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Title: The Blue Lights - A Detective Story
Author: Kummer, Frederic Arnold, 1873-1943
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 "The Blue Lights - A Detective Story" ***

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



  THE BLUE LIGHTS


  Illustration: A hasty examination of the sailing list showed her the
  astonishing truth. Richard was not on board.



  THE

  BLUE LIGHTS

  BY

  ARNOLD FREDERICKS

  AUTHOR OF

  THE IVORY SNUFF BOX, ETC.

  ILLUSTRATIONS BY

  WILL GREFÉ

  NEW YORK

  GROSSET & DUNLAP

  PUBLISHERS

  COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY

  W. J. WATT & COMPANY



THE BLUE LIGHTS



CHAPTER I


The big, mud-spattered touring car, which for the past hour had been
plowing its way steadily northward from the city of Washington,
hesitated for a moment before the gateway which marked the end of the
well kept drive, then swept on to the house.

A man, stoutly built, keen of eye, showing haste in his every movement,
sprang from the machine and ascended the veranda steps.

"Does Richard Duvall live here?" he inquired, curtly, of the smiling old
colored woman who came to the door.

"'Deed he do, suh. Does you want to see him?"

"Yes. At once, please. Tell him it is most important. My name is
Hodgman."

The servant eyed him with cool disfavor. "Set down, suh," she remarked
stiffly. "I'll tell him you is here."

The caller watched her, as she disappeared into the house, then cast
himself impatiently into a chair and lit a cigar.

He paid no attention to the attempts of two clumsy collie puppies to
attract his favorable notice, but contented himself with making a quick
survey of the wide comfortable veranda, with its big roomy chairs, the
wicker table, bearing a great jar of red peonies, the smooth green
lawns, swept by the late afternoon sun.

"Fine old place," he muttered to himself. "Wonder if I can persuade him
to go?"

As the car which had brought Mr. Hodgman on his hasty trip from
Washington dashed up to the front of the house, Grace Duvall, looking
very charming in a blue linen dress, was just approaching it from the
rear.

She held a pair of shears in her hand, and her apron was filled to
overflowing with hundred-leaf roses. "Dick--oh, Dick!" she called, as
she came down the long avenue of syringas and lilacs which led to the
house. "The sweet peas are nearly ready to bloom."

Richard Duvall, looking as simply pastoral as though he had never
tracked an international crook to cover, raised his head from the
flower bed, in which he had been carefully setting out circle after
circle of geranium plants.

"Are they?" he laughed. "That's good. Now all we need is a few good hot
days." He gathered up his trowel and rake, and started toward the barn.

Grace put her arm through her husband's and together they strolled
across the springy green turf, their faces smiling and happy. The
honeymoon showed no signs of waning.

This lovely old country place, in southern Maryland, had been one of
Richard Duvall's dreams for many years, and after his marriage to Grace
Ellicott, in Paris, it had become hers, as well. It was but a short time
after their return to America that they decided to make it a reality.

Grace had encouraged her husband in the plan of giving up, for a time at
least, his warfare against crime, his pursuit of criminals of the higher
and more dangerous type, and had persuaded him to buy the farm which had
once belonged to his mother's people, and settle down to the life of a
country gentleman.

His office was still maintained, under the able direction of one of his
assistants, but Duvall gave little or no attention to its affairs. He
was glad to withdraw, for the first time in over nine years, from
active work, and devote his energies to early potatoes, prize dogs,
hunters, and geranium plants--and, above all, to the peaceful enjoyment
of his honeymoon, and the making of Grace the happiest woman in the
world.

She, on her part, found in their present situation all the joys of
existence for which she had longed. With little or no liking for the
monotonous round of society and its duties, and a passionate love of
nature, she found in the many and complex duties of managing her part of
their extensive estate a far greater happiness than any which city life
could have offered her.

The considerable fortune which her husband's clever work while in Paris
had restored to her, had been safely invested in well paying securities,
and she found her greatest joy in utilizing at least a part of her
income in beautifying their new home.

Richard had steadily refused to make any use of the money. It was a
matter of pride with him, that his own savings had enabled him to
purchase the property; but when Grace proposed to build an addition to
the house, to provide him with a more comfortable library and work room,
or insisted upon having the roads throughout the place elaborately
macadamized, he was obliged to submit to her wishes. In this way, they
planned and built for the future, together.

The farm was a large one, comprising some two hundred acres, and the old
stone house surrounded by white oaks and tulip poplars had once been a
show place, before the declining fortunes of its former owners had
caused it to fall into a state of mellow and time-honored decay. Now all
was changed. Grace, with the able assistance of old Uncle Abe Turner, a
relic of ante bellum times, spent hours daily in bringing order out of
the chaos of tangled myrtle and ivy, overgrown box and hedge, thickets
of syringa and lilac bushes and weed-grown lawns.

It was a gigantic task, yet a joyous one--as it ever is, to those who
came to it with the love of nature in their hearts. To Grace, the plants
and shrubs, the great strong oaks, the towering poplars, each seemed to
have a distinct personality. Under her energetic hand, the place once
more took on the aspect of well kept and orderly beauty which was such a
contrast to its former down-at-the-heels appearance. It seemed as though
the growing things realized the personal interest she took in them, and
responded as they never respond to the ignorant or unsympathetic.

Richard was concerned with his fields of timothy and clover, his early
corn, his berries and fruit trees, to say nothing of his collies, his
prize cows and Kentucky horses. In such a life, time never hangs
heavy--he was busy studying, planning, working, from morning to night,
and his active mind soon convinced his capable overseer and the farm
hands as well that, although Richard Duvall was by no means a
professional farmer, he could still show them a thing or two when it
came to the rotation of crops, the spraying of fruit trees, or the
proper treatment of worn out soils. These were aspects of farming life
which the hide-bound conservatism of the local farmers caused them to
jeer at, as newfangled notions gotten from books. Later when they saw
the man who farmed with his head as well as his hands gather in two
bushels where they had barely been able to secure one, they began to sit
up and take notice.

"I got the new hedges all set out today," Grace went on, as she patted
her husband's rather grimy hand. "They will be charming, against the
gray stone of the wall. But we must have new gate posts. The old ones
are likely to tumble into the road at any moment."

"I'll have Martin come out tomorrow and look them over. There's plenty
of stone--down in the lower pasture. Why not carry the wall right along
the whole front of the property? It ought not to cost a great deal."

"We will. And I'm going to have a new spring house built, too. The old
one is falling to pieces." She looked up at her husband as he deposited
the rake in the tool room and they started up the shaded walk toward the
house. "Aren't you glad, Dick, that we're _alive_?"

He pressed her arm. "Well--I should say so, little girl! Why do you ask
me that?"

"Oh--you know what your friends all said--that a man might as well be
dead, as buried out here in the country. I think they are the ones who
are not alive--cooped up in the city. Don't you?"

Richard nodded. He was thinking for the moment of his former active
life--when some battle of wits with a noted crook had kept him sleepless
for nights. "It's--rather different," he laughed. "Isn't it?"

"Yes--and much better. Don't you think so, dear? You wouldn't want to go
back to it--would you?"

"Not for anything in the world," he assured her, as he swept the newly
seeded lawns with a contented glance. "I liked the other life, of
course--the excitement, the danger of it; but this is better--much
better. Here, Don!" he called to a graceful collie which was barking
vociferously at some distant vehicle in the road. "Come here and be
quiet." He turned with Grace to the great vine-covered side porch and
sank contentedly into a rocking chair. "Well, little girl--it's been a
busy day, and I'm tired. We got the early rye all cut on the lower field
today. Guess we'll put in late potatoes, after it's plowed. Here,
Don--come back here! What's the matter with you?" He rose and whistled
to the dog, which was bounding across the lawn in the direction of the
road. "Come back, I say!"

"It's someone coming in," said Grace, uneasily. "In a machine. I wonder
who it can be?"

"Possibly Hudson, the veterinary. He was coming today, to look at that
heifer."

"He hasn't a machine like that. This is a big touring car." She turned
to her husband. "Hadn't you better go in and fix up a bit, Dick? It may
be company."

Duvall laughed. "If it is, they'll have to take me as I am," he said;
then again called to the dog.

A moment later the servant, who had interviewed the caller at the front
door, came out to the side porch. "Gentleman to see you, Mr. Duvall,"
she said. "Seems to be in a powerful hurry, too."

"All right, Aunt Lucy," said Duvall as he made his way to the front of
the house.

"Is this Richard Duvall?" the visitor asked, in a quick, almost
peremptory tone, as the detective joined him.

"Yes. That is my name. What can I do for you?"

The newcomer rose nervously from his chair and began chewing upon his
half-smoked cigar. "Had the devil of a time to find you, Mr. Duvall."

"You came out from Washington, I suppose," remarked the detective,
wondering what his visitor could want with him.

"Yes. Got your address from Hicks, of the Treasury Department. He said
you were about twelve miles out. I seem to have come about twenty."

"Perhaps you went around by way of Laurel. It's much further, that way.
What can I do for you, Mr.----" He paused interrogatively.

The man looked up at him quickly. "My name's Hodgman--Thomas Hodgman--of
New York. I represent John Stapleton."

"John Stapleton, the banker?" asked Duvall, surprised.

"Yes. You know him, don't you?"

"Yes. Quite well. I handled a case for him once--some years ago. Why?"
Duvall's face became grave. He began to realize that the interview was
likely to become suddenly important. John Stapleton, the
multi-millionaire banker, was not in the habit of sending messengers to
anyone, without good reason.

"So he said," went on Mr. Hodgman, resuming his chair. "That's why I'm
here. He wants you to take another--"

"Another?"

"Yes. Another case. Quick."

"It's quite out of the question."

"Nonsense! This is important. Money's no object; name your own terms."

"It isn't a question of terms, Mr. Hodgman. I have withdrawn, for the
time being at least, from active professional work."

"I know." The visitor flicked the ashes impatiently from his cigar and
sought nervously in his pockets for a match. "That's what they told me
at your office, in New York. Said you were on your honeymoon, and didn't
want to be bothered."

"That's true. I don't."

"I told Mr. Stapleton that. He sent me to see you; said you might change
your mind, when you heard about the case."

"It is quite impossible. I do not care to take up any detective work at
present."

Mr. Hodgman fidgeted nervously in his chair. "You must listen to what I
have to say, Mr. Duvall, at any rate. Mr. Stapleton would not hear to my
returning, after seeing you, without having explained to you the nature
of the case."

Duvall leaned back, and began to fondle the long moist nose of the
collie which sat beside his chair. "If you insist, Mr. Hodgman, I will
listen, of course; but I assure you it will be quite useless."

"I hope not. The case is most distressing. Mr. Stapleton's only child
has been kidnapped!"

"Kidnapped!" Duvall sat up with a start, every line of his face tense
with professional interest. "When? Where?"

"In Paris. The cablegram arrived this morning. I don't know the details.
Mrs. Stapleton has been spending the winter abroad. Mr. Stapleton was to
join her this month. She is living at their house in the Avenue Kleber,
Paris. The child was out walking with a nurse. It has been stolen.
That's all I know."

"When did it happen?"

"Yesterday morning. Mrs. Stapleton did not cable at first, believing
that the boy would be found during the course of the day. Naturally she
did not wish to alarm her husband needlessly, and the Prefect of Police,
it seems, had assured her that the child would undoubtedly be recovered
before night. It wasn't. This morning Mr. Stapleton got a long cablegram
from his wife, telling him of the boy's disappearance. He's half crazy
over the thing."

"What is he going to do?"

"I don't know. He sent me to see you at once. I'm his secretary, you
know. When I couldn't find you in New York, he told me to come here. I
arrived in Washington an hour ago, and came right out. Mr. Stapleton
said if any man on earth could find his boy for him, you could."

"I suppose the thing is a matter of blackmail--ransom--"

"Very likely. They will probably demand a huge sum. No requests have
been made, as yet, so far as I know. These fellows usually wait a week
or two, before showing their hand, to give the unfortunate parents a
chance to worry themselves half to death. I suppose they figure that
then they'll be more likely to come across with the money."

"Yes. That's the scheme. A rotten business, too. Hanging is too good for
such wretches!"

"That's what I say. Of course you can understand how Mr. Stapleton
feels."

"Of course. He will sail at once, I suppose."

"That's the worst of it. He can't go till Saturday. Tomorrow's
Thursday--that's three days off. There's a deal on here involving
millions--something he's been working to put through for months. Of
course he doesn't consider anything like that, when it comes to his
child; but he's got to think of his associates--men who have intrusted
their money to him. He can't possibly sail before Saturday. He wants you
to go ahead of him. There's a fast boat leaving in the morning. You
could take that. We can have a conference tonight. It will mean mighty
quick work, though." He glanced at his watch. "After six now. There's no
train till midnight--the sleeper. But Mr. Stapleton told me to charter a
special. We can be in New York by one o'clock in the morning, if we
start right now." He looked at Duvall in eager expectancy.

The latter frowned, his gaze wandering off to the distant fields, where
the newly plowed earth reminded him of his plans for the morrow. Yet
here was a man, a friend, who had helped him much, in the earlier days
of his career, begging him to come to his assistance in a matter almost
of life or death. It was a difficult decision that he was called upon to
make. The thought of leaving Grace hurt him deeply; yet she would prefer
to stay behind, in case he should go, to look after the affairs of the
place. With the assistance of the overseer and the hands, he knew that
she could manage everything during a brief absence on his part--it
seemed unlikely that the matter would require more than three or four
weeks, at the outside.

Mr. Hodgman broke in upon his thoughts. "You'll go, Mr. Duvall? Mr.
Stapleton is depending on you. He has the utmost faith in your
abilities. He knows your familiarity with Paris--the work you have done
there, in the past. He believes that, by intrusting the matter to a
fellow countryman, he will get his boy back again. He hasn't much faith
in foreign detectives. He's set his heart on having you start for Paris
at once. I can't go back and tell him that you have refused." Mr.
Hodgman spoke in a loud and earnest voice, due to his very evident
excitement. Neither he nor Duvall noticed that Grace had approached
them, and was standing in the open doorway of the house.

Before the detective had an opportunity to reply, Grace spoke. "What is
it, Richard?" she inquired, quietly.

Duvall rose, presented Mr. Hodgman to his wife, and bade her sit down.
Then, in a few words, he acquainted her with the circumstances which led
to the latter's visit.

"Think of that poor mother, alone there in Paris," Hodgman supplemented.
"Think of her suffering, her anxiety. I realize how much we are asking,
to take Mr. Duvall away from you, especially at this time; but, it is
Mr. Stapleton's only child--a boy of six. You can understand how he must
feel."

Grace nodded. "Yes, I can understand," she said, slowly, then turned to
her husband.

"What do you think, dear?" he asked her.

"I think, Richard, that you had better go."

Mr. Hodgman sprang to his feet, and, coming over to Grace, took her
hand. He knew that his battle was won. "I thank you, Mrs. Duvall," he
said, "on Mr. Stapleton's account, as well as on my own. He will
appreciate deeply what you have done, the sacrifice you are making, and
he will not forget it." He looked again at his watch nervously, the
anxiety he felt clearly evident in his every movement. "We had best
start at once, Mr. Duvall."

Duvall rose. "I will join you in a short while, Mr. Hodgman. I wish to
say a few words to my wife." He took Grace's arm and drew her within the
house, leaving Mr. Hodgman pacing nervously up and down the veranda.

The conference between Grace and her husband was short. Each realized
the distress which tore at the other's heart, as well as the dangers he
would in all probability be called upon to face; yet they met the
situation calmly. "You will not be gone long," she told him. "I can
manage very well."

"I know you can, dear," he said, pressing her to him. "I'm not worried
about the place. You can run that as well as I can. It's you, I'm
worried about--leaving you"--

"I'll be all right," she assured him, in spite of her tears. "I have
Aunt Lucy, and old Uncle Abe, and Rose, and Jennie. I won't be so _very_
lonely. And you will be very careful--and--and come back soon--won't
you?"

"Of course, dear. Very soon. Now I'd better get a few things together."

Fifteen minutes later Grace Duvall stood on the steps of the veranda,
watching the flying automobile as it rapidly became a little red blur in
the distant road. It was nearly dark. The frogs in the patch of marsh in
the meadow were piping dismally. She shivered, and a great sense of
desolation came over her. She sank into a chair and wept, while Don,
inserting his long white muzzle between her hands, strove to lick away
her tears.

She heard Aunt Lucy, the old negro cook, singing away at her work in the
kitchen, accompanied by Uncle Abe, who occupied a bench on the back
porch. Everything seemed strangely peaceful, and lonely, too, now that
Richard had gone. She patted the eager head of the collie. "We'll have
to make the best of it, Don," she said, and rose to enter the house.

Suddenly far down the road she heard the chugging of an automobile. They
were not frequent visitors, upon this country road. Could it be Richard,
she wondered, returning for something he had forgotten?

She stood, straining her eyes into the dusk, waiting, while with one
hand she restrained the eager dog.

Presently she saw that the machine was not a red one. It was not
Richard. She was about to enter the house, when she realized that the
rapidly moving car had entered the grounds. She turned on the lights in
the hallway and stood, waiting, the dog at her side bristling with
anger.

In a moment the automobile had stopped, and almost before she realized
it, a small, foreign-looking man stood on the doorstep before her.
"Madame Duvall?" he inquired, quickly, in a voice which showed plainly
his nationality.

"Yes," she replied.

"Your husband! May I see him?"

"He is not at home."

The newcomer seemed greatly disturbed. "Then I fear, Madame, that I
shall be obliged to wait until he returns."

"He will not return. He has gone away for sometime."

"Ah! That is indeed a calamity!" The man's face showed the keenest
disappointment. "May I ask where I can find him?"

"It will be quite impossible." Grace had no intention of telling her
visitor where her husband had gone. She knew too well the intricacies of
his profession, for that. "You cannot find him." She made as though to
close the door, and thereby terminate the interview.

The newcomer realized her intention. Slowly he raised his hand, in the
palm of which showed the seal of a ring, turned inward. It was of
silver, with curious figures worked into it in gold. The man glanced
from the ring to Grace, eying her steadily. "I think, Madame," he said,
with a meaning smile, "that you can trust me."

Grace recognized the ring at once. It was similar to one she herself had
worn, while engaged in the memorable search for the ivory snuff box for
Monsieur Lefevre, Prefect of Police of Paris. Dear old Lefevre--the
friend of Richard's, and of her own! This man who stood before her must
be a messenger from him.

"Come in, please," she said, quietly, and led the way to the library.

The man followed her, calling out a few words to his chauffeur as he did
so. No sooner had they reached the great book-lined room, than he drew
from his pocket a sealed envelope.

"Madame Duvall," he said, earnestly, "Monsieur Lefevre has cabled to his
representatives in Washington a message. That message is contained in
this envelope. I have instructions to deliver it to your husband
immediately. In case I could not find him, I am to hand it to you.
Permit, me, Madame." With a bow, he placed the message in her hand.

Grace took the envelope, broke the heavy seal which it bore, and drawing
out a slip of paper, hastily read the contents. The message was from
Monsieur Lefevre. It said:

     My dear Duvall:

     You promised, on the occasion of our last meeting, to come to me
     should I ever need you. I need you badly, my friend. Come at once,
     both you, and your dear wife.      LEFEVRE.

Grace looked up at the man before her, the letter crumpled in her hand.
Here was a message the urgency of which could not be denied. She knew
that, had Richard been at home, he would have gone to Paris at once in
response to it; for it was to Monsieur Lefevre that they in reality owed
all their happiness. She recalled vividly their wedding, with the
lovable old Frenchman, acting as her father for the occasion, giving
away the bride. She remembered the farewell dinner at the Prefect's
house, and the beautiful gift he had given her on that occasion.
Evidently Monsieur Lefevre desired Richard's presence very greatly, and
her own as well. The thought suddenly came to her--why not go to him?

True, Richard had left her in charge of things at home; but she knew
that, for a reasonable time, at least, they would go on smoothly enough
without her. Hendricks, the overseer, was a capable and honest man,
devoted to her and to her husband.

She could safely leave matters in his charge. Then, too, the thought of
surprising Richard on the steamer sailing the next day appealed to her
sense of mischief. How astounded he would be, to find her strolling
along the deck! And how delighted, too! She wondered that the thought of
accompanying him had not occurred to her more strongly before. She
turned to the man, who stood watching her narrowly.

"You know the contents of this message?"

"Yes, Madame," he bowed. "It came to us by cable--in cipher."

"There is a train for New York at midnight, and a steamer tomorrow
morning."

"Yes, Madame."

"Can you drive me to Washington in your car?"

"I shall be delighted, Madame." The fellow's eyes sparkled with
satisfaction.

"Very well. Mr. Duvall is in New York. I will take the message to him.
Wait here, please, until I get some clothes together and give some
orders to my servants."

In half an hour, the thing was done. Hendricks, the overseer, had been
given full instructions regarding taking charge of the place, with
provision for his needs in the way of money, etc., and by ten o'clock,
at which time the New York sleeper was open, Grace was at the station,
purchasing her ticket.

The obliging Frenchman gave her every assistance, and bade her _bon
voyage_ smilingly as he helped her aboard the train. She retired at
once, and lay in her berth, reading a magazine, and picturing to herself
Richard's mingled astonishment and joy at their meeting in the morning.
This time, she was determined that their honeymoon should not be
interrupted.

After a time, she fell asleep, and dreamed that she and Richard were
sailing gaily toward Paris, in a large red touring car.

In the morning, she ate a hasty breakfast in the railway station, and
took a taxicab for the steamship offices. By great good fortune, she was
able to secure a cabin. Then she hastily visited a banking house where
she was well known, provided herself with funds, and drove to the dock.

It wanted but half an hour till sailing time. Grace hastened to her
stateroom, and busied herself in effacing the stains of her night of
travel. She was determined to meet Richard looking her best.

It was not until the big steamer was passing through the Narrows that
she came on deck, and began looking about for her husband. In all that
crowd, she knew it would take time to find him. After searching for an
hour, she felt somewhat surprised at not seeing him. After another hour
had passed, her surprise turned to alarm. A hasty visit to the purser,
and an examination of the sailing list, showed her the astonishing
truth. Richard was not on board!



CHAPTER II


Richard Duvall arrived in New York at half past one o'clock Thursday
morning. Hodgman, Mr. Stapleton's secretary, had wired ahead the news of
their coming, and the banker's limousine awaited them at the railway
station. Fifteen minutes later they were ascending the steps of Mr.
Stapleton's residence on Fifth Avenue.

Duvall had not been to the house before. His previous interviews with
the banker had taken place at the latter's office, in Broad Street. He
had no time now, however, to observe the luxury of his surroundings. Mr.
Hodgman hurried him at once to the library, and in a few moments Mr.
Stapleton had joined them.

He greeted Duvall with a nervous handshake, and thanked him for his
prompt coming. He was clearly laboring under an intense mental strain.

"Mr. Hodgman has explained my reasons for sending for you, Mr. Duvall?"
he inquired, sinking into a great leather-covered chair.

"Yes." Duvall nodded.

"Then you can appreciate my feelings." He sat in silence for several
moments, looking gloomily at the floor.

"Perfectly."

"The devils! I wouldn't care if they were to steal my property--money,
securities, anything like that. I can fight them--on that basis. But my
child! Don't you see why your coming was of the utmost importance to me?
I don't dare move against these rascals openly. If I do, they will
threaten to retaliate by injuring my boy, and I am powerless. Whatever I
do, must be done secretly. No one must know that you are in my employ.
No one must know your object in going to Paris. You see that?"

"Most certainly. These fellows cannot hold you responsible for any moves
the police authorities of Paris may make; over them you of course have
no control. But if you make any efforts on your own account, any
independent efforts, to recover your boy, they must by all means be made
in secret."

"Exactly. You understand, then, what you are to do?"

"Yes. But first I must ask you, Mr. Stapleton, to give me some account
of the affair. Mr. Hodgman has told me only that your son has been
kidnapped. No doubt you have learned by this time how the thing was
done."

"What I have learned, Mr. Duvall, convinces me of the importance of
being on the ground at once. The affair, as cabled to me by my wife, is
preposterous--absurd!" He again gazed at the floor in gloomy
preoccupation.

"How so?" the detective inquired.

"I will tell you. My boy, who, as you know, is six years old, has been
in the habit of driving, each morning, accompanied by his nurse, from my
house in the Avenue Kleber, to the Bois de Boulogne. On arriving in the
Bois, it has been their habit to leave the automobile in which they
came, and spend an hour or more walking and playing on the grass. I have
insisted on this, because the boy needs exercise, and he cannot get it
driving about in a motor car."

"During this hour what becomes of the car?" asked Duvall.

"Our orders have been, of course, for the chauffeur to wait, within
sight and call. I believe he has done so."

"Thank you. Go ahead."

"On Wednesday the nurse took Jack--the boy's name is Jack--to the Bois
as usual. She played about with him on the grass for probably an hour.
Then she sat down to rest. Jack was standing near her, playing with a
rubber ball. She says--and, gentlemen, my wife cables me that she
solemnly swears to the truth of her statements--that she turned away for
a moment to observe passing vehicles in the road--turned back again to
the child--and found that he was gone."

"Gone--but how?"

"How? That's the question. Here is this woman, sitting on the grass,
with the child, a hundred yards from the road, in the middle of a large
field of grass--a lawn. No one is within sight. The nearest person, it
appears from her testimony, is the chauffeur, three hundred feet away,
in the road. The woman turns her head for a moment, looks about--and the
boy is gone. That is the story she tells, and which my wife has cabled
to me. Do you wonder that I call it preposterous?"

"Hardly," remarked Duvall, with a grim smile. "The boy could not have
vanished into thin air. The woman must be lying."

"That, Mr. Duvall, is what I cannot understand. I cannot believe that
the woman is lying. My wife cannot believe it. She has been in our
employ ever since the boy was born, and is devoted to him. Mrs.
Stapleton cables that she is completely prostrated."

"But, Mr. Stapleton, you can hardly believe such a story! How could the
child have been stolen, if her story is true? It is, as you say,
preposterous."

"I do not say that the story is true, Mr. Duvall. I say that I do not
think that Mary is lying. She is telling what she believes to be the
truth. She turned her head for a moment--the boy was gone. That is what
she says, and I believe her. The question is--how is it possible?"

"It isn't," Hodgman grunted.

"Everything is possible, Hodgman," said the banker, reprovingly. "The
best proof of that, in this case, is that it has happened. What means
were used, I cannot imagine; but the apparently impossible _has_
happened. The boy is gone!"

"Is the nurse a young woman?" the detective inquired.

"About thirty, I should say."

"An American?"

"Yes. Of Irish parentage. Her name is Lanahan--Mary Lanahan."

"A New Yorker?"

"She comes from Paterson, New Jersey. Her people live there."

"Are there any other details--any other points of interest?"

"None, so far as I know. What I have told you, is what has been cabled
to me by Mrs. Stapleton. She is naturally in a more or less hysterical
condition. Nothing can be accomplished here. I want you to leave by
today's steamer. I myself, I regret to say, cannot go until Saturday."
He passed his hand nervously across his forehead. "Only matters of the
most vital importance could keep me here at such a time, Mr. Duvall;
but, unfortunately, such matters confront me now."

"Have you any reason to believe, Mr. Stapleton," Duvall inquired, "that
the kidnapping is the act of persons from this side of the water? Have
any such attempts been made in the past?"

Mr. Stapleton remained silent for sometime, buried in thought. Presently
he spoke. "I am a rich man, Mr. Duvall--a very rich man. Men in my
position are constantly in receipt of letters of a threatening nature. I
have received many such letters, in the past."

"Was the matter of the child mentioned in any of them? Were threats made
involving him?"

"There was one such letter."

"When did you receive it?"

"Last fall--perhaps six months ago."

"Have you the letter now?"

"Yes."

"May I see it?"

The banker rose, went to a heavy rosewood desk at one side of the room,
drew open one of its drawers, and removed a steel despatch box. He
opened it with a slender key and took out a package of letters. From
these, after some hesitation, he selected one and silently handed it to
Duvall.

The detective examined the letter carefully. It was enclosed in a cheap
white envelope, such as are sold at all post offices, having the stamp
printed on it. The letter itself was roughly printed in ink on a sheet
of ruled paper evidently torn from an ordinary five-cent pad. It said:

     "We demand fifty thousand dollars, to be placed in thousand-dollar
     bills inside a cigar box and expressed to John Smith, c/o Express
     Company, Paterson, N. J., next Monday afternoon. The man who will
     call for the package on Tuesday will know nothing about the matter,
     and if you arrest him, you will find out nothing. Keep this to
     yourself and do as we say, if you value the safety of your child."

There was no signature to the letter. Duvall read it through with great
care, then turned to Mr. Stapleton.

"You have observed, I suppose, that the place to which the money was to
be sent, Paterson, New Jersey, is the home of your child's nurse, Mary
Lanahan."

Mr. Stapleton started. "I confess," he said "that, in the agitated state
of mind into which this affair has thrown me, I had completely
overlooked the coincidence. What do you infer from it?"

"Only this, Mr. Stapleton, that Mary Lanahan may know more about this
matter than she is willing to let on. I must keep this letter for the
present."

"Very well." The banker nodded. "It may prove a valuable clue."

"Possibly. And further, Mr. Stapleton, I shall not sail by today's
steamer."

"But--why not?" Stapleton sat up in his chair in surprise. "You will
lose two days."

"I do not think they will be lost. I must make some investigations in
Paterson, before I leave here. Please give me, if you can, the address
of Mary Lanahan's parents."

Mr. Stapleton frowned. "I am not sure that I can do so, Mr. Duvall. My
wife has charge of these matters. But I recollect having heard that her
father, Patrick Lanahan, is a florist in a small way, and no doubt you
can readily locate him. But I fear you will be losing valuable time."

Duvall rose. "I feel, as you do, Mr. Stapleton, that I should be in
Paris at the earliest possible moment; but I think you will agree with
me that some investigations on this side before I go are absolutely
necessary, and may prove of inestimable value afterwards."

Mr. Stapleton was silent for several minutes. Presently he raised his
head. "Under the circumstances, Mr. Duvall, I am forced to admit the
truth of what you say. Conduct your investigations as quickly as
possible, however; for we must positively sail by Saturday's boat."

"I shall be ready then." Duvall took up his hat. "Now I think I had
better get a few hours' sleep, and in the morning I will make an early
start for Paterson." He bowed to the banker and Mr. Hodgman. "Good
night, gentlemen. I shall see you both on Saturday morning. The steamer
sails shortly after noon, I believe. Suppose I come here at ten o'clock,
and let you know what I have learned?"

Mr. Stapleton rose. "If I receive any further news of importance from
Paris, Mr. Duvall, I will advise you at your hotel. Where are you
stopping?"

Duvall gave the name of a Times Square hotel at which he usually
stopped, and with a quick "good night" left the house.

It was shortly after nine o'clock the next morning when he descended
from the train at Paterson, and going to a nearby drug store, consulted
the directory for the address of Patrick Lanahan. He found it without
difficulty, and, by means of an electric car, was soon before the
florist's door.

The place was situated on the outskirts of the town, and consisted of a
small, rather mean-looking cottage, from which spread out on each side,
like the two wings of an aëroplane, the long glass greenhouses.

A little gate opened to a short brick path, leading to the front door of
the house.

Duvall went up the path and rang the door bell. A wholesome-looking
Irish woman, of perhaps fifty, opened the door, and, in response to his
questions, told him that her husband, Patrick, was out in the garden at
the rear of the house, busy with his plants.

She directed the detective along a narrow areaway at the side of the
house, and in a moment reappeared at the back door.

"Pat," she called. "Oh, Pat! Here's a gentleman to see you."

A short, heavy-set man, with gray hair and mustache and a ruddy and
weatherbeaten face, arose from among a litter of flower pots and bulbs.

"What can I do for you, sir?" he asked, coming forward and wiping his
hands upon his overalls.

The detective studied the man before him intently. The honest and
clear-looking eyes told him nothing that was not favorable.

"I came to ask you a few questions, Mr. Lanahan."

"Questions, is it? About what?" The blue eyes showed a sudden flare of
suspicion.

"About yourself, and your family."

"Who may you be, then? Is it the tax man?"

Duvall smiled. "Not the tax man," he said. "I represent a firm of
lawyers in Washington. My name is Johnson."

Lanahan, still suspicious, pointed to a couple of kitchen chairs that
stood on the brick-paved yard beneath a trellis covered with hop vines.
"Sit down, sir. I'll have a smoke, if you don't mind." He began to fill
his short clay pipe. "What would lawyers in Washington be wantin' with
me?"

"That is what I wish to find out, Mr. Lanahan. We--my firm--have been
advised that a certain Michael Lanahan, of Dublin, recently died,
leaving a large estate. We are trying to find his heirs. Tell me
something about yourself and your family."

The look of suspicion and reserve which the old man had up to this time
shown faded from his face, and was replaced by a smile of incredulity.
"Money, is it?" he laughed. "Mary--that's my wife--has been seein'
bubbles in her tay for the week past. What is it you would know?"

"Are you from Dublin?"

"Me father was. I was born right here in Jersey, meself."

"What was his name?"

"Patrick, the same as me own. But he had a brother, Mike."

"Ah. It may be the same." Duvall pretended a sudden interest. "His
business?"

"Mike's? Faith--I never heard he had any, lest it was drinkin' all the
good liquor he could lay his hands on."

Duvall pretended to make a series of entries in his notebook. "Now
about yourself, Mr. Lanahan. Have you any children? Of course, should
there be any money coming to you, they would share in it."

"Children, is it? I have two."

"Boys?"

"One is a boy--a man be now, I should say. He's in the city--workin'.
His name is Barney."

"What does he do?"

Lanahan looked up with a quick frown. "The last I heard tell, he was
tendin' bar, Mr. Johnson--over at Callahan's saloon, on the Bowery. He's
wild--wild--like me uncle Mike, I should say."

"And the other?"

The old man's face took on a contented look. "The other is me daughter
Mary, bless her. She's nurse in the family of old man Stapleton, the
millionaire."

Duvall closed his book. "I see," he remarked, pleasantly. "She's not
married, I suppose?"

"Mary? Divil a bit! For a time, she was sweet on a French chuffer that
worked for Mr. Stapleton; but the fellow's gone, now, and she's clane
forgot him. That was near a year ago."

"Ah, yes. Do you happen to remember his name?"

"Alphonse, it was--Alphonse Valentin, or some such joke of a name. A
comic valentine he was, too, with his dinky little mustache and his
cigarettes." He laughed loudly. "Imagine my Mary, married to a gink like
that!"

Duvall replaced his notebook in his pocket and rose. "I'm mightily
obliged to you, Mr. Lanahan. We will advise you at once, if our
investigations show that you are related to the Michael Lanahan whose
fortune is in our hands. I'm obliged to you for your courtesy."

The florist nodded. "You're welcome, sir. I guess them Lanahan's must be
a different breed. I never heard tell of any of my people makin' any
fortune. Good day, sir." He turned to his work, chuckling.

Duvall rode back to the station, and took the first train for New York.
It was clear that Mary Lanahan's parents had nothing in common with
blackmailers and kidnappers. Their honesty was as evident as the
blueness of their eyes, or the redness of their hair. But the
information about Alphonse Valentin, the chauffeur, and Barney, Mr.
Lanahan's son, seemed more promising.

It was close to one o'clock when Duvall arrived at Callahan's saloon, on
the Bowery, near Canal Street. Here a disappointment awaited him. Barney
Lanahan had thrown up his job and left two months before. Callahan had
no idea where he had gone. He had not been about the place since. A
negro porter volunteered the information that he had seen the man
entering the Broadway saloon of an ex-prizefighter some weeks before;
but, beyond that, Duvall could learn nothing.

After a hasty luncheon he went to his office on Union Square, where his
unexpected appearance caused his assistants unlimited surprise. He
directed them to locate Barney Lanahan at the earliest possible moment.
He then called up Mr. Stapleton's secretary, Mr. Hodgman, and inquired
about the chauffeur.

Mr. Hodgman informed him that the banker had employed Valentin in Paris
some eighteen months previous, and had brought him to this country,
where he had remained in his employ for about six months. He had been
discharged, through some dishonesty in the matter of purchasing
supplies, and nothing further had been seen or heard of him.

Duvall, on receiving this information, proceeded at once to the office
of the French line, and asked permission to inspect their passenger
lists for the past year. He concluded that if Valentin had anything to
do with the kidnapping of Mr. Stapleton's boy, he was, in all
probability, in Paris, and, if so, would almost certainly have crossed
by this line. He was therefore not at all surprised to find the name of
Alphonse Valentin among those sailing during the preceding March.

There was little more that he could accomplish, now, beyond writing a
long letter to Grace, whom he naturally supposed to be patiently
awaiting his return in the country. He had a short interview with Mr.
Hodgman in the evening, and was lucky enough to secure a photograph of
Alphonse Valentin, the chauffeur, taken at the steering wheel of his
machine. The car had, it seemed, been photographed, along with a party
of guests, by a friend of Mr. Stapleton's with a leaning toward amateur
photography. Duvall placed the photograph among his belongings with a
smile of satisfaction. He felt that his delay had been by no means
unprofitable.

One other step he took, before leaving. Accompanied by Mr. Hodgman, he
made a careful inspection of the room which had been occupied by the
nurse, Mary Lanahan, at the Stapleton house. The results were
distressingly meager. All the woman's belongings she had evidently taken
with her, on going abroad. There appeared to be nothing which would
afford the slightest clue to her character or habits.

Mr. Hodgman turned to the door with an impatient frown. "Nothing here,"
he growled, and was about to leave the room.

"Nothing much," said Duvall, glancing carelessly at the wooden edge of
the bureau. "This woman, Mary Lanahan, is evidently an up-to-date sort
of person."

Hodgman paused. "Why do you say that?" he asked.

"Smokes cigarettes, I see."

"That so. How do you know?"

Duvall smiled. "Too simple even to mention, Mr. Hodgman. See those burns
on the varnish?" He pointed to a number of spots along the edge of the
dresser. "Always find them somewhere about, where there's a cigarette
smoker." He gazed out of the window for a moment. "Rooms tell a great
deal about the personality of the people who have occupied them. For
instance, I've never seen this Lanahan girl, but I know that she's not
over five feet four, that she has light hair, that she reads in bed,
that she writes with a stub pen, and that she's a Roman Catholic.
Furthermore, she is left handed, inclined to be vain, wears her hair in
waves, or curls, in front, is fond of the theater, and has a long narrow
scar on the palm of her left hand."

He chuckled quietly, as he saw Mr. Hodgman's look of amazement. "All
very simple--quite elementary, in fact. I won't even bother to tell you
how I know--just little things here and there about the room. Here's one
of them," he said, as he picked up a rusty pen point from the desk.
"That shows she uses a stub, of course; but the way the point is worn
also proves that she's left handed. And here's another." He pointed to
the electric bulb which hung over the head of the bed. "Nobody would use
that light, except to read by in bed. The others in the room are more
than sufficient for purposes of illumination. Yet the lamp has been used
continuously, as its condition shows. See how blackened the glass
is--and notice also how the white enamel of the back of the bed is worn
off, just under the lamp. That's from propping a pillow against it,
night after night." He turned toward the door. "Of course, those things
aren't of any value, probably, in this case; but I can't help noticing
them. Force of habit, I suppose."

When Duvall arrived at the Stapleton house on Saturday morning, he found
the banker somewhat disturbed by a cablegram he had just received. "Mary
claims attempts made to poison her. Will recover. Come at once," it
read.

The detective appeared to be somewhat astonished, on reading the
cablegram. "Looks as though somebody was afraid she might be going to
talk," he remarked. "The sooner we arrive in Paris, now, the better."



CHAPTER III


Grace Duvall's first inclination, on finding herself en route for
Europe, without her husband, was to send him a wireless, advising him of
her movements. Then she decided, for several reasons, not to do so.
Chief among these was the fear that such a startling piece of news would
be likely to cause him a great deal of unnecessary anxiety. She knew
that she could never hope to explain matters, within the limits of a
marconigram. And then, too, it was highly inadvisable, she knew, to
mention in a wireless message the real reason which had caused her to
leave home.

So she decided to make the best of the matter, realizing that within a
few days, she would see Richard in Paris, and explain everything to his
satisfaction.

Immediately on reaching Paris, she drove to the office of the Prefect of
Police, and sent in her card to Monsieur Lefevre. She thought it
possible that he would expect her, as his agent in Washington would no
doubt have communicated with him. Nor was she mistaken.

He rushed into the anteroom as soon as he received her card, and
embraced her with true Gallic fervor, kissing her on both cheeks until
she blushed. Then he drew her into his private office.

"Where is your husband?" he asked, eagerly, as soon as Grace was seated.

"I--I do not know. Probably on his way to Paris."

"But--my dear child! Did he not then come with you?"

"No. He--he had other business."

"Other business! But I understood that he had temporarily retired." The
Prefect seemed greatly astonished.

"So he had; but an old friend, Mr. Stapleton"--

Lefevre did not allow her to finish. "Stapleton!" he fairly shouted. "He
is employed by him? Mon Dieu!"

"Why not?" asked Grace in surprise.

"But--it was for that very case that I desired his assistance. And by
this Stapleton, who cables that the whole police force of Paris are a
lot of jumping jacks! Sacré! It is insufferable!"

"You wanted my husband for the same case?"

"Assuredly! What else? The child of this pig of a millionaire is
stolen--what you call--kidnapped! We have been unable to find the
slightest clue. I am in despair. My men assure me that it is the work of
an American gang. I conceive the hope that Monsieur Duvall may know
these men--that he may be in possession of information that will lead to
their capture. This rich American, he has spoken with contempt of the
Paris police. The efficiency of my office is questioned. My honor is at
stake. I send for my friend Duvall, to assist me, and--sacré!--I find
him already working for this man who has insulted me. It is monstrous!"

Grace could scarcely repress a smile. How excessively French the Prefect
was, after all. "My husband did not know, when he agreed to take the
case for Mr. Stapleton, that you wanted him. He does not know it now. He
has not yet received your message."

"Then he does not know that you are in Paris?"

"No. I thought he would be crossing on the same boat. When I found that
he wasn't, my first thought was to send him a wireless. Then I realized
that I couldn't do so, without saying something about the business that
had called me to Paris--without, in fact, mentioning you. I feared to do
this--for there are so many people nowadays tapping the wireless. I
thought it better to keep the matter a secret."

"And you did quite right. I wanted your husband to take up this case,
quite independently, and without it being known to anyone that he was in
my employ." He paused for a moment in deep thought. "No doubt his
employment by Mr. Stapleton is to be kept equally secret."

"I suppose so. He asked me not to say anything about it. I had to tell
you, to explain matters."

"And he doesn't know that you are in Paris?" The Prefect gave a sudden
laugh. "_Ma foi!_--what a joke!"

"A joke?"

"Assuredly! Don't you see? I am going to ask _you_ to take up this case,
yourself. I must use every means to recover the child of this Stapleton,
before others do so for him. My professional pride will not permit me to
be beaten. If I can't have your husband, at least I shall have you."

"But--I shall be working in opposition to him."

"Not in opposition. You will both have the same object in view--the
recovery of Mr. Stapleton's boy. Whichever of you does so first, the
result will be the same--the boy will be restored to his parents. But I
want you, my child, to be the one to do this."

"But, Monsieur Lefevre, I could not hope to accomplish anything--where
trained men have failed."

"Who knows? I remember well the assistance you gave us, in the matter of
the ivory snuff box. Without your help, we should never have recovered
it. I have faith in a woman's intuition. You will find this child for
me, and give your husband the surprise of his life."

"But," said Grace, smiling mischievously at the prospect which opened
before her, "suppose he should see me?"

"You must disguise yourself somewhat. Change the color of your hair; it
is easily done--here in Paris." The Prefect laughed. "A slight
alteration in appearance only will be necessary. And do not recognize
your husband, should you meet him face to face. That is most important."

"Why?"

"Because, should he become convinced that it is really you, I fear he
would insist upon your dropping the case entirely, and that would not
suit my plans at all. Come, my child." The Prefect's eyes twinkled with
amusement. "Do this thing for me. It will be a little joke, between us.
The honeymoon detectives, I called you, once. What an amusing thing,
that now you should be working in competition with each other, on the
same case!" He began to laugh heartily.

"Well," said Grace, her sense of mischief getting the better of her,
"now that I'm here, I suppose I might as well keep busy. Richard won't
be here for two days, and I may find out something in that time."

"Excellent!" The Prefect clapped his hand smartly upon his knee. "You
have two days' start. In two days, much may be accomplished. Come, let
us go over the case in detail."

An hour later, Grace left the Prefect's office in a taxicab, having
arranged to have her baggage sent to Monsieur Lefevre's house, where she
was to stay while in Paris. Her previous acquaintance with Madame
Lefevre made this an ideal arrangement. She was to pose as a friend, in
Paris on a visit.

She ordered the driver of the taxicab to take her to Mr. Stapleton's
house in the Avenue Kleber.

She found Mrs. Stapleton to be a very pretty and stylish woman of
thirty; whose beauty, however, was sadly marred by the intense suffering
through which she was passing. The poor creature had scarcely slept for
over a week, and her distress was pitiable.

She answered Grace's questions as well as she could, under the
circumstances. There was, after all, little to say. The nurse, it
appeared, stuck to her story--that the boy had vanished, in the
twinkling of an eye, while her back had been turned for but a few
moments. Mrs. Stapleton could offer no explanation--attempted none.

"It is all so mysterious--so terrible!" she cried. "Poor Mary--she is
too ill to see you, I fear, or I would have her tell you the story
herself."

"Too ill?" inquired Grace, who had come more to question the maid, than
Mrs. Stapleton. "What is the matter with her?"

"They tried to poison her--last Friday."

"They? Who?"

"I do not know. She went out for a walk. The poor woman was half dead,
from nervous exhaustion and loss of sleep. She tells me that she stopped
to get a cup of chocolate at a café in the Rue St. Honoré. After that
she came back to the Champs Élysées, and sat upon a bench. She began
suddenly to feel deathly ill, and, calling a cab, was driven home. When
she arrived here, she was unconscious, and had to be carried to her room
by the servants. She has been in bed ever since. I am glad to say,
however, that she is better, and I think she could see you, by morning."

Grace left the Stapleton house, feeling somewhat baffled. The more she
heard of this curious affair, the more inexplicable it seemed. She had
hoped to visit the scene of the kidnapping, in company with the nurse,
and examine the spot with her own eyes. This she now realized she could
not do until the following day. She was walking in the direction of the
Arc de Triomphe, revolving the affair in her mind, when a young man,
evidently a Frenchman, of good appearance and not unpleasant face, came
up beside her, bowed politely, and in excellent English asked her
regarding Mary Lanahan.

"Miss Lanahan--is she better?" he inquired.

"Who are you, monsieur?" asked Grace, suppressing her inclination to
resent the man's action, in her hope that she might learn something from
him of value. His question showed Grace at once that he was acquainted
with at least one member of the Stapleton household.

"I am a friend of Miss Lanahan's," the man replied. "I hear that she is
ill. I saw you enter and leave the house, and I ventured to ask you if
she is better."

"I was told that she is. I did not see her."

A peculiar expression crossed the young man's face; but Grace could not
determine, so fleeting was it, whether it indicated pleasure or
disappointment.

They walked along in silence for a few moments, and had almost reached
the arch, when a ragged little urchin, a veritable Paris gamin, came up
to Grace's companion and thrust a crumpled bit of paper into his hand,
then darted off, whistling shrilly.

The man looked after him a moment, then examined the note. Whatever its
contents, they made a startling impression upon him. He looked about, an
expression of fear upon his face, turned to Grace with a hurried bow,
and a quick good evening, and at once walked off in the opposite
direction at full speed, at the same time fumbling in the breast pocket
of his coat, as though searching for something in it. In his efforts, he
dropped several papers to the street. Grace watched him as he picked
them hurriedly up and moved off into the gathering darkness.

She fancied that one of the bits of paper had escaped his notice, and,
on going back to the spot, found that she was correct. A small visiting
card lay upon the sidewalk. She picked it up, and read the name as she
walked away. It was Alphonse Valentin, Boulevard St. Michel.

Grace slipped the card into her pocketbook. The man's name meant nothing
to her--she fancied that he was some friend of Miss Lanahan's, concerned
about her condition. Yet why did he not inquire for her at the house, in
the ordinary way? And why should the note, handed to him by the street
urchin, have caused him such evident alarm?

She glanced at her watch, and saw that it was close to seven o'clock.
She had intended to return to Monsieur Lefevre's for dinner; but a
sudden determination to find out more about this man Valentin caused her
to proceed at once to a hotel near the Louvre, where she ate her dinner
alone.

An hour later she descended from a cab at the number on the Boulevard
St. Michel, which was inscribed upon Alphonse Valentin's card.

The place was a dingy old building, the main floor of which was occupied
by a dealer in cheese. A narrow doorway at one side gave access to the
upper floors. Grace rang the bell, and waited in some trepidation. This
going about Paris at night was rather an unusual experience. She thought
of the simple joys of her life at home, and for a moment regretted that
she had not stayed there. The opening of the door interrupted her
thoughts.

The woman who stood in the hallway regarded her without particular
interest, and inquired her business. "I wish to see Monsieur Valentin,"
said Grace.

"He is not in."

"Then I will wait. I must see him. He expects me."

The woman shrugged her shoulders. "As you wish, mademoiselle. Come this
way." She led Grace up a flight of stairs, and indicated a door at the
rear of the upper hall. "That is Monsieur Valentin's room." Then she
turned away, apparently quite indifferent as to whether Grace entered or
not.

The latter placed her hand on the knob of the door, and slowly pushed it
open. The room was dark; but the light from the rear windows rendered
the objects within it faintly visible. Upon the table stood a lamp. With
some difficulty the girl succeeded in finding a match, and lit it.

The light of the lamp disclosed a rather large room, with a small
alcove in the rear, containing a bed. The alcove was curtained off from
the main room. Grace, however, did not spend much time in examining her
surroundings. A photograph on the table at once attracted her
attention--not because it represented anyone she knew, but because,
across the bottom of it, was inscribed, in a feminine hand, "Mary
Lanahan."

She had just completed her examination of the photograph, when two other
objects attracted her attention. One was a crumpled bit of paper, upon
which a few words were scrawled in lead-pencil. They were, "I am
suspicious of François. Watch him." The note was unsigned.

The third object upon the table which caught Grace's attention was a box
of cigarettes, open, and nearly full. They were small gold-tipped
affairs, of the kind generally used by women, and it was this
peculiarity that at first attracted her attention. She thought it
strange, that a man should use such cigarettes. She looked at the box,
and observed that they were of American make.

Illustration: Once inside he made without hesitation for the table,
picked up the box of cigarettes and thrust it into his pocket.

Idly she took up one of the cigarettes, and held it in her fingers. She
read the name of the brand, printed upon the paper wrapper, and was
about to drop it back into the box, when she heard a curious rasping
noise outside one of the rear windows. It sounded as though someone were
climbing the wall of the house. Instinctively she shrank back and
concealed herself behind one of the curtains which hung before the
alcove door.

The rasping and scraping continued for some little time, and presently
Grace, peering through the space between the curtains, saw a face appear
at one of the windows. It was a determined face, heavily bearded, dark,
evil looking. Its gleaming eyes swept the room with cautious care, then,
evidently satisfied that it was unoccupied, their owner began
noiselessly to raise the sash of the window.

It was slow work. Several minutes passed before the man succeeded in
raising the sash sufficiently to permit him to crawl into the room. Once
inside, he made without hesitation for the table, glanced over its
contents, picked up the box of cigarettes and thrust it into his pocket,
and then, without paying the least attention to anything else, walked
quickly to the door of the room and passed out into the hall.

The girl waited for a moment, then stepped into the light. As she did
so, she realized that she held in her hand one of the gold-tipped
cigarettes she had taken from the box. She quickly thrust it into her
pocketbook, and, with sudden decision, left the room and descended the
stairs. She had an instinctive feeling that the man who had stolen the
cigarettes was in some way connected with the kidnapping of the
Stapleton child. She determined to follow him, leaving the interview
with Alphonse Valentin to another time.

She left the house, and saw the man going down the Boulevard some fifty
feet in advance of her. She walked along after him, pretending to be
totally uninterested in her surroundings, while at the same time keeping
a sharp watch upon him.

He seemed in somewhat of a hurry, and walked briskly along, looking
neither to left nor to right. Grace kept as close to him as she dared,
without running the risk of detection. The walk was a long one. When
half an hour had passed, the girl saw that they were entering the Champs
Élysées. The Seine they had long since crossed by the Pont Neuf. Up the
brilliantly lighted avenue they went, toward Arc de Triomphe. At the
corner of the Avenue Kleber, the man turned to the left. Grace followed,
wondering where the chase would lead next. To her astonishment, the man
disappeared suddenly through a gate which formed the servants' entrance
of one of the stately houses which fronted on the avenue. She looked up.
It was the house of Mr. Stapleton!



CHAPTER IV


On the day following that upon which she arrived in Paris, Grace Duvall
sallied forth, determined to find out two things--first, the position
occupied by Alphonse Valentin in the affair of the kidnapping; secondly,
the identity of the man who had stolen the box of cigarettes from
Valentin's room, and gone with them to the house in the Avenue Kleber.
The latter incident seemed trivial enough, at first sight; yet she
reasoned that no one would risk arrest on the score of burglary, to
steal anything of such trifling value, without an excellent reason.

She had a short conference with Monsieur Lefevre, before she left the
house, and told him of the events of the previous night. The Prefect
seemed greatly interested.

"Could you identify the man who stole the cigarettes?" he asked.

"Easily. I had a splendid view of his face."

"Then go to Mr. Stapleton's house and take a look at all the servants.
You may find him among them."

"I had intended to do so, this morning."

The Prefect smiled. "I do not know what your investigations will lead
to, but they seem promising. I have a dozen men working on the case; yet
so far they have not made the least progress. Their efforts, however,
are directed toward finding the child. They are searching the city with
the utmost care. We believe that by discovering the missing boy, we
shall also find the persons who committed the crime."

"Have you no one under suspicion?"

"No one. The nurse, Mary Lanahan, is of course being closely watched;
also the chauffeur, François. My men report, however, that he gave them
the slip for an hour, last night. I have an idea that he may prove to be
the one who took the cigarettes."

"Can you imagine any reason for his having done so?"

"I confess, my child, that I cannot. It seems utterly absurd; unless,
indeed, there was something else concealed in the box."

"What?"

The Prefect laughed. "I cannot imagine. But if you can identify the
man, we shall no doubt find out. As for the matter of Alphonse Valentin,
we have already had him under observation. So far as we can learn, he is
merely a chauffeur, out of work, who seems to be somewhat in love with
the nurse."

"Then his actions have not been suspicious, during the past week?"

"Not in the least. He has hung around the Stapleton house for several
days, asking for news of the Lanahan woman; but that is all. We
attribute his actions to a natural anxiety over her illness."

Grace left the house, by no means satisfied with the progress she was
making. Her interview with Mary Lanahan, and subsequent visit to the
scene of the crime, told her nothing she had not already known. Her
greatest disappointment, however, came when she had Mrs. Stapleton bring
in François, ostensibly to question him about his part in the affair.
She saw at once that he was not the man who had broken into Alphonse
Valentin's room on the night before. This man had been heavily bearded
and tall. François was smooth shaved and rather short. Mrs. Stapleton
assured her that none of her servants resembled in the least her
description of the burglar. She left the house, greatly dissatisfied,
after satisfying herself that this was the case.

Her visit to the house of Alphonse Valentin that afternoon was
productive of no greater results. The man was out. The woman who opened
the door--the same one who had admitted her the previous
evening--regarded her with ill-concealed suspicion, and informed her
that she had no idea when her lodger would return. Grace left,
determined to try again the following day.

Throughout the whole evening she hung about the Stapleton house, hoping
again to see the man with the heavy beard who had disappeared within the
night before; but he did not put in an appearance. Grace began to feel
discouraged. She thought of her lilac bushes, at home, of Aunt Lucy
feeding the chickens, of the dogs, the sweet call of the wood robins
among the poplar trees on the lawn, and half wished that she had stayed
at home and left to Richard the apparently hopeless task of finding the
abductors of little Jack Stapleton.

What, after all, could she hope to do, where the entire police force of
Paris had failed? The thing was absurd. Monsieur Lefevre had overrated
her abilities. She heard the sound of church bells, striking the hour of
ten, and decided to go home and forget the whole affair until tomorrow.
Tomorrow--the day Richard must arrive! How she longed to be with him!
This stupid interruption of their honeymoon seemed peculiarly cruel, now
that over a week had elapsed since they had seen each other. She
wondered if she would meet him, the next day. Then she thought of her
changed appearance, of her hair, dyed a jet black, and worn in a new and
to her mind unbecoming fashion, of her darkened complexion, her
extremely French costume, her heavy veil, and laughed. If Richard did
see her, here in Paris, when he fully believed her to be peacefully
tending her flower beds at home, he would never believe the evidence of
his senses.

She was strolling toward the Champs Élysées, lost in thought, when
suddenly she heard the soft throbbing of a high-powered motor car, as it
came up the street behind her. She turned and glanced toward it; but the
brilliant glare of the electric headlights blinded her. She could see
nothing, except that the car was moving very slowly.

Suddenly it stopped, almost abreast of her, and a tall man leaped to the
sidewalk. Before she had an opportunity so much as to glance in his
direction, he came swiftly up behind her, threw his arm about her neck,
and choked her into unconsciousness. Her last sensation was of being
lifted bodily into the already moving car, and then the feeling of rapid
motion, quickly blotted out by the coming of insensibility.

When she returned to consciousness, it was broad daylight. She lay upon
a small wooden bed, in a low-ceilinged little room, the only furniture
of which was a small chest of drawers and a chair. Upon this chair sat a
large man, his face so thoroughly hidden by a mask that his features
were quite unrecognizable. He was regarding her with keen scrutiny.

"Oh--what--where am I?" she gasped.

The man hesitated for a moment, then slowly spoke. "Where you are,
mademoiselle, is of no importance. Attend to what I have to say."

Grace made no reply. There seemed nothing that she could say. She sat up
and gazed at the man, half dazed. Her head swam. She felt that she had
been drugged.

"Ten days ago," the man went on, in a cold and menacing voice, "the
child of Monsieur Stapleton was taken from his nurse in the Bois de
Boulogne. You are trying to find that child."

"But--" Grace made a movement of protest.

"It is useless to deny it. You have been watched."

Grace gasped in silence.

"I desire to send a message to the boy's father, and I have chosen you
to take it to him. I have selected you, because to send one of my own
men would doubtless result in his arrest. That is why you have been
brought here."

"The--the child is safe?" asked Grace.

"Perfectly. You shall see for yourself." He motioned to the window.

Grace rose, and looked out. The view comprised a bit of garden,
surrounded by bushes. She could see nothing beyond--nothing that would
enable her in any way to identify the place. On the tiny plat of grass
in the garden sat a child--a little girl, playing with a small black and
white spaniel. Her dark hair was drawn tightly beneath a pink sunbonnet.
Her dress, her whole appearance, was that of a peasant child.

Grace turned from the window, bewildered. "I see nothing," she said,
"except a little girl--"

"That is the child of Monsieur Stapleton," the man said. "Now attend to
the message."

She sat down again, wondering.

"Tell the boy's father this: He will leave his house tomorrow evening,
in his automobile, at eight o'clock. He will bring with him, in a
package, the sum of five hundred thousand francs--one hundred thousand
dollars. He will have with him, in the automobile, no one but himself
and his chauffeur. He will leave Paris by the Porte de Versailles, and
drive along the road to Versailles at a speed of twelve miles an hour.
Somewhere upon that road, among the many automobiles that will pass him,
will be one, from which a blue light will flash, as it approaches him.
It will also slow up. He will toss the package of bank notes into that
car, and drive on. If the package contains the sum of five hundred
thousand francs, he will find his child at his house, upon his return.
If not, or if these instructions are not carried out to the letter--if
there is any attempt made at pursuit--the child will not be there, and
you can tell him that he will be given but one more chance. After that,
the boy will die."

The man in the mask made this gruesome statement with the utmost
coolness.

Grace listened, aghast at the cruelty of his words, and at the same time
struck by the extreme ingenuity of the plan. To catch the perpetrators
of the crime, under these circumstances, seemed impossible. A rapidly
moving automobile--one of a hundred. An instant's flash of a blue light
in passing--the tossing into the car of the money--and it would speed
away into the darkness, beyond any hope of detection. Should Mr.
Stapleton have others in his car--should he have his car followed by a
second, containing armed men, the occupants of the kidnapper's machine
would no doubt refuse to give the signal, and nothing would be
accomplished. It would be impracticable to line the road, for a possible
distance of twenty miles, with gendarmes, nor could their presence
accomplish anything, beyond putting the kidnappers on guard, and
preventing the carrying out of the plan.

The weakest point in the whole scheme seemed, to Grace at least, the
delivery of the child to Mr. Stapleton, provided he paid the money
demanded. Just how that was to be accomplished, without subjecting the
person who brought the boy to arrest, she did not see. A moment's
reflection, however, showed her that a stranger might be employed, at
any point, who for a few francs would agree to take the child to the
house. She turned to the man before her with feelings not devoid of
admiration.

"How can Mr. Stapleton know that you will do as you say?"

The man shrugged his shoulders. "That is a chance he must take. If he
does not believe that the child will be delivered to him, provided he
pays the money, he had better not pay it. But if he does his part, I
shall do mine--and this I swear by the memory of my mother!"

Grace shuddered. A wretch of this sort, talking about the memory of his
mother! "Very well," she said quietly, "I will take your message."

"Good! You will not leave here, of course, until it is dark--tonight.
You will be blindfolded, and conducted to some point in the city. From
there, you can make your way to Monsieur Stapleton's house." He rose,
and went toward the door. "Make no attempt to escape. It will be
useless. Any attempts on the part of the police to interfere with the
plan I have outlined will result in nothing. Food will be sent in to you
at once. Good morning."

It was close to ten o'clock that night, as nearly as Grace could judge,
when she was led a considerable distance blindfolded, to a closed
automobile, and driven away. She could form no idea of her whereabouts.
The car continued on its way, for over an hour. Once she attempted to
snatch the bandage from her eyes; but a hand was placed upon her arm by
another occupant of the machine, and a low voice warned her to desist.

After an interminable ride, the car suddenly stopped, and she felt the
man at her side slip away from her and open the door. Instantly she
snatched the bandage from her eyes. The man had disappeared. She stepped
to the sidewalk, and looked about. She was standing upon a brightly
lighted street, which seemed somehow familiar to her. The man on the box
of the cab glanced down at her with a look of curious interest. She saw
his face clearly, in the light of the street. It was the heavily bearded
man whom she had seen take the box of cigarettes from the room of
Alphonse Valentin two nights before.

Grace stood with the bandage which had encircled her eyes, still in one
hand. Suddenly she saw a dark figure uncoil itself from the rear of the
car, and drop noiselessly to the pavement as the machine started off.
She gave a low cry of surprise. The man came up to her, a grim smile
upon his face. It was Alphonse Valentin.



CHAPTER V


John Stapleton, the millionaire banker, accompanied by Richard Duvall,
arrived in Paris early in the afternoon, and went at once to the
former's house in the Avenue Kleber.

Upon their arrival, Duvall waited for sometime, while the distressed
husband and wife were closeted together upstairs. At last they descended
to the library, and Duvall was presented to Mrs. Stapleton.

The joy which her husband's arrival had caused her sent a new glow of
hope to her careworn cheeks, and she greeted the detective most
cordially. Clearly she felt that now something would at last be done, to
find her missing child.

Duvall's first questions related to Mary Lanahan, the nurse. He was
relieved to find that she had quite recovered from her sudden illness.

"Will you kindly have her brought here, Mrs. Stapleton?" he asked. "I
would like to question her."

In a few moments the nurse appeared. She was an extremely good-looking
girl, smart and well dressed. Duvall recognized in her frank face, her
clear blue eyes, the same appearance of honesty which had impressed him
during his interview with Patrick Lanahan, her father.

"Mary," said Mrs. Stapleton, "this is Mr. Duvall. He is trying to find
Jack for us. Tell him your story."

The girl turned to Duvall, who had risen. "I can hardly expect you to
believe what I am going to say, Mr. Duvall, yet I assure you that it is
the solemn truth."

"Go ahead, Miss Lanahan," said the detective. "I am prepared to believe
whatever you may say."

The girl sat down, at Mrs. Stapleton's request. She still was somewhat
weak, from her recent illness.

"It was a week ago last Wednesday. I left the house with Master Jack at
half-past ten, and we drove to the Bois."

"Just a moment, please." Duvall stopped her with a quick gesture. "How
long had you been going to the Bois in this way?"

"Over six weeks."

"And you always left about the same time--half-past ten?"

"Always."

"Who accompanied you besides the child?"

"François--the chauffeur."

"Always?"

"Yes."

Duvall turned to Mrs. Stapleton. "How long has this man François been in
your employ?"

"A year--in June."

"You have found him honest, reliable?"

"Always. Otherwise I should not have kept him."

The detective turned to Mary Lanahan. "Go ahead, please," he said.

"We reached the Bois shortly before eleven--François had orders to go
slowly, when Master Jack was in the machine--and drove about for fifteen
minutes. Then we stopped at the place where we were in the habit of
playing."

"Was it always the same place?"

"Yes. There is a smooth field of grass there, and a clump of trees by
the road, where the machine always waited."

"Go on."

"We left the car, and walked out over the grass. Master Jack had a big
rubber ball, and he was kicking it along, and running after it.
Sometimes he would kick it to me, and I would throw it back to him. We
played about in that way for over half an hour. Mrs. Stapleton wished
the boy to have the exercise."

"I see. And you generally played about in the same place?"

"Yes."

"How far from the road?"

"About three hundred feet."

"And from the nearest bushes, or woods?"

"A little more than that, I should say."

"You could see François, in the machine, from where you were?"

"Yes, I could see the machine. I could not always see François; for
sometimes he would get out, and walk about, or sit under the trees and
smoke a cigarette."

"Do you remember noticing him, on this particular morning?"

"Yes. I saw him sitting in the machine."

"What was he doing?"

"Reading a newspaper."

"Had he ever done that before?"

The girl hesitated, as though a new idea had come to her. "No--I cannot
remember that he ever had."

"Very well. Go ahead with your story."

"Well--after we had played for about half an hour--I got tired and sat
down on the grass. Master Jack still kept playing about with the ball. I
sat idly, looking at the sky, the road--dreaming--"

"About what?" interrupted the detective, suddenly.

The girl colored. "About--about some people I know."

"Go ahead."

"I heard the boy playing, behind me. Then I looked around--and--he was
gone!" The nurse made this statement in a voice so full of awe that it
carried conviction to her hearers. Duvall felt that, whatever the real
facts of the disappearance of the child, this woman's story was true.

"What did you do then?"

"I stood up and looked about. I thought Master Jack was hiding from
me--playing a joke on me. Then I realized that there was no place that
he could hide. The nearest trees were too far off. He could not have
reached them. I called and called. I was very much frightened."

"François, who heard me, came running over the grass. I asked him if he
had seen Master Jack. He said, no, that he had not seen anyone. After
that we searched everywhere--in the woods, along the road--for nearly an
hour, but could find nothing. Then we came home, and told Mrs.
Stapleton." The girl looked at her employers in fright.

"What about the rubber ball?" Duvall asked, suddenly.

"It--it was gone."

"Then it is clear that the child must have been taken away peaceably,
without objection on his part. Had he struggled, cried, he would have
dropped the ball, would he not?"

"I suppose so."

"How long was your head turned from him--while you were--dreaming?"

"About a minute."

"Not more?"

"No."

"How do you estimate the time so closely?"

"I'm sure it could not have been longer. A minute is quite a long
time."

"What time was it when you got back to the house?"

"About--about one o'clock, I think." The girl turned to Mrs. Stapleton
for confirmation of her answer.

"It was a quarter-past one," said Mrs. Stapleton, promptly. "I noted the
time particularly, because it was later than usual. Mary had orders to
bring Jack back for luncheon not later than one."

Duvall began to make some figures on a piece of paper. "You fix the time
of the boy's disappearance at 11.30. You say you hunted for him an hour.
That would be 12.30." He looked at the girl searchingly. "You arrived
home at 1.15. That would mean that it took 45 minutes to get here." He
turned to Stapleton. "Please send for your chauffeur, François."

Mr. Stapleton rang a bell, and ordered the servant who responded to send
in the chauffeur. Meanwhile Mary Lanahan was regarding Duvall with
nervous apprehension.

"We must have hunted for him longer than I thought," she said, at
length.

Duvall made no reply, but waited until the arrival of the chauffeur. He
proved to be a short, heavily built man, with long powerful arms, and a
swarthy face--evidently from the south of France. His countenance was
stolid and emotionless. He appeared the well trained servant.

Duvall addressed him at once. "How long would it take you, my man,
driving fast, to reach this house from the spot in the Bois where Master
Jack was lost?"

The man responded at once. "Ten minutes," he said, "easily."

"What time was it when this woman," the detective indicated the nurse,
"called to you, on discovering that the child was gone?"

"I do not know."

"Have you no idea?"

"It must have been about twelve o'clock. We hunted for the boy till
about one--then came home."

"The nurse says it was half-past eleven."

The man shrugged his shoulders. "It may have been. I did not observe the
time."

"What were you doing?"

"I was asleep."

Mr. Stapleton started. "Asleep?" he demanded, angrily.

The man nodded. "The day was warm. I had nothing to do. For a time I
read the paper. I must have dozed in my seat; for, the next thing I
knew, the nurse was calling to me, and the boy was gone."

Duvall frowned. "Then you could not say whether anyone else was near the
nurse and the boy, at the time he was kidnapped?"

"No, monsieur. I could not."

"That will do." The detective turned to Mr. Stapleton. "Have your man
drive us to the place where all this occurred."

The banker gave the man the order, and he left the room. Then Duvall
turned again to Mary Lanahan.

"You were taken suddenly ill one day last week. Tell us about it."

The woman looked up. "It was very mysterious, sir. I went out for a
walk. At a café in the Rue St. Honoré I had a cup of chocolate."

"Alone?" asked the detective, sharply.

The woman colored. "No," she faltered. "I--I was with a friend."

"Who?"

"A--a gentleman I know." She glanced fearfully at Mr. Stapleton. "I--I
would rather not give his name."

"Was it Alphonse Valentin?" asked Duvall, quickly.

The woman colored still more deeply. "Yes," she replied, in scarcely
audible tones.

The banker regarded her in surprise. "Alphonse Valentin!" he cried. "The
fellow I discharged last year, for dishonesty? Mr. Duvall--he's your
man!"

"No--no!" exclaimed the nurse, excitedly. "He knows nothing of the
matter--nothing!"

"That remains to be seen," remarked Duvall, slowly. "Where did you meet
this fellow, Valentin?"

"At the café in the Rue St. Honoré."

"You had met him there frequently before?"

"Yes."

"After you left the café, what did you do?"

"We walked to the Champs Élysées and sat on a bench, talking. Suddenly I
felt very ill. Mr. Valentin called a cab and sent me home."

"Give me the address of this café, please."

The woman did so. As Duvall was entering it in his notebook, a servant
announced that the automobile was at the door.

In fifteen minutes the party, consisting of Mr. Stapleton, Duvall, and
Mary Lanahan, were leaving the car at the spot in the Bois de Boulogne
which had been the scene of the kidnapping. François was ordered to
drive his machine to the exact spot, as nearly as he could tell, that it
had occupied on the previous occasion. Mary Lanahan led the others to
the place on the grass where she had sat.

It was evident at once that the distances she had named in telling her
story were less, if anything, than the actual facts. It was quite
impossible to see how, in any way, the child could have been taken from
the spot she indicated, to the woods, without consuming a considerable
period of time--five minutes, at least. To believe that the nurse could
have turned away her head for a moment, and then looked around to find
the boy gone seemed the sheerest fabric of the imagination; yet the
woman, in repeating her story, stuck to it with a grim pertinacity
which, it seemed, could come only from the knowledge that she was
telling the truth.

Ten days had elapsed since the boy had been kidnapped. It seemed almost
useless to search the spot for any evidences of the crime. Yet Duvall
began to go over the ground where the nurse testified that she had sat,
with the most minute care. Inch by inch, he examined the turf,
subjecting almost every blade of grass to a separate examination. The
operation required over half an hour, and both Mr. Stapleton and the
nurse grew tired of watching him, and strolled about aimlessly.

Hence they did not see him pick up a tiny object from the grass. It was
a half-smoked cigarette, dirty and almost falling to pieces from the
action of the weather, yet held together by a slender tip of gold.

He placed it carefully within his pocketbook, and rose. "Nothing more to
be done here," he called to Mr. Stapleton, and in a moment the three
were proceeding toward the waiting automobile.

Upon the return to the house, Mr. Stapleton drew the detective into his
library. "Have you discovered anything, Mr. Duvall?" he inquired, making
an effort to conceal his almost frantic anxiety.

"I do not know--yet. I may have a clue; but I am not sure."

"What do you think of the woman's story?"

"It seems impossible to believe it."

"You think, then, that she had a hand in the matter--she and this fellow
Valentin?"

"It begins to look like it."

"On what do you base your conclusions, Mr. Duvall? I cannot bring myself
to believe that Mary Lanahan is lying, ready as I am to suspect this
fellow Valentin."

"First, Mr. Stapleton, on the facts themselves. The boy could not have
been taken away without her knowledge. Secondly, upon some minor
matters--her error of half an hour, in telling her story, for instance."

"I am sorry, Mr. Duvall, but I cannot believe that you are right. I'd
suspect Valentin, at once; but if Mary Lanahan is not telling the truth,
then my experience of twenty years in judging human nature has been
wasted."

"Yet you yourself heard her admit that she was with Valentin only last
Friday, the day she was taken ill."

"Yes. That is true." Mr. Stapleton passed his hand uncertainly across
his forehead. "It's too much for me."

"Let me have a word with the nurse, alone, before I go," asked Duvall.

"Certainly," replied the banker. "I'll send her in to you."

When Mary Lanahan entered the room, the detective went up to her and
eyed her sternly. "Was Alphonse Valentin with you at any time, in the
Bois, that day?"

"No," replied the girl, steadily.

"Does he smoke gold-tipped cigarettes?" asked Duvall, suddenly.

The effect of this question upon the nurse was startling. She recoiled
as though the detective had struck her. "He--he does not smoke at all,"
she gasped, her face gray with fear.

"Don't lie to me!"

"He does not smoke at all," repeated the girl, almost mechanically, and
stood confronting him with a defiant air.

"Very well. That is all." The detective turned from the room and left
the house.

He did not, however, go very far. It was rapidly becoming dark. He
passed down the street until he judged he was out of sight of the house,
then slowly retraced his steps upon the other side, until he had reached
a point nearly opposite the small iron gateway which served as the
servants' entrance to Mr. Stapleton's house. Here, hidden behind a
tree, he watched for perhaps half an hour.

At the expiration of this period, he was rewarded by seeing a young man,
evidently an under servant, emerge from the gateway. Duvall watched him
as he proceeded down the street, then began to follow him.

The young man seemed in no great hurry, and at the junction of the
avenue with the Champs Élysées, Duvall accosted him, speaking in French.

"Do you want to earn twenty francs, my friend?" he asked pleasantly.

The boy regarded him with a quizzical smile. "Who does not, Monsieur?"
he replied.

"Let me see the note you have in your hand."

The boy drew back suddenly, and made as though to thrust the letter into
his pocket. "It is impossible, Monsieur," he began.

Duvall took out a gold twenty-franc piece. "I intend to have the letter,
my man. If you will give it to me peaceably, here are the twenty francs;
if not, I shall be obliged to take it from you by force."

The boy regarded the detective for a moment, as though contemplating
flight. Duvall seized him by the collar. "Give me the note," he cried,
"or I'll call a gendarme and have you placed under arrest!"

The boy allowed the letter to drop to the pavement, seized the
twenty-franc piece, and took to his heels.

Duvall picked it up. As he had expected, it was addressed to Alphonse
Valentin, ---- Boulevard St. Michel. He had waited, on the chance that
Mary Lanahan would lose no time in warning her probable confederate.

The letter gave him the man's address. That was so much accomplished, at
least. Then he tore it open, and read the contents. They proved more
mystifying than anything that he had yet encountered in this mysterious
affair.

"Destroy the cigarettes!" These three words comprised the entire
contents of the note.



CHAPTER VI


Alphonse Valentin came up to Grace and took her roughly by the arm.
"Come with me," he said, and started up the street.

At first she felt inclined to resist him. A signal to a passing
gendarme, and she could have had the man placed under arrest. Monsieur
Lefevre had taken care to provide her with credentials that would insure
her obtaining instant assistance from any member of the police.

Then another thought came to her. This man Valentin she very much
desired to see. His position, clinging to the rear of the automobile,
indicated that he was in all probability not a confederate of the
kidnappers. Just what he was, she could not imagine. She determined to
go along with him, and hear what he had to say.

A few minutes' walk brought them to the man's lodgings. For some
reason, which she did not understand, the automobile in which she had
been a prisoner had stopped on the Boulevard St. Michel within a short
distance of Valentin's rooms.

When they reached the house, Valentin, instead of opening the door with
a key, rang the bell. The woman who had previously admitted Grace came
to the door. Valentin nodded.

"Is this the woman?" he asked.

"Yes," said the landlady, recognizing her at once. "This is the one."

"Good!" Valentin closed the door and led the way to his room. Grace
followed, wondering what the man intended to do.

"Why have you come here twice during the past two days?" he asked,
abruptly, after he had lit the lamp and carefully shut the door.

Grace determined to be quite frank with him. "I wanted to ask you some
questions, Monsieur Valentin," she replied.

"Ha! You know my name?"

"Certainly."

He appeared somewhat uneasy. "What are you up to?"

"I am trying to find Mr. Stapleton's child."

A queer smile came over the fellow's face. "Is that why you stole the
cigarettes?" he asked.

"I did not steal them. They were taken by a man with a black beard, who
came in through the window when I was here."

"A black beard?" He smiled incredulously. "And you let him take them."

"Yes. Why not? Were they of such great value?"

He glanced about uneasily, but did not reply to her question. "Who was
the man?" he presently asked.

"I do not know. I followed him. He entered Mr. Stapleton's house."

"Sacré! It must have been François!"

"Hardly. François has no beard."

"But he might have been disguised." He seemed very much perturbed. "What
a pity I was so careless!"

"Monsieur Valentin, will you please tell me what those cigarettes have
to do with the kidnapping of Mr. Stapleton's child?"

He looked at her closely for a moment. "Everything," he answered
gloomily, "and--nothing. I was a fool to have left them here."

Grace began to feel more and more composed. This man did not talk like
one of the band of criminals. "Do you know where the child is?" she
suddenly asked.

"Perhaps." He observed her narrowly. "Do you?"

"No. If I did, I should restore him to his poor mother."

"What were you doing in that automobile?"

"I was a prisoner. And you?"

Again he evaded her question. "It is my own affair," he growled.

"Did you not see who it was that drove the car?" she asked.

Instead of replying, he flung himself into a chair. "Sit down,
Mademoiselle, and tell me the whole story. If I find that you are frank
with me, I promise to be equally so with you."

Suddenly Grace felt an intuition that the man was honest. She determined
to do as he asked. "Very well. I will tell you the truth. I am trying to
recover Mr. Stapleton's child. Last night I was watching the house. I
was seized from behind, thrown into an automobile, and taken--I do not
know where. This morning a message to Mr. Stapleton was given me.
Tonight I was brought here, blindfolded, in an automobile. Then I met
you. That is all I know."

Valentin appeared disappointed. "Then you do not know where the child
is?" he asked.

"The child is where I was--I saw it."

As Grace said this, her companion leaped excitedly from his chair. "Then
we have them!" he cried.

"I do not understand."

"Mademoiselle, this evening I was watching Monsieur Stapleton's house.
Like yourself, I desire to recover the child. I saw François leave in
Monsieur Stapleton's automobile. I climbed in behind, as he left the
house. It was dark. He did not see me. He drove out toward Versailles."

"Toward Versailles?" exclaimed Grace.

"Yes. Why do you seem so surprised."

"Never mind. Go on."

"After a time, he stopped by the roadside. I got out, and hid in the
shadow of some trees. Presently you were brought, blindfolded, by a man,
who entered the car with you. When it again started, I climbed on
behind. That is how I came to meet you."

"Then you don't know where the house is, from which I was brought?"

"No. There are many houses--all about. There was no way of knowing, in
the dark. Did you come far--when they brought you to the automobile?"

"Yes. Several hundred yards, at least. But you know the spot, on the
roadside?"

"Yes. I can find it, without difficulty."

"Monsieur Valentin, I have a plan--a very dangerous plan--for recovering
Mr. Stapleton's boy. I cannot tell you what it is now. Tomorrow I will
tell you--tomorrow afternoon. I shall want your assistance."

"What am I to do?"

"Can you drive an automobile?"

The man smiled. "Decidedly. It is my profession."

"Splendid! You will wait for me here, and I will come, and tell you what
you are to do. I shall arrive not later than six o'clock." She rose.
"Now I must go; but before I do so, tell me one thing. What is the
mystery of the gold-tipped cigarettes?"

Her question seemed to drive from Valentin's face all the good nature
that had dwelt there the moment before. "I cannot tell you that," he
growled. "You must not ask me. Let me advise you to drop the matter of
the cigarettes, and report your message to Mr. Stapleton at once."

For a moment, Grace almost regretted her frankness. Suppose, after all,
he should prove to be but a confederate of the kidnappers, in league
with Mary Lanahan, the nurse, to spirit the boy away in the first place,
and now sent by them, in the guise of a spy clinging to the rear of the
automobile, to find out what step she proposed to take to capture them?
She paused in indecision. Suddenly there was a tapping upon the door of
the room.

Valentin went to the door and cautiously opened it. The landlady stood
on the landing outside. "There is a man to see you, at the door below,
Monsieur," she said in a low tone.

"Who is it?"

"I do not know. He gives the name of Victor Girard."

"Very well. Send him up."

Grace heard the name--Victor Girard. A sudden wave of weakness swept
over her. It was Richard! He had used the name frequently, in the past.
She heard him ascending the short flight of stairs. There was no escape.
Yet Monsieur Lefevre particularly insisted that he should not recognize
her. She hastily drew down her veil. "Get rid of him as soon as you
can," she whispered to Valentin, and shrunk back into the shadow.

Duvall came in, glancing sharply about him. He had been waiting to see
Valentin since early in the evening, and had inquired for him twice
before, only to find that he was out.

"What can I do for you, Monsieur?" inquired Valentin.

The detective drew the note from his pocket--the note which Mary Lanahan
had sent to Valentin, and which Duvall had intercepted. "This is for
you, Monsieur?" he asked, then suddenly paused, astounded. In the dim
light, he caught sight of Grace, standing on the opposite side of the
room, watching him closely. "I--I thought--Monsieur--I thought you were
alone," he gasped, his eyes fixed on Grace as though he had seen a
ghost. "I--I beg your pardon, but--" He was unable to proceed.

Valentin looked at him in amazement. "What is it, my friend?" he asked
sharply. "Tell me your business, if you please, and go. I have a
visitor."

"Yes--Monsieur--so--so I see." Duvall pulled himself together with a
mighty effort and turned his glance to Valentin. He had suffered a great
shock. For a moment he would have been ready to swear that Grace, his
dear wife, stood before him in the flesh--and yet the thing was an
absurdity: Grace, with her golden brown hair, her clear complexion, was
three thousand miles away! This woman, dark, typically French, was quite
evidently an entirely different person; yet the resemblance was
startling--he felt himself shaking in every fiber.

"Well, Monsieur, give me the letter, since you say it is for me," he
heard Valentin saying.

In an instant he had recovered his self possession. "Here," he
exclaimed, handing the note to the man before him. "It is from Mary
Lanahan. I have read it."

"You have read it, Monsieur!" Valentin exclaimed, angrily. "By what
right, then, do you presume to read my letters?" He took the note and
hurriedly read its contents. "Sacré!" he exclaimed. "What does this
mean?"

"It means, my friend, that I want that box of gold-tipped cigarettes."

Grace started. So Richard, too, was interested in the recovery of these
mysterious cigarettes. What on earth, she wondered, could it mean?

"In the first place, Monsieur, let me inform you that I have no
cigarettes, gold-tipped or otherwise. In the second place, I question
your right to make any such demands."

"Does not the note from Mary Lanahan request you to destroy them?"

Valentin turned pale. "I tell you I have no such cigarettes!" he cried.

"Are they not the sort, then, that you usually smoke?"

"I do not smoke at all, Monsieur."

Duvall laughed. "So you both tell the same story, it seems. My friend, I
dislike to discuss these matters before a stranger." He glanced
significantly at Grace.

She dared not go. To speak--even to bid Valentin good evening, would,
she felt sure, betray her. So she remained silent.

"Then take yourself off. I certainly have no desire to discuss them. I
tell you, I do not smoke--I have no cigarettes--that is enough!"

"What does that note mean, then?" asked Duvall sternly.

"That is Miss Lanahan's affair--and mine."

Duvall drew out his pocketbook, and extracted from it the bit of
cigarette stump, with the gold tip, which he had found that morning in
the Bois de Boulogne. "Monsieur Valentin," he said, "I found this end of
a cigarette at the exact place in the grass, in the Bois de Boulogne,
where Mr. Stapleton's child and nurse were, when the boy was stolen. The
chauffeur was asleep. You could readily have walked up, taken away the
child, and no one would have been the wiser. The story of Mary Lanahan,
that no one came near her, that the boy disappeared into thin air, is
absurd. The presence of the half-smoked cigarette, of a kind which I
have reason to believe you use, convinces me that you were there in the
Bois, with the nurse, at the time of the kidnapping--if indeed you did
not take an active part in it. The message from Mary Lanahan, which I
have just handed you, directing you to destroy the cigarettes,--which,
no doubt, she feared, after my questioning, might be used as evidence
against you,--serves as strong additional proof. I believe that you know
where Mr. Stapleton's child is."

The statements which her husband made convinced Grace that she had made
a mistake in confiding in Valentin. She herself had seen the
gold-tipped cigarettes on his table--had seen them stolen. It was not
very conclusive evidence, she realized; but, taken with the nurse's
letter, it was significant.

Valentin, however, did not appear to be greatly alarmed by the
detective's charges. "You are mistaken, Monsieur," he said quietly. "I
know nothing about the affair."

"Then what does this note mean?"

"That I cannot tell you. And, if you have any other questions to ask, I
beg that you will come again--at another time. I, as you see, am engaged
for the moment." He indicated Grace with a glance.

Duvall looked about, then turned to the door. His object in coming had
been fulfilled. He had seen Valentin--located him--he hoped frightened
him. It was one of his theories that a man, frightened by the knowledge
that he is being closely pursued, is far more likely to make a false
step, than one who fancies himself secure.

He darted a curious glance at Grace, as he left the room; but her face,
concealed in the shadow, told him nothing. Her silent presence filled
him with strange disquietude. He stationed himself outside the doorway
of the house, determined to learn, if possible, who she was, by
following her, when she left the place. He had not counted on Valentin's
being with her.

The two left the house together, and the man at once called a cab. Into
this he put Grace, all the while eying Duvall savagely. The latter gave
up all ideas of pursuing Grace, and returned, somewhat disgruntled, to
his hotel. He had barely reached it, when a message was brought to him,
summoning him to Mr. Stapleton's house.

Grace, meanwhile, had driven at once to the banker's, and delivered to
him the message with which she had been intrusted by the man in the
black mask that morning.

Mr. Stapleton's face grew more and more angry as she proceeded with her
story. He jumped up, as soon as he learned the purport of it, and,
ringing up Duvall's hotel, requested the detective to come to him at
once. Then he turned to Grace.

"You have no idea where this place is located?"

"Not the slightest."

"You say you saw my boy? He was safe?"

"I saw a child, which I was told was yours, Mr. Stapleton. I did not
recognize him, of course. You know I have never seen your son. Also, he
was dressed as a girl."

Mr. Stapleton produced a photograph with nervous haste. "Was he like
this?" he demanded.

"Yes. It was the same." There was sufficient resemblance, even in the
disguise the boy wore, for Grace to be practically certain of his
identity.

"How am I to know that these scoundrels will keep their word?" Mr.
Stapleton groaned, his head on his hands.

"Do you intend, then, to give them the money?"

"Certainly. Do you suppose I would take any chances, for the matter of a
hundred thousand dollars--or twice as much, for that matter? His mother
and I are unable to sleep, to eat, to do anything in fact, under the
strain of this thing. I shall by all means do as they ask."

"But they will get away."

"That is nothing to me. Let them. Once my boy is safe, I can spend
another hundred thousand to catch them; but not now--when one false step
might mean his death."

"They won't harm him, Mr. Stapleton. They are too anxious for the
money, to let anything happen to him."

"I'll take no chances."

Grace rose. "Then I might as well be going," she said. "I don't see that
I can do anything more. I shall report the matter to the Prefect of
Police at once."

"Very well. And be good enough to say to him that I particularly desire
that no steps be taken to prevent the carrying out of the plan. I shall
pay this money and regain my boy. After that, the police may do as they
like. Good evening."

"Good evening." Grace left the house, feeling singularly disappointed,
in spite of the fact that Mr. Stapleton's decision apparently meant that
Richard's work in Paris, as well as her own, was likely to be brought to
a sudden termination.

As she was leaving the house, she saw Richard drive up in a cab. The
sight of him filled her with joy; although she was forced to conceal it,
and pass him by with a look of indifference. In the darkness, she knew
she was safe. He recognized her of course,--recognized her, that is, as
the woman he had seen in Valentin's room,--and her presence here at Mr.
Stapleton's house evidently filled him with surprise. For a moment, she
thought he was about to speak to her, as he descended from his cab; but
she turned away and hurried down the street, and when she looked back,
he had entered the house.



CHAPTER VII


Mr. Stapleton was standing in the middle of the library, when Duvall
entered. He turned to him excitedly.

"Mr. Duvall," he said, "I have just heard news that I hope will restore
my boy to me within the next twenty-four hours!"

"From the woman who just left the house?"

"Yes."

"Who is she?"

"An agent of the police."

"Ah! Are you certain of that?"

"I know only what she says."

Duvall looked at him curiously. "What is the news she has brought you?"

"A message from the scoundrels who have stolen the child. They want a
hundred thousand dollars, to return him."

"And she brought you that message?"

"Yes." The banker regarded his questioner uneasily.

"Does it not seem rather singular, Mr. Stapleton, that a member of the
Paris police should come to you with a message from the kidnappers?"

Mr. Stapleton frowned. "I had not considered that aspect of the case,
Mr. Duvall. I was--and am--too anxious to get my boy back, to care by
whom these fellows deliver their terms."

"What was the message, Mr. Stapleton?"

"I am to drive along the road to Versailles tomorrow evening, leaving
here at eight o'clock, and moving at the rate of twelve miles an hour.
Somewhere on that road, an automobile in passing will signal me with a
blue light. I am then to slow up and toss into the other machine a
package containing one hundred thousand dollars. If I do this, and make
no attempt to follow or capture the rascals, they agree to deliver the
child here--at my house--by the time I return home."

Duvall listened to Mr. Stapleton's words with growing interest. "They
are a shrewd lot," he exclaimed. "They will get away in their machine,
and have ample opportunity to examine the package to see that it
contains the amount they demand. By signaling to confederates at any
point along the road, or in another automobile, they can advise them
whether or not to return the child."

"But how will they be able to do this, without running the risk of being
caught?"

"That is easy. They take the boy to Paris, employ a passerby--a man of
their own class, no doubt--for a few francs, to deliver him at your
door. To trace them, through that means, will be impossible. If you give
them the money, the chances are that they will never be caught."

"Nevertheless, I shall give it to them."

"I expected that, Mr. Stapleton. I can understand your feelings. It is
not right, of course, to submit to this blackmail; but no doubt, were I
situated as you are, I would do the same thing. Still, it is a great
pity."

"Why?"

"Because we have an excellent chance to capture these fellows."

"And lose the boy!"

"Yes, that might be true. Such men are apt to retaliate very promptly,
and very severely. They have no pity. I wish I might handle the case to
suit myself."

"What would you do?"

"I would arrange to follow you, in a fast car, keeping say five hundred
feet in the rear. I should have several men, well armed, in the car. By
watching carefully, with field glasses if necessary, I would observe the
car which signaled you with the blue light. When this car passed me, I
would follow, but make no move which would alarm the kidnappers until
they had given the signal--whatever it is--that would ensure your boy
being returned to you. Then I would close in on them, and arrest them."

"Your plan, Mr. Duvall, is open to serious objections. Suppose these
men, undoubtedly on the watch, observe that they are being followed.
They will give no signal--and I will lose not only my child, but the one
hundred thousand dollars as well. No, no, I want no interference in the
matter whatever."

Duvall remained a moment in silence. "Very well, Mr. Stapleton, I am
under your orders, of course. But I dislike very much to see these
fellows get away."

"So do I; but there's no help for it."

"If I can work out a plan for their capture, which will not involve the
loss of the boy, you are willing, I take it, to let me go ahead?"

"Yes; but I insist that you first submit the plan to me."

"Very well. And now, another matter. This woman who brought the message
to you is, you say, an agent of the police. Did she attempt to explain
how she came by the message?"

"Yes. She was forcibly abducted, last night, carried a long distance out
into the country, and the instructions given her. She was brought back
to Paris, blindfolded, tonight."

"Mr. Stapleton, what would you say were I to tell you that less than an
hour ago I saw this woman in the rooms of Alphonse Valentin, a man whom
I suspect to be very deeply concerned in the kidnapping of your son?"

Stapleton started. "Is it possible?" he said. "Have you any idea what
she was doing there?"

"No. They seemed on excellent terms, however. Of course, it is not
impossible that an agent of the police might pose as a friend of one of
the criminals, and thus obtain information. But it looks decidedly
queer."

"It does, indeed. Still, as I said before, if I get my boy back, I shall
be satisfied." He took a turn about the room, chewing nervously upon
his long black cigar. "Now, Mr. Duvall, what is your plan to capture
these fellows?"

Duvall sat in deep thought for sometime. "It is not an easy matter, Mr.
Stapleton, but there is one way which promises success, and that, too,
without interfering with your arrangements to recover your boy."

"What is it?"

"This. It is necessary for us, in some way, to identify the car which
gives you the signal of the blue light. It will pass close to you, at a
moderate speed. I want you to mark that car, so that it may be
recognized at once."

"How can I do that?"

"I will place in the bottom of your machine a small device, consisting
of a rubber bulb, equipped with a small nozzle, projecting through a
hole in the body of the car. The bulb will be filled with indelible red
stain. When you stand up, to toss the package of money to the
kidnappers, you must press this bulb with your foot. The two cars will
then be side by side. The pressure on the bulb will discharge a blast of
the red stain against the body and wheels of the car opposite you. It
will then be a simple matter to identify it."

"Yes--yes. I see that. But what then?"

"The car, in passing you, will be headed for Paris. Undoubtedly it is
the intention of these fellows to enter the city. I shall station myself
at the Porte de Versailles, and I will arrange to have other men,
members of the detective bureau, stationed at the neighboring gates in
the fortifications. All cars entering the city will be momentarily
halted. The one which bears upon its body or wheels the red stain will
be seized, its occupants arrested."

"But suppose they have not yet notified their confederates to return the
boy to me?"

"In that event, I feel certain that the child will be found in the
automobile with them. Look at the thing as you would, were you in their
place. They are forced to act with great quickness. Were they to signal,
by lights or otherwise, to persons along the road, they could hardly
hope to get the boy to your house before you yourself return there. They
know you will return home immediately at your best speed as soon as you
have delivered the money to them. What more likely, then, that they will
have the boy with them in the car, will drive to some prearranged point
in Paris, and deliver him to the person who will bring him to your
house? That would seem, to my mind, their most probable plan."

"And if not--if the child is not with them?"

"Then there are but two courses open to them. The first is to signal, by
lights or otherwise, to their confederates, before they enter Paris. If
they do this, the boy will be returned to you, and we will capture the
men as well. The only other alternative, of course, is for them to
notify their confederates after they enter Paris."

"But, if you arrest him at the barrier, they cannot do that, and my boy
will not be sent back."

"That is true; but I do not think they will wait to notify their
confederates until after they enter Paris."

"Why not, Mr. Duvall?"

"First, because of the danger of being observed, in the crowded streets
of the city. Secondly, because I do not think the child is in Paris at
all. The woman who brought you the message from the kidnappers, I
understand, saw the child at a point some distance in the country. It
seems unlikely that these men would run the risk of conveying the child
into the city, in broad daylight. By having the boy with them in the
car, they avoid all danger of signaling anybody. They merely inspect the
package of money, run into Paris, fully believing themselves for the
time being safe, drop the child at a convenient point, divide the
plunder, and scatter to their respective hiding places. Criminals of
this sort know perfectly well that they are far safer, hiding in a big
city, than fleeing through the country in an automobile. I feel scarcely
any doubt that they have the child with them."

"But if he is still in the country, and they wait until after they are
in Paris before notifying their confederates?"

"Then the latter are obliged to journey a long distance out into the
country, get the child, and bring him back to your house. That would
require a considerable period. They could not possibly do it before you
return home."

Mr. Stapleton considered the matter for a long time in silence. "Your
arguments seem sound, Mr. Duvall," he presently observed. "Like
yourself, I am anxious to capture these fellows. It makes my blood boil,
to think of their getting away. Of course, your deductions may be
wrong."

"Then at least we will get the perpetrators of the crime, and it is most
likely that one of them, at least, may be persuaded to turn state's
evidence, and disclose the whereabouts of your son."

Mr. Stapleton pondered the matter with great care. Evidently he feared
any course of action which did not insure the return of the child.

"It seems to me, Mr. Stapleton," the detective went on, "that you owe it
to the public to let me make this effort to capture these fellows. It is
a grave danger to the community, to have such rogues at large. Let me
try my plan. Even if it fails, you are no worse off than you are now.
The attempt cannot in any way be traced to you."

"Very well," said the banker, nervously. "It is a chance--that's all.
However, since it seems to involve no breach of faith on my part, I am
willing to take it."

"Good! I will bring the device I spoke of to your house tomorrow, and
attach it to your car. Your man François will drive you, I presume."

"Yes."

"You trust him?"

"I have no reasons for not doing so. And besides he will know nothing of
the affair. His part will be merely to drive the car, as I direct him."

Duvall thought for a moment. "You will not, of course, give him his
instructions until the last moment--just before you start."

"No. That will be best, I think."

"Undoubtedly. And to avoid any possible interference, I think I had
better not attach the identifying device of which I have spoken to your
car until late tomorrow afternoon, immediately before you set out. Then,
if by any chance your chauffeur is in this plot, he will have no
opportunity to give a warning."

"Very well. I think, however, that your precautions are needless. There
has been nothing whatever brought out to connect François with this
matter."

"I know; but it is well to be careful. You will leave here tomorrow
evening, at eight o'clock?"

"Yes. Promptly at eight."

"You might do well to have someone with you, some member of the police,
perhaps."

"The instructions expressly forbid it."

"Ah--I see. These fellows are shrewd." He took up his hat. "Until
tomorrow then. Good night."

"Good night."



CHAPTER VIII


At the same hour that Richard Duvall was arranging with Mr. Stapleton
his plan for the capture of the kidnappers the following day, Grace was
closeted with Monsieur Lefevre, the Prefect of Police, in the latter's
library, going over the affair in all its details. The Prefect was
speaking, ticking off on his fingers the points in the case as he
proceeded.

"First, we have the impossible story of the nurse, Mary Lanahan. She
seems to be telling the truth; yet I believe she is lying. In my
opinion, she is deeply concerned in the whole matter."

"But what about the attempt to poison her?"

"It is highly probable that she poisoned herself, taking a slight dose
only. This would divert suspicion from her."

"I see."

"Then we have the case of Alphonse Valentin, and the mysterious
gold-tipped cigarettes. Your husband, Monsieur Duvall, I am informed,
has found one of these cigarettes, partly smoked, on the grass at the
scene of the crime. This might indicate that Valentin was there, with
her, on some occasion, but not necessarily on the day the kidnapping
occurred. It might readily have been the day before--or the week before,
for that matter."

"I thought of that," remarked Grace, quietly. "It seems to me that
Richard attached too much importance to the matter."

"That remains to be seen. Now, supposing Valentin to be concerned, with
the nurse, in the plot. He of course does not think, at the start, that
the possession of the cigarettes would involve him in the affair,
because he does not know that Monsieur Duvall has found the one in the
grass. Your husband, however, asks Mary Lanahan what kind of cigarettes
Valentin smokes. She at once becomes suspicious, and at the first
opportunity warns Valentin, by letter, to destroy them. That shows
clearly that they are working together."

"Undoubtedly. But meanwhile the cigarettes are stolen from Valentin's
room by a man with a dark beard, who subsequently enters Mr.
Stapleton's house. For that, I confess, I can find no explanation."

"Nor I. The destruction of the cigarettes could be of no importance to
anyone, except to the kidnappers themselves. It is of course possible
that someone else in Mr. Stapleton's house--François, for instance--is
concerned in the plot."

"But the man who took the cigarettes had a black beard, while François
is smooth shaven."

"I know. But it might have been a disguise."

"I do not think so. The man I saw was taller than François, and not so
heavily built."

The Prefect considered the matter for a moment. "You are certain that he
entered the Stapleton's house?"

"Absolutely certain. I saw the gate close behind him."

"Then I can only say that, so far, the matter is inexplicable. Now let
us come back to Valentin. He claims to be working to capture the
kidnappers--in order to clear the nurse, whom he loves."

"That is as I understand it."

"He denies that he smokes, yet offers no explanation of the presence of
the cigarettes in his room."

"None. Further, someone sends a note to Valentin, advising him that the
writer is suspicious of François--suggesting that he watch him. Can this
mean that François is in the plot, and they fear he may be
weakening--preparing to turn against them?"

"It certainly looks that way."

"I wish I could see one of these famous cigarettes."

Grace laughed suddenly. "Why," she exclaimed, "I have one in my
pocketbook. I had quite forgotten it." She opened her purse and took out
the slender white cylinder.

Lefevre examined the thing closely. "An Egyptian cigarette of American
make," he mused. "Expensive, here in Paris, and rarely used, except by
Americans."

"That is true; yet I understand that this man Valentin has lived a great
deal in America."

For a moment the Prefect did not reply. Then a puzzled look crossed his
face. "This is a woman's cigarette," he exclaimed. "No man would smoke
such a thing." He brought his hand down sharply upon his knee. "My
girl, it is not impossible that the child was stolen not by a man at
all, but by a woman."

"A woman, apparently, that both Valentin and the nurse are trying to
shield."

The Prefect sat for a moment buried in thought. Then he glanced at Grace
keenly. "It seems to me," he remarked, in a quiet tone, "that we should
endeavor to determine whether or not Mrs. Stapleton is in the habit of
using cigarettes."

"Mrs. Stapleton!" gasped Grace, in amazement.

"Yes. I confess the idea is a new one, to me; but it may prove of
interest."

"But why should the boy's mother wish to kidnap him?"

"I do not know. There is but one point of significance. During the past
week my men have, naturally, questioned Mrs. Stapleton closely as to her
movements during the past two or three months. They did this, to
determine, if possible, whether the criminals were of Paris, or from
some other place, where Mrs. Stapleton may have been, with the child,
during the past winter. You know these fellows work in bands, and have
their regular field of operations."

"I see. And where had she been?"

"Monte Carlo!" The Prefect uttered the two words significantly.

Grace was quick to grasp his meaning.

"Then you mean that possibly Mrs. Stapleton may have lost large sums at
the gambling tables, and, fearing to tell her husband of her losses, has
enlisted the services of the nurse, and of her friend Valentin, and
spirited the child away for a few weeks, in order to get the sum of one
hundred thousand dollars from her husband without his knowledge?"

"It is by no means impossible. I would recommend that you investigate
the matter thoroughly. If we find that Mrs. Stapleton uses gold-tipped
cigarettes of this variety, it may go far toward a solution of the whole
affair."

Grace, remembering Mrs. Stapleton's grief-stricken appearance, felt that
the clue was a very slender one, but determined to follow it up,
nevertheless.

"Now," went on the Prefect, "we come to the sudden and most unexpected
appearance of Valentin, clinging to the rear of the automobile that
brought you back to Paris tonight."

"As I have told you, he claims to have clambered into Mr. Stapleton's
car."

"Driven by François?"

"Yes."

"And you say the man who drove the car had a black beard--the same man,
in fact, who broke into Valentin's room and stole the cigarettes?"

"Yes."

"Then either Valentin is lying, or the man with the black beard is
François. Let us look at his story from both sides. If he is telling the
truth, then François is one of the kidnappers."

"So it would seem. You are having him watched, you say?"

"Yes. My men report that he did leave the house, in Mr. Stapleton's
automobile tonight, at about nine o'clock. That would seem to agree with
Valentin's story. They also report that he returned about eleven,
alone."

"They did not follow him?"

"No. It is impossible to do so, in another car, without arousing his
suspicion, and putting him on his guard. We do not wish him to know that
he is being watched."

"But Mr. Stapleton must know where he has been--why the car was out."

"Yes. We have questioned him. He says the man reported that the gasolene
tank was leaking, and that he ordered him to have it repaired at once."

"And was it repaired?"

The Prefect smiled. "Yes. The car was at a garage in the Boulevard St.
Michel from half past nine until half past ten."

Grace fell back, astonished. "Then Valentin is lying!" she cried.

"So it seems; unless, of course, François took out another car from the
garage, while his own was being fixed."

"They would know that at the garage."

"They deny it. But these fellows all hang together. They would think
nothing of protecting a brother chauffeur, in the matter of a little joy
ride."

"Valentin says nothing about this, in his story."

"He may have omitted it, as an unimportant detail. I mean that he may
have slipped into the second car, as he did into the first, without
being observed. It was dark of course. He may not have thought it
necessary to mention it. All this, of course, is on the assumption that
he is telling the truth. Now let us say that he is lying--that the man
with the black beard is not François, but someone else concerned, with
Valentin in the plot. What is the purpose of his tale?"

"I cannot imagine. Can you, Monsieur?"

"No, not immediately. The first contradiction, of course, is this. If
Valentin and the man with the black beard are working together, why
should the latter have broken into his room to get the cigarettes?"

"There seems no sense to it."

"Yet he may have realized the danger of the cigarettes being in
Valentin's possession, and instead of trying to warn him simply came and
took them away. It is not a particularly plausible explanation; but let
us admit it, for the moment, in order to get ahead with our reasoning.
Suppose Valentin, the man with the black beard, and Mary Lanahan, the
nurse, to be all working together, either with Mrs. Stapleton, or with
outside parties. They have the child safely hidden. They abduct you, and
send the message to Mr. Stapleton through you. They do not trust you,
knowing, no doubt, that you are an agent of my office. They send
Valentin along, on the back of the machine, to pretend to be an enemy of
theirs trying, like yourself, to recover the child. He thus gets into
your confidence. He advises you to report your message from the
kidnappers to Mr. Stapleton at once. He questions you, and learns that
you do not know the location of the house where the child is hidden. He
then offers to show you as nearly as he can where the house is located.
If he is in league with the kidnappers, he will take you, and the men
whom tomorrow I shall send with you, to some location miles removed from
the actual point where the child is concealed, and you will waste the
day in a useless search. Decidedly it would be a clever move on their
part."

"It certainly would."

"Further, you told this fellow that you had a plan to capture the
scoundrels. You are to acquaint him with that plan, tomorrow afternoon.
If you do so, he will no doubt get to the telephone on some pretext and
warn his comrades of what you intend to do. I strongly recommend that
you put no faith in the fellow whatever."

"Still, you would advise trying to locate the house, as he suggests?"

"Yes, we may be wrong about him. We must leave no stone unturned. And
now we come to your interview with Mr. Stapleton. You gave him the
message, of course. What did he say?"

"He said that he intended to carry out the instructions I gave him to
the letter--pay these fellows their money, and get back the boy."

Monsieur Lefevre uttered an exclamation of anger. "Sacré! He must not do
that! The stupid fellow! He will spoil everything!"

Grace laughed quietly to herself. "Hardly stupid, Monsieur! The poor man
is half mad over the boy's loss. He will do anything, to get him back. I
can scarcely blame him."

The Prefect held out his hand. "I beg your pardon, my child. You are
right. It is perhaps but natural for him to feel as he does. But there
are other things at stake, than the recovery of the child. For Monsieur
Stapleton to pay over this huge sum to these criminals, and then to
allow them to escape, is not only a grave reflection upon the efficiency
of the Paris police, but is an injustice to the public as well. If these
men are successful in this attempt, they will make others. Other
children will be stolen. I cannot permit it. It must be prevented at all
costs. These men must be brought to justice."

"How can you prevent it, Monsieur? Mr. Stapleton is determined."

"That, my child, is the question. I cannot stop Monsieur Stapleton if
he wishes to drive out the road to Versailles and toss a hundred
thousand dollars into the first automobile that passes him, showing a
blue light." He rose and began to walk up and down the room.

"I have a plan, Monsieur," said Grace, quietly.

"What is it, my child?" The Prefect regarded her with an indulgent
smile. He was very fond of Grace. He regretted that he had been unable
to secure the services of her husband in this case. He knew, from past
experience, her cleverness; but he did not believe that in a matter of
this sort she would be able to outwit men who were probably among the
shrewdest criminals in Paris.

"First," said Grace, "we will have the location pointed out to us by
Valentin thoroughly searched."

"Assuredly! It will, however, probably result in nothing. Even if
Valentin is telling the truth, these fellows will beyond question have
moved the child before now to prepare for the work of tomorrow evening."

"Possibly. At any rate, we will try. After that, I shall want Valentin
to drive a motor car for me. He is an accomplished chauffeur."

"You will take him into your confidence, then?" asked the Prefect, in
some alarm.

"No. I shall tell him nothing, except that he is to drive the car, and
where."

"Very well. But be careful. What next?"

Grace leaned over and spoke to the Prefect in low tones for several
minutes. He listened to what she said, occasionally smiling, and nodding
his head. Presently he brought his hand down sharply upon the table.
"Bravo!" he exclaimed. "You were born to be a detective. We will get the
kidnappers, the money, and in all probability the child as well. I
congratulate you!"

"You think it will work, then?"

"I do not see how it can fail. It is an inspiration. I shall certainly
feel very well satisfied indeed, if I can return to Monsieur Stapleton
both his child and his money, and at the same time place the kidnappers
behind the bars. I could never permit it to be said that the police of
Paris would knowingly allow a desperate band of criminals to get away
with half a million of francs without lilting a hand to prevent it." He
rose and glanced at his watch. "Come, my child. It is after midnight.
You have had a long and exciting day. You had better get some rest."

Grace rose. "Richard seemed awfully puzzled when he saw me."

"Did he?" The Prefect laughed mischievously. "Really it is a great joke
upon him. To be within a step of his own wife, and not to know her!"

Grace seemed scarcely to appreciate the humor of the situation. "I think
it's a shame," she said, "Poor Richard. He'll never forgive me. I really
think I ought to tell him."

Monsieur Lefevre shook his head. "If you do that, my dear child,
everything will be spoiled. He will insist upon your dropping the case
at once, and that would certainly not be fair to me."

"But, Monsieur, after all, you really do not need me, with all the
clever men you have upon your staff."

"Who knows? Perhaps you may succeed, where they will fail. I have great
faith in the intuition of a woman. And already you have advanced the
case further in forty-eight hours than my men have done in ten days. It
was a chance, I will admit, that these rascals should have chosen you to
deliver their demands to Monsieur Stapleton. I confess I do not
understand their reasons for doing so. They must have known that
besides telling your story to him, you would also tell it to me. It may
have been sheer bravado on their part--it is a characteristic, I have
noted, in many criminals. They seem to glory in defying the police.
These fellows, no doubt, think that they have matters so arranged that
capture is impossible. I think we shall give them a little surprise."

He turned to the door, and held it open, allowing Grace to pass into the
hall. "Good night, my child," he called out to her, as she began to
ascend the stairs. "I think I will smoke one more cigar."

As for Grace, she lay awake a long time, thinking of Richard, of their
home in the country, of the happy hours they had spent there--before
this unexpected interruption to their honeymoon. It seemed very queer to
her, to be lying there, alone. She had not gotten used to it. And
somewhere, in this big city, Richard was also sleeping--and she not with
him! The excitement of the affair was beginning to die out. The meeting
with Richard on the boat, which she had planned when she set out from
home, had not materialized. She had postponed this meeting, in her
thoughts, until his arrival in Paris, and now--he had come, and still
she had not been able so much as to touch his hand. She finally went to
sleep, devoutly praying that tomorrow, and the capture of the
kidnappers, would mark the end of their needless and cruel separation.



CHAPTER IX


Promptly at eight o'clock the next evening Mr. John Stapleton left his
house in the Avenue Kleber, in a big French touring car, with François
at the wheel.

The car presented no points of peculiarity, being like a thousand others
to be seen any evening upon the streets of Paris. It was of large size,
high powered, and painted a green so dark as to be almost black.

Mr. Stapleton sat in the tonneau, wearing a dark blue serge suit, and a
Panama hat. In his left hand he clutched a small package, about the size
of a cigar box. In the package were banknotes amounting to one hundred
thousand dollars.

Close beside his right foot lay a rubber bulb, from which a short pipe
extended through a hole bored in the side of the car. The end of the
pipe held a small brass nozzle. It projected but a short distance beyond
the body of the car, and in the dim light of early evening was quite
invisible.

Mr. Stapleton told his chauffeur to drive out the road toward
Versailles. "I feel like getting some fresh air," he added. "It's rather
warm, tonight." Inwardly he was burning up with excitement.

From Paris to Versailles is a matter of some fourteen miles. Mr.
Stapleton's car proceeded slowly. He wanted to run no chances of missing
the car with the blue light.

At the Porte de Versailles he paused long enough to see Richard Duvall,
standing in the shadow of the gateway. Then he passed outside of Paris.

There were many automobiles and other vehicles on the road. The evening
was a pleasant one, and all Paris seemed out taking the air. The
majority of the vehicles were coming toward the city. He observed a car,
some distance behind him, containing a single occupant, a man of middle
age, but paid no attention to it. His eyes were strained to detect in
the cars approaching him some evidence of the signal light which was to
rouse him to sudden action.

He noticed that François, like himself, was carefully scrutinizing each
car as it approached them. He wondered if the chauffeur could have any
idea of the purpose of his expedition; but presently dismissed the
thought as entirely unlikely, and devoted himself to the passing cars.

He had proceeded perhaps four or five miles beyond the fortifications,
when he saw a large car approaching slowly from the direction of
Versailles. It contained but two persons, the chauffeur, and a heavily
veiled woman.

The chauffeur, who was keenly observing the machine in which Mr.
Stapleton sat, began to swerve to the right side of the road, so as to
pass as closely to the banker's car as possible. At the same moment
there showed through the gathering darkness a brilliant spot of blue
light in the tonneau where sat the woman.

Mr. Stapleton was on his feet in an instant. The two cars approached
each other rapidly. It was necessary for him to act with great
quickness. He shifted the package containing the money from his left
hand to his right, and a moment later had tossed it lightly into the
other car.

He saw at once that it landed safely within, and at the same instant he
pressed his foot down hard upon the rubber bulb. In a moment the car
with the blue light had swept past, and was disappearing rapidly in the
direction of Paris.

Mr. Stapleton leaned forward and addressed François in a voice which
quivered with excitement. "Drive home at once," he commanded.

In a moment he was following the first car toward the city.

He did not notice, as he swept down the darkening road, the car which
had been following him all the way from Paris. It continued on its way
toward Versailles. In it were two people. At the wheel sat a man who
bore, in the semi-darkness, a striking resemblance to François, Mr.
Stapleton's chauffeur, while in the rear sat a figure, in dark suit and
Panama hat, which seemed for all the world like that of the banker
himself. Had a casual observer not seen Mr. Stapleton turn back toward
Paris, he would have concluded that he was still on his way toward
Versailles.

The occupants of this second car also appeared to be keenly watching the
various automobiles which passed them, as though expecting some signal,
some recognition; yet, in spite of their eager and expectant glances,
they seemed doomed to disappointment.

At last Versailles was reached. The elderly man in the tonneau gave a
short command, his chauffeur turned the car about, and they began to
return to Paris. Nothing further whatever happened on the Versailles
road.

Meanwhile, Richard Duvall, at the Porte de Versailles, was carefully
scrutinizing the various incoming machines that passed the gate and
entered the city. With a brilliant electric searchlight he examined
their bodies and wheels, looking always for the telltale red stains
which would identify the kidnappers' car. Beside him stood Vernet, one
of the Prefect's assistants, with whom Duvall had become well acquainted
during his former stay in Paris.

"Well, Monsieur Duvall," remarked the latter, "a most ingenious
plan--this of yours. I wonder if it will be successful?"

"I feel sure of it."

"I hope you are right." He looked at his watch. "Half past eight. About
time, I should think, from what you tell me. Here is a big fellow, now.
A Pasquet, by her looks. Six-cylinder, too."

Duvall glanced at the oncoming car. A wagon which preceded it was just
passing the gates. The big Pasquet slowed up, and almost stopped.

The detective threw the rays of his searchlight on the body of the car,
then started back with an exclamation. From one end to the other, the
dark green finish of the sides and wheels was spattered and streaked
with bright red paint. Dust had settled in it, in places, especially on
the wheels; but above, on the doors, it was clear and unmistakable.

"Vernet," he shouted, excitedly, "it is the one! Quick! Don't let them
get away."

Vernet stepped up to the quivering motor. At the wheel sat a young man,
quite composed. In the tonneau, a veiled woman reclined at ease. In her
hands she held a brown paper package.

She leaned toward Vernet, and spoke a single word to him. Duvall did not
hear what it was; but its effect upon the Prefect's man was
instantaneous--electrical. He stepped back and raised his hat. "Pardon,
Madame," he said, and the Pasquet rolled through the gate and into the
streets of Paris unmolested.

Duvall had sprung forward, and, as he did so, swept the occupants of the
car with his electric searchlight. Suddenly he drew back in amazement,
just as Vernet allowed the car to pass on. He could scarcely believe
that what he saw was a reality. There was the big black car, its body
and wheels plentifully bespattered with the identifying red stain--and
there, at the wheel, sat Alphonse Valentin, while the veiled woman in
the rear was--Grace!

He did not know it was Grace--he did know that it was the woman who had
been with Valentin in his room, who had brought the message from the
kidnappers to Mr. Stapleton, who, in some far off and intangible way,
reminded him of Grace.

There she sat, in her hand the package containing Mr. Stapleton's
money--and Vernet doffed his cap to her, and permitted her to go on! Was
this woman, then, hoodwinking even the police?

He sprang to Vernet's side. "Stop them!" he cried, in a hoarse voice.
"They are the ones I am after."

Vernet shook his head. "Impossible, Monsieur. They are given safe
conduct by Monsieur the Prefect himself."

"But--they are thieves--kidnappers!"

Vernet shrugged his shoulders. "It may be so, Monsieur Duvall; but my
orders are to let them pass."

The detective ground his teeth, helpless. His scheme for identifying
the criminals had worked perfectly. He had found them, only to see both
them and Mr. Stapleton's hundred thousand dollars as well slip quietly
through his fingers. He cursed the whole police force of Paris roundly,
in his anger.

The arrival of another car distracted his attention. It was Mr.
Stapleton, hurrying home, in the hope of finding his boy. Duvall did not
stop him. The banker was evidently thinking of nothing but his lost son.

Several other cars passed. Duvall had no interest in them. He was about
to turn away, with the intention of hunting up Mr. Stapleton and
learning whether or not the boy had been returned to him, when he heard
a familiar voice calling him by name. He turned. It was Monsieur
Lefevre, in a big dark green car.

"Mon Dieu! Duvall!" the Prefect cried, in pretended surprise. "You here!
In Paris! Or do my eyes deceive me?"

The detective looked a bit sheepish. He realized that in not calling on
his old friend before now, he had been guilty of an apparent rudeness
which Monsieur Lefevre might justly resent. "Monsieur," he cried, "it is
indeed I." He put out his hand, and grasped that of his old chief
warmly. "A little matter of business brought me to Paris. I have only
just arrived."

"Indeed." The Prefect's eyes twinkled. "I hope, my dear fellow, that
your other engagements will permit you to come and see me before long."

"I shall come this very evening, Monsieur. In fact, I have a matter of
the utmost importance to discuss with you. Shall you be at liberty?"

"In an hour, _mon ami_. Until then I have other things to occupy me.
Come to the Prefecture in an hour. I shall be waiting for you. For the
present, adieu." He called an order to his chauffeur, and drove rapidly
off into the darkness.

Duvall turned on his heel and began to look for a taxicab. "Good night,
Vernet," he called out, as he went up the street.

In half an hour, he had reached Mr. Stapleton's house. He found the
unfortunate banker striding up and down his library in a towering rage.
"The fellows have deceived me!" he cried. "They have not brought back my
boy. Did you see anything of them? Tell me!" He grasped Duvall nervously
by the arm.

"The car into which you threw the package of money contained, besides
the chauffeur, but one occupant, a woman, did it not?"

"Yes--yes! Did you get her?"

"No."

"Why not? Did your scheme to identify the car fail to work?"

"On the contrary, it worked perfectly. I stopped the car at the barrier.
The woman in it had the package of money in her hand."

"And you did not arrest her! In Heaven's name, why not?"

"The police would not permit me to do so. The woman was the same one who
brought you the message last night, the supposed agent of the police.
They allowed her to pass the gates."

"What?" the banker fairly shouted his question. "This is ridiculous! Is
the woman a criminal, or is she a detective? She cannot be both, and if
she is the latter why was she in that car, with my money in her hand?"

"I do not know. But I mean to find out very shortly."

"How? I'd like to know!"

"I am going to see the Prefect of Police at once."

Mr. Stapleton sank into a chair, and groaned. "I had hoped to have Jack
with me by now. His poor mother is distracted. Isn't there anything, Mr.
Duvall, that you can do?"

"I hope to answer that question better, Mr. Stapleton, after I have seen
Monsieur Lefevre. If this woman, and her companion, Valentin, are really
the kidnappers, they are in Paris, and we shall be able to lay our hands
on them without difficulty. If they are not, your money, at least is
safe. I must leave you now; but as soon as I learn anything, I will
report to you at once. Good night."

He left the house, more mystified than he had ever been in his life.
From the start, this case had apparently been one in which all the clues
led to absurd contradictions, or else to nothing at all.

In fifteen minutes he was at the Prefecture.

Monsieur Lefevre sent out word that he would be occupied for a few
moments, and the detective sat down as patiently as possible, to wait.



CHAPTER X


The events of the Versailles road left Grace Duvall in a high state of
good humor. The plan she had suggested had been a success--at least so
far as her own part in it was concerned. How Monsieur Lefevre had fared,
she did not yet know. She looked down at the brown paper package she
held in her hand, and ordered Valentin to drive to the Prefecture.

The day had been an eventful one. Immediately after breakfast Grace had
gone to Mr. Stapleton's house and had a long interview with Mrs.
Stapleton. That lady, apparently quite prostrated from worry and alarm
over the fate of her son, received her in her boudoir, where she lay, a
charming picture, upon a divan.

Grace had no more than entered the room, when she detected the odor of
cigarette smoke, faint but unmistakable. She glanced at the table which
stood beside the divan upon which Mrs. Stapleton lay. On it, a tiny
porcelain ash receiver contained a fluffy mass of gray-white ashes, and
the half smoked remains of a cigarette. The tip, partly covered by the
ashes, was of gold.

The girl engaged her hostess in a long conversation, quieting her fears,
which seemed real enough, and predicting the early recovery of her boy.
It was quite evident that Mrs. Stapleton was terribly nervous. No doubt
this accounted for the cigarettes. Although Grace did not use them
herself, she knew how their quieting effect on the nerves made them
almost necessities, at times, to their devotees.

Presently she observed that Mrs. Stapleton held within her left hand,
concealed beneath the folds of her kimono, a small pasteboard box, a box
of cigarettes. Grace determined upon a bold move.

"May I have one of your cigarettes, Mrs. Stapleton?" she asked, in her
sweetest manner. "I've forgotten to bring any with me--and--you know how
it is."

Mrs. Stapleton's features relaxed into something approaching a smile.
She had been lying there wondering whether she dared offer one to Grace,
and thus be able to sooth her own overstrained nerves. She brought
forth the box and extended it toward her visitor. Grace took one of the
tiny cylinders and lit it. _It was of the same make as the one she had
secured in Alphonse Valentin's room!_

She took her departure a little later, wondering greatly. The whole
affair had begun to take on an air of baffling contradiction.

She spent the rest of the morning, and most of the afternoon, searching
the houses near the point on the road to Versailles indicated by
Valentin. With her were three men from the Prefect's office--silent,
able men, in plain clothes, who pretended to be keepers from the _Jardin
des Plantes_, in search of a dangerous cobra, which was supposed to have
escaped from its cage the night before.

The terrified householders threw open their doors with unassumed
alacrity. The suggestion of a deadly reptile lurking in their gardens
was a veritable open sesame. Yet no traces of the missing boy were
found, and, more remarkable still, Grace was unable to identify any of
the many gardens as the one in which she had seen the child playing with
the spaniel. This disappointed her greatly. She knew well that, if
Valentin was telling the truth, the garden was here; yet, although they
visited every house within a quarter of a mile, they were unable to
locate it. She remembered now that in her agitation, her eager
examination of the child, she had not fixed upon her mind any salient
point in the garden itself. All that she remembered was a bit of grass,
a gravel walk, and the child playing with the dog. A dozen of the little
enclosures presented similar features. She returned to the prefecture,
baffled.

"The fellow is undoubtedly lying," had been Monsieur Lefevre's comment.
"He is trying to throw you off the track, in order to protect the nurse,
and possibly Mrs. Stapleton as well. I should not be surprised to find
that the boy's mother is the guilty person."

Grace did not agree with him; so she said nothing. In spite of the fact
that Mrs. Stapleton used cigarettes similar to those which seemed in
some queer way to be at the bottom of the mystery, she had an intuitive
feeling that the grief which the banker's wife showed was entirely real.

At half past seven, Grace left the prefecture in a high-powered car,
furnished by Monsieur Lefevre. Alphonse Valentin was at the wheel. In
her hand she held a pocket electric searchlight, across the front of
which had been affixed a circular bit of blue glass.

At ten minutes to eight she arrived at Versailles. She at once ordered
Valentin to turn and drive back toward Paris at moderate speed. She did
not take him into her confidence regarding what she proposed to do, but
kept a keen watch for the car containing Mr. Stapleton.

Her plan had worked. Mr. Stapleton, seeing her signal, had tossed her
the package of money--she only hoped that the other part of her plan had
been carried out with equal success.

The other part of the plan had been this: Monsieur Lefevre, who in build
and general appearance was not unlike Mr. Stapleton, was to follow the
latter's car in a machine of the same make and general appearance. He
was to be driven by a chauffeur made up to resemble François
sufficiently to be mistaken for him in the dim light of early evening.
He himself was to make such alterations in his appearance and dress as
would enable him to pass, under a cursory examination, for Stapleton. In
the bottom of the car two armed men lay concealed.

When the car containing Mr. Stapleton turned back toward Paris, after
having unwittingly delivered the money to Grace, the Prefect would
continue on toward Versailles. He would know that the car containing the
kidnappers was still ahead of him; since, had it not been, it, instead
of Grace's car, would have signaled Mr. Stapleton.

Grace had started out from Versailles especially early, convinced that
the kidnappers would not leave there until eight, at least. In this
assumption she was correct. The car containing the kidnappers was, at
that moment, creeping toward Paris some two miles in her rear, looking
everywhere for Mr. Stapleton.

The Prefect pursued his way toward Versailles in anxious expectancy.
Each moment he thought to see the blue signal flash from the various
cars which passed him. When it came, his men were to spring up, and at
once bring the other car to a standstill by firing their guns, heavily
charged with buckshot, at its wheels. A punctured tire, and the thing
was done. His men, assisted by the chauffeur, would then overpower the
occupants of the other car before they could realize what had happened.
In it they hoped to find the child.

The plan was well conceived; but unfortunately it did not work.
Whatever the reason, none of the cars which passed the Prefect on his
way to Versailles displayed the telltale blue light. All seemed but
peaceable automobilists, intent on reaching Paris and its restaurants as
quickly as possible. Had his disguise been penetrated? He could not
believe it. He returned to the Prefecture in great disgust, wondering in
what way matters had gone wrong.

Grace was waiting for him, an eager smile on her face. "Here is the
money," she said, placing the package on his desk. "Did you get the
men?"

"No." The Prefect flung himself into a chair. "They did not signal."

"But why, I wonder?" The failure of her plan was extremely annoying.

"I can think of but one reason. There must have been some way in which
these fellows knew the Stapleton car when they approached it--some
signal, perhaps, that I was unable to give."

"But no such signal was mentioned in the instructions I brought to Mr.
Stapleton. He gave none, as we approached him."

"Did you observe anything peculiar about the appearance of his car,
anything that might have served as a clue to enable these fellows to
recognize it, even in the dark, with certainty?"

Grace thought a moment, then her face fell. "There was one thing that I
noticed as Mr. Stapleton's car came up to us; but I am afraid I failed
to realize its significance at the time."

"What was it?"

"The electric headlight on the side nearest to me was working very
badly. In fact, it seemed to be almost out. The other was burning
brilliantly."

The Prefect sprang to his feet. "Sacré!" he exclaimed. "Of course. The
thing is as plain as the nose on your face!"

"But who--"

"François! The fellow is in this thing up to his neck. _He_ claims to have
been asleep when the boy was stolen. _He_ drives the car which brings
you back, after your abduction. _He_, disguised, steals the box of
cigarettes. _He_ fixes the lights so that the kidnappers are advised,
not only beyond any doubt that they are signaling the right car, but
that all is safe--that Monsieur Stapleton has no detectives or members
of the police hidden in his tonneau. The thing is perfectly clear.
Believe me, my child, had there been anyone in that car with Mr.
Stapleton, those lights would have both been burning with equal
brightness, as mine were. They did not give me the signal, when they
passed me, because the lights failed to tell them that all was well."

Grace looked up quickly. "Then, if that is true, François knew that Mr.
Stapleton had thrown the money into the wrong car."

"Undoubtedly, and by this time, no doubt, his confederates know it as
well. Naturally the child has not been delivered. We are just where we
were before."

"You will arrest François at once, I suppose."

"No. It will be useless. By leaving him free, we may learn something. By
locking him up, with no tangible evidence against him, we accomplish
nothing at all."

"Then what do you advise?"

"You will return the money to Mr. Stapleton at once. You can tell him,
if you wish, how it came into your possession. He will be furious, of
course; but he must understand that the capture of these scoundrels is
quite as important to the city of Paris as the recovery of his son. We
have done our best, and failed. We must try again."

"Richard was at the Porte de Versailles," remarked Grace, quietly. "He
tried to stop my car."

"Yes. I saw him. He is coming here at once."

The girl rose, in nervous haste. "I must go, then. It would be most
unwise to have him find me here."

There was a quick knock at the door. The Prefect rose, and opened it;
then turned to Grace with a grim smile. "Your husband is waiting in the
anteroom," he whispered.

"But--what shall I do?"

"Wait in here." Monsieur Lefevre opened the door which led to his
private office. "You can hear everything quite plainly. From what you
tell me, I should not be surprised if he insisted upon your arrest at
once."

"It isn't fair to him. Poor Richard! I'm afraid he'll never forgive me
for all this."

"Nonsense! You are engaged in a very laudable attempt to recover Mrs.
Stapleton's child. So is he. Your interests are identical. Only," he
paused with a significant smile, "from my standpoint, I should much
prefer that the credit for the boy's recovery should belong to the
police of Paris, of which you, for the time being, are one."

Richard Duvall came into the Prefect's office, somewhat ill at ease. The
room, familiar to him because of the events of the past, reminded him
forcibly of Grace--who had, indeed been upon his mind constantly for the
past few days. It was here, in this very room, that she had first told
him that she loved him--during the exciting pursuit of Victor Girard,
and the million francs. He gazed about at its familiar aspect, and
sighed.

"Sit down, my dear Duvall," said the Prefect, shaking hands with him
warmly. "What, may I ask, brings you to Paris, at the cost of
interrupting your honeymoon? I had supposed that nothing could be of
sufficient importance for that. In fact, had I known you would consider
it for a moment, I should have cabled to you, to give me your assistance
in a most trying case."

"What case, Monsieur?"

"The mysterious kidnapping of the child of Monsieur Stapleton."

"It is that very case that brings me to Paris. I am in Mr. Stapleton's
employ."

Monsieur Lefevre affected to be greatly surprised. "Is it possible,
_mon ami_? That is bad news indeed. This fellow Stapleton no longer has
confidence in my office. He retains you to do that which he believes I
shall fail to do. I am sorry, my dear Duvall, that we are on opposite
sides of the fence."

"But, Monsieur, I did not know that you wanted me. Mr. Stapleton is an
old friend. I could not refuse to come to his assistance."

Lefevre's eyes twinkled. "Have you made any progress, then, my friend?"

"Yes. Tonight I put in operation a plan whereby I might identify an
automobile containing the kidnappers, into which Mr. Stapleton had been
directed to throw a package containing one hundred thousand dollars."

"Indeed. You interest me. And did you succeed in identifying it?"

"I did. I stopped the car, at the Porte de Versailles. I knew it to be
the one into which the money had been thrown. The car was driven by a
man named Alphonse Valentin, whom I have every reason to suspect is
concerned in this affair. Its only other occupant was a woman--whom I
met last night in Valentin's rooms, and who brought Mr. Stapleton a
message from the kidnappers. This woman is, I believe, at the bottom of
the whole thing."

"Indeed. And did you arrest her?"

"No. She claims to be an agent of your office. Vernet, who was at the
gates at my request, refused to place her and her companion under
arrest. She got away with Mr. Stapleton's money. I believe, Monsieur
Lefevre, that you are being made a fool of by a member of your own
staff."

The Prefect leaned over, and picked up the package containing the money
which lay upon his desk. "I do not agree with you, my friend. Here is
Monsieur Stapleton's money."

Duvall started back in his chair, amazed. "Good Lord, Chief, am I losing
my senses? What is this affair, anyway, a joke?"

"Far from it, Monsieur Duvall. The criminals are still at large. The boy
is in their hands. We must recover him."

"But--this money--"

"I arranged to get it, in order to prevent Monsieur Stapleton from
making a fool of himself. I wish to capture these men--not to let them
blackmail him out of half a million francs."

"Had you not interfered, Monsieur Lefevre, they would have been in my
hands, by now. I would have had them safely the moment they attempted to
enter Paris. I knew their car."

The Prefect was filled with curiosity. "How?" he asked.

"My means of a device with which Mr. Stapleton's car was equipped, the
body of the one into which he threw the money was spattered with red
paint. I could have identified it anywhere."

"My dear Duvall! I feel that I should beg your pardon. Your plan was
cleverness itself, and I will admit that, had I not interfered, you
would in all probability have captured these men. I did not know what
you had done, of course. Yet in their escape I have one consolation. It
would have been extremely distasteful to me, to have had Mr. Stapleton
boast that a private detective in his employ had succeeded, where the
police of Paris had failed."

"Then it would appear, Monsieur," said Duvall somewhat stiffly, "that we
are, in this matter at least, in opposition."

"Let us rather say, my friend, in competition." He placed his hand on
Duvall's shoulder. "You must not blame me, if I feel a pride in my
office. When you were working for the city of Paris, you, too, felt
that pride. I am truly sorry that I have not the benefit of your
services now. However, I think you will admit, _mon ami_, that the young
woman who is handing this case is no mean adversary." The Prefect
regarded the detective with a quizzical smile, behind which his eyes
twinkled merrily.

"Who is this woman?" asked Duvall, quickly.

"Her name is--Goncourt--Estelle Goncourt."

"A Frenchwoman?"

"Partly. I believe her mother was English." The twinkle in his eye
spread--he smiled upon the detective with expansive good humor. "Why do
you ask?"

"You will think it strange, perhaps, Monsieur Lefevre, but when I first
saw Miss Goncourt, she reminded me strongly of my wife."

"Of Grace?"

"Yes. Have you not observed it?"

"Now that you speak of it, perhaps there is something similar in the
manner--the carriage. But your wife, my dear Duvall, is a blonde, while
Mademoiselle Goncourt is decidedly a brunette."

"Yes. Of course. But, nevertheless, the resemblance is striking." He
rose to go. "I hope, Monsieur, that this kidnapped boy may be restored
to his father very soon. I am anxious to return to America."

"What! Leave Paris so quickly? My dear Duvall, I thought you Americans
loved our city so well, that you never wanted to leave it."

"Paris is all right, Monsieur; but," he laughed heartily, "I must get
back to my wife and my farm. I was forced to leave in the very middle of
my spring plowing."

The Prefect roared. "You--a farmer! Mon Dieu! How droll! Potatoes, I
suppose, and chickens, and dogs, and pigs--"

"Exactly--and, believe me, Monsieur, they are more to my liking, than
all the gaieties of Paris. Some day you must make us a visit, and see
for yourself." He turned toward the door.

"I shall, Duvall, I shall. But first we have to find this boy. What do
you propose to do next?"

Duvall smiled. "What do you?" he retorted.

"A bottle of champagne, my friend, and a dinner at the Café Royale, that
we find the child before you do!"

"Done! Now I'll be off. Good night."

The Prefect was still laughing when Grace peeped in from the private
office, to find that Richard had gone. "I think it's a shame to treat
him so," she said. "The poor fellow! And he _would_ have gotten the
kidnappers, if we hadn't interfered."

Monsieur Lefevre picked up the package containing Mr. Stapleton's money
and placed it carefully in his safe. "Tomorrow you must return it to
him," he said. "And then, I would suggest that you keep a close watch
upon Mrs. Stapleton. My men have not been keeping her under
surveillance. We have had no suspicions of her whatever. She may, if she
is concerned in this matter, be imprudent enough to attempt to visit the
child."

"And if not?"

"Then watch François. If nothing comes of your efforts in either
direction, I fear that we must wait for the kidnappers to make the next
move. Of course there is Valentin--"

"Valentin is innocent."

"How do you know that?"

"I have watched him. He did everything in his power, tonight, to assist
me. Had he been in league with the kidnappers, he could, after he knew
that I had secured the money, easily have driven the car to some quiet
spot and taken it from me. I was waiting for some such move; but he, as
you know, did not attempt it. I am sure that he is doing his best to
assist us."

"In that event, perhaps you can induce him to tell you the secret of the
box of cigarettes. I feel sure that this knowledge would go far toward
solving the entire affair."

"I'll have a talk with him tomorrow."

"Good! And now, if you are ready, we will return home at once."

"Dear old Richard!" said Grace, as the Prefect helped her into his
automobile. "I wish I were with him tonight."

Lefevre smiled, and patted her hand. "So do I, my dear. But, remember,
you have only to find Mr. Stapleton's child, and you can return to your
chickens and your cows with the knowledge that you have done both his
parents and myself an inestimable service."



CHAPTER XI


It was close to eight o'clock next evening when Grace Duvall arrived at
Mr. Stapleton's house with the package containing the money.

She was accompanied, for safety, by two men from the Prefecture, who
escorted her to the door.

She had paid a previous visit to the house, during the forenoon; but Mr.
Stapleton was not at home, and she was informed that he would not return
until evening.

Mrs. Stapleton she saw again; but her talk with the latter resulted in
nothing. The poor lady was in utter despair, after the fiasco of the
night before, and spent the day in her rooms, weeping.

It was quite clear to Grace that her grief was very real. She made up
her mind that, whatever the mystery of the gold-tipped cigarettes, Mrs.
Stapleton had nothing to do with it. Nor had the chauffeur, Valentin,
been more communicative. He refused pointblank to explain the presence
of the cigarettes in his room, or the reason why Mary Lanahan had
written requesting him to destroy them. He said that it was a matter
which concerned only the nurse and himself, and assured Grace that an
answer to her questions would not assist in the least in recovering the
missing child.

Mr. Stapleton was awaiting her in the library when she entered. The
Prefect had telephoned him, advising him that the money was safe, and
would be returned to him at once. Beyond that, he knew nothing, except
what Duvall had told him the night before. Consequently he was in a
decidedly bad humor.

Grace laid the money on the table. "Here is your hundred thousand
dollars, Mr. Stapleton," she said.

The irate banker glared at her. "I cannot thank you for bringing it
back, Miss," he growled. "Did I not particularly request that the police
take no steps in the matter?"

"You did, Mr. Stapleton; but we acted for what we thought to be your
best interests."

"Hang your thoughts about my best interests! I can take care of them.
If you had let things alone, I'd have my boy back by now."

"And these men, these criminals, who stole him, would be at liberty to
do the same thing over again tomorrow."

Mr. Stapleton was silent for a moment. "How did the thing happen?" he
presently asked.

Grace told him. "The real cause of our failure, we believe, lies at the
door of your chauffeur, François." She explained the reasons for their
suspicions.

Mr. Stapleton seemed puzzled. "The fellow seems honest enough."

"Where is he now?" Grace inquired.

"He asked permission to visit his people. As I had no use for him this
evening, I told him he might go."

"Ah! In that event, we may learn something. He is being closely
watched."

As Grace spoke, a servant entered the room. "There is a gentleman to see
you, sir," he said to Mr. Stapleton.

"Who is it?"

"He would not give his name. He said his business was urgent."

"Where is he now?"

"In the reception room, sir."

Mr. Stapleton rose. "Excuse me a moment," he said, and went into the
adjoining room.

The library was separated from the reception room by a short passageway,
or alcove, in which hung a pair of heavy curtains. Grace sat quietly,
waiting for Mr. Stapleton to return. Suddenly she realized that she
could distinctly hear what was going on in the room adjoining. For a
moment she thought of going into the hall; then a word or two caught her
attention, and in a moment she was close to the curtains, listening
intently to a most remarkable conversation.

The man who had asked to see Mr. Stapleton stood in the reception room,
near a broad window overlooking the street without. He was tall and
somewhat heavily built; but what at once attracted Grace's attention was
his heavy black beard. She recognized him at once as the man who had
broken into Valentin's room to steal the cigarettes, and had later
driven the car which brought her back to Paris after her abduction.

He was speaking to Mr. Stapleton in a quiet and assured tone, as though
discussing a topic of no greater importance than the weather.

"Mr. Stapleton," he said, "I have your son in my possession. He is
quite safe. I gave you an opportunity to have him returned to you last
night; but you did not avail yourself of it."

"I did my best," exclaimed the astounded banker, mastering his desire to
take the fellow by the throat.

"That may be; yet my plans were interfered with. You did not carry out
my instructions."

"I did--to the letter."

The man frowned. "It is useless to discuss the matter now," he growled.
"I come to give you one more chance. It will be the last--"

"You damned scoundrel!"

The man with the black beard held up his hand. "It will avail nothing,
Monsieur," he said, calmly, "to excite yourself. If you want back your
boy, listen to what I have to say."

"Very well. Go ahead."

"First, I want no interference by the police, or by the man Duvall, who
is acting for you."

Mr. Stapleton drew back in astonishment. "How do you know that Mr.
Duvall is acting for me?" he said.

"It is my business to know, Monsieur. Let it suffice that I _do_ know.
If you hope ever to see your child again, you had better listen to what
I have to say, and carry out my instructions to the letter." His voice
was harsh, menacing.

Mr. Stapleton directed him by a gesture, to proceed. He was too angry to
speak.

"Tomorrow night at this hour--eight o'clock--I shall come here, to this
house, and ask for you. You will hand me a package containing one
hundred thousand dollars. I will examine the money here, and satisfy
myself that the amount is correct.

"I shall then leave the house, and walk to the Arc de Triomphe; which,
as you know, is but a short distance away. At the Arc de Triomphe, I
shall wait for an automobile, which will stop for me. In that automobile
I shall drive away. If I get away safely without interference, there
will be telephoned to your house, within half an hour, the address of
the place where your boy is to be found. If I do _not_ get away safely,
that address will _not_ be telephoned to you, and you will not see your
child alive again. This is your last chance, Monsieur. It is most
important, I assure you, that nothing should happen to prevent my safe
departure tomorrow night."

For a moment Grace was undecided as to how she should act. She feared
greatly, under the circumstances, to make any move which would endanger
the safety of Mr. Stapleton's child. Yet her duty, as an agent of the
police, was clear. She must use every effort to effect this man's
capture, before he left the house.

She knew that she could not reach the street without passing the door of
the reception room, in which case both Mr. Stapleton and his caller
would see her. There was nothing to do but telephone. She flew to a
small alcove room which opened off the rear of the library, in which she
knew the telephone instrument was located. Once in this small room, she
closed the door, for fear the others might overhear her, then called up
the Prefecture. Monsieur Lefevre was out; but she acquainted one of his
assistants with the circumstances, and requested him to send a man to
the house at once.

It would take at least ten minutes, perhaps more, for the man from the
Prefecture to reach the house even though he came by automobile, as he
no doubt would. What should she do, to keep the man in the reception
room from leaving before the police should arrive?

The question was solved for her, quite unexpectedly. In opening the
door of the small room, to re-enter the library, she accidentally struck
against a chair. The sound aroused both Mr. Stapleton and his visitor.
The former, who had, in his excitement, completely forgotten Grace's
presence, appeared at once in the doorway between the two rooms. "Come
here, Miss Goncourt," he said sternly.

Grace entered the reception room. The man with the black beard eyed her
keenly. "Ah--a representative of the police, I believe. Our conversation
has been overheard, then, Monsieur Stapleton?"

The banker was violently angry. He turned to Grace. "You have heard?" he
demanded.

"Yes."

"Then I insist that you do not interfere in the matter in any way. I
intend to get my boy back this time, in spite of you all."

Grace made no reply. She saw the man with the black beard eying her
keenly. "I think, Monsieur, that I had better go," he remarked.

Grace regarded him with a level look. "You cannot leave this house," she
said. "It is being watched. If you attempt to do so, I will give the
alarm."

"And for what reason should I stay?" the man inquired calmly.

"I have telephoned to the Prefecture. A man will be here in a few
minutes, to place you under arrest. I advise you to remain here quietly
until he arrives."

The kidnapper strolled over to the window which overlooked the Avenue
Kleber, drew aside the curtain, and looked out. Grace wondered if he was
making a signal of any sort to confederates outside. He gazed into the
street intently for a moment, then turned back toward the center of the
room. "I shall follow your advice, Mademoiselle, and wait," he remarked,
calmly.

Mr. Stapleton was speechless with rage. He dared not do anything; for he
knew that he would only lay himself open to a charge of resisting the
police, and helping a criminal to escape. He sat in his chair, inwardly
cursing Grace and the entire police force of Paris as well.

None of the three spoke for a considerable time. After what seemed to
Grace ages, she heard the faint ringing of the doorbell, and presently
the frightened servant arrived, with the information that a detective
from the Prefecture was in the hall, and desired to see Mr. Stapleton
immediately. He had scarcely succeeded in delivering this message, when
a heavily built man in citizen's clothes shouldered past him into the
room.

He gazed quickly about. Grace did not remember having ever seen him
before. "I am from the Prefect of Police," he announced, striding toward
the kidnapper. "I am here to arrest this man." In a moment the click of
the handcuffs, as he snapped them upon the wrists of the man with the
black beard, came to Grace's ears.

The kidnapper smiled pleasantly. "I am quite ready to accompany you, my
friend," he said.

Mr. Stapleton was regarding the scene in helpless rage. He resented
bitterly the way in which the police continually interfered with his
plans to get back his child. In one way, he was glad to feel that the
guilty man was under arrest; but, if it resulted in the death of the
missing boy, it would be a tragedy, indeed. He turned to the man with
the black beard who stood, smiling, near the door. "I hope you will
understand," he said, "that I have nothing to do with this
matter--nothing whatever. The presence of this woman here was a pure
accident. I had forgotten that she was in the next room. I'd be glad
enough to see you put behind the bars for the rest of your life; but
not if it is going to prevent me from getting back my child."

The man with the black beard continued to smile pleasantly. "I believe
you, my friend," he said. "However, there is no harm done. When I return
tomorrow night--for I shall return, depend upon it, in spite of the
efforts of this gentleman," he waved his hand lightly toward the man
from the Prefecture, "I trust that you will have persuaded Monsieur
Lefevre, and your man Duvall as well, to let me do so in peace. It is
the only way in which anything can be accomplished--I assure you of
that." He turned to his captor. "I am ready to accompany you, Monsieur."

The officer started toward the door leading into the hall. He had taken
but a single step when the servant, with a frightened look upon his
face, appeared in the doorway. "Mr. Stapleton," he stammered, "there is
a man here from the office of the Prefect of Police."

Stapleton strode toward the door. "Another?" he exclaimed. "What does
this mean?"

The man in charge of the kidnapper stepped forward, speaking in a quick,
low tone. "Leave the matter to me, Monsieur," he whispered. "This
fellow who has just arrived is an impostor, a confederate. He pretends
to be an agent of the police, in order to rescue his comrade, who has
undoubtedly signaled to him from the window. Be good enough to step into
that room," he pointed to the library, "and let me deal with him."

Mr. Stapleton hesitated. "What do you propose to do?" he asked.

"Quick!" said the other, offering no explanations. "He will be here at
once." He turned to the astonished servant. "Bring the man in."

The puzzled banker moved toward the adjoining room. "You will accompany
him, please," the Prefect's man said to Grace. "There may be danger."

"I am not afraid, Monsieur," replied Grace, who did not entirely like
the way things were going.

The man, however, paid no attention to her remonstrances. "Go--at once,
I command you, in the name of the law!"

She hesitated no longer, but followed Mr. Stapleton into the library. As
she did so, the new arrival entered the reception room.

The man with the black beard stood to one side of the doorway. His
captor advanced toward the newcomer. "I have him here," he exclaimed,
pointing to the kidnapper, "safely ironed."

"Who are you?" curtly inquired the man who had just entered the room.

"A private detective. Here is your man. Let us get him out of here at
once."

The official made no reply, but stepped quickly up to the man with the
black beard. "Come along with me," he said, roughly, and placed his hand
upon the other's arm.

As he did so, the kidnapper shook his wrists briskly. The handcuffs fell
clattering to the floor. Without a word he threw his powerful arms about
the neck of the astonished official, and throttled him into instant
silence. His companion, no less quick, whipped out a handkerchief, and
knotted it about the official's mouth. He was unable to utter a sound.

The whole thing was so quickly done that Grace, who was watching the
room through the curtains in the doorway, had barely time to utter a
cry, before the newcomer was lying helpless and silent upon the floor,
choked into insensibility; while the two men, quite evidently
confederates, made ready to go.

The black-bearded fellow quickly replaced the handcuffs upon his own
wrists. "Quick, Ramond," he cried. "Let us get out at once."

Grace was by this time in the room. She knew that she must in some way
prevent these men from escaping. But how--how? They glared at her
ominously. The younger man drew a revolver. Before any of them could
speak, the servant appeared in the doorway for the third time. His face
was pale as death. His knees knocked together from terror as he beheld
the gleaming revolver, the man lying upon the floor.

"Monsieur Duvall is here!" he gasped, and stood silent.

The man on the floor, recovering his senses, began to struggle to his
feet. As he did so, Duvall pushed his way past the frightened servant
and strode into the room.

"Quick, Monsieur Duvall!" the fellow with the revolver cried. "I am from
the Prefecture. I have one of the kidnappers in irons. The other," he
pointed to the struggling man on the floor, "is about to escape me. Give
me your assistance at once!"

Grace was so astounded by the sudden entrance of her husband, as well as
by the kidnapper's words, that for a moment she remained speechless.
Duvall bent over the man upon the floor and seized him by the throat.

"Richard! Richard!" Grace screamed, forgetful of Monsieur Lefevre and
her own disguise. "Look out!"

Almost before the words had left her lips, the man with the revolver
brought it down with a dull thud upon Duvall's head as he bent over the
prostrate man; then, grasping his companion by the arm, he rushed from
the room.

"Richard! Richard!" screamed Grace, throwing her arms about the
senseless body of her husband.

Mr. Stapleton, who had entered the room, regarded her in amazement.
"What are you doing?" he exclaimed.

Grace rose, her face white with suffering. "A doctor, quick! He is hurt!
My God--don't you see? He is hurt!" As she spoke, she fell back,
fainting, to the floor.



CHAPTER XII


When Richard Duvall returned to consciousness, an hour later, he lay
upon a couch in Mr. Stapleton's library. A doctor, hastily summoned, was
bending over him. Mr. Stapleton sat grimly in an arm chair. There was no
one else in the room.

"My wife! Is she here?" the detective cried, as he tried to rise.

The doctor pushed him gently back. "Compose yourself, Monsieur," he said
in a soothing voice. "You are not badly hurt. Merely stunned for the
moment. A slight cut--that is all. You will be quite yourself again in
half an hour."

"But my wife!" He gazed eagerly about the room.

"What do you mean, Duvall?" inquired Mr. Stapleton, calmly. "Why do you
think your wife is here?"

"A trace of delirium. He will be all right in a few moments. Very usual
in such cases," the doctor whispered.

"I heard her voice. She called to me by name, just as that fellow struck
me."

"My dear sir, your mind is wandering. Compose yourself, I beg." The
doctor attempted to press his patient back upon the pillows.

Duvall passed his hand over his forehead, completely bewildered. "I
could have sworn I heard her voice," he cried.

"It was Miss Goncourt, the young woman from the Prefecture, that you
heard, Duvall," remarked Mr. Stapleton quietly. He did not tell the
detective that Grace, on recovering from her faint, and learning from
the doctor that Richard's wound was a superficial one only, and not at
all serious, had sworn them both to secrecy, on the plea that the matter
was a purely private one, and likely to cause her great unhappiness if
divulged. Mr. Stapleton had agreed, but had done so only upon her
agreeing not to acquaint the police with his plans for the following
night.

She had suddenly conceived a violent animosity toward these fellows who
had not only baffled both her husband and herself, but had made the
former a victim of a dangerous assault. She was determined to go to
work in desperate earnest, to capture them, or locate the child, before
the following evening. She had promised Mr. Stapleton not to acquaint
Monsieur Lefevre with the plan for returning the child which the man
with the black beard had proposed. The situation put her on her mettle.
She determined to get at the bottom of the whole affair before another
twenty-four hours had passed. Upon leaving the house she called a
taxicab, and at once ordered the chauffeur to drive her to the point on
the Versailles road where, according to Valentin, she had been placed in
the automobile after her interview with the kidnappers. Here, she
believed, lay the starting point of the whole mysterious affair.

Duvall, his consciousness returning, insisted upon getting up from the
couch, and going to work with equal determination. The way in which he
had been checkmated, in the whole affair, roused him, as well, to
desperation. His professional skill, upon which the banker had set such
great store, seemed to have deserted him. He felt humiliated, ashamed.
In three days, he had accomplished nothing whatever. It was galling in
the extreme.

Mr. Stapleton's explanations of his hallucination regarding his wife he
accepted as true. The resemblance which Miss Goncourt bore to Grace,
together with his constant thoughts of her, were, he argued, no doubt
responsible for it. The blow upon the head made his recollections of the
moments immediately preceding and following the assault extremely hazy.
He put the matter out of his mind, and set to work with renewed energy.

So far, it seemed, he had met with but a single clue of any
importance,--the cigarette with the gold tip which he had found in the
Bois de Boulogne. He determined to follow this clue until he arrived at
some definite result.

As soon as the doctor had departed after dressing the wound in his head,
Duvall took a stiff drink of brandy, and, sitting down with Mr.
Stapleton at the latter's desk, began to reconstruct, as far as he
could, all the details of the kidnapping. He spoke his thoughts aloud,
taking Mr. Stapleton into his confidence, since in this way he could
most readily get his ideas into concrete form.

"Mr. Stapleton, I am, I confess, greatly humiliated at the progress, or
lack of progress, which I have made in this case so far. I have made up
my mind, however, to get these fellows, if it takes me the rest of the
summer."

"You will have to work more quickly than that, Mr. Duvall," observed the
banker coldly. "I have made arrangements to recover my child by tomorrow
night."

"You are going to buy these rascals off, then?"

"Yes."

"How?"

"I decline to say. I've had enough interference with my plans already.
Neither you nor the police have accomplished anything. Miss Goncourt
knows what I propose to do; but she has given me her word not to
interfere. If you are to accomplish anything, it must be before eight
o'clock tomorrow night."

"Very well. I will make my plans accordingly."

"What do you propose to do?"

"That I cannot say, at the moment. I think, however, that I shall first
try to find out who it is that smokes these gold-tipped cigarettes." He
drew the fragment of cigarette which he had found from his pocket, and
placing it on the desk before him regarded it critically.

Mr. Stapleton gave a grunt. "What are they, Exquisites?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

The banker laughed. "Easy enough. My wife smokes them."

The detective looked up quickly. "Indeed! Brings them from America with
her, I suppose."

"Yes."

Duvall began mentally to check off, in his mind, the various persons who
might have used the cigarette which lay before him. Valentin, he now
believed, was out of the question. His presence in the automobile, with
Grace, the night before, indicated that he had nothing to do with the
kidnappers.

There remained Mrs. Stapleton. Duvall had talked with her--seen her
grief. He was too shrewd a judge of human nature to think for a moment
that it was assumed.

Who else? Suddenly an idea flashed into his mind. He wondered that he
had not thought of it before. The nurse! He recalled vividly the marks
he had observed on the dresser in the woman's room in New York.

"Is Mary Lanahan in the house?" he inquired of Stapleton.

"Yes. Why?"

"Kindly have her come here."

Mr. Stapleton pressed a button on his desk in silence. In a few moments,
the nurse had been brought to the room by one of the other servants. She
was haggard with grief and fear.

Duvall requested her to be seated, and began to ask her a number of
apparently unimportant questions regarding the kidnapping.

She answered them frankly enough, although it was clear that she was
very ill at ease.

Presently Duvall got up, and, calling Mr. Stapleton to one side, asked
him, in a low tone, to detain the nurse in the library for a few
moments. He wished to search her room.

"But it has already been thoroughly searched by the police."

"I know. But I must search it again. It will require but a few moments."

Stapleton nodded. "I will wait for you here, Mr. Duvall," he said.
"Mary, you will wait, as well."

The nurse's room was on the third floor, in a rear building. Duvall
found it, after some slight difficulty, with the assistance of one of
the other servants.

He seemed, on entering the room, to have but one object in view. He went
at once to the mantel, and, taking from it the two small bottle-shaped
vases which stood upon it, shook them both vigorously. A faint rattling
sound came from the second. He turned it upside down upon the palm of
his hand, and there tumbled out a quantity of ashes, and the butts of
several partly smoked cigarettes. With a quiet smile he replaced them in
the vase, and returned to the library.

"Mary, you may go now," he said.

When the woman had gone, he turned to Mr. Stapleton. "It was Mary
Lanahan herself who smoked the cigarette which I found in the grass," he
said.

"Well, what of it?" The matter seemed to the banker to be utterly
without significance.

"She had, no doubt, stolen them from Mrs. Stapleton."

"Very likely. Not a very serious matter, however."

"No. But the question now arises, Why did she turn the box over to
Valentin, and subsequently ask him to destroy it?"

"I cannot imagine."

"And why, later, were these cigarettes stolen from Valentin, as I
understand they were?"

"It's too much for me. What do you make of it?"

"I have a theory, Mr. Stapleton; but I cannot say just what it is--yet.
By the way, where is your man, François, tonight?"

"He is visiting his people, somewhere in the suburbs."

"Ah! Then I would like to search his room, as well."

"Go ahead. You will find nothing, I fear. The police have gone over it
with a fine-tooth comb." He rose. "Come along, I'll go with you."

The room occupied by the chauffeur was at the very top of the house,
with two windows opening through the slanting mansard roof. One of
these, Duvall noted, commanded a view over the houses adjoining toward
the north, beyond which could be seen the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. A
second window, toward the south, commanded an extensive view toward
Passy.

Mr. Stapleton, puffing because of the unaccustomed stairs, sat down upon
the bed. "I cannot imagine what you hope to find here, Duvall," he
grumbled.

The detective made no reply, but began a systematic inspection of the
room. One of the first objects which attracted his attention was an
ordinary electric searchlight, of the pocket variety, lying on the man's
dresser. He picked it up, and examined it carefully.

"I got it for François," observed Mr. Stapleton, "so that he could
examine the car, at night, in case of any accident or repair."

"Of course. Very useful, too. But why, I wonder, does he keep it here in
his room, instead of in the garage?"

"Possibly to light himself up the stairs, at night," said Stapleton.

"Then I should think he would have it with him," remarked Duvall, dryly.
"Wouldn't be of much use to him tonight, for instance." He was about to
put the thing down, when his attention was attracted by two objects,
hanging one on each side of the dresser, from its two uprights. They
were apparently Christmas tree ornaments, made of thin glass, and they
hung from the back of the dresser by means of two bits of ribbon.

They seemed at first glance to be merely souvenirs of some party, some
entertainment, which the chauffeur had preserved as mementos of the
occasion. They were shaped like little cups, with a paper fringe about
the top, to which the gay ribbons were attached. Duvall had seen such
ornaments often before, at Christmas time. They were intended to be hung
from the tree by their ribbons, and were filled with small candies or
bonbons. He had almost passed them by, when something in their colors
caused him to pause. One was a deep blue, the other an equally deep red.
He examined the wooden uprights of the dresser with great care. All
along the top of the dresser at its back was a heavy coating of dust.
The top of the uprights, over which the loops of ribbon which supported
the little baskets had been passed, contained no dust whatever.

Evidently the baskets had been taken down, and that too quite recently.
For what purpose? he wondered. Suddenly he had an inspiration. He took
down the little blue basket, and quickly placed it over the end of the
searchlight. It fitted perfectly, the paper collar at its top holding
the glass hemisphere snugly in place.

Mr. Stapleton was watching Duvall without particular interest. Suddenly
the detective pointed the searchlight toward him and pressed the button
which threw on the current. Mr. Stapleton started back, as his face was
flooded with a beam of brilliant blue light.

Duvall replaced the little basket in the same position in which he had
found it, and laid the searchlight upon the dresser. "Rather neat, isn't
it?" he exclaimed.

"What do you make of it?" asked the banker.

"Your man François evidently is in the habit of making signals," the
detective replied, laughing. He was beginning to feel hopeful. The
search of the two rooms was bearing fruit.

For the next half-hour, Duvall went over the contents of the chauffeur's
room with the utmost care. He removed and replaced, just as he found
them, the contents of the dresser drawers. He opened a small wooden
trunk which stood at one side of the room, and examined its contents
minutely. He explored the closet, looked behind the pictures, sounded
the walls. Nothing further of an unusual nature rewarded his efforts.
Still he seemed unsatisfied.

"What more can you hope to find, Mr. Duvall?" inquired the banker, who
had begun to find the proceedings tiresome.

The detective stood in the center of the room, and glanced about in some
perplexity. "I had hoped to find one thing more," he said; "but I am
afraid it isn't here."

Suddenly he strode over to the mantel, upon which stood a small
nickel-plated alarm clock of American make.

"This clock doesn't seem to be going," he remarked, then whipped out his
magnifying glass and carefully studied the brass handle which projected
from the back, by which it was wound up. "It hasn't been wound for
several days, either. The back is covered with dust." He picked up the
clock and tried to wind it; but the handle resisted his efforts.

In an instant he took out his knife, and a moment later was removing the
screws which held the metal back of the clock in place.

Mr. Stapleton watched him curiously. Duvall's methods savored, to him,
of the accepted sleuth of fiction. He took little stock in the tiny
clues upon which the whole modern science of criminology is built.

In a few moments the detective had removed the screws and lifted out the
rear plate of the clock. As he did so, he gave a grunt of satisfaction.
A small pasteboard box fell out upon the mantel.

"What is it?" asked Stapleton.

"The box of cigarettes," remarked Duvall, as he opened it. "There are
three missing. I shall take a fourth." He selected one of the
paper-covered tubes, placed it within his pocketbook, then thrust the
box back into the clock, and rapidly replaced the metal plate.

"I don't think there is anything further to be done here, Mr.
Stapleton," he remarked. "I think I'll be getting along to my room.
Tomorrow I shall be quite busy."

He stopped for a moment, on his way out, to glance from the window which
faced toward the north. Between the buildings and trees ran the Avenue
du Bois de Boulogne, its course illuminated by many street lamps, and
the flashing lights of passing motor cars. Duvall gazed intently at the
scene before him for a few moments, then turned to the door, and,
accompanied by Mr. Stapleton, descended the stairs.

As he was about to leave the house, the banker, who evidently had
something on his mind, stopped him.

"Mr. Duvall," he said, earnestly, "I would like very much to know what
you intend to do."

"I'm going to catch these fellows, if I possibly can," the detective
replied, earnestly.

"What steps do you propose to take?"

"I cannot exactly say--yet. Why do you ask?"

"I'll tell you. The fellow who was here tonight, the one with the black
beard, is coming to see me tomorrow night, at eight o'clock. I cannot
tell you more than that. I did not intend to tell you that much--but I
am obliged to do so."

"Obliged! Why?"

"Because I want your promise that you will make no attempt to stop him.
If I had said nothing, you might have watched the house, and, upon
recognizing the fellow as the one who was here tonight, have placed him
under arrest. I want you to do nothing to interfere with either his
coming or his going. He will be safe, after he once leaves the Arc de
Triomphe in his automobile."

"But the police?"

"They know nothing of the matter. Miss Goncourt has given me her word to
remain silent. She has even agreed to have the men on watch about the
house withdrawn. Both you and the police may do your best to catch this
man, after I have carried out my compact with him; but until then I
want you to keep your hands off."

Duvall was silent for a moment. "Very well, Mr. Stapleton, I shall do as
you say. In fact, to assure you that I am carrying out your wishes, I
will agree to remain here with you, at the house, throughout the
evening."

"Good! I shall expect you. Good night."

"Good night." Duvall left the house, and went at once to his hotel.

Here, a few moments later, he seated himself in an easy chair, and
taking from his pocket the cigarette which he had secured in the
chauffeur's room, regarded it critically.

After some little time, he took a match from a box upon a nearby table,
and, placing the gold tip of the cigarette between his lips, carefully
lit it.

He drew the smoke into his lungs, inhaling it deeply. Once--twice--three
times he repeated the operation, then threw himself back into his chair,
and, closing his eyes, sat buried in thought. In his preoccupation, he
allowed the end of the cigarette to fall unheeded to the floor.

After many minutes he opened his eyes and started up. "I've got it!" he
cried, and, picking up the half-burned cigarette from the floor, threw
it carelessly into the fireplace.

Then he sat down at his table, drew out a sheet of paper and a map of
the city of Paris, and began to make a series of drawings and
calculations that occupied him far into the night.



CHAPTER XIII


It was nearly ten o'clock when the taxicab containing Grace Duvall
stopped alongside the road, at a point some four miles beyond the city,
in the direction of Versailles. She had been unable to give the driver
the exact location at which she desired to be put down, but had directed
him to drive on until she told him to stop.

The spot was quite familiar to her, owing to the hours she had spent in
the vicinity with the searching party the day before.

The taxicab driver seemed rather surprised to see her alight at this
somewhat lonely spot; but he shrugged his shoulders with true Parisian
indifference, pocketed the tip she gave him, and drove rapidly off in
the darkness.

Left to herself by the roadside, Grace began to fear that she had, after
all, done a rather foolish thing. Now that she was here, she hardly knew
how to begin.

All about her she saw the dark outlines of cottages among the trees,
with here and there a straggling light which betokened some household
late in getting to bed. The country people in this vicinity--growers of
flowers and vegetables or dairymen for the most part--were asleep with
their cows about the time that Paris began to dine.

Occasionally the silence about her was broken by the mournful howling of
a dog; but otherwise all was still.

The night was cloudless, and the lightening of the sky toward the east
told her that before long a moon would rise above the trees.

Near the road she found a little rustic bench, and upon this she sat
down to think.

The howling of the dog had suggested to her mind a possible clue to the
house within which Mr. Stapleton's boy had been, for a time at least,
confined. She could remember nothing of the garden, and but little of
the room in which she had been confined; but the dog, playing upon the
grass with the child, had fixed itself in her memory. She recollected
distinctly that he was a poodle, mostly black, with fine curling hair,
like astrakhan fur, and a pointed nose.

There were many dogs of this sort, she well knew, and yet there was one
peculiarity which had impressed itself upon her memory, which would
inevitably serve to identify this particular dog, should she ever see
him again. His long and bushy tail, black for the most part like the
rest of his body, terminated in a plume of white hair.

It was a most unusual marking in a French poodle. She had never seen it
before, and she was a great lover of dogs, and knew them thoroughly. It
was this fact, no doubt, which had caused her to notice the animal, at a
time when her mind was filled with matters of vastly greater importance.

She had sought carefully for such a dog, on the occasion of the previous
search, but had not found him. The tale about the escaped cobra had
caused the country folk to lock up their pets without loss of time.

Now she hoped to find this dog, and through him discover the location of
the house in which she had been confined. After that--well, she would do
the best she could.

It occurred to her that she was not at all likely to discover the
whereabouts of the black poodle by sitting here on a bench; yet she
dared not start out until the moon had risen sufficiently high to light
up her way.

In about an hour, the rim of the golden disk showed itself above the
treetops, and a little later the black shadows about her began to grow
luminous, and resolve themselves into white-walled cottages, hedges, and
outbuildings of various sorts.

A narrow lane ran off from the main road, bordered on each side by
lindens and poplars.

Along this lane the houses of the little hamlet were set, some near the
road, others quite a distance back. She rose, and began to walk slowly
along the lane.

As she had expected, dogs of various sorts and sizes, to judge by their
voices, began barking as soon as she came opposite the first house. A
small fox terrier ran through the gateway of a garden, yelping sharply.
The deep-toned baying of a hound sounded farther up the street. A small
white poodle, and a black one of the same size, ran after her, as she
went along, making friendly attempts to play. The one she sought,
however, seemed nowhere in evidence.

The lane ascended a gently sloping hill, at the top of which stood a
house, somewhat larger than the others, whose outbuildings and pastures
proclaimed it to be a dairy farm. There was a hedge of roses along the
roadside, and a little wooden gate.

Grace heard a sharp bark on the other side of the gate as she passed it,
and, stopping, glanced over. In the shadow stood a black poodle; but
whether his tail showed the markings for which she sought she was unable
to tell on account of the darkness. She gave the gate a gentle push, and
it slowly opened. The dog ran out into the road. As he crossed a patch
of moonlight, she saw that her search was ended. This, she was
convinced, was the dog--and the house!

Her next problem was how to get inside. Try as she would, she could
think of no excuse which would adequately account for her presence in
this little frequented locality at such a time of night. That the
occupants of the house had long ago retired was evidenced by the
blackness of the windows, the silence which brooded over the whole
place.

She looked about her. Just across the lane from the little gate a
building loomed formless against a shadowy clump of trees. She went
over to it, and found that it was a small shed. The door stood open.
Inside stood a tumbledown old wagon, dust covered, and quite evidently
unused for a long time. The shelter of the shed seemed grateful--as
though she had arrived somewhere, instead of being a wanderer in the
night.

There seemed nothing to do, now, but wait for daylight. She climbed into
the creaking wagon and sat upon the seat. There was a back to it, which,
like the seat, was covered with old and torn velveteen. She leaned back
in the shadow and closed her eyes. Her walk, the night air, had made her
tired. In the distance she heard, after a long time, the faint booming
of a bell. She looked at her watch. It was midnight.

The next thing that Grace remembered was the loud barking of a dog. She
sat up, feeling stiff and cold. Her neck and left shoulder ached
painfully. A glance through the open door of the shed told her that it
was still night; but there was a gray radiance in the air, a soft pale
light, that betokened the coming of dawn.

She crept stiffly down from the wagon, and again consulted her watch. It
marked the hour of four. Through a dusty window in the side of the shed
she saw the eastern sky, rose streaked and bright, heralding the sun.

As the light increased, she saw the dog that had disturbed her sleep
running about on the grass in front of the house opposite. The house
seemed much nearer, in the daylight, than it had appeared at night. She
examined the dog closely. The white tip of his tail, waving gaily in the
morning light, showed her that it was the one she had sought.

She crouched in the dim shadow of the half-open door and watched the
scene before her. There was a man, moving about among the small
buildings to the right. She heard him performing some task--she could
not at first make out what. Presently the lowing of cattle, the rattle
of a bucket, as it was drawn up by a creaking windlass, told her that
the man was tending his cows.

Quite half an hour later she saw him going toward the house, a pail,
evidently well filled, in each hand.

Then ensued another long silence. The curling wisp of smoke from the
chimney of the cottage indicated breakfast, and Grace suddenly realized
that she felt cold, and hungry. For the first time in her life she
realized how important one's breakfast is, in beginning the day.

Presently the man reappeared and went toward a small building which
Grace took to be the barn. She could see him clearly now; for the sun
had risen above the trees and lit up the whole scene brilliantly. He was
a small, wizened man, with gray hair and a slight stoop. She was quite
certain that she had never seen him before.

He went to the barn, and she saw that he was engaged in harnessing a
horse, which he presently attached to a farm wagon. She noted the wagon
particularly. It was a low two-wheeled affair, with a dingy canvas top.
A large patch in the canvas showed yellow-white in the sunlight. The
horse was white.

In a little while the man began to put in the cart a variety of objects
which he brought from the barn. They appeared to be baskets of
vegetables or fruit, and cans of milk. Presently he stopped, and went
toward the house. In a few minutes he returned. This time a woman was
with him. They carried between them a large wicker basket, which
appeared to be quite heavy. There was a top on the basket. Grace
wondered if it could be filled with laundry.

The couple placed the basket in the wagon, putting it in from the front,
so that it occupied a position close beside the driver. In getting it up
over the wheel the woman let her end of it slip, and the man cursed her
with such sudden sharpness that Grace was startled and crouched back
into the shed. She wondered what the basket could contain, that made the
man so careful, and the thought came to her, might it not be Mr.
Stapleton's boy?

The idea possessed her completely. As the man drove out into the lane,
and rattled down the hill toward the main road, she suddenly realized
that she must follow; yet how could she hope to do so, on foot? The
woman had gone back into the house. Regardless of consequences, Grace
ran out into the lane, and after the wagon at full speed.

When she reached the main road the vehicle had already turned into it
and was some distance away, headed for Paris, at a speed which, slow for
a horse, was still much faster than she could possibly walk.

She looked up and down the road helplessly. There were several other
wagons approaching, all going in the same direction--cityward. She
realized that they were country people, farmers, taking their vegetables
and flowers to the markets.

The first one to reach her was driven by a buxom-looking young woman,
wearing a plaid shawl. Grace hailed her. "Will you be so good, Madame,
as to take me to Paris?"

The woman glanced at her shrewdly. "I have a heavy load, Mademoiselle,"
she replied. Her voice was cold, uninterested.

"I will pay you five francs--"

The words had barely left Grace's lips, before the woman had pulled up
her horse. "Five francs, Mademoiselle? That is another matter. Get in."

Grace clambered up beside the woman and glanced down the road ahead. The
canvas-covered wagon was still in sight--mounting a hill some three or
four hundred yards ahead.

The woman looked at her curiously, noting her dress, her hands, her
shoes. "You are not of the country, Mademoiselle," she remarked,
pleasantly.

"No. I belong in Paris." She turned to her companion. "I should like to
return there as quickly as possible."

"My Susette does not care to go above a walk," the woman remarked,
gazing at her horse, plodding along with mechanical steps, as though
utterly unconcerned as to whether or not they ever reached Paris. The
wagon ahead was now out of sight, over the brow of the hill.

"Would you like to make a louis?" Grace took a gold piece from her purse
and held it in the sunlight. It glistened brightly.

The woman drew back, regarding her companion suspiciously. "A louis? Who
would not? What do you mean, Mademoiselle?"

"There is a wagon ahead of us, a canvas-covered wagon, with a white
horse. I am following it. If you will keep that wagon in sight until we
get to Paris, I will give you this louis."

She turned the gold piece about, making it sparkle in the sun. The woman
glanced first at her face, then more carefully at the coin, then,
reaching over, took it in her fingers, and raised it to her mouth. Grace
wondered what she was about to do. In a moment she had sunk her teeth
into it, then returned it to her companion. "It shall be as you say,
Mademoiselle," she exclaimed as she pulled in the reins. "Allons,
Susette!"

The horse, evidently awakened from his morning dreams, started forward
with a suddenness which almost precipitated Grace from her seat. The
trees along the roadside began to fly past them. In ten minutes they
were close behind the canvas-covered wagon, now moving along at a brisk
pace.

When they reached the fortifications, the two wagons were separated by
not more than a dozen feet. Grace's companion glanced at her sharply.
"From here I go to Grennelle, Mademoiselle," she exclaimed.

Grace looked at the wagon ahead. "Follow it, please," she said. "I will
give you another five francs."

The woman obeyed in silence. The wagon in front of them headed off
toward the northwest, going in the direction of Passy. Before a great
while it crossed the Pont de Passy, turned into the Rue Nicolo, and came
to a stop before a small brick house, standing in a little garden.

Grace jumped down at the corner, after giving the woman the louis and
the additional five francs. "Thank you," she said, and started slowly up
the street.

The wagon with the canvas cover stood quietly alongside the curb. The
old man who drove it had approached the door of the house, and was
ringing the bell.

Presently one of the windows on the top floor was thrown open, and a
man's head was thrust out. Grace could not see his face clearly. He
looked down at the man at the door, who at the same time looked up. The
window was instantly closed, and a few moments later the door of the
house opened and the man came out.

He stood talking with the driver in low tones for a few moments. Grace
had walked on up the street, fearing to attract attention. Looking back,
she saw that the two men were gazing after her. She dared not turn her
head again, but at the next corner turned into a cross street. Then she
stopped, and cautiously peered around the corner. The two men had gone
to the wagon and were lifting out the large basket. A few moments later
they disappeared with it into the house.

After a time, the old man returned with the basket in his hands. From
the way he carried it Grace could see that it was empty. He tossed it
carelessly into the wagon, mounted the seat, and drove off.

Grace looked at her watch. It was half past seven. She felt cold and
hungry, and determined to get something to eat at once. A little pastry
cook's shop and restaurant on the opposite side of the street attracted
her attention, and she crossed over, entered, and ordered rolls and
coffee. She could see the windows of the house into which the two men
had carried the basket, from where she sat.

She scarcely knew what to do next. It seemed almost certain that Mr.
Stapleton's child was in the house across the way, and yet--it was
merely an intuition, a guess, which might turn out to be entirely wrong.
Yet she feared to go away, not knowing at what moment the child, if he
was indeed there, might be taken elsewhere, and the clue hopelessly
lost.

She finished her rolls and coffee, taking as much time to consume them
as she could. She had just made up her mind to go, when the door of the
house across the street opened, and a man came out. He was dark, and
heavily built, and dressed in the costume affected by artists. He headed
directly for the pastry shop, and Grace realized that he was about to
enter it.

She turned her face away, fearing lest he might have noticed her, as she
walked up the street. He did not even glance in her direction, however,
but went at once to a counter at the rear of the place.

The proprietor came up to him with a smile, rubbing his hands together
cheerily. "Ah! Monsieur Durand. Up early this morning, I see. What can I
do for you?"

She did not catch the other's reply, nor did she dare to glance at his
face. She shrank back into her corner, and, picking up a newspaper which
lay in the window sill, began to read.

The new customer remained but a few moments. When he left, Grace saw
that he carried a large paper bag with him, which appeared to contain
rolls or bread.

He again entered the house, but this time remained inside but a few
moments. A little later she left the shop, and watched him as he
disappeared down the street.

For half an hour she walked about, wondering whether she should
telephone Monsieur Lefevre now, or wait until she had made certain that
the whole affair was, after all, not a wild goose chase. Suddenly she
was seized with a new determination. She went boldly up to the house,
and rang the bell.

In a few moments a sleepy-looking maid opened the door, eying Grace with
lazy indifference.

"I wish to see Monsieur Durand," the latter said.

"He's out."

"Then I must wait. I am a model. He instructed me to come at eight
o'clock, and to wait until he returned."

The girl shrugged her shoulders, and pointed to the stairs. "Top floor
front," she grumbled, and turned away.

Grace lost no time in getting up the stairs. To her surprise, the door
of the studio, upon which was a card bearing Monsieur Durand's name, was
unlocked. She pushed her way boldly in, and looked about. The room was
scantily furnished, and contained little besides a couple of modeling
stands, several large plaster figures and casts, two chairs, and a
couch, evidently used as a bed. At the rear of the room was a closet.
She turned to it and threw it open. It contained only an assortment of
clothes.

She felt completely baffled. There was no possible place, here, in which
the child she was seeking could be hidden. Evidently she had been on
the wrong track. And yet--what had the wicker basket contained?

Suddenly she stopped, quivering with excitement. From somewhere in the
room--she could not tell where--there came a low sobbing sound, as of a
child, crying to itself. It vibrated throughout the room, at one moment
close to her ears, the next far off, intangible, like a whispered echo.
She stood, listening, every nerve tense with excitement, and still that
low sobbing went on, coming from nowhere, evanescent as a dream.

The thing seemed unreal, horrifying. She gazed about helpless. Then she
heard the front door of the house suddenly slam, followed by the sound
of heavy footsteps on the stairs.



CHAPTER XIV.


Richard Duvall rose, the following day, with a less troubled mind than
at any time since his arrival in Paris.

His calculations of the night before had brought him to a definite
conclusion.

After breakfasting in the café of the hotel he returned to his room, and
rang up Monsieur Lefevre.

"I want the assistance of one of your men, Monsieur," he said.

"Ah!" laughed the Prefect. "You are--what you Americans call--up a tree,
is it not?"

"Not at all. You have said that there existed between us a competition,
to recover Mr. Stapleton's child. I think I am going to win. But since I
am not in a position to make the necessary arrests, myself, I am going
to share the glory with you, my dear friend, by allowing one of your men
to do so for me."

"So you are confident?"

"Reasonably so. Can you spare Vernet for the day? He is a good man."

"One of my best. You shall have him. And if you succeed, I shall still
regard myself the loser, and will buy the champagne, and the dinner at
the Café Royale, as I agreed."

"And I shall be most happy to do the same should I fail. Oblige me by
requesting Vernet to come to my rooms at the hotel at once. Good by."

Duvall hung up the receiver, and sat down with the drawings he had made
before him. He awaited the coming of Vernet with impatience.

The latter appeared in some twenty minutes.

"What can I do for you, Monsieur Duvall?" he asked.

"Good morning, Vernet. Sit down, and have a cigar. I have a little
matter I wish to talk over with you."

"Concerning the missing child of Monsieur Stapleton, I understand,"
remarked Vernet, as he lit a cigar and drew his chair up to the table.
He glanced at the drawings before him. "What are these, may I ask?"

Duvall took up his pencil. "This, Vernet, is a map of a small part of
Paris. Here, as you see, is the Avenue Kleber, terminating at the
Champs Élysées just in front of the Arc de Triomphe."

"I see. It is quite plain."

"Here--this black square--is Mr. Stapleton's house. From there to the
arch is a matter of some six hundred yards."

"About that, I should say. What of it?"

"Wait. The black-bearded fellow--the kidnapper--who visited Mr.
Stapleton last night, and escaped by the ruse of being arrested by one
of his confederates, will arrive at Mr. Stapleton's house at eight
o'clock tonight."

"Mon Dieu! If that is so, we have him!"

"Not so fast. We shall not interfere with him--then."

"But, Monsieur, would you let this fellow escape? It is my duty to
arrest him, as soon as he puts in an appearance."

"You are mistaken, Vernet. Your duty is to do as I instruct you.
Monsieur Lefevre has placed you under my orders for the day."

Vernet laughed. "That is so," he said. "What do you wish me to do?"

"The man will come to Mr. Stapleton's house at eight o'clock, and will
be given a large sum of money. He has agreed, if he is not interfered
with, to have the address where the boy may be found telephoned to Mr.
Stapleton within half an hour."

"Ah! Then we shall follow, and get him after he has telephoned."

Duvall laughed. "We are dealing with a far shrewder man than that,
Vernet. This fellow will do no telephoning."

"Then how will he let Monsieur Stapleton know?"

"That is just what I am trying to find out. Put yourself in his place.
He is known--he dare not remain in Paris--he gets five hundred thousand
francs to give up the child. Is it not natural to suppose that he will
leave the city at once?"

"Yes. That is what I should do, in his place."

"Of course. Now I understand that the fellow will walk from Mr.
Stapleton's house to the Arc de Triomphe, a distance of six hundred
yards. He can do that easily in ten minutes."

"Yes."

"Once at the arch, he will stand awaiting a fast automobile, which will
come along the Champs Élysées. This automobile will stop for an instant
and pick him up, then proceed at high speed along the Avenue du Bois de
Boulogne."

"Why do you think that?"

"Because it will afford him the quickest and safest road out of Paris.
From the arch to the Porte Dauphine is less than a mile. He can make it
in five minutes. In fifteen minutes altogether then, he is outside the
walls. In another fifteen minutes, he is beyond pursuit, in the
country."

"But you forget, Monsieur Duvall, that he has not yet advised his
confederates that all is well, and that the address of the place where
the boy is hidden is to be telephoned to Mr. Stapleton."

"No, Vernet, I haven't forgotten that. In fact, I am coming to it now.
Suppose you were in this fellow's place--how would you do it?"

Vernet scratched his head thoughtfully. "He might fire a pistol from the
car."

"Too dangerous. The noise of the explosion would attract attention. He
must work silently."

"A wave of the hand, perhaps, to someone along the street."

"Also dangerous. This fellow realizes that every possible step will be
taken to capture not only himself, but his confederates. He anticipates,
no doubt, that the road will be carefully watched. Why take chances,
and run the risk of his confederates, at least, being arrested, when
there are simpler, easier ways?"

"Such as what?"

"Do you not remember the signal, used on the Versailles road, the blue
light?"

"Ah! Exactly. He will signal to some one in a house along the way."

"That would be easier and safer; but you will remember that there are no
houses along the way--none, at least, in which a man of this sort could
have a confederate hidden. But I should not say none. There is one,
perhaps."

"Indeed, Monsieur. And what house is that?"

"Mr. Stapleton's. Look!" He drew toward him the sheet of paper. "Here,"
he placed the point of his pencil upon the black square which indicated
the location of the banker's residence, "is the house. The north window
of a room on the top floor commands a view of the Avenue du Bois de
Boulogne, from a point some 500 feet west of the Arc de Triomphe, to
where it intersects the Avenue Malakoff. Beyond there, the view is
interrupted. In fact, the trees along the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne are
to some extent an obstruction; but at the crossing with the Avenue
Malakoff there is a wide and uninterrupted view."

"But a confederate in Monsieur Stapleton's own house?"

"Yes. The chauffeur, François."

"You astonish me, Monsieur. We have suspected the fellow, it is true.
The very room of which you speak has been searched. We found nothing.
How do you know that what you say is true?"

"Never mind how I know it--now. The point is this--François, I fully
believe, will be in that room, tonight, at eight o'clock, watching
carefully the automobiles which pass the intersection of the Avenue
Malakoff--"

"Not necessarily, Monsieur. We can easily prevent it, by placing him
under arrest."

"That is exactly what we must _not_ do. Don't you see, it is absolutely
necessary, for the recovery of Mr. Stapleton's child, that the signals
go through uninterrupted?"

"Of course, I had forgotten that. And these signals?"

"Naturally I cannot tell--yet. I think, however, that the automobile for
which François will be looking will show a brilliant blue light, while
crossing the Avenue Malakoff. That is, of course, if our friend the
kidnapper gets safely away, without being pursued."

"And otherwise?"

"I think the light would be red. He can make either, very simply, by
means of a powerful electric searchlight--one of these pocket affairs,
you know, fitted with colored glasses."

"You interest me wonderfully, Monsieur Duvall. What next?"

"It is, of course, most important that the signal given shall be the
correct one. There must be no interference whatever with this fellow's
escape--_up to that point_."

"Ah--I begin to see. And what after that?"

"First, let us continue with François. He will, I think, return a blue
signal to the man in the automobile, to show that he has seen, and
understood. He has the means to do so all ready, in his room."

"And then?"

"He will make, I think, a similar signal from his south window to some
one who is on watch, in the direction of Passy. This second person, who
no doubt has the child in his care, will then go to a telephone,
transmit the address of the house where the child is hidden, to
Mr. Stapleton, and quietly depart, to join his confederate
in--say--Brussels. He will run not the slightest risk of capture. If, on
the other hand, that message fails to go through, the address will _not_
be telephoned, and the child will probably be killed."

Vernet frowned grimly. "It is a remarkable plan, Monsieur. These fellows
are no bunglers. I think, however, that we shall be able to stop them."

"How?"

"I will station myself at the Porte Dauphine with a fast automobile, a
racer. When these fellows pass, I will follow them, and overtake them."

"An excellent idea, Vernet; but how, may I ask, will you know the car,
when it passes you? There are hundreds of cars on the Avenue du Bois de
Boulogne, at eight o'clock in the evening."

Vernet laughed. "I confess, Monsieur, you have me there."

"Of course you might station a man at the intersection of the Avenue
Malakoff and the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne; but I do not think he
would be able to see the signal. By placing on the end of the
searchlight a paper tube, the light would be invisible except in the
direction in which it is pointed--and that, you will remember, is
diagonally upward. A man on the sidewalk would not see it at all."

"Then, Monsieur, I fail to see that there is anything we can do."

"There is one thing, Vernet. You forget the answering signal, from the
window."

The Frenchman looked at his companion with undisguised admiration.
"Sacré!" he exclaimed. "You have a mind, Monsieur Duvall, in a
thousand."

"Thanks," answered Duvall, dryly. "Now, my idea is, to have you select
some point near the intersection of the two avenues, from which the
window in the rear of Mr. Stapleton's house can be clearly seen. Station
yourself there, tonight, with the fastest automobile you can secure. Let
one man watch the window, another the vehicles passing in the Avenue du
Bois de Boulogne. The moment you see the blue light, start after your
man. He should be just across the intersection, on his way down the
Avenue du Bois de Boulogne."

Vernet rubbed his hands together with satisfaction. "We shall get
him--never fear."

"Of course," said Duvall, slowly, "all this is pure assumption on my
part, based upon what I have discovered in the chauffeur's room. It may
not turn out as I say, but the chances are fifty to one that it will."

"And you, Monsieur? Where will you be?"

"I shall be in the room, with François. I do not propose that _he_ shall
escape. And further--I do not know that I am correct, in my assumption
regarding his signals to Passy. He may go out, and send the telephone
message himself. In that case, I shall follow. Or he may, through some
unforeseen accident, get the wrong signal, in which case I propose to
overpower him, and give the right one. Suppose we go, now, and take a
look at the intersection of the Avenue Malakoff and the Avenue du Bois
de Boulogne, and see what arrangements can best be made. Also, if Mr.
Stapleton is out in his car, we may be able to take a few observations
from his chauffeur's window." He took up his hat, lighted a cigar, and
led the way to the door.

They drove to the Arc de Triomphe in a cab, and, after dismissing it,
walked slowly down the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne. At the intersection
with the Avenue Malakoff they stopped and gazed about carefully,
although in such a way as not to attract attention. A brief inspection
served to confirm all that Duvall had said. It took them some little
time to locate the window in the rear of Mr. Stapleton's house; but
after a time they managed to do so, and saw that it commanded an
uninterrupted view of the point where they stood.

Vernet was highly satisfied, as they parted. It was deemed unnecessary
for him to visit the chauffeur's room, and thereby run the risk of their
being seen entering the banker's house together. Vernet departed to make
his arrangements for the evening, strictly cautioned by his companion
not to let Monsieur Lefevre into his secret. "It is a bet," he told
Vernet. "I hope we shall succeed in winning it."

After his companion had departed, Duvall dropped in to see Mr.
Stapleton. He learned that the banker was out, driving in the Bois with
Mrs. Stapleton, who, overcome by anxiety and grief, had great need of
the fresh air to retain her health. She was fast breaking down under the
strain.

Duvall went up to have another look at the chauffeur's room. He had been
unable to get a thoroughly clear idea of the view from the window, the
night before, owing to the darkness.

He found everything as he had left it,--the searchlight on the dresser,
the colored glass ornaments hanging from their gay ribbons. The north
window overlooked with perfect clearness the intersection of the two
avenues, as he and Vernet had seen them from below. The other window
presented a more distant view. Nearby roofs and chimneys obstructed it
in part; but between them could be seen the villas and buildings in
Passy, smiling in the sunlight. The sight impressed Duvall the more
strongly with the cleverness of the men he sought to arrest. Somewhere
in all that maze of buildings, that wide vista of houses and trees and
distant fields, Mr. Stapleton's child lay concealed, and it needed but a
flash of light from this window to set him free. Passing his fingers
idly along the window sill, Duvall suddenly observed two parallel
scratches in the white paint, which had apparently been made with the
point of a knife. He knelt down, and sighted between them. His line of
vision swept clear of the nearby roofs and chimneys, toward Passy.

The detective turned from the window, a smile of satisfaction on his
face, and proceeded to make a careful examination of the chauffeur's
closet. It was here that he intended to lie hidden. He felt certain
that, in order the better to perceive and send his signals, as well as
to escape detection from below, the chauffeur would allow his room to
remain unlighted.

This, Duvall reasoned, would render it easy for him to lie concealed
until the signal which would insure the safe return of the lost child
had been given, after which he would call upon François with precision
and despatch. Should anything occur to prevent the chauffeur from giving
the favorable signal, he proposed to give it himself.

The closet was close to the north window, and its door opened in such a
way that Duvall saw at once that in the darkened room he could readily
open it sufficiently to see all that François did, without running any
serious risk of detection.

He left the house at a little after noon and stopped in at a well known
restaurant on the Boulevard des Italiens for lunch. He felt very well
satisfied with the course that events were taking. If only he could get
through with this thing, and get back to Grace, and the farm, he would
be supremely happy. He became so absorbed in his thoughts that he failed
to notice a gentleman who slipped quietly into the chair opposite him,
until the latter leaned over and touched his arm.

He looked up suddenly. It was Monsieur Lefevre!



CHAPTER XV


The few seconds that elapsed while Grace Duvall stood in the deserted
studio in Passy, waiting for the arrival of the person who was ascending
the stairs, seemed like eternities, so crowded were they with terror.

What should she do--what, indeed, could she do? A dozen plans raced
madly through her brain, confusing her, baffling her with their
futility.

That the missing boy was within the sound of her voice, she knew; for
even as she stood trembling at the ominous footsteps on the creaking
stairs, she could hear the low troubled childish moaning, coming
apparently from the very air in front of her, yet affording not the
slightest clue as to the boy's whereabouts.

She glanced about the room in desperation. Nearer and nearer came the
creaking footfalls on the stairs. She dared not leave the room now, and
thereby meet the approaching man face to face on the landing; yet to
remain where she was would result only in her being obliged to make some
lame and halting excuse for her presence, and go, as soon as the man
entered the room.

Even this she could not count upon. The fellow, no doubt a desperate and
unscrupulous ruffian, might attack her, might detain her a prisoner
until the child had been safely removed to another place, beyond all
hope of discovery. All the work of the past twelve hours would come to
nothing. And even should he let her go, in safety, he could not fail to
suspect the reasons for her presence and warn his companions.

Clearly the only thing to do was to remain in the room, in hiding. There
was but one place in which she could hope to escape instant
detection--the closet. Yet even this promised but temporary safety; the
man would be almost certain to open it, for some reason or other, and
discover her presence.

It was her only chance, however, and she took it. Even as the footsteps
of the approaching man sounded upon the landing outside, Grace flew
across the room and into the closet, closing the door softly behind her.
In her haste, one arm of a velveteen coat which hung upon a hook,
became jammed in the door, with the result that it would not entirely
close. She realized that it was too late to remedy the trouble now, and
crouched back trembling with excitement.

The jamming of the door had caused it to remain slightly open, with a
space half an inch broad between it and the casing. Through this, Grace
could see a part of the room before her. She watched the door to the
hallway intently, as it was thrown open.

The man she had seen in the pastry shop came in, several packages in his
hands. These he placed upon a table, and at once began to prepare
breakfast. A small alcohol lamp served for coffee, and butter, rolls,
and fruit he produced from the paper bags before him. There was also a
bottle of milk. Grace wondered if this was intended for the child.

The man went about his preparations silently. Grace occasionally
obtained a good view of his face. He was apparently about thirty years
of age, dark and swarthy. There was something familiar about his manner,
his general appearance; although what it was, she could not tell. She
was certain, however, that she had seen him before.

Once or twice he made a move, as though to approach the closet; but
each time it was something else that claimed his attention. Once it was
to get a package of cigarettes that lay upon one of the modeling stands.
Grace wondered what she would have done, had he kept on toward her, and
opened the closet door.

She fell to thinking, in momentary snatches, about home, and Richard.
How curious it seemed for them both to be here in Paris, separated for
all these days, yet so near each other! She wondered if Richard had
written to her, and what he would think, not to have heard from her.
Then she remembered that after all he had been in Paris but a few
days--there was scarcely time for a letter to have reached him. She
thought of Uncle Abe, pottering about among the flower beds, of Aunt
Lucy grumbling good naturedly over her wash tubs, of Rose, singing her
queer camp meeting songs in the spring twilight, of Don, and the other
dogs, the chickens, and her beloved flowers, and wondered how all of
them were getting along with Richard and herself both away.

Her reveries were interrupted by a sudden sound which made her start
forward, tense with excitement. The man in the studio had gone for a
moment beyond the line of her vision, into a corner of the room to her
left. She could not see what he was doing there, and it was while
waiting for him to reappear that she had fallen into her day dream.

The sound which startled her was the voice of a child, not crying, this
time, but speaking clearly and distinctly. "I want to go home!" it said,
in a high nervous voice. "I want to see my mamma!"

The man answered roughly, impatiently. "You can't go now. Be quiet and
come and eat your breakfast."

He appeared suddenly in the line of view commanded by the crack in the
door, and Grace saw that he held a small boy by one hand, and was
leading him to the table. Here he placed him in a chair and set before
him a glass of milk and a roll. "Hurry up now!" the man growled. "Eat
your breakfast. I've got to go out."

The man's words set Grace's heart to beating with renewed quickness. If
the man was going out, she would be able to escape, and take the boy
with her.

She did not doubt that he was Mr. Stapleton's child. The girl's dress
which he had worn on the former occasion had been removed, and in place
of it he wore a suit of dark blue, somewhat dirty and worn. His face
still appeared to be very dark, and his hair, which had formerly been
long and curly, was cropped close to his head. He appeared to be well,
but very nervous. Grace watched him eagerly as he devoured the roll and
milk.

When he had finished, the man took him by the hand and again led him to
the corner of the room beyond Grace's sight. She strained her face
against the opening in the door, striving in vain to see what he was
doing; but it was useless.

She heard the boy begin to object, begging the man in a querulous voice
to let him go out and play. His captor, however, silenced him with a
sharp word, accompanied by a blow. "Get in there, and keep quiet!" Grace
heard him say, and after that all was silent. A moment later the man
reappeared, put on his hat, and, going out, locked the door carefully
behind him. Grace wondered if the maid had told him of her call, and
thereby roused his suspicions.

She waited until she heard the front door close, and then, emerging
quickly from the closet, went toward the side of the room to which the
man had gone with the child.

At first sight, there appeared to be no place where the latter could
have been hidden. The two walls were of gray-tinted plaster, cracked and
stained with age. There was a rickety chair and a battered plaster
figure of a centaur, against which leaned an easel and a mass of
sketches, covered with cobwebs and dust.

With extreme care, she examined the walls and floor. It seemed most
likely that some trapdoor existed, affording an entrance to a secret
closet in which the boy had been placed. A few moments' effort showed no
traces whatever of such a hiding place. The floor was of planks, covered
with dust, and the cracks between the boards were filled with dirt and
showed nowhere evidences of having been recently moved. The walls she
sounded gently with the handle of a modeling tool which she snatched up
from the table; but they gave forth a uniformly solid sound.

She stood, surveying the place in perplexity. Then a sudden thought
occurred to her. The ceiling! It swept low down, at the corner of the
room, and above it she knew there must be an attic. She went over and
began to examine the dusty plaster surface with minute care.

A sound of footsteps upon the stairs sent her scurrying back into the
closet. She wondered why the man had returned so soon. Greatly to her
surprise, she saw, as soon as the door opened, that the newcomer was not
the one who had left her a short time before, but an older man, more
heavily built. As he turned and glanced toward the side of the room
where she was hidden, she saw that he wore a heavy black beard. It was
the kidnapper himself--the man whom she had seen at Mr. Stapleton's
house the night before!

He appeared to be annoyed, at not finding anyone in the studio, and
after a moment sat down and lighting a cigar, began to read a newspaper
which he drew from his pocket.

Grace watched him intently, hardly daring to breathe for fear he might
hear her. An hour passed, and the air in the closet became close and
hot. She felt so nervous that she could have screamed, when the door of
the room suddenly opened and Durand appeared.

The two greeted each other with a nod. "Where have you been?" the older
man demanded, somewhat angrily.

"I had to get a new battery." He took a short black cylinder from his
pocket and laid it on the table.

"Is the boy here?"

"Yes."

"Good! Now listen to your instructions." He lowered his voice, glancing
swiftly toward the closed door of the room. "At eight o'clock I shall go
to the banker's house and get the money. At eight fifteen, or a little
before, François will get his signal and repeat to you. If he flashes
the blue light, you will release the boy, leave the room, lock the door,
and go at once to the Place du Trocadero. From the little tobacco shop
you will telephone the address of this place--No. 42, isn't it?--to
Monsieur Stapleton. That will be about half past eight. Do not telephone
before that. Then wait for me in front of the shop. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly. And if I get the red signal?"

"In that event, do not release the boy, but lock the door and come to
the tobacco shop, as before. I will communicate with you there. Old
Martelle is perfectly safe. But I do not think there will be any
trouble. You will get the blue light."

"You seem sure."

"I am. This man Stapleton is not going to take any more chances. Once I
am in the automobile, I am safe."

"They could arrest you while you are walking to the Arc de Triomphe,
after leaving the house."

"That is true; but what would they gain. They would not get the boy,
would they? And they have no evidence to show that I stole him. Further,
François reports this morning that he overheard Stapleton and his wife
talking. There is to be no interference--at least not until I get away
in the machine. They will follow me, of course. I fully expect it. But
you know the steps I have taken to take care of _that_ game." He laughed
grimly. "No--no--the thing is absolutely safe. We will get away without
the least trouble."

"Nevertheless, if anything goes wrong, and I do not get the red signal,
what shall we do then?"

"We'll talk that over, when the time comes. You meet me at Martelle's."

"But suppose you can't be there? They might get you, you know."

The man with the beard frowned darkly, and an evil expression came over
his face. "If you get the red signal, and I do not meet you at
Martelle's at half past eight, come back here, get the boy, and take him
to Lavillac. And before you do so, cut off his left hand, and send it to
Stapleton with a letter telling him that if I am not set free at once,
you will send his head. That will bring them to terms."

Grace shuddered as she heard the man's words.

His companion nodded. "I understand," he said. "But I hope it won't be
necessary."

"It won't. They can't get me. I've planned too carefully. That American
detective, Duvall, is a joke. He was out on the Boulevard du Bois de
Boulogne this morning with one of the Prefect's men. They are figuring
to have an automobile at the Avenue Malakoff and follow me." He laughed
loudly. "Much good that will do them!"

"How about François?"

"Oh--in a week or two, after we are safely away, François will sprain
his wrist, and be forced to give up his position as Monsieur Stapleton's
chauffeur. He will join us in New York."

The younger man puffed meditatively at his cigarette. "What's become of
that woman Lefevre had snooping around? Seen anything of her, since
last night?"

"No. She hasn't been about. Not much danger of _her_ finding out
anything."

The other rubbed his chin, in deep thought. "She nearly got you, last
night," he presently remarked.

"Oh, no. Not a chance. I knew she was in the house, and I figured she
would telephone to headquarters as soon as she learned who I was. All I
had to do was to signal you, through the window, and the thing was done.
Of course I didn't expect the Prefect's man to get there quite as soon
as he did; but you handled him all right." As he spoke, the man rose,
went to a small mirror that hung on the wall, and carefully removed the
black beard which was so distinguishing a feature of his appearance.

"Pretty hot, this thing," he announced, as he threw it on the table.
"Got anything to drink about? I'm thirsty."

Grace saw, as he turned toward her, that he bore a striking resemblance
to the masked man who had given her the first message to Mr. Stapleton,
in the room of the house on the road to Versailles. She trembled as she
heard him ask for the drink. Suppose the bottle should be in the
closet? She shrunk back in terror as the younger man rose and started
toward her.

Her alarm was needless, however. The fellow drew open one of the drawers
of a small dresser that stood on the opposite side of the room, and took
out a light green bottle. "Absinthe?" he inquired.

"All right. One won't do any harm. Don't take any more, though." He
began to pour out the drink into a glass which stood upon the table.
"When you get the signal from François," he went on, "you are to answer
it, as usual, so he'll know you've seen him. He doesn't want to stay in
his room very long--for fear he might be missed."

"They suspect him, of course."

"Yes. He's being watched right along; when he's out of the house, that
is. They've searched his room, and all that; but they haven't found
anything." He chuckled, and began to sip his drink. "Nothing to find."

The other man sat down at the table, and the two began talking over
their plans of escape. Grace could not hear all they said; but, as
nearly as she could gather, they intended, as soon as the younger man
had joined the other, to run for Brussels in the automobile. Near the
frontier they would leave the machine, change their disguises, and cross
the frontier on foot. Once in Belgium, they seemed to think they would
be quite safe.

It was along toward noon when the older man readjusted his disguise and
left the house. "I'm going to get something to eat," he announced. "I
won't be back. You'd better not leave the place again. I'll send you in
something, if you like." He glanced at the rolls and milk on the table.

"It won't be necessary. I've got all I need. Guess I'll take a nap this
afternoon. Well, good luck," he concluded, as the other started toward
the door. "See you later."

"All right." The black-bearded man passed noiselessly into the hall.
"Don't sleep too long. Eight o'clock, remember." In a moment he was
gone.

Grace watched the other as he finished drinking his absinthe and lit a
cigarette. Presently he went over to the cot and, throwing himself upon
it, was soon snoring loudly.

The long hot afternoon wore itself on. Grace leaned back against the
wall of the closet, weak from the nervous tension of the situation. The
place was hot and close. She felt faint from lack of air, from hunger.
At times she dozed off, then recovered herself with a start, and stood
trembling, fearful lest she had made some noise which might attract the
attention of the sleeping man.

After a time, the low complaining of the child began again, at first
faint and seemingly far off, then growing in volume, until the tearful
cries of "Let me out--let me out!" seemed to come from a point scarcely
beyond the reach of her hand.

The child's complaints at last awoke the sleeping man. With a muttered
curse he rose, crossed the room, and disappeared from sight. Grace heard
a low scraping sound, as of a panel being drawn back, and presently the
man again appeared with the child, and again supplied him with bread and
milk.

After he had eaten, the man gave him a magazine with bright-colored
pictures in it, to amuse him, and lay on the bed, smoking. The boy sat
on the floor, looking at the book.

Once or twice he tried to speak, but the man sharply bade him be quiet.
About sundown, a step was heard on the stairs, and once again the boy
was hastily placed in his hiding place, with threats of punishment if he
cried.

The new arrival was only a model, in search of work. The man spoke to
her gruffly, and informed her that he had all the models he needed.
After she left, he did not again release the child, but sat, reading,
for a long time.

At last he rose, took up the short black cylinder, which Grace saw was
an electric searchlight, from the table, and went over and sat in the
sill of the large double window which faced to the north. The window was
open, and the room in darkness.

Grace pushed the door of her closet open slightly, so as to get a better
view. The window was directly opposite the closet, at the other end of
the room. She could see the silent figure of the watcher, silhouetted
blackly against the night sky without. Off to the north were many
lights--the lights of the houses toward the Champs Élysées, and the Arc
de Triomphe.

For many minutes she watched, over the man's shoulder, waiting for the
signal which would set both herself and Mr. Stapleton's boy free from
their long confinement.

Presently she heard the man utter a quick oath, and saw him peer out of
the window, his figure tense and rigid, a pair of field glasses held to
his eyes. In another moment he had dropped the glasses, picked up his
electric searchlight, and flashed a signal into the darkness.

It took him but a moment. In another he had rushed to the door, and
Grace heard him turn the key in the lock and clatter down the stairs.

She crept swiftly to the window and looked out. At first she could see
nothing, but a confused maze of lights. In a moment she had seized the
field glasses and was nervously sweeping the horizon. Suddenly she held
them still for a moment, then drew back with a cry of dismay. Far off
toward the Avenue Kleber there gleamed a light, high in the upper room
of a house. It shone for a few moments, steady, baleful, full of unknown
terror, then winked suddenly out and was gone. She dropped the field
glasses upon the floor and staggered back against the table. _The light
was red!_ She was locked in. The two men would undoubtedly be back in
fifteen or twenty minutes. And then--she shuddered as she thought of
what they intended to do to the kidnapped child. To herself she gave
scarcely a thought. Then Richard's face came before her eyes, and she
fell upon the window seat, sobbing bitterly.



CHAPTER XVI


When Monsieur Lefevre touched Richard Duvall on the shoulder, in the
restaurant in the Boulevard des Italiens, he was filled with a very
great feeling of anxiety, although he concealed it behind a mask of
pleased surprise at the unexpected meeting.

Since early the evening before he had had no word from Grace. He knew
from Mr. Stapleton that she had left his house a short while after nine;
but since then she had completely disappeared.

The Prefect at first thought that she had been unable to keep her
identity from her husband any longer, and had joined him. He later
learned from Vernet that this was not the case. Now the old gentleman
began to feel seriously alarmed at her continued absence.

"How goes everything, my friend?" he asked, with an elaborate show of
carelessness. "Have you found the kidnappers yet?"

Duvall smiled. "Not yet. But I expect to have them, before the evening
is over."

"Indeed! I congratulate you. Have you seen anything of Mademoiselle
Goncourt?"

"No. Why?"

"I thought perhaps you might have met her. You two are after the same
game, you know."

Duvall smiled grimly. "I don't believe she's following the same trail
that I am," he said. "I expect to win that bet, Monsieur."

The Prefect seemed a trifle uneasy. "The evening is not yet over,
Monsieur," he replied. "But, in any event, I hope that Monsieur
Stapleton's son will be returned to him without further delay, whoever
brings about the result."

"Come to his house tonight, Monsieur. I have arranged a little matter
with Vernet which may surprise you. And then, too, we shall have to go
and get the boy." He rose, and took up his hat. "We shall want you with
us."

"By all means. I shall be there, my friend. What hour would you
suggest?"

"Half past eight, at the latest."

"Good! I shall be there at that time. Good day, _mon ami_."

"Au revoir. Give my respects to Mademoiselle Goncourt." He left the
restaurant and, going to his room at the hotel, proceeded to write a
long letter to Grace. He reproached her for not having written to him.
Here he had been in Paris four days, and had not heard a word from her!
A letter, he felt, should have come by the very next steamer--several,
in fact. He told her how greatly he missed her, how deeply he loved her,
and how soon he hoped to return to her arms. And even as he wrote,
Grace, half dead from fatigue, stood hidden in the closet at Passy, a
mile away, watching with frightened eyes the kidnapper asleep on the
pallet bed.

Duvall had arranged to be at Mr. Stapleton's house a little before eight
that night, and it still lacked twenty minutes of the hour when he
ascended the steps of the banker's residence and was ushered into the
library.

Mr. Stapleton sat in grim silence, awaiting the coming of his visitor.
He did not seem particularly glad to see Duvall. The latter's apparent
failure to make any headway in the matter of recovering his missing boy
had caused the banker to lose confidence in his abilities.

"Good evening, Duvall," he remarked, indifferently.

"Good evening, Mr. Stapleton. You are ready for your man, I see." He
glanced at the package of banknotes which lay at the banker's elbow.

"Quite. You have done nothing to interfere with his coming or going, I
trust."

"Nothing."

Stapleton glanced at the clock. "He will be here very soon, now. May I
ask you to wait in my study, upstairs? It would never do for you to be
here. The man might be afraid to enter."

"No--you are right. I must not be here. But I prefer not to wait in the
study. I have another plan."

"What is it?" inquired the banker, uneasily.

"Where is François, your chauffeur?"

"At his dinner, I believe. Why?"

"Will you kindly find out for sure? I want to go to his room."

Mr. Stapleton summoned a servant, who told him that the chauffeur was
just finishing his dinner. "You will be very careful, Duvall," he said,
anxiously. "I don't want anything done which will alarm these fellows."

"Oh, François won't see me. I shall keep out of his sight. Perhaps I had
better go up now." He nodded to the banker, and at once ascended the
stairs which lead to the servants' quarters.

At the door of the chauffeur's room he paused. It was closed. He pushed
it gently open, and in a moment was in the room. The place was quite
dark; but by means of a pocket light Duvall soon found the closet, and a
moment later was safely ensconced within. He left the door ajar, and to
his satisfaction found that he could see through the north window
without difficulty. Here he waited, until the chauffeur should arrive.

Mr. Stapleton, meanwhile, sat grimly in the library below, waiting for
the coming of the kidnapper. Promptly at eight o'clock, his butler
announced that the man had arrived.

"Show him in at once," exclaimed the banker, as he rose and began to
walk up and down the room.

In a moment the man came into the library. His powerful figure, his
black beard, his assured manner, rendered him an easily recognized
figure.

"I have come, Monsieur, as I said I would," he remarked, calmly. "I
trust you have the money in readiness."

Stapleton stepped over to the desk and picked up the package of
banknotes. "Here it is," he growled. "I understand that you will, in
return for this money, send me word at once as to where my son is to be
found."

"Within half an hour, Monsieur, at the latest; provided, of course, I am
not interfered with in my escape."

"There will be no interference, until I get back my boy. After that, I
shall spend another hundred thousand dollars, if need be, to bring you
to justice."

"That, Monsieur, is quite within the terms of our agreement. The moment
you receive the address, you are free from any obligation to me. May I
see the money?" He extended his hand.

Mr. Stapleton placed the banknotes in it. "Count them," he growled, "and
assure yourself that you have received the amount you demand."

The kidnapper sat down with the utmost coolness and began to count over
the notes. They were all of large denomination, and the operation
consumed but a few moments. As soon as he had finished, the man placed
the bundle of notes carefully in an inside pocket and rose. "The amount
is correct, Monsieur," he said. "Permit me to bid you a very good
evening." Without further delay, he bowed, took up his hat, and left
the room.

At the door he glanced quickly at his watch, then strode off up the
street at a rapid pace, toward the Arc de Triomphe.

For some eight or ten minutes he walked, at the expiration of which time
he arrived at the Place de l'Étoile, and at once crossed to the pavement
surrounding the great triumphal arch.

Up and down the twelve great avenues which radiate from the Place of the
Star flashed innumerable automobiles, coming and going like huge jeweled
fireflies.

The kidnapper paused at a point on the very outer edge of the circular
pavement which surrounds the arch, and waited, expectant, his eyes fixed
upon the broad sweep of the Champs Élysées.

For some moments he stood thus, rigid, motionless. Suddenly a big black
racing car swept from the line of traffic and approached the curb. The
man on the sidewalk raised his hand, and made a momentary gesture. The
car quivered to the side of the street, pausing but the fraction of a
second as the tall figure of the kidnapper stepped in. Another moment,
and it had swept around the great arch and was flying down the Avenue du
Bois de Boulogne.

Close behind it came a second car, which, like the first, contained but
a single occupant in addition to the chauffeur. With scarcely fifty feet
between them, the two machines swept down the broad street toward the
intersection with the Avenue Malakoff.

In a few moments, both had reached it. But here their ways parted. The
first car, turning in a quick and dangerous quadrant, swept into the
Avenue Malakoff and sped southward like the wind. The second car
continued on toward the Porte Dauphine. As it passed the intersection
with the Avenue Malakoff, the chauffeur, unobserved by his passenger,
directed a cylindrical black object toward the southern sky and held it
there, motionless, until his car had disappeared in the shadow of the
trees to the west.

Just inside the Avenue Malakoff lay a third car, its powerful engine
shaking it from end to end with its rapid pulsations. Two men sat in the
tonneau. One of them was occupied in watching a distant window in the
rear of a house on the Avenue Kleber with a pair of field glasses. The
other kept his gaze fixed upon the road before him.

Suddenly the man with the field glasses turned, and pointed toward the
car which was just passing from sight along the Avenue du Bois de
Boulogne. "Quick!" he muttered. "After him!"

The automobile shot forward like a racehorse under the whip, and in a
moment was flying down the avenue in hot pursuit.

The foremost car was making high speed; but the one which pursued it was
clearly the faster of the two. Slowly the space which separated them
began to decrease. The man in the first car spoke quietly to his
chauffeur, and the great car jumped forward with renewed speed.

Vernet, in charge of the pursuing car, swore softly to himself as he saw
his quarry pull away from him. He had confidence, however, in the speed
of his own machine, and urged his driver to greater efforts.

For several miles the two swept on, the rear car gaining slowly, in
spite of the other's best efforts. They had passed the fortifications
and were now in the Bois de Boulogne, and with clearer roads ahead the
chase seemed likely to be a long one.

Suddenly, to Vernet's astonishment, the forward car began to slow up. In
a moment the Prefect's men ranged alongside, and covered the solitary
passenger with their revolvers.

"Surrender!" Vernet cried. "You are my prisoner."

The man in the other car looked up, and calmly began to light a
cigarette. "Are you a bandit, my friend?" he inquired, calmly.

The detective was taken aback. The two cars had now come to a standstill
at one side of the road. "Search him!" he said quickly to his companion.

The second man climbed into the car. Its occupant made no protest. "What
do you wish with me, gentlemen?" he asked, with a sarcastic smile. "My
watch--my money?"

"The searchlight, first of all," replied the detective, "with which you
signaled."

The man looked at him in astonishment. "What are you talking about,
Monsieur?" he inquired. "Is this then a joke?"

Vernet began to feel a trifle uneasy. This man certainly did not appear
to resemble in any way the prisoner he had sought. He was a clean-shaven
young man, elegantly dressed, and quite evidently a gentleman. "Do you
deny," asked the detective, "that on passing the Avenue Malakoff a few
moments ago you flashed a blue light toward the Avenue Kleber?"

The young man laughed. "Of course I deny it," he said. "Why the devil
should I be flashing blue lights at the Avenue Kleber? And who are you,
to ask me any such nonsensical questions?"

"I am an agent of the police, Monsieur. Who are you?"

"I am Anton Lemaitre, stock broker, of the firm of Lemaitre and
Bossard." He handed a card to the dumbfounded Vernet. "I am trying a new
automobile, which I think of purchasing. My chauffeur proposed that we
try it out in the Bois, where there is more opportunity to speed than in
the city."

"Why did you then run away?"

"My dear sir, I saw you following me. I wish to own a fast car--the
fastest car in Paris, if possible. I directed my driver to see what he
could do. I do not believe, however, that I shall now buy the car, since
yours is faster. What make is it, Monsieur, if I may ask?"

Vernet smothered an oath. Clearly this man was telling the truth. He
directed his companion to get in with Monsieur Lemaitre. "Drive to the
Prefecture," he said, "and let the gentleman tell his story to Monsieur
Lefevre." He himself ordered his chauffeur to proceed with all despatch
to Mr. Stapleton's house. The affair had ended in a fiasco. He felt that
he must see Duvall at once.

In fifteen minutes he was at the house. Mr. Stapleton was waiting
patiently in the library for the telephone call which would announce the
hiding place of his boy. With him were Mrs. Stapleton and Monsieur
Lefevre.

The poor man and his wife were in a pitiable state, their eyes glued to
the clock which stood on the mantel. It was marked twenty-six minutes
past eight. "Only four minutes more!" gasped Mrs. Stapleton, through her
tears. "My God! why don't they hurry?"

Her husband endeavored to console her. "They may be a few moments late,
my dear. Don't excite yourself. I am sure they will keep their word."

Vernet went over to Monsieur Lefevre and explained the events of the
evening in a few words. The Prefect smiled grimly. "So Monsieur Duvall
has failed again!" he remarked, in a low voice. "Mon Dieu! If we do not
soon hear from Mademoiselle Goncourt, I shall begin to feel nervous
myself."

Slowly the hands of the clock crept around. As the half hour was
reached, and the telephone bell remained silent, Mrs. Stapleton uttered
a groan of despair, and sank upon the couch, weeping pitifully. Mr.
Stapleton, watch in hand, paced up and down the room. "They have been
interfered with," he stormed, "or they would have communicated with me
before now!" He turned to Monsieur Lefevre. "You have done nothing, I
hope, to again prevent me from recovering my son?"

"Nothing, Monsieur."

Mr. Stapleton waited another five minutes. It now wanted twenty minutes
to nine. The telephone bell remained persistently silent. The banker
closed his watch with a snap and thrust it into his pocket. His face was
pale with rage and suffering. Drops of perspiration collected on his
forehead. "The scoundrels!" he cried. "They have broken their word, and
robbed me of a hundred thousand dollars in the bargain. I will give
another hundred thousand to the man who will capture them, dead or
alive, and find my boy!"

There was a profound silence, broken only by the quick sobbing of Mrs.
Stapleton. Neither Lefevre nor Vernet ventured to speak.

Suddenly there arose sounds of a commotion among the servants gathered
in the hall without. In their devotion to their employer they had
collected there to welcome the lost boy. There were exclamations, cries
of astonishment--and dismay.

The occupants of the room turned in surprise toward the door. As they
did so, Richard Duvall appeared in the doorway. He staggered, and with
difficulty supported himself by clutching the side of the door. His face
was covered with blood, his clothes torn and disheveled.

He swayed a moment, unsteadily in the door.

"What is it--what is wrong?" cried Stapleton, starting toward him.

"The child is at 42 Rue Nicolo, Passy," gasped the detective, then fell
heavily upon the library floor.



CHAPTER XVII


Richard Duvall, waiting with nervous impatience in the closet in
François' room, at last heard a soft and guarded step upon the stairs.
He drew back, his muscles tense, and gazed fixedly at the door.

Although the room was dark, the glow of the street lamps from without,
the faint light of the evening sky, sufficed, now that his eyes had
become accustomed to the darkness, to enable him not only to recognize
the chauffeur as he entered the room, but to follow his movements with
little or no difficulty.

The man seemed hurried. He groped his way to the dresser at the opposite
side of the room, and felt about for the searchlight which Duvall knew
lay within easy reach.

Having secured it, he directed it for a brief moment upon his watch,
noted the time, then, going to the door, opened it, and began to listen
intently.

The detective at once surmised that he was listening for the departure
of his confederate, the man with the black beard.

Presently the chauffeur drew back, closing the door with a grunt of
satisfaction, and once more approached the dresser. Duvall concluded
that he had gone to get the colored glasses by which he would be able to
make the required signals.

In a moment he returned to the window, and Duvall saw him place the two
glass cups upon the sill, and lean out expectantly.

It seemed a long time before he stirred. The detective, looking over his
shoulder, found that his line of vision was interrupted so that he could
not see the lights which flashed past the entrance of the Avenue
Malakoff. He was forced to content himself with keeping a close watch
upon the chauffeur.

Suddenly the man, by an almost instantaneous movement, clapped one of
the little glass cups over the end of the tube which formed the
searchlight, and directed it toward the street. Duvall could not tell
whether the signal was blue, or red. He had every reason to believe,
however, that it was the former.

The chauffeur held the tube upon the window sill for a few seconds
only, then withdrew it, and started to cross the room toward the south
window. As he did so, he swept the light into the room, and for an
instant it fell upon the crack in the closet door through which Duvall
was peering. He was conscious of a blinding blue radiance, close to his
eyes, and the sudden flash caused him to draw back with a quick and
involuntary movement. He realized that the chauffeur had not seen him,
and that, in a few moments more, the signal would be given which would
bring untold happiness to both Mr. Stapleton and his wife.

The momentary recoil, however, was fatal to his plans. Although he moved
his head but a fraction of an inch, the suddenness of the movement was
sufficient to cause a metal coat hanger, which hung, empty, from a hook,
to click sharply against its neighbor.

The chauffeur spun around with the quickness of a cat, and, grasping the
knob of the closet door, threw it open. In his hand he still clutched
the tube of the searchlight.

Duvall at the same moment reached for the revolver which lay in a side
pocket of his coat. He realized instantly that, now that his presence
had been discovered, the chauffeur would of course not send the signal
to his confederates in Passy which would result in the telephoning of
the address to Mr. Stapleton, but would on the contrary flash a red
signal, which the detective fully believed would result in the child's
death.

It was imperative that this should be prevented. Duvall had determined
to be present in the chauffeur's room for two reasons,--first, to send
the favorable signal to Passy himself, should things go wrong, and the
chauffeur receive a red flash from the street; secondly, to arrest
François in the act of receiving and sending the signals.

He now realized that he must do both, and that, too, without a moment's
delay.

As the chauffeur threw open the door he flashed the blue light full upon
the crouching figure of the detective.

The latter, revolver in hand, commanded him sharply to throw up his
hands.

The chauffeur did so--thereby directing the light of the electric lamp
toward the ceiling. The sudden change from the glare which an instant
before had been in his eyes, to almost total darkness, left Duvall
momentarily blind. His eyes could not instantaneously respond to the
withdrawal of the light. The figure of the chauffeur appeared but a dark
and formless shadow.

The latter, however, not having faced the glare of the light, was able
to see without difficulty. With lightning like quickness he spun around
on one foot, until his back instead of his face was toward the
detective. Then his right foot rose, in the famous and deadly blow of
the _savate_.

It has been said that this backward kick, so dear to the heart of the
Parisian crook, is more to be feared than any possible onslaught in good
old Anglo-Saxon style with the fists. Certainly in this instance it was
too much for Richard Duvall. The unexpected blow, coming during the
moment when the sudden darkness had left him blinded and confused, sent
him crashing back into the depths of the closet, buried beneath a mass
of clothing. His arms, entangled in falling coats and waistcoats, were
helpless. The revolver flew from his hand, and lay useless on the floor.

The chauffeur went about his business calmly. His first move was to
direct the searchlight carefully into the interior of the closet,
slipping the blue cup from the end of it as he did so and allowing it
to fall unheeded to the floor. His second was to draw a long and
peculiarly deadly looking knife.

His quick eye saw at once that the revolver was no longer in the
detective's grasp. His searchlight enabled him to discern it, lying on
the floor to one side of the closet. Before Duvall could extricate
himself from the articles of clothing in which he was entangled,
François had stooped quickly, picked up the revolver, and slammed the
door of the closet upon him. As he struggled to his feet, the detective
heard the click of the key as it turned in the lock. He was a prisoner.

Without losing a moment, the chauffeur tossed the revolver upon the
table, took up the cup-shaped bit of red glass, fitted it to the tube of
the searchlight, and, going to the south window, placed it upon the sill
in such a way that its crimson glare was directed almost due south. It
was evident that the position in which the light was placed was marked
by the two tiny scratches cut in the woodwork of the window sill. In a
moment he had turned back toward the closet door.

Duvall, meanwhile, realized that only by instant and superhuman effort
could he hope to remedy the frightful situation which his unlucky
movement had precipitated.

He braced his shoulders and back against the rear wall of the closet,
put his two feet against the door, and with every atom of strength in
his body strove to force it open.

His movements had been quick. Just as the chauffeur turned back from the
window toward the room, Duvall, his muscles knotted with effort, drove
the full force of his body against the closet door.

The lock, a cheap affair, was torn loose in a twinkling, and an instant
later the two men had grappled in the center of the room.

The detective's one desire was to get to the window, remove the red
light which he knew was flashing its fateful message across the
housetops, and substitute for it a blue light, which he hoped even now
might shine forth in time to redeem the situation.

This, however, the chauffeur was equally determined to prevent. He
realized that he was caught, that his complicity in the affair was
known, and that he must warn his comrades of his danger, so that, by
refusing to give up the boy, they might effect his release. He was
fighting for his liberty as desperately as Duvall was fighting for that
of Mr. Stapleton's child.

The two men were evenly matched. The chauffeur was perhaps the stronger,
in shoulders and arms, due to his profession. The constant grip upon the
steering wheel had given to his upper body muscles like steel.

The detective, though somewhat less powerful in this direction, was
stronger in the back and legs. He had been an athlete, at college, and
his recent life upon the farm at home had toughened and hardened him
from head to foot.

He rushed at his opponent, threw his arms around the latter's waist, and
strove to lift him and throw him to the floor.

The chauffeur at the same time got his right arm about Duvall's throat,
and with his left did his best to gouge out one of the latter's eyes.
His was the style of fighting that considers not means, but results.

For a moment they swayed heavily about the room, the detective burying
his face in his opponent's side to protect his eyes, and at the same
time striving with all his might to force him back toward the bed.

François, however, fought well. He began to compress his adversary's
throat in a choking grip of wrist and forearm which threatened to put an
end to the struggle in short order. At the same time his left thumb
continually sought the detective's eyes.

Suddenly it reached one of them. Duvall felt a blinding sense of pain as
the thumb nail sank into the soft and tender muscles about the eye. The
shock was fatal to the plans of the chauffeur; for it raised up in his
opponent a great and deadly rage, that for an instant gave him the
strength of a madman. He raised his opponent from the floor as though
the latter had been a child, broke the grip upon his throat by
straightening his head, and with a mighty heave hurled him to the floor.

The fellow struck upon his side, his temple crashing loudly against the
wooden floor. Duvall stood over him for an instant, breathing heavily,
convulsively, then turned and snatched the searchlight from the window
sill and threw it upon the bed.

There was a trunk against the wall of the room, near the window, and
about it a broad leather strap. Duvall tore the strap from its place,
and in a few moments had fastened it about the chauffeur's arms and
body.

A towel, knotted about his ankles, rendered him helpless. Then the
detective began to search upon the floor for the bit of blue glass.

In his heart there was no joy at the victory he had just won. He had
captured one of the kidnappers, it was true; but on the other hand he
had, by his own carelessness, prevented the safe return of the kidnapped
boy to his parents.

He pictured the father and mother, patiently waiting below for the
telephone message which would never come, and wondered how he would dare
to tell them the truth.

At last his nervous fingers closed upon the little glass cup, where it
had rolled under the edge of the dresser when François had thrown it
down. Trembling with haste, he fixed it to the searchlight which he took
from the bed, and, with a hopeless feeling, approached the window, and
began to wave the light frantically in the direction of Passy.

For several moments there was no response. As a matter of fact, he
scarcely expected any. Then all of a sudden he saw a faint red gleam,
like a star, flash from the distant night, and then go out.

He stood, helpless, waiting for it to reappear, hardly daring to hope
that it would do so. Suddenly it shone again, this time for a longer
period, and then disappeared. He wondered what it meant, and was
scarcely surprised when the light again flashed, this time making five
quick flashes, which he instantly recognized as Morse code for the
letter "P." There was a brief interval, then once more the signals began
to flash. This time he read them without difficulty. There were four
letters, spelling the word "Help."

For an instant he leveled the tube of the searchlight toward the point
from which the flashes came, guiding it by the scratches on the sill,
and began pressing the button which turned the light on and off. "Where
are you?" he spelled out, then waited fearfully for the reply. He dared
send no other message. The person at the other end, the one who sent
this ominous word, "help," must be one of the kidnappers; yet why should
he signal for assistance? He could make nothing of the matter, but he
reasoned that anyone calling for help would be sure to give their
location, otherwise how could they expect to receive it.

For a moment the red flashes began again, and this time he began to get
the numbers. There were four quick flashes and a long dash, then others
in rapid succession: "4-2-R-u-e-N-i-c-o-l-o, P-a-s-s-y," the message
read. "C-o-m-e q-u-i-c-k."

Duvall's head reeled, as he spelled out the words. He had not realized
until now that he was wounded. The blood, pouring down his face from the
great gash in his cheek, spattered thickly upon the window sill. He
turned from the window, then realized that he must send some answer, to
let this mysterious person at the other end of the line know that his
message had been safely received.

"Will come at once. Who are you?" he spelled out, laboriously, his head
spinning, his fingers trembling from weakness as he tried to stop the
flow of blood from his wound.

"G-R-A-C-E D-U-V-A-L-L" came back the flashes, quick, clear cut,
unmistakable.

Duvall dropped the searchlight to the floor with a harsh laugh. His
brain was reeling--the whole thing became a foolish, senseless
nightmare. He wondered if he was delirious, and had dreamed it all.
Again he flashed a signal into the darkness. "Who are you?" he spelled
out again. He did not believe that he had read the former answer aright.
Evidently his imagination was playing him tricks--Grace had been on his
mind so constantly, throughout the day. He wiped the blood from his eyes
and stared eagerly out into the darkness. There was no response.

Then he remembered the words of the message, "Come quick." There was no
time for idle speculations as to the identity of the person who had sent
him the message.

He rushed to the stairs, and with tottering footsteps descended to the
library below. François, the chauffeur, still lay, bound and
unconscious, upon the floor.



CHAPTER XVIII


For a few moments after being left alone in the studio at Passy, Grace
almost lost her courage. She knew that the man who had remained on guard
in the room had received the danger signal--the red light--which told
him that the plans of his confederates had miscarried. She remembered
the instructions which the black-bearded man had given him. "If I do not
meet you at Martelle's, take the boy to Lavillac. And before you do so,
cut off his left hand and send it to Mr. Stapleton."

The very thought of the thing made her sick. She rushed to the door, and
tore frantically at the knob; but it resisted all her efforts. She
glanced at the windows, knowing that to escape by means of them from her
position on the top floor of the house was impossible. And then--should
she escape, she would be obliged to leave the child, and this she by no
means wanted to do.

Suddenly she heard again the faint moaning. The sound almost drove her
frantic. She rushed to the window and looked out, praying for guidance,
for some ray of hope in the frightful situation in which she found
herself.

Already several minutes had passed since the departure of the man. It
would not be long, she felt, before he returned, and, for all she knew,
the black-bearded man with him. Would they attack her, if they found her
there? She could hide again, of course; but that would not accomplish
anything, except perhaps, to save herself. And she had set out to rescue
the child.

In a whirl of indecision, she glanced out of the window, toward the
point in the north where she had seen the red light. She wondered where
it was, from what place it had been sent. Then suddenly, as she swept
the horizon with eager eyes, she saw, where a few moments before the red
light had flashed, a gleam of blue. Unlike the red signal, however,
which had been steady, as though fixed in place, this one moved about
restlessly, now pointing full at her, now almost disappearing to the
right or left.

She seized the field glasses and gazed at the light in wonder. Did this
mean that the kidnappers had been successful, after all, and that the
former signal had been a mistake, or did it indicate that the person
giving the first signal had been overpowered, and that the light was in
the hands of friends?

She had no means of knowing; but here was someone who was trying to send
her word that all was well. She determined to reply.

Her one thought was to get to Mr. Stapleton her present address. She
knew that the man who had been intrusted with the task of telephoning it
to the banker, would not now do so. She would try to send the address
herself.

Then came to her a great feeling of joy, that she was familiar with the
Morse code. Richard had taught it to her, during their trip from Paris
to New York the year before. She remembered how she had been interested
in the wireless, and Richard had offered to teach her the alphabet.

She picked up the searchlight and examined it. It was an ordinary pocket
lamp, with a dry battery, such as are sold at stores dealing in
electrical goods, and she saw, from its size, that it was an unusually
powerful one.

Midway along one side was a tiny button, by pressing which the circuit
was completed, and the light made to flash. By pressing this button
momentarily, she could get a quick flash, comparable to a dot. By
holding it down longer, she could produce a dash.

She did not stop to remove the red glass which was fixed over the front
of the light; in fact, she concluded that it would be better to let it
remain. There were many white lights all about--among them, her own
would have but a small chance of being seen. But red was significant,
conspicuous, indicative of danger, and that she was in grave danger she
very well knew.

She decided to first send the word "help." She knew that if the person
receiving the message was a friend, he would at once ask where she was,
since that would be to Mr. Stapleton and his party the most essential
and important news she could give.

On the other hand, were it to be received by one of the kidnappers, he
would ask her, not where she was, but what was the matter.

Painfully, fearful of mistakes, she deciphered the message which slowly
flashed across the mile of night. "Where are you."

Illustration: With trembling fingers she spelled out her reply, giving
the address and adding, "Come quick!"

With trembling fingers, she spelled out her reply, giving the address
and adding, "Come quick." When she got the answer, "Will come at once,"
she felt that there was still a chance that the boy might be saved. Then
came the request for her name. She gave this impatiently. What
difference did it matter, so long as they came quickly.

She hastily lighted a candle which stood upon the table, then cast about
her for some means whereby she might prevent the black-bearded man and
his companion from entering the room, in case they should return before
help arrived. There was one thing, of course, that she could do,
barricade the door.

But, with the exception of the table and the light iron bed, there was
nothing with which she could hope to secure it. Suddenly her eyes fell
upon the great plaster centaur. It was a figure such as one might see in
any art gallery or museum. It stood upon a plaster slab some six inches
thick, which in turn rested upon a low wooden base. The figure was at
least five feet high--a horse with a human torso and head. She knew that
if she could jam this in front of the door, securing it in place with
the bed and table, she might prevent the kidnappers from entering for
some little time; long enough, she hoped, to insure the arrival of the
police before they had succeeded in breaking in.

She wondered if she could manage to move the thing. At first sight, it
seemed impossible, and yet the base might by chance be fitted with
rollers or casters. She rushed over to the figure and began to tug at it
with all her strength.

She needed but a moment to discover that she could not possibly move it;
but as she bent over it, her head close to its side, she heard something
which made her start with sudden joy.

It was the low sobbing of a child--the same moaning sound which she had
heard from time to time ever since she had first entered the room.

At times the sound had appeared to come from afar off; at others, it had
seemed to be close at hand, as though originating at some point in the
very air about her.

All of a sudden the truth came to her like a flash. The child was
concealed within the hollow body of the statue. The thing seemed so
simple, so apparent, that she wondered that it had not occurred to her
before.

She gave up her attempt to barricade the door, and began feverishly to
look for the opening in the plaster cast through which the child must
have entered.

It took but a few moments to find it. The whole side of the horse's body
had been sawed free, by two longitudinal cuts, one along the back, the
other along the belly, and two similar cuts, at the shoulder, and the
flank. Heavy strips of canvas, glued across the lower cut, on the under
side of the horse's belly, served as hinges, and were not visible from
above.

She inserted the blade of a modeling tool which she caught up from the
table, in the upper longitudinal cut, and pried the plaster side of the
horse free. It fell heavily toward her, disclosing a long narrow
opening; the interior, in fact, of the statue, where lay, upon a sort of
bed made of an old comfort, the missing son of Mr. Stapleton.

The boy, who had evidently until a moment before been asleep, gazed up
at her in surprised alarm. For over two weeks, now, he had been kept
from his parents, made to move about from place to place, frightened by
strange men. He had come to expect the unusual, the terrifying, and it
was a scared little face that looked appealingly up at the girl as she
bent over him.

For the time being she forgot the dangers which surrounded them, in her
joy at the discovery of the boy. It had come so suddenly, so
unexpectedly. If she could only escape, now, with the child, nothing
else would matter in the least. And between her and freedom there lay
but the thickness of a single door, and yet it seemed that she could not
pass it.

She lifted the child from his hiding place and stood him upon the floor,
then quickly swung the heavy slab of plaster back into position. At
least, she reasoned, the kidnappers, when they returned, should not at
once learn that their captive had escaped.

She knew that the hiding place had been but a temporary one, a means
whereby the child might be kept out of sight during the day in case
strangers should happen to enter the room. As soon as the kidnappers
returned, they would, she realized, spirit the child away to some more
secure retreat.

She went to the door and again shook it frantically, pulling at the knob
with all her strength, without producing the slightest result. The lock
was evidently a strong one--the door held firm and unyielding, though
she threw against it her entire weight.

Evidently there was no hope of escape here. Then she again bethought
herself of the window. For a moment she gazed out into the darkness. The
pavement was thirty feet below. No one was in sight. How could she ever
reach the ground, with the child as well, even if she had possessed a
rope? The thing was impossible.

Clearly there was nothing to do but wait. Possibly the assistance she
expected from her friends, or the police, would arrive very soon--surely
she could in some way keep the kidnappers occupied until then!

And suddenly she realized that the time had come. She heard the door of
the house close softly, and upon the stair the sound of mounting
footsteps.

Which was it, the police, or the kidnappers? The latter, she felt
morally certain, since the former, in their haste to rescue the child,
would beyond any question have arrived in an automobile, and at top
speed.

The newcomers were mounting the stairs in a leisurely manner, as though
free from any anxiety. Grace heard them pause for a moment on the first
landing, then start up the second flight of stairs. It seemed to her out
of the question, to stand in the middle of the room and await their
entrance. At least she could postpone the fatal moment a little while,
by hiding, with the boy, in the closet. She stepped into it, the child's
hand in hers, and drew the door shut, just as the two men entered the
room. On her way, she hastily blew out the candle.

They were the same two men that she had seen before,--the black-bearded
man, now without his beard, and the artist, Durand. She saw this, as
soon as the latter had relit the candle. She wondered if he would notice
that the wick was still warm. Evidently he did not; for they threw
themselves into chairs, lit cigarettes, and began to talk.

"Now we can speak freely," said Durand. "How did things go?"

"I got the money--gave the blue signal, and expected to be halfway to
Brussels by now. What nonsense is this about a red light?"

"It is no nonsense, I assure you. I saw it with my own eyes, as plain as
day."

"Then François must have made a mistake, or else he has been placed
under arrest--the latter, no doubt. Now the question is, What shall we
do? I think we ought to get out of Paris as soon as possible. It isn't
safe to stay here." He looked about him nervously.

"Why not? You didn't telephone Monsieur Stapleton this address, did
you?"

"No, naturally not."

"Then I don't see but what we are quite safe. No one knows the child is
here."

"Then you don't intend to give him up?"

"Not yet. I must first find out whether or not François is in trouble."

"Let him look out for himself."

The older man frowned. "Since when, my friend," he asked, "have I been
in the habit of deserting my comrades? François must go free, or Mr.
Stapleton does not get his boy. That's flat. The first thing is to send
his father something that will let him see that we mean business."

"We've got to be sure about François, first."

"I'll find that out, tonight. My plan is this. We must first get the
child away to Lavillac's place. This is too unsafe, here. Anyone might
come in."

"They'd have difficulty in finding the hiding place." The younger man
grinned.

"That's all very well; but the other place is safer. And
then--Lavillac's woman can look after the brat while we are away. What a
pity François had to get into a mess at the last moment! I hoped to be
rid of the boy, by now." The older man rose and began striding up and
down the room.

"Well," he said at length, sharply, "we might as well get along. I move
that we wrap the boy in a coat, take him down to the car, run quickly
out to Lavillac's place, leave him there, and start for Brussels at
once. The rest we can do by 'phone. François set free--the boy the same.
Meanwhile, we've got to show this man Stapleton we mean business; so
we'd better arrange to send him one of the kid's hands at once. If we
don't, he'll have the whole Paris police force after us."

"All right. I'll get him out." He strode quickly over to the statue,
pulled out the side, and gazed blankly into the empty space before him.

"Sacré! The child's gone!" he exclaimed, excitedly. "Somebody has been
here--in this room--since I left it, half an hour ago."

"The door was locked."

"I know; but somebody's been here, nevertheless, for the child is
gone."

"He may not be gone, Durand. It is true that he is no longer in the
house; but he may be in the room, for all that. Search the closet."

The man named Durand stepped quickly to the closet door. "Not much
chance," he grumbled. "And if the police knew that he was here, and have
spirited him away, they may even now be waiting to spring a trap of
which you and I are the rats. For all we know the place is surrounded at
this very moment."

"Then the sooner we get away from it the better. Search the closet. If
he's not there, we'd better make tracks for the frontier as quickly as
possible. We can do nothing more without the child. François will have
to look out for himself."

Durand went impatiently up to the closet door and flung it open, then
both he and his companion recoiled in surprise as Grace stepped out,
holding the child by the hand.

"Mon Dieu!" gasped the two men in unison.

The one who had worn the black beard was the first to recover himself.
"Quick!" he cried, motioning toward Grace. "The woman is a detective.
Tie her up, and let's get away at once. No doubt she has sent word to
her friends. We can't afford to stay here another minute." He seemed
greatly excited and, rushing to the window, inspected the silent street
below.

Durand, meanwhile, had thrown himself upon the girl, seized her hands,
and with a quick motion had secured them with a bit of cord he snatched
from within the closet.

She offered no resistance, made no outcry. Both seemed equally useless.
The boy stood by, watching the scene in childish wonder. So many queer
things had happened to him, however, during the past few days, that he,
too, remained silent.

In a moment the older man withdrew his head from the window, rushed to
the closet, and drawing out a long gray coat, wrapped it about the
child. "You will come along with us, Mademoiselle," he said sternly.
"Make no attempt to escape, if you value your life."

"But what do we want with her?" the younger man asked, impatiently.

"You fool! Would you leave her here, to give our description to the
police? It would mean certain capture in a few hours. This woman has got
to be put where she can do no harm until we are safely over the
frontier. It may be wiser to silence her altogether. We'll decide about
that when we reach Lavillac's. The first thing is to get out of this
house without losing a moment's time. Come!" He started for the door.

As he did so, Grace heard, far off, the steady throbbing of an
automobile. She felt a wave of hope sweep over her. It might be her
friends, coming to her assistance. If so, they might yet arrive in time.

The two men evidently also heard the sound. "Hurry--hurry!" the older
one urged, as they began to descend the stairs. "They may be on us at
any moment. Go out the rear way."

Grace heard the sounds of the approaching automobile growing more and
more distinct. In another minute it would stop before the door of the
house. But in that minute her captors would not only have been able to
descend the stairs, but would already be making good their escape
through the garden at the rear of the building.

She must do something, she knew, to prevent this; but what--what? Bound
as she was, how could she hope to prevent the escape of these men. She
looked ahead of her, to where, a step or two in advance, the man of the
black beard was hastily descending the stairs, the boy firmly held in
his arms. Behind her came his companion, candle in hand, close at her
heels.

They were within half a dozen steps of the lower hall. From this she
could see a dark passageway, leading to the rear of the house. Already
the noise of the automobile without told her that it was stopping at the
door. She heard the sound of rapid footsteps on the sidewalk; yet
realized that, before her friends could break in, their quarry would
have flown.

Without a moment's hesitation she sprang forward, throwing her whole
weight upon the man in front of her.

The sudden shock, as she precipitated herself upon his shoulders, threw
him off his balance, and he pitched forward headlong into the hallway
below. The two of them, together with the child, rolled in a tangled
heap to the floor. The second man, candle in hand, stopped on the stairs
and gazed helplessly down, not realizing for a moment what had happened.

"Help! Help!" Grace screamed at the top of her voice, as she struggled
to regain her feet, and at the same moment there came the sound of heavy
blows upon the front door.

The man who had been carrying the child rose to his feet with an oath,
just as his companion joined him. He turned on Grace with a howl of
fury, and struck her a quick blow in the face. She had a confused vision
of fleeing men, the dancing light of a candle, a rush of fresh air, and
then all was blotted out in a wave of oblivion.



CHAPTER XIX


The startling and dramatic entrance of Richard Duvall into Mr.
Stapleton's library, ending with his announcement of the whereabouts of
the kidnapped child, and his subsequent collapse, threw the entire party
into confusion.

Mrs. Stapleton started up with a scream, her overwrought nerves no
longer able to resist the frightful strain under which she had for so
many days been laboring.

Her husband, who had completely forgotten the detective's presence in
the house, in his anxious vigil at the telephone, called out instantly
to one of the servants, ordering him to tell François to bring his
automobile to the door.

Monsieur Lefevre, accompanied by Vernet, sprang quickly to Duvall's
assistance. The Prefect felt that, if the latter's statement was
correct, he had won out in the long duel for the honor of recovering the
kidnapped child; but no consideration of this nature could make him any
less concerned for the detective's welfare, or any the less thankful
that, no matter by whose efforts, the missing child had at last been
located. He had hoped that to Grace Duvall would ultimately fall the
prize of success; but these things were, after all, of no serious
weight, compared with the great fact, that the success had at last come.

Assisted by Vernet, he placed Duvall upon a couch, and called for
brandy, and a basin of cold water.

In a few moments, under Vernet's skilful ministrations, the detective's
wound had been washed and temporarily bound up, and he had been restored
to consciousness. A little of the brandy soon served to dispel his
faintness. He declared himself ready to accompany the expedition to
Passy.

The Prefect endeavored to dissuade him; but to no purpose. The message
which he had received in the chauffeur's room, to the effect that the
person calling for help was Grace Duvall, his own wife, seemed so
mysterious, so utterly inexplicable to him, that he could conceive no
reasonable explanation for it. There was but one thing to do,--to go
himself and sift the matter to the bottom. He did not expect to find
Grace there, and yet--what else could the message mean?

Just as he staggered to his feet, with the announcement that he would
accompany the party to Passy, two of the servants rushed into the
library, and with scared faces announced that François lay, bound and
unconscious, on the floor of his room. Mr. Stapleton looked quickly at
Duvall.

"It's all right, Mr. Stapleton," exclaimed the detective. "The fellow is
one of the gang." He turned to Monsieur Lefevre. "You'd better have him
placed under arrest at once. And if your car is here, we'll use that,
instead of Mr. Stapleton's. There's not a moment to be lost."

"By all means. My automobile is at the door. Vernet," he turned to his
assistant, "have one of your men take charge of this fellow François at
once. We must set out immediately."

Mr. Stapleton took his wife in his arms, and embraced her tenderly.
"Don't worry, dear," he said. "I'll be back with the boy, inside of half
an hour. Come along!" he shouted to the others, as he made for the door.
"No time to waste now."

In a few moments the entire party, consisting of Mr. Stapleton, Duvall,
Monsieur Lefevre, Vernet, and the Prefect's chauffeur, were driving
toward Passy at a rate which set at naught all speed regulations and
sent the few pedestrians who happened to cross their path scampering to
the sidewalk for safety.

Duvall explained, as they went along, the mysterious messages which he
had received by flashlight. No one understood them but Monsieur Lefevre.
He gave a great sigh of relief. The continued and unexplained absence of
Grace had alarmed him greatly. Now he began to understand the reasons
for it. That part of Duvall's story which spoke of haste, the appeal for
prompt assistance, made him look grave. He leaned over to his chauffeur
and urged him to even greater speed.

The trees and houses along the Avenue Kleber, and later the Rue
Franklin, swept by the speeding machine in a whirl of dust. In what
seemed an incredibly short time the automobile dashed into the Rue
Nicolo, and thundered up to No. 42.

Vernet was the first to ascend the steps of the house, closely followed
by Duvall and the others of the party. As they reached the front door,
and rapped loudly, they all heard a sudden commotion within, followed by
cries and shouts and a fall. Instantly all four threw their combined
weight against the door, shattering the lock and bursting it in.

The semidarkness showed a terrifying spectacle. On the floor lay a
woman, unconscious, clutching in her arms a child, trapped in a long
gray coat. Down the dark hallway leading to the rear of the house dashed
the figures of two men. One of them turned, as the attacking party
entered, and hurled the lighted candle which he bore full into their
faces. The entire scene was instantly plunged into darkness.

The momentary light of the candle, however, had been sufficient to send
a thrill of joy through at least one of the entering party. Mr.
Stapleton recognized, in the white and tearful face of the child, his
kidnapped boy, and, stooping, raised him tenderly in his arms.

Duvall, not knowing whether the unconscious woman was the supposed agent
of the police, Mademoiselle Goncourt, or Grace, his wife, lifted her in
his arms and carried her out into the air.

Vernet, followed by the Prefect, and the chauffeur, who had at once
joined them, dashed fearlessly along the dark passage by which the two
men were attempting to escape.

There was a crash, as the rear door was burst out, followed by a volley
of shots as Vernet opened upon the fleeing men with his automatic
revolver.

In a moment the affair was over. The foremost of the two men crumpled up
before he had taken half a dozen strides through the garden, and his
companion raised his hands and surrendered, begging for mercy. Within a
few moments he was handcuffed, and Vernet, bending over his wounded
companion, was directing the chauffeur to summon an ambulance at once.

Monsieur Lefevre returned hastily to the street. His sole concern now
was for Grace. He prayed fervently that no serious harm had befallen
her, and realized that Duvall was likely to resent bitterly the
deception which has been practised upon him.

The latter, however, was in no mood for recriminations. No sooner had he
carried his unconscious burden to the street, when Grace opened her
eyes, threw her arms about his neck, and kissed him.

"Richard--Richard!" she cried, happily. "I'm so glad--so glad!" then
rested content in his arms.

The detective's brain was in a whirl. In no possible way could he
account for the presence here, in Paris, under such tragic and
inexplicable circumstances, of the wife whom he had left, so short a
time before, peacefully sitting on the rosecovered porch of their home
in Maryland. The thing seemed incredible, unbelievable; yet here was
Grace, with her soft arms about his neck, her kisses on his lips, to
prove its reality.

He looked at Monsieur Lefevre dully as the latter joined them upon the
sidewalk, but could say nothing.

"It seems," remarked the Prefect, with a grave smile, "that not only has
Mr. Stapleton found his boy, but you have found your wife."

Duvall frowned. "What is she doing here?" he asked.

"We will speak of that later, my friend," observed Lefevre, quietly.
"Just at present I propose that we return to Mr. Stapleton's without a
moment's delay. Her heart is breaking with anxiety." He took Grace's arm
and assisted her to enter the automobile, where Mr. Stapleton had
already preceded them with his son. "It is to you, my dear child," he
said to Grace, as she sunk weakly back upon the cushioned seat, "that
Mrs. Stapleton will owe all her happiness."

It was a cheerful party that broke in upon the banker's wife a short
time later. Duvall, under the stimulus of Grace's presence, had
completely forgotten his wound; while Grace, who had been but
momentarily stunned by the blow which the kidnapper had given her, was
radiant with joy at once more feeling her husband's arms about her.

Monsieur Lefevre carried them both off to his house, as soon as the boy
had been restored to his mother. The happiness of the banker's reunited
family was too great to permit them to be even mildly interested in the
affairs of Richard Duvall and his wife, and they, too, wished to be
alone. It seemed to them both as though ages had passed since they had
seen each other; they could scarcely realize that it had been but a
little over two weeks. Richard especially seemed unable to grasp the
truth of the situation. He plied Grace with numberless questions, and
could scarcely believe that he had actually been within arm's length of
her on at least four different occasions during the past week without
knowing it.

Monsieur Lefevre advised him to leave the whole matter until the next
day. "You should be proud of your wife, Monsieur," he said, gravely.
"But for her, I doubt if Monsieur Stapleton would ever have seen his boy
again. And that reminds me," he smiled mischievously, "that I have won
that little bet. It was Mademoiselle Goncourt, of my office, that
recovered the lost child."

"I think the honors are pretty evenly divided, Monsieur," laughed Grace,
happily, as she pressed her husband's hand. "Don't forget that if
Richard hadn't gotten my message, all my work would have gone for
nothing."

"Suppose we call it a draw, then," said the Prefect. "All in the family,
as you Americans say. And to show that I am not prejudiced, one way or
the other, I suggest that you both, with Mr. and Mrs. Stapleton, dine
with me tomorrow evening. There are many points connected with this case
which are by no means cleared up, and we should talk them over. Although
we have secured the missing child, and three of the kidnappers, we do
not yet know how the child was stolen, or whether the nurse, Mary
Lanahan, is innocent or guilty of any part in his mysterious
disappearance in the Bois de Boulogne. I confess that I have all along
considered her guilty, and am inclined to order her arrest at once."

"It will be useless, Monsieur," remarked Duvall, quietly. "She is
entirely innocent."

"You mean that she knows nothing of how the boy was spirited away?"

"Nothing!"

"Mon Dieu! Then the thing may forever remain a mystery."

"Not at all. It is simple enough."

Monsieur Lefevre turned to him with a look of inquiry. "You mean, then,
that you have solved it?"

"I do."

"Then may I ask that you will be good enough to explain it at once?"

Duvall laughed. "Monsieur Lefevre," he said, "I have a splitting
headache, a bad wound in my cheek, and a burning desire to spend the
next two hours talking to my wife." He drew Grace toward him, and put
his arm through hers. "I am very much afraid that the explanation of
the disappearance of Mr. Stapleton's boy will have to be put off until
tomorrow."

Monsieur Lefevre watched the two as they went, arm in arm, up the
stairs.

"Mon Dieu!" he said softly to himself. "They are just as much in love
with each other as ever."



CHAPTER XX


"I must confess," remarked Monsieur Lefevre, as he sat with Mr.
Stapleton and Duvall over their after dinner cigars the following
evening, "that while the case as a whole appears simple enough to me,
there are one or two points that I fail to understand."

"There are a great many that _I_ fail to understand," exclaimed the
banker, chewing reflectively on his cigar. "However, now that the boy is
safe at home, it really makes very little difference."

"On the contrary, Mr. Stapleton," remarked Duvall, "it makes a great
deal of difference. For instance, I understand that you have discharged
the nurse, Mary Lanahan."

"Yes. You say that she is quite innocent of any part in the kidnapping
of my boy; but the fact remains that I don't trust her. I am informed
that she was married to that fellow, Valentin, this afternoon."

Duvall smiled. "That was quite to be expected."

"At one time," said Mr. Stapleton, "you believed this fellow Valentin to
have been concerned in the plot."

"Yes. That is true. My early investigations of the matter showed me at
once that there was some understanding between these two, something
which they were endeavoring to conceal. I did not at first understand
the motive which actuated them. I thought it was guilt. In reality, it
was love. Therefore I am not surprised to learn of their marriage." He
gazed critically at his cigar for a time, in silence.

"As matters have turned out, gentlemen," he resumed, after a few
moments, "there is no cause for anything but congratulation on all
hands. The child is recovered, the criminals are under arrest, the
money--the hundred thousand dollars you paid out, Mr. Stapleton--was
found on the kidnapper's person and returned to you."

"Exactly. Nothing could be more satisfactory all around."

"And yet," went on the detective, "I have never before taken part in a
case in which I have done so little, in which I have been so uniformly
unsuccessful."

Mr. Stapleton raised his hand. "My dear Duvall," he began, "but for you,
we should have been nowhere."

"You are wrong, my friend. Had I kept out of the case altogether, your
son would have been returned to you just the same. It is true that the
men who kidnapped him would not have been caught, and your money would
not have been returned to you; but the prime object which you sought,
the recovery of your child, would have been realized in any event."

"That is true," remarked the Prefect; "but, from the standpoint of the
police, it is the detection and capture of the criminal that is desired,
not the buying of him off. By insisting on that, Mr. Stapleton, you
rendered our work extremely difficult."

"So difficult, indeed," said Duvall, earnestly, "that but for the
energy, the courage, the wit of a woman, all our plans would have
failed. I refer to my wife. It is to her that all the credit in this
affair is due."

"By all means!" said Mr. Stapleton. "I could not fail to realize, when
she told her story at dinner tonight, how much Mrs. Stapleton and
myself owe her. I shall have something to say on the subject of our
debt, as soon as the ladies rejoin us. But tell us, Mr. Duvall, a little
more about the case, as you now understand it. I confess that I am
becoming more and more interested. What, for instance, was the mystery,
if indeed there was any, connected with the box of gold-tipped
cigarettes?"

Duvall smiled. "That, my dear sir, is in fact the crux, the starting
point, of the whole affair." He settled back in his chair comfortably.
"Otherwise the case was simple enough. Certain scoundrels steal a child,
hold it for ransom, and frighten the parents into paying over a large
sum. Nothing unusual in that. A clever scheme or two for turning the
money over, and returning the child--simple, yet perfect enough to defy
all attempts to foil them.

"The real mystery lay in the utter absence of any clues which would
throw light on the actual stealing of the child. In this respect the
case was unique. A trusted nurse swears that the child has disappeared
in broad daylight, without the slightest knowledge of how it was
accomplished. Here we have a case so simple, so devoid of incident of
any sort, that we are baffled at the very start by the impossibility of
the thing. Yet the nurse is a woman of good reputation, honest, clearly
telling what she believes to be the truth.

"But a single clue existed upon which I could build the least semblance
of a case. I refer to the half-smoked cigarette with the gold tip, which
I discovered in the grass at the scene of the crime. Without that
apparently trivial clue, the criminals would in all probability never
have been captured at all."

"But," exclaimed Mr. Stapleton, "I don't see how you make that out."

"Nor I," observed the Prefect.

"No. I suppose not. And yet, it is simple enough. That half-smoked
cigarette and nothing else is the basic reason for the arrest of the
three men now in your hands."

Monsieur Lefevre smiled. "Be good enough," he said, "to explain."

"Very well, I will. But first, let me indicate to you my course of
reasoning. When I originally found the cigarette, I regarded it as of
very small value, from the standpoint of evidence. It happened to be
lying in the grass at the point where the crime occurred; but during
the week or more which had elapsed between the stealing of the boy and
my examination of the ground, a hundred people might have walked over
the spot. I took it, because I realized that it _might_ have a bearing
on the case, and I have learned to discard no clue, however trifling it
may appear, until it has been proven valueless.

"Now to go back to the cigarette, I observed at once that it was of
American make, yet of such small size as to have been either used by a
woman, or by a man of rather effeminate taste.

"Now if the cigarette had been used by a woman, it meant one of two
things. Either it was used by Mary Lanahan herself, in which case it
apparently proved nothing, or by some other woman who was there with
her, and who might have had a hand in the kidnapping.

"On the other hand, if used by a man, it pointed clearly to the
chauffeur, Valentin, for several reasons. He was a friend, a former
lover, of the nurse. He had been discharged by Mr. Stapleton for
dishonesty. He was, I had reason to know, of rather a weak and
effeminate type. The cigarette was of American make, and he had but
recently come from America. These things pointed to Valentin. The fact
that the nurse was in love with him would cause her to shield him. I
determined to try the matter out at once.

"As soon as I returned to the house, therefore, I confronted her, and
asked her if Valentin smoked gold-tipped cigarettes. I did this, not
because I expected to get any reply of value, but because I wished to
observe her manner, her face, when I flung the question at her.

"She was greatly startled. She denied that Valentin smoked. Fifteen
minutes later, she sent him a message to destroy the cigarettes.

"I at once concluded that they were working together, and were both
guilty, a conclusion in which, however much I was justified by the
evidence, I was quite wrong.

"Then came the attempt on the part of someone--the man with the black
beard, I am told--to steal the cigarettes from Valentin. I learned that
the man was followed to Mr. Stapleton's house.

"This at once threw a new light upon the matter, although I will admit a
confusing one. Someone else, besides the nurse, desired the box of
cigarettes removed as evidence; someone, in fact, who belonged to, or
had friends in, the house. Who could this be? I could think of no one,
outside of Mary Lanahan herself, but the chauffeur, François."

"Why did you first suspect him?" asked Mr. Stapleton.

"Because he was the only person, besides the nurse, who was present at
the time of the kidnapping. I did not abandon my suspicions of either
the nurse or Valentin. I fully believed that they knew a great deal more
about the affair than they admitted. But I became convinced that
François, too, was in the thing. He had testified that he was asleep
when the affair occurred. I concluded at once that he was lying.

"At the first opportunity, therefore, I made a thorough search of his
room, and found the box of cigarettes hidden in a clock on his mantel."

"Ha! I did not know that," exclaimed the Prefect. "What were they doing
there?"

"I concluded that the fellow with the black beard who stole them from
Valentin, in order to prevent their use as evidence against him, turned
them over to François for a definite purpose."

"And that purpose was?"

"Their use in subsequent crimes of a similar nature."

Mr. Stapleton and the Prefect gazed at Duvall in bewilderment. "Explain
yourself, my friend," exclaimed the latter. "I confess I do not
understand what you are talking about. Who, may I ask, really smoked the
cigarette, the remains of which you found in the grass?"

"Mary Lanahan," said the detective, with a smile.

"The nurse! Name of a dog! Then I fail to see that the matter is of the
slightest importance one way or the other."

"On the contrary, Monsieur, it is of the greatest importance. May I ask
whether you are, by any chance, familiar with the properties of an
Eastern drug, made from hemp, and generally known as hashish?"

The Prefect sat up suddenly, and clapped his hands to his knees. "Mon
Dieu!" he exclaimed. "Now I begin to understand."

"More than I do," said Mr. Stapleton.

"The cigarettes were drugged, that is all," went on Duvall. "The men who
planned this thing went to work very carefully. They ascertained,
through François, that Mary Lanahan was in the habit, no doubt on the
sly, of using cigarettes. I discovered the fact, myself, before I left
New York. They also learned that she smoked the same brand as Mrs.
Stapleton herself used. No doubt she helped herself from Mrs.
Stapleton's supply. They therefore secured, also through François, a box
of these cigarettes, and had them heavily drugged with hashish. The box
of drugged cigarettes was substituted, later on, for her own."

"But," exclaimed Mr. Stapleton, "how could Mary Lanahan swear that she
turned away but a moment--that no one came near her?"

"When Mary Lanahan testified that, she believed that she was telling the
truth. The hashish had simply destroyed her conception of the passage of
time."

"Is that its effect?"

"Yes. It produces a delightful languor, a stupor in which all
realization of the passage of time ceases. Sometimes, to those who use
the drug, it may apparently require hours to walk a few yards. To make a
momentary movement of the hand may seem to take many minutes. On the
other hand, in the stupor which the drug induces, hours may be spent in
the contemplation of a flower, a bit of scenery, the page of a book,
without any realization on the part of the user that more than a few
seconds have elapsed. That is what happened to Mary Lanahan. She inhaled
a few puffs of the cigarette, heavily charged with the drug; without
knowing, of course, of its presence. She probably passed at once into a
state of stupor which may have extended over fifteen minutes or more.
She was not unconscious. She sat upon the grass, looking off toward the
distant sky, in a waking dream, not unlike a trance, in which all the
world about her--the world of sound, of movement--had simply ceased to
exist. She was to all intents and purposes unconscious of what was going
on about her. The kidnapper, whom I strongly suspect to be François,
merely strolled up behind her, picked up the boy, and walked off with
him."

The detective's listeners looked at him in astonishment. Presently Mr.
Stapleton spoke. "Why do you think it was François?" he asked.

"Oh, for many reasons. Had he, on approaching, found the nurse not
sufficiently under the influence of the drug, he could have pretended to
wish to speak to her, on some trivial matter. Again, the child would go
away with him of course without making an outcry, which he would
probably not have done, with a stranger. There are other reasons. He no
doubt took the boy to the road, and handed him to his confederates,
passing in another car. The affair occurred, you will remember, in a
little frequented part of the Bois.

"The subsequent actions of Mary Lanahan are a trifle difficult to
account for; but I suppose them to have been as follows: On slowly
coming out of her stupor, and realizing that the boy was gone, she was
terribly frightened. It had seemed to her but a moment since she turned
away. She fears that the cigarette has made her drowsy--she has heard
that they sometimes contain opium. She thinks she may have dozed off;
but is not willing to admit it. Especially does she not want her
employers to know that she uses cigarettes. She fears that such
knowledge would cost her her place. It is not until later that she
begins to suspect the cigarettes."

"When is that?" inquired Lefevre.

"Several days later, when she is supposed to have been poisoned. She was
with Valentin at the time; although, on account of Mr. Stapleton's
dislike for him, she feared to admit it. She smokes another of the
cigarettes, while sitting on a bench with him, in the Champs Élysées.
Suddenly she is taken ill--a frequent result of hashish, when taken in
excessive doses, or by one otherwise nervously upset. Valentin takes the
box, puts her into a cab, and goes to his room, where he leaves the
cigarettes. No doubt, as she begins to feel ill, she discusses with him
the possibility of the cigarettes having been poisoned. It is for that
reason that she gives them to him.

"Her sudden message to Valentin to destroy them arose from a fear that I
would discover the part which they had played in the boy's loss. This
would, she knew, not only cost her her place, but would make her, in a
way, responsible for the entire affair. She feared Mr. Stapleton's
wrath, and therefore both she and Valentin remained dumb, so far as the
cigarettes were concerned.

"They both, however, were all this time doing their best to find the
child. Her message to Valentin, that she was suspicious of François,
telling Valentin to watch him, arose no doubt from a realization that
the box of drugged cigarettes had been substituted for her own by the
chauffeur.

"Valentin, acting on her advice, does watch François, as his presence
clinging to the rear of the latter's car the other night has proved. He
tells me, today, that François did not take his car to the garage that
night at all. The men there who so testified lied, at his request,
supposing it merely an excuse to cover a joy ride.

"François, not wishing that the drugged cigarettes should remain in the
nurse's hands as evidence against him, evidently made an attempt to
recover them, discovered that she had turned them over to Valentin, and,
being watched himself, sent word of the matter to his confederate, the
fellow who went about in the black beard. He must have been admitted to
Mr. Stapleton's house that night by François himself.

"I came to the conclusion, early in the course of my investigations,
that the cigarette, the end of which I had found in the Bois, had been
smoked by Mary Lanahan, and I so told Mr. Stapleton."

The banker nodded. "Yes," he said; "but you did not then say anything
about the hashish."

"I was not certain of it. I intended to have the fragment I had found
analyzed. When I discovered the cigarettes in François' room, you will
remember that I took one of them. I smoked that cigarette, before going
to bed that night. It produced exactly the sensations that Mary Lanahan
must have felt. I floated away in the land of dreams for over half an
hour, and came to with no recollection whatever of the passage of time.
It is a remarkable drug, but an extremely dangerous one.

"After that, the case became simple enough. I knew at once, beyond any
question, that François was one of the kidnappers. My plans last night
would have worked perfectly, but for the chauffeur's accidental
discovery of me, hiding in the closet. Had that not happened, the boy
would have been returned, according to program, and François I had
safely in my hands."

"But we wouldn't have got the others," laughed the Prefect. "You must
thank your wife for that. Vernet has told me how the kidnappers
outwitted you at the Avenue Malakoff. The car from which the signal
apparently was made contained a well known stockbroker, who knew nothing
of the matter at all. He merely happened to be passing the Avenue
Malakoff at the precise moment when the signal was given to François."

"You are mistaken, Monsieur," observed the detective, quietly. "The
signal was undoubtedly made from that car; not by Monsieur Lemaitre, I
will admit, but by his chauffeur. He has admitted to Vernet that a
stranger paid him fifty francs to do so, on the plea that it was some
signal to a woman. The man knows nothing of the affair, beyond that."

As he finished speaking, there was a ripple of laughter from the hall,
and Mrs. Stapleton, Madame Lefevre, and Grace came in.

"We have been debating a most important question," said Mrs. Stapleton,
with an assumption of extreme gravity, "and we beg that you, Monsieur
Lefevre, will be so good as to decide it."

"What is this question so grave, Madame," inquired the Prefect, rising,
with a smile. "I am all impatience to hear it."

"The question is this, Monsieur Lefevre: Which deserves the greater
credit for the recovery of my boy--Mr. Duvall, or his charming wife?"

The Prefect stepped forward, placed one hand affectionately upon
Duvall's shoulder, and with the other grasped Grace by the arm.

"The question you propound, Madame," he said, looking from the detective
to his wife with a smile, "is easily answered. The credit belongs
equally to both. And that, my children, is as it should be. This affair,
so happily terminated, has taught me one important lesson. It is this:
The husband and the wife should never be in opposition to each other.
They must work together always, not only in matters of this sort, but in
all the affairs of life. I attempted a risky experiment in allowing
these two dear friends of mine to attack this case from opposite sides.
But for some very excellent strokes of luck, it might have resulted most
unhappily for all concerned. Hereafter, should Monsieur Duvall and his
wife serve me, it must be together, or not at all." He turned to Grace.
"I feel that I owe you both a great debt, my child, for having once
again so rudely interrupted the course of your honeymoon. What
reparation can I make? Ask of me what you will."

"Anything?" inquired Grace, laughing.

"Anything." The Prefect bowed gallantly.

"Then I demand your promise, Monsieur, to visit us at our place in
Maryland, before the end of the year."

"That," exclaimed the Prefect, as he bent and kissed her hand, "would be
the most delightful way of paying a debt that I could possibly
imagine."



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    A stupendous arraignment of modern marriage which has created an
    interest on the stage that is almost unparalleled. The scenes are
    laid in New York, and deal with conditions among both the rich and
    poor.

    The interest of the story turns on the day-by-day developments
    which show the young wife the price she has paid.


    _Ask for complete free list of G. & D. Popular Copyrighted Fiction_

    GROSSET & DUNLAP, 526 WEST 26TH ST., NEW YORK



       *       *       *       *       *

    Transcriber Notes

    Obvious punctuation and spelling errors have been corrected.

    page 291 Original: he is no longer in the horse; but he may be in

    Replaced: he is no longer in the house; but he may be in

    page 256 Original: The man seemed hurried. He grouped his way

    Replaced: The man seemed hurried. He groped his way





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