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Title: In Her Own Right
Author: Scott, John Reed, 1869-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Her Own Right" ***

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



IN HER OWN RIGHT

by

JOHN REED SCOTT

Author of "The Last Try," "The Woman In Question," "The Princess
Dehra," Etc.

With Illustrations in Color By Clarence F. Underwood



[Illustration: "TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOURSELF," HE SAID
 _Page 328_]


A. L. Burt Company
Publishers
New York

Copyright, 1911
by John Reed Scott

Published May, 1911



  DEDICATED

  TO

  S. W. C



CONTENTS

  CHAPTER
       I.  Broken                               11
      II.  Good-bye                             23
     III.  Clarendon                            35
      IV.  Parmenter's Bequest                  51
       V.  Miss Carrington                      68
      VI.  Confidence and Scruples              88
     VII.  Greenberry Point                    104
    VIII.  Stolen                              120
      IX.  The Way Out                         135
       X.  Pirate's Gold Breeds Pirate's Ways  150
      XI.  Elaine Cavendish                    170
     XII.  One Learned in the Law              185
     XII.  I Could Tell Some Things            203
     XIV.  The Symphony in Blue                217
      XV.  An Old Ruse                         232
     XVI.  The Marabou Muff                    247
    XVII.  A Handkerchief and a Glove          264
   XVIII.  The Lone House by the Bay           281
     XIX.  Robert Parmenter's Successors       298
      XX.  The Check                           310
     XXI.  The Jewels                          321



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             Page

  "TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOURSELF," HE SAID            _Frontispiece_

  LEADING THE WRONG ONE, THROWING THE WRONG ONE,
     MATCHING PASTEBOARDS, THAT WAS ALL                        86

  HE WENT OUT ON THE EXTREME EDGE, FACED ABOUT,
     AND STEPPED TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY PACES                  112


IN HER OWN RIGHT



I

BROKEN


"The expected has happened, I see," said Macloud, laying aside the
paper he had been reading, and raising his hand for a servant.

"I thought it was the unexpected that happens," Hungerford drawled,
languidly. "What do you mean?"

"Royster & Axtell have been thrown into bankruptcy. Liabilities of
twenty million, assets problematical."

"You don't say!" ejaculated Hungerford, sitting up sharply. "Have they
caught any of our friends?"

"All who dealt with them, I reckon."

"Too bad! Too bad!--Well, they didn't catch me."

"Oh, no! you're not caught!" said Macloud. "Your father was wise enough
to put your estate into Government threes, with a trustee who had no
power to change the investment."

"And I'm thankful he did," Hungerford answered. "It saves me all
trouble; I need never look at the stock report, don't you know;
Government bonds are always the same.--I suppose it's a reflection on
my ability, but that is of small consequence. I don't care what people
think, so long as I have the income and no trouble. If I had control of
my capital, I might have lost all of it with Royster & Axtell, who
knows?"

Macloud shook his head.

"It isn't likely," he commented, "you wouldn't have had it to lose."

Hungerford's momentarily vague look suddenly became knowing.

"You mean I would have lost it long ago?" he asked. "Oh, I say, old
man, you're a bit hard on me. I may not have much head for business,
but I'm not altogether a fool, don't you know."

"Glad to know it," laughed Macloud, as he arose and sauntered away.

Hungerford drew out his cigarettes and thoughtfully lighted one.

"I wonder--did he mean I am or I am not?" he said. "I wonder. I shall
have to ask him some time.--Boy! a Scotch and soda."

Meanwhile, Macloud passed into the Club-house and, mounting the stairs
to the second floor, knocked sharply at a door in the north-west corner
of the corridor.

"Come in," called a voice.--"Who is it?--Oh! it's you, Macloud. Make
yourself at home--I'll be out in a moment."

There was the noise of splashing water, accompanied by sundry
exclamations and snorts, followed by a period of silence; and, then,
from the bath room, emerged Croyden clad in robe, slippers and a
smile.

"Help yourself," he said, pointing to the smoking materials. He filled
a pipe, lit it carefully, blew a few whiffs to the ceiling and watched
them slowly dissipate.

"Well, it's come," he remarked: "Royster & Axtell have smashed clean."

"Not clean," said Macloud. "It is going to be the most criminal failure
this town has ever known."

"I mean they have busted wide open--and I'm one of the suckers."

"You are going to have plenty of company, among your friends," Macloud
answered.

"I suppose so--but I hope none of them is hit quite so bad." He blew
another cloud of smoke and watched it fade. "The truth is, Colin, I'm
done for."

"What!" exclaimed Macloud. "You don't mean you are cleaned out?"

The other nodded. "That's about it.... I've a few thousand left--enough
to pay laundry bills, and to board on Hash Alley for a few months a
year. Oh! I was a sucker, all right!--I was so easy it makes me ashamed
to have saved _anything_ from the wreck. I've a notion to go and offer
it to them, now."

There were both bitterness and relief in his tones; bitterness over
the loss, relief that the worst, at last, had happened.

For a while, there was silence. Croyden turned away and began to dress;
Macloud sat looking out on the lawn in front, where a foursome were
playing the home hole, and another waiting until they got off the
green.

Presently, the latter spoke.

"How did it happen, old man?" he asked--"that is, if you care to
tell."

Croyden laughed shortly. "It isn't pleasant to relate how one has been
such an addle-pated ass----"

"Then, forgive me.--I didn't mean to----"

"Nonsense! I understand--moreover, it will ease my mortification to
confide in one who won't attempt to sympathize. I don't care for
sympathy, I don't deserve it, and what's more, I won't have it."

"Don't let that worry you," Macloud answered. "You won't be oppressed
by any rush of sympathy. No one is who gets pinched in the stock
market. We all go in, and--sooner or later, generally sooner--we all
get burnt--and we all think every one but ourselves got only what was
due him. No, my boy, there is no sympathy running loose for the lamb
who has been shorn. And you don't need to expect it from your friends
of the Heights. They believe only in success. The moment you're
fleeced, they fling you aside. They fatten off the carcasses of
others--yours and mine and their own brothers. Friendship does not
enter into the game. They will eat your bread and salt to-night, and
dance on your financial corpse to-morrow. The only respect they have is
for money, and clothes, and show; and the more money, and the more show
the greater their deference--while they last--and the farther the fall
when they fail. The women are as bad as the men, in a smaller way. They
will blacken one another's reputation with an ease and zest that is
simply appalling, and laugh in your face while doing it. I'm speaking
generally, there are exceptions, of course, but they only prove the
rule. Yet, what can you expect, where aristocracy is based on one's
bank account, and the ability to keep the other fellows from laying
violent hands on it. It reminds one of the Robbers of the Rhine! Steal
everything within reach and give up nothing. Oh! it is a fine system of
living!--Your pardon! I forgot myself."

"It is good to have you forget yourself occasionally," said
Croyden--"especially, when your views chime with mine--recently
acquired, I admit. I began to see it about a month ago, when I slowed
down on expenditures. I thought I could notice an answering chill in
the grill-room."

"Like enough. You must spend to get on. They have no use for one who
doesn't. You have committed the unpardonable sin: had a fortune and
lost it. And they never forgive--unless you make another fortune; then
they will welcome you back, and lay plans to take it, also."

"You paint a pretty picture!" Croyden laughed.

Macloud shrugged his shoulders.

"Tell me of Royster & Axtell," he said.

"There isn't a great deal to tell," Croyden replied, coming around from
the dressing table, and drawing on his vest as he came. "It is five
years since my father died and left me sole heir to his estate. In
round numbers, it aggregated half a million dollars--all in stocks and
bonds, except a little place down on the Eastern Shore which he took,
some years before he died, in payment of a debt due him. Since my
mother's demise my father had led the life of quiet and retirement in a
small city. I went through college, was given a year abroad, took the
law course at Harvard, and settled down to the business of getting a
practice. Then the pater died, suddenly. Five hundred thousand was a
lot of money in that town. Too much to settle there, I thought. I
abandoned the law, and came to Northumberland. The governor had been a
non-resident member of the Northumberland Club, which made it easy for
me to join. I soon found, however, that what had seemed ample wealth in
the old town, did not much more than make ends meet, here--provided I
kept up my end. I was about the poorest one in the set I affected, so,
naturally, I went into the stock market. Royster was the particular
broker of the gang and the first year I did very well.--You think it
was intended?" (As Macloud smiled.) "Well, I don't doubt now you're
right. The next year I began to lose. Then Royster put me into that
Company of his down in Virginia--the Virginia Improvement Company, you
know. He took me down, in a special car, showed me how much he himself
had in it, how much would be got out of it, offered to let me in on the
ground floor, and made it look so rosy, withal, that I succumbed. Two
hundred thousand was buried there. An equal amount I had lent them, at
six per cent., shortly after I came to Northumberland--selling the
securities that yielded only four per cent. to do it. That accounts for
four hundred thousand--gone up the flume. Eighty thousand I lost in
stocks. The remainder, about twenty thousand, I still have. By some
error I can't account for, they did not get away with it, too.--Such is
the tale of a foolish man," he ended.

"Will you make any effort to have Royster prosecuted?" Macloud asked.

"No--I've been pretty much of a baby, but I'm not going to cry over
milk that's spilt."

"It's not all spilt--some of it will be recovered."

"My dear Macloud, there won't be enough money recovered to buy me
cigarettes for one evening. Royster has hypothecated and rehypothecated
securities until no man can trace his own, even if it would help him
to do so. You said it would _likely_ prove a disgraceful failure. I am
absolutely sure of it."

Macloud beat a tattoo on the window-ledge.

"What do you think of doing?" he said--"or haven't you got to it,
yet--or don't you care to tell?"

"I've got to it," replied Croyden; "and I don't care to tell--anyone
but you, Colin. I can't stay here----"

"Not on twelve hundred a year, certainly--unless you spend the little
principal you have left, and, then, drop off for good."

"Which would be playing the baby act, sure enough."

Macloud nodded.

"It would," he said; "but, sometimes, men don't look at it that way.
They cannot face the loss of caste. They prefer to drop overboard by
_accident_."

"There isn't going to be any dropping overboard by accident in mine,"
replied Croyden. "What I've decided to do is this: I shall disappear. I
have no debts, thank God! so no one will care to take the trouble to
search for me. I shall go down to Hampton, to the little property that
was left me on the Eastern Shore, there to mark time, either until I
can endure it, or until I can pick out some other abode. I've a bunch
of expensive habits to get rid of quickly, and the best place for
that, it seems to me, is a small town where they are impossible, as
well as unnecessary."

"Ever lived in a small town?" Macloud inquired.

"None smaller than my old home. I suppose it will be very stupid, after
the life here, but beggars can't be choosers."

"I'm not so sure it will be very stupid," said Macloud. "It depends on
how much you liked this froth and try, we have here. The want to and
can't--the aping the ways and manners of those who have had wealth for
generations, and are well-born, beside. Look at them!" with a fling of
his arm, that embraced the Club-house and its environs.--"One
generation old in wealth, one generation old in family, and about six
months old, some of them scarcely that, in breeding. There are a few
families which belong by right of birth--and, thank God! they show it.
But they are shouldered aside by the others, and don't make much of a
show. The climbers hate them, but are too much awed by their lineage to
crowd them out, entirely. A nice lot of aristocrats! The majority of
them are puddlers of the iron mills, and the peasants of Europe, come
over so recently the soil is still clinging to their clothes. Down on
the Eastern Shore you will find it very different. They ask one, who
you _are_, never how much money you have. Their aristocracy is one of
birth and culture. You may be reduced to manual labor for a livelihood,
but you belong just the same. You have had a sample of the
money-changers and their heartless methods--and it has left a bitter
taste in your mouth. I think you will welcome the change. It will be a
new life, and, in a measure, a quiet life, but there are compensations
to one to whom life holds more than garish living and ostentatious
show."

"You know the people of the Eastern Shore?" asked Croyden.

"No!--but I know the people of the Western Shore, and they come from
the same stock--and it's good stock, mighty good stock! Moreover, you
are not burying yourself so deep--Baltimore is just across the Bay, and
Philadelphia and New York are but a few hours distant--less distant
than this place is, indeed."

"I looked up the time-tables!" laughed Croyden. "My present knowledge
of Hampton is limited to the means and methods of getting away."

"And getting to it," appended Macloud. "When do you go?"

"To-morrow night."

"Hum--rather sudden, isn't it?"

"I've seen it coming for a month, so I've had time to pay my small
accounts, arrange my few affairs, and be prepared to flit on a moment's
notice. I should have gone a week ago, but I indulged myself with a few
more days of the old life. Now, I'm off to-morrow night."

"Shall you go direct to Hampton?"

"Direct to Hampton, via New York," said Croyden. "There probably won't
anyone care enough even to inquire for me, but I'm not taking the
chance."

Macloud watched him with careful scrutiny. Was it serious or was it
assumed? Had this seemingly sudden resolve only the failure of Royster
& Axtell behind it, or was there a woman there, as well? Was Elaine
Cavendish the real reason? There could be no doubt of Croyden's
devotion to her--and her more than passing regard for him. Was it
because he could not, or because he would not--or both? Croyden was
practically penniless--she was an only child, rich in her own right,
and more than rich in prospect----

"Will you dine with me, this evening?" asked Macloud.

"Sorry, old man, but I'm due at the Cavendishes'--just a pick-up by
telephone. I shall see you, again, shan't I?"

"I reckon so," was the answer. "I'm down here for the night. Have
breakfast with me in the morning--if I'm not too early a bird, at eight
o'clock."

"Good! for two on the side piazza!" exclaimed Croyden.

"I'll speak to François," said Macloud, arising. "So long."

Croyden slowly straightened his tie and drew on his coat.

"Macloud is a square chap," he reflected. "I've had a lot of so-called
friends, here, but he is the only one who still rings true. I may
imagine it, but I'm sure the rest are beginning to shy off. Well, I
shan't bother them much longer--they can prepare for a new victim."

He picked up his hat and went downstairs, making his way out by the
front entrance, so as to miss the crowd in the grill-room. He did not
want the trouble of speaking or of being spoken to. He saw Macloud, as
he passed--out on the piazza beyond the porte-cochere, and he waved his
hand to him. Then he signalled the car, that had been sent from
Cavencliffe for him, and drove off to the Cavendishes.



II

GOOD-BYE


The Cavendishes were of those who (to quote Macloud's words) "did
belong and, thank God, showed it." Henry Cavendish had married
Josephine Marquand in the days before there were any idle-rich in
Northumberland, and when the only leisure class were in jail. Now, when
the idea, that it was respectable not to work, was in the ascendency,
he still went to his office with unfailing regularity--and the fact
that the Tuscarora Trust Company paid sixty per cent. on its capital
stock, and sold in the market (when you could get it) at three thousand
dollars a share, was due to his ability and shrewd financiering as
president. It was because he refused to give up the active management
even temporarily, that they had built their summer home on the Heights,
where there was plenty of pure air, unmixed with the smoke of the mills
and trains, and with the Club near enough to give them its life and
gayety when they wished.

The original Cavendish and the original Marquand had come to
Northumberland, as officers, with Colonel Harmer and his detachment of
Regulars, at the close of the Revolution, had seen the possibilities of
the place, and, after a time, had resigned and settled down to
business. Having brought means with them from Philadelphia, they
quickly accumulated more, buying up vast tracts of Depreciation lands
and numerous In-lots and Out-lots in the original plan of the town.
These had never been sold, and hence it was, that, by the natural rise
in value from a straggling forest to a great and thriving city, the
Cavendish and the Marquand estates were enormously valuable. And hence,
also, the fact that Elaine Cavendish's grandparents, on both sides of
the house, were able to leave her a goodly fortune, absolutely, and yet
not disturb the natural descent of the bulk of their possessions.

Having had wealth for generations, the Cavendishes were as natural and
unaffected in their use of it, as the majority of their neighbors were
tawdry and flashy. They did things because they wanted to do them, not
because someone else did them. And they did not do things that others
did, and never thought what the others might think.

Because an iron-magnate, with only dollars for ballast, had fifteen
bath pools of Sienna marble in his flaunting, gaudy "chateau," and was
immediately aped by the rest of the rattle-brained, moved the
Cavendishes not at all. Because the same bounder gave a bathing-suit
party (with the ocean one hundred and fifty miles away), at which
prizes were bestowed on the man and woman who dared wear the least
clothes, while the others of the _nouveaux riches_ applauded and
marvelled at his audacity and originality, simply made the Cavendishes
stay away. Because another mushroom millionaire bought books for his
library by the foot, had gold mangers and silver stalls for his horses,
and adorned himself with diamonds like an Indian Rajah, were no
incentives to the Cavendishes to do likewise. They pursued the even
tenor of the well-bred way.

Cavencliffe was a great, roomy country-house, in the Colonial style,
furnished in chintz and cretonnes, light and airy, with wicker
furniture and bird's-eye maple throughout, save in the dining-room,
where there was the slenderest of old Hepplewhite. Wide piazzas flanked
the house on every side, screened and awninged from the sun and wind
and rain. A winding driveway between privet hedges, led up from the
main road half a mile away, through a maze of giant forest trees amid
which the place was set.

Croyden watched it, thoughtfully, as the car spun up the avenue. He saw
the group on the piazza, the waiting man-servant, the fling upward of a
hand in greeting by a white robed figure. And he sighed.

"My last welcome to Cavencliffe!" he muttered. "It's a bully place, and
a bully girl--and, I think, I had a chance, if I hadn't been such a
fool."

Elaine Cavendish came forward a little way to greet him. And Croyden
sighed, again, as--with the grace he had learned as a child from his
South Carolina mother, he bent for an instant over her hand. He had
never known how handsome she was, until this visit--and he had come to
say good-bye!

"You were good to come," she said.

"It was good of you to ask me," he replied.

The words were trite, but there was a note of intenseness in his tones
that made her look sharply at him--then, away, as a trace of color came
faintly to her cheek.

"You know the others," she said, perfunctorily.

And Croyden smiled in answer, and greeted the rest of the guests.

There were but six of them: Mrs. Chichester, a young matron, of less
than thirty, whose husband was down in Panama explaining some contract
to the Government Engineers; Nancy Wellesly, a rather petite blonde,
who was beginning to care for her complexion and other people's
reputations, but was a square girl, just the same; and Charlotte
Brundage, a pink and white beauty, but the crack tennis and golf player
of her sex at the Club and a thorough good sport, besides.

The men were: Harold Hungerford, who was harmlessly negative and
inoffensively polite; Roderick Colloden, who, after Macloud, was the
most popular man in the set, a tall, red haired chap, who always seemed
genuinely glad to meet anyone in any place, and whose handshake gave
emphasis to it. He had not a particularly good memory for faces, and
the story is still current in the Club of how, when he had been
presented to a newcomer four times in one week, and had always told him
how glad he was to meet him, the man lost patience and blurted out,
that he was damn glad to know it, but, if Colloden would recognize him
the next time they met, he would be more apt to believe it. The
remaining member of the party was Montecute Mattison. He was a small
man, with peevishly pinched features, that wore an incipient smirk when
in repose, and a hyena snarl when in action. He had no friends and no
intimates. He was the sort who played dirty golf in a match:
deliberately moving on the green, casting his shadow across the hole,
talking when his opponent was about to drive, and anything else to
disconcert. In fact, he was a dirty player in any game--because it was
natural. He would not have been tolerated a moment, even at the
Heights, if he had not been Warwick Mattison's son, and the heir to his
millions. He never made an honest dollar in his life, and could not, if
he tried, but he was Assistant-Treasurer of his father's company, did
an hour's work every day signing the checks, and drew fifteen thousand
a year for it. A man's constant inclination was to smash him in the
face--and the only reason he escaped was because it would have been
like beating a child. One man had, when Mattison was more than
ordinarily offensive, laid him across his knee, and, in full sight of
the Club-house, administered a good old-fashioned spanking with a golf
club. Him Montecute thereafter let alone. The others did not take the
trouble, however. They simply shrugged their shoulders, and swore at
him freely and to his face.

At present, he was playing the devoted to Miss Brundage and hence his
inclusion in the party. She cared nothing for him, but his money was a
thing to be considered--having very little of her own--and she was
doing her best to overcome her repugnance sufficiently to place him
among the eligibles.

Mattison got through the dinner without any exhibition of ill nature,
but, when the women retired, it came promptly to the fore.

The talk had turned on the subject of the Club Horse Show. It was
scheduled for the following month, and was quite the event of the
Autumn, in both a social and an equine sense. The women showed their
gowns and hosiery, the men their horses and equipment, and how
appropriately they could rig themselves out--while the general herd
stood around the ring gaping and envious.

Presently, there came a momentary lull in the conversation and Mattison
remarked:

"I see Royster & Axtell went up to-day. I reckon," with an insinuating
laugh, "there will be some entries withdrawn."

"Men or horses?" asked Hungerford.

"Both--and men who haven't horses, as well," with a sneering glance at
Croyden.

"Why, bless me! he's looking at you, Geoffrey!" Hungerford exclaimed.

"I am not responsible for the direction of Mr. Mattison's eyes,"
Croyden answered with assumed good nature.

Mattison smiled, maliciously.

"Is it so bad as that?" he queried. "I knew, of course, you were hit,
but I hoped it was only for a small amount."

"Shut up, Mattison!" exclaimed Colloden. "If you haven't any
appreciation of propriety, you can at least keep quiet."

"Oh, I don't know----"

"Don't you?" said Colloden, quietly, reaching across and grasping him
by the collar. "Think again,--_and think quickly_!"

A sickly grin, half of surprise and half of anger, overspread
Mattison's face.

"Can't you take a little pleasantry?" he asked.

"We don't like your pleasantries any more than we like you, and that is
not at all. Take my advice and mend your tongue." He shook him, much as
a terrier does a rat, and jammed him back into his chair. "Now, either
be good or go home," he admonished.

Mattison was weak with anger--so angry, indeed, that he was helpless
either to stir or to make a sound. The others ignored him--and, when he
was a little recovered, he got up and went slowly from the room.

"It wasn't a particularly well bred thing to do," observed Colloden,
"but just the same it was mighty pleasant. If it were not for the law,
I'd have broken his neck."

"He isn't worth the exertion, Roderick," Croyden remarked. "But I'm
obliged, old man. I enjoyed it."

When they rejoined the ladies on the piazza, a little later, Mattison
had gone.

After a while, the others went off in their motors, leaving Croyden
alone with Miss Cavendish. Hungerford had offered to drop him at the
Club, but he had declined. He would enjoy himself a little
longer--would give himself the satisfaction of another hour with her,
before he passed into outer darkness.

He had gone along in his easy, bachelor way, without a serious thought
for any woman, until six months ago. Then, Elaine Cavendish came home,
after three years spent in out-of-the-way corners of the globe, and,
straightway, bound him to her chariot wheels.

At least, so the women said--who make it their particular business to
observe--and they never make mistakes. They can tell when one is
preparing to fall in love, long before he knows himself. Indeed, there
have been many men drawn into matrimony, against their own express
inclination, merely by the accumulation of initiative engendered by
impertinent meddlers. They want none of it, they even fight desperately
against it, but, in the end, they succumb.

And Geoffrey Croyden would have eventually succumbed, of his own
desires, however, had Elaine Cavendish been less wealthy, and had his
affairs been more at ease. Now, he thanked high Heaven he had not
offered himself. She might have accepted him; and think of all the
heart-burnings and pain that would now ensue, before he went out of her
life!

"What were you men doing to Montecute Mattison?" she asked presently.
"He appeared perfectly furious when he came out, and he went off
without a word to anyone--even Charlotte Brundage was ignored."

"He and Colloden had a little difficulty--and Mattison left us,"
Croyden answered. "Didn't he stop to say good-night?"

She shook her head. "He called something as he drove off--but I think
he was swearing at his man."

"He needed something to swear at, I fancy!" Croyden laughed.

"What did Roderick do?" she asked.

"Took him by the collar and shook him--and told him either to go home
or be quiet."

"And he went home--I see."

"Yes--when he had recovered himself sufficiently. I thought, at first,
his anger was going to choke him."

"Imagine big, good-natured Roderick stirred sufficiently to lay hands
on any one!" she laughed.

"But imagine him _when_ stirred," he said.

"I hadn't thought of him in that way," she said, slowly--"Ough!" with a
little shiver, "it must have been terrifying--what had Mattison done to
him?"

"Nothing--Mattison is too much of a coward ever to _do_ anything."

"What had he said, then?"

"Oh, some brutality about one of Colloden's friends, I think," Croyden
evaded. "I didn't quite hear it--and we didn't discuss it afterward."

"I'm told he is a scurrilous little beast, with the men," she
commented; "but, I must say, he is always polite to me, and reasonably
charitable. Indeed, to-night is the only deliberately bad manners he
has ever exhibited."

"He knows the men won't hurt him," said Croyden, "whereas the women, if
he showed his ill nature to them, would promptly ostracize him. He is
a canny bounder, all right." He made a gesture of repugnance. "We have had
enough of Mattison--let us find something more interesting--yourself, for
instance."

"Or yourself!" she smiled. "Or, better still, neither. Which reminds
me--Miss Southard is coming to-morrow; you will be over, of course?"

"I'm going East to-morrow night," he said. "I'm sorry."

"But she is to stay two weeks--you will be back before she leaves,
won't you?"

"I fear not--I may go on to London."

"Before you return here?"

"Yes--before I return here."

"Isn't this London idea rather sudden?" she asked.

"I've been anticipating it for some time," sending a cloud of cigarette
smoke before his face. "But it grew imminent only to-day."

When the smoke faded, her eyes were looking questioningly into his.
There was something in his words that did not ring quite true. It was
too sudden to be genuine, too unexpected. It struck her as vague and
insincere. Yet there was no occasion to mistrust--it was common enough
for men to be called suddenly to England on business.----

"When do you expect to return?" she asked.

"I do not know," he said, reading something that was in her mind. "If I
must go, the business which takes me will also fix my return."

A servant approached.

"What is it, Hudson?" she asked.

"The telephone, Miss Cavendish. Pride's Crossing wishes to talk with
you."

Croyden arose--it was better to make the farewell brief--and
accompanied her to the doorway.

"Good-bye," he said, simply.

"You must go?" she asked.

"Yes--there are some things that must be done to-night."

She gave him another look.

"Good-bye, then--and _bon voyage_," she said, extending her hand.

He took it--hesitated just an instant--lifted it to his lips--and,
then, without a word, swung around and went out into the night.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next day--at noon--when, her breakfast finished, she came down
stairs, a scare headline in the morning's paper, lying in the hall, met
her eyes.

  SUICIDE!

  Royster Found Dead in His Bath-room!
  The Penalty of Bankruptcy!

  ROYSTER & AXTELL FAIL!

  Many Prominent Persons Among the Creditors.

She seized the paper, and nervously ran her eyes down the columns until
they reached the list of those involved.----

Yes! Croyden's name was among them! That was what had taken him away!

And Croyden read it, too, as he sped Eastward toward the unknown life.



III

CLARENDON


Croyden left Northumberland in the morning--and his economy began with
the ride East: he went on Day Express instead of on the Limited,
thereby saving the extra fare. At Philadelphia he sent his baggage to
the Bellevue-Stratford; later in the evening, he had it returned to the
station, and checked it, himself, to Hampton--to avoid the possibility
of being followed by means of his luggage.

He did not imagine that any one would go to the trouble to trace him,
but he was not taking any chances. He wanted to cut himself away,
utterly, from his former life, to be free of everyone he had ever
known. It was not likely he would be missed.

Some one would say: "I haven't seen Croyden lately," would be answered:
"I think he went abroad suddenly--about the time of the Royster &
Axtell failure," and, with that, he would pass out of notice. If he
were to return, any time within the next five years, he would be met by
a languid: "Been away, somewhere, haven't you? I thought I hadn't
noticed you around the Club, lately."--And that would be the extent of
it.

One is not missed in a big town. His going and his coming are not
watched. There is no time to bother with another's affairs. Everyone
has enough to do to look after his own. The curiosity about one's
neighbors--what he wears, what he eats, what he does, every item in his
daily life--that is developed by idleness, thrives in littleness, and
grows to perfection in scandal and innuendo--belongs solely to the
small town. If one comes down street with a grip--instantly: So and so
is "going away"--speculation as to why?--where?--what? One puts on a
new suit, it is observed and noted.--A pair of new shoes, ditto.--A new
necktie, ditto. Every particular of his life is public property, is
inspected for a motive, and, if a motive cannot be discovered, one is
supplied--usually mean and little, the latter unctuously preferred.

All this Croyden was yet to learn, however.

He took the night's express on the N. Y., P. & N., whence, at Hampton
Junction, he transferred to a branch line. For twenty miles the train
seemed to crawl along, burrowing into the sand hills and out again into
sand, and in and out again, until, at length, with much whistling and
escaping steam, they wheezed into the station and stopped.

There were a dozen white men, with slouch hats and nondescript
clothing, standing aimlessly around, a few score of negroes, and a
couple of antique carriages with horses to match. The white men looked
at the new arrival, listlessly, and the negroes with no interest at
all--save the two who were porters for the rival hotels. They both made
for Croyden and endeavored to take his grip.

He waved them away.

"I don't want your hotel, boys," he said. "But if you can tell me where
Clarendon is, I will be obliged."

"Cla'endon! seh? yass, seh," said one, "right out at de een' o' de
village, seh--dis street tek's yo dyar, seh, sho nuf."

"Which end of the village?" Croyden asked.

"Dis een', seh, de fust house beyon' Majah Bo'den's, seh."

"How many blocks is it?"

"Blocks, seh!" said the negro. "'Tain't no blocks--it's jest de fust
place beyon' Majah Bo'den's."

Croyden laughed. "Here," he said, "you take my bag out to
Clarendon--I'll walk till I find it."

"Yass, seh! yass, seh! I'll do it, seh! but yo bettah ride, seh!"

"No!" said Croyden, looking at the vehicle. "It's safer to walk."

He tossed the negro a quarter and turned away.

"Thankee, seh, thankee, seh, I'll brings it right out, seh."

Croyden went slowly down the street, while the crowd stared after him,
and the shops emptied their loafers to join them in the staring. He was
a strange man--and a well-dressed man--and they all were curious.

Presently, the shops were replaced by dwellings of the humbler sort,
then they, in turn, by more pretentious residences--with here and there
a new one of the Queen Anne type. Croyden did not need the information,
later vouchsafed, that they belong to _new_ people. It was as
unmistakable as the houses themselves.

About a mile from the station, he passed a place built of English
brick, covered on the sides by vines, and shaded by huge trees. It
stood well back from the street and had about it an air of aristocracy
and exclusiveness.

"I wonder if this is the Bordens'?" said Croyden looking about him for
some one to ask--"Ah!"

Down the path from the house was coming a young woman. He slowed down,
so as to allow her to reach the entrance gates ahead of him. She was
pretty, he saw, as she neared--very pretty!--positively beautiful! dark
hair and----

He took off his hat.

"I beg your pardon!" he said. "Is this Mr. Borden's?"

"Yes--this is Major Borden's," she answered, with a deliciously soft
intonation, which instantly stirred Croyden's Southern blood.

"Then Clarendon is the next place, is it not?"

She gave him the quickest glance of interest, as she replied in the
affirmative.

"Colonel Duval is dead, however," she added--"a caretaker is the only
person there, now."

"So I understood." There was no excuse for detaining her longer. "Thank
you, very much!" he ended, bowed slightly, and went on.

It is ill bred and rude to stare back at a woman, but, if ever Croyden
had been tempted, it was now. He heard her footsteps growing fainter in
the distance, as he continued slowly on his way. Something behind him
seemed to twitch at his head, and his neck was positively stiff with
the exertion necessary to keep it straight to the fore.

He wanted another look at that charming figure, with the mass of blue
black hair above it, and the slender silken ankles and slim tan-shod
feet below. He remembered that her eyes were blue, and that they met
him through long lashes, in a languidly alluring glance; that she was
fair; and that her mouth was generous, with lips full but delicate--a
face, withal, that clung in his memory, and that he proposed to see
again--and soon.

He walked on, so intent on his visual image, he did not notice that the
Borden place was behind him now, and he was passing the avenue that led
into Clarendon.

"Yass, seh! hyar yo is, marster!--hyar's Clarendon," called the negro,
hastening up behind him with his bag.

Croyden turned into the walk--the black followed.

"Cun'l Duval's done been daid dis many a day, seh," he said. "Folks sez
ez how it's owned by some city fellah, now. Mebbe yo knows 'im, seh?"

Croyden did not answer, he was looking at the place--and the negro,
with an inquisitively curious eye, relapsed into silence.

The house was very similar to the Bordens'--unpretentious, except for
the respectability that goes with apparent age, vine clad and tree
shaded. It was of generous proportions, without being large--with a
central hall, and rooms on either side, that rose to two stories, and
was topped by a pitch-roof. There were no piazzas at front or side,
just a small stoop at the doorway, from which paths branched around to
the rear.

"I done 'speck, seh, yo go roun' to de back," said the negro, as
Croyden put his foot on the step. "Ole Mose 'im live dyar. I'll bring
'im heah, ef yo wait, seh."

"Who is old Mose--the caretaker?" said Croyden.

The place was looked after by a real estate man of the village, and
neither his father nor he had bothered to do more than meet the
accounts for funds. The former had preferred to let it remain
unoccupied, so as to have it ready for instant use, if he so wished,
and Croyden had done the same.

"He! Mose he's Cun'l Duval's body-survent, seh. Him an'
Jos'phine--Jos'phine he wif', seh--dey looks arfter de place sence de
ole Cun'l died."

Croyden nodded. "I'll go back."

They followed the right hand path, which seemed to be more used than
its fellow. The servants' quarters were disclosed at the far end of the
lot.

Before the tidiest of them, an old negro was sitting on a stool,
dreaming in the sun. At Croyden's appearance, he got up hastily, and
came forward--gray-haired, and bent.

"Survent, seh!" he said, with the remains of what once must have been a
wonderfully graceful bow, and taking in the stranger's attire with a
single glance. "I'se ole Mose. Cun'l Duval's boy--seh, an' I looks
arfter de place, now. De Cun'l he's daid, yo knows, seh. What can I do
fur yo, seh?"

"I'm Mr. Croyden," said Geoffrey.

"Yass, seh! yass, seh!" the darky answered, inquiringly.

It was evident the name conveyed no meaning to him.

"I'm the new owner, you know--since Colonel Duval died," Croyden
explained.

"Hi! yo is!" old Mose exclaimed, with another bow. "Well, praise de
Lawd! I sees yo befo' I dies. So yo's de new marster, is yo? I'm
pow'ful glad yo's come, seh! pow'ful glad. What mout yo name be, seh?"

"Croyden!" replied Geoffrey. "Now, Moses, will you open the house and
let me in?"

"Yo seen Marster Dick?" asked the darky.

"You mean the agent? No! Why do you ask?"

"Coz why, seh--I'm beggin' yo pa'den, seh, but Marster Dick sez, sez
he, 'Don' nuvver lets no buddy in de house, widout a writin' from me.'
I ain' doubtin' yo, seh, 'deed I ain', but I ruther hed de writin'."

"You're perfectly right," Croyden answered. "Here, boy!--do you know
Mr. Dick? Well, go down and tell him that Mr. Croyden is at Clarendon,
and ask him to come out at once. Or, stay, I'll give you a note to
him."

He took a card from his pocketbook, wrote a few lines on it, and gave
it to the negro.

"Yass, seh! Yass, seh!" said the porter, and, dropping the grip where
he stood, he vanished.

Old Mose dusted the stool with his sleeve, and proffered it.

"Set down, seh!" with another bow. "Josh won' be long."

Croyden shook his head.

"I'll lie here," he answered, stretching himself out on the grass. "You
were Colonel Duval's body-servant, you say."

"Yass, seh! from de time I wuz so 'igh. I don' 'member when I warn' he
body-survent. I follows 'im all th'oo de war, seh, an' I wus wid 'im
when he died." Tears were in the darky's eyes. "Hit's purty nigh time
ole Mose gwine too."

"And when he died, you stayed and looked after the old place. That was
the right thing to do," said Croyden. "Didn't Colonel Duval have any
children?"

"No, seh. De Cun'l nuvver married, cuz Miss Penelope----"

He caught himself. "I toles yo 'bout hit some time, seh, mebbe!" he
ended cautiously--talking about family matters with strangers was not
to be considered.

"I should like to hear some time," said Croyden, not seeming to notice
the darky's reticence. "When did the Colonel die?"

"Eight years ago cum corn plantin' time, seh. He jes' wen' right off
quick like, when de mis'ry hit 'im in de chist--numonya, de doctors
call'd it. De Cun'l guv de place to a No'thern gent'man, whar was he
'ticular frien', and I done stay on an' look arfter hit. He nuvver been
heah. Hi! listen to dis nigger! yo's de gent'mans, mebbe."

"I am his son," said Croyden, amused.

"An' yo owns Cla'endon, now, seh? What yo goin' to do wid it?"

"I'm going to live here. Don't you want to look after me?"

"Goin' to live heah!--yo means it, seh?" the darky asked, in great
amazement.

Croyden nodded. "Provided you will stay with me--and if you can find me
a cook. Who cooks your meals?"

"Lawd, seh! find yo a cook. Didn' Jos'phine cook fur de Cun'l all he
life--Jos'phine, she my wife, seh--she jest gone nex' do', 'bout
some'n." He got up--"I calls her, seh."

Croyden stopped him.

"Never mind," he said; "she will be back, presently, and there is ample
time. Any one live in these other cabins?"

"No, seh! we's all wha' left. De udder niggers done gone 'way, sence de
Cun'l died, coz deah war nothin' fur dem to do no mo', an' no buddy to
pays dem.--Dyar is Jos'phine, now, sir, she be hear torectly. An' heah
comes Marster Dick, hisself."

Croyden arose and went toward the front of the house to meet him.

The agent was an elderly man; he wore a black broadcloth suit, shiny at
the elbows and shoulder blades, a stiff white shirt, a wide roomy
collar, bound around by a black string tie, and a broad-brimmed
drab-felt hat. His greeting was as to one he had known all his life.

"How do you do, Mr. Croyden!" he exclaimed. "I'm delighted to make your
acquaintance, sir." He drew out a key and opened the front door.
"Welcome to Clarendon, sir, welcome! Let us hope you will like it
enough to spend a little time here, occasionally."

"I'm sure I too hope so," returned Croyden; "for I am thinking of
making it my home."

"Good! Good! It's an ideal place!" exclaimed the agent. "It's
convenient to Baltimore; and Philadelphia, and New York, and Washington
aren't very far away. Exactly what the city people who can afford it,
are doing now,--making their homes in the country. Hampton's a town,
but it's country to you, sir, when compared to Northumberland--open the
shutters, Mose, so we can see.... This is the library, with the
dining-room behind it, sir--and on the other side of the hall is the
drawing-room. Open it, Mose, we will be over there presently. You see,
sir, it is just as Colonel Duval left it. Your father gave instructions
that nothing should be changed. He was a great friend of the Colonel,
was he not, sir?"

"I believe he was," said Croyden. "They met at the White Sulphur, where
both spent their summers--many years before the Colonel died."

"There, hangs the Colonel's sword--he carried it through the war,
sir--and his pistols--and his silk-sash, and here, in the corner, is
one of his regimental guidons--and here his portrait in
uniform--handsome man, wasn't he? And as gallant and good as he was
handsome. Maryland lost a brave son, when he died, sir."

"He looks the soldier," Croyden remarked.

"And he was one, sir--none better rode behind Jeb Stuart--and never far
behind, sir, never far behind!"

"He was in the cavalry?"

"Yes, sir. Seventh Maryland Cavalry--he commanded it during the last
two years of the war--went in a lieutenant and came out its colonel. A
fine record, sir, a fine record! Pity it is, he had none to leave it
to!--he was the last of his line, you know, the last of the line--not
even a distant cousin to inherit."

Croyden looked up at the tall, slender man in Confederate gray, with
clean-cut aristocratic features, wavy hair, and long, drooping
mustache. What a figure he must have been at the head of his command,
or leading a charge across the level, while the guns of the Federals
belched smoke, and flame and leaden death.

"They offered him a brigade," the agent was saying, "but he declined
it, preferring to remain with his regiment."

"What did he do when the war was over?" Croyden asked.

"Came home, sir, and resumed his law practice. Like his great leader,
he accepted the decision as final. He didn't spend the balance of his
life living in the past."

"And why did he never marry? Surely, such a man" (with a wave of his
hand toward the portrait) "could have picked almost where he chose!"

"No one ever just knew, sir--it had to do with Miss Borden,--the sister
of Major Borden, sir, who lives on the next place. They were
sweethearts once, but something or somebody came between them--and
thereafter, the Colonel never seemed to think of love. Perhaps, old
Mose knows it, and if he comes to like you, sir, he may tell you the
story. You understand, sir, that Colonel Duval is Mose's old master,
and that every one stands or falls, in his opinion, according as they
measure up to him. I hope you intend to keep him, sir--he has been a
faithful caretaker, and there is still good service in him--and his
wife was the Colonel's cook, so she must have been competent. She would
never cook for anyone, after he died. She thought she belonged to
Clarendon, sort of went with the place, you understand. Just stayed and
helped Mose take care of it. She doubtless will resume charge of the
kitchen again, without a word. It's the way of the old negroes, sir.
The young ones are pretty worthless--they've got impudent, and
independent and won't work, except when they're out of money. Excuse
me, I ramble on----"

"I'm much interested," said Croyden; "as I expect to live here, I must
learn the ways of the people."

"Well, let Mose boss the niggers for you, at first; he understands
them, he'll make them stand around. Come over to the drawing-room, sir,
I want you to see the furniture, and the family portraits.... There,
sir, is a set of twelve genuine Hepplewhite chairs--no doubt about it,
for the invoice is among the Colonel's papers. I don't know much about
such things, but a man was through here, about a year ago, and, would
you believe it, when he saw the original invoice and looked at the
chairs, he offered me two thousand dollars for them. Of course, as I
had been directed by your father to keep everything as the Colonel had
it, I just laughed at him. You see, sir, they have the three feathers,
and are beautifully carved, otherwise. And, here, is a lowboy, with the
shell and the fluted columns, and the cabriole legs, carved on the
knees, and the claw and ball feet. He offered two hundred dollars for
it. And this sofa, with the lion's claw and the eagle's wing, he wanted
to buy it, too. In fact, sir, he wanted to buy about everything in the
house--including the portraits. There are two by Peale and one by
Stuart--here are the Peales, sir--the lady in white, and the young
officer in Continental uniform; and this is the Stuart--the gentleman
in knee breeches and velvet coat. I think he is the same as the one in
uniform, only later in life. They are the Colonel's grandparents, sir:
Major Daniel Duval, of the Tenth Maryland Line, and his wife; she was a
Miss Paca--you know the family, of course, sir. The Major's commission,
sir, hangs in the hall, between the Colonel's own and his father's--he
was an officer in the Mexican war, sir. It was a fighting family, sir,
a fighting family--and a gentle one as well. 'The bravest are the
tenderest, the loving are the daring.'"

There was enough of the South Carolinian of the Lowlands in Croyden,
to appreciate the Past and to honor it. He might not know much
concerning Hepplewhite nor the beauty of his lines and carving, and he
might be wofully ignorant of his own ancestors, having been bred in a
State far removed from their nativity, for he had never given a thought
to the old things, whether of furniture or of forebears--they were of
the inanimate; his world had to do only with the living and what was
incidental to it. The Eternal Now was the Fetich and the God of
Northumberland, all it knew and all it lived for--and he, with every
one else, had worshipped at its shrine.

It was different here, it seemed! and the spirit of his long dead
mother, with her heritage of aristocratic lineage, called to him,
stirring him strangely, and his appreciation, that was sleeping and not
dead, came slowly back to life. The men in buff-and-blue, in
small-clothes, in gray, the old commissions, the savour of the past
that clung around them, were working their due. For no man of culture
and refinement--nay, indeed, if he have but their veneer--can stand in
the presence of an honorable past, of ancestors distinguished and
respected, whether they be his or another's, and be unmoved.

"And you say there are none to inherit all these things?" Croyden
exclaimed. "Didn't the original Duval leave children?"

The agent shook his head. "There was but one son to each generation,
sir--and with the Colonel there was none."

"Then, having succeeded to them by right of purchase, and with no
better right outstanding, it falls to me to see that they are not
shamed by the new owner. Their portraits shall remain undisturbed
either by collectors or by myself. Moreover, I'll look up my own
ancestors. I've got some, down in South Carolina and up in
Massachusetts, and if their portraits be in existence, I'll add
reproductions to keep the Duvals company. Ancestors by inheritance and
ancestors by purchase. The two of them ought to keep me straight, don't
you think?" he said, with a smile.



IV

PARMENTER'S BEQUEST


Croyden, with Dick as guide and old Mose as forerunner and
shutter-opener, went through the house, even unto the garret.

As in the downstairs, he found it immaculate. Josephine had kept
everything as though the Colonel himself were in presence. The bed
linen, the coverlids, the quilts, the blankets were packed in trunks,
the table-linen and china in drawers and closets. None of them was
new--practically the entire furnishing antedated 1830, and much of them
1800--except that, here and there, a few old rugs of oriental weaves,
relieved the bareness of the hardwood floors.

The one concession to modernism was a bath-room, but its tin tub and
painted iron wash-stand, with the plumbing concealed by wainscoting,
proclaimed it, alas, of relatively ancient date. And, for a moment,
Croyden contrasted it with the shower, the porcelain, and the tile, of
his Northumberland quarters, and shivered, ever so slightly. It would
be the hardest to get used to, he thought. As yet, he did not know the
isolation of the long, interminably long, winter evenings, with
absolutely nothing to do and no place to go--and no one who could
understand.

At length, when they were ready to retrace their steps to the lower
floor, old Mose had disappeared.

"Gone to tell his wife that the new master has come," said Dick. "Let
us go out to the kitchen."

And there they found her--bustling around, making the fire, her head
tied up in a bandana, her sleeves rolled to the shoulders. She turned,
as they entered, and dropped them an old-fashioned curtsy.

"Josephine!" said Dick, "here is Mr. Croyden, the new master. Can you
cook for him, as well as you did for Colonel Duval?"

"Survent, marster," she said to Croyden, with another curtsy--then, to
the agent, "Kin I cooks, Marster Dick! Kin I cooks? Sut'n'y, I kin.
Don' yo t'inks dis nigger's forgot--jest yo waits, Marster Croyden, I
shows yo, seh, sho' nuf--jest gives me a little time to get my han' in,
seh."

"You won't need much time," Dick commented. "The Colonel considered her
very satisfactory, sir, very satisfactory, indeed. And he was a
competent judge, sir, a very competent judge."

"Oh, we'll get along," said Croyden, with a smile at Josephine. "If you
could please Colonel Duval, you will more than please me."

"Thankee, seh!" she replied, bobbing down again. "I sho' tries, seh."

"Have you had any experience with negro servants?" Dick asked, as they
returned to the library.

"No," Croyden responded: "I have always lived at a Club."

"Well, Mose and his wife are of the old times--you can trust them,
thoroughly, but there is one thing you'll have to remember, sir: they
are nothing but overgrown children, and you'll have to discipline them
accordingly. They don't know what it is to be impertinent, sir; they
have their faults, but they are always respectful."

"Can I rely on them to do the buying?"

"I think so, sir, the Colonel did, I know. If you wish, I'll send you a
list of the various stores, and all you need do is to pay the bills. Is
there anything else I can do now, sir?"

"Nothing," said Croyden. "And thank you very much for all you have
done."

"How about your baggage--can I send it out? No trouble, sir, I assure
you, no trouble. I'll just give your checks to the drayman, as I pass.
By the way, sir, you'll want the telephone in, of course. I'll notify
the Company at once. And you needn't fear to speak to your neighbors;
they will take it as it's meant, sir. The next on the left is Major
Borden's, and this, on the right, is Captain Tilghman's, and across the
way is Captain Lashiel's, and Captain Carrington's, and the house
yonder, with the huge oaks in front, is Major Markoe's."

"Sort of a military settlement," smiled Croyden.

"Yes, sir--some of them earned their title in the war, and some of
them in the militia and some just inherited it from their pas. Sort of
handed down in the family, sir. The men will call on you, promptly,
too. I shouldn't wonder some of them will be over this evening."

Croyden thought instantly of the girl he had seen coming out of the
Borden place, and who had directed him to Clarendon.

"Would it be safe to speak to the good-looking girls, too--those who
are my neighbors?" he asked, with a sly smile.

"Certainly, sir; if you tell them your name--and don't try to flirt
with them," Dick added, with a laugh. "Yonder is one, now--Miss
Carrington," nodding toward the far side of the street.

Croyden turned.--It was she! the girl of the blue-black hair and
slender silken ankles.

"She's Captain Carrington's granddaughter," Dick went on with the
Southerner's love for the definite in genealogy. "Her father and mother
both died when she was a little tot, sir, and they--that is, the
grandparents, sir--raised her. That's the Carrington place she's
turning in at. Ah----"

The girl glanced across and, recognizing Dick (and, it must be
admitted, her Clarendon inquirer as well), nodded.

Both men took off their hats. But Croyden noticed that the older man
could teach him much in the way it should be done. He did it shortly,
sharply, in the city way; Dick, slowly, deferentially, as though it
were an especial privilege to uncover to her.

"Miss Carrington is a beauty!" Croyden exclaimed, looking after her.
"Are there more like her, in Hampton?"

"I'm too old, sir, to be a competent judge," returned Dick, "but I
should say we have several who trot in the same class. I mean,
sir----"

"I understand!" laughed Croyden. "It's no disrespect in a Marylander, I
take it, when he compares the ladies with his race-horses."

"It's not, sir! At least, that's the way we of the older generation
feel; our ladies and our horses run pretty close together. But that spirit
is fast disappearing, sir! The younger ones are becoming--commercialized,
if you please. It's dollars first, and _then_ the ladies, with them--and
the horses nowhere. Though I don't say it's not wise. Horses and the
war have almost broken us, sir. We lost the dollars, or forgot about
them and they lost themselves, whichever way it was, sir. It's right that
our sons should start on a new track and run the course in their own
way--Yes, sir," suddenly recollecting himself, "Miss Carrington's a
pretty girl, and so's Miss Tayloe and Miss Lashiel and a heap more.
Indeed, sir, Hampton is famed on the Eastern Sho' for her women. I'll
attend to your baggage, and the telephone, sir, and if there is
anything else I can do, pray command me. Drop in and see me when you
get up town. Good day, sir, good day." And removing his hat with a bow
just a little less deferential than the one he had given to Miss
Carrington, he proceeded up the street, leisurely and deliberately, as
though the world were waiting for him.

"And he is a real estate agent!" reflected Croyden. "The man who,
according to our way of thinking, is the acme of hustle and bustle and
business, and schemes to trap the unwary. Truly, the Eastern Shore has
much to learn--or we have much to unlearn! Well, I have tried the
one--and failed. Now, I'm going to try the other. It seems to promise a
quiet life, at least."

He turned, to find Moses in the doorway, waiting.

"Marster Croyden," he said, "shall I puts yo satchel an' things in de
Cun'l's room, seh?"

Croyden nodded. He did not know which was the Colonel's room, but it
was likely to be the best in the house, and, moreover, it was well to
follow him wherever he could.

"And see that my luggage is taken there, when the man brings it," he
directed--"and tell Josephine to have luncheon at one and dinner at
seven."

The darky hesitated.

"De Cun'l hed dinner in de middle o' de day, seh," he said, as though
Croyden had inadvertently erred.

And Croyden appreciating the situation, answered:

"Well, you see, Moses, I've been used to the other way and I reckon you
will have to change to suit me."

"Yass, seh! yass, seh! I tell Jose. Lunch is de same as supper, I
s'pose, seh?"

Croyden had to think a moment.

"Yes," he said, "that will answer--like a light supper."

"There may be an objection, after all, to taking over Colonel Duval's
old servants," he reflected. "It may be difficult to persuade them that
he is no longer the master. I run the chance of being ruled by a dead
man."

Presently his luggage arrived, and he went upstairs to unpack. Moses
looked, in wonder, at the wardrobe trunk, with every suit on a separate
hanger, the drawers for shirts and linen, the apartments for hats, and
collars, and neckties, and the shoes standing neatly in a row below.

"Whar's de use atak'in de things out t'al, Marster Croyden!" he
exclaimed.

"So as to put the trunk away."

"Sho'! I mo'nt a kno'd hit. Hit's mons'us strange, seh, whar yo mon't
a' kno'd ef yo'd only stop to t'ink. F' instance, I mon't a kno'd yo'd
cum back to Clarendon, seh, some day, cuz yo spends yo money on hit.
Heh!"

Then a bell tinkled softly from below.

"Dyar's dinner--I means lunch, seh," said Moses. "'Scuse me, seh."

"And I'm ready for it," said Croyden, as he went to the iron
wash-stand, and then slowly down stairs to the dining-room.

From some place, Moses had resurrected a white coat, yellow with its
ten years' rest, and was waiting to receive him. He drew out Croyden's
chair, as only a family servant of the olden times can do it, and bowed
him into his place.

The table was set exactly as in Colonel Duval's day, and very prettily
set, Croyden thought, with napery spotless, and china that was thin and
fine. The latter, if he had but known it, was Lowestoft and had served
the Duvals, on that very table, for much more than a hundred years.

There was cold ham, and cold chicken, lettuce with mayonnaise, deviled
eggs, preserves, with hot corn bread and tea. When Croyden had about
finished a leisurely meal, it suddenly occurred to him that however
completely stocked Clarendon was with things of the Past, they did not
apply to the larder, and _these_ victuals were undoubtedly fresh and
particularly good.

"By the way! Moses," he said, "I'm glad you were thoughtful enough to
send out and purchase these things," with an indicating motion to the
table. "They are very satisfactory."

"Pu'chase!" said the darky, in surprise. "Dese things not pu'chased.
No, seh! Dey's borro'd, seh, from Majah Bo'den's, yass, seh!"

"Good God!" Croyden exclaimed. "You don't mean you borrowed my
luncheon!"

"Yass, seh! Why not, seh? Jose jes' went ovah an' sez to Cassie--she's
de cook, at de Majah's, seh--sez she, Marster Croyden don' cum and
warns some'n to eat. An' she got hit, yass, seh!"

"Is it the usual thing, here, to borrow an entire meal from the
neighbor's?" asked Croyden.

"Sut'n'y, seh! We borrows anything we needs from the neighbors, an'
they does de same wid us."

"Well, I don't want any borrowing by _us_, Moses, please remember,"
said Croyden, emphatically. "The neighbors can borrow anything we have,
and welcome, but we won't claim the favor from them, you understand?"

"Yass, seh!" said the old darky, wonderingly.

Such a situation as one kitchen not borrowing from another was
incomprehensible. It had been done by the servants from time
immemorial--and, though Croyden might forbid, yet Josephine would
continue to do it, just the same--only, less openly.

"And see that everything is returned not later than to-morrow," Croyden
continued.

"Yass, seh! I tote's dem back dis minut, seh!----"

"What?"

"Dese things, heah, whar yo didn' eat, seh----"

"Do you mean--Oh, Lord!" exclaimed Croyden.

"Never mind, Moses. I will return them another way. Just forget it."

"Sut'n'y, seh," returned the darky. "Dat's what I wuz gwine do in de
fust place."

Croyden laughed. It was pretty hopeless, he saw. The ways they had,
were the ways that would hold them. He might protest, and order
otherwise, until doomsday, but it would not avail. For them, it was
sufficient if Colonel Duval permitted it, or if it were the custom.

"I think I shall let the servants manage me," he thought. "They know
the ways, down here, and, besides, it's the line of least resistance."

He went into the library, and, settling himself in a comfortable chair,
lit a cigarette.... It was the world turned upside down. Less than
twenty-four hours ago it was money and madness, bankruptcy and divorce
courts, the automobile pace--the devil's own. Now, it was quiet and
gentility, easy-living and refinement. Had he been in Hampton a little
longer, he would have added: gossip and tittle-tattle, small-mindedness
and silly vanity.

He smoked cigarette after cigarette and dreamed. He wondered what
Elaine Cavendish had done last evening--if she had dined at the
Club-house, and what gown she had worn, if she had played golf in the
afternoon, or tennis, and with whom; he wondered what she would do this
evening--wondered if she thought of him more than casually. He shook it
off for a moment. Then he wondered again: who had his old quarters at
the Heights? He knew a number who would be jumping for them--who had
his old table for breakfast? it, too, would be eagerly sought--who
would take his place on the tennis and the golf teams?--what Macloud
was doing? Fine chap was Macloud! the only man in Northumberland he
would trust, the only man in Northumberland, likely, who would care a
rap whether he came back or whether he didn't, or who would ever give
him a second thought. He wondered if Gaspard, his particular waiter,
missed him? yes, he would miss the tips, at least; yes, and the boy who
brushed his clothes and drew his bath would miss him, and his caddie,
as well. Every one whom he _paid_, would miss him....

He threw away his cigarette and sat up sharply. It was not pleasant
thinking.

An old mahogany slant-top escritoire, in the corner by the window,
caught his eye. It had a shell, inlaid in maple, in the front, and the
parquetry, also, ran around the edges of the drawers and up the sides.

There was one like it in the Cavendish library, he remembered. He went
over to it, and, the key being in the lock, drew out pulls and turned
back the top. Inside, there was the usual lot of pigeon holes and small
drawers, with compartments for deeds and larger papers. All were empty.
Either Colonel Duval, in anticipation of death, had cleaned it out, or
Moses and Josephine, for their better preservation, had packed the
contents away. He was glad of it; he could use it, at least, without
ejecting the Colonel.

He closed the lid and had turned away, when the secret drawer, which,
sometimes, was in these old desks, occurred to him. He went back and
began to search for it.... And, presently, he found it. Under the
middle drawer was a sliding panel that rolled back, when he pressed on
a carved lion's head ornamentation, and which concealed a hidden
recess. In this recess lay a paper.

It was yellow with age, and, when Croyden took it in his fingers, he
caught the faint odor of sandal wood. It was brittle in the creases,
and threatened to fall apart. So, opening it gently, he spread it on
the desk before him. Here is what he read:

                                     "Annapolis, 10 May, 1738.

  "Honoured Sir:

  "I fear that I am about to Clear for my Last Voyage--the old
  wounds trouble me, more and more, especially those in my head and
  chest. I am confined to my bed, and though Doctor Waldron does
  not say it, I know he thinks I am bound for Davy Jones' locker.
  So be it--I've lived to a reasonable Age, and had a fair Time in
  the living. I've done that which isn't according to Laws, either
  of Man or God--but for the Former, I was not Caught, and for the
  Latter, I'm willing to chance him in death. When you were last
  in Annapolis, I intended to mention a Matter to you, but
  something prevented, I know not what, and you got Away ere I was
  aware of it. Now, fearing lest I Die before you come again, I
  will Write it, though it is against the Doctor's orders--which,
  however, I obey only when it pleases me.

  "You are familiar with certain Episodes in my Early Life, spent
  under the Jolly Roger on the Spanish Main, and you have
  maintained Silence--for which I shall always be your debtor. You
  have, moreover, always been my Friend, and for that, I am more
  than your debtor. It is, therefore, but Mete that you should be
  my Heir--and I have this day Executed my last Will and Testament,
  bequeathing to you all my Property and effects. It is left with
  Mr. Dulany, the Attorney, who wrote it, to be probated in due
  Season.

  "But there still remains a goodly portion which, for obvious
  reasons, may not be so disposed of. I mean my buried Treasure. I
  buried it in September, 1720, shortly after I came to Annapolis,
  trusting not to keep so great an Amount in my House. It amounts
  to about half my Fortune, and Approximates near to Fifty Thousand
  Pounds, though that may be but a crude Estimate at best, for I am
  not skilled in the judging of Precious Stones. Where I obtained
  this wealth, I need not mention, though you can likely guess. And
  as there is nothing by which it can be identified, you can use it
  without Hesitation. Subject, however, to one Restriction: As it
  was not honestly come by (according to the World's estimate,
  because, forsooth, I only risked my Life in the gathering,
  instead of pilfering it from my Fellow man in Business, which is
  the accepted fashion) I ask you not to use it except in an
  Extremity of Need. If that need does not arise in your Life, you,
  in turn, may pass this letter on to your heir, and he, in turn,
  to his heir, and so on, until such Time as the Need may come, and
  the Restriction be lifted. And now to find the Treasure:--

  "Seven hundred and fifty feet--and at right angles to the water
  line--from the extreme tip of Greenberry Point, below Annapolis,
  where the Severn runs into the Chesapeake, are four large Beech
  trees, standing as of the corners of a Square, though not
  equidistant. Bisect this Square, by two lines drawn from the
  Corners. At a Point three hundred and thirty feet,
  North-by-North-East, from where these two lines intersect and at
  a depth of Six feet, you will come upon an Iron Box. It contains
  the Treasure. And I wish you (or whoever recovers it) Joy of
  it!--as much joy with it as I had in the Gathering.

  "Lest I die before you come again to Annapolis, I shall leave
  this letter with Mr. Dulany, to be delivered to you on the First
  Occasion. I judge him as one who will respect a Dead man's seal.
  If I see you not again, Farewell. I am, sir, with great
  respect,

                          "Y'r humb'l & obed't Serv'nt

                                            "Robert Parmenter.

       "To Marmaduke Duval, Esq'r."

Below was written, by another hand:

  "The Extremity of Need has not arisen, I pass it on to my son.

                                                        "M.D."

And below that, by still another hand:

  "Neither has the Need come to me. I pass it to my son.

                                                        "D.D."

And below that, by still another hand:

  "Nor to me. I pass it to my son.

                                                        "M.D."

And below that:

  "The Extremity of Need brushed by me so close I heard the
  rustling of its gown, but I did not dig. I have sufficient for
  me, and I am the last of my line. I pass it, therefore, to my
  good friend Hugh Croyden (and, in the event that he predecease
  me, to his son Geoffrey Croyden), to whom Clarendon will go upon
  my demise.

                                                        "D.D."

Croyden read the last endorsement again; then he smiled, and the smile
broadened into an audible laugh.

The heir of a pirate! Well, at least, it promised something to engage
him, if time hung heavily on his hands. The Duvals seem to have taken
the bequest seriously--so, why not he? And, though the extremity of
need seems never to have reached them, it was peculiar that none of the
family had inspected the locality and satisfied himself of the accuracy
of the description. The extreme tip of Greenberry Point had shifted, a
dozen times, likely, in a hundred and ninety years, and the four beech
trees had long since disappeared, but there was no note of these facts
to aid the search. He must start just where Robert Parmenter had left
off: with the letter.

He found an old history of Maryland in the book-case. It contained a
map. Annapolis was somewhere on the Western Shore, he knew. He ran his
eyes down the Chesapeake. Yes, here it was--with Greenberry Point just
across the Severn. So much of the letter was accurate, at least. The
rest would bear investigation. Some time soon he would go across, and
take a look over the ground. Greenberry Point, for all he knew, might
be built up with houses, or blown half a mile inland, or turned into a
fort, or anything. It was not likely to have remained the same, as in
Parmenter's day; and, yet, if it had changed, why should not the Duvals
have remarked it, in making their endorsements.

He put the letter back in the secret compartment, where it had rested
for so many years. Evidently, Colonel Duval had forgotten it, in his
last brief illness. And Fortune had helped him in the finding. Would it
help him to the treasure as well? For with him, the restriction was
lifted--the extremity of need was come. Moreover, it was time that the
letter should be put to the test.



V

MISS CARRINGTON


Croyden was sitting before the house, later in the afternoon, when an
elderly gentleman, returning leisurely from town, turned in at the
Clarendon gates.

"My first caller," thought Croyden, and immediately he arose and went
forward to meet him.

"Permit me to present myself, sir," said the newcomer. "I am Charles
Carrington."

"I am very glad to meet you, Captain Carrington," said Croyden, taking
the proffered hand.

"This is your first visit to Hampton, I believe, sir," the Captain
remarked, when they were seated under the trees. "It is not
Northumberland, sir; we haven't the push, and the bustle, and the
smoke, but we have a pleasant little town, sir, and we're glad to
welcome you here. I think you will like it. It's a long time since
Clarendon had a tenant, sir. Colonel Duval's been dead nearly ten years
now. Your father and he were particular friends, I believe."

Croyden assured him that such was the case.

"Yes, sir, the Colonel often spoke of him to me with great affection. I
can't say I was surprised to know that he had made him his heir. He was
the last of the Duvals--not even a collateral in the family--there was
only one child to a generation, sir."

Manifestly, it was not known in Hampton how Hugh Croyden came to be the
Colonel's heir, and, indeed, friendship had prompted the money-loan,
without security other than the promise of the ultimate transfer of
Clarendon and its contents. And Croyden, respecting the Colonel's wish,
evident now, though unexpressed either to his father or himself,
resolved to treat the place as a gift, and to suppress the fact that
there had been an ample and adequate consideration.

After a short visit, Captain Carrington arose to go.

"Come over and take supper with us, this evening, sir," said he. "I
want you to meet Mrs. Carrington and my granddaughter."

"I'll come with pleasure," Croyden answered, thinking of the girl with
the blue-black hair and slender ankles.

"It's the house yonder, with the white pillars--at half-after-six,
then, sir."

                  *       *       *       *       *

As Croyden approached the Carrington house, he encountered Miss
Carrington on the walk.

"We have met before," she said, as he bowed over her hand. "I was your
original guide to Clarendon. Have you forgot?"

"Have I forgot?" said Croyden. "Do you think it possible?" looking her
in the eyes.

"No, I don't."

"But you wanted to hear me say it?"

"I wanted to know if you could say it," she answered, gayly.

"And how have I succeeded?"

"Admirably!"

"Sufficiently well to pass muster?"

"Muster--for what?" she asked, with a sly smile.

"For enrollment among your victims."

"Shall I put your name on the list--at the foot?" she laughed.

"Why at the foot?"

"The last comer--you have to work your way up by merit, you know."

"Which consists in?"

"_That_ you will have to discover."

"I shall try," he said. "Is it so very difficult of discovery?"

"No, it should not be so difficult--for you," she answered, with a
flash of her violet eyes. "Mother!" as they reached the piazza--"let me
present Mr. Croyden."

Mrs. Carrington arose to greet him--a tall, slender woman, whose age
was sixty, at least, but who appeared not a day over forty-five,
despite the dark gown and little lace cap she was wearing. She seemed
what the girl had called her--the mother, rather than the grandmother.
And when she smiled!

"Miss Carrington two generations hence. Lord! how do they do it?"
thought Croyden.

"You play Bridge, of course, Mr. Croyden," said Miss Carrington, when
the dessert was being served.

"I like it very much," he answered.

"I was sure you did--so sure, indeed, I asked a few friends in
later--for a rubber or two--and to meet you."

"So it's well for me I play," he smiled.

"It is indeed!" laughed Mrs. Carrington--"that is, if you care aught
for Davila's good opinion. If one can't play Bridge one would better
not be born."

"When you know Mother a little better, Mr. Croyden, you will recognize
that she is inclined to exaggerate at times," said Miss Carrington. "I
admit that I am fond of the game, that I like to play with people who
know how, and who, at the critical moment, are not always throwing the
wrong card--you understand?"

"In other words, you haven't any patience with stupidity," said
Croyden. "Nor have I--but we sometimes forget that a card player is
born, not made. All the drilling and teaching one can do won't give
card sense to one who hasn't any."

"Precisely!" Miss Carrington exclaimed, "and life is too short to
bother with such people. They may be very charming otherwise, but not
across the Bridge table."

"Yet ought you not to forgive them their misplays, just because they
are charming?" Mrs. Carrington asked. "If you were given your choice
between a poor player who is charming, and a good player who is
disagreeable, which would you choose, Mr. Croyden?--Come, now be
honest."

"It would depend upon the size of the game," Croyden responded. "If it
were half a cent a point, I should choose the charming partner, but if
it were five cents or better, I am inclined to think I should prefer
the good player."

"I'll remember that," said Miss Carrington. "As we don't play, here,
for money stakes, you won't care if your partner isn't very expert."

"Not exactly," he laughed. "The stipulation is that she shall be
charming. I should be willing to take _you_ for a partner though you
trumped my ace and forgot my lead."

"_Merci_, _Monsieur_," she answered. "Though you know I should do
neither."

"Ever play poker?" Captain Carrington asked, suddenly.

"Occasionally," smiled Croyden.

"Good! We'll go down to the Club, some evening. We old fellows aren't
much on Bridge, but we can handle a pair or three of-a-kind, pretty
good. Have some sherry, won't you?"

"You must not let the Captain beguile you," interposed Mrs. Carrington.
"The men all play poker with us,--it is a heritage of the old
days--though the youngsters are breaking away from it."

"And taking up Bridge!" the Captain ejaculated. "And it is just as
well--we have sense enough to stop before we're broke, but they
haven't."

"To hear father talk, you would think that the present generation is no
earthly good!" smiled Miss Carrington. "Yet I suppose, when he was
young, his elders held the same opinion of him."

"I dare say!" laughed the Captain. "The old ones always think the young
ones have a lot to learn--and they have, sir, they have! But it's of
another sort than we can teach them, I reckon." He pushed back his
chair. "We'll smoke on the piazza, sir--the ladies don't object."

As they passed out, a visitor was just ascending the steps. Miss
Carrington gave a smothered exclamation and went forward.

"How do you do, Miss Erskine!" she said.

"How do you do, my dear!" returned Miss Erskine, "and Mrs.
Carrington--and the dear Captain, too.--I'm charmed to find you all at
home."

She spoke with an affected drawl that would have been amusing in a
handsome woman, but was absurdly ridiculous in one with her figure and
unattractive face.

She turned expectantly toward Croyden, and Miss Carrington presented
him.

"So this is the new owner of Clarendon," she gurgled with an 'a' so
broad it impeded her speech. "You have kept us waiting a long time, Mr.
Croyden. We began to think you a myth."

"I'm afraid you will find me a very husky myth," Croyden answered.

"'Husky' is scarcely the correct word, Mr. Croyden; _animated_ would be
better, I think. We scholars, you know, do not like to hear a word used
in a perverted sense."

She waddled to a chair and settled into it. Croyden shot an amused
glance toward Miss Carrington, and received one in reply.

"No, I suppose not," he said, amiably. "But, then, you know, I am not a
scholar."

Miss Erskine smiled in a superior sort of way.

"Very few of us are properly careful of our mode of speech," she
answered. "And, oh! Mr. Croyden, I hope you intend to open Clarendon,
so as to afford those of us who care for such things, the pleasure of
studying the pictures, and the china, and the furniture. I am told it
contains a Stuart and a Peale--and they should not be hidden from those
who can appreciate them."

"I assume you're talking of pictures," said Croyden.

"I am, sir,--most assuredly!" the dame answered.

"Well, I must confess ignorance, again," he replied. "I wouldn't know a
Stuart from a--chromo."

Miss Erskine gave a little shriek of horror.

"I do not believe it, Mr. Croyden!--you're playing on my credulity. I
shall have to give you some instructions. I will lecture on Stuart and
Peale, and the painters of their period, for your especial
delectation--and soon, very soon!"

"I'm afraid it would all be wasted," said Croyden. "I'm not fond of
art, I confess--except on the commercial side; and if I've any
pictures, at Clarendon, worth money, I'll be for selling them."

"Oh! Mrs. Carrington! Will you listen--did you ever hear such heresy?"
she exclaimed. "I can't believe it of you, Mr. Croyden. Let me lend you
an article on Stuart to read. I shall bring it out to Clarendon
to-morrow morning--and you can let me look at all the dear treasures,
while you peruse it."

"Mr. Croyden has an appointment with me to-morrow, Amelia," said
Carrington, quickly--and Croyden gave him a look of gratitude.

"It will be but a pleasure deferred, then, Mr. Croyden," said Miss
Erskine, impenetrable in her self conceit. "The next morning will do,
quite as well--I shall come at ten o'clock--What a lovely evening this
is, Mrs. Carrington!" preparing to patronize her hostess.

The Captain snorted with sudden anger, and, abruptly excusing himself,
disappeared in the library. Miss Carrington stayed a moment, then, with
a word to Croyden, that she would show him the article now, before the
others came, if Miss Erskine would excuse them a moment, bore him off.

"What do you think of her?" she demanded.

"Pompous and stupid--an irritating nuisance, I should call her."

"She's more!--she is the most arrogant, self-opinionated,
self-complacent, vapid piece of humanity in this town or any other
town. She irritates me to the point of impoliteness. She never sees
that people don't want her. She's as dense as asphalt."

"It is very amusing!" Croyden interjected.

"At first, yes--pretty soon you will be throwing things at her--or
wanting to."

"She's art crazy," he said. "Dilettanteism gone mad."

"It isn't only Art. She thinks she's qualified to speak on every
subject under the sun, Literature--Bridge--Teaching--Music. Oh, she is
intolerable!"

"What fits her for assuming universal knowledge?" asked Croyden.

"Heaven only knows! She went away to some preparatory school, and
finished off with another that teaches pedagogy. Straightway she became
an adept in the art of instruction, though, when she tried it, she had
the whole academy by the ears in two weeks, and the faculty asked her
to resign. Next, she got some one to take her to Europe--spent six
weeks in looking at a lot of the famous paintings, with the aid of a
guide book and a catalogue, and came home prepared to lecture on
Art--and, what's more, she has the effrontery to do it--for the benefit
of Charity, she takes four-fifths of the proceeds, and Charity gets the
balance.

"Music came next. She read the lives of Chopin and Wagner and some of
the other composers, went to a half dozen symphony concerts, looked up
theory, voice culture, and the like, in the encyclopædias, and now
she's a critic! Literature she imbibed from the bottle, I suppose--it
came easy to _her_! And she passes judgment upon it with the utmost
ease and final authority. And as for Bridge! She doesn't hesitate to
arraign Elwell, and we, of the village, are the very dirt beneath her
feet. I hear she's thinking of taking up Civic Improvement. I hope it
is true--she'll likely run up against somebody who won't hesitate to
tell her what an idiot she is."

"Why do you tolerate her?" Croyden asked. "Why don't you throw her out
of society, metaphorically speaking."

"We can't: she belongs--which is final with us, you know. Moreover, she
has imposed on some, with her assumption of superiority, and they
kowtow to her in a way that is positively disgusting."

"Why don't you, and the rest who dislike her, snub her?"

"Snub _her_! You can't snub her--she never takes a snub to herself. If
you were to hit her in the face, she would think it a mistake and meant
for some one else."

"Then, why not do the next best thing--have fun with her?"

"We do--but even that grows monotonous, with such a mountain of
Egotism--she will stay for the Bridge this evening, see if she
doesn't--and never imagine she's not wanted." Then she laughed: "I
think if she does I'll give her to you!"

"Very good!" said he. "I'd rather enjoy it. If she is any more
cantankerous than some of the women at the Heights, she'll be an
interesting study. Yes, I'll be glad to play a rubber with her."

"If you start, you'll play the entire evening with her--we don't change
partners, here."

"And what will _you_ do?" he asked.

"Look on--at the _other_ table. She will have my place. I was going to
play with you."

"Then the greater the sacrifice I'm making, the greater the credit I
should receive."

"It depends--on how you acquit yourself," she said gayly. "There are
the others, now--come along."

There were six of them. Miss Tilghman, Miss Lashiel and Miss Tayloe,
Mr. Dangerfield, Mr. Leigh, and Mr. Byrd. They all had heard of
Croyden's arrival, in Hampton, and greeted him as they would one of
themselves. And it impressed him, as possibly nothing else could have
done--for it was distinctly new to him, after the manners of chilliness
and aloofness which were the ways of Northumberland.

"We are going to play Bridge, Miss Erskine, will you stay and join us?"
asked Miss Carrington.

"I shall be charmed! charmed!" was the answer. "This is an ideal
evening for Bridge, don't you think so, Mr. Croyden?"

"Yes, that's what we _thought_!" said Miss Tilghman, dryly.

"And who is to play with me, dear Davila?" Miss Erskine inquired.

"I'm going to put Mr. Croyden with you."

"How nice of you! But I warn you, Mr. Croyden, I am a very exacting
partner. I may find fault with you, if you violate rules--just draw
your attention to it, you know, so you will not let it occur again. I
cannot abide blunders, Mr. Croyden--there is no excuse for them, except
stupidity, and stupidity should put one out of the game."

"I'll try to do my very best," said Croyden humbly.

"I do not doubt that you will," she replied easily, her manner plainly
implying further that she would soon see how much that "best" was.

As they went in to the drawing-room, where the tables were arranged,
Miss Erskine leading, with a feeling of divine right and an appearance
of a Teddy bear, Byrd leaned over to Croyden and said:

"She's the limit!"

"No!" said Leigh, "she's past the limit; she's the sublimated It!"

"Which is another way of saying, she's a superlative d---- fool!"
Dangerfield ended.

"I think I understand!" Croyden laughed. "Before you came, she tackled
me on Art, and, when I confessed to only the commercial side, and an
intention to sell the Stuart and Peale, which, it seems, are at
Clarendon, the pitying contempt was almost too much for me."

"My Lord! why weren't we here!" exclaimed Byrd.

"She's coming out to inspect my 'treasures,' on Thursday morning."

"Self invited?"

"I rather think so."

"And you?"

"I shall turn her over to Moses, and decamp before she gets there."

"Gentlemen, we are waiting!" came Miss Erskine's voice.

"Oh, Lord! the old dragoon!" said Leigh. "I trust I'm not at her
table."

And he was not--Miss Tilghman and Dangerfield were designated.

"Come over and help to keep me straight," Croyden whispered to Miss
Carrington.

She shook her head at him with a roguish smile.

"You'll find your partner amply able to keep you straight," she
answered.

The game began. Miss Tilghman won the cut and made it a Royal Spade.

"They no longer play Royal Spades in New York," said Miss Erskine.

"Don't know about New York," returned Miss Tilghman, placidly, "but
_we're_ playing them here, this evening. Your lead, Miss Amelia."

The latter shut her thick lips tightly, an instant.

"Oh, well, I suppose we must be provincial a little longer," she said,
sarcastically. "Of course, you do not still play Royal Spades in
Northumberland, Mr. Croyden."

"Yes, indeed! Play anything to keep the game moving," Croyden
answered.

"Oh, to be sure! I forgot, for the instant, that Northumberland _is_ a
rapid town.--I call that card, Edith--the King of Hearts!" as Miss
Tilghman inadvertently exposed it.

A moment later, Miss Tilghman, through anger, also committed a revoke,
which her play on the succeeding trick disclosed.

That it was a game for pure pleasure, without stakes, made no
difference to Miss Erskine. Technically it was a revoke, and she was
within her rights when she exclaimed it.

"Three tricks!" she said exultantly, "and you cannot make game this
hand."

"I'm very sorry, partner," Miss Tilghman apologized.

"It's entirely excusable under the circumstances," said Dangerfield,
with deliberate accent. "You may do it again!"

"How courteous Mr. Dangerfield is," Miss Erskine smiled. "To my mind,
nothing excuses a revoke except sudden blindness."

"And you would claim it even then, I suppose?" Dangerfield retorted.

"I said, sudden blindness was the only excuse, Mr. Dangerfield. Had you
observed my language more closely, you doubtless would have
understood.--It is your lead, partner."

Dangerfield, with a wink at Croyden, subsided, and the hand was
finished, as was the next, when Croyden was dummy, without further
jangling. But midway in the succeeding hand, Miss Erskine began.

"My dear Mr. Croyden," she said, "when you have the Ace, King, and _no
more_ in a suit, you should lead the Ace and then the King, to show
that you have no more--give the down-and-out signal. We would have made
an extra trick, if you had done so--I could have given you a diamond to
trump. As it was, you led the King and then the Ace, and I supposed, of
course, you had at least four in suit."

"I'm very sorry; I'll try to remember in future," said Croyden with
affected contrition.

But, at the end of the hand, he was in disgrace again.

"If your original lead had been from your fourth best, partner, I could
have understood you," she said. "As it was, you misinformed me. Under
the rule of eleven, I had but the nine to beat, I played the ten and
Mr. Dangerfield covered with the Knave, which by the rule you should
have held. We lost another trick by it, you see."

"It's too bad--too bad!" Croyden answered; "that's two tricks we've
lost by my stupid playing. I'm afraid I'm pretty ignorant, Miss
Erskine, for I don't know what is meant by the rule of eleven."

Miss Erskine's manner of cutting the cards was somewhat indicative of
her contempt--lingeringly, softly, putting them down as though she
scorned to touch them except with the tips of her fingers.

"The rule of eleven is usually one of the first things learned by a
beginner at Bridge," she said, witheringly. "I do not always agree with
Mr. Elwell, some of whose reasoning and inferences, in my opinion, are
much forced, but his definition of this rule is very fair. I give it in
his exact words, which are: 'Deduct the size of the card led from
eleven, and the difference will show how many cards, higher than the
one led, are held outside the leader's hand.' For example: if you lead
a seven then there are four higher than the seven in the other three
hands."

"I see!" Croyden exclaimed. "What a bully rule!--It's very informing,
isn't it?"

"Yes, it's very informing--in more ways than one," she answered.

Whereat Miss Tilghman laughed outright, and Dangerfield had to retrieve
a card from the floor, to hide his merriment.

"What's the hilarity?" asked Miss Carrington, coming over to their
table. "You people seem to be enjoying the game."

Which sent Miss Tilghman into a gale of laughter, in which Dangerfield
joined.

Miss Erskine frowned in disapproval and astonishment.

"Don't mind them, Mr. Croyden," she said. "They really know better, but
this is the silly season, I suppose. They have much to learn, too--much
to learn, indeed." She turned to Miss Carrington. "I was explaining a
few things about the game to Mr. Croyden, Davila, the rule of eleven
and the Ace-King lead, and, for some reason, it seemed to move them to
jollity."

"I'm astonished!" exclaimed Miss Carrington, her violet eyes gleaming
with suppressed mirth.

"I hope Mr. Croyden does not think we were laughing at _him_!" cried
Miss Tilghman.

"Of course not!" returned Croyden solemnly, "and, if you were, my
stupidity quite justified it, I'm sure. If Miss Erskine will only bear
with me, I'll try to learn--Bully thing, that rule of eleven!"

It was now Croyden's deal and the score, games all--Miss Erskine having
made thirty-six on hers, and Dangerfield having added enough to Miss
Tilghman's twenty-eight to, also, give them game.

"How cleverly you deal the cards," Miss Erskine remarked. "You're
particularly nimble in the fingers."

"I acquired it dealing faro," Croyden returned, innocently.

"Faro!" exclaimed Miss Carrington, choking back a laugh. "What is
faro?"

"A game about which you should know nothing, my dear," Miss Erskine
interposed. "Faro is played only in gambling hells and mining camps."

"And in some of the Clubs _in New York_," Croyden added--at which Miss
Tilghman's mirth burst out afresh. "That's where I learned to copper
the ace or to play it open.--I'll make it no trumps."

"I'll double!" said Miss Tilghman.

"I'll go back!"

"Content."

"Somebody will win the rubber, this hand," Miss Erskine
platitudinized,--with the way such persons have of announcing a self
evident fact--as she spread out her hand. "It is fair support,
partner."

Croyden nodded. Then proceeded with much apparent thought and
deliberation, to play the hand like the veriest tyro.

Miss Erskine fidgeted in her seat, gave half smothered exclamations,
looked at him appealingly at every misplay. All with no effect. Croyden
was wrapped in the game--utterly oblivious to anything but the
cards--leading the wrong one, throwing the wrong one, matching
pasteboards, that was all.

Miss Erskine was frantic. And when, at the last, holding only a
thirteener and a fork in Clubs, he led the losing card of the latter,
she could endure the agony no longer.

"That is five tricks you have lost, Mr. Croyden, to say nothing of the
rubber!" she snapped. "I must go, now--a delightful game! thank you, my
dear Davila. So much obliged to you all, don't you know. Ah, Captain
Carrington, will you see me as far as the front gate?--I won't disturb
the game. Davila can take my place."

"Yes, I'll take her to the gate!" muttered the Captain aside to
Croyden, who was the very picture of contrition. "But if she only were
a man! Are you ready, Amelia?" and he bowed her out.

"You awful man!" cried Miss Carrington. "How could you do it!"

"I think it was lovely--perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Miss
Tilghman.--"Oh! that last hand was too funny for words.--If only you
could have seen her face, Mr. Croyden."

[Illustration: LEADING THE WRONG ONE, THROWING THE WRONG ONE, MATCHING
PASTEBOARDS, THAT WAS ALL]

"I didn't dare!" laughed he. "One look, and I'd have given the whole
thing away."

"She never suspected.--I tell you, she is as dense as asphalt," said
Miss Carrington. "Come, now we'll have some Bridge."

"And I'll try to observe the rule of eleven!" said Croyden.

He lingered a moment, after the game was ended and the others had gone.
When he came to say good-night, he held Miss Carrington's slender
fingers a second longer than the occasion justified.

"And may I come again soon?" he asked.

"As often as you wish," she answered. "You have the advantage of
proximity, at least."



VI

CONFIDENCE AND SCRUPLES


The next month, to Croyden, went pleasantly enough. He was occupied
with getting the household machinery to run according to his ideas--and
still retain Moses and Josephine, who, he early discovered, were
invaluable to him; in meeting the people worth knowing in the town and
vicinity, and in being entertained, and entertaining--all very quietly
and without ostentation.

He had dined, or supped, or played Bridge at all the houses, had given
a few small things himself, and ended by paying off all scores with a
garden party at Clarendon, which Mrs. Carrington had managed for him
with exquisite taste (and, to him, amazing frugality)--and, more
wonderful still, with an entire effacement of _self_. It was Croyden's
party throughout, though her hand was at the helm, her brain
directed--and Hampton never knew.

And the place _had_ looked attractive; with the house set in its wide
sweep of velvety lawn amid great trees and old-fashioned flowers and
hedges. With the furniture cleaned and polished, the old china
scattered in cupboard and on table, the portraits and commissions
freshly dusted, the swords glistening as of yore.

And in that month, Croyden had come to like Hampton immensely. The
absence, in its society, of all attempts at show, to make-believe, to
impress, to hoodwink, was refreshingly novel to him, who, hitherto, had
known it only as a great sham, a huge affectation, with every one
striving to outdo everyone else, and all as hollow as a rotten gourd.

He had not got used, however, to the individual espionage of the
country town--the habit of watching one's every movement, and telling
it, and drawing inferences therefrom--inferences tinctured according to
the personal feelings of the inferer.

He learned that, in three weeks, they had him "taken" with every
eligible girl in town, engaged to four and undecided as to two more.
They busied themselves with his food,--they nosed into his drinks, his
cigars, his cigarettes, his pipes,--they bothered themselves about his
meal hours,--they even inspected his wash when it hung on the line!
Some of them, that is. The rest were totally different; they let every
one alone. They did not intrude nor obtrude--they went their way, and
permitted every one to go his.

So much had been the way of Northumberland, so much he had been used to
always. But--and here was the difference from Northumberland, the vital
difference, indeed--they were interested in you, if _you_ wished them
to be--and it was genuine interest, not pretense. This, and the way
they had treated him as one of them, because Colonel Duval had been
his father's friend, made Croyden feel very much at home.

At intervals, he had taken old Parmenter's letter from its secret
drawer, and studied it, but he had been so much occupied with getting
acquainted, that he had done nothing else. Moreover, there was no
pressing need for haste. If the treasure had kept on Greenberry Point
for one hundred and ninety years, it would keep a few months longer.
Besides, he was a bit uncertain whether or not he should confide in
someone, Captain Carrington or Major Borden. He would doubtless need
another man to help him, even if the location should be easily
determined, which, however, was most unlikely. For him, alone, to go
prying about on Greenberry Point, would surely occasion comment and
arouse suspicion--which would not be so likely if there were two of
them, and especially if one were a well-known resident of Maryland.

He finally determined, however, to go across to Annapolis and look over
the ground, before he disclosed the secret to any one. Which was the
reasonable decision.

When he came to look up the matter of transportation, however, he was
surprised to find that no boat ran between Annapolis and Hampton--or
any other port on the Eastern Shore. He either had to go by water to
Baltimore (which was available on only three days a week) and thence
finish his journey by rail or transfer to another boat, or else he had
to go by steam cars north to Wilmington, and then directly south again
to Annapolis. In either case, a day's journey between two towns that
were almost within seeing distance of each other, across the Bay. Of
the two, he chose to go by boat to Baltimore.

Then, the afternoon of the day before it sailed, he received a
wire--delivered two hours and more after its receipt, in the leisurely
fashion of the Eastern Shore. It was from Macloud, and dated
Philadelphia.

  "Can I come down to-night? Answer to Bellevue-Stratford."

His reply brought Macloud in the morning train.

Croyden met him at the station. Moses took his bag, and they walked out
to Clarendon.

"Sorry I haven't a car!" said Croyden--then he laughed. "The truth is,
Colin, they're not popular down here. The old families won't have
them--they're innovations--the saddle horse and the family carriage are
still to the fore with them. Only the butcher, and the baker and the
candlestick maker have motors. There's one, now--he's the candlestick
maker, I think. This town is nothing if not conservative. It reminds me
of the one down South, where they wouldn't have electric cars. Finally
all the street car horses died. Then rather than commit the awful sin
of letting _new_ horses come into the city, they accepted the trolley.
The fashion suits my pocketbook, however, so I've no kick coming."

"What do you want with a car here, anyway?" Macloud asked. "It looks as
if you could walk from one end of the town to the other in fifteen
minutes."

"You can, easily."

"And the baker et cetera have theirs only for show, I suppose?"

"Yes, that's about it--the roads, hereabout, are sandy and poor."

"Then, I'm with your old families. They may be conservative, at times a
trifle too much so, but, in the main, their judgment's pretty reliable,
according to conditions. What sort of place did you find--I mean the
house?"

"Very fair!"

"And the society?"

"Much better than Northumberland."

"Hum--I see--the aristocracy of birth, not dollars."

"Exactly!--How do you do, Mr. Fitzhugh," as they passed a policeman in
uniform.

"Good morning, Mr. Croyden!" was the answer.

"There! that illustrates," said Croyden. "You meet Fitzhugh every place
when he is off duty. He _belongs_. His occupation does not figure, in
the least."

"So you like it--Hampton, I mean?" said Macloud.

"I've been here a month--and that month I've enjoyed--thoroughly
enjoyed. However, I do miss the Clubs and their life."

"I can understand," Macloud interjected.

"And the ability to get, instantly, anything you want----"

"Much of which you don't want--and wouldn't get, if you had to write
for it, or even to walk down town for it--which makes for economy,"
observed Macloud sententiously.

"But, more than either, I miss the personal isolation which one can
have in a big town, when he wishes it--and has always, in some
degree."

"And _that_ gets on your nerves!" laughed Macloud. "Well, you won't
mind it after a while, I think. You'll get used to it, and be quite
oblivious. Is that all your objections?"

"I've been here only a short time, remember. Come back in six months,
say, and I may have kicks in plenty."

"You may find it a bit dreary in winter--who the deuce is that girl
yonder, Geoffrey?" he broke off.

They were opposite Carrington's, and down the walk toward the gate was
coming the maid of the blue-black hair, and slender ankles. She wore a
blue linen gown, a black hat, and her face was framed by a white silk
parasol.

"That is Miss Carrington," said Croyden.

"Hum!--Your house near here?"

"Yes--pretty near."

Macloud looked at him with a grin.

"She has nothing to do with your liking the town, I suppose?" he said,
knowingly.

"Well, she's not exactly a deterrent--and there are half a dozen more
of the same sort. Oh, on that score, Hampton's not half bad, my
friend!" he laughed.

"You mean there are half a dozen of _that_ sort," with a slight jerk of
his head toward Miss Carrington, "who are unmarried?"

Croyden nodded--then looked across; and both men raised their hats and
bowed.

"And how many married?" Macloud queried.

"Several--but you let them _alone_--it's not fashionable here, as yet,
for a pretty married woman to have an affair. She loves her husband, or
acts it, at least. They're neither prudes nor prigs, but they are not
_that_."

"So far as you know!" laughed Macloud. "But my experience has been that
the pretty married woman who won't flirt, if occasion offers where
there is no danger of being compromised, is a pretty scarce article.
However, Hampton may be an exception."

"You're too cynical," said Croyden. "We turn in here--this is
Clarendon."

"Why! you beggar!" Macloud exclaimed. "I've been sympathizing with
you, because I thought you were living in a shack-of-a-place--and,
behold!"

"Yes, it is not bad," said Croyden. "I've no ground for complaint, on
that head. I can, at least, be comfortable here. It's not bad inside,
either."

That evening, after dinner, when the two men were sitting in the
library while a short-lived thunder storm raged outside, Macloud, after
a long break in the conversation--which is the surest sign of
camaraderie among men--observed, apropos of nothing except the talk of
the morning:

"Lord! man, you've got no kick coming!"

"Who said I had?" Croyden demanded.

"You did, by damning it with faint praise."

"Damning what?"

"Your present environment--and yet, look you! A comfortable house, fine
grounds, beautiful old furnishings, delicious victuals, and two negro
servants, who are devoted to you, or the place--no matter which, for it
assures their permanence; the one a marvelous cook, the other a
competent man; and, by way of society, a lot of fine, old antebellum
families, with daughters like the Symphony in Blue, we saw this
morning. God! you're hard to please."

"And that is not all," said Croyden, laughing and pointing to the
portraits. "I've got ancestors--by purchase."

"And you have come by them clean-handed, which is rare.--Moreover, I
fancy you are one who has them by inheritance, as well."

Croyden nodded. "I'm glad to say I have--ancestors are distinctly
fashionable down here. But _that's_ not all I've got."

"There is only one thing more--money," said Macloud. "You haven't found
any of it down here, have you?"

"That is just what I don't know," Croyden replied, tossing away his
cigarette, and crossing to the desk by the window. "It depends--on
this." He handed the Parmenter letter to Macloud. "Read it through--the
endorsements last, in their order--and then tell me what you think of
it."...

"These endorsements, I take it," said Macloud, "though without date and
signed only with initials, were made by the original addressee,
Marmaduke Duval, his son, who was presumably Daniel Duval, and Daniel
Duval's son, Marmaduke; the rest, of course, is plain."

"That is correct," Croyden answered. "I have made inquiries--Colonel
Duval's father was Marmaduke, whose son was Daniel, whose son was
Marmaduke, the addressee."

"Then why isn't it true?" Macloud demanded.

"My dear fellow, I'm not denying it! I simply want your opinion--what
to do?"

"Have you shown this letter to anyone else?"

"No one."

"Well, you're a fool to show it even to me. What assurance have you
that, when I leave here, I won't go straight to Annapolis and steal
your treasure?"

"No assurance, except a lamblike trust in your friendship," said
Croyden, with an amused smile.

"Your recent experience with Royster & Axtell and the Heights should
beget confidences of this kind?" he said sarcastically, tapping the
letter the while. "You trust too much in friendship, Croyden. Tests of
half a million dollars aren't human!" Then he grinned. "I always
thought there was something God-like about me. So, maybe, you're safe.
But it was a fearful risk, man, a fearful risk!" He looked at the
letter again. "Sure, it's true! The man to whom it was addressed
believed it--else why did he endorse it to his son? And we can assume
that Daniel Duval knew his father's writing, and accepted it.--Oh, it's
genuine enough. But to prove it, did you identify Marmaduke Duval's
writing--any papers or old letters in the house?"

"I don't know," returned Croyden. "I'll ask Moses to-morrow."

"Better not arouse his curiosity--darkies are most inquisitive, you
know--where did you find the letter?"

Croyden showed him the secret drawer.

"Another proof of its genuineness," said Macloud. "Have you made any
effort to identify this man Parmenter--from the records at
Annapolis."

"No--I've done nothing but look at the letter--except to trace the
Duval descent," Croyden replied.

"He speaks, here, of his last will and testament being left with Mr.
Dulany. If it were probated, that will establish Parmenter, especially
if Marmaduke Duval is the legatee. What do you know of Annapolis?"

"Nothing! I never was there--I looked it up on the map I found, here,
and Greenberry Point is as the letter says--across the Severn River
from it."

Macloud laughed, in good-natured raillery.

"You seem to have been in a devil of a hurry!" he said. "At the same
rate of progression, you will go to Annapolis some time next spring,
and get over to Greenberry Point about autumn."

"On the contrary, it's your coming that delayed me," Croyden smiled.
"But for your wire, I would have started this morning--now, if you will
accompany me, we'll go day-after-to-morrow."

"Why delay?" said Macloud. "Why not go to-night?"

"It's a long journey around the Bay by rail--I'd rather cross to Baltimore
by boat; from there it's only an hour's ride to Annapolis by electric
cars. And there isn't any boat sailing until day-after-to-morrow."

"Where's the map?" said Macloud. "Let me see where we are, and where
Annapolis is.... Hum! we're almost opposite! Can't we get a boat in
the morning to take us across direct--charter it, I mean? The
Chesapeake isn't wide at this point--a sailing vessel ought to make it
in a few hours."

"I'll go you!" exclaimed Croyden. He went to the telephone and called
up Dick. "This is Geoffrey Croyden!" he said.--"I've a friend who wants
to go across the Bay to Annapolis, in the morning. Where can I find out
if there is a sailing vessel, or a motor boat, obtainable?... what's
that you say?... Miles Casey?--on Fleet Street, near the wharf?...
Thank you!--He says," turning to Macloud, "Casey will likely take
us--he has a fishing schooner and it is in port. He lives on Fleet
Street--we will walk down, presently, and see him."

Macloud nodded assent, and fell to studying the directions again.
Croyden returned to his chair and smoked in silence, waiting for his
friend to conclude. At length, the latter folded the letter and looked
up.

"It oughtn't to be hard to find," he observed.

"Not if the trees are still standing, and the Point is in the same
place," said Croyden. "But we're going to find the Point shifted about
ninety degrees, and God knows how many feet, while the trees will have
long since disappeared."

"Or the whole Point may be built over with houses!" Macloud responded.
"Why not go the whole throw-down at once--make it impossible to
recover rather than only difficult to locate!" He made a gesture of
disbelief. "Do you fancy that the Duvals didn't keep an eye on
Greenberry Point?--that they wouldn't have noted, in their
endorsements, any change in the ground? So it's clear, in my mind,
that, when Colonel Duval transferred this letter to you, the Parmenter
treasure could readily be located."

"I'm sure I shan't object, in the least, if we walk directly to the
spot, and hit the box on the third dig of the pick!" laughed Croyden.
"But let us forget the old pirate, until to-morrow; tell me about
Northumberland--it seems a year since I left! When one goes away for
good and all, it's different, you know, from going away for the
summer."

"And you think you have left it for good and all?" asked Macloud,
blowing a smoke-ring and watching him with contemplative eyes--"Well,
the place is the same--only more so. A good many people have come back.
The Heights is more lively than when you left, teas, and dinners, and
tournaments and such like.--In town, the Northumberland's resuming its
regulars--the theatres are open, and the Club has taken the bald-headed
row on Monday nights as usual. Billy Cain has turned up engaged, also
as usual--this time, it's a Richmond girl, 'regular screamer,' he says.
It will last the allotted time, of course--six weeks was the limit for
the last two, you'll remember. Smythe put it all over Little in the
tennis tournament, and 'Pud' Lester won the golf championship. Terry's
horse, _Peach Blossom_, fell and broke its neck in the high jump, at
the Horse Show; Terry came out easier--he broke only his collar-bone.
Mattison is the little bounder he always was--a month hasn't changed
him--except for the worse. Hungerford is a bit sillier. Colloden is the
same bully fellow; he is disconsolate, now, because he is beginning to
take on flesh." Whereat both laughed. "Danridge is back from the North
Cape, via Paris, with a new drink he calls _The Spasmodic_--it's made
of gin, whiskey, brandy, and absinthe, all in a pint of sarsaparilla.
He says it's great--I've not sampled it, but judging from those who
have he is drawing it mild.... Betty Whitridge and Nancy Wellesly have
organized a Sinners Class, prerequisites for membership in which are
that you play Bridge on Sundays and have abstained from church for at
least six months. It's limited to twenty. They filled it the first
morning, and have a waiting list of something over seventy-five....
That is about all I can think of that's new."

"Has any one inquired about me?" Croyden asked--with the lingering
desire one has not to be forgot.

Macloud shot a questioning glance at him.

"Beyond the fact that the bankruptcy schedules show you were pretty
hard hit, I've heard no one comment," he said. "They think you're in
Europe. Elaine Cavendish is sponsor for that report--she says you told
her you were called, suddenly, abroad."

Croyden nodded. Then, after a pause:

"Any one inclined to play the devoted, there?" he asked.

"Plenty inclined--plenty anxious," replied Macloud. "I'm looking a bit
that way myself--I may get into the running, since you are out of it,"
he added.

Croyden made as though to speak, then bit off the words.

"Yes, I'm out of it," he said shortly.

"But you're not out of it--if you find the pirate's treasure."

"Wait until I find it--at present, I'm only an 'also ran.'"

"Who had the field, however, until withdrawn," said Macloud.

"Maybe!" Croyden laughed. "But things have changed with me, Macloud;
I've had time for thought and meditation. I'm not sure I should go back
to Northumberland, even if the Parmenter jewels are real. Had I stayed
there I suppose I should have taken my chance with the rest, but I'm
becoming doubtful, recently, of giving such hostages to fortune. It's
all right for a woman to marry a rich man, but it is a totally
different proposition for a poor man to marry a rich woman. Even with
the Parmenter treasure, I'd be poor in comparison with Elaine Cavendish
and her millions--and I'm afraid the sweet bells would soon be jangling
out of tune."

"Would you condemn the girl to spinsterhood, because there are few men
in Northumberland, or elsewhere, who can match her in wealth?"

"Not at all! I mean, only, that the man should be able to support her
according to her condition in life.--In other words, pay all the bills,
without drawing on her fortune."

"Those views will never make you the leader of a popular propaganda!"
said Macloud, with an amused smile. "In fact, you're alone in the
woods."

"Possibly! But the views are not irrevocable--I may change, you know.
In the meantime, let us go down to Fleet Street and interview Casey.
And then, if you're good, I'll take you to call on Miss Carrington."

"The Symphony in Blue!" exclaimed Macloud. "Come along, man, come
along!"



VII

GREENBERRY POINT


There was no trouble with Casey--he had been mighty glad to take them.
And, at about noon of the following day, they drew in to the ancient
capital, having made a quick and easy run from Hampton.

It was clear, bright October weather, when late summer seems to linger
for very joy of staying, and all nature is in accord. The State House,
where Washington resigned his commission--with its chaste lines and
dignified white dome, when viewed from the Bay (where the monstrosity
of recent years that has been hung on behind, is not visible) stood out
clearly in the sunlight, standing high above the town, which slumbers,
in dignified ease, within its shadow. A few old mansions, up the Spa,
seen before they landed, with the promise of others concealed among the
trees, higher up, told their story of a Past departed--a finished
city.

"Where is Greenberry Point?" demanded Macloud, suddenly.

"Yonder, sir, on the far side of the Severn--the strip of land which
juts out into the Bay."

"First hypothesis, dead as a musket!" looking at Croyden. "There isn't
a house in sight--except the light-house, and it's a bug-light."

"No houses--but where are the trees?" Croyden returned. "It seems
pretty low," he said, to the skipper; "is it ever covered with water?"

"I think not, sir--the water's just eating it slowly away."

Croyden nodded, and faced townward.

"What is the enormous white stone building, yonder?" he asked.

"The Naval Academy--that's only one of the buildings, sir, Bancroft
Hall. The whole Academy occupies a great stretch of land along the
Severn."

They landed at the dock, at the foot of Market Place and inquired the
way to Carvel Hall--that being the hotel advised by Dick. They were
directed up Wayman's alley--one of the numerous three foot
thoroughfares between streets, in which the town abounds--to Prince
George Street, and turning northward on it for a block, past the once
splendid Brice house, now going slowly to decay, they arrived at the
hotel:--the central house of English brick with the wings on either
side, and a modern hotel building tacked on the rear.

"Rather attractive!" was Macloud's comment, as they ascended the steps
to the brick terrace and, thence, into the hotel. "Isn't this an old
residence?" he inquired of the clerk, behind the desk.

"Yes, sir! It's the William Paca (the Signer) mansion, but it served as
the home of Dorothy Manners in _Richard Carvel_, and hence the name,
sir: Carvel Hall. We've many fine houses here: the Chase House--he
also was a Signer; the Harwood House, said to be one of the most
perfect specimens of Colonial architecture in America; the Scott House,
on the Spa; the Brice House, next door; McDowell Hall, older than any
of them, was gutted by fire last year, but has been restored; the Ogle
mansion--he was Governor in the 1740's, I think. Oh! this was the Paris
of America before and during the Revolution. Why, sir, the tonnage of
the Port of Annapolis, in 1770, was greater than the tonnage of the
Port of Baltimore, to-day."

"Very interesting!" said Macloud. "Very interesting, indeed. What's
happened to it since 1770?"

"Nothing, sir--that's the trouble, it's progressed backward--and
Baltimore has taken its place."

"I see!" said Macloud, laughing. "What time is luncheon?"

"It's being served now, sir--twelve-thirty to two."

"Order a pair of saddle horses, and have them around at one-thirty,
please."

"There is no livery connected with the hotel, sir, but I'll do what I
can. There isn't any saddlers for hire, but we will get you a pair of
'Cheney's Best,' sir--they're sometimes ridden. However, you had
better drive, if you will permit me to suggest, sir."

Croyden glanced at Macloud.

"No!--we will try the horses," he said.

It had been determined that they should ride for the reasons, as urged
by Macloud, that they could go on horseback where they could not in a
conveyance, and they would be less likely to occasion comment. The
former of which appealed to Croyden, though the latter did not.

Macloud had borrowed an extra pair of riding breeches and puttees, from
his friend, and, at the time appointed, the two men passed through the
office.

"The horses are waiting, sir!" the clerk informed them.

Two negro lads were holding a pair of rawboned nags, that resembled
saddlers about as much as a cigar-store Indian does a sonata. Croyden
looked them over in undisguised disgust.

"If these are Cheney's Best," he commented, "what in Heaven's name are
his worst?"

"Come on!" said Macloud, adjusting the stirrups. "Get aboard and leave
the kicking to the horses, they may be better than they look. Where
does one cross the Severn?" he asked a man who was passing.

"Straight up to the College green," he replied, pointing; "then one
square to the right to King George Street, and on out it, across
College Creek, to the Marine Barracks. The road forks there; you turn
to the right; and the bridge is at the foot of the hill."

They thanked him, and rode away.

"He ought to write a guide book," said Croyden.

"How do you know he hasn't?" Macloud retorted. "Well paved
streets,--but a trifle hard for riding."

"And more than a trifle dirty," Croyden added. "My horse isn't so
bad--how's yours?"

"He'll do!--This must be the Naval Academy," as they passed along a
high brick wall--"Yonder, are the Barracks--the Marines are drilling in
front."

They clattered over the creek, rounded the quarters of the
"Hermaphrodites," and saw below them the wide bridge, almost a half a
mile long, which spans the Severn. The draw was open, to let a motor
boat pass through, but it closed before they reached it.

"This is exceptionally pretty!" Macloud exclaimed, drawing rein,
midway. "Look at the high bluff, on the farther shore, with the view up
the river, on one side, and down the Bay, and clear across on the
other.... Now," as they wound up on the hill, "for the first road to
the right."

"This doesn't look promising!" laughed Croyden, as the road swung
abruptly westward and directly away from Greenberry Point.

"Let us go a little farther," said Macloud. "There must be a way--a
bridle path, if nothing better--and, if we must, we can push straight
through the timber; there doesn't seem to be any fences. You see, it
was rational to ride."

"You're a wise old owl!" Croyden retorted.

"Ah!--there's our road!" as one unexpectedly took off to the right,
among the trees, and bore almost immediately eastward. "Come along, my
friend!"

Presently they were startled by a series of explosions, a short
distance ahead.

"What are we getting into?" Macloud exclaimed, drawing up sharply.

"Parmenter's defending his treasure!" said Croyden, with mock
seriousness. "He is warning us off."

"A long way off, then! We must be a mile and more from the Point. It's
some one blasting, I think."

"It wasn't sufficiently muffled," Croyden answered.

They waited a few moments: hearing no further noises, they proceeded--a
trifle cautiously, however. A little further on, they came upon a wood
cutter.

"He doesn't appear at all alarmed," Croyden observed. "What were the
explosions, a minute ago?" he called.

"They weren't nothing," said the man, leaning on his axe. "The Navy's
got a 'speriment house over here. They're trying things. Yer don't
need be skeered. If yer goin' to the station, it's just a little ways,
now," he added, with the country-man's curiosity--which they did not
satisfy.

They passed the buildings of the Experiment Station and continued on,
amid pine and dogwood, elms and beeches. They were travelling parallel
with the Severn, and not very distant, as occasional glimpses of blue
water, through the trees, revealed. Gradually, the timber thinned. The
river became plainly visible with the Bay itself shimmering to the
fore. Then the trees ended abruptly, and they came out on Greenberry
Point: a long, flat, triangular-shaped piece of ground, possibly two
hundred yards across the base, and three hundred from base to point.

The two men halted, and looked around.

"Somewhere near here, possibly just where your horse is standing, is
the treasure," said Macloud. "Can't you feel its presence?"

"No, I can't!" laughed Croyden, "and that appears to be my only chance,
for I can't see a trace of the trees which formed the square."

"Be not cast down!" Macloud admonished. "Remember, you didn't expect to
find things marked off for you."

"No, _I_ didn't! but I thought _you_ did."

"That was only to stir you up. I anticipated even more adverse
conditions. It's amazingly easier than I dared to hope."

"Thunder! man! we can't dig six feet deep over all of forty acres. We
shall have the whole of Annapolis over to help us before we've done a
square of forty feet."

"You're too liberal!" laughed Macloud. "Twenty feet would be ample."
Then he sobered. "The instructions say: seven hundred and fifty feet
back, from the extreme tip of Greenberry Point, is the quadrangle of
trees. That was in 1720, one hundred and ninety years ago. They must
have been of good size then--hence, they would be of the greater size,
now, or else have disappeared entirely. There isn't a single tree which
could correspond with Parmenter's, closer than four hundred yards, and,
as the point would have been receding rather than gaining, we can
assume, with tolerable certainty, that the beeches have
vanished--either from decay or from wind storms, which must be very
severe over in this exposed land. Hence, must not our first quest be
for some trace of the trees?"

"That sounds reasonable," said Croyden, "and, if the Point has receded,
which is altogether likely, then we are pretty near the place."

"Yes!--if the Point has simply receded, but if it has shifted
laterally, as well, the problem is not so simple."

"Let us go out to the Point, and look at the ruins of the light-house.
If we can get near enough to ascertain when it was built, it may help
us. Evidently there was none erected here, in Parmenter's time, else
he would not have chosen this place to hide his treasure."

But the light-house was a barren yield. It was a crumbling mass of
ruins, lying out in water, possibly fifty feet--the real house was a
bug-light farther out in the Bay.

"Well, there's no one to see us, so why shouldn't we make a search for
the trees?" said Croyden.

"Hold my horse!" said Macloud, dismounting.

He went out on the extreme edge, faced about, and taking a line at
right angles to it, stepped two hundred and fifty paces. He ended in
sand--and, for another fifty paces, sand--sand unrelieved by aught save
some low bushes sparsely scattered here and there.

"Somewhere hereabout, according to present conditions, the trees should
be," he said.

"Not very promising," was Croyden's comment.

"Let us assume that the diagonal lines drawn between the trees
intersect at this point," Macloud continued, producing a compass.
"Then, one hundred and ten paces North-by-North-East is the place we
seek."

He stepped the distance carefully--Croyden following with the
horses--and sunk his heel into the sand beside a clump of wire grass.

"Here is the old buccaneer's hoard!" he exclaimed, dramatically.

"Shall we dig, immediately?" Croyden laughed.

[Illustration: HE WENT OUT ON THE EXTREME EDGE, FACED ABOUT, AND STEPPED
TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY PACES]

"You dig--I'll hold the horses; your hands are tougher than mine."

"I wonder who owns this land?" said Croyden, suddenly.

"We can ascertain very readily. You mean, you would try to purchase
it?"

"Yes, as a site for a house, ostensibly. I might buy a lot beginning,
say one hundred and fifty yards back from the Point, and running, at an
even width of two hundred yards, from the Severn to the Bay. That would
surely include the treasure."

"A fine idea!" Macloud agreed.

"If the present owner will sell," appended Croyden--"and if his price
isn't out of all reason. I can't go much expense, you know."

"Never mind the expense--that can be arranged. If he will sell, the
rest is easy. I'll advance it gladly to you."

"And we will share equally, then," said Croyden.

"Bosh!" Macloud answered. "I've got more money than I want, let me have
some fun with the excess, Croyden. And this promises more fun than I've
had for a year--hunting a buried treasure, within sight of Maryland's
capital. Moreover, it won't likely be out of reach of your own
pocketbook, this can't be very valuable land." He remounted his horse.
"Let us ride around over the intended site, and prospect--we may
discover something."

But, though, they searched for an hour, they were utterly unsuccessful.
The four beech trees had disappeared as completely as though they never
were.

"I'm perfectly confident, however," Macloud remarked as they turned
away toward town, "that somewhere, within the lines of your proposed
lot, lie the Parmenter jewels. Now, for the lot. Once you have title to
it, you may plow up the whole thing to any depth you please, and no one
may gainsay you."

"I'm not so sure," replied Croyden. "My knowing that the treasure was
on it when purchased, may make me liable to my grantor for an
accounting."

"But you don't _know_!" objected Macloud.

"Yet, I have every reason to believe--the letter is most specific."

"Suppose, after you've paid a big price for the land, you don't find
the treasure, could you make him take it back and refund the purchase
money?"

"No, most assuredly, no," smiled Croyden.

"Mighty queer doctrine! You must account for what you find--if you
don't find it, you must keep the land, anyway. The other fellow wins
whatever happens."

"It's predicated on the proposition that I have knowingly deceived him
into selling something for nothing. However, I'm not at all clear about
it; and we will buy if we can--and take the chances. But we won't go to
work with a brass band, old man."

At the top of the hill, beyond the Severn, there was a road which took
off to the left.

"This parallels the road by the Marine Barracks, suppose we turn in
here," Macloud said. "It probably goes through the Academy grounds."

A little way on, they passed what was evidently a fine hospital, with
the United States flag flying over it. Just beyond, occupying the point
of land where College Creek empties into the Severn, was the Naval
Cemetery.

"Very fitting!" Croyden laughed. "They have the place of interment
exceedingly handy to the hospital. What in thunder's that?" he asked,
indicating a huge dome, hideously ornate with gold and white, that
projected above the trees, some distance ahead.

"Give it up!" said Macloud. "Unless it's a custard-and-cream pudding
for the Midshipmen's supper. Awful looking thing, isn't it! Oh! I
recollect now: the Government has spent millions in erecting new
Academy buildings; and someone in the Navy remarked, 'If a certain chap
_had_ to kill somebody, he couldn't see why he hadn't selected the
fellow who was responsible for them--his work at Annapolis would have
been ample justification.' Judging from the atrocity to our fore, the
officer didn't overdraw it."

They took the road along the officers' quarters on Upshur Row, and came
out the upper gate into King George Street, thereby missing the Chapel
(of the custard-and-cream dome) and all the other Smith buildings.

"We can see them again!" said Croyden. "The real estate agent is more
important now."

It was the quiet hour when they got back to the hotel, and the clerk
was standing in the doorway, sunning himself.

"Enjoy your ride, sirs?" he asked.

"It wasn't bad," returned Croyden. Then he stopped. "Can you tell me
who owns Greenberry Point?"

"Yes, sir! The Government owns it--they bought it for the Rifle
Range."

"The whole of it?"

"Yes, sir!--from the Point clear up to the Experiment Station."

Croyden thanked him and passed on.

"That's the end of the purchase idea!" he said. "I thought it was 'most
too good to last."

"It got punctured very early," Macloud agreed.

"And the question is, what to do, now? Might the clerk be wrong?"

Macloud shook his head. "There isn't a chance of it. Titles in a small
town are known, particularly, when they're in the United States.
However, it's easy to verify--we'll hunt up a real estate
office--they'll know."

But when they had dressed, and sought a real estate office, the last
doubt vanished: it confirmed the clerk.

"If you haven't anything particularly pressing," said Macloud, "I
suggest that we remain here for a few days and consider what is best to
do."

"My most pressing business is to find the treasure!" Croyden laughed.

"Good! then we're on the job until it's found--if it takes a year or
longer." And when Croyden looked his surprise: "I've nothing to do, old
chap, and one doesn't have the opportunity to go treasure hunting more
than once in a lifetime. Picture our satisfaction when we hear the pick
strike the iron box, and see the lid turned back, and the jewels
coruscating before us."

"But what if there isn't any coruscating--that's a good word, old
man--nor any iron box?"

"Don't be so pessimistic--_think_ we're going to find it, it will help
a lot."

"How about if we _don't_ find it?"

"Then, at least, we'll have had a good time in hunting, and have done
our best to succeed."

"It's a new thing to hear old cynical Macloud preaching optimism!"
laughed Croyden--"our last talk, in Northumberland, wasn't particularly
in that line, you'll remember."

"Our talk in Northumberland had to do with other people and
conditions. This is an adventure, and has to do solely with ourselves.
Some difference, my dear Croyden, some difference! What do you say to
an early breakfast to-morrow, and then a walk over to the Point. It's
something like your Eastern Shore to get to, however,--just across the
river by water, but three miles around by the Severn bridge. We can
have the whole day for prospecting."

"I'm under your orders," said Croyden. "You're in charge of this
expedition."

They had been passing numerous naval officers in uniform, some well
set-up, some slouchy.

"The uniform surely does show up the man for what he is," said Macloud.
"Look at these two for instance--from the stripes on the sleeves, a
Lieutenant-Commander and a Senior Lieutenant. Did you ever see a real
Bowery tough?--they are in that class, with just enough veneer to
deceive, for an instant. There, are two others, opposite. They look
like soldiers. Observe the dignity, the snappy walk, the inherent air
of command."

"Isn't it the fault of the system?" asked Croyden. "Every Congressman
holds a competitive examination in his district; and the appointment
goes to the applicant who wins--be he what he may. For that reason, I
dare say, the Brigade of Midshipmen contains muckers as well as
gentlemen--and officers are but midshipmen of a larger growth."

"Just so! and it's wrong--all wrong! To be a commissioned officer, in
either Army or Navy, ought to attest one's gentle birth."

"It raises a presumption in their favor, at least."

"Presumption! do you think the two who passed us could hide behind that
presumption longer than the fraction of an instant?"

"Don't get excited, old man! I was accounting for it, not defending it.
It's a pity, of course, but that's one of the misfortunes of a Republic
where all men are equal."

"Rot! damn rot!" Macloud exclaimed. "Men aren't equal!--they're born to
different social scales, different intellectualities, different
conditions otherwise. For the purpose of suffrage they may, in the
theory of our government, be equal--but we haven't yet demonstrated it.
We exclude the Japanese and Chinese. We have included the negro, only
within the living generation--and it's entirely evident, now, we made a
monstrous mistake by doing it. Equal! Equal! Never in this world!"

"How about the next world?" asked Croyden.

"I don't know!" laughed Macloud, as they ascended the steps of the
hotel. "For my part, I'm for the Moslem's Paradise and the Houris who
attend the Faithful. And, speaking of houris!--see who's here!"

Croyden glanced up--to see Elaine Cavendish and Charlotte Brundage
standing in the doorway.



VIII

STOLEN


"This is, truly, a surprise!" Miss Cavendish exclaimed. "Who would ever
have thought of meeting you two in this out-of-the-way place."

"Here, too!" replied Macloud.

"When did you return, Geoffrey?" she inquired.

"From abroad?--I haven't gone," said Croyden. "The business still holds
me."

She looked at him steadily a moment--Macloud was talking to Miss
Brundage.

"How much longer will it hold you?" she asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know--it's difficult of
adjustment.--What brings you here, may I inquire?"

"We were in Washington and came over with the Westons to the Officers'
Hop to-night--given for the Secretary of something. He's one of the
Cabinet. We return in the morning."

"Oh, I see," he answered; the relief in his voice would have missed a
less acute ear. "Where are you going now?"

"To a tea at the Superintendent's, when the Westons join us. Come
along!"

"I haven't acquired the Washington habit,--yet!" he laughed. "A man at
a tea fight! Oh, no!"

"Then go to the dance with us--Colin! you'll go, won't you?"

"Sure!" said Macloud. "I'll follow your voice any place. Where shall it
be?"

"To the Hop, to-night."

"We're not invited--if that cuts any figure."

"You'll go in our party. Ah! Mrs. Weston, I've presumed to ask Mr.
Macloud and Mr. Croyden to join our party to-night."

"The Admiral and I shall be delighted to have them," Mrs. Weston
answered--"Will they also go with us to the tea? No? Well, then,
to-night."

Macloud and Croyden accompanied them to the Academy gates, and then
returned to the hotel.

In the narrow passage between the news-desk and the office, they
bumped, inadvertently, into two men. There were mutual excuses, and the
men went on.

An hour or so later, Macloud, having changed into his evening clothes,
came into Croyden's room and found him down on his knees looking under
the bureau, and swearing vigorously.

"Whee!" he said; "you _are_ a true pirate's heir! Old Parmenter,
himself, couldn't do it better. What's the matter--lose something?"

"No, I didn't lose anything!" said Croyden sarcastically. "I'm saying
my prayers."

"And incidentally searching for this, I suppose?" picking up a pearl
stud from under the bed.

Croyden took it without a word.

"And when you've sufficiently recovered your equanimity," Macloud went
on, "you might let me see the aforesaid Parmenter's letter. I want to
cogitate over it."

"It's in my wallet!" grinding in the stud--"my coat's on the chair,
yonder."

"I don't find it!" said Macloud, searching. "What pocket is it in?"

"The inside breast pocket!" exclaimed Croyden, ramming the last stud
home. "Where would you think it is--in the small change pocket?"

"Then suppose you find it for me."

"I'll do it with----" He stopped. "Do you mean it isn't there?" he
exclaimed.

"It isn't there!" said Macloud, holding up the coat.

Croyden's fingers flew to the breast pocket--empty! to the other
pockets--no wallet! He seized his trousers; then his waistcoat--no
wallet.

"My God! I've lost it!" he cried.

"Maybe you left it in Hampton?" said Macloud.

Croyden shook his head. "I had it when we left the Weston party--I felt
it in my pocket, as I bent to tie Miss Cavendish's shoe."

"Then, it oughtn't to be difficult to find--it's lost between the
Sampson Gate and the hotel. I'm going out to search, possibly in the
fading light it has not been noticed. You telephone the office--and
then join me, as quickly as you can get into your clothes."

He dashed out and down the stairs into the Exchange, passing midway,
with the barest nod, the Weston party, nor pausing to answer the
question Miss Cavendish flung after him.

Once on the rear piazza, however, he went slowly down the broad white
steps to the broad brick walk--the electric lights were on, and he
noted, with keen regret, how bright they made it--and thence to the
Sampson Gate. It was vain! He inquired of the guard stationed there,
and that, too, proving unavailing, left directions for its return, if
found.

"What a misfortune!" he muttered, as he renewed the search. "What a
misfortune! If any one reads that letter, the jig is up for us....
Here! boys," to a crowd of noisy urchins, sitting on the coping along
the street, "do you want to make a dollar?"

The enthusiasm of the response, not to mention its unanimity,
threatened dire disaster to Macloud's toilet.

"Hold on!" he said. "Don't pull me apart. You all can have a chance for
it. I've lost a wallet--a pocketbook--between the gate yonder and the
hotel. A dollar to the boy who finds it."

With a shout, they set to work. A moment later Croyden came down the
walk.

"I haven't got it," Macloud said, answering his look. "I've been over
to the gate and back, and now I've put these gamins to work. They will
find it, if it's to be found. Did you telephone the office?"

"Nothing doing there!" Croyden answered. "And what's more, there won't
be anything doing here--we shall never find the letter, Macloud."

"That's my fear," Macloud admitted. "Somebody's already found it."

"Somebody's _stolen_ it," Croyden answered.

"What?"

"Precisely!--do you recall our being jostled by two men in the narrow
corridor of the hotel? Well, then is when I lost my wallet. I am sure
of it. I wasn't in a position to drop it from my pocket."

Macloud's hand sought his own breast pocket and stopped.

"I forgot to change, when I dressed. Maybe the other fellow made off
with mine. I'll go and investigate--you keep an eye on the boys."

Presently he returned.

"You're right!" he said. "Mine is missing, too. We'll call off the
boys."

He flung them some small coins, thereby precipitating a scramble and a
fight, and they went slowly in.

"There is just one chance," he continued. "Pickpockets usually abstract
the money, instantly, and throw the book and papers away. They want no
tell-tale evidence. It may be the case here--they, likely, didn't
examine the letter, just saw it _was_ a letter and went no further."

"That won't help us much," said Croyden. "It will be found--it's only a
question of the pickpockets or some one else."

"But the some one else may be honest. Your card is in the wallet?"

"With Hampton on it."

"The finder may advertise--may look you up at the hotel--may----"

"May bring it back on a gold salver!" Croyden interjected. "No! No!
Colin. Our only hope is that the thief threw away the letter, and that
no one finds it until after we have the treasure. The man isn't born
who, under the circumstances, will renounce the opportunity for a half
million dollars."

"Well, at the worst, we have an even chance! Thank Heaven! We know the
directions without the letter. Don't be discouraged, old man--we'll win
out, yet."

"I'm not discouraged!" laughed Croyden. "I have never anticipated
success. It was sport--an adventure and a problem to work out, nothing
more. Now, if we have some one else to combat, so much greater the
adventure, and more intricate the problem."

"Shall we notify the police?" Macloud asked. "Or isn't it well to get
them into it?"

"I'll confess I don't know. If we could jug the thieves quickly, and
recover the plunder, it might be well. On the other hand, they might
disclose the letter to the police or to some pal, or try even to treat
with us, on the threat of publicity. On the whole, I'm inclined to
secrecy--and, if the thieves show up on the Point, to have it out with
them. There are only two, so we shall not be overmatched. Moreover, we
can be sure they will keep it strictly to themselves, if we don't force
their hands by trying to arrest them."

Macloud considered a moment. "I incline to your opinion. We will simply
advertise for the wallets to-morrow, as a bluff--and go to work in
earnest to find the treasure."

They had entered the hotel again; in the Exchange, the rocking chair
brigade and the knocker's club were gathered.

"The usual thing!" Croyden remarked. "Why can't a hotel ever be free of
them?"

"Because it's a hotel!" laughed Macloud. "Let's go in to dinner--I'm
hungry."

The tall head-waiter received them like a host himself, and conducted
them down the room to a small table. A moment later, the Weston party
came in, with Montecute Mattison in tow, and were shown to one nearby,
with Harvey's most impressive manner.

An Admiral is some pumpkins in Annapolis, when he is on the _active_
list.

Mrs. Weston and the young ladies looked over and nodded; Croyden and
Macloud arose and bowed. They saw Miss Cavendish lean toward the
Admiral and say a word. He glanced across.

"We would be glad to have you join us," said he, with a man's fine
indifference to the fact that their table was, already, scarcely large
enough for five.

"I am afraid we should crowd you, sir. Thank you!--we'll join you
later, if we may," replied Macloud.

A little time after, they heard Mattison's irritating voice, pitched
loud enough to reach them:

"I wonder what Croyden's doing here with Macloud?" he remarked. "I
thought you said, Elaine, that he had skipped for foreign parts, after
the Royster smash, last September."

"I did say, Mr. Mattison, I _thought_ he had gone abroad, but I most
assuredly did not say, nor infer, that he had _skipped_, nor connect
his going with Royster's failure!" Miss Cavendish responded. "If you
must say unjust and unkind things, don't make other people responsible
for them, please. Shoulder them yourself."

"Good girl!" muttered Macloud. "Hand him another!" Then he shot a look
at his friend.

"I don't mind," said Croyden. "They may think what they please--and
Mattison's venom is sprinkled so indiscriminately it doesn't hurt.
Everyone comes in for a dose."

They dallied through dinner, and finished at the same time as the
Westons. Croyden walked out with Miss Cavendish.

"I couldn't help overhearing that remark of Mattison's--the beggar
intended that I should," said he--"and I want to thank you, Elaine, for
your 'come back' at him."

"I'm sorry I didn't come back harder," said she.

"And if you prefer me not to go with you to the Hop to-night don't
hesitate to say so--I'll understand, perfectly. The Westons may have
got a wrong impression----"

"The Westons haven't ridden in the same motor, from Washington to
Annapolis, with Montecute for nothing; but I'll set you straight, never
fear. We are going over in the car--there is room for you both, and
Mrs. Weston expects you. We will be down at nine. It's the fashion to
go early, here, it seems."

Zimmerman was swinging his red-coated military band through a dreamy,
sensuous waltz, as they entered the gymnasium, where the Hops, at the
Naval Academy, are held. The bareness of the huge room was gone
entirely--concealed by flags and bunting, which hung in brilliant
festoons from the galleries and the roof. Myriads of variegated lights
flashed back the glitter of epaulet and the gleam of white shoulders,
with, here and there, the black of the civilian looking strangely
incongruous amid the throng that danced itself into a very kaleidoscope
of color.

The Secretary was a very ordinary man, who had a place in the Cabinet
as a reward for political deeds done, and to be done. He represented a
State machine, nothing more. Quality, temperament, fitness, poise had
nothing to do with his selection. His wife was his equivalent, though,
superficially, she appeared to better advantage, thanks to a Parisian
modiste with exquisite taste, and her fond husband's bottomless bank
account.

Having passed the receiving line, the Westons held a small reception of
their own. The Admiral was still upon the active list, with four years
of service ahead of him. He was to be the next Aide on Personnel, the
knowing ones said, and the orders were being looked for every day.
Therefore he was decidedly a personage to tie to--more important even
than the Secretary, himself, who was a mere figurehead in the
Department. And the officers--and their wives, too, if they were
married--crowded around the Westons, fairly walking over one another in
their efforts to be noticed.

"What's the meaning of it?" Croyden asked Miss Cavendish as they joined
the dancing throng. "Are the Westons so amazingly popular?"

"Not at all! they're hailing the rising sun," she said--and explained:
"They would do the same if he were a mummy or had small-pox. 'Grease,'
they call it."

(The watchword, in the Navy, is "grease." From the moment you enter the
Academy, as a plebe, until you have joined the lost souls on the
retired list, you are diligently engaged in greasing every one who
ranks you and in being greased by every one whom you rank. And the more
assiduous and adroit you are at the greasing business, the more
pleasant the life you lead. The man who ranks you can, when placed over
you, make life a burden or a pleasure as his fancy and his disposition
dictate. Consequently the "grease," and the higher the rank the greater
the "grease," and the number of "greasers.")

"Well-named!--dirty, smeary, contaminating business," said Croyden.
"And the best 'greasers' have the best places, I reckon. I prefer the
unadorned garb of the civilian--and independence. I'll permit those
fellows to fight the battles and draw the rewards--they can do both
very well."

He did not get another dance with her until well toward the end--and
would not then, if the lieutenant to whom it belonged had not been a
second late--late enough to lose her.

"We are going back to Washington, in the morning," she said. "Can't you
come along?"

"Impossible!" he answered. "Much as I'd like to do it."

She looked up at him, quickly.

"Are you sure you would like to do it?" she asked.

"What a question!" he exclaimed.

"Geoffrey!--what is this business which keeps you here--in the East?"

"Business!" he replied, smiling.

"Which means, I must not ask, I suppose."

He did not answer.

"Will you tell me one thing--just one?" she persisted. "Has Royster &
Axtell's failure anything to do with it?"

"Yes--it has!" he said, after a moment's hesitation.

"And is it true that you are seriously embarrassed--have lost most of
your fortune?"

"It was to be just one question!" he smiled.

"I'm a woman," she explained.

They danced half the length of the room before he replied. He would
tell her. She, alone, deserved to know--and, if she cared, would
understand.

"I have lost most of my fortune!" he admitted. "I am not, however, in
the least embarrassed--I have no debts."

"And is it 'business,' which keeps you?--will you ever come back to
Northumberland?"

"Yes, it is business that keeps me--important business. Whether or not
I shall return to Northumberland, depends on the outcome of that
business."

"Why did you leave without a word of farewell to your friends?" she
persisted.

"Was that unusual?" said Croyden. "Has any of my friends
cared--sincerely cared? Has any one so much as inquired for me?"

She looked away.

"They thought you were called to Europe, suddenly," she replied.

"For which thinking you were responsible, Elaine."

"Why I?" she demanded.

"You were the only one I told."

Her eyes sought his, then fell.

"It was because of the failure," she said. "You were the largest
creditor--you disappeared--there were queries and rumors--and I thought
it best to tell. I hope I did no harm."

"On the contrary," he said, "I am very, very grateful to know that some
one thought of me."

The music stopped. It was just in time. Another moment, and he might
have said what he knew was folly. Her body close to his, his arm around
her, the splendor of her bared shoulders, the perfume of her hair, the
glory of her face, were overcoming him, were intoxicating his senses,
were drugging him into non-resistance. The spell was broken not an
instant too soon. He shook himself--like a man rousing from dead
sleep--and took her back to their party.

The next instant, as she was whirled away by another, she shot him an
alluringly fascinating smile, of intimate camaraderie, of
understanding, which well-nigh put him to sleep again.

"I would that I might get such a smile," sighed Macloud.

"You go to the devil!" said Croyden. "She has the same smile for all
her friends, so don't be silly."

"And don't be blind!" Macloud laughed.

"Moreover, if it's a different smile, the field is open. I'm scratched,
you know."

"Can a man be scratched _after_ he has won?" asked Macloud.

"More silliness!" Croyden retorted, as he turned away to search for his
partner.

When the Hop was over, they said good-night at the foot of the stairs,
in the Exchange.

"We shall see you in the morning, of course--we leave about ten
o'clock," said Miss Cavendish.

"We shall be gone long before you are awake," answered Croyden. And,
when she looked at him inquiringly, he added: "It's an appointment that
may not be broken."

"Well, till Northumberland, then!" Miss Brundage remarked.

But Elaine Cavendish's only reply was a meaning nod and another
fascinating smile. She wished him success.

As they entered their own rooms, a little later, Macloud, in the lead,
switched on the lights--and stopped!

"Hello!--our wallets, by all that's good!" he exclaimed.

"Hurrah!" cried Croyden, springing in, and stumbling over Macloud in
his eagerness.

He seized his wallet!--A touch, and the story was told. No need to
investigate--it was as empty as the day it came from the shop, save for
a few visiting cards, and some trifling memoranda. The letter and the
money were gone.

"Damn!" said Croyden.

Macloud laughed.

"You didn't fancy you would find it?" he said.

"No, I didn't, but damn! anyway--who wouldn't?"

"Oh, you're strictly orthodox!" Macloud laughed. "But the pity is that
won't help us. They've got old Parmenter's letter--and our ready cash
as well; but the cash does not count."

"It counts with me," said Croyden. "I'm out something over a
hundred--and that's considerable to me now. Anything to show where they
were recovered?"

Macloud was nearest the telephone. He took down the receiver. After a
time he was answered.

"What do you know about our wallets?" he asked.... "Thank you!--The
office says, they were found by one of the bell-boys in a garbage can
on King George Street."

"Very good," said Croyden. "If they mean fight, I reckon we can
accommodate them. Greenberry Point early in the morning."



IX

THE WAY OUT


"I've been thinking," said Croyden, as they footed it across the Severn
bridge, "that, if we knew the year in which the light-house was
erected, we could get the average encroachment of the sea every year,
and, by a little figuring, arrive at where the point was in 1720. It
would be approximate, of course, but it would give us a
start--something more definite than we have now. For all we know
Parmenter's treasure may be a hundred yards out in the Bay."

Macloud nodded. "And if we don't find the date, here," he added, "we
can go to Washington and get it from the Navy Department. An inquiry
from Senator Rickrose will bring what we want, instantly."

"At the same time, why shouldn't we get permission to camp on the Point
for a few weeks?" Croyden suggested. "It would make it easy for us to
dig and investigate, and fish and measure, in fact, do whatever we
wished. Having a permit from the Department, would remove all
suspicion."

"Bully! We're fond of the open--with a town convenient!" Macloud
laughed. "I know Rickrose well, we can go down this afternoon and see
him. He will be so astonished that we are not seeking a political
favor, he will go to the Secretary himself and make ours a personal
request. Then we will get the necessary camp stuff, and be right on the
job."

They had passed the Experiment Station and the Rifle Range, and were
rounding the shoal onto the Point, when the trotting of a rapidly
approaching horse came to them from the rear.

"Suppose we conceal ourselves, and take a look," suggested Macloud.
"Here is a fine place."

He pointed to some rocks and bushes that lined the roadway. The next
instant, they had disappeared behind them.

A moment more, and the horse and buggy came into view. In it were two
men--of medium size, dressed quietly, with nothing about them to
attract attention, save that the driver had a hook-nose, and the other
was bald, as the removal of his hat, an instant, showed.

"The thieves!" whispered Croyden.

"Yes--I'll bet a hundred on it!" Macloud answered.

"Greenberry Point seems far off," said the driver--"I wonder if we can
have taken the wrong road?"

"This is the only one we could take," the other answered, "so we must
be right. I wonder what that jay's doing?" he added, with a laugh.

"Cussing himself for----" The rest was lost in the noise of the team.

"Right, you are!" said Croyden, lifting himself from a bed of stones
and vines. "Right, you are, my friend! And if I had a gun, I'd give the
Coroner a job with both of you."

Macloud looked thoughtful.

"It would be most effective," he said. "But could we carry it off
cleanly? The law is embarrassing if we're detected, you know."

"You're not serious?" said Croyden.

"I never was more so," the other answered. "I'd shoot those scoundrels
down without a second's hesitation, if I could do it and not be
caught."

"A trifle unconventional!" commented Croyden. "However, your idea isn't
half bad; they wouldn't hesitate to do the same to us."

"Exactly! They won't hesitate--and, what's more, they have the nerve to
take the chance. That is the difference between us and them."

They waited until they could no longer hear the horse's hoof-falls nor
the rumble of the wheels. Then they started forward, keeping off the
road and taking a course that afforded the protection of the trees and
undergrowth. Presently, they caught sight of the two men--out in the
open, their heads together, poring over a paper, presumably the
Parmenter letter.

"It is not as easy finding the treasure, as it was to pick my pocket!"
chuckled Croyden. "There's the letter--and there are the men who stole
it. And we are helpless to interfere, and they know it. It's about as
aggravating as----" He stopped, for want of a suitable comparison.

Macloud only nodded in acquiescence.

The men finished with the letter. Hook-nose went on to the Point, and
stood looking at the ruins of the light-house out in the Bay; the other
turned and viewed the trees that were nearest.

"Much comfort you'll get from either," muttered Croyden.

Hook-nose returned, and the two held a prolonged conversation, each of
them gesticulating, now toward the water, and again toward the timber.
Finally, one went down to the extreme point and stepped off two hundred
and fifty paces inland. He marked this point with a stone.

Bald-head pointed to the trees, a hundred yards away, and shook his
head. More talk followed. Then they produced a compass, and ran the
additional distance to the North-east.

"Dig! damn you, dig!" exclaimed Macloud. "The treasure's not there."

"You'll have to work your brain a bit," Croyden added. "The letter's
not all that's needed, thank Heaven! You've stolen the one, but you
can't steal the other."

The men, after consulting together, went to the buggy, took out two
picks and shovels, and, returning to the place, fell to work.

"Did you ever see such fools?" said Macloud. "Dig! damn you, dig!"

After a short while, Bald-head threw down his pick and hoisted himself
out of the hole. An animated discussion followed.

"He's got a glimmer of intelligence, at last," Croyden muttered.

The discussion grew more animated, they waved their arms toward the
Bay, and toward the Severn, and toward the land. Hook-nose slammed his
pick up and down to emphasize his argument. Bald-head did likewise.

"They'll be doing the war dance, next!" laughed Macloud.

"'When thieves fall out, honest men come by their own,'" Croyden
quoted.

"_More_ honest men, you mean--the comparative degree."

"Life is made up of comparatives," said Croyden. "What's the matter
now?" as Bald-head faced about and stalked back to the buggy. "Has he
quit work so soon?"

"He has simply quit digging a hole at random," Macloud said. "My Lord,
he's taking a drink!"

Bald-head, however, did not return to his companion. Instead, he went
out to the Bay and stood looking across the water toward the bug-light.
Then he turned and looked back toward the timber.

He was thinking, as they had. The land had been driving inward by the
encroachment of the Bay--the beeches had, long since, disappeared, the
victims of the gales which swept the Point. There was no place from
which to start the measurements. Beyond the fact that, somewhere near
by, old Parmenter had buried his treasure, one hundred and ninety years
before, the letter was of no definite use to anyone.

From the Point, he retraced his steps leisurely to his companion, who
had continued digging, said something--to which Hook-nose seemingly
made no reply, save by a shovel of sand--and continued directly toward
the timber.

"Has he seen us?" said Croyden.

"I think not--these bushes are ample protection. Lie low.... He's not
coming this way--he's going to inspect the big trees, on our left....
They won't help you, my light-fingered friend; they're not the right
sort."

After a time, Bald-head abandoned the search and went back to his
friend. Throwing himself on the ground, he talked vigorously, and,
apparently, to some effect, for, presently, the digging ceased and
Hook-nose began to listen. At length, he tossed the pick and shovel
aside, and lifted himself out of the hole. After a few more
gesticulations, they picked up the tools and returned to the buggy.

"Have they decided to abandon it?" said Croyden, as they drove away.

The thieves, themselves, answered the question. At the first heavy
undergrowth, they stopped the horse and proceeded carefully to conceal
the tools. This accomplished, they drove off toward the town.

"Hum!" said Macloud. "So you're coming back are you? I wonder what you
intend to do?"

"I wish we knew," Croyden returned. "It might help us--for quite
between ourselves, Macloud, I think we're stumped."

"Our first business is to move on Washington and get the permit,"
Macloud returned. "Hook-nose and his friend may have the Point, for
to-day; they're not likely to injure it. Come along!"

They were passing the Marine Barracks when Croyden, who had been
pondering over the matter, suddenly broke out:

"We've got to get rid of those two fellows, Colin!"

"Granted!" said Macloud. "But how are we to manage it?"

"We agree that we dare not have them arrested--they would blow
everything to the police. And the police would either graft us for all
the jewels are worth, or inform the Government."

"Yes, but we may have to take the risk--or else divide up with the
thieves. Which do you prefer to do?"

"Neither!" said Croyden. "There is another way--except killing them,
which, of course, would be the most effective. Why shouldn't we
imprison them--be our own jailers?"

Macloud threw away his cigarette and lit another before he replied,
then he shook his head.

"Too much risk to ourselves," he said. "Somebody would likely be killed
in the operation, with the chances strongly favoring ourselves. I'd
rather shoot them down from ambush, at once."

"That may require an explanation to a judge and jury, which would be a
trifle inconvenient. I'd prefer to risk my life in a fight. Then, if it
came to court, our reputation is good, while theirs is in the rogues'
gallery."

"Where would you imprison them?" asked Macloud, dubiously.

"That is the difficulty, I admit. Think over it, while we're going to
Washington and back; see if you can't find a way out. Either we must
jug them, securely, for a week or two, or we must arrest them. On the
whole, it might be wiser to let them go free--let them make a try for
the treasure, unmolested. When they fail and retire, we can begin."

"Your last alternative doesn't sound particularly attractive to me--or
to you, either, I fancy."

"This isn't going to be a particularly attractive quest, if we want to
succeed," said Croyden. "Pirate's gold breeds pirate's ways, I
reckon--blood and violence and sudden death. We'll try to play it
without death, however, if our opponents will permit. Such title, as
exists to Parmenter's hoard, is in me, and I am not minded to
relinquish it without a struggle. I wasn't especially keen at the
start, but I'm keen enough, now--and I don't propose to be blocked by
two rogues, if there is a way out."

"And the way out, according to your notion, is to be our own jailers,
think you?" said Macloud. "Well, we can chew on it--the manner of
procedure is apt to keep us occupied a few hours."

They took the next train, on the Electric Line, to Washington, Macloud
having telephoned ahead and made an appointment with Senator
Rickrose--whom, luckily, they found at the Capital--to meet them at the
Metropolitan Club for luncheon. At Fourteenth Street, they changed to a
Connecticut Avenue car, and, dismounting at Seventeenth and dodging a
couple of automobiles, entered the Pompeian brick and granite building,
the home of the Club which has the most representative membership in
the country.

Macloud was on the non-resident list, and the door-man, with the memory
for faces which comes from long practice, greeted him, instantly, by
name, though he had not seen him for months.

"Yes, Mr. Macloud, Senator Rickrose just came in," he said.

They met the Senator in the Red Room. He was very tall, with a tendency
to corpulency, which, however, was lost in his great height; very
dignified, and, for one of his service, very young--of immense
influence in the councils of his party, and the absolute dictator in
his own State. Inheriting a superb machine from a "matchless
leader,"--who died in the harness--he had developed it into a well
nigh perfect organization for political control. All power was in his
hands, from the lowest to the highest, he ruled with a sway as absolute
as a despot. His word was the ultimate law--from it an appeal did not
lie.

"How are you, old fellow?" he said to Macloud, dropping a hand on his
shoulder. "I haven't seen you for a long time--and, Mr. Croyden, I
think I have met you in Northumberland. I'm glad, indeed, to see you
both." He touched a bell. "Take the orders!" he said, to the boy.

"Senator!" said Macloud, a little later, when they had finished
luncheon. "I want to ask a slight favor--not political however--so it
won't have to be endorsed by the organization."

The Senator laughed. "In that event, it is granted before you ask. What
is it I can do?"

"Have the Secretary of the Navy issue us a permit to camp on Greenberry
Point."

"Where the devil is Greenberry Point?" said Rickrose.

"Across the Severn River from Annapolis."

Rickrose turned in his chair and glanced over the dining-room. Then he
raised his hand to the head waiter.

"Has the Secretary of the Navy had luncheon?" he asked.

"Yes, sir--before you came in."

The Senator nodded.

"We would better go over to the Department, at once, or we shall miss
him," he said. "Chevy Chase is the drawing card, in the afternoon."

The reception hour was long passed, but the Secretary was in and would
see Senator Rickrose. He came forward to meet him--a tall, middle-aged,
well-groomed man, with sandy hair, whose principal recommendation for
the post he filled was the fact that he was the largest contributor to
the campaign fund in his State, and his senior senator needed him in
his business, and had refrigerated him into the Cabinet for safe
keeping--that being the only job which insured him from being a
candidate for the Senator's own seat. It is a great game, is politics!

"Mr. Secretary!" said Rickrose, "my friends want a permit to camp for
two weeks on Greenberry Point."

"Greenbury Point!" said the Secretary, vaguely--"that's somewhere out
in San Francisco harbor?"

"Not the Greenberry Point they mean," the Senator replied. "It's down
at Annapolis--across the Severn from the Naval Academy, and forms part
of that command, I presume. It is waste land, unfortified and wind
swept."

"Oh! to be sure. I know it. Why wouldn't the Superintendent give you a
permit?" turning to Macloud. "It is within his jurisdiction."

"We didn't think to ask him," said Macloud. "We supposed it was
necessary to apply direct to you."

"They are not familiar with the customs of the service," explained
Rickrose, "and, as I may run down to see them, just issue the permit to
me and party. The Chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee is inspecting
the Point, if you need an excuse."

"Oh, no! none whatever--however, a duplicate will be forwarded to the
Superintendent. If it should prove incompatible with the interests of
the service," smiling, "he will inform the Department, and we shall
have to revoke it."

He rang for his stenographer and dictated the permit. When it came in,
he signed it and passed it over to Rickrose.

"Anything else I can do for you, Senator?" he asked.

"Not to-day, thank you, Mr. Secretary," Rickrose answered.

"Do you actually intend to come down?" asked Macloud, when they were in
the corridor. "That will be bully."

He shot a look at Croyden. His face was a study. Hunting the Parmenter
treasure, with the Chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee as a
disinterested spectator, was rather startling, to say the least. The
Senator's reply reassured them.

"Impossible!" he said. "The campaign opens next week, and I'm drawn as
a spell-binder in the Pacific States. That figurehead was ruffling his
feathers on you, just to show himself, so I thought I'd comb him down a
bit. You'll experience no difficulty, I fancy. If you do, wire me, and
I'll get busy. I've got to go over to the State Department now, so I'll
say good-bye--anything else you want let me know."

"Next for a sporting goods shop," said Macloud as they went down the
steps into Pennsylvania Avenue; "for a supply of small arms and
ammunition--and, incidentally, a couple of tents. We can get a few
cooking utensils in Annapolis, but we will take our meals at Carvel
Hall. I think neither of us is quite ready to turn cook."

"I am sure, I'm content!" laughed Croyden. "We can hire a horse and
buggy by the week, and keep them handy--better get a small tent for the
horse, while we're about it."

They went to a shop on F Street, where they purchased three tents of
suitable size, two Winchester rifles, and a pair of Colt's military
revolvers with six-and-a-half inch barrels, and the necessary
ammunition. These they directed should be sent to Annapolis
immediately. Cots and blankets could be procured there, with whatever
else was necessary.

They were bound up F Street, toward the Electric Station, when Macloud
broke out.

"If we had another man with us, your imprisonment idea would not be so
difficult--we could bag our game much more easily, and guard them more
securely when we had them. As it is, it's mighty puzzling to
arrange."

"True enough!" said Croyden, "but where is the man who is
trustworthy--not to mention willing to take the risk, of being killed
or tried for murder, for someone else's benefit? They're not many like
you, Colin."

A man, who was looking listlessly in a window just ahead, turned away.
He bore an air of dejection, and his clothes, while well cut, were
beginning to show hard usage and carelessness.

"Axtell!" Macloud observed--"and on his uppers!"

"There's our man!" exclaimed Croyden. "He is down hard, a little money
with a small divide, if successful, will get him. What do you say?"

"Nothing!" replied Macloud. "It's up to you."

Axtell saw them; he hesitated, whether to speak or to go on. Croyden
solved the question.

"Hello! Axtell, what are you doing here?" he said, extending his hand.

Axtell grasped it, as a drowning man a straw.

"You're kind to ask, Mr. Croyden! Mighty kind in one who lost so much
through us."

"You were not to blame--Royster's responsible, and he's gone----"

"To hell!" Axtell interrupted, bitterly. "May he burn forever!"

"Amen to that wish!" Croyden smiled. "Meanwhile, can I do anything for
you? You're having a run of hard luck, aren't you?"

For a moment, Axtell did not answer--he was gulping down his thoughts.

"I am," he said. "I've just ten dollars to my name. I came here
thinking the Congressmen, who made piles through our office, would get
me something, but they gave me the marble stare. I was good enough to
tip them off and do favors for them, but they're not remembering me
now. Do you know where I can get a job?"

"Yes--I'll give you fifty dollars and board, if you will come with us
for two weeks. Will you take it?"

"Will I take it?--Well, rather!"

"What you're to do, with Mr. Macloud and myself, we will disclose
later. If, then, you don't care to aid us, we must ask you to keep
silence about it."

"I don't want to know anything!" said Axtell. "I'll do my part, and ask
no questions--and thank you for trusting me. You're the first man since
our failure, who hasn't hit me in the face--don't you think I
appreciate it?"

"Very good!" said Croyden. "Have you any other baggage?" nodding toward
a small bag, which Axtell had in his hand.

"No."

"Then, come along--we're bound for Annapolis, and the car leaves in ten
minutes."



X

PIRATE'S GOLD BREEDS PIRATE'S WAYS


That evening, in the seclusion of their apartment at Carvel Hall, they
took Axtell into their confidence--to a certain extent (though, again,
he protested his willingness simply to obey orders). They told him, in
a general way, of Parmenter's bequest, and how Croyden came to be the
legatee--saying nothing of its great value, however--its location, the
loss of the letter the previous evening, the episode of the thieves on
the Point, that morning, and their evident intention to return to the
quest.

"Now, what we want to know is: are you ready to help us--unaided by the
law--to seize these men and hold them prisoners, while we search for
the treasure?" Croyden asked. "We may be killed in the attempt, or we
may kill one or both of them, and have to stand trial if detected. If
you don't want to take the risk, you have only to decline--and hold
your tongue."

"My dear Mr. Croyden!" said Axtell, "I don't want you to pay me a
cent--just give me my board and lodging and I'll gladly aid you as long
as necessary. It's a very little thing to do for one who has lost so
much through us. You provide for our defense, if we're apprehended by
the law, and _that_" (snapping his fingers) "for the risk."

Croyden held out his hand.

"We'll shake hands on that, Axtell, if you please," he said; "and, if
we recover what Parmenter buried, you'll not regret it."

The following morning saw them down at the Point with the equipage and
other paraphernalia. The men, whom they had brought from Annapolis for
the purpose, pitched the tents under the trees, ditched them, received
their pay, climbed into the wagons and rumbled away to town--puzzled
that anyone should want to camp on Greenberry Point when they had the
price of a hotel, and three square meals a day.

"It looks pretty good," said Croyden, when the canvases were up and
everything arranged--"and we shan't lack for the beautiful in nature.
This is about the prettiest spot I've ever seen, the Chesapeake and the
broad river--the old town and the Academy buildings--the warships at
anchor--the _tout ensemble!_ We may not find the treasure, but, at
least, we've got a fine camp--though, I reckon, it is a bit breezy when
the wind is from the Bay."

"I wonder if we should have paid our respects to the Superintendent
before poaching on his preserves?" said Macloud.

"Hum--hadn't thought of that!" Croyden answered. "Better go in and show
ourselves to him, this afternoon. He seems to be something of a
personage down here, and we don't want to offend him. These naval
officers, I'm told, are sticklers for dignity and the prerogatives due
their rank."

"Hold on!" exclaimed Macloud. "On that score, we've got some rank
ourselves to uphold."

"What!" said Croyden.

"Certainly! the Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, of the
United States Senate, is with us. According to the regulations, is it
his duty to call _first_ on the Superintendent?--that's the point."

"Give it up!" laughed Croyden. "However, the Superintendent has a copy
of the letter, and he will know the ropes. We will wait a day, then, if
he's quiescent, it's up to us."

"Great head!" laughed Macloud. "You should have been a diplomat,
Croyden--nothing less than an Ambassadorship for you, my boy!"

Croyden smiled.

"A motor boat would be mighty convenient to go back and forth to
Annapolis," he said. "Look at the one cutting through the water there,
midway across!"

It came nearer, halted a little way off in deep water, and an officer
in uniform swept the tents and them with a glass. Then the boat put
about and went chugging upstream.

"We didn't seem to please him," remarked Macloud, gazing after the
boat. Suddenly it turned in toward shore and made the landing at the
Experiment Station.

"We are about to be welcomed or else ordered off--I'll take a bet
either way," said Macloud.

"Welcomed!" Croyden responded. "Otherwise, they wouldn't have
despatched an officer--it would have been a file of marines instead.
You haven't lost the permit, Macloud!"

"You don't seem very sure!" Macloud laughed.

Presently, the officer appeared, walking rapidly down the roadway. As
soon as he sighted the tents, he swung over toward them. Macloud went a
few steps forward to meet him.

"Is this Senator Rickrose?" the Lieutenant inquired.

"No," said Macloud. "Senator Rickrose isn't coming until later. I am
one of his friends, Colin Macloud, and this is Mr. Croyden and Mr.
Axtell."

"Very glad to meet you, gentlemen!" said the Lieutenant. "The
Superintendent presents his compliments and desires to place himself
and the Academy at your disposal." (He was instructed to add, that
Captain Boswick would pay his respects to-morrow, having been called to
Washington to-day by an unexpected wire, but the absence of the
Chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee rendered it unnecessary.)

"Thank Captain Boswick, for Senator Rickrose and us, and tell him we
appreciate his kindness exceedingly," Macloud answered. "We're camping
here for a week or so, to try sleeping in the open, under sea air.
We're not likely to prove troublesome!" he added.

Then they took several drinks, and the aide departed.

"So far, we're making delightful progress," said Croyden; "but there
are breakers ahead when Hook-nose and his partner get in the game.
Suppose we inspect the premises and see if they have been here in our
absence."

They went first to the place where they had seen them conceal the
tools--these were gone; proof that the thieves had paid a second visit
to the Point. But, search as they might, no evidence of work was
disclosed.

"What does it mean?" said Croyden. "Have they abandoned the quest?"

"Not very likely," replied Macloud, "with half a million at stake. They
probably are seeking information; when they have it, we shall see them
back again."

"Suppose they bring four or five others to help them?"

"They won't--never fear!--they're not sharing the treasure with any one
else. Rather, they will knife each other for it. Honor among thieves is
like the Phoenix--it doesn't exist."

"If the knifing business were to occur before the finding, it would
help some!" laughed Croyden. "Meantime, I'm going to look at the ruins
of the light-house. I discovered in an almanac I found in the hotel
last night, that the original light-house was erected on Greenberry
Point in 1818. This fact may help us a lot."

They went out to the extreme edge, and stood gazing across the shoals
toward the ruins.

"What do you make the distance from the land?" Croyden asked.

"About one hundred yards--but it's very difficult to estimate over
water. It may be two hundred for all I can tell."

"It is exactly three hundred and twenty-two feet from the Point to the
near side of the ruins," said Croyden.

"Why not three hundred and twenty-two and a half feet!" scoffed
Macloud.

"I measured it this morning while you were dawdling over your
breakfast," answered Croyden.

"Hitched a line to the land and waded out, I suppose."

"Not exactly; I measured it on the Government map of the Harbor. It
gives the distance as three hundred and twenty-two feet, in plain
figures."

"I said you had a great head!" Macloud exclaimed. "Now, what's the rest
of the figures--or haven't you worked it out?"

Croyden drew out a paper. "The calculation is of value only on the
assumption--which, however, is altogether reasonable--that the
light-house, when erected, stood on the tip of the Point. It is now
three hundred and twenty-two feet in water. Therefore, dividing
ninety-two--the number of years since erection--into three hundred and
twenty-two, gives the average yearly encroachment of the Bay as three
and a half feet. Parmenter buried the casket in 1720, just a hundred
and ninety years ago; so, multiplying a hundred and ninety by three and
a half feet gives six hundred and sixty-five feet. In other words, the
Point, in 1720, projected six hundred and sixty-five feet further out
in the Bay than it does to-day."

"Then, with the point moved in six hundred and sixty-five feet
Parmenter's beeches should be only eighty-five feet from the shore
line, instead of seven hundred and fifty!" Macloud reflected.

"Just so!" said Croyden.

"But where are the beeches?" asked Axtell.

"Disappeared!" Croyden replied. "As the Point from year to year slipped
into the Bay, the fierce gales, which sweep up the Chesapeake,
gradually ate into the timber. It is seventy years, at least, since
Parmenter's beeches went down."

"Why shouldn't the Duvals have noticed the encroachment of the Bay, and
made a note of it on the letter?" Macloud asked.

"Probably, because it was so gradual they did not observe it. They,
likely, came to Annapolis only occasionally, and Greenberry Point
seemed unchanged--always the same narrow stretch of sand, with large
trees to landward."

Macloud nodded. "I reckon that's reasonable."

"Next let us measure back eighty-five feet," said Croyden, producing a
tape-line.... "There! this is where the beech tree should stand. But
where were the other trees, and where did the two lines drawn from them
intersect?"...

"Yes, now you have it!" said Macloud--"where were the trees, and where
did the lines intersect? I reckon you're stumped."

"Let us try some more assuming. You had a compass yesterday, still got
it?"

Macloud drew it out and tossed it over.

"I took the trouble to make a number of diagrams last night, and they
disclosed a peculiar thing. With the location of the first tree fixed,
it matters little where the others were, in determining the direction
of the treasure. It is practically the same. The _objective point_ will
change as you change the position of the trees, but the _direction_
will vary scarcely at all. It is self-evident, of course, to those who
understand such things, but it was a valuable find for me. Now, if we
are correct in our assumption, thus far, the treasure is buried----"

He opened the compass, and having brought North under the needle, ran
his eye North-by-North-east. A queer look passed over his face, then he
glanced at Macloud and smiled.

"The treasure is buried," he repeated--"the treasure is buried--_out in
the Bay_."

Macloud laughed!

"Looks as if wading would be a bit difficult," he said dryly.

Croyden produced the tape-line again, and they measured to the low
bluff at the water's edge.

"Two hundred and eighty-two feet to here," he said, "and Parmenter
buried the treasure at three hundred and thirty feet--therefore, it's
forty-eight feet out in the Bay."

"Then your supposition is that, since Parmenter's time, the Bay has not
only encroached on the Point, but also has eaten in on the sides."

"It would seem so."

"It's hard to dig in water," Macloud remarked. "It's apt to fill in the
hole, you know."

"Don't be sarcastic," Croyden retorted. "I'm not responsible for the
Bay, nor the Point, nor Parmenter, nor anything else connected with the
fool quest, please remember."

"Except the present measurements and the theory on which they're
based," Macloud replied. "And as the former seem to be accurate, and
the latter more than reasonable, we'd best act on them."

"At least, I am satisfied that the treasure lies either in the Bay, or
close on shore; if so, we have relieved ourselves from digging up the
entire Point."

"You have given us a mighty plausible start," said Macloud.

"Land or water?" Croyden laughed. "Hello, whom have we here?" as a
buggy emerged from among the timber, circled around, and halted before
the tents.

"It is Hook-nose back again," said Macloud. "Come to pay a social call,
I suppose! Anything about for them to steal?"

"Nothing but the shooting-irons."

"They're safe--I put them under the blankets."

"What the devil do they want?"

"Come to treat with us--to share the treasure."

"Hum! they've got their nerve!" exclaimed Croyden.

By this time, they had been observed by the men in the buggy who,
immediately, came toward them.

"Let us get away from this place!" said Croyden, and they sauntered
along landward.

"And make them stop us--don't give the least indication that we know
them," added Macloud.

As the buggy neared, Macloud and Croyden glanced carelessly at the
occupants, and were about to pass on, when Hook-nose calmly drew the
horse over in front of them.

"Which of you men is named Croyden?" he asked.

"I am," said Geoffrey.

"Well, you're the man we're lookin' for. Geoffrey is the rest of your
handle, isn't it?"

"You have the advantage of me," Croyden assured him.

"Yes, I think I have, in more ways than your name. Where can we have a
little private talk?"

"We can't!" said Croyden, stepping quickly around the horse and
continuing on his way--Macloud and Axtell following.

"If you'd rather have it before your friends, I'm perfectly ready to
accommodate you," said the fellow. "I thought, however, you'd rather
keep the little secret. Well, we'll be waiting for you at the tents,
all right, my friend!" and he drove ahead.

"Macloud, we are going to bag those fellows right now--and easy, too,"
said Croyden. "When we get to the tents, I'll take them into one--and
give them a chance to talk. When you and Axtell have the revolvers,
with one for me, you can join us. They are armed, of course, but only
with small pistols, likely, and you should have the drop on them before
they can draw. Come, at any time--I'll let down the tent flaps on the
plea of secrecy (since they've suggested it), so you can approach with
impunity."

"This is where _we_ get killed, Axtell!" said Macloud. "I would that I
were in my happy home, or any old place but here. But I've enlisted for
the war, so here goes! If you think it will do any good to pray, we can
just as well wait until you've put up a few. I'm not much in that line,
myself."

"Imagine a broker praying!" laughed Axtell.

"I can't," said Macloud. "But there seem to be no rules to the game
we're playing, so I wanted to give you the opportunity."

As they approached the tents, Hook-nose passed the reins to Bald-head
and got out.

"What's to do now?" asked Macloud. "They're separated."

"Leave it to me, I'll get them together," Croyden answered.... "You
wish to see me, privately?" to Hook-nose.

"I wish to see you--it's up to you whether to make it private or not."

"Come along!" said Croyden, leading the way toward the tent, which was
pitched a trifle to one side.... "Now, sir, what is it?" as the flaps
dropped behind them.

"You've a business way about you, which I like----" began Hook-nose.

"Never mind my ways!" Croyden interrupted. "Come to the point--what do
you want?"

"There's no false starts with you, my friend, are there!" laughed the
other. "That's the thing--bang! and we are off. Good!--we'll get to
business. You lost a letter recently----"

"Not at all," Croyden cut in. "I had a letter _stolen_--you, I suppose,
are the thief."

"I, or my pal--it matters not which," the fellow replied easily. "Now,
what we want, is to make some arrangement as to the division of the
treasure, when you've found it."

"I thought as much!" said Croyden. "Well, let me tell you there won't
be any arrangement made with you, alone. You must get your pal here--I
don't agree with one. I agree with both or none."

"Oh, very well, I'll have him in, if you wish."

Croyden bowed.

"I do wish," he said.

Hook-nose went to the front of the tent and raised the flap.

"Bill!" he called, "hitch the horse and come in."

And Macloud and Axtell heard and understood.

While Hook-nose was summoning his partner, Croyden very naturally
retired to the rear of the tent, thus obliging the rogues to keep their
backs to the entrance.

"Mr. Smith, this is Mr. Croyden!" said Hook-nose.

"I'm glad to make your acquaint----" began Smith.

"There is no need for an introduction," Croyden interrupted curtly.
"You're thieves, by profession, and blackmailers, in addition. Get down
to business, if you please!"

"You're not overly polite, my friend--but we'll pass that by. You're
hell for business, and that's our style. You understand, I see, that
this treasure hunt has got to be kept quiet. If anyone peaches, the
Government's wise and Parmenter's chest is dumped into its strong
box--that is, as much as is left after the officials get their own
flippers out. Now, my idea is for you people to do the searching, and,
when the jewels is found, me and Bill will take half and youn's half.
Then we all can knock off work, and live respectable."

"Rather a good bargain for you," said Croyden. "We supply the
information, do all the work and give up half the spoils--for what,
pray?"

"For our silence, and an equal share in the information. You have
doubtless forgot that we have the letter now."

"And what if I refuse?" Croyden asked.

"You're not likely to refuse!" the fellow laughed, impudently. "Better
half a big loaf than no loaf at all."

"But _if_ I refuse?" Croyden repeated.

"I see what's in your mind, all right. But it won't work, and you know
it. You can have us arrested, yes--and lose your plunder. Parmenter's
money belongs to the United States because it's buried in United States
land. A word to the Treasury Department, with the old pirate's letter,
and the jig is up. We'll risk your giving us to the police, my friend!"
with a sneering laugh. "If you're one to throw away good money, I miss
my guess."

Croyden affected to consider.

"I forgot to say, that as you're fixed so comfortable here, me and Bill
might as well stay with you--it will be more convenient, when you
uncover the chest, you know; in the excitement, you're liable to forget
that we come in for a share."

"Anything else you are moved to exact?" said Croyden. His ears were
primed, and they told him that Macloud and Axtell were coming--"Let us
have them all, so I can decide--I want no afterthoughts."

"You've got them all--and very reasonable they are!" laughed
Hook-nose.

Just then, Macloud and Axtell stepped noiselessly into the tent.

Something in Croyden's face caused Hook-nose's laugh to end abruptly.
He swung sharply around--and faced Macloud's leveled revolver--Axtell's
covered his pal.

"Hands up! Both of you!"--Croyden cried--"None of that,
Hook-nose!--make another motion to draw a gun, and we'll scatter your
brains like chickenfeed." His own big revolver was sticking out of
Macloud's pocket. He took it. "Now, I'll look after you, while my
friends tie up your pal, and the first one to open his head gets a
bullet down his throat."

"Hands behind your back, Bald-head," commanded Axtell, briskly. "Be
quick about it, Mr. Macloud is wonderfully easy on the trigger. So,
that's better! just hold them there a moment."

He produced a pair of nippers, and snapped them on.

"Now, lie down and put your feet together--closer! closer!" Another
pair were snapped on them.

"Now, I'll do for you," Axtell remarked, turning toward Hook-nose.

With Croyden's and Macloud's guns both covering him, the fellow was
quickly secured.

"With your permission, we will search you," said Croyden. "Macloud, if
you will look to Mr. Smith, I'll attend to Hook-nose. We'll give them a
taste of their own medicine."

"You think you're damn smart!" exclaimed Hook-nose.

"Shut up!" said Croyden. "I don't care to shoot a prisoner, but I'll do
it without hesitation. It's going to be either perfect quiet or
permanent sleep--and you may do the choosing."

He slowly went through Hook-nose's clothes--finding a small pistol,
several well-filled wallets, and, in his inside waistcoat pocket, the
Parmenter letter. Macloud did the same for Bald-head.

"You stole one hundred and seventy-nine dollars from Mr. Macloud and
one hundred and eight from me," said Croyden. "You may now have the
privilege of returning it, and the letter. If you make no more trouble,
lie quiet and take your medicine, you'll receive no further harm. If
you're stubborn, we'll either kill you and dump your bodies in the Bay,
or give you up to the police. The latter would be less trouble, for,
without the letter, you can tell your story to the Department, or
whomever else you please--it's your word against ours--and you are
thieves!"

"How long are you going to hold us prisoners?" asked Bald-head--"till
you find the treasure? Oh, Lord!"

"As long as it suits our convenience."

"And luck is with you," Hook-nose sneered.

"At present, it _is_ with us--very much with us, my friend," said
Croyden. "You will excuse us, now, we have pressing business,
elsewhere."

When they were out of hearing, Macloud said:

"Doesn't our recovery of Parmenter's letter change things very
materially?"

"It seems to me it does," Croyden answered. "Indeed, I think we need
fear the rogues no longer--we can simply have them arrested for the
theft of our wallets, or even release them entirely."

"Arrest is preferable," said Macloud. "It will obviate all danger of
our being shot at long range, by the beggars. Let us put them where
they're safe, for the time."

"But the arrest must not be made here!" interposed Croyden. "We can't
send for the police: if they find them here it would give color to
their story of a treasure on Greenberry Point."

"Then Axtell and I will remain on guard, while you go to town and
arrange for their apprehension--say, just as they come off the Severn
bridge. When you return, we can release them."

"What if they don't cross the Severn--what if they scent our game, and
keep straight on to Baltimore? They can abandon their team, and catch a
Short Line train at a way station."

"Then the Baltimore police can round them up. I'm for chancing it.
They've lost Parmenter's letter; haven't anything to substantiate their
story. Furthermore, we have a permit for the Chairman of the Naval
Affairs Committee and friends to camp here. I think that, now, we can
afford to ignore them--the recovery of the letter was exceedingly
lucky."

"Very good!" said Macloud--"you're the one to be satisfied; it's a
whole heap easier than running a private prison ourselves."

Croyden looked the other's horse over carefully, so he could describe
it accurately, then they hitched up their own team and he drove off to
Annapolis.

In due time, he returned.

"It's all right!" he said. "I told the Mayor we had passed two men on
the Severn bridge whom we identified as those who picked our pockets,
Wednesday evening, in Carvel Hall--and gave him the necessary
descriptions. He recognized the team as one of 'Cheney's Best,' and
will have the entire police force--which consists of four men--waiting
at the bridge on the Annapolis side." He looked at his watch. "They are
there, now, so we can turn the prisoners loose."

Croyden and Macloud resumed their revolvers, and returned to the
tent--to be greeted with a volley of profanity which, for fluency and
vocabulary, was distinctly marvelous. Gradually, it died away--for want
of breath and words.

"Choice! Choice!" said Croyden. "In the cuss line, you two are the real
thing. Why didn't you open up sooner?--you shouldn't hide such
proficiency from an admiring world."

Whereat it flowed forth afresh from Hook-nose. Bald-head, however,
remained quiet, and there was a faint twinkle in his eyes, as though he
caught the humor of the situation. They were severely cramped, and in
considerable pain, but their condition was not likely to be benefited
by swearing at their captors.

"Just listen to him!" said Croyden, as Hook-nose took a fresh start.
"Did you ever hear his equal!... Now, if you'll be quiet a moment, like
your pal, we will tell you something that possibly you'll not be averse
to hear.... So, that's better. We're about to release you--let you go
free; it's too much bother to keep you prisoners. These little toy guns
of yours, however, we shall throw into the Bay, in interest of the
public peace. May we trouble you, Mr. Axtell, to remove the bonds?...
Thank you! Now, you may arise and shake yourselves--you'll, likely,
find the circulation a trifle restricted, for a few minutes."

Hook-nose gave him a malevolent look, but made no reply, Bald-head
grinned broadly.

"Now, if you have sufficiently recovered, we will escort you to your
carriage! Forward, march!"

And with the two thieves in front, and the three revolvers bringing up
the rear, they proceeded to the buggy. The thieves climbed in.

"We wish you a very good day!" said Croyden. "Drive on, please!"



XI

ELAINE CAVENDISH


"May we have seen the last of you!" said Macloud, as the buggy
disappeared among the trees; "and may the police provide for you in
future."

"And while you're about it," said Croyden, "you might pray that we find
the treasure--it would be quite as effective." He glanced at his watch.
"It's four o'clock. Now, to resume where those rogues interrupted us.
We had the jewels located, somewhere, within a radius of fifty feet.
They must be, according to our theory, either on the bank or in the
Bay. We can't go at the water without a boat. Shall we tackle the land
at once? or go to town and procure a boat, and be ready for either in
the morning."

"I have an idea," said Macloud.

"Don't let it go to waste, old man, let's have it!" Croyden
encouraged.

"If you can give up hearing yourself talk, for a moment, I'll try!"
laughed Macloud. "It is conceded, I believe, that digging on the Point
by day may, probably will, provoke comment and possibly investigation
as well. My idea is this. Do no work by day. Then as soon as dusky
Night has drawn her robes about her----"

"Oh, Lord!" ejaculated Croyden, with upraised hands.

"Then, as soon as dusky Night has drawn her robes about her," Macloud
repeated, imperturbably, "we set to work, by the light of the silvery
moon. We arouse no comment--provoke no investigation. When morning
dawns, the sands are undisturbed, and we are sleeping as peacefully as
guinea pigs."

"And if there isn't a moon, we will set to work by the light of the
silvery lantern, I reckon!" said Croyden.

"And, when we tackle the water, it will be in a silver boat and with
silver cuirasses and silver helmets, à la Lohengrin."

"And I suppose, our swan-song will be played on silver flutes!" laughed
Croyden.

"There won't be a swan-song--we're going to find Parmenter's treasure,"
said Macloud.

Leaving Axtell in camp, they drove to town, stopping at the North end
of the Severn bridge to hire a row-boat,--a number of which were drawn
up on the bank--and to arrange for it to be sent around to the far end
of the Point. At the hotel, they found a telephone call from the
Mayor's office awaiting them.

The thieves had been duly captured, the Mayor said, and they had been
sent to Baltimore. The Chief of Detectives happened to be in the
office, when they were brought in, and had instantly recognized them as
well-known criminals, wanted in Philadelphia for a particularly
atrocious hold-up. He had, thereupon, thought it best to let the Chief
take them back with him, thus saving the County the cost of a trial,
and the penitentiary expense--as well as sparing Mr. Croyden and his
friend much trouble and inconvenience in attending court. He had had
them searched, but found nothing which could be identified. He hoped
this was satisfactory.

Croyden assured him it was more than satisfactory.

That night they began the hunt. That night, and every night for the
next three weeks, they kept at it.

They tested every conceivable hypothesis. They dug up the entire zone
of suspicion--it being loose sand and easy to handle. On the plea that
a valuable ruby ring had been lost overboard while fishing, they
dragged and scraped the bottom of the Bay for a hundred yards around.
All without avail. Nothing smiled on them but the weather--it had
remained uniformly good until the last two days before. Then there had
set in, from the North-east, such a storm of rain as they had never
seen. The very Bay seemed to be gathered up and dashed over the Point.
They had sought refuge in the hotel, when the first chilly blasts of
wind and water came up the Chesapeake. As it grew fiercer,--and a negro
sent out for information returned with the news that their tents had
been blown away, and all trace of the camp had vanished--it was
decided that the quest should be abandoned.

"It's a foolish hunt, anyway!" said Croyden. "We knew from the first it
couldn't succeed."

"But we wanted to prove that it couldn't succeed," Macloud observed.
"If you hadn't searched, you always would have thought that, maybe, you
could have been successful. Now, you've had your try--and you've
failed. It will be easier to reconcile yourself to failure, than not to
have tried."

"In other words, it's better to have tried and lost, than never to have
tried at all," Croyden answered. "Well! it's over and there's no profit
in thinking more about it. We have had an enjoyable camp, and the camp
is ended. I'll go home and try to forget Parmenter, and the jewel box
he buried down on Greenberry Point."

"I think I'll go with you," said Macloud.

"To Hampton!" Croyden exclaimed, incredulously.

"To Hampton--if you can put up with me a little longer."

A knowing smile broke over Croyden's face.

"The Symphony in Blue?" he asked.

"Maybe!--and maybe it is just you. At any rate, I'll come if I may."

"My dear Colin! You know you're more than welcome, always!"

Macloud bowed. "I'll go out to Northumberland to-night, arrange a few
matters which are overdue, and come down to Hampton as soon as I can
get away."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next afternoon, as Macloud was entering the wide doorway of the
Tuscarora Trust Company, he met Elaine Cavendish coming out.

"Stranger! where have you been these many weeks?" she said, giving him
her hand.

"Out of town," he answered. "Did you miss me so much?"

"I did! There isn't a handy dinner man around, with you and Geoffrey
both away. Dine with us this evening, will you?--it will be strictly
_en famille_, for I want to talk business."

"Wants to talk business!" he thought, as, having accepted, he went on
to the coupon department. "It has to do with that beggar Croyden, I
reckon."

                  *       *       *       *       *

And when, the dinner over, they were sitting before the open grate
fire, in the big living room, she broached the subject without
timidity, or false pride.

"You are more familiar with Geoffrey Croyden's affairs than any one
else, Colin," she said, crossing her knees, in the reckless fashion
women have now-a-days, and exposing a ravishing expanse of blue silk
stockings, with an unconscious consciousness that was delightfully
naive. "And I want to ask you something--or rather, several things."

Macloud blew a whiff of cigarette smoke into the fire, and waited.

"I, naturally, don't ask you to violate any confidence," she went on,
"but I fancy you may tell me this: was the particular business in which
Geoffrey was engaged, when I saw him in Annapolis, a success or a
failure?"

"Why do you ask!" Macloud said. "Did he tell you anything concerning
it?"

"Only that his return to Northumberland would depend very much on the
outcome."

"But nothing as to its character?"

"No," she answered.

"Well, it wasn't a success; in fact, it was a complete failure."

"And where is Geoffrey, now?" she asked.

"I do not know," he replied.

She laughed lightly. "I do not mean, where is he this minute, but where
is he in general--where would you address a wire, or a letter, and know
that it would be received?"

He threw his cigarette into the grate and lit another.

"I am not at liberty to tell," he said.

"Then, it is true--he is concealing himself."

"Not exactly--he is not proclaiming himself----"

"Not proclaiming himself or his whereabouts to his Northumberland
friends, you mean?"

"Friends!" said Macloud. "Are there such things as friends, when one
has been unfortunate?"

"I can answer only for myself," she replied earnestly.

"I believe you, Elaine----"

"Then tell me this--is he in this country or abroad?"

"In this country," he said, after a pause.

"Is he in want,--I mean, in want for the things he has been used to?"

"He is not in want, I can assure you!--and much that he was used to
having, he has no use for, now. Our wants are relative, you know."

"Why did he leave Northumberland so suddenly?" she asked.

"To reduce expenses. He was forced to give up the old life, so he chose
wisely, I think--to go where his income was sufficient for his needs."

"But _is_ it sufficient?" she demanded.

"He says it is."

She was silent for a while, staring into the blaze. He did not
interrupt--thinking it wise to let her own thoughts shape the way.

"You will not tell me where he is?" she said suddenly, bending her blue
eyes hard upon his face.

"I may not, Elaine. I ought not to have told you he was not abroad."

"This business which you and he were on, in Annapolis--it failed, you
say?"

He nodded.

"And is there no chance that it may succeed, some time?"

"He has abandoned it."

"But may not conditions change--something happen----" she began.

"It is the sort that does not happen. In this case, abandonment spells
finis."

"Did he know, when we were in Annapolis?" she asked.

"On the contrary, he was very sanguine--it looked most promising
then."

Her eyes went back to the flames. He blew ring after ring of smoke, and
waited, patiently. He was the friend, he saw, now. He could never hope
to be more. Croyden was the lucky fellow--and would not! Well, he had
his warning and it was in time. Since she was baring her soul to him,
as friend to friend, it was his duty to help her to the utmost of his
power.

Suddenly, she uncrossed her knees and sat up.

"I have bought all the stock, and the remaining bonds of the Virginia
Development Company, from the bank that held them as collateral for
Royster & Axtell's loan," she said. "Oh, don't be alarmed! I didn't
appear in the matter--my broker bought them in _your_ name, and paid
for them in actual money."

"I am your friend--use me!" he said, simply.

She arose, and bending swiftly over, kissed him on the cheek.

"Don't, Elaine," he said. "I am, also, Geoffrey Croyden's friend, but
there are temptations which mortal man cannot resist."

"You think so?" she smiled, leaning over the back of his chair, and
putting her head perilously close to his--"but I trust you--though I
shan't kiss you again--at least, for the present. Now, you have been so
_very_ good about the bonds, I want you to be good some more. Will you,
Colin?"

He held his hands before him, to put them out of temptation.

"Ask me to crawl in the grate, and see how quickly I do it!" he
declared.

"It might prove my power, but I should lose my friend," she whispered.

"And that would be inconvenient!" he laughed. "Come, speak up! it's
already granted, that you should know, Elaine."

"You're a very sweet boy," she said, going back to her seat.

"Which needs demonstration. But that you're a very sweet girl, needs no
proof--unless----" looking at her with a meaning smile.

"Would that be proof, think you?" with a sidelong glance.

"I should accept it as such," he averred--"whenever you choose to
confer it."

"_Confer_ smacks of reward for service done," she said. "Will it bide
till then?"

"Not if it may come sooner?"

"Wait--If you choose such pay, the----"

"I choose no pay," he interrupted.

"Then, the reward will be in kind," she answered enigmatically. "I want
you----" She put one slender foot on the fender, and gazed at it,
meditatively, while the firelight stole covert glances at the silken
ankles thus exposed. "I want you to purchase for me, from Geoffrey
Croyden, at par, his Virginia Development Company bonds," she said.
"You can do it through your broker. I will give you a check, now----"

"Wait!" he said; "wait until he sells----"

"You think he won't sell?" she inquired.

"I think he will have to be satisfied, first, as to the purchaser--in
plain words, that it isn't either you or I. We can't give Geoffrey
money! The bonds are practically worthless, as he knows only too
well."

"I had thought of that," she said, "but, isn't it met by this very
plan? Your broker purchases the bonds for your account, but he,
naturally, declines to reveal the identity of his customer. You can,
truthfully, tell Geoffrey that _you_ are not buying them--for you're
not. And _I_--if he will only give me the chance--will assure him that
I am _not_ buying them from him--and you might confirm it, if he
asked."

"Hum! It's juggling with the facts--though true on the face," said
Macloud, "but it's pretty thin ice we're skating on."

"You are assuming he suspects or questions. He may take the two hundred
thousand and ask no question."

"You don't for a moment believe that!" he laughed.

"It _is_ doubtful," she admitted.

"And you wouldn't think the same of him, if he did."

"I admit it!" she said.

"So, we are back to the thin ice. I'll do what I can; but, you forgot,
I am not at liberty to give his address to my brokers. I shall have to
take their written offer to buy, and forward it to him, which, in
itself will oblige me, at the same time, to tell him that _I_ am not
the purchaser."

"I leave it entirely to you--manage it any way you see fit. All I ask,
is that you get him to sell. It's horrible to think of Geoffrey being
reduced to the bare necessities of life--for that's what it means, when
he goes 'where his income is sufficient for his needs.'"

"It's unfortunate, certainly: it would be vastly worse for a woman--to
go from luxury to frugality, from everything to relatively nothing is
positively pathetic. However, Croyden is not suffering--he has an
attractive house filled with old things, good victuals, a more than
competent cook, and plenty of society. He has cut out all the
non-essentials, and does the essentials economically."

"You have been there?" she demanded. "You speak of your own knowledge,
not from his inferences?"

"I have been there!" he answered.

"And the society--what of it?" she asked quickly.

"Better than our own!" he said, instantly.

"Indeed!" she replied with lifted eye-brows. "Our own in the aggregate
or differentiated?"

"In the aggregate!" he laughed; "but quite the equal of our own
differentiated. If Croyden were a marrying man--with sufficient income
for two--I should give him about six months, at the outside."

"And how much would you give one with sufficient for two--_yourself_,
for instance?"

"Just long enough to choose the girl--and convince her of the propriety
of the choice."

"And do you expect to join Geoffrey, soon?" meaningly.

"As soon as I can get through here,--probably in a day or two."

"Then, we may look for the new Mrs. Macloud in time for the holidays, I
presume.--Sort of a Christmas gift?"

"About then--if I can pick among so many, and she ratifies the pick."

"You haven't, yet, chosen?"

"No!--there are so many I didn't have time to more than look them over.
When I go back, I'll round them up, cut out the most likely, and try to
tie and brand her."

"Colin!" cried Miss Cavendish. "One would think, from your talk, that
Geoffrey was in a cowboy camp, with waitresses for society."

He grinned, and lighted a fresh cigarette.

She tossed him an alluring look.

"And nothing can induce you to tell me the location of the camp?" she
implored.

He smoked, a bit, in silence. Should he or should he not?...

"No!--not now!" he said, slowly. "Let us try the bond matter, first. If
he sells, I think he will return; if not, I'll then consider telling."

"You're a good fellow, Colin, dear!" she whispered, leaning over and
giving his hand an affectionate little pat. "You're so nice and
comfortable to have around--you never misunderstand, nor draw
inferences that you shouldn't."

"Which means, I'm not to draw inferences now?" he said.

"Nor at any other time," she remarked.

"And the reward?"

"Will be forthcoming," with an alluring smile.

"I've a mind to take part payment now," said he, intercepting the hand
before she could withdraw it.

"If you can, sir!" whisking it loose, and darting around a table.

"A challenge, is it? Oh, very well!" and he sprang after.

With a swift movement, she swept up her skirts and fled--around chairs,
and tables, across rugs, over sofas and couches--always manoeuvring to
gain the doorway, yet always finding him barring the way;--until, at
last, she was forced to refuge behind a huge davenport, standing with
one end against the wall.

"Now, will you surrender?" he demanded, coming slowly toward her in the
cul de sac.

She shook her head, smiling the while.

"I'll be merciful," he said. "It is five steps, until I reach
you--One!--Will you yield?"

"No!"

"Two!--will you yield?"

"No!"

"Three!--will you yield?"

"No!"

"Four----"

Quick as thought, she dropped one hand on the back of the davenport;
there was a flash of slippers, lingerie and silk, and she was across
and racing for the door, now fair before her, leaving him only the echo
of a mocking laugh.

"Five!" she counted, tauntingly, from the hall. "Why don't you
continue, sir?"

"I stop with four," he said. "I'll be good for to-night, Elaine--you
need have no further fear."

She tossed her head ever so slightly, while a bantering look came into
her eyes.

"I'm not much afraid of you, now--nor any time," she answered. "But you
have more courage than I would have thought, Colin--decidedly more!"



XII

ONE LEARNED IN THE LAW


It was evening, when Croyden returned to Hampton--an evening which
contained no suggestion of the Autumn he had left behind him on the
Eastern Shore. It was raw, and damp, and chill, with the presage of
winter in its cold; the leaves were almost gone from the trees, the
blackening hand of frost was on flower and shrubbery. As he passed up
the dreary, deserted street, the wind was whistling through the
branches over head, and moaning around the houses like spirits of the
damned.

He turned in at Clarendon--shivering a little at the prospect. He was
beginning to appreciate what a winter spent under such conditions
meant, where one's enjoyments and recreations are circumscribed by the
bounds of comparatively few houses and few people--people, he
suspected, who could not understand what he missed, of the hurly-burly
of life and amusement, even if they tried. Their ways were sufficient
for them; they were eminently satisfied with what they had; they could
not comprehend dissatisfaction in another, and would have no patience
with it.

He could imagine the dismalness of Hampton, when contrasted with the
brightness of Northumberland. The theatres, the clubs, the constant
dinners, the evening affairs, the social whirl with all that it
comprehended, compared with an occasional dinner, a rare party,
interminable evenings spent, by his own fireside, alone! Alone! Alone!

To be sure, Miss Carrington, and Miss Borden, and Miss Lashiel, and
Miss Tilghman, would be available, when they were home. But the winter
was when they went visiting, he remembered, from late November until
early April, and, at that period, the town saw them but little. There
was the Hampton Club, of course, but it was worse than nothing--an
opportunity to get mellow and to gamble, innocent enough to those who
were habituated to it, but dangerous to one who had fallen, by
adversity, from better things....

However, Macloud would be there, shortly, thank God! And the dear girls
were not going for a week or so, he hoped. And, when the worst came, he
could retire to the peacefulness of his library and try to eke out a
four months' existence, with the books, and magazines and papers.

Moses held open the door, with a bow and a flourish, and the lights
leaped out to meet him. It was some cheer, at least, to come home to a
bright house, a full larder, faithful servants--and supper ready on the
table, and tuned to even a Clubman's taste.

"Moses, do you know if Miss Carrington's at home?" he asked, the coffee
on and his cigar lit.

"Yass, seh! her am home, seh, I seed she herse'f dis mornin' cum down
de parf from de front poach wid de dawg, seh."

Croyden nodded and went across the hall to the telephone.

Miss Carrington, herself, answered his call.--Yes, she intended to be
home all evening. She would be delighted to see him and to hear a full
account of himself.

He was rather surprised at his own alacrity, in finishing his cigar and
changing his clothes--and he wondered whether it was the girl, or the
companionship, or the opportunity to be free of himself? A little of
all three, he concluded.... But, especially, the _girl_, as she came
from the drawing-room to meet him.

"So you have really returned," she said, as he bowed over her slender
fingers. "We were beginning to fear you had deserted us."

"You are quite too modest," he replied. "You don't appreciate your own
attractions."

The "you" was plainly singular, but she refused to see it.

"Our own attractions require us to be modest," she returned; "with
a--man of the world."

"Don't!" he laughed. "Whatever I may have been, I am, now, a man of
Hampton."

She shook her head. "You can never be a man of Hampton."

"Why not, if I live among you?"

"If you live here--take on our ways, our beliefs, our mode of thinking,
you may, in a score of years, grow like us, outwardly; but, inwardly,
where the true like must start, _never_!"

"How do we differ?"

"Ask me something easier! You've been bred differently, used to
different things, to doing them in a different way. We do things
slowly, leisurely, with a fine disregard of time, you, with the modern
rush, and bustle, and hurry. You are a man of the world--I repeat
it--up to the minute in everything--never lagging behind, unless you
wish. You never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day. We never
do anything to-day that can be put off till to-morrow."

"And which do you prefer, the to-day or the to-morrow?" he asked.

"It depends on my humor, and my location, at the time--though, I must
admit, the to-day makes for thrift, and business, and success in
acquiring wealth."

"And success also in getting rid of it. It is a return toward the
primitive condition--the survival of the fittest. There must be losers
as well as acquirers."

"There's the pity of it!" she exclaimed, "that one must lose in order
that another may gain."

"But as we are not in Utopia or Altruria," he smiled, "it will continue
so to be. Why, even in Baltimore, they----"

"Oh, Baltimore is only an overgrown country town!" she exclaimed.

"Granted!" he replied. "With half a million population, it is as
provincial as Hampton, and thanks God for it--the most smug,
self-satisfied, self-sufficient municipality in the land, with its
cobblestones, its drains-in-the-gutters, its how much-holier-than-thou
air about everything."

"But it has excellent railway facilities!" she laughed.

"Because it happens to be on the main line between Washington and the
North."

"At least, the people are nice, barring a few mushrooms who are making
a great to-do."

"Yes, the people _are_ delightful!--And, when it comes to mushrooms,
Northumberland has Baltimore beaten to a frazzle. We raise a fresh crop
every night."

"Northumberland society must be exceedingly large!" she laughed.

"It is--but it's not overcrowded. About as many die every day, as are
born every night; and, at any rate, they don't interfere with those who
really belong--except to increase prices, and the cost of living, and
clog the avenue with automobiles."

"That is progress!"

"Yes, it's progress! but whither it leads no one knows--to the devil,
likely--or a lemon garden."

"'Blessed are the lemons on earth, for they shall be peaches in
Heaven!'" she quoted.

"What a glorious peach your Miss Erskine will be," he replied.

"I'm afraid you don't appreciate the great honor the lady did you, in
condescending to view the _treasures_ of Clarendon, and to talk about
them afterward. To hear her, she is the most intimate friend you have
in Hampton."

"Good!" he said, "I'm glad you told me. Somehow, I'm always drawing
lemons."

"Am I a lemon?" she asked, abruptly.

"You! do you think you are?"

"One can never know."

"Have I drawn _you_?" he inquired.

"Quite immaterial to the question, which is: A lemon or not a lemon?"

"If you could but see yourself at this moment, you would not ask," he
said, looking at her with amused scrutiny.

The lovely face, the blue black hair, the fine figure in the simple
pink organdie, the slender ankles, the well-shod feet--a lemon!

"But as I can't see myself, and have no mirror handy, your testimony is
desired," she insisted. "A lemon or not a lemon?"

"A lemon!" he answered.

"Then you can't have any objection----"

"If you bring Miss Erskine in?" he interrupted. "Nay! Nay! _Nay!_ NAY!"

"----if I take you there for a game of Bridge--shall we go this very
evening?"

"If you wish," he answered.

She laughed. "I don't wish--and we are growing very silly. Come, tell
about your Annapolis trip. You stayed a great while."

"Something more than three weeks!"

"It's a queer old town, Annapolis--they call it the 'Finished City!'
It's got plenty of landmarks, and relics, but nothing more. If it were
not for the State Capitol and Naval Academy, it would be only a lot of
ruins, lost in the sand. In midsummer, it's absolutely dead. No one on
the streets, no one in the shops, no one any place.--Deserted--until
there's a fire. Then you should see them come out!"

"That is sufficiently expressed!" laughed Croyden. "But, with the
autumn and the Academy in session, the town seemed very much alive. We
sampled 'Cheney's Best,' Wegard's Cakes, and saw the Custard-and-Cream
Chapel."

"You've been to Annapolis, sure!" she replied. "There's only one thing
more--did you see Paul Jones?"

He shook his head. "We missed him."

"Which isn't surprising. You can't find him without the aid of a
detective or a guide."

"Then, who ever finds him?"

"No one!--and there is the shame. We accepted the vast labors and the
money of our Ambassador to France in locating the remains of America's
first Naval Hero; we sent an Embassy and a warship to bring them back;
we received them with honor, orated over them, fired guns over them.
And then, when the spectators had departed--assuming they were to be
deposited in the crypt of the Chapel--we calmly chucked them away on a
couple of trestles, under a stairway in Bancroft Hall, as we would an
old broom or a tin can. That's _our_ way of honoring the only Naval
Commander we had in the Revolution. It would have been better, much
better, had we left him to rest in the quiet seclusion of his grave in
France--lost, save in memory, with the halo of the past and privacy of
death around him."

"And why didn't we finish the work?" said Croyden. "Why bring him here,
with the attendant expense, and then stop, just short of completion?
Why didn't we inter him in the Chapel (though, God save me from burial
there), or any place, rather than on trestles under a stairway in a
midshipmen's dormitory?"

"Because the appropriation was exhausted, or because the Act wasn't
worded to include burial, or because the Superintendent didn't want the
bother, or because it was a nuisance to have the remains around--or
some other absurd reason. At all events, he is there in the cellar, and
he is likely to stay there, till Bancroft Hall is swallowed up by the
Bay. The junket to France, the parade, the speeches, the spectacular
part are over, so, who cares for the entombment, and the respect due
the distinguished dead?"

"I don't mean to be disrespectful," he observed, "but it's hard luck to
have one's bones disturbed, after more than a hundred years of
tranquillity, to be conveyed clear across the Atlantic, to be orated
over, and sermonized over, and, then, to be flung aside like old junk
and forgot. However, we have troubles of our own--I know I have--more
real than Paul Jones! He may be glad he's dead, so he won't have any to
worry over. In fact, it's a good thing to be dead--one is saved from a
heap of worry."

She looked at him, without replying.

"What's the use?" he said. "A daily struggle to procure fuel sufficient
to keep up the fire."

"What's the use of anything! Why not make an end of life, at once?" she
asked.

"Sometimes, I'm tempted," he admitted. "It's the leap in the dark, and
no returning, that restrains, I reckon--and the fact that we must face
it alone. Otherwise----"

She laughed softly. "Otherwise death would have no terrors! You have
begged the question, or what amounts to it. But, to return to
Annapolis; what else did you see?"

"You have been there?"

"Many times."

"Then you know what I saw," he replied. "I had no wonderful
adventures. This isn't the day of the rapier and the mask."

She half closed her eyes and looked at him through the long lashes.

"What were you doing down on Greenberry Point?" she demanded.

"How did you know?" he asked, surprised.

"Oh! very naturally. I was in Annapolis--I saw your name on the
register--I inquired--and I had the tale of the camp. No one, however,
seemed to think it queer!" laughing.

"Why should they? Camping out is entirely natural," Croyden answered.

"With the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs?"

"We were in his party!"

"A party which until five days ago he had not joined--at least, so the
Superintendent told me, when I dined at his house. He happened to
mention your name, found I knew you--and we gossiped. Perhaps we
shouldn't, but we did."

"What else did he tell you?"

"Nothing! he didn't seem even to wonder at your being there----"

"But _you_ did?"

"It's the small town in me, I suppose--to be curious about other people
and their business; and it was most suspicious."

"What was most suspicious?" he asked.

"Your actions. First, you hire a boat and cross the Bay direct from
Hampton to Annapolis. Second, you procure, through Senator Rickrose, a
permit from the Secretary of the Navy to camp on Greenberry Point.
Third, you actually do camp, there, for nearly, or quite three weeks.
Query:--Why? Why go clear to the Western Shore, and choose a
comparatively inaccessible and exposed location on United States
property, if the idea were only a camp? Why not camp over on Kent
Island, or on this coast? Anywhere, within a few miles of Hampton,
there are scores of places better adapted than Greenberry Point."

"You should be a story teller!" he laughed. "Your imagination is
marvelous. With a series of premises, you can reach whatever conclusion
you wish--you're not bound by the probabilities."

"You're simply obscuring the point," she insisted. "In this instance,
my premises are facts which are not controverted. You admit them to be
correct. So, why? Why?----" She held up her hand. "Don't answer! I'm
not asking for information. I don't want to be told. I'm simply
'chaffing of you,' don't you know!"

"With just a lingering curiosity, however," he added.

"A casual curiosity, rather," she amended.

"Which, some time, I shall gratify. You've trailed me down--we _were_
on Greenberry Point for a purpose, but nothing has come of it, yet--and
it's likely a failure."

"My dear Mr. Croyden, I don't wish to know. It was a mistake to refer
to it. I should simply have forgot what I heard in Annapolis--I'll
forget now, if you will permit."

"By no means, Miss Carrington. You can't forget, if you would--and I
would not have you, if you could. Moreover, I inherited it along with
Clarendon, and, as you were my guide to the place, it's no more than
right that you should know. I think I shall confide in you--no use to
protest, it's got to come!" he added.

"You are determined?--Very well, then, come over to the couch in the
corner, where we can sit close and you can whisper."

He arose, with alacrity. She put out her hand and led him--and he
suffered himself to be led.

"Now!" when they were seated, "you may begin. Once upon a time----" and
laughed, softly. "I'll take this, if you've no immediate use for it,"
she said, and released her hand from his.

"For the moment," he said. "I shall want it back, presently, however."

"Do you, by any chance, get all you want?" she inquired.

"Alas! no! Else I would have kept what I already had."

She put her hands behind her, and faced around.

"Begin, sir!" she said. "Begin! and try to be serious."

"Well,--once upon a time----" Then he stopped. "I'll go over to the
house and get the letter--it will tell you much better than I can. You
will wait here, _right here_, until I return?"

She looked at him, with a tantalizing smile.

"Won't it be enough, if I am here _when_ you return?" she asked.

When he came out on the piazza the rain had ceased, the clouds were
gone, the temperature had fallen, and the stars were shining brightly
in a winter sky.

He strode quickly down the walk to the street and crossed it diagonally
to his own gates. As he passed under the light, which hung near the
entrance, a man walked from the shadow of the Clarendon grounds and
accosted him.

"Mr. Croyden, I believe?" he said.

Croyden halted, abruptly, just out of distance.

"Croyden is my name?" he replied, interrogatingly.

"With your permission, I will accompany you to your house--to which I
assume you are bound--for a few moments' private conversation."

"Concerning what?" Croyden demanded.

"Concerning a matter of business."

"My business or yours?"

"Both!" said the man, with a smile.

Croyden eyed him suspiciously. He was about thirty years of age, tall
and slender, was well dressed, in dark clothes, a light weight
top-coat, and a derby hat. His face was ordinary, however, and Croyden
had no recollection of ever having seen it--certainly not in Hampton.

"I'm not in the habit of discussing business with strangers, at night,
nor of taking them to my house," he answered, brusquely. "If you have
anything to say to me, say it now, and be brief. I've no time to
waste."

"Some one may hear us," the man objected.

"Let them--I've no objection."

"Pardon me, but I think, in this matter, you would have objection."

"You'll say it quickly, and here, or not at all," snapped Croyden.

The man shrugged his shoulders.

"It's scarcely a subject to be discussed on the street," he observed,
"but, if I must, I must. Did you ever hear of Robert Parmenter? Oh! I
see that you have! Well, the business concerns a certain letter--need I
be more explicit?"

"If you wish to make your business intelligible."

The fellow shrugged his shoulders again.

"As you wish," he said, "though it only consumes time, and I was under
the impression that you were in a hurry. However: To repeat--the
business concerns a letter, which has to do with a certain treasure
buried long ago, on Greenberry Point, by the said Robert Parmenter. Do
I make myself plain, now, sir?"

"Your language is entirely intelligible--though I cannot answer for the
facts recited."

The man smiled imperturbably, and went on:

"The letter in question having come into your possession recently, you,
with two companions, spent three weeks encamped on Greenberry Point,
ostensibly for your health, or the night air, or anything else that
would deceive the Naval authorities. During which time, you dug up the
entire Point, dragged the waters immediately adjoining--and then
departed, very strangely choosing for it a time of storm and change of
weather. My language is intelligible, thus far?"

Croyden nodded--rather amused. Evidently, the thieves had managed to
communicate with a confederate, and this was a hold-up. They assumed he
had been successful.

"Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to suppose that your search was
not ineffectual. In plain words, you have recovered the treasure."

The man paused, waiting for an answer.

Croyden only smiled, and waited, too.

"Very good!--we will proceed," said the stranger. "The jewels were
found on Government land. It makes no difference whether recovered on
the Point or on the Bay--the law covering treasure trove, I am
informed, doesn't apply. The Government is entitled to the entire find,
it being the owner in fee of the land."

"You talk like a lawyer!" said Croyden.

The stranger bowed. "I have devoted my spare moments to the study of
the law----"

"And how to avoid it," Croyden interjected.

The other bowed again.

"And also how to prevent _others_ from avoiding it," he replied,
suggestively. "Let us take up that phase, if it please you."

"And if it doesn't please?" asked Croyden, suppressing an inclination
to laugh.

"Then let us take it up, any way--unless you wish to forfeit your find
to the Government."

"Proceed!" said Croyden. "We are arriving, now, at the pith of the
matter. What do you offer?"

"We want an equal divide. We will take Parmenter's estimate and
multiply it by two, though jewels have appreciated more than that in
valuation. Fifty thousand pounds is two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, which will total, according to the calculation, half a million
dollars,--one half of which amount you pay us as our share."

"Your share! Why don't you call it properly--blackmail?" Croyden
demanded.

"As you wish!" the other replied, airily. "If you prefer blackmail to
share, it will not hinder the contract--seeing that it is quite as
illegal on your part as on ours. Share merely sounds a little better
but either obtains the same end. So, suit yourself. Call it what you
will--but _pay_."

"Pay--or what?"

"Pay--or lose everything!" was the answer. "If you are not familiar
with the law covering the subject under discussion, let me enlighten
you."

"Thunder! how you do roll it out!" laughed Croyden. "Get on! man, get
on!"

"I was endeavoring to state the matter succinctly," the stranger
replied, refusing to be hurried or flustered. "The Common Law and the
practice of the Treasury Department provide, that all treasure found on
Government land or within navigable waters, is Government property. If
declared by the finder, immediately, he shall be paid such reward as
the Secretary may determine. If he does not declare, and is informed
on, the informer gets the reward. You will observe that, under the law,
you have forfeited the jewels--I fancy I do not need to draw further
deductions."

"No!--it's quite unnecessary," Croyden remarked. "Your fellow thieves
went into that phase (good word, I like it!) rather fully, down on
Greenberry Point. Unluckily, they fell into the hands of the police,
almost immediately, and we have not been able to continue the
conversation."

"I have the honor to continue the conversation--and, in the interim,
you have found the treasure. So, Parmenter's letter won't be
essential--the facts, circumstances, your own and Mr. Macloud's
testimony, will be sufficient to prove the Government's case. Then, as
you are aware, it's pay or go to prison for larceny."

"There is one very material hypothesis, which you assume as a fact, but
which is, unfortunately, not a fact," said Croyden. "We did not find
the treasure."

The man laughed, good-humoredly.

"Naturally!" he replied. "We don't ask you to acknowledge the
finding--just pay over the quarter of a million and we will forget
everything."

"My good man, I'm speaking the truth!" Croyden answered. "Maybe it's
difficult for you to recognize, but it's the truth, none the less. I
only wish I _had_ the treasure--I think I'd be quite willing to share
it, even with a blackmailer!"

The man laughed, again.

"I trust it will give no offence if I say I don't believe you."

"You can believe what you damn please!" Croyden retorted.

And, without more ado, he turned his back and went up the path to
Clarendon.



XII

I COULD TELL SOME THINGS


When Croyden had got Parmenter's letter from the secret drawer in the
escritoire, he rang the old-fashioned pull-bell for Moses. It was only
a little after nine, and, though he did not require the negro to remain
in attendance until he retired, he fancied the kitchen fire still held
him.

And he was not mistaken. In a moment Moses appeared--his eyes heavy
with the sleep from which he had been aroused.

"Survent, marster!" he said, bowing from the doorway.

"Moses, did you ever shoot a pistol?" Croyden asked.

"Fur de Lawd, seh! Hit's bin so long sence I dun hit, I t'ink I'se
gun-shy, seh."

"But you have done it?"

"Yass, seh, I has don hit."

"And you could do it again, if necessary?"

"I speck so, seh--leas'wise, I kin try--dough I'se mons'us unsuttin,
seh, mons'us unsuttin!"

"Uncertain of what--your shooting or your hitting?"

"My hittin', seh."

"Well, we're all of us somewhat uncertain in that line. At least you
know enough not to point the revolver toward yourself."

"Hi!--I sut'n'y does! seh, I sut'n'y does!" said the negro, with a
broad grin.

"There is a revolver, yonder, on the table," said Croyden, indicating
one of those they used on Greenberry Point. "It's a self-cocker--you
simply pull the trigger and the action does the rest. You understand?"

"Yass, seh, I onderstands," said Moses.

"Bring it here," Croyden ordered.

Moses' fingers closed around the butt, a bit timorously, and he carried
it to his master.

"I'll show you the action," said Croyden. "Here, is the ejector,"
throwing the chamber out, "it holds six shots, you see: but you never
put a cartridge under the firing-pin, because, if anything strikes the
trigger, it's likely to be discharged."

"Yass, seh!"

Croyden loaded it, closed the cylinder, and passed it over to Moses,
who took it with a little more assurance. He was harkening back thirty
years, and more.

"What do yo warn me to do, seh?" he asked.

"I want you to sit down, here, while I'm away, and if any one tries to
get in this house, to-night, you're to shoot him. I'm going over to
Captain Carrington's--I'll be back by eleven o'clock. It isn't likely
you will be disturbed; if you are, one shot will frighten him off, even
if you don't hit him, and I'll hear the shot, and come back at once.
You understand?"

"Yass, seh!--I'm to shoot anyone what tries to get in."

"Not exactly!" laughed Croyden. "You're to shoot anyone who tries to
_break_ in. For Heaven's sake! don't shoot me, when I return, or any
one else who comes legitimately. Be sure he is an intruder, then bang
away."

"Sut'n'y, seh! I onderstands. I'se dub'us bout hittin', but I kin bang
away right nuf. Does yo' spose any one will try to git in, seh?"

"No, I don't!" Croyden smiled--"but you be ready for them, Moses, be
ready for them. It's just as well to provide against contingencies."

"Yass, seh!" as Croyden went out and the front door closed behind him,
"but dem 'tingencies is monty dang'ous t'ings to fools wid. I don'
likes hit, dat's whar I don'."

Croyden found Miss Carrington just where he had left her--a quick
return to the sofa having been synchronous with his appearance in the
hall.

"I had a mind not to wait here," she said; "you were an inordinately
long time, Mr. Croyden."

"I was!" he replied, sitting down beside her. "I was, and I admit
it--but it can be explained."

"I'm listening!" she smiled.

"Before you listen to me, listen to Robert Parmenter, deceased!" said
he, and gave her the letter.

"Oh, this is the letter--do you mean that I am to read it?"

"If you please!" he answered.

She read it through without a single word of comment--an amazing thing
in a woman, who, when her curiosity is aroused, can ask more questions
to the minute than can be answered in a month. When she had finished,
she turned back and read portions of it again, especially the direction
as to finding the treasure, and the postscript bequests by the Duvals.

At last, she dropped the letter in her lap and looked up at Croyden.

"A most remarkable document!" she said. "Most extraordinary in its
ordinariness, and most ordinary in its extraordinariness. And you
searched, carefully, for three weeks and found--nothing?"

"We did," he replied. "Now, I'll tell you about it."

"First, tell me where you obtained this letter?"

"I found it by accident--in a secret compartment of an escritoire at
Clarendon," he answered.

She nodded.

"Now you may tell me about it?" she said, and settled back to listen.

"This is the tale of Parmenter's treasure--and how we did _not_ find
it!" he laughed.

Then he proceeded to narrate, briefly, the details--from the finding of
the letter to the present moment, dwelling particularly on the episode
of the theft of their wallets, the first and second coming of the
thieves to the Point, their capture and subsequent release, together
with the occurrence of this evening, when he was approached, by the
well-dressed stranger, at Clarendon's gates.

And, once again, marvelous to relate, Miss Carrington did not
interrupt, through the entire course of the narrative. Nor did she
break the silence for a time after he had concluded, staring
thoughtfully, the while, down into the grate, where a smouldering back
log glowed fitfully.

"What do you intend to do, as to the treasure?" she asked, slowly.

"Give it up!" he replied. "What else is there to do?"

"And what about this stranger?"

"He _must_ give it up!" laughed Croyden. "He has no recourse. In the
words of the game, popular hereabout, he is playing a bobtail!"

"But he doesn't know it's a bobtail. He is convinced you found the
treasure," she objected.

"Let him make whatever trouble he can, it won't bother me, in the
least."

"He is not acting alone," she persisted. "He has confederates--they may
attack Clarendon, in an effort to capture the treasure."

"My dear child! this is the twentieth century, not the seventeenth!" he
laughed. "We don't 'stand-by to repel boarders,' these days."

"Pirate's gold breeds pirate's ways!" she answered.

He stared at her, in surprise.

"Rather queer!--I've heard those same words before, in this
connection."

"Community of minds."

"Is it a quotation?" he asked.

"Possibly--though I don't recall it. Suppose you are attacked and
tortured till you reveal where you've hidden the jewels?" she
insisted.

"I cannot suppose them so unreasonable!" he laughed, again. "However, I
put Moses on guard--with a big revolver and orders to fire at anyone
molesting the house. If we hear a fusillade we'll know it's he shooting
up the neighborhood."

"Then the same idea _did_ suggest itself to you!"

"Only to the extent of searching for the jewels--I regarded that as
vaguely possible, but there isn't the slightest danger of any one being
tortured."

"You know best, I suppose," she said--"but you've had your warning--and
pirate's gold breeds pirate's ways. You've given up all hope of finding
the treasure--abandoned jewels worth--how many dollars?"

"Possibly half a million," he filled in.

"Without a further search? Oh! Mr. Croyden!"

"If you can suggest what to do--anything which hasn't been done, I
shall be only too glad to consider it."

"You say you dug up the entire Point for a hundred yards inland?"

"We did."

"And dredged the Bay for a hundred yards?"

"Yes."

She puckered her brows in thought. He regarded her with an amused
smile.

"I don't see what you're to do, except to do it all over again," she
announced--"Now, don't laugh! It may sound foolish, but many a thing
has been found on a second seeking--and this, surely, is worth a
second, or a third, or even many seekings."

"If there were any assurance of ultimate success, it would pay to spend
a lifetime hunting. The two essentials, however, are wanting: the
extreme tip of Greenberry Point in 1720, and the beech-trees. We made
the best guess at their location. More than that, the zone of
exploration embraced every possible extreme of territory--yet, we
failed. It will make nothing for success to try again."

"But it is somewhere!" she reflected.

"Somewhere, in the Bay!--It's shoal water, for three or four hundred
feet around the Point, with a rock bottom. The Point itself has been
eaten into by the Bay, down to this rock. Parmenter's chest disappeared
with the land in which it was buried, and no man will find it now,
except by accident."

"It seems such a shame!" she exclaimed. "A fortune gone to waste!"

"Without anyone having the fun of wasting it!" laughed Croyden.

She took up Parmenter's letter again, and glanced over it. Then she
handed it back, and shook her head.

"It's too much for my poor brain," she said. "I surrender."

"Precisely where we landed. We gave it rather more than a fair trial,
and, then, we gave it up. I'm done. When I go home, to-night, I shall
return the letter to the escritoire where I found it, and forget it.
There is no profit in speculating further."

"You can return it to its hiding place," she reflected, "but you can't
cease wondering. Why didn't Marmaduke Duval get the treasure while the
landmarks were there? Why did he leave it for his heirs?"

"Probably on account of old Parmenter's restriction that it be left
until the 'extremity of need.'"

She nodded, in acquiescence.

"Probably," she said, "the Duvals would regard it as a matter of honor
to observe the exact terms of the bequest. Alas! Alas! that they did
so!"

"It's only because they did so, that I got a chance to search!" Croyden
laughed.

"You mean that, otherwise, there would be no buried treasure!" she
exclaimed. "Of course!--how stupid! And with all that money, the Duvals
might have gone away from Hampton--might have experienced other
conditions. Colonel Duval might never have met your father--you might
have never come to Clarendon.--My goodness! Where does it end?"

"In the realm of pure conjecture," he answered. "It is idle to theorize
on the might-have-beens, or what might-have-happened if the
what-did-happen hadn't happened. Dismiss it, at least, for this
evening. You asked what I was doing for three weeks at Annapolis, and I
have consumed a great while in answering--let us talk of something
else. What have you been doing in those three weeks?"

"Nothing! A little Bridge, a few riding parties, some sails on the Bay,
with an occasional homily by Miss Erskine, when she had me cornered,
and I couldn't get away. Then is when I learned what a deep impression
you had made!" she laughed.

"We both were learning, it seems," he replied.

She looked at him, inquiringly.

"I don't quite understand," she said.

"You made an impression, also--of course, that's to be expected, but
this impression is much more than the ordinary kind!"

_"Merci, Monsieur_," she scoffed.

"No, it isn't _merci_, it's a fact. And he is a mighty good fellow on
whom to make an impression."

"You mean, Mr.--Macloud?"

"Just so! I mean Macloud."

"You're very safe in saying it!"

"Wherefore?"

"He is absent. It's not susceptible of proof."

"You think so?"

"Yes, I think so!"

"I don't!"

She shrugged her shoulders.

"For he's coming back----"

"To Hampton?"

"To Hampton."

"When?" she said, sceptically.

"Very soon!"

"Delightfully indefinite!" she laughed.

"In fact, within a week."

She laughed, again!

"To be accurate, I expect him not later than the day-after-to-morrow."

"I shall believe you, when I see him!" incredulously.

"He is, I think, coming solely on your account."

"But you're not quite sure?--oh! modest man!"

"Naturally, he hasn't confided in me."

"So you're confiding in me--how clever!"

"I could tell some things----"

"Which are fables."

"----but I won't--they might turn your head----"

"Which way--to the right or left?"

"----and make you too confident and too cruel. He saw you but
twice----"

"Once!" she corrected.

"Once, on the street; again, when we called in the evening--but he gave
you a name, the instant he saw you----"

"How kind of him!"

"He called you: 'The Symphony in Blue.'"

"Was I in blue?" she asked.

"You were--and looking particularly fit."

"Was that the first time you had noticed it?" she questioned blandly.

"Do you think so?" he returned.

"I am asking you, sir."

"Do I impress you as being blind?"

"No, you most assuredly do not!" she laughed.

He looked at her with daring eyes.

"Yes!" she said, "I know you're intrepid--but you _won't_!"

"Why?--why won't I?"

"Because, it would be false to your friend. You have given me to him."

"I have given you to him!" he exclaimed, with denying intonation.

"Yes!--as between you two, you have renounced, in his favor."

"I protest!"

"At least, I so view it," with a teasingly fascinating smile.

"I protest!" he repeated.

"I heard you."

"I protest!" he reiterated.

"Don't you think that you protest over-much?" she inquired sweetly.

"If we were two children, I'd say: 'You think you're smart, don't
you?'"

"And I'd retort: 'You got left, didn't you?'"

Then they both laughed.

"Seriously, however--do you really expect Mr. Macloud?" she asked.

"I surely do--probably within two days; and I'm not chaffing when I say
that you're the inducement. So, be good to him--he's got more than
enough for two, I can assure you."

"Mercenary!" she laughed.

"No--just careful!" he answered.

"And what number am I--the twenty-first, or thereabout?"

"What matters it, if you're _the_ one, at present?"

She raised her shoulders in the slightest shrug.

"I'd sooner be the present one than all the has-beens," he insisted.

"Opinions differ," she remarked.

"If it will advantage any----"

"I didn't say so," she interrupted.

"----I can tell you----"

"Many fables, I don't doubt!" she cut in, again.

"----that we have been rather intimate, for a few years, and I have
never before known him to exhibit particular interest in any woman."

"'Why don't you speak for yourself, John,'" she quoted, merrily.

"Because, to be frank, I haven't enough for two," he answered, gayly.

But beneath the gayety, she thought she detected the faintest note of
regret. So! there was some one!

And, woman-like, when he had gone, she wondered about her--whether she
was dark or fair, tall or small, vivacious or reserved, flirtatious or
sedate, rich or poor--and whether they loved each other--or whether it
was he, alone, who loved--or whether he had not permitted himself to be
carried so far--or whether--then, she dropped asleep.

Croyden went back to Clarendon, keeping a sharp look-out for anyone
under the trees around the house. He found Moses in the library,
evidently just aroused from slumber by the master's door key.

"No one's bin heah, seh, 'cep de boy wid dis 'spatch," he hastened to
say.

Croyden tore open the envelope:--It was a wire from Macloud, that he
would be down to-morrow.

"You may go to bed, Moses."

"Yass, seh! yass, seh!--I'se pow'ful glad yo's back, seh. Nothin' I kin
git yo befo I goes?"

"Nothing!" said Croyden. "You're a good soldier, Moses, you didn't
sleep on guard."

"No, seh! I keps wide awake, Marster Croyden, wide awake all de time,
seh. Survent, seh!" and, with a bow, he disappeared.

Croyden finished his cigar, put out the light, and went slowly
upstairs--giving not a thought to the Parmenter treasure nor the man he
had met outside. His mind was busy with Elaine Cavendish--their last
night on the moonlit piazza--the brief farewell--the lingering pressure
of her fingers--the light in her eyes--the subdued pleasure, when they
met unexpectedly in Annapolis--her little ways to detain him, keep him
close to her--her instant defense of him at Mattison's scurrilous
insinuation--the officers' hop--the rhythmic throb of the melody--the
scented, fluttering body held close in his arms--the lowered head--the
veiled eyes--the trembling lashes--his senses steeped in the fragrance
of her beauty--the temptation well-nigh irresistible--his resolution
almost gone--trembling--trembling----

                  *       *       *       *       *

The vision passed--music ceased--the dance was ended. Sentiment
vanished--reason reigned once more.

He was a fool! a fool! to think of her, to dream of the past, even. But
it is pleasant, sometimes, to be a fool--where a beautiful woman is
concerned, and only one's self to pay the piper.



XIV

THE SYMPHONY IN BLUE


Macloud arrived the next day, bringing for his host a great batch of
mail, which had accumulated at the Club.

"I thought of it at the last moment--when I was starting for the
station, in fact," he remarked. "The clerk said he had no instructions
for forwarding, so I just poked it in my bag and brought it along.
Stupid of me not to think of it sooner. Why didn't you mention it? I
can understand why you didn't leave an address, but not why I shouldn't
forward it."

"I didn't care, when I left--and I don't care much, now--but I'm
obliged, just the same!" said Croyden. "It's something to do; the most
exciting incident of the day, down here, is the arrival of the mail.
The people wait for it, with bated breath. I am getting in the way,
too, though I don't get much.... I never did have any extensive
correspondence, even in Northumberland--so this is just circulars and
such trash."

He took the package, which Macloud handed him, and tossed it on the
desk.

"What's new?" he asked.

"In Northumberland? Nothing--beyond the usual thing. Everybody is
back--everybody is hard up or says he is--everybody is full of lies,
as usual, and is turning them loose on anyone who will listen,
credulous or sophisticated, it makes no difference. It's the telling,
not the believing that's the thing. Oh! the little cad Mattison is
engaged--Charlotte Brundage has landed him, and the wedding is set for
early next month."

"I don't envy her the job," Croyden remarked.

"It won't bother her!" Macloud laughed. "She'll be privileged to draw
on his bank account, and that's the all important thing with her. He
will fracture the seventh commandment, and she won't turn a hair. She
is a chilly proposition, all right."

"Well, I wish her joy of her bargain," said Croyden. "May she have
everything she wants, and see Mattison not at all, after the wedding
journey--and but very occasionally, then."

He took up the letters and ran carelessly through them.

"Trash! Trash! Trash!" he commented, as he consigned them, one by one,
to the waste-basket.

Macloud watched him, languidly, behind his cigar smoke, and made no
comment.

Presently Croyden came to a large, white envelope--darkened on the
interior so as to prevent the contents from being read until opened. It
bore the name of a firm of prominent brokers in Northumberland.

"Humph! Blaxham & Company!" he grunted. "'We own and offer, subject to
prior sale, the following high grade investment bonds.' Oh yes! I'll
take the whole bundle." He drew out the letter and looked at it,
perfunctorily, before sending it to rest with its fellows.--It wasn't
in the usual form.--He opened it, wider.--It was signed by the senior
partner.

  "My dear Mr. Croyden:

  "We have a customer who is interested in the Virginia Development
  Company. He has purchased the Bonds and the stock of Royster &
  Axtell, from the bank which held them as collateral. He is
  willing to pay you par for your Bonds, without any accrued
  interest, however. If you will consent to sell, the Company can
  proceed without reorganization but, if you decline, he will
  foreclose under the terms of the mortgage. We have suggested the
  propriety and the economy to him--since he owns or controls all
  the stock--of not purchasing your bonds, and, frankly, have told
  him it is worse than bad business to do so. But he refuses to be
  advised, insisting that he must be the sole owner, and that he is
  willing to submit to the additional expense rather than go
  through the tedious proceeding for foreclosure and sale. We are
  prepared to honor a sight-draft with the Bonds attached, or to
  pay cash on presentation and transfer. We shall be obliged for a
  prompt reply.

                                    "Yours very truly,

                                              "R. J. Blaxham."

"What the devil!----"

He read it a second time. No, he wasn't asleep--it was all there,
typewritten and duly signed. Two hundred thousand dollars!--honor sight
draft, or pay cash on presentation and transfer!

"What the devil!" he said, again. Then he passed it across to Macloud.
"Read this aloud, will you,--I want to see if I'm quite sane!"

Macloud was at his favorite occupation--blowing smoke rings through one
another, and watching them spiral upward toward the ceiling.

"I beg your pardon!" he said, as Croyden's words roused him from his
meditation. "I must have been half asleep. What did you say--read it?"
taking the letter.

He and Blaxham had spent considerable time on that letter, trying to
explain the reason for the purchase, and the foolishly high price they
were offering, in such a way as to mislead Croyden.

"Yes,--aloud! I want to hear someone else read it."

Macloud looked at him, curiously.

"It is typewritten, you haven't a chance to get wrong!" he said,
wonderingly.

Croyden laughed!

"Read it, please!" he exclaimed.... "So, I wasn't crazy: and either
Blaxham is lying or his customer needs a guardian--which is it?"

"I don't see that it need concern you, in the least, which it is," said
Macloud. "Be grateful for the offer--and accept by wireless or any
other way that's quicker."

"But the bonds aren't worth five cents on the dollar!"

"So much the more reason to hustle the deal through. Sell them! man,
sell them! You may have slipped up on the Parmenter treasure, but you
have struck it here."

"Too rich," Croyden answered. "There's something queer about that
letter."

Macloud smoked his cigar, and smiled.

"There's nothing queer about the letter!"--he said. "Blaxham's customer
may have the willies--indeed, he as much as intimates that such is the
case--but, thank God! we're not obliged to have a commission-in-lunacy
appointed on everybody who makes a silly stock or bond purchase. If we
were, we either would have no markets, or the courts would have time
for nothing else. No! no! old man! take what the gods have given you
and be glad. There's ten thousand a year in it! You can return to
Northumberland, resume the old life, and be happy ever after;--or you
can live here, and there, and everywhere. You're unattached--not even a
light-o'-love to squander your money, and pester you for gowns and
hats, and get in a hell of a temper--and be false to you, besides."

"No, I haven't one of them, thank God!" laughed Croyden. "I've got
troubles enough of my own. The present, for instance."

"Troubles!" marvelled Macloud. "You haven't any troubles, now. This
clears them all away."

"It clears some of them away--if I take it."

"Thunder! man, you're not thinking, seriously, of refusing?"

"It will put me on 'easy street,'" Croyden observed.

"So, why hesitate an instant?"

"And it comes with remarkable timeliness--so timely, indeed, as to be
suspicious."

"Suspicious? Why suspicious? It's a bona fide offer."

"It's a bona fide offer--there's no trouble on that score."

"Then, what is the trouble?"

"This," said Croyden: "I'm broke--finally. The Parmenter treasure is
moonshine, so far as I'm concerned. I'm down on my uppers, so to
speak--my only assets are some worthless bonds. Behold! along comes an
offer for them at par--two hundred thousand dollars for nothing! I
fancy, old man, there is a friend back of this offer--the only friend I
have in the world--and I did not think that even he was kind and
self-sacrificing enough to do it.--I'm grateful, Colin, grateful from
the heart, believe me, but I can't take your money."

"My money!" exclaimed Macloud--"you do me too much credit, Croyden. I'm
ashamed to admit it, but I never thought of the bonds, or of helping
you out, in your trouble. It's a way we have in Northumberland. We may
feel for misfortune, but it rarely gets as far as our pockets. Don't
imagine for a moment that I'm the purchaser. I'm not, though I wish,
now, that I was."

"Will you give me your word on that?" Croyden demanded.

"I most assuredly will," Macloud answered.

Croyden nodded. He was satisfied.

"There is no one else!" he mused, "no one else!" He looked at the
letter again.... "And, yet, it is very suspicious, very suspicious....
I wonder, could I ascertain the name of the purchaser of the stocks and
bonds, from the Trust Company who held them as collateral?"

"They won't know," said Macloud. "Blaxham & Company bought them at the
public sale."

"I could try the transfer agent, or the registrar."

"They never tell anything, as you are aware," Macloud replied.

"I could refuse to sell unless Blaxham & Company disclosed their
customer."

"Yes, you could--and, likely, lose the sale; they won't disclose.
However, that's your business," Macloud observed; "though, it's a pity
to tilt at windmills, for a foolish notion."

Croyden creased and uncreased the letter--thinking.

Macloud resumed the smoke rings--and waited. It had proved easier than
he had anticipated. Croyden had not once thought of Elaine
Cavendish--and his simple word had been sufficient to clear
himself....

At length, Croyden put the letter back in its envelope and looked up.

"I'll sell the bonds," he said--"forward them at once with draft
attached, if you will witness my signature to the transfer. But it's a
queer proceeding, a queer proceeding: paying good money for bad!"

"That's his business--not yours," said Macloud, easily.

Croyden went to the escritoire and took the bonds from one of the
drawers.

"You can judge, from the place I keep them, how much I thought them
worth!" he laughed.

When they were duly transferred and witnessed, Croyden attached a draft
drawn on an ordinary sheet of paper, dated Northumberland, and payable
to his account at the Tuscarora Trust Company. He placed them in an
envelope, sealed it and, enclosing it in a second envelope, passed it
over to Macloud.

"I don't care to inform them as to my whereabouts," he remarked, "so,
if you don't mind, I'll trouble you to address this to some one in New
York or Philadelphia, with a request that he mail the enclosed envelope
for you."

Macloud, when he had done as requested, laid aside the pen and looked
inquiringly at Croyden.

"Which, being interpreted," he said, "might mean that you don't intend
to return to Northumberland."

"The interpretation does not go quite so far; it means, simply, that I
have not decided."

"Don't you want to come back?" Macloud asked.

"It's a question of resolution, not of inclination," Croyden answered.
"I don't know whether I've sufficient resolution to go, and sufficient
resolution to stay, if I do go. It may be easier not to go, at all--to
live here, and wander, elsewhere, when the spirit moves."

And Macloud understood. "I've been thinking over the proposition you
recently advanced of the folly of a relatively poor man marrying a rich
girl," he said, "and you're all wrong. It's a question of the
respective pair, not a theory that can be generalized over. I admit,
the man should not be a pauper, but, if he have enough money to support
_himself_, and the girl love him and he loves the girl, the fact that
she has gobs more money, won't send them on the rocks. It's up to the
pair, I repeat."

"Meaning, that it would be up to Elaine Cavendish and me?" answered
Croyden.

"If you please, yes!" said Macloud.

"I wish I could be so sure," Croyden reflected. "Sure of the girl, as
well as sure of myself."

"What are you doubtful about--yourself?"

Croyden laughed, a trifle self-consciously.

"I fancy I could manage myself," he said.

"Elaine?"

"Yes, Elaine!"

"Try her!--she's worth the try."

"From a monetary standpoint?" smiling.

"Get the miserable money out of your mind a moment, will you?--you're
hipped on it!"

"All right, old man, anything for peace! Tell me, did you see her, when
you were home?"

"I did--I dined with her."

"Who else was there?"

"You--she talked Croyden at least seven-eighths of the time; I, the
other eighth."

"Must have been an interesting conversation. Anything left of the
victim, afterward?"

"I refuse to become facetious," Macloud responded. Then he threw his
cigar into the grate and arose. "It matters not what was said, nor who
said it! If you will permit me the advice, you will take your chance
while you have it."

"Have I a--chance?" Croyden asked.

"You have--more than a chance, if you act, now----" He walked across to
the window. He would let that sink in.--"How's the Symphony in Blue?"
he asked.

"As charming as ever--and prepared for your coming."

"What?"

"As charming as ever, and prepared for your coming."

"Some of your work!" he commented. "Did you propose for me?"

"I left that finality for you--being the person most interested."

"Thanks! you're exceedingly considerate."

"I thought you would appreciate it."

"When did you arrange for me to go over?" asked Macloud.

"Any time--the sooner the quicker. She'll be glad to see you."

"She confided in you, I suppose?"

"Not directly; she let me infer it."

"In other words, you worked your imagination--overtime!" laughed
Macloud. "It's a pity you couldn't work it a bit over the Parmenter
jewels. You might locate them."

"I'm done with the Parmenter jewels!" said Croyden.

"But they're not done with you, my friend. So long as you live, they'll
be present with you. You'll be hunting for them in your dreams."

"Meet me to-night in dream-land!" sang Croyden. "Well, they're not
likely to disturb my slumbers--unless--there was a rather queer thing
happened, last night, Colin."

"Here?"

"Yes!--I got in to Hampton, in the evening; about nine o'clock, I was
returning to Clarendon when, at the gates, I was accosted by a tall,
well-dressed stranger. Here is the substance of our talk.... What do
you make of it?" he ended.

"It seems to me the fellow made it very plain," Macloud returned,
"except on one possible point. He evidently believes we found the
treasure."

"He is convinced of it."

"Then, he knows that you came direct from Annapolis to Hampton--I mean,
you didn't visit a bank nor other place where you could have deposited
the jewels. Ergo, the jewels are still in your possession, according to
his theory, and he is going to make a try for them while they are
within reach. Informing the Government is a bluff. He hoped, by that
means, to induce you to keep the jewels on the premises--not to make
evidence against yourself, which could be traced by the United States,
by depositing them in any bank."

"Why shouldn't I have taken them to a dealer in precious stones?" said
Croyden.

"Because that would make the best sort of evidence against you. You
must remember, he thinks you have the jewels, and that you will try to
conceal it, pending a Government investigation."

"You make him a very canny gentleman."

"No--I make him only a clever rogue, which, by your own account, he
is."

"And the more clever he is, the more he will have his wits' work for
naught. There's some compensation in everything--even in failure!"

"It would be a bit annoying," observed Macloud, "to be visited by
burglars, who are obsessed with the idea that you have a fortune
concealed on the premises, and are bent on obtaining it."

"Annoying?--not a bit!" smiled Croyden. "I should rather enjoy the
sport of putting them to flight."

"Or of being bound, and gagged, and ill-treated."

"Bosh! you've transferred your robber-barons from Northumberland to the
Eastern Shore."

"No, I haven't!" laughed Macloud. "The robber-barons were still on the
job in Northumberland. These are banditti, disguised as burglars, about
to hold you up for ransom."

"I wish I had your fine imagination," scoffed Croyden. "I could make a
fortune writing fiction."

"Oh, you're not so bad yourself!" Macloud retorted. Then he smiled.
"Apropos of fortunes!" and nodded toward the envelope on the table.
"It's bully good to think you're coming back to us!"

At that moment Moses passed along the hall.

"Here, Moses," said Croyden, "take this letter down to the post
office--I want it to catch the first mail."

"I fancy you haven't heard of the stranger since last evening?" Macloud
asked.

Croyden shook his head.

"And of course you haven't told any one?"

"Yes, I have!" said Croyden.

"A woman?"

"A woman."

"How strange!" commented Macloud, mockingly. "I suppose you even told
her the entire story--from the finding of the letter down to date."

"I did!--and showed her the letter besides. Why shouldn't I have done
it?"

"No reason in the world, my dear fellow--except that in twenty-four
hours the dear public will know it, and we shall be town curiosities."

"We don't have to remain," said Croyden, with affected seriousness--"there
are trains out, you know, as well as in."

"I don't want to go away--I came here to visit you."

"We will go together."

"But we can't take the Symphony in Blue!"

"Oh! that's it!" Croyden laughed.

"Certainly, that's it! You don't think I came down here to see only
you, after having just spent nearly four weeks with you, in that fool
quest on Greenberry Point?" He turned, suddenly, and faced Croyden.
"Who was the woman you told?"

"Miss Carrington!" Croyden laughed. "Think she will retail it to the
dear public?"

"Oh, go to thunder!"

"Because, if you do, you might mention it to her--there, she goes,
now!"

"Where?" said Macloud, whirling around toward the window.

Croyden made no reply. It was not necessary. On the opposite side of
the street, Miss Carrington--in a tailored gown of blue broadcloth,
close fitting and short in the skirt, with a velvet toque to match--was
swinging briskly back from town.

Macloud watched her a moment in silence.

"The old man is done for, at last!" Croyden thought.

"Isn't she a corker!" Macloud broke out. "Look at the poise of the
head, and ease of carriage, and the way she puts down her feet!--that's
the way to tell a woman. God! Croyden, she's thoroughbred!"

"You better go over," said his friend. "It's about the tea hour, she'll
brew you a cup."

"And I'll drink it--as much as she will give me. I despise the stuff,
but I'll drink it!"

"She'll put rum in it, if you prefer!" laughed Croyden; "or make you a
high ball, or you can have it straight--just as you want."

"Come along!" exclaimed Macloud. "We're wasting time."

"I'll be over, presently," Croyden replied. "_I_ don't want any tea,
you know."

"Good!" Macloud answered, from the hallway. "Come along, as soon as you
wish--but don't come _too soon_."



XV

AN OLD RUSE


Macloud found Miss Carrington plucking a few belated roses, which,
somehow, had escaped the frost.

She looked up at his approach, and smiled--the bewilderingly bewitching
smile which lighted her whole countenance and seemed to say so much.

"Back again! to Clarendon and its master?" was her greeting.

"And, if I may, to you," he replied.

"Very good! After them, you belong to _me_," she laughed.

"Why after?" he inquired.

"I don't know--it was the order of speech, and the order of
acquaintance," with a naive look.

"But not the order of--regard."

"Content!" she exclaimed. "You did it very well for a--novice."

He tapped the gray hair upon his temples.

"A novice?" he inflected.

"You decline to accept it?--Very well, sir, very well!"

"I can't accept, and be honest," he replied.

"And you must be honest! Oh, brave man! Oh, noble gentleman! Perchance,
you will accept a reward: a cup of tea--or a high ball!"

"Perchance, I will--the high ball!"

"I thought so! come along."

"You were not going out?"

She looked at him, with a sly smile.

"You know that I have just returned," she said. "I saw you in the
window at Clarendon."

"I was there," he admitted.

"And you came over at once--prepared to be surprised that I was here."

"And found you waiting for me--just as I expected."

"Oh!" she cried. "You're horrid! perfectly horrid!"

"_Peccavi! Peccavi!_" he said humbly.

"_Te absolvo!_" she replied, solemnly. "Now, let us make a fresh
start--by going for a walk. You can postpone the high ball until we
return."

"I can postpone the high ball for ever," he averred.

"Meaning, you could walk forever, or you're not thirsty?" she laughed.

"Meaning, I could walk forever _with you_--on, and on, and on----"

"Until you walked into the Bay--I understand. I'll take the will for
the deed--the water's rather chilly at this season of the year."

Macloud held up his hand, in mock despair.

"Let us make a third start--drop the attempt to be clever and talk
sense. I think I can do it, if I try."

"Willingly!" she responded.

As they came out on the side walk, Croyden was going down the street.
He crossed over and met them.

"I've not forgot your admonition, so don't be uneasy," he observed to
Macloud. "I'm going to town now, I'll be back in about half an hour--is
that too soon?"

"It's quite soon enough!" was the answer.

Miss Carrington looked at Macloud, quizzically, but made no comment.

"Shall we take the regulation walk?" she asked.

"The what?"

"The regulation walk--to the Cemetery and back."

"I'm glad we're coming back?" he laughed.

"It's the favorite walk, here," she explained--"the most picturesque
and the smoothest."

"To say nothing of accustoming the people to their future home,"
Macloud remarked.

"You're not used to the ways of small towns--the Cemetery is a resort,
a place to spend a while, a place to visit."

"Does it make death any easier to hob-nob with it?" he asked.

"I shouldn't think so," she replied. "However, I can see how it would
induce morbidity, though there are those who are happiest only when
they're miserable."

"Such people ought to live in a morgue," agreed Macloud. "However
we're safe enough--we can go to the Cemetery with impunity."

"There are some rather queer old headstones, out there," she said.
"Remorse and the inevitable pay-up for earthly transgression seem to be
the leading subjects. There is one in the Duval lot--the Duvals from
whom Mr. Croyden got Clarendon, you know--and I never have been able to
understand just what it means. It is erected to the memory of one
Robert Parmenter, and has cut in the slab the legend: 'He feared nor
man, nor god, nor devil,' and below it, a man on his knees making
supplication to one standing over him. If he feared nor man, nor god,
nor devil, why should he be imploring mercy from any one?"

"Do you know who Parmenter was?" said Macloud.

"No--but I presume a connection of the family, from having been buried
with them."

"You read his letter only last evening--his letter to Marmaduke
Duval."

"His letter to Marmaduke Duval!" she repeated. "I didn't read any----"

"Robert Parmenter is the pirate who buried the treasure on Greenberry
Point," he interrupted.

Then, suddenly, a light broke in on her.

"I see!--I didn't look at the name signed to the letter. And the
cutting on the tombstone----?"

"Is a victim begging mercy from him," said Macloud. "I like that
Marmaduke Duval--there's something fine in a man, in those times,
bringing the old buccaneer over from Annapolis and burying him beside
the place where he, himself, some day would rest.--That is
friendship!"

"And that is like the Duvals!" said she. "It was a sad day in Hampton
when the Colonel died."

"He left a good deputy," Macloud replied. "Croyden is well-born and
well-bred (the former does not always comprehend the latter, these
days), and of Southern blood on his mother's side."

"Which hasn't hurt him with us!" she smiled. "We are a bit clannish,
still."

"Delighted to hear you confess it! I've got a little of it myself."

"Southern blood?"

He nodded. "Mine doesn't go so far South, however, as Croyden's--only,
to Virginia."

"I knew it! I knew there was some reason for my liking you!" she
laughed.

"Can I find any other reason?"

"Than your Southern ancestors?--isn't that enough?"

"Not if there be a means to increase it."

"Southern blood is never satisfied with _some_ things--it always wants
more!"

"Is the disposition to want more, in Southerners, confined to the male
sex?" he laughed.

"In _some things_--yes, unquestionably yes!" she retorted. Then changed
the subject. "Has Mr. Croyden told you of his experience, last
evening?"

"With the stranger, yes?"

"Do you think he is in danger?"

"What possible danger could there be--the treasure isn't at
Clarendon."

"But they think it is--and desperate men sometimes take desperate
means, when they feel sure that money is hidden on the premises."

"In a town the size of Hampton, every stranger is known."

"How will that advantage, in the prevention of the crime?" she asked.

"By making it difficult."

"They don't need stay in the town--they can come in an automobile."

"They could also drive, or walk, or come by boat," he added.

"They are not so likely to try it if there are two in the house. Do you
intend to remain at Clarendon some time?"

"It depends--on how you treat me."

"I engage to be nice for--two weeks!" she smiled.

"Done!--I'm booked for two weeks, at least."

"And when the two weeks have expired we shall consider whether to
extend the period."

"To--life?" smiling down at her.

She flung him a look that was delightfully alluring.

"Do you wish me to--consider that?" she asked, softly.

"If you will," he said, bending down.

She laughed, gayly.

"We are coming on!" she exclaimed. "This pace is getting rather
brisk--did you notice it, Mr. Macloud?"

"You're in a fast class, Miss Carrington."

She glanced up quickly.

"Now don't misunderstand me----"

"You were speaking in the language of the race track, I presume."

"I was--you understand?"

"A Southern girl usually loves--horses," with a tantalizing smile.

"It is well for you this is a public street," he said.

"Why?" she asked, with assumed innocence.

"But then if it hadn't been, you would not have ventured to tempt me,"
he added. "I'm grateful for the temptation, at any rate."

"His first temptation!" she mocked.

"No, not likely--but his first that he has resisted."

"And why did you resist? The fact that we are on a public street would
not restrain you. There was absolutely no one within sight--and you
knew it."

"How do _you_ know it?"

"Because I looked."

"You were afraid?"

"Not at all!--only careful."

"This is rather faster than the former going!" he laughed.

"We would better slow down a bit!" she laughed back. "Any way, here is
the Cemetery, and we dare not go faster than a walk in it. Yonder, just
within the gates, is the Duval burial place. Come, I'll show you
Parmenter's grave?"

They crossed to it--marked by a blue slate slab, which covered it
entirely. The inscription, cut in script, was faint in places and
blurred by moss, in others.

Macloud stooped and, with his knife, scratched out the latter.

"He died two days after the letter was written: May 12, 1738," said he.
"His age is not given. Duval did not know it, I reckon."

"See, here is the picture--it stands out very plainly," said Miss
Carrington, indicating with the point of her shoe.

"I'm not given to moralizing, particularly over a grave," observed
Macloud, "but it's queer to think that the old pirate, who had so much
blood and death on his hands, who buried the treasure, and who wrote
the letter, lies at our feet; and we--or rather Croyden is the heir of
that treasure, and that we searched and dug all over Greenberry Point,
committed violence, were threatened with violence, did things
surreptitiously, are threatened, anew, with blackmail and
violence----"

"Pirate's gold breeds pirate's ways," she quoted.

"It does seem one cannot get away from its pollution. It was gathered
in crime and crime clings to it, still. However, I fancy Croyden would
willingly chance the danger, if he could unearth the casket."

"And is there no hope of finding it?" she asked.

"Absolutely none--there's half a million over on Greenberry Point, or
in the water close by, and none will ever see it--except by accident."

"What sort of accident?"

"I don't know!" he laughed. "My own idea--and Croyden's (as he has,
doubtless, explained to you) is that the place, where Parmenter buried
the jewels, is now under water, possibly close to the shore. We dragged
every inch of the bottom, which has been washed away to a depth more
than sufficient to uncover the iron box, but found nothing. A great
storm, such as they say sometimes breaks over the Chesapeake, may wash
it on the beach--that, I think, is the only way it will ever be
found.... It makes everything seem very real to have stood by
Parmenter's grave!" he said, thoughtful, as they turned back toward
town.

On nearing the Carrington house, they saw Croyden approaching. They met
him at the gates.

"I've been communing with Parmenter," said Macloud.

"I didn't know there was a spiritualistic medium in Hampton! What does
the old man look like?" smiled Croyden.

"I didn't see him."

"Well, did he help you to locate his jewel box?"

"He wasn't especially communicative--he was in his grave."

"That isn't surprising--he's been dead something over one hundred and
seventy years. Did he confide where he's buried?"

"He's buried with the Duvals in the Cemetery, here."

"He is!" Croyden exclaimed. "Humph! one more circumstance to prove the
letter speaks the truth. Everything but the thing itself. We find his
will, probated with Marmaduke Duval as executor, we even discover a
notice of his death in the _Gazette_, and now, finally, you find his
body--or the place of its interment! But, hang it all! what is really
worth while, we can't find."

"Come into the house--I'll give you something to soothe your feelings
temporarily," said Miss Carrington.

They encountered Miss Erskine just coming from the library on her way
to the door.

"My dear Davila, so glad to see you!" she exclaimed. "And Mr. Croyden,
we thought you had deserted us, and just when we're trying to make you
feel at home. So glad to welcome you back!" holding out her fat hand.

"I'm delighted to be back," said Croyden. "The Carringtons seemed
genuinely glad to see me--and, now, if I may include you, I'm quite
content to return," and he shook her hand, as though he meant it.

"Of course you may believe it," with an inane giggle. "I'm going to
bring my art class over to Clarendon to revel in your treasures, some
day, soon. You'll be at home to them, won't you, dear Mr. Croyden?"

"Surely! I shall take pleasure in being at home," Croyden replied,
soberly.

Then Macloud, who was talking with the Captain, was called over and
presented, that being, Miss Carrington thought, the quickest method of
getting rid of her. The evident intention to remain until he was
presented, being made entirely obvious by Miss Erskine, who, after she
had bubbled a bit more, departed.

"What is her name, I didn't catch it?--and" (observing smiles on
Croyden and Miss Carrington's faces) "what is she?"

"I think father can explain, in more appropriate language!" Miss
Carrington laughed.

"She's the most intolerable nuisance and greatest fool in Hampton!"
Captain Carrington exploded.

"A red flag to a bull isn't in it with Miss Erskine and father," Miss
Carrington observed.

"But I hide it pretty well--while she's here," he protested.

"If she's not here too long--and you can get away, in time."

When the two men left the Carrington place, darkness had fallen. As
they approached Clarendon, the welcoming brightness of a well-lighted
house sprang out to greet them. It was Croyden's one extravagance--to
have plenty of illumination. He had always been accustomed to it, and
the gloom, at night, of the village residence, bright only in library
or living room--with, maybe, a timid taper in the hall--set his nerves
on edge. He would have none of it. And Moses, with considerable wonder
at, to his mind, the waste of gas, and much grumbling to himself and
Josephine, obeyed.

They had finished dinner and were smoking their cigars in the library,
when Croyden, suddenly bethinking himself of a matter which he had
forgotten, arose and pulled the bell.

"Survent, seh!" said old Mose a moment later from the doorway.

"Moses, who is the best carpenter in town?" Croyden asked.

"Mistah Snyder, seh--he wuz heah dis arfternoon, yo knows, seh!"

"I didn't know it," said Croyden.

"Why yo sont 'im, seh."

"_I_ sent him! I don't know the man."

"Dat's mons'us 'culiar, seh--he said yo sont 'im. He com'd 'torrectly
arfter yo lef! Him an' a'nudder man, seh--I didn't know the nudder man,
hows'ever."

"What did they want?" Croyden asked.

"Dey sed yo warn dem to look over all de place, seh, an' see what
repairs wuz necessary, and fix dem. Dey wuz heah a'most two hours, I
s'pose."

"This is most extraordinary!" Croyden exclaimed. "Do you mean they were
in this house for two hours?"

"Yass, seh."

"What were they doing?"

"'Zaminin the furniture everywhere. I didn't stays wid em, seh--I knows
Mistah Snyder well; he's bin heah off'n to wuk befo' yo cum, seh. But I
seed dem gwine th'oo de drawers, an' poundin on the floohs, seh. Dey
went down to de cellar, too, seh, an wuz dyar quite a while."

"Are you sure it was Snyder?" Croyden asked.

"Sut'n'y! seh, don't you t'inks I knows 'im? I knows 'im from de time
he wuz so high."

Croyden nodded. "Go down and tell Snyder I want to see him, either
to-night or in the morning."

The negro bowed, and departed.

Croyden got up and went to the escritoire: the drawers were in
confusion. He glanced at the book-cases: the books were disarranged. He
turned and looked, questioningly, at Macloud--and a smile slowly
overspread his face.

"Well, the tall gentleman has visited us!" he said.

"I wondered how long you would be coming to it!" Macloud remarked.
"It's the old ruse, in a slightly modified form. Instead of a
telephone or gas inspector, it was a workman whom the servant knew; a
little more trouble in disguising himself, but vastly more satisfactory
in results."

"They are clever rogues," said Croyden--"and the disguise must have
been pretty accurate to deceive Moses."

"Disguise is their business," Macloud replied, laconically. "If they're
not proficient in it, they go to prison--sure."

"And if they _are_ proficient, they go--sometimes."

"Certainly!--sometimes."

"We'll make a tour of inspection--they couldn't find what they wanted,
so we'll see what they took."

They went over the house. Every drawer was turned upside down, every
closet awry, every place, where the jewels could be concealed, bore
evidence of having been inspected--nothing, apparently, had been
missed. They had gone through the house completely, even into the
garret, where every board that was loose had evidently been taken up
and replaced--some of them carelessly.

Not a thing was gone, so far as Croyden could judge--possibly, because
there was no money in the house; probably, because they were looking
for jewels, and scorned anything of moderate value.

"Really, this thing grows interesting--if it were not so ridiculous,"
said Croyden. "I'm willing to go to almost any trouble to convince them
I haven't the treasure--just to be rid of them. I wonder what they
will try next?"

"Abduction, maybe," Macloud suggested. "Some night a black cloth will
be thrown over your head, you'll be tossed into a cab--I mean, an
automobile--and borne off for ransom like Charlie Ross of fading
memory."

"Moral--don't venture out after sunset!" laughed Croyden.

"And don't venture out at any time without a revolver handy and a good
pair of legs," added Macloud.

"I can work the legs better than I can the revolver."

"Or, to make sure, you might have a guard of honor and a gatling gun."

"You're appointed to the position--provide yourself with the gun!"

"But, seriously!" said Macloud, "it would be well to take some
precaution. They seem obsessed with the idea that you have the jewels,
here--and they evidently intend to get a share, if it's possible."

"What precaution, for instance?" scoffed Croyden.

Macloud shrugged his shoulders, helplessly.

"I wish I knew," he said.



XVI

THE MARABOU MUFF


The next two weeks passed uneventfully. The thieves did not manifest
themselves, and the Government authorities did nothing to suggest that
they had been informed of the Parmenter treasure.

Macloud had developed an increasing fondness for Miss Carrington's
society, which she, on her part, seemed to accept with placid
equanimity. They rode, they drove, they walked, they sailed when the
weather warranted--and the weather had recovered from its fit of the
blues, and was lazy and warm and languid. In short, they did everything
which is commonly supposed to denote a growing fondness for each
other.

Croyden had been paid promptly for the Virginia Development Company
bonds, and was once more on "comfortable street," as he expressed it.
But he spoke no word of returning to Northumberland. On the contrary,
he settled down to enjoy the life of the village, social and otherwise.
He was nice to all the girls, but showed a marked preference for Miss
Carrington; which, however, did not trouble his friend, in the least.

Macloud was quite willing to run the risk with Croyden. He was
confident that the call of the old life, the memory of the girl that
was, and that was still, would be enough to hold Geoffrey from more
than firm friendship. He was not quite sure of himself, however--that
he wanted to marry. And he was entirely sure she had not decided
whether she wanted him--that was what gave him his lease of life; if
she decided _for_ him, he knew that he would decide for her--and
quickly.

Then, one day, came a letter--forwarded by the Club, where he had left
his address with instructions that it be divulged to no one. It was
dated Northumberland, and read:

  "My dear Colin--

  "It is useless, between us, to dissemble, and I'm not going to
  try it. I want to know whether Geoffrey Croyden is coming back to
  Northumberland? You are with him, and should know. You can tell
  his inclination. You can ask him, if necessary. If he is not
  coming and there is no one else--won't you tell me where you are?
  (I don't ask you to reveal his address, you see.) I shall come
  down--if only for an hour, between trains--and give him his
  chance. It is radically improper, according to accepted
  notions--but notions don't bother me, when they stand (as I am
  sure they do, in this case), in the way of happiness.

                                           "Sincerely,

                                           "Elaine Cavendish."

At dinner, Macloud casually remarked:

"I ought to go out to Northumberland, this week, for a short time,
won't you go along?"

Croyden shook his head.

"I'm not going back to Northumberland," he said.

"I don't mean to stay!" Macloud interposed. "I'll promise to come back
with you in two days at the most."

"Yes, I suppose you will!" Croyden smiled. "You can easily find your
way back. For me, it's easier to stay away from Northumberland, than to
go away from it, _again_."

And Macloud, being wise, dropped the conversation, saying only:

"Well, I may not have to go."

A little later, as he sat in the drawing-room at Carringtons', he
broached a matter which had been on his mind for some time--working
around to it gradually, with Croyden the burden of their talk. When his
opportunity came--as it was bound to do--he took it without
hesitation.

"You are right," he replied. "Croyden had two reasons for leaving
Northumberland: one of them has been eliminated; the other is stronger
than ever."

She looked at him, shrewdly.

"And that other is a woman?" she said.

He nodded. "A woman who has plenty of money--more than she can ever
spend, indeed."

"And in looks?"

"The only one who can approach yourself."

"Altogether, most desirable!" she laughed. "What was the
trouble--wouldn't she have him?"

"He didn't ask her."

"Useless?"

"Anything but useless."

"You mean she was willing?"

"I think so."

"And Croyden?"

"More than willing, I take it."

"Then, what was the difficulty?"

"Her money--she has so much!--So much, that, in comparison, he is a
mere pauper:--twenty millions against two hundred thousand."

"If she be willing, I can't see why he is shy?"

"He says it is all right for a poor girl to marry a rich man, but not
for a poor man to marry a rich girl. His idea is, that the husband
should be able to maintain his wife according to her condition. To
marry else, he says, is giving hostages to fortune, and is derogatory
to that mutual respect which should exist between them."

"We all give hostages to fortune when we marry!" Miss Carrington
exclaimed.

"Not all!" replied Macloud, meaningly.

She flushed slightly.

"What is it you want me to do?" she asked hastily--"or can I do
anything?"

"You can," he answered. "You can ask Miss Cavendish to visit you for a
few days."

"Can you, by any possibility, mean Elaine Cavendish?"

"That's exactly who I do mean--do you know her?"

"After a fashion--we went to Dobbs Ferry together."

"Bully!" exclaimed Macloud. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"You never mentioned her before."

"True!" he laughed. "This is fortunate, very fortunate! Will you ask
her down?"

"She will think it a trifle peculiar."

"On the contrary, she'll think it more than kind--a positive favor. You
see, she knows I'm with Croyden, but she doesn't know where; so she
wrote to me at my Club and they forwarded it. Croyden left
Northumberland without a word--and no one is aware of his residence but
me. She asks that I tell her where _I_ am. Then she intends to come
down and give Croyden a last chance. I want to help her--and your
invitation will be right to the point--she'll jump at it."

"You're a good friend!" she reflected.

"Will you do it?" he asked.

She thought a moment before she answered.

"I'll do it!" she said at length. "Come, we'll work out the letter
together."

"Would I not be permitted to kiss you as Miss Cavendish's deputy?" he
exclaimed.

"Miss Cavendish can be her own deputy," she answered.--"Moreover, it
would be premature."

The second morning after, when Elaine Cavendish's maid brought her
breakfast, Miss Carrington's letter was on the tray among tradesmen's
circulars, invitations, and friendly correspondence.

She did not recognize the handwriting, and the postmark was unfamiliar,
wherefore, coupled with the fact that it was addressed in a
particularly stylish hand, she opened it first. It was very brief, very
succinct, very informing, and very satisfactory.

                             "Ashburton,

                             "Hampton, Md.

  "My dear Elaine:--

  "Mr. Macloud tells me you are contemplating coming down to the
  Eastern Shore to look for a country-place. Let me advise
  Hampton--there are some delightful old residences in this
  vicinity which positively are crying for a purchaser. Geoffrey
  Croyden, whom you know, I believe, is resident here, and is
  thinking of making it his home permanently. If you can be
  persuaded to come, you are to stay with me--the hotels are simply
  impossible, and I shall be more than delighted to have you. We
  can talk over old times at Dobbs, and have a nice little visit
  together. Don't trouble to write--just wire the time of your
  arrival--and come before the good weather departs. Don't
  disappoint me.

                                   "With lots of love,

                                          "Davila Carrington."

Elaine Cavendish read the letter slowly--and smiled.

"Clever! very clever!" she mused. "Colin is rather a diplomat--he
managed it with exceeding adroitness--and the letter is admirably
worded. It tells me everything I wanted to know. I'd forgotten about
Davila Carrington, and I reckon she had forgotten me, till he somehow
found it out and jogged her memory. Surely! I shall accept."

To-morrow would be Thursday. She went to her desk and wrote this wire,
in answer:

  "Miss Davila Carrington,

       "Hampton, Md.

  "I shall be with you Friday, on morning train. You're very, very
  kind.

                                           "Elaine Cavendish."

Miss Carrington showed the wire to Macloud.

"Now, I've done all that I can; the rest is in your hands," she said.
"I'll coöperate, but you are the general."

"Until Elaine comes--she will manage it then," Macloud answered.

And on Friday morning, a little before noon, Miss Cavendish arrived.
Miss Carrington, alone, met her at the station.

"You're just the same Davila I'd forgotten for years," said she,
laughingly, as they walked across the platform to the waiting carriage.

"And you're the same I had forgotten," Davila replied.

"But it's delightful to be remembered!" said Elaine, meaningly.

"And it's just as delightful to be able to remember," was the reply.

Just after they left the business section, on the drive out, Miss
Carrington saw Croyden and Macloud coming down the street. Evidently
Macloud had not been able to detain him at home until she got her
charge safely into Ashburton. She glanced at Miss Cavendish--she had
seen them, also, and, settling back into the corner of the phaeton, she
hid her face with her Marabou muff.

"Don't stop!" she said.

Miss Carrington smiled her understanding.

"I won't!" she answered. "Good morning!" as both men raised their
hats--and drove straight on.

"Who was the girl with Miss Carrington?" Croyden asked. "I didn't see
her face."

"I couldn't see it!" said Macloud. "I noticed a bag in the trap,
however, so I reckon she's a guest."

"Unfortunate for you!" Croyden sympathized. "Your opportunity, for the
solitariness of two, will be limited."

"I'll look to you for help!" Macloud answered.

"Humph! You may look in vain. It depends on what she is--I'm not
sacrificing myself on the altar of general unattractiveness." Then he
laughed. "Rest easy, I'll fuss her to the limit. You shan't have her to
plead for an excuse."

"An excuse for what?"

"For not winning the Symphony in Blue."

"You're overly solicitous. I'm not worried about the guest," Macloud
remarked.

"There was a certain style about as much of her as I could see which
promised very well," Croyden remarked. "I think this would be a good
day to drop in for tea."

"And if you find her something over sixty, you'll gallantly shove her
off on me, and preëmpt Miss Carrington. Oh! you're very kind."

"She's not over sixty--and you know it. You're by no means as blind as
you would have me believe. In fact, now that I think of it, there was
something about her that seems familiar."

"You're an adept in many things," laughed Macloud, "but, I reckon,
you're not up to recognizing a brown coat and a brown hat. I think I've
seen the combination once or twice before on a woman."

"Well, what about tea-time--shall we go over?" demanded Croyden.

"I haven't the slightest objection----"

"Really!"

"----to your going along with me--I'm expected!"

"Oh! you're expected, are you! pretty soon it will be: 'Come over and
see us, won't you?'"

"I trust so," said Macloud, placidly.--"But, as you're never coming
back to Northumberland, it's a bit impossible."

"Oh! damn Northumberland!" said Croyden.

"I've a faint recollection of having heard that remark before."

"I dare say, it's popular there on smoky days."

"Which is the same as saying it's popular there any time."

"No, I don't mean that; Northumberland isn't half so bad as it's
painted. We may make fun of it--but we like it, just the same."

"Yes, I suppose we do," said Macloud. "Though we get mighty sick of
seeing every scatterbrain who sets fire to the Great White Way branded
by the newspapers as a Northumberland millionaire. We've got our share
of fools, but we haven't a monopoly of them, by any means."

"We had a marvelously large crop, however, running loose at one time,
recently!" laughed Croyden.

"True!--and there's the reason for it, as well as the fallacy. Because
half a hundred light-weights were made millionaires over night, and,
top heavy, straightway went the devil's pace, doesn't imply that the
entire town is mad."

"Not at all!" said Croyden. "It's no worse than any other big town--and
the fellows with unsavory reputations aren't representative. They just
came all in a bunch. The misfortune is, that the whole country saw the
fireworks, and it hasn't forgot the lurid display."

"And isn't likely to very soon," Macloud responded, "with the whole
Municipal Government rotten to the core, councilmen falling over one
another in their eagerness to plead _nolle contendere_ and escape the
penitentiary, bankers in jail for bribery, or fighting extradition; and
graft! graft! graft! permeating every department of the civic life--and
published by the newspapers' broadcast, through the land, for all the
world to read, while the people, as a body, sit supine, and meekly
suffer the robbers to remain. The trouble with the Northumberlander is,
that so long as he is not the immediate victim of a hold up, he is
quiescent. Let him be touched direct--by burglary, by theft, by
embezzlement--and the yell he lets out wakes the entire bailiwick."

"It's the same everywhere," said Croyden.

"No, it's not,--other communities have waked up--Northumberland hasn't.
There is too much of the moneyed interest to be looked after; and the
councilmen know it, and are out for the stuff, as brazen as the
street-walker, and vastly more insistent.--I'm going in here, for some
cigarettes--when I come out, we'll change the talk to something less
irritating. I like Northumberland, but I despise about ninety-nine one
hundredths of its inhabitants."

When he returned, Croyden was gazing after an automobile which was
disappearing in a cloud of dust.

"Ever see a motor before?" he asked.

Croyden did not hear him. "The fellow driving, unless I am mightily
fooled, is the same who stopped me on the street, in front of
Clarendon," he said.

"That's interesting--any one with him?"

"A woman."

"A woman! You're safe!" said Macloud. "He isn't travelling around with
a petticoat--at least, if he's thinking of tackling you."

"It isn't likely, I admit--but suppose he is?"

The car was rapidly vanishing in the distance. Macloud nodded toward
it.

"He is leaving here as fast as the wheels will turn."

"I've got a very accurate memory for faces," said Croyden. "I couldn't
well be mistaken."

"Wait and see. If it was he, and he has some new scheme, it will be
declared in due time. Nothing yet from the Government?"

"No!"

"It's a bluff! So long as they think you have the jewels, they will try
for them. There's Captain Carrington standing at his office door.
Suppose we go over."

"Sitting up to grandfather-in-law!" laughed Croyden. "Distinctly
proper, sir, distinctly proper! Go and chat with him; I'll stop for
you, presently."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, the two women had continued on to Ashburton.

"Did he recognize me?" Elaine asked, dropping her muff from before her
face, when they were past the two men.

"I think not," answered Davila.

"Did he give any indication of it?"

"None, whatever."

"It would make a difference in my--attitude toward him when we met!"
she smiled.

"Naturally! a very great difference." Elaine was nervous, she saw. The
fact that Croyden did not come out and stop them, that he let them go
on, was sufficient proof that he had not recognized her.

"You see, I am assuming that you know why I wanted to come to Hampton,"
Elaine said, when, her greeting made to Mrs. Carrington, she had
carried Davila along to her room.

"Yes, dear," Davila responded.

"And you made it very easy for me to come."

"I did as I thought you would want--and as I know you would do with me
were I in a similar position."

"I'm sadly afraid I should not have thought of you, were you----"

"Oh, yes, you would! If you had been in a small town, and Mr. Croyden
had told you of my difficulty----"

"As _Mr. Macloud_ told you of mine--I see, dear."

"Not exactly that," said Davila, blushing. "Mr. Macloud has been very
attentive and very nice and all that, you know, but you mustn't forget
there are not many girls here, and I'm convenient, and--I don't take
him seriously."

"How does he take you?" Elaine asked.

"I don't know--sometimes I think he does, and sometimes I think he
doesn't!" she laughed. "He is an accomplished flirt and difficult to
gauge."

"Well, let me tell you one fact, for your information: there isn't a
more indifferent man in Northumberland. He goes everywhere, is in great
demand, is enormously popular, yet, I've never known him to have even
an affair. He is armor-plated--but he is a dear, a perfect dear,
Davila!"

"I know it!" she said, with heightening color--and Elaine said no more,
then.

"Shall you prefer to meet Mr. Croyden alone, for the first time, or in
company?" Davila asked.

"I confess I don't know, but I think, however, it would be better to
have a few words with Colin, first--if it can be arranged."

Miss Carrington nodded. "Mr. Macloud is to come in a moment before
luncheon, if he can find an excuse that will not include Mr. Croyden."

"Is an excuse difficult to find--or is any, even, needed?"

Elaine smiled.

"He doesn't usually come before four--that's the tea hour in Hampton."

"Tea!" exclaimed Elaine. "If you've got him into the tea habit, you can
do what you want with him--he will eat out of your hand."

"I never tried him with tea," said Davila. "He chose a high ball the
first time--so it's been a high ball ever since."

"With gratifying regularity?"

"I admit it!" laughed Davila.

Elaine sat down on the couch and put her arm about Davila.

"These awful men!" she said. "But we shall be good friends, better
friends than ever, Davila, when you come to Northumberland to live."

"That is just the question, Elaine," was the quick answer; "whether I
shall be given the opportunity, and whether I shall take it, if I am. I
haven't let it go so far, because I don't feel sure of him. Until I do,
I intend to keep tight hold on myself."

"Do it--if you can. You'll find it much the happier way."

Just before luncheon, Macloud arrived.

"Bully for you!" was his greeting to Miss Cavendish. "I'm glad to see
you here."

"Yes, I'm here, thanks to you," said Elaine--and Davila not being
present, she kissed him.

"I'm more than repaid!" he said.

"But you wish it were--another?"

"No--but I wish the other--would, too!" he laughed.

"Give her the chance, Colin."

"You think I may dare?" eagerly.

"You're not wont to be so timid," she returned.

"I wish I had some of your bravery," he said.

"Is it bravery?" she demanded. "Isn't it impetuous womanliness."

"Not a bit! There isn't a doubt as to his feelings."

"But there is a doubt as to his letting them control--I see."

"Yes! And you alone can help him solve it--if any one can. And I have
great hopes, Elaine, great hopes!" regarding her with approving eyes.
"How any chap could resist you is inconceivable--I could not."

"You could not at one time, you mean."

"You gave me no encouragement,--so I must, perforce, fare elsewhere."

"And now?" she asked.

"How many love affairs have you come down here to settle?" he laughed.
"By the way, Croyden is impatient to come over this afternoon. The
guest in the trap with Miss Carrington has aroused his curiosity. He
could see only a long brown coat and a brown hat, but the muff before
your face, and his imagination, did the rest."

"Does he suspect?" she inquired, anxiously.

"That it's you? No! no! It's simply the country town beginning to tell
on him. He is curious about new guests, and Miss Carrington hadn't
mentioned your coming! He suggested, in a vague sort of way, that there
was something familiar about you, but he didn't attempt to
particularize. It was only a momentary idea."

She looked her relief.

"Shall you meet him alone?"

"I think not--we shall all be present."

"And _how_ shall you meet him?"

"It depends on how he meets me."

"I reckon you don't know much about it--haven't any plans?"

"No, I haven't. Everything depends on the moment. He will know why I'm
here, and whether he is glad or sorry or displeased at my coming, I
shall know instantly. I shall then have my cue. It's absurd, this
notion of his, and why let it rule him and me! I've always got what I
wanted, and I'm going to get Geoffrey. A Queen of a Nation must propose
to a suitor, so why not a Queen of Money to a man less rich than
she--especially when she is convinced that that alone keeps them apart.
I shall give him a chance to propose to me first; several chances,
indeed!" she laughed. "Then, if he doesn't respond--I shall do it
myself."



XVII

A HANDKERCHIEF AND A GLOVE


Miss Cavendish was standing behind the curtains in the window of her
room, when Croyden and Macloud came up the walk, at four o'clock.

She was waiting!--not another touch to be given to her attire. Her
gown, of shimmering blue silk, clung to her figure with every movement,
and fell to the floor in suggestively revealing folds. Her dark hair
was arranged in simple fashion--the simplicity of exquisite
taste--making the fair face below it, seem fairer even than it was. She
was going to win this man.

She heard them enter the lower hall, and pass into the drawing-room.
She glided out to the stairway, and stood, peering down over the
balustrade. She heard Miss Carrington's greeting and theirs--heard
Macloud's chuckle, and Croyden's quiet laugh. Then she heard Macloud
say:

"Mr. Croyden is anxious to meet your guest--at least, we took her to be
a guest you were driving with this morning."

"My guest is equally anxious to meet Mr. Croyden," Miss Carrington
replied.

"Why does she tarry, then?" laughed Croyden.

"Did you ever know a woman to be ready?"

"You were."

"I am the hostess!" she explained.

"Mr. Croyden imagined there was something familiar about her," Macloud
remarked.

"Do you mean you recognized her?" Miss Carrington asked.

(Elaine strained her ears to catch his answer.)

"She didn't let me have the chance to recognize her," said he--"she
wouldn't let me see her face."

(Elaine gave a little sigh of relief.)

"Wouldn't?" Miss Carrington interrogated.

"At least, she didn't."

"She couldn't have covered it completely--she saw you."

"Don't raise his hopes too high!" Macloud interjected.

"She can't--I'm on the pinnacle of expectation, now."

"Humpty-Dumpty risks a great fall!" Macloud warned.

"Not at all!" said Croyden. "If the guest doesn't please me, I'm going
to talk to Miss Carrington."

"You're growing blasé," she warned.

"Is that an evidence of it?" he asked. "If it is, I know one who must
be too blasé even to move," with a meaning glance at Macloud.

A light foot-fall on the stairs, the soft swish of skirts in the
hallway, Croyden turned, expectantly--and Miss Cavendish entered the
room.

There was an instant's silence. Croyden's from astonishment; the
others' with watching him.

Elaine's eyes were intent on Croyden's face--and what she saw there
gave her great content: he might not be persuaded, but he loved her,
and he would not misunderstand. Her face brightened with a fascinating
smile.

"You are surprised to see me, messieurs?" she asked, curtsying low.

Croyden's eyes turned quickly to his friend, and back again.

"I'm not so sure as to Monsieur Macloud," he said.

"But for yourself?"

"Surprised is quite too light a word--stunned would but meekly express
it."

"Did neither of you ever hear me mention Miss Carrington?--We were
friends, almost chums, at Dobbs Ferry."

"If I did, it has escaped me?" Croyden smiled.

"Well, you're likely not to forget it again."

"Did you know that I--that we were here?"

"Certainly! I knew that you and Colin were both here," Elaine replied,
imperturbably. "Do you think yourself so unimportant as not to be
mentioned by Miss Carrington?"

"What will you have to drink, Mr. Croyden?" Davila inquired.

"A sour ball, by all means."

"Is that a reflection on my guest?" she asked--while Elaine and Macloud
laughed.

"A reflection on your guest?" he inflected, puzzled.

"You said you would take a _sour_ ball."

Croyden held up his hands.

"I'm fussed!" he confessed. "I have nothing to plead. A man who mixes a
high ball with a sour ball is either rattled or drunk, I am not the
latter, therefore----"

"You mean that my coming has rattled you?" Elaine inquired.

"Yes--I'm rattled for very joy."

She put her hands before her face.

"Spare my blushes, Geoffrey!"

"You could spare a few--and not miss them!" he laughed.

"Davila, am I?" she demanded.

"Are you what?"

"Blushing?"

"Not the slightest, dear."

"Here's your sour ball!" said Macloud, handing him the glass.

"Sweetened by your touch, I suppose!"

"No! By the ladies' presence--God save them!"

"Colin," said Croyden, as, an hour later, they walked back to
Clarendon, "you should have told me."

"Should have told you what?" Macloud asked.

"Don't affect ignorance, old man--you knew Elaine was coming."

"I did--yesterday."

"And that it was she in the trap."

"The muff hid her face from me, too."

"But you knew."

"I could only guess."

"Do you think it was wise to let her come?" Croyden demanded.

"I had nothing to do with her decision. Miss Carrington asked her, she
accepted."

"Didn't you give her my address?"

"I most assuredly did not."

Croyden looked at him, doubtfully.

"I'm telling you the truth," said Macloud. "She tried to get your
address, when I was last in Northumberland, and I refused."

"And then, she stumbles on it through Davila Carrington! The world _is_
small. I reckon, if I went off into some deserted spot in Africa, it
wouldn't be a month until some fellow I knew, or who knows a mutual
friend, would come nosing around, and blow on me."

"Are you sorry she came?" Macloud asked.

"No! I'm not sorry she came--at least, not now, since she's here.--I'll
be sorry enough when she goes, however."

"And you will let her go?"

Croyden nodded. "I must--it's the only proper thing to do."

"Proper for whom?"

"For both!"

"Would it not be better that _she_ should decide what is proper for
her?"

"Proper for me, then."

"Based on your peculiar notion of relative wealth between husband and
wife--without regard to what she may think on the subject. In other
words, have you any right to decline the risk, if she is willing to
undertake it?"

"The risk is mine, not hers. She has the money. Her income, for three
months, about equals my entire fortune."

"Can't you forget her fortune?"

"And live at the rate of pretty near two hundred thousand dollars a
year?" Croyden laughed. "Could you?"

"I think I could, if I loved the girl."

"And suffer in your self-respect forever after?"

"There is where we differ. You're inclined to be hyper-critical. If you
play _your_ part, you won't lose your self-respect."

"It is a trifle difficult to do--to play my part, when all the world is
saying, 'he married her for her money,' and shows me scant regard in
consequence."

"Why the devil need you care what the world says!"

"I don't!"

"What?" Macloud exclaimed.

"I don't--the world may go hang. But the question is, how long can the
man retain the woman's esteem, with such a handicap."

"Ah! that is easy! so long as he retains her love."

"Rather an uncertain quantity."

"It depends entirely on yourself.--If you start with it, you can hold
it, if you take the trouble to try."

"You're a strong partisan!" Croyden laughed, as they entered
Clarendon.

"And what are you?" Macloud returned.

"Just what I should like to know----"

"Well, I'll tell you what you are if you don't marry Elaine Cavendish,"
Macloud interrupted--"You're an unmitigated fool!"

"Assuming that Miss Cavendish would marry me."

"You're not likely to marry her, otherwise," retorted Macloud, as he
went up the stairs. On the landing he halted and looked down at Croyden
in the hall below. "And if you don't take your chance, the chance she
has deliberately offered you by coming to Hampton, you are worse
than----" and, with an expressive gesture, he resumed the ascent.

"How do you know she came down here just for that purpose?" Croyden
called.

But all that came back in answer, as Macloud went down the hall and
into his room, was the whistled air from a popular opera, then running
in the Metropolis.

          "Ev'ry little movement has a meaning all its own,
          Ev'ry thought and action----"

The door slammed--the music ceased.

"I won't believe it," Croyden reflected, "that Elaine would do anything
so utterly unconventional as to seek me out deliberately.... I might
have had a chance if--Oh, damn it all! why didn't we find the old
pirate's box--it would have clarified the whole situation."

As he changed into his evening clothes, he went over the matter,
carefully, and laid out the line of conduct that he intended to
follow.

He would that Elaine had stayed away from Hampton. It was putting him
to too severe a test--to be with her, to be subject to her alluring
loveliness, and, yet, to be unmoved. It is hard to see the luscious
fruit within one's reach and to refrain from even touching it. It grew
harder the more he contemplated it....

"It's no use fighting against it, here!" he exclaimed, going into
Macloud's room, and throwing himself on a chair. "I'm going to cut the
whole thing."

"What the devil are you talking about?" Macloud inquired, pausing with
his waistcoat half on.

"What the devil do you think I'm talking about?" Croyden demanded.

"Not being a success at solving riddles, I give it up."

"Oh, very well!" said Croyden. "Can you comprehend this:--I'm going to
leave town?"

"Certainly--that's plain English. When are you going?"

"To-morrow morning."

"Why this suddenness?"

"To get away quickly--to escape."

"From Elaine?"

Croyden nodded.

Macloud smiled.

"He is coming to it, at last," he thought. What he said was:--"You're
not going to be put to flight by a woman?"

"I am.--If I stay here I shall lose."

"You mean?"

"I shall propose."

"And be refused?"

"Be accepted."

"Most people would not call that _losing_," said Macloud.

"I have nothing to do with most people--only, with myself."

"It seems so!--even Elaine isn't to be considered."

"Haven't we gone over all that?"

"I don't know--but, if we have, go over it again."

"You assume she came down here solely on my account--because I'm
here?"

"I assume nothing," Macloud answered, with a quiet chuckle. "I said you
have a chance, and urged you not to let it slip. I should not have
offered any suggestion--I admit that----"

"Oh, bosh!" Croyden interrupted. "Don't be so humble--you're rather
proud of your interference."

"I am! Certainly, I am! I'm only sorry it is so unavailing."

"Who said it was unavailing!"

"You did!--or, at least, I inferred as much."

"I'm not responsible for your inferences."

"What are you responsible for?" asked Macloud.

"Nothing! Nothing!--not even for my resolution--I haven't any--I can't
make any that holds. I'm worse than a weather-cock. Common sense bids
me go. Desire clamors for me to stay--to hasten over to Ashburton--to
put it to the test. When I get to Ashburton, common sense will be in
control. When I come away, desire will tug me back, again--and so on,
and so on--and so on."

"You're in a bad way!" laughed Macloud. "You need a cock-tail, instead
of a weather-cock. Come on! if we are to dine at the Carringtons' at
seven, we would better be moving. Having thrown the blue funk, usual to
a man in your position, you'll now settle down to business."

"To be or not to be?"

"Let future events determine--take it as it comes," Macloud urged.

"Sage advice!" returned Croyden mockingly. "If I let future events
decide for me, the end's already fixed."

The big clock on the landing was chiming seven when they rang the bell
at Ashburton and the maid ushered them into the drawing-room. Mrs.
Carrington was out of town, visiting in an adjoining county, and the
Captain had not appeared. He came down stairs a moment later, and took
Macloud and Croyden over to the library.

After about a quarter of an hour, he glanced at his watch a trifle
impatiently.--Another fifteen minutes, and he glanced at it again.

"Caroline!" he called, as the maid passed the door. "Go up to Miss
Davila's room and tell her it's half-after-seven."

Then he continued with the story he was relating.

Presently, the maid returned; the Captain looked at her,
interrogatingly.

"Mis' Davila, she ain' deah, no seh," said the girl.

"She is probably in Miss Cavendish's room,--look, there, for her," the
Captain directed.

"No, seh! I looks dyar--she ain' no place up stairs, and neither is
Mis' Cav'dish, seh. Hit's all dark, in dey rooms, seh, all dark."

"Very singular," said the Captain. "Half-after-seven, and not here?"

"They were here, two hours ago," said Croyden. "We had tea with them."

"Find out from the other servants whether they left any word."

"Dey didn', seh! no, seh! I ax'd dem, seh!"

"Very singular, indeed! excuse me, sirs, I'll try to locate them."

He went to the telephone, and called up the Lashiels, the Tilghmans,
the Tayloes, and all their neighbors and intimates, only to receive the
same answer: "They were not there, and hadn't been there that
afternoon."

"This is amazing, sirs!" he exclaimed. "I will go up myself and see."

"We are at your service, Captain Carrington," said Macloud
instantly.--"At your service for anything we can do."

"They knew, of course, you were expected for dinner?" he asked, as he
led the way upstairs.--"I can't account for it."

The Captain inspected his granddaughter's and Miss Cavendish's rooms,
Macloud and Croyden, being discreet, the rooms on the other side of the
house. They discovered nothing which would explain.

"We will have dinner," said the Captain. "They will surely turn up
before we have finished."

The dinner ended, however, and the missing ones had not returned.

"Might they have gone for a drive?" Macloud suggested.

The Captain shook his head. "The keys of the stable are on my desk,
which shows that the horses are in for the night. I admit I am at a
loss--however, I reckon they will be in presently, with an explanation
and a good laugh at us for being anxious."

But when nine o'clock came, and then half-after-nine, and still they
did not appear, the men grew seriously alarmed.

The Captain had recourse to the telephone again, getting residence
after residence, without result. At last he hung up the receiver.

"I don't know what to make of it," he said, bewildered. "I've called
every place I can think of, and I can't locate them. What can have
happened?"

"Let us see how the matter stands," said Macloud. "We left them here
about half-after-five, and, so far as can be ascertained, no one has
seen them since. Consequently, they must have gone out for a walk or a
drive. A drive is most unlikely, at this time of the day--it is dark
and cold. Furthermore, your horses are in the stable, so, if they went,
they didn't go alone--some one drove them. The alternative--a walk--is
the probable explanation; and that remits us to an accident as the
cause of delay. Which, it seems to me, is the likely explanation."

"But if there were an accident, they would have been discovered, long
since; the walks are not deserted," the Captain objected.

"Possibly, they went out of the town."

"A young woman never goes out of town, unescorted," was the decisive
answer. "This is a Southern town, you know."

"I suppose you don't care to telephone the police?" asked Croyden.

"No--not yet," the Captain replied. "Davila would never forgive me, if
nothing really were wrong--besides, I couldn't. The Mayor's office is
closed for the night--we're not supposed to need the police after six
o'clock."

"Then Croyden and I will patrol the roads, hereabout," said Macloud.

"Good! I will go out the Queen Street pike a mile or two," the Captain
said. "You and Mr. Croyden can take the King Street pike, North and
South. We'll meet here not later than eleven o'clock. Excuse me a
moment----"

"What do you make of it?" said Macloud.

"It is either very serious or else it's nothing at all. I mean, if
anything _has_ happened, it's far out of the ordinary," Croyden
answered.

"Exactly my idea--though, I confess, I haven't a notion what the
serious side could be. It's safe to assume that they didn't go into the
country--the hour, alone, would have deterred them, even if the danger
from the negro were not present, constantly, in Miss Carrington's mind.
On the other hand, how could anything have happened in the town which
would prevent one of them from telephoning, or sending a message, or
getting some sort of word to the Captain."

"It's all very mysterious--yet, I dare say, easy of solution and
explanation. There isn't any danger of the one thing that is really
terrifying, so I'm not inclined to be alarmed, unduly--just
disquieted."

At this moment Captain Carrington returned.

"Here! take these," he said, giving each a revolver. "Let us hope there
won't be any occasion to use them, but it is well to be prepared."

They went out together--at the intersection of Queen and King Streets,
they parted.

"Remember! eleven o'clock at my house," said the Captain. "If any one
of us isn't there, the other two will know he needs assistance."

Croyden went north on King Street. It was a chilly November night, with
frost in the air. The moon, in its second quarter and about to sink
into the waters of the Bay, gave light sufficient to make walking easy,
where the useless street lamps did not kill it with their timid
brilliancy. He passed the limits of the town, and struck out into the
country. It had just struck ten, when they parted--he would walk for
half an hour, and then return. He could do three miles--a mile and a
half each way--and still be at the Carrington house by eleven. He
proceeded along the east side of the road, his eyes busy lest, in the
uncertain light, he miss anything which might serve as a clue. For the
allotted time, he searched but found nothing--he must return. He
crossed to the west side of the road, and faced homeward.

A mile passed--a quarter more was added--the feeble lights of the town
were gleaming dimly in the fore, when, beside the track, he noticed a
small white object.

It was a woman's handkerchief, and, as he picked it up, a faint odor of
violets was clinging to it still. Here might be a clue--there was a
monogram on the corner, but he could not distinguish it, in the
darkness. He put it in his pocket and hastened on. A hundred feet
farther, and his foot hit something soft. He groped about, with his
hands, and found--a woman's glove. It, also, bore the odor of violets.

At the first lamp-post, he stopped and examined the handkerchief--the
monogram was plain: E. C.--and violets, he remembered, were her
favorite perfume. He took out the glove--a soft, undressed kid
affair--but there was no mark on it to help him. He glanced at his
watch. His time had almost expired. He pushed the feminine trifles back
into his pocket, and hurried on.

He was late, and when he arrived at Ashburton, Captain Carrington and
Macloud were just about to start in pursuit.

"I found these!" he said, tossing the glove and the handkerchief on the
table--"on the west side of the road, about half a mile from town."

Macloud picked them up.

"The violets are familiar--and the handkerchief is Elaine's," said he.
"I recognize the monogram as hers."

"What do you make of it?" Captain Carrington demanded.

"Nothing--it passes me."

His glance sought Croyden's.

A shake of the head was his answer.

The Captain strode to the telephone.

"I'm going to call in our friends," he said. "I think we shall need
them."



XVIII

THE LONE HOUSE BY THE BAY


When Croyden and Macloud left the Carrington residence that evening,
after their call and tea, Elaine and Davila remained for a little while
in the drawing-room rehearsing the events of the day, as women will.
Presently, Davila went over to draw the shades.

"What do you say to a walk before we dress for dinner?" she inquired.

"I should like it, immensely," Elaine answered.

They went upstairs, changed quickly to street attire, and set out.

"We will go down to the centre of the town and back," said Davila.
"It's about half a mile each way, and there isn't any danger, so long
as you keep in the town. I shouldn't venture beyond it unescorted,
however, even in daylight."

"Why?" asked Elaine. "Isn't Hampton orderly?"

"Hampton is orderly enough. It's the curse that hangs over the South
since the Civil War: the negro."

"Oh! I understand," said Elaine, shuddering.

"I don't mean that all black men are bad, for they are not. Many are
entirely trustworthy, but the trustworthy ones are much, very much, in
the minority. The vast majority are worthless--and a worthless nigger
is the worst thing on earth."

"I think I prefer only the lighted streets," Elaine remarked.

"And you will be perfectly safe there," Davila replied.

They swung briskly along to the centre of the town--where the two main
thoroughfares, King and Queen Streets, met each other in a wide circle
that, after the fashion of Southern towns, was known, incongruously
enough, as "The Diamond." Passing around this circle, they retraced
their steps toward home.

As they neared Ashburton, an automobile with the top up and side
curtains on shot up behind them, hesitated a moment, as though
uncertain of its destination and then drew up before the Carrington
place. Two men alighted, gave an order to the driver, and went across
the pavement to the gate, while the engine throbbed, softly.

Then they seemed to notice the women approaching, and stepping back
from the gate, they waited.

"I beg your pardon!" said one, raising his hat and bowing, "can you
tell me if this is where Captain Carrington lives?"

"It is," answered Davila.

"Thank you!" said the man, standing aside to let them pass.

"I am Miss Carrington--whom do you wish to see?"

"Captain Carrington, is he at home?"

"I do not know--if you will come in, I'll inquire."

"You're very kind!" with another bow.

He sprang forward and opened the gate. Davila thanked him with a smile,
and she and Elaine went in, leaving the strangers to follow.

The next instant, each girl was struggling in the folds of a shawl,
which had been flung over her from behind and wrapped securely around
her head and arms, smothering her cries to a mere whisper. In a trice,
despite their struggles--which, with heads covered and arms held close
to their sides, were utterly unavailing--they were caught up, tossed
into the tonneau, and the car shot swiftly away.

In a moment, it was clear of the town, the driver "opened her up," and
they sped through the country at thirty miles an hour.

"Better give them some air," said the leader. "It doesn't matter how
much they yell here."

He had been holding Elaine on his lap, his arms keeping the shawl tight
around her. Now he loosed her, and unwound the folds.

"You will please pardon the liberty we have taken," he said, as he
freed her, "but there are----"

Crack!

Elaine had struck him straight in the face with all her strength, and,
springing free, was on the point of leaping out, when he seized her
and forced her back, caught her arms in the shawl, which was still
around her, and bound them tight to her side.

"Better be a little careful, Bill!" he said. "I got an upper cut on the
jaw that made me see stars."

"I've been very easy with mine," his companion returned. "She'll not
hand me one." However, he took care not to loosen the shawl from her
arms. "There you are, my lady, I hope you've not been greatly
inconvenienced."

"What do you mean by this outrage?" said Davila.

"Don't forget, Bill!--mum's the word!" the chief cautioned.

"At least, you can permit us to sit on the floor of the car," said
Elaine. "Whatever may be your scheme, it's scarcely necessary to hold
us in this disgusting position."

"Will you make no effort to escape?" the chief asked.

"No!"

"I reckon that is a trifle overstated!" he laughed. "What about you,
Miss Carrington?"

Davila did not answer--contenting herself with a look, which was far
more expressive than words.

"Well, we will take pleasure in honoring your first request, Miss
Cavendish."

He caught up a piece of rope, passed it around her arms, outside the
shawl, tied it in a running knot, and quietly lifted her from his lap
to the floor.

"I trust that is satisfactory?" he asked.

"By comparison, eminently so."

"Thank you!" he said. "Do you, Miss Carrington, wish to sit beside your
friend?"

"If you please!" said Davila, with supreme contempt.

He took the rope and tied her, likewise.

"Very good, Bill!" he said, and they placed her beside Elaine.

"If you will permit your legs to be tied, we will gladly let you have
the seat----"

"No!----"

"Well, I didn't think you would--so you will have to remain on the
floor; you see, you might be tempted to jump, if we gave you the
seat."

They were running so rapidly, through the night air, that the country
could scarcely be distinguished, as it rushed by them. To Elaine, it
was an unknown land. Davila, however, was looking for something she
could recognize--some building that she knew, some stream, some
topographical formation. But in the faint and uncertain moonlight,
coupled with the speed at which they travelled, she was baffled. The
chief observed, however.

"With your permission!" he said, and taking two handkerchiefs from his
pocket, he bound the eyes of both.

"It is only for a short while," he explained--"matter of an hour or
so, and you suffer no particular inconvenience, I trust."

Neither Elaine nor Davila condescended to reply.

After a moment's pause, the man went on:

"I neglected to say--and I apologize for my remissness--that you need
fear no ill-treatment. You will be shown every consideration--barring
freedom, of course--and all your wants, within the facilities at our
command, will be gratified. Naturally, however, you will not be
permitted to communicate with your friends."

"How nice of you!" said Elaine. "But I should be better pleased if you
would tell us the reason for this abduction."

"That, I regret, I am not at liberty to discuss."

"How long are we to remain prisoners?" demanded Davila.

"It depends."

"Upon what?"

"Upon whether something is acceded to."

"By whom?"

"I am not at liberty to say."

"And if it is not acceded to?" Elaine inquired.

"In that event--it would be necessary to decide what should be done
with you."

"Done with us! What do you mean to imply?"

"Nothing!--the time hasn't come to imply--I hope it will not come."

"Why?" said Davila.

"Because."

"Because is no reason."

"It is a woman's reason!" said he, laughing lightly.

"Do you mean that your failure would imperil our lives?"

"Something like it?" he replied, after a moment's thought.

"Our lives!" Davila cried. "Do you appreciate what you are saying!"

The man did not answer.

"Is it possible you mean to threaten our lives?" Davila persisted.

"I threaten nothing--yet."

"Oh, you threaten nothing, yet!" she mocked. "But you will threaten,
if----"

"Exactly! if--you are at liberty to guess the rest."

"I don't care to guess!" she retorted. "Do you appreciate that the
whole Eastern Shore will be searching for us by morning--and that, if
the least indignity is offered us, your lives won't be worth a penny?"

"We take the risk, Miss Carrington," replied the man, placidly.

Davila shrugged her shoulders, and they rode in silence, for half an
hour.

Then the speed of the car slackened, they ran slowly for half a mile,
and stopped. The chief reached down, untied the handkerchiefs, and
sprang out.

"You may descend," he said, offering his hand.

Elaine saw the hand, and ignored it; Davila refused even to see the
hand.

They could make out, in the dim light, that they were before a long,
low, frame building, with the waters of the Bay just beyond. A light
burned within, and, as they entered, the odor of cooking greeted them.

"Thank goodness! they don't intend to starve us!" said Elaine. "I
suppose it's scarcely proper in an abducted maiden, but I'm positively
famished."

"I'm too enraged to eat," said Davila.

"Are you afraid?" Elaine asked.

"Afraid?--not in the least!"

"No more am I--but oughtn't we be afraid?"

"I don't know! I'm too angry to know anything."

They had been halted on the porch, while the chief went in, presumably,
to see that all was ready for their reception. Now, he returned.

"If you will come in," he said, "I will show you to your apartment."

"Prison, you mean," said Davila.

"Apartment is a little better word, don't you think?" said he.
"However, as you wish, Miss Carrington, as you wish! We shall try to
make you comfortable, whatever you may call your temporary
quarters.--These two rooms are yours," he continued, throwing open the
door. "They are small, but quiet and retired; you will not, I am sure,
be disturbed. Pardon me, if I remove these ropes, you will be less
hampered in your movements. There! supper will be served in fifteen
minutes--you will be ready?"

"Yes, we shall be ready," said Elaine, and the man bowed and retired.
"He has some manners!" she reflected.

"They might be worse," Davila retorted.

"Which is some satisfaction," Elaine added.

"Yes!--and we best be thankful for it."

"The rooms aren't so bad," said Elaine, looking around.

"We each have a bed, and a bureau, and a wash-stand, and a couple of
chairs, a few chromos, a rug on the floor--and bars at the window."

"I noticed the bars," said Davila.

Elaine crossed to her wash-stand.

"They've provided us with water, so we may as well use it," she said.
"I think my face needs--Heavens! what a sight I am!"

"Haven't you observed the same sight in me?" Davila asked. "I've lost
all my puffs, I know--and so have you--and your hat is a trifle awry."

"Since we're not trying to make an impression, I reckon it doesn't
matter!" laughed Elaine. "We will have ample opportunity to put them to
rights before Colin and Geoffrey see us."

She took off her hat, pressed her hair into shape, replaced a few pins,
dashed water on her face, and washed her hands.

"Now," she said, going into the other room where Miss Carrington was
doing likewise, "if I only had a powder-rag, I'd feel dressed."

Davila turned, and, taking a little book, from the pocket of her coat,
extended it.

"Here is some Papier Poudre," she said.

"You blessed thing!" Elaine exclaimed, and, tearing out a sheet, she
rubbed it over her face. "Is my nose shiny?" she ended.

A door opened and a young girl appeared, wearing apron and cap.

"The ladies are served!" she announced.

The two looked at each other and laughed.

"This is quite some style!" Davila commented.

"It is, indeed!" said Elaine as she saw the table, with its candles and
silver (plated, to be sure), dainty china, and pressed glass.

"If the food is in keeping, I think we can get along for a few days. We
may as well enjoy it while it lasts."

Davila smiled. "You always were of a philosophic mind."

"It's the easiest way."

She might have added, that it was the only way she knew--her wealth
having made all roads easy to her.

The meal finished, they went back to their apartment, to find the bed
turned down for the night, and certain lingerie, which they were
without, laid out for them.

"Better and better!" exclaimed Elaine. "You might think this was a
hotel."

"Until you tried to go out."

"We haven't tried, yet--wait until morning." A pack of cards was on the
table. "See how thoughtful they are! Come, I'll play you Camden for a
cent a point."

"I can't understand what their move is?" said Davila, presently. "What
can they hope to accomplish by abducting us--or me, at any rate. It
seems they don't want anything from us."

"I make it, that they hope to extort something, from a third party,
through us--by holding us prisoners."

"Captain Carrington has no money--it can't be he," said Davila, "and
yet, why else should they seize me?"

"The question is, whose hand are they trying to force?" reflected
Elaine. "They will hold us until something is acceded to, the man said.
Until _what_ is acceded to, and _by whom_?"

"You think that we are simply the pawns?" asked Davila.

"Undoubtedly!"

"And if it isn't acceded to, they will kill us?"

"They will doubtless make the threat."

"Pleasant prospect for us!"

"We won't contemplate it, just yet. They may gain their point, or we may
be rescued; in either case, we'll be saved from dying!" Elaine laughed.
"And, at the worst, I may be able to buy them off--to pay our own
ransom. If it's money they want, we shall not die, I assure you."

"You would pay what they demand?" Davila asked, quickly.

"If I have to choose between death and paying, I reckon I'll pay."

"But can you pay?"

"Yes, I think I can pay," she said quietly. "I'm not used to boasting
my wealth, but I can draw my check for a million, and it will be
honored without a moment's question. Does that make you feel easier, my
dear?"

"Considerably easier," said Davila, with a glad laugh. "I couldn't draw
my check for much more than ten thousand cents. I am only----" She
stopped, staring.

"What on earth is the matter, Davila?" Elaine exclaimed.

"I have it!--it's the thieves!"

"Have you suddenly lost your mind?"

"No! I've found it! I've come out of my trance. It's Parmenter's
chest."

"Parmenter's chest?" echoed Elaine. "I reckon I must be in a trance,
also."

"Hasn't Mr. Croyden told you--or Mr. Macloud?"

"No!"

"Then maybe I shouldn't--but I will. Parmenter's chest is a fortune in
jewels."

"A what?"

"A fortune in jewels, which Mr. Croyden has searched for and not
found--and the thieves think----"

"You would better tell me the story," said Elaine, pushing back the
cards.

And Davila told her....

"It is too absurd!" laughed Elaine, "those rogues trying to force
Geoffrey to divide what he hasn't got, and can't find, and we abducted
to constrain him. He couldn't comply if he wanted to, poor fellow!"

"But they will never believe it," said Davila.

"And, meanwhile, we suffer. Well, if we're not rescued shortly, I can
advance the price and buy our freedom. They want half a million. Hum! I
reckon two hundred thousand will be sufficient--and, maybe, we can
compromise for one hundred thousand. Oh! it's not so bad, Davila, it's
not so bad!"

She smiled, shrewdly. Unless she were wofully mistaken, this abduction
would release her from the embarrassment of declaring herself to
Geoffrey. She could handle the matter, now.

"What is it?" asked Davila. "Why are you smiling so queerly?"

"I was thinking of Colin and Geoffrey--and how they are pretty sure to
know their minds when this affair is ended."

"You mean?"

"Exactly! I mean, if this doesn't bring Colin to his senses, he is
hopeless."

"And Mr. Croyden?" Davila queried. "How about him?"

"He will surrender, too. All his theoretical notions of relative wealth
will be forgotten. I've only to wait for rescue or release. On the
whole, Davila, I'm quite satisfied with being abducted. Moreover, it is
an experience which doesn't come to every girl." She looked at her
friend quizzically. "What are you going to do about Colin? I rather
think you should have an answer ready; the circumstances are apt to
make him rather precipitate."

The next morning after breakfast, which was served in their rooms,
Elaine was looking out through the bars on her window, trying to get
some notion of the country, when she saw, what she took to be, the
chief abductor approaching. He was a tall, well-dressed man of middle
age, with the outward appearance of a gentleman. She looked at him a
moment, then rang for the maid.

"I should like to have a word with the man who just came in," she
said.

"I will tell him, Miss."

He appeared almost immediately, an inquiring look on his face.

"How can I serve you, Miss Cavendish?" he said, deferentially.

"By permitting us to go out for some air--these rooms were not
designed, apparently, for permanent residence."

"It can be arranged," he answered. "When do you wish to go?"

"At once!"

"Very good!" he said. "You will have no objection to being attended, to
make sure you don't stray off too far, you know?"

"None whatever, if the attendant remains at a reasonable distance."

He bowed and stood aside.

"You may come," he said.

"Is the locality familiar?" Elaine asked, when they were some distance
from the house.

Davila shook her head. "It is south of Hampton, I think, but I can't
give any reason for my impression. The car was running very rapidly; we
were, I reckon, almost two hours on the way, but we can't be more than
fifty miles away."

"If they came direct--but if they circled, we could be much less,"
Elaine observed.

"It's a pity we didn't think to drop something from the car to inform
our friends which way to look for us."

"I did," said Elaine. "I tossed out a handkerchief and a glove a short
distance from Hampton--just as I struck that fellow. The difficulty is,
there isn't any assurance we kept to that road. Like as not, we started
north and ended east or south of town. What is this house, a fishing
club?"

"I rather think so. There is a small wharf, and a board-walk down to
the Bay, and the house itself is one story and spread-out, so to
speak."

"Likely it's a summer club-house, which these men have either rented or
preëmpted for our prison."

"The country around here is surely deserted!" said Davila.

"Hence, a proper choice for our temporary residence."

"I can't understand the care they are taking of us--the deference with
which we are treated, the food that is given us."

"Parmenter's treasure, and the prize they think they're playing for,
has much to do with it. We are of considerable value, according to
their idea."

After a while, they went back to the house. The two men, who had
remained out of hearing, but near enough to prevent any attempt to
escape, having seen them safely within, disappeared. As they passed
through the hall they encountered the chief. He stepped aside.

"You enjoyed your walk, I trust?" he said.

Davila nodded curtly. Elaine stopped.

"I feel sorry for you!" she said, smiling.

"You are very kind," he replied. "But why?"

"You are incurring considerable expense for nothing."

He grinned. "It is a very great pleasure, I assure you."

"You are asking the impossible," she went on. "Mr. Croyden told you
the simple truth. He _didn't_ find the Parmenter jewels."

The man's face showed his surprise, but he only shrugged his shoulders
expressively, and made no reply.

"I know you do not believe it--yet it's a fact, nevertheless. Mr.
Croyden couldn't pay your demands, if he wished. Of course, we enjoy
the experience, but, as I said, it's a trifle expensive for you."

The fellow's grin broadened.

"You're a good sport!" he said--"a jolly good sport! But we're dealing
with Mr. Croyden and Mr. Macloud, so, you'll pardon me if I decline to
discuss the subject."



XIX

ROBERT PARMENTER'S SUCCESSORS


In half-an-hour from the time Captain Carrington strode to the
telephone to arouse his friends, all Hampton had the startling news:
Davila Carrington and her guest, Miss Cavendish, had disappeared.

How, when, and where, it could not learn, so it supplied the deficiency
as best pleased the individual--by morning, the wildest tales were
rehearsed and credited.

The truth was bad enough, however. Miss Carrington and Miss Cavendish
were not in the town, nor anywhere within a circuit of five miles.
Croyden, Macloud, all the men in the place had searched the night
through, and without avail. Every horse, and every boat had been
accounted for. It remained, that they either had fallen into the Bay,
or had gone in a strange conveyance.

Croyden and Macloud had returned to Clarendon for a bite of
breakfast--very late breakfast, at eleven o'clock. They had met by
accident, on their way to the house, having come from totally different
directions of search.

"It's Parmenter again!" said Croyden, suddenly.

"It's what?" said Macloud.

"Parmenter:--Pirate's gold breeds pirate's ways. The lawyer villain has
reappeared. I told you it was he I saw, yesterday, driving the
automobile."

"I don't quite understand why they selected Elaine and Miss Carrington
to abduct," Macloud objected, after a moment's consideration. "Why
didn't they take you?"

"Because they thought we would come to time more quickly, if they took
the women. They seem to be informed on everything, so, we can assume,
they are acquainted with your fondness for Miss Carrington and mine for
Elaine. Or, it's possible they thought that we both were interested in
Davila--for I've been with her a lot this autumn--and then, at the
pinch, were obliged to take Elaine, also, because she was with her and
would give the alarm if left behind."

"A pretty fair scheme," said Macloud. "The fellow who is managing this
business knew we would do more for the women than for ourselves."

"It's the same old difficulty--we haven't got Parmenter's treasure, but
they refuse to be convinced."

The telephone rang, and Croyden himself answered it.

"Captain Carrington asks that we come over at once," he said, hanging
up the receiver. "The Pinkerton men have arrived."

They finished their breakfast and started. Half way to the gate, they
met the postman coming up the walk. He handed Croyden a letter, faced
about and trudged away.

Croyden glanced at it, mechanically tore open the envelope, and drew it
out. As his eyes fell on the first line, he stopped, abruptly.

"Listen to this!" he said.

                                   "On Board The Parmenter,
                                      "Pirate Sloop of War,
                             "Off the Capes of the Chesapeake.

  "Dear Sir:--

  "It seems something is required to persuade you that we mean
  business. Therefore, we have abducted Miss Carrington and her
  friend, Miss Cavendish, in the hope that it will rouse you to a
  proper realization of the eternal fitness of things, and of our
  intention that there shall be a division of the jewels--or their
  value in money. Our attorney had the pleasure of an interview
  with you, recently, at which time he specified a sum of two
  hundred and fifty thousand dollars, as being sufficient. A
  further investigation of the probable value of the jewels, having
  convinced us that we were in slight error as to their present
  worth, induces us to reduce the amount, which we claim as our
  share, to two hundred thousand dollars. This is the minimum of
  our demand, however, and we have taken the ladies, aforesaid, as
  security for its prompt payment.

  "They will be held in all comfort and respect (if no effort at
  rescue be attempted--otherwise we will deal with them as we see
  fit), for the period of ten days from the receipt of this letter,
  which will be at noon to-morrow. If the sum indicated is not
  paid, they will, at the expiration of the ten days, be turned
  over to the tender mercies of the crew.--Understand?

  "As to the manner of payment--You, yourself, must go to
  Annapolis, and, between eleven and twelve in the morning, proceed
  to the extreme edge of Greenberry Point and remain standing, in
  full view from the Bay, for the space of fifteen minutes. You
  will, then, face about, step ten paces, and bury the money, which
  must be in thousand dollar bills, under a foot of sand. You will
  then, immediately, return to Annapolis and take the first car to
  Baltimore, and, thence, to Hampton.

  "In the event that you have not reduced the jewels to cash, we
  will be content with such a division as will insure us a moiety
  thereof. It will be useless to try deception concerning
  them,--though a few thousand dollars, one way or the other, won't
  matter. When you have complied with these terms, the young women
  will be released and permitted to return to Hampton. If not--they
  will wish they were dead, even before they are. We are, sir, with
  deep respect,

                       "Y'r h'mbl. and ob'dt. serv'ts,

                               "Robert Parmenter's Successors.

  "Geoffrey Croyden, Esq'r.
       "Hampton, Md."

"Where was it mailed?" Macloud asked.

Croyden turned over the envelope. It was postmarked Hampton, 6.30 A.M.,
of that day.

"Which implies that it was mailed some time during the night," said
he.

"What do you make of it?"

"Do you mean, will they carry out their threat?"

Croyden nodded.

"They have been rather persistent," Macloud replied.

"It's absurd!" Croyden exclaimed. "We haven't the jewels. Damn
Parmenter and his infernal letter!"

"Parmenter is not to blame," said Macloud. "Damn the thieves."

"And damn my carelessness in letting them pick my pocket! there lies
the entire difficulty."

"Well, the thing, now, is to save the women--and how?"

"Pay, if need be!" exclaimed Croyden. "The two hundred thousand I got
for the Virginia Development bonds will be just enough."

Macloud nodded. "I'm in for half, old man. Aside from any personal
feelings we may have for the women in question," he said, with a
serious sort of smile, "we owe it to them--they were abducted solely
because of us--to force us to disgorge."

"I'm ready to pay the cash at once."

"Don't be hasty!" Macloud cautioned. "We have ten days, and the police
can take a try at it."

"_That_, for the police!" said Croyden, snapping his fingers. "They're
all bunglers--they will be sure to make a mess of it, and, then, no man
can foresee what will happen. It's not right to subject the women to
the risk. Let us pay first, and punish after--if we can catch the
scoundrels. How long do you think Henry Cavendish will hesitate when he
learns that Elaine has been abducted, and the peril which menaces
her?"

"Thunder! we have clean forgot her father!" exclaimed Macloud. "He
should be informed at once."

"Just what he shouldn't be," Croyden returned. "What is the good in
alarming him? Free her--then she may tell him, or not, as it pleases
her."

Macloud held out his hand.

"Done!" he said. "Our first duty _is_ to save the women, the rest can
bide until they are free. How about the money? Are your stocks readily
convertible? If not, I'll advance your share."

"Much obliged, old man," said Croyden, "but a wire will do it--they're
all listed on New York."

"Will you lose much, if you sell now?" asked Macloud. He wished Croyden
would let him pay the entire amount.

"Just about even; a little to the good, in fact," was the answer.

And Macloud said no more--he knew it was useless.

At Ashburton, they found Captain Carrington pacing the long hall, in
deep distress--uncertain what course to pursue, because there was no
indication as to what had caused the disappearance. He turned, as the
two men entered.

"The detectives are quizzing the servants in the library," he said. "I
couldn't sit still.--You have news?" he exclaimed, reading Croyden's
face.

"I have!" said Croyden, and gave him the letter.

He seized it. As he read, concern, perplexity, amazement, anger, all
showed in his countenance.

"They have been abducted!--Davila and Miss Cavendish, and are held for
ransom!--a fabulous ransom, which you are asked to pay," he said,
incredulously. "So much, at least, is intelligible. But why? why? Who
are Robert Parmenter's Successors?--and who was he? and the jewels?--I
cannot understand----"

"I'm not surprised," said Croyden. "It's a long story--too long to
tell--save that Parmenter was a pirate, back in 1720, who buried a
treasure on Greenberry Point, across the Severn from Annapolis, you
know, and died, making Marmaduke Duval his heir, under certain
conditions. Marmaduke, in turn, passed it on to his son, and so on,
until Colonel Duval bequeathed it to me. We searched--Mr. Macloud and
I--for three weeks, but did not find it. Our secret was chanced upon by
two rogues, who, with their confederates, however, are under the
conviction we _did_ find it. They wanted a rake-off. I laughed at
them--and this abduction is the result."

"But why abduct the women?" asked the old man.

"Because they think I can be coerced more easily. They are under the
impression that I am--fond of Miss Carrington. At any rate, they know
I'm enough of a friend to pay, rather than subject her to the hazard."

"Pay! I can't pay! My whole fortune isn't over twenty thousand dollars.
It I will gladly sacrifice, but more is impossible."

"You're not to pay, my old friend," said Croyden. "Mr. Macloud and I
are the ones aimed at and we will pay."

"I won't permit it, sir!" the Captain exclaimed. "There is no reason
for you----"

"Tut! tut!" said Croyden, "you forget that we are wholly responsible;
but for us, Miss Carrington and Miss Cavendish would not have been
abducted. The obligation is ours, and we will discharge it. It is our
plain, our very plain, duty."

The old man threw up his hands in the extremity of despair.

"I don't know what to do!" he said. "I don't know what to do!"

"Do nothing--leave everything to us. We'll have Miss Carrington back in
three days."

"And safe?"

"And safe--if the letter is trustworthy, and I think it is. The police
can't do as well--they may fail entirely--and think of the possible
consequences! Miss Carrington and Miss Cavendish are very handsome
women."

"My God, yes!" exclaimed the Captain. "Anything but that! If they were
men, or children, it would be different--they could take some chances.
But women!"--He sank on a chair and covered his face with his hands.
"You must let me pay what I am able," he insisted. "All that I
have----"

Croyden let his hand fall sympathizingly on the other's shoulder.

"It shall be as you wish," he said quietly. "We will pay, and you can
settle with us afterward--our stocks can be converted instantly, you
see, while yours will likely require some time."

The Captain pulled himself together and arose.

"Thank you," he said. "I've been sort of unmanned--I'm better now.
Shall you show the detectives the letter--tell them we are going to pay
the amount demanded?"

"I don't know," said Croyden, uncertainly. "What's your opinion,
Colin?"

"Let them see the letter," Macloud answered, "but on the distinct
stipulation, that they make no effort to apprehend 'Robert Parmenter's
Successors' until the women are safely returned. They may pick up
whatever clues they can obtain for after use, but they must not do
anything which will arouse suspicion, even."

"Why take them into our confidence at all?" asked Croyden.

"For two reasons: It's acting square with them (which, it seems to me,
is always the wise thing to do). And, if they are not let in on the
facts, they may blunder in and spoil everything. We want to save the
women at the earliest moment, without any possible handicaps due to
ignorance or inadvertence."

"But can we trust them?" Croyden asked, doubtfully.

"It's the lesser of two evils."

"We will have to explain the letter, its reference to the Parmenter
jewels, and all that it contains."

"I can see no objection. We didn't find the treasure, and, I reckon,
they're welcome to search, if they think there is a chance."

"Well, let it be exactly as you wish--you're quite as much concerned
for success as I am," said Croyden.

"Possibly, more so," returned Macloud, seriously.

And Croyden understood.

Then, they went into the library. The two detectives arose at their
entrance. The one, Rebbert, was a Pinkerton man, the other, Sanders,
was from the Bureau at City Hall. Both were small men, with clean
shaven faces, steady, searching eyes, and an especially quiet manner.

"Mr. Croyden," said Rebbert, "we have been questioning the servants,
but have obtained nothing of importance, except that the ladies wore
their hats and coats (at least, they have disappeared). This, with the
fact that you found Miss Cavendish's glove and handkerchief, on a road
without the limits of Hampton, leads to the conclusion that they have
been abducted. But why? Miss Carrington, we are informed, has no great
wealth--how as to Miss Cavendish?"

"She has more than sufficient--in fact, she is very rich----"

"Ah! then we _have_ a motive," said the detective.

"There is a motive, but it is not Miss Cavendish," Croyden answered.
"You're correct as to the abduction, however--this will explain," and
he handed him the letter.

The two men read it.

"When did you receive this?" said one.

"At noon to-day," replied Croyden, passing over the envelope.

They looked carefully at the postmark.

"Do you object to explaining certain things in this letter?" Rebbert
asked.

"Not in the least," replied Croyden. "I'll tell you the entire
story.... Is there anything I have missed?" he ended.

"I think not, sir."

"Very well! Now, we prefer that you should take no measures to
apprehend the abductors, until after Miss Cavendish and Miss
Carrington have been released. We are going to pay the amount
demanded."

"Going to pay the two hundred thousand dollars!" cried the detectives,
in one breath.

Croyden nodded. "Afterward, you can get as busy as you like."

A knowing smile broke over the men's faces, at the same instant.

"You too think we found the treasure?" Croyden exclaimed.

"It looks that way, sir," said Rebbert; while Sanders acquiesced, with
another smile.

Croyden turned to Macloud and held up his hands, hopelessly.

"If we only had!" he cried. "If we only had!"



XX

THE CHECK


On the second morning after their abduction, when Elaine and Davila
arose, the sky was obscured by fog, the trees exuded moisture, and only
a small portion of the Bay was faintly visible through the mist.

"This looks natural!" said Elaine. "We must have moved out to
Northumberland, in the night."

Davila smiled, a feeble sort of smile. It was not a morning to promote
light-heartedness, and particularly under such circumstances.

"Is this anything like Northumberland?" she asked.

"Yes!--Only Northumberland is more so. For a misty day, this would be
remarkably fine.--With us, it's midnight at noon--all the lights
burning, in streets, and shops, and electric cars, bells jangling,
people rushing, pushing, diving through the dirty blackness, like
devils in hell. Oh, it's pleasant, when you get used to it.--Ever been
there?"

"No," said Davila, "I haven't."

"We must have you out--say, immediately after the holidays. Will you
come?"

"I'll be glad to come, if I'm alive--and we ever get out of this awful
place."

"It _is_ stupid here," said Elaine. "I thought there was something
novel in being abducted, but it's rather dreary business. I'm ready to
quit, are you?"

"I was ready to quit before we started!" Davila laughed.

"We will see what can be done about it. We'll have in the head jailer."
She struck the bell. "Ask the chief to be kind enough to come here a
moment," she said, to the girl who attended them.

In a few minutes, he appeared--suave, polite, courteous.

"You sent for me, Miss Cavendish?" he inquired.

"I did. Sit down, please, I've something to say to you, Mr.----"

"Jones, for short," he replied.

"Thank you!" said Elaine, with a particularly winning smile. "Mr.
Jones, for short--you will pardon me, I know, if I seem unduly
personal, but these quarters are not entirely to our liking."

"I'm very sorry, indeed," he replied. "We tried to make them
comfortable. In what are they unsatisfactory?--we will remedy it, if
possible."

"We would prefer another locality--Hampton, to be specific."

"You mean that you are tired of captivity?" he smiled. "I see your
point of view, and I'm hopeful that Mr. Croyden will see it, also, and
permit us to release you, in a few days."

"It is that very point I wish to discuss a moment with you," she
interrupted. "I told you before, that Mr. Croyden didn't find the
jewels and that, therefore, it is impossible for him to pay."

"You will pardon me if I doubt your statement.--Moreover, we are not
privileged to discuss the matter with you. We can deal only with Mr.
Croyden, as I think I have already intimated."

"Then you will draw an empty covert," she replied.

"That remains to be seen, as I have also intimated," said Mr. Jones,
easily.

"But you don't want to draw an empty covert, do you--to have only your
trouble for your pains?" she asked.

"It would be a great disappointment, I assure you."

"You have been at considerable expense to provide for our
entertainment?"

"Pray do not mention it!--it's a very great pleasure."

"It would be a greater pleasure to receive the cash?" she asked.

"Since the cash is our ultimate aim, I confess it would be equally
satisfactory," he replied.

"Then why not tell me the amount?"

He shook his head.

"Such matters are for Mr. Croyden," he said.

"Just assume that Mr. Croyden cannot pay," she insisted. "Are _we_ not
to be given a chance to find the cash?"

"Mr. Croyden can pay."

"But assume that he cannot," she reiterated, "or won't--it's the same
result."

"In that event, you----"

"Would be given the opportunity," she broke in.

He bowed.

"Then why not let us consider the matter in the first instance?" she
asked. "The money is the thing. It can make no difference to you whence
it comes--from Mr. Croyden or from me."

"None in the world!" he answered.

"And it would be much more simple to accept a check and to release us
when it is paid?"

"Checks are not accepted in this business!" he smiled.

"Ordinarily not, it would be too dangerous, I admit. But if it could be
arranged to your satisfaction, what then?"

"I don't think it can be arranged," he replied. "The amount is much too
great."

"And that amount is----" she persisted, smiling at him the while.

"Two hundred thousand dollars," he replied.

"With what per cent. off for cash?"

"None--not a fraction of a penny!"

She nodded, slightly. "Why can't it be arranged?"

"You're thinking of paying it?" he asked, incredulously.

"I want to know why you think it can't be arranged?" she repeated.

"The danger of detection. No bank would pay a check for that amount to
an unknown party, without the personal advice of the drawer."

"Not if it were made payable to self, and properly indorsed for
identification?"

"I fear not."

"You can try it--there's no harm in trying. You have a bank that knows
you?"

"But scarcely for such large amounts."

"What of it? You deposit the check for collection only. They will send
it through. When it's paid, they will pay you. If it's not paid, there
is no harm done--and we are still your prisoners. You stand to win
everything and lose nothing."

The man looked thoughtfully at the ceiling.

"The check will be paid?" he asked, presently.

"If it isn't paid, you still have us," said Elaine.

"It might be managed."

"That is your part. If the check is presented, it will be paid--you may
rest easy, on that score."

Jones resumed his contemplation of the ceiling.

"But remember," she cautioned, "when it is paid, we are to be released,
instantly. No holding us for Mr. Croyden to pay, also. If we play
square with you, you must play square with us. I risk a fortune, see
that you make good."

"Your check--it should be one of the sort you always use----"

"I always carry a few blank checks in my handbag--and fortunately, I
have it with me. You were careful to wrap it in with my arms. I will
get it."

She went into her room. In a moment she returned, the blank check in
her fingers, and handed it to him. It was of a delicate robin's-egg
blue, with "The Tuscarora Trust Company" printed across the face in a
darker shade, and her monogram, in gold, at the upper end.

"Is it sufficiently individual to raise a presumption of regularity?"
she said.

"Undoubtedly!" he answered.

"Then, let us understand each other," she said.

"By all means," he agreed.

"I give you my check for two hundred thousand dollars, duly executed,
payable to my order, and endorsed by me, which, when paid, you, on
behalf of your associates and yourself, engage to accept in lieu of the
amount demanded from Mr. Croyden, and to release Miss Carrington and
myself forthwith."

"There is one thing more," he said. "You, on your part, are to
stipulate that no attempt will be made to arrest us."

"We will engage that _we_ will do nothing to apprehend you."

"Directly or indirectly?" he questioned.

"Yes!--more than that is not in our power. You will have to assume the
general risk you took when you abducted us."

"We will take it," was the quiet answer.

"Is there anything else?" she asked.

"I think not--at least, everything is entirely satisfactory to us."

"Despite the fact that it couldn't be made so!" she smiled.

"I didn't know we had to deal with a woman of such business sense
and--wealth," he answered gallantly.

She smiled. "If you will get me ink and pen, I will sign the check,"
she said.

She filled it in for the amount specified, signed and endorsed it. Then
she took, from her handbag, a correspondence card, embossed with her
initials, and wrote this note:

                                              "Hampton, Md.
                                                  "Nov. --'10.

  "My dear Mr. Thompson:--

  "I have made a purchase, down here, and my check for Two Hundred
  Thousand dollars, in consideration, will come through, at once.
  Please see that it is paid, promptly.

                                "Yours very sincerely,

                                            "Elaine Cavendish.

  "To James Thompson, Esq'r., "Treasurer, The Tuscarora Trust Co.,
  "Northumberland."

She addressed the envelope and passed it and the card across to Mr.
Jones, together with the check.

"If you will mail this, to-night, it will provide against any chance of
non-payment," she said.

"You are a marvel of accuracy," he answered, with a bow. "I would I
could always do business with you."

"At two hundred thousand the time? No! no! monsieur, I pray thee, no
more!"

There was a knock on the door; the maid entered and spoke in a low tone
to Jones. He nodded.

"I am sorry to inconvenience you again," he said, turning to them, "but
I must trouble you to go aboard the tug."

"The tug--on the water?" Elaine exclaimed.

"On the water--that is usually the place for well behaved tugs!" he
laughed.

"Now!" Elaine persisted.

"Now--before I go to deposit the check!" he smiled. "You will be safer
on the tug. There will be no danger of an escape or a rescue--and it
won't be for long, I trust."

"Your trust is no greater than ours, I assure you," said Elaine.

Their few things were quickly gathered, and they went down to the
wharf, where a small boat was drawn up ready to take them to the tug,
which was lying a short distance out in the Bay.

"One of the Baltimore tugs, likely," said Davila. "There are scores of
them, there, and some are none too chary about the sort of business
they are employed in."

"Witness the present!" commented Elaine.

They got aboard without accident. Jones conducted them to the little
cabin, which they were to occupy together--an upper and a lower bunk
having been provided.

"The maid will sleep in the galley," said he. "She will look after the
cooking, and you will dine in the small cabin next to this one. It's a
bit contracted quarters for you, and I'm sorry, but it won't be for
long--as we both trust, Miss Cavendish."

"And you?" asked Elaine.

"I go to deposit the check. I will have my bank send it direct for
collection, with instructions to wire immediately if paid. I presume
you don't wish it to go through the ordinary course."

"Most assuredly not!" Elaine answered.

"This is Thursday," said Jones. "The check, and your note, should reach
the Trust Company in the same mail to-morrow morning; they can be
depended upon to wire promptly, I presume?"

"Undoubtedly!"

"Then, we may be able to release you to-morrow night, certainly by
Saturday."

"It can't come too soon for us."

"You don't seem to like our hospitality," Jones observed.

"It's excellent of its sort, but we don't fancy the sort--you
understand, monsieur. And then, too, it is frightfully expensive."

"We have done the best we could under the circumstances," he smiled.
"Until Saturday at the latest--meanwhile, permit me to offer you a very
hopeful farewell."

Elaine smiled sweetly, and Mr. Jones went out.

"Why do you treat him so amiably?" Davila asked. "I couldn't, if I
would."

"Policy," Elaine answered. "We get on better. It wouldn't help our case
to be sullen--and it might make it much worse. I would gladly shoot
him, and hurrah over it, too, as I fancy you would do, but it does no
good to show it, now--when we _can't_ shoot him."

"I suppose not," said Davila. "But I'm glad I don't have to play the
part." She hesitated a moment. "Elaine, I don't know how to thank you
for my freedom----"

"Wait until you have it!" the other laughed. "Though there isn't a
doubt of the check being paid."

"My grandfather, I know, will repay you with his entire fortune, but
that will be little----"

Elaine stopped her further words by placing a hand over her mouth, and
kissing her.

"That's quite enough, dear!" she said. "Take it that the reward is for
my release, and that you were just tossed in for good measure--or, that
it is a slight return for the pleasure of visiting you--or, that the
money is a small circumstance to me--or, that it is a trifling sum to
pay to be saved the embarrassment of proposing to Geoffrey,
myself--or, take it any way you like, only, don't bother your pretty
head an instant more about it. In the slang of the day: 'Forget it,'
completely and utterly, as a favor to me if for no other reason."

"I'll promise to forget it--until we're free," agreed Davila.

"And, in the meantime, let us have a look around this old boat," said
Elaine. "You're nearer the door, will you open it? Two can't pass in
this room."

Davila tried the door--it refused to open.

"It's locked!" she said.

"Oh, well! we will content ourselves with watching the Bay through the
port hole, and when one wants to turn around the other can crawl up in
her bunk. I'm going to write a book about this experience, some
time.--I wonder what Geoffrey and Colin are doing?" she
laughed--"running around like mad and stirring up the country, I
reckon."



XXI

THE JEWELS


Macloud went to New York on the evening train. He carried Croyden's
power of attorney with stock sufficient, when sold, to make up his
share of the cash. He had provided for his own share by a wire to his
brokers and his bank in Northumberland. A draft would be awaiting him.
He would reduce both amounts to one thousand dollar bills and hurry
back to Annapolis to meet Croyden.

But they counted not on the railroads,--or rather they did count on
them, and they were disappointed. A freight was derailed just south of
Hampton, tearing up the track for a hundred yards, and piling the right
of way with wreckage of every description. Macloud's train was twelve
hours late leaving Hampton. Then, to add additional ill luck, they ran
into a wash out some fifty miles further on; with the result that they
did not reach New York until after the markets were over and the banks
had closed for the day.

He wired the facts to Croyden. The following day, he sold the stocks,
the brokers gave him the proceeds in the desired bills, after the
delivery hour, and he made a quick get-away for Annapolis, arriving
there at nine o'clock in the evening.

Croyden was awaiting him, at Carvel Hall.

"I'm sorry, for the girls' sake," said he, "but it's only a day lost.
We will deliver the goods to-morrow. And, then, pray God, they be freed
before another night! That lawyer thief is a rogue and a robber, but
something tells me he will play straight."

"I reckon we will have to trust him," returned Macloud. "Where is the
Pinkerton man?"

"He is in town. He will be over on the Point in the morning, disguised
as a negro and chopping wood, on the edge of the timber. There isn't
much chance of him identifying the gang, but it's the best we can do.
It's the girls first, the scoundrels afterward, if possible."

At eleven o'clock the following day, Croyden, mounted on one of
"Cheney's Best," rode away from the hotel. There had been a sudden
change in the weather, during the night; the morning was clear and
bright and warm, as happens, sometimes, in Annapolis, in late November.
The Severn, blue and placid, flung up an occasional white cap to greet
him, as he crossed the bridge. He nodded to the draw-keeper, who
recognized him, drew aside for an automobile to pass, and then trotted
sedately up the hill, and into the woods beyond.

He could hear the Band of the Academy pounding out a quick-step, and
catch a glimpse of the long line of midshipmen passing in review,
before some notable. The "custard and cream" of the chapel dome
obtruded itself in all its hideousness; the long reach of Bancroft Hall
glowed white in the sun; the library with its clock--the former, by
some peculiar idea, placed at the farthest point from the dormitory,
and the latter where the midshipmen cannot see it--dominated the
opposite end of the grounds. Everywhere was quiet, peace, and
discipline--the embodiment of order and law,--the Flag flying over
all.

And yet, he was on his way to pay a ransom of very considerable amount,
for two women who were held prisoners!

He tied his horse to a limb of a maple, and walked out on the Point.
Save for a few trees, uprooted by the gales, it was the same Point they
had dug over a few weeks before. A negro, chopping at a log, stopped
his work, a moment, to look at him curiously, then resumed his labor.

"The Pinkerton man!" thought Croyden, but he made no effort to speak to
him.

Somewhere,--from a window in the town, or from one of the numerous
ships bobbing about on the Bay or the River--he did not doubt a glass
was trained on him, and his every motion was being watched.

For full twenty minutes, he stood on the extreme tip of the Point, and
looked out to sea. Then he faced directly around and stepped ten paces
inland. Kneeling, he quickly dug with a small trowel a hole a foot deep
in the sand, put into it the package of bills, wrapped in oil-skin,
and replaced the ground.

"There!" said he, as he arose. "Pirate's gold breeds pirate's ways. May
we have seen the last of you--and may the devil take you all!"

He went slowly back to his horse, mounted, and rode back to town. They
had done their part--would the thieves do theirs?

Adhering strictly to the instructions, Croyden and Macloud left
Annapolis on the next car, caught the boat at Baltimore, and arrived in
Hampton in the evening, in time for dinner. They stopped a few minutes
at Ashburton, to acquaint Captain Carrington with their return, and
then went on to Clarendon.

Both men were nervous. Neither wanted the other to know and each
endeavored to appear at ease.

Croyden gave in first. He threw his cigarette into his coffee cup, and
pushed his chair back from the table.

"It's no use, Colin!" he laughed. "You're trying to appear nonchalant,
and you're doing it very well, too, but you can't control your fingers
and your eyes--and neither can I, I fancy, though I've tried hard
enough, God knows! We are about all in! These four days of strain and
uncertainty have taken it all out of us. If I had any doubt as to my
affection for Elaine, it's vanished, now.----I don't say I'm fool
enough to propose to her, yet I'm scarcely responsible, at present. If
I were to see her this minute, I'd likely do something rash."

"You're coming around to it, gradually," said Macloud.

"Gradually! Hum! I don't know about the 'gradually.' I want to pull
myself together--to get a rein on myself--to--what are you smiling at;
am I funny?"

"You are!" said Macloud. "I never saw a man fight so hard against his
personal inclinations, and a rich wife. You don't deserve her!--if I
were Elaine, I'd turn you down hard, hard."

"Thank God! you're not Elaine!" Croyden retorted.

"And hence, with a woman's unreasonableness and trust in the one she
loves, she will likely accept you."

"How do you know she loves me?"

Macloud blew a couple of smoke rings and watched them sail upward.

"I suppose you're equally discerning as to Miss Carrington, and her
love for you," Croyden commented.

"I regret to say, I'm not," said Macloud, seriously. "That is what
troubles me, indeed. Unlike my friend, Geoffrey Croyden, I'm perfectly
sure of my own mind, but I'm not sure of the lady's."

"Then, why don't you find out?"

"Exactly what I shall do, when she returns."

"It's sure as fate!" said Croyden.

"Thanks! We each seem to be able to answer the other's uncertainty," he
remarked, calmly.

Presently, Macloud arose.

"I'm going over to Ashburton, and talk with the Captain a little--sort
of cheer him up. Come along?"

Croyden shook his head.

"Go on!" said he. "It's a very good occupation for you, sitting up to
the old gent. I'll give you a chance by staying away, to-night. Make a
hit with grandpa, Colin, make a hit with grandpa!"

"And you make a hit with yourself--get rid of your foolish theory, and
come down to simple facts," Macloud retorted, and he went out.

"Get rid of your foolish theory," Croyden soliloquized. "Well,
maybe--but _is_ it foolish, that's the question? I'm poor, once
more--I've not enough even for Elaine Cavendish's husband--there's the
rub! she won't be Geoffrey Croyden's wife, it's I who will be Elaine
Cavendish's husband. 'Elaine Cavendish _and her husband_ dine with us
to-night!'--'Elaine Cavendish _and her husband_ were at the horse
show!' 'Elaine Cavendish _and her husband_ were here!--or there!--or
thus and so!'"

He could not endure it. It would be too belittling, too disparaging of
self-respect.--Elaine Cavendish's husband!--Elaine Cavendish's
husband! Might he out-grow it--be known for himself? He glanced up at
the portrait of the gallant soldier of a lost cause, with the high-bred
face and noble bearing.

"You were a brave man, Colonel Duval!" he said. "What would you have
done?"

He took out a cigar, lit it very deliberately, and fell to thinking....
Presently, worn out by fatigue and anxiety, he dozed....

                  *       *       *       *       *

And as he dozed, the street door opened softly, a light step crossed
the hall, and Elaine Cavendish stood in the doorway.

She was clad in black velvet, trimmed in sable. Her head was bare. A
blue cloak was thrown, with careless grace, about her gleaming
shoulders. One slender hand lifted the gown from before her feet. She
saw the sleeping man and paused, and a smile of infinite tenderness
passed across her face.

A moment she hesitated, and at the thought, a faint blush suffused her
face. Then she glided softly over, bent and kissed him on the lips.

He opened his eyes, and sprang up! Startled! She was there, before him,
the blush still on cheek and brow.

"Elaine! sweetheart!" he cried. And, straightway took her, unresisting,
in his arms....

"Tell me all about yourself," he said, at last, drawing her down into
the chair and seating himself on the arm. "Where is Miss
Carrington--safe?"

"Colin's with her--I reckon she's safe!" smiled Elaine. "It won't be
his fault if she isn't, I'm sure.--I left them at Ashburton, and came
over here to--you."

"Alone!" said Croyden, bending over her.

She nodded, eyes half downcast.

"You foolish girl!"

"I'll go back at once----"

He laughed, joyously.

"Not yet a little while!" and bent again.

"Geoffrey! you're dreadful!" she exclaimed, half smothered. "My hair,
dear,--do be careful!"

"I'll be good--if you will kiss me again!" he said.

"But you're not asleep," she objected.

"That's why I want it."

"And you will promise--not to kiss me again?"

"For half an hour."

"Honest?"

"Honest."

She looked up at him tantalizingly, her red lips parted, her bosom
fluttering below.

"If it's worth coming half way for, sweetheart--you may," she said....

"Now, if you're done with foolishness--for a little while," she said,
gayly, "I'll tell you how we managed to get free."

"You know why you were abducted?" he asked.

"Oh, yes!--the Parmenter jewels. Davila told me the story, and how you
didn't find them, though our abductors think you did, and won't believe
otherwise."

"You suffered no hurt?" he asked, sharply.

"None--we were most courteously treated; and they released us, as
quickly as the check was paid."

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"I mean, that I gave them my check for the ransom money--you hadn't the
jewels, you couldn't comply with the demand. How do you suppose we got
free?" she questioned.

"You paid the money?" he asked, again.

"Certainly! I knew you couldn't pay it, so I did. Don't let us think of
it, dear!--It's over, and we have each other, now. What is money
compared to that?" Then suddenly she, woman-like, went straight back to
it. "How did you think we managed to get free--escaped?" she asked.

"Yes!" he answered. "Yes--I never thought of your paying the money."

She regarded him critically.

"No!" she said, "you are deceiving me!--you are--_you_ paid the money,
also!" she cried.

"What matters it?" he said joyfully. "What matters anything now?
Macloud and I _did_ pay the ransom to-day--but of what consequence is
it; whether you bought your freedom, or we bought it, or both bought
it? You and Davila are here, again--that's the only thing that
matters!"

"Right you are! Geoffrey, right you are!" came Macloud's voice from the
hallway, and Davila and he walked into the room.

Elaine, with a little shriek, sprang up.

"Don't be bashful!" said Macloud. "Davila and I were occupying similar
positions at Ashburton, a short time ago. Weren't we, little girl?" as
he made a motion to put his arm around her.

Davila eluded him--though the traitor red confirmed his words--and
sought Elaine's side for safety.

"It's a pleasure only deferred, my dear!" he laughed. "By the way,
Elaine, how did Croyden happen to give in? He was shying off at your
wealth--said it would be giving hostages to fortune, and all that
rot."

"Shut up, you beggar!" Croyden exclaimed. "I'm going to try to make
good."

"Geoffrey," said Elaine, "won't you show us the old pirate's
letter--we're all interested in it, now."

"Certainly, I will!" he said. "I'll show you the letter, and where I
found it, and anything else you want to see. Nothing is locked,
to-night."

They went over to the escritoire. Croyden opened the secret drawer, and
took out the letter.

"A Message from the Dead!" he said, solemnly, and handed it to Elaine.

She carried it to the table, spread it out under the lamp, and Davila
and she studied it, carefully, even as Croyden and Macloud had
done--reading the Duval endorsements over and over again.

"It seems to me there is something queer about these postscripts," she
said, at last; "something is needed to make them clear. Is this the
entire letter?--didn't you find anything else?"

"Nothing!" said Croyden.

"May I look?" she asked.

"Most assuredly, sweetheart."

"It's a bit dark in this hole. Let me have a match."

She struck it, and peered back into the recess.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Here is something!--only a corner visible." She
put in her hand. "It has slipped down, back of the false partition.
I'll get it, presently.--There!"

She drew out a tiny sheet of paper, and handed it to Croyden.

"Does that help?" she asked.

Croyden glanced at it; then gave a cry of amazed surprise.

"It does!" he said. "It does! It's the key to the mystery. Listen!"

The rest crowded around him while he read:

                                         "Hampton, Maryland.
                                                 "5 Oct. 1738.

  "Memorandum to accompany the letter of Robert Parmenter, dated 10
  May 1738.

  "Whereas, it is stipulated by the said Parmenter that the Jewels
  shall be used only in the Extremity of Need; and hence, as I have
  an abundance of this world's Goods, that Need will, likely, not
  come to me. And judging that Greenberry Point will change, in
  time--so that my son or his Descendants, if occasion arise, may
  be unable to locate the Treasure--I have lifted the Iron box,
  from the place where Parmenter buried it, and have reinterred it
  in the cellar of my House in Hampton, renewing the Injunction
  which Parmenter put upon it, that it shall be used only in the
  Extremity of Need. When this Need arise, it will be found in the
  south-east corner of the front cellar. At the depth of two feet,
  between two large stones, is the Iron box. It contains the
  jewels, the most marvelous I have ever seen.

                                            "Marmaduke Duval."

For a moment, they stood staring at one another too astonished to
speak.

"My Lord!" Macloud finally ejaculated. "To think that it was here, all
the time!"

Croyden caught up the lamp.

"Come on!" he said.

They trooped down to the cellar, Croyden leading the way. Moses was off
for the evening, they had the house to themselves. As they passed the
foot of the stairs, Macloud picked up a mattock.

"Me for the digging!" he said. "Which is the south-east corner,
Davila?"

"There, under those boxes!" said she.

They were quickly tossed aside.

"The ground is not especially hard," observed Macloud, with the first
stroke. "I reckon a yard square is sufficient.--At a depth of two feet
the memorandum says, doesn't it?"

No one answered. Fascinated, they were watching the fall of the pick.
With every blow, they were listening for it to strike the stones.

"Better get a shovel, Croyden, we'll need it," said Macloud, pausing
long enough, to throw off his coat.... "Oh! I forgot to say, I wired
the Pinkerton man to recover the package you buried this morning."

Croyden only nodded--stood the lamp on a box, and returned with the
coal scoop.

"This will answer, I reckon," he said, and fell to work.

"It seems absurd!" remarked Macloud, between strokes. "To have hunted
the treasure, for weeks, all over Greenberry Point, and then to find it
in the cellar, like a can of lard or a bushel of potatoes."

"You haven't found it, yet," Croyden cautioned. "And we've gone the
depth mentioned."

"No! we haven't found it, yet!--but we're going to find it!" Macloud
answered, sinking the pick, viciously, in the ground, with the last
word.

Crack!

It had struck hard against a stone.

"What did I tell you?" Macloud cried, sinking the pick in at another
place.

Crack!

Again, it struck! and again! and again! The fifth stroke laid the stone
bare--the sixth and seventh loosened it, still more--the eighth and
ninth completed the task.

"Give me the shovel!" said he.

When the earth was away and the stone exposed, he stooped and, putting
his fingers under the edges, heaved it out.

"The rest is for you, Croyden!" and stepped aside.

The iron box was found!

For a moment, Croyden looked at it, rather dazedly. Could it be the
jewels were _there_!--within his reach!--under that lid! Suddenly, he
laughed!--gladly, gleefully, as a boy--and sprang down into the hole.

The box clung to its resting place for a second, as though it was
reluctant to be disturbed--then it yielded, and Croyden swung it onto
the bank.

"We'll take it to the library," he said, scraping it clean of the
adhering earth.

And carrying it before them, like the Ark of the Covenant, they went
joyously up to the floor above.

He placed it on the table under the chandelier, where all could see. It
was of iron, rusty with age; in dimension, about a foot square; and
fastened by a hasp, with the bar of the lock thrust through but not
secured.

"Light the gas, Colin!--every burner," he said. "We'll have the full
effulgence, if you please."...

For a little time, the lid resisted. Suddenly, it yielded.

"Behold!" he heralded, and flung it back.

The scintillations which leaped out to meet them, were like the rays
from myriads of gleaming, glistening, varicolored lights, of dazzling
brightness and infinite depth. A wonderful cavern of coruscating
splendor--rubies and diamonds, emeralds and sapphires, pearls and opals
glowing with all the fire of self, and the resentment of long neglect.

"Heaven! What beauty!" exclaimed Davila.

It broke the spell.

"They are real!" Croyden laughed. "You may touch them--they will not
fade."

They put them out on the table--in little heaps of color. The women
exclaiming whene'er they touched them, cooingly as a woman does when
handling jewels--fondling them, caressing them, loving them.

At last, the box was empty. They stood back and gazed--fascinated by it
all:--the color--the glowing reds and whites, and greens and blues.

"It is wonderful! wonderful!" breathed Elaine.

"It is wonderful--and it's true!" said Croyden.

Two necklaces lay among the rubies, alike as lapidary's art could make
them. Croyden handed one to Macloud, the other he took.

"In remembrance of your release, and of Parmenter's treasure!" he said,
and clasped it around Elaine's fair neck.

Macloud clasped his around Davila's.

"Who cares, now, for the time spent on Greenberry Point or the double
reward!" he laughed.



                  *       *       *       *       *



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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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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