Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mortmain
Author: Train, Arthur Cheny
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 "Mortmain" ***

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



produced from scanned images of public domain material


MORTMAIN



[Illustration: "'The problem, gentlemen, of limb-grafting has been
solved.'" (Page 4)]



MORTMAIN

BY ARTHUR TRAIN


NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1928

COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY ESS ESS PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1905, 1906, 1907, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY THE METROPOLITAN MAGAZINE COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1906, BY ASSOCIATED SUNDAY MAGAZINES
COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY THE BUTTERICK PUBLISHING COMPANY

Printed in the United States of America


[Illustration: THE SCRIBNER PRESS]



             To
            AMOS
     ESNESTO AND SANDRO



CONTENTS

                                       PAGE
 MORTMAIN                                 1
 THE RESCUE OF THEOPHILUS NEWBEGIN       65
 THE VAGABOND                           109
 THE MAN HUNT                           131
 NOT AT HOME                            239
 A STUDY IN SOCIOLOGY                   251
 THE LITTLE FELLER                      269
 RANDOLPH, '64                          275



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                             FACING
                                                               PAGE

  "'The problem, gentlemen, of limb-grafting has been
  solved!'"                                              Frontispiece

  "Mortmain . . . lay motionless on the floor"                      22

  "His blunt fingers twisted into the flesh deeper and deeper"      56

  "She . . . studied the faces alternately"                        156

  "The distinguished Flynn burst into a deluge of oratory"         262

  "He caught sight of the waiting Maria"                           266

  "'Back,' he shouted"                                             296



MORTMAIN


I


Sir Penniston Crisp was a man of some sixty active years, whose ruddy
cheeks, twinkling blue eyes, and convincingly innocent smile suggested
forty. At thirty he had been accounted the most promising young surgeon
in London; at forty he had become one of the three leading members of
his profession; at fifty he had amassed a fortune and had begun to
accept only those cases which involved complications of true scientific
interest, or which came to him on the personal application of other
distinguished physicians.

Like many another in the medical world whose material wants are
guaranteed, he found solace and amusement only in experimentation along
new lines of his peculiar hobbies. His days were spent between his
book-lined study with its cheery sea-coal fire and his adjacent
laboratory, where three assistants, all trained Bachelors of Science,
conducted experiments under his personal direction.

His daily life was as well ordered as his career had been. Rising at
seven, Sir Penniston partook of a meager breakfast, attended to his
trifling personal affairs, read his newspaper, dictated his letters, and
by nine was ready to don his uniform and receive his sterilized
instruments from his young associate, Scalscope Jermyn, a capable and
cheerful soul after Crisp's own heart. An operating theater adjoined the
laboratory, and here the baronet made it a point to perform once each
week, in the presence of various surgeons who attended by invitation, a
few difficult and dangerous operations upon patients sent to him from
the City Hospital.

When Jermyn was with his familiars he was wont to refer to his master as
the "howlingist cheese in surgery." This was putting it mildly, for,
although Sir Penniston was indubitably, if you choose, quite the
"howlingist cheese" in surgery, he was also a pathfinder, an explorer
into the mysteries of the body and the essence of vitality in bone and
tissue. He could do more things to a cat in twenty minutes than would
naturally occur in the combined history of a thousand felines. He could
handle the hidden arteries and vessels of the body as confidently and
accurately as you or I would tie a shoe string. He had housed a tramp
for thirteen months and inserted a plate-glass window in that
gentleman's exterior in order that he might with the greater certainty
study the complicated processes of a digestion stimulated after a
chronic lack of food. He experimented on men, women, children,
elephants, apes, ostriches, guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles, frogs, and
goldfish. He could alter the shape of a nose, or perfect an irregular
ear in the twinkling of an instrument; remove a human heart and insert
it still beating without inconvenience to its owner; and was as much at
home among the vessels of Thebesius as he was on Piccadilly Circus.

He was single, kept but one servant--a Jap--neither smoked nor drank,
attended the worst play he could find every Saturday night, and gave
ponderous dinners to his professional brethren on Wednesdays. He was the
dean of his order, and bade fair to remain so for a long time to come--a
calm, passionless craftsman in flesh and bone. His rivals frequently
were heard to say that there was nothing surgical in heaven or earth
that Crisp would not undertake. A faint odor of chloroform followed his
well-regulated progress through existence.

On the morning upon which this narrative opens Sir Penniston had entered
his laboratory with that urbanity so characteristic of him. A white
frock hung jauntily upon his well-filled, if slenderly nourished,
proportions, his blue eyes sparkled with good-natured activity, and his
long, muscular hands rubbed themselves together in a manner which
signified that they were anxious to be at the skilled work in which
their owner took so keen a pleasure. Scalscope was already on hand, and
with a bundle of dripping instruments in his grasp met his master
halfway between the minor operating table and the antiseptic bath.

"Ah, good morning, Scalscope! How is the Marchioness of Cheshire this
fine morning?"

Scalscope smiled deferentially at the little joke.

"I presume you mean Lady Tabitha? Her ladyship is doing
splendidly--better, I fancy, than could be expected under the
circumstances."

"Excellent, Scalscope! Delightful! Where is she?"

At that moment a large Maltese cat, cognizant by some unknown instinct
that she was the subject of this matutinal conversation, stalked slowly
out of a patch of sunshine and rubbed herself between Sir Penniston's
broadcloth-covered calves. The surgeon bent over and felt carefully of
her foreleg, but the feline did not flinch; on the contrary, she
screwed round her head and thrust it into the doctor's hand.

"Perfect!" exclaimed Sir Penniston, his face lighting with a smile of
scientific satisfaction. "Absolutely perfect! Scalscope, you have lived
to participate in the highest achievement of modern surgery! Is the
patient in the operating room? Very good. The gentlemen assembled?
Excellent! While you are administering the somni-chloride I will
announce our success."

He bowed to the other assistants and, followed by the Marchioness of
Cheshire, opened the door which led to the platform of the operating
theater. Some dozen or fifteen professional-looking gentlemen rose as he
made his appearance and bowed. A young woman with her arm in a sling sat
by the table attended by a couple of women nurses.

"Good morning, gentlemen! Good morning!" remarked Sir Penniston. "Mr.
Jermyn, will you kindly prepare the patient? My friends, I have the
pleasure of being able to announce to you, and thus permitting you in a
measure to share in, what I regard as the most extraordinary achievement
of our profession."

A murmur of interest and appreciation made itself audible from the
physicians who had resumed their seats upon the benches. If Sir
Penniston regarded anything as remarkable, it must indeed be so, and
they awaited his next words expectantly.

"The problem, gentlemen, of limb-grafting has been solved!" he announced
modestly.

The assembled surgeons gazed at one another in amazement.

"You may perhaps recall," continued the baronet, "that it has for years
been my particular hobby, or, I should more properly say, theory, that
there was no reason in the world why, if a severed finger or a nose
could be replaced by surgery, the same should not be true of a major
part, such as a hand or leg; and why, if a limb once severed could be
replaced upon its stump, another person's might not be used.

"Many gentlemen eminent in our profession, some of whom I believe I see
before me, gave it as their opinion that such an operation was
impossible. A few--and most of these, I regret to say, were upon the
other side of the Atlantic--agreed with me that it could and would
ultimately be accomplished. I studied the problem for years. Was it our
inability to nourish a part once severed or so to reënervate it as to
unite tendons, muscles, or bone? The latter surely gave no trouble.
Tendons were sutured every day, and under favorable circumstances their
functions were restored, while nerves were frequently sutured and
functional restoration recorded.

"The question, therefore, seemed to narrow itself down to whether or not
it was impossible to restore an arterial supply once cut off. Veins, of
course, were frequently cut and sutured, and performed perfectly
afterwards. Was there no way to restore an artery? In other words, could
a limb once severed be sufficiently nourished to restore it? This, then,
became my special study--a fascinating study indeed, involving as it did
the possibilities of untold benefit to mankind."

Sir Penniston paused and glanced toward the table upon which was
extended the now almost unconscious form of the patient. There was still
plenty of time for him to conclude his remarks.

"With a view, therefore, to observing whether a thin glass tube would be
tolerated in a sterilized state within an artery (the only possible
means I could devise to allow a continued flow of blood and
contemporaneous restoration), I made a number of half-inch pieces to
suit the caliber of a dog's femoral, constricted them very slightly to
an hour-glass shape, and smoothed their ends by heat, so that no surface
roughness should induce clotting. Cutting the femorals across, I tied
each end on the tube by a fine silk thread, and tied the thread ends
together. Primary union resulted, and the dog's legs were as good as
ever! The first step had been successfully accomplished."

The assembled surgeons clapped their hands faintly in token of
appreciation, and one or two murmured, "My word!-- Extraordinary!--
Marvelous!" Sir Penniston bowed slightly and resumed:

"I now added one more step to my experiments. I dissected out the
trachial artery and vein near the axilla of a dog's forelimb, and,
holding these apart, amputated the limb through the shoulder muscles and
sawed through the bone, leaving the limb attached only by the vessels. I
then sutured the bone with a silver wire and the nerves with fine silk.
Each muscle I sutured by itself with catgut, making a separate series of
continuous suturing of the _fascia lata_ and skin. The leg was then
enveloped in sterilized dressing, a liberal use of iodoform gauze being
the essential part. Over all, cotton and a plaster jacket were placed,
leaving him three legs to walk on. The dog's leg united perfectly."

The assembled gentlemen broke into loud applause. The patient was lying
motionless, her deep inspirations showing that she was under the
anæsthetic. But Sir Penniston was now lost in the enthusiasm of his
subject.

"Thus, gentlemen, I demonstrated that, if in an amputated limb an
artery could be left, the limb would survive the division and reuniting
of everything else, and had good ground for the belief that if an
arterial supply could be restored to a completely amputated limb, _that_
limb also might be grafted back to its original or to a corresponding
stump.

"The final experiment only remained--the complete amputation of a limb
and its restoration--a combination of all the others--difficult,
dangerous, delicate--and requiring much preparation, assistance, and
time. I finally selected a healthy cat, amputated its foreleg, inserted
a glass tube in the artery, and sutured bone, muscles, nerves, and skin.
Complete restoration occurred! And after four months you have here
before you this morning the cat herself, fat, well, and strong, and as
good as ever!--Here, kitty, kitty, kitty!"

The Marchioness of Cheshire ran quickly to Sir Penniston and leaped into
his lap, while the gentlemen left the benches and hastened forward to
seize the master's hand and to examine the cat in wonder.

"There is nothing, therefore, in the way of grafting which cannot be
successfully undertaken. A human arm or leg crushed at thigh or
shoulder, and requiring amputation, would admit of Esmarch's bandage
being applied to expel its blood and of being used after amputation. Why
not another man's blood as well as its owner's? No reason in the world!
Had we here a suitable forearm ready to be applied I have no doubt but
that I could successfully replace it upon the stump of the one I am now
about to remove. Hereafter, so long as there are limbs enough to go
round--so long as the demand does not transcend the supply--none of our
patients need fear the permanent loss of a member!"

The surgeons overwhelmed him with their congratulations, but Sir
Penniston modestly waived them aside. His triumph was the triumph of
science--and its purity was not marred by any thought of personal
glorification.

"The Crispan operation," some one whispered. The others caught it up.
"The Crispan operation," they repeated. A slight look of gratification
made itself apparent upon Sir Penniston's rosy countenance.

"Thank you, gentlemen! Thank you! Mr. Jermyn, is the patient quite
ready? Yes? We will proceed, gentlemen. My instruments, if you please."

Among those who left the operating theater an hour later was Sir Richard
Mortmain.



II


The opalescent light from the bronze electric lamp on the mahogany
writing table disclosed two gentlemen, whose attitudes and expressions
left no doubt as to the serious import of their discussion. At the same
time the _membra disjecta_ of afternoon tea which remained upon the teak
tabaret, together with the still smoking butt of an Egyptian cigarette
distilling its incense in a steadily perpendicular gray column toward
the ceiling from a jade jar used as an ash receiver, showed that for one
of them at least the situation had admitted of physical amelioration.
The gentleman beside the table had rested his high, narrow forehead upon
the delicate fingers of his left hand, and with contracted eyebrows was
gazing in a baffled manner toward his companion, who had extended his
limbs at length before the heavy chair in which he reclined, and with
his elbows upon its arms was holding his finger tips lightly against
each other before his face. To those who knew Ashley Flynt this meant
that the last word had been spoken, and that nothing remained but to
accept the situation as he stated it and follow his advice.

His heavy yet shrewd countenance, whose florid hue bespoke a modern
adjustment of golf to a more traditional use of port, had that cold,
vacant look which it displayed when the mind behind the mask had
recorded Q. E. D. beneath its unseen demonstration. The gentleman at
the table twitched his shoulders nervously, slowly raised his head, and
leaned back into his chair.

"And you say that there is absolutely nothing which can be done?" he
repeated mechanically.

"I have already told you, Sir Richard," replied Flynt in even, incisive
tones, "that the last day of grace expires to-morrow. Unless the three
notes are immediately taken up you will be forced into bankruptcy. Your
property and expectations are already mortgaged for more than they are
worth. Your assets of every sort will not return your creditors--I
should say your creditor--fifteen per cent. Seventy-nine thousand
pounds, principal and interest--can you raise it or even a substantial
part of it? No, not five thousand! You have no choice, so far as I can
see, but to go into bankruptcy, unless--" He hesitated rather
deprecatingly.

"Well!" cried Sir Richard impatiently, "unless----"

"Unless you marry."

The baronet drew himself up and a flush crept into his cheeks and across
his forehead.

"As your legal adviser," continued Flynt unperturbed, "I give it as my
opinion that your only alternative to bankruptcy is a suitable marriage.
Of course, for a man of your position in society a mere engagement might
be enough to----"

Sir Richard sprang quickly to his feet and stepped in front of his
solicitor.

"To induce the money lenders to advance the amount necessary to put me
on my feet? Bah! Flynt, how dare you make such a suggestion! If you were
not my solicitor--Good heavens, that I should ever be brought to this!"

Flynt shrugged his shoulders.

"So far as that goes, bankruptcy is the cheapest way to pay one's
debts."

His client uttered an ejaculation of disgust. Then suddenly the red
deepened in his cheeks and he clenched his white hand until the thin
blue veins stood out like cords.

"Curse him!" he cried in a voice shaken by anger. "Curse him now and
hereafter! Why did I ever take advantage of his pretended generosity? He
meant to ruin me! Why was I ever born with tastes that I could not
afford to gratify? Why must I surround myself with music and flowers and
marbles? He saw his chance, stimulated my extravagance, seduced my
intellect, and now he casts me into the street a beggar! How I hate him!
I believe I could _kill_ him!"

Sir Richard turned quickly. The door had opened to admit the silent,
deferential figure of Joyce, the butler.

"Pardon me, Sir Richard. A clerk from Mr. Flynt's office, sir, with a
package. Shall I let him in?"

Mortmain still stood with his fist trembling in mid-air, and it was a
moment before he regained sufficient control of himself to reply:

"Yes, yes; let him in."

The butler nodded to some one just behind him, and a nondescript,
undersized man cringingly entered the room and stood hesitatingly by the
threshold.

"Have you the papers, Flaggs?" inquired Flynt.

"Here, sir," replied the other, drawing forth a bundle tied with red
tape and handing it to his employer.

"Very good. You need not return to the office. Good night."

"Good night, sir. Thank you, sir," mumbled Flaggs, and casting a
furtive, beetling glance in the direction of Sir Richard, he shambled
out.

The solicitor followed him with his eye until the door had closed behind
him, and then shrugged his shoulders for the second time.

"My dear Sir Richard," he remarked, "many of our most distinguished
peers have gone through bankruptcy. It will all be the same a year
hence. Society will be as glad as ever to receive you. Your name will
command the same respect and likely enough the same credit. Bankruptcy
is still eminently respectable. As for Lord Russell--try to forget him.
It is enough that you owe him the money."

Mortmain's anger had been followed by the reaction of despair. Now he
groped for a cigarette, and, drawing a jeweled match box from his
pocket, lit it with trembling fingers.

Flynt arose.

"That's right!" he exclaimed; "just be sensible about it. Meet me
to-morrow at my office at ten o'clock and we will call in Lord Russell's
solicitors for a consultation. It will be amicable enough, I assure you.
Well, I must be off. Good night." He extended his hand, but Mortmain had
thrust his own into his trousers' pockets.

"And you say nothing can prevent this?"

"Why, yes," returned Flynt in a sarcastic tone; "I believe two things
can do so."

"Indeed," inquired Sir Richard. "What may they be?"

Flynt had stepped impatiently to the door, which he now held half open.
Sir Richard had failed to send him a draft for his last bill.

"A fire from heaven to consume the notes--coupled with the death of Lord
Russell--or your own. Good night!"

The door closed abruptly and Sir Richard Mortmain was left alone.

"The death of Lord Russell or my own!" he repeated with a harsh laugh.
"Agreeable fellow, Flynt!" Then the bitter smile died out of his face
and the lines hardened. Over on the heavy onyx mantel, between two
grotesque bronze Chinese vases from whose ponderous sides dragons with
bristling teeth and claws writhed to escape, a Sèvres clock chimed six,
and was echoed by a dim booming from the outer hall.

Mortmain glanced with regret about the little den that typified so
perfectly the futility of his luxurious existence. The deadened walls
admitted hardly a suggestion of the traffic outside. By a flower-set
window the open piano still held the score of "Madame Butterfly," the
opening performance of which he was to attend that evening with Lady
Bella Forsythe. A bunch of lilies of the valley stood at his elbow upon
the massive table that never bore anything upon its polished surface but
an ancient manuscript, an etching, or a vase of flowers. Delicate
cabinets showed row upon row of grotesque Capodimonte, rare Sèvres and
Dresden porcelains, jade, and other examples of ceramic art. Two
Rembrandts, a Corot, and a profile by Whistler occupied the wall space.
The mantel was given over to a few choice antique bronzes, covered with
verdigris. The only concession to modern utilitarianism was an extension
telephone standing upon a bracket in the corner behind the fireplace.

The sole surviving member of his family, Mortmain had inherited from
his father, Sir Mortimer, a discriminating intellect and artistic
tastes, united with a gentle, engaging, and unambitious disposition,
derived from his Italian mother. Carelessly indifferent to his social
inferiors, or those whom he regarded as such, he was brilliantly
entertaining with his equals--a man of moods, conservative in habit, yet
devoted to society, expensive in his mode of life, given to
hospitality--and a spendthrift. These qualities combined to make him
caviare to the general, an enigma to the majority, and the favorite of
the few, whose favorite he desired to be. He had never married, for his
calculation and his laziness had jumped together to convince him that he
could be more comfortable, more independent, and more free to pursue his
music and kindred tastes, if single. Altogether, Sir Richard, though
perhaps a trifle selfish, was by no means a bad fellow, and one whose
temperament fitted him to be what he was--a leader in matters of taste,
a connoisseur, and an esteemed member of the gay world.

No doubt, as Flynt had suggested, he could have liberated himself
financially by donning the golden shackles of an aristocratic marital
slavery. But his soul revolted at the thought of marrying for money, not
only at the moral aspect of it, but because a certain individual
tranquillity had become necessary to his mode of life. He was forty and
a creature of habit. A conventional marriage would be as intolerable as
earning his living. On the other hand, the odium of a bankruptcy
proceeding, the publicity, the vulgarity of it, and the loss of prestige
and position which it would necessarily involve brought him face to face
with the only alternative which Flynt had flung at him in parting--the
death of Lord Russell or his own.

He had known that without being told. Months before, the silver-mounted
pistol which was to round out his consistently inconsistent existence
had been concealed among the linen in the bureau of his Louis XV
bedroom, but it was to be invoked only when no other course remained.
That nothing else did remain was clear. Flynt had read his client's
sentence in that brutally unconscious jest.

On the day of his interview with Flynt he was one of the most highly
regarded critics of music and art in London, and his own brilliant
accomplishments as a virtuoso had been supplemented by a lavish
generosity toward struggling painters and musicians who found easy
access to his purse and table, if not to his heart.

He had introduced Drausche, the Austrian pianist, to the musical world
at a heavy financial loss and had made several costly donations to the
British Museum, in addition to which his collection of scarabs was one
of the most complete on record and demanded constant replenishing to
keep up to date. His expensive habits had required money and plenty of
it, and when his patrimony had been exhausted he had mortgaged his
expectations in his uncle's estate to launch the Austrian genius. It had
been a lamentable failure. Mortmain's friends had said plainly enough
that Drausche could play no better than his patron. This of itself
implied no mean talent, but the public had resolutely refused to pay
five shillings a ticket to hear the pianist, and the money was gone. Sir
Richard had found himself in the hollow position of playing Mæcenas
without the price, and rather than change his pose and his manner of
life had borrowed twenty-five thousand pounds four years before from an
elderly peer, who combined philanthropy and what some declared to be
usury with a high degree of success.

There were those who hinted that this eminently respectable aristocrat
robbed Peter more than he paid Paul, but Lord Gordon Russell was a man
with whose reputation it was not safe to take liberties. The next year
Mortmain had renewed his note, and, in order to save his famous
collection from being knocked down at Christie's, had borrowed
twenty-five thousand more. The same thing happened the year after, and
now all three notes were three days overdue.

Sir Richard responded to the announcement of the little Sèvres clock by
pressing a button at the side of his desk, which summons was speedily
answered by Joyce.

"My fur coat, if you please, Joyce."

"Very good, sir." Joyce combined the eye of an eagle with the stolidity
of an Egyptian mummy.

Mortmain arose, stepped to the fire, rubbed his thin, carefully kept
fingers together, then seated himself at the piano and played a few
chords from the overture. As he sat there he looked anything but a
bankrupt upon the eve of suicide--rather one would have said, a young
Italian musician, just ready to receive and enjoy the crowning pleasures
of life. The thin light of the heavily shaded lamps brought out the
ivory paleness of his face and hands, and the delicate, sensitive
outline of his form, as with eyes half closed and head thrown back he
ran his fingers with facile skill across the keyboard.

"Your coat, sir," said Joyce.

Mortmain arose and presented his arms while the servant deftly threw on
the seal-lined garment, and handed his master his silk hat, gloves, and
gold-headed stick.

"I am going for a short walk, Joyce. I shall be back by seven. You can
reach me at the club, if necessary."

Joyce held open the door of the study and then hurried ahead through the
luxuriously furnished hall to push open the massive door at the
entrance. On the threshold Mortmain turned and, looking Joyce in the
eye, said sharply:

"Why did you let that fellow Flaggs follow you to the door of my study,
instead of leaving him in the hall?"

"I beg pardon, sir," replied the servant, "but he slipped behind me
afore I knew it, sir. He was a rum one, anyway, sir--a bit in liquor, I
fancy, sir."

Mortmain turned and passed out without reply. He hated intruders and had
not liked the way in which Flynt had calmly received the clerk in his
private study. On the whole, he regarded the solicitor as presuming.

It was dark already and the street lamps glowed nebulously through the
gathering fog. The air was chilly, and a thick mealy paste, half sleet,
half water, formed a sort of icing upon the sidewalk, which made walking
slippery and uncomfortable. Few people were abroad, for fashionable
London was in its clubs and boudoirs, and the workers trudged in an
entirely different direction.

The club was but a few streets away, and it was only ten minutes after
the hour when he entered it and strolled carelessly through the rooms.
No one whom he cared particularly to see was there, and the fresh, if
bitter, December air outside seemed vastly preferable to the stuffy
atmosphere of the smoke-filled card and reading rooms. Therefore, as he
had nearly an hour before it would be time to dress, he left the club,
and, with the vague idea of extending his evening ramble, turned
northward. Unconsciously he kept repeating Flynt's words: "The death of
Lord Russell or your own." Then, without heed to where he was going, he
fell into a reverie, in which he pondered upon the emptiness and
uselessness of his life.

At length he entered a large square, and found himself asking what was
so familiar in the picket fence and broad flight of steps that led up to
the main entrance of the mansion on the corner. A wing of the house made
out into a side street and presented three brilliantly lighted windows
to the night. Two were empty, but on the white shade of the third, only
a few feet above the sidewalk, appeared the sharp shadow of a man's head
bending over a table. Now and then the lips moved as if their owner were
addressing some other occupant of the chamber. It was the head of an old
man, bald and shrunken.

Mortmain muttered an oath. What tricks was Fate trying to play with him
by leading his footsteps to the house of the very man who, on the
following morning, would ruin him as inevitably and inexorably as the
sun would rise! A wave of anger surged through him and he shook his fist
at the shadow on the curtain, exclaiming as he had done in his study
half an hour before, "Curse him!"

"Ain't got much bloomin' 'air, 'as 'e, guv'nor?" said a thick voice at
his elbow.

Sir Richard started back and beheld by the indistinct light of the
street lamp the leering face of Flaggs, the clerk.

"Tha'sh yer frien' S'Gordon Russell," continued the other with easy
familiarity. "A bloomin' bad un, says I. 'Orrid li'l bald 'ead! Got'sh
notes, too. _Your_ notes, S'Richard. Don't like 'im myself!"

Mortmain turned faint. This wretched scrivener had stumbled upon or
overheard his secret. That he was drunk was obvious, but that only made
him the more dangerous.

"Take yourself off, my man. It's too cold out here for you," ordered the
baronet, slipping a couple of shillings into his hand.

"Than' you, S'Richard," mumbled Flaggs, leaning heavily in Mortmain's
direction. "I accept this as a 'refresher.' Although you've never given
me a retainer! Ha! ha! Not so bad, eh? Lemme tell you somethin'. 'Like
to kill 'im,' says you? Kill 'im, says I. Le's kill 'im together. 'Ere
an' now! Eh?"

"Leave me, do you hear?" cried the baronet. "You're in no condition to
be on the street."

Flaggs grinned a sickly grin.

"Same errand as you, your worship. Both 'ere lookin' at li'l old bald
'ead. Look at 'im now----"

He raised his finger and pointed at the window, then staggered backward,
lost his balance, and fell over the curb along the gutter. In another
instant a policeman had him by the collar and had jerked him to his
feet. The fall had so dazed the clerk that he made no resistance.

"I 'ope 'e didn't hoffer you no violence, Sir Richard," remarked the
bobby, touching his helmet with his unoccupied hand. "Hit's
disgraceful--right in front of Lord Russell's, too!"

"No, he was merely offensive," replied Mortmain, recognizing the
policeman as an old timer on the beat. "Thank you. Good night."

The baronet turned away as the bobby started toward the station house,
conducting his bewildered victim by the nape of the neck. Without
heeding direction, Mortmain strode on, trying to forget the drunken
Flaggs and the little bald head in the window. The clerk's words had
created in him a feeling of actual nausea, so that a perspiration broke
out all over his body and he walked uncertainly. After he had covered
half a mile or so, the air revived him, and, having taken his bearings,
he made a wide circle so as to avoid Farringham Square again, and at the
same time to approach his own house from the direction opposite to that
in which he had started. He still felt shocked and ill--the same
sensation which he had once experienced on seeing two navvies fighting
outside a music hall. He remembered afterwards that there seemed to be
more people on the streets as he neared his home, and that a patrol
wagon passed at a gallop in the same direction. A hundred yards farther
on he saw a long envelope lying in the slush upon the sidewalk, and
mechanically he picked it up and thrust it in the pocket of his coat.
Joyce came to the door just as the hall clock boomed seven. Sir Richard
had been gone exactly an hour.

"Fetch me a brandy and soda," ordered the baronet huskily, and stepped
into the study without removing his furs. The fire had been replenished
and was cracking merrily, but it sent no answering glow through Sir
Richard's frame. The shadow of the little bald head still rested like a
weight upon his brain, and his hands were moist and clammy. He thrust
them into his pockets and came into contact with the wet manila cover
of the envelope, and he drew it forth and tossed it upon the table as
Joyce entered with the brandy.

The butler removed his master's coat and noiselessly left the room,
while Mortmain drained the glass and then carelessly examined the
envelope. The names of "Flynt, Steele & Burnham" printed in the upper
left-hand corner caught his eye. The names of his own solicitors! That
was a peculiar thing. Perhaps Flynt had dropped it--or Flaggs. He turned
it over curiously. It was unsealed, as if it had formed one of a package
of papers. The baronet lifted the envelope to the lamp and peeped within
it. There were three thin sheets of paper covered with writing, and
unconsciously he drew them forth and examined them. At the foot of each,
in delicate, firm characters, appeared his own name staring him
familiarly in the face. In the corners were the unmistakable figures
£25,000. He rubbed his forehead and read all three carefully. There
could be no doubt of it--they were his own three notes of hand to Lord
Gordon Russell. Fate was playing tricks with him again.

"A fire from heaven to consume the notes," Flynt had said. Here were the
notes--there was the fire. Had Heaven perhaps really interposed to save
him? Was this chance or Providence? With a short breath the baronet
grasped the notes and took a step toward the hearth. As he did so the
extension telephone by the mantel began to ring excitedly. His heart
thumped loudly as, with a feeling of guilt, he relaid the notes upon the
table and seized the telephone.

"Yes--yes--this is Mortmain!"

"Richard," came the voice of a friend at the club in anxious tones, "are
you there? Are you at home?"

"Yes--yes!" repeated the baronet breathlessly. "What is it?"

"Have you heard the news--the news about Lord Russell?"

Mortmain's head swam with a whirl of premonition.

"No," he replied, trying to master himself, while the perspiration again
broke out over his body. "What news? What has happened?"

"Lord Russell was murdered in his library at half after six this
evening. Some one gained access to the room and killed the old man at
his study table."

"Killed Lord Russell!" gasped Sir Richard. "Have they caught the
murderer?"

"No," continued his friend. "The assassin escaped by one of the windows
into the street. The police have taken possession. There is nothing to
indicate who did the deed. There was blood everywhere. His secretary, a
man named Leach, was discharged two days ago and a general alarm has
been sent out for him."

"This is terrible," groaned Sir Richard in horror.

"It is, indeed. I thought you ought to know. I may see you at the opera.
If not--good night."

The receiver fell from the baronet's fingers, and the room grew black as
he clutched at the mantel with his other hand. He staggered slightly,
tried to regain his equilibrium, and in so doing upset one of the bronze
dragon vases which grinned down upon him.

The vase fell, and the baronet clutched at it in its descent. It was too
late. The heavy bronze crashed downward to the floor carrying Sir
Richard with it, and one of the verdigris-covered dragon's fangs pierced
his right hand.

Mortmain uttered a moan and lay motionless on the floor. The little
Sèvres clock ticked off forty seconds and then softly chimed the
quarter, while the blood from the baronet's hand spurted in a tiny
stream upon the rug.

[Illustration: "Mortmain . . . lay motionless on the floor."]



III


When Sir Richard Mortmain next opened his eyes after his fall he found
himself in his bedchamber. The curtains were tightly drawn, allowing
only a shimmer of sunshine to creep in and play upon the ceiling; an
unknown woman in a nurse's uniform was sitting motionless at the foot of
his bed; the air was heavy with the pungent odor of iodoform, and his
right arm, tightly bandaged and lying extended upon a wooden support
before him, throbbed with burning pains. Too weak to move, unable to
recall what had brought him to such a pass, he raised his eyebrows
inquiringly, and in reply the nurse laid her finger upon her lips and
reaching toward a stand beside the bed held a tumbler containing a glass
tube to the baronet's lips. Mortmain sucked the contents from the
tumbler and felt his pulse strengthen--then weakness manifested itself
and he sank back, his lips framing the unspoken question, "What has
happened?"

The nurse smiled--she was a pretty, plump young person--not the kind Sir
Richard favored (Burne-Jones was his type), and whispered:

"You have been unconscious over twelve hours. You must lie still. You
have had a bad fall and your hand is injured."

In some strange and unaccountable way the statement called to Mortmain's
fuddled senses a confused recollection of a scene in Hauptmann's "Die
Versunkene Glöcke," and half unconsciously he repeated the words:

"I _fell_. I--fe--l--l!"

"Yes, you did, indeed!" retorted the pretty nurse. "But Sir Penniston
will never forgive me if I let you talk. How is your arm?"

"It burns--and burns!" answered the baronet.

"That horrid vase crushed right through the palm. Rather a nasty wound.
But you will be all right presently. Do you wish anything?"

Suddenly complete mental capacity rushed back to him. The disagreeable
scene with Flaggs, the finding of the notes, the news of Russell's
murder, and his accident. The murder! He must learn the details. And the
notes. What had he done with them? He could not recollect, try hard as
he would. Were they on the table? His head whirled and he grew suddenly
faint. The nurse poured out another tumbler from a bottle and again held
the tube to his lips. How delicious and strengthening it was!

"Please get me a newspaper!" said Sir Richard.

"A newspaper!" cried the nurse. "Nonsense! I'll do no such thing!"

"Then please see if there are some papers in an envelope lying on the
writing table in my private study."

The nurse seemed puzzled. Where aristocratic patients were concerned,
particularly if they were in a weakened condition, she was accustomed to
accommodate them. She hesitated.

"At once!" added Sir Richard.

The nurse tiptoed out of the room, and in the course of a few moments
returned.

"The butler says that Mr. Flynt's clerk, a man named Faggs, or Flaggs,
or something of the sort, came back for them half an hour ago. He
explained that he thought Mr. Flynt might have left some papers by
mistake, and the butler supposed it was all right and let him have them.
The name of your solicitors was upon the envelope."

Sir Richard stared at her stupidly. A queer feeling of horror and
distrust pervaded him, the very same feeling which his first sight of
the clerk had inspired in him. What could Flaggs have known of the
notes? The clerk himself could not have committed the ghastly deed,
since he had been under arrest at the time--but might he not have been
an accomplice? Were the notes part of some terrible plot to enmesh
_him_, Sir Richard Mortmain, in the murder? Was it a scheme of
blackmail? The blood surged to his head and dimmed his eyesight. But why
had Flaggs taken them away? Had he left them on the street hoping that
Sir Richard would find them and bring them into the house, so that he
could testify to having found them in the study? But, if so, why had he
risked the possibility of their having been destroyed before he could
regain them? Such a supposition was most unlikely. It must have been
merely chance. The fellow had probably sneaked in simply to see what he
could find. And what had he found! A shiver of terror quenched for an
instant the burning of Mortmain's body. A horrible vision of himself
standing outside the window of Lord Gordon Russell took shape before
him. What if people should say--! He had been heard by Joyce and the
clerk to express his hatred of the old man and his willingness to kill
him. In addition there were the notes, overdue and about to be
protested, which Flaggs had found in his study within twelve hours of
Lord Russell's murder. Motive enough for any crime. Moreover, the
policeman had seen him loitering there at almost the exact moment of the
homicide!

These momentous facts came crashing down upon his brain with the weight
of stones, numbing for an instant his exquisite torture--then reason
reasserted herself. Lord Russell was dead. If circumstances seemed to
point in his direction, he had only to deny that the notes had been in
his possession, and certainly his word would be taken as against that of
the drunken clerk of a solicitor. Moreover, the notes were obviously not
in the possession of the executors. Should, by any chance, no memoranda
of them remain he might never be called upon to honor them. At all
events, his bankruptcy had, for the time at least, been averted. Even
were their existence known, legal procedure would intervene to give him
time to evolve some means of escape--perhaps, in default of aught else,
a marriage of convenience. Sir Richard, in spite of the burning pain in
his right arm, leaned back his head with a sensation of relief.

A soft knock came at the door and he heard the nurse's voice murmuring
in low tones; then the curtain was partially raised and he recognized
the figures of Sir Penniston Crisp and his young assistant.

"Ah, my dear Mortmain! When you left me yesterday morning I hardly
expected to see you so soon again. And how do you find yourself?" was
the baronet's cheery salutation.

Sir Richard smiled faintly.

"Rather a nasty wound," continued the surgeon. "Fickles, hand me those
bandage scissors. Well, we must take a look at it." And he seated
himself comfortably by the bedside.

Miss Fickles, who had elevated Sir Richard to a sitting posture, now
handed Sir Penniston the scissors, and the great physician leisurely cut
the bandage from the arm. Mortmain winced with pain and closed his eyes.
For an instant the outer air soothed the burning palm and forearm, then
the blood crept into the veins and the pain became veritable agony.

"Hm!" remarked Sir Penniston. "I must open this up. It needs attending
to."

He might well say so, for the edges of the wound showed tinges of
yellow, and the hand itself was torn pitifully.

"Scalscope, pass those instruments to Miss Fickles, and open that bottle
of somni-chloride. I shall have to give you a whiff of anæsthetic,
Mortmain. These little exploring expeditions are apt to be painful,
however gentle we try to be. Just enough to make you a mere
spectator--you will not lose consciousness. Wonderful, isn't it? I'm
afraid I shall have to pick out some slivers of bone and trim off the
edges a little. It will only take a moment or two. Then a nice bandage
and you will be quite at ease."

While Jermyn was emptying Sir Penniston's bag of its heterogeneous
contents, Miss Fickles boiled the surgeon's implements in a tray of
water over a tiny electric stove, and then arranged them in order upon a
soft bed of padded cotton. Scalscope pulled a table to the bedside, and
laid out with military precision rolls of linen, absorbents, antiseptic
gauze, scissors, tape, thread, needles, and finally the little bottle of
somni-chloride. The nurse lowered Sir Richard back upon the pillow and
quickly twisted a fresh towel into a cone.

"How science leaps onward," continued Sir Penniston, meditatively
taking the cone in his left hand. "Anodyne, ether, chloroform, nitrous
oxide, ethyl-chloride, and at last the greatest of all boons,
somni-chloride! And all within my lifetime--that is really the most
extraordinary part of it. Ah, what are the miracles of art to the
miracles of science? Think of being able at last, as you heard me
announce, to feel sure of never permanently losing a limb!"

He allowed a single drop from the bottle to fall into the cone. Even as
it descended it resolved itself into a lilac-colored volatile filling
the cone like a horn of plenty. Sir Penniston held it with a smile just
over Mortmain's head and suffered it to escape gently downward. At the
first faint odor the baronet felt a perfect calm steal over his tired
brain, at the second he seemed translated from his body and hovering
above it, retaining the while an almost supernatural acuteness of eye
and ear. Of bodily pain he felt nothing. Then Crisp inverted the cone
and poured out the lilac smoke in a faint iridescent cloud, which eddied
round the baronet's head and filled his nostrils with the sweet
fragrance of an old-fashioned garden. Its perfume almost smothered him,
and for a moment his eyes were blurred as if he had inhaled a breath of
strong ammonia. Then his sight cleared and he no longer smelled the
flowers. The surgeon laid down the cone and took up a small, thin knife.

"Fickles, hold the wrist; you, Scalscope, the fingers. Thank you, that
will do nicely."

Mortmain watched with fascinated interest as Sir Penniston applied the
point to his palm. Then the surgeon suddenly raised his head and looked
pityingly at Sir Richard. At the same moment the effect of the
somni-chloride began to wear off and the baronet felt a throbbing in
his hand. Jermyn also cast a glance of compassion at the patient, while
Miss Fickles turned away her head as if unable to bear the sight of his
suffering.

"My poor Mortmain," said the surgeon. "I fear you can never use this
hand again."

Mortmain caught his breath and choked.

"What do you mean?" he gasped, and the effort sent a sharp pain through
his lungs. "Not use my hand again?" His words sounded like the roar of a
waterfall.

"I fear you cannot. It is an ugly-looking wound. I am sorry to say you
will have to lose your hand. We shall be lucky if we can save the arm."

Mortmain felt an extraordinary pity for himself. He sobbed aloud. He had
been vaguely aware that certain unfortunate persons in lowly
circumstances occasionally lost their limbs. He was accustomed to
contribute handsomely toward the homes for cripples and the blind, but
he had never associated such an affliction with himself. He could not
appreciate the proximity of it. There must be a mistake--or an
alternative.

"No, no, no!" he exclaimed heavily. "Surely, you can restore my hand by
treatment. I do not care how painful or tedious it may be. Why, I _must_
have my hand. I have it now. Leave it as it is. I shall recover in
time."

Sir Penniston smiled cheerfully.

"I am sorry," he repeated, and Mortmain fancied that he detected a gleam
of exultation in his eye. "Nothing can save it. Gangrene has already set
in. The verdigris of the vase has poisoned the flesh. Do you think I
would trifle with you? That is not my business. Be a man. It is hard;
true enough. But it might be much worse."

"But my music!" cried Mortmain in agony. "I shall be a miserable
cripple! A fellow with an empty sleeve or a stuffed hand in a glove!
Horrible!" He groaned.

"You have still another," remarked the surgeon calmly. "Bind up this
arm," he ordered, turning sharply to Jermyn. "Mortmain, I shall have to
amputate your hand at the wrist within twelve hours. Do you desire a
consultation? I assure you any physician would unhesitatingly give the
same opinion. Still, if you desire----"

The room swam about the baronet, and for an instant the two surgeons
seemed like two ogres hovering aloft with bloodthirsty faces glowering
down at his helpless body.

Scalscope finished the bandage and tied the ends. Then he looked across
at Crisp and remarked:

"How fortunate, Sir Penniston, that your experiments have been concluded
in time to save Sir Richard. He will be the very first to benefit by
your great discovery!"

Crisp smiled responsively.

"What is that?" cried Mortmain. "Save me? What do you mean?"

"Merely this, Mortmain. That if you are willing I may still give you a
hand in place of this ruined one. It is possible, as I announced
yesterday, to graft another in its place."

Mortmain stared stupidly at Sir Penniston. A great weight seemed
stifling him.

"Did you really _mean_ it?" he gasped.

"Precisely," returned the surgeon. "It will be difficult, but not
particularly dangerous."

"Another's hand!" groaned the baronet.

"And why not?" eagerly continued the surgeon. "Surely some one will be
found who can be induced for a proper consideration to assist in an
operation that will restore to usefulness so distinguished a member of
society."

"But is it _right_?" gasped Mortmain. "Is it lawful to maim a
fellow-creature merely to serve oneself?" The idea disgusted him.

"As you please," remarked Crisp dryly. "If you are to avail yourself of
this opportunity, which has never been offered to another, you must say
so at once. If you are indifferent to the loss of your hand or distrust
my skill, there is nothing left but to amputate and be done with it."

"It cannot be right!" moaned Mortmain. "I know it is a wicked thing."

"Right?" sneered Crisp. "Why, I almost believe that it would be a sin if
I let this opportunity go by."

"What is that?" cried Miss Fickles sharply.

There was a sharp knock at the door and Ashley Flynt entered, with a
strange look on his face. Like a flash it occurred to Mortmain that the
solicitor had called to see him about the bankruptcy. He looked again,
and a terrible thought possessed him that it was for something else that
the lawyer had come. Was it about the murder? Was he already suspected?
Apprehension dwarfed the horror of Sir Penniston's suggestion.

"Ah, Flynt," said the surgeon, "I am glad you have come. You can advise
our friend here. I have offered to give him a new hand in place of the
one which he must lose. He's afraid that it is unlawful. Come, give us
an opinion!"

Flynt sank silently into an armchair and rested his finger tips lightly
together.

"Flynt," cried Mortmain, "what a terrible thing it is to deprive a
fellow-creature of a limb. Is it legal? Is it not criminal?"

Flynt gazed fixedly at Sir Richard for a moment without replying.

"Situations sometimes arise," he remarked in a toneless voice, "where
the results desired, even if they do not justify the means employed, at
least render legal opinions superfluous."

"I do not understand you," groaned Mortmain. "Do you mean that what Sir
Penniston proposes is a crime?"

"I mean that in a transaction of such moment the purely legal aspect of
the case may be of slight importance."

"Exactly!" exclaimed Sir Penniston, whose face had assumed an expression
of uneasiness. "To be sure! How plain he puts things, Mortmain. The law
does not concern us when the integrity of the human body is involved."

"But if I require and insist upon your advice?" continued Mortmain. "You
know that you are my solicitor."

"In a matter of this kind I should refuse to give an opinion in a
specific case touching the interest of a client," returned Flynt.

"I must know the law!" cried the baronet.

"Very well," replied Flynt. "I have examined the statutes and find that
the maiming of another (save where such maiming is necessary to preserve
his life or health), even with his consent, is a felony. That is the
law, if you must have it."

"Well, well!" exclaimed Crisp. "There are so many laws that one can't
help violating some of them every day. What an absurd statute! It only
shows how ignorant our legislators used to be! I am sure there were no
scientific men in Parliament. It is nonsensical."

Flynt gave a short laugh and arose.

"My dear Sir Richard," he remarked dryly, "this is entirely a matter for
your own conscience and that of your physician. I trust that you will
soon recover. I have an important engagement. I must beg you to excuse
me."

"Gad, sir," cried Crisp, making a wry face toward the door as it closed
behind the solicitor, "what a fellow that is! You might as well try to
wring juice out of a paving stone. I feel quite irritated by him."

"If I consent," said Mortmain, "do you think you can find a proper
person to--to----"

"My dear Mortmain," responded Sir Penniston eagerly, "leave that to us.
You may be sure that we shall accept no hand that is not perfect in
every way and adapted to your particular needs. You need give yourself
not the slightest uneasiness upon that score, I assure you. Of course,
you will have to pay for it, but I am convinced that in an affair of
this kind a satisfactory adjustment can easily be made--say, two hundred
pounds down and an annuity of fifty pounds. How does that strike you?
Why, it would be a godsend to many a poor fellow--say a clerk. He earns
a beggarly five pounds a month. You give him two hundred pounds and as
much a year for doing nothing as he was earning working ten hours a
day."

The pains in Mortmain's hand had begun again with renewed intensity and
his whole arm throbbed in response. He felt excited and feverish, and
his thoughts no longer came with the same clearness and consecutiveness
as before. It was evident to him that Crisp's diagnosis was correct. But
shocking as was the realization that he, who had been in the prime of
health but a few hours before, must now undergo a major operation, it
was as nothing compared with the moral difficulty in which he found
himself. All his inherited tendencies drew him back from a violation of
the law, particularly a violation which included the maiming of a
fellow-being; and so, for that matter, did all his acquired tastes and
characteristics. On the other hand, his confidence in Crisp's skill and
knowledge was such that he never for an instant doubted his ability
successfully to achieve that which he had proposed.

"But the law! The law!" cried Mortmain in a last and almost pathetic
effort to oppose that which he now in reality desired. Crisp laughed
almost sneeringly.

"What is the law? The law is for the general good, not the individual.
Are we to follow it blindly when to do so would be suicidal? Bah! The
law never dares transgress the sacred circle of a physician's
discretion."

"I suppose that is quite true!" exclaimed Sir Richard faintly. "I leave
it to you. Do as you think best. I will follow your instructions. But I
am suffering. My hand tortures me horribly. Let us have it over with as
soon as possible. How soon can you make your arrangements?"

"By this afternoon, Sir Richard."

Mortmain sank back. In his eagerness he had half raised himself from the
pillow, and now a sensation of nausea accompanied by dizziness took
possession of him. He saw things dimly and in distorted forms. There
was a strange roaring in his head as of a multitude of waters and he
perceived that Crisp and Jermyn were talking eagerly together. He caught
disconnected words muttered hurriedly in low tones. They moved slowly
toward the door and he distinctly heard Crisp say as they passed out:

"Yes, Flaggs is the very man!"

The words filled him with a nameless terror.

"Stop!" he cried, "stop! I will have nothing to do with that man--do you
hear? Stop! Comeback!" But the door closed, and Mortmain, helpless and
trembling, again fell back and shut his eyes.



IV


It was cold in the train--icy cold, and in spite of his fur coat Sir
Richard found himself shivering. Only his arm hanging in a splint burned
with the fires of hell, as if imps with red-hot pincers were slowly
tearing apart the nerves. Sir Penniston, sitting opposite, smiled
encouragingly at him.

There were several people in the carriage. The lamps had been lighted
and in the corner, beside a large black case, sat Jermyn. Next to him
came Joyce, looking exceedingly respectable and very solemn. But the
other three he did not remember to have seen before--that tall,
white-whiskered man in the otter collar: he probably had been presented
and Sir Richard had forgotten. Then there was a big, broad-shouldered
fellow in a soft cap, and next to him a slender, white-faced youth whose
chin was buried in the depths of his coat collar, and whose hands were
thrust deep into his pockets. The big man looked out the window
occasionally and inquired the time, but the youth beside him kept his
eyes fast shut and hardly moved. Had he not been sitting bolt upright
Sir Richard fancied that the latter might have been taken for a corpse.

"Woxton next stop, gentlemen!" announced the guard, opening the door for
an instant as the train paused at a way station. A cold blast of air
followed and Mortmain's teeth chattered. It was quite dark in the
compartment and he felt very weak and miserable. He could not remember
getting aboard the train, but the purport of it all was unmistakable.
The agonies of the morning rushed back across his memory, and his hand
throbbed and twisted within the splint. He felt sick and faint and the
atmosphere of the carriage seemed suffocating.

"How much farther is it?" inquired the man in the otter collar. "We've
been traveling for hours!"

"Only eight miles," answered Crisp cheerfully. "It certainly has seemed
an unearthly distance."

There was a long silence punctuated only by the puffing of the engine
and the shriek of the whistle. Suddenly the pale young man whimpered.
The sound sent a chill to the marrow of Sir Richard's spine.

"If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee--"
whispered the youth. Then he fell to sobbing in the depths of his
collar, but without opening his eyes.

"Come, come, my man! None of that!" cried Crisp angrily. "You're a lucky
fellow! Why, your fortune is as good as made."

Mortmain shuddered.

"If thy hand offend thee--" he repeated to himself. "If thy hand
offend----"

Then he became conscious of still another presence somewhere--a presence
that watched him furtively, but hungrily, with eager, greedy eyes. He
stared along the seats and into the crannies. Could it have been a face
at the window? No, the black night rushed by steadily and blankly. And
yet he could not convince himself that another face had not been there a
moment before.

The train slowed up with a screeching of the brakes and came to a stop.
The door was flung open; his companions hurriedly arose, and the
broad-shouldered young man placed his arm protectingly about the baronet
and assisted him to the platform. A fine snow was sifting down silently
over the lamplit road and upon two large depot wagons standing beside
the station. Again Mortmain was conscious of a presence. He glanced
quickly across the platform and thought he saw a shadow spring from a
rear carriage and leap into the darkness of the bushes.

"What was that?" he gasped.

But the others paid no attention, being busily engaged in deporting
their cases and portmanteaus. The train started on again. Only the
station agent was left, his lantern making an opaque circle in the
intense darkness of the snow-filled night.

The horses champed impatiently, and as quickly as was possible the party
divided and climbed into the wagons, Crisp, the nurse, and Mortmain
entering the last. The doors were slammed to and they started. Still
Mortmain felt convinced that they were not alone. Looking back just as
they were leaving the dim lights of the station, he could have sworn
that he saw the figure of a man running steadily along behind, crouching
low against the road. To the south a distant glow bespoke the presence
of a village, but the wagons swung sharply to the north and plunged into
a wood.

A drowsiness had come over the baronet and he pressed close to the
nurse, terrified and shaken by the dread of some approaching peril. This
hired man seemed nearer to him than any other living soul. He cried
softly, fearing to be observed, and the tears coursed down his hot
cheeks and lost themselves in his furs. Now and then he would listen
intently for the sound of some one running, but he could hear nothing
save the crunch of the wheels and the jingle of the harness. Yet he knew
that just behind them, clinging to their wheel, was pressing that
mysterious figure that had leaped into the darkness beside the station.

After what seemed an hour, a bend in the road disclosed a single light
not far ahead and in a few moments the wagons stopped before a high
wall. The party got out and Crisp opened the gate. Mortmain stared
fixedly down the road, waiting for the unbidden guest to creep swiftly
into view.

"Here we are!" cried Sir Penniston. "Wait a moment until I notify the
farmer."

As the surgeon hastened up the paved walk to the cottage, the wagons
turned and started back at a brisk trot, like a home-going funeral
procession. All the windows were dark and Mortmain clung sobbing to the
nurse's arm.

"Hit's all right, sir," whispered the latter sympathetically. "Hit's all
right!"

Slowly the party made their way to the porch. A light appeared in the
lower windows, then the door was opened. The nurse, half carrying the
baronet, helped him into the hall and seated him upon a wooden chair. As
the door closed Mortmain saw a shadow at the gate.

"Look! Look!" he cried. The warm air swallowed him up; he felt a rush of
blood to his neck and face; the figures about him swayed and swam in the
dim light; there was a stabbing pain in his hand and he knew no more.



V


When Mortmain was able to reappear in society he was astonished to find
that the murder of Lord Russell was no longer a matter of interest or of
discussion. The temporarily shocked and horrified community had
apparently within a short time placidly accepted it, and apart from
occasional references in the newspapers, it was rapidly becoming a mere
matter of history, taking its proper chronological place in the long
list of London's unsolved mysteries. It had been given out at the time
that the horrible death of his old friend had so prostrated the baronet
that he had been threatened with total collapse, and had only been
restored to health by remaining in bed under the constant care of a
certain distinguished physician. At times Mortmain was almost inclined
to believe this himself, for the ghastly night at the lonely farmhouse,
his ensuing illness and slow recovery, seemed, in the full swing of the
London season and contrasted with the brilliant colors of its
festivities, less actuality than a dreadful nightmare which continually
obtruded itself upon his recollection. He had resumed his place in
fashionable life with his old assurance, picking up his cards where he
had left them lying face downward upon the table. Within a week he was
again "among those present" at every gathering of note, and he had
dropped hints of his intention to give a new and unique musical
entertainment which was to surpass anything of the kind theretofore
attempted. He had also resumed his attentions to Lady Bella Forsythe
with a definite purpose--that of rendering himself financially
impregnable.

But Sir Richard was not the same. His glass showed him to be paler than
of yore, his eyes more deeply sunken, his hair touched at the edges with
a ghost of white, the lines of his mouth more firmly marked. His friends
jokingly told him that he was growing old. He had paid a heavy price for
what he had bought, yet it was not loss of vitality, not physical shock
alone that had thus aged him, but a ghastly, damning fact that never
left him for an instant, waking or sleeping: _the fact that the man had
died_. They had not told him at first--it might have affected his cure.
The result upon his spiritual being when he learned of it had been no
less disastrous. _The man had died._ There was no longer any pensioner
to claim his annuity; no creditor even to demand the price of his awful
bargain; no witness to testify to its hideous terms--he had fled the
jurisdiction of all earthly courts. Sir Richard was free. But the
thought of that life forfeited to his own egotism was a millstone about
his neck, bowing him forever to the ground.

He intentionally talked frankly of Lord Russell. The old man had been
highly respected and, indeed, moderately prominent in philanthropic
circles. Mortmain had made a point of going personally to see the
bas-relief erected to his memory. He learned that the next of kin was a
Devon man who never came up to town, and that the executors had taken
possession almost immediately and disposed of the house to an American
millionaire, who was even now remodeling the historic mansion, inserting
Grecian columns and putting on a Château de Nevers roof. Of course he
inspected this with friends, was properly disgusted, and seized the
opportunity to gratify his curiously morbid hunger for the details of
the murder. He learned that, though few of the facts were known to the
public, opinion had crystallized into a settled acceptance that the
murderer had made good his escape and that the identity of the murderer
was known. In fact, the silence of Scotland Yard was rendered nugatory
by the reward of £1,000 offered by the County Council for the
apprehension of Saunders Leach, the recently discharged secretary of the
philanthropist. Nothing had been heard of him since Lord Russell's
butler had admitted him to the house, an hour or two before the murder,
upon his representation that he had come to look over some papers at the
request of his erstwhile master. The butler, a most respectable person,
had introduced him into the library, where Lord Russell was, and
departed. He had recalled afterwards--it had come out at the hearing at
the Central Criminal Court--that he had heard the sound of voices raised
at a high pitch, but, as his master was at times somewhat querulous,
this had not particularly attracted his attention. An hour later, when
he had brought the evening papers, he had discovered the aged man lying
face downward upon his desk, and a window, bearing the bloody traces of
the assassin, open to the night. And Leach had vanished--as if he had
never lived.

The thing most puzzling to Sir Richard, as to everybody else, was the
failure of any apparent motive for so ghastly a deed. Leach, according
to old Floyd the butler, had been a very decent sort of fellow, rather
sickly Floyd took him to be, without any particular faults or virtues.
It seemed to outrage reason to suppose that an anæmic little clerk
could have murdered a helpless old man simply out of revenge for having
lost his place. And then nothing had been stolen--that is, nobody but
Sir Richard knew that anything had been stolen. Yet the public and the
London County Council pronounced unhesitatingly as established fact that
Saunders Leach was the assassin, and that he should be hunted down to
the very ends of the world and, if need be, followed into the next. Only
Scotland Yard remained silent after annexing the contents of the room,
the windows, the carpet, and even portions of the faded paper from the
very walls themselves. Then Parliament went into a convulsion over a
proposed excise alteration and London forgot the murder of Lord Russell
in its feverish interest in the expected legislative abortion. There was
an appeal to the country; a premier retired to Italy; some few thousands
were added to the credit column of the national ledger at the expense of
a ministry, and once more the advent of royalty at St. James's dazzled
the cockney eye and filled the cockney mouth to the stultification of
the cockney brain. Lord Russell was forgotten--as completely as Saunders
Leach--as totally as an isle sunk beneath the waters of oblivion.

The first time Sir Richard had essayed to write he had been deliciously
horrified at the ease with which his pencil had followed the pressure of
his new fingers. His recent clothes added an extra inch to his sleeves,
and his broad cuffs fully concealed the white seam that ran around his
wrist. The hand itself served his purposes well enough, but unmistakably
it was not his own. He never laid the two together--never let his eyes
fall upon the vicarious fingers if he could avoid it, for inevitably a
sickening sensation of repulsion followed. His own fingers were long
and tapering, the nails fine with pronounced "crowns," the back of the
hand slender and smooth; the new one was broader and hairy, the fingers
shorter and square at the ends, the nails thick and dull with no
"crowns," and the veins blue and prominent. There were too many pores!

He loathed the thing, tell himself as often as he would that it was
nothing but a mechanical device to supplement Nature. Physically he felt
as if he were wearing a glove that was too small for him, into which he
had been forced to stuff his hand. This seemed to produce a tight,
swollen sensation which was the only indication of his abnormal
condition. He ate, drove, used his keys, articulated his fingers, and
even wrote with the same muscular freedom as before. His chirography
actually and undeniably exhibited the same general characteristics, only
intensified and with less certainty of stroke and pen-pressure. The
letters which had previously been merely somewhat original in structure
as suited a man of fashion, now became humpbacked and deformed. It was
as though the spiritual qualities of Sir Richard's penmanship had shrunk
away, leaving only the grotesque residue of a dwarfed and evil nature.

But apart from the question of chirography one other manifestation
constantly reminded Mortmain of his crime. This was an itching in the
grafted hand whenever its possessor became angry or excited. Even hard
physical exercise produced the same phenomenon. It seemed as if Nature,
having provided for the circulation of a certain amount of blood, found
on reaching this particular extremity that the supply exceeded the power
of reception. If angered, he found himself indulging in ungovernable
fits of passion, with his eyes suffused and his head buzzing. At times
he experienced an almost irresistible impulse to throttle somebody. On
the slightest provocation the fingers of his right hand would curve and
clutch, and a fierce longing seize him to compass the extinction of life
in some animate being--to feel the slackening of the muscles in some
victim--an emotion elemental, barbarous, cruel, but keen, masterful and
pervading. He had an exhilarating sensation of strength and vitality new
to him. Moreover, his attitude toward his fellow-men had imperceptibly
altered. Before his operation he had hated all evil doers and been
strongly loyal to government and law; now he sympathized with the
lawbreakers. In defying society and deliberately violating its statutes,
he had allied himself with its enemies.

This he realized and accepted. At any moment he might be called upon to
face a criminal prosecution for the felony of mutilation; and there was
still the peculiar and inexplicable silence of Flaggs in regard to the
papers which he had taken away with him on the morning after the murder.
No word had ever passed between them on the subject, and yet the notes
were outstanding and in the hands of a more dangerous holder than even
Lord Russell himself. By merely handing them to the executors, Flaggs
could not only throw Sir Richard into bankruptcy, but could place him in
the awkward position of having suppressed the notes at the time of Lord
Russell's death. That, too, would lead to a still further and more
delicate complication. He would naturally be asked how he had secured
possession of the notes. It would be clear that they were in Lord
Russell's hands at the time of the murder. Flaggs would explain that
_he_ had procured them from Sir Richard. So far as _he_ was concerned,
he had been safely "jugged" at the time of the murder. He could call a
score of sergeants, matrons, and bobbies to prove that, and establish it
by the police records themselves. Where, then, people would want to
know, had Sir Richard obtained them? It would be a hard question to
answer in such a way that the answer would carry any sort of conviction
with it.

No one, of course, would believe that he had found them, as in fact was
the case. Any such explanation would excite instant suspicion. If he
should say that he had paid them and had received the notes from Lord
Russell's lawyers, inquiry would at once demonstrate that the lawyers
had never had possession of the notes, or received any money from Sir
Richard. If he said that he had taken the money to Lord Russell and
received the notes _from him_, his own evidence would place him upon the
scene of the murder at approximately the moment of it. Further, no draft
in payment of the notes would be found among Lord Russell's papers, and
the suspicion would immediately arise that he had proffered a forged
draft to secure possession of the notes, and then murdered the old man
to get it back.

It was indeed a predicament of the worst sort. In Sir Richard the
horrible unfairness of it bred a hatred for a society in which such
things were possible. He looked at any moment to find himself made the
defendant in a criminal prosecution, just or unjust--the unjust the more
difficult of the two to escape. He needed money--money to fight with,
money to live on, money to keep up his hollow pretense of
respectability. And as his attitude toward society gradually changed,
the dead-alive thing at his wrist with the white seam throbbed and
itched until Mortmain longed fiercely to tear it off. At night he would
dream--and this dream repeated itself over and over again--that he was
fastened to some miserable convict, shackled by the wrist in such a way
that somehow they two had grown together, and as he struggled in his
sleep his fellow would turn into the grinning, jeering image of
Flaggs--Flaggs fastened to him by a bond of burning, itching
flesh--Flaggs joined to him like a Siamese twin, flesh of his flesh,
blood of his blood--until by some unnatural evolution _he_ became Flaggs
and could see his own wretched shape writhing at the other end of their
mutual arm. Then shaking, chilled, and covered with perspiration he
would awake and look for Flaggs beside him, and hold his hand to the
blue night-light only to find the seam about his wrist and the
dead-white hand throbbing until he thought he should go mad.

By day he was haunted by the vision of Flaggs watching his house and
following him along the streets. He could not get the fellow out of his
mind. This terror of the drunken clerk became a positive obsession. As
he walked the streets or drove in his brougham through the park he was
constantly planning out what he should say when they should finally come
together--when Flaggs should call for him, summon him as his own. Could
he defy him? Could he palliate him? The hand twitched at the thought of
it. He fancied that Flaggs followed him everywhere in various disguises,
running swiftly behind, dodging into doorways and up side streets when
he turned around. And this habit of turning around and glancing
furtively up and down grew on Sir Richard, and with it grew the itching
in his hand, until he suspected that people shook their heads and said
that his illness had undermined his health more than they had supposed.

It was no bodily illness that thus affected Sir Richard, but spiritual
degeneration. He went from dinner party to dinner party and from
musicale to musicale, paying court to Lady Bella Forsythe as if no
grotesque face were peering from behind the arras of his brain. Yet in
reality he was preparing to meet Flaggs in the final struggle for
supremacy. Flaggs, like death and the tax man, was coming--_when_? He
could not tell, but inevitably. And he must be ready, armed _cap-a-pie_
to meet him on every ground. He had at last resolved to marry Lady
Bella. It was an essential in his campaign to defeat Flaggs. There must
be plenty of money--money, that was what he needed, what he wanted. It
was partly for Lady Bella that he had planned his musical entertainment,
for, in addition to its practical desirability, if he purposed to retain
his position in the social world, it would afford an excellent
opportunity for presenting himself to her as a person worthy of her own
high station and acquaintance. His own music--! Alas! the brain was
willing, but the fingers were powerless. Where before he had produced
the most delicate of harmonies there now resulted nothing but harsh
discords. The hand would not stretch an octave!

The Milbank Street house blazed into the early evening with a thousand
lights. All day long wagons of roses and asters had stood before the
doors, and aproned men had staggered into the hall with pots of flowers
and stands of palms. Confectioners' wagons, loads of camp chairs, and
now a large awning were the indubitable evidences of what was afoot.
Night came on. The white cloth on the carpet across the sidewalk was
trampled to a dirty gray. The orchestra began to arrive, and, shedding
their coats in the servants' entrance, toiled up the back stairs and
tentatively made their way through the flower-banked halls to the
conservatory. Sir Richard sitting in his den and awaiting the arrival of
his first guests could hear the musicians tuning their basses and
testing the wood winds. But there was no music in Sir Richard's soul.
All day long he had been haunted by the ghost of Flaggs scuttling behind
him, and his hand had seemed swollen and discolored. Well, if he could
but get through the night, could succeed in his suit with Lady Bella, he
would go away and rest. Perhaps he would leave London forever--Lady
Bella was very fond of Rome. The sounds of the instruments grew more
confused and louder, the violins mingling with the others. Occasionally
the trombones would boom out and the kettles rumble ominously. Outside
splashes of rain began to fall against the windows, and the wind,
catching in the hollow column of the awning, swept into the halls and
through the open door into the den. Mortmain looked at his watch and
found it was ten o'clock. People would be arriving soon. His hand
twitched and he lighted a cigarette. There was a great deal of traffic
in the front hall--too much. He closed the door and poured out a
thimbleful of brandy. Well, a day or two and he would be rid of Flaggs
forever! Then he heard a low knock. He tried to cheat himself into the
belief that it was Joyce.

"Come in," he cried, but his voice was husky.

Flaggs stood before him.

"I have been expecting you," said Mortmain. It did not seem strange that
he should make this declaration.

"Yes?" queried Flaggs.

"What do you want?" demanded the baronet.

"Ten thousand pounds," answered the clerk. "To-morrow."

Mortmain broke into a harsh laugh.

"Ha! my good fellow! What do you think I am--a Crœsus? Come, come, I'll
give you fifty--and I get the notes, eh?"

"Ten thousand pounds," repeated Flaggs stubbornly, "by to-morrow noon,
or I hand you over to the police."

The blood jumped into Sir Richard's face and his dexter hand throbbed
and tingled.

"You miserable rascal!" he cried. "You wretched blackmailer! How dare
you come into my house? Do you know that I could _kill_ you? And no one
would ever be the wiser! Take a few pounds and be off with you or I'll
summon the police myself."

"Not so fast, not so fast, Sir Richard," muttered Flaggs. "I don't think
you'll call the police."

The look on the white scowling face before him told Sir Richard that the
fellow meant to do his business. A haunting fear seized hold upon him
like that which he had experienced in the depot wagon--a feeling that
behind this grotesque, dwarfed figure of a man lurked the hand of Fate.

"That's right. Be reasonable," said Flaggs soothingly. "Some folks would
think ten thousand pounds was cheap to escape the gallows," he added in
lower tones.

"Gallows!" cried Sir Richard, his anger rising. He knew the fellow's
game now. He was being lied to. Flaggs was trying to frighten, to bully
him. "The gallows, my friend, ceased to be the punishment for felony in
1826--even for blackmail!"

"But not for murder," retorted Flaggs with a ghastly smile. "Not for
murder!"

"Enough of this!" exclaimed Sir Richard, but his knees were trembling.
"Here are a hundred pounds. Go!" He put his hand to his breast pocket.

Flaggs laughed.

"Look!" he cried, pulling from the lining of his hat a printed slip
which he unfolded and handed to the baronet.

Mortmain took it in dread and held it to the light.

      "_Murder in the first degree defined._

      "_The taking of the life of a human being by another
      with malice prepense or in the commission of a
      felony._"

The last six words were underlined in red ink.

"Well?" he asked, but the word stuck in his throat.

"Well?" returned the other. "It's plain enough, isn't it? What more do
you want?"

"It is not plain, you blackguard."

"Maiming is a felony. You know that. Amputation is maiming. Flynt told
you so. The fellow that sold you that hand of yours died of it, didn't
he?"

Mortmain uttered an exclamation of horror. He looked down at the fearful
thing and it seemed to him to be the color of death. "They can never
prove it!" he cried faintly. "They can't prove it! They cannot!"

"Yes, they can! I saw it done," remarked Flaggs. "I saw him buried in
the garden. He is there yet--minus his hand."

"You villain!" gasped Mortmain. The room reeled, and Flaggs danced
before him, gibbering with glee. The light darkened and brightened again
and seemed to swing in circles.

"Pull yourself together, Sir Richard!" remarked Flaggs mockingly. "Pull
yourself together! Isn't it worth ten thousand pounds or one hundred
thousand pounds? But I'm reasonable. Only ten thousand pounds! Come,
come! Let me have it!"

"_No!_" shouted Mortmain. "Not if I die for it."

"Then you _will_ die for it," said Flaggs.

The sound of the fiddles came through the closed door of the study. The
cries of the lackeys and the roll of carriages arriving and departing
could be heard in the front.

"You will die for it, as there is a God in heaven, if I choose!"

Mortmain stood silent. He had a presentiment of what Flaggs was going to
say.

"A word from me," continued the clerk, "and you hang for the _murder of
Lord Russell_. Everyone knows you hated him. Flynt, Joyce, and I heard
you say you would kill him. You owed him seventy-five thousand pounds
and it was two days overdue. He would have ruined you next day. The
officer saw you outside his window within five minutes of the murder,
and so did I. There was nothing taken but the notes--nothing. They were
found in your possession the next morning. How did they get there? The
case is complete. The notes convict you. I've got them. They are yours
for ten thousand pounds--only ten thousand pounds."

"You villain," shouted Mortmain, springing toward him.

The door from the hall opened and Joyce entered letting in the warm
breath of roses and the loud strains of a waltz.

"Lady Bella has arrived, Sir Richard," he announced.

"Tell her I am coming," said Mortmain, starting for the door.

"Wait!" shrieked Flaggs, his face horribly distorted. "Wait!" Joyce had
retired.

Mortmain paused with clinched fists.

"Isn't it worth ten thousand pounds to save a guilty man--a man who
can't escape?"

"Why, you fool!" cried Mortmain, suddenly regaining his self-control.
"Such evidence is valueless. My word is worth _yours_ ten times over,
and I deny that you found the notes in my house. I say that _you_ are
the murderer. And I believe you are!"

"Not so fast! Not so fast!" leered Flaggs. "You know I was 'in quod' at
the time. Don't forget that! And there's one more bit of evidence that
nails you. You can't escape. You're done. I've got you--_the murderer's
thumb marks on the glass_!"

"The devil take you!" yelled Mortmain, the blood suffusing his eyes.

"The devil has _you_ already!" retorted Flaggs. "He's part of you. You
_are_ the devil. Whose hand is that? Tell me that! _Whose hand is
that?_"

Mortmain turned an agonized face toward his tormentor. His spirit was
gone. He was ready to fall upon his knees, but he could not move. He
raised his left hand pitifully as if to shield himself from the coming
blow, and yet his parched lips uttered the soundless word:

"Whose?"

Flaggs gave a dry laugh.

"_It belonged to Saunders Leach!_"

With a sickening of the heart the baronet realized for the first time
the terrible alternative which confronted him.

His selfish willingness to violate the law and mutilate a fellow human
being merely to gratify his own vanity had plunged him into an abyss
from which there seemed no escape. "Murder in the first degree defined:
the taking of the life of a human being by another with malice prepense
_or in the commission of a felony_." By a cruel yet extraordinary chance
he, the needless yet deliberate lawbreaker, had purchased the very hand
which had slain his enemy--from the murderer himself, who was only too
anxious to get rid of it. By an equally hideous but astonishing
coincidence this devil's contract had proved in fact the death warrant
of the murderer, and Mortmain had been his involuntary executioner.
Saunders Leach had paid the penalty of his crime, but Mortmain carried
dangling at the end of his dexter forearm the living evidence that he,
and not Leach, was the assassin. The coil of the rope of fate, at one
end of which hung the limp body of the common criminal, had fallen upon
the neck of his aristocrat brother, and it needed but a word from Flaggs
to send him spinning from the gallows. Should he seek to show that the
finger prints upon the window of Lord Russell's library were not his
own, and by this means to creep from beneath the meshes of the net of
circumstantial evidence in which he was entangled, he would, in the same
breath, be forced to confess that he was guilty of the murder of
Saunders Leach--murder, as the result of the latter's mutilation--murder
under the literal interpretation of the statute. Was ever rat so nicely
trapped? The horror of the thing turned Mortmain into a madman. He
sprang at the clerk in a delirium of rage, his right hand clutched
Flaggs tightly by the throat, and its blunt fingers twisted into the
flesh deeper and deeper. It was done so quickly that the clerk was
unable to escape. His eyes started forward, his tongue protruded, and
his mouth frothed as he made ineffectual attempts to break the baronet's
hold.

"You've got me, eh?" muttered Mortmain, gritting his teeth. "I think
not, Mr. Flaggs!"

The door opened and Joyce entered in much agitation. The orchestra had
burst into a triumphant march and the sounds of many footsteps echoed in
the hall outside.

"Everybody is arrivin', Sir Richard!" exclaimed the butler, "an' Lady
Bella has gone into the music room. His Grace of Belvoir was just askin'
for you. Here are two gentlemen who wish to see you important, sir." He
held the door open and two men in Inverness coats entered and stood
irresolutely near the door.

Mortmain released his grasp upon the neck of Flaggs, who lurched toward
the corner and fell motionless behind a table.

"Sir Richard Mortmain?" inquired the taller of the two, a man of massive
build and with iron-gray mustache and hair.

"The same," replied Mortmain, his fingers still twitching from the
ferocity of his clutch upon the clerk.

The two strangers bowed.

"We have a card to you from Lieutenant Foraker--a friend of yours, I
believe. Permit me," and the tall man stepped forward and extended a
card to the baronet.

Mortmain mechanically took it between the thumb and forefinger of his
right hand. It felt like celluloid and a trifle slippery. But the
stranger did not release his own hold upon it.

"Pardon me, I have given you the wrong card," he exclaimed
apologetically, and withdrawing the bit of board from Mortmain's fingers
he opened a wallet and fumbled with the contents. As he did so he handed
the first card to his companion, who stepped into the light of the lamp,
and examined it carefully through a small microscope which he drew from
his pocket.

[Illustration: "His blunt fingers twisted into the flesh deeper and
deeper."]

"They are _the same_," remarked the stranger of the microscope to the
iron-gray man.

"What is all this?" cried Mortmain in an unnatural voice. His head swam.
On the mantel the verdigris-covered dragon's face grinned mockingly at
him--it was the face of Flaggs.

"Sir Richard," replied the iron-gray man gravely, "I am Inspector
Murtha, of Scotland Yard."

Mortmain started back and his right hand twitched again. Through the
silence came the measures of "The Flower Song."

"I regret to say," continued the other, "that it is my most unpleasant
duty to arrest you for the murder of Lord Gordon Russell."

At the same instant the veil of Sir Richard's mental temple was rent in
twain; out of a blackness so intense that it seemed substantive he saw
the two inspectors from Scotland Yard fleeing away and diminishing in
size until they seemed but puppets gesturing at the edge of an infinity
of white desert; then with equal velocity they were carried forward
again, growing bigger and bigger until they loomed like giants in his
immediate foreground swinging huge scimitars and waving their arms
frantically; the strains of the violins changed to voices shouting so
sharply that they pained his ears, and waves of light and cosmic
darkness over which scintillated a dazzling aurora followed one another
in startling succession, until suddenly his soul, shot out of a tunnel,
as it were, landed abruptly in a warm meadow covered with daisies, which
dissolved before his eyes into the familiar chamber on Milbank Street. A
gray mist floated hissing up through the ceiling, the chairs rocked with
a strange rotary swing, and the two inspectors smiled cheerfully at him
through a broad and painful band of London sunshine. He swallowed
rapidly, and a horrible faintness seized him which gave place to a queer
sort of anger.

"There's--some--mistake!" he stuttered. The chairs anchored themselves
and the ceiling assumed its normal tint.

"No mistake at all," replied Sir Penniston Crisp.

The problem was too much for the baronet and he gave it up. The
murderer's hand no longer twitched, but it loomed white and loathsome
from the bed before him, as if dead already, somehow--part of
a--yes--what were those things? Bandages?

Crisp and Jermyn saw a look of agonized bewilderment pass over the
baronet's face.

"Did they bring me here from the Old Bailey?" he asked. "Am I out on
bail?"

Crisp laughed.

"That's one way of putting it," he remarked. "Yes, you're out on bail,
and in another second or two you will be entirely free."

"I'm glad you're going to take that thing off again," said Mortmain.
"How could you have done it?"

"It's all right," returned Crisp soothingly.

Then Mortmain suddenly understood. But he waited shrewdly.

"What day is this?" he asked in an innocent manner.

"December 5th," replied Jermyn.

"When did I have that fall; you know--the one that made it necessary for
you to amputate?"

"Your accident happened yesterday evening, but there is no necessity for
amputation," returned Crisp. "Now, my dear fellow, just lie back, will
you?--and don't ask questions. That somni-chloride is still lingering
in your head. I shall have to be going in a minute."

Mortmain obeyed the surgeon's instructions, but he was hard at work
thinking the thing out logically. It was clear that there had been no
amputation, no arrest, no inspectors from Scotland Yard. That scene with
Flaggs, horribly distinct as it still was, had had no actuality. But
where did fact end and illusion begin? Had the notes been taken? Had
there been a murder? Was he a bankrupt? The different propositions
entangled themselves helplessly with one another. At the end of a minute
he asked deliberately:

"Miss Fickles, did a man take some papers from my table this morning?"

"Yes, Sir Richard," replied the nurse.

Mortmain's heart sank.

"Er--was--did anything happen to Lord Russell?" he asked the surgeon
faintly.

"Yes. But don't talk or think of it, Mortmain. I order you! Do you
understand?"

A ripple of perspiration broke out on his forehead and it seemed as if a
film had rolled off his vision. Of course, he had taken the chloride
just after Miss Fickles had gone downstairs for him, and then Crisp and
Jermyn had come. He had felt so miserable! And now he felt so much
better! He opened his eyes, the same Sir Richard that had inhaled the
anæsthetic so obediently.

"I am quite myself now, Sir Penniston," he asserted quietly. "I want to
ask one more question. Flynt was not here, was he?"

"No, of course not."

"And we have not left the room? No railroad trip, eh?"

"No."

"Thank you," said the baronet. "May I have a cup of coffee?"

What reply this preposterous demand would have invited will never be
known, for at that moment a knock came upon the door and Joyce asked if
Sir Richard could see Mr. Flynt.

"I _must_ see him!" said Mortmain.

"Oh, very well!" laughed Crisp. "You're getting better rapidly."

Flynt entered with a breezy manner which he allowed himself to assume
only when something really desirable had definitely occurred.

"Good morning, Sir Penniston! Good morning, Sir Richard!" he remarked
without sitting down. "I really had to come in and tell you the good
news. The executors have just read Lord Russell's will----"

"Mr. Flynt! Mr. Flynt!" interrupted Sir Penniston.

"Oh, it's all right!" continued Flynt with a laugh. "Better than a
tonic. You see, Fowler, the only next of kin, was just sailing for New
Guinea, and it had to be done at once. I really did Lord Russell an
injustice. May I speak before these gentlemen?"

"Certainly," whispered Mortmain, his eyes fastened feverishly upon the
lawyer.

"Well, to put it briefly, he has made you a great gift! Here, read it!"
and he handed the baronet a typewritten sheet. Mortmain read it eagerly,
although his eyes pained him somewhat:

      "To my friend, Sir Richard Mortmain, I devise and
      bequeath the sum of five thousand pounds, and take it
      upon myself to express the earnest hope that he will
      before long publish his views upon art in such a form
      that the public at large may have the opportunity to
      profit by that which hitherto has been the privilege
      only of the few. I desire, moreover, to express my
      high personal regard for him and my admiration for his
      whole-souled devotion to the arts, and I hereby
      instruct my executors to cancel and destroy all
      evidences of indebtedness owing to me by said Mortmain
      and to treat said indebtedness as null, void and of no
      effect, provided, nevertheless, that within six months
      of my demise said Mortmain shall assign to the
      directors of the Corporation of the British Museum all
      his collections of ceramics, bronzes, china,
      chronometers, scarabs, including the Howard
      Collection, his cabinets of gems and cameos, including
      the famous head of Alexander on an onyx of two strata
      and the _altissimo relievo_ on cornelian--Jupiter
      Ægiochus--the four paintings by Watteau in his music
      room, and the paintings by Corot and Whistler from his
      library. As the said moneys borrowed from me from time
      to time by said Mortmain were, to my knowledge,
      principally made use of by him for the purpose of
      purchasing and enlarging said collections, which have
      increased in value to no inconsiderable extent by
      virtue of his care and discrimination since he
      acquired them, I am prepared to regard said loans to
      him in effect as gifts impressed with a trust in favor
      of our National Museum, provided, however, that said
      Mortmain is willing to accept the same and execute the
      terms thereof as heretofore set forth within six
      months; but nothing herein shall be taken to affect
      the right of said Mortmain to take up and pay off said
      indebtedness within said time, if he shall see fit to
      do so, in which case the provisions of this codicil
      shall be without any force or effect whatsoever, save
      that I instruct my executors to receive said moneys
      and hold the same in trust, however, for such
      scientific and artistic uses as said Mortmain shall
      direct, preference being given to the needs of the
      British Museum along the lines of antique works of art
      and Egyptology."

As Sir Richard laid down the paper his eyes filled and he turned away
his head.

"A good old man!" said Flynt reverently.

"Indeed he was!" assented Crisp.

"I must know one thing," whispered Mortmain after a few moments. "Did
you send your clerk here this morning to get some papers?"

"Yes, to be sure. I had almost forgotten--I sent Flaggs after an
envelope which I fancied I dropped last evening," answered the lawyer.

"Which _you_ had dropped?" asked Mortmain stupidly.

"Why, certainly. I had the papers connected with Lord Russell's loans
sent here. Flaggs brought 'em--and I dropped an envelope. I _did_ drop
it, because Flaggs found it here this morning."

"What was in it?" asked Sir Richard eagerly.

Flynt elevated his brows.

"Why, if you don't mind my speaking of it, there were some old notes of
yours which had been renewed at various times. I make a practice of
keeping the originals as a matter of precaution."

"Oh!" sighed Mortmain. "_Old_ notes?"

"_Old_ notes," answered Flynt. "Notes taken up and renewed by others."

"Ah!" sighed Mortmain again. "You _did_ drop them, but not in the
study. I found them on the street. They gave me quite a turn."

"Well, we will tear them up now," laughed Flynt.

"Pardon me, sir," said Joyce, opening the door and handing a long box to
Miss Fickles; "some roses with Lady Bella Forsythe's compliments, and
'opin' as 'ow you'll soon be all right again, sir."



THE RESCUE OF THEOPHILUS NEWBEGIN


I


The _Dirigo_ was a one-hundred-and-twenty-two foot gunboat, spick and
span from the Cavite yard--lithe as a panther, swift as a petrel, gray
as the mists off Hi-tai-sha--and she was his very own. The biggest,
reddest day in all his twenty-three years of life was when the Admiral's
order had come to leave the _Ohio_, where he had acted as a sort of
apotheosized messenger boy and general escort to civilians' fat wives,
and to proceed at once to Shanghai to assume command of her, provision
and await further orders. It had cost him nine dollars and seventy-five
cents to cable the joyful news adequately to his mother in Baltimore,
and although the family resources were small--his father had died a
lieutenant commander the year before--she had cabled back a "good luck
and God bless you" to him. He only got as an ensign a paltry one hundred
and twenty-eight dollars per month, and out of it came his mess bills
and other expenses, but for all that he had enough to go down Nanking
road and buy his mother a handsome mandarin cloak--Harry Dupont was
going back on leave--and then to invite all the fellows he knew in
Shanghai harbor to a jamboree at the club. It was going on at the time
this story opens, boisterously and uproariously as befits the blow-out
of a twenty-three-year old ensign who has just received his first
command. The older civilians, who were drinking their comfortable
"B & S" on the veranda, merely shrugged their shoulders as an impromptu
refrain rose louder and louder to the pounding of bottles and the jingle
of silverware.

    Here's to the Kid and the _Dirigo_,
    He's off for a cruise on the Hwang-ho!

The officers of the squadron, not wishing to spoil the fun, slipped off
to the billiard room or the bridge tables, or strolled back to the bar.
Most of them had letters to write for the American mail, which would
leave the following morning, and more than one sighed as he glanced
toward the upper veranda from below the club house. They knew how many
and how long the years would be before any of those boys would be called
"captain"--well, let them enjoy themselves! What was the use of
croaking? There were compensations--of a sort. Even if one's people
_were_ all on the other side of the globe or migrating from boarding
house to boarding house in a vain endeavor to keep up with the changes
in the billets of their husbands and fathers, one was still an officer
of Uncle Sam's navy.

So reflected Follansbee, executive officer of the flagship _Ohio_, which
had slipped into Woosung, ten miles below Shanghai, just as the sunset
gun on the forts was echoing over the closely packed junks along the
water front, and while the boy was engrossed to the extent of total
oblivion with the club steward over the decoration of his dinner table
and the choice between various highly recommended brands of Scotch and
Irish. Follansbee was a good sort, who had already waited thirty-five
years to get his battleship and was waiting still, and he had seen Jack
Russell, the boy's father, die the year before at Teng-chan of a
combination of liver and disappointment, all too common among naval
officers in the East. Follansbee's own liver was none of the best, but
he had cut down on the drink, and, anyhow, his wife was coming out on
the _Empress of India_ next month. He hoped to God the _Ohio_ wouldn't
be ordered to Sulu or some place impossible for her to follow him. That
boy of Russell's--he liked that boy, he was all to the good; knew his
place and kept his mouth shut. Follansbee wasn't going to butt in and
spoil his fun. It would do him good to get a little drunk. He remembered
when he got _his_ first gunboat--thirty years ago. Whew! Follansbee
stared up at the veranda, then sighed again and started down the _bund_.

Shanghai harbor was alive with light. The murmur of the city rose and
fell on the soft, fragrant air, shockingly penetrated every now and then
by the discordant shrieks of swiftly hurrying launches. The _bund_ was
crowded with coolies, some toiling with heavy loads, others pulling
their 'rikishas. Here and there flashed the colored lanterns of
pedestrians. Beyond the junks lay many cruisers sweeping the starlit
night with their quickly moving searchlights. Then one of these took him
bang between the eyes and he stumbled and fell against some one coming
up the walk.

"Where the deuce--!" shouted a clear young voice angrily. Then the note
changed. "I beg pardon, sir--these confounded lights--I didn't see you
at all."

Follansbee returned the midshipman's salute.

"Don't mention it!" he growled. "But what are you doing ashore? I
thought you had the deck."

"I did, but I'm trying to find Russell. The Admiral wants him. I took
the ship's launch to the _Dirigo_ and they said there he was ashore and
hadn't left any word, only that he'd be back late. Have you seen him?"

"Can't you _hear_ him?" inquired Follansbee laconically.

A figure in white duck loomed suddenly into view on the veranda rail
waving a bottle and shouting at the top of his lungs:

    "I've got command of the _Dirigo_
    An' I'm off for a cruise on the Hwang-ho!"

followed by a tremendous chorus accompanied by cracking glass and
unearthly yells.

"Do I!" exclaimed the midshipman under his breath. "Is that him?"

At that moment a searchlight illumined the figure in question and the
midshipman answering his own question, "Yes, that's him," scrambled on
up the steps.

Follansbee wondered how long it would take to deliver the Admiral's
order and felt his way gingerly through the crowded street.

When the midshipman burst panting upon them they were standing on their
chairs with their arms around one another's necks shouting the swinging
chorus of

    "The good old summer ti-i-me!
    Oh, the good old summer ti-i-me!
    For she's my tootsie-wootsie in
    The good old summer ti-i-me!"

"Come on up! There's plenty of room on my chair!" cried the boy
excitedly, at sight of the midshipman, "we've only just begun." His
face was very, very red and his eyes were very, very bright.

    "Oh, the good old summer time!
    Oh, the good old----"

"Here, what's the matter with you? Let me alone! What?"

He dropped his arms and climbed soberly enough down to the veranda floor
while his comrades continued their refrain.

"Orders! From the Admiral! Is he here? I didn't know that the _Ohio_ had
come in. With you in a jiffy."

"Don't wait," urged the midshipman, "it's important!"

The boy turned white.

"It isn't--bad news?" he asked apprehensively.

"No, no," answered the other quickly, remembering the news the boy had
had the year before. "Just orders."

"Well, I won't spoil their fun," said the boy, echoing the sentiments
earlier expressed by Follansbee. "Back in a minute, fellows: I've got to
telephone! On with the dance, let joy be unrefined!"

While they slipped through the door the chorus changed again, and as the
boy seized his cap, sprang down the steps and started for the launch
landing, high above and behind him, he could still hear them singing:

    "Here's to the Kid and the _Dirigo_,
    He's off for a cruise on the Hwang-ho!"



II


"You sent for me, sir?"

Jack Russell stood in the doorway of the Admiral's cabin on the _Ohio_,
cap in hand. The Admiral had been poring over some papers on his desk
and for a moment did not dissect the voice from the whirring of the
electric fan over his head, but as the boy took a step or two forward he
turned and nodded.

"Oh, it's you, Russell. I didn't mean to disturb you on shore, but I've
something for you to do and the sooner you start the better."

The boy awaited his words breathlessly--his first orders.

"It's rather a mean job, but I've nobody else available and, if you make
good--of course, you _will_ make good--in fact, it's rather a chance to
distinguish yourself."

"Thank you, sir."

The Admiral paused as if surely to observe the effect of his words.

"I want you to rescue a couple of missionaries."

The boy's countenance remained immobile.

"I received word this evening," continued the Admiral, picking up a
half-smoked cigar, "that the rebellion has spread into Hu-peh and as far
south as Kui-chan. They have murdered three American missionaries. Most
of the others have escaped and have been reported safe, but nothing can
be learned of two missionaries at Chang-Yuan--very estimable people,
highly thought of in their denomination."

"Yes, sir," said the boy, his eyes beaming on the Admiral.

"You are to start at once--at once, understand, and go up the river past
Hankow and Yochow. At Tung-an you reach the treaty limits, but you
haven't time to explain, and probably explanations wouldn't do any good.
There are two old forts there, and you'll just have to run by
them--that's all. It is six hundred miles to Hankow. With luck you can
be there easily inside of four days, but Chang-Yuan isn't on the
Yang-tse-Kiang--it's on the Yuang-Kiang somewhere on Lake Tung-ting.
You've got to find it first, and the charts are of no use. The trouble
is that the lake dries up in winter and in summer overflows all the
country round. If you can't get a local guide who knows the channel you
will have to trust to luck. The fact that it's in the forbidden
territory adds one more difficulty, but if I know Jack Russell's
son----"

"Oh, thank you, sir!" cried the boy. "What a chance!" he added half to
himself.

"Yes, it is a chance," answered the Admiral, "and I'm glad you've got
it, but if you get aground among the rioting natives!--well, it's got to
be done."

"I have no interpreter, sir," said the boy.

"Smith has secured one," replied the Admiral, "and through him we have
found a Shan-si-man who says he knows the river above Hankow and is
willing to act as guide. They are on the lower deck waiting. You will,
of course, have the government pilot as far as Hankow. Now, good luck to
you. I expect to be here for two weeks and you will report to me at
once on your return your success or failure." He held out his hand.
"Good luck to you again."

The boy shook hands with the Admiral but still remained standing beside
him.

"Well?" said the Admiral. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes," replied the boy apologetically, "you have not given me
the--gentleman's name."

"Bless my soul! So I haven't!" exclaimed the Admiral, fumbling among his
papers, then raising one to the light: "The Rev. Theophilus Newbegin,"
he read slowly, "and wife."

The boy saluted his Admiral and retired with a respectful "Good night,
sir." Once in the privacy of the wardroom companionway, however, he
began to giggle, which giggle speedily expanded into a loud guffaw on
his reaching the main deck. It sounded vaguely like "Newbegin." He
leaned against the forward awning pole, shaking with laughter.

"I say, what's the joke?" inquired the midshipman approaching him from
the shadow of the main turret. "Let a fellow in, won't you?"

But the boy still shook silently without replying.

"Oh, go on! What's the joke?" repeated the other. "Did 'Whiskers' give
you a 'Laughing Julip'?"

"Newbegin!" exploded the boy. "Newbegin!"

"New begin what?" persisted the midshipman irritably. "Have you gone
dotty? I hope you didn't act that way in 'Whiskers'' cabin. I believe
you're drunk!"

The boy suddenly jerked himself together.

"Look here, Smith, you shut up. I'm your rankin' officer and I won't
have such language. I'll tell you the joke--when I know whether it is
one or not."

Smith made a face at him.

"By the way, smarty," continued the boy, "have you got two Chinks for
me? If you have, send 'em along. I'm off to the _Dirigo_ on the launch."

"Yes, I got 'em at the English consul's. Say, what's up? Can't you tell
a feller?"

"Mr. Smith, send those two Chinks to the gangway!" thundered the boy.

The midshipman turned and walked hastily around the turret.

"Here you, Yen, come out of there!" he called.

Two Chinamen arose from the deck where they had been sitting
crosslegged, leaning against the turret, and shuffled slowly forward.

"Here are your Chinks!" growled Smith, still aggrieved.

The ensign paid no further attention to him but pushed the nearest
Chinaman toward the gangway.

"Get along, boys," he remarked, "your Uncle William is in a hurry." As
the smaller of the two seemed averse to haste he gave him a slight
forward impetus with his pipe-clayed boot. The two descended more
rapidly and he followed. A sudden regret took possession of him as he
thought of the possibility of his never seeing Smith again--of his dying
of thirst, aground in a dried-up lake--or of being tortured to death in
a cage in a Chinese prison.

"Good-by, Smithy," he called over his shoulder. But there was no answer.

The launch was bobbing at the foot of the steps, its screw churning the
water into a boiling froth that reflected a million strange gleams
against the warship's water line. The Chinamen hesitated.

"Get along, boys," he repeated, stepping into the stern sheets. "We've
got a long way to go and we might as well begin--Newbegin."

The Chinamen huddled under the launch's canopy, the boy gave the word to
go ahead, the bell rang sharply and the launch started on its long trip
up to Shanghai.

Slowly the _Ohio_ receded from him, somber, implacable, sphinxlike. On
her bridge a man was wigwagging to the _Oregon_ with an electric signal.
The searchlights from the war vessels arose and wavered like huge
antennæ feeling for something through the night, now and again paving a
golden path from the launch to the ships. The illusion was that the
vessels were moving away from the launch, not the launch from them. Out
of the zone of the searchlights the water was black and lonesome. Just
as soon as the ships got far enough away to appear stationary the launch
seemed racing through the water at a hundred miles an hour. Other
launches shrieked past bearing to their ships officers who had just come
down by train to Woosung. Up the Whompoa River the ten-mile-distant
lights of Shanghai cast a dim, nebulous glow against the midnight sky.
Two hours later the little _Dirigo_ seemed to loom out of the darkness
and come rapidly toward them as the launch ran up to her gangway.

"Is that you, McGaw?" called the boy sharply. "Here are two Chinks, an
interpreter and another one. Fix 'em up somewhere. We start up the
Yang-tse as soon as you can get up steam. I want to make Nanking by day
after to-morrow sunrise. Send ashore and get the pilot. Don't waste any
time, either."

"All right, sir," answered the midshipman, "we can start in half an
hour, sir."

The boy ran up the ladder, followed slowly by the Chinamen. At the cabin
companionway he paused and looked at his watch. It was half after one
o'clock.

"Here you, boys," he shouted after the Chinamen, "come down into my
cabin, I want to speak to you."

He led the way down into his tiny wardroom and threw himself into a
wicker chair placed at the focus of two electric fans. The thermometer
registered ninety degrees Fahrenheit, but it was almost as hot on deck
as below, and below various thirst alleviators were at hand. He poured
out a whisky and soda and beckoned to the Chinamen to draw nearer. The
first was short, fat, and jovial, with chronic humor creases about his
mouth, and his hair done in a long orthodox cue which hung almost to the
heels of his felt slippers. The other, the Shan-si man, was tall and
square-shouldered, and he carried his chin high and his arms folded in
front of him. His cue was curled flat on his head, and on his face was
the expression of him who walks with the immortal gods.

"What's your name?" asked the boy, waving the Manila cheroot he was
lighting at the fat Chinaman. The little man grinned instantly, his face
breaking into stereotyped wrinkles like an alligator-skin wallet.

"Me--Yen. Charley Yen. Me belong good fella," he added with confidence.
"Mucha laugh."

"Who's the other chap?" inquired the boy. "He no mucha laugh, eh?"

Yen shrugged his shoulders and, looking straight in front of him, held
voluble discourse with his comrade.

"He no say," he finally replied. "He velly ploud. He say his ancestors
belong number one men before Uncle Sam maka live. He say it maka no
diffence. You maka pay, he maka show. Name no matter."

"Well, I'm sort of proud myself," remarked the boy, hiding a smile by
sucking on his cheroot. "Tell this learned one that I know just how he
feels. Tell him I'm going to call him 'Mr. Dooley' after the most
learned man in America."

Yen addressed a few remarks to the Shan-si man who murmured something in
reply.

"He tanka you."

"I suppose you're a Christian?" asked the boy, suddenly recollecting the
object of his expedition.

"I belong Clistian, allasame you," answered Yen, assuming a quasi-devout
expression. "Me believe foreign man joss allight."

The boy regarded him thoughtfully.

"Me b'lieve Chinee joss pigeon, too," added Yen cheerfully. "Me mucha
b'lieve. B'lieve everyt'ing. Me good fun."

"Yes," said the boy, "how about 'Dooley'?--is he a Christian?"

Yen turned, but at his first liquid syllable the man from Shan-si drew
himself up until it seemed that his shoulders would touch the cabin
roof, and burst forth into a torrent of speech. Yen translated rapidly,
scurrying along behind his sentences like a carriage dog beneath an
axletree.

No, he was no Christian. The sword of Hung-hsui-chuen had slain his
ancestors. Twenty millions of people had perished by the sword of the
Taipings. The murderous cry of "Sha Yao"[1] had laid the land desolate.
He was faithful to the gods of his ancestors.

[Footnote 1: "Slay the Idolaters."]

"Tell 'Dooley' I lika him. Say I think he's a good sport," said the boy,
nodding at the Shan-si man.

"He say mucha tanks," translated Yen.

"Ask him if he knows Lake Tung-ting."

Mr. Dooley conveyed to the boy through Yen that he had been once to
Chang-Yuan. The lake was wide in summer and he had been there at that
time. He took pleasure in the service of the American Captain. But the
Captain must be patient. He was a musk buyer, buying musk in western
Szechuan on the Thibetan border. Two years ago he had saved five hundred
taels and returned home to bury his family--nine persons counting his
wife--all of whom had perished in the famine. The famine was very
devastating. Then he married again one whom he had left at home. He
allowed her ten taels a year. She could live on one pickle of wheat and
she had the rest to spend as she liked. He preferred better the musk
buying and returned. He gave the Captain much thanks.

"That is very interesting," said the boy. "You may go."

There was a tremendous rattling of chains along the sides, the steam
winch began to click, and the two Chinamen vanished silently up the
companionway. The boy leaned back in his wicker chair and gazed
contemplatively about him at the shotgun and sporting rifle over the
bookcase, the piles of paper-covered novels, the pointer dog coiled up
on the transom, the lithographs fastened to the walls, and the
photographs of his father and mother. He took another sip of whisky and
water and, putting down the glass, thought of how proud his father would
have been to see him in his first command. He had the happy
consciousness of having done well, and he was going to make good--the
Admiral had said so. He had had a bully time in the East so far, away
ahead of what he had dreamed when at the Naval Academy. That winter at
Newchwang, racing the little Manchurian ponies over the springy turf of
the polo ground, shooting the big golden pheasants, wandering on leave
through the country, stopping at the Chinese inns and taking chances
among the Hanghousers. It had been great. Hong Kong had been great. It
had been good fun to play tennis and drink tea with the
pink-and-white-faced English girls. Well, he was off! His naval career
had really begun. He lit another cheroot and strolled leisurely on deck
to superintend the operation of heaving up the anchors.

Slowly the _Dirigo_ floated away from the lights of Shanghai, felt her
way cautiously down the Wompoa to Woosung and into the broad expanse of
the Yang-tse. Anchored well out lay the _Ohio_ black against the coming
dawn. A band of crimson clouds swept the lowlands to the east and
between them the tide flowed in an oily purple flood.



III


A heavy jar followed by a motionless silence awoke the boy at ten
o'clock the next morning. The electric fans were still going and he had
a thick taste in his mouth, but he had hardly time to notice these
things before he dashed up the companionway and out upon the deck. To
starboard the water extended to the horizon, to port a thin line of
brown, a shade deeper in color than the water, marked the bank of the
great river. Alongside helplessly floated a junk with a great gash in
her starboard beam. She was loaded with crockery, and several bales of
blue-and-white rice bowls had tumbled into the water, their contents
bobbing about like a flock of clay pigeons. The boy saw instantly that
owing to the fact that the junk was built in compartments she was in no
danger of sinking, and could easily reach shore. Her captain, a
half-naked man in a straw hat the size of a small umbrella, was
chattering like a monkey at Charley Yen, and a Chinese woman, with a
black-eyed baby of two years or thereabouts, sat idly in the stern
evincing no particular interest in the accident. The man at the wheel
explained that the junk had suddenly tacked. The boy felt in his pocket
and, pulling out a Mexican dollar, tossed it to the junk man, who,
having rubbed it on his sleeve and bitten it, began to chatter anew to
Charley Yen.

"What does he say?" asked the boy.

"He say Captain belong number one man--he mucha tanks," answered Yen
with a grin. What a waste! he added. The fellow had sailed on the feast
day of Sai-Kao because on that day the Likin or native customs were
closed. The gods had punished him. He had no complaint to make and had
made none. As the _Dirigo_ shot ahead the junk man sprang into the water
and began rescuing his rice bowls. They passed no other junk that day,
and the leaden sky did not change its shade. Save for the driving of the
screw they might have been anchored in the midst of a coffee-colored
ocean. Not even a bird relieved the eager search of the eye for relief
from the immeasurable brown. The heat continued intense, and was even
more unbearable than when the sun's rays created a fictitious contrast
of shadow. Early in the afternoon Yen called the boy's attention to a
couple of dolphins which were following them, racing first with the
_Dirigo_ and then with each other. Indeed, they were all three very much
alike, and the majestic sweep and rush of the gray-white sides as they
rose from the water inspired him with a sense of companionship. How far
would they follow, these faithlessly faithful wanderers of the sea? At
sunrise the next morning they picked up Nanking and the river gave more
evidence of life, but they kept on and soon the city and its walls faded
behind them. At noon they passed Wu-hu, at the same hour next day
Kiukiang, and when the boy rose on the morning of the third day out, the
black mass of crowded up-country junks on the water front of Hankow,
swarming like mosquitoes or water flies about a stagnant pool, loomed
into view. The river was full of sampans and fishing boats. The man from
Shan-si, who had not spoken since the night in the cabin, raised his
arm, and pointing to the pagoda repeated majestically to Yen the words
of the ancient Chinese proverb:

    "Above is Heaven's Hall,
    Below are the cities of Su and Hang."

During the day they passed Kia-yu and Su-ki-kan, and late in the
afternoon swept into sight of Yo-chow. The Shan-si man announced that
Tung-ting was not so very far away. He even volunteered that this was
the greatest country under "Heaven's Hall" for the exportation of
bristles, feathers, fungus, musk, nutgalls, opium, and safflower. The
place presented a crowded, if not particularly ambitious, appearance.
The shore was jammed, as usual, with thousands of junks, and above the
town the muddy banks were lined with Hunan timber and bamboo rafts. From
the bridge of the _Dirigo_ the boy caught from time to time swiftly
shifting views of vast swampy plains, with a ragged line of scattered
distant mountains. Then they passed beyond the bend in the river and
suddenly entered what seemed another ocean, a northwest passage to
Cathay. As far as the eye could reach stretched an illimitable void of
waters, turbid, motionless. A rocky point, some ten feet higher than the
surrounding plain, just gave a foothold for a small temple, a two-story
Ting-tse or pavilion, and a lighthouse shaped like a square paper
lantern. Ten minutes later it was a black spot in their boiling, brown
wake. They were in Tung-ting, that desolate waste of mud, water, and
sandhill islands, half swamp, half lake that rises into being by virtue
of the expanding spring torrents, and sinks into its spongelike alluvial
bed as mysteriously as it comes.

"Whew!" whistled the boy, "I only hope 'Dooley' knows where he's at. I
wish we'd taken on a _lao-ta_ at Hankow. This hole must be a hundred
miles long and it's just about ten feet deep!"

In fact, the quartermaster had already called the boy's attention to the
long grasses that swung idly upon the top of the water, and to the fact
that here and there patches of bottom could be seen.

"Where is Chang-Yuan in all this mess?" he inquired of 'Dooley' who with
Yen occupied a place beside him on the bridge.

The Shan-si pointed to a conical-shaped island several miles distant
which raised itself steeply out of the water, on which the boy could see
through his glasses clung a Chinese village. Flocks of wild fowl
speckled the middle distance with a single lone fisherman on the
starboard bow.

"He says," interrupted Yen, "Sim-wu have got on that island. This place
belong very good for Chinaman--have got plenty of rice. Plenty water
summer time. Winter time water all finish. He says he no think enough
water for this boat. Little more far--about thirty li--have got 'nother
island--after while catchee Chang-Yuan."

"Ask him how fast his bloomin' lake is drying up," directed the boy.

The Shan-si man shrugged his shoulders.

"He says," announced Yen, "if fish belong thirsty they drink water
plenty quick. Fish no thirsty plenty water. Sometime fish drink one foot
water in four days."

The sun, which up to this time had been visible only as a dim circle in
the gray western sky, suddenly broke through with scorching intensity
and at the same moment the _Dirigo_ slid gracefully upon a mudbank, half
turned, and slid gracefully off again. The boy bit his lips and stared
hopelessly at the yellow plain of water all about him. Then he shook his
fist at the Shan-si man.

"Tell him," he roared, "that if we get aground in his infernal lake,
I'll hang him up by the thumbs and cut off his head."

Yen conveyed the message.

"Even so," replied the Shan-si, through the interpreter, "the will of
the Captain is my will and my head is at the Captain's service, but even
the gods cannot prevent the fish from drinking up the lake."



IV


"Ugh! What a town!" exclaimed the boy as the _Dirigo_ dropped anchor
Sunday morning a hundred yards off the embankment of Chang-Yuan. A
broiling sun beat pitilessly upon the deck of the gunboat and upon the
half mile of mud and ooze which lay along the water edge of the town.
Even in summer Chang-Yuan was well above the water, the shore pitching
steeply to the level of the lake. Down this incline was thrown all the
waste and garbage of the town, and in the slime grubbed and rooted a
horde of Chinese dogs and pigs and a score of human scavengers. Just
above the _Dirigo_ hung a house of entertainment, from the rickety
balcony of which a throng of curious citizens stared down inquisitively.
To the left stood a guild house and a pagoda, and five noble flights of
stone steps crowned with archways led from the water to the roadway, but
these last were so covered with slime that climbing up and over the muck
seemed preferable to risking a fall on their treacherous surfaces.

"Ugh! What a hole!" repeated the boy. "Hah! Get away there you!" he
shouted at the _sampans_ which swarmed around the _Dirigo_. "Here you,
Yen, tell the beggars to keep off!"

This Yen did, assuring the occupants of the boats that boiling oil would
be distributed upon them if they did not retire.

So this was Chang-Yuan! The boy sniffed the malodorous air and wrinkled
his nose.

    "What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's Isle,
    Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile!

Gee! I wish the old boy that wrote that could have seen this place!
Every prospect pleases! Only _man_ is vile! This town is a sort of human
pigsty so far as I can see. And I'll bet there is a fat old _erfu_
hiding in the middle of this rabbit warren who makes a good thing out of
it, you bet!"

The crowd on the embankment was growing momentarily larger, a silent,
slit-eyed crowd of uncanny yellow faces. Beyond and under the distant
line of blue hills thin columns of smoke marked the sites of the towns
devastated by the inconsiderate Wu. A friend of Yen's had told the
latter all about it. He had come aboard and had breakfasted, and for
five hundred cash had been induced to admit that at the present juncture
Chang-Yuan was a most unhealthy place for missionaries, that the
inhabitants were quite ready to join Wu, and that when he arrived there
would be the Chinese devil to pay. He offered for five hundred cash more
to act as guide to the _erfu_'s house. On the whole, it seemed desirable
to accept his proposition. Half an hour later a boat put off from the
_Dirigo_ containing the boy, Yen, the friend, and four bluejackets. The
crowd on the embankment almost pushed one another off the edge in their
eagerness to watch the white devils climbing up the steps, and hardly
allowed room for the boy and his squad to force a way through them.

Chang-Yuan was a typical example of an inland Chinese town, with dirty,
narrow streets, swarming with human vermin. A throng followed close at
the Americans' heels as they marched to the _erfu_'s house, but quailed
before the bodyguard who rushed out threateningly at them. It took half
an hour before the _erfu_ could receive them and then they were ushered
into a dim room where a flabby old man, with a sly, vacant face sat
crosslegged before a curtain. Through Yen, the boy explained that he had
called as an act of official courtesy, and that he had come to remove
certain American missionaries from danger which he understood existed by
virtue of the proximity of the rebel Wu. The _erfu_ listened without
expression. Then he spoke into the air.

He was much honored at the visit of the American naval officer. But what
could a poor old man like himself do against the great Wu? He had no
soldiers. The townsfolk were ready to join the rebels. It was only a
question of time. He could do nothing. He regretted extremely his
inability to furnish assistance to the Americans.

The boy asked if it was true that the rioters were on their way and
might reach the town that afternoon. The _erfu_ said it was so. Then,
after warning him that the United States Government would hold him
responsible for the lives of its citizens, the boy retired, convinced
that the sooner he got his missionaries away the better it would be for
them.



V


The Rev. Theophilus Newbegin had just concluded divine service upon the
veranda of the mission. Beyond the iron gateway a crowd of twenty or so
onlookers still lingered, commenting upon the performance which they had
witnessed, and jeering at the Chinese women who had just hurried away.
Two of the women were carrying babies and all had had the cholera the
season before. Because they had not died they attended service and were
objects of hatred to their relatives. The Rev. Newbegin closed his Bible
and wiped his broad, shining forehead with a red silk handkerchief. He
was a large man who had once been fat and was now thin. Owing to the
collapse of his too solid flesh his Chinese garments hung baggily upon
his person and gave him an unduly emaciated appearance.

Mrs. Newbegin was still stout. Ten years of mission life had not
disturbed her vague placidity and she sat as contentedly upon the
veranda in Chang-Yuan as she had sat in her garden summer-house in
distant Bangor, Maine, whence she and her husband had come. The fire of
missionary zeal had not diminished in either of them. The word had come
to them one July morning from the lips of an eloquent local preacher,
and full of inspiration they had responded to the call and departed "for
the glory of the Lord."

And China had swallowed them up. Twice a year, sometimes oftener, a
boat brought bundles of newspapers and magazines, and a barrel or two
containing all sorts of valueless odds and ends, antiquated books,
games, and ill-assorted clothing. These barrels were the great annoyance
of their lives. Often as he dug into their variegated contents the meek
soul of the Rev. Theophilus rebelled at being made the repository of
such junk.

"One would think, Henrietta," sadly sighed Newbegin, "that the good
people at home imagined that we spent our time playing parchesi and the
Mansion of Happiness, and reading Sandford and Merton."

Once came a suit of clothes entirely bereft of buttons, and most of the
undergarments were adapted to persons about half the size of the
missionary and his wife, but the Rev. Newbegin had a little private
fortune of his own and it cost very little to live in Chang-Yuan.

The crowd at the gate had been bigger than usual this Sunday, and during
the service had hurled a considerable quantity of mud and sticks and a
few dead animals which now remained in the foreground, but this was due
entirely to the new hatred of the foreign devils engendered by the
rioters, and many of those who to-day howled at the gate of the compound
had been glad enough six months before to creep to the veranda and beg
for medicine and food. Now all was changed. The victorious Wu was coming
to drive these child eaters from the land. Already he had laid the
country waste for miles to the north and west, and had slain three witch
doctors and hung their bodies upon pointed stakes before the temple
gates. He was marching even now with his army from Tung-Kuan--a distance
of fifteen miles. Nominally loyal to the dynasty, the inhabitants of
Chang-Yuan eagerly awaited his coming. The white devils pretended to
heal the sick but in reality they poisoned them and caused the sickness
themselves. Those who survived their potions had an evil spirit. The
crowd at the gate licked its lips at what would take place when Wu
should arrive. There would be a fine bonfire and a great killing of
child eaters. Their hatred even extended to the daughter of the foreign
devil--her whom once they had been wont to call "The Little White
Saint," who had nursed their children through the cholera and brought
them rice and rhubarb during the famine. Wu would come during the day
and then--! The uproar at the gate grew louder. Newbegin laid his moist
hand upon that of his wife and looked warningly at her as there came a
rustle of silk inside the open door and their niece made her appearance.

Margaret Wellington, now eighteen years old, had lived with them at
Chang-Yuan for ten years. Her father, a naval officer, had died the year
they had come out from America and they had picked up the little girl,
the daughter of Newbegin's deceased only sister, at Hong Kong and
brought her with them. Since then she had been as their daughter,
working with them and entering enthusiastically into all their
missionary labors. Sometimes they regretted not being able to give her a
better education, and that she had no white companions but themselves,
but the girl herself never seemed to miss these things and they believed
that what was best for them was best for her. Were they not earning
salvation? And was she not also? Was it not better for her to live in
the Lord than to dwell in the tents of wickedness? Great as was their
love for her it was nothing to their love for the Lord Jesus. For that
they were ready and eager to lay down their lives--and hers.

"Chi says the rioters are coming," said Margaret. Her hair was done in
the Chinese fashion, and she was clad in Chinese dress from head to
foot, for she had outgrown all her English clothes years ago and there
were no others to take their place.

"Yes, dear," answered her aunt, "I am afraid they are."

"He says they will kill us," continued the girl. She articulated her
English words in a way peculiar to herself, due to her strange
up-bringing, but there was no fear in her brown eyes, and the paleness
of her face was due only to the heat.

The mob at the gate set up a renewed yelling at sight of her.

"Dear, dear!" said her uncle irresolutely, "I don't believe it will be
as bad as that. They will calm down by and by." He really felt very
badly about Margaret. To be killed was all in the day's work so far as
Henrietta and he were concerned. They had anticipated it sooner or later
almost as a matter of course, but Margaret----

A stick hurtled across the compound and fell on the veranda at his feet.
He knew that it would take but little to excite the mob at the gate to
frenzy, but he had made no preparations to defend the compound, for it
would have been quite useless. In that swarming city what could one aged
missionary and two women do to protect themselves? Chi, the only male
convert, was hardly to be depended upon and all the rest were women. No,
when the time came they would surrender their lives and accept
martyrdom. It was for that that they had come to China. Newbegin's mind
worked slowly, but he was a man of infinite courage.

"Dear, dear!" he repeated, looking toward the gate.

"Cowards!" cried the girl, her eyes flashing. "Ungrateful people! They
will kill us, and Chi, and Om, and Su, and the other women and their
babies. We must do something to protect them."

"Dear me! Dear me!" stammered her uncle again, rubbing his eyes. The
crowd at the gate had fallen back and a strange vision had taken its
place. Involuntarily he removed his hat. The girl uttered a cry of
astonishment as the gate swung open and a young man in a white duck
uniform entered the compound followed by four erect figures also in
white and carrying rifles on their shoulders.

"Bless me!" exclaimed Newbegin, "it looks like a naval officer!"

The boy came straight to the veranda and touched his cap.

"Are you the Rev. Theophilus Newbegin?" he inquired.

"I am," answered the missionary, holding out his hand.

"I am John Russell, ensign in command of the U. S. gunboat _Dirigo_. I
have been sent by Admiral Wheeler to assist you to leave Chang-Yuan."

"Bless me!" exclaimed the Rev. Theophilus. "Very kind of him, I'm sure!
And you, too, of course, and you, too! Henrietta, let me introduce you
to Ensign Russell. Er--won't those--er--gentlemen come inside and sit
down?" he added, staring vaguely at the squad of bluejackets.

"Oh, they're all right!" said the boy, shaking hands with Mrs. Newbegin,
and wondering what sort of a queer old guy this was whom he had been
sent to rescue. "Beastly hot, isn't it? Do you have it like this
often?"

"Eight months in the year," said Mrs. Newbegin, "but we're used to it."

At this moment the boy became conscious of the presence of one whom he
at first took to be the prettiest Chinese girl he had ever seen.

"Let me present my niece--Ensign Russell," said Newbegin.

The boy held out his hand but the girl only smiled.

"It is very good of you to come so far to help us," said the girl.

"Oh, no trouble at all!" exclaimed the boy without taking his eyes from
her face. "I'm glad I got here in time," he added.

"Did you come on a ship?" asked the girl.

"Just a little gunboat," he answered, "but that makes me think. This
plagued lake is sinking all the time. I got aground in half a dozen
places. We've got to start right along back. I'm by no means sure we can
get out as it is, but it's better than staying here. You'd oblige me by
packing up as quickly as possible."

"Eh?" said the Rev. Theophilus, with something of a start, "what's
that?"

"Why, that we've got to start right along or we'll be stuck here and
won't be able to get away at all."

"But I can't abandon the mission!" said Newbegin in wonder.

"Certainly not!" echoed his wife placidly. "After all these years we
cannot desert our post!"

"But the rioters!" ejaculated the boy. "You'll be murdered! Wu will be
here before night, they tell me, and there was a precious crowd of
ruffians at the gate as I came along. Why, you can't stay to be
killed!"

Newbegin shook his head.

"You do not understand," he said slowly. "We came out here to rescue
these people from idolatry. Some of them have adopted Christianity.
There are forty women and children converts. There are others who are
almost persuaded; if we abandon them now we shall undo all our labor.
No! we must stay with them, and die with them, if necessary, but we
cannot go away now."

"Great Scott!" cried the boy, "do you mean to say that----"

"We cannot desert our post," repeated Mrs. Newbegin, looking fondly at
her husband.

"But--but--" began the boy.

"Even if we die, there is the example," said Newbegin.

The boy was puzzled. Of missionaries he had a poor enough opinion in
general, and this one looked like a great oaf and so did his fat wife,
but in the most ordinary way and with the commonest of accents he was
talking of "dying for the example." Then his eyes returned to the girl
who had been watching him intently all the time.

"But," he exclaimed, "certainly you won't place your niece in such
danger?"

"No," said Newbegin, "that would not be right."

"No," repeated the wife, "she had better go back."

"I will not go back," cried the girl, "unless you go, too! This is my
home. Your work is my work. I cannot leave Om and Su and their babies."

"Good God!" muttered the boy hopelessly. "Don't you see you _must_ come?
You _can't_ stay here to be murdered by the rioters! I can't _let_ you!
On the other hand, I can only stay here an hour or two at the most. The
_Dirigo_ is almost aground as it is and we shall have the dev--deuce of
a time getting out of the lake."

"Well," said Newbegin calmly, "I have told you that we cannot accept
your offer. We are very grateful, of course, but it's impossible. It
would not do; no, it would not do. A missionary expects this kind of a
thing. I wish Margaret would go, but what can I do, if she won't go? I
can't make her go."

"I want to stay with you," said Margaret, taking his hand. "I will never
leave you and Aunt Henrietta."

The boy swore roundly to himself. The crowd of Chinese had returned to
the gate, and the air of the compound stank in his nostrils. He took out
his watch.

"It's eleven o'clock," he said firmly. "At five I shall leave
Chang-Yuan; till then you have to make up your minds. I will return in
an hour or so."

Newbegin shook his head.

"Our answer will be the same. We are very grateful. I am sorry not to
seem more hospitable. Have you seen the temple and the pagoda?"

"No," answered the boy. "I suppose I might as well do the town, now I'm
here."

"I will show you the temple," said Margaret timidly. "They know me
there, I nursed the child of the old priest. I will take you."

"Yes," said Newbegin, "they all like Margaret, and I seem to be
unpopular now. Will you not take dinner with us?"

"Thank you," said the boy, "take dinner with _me_. Perhaps Mrs. Newbegin
would like to see the gunboat, and I have some photographs of the new
cruisers."

Margaret gazed beseechingly at her.

"Very well," said Newbegin, "if you will stop for us on your way back
from the temple we shall be quite ready, but I must return at once after
dinner in order to assemble the members of the mission."

The girl led the way to the gate.

"I'm sure you will not need the soldiers," she said; "it is but a short
distance." The crowd, observing that the bluejackets had remained inside
the compound, crowded close at the boy's heels as they threaded the
streets to the temple.

"I spend a good deal of time here," said the girl; "sometimes it is the
only cool place."

The boy paid the small charge for admission and followed his guide up
the dim, winding stairs. It was dank and quiet; the priest had remained
at the gate. From the blue-green shadows of the recesses upon the
landings a score of Buddhas stared at them with sightless eyes. Suddenly
they emerged into the clear air upon the platform of the top story and
the girl spoke for the first time since they had entered.

"There is Chang-Yuan," she said.

The boy gazed down curiously. Below them blazed thousands of highly
finished roofs, picturesque enough from this height, while beyond the
town the soup-colored waters of the lake stretched limitless to the
horizon. He could see the embankment and the little _Dirigo_ at anchor,
the _sampans_ still swarming around it. To the south lay a country of
swamps and of paddy fields; to the north the line of hills and the smoke
of the burning towns.

They sat down on a stone bench and gazed together at the uninviting
prospect. He was beset with curiosity to ask her a thousand questions
about herself, yet he did not know how to begin. She solved the problem
for him, however.

"I have lived here since I was eight years old," she remarked,
apparently being unable to think of anything else to say.

The boy whistled between his teeth.

"Do you enjoy it?" he asked.

"I don't know," she replied, "I don't know anything else. Sometimes it
seems dull and one has to work very hard, but I think I like it."

"But what do you do," he inquired, "to amuse yourself?"

"I read," she said, "and play with Om and Su. I have taught them some
American games. Do you know parchesi and the Mansion of Happiness?"

"Yes, I've played them," he admitted cautiously. "But do you never see
any white people except your uncle and aunt?"

"Why, no," she said. "Two summers ago, after the cholera, we visited Dr.
Ferguson at Chang-Wing--that is over there. He is a medical missionary,
but I did not like him because he asked me to marry him. He was sixty
years old. Do you think it was right?"

"Right!" cried the boy. "It was a wicked sin."

"Well, he is the only white man I have met except you," said the girl.
"Of course, I can remember a little playing with boys and girls a long,
long time ago. Where is your ship?"

"That little white one down there. Can you see?" said the boy, pointing.

"Oh, is that it?" she asked. "Where are its sails?"

"There aren't any," he answered; "it goes by steam."

"I have read the 'Voyage of the Sunbeam,'" she said, "it is a beautiful
book. It came out last year in a box. I have nearly twenty books in
all."

The boy bit his lips. He was getting angry--angry that an American girl
should have been imprisoned in such a hole all her young life--such a
girl, too! What right had an elderly man and woman, even though they
enjoyed the privilege of consanguinity, to exile a beautiful child from
her native country and bring her up for the glory of God in a stewing,
stinking, cholera-infested, famine-ridden Chinese village?

"It is strange to find you here," he said finally. "I expected only some
freckle-faced, jimmy-jawed, psalm-singing woman, who would tumble all
over herself to get away."

She looked at him puzzled for a moment and then burst into a ripple of
laughter.

"What funny things you say!" she cried. "I suppose it is strange to find
me here, but why should I have freckles or a--what did you call it--a
jimmy-jaw? I do sing psalms. But my being here is no stranger than that
you should be here. I have often wished some young man would come. You
are the first I have known. I am tired of only women."

For a moment he was almost shocked at the open implication, but her
frank eyes and matter-of-fact tone told him that the girl could not
flirt. It was out of her sphere of existence.

"Would you like to get married?" he hazarded.

"Oh, yes!" she cried. "To a young man!"

"But suppose you had to go away?"

She looked a little puzzled for a moment.

"Of course, I should not like to leave Om and Su, and I wouldn't leave
uncle and aunt, but sometimes--sometimes I have wondered if one couldn't
serve God in a pleasanter place and do just as much good."

"Are there any men converts?" he asked.

"Only Chi," she replied, "and I am quite sure he is an idolater at
heart. Besides," she added, with a droll look in her eyes, "Chi is a
gambler and is always drinking _samshu_. He had been drinking it this
morning. I have often spoken to uncle about it, but he has not got the
heart to send him away."

The boy laughed.

"I have a certain amount of sympathy with Chi," said he. "If I lived
here I should be as bad as he is. I should think you would die of the
heat and the smells, and never seeing anybody."

"Oh, it's not so bad," she said spiritlessly. "You see, I have to work
pretty hard. There are nearly twenty families now where there is
sickness, and in case of anything contagious I go there and nurse.
Sometimes I get very tired, but it keeps me occupied and so I suppose I
don't think about--other things."

"It's terrible to think of leaving you here," he said. "Can't you
persuade your uncle and aunt that their duty does not require them to
lay down their lives needlessly?"

"No," she answered, "nothing would persuade them that it was not their
duty to remain; nothing could persuade _me_ of that."

"And you would not leave them?" he urged, almost tenderly.

"Oh, how _could_ I? I must stay with them! Don't you see?" She took hold
of his hand and held it. It was quite natural and totally unconscious.
"That is what missionaries are for."

A thrill traveled up the nerves of his arm and accelerated the motion of
his heart.

"That is not what _you_ are for," he said quietly.

"I must! I must!" she repeated. "Oh, I should like to go with you, but I
can't."

"But think of yourself!" he cried harshly. "Your uncle and aunt can die
for the glory of God if they choose, but they've no right to let you
die, too, just out of loyalty to them. It's cruel and wrong. It makes me
sick to think of you penned up here in this nasty, yellow place all
these years when you ought to have been going to school, and riding and
sailing, and playing tennis, and having a good time."

"Oh!" she protested.

"No, hear me out," he insisted, "and having a good time! You can serve
God and yet be happy, can't you? And your place isn't here in the midst
of cholera and famine and malaria. It's different with people who have
lived their lives, but with you, so young and fresh and pretty."

"Oh!" she cried joyfully, "do you think I am pretty? I'm so glad!"

"Do I!" he replied hotly. "Too pretty to be allowed to go wandering
around these crooked Chinese streets--" he checked himself. "I say it's
a shame! And now to stay here, after all, to be butchered!" He jumped to
his feet and ground his teeth.

She gazed at him, startled, and said reproachfully:

"I don't think it is right for you to say things like that. 'Whoso
loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' Don't you remember?"

He made no reply, realizing the hopelessness of his position.

"Come," he said, "let us go back."

She was afraid she had offended him but was too timid to do more than to
take his hand and let him lead her gently down the winding stairs.

At the gate of the temple they found the crowd augmented by several
hundred persons, who closed in behind and marched along to the compound.

Mr. and Mrs. Newbegin were waiting on the veranda and the marines had
been having a little _samshu_. The boy was by no means sorry to have the
company of his escort for the rest of their walk, and the party made
good time to the _Dirigo_. The _bund_ was alive with spectators and so
was the whole long line of shore. There were Chinese everywhere, on the
beach, on rafts, in _sampans_, swimming in the water, all around,
wherever you looked there were a dozen yellow faces--waiting--waiting
for something. Even in the broil of that inland sun the chills crept up
the boy's spine.

The Rev. Theophilus and his wife were much pleased with the gunboat and
sat in the cabin in the draught of the two electric fans sipping
lemonade, while the boy showed the girl over the _Dirigo_. He had made
one last passionate appeal to the missionary and his wife, who had again
flatly refused to leave the city. Margaret had likewise reasserted her
determination not to desert them. The boy was in despair and cursed them
to himself for stupid, bigoted fools. He was showing the girl his little
stateroom with its tiny bookcase and pictures and she had paused
fascinated before one which showed a group of young people gathered on a
smooth lawn with tennis rackets in their hands. All were smiling or
laughing. Margaret could not tear herself away from it.

"How happy they look!" she whispered. "How fresh and clean and cool
everything is! What are those things in their hands?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"The round things that look like nets," she explained.

The boy gasped.

"Tennis rackets! Do you mean to say you've never seen a tennis racket?"

"I don't think so." She hesitated. "Perhaps ever so long ago when I was
a little girl, but I've forgotten."

The boy's anger flamed to a white heat as he glanced out through the
stateroom door to where the Rev. Theophilus and wife sat stolidly
luxuriating in the artificial draught.

"When I was a child we lived for a while in Shanghai. My father's ship
was there," she added.

"Your father in the navy?" cried the boy hoarsely. "What was his name?"

"Wellington," she answered. "He was a commander. He died at Hong Kong
ten years ago."

"Wellington! Richard Wellington? He was in my father's class at
Annapolis!" cried the boy. Then he groaned and bit his lips. "Oh!--oh!
it's a crime!"

He dropped on one knee and took her hands.

"Poor little girl!" he almost sobbed, "poor little girl! Think of it!
Ten years! Poor child!"

Margaret laid one hand on his head.

"I am quite happy," she said calmly.

"Happy!" He gave a half-hysterical laugh and shook his fist at the door.
Then he leaned over and whispered eagerly:

"You're tired, dear. Lie down for a few minutes and rest. Do--to please
me."

She smiled. "To please you," she repeated, as she leaned back among the
cushions which he placed for her, and he closed the door.

"Your niece is going to take a little nap," he explained to the
missionary. "Here are some prints of the new battleships. I must ask you
to excuse me for a moment. Saki will serve dinner directly."

"Oh, certainly--of course," murmured Newbegin, recovering from
semi-consciousness.

The boy sprang up the hatch.

"Here, McGaw!" he ejaculated, rushing to where his midshipman stood
watching the swarm of _sampans_ that covered the lake around the
_Dirigo_. "Get up steam! Do you hear? Get up steam as fast as you can!
I'm going to hike out of this!"

"All right, sir," replied McGaw in a rather surprised tone. "We can't
get off any too soon to please me. Did you ever see such a hole? Hello!
What's all that?" He pointed to a highly decorated _sampan_ coming
rapidly toward them, before which the others parted of their own accord,
making a broad line of water to the _Dirigo_.

"By Godfrey! It's the mandarin!" cried the boy. "Where's Yen? Here you,
Yen! Go make mucha laugh for the _erfu_!"

The _sampan_, however, turned out not to contain the _erfu_. A small,
fat Chinaman in the mandarin's livery stood up and bawled to Yen through
his hands.

"He say," translated Yen over his shoulder, "Wu no come. Viceroy soldier
man make big fight--kill plenty--Wu finish. Allight now everybody.
Missionary come back. Wu no make smoke, anyway. He long, long way off.
This fella lika Melican naval officer maka lil _kumsha_[2] for good
news. _Kumsha_ for maka mucha laugh."

[Footnote 2: Present, gratuity.]

"What!" roared the boy. "Pay him! Tell him to go to hell!"

McGaw watched the boy as he stamped up and down the deck running his
hands through his hair and wondered if he had a touch of sun. The
mandarin's messenger still remained in an attitude of expectancy in the
bow of the _sampan_. Suddenly the midshipman saw his superior officer
rush to the side of the _Dirigo_ and throw a Mexican silver dollar at
the Chinaman, who caught it with surprising dexterity.

"Tell him," shouted the boy to Yen, "to say to the _erfu_ that he could
not find us, that we had gone away before he could deliver his message!"

The fat Chinaman prostrated himself in the _sampan_.

"He say allight," remarked Yen.

"Do you believe what he said?" demanded the boy threateningly of McGaw.

"Sure," said the midshipman, "that's right enough! That old friend of
Yen's was out here again about an hour ago, snooping around, drunk as a
lord. He'd been loading up on _samshu_ ever since he went ashore. He
says that Wu was killed over a month ago, that his head is on a temple
gate five hundred miles north of here, and that the smoke over there is
caused by burning brush on the hillsides. The rebellion is all over
until next year. It's a great note for us, isn't it?"

But the boy made no reply. He was staring straight through McGaw out
across the lake. Suddenly he stepped close to the midshipman and
muttered quietly:

"Say, old man, for the sake of old times, can you forget all that?"

"Sure," gasped McGaw, convinced that his previous suspicions had been
correct.

"Then forget it and get up steam!" said the boy, turning sharply on his
heel.



VI


The click of the anchor engine was followed by the throbbing of the
_Dirigo_'s screw, but both the Rev. Theophilus and wife supposed them to
be the whirr of an unseen electric fan. Saki's dinner was exceptionally
good, and there was a cold bottle of vichy for the missionary, who
lingered a long time after the coffee to tell about the ravages of the
cholera the year before. When at last they ascended to the deck there
was nothing to be seen of Chang-Yuan but a glare of tile roofs on the
distant horizon.

"Bless me!" remarked the Rev. Theophilus, gazing stupidly at the
coffee-colored waves about them. "What is the meaning of all this? Where
are we going? I must go ashore. I have no time for pleasure sailing!"

"Certainly not!" echoed his wife. "Kindly return at once! Why, we are
miles from Chang-Yuan!"

And then it was, according to McGaw, that the boy more than rose to the
occasion and verified the prophecy of the Admiral, though under a
somewhat different interpretation, that he would "make good," for,
standing by Margaret's side, he saluted the missionary and with eyes
straight to the front delivered himself of the following preposterous
statement:

"I exceedingly regret that my orders do not permit me to exercise the
discretion necessary to return as you request. The Admiral commanding
the Asiatic squadron specifically directed me to proceed at once to
this place and rescue the Rev. Theophilus Newbegin and wife. I was given
no option in the matter. I was to _rescue_ you, that is all. I received
no instructions as to what to do in the event that you preferred not to
be rescued, and I interpret my orders to mean that I am to rescue you
whether you like it or not. Everything will be done for your entire
comfort and Saki has already prepared my stateroom for Mrs. Newbegin. I
trust that you will not blame me for obeying my orders."

"Bless me!" stammered the Rev. Theophilus. "Dear me! I really do not
know what to say! I am exceedingly disturbed. It seems to me like an
unwarrantable interference--not on your part, of course, but on that of
the Government. But," he added apologetically, "we cannot blame you for
obeying your orders, can we, Henrietta?"

But Mrs. Newbegin's ordinarily vacuous face bore a new and radiant
expression.

"I see the hand of Providence in this, Theophilus!" she said.

"Yes--yes!" he answered, wiping his forehead. "God moves in a mysterious
way--in an astonishing way, I might say." He looked regretfully over his
shoulder toward the fast-vanishing Chang-Yuan.

Margaret slipped her hand into his and laid her head on his arm. "I am
so glad, uncle!" she whispered. He patted her cheek.

"Yes, yes, it is probably better this way," he sighed. "Henrietta, let
us retire to the cabin and consider what has happened. My young friend,
be assured we bear you no ill will for your involuntary action in this
matter."

       *       *       *       *       *

Four evenings later under the snapping stars of the midsummer heaven
Margaret Wellington and Jack Russell sat side by side in two camp chairs
on the bridge of the _Dirigo_. The gunboat was sweeping round the great
curve of the Yang-tse above Hankow and to starboard the pagodas of
Wu-chang rose dimly through the lights of the city. Below in the hot
cabin sat the Rev. Theophilus and his wife reading "The Spirit of
Missions."

"And now," said the boy, as he drew her hand through his, "you are going
to be happy forever and always. The world is full of wonderful things
and nice, kind people who are trying to do good and yet have a jolly
time while they are doing it. And you will have the dearest mother a
girl ever had. How proud she'll be of you! Now promise to forgive me;
you know why I did it! Do you suppose I'd have dared to do it if I
hadn't?"

"Yes," she answered happily, "I knew why you did it and I forgive you,
only, of course, it really was very wicked. But----"

The sentence was never finished--to the delight of the government pilot
behind them.

"What do you think my uncle will say when we tell him?" she laughed.

"He'll say, 'Bless me! Dear me! I don't know!'" answered the boy, and
they both giggled hysterically.

Abaft the black shadow of the smokestack Yen and the Shan-si man stood
in silence watching the two on the bridge. The Shan-si man raised his
arm once more in the direction of Wu-chang and made a joke.

"Above is Heaven's Hall!" said he. "Below are--the two most foolish
things in all the world--a boy and a girl!"



THE VAGABOND


      "There is no essential incongruity between crime and
      culture."
                    --_Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying."_

It was five o'clock, Sunday afternoon, and the slanting sunbeams had
crawled across the bed and up the walls and vanished somehow into the
ceiling when Voltaire McCartney came to himself, kicked off the
patchwork quilt, elevated his torso upon one elbow and took an
observation out of the dingy window. The prospect of the Palisades to
the northwest was undimmed, for the wind was blowing fresh from the sea
and the smoke from the glucose factory on the Jersey side was making
straight up the river in a long, black horizontal bar, behind which the
horizon glowed in a brilliant, translucent mass of cloud. McCartney
swung his thin legs clear of the bed and fumbled with his left hand in
the pocket of a plaid waistcoat dangling from the iron post. The act was
unconscious, equivalent to the automatic groping for one's slippers
which perchance the reader's own well-regulated feet perform on similar
occasions. The pocket in question yielded a square of white tissue,
which the fingers deftly folded, transferred to the other hand, and then
filled with tobacco. Like others nourished upon stimulants and
narcotics, McCartney awoke _absolutely_, without a trace of drowsiness,
nervously ready to do the next thing, whatever that might chance to be.
His first act was to pull on his shoes, the second to slip his
suspenders over his rather narrow shoulders, and the third to light the
cigarette. Then he sauntered across the room to the window sill, upon
which slept profoundly a small tortoise-shell cat, and picked up a
pocket volume, well worn, which he shook open at a point designated by a
safety match. For several moments he devoured the page with his eyes,
his hollow face filled with peculiar exaltation. Then he expelled a
cloud of smoke sucked from the glowing end of his cigarette, tossed away
the butt, and thrust the book into his hip pocket.

    "O would there were a heaven to hear!
    O would there were a hell to fear!
    Ah, welcome fire, eternal fire,
    To burn forever and not tire!

    "Better Ixion's whirling wheel,
    And still at any cost to feel!
    Dear Son of God, in mercy give
    My soul to flames, but--let me _live_!"

He turned away from the window, and pale against the gaudy west his
profile shone drawn and haggard. Restlessly he filched his pocket for
another cigarette, and tossed himself wearily into a painted rocker. The
cat awakened, elongated herself in a prodigious and voluptuous yawn of
her whole body, dropped to the floor and leaped with a single spring
into her master's lap. He stroked her sadly.

"Isabeau! My poor Isabeau! I envy you--creature perfect in symmetry,
perfect in feeling!"

The cat rubbed her head against the buttons of his coat. McCartney
leaned back his head. The little room was bare of ornament or of
furniture other than the chair, save for a deal table at the foot of the
bed, bearing a litter of newspapers and yellow pad paper.

    "I am discouraged by the street,
    The pacing of monotonous feet!"

murmured the man in the rocker. The light died out above the Palisades;
the cat snuggled down between her master's legs.

    "Dear Son of God, in mercy give
    My soul to flames, but let me _live_!"

he added softly. Then he lifted the cat gently to the floor, threw on a
short, faded reefer coat, and opened the door.

"Well, Isabeau, it's time for us to go out and earn our supper!"

       *       *       *       *       *

McCartney gazed solemnly down from the small rostrum upon which he was
standing at the end of the saloon without so much as a smile in answer
to the roar of appreciation with which his time-worn anecdote had been
received.

"Dot's goot!" shouted an abdominal "Dutchman," pounding the table with
his beer mug. "Gif us 'n odder!"

"Ya!" exclaimed his _confrère_. "Dot feller, he was a corker, eh?" He
put up his hands and making a trumpet of them bawled at McCartney:
"Here, kommen sie unt haf a glass bier mit us!"

Three teamsters, a card sharp, a porter, two cabbies, and a dozen
unclassables nodded their heads and stamped, while the bartender passed
up a foaming stein to the performer. McCartney blew off the froth, bowed
with easy grace to the assembled company, and drank. Then he descended
to the table occupied by the Germans.

"May you all have better luck than the gentleman in my story," he
remarked. "But I for one shall go straight to the other place. Heaven
for climate--hell for society, eh? Hoch der Kaiser!"

The Germans threw back their heads and laughed boisterously.

"Make that beer a sandwich, will you? Here, Bill, bring me a slice of
cold beef and a cheese sandwich!"

The bartender opened a small ice chest and produced the desired edibles,
to which variation in their offered hospitality the two interposed no
objection, being in fact somewhat in awe of their intellectual, if not
distinguished, guest. As McCartney ate he produced a handful of
transparent dice.

"Ever see any dice like those?" he asked, rolling them across the wet
table. The first German examined them with approval.

"Dose is pooty, eh?" he remarked to his neighbor. "I trow you for die
Schnapps, eh?"

McCartney watched them covetously as they emptied the leathern shaker,
solemnly counting the spots at the conclusion of each cast.

"Here, let me show you how," volunteered their guest. "Poker hands." He
rattled the dice and poured them forth. They came up indiscriminately.

"Not so goot, eh?" commented the German. "I'll trow you. I'll trow
ennyboty mit _clear_ dice. Venn dey ain't loated I can trow mit
ennyboty." He held them up to the light. "Dese is clear--goot."

"Three times for a dollar," said McCartney.

"So," answered the German. He threw carefully, and counted two sixes, an
ace, a three, and a five. He left in the sixes and threw the others.
This time he got an ace and two fives. Once more he put them back, but
accomplished no better result.

"Now, I'll show you," said McCartney, and emptied the shaker. The dice
tumbled upon the table to the tune of two aces, two deuces, and a five.
He put back the deuces and the five and threw another ace, a three, and
a five.

"I win," he remarked. "You don't know how!"

"Vat's dot? Don't know how, eh!" roared the other. "I trow you for fife
dollars, see? Gif me dose leetle dice." He threw with a heavy bang that
shook the table. This time he got two sixes, two aces, and a five, and
put back the latter. Securing another ace he leaned back and took a
heavy draught of beer. "Full house! Beat dat eef you can!"

McCartney tossed the dice carelessly upon the board for two fours, one
ace, and two fives. To the amazement of the Germans, he left in the ace
and returned the other four to the shaker. This time he got two more
aces. His last throw gave him another ace and a five.

"Zum teuffel!" growled the German, thrusting his hand into his pocket
and drawing forth a dirty wad of bills. "Here, take your money!" He
handed McCartney six dollars.

"Kind sirs, good night," remarked McCartney, thrusting the bills into
his waistcoat pocket and arising from his place. "I must betake me
hence. Experience is the only teacher. Let me advise you never to play
games of chance with strangers."

The two Germans stared at him stupidly.

"You don't understand? Permit me. You saw the dice were not loaded? Very
good! You examined them? Very good again. Your powers of observation are
uncultivated, merely. The stern mother of invention--that is to say
necessity--has obeyed the law of evolution. Three of the dice in my
pocket bear no even numbers. The information is well worth your six
dollars. Again, good night."

"Betrüger!" cried the loser of the six dollars, arising heavily and
upsetting his beer. "Dot feller skivinded us mit dice geloaded! _Sheet!
Sheet!_"

They blundered toward the side entrance, while McCartney side-stepped
into an adjacent portal. Long Acre Square gleamed from end to end. Above
him an electric display, momentarily vanishing and reappearing, heralded
the attributes of the cigar sacred to the Scottish bard. Peering through
the haze generated by the countless lights a few tiny stars repaid
diligent search. A scanty number of pedestrians was abroad. The pantheon
of delights shone silent save for an occasional clanging car. The
Germans passed in search of an officer, excitedly jabbering about the
"sheet," their angry expressions reverberating along the concrete,
fading gradually into the hum of the lower town.

Then slowly into view crept one of those anachronisms of the
metropolis--a huge, shaggy horse slowly stalking northward, dragging a
rickety express wagon whereon reposed a semisomnolent yokel. Hitched by
its shafts to the tail of the wagon trailed a decrepit brougham
(destined, probably, for country-depot service), behind this a
debilitated Stanhope buggy, followed by a dogcart, a phaeton, a
buckboard, with last of all a hoodless Victoria. This picturesquely
mournful procession of vanished respectability staggered hesitatingly
past our hero, who regarded it with vast amusement. To his fanciful
imagination it appeared like the fleshless vertebræ of a sea serpent
slowly writhing into the obscurity of the night. Occasionally one of the
component dorsals would strike an inequality in the pavement and start
upon a brief frolic of its own, swinging out of line at a tangent until
hauled back into place again by the pull of the shaggy horse. Sometimes
all started in different directions at one and the same time, and the
semblance to a skeleton snake was heightened--even the ominous rattle
was not wanting. The Victoria looked restful to McCartney, whose legs
were always tired.

    "Why should we fret that others ride?
    Perhaps dull care sits by their side,
    And leaves us foot-men free!"

he hummed to himself, recollecting an old college glee.

"All the same that old bandbox looks not uncomfortable. How long is it
since I have used a cushion! Poverty makes a poor bedfellow!"

As the last equipage swung by, McCartney took a few steps in the same
direction and clambered in. He had become a "foot-man" in fact, but a
very undignified and luxurious one, who lay back with his feet crossed
against the box in front of him. Of all the lights on Broadway none
glowed so comfortingly for McCartney as the tip of his cigarette.

"My prayer is answered," he remarked softly to himself. "Thus do I
escape the 'monotonous feet.' Had I only Isabeau I should have attained
the height of human happiness--to have dined, to smoke, to ride on
cushions under the starlight, to have six dollars, and not to know
where one is going--a plethora of gifts. So I can spare Isabeau for the
nonce. Doubtless she would not particularly care for the delights of
locomotion."

Thus Voltaire sailed northward, noticed only by solitary policemen and
lonely wayfarers. Near Eightieth Street his eye caught the burning
circle of a clock pointing at half-past nine, and he stretched himself
and yawned again. They were passing the vestibule of an old church which
contrasted quaintly with the more ambitious modern architecture of the
neighborhood. From the interior floated out the gray unison of a hymn.
McCartney swung himself to the ground and listened while the skeleton
rattled up the avenue.

"Egad!" thought he, "yon prayerful folk are not troubled with my
disorder. Hell is for them what Jersey City is for me--a vital reality."

A woman, her head shrouded in a worn gray shawl, approached timidly and
stationed herself near the door. McCartney could see that she was
weeping and that she had a baby in her arms. He grumbled a bit to
himself at this business. It did not suit his fancy--his scheme. Having
planned a continuation of this night of comedy so auspiciously begun, he
disliked any incongruity.

"Broke?" he inquired without rising. The woman nodded.

"What's the matter?"

"Dan cleared out the flat and skipped yesterday afternoon. We've had
nothing to eat--me and the kid--all day."

"Let's look at your hands."

The woman held out a thin, rough, red hand. McCartney gave it a glance
and continued:

"What's your kid's name?"

"Catherine."

McCartney gazed at her intently.

"Look here, do you think those folks in there would help you?"

"I don't know. It's better than the Island."

"Don't try it," advised McCartney. "They'd think you were working some
game on 'em. Leave this graft to me."

The woman started back, half frightened, but McCartney's smile reassured
her.

"Here's yours on account." He handed her the five-dollar bill he had
secured from the Germans. "_I_ know how. _You_ don't. _You_ need it. _I_
don't." He waved aside her thanks. "Now go home, and, listen to me,
don't take Dan back--he's no good."

The woman hurried away, and with her departure silence fell again.

McCartney seated himself upon the curb and lit still another cigarette,
eying the door expectantly. Once he arose and dropped a piece of silver
into the poorbox inside the porch, listening intently to the loud rattle
it made in falling. It was clearly the sole occupant, for no answering
clink came in response.

    "Alas for the rarity
    Of Christian charity
      Under the sun,"

softly murmured McCartney.

"You will be lonely in there all by yourself, little one. Here's a
brother to keep you company," said he, pushing in another.

The hymn ceased and the congregation began to pass out. McCartney
retired into the darkness of a corner, scrutinizing every face among the
worshipers. Last of all came a little old man scuffling along with the
aid of a cane. His snowy beard gave him an aspect singularly benign.
McCartney laughed to himself.

"Grandpapa, I trust we shall become better acquainted," he remarked
under his breath, as he followed the old fellow down the street.

       *       *       *       *       *

The loud vibrations of the bell in the deserted rooms of the floor below
brought no immediate response, and instead of a brighter blaze of
hospitality, the light in the hall was hurriedly extinguished. McCartney
only pressed his thumb to the round receptacle of the bell the more
assiduously, repeating the process at varying intervals until the light
again illumined the door. A shadow hesitated upon the lace curtain, then
the door itself was slowly, doubtfully opened, and the old man shuffled
into the vestibule, peering suspiciously through the iron fretwork.
McCartney, without going too close--he knew well the dread of human
eyes, face to face--looked nonchalantly up and down the street,
realizing that he must give his quarry time to regain the
self-possession this midnight visit had shattered. After a pause the
bolt was shot and the door opened upon its chain.

"Was that you ringing? What do you want?"

"Yes, it was I who rang. I trust you'll excuse the lateness of my call.
It's imperative for me to see you."

"Who are you? And what do you want to see me about?"

"My name is Blake. Blake of the _Daily Dial_. It is a personal matter."

"Don't know you. Don't know any Blake. Don't read the _Dial_. What is
the personal matter?"

"For God's sake, sir, let me speak with you! It's a matter of life and
death. Don't deny me, sir. Hear me first."

The little old man closed the door a couple of inches.

"Want money, eh?"

"Help, sir. Only a word of sympathy. I've a dying child----"

"Can't you come round in the morning?"

"It will be too late then. I implore you to listen to me for only a few
moments. I've been waiting two hours upon the sidewalk for you to
return, and it's too late for me to go elsewhere."

The door opened sufficiently for the old man to thrust his face close to
the crack and inspect his visitor from head to heels. Evidently
McCartney's appearance and the manner of his speech had made an
impression which was now struggling with prudence and common sense. The
deacon, moreover, had a reputation to support. It would not do to turn
an applicant away who might be in dire extremity--and who might go
elsewhere and carry the tale with him.

"Won't a bed ticket do you, eh? And come in the morning?"

McCartney saw the vacillation in the other's mind.

"I'm sorry, but I must see you now, if at all. To-morrow might be too
late."

The owner of the house closed the door, unslipped the chain and
retreated inside the hall to the foot of the stairs, leaving the way
free for his visitor to follow. McCartney entered, hat in hand, and
shut the door behind him, catching at a glance the austerity of the
furniture and walls. To him every inch of the Brussels carpet, the
ponderous, polished walnut hatrack, the massive blue china stand with
its lonely umbrella and stout bamboo cane, and the heavily framed oil
copy of St. John spoke eloquently.

"I must ask your pardon again, sir, for disturbing you. But a man of
your character, as you have no doubt discovered, must suffer for the
sake of his reputation. I----"

McCartney swayed and seized a yellow-plush _portière_ for support. In a
moment he had regained control of himself--apparently.

"A touch of faintness. I haven't eaten since morning." He looked around
for a chair. The old man made a show of concern.

"Nothing to eat! Dear me! Well, well! Come in and sit down. Perhaps I
can find something."

Deacon Andrews led the way past the stairs and swung open the door to
the dining room. It had a musty smell, just a hint of the prison pen at
noon time, and McCartney shuddered. The old man disappeared into the
darkness, struck a sulphur match, a fact noted by his guest, and with
some difficulty lighted a gas jet in a grotesquely proportioned
chandelier. The gas, which had blazed up, he turned down to half its
original volume.

"There, sit down," said he, pointing to a mahogany chair shrouded in a
ticking cover, and settled himself in another on the opposite side of a
great desert of table. McCartney did as he was bidden, mentally
tabulating the additional facts offered to his observation by the
remainder of the room. There was evident the same bare vastness as in
the outer hall. Two more oils, one of mythological, the other of
religious purport, balanced each other over the wings of a huge black
carven sideboard. For the rest the yellow and brown wall paper repeated
itself interminably into the shadow.

"Feel better?" asked the deacon.

"Yes, much," answered McCartney. "I'm used to going without food. The
body can stand suffering better than the mind--and the heart."

"Let's try and fix up the body first," remarked the deacon, opening a
compartment beneath the sideboard. "Here, try some of these," and he
placed a plate of water biscuits upon the table.

McCartney essayed more or less successfully to eat one, while the old
man retreated into the pantry and, after a hollow ringing of water upon
an empty sink, returned with a thick tumbler of Croton.

"Good, eh? Nothing like plain flour food and Adam's ale! Now, what is it
you want to say? I must be getting to bed."

McCartney hastily swallowed the last of the biscuit and leaned forward.

"If I could be sure my dear wife and child could have this to-night, I
should be happy indeed. Oh, sir, poverty can be borne--but to see those
whom we love suffer and be powerless to help them--I can hardly address
myself to you, sir. I have never asked for charity before. I'm a
hard-working man. I had a good position, a little home of my own, and a
wife and child whom I loved devotedly. I care for nothing else in the
world. Then came the chance that ended so disastrously for us. I thought
it was the tide in my affairs, you know, that might lead on to fortune.
My wife was offered a position in a traveling company at sixteen
dollars a week, and they agreed to take me with them as press agent at
thirty-five--fifty dollars a week all told. Can you blame us?"

"I don't approve of play acting," said the deacon.

"Don't think the less of my wife for that. She meant it for the best."
McCartney's face worked and he brushed his eyes with the back of his
hand.

"Look here, what's the use wasting time," interrupted the deacon. "How
do I know who you are?"

"You have only my word, sir, that is true."

"What did you say you did for a living?"

"I'm a reporter. I live by my pen, sir, and I write articles on various
subjects for the newspapers. I have even written a very modest book. But
the modern public has crude taste in literature," sighed McCartney.

"Well, go on, now, and tell me about your trip or whatever it was," said
the deacon.

"I gave up for the time, as I said, the precarious livelihood of a space
writer. We sublet our rooms. I spent what little money I had saved upon
a costume for my wife, and we started out making one-night stands."

"What was the name of your play?" inquired the deacon abruptly.

"'The two Orphans,'" replied McCartney without hesitation. "We got along
well enough until we reached Rochester, and there the show broke
down--went to the wall. We were stranded, without a cent, in a
theatrical boarding house. My wife was taken down with pneumonia and
little Cathie----"

"Little what?" asked the deacon.

"Short for Catherine--caught the croup. We had nowhere to turn. I pawned
my watch to pay our board bill. We were sleeping in a single room--the
three of us. For days I tramped the streets of Rochester looking for
some work to do, but I was absolutely friendless and could find nothing.
My wife got a little better, but little Catherine seemed to grow worse.
I pawned my wife's wedding ring, all my clothes but those I have on,
even my baby's tiny little bracelet we bought for her on her second
birthday--O God, how I suffered! We talked it all over and decided that
as New York was the only place where I was known, I had better return
and earn enough money to send for them as soon as I could. The manager
let me use his pass back to the city. I reached here three days ago, but
I have found no work of any sort. Some of the press boys have shared
their meals with me, but for the moment I'm penniless. Meantime my wife
is lying sick in a strange household and my little girl may be dying!"
McCartney sobbed brokenly. "I'm at my last gasp. I've nowhere to sleep
to-night. No money to buy breakfast. I can't even pay for a postage
stamp to write to them!"

"What street did you stay in at Rochester?"

"1421 Maple Avenue," shot back McCartney. "I wish you could see my
little Catherine--she's such a tiny ball of sunshine. Every morning she
used to come and wake me, and say, 'Come, daddy, come to breaf-crust!'
She couldn't pronounce the word right--I hope she never will. She called
the little dog I gave her a fox 'terrial' dog. Some people say children
are all alike. If they could only see _her_--if she's still alive. Why
_I_ wouldn't give ten cents to live if I could only make sure Edith
would have enough to get along on and give Catherine a decent education.
I want that girl to grow up into a fine noble woman like her mother. And
to think the last time I saw her she was lying in a stuffy hall bedroom
in a third-class lodging house, her little forehead burning with fever,
with my poor sick wife stretched beside her, fearing to move lest she
should wake the child. She may be dead by this time, for I've had no
work for three days, and I've been able to send them nothing--nothing!
They may have been turned out into the streets, for the board bill was a
week overdue when I left them. Don't you see it drives me nearly mad?
I'm worse off a thousand times than if I stayed there with them.
Sometimes I think there can't be any God, for if there was He'd never
let me suffer so. And all for a little money--just because I can't pay
the fare back to my sick wife and dying baby--my poor, sweet, little
baby!"

McCartney's voice broke and he buried his haggard face on his arms. For
a moment or two neither spoke, then the deacon sighed deeply.

"You do seem to have had hard luck," he remarked awkwardly. McCartney
was still too overcome with emotion to reply.

"I reckon I'll have to break my rule and help you without references. I
don't believe in giving, as a rule, unless you know who you are giving
to."

He put his hand in his pocket.

"But I'll do it this time." He placed two quarters upon the table.

"There, half a dollar'll keep you nicely for a while. Of course, there's
no use sendin' money to Rochester. Your landlady can't turn sick folks
into the street, and if she does they can go to the hospital----"

He paused, startled by the look on McCartney's face, for the latter had
risen like an avenging angel, white and trembling. Pointing at the two
harmless coins, he cried:

"Is that your answer to the appeal of a starving man? Is that all your
religion has done for you? Is that how you obey your Lord's teachings?
'Cup of cold water' indeed! Cold water! Cold water! That's what you've
got instead of blood; you withered old epidermis! You miserable,
dried-up apology for a human being!" He paused for breath, sweeping the
room with indignant scorn.

"I know your kind! You old Christian Shylock! You bought those chromos
at an auction! You took that old sideboard for a debt--yes, a debt at
eighteen per cent interest. You don't pay a cent of taxes. You sing
psalms and bag your trousers with kneeling on the platforms at prayer
meetings and then loan out the church's money to yourself on worthless
securities. You're too mean to keep a cat, for the cost of her milk. You
read a penny newspaper and take books out of a circulating library. You
put a petticoat on these chairs so your miserly little body won't wear
out the seats."

The lean vagabond half shouted his anathema, the pallor of his face and
brow darkening red from the violence of his passion. It was the very
ecstasy of anger. Before it the little man with the white hair shrank
into himself, diminishing into his chair, seeking moral opportunity of
escape.

McCartney looked at the two coins contemptuously.

"Bah!" he exclaimed in disgust. "Half a dollar for a dying child and a
starving woman, to say nothing of a shelterless man!" He broke into a
mirthless laugh. "Allow me to return your generous answer to my
application for assistance. A code of morals of my own, which doubtless
you would not appreciate, compels me to restore what is obviously ten
times more precious to the donor than to the recipient."

He filliped the two coins across the table into the lap of his host, who
still crouched furtively with his head near the table.

"It makes me sick to look at you! Who could gaze without disgust upon
the spectacle of an ossified creature like yourself, creeping through
bare, deserted old age toward a grave mortgaged to the devil? Ugh! It is
the horridest spectacle I have seen in a month."

"You're mad!" muttered the old man with hoarse fearfulness.

"Sometimes, but not now!" retorted McCartney. "I'll hold my evening
session for Misers a moment longer. I pity you, Lord Pinhead Penurious!
I pity you that you should have gone through life, a small term of say
sixty years, in such stupidity. Sixty years of grubbing, of weighing
meat and adding figures, of watching the prices fools pay for stocks,
and how many days of _life_? How many good deeds? Oh, marvelous lack of
wit! What know you of real happiness? Let me introduce myself, since
you're so blind. What do you think I am, my good old Noddy Numbskull?"

"Crazy!" gasped the old man. "Do be quiet! Let me get you something more
to eat."

"A thief, at your service. Oh, don't start! I'll not carry away your
mahogany sideboard nor your bronze chandelier. I steal only to keep
myself in purse--to eat. You dig to add to the column of figures in your
pass book. I walk among the gods. My brain is worth twenty gray bags
like yours. I have thoughts and dreams in terms to you unintelligible. I
can live more in a week than haply you have done in the course of your
whole crawling existence. What do you know of the spirit? Behind your
altar sits a calf of gold. You grovel before it and slip out at the
bottom the shekels you drop in at the top. To you the moon will always
be made of green cheese, that 'orbed maiden with white fire laden'! Your
hands are callous from counting money, your brain is----"

The old fellow arose. "Leave my house! Get out of here!"

He was an absurd figure, not more than five feet high, in his black
broadcloth suit and string tie, as he faced McCartney's blazing eyes,
and the latter laughed at him.

"I will fast enough. But you see I'm having a sensation--_living_. I'm
doing good. Oh, yes, I am. If not to you, at least to myself. Do you
think I'll ever forget little 'Cathie'? God! How I could have loved a
real child! And I've only a cat." He laughed again. "I don't blame you
for thinking me crazy--even you. Come, now, wasn't my picture of the
phthisic wife and moaning child worth a place on the line--I mean,
wasn't it good, eh? Worth more than two beggarly quarters? It gave me a
thrill--what I need--it'll keep me alive for another twenty-four hours,
without this." He held up a nickel-plated hypodermic syringe. It shone
in the gaslight, and the old man started back and held out his hands.

"Don't shoot!" he cried in senile terror.

"Carrion!" cried McCartney. "Why do I waste my time on you? Why? Because
I'm in your debt. I owe you little Catherine. I shall never forget her.
And you, you--you are her foster father! God forbid!"

The old man sat down resignedly at the extreme side of the table.

"By God, I pity you!" exclaimed the lean man. "Do you hear that? _I_
pity _you_--_I_!--a wretched, drugged, wilted, useless bundle of nerves
twisted into the image of a man; a chap born with a silver spoon, with
gifts, who tossed them all into the gutter--threw 'a pearl away richer
than all his tribe'; a miserable creature who can't live without this"
(he pressed the needles into his wrist), "and yet I wouldn't change with
you! I'm more of a man than you. My very wants are sweeter than any joys
your brutish senses can ever feel.

    "O would there were a heaven to hear!
    O would there were a hell to fear!
    Dear Son of God, in mercy give
    My soul to flames, but let me live!

"You don't know what that means! Haven't the vaguest idea. You're a
mummy. You'll be the same ten thousand years from now. I suppose you
think I made it up, eh?

    "I am discouraged by the street,
    The pacing of monotonous feet.

"That's all _you_ want. You couldn't understand anything else, and yet
it's my torture, and my salvation!"

The glow came back into McCartney's eyes and he repeated:

"Yes, that picture of little Catherine was worth more than two quarters.
It ought to have been good for twenty dollars. It's worth more than that
to me."

McCartney's voice had grown strong and clear.

The old fellow looked at him sharply and changed his tone. He must get
this madman out of his house. He must humor him.

"Come, come, that's all right. Cheer up! Why, I had a little girl of my
own once."

McCartney pierced him through and through with swimming eyes.

"And her memory was only worth two miserable quarters? You lie, you
wretched old man, you lie!"

The old fellow started back. The door banged. McCartney was gone.



THE MAN HUNT


I


      _Note._--Action takes place about the year 1915.

Ralston strode briskly up Fifth Avenue, conscious all about him of the
electric pressure of War. It was six o'clock--the hour when the hard
outlines of the tops of office buildings and the prosaic steeples of
contemporary religion, flushed with rose, and "fretted with golden
fire," melt with a glow of unreality into the darkening blue. Here and
there in the eastern sky tiny points trembled elusively, and a molten
crescent followed him along the housetops, its pale disk growing each
instant brighter.

Wheel traffic on the avenue, between the hours of nine and seven, had
been suspended, and many pedestrians preferred the icy inequality of the
street to the crowds upon the pavements. For the most part the movement
was northward, meeting at the corners transverse streams of clerks and
salesgirls jostling one another, arm in arm, down the side streets. Here
and there could be seen an officer in service coat, with sword dangling
beneath, and occasional knots of soldier boys in the uniform of the
National Guard.

A little lad with an air of vast importance ran just ahead of Ralston,
unlocking the bases of the electric lights and, in some mysterious way,
turning them on. To his intense gratification he had succeeded in
distancing his fellow across the way by half a block. Above the shuffle
of feet could be heard the cries of the newsmen, "Extra! Extra!
President calls for twenty new regiments! Latest extra! Twelfth to the
front." These, clutching huge bundles of papers to their breasts, hurled
themselves against the tide of humanity, appearing from all directions
and sweeping down like vultures upon any individual wayfarer so
unfortunate as to have his hand momentarily in his pocket. Their bundles
quickly disappeared. Then they would run panting to the corners where
the paper wagons were in waiting. It was a scene full of inspiration to
Ralston, but it impressed him that, after all, the crowd seemed
primarily interested in its own affairs--its business, its cold ears,
its suppers.

For the newspapers the war had created a fierce, insatiable public maw.
Circulations sprang by leaps into the millions. Extras followed one
another by minutes. For the people in the shops it meant night work and
longer hours; for society, something new to talk about; for the
theaters, packed houses which roared at topical songs in which "war"
rhymed with "bore," "rations" with "nations," "company" with "bump any,"
"foes" with "toes," "sword" with "board," and gloried in "Eddie" Foy and
"Jo" Weber dressed as major generals. "Light Cavalry" and "Dixie" had
superseded all other selections upon the musical programmes, and special
rows of seats were reserved for "officers in uniform." The bars were
jammed, traveling men sat in more thickly serried ranks than usual in
the hotel windows, and Slosson's Billiard Parlors were lined with
standing spectators. The commercial life of the city boiled over. Only
the brokers came home early.

As Ralston entered Madison Square he found himself entangled in a dense
throng wedged around an improvised scaffolding, upon which was displayed
the electric-lighted bulletin of one of the big dailies. A man in a
yellow-and-black-striped sweater was rapidly painting with a brush upon
a blackboard in some white liquid the latest marching orders:

     "_Twelfth Regiment leaves via Penn. R. R. to-morrow 7 A.M._"

     "_Terrible Riots in Tokio._"

     "_R. W. Ralston appointed Second Assistant Secretary of
     the Navy._"

As he fought his way through the crush he heard his name repeated on all
sides, and a strange exaltation took possession of him. He had a curious
desire to call out: "Yes. I'm Ralston! The Ralston up there! I'm he!
That one! I'm Ralston!"

He felt like a prince suddenly called from seclusion to rule his people.
He was going to do things which these garlic-breathing folk would spell
out and marvel at. How often his name would flash across the square or
play duskily upon the curtains at the theaters, linked with generals and
"fighting" admirals. He laughed with the joy of it, that he, the
settled-down man of the world, the hunter, the manager of estates, the
student of literature, the lover of poetry, was going to play the
popular hero.

He broke through the outer ring of the crowd and made for the park. A
huge flag draped the porch of the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The flush in the
west had faded to a streaky white and the stars had sprung from behind
their curtains. A white beam of light played steadily from the tower of
the Garden into the north. When it should swing to the south actual
hostilities would have commenced. All the windows in the office
buildings gleamed with activity. As he looked back he could see the man
in the sweater erasing his name with a sponge, and his heart sank with
momentary disappointment. Some new thing was coming over the wires hot
with the fire of war. At the same moment he heard up the avenue the
faint tapping of drums and the shriek of the fifes.

A line of mounted police burst into the square. The throng in front of
the bulletin board surged over to the park. Then with a clash of cymbals
and a prolonged rattle from the drums a full band burst into "There'll
be a Hot Time in the Old Town To-night." The regimental flags came into
view. In the light of the stars, in the dying of the day, in the moment
of his exaltation, Ralston recognized the colors of his old regiment.
Had he chosen he might have been marching at the head of his company
even then. The crowd, cheering, forced him to the curb and into the
street. With brimming eyes he doffed his hat and saluted the colors.

As he did so a sudden wild yell went up from the multitude. From one
side of the square to the other reigned pandemonium. The very sound of
the band was drowned in the uproar. From the top of the Flatiron
Building a stream of rockets broke into the sky, and with a single
movement the throng turned and gazed tensely at the Garden Tower, as the
white shaft of light slowly swung into the south.



II


The little white house on East Twenty-fifth Street was ablaze with light
as Ralston eagerly mounted the low stoop and pressed the bell. The
visitor knocked the slush from his overshoes, slapped the left pocket of
his coat as if to make certain that something was still safely there,
stepped quickly across the threshold when the butler opened the door,
handed the man his hat, threw off his fur coat upon an ebony chair, and
only paused, and that but for a moment, at the entrance of the
drawing-room. He was a tall, clean-built, brisk young man, thoroughly
American in type, with an alert face, which, if not handsome, was
nevertheless agreeable and attractive--a man, in a word, whom one would
not hesitate to address upon the street, provided the question was
pertinent and the information essential.

It was clear from his manner that he was no stranger, but to-day there
were more women than usual at Miss Evarts's Monday afternoon, and the
lights and chatter seemed a bit confusing to one whose mind was charged
with the importance of a newly acquired responsibility. Miss Evarts was
an old friend of his mother's, who, somewhat to his amused annoyance,
took it upon herself to assume toward him a sort of sisterly attitude,
which allowed her the privileges of relationship without prejudice to a
certain degree of elderly sentiment. Attendance upon her selectly
Bohemian gatherings was a duty which he performed when in town, with a
regularity attributable less to a regard for Miss Evarts herself than to
the fact that Ellen Ferguson was usually to be found there presiding
over the tea table and ready for a brisk walk uptown afterwards.

"Ha! There he is now!" exclaimed a middle-aged man, with iron-gray hair
and pointed mustaches, as the newcomer parted the _portières_.

The group about the warrior turned with one accord and stared, at
present teacups, in his direction.

"Good afternoon, ladies and soldier," said Ralston. "I am the
torchbearer of war. Firing has begun. The searchlight on the Garden is
leveled south--like the lance of the horseman on the tower in Irving's
'Legend of the Arabian Astrologer.'"

The colonel set down his cup and pulled his mustaches with a heavy
frown. He took pains to let it be seen that he was overcome with
conflicting emotions--that stern duty summoned him from home and dear
ones, but that his heart was throbbing to avenge his country's honor.
They all looked toward him as if expecting a few appropriate remarks.
The colonel's hands trembled, the veins upon his forehead swelled, and
he seemed about to speak. Then he did.

"You don't say!" he remarked.

There was a sigh of disappointment from the ladies, and in the hiatus
which followed Miss Evarts shook hands with Ralston and introduced him
to the others as "the newly appointed secretary, you know." Which, or
what of, she did not disclose.

"I always thought Ralston was cast for a topliner," continued the
hostess, as he modestly evaded their congratulations.

"It's about time I left the chorus," answered her guest, adapting his
language to Miss Evarts's open predilection for the footlights.

"Kicked your way up?" inquired, in a hoarse voice, a stout lady of stage
traditions, who was clad in a wall-paper effect of gay brocade.

"My dear Mrs. Vokes, don't judge everybody by your own professional
experience," remarked a young lady in brown, whose aquiline features
were accounted "perfectly lovely" by a large suburban, theater-going
public.

"Come! Come!" interrupted Miss Evarts loudly. "Miss Warren, order
yourself more humbly before your betters."

The two popular favorites glared at one another defiantly.

"Well, in any event, Colonel Duer, he'll soon be giving you your sealed
orders," said Miss Evarts, thus disposing of a situation which might
have become awkward.

"Not unless the colonel gets a transfer. I'm steering the navy, not the
army," laughed Ralston.

"The man behind!" murmured Mrs. Vokes.

Ralston bowed. "Very good, Mrs. Vokes," said he. "Yes, too far behind!"

"The navy, of course," Miss Evarts corrected herself, letting fall a
lump of sugar and following it with an attenuated rivulet of cream.
"Just a drop, as usual?"

"Did you read the President's proclamation?" asked a young girl in a
gray picture hat. "Wasn't it splendid?"

"Mr. Ralston will probably write the next one," interjected another.

"No, only correct the proof," amended the hostess.

"And point it with 'Maxims'?" ventured the Vokes, now restored to
complete good humor.

"Very sweet of you, Mrs. Vokes," said Ralston, recognizing the
artificial dove of theatrical peace.

"You leave very soon, don't you, colonel?" asked Miss Evarts. "Is your
kit-bag ready?"

"Yes, we leave by the Pennsylvania, at seven o'clock. The armory's a
perfect bedlam. It looks as if every man in New York had collected all
his worldly goods and chattels and dumped them on the tan bark," replied
the colonel.

"The confusion must be something delightful. I suppose you have plenty
of canned peaches?" inquired the brown girl innocently. "I understand
that they are the staple food of heroes."

"They're certainly an indispensable stage property," admitted the
colonel with something of an effort, recalling various evaporated
valiants of the Cuban campaign.

During this profound discussion Ralston's eyes had been wandering from
group to group, and at this moment the object of their search herself
joined the party upon the other side of the table.

"Have another cup of tea, Ellen," urged Miss Evarts.

"I can't, positively, Aunt Bess," responded the girl; "I must go
presently."

"How are things?" said the girl in brown, looking significantly at the
colonel. "Have all your officers turned up?"

"Ye-es," he replied. "Constructively."

"Constructively?" persisted his inquisitor. "What a queer way to be
present! Rather bad for an officer in a swell regiment to be dilatory,
isn't it?"

"Every man has shown up," replied the rather nettled veteran, "except
one, and he'll be along, all right."

"Oh, of course!" murmured the girl. "By the way, have you seen John
Steadman? My cousin Fred, you know, is an officer in the same company,
and he said last night at dinner that he hadn't seen him at the armory.
Some one was mean enough to suggest that these ferocious military men
aren't always 'warlike.'"

"There are no tin soldiers in my regiment," answered the colonel
severely, turning for reënforcement to Mrs. Vokes.

Ellen Ferguson bit her lip, flashed a glance at the girl in brown and
pulling her chinchilla boa into place departed with her nose in the air
toward the next room. She paused for a moment to read the faded
inscription, framed and hanging beneath an old cavalry saber on the
opposite wall, then turning toward Ralston, raised her eyebrows
inquiringly as if to ask how long he was going to occupy himself with
fat old ladies and cheap actresses, and vanished. But the brown girl
turned her guns on Ralston again before he could get away.

"I didn't know you had any drag at Washington," she remarked. "Who have
you got on your staff--a senator or just a common garden M.C.?"

"Neither," he answered politely. "I don't know either of our senators,
and I couldn't name a single congressman from the State."

"And then you have been away so long," added Miss Evarts. "Why, it's
eight months, isn't it? If you ever had any pull I should think it would
have faded away long ago."

"I was certainly the most surprised of all," said Ralston. "I haven't a
blessed qualification for the job. I suppose the fact that I've just
come from the Philippines and have seen something of the Asiatic
Squadron may have had a little to do with it."

"For the navy as against the army, perhaps," said the brown girl. "But
it doesn't explain your getting an appointment in the first place. You
must be a politician in sheep's clothing."

"Well, to be perfectly frank," answered Ralston, seeing that he was in
for it, "a year ago last September, when I was shooting out at Jackson's
Hole, I ran across the President and saw something of him for a week or
so. I was able to help him in a matter of no importance, and you know he
isn't the kind that forgets anything. He's a good fellow!"

"Just like him," commented the young lady. "Now, why didn't he give it
to my brother George, who got nervous prostration making stump speeches
for him at the last election?"

"Oh, I admit it's entirely undeserved, but I must plead guilty to being
glad of a branch office in the White House and of a chance to be one of
the boys in the conning tower," answered Ralston.

"Well, you're only an assistant secretary, anyway," said the girl. "I'm
green with jealousy as it is. But aren't you sorry not to be going with
your old company?"

"Don't!" he exclaimed. "You make me feel as if I belonged to the Home
Guard. Honestly, I'd rather be back with the regiment, but, you see, I
had served my five years ages before you were born. I ought to give the
younger fellows a chance."

"I see," said the girl. "When do you go?"

"To-morrow morning at ten. I reach Washington in time to dine at the
White House."

Several of the women arose and the group about the table gradually
drifted away. The crowd was thinning out. Ralston, knowing very well
that Ellen would be waiting for him, mumbled something to Miss Evarts
and escaped.

"Well!" he exclaimed, entering the other room, and seizing her hands as
she stood with her back to the fire. "Pretty good, isn't it?"

"I should say it was!" she cried delightedly. "Why, Dick, it's the
chance of your life. If you make good only a little bit you may get
anywhere. It's perfectly splendid! I'm so glad!"

Genuine pleasure shone in her eyes. Ralston's heart beat faster. Of
course she cared for him. She must care for him. There was a tide in the
affairs of men which, taken at the flood-- He stepped closer and bent
his head toward hers.

"Nell--" he began.

But she apparently was not listening, and the glad look had quickly
given place to another. He paused, wondering at the change. Her dark
eyes, with their Oriental, upturned corners, were half veiled and her
high-arched brows were contracted in a frown. He drew back and pulled
out his cigarette case.

"Dick," she cried suddenly, "I want to tell you something! I'm sorry to
bother you when you're so happy, and I'm so proud of you, but I'm
terribly worried about something."

"Dear! Dear!" laughed Ralston, striking a match and seeing that his
opportunity had somehow vanished. "What's up? Been losing at bridge?"

She smiled faintly.

"Don't make fun of me," she replied. "No, I'm really bothered." She put
her hand to her forehead and pushed back her hair. "I'm afraid one of my
friends isn't-- Oh, I don't know how to explain it!"

A momentary suspicion flashed across his mind.

"Do you think I ought to go to the front?" he asked, relieved.

She gave a little laugh.

"You? What a goose! Of course not!"

Ralston experienced a shock of disappointment.

"What is it, then?"

"Dick," said she in quick, subdued tones, "I can't help speaking about
it, and you're the best friend I've got. It's about John."

Ralston moved uneasily.

"John Steadman?"

"We're old friends, you know."

"Yes, I remember."

"I don't suppose you've seen him?"

"Not since I came back. Before that, often."

Ellen again passed her hand wearily across her forehead and turned
abruptly away from the fire. The action was unconscious, involuntary. He
had never associated Ellen with Steadman.

"What is it?" he asked sympathetically.

"Oh, nothing definite. Only he's been a little irregular of late. I
haven't seen him for over a week. I don't think anybody has."

"He's a captain in the Twelfth, isn't he?"

"Yes. O Dick! You heard what that spiteful Warren girl said about tin
soldiers?"

"Of course. Nonsense!"

"I can't help it. It's _Honor_, you know!"

"You mean you think he mayn't turn up?"

"I can't--I won't think that."

"But he hasn't?--and they're beginning to talk?"

"You heard for yourself."

"Oh, _that_!"

"Some people never live down less."

"But if he does turn up, why there's an end to it," he said.

"But why isn't he here?" she cried.

"How do I know? He may be on a business trip."

"Of course I thought of that," she replied.

"Oh, he'll be there, all right, when the time comes."

She began arranging her furs. One thing Ralston always admired about her
was her care in dress. He did not know how few clothes she really had.
She seemed always elegantly, if not luxuriously, clad.

They strolled slowly toward the door.

"Well," he said, "I'm awfully sorry you're upset. I'm sure he'll turn up
all right. A man couldn't afford not to. Don't worry. If there was
anything that I could do, no matter what, you know I'd be glad to do it
for your sake, Ellen."

"Thank you, Dick. I know that," she answered.

"Well, good-by," said he. "Say good night to Miss Evarts for me, will
you? I've got to run. I'm late for dinner as it is."

She gave him her hand and he held it for a moment. As he did so he
looked her full in the face.

"Ellen," said he, "tell me something. Do you care about--Steadman?"

She turned her head slightly from him before replying. Then she looked
back again and answered hesitatingly:

"I think--I care."

As she spoke the words she withdrew her hand. Then she flushed and her
eyes brightened.

"Dick," she said slowly, in a voice that trembled a little, "I _know_ I
care."

The _portières_ fell behind him. Mechanically he put on his overcoat and
left the house, pausing for a moment at the top of the steps. A little
smile hovered on his lips, but his eyes were very sad.



III


Ralston walked as far as the Twenty-eighth Street subway station, where
he caught a local for Forty-second Street. Thence he hurried to
Delmonico's. It was now seven o'clock, and already the restaurant was
nearly full.

"Philip, have you seen Mr. Scott?" he asked of the doorman.

"In the palm room, Mr. Ralston," answered the servant at once. "The head
waiter told me to say that your dinner was ready."

Ralston checked his coat, and soon caught sight of his newly engaged
private secretary at a small table in a corner. They shook hands, and
Scott pointed to a pile of letters and papers beside him.

"This stuff came while you were out. I thought I'd better bring it along
to save time."

"Good!" commented Ralston. "What is most of it?"

"Eight letters of congratulation, which I listed. A long letter from
some old lady friend of yours when you were in Exeter----"

"I know--Mrs. Gorringe."

"Then that power of attorney from Bee, Single & Quick, that you
expected. Oh, I don't know--a lot of circulars: 'Red Cross,' 'Special
Relief,' 'Society for Assisting Wives and Children of Enlisted Men.'"

"Send 'em twenty-five apiece."

Mr. Scott took out his notebook and made an entry.

"How about that power of attorney?"

"It seemed all right. I don't know. We never had anything just like it
in the law school."

Ralston burst out laughing.

"How old are you, Jim?"

"Twenty-five."

"Well, just wait ten years, and if you ever see a legal paper that looks
like anything but a page out of Doomsday call my attention to it, will
you?"

"Well, it's got a seal, anyway."

"How about those antelope heads from Livingston that were being
mounted?"

"Wilcox telephoned they'd be shipped to-morrow."

By this time the soup had arrived, and both fell to with appetites born
of a hard day's labor. The waiters were apparently serving "extras" with
every course, and more than half the men at the tables were in uniform.
Flags hung everywhere, and at each plate a _papier-maché_ cannon held
the customary bonbons. In the extreme eastern corner the Hungarians were
playing "Dixie," "Old Kentucky Home," "Maryland," "Star-Spangled
Banner," "Suwanee River," "A Hot Time," and other patriotic airs, one
after the other, the conclusion of each being marked by loud applause
from all sides.

"Isn't it great!" exclaimed Scott. "You know my governor thinks my going
down with you is out of sight. He'd hate to have me enlist. Of course,
I'd rather really, but in the long run I fancy there'll be more doin'
right in Washington."

"You'll be busy, all right," said Ralston. "Has Thompson packed all the
trunks?"

"Sure; ages ago."

"And did you buy the tickets?"

Scott produced the tickets with obvious pride.

"Well, you're satisfactory so far. By the way, what are you going to do
to-night?"

"Mrs. Patterson's theater party--'The Martial Maid.'"

"And you skipped the dinner?"

"To dine with my chief. Orders, you know. Duty before pleasure."

"Good boy!" said Ralston. "How did you fix it?"

"Why, I spoke to Ellen and she managed it for me. Of course, if it was
for you anything would go with her. Isn't she a stunner?"

"You spoke to Ellen, did you? Well, you have a confidence born of your
newly acquired elevation. I saw her at Miss Evarts's this afternoon. She
didn't mention you, however."

"Do you know a fellow named Steadman?" continued Scott. "Good-looking
chap, but a 'weak sister,' I think."

"Yes, I know him. Why?"

"Oh, nothing. He's around with her a good deal."

"Well?"

"Well, I hate to see a girl like that throw herself away, that's all,"
burst out the secretary with energy.

"Why, Steadman used to be a decent fellow enough," said Ralston,
thinking rapidly. "Anything the matter with him that you know of?"

"He bats an awful lot."

"Something new?"

"Yes; within six months. Uncle died and left him a lot of loose change.
He's been blowing it in."

"How? Of course, it's on the quiet?"

"Oh, yes! He's at church every Sunday."

"Yesterday?"

"No. I meant metaphorically."

By eight o'clock dinner had been entirely served, and Scott had received
all his instructions.

"Guess I'll step over to the Pattersons' now for a short cigar," he
remarked, "and pick up the crowd. See you to-morrow at eight-thirty."

"Good night. Have a good time," called Ralston after him, as the
youthful figure passed out. He was very fond of Scott. He wondered if
what the boy had said about Steadman was true. A fellow could go down a
lot in six months, or in less. Steadman had always had a weakness.
Ralston had never liked him, though forced to be in his company on many
occasions.

"I'll smoke at the room," he thought, and paid his bill. "I'm going off
to Washington, William, so I'd better settle," he remarked to the old
waiter.

From Delmonico's he crossed the avenue, walked north for two blocks, and
turned into his rooms, which were situated in a small, new bachelor
apartment house. He found everything in confusion and Thompson hard at
work packing books.

He shed his frock coat for a smoking jacket, and took his seat at a low
desk with a drop light, having brought his letters with him from the
restaurant. First he rapidly answered his notes of congratulation,
following a set form, then hastily read the power of attorney from his
lawyers, and signed it, after which he O. K.'d a pile of bills, gave
some instructions to Thompson about his library, wrote a long letter to
his mother, who was spending the winter in Italy, then took up the
letter from the "old lady in Exeter," and threw himself back into a
chair before the fire.

It was eighteen years since he had seen her, the woman who had kept the
boarding house in which he had lived at school--who had mended his
clothes, lent him small sums of money, brought him his meals when sick,
served him for a temporary mother, lied for him when necessary, and been
rewarded with the real affection of her young lodger. This was the first
letter she had ever written him. In the left-hand corner of the white,
blue-lined paper was an embossed reproduction of the State House in
Boston, and the shaking penmanship filled every inch of space and ran
back to the front page again.

      EXETER, March 5, 19--.

      DEAR RICHARD

      You must forgive an old woman calling you Richard, who
      worked so hard for you when you was a boy. You must be
      quite a man by this time to be made Secretary of the
      Navy as I was told by Deacon Stillwater. I am proud of
      you, Richard, and so is everybody here, that one of my
      boys should rise so high, whom I never thought of
      except throwing apples at Mrs. Abbott's goat and
      playing baseball in the middle of the street. I was
      hoping to hear from you that you had married some
      lovely young lady in New York. Don't put it off too
      long. If you are not going to fight you would not even
      have to wait until after the war. I am glad you are
      not going to fight and yet will serve the country.
      Think how long it is since I lost my dear husband at
      Antietam--nearly fifty years. I am an old woman,
      Richard, and shall not live long. I am going to leave
      you my chest of drawers with brass handles you used to
      like--you remember you used to keep chestnuts in the
      bottom. Be a good boy. If you can spare the time from
      your duties I shall be pleased to hear from you.

      Your old friend,

      SARAH GORRINGE.

"Dear old soul!" he sighed, staring into the fire. "What a brute I am
never to have written to her after all she did for me. The good woman's
reward!"

For nearly a half hour he sat thinking of his life at Exeter and of the
changes time had wrought in his existence. Then he arose, carefully
selected some writing materials, and wrote for some time without
finishing his letter. Once he got up, crossed to the fire and studied
for several minutes a photograph which stood on the mantel, after which
he took a few strides around the room and returned to his task.

Twenty minutes later he laid down his pen, and taking the pile of
manuscript in his lap read it over carefully. The last paragraph he
reread several times. Then he placed the whole thing in an envelope and
addressed it--to Exeter, New Hampshire. The little clock on the mantel
pointed to half-past nine as he took off his smoking jacket and called
for his coat and hat. He was tired--very tired--but something made him
restless.

"I'm going to the club for a while," he said to his valet. "I'll be back
in half an hour. Call a hansom."

He waited with his back to the fire, still smoking.

"Second Assistant Secretary to the Navy!" he muttered. "Not bad for
thirty-four! . . . But what does it amount to? . . . What does anything
amount to? . . . Who really cares? . . . It's like making the 'varsity
or your senior society. . . . You always think there's some one--or that
there may be some one . . ."

"Cab's here, sir," said his man.

Ralston gathered up the mail and started down the stairs. At the curb
stood a hansom, the driver cloaked in a heavy waterproof. A fine rain
had begun to fall, making the light from a nearby street lamp seem dim
and uncertain. As Ralston stepped toward the lamp-post to mail his
letters he observed a diminutive messenger boy vainly trying to decipher
the address upon a telegram, which he was holding to the light. Ralston
pushed the letters into the box and closed it with a slam.

"Does Mr. Ralston live here?" asked the boy.

"Right here!" answered Ralston, holding out his hand.

"Please sign."

He scrawled an apology for a signature upon the damp page of the book
and tore the end off the envelope. Then, like the boy, he held the
yellow paper to the light. It bore but nine words:

      Please try to find John for my sake.--E.

He read the words several times and repeated them aloud, as if in doubt
as to their meaning. "Find Steadman!" Where? Find him! How? Why? . . .

The messenger boy had started away, whistling shrilly "Marching Through
Georgia." Ralston wrinkled his forehead. Here was irony of Fate for you!
She called upon him to save the honor of this man, whom he hardly knew,
for whom he cared not a whit, whom by this time he had begun to hate, to
save him--for her. He stood motionless in the rain, the telegram hanging
limply from his fingers. He had not seen Steadman for nine months. Knew
practically nothing of him except from clubroom gossip. And Ellen asked
him to find the man for her, in the seething life of the city--find him
in such a way that, wherever found, his honor would be safe, find him
secretly, surely, and place him upon his feet at the head of his company
before the next morning at seven o'clock. He crumpled the paper into
his pocket and turned to the waiting driver.

"Just drive down the avenue slowly."

"Yes, sir."

He climbed in and threw himself back upon the seat.

"Something of a large order, my dear young lady," he muttered. "If your
attractive friend is to be found, it must be done without publicity. It
would be a great deal worse to find him where he ought not to be, than
not to find him at all. There are many cycles in New York's Inferno. If
it were not for that, my old friend Inspector Donahue could send out a
general alarm and turn him up before daylight. But that won't--no, that
won't do. He's got to be located on the quiet and put into shape to
march respectably off with his company.

"By George!" he exclaimed aloud, "only a woman would think of asking a
chap to set out on such a wild-goose chase! But then I don't suppose she
realizes. She thinks he's playing billiards at the club, or something
like that, maybe!" He set his teeth.

"If she only knew!" he muttered. "Why didn't I speak a little sooner!"

"She _thought_ she cared. . . . She _knew_ she cared!" he whispered to
himself. Then he laughed rather grimly.

And one who had happened to glance into the cab at that moment, as it
passed a lamp, would have seen the gaunt face of a man smiling behind
the tip of a cigar. Farther down the avenue another would have seen the
same face without the cigar--without the smile.

"Jerry's!" said Ralston sharply, through the manhole.

The driver jerked the reins, wheeled his horse round abruptly, and
started on a brisk trot through Forty-fourth Street. Then turning
quickly down Sixth Avenue, he brought the hansom to a sudden stop in
front of a restaurant whose electric lights flared valiantly into the
rain and mist.

There were three doors, but Ralston, without pausing, passed into the
hostelry through the middle one. The cabman waited without orders, well
aware that those who frequent Jerry's presumably desire the means of
transportation therefrom. A bar ranged opposite an oyster counter gave a
narrow passage to the dining room. At the end of the bar was a cashier's
desk.

The after-theater crowd had not yet arrived, it was too late for dinner
guests, and few tables were occupied. Ralston, however, had not expected
to find Steadman there. As he reached the desk a well-built, red-cheeked
Irishman stepped forward.

"How are you, Mr. Ralston? Congratulations!"

Our friend grasped the hand of the other cordially.

"How are you, Jerry?"

"You're a bit of a stranger."

"Yes. Something like a year. Been out looking over the Philippines."

"Not so good as the little old place?"

"I should say not. By the way, sit down over here a minute. I want to
speak with you."

Jerry led the way to the rear of the restaurant and offered Ralston a
chair. Then he drew up across the table, while the latter put him a few
brief questions.

"Well, that's what I wanted," said Ralston, as they arose. "Yes, I
remember now, he used to know her. I'll try it!"

"I'm afraid it's the only tip I can give you, Mr. Ralston."

"Thank you very much, Jerry. Remember, now. I haven't seen you--no
matter what happens."

"Not a word!"

"Good night."

"Good night, sir."

Ralston crossed the sidewalk and sprang into the cab.

"The Moonshine--stage," said he shortly.



IV


The party of which Ellen Ferguson was a member did not leave Sherry's
until a comparatively late hour, and, while she was in no mood for
gayety, anything which could fill the hours pending news of Steadman was
a relief. She had found pleasure in talking to Jim Scott, that
good-natured, immature, and loyal son of old Harvard, who had hardly
opened his mouth the entire evening save in eulogy of his new chief.
From the time they had left the house in the omnibus to the moment she
had been deposited at her apartments he had not ceased his pæan of
praise. Ralston was a "corker," a "crackajack," it was a great thing to
be going to work with a man like that--a fellow who had done things, not
one of your sit-in-the-club-window-and-have-a-little-drink style of
chappies (this with a significant glance at a certain Mr. Teadle who
made one of the party), but one who could use a rifle or write a book
with equal skill.

Mr. Teadle saw no particular reason for Ralston's appointment? Jim
supposed sarcastically that the only proper candidate _would_ have been
an absinthe-drinking scribbler of anæmic little poems. For a short time
it looked as if Jim were going to utilize Mr. Teadle as a mop, until
Ellen came to the rescue by entering into a violent flirtation with the
new secretary, who furtively wondered if she really cared for that
Steadman fellow, after all. Miss Ferguson, on her side, like the boy
immensely, but did not stop to analyze her reasons. His freshness and
enthusiasm were enough to account for the attraction.

The Moonshine Theater had suggested a ludicrous parody of Brussels on
the eve of Waterloo, and Scott had loudly regretted that his job did not
carry a uniform with it. There were whole rows of them in the orchestra
and the gallery. For a finale the chorus sang the "Star-Spangled
Banner"--all up, of course, with the whole house cheering and waving
hats and handkerchiefs. Tears were in Ellen's eyes as the party made
their way out of the box, along the side of the house, to the entrance
where the omnibus was waiting. They had piled in, and then, just as they
had started--_Ralston!_

How strange that she should cross him in this fashion at such an hour!
Could he have received her message? Perhaps, even now, a yellow slip was
lying beneath her door marked: "Party not found." But if not on her
mission, what was he doing at the stage entrance of the Moonshine?

All through the supper at Sherry's, with its martial airs, its patriotic
ices and confections, its wine and laughter, she was tormented by
uncertainty. If he had not received the message! Time was flying,
Steadman was not being sought for, Ralston was--dallying.

Her maid removed her cloak and helped her undo her dress.

"Has anything come for me?"

"No, miss."

"Telephone to the Western Union office and ask if my telegram was
delivered."

The maid disappeared, returning presently with the information that it
had been receipted for at nine-thirty o'clock. With a warm wave of
relief flooding her heart Ellen slipped on a light wrapper, and threw
herself into an armchair before the sea-coal fire.

[Illustration: "She studied the faces alternately."]

"You need not wait, Elise. I shall sit up and read."

"Very well, miss. Good night."

"Good night," answered her mistress dreamily.

Outside the rain swept steadily against the glass with a soft, silting
sound. From time to time drops fell down the chimney and hissed for a
moment ere they vanished black splotches upon the vermilion coals.
Behind her an electric lamp of bronze, with an opaque shade, threw a dim
light over her shoulder and lit up the masses of her loosened hair.

Presently she arose slowly and went into an adjoining room, returning
with a large photograph in either hand. They were framed alike. Placing
them side by side upon the rug before her, she locked her hands across
her knee, and studied the faces alternately. One was of a young
man--almost a boy--with a narrow, high-bred face, dark eyes, sallow,
with a mouth curved like a woman's. The other was Dick Ralston, taken
about five years before, although the high cheekbones, the gaunt energy,
the mature thoughtfulness suggested a man much older. That she cared for
Steadman there was no doubt in her own mind. Had she refused to admit it
definitely heretofore, the fact that he was now on the verge of social
and moral annihilation made it no longer a matter of question. She felt
that Steadman's honor was at this moment the most vital thing in her
existence. He had thrown it at her feet after a long and romantic
wooing. Had laid bare his entire past. She was convinced that he loved
her. But at the crucial moment she had hesitated, had not responded in
quite the way she had probably given him reason to expect. She had
asked for time for reflection, and could give no adequate explanation in
answer to his imperative "Why?" When later he had renewed his suit she
had again forced a postponement, and he had departed, annoyed and
perplexed.

It was at this juncture that the money had dropped into his hands and he
had disappeared. Where was he? On a shooting trip? He frankly admitted
caring nothing for sport or hunting. It was not the season for travel,
and his name was not upon the sailing lists. Her instinct told her that
somewhere in the great city Steadman, oblivious to the call of duty, was
living the life from which her influence had called him for a time,
reckless of consequences, disregardful of the beckoning finger of
opportunity. She knew also that this was his last chance.

She realized that she could never marry Steadman disgraced, yet she felt
now that she loved him, and that could she see him and watch him start
for the front with his regiment, she would promise him what he had
asked.

She took Ralston's picture in her hand and held it to the light. It
trembled a little. She knew she could have cared for him--but he was so
stern, so strong, so capable. He had never treated her save as a sort of
younger sister. She had often wondered if he cared or could care for any
woman. With her he was always the same--kindly, sympathetic, obliging,
thoughtful. What must he think of her, sending him forth in the dead of
night to search the city for a man whom he scarcely knew? Her cheeks
burned at the thought of what she had done.

She had hardly known what she was asking when she had sent the message.
It had been done hurriedly, as she was leaving for the Pattersons', on
the impulse of a moment when she felt that, unless John Steadman could
be found, life would cease for her to be worth living--sent in a sort
of hysteria in which she instinctively turned to the one man in all the
world upon whom she could call for any service she might ask. Dear old
Dick! How tired he had looked in the rain! He might be up all night
looking for Steadman, and then not find him! And he was to leave for
Washington to-morrow.

She went to the window, against which the rain drove in a fine shower,
blurring the myriad lights below her that marched in long, straight
lines to north, south, and east. On the Tower the searchlight still
burned steadily. She shivered and went back to the fire. Then she laid
one of the pictures gently against her cheek.



V


The Moonshine Theater blazes its defiance into the night from a gleaming
Broadway promontory, whose cape divides the restless human tide that
rises to its neap every evening about eleven and falls to its ebb in the
neighborhood of two or three in the morning. Through its arched portals
one might drive a hansom cab, and tradition says that the feat has been
accomplished.

Here Mrs. Vokes, under the alias of "Hélène DeLacy," first minced her
way into popularity--but that was in the days of crinoline. The youths
who loitered about its iron-bound stage entrance are gray-headed men
to-day, those of them who are still alive. Only old Vincent remains, as
rugged as a granite cliff, and as impervious to persuasion, bribery, or
anger. "I'm sorry, gents, but it's against my orders," is said as
conclusively to-night as it was twenty years ago. He got as far as:

"I'm sorry, sir, but it's against--" then changed it to a wondering:
"Bless my soul, Mr. Ralston! Is it you?" as he encountered the set face
of our friend.

"Why, Vincent," exclaimed the latter, "you still here? What luck! You
don't look a day older!"

"I can't say the same for you, sir. I understand congratulations are in
order. Oh, I read the papers. But--" he hesitated.

"But you think I'm rather old for 'Johnnying'?" interpolated Ralston.
"You're quite right. I am. But don't be alarmed; this is business. I
want to find a young woman named Ernestine Hudson. I must see her at
once. Can you fix it for me?"

"I think so," answered the guardian of the wings. "I'd do it if I lost
my job. I won't forget in a hurry what you did for my little Bill. Just
step----"

At that instant the door was thrust violently open and a gray-coated
messenger boy, carrying a large oblong box, projected himself violently
against Vincent.

"For Hudson!" he ejaculated shortly.

"Put 'em on that desk," directed Vincent.

"Say, boss, let me take 'em in," pleaded the boy.

"Who do you think you are, anyway?" inquired the doorkeeper. "Get out of
here."

The boy lingered, gazing wistfully down the gas-lighted passage, through
which floated the hum of the orchestra, confused by the shuffle of feet
and inarticulate orders.

Vincent took a threatening step in the direction of the boy, who made a
grimace at him and backed slowly through the door. Ralston smiled and
looked inquiringly at the box.

"It might serve as an introduction," he suggested with a smile.

"You don't need it," said Vincent. "I guess you remember the way. Just
step down the passage, and you'll find the chorus ready to go on for the
second act. Hudson's the wheel horse for the partridges. She has a bunch
of tail sprouts like a feather duster. What fool things the public pay
to see nowadays! Why, they ain't content to let a girl be a girl, but
they have to turn her into a bird, or a dress form, or a wax figger, or
an automobile, or a flower. Now take this show. It's supposed to be a
kind of a 'flag-raiser.' 'Marchin' Through Georgy' and 'Campin'
To-night' and all that, and the chorus is _birds_. Birds! Sparrers,
canaries, and partridges!" he grunted scornfully. "Well, good luck. See
you later."

Ralston walked down the passage and pushed open the skeleton canvas door
that separated him from the wings. The curtain was down, and a small
army of men were noisily pulling enormous flies into place by means of
pulleys. One group in the center of the stage were erecting a "Port
Arthur" bristling with guns, and several with wheelbarrows were bringing
in a foreground of rocks, which others arranged with elaborate
carelessness. Overhead hung a wilderness of ropes and drops, with
sections of scenery suspended in mid-air. Two spiral staircases of iron
sprang from either side and lost themselves in the tangle above.
Ascending and descending were a perpetual stream of heterogeneous
figures, who went up as birds and came down as village maidens, or who
from grand dames of fashion were transformed into Quakeresses or drummer
boys. There was loud chattering on all sides, interspersed with deep
invectives from the coatless hustlers on the stage. Above all shrieked
and rattled the pulleys.

The blinding light and the clouds of dust made the scene utterly
confusing, and for a moment Ralston hesitated vaguely. To his left a
flock of "partridges" clustered about one of the flies, while one little
lady partridge sat apart on a nail keg, and eased her little partridge
foot by loosening her slipper.

To the nearest Ralston turned and inquired for Miss Hudson. The girl
whom he had addressed stared boldly at him, and without replying waved
languidly toward the partridge on the barrel. It was evident that she
took no interest in the friends of Miss Hudson. Ralston turned, and at
the same moment heard a shrill cackle from the group behind him. In
spite of himself he could feel the red coursing up to his ears. The girl
on the barrel had entirely removed her slipper and was stretching her
toes. She did not look up at his approach, having already minutely
studied his make-up under the shelter of her heavily corked eyebrows, as
he emerged from the passage.

"Are you Miss Hudson?"

"Yes," said the partridge, critically examining her instep.

"My name is Ralston," he began rapidly. "I'm looking for a friend of
mine, who must be turned up at once. It's a matter of life and death,
and he's got to be found. I have an idea you know him."

"Have you?" said the partridge innocently.

"The man I refer to is John Steadman. Do you know where he is?"

The girl slowly lifted her head and looked at him rather impudently. She
seemed more like a large doll than a girl.

"I haven't the pleasure of your acquaintance, Mr. Ralston, if that is
your name, and I don't know your friend Steadman."

There was something about her manner that convinced Ralston that she
knew more than she admitted, but it was obvious that for purposes of her
own she had made up her mind to treat him with the scant courtesy
usually extended by show girls to people who are not worth while, and to
people it is worth while to keep for a time at a distance.

"I'm very sorry," said Ralston. "I believed that you were the one
person in New York who could tell me where he was. Of course, you might
know him under some other name."

"Why are you so interested in finding this Mr.--Steadman?" asked the
partridge, studiously inserting her foot in a shoe that seemed all toe.

"Simply for his own sake."

"Don't you ever come behind for yours?" she inquired abstractedly.
Ralston suppressed a smile.

"See here, young lady--" he began, changing his tactics.

"All on for the second!" shouted a big man in a Derby hat. "Here you,
Hudson, stop fooling and get into your place! Clear the wings."

From behind the wall of curtain came the distant crash of the contending
chords of the overture. "Port Arthur" with its rocks was in place, the
Japanese flag flying defiantly in a strong current of air, generated by
a frenzied electric fan held by a "super" in the moat. The chorus
trooped from the flies, and came tumbling down fire escapes and
staircases.

The partridge knocked her heels together and jumped lightly to her feet.

"Peep-peep!" she said. "See you later, old man. Stage door about
eleven-thirty."

She nodded at him and started hopping toward the stage. The other
partridges were forming in long lines, with much jostling of tail
feathers and fluttering of pinions.

"Hurry up there!" shouted the assistant "stage" in Miss Hudson's
direction, and then turned hastily toward the opposite flies where some
mix-up had attracted his attention.

Ralston saw his last clew hopping away from him. A bell rang loudly, and
the orchestra struck up the first few bars of the opening chorus. Hardly
conscious of what he was doing Ralston strode quickly after the
partridge and, grasping her firmly by the wings, drew her back into the
flies.

"Let me go!" she gasped, struggling to free herself. "Let me go! What
are you trying to do? Do you want to get me fined?"

"Keep quiet," whispered Ralston, "I've got to speak to you. Do you
understand? I can't let you go on. I'll stand for any fine, and square
you into the bargain. It's too late, anyway! The curtain's up already."

"Let me go!" she cried, the tears starting into her eyes. "You're
hurting me, you brute! I'll lose my job. The management don't stand for
this kind of thing. You're a fine gentleman, _you_ are! Oh, what shall I
do?"

Ralston's heart smote him. He knew well the hideous uncertainty which
being out of a job means to the chorus girl, and its more hideous
possibilities.

"I'm sorry," he said humbly. "I had to do it, and I promise you shall
lose nothing by it. Now, quick, where can we talk? Not here? The manager
would see you."

The partridge wiped her eyes.

"Do you promise to square the management?"

"I certainly do--on my honor as a gentleman."

"Then come!" Hudson darted quickly back among the scenery, and Ralston
followed her down a flight of iron steps which led beneath the stage.
Pipes ran in all directions, and great heaps of old flies and useless
properties reached toward the low ceiling, between which narrow alleys
led off into the darkness. A smell of mold and of paint filled the air.
Even the scant gas jets seemed to burn with a peculiar dimness in the
damp atmosphere.

"Come along!" whistled the partridge.

Beyond a pile of lumber in a sort of catacomb she stopped. A bead of gas
showed blue against some whitewashed brickwork.

"Turn it up," said Hudson, and Ralston did so.

"Hungry?" she continued. "_I_ could eat anything that 'didn't bite me
first!'"

Ralston laughed.

"Were you in that show?" he asked. "It was a good one. No, I'm not
hungry. Suppose I were?"

"This is our rathskeller," she laughed. "Are you thirsty?"

Ralston admitted to a certain degree of dryness.

"Certainly," he said, "I should like nothing better than a large
schooner of dark, imported beer. What will you have?" he continued,
carrying on the jest.

Hudson, who had seated herself on a low seat by the wall, got up and
struck sharply on the wooden partition with a stick.

"What's that?" asked Ralston.

"Perhaps some beer will come out!" remarked the partridge. "Moses was
not the only one."

A rattling followed, and a square opening appeared in the wall, in which
the shaggy tow-head of a young man was visible.

He grinned at sight of Miss Hudson.

"How vas de shootink?" he inquired. "Does de bartridges vant more vet?
Ha! Ha! You _vas_ a bird!"

"Ya, Fritz. Two schooners and a hot dog. Hustle 'em up."

Fritz closed the slide which covered the opening and the partridge
turned gayly toward Ralston.

"What do you think of that? Pretty good, eh?"

"I don't understand," he replied. "Where did he come from? What is in
there?"

"I'll tell you. When 'Abe' Erlanger built this house there was a row of
old tenements on the side street. Well, Jo Bimberger tore 'em down and
built a rathskeller. While he was doing it one of the girls tipped off
the boss carpenter to leave this place. Ain't it grand? Say, you get
almost dead jumping around on the boards. It looks easy enough, but I
tell you sometimes you're ready to scream."

"Just the thing," answered our friend. "Do the management object?"

"Not a bit. 'Abe' gets a rake-off from the saloon. It's good business."

The slide opened and two dripping glasses made their appearance. Ralston
received them and handed one to Miss Hudson. Then Fritz passed in a
frankfurter about the size of a policeman's night stick.

Ralston drew half a dollar from his pocket and exchanged it for the
sausage.

"That's all right, keep the change," he remarked.

"My, you must have it to throw away!" said Hudson. "Twenty-three for
you, Fritz. Shut the slide."

Ralston took a deep draught of the beer. He could not help smiling as he
thought of the picture he would present could any one of his associates
see him at the moment. What, for instance, would the President have
said? And the Secretary of War! Underneath the stage of a theater,
drinking beer with a chorus girl! He put down the glass and pulled
himself together.

"Now to business!" he exclaimed. "This is jolly good fun, but I've a
long night in front of me, and I've got work to do in it. Where is
Steadman?"

The partridge looked at him inquiringly.

"You don't mean you really are trying to find anyone?"

"Certainly I do."

"Steadman?"

"Yes."

She shrugged her shoulders. It was clear, even to Ralston, that she was
disappointed.

"I can't help you."

"You _know_ him?" Ralston's gaze penetrated her feathers.

"Yes. But I don't know where he is--and what is more, I don't care. He's
a cad."

"Well, let it go at that. But I've got to find him. How long is it since
you've seen him?"

"Three weeks."

"What was he up to?"

"Oh, the usual business. He's badly in. Let him go; he's not worth your
while."

"I didn't say he was. But he must be turned up. Was he drinking?"

"Yes!"

"Ah!" Ralston scowled.

"He's a bad one," continued the partridge. "He began at the bottom and
worked down."

"You must help me to find him. Who is he running with?"

"I don't know anything about him. I've heard he knows a girl named
Florence Davenport. If you can find her she might help you."

"Where does she live?"

"On Forty-sixth Street," and she gave him a number.

Ralston arose and put his hand in his pocket.

"I am very much indebted to you," he said courteously. "You won't mind
if I make good your fine?"

He drew out a bill and placed it in her hand. She raised her eyebrows at
sight of its denomination.

"No," she said, "I haven't done anything for you. I don't want the
money."

"But your fine?"

"That's all right," she replied, shrugging her shoulders. "I could have
gone on--if I'd wanted to. I was merely bluffing. You couldn't have held
me. You're a gentleman, and I don't want the money." She spoke quietly,
and looked him full in the face. Ralston wavered.

"Please don't," said the girl, and held out the bill. Ralston took it
and returned it to his pocket.

"Miss Hudson," said he, "you have placed me under a great obligation,
one that money cannot repay. If I can ever help you in any way let me
know."

The partridge got up and led the way toward the staircase. At the top
she held out her hand and Ralston took it in his.

"He's not worth it," she repeated. "Let him go."

"_Noblesse oblige_," he smiled, looking down at her.

The chorus had filed off the stage and were standing on the other side.

"Here you, Hudson! Where have you been?" whispered the manager hoarsely,
grasping her roughly by the shoulder. "Get over there."

"Leave me alone!" she cried sharply, shaking off his arm. Then, turning
to Ralston:

"Good night, sir," she said.



VI


Outside the Moonshine Ralston found the usual congestion of cabs,
landaus, and wagons. He had delayed to exchange a few reminiscences with
old Vincent, and it was fully ten minutes before he could find his cabby
in the tangle of vehicles. As he stepped into the street, to save the
time requisite for the man to draw to the curb, an omnibus was vainly
trying to force its way through the side street. It had paused for an
instant in front of the stage entrance, and Ralston had caught a glimpse
of Ellen's face inside.

A momentary impulse had seized him to stop the coach and tell her of the
hopelessness of the task upon which she had sent him, but in the instant
of his uncertainty the way had cleared and they had driven on. He had
climbed into his own hansom, little the wiser for his experience at the
Moonshine.

The sidewalks were jammed with the usual after-theater crowd hurrying
either to get home as quickly as possible or to secure seats in
restaurants which pandered less to the taste of the _gourmet_ than to
those of the _roué_. For a solid mile on either side of Broadway
stretched house after house of entertainment, any one of which could
harbor a hundred Steadmans, and for a quarter of a mile on either hand
lay twenty streets, lined with places of a character vastly more likely
to do so. He followed the crowd slowly northward, wondering why so few
of them walked in the opposite direction. Whenever he came to a
well-known hostelry he went in and eagerly scanned the tables, but,
although he recognized many he knew and who knew him, he found naught of
Steadman.

Having visited five "chophouses," a "rathskeller," two "hofbraus," and
several more pretentious places, he abandoned the idea of trying to
stumble upon his man, and returned to his original belief that only by
following some sort of a clew could he succeed. Somewhere in the hot
clasp of the city lay the miserable youth he had promised to find. For a
moment he regretted the answer which he had just sent to Ellen's
apartment--the four words that had pledged him to a fool's errand, the
absurdity of which was now apparent. Then came a realizing sense of the
importance to Ellen of his mission, and a grim determination to find
this man wherever he might be.

He had now reached Forty-second Street, and the crowd divided into two
streams, one moving eastward and the other northward, a part of the
latter to plunge beneath the Times Building into the subway, and the
remainder to add to the already existing congestion in front of the
Hotel Astor, Rector's, Shanley's, and the New York Theater. Longacre
Square boiled with life--a life garish, tawdry, sensual and vulgar,
unlike that of any other city or generation.

The restaurants could seat no more, and a bejeweled, scented throng
stood in the doorways and struggled for the vacant tables. The night
hawks lining the curb peered eagerly at every passer-by to note signs of
intoxication or indecision. Tiny newsboys thrust their bundles of papers
against dress waistcoats and felt for loose watches, ready to dart into
the throng at the first move of suspicion on the part of their victims.
Clerks with their best girls pointed out these and made witticisms upon
them, hoping thus to divert attention from the attractions of the
restaurants, for whose splendors they intended later to substitute the
more substantial, if more economical, pleasures of the dairy lunch.
Automobiles, in which sat supercilious foreign chauffeurs, blocked the
entrances of the pleasure palaces. Streams of country folk poured in and
out of hotels which made a specialty of rural trade, promising to their
patrons, in widely distributed circulars, easy access to everything
"worth seeing." These came, were relieved of their money, and, after
fervid correspondence on the hotel stationery, went home to poison the
minds of their townfolk with descriptions of scenes which existed only
in their imaginations.

For every person on Longacre Square after midnight who is there for an
honest purpose, there are three who are there either to do that which
they should not do or to see that which they should not see. It is the
white light in which the New York moth plays before he plunges into the
withering flame. It was here Steadman had begun, and like enough he was
not far off.

The electric clock above the roof tops moved to a quarter before one as
Ralston turned into Forty-sixth Street, and he looked both ways before
springing from his hansom and dashing up the steps of the number to
which he had been directed. After some time a mulatto maid opened the
door and asked his business. Miss Davenport was out, she said. Ralston
stretched the truth far enough to say that he was a friend. The girl had
no idea where she could be found. Then Ralston also volunteered that he
was a friend of Mr. Steadman's. Still the maid remained imperturbable.
The sight of a bill, however, led to an immediate change of demeanor.

Yes, Miss Davenport had gone out with a gentleman--not Mr.
Steadman--early in the evening. Did she know Mr. Steadman? Yes, she
thought she knew Mr. Steadman--a dark gentleman. She seemed anxious to
help Ralston, but doubtful of success.

As was not unreasonable, Ralston was beginning to be quite disgusted at
the position in which he found himself, a condition which was by no
means relieved by the fact that, as he reached the bottom of the steps,
he found himself face to face with Colonel Duer and a somewhat elderly
lady companion. The new Assistant Secretary felt distinctly
uncomfortable. Another man might have turned away his face, but Ralston
looked steadily into the colonel's under the full light of the street
lamp. Simultaneously he raised his hand to his hat, then crossed the
sidewalk and jumped into the hansom. The cabby lifted the manhole and
looked down the air shaft.

"Huh?" said he. "Where'll I go now?"

"I don't know," said Ralston.

The cabby chuckled. He was satisfied one way quite as well as another.
From his seat of vantage he was able to look down critically upon
mankind in general, and had learned to distinguish "the real thing" when
he saw it. He had no doubts as to Ralston, and no misgivings at all as
to the latter's ability to pay and pay well, and he was as confident
that his tip would be in accordance with the most advanced ideas of
liberality as he was that this same fare of his was quite out of the
ordinary. He had sized Ralston for a thoroughbred from the moment that
he had come downstairs. For one thing he did not waste words, for
another he neither looked at his watch nor inquired the price; for
another--and you could always tell by that--he knew just what he was
doing. Moreover, he was perfectly sober. He belonged to that small and
distinguished body of midnight travelers who realize that they are in a
cab and not in a hammock. Hence Ralston's admission that he did not know
where to go to next struck upon the cabby intelligence in the light of a
joke.

"Huh?" said he again, removing his cigar.

"I said I didn't know," repeated Ralston.

"Up against it!" said cabby with divination.

"Exactly," returned his fare with a slight laugh. "You are a man of
perspicacity."

"Huh?" repeated the cabby.

"I said you were a mind reader," answered Ralston.

"I guess I can see furder'n most," admitted cabby complacently.

Ralston had struck a match and lit a fresh cigar. He was feeling very,
very tired. His watch showed that there were exactly six hours left
before the Twelfth would start--not a minute more.

The cabby was still peering down the manhole and dropping an occasional
sympathetic ash on Ralston's silk hat. His fare interested him--he was
beginning to have a notion that Ralston was somebody. Maybe a big
military gun. He had that clean, hard look those fellers have.

Suddenly the fare spoke again, in an even more amiable tone than before.

"My friend, how long have you been in this business?"

The cabby hesitated while he made an accurate mathematical computation.

"Five years on a percentage--ten years on my own--fifteen years, sir."

"You know the town pretty well, eh?"

"Fairly well, sir."

"Is there a _café_ somewhere a bit out of the way--something quiet, you
know?"

"Sure, across the square. Shall I drive you there?"

"Yes."

The cabby clucked to his horse, and they wheeled about and crossed the
White Way again. The pedestrians were thinning out. The rain had ceased,
the clouds had parted, and the sky was sprinkled with brightly burning
stars. Up in the Times Tower the afternoon before one of the editorial
writers had polished up a "war-whoop" such as, he had said to himself,
would make the Japanese emperor scratch his head. It was a half-column
"drip" in the nature of a "Godspeed" to the first volunteer regiment to
start for the front. He liked the Twelfth, and had been in it himself
under Ralston. The thought had reminded him that he ought to give his
old captain a bit of a send-off as well, and he had penned a dozen lines
to be inserted after the other, and headed "A Wise Appointment," ending
his short paragraph with the words: "The nation is to be sincerely
congratulated on the wisdom of the Executive's selection."

Twenty-five stories below, the subject of his encomium was now entering
the side door of a shabby _café_, followed by his cabby. They seated
themselves at a table in the corner of the sawdust-covered floor.

"The situation is this," began Ralston, after the waiter had picked up
his tip and retired. "I must, inside of six hours, turn up a man who is
somewhere in the city. He doesn't know enough to want to be found. He
must be located without outside help--quietly. The only clew I have to
his whereabouts is that he knows a young woman named Florence Davenport.
She lives in that house we stopped at. She has gone out with a man named
Sullivan. I don't know the fellow, but the chances are he won't help me.
But whether he will or not, I don't know where he is, and I must find
him in order to find her."

He looked at the cabby inquiringly.

"I know him, all right," said the cabby. "A big 'harp' with a sandy
mustache. I know her, too. I took 'em both out this very night."

"Took them out!" exclaimed Ralston. "Why, in Heaven's name, didn't you
say so before!" Then he remembered and laughed at the absurdity of his
question. The fatigue of a severe day was dissipated in a moment.

"Sure," continued the cabby, "I took 'em out just before I answered your
call. She uses the same stable."

"Where did they go?"

"Proctor's."

"Where do you suppose they are now?"

"You can search me!" responded the cabby, now thoroughly interested.
"The chances are about even between Shanley's and the Martin, but you
tried Shanley's. Better hike right down to the other place."

Ralston started swiftly to his feet, made his way to the cab, and in a
moment more they were galloping down Broadway.

The electric timepiece on the roofs marked four minutes past one as
they rattled past. What people were still awake were most of them
inside the shining windows of the restaurants, and the big porters
were leaning sleepily against the doorposts of their hostelries. In
the cab Ralston wondered what the President would say if he could see
him then, chasing all over the town after a young woman and her male
escort. He was dreadfully sleepy, and the cushions of the cab were so
soft--soft--sof----

He pulled himself together as the cab reined up sharply at the
Twenty-sixth Street entrance of the Café Martin. His driver did not need
to be told to wait, and Ralston hurriedly pushed his way through the
revolving doors into the hot, scented air of the waiting hall. If it was
late on Broadway, it was early enough inside the Martin.

On the right, in a crowded _café_, two hundred soldier boys and
civilians with their sweethearts sat noisily discussing broiled
lobsters, Welsh rarebits, caviare sandwiches, and such less important
matters as were suggested by the last news from Washington. The air
reeked with the fumes of hot food, cigarette smoke, and steam heat. When
the side door opened, and the draught pulled through from the main
dining room, one caught a whiff of rice powder and violets. The chatter
and clatter were deafening.

To Ralston the chances seemed in favor of the other and more conspicuous
company in the front room, so he turned back and crossed the hall. At
the door of the main dining room he paused. At fully eighteen out of the
twenty-five tables which were presented to his view sat an equal number
of young women who might have qualified as Miss Florence Davenport.
There was more room here, the music was louder, and the men had on
either uniforms or evening dress. The confusion was even greater than in
the _café_, due to the greater amount of light and music and the
variation of color. Here and there at the larger tables sat groups of
officers, indulging in pompous patriotic toasts.

Ralston moved toward the center of the room, eagerly scanning the tables
in search of a blond man with a light mustache, but he saw none to
correspond with the cabby's description. Then from behind him he heard
his name called, and he turned to be greeted by a chorus of
congratulatory welcome from a party of his old comrades of the Twelfth,
who crowded around him, drew him into a chair and ordered more bottles.

Ralston protested but feebly. He was out of sorts with the whole
miserable business.

"Here's to you, old man!" exclaimed Peyton, one of Duer's lieutenants.
"Boys, here's to the next Secretary of the Navy, and then, who
knows--well, here's to Dick Ralston, the best ever--bumpers!"

"Fellows," answered Ralston, "it's very good of you. It's very good of
the President. I hope I'll do him credit, but the best any of us can do
is the right way as each of us sees it at the moment--and no one knows
where it may lead us. Here's to being on the level--here's to the right
way and the _white_ way!" He started to drink off the toast when a man's
head and shoulders arose behind Peyton, and a thick voice cried:

"That for mine! Th' White Way--th' Great White Way!" and he raised a
goblet and drained it. The men in the group laughed, and the laugh was
echoed from several of the tables. As the fellow stumbled back into his
seat Ralston realized suddenly that he had found his man. A red face and
a blond mustache! The elusive Sullivan at last!

For a moment our hero chatted animatedly with his friends, while taking
note of the position of the table at which the fellow sat. As yet he
could not see whether Sullivan had a companion, for the table was in a
recess and behind a stand of artificial palms. Then he leaned across the
shoulder of the man next him and caught sight of a gray silk dress and a
rose-trimmed hat. Who the lady was it was impossible for him to
discover, as her head was completely hidden by the paper foliage toward
which her companion was bending. They were, apparently, by no means near
the end of their supper, so that there was time to consider the
situation and to decide upon a course of action. But the situation
itself was a novel one to Ralston.

Now the mere accosting of a young lady in a public restaurant is not a
very serious matter, even if she be accompanied by a male escort, so
long as the matter be done decently and in order. But to suddenly burst
upon a _tête-à-tête_ couple from behind a bunch of palms, and demand
what has been done with a young man, especially if it be nearly three in
the morning, is somewhat different. One mistaken move, and the search
would have to be abandoned. How was he to introduce himself to a strange
woman and compel her to divulge information which she might have no
intention of disclosing, and how, moreover, could this be accomplished
in the presence of a person of the type of Mr. Sullivan? He had no claim
on either of them. Even assuming that the bounder did not object to his
having speech with the lady, it was unlikely that she would admit any
intimacy with Steadman in the presence of her companion. No, he must
speak to the girl by herself--that was clear enough. But how? Obviously,
he could not invite her escort to step out into the next room for a few
moments. Neither was it at all likely that she would accede to any
request of his (carried by a waiter) either to speak to him or to get
rid of her companion. Again he was, in the vernacular, "up against it"
as his cabby had suggested on a previous occasion.

Meantime the moments were slipping by, with Ralston trying hard to keep
up his end of the conversation. Ten minutes more, and he had determined
definitely that there was no course open but to trust to the girl
herself for a solution. All he could do was to throw his hand down, face
up, before her, and let her decide. In the event of his request being
ignored, he must face it boldly out with both of them.

Borrowing a pencil he wrote upon his visiting card: "Miss Davenport will
place the writer under the greatest possible obligation by allowing him
to speak to her privately upon a matter of the utmost importance. He is
in civilian dress at the next table." Underneath his name he wrote:
"Second Assistant Secretary of the Navy." Summoning the head waiter he
instructed the latter to carry it to the lady behind the palm in such a
manner that it should be unobserved by her companion.

He felt instantly relieved--the relief the rider feels the moment he has
decided to take the jump and his horse rises beneath him. He plunged
anew into the banter going on about him. He saw, out of the corner of
his eye, his messenger circle the room, approach the couple from the
other side, address Mr. Sullivan, call his attention to something behind
him, and slip the card into his companion's lap. Then the attendant
moved on.

Several moments passed. He began to feel that nothing had been
accomplished when there came a crash of glass, the palm rocked, and the
lady in some confusion sprang to her feet, shaking her dress. Her escort
arose more slowly, cursing the nearest waiters in a comprehensive
manner. The hubbub in the restaurant ceased momentarily, but quickly
began again as the manager and his aids hurried forward to offer their
assistance.

They had hard work to appease Mr. Sullivan, however. He wanted to see
the proprietor, and insisted loudly, although irrelevantly, that he was
an "American gentleman." The table was righted, and the head waiter
promised that a second supper should be instantly forthcoming, but
Sullivan remained in a state of defiance. He insisted on seeing "Monseer
Martin"--"my fren' Monseer Martin," and called loudly for a "garsoon" to
take him there.

Apparently the lady herself was indignant, and was not at all averse to
having her escort see his "fren' Monseer Martin." Then, with his head
high in air like a red harvest moon, the rampant Sullivan made his way
toward the main door of the dining room, followed by the apologetic and
deprecatory head waiter.

As the two passed out Ralston arose.

"Going?" inquired Peyton.

"Not very far. I'll be right back," replied our friend.

The others watched him curiously.

In a moment he was behind the palm, and had sunk into Sullivan's vacant
seat.

"How d'y do, Mr. Second Assistant Secretary of the Navy?" remarked the
young woman nonchalantly. "Glad to know you. Rather a noisy
introduction, eh?"

"I'm surprised you thought it worth while," answered Ralston. "Our
friend has probably polished off Martin by this time, and is already on
his way back. Then he'll be ready to polish off _me_!"

"I guess you're able to take care of yourself, all right," replied the
girl. "What is it you want?"

"I don't know that it's wise for me to tell you on this short
acquaintance."

"Short? Yes. I suppose it is. But, you see, I know _you_. And if I can
help Mr. Ralston, why I _will_."

"Thank you," said Ralston. The words sounded entirely _malapropos_ and
inadequate. "Tell me, then--tell me where to find John Steadman."

Instantly the girl's whole manner changed and she drew back.

"Steadman!" she exclaimed uneasily.

"Yes, Steadman! John Steadman. I must find him _to-night_!"

"You can't!" she cried in some agitation. "You can't. I've no business
to tell you even that, but you _can't_."

Ralston's face settled into a grim mask.

"I _will_!" he answered steadily. "And you're going to help me."

"I can't, Mr. Ralston. I can't. I don't know where he is."

Ralston's heart fell again.

"But you can _help_ me?" he asked.

"I can't. I swear I can't," she replied almost hysterically, and Ralston
could see that she was speaking the truth.

"Tell me," he said, "tell me, and I'll give you anything you ask--does
_Sullivan_ know?"

As he spoke the girl's face turned pale under the electric light. She
nodded her head slightly, while at the same moment a thick hand
descended on Ralston's shoulder and a heavy, wine-laden voice growled in
his ear:

"Whatcher doin' in my seat?"

Ralston sprang to his feet and shook off the hand.

"Whatcher doin' talkin' to this lady?" inquired the other, his eyes
blazing with anger. His voice rang loudly above the roar of
conversation.

"Miss Davenport is a friend of mine," replied Ralston as quietly as he
could.

"Frien' nothin'!" cried Sullivan. "I'll teach you to mind your own
business." He took a step backward and began to pull off his dinner
jacket.

"Don't, Jim!" cried the girl. "Don't! Please! Please don't!"

"Shut up!" snarled Sullivan. "I'll attend to you later!"

There was a great uproar in the restaurant. At the same instant Sullivan
led heavily at Ralston's head. Almost automatically, with every ounce of
his body at the end of an arm trained into a steel rod, Ralston ducked
and countered. His fist caught Sullivan squarely on the chin, and the
man went down and backward like a duck shot on the wing. His head struck
on a corner of the table, and he lay motionless.

The next instant Ralston was the center of an excited, jostling crowd.
Peyton had his arm around him and was whispering: "Get out quick, old
man. Awfully unfortunate. Get out while there's time."

"Some one ring for an ambulance!" shouted a civilian at a nearby table.

"Is there a doctor here?" inquired the head waiter mechanically,
hurrying toward the door.

Ralston's head reeled. The President's latest appointee mixed up in a
drunken brawl at a public hostelry! Worse than that, if possible, he
had, perhaps, killed the only man who knew where Steadman could be
found. It had all happened so quickly that he saw it like the scenes of
a vitagraph, with little twinkles of light glinting all about. Then a
girl's voice whispered in his ear:

"Get away! You mustn't be mixed up in this. Get away while you can!"

Somebody began to fling water in Sullivan's face and to rip off his
collar. The crowd forced itself almost upon the prostrate man. "Get
away," he heard Peyton repeating. "Don't be a fool! Think of the
Administration!"

Men were climbing upon tables to see what was going on. There was a
deafening hubbub from the main hall, into which the crowd from the other
room was pouring. Ralston was thinking as quickly as he could. He saw
his whole public career shattered by a single blow. He saw Ellen's
anxious face and heard her words: "Please find Steadman." He ground his
teeth. The only clew to Steadman lay like a log before him, struck down
by his own hand.

Some one in the back of the room shouted: "Send for the police--a man
has been shot!" and he heard the silly cry repeated in the outer
corridor. Less than half a minute had passed, but to Ralston it had
already seemed twenty, when he decided upon the only course Fate had
left open to him.

How he managed to do it he never really knew. Afterwards it appeared
absurdly impossible, but Peyton said that at the time it seemed
reasonable enough. There had been a moment when, in the confusion, the
crowd had blocked its own efforts to get closer, a moment when no one
apparently had known what to do, a moment which Ralston, in his
businesslike and rather autocratic fashion, had turned to his own
advantage.

A hurried whisper to Peyton, and with the help of one of their brother
officers they had raised Sullivan from the floor and, followed by the
girl, had carried him to the Fifth Avenue entrance. "Keep back the
crowd!" Peyton had cried to the head waiter. "We must give this man
air," and in a moment more they had staggered with Sullivan's limp form
to the ever-ready hansom, which had wheeled quickly to their assistance,
and shoved him in.

In another moment there had appeared around the corner of the building a
throng of men and women in evening dress, among whom were mingled
waiters, pedestrians, and cabmen.

"To the hospital!" cried Ralston, and pushing in the girl, sprang after
her himself. The cabman cut furiously at his horse, the bystanders
parted, and the hansom leaped forward like a chariot in a Roman
amphitheater, with Ralston, who had snatched the reins from above his
head, guiding the excited animal down Fifth Avenue.

A policeman made an ineffectual attempt to stop them at Twenty-third
Street, but quickly stepped aside to avoid being run down.

"Hully gee!" shouted the cabman inconsequently, "Hully gee!" while the
girl, staring abstractedly at the motionless face beside her, murmured
excitedly, "A clean get-away! A clean get-away!"



VII


They turned west at Eighth Street and crossed Sixth Avenue at a slow
trot. Ralston had surrendered the reins to the driver and was now
racking his brains for a solution of his extraordinary and sensational
predicament. The girl had taken Sullivan's motionless head into her lap.

"Where to, sir?" inquired the cabby through the manhole.

"I don't know," answered Ralston. "Lose us if you can, that's all. Lose
us so we won't be able to find our own way back."

They continued west, following narrow, dimly lit streets, under the
shadow of high warehouses. Sullivan had given as yet no sign of life and
the girl had not spoken since Twenty-third Street. The strain of the
situation began to tell.

"Well, what are we going to do now?" inquired Ralston with an attempt at
jocularity. The girl did not reply, and as he heard her sobbing softly a
pang of remorse touched him. What business had he to force this young
woman into being an accessory after the fact in what might be heralded
as a crime?

"Miss Davenport," he said, "I'm awfully sorry to have dragged you into
this. Indeed, I am. Let me drive you home. I'll look after Sullivan, and
if necessary take him to a hospital."

"And leave you to stick this out by yourself? Not on your life!" she
replied. "It's a bad mix-up, but we've got to pull it off somehow. But
first we've got to do something for Jim. Look, there's a drug store over
there and a night light."

"But that won't do," expostulated Ralston. "We never could explain to
the officer on post. We'll have to go somewhere else. You know about
these things. Where?"

"Yes, yes--I know."

"Well, quickly!"

The cabman was peering down through the manhole.

"Do you know Commerce Street?" asked the girl.

"Sure I do," said the cabby.

"Well, go to No. 589."

The cabman jerked around his horse. They were in Greenwich Village now,
and not far from the old New York Central freight depot. Trim little
brick houses with white portals and tiny eves lined the streets. Slender
lanes led away into black distances. The night was silent save for the
rush and roar of the elevated and the clack of their own horse's hoofs.
Not a window was agleam. In this respectable neighborhood folks went to
bed betimes, and got up early.

The cool night air soothed Ralston's nerves, but with it he felt limp
and tired. The excitement at the restaurant, the wild dash down Fifth
Avenue, the presence with them of a man who might perhaps be dead, the
fear of pursuit, the extraordinary situation in which he, a man of so
much recent prominence, found himself, the strange way in which this
girl had become a partner in his fortunes, dazed and bewildered him.

"He can't be dead," muttered Ralston. "He can't be dead!"

The cab turned into a little street lined with irregularly shaped
houses. A few gnarled and distorted trees, whose trunks burst out of the
concrete pavement, raised their dust-laden branches, prehensile and
unnatural, into the starlight. A hundred feet from where the street
began it turned sharply to the left, forming a right angle, and
debouched again into another thoroughfare. Had one of the ends of it
been closed it would have formed a natural _cul-de-sac_--an appendix to
one of the great canals of the city. And with curious impropriety the
city fathers had named this "accidental" Commerce Street, leaving it to
the imagination as to what sort of commerce had been intended. A rickety
gas lamp leaned dangerously toward a flight of high wooden steps in the
angle of the street. Strangely enough, when the street turned the house
turned, too, so that half its front faced north and half east. The
natural inference was that the inside of the house was shaped like a
piece of pie, with its partially bitten point abutting on the corner.

Ralston took charge of Sullivan and the girl sprang down and stepped
into the area. Somewhere at a great distance a bell rang once, and then,
more faintly, a second time. They waited in silence. On the main
thoroughfare beyond the gnarled trees a policeman slowly sauntered
across the street. At the top of one of the opposite houses a window was
raised cautiously and voices could be heard whispering. Again the bell
jangled loosely in the distance, then came the sound of iron bars
rattling and bolts being shot back. A grating creaked rustily.

"It's me--Floss. Let me in."

The girl ran back to the cab and a match flared in the grating. Ralston
thought he saw a wrinkled face behind the light.

"All right. Bring him in," said the girl.

Ralston and the cabman lifted the lank form of Sullivan to the sidewalk
and half carried, half dragged him into the area. At their feet lay a
small flight of steps upon which played a feeble light from the inside.
Down this they pulled the victim of Ralston's strange quest. A passage
opened before them, in the middle of which stood a tiny, wrinkled Jewish
woman, who watched them with snapping, restless eyes, like those of a
blackbird.

The girl pushed by them and, taking the candle from the woman, opened a
door leading to the right. The air was close and unwholesome. A bed with
only a mattress covering the springs stood in the corner, and upon this
Ralston and the cabman placed the still unconscious form of Mr.
Sullivan.

"That'll do for the present," said the girl. "Now you" (addressing the
cabman) "wait outside. If the cop asks what you are doin', you're
waiting for a fare in another house, see?"

The cabman retired, and the Jewish woman lit a kerosene lamp. The girl
disappeared and returned with a wet sponge and a bottle of ammonia. She
now opened Sullivan's shirt and sponged his face with perfect
confidence. Then she poured some ammonia upon the sponge and applied it
to his nostrils. Ralston, leaning over the bed, coughed in spite of
himself.

Sullivan opened his eyes a little; the girl removed the sponge and put
her head close to his face.

"He's breathing--he'll come round all right," she said. "He stays 'out'
an awful long time."

She gave him the ammonia again and the patient gasped audibly. Ralston
heaved a great sigh of relief. Although he had known himself to be
absolutely in the right he was aware that this body-snatching was, to
say the least, irregular. Had the fellow died it would have made a nasty
story for the papers. He sank back on a horsehair rocking chair and the
room grew black with little pricking stars. The next moment he felt the
sponge thrust in his face.

"You're almost out yourself, Mr. Ralston. I'll have a cup of coffee
ready for you in a minute. Lie down on the sofa."

Ralston indeed felt sick and faint, the lids of his eyes seemed like
lead, pulled down by invisible but powerful strings. The man was not
dead! But Steadman--he'd think of Steadman in a moment, after he had
rested his eyes a little----

He leaned back his head--and slept. A light touch on his forehead
awakened him half an hour later, and he opened his eyes upon a strange
picture. The room was stuffy and warm as ever. The lamp cast but an
uncertain light on the walls, which, he noticed, were quite bare of
ornament. Over the windows were heavy wooden shutters, bolted on the
inside. On the bed lay Sullivan, breathing heavily. The floor was
covered by a dirty rag carpet, and the only articles of furniture
besides the bed itself were a horsehair-covered lounge, a small table,
and two horsehair-covered chairs, and in the midst of these uncouth
surroundings stood a girl in shimmering evening dress, her white
shoulders shining in the lamplight, offering him a cup of hot and
fragrant coffee.

"You're a brick," said Ralston feebly.

The girl smiled.

"Kind of funny, ain't it? To think of you and me and him"--she pointed
over her shoulder--"being here. What a rumpus the police'll make when
they can't find him at any hospital. It's a queer mix-up, now, ain't
it?"

"I should say it _was_!" echoed Ralston. He gulped down the coffee. "Do
you live here?" he asked, sweeping the room again with his eyes. The
girl smiled.

"Not generally," she said.

"But this house--whose is it?"

The girl shrugged her shoulders.

"They've never been able to find out at the tax office," she said.

"You're a good girl," said Ralston inconsequently.

The smile on the girl's face changed. She started to speak. Then she
closed her eyes and covered them with her hands.

The figure in the bed gave vent to a long-drawn-out snort and tossed
heavily. The girl dabbed her eyes with her wrists and turned with an
anxious look.

"He's waking up," she whispered. "He'll be crazy when he sees you here."

"But I brought him here," said Ralston, "and it was his own fault.
Besides, he is going to find Steadman for me."

"Find Steadman for you?" she exclaimed.

"Why, certainly! Why not?"

The girl looked at him in amazement.

"And that's why you carried him off?"

"Yes--naturally--of course. What did you think?"

She gave a low laugh and clapped her hands softly together.

"And I thought all along it was just to get yourself out of the mess you
were in--to avoid the publicity and all. I didn't see your game. I
thought it was all up for you--and the best you could do was to get out
of having to go to court! But they can't count you out, can they? My,
you _have_ got a nerve!" she finished enthusiastically.

Ralston shrugged his shoulders.

"I assure you it wasn't as clearly thought out as all that. It was like
clutching at whatever was left. Sullivan's my only clew. How can I force
a statement from this fellow? What has he done? What hold can I get on
him?"

The girl looked at him half frightened yet full of admiration.

"Don't try it, Mr. Ralston," she whispered. "Give it up. You can't do
it. It's too late. Besides, Sullivan's a dangerous man--a man who stands
in with all the politicians--a bad fellow to threaten. He's done things
enough, God knows, to send him to jail a dozen times--but leave him
alone! You've done enough for Steadman. If you try to monkey with
Sullivan _anything_ might happen to you. You mightn't leave this house
alive. Get away before it's too late. You're probably due in Washington
about now. This night's work will blow over, and Steadman isn't worth
the powder to blow his brains out." She clasped her hands with a gesture
of entreaty.

"No," said Ralston. "I've begun, and I must finish the job. I mightn't
have gone into it if I had known what it was going to cost, but it's too
late to back out now. Besides, I've nothing to lose. I'm done for. This
'Martin' business would kill the Administration if I didn't resign. In
fact, the public need never know that I have accepted. Fancy! The police
looking for the Second Assistant Secretary of the Navy as a fugitive
from justice! Why, the papers will be full of it. But that doesn't help
me with Steadman. I've got to force this fellow here to give up. Tell me
something to use as a lever."

The man on the bed groaned loudly and elevated one knee high in the air.
The girl hesitated, evidently torn between various conflicting claims of
loyalty.

"Tell him," she whispered after a moment--"tell him you know all about
Shackleton and the Mercantile bonds. If that isn't enough, say you'll
hand him over for the Masterson deal--that'll fetch him, but be careful
and don't get him angry. He may not know where Steadman is, after all.
But I heard him say that the gang had almost finished trimming Steadman
and were going to finish him up to-night--at cards I think. They've
gotten almost every cent he has already----"

Sullivan gave a harsh cough and arose to a sitting position.

"Shackleton--Mercantile bonds--Masterson deal," murmured Ralston to
himself.

"Huh! That you, Floss?" grunted Sullivan. "What are we doin' here?
Where's the old woman?"

"Sh-h! It's all right, Jim," said the girl. "We made a clean get-away.
You came near running in the lot of us."

"Whatcher talking about?" mumbled Sullivan. "'Bout 'getaways'?" Then he
caught sight of Ralston. "Who's this feller?"

"All right, Mr. Sullivan, I'm a friend of yours," said Ralston quietly.

Sullivan looked fixedly at him for a moment without speaking.

"I've seen you before," he muttered. "Somewheres."

"Sure," said Ralston with a laugh. "You tried to do me up at 'The
Martin' not over an hour ago."

Sullivan glared at him.

"You that feller?"

"I am."

"Whatcher doin' here?"

"Same thing I was going to do at 'The Martin' if you'd given me the
chance--have a talk with you."

Sullivan looked puzzled and rubbed the back of his head. He had none of
the resplendency of his earlier appearance.

"Must ha' fallen an' hit my head," said he in an explanatory manner.
"Say, did anyone _club_ me?"

"No," said Ralston. "But you got a pretty rough deal."

"Say," repeated Sullivan, "how'd you come to bring me to the old
woman's?"

"I had to take you somewhere," said Ralston. There was a pause of
several seconds, during which Sullivan endeavored to readjust himself.

"What's yer name?" he inquired.

"Sackett," said Ralston.

"Sackett," repeated Sullivan. "I don't know Sackett. What's yer
business?"

"Oh, I'm a detective," answered Ralston lightly.

Sullivan started and clutched at the mattress.

"Detective!" he muttered. "What d'yer want?"

"I don't want anything," said Ralston. "I know quite a lot about you,
Mr. Sullivan, but it stays where it is. All I want is a little help."

"You go to hell!" growled Sullivan.

"No--no!" replied Ralston. "Not yet. I want you to tell me where I can
find Steadman. You see, his folks are anxious, and it's worth quite a
little to me to locate him. It needn't interfere with any of your
plans. Besides, I imagine you're about through with him, eh?"

The color returned to Sullivan's face and he snarled angrily.

"None of that to me, see? I am on to you, understand? You'd better get
out of here, while you're still able."

The girl, who had remained silent, now spoke again:

"Be careful, Jim; this man can make trouble for us."

Sullivan looked sharply at her, but evidently nothing about her
appearance or speech excited his suspicions.

"Mr. Sullivan," continued Ralston from his seat in the horsehair rocker,
"I don't mean you any harm. In fact, I can do you a good turn now and
then if you'll help me out. All I want is my coin for turning up this
chap Steadman. I know he's no good. He's anybody's money. He's nothing
to me. But it's all in my day's work. Now, don't think me disagreeable.
I want Steadman, you want--well, you don't want certain little incidents
of your career to get to the ears of the district attorney--the
Shackleton bonds, for example. Now, don't be alarmed. I haven't the
slightest intention of giving you away, but, come now, let's be on the
level with each other."

Sullivan cast an evil look at him.

"You think you've got something on me, eh? Prove it! What bonds did you
say?"

Ralston saw that he had nearly made a slip.

"Quite right," said he. "I said Shackleton bonds--I was _thinking_ of
Shackleton. Of course I meant the Mercantile bonds. But if you have any
doubt about my sincerity I might go into the Masterson matter----"

But Sullivan was on his feet, his eyes staring, and his face as pale as
it had been on the floor of "The Martin."

"For Heaven's sake!" he implored.

Ralston rose.

"Come! Come! Is it a bargain? You help me and I help you. Where is he?"

"I'll go with you," muttered Sullivan. "Where's my coat?" He looked
around anxiously. There was no doubt as to the effectiveness of the
reference to the Masterson case.

"Get me a coat," he ordered of the girl. Florence Davenport left the
room, leaving the two men facing one another--the criminal and the
gentleman. It would have been hard to say which looked the more haggard.
The light of the dim lamp made the rings around Ralston's eyes look like
huge horn-rimmed spectacles, and his mouth was drawn to a thin line.
Inside his head was beginning to sing and the corners of his lids to
twitch. He knew the symptoms. He was beginning to "fade out." But he was
getting warm now and he paid no heed to himself.

The girl returned, bringing in her arms a pile of new silk-lined black
overcoats. Ralston remembered the incident afterwards, but at the time
it did not impress him. It is doubtful whether he knew definitely the
meaning of the term--"a fence."

Mechanically he selected a coat to fit him and Sullivan did the same.
The Davenport girl put on the smallest.

"Gimme a hat," said Sullivan.

Again the girl departed and presently returned with an odd collection of
old felt hats of various styles. Now, fully arrayed, Sullivan felt his
way gingerly to the door. A pale gleam filtered through the grating. The
bolt was shot back and Ralston found himself in the fresh morning air.

A white, misty light filled the sky like a diaphanous, pulsating sheet.
If you looked for it it was gone, but as you watched the opposite houses
you knew it to be there. Night was struggling with the day, and the
cohorts of darkness were barely in the ascendant. The tang of the breeze
told the story, filtering in from the river. But the lamps showed
brighter than ever. On his box the cabman slumbered, while his steed did
likewise in cabhorse fashion.

Sullivan reached up and shook the man roughly. Across the end of the
street heavy vans were making their way eastward, filling the little
niche in which they stood with a deafening clatter.

"Drive up Broadway," ordered Sullivan.

The cabman removed his hat, ran his finger around the sweatband and
replaced it on his head.

"Hully gee!" he repeated reminiscently. Several yanks were required to
hoist the horse into a position appropriate to locomotion, and when
action was achieved the animal started as if walking on eggs. Sullivan
and Ralston took Miss Davenport in her black overcoat between them.
Ralston could not tell whether the sky above was white or blue.

Slowly they dragged out into Barrow Street and turned into Green Street.
Once or twice they passed a lonely pedestrian or a stray policeman. Soon
they saw the lights of the elevated structure at Jefferson Market and
caught the moving windows of the trains. A line of truck wagons was
moving slowly southward, the drivers sleeping, unmindful of their route.
Milk wagons jangling from Hudson Avenue added a livelier note. There was
a smell of morning everywhere.

Suddenly Ralston knew he saw white and not blue above the housetops.
The thought filled him with a nervous anxiety to lose no time, and he
pushed up the manhole and ordered the cabby to make haste.

"What do you think I am--a bloomin' steamboat?" inquired the cabby in
sleepy wrath.

They wheeled into Sixth Avenue and Ralston noticed that the surface cars
which passed already had some passengers. Men were standing in twos and
threes upon the street corners. Most of them were smoking clay pipes. He
wondered what manner of men went to work at this hour. They passed
Fourteenth Street and found many persons walking westward--at nightfall
they would plod back. It was a long, long way to go to work. No one had
spoken in the cab as yet.

"Funny how small the city seems at night," said the girl.

Although there was a germ of psychological truth in the remark, Ralston
could think of nothing in reply. He had often noticed the same
phenomenon. Of an afternoon, with Fifth Avenue crowded to the curbs, the
distance from his club to Forty-second Street appeared immense. By night
it seemed no more than a block or two. Now, as they rode northward in
the graying light, the distances which his mental cyclometer ticked off
seemed small and their pace inordinately slow.

Sullivan had maintained a consistent silence. The Masterson affair had
effectually put a quietus upon his belligerency. Ralston was overwhelmed
with sleep. There was a weight behind each of his eyeballs that seemed
forcing them downward and outward, and the humming in the back of his
head had returned. A faint odor of violets and rice powder emanated from
the overcoat beside him. Now and again the small head, with its piles
of brown hair and old slouch hat, would begin to incline gradually and
gently in his direction, only to be raised again when the brim of the
hat touched his shoulder. He leaned his own head in the corner and
closed his eyes.

Instantly a heavy curtain, warm, fragrant, deliciously soothing, seemed
drawn over him. He found himself talking to Ellen in Miss Evarts's
drawing-room. He felt again the elation of his appointment, the
gratefulness of appreciation. The man was painting in his name on the
blackboard--the man in the yellow-and-black sweater, and he heard the
crowd spelling it out and repeating it. Once again he experienced the
thrill it had occasioned him the night before. He realized anew the
extent to which his selection had brought him into the public eye--the
influence which the success or failure of his appointment would have
upon the Administration.

The President had been already severely criticised for giving important
places to comparatively young and untried men--men of the silk-stocking
class--and the President had but a doubtful hold upon the people.
Several canards had been started which, in the face of recent
socialistic propaganda, had made considerable headway. The yellow
journals were denouncing the war as imperialistic, as an excuse for an
ambitious executive to play the part of a Cæsar or a Napoleon. They
charged that he was surrounding himself with the rich and powerful, and
their sons. He was contrasted with Lincoln and Jefferson. In a word, the
Administration was in a ticklish position.

Then upon Ralston's wearied brain flashed the picture of his meeting
with Colonel Duer; the tawdry, tarnished environment of his search for
the worthless Steadman; his arrival at "The Martin" at two in the
morning; his open solicitation of a woman's acquaintance, and the
consequent free fight in which, so far as the onlookers knew, he might
have killed her companion; then, and most unpleasant of all, his flight,
bearing away his victim with him. How could he explain _that_? Why, the
thing must have been wired to every morning paper in the country. He
could see the headlines:

      ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF NAVY KILLS MAN

      FIGHT AROSE OVER WOMAN IN RESTAURANT

      A NEW SCANDAL FOR THE PRESIDENT TO HUSH UP

He shuddered at the thought of it. If he gave himself up and declared
that he had struck in self-defense, how could he explain having dashed
away with the woman in a hansom? Where had he gone? _Why_ had he gone
there? His lips were sealed. He _could_ make no statement without
publicly avowing the whole object of his night's work--the necessity for
finding Steadman, and Steadman's relations with Ellen. He saw column
after column of interviews with himself, real and imaginary. The most
sacred passages of Ellen's life would be made public property, dressed
up to suit the editor's fancy, and sold on the corner for a penny.

The possibility sickened him. There was nothing to be done but to resign
and go away. In that way only could the Administration be relieved from
a most embarrassing situation, and by no other means could Ellen be
saved from the humiliation incident to a truthful explanation of the
affair. Then, too, he must continue his search. He could not give it up
now. He must find Steadman, even while a fugitive from justice himself.
He _would_ find him.

He opened his eyes. They were still following Sixth Avenue beneath the
elevated tracks. It had grown brighter. Sullivan had lighted a cigar.
Ralston found himself trembling with excitement. A sweat had broken out
all over him. Across the way, on the opposite corner, he saw the lights
of a telegraph office, and he raised the manhole and told the cabby to
stop.

"What's up?" inquired Sullivan, removing his cigar.

"I've got to send a telegram," said Ralston unsteadily.

Sullivan looked at him with suspicion.

"You ain't givin' me the double cross, eh?"

"I give you my word I'm not," replied Ralston. "It's only a matter of
private business."

"Guess it can wait, can't it?"

Ralston smiled in spite of himself. He wished he could tell Sullivan the
purport of this telegram which gave him so much anxiety. Simultaneously
it occurred to him that it was undesirable to leave the cab even for a
moment Sullivan might take it into his head to disappear.

"Oh, well," he retorted, "it doesn't entirely suit my book to allow you
a chance to side-step me either, so we'll settle it by letting Miss
Davenport send the wire for me. In that way we can each continue in the
other's company. Much more agreeable, of course. Miss Davenport, may I
ask you to get me a blank from inside?"

The girl sprang down and quickly returned with a sheaf of blanks and a
pencil. Ralston scribbled on his knee a hasty message:

      To the President, White House, Washington. Am forced,
      after all, to decline appointment. See morning papers.
      Am writing fully.

      RALSTON.

He handed her half a dollar and she reëntered the office.

Now Miss Davenport was a young person wise in her generation. She had
seen many men in many situations, and she realized that the man who had
handed her this particular telegram was in a condition bordering on
collapse. Had she seen fit to use a sporting term she would have said
that Ralston was "groggy" with nervousness and excitement. In addition
she was not devoid of the usual amount of feminine curiosity. At any
rate, her first move was to read the telegram.

"He's crazy!" she exclaimed under her breath. "Why, he doesn't even know
whether they got his name! And Jim's all right." She turned the message
over in her hand.

"I guess that telegram _can_ wait. There won't be anything in the
papers. The presses are locked at one o'clock."

"Say," she remarked to the sleepy operator, "what's the rate to
Washington, D. C.?"

"Twenty-five for ten words, and two cents a word over."

"Change that for me, will you? Let me have some coppers?"

The man fished out the small change and went back to his accounts.

Miss Davenport slipped the paper into her pocket and returned to the
cab.

"Nineteen cents change," she said, handing it to Ralston.

"Where to?" asked the cabby mechanically.

"West Forty-fifth Street," said Sullivan.

They started on. The street lamps were fast paling beneath the dawn. At
Thirty-third Street and Broadway a newsboy was hopping on the cars and
shouting his items. A strange thrill of determination had seized
Ralston. The die was cast now. There was nothing more to consider.

"Here's your _Morning Journal_!" cried the boy as the cab swung by. "New
Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Twelfth Regiment starts with a full
quota of officers!" He waved his sheets at them.

Inside the cab Ralston set his teeth.

"I'll make it a full quota!" he muttered.

They turned down Thirty-third Street into Fifth Avenue.

"Look here," said Sullivan suddenly, "all I do is to show him to you,
see? Understand, I don't get into no mix-up myself! My job ends when I
give you the pass."

"All right," said Ralston. "Just show him to me. That's all I ask."

"All right," repeated Sullivan.

They passed Forty-second Street and turned into Forty-fifth, just as the
lights in the crosstown cars had been put out.



VIII


The house before which they stopped was an old-fashioned brownstone
front. A brownstone flight of steps with a heavy brownstone balustrade
and huge, carved newel post of the same depressing material led to a
pair of ponderous stained doors tight shut with the air of finality
possible only to a brownstone side street. The shades on the four rows
of windows of this impenetrable mansion were smoothly drawn. At the
grated window in the area the lower half of a bird cage, just visible
beneath the screen, was the only indication of occupancy. The whole
aspect of the place was that of somnolent respectability. One could
imagine the door being swung wide, the rug shaken, the broom making a
fictitious passage through the vestibule, the curtains going up unevenly
in the front parlor, the shades raised in the area, the canary thrilling
in response to the shaking of the kitchen range, and _Paterfamilias_
coming down the steps at about eight twenty-five in a square Derby hat,
to go to his real estate office. This is what occurs at four homes out
of five in this locality every morning from the first day of October to
the first day of July.

But no eye within the last ten years had beheld a shade raised in this
particular establishment. The census taker had never entered its doors.
No woman had ever passed its threshold. No child had ever played within
its halls. Once a year a load of wines was deposited there and once a
month a grocer's wagon paused outside. The coal was put in during the
summer--forty tons, C. O. D. and five per cent off. The milkman was the
only matutinal visitor, and the milkman left his wares upon the flagging
of the servants' entrance. At eleven o'clock a colored man emerged from
the area and departed in the direction of Sixth Avenue with a basket
upon his arm. In half an hour he returned. This was the chief occurrence
of the day. At seven in the evening two hansom cabs drew up before the
door to allow four men to enter the house--also by the area. That was
all, except that the ice wagon stopped daily, but the colored man took
the ice off the hooks at the door.

The visitors at the house arrived in cabs between the hours of eight and
twelve P.M., and departed between the latter hour and five in the
morning. There are forty similar _ménages_ north of Thirty-third Street
and east of Long Acre Square.

"He's in here," said Sullivan. "But I ain't goin' inside."

"You're not, eh?" remarked Ralston. "Very well, we stay here together
then until he comes out--and then you go down to headquarters with
_me_."

"Look here, Sackett," whined Sullivan, "how can I go in? They'd see me
and know I'd sold 'em out. I can't do it. It would finish me. Don't be
unreasonable."

"Well, how do I know he's here?" asked Ralston. "Don't be unreasonable
yourself."

"Well, I _know_ he's here," said Sullivan. "I tell you what I'll do.
I'll go into the hall, and when you're satisfied I ain't givin' you the
double-cross, I'll slip out. Suppose I showed you Steadman, that would
satisfy you, wouldn't it?"

"It certainly would," said Ralston.

Sullivan looked up and down the street and then clambered out in a
disjointed and rheumatic fashion.

"I'm sorry, Miss Davenport, I can't let you have the cab," said Ralston.
"I shall need it--I hope."

Sullivan was on the sidewalk, looking at the house.

The girl suddenly seized Ralston's hand.

"Mr. Ralston," she said, "be careful while you are in that house. Don't
mention a word of what I've told you about Sullivan. They're a reckless
lot. Watch yourself and them. Play it easy, and good luck to you. Some
time, I hope, I'll see you again."

Ralston pressed her hand.

He climbed down.

"Where to?" mumbled the cabby.

"Stay right _here_ until I come out--if it's six hours!" directed
Ralston.

The dawn was flushing the chocolate-colored fronts before them and a
milk wagon was working gradually down the block. Ralston felt weak in
the knees, but he pounded his feet on the pavement and stepped quickly
after Sullivan, who had started up the steps.

"I needn't warn you that there must be no funny business, Sullivan,"
said Ralston, as the other fumbled in his trousers pocket. "Our bargain
holds. Your life for mine and Steadman's."

"You needn't worry," replied Sullivan. "Homicide isn't in our business.
I wish I could turn Steadman over to you bound hand and foot, but I
can't. You've got _him_ to deal with. The rest is easy. The gang's
pretty near through with him. But you've got to handle _him_ yourself."

Sullivan inserted the key and turned the handle of the door, which swung
open as if on greased hinges.

As Ralston crossed the threshold it occurred to him forcibly that
although the house in which he now stood was not over three blocks from
his lodgings, and that his round-the-clock chase had brought him, like a
man lost in the woods, back almost to his starting point, the fact that
he had actually struck Steadman's trail at all, to say nothing of having
run him to earth, was in itself no less than a miracle. Fate had
certainly favored him upon the one hand, if it had dashed his hopes upon
the other. He was the same Ralston that had jumped into the same cab
just around the corner some seven hours before, but in that short
passage of time the current of his existence had gone swirling off in an
entirely unexpected direction. The hopes and ambitions of the evening
had faded to fair dreams lingering on after a disappointing awakening.
Apart from his utter exhaustion a pall had fallen upon his spirit--he
had become undervitalized physically and psychically. He did not care
what might happen before he regained the street, and he knew that almost
anything might happen. The gamblers had been in an ugly mood for a long
time. Yet he knew that his hold on Sullivan, fictitious as it was, was
for the time being a sure one. Moreover, the experiences of the night
had not lessened his confidence in his capacity to handle any new
situation as it might arise.

Sullivan now addressed himself to the inner door, which opened as easily
as its predecessor, and an old-fashioned hall disclosed itself before
them. On the right a pair of heavy _portières_ concealed the entrance to
what was, or at least some time had been, the drawing-room. The usual
steep flight of carpeted walnut stairs ascended to the usual narrow
hallway on the second floor. A massive walnut hatrack supported a huge
mirror and a collection of Inverness coats and tall hats. A bronze gas
chandelier burned brightly, and a colored man lay extended at full
length upon the floor with his head resting upon the bottom stair. The
air was close and heavy and filled with the thin blue smoke of distant
cigars. Apart from the audible repose of the negro the house was as
silent as a New England Sabbath morning.

Sullivan strode toward the recumbent figure upon the floor and
administered a stout kick, at which the sleeper suddenly raised his head
and drew up his knees.

"Here you, Marcus, wake up!" growled Sullivan. "Where's Mr. Farrer?"

The negro rubbed his eyes and gazed stupidly at the two figures before
him without replying.

"Where's Mr. Farrer?" repeated Sullivan.

Marcus pointed over his shoulders and up the stairs.

"He's in de back room, boss."

"Who's up there?"

"Jes' a single game--five gen'lemen."

"How long they been playin'?"

"Couple days, Ah reckon."

"How long have you been asleep?"

"Couple days, Ah reckon, boss," repeated Marcus.

"Is Mr. Steadman up there?"

"He de gen'leman they calls Mr. X?" asked Marcus with more interest.

"I think so," answered Sullivan.

"Yes, sir, he's up dere. Say, boss, what day is this?" asked Marcus.
"Sunday, ain't it? We began playin' Satudy, but Ah reckon Ah done got
'fused 'bout de time."

But Sullivan did not reply. Instead he turned to Ralston and said:

"Look here, I don't see any way out of my having to introduce you to the
game. After I've done that you'll have to manage the thing for
yourself."

He started laboriously upstairs. Marcus returned to his previous picture
of elegant repose. At the top of the first flight they turned and,
passing along the hall, ascended another. The smoke grew thicker as they
progressed. The only light came from the gas brackets, for the skylight
over the wall was draped with a sheet of black cloth. At the top of the
second flight Ralston caught the faint click of chips.

"It's up to you," said Sullivan, "if you want to go in."

"I'll take the responsibility," answered Ralston, but his heart began to
beat faster, a phenomenon he attributed to the fact that there was no
elevator.

At the top of the last flight they paused. The sound of chips and low
voices came distinctly from beneath the door of the room in the back.
Then followed a pause, during which some one cursed his luck loudly.

Sullivan pushed open the door and Ralston entered at his elbow. At first
he could see nothing, owing to the thick haze that hung like a cloud
throughout the room. Then he made out the figures of five men in their
shirt-sleeves seated at a medium-sized table. These started to their
feet at the interruption, and one of them, larger than the others, cried
out:

"What do you want?"

"It's only me--little, tiny me," said Sullivan with a laugh. "I've
brought a new come-on that thinks he knows the game. Can you let him sit
in?"

Ralston was watching Sullivan narrowly for the first sign of betrayal,
but it was clear that Sullivan was living up to his bargain.

A drawling voice came from the table. "Five's the gambler's game--we're
nearly through, anyhow."

The tall man hesitated.

"We're nearly through, as Mr. X says," he remarked, not impolitely.
"It's quite late. Of course, if you're a friend of Sullivan's----"

"Oh, let me take a stack. I've made a night of it and I want to get my
bait back. I guess I've still got the price," said Ralston. He pulled a
roll of bills from his pocket.

"Well," said the other, "gamblers' rules. This is an open game. I'm
afraid he's entitled to come in. Goin', Sullivan? Well, so-long. Close
the door after you."

"So-long, Sackett," said Sullivan.

"Good-by!" said Ralston, with emphasis. "We're quits, aren't we?"

"Sure," replied Sullivan.

"Let me present you to the company," said the tall man. "My name's
Farrer. I guess you've heard of me. These are my friends, Messrs. Brown,
Jones, and Robinson, and Mr. X. Your own name is Mr. ----?"

"Sackett," said Ralston.

"All right, Mr. Sackett. We were just about goin' to pull out, but we'll
hold the game open for you for a few minutes, just to give the boys a
chance to even up. No, we're not playing dollar limit. The lid's off.
But just out of respect for the cloth we don't go above a thousand at
one clip. Take a full stack? Amounts to exactly forty-nine hundred and
seventy-five. Brown, a thousand; yellow, five hundred; blue, one
hundred; red, fifty; white, twenty-five and the blind."

"Thank you," said Ralston, with a slight leap of the heart, as Farrer
pushed over the little pile of ivory counters. "If you don't object I'll
take off my overcoat for luck."



IX


Ralston removed his dress coat and seized the opportunity for a rapid
glance around the room. Farrer had retaken his seat and the others were
moving over to make room for an extra chair. The curtains, tightly
drawn, repelled the eddying smoke, which slowly drew toward the
fireplace.

Ralston had no time to study the men about him. He had recognized
Steadman immediately, but it was apparent that Steadman himself was in
no condition to recognize anybody. The boy sat limply in his chair with
his head down and his eyes rolled toward the ceiling, apparently
incapable of speech or action, yet suddenly returning to life and to
complete lucidity at irregular intervals. Farrer he knew by reputation.
The other three men were probably professional card sharps masquerading
under the guise of men about town. Of what he should eventually do
Ralston had no clear idea. It was obvious that the gang were not yet
through with Steadman, and, moreover, that until Steadman wanted to go
away he would stay where he was. He must fight for time and await his
opportunity.

Farrer sat with his back to the door, the two chairs to his left being
occupied by the gentlemen introduced as "Brown" and "Jones." Next to
them and facing Farrer came Steadman, with "Robinson" between him and
Ralston, who sat immediately to the right of Farrer and filled the last
seat. He thus had one of the most advantageous places at the table.

"Deal out," said Farrer to the man on his left. "It's getting late. Ante
up, boys. I have a hunch that something is coming my way this time."

The dealer dealt rapidly round, using, Ralston was particular to notice,
the same cards which had been laid on the table when he entered. It was
clear that a pack "stacked" for five could not be used for six, and
Ralston, picking up his hand and finding he had three jacks pat, pushed
in his white chip.

"I'll draw cards," said he quietly. All came in except Steadman, who
threw his cards down upon the table with an oath.

The dealer handed the remaining two men three cards each, Ralston took
one, Farrer three, and the dealer one. Although our novice did not
improve his hand, he raised a fifty-dollar bet made by the man upon his
right by a blue chip. Farrer dropped out and the dealer raised Ralston
another blue. The other two men dropped, and Ralston "saw" the dealer,
who threw down a busted flush.

"Good work, old man!" exclaimed Farrer. "You're no sucker. Deal for Mr.
X, there, Robinson."

"I can deal for myself, thanks," remarked Steadman, and indeed he
managed to do so surprisingly well.

This time Ralston held nothing and declined to play, while Steadman won
a small amount with two large pair. Each man had lying before him a pile
of greenbacks held in place by a heavy paper weight of brass surmounted
by an ash receiver, Steadman's pile being composed almost entirely of
one-thousand-dollar bills.

Presently Ralston found himself holding three queens on the deal and
filled on the draw with a pair of nines. The cards had been running
low, and he had already won in the neighborhood of twelve or thirteen
hundred dollars. The three queens following his three jacks struck him
as rather a coincidence, and betting merely a white chip he watched the
others to see what would happen. To his surprise all dropped out but
Steadman, who had drawn but a single card and who raised him a blue
chip. Ralston now raised in his turn a like amount, and Steadman, there
now being nearly five hundred dollars on the table, raised him a yellow.
But Ralston, feeling confident of his position, pushed in a brown--the
first thousand-dollar bet he had ever made. The gamblers were watching
them with interest.

"I win," said Steadman, shoving over a brown chip and throwing down a
flush. "All sky blue."

"Sorry," answered Ralston, "three ladies and a little pair."

"Curse the luck," growled Steadman. "One more hand and I quit."

"Quit?" cried one of the men. "Why, the game's young yet. Nobody's won
or lost anything to speak of. Don't go _now_! Mr. Sackett wants to play
and he's got a lot of our money. We're entitled to our revenge."

"I didn't ask him to play," mumbled Steadman. "I'm sick of the game and
I don't feel just right. I feel sort of sick. I'm only goin' to play one
more hand."

"All right! Jack pot!" cried Farrer cheerfully. "It's a house rule. Jack
pots on all full houses containing the royal family. A 'palace pot' we
call it. Give us a new pack."

One of the men leaned back and reached down a new unopened pack from a
side table. The cards they had been playing with were red. These were
blue and the revenue stamp was unbroken. But a new pack on a
declaration that the game was going to end struck Ralston as curiously
unnecessary. The air in the room was beginning to make his head swim,
and a glance at his watch disclosed that it was half after five. It was
time for him to get Steadman away, but how to do it?

"Hundred-dollar ante," said Farrer, shuffling the cards ostentatiously
and dealing himself a jack. They each put in a blue. Steadman was
helplessly fumbling his chips, counting and recounting them. Silence
fell upon the table as Farrer tossed the cards accurately to each
player.

As the last cards were being dealt Steadman's fifth card struck his
glass, balanced, and fell slowly over. It was a deuce of hearts.

"I beg your pardon!" exclaimed Farrer apologetically.

"Hang you!" escaped from one of the others, and Ralston saw that the
man's hands were trembling.

"I won't take that card," said Steadman, awaking suddenly as out of a
trance. "It's no good. Gimme another!"

Farrer flushed.

"I'm sorry, you'll have to take it. It's on the deal, not the draw. The
rule is as old as the game."

"I say I won't take it," snarled Steadman. "I haven't seen my hand. I
won't take it. I'll stay out, but I won't pick up that card--it's no
good." He gave a silly laugh.

One of the other men sprang to his feet.

"You've got to take it," he cried. "You can't refuse it. You've got to
abide by the rules."

"Sit down, you fool!" shouted Farrer, almost losing control of himself.
"Who's running this game? Mr. Steadman can't have another card. He can
look at his hand, and if he wants to stay out he can, but he's got to
play the cards he's got. Pick up your hand, old man. Don't let's get
upset over a little thing like that. Why, it may be the very card you
want."

But Steadman's obstinacy was aroused.

"I won't do either," said he. "_You_ can't make me play. I can stay out,
can't I? I can forfeit my ante. That's my own business, ain't it? Well,
I'll watch you fellers play for once. What's a blue chip!"

"You fool!" broke in one of the others. "Why don't you look at your
cards? Don't throw away a hundred dollars like that! Here, if you're so
proud, I'll look at 'em for you--and stay out."

He reached for the cards, but Steadman struck his hand away.

"Touch those cards if you dare!" he shouted, his eyes glaring. "Leave my
cards alone!"

"Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" exclaimed Farrer soothingly. "Of course, Mr. X
can refuse to play if he likes. It's his privilege. Won't you change
your mind? Well, take out your chip--nobody objects. Count it a dead
hand."

"My chip stays in and I stay out," muttered Steadman.

Ralston saw a furtive look pass between two of the others. Farrer dealt
the remaining cards and picked up his hand, grunting as he looked at his
cards. The man next him swore softly.

"I can't open it," he growled.

"Nothin' doin'," said the second gambler.

Steadman remained staring at his deuce of hearts.

"By me!" remarked the third gambler. Then Ralston picked up his hand.
He felt as he used to feel when under the student lamp in his college
room he had calculated the chances of filling a bobtail straight as
against a four flush. The others were watching him eagerly. Four jacks
closely backed one another in his hand. He could hardly suppress a grin.

"Ye-es, I'll open it," he remarked hesitantly. He toyed with the yellows
and the browns. Then his fingers slipped across the pile. "I'll let you
all in easy," he said affably, "for a little white seed."

The gambler across the table bit his lip.

"Well, I'm in!" exclaimed Farrer with an affectation of
light-heartedness. "It's just about my limit."

The other three pushed in their chips without comment. Each of them took
one card. Ralston took one. Farrer took four.

"Ah!" sighed the latter, half to himself.

"Well, this looks pretty good to me," said the first gambler with a
slight smile, pushing in a brown chip.

The second gambler pursed up his lips and shrugged his shoulders. "Suits
me, too," he remarked good-naturedly, "I'll up you a thousand."

He contributed two brown chips with great deliberation. Steadman was
giggling foolishly.

"Where would I have been?" he gibbered. "The tall grass wouldn't have
hidden me."

The third gambler now came into the game. It appeared that he, also,
thought highly of his hand, for he raised both his comrades by a brown
chip.

"One, two--and back again!" he murmured. "I've got you pinched. Only six
thousand in the pot--and four aces will take it all! Come right in, Mr.
Sackett, the water's warm." They watched him covetously.

"Oh, I don't know," answered Ralston with deliberation. "I have one or
two cards myself. They look pretty good to _me_! But then I'm not used
to the game. I wonder if you'd stand a raise." He picked up four brown
chips and counted them slowly. They eyed him, hardly breathing. Then
Ralston laid the chips back on the table.

"No," said he regretfully. "It's too high for me. Here are my openers,"
and he threw down his hand face upward on the table.

"Four j-jacks!" stammered Steadman, rubbing his eyes. "Four j-jacks!"

The others, with the exception of Farrer, had arisen and stood glowering
at Ralston.

"What's this?" exclaimed Farrer harshly.

"What's your game?" cried another.

"Nothing, gentlemen. I lie down. That's all. It's my privilege."

The gambler ground his teeth and placed his cards on the table.

"Aren't you going to finish the game?" asked Ralston with elaborate
sarcasm.

"Of course we are," shot back Farrer. "Only to see a man do a damn fool
thing like that is enough to bust up any game." He looked at his cards.

"I'm out," he added shortly.

The first gambler did not seem to regard his hand any longer with favor,
for he "dropped" immediately. So also did the second, and the third drew
the chips toward him, no cards having been disclosed.

Steadman was still giggling feebly.

"I say," he mumbled again, "you _are_ easy! Four jacks! O my! O----"

"Do you think so?" inquired Ralston politely, as he reached quickly
across the table and, picking up the first gambler's hand, turned it
over. The man grabbed for the cards, but he was an instant too late.
Four aces lay under the gaslight.

"Not so easy, eh?" continued Ralston. "Pretty good judgment, it seems to
me. I'll have my ante back, if you please," and he replaced one of the
blue chips on his own pile. "It requires more nerve to lay down four
aces than four jacks."

The men stared at him without speaking, and Farrer arose abruptly.

"I supposed I was in a respectable game," he announced with severity.
"If you gentlemen," turning to Ralston and Steadman, "will step
downstairs I will adjust matters with you. As for you," addressing the
other three, "make yourselves scarce and never come into my house
again." They moved slowly toward the door.

"Don't worry on our account, Mr. Farrer," remarked Ralston suavely. "I'm
sure the matter was merely a coincidence. Seeing a man lie down on four
jacks is enough to account for any apparent little irregularity." But,
before he had finished, the three, closely followed by Farrer, had
departed. Then Ralston looked over to where Steadman was sitting with a
smile of utter lassitude.

"We were well out of that, I fancy," said he.

"I wonder what _I_ had?" answered Steadman dreamily. He fumbled
unsteadily for his hand and turned it over card by card.

The first was a deuce of spades.

"Oh!" he remarked, "a pair of 'em, anyhow."

The next was a deuce of diamonds, and the last a deuce of clubs.

Steadman looked stupidly around the table.

"Four little twos!" he muttered. "And _you_ had four knaves and he had
four aces. I guess there's a special Providence looking out for _me_.
Say, what won that pot, anyway?"

Farrer suddenly reappeared at the door.

"Here's your money, gentlemen," he remarked, counting the chips in front
of each of them and throwing down the appropriate number of bills.
"Sorry to have the game broken up in such a way, but these sharps get in
everywhere. I hope you won't mention the incident. I have a very fine
line of patrons and nothing of the kind has ever occurred before."

As he turned away Steadman raised his eyes and looked the gambler full
in the face.

"Farrer," said he, "you've robbed me--you and your gang. Some time I'll
make you pay for it, you--thief!" Then the fire died as suddenly as it
had come, his head dropped forward listlessly, his eyes rolled
ceiling-ward, and he fell to mumbling and muttering to himself. Ralston
sprang to his side, as Farrer slid through the door.

"I'm Dick Ralston," he said. "Don't you recognize me?"

Steadman gazed at him stolidly.

"Rals'on?" he muttered. "Rals'on? So you are! I guess you are. Why not?
What of it?"

He put his head on his arms and leaned them against the table top.

Ralston grasped him by the shoulder and shook him roughly.

"Pull yourself together!" he cried. "You must get out of here quickly."
He shook Steadman again.

"Don't you understand?" he said sharply. "Your regiment leaves in an
hour. _Your regiment!_ Your company!"

Steadman looked at him dully. A burned-out cigarette hung from his under
lip by its own cohesive ability.

"Rats!" he muttered. "I've chucked all that. Regiment can go for all of
me unless it wants to wait."

"You fool!" shouted Ralston. "Don't you see it's the end of you if you
don't go!"

"The end's come already! I'm a dead one now!"

"Get up there!" returned Ralston. "I'll put you at the head of your
company in forty minutes. Get up, I say."

"Don't be an ass, Rals'on!" snarled Steadman. "I'll do as I choose. I
tell you it's too late!"

"It's nothing of the kind. Why, man, your uniform's all ready for you.
They haven't started yet. Buck up!"

"You seem awful interested, it strikes me."

"Never mind that. Just be thankful some one cared enough to give you the
tip. Come on now."

"I tell you it's too late. How the hell can I go--to _war_?" Steadman
laughed in a sickly fashion.

Ralston's heart sank and his gorge rose. Had he sacrificed his future
for a cad like this? And was he going to fail besides?

"You miserable snipe!" he cried, for an instant utterly losing control
of himself.

"You shan't--insult me!" chattered Steadman, rising unsteadily to his
feet. In a flash Ralston perceived the possibilities of the situation.

"You're a coward, Steadman!" he cried. "A welcher!"

Steadman's eyes glared wildly. "I'll kill you for that!" he gasped.

"Come on down and fight it out then, if you're a man," sneered Ralston,
turning and making for the head of the stairs. Steadman groped his way
after him along the wall.

"Come on, you welcher!" taunted Ralston.

With an inarticulate cry of anger, Steadman clasped the banisters and
half slid, half stumbled to the entrance hall.

"I'll fight you here!" he cried. "I'll kill you!"

"No! No!" answered Ralston. "Outside."

Marcus attempted to put on Steadman's coat, but the latter fought him
angrily off. Then he staggered and nearly fell.

"Oh, I'm sick!" he cried. "I can't see."

"Catch him!" directed Ralston, springing to his side and guiding him
across the threshold. They led him down the steps, hustled him across
the sidewalk and into the hansom.

"Where to?" inquired cabby automatically.

"John McCullough's--drive like mad!" replied Ralston.



X


"Keep away from me," muttered Steadman, as Ralston climbed into the cab
beside him. "Keep away, or I'll kill you." His face had turned a livid
yellow, and he lay limp against the cushions. The cabby started his
horse round the corner into the avenue.

"Steadman!" cried Ralston, sick at heart. "Steadman, old man! I
apologize! I beg your pardon! Do you understand? I _apologize_. It was
just a trick to get you out--away."

"Ugh!" groaned the other.

"Brace up! You'll be all right in a minute. All right--in a minute.
Understand? Fit as a preacher!"

"I don't know. I'm awfully sick!"

They raced down the avenue in silence until, with a sharp turn, the
hansom dashed into East Twenty-seventh Street and stopped with a lurch
in front of a low red-brick house close to the corner.

The clock on the corner church showed that he had less than an hour and
a half as Ralston rushed to the steps and rang the bell. The door was
almost instantly opened by a heavily built man with a pleasant Irish
face.

"Hello, Mr. Ralston!" he ejaculated.

"Sh!" answered the other. "Get this man out quick and into the house.
You've got to knock him into shape inside of ten minutes. He's at the
end of a long one. Ten minutes, do you understand?"

"Leave him to me," answered the matter-of-fact McCullough, then crossing
to the cab, "Give me your arm, sir," he said to Steadman.

"Leave me alone!" muttered Steadman.

Without another word the Irishman put his arms around him, and, as if he
were a child, lifted him to the ground, across the sidewalk, and into
the house.

Ralston followed and closed the door. Outside, the cabby fell asleep
again and the horse stood with one hip six inches higher than the other
and its head between its legs.

"Hi there, Terry! Sthrip off the gent's clothes!"

Another husky Irishman appeared from somewhere, and the two led Steadman
into a sort of dressing room, where they speedily relieved him of his
garments. Without a pause McCullough opened a glass door into a tiled
passage at the end of which could be seen another door clouded with
steam. First, however, he poured a teaspoonful of absinthe into the palm
of his hand and held it to Steadman's face. "Snuff it up yer nose!" said
he.

Steadman seemed dazed. Like a half-resuscitated man he did as he was
told, gagging and coughing.

"Come here now," said Terry.

Steadman walked quietly down the passage.

"Only for a minute," said the bath man.

He opened the door and shoved Steadman in, closing and locking it behind
him.

"That's all he needs," commented McCullough.

"How long will you give him?"

"Just five minutes. He didn't like the absinthe, did he?"

Ralston laughed softly. He knew what twentieth century miracles
McCullough could work.

"Have you got a telephone?" he inquired.

"Shure," answered Mac, leading the way to the office.

Ralston lost no time in calling up the armory.

"I want Clarence. Send him to the 'phone!"

A wait of a couple of minutes followed.

"Is that you, Clarence?"

"Yassah."

"Jump on a car and bring Mr. Steadman's uniform and valise to ---- East
Twenty-seventh Street at once."

When he returned to the passage Steadman was beating feebly on the glass
door from the inside. Terry grinned and shook his head, holding up two
fingers. The tortured one threw himself in agony into a steamer chair,
only to leap instantly to his feet with an inaudible yell of pain.

"Are you ready?" Terry inquired of his employer.

"Shure."

They threw open the door and each grabbed an arm of their victim,
dragging him down the passage into the dressing room. Another door
opened into a room in which was a large tank. Without ceremony the two
Irishmen swung their glistening patient off the edge and into the water.
Steadman shrieked, choked and splashed helplessly.

"Down wit' him!" cried McCullough, and they forced him beneath the
surface.

"Ag'in!"

Down he went.

"Now up!" and they lifted him bodily up on to the floor once more, and
yanked him streaming into the dressing room. Steadman's face was a
bright red, but he walked to a corner, while the two Irishmen with two
little towels gently blotted the water from his back, sides, and arms.
His legs they left to take care of themselves.

"Ready there!" cried McCullough, giving Steadman a sharp blow that sent
him staggering across the room.

"Back again!" yelled Terry, punching his victim in the chest with his
open hand and sending him reeling toward McCullough.

Then they threw themselves upon him, slapping him, banging him from side
to side, pulling his ears, arms and nose until he holloed for mercy,
tossing him from one to the other, and swinging him at full length by
his hands and feet. Finally, they flung him helpless, red and gasping
for breath, upon a table. Once more they slapped him until he glowed
like a lobster, and then rubbed him down with alcohol.

"On with his clothes!" shouted Ralston. "How do you feel, Jack, old
man?"

"All right!" replied Steadman weakly, with a grin. "How they murdered
me!"

At this moment the street bell rang and a middle-aged negro appeared
with a valise, tin box, and chamois-covered sword.

"Why, it's old Clarence!" ejaculated Steadman.

The negro undid the valise and took out the olive-drab khaki field
uniform. In a trice he had buckled and buttoned the delinquent officer
into it. From the tin box came a campaign hat. Steadman fastened on the
sword himself. There were tears of feeble excitement in his eyes.

"Are you sure it's not too late?" he asked anxiously.

"I've taken my oath to get you there," answered Ralston.

"By George! You're a good fellow!" repeated Steadman. He held out his
hand. "You've saved my reputation--I might almost say--my life."

Ralston took the hand held out to him, the hand only a few moments
before raised against him in anger. It was quite warm. McCullough had
done his bit well.

"You weren't yourself. You didn't realize--" he began, and stopped. The
room swam before his eyes, and he groped for a chair. With the partial
accomplishment of his object, and the consequent physical and mental
relaxation, the fatigue of the pursuit and the nervous strain which he
had been under took possession of him. He found the chair and sank into
it, shutting out the light with his hand. Steadman called McCullough,
who quickly brought him something to drink. Somewhat revived, Ralston
staggered to his feet eager to escape from the warmth of the overheated
room and to finish his task.

"Come along, Steadman. We haven't much time. Less than an hour."

"Poor old chap, you're done up!"

"No, no; I'm all right. We must be getting along."

"But we don't leave, you say, until seven!"

"I know, but we must be getting along."

"Where?"

Ralston hesitated.

"I'll tell you outside." He shuffled toward the door. Steadman followed.

On the steps he turned toward Ralston inquiringly.

"Ellen has been waiting," said the latter in a low voice, looking away.

"What do you mean? Does she know?" asked Steadman in a whisper.

"I don't know how much," replied Ralston. "She feared you were going to
lose your chance--that you'd be done for, and asked me to try and look
you up. She--she cares for you, I think."

Steadman uttered a groan.

"Oh, I'm a brute," he muttered.

He looked anything but a brute in his olive-drab uniform, campaign hat
and shining sword.

"Come along," said Ralston, grabbing him by the arm. They took their
seats in the hansom.

"Where to?" asked the cabby monotonously.

"The Chilsworth," said Ralston.

Once more the exhausted animal climbed wearily up Fifth Avenue. A touch
of yellow sunlight was just gilding the housetops on the left, and the
street stretched gray and solitary northward.

"You say she's waiting?" Steadman asked nervously.

"Yes."

"For how long?"

"All night."

Steadman shuddered.

"How did you know where to look for me?"

"I didn't."

Ralston was beginning to feel the revivifying effects of the whisky and
soda and the fresh morning air.

"''Twas like looking for a needle in haystack,'" he hummed. "'Although
the chance of finding it was small.' Not an easy job, my friend."

"But I didn't know you were in New York!"

"I'd only been back a few days."

"And Ellen asked you to hunt me up?"

"Ye-es."

Again Ralston felt weary, awfully weary, and sleepy.

"By George, you're a brick!"

"Oh, don't mention it!" yawned this "finder of lost persons."

"But why should you? You hardly knew me!"

"Somebody had to do it."

"And that somebody had to know _how_, eh?"

"It would appear so. You'd concealed yourself pretty effectually for
some time. Your friend the colonel was getting anxious, you know."

"How on earth did you ever do it?"

"Tell you some time," answered Ralston sleepily. "By the way, do you
mind saying how long you'd been in that house?"

"Three days."

"And lost----?"

"Twenty-seven thousand dollars."

"No one seemed to know you gambled."

"I don't. It was my first experience."

"How long has this little expedition lasted?"

"Two weeks."

The Searcher glanced at his companion. Already the stimulus of the bath
had succumbed to fatigue. The face was drawn and hollow; the eyes red;
the mouth twitched. Ralston turned away, his old loathing and disgust
returning in an instant.

The driver turned into Fifty-seventh Street, and the sun jumped above
the housetops. Suddenly Steadman burst into tears, sobbing in long-drawn
hollow sobs like a wearied child, covering his face with his hands.

"Come, come, buck up! This won't do!" exclaimed Ralston.

"O God!" groaned Steadman tremulously. "I can't face her. Turn around!
Anywhere!"

"You shall see her!" answered the other. "And now!"

Steadman wiped his eyes. His chest heaved convulsively. He had grown
quite pale.

"Don't make me!" he gasped.

"You shall see her--as you are," repeated Ralston, "and thank her for
having saved you from disgrace."

Steadman said nothing more. The cab drew up before the door of an
apartment house.

"Here we are," said Ralston. "Get out!"

Steadman hesitated.

"Get out! Do you hear?" shouted Ralston, with anger in his eyes.

Steadman obeyed, his companion following close behind him. Inside, a
darky sat fast asleep by the elevator. Ralston rapped loudly upon the
glass and the man moved, rubbed his eyes, and came stupidly to the door.

"Take this gentleman up to Miss Ferguson's apartment," said Ralston.
"I'll wait below for you. You can have just ten minutes, understand?"

He returned to the sidewalk. The cabby had fallen asleep again. A
feeling of intense loneliness swept over him. He longed to throw himself
inside the hansom and rest his exhausted frame. His bones ached and his
muscles seemed strange and raspy, and he kept himself awake by walking
nervously backward and forward before the house. He could hardly keep
his eyes from closing and his knees trembled as if he were convalescing
from an illness.

"I did it!" he repeated over and over to himself. "By George! I did
it!--saved him for her. Only for me and he would be what he called
himself--'a dead one.'"

The sunlight in the street grew momentarily brighter. Milk wagons groped
their way from door to door, the horses stopping undirected at the
proper places, and starting up again in response to uncouth roars from
the drivers.

An elevated train rattled by at the end of the street, and some workmen
in overalls, conversing loudly in a foreign dialect, hurried noisily
past. A few maids unchained front doors, gave the rugs feeble flaps, and
eyed Ralston curiously before going inside to resume their domestic
duties.

He found that he was walking in a circle. His brain had fallen asleep.
He realized that he had been dreaming, but the dream was vague and
indistinct. Then he heard the faint sound of distant music. A housemaid
dropped her rug and ran toward the avenue. Two pedestrians turned back
in the same direction. A driver jumped into his milk wagon and sent the
horse galloping.

Ralston listened. Yes, the music was getting louder. They were playing
"Good-by, Little Girl, Good-by!" It must be the regiment on their way
from the armory to the ferry. He looked at his watch with a lump in his
throat. It was "good-by" for him as well as for Steadman. There was no
longer any doubt. Perhaps he could get a commission. He'd go away,
anyhow.

A hastily formed group of spectators on the corner began to wave their
hats. The band was very near. A squad of figures stepping briskly in
time came into view, at their head the erect form of Colonel Duer. He
could recognize the other members of the staff, the adjutant, the
commissary, the quartermaster, the doctor--he knew them all. On the left
trudged the chaplain.

"Good-by, Little Girl, Good-by!"

The drum major following the staff turned and swung his baton, then
resumed his former position. By George, they were playing well! Ah! What
a difference it made when it was real business. Just behind the band
followed the field music, with old "Davie" carrying the drum.

"Good-by, Little Girl, Good-by!"

The drums passed and the fifers. Then at a little distance came the
lieutenant colonel and his staff at the head of the first battalion,
marching full company front down the avenue. Ralston's heart beat
faster. That was where _he_ could have been. How well those boys
marched; just like a parade, their yellow legs eating up--eating
up--eating up--eating up the ground. The band had grown fainter. You
could hear the chupp--chupp--chupp--chupp of the hundreds of feet. Eyes
front! No one to look at them, but eyes front! This was business. How
trim they looked, each man in his olive-drab uniform, leggings, and
russet shoes. How set were the faces beneath the gray felt hats! How
lightly they bore their heavy load of haversack, yellow blanket roll,
canteen, and cartridge belt. How the sword bayonets at their sides
clinked and threw back the light to the blue barrels of their
Krag-Jorgensens!

"Good-by, Little Girl, Good-by," came faintly from the distance. Still
the yellow rows kept passing. The first battalion ended.

Then a major appeared, walking alone, followed closely by a captain and
first lieutenant. Ralston strained his eyes for the yellow line behind
them. Ah, there they were! Good boys! Good boys!

The even companies swung by until the battalion had passed.

Then came another major at the head of the third battalion. The third
battalion! The line swept across from curb to curb with a single man
behind the major--a lieutenant. Company D! Steadman's! The major's face
was set in a hard frown. Ralston laughed feebly. That was all right.
He'd fix that. Just wait a few minutes. His captain would be there.

The little crowd on the corner began to cheer. Another company came into
view. They had the colors--the dear old colors. Ralston doffed his hat
and held it to his breast, straining his glance after the flag. The
pavement floated away from him and his eyes filled with hot tears. He
could not see the lines of marching men, but stood staring at the corner
beyond which the colors had disappeared.

Overcome with utter exhaustion, he sobbed hysterically, grasping the
iron railing at his side. In a moment he got the better of himself and
brushed the tears hastily away. Then a hand was laid upon his shoulder
and he turned to see Ellen, her own eyes moist, and her face pale,
looking up at him.

"Ellen!"

"Dick!"

That was all. At the end of the block the hospital corps with their
stretchers were just passing out of sight. Steadman stood on the steps,
leaning against the doorway. He grinned in a sheepishly good-natured
manner at Ralston.

"Well, I found him!" the latter managed to announce in a fairly natural
tone.

"So I see," answered Ellen, "and ready to report for duty."

"Well, I guess I'll say good-by," said Ralston awkwardly. "You people
can have the cab as long as the horse lasts."

"No, you don't," said Steadman. "Remember you've agreed to put me at the
head of my company. You haven't done it yet! Has he, Ellen?"

"No, we intend to take you with us to the ferry," she answered with a
smile.

The word "we" sent a pang through Ralston's tired heart, and for an
instant the sunlight paled before his eyes.

"Come, jump in, both of you," said Ellen.

She seemed very cheerful, and strangely enough, so did Steadman. Ralston
wondered if when people cared like that just seeing each other again
would have such a stimulating effect. For his own part he was too tired
to speak. As they trotted slowly down Fifth Avenue Ellen and Steadman
kept up a lively conversation. She admired his uniform, his sword, his
belt; talked of the other men and officers she knew in the regiment, and
of the chagrin of Lieutenant Coffin, when his captain should oust him
from his temporary place at the head of the company. On Twenty-third
Street, near Eighth Avenue, they overtook the regiment, and followed the
remainder of the distance close behind the hospital corps. Then silence
fell upon them. The actual parting loomed vividly just before them at
the ferry.

Crowds of people, mostly small tradesmen and persons living in the
neighborhood, had already begun to collect and follow the troops toward
the place of embarkation. Ahead, the band was playing "Garry Owen," and
the colors blazed in the sunlight. The regiment looked like a field of
yellow corn waving in the breeze. About a hundred yards from the ferry
house a few sharp orders came down the line and the regiment halted--at
"rest."

Steadman looked at his watch.

"Three minutes to seven," he said, snapping the case. "I guess the old
man will drop when he sees _me_!"

"Just in time!" murmured Ellen.

"Drive along, cabby, to the head of the procession," added Steadman.

There was plenty of space to allow the hansom to pass near the curb, and
they drove slowly along past the three battalions to where the colonel
and his staff stood waiting for the gates to be opened. The band had
ceased playing. The men laughed and jested, watching the lone hansom and
its three occupants with interest.

At the stone posts by the entrance the cab stopped and Steadman shook
hands with Ellen. The smile had gone from his face.

"Good-by, Ellen--good-by!"

"Good-by, John," she answered.

Ralston had turned away his head.

"Well, good-by, old man! Accept the prodigal's insufficient thanks.
You're a brick, Ralston. Good-by!"

Beside the hansom Steadman paused for an instant and looked up.

"Don't forget what I said, Ellen! The fellow I spoke of is 'a prince.'
Good-by!"

He turned and walked rapidly to where the colonel stood talking to the
chaplain. All the fatigue had vanished from his step as he drew himself
up before his commanding officer and saluted.

The staff had turned to him in amazement.

"I report for duty, sir!" he said simply.

The colonel stared at him for a moment.

"Take your company, sir!" he replied tartly.

Steadman saluted again, and grasping his sword ran down the line, while
a wave of comment and ejaculation followed just behind him.

At this moment a whistle blew inside the ferry house, and a porter
slowly swung the gates open.

The colonel drew his sword.

"Attention!" said he, glancing behind him.

"Attention!" ordered the lieutenant colonel.

"Attention!" shouted the majors.

As the regiment stiffened, Steadman stepped to the head of his company.

"Good morning, Mr. Coffin," he remarked nonchalantly.

"Good morning," replied the astounded lieutenant.

Then as the order flew down the line Steadman drew his sword.

"Attention!" he cried in a clear voice.

Behind the staff the drum major held his baton in air, and the musicians
stood with their instruments at their lips ready for the order.

The colonel's eye flew down the line.

"Forward--" he cried.

Down came the drum major's baton. The band started "There'll be a Hot
Time!"

"--March!" concluded the colonel, and, turning front, stepped ahead.

"Forward--march!" shouted the lieutenant colonel. The order was
instantly repeated by the captains.

The battalion came to shoulder arms and moved forward.

"Horrard, Hutch! Horrard, Hutch!" howled the majors.

"Urrgh! Uhh! Huh! Huh!" yelled the captains.

Each company tossed its rifles into place, dressed down the line, marked
step for a moment, and then flashed its hundred legs in unison to the
band. The yellow field of corn once more wavered in the wind and blew
slowly forward.

Ellen and Ralston sat motionless in the hansom as the battalions tramped
by. At the head of his company marching with drawn sword, his head
slightly bent and his gaze straight before him, came Steadman, but his
eyes sought them not. The hospital corps with their stretchers brought
up the rear and disappeared through the gates. The commissariat wagons
followed stragglingly. The band could be heard dimly in the distance.

Then the whistle blew again and the man who had opened the gates ran out
and closed them. The Twelfth had gone--with a full quota of officers.

"The Chilsworth," said Ralston, through the manhole.

The driver once more hitched the reins over the back of his moribund
beast, and they started uptown.

"Dick," said Ellen suddenly, in a whisper, "Dick!"

He turned toward her inquiringly.

"Yes, Ellen?"

"I--I was mistaken last night," she said, coloring and looking away from
him.

"What do you mean?" cried Ralston, his heart leaping.

"That--there was only one," she answered softly, smiling through her
tears, "and--and--_it wasn't_ John!"

The cabby grinned sleepily and silently closed the manhole, with a
fatherly expression illuminating his corrugated countenance.

"Hully gee!" he muttered meditatively. "I mighta known there was a woman
mixed up in it, somehow! Glad he got her!--Git on thar, you!"

Between the ferry houses the boat was swinging out into midstream, her
decks crowded with yellow figures, and across the dancing waves the wind
bore the faint strains of "Good-by, Little Girl, Good-by."



NOT AT HOME


    "For I say this is death and the sole death,--
    When a man's loss comes to him from his gain,
    Darkness from light, from knowledge ignorance,
    And lack of love from love made manifest."
          --_A Death in the Desert._


"Harry might have stopped!" thought Brown, as a stalwart young man
strode briskly past with a short "Good evening." "I've not had a chance
to speak to him for a month." He hesitated as if doubtful whether or not
to follow and overtake the other, then turned in his original direction.
His delight in the scene about him was too exquisite to be interrupted
even for a talk with his friend. Dusk was just falling. For an instant a
purple glow lingered upon the spires of the beautiful gray cathedral
whose chimes were softly echoing above the murmur of the city; then the
light slipped upward and upward, until, touching the topmost point, it
vanished into the shadows.

All about him jingled the sleighbells; long lines of equipages carrying
richly dressed women moved in continuous streams in each direction;
hundreds of lamps began to gleam in the windows and along the avenue; a
kaleidoscopic electric sign, changing momentarily, flashed parti-colored
showers of light across the housetops; big automobiles, full of gay
parties of men and women in enormous fur coats and grotesque visors,
buzzed and hissed along; newsboys shrilly called their items; warm,
humid breaths of fragrance rolled out from the florist's shops; and
smells of confections, of sachet, of gasoline, of soft-coal smoke,
together with that of roses and damp fur, hung on the keen air.

The greatest pleasure in Brown's life, next to his friendship for Harry
Rogers, was his continuously fresh wonder at and appreciation for the
complex, brilliant, palpitating life of the great city in which he, the
taciturn New Englander, had come to live. The richness of his present
experience glowed against the somber background of his past, touching
emotions hitherto dormant and unrecognized. He realized as yet only the
mysterious charm, the overwhelming attraction of his new surroundings;
and every sense, dwarfed by inheritance, chilled by the east wind,
throbbed and tingled in response. So far as Brown knew happiness this
was its consummation and it was all due to Rogers. As Brown wandered
along the crowded thoroughfare his mind dwelt fondly upon his friend. He
recalled their chance introduction two years before at the Colonial Club
in Cambridge, through Rogers's friend Winthrop, and how his heart had
instantly gone out to the courteous and responsive stranger. That
meeting had been the first shimmer of light through the musty chrysalis
of Brown's existence.

Shortly afterwards he had given up his place in the English Department
at Harvard at the suggestion of one of the faculty and accepted a
position at Columbia. The professor had hinted that he was too good a
man to wait for the slow promotion incident to a scholastic career in
Cambridge, and had mentioned New York as offering immeasurably greater
opportunities. The advice had appealed to Brown and he had acted upon
it.

He remembered how lonely he had been the first few weeks after his
arrival. In that hot and sultry September the city had seemed a prison.
He had longed for the green elms, the hazy downs, the earthy dampness of
his solitary evening walks. One broiling day he had encountered Rogers
on the elevated railroad. The latter had not recognized him at first,
but presently had recalled their first meeting.

Brown in his enthusiasm had spoken familiarly of Winthrop, explaining in
detail his own departure from Cambridge and his plans for the future. He
was nevertheless rather surprised to receive within a week a note from
Mrs. Rogers inviting him to spend a Sunday with them at their country
place. What had that not meant to him!

At college he had taken high rank and was graduated at the top of his
class, but he had made no friends. He would have given ten years of his
life for a single companion to throw an arm around his shoulder and call
him by his Christian name. He had never been "old man" to anybody--only
"Mr. Brown." At night when he had heard the clinking of glasses and the
bursts of laughter in the adjoining rooms as he sat by his kerosene lamp
reading Milton or Bacon or "The Idio-Psychological Theory of Ethics," he
would sometimes drop his books, turn out the light and creep into the
hall, listening to what he could not share. Then with the tears burning
in his eyes he would stumble back to his lonely room and to bed.

When he had achieved the ambition of his college days and by
heartbreaking and unremitted drudgery had secured a position upon the
faculty, he had found his relations still unchanged. His shell had
hardened. From Mr. Brown he had become merely "Old Brown."

And then how easily he had stepped into this other life! The Rogers had
received him with open arms; their house had become the only real home
he had ever known; and his affection for his new friends had blossomed
for him almost into a romance. Even when Harry was busy or away, Brown
would drop in on Mrs. Rogers of an evening and read aloud to her from
his favorite authors. He tried to guide her reading and sent her books,
and little Jack he loved as his own child.

The friendship, beginning thus auspiciously, continued for many months.
Rogers put him up at the club and introduced him to his friends, so that
Brown slipped into a delightful circle of acquaintances, and found his
horizon broadening unexpectedly. Life assumed an entirely fresh
significance, and although, by reason of a constitutional bluntness of
perception, he failed utterly to discriminate between superficial
politeness on the part of others and genuine interest, the world in
which he was now living seemed to overflow with the milk of human
kindness.

Brown had been making afternoon calls. The friendly cup of tea was to
him a delightful innovation, and he cultivated it assiduously. He paused
in front of a large corner house and hopefully ascended the steps.

"Not at 'ome," intoned the butler in response to his inquiry.

He turned down a side street, but no better success awaited him. He had
found no one "at home" that afternoon. Usually he had better luck. But
it was getting late and almost time to dress for dinner, and, although
Brown usually dined alone, he had become very particular about dressing
for his evening meal. His heart was bursting with good nature as he
sauntered along in the brisk evening air.

This New York was a great place! There rose before him the vision of his
little room in the Appian Way in Cambridge. Had he remained he would be
just about going over to Memorial for his supper at the ill-assorted and
uncongenial "graduates' table" to which he had belonged. Jaggers would
have been there, and the Botany man, and that fresh chap, who ran the
business end of _The Crimson_, and was always chaffing him about
society. He smiled as he thought of the quiet corner of the club, and of
the little table with its snowy linen by the window, which he had
appropriated.

In Cambridge he had passed long months without experiencing anything
more stimulating than a Sunday afternoon call on a professor's daughter
or an occasional trip into Boston for the theater, supplemented by a
solitary Welsh rabbit at Billy Park's. Other men in the department had
belonged to the Tavern Club, in Boston, or the Cambridge Dramatic
Society, but he had never been asked to join anything, nor had he
possessed the _entrée_ even to the modest society of Cambridge. He was
obliged to acknowledge--and it was in a measure gratifying to him to do
so, since it threw his success into the higher relief--that judged by
present standards his old life had been an absolute failure. No matter
how genial he had tried to be, he had elicited little or no response.
The days had been one dull round of tramping from his meals to lectures,
and from lectures to the library. Although he had had no friends among
his classmates, he had at least known their faces, but after graduation
he had found himself, as it were, alone among strangers. As time went on
he had become desperately unhappy and his work had suffered in
consequence.

Then he had come to New York. As if sent by Fate, Rogers had appeared,
sought his companionship, made much of him. He began to think that
perhaps he had misinterpreted the attitude of his quondam
associates--they were such a quiet, prosaic, hard-working lot--so
different from these debonair New Yorkers. And was not the cane they had
presented to him on his departure a good evidence of their esteem? He
swung it proudly. How well he recalled the moment when old Curtis had
placed the treasure of gold and mahogany in his hands and, in the
presence of his colleagues, had made his little speech, expressing their
regret at losing him and wishing him all success. Then the others had
clapped and cheered and he had stammered out his thanks. The
presentation had been a tremendous surprise. Well, they were a good
sort; a little dull, perhaps, but a good sort!

Then, too, he felt himself a better man for his association with Rogers
and his friends. It was such a new sensation to be appreciated and made
something of that he had grown spiritually broader and taller. It had
been very hard in Cambridge, where he had felt himself neglected and
passed over, not to be selfish and spiteful. His standards had
imperceptibly lowered. He had "looked at mean things in a mean way."
Here it was different. With genial, broad-minded associates he had
become warm-hearted and liberal. His drooping ideals had reared their
heads. He felt new confidence in and respect for himself. Now he looked
the world squarely in the eye. His work was improving, and the faculty
at Columbia had expressed their appreciation of it. Life had never been
so worth living. No one, he resolved, should ever suspect how small and
narrow he had been before. He would always be the cheerful, generous,
kindly chap for whom everybody seemed to take him. He had become a new
man by reason of a little human sympathy.

"How busy people are!" he thought. "I guess I'll have another try at
Rogers." He crossed the avenue, found the house, and rang the bell. The
bay window of the drawing-room was on a level with where he stood, and
he caught a glimpse of Mrs. Rogers sitting beside a cozy tea table, and
of little Jack playing by the fire. The maid, slipping aside the silk
curtain before opening the door, inspected the visitor.

"Mrs. Rogers is not at home," she remarked.

Brown was paralyzed at such open prevarication.

"I--I beg your pardon. But I think Mrs. Rogers is in."

"Mrs. Rogers is not receiving," curtly replied the maid.

Brown, vanquished but unconvinced, turned down the steps. At the bottom
he stopped with a quick breath and glanced back at the house. Then he
gave his trousers leg a cut with his gold-headed cane, and with a
courageous whistle started up the avenue again.

He was a bit puzzled. He was sure he could have done nothing to
displease his friends. It was probably just a mistake; they had
visitors, perhaps, or the child was not well. He would call up Rogers on
the telephone next day and inquire.

He walked to the boarding house and in the little hall bedroom he called
"his rooms" put on the dinner coat of which he was so proud. It had
cost sixty dollars at Rogers's tailor. He had never owned anything of
the sort before. When he had been invited out to tea in Cambridge, which
had been but rarely, he had always worn a "cutaway."

He found Tomlinson, the club bore, in the coat room, invited him to
dinner, and insisted on ordering a bottle of fine old claret. Tomlinson,
in his opinion, was most clever and entertaining. After the meal his
companion hurried away to an engagement, and Brown, lighting a cigar,
strolled into the common-room, drew an armchair into the embrasure of a
window, and sat there dreaming, at peace with all the world. The kindly
faces of Rogers, his wife, and little Jack mingled together in a drowsy
picture above the fragrant smoke wreaths. The bitterness of his past was
all forgotten. The poverty and loneliness of his college days, the
torture of his isolation in Cambridge, the regret for his youth's lost
opportunities faded from his mind, and in their place he felt the warm
breath of love and friendship, of kindness and appreciation, and the
tiny clasp of the hand of little Jack. "God bless them all!" he closed
his eyes. It seemed as though the boy were lying in his arms, the little
head pressed against his shoulder. He held him tight and kissed the
curly hair; his own head dropped lower; the cigar fell from his hand;
behind the curtain Brown fell fast asleep.

Half an hour later into his dream floated the voices of Rogers and
Winthrop. A slight draught of air flowed beneath the curtain. Some one
struck a bell close by and ordered coffee and cigars, and the cracking
of six or seven matches marked the number of those who had sat down
together beside the window. He listened vaguely, too comfortably happy
to disclose himself.

"You've got a lot of college men, I hear, in the district attorney's
office," remarked one of the group, evidently to Rogers. "How do you
like the work down there?"

"Oh, well enough," came the reply. "Trying cases is always interesting,
you know. By the way, Win, speaking of college men, exactly who is your
friend Brown?"

The dreamer behind the curtain smiled to himself. "Rogers may well ask
that," he thought.

"Brown?" returned Winthrop. "You wrote me he was in New York, didn't
you? Why, you must have known him in Cambridge. He was the great light
of my class--don't you remember?--president of the 'Pudding,' stroked
the 'Varsity, and took a commencement part besides. A kind of 'Admirable
Crichton.' I'm glad you've seen something of him here."

There was silence for a moment or two. Obviously, thought Brown,
Winthrop was confusing him with some one else.

"No, no!" exclaimed Rogers impatiently "_you_ mean Nelson Brown; but
he's on a tobacco plantation down in Cuba. The man I speak of is a
little chap with a big head and protruding ears. You introduced me to
him at the Colonial Club a year ago last spring."

"Oh, well, I may have done so," answered Winthrop. "I don't recall it I
think there was a fellow named Brown who used to hang around there--but
he's no friend of mine. Who said he was?"

"Hang it! You did yourself, in your letter to me," came Rogers's retort.

"Nonsense! I was writing about Nelson!"

Rogers smothered an ejaculation more forcible than elegant, but his
annoyance seemed presently to give way to amusement, and he laughed
heartily.

"Look here, boys, what do you think of this? Two years ago I run on to
Cambridge, and while there happen to meet a chap named Brown. A year
later he turns up on the Elevated and greets me like a long-lost
brother. I mention the incident in a letter to Win. He replies that
Brown is the finest thing that ever came down the pike. _He_ refers to
_Nelson_ Brown. _I_ suppose he means _my_ Brown. Thereupon I take this
unknown person to my bosom and place my home at his disposal. He
promptly squats on the premises, drives my wife nearly frantic, bores
all my friends to death, and in a short time makes himself an
unmitigated nuisance. Fortunately, he hasn't asked me for money. Now,
who the devil is he?"

"Don't know him from Adam!" said Winthrop.

"I know who he is," interjected one of the others. "Took a course of his
on the 'Philology of Psychology' or the 'Psychology of Philology' or
something. He's just an ass--a surly beggar--a sort of--of--curmudgeon!"

The window curtain trembled slightly, but no one noticed it.

"I can tell you rather a good story about Brown," spoke up a voice that
had hitherto been silent. "You know I taught for a time in the English
Department last year. Brown meant well enough, I guess, but he was an
odd creature. His great ambition evidently was to get into society.
Every Sunday he would put on his togs and call on all the unfortunate
people he knew. Finally, everybody showed him the door. He got to be so
intolerable that the department fired him, to our intense relief. No
one cared what became of him--so long as he only went. But Curtis--you
remember old Curtis with the white hair and mustache?--he felt sorry for
Brown and thought we ought at least to make a pretense of regret at
having him leave. He suggested various things, but his ideas didn't
arouse any sympathy, and we thought that was going to end the matter.
Not a bit of it. Curtis went into town, all alone, and, although he is
rather hard up himself, bought a gold-headed mahogany cane for
forty-five dollars, and next day, when we were all at a department
meeting, presented it to Brown, from the crowd, and got off a whole lot
of stuff intended to cheer our departing friend. Of course we had to be
decent enough to see the thing through, and Brown took it all in and
almost wept when he thanked us. A few days afterwards Curtis came around
and wanted us all to contribute to pay for the cane."

"Well!" responded Rogers. "Even my little boy knew there was something
wrong with him the first time they met--children are like dogs, you
know, in that way. Jack whispered to his mother while Brown was
grimacing at him, 'Mamma, is that a gentleman?' Thought Brown was a gas
man or a window cleaner, you know."

"Poor brute!" commented Winthrop. "Anyhow, Harry, your mistake has
probably given him a lot of pleasure. No wonder he seized the
opportunity. You can drop him by degrees so that, perhaps, he'll never
suspect. Still, if he's as thick as you say he may give you trouble yet!
Hello, it's a quarter past eight already! We shall have to run if we
expect to see the first act. Come on, fellows!"

Half hidden behind the curtain in the window, Brown sat staring out into
the night.

Hour after hour passed; the servants looked into the deserted room,
observed him, apparently asleep, and departed noiselessly. One o'clock
came, and Peter, the doorman, crossed over and touched him gently on the
shoulder, saying that it was time to close the club. Brown mechanically
arose, followed Peter to the coat room, and then, with eyes still fixed
vacantly before him, silently passed out.

"You've left your cane, sir!" Peter called after him.

But Brown paid no heed.



A STUDY IN SOCIOLOGY


"I move the case of the People against Ludovico Candido, indicted for
murder," announced the assistant district attorney, addressing the
court.

"Bring up Candido," shouted the captain to one of the attendants.

"Where's his lawyer?" inquired the clerk, glancing along the benches.

"I haven't seen him since morning," answered the assistant.

"Send to Mr. Fellini's office, at once," ordered the judge impatiently.
"He has no business to delay the court."

At this moment the door in the rear of the room opened to admit a small
dusty-looking Italian, stumbling along in advance of a tall, muscular
policeman, and clutching nervously in both hands a battered,
brick-stained felt hat. He was an emaciated, gaunt little fellow of
about forty-five, with a thin mustache, pointed nose, and wild, rapidly
shifting brown eyes. Under his open coat a red undershirt, unbuttoned at
the neck, disclosed his sinewy chest. The nondescript trousers, which
reached only to his ankles, terminated in huge, formless, machine-made
shoes, the original color of which had entirely disappeared in favor of
a dull whitish-green streaked with red.

He muttered beneath his breath as he saw the throng of strange faces,
not knowing what was to happen next; but the attendant shoved him on
without ceremony. Five years in America had taught him only twenty words
of English, and for aught that he could tell this might well be the
place of public execution. The rough, imperious lawyer who had consented
to take his case on the instalment plan had not been to see him in over
a week. This was because Maria had spent the first instalment on a
little feast of chicken which she had cooked and brought to the Tombs in
a newspaper for her husband, instead of taking the money to the
attorney's office.

As Candido was half dragged, half pushed to the bar, a plump,
white-skinned, clean-shaven man in a surtout entered the court room and
thrust his way forward. Suddenly the prisoner uttered a choking cry and
sank trembling to his knees, his locked hands raised to the judge in
piteous appeal, while the attendants strove unsuccessfully to lift him
to his feet.

"Madonna!" he cried in his native tongue. "O Madonna! I confess that I
took the life of Beppe! _Salvatemi!_"

The begoggled, piebald-bearded interpreter who had taken his stand
beside the defendant began to translate in a dramatic, stilted
bellowing.

"He says: 'O Madonna, I confess----'"

"Here! Stop him! Stop that! Tell him to keep still. That won't do,"
interposed the assistant.

The interpreter gesticulated at the Italian, chattering volubly the
while. Candido, staring like a frightened animal, allowed himself to be
placed upon his feet, and stood clinging to the rail.

"Are you ready to proceed to trial?" sternly asked the court of the
plump man in the surtout.

"I am not, your honor," replied the man. "I have not been paid."

Candido raised his hands in supplication. "_O giudice! Confesso_----"

The lawyer glanced at him contemptuously. "Shut up, you fool!" he
growled in Italian.

"You have not been paid? That makes no difference. This is no time to
throw over your client."

"I do not represent the prisoner," replied the other stubbornly. "If
your honor cares to assign me as counsel, I shall be pleased to do so."

Candido, hearing the severity of the judge's tones, shook in every limb.

"So that is your game!" exclaimed his honor wrathfully. "You have
induced this man to retain you as his lawyer, in order that now, on the
plea that you have not been paid, you may induce me to assign you as
counsel, and thus secure the five-hundred-dollar fee allowed by the
State. A fine performance! I order you to proceed to trial!"

"Then I respectfully decline," retorted the other, turning toward the
door.

The judge bit his lips in well-controlled anger. "Mr. District Attorney,
prepare an order at once and serve it upon this attorney to appear
before me to-morrow morning and show cause why he should not be punished
for contempt of court. I will assign ex-Judge Flynn to the defense.
Adjourn court until to-morrow morning." The judge rose and strode
indignantly from the bench, while the jurors surged toward the entrance.

"Come on there," ordered the attendant. "You're goin' to get new lawyer.
Lucky feller!"

But Candido with a shriek threw himself on the floor, clutching at the
feet of the officers. "Madonna! Madonna! Is it indeed all over? Have
they ordered me to execution? _Salvatemi!_ Madonna!"

The grizzled interpreter stooped down and muttered in his ear: "Courage,
my countryman! Nothing has occurred. They are to give you a better and
more learned advocate."

Clinging to the arm of the attendant, Candido staggered toward the door
leading to the prison pen. His face, ashen before, was now a dusky
white. He understood nothing of this talk of advocates and adjournments.
Let them but terminate his suspense. He was ready to expiate his
offense. He had explained that to the lawyer. It was the will of God.

Close to the wire gate stood a young Italian woman with a shawl thrown
about her slender shoulders, her hand holding that of a little child.
"_Ludovico! Ludovico mio!_" she cried passionately. "Is it over? What
has happened?"

Candido answered with a great gasping sob. "_Maria! Figlio mio!_ I do
not know!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Candido sat at the bar by the side of the lawyer assigned to defend him.
Over night in the Tombs he had been informed exactly what had been the
meaning of the mysterious proceedings of the day before. The great
advocate had intimated that there might still be a chance for him. After
all, he had only killed another Italian, and American juries were
merciful.

The case, the assistant told the jury in opening, was simple
enough--plainly murder in the first degree. Giuseppe, or "Beppe"
Montaro, the deceased, and Ludovico Candido, the prisoner, had both
come from the same town in Calabria and had been very old friends,
although Beppe was the younger by some ten years. When Ludovico had
sought his fortune in America, his wife Maria had remained behind; so
had Beppe. Candido had been gone for five years, and had then sent for
his wife. Beppe had come, too. In New York they all had lived together,
Maria keeping house and taking a number of boarders. Then there had been
a quarrel. The neighbors had said that Beppe did not always go out to
work, or that sometimes he returned while Ludovico was away. One night
Candido had closed the door in the face of his friend, who had sought
lodgings elsewhere.

It appeared that, the day before the homicide, Candido had purchased a
revolver which he had exhibited to his wife. A neighbor later had
overheard her crying, and had asked what was the matter, to which she
had replied: "Ludovico has bought a pistol. I fear it is for Beppe!" The
next Sunday evening the defendant and Montaro had met in a wine shop,
walked to Candido's house together, and in front of the door had had
violent words. Then the husband had shot the lover.

It was as plain as daylight. There was the motive, the premeditation,
the deliberation, and the intent. At the conclusion of the evidence the
prosecution would ask for a verdict of murder in the first degree.

Candido's eyes strayed away from the young prosecutor, furtively seeking
the corner where Maria and the child were sitting. He could not see
them, owing to the throngs of neighbors huddled upon the benches. There
were Petulano the baker, Felutelli the janitor, little Frederico the
proprietor of the wine shop, Condesso, Pettalino, and Mantelli, with
their wives, their sisters, and friends.

"Pietro Petrosino!" called the prosecutor. A lithe youngster slipped off
the front bench smiling and made his way behind the jury box. The jury
brightened instinctively as they caught sight of his picturesque figure,
the round curly head, and the flush of the deep-olive complexion.
Candido knew him for a gambler, cock-fighter, and worse. What plot could
be brewing now? How did it come that this man was going to be a witness
against him? How had the prosecution got hold of him?--this scum from
Sicily, this man who knew less than nothing of the affair.

Pietro's black eyes sparkled innocently as he took the oath and threw
himself gracefully across the armchair on the platform, the center of
collective observation.

_O Dio!_ He knew the defendant, yes, to his cost, he knew him! And
Beppe, also. Alas! Poor Beppe! A fine statue of a man, a good man, a
peaceable man! He also had been with them in the wine shop when the two
had talked together apart from the others. No doubt Candido had had the
pistol in his pocket at the very moment. They had whispered between
themselves, their heads close together, "_like one who is being
shriven_," and Beppe had kissed the hand of Ludovico in friendship.
Ludovico had returned the caress. Then the three had walked homeward,
and from the darkness of the hallway Candido had shot out at Beppe--shot
him _come un sacco_ (like a bag). Pietro illustrated, taking the part of
Beppe. He whispered, he kissed an imaginary hand, he walked, he
fell--"like a bag!"

The jury listened entranced. It was like going to the theater, only
better--much better, and cost nothing. Besides, afterward, they could
turn down their thumbs or turn them up, as they might see fit. For a
moment the jury saw or thought they saw the whole thing--the perfidious
hand-kissing assassin--then--

"_Bugiardo! Bugiardo!_" shrieked Candido, rising hysterically and
tearing the air in impotent rage. "Liar! Liar! He was not there! He
knows nothing! He is an enemy!"

"_Silenzio!_" cried the fantastically bearded interpreter.

"Keep still!" ordered a court officer, shaking the prisoner roughly by
the shoulder. The jury were delighted. Pietro was entirely unconcerned.
A rapid fire of Italian ran quickly along the benches.

Ludovico subsided into a little heap, his head sunk beneath his
shoulders, the tears coursing down his cheeks. Madonna! Would they take
the word of an enemy? Did they not know he was a Sicilian? What other
hidden motive might not Pietro have? Candido stiffened and again turned
to where he knew his wife must be sitting. Ah, that wretch! He had
noticed his looks and glances. Candido ground his teeth, then dropped
his head upon his arms.

"Maria Delsarto!" shouted the attendant.

Candido shivered and groaned aloud. They were calling his own wife to
testify against him! He grew cold with terror. There was a conspiracy to
get rid of him. The two had a secret understanding! What if she admitted
having seen the pistol in his hands? And his threats! Now in truth it
was all over! He settled himself stolidly, his eyes fixed upon the
varnished table before him.

Maria came forward, carrying her babe in her arms--Ludovico's "_piccolo
bambino!_" She was still young and slight; but cheeks a little sunken
and lips a little set told the story of her dire struggle with poverty.
In her eyes glowed the beauty of her race, and their long lashes drooped
on her pale cheeks as her lips moved automatically, repeating after the
interpreter the words of the oath.

Candido did not raise his own eyes. For him all desire for life had
vanished. His wife was about to sacrifice him for a new lover, a
Sicilian! He sat motionless. The sooner it was done the better.

Maria let one hand lie gently on the arm of the witness chair, while
with the other she caressed the sleeping child in her lap. Her gray
shawl fell away from behind her head and showed a white neck around
which hung a slender gold chain bearing a little cross. She looked
neither at Candido nor at the jury. Then she took the little cross in
her hand and glanced down at it.

"Your name?" asked the prosecutor.

"Maria Delsarto." Her voice was soft, musical, distinct.

"You are the wife of the defendant?"

"Yes, signore, and this is his child."

"Do you remember that the day before the homicide of Montaro your
husband brought home a revolver?"

Candido's head disappeared beneath his arms and his body shook
convulsively.

"No, he had no pistol."

The prisoner raised his eyes and shot a quick, puzzled look at his wife.

"What?" cried the assistant. "You say he had no revolver? Did you not
swear that you saw one and sign a paper to that effect?"

Maria looked steadily before her. "I did not understand the paper. I saw
no pistol." The words came quietly, positively.

The prosecutor looked helplessly toward the judge and nervously fingered
an affidavit.

"You cannot impeach your own witness, Mr. District Attorney," admonished
his honor.

The prosecutor turned again to Maria. "Did you not tell Sophia Mantelli
that you were weeping because your husband had purchased a revolver with
which to kill Beppe?"

"Objected to!" shouted Flynn.

"I will allow it," said his honor, "on the ground of refreshing memory.
The witness may answer."

"No," answered Maria in the same quiet voice.

The prosecutor threw down the affidavit in disgust. That was what you
got for taking the word of one of these Italians! Well, it would be a
lesson! No, he had no more questions. Candido began to chatter at his
lawyer and fell to nodding and smiling at Maria, who seemed to see him
no more than before.

Flynn rose deliberately, cleared his throat, and elevated and stretched
his arms as if to secure freer action, exhibiting during the operation a
large pair of soiled cuffs.

"Do you know Pietro What's-his-name?" he inquired sharply.

Maria flushed and her head sank toward the child. "Yes," she murmured.

"You have heard him testify that he saw the killing of Montaro?"

"Yes."

"Do you know where he was at that time?"

Maria's head fell so low that her face could not be seen, and her hand
sought the cross upon her bosom.

"Answer the question!" cried Flynn roughly.

"He was with me when we heard the shots below." Her voice dropped to a
whisper. "He had been there for an hour. He was not with Ludovico at
all. He saw nothing."

An excited chatter flew around the benches. The handsome Pietro sat
dumfounded.

Candido started from his chair, his face livid with passion, his eyes
glaring. "_Traditrice!_ It is thus you deceive me! It is well that I
should die. Faithless betrayer!"

In the hysteria of the moment he entirely overlooked the value of the
testimony in his behalf. The attendant and the distinguished Flynn
thrust him down, and the interpreter hurled at him a torrent of
remonstrances. Once more the prisoner buried his face in his hands.
Maria, still hanging her head, left the chair, and with her babe in her
arms sought a distant corner of the court room.

With the testimony of an officer that a button photograph of Maria had
been found pinned inside the coat of Montaro, the prosecution closed its
case. The assistant district attorney sat down. The jury shifted their
positions. The distinguished Flynn rose to make motions that the case be
taken from the jury. It was plain, he argued in sonorous and
reverberating tones, that the prosecution had impeached its principal
witness by the testimony of the defendant's wife, Maria Delsarto. It had
raised a reasonable doubt on its own evidence. There was nothing upon
which the jury could predicate a verdict. He asked that they be directed
to acquit. Was his motion denied? With an expression of well-simulated
surprise, he made the other stereotyped motions. The court denied them
all.

Candido saw and trembled. That shaking of the head could mean only one
thing! Well, they would let him see the priest first--before they did
it.

"Take the chair!" came Flynn's harsh voice from above.

"The chair!" _La sedia!_ Madonna! He knew that word. So soon then? He
stiffened with horror. A chilly perspiration broke out all over his
body. The room swam and darkness surged across his bewildered vision.

"Take the chair!" repeated the voice.

"_La sedia!_" bellowed the interpreter. "_La sedia!_"

Candido shivered as with ague. His teeth chattered. _Dio!_ Now?

The attendant placed a hand upon his shoulder. Candido uttered a
terrible cry, and fell senseless to the floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

A long adjournment, a talk with the priest, an explanation from the
interpreter, and Candido "took the chair," telling his own story in a
fluent but listless monotone. He spoke of his father and mother, of his
home in Calabria, of Maria whom he had known from childhood. His speech
was soft and dejected. Then he told of Beppe--Beppe, the great, coarse,
bullying brute who had tormented and abused him! Yet he had never
retaliated until the other had sought to ruin his home. Then he had
refused him access. Montaro had publicly sworn to be revenged, declaring
that he would kill him and marry his widow.

Candido gritted his teeth and shook his curved fingers, uttering various
_staccato_ adjectives. Then he recovered himself, and in a different
tone began to speak slowly and with great care, pausing after each
sentence. From time to time he looked to observe the effect of his
testimony upon the distinguished Flynn. That night in the wine shop
Montaro had called him aside and in the most insulting manner warned him
of his approaching fate. He would be dead within a week, and Maria would
belong to another. Then in mockery Montaro had bent over his hand as if
to administer a caress and had _bitten_ it--the deadliest of affronts.
Candido had hurried out of the shop toward his home, closely followed by
Montaro. At the door of the tenement his enemy had rushed upon him with
a drawn knife from behind, and to save his own life Candido had fired at
him.

"He was a bad man--_un perfido_. He would have killed me and taken my
wife from me had I not killed him," continued the defendant. As for this
Pietro, he had not been there at all. He was an enemy, a Sicilian.

In response to a question of the assistant, he explained that the pistol
was an old one. He had not bought it to kill Montaro. He had had it for
four or five years. Had procured it for safety when working on the
railroad.

By degrees Candido recovered from his listlessness. He no longer seemed
careless as to the result of the case. A new strong thirst for life had
taken possession of him. There was an air of frankness about the
weather-beaten little countenance, and a trustful look in the brown eyes
that served far better than "character witnesses" to convince the jury
of his ingenuousness. There was no doubt as to his having made an
impression.

The distinguished Flynn patted him on the back as he took his seat and
felt greatly encouraged. These Italians were great actors--and no
mistake!

[Illustration: "The distinguished Flynn burst into a deluge of
oratory."]

But the prosecution had reserved a bombshell for the last, intended
to annihilate the testimony of the defendant and neutralize the effect
of his personality upon the jury. The assistant called in rebuttal a
salesman from a large retail fire-arm store, who testified positively
that the pistol in evidence had been purchased the day before the
homicide. Flynn turned to the attendant, whom he knew well and cursed.
These Guineas! Bought the day before! He had all the air of one who has
been grossly and inexcusably deceived. He scowled at Candido, who
quailed before him.

"How long do you want to sum up, gentlemen?" inquired the court. "Will
twenty minutes each be sufficient?"

The distinguished Flynn burst into a deluge of oratory in which
Self-Defense and The Unwritten Law played opposite one another, neither
yielding precedence. His client was a hero! The instinct of every true
American, of every husband, of every father, must stamp his deed as one
blameless in the eyes of the Almighty, and worthy not of censure but of
the approval of all honest men and lovers of virtue. At the risk of his
own life he had preserved the integrity of his home and the honor of his
wife. At the same time he had rid the community of a villain. Never,
while the Stars and Stripes floated above their heads would an American
jury on this sacred soil, consecrated by the blood of those who
sacrificed their lives to liberty, etc.-- He subsided, panting and
mopping his forehead.

The assistant rose to reply. This explanation of the defendant that he
had killed in self-defense was the last despairing effort of a guilty
man to escape the consequences of his horrible crime. Of course the
prisoner's own evidence was valueless. Jealousy! Calm, calculating
jealousy! That was the key to this awful act. The tell-tale picture on
Montaro's coat, the crimson admissions of the defendant's wife, the
purchase of the pistol--all spoke for themselves. The prosecutor paused.

"Sympathy is not for the assassin," he concluded. "Think rather of his
innocent victim! On the sunny shores of Calabria sits a woman, old and
gray, to whom this Beppe is her joy, her pride, who thinks of him by day
working in the great America across the seas, and whose heart, as the
time for the harvest draws near and the exiles are coming back to work
in the fields, will beat with expectation. The others will come. Father
will meet daughter, and mother will meet son, and they will tell of
their life in the great country of Freedom; but for her there will be no
gladness--her Beppe will return no more."

The assistant sank into his seat. Candido was staring at him with wide
eyes. He knew the _avvocato_ had been talking about Calabria. Madonna!
Would he ever see it again?

"Gentlemen of the jury," began his honor. "I shall first define the
various degrees of murder and manslaughter."

The sun fell lower and lower over the Tombs as the judge continued his
charge. The jury twisted uneasily in their chairs. Candido grew tired.
This interminable flow of talk! Why did not the judge say what should be
done to him at once? Millions of motes swam in the sun, and with his
head resting on his forearms he watched them idly. He had always loved
the sun. A warm lassitude stole over him. On Sundays he had spent whole
mornings curled up on a bench in Seward Park with Maria and the
_bambino_ beside him. How funnily the motes danced about! He smiled
drowsily at them. Some were so tiny as to be almost invisible, and some
were really large--if you half closed your eyes and one got near it
seemed almost as big as a cat--fluffy like a cat. Those little, tiny
motes would float out of nowhere into the band of sunshine and sink and
dart across it, vanishing into nothingness. Candido amused himself by
blowing millions of them into eternity. He himself was just like that.
Out of the black, into the warm sun for a little while, and then--pouf!

There was a tremendous scuffling of feet beside him, and the jury rose
and filed out. The noise brought him back out of his dream to the
realities again. They were going away! Judgment had been pronounced! The
judge bowed solemnly to the retreating foreman. Again the fierce chill
of overwhelming animal fear seized him. An officer approached. Madonna!
He could not pass into the black like the motes, he could not! And he
was as yet unshriven! With his frail little body vibrating like a
framework of slender steel, he turned and faced the officer, panting
with fear, his eyes darting fire.

"Aw, come along!" growled the attendant, raising his hand to seize him
by the arm.

"I cannot die unshriven!" shrieked Candido, and flung himself furiously
upon the officer, biting, kicking, scratching, until, nearly fainting
from his paroxysm of terror and in a coma of exhaustion, he allowed
himself to be carried away by three burly Irishmen.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Bring up the defendant!" directed the court. The jury were already in
and waiting for the prisoner. The Italians had all been hustled out into
the corridor. His honor had no mind for any sort of demonstration. The
light still poured through the great windows, and the sky was a deep
sunny blue over the Tombs. Resisting, clutching at sills and railing,
hanging by his arms, Candido was carried in and held bodily at the bar.

"Jurors, look upon the defendant. Defendant, look upon the jurors. How
say you, do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty?" asked the
clerk grandiloquently.

"Not guilty," answered the foreman distinctly, and with a shade of
defiance in his voice.

"Listen to your verdict as it stands recorded," continued the clerk,
unaffected. "You find the defendant not guilty, and so say you all."

"Any other charges against the prisoner?" inquired his honor.

"Not yet," replied the assistant with sarcasm.

Suddenly Candido began again. "Madonna! Save me! I confess that I killed
Beppe, my countryman----"

The bifurcated interpreter jabbered furiously at him. An expression of
dumb amazement overspread the dusty little face.

"You are free, acquitted, discharged; you may return to your home!"
announced the beard dramatically, waving a hand in the direction of the
door. The officers lowered Candido slowly to his feet. He picked up his
hat. Abject wonder was painted upon his countenance. He gazed from the
judge to the jury, and back again to the prosecutor.

"Madonna! I am pardoned for killing Beppe? _O giudici_, I kiss your
hands." He seized that of the interpreter and devoured it with kisses.
Then with a smile he added: "Ah, you see I could not but kill him! He
had ruined my home! He had deprived me of honor!"

[Illustration: "He caught sight of the waiting Maria."]

The attendants faced him toward the door, and he started slowly away;
but before he had taken half a dozen steps he caught sight of the
waiting Maria. His face changed. Once more he turned to the interpreter
and muttered something hoarsely beneath his breath.

"He says," translated the interpreter, turning to the court, "that he
would like to have his pistol."



THE LITTLE FELLER


Five feet high, in a suit of clothes three sizes too large for him, he
stood in the doorway of my office impassively examining a card which he
held in his hand and looking doubtfully about the room.

"I want to see the assistant district attorney," he said.

"Well, this is the right place," I answered in as encouraging a tone as
I could assume.

"I want to see you--to speak with you. That lawyer company----"

"Oh, the Legal Aid? What do you want to see me about?"

"The little feller," he replied, taking a step forward and grasping his
flat Derby hat firmly before him with both hands.

"What's the trouble?"

"It's the little feller--Isaac--they have arrested him for larceny." He
spoke the words in a matter-of-fact--rather hopeful--altogether engaging
manner.

"Larceny, eh! How old is he?"

"Eight. But he didn't do nothin'. He was out with some bad boys, but he
didn't do nothin' and the cop arrested him with the others. That's all.
I came down to get him off, if I could." He smiled frankly.

"What's your name?" I inquired, for ingenuousness of that sort is
uncommon among the Jews.

"Abraham Aselovitch--my father is Isidore and my mother she is Rachael
Aselovitch."

"And this little fellow--is he your brother?"

"Sure."

"When does his case come up?"

"Next Monday in the Children's Court." He shifted his position.

"Well, even if he is found guilty they will probably only send him to
the Juvenile Asylum."

"That's it--Juvenile Asylum. It's a bad place. I don't want him to go
there," replied the boy with determination.

"Why not, Abraham?" I inquired.

"It is a bad place. He will meet bad boys there--like the ones that got
him into trouble," he responded with an eager look.

"It's not such a bad place," I ventured.

"I know what it is!" he retorted fiercely. "They make criminals there.
Good boys are put in with the bad. It makes no difference. One makes the
other bad. Isaac is a _good_ boy."

"How about the evidence?"

"I think they will convict him," remarked Abraham conclusively. "Those
cops will swear to anything."

"Oh, it isn't as bad as that," I answered with a smile. "Still, I'm
afraid I can't get him off, particularly if the evidence would warrant
his conviction. After all, perhaps the Juvenile is the best place for
him, or maybe" (the thought struck me) "they will parole him in the
custody of his mother."

"No, they won't!" he cried with harsh vindictiveness. "She _wants_ him
to go there. The little feller, he makes too much trouble for her. She
don't want that she should have to clean up after him. She don't want to
have to cook for him." His eyes filled. "My mother, she has no use for
the little feller--but he's all I've got."

"Do you work?"

"Sure, every morning I go with my father at six o'clock, and I work all
day until seven. Then I come home, and the little feller is lying in my
bed and I put my arms around him and go to sleep."

"Six until seven!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, that is the time my father works, and I work for him--on the
pants."

"My God! A sweatshop!" I murmured. "Don't you ever have any fun?"

"Sure I do. Saturdays we don't do no work an' I take the little feller
down to Coney, an' sit on the sand all day with him. Do we have fun?
Well, say, I guess!"

"What does your father give you a week?"

"Sometimes a dollar. Sometimes a dollar and a half. Sometimes nothin'."

"What does your father say about putting Isaac in the asylum?"

"My father!" answered Abraham, his eyes flashing. "_He_ don't want him.
Isaac won't work. He's an _American_ boy. He's only eight. He just hangs
around the house and musses things up and won't do nothin' they tell
him. My father would be glad to get rid of him."

"Well, if he makes all this trouble, why do you want to keep him?" I
asked.

"Because I love him!" responded Abraham with a sob. "He's all I've
got--that little feller. I want him to grow up a good boy. If they
don't want to take care of him, _I will_. I'll earn the money. I'll send
him to school, maybe, by and by, and make a _lawyer_ of him." Abraham
spoke eagerly. "The old folks, my father and mother, they ain't like me
and you, they ain't real Americans, they don't understand these things.
All they think about is work and the synagogue. I'm up against it, I
know. I've got to work. But the little feller--I want that little feller
to come out on top and have a chance."

"McCarthy," said I to the county detective assigned to the office,
"kindly step into the next room. I want to speak to this boy alone.

"Abraham, you are up against it, I guess. Don't you think you can go
without the little feller for a year? I'll do what I can, but even if he
goes up they won't keep him longer than that at the asylum, and probably
when he comes out he'll be more of a help to your father and mother."

The big tears stood in his eyes and he twisted his hands together as he
answered:

"I guess--maybe--maybe, I could give up going down to Coney for a year,
if it was going to do him any good. Don't you think the asylum's so
bad?"

"No, indeed," said I. "It's fine. He can learn to play in the band.
He'll have a good time. Let him go."

For an instant I thought my words had made an impression. Then the two
tears welled over.

"You don't know--" the voice was low and passionate--"you don't know
what it is to have nothin' but a little feller like that. And way off
there--he would wake up in the night maybe--all alone--a little
feller----"

"Abraham!" I exclaimed, "the Juvenile be hanged! I'll see the judge and
do my best to have the little fellow remanded in the custody of his
brother. And Abraham----"

"Yes, sir."

"Where is the little feller? Out on bail?"

"Yessir."

I fumbled in my pocket for a dollar bill.

"Will you be paid for to-day?" I asked.

"No, there's nothin' doin' to-day," he answered.

"Had any work this week?"

"Nothin' much this week. There ain't much doin' at the shop. I won't get
paid this week."

"Well," I continued, "the little feller is free till Monday, anyhow.
Take him down to Coney to-morrow. And see here, Abraham, just _spend_
that dollar. Be a good sport." He grinned. "Take the little feller along
and sit on the sand, and if there is anything you want to see, no matter
if it costs five cents or ten cents, you go in and see it. Have a real
good time. Something for the little fellow to remember."

He smiled out of his eyes a heaven-born smile.

"Thank you."

"Never mind that, just do as I say. And Monday you go to court with him.
I'll see what I can do."

"You bet I will. I'll take the little feller down there to-morrow. You
ought to see him, Mister. Some time I'll bring him in here."

He shook hands and turned to open the door. As it closed behind him,
there echoed faintly through the transom:

"Just wait till you see that little feller!"



RANDOLPH, '64


    "For the good and the great, in their beautiful prime,
    Through thy precincts have musingly trod--"

The roll of the national anthem died away and the veterans stood with
bowed heads while the chaplain pronounced the benediction. Then the
color bearer elevated the regimental flags, the drums tapped, and the
gray-haired soldier boys, in straggling twos, marched slowly out of
Saunders's Theater, through the flower-bedecked transept, and into the
broad sunshine of Memorial Day. Ralph and I lingered in our seats until
the crowd had thinned. In the flag-draped balcony above the platform the
members of the band were hurriedly departing with their impedimenta;
here and there little old ladies dressed in gray, were making their way
with tardy steps toward the side exit; while all around the theater the
open windows poured in a battery of mote-filled sunshine upon the
deserted benches. The air was heavy with the soft fragrance of the elms
outside, the faint odor of starched linen, of pine dust, and of flowers.

"There's a pair for you!" whispered Ralph, as an erect old gentleman
accompanied by a white-haired negro came up the aisle. "I wish I knew
who they were." He offered to wager large sums, based upon his alleged
capacity for divination, that they were an "old grad," a Southerner,
probably, and his body servant--"Old Marse" and "Uncle Ned." He
instantly saw visions of them as characters in a story he was writing
for one of the college papers. He is an imaginative boy.

We followed them out into the transept, and waited in the jog by the
entrance while they made the round of the tablets, the white man reading
the various inscriptions to his companion, who now and then would nod as
if in recollection, and once furtively wiped his eyes with a frayed
red-bordered silk handkerchief. The last we saw of them, they were
picking their way across the car tracks of Cambridge Street in the
direction of the Yard.

All the long spring afternoon, as we lay on the grass with our backs
against the tree trunks, pretending to study, but really only watching
the little gray denizens of the Yard intent upon their squirrel
business, Ralph was making up stories about "Old Marse" and "Uncle Ned."
I don't believe the chap read a line of his Stubbs on "Mediæval
Architecture," and he was very loath to join me when I dragged him to
his feet and said that it was time for supper.

Darkness had fallen when, two hours later, we joined the group of men
gathered under the elms around the main entrance of Holworthy, where the
Glee Club had assembled for one of its evening concerts. Everywhere the
old buildings gleamed with light, for the examinations were on, and each
window had its cluster of coatless occupants, who from time to time
vociferously participated in mournful, lingering calls for "M-o-r-e."
The odor of pipe smoke mingled with the sweet, humid breath of the grass
and the subtle perfume of professors' gardens from distant Quincy
Street; in the western sky a crescent moon, just peeping from behind the
tower of Massachusetts Hall, shyly nestled in the tree tops; while
between the great elms we could look, as we lay flat upon our backs,
into an infinity of faintly twinkling worlds. Between songs you could
hear the creaking of the pump in front of Hollis Hall, and the tinkle of
the cup upon its chain as it was tossed heedlessly away by the thirsty
wayfarer after he had availed himself of its humble services. Ralph and
I, joyously entangled in the anatomy of a dozen classmates, drank in
with rapture the never cloying melodies of "Johnnie Harvard," "The
Miller's Daughter," "The Independent Cadets," and "A Health to King
Charles," none of which old favorites escaped without a second
rendition, and it was well on to nine o'clock when with a last

    Here's a health to King Charles,
    _Fill him up_ to the brim!

the assemblage broke up, in spite of savage disapproval from the
windows.

Then only did we surrender to our miserable apprehension of the
imminent, deadly "exam." in Fine Arts 4, and with the earnestly avowed
purpose of really mastering the difference between a gargoyle and a
lintel before we retired to rest, reluctantly mounted the stone steps
recently vacated by our musical brethren. Our room was Number 10, the
first as you go in on the right, and the flickering gaslight in the hall
showed that the door, in accordance with inviolable custom, was still
ajar.

"Wait a second while I light the lamp," I remarked to Ralph, and,
feeling my way across the room to my desk, stood there fumbling for the
matches. As I did so I was startled to hear a voice from the darkness in
the direction of the fireplace.

"I beg your pardon," it said. "I'm afraid I have usurped your room, but
the door was open and its invitation was too attractive to be refused."

The match flared up and I saw before me Ralph's "Old Marse."

"Oh--of course--certainly," I replied. He had arisen from the armchair
in which evidently he had been listening to the singing. Then the wick
caught, and by the increased light I saw that the man before me looked
older than he had in the morning. His hair was almost white, and his
face about the eyes finely wrinkled, but its expression was full of
kindly humor, and I felt somehow that this stranger quite belonged
there, and that it was I who was the intruder.

"You see," he continued with a smile, "I feel that I have a certain
right to be here. This used to be my room. Let me introduce myself.
Curtis is my name--Curtis, '64."

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Curtis," said I. "I'm Jarvis, 190--. Was this
really your room? That seems an awfully long time ago."

He smiled again.

"I'm afraid it seems longer ago to you than to me. Would you mind if I
should smoke a cigar with you? I'd like to ask you some things about the
old building."

"Please do," said I. "And let me introduce my roommate, Ralph Hughes."

Ralph shook hands with Mr. Curtis, and we all sat down around the
fireplace. It seemed rather inhospitable not to be able to offer him any
refreshments, but there was only one bottle of beer in the
_papier-maché_ fire pail in my bedroom, and it was warm at that. Hence
we accepted our guest's cigars with some diffidence and awaited his
first interrogation. I could see that Ralph was brimming over with
eagerness to ask about "Uncle Ned" and a hundred other things which that
romantic ostrich of a boy had invented during the afternoon, and I felt
quite sure that before Mr. Curtis got away he would be obliged to pay
heavily for the temerity of his visit by being offered up upon the altar
as a sacrifice to Ralph's bump of acquisitiveness.

"Yes," said Mr. Curtis, "this was my room for four years. If you look
over on the windowpane I think you'll find my name scratched on the
glass in the lower left-hand corner. I wonder if that old picture of the
Belvoir Fox Hunt, that I left, is still here?"

"Oh, was that yours?" exclaimed Ralph. He darted into the bedroom and
unhooked a framed lithograph which had been the joy and pride of the
occupants of the room for the past four decades. Mr. Curtis turned it
round and pointed to his name in faded ink upon the back at the head of
a long line of indorsements, each of which represented a temporary
possessor.

"The old room seems about the same. The wall-paper has been changed, but
that big crack over by the bedroom I remember well. And there ought to
be a bullet hole in the frame of the door."

"A bullet hole!" exclaimed Ralph and I in unison.

"Yes," said Mr. Curtis quietly, "a bullet hole--a thirty-two caliber, I
should judge."

Ralph seized the lamp and, holding it high above his head, carefully
scrutinized the woodwork of the door.

"There it is!" he cried eagerly. "Right in the middle; and, by George,
there's the bullet, too! There's a story about that, I bet--isn't there?
Who fired it? How did it get there?"

He replaced the lamp, quivering with interest.

"A story if you like," responded Mr. Curtis, looking curiously out of
his laughing brown eyes at my impetuous roommate. "Yes, quite a little
story. I could hardly tell you about it unless I told you also something
of the man who fired the shot. Did you ever hear of Randolph? Randolph,
'64?"

The blank look which came into our faces rendered answer unnecessary.

"Never heard of Randolph, '64! _Sic fama est!_ I suppose some Jones or
Smith or Robinson now holds his place. Outside of Prex himself, there
wasn't a better-known figure in my time. Why, he occupied this very
room. He was my roommate."

"Did he, though!" ejaculated Ralph. "How did he come to be firing a
pistol around? Didn't he fall foul of the Yard policeman?"

"There were no Yard policemen in those days," said Mr. Curtis.

"What luck!" ejaculated Ralph. "Do tell us about Randolph!" he pleaded
in the same breath.

"Certainly. If you really wish it. I trust you fellows haven't any
examinations to-morrow."

"Examinations be hanged!" exclaimed Ralph.

"Well," began Mr. Curtis meditatively, "I remember as if it were only
yesterday being awakened one bright September morning in '60 by the
sound of a rich negro voice singing in time to the scuff-scuff of the
blacking of a pair of shoes. The sound entered the open window through
which the autumn sun was already pouring, and penetrated the stillness
of my bedroom, over there. I sprang out of bed and, thrusting my head
out of the window, beheld, seated comfortably upon the topmost step, a
comically visaged darky, clad in a pair of brown overalls and battered
felt hat, busily engaged in putting the finishing touches to a highly
polished pair of russet riding boots. Piled indiscriminately upon the
sidewalk, in front of the windows of the room opposite, lay several huge
trunks, while at the foot of the steps reposed a long wicker basket,
before which were ranged in order of height an astonishing collection of
riding boots and shoes of all varieties, upon which the disturber of my
dreams had evidently been hard at work, since they shone with a luster
glorious to behold. The negro, having critically examined the boot upon
his arm, and evidently satisfied with its condition, arose to place it
by the side of its mate, and in so doing caught sight of me. Instantly
he had doffed his old gray hat and was making a grave salutation.

"'Good mornin', suh.'

"For a moment this vision of darky courtesy deprived me of my ordinary
self-possession. Then his grin became contagious.

"'I heard you singing and thought I'd look out to see who it was. Do you
know who those trunks belong to?'

"'Dose? Why, dose is Marse Dick's. Oh, p'r'aps you ain't met Marse
Dick--Marse Dick Randolph, ob Randolph Hall, Virginny, suh.' He drew
himself up with conscious pride. 'We-uns jes' come las' night. Marse
Dick's rooms is in dar'--nodding toward the window--'en I wuz jes'
a-lookin' ober some ob his traps. Anyt'ing I kin do fo' you, suh? Glad
to be of any service, suh. I'se Marse Dick's boy--Moses--Moses March,
suh.'

"'Well, Moses,' I answered, 'I'm glad to make your acquaintance. You can
tell Mr. Randolph that if he is going to be a neighbor of mine I shall
call upon him at the earliest opportunity.'

"'Yah, suh. T'ank you, suh,' responded Moses.

"Just then the old bell on Harvard Hall began to clamor for the morning
chapel service, and realizing that the master of my new acquaintance
might be unfamiliar with college regulations, I called out:

"'You'd better wake Mr. Randolph or he'll be late for chapel.'

"'Call Marse Dick!' exclaimed the darky in apparent horror. 'Golly, I
darsn't call Marse Dick 'fo' ten o'clock. Why, he'd skin me alive.
'Sides, he tole me to bring roun' Azam 'bout ten o'clock.'

"'Azam?' I queried.

"'Yah, suh; Azam's Marse Dick's hunter. Bes' Kentucky blood, suh. Sired
by ole Marse's stallion Satan, out o' White Clover. Dar's a hunter fo'
you, suh. You jes' ought ter see Marse Dick a-follerin' de hounds.
'Scuse me, suh, fo' keepin' you a-waitin'. No, suh, t'ank you, suh; I
won't forgit de card, suh.'

"Hastily retiring to my bedroom I threw on my clothes and then hurried
off to chapel. The shades of Number 9, the room across the hall, were
still tightly drawn."

Mr. Curtis stopped and relit his cigar. The yellow sash curtains on
their sagging wires softly bellied in the night breeze, and through the
open windows came the distant chanting of the Institute march and the
tinkle of the pump.

"This very room!" repeated the old gentleman half to himself. "And this
very window!" His voice sank dreamily and he seemed for the moment to
have forgotten our presence. "Those were happy times. As I look back
over the forty years, the time I spent here seems one long vista of
glorious autumn days. The same old red-brick buildings; the same green
velvet sward; that old tolling bell; the gravel walks; the pump--I
remember there always used to be a damp place about ten feet square
about the pump; the old creaking stairs outside this very door; the
quiet evenings on the steps where those jolly chaps were singing; the
long talks before this very fireplace under the lamplight with Dick; and
then that fatal rupture with the South! How little it means to you! Why,
it is isn't even a dream. It's just tradition. I suppose you feel
it--you can't help feeling it. But if you had sat here, as I did, with
the fellows going away, and the company drilling on the Delta over
there--what do you call it now: the Delta?--and had shared the feverish
enthusiasm which we all felt, tempered by the sorrow of losing our
comrades; the little scenes when they went off one by one, and we gave
each fellow a sword or some knickknack to carry with him; and the long,
sad, anxious days when you waited breathless for news--and then, when it
came, often as not, had felt a pang at your heartstrings because some
fellow that you loved had got it at Bull Run, or Antietam, or Cold
Harbor! No, you can never know what that meant, and thank God you can't.
The rest is about the same. I see you have squirrels in the Yard now. We
never had any squirrels. I suppose you sit in these windows and watch
'em by the hour. Busier than you, I guess.

"But apart from the squirrels and the new buildings, the old place is
about the same--bigger, more imposing, of course, with its modern
equipment of museums and laboratories and all that, and best of all that
splendid monument with its transept full of memories. But it's not the
same to me. It's only when I turn toward the corner by Hollis and
Stoughton, as I did this afternoon, with Holden Chapel just peeping in
between, and the big elms swinging overhead, and, shutting my ears to
the rattle of the electric cars, listen to the sound of the same old
clanging bell, with the sun gilding the tree trunks and slanting along
the gravel pathways, that I can call back those dear old days. Then, it
seems as if I were back in '61."

In the pause which followed Ralph volunteered that we all did feel
somewhat of the same thing, only in a minor degree. He had often
imagined the fellows going off to the war and had wondered if it was
anything like what he supposed. He pattered on in his own peculiar way
trying to put our guest at ease and, as he expressed it later, to cheer
him up. It would never have done, he averred later in his own defense,
to let "Old Marse" get groggy over the "sunlit elms." However, Mr.
Curtis changed the tone himself.

"And now to come to that first time that I ever saw Randolph. I had just
come from tea and was sauntering along the Yard in front of Stoughton
when I became conscious that my customary place upon the steps, out
there, had been usurped. The trunks and paraphernalia of the morning had
disappeared, and although Moses was absent, I knew somehow that this
could be no other than 'Marse Dick.' He was tall, with muscular back and
shoulders, and his clothes of dark-blue serge hung on him as if they had
grown there. His feet were encased in long-toed vermilion morocco
slippers, and the other elements of his costume which caught my eye were
a yellow corduroy waistcoat, very faddish for those days, and a flowing
red cravat. A broad-brimmed black slouch hat was well pulled down over
his eyes, while from beneath protruded a long brierwood pipe from which
voluminous clouds of smoke rolled forth upon the evening air without
causing any annoyance, so it seemed, to an enormous mastiff, who sat
contentedly between his master's knees, blinking his eyes and thumping
his tail in response to the caresses of the hand upon his head. As I
drew near the dog stalked over to meet me, sniffing good-naturedly, and
the stranger stepped down, removed his hat, and held out his hand with a
smile of greeting.

"'Mr. Curtis, I believe, suh?' he said in a low but agreeable drawl. 'My
boy Moses gave me the card you were kind enough to send by him this
morning. We are neighbors, are we not?'

"I had rather expected to see the face of a dandy, but instead a pair of
black eyes under almost beetling black brows burned steadily into mine.
He looked nearer thirty than twenty, and this appearance of maturity was
heightened by a tiny goatee. His smile was straightforward and honest,
the forehead, under the curly black locks, low and broad, the nose
aquiline and the skin dark and ruddy. Yes, he was a very pretty figure
of a man--as handsome a lad as one would care to meet on a summer's
day--part pirate, part Spanish grandee, part student, and every inch a
gentleman. Later there were plenty of fellows who said that no man could
dress like that (we were all soberly arrayed in those days) and be a
gentleman; or that no one could come flaunting his horses and dogs and
niggers into Cambridge, as Randolph undoubtedly did, and be one; or
could parade around the Yard smoking real cigars and keep dueling
pistols on his mantel and rum under the bed, as Dick did, and be one.
But he was, boys, he was!

"Perhaps he did talk too much about his niggers and his acres; too much
about his old mansion and its flower gardens, about stables, fox-hunting
and fiddlers--what of it? The point was that we were a lot of
soul-starved, psalm-singing Yankees, talking through our noses and
counting our pennies; while Randolph was a warm-hearted, hot-headed,
fire-eating, cursing Virginian.

"We shook hands and I joined him on the steps. It was just such a night
as this--calm and sweet, the stars peeping through the boughs, and the
windows shining. And that's how I like to think of him.

"He'd never been away from home before except to go to Paris. He talked
like a feudal baron, seeming to think that life was just one long
holiday; that no one had to earn a living; that things in general were
constructed by an amiable Deity solely for our delectation; and there
was in his attitude a recklessness and disregard for established usages
that left me totally at a loss. Imagine a fellow like myself taught to
regard card playing, the theater, and dancing as mortal sins, with a
father who believed in infant damnation and predestination; a fellow
brought up to gaze in silent admiration at Charles Sumner; and who was
allowed a silver half-dollar a week pocket money--imagine me, I say,
sitting out there with this free-thinking, free-hating, free-handed
slave owner! Why, I loved him with my whole heart inside of five
minutes. God bless my soul, how my father used to frown when they told
him about my new friend's latest escapade! But with all his freedom of
ideas he was as simple as a child. I don't believe the fellow ever had a
mean or an impure thought. I believe that as I believe in God.

"Well, I told him about my life--what there was to tell--and he told me
about his; how his father had died three years before, leaving him the
owner of very large estates and a great many hundred slaves--I forget
how many. His mother was still living down on the plantation. They were
Roman Catholics--'Papists,' my father called them. The doctrines of the
Church, however, didn't seem to bother him at all, that I could see. His
father had evidently been the big man of the county, and had shared all
his sports and studies, cramming him with the most extraordinary amount
of miscellaneous reading and curious Chesterfieldian ideas of honor and
manners.

"I can remember, now, just how he described the old place to me, sitting
out there on the steps. He thought it the finest home in all the land.
Perhaps it was. I never had the heart to go there afterwards. One thing
I remember was a grand old garden laid out in terraces, the walks
bordered by box two hundred years old and as high as your head, where
little red and green snakes curled up and sunned themselves--a garden
full of old-fashioned flowers and fountains and sundials, and a water
garden, too, with lilies of every sort; and there was a family graveyard
right on the place where they had all been buried--where his father had
been--with a ghost--a female ghost--named Shirley, I recall that, who
flitted among the trees on misty mornings. Oh, it was a great picture!
I'll never see that old place. Perhaps it's just as well. It couldn't
have been as beautiful as he painted it. You see I'd been born in a
twenty-one-foot red-brick house on Beacon Hill.

"Then as we were sitting there on the steps, I broad awake but in
fairyland, out from under the trees shuffled Moses's quaint, crooked
figure. Wanted to know if eb'ryt'ing was all right with young Marse.
Azam and Bhurtpore was fixed first-class, suh. An' he'd done got a
little cubby-hole down in the stable to sleep in. Wuz dere any orders
to-night, suh? An' what time should he bring Azam roun' in de mornin'?

"'Go 'long with Moses, Jim,' said Randolph. The dog obediently arose,
stretched himself, and descended the steps.

"'Good night, Marse Dick,' said Moses.

"'Good night, Moses,' replied Dick. And the two, the darky and the dog,
disappeared under the shadow of the elms."

Mr. Curtis knocked the ash from his extinct cigar and relit it at the
top of the lamp chimney.

"I should just like to have seen him," remarked Ralph enthusiastically.
"And to think that he really lived in this room. How did that happen?
And which bedroom did he have?"

"The one on the left, nearest the door," replied Mr. Curtis.

Over in Stoughton some fool was strumming a banjo, singing "I'm a
soldier now, Lizette"--rottenly. And some one else, of the same mind as
myself apparently, leaned out of the window in the room above us and
holloed:

"Oh, quit that! Try being a freshman a while! Lizette won't care."

Evidently the singer decided to follow the advice thus gratuitously
given, for the banjo ceased. Then came one of those long silences when
you felt instinctively that in a moment something might happen to spoil
the excellent opportunity of it, throw us off the key as it were, or
break its placid surface like an inconsequent pebble. But Ralph, in a
singularly moderate tone, as if leading the theme gently that it might
not become startled and break away, continued:

"You said something about dueling pistols, you know."

Mr. Curtis looked at him with that same quizzical smile which my
roommate had called forth before.

"That's it. All you want is gunpowder, treason, and plot. My feeble
attempt at character sketching has been a failure. Well, now to your
dessert."

"You are entirely wrong," said Ralph, rather mortified. "Randolph must
have been a perfect corker. I wish we had some chaps like that in 19--.
But the Southerners nowadays all seem to go to Chapel Hill, or William
and Mary, or Tulane, or some of those God-forsaken places where I don't
believe they even have a ball nine. Only, naturally, I wanted to make
sure of the bullet hole. You see," he added cunningly, "that bullet hole
is the thing that links us together. That's how we'll know when you've
gone that it wasn't all a dream."

Mr. Curtis laughed outright.

"You're a funny boy," said he. "Well, two or three days later I asked
Randolph to room with me. The matter was easily adjusted, and Moses
spent nearly a week in fixing up this den here with what he called
'Marse Dick's contraptions.' Save the old picture there, there's not a
thing in the place that suggests the room as it looked then. From
extreme meagerness, if not poverty, of furniture it sprang into
opulence--almost ornately magnificent it seemed to me with my
conservative New England tastes and still more conservative New England
pocketbook. I remember a silver-mounted revolver was always lying on one
end of the mantelpiece, while in the center was a rosewood case of
pistols, curious affairs, with long octagonal barrels, and stocks
inlaid with mother-of-pearl and silver.

"Randolph soon became a celebrity. He could no more avoid being the most
conspicuous figure in Cambridge than he could help addressing his
acquaintances as 'suh.' And in spite of his natural reserve, a quality
which was curiously combined with entire ease in conversation, he soon
acquired a large acquaintance and rather a following.

"Needless to say, I became his almost inseparable companion. Dick's
second hunter, Bhurtpore, had been placed entirely at my service, and
scarce a day passed that autumn without our scouring the country roads
for miles around, followed by three or four of the hounds. Jim, the
mastiff, while we were absent on these excursions, spent his time lying
beneath the ebony table in 10 Holworthy awaiting our return.

"Randolph tried unsuccessfully to organize a hunt. It soon appeared that
Azam and Bhurtpore were the only hunters in Cambridge, and polo had not
yet been introduced into this country. Frequently we would take a circle
of twenty miles in the course of an afternoon, galloping up quiet old
Brattle Street, out around Fresh Pond, until we struck the Concord
turnpike, which we followed over Belmont Hill, down past an old yellow
farmhouse with blue blinds, at the juncture of the highway to Lexington
and what we called the 'Willow Road,' and then under the overarching
boughs, through soggy fields full of bright clumps of alders, until the
fading light of the afternoon warned us that it was time to turn our
horses' heads in the direction of Cambridge."

"We have a Polo Club," said Ralph, "but we haven't any horses."

"Well, now, to get down to your bullet hole," continued Mr. Curtis.
"Hazing, of course, was an ordinary affair, and it was not uncommon to
see a pitched battle of fisticuffs going on behind some college
building.

"Now, mind you, the hazing was not done by the best men, but by the
worst, and it was always the tougher elements in the sophomore class
that availed themselves of this method of showing that they were feeling
their oats. Every one of us looked forward, sooner or later, to getting
his dose, and any freshman who smoked cigars and kept a nigger might
have expected it as a matter of course. But Dick was a chap that did
just as he pleased, and did it with such a confounded air--the '_bel
air_,' you know--that you'd have thought we were all a parcel of
cavaliers walking in a palace garden. I don't blame them for feeling
that he ought to be taken down a peg, when you take everything into
consideration.

"For example, imagine his kissing old Mrs. Podridge's hand at a faculty
tea! Of course the antiquated thing liked it, but it was so conspicuous.
And worse than all, inviting Prex into his room to have a cigar and a
glass of Madeira! Think of that! The queer part of it was that Prex
nearly accepted the invitation.

"'Why not?' said Dick, in answer to my expostulation. 'Do you mean that
in the North one gentleman cannot, without criticism, extend to another
the hospitality of his own room?'

"It was all in the point of view. What could you say?

"Some carping fellows spread a canard that Randolph was trying to
introduce slavery into Cambridge. Dick did not even notice it
sufficiently to direct Moses to display his manumission papers. Of
course there was a deal of talking about him, mostly good-natured
chaff, and had it not been for Watkins I doubt if anything would have
happened. This person was an ill-conditioned, dissatisfied fellow who
had come from a small town in Rhode Island with a considerable amount of
the initial velocity arising out of local prestige, which, wearing off,
left him in a miserable state of doubt as to what to do to rehabilitate
himself in the garments of distinction. As you would say, he 'had it in'
for Randolph for no reason in the world. Dick was just too good-looking,
too prosperous, too independent--that was all. He had an idea, I
suppose, that if he could knock the statue off its pedestal he might
perhaps occupy the vacant situation.

"One evening I inquired carelessly of Randolph what he should do if the
sophomores tried to haze him. He replied, nonchalantly, that he should
exercise the sacred right of self-defense as circumstances might
require. If anyone tried to interfere with him he must take the
consequences. In certain situations the only thing to do was to shoot
your aggressor. I looked up to see if he were joking, but his face was
entirely serious.

"Another chap who was sitting there laughed and slapped his knee. I can
see now that it was just this kind of thing that gave Randolph's enemies
some color for saying that he was a sort of crazy fool. Perhaps I was
playing Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, after all.

"Presently a lot of other fellows joined us, and by the time Moses
appeared we had disposed of a couple of bottles of old Port, from under
Dick's bed, and were loudly declaiming our loyalty to the Old Dominion
and consigning the class of '63 to eternal torment. In the midst of the
uproar some one grabbed Moses and shoved him upon the steps, shouting
'Speech! Speech!' What put the idea into his head I can't
imagine--probably antislavery speeches in the square which he had
overheard.

"'Gem'men,' he began, 'I'se not 'customed ter makin' speeches outa
meetin', 'specially ter gem'men like you-all, but I'se got suthin' I'se
been a-studyin' ober an' what's a-worryin' me, what I'd like ter say.
It's des' 'bout Marse Dick. I des' come from down de street whar I done
hear some gem'men a-speechifyin' 'bout him an' me. Dey says' (his voice
rose indignantly) 'dat Marse Dick didn't hab no business fo' ter hab me
here. Dat he didn't hab no right ter hab me work fo' him nohow, or Old
Marse; an' dey calls Marse Dick some mighty mean names. Now I des' 'ud
like ter know ef I ain't Marse Dick's boy an' why he ain't got no right
fo' ter hab me work fo' him. Didn't I work fo' Old Marse 'fo' he died,
an' didn' my ole man work fo' him, an' ain't I allus been a-workin' fo'
Ole Miss and Missy Dorothy? Him an' me's been bred up togedder; I'se
been a-totin' with him eber since he wuz born, ain't I, Marse Dick?'

"He paused amid a dead silence. None of us spoke. I looked at Randolph
and saw that he was gripping his pipe hard between his teeth.

"'Well, gem'men, I doesn't want leab Marse Dick, ef I is a free nigger,
an' I doesn't want you ter let 'em tek me away from him, cuz he got no
one else ter look out fo' him, an' Azam an' Bur'pore an' de dogs, an'
Ole Miss say when I lef' de Hall how I was neber to leab Marse
Dick--nohow. An', gem'men, you won't let 'em, will yer?'

"He waited for our assurance. Oh, the constraint of generations of New
England character! It was so difficult for us to say what we felt. Dick
was staring out under the trees with glistening eyes. Some fellow made a
few halting remarks and said we'd stick up for him and Moses to the last
man, and then we all pounded Moses on the back, and Dick got out some
more Port and we had another toast, but something had hit us hard."

Mr. Curtis closed his eyes and leaned back his head for a moment as if
trying to recall some forgotten memory.

"The next evening," he continued presently, "we were both sitting before
the fire. Jim lay as usual beneath the table, his head pointing toward
the door. The lamps had not yet been lit and the windows, I remember,
were open, for the day had been warm--one of those Cambridge
Indian-summer days. From the lower end of the Yard came a confused
murmur of voices, mingled with occasional shouts. The voices grew
louder, and shortly there came a loud cheer, followed by the tramp of
many feet. I stepped to the window and saw through the dusk a cluster of
men moving slowly up the sidewalk by Massachusetts Hall. In a moment I
realized that the time might be at hand for the application of my
roommate's recently declared principles. With a distinct feeling of
apprehension I drew in my head and was about hurriedly to suggest a
walk, when there came the sound of flying feet, and Moses, with scared
face and starting eyes, burst into the room.

"'Oh, Marse Dick,' he cried in a trembling voice, 'dey's a-comin' ter
kill yer an' tek me away from yer. Dey's goin' ter hurt yer drefful!
Doan' let 'em do it, Marse Curtis!'

"Dick had risen quietly and was now engaged in lighting the lamp upon
the center table, while I shut and locked both door and windows. Jim got
up from his place beneath the table and watched us uneasily. The noise
of the crowd grew nearer. Then suddenly I heard a sharp click behind me
and turned to see Randolph holding one of the silver-mounted pistols
which he had taken from its case upon the mantel. He was calmly engaged
in loading.

"'Look here, Dick!' I cried, 'for Heaven's sake put that back!'

"Before I could say another word our assailants entered the hallway of
the building. There came a babel of voices, followed by a loud pounding
upon the door. We returned no answer. Then there were shouts of:

"'Run him out!'

"'Liberty forever!'

"'No slaves in Harvard!'

"'Smash in the door!'

"This last suggestion was accompanied by a yell and a rush against the
door, which swayed inward, and, the lock snapping, burst open. There was
an instant's hesitation on the part of the men outside; then they began
to surge through the narrow doorway. Randolph quickly raised his pistol.

"'Back!' he shouted. 'Leave the room!' Instinctively they retreated. I
can see them now, crowding out through the doorway. Just here, where I
am sitting, in the full light of the lamp, stood Randolph, the barrel of
his pistol glistening wickedly. There was a cold gleam in his eyes and a
drawn look about his mouth. Before him stood Jim, tail switching, and
lips curled back in a snarl that showed all his sharp teeth, while in
the background cowered Moses, fear pictured upon every feature, his
eyeballs gleaming white in the shadowy doorway of the bedroom.

"'I warn you, gentlemen,' said Randolph haughtily. 'I order you to leave
the room. I shall shoot the first man that crosses my threshold.'

"'Bosh!' cried a voice. 'Hear him!'

"'D----d slave owner!' shouted another.

"'Throw him out!'

"Watkins thrust himself forward.

"'Bah! I'm not afraid of any rum-drinking Southerner! He hasn't the
nerve to shoot!'

"'Look out!' called some one.

"There was a sudden rush from outside and Watkins either sprang or was
pushed, probably the latter, through the door. At the same instant there
was a flash, a report, a snarl, a loud cry, a tumult of feet. The smoke
cleared slowly away, showing the door empty. Across the threshold lay a
sophomore, while over him stood Jim, motionless, with his feet on the
man's chest and his teeth close to his face.

"Randolph laid the smoking pistol upon the table and pointed grimly to a
splintered crack in the strip above the door.

"'Come here, Jim!' he called. The dog unwillingly drew away, still eying
the man on the floor, who, finding himself unhurt, began to blubber
loudly.

"'You are free, suh,' remarked Randolph scornfully. 'Don't let me detain
you.'

"Watkins slowly and fearfully scrambled to his feet, and then, like a
flash, vanished into the darkness.

"'Golly, Marse Dick,' exclaimed Moses in an awestruck voice, 'I thought
you'd killed that gem'man, sho'!'

[Illustration: "'Back,' he shouted."]

"'Give us a glass of brandy, Moses!' said his master, extinguishing the
light. 'Where are they, Jack?'

"I raised the window and looked out. The sophomores were gathered in an
excited group about Jim's victim, gazing at our window, and talking
loudly among themselves. Randolph reloaded the pistol and stepped to the
door.

"'Pleased to see you at any time, gentlemen,' he said. 'But just now I
want to go to bed and don't like noise. Don't let me keep you. While I
sometimes miss a single bird I'm not so bad at a covey. Now off with
you!'

"Again he whipped up the pistol into position. It looked even more
wicked in the starlight than it had done inside. With one accord the
crowd broke and ran, Watkins well in the lead.

"Randolph came inside, lighted the lamp, and tossed off the brandy.

"'By Gad, suh,' he drawled with a laugh. 'They really thought they were
going to be murdered. You Yankees don't seem gifted with any sense of
humor. Here, Moses, run around to my friends' rooms and give them my
compliments and invite them all to the tavern for a bowl of punch.'"

Ralph clapped his hands together.

"Right in this very room!" he cried, "right in this room!" Then he
jumped to his feet and again critically examined the door. "Just as
fresh as ever!" he remarked delightedly. "Why, but that Randolph was a
ripper! And to think it all happened right between these four walls and
we never have heard a word about it before!"

"Tell us some more about him," said I. "What did the faculty say?"

"The faculty considered the case," replied Mr. Curtis, "but we never
heard from them in regard to it. Of course the story got all around the
college and Watkins was unmercifully guyed. But he had his turn."

"How was that?" inquired Ralph. "Do go on."

"I don't know," returned Mr. Curtis. "What do you think of Randolph?"

"The best ever!" pronounced Ralph with conviction.

"It's hard to resist such an enthusiastic audience--and so insistent,"
smiled Mr. Curtis. "Well, they let him alone after that, and he pursued
the even tenor of his way and increased in wisdom and stature and in
favor--at least with man.

"I can only tell you about Randolph's leaving college, and that takes me
to those sadder times of which I spoke. It was late in the spring, when
none of us had any longer time or inclination to think of college
distinctions or college jealousies. We were all overwhelmed at the
thought of the impending conflict. Already most of the Southerners had
departed for their homes.

"You see, I'm trying to give you an impression--a picture of a chap I
believe to have been one of the truest gentlemen that ever came here--I
feel you're entitled to know whose room it is you occupy and to share in
these memories, which are, after all, the best thing left in my lonely
old bachelor existence. When I tell you the rest and how we parted never
to meet again you won't be able to get a true understanding of it unless
you can grasp the real spirit of the times, the environment, the
intensity of the whole affair.

"Here I was rooming with a flamboyant Southerner who fully intended to
enlist as soon as his native State should declare herself, when four of
my uncles had already joined the Union army. Of course I wanted to go,
but my father wouldn't hear of it. The whole miserable business only
drew Randolph and me the closer together. I do not think that his
performance with the pistol had increased his popularity; in fact, the
sympathies of the undergraduates seemed on the whole to be with Watkins,
and the general sentiment that he was the aggrieved party. If Dick had
taken his medicine in good part it would doubtless have been better for
him in the end. You see, it gave his slanderers a handle and they made
the most of it. Neither did he abate any of those idiosyncrasies of
which I have spoken, but simply out of bravado, I suppose, rather let
himself go. His cravats increased in brilliancy, his waistcoats
multiplied their colors, and he was always careering around on Azam
through the Yard and Harvard Square. He had a trick of riding suddenly
out of nowhere, and appearing at recitations on horseback, turning his
beast over to Moses at the door until the lecture had concluded. I have
known Randolph at this period to keep his horse waiting an hour in order
that he might ride him the length of the Yard. Don't get the impression
that I am criticising him unfavorably; I am merely endeavoring to give
you the point of view of the outsiders who didn't like him. By April the
class was pretty evenly divided on the Randolph question. To half of us
he was a rather Quixotic hero--to the rest a sort of cheap _poseur_.
Watkins was untiring in his innuendoes, and in this he was aided to a
considerable extent by the bitterness of the feeling between North and
South. Of course, everything possible was being done to conciliate the
Southern States, and it was the aim of the entire North to avert if
possible an open rupture. At the theaters the most popular music was
the old Southern airs and plantation melodies, and the audiences
conscientiously cheered when 'Dixie' was played. Naturally this was
vastly gratifying to Randolph, who failed, it seemed to me, to realize
its significance. I don't think that anyone really believed actual
hostilities would occur.

"Then like a lash across our faces came the firing on Sumter. The whole
North gasped and then the blood boiled in our veins. Right here under
these trees the war fever burned hottest.

"That night will never be forgotten by the class of '64. A huge
gathering of students filled the Yard, lights twinkled in all the
windows, torches flared here and there among the tree trunks, while
between Stoughton Hall and where Thayer now stands, just in front of
these very windows, the fellows concentrated in a solid mass, cheering
the Union again and again, as flights of rockets burst high above the
trees, sending down their floating canopies of sparks. Into that big
elm, out there, some of the seniors were hoisting a transparency,
bearing upon one side the words, 'The Constitution and Enforcement of
the Laws,' and upon the other, 'Harvard for War.'

"I was sitting in this window--Randolph in that. Perhaps I should have
been out on the grass shouting with the others, but the loneliest fellow
in Cambridge was at my side. Poor old chap! No wonder he was gloomily
silent. Outside the cheering continued and the rockets roared away over
the tops of the old buildings, until the students, forming into an
irregular procession, marched away singing patriotic airs, some to go to
their rooms, but most to pass the remainder of the evening at the
tavern, discussing the President's proclamation.

"Dick got up quietly and came over to the window. 'Jack,' he said
sadly, 'the game's about up with me. I can't stay here any longer. Now
that war is an actuality, I must go home, and the sooner the better.'

"'But Virginia hasn't seceded,' I answered, 'and most likely won't. If
she does there will be time enough for you to go.'

"'Virginia _will_ secede,' he replied, 'and blood will be shed in this
cursed quarrel within two weeks. I can't stay here when I might be at
home helping on the cause. I shall think you are acting from interested
motives,' he added, smiling.

"'What does your mother say?'

"'That's the trouble. She wants me to stay.'

"I read the letter which he handed me. It was plain enough. The good
lady desired to keep her only son out of harm's way just as long as
possible, although through it all I could perceive her consciousness of
the futility of any idea of preventing a Randolph from taking an active
part, in the event of the secession of his native State. I urged
parental duty and the foolishness of taking for granted something that
might not happen at all. He, of course, was keen for fighting anyhow,
but he was prepared to stand by his State's decision.

"Of course, you couldn't blame a woman for wanting to keep her only son
from throwing his life away. From the very first I had a presentiment
that that was what it would amount to, and I was for doing all I could
to help her carry out her purpose.

"But as the days dragged on it became harder and harder to keep Randolph
in Cambridge. You see, by that time he was practically the only
Southerner left there, and he found himself in a strangely awkward, not
to say painful, position. Even some of his friends, while their manner
toward him remained the same, ceased to come as frequently to our room.

"We kept trying to deceive ourselves all along about the seriousness of
the crisis. None of us did much studying--Randolph, none at all. He rode
about the country or sat in his room reading his last letters from the
Hall, fretting to get away from Cambridge. Nor did his continued
presence pass uncommented upon by the more fiery of our student
patriots.

"Several anonymous letters suggesting that his presence in Cambridge was
undesirable had been left at his room, while, quite accidentally of
course, it frequently happened that the sidewalk in front of our windows
was selected as the forum for vehement denunciation of the South, of
slavery and slaveholders. Randolph gripped his pipe grimly between his
teeth and held his head higher than ever. Once he actually tried to
address a meeting in front of the post office on the Inherent Right of
Secession. But he was groaned down. While few of us had been
Abolitionists we were now all Unionists, and '_Harvard was for war_.'

"After this experience I noticed a change in his demeanor, for there
were among that shouting, hissing crowd several who had been his
friends. Although he must have known that Virginia's supposed loyalty
was but a pretext on the part of his mother to keep him out of danger,
his devotion to her was such that he remained without a word to bear the
whips and scorns of time and the humiliation of his position, waiting
manfully until the official action of the government of Virginia should
set him free.

"It must have been exquisite torture for a chap of his high spirit to be
obliged to hear his principles and those of his father denounced on
every side, and the South that he really loved with all his heart
charged with treachery and infidelity.

"In those days the top story of Dane was used by the upper classmen and
the members of the Law School as a debating hall, their discussions
being frequently marked by personalities and a bitterness of invective
unparalleled even in the national Senate and House of Representatives.
After the firing upon Sumter these meetings grew more and more
turbulent, and were held almost daily.

"Randolph had at last made up his mind that he would wait but a week
longer at the latest, and had notified his mother of his decision. He
intended to leave Cambridge on April 18th, and nothing that I could say
had been able to shake his determination. I am inclined to believe that
the action of Virginia on the question of secession would not have made
any difference to him at this time. We had watched the departure of the
Sixth and Eighth Massachusetts regiments for Washington, and you can
easily imagine how irksome his enforced inaction must have been. All his
arrangements had been completed and he and Moses were to leave Boston on
an early morning train for the South.

"The morning of the 17th dawned clear and brilliant. I left Dick and
Moses packing books and dismantling the room, and walked across the Yard
to a recitation in Massachusetts Hall. After that I remember I attended
a lecture in some scientific course, chemistry, I believe, in
University, and about eleven o'clock wandered over to the square to see
if there were any fresh war bulletins. A group of excited people was
gathered about the telegraph office gesticulating toward a strip of
foolscap pasted in the window, and it was really unnecessary for me to
push my way among them and read what was written there: '_Virginia
secedes_.' The words had almost a familiar look--we had waited for them
so long.

"With the intention of telling Randolph the news I hurried across the
square. I did not get far, however. Just on the other side, tethered to
a post in front of the door of Dane Hall, stood Azam. He whinnied when
he saw me, for by this time we were old friends. His presence there
could only mean that Dick was inside, and with a qualm of apprehension I
pushed open the door and started up the stairs. From above came the hum
of voices followed by confusion and silence. Then as I reached the
landing I caught the tones of a familiar voice--Randolph's--and hurrying
up the flight leading to the second story breathlessly opened the door
into the hall. It was packed with students and hot almost to
suffocation, while the grins on most of the faces of those near me
showed plainly the state of their feelings toward the speaker.

"In the middle of the room, in a sort of cleared space, stood Randolph,
dressed with his customary braggadocio in riding boots, spurs, and
gauntlets. Whip and hat lay before him on the floor. The crowd were
jeering, and his face was flushed with an angry red--a thing I'd never
seen before.

"'Virginia has seceded,' he shouted, challenging the whole room with a
defiant glance. 'I thank God for it! Had she remained three days longer
in the Union I should have felt my native State humiliated. She has been
the last to take up the sword against oppression. Now may she be the
last to lay it down. For the last decade the rights of Virginia and of
the South have been trampled under foot. She has borne slander and
insult. She has bowed to an unlawful interpretation of the Constitution
and unjust administration of the laws. She has seen her lawful property
snatched from her outstretched hands. They tell me she has rebelled--I
rejoice that Virginia has resisted! Who dares say that a sovereign
State, who by her assent alone was joined to a union of other States,
has not the right to separate herself from them when such a partnership
has become intolerable!'

"He was being continually interrupted by hisses and groans and sarcastic
comments from all sides, but he continued unabashed:

"'Do you realize that you who once threw off the yoke of England have
yourselves become oppressors and are trampling the sacred rights of
others wantonly under foot? That you have become destroyers of liberty?
Virginia!--Virginia--' His voice broke. Absurdly theatrical as it all
was, I believe he had some of the fellows with him. Then Watkins
shouted:

'She is a traitor!'

"'That's a lie!' replied the orator fiercely.

"I never quite knew how Watkins had the nerve, but I suppose he thought
that Randolph was down and out, and he may have really believed that
poor Dick was just a swaggering braggart, after all. Anyhow, before any
of us realized what had happened, he had sprung forward and struck
Randolph in the face with his cap, exclaiming:

'Take that, you _Reb_!'

"An extraordinary stillness fell upon us. I thought for a moment that
Randolph would fall, for he turned deathly pale and his hands twitched
as if he were going to have an epileptic fit. He swayed, recovered
himself, tried to speak, choked, and finally said in a hoarse whisper:

"'I suppose you understand what that means?'

"Then in the silence he stooped, picked up his whip and hat, and looking
straight before him strode out of the hall. I followed automatically.

"The door behind us shut out a tremendous roar of laughter, in which
could be distinguished cries of 'You're done for now, Watkins!' 'Better
make your will, old chap!' We were hardly clear of the building before
the whole meeting adjourned with a rush, pounding down the stairs with
such impetuosity that it is a wonder they didn't carry the rickety
structure along with them.

"Shades of John Harvard and Cotton Mather! A duel was to be fought in
Harvard College! The rumor flew from the college pump to the tavern; it
sprang from lip to lip--from window to window; sneaked by professors'
houses in silence; and burst into garrulity upon the steps of Hollis and
Stoughton. If you had asked one from the jocular groups gathered in
front of the different buildings and upon the gravel paths what was to
pay, he would probably have replied with a twinkle in his eye,
'_Virginia has seceded._'

"I must confess to you that I felt like a fool. It was the same feeling
that I had experienced in a lesser degree when my cavalier had kissed
the hand of old Mrs. Podridge, but now it was clear I was playing Sancho
Panza in earnest. I had followed Dick to the room and pleaded with him
in vain. He was impervious to argument. There could be only one thing
done under the circumstances. There was no question about it at all. He
failed utterly to comprehend my alleged attitude in the case, or at any
rate pretended to do so. Why hadn't he thrashed Watkins then and there?
Simply because by so doing he'd have made himself nothing more nor less
than a common brawler. It was not a case of a street fight, but of
insulting a man's honor.

"Of course I might have thrown him over. But somehow I couldn't leave
Randolph to face the music all alone, and I knew well enough that
laughter would be far harder for him to bear than the actual hatred or
disapproval of his associates. And then he was going away the following
morning and I might never see him again.

"I'd hoped, and in fact expected, that Watkins would laugh in my face
when I submitted Randolph's challenge. It would have been quite in
keeping with the fellow's character and past performances, but he took
the wind entirely out of my sails by the gravity with which he listened
to what I had to say, and unhesitatingly chose '_pistols at twenty
paces_.' Up to that time I'd felt merely that Dick had made an ass of
himself and had rather unnecessarily dragged me into it, but now the
other aspect of the thing--that I might become the accessory to a
homicide--caused me a feeling of revolt against having anything to do
with the affair.

"I completed my arrangements with Watkins's second, a fellow named
Scott, as quickly as possible, leaving to him most of the details. And
then Dick and I took a long ride together in the country, supping at a
farmhouse and not reaching home until after nine o'clock.

"Randolph roused me from fitful slumbers early next morning by holding
the lamp to my face, and I saw that he was fully dressed.

"'You haven't been to bed at all!' I cried in reproach.

"'I had no time. I've been writing,' he replied, as he replaced the
lamp in the study. A dim suggestion of the dawn came through the
windows, and the complete silence was broken only by the snapping of the
fire which Moses had kindled and over which he was boiling coffee. While
I hurried into my clothes Dick reëntered my room with a packet in his
hand and sat down upon the bed.

"'Jack,' said he, cheerily enough, 'of course there's no use disguising
things. The beggar may wing me, and if anything happens I want you to
take this to my mother. I'd like you to have the horses and--and Jim.
You'll see that Moses gets back, won't you?'

"O Dick!' I almost sobbed. 'Of course I'll do exactly as you say, but
it's not too late, and perhaps Watkins will apologize or agree to fight
it out with fists. What's the use of shooting at each other?'

"'You can't understand!' he sighed. 'Well, here's the packet. Don't
forget now.' He began to whistle 'Dixie' and oil his pistols. Two years
later I learned that his father had been killed in a duel at Paxton
Court House.

"'Coffee's ready,' announced Moses. 'Look out, Marse Curtis, it's hot.'
He laid two smoking cups upon the table, and Dick poured a finger of
brandy into each.

"'To the cause!' said he with a gay laugh.

"'To the cause!' cried I.

"And we drained them--each to his own.

"From a distant steeple came four widely separated and mournful notes.

"'We must be off!' exclaimed Dick, throwing on his greatcoat. 'Have the
horses at the bridge, Moses, in twenty minutes.'

"He thrust his pistol into his pocket and linking his arm through mine
led me into the Yard. A cold mist hung over the lawn and the red
buildings looked black in the vague light. A silence as of the grave was
everywhere. At certain angles the windows looked out like blank,
whitish, dead faces.

"'On a morning like this,' remarked Dick, 'my great-aunt Shirley should
be about. Joyful, isn't it?'

"I was in no mood for joking. Already the effect of the brandy had
vanished and a chill was creeping through my body. My arm trembled and
Randolph felt it.

"'Dear me, Jack!' he cried as we passed out into the Square, 'this will
never do! Cheer up, man! Ague is contagious at this hour of the
morning.'

"I made a heroic effort to restrain the dance of my muscles. Our steps
made a loud rattling on the cobblestones of the Square, but we met no
one and were soon well on our way to the river. As we trudged along the
sky grew lighter, and crossing the bridge I noticed that the roofs of
old Cambridge showed black against the whiteness of the dawning.
Everywhere the mist covered the downs with a thick mantle, and a light
breeze had sprung up, which set it drifting and swirling fantastically.
The creaking of the draw was the only sound in the heavy silence, save
the lapping of the water against the sunken piles, and behind us the
faint clatter of hoofs which told us that Moses was on his way.

"We left the road and started across the downs, and the mist thinned as
the day neared its breaking. A quarter of a mile away three figures
moved slowly along the river.

"Who's the third man?' asked Randolph.

"'Watkins wanted a doctor,' I replied. He gave no answer, but strode
rapidly over the harsh grass and dry reeds of the marshy fields. No
note of bird added touch of life to the gray scene, and the three dim
shapes before us seemed more like phantoms than fellow-creatures.
Although warm from our half-mile walk, a cold perspiration broke out all
over my body and I once more lost control of my muscles. Indeed, had not
Dick pulled me somewhat roughly on, I doubt if my legs could have held
me up, so intense was my fear of what was coming.

"Scott, as we approached, came to meet us, and without further formality
paced off the distance. Then, quite as if it were a common affair with
him, he examined the priming of our pistols and offered them to me for
selection. I took one, almost dropping it in my nervousness, and passed
the weapon to Dick, who pressed my hand for a moment before
relinquishing it. Hardly a word had been spoken, and before I knew it
the two were in their places. The spot chosen was in a bend of the
sluggish river, and at this point the mist had entirely blown away. Each
raised his pistol and took aim, just as the first claret streaks of dawn
shot up into the east. The water swept by, oily and purple, with here
and there a swirl of iridescent color. A heron rose with a roar of
flapping wings and rustled away into the mist, squawking harshly, and
the strong, salt breath of the sea floated across the marshes and set me
sneezing.

"'One!' called Scott sharply. 'Two--three-- Fire!'

"The two reports seemed but as one, two tiny spurts of white smoke
leaped from the pistols, there was a sharp groan, and Watkins reeled,
staggered, and fell upon his back among the reeds, his left hand
grasping convulsively at a tuft of grass beside him. Randolph stood
motionless with the smoking pistol in his hand, his eyes riveted upon
the body on the ground, over which both the doctor and Scott were
bending anxiously. Then the latter raised himself with a look of horror
on his face, and said wildly:

"'O God! You've killed him!'

"'How is he, doctor?' asked Randolph unemotionally.

"The doctor placed his hand to the heart of the man on the ground. Then
he announced:

"'He is dead. His heart has ceased to beat.'

"I don't know exactly what happened after that. I think I fainted, for I
have a dim recollection of some one thrusting a handkerchief strong with
ammonia into my face. But the first thing I rightly recollect is
striding hand in hand with Randolph over the downs toward the bridge,
where Moses was in waiting with the two horses.

"I was conscious of a hurried parting with Dick, of his saying that of
course he could never come back, and that I must not think the less of
him for what he had done, and that we must never forget one another. And
then he leaped on Azam's back and galloped away in the direction of
Boston with Moses riding hard behind him, just as the sun burst red
above the roofs of Harvard College through the mist.

"I stood there for a moment and then I ran, ran anywhere, until I
thought that I should drop; until the pain in my side seemed eating me
up; and when I really came to my senses I found myself wandering on the
high road hard by Lexington. I sneaked into the back door of a farmhouse
and asked for some milk and bread, but the woman refused me and, I
thought, looked at me with suspicion. Probably they were already
arranging for my arrest and a warrant had been issued. Visions of a
trial as an accessory for murder in the East Cambridge court house, and
of a judge with a black cap--a _hanging_ judge--nearly crazed me with
apprehension. But I had only myself to blame. I could have prevented it.
He could not have fought alone. And I remember feeling rather sorry for
Watkins--that he hadn't been such a bad fellow, after all. I lay under a
tree most of the afternoon, and I can't say which emotion was uppermost,
fear or regret. It never entered my mind that I should escape with
anything less than a long term in State's prison.

"It came back to me again and again throughout that interminable
afternoon, how, as I was hurrying with Dick across the downs after the
fatal shot, and the sun had jumped above the roofs before us, I had
turned for an instant and seen the doctor and Scott still bending over
Watkins's body. Then, somehow realizing that flight was impossible, and
feeling so utterly wretched that I cared nothing for what became of me,
I begged a lift from a passing teamster most of the way back to
Cambridge, and shortly after nine o'clock stealthily entered the College
Yard. The dismantled room opened bare and empty like a sepulcher before
me, and in its gravelike silence my steps echoed loudly as I crossed the
floor and threw myself upon the window seat. With a rush the vanished
happiness of our life together came over me. Never had any days been
half so sweet as those we had passed in this very room. And now he had
fled--a murderer--leaving me, his accomplice, to face the consequences
alone.

"Presently a group of fellows came strolling up the walk and seated
themselves upon the step by the window, where Dick and I had always sat.
I resented their presence, for it only served to heighten my desolation.
One of them was evidently telling a funny story. For a moment or two I
purposely paid no attention; then like a douche of cold water I
recognized the voice. The revulsion of feeling almost sickened me.

"'Yes,' the jubilant Watkins was saying, 'didn't I always say he was an
ass? Why, the trick would've been impossible on any less of a fool.
Curtis can't be much better. When the pistols were produced Scott merely
turned his back and had no difficulty in reloading them with graphite
bullets, for the mist was pretty thick, and he says Curtis was shivering
like a wet dog. All I had to do was a little play-acting and, while I
assure you it is easier to play dead than to play doctor, Hunt carried
out his part to perfection. In fact, the whole thing went off like a
full-dress rehearsal. Randolph must be half-way to Virginia by this
time. I reckon they'll make him colonel of a regiment when they hear
he's killed a Yankee in a duel!'"

Mr. Curtis spoke with a shade of asperity in his voice, and from where I
sat I could see disappointment in Ralph's face.

"Why go further?" continued Mr. Curtis. "I brazened it out as best I
could and denounced the whole wretched performance as a piece of
unmitigated cowardice which should brand Watkins forever as unworthy the
society of self-respecting men. The college, as a whole, however, did
not take that position, although I never suffered very heavily for my
part in the proceeding.

"And now, boys, you've had the whole story, and you know, in part at
least, something of what Randolph was like."

"I bet I know that Watkins!" exclaimed Ralph. "Was his name _Samuel J._
Watkins? There's a fellow in our class named Samuel J. Watkins, Jr. He
makes me tired. Sometimes his father comes out to see him--an old fellow
with bedspring whiskers. He looks just mean enough to put up a trick
like that."

"That was Watkins's name," admitted Mr. Curtis. "But he wasn't a bad
fellow, after all, and later we became good friends." He took out his
watch. "Heavens, it's half-past twelve! And to think I've been sitting
here, the night before one of your examinations probably, dreaming away
three hours and a half and boring you chaps to death. I had no idea it
was so late."

"I am awfully glad you did," said Ralph. "I tell you we don't have men
like that nowadays. At least I don't know of any. But what became of
Randolph--afterwards?"

"Dick got it at Antietam!" he answered.

Both of us felt very much embarrassed. But then, as Mr. Curtis lit
another cigar, picked up his hat and cane, and held out his hand,
Ralph's insatiable curiosity got the better of him.

"And Moses--was that he with you to-day at the memorial service? We saw
you, you know."

"Yes," replied Mr. Curtis. "After Mrs. Randolph's death Moses came North
to live with me."

I thought Ralph had gone far enough, but I was rather glad afterwards
that, as he took our guest's hand in parting, he said impulsively:

"I think Mr. Randolph was a splendid gentleman!"


THE END



Transcriber's Note: The following typographical errors, present in the
original text, have been corrected.

"A shiver of terrror" was changed to "A shiver of terror".

A quotation mark was removed before "Flynt was not here, was he?"

"he in-inquired of 'Dooley'" was changed to "he inquired of 'Dooley'".

"cabs, lan aus, and wagons" was changed to "cabs, landaus, and wagons".

A quotation mark was added before "Sorry to have the game broken up".

A misspaced quotation mark was moved from after "turning to the court"
to before "that he would like to have his pistol".

"in acordance with inviolable custom" was changed to "in accordance with
inviolable custom".

Some words, in particular Chinese place names, were spelled
inconsistently in the original text.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mortmain" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
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.



Home