size."

"You'd better wrap it up in this handkerchief," commented Stranleigh,
rolling it up in a ball, and flinging it towards Jim. The wounded man
tied it round his voluminous ear.

"And now," said Stranleigh, "get through with your parley as soon as
possible, then go to Miss Armstrong, who will very expertly attend to
your hurt. But in order to win the privilege of surgical treatment, you
must recognise that you are a prisoner."

"A prisoner?" echoed Dean.

"Certainly. You must give me your word you will say nothing to Miss
Armstrong to show that I have had a hand in the game. Make whatever
excuse you like for the disaster, and then get back to the bunk house,
tell your fellows the condition of the game as far as we have gone. I
will allow you five minutes after your return to show those chaps the
letter 'S' I have perforated in the door. They are a very unbelieving
lot, and I wish to gain their affection and respect. Without hurting
anybody I mean to prove that I am a dead shot. I'm well provisioned
here, and prepared to stand a siege. Until Mr. Armstrong returns, not
one of you will be allowed outside the châlet. Don't be misled by the
fact that you outnumber me six to one. I hold a magazine rifle, possess
an ample supply of ammunition, and have just given evidence of the
rapidity with which reloading can be performed."

"Yes," said Dean, meditatively, "your position would be bull strong and
hog tight, if you had a chum with you who could shoot as well as you do.
But as it is, you've nobody to relieve you, and a man must sleep. It
will only take one of us to defeat you. We've no magazine rifles and
don't need none. I'll undertake the job myself."

"How do you propose to do it?"

"That would be telling," said Jim, craftily.

"Why not?" answered Stranleigh. "I'm placing my cards on the table. Why
don't you do the same? I'm not yearning for war and bloodshed, but have
inaugurated a sort of Hague tribunal. There were two things I determined
to accomplish when I broke jail. I hope that wounded ear hasn't impaired
your hearing, so that you may listen with attention. It's always as well
to know what your enemy desires."

"I'm listening," said Jim.

"The first thing was to shoot you through the leg or the arm or the ear,
choosing some spot that was not vital. This in return for your shooting
me. One good turn deserves another, you know. That part of my programme
I have accomplished."

"What's the other part?"

"The second is to keep you gentlemen in prison just as long as you kept
me in prison. One good imprisonment deserves another. Now will you tell
me what you intend to do?"

"No; I won't."

"That's mean of you, Jim; secretive, over-cautious and that sort of
thing. I'm not so chary and so will give you the information. There are
only two portions of the night during which you can come out unnoticed;
before the moon rises and after it sets. You will steal out and take up
a position where you can see the barricade when day begins to dawn.
You'll need to chose a spot a long way off, because the explosion, when
it comes, will wreck everything in the neighbourhood."

"What explosion?"

"The dynamite explosion. This wall is built of rock intersticed with
those dynamite cartridges of yours. It is very likely you will
obliterate the farm-house."

"I'll obliterate you, anyway."

"Quite so, but at a tremendous cost, because whatever the fate of Mr.
Armstrong's residence, the doom of the bunk house is certain. You may be
outside that danger, but you won't be free of another. You suppose,
doubtless, that I shall be asleep in the cavern. As a matter of fact I
shall be sleeping placidly under the stars, quite out of reach of the
main disaster. Your first shot will awaken me. Now, it is by no means
certain that your first shot will send off the dynamite. You may have to
fire half a dozen times, and your best rifle is an old breech-loader. I
use smokeless powder, and you don't. I could pepper away at you for half
an hour and you'd never know where the bullets were coming from. The
smoke from your rifle would give _you_ away at once. When I fire at you
next time, Jim, I shall aim at a more vital point, because, my dear boy,
the person who sets off that dynamite is a murderer. So before you put
your plan into operation, just consult your comrades and explain to them
its disadvantages."

Dean stood there meditating for a few moments before he spoke.

"I'm very much obliged to you," he said at last, "for telling me what
you mean to do. We'll change that plan a little, and come out of the
bunk house together. We'll search the country for you, and so won't need
to blow up the mine."

"That's a much more humane expedient, and will prevent unnecessary loss
of life. I shall be lying quiet under whatever cover I can find. Your
crowd will perambulate the locality, and I may remind you that you are
no lightfooted Cinderellas. A herd of elephants would make less noise. I
shall see you long before you see me, and I leave the result to your own
imagination. And now, Jimmy, take the advice of a true friend. Your time
to act was when you were snoring at that door and I was climbing the
chimney. Once you allowed me to get my rifle, you had permitted
opportunity to pass you, because I am a good shot, and I came West in
order to shoot. When a person accustomed to downy beds of ease slumbers
peacefully, as I did this morning, on hard and jagged rocks thinly
disguised by a blanket, with my right ear against a dynamite cartridge,
there's nothing the matter with his nerves, is there?"

"No; there isn't," said Dean, with conviction.

"Now, what you chaps want is not a battle, but an armistice. Leave well
enough alone, I say, and accept the _status quo_. If you remain in the
bunk house, you are as safe as in a Presbyterian church."

Jim did not reply, but deliberated, his open palm against his bandaged
ear.

"Hurt?" asked Stranleigh.

"Yes, it does," admitted Jim, ruefully.

"Well, my shoulder hurt a good deal after you fired at me. Now, I'll
tell you what I'll do, Jim. Next time I shoot at you, I'll take the
other ear. You're determined to prove yourself a brigand, or a pirate,
or something of that sort, and as pirates always wear earrings, that
will put you in a position to adopt them. What do you say to my proposal
for an armistice?"

"I can't answer for the rest of the boys without consulting them. If we
need an armistice or a _status quo_, why, I suppose we ought to have
them."

"All right. If your ear hurts, the sooner you get it attended to, the
better. You go directly down to the house and see Miss Armstrong, and
you can reflect upon the situation while she is dressing the wound.
Deep thinking will take your mind from the pain. Then go up and consult
the company. Come and let me know what they decide. Meanwhile, I'll
guarantee that no one comes out of that bunk house without being shot
at."

"Mr. Stranleigh, I'll do what you say, but I'll change the order. I'll
go first to our shack, and warn the boys. That's only fair, for they're
watching from that door, and if they see me going to the house they may
think it's all right, and come outside. After talking with them, I'll
visit Miss Armstrong, and then come back here to tell you what the boys
say."

"Yes, Jim; that's a better plan than mine. But first give me your word
that you will take no advantage of this respite until war. An armistice,
you know, is a cessation of hostilities."

"You mean that there will be no shenanigan? I give you my word."

The wounded man made his way to the bunk house. Shortly afterwards
Stranleigh saw him emerge, and go towards the homestead. After a longer
interval he came slowly up towards the fortress, his ear neatly
bandaged in white linen, which showed up, as one might say, like a small
flag of truce.

"Well, what did Miss Armstrong say about the wounded ear?"

"She says it's about as serious as the sting of a bee, and won't hurt
much longer than that would, and will be cured nearly as soon."

"That's first-rate, and relieves my conscience, which has been troubling
me, because I'd much rather smite a man on the ear with my fist than
with a bullet. For the same reason I hope you found your messmates
undergoing a spasm of common sense."

"They agreed with me that it wasn't very healthy to take outdoor
exercise for a while. If we decide to begin fighting again, we'll give
you twelve hours' notice. Will that suit you?"

"I don't know that it does, quite. I want you to promise that you will
not break loose either until Mr. Armstrong returns, or the auction is
over."

"The boys wouldn't agree to that, Mr. Stranleigh. We're bound to attend
that auction."

Stranleigh sighed.

"Very good," he conceded. "I must content myself with what you offer. I
accept your proposal, for I feel certain that Mr. Armstrong will return
before the ranch is sold. So good-bye. Give my love to the boys."

Stranleigh watched the retreating figure until it disappeared into the
bunk house. A moment later the perforated door was drawn shut, and then
he rolled up the bedclothes into a bundle, and deposited it at the
further end of the cavern. This done, he took his rifle under his arm,
crossed the barricade, and strolled down to the farm-house. Miss
Armstrong greeted him with surprise.

"I thought you had gone to New York," she said.

"I took the train east, but only to the next station from Bleachers."

"You've not been stopping at that wretched hotel in Bleachers ever
since?"

"Oh no; I received a pressing invitation from some friends of mine to be
their guest, with a prospect of a little shooting, so I've been staying
with them ever since."

"Did you have a pleasant time?"

"Oh, excellent, and I heard more entertaining stories than ever I
listened to in a similar period."

"Good shooting?"

"First rate. Limited in quantity, but of finest quality. Indeed, I may
boast of a record; I hit everything I aimed at. Camp fare, however, left
a good deal to be desired, so you may imagine how glad I am to return."

"I'm very pleased to have an opportunity of giving you something better.
How would you like some nice broiled trout, freshly caught this
morning?"

"Oh, heavenly!" cried Stranleigh, enthusiastically. "I haven't had
anything but bread and salt pork since I saw you. Who caught the trout?"

"I did. I went down the river early this morning. I must have had a
premonition that you would return, famished for trout, and I had quite
an adventure, or rather, plunged into a mystery which I have not yet
solved. I heard the sound of firing; first a single shot, then a
fusilade. I could not tell from whence the sound came. I hurried home
with my basket, but there was no one in sight. After a while Jim came
in, very much crestfallen, it seemed to me, with his ear tied up
clumsily in a handkerchief. He had been shot through the ear, and of
course I came to his aid at once. With a woman's curiosity, I asked him
how the accident happened. Now, one of Jim's infirmities is that he can
only tell the truth when it suits his convenience."

"Many of us are like that," said Stranleigh.

"Well, this time it didn't suit his convenience."

"What did he say?"

"That the boys were having a sort of shooting match. I told him I had
heard the firing, and feared that there had been a battle of some sort.
He said it was the first shot that did for him. They had some bet on as
to who could fire the quickest at a flying mark. In his hurry to get
ready he had mishandled his gun, and sent a bullet through his ear. The
other men had then fired almost simultaneously."

"Miss Armstrong, I fear you are too sceptical. Why shouldn't that be a
true story?"

"Mr. Stranleigh, you quite underrate my intelligence. The wound in
Jim's ear was not caused by the gun he held. In the first place, his ear
would have been blackened with gunpowder, and likely would have been
partly torn off. Secondly, a mishandled gun would have fired upwards.
The bullet that wounded him was fired from a distance by someone higher
up than the spot where Jim stood. The wound was clean cut, slightly
inclining downwards. Besides all that, Jim's bullet, coming from an
old-fashioned rifle, would make a bigger hole. I know that, for you
remember I tended your shoulder, through which his bullet had gone."

"By Jove, Miss Armstrong, if Sherlock Holmes had a daughter, she would
be just about your age. Was there anything else?"

"Yes; I looked at the handkerchief in which he had bound his ear. It was
of a finer cambric than we have ever seen in this district, or indeed,
than I have seen anywhere else. The corner was embroidered with a very
delicately-worked crest."

"A crest?" said Stranleigh, rather breathlessly.

"I asked Jim where he had got this handkerchief. He seemed confused, but
said he had always had it. Bought it once at a five-cent store in
Denver."

Stranleigh could not refrain from laughing.

"You think it cost more than five cents?"

"Yes; I am sure it cost more than twenty-five."

"Perhaps he stole it?"

"Jim might shoot a man, but he'd never steal."

"I think that when you discover the owner of that handkerchief, you will
have solved the mystery," remarked Stranleigh calmly.

"I think so, too," said the girl quietly. "Now I am going to cook your
trout."

The three days following were among the most enjoyable Stranleigh had
ever spent. He asked Miss Armstrong to show him the portion of the river
in which she had caught those delicious trout. Heretofore, she had used
a baited hook when fishing, landing her spoil with a trout pole, but now
she was to be initiated in the delicate mysteries of fly fishing.
Stranleigh remembered the story told of an English official sent to view
the debateable land adjoining the far western boundary of Canada who
reported the territory useless, because the fish wouldn't rise to the
fly. He wondered what lure the official used, for here they rose readily
enough, and fought like demons until Miss Armstrong deftly lifted them
from the water in the new-fangled landing net, the like of which she had
never seen before.

But in spite of the excellent sport he was enjoying, Stranleigh became
more and more anxious as time went on. Nothing had been heard from
Stanley Armstrong. The fisher began to fear that the detective had
failed in his search. On the morning of the fourth day he dressed in his
ordinary tweed suit. The riding costume attracted more attention than
was altogether convenient. He put in his pocket an automatic revolver of
the latest construction; light, accurate and deadly. The day of the
auction was drawing uncomfortably near, and he was determined that his
journey should not be interrupted, as his former ride had been. Aside
from this, he expected to carry with him a large amount of money, and if
any word of that got abroad, he knew a holdup was quite within the range
of possibility. The coterie confined in the bunk house would doubtless
learn that they were their own gaolers, and with that gang once free
upon the landscape, he anticipated interruption which, if successful,
would completely nullify his plans.

"Are you going fishing to-day?" asked Miss Armstrong, when he came
downstairs. He had appeared unexpectedly soon that morning. The young
woman was always an early riser.

"Fishing!" echoed Stranleigh. "Yes, in a manner of speaking. Isn't there
a text which refers to fishers of men? I'm going fishing for your
father. We should have had him here before this, but now the need of him
becomes imperative. I imagine that a telegram awaits me in Bleachers. If
not, I must communicate with New York, and wait for a reply."

Stranleigh walked up the hill to the bunk house, and rapped at the panel
with the butt of his riding whip. Dean himself threw open the door, and
he could not conceal his astonishment at seeing the young man standing
there, apparently unarmed.

"Good morning, Jim," said Stranleigh cordially.

"I wish to enjoy a few minutes' conversation with the company before
leaving for Bleachers."

"None of the company are out of their bunks yet, except myself, but I
guess they're wide enough awake to hear what you say. Won't you come
inside?"

"Thank you," said Stranleigh, stepping across the threshold; then, to
the sleeping beauties--"The top of the morning to you! Early to bed and
late to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Has wisdom come to
you since I left? Do you still intend to shoot up Bleachers on auction
day?"

"You bet we do," said Dean.

Stranleigh seated himself upon the chair he had formerly occupied.

"How did you propose to get out?"

"By the same way you escaped," responded Dean with determination.

"What an inconvenient exit! I speak from sooty experience. Why not have
gone by the doorway?"

"We didn't want to get shot," said Jim.

"There was no danger of that. I have been spending my days in fishing,
and my nights in sound sleep."

"Do you mean to say," cried Jim, "that there's been nobody on guard?"

"No; you've been as free as air to go where you pleased."

Dean laughed heartily, and the others joined him. The joke was on them,
but they seemed to enjoy rather than resent it.

"You were right about brain and muscle," observed Jim at last.

Stranleigh ignored the compliment.

"I've got a proposal to make to you men," he went on. "I'm off to
Bleachers to do some telegraphing, trying to learn the whereabouts of
Mr. Armstrong, who has not yet put in an appearance. The sale takes
place day after to-morrow."

[Illustration: "'Put down your hands and approach as a Christian
should.'"]

Stranleigh paused in his recital. He noticed a stealthy movement among
the bunkers. He had observed that the first to sit up cast a longing
glance at the rifles stacked in the corner, and it seemed to him that
a simultaneous rush towards them was going to take place.

"As you know, gentlemen," he went on, "I have an objection to shooting
as a settlement of any legal question, but if shooting has to be done, I
am quite prepared for it, and the inhabitants of Bleachers will regret
provoking me to a fusilade."

He took from his pocket the neat little automatic pistol.

"I don't suppose," he went on, "that you ever saw anything exactly like
this. It will simply rain bullets, and I can re-load before any of those
Bleachers men can get his hand to his hip pocket. Next to the Maxim gun,
it's the most deadly object in existence." Casually he cast his eye
along the bunks. Each man had withdrawn the leg that had been quietly
reaching for the floor. Stranleigh still fondled his weapon.

"Just before you captured me, I had sent to New York for a considerable
sum of money, which was to reach me by express. I thought it better to
have no dealings with the bank, as I didn't wish Ricketts to learn what
I was doing. I expect that sum of money is at this moment resting in
the express office, and on the day of the sale I shall have more
currency on my person than is perhaps quite safe to carry. I therefore
wish to engage you as a bodyguard, if you agree to certain conditions. I
shall expect you all in Bleachers day after to-morrow, and shall pay
each of you fifty dollars for the day, and so that there may be no
mistake, I tender you the money now. Do you agree?"

"What are the conditions?" asked Jim, cautiously.

"First, you will keep clear of the tavern, and not drink."

"That's easy. What next?"

"You will not shoot until I give the word of command, and until I have
emptied my pistol."

Jim consulted with his fellows, then turned to Stranleigh.

"We agree," he said.

"Right you are." Stranleigh rose, took from his pocket-book six
fifty-dollar bills, and laid them on the table.

"Look here," cried Dean, "we don't want any money for this job."

"I'm quite sure of that, but six honest men are as much entitled to
their pay as is a dishonest lawyer like Ricketts. So good-bye, until I
see you at Bleachers day after to-morrow."

Stranleigh went down to the house, mounted his horse, and rode away.

He had accomplished little more than half the distance when he perceived
a horseman coming towards him. They approached one another with some
caution. Stranleigh would have passed in silence had not the other
accosted him.

"Hello, stranger!" he said. "You from the ranch?"

"Yes."

"Been stopping there?"

"Yes."

"How's everything? Folks all well?"

"Yes; they were when I left. Is there any chance that you are Mr.
Armstrong?"

"That's my name."

"I'm very glad to meet you, sir. I'm Stranleigh, who telegraphed the
detective to find you and hand you two hundred dollars, begging you to
get home in a hurry."

"Well, Mr. Stranleigh, all that was done, and here I am, but as for
paying back that two hundred dollars and expenses, I don't see how I am
to do it. I'm broke."

"So I understand. Do you know your place is to be disposed of by forced
sale day after to-morrow?"

"Yes; they've got me with my hands up."

"I don't think so. I'm going to attend that sale, and probably our
friend Ricketts will regret the fact. Now, you turn your horse round and
accompany me to the settlement. I've got some money coming by express,
and being rather a stupid sort of person, it never occurred to me until
half an hour ago that I'd need to be identified before I got my hands on
that express package. So if you'll take my word that I am Stranleigh,
we'll collar the currency and attend the sale. I have a letter of
introduction to you from Mr. Banks, of New York, but I left it at your
house."

"That's all right. I'll go surety that you're the man. I'd like mighty
well to see a little money, even if it belongs to another fellow."

Armstrong turned his horse, who was not loth to set his face in the
other direction, because he belonged to White's Tavern. As the two men
jogged along together, Stranleigh explained the situation. Armstrong was
silent for some time, evidently in a state of dejection.

"Well, Mr. Stranleigh," he said at last, "as you know, I am quite
helpless. I haven't a cent to bless myself nor curse an enemy with. I'm
no good as a business man, and the slick way in which those rascals in
Chicago separated me from what cash I had would make you laugh at me if
you knew how it was done."

"I shouldn't be inclined to laugh. We read in Scripture of the man who
fell among thieves, and I imagine Chicago is a good place to find such
cattle, although I believe there are a few of them further west. I think
that Ricketts, in refusing the money when it was offered to him,
exceeded his legal rights."

"Our sharpers out here," said Armstrong, "are always exceeding their
legal rights, but they get rich all the same. I confess I haven't so
much dependence on legality as a law-abiding citizen should have."

"Your men on the ranch seem to hold the same opinion. In spite of all I
could say, they were determined to make a raid on Bleachers."

"Did you manage to stop them?" enquired Armstrong eagerly.

"I think I did," was the reply.

There had been a flash of hope in Armstrong's eyes, but it now died down
to dejection again.

"I am sorry for that," he said.

Stranleigh gazed at him in astonishment.

"You don't mean to say that you approve of such violence?"

"Oh, well," said Armstrong nonchalantly, "when a man's in a corner,
he'll do most anything, and at such times a little gun play is not out
of place. I'll bet the boys would have stopped that sale."

"Doubtless, but what good would that do?"

"We should gain breathing space, and perhaps Ricketts wouldn't go on
with his villainy."

"But it would land all your men in gaol."

"Don't you believe it. The sheriff would have to catch the boys first,
and they know every ravine and stream and gully in the mountains, and
every trail in the woods, and if Ricketts was sacrificed in the
scrimmage, I, for one, wouldn't be chief mourner. These boys might not
be much good in Chicago, but they are very useful out here. A scoundrel
like Ricketts, who tries legally to steal a man's property, takes big
chances and runs a lot of risks, and no one knows that better than
himself. He has taken advantage of my being away from home."

"It's not too late yet to carry out your plan. Although your men hold to
their resolve to visit Bleachers on the day of the sale, they have
promised not to shoot until I give the word of command."

"They will be there, then, after all?" cried Armstrong, eagerly.

"Certainly; I have engaged them as bodyguard, because, as I told you, I
shall have a considerable sum of money in my possession, and I don't
wish to be detached from that cash, either by Chicago methods, or those
of Bleachers. I want the sale to go on without any disturbance."

"What's your plan?"

"I intend to buy the ranch."

"Do you imagine for a moment that you'll be allowed to?"

"How can they prevent me if I've got the cash in my pocket?"

"Why, first thing they'll do is to postpone the sale."

"Has Ricketts power to do that?"

"No; but the sheriff has, and the sheriff is Ricketts' man."

"Official bribery, eh? Are you personally acquainted with the sheriff?"

"Yes; I voted for him."

"Is he a man who would rather do right than wrong?"

"It depends how much money there is in either course."

"Then I think our path is reasonably clear. If Ricketts can bribe him to
do wrong, we can bribe him to do right."

Armstrong shook his head doubtfully.

"It's not so easy as you think. He would take our money all right, but
he might not deliver the goods. He wouldn't stay bought."

"That is a useful thing to know. We'll pay him half the money cash down,
and the other half when he _has_ delivered the goods. Would a hundred
dollars be sufficient?"

"Oh, lord, yes! It gives Ricketts a pain when he parts with a ten-dollar
bill, so it won't take very much money to compete with him."

"As you know the man, and as it's your ranch that is in jeopardy, you
can carry out the negotiations better than a stranger like myself."

"That's so; if I have the cash. A hundred dollars would turn the trick."

"Better take five hundred dollars and be sure of it."

They stopped their horses and made the transfer of money where they
stood, as being safer than in the tavern.

Arriving at Bleachers, they found the express office closed for the
night, but next day his lordship, with Armstrong as his identifier,
secured the package.

The land sale took place in the Agricultural Hall, the largest building
in town. Stanley Armstrong's six armed followers arrived in good time,
and quite unobtrusively seated themselves in a row on a bench at the
rear of the hall. When Stranleigh, accompanied by Armstrong, came in,
the half dozen shook hands with their chief, and expressed no more
surprise at meeting him than if he had left them the week before. Large
as the hall was, it speedily filled up, but Lawyer Ricketts, on
entering, as he cast his eye over the assemblage, knew there were few
moneyed men among the crowd gathered there, and so anticipated no
serious opposition when the bidding began.

The lawyer was accompanied by two friends; strangers in Bleachers,
who took their places beside him on the chairs provided near the
auctioneer's desk. Ricketts was an important man, and quite entitled to
reserved seats for himself and his friends. Last of all the sheriff
entered, and mounted the platform, bowing graciously to the meeting,
which was composed of constituents whose votes he would need next year.
It was quite evident that the sheriff was a popular man, for there was a
round of applause the moment he appeared.

He got down to business without any unnecessary loss of time, reading
the documents giving the conditions of the sale, the item on which
Stranleigh was relying being that no cheques would be accepted,
or credit allowed. Payment must be cash down on the fall of the
auctioneer's gavel. This the clever lawyer had insisted upon, to
prevent all possibility of his being outbid by someone who desired
time for payment. Thus he dug a pit for his own undoing.

Having finished this reading, the sheriff took a sip from the glass
supposed to hold water, and promptly began--

"You all know the property, gentlemen, so I need not detain you by any
lengthy description of it. How much am I offered for Armstrong's ranch?"

"Three thousand dollars," said Ricketts.

"Five thousand," promptly outbid the Earl of Stranleigh.

There was a buzz of interest in the crowd, as if some one had stirred up
a nest of bees. They had not expected competition. Ricketts stood up and
scrutinised the numerous faces turned towards him, endeavouring to
discover from whom the bid came. Then he sat down, and whispered to
each of the men beside him. They nodded, and one of them stole quietly
out through the door by which the sheriff had entered.

"He's gone for more money," said Stranleigh quietly to Armstrong.

"Five thousand dollars I am bid," went on the sheriff. "Is there any
advance on five thousand dollars?"

His gavel hovered over the table.

"Six thousand," said Ricketts.

"Ten thousand," offered Stranleigh, realising that his opponent was
playing for time.

"Ten thousand dollars!" echoed the sheriff, then, glancing at the
lawyer; "It's against you, Mr. Ricketts."

The lawyer hesitated.

"Eleven thousand!" he said at last.

"Fifteen thousand," bid Stranleigh, promptly.

There were two anxious men in that hall. Stranleigh was wishing he had
sent for a hundred thousand dollars. It was evident that Ricketts
possessed good backing, but he had no means of knowing whether or not
these men had the necessary money actually in hand. Ricketts was the
second anxious man, and he was now gazing with apprehension at the door
through which his companion had disappeared. He was called to attention
by the strident voice of the sheriff.

"Fifteen thousand dollars is the last bid. Going at fifteen thousand
once; going at fifteen thousand twice----"

"Wait a moment, Mr. Sheriff: there's no hurry."

"The sale must go on, Mr. Ricketts."

"Certainly," replied the lawyer, "but it's your duty to get as much
as you can for the property. We all sympathise very much with our
neighbour, Mr. Armstrong, and whatever is paid over and above his debt
to me, goes to him."

"I am aware of that, Mr. Ricketts, and your compassion for Mr. Armstrong
does you credit. Still, as I have said before, the sale must go on, and
unless there is another bid, I am compelled to knock the property down
to the last offer. Fifteen thousand dollars I am bid, and for the third
time----"

"Sixteen thousand," cried Ricketts, taking out a handkerchief, and
mopping his brow.

The missing man now re-appeared, and took his place beside the lawyer.
The three heads came closer together, and Stranleigh watched them with
half-closed eyes, apparently indifferent.

"The bid is against you, sir," said the Sheriff. "By the way, what name,
please?"

"Stranleigh."

"Well, Mr. Stranleigh, I'm waiting for your bid."

"Don't wait any longer, Mr. Sheriff. I'm anxious to know how much money
Mr. Ricketts possesses at the present moment. The ranch belongs to him
if he can hand over to you sixteen thousand dollars."

Down came the gavel on the table.

"Mr. Ricketts, the ranch is yours."

Mr. Ricketts rose to his feet.

"I ask for a postponement of this sale for a week from to-day."

"I have no objection," said the Sheriff, "as of course I shall earn
another fee."

There was a laugh at this, then the Sheriff continued--

"But I cannot postpone the sale without the consent of Mr. Stranleigh.
What do you say, Mr. Stranleigh?"

"A postponement would be very inconvenient to me, much as I should like
to oblige Mr. Ricketts. I therefore refuse my consent."

"If the Sheriff is willing," roared Ricketts, "we will postpone without
your consent, even if we have to turn you out by force."

"I shouldn't try that if I were you, Mr. Ricketts. There are six friends
of mine sitting beside me, who are dead shots, and I don't think this
crowd would stand in the way if the first gun were levelled at you. I
ask that the sale go peacefully on, Mr. Sheriff."

"There must be a postponement! The Sheriff has control over this
meeting!"

"I am counting on that," said Stranleigh, "and I am sure that the
Sheriff will adhere strictly to the law. How much money have you
collected, Mr. Ricketts?"

"That's none of your business."

"Perhaps not; and so to make everything easy and agreeable to all
concerned, I bid seventeen thousand dollars for the property."

"Show your money," demanded Ricketts.

"You wouldn't show yours, so why should I show mine?"

"Knock it down to him, Sheriff. I don't believe he has the cash."

"Seventeen thousand I am offered. Going at seventeen thousand once;
going at seventeen thousand twice; going at seventeen thousand third
and last time. Going! Gone!"

Down came the mallet.

"I shall be obliged if you will hand over to me seventeen thousand
dollars, Mr. Stranleigh."

"Certainly. With your permission, gentlemen!" and the crowd parted
good-naturedly. Stranleigh counted out the money on the Sheriff's table.

Armstrong and his men went home directly the sale was over, but
Stranleigh remained until all the legal business was finished, and the
documents were in his possession. As he rode back to the ranch, he
meditated upon the situation in which he found himself. The object of
his trip to the West had been achieved. He had left New York tired of
its noise, its heated pavements and other uncomfortable disadvantages.
He had thought he would never care to see the metropolis again, but now
he was yearning for the atmosphere of a large city; London for choice.
He determined to bid farewell at once to the Armstrongs and the bunk
house men, then turn his face eastwards.

Miss Armstrong was amazed to learn his decision.

"But you haven't had even one day's shooting!" she protested.

"Oh, I'll come for that another time," he assured her.

"Before you go away, my father would like to make some arrangement with
you about this ranch."

"I shall be very glad to come to an agreement with him."

The girl sped up to the silver mine, where her father was superintending
the removal of the dynamite to its proper place, a job requiring some
little care. Armstrong accompanied his daughter down to the house, and
greeted Stranleigh with eagerness.

"I am anxious to lease this place from you, Mr. Stranleigh, with the
option of buying it later on. I am sure I can make money from the silver
mine."

"You must apply to the owner of the ranch, Mr. Armstrong."

"The owner!" echoed Armstrong, in some alarm. "You haven't sold the
ranch since I saw you, I hope?"

"No; but like most other men, I am in debt, and I intend to use this
property in payment of my obligation."

Armstrong was taken aback by this declaration. Turning to Miss
Armstrong, Stranleigh took from his pocket a long, well-filled envelope.

"These, Professor, are all the legal documents necessary to make you the
owner of the ranch, including deed and what-not. I am quite incapable of
understanding the red tape wound round the transaction, but I am assured
it is all right. I tender this in payment of my medical bill."

"Oh," cried the girl, softly. Then she smiled. "As the sensational plays
have it, this is too much!"

"Not a bit of it," returned Stranleigh. "You have no idea of the
appalling charges made by specialists in New York and London. Besides,
this includes payment of Jim's bill. You cured Jim's ear as well as my
shoulder, and I am responsible for Jim. His ear is the only shooting I
have had since I came to the ranch."

The girl again began to protest, but Stranleigh interrupted.

"As you are so loth to receive the property, I shall burden it with some
conditions. Your father will ask you to mortgage this land to raise
money for him. You must refuse that. Keep the ranch in your own name.
You have just seen how much trouble has been caused by Ricketts getting
his claws on the place. Your father has got, or will get, something
between ten and twelve thousand dollars from the proceeds of the sale.
Will you put that money into your daughter's hands, Mr. Armstrong?"

"I suppose I'll have to if you say so," rather grudgingly conceded the
rancher.

"Yes; I say so, because she is a good business woman. Now, Miss
Armstrong, you own the ranch, and with this money at your disposal, you
should be able to prove conclusively whether there is profitable ore in
that mine. When you are ready to demonstrate that fact, write to me, and
I'll get together the capital you need for the energetic development of
the mine. And now I must be off. Will you bid good-bye for me to my
friends, the bunk house men?"

"Certainly; where shall I write to you when there is news of the mine to
send?"

"Mr. Banks of New York always has my address."

The girl held forward her hand.

"Good-bye to you, Lord Stranleigh of Wychwood," she said.

For the first time in his life, his lordship neglected to take the
proffered hand of a lady.

"Are you making a guess, or stating a certainty, Miss Armstrong?"

"I guess it's a certainty. I saw in a New York paper that Earl
Stranleigh of Wychwood was coming into this district to shoot. Then from
Jim's ear I unbound a handkerchief with a crest and a monogram on it."

Stranleigh laughed, and took the hand still outstretched to him.


THE END.

WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED, LONDON.



Ward, Lock & Co.'s POPULAR FICTION


A. E. W. MASON

LAWRENCE CLAVERING.

A remarkably powerful and stirring historical romance, full of life and
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A Romance of the Thirty Years' War

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A brilliant tale of love and adventure. A true Phillpotts in every
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PRO PATRIA.

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LORD STRANLEIGH, PHILANTHROPIST.

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The last adventures of one of the breeziest and most notable characters
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One of the best stories Justus Miles Forman has written since "The
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FALSE EVIDENCE.

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THE BETRAYAL.

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THE GREAT AWAKENING.

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EXPIATION.

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THE OPEN DOOR.

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that it is the best."

THE LAW OF THE LAND.

DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"Mr. White's new novel may be strongly recommended. It
contains enough surprises to whip the interest at every turn."

THE MYSTERY OF THE RAVENSPURS.

MODERN SOCIETY.--"As the plot is unfolded the reader becomes more and
more fascinated, the interest being powerfully held until the close."

THE SECRET OF THE SANDS.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"Mr. Fred M. White has written a story full of dramatic
surprises. Mr. White is a master of sensations, and his introduction of
the incident of the Italian Vendetta gives point to a good tale."

THE GOLDEN ROSE.

IRISH INDEPENDENT.--"This latest book possesses all those
characteristics which go to make Mr. White's novels so readable and so
popular."


PAUL TRENT

THE FOUNDLING.

DAILY GRAPHIC.--"The character of Strand is an excellent study, cleverly
and strongly drawn, and the book is a very interesting and readable
work."

THE SECOND CHANCE.

Mr. Paul Trent's stories, "The Vow" and "The Foundling," were powerful
tales with a motive. "The Second Chance," as its title indicates, is of
the same school.


LOUIS TRACY

SYLVIA'S CHAUFFEUR.

MORNING LEADER.--"'Sylvia's Chauffeur' is as pleasant a piece of light
reading as any one could desire."

RAINBOW ISLAND.

THE LITERARY WORLD.--"Those who delight in tales of adventure should
hail 'Rainbow Island' with joyous shouts of welcome. Rarely have we met
with more satisfying fare of this description than in its pages."

THE ALBERT GATE AFFAIR.

THE BIRMINGHAM POST.--"Will worthily rank with 'The Fatal Legacy' and
'Rainbow Island,' both books full of wholesome excitement."

THE PILLAR OF LIGHT.

THE EVENING STANDARD.--"So admirable, so living, so breathlessly
exciting a book. The magnificent realism of the lighthouse and its
perils are worthy of praise from the most jaded reader."

A SON OF THE IMMORTALS.

THE MORNING POST.--"Mr. Tracy's new book 'A Son of the Immortals' is of
a highly sensational character, and adventures and stirring situations
follow closely upon one another's heels all through it."

MIRABEL'S ISLAND.

A delightfully exciting and fascinating romance of love and adventure,
comparable to its author's famous success, "Rainbow Island."

NO OTHER WAY.

FINANCIAL TIMES.--"Mr. Tracy's latest novel provides an absorbing
narrative which is not likely to be cast aside prematurely."


HEADON HILL

THE COTTAGE IN THE CHINE.

Will make a strong appeal to lovers of sensational fiction; every page
has its incident or adventure, and the most exacting reader will not
find a dull moment until the last page is turned.

MY LORD THE FELON.

THE BOOKSELLER.--"Every page of this book has its incident or adventure,
while the reader's interest is kept up to the last chapter."

THE CRIMSON HONEYMOON.

"The Crimson Honeymoon" is a really fascinating sensation story, well
written and cleverly put together.


HAROLD BINDLOSS

THE TRUSTEE.

Another powerful and well-written story of hardihood, love and adventure
in Canada. The clean, fresh atmosphere which pervades it is distinctly
exhilarating.

PUNCH.--"Mr. Bindloss is an author who can deftly use sensationalism to
his purpose without forcing it for mere effect, and who can also depict
the character of a strong man as honest as determined in love with a
sweet woman. He tells a story with rare skill."

THE PIONEER.

THE BOOKMAN.--"Altogether a fresh, stimulating, wholesome story, and one
which should only be banned by parents who do not wish their fledglings
to succumb to the fascinating lure of the wilds."

ACADEMY.--"His novels are terse, powerful, yet graceful, showing
intimate knowledge and acute observation, never overweighted with
description, yet containing many delightful pictures."

THE PROTECTOR.

MORNING POST.--"Mr. Bindloss is always a sure find for a good story, and
in this one he has, if possible, excelled himself."

THE LIBERATIONIST

MORNING LEADER.--"This is the author's best novel, and is one which no
lover of healthy excitement ought to miss."

HAWTREY'S DEPUTY.

THE WESTERN DAILY MERCURY.--"The whole story is told with the most
spontaneous verve, and is tinged with a delightful element of romance."

THE IMPOSTOR.

THE QUEEN.--"Mr. Bindloss writes books which are always good to read.
His writing is uniformly good, and his books are always sane, intensely
interesting, and dealing with subjects that cannot fail to concern a
wide public."

THE WASTREL.

THE TIMES.--"Mr. Bindloss's books are unchangeably true to type; and in
the distracting medley of modern fiction they calm and regulate the
mind."


J. C. SNAITH

MISTRESS DOROTHY MARVIN.

THE NOTTINGHAM GUARDIAN.--"Mr. Snaith stirs the blood, from the first
page to the last, and all the characters live, move, and have their
being."

LADY BARBARITY.

BLACK AND WHITE says:--"'Lady Barbarity' would cheer a pessimist in a
November fog. It is so gay, so good humoured, so full of the influence
of youth and beauty."


GUY BOOTHBY

THE RACE OF LIFE.

THE ENGLISH REVIEW.--"Ahead even of Mr. Cutcliffe Hyne and Conan Doyle,
Mr. Boothby may be said to have topped popularity's pole."

THE CRIME OF THE UNDER SEAS.

THE SPEAKER.--"Is quite the equal in art, observation, and dramatic
intensity to any of Mr. Guy Boothby's numerous other romances."

A BID FOR FREEDOM.

THE SHEFFIELD TELEGRAPH.--"A fully written romance, which bristles with
thrilling passages, exciting adventures, and hairbreadth escapes."

A TWO-FOLD INHERITANCE.

PUNCH.--"Just the very book that a hard-working man should read for
genuine relaxation."

CONNIE BURT.

THE BIRMINGHAM GAZETTE.--"One of the best stories we have seen of Mr.
Boothby's."

THE KIDNAPPED PRESIDENT.

PUBLIC OPINION.--"Brighter, crisper, and more entertaining than any of
its predecessors from the same pen."

MY STRANGEST CASE.

THE YORKSHIRE POST.--"No work of Mr. Boothby's seems to us to have
approached in skill his new story."

FAREWELL, NIKOLA.

THE DUNDEE ADVERTISER.--"Guy Boothby's famous creation of Dr. Nikola has
become familiar to every reader of fiction."

MY INDIAN QUEEN.

THE SUNDAY SPECIAL.--"A vivid story of adventure and daring, bearing all
the characteristics of careful workmanship."

LONG LIVE THE KING.

THE ABERDEEN FREE PRESS.--"It is marvellous that Mr. Boothby's novels
should all be so uniformly good."

A PRINCE OF SWINDLERS.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"Of absorbing interest. The exploits are described in an
enthralling vein."

A MAKER OF NATIONS.

THE SPECTATOR.--"'A Maker of Nations' enables us to understand Mr.
Boothby's vogue. It has no lack of movement or incident."

THE RED RAT'S DAUGHTER.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"Mr. Guy Boothby's name on the title-page of a
novel carries with it the assurance of a good story to follow."

LOVE MADE MANIFEST.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"One of those tales of exciting adventure in the
confection of which Mr. Boothby is not excelled by any novelist of the
day."

PHAROS THE EGYPTIAN.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"This powerful novel is weird and soul-thrilling. There
never was in this world so strange and wonderful a love story."

ACROSS THE WORLD FOR A WIFE.

THE BRITISH WEEKLY.--"This stirring tale ranks next to 'Dr. Nikola' in
the list of Mr. Boothby's novels."

THE LUST OF HATE.

THE DAILY GRAPHIC.--"Whoever wants dramatic interest let him read 'The
Lust of Hate.'"

THE FASCINATION OF THE KING.

THE BRISTOL MERCURY.--"Unquestionably the best work we have yet seen
from the pen of Mr. Guy Boothby."

DR. NIKOLA.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"One hairbreadth escape succeeds another with rapidity
that scarce leaves the reader breathing space."

THE BEAUTIFUL WHITE DEVIL.

THE YORKSHIRE POST.--"A more exciting romance no man could reasonably
ask for."

A BID FOR FORTUNE.

THE MANCHESTER COURIER.--"It is impossible to give any idea of the verve
with which the story is told. The most original novel of the year."

IN STRANGE COMPANY.

THE WORLD.--"A capital novel. It has the quality of life and stir, and
will carry the reader with curiosity unabated to the end."

THE MARRIAGE OF ESTHER.

THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN.--"There is a vigour and a power of illusion
about it that raises it quite above the level of the ordinary novel of
adventure."

BUSHIGRAMS.

THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN.--"Intensely interesting. Forces from us, by its
powerful artistic realism, those choky sensations which it should be the
aim of the human writer to elicit, whether in comedy or tragedy."

SHEILAH MCLEOD.

MR. W. L. ALDEN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES.--"Mr. Boothby can crowd more
adventure into a square foot of canvas than any other novelist."

DR. NIKOLA'S EXPERIMENT.

Illustrated by Sidney Cowell.

THE MAN OF THE CRAG.


ARTHUR W. MARCHMONT

IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE.

NORTH DEVON JOURNAL.--"A novel of absorbing interest. The plot is
developed very cleverly, and there is a delightful love theme."

IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"A well-sustained and thrilling narrative."

THE LITTLE ANARCHIST.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"A romance brimful of incident and arousing in the reader
a healthy interest that carries him along with never a pause."

AN IMPERIAL MARRIAGE.

SCOTSMAN.--"The action never flags, the romantic element is always
paramount, so that the production is bound to appeal successfully to all
lovers of spirited fiction."


BERTRAM MITFORD

SELMIN OF SELMINGFOLD.

FINANCIAL TIMES.--"A combination of sentiment and love interest with the
more practical and serious side of life unite to make this novel of a
singularly interesting nature, and we are confident that it will meet
with great popularity."

THE RIVER OF UNREST.

SCOTSMAN.--"Mr. Mitford brings forward with excellent effect his
knowledge of nature, customs and tradition. The product is a tale rich
in incident and character, set against an effective background of
savagery and mystery."

A DUAL RESURRECTION.

READING STANDARD.--"The novel reader who loves a really good novel full
of desperate adventure will never be disappointed when Mr. Mitford's
books are in question. This is a strong and clever piece of work, the
plot is ingenious and the characterization uncommonly well done."

SEAFORD'S SNAKE.

MADAME.--"If you like well-written stories of adventure you should get
Mr. Mitford's latest novel. The characters are well portrayed, the story
written in a brisk, virile style that proves very attractive."

HEATH HOVER MYSTERY.

TIMES.--"A capital mystery and detective story, with some exciting
scenes in India."


JOSEPH HOCKING

THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD.

THE FINANCIAL TIMES.--"A strong knowledge of human nature, for which Mr.
Hocking is famous, is well portrayed in the pages of this novel, and
this, in conjunction with the interesting nature of the plot, renders it
particularly successful. The book will be appreciated by novel readers."

ROGER TREWINION.

T P'S WEEKLY.--"It is a foregone conclusion that Mr. Hocking will always
have a good story to tell. 'Roger Trewinion' can stand forth with the
best, a strong love interest, plenty of adventure, an atmosphere of
superstition, and Cornwall as the scene."

THE COMING OF THE KING.

THE GLASGOW HERALD.--"Mr. Hocking's imagination is fertile, and his
skill in the arrangement of incident far above the average, and there is
an air of reality in all his writing which is peculiarly charming."

ESAU.

THE OUTLOOK.--"Remarkable for the dramatic power with which the scenes
are drawn and the intense human interest which Mr. Hocking has woven
about his characters. 'Esau' is sure to be one of the novels of the
season."

GREATER LOVE.

THE NEWCASTLE CHRONICLE.--"Though of a totally different character from
'Lest We Forget,' Mr. Hocking's latest story is entitled to take rank
along with that fine romance."

LEST WE FORGET.

PUBLIC OPINION.--"His story is quite as good as any we have read of the
Stanley Weyman's school, and presents an excellent picture of the
exciting times of Gardiner and Bonner."

AND SHALL TRELAWNEY DIE?

THE WEEKLY SUN.--"An engaging and fascinating romance. The reader puts
the story down with a sigh, and wishes there were more of these breezy
Cornish uplands, for Mr. Joseph Hocking's easy style of narrative does
not soon tire."

JABEZ EASTERBROOK.

THE ROCK.--"Real strength is shown in the sketches, of which that of
Brother Bowman is most prominent. In its way it is delightful."

THE WEAPONS OF MYSTERY.

"Weapons of Mystery" is a singularly powerful story of occult influences
and of their exertion for evil purposes.

ZILLAH: A ROMANCE.

THE SPECTATOR.--"The drawing of some of the characters indicates the
possession by Mr. Hocking of a considerable gift of humour. The contents
of his book indicate that he takes a genuine interest in the deeper
problems of the day."

THE MONK OF MAR-SABA.

THE STAR.--"Great power and thrilling interest.... The scenery of the
Holy Land has rarely been so vividly described as in this charming book
of Mr. Hocking's."

THE PURPLE ROBE.

THE QUEEN.--"It is exceedingly clever, and excites the reader's interest
and brings out the powerful nature of the clever young minister. This
most engrossing book challenges comparison with the brilliance of
Lothair."

THE SCARLET WOMAN.

THE METHODIST RECORDER.--"This is Mr. Hocking's strongest and best book.
We advise every one to read it. The plot is simple, compact and
strenuous; the writing powerful."

ALL MEN ARE LIARS.

THE CHRISTIAN WORLD.--"This is a notable book. Thoughtful people will be
fascinated by its actuality, its fearlessness, and the insight it gives
into the influence of modern thought and literature upon the minds and
morals of our most promising manhood."

ISHMAEL PENGELLY: AN OUTCAST.

THE ATHENÆUM.--"The book is to be recommended for the dramatic
effectiveness of some of the scenes. The wild, half-mad woman is always
picturesque wherever she appears, and the rare self-repression of her
son is admirably done."

THE STORY OF ANDREW FAIRFAX.

THE MANCHESTER EXAMINER.--"Rustic scenes and characters are drawn with
free, broad touches, without Mr. Buchanan's artificiality, and, if we
may venture to say it, with more realism than Mr. Hardy's country
pictures."

THE BIRTHRIGHT.

THE SPECTATOR.--"'The Birthright' is, in its way, quite as well
constructed, as well written, and as full of incident as any story that
has come from the pen of Sir Conan Doyle or Mr. Stanley Weyman."

MISTRESS NANCY MOLESWORTH.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"'Mistress Nancy Molesworth' is as charming a story of
the kind as could be wished, and it excels in literary workmanship as
well as in imaginative vigour and daring invention."

FIELDS OF FAIR RENOWN.

THE DUNDEE ADVERTISER.--"Mr. Hocking has produced a work which his
readers of all classes will appreciate.... There are exhibited some of
the most beautiful aspects of disposition."

GOD AND MAMMON.

THE LITERARY WORLD.--"The hero of Mr. Hocking's latest novel is a clever
young country lawyer. The story is vigorously told, his struggles, his
success and his love affairs are vividly described, while a strong
religious tone pervades the book."


MARIE CONNOR LEIGHTON

HER CONVICT HUSBAND.

Although Mrs. Leighton's work is often spoken of as "melodramatic," it
is of the kind that one enthuses over by reason of its emotional
interest and unusual realism.

HER MARRIAGE LINES.

Can be safely recommended to those who like their fiction hot and strong
and full of sensation of the more robust sort. Marie Connor Leighton has
proved herself one of our cleanest and most prolific weavers of
sensational novels, and "Her Marriage Lines" shows no diminution of her
inventive faculties.

DUCKS AND DRAKES.

A tale comparable to "Convict 99" in its actuality and holding interest.

THE MISSING MISS RANDOLPH.

Marie C. Leighton has done full justice to her reputation as a writer of
highly sensational and dramatic fiction.

THE TRIANGLE.

THE COMMENTATOR.--"Altogether a most powerful and well-written novel;
and one likely to maintain a permanently conspicuous position upon every
library list."


EDGAR WALLACE.

GREY TIMOTHY.

DAILY NEWS AND LEADER.--"Mr. Wallace has written one of the most
exciting and sensational stories we have read for some time."

SANDERS OF THE RIVER.

THE SPORTSMAN.--"Mr. Wallace is an artist. He lifts us out of ourselves
into another world, and makes it not less real than the one we are in
daily contact with."

THE PEOPLE OF THE RIVER.

THE GENTLEMAN'S JOURNAL.--"There is masculine virility in every line,
and from first to last our attention is closely gripped; a grand book,
unaffected and sincere."

PRIVATE SELBY.

THE SCOTSMAN.--"The story is always attractive by the cleverness with
which it keeps fantastic history persuasive, and it goes so quickly that
it is over before one realizes that it is unreal."

THE RIVER OF STARS.

Another of Mr. Edgar Wallace's strenuous tales of crime and adventure.


CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS'

NATURE BOOKS.

"Picturesque, full of character, instructive, entertaining, often
thrilling--the stories are sure to be received with the same pleasure as
their predecessors have been by both the naturalist and the lover of
good literature."--ILLUSTRATED SPORTING AND DRAMATIC NEWS.

"Under the guidance of Mr. Roberts we have often adventured among the
wild beasts of the land and sea, and we hope to do so many times in the
future. It is an education not to be missed by those who have the
chance, and the chance is every one's."--THE ATHENÆUM.


 THE HOUSE IN THE WATER.
 MORE KINDRED OF THE WILD.
 THE BACKWOODSMEN.
 KINGS IN EXILE.
 NEIGHBOURS UNKNOWN.
 THE FEET OF THE FURTIVE.


L. G. MOBERLY

FORTUNE'S FOUNDLING.

MORNING LEADER.--"Miss L. G. Moberly is, as our readers are aware, an
extremely skilful weaver of mysteries, and remarkably successful in
keeping up interest in them."

CHRISTINA.

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH.--"Mrs. L. G. Moberley's story runs very pleasantly
along familiar grooves. It is a pretty, simply-told tale, which will
delight this popular author's many readers."

HIS LITTLE GIRL.

THE DERBYSHIRE TIMES.--"It is charmingly written, a robust story, with a
well-defined plot through which runs a vein of mystery and romance."

VIOLET DUNSTAN.

A distinctly pleasing romance, full of incident and cleverly told, which
will delight this popular author's many readers.


EFFIE ADELAIDE ROWLANDS

IN LOVE'S LAND.

THE READING STANDARD.--"The many readers of Miss Rowlands' stories will
find her latest volume even more delightful than its predecessors. It is
a well-written romance, wholesome and pleasant to read, and decidedly
entertaining, for the interest is well sustained to the end."

THE ROSE OF LIFE.

A remarkably fine love story, cleverly developed, and fascinating
throughout.



      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters’ errors;
otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the
author’s words and intent.





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