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Title: Dreamy Hollow - A Long Island Romance
Author: Britton, Sumner Charles
Language: English
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DREAMY HOLLOW


   TO THE GIRL OF MY DREAMS

   --F. A. B.--


[Illustration: SHE GAZED UPON HIS KINDLY FACE, AND THEN WITH THE JOY OF
YOUTHFUL SPIRITS, PLACED HER HANDS OVER HIS EYES.]


DREAMY HOLLOW

by

SUMNER CHARLES BRITTON

A Long Island Romance



[Illustration: Decoration]

New York
World Syndicate Company, Inc.

Copyright, 1921,
By World Syndicate Company, Inc.

Printed in the U. S. A.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                             PAGE
    I THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY             1

   II WILLIAM PARKINS ARRIVES         19

  III A MESSAGE FROM WINIFRED         40

   IV A SUDDEN DEPARTURE              49

    V THE HAWK SEEKS ITS PREY         61

   VI SECRET SERVICE                  77

  VII THE NEW WINIFRED                96

 VIII HENRY UPDYKE DROPS IN          115

   IX FORCES BEYOND THE SKIES        133

    X THE NURSE TAKES A CHANCE       144

   XI MARY JOHNSON                   166

  XII THE THIRD DEGREE               188

 XIII WINIFRED MEETS UPDYKE          216

  XIV GEORGE CARVER'S BRIDE          242

   XV PARKINS RUNS AMUCK             259

  XVI THE HUT ACROSS THE BAY         279

 XVII THE WOLF HOUND                 288

XVIII FLIGHT OF A SOUL               301



DREAMY HOLLOW



CHAPTER I.

THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY


Dreamy Hollow may be reached three ways--by automobile, aeroplane or
boat through Great South Bay. But to go there without invitation would
have spoiled the welcome, for, at the time of which we write, the master
of this magnificent acreage was a man of square jaw, protruding
forehead, and very punctilious. He also possessed two deep blue eyes
that set far back under brows of extra overhang--eyes that reflected the
soul when tranquil, but in heat of passion, turned to lead.

A forest of trees and kindred foliage protected his gleaming villa from
the prying gaze of curious tourists. Only from the water side could it
be seen at all. When it was learned that the great concrete walls topped
by heavy iron pickets admitted of no entrance except by invitation, the
sight-seeing tourist scorned the gatekeeper's apology and scurried away
along the gasoline trail.

For quite a long period much mystery existed as to the ownership of the
magnificent estate, but this much was known: that for five straight
years the great house stood empty. No one was seen to come or go, save
the watchman at the ornate iron gates opening upon the motor parkway,
and his fellow guardsmen in charge of the estate far in behind the trees
and bushes,--out of sight. It was built by a trust company, and whoever
might be the owner, he came by sea at rare intervals and sailed away at
night. Only a chosen few had visited him there, but they came as he
came, and departed with him as he went away. Thus the wondrous white
home with its wealth of trees and shrubs came to be known to the
families of neighboring estates as "Spooky Hollow."

Drury Villard, after amassing a most prodigious fortune, suddenly
appeared before his directors one bright June morning, and announced his
retirement forthwith, whereat there was great consternation. For a time
the silence following his announcement became so tense that, as
President, he felt it necessary to say something more definite. Gathered
about him were men who had carried his message all over the world and
had sold it for cash. Never had they known a human specimen of such
overwhelming energy of body and mind. Although strong in themselves,
individually, and as a group, they knew they were merely "spokes in the
wheel" of a giant intellect. They had carried his banner into every
port, and that banner had spelled prosperity for every agency that held
it aloft. But the Master Mind would quit! Now he would lay aside his
life work and "desert" the greatest organization of its kind in the
world! It amounted to just that--desertion--to those who had grown up
with the business--their all was involved.

The stern faces of the strong men about him finally brought President
Villard to his feet and caused him to walk nervously to and fro across
the room. Every eye was upon him, and he knew in advance each man's
thoughts, so intimate had his relations been with them. It was his
intention to be frank. He meant to tell them everything about his
future plans, but he who had always dominated now halted, ill at ease.
For once in his life he exhibited a diffidence of speech in the presence
of his directors. They would most likely think his reasons
silly--perhaps they would think him crazy! Above all else he wanted, as
he well deserved, their lasting good will. Under no circumstances would
he forfeit that; but there were certain men in the organization who
might feel that he was in the act of jeopardizing their future welfare.
Each was a special partner and entitled to the truth, therefore he
determined to put his case squarely up to them as a group, regardless of
their attitude toward himself. With his hands clasped behind him he
finally came to a standstill before them and dreamily peered into their
faces.

"Boys," said he, his lips curving into a queer little smile, "I've got
to quit--but I won't desert you. I shall do nothing that will subtract
from what you have, nor will I retard your progress in pursuit of your
goal. I have enough--more than I ever wanted--more than is good for any
one man to possess. But for you, untiring faithfuls that you are, I
should have said 'good-bye' to this great business five years ago."

Being a man of few words he stopped short and leaned back against the
wall where he stood as one at bay until the silence became awkward. Then
in a soft sympathetic voice a member of his board of directors spoke.

"Why, Mr. Villard--why would you have done this, when at that time your
zeal was at its height?"

Vice-President Parkins asked this question in all good humor.

"Because I feared to lose my soul in pursuit of riches that I did not
need. Besides, I was building my future home at Dreamy Hollow. I felt
that I should need one as I was on the point of marriage. None of you
know that, however," concluded the President, with a far-away gleam in
his eyes.

Man of silence and strength, he paused for a moment and again paced the
floor. Finally he said, simply, a whimsical expression lighting up his
face: "She died--but I went ahead and built a home for her just the
same. It has taken years to make it into a place she would have loved.
Now, at last, it is ready. Maybe she will hover about it some of the
time, so I want to be there. I want to be near at hand, so that----"

President Villard stopped suddenly and looked helplessly about him, for
there were strange lights in the eyes of more than one member of the
board, and by each man's sobered face was shown a deep sympathy. He
looked upon them in amazement, and, suddenly taking his seat at the head
of the directors' table, broke out in his accustomed voice.

"Gentlemen," said he, "we must now come to order and proceed with
matters to be passed upon by the Board. The first thing is my
resignation. In support of that I most earnestly bespeak your hearty
concurrence. I must be relieved. Parkins is the man. He has been the
real head of this corporation for years--yes, you have Bill," said he,
insistently--"and all of us know it. You are the 'System Sam' of the
concern, and I won't desert you by any means. Make me Chairman of the
Board, if you think best, and I'll come to the annual meeting, or any
time you really want me, but I trust that you will find my presence
unnecessary. There need be no outside talk. Just say that I am playing
with my new home, but am still in the ring. Go on with the business,
boys. It's yours from now on. I'll gradually draw out and let go of some
stock from time to time in equal shares to you who have carried the hod.
I shall keep some of it always just to be one of you, but at my death my
executors will find advices from me to dispose of any remaining interest
equitably between you. Also allow you time to work it out, if need be.
It's all up to you."

What the retiring president had to say was so entirely unexpected that
no member of the board found words for reply, although it was patent to
all that a great good fortune had been handed them in a fashion never to
be forgotten. After a tense period of silence Vice-President Parkins
arose from his seat and, walking forward, grasped the hand of the
retiring president. A look into each other's eyes told of their mutual
trust and esteem; and then one by one, the directors passed in review,
several of whom put an arm about Villard's broad shoulders and peered
through the mist of their own eyes into his serious face. It was plain
that he wanted to be sure that each man was satisfied, and when all had
paid their tributes of respect he stood before them irresolutely for a
moment--then, without looking back, walked out of the room.

Drury Villard carried no heart upon his sleeve. His was a vigorous
nature and he was determined that his first real attempt at home life
should light his path toward contentment. No one could have dreamed that
this indefatigable specimen of the strenuous life could so easily adjust
himself to the new order of things. The usual servants, male and female,
amply vouched for by expert agencies, had entered quickly and at once
became a part of his orderly household. There had been no fussy
superintendence on the part of any one, each member of the menage
quietly walking into an appointed place, to take up the duties belonging
thereto.

All this was to the liking of the master, whose "stock" was soon "taken"
by the experienced coterie of servants who forthwith gave him their
approval. Thenceforward his time was his own. He would lead a new life;
he would make it his sole business to solve the problem of the real
gentleman of leisure. To accomplish this he must discard by degrees all
superfluous endeavor. Every habit of haste and impatience must be thrown
overboard. Tranquillity of mind and body must be transplanted in their
stead. He had a vague notion that his loneliness would soon vanish and
that certain seeds of contentment implanted by fixed habits, together
with forces not hitherto encountered, would, in time, lead him "beside
the still waters,"--away from the storms of life. He welcomed the
thought. It stood out as a rainbow of promise before his mind's eye, and
took root within his bosom.

As days followed his occupancy of the great home he had builded, he
became aware of the perfect solace which now permeated his inner being.
Although assured that he had control of his every faculty he did not
gloat over his sudden surcease from sorrow. There was a reason for
everything and consequently no need of haste in forming "half-baked"
conclusions. He had been helped along by a process yet to be
fathomed--most probably _the will to do_. His great homestead, a marvel
of exquisite taste, also performed its part in the transformation. But
there was something deeper still, an underlying cause, that mystified
him. Then, all at once, a great thought crept forward--was _she_ near?
Did _she_ know _all_--everything about his great longing for _her_? His
heart seemed to stand still!

He gazed out of the window; evening shadows had fallen. He had been
seated in a huge cushioned chair seemingly for a long time. The room was
noiseless but for the deep moaning of the waters of Great South Bay
lapping at the beach. Then--vaguely--he thought he heard a voice;
"Drury!" it seemed to call.

Villard roused himself and stood upon his feet. He wondered at the calm
within him, and with glad voice shouted back: "Winifred! you have called
to me! Speak again, dear one! I----"

"_There is no death!--There is no death!_" came the answer clear and
joyous--and then a stillness fell upon the room, so intense that through
a heavy metal door could be heard the ticking of a clock in an adjoining
room.

Shaken by the experience Drury Villard fell back into the soft
upholstery from which position he had heard the voice. He must have time
to think! What did it all mean? How much was fact--how much was fancy?
Had he been asleep? Would it not be best to walk out along his private
beach and breathe the salt air of the evening tide, thus to tranquilize
his mind? There was nothing to brood about--that was his thought. He had
witnessed a certain phenomenon, the secret of which time must disclose
to him. He would wait, "patiently and without stress of mind," was his
sober conclusion. In fact, as he walked out along the sandy path leading
to the water's edge he found himself supremely happy over his wonderful
adventure. His Winifred had kept the tryst!--such was his impression.

From within the great obscuring veil she had spoken, had called his
name,--had fulfilled the promise she had given while in the life!

"'Tis naught for Sun to shine," he quoted. "God works in a mysterious
way His wonders to perform. There is no death, says my Winifred. Then
must I strive with all my soul to meet her in the great beyond! But I
must not brood over this matter. I feel the need of fellowship. I'll
send for Parkins and put my story before him. I must have some one in
whom to confide," and forthwith he put his plan into action.

Never was a man more seemingly delighted than William Parkins when a
"long distance" call from the Master of Dreamy Hollow invited him over
for the week-end.

"I'm just beginning to want to pal with somebody I know. Five weeks is a
long time to wait for friends to invite themselves, so I'm going to
start in from my end. You're first on the list, and the first invitation
is yours. I won't take _no_ for an answer."

"You will not have to, my dear fellow. I'm most happy to have the
opportunity. Which way shall I go out?"

"My boat will take you on board at your pleasure any time after noon on
Friday, and will land you back at the same Forty-second Street Pier at
such time as you suggest."

"Well, now, that would be perfectly bully! Let's see--your estate joins
the Sawyer Place, does it not?"

"Yes--on the east. His hedgerow is the dividing line between us."

"Then I know exactly how to get to you, so I shall taxi over," replied
Parkins with enthusiasm. "You see I can kill two birds with one stone by
stealing away Friday afternoon and motoring over to my fishing hut at
Patchogue--wonderful flounders down there! I have my own boat and I want
to see what condition she's in, so I'll get over to your place by noon
on Sunday. How does that suit your convenience?"

"Nothing could be better."

"Then it's a go--and many thanks. Bye, sir," concluded Parkins, in his
usual courteous way.

"Bye, old boy. I await you with great impatience. Speed the
day--S'long--keep yourself good."

A delightful sense of anticipation came into the mind of Drury Villard
as he hung the receiver. He felt the need of fellowship and upon
Parkins' acceptance his great frame took on a certain vigor that called
for action. He must hurry the time away that intervened before Parkins
should arrive on Sunday. He must make plans. Perhaps Doctor Sawyer of
the adjacent estate would join him in a dinner of welcome.

Such a plan would brush away all business talk, sure to take place if
Parkins and himself were left alone the first evening. His idea was to
dodge business altogether. Parkins needed a rest, and, as for himself,
he had no heart for ordinary commercial chit-chat. He held a great
secret in his bosom, a precious secret, and even with so good a friend
as Parkins he would be chary of sharing it. For the present, pending the
arrival of his visitor, he had much in mind with which to occupy
himself. Parkins must find an improvement in him, therefore he would
hasten his plan of mastering the secret of composure. His great
experience of the afternoon might be repeated if he could but put his
mind in condition to receive it. Wonderful thought!--and he would strive
to bring it about.

First of all, for the sake of health, another walk along the beach
seemed practical, and obeying the impulse, Villard soon found himself
strolling leisurely over the path leading to the waters of the bay. He
could hear the heavy intonation of the milling tide as it broke upon the
sands, long before he reached his destination. Its deep muffled roar was
not unlike the reveille of a drum corps in a far-away encampment. As he
neared his destination, such was his serenity of mind that he felt
himself in tune with all nature from earth to sky. His whole being
thrilled at the wonderful message from his dead love.

"There is no death!" he murmured--and then, in lower tone, almost a
whisper, he repeated--"there is no death--my beloved knows the truth!"

"Oh, Winifred," he cried aloft, "speak again to me! Tell me that you are
near--that I may hope--that I may----" and then a chilling blast swept
over the sands that sent a shiver through his body. A voice shouted--a
voice he knew and loved so well. It seemed to say--"Life never
dies!"--as clear as ever a human tongue could bear a message. It was the
same sweet voice as of old, but all-pervading, seeming to completely
encompass the eager man on all sides--and from below, and from above.
His eyes opened wide in amazement as he put forth his whole strength to
control his senses. A man of iron will, he would not fail himself at
such a supreme moment! Near unto him was the spirit of his dead, the
soul of his loved one--a second visitation.

"Speak on, my Winifred!" he whispered hoarsely, while attempting to
shout his words.

"Life, itself, is everlasting!" rang out the voice once more. "The body
dies when the soul takes flight--it is no more in being."

"Yes, go on, my loved one! Tell me----"

"Life is a common fund--endless--vast as the heavens--encompassing all
space. Life is universal--it permeates, and through constant vibration
animates all living things, from the blade of grass to the human
soul--but the body dies, and returns to earth."

"And of the soul, my Winifred? Tell me all that I should know, that
I----"

"Within the last moment of your life, when your soul prepares to take
its flight, all shall be revealed to you. Your soul is the mentor of
your brain, and the master of your conscience. By virtue of its quality
will its destiny be governed.... So live, my Drury, that when your body
dies your soul shall take the flight which leads to everlasting life."

"And we shall meet again, Winifred?--and know each other----"

"The test lies with you. I'll be waiting, Drury--waiting----"

The voice ceased, and Villard, startled by the unfinished sentence,
heard a faint sound as if a silken kerchief had fluttered forth upon the
breezes. At once the air seemingly regained its usual warmth, the
chilling blast following along in the wake of the departing spirit.

Greatly agitated the astonished man looked about him as one who had but
just awakened from a dream. Nevertheless he nerved himself into a full
control of his faculties as one of his great mental poise is ever
capable. He felt sure that his sanity was perfect. He had experienced an
extraordinary visitation, but it had left no uncanny feeling within his
bosom. His real anxiety, if any, was the fear that the spirit of his
loved one had revealed too much--such was her love for him--and that
future visitations might thereby be thwarted. Against that possibility
he compelled himself to concentrate every force of his intellect and
every ounce of his soul--and with that resolve he turned his footsteps
toward his home, his body erect, his face illumined--his heart
enraptured.

"Winifred!" he whispered, over and over again, and, as he neared his
stately mansion--all quiet, serene, and beautiful to look upon--a great
wave of regret seized him because _she_ had never crossed its threshold
"in the life."



CHAPTER II.

WILLIAM PARKINS ARRIVES


The arrival of William Parkins on schedule time, all energy and
activity, completely changed the atmosphere of the peaceful home at
Dreamy Hollow. Parkins could not sit still. His face, red with sunburn,
seemed that of a dissipated man. He fidgeted in his chair, or paced the
floor while talking incessantly about the business and its prospects. He
had, since Villard's retirement, become its "steering wheel," according
to his own estimation. Others in the great organization who, with no
shouting of self-praise, had suddenly become open game for his shafts of
criticism. With blearing eyes he asserted that if left to himself he
would buy out the interest of two or more stockholders--"dead ones"--he
called them, but for the fact that his own contract with Villard had
foreclosed upon the possibility. In less than half an hour he had, by
hint and innuendo, thrown a wet blanket over the future prospects of
the company. The morale was "bad." A strong man was needed at the
helm--that was his verdict. And in amazement Villard listened without a
word from his lips. Had the man suddenly gone crazy!--that was his first
thought, but--as Parkins continued, Villard became convinced that he was
a knave.

"With your approval, Drury," said Parkins, assuming a new familiarity,
"I can make a great institution out of the company. It would be no trick
for me to put all competition out of business. In fact, I have a
plan----"

"What would you do with the present organization?" Drury Villard asked
softly, but with a glint in his eyes that should have warned his guest
of a lack of sympathy toward such a scheme.

"I'd scrap it!" replied Parkins, with energy.

"Scrap it!"

Villard raised himself to a straight-up sitting posture.

"Completely--and I'll tell you why," replied Parkins, with an air of
finality. "The boys are getting along in years. They are old-fashioned.
Business has hardened since they started in, away back there, and they
don't seem to know it. 'Let well enough alone' is the invisible motto
they seem to see hanging upon the wall. It makes me sick--this
nonchalance. They golf Saturdays, go to the shows at night, dine out
with their wives, spend a lot of money and come down to business next
morning unfit for their duties."

"I'd think they would work with more energy for having taken a little
pleasure as they go along--and their wives should share in it!"

Villard smiled into the eyes of his visitor as he awaited his answer,
although his soul revolted at the change in the man he had made
vice-president of "Villard Incorporated."

"Perhaps they might--more likely they won't," replied Parkins, his voice
snappy and hard. "Business is good, all right. Sales are bigger, but
that comes from my work, and as complete head of the company, I could
give it not only greater national scope but greater international scope
as well. I tell you this because you hold the key to the situation, and
you'll agree that it takes a blood and iron policy to succeed on a big
scale."

"Yes, partly true," replied Villard, whose facial expression gave no
clew to his real thoughts. But had William Parkins known the trend of
the Villard mind he would have packed his apparel and returned to New
York. For a man of his shrewdness his blunder had been colossal. Having
enthused himself to believe he was on the right track, and failing to
note downright objection on the part of his host toward the trend of his
conversation, he began a long drawn out indictment against each member
of the company.

"It isn't a case of let well enough alone, even if it is true that we
have done especially well," said he. "But my plans mean millions, not
hundreds of thousands, and nothing should be allowed to stand in the way
of them--not even the men who have grown up with the business. With your
help I can buy every interest, and if you consent I'll quadruple your
fortune in a couple of years. Of course, I'd keep some of the men. All I
need is the nucleus from which to expand--and your consent to proceed."

Parkins' face glowed with pride at the manner in which he had presented
his case.

"There is a certain change in your appearance, William, since I last
saw you. Anything happened to disturb your mind?" inquired Villard.

"Not a thing, sir. I've been working hard--very hard, Drury. This little
trip to Patchogue over the week-ends is about all I do. I like to fish,
and drive my car. They are the extent of my pleasures. That's what makes
my face red--sunburn!" laughed Parkins.

Villard smiled affably and agreed that the ozone from salt water was
almost the elixir of life. Then, referring to Parkins' aspirations to
become President of the company, he said:

"I'll think the matter over and let you know before you return to the
city. At the moment I'm thinking of the jolly good dinner we're going to
have. I've invited Doctor Sawyer to join us. He lives across the hedge
and I screwed up the courage to introduce myself. When two sit at a
table alone they are apt to talk over business matters, but a third
person makes it a party. How's that for an idea?"

"All right, I suppose--three--yes, of course. It is all right, and very
thoughtful of you, to be sure, although I've heard it said that two is
company, and three is a crowd. However, I'm delighted at the prospect of
meeting the doctor. Is he an old resident--one of our plutocrats?"

"That, I do not know," replied Villard. "His estate is magnificent and
his home beautiful. I do hope he will turn out to be sociable. It is not
well to dwell too much alone. We must not blight our minds through lack
of exercise. The brain should have its share as well as the body. And
also a certain amount of rest."

"I presume you are right, although this is the first time I have
considered the subject. I give no thought to those matters--time wasted,
I'd say."

Parkins, the impatient, did not relish such conversation and would have
taken the short cut back to business talk had not the announcement of
Doctor Sawyer's arrival stopped him. The introduction to the doctor was
without warmth on either side; the regulation pump handle shake of the
hands left both without a word or a smile for each other. Drury Villard
was quick to notice that neither guest regarded the other more than
casually.

"Mr. Parkins is connected with our company, and since my retirement
from business has presided over the Board meetings," volunteered
Villard.

"Indeed!" responded the Doctor gravely.

"Yes, and I am making things hum!" added Parkins. "It will be a long
time before I shall want to hibernate, even in such a lovely spot as
this. Action, action--I crave it! I must keep on the jump. Very pretty
down here, though. Both of you have been prodigal with your money, but
I'll wager neither of you could sell for the amount you've spent."

For several long seconds no answer came from either the host or his
neighbor. Finally the latter broke the silence by saying, "ahem!" Drury
Villard, however, did give Parkins a sharp look; then almost rudely
said:

"Perhaps each of us should decide for himself how he shall spend his
means. 'One man's food is another man's poison'--according to an old
saying that still holds true."

"Yes, all very well," persisted Parkins, "but the wealth both of you
have poured into your estates might easily have endowed a great
hospital, or capitalized a huge business, giving employment to many
people."

At this point Mr. Sawyer frowned, and with his fingers nervously
thrumbed the arm of his chair. But he said nothing in reply. Fortunately
announcement was made that dinner was ready to be served,--and much to
the relief of the host, whose amazement at Parkins' poor taste was only
equaled by his embarrassment. At once he rose from his seat and led the
way to the dining hall, a great amphitheater with high ceiling starting
from the main floor and reaching to the top of the second story. Never
before had the master of Dreamy Hollow dined "in state" in his own home,
preferring as he did the breakfast room, unpretentious and more
inviting--or a nook on a side portico overlooking the garden of roses,
and the inlet from the bay. Every appointment at this great dining hall
was in keeping with its huge dimensions and the acoustics accentuated
the voices of those gathered at the very large table in its center.

"I have never summoned the courage to dine at this table since I came
here to live," laughed Villard. "I have been so long completing the
house that I have not had time to try it on to see how it would fit."

"Most generous and beautiful," said Dr. Sawyer. "I am deeply impressed
with your construction plan. I made a failure of my main dining room.
Too small by far. I must do some tearing out and rebuilding. By the way,
have you given your estate a name?" queried the doctor.

"Dreamy Hollow," replied Villard.

"I've heard it called Spooky Hollow," laughed Parkins, whose humor ever
contained a dash of acid. Then noting the frown upon Dr. Sawyer's brow
the subject was changed, Parkins taking the lead. Evidently the doctor
had failed to appreciate the little joke at the expense of his host.

"By the way," said Parkins, "there is a large institution out West
called the Sawyer Dietariam. Was it named after you, Doctor?"

"Now, ah--I believe it was, although I beg you to believe that I was
opposed to the idea," replied Sawyer, who added--"although I am a
medical doctor I did not practice medicine. My specialty was that of
scientific diet, but they would call me doctor."

Parkins' face flushed red at the thought of his recent rudeness toward
his fellow-guest. In an effort to straighten out matters he slapped his
hands upon the table and gave voice to a nervous sort of laughter.

"Well, well! I did you a great injustice, Dr. Sawyer, and I beg your
pardon," said he, most courteously. "You have really been useful to
mankind, after all."

"No apologies, please," replied Sawyer, affably. "I am always
sympathetic with those who jump at conclusions. Ah--by the way, I have
heard that Mr. Villard, our host, was most prodigal when he retired from
active business, going so far as to turn over to his organization the
complete running of the institution in order that each man should have
the ready made opportunity of becoming substantially rich. I don't know
the facts, nor did I hear them from our modest host. The point is this,
that whether or not he may ever endow a charity his record for
generosity toward the men who helped him to build his great business has
been warmly complimented by many leading financiers who know the facts.
Unless his example should yield poor results I am prone to believe that
other rich men, on retiring, will follow his lead. No plan should be
followed wholesale, as it were, until some sort of tabulation as to its
merits are consulted. The Villard experiment is being watched with great
interest."

"Spied upon?" questioned Parkins, sharply. "I wouldn't be surprised if
it is!"

"Nonsense, Mr. Parkins! Business is reputable in these happy days. No
one concern can get it all. Old animosities and jealousies have been
cast aside. Business is becoming standardized, and, I am happy to
hope--humanized. Mercantile warfare is all but a thing of the past. Only
the upstart and the unsophisticated engage in cut-throat competition
these days. The stronger the organization in brains and honesty, the
greater the outlook for success."

Strange to say, William Parkins found no words with which to combat the
logic set forth by Dr. Sawyer. That he felt himself to be entirely out
of the argument showed in his demeanor. Being no fool, however, he saw
that his advantage lay in getting away from the subject, and that he
proceeded to do. He could feel the searching eyes of the veteran as
spotlights upon himself, eyes that were unafraid--stern but fair, as
shown by the kindly twinkle that crept into them--likewise the smile
that seemed to bid for good-fellowship all around. That there should be
no awkward period of silence, Dr. Sawyer changed the subject.

"I am very much interested in a book I picked up recently, entitled,
'The Naked Truth'--most readable indeed. I try to laugh it out of my
mind, but still find myself reading along without being bored. Thus far
the author has made a pretty fair case in behalf of eternal life. There
is no death, he says, and puts up an argument that I am not able to cope
with. I have no license, no desire to dispute his statements."

"All rot!" exclaimed Parkins. "Of course you took no stock in it! There
is positively nothing known beyond the grave--I'd bet my head on that."

As he looked around for support Parkins noted that his host had suddenly
turned pale, also that his hand trembled, and his fork had fallen into
his plate. Fearful that he might have antagonized Villard in some
ardent belief, he was glad when Dr. Sawyer came to the rescue.

"I do not believe any one is competent to designate this author's
theories as rot," said the visitor. "He might be as well assured of his
ground as Mr. Parkins is of his. Perhaps he has had experience not yet a
part of Mr. Parkins' stock of knowledge! As a fact, we have all been
taught from childhood of a great reunion in store for us. The Bible is
authority for that. Is Mr. Parkins able to support a theory to the
contrary?"

Sawyer tried to catch Parkins' eyes, but they were fixed upon his plate.
He then turned toward his host with a remark when he noticed the pallor
of Villard's face, and the trembling of his hands resting upon the edge
of the table.

"Are you ill, Mr. Villard?" he inquired, solicitously.

The host looked up and attempted to smile away the inference. But
instead, something from within prompted him to say:

"I have every reason to believe that the dead have power to communicate
with the living."

"You have!" exclaimed Doctor Sawyer, looking sharply at his host.

"It is true--I have experienced----" then Drury Villard halted abruptly
and looked anxiously into the faces of both guests. Each seemed greatly
surprised at his partial answer. Perhaps they doubted. Therefore, to a
certain extent he would enlighten them.

"I have witnessed the greatest phenomenon possible to occur. Within a
few days I have talked with some one whom I knew in the life!"

After Villard's solemn declaration there followed a long pause. Parkins'
face became very grave, but there was a sharp, quizzical look in his
eyes. There sat the paramount stockholder of the corporation over which
he craved ultimate control. Once in that position complete ownership
might easily be made to pass along to himself. A person in Drury
Villard's state of mind surely needed legal guardianship--that was his
notion--therefore, "why not, by legal action, become that guardian!"

This thought, on the spur of the moment, took root at once, and
craftily, and through semblance of friendly credulity, Parkins began to
work upon the good graces of his host. He at once decided to humor
Villard in all things put forth in behalf of his uncanny belief.

As to Sawyer he could, perhaps, through subtle diplomacy, make of him an
innocent ally. But extreme caution would be necessary--he would have to
change his tactics, agree to the Sawyer code of ethics, and above all,
build up in him a strong sympathy for Villard, because of his
affliction.

"While I am much surprised at your declaration, Drury," said Parkins, "I
can truly say that you have struck the one chord nearest my heart.
Brain, body and soul, I believe in immortality."

Parkins' voice had now become soft and gentle, and a winning smile was
upon his lips. He observed Villard's keen eyes searching him for the
truth. It was a dangerous test to invite but it was successful, the host
finally relaxing into a state of calm. Having accepted Parkins' overture
as bona fide, Villard, with a sigh of relief, proceeded.

"I do not know why I have disclosed my secret," said he, looking calmly
into the placid face of Dr. Sawyer. "Probably because it reflected the
yearnings of my soul. Involuntarily I seem to have sought the loyalty of
my guests toward the truth of my statement."

"Of course, it is true, Mr. Villard," responded Sawyer. "Why not? While
I have never actually heard voices from the outer world I have always
yearned for, and expected, a message from my wife. Also I have believed
with certainty that I would hear her voice in all naturalness--sometime.
Indeed I have prayed for just that. It is bound to come--I am sure of
it," he finished with a gulp.

"There is nothing more strange than our own living presence as we sit
here at this table," declared Parkins soberly. "Truly the phenomena of
death and resurrection are no greater than life itself. But it is all so
very unaccountable that I have only my unshakable belief to make me
steadfast in behalf of my senses."

"Would you care to say more in relation to your communication with a
spirit from the other world?" asked Sawyer, addressing himself to
Villard.

"Perhaps, sometime--but not to-night. I must make sure that I am
perfectly sane, and that what I say will be regarded as truth--not a
mirage of the brain. I must not be set down by either of you as a crazy
man--or even a morbid thinker."

"Quite right, Mr. Villard," responded Sawyer, who had begun to notice
Parkins' nervous attitude. "That would be most unfair, considering your
successful career."

"The world is not ready to believe in the return of souls to comfort the
living," continued Drury Villard. "I shall strive the harder for another
contact with the presence of that wonderful spirit. I knew her in the
life, and I loved her. She would have been my wife years ago, but for
her untimely death. Now that I so greatly need her she has found a way
through the great veil to give me cheer."

As Villard finished his declaration, Dr. Sawyer gave vent to an audible
sigh. His sympathy was bona fide; a fellowship for his host had taken
root in his heart. Parkins had become most solemn in his attitude, his
face denoting a real sympathy for the older men who were striving for
knowledge concerning their departed loved ones. A guilty feeling of
disloyalty caused him to wonder if his plans might not be disclosed to
both Villard and Sawyer through the same voice Drury had heard. A creepy
sensation ran through him at the mere thought of exposure.
Notwithstanding his misgivings he believed both men were suffering under
a delusion born of a desire to hear from their dead. Of the two, Sawyer
was the more nearly sane. This was his estimate between them, but
Villard seemed the more pliable.

Parkins' own plans were far too important to himself to spoil with
overhaste, therefore he resolved that all necessary time should be
taken, might it be a day, a month, or a year. The game was worth the
candle. He would play in this one according to the opportunity offered
by each, patiently awaiting the moment when he might safely spring his
legal trap on Drury Villard.

"I have often tried to find the _open sesame_ to the spirit world but
perhaps I am too earthly to succeed," volunteered Parkins after a
lengthy pause. "What can you tell me, gentlemen, that will give me a
lead toward the door of the unknown?"

"I know nothing whatever," averred Dr. Sawyer, with lips tightened.
"Perhaps Mr. Villard may have something to offer."

"Absolutely nothing, gentlemen. I've told you of my experience without
going into detail. I do not claim to know anything, which is exactly the
attitude of those great thinkers, Edison, Lodge, and Conan Doyle. Edison
is said to believe that he can invent an apparatus so delicate that it
may record communications from the outside. But I had no such
instrument. I simply heard a voice that I knew, and I'd give everything
I have in the world to hear that voice again--there! Did you hear that?"

Drury Villard looked up, and around about him. Parkins' face grew pale
but he avoided the searching eyes of his host.

"Winifred!" shouted Villard, as he gazed abstractedly about the great
dining hall, and into the eyes of his guests. But he did not see them.

On hearing the name Winifred, Parkins' eyes opened wide, as he searched
Villard's face.

"Yes--yes, I hear you," continued Villard--"yes, dear heart--go on--you
say to--what! My God! Can it be true?" Then, glaring at Parkins, he
exclaimed:--"Yes, it is true--I can see the situation clearly. No!--it
shall never be!"

Parkins shuddered with apprehension, as Villard's jaws snapped together,
and for a full half minute his eyes looked down upon the white damask
table covering. When he raised them he glanced swiftly at his host and
then turned with an apologetic smile toward Sawyer.

"I have an acquaintance by the name of----" the sentence remained
unfinished--Villard's face flaming with anger.

"I know you will pardon me if I ask that we change the subject," said
the host in his usual tone of voice, and without a tremor of excitement.
"With no volition of my own I have undergone another experience. I have
nothing to say on the subject and will beg that no questions be asked at
this time. Let us have coffee and cigars, Jacques," said he, addressing
the head servant, at the same time eyeing his guests in an open, cordial
way. His glance at Parkins was searching, but the latter seemed entirely
at ease, and in full sympathy.

"Permit me to say that I intuitively comprehend all that has occurred,"
said Dr. Sawyer to his host. He then turned his eyes upon Parkins, but
that gentleman avoided the gaze, although from no real understanding of
its significance.

"You heard no strange voice, Mr. Parkins?" questioned Sawyer.

"Voice! I heard Drury talking to some one, or something, invisible to
me. I heard no reply--seemed to me as though he had suddenly gone
crazy!"

"Crazy--Yes! Most likely you would think that!" replied Sawyer, sternly.
"Sometimes old friendships dissolve through lack of sympathetic
understanding."

"But I don't understand, sir!" replied Parkins with a composure well
feigned. Glancing hastily toward Villard he asked with eyes widely
opened--"What has happened?"

Villard gazed back at him soberly before replying. Then finally after
due thought he said, somewhat harshly--

"We will talk the matter over at another time. By the way, let us have
the coffee and cigars outside, gentlemen. I have wonderful outlook that
will give us a glimpse of the rising of the moon, now due. Its glow over
the waters of good old South Bay lends wonderful effects."



CHAPTER III.

A MESSAGE FROM WINIFRED


From a nook balcony and for more than an hour the three men bathed in
the beauty of a gorgeous moonlit night. Over their coffee and cigars
they drank in a grandeur of gleam and shadow over sea and land with
little in the way of conversation to mar the serenity of a perfect
night. Each had thoughts personal to himself and the inclination of all
seemed to be that of introspection.

Of the three, Parkins maintained the more silent mood. Had he been
incautious? He wondered if Villard had really been warned against him by
a message of some sort, or was he subject to vagarious meditations by
reason of his loneliness? As for himself, he was far too practical to
admit that there might be such a thing as real spiritual communication.
At any rate, there was yet a preponderance of belief to the contrary. He
knew of certain persons who had been confined in sanitariums for
asserting queer notions on the order of "pipe dreams." Thus next friends
had, by order of court, taken them in charge and put them where, in his
opinion, they belonged. If friends refused to act the law stepped in and
managed the case in behalf of the public welfare.

It was along this line of reasoning that Parkins finally made up his
mind to execute his plans at all hazards. His consuming idea of becoming
tremendously rich depended upon his success in securing control of a
majority holding of "Villard Incorporated." He longed for wealth and
power, to gain which he must use the weapons best fitted to the
task--diplomacy first, force if called for--and he would lose no time!

It would be necessary to watch Sawyer carefully--"a very canny old
gentleman, who might cause trouble," was his thought. To win him would
require a diplomacy of the highest order. He must be primed with the
right sort of propaganda concerning the Villard hallucination and prove
it to Sawyer's satisfaction--then all would go well. He would first turn
them into "old cronies," as it were; cause them to strike up a most
intimate acquaintance wherein the strength of Sawyer's will power could
be utilized in behalf of the Villard weakness. Indeed, Sawyer must be so
convinced of Villard's need of a next friend, wholly disinterested,
except for his mental welfare, that no court in the land would deny him
legal guardianship. Thenceforth the path would be clear of obstruction.
Having formed in outline a plan of action, Parkins broke the silence by
saying--

"Never have I seen so much beauty in moonlight. It is almost as bright
as day."

"Glorious!" responded Sawyer, after several moments of hesitation.

Enthralled by the peacefulness of the situation he had not cared for
small conversation. Villard, evidently buried in thought, remained
silent. He wondered what manner of girl was the Winifred of whom Parkins
had spoken, but he asked no questions. He also wondered as to Parkins'
intentions toward her.

"If the sunrise over the Alps is half as grand as the sheen on the
waters reflecting this moon, I can see myself buying a ticket that way
soon," said Parkins, airily. "Would you care to go along, Drury?"

The question went unanswered overlong, so absorbed was Villard with his
own thoughts. Reminded of the fact that he had guests to entertain he
sat up quite suddenly and gave attention to Parkins' query.

"All that is in the background with me. I've seen every part of it; been
everywhere worth going. This is the spot where my dreams will come true.
Here I will live--and here I will die."

"Right," agreed Sawyer. "I am glad you have come to stay. If ever a man
needed comradeship it is myself. I shall haunt you, Mr. Villard, and
your beautiful home, unless you agree to become a downright good
neighbor who will swap visits often."

"I shall esteem it a high privilege to visit you, often," replied
Villard. "You must come over the hedge every time you have the courage
to choose a poor companion. Of late I have been so much alone that I
need a course of training in order to become sociable. I'm willing to
make a great try of it and will hope for success. You have seen me at my
weakest to-night--perhaps you may never catch me again in the same
mood, Dr. Sawyer. But I know you are a man of deep sympathies and that
we shall be good neighbors."

"That, we must be," replied Sawyer fervently, "and now I shall be going
for I am old enough in years to practice regularity. It is my bedtime--a
little past the accustomed hour, so I will shake hands and be gone! We
must get together soon again."

Then turning toward his fellow guest he bowed stiffly, but made no offer
of his hand in parting.

"An ill omen," thought Parkins, as he threw himself into bed an hour
later. "Things were not working just right," he admitted to himself, but
that his goal should be reached in due time, he promised himself. "The
pyramids were not built over night"--were his last muttered words before
the cool air crept in from the Sound and sent him into a restless sleep.

Out on a window balcony Drury Villard, thoroughly awake, and protected
from the cold by a heavy steamer blanket, sat motionless, with eyes wide
open and mind obsessed with the incidents of the evening. Of the Parkins
episode he very much desired to rid his mind, for, after all, he most
likely stumbled into an awkward position by reason of his too practical
nature. On thinking over the past he could not help but give him credit
for having earned his promotion to actively head the Villard Company. He
had known him as a boy--and he was now the active head of Villard
Incorporated--an expert financial man. All through their years together
he had been loyal, good natured, and successful in the big part he had
undertaken. No higher compliment could have been paid him than that
Villard's mantle of authority should fall upon his shoulders. In the
light of events the question was whether or not Parkins would be capable
of standing up under prosperity and great future prospects. Had an
exalted ego taken possession of his once cool, analytical mind? Was he
now loyal to all hands in the organization, and to Villard himself? Or
had he turned traitor through anxiety to become the master of a great
fortune?

After much weighing of the situation Villard decided that the matter
warranted certain tests continued over a goodly period of time. He held
in reserve a wholesome pity for the man who so lightly esteemed the
golden opinion that he had honestly won, and he pledged himself toward
leading him back to his normal self. With that in mind as a policy to be
pursued, he rang for light inside and wandered his way to bed.

When Drury Villard had laid his head upon his pillow all forebodings
passed away, leaving him at peace in mind and body. There was no
weariness because of his duties as a host. He owed himself a good
night's rest and with every intention to obey the call he shut his eyes
and calmed his brain. Almost at the point of complete repose a vague and
dreamy impression that some one was calling from far away came into his
mind. He seemed to hear his name, and whispered so softly as to be
almost inaudible. Apparently it was the voice of Winifred, and the very
stillness of the night seemed boisterous by comparison. Her nearness had
the effect of tingling the blood in his veins as she breathed his
name--and then, with the softness of a leaf falling upon the grass
beneath a low hung bough, the voice continued--

"All that is good is saved--the dross goes back to earth to enrich the
soil--but the soul is divine! It never dies! Its homeward flight is
nature's plan of purification--but once returned it rests, and awaits
the call to go forth and serve a new-born babe of corresponding mould.
Thus is inclined the congenital tendency of the human strain when mixed,
and provides a natural deviation by which no two human beings are
exactly alike. All nature adheres to the selfsame principle."

"And we both shall live again, my Winifred?" breathed Villard.

"We shall, but worlds there are without number, and the same universe
holds all. What shall be my further progress I do not know. Enough to
say of The Great Beyond that it offers rest and requitement to all souls
released from the ills and sorrows of earthly habitation. Farewell, my
Drury; another Winifred will come into your life ere long. I shall
strive to hover near when you need me most. Meanwhile watch thy way and
beware of the pitfalls that will beset thy path."

Now, suddenly, Villard raised himself to sitting posture. So intent had
been his mind upon the whispered words of his loved one that her spirit
had gone its way before he could command his voice to speak. As in a
dream he buried his face upon his pillow, thereby to control his pent up
emotions, and also to recount and memorize the exact words that she had
spoken. This accomplished, he sighed deeply and lapsed into slumber.
Later on he became restless and was startled into partial wakefulness.
The one word "_beware_"--was faintly whispered, but drowsiness overcame
his effort to understand although he rolled and tossed from side to
side.



CHAPTER IV.

A SUDDEN DEPARTURE


Drury Villard was not the only one at "Dreamy Hollow," who failed to
enjoy a full night of repose. There was William Parkins, guest, and
erstwhile trusted friend, whose brain teemed with plans by which he
might get control of the Villard estate. A score of times he turned over
in bed to escape the penalty of a sleepless night. Somewhere among the
small hours approaching the light of a new day he succumbed to fatigue
and had fallen into a weary doze. His last thought on going to sleep was
the urgency of quick action if his plans were to succeed. His advantage
lay in the present mental state of Drury Villard, whose mind, he was
convinced, must border upon the edge of insanity. Hence the need of
restraint, and no sane judge would dare deny a writ of sequester to a
next friend pending a period of isolation while awaiting the final
decree of the Court. Villard's great fortune should not be allowed to
"dangle" in plain sight of "jack-leg lawyers," while he, Parkins,
awaited final results of the proceedings.

During the hours he had given himself over to thoughts concerning the
Villard matter Parkins' mind had been cold toward any conscientious
scruple. In his judgment Villard's foolish notion that he could
communicate with the soul of a dead sweetheart was as good as a free
ticket to a sanitarium. Any judge would have to admit that. Nothing less
than providential interference could defeat the plan. The first thing to
be done was to select a lawyer of reputation and prestige. Until that
was decided, no important step could be taken, except to find out how
Sawyer would regard the situation. If he balked, naturally complication
would ensue, but the lawyer Parkins had in mind would brook nothing in
the way of nonsense. He could, if desirable, put Villard in an asylum.
As for Sawyer, he would be given to understand that any interference
from him would result in an investigation of his own peculiar views, he
having practically coincided with Villard's belief that the latter had
heard the voice of his dead love.

Dr. Sawyer had intimated plainly that he, too, had heard that voice and
understood the warning words about outside influences. He wondered if
Jacques, the servant who served the dinner, had witnessed Villard's
excitement and understood the cause of it. He decided to find out about
that matter on the following day. Meanwhile he would take one more
pill--then he would rest--"sleep"--he muttered. "I must be ready for
'big game' hunting to-morrow."

With this determination he closed his eyes and fell into a nervous
slumber. But an hour later Parkins found himself sitting upright in bed
and screaming with fear at the top of his voice. Several servants and a
night watchman soon surrounded him, the watchman holding an electric
torch with which he flashed a flood of light into the face of the guest.
Santzi, the Japanese attendant, and personal servant to Drury Villard,
had awakened his employer, and together they rushed to the chamber
occupied by the guest. The latter, wild-eyed and disheveled, stared at
his host and moaned. Then wildly, he shouted--

"It was you who planted a spook in this chamber! You have tried to
frighten me into your insane belief, but you've missed your guess!
You'll pay for this--you'll----"

"There now, William," soothed Villard--"calm yourself, my boy. Your
digestion is off--you've had a bad dream! Don't give way to such
unworthy thoughts. Don't you see that everything is all right?"

"A put up job--that's what I see! Neither you nor any one else in this
world can make a fool out of me! It's _you_ that is crazy--not I. It's
you that pretends to talk with dead people! In fact, it was you who put
up this scheme to scare me. You wanted to win me over into a looney
state of mind like yourself, but it didn't work! Now, sir, I'm done with
you!"

Parkins' eyes blazed with a mad light in each and his breath smelled of
drugs. In his rage he had thwarted his own plans and now comprehended to
the full extent the mess he had made of them. He demanded privacy from
the servants that he might clothe himself and be ready to take his leave
by first conveyance. He also demanded that Villard remain with him for a
conference, which was granted. Once the door was shut against all
witnesses, Parkins sat upon the edge of the bed and cried like a child.

"There is nothing I can say to remove the prejudice I must have aroused
within you, Drury. Of course you will acquit me of bad intentions. It
must have been a nightmare," he whimpered.

The bravado had entirely gone out of the Parkins' voice. Several moments
elapsed as Villard eyed him carefully.

"Just what did you see, William? Tell me exactly what caused your
fright."

Villard's words were measured. They lacked warmth, a fact that Parkins
could not have failed to take into account.

"Some one stood by my bedside--a woman's form--not in the flesh----"

"Yes--go on!"

"It stood there, motionless, and the room became as cold as ice. I tried
to shout but my voice refused to respond. All I could do was to gasp for
breath!"

"How long did the apparition remain in view?" demanded Villard, his eyes
gleaming his disgust toward Parkins.

"A half minute or a minute--seemed like an hour!" he replied, his teeth
chattering from sheer fright.

"Did the Spirit talk--say anything at all?"

"Not a word--just held up a hand as if warning me of something----"

"Ah! there I have it," broke in Villard. "You were warned that your
plans were known to me. And that is true. You have lost your soul,
William, and were you to die without repentance, it would roam through
the ages, lost to all chance of redemption."

"But I don't owe repentance to any dam'd spook! I----"

"Enough of that, sir!" snapped Villard wrathfully. "I'll have no
nonsense of that sort! Another insult and your baggage will await you at
the carriage entrance."

"But, Drury----"

"Hereafter you will address me as Mister Villard. Our intimacy is at an
end!" warned the Master of Dreamy Hollow.

His eyes blazed as he glared at the man on whom he had showered his
trust and esteem.

"To-morrow morning you will return to New York. By the time you reach
there I shall have made up my mind as to your future usefulness to the
company."

Having delivered this ultimatum Villard on second thought punched the
button for Jerry, a colored servant, long in his employ. He responded at
once.

"Send Santzi to me," said he,--"and return with him. I have duties for
both of you. Also arouse the housekeeper and tell her to provide tea and
toast immediately for a departing guest."

When Santzi, the Japanese body-servant to Drury Villard, presented
himself a few moments later he was told to order out the limousine and
prepare to accompany Mr. Parkins to New York.

"It is urgent that the trip be made as quickly as possible--but safely,"
said Villard, and as Santzi started to obey, the master walked along
beside him until both were out of hearing of the Parkins suite.

"I want you to sit inside facing this man. He is not well, and should
get back into a milder temperature. If he tries to get out of the car
just see that he doesn't. His mind is rather upset, because of his
illness. Jerry knows where he lives and will drive him straight to his
door by early morning."

"I'll attend, sir," replied Santzi.

"Then come back home, and get some sleep--but don't shut your eyes while
Mr. Parkins is in your care!"

"I not sleep, 'ntil start back. Must I use jiu-jitsu?"

"If necessary--but be safe. Do him no real harm. See that he harms
neither you nor himself--that's all."

As Parkins, in sulky mood, came out of his comfortable quarters into the
great hall leading to the porte cochère, Villard walked along beside
him, his hand upon his shoulder. Following came several servants, Santzi
in advance, Jerry, Jacques, and Mrs. Bond, the housekeeper, who carried
a hamper filled with food. Parkins had refused to partake of anything to
eat before leaving and as he stepped inside the car the top light
illumined his ashen face. He took the handshake offered by his host who
smiled reassuringly and wished him safe journey.

"You'll be down again, soon, I hope," said Villard, his voice kindly.
"These cold nights get on one's nerves until one becomes used to them.
Call me up soon, I'll be glad to know that you have recovered. Don't try
to report at the office to-morrow. I will phone up that you are not
well, but will be in a few days--meanwhile I'll look in on you at your
home. I'll let you know when. Keep your mind clear, and don't worry."

Parkins' last peep into Drury Villard's eyes brought each mind into full
understanding. Parkins knew that he must not go near the general offices
of the Villard Corporation without invitation from Villard himself.
Looking the situation squarely in the teeth he cursed the drugs that had
crazed him, and at once resolved to carry out orders. His future
depended upon his acceptance of the suggestions offered, which, in fact,
were orders. So tense were his nerves at the moment he could have cried
out against his absurd folly, but the placid face of Santzi appeared as
a full moon with eyes ever alert. The best thing to do was to draw the
robe about him and snuggle down to sleep.

The next he knew the big limousine had halted before the entrance of the
huge apartment building in Park Avenue. There he maintained a suite of
rooms richly furnished and thoroughly equipped for the kind of life he
led. Having slept all of the way home he had fairly recovered from his
delirium of the night, and after gulping down a full portion of "whiskey
sour," he aroused his man-servant and ordered his breakfast.

Then, methodically, he began to repack his suit case, a very large
affair with double hand-grips, capable of holding enough clothing for a
trip to London. But such a journey was farthest from his thoughts.
Patchogue was his destination, and the object of his haste was "the
prettiest little country girl on Long Island!" He had promised her a
trip to the great city, and her father was to accompany her--"and that
makes everything all right," he exclaimed aloud, holding up a kodak
picture of a beautiful young woman, plain of dress but graceful of form,
and a face of idyllic charm.

"Poor little motherless child," said he, softly--"and what a devilish
cur I am growing into!" he growled warningly at his weakness.

Shaking his head soberly as if steadying himself against a great folly,
his eye again caught sight of the big black bottle on the sideboard and
he rushed toward it and grasped it with trembling hands. This time he
took several great swallows, then rushed to the kitchenette for water
which he gulped down his throat until its parched surface had been
appeased.

"Poor little country maid," he mumbled after recovering from a spell of
hiccoughs which suddenly seized him. "I'll send her old man on a bus
ride while I show her a good time along the great white way--and then to
Zim's place! Poor little motherless girl--never has been to the big town
in all her life--and lives only fifty miles away! The old man can drift
for himself, after his bus ride. Ye Gods! Long Island holds thousands of
them who never have seen lil' ol' n'york--hic! Poor lil' country baby--I
love her--no use to marry, she hasn't any money. Love gets cold when you
run out o' gold--sounds like a song-hic!"

Parkins now stripped himself for a bath and was soon out of the tub and
under the shower. All this had a sobering effect upon him, and by the
time he had shaved and dressed he looked the part of a well groomed
gentleman. His eyes caught glimpses of the big black bottle now and
then, but he stood firm, and turned his back upon it. Once he waved his
hand toward it and hoarsely whispered--"never again!"

Then suddenly, he threw back his head and laughed immoderately.

"Never again--hell!" said he, "I'll drink when I want to! Whiskey hasn't
anything on me! I can take it or leave it alone," saying which, he
stepped over to where the bottle stood and took several swallows just to
prove his assertion. Then, calling to his servant, he ordered two full
quarts placed in his suit case, and to phone McGonigle's garage for his
four seated roadster.

A half hour later he was steering his car amid the traffic of the
Williamsburg bridge on his way to a little house in the heart of
Patchogue, the home of Alexander Barbour, and his daughter--Winifred.



CHAPTER V.

THE HAWK SEEKS ITS PREY


As far back as he could remember, Alexander Barbour had fished for the
New York Market in the waters of Great South Bay--likewise his father
and grandfather before him. A vast area of fishing ground stood just off
Patchogue, then a tiny village, near which flounders were seined in
enormous quantities. They were nearest in flavor and delicacy to the
famous sole of English waters, and the great restaurants and hotels of
the day vied with each other in devising new ways to serve them.

Alexander Barbour, with all of the vim and courage of youth, took the
business when his father died and forthwith married the girl of his
choice, whose personality and charm made of him a fond and loving
husband. His greatest hope was that she might bear him a male child,
that the line of succession in the Barbour family should go on through
another generation. Unhappily for him the first born was a girl, and
before a week had rolled around the mother died--and Barbour, the
fisherman, drooped into a physical and mental decline.

Only a winsome baby girl was left to cheer his lonely heart. He strove
hard to conceal his disappointment but the habit of brooding increased,
for he had prayed for a son, but alas, his prayers had been denied.

Before her death Mrs. Barbour gave to her babe the name of Winifred,
and, as the end drew near, a village parson performed a christening
service in the presence of weeping neighbors who pledged loyalty to the
mother's memory, and to the welfare of her little one, thus comforting
the dying woman as she passed on to another world. From the shock of it
all Alexander Barbour shrank into a pitiful state, having failed in his
attempts at reinstating his prestige. Finally competitors controlling
great storage warehouses and banking facilities drove him practically
out of the field. The interest on his savings did not suffice to live
upon the liberal basis of past years, and as Patchogue grew in
population the name of Barbour receded from public concern.

As a babe in arms little Winifred cooed her way, laughed as a child,
and as a school girl finally sang herself into her father's good graces.
At ten years of age she had mastered the art of housekeeping, and with a
wisdom far beyond her years, encouraged her father, as best she could,
to keep up his spirits and not give way to despair.

"I know where you can gather some wild cherries," she volunteered to him
one day; "they are just thick along the inlet, and everybody is out
picking them for the market. They bring a good price in Patchogue."

By the time Winifred reached her fifteenth birthday she had graduated
from high school, and in addition to that had "kept the home fires
burning" with a knowledge that surprised her friends. But all through
those years under the home roof she had maintained the practice of
conversing with her dead mother. This she began in her eighth year, as a
child would talk with its doll and answer back as its mother. The habit
had continued through girlhood into young womanhood, minus the doll, but
at the age of eighteen she made the startling claim to her father that
she could converse with her dead mother at will. While humoring her
belief, he nevertheless was skeptical, and shook his head indicating his
doubt.

"But there are certain hours of the night, when the great stillness
comes on, that I can hear her voice just as plainly as I can hear yours
now," said she, quite convincingly. "Why, I talked with mamma last
night!" she declared with girlish vehemence.

"What did she say, Winifred?"

Mr. Barbour allowed himself to appear somewhat convinced by her
statement. It would do her no real harm, and she would outgrow the
vagary of such dreams as she grew older, according to his belief. Then,
too, thoughts about her mother were for the good of the girl--an
influence that should be encouraged.

"She told me to study hard and become a teacher--and----"

"Yes, dear--and, what?"

"Well, I've been thinking how to tell you--the last message was about
you," said she, smiling up into her father's eyes.

"Are you at liberty to tell me?" he asked, bracing himself against the
choking grief which suddenly seized him.

"Yes, indeed--but you mustn't mind her solicitude for your future. She
thinks you are aging too rapidly and that you must find a way out of
your sorrow. She asked me to give you more companionship, and to lead
you into a firm belief of the hereafter. Your lack of sincere belief
leaves a gap in the way of your communicating directly with her."

All this was said in a voice of sweet modulation and assuredness, a
smile lighting up her face as she spoke. There was no question of her
absolute convictions.

"What would you suggest, Winifred?" replied her father, his voice
broken, and his eyes filmed with tears.

"I don't know, but mother thinks the waters of South Bay hold the
solution. What could she mean by that?"

"I hardly know what to think. Did she suggest any particular reason for
that answer?"

"Oh, yes--she said that they would bring you back to the land in time. I
am glad I didn't forget that," said Winifred, jubilantly. "Let us think
it out some way. Perhaps she meant that you should keep on fishing and
sell your catch to the market men. Afterwards buy a farm with your
earnings."

In the conversation that followed Winifred took no small part in
calculating a plausible solution to her dead mother's advice. The waters
of Great South Bay at once suggested fish, oysters--wild ducks in the
fall of the year, and in the early spring. These would sell to local
buyers for ready cash. But what of the land? They had none! In her own
heart she knew that her mother had meant to arouse her father into
physical activity.

"Couldn't we rent some ground?" suggested Winifred--"and send our
produce to market by boat from Patchogue? Other people do."

"Indeed we could, my dear child," exclaimed Alexander Barbour,
straightening his shoulders. "We will do that very thing, with the city
of New York to back us in our enterprise. We can sell all we raise,
surely, for there is no vegetable trust to squeeze us out of business,
as there is in fish and oysters."

"And when I begin teaching school we will put my earnings away, too,"
echoed Winifred--"and, oh, won't mother be glad when I tell her of our
plans?"

With that enthusiastic speech she jumped from her chair and wound her
arms about her father's neck. The kisses she showered upon him
electrified him, and from that moment his resolve to succeed never
waned.

And all went well with the Barbours, father and daughter clinging to
each other, avoiding all tendencies toward extravagance, so that within
the space of a few months they found themselves in more comfortable
circumstances. Throughout the next two years "messages from mother"
inspired them and cheered their way, and all of a sudden the village of
Patchogue began to grow by leaps and bounds. Substantial hotels sprang
up, subdivisions were platted, cottages and villas builded up on every
side. Taking advantage of "the boom" the Barbours bought lots and sold
them at a profit, and Barbour himself built a refreshment booth on the
motor parkway near the beach, and Winifred helped in its management. No
longer could she devote her time to household duties, for sales at the
booth dropped off when she was away, whereupon a housekeeper was
selected and put in charge of the home. Winifred's bright face and
unfailing humor had worked wonders financially. People came back to the
stand from time to time, mostly automobilists, who always seemed to know
where the best could be had, and--never mind the price! One of
Winifred's most persistent and profitable customers, Mr. William Parkins
of New York, had expressed the same thought in another way.

"We want what we want and we get it," said he, with a jolly laugh, at
the young girl in charge. "Better look out, little sister, or some one
will come along and steal you!"--and that was the first effrontery
Winifred had ever experienced.

Abashed she turned her attention to other customers, but the heightened
color in her cheeks showed her indignation. Nevertheless Parkins stood
around, picking out this box of candy, and that bag of salted almonds,
to say nothing of homemade pies and cakes, each to be wrapped
separately, thus to gain her attention as many times as possible.

"I need these out at my fishing hut over on the ocean side," said he
smiling into her eyes, but they were cold. "Don't be angry," he pleaded.
"I had no intention of being rude--I apologize most sincerely."

Parkins' voice was so kindly and his smile so winning that Winifred's
face relaxed into its natural sweetness of expression. But she said
nothing and found things to do which kept her busy. Parkins, gay New
Yorker, with money galore, was not of the kind who accepted defeat. Here
was a dainty little maid and he wanted to know her.

"I'll stay here until you tell me I'm forgiven," he persisted. "Why,
little woman, I am the last man on earth to suspect of willful rudeness.
I'd rather jump in the bay, and say to myself 'here goes nothing,' than
to offend you. Honor bright! Now do please say it's all settled, so I
won't go away feeling ashamed of myself."

Unused to familiarity from strangers Winifred remained silent for a time
in order to think out the best plan to pursue. She wished her father had
been there, then the incident would not have occurred. But he was
absent--therefore the necessity of taking care of herself.

"No further apology is necessary, sir," she found herself saying. "I
presume you live in New York, and your ways are different from our ways.
Our men folk are always respectful to women, and we very naturally cling
to the amenities even though we are country folk."

"Of course you do!" exclaimed Parkins, "and that is the right course,
always--but this is the holiday end of a busy week of hard grind, and my
outing has been so delightful I just feel friendly to everybody. Do you
live here?"

"I was born here, and have always lived here. For three generations my
people have been settled in this locality," she concluded, as customers
were crowding her stand; but when the rush was over she found, to her
surprise, that the man she had upbraided still remained.

"I have been coming to Patchogue for several years but I never saw you
until to-day. I thought you might be one of the new crowd. The place is
having a sort of boom period, lots of new home builders, and all that.
Hard work, standing up all day, isn't it?" he suggested, with a little
touch of sympathy in his voice.

"Not very, sir--my father relieves me several times during each day,
and if there is anything going on at night, he attends to the stand."

"Good money in this business while the season is on, I imagine,"
persisted Parkins, by way of keeping the conversation going. "Strange I
have never seen you until to-day," he reiterated.

"We are new in this business. Heretofore our family has been in the
fishing industry. And latterly, truck farming also. We still ship some
vegetables to New York by boat, and sometimes by express. But we are
practically out of that business now."

"I suppose you run over to New York once in a while," he smiled.

"No, the farthest trip we've made was to Riverhead, and it's beautiful!
Such a pretty park--and a tremendous court house! But we've never been
off of the Island, none of us--except mother, who was born in
Connecticut."

Parkins, a man of quick discernment, caught a sad expression in the eyes
of the girl behind the counter of "The Goody Shop," so named on a neat
little sign hinged to the eaves of the sheltering overhang.

"I suppose your mother stays at home and takes care of the family?" he
suggested, enquiringly.

"Mother is dead," replied the girl, calmly, a far-away expression in her
eyes, as she glanced at the sky. "She died when I was a baby."

Now was Parkins' chance to impress the girl with his "sympathetic"
nature. He sighed deeply, and for several moments looked at the ground
and said nothing. When, finally, he did speak there was pathos in his
voice.

"My mother died when I was a child in arms. I have no memory of her
whatever, but her photograph seems to speak to me at times," said he,
dreamily.

"I talk to my mother every night," replied Winifred, happily. "She sends
messages through me to my father, and tells me what to do for him. He
isn't very strong, but that comes from grief over her death. Now he is
much better. It was such a long time before she could reach us," she
confided, artlessly.

And so began the acquaintance of a man of the world and a country lass,
the man halting between two emotions. In determining the course of his
further acquaintance with the sweet little maid the best bargain he
could make with himself was--"I'll think it over." So, with perfect
decorum, and bowing and scraping he bade the young woman good-by, adding
the hope that all was square between them--since his apology. He reached
out his hand as a final test of his theory that he "had won out with
her," and was delighted when she accepted his overture politely. He
bowed most courteously as he sprang into his wonderful new roadster and
plunged forward along the asphalt road. For miles Winifred could hear
the roar of its exploding cylinders, as, with mufflers "cut out," the
car raced along to his fishing hut on the ocean side of the bay.

"I'll be back to-morrow," he had said on leaving, but she only smiled in
reply, for "to-morrow" would be Sunday, and her duties were
elsewhere--at church and Sunday school--where she taught a class--and
then home to a noon dinner with her father.

As time went on Parkins' week-end excursions increased, and various were
the cars he used. A big black mahogany limousine and a two-seated
roadster, with rakish hood and brass trimmings that glistened like
gold, were his favorites.

He never failed to call at "The Goody Shop," and after an acquaintance
of several weeks with Winifred she accepted an invitation for a spin
along the outer drive which she had never seen. Henry Barbour, now well
acquainted with the wealthy New Yorker, esteemed him a gentleman, and
consented to her going. When she returned with face aglow, and with
enthusiastic praise for the skill of the owner of the car, her father
patted her cheeks and smiled. He was glad of her happiness and his trust
in Parkins became absolute.

As the season advanced and profits had been large, Henry Barbour
expressed his opinion to the effect that to buy direct from New York
wholesalers would save him much in the way of extra earnings upon his
capital. Buying from salesmen gave him no chance to bargain. They sold
from printed lists, but by going to New York he could make selections
and find right places to trade.

"I'll take you over any time you want to go," said Parkins,
affably--"and Miss Winifred, too, if she so desires."

"Oh, I do so want to go, Father!--say that I may, won't you dear?" she
pleaded, putting her arms about his neck.

"But who will take care of the stand?" he queried. "We can't close it up
for two days. Our friends will think we have quit, and we'll lose
trade!"

"Oh, I can manage that beautifully," pleaded Winifred. "One of the girls
in my Sunday school class, Julie Hayes--you know her, father--she can be
taught in an hour just what to do."

"By all means allow her to come along," seconded Parkins, and his appeal
seemed to settle the matter.

Winifred was to wear her new blue silk coat suit, and a retrimmed hat
that had been retired, despite the fact that Parkinson suggested--"we
never put on our best when we ride in a touring car."

But to Winifred the trip was more than an outing, for her father had
some business to attend to, and happily, there would be plenty of time
to see the "greatest little town in the world," as Parkins called his
New York.

And so the date was set, and as fate often decides, it fell upon the
second day following Parkins' ride from Dreamy Hollow, under the
watchful eye of Santzi--Japanese body-servant to Drury Villard. Had his
plans gone through, Villard, by now, would have been an inmate of a
certain Long Island asylum, whose proprietor Parkins well knew, but in
his jaded condition, he decided to run his car straight out to his hut
and thereby thoroughly refresh himself for the excursion to New
York--planned for the following day.

His inner consciousness troubled him more than he could account for, man
of the world that he was, whose morals had long since hardened against
the scruples of his younger days.



CHAPTER VI.

SECRET SERVICE


Under fire Drury Villard always appeared to great advantage. He knew
nothing of defeat. His life work had been a succession of victories, and
among his acquaintances there were those who credited his achievements
to luck. As a young man he came very near having imposed upon him the
sobriquet "Lucky" Villard--but he frowned upon it until his intimates
felt the unwisdom of that sort of familiarity. Parkins alone of the
directory continued the practice long after the business had grown into
vast importance and the Villard name had become known all over the
world. While credited with being the brains and motive power of the huge
concern Drury Villard had never allowed any one to say it to his face
without protest on his own part. Said he--

"If I've done anything particularly well it is to have surrounded myself
with clever men of brains and honesty. With that foundation the rock of
Gibraltar had nothing on us, except age and advertisement. The latter we
supplied in a measure suitable to our needs--but youth must be served.
We must now revitalize or inevitably fall before the young college
trained men now running the country."

Always modest, never oversanguine, self-reliant and honest to the core,
were attributes upon which to build a happy old age free from care and
strife. One of Villard's beliefs was that God never intended everything
to run smoothly--"all of the time." Reactions were necessary.
Foundations, no matter how solid in the beginning, must be looked after,
and kept solid. Nothing should be left to chance.

And so it was on going back to bed, after Parkins' departure, that his
mind reverted to the affairs of his company. On these his thoughts
concentrated. He wondered if he had exhibited the right policy in
turning its management over to his co-partners. Not if the Parkins' case
was an example of further consequences. That was his thought. He
wondered if others in the organization were susceptible to non-loyal
utterances concerning himself and his paramount interests. The best way
to get at the facts was to "look in on the boys every little while"--and
that was about the last worry he indulged in preparatory to going to
sleep. Then suddenly he felt the nearness of his loved one, and
breathing softly he awaited her sweet voice. At last it came, in the
form of a whisper, seemingly very close to his ear, but strangely
difficult to locate.

"Drury--again I warn you. The man you sent away must never enter your
life again. Dishonesty is fastened upon him. Attend at once. There is
folly in waiting."

Villard, though startled, lay quite still. Then, after a long pause, he
answered--

"Yes, Winifred--but for you I should have been taken unaware. Your
warning gave me time to formulate a plan of action."

"Drury, my darling--you shall not live alone. You must marry a kindred
spirit, a woman upon whom you may lavish the love that was mine. It is
your nature to revere womankind."

"But what of my love for you, my Winifred--I----"

"And it is myself, _incarnate_, that you would marry," interrupted the
invisible Spirit.

"How shall I know?" he faltered, overwhelmed at the suggestion.

"You will meet her--soon."

"Yes, yes--go on!"--he whispered hoarsely, but he waited in vain. The
spirit of his dead love had gone back to its resting place among the
stars.

Drury Villard accepted the theory that when a man is forty he is in the
prime of life, and after that his physical powers wane. Nevertheless
there were those who, by obedience to nature's laws, remained young at
sixty. He knew that every five years a normal brain and a normal body
become attuned to the next five-year period, and upon this theory
Villard, now emerging into his forty-seventh year, had planned his
activities. By virtue of his early training he had worked hard in
working hours, and played hard during the daylight overlapping. Thus was
served his grand physique and his growing brain, each getting its share
of natural restoration.

During his first years in business his effort had been prodigious. Just
out of college he had plunged into a new enterprise, the child of his
own brain. Unique, and head and shoulders above those whom he drew about
him--from a mental and physical standpoint--his leadership never was
questioned. Each new acquisition to his organization was picked by
virtue of his seemingly unerring knowledge of men. As he brought in a
new recruit, that person had only to make good in order to become a
"special partner." Under the contract with each man his continuance with
the company hinged upon the will of Villard, and by common consent his
fiat was law.

Of all the men chosen, Parkins, the brightest of the lot, had been the
one man to flunk. Now, secretly, Villard was on his way to New York for
the one purpose of bringing him back to the fold. Driving directly to
the apartment in Park Avenue, where Parkins maintained his living
quarters, he was informed that the gentleman had gone away. The
superintendent was not quite sure that he had a right to give out
information concerning his tenants. When asked as to when Mr. Parkins
would probably return he declined to give an opinion.

"But where did he go?" demanded Villard.

"I do not know. He left no address," was the reply.

"Then tell me what you do know. When did he leave? Did he move his
effects?"

"He left soon after he returned here in the early morning. His
furnishings are all here--and he left a check for next month's rent.
That's all I know."

"Are you in full charge here?" inquired Villard, peering wistfully in
the eyes of the man before him.

"Yes," replied the agent, shortly.

"Tell me then, in what condition was he when he arrived--and when he
went away."

"Very angry on his arrival--very much upset on going away. I thought he
might have taken something for his nerves."

"Did he speak to you on leaving?"

"Yes, I came in as he was leaving. He gave his check for rent to the
exchange girl--to be handed to me. I got it all right. And that's all I
know."

"And your name, please?--'Bender?'--thank you, Mr. Bender. I may wish to
speak with you again. My name is Villard, a very close friend of Mr.
Parkins, and I have business matters requiring his presence at my
office. If he shows up, kindly ring my phone--Private, one hundred. It
will be to his advantage, I assure you."

Villard was soon within his own office and nervously pacing the floor.
With his hands behind him he twiddled his thumbs and gave way to deep
thought.

"Parkins must be saved!" he said to himself, and quickening his stride,
he rushed out of his private office into the counting room.

"Ring my chauffeur," said he, seeing and speaking to no one in
particular, then returned to his office. Shortly afterward his car was
announced and he was soon headed for the Wall Street district.

At the Updyke Detective Agency, twentieth floor of the Universal
Exchange, he asked for Updyke personally and was ushered in. The two
shook hands cordially and at once got down to business.

"Do you know William Parkins--one of my special partners?" questioned
Villard.

"I'd say I do--what's up?"

"I can't find him."

"Where have you looked?"

"Called at his apartment--he'd gone from there, leaving a check for a
month's rent!" replied Villard.

"When?"

"Early this morning--left no word--but paid the month's rent in
advance--which was unusual."

"Um--any reason to be anxious about him?"

"I'll give you the whole story."

Then, careful as to details, Drury Villard recited the facts briefly and
wound up by declaring that he was "bent on saving Parkins from any
untoward act that might lead to his downfall--financially, morally or
physically."

"That's a big order to take down," replied Updyke, laconically.

"Why?"

"Do you assume to know Bill Parkins from hat to shoes? Do you know that
he is speculating upward on a downward market? Do you know that he is a
drunkard, that he takes dope, patronizes low places, and is a disgrace
to your high class concern?"

Villard, aghast, stood up and walked to and fro, across the room.
Finally he turned and said--

"He must be saved!"

"Saved! Saved Hell! Why, man alive, he is beyond redemption!" yelled
Updyke, whose forcefulness caused Villard to eye him critically.
Evidently there were matters concerning his Vice President of which he
was unaware.

"How long has he been beyond redemption?" questioned Villard in an even
tone of voice striving to conceal the alarm within him as best he could.

"I'll look up his record," replied Updyke, ringing a bell and ordering
out a certain page from a loose-leaf book of records. As he placed it in
Villard's hands, he glanced at it to make sure it was the right
document.

"Here we have his travelogue for five years back," said Updyke, airily.
"It began with a gay party in which he was accused of short changing a
fifty dollar bill that he was asked to break. There was a resort to
blows, in which Parkins got licked and owned up to his dishonesty. Read
his whole record--here it is--take it."

Villard did take it, and as he read along his eyes filmed until tears
ran down his cheeks and fell upon the page containing the record. Then
suddenly he threw it upon Updyke's table in disgust.

"Why didn't you inform me?" demanded Villard in tremulous voice. "I'm
your client--am I not?"

"You are, Mr. Villard, but--I thought I could save him without
prejudicing his outlook with you. I got soft hearted--same as you are at
this minute; and I got a worse dose, and more of it for my trouble. I
tried my utmost to show him that you were the best man in shoe leather,
and would forgive anybody, anything, any time. But there is a breaking
point that will not stand repair, and Parkins had gone through the
crevice. Don't try to save that man, Mr. Villard. He is not worth the
tarnish that he will spread upon your good name. Send me his 'walking
papers' and I'll see that he gets them. Make it brief--no accusations,
giving him a chance to sue you for damages in large amount. He's tricky,
and crazy. Get rid of him! Stay rid of him! He is a bad actor!"

Updyke was telling the truth, as Villard, having read the report, was
now convinced.

"What shall I say? What can I say? The report from your files leaves me
helpless in defense of my most efficient partner. Surely the report
cannot be wrong? I've never had one from you that was the least bit out
of line with the facts. What shall I say to him if I conclude to
communicate with him?"

"Better write me a note, stating that Mr. Parkins has not been about the
office with regularity, and that you fear he lacks interest in the
affairs of the company. Send me the cash for all you owe him, and a
receipt for him to sign, made out in full legal wording to the effect
that it is a final settlement--and that his services are no longer
needed. If he owns any stock in your concern, and he does, unless he has
hocked it, send me a check to cover its full market value, and I will
buy it back, and turn it over to you."

Villard sighed deeply as he agreed to the plan.

"I did so want to save this man, but I've been warned before, from a
sacred source, to have done with him forever," said he wearily.

"What do you mean by 'sacred source'?"

"Oh, I must not go into that!" replied Villard sharply.

"I get you--some of that 'Over the River Jordan' stuff. I get you,"
laughed Updyke.

"Just what are you hinting at, Mr. Updyke?"

Villard's voice trembled as he spoke.

"Now, Drury Villard! Don't you know by this time that an up-to-date
agency like this has a page on every business man worth while, as well
as the worthless? Let me show you your sheet. Wait, I'll get a leaf out
of a different book--here it is and you may read it yourself. Skip the
biographical--that shows you to be first class, but you've recently
given cause for alarm. Read Article Seven. Read it aloud, and comment as
you will. We're friends, and you might need me as a witness some day."

Glancing quizzically at Updyke, Villard began to read the report--

"Article 7--Drury Villard has recently developed an obsession of mind
regarding the future estate. He has long grieved over the death of a
sweetheart who passed away some years ago and at this writing he suffers
under the delusion of hearing her voice. On retiring from active duty
in connection with the Villard Corporation, he was very generous in his
treatment of his special partners. He allowed them to buy stock at a
very low price, and later on, is to let them have more, if they succeed
with the business. Villard still owns a three-fourths holding but all
partners were treated alike and are well satisfied with the deal.
William Parkins is also Vice-President, but the office of President
has been abolished, Drury Villard becoming Chairman of the Board.
He now lives in a retired way in Long Island on his private estate
which he has named 'Dreamy Hollow.' His fiancé, now dead, given name,
'Winifred'--surname unknown. His nearest neighbor (Sawyer), a retired
doctor, lives on adjoining estate, said to be very wealthy."

"Now what miserable cur could have written all of that rot!" exclaimed
Villard.

"Point out all that is in error and I'll change the report. We must keep
up our records," said Updyke, sharply, with a wave of his hand. "There
isn't a chance in the world that this record will be observed by any one
not connected with our office. I give nothing out on death notices, or
biographies."

"Then for what purpose?" demanded Villard.

"Oh, if you became a crook, or went crazy, we would be queried by
certain interests. We ask no favors. This business is mine. I made it
what it is, and it's worth a million as it stands. If I was crooked I
could say it's worth a hundred million."

"God--what a power you hold! In case of your death, what a cruel use
could be made of those leaves from your records! What a chance for
certain slimy little blackmailing publications!"

"My body will be cremated, and with it my books of record. That's part
of my will. Now I'm going to ease your mind--you have the page
containing the facts about you. It is the only copy on earth. The notes
from which it was made up have been destroyed. If you desire I will
destroy the page in your presence, right now," proffered Updyke.

Villard was astonished at the proposal.

"I wouldn't care one way or the other, if it wasn't for----"

"Yes, I know," responded Updyke, "you're thinking of the dead. You
don't want her name bandied about."

"That's it--I am thinking of her--to memory dear. It's good of you,
Updyke. Downright generous! But why do you propose it without my
asking?"

Villard began to pace the floor.

"Sit down, please," said Updyke gently, as he twisted his watch chain,
and cleared his throat of a great lump of hesitancy. "I once had a
sweetheart, Mr. Villard, and she went away, too--somewhere up in the
skies, just like your Winifred. And like you I have never married. I
cannot spare the memory of her--I'll die single!"

Every doubt of Updyke's genuine friendliness was now discarded by Drury
Villard, as his eyes lighted with reciprocal understanding.

"Wonderful, old fellow! Let us find joy in the fact that we have both
loved, and both of us have been loved. Now we will burn this record.
That shall be the seal of our lasting friendship."

Villard's eyes spoke for his heart.

"Here, take it--burn it yourself, Drury. I shall call you by your first
name hereafter."

Turning upon his heel, Henry Updyke walked to a window and looked down
twenty stories upon the great metropolis, its streets agog with people
and traffic. When he heard the click of the latch on the door, he turned
about. Villard had gone. It was no longer necessary for Updyke to hide
his emotion.

But there were things to be done immediately. Parkins must be found and
delivered to Villard. Updyke pressed a button and immediately one of his
operatives entered and approached his desk.

"Here's a name on this card--I want this man brought to me as soon as
possible--by all means before night. Do you know him?"

"Very well by sight. I've looked him up before--don't you remember?"

"Oh, yes--the Peabody case. While drunk Parkins hit him over the head
with a champagne bottle--yep--you brought Parkins in. It is a shame we
didn't send him over at that time but he begged me to straighten him out
and see that he reported for business next morning. I did it--and did it
more than once since then. But this will probably be the last time
we'll need hunt for him. His boss has something on him that will bring
him to time--I hope. Parkins is a bad egg, so watch out for him,
especially if he is in his cups. Now go to it--bring him to me if you
have to give him a teaser."

For four hours Updyke sat in his chair, or paced the floor, awaiting
word from his operative. He smoked incessantly while reading the evening
papers and at six thirty o'clock ordered ham and eggs, and coffee. These
had been set before him when the night telephone gong gave three loud
clangs. That meant Updyke himself--in a hurry. He sprang to the receiver
and in a quiet unruffled voice answered, "Shoot."

"Number twelve speaking--your party dashed through Patchogue about
eleven this morning and was last seen going east at high speed. Lost
trace until just a few minutes ago. Find that he has a fishing hut
across South Bay on the ocean side. He's bound to come back this
way--the question is, when?"

"Where are you now?"

"Patchogue."

"What do you advise?"

"Well, I have my motorcycle, and I feel certain he will come back this
way. If I went over on the ocean side I might have sand trouble. He has
four wheels and a ninety horse roadster. I think I'd better stay here,"
concluded "Number Twelve."

"I believe you are right," replied Updyke. "How about the Sayville road?
He might, for a change, cut across and run in by way of the sound. I
think I'll put two other men out on this, you to carry out your plan,
one to watch the Merrick road, the other on the detour along the sound."

"That might be wise although it seems certain he will come back this
way. What shall I do when I locate him?"

"Serve a 'John Doe' on him and bring him to my office, otherwise trail
him to the jumping-off place--in other words, get him!"

"By the way, there is a fine looking girl at Patchogue who runs a stand.
I wonder how it would do to feel her out about him," queried the
operative.

"You bet your boots--that's a Parkins lead as sure as you live, even if
it does turn out bad."

"Then I'd better run back there before she closes up for the day. She's
a humdinger to look at," said "Number Twelve" with enthusiasm.

"Well, see that she doesn't get your goat. Keep your head on your
shoulders and don't be led into any girl trap. Get me at my hotel after
seven, through my private wire--'Updyke'--Will be here until
six-thirty--So long."



CHAPTER VII.

THE NEW WINIFRED


When "Number 12" reached Patchogue "The Goody Shop" was on the point of
being closed. The girl in charge, and a man she called "father," were
instructing a young woman how to run the stand for the next two days.
They had all but put up the night shutters as the operative climbed off
of his machine.

"Any sandwiches left?" he enquired, racing to the stand.

"Oh, yes--a few nice ones, and some very fine blueberry pie," replied
the older girl as smilingly she displayed several huge wedges of
assorted pies. "And here's a lovely slice of lemon meringue, the last
one left," she urged, and at a nod from her customer, handed it to him
on a pasteboard plate, together with a dainty paper napkin.

As the operative put his plate upon the sill of the stand and began to
eat, the two girls and "father" continued their conversation about a
grand ride over to New York next day. Listening in on the conversation
he learned which girl was going on the trip--her friend called her
Winifred--and when she spoke to the man she addressed him as Mr.
Barbour.

"I wish you were going along, Julie," said the girl Winifred, very much
delighted. Then she said--"Mr. Parkins is taking us in his big
four-passenger roadster--how many horse powers has it, father? It must
be a lot--something like several hundred I would think from the noise it
makes sometimes."

"No, it's a ninety," corrected her father who seemed proud of his better
knowledge.

"What time do you leave for New York?" enquired the girl, Julie.

"Mr. Parkins is to pick us up at the house at ten to-morrow morning. And
then, away we go!--just whizzing along Merrick Road so we can see all of
the beautiful homes along the Bay--and the Sound coming back! My, but he
drives fearfully fast! I expect to be frozen with fright by the time we
arrive in the city."

Having fallen into all of the information he could have wished for,
"Number 12" suddenly quit on his second wedge of pie and asked which was
the best hotel nearby. "Roadside Inn" was pointed out just across the
street, and rolling his motorcycle beside him he walked over and went
inside.

Once in his room "Number 12" got busy. Looking at his watch he concluded
that Updyke would be at his hotel, but that was up to Central. "Updyke"
was all he needed to say and in less than a minute he had his man.

"All right, shoot," came the regular answer by which "the big boss"
announced himself--"Number 12?" he queried.

"Yep--got the whole works. Am at Patchogue, Roadside Inn, phone
Patchogue--twenty. The father rather old and solemn, neither ever saw
New York before, and never off of the island. Has a pie stand on the
parkway--darn good pies too."

"Soft enough, I'd say," replied Updyke. "Shall I run a man out to you
to-night?"

"Why not come out yourself--if it's an important case?"

"No--if he gets away from you I'll nab him here. He's up to his regular
tricks--the scoundrel!--now don't you fail to nail that fellow!" warned
Updyke, to whom the whole situation was as plain as daylight from
darkness. "Trail him and keep me posted on the route he has taken. No
doubt he'll cross on the Queensborough bridge."

Running true to form the Parkins roadster roared its way into Patchogue
next morning, and the operative quietly registered on his tab--"one
brandy and soda at Roadside Inn." Immediately afterward Parkins jumped
into his car and ran slowly two streets west and turned north one block.
The Updyke man did not have to leave his chair on the porch of the hotel
in order to witness the movements of the big car. There was a hasty
carrying out of two suitcases, and a hamper probably containing
luncheon. Then the big car turned back to the south on the Merrick Road
and proceeded west at a lively clip.

Shortly thereafter, "Number 12" trailed in at a safe distance behind,
and it was with much skill that he kept the roadster in view, but never
in a way to attract Parkins' notice. The girl sat in front, and by the
way she turned her head and indicated pretty homes to her father it was
evident that her mind was carefree.

Not knowing the inside history of the case, the operative rode stolidly
along behind. Coming to a roadhouse in one of the villages he stopped
and phoned Updyke, all done in less than three minutes--then he crowded
on the gas until he came in sight of the party. Almost at once he lost
them again by reason of sharp turns in the road, but all was well, and
he had no fear of losing them, for miles ahead there was no other road
to turn into.

Three minutes later he came upon a sight that made his blood run cold.
There, around the curve, in a hollow just ahead, were two cars
overturned and smashed beyond repair!

Strange are the ways of Providence.

There are times when coincidence and circumstances blend into episodes
for which there is no accounting--an act of God--in terms of legal
phrasing. As Parkins' car took a curve in the road at high speed going
west, Drury Villard and his neighbor, Dr. Sawyer--out for a leisurely
spin with Santzi at the wheel--were on the same road heading east.

The day was especially fine, and with top down the Villard car sped
along the concrete road without a jolt or a jar. Sawyer, in a most
excellent mood, was inclined to speak jokingly of the Parkins episode at
Dreamy Hollow two days previously. But to all of his sallies Villard
failed to answer in kind. Certain "messages" were on his mind, and along
with them a mixture of joy and sorrow combined. Could another Winifred
answer the call of his yearning? Could his heart go out to any other
than the Winifred of old? He doubted it, but he owed it to his dead love
to await certain events, since she had urged the duty upon him.

So absorbed was he in contemplating the situation that he was quite
unprepared for the sudden application of the emergency brakes. His car
was rounding a curve at a healthy speed when suddenly Santzi pulled up
short, just in time to avoid the wreckage of two monster machines
overturned in collision. Each had been smashed into a veritable mass,
and the silence of the scene served to accentuate the gruesome aspect
of the otherwise beautiful surroundings. Suddenly a tall man with hair
of iron gray staggered to his feet and shouted--"Winifred!"

"Winifred!" echoed Villard, jumping from his car. In a second more
Sawyer, hastening to alight, called upon Santzi to rush along for a
doctor, and to notify the motor police.

Villard, who stood spellbound on hearing the name he adored, soon forced
himself into action. Instantly the words that were whispered to him in
the early morning hours came to mind. "It is myself, incarnate, that you
will marry--You will meet her soon--There will be an accident--You will
give assistance."

He saw a man, hatless and bleeding, rushing madly about calling the name
Winifred. Villard again took up the cry.

"Winifred!--Winifred!" he shouted, running from point to point amid the
wreckage.

His search was soon successful.

Of several persons strewn about the roadside he knew instinctively, when
he had stooped over the form of the one he sought. He dropped to his
knees and seized her hands, chafing them vigorously to renew suspended
animation. He placed his hand upon her brow, and raised an eyelid--then
bent over and put his ear to her heart.

"Winifred," he whispered softly. "Wake up, dear child!"

Then jumping to his feet he shouted to her father:

"Here she is, sir--and she's coming back to life! Water, Sawyer--find a
thermos bottle! There must be one somewhere in the wreckage."

To Villard all else in the world was naught but this beautiful child
woman whose head and body rested against his breast. As if paralyzed her
father looked on, mute and despairing.

"Splash some on her cheeks," he commanded of Sawyer, who hastened
forward with the bottle from one of the upturned cars.

"More--more--ah--that's the stuff--water! See? She is breathing again,
and I doubt that she is very much injured. We'll soon know," he said to
himself as he began, ever so gently, to raise her arms, and nether limbs
one by one. Then he laid her, full length, upon the grass, and pillowed
her head with his motor coat.

"She doesn't cry out--no bones broken--thank God!--just bruised, and
shocked by the impact after fall," he explained to the dazed father
with quiet gentleness. "Get some cushions out of the wreck and we'll
make her comfortable under the shade of a tree."

Almost immediately a man on a motorcycle dashed upon the scene and with
difficulty stopped in time. Throwing his machine to one side he ran
quickly to the big roadster--"Number 12" had literally run his man to
earth. There lay the inanimate form of William Parkins with the pallor
of death upon his face, and a bleeding wound well back of his left ear
near the occipital bone. His body was pinned beneath his heavy roadster.

"The man is alive--give me a hand!" shouted "Number 12" to Barbour, who,
still dazed, had fallen to his knees in prayer for his daughter's life.
But, he made no answer, thereupon Sawyer responded as best he could for
a man of his age. It was more than a one-man job to raise the tonneau of
the big machine in order to allow Sawyer to drag the limp body from
beneath the wreck.

A retired doctor himself he knew how to manage the situation better
than the man who still called for his girl.

"I know this fellow," said Sawyer, breathing hard from his effort in
helping to release the unconscious man under the roadster.

"Who is he?" demanded the motorcycle man, incredulous.

"His name is Parkins, unless I am greatly mistaken," replied Sawyer,
still puzzled, but practically sure.

"You're right," agreed the man who had been trailing the victim for
nearly an hour. "He is a bad actor, and it was my intention to arrest
him on the New York side of Williamsburg bridge. I'd hate to have him
croak before my boss sees him," he concluded, and then fell to his knees
and began the work of bringing Parkins back to life.

"What is he wanted for?" asked Sawyer, after several moments of
hesitation.

"I'll have to refer you to my boss as to that. I was told to get him,
and it's up to me to find a way to deliver him. You can bet that he is
going to have a long dry spell after the old man gets through with him,"
sneered the operative as he looked upon the limp figure now stretched
out upon the grassy roadside.

"Whom do you mean by 'old man'?" enquired Sawyer.

"My boss--and what he doesn't know about people! Well, what's the use to
speculate? I had a hard time keeping Parkins in sight. Forty to sixty
miles was his gait. Pretty fast for a narrow concrete roadbed."

Parkins now began to breathe heavily, and moan. Anxious that Villard
should be apprised concerning him, Sawyer walked hastily over to where
he sat, still holding the girl's wrist and counting the pulsations.

"The man we took from under the big car is William Parkins," said he,
laconically. "He will live--probably."

Drury Villard looked up in amazement.

"You don't mean it!" he exclaimed.

"Yes--it's Parkins--still Vice President of your company!"

Sawyer looked steadily into Villard's upturned eyes, and shook his head
ominously. "Bad news to get into the papers, Drury. What do you
suggest?"

Receiving no answer Sawyer stood thoughtfully stroking his chin until
his mind had settled the matter.

"I will take Parkins into my home until we can think out a plan of
action," he said, finally. "You take the girl and her father into your
home for the present. Then there will be no chance for news to leak.
Mrs. Bond will look out for her."

"How about the doctor?" replied Villard, thoughtfully. "He might----"

"Doctors are like lawyers; they serve well those who pay
well--especially when the public interest is better served thereby."

"First-class reasoning, friend Sawyer. Our plan is made. When Santzi
returns we'll take both patients and the girl's father into my car and
race for home. What about the other machine--any one hurt?"

"No, just a colored chauffeur returning with an empty car from the city.
He jumped in time to save himself and is now waiting for some one to
take the wreck to the nearest garage. It is pretty well smashed, but the
boy is unscathed."

With plans all mapped out they were quickly put into execution. Upon
the return of Santzi with Doctor Benton, who followed in his runabout,
the medical man at once put his ear to the girl's heart--then, to make
sure, used his stethoscope.

"We'll get her over to Dreamy Hollow at once," said he, glancing at
Villard, who nodded affirmatively. "Her heart is beating strong enough,
but she must not see this wreck when she comes out of her present state.
Put her into your car at once, while I take a look at the man lying on
the grass. Who is the old fellow over there praying?" he inquired
sharply.

"The girl's father," replied Sawyer, shaking his head sadly. His
sympathy was genuine.

"I'll take him in with me," volunteered Doctor Benton, but Villard
objected as he wanted to talk with the father of the girl.

Under orders Santzi drove back to Dreamy Hollow without a bump against
his tires. During the short time occupied by the trip the father of the
girl gave his name as Alexander Barbour, of Patchogue, and also stated
that his daughter Winifred was his only child. Her mother, long since
dead, left her, a tiny new-born babe, to remind him of her own dear
self. Without the child, he might easily have gone crazy from grief and
loneliness, but little Winifred had steadied him every step of his way
by her sweetness of disposition and her loving consideration.

"I dread the time when the right man comes for her," he sighed. "Now,
she is mine, but some day her mate will call and she will go to him."

Alexander Barbour was deeply moved by the thought of the sad fate in
store for himself.

"But that should not worry you," said Villard. "Make a bargain with the
man she marries that you are privileged to live near by and may visit
your daughter as often as you desire. No decent husband would deny that
right," he concluded, smiling into the father's eyes.

"I'll be glad if it turns out that way--usually it doesn't. But in any
event I should miss her sadly. She hears from her mother every little
while."

"What!"

Drury Villard could hardly realize that this unconscious little
child-woman possessed such powers.

"Yes, her mother tells her what to do, and gives her messages from
others to be delivered to earthly friends. She got word through her
mother last night from some one by the name of Winifred. She is reticent
on the subject, but I know that she regards the advice as sacred."

Running his fingers through his hair nervously, Barbour admitted that
her power was, to him, a great mystery, but as to the revelations he
remained silent, as if in awe concerning them.

Twenty minutes later Mrs. Bond, the housekeeper at Dreamy Hollow, stood
speechless at the porte-cochère as she beheld her master alighting from
his car with a woman in his arms. Amazed, the good lady reached out as
if to take the fair burden from him, but Villard demurred. He had held
her in his arms during the ride and he would risk no accidental stumble
on the stairway. Turning to Santzi he ordered him in a low voice to
drive Dr. Sawyer to his home, and to help him with Parkins until the
doctor arrived.

"He's coming on behind us and will be here any moment. He will go to
Dr. Sawyer's as soon as he gets through here," added Villard.

So saying, the master of Dreamy Hollow, with careful step mounted the
grand stairway leading to the second floor. Mrs. Bond had rushed on
ahead to the "hospital" suite, so-called, because of its equipment for
emergencies and its wonderful outlook over South Bay, with its miles of
magnificent gardens. Ever so gently he laid his fair burden upon the bed
prepared for her and after gazing into her beautiful face, turned and
left the room. As he approached the head of the stairway he met Doctor
Benton coming up, and with him, Mr. Barbour, whose face still showed the
agony of his mind. To him Villard said--

"Don't go in--she is being put to bed by Mrs. Bond. We'll wait in the
room next door, until the doctor gets through. This room you will occupy
until all is well with your daughter," he concluded as he smiled into
the troubled face of the anxious father.

Doctor Benton, after a brief examination, arose from his chair beside
the patient, a broad smile lighting up his face.

"No medicine, plenty of fresh air, water if she asks for it. I'll be
back in an hour. I must get to that man Parkins. He is bad off, and may
not get through," said he, hastening away.

At once Mrs. Bond went to the room occupied by the father of the girl
and beckoned Villard into the hall. As he appeared she motioned him to
follow her into the room where Winifred had been tenderly placed on a
downy bed, and a coverlet thrown about her.

"She's all tucked in and looks like an angel," she whispered, tip-toeing
up to the bedside, with Villard closely following. "Isn't she the
sweetest thing you ever saw?--the doctor left no medicine--says she's
all right!"

Villard stood silent for more than a minute before replying, but it was
evident that he yearned for the speedy recovery of the charming
creature.

"I wish she would open her eyes--I've never seen them yet, although I
held her in my arms for ten minutes," he replied, whimsically--and
strange to say Winifred's eyes did open--bright as diamonds they were,
but with no sense of recollection until she had gazed upon the face of
Drury Villard.

At once a vague expression of happiness came over her fair features, but
faintly smiling and with eyes closed, she went back to sleep.

Villard, now buoyant, grasped Mrs. Bond's arm and led her out of the
room. When they were safely out of hearing he stopped abruptly and
looked into her face.

"Did you observe that she recognized me?" he asked eagerly.

"I did," replied Mrs. Bond. "It gave me a start, for I felt that neither
of you had seen each other before to-day."

"That's true--we have not met before. But how may we account for the
fact, that after she looked into each of our faces, mine was the one she
thought she knew?"

"I give it up, unless she was directed by that Divinity which shapes our
destinies," replied the housekeeper, with much feeling.

Hastening to Barbour's room he opened the door without formality and
found his guest upon his knees in silent prayer. Touched at the sight he
went forward and knelt beside him, placing a hand upon his shoulder.
Then he whispered into his ear--

"She is safe--the doctor says so--your prayer has been answered even as
you made your wishes known. You should look upon her sweet face--come
with me," appealed Villard as he helped the grief-stricken father to his
feet and escorted him to the bedside where his child, with a smile on
her lips, still slept. But the fact that she lived was enough joy for
Alexander Barbour.



CHAPTER VIII.

HENRY UPDYKE DROPS IN


Wondering what might be going on at Sawyer's home, Villard went into his
study and gave him a ring over the phone. Sawyer personally answered the
call. Evidently the episode of the morning had been trying, for his
voice was gruff--much deeper than usual.

"Who calls?" he demanded in a rasping tone.

"Villard speaking--I have been wondering how matters stood over your
way. All serene over here. The girl has opened her eyes, but immediately
went back to sleep."

"I'm glad to hear that--over here the situation is terrible! This man
Parkins is a ruffian--at death's door his oaths are blasphemous, and to
those who are trying to save his worthless life he shouts defiance and
demands his revolver that he may 'kill the whole bunch'--to use his
words, expurgated. His language toward Doctor Benton was vile!"

"Well, well--that must be stopped! Wouldn't it be safe to move him to a
sanitarium--or something?"

"Yes--an asylum for insane drunkards--that's what you meant to
say--wasn't it?"

"Approximately that--why not drop over for a while and we will have a
chat? You can count on me--you know that. I'm awfully sorry that you're
mixed up in this, but when you come to know the girl you'll forgive
everything."

"I'll do that now, and I will be right over," said Sawyer, slamming the
receiver back in its place in pure spite against the upheavals of the
day.

It was well along toward evening before Dr. Sawyer took leave of
Villard's happy hospitality. He had even been invited to take a peep at
the beautiful Winifred Barbour, who still slept, but would soon be
normal--according to the doctor whose second call had brought complete
assurance to the household. But the ever recurring subject between them
was William Parkins. What should be done with him? More than once
Villard showed signs of irresolution regarding him. Perhaps if he were
sent to one of the far-off branches--Cape Town, for instance--but
Sawyer threw up his hands and shouted "Pish--tush!"

"Why man alive--he would kill the business of all your foreign
connections. Asylum!--put him in a place where he may reflect at his
leisure--and, say!--here's an idea--send for Henry Updyke!" exclaimed
Sawyer, banging the arm of his chair.

Without a word Villard stepped into the booth and rang up his
man--promptly making connection.

"I wish you'd run down here, Henry," said he, "I have a problem to
solve."

"You bet you have--same old problem--Parkins!"

"Of course you would know all about our trouble," laughed Villard. "You
surely have a nose for news."

"Yep--Parkins is at Sawyer's pretty well smashed, but still keeping his
eyes open. We are watching the place--night and day shift from now
on--but we've got nothing on him. You can't jail a man for a smash-up
unless it was by premeditated defiance of the speed laws. And you'd
have to prove it. How is the girl?"

"Resting easily--Benton says she'll come through all right."

"Wonderful girl--eh? I've seen her off and on since she was a little
child. I've known the father quite well--a dull sort, but easy to
extract information from--if he has any. If he ever had any he didn't
know it--just gave it up by way of general conversation. I guess I'll
run down after a while, probably be at your house about eight--that
gives you time for your dinner."

"Bless you, yes--come down at once and break bread with me--I'll wait."

"No--can't leave now--see you to-night at eight--have Sawyer there if
you can."

"He's here now--I'll have him dine with us. He's pretty well broken up
over the day--but--my boy!--it has been a great day for me!--can't talk
now--good-bye!"

Turning to his friend Sawyer, Villard again appealed to him to stay for
dinner, but his neighbor felt that that day had worn him out. Bed was
the place for him, as early as possible, after his dinner. He urged that
Updyke be coaxed to stay over night, and take a look at Parkins.
Dreading the presence of the man in his home he stood in need of
courage, and Villard agreed to hold Updyke if such a thing were
possible.

Promptly at eight the big fellow rode into the driveway at Dreamy
Hollow, accompanied by two men, a chauffeur and an operative. Having
been expected, Villard himself met Updyke at the porte-cochère along
with the servant. Santzi hovered near, but was not obsequious. When the
guest had alighted, he jumped upon the running board and showed his man
the way to the garage. It had been a glorious day for Santzi as he had
served his employer well, which made him very happy. When the car was
garaged he led the way to his small kitchenette and served the two men a
Japanese dinner.

Meanwhile the big mansion showed no lights, Villard and Updyke having
gone into consultation in Villard's office. Big men that they were, each
eyed the other solemnly, and then, simultaneously they broke out with a
hearty laugh--and that relieved the tension.

"Life is a great experience," said Villard, his big open face radiating
his good humor--"one little thing right after another."

"And the more we laugh the more we live," replied Updyke, lighting his
usual black cigar.

"A big day for me, Henry!" exclaimed the host; "a great day indeed!"

"Yep--little Winifred--your luck is phenomenal, old fellow. I
congratulate you with all my heart."

"But suppose she wakes up and asks for Parkins?" queried Villard,
anxiously.

"I had thought of that, and my hope is that something else will occur.
But that very thing might happen. Better be prepared for it," said
Updyke, his face denoting his serious thought on that subject.

"Please particularize, Henry. What precedent have you to offer?"

Villard's interest was from the depths of his heart and the uncertainty
of the girl's attitude on awakening was already forming a dread in his
mind.

"I gauge my thoughts on what has gone before in numerous cases. Consider
yourself in my car seated in front beside me. I'm loaded with booze but
it is inside of me, so I do not catch the odor of it myself. But you,
who have never touched liquor, catch a whiff of it, and instantly your
suspicion is aroused to the fact that I'm a drinking man."

"But there are----"

"Yes, I know there are moderate drinkers, but girls brought up
carefully, as Winifred has been, have nevertheless come to know the
terrorism of old John Barleycorn. She lives near a great artery of
automobile traffic. Most of it perfectly respectable, but some of it
vile and besotted. She reads the Riverhead paper probably, and a
magazine of some sort, appealing to her feminine viewpoint. In other
words, now that she is a business woman, her vision has enlarged, and
not a day goes by that she does not witness something that reminds her
that she is opposed to drunkards. But she is sorry for them,
nevertheless. Given her choice, she surely would not associate with a
man who drinks."

"Undoubtedly Parkins had been drinking. Dr. Benton admitted as much to
me," volunteered Villard. "The odor was still on his breath."

"Yes, but Winifred may not have sensed it, for Parkins uses the old
fashioned eau de cologne on his lips, eyebrows, handkerchief, and his
hair always smells of pomade and tonic. A country girl might easily
believe that perfume used by a fascinating fellow like Parkins was quite
the thing, but no girl would sit beside a man who drove into a curve at
a fifty or sixty mile gait without sensing danger--would she?"

"I dare say no sophisticated girl would--probably no girl, sophisticated
or otherwise, would fail of being apprehensive," agreed Villard.

"Very well--now comes the point you originated. You asked me to guess
what she will say when she comes to her senses. She will not say what
you think she will. The last thing she thought about just as the cars
collided will be the thoughts she will wake up with."

"Sounds logical," agreed Villard.

"Statistics prove it in hundreds of cases. As her senses left her she
felt a shock akin to death," said Updyke, soberly. "And as she went into
what looked to be certain death she must have wondered if Parkins was
insane. It was all so sudden, her thoughts may not have been entirely
formulated, but even in the zone of coma the brain functions in a weird
sort of way, incomprehensible to the victim, but remembered
afterward--if the victim survives."

"Doctor Benton thinks a little soft music from the organ might be
helpful in bringing her out of her present state. Under your theory it
might not help," said Villard. "Would you experiment?"

"Surely I would," exclaimed Updyke, "but I'd soft pedal at the start. As
I understand the situation she hasn't opened her eyes since the
accident, therefore I would go slow in startling her sensibilities for
the present."

"I'm going to make a confession, Henry, but don't say anything to the
doctor about it when he comes in shortly. My housekeeper and I stood by
her bedside and she was so beautiful I said to Mrs. Bond, 'I wish she
would open her eyes'--I hadn't seen them, you know, although I had held
her in my arms for awhile just after the accident--and all the way home.
Well, believe it or not, I'll be switched if the little creature didn't
do it--and by jinks--she seemed to recognize me!"

Updyke was plainly at a loss to account for the recognition.

"Very strange, indeed," he conceded as he gave Villard a sharp look.
"Sure you didn't have a little brain trouble when you saw those bright
eyes?" laughed Updyke. "I can't account for her recognition of a person
whom she had never seen or heard of before."

"Nevertheless, what I say is bona fide, as Mrs. Bond will attest. She
saw the girl's eyes open, and the look of recognition--and more, the
girl smiled at me, and went back to sleep. Now, old sleuth, 'what do you
make of that'?--as Sherlock used to say."

"Well, let's see if we can figure it out," replied Updyke soberly. "Why,
it's perfectly plain--the message from your dead sweetheart, and the
father running around calling his girl by name. My operative phoned me
the circumstances. He saw and heard everything."

"You are right--as usual. I'll have to buy a medal for you, but for the
present I am going to ask you to look at her. Sometimes a man of your
experience may have intuitions that doctors may not have. Benton was
here on his second visit just before you came, and is coming back again
to-night. Parkins is in very bad shape, so he is giving a larger share
of attention to him. He feels sure of Winifred's recovery and is not
uneasy about her. Now you come with me and tell me what you think after
you've studied her face."

"Lead the way," said Updyke as they ascended the stairway.

The night nurse had arrived, and she came to the door, as the two men
looked into the sick room. She glanced up inquiringly.

"I am Mr. Villard and this is Mr. Updyke--a specialist in his way. I
want him to look at the patient."

"Come in please," invited the nurse. "She is still asleep and I've kept
the night lights on in order that she shall not wake up in too much
darkness."

"Has she opened her eyes since you came on duty?" asked Updyke.

"No--only once has she opened them I'm told, and then only to close them
again," was the reply. "That happened earlier in the day. Her father was
in several times, and it was pitiful the way he prayed for her life. I
just couldn't help crying."

Updyke went over to the bedside and bent over the white face,
scrutinizing it carefully. For nearly a minute he peered steadily at the
eyelids until finally his patience was rewarded--they twitched! Noting
the fact, he put his mouth close to her ear and whispered as softly as
his voice would carry--"Winifred," he breathed--and the eyelids
fluttered.

"Wonderful!" whispered the nurse, but Updyke raised his hand indicating
his desire for complete silence.

"It's time to wake up little girl--your father wants his breakfast and
the booth must be opened--it's going to be a busy day."

Updyke's voice, gentle at first, was almost natural in tone at the
finish. A perceptible movement of the hand and lips indicated that her
condition was not so serious as Villard had feared, and his solemn face
became radiant--but immediately afterward, glum, when Updyke said:

"That's all for the present--she'll wake up naturally bye and bye. It's
dangerous to force the issue."

A servant bearing a message suddenly took both men out of the sick
room--"Mr. Updyke is wanted on the phone."

An operative had some important news for him.

"Have put Parkins' valet through a sweat bath--got everything he knew.
'Number Nine' was with me and took down the whole story. Shall I shoot
it?"

"Shoot" replied Updyke, winking at Villard. Then to the latter he said:
"He is going to give me the confession of Parkins' valet--and the valet
is one of my men."--"Go, ahead--I am listening," said he, as he removed
his hand from the mouthpiece.

"Here goes," said the operative--"Parkins, drinking heavily as he got
himself ready for a run over to Long Island licked up two-thirds of a
quart of straight whisky while he shaved, bathed, and dressed. Had been
brought home in Villard's limousine guarded by a Jap. Though jaded he
didn't try to sleep, but began to change his clothes, and talked to
himself in a maudlin way. The valet said he continually referred to a
poor little motherless girl--who evidently lived on Long Island. He was
to bring the girl and her father to New York--neither had ever been to
the city--although lifelong residents of Long Island. Parkins talked of
sending 'the old man,' meaning the father, on a bus ride to the end of
the line and back, probably for the purpose of losing him. The girl was
to stay with Parkins and be shown the town, the big stores--tall
buildings and so on, with a probable wind up at dinner at some shady
joint. While Parkins had not actually unfolded his intentions toward
her, the inference was that he would see that she took something that
would put her out for a time. Nothing indicated as to the father after
the ride on the bus--sequence would naturally suggest that he would be
allowed to drift. What do you make of it?"

"The plan seems plausible up to the word 'sequence,'" replied Updyke.
"Parkins was known to the girl's father, who trusted him. He could not
afford to let the old man drift for he knew Parkins by name, and would
naturally make inquiries. Parkins could not have risked that. More
likely he would take the girl to a sporty restaurant, and order a
private dining room. If possible he would slip something into the
coffee, or whatever he got her to drink. Parkins is a damnable villain,
and, thank God! we got him before he had a chance to succeed!"

Updyke, whose wrath took on new vigor, fairly snorted as he sensed the
real story.

"I've got a 'John Doe' on the valet," replied the operative. "Fifteen is
in charge of him, here in the office. What shall I do with him?" asked
Number Twelve.

"Just hold him over night in one of the rooms--it might be risky to jail
him. Make him feel at home, and that he is doing us a great favor, for
which he won't lose anything--see? Better put a man in the entrance
hall, next to his room."

"I got you--good night," said the operative.

"Good night, Twelve. You've done a big stunt. See you to-morrow
afternoon or evening," replied the chief, turning to Villard with a
broad grin on his face.

Not wishing to further upset Villard's mind, he said that the
information was second-hand, therefore he would reserve it for the
present. Parkins being in such a serious condition the case might be
settled through his death. Meanwhile, bad off as he was, he should be
"watched like a hawk," and any attempt at escape should be balked at all
hazards. The evidence of the valet was conclusive, but always there
loomed the chance of newspaper notoriety. Therefore, the necessity of
great care.

"Now we'll make a call on Parkins," suggested Updyke, to which Villard
agreed, although the doctor was overdue. A last call for the night on
Winifred had been agreed upon, but evidently the case over at Sawyer's
home was too critical--perhaps an operation had been necessary.

On reaching the Sawyer home Updyke and Villard were informed that the
host had retired, but that Doctor Benton and a surgeon from New York had
experimented upon Parkins, and were awaiting results which might call
for a more dangerous operation in the region of the brain. One of the
two nurses had volunteered the information. The situation was grave.

"I'd rather he died than come out of it a cripple for life," said
Villard, as they strolled back to Dreamy Hollow in a roundabout way.

"Don't worry as to that--he will pull through, and the more crippled he
is the more dangerous he will become," said Updyke. "He will steal the
girl one of these days if you are not everlastingly on the alert."

From that thought Villard, who saw the truth in the prophecy, became
silent, as a new fear seized his heart. By every means in his power he
would frustrate such an eventuality, and with his last drop of blood he
would stand between the girl and the evil genius whose touch would
defile, and whose snares would destroy. Updyke, "mind reader" that he
was, had just grounds for planting the seed of everlasting vigilance in
Villard's brain.

"There is an old saying that 'it takes a rogue to catch a rogue,' Drury,
and I've spent years in acquiring a rogue's viewpoint. Just make up your
mind that Parkins can never assume the rôle of a saint, except as a
subterfuge, and that every hour that he isn't asleep, he is dangerous."

"I place the whole matter in your hands, Henry. I have not the wits for
the job, and would probably lose in any fight against any man with the
mind of a crook," replied Villard.

The worries of the day had been great and rest was important in view of
the duties of to-morrow. A peep into Winifred's suite found the nurse in
good cheer. The sleep of the patient was more normal, and signs of a
desire to awaken had been noted. All was well, as the two men took their
separate ways to comfortable beds and a well-earned rest.



CHAPTER IX.

FORCES BEYOND THE SKIES


Gloomy days followed along the path of Drury Villard during the week
succeeding his last interview with Updyke. The invalid upstairs was in
bed, devoid of memory. She laughed, talked, sat up in bed, or in a
perambulating chair was taken out among the flowers and trees each day.
She recognized no one by name, not even her father, whose health was
giving away under the strain. Her talk was of flowers and birds by
day--and the stars by night.

"I'm going to be with them soon," said she, gaily--referring to the
stars. "My mother is up there."

"And where is your father?" asked Villard, trying to aid her memory.

"I don't know--I'm expecting him any time," she answered eagerly, and
Mr. Barbour, standing near and in plain sight, turned about sadly and
walked away. His child no longer knew him.

Upon this situation, he brooded in silence. He felt himself an
interloper upon the hospitality of a man he did not know. But Villard,
farseeing and well disposed, invited him to stay on and gave him courage
to do so.

"My home is your home," said he. "Some day she will come into complete
recollection--and then, if my hopes are fulfilled, we shall become man
and wife."

"God speed the day!" exclaimed Alexander Barbour fervently. "Everything
is being done for her. You have placed us under great obligations."

But Villard would not have it that way.

"The good fortune is all mine," said he, emphatically--"and I have
reason to believe that she will become my wife, even if I am some years
her senior. There are forces beyond the skies that are working out my
salvation, and that of your daughter. I won't go into the matter further
than to say that I am sure the fates are on our side. When all is
settled, you, who are creeping on in age, may call my home your own. You
may come and go at will--no one will oppose your coming or your going.
You will be a unit unto yourself."

Villard was never cheerful when showered with thanks. When the older man
tried to express his gratitude the master of Dreamy Hollow simply smiled
and waved his hand. A few minutes later he stood on the sands of his
private beach and watched the waves as they swirled and pounded on the
shore line. His thoughts, however, were far away, but the very faith he
put behind them turned them into messages to his dead. But he
anticipated no word in reply. His own reasoning counseled him that the
_new_ Winifred had released the _old_ from further strenuous effort in
his behalf.

"It is myself incarnate, you will marry"--she had told him. Then--"You
will meet her soon."

And it had all come about just as _she_ said, and now she could rest
forevermore in peace--the darling of his early love! Her effort at
self-effacement, were it possible to erase herself from his memory, had
been sublime, but to her reincarnated soul he would hinge his destiny
through the instrumentality of Winifred Barbour. She had now become the
Winifred of his earlier devotion, and he would lavish his love as a
true man should--but there would be no relaxation of his loyalty to the
memory of the dear one gone before.

"I shall always revere your memory," he had whispered hoarsely. "The new
Winifred will never attempt to obscure your likeness from my heart.
Together you will entwine my soul and become as one great love. Farewell
beloved. Go to thy rest!"

As Villard spoke he bared his head and stood quite still. Then, as he
walked his way back he quickened his pace, but halted abruptly as
Alexander Barbour came running toward him.

"She's all right again--her mind has been suddenly restored!" he
shouted.

"The Lord be praised!" shouted Villard with a glad light in his eyes.
Resuming his rapid gait, he left Barbour puffing along, behind.

"And she has asked for 'Drury'--and insists upon seeing him," panted
Barbour. "How could she know of you? I tell you, sir, it's very strange!
She has always lived in one place. She knows nothing of your helpfulness
in rescuing her from the wreck. All she realizes is that there was a
collision and that she has waked up in a palace. She seems not to know
that her memory has been lost since the accident."

"When did this change take place--and where?" demanded Villard, soberly.

"She was in the hammock on the west veranda--and had dozed off after
playing like a little child among the flowers."

Villard stood quite still for a few moments and looked up into the
skies. Then turning toward Barbour he said:

"A miracle has taken place before our very eyes. It would be sacrilege
to even try to fathom such mystery. But we will never cease to thank
that Wonderful Spirit which has helped your daughter into a normal
condition. Come let us hurry along!" he commanded of the mystified
father, after the fashion of those born to rule.

A moment more and Drury Villard stood looking down into the eyes of the
lovely creature whom God had sent to him--"to have and to hold, until
death do us part."

"Do you know me, little woman?" he asked tenderly.

"Yes, you're Mr. Drury!"

"Right--but when you awoke from your lapse of memory you asked for
'Drury'--and that is my given name," said he, his eyes twinkling.

"Now isn't that strange, sir? I had never heard that name until just a
few moments ago. Of course, I must have dreamed it. What has happened to
me, and my father? I remember I was in a dreadful accident--did you know
that? It occurred this morning--where am I now? It seems like Heaven!"
said she, smiling up into Villard's face.

Their eyes met, but after a searching glance, the new Winifred withdrew
her beautiful gray-blue orbs from the contest and gazed out upon the
gardens where gay flowers bloomed and flitting birds winged their way
from tree to tree.

"And you are sure that you have quite recovered?" he asked,
solicitously, wondering whether or not he should tell her of the real
lapse of the time since in his arms he had borne her to his home.

"Oh, entirely so, and I feel so grateful, and so fortunate. I am sorry
indeed to be wearing borrowed clothing. The dress I wore this morning
was perfectly new--the first time I had worn it. We were going to the
big city and I was so happy. I have never visited New York, but I'm
satisfied with this dreamland--only it will be hard to come back to
earth, all in one short day."

Drury Villard smiled at the thought, and releasing her hand he drew up a
great lounging settee which afforded him a seat beside her.

"Perhaps I should tell you something about the accident," said he,
looking into her eyes for consent.

"Oh, do--please! I've been wondering--I seem to be in another world,"
said she, dreamily.

"To begin with, you have been here several days, much to our delight,"
he replied, watching the effect of his words.

"Indeed!" she exclaimed, blushing with embarrassment; "think of all the
trouble I've caused!"

"But we haven't been troubled in the least, and we have grown to think
of you as our own," said Villard. "I have asked your father to live with
us--we are so lonesome in this big house. I love the place, but at times
it is so dreary that I lose myself in grief."

The eyes of the new Winifred opened wide in sympathy.

"You must have had a deep sorrow," said she, in a low voice.

"Indeed that is true, but I think I know a road to happiness," he
replied, tenderly. "When you grow stronger I will tell you what I mean.
But there is something I want to know at once--how did you guess my
name?"

"Oh--now I remember! I have heard your name--my mother sent me word. She
talks to me quite often."

"Your mother is dead, is she not?" queried Villard.

"Yes, on earth, but now she _lives_ in Heaven!" replied the girl,
simply. "Winifred told her to tell me that there would be an accident
and that Drury would aid--and--and----"

"Oh, please go on, dear girl, and what? Tell me about this second
message."

Villard's great strength of character proved his mastery over the young
woman, who, awed by his commanding voice, had no power to refuse his
request.

"But it's all so sacred!" she protested. "Yet, if you insist, I feel
that I must. Don't think it unwomanly, will you?" she pleaded.

"Never--I promise you that, on my sacred honor!" replied Villard,
fervently.

Then came the story that he had awaited so eagerly--a story not for
those who would doubt, or laugh to scorn, but for those who believe in a
life to come--the life everlasting. Tears gathered in Winifred's eyes as
she began to speak.

"My mother came to me Monday night," said she, tremulously. "I was ready
to retire at an early hour because of my great happiness concerning my
first trip to the big city. I had knelt to say my prayers, when suddenly
I heard my mother's voice. Although I have had frequent visits from her
I never actually see her. Her voice, which I so dearly love, came into
the room and called to me by name, but I could not locate the direction
from whence it came. So I bowed my head again, and waited. Shortly she
spoke, saying--'There will be an accident, my child, but no real harm
will come to you--be not afraid. Tell Drury that his Winifred wants him
to marry the person whom he saves from death.' That was all, and of
course you are the Mr. Drury, and if you were instrumental in saving a
woman from death, your Winifred wants you to marry her."

Villard struggled with his emotions after Winifred Barbour had bared the
great secret he so longed to unravel, while she, in sympathy, buried her
face in her hands and sobbed. Villard's mood was so like her own that he
dared not try to comfort her. He had no words with which to soothe, nor
power to check the sorrow and joy that mingled within his own bosom. He
simply stood by, resolutely restraining his emotion, until he had
mastered it--then walked away until the new Winifred had composed
herself.

On his return he lifted her into his arms and kissed her cheeks and
lips, and beautiful dark brown hair.

"You are my Winifred, now," he whispered, hoarsely. "God has willed it
so--and your dear mother in Heaven has sanctioned it. My dead Winifred
is yourself, incarnate. I shall keep and guard you during all of my
remaining days on earth. You will become mistress of Dreamy Hollow, and
we will share all blessings as long as we each shall live."

Taken by storm, Winifred's eyes opened wide in astonishment, but she
made no answer. If in her secret heart she had ever thought of a
marriage proposal, it was not of the kind that had just been spoken. But
Villard was a law unto himself and he took Winifred's hand into his own,
and together they strolled along the wooded path leading toward the ever
wonderful beach. This path was seldom used because of its density of
foliage and the low hung branches of the trees and bushes. At last they
came upon the sands where the waters pounded and the roar of the sea
beyond the bar spoke messages from far away lands.

And there they halted, each mind in deep contemplation of the other,
while gazing far out where the blue sky and the waters of the deep
merged with the shadows of a waning day. As yet the answer had not been
spoken, but the love of the man was fast winning the heart of the girl.
The verdict seemed not far away.



CHAPTER X.

THE NURSE TAKES A CHANCE


Parkins' escape from death owed itself to a surgeon's skill, the
operation upon his head having been successful. Now he sat up in bed,
after seven days at the Sawyer home. He talked very little, but the
furtive roving of his eyes during his wakeful hours denoted his mental
activity. Aside from the injuries to his head, all harmful results had
disappeared. The wound on his scalp was rapidly closing up, and
according to the surgeon, would never be noticed, owing to the dense
growth of his hair. Roached back and parted nearer the middle, the wound
would be obscured. According to both doctors, another week would find
him strong enough to walk about the grounds, but Parkins secretly knew
that he had plenty strength with which to escape. He had no way of
knowing Villard's views concerning him, but he was aware that Updyke
only visited places where something unusual was going on. He could feel
without seeing the Villard satellites--minions of the law!--they were
unremitting. So far as they could prevent there would be no chance for
his escape.

One thing Parkins had done well. He had made a fast friend of his day
nurse. By degrees he had won her confidence, until finally he asked her
if she would not prefer a good salary as his housekeeper rather than
slave on as a nurse.

"I'd go mad with such work on my hands," said he. "Only the faithfulness
of kind-hearted women toward those who suffer makes life worth living.
How much do you average per week?" he inquired abruptly.

"Oh, it's hard to tell, all owing to circumstances. In order to get
anything like steady work I have to take what the doctors offer. Some
weeks I scarcely make anything--other weeks twenty-five dollars, and
sometimes fifty. Last year my weekly average was a little over twenty
dollars. I could hardly make ends meet," she concluded.

"Well, I should think as much!" exclaimed Parkins, with a frown at the
ways of humanity. "How would you like to become housekeeper for me at
fifty dollars a week, with all you can eat, and a Christmas present for
good measure?"

"Are you married?" she asked as if doubtful upon that point.

"No, not yet, but I'm soon to be married--and to the sweetest little
lady in the land. We would have been married now but for the accident.
We were on our way to New York, eloping, as a matter of fact, although
her father was along. We were going to surprise him by suddenly going to
The Little Church Around the Corner, and with him as a witness, have the
ceremony performed. He would have been delighted," said Parkins, with
enthusiasm.

"Surely he would--and a lovely surprise, indeed!" replied the nurse,
gaily. "Was she hurt very badly?"

"No, just shocked, I gather from listening to the doctors. She's out and
around, and the place she is stopping is beautiful--just look out of
that west window into those grounds. See the big white mansion through
the opening? Well, the man that owns that home is many times a
millionaire, and I am Vice President of the company in which he made all
his money."

"You don't say!" exclaimed the nurse.

"Yes, he is the one who picked us up after the wreck--he and Mr. Sawyer
were out for a drive. Villard took the girl to his home and I was
brought here. The doctor said it would be best not to have two invalided
people in the same house."

"Well, that's a fact, especially when they are so close to one another,"
replied the nurse thoughtfully. "But it won't be long before you will be
ready to go your way. Of course you will take the little sweetheart
along."

"Your last cent can go on that," replied Parkins. "But we're going to
fool them, just the same, as soon as I can get out of this--and I'm
almost ready now. We are going to elope, and this time her father will
be none the wiser until it's all over. He is pretty much broken up over
the accident, but the home he is in is a dream, so he'll be happy there
until we come back for him--See? He knows I'm rich, and that I have a
big standing in the business world."

"How will you manage so grave a matter as an elopement?" inquired the
nurse, soberly.

"I'll think it out--oh, now that you are going to be our housekeeper,
and all that, you can help us easily, and no one will ever know it,"
concluded the patient, his face lighting up as if inspired.

Parkins knew how to smile, and to appear the soul of honor. The nurse,
Mrs. Duke by name, as given to him by Dr. Benton when he introduced her,
at once approved him.

"I might be helpful, and would be willing to aid, but I wouldn't want to
be left here to be blamed for it," said she soberly.

"Why, that's easy to avoid," said Parkins. "During your daily exercise,
manage to meet her, and get acquainted. But don't tell her of our plans,
because she is a nervous little soul and might see difficulties in the
way. Naturally she'd want her father along, but that would spoil the
elopement," said the patient, with a sly wink.

"I see that clearly, but what about me? I----"

"I was just going to tell you what to do. First, get acquainted with
her, and on a certain day I'll have a car waiting at a certain place
near by. As you walk along with her you could suggest a pretty place
you'd like to have her see. When she arrives there the car will be
waiting, and you and my sweetheart will jump in, and away you'll go.
Meanwhile, as the car passes this place I will be where I can jump in
and become manager of the affair."

"I'm so afraid of anything like that!" exclaimed Mrs. Duke. "We might be
arrested."

"Oh, pshaw! Nothing of the kind. She's of age--she loves me--and we are
going to be married! The only thing I'm afraid of is that the old
bachelor who owns the place where she is now might want to marry her,
and she is so sweet and obliging, her father might coax her into
marriage with this man Villard," explained Parkins.

"Villard! Is that his place?" asked the nurse, sharply as she again
looked out upon the beautiful home.

"Yes, it's worth a couple of millions, including the land and beach
property," replied the patient.

"Why, he was the man over here last night, was he not?"

"That was Drury Villard. You saw how friendly he was with me, and how
concerned he was about my condition, and everything."

"Yes, indeed, a fine looking man--but too old for that sweet little
girl," said the nurse, shaking her head in deprecation of even the
thought of such a match. "He may be a nice man, and all that, and seems
kindly, but an old man's love is no love at all, so I'm going to help
the girl to escape such a fate," she concluded, shaking her head as she
meant it.

"And if you do, I'll give you one thousand dollars in cash!" whispered
Parkins, as the nurse looked into his eyes.

They held true, disclosing not the least appearance of deceit. Whereupon
Mrs. Duke nodded her head affirmatively.

"I'll do it," she said, "and if you don't mind, I am going out for a
little fresh air"--all of which was accompanied by a knowing smile--the
smile of a skillful accomplice.

To Mrs. Duke a millionaire was a living crime. Want, perpetually barking
at her heels, gave her no charity of feeling toward the rich man--his
kith or his kin. She likened such men to a huge net stretched across the
river of life to which human souls were drawn unerringly by man-made
currents, until caught in the meshes and held in despair. Naught but
death could come to their rescue.

To her, the knowledge that a man of William Parkins' goodness of heart
could be accounted a chattel of the great Villard was unthinkable. As
she walked along among rare trees and flowered bushes her heart turned
cold and her eyes dilated indignation at the inequality of human
destinies. Had she but known the man, his kindly nature, his open purse,
and great benefactions, her hatred of Drury Villard would have been
turned into admiration. Good woman that she was, her intuition had
failed her in her estimate of Parkins' veracity. She had yet to learn
the depravity of the man, who, by the mere use of five magic words--"one
thousand dollars in cash"--had won her hatred toward the best friend he
ever had.

So far as Mrs. Duke was concerned it was easy to meet up with Winifred
Barbour. The girl loved to look upon the waters of the bay, and during
her convalescing days she sat for hours on the sands of the beach and
breathed the ozone borne in upon the breezes from the great Atlantic.
She had wondered about Parkins, still bedfast, but no inkling had come
to her ears of his perfidious intentions toward herself. No gentleman
of Villard's high ideals would have failed to shield the innocent young
woman from a knowledge of the perfidy of the man--but the nurse had not
been taken into account.

Mrs. Duke instinctively knew Winifred at first glance. There she was
seated upon the sands, gracefully poised and tossing pebbles into the
waves.

"Why, bless me!--aren't you Winifred Barbour of Patchogue?" inquired
Mrs. Duke, smiling down upon the girl.

"Yes, that is my name, and Patchogue is my home. Won't you sit down and
listen to the roaring tide coming in? I adore the splashing of the
waves! I do not remember meeting you before," she added, as if in
apology.

"Indeed, I will sit down--it is such a charming spot. You would hardly
remember me, for I left Patchogue years ago, when you were a very sweet
little girl. I begin to recall your features. I am Mrs. Duke."

"Do you live in this vicinity, Mrs. Duke?" asked Winifred, politely.

"No, indeed, sorry as I am to say it. I'm too poor for that--I am at Mr.
Sawyer's at present," said she, as if it didn't matter particularly
where she was.

"Oh, indeed! Some one ill there?"

"Yes, but improving very fast. It's a man, thank goodness--a brave man,
too. I seem to prefer to nurse a man, for they are so much more patient
than women. Not so delicate, you know, and they have more fortitude. But
I must confess I've nursed women, too, who were remarkable!" exclaimed
Mrs. Duke. "Do you live hereabouts?" she asked in a naïve sort of way.

"No, I still live in Patchogue," replied Winifred, dreamily. "It is so
beautiful here, almost like heaven. I wonder if one could always be
happy with every craving of the heart entirely satisfied?"

"Positively not, unless the right man is at hand. The man I'm nursing
now is such a gentleman! Oh, dear--a week or so, and away he goes to his
home of plenty, while I go back to my poor little tenement. Rents are so
awful, aren't they?"

"We have never rented--father and mother always owned a little home, and
since she died, we've continued to live there. I love the little
place!" said Winifred, looking far out beyond the bay.

"Of course you do, my dear child," purred Mrs. Duke, arising to go back
to her charge. "I hope I'll meet you here to-morrow, Miss Barbour, when
I come out for my airing. It's desperately trying to have no one to talk
to."

"Thank you, Mrs. Duke, I'll try to be on hand," was Winifred's reply, as
the nurse sighed and arose to go.

"That's a dear--you can't imagine the dreariness of a life like mine,"
sighed the nurse, turning to go.

On hearing Mrs. Duke's story, Parkins' mind fairly sizzled with plans.
It was a case of now or never so far as Winifred was concerned. He
figured that no matter how much she might be frightened at the plans he
had in mind, that she would calm down, once she saw how much he really
cared for her--and the risk he took to save her from the fate of
becoming the bride of a man so many years her senior.

"Youth for the young--age cannot hold out against it," he soliloquized.
"Now for a plan of action," said he, in lowered voice, to Mrs. Duke.

"Take these memorandums, please," he whispered, reaching under the top
mattress. "Read them carefully, and by all means live up to them. Go to
your room and lock yourself in while you memorize each item of the plan.
Now is the time--quick!" he whispered, his eyes afire with suppressed
excitement.

Mrs. Duke was amazed at the skill of her patient. She read the pages
thrice over, each time in a whispered monotone, her lips moving rapidly.
The instructions read:

1. During your afternoon walk, go to telephone booth in Murray's Wayside
Lunch Room--half a mile east, on the opposite side of the Motor Parkway.

2. Call up Daniel McGonigal--Murray Hill 10011--be sure that you talk to
Dan--no one else--tell him who you are, and whom you represent. Also
tell him about the accident.

3. Read him the note addressed to him.

4. If he seems uncertain tell him its $500 if successful; $250 if we
lose.

5. He is to have a high-power limousine at the beach end of the private
road on the east hedge line of the Sawyer home--to-morrow morning at
eleven sharp--with instructions to take on two women--if not there to
wait one hour--then go home. You will be the other woman.

6. The driver to be accompanied by a uniformed assistant who will sit
beside him unless you need him inside--if there is a struggle.

7. You will meet the girl at the beach on your morning walk, same as
to-day. If she doesn't show up within an hour--come back.

8. If she comes, suggest a walk, east along the beach--for fine view of
wonderful gardens--not to be seen in any other way.

9. My room faces right for full observation--I will be in readiness to
escape, and will be at the Parkway corner by the time the car arrives.
If I fail, go on without me to Herman's--the chauffeur will know.

10. Reassure the girl--soothe her--tell her of my great love--and don't
forget the $1000 you will receive--if successful!

Thus was disclosed to Mrs. Duke the processes of the Parkins' mind,
and--"Wonderful!"--that was her thought as she tucked the instructions
in the bosom of her dress. She gloried in the part she was to take in
defeating the purpose of the rich Villard--and later on--when taking
her fresh air ramble she walked into the booth at Murray's and
telephoned McGonigal.

At first he refused the job, but finally relented upon the grounds of
old friendship. The price was too low for the job, even if it turned out
to be a mere elopement. He very much doubted that version, for he knew
Parkins too well. But Mrs. Duke succeeded in every way and arrived back
in the sick room with triumphant eyes and a thumping heart.

"You have served me well!" said Parkins, patting the hand she laid on
his forehead in search of fever.

There was none, whereat her eyes beamed with delight.

"To-morrow," he continued, "is a fateful day for both of us. It means
joy or sorrow. I'm putting all of the 'eggs in one basket'--we must win
or die! Villard is not asleep! Neither is Updyke! They think I'm too ill
to try anything--so we will show them a thing or two."

"I'll help you against that money shark to my dying breath," replied the
nurse, her eyes envenomed with hatred for such as he. "The girl is
yours--you saw her first, and no doubt she loves you. I'll see that you
get her, too!" whispered the nurse with emphasis.

And so it came about that on the following day, around the hour of
eleven, Parkins looked out upon Great South Bay from a window in a
servant's chamber of Dr. Sawyer's home and what he saw thrilled him to
the marrow of his bones. There they were, two women, easily
recognizable, strolling leisurely along the shore line, stopping now and
then to admire the beauty of the landscape. A closed car stood off a
hundred yards or so at the foot of the east line road. One last sweep of
his eyes and Parkins ran to his room and tore off the bath robe and
pajamas, thus displaying the fact that he was all dressed and ready for
action.

One hour later the Sawyer telephone rang and Villard's excited voice
shouted for the master, who came forward forthwith.

"This is Villard, Dr. Sawyer. Have you seen Winifred?"

The voice, while familiar, hardly matched that of the owner of Dreamy
Hollow.

"Not since yesterday--what is the matter? Anything wrong?"

"She's missing--can't be found on the premises--searched everywhere--all
hands joining. We are simply groping in a blind alley. She walked over
toward the beach about ten o'clock, according to Jerry, but that is the
last thing known of her. He thinks the Parkins' nurse went over that way
a few minutes afterward. Go up in his room, please, and see if the nurse
has returned."

Villard's voice was husky and impatient, but when Sawyer returned and
reported that neither Parkins nor nurse was to be found, and that a bath
robe lay on the floor--also sleeping garments--his voice roared with
anger.

"Where is Updyke's man?" he shouted, stifling the ominous forebodings
that were boring in upon his brain.

"I'll see--hold the wire--and keep steady. Calm yourself, I'll be back
in a minute," said Sawyer.

It was a long drawn-out minute, but the situation was clear. Updyke's
operative had looked in on Parkins at ten minutes of eleven. The nurse
was out for a walk. He came back and sat down on the west corner of the
front veranda, and at ten minutes after eleven returned and found that
the room was empty. The operative's first act was to inform the New York
office from an outside phone, at Murray's, not a minute from the Sawyer
home--by motorcycle. He was now carrying out Updyke's personal orders,
which were--"Stick around until I phone you!"

One thing that had a bearing on the case was Dr. Benton's talk with
Parkins, earlier in the morning. The Updyke man was in the sick room at
the time the doctor made his call and heard everything that was said.
Parkins pleaded to be allowed to take a walk in the garden. The doctor
opposed the idea, and stated that the patient could not walk a hundred
feet without falling in a heap. Also, that another week in bed was
necessary before making an attempt. It was now quite evident that
Parkins had been "playing 'possum," and had succeeded in fooling the
doctor by his apparent weakness of voice, as he plead for out-of-door
exercise.

"That's him all over!" panted Villard, as the particulars of the escape
came to an end. "I'll talk with Updyke--that's all I can do. I'll see
you later and let you know what I find out. Your help has been bully, as
usual. Always grateful--see you later," said he, banging the receiver
into place.

For a moment Villard stood mutely, with hands locked and eyes shut.
Then, with the rage of a lion he sprang into action. Updyke's office was
phoned, and "The Big Fellow" was on deck.

"I thought I'd be hearing from you pretty soon," said he, in reply to
Villard's ring. "Don't worry--Sawyer's butler is one of my men--he got
fooled the same as the rest of you. It shows that Parkins has more
brains than one certain operative. I know one who is going to get
shanghaied. The doctor's pessimism as to Parkins condition in the
presence of my man simply threw him off his balance."

"Never mind the story, old boy. You did your best, but my Winifred is
gone! She is in the hands of a villain!" shouted Villard.

"Well, keep your shirt on, old chap. Raving doesn't get you anywhere. My
man got the news to me before you knew anything had happened--or Sawyer
either. What more do you expect in an instant?"

The growl in Updyke's voice was becoming noticeable, as Villard started
in to apologize.

"I'm just about crazy--don't mind what I say. What else"--but Updyke
ignored the interruption.

"I'm making no promises, but I'm expecting quick results," he continued.
"Parkins is still on the Island, and the big limousine from McGonigle's
garage isn't a racing machine. It can't take to the woods like a small
car unless there is an accomplice who knows the way. I have twelve
motorcycle men out on the job, and three high-speed roadsters. Every
ranger that can be reached by the Chief Forester will assist, and many
secret service men are already alert. I expect to hear news any moment."

"Where do you think he will head for?" inquired Villard.

"I don't think--I know where he is going--but I don't know when he will
get there? I'm not going to tell you now, anyhow. You'd go up in the
air like a balloon," said Updyke with emphasis.

"Then tell me how you know he is going to a certain place. That will
help some. You can see that I am almost crazy!"

"Well, then, brace up and listen. I called up McGonigle and asked him
where Parkins was going in his big limousine and he fell for it. He
stuttered, and hemmed and hawed, until I shouted a real message into his
ear. I said, 'Talk quick or you will be in a hurry-up wagon on your way
to police headquarters!' That's what did the business."

"What did he say to that?"

"My God! On what grounds can I be treated in such a manner, he came back
to me, but his voice was broken. I had him all right, and he knew I had
him. So I answered back--'Because you're an accomplice, and by turning
in evidence that will help convict Parkins you will soften the charge
against yourself.' Then I said I'd help him, most probably, but he must
first tell me the story from beginning to end, or shift for himself."

"Terrible!" sighed Villard. "And he had sold himself to a counterfeit
gentleman! I always thought well of McGonigle. I've known him for
years."

"Well, to make a long story short, he told me everything--how Parkins'
nurse had called him up, and told him of the plan, which was spoken of
as an elopement, offering five hundred for a successful venture, and
two-fifty in any event. Regarding Parkins as a rich man, and sporty, he
took the offer. Now here is the real joker in the pack, and it shows
that luck is still with me," laughed Updyke.

"Let's hear it," said Villard, in a voice less restrained.

"I had another matter on my slate having to do with McGonigle's garage,
so I had sent one of my men over to apply for a job. He entered the
place and found Mac all worked up because a man he had depended on to go
out on a swell limousine job hadn't shown up. The upshot of it was that
he took on my man and gave him a uniform to put on--one of the regular
chauffeur turnouts. That's why I know that we're going to get Parkins,
and get him soon."

"Henry, you are a wonder!--what is the next step?" demanded Villard,
chuckling in spite of his fears.

"The next step is for you to go and sit down with your morning papers,"
shouted Updyke. "I've got other phones waiting on me."

"Just one thing more--tell me where he's taking her," begged Villard.

"What's the use? He won't get her there?"

"Tell me anyhow--I'm stronger when I know the worst," pleaded Villard.

Updyke hesitated. He loathed the thought of letting his friend know the
truth. But finally, in a rasping voice, almost choking with the rage
that he had been trying to conceal, Updyke replied:

"Well, if you must know, the car started for Herman's Road
House--otherwise known as 'The Mad House.'"

With that Updyke threw his receiver on the hook, and asked his
switch-board operator for the call next in line--but he was more than
furious with himself for having yielded to Villard's entreaty.



CHAPTER XI.

MARY JOHNSON


"No news" reports coming in from operatives, and new instructions going
out from "the old man" himself, was the routine of Updyke's office for
the next hour. Mary Johnson, his secretary, of only a few months'
experience, came timidly over to his desk and asked if he had looked
over the Parkins record during the past month or so.

"I think there were some notations made by Miss Carew just before she
left," said she.

"Bring it," snapped Updyke, abstractedly. Then as the girl turned to go
he called her back.

"I'm sorry to have been cross with you, little woman, but you'll forgive
me I know. This is a bad case, and every moment is precious. Hurry back
with the report," said he, smiling into her alert blue eyes.

On her return he seized the record eagerly, and the girl bent over his
shoulder and pointed out three memorandums, which he carefully read.

The addendum was in the handwriting of Miss Carew, and read as follows:


     6-12-1919--has built shack on the ocean side of South Bay, opposite
     Smith Point. Two rooms, stove, kitchenette--goes there during
     summer months--at week-ends--place is made comfortable for duck
     shooting in late fall. Double bed--5-15-1920--Joined the Indian
     Head Social Club, near Jamesport, East of Riverhead. Membership
     composed almost entirely of divorcees, both men and women. Single
     men and pretty women, eligible. Golf club--card games--liquor
     lockers--thirty suites--baths--swimming pool--indoor
     athletics--free and easy--no questions asked--no interference. Open
     all year--once known as The Mad House, then Herman's Road House.
     Herman still owns it, but has modernized the place and bids for
     better clients under the guise of a social country club.


"Get Riverhead, and ask for George Carver, head clerk at the White
House," said Updyke to the girl beside him. "Glad to note that some one
is on the job around here," he added gruffly.

In less than three minutes the connection was made, but even to the man
at the helm, minutes seemed hours--such was his mental strain.

"Hello, George--this is Updyke--Yes--fine, thank you--do you know
William Parkins?--only by sight--eh?--he belongs to Indian Head Social
Club--find out if he is over there--call me back quickly--thanks--hurry
boy!"

The next five minutes dragged along at a snail's pace, so overwrought
was Updyke--and no less the efficient Mary Johnson. But the right tingle
came along in due course of time.

"This you, Henry--all right--he telephoned from Yaphank for a parlor and
bath suite--expected very soon--can I help you in any way?"

"You are still a deputy sheriff?" queried Updyke.

"Yes--they wouldn't take my resignation."

"Listen carefully, George--this is a serious matter. This man Parkins
has kidnapped a beautiful, chaste girl, and is taking her to Indian
Head, if I am not in error. You have a motorcycle?"

"Oh, yes--can't get along without one over here," replied Carver.

"Then hop it instantly, and ride for your life to that club. If Parkins
hasn't arrived--thank God!--you stop him before he gets there, and save
a great scandal that would ruin the girl. She is as pure as snow, and
is betrothed to the best friend I have on earth. Help me out, boy! Get
that man Parkins--serve a 'John Doe' warrant on him and take him to the
home of Drury Villard at Dreamy Hollow. It's a big black limousine, two
men in front, and Parkins, with a woman accomplice, inside. The
chauffeur is McGonigle's man, but the other fellow is my man. He may
need help--he might be killed--but you save the day from scandal."

"I'll do my best, old-timer. What you have told me makes me see red. I
may shoot the skunk," said he in a rasping voice. "If it was a Riverhead
case, we'd tar and feather him."

"Go like the wind, George--and don't fail," replied Updyke, a husky tone
in his deep voice.

When George Carver swung into the Jamesport road a cloud of dust trailed
behind him until he stopped in front of the clubhouse. Parkins had not
arrived, so everything was safe thus far. Turning back along the road he
traveled leisurely and muffled the "cut-out."

Updyke had figured matters out almost to a nicety. Two miles west of
Jamesport a limousine hove in view.

The car was coming fast, head-on for passage against all-comers. But
Carver was an old hand at stopping speeders.

He jumped from his machine and laid it crosswise of the narrow road.
Then with his feet on the wheel and his revolver pointed straight at the
oncoming chauffeur, he shouted:

"Halt! or I'll kill you!"--and at once the emergency was applied to the
brakes of the big machine, causing thereby a most gruesome noise.

[Illustration: "HALT! OR I'LL KILL YOU!"]

"Hands up, chauffeur! Step off of your car--lie down on the
roadside--belly to the ground!"

To the Updyke man he said--"If he makes a move kill him!"

Parkins, not yet discovered by either officer, had dropped to the floor
and pulled a dust robe over his body. Carver tried to open the door, but
it was locked from inside. The door on the other side was also bolted
from within.

"All right, Parkins, you are going to have the merriest little test put
up to you that a rascal of your stamp could conceive of in a life time!"
shouted Carver. "At this moment you and your accomplice are shielding
yourselves at the expense of a frail girl. She need have no fear--you
infernal coward! But unless you and that woman come out instantly, I'll
break in the doors and hang both of you up by the thumbs. I am counting
ten--one--two--three--four--five--get ready, 'Updyke man'--six----"

The door opened, and Mrs. Duke screamed as she saw Carver's badge.

Parkins came out first, with palms turned outward and was made to lay
face-down, his arms stretched above his head. Then came the woman, to
find, at the point of a revolver, that she had forfeited the chivalry of
honest men.

"Now you, Updyke man, slip a pair of bracelets on both the man and the
woman, while I do the same with the driver. Now, little lady," he added,
addressing Winifred, "could you ride behind me on my motorcycle to
Riverhead?"

Carver stood with hat in hand, smiling into her pallid face.

"Oh, I am sure I could," she whispered, frightened to the point of
nervous breakdown.

"Then walk back along the road a little way while I prepare these
kidnappers for a safe journey," said he, sneering down upon the
prisoners. "I wouldn't want you to see what I may have to do to them."

At the suggestion of the Updyke man each prisoner was handcuffed with
arms behind, instead of in front, as was the usual practice in extreme
cases.

"That's the safest way," said the operative, "and now we'll tie their
feet to the foot rest--Parkins in front, by himself, and the woman and
the chauffeur on the rear seat. I'll drive the car back to New York.
Updyke will be waiting for them, all right enough!"

When the job was completed, the curtains were drawn and the doors locked
from outside. Then the Updyke operative mounted the chauffeur's seat and
headed the car toward the west.

Carver now helped the girl to mount his wheel, and then jumped into the
saddle in front of her.

"Hold on to me tight--we're going to speed some!" said he, gaily, then
he shot in the gas, and they were off for Riverhead, the limousine
trailing in the dust close behind.

For a time the male prisoners eyed each other in sheepish fashion, but
Mrs. Duke cried bitterly as the car skipped along. With her arms behind
her she had no means of wiping the tear-drops that plowed ridges through
the dust on her face.

"I don't see how I ever got into this dreadful affair!" she moaned.

"Shut up!" shouted Parkins sharply. "They can't do anything with us.
That would ruin the girl's reputation."

"But that man Updyke!--how did you ever conceive the idea that you could
frustrate that brute's plans?"

"What do you know about him?" snapped Parkins.

"I've seen him, and that's enough! Oh, such a face!--such strength of
purpose!--such----"

"Cut it out I tell you--or you will lose your chance, as a woman, to say
that you had no thought of breaking the law. The girl and I were eloping
and you were along as a friend. Do you get that?"

"You are so wonderful, Mr. Parkins--indeed you are," sighed Mrs. Duke,
as her tears slackened. "I knew it the moment I saw you, all bruised and
torn. Certainly she was eloping with you, and now I remember how sweetly
she talked about you as we walked along the beach. You had always been
so kind to her father, and all that."

"See that you don't forget it," replied Parkins, already planning his
way to freedom. "And also remember this--that when she was seized by
these men, and we were arrested like kidnappers, I was taking her to one
of the swellest country clubs in the land. We were to be married there,
and you were to be the witness--see?"

Parkins' eyes flashed, and his lips curled into a cruel smile as he
thought of the revenge he would take upon Villard and the girl, if
called to the witness stand. How the reporters would enjoy it! And how
Villard's face would burn with shame as lawyers for the defense drove
home his crazy notions about spiritual communications!

The thought almost made him happy.

At Riverhead telephoning was in order. The car containing the prisoners
was, by Updyke's order, to be driven through to New York and the
culprits brought to his office. The girl, Winifred, would await the
arrival of Villard's car at Yaphank, Carver gladly agreeing to convey
her that far, changing to his runabout at Riverhead--thus adding to her
comfort until she would meet up with her friends.

Sawyer was so overcome with joy at "the news from the front," as he
called it, that he insisted on being taken along with Villard. So, with
Santzi as a mascot, and Jacques at the wheel, they were soon on their
way. But aside from the joy in each breast, there was a grim thought in
each mind--and small charity for Parkins and the nurse he had used as a
foil.

Then, too, the shock of Winifred's strange disappearance had so upset
the nerves of Alexander Barbour that he now hovered near "The Great
Crossing." But the ever kindly Mrs. Bond had his case in hand, and the
doctor had been called, although he had not arrived when Villard's party
left for Yaphank.

"If Winifred will agree, we will be married to-night," said Villard, in
an undertone, to Sawyer.

The latter did not reply, although he remained in deep thought for
almost a mile, as shown by the speedometer.

"No, my friend," said he, finally, and with an effort to tell the truth
without offending--"her youthful dreams must not be wiped out in any
such rough-shod manner. I know the big heartedness of your intentions,
but Winifred is a girl and she must have the say. There are her old-time
friends at Patchogue. Those she cares for should by all means be
invited. She must have a fling of some pretensions or she will brood in
silence at your lack of sympathy."

"Alas, you are right--as usual," sighed Villard. "However, my pessimism
is newly born from the fruits of this evil day."

"There you go again--evil day! Why, it's the greatest day of your life!
The girl over there among the stars has again reached out in your
behalf, and this time the proof is positive of her watchfulness over
you."

"Forgive me, Sawyer," said Villard simply, patting his friend on the
knee. "My little girl shall take her own time and have a wedding after
her own heart. Then Dreamy Hollow will wake up and amount to something!"

It was a wide-eyed and dusty little heroine that George Carver handed
over at Yaphank. Santzi jumped out of the roadster and fairly lifted
her into the place between the two men on the back seat, who stood up to
greet her.

At once she snuggled closely to Villard, and shivered, until finally he
put his big arm about her and soothed her with gentle words of sympathy.
Sawyer looked away from it all, his eyes moist at the girl's sweet
simplicity, but Villard motioned Carver to his side of the car and
leaned over and whispered--then put a card in his hand.

"Well, I may call in on you at your home some day, but I seldom go to
New York. I've seen a little of Dreamy Hollow while riding by at times.
The young lady sitting beside you has a strong heart and she knows how
to keep up her nerve," said he, laughing up at her pale smiling face.
"Most women would have had a sure enough fit, if placed in the same
situation."

Then, doffing his cap, he said--

"Good-by, all," and offered his hand to the girl.

Kissing the tips of her dainty fingers Winifred held them out to him,
and said--

"Good-by, sir. I shall never forget your kindness, and your bravery--nor
will any of us," she added, glancing from Carver to Villard, and back
to Carver again.

And then, with a little sigh, she fell back between Villard and Sawyer
and closed her eyes. Within a few minutes she was sound asleep. The
adventure had taxed her beyond her strength.

That night Villard shivered in his sleep, but not from cold. There was a
certain dread of misfortune--he knew not what--that filled his mind.
Publicity, from a gossip standpoint, was his pet aversion. The thought
of its blight upon his name, and the haunting fear of being pointed out
as the man whose sweetheart had been kidnapped by one of his partners,
simply brought out a cold sweat over his body. At midnight he could
stand it no longer, whereupon he turned on his reading lamp and reached
for the bedside telephone--then called up the hotel where Updyke lived,
and was connected with his room.

The big fellow was just retiring when he answered the call.

"I expected to hear from you earlier in the evening," said he by way of
greeting. "Hot old day, eh?"

"A great day, as it turned out to be--and how I am ever going to get
even with you I don't know!" said Villard with much feeling.

"Come off of that, or I'll send you a bill for services the first of the
month," shouted Updyke.

"Well, you'd better, or I'll send you something you won't like--an
insult of some sort about people who have big hearts and no wits for
making money to 'feed the old gray mare' with."

"Don't worry--you're not out of the woods yet--but I won't check in on
that until I get through with 'so and so' and a few of his crooked
friends. I'm going out to see you to-morrow night and talk things over.
I'll say that it's going to be some trick to keep this thing out of the
papers," said Updyke, his voice carrying conviction. "It's a thousand
dollar scoop if 'so and so' wants the money bad enough. I think he is
'all in' so far as ready cash is concerned. He didn't pull this trick
just for the--you know what I mean."

"Yes--go on!"

"No, we will talk it out, with less danger. I'll run down later. I had
one terrible time in third-degree stuff and have put him away for the
night. Me for the mattress and a pillow, for awhile. Get some sleep,
yourself!"

"All right--and God bless you!" replied Drury Villard, as he shut off
the light and settled down in bed. But there is no such thing as sleep
for a wide-awake man.

A very small incident of the day kept creeping into his thoughts--young
Carver! Had not his Winifred kissed her dainty hand as she held it out
to him? Was it just a girlish impulse?--or was it the blood of youth
responding to the call? Once planted, this tiny seed of uncertainty
began to grow. The clock struck one--brooding time, for middle-aged men
who roll and toss, and think dark things in the black hours of the
night.

"It's only natural that youth responds to youth," said he to
himself--"but I too am young in years, although my crowded life has made
me old and out of tune with youth itself. I wonder if I have been fair
to this child?" he mumbled impatiently. "I wonder, I----"

Then, suddenly, his mind relaxed, and over he went--"to the land of nod
and dream."

On the following day Winifred spent the entire morning in her father's
room. He was ill at heart and in body. The events of the day before,
coupled with those of the ten days preceding had worn him down to a
frazzle of his old self. He longed for the peace and quiet of his own
home. He missed his old acquaintances with whom he exchanged salutations
each day from the standpoint of the weather--"fine day,"--"looks like
some sorter change"--"it's about time for the rains to set it," and the
like.

The good man was lonesome in the big Villard home, and added to that, a
deep cold had settled on his chest and continuous coughing had exhausted
his powers of combativeness. But at last he was asleep, coaxed by the
soft hands of his daughter who gently smoothed his forehead and face,
and combed his hair and scalp, all of which induced new circulation--and
finally, a most welcome drowsiness, which terminated in peaceful
slumber.

Tired almost to the point of exhaustion, Winifred sought the quiet of
her cosy portico, on the second floor, overlooking the west garden, and
there in a huge lounging chair sat Drury Villard, his eyes shut tight,
and fast asleep.

She gazed upon his kindly face, and then, with the joy of youthful
spirits, she put her hands over his eyes. Then in a voice deep as she
could command she whispered into his ear.

"Who dares to break the stillness of my solitude when I am sleeping over
a dull magazine article about the future prospects of rubber"--and that
was as far as she got.

The big man reached out and closed his giant hand over her soft, dainty
wrists, and drew her to a place beside him--tired little girl that she
was. And there she sat and closed her eyes while he stroked her hair and
whispered endearing words into a small pink ear--and told her a tale
about "_The Old Man of the Sea_," who--"whistled up the winds, and
called for Davy Crockett, and together watched the fury of the waves."

Indeed, Drury Villard was a gentleman of the old school, and there are
many, many verses to that rollicking old song, just right for a tired
little "mother girl" who had attended her sick father for many long
hours. It was no wonder that her eyelids closed and her body relaxed,
when dreamland hove in sight.

And for more than an hour Villard held her thus, while his brain teemed
with plans for her happiness. And when she awoke they walked out among
the flowered bushes and watched the sun go down.

"Now I must go to my father--I've neglected him too long, and he is so
lonely!" said she; "and I am all he has left to comfort him."

Feeling that the end was near for Alexander Barbour, Villard shook his
head, as sadly he reckoned upon the grief of the daughter. A matter of
days, or a month at most, and his Winifred would become an orphaned
child. Once more the thought came into his mind that the sick man would
be less distraught if he knew that his daughter had the protection of a
husband. He would settle the matter after advising with Updyke, who held
opposite views to his own. With that in mind he went to his study and
shut himself in.

Just as Villard was about to sit down he heard a gentle knock upon the
panel of the door, an unusual occurrence, for the rule laid down by the
master was that no one should be announced at this particular room
except by phone. Disturbed he jumped to his feet and stalked forward.

"Who's there!" he demanded, his hand gripping the knob.

"Alexander Barbour, sir," came the answer in a weak tone of voice.

"Oh--come right in, Mr. Barbour," said Villard, affably, as he threw the
door wide open. "I very seldom hear a knock when I am in this room. All
of the folks around the house know that I'm 'out' when I'm in here. But
you are welcome."

"I'm sorry to have disturbed you," replied Winifred's father, who
coughed as gently as he could, but his face turned red from the effort.
"I didn't know," he said by way of apology.

"Sit down, dear man, and tell me what you have on your mind," encouraged
Villard. "You may be sure of my interest."

"Sir, I--I want to go home--to die. My wife might not know where I was
if I passed out here! She wouldn't likely think of finding me in this
big mansion. I am dying sir--I must go home! It's only----"

"Yes, dear man, it's only a little while before we all must take the
same road. It is our fate--we can't dodge the issue. But what of
Winifred?... You...."

Villard's voice broke off suddenly when he considered what he was on the
point of saying.

"She will want to be near me during the crossover," said Barbour,
nodding his head, indicating his certainty of his daughter's devotion.

Villard was upon the verge of humoring Barbour at any cost of time or
trouble, when suddenly he thought of Parkins. What if he were to regain
his freedom before the death of Barbour! Although now under restraint,
the scapegrace had not been legally tried and convicted. The court might
easily decide that the case was tantamount to an elopement, and Parkins,
if arrested, allowed to give bail.

"I'll tell you what I think is best for the present, Mr. Barbour," said
he, smiling into the eyes of the stricken man. "Mr. Updyke is coming out
to-night, and of the three of us, he is most capable of judging the
proper thing to do. I am sure he will find a way to safely bring about
what you have suggested. But neither you nor I know just how. Now, isn't
that a better plan?"

Alexander Barbour smiled feebly, but evidently approved of the idea. He
had seen Updyke and knew he must be a power in his line of business,
whatever that might be.

"You ought to know what is best, sir," replied the sick man. "I am not
up in such matters--but I trust you with all my heart. My daughter is
one of the sweetest young women in the world, and she must be protected
wherever she is," he replied. "Maybe she'd be safer in a little town
like Patchogue than among these grand homes on the Parkway."

"But she was more than just stolen when the accident occurred, friend
Barbour. You can hardly realize the trap you both were headed for. But,
of the two, your daughter would have fared the worst. Even if you had
been killed by the man you trusted, you would have been better off than
your innocent daughter," concluded Villard.

"Don't say another word, please," begged the father, who could not bear
to have the subject referred to. "It isn't that I don't trust you, sir,
it's because my child is my life, and I can't spare her--yet. Only a
little while will I need her. You can see that for yourself. I am on my
way to her mother--I'll soon be with her. Then you may come for
Winifred, and she will go with you. She loves you from the depths of her
heart!"

Wearied by his effort, Alexander Barbour gave himself over to another
spell of coughing, and failing to stop it, retired from the room. He had
said his say about Winifred and there was nothing left for Villard to do
but accede to his point of view. After all he had awaited so long the
advent of the girl of his dreams, that he could afford, for the sake of
all concerned, to accede to the father's wishes. But his Winifred should
be safeguarded by day and night!



CHAPTER XII.

THE THIRD DEGREE


Drury Villard waited impatiently and well into the dark of the night for
the arrival of Henry Updyke at Dreamy Hollow. And when he did arrive, he
was worn and weary to the point of brain fag. Parkins had been given the
"third degree" and was now "a master crook"--according to the man who
for two hours had raked him fore and aft with scathing contempt and
pitiless ridicule. Hour after hour Updyke had battered at the portal of
his victim's brain, until, at last, it creaked--then, opened wide to the
flood of light that revealed the manner of man he was. The big fellow
was glad, indeed, that Villard had not been present. Soft-hearted men
had no place in such proceedings.

Updyke was not the only one to ply the questions. The Updyke "system"
was there in force--certain lawyers--trained for the work, who came to
browbeat and cajole, to threaten and scorn. To none of these had the
case of Winifred Barbour been confided--that was a job which the master
mind reserved for itself. Old matters long since condoned were exhumed
whereby to wear the culprit down to a full confession of his most recent
exploit. When that moment arrived the man was limp, dazed and completely
shorn of combativeness.

Then came Updyke himself, and along with him five additional operatives,
fierce of eye, solemn, and noiseless, as they arranged their chairs in
semicircle formation, the better to confront the would-be kidnapper. Two
shorthand men took seats, one on either side of the witness--then the
steel door, to the great concrete "sweat room," was closed with a
bang--and locked against further admissions. All this had been done
within three minutes, and with studied intent, that the witness should
not have the advantage of an unnecessary moment of respite.

The Barbour matter was Updyke's own case and he went about it "hammer
and tongs." To the stenographers he said--

"Every word must be taken down verbatim--see that your notes compare,
rigidly alike, at the close of the confession." Then to Parkins he
bawled--

"Sit up like a man and tell the truth! Don't try to lie, for we know
every side of the case and you will only serve yourself a bad turn if
you try any smart-aleck subterfuge. The more you tell of your deviltry
the fewer the witnesses that will be brought in to testify against you.
It's up to you, whether or not you gain credence with those who confront
you--all sworn officers of the law--who have no prejudices to start
with, but will give you all that is coming to you should you lie in an
attempt to save yourself. For once in your life it will pay you to be
honest! Talk out loud so every one present can hear you plainly, or you
will get a bucket of ice water in your face! No foolishness--we will now
begin--sit up straight and don't look annoyed. You are the star actor in
this drama."

To Martin Leroy, one of the stenographers, a public notary, he winked.
Then said--"Swear this man to tell the truth!"--and turning toward the
much-perturbed Parkins he shouted--"Stand up and raise your right hand!"

The notary knew full well that such an oath had no legal force--but it
was part of the sweating process.

Weak from mental anxiety, Parkins struggled to his feet. When he had
repeated the last words of the oath--"so help me God"--he fell back into
his chair exhausted. All bravado had left him.

"Sit up straight, and answer the questions that are put to you,"
commanded Updyke, whose deep voice and ominous frown bore down upon the
wilting degenerate until he squirmed in his chair.

"Stop that fidgeting, and make up your mind that the truth will serve,
but the lie will condemn!" he shouted.

"Now sir"--began the man whose iron blood coursed through veins of
corresponding vigor--"state your full name, your age, place of birth,
residence, and avocation."

"I was born in New York City--and, er----"

"Speak up!" shouted the inquisitor. "A brave kidnapper would never
cringe like a starving puppy."

"I am thirty-five years old, and I was born----"

"Here in New York--we managed to get that. Go on with the rest," said
Updyke, gruffly, well knowing the advantage of getting in a quick first
blow.

Then came the answers to the other questions in sequence from the
beginning.

"Now tell us the story of your life--the good--and the bad--the
indifferent," commanded Updyke. "We know it, pretty well now, but we
want it from your own lips, so, by comparison with our records, we will
know whether or not you are lying."

Parkins' face turned purple at the thought of his predicament. To be
stigmatized as a liar in the presence of men was as a blow in the face.

"It's--it's a long story--not all bad," said he, reminiscently. "There
was a time when none could say anything against me. I am a victim of
drink and narcotics. If I could go somewhere--find a place in which I
could be cured, I would begin over again. Often the feeling comes to me
to run away from it all--but where could I go? The stuff is found
everywhere! Most men drink, to some extent, but are moderate. To one of
my temperament, one drink means a drunk, for I cannot quit until I
become a sodden rotter."

"That is a sad state of affairs, Parkins, but interesting--go on with
your story," snapped Updyke, his eyes fixed cruelly upon the man in the
witness chair.

"There are many things and many angles, to a life such as mine," began
Parkins, nervously. "I was orphaned when a small boy, and grew up on the
streets of the city. I sold papers, slept in delivery wagons, tended
furnaces, did odd jobs--anything to keep going--but they were happy
days. After a time I became a messenger boy, in uniform, and to find
myself in decent clothing gave me an uplift. But that job was my
ruination. It took me into vile places as well as the best of homes,
clubs and hotels. A messenger boy goes where he is sent--into a saloon,
a house of shady repute, or a home on the avenue."

Here Parkins paused and wiped his face with a silken kerchief. At a
glance he could see that his story, thus far, had been listened to
attentively.

"But it was not at any of those places that I took my first drink," he
continued. "A stag dinner of young college fellows at one of the leading
hotels required some one to attend the door. A ring for a messenger
took me out on the job. They had expected a man, and here was I, with my
brass buttons, red stripes, and cap to match the blue coat and trousers.
The party was well under way when I arrived, and when I opened the door
and announced who I was, and what I was wanted for, a big howl of
laughter took place. 'The Doorman!' shouted one fine big fellow, as he
grabbed me and stood me in the center of a very large dining table. At
once they proposed a toast to 'The Doorman,' and I was 'it' from then
on. They served me a tiny cocktail, which I drank without trouble,
although it was my first. One man protested, and was brushed aside. But
another fellow handed me a glass half filled with champagne. That
appealed to me, and I asked for more, whereupon several guests shook
their fists at the man who gave it to me. To stop the fight I shouted in
regular newsboy language--'What's de matter wid you'se fella's. I drink
dis stuff wid me breakfas' ev'ry day of me life!'--then I began to feel
dizzy."

"Very interesting," observed one of the operatives to another in a
whisper.

"Then what happened?" grunted Updyke, less gruffly.

"The next thing I knew I woke up in a wonderful room. It was part of a
suite in one of the swell hotels of those days--the old Fifth
Avenue--and a kindly faced woman arose and came over to me. I was all
right--and I told her so. I wondered why she had on nurse's clothing,
but later on learned that all hotels had a head nurse. A few hours later
a very bright faced, well dressed young man, not over twenty-one, came
rushing in. His eyes twinkled, and he patted me on my cheeks--'Never
again for you--young fellow!' he said--then--'I nearly got my jaw broke
last night at the fraternity smoker. I'm only a freshman, and
unfortunately the man who was serving you wine was a senior. Don't you
ever let another drink go down your throat as long as you live!' he
urged--and I promised."

"Who was that man? Did you learn his name?" asked Updyke.

"Yes--Drury Villard," sighed the witness. "He did not drink, and had his
senses about him. If I had stuck to his advice, this situation would
never have come about."

A blank expression came over the face of Updyke when the name of
Villard was spoken. In a brown study he paced the concrete floor for
several moments, then suddenly he turned toward his operatives and
dismissed them from the room.

"The inquiry will be private between this man and myself--except the
stenographers, who will make of this case a separate verbatim report.
They will be kept on file for further reference," growled Updyke,
scowling at Parkins.

When the door was shut upon the operatives, Parkins, relieved, again
took up the history of his life.

"The upshot of my meeting with Drury----"

"Mister Villard!" corrected Updyke. "You have forfeited, many times
over, his respect for you. He is no longer an intimate friend of
yours--now proceed."

"Mr. Villard got me a place in an office downtown--an investment
company, now merged with another concern. There is where I learned to
figure in a financial way. I----"

"Yes--and you stole a ten-dollar bill, and was caught at it!" bellowed
Updyke, breaking in on the testimony. "Don't miss anything--I know your
record, and it won't hurt you to refresh your memory of your rascality."

Parkins winced, but he had no courage with which to combat his
interrogator.

"That one overt act made an honest man of me for several years. When
Drury--I mean Mr. Villard--came out of college as a graduate, he
returned to New York, bent on going into a business that was entirely
new. We met on Broadway one day, and he was very cordial. He asked all
about myself and I told him I was still at the old place."

"Didn't tell him about the ten spot, though--did you?" leered Updyke,
intentionally. He would leave no loophole for sentimental nonsense by
which Parkins might try to crawl back into his good graces.

"No," said the witness, dully. "I had learned a lesson that I thought
unforgettable. I had become an honest man, and I would be yet--only for
drink," he added, sadly.

"Yes--and for drugs, and bad companions, and the natural-born tendencies
of a crook," snarled Updyke.

"Perhaps so," responded Parkins wearily. "As I was going to say, I met
Mr. Villard, and after a most friendly conversation he seemed to think I
was the right man to help steer the new organization he had in
contemplation. His mind was that of a dreamer of great projects, while
my own was full of the figures with which to carry out big financial
undertakings. I had practical experience against his theoretical college
training. We were well met, at the time. He had personality and
tremendous energy, to say nothing of wealthy acquaintances--fathers of
his college chums. So he----"

"Yes--I follow," said Updyke. "He took you in as an expert in financial
figures, and made you treasurer, also gave you his whole hearted support
in every way, and finally gave up active work in the business, thus
practically turning it over to you to run," sneered Updyke. "But that is
all off now. You are done for--where you will land is not yet decided
upon. But you may be well assured that you will miss the golden
opportunity that was yours only a short while back. You are a failure--a
dishonest, worthless drunkard!" concluded the big fellow who now
advanced to a position where he could look into Parkins' eyes and fill
them with fear.

The witness, already faint from Updyke's relentless tongue lashing,
wavered in his chair, though making great effort to steady himself. He
craved a stimulant--wine, beer, whisky--anything to quench the parching
thirst within him. At this point Updyke handed him a drink of cool
water, and he swallowed it down at a gulp. The effect was carefully
noted, the demeanor of Parkins almost immediately changing back to
normal. He asked for another and that was given to him. Then he sat up,
quite refreshed, and indicated that he was ready to proceed.

"Did you ever consider the fact that water is one of nature's greatest
stimulants?" queried Updyke.

"I never thought of it as a stimulant, but rather as a necessity," was
Parkins' reply.

"Now then, I'll ask you a question that might help you if you ever test
its meaning. You have just drank two glasses of cool, fresh water--would
you care to take a drink of liquor on top of them? Would your appetite
call for whisky, now, if you saw it before you?"

Parkins carefully considered the matter, remaining in deep thought for
several moments, as he analyzed his desire for strong drink.

"No, I wouldn't care for any sort of liquor, at the moment," he replied.
"I seem to have appeased my thirst for the present."

"Then why not drink your fill of water the next time your stomach craves
an intoxicant," suggested Updyke. "Of course your dissipation has
undermined your powers of resistance and you might have some trouble at
first--but it's worth a try-out. Anyhow you will be afforded the
opportunity," suggested the big fellow.

At this point of the inquisition Updyke found himself approaching the
main issue--the affair concerning Winifred Barbour. All else had been
more or less the paving of the way to that subject, and taking the
combativeness out of the witness. Now the time had come when Updyke felt
compelled to take the chance. Parkins' testimony was necessary to his
plans, and if successfully brought out the case against the man himself
was "nailed down and copper riveted," a time-worn expression, that
Updyke often used. Before starting on the subject he drew a table
between himself and the witness, and placed upon it an automatic
revolver. This action very naturally caused Parkins to look up in alarm,
and also the stenographers.

"No one need be afraid of that little thirty-eight. It's harmless," said
Updyke. "I've carried it for years and have never shot any one with
it--yet. But I am always prepared to use it instantly, as I carry it in
a hidden holster just under the left side of my coat. Now I am going to
leave it there, in plain view on the table, at present, for I am about
to question the witness concerning his intentions toward a certain young
woman, on a certain day, not long since. The name of the girl is not to
be spoken. Parkins will speak of her as 'the girl,' and the
stenographers will write it that way. If Parkins, either by accident or
design, speaks her name I'll shoot him the moment he utters it! What I
am now saying is a personal matter, and must not go into the record.
When I hold up my hands the recorders will proceed."

Immediately Updyke raised his hand.

"Now then, Parkins, I want nothing but the truth out of you. Lying will
be your undoing, if you expect clemency. You remember the day of the
accident?"

"Yes, sir--I do," replied the witness.

"A few days before that you invited the girl, and her father, to take a
trip to New York with you in your automobile, did you not?"

"I did, sir. They had never been to New York, and being friends of long
standing I invited them to go in my car--and the date was set."

"Why do you sit there and lie in answer to my first question!" yelled
Updyke, his face denoting extreme anger.

Parkins grew pale at the sudden fury of his inquisitor.

"I meant to tell you the truth," he replied meekly.

"Parkins, your habit of lying is constitutional. Maybe you don't know
how to speak the truth--even under oath. You said the girl and her
father were old friends of yours, didn't you?"

"That was a mistake--unintentional," said Parkins, now thoroughly
alarmed.

"You had known them for about six weeks," snapped Updyke. "No more
lying, or there will be some one hung up by the thumbs so he will
remember to tell the truth thereafter. Now then--I'll ask you to tell me
how and when you got acquainted with her?"

"I bought some cakes, and pies, at her stand on the motor parkway at
Patchogue," said the witness.

"Started in by kidding her, didn't you?"

"Perhaps--I don't quite recall," replied Parkins, mystified as to
Updyke's source of information.

"Yes you do recall--and you also remember apologizing to her for calling
her 'little sister'--now don't you? Speak up--say yes or no," growled
the big fellow, as he stared the witness out of countenance.

"Yes"--replied the witness, his face now almost purple.

"You have a so-called hut on the ocean side--did you ever drive her out
that way?"

"Yes--once."

"Showed her all the conveniences, too--didn't you?--the kitchenette and
everything?"

"I presume I did--that would have been the natural thing," replied
Parkins.

"You really think so--eh? Don't you know that you are lying again?
Well, now, you quit that stuff! I wasn't born yesterday," snarled Updyke
as his eyes sought those of the man on the witness stand.

"Now I'm going to ask you a question," he continued, "that is going to
stagger you!--what were your intentions toward her had you got her
safely to New York? Be careful--say nothing but the truth!"

Updyke's steady eyes caused Parkins to shut his own and consider well
before answering. How his persecutor could know so much was beyond his
power to reckon. But he had to answer. The question was categorical.

"I meant to marry her," he blurted.

"Open your guilty eyes and tell me that again," shouted Updyke, bending
over the table where lay the automatic. "It was to be a mock
marriage--now wasn't it?--'poor little country maid!' Do you remember
your maudlin conversation with yourself in your apartment the morning
you were fired out of Dreamy Hollow? Of course you do--and only an act
of God saved her from experiencing a try-out of your scheme. You had won
her trust, and that of her father, who was to be allowed to
'drift'--wasn't he? Zim's Midnight Inn was a fine place to sup and
drink--and tempt! you--scoundrel!--but God saved the girl by upsetting
your car--her father is at death's door!"

"Oh, merciful heaven--stop this cruel torment! I am going crazy!
I'm----"

But Parkins could go no further. He put his face in his hands and
sobbed, while Updyke pulled forth a long black cigar and lighted it. He
was "dying" for a smoke, and now was his chance. The stenographers, used
as they were to "third degree" work, showed signs of pity for the
wretched man on the stand. They watched Updyke, too, and saw him touch a
button on the wall near the door. Then they saw him go to a speaking
tube and heard him say--"Send him in...."

During the interim Parkins never lifted his head, until he heard the
rasping noise of the steel door as it opened and closed. When he raised
his eyes to see what was going on, there stood his valet and man of all
work, talking with Updyke. They shook hands cordially and stood near the
door, talking to each other for several minutes. By that time Parkins,
red eyed and sullen, had assumed an air of defiance. His own man had
trapped him, and a desire to kill crept into his mind. There lay the
automatic--one jump would be sufficient, and it would be "all off" with
Updyke! A wonderful chance, and he would take it--but his mind moved
slowly. Updyke, standing at the far end of the room, knew his thoughts
and laughed at him, mockingly--

"No use, Parkins--it isn't loaded. Here's it's mate," he said, flashing
it quickly, "and it's all set for action."

Then, walking toward the table, he picked up the other weapon and
emptied it of six cartridges, and put them in his pocket.

"It was loaded, after all," said he. "Very careless of me--eh--Parkins?
Allow me to introduce you to one of our most valuable operatives--Mr.
Parkins--Mr. Michael Curran. He says you have the best equipped
sideboard in the city."

Parkins was dumfounded.

The trusted servant was an Updyke "plant," and his case now seemed
hopeless. There was nothing to say, and his eyes sought the floor.

"Look up, and face the music," nagged the relentless Updyke. "A brave
fellow like you who connives against young women and sickly fathers
surely must be a courageous man! What were your real intentions toward
that girl?" yelled the big fellow, pointing his finger at the wilted
Parkins.

"I had no real plan," said he finally. "I was sober when I took her into
my car, and I meant to keep sober. No man in his right mind would offer
insult to an innocent girl."

"Is that so!--then why did you, absolutely sober, and after ten days in
bed with a wounded scalp--kidnap her and start for Herman's Roadhouse?"
snarled Updyke. "For the sake of counterfeiting respectability the name
has been changed to fool decent people. It is called a social
club--bah!"

"I--I--ah--or rather I should say--we were eloping--we were going to be
married! She and I are engaged, and----"

"Stop right where you are! Now I want you to look me squarely in the eye
and tell me that lie over again."

Updyke's lowering face at once took on the look of a demon. His right
hand stole slowly under the left side of his coat and his eyes seemed
to be turning green.

"It was a lie! Don't shoot me! I'll tell the truth, sir," screamed the
witness. "You already know every move, every thought, every act--what's
the use? Do what you will but don't ask more questions--I'm done for!"
he ended, as he swooned and fell forward, but Updyke caught him in time
to save him from injury.

The erstwhile "valet," stepped forward and helped to lift the limp body
to the table in front of him, the barrier that had stood between him and
his tormentor.

"The jig is up!" said Updyke, grimly, two big tears rolling down his
rugged cheeks. "We have it all. His guilt cannot be questioned. And
that's the only reason why the so-called third-degree inquisitions are
to be tolerated. Slap cold water on his face. He'll come out of it in a
minute or so."

Turning to Curran, he whispered--"Stay with him, and when he is fully
aroused help him up to my suite upstairs and put a guard in with him. He
can't get out, but he needs company," said he significantly. "I'm going
out to Dreamy Hollow as soon as I get first copies of the testimony.
Order my car around as soon as you can--no hurry--tell Miss Johnson to
phone for it to be ready in an hour."

With that the big fellow left the "star chamber" with its windowless
walls and concrete floor, a sigh of relief escaping from between his
yawning jaws. He was tired, dead tired, and victory won, left no feeling
of elation in his breast.

"Justice is hell for some and joy for others," said he to himself as he
stole his way through to the private door into his office. Updyke's mind
was upon the man that had collapsed under his lash and the cruelty of it
had left its imprint upon his own heart.

A few hours later he was welcomed by the master of Dreamy Hollow.

"I've come to stay until the day after to-morrow. I need a day off,"
said Updyke, as he grasped the welcoming hand of Drury Villard. "I'm all
in and I want to go to bed at once."

Villard scrutinized him carefully, and decided that his friend and guest
knew what was best for himself.

"I'd planned for a lively evening--what is the news of the day? Did
you----"

"Yes--here it is, all typewritten, and will afford you an evening of
varying emotions. Show me a room--that's all I ask. To-morrow we will
both be fresh, and will talk things over. No food--I snacked in my
office," said the master inquisitor.

And so it was settled, and a short time thereafter Villard sat alone in
his office, reading the testimony of his old-time friend, now a
self-confessed pariah, and a conscienceless scoundrel. When he had
finished his lips trembled, and his heart cried out against the villainy
of his once trusted partner. He now loathed him as he would a viper, and
there was nothing left in his bosom but abhorrence. In his present mood,
good man that he was, Villard felt that he could have looked on without
mercy while the low creature was strung up and tortured.

"No wonder Henry left, and went to his bed," he mumbled to himself.
"Case hardened as he is to crime and malevolence, his soul has been
seared with the events of this day."

Villard arose to his feet and slipped quietly out into the night, where
his heated brain could be cooled and his senses restored. He hurried on
toward the beach as if bewildered, caring naught for the bats that
darted in front of him, and the limbs of bushes which swung back and
whipped his face. The Parkins' confession stood out as might a picture
of Herod cleaving the heads of helpless babes, and watching their
writhing bodies as they fell at his feet.

What Villard would have done, or where he would have gone in his madness
to rid himself of his obsession was a matter of conjecture, but for a
terrible coughing spell on the part of some person just ahead of him. It
was Alexander Barbour, bundled from head to foot against the chill of
the night, who stumbled along the same path, only a few yards in
advance. His walk was painful, and his voice hollow and unreal as he
cried--"I want to go home to die!"

This dismal wail brought Villard back to his senses, and he ran forward
in time to catch the man in his arms. For a moment there was a struggle
but Barbour was too feeble to resist.

"You shall go to-morrow," whispered Villard, "and your daughter will go
with you. The time has come when it will be safe for her to return to
her native town, and I shall take you both home in the morning. I know
how you feel, and I sympathize. Come, let us go back into the warmth of
your room."

Some hours previously Winifred had helped her father into his bed, and
stood over him, while rubbing his forehead and chafing his icy hands.
She had placed a small electric heater at his feet.

"They feel like lumps of ice," he complained, but to the soft touch of
Winifred's hands upon his forehead he succumbed to nature's balm--sleep
without pain.

For half an hour she stayed beside him, and then as his hands relaxed
and his breathing became normal, she knelt and prayed for his
restoration to health and happiness.

Then she went to her room, but on returning a few minutes later the bed
was empty--her father had gone. She notified Santzi at once, who gave
the alarm, but when all hands had taken up the search, they came upon
Villard and with him was the night-clad figure of Winifred's father.
There was much in the way of speculation as to the result of the sick
man's adventure, but the night nurse, arriving soon afterward, said
that his effort to help himself might turn out to his advantage.

All through the excitement, Updyke slept on unknowing, but Winifred and
Villard sat out on the moonlit veranda and talked of the plans for the
morrow. He felt that she should be told of Parkins' "detention" pending
further developments, but in no way did he intimate the happenings at
the Updyke inquiry.

"I think your father should go back to his old home at Patchogue for a
time. This place palls upon him and he will never be happy here. You
must go with him, of course, and I shall ride over every day or so to
see how he is getting on. We must not allow him to die from longing for
his old home, where your mother lived and died. That's his trouble--and
if I were in his place I'd feel just as he does."

"I believe you have solved his problem, and I am very glad you have
thought it all out for us. We are plain country folk, and fairyland is
too much for us. Indeed we have grown in experience since we left our
little country home. But our country eyes have been opened to the love
we feel for our native town and its people. There is where we belong,"
said Winifred, dreamily, as her face broke out into smiles.

"You shall have your wish, dear child," said he, gently. "There is
nothing that I would deny you."

"But you wouldn't live there," bantered Winifred, throwing back her head
and laughing at the idea. "We'll wait and see how you hold to your
resolution to 'ride over every day or so.' My, how my friends would get
together and gossip! I just dare you to try it," she gurgled, as she
held out her hand and bade her host good night.

"No--you don't get off that easy," said Villard, striving to catch her
up in his arms, but she escaped through the door of her father's chamber
and tiptoed in to see if he was resting comfortably.

"All is well," she whispered on her return, looking up into Villard's
eyes--"so you may return to your den, Mr. Lion--it's bedtime for me!"
she laughed, as she started to go.

"And kissing time for me," laughed Villard, reaching out as if to take
her in his arms.

"No, sir--this is the kind of kiss you shall have," cried Winifred, as
she put her arms about his neck and her lips upon his forehead. Then she
blushed, and sighed, a shyness creeping into her eyes.

"Only a kiss on my forehead!--not surely----"

"If I ever do kiss a man on the lips it will be the one to whom I am
wedded--not before," said she, her face lighted with honest conviction.

"Don't forget that I am going out Patchogue way very often, in the
future," he warned.

"I am sure my father and I will be ever so proud if you will come to our
home as often as you can," replied Winifred, as prettily she dropped him
a curtsey in a quaint, old-fashioned way.



CHAPTER XIII.

WINIFRED MEETS UPDYKE


Next morning Henry Updyke was literally up with the larks, and there
were plenty of them about the premises of Dreamy Hollow.

At six o'clock he betook himself into the open for a morning stroll.
Winifred was also astir, for the call of Patchogue was in her heart, and
she must be ready. But it was far too early to arouse the household, so
now was her opportunity to once more behold the dreamland from which she
would soon be on her way. To the beach and back was her first intention,
as vivid memories clustered about its sandy slope, where she had gazed
far out beyond the bay to the very ocean itself, and dreamed of "Castles
in Spain." And now she would look for those castles again, and the
cliffs of Fort Hancock, over Sandy Hook way, easily seen from the place
where she sat on the day of her startling adventure. Fearful of the dew
damp of early morning she took the inside path and was soon at the
waters' edge. And now she sat down, oblivious to all save the waters,
which moaned as they came in great waves, and sang as they splashed in
diabolic fury and broke into gems of rainbow hue. And there was no one
to disturb the thoughts within her mind, for which she was glad, only to
turn her face toward the west, and there stood a huge man, calmly
looking down upon her.

"Don't be frightened," said the big fellow, smiling down upon her. "You
surely have not forgotten your father's friend, who used to hold you on
his knee and tell you stories, and bring you books from the city."

"Mr. Updyke!" gasped Winifred, looking guiltily into his smiling face,
then suddenly she exclaimed--"I've seen you but recently, have I not?"

"Yes--but you can't guess when and where," he laughingly replied, at
which the girl looked far out to sea and pondered.

"Of course I can, only it must have been a dream. Indeed, I saw you in a
dream. You, and another man, whom I had never seen, stood before me. You
said something about it being time for me to get up and prepare
breakfast for father. And something about opening up the stand--now
isn't that true?"

"Practically, those were my words. You had slept entirely too long, so I
tried a little trick on you and it worked for an instant. Then you went
back to sleep. It is dangerous to sleep too long. Who do you think was
with me?"

"Another man. I haven't seen him since. It wasn't the doctor?"

"No, it was Mr. Villard," replied Updyke, watching the effect of his
words. "I never saw a man so anxious in my life."

"Oh, isn't he the dearest soul! I just love him--he has been so kind to
father and me, and he is going to run us over home this morning in his
car. We are leaving to-day for good, and we may never see New York after
all," she concluded, shaking her head sadly.

"You'll have a different driver next time than the one you started out
with," suggested Updyke, dryly, as Winifred looked down at the sand and
revolved a certain question that she had in mind. It concerned Parkins'
whereabouts, but she did not ever want to speak his name again.

"Where is he now?" she asked, briefly, but without malice in the tone
of her voice.

"Probably in New York somewhere," replied Updyke. "I don't think he will
try any more 'elopements' for the present."

Winifred looked up in surprise.

"Is that what he calls an elopement?" she asked, blushing deeply. "I
thought elopements were by mutual understandings. Are they not?"

"That's what they use to mean before Bill Parkins set the new fashion,"
he laughed, as she looked up and caught the twinkle in his eyes.

"I hope you see something besides humor in his actions," she replied
quite soberly, after a lengthy pause.

Updyke saw at once that Winifred Barbour's old-fashioned purity of heart
and mind had been in no way affected by her sad experience.

"Now I've gone and said something that I didn't mean," said he quickly.
"No girl, with a mother like you had, will ever need a champion for her
code. She will maintain that standard through life. What time are you
leaving for home?" queried the big man.

"About nine, I believe."

"Then we had better turn back," said Updyke reaching for Winifred's
hand and helping her to her feet. "I think you will never have occasion
to worry about Parkins in the future. I believe that he has gone out of
your life forever," he concluded, looking testily into her face.

But Winifred needed no coaching to that effect. "All the king's horses"
could never put the man Parkins back into her life. But she said nothing
on that score to the big man trudging along beside her. Finally she
asked--

"Do you know much about this matter, Mr. Updyke?"

"Just a trifle," he replied. "I heard a rumor now and then about the
case, but it's been kept so quiet that your neighbors won't have an
inkling of it when you get back. They only know of the accident, so if I
were you I'd say nothing about anything else. You wouldn't want your
picture in the paper and a great 'howdye do' kicked up with your name in
it--now would you?" asked Updyke, stopping in order to impress her mind
upon certain angles of the case.

"Of course not--I should simply wilt and die if my name should be
printed in the newspapers."

"Naturally so, and no matter how innocent you really are, there are
those who would enlarge the matter into scandal, if we fail to adopt a
certain plan," said he, gently. "Now listen carefully, little girl.
Everybody in Patchogue knows that Parkins' car was ditched and that you
had a close call--also your father--and that Parkins was almost killed.
They know that you were taken into the Villard home, and that you are
all right and will soon be home. Julie Hayes has been faithful to you
and your booth is well cared for. Now--remember this--no one must know
about the other episode--the abduction. If that ever raises its head you
will never live it down in your life, no matter where you might go--and
you are the one to tell your father the consequences of confiding with
any living soul."

"I will merely speak of the accident, and I will warn father to do the
same," said Winifred, looking gratefully up into the big man's eyes.

"That's the idea--all you will talk about is the accident, and, if ever
anything else is hinted at, just ask what that person means, and never
acknowledge a word of truth that may be uttered as hearsay. You had an
accident, and it laid you up, but you have fully recovered and the
whole matter is in the past and practically forgotten."

Winifred now understood the program fully, and made up her mind to
follow instructions literally. And she vowed that her father would do
the same. Then, suddenly, she thought of young Mr. Carver, but hesitated
to bring up his name. At last she determined that she must be instructed
on that point.

"What about Mr. Carver?" she asked nervously.

"No worry in that direction--he is a sworn officer of the law and is
fond of certain people who would be sorry to be involved in a story,
even in a small way. He is one of the finest young men I know, and he is
progressing rapidly in all ways. Some day he will be a rich man. He is
brainy, and coming to the front all over Long Island. He may go far!"
concluded Updyke, who knew the value of good friendship toward a man who
aspired.

"I--I am ever so glad you have talked to me about all these matters, and
now please tell me who you are so I'll know why you have interested
yourself in our behalf," said Winifred, her voice reflecting her real
thoughts.

She had no artifice by which to speak with double meaning.

"Oh, I am a friend of Mr. Villard's, and he and I would naturally pull
together. He is a fine man, but the dear fellow is lonesome. Too bad he
doesn't marry some sweet natured home body that would love him, and
drive away the solitude of this wonderful place," replied Updyke, waving
his hand at the well kept premises.

They were now at the east entrance of the stately home and he opened the
door for her to enter.

"I shall hope to see you again, sir--some time. You have been
exceedingly kind and I promise to act upon your suggestions."

Then she added, "I am glad you are a good friend of Mr. Villard's. He
needs companionship."

A little later on, with herself and father already seated comfortably in
Villard's smart touring car, she was surprised when Mr. Updyke got in
and asked to be allowed to sit beside Mr. Barbour. This change brought
Villard into the seat beside Winifred. But she thought she saw the
reason for it by the way Updyke brought the sick man out of his
doldrums.

"You are going to feel a lot better when you get back to your old
haunts," said he, affably. "When a man spends a lifetime in one place,
there is where his heart belongs. He should seldom leave it--your world
is there," said Updyke, by way of getting acquainted.

And then he began to point out various interesting spots, with something
historical about them which caused neighboring householders to think
with pride upon their wonderful locations. In fact, the big fellow took
Alexander Barbour's mind away from his troubles and made him feel how
well he would be in a few days when he got back into the tang of the
salt air at good old Patchogue. Winifred marveled at the manner by which
this stranger could so install himself in one's good graces. These same
scenes along the parkway interested herself as well, and she remarked
upon the difference between a leisurely ride in comfort, as against the
scarifying speeders who infested the southern drive. Such had been the
only other experience of her lifetime. But, by way of comparison, the
smooth, almost jarless driving of Jacques, with Santzi by his side, was
to her the acme of delight.

And so the journey continued all the way out to Patchogue, and the
little home, where the sleek and silent car came to a final stop. Into
the spick and span cottage all four entered and it wasn't long before
the father was put to bed, and Winifred, in gingham apron, engaged
herself in preparing a dainty luncheon from her jams and preserves
together with hot biscuit and coffee. A small jar of cream and big dab
of butter were borrowed in neighborly fashion over the back fence, also
a chunk of cold ham, representing good measure in the heart of the
neighbor. Thus for two hours the little home gave a good account of
itself and when saying good-bye Villard looked wistfully into the eyes
of sweet Winifred and asked a serious question.

"Do you know how much I love you, dear?"

"With all your heart--I know," she answered.

"When shall I come again?" he pleaded, with eyes that smiled into her
own.

"As often as you feel disposed. I shall have no time to attend the
little business place we own. But I shall keep it open with help from
others. I fear the worst about father."

And when it was time to go back home Villard made no further overture of
his love than to hold her hand and to squeeze it tightly. He longed to
kiss her but he knew her code--only a husband could claim that right.

Two days later, Alexander Barbour passed away, and Winifred put on
mourning. During her grief, the whole town became interested in her
affairs, and with Julie Hayes at the business helm, she took her time,
and thought out her future. Seemingly everybody called at her home; even
George Carver of Riverhead made a special trip to pay his respects.
There had been an episode in her life in which he had figured
heroically, and she had made a vast impression upon his youthful mind.
With the best of intentions, and with due consideration of her
bereavement, he did not come often, nor did Villard, owing to the small
talk that might arise from too frequent calls. For the sake of
companionship she gained consent of Julie Hayes' parents by which the
young girl became her companion at home, as well as her clerk at the
booth on the Parkway.

With regard to Villard's calls, it had been hinted by Winifred that the
Sabbath was a day when visits would be most welcome and that going to
church together would be better for her, and add to his prestige--now
growing in the town. He had become fond of the place and made many
acquaintances. Land deals were active through his ability to furnish
money for building purposes. Every citizen was charmed by his modest
simplicity and if ever a man owned a townful of ardent boosters it was
Drury Villard.

On one particular Sunday George Carver left the Barbour cottage just as
Villard drove up, and Winifred and Julie had gone out to the gate as he
took his leave. Then, for the first time Winifred noted a shadow
creeping over the face of Villard, though he smiled affably, and shook
hands with the younger man.

"You are just in time for a good dinner," said Carver. "Sorry I have to
go, but it is necessary. My loss is your gain," said the young man
gaily, but there were times when he wondered if her sweet consideration
could be turned into love.

When Carver had gone both Winifred and Julie each grasped the arm of
the solemn Villard, and in less than a minute his face was all smiles.

"Julie, we will have to be careful about allowing our callers to cross
each other's paths," teased Winifred. "Did you notice how quickly our
Mr. Carver mounted his wheel when our Mr. Drury Villard drove up? Shall
we invite them to a duel?" laughed Winifred, seizing one of his big
hands. "Now sir, you shall be fed by both of us until you will never
want to eat again--but, do we get a ride after dinner, Sir Knight?"

"You do--all three of us on one seat, so I can hug two charming girls at
one time. Where shall we go?" inquired Villard, who had no choice of
routes.

"I--I'm afraid to suggest," faltered Winifred, guiltily.

"Of course I'm no mind reader, dear girl----"

"I hardly know so well about that. It seems to me that you really do
know my mind?" laughed Winifred.

"For example?"

"Don't you remember? Over at Dreamy Hollow--how you anticipated
everything that would add to my comfort and ease of mind? If I was the
least bit thirsty you rang a bell and in came the water without a hint
from me. All I had to do was to think of something I'd like for dinner,
and there it was, when it came time to be served. I am somewhat like the
slaves of olden days who thought as did their master," teased the girl.
"Now I'm going to prove all I've said. I'll write my wishes down as to
where we shall go, and I'll fold it and hand it to you."

Over to her desk ran Winifred, where she rapidly set down her choice,
then gave it into the keeping of Julie.

"Now sir--please state your own choice of a drive," said the girl,
gaily.

"I've always wanted to visit Parkins' hut," said he, yawning after the
fashion of one who desires to hide his curiosity concerning a certain
particular thing.

Simultaneously the two girls broke out in laughter, as Julie passed over
Winifred's scribbled line--"The Parkins Castle on the Outer Drive." She
had once seen the hut and with girlish curiosity wanted to see it again.

"Now then--see how you control my very thoughts!" laughed Winifred
running over to him and patting his cheek. "Now 'sposing you were a
wicked king, just imagine what a living death I would lead!" she ended,
her voice deeply sepulchral as her girlish voice could command.

And so the plan took immediate effect by way of starting out. As they
quickly passed through the deserted business quarter, the question arose
as to which turn to take for the outer drive, but an inquiry brought
them the right information.

"Wouldn't it be terrible if we'd find him there," suggested Winifred
snuggling more closely to Villard and clutching his arm.

"Nothing like that can happen. He is occupied elsewhere," replied
Villard, his teeth set and his voice cold.

After that the ride continued in silence until the outer drive came
within view. Then with delight the two girls grew interested in the
great billows that came rolling in from the ocean, almost forgetting the
objective hut that had held their thought. But it came to view most
quickly thereafter. Unpainted and weather beaten, it stood alone without
tree or shrub to lend it hospitable appearance. Just a shack--nothing
else--a bedroom, plainly furnished, and in order, also a kitchenette,
and a bath tub with shower. Several empty barrels outside told of the
fresh water supply, hauled in, no doubt, from nearby wells, inside the
bay district. Evidently the owner liked music, as a banjo-guitar stood
in one corner of the room. Also there had been a dog about the premises,
accounted for by a muzzle and chain, and a collar to which was attached
a state license. In a crude desk there were various papers and letters,
some with envelopes addressed by feminine hands. All these Villard made
into a bundle, and wrapped them with an old newspaper.

"I'll turn them over to Updyke," said he to Winifred, as she looked on.
"They might be valuable--some time," he mumbled as if to himself. Then
suddenly he almost shouted--"Let us get away from this infamous den!" as
he opened the door for the two girls to pass out. Then he slammed it
behind him and walked to the car without looking back.

A month went by before anything of importance broke in upon the even
tenor of Villard's daily life. The Parkins matter had waned into a
memory and Updyke held his peace as to the whereabouts of the man. Then,
suddenly, as a bolt from the sky, the engagement of Winifred Barbour of
Patchogue and George Carver of Riverhead was announced in the local
papers of that thriving little city. From the moment Villard learned of
it he settled back into the life of a recluse. He had lost his battle in
the dearest cause of his life. He became old and worn over night, such
had been the inexorable reaction from his mighty love for the girl of
his heart. Only Updyke and Sawyer could gain access to his seclusion.
Gray patches of hair made quick attack upon the dark brown, and no
longer caring for his general appearance, gray whiskers and a stubby
mustache were allowed to grow at random. The change was most radical,
but not without distinction. After all it was Villard who wore them.

From the day he read the item concerning the engagement Villard refused
the newspapers and all reading matter. Even letters, addressed
personally to him at Dreamy Hollow, were allowed to lay unopened. And
there was one from Winifred, in which she had bared her soul in
explanation, declaring her undying allegiance, as might a daughter and
a comforter--but not as a wife. The envelope remained unbroken, as
merely one of the heap that grew day by day. Nothing mattered--Villard's
world stood still.

In one paragraph Winifred had written an explanation of her motives, and
she prayed for an answer from the depths of her heart. It read--


     Dear Friend:--These things I would have you stop and consider, not
     lightly, because of your love for me. I am not of your station in
     life--and I would not drag you down to mine. Just imagine the harm
     that would come of it--a blight on your life, that you could never
     live down. Oh, my dearest friend on earth, how would either of us
     regard the other once we were confronted by the mirror of public
     opinion? So, with eyes open wide to the consequences of wedlock
     with you, I am about to consecrate my life to a plain, simple man,
     without riches or deep learning--one of my own station in life, who
     will never have cause to rue the day he takes me to wed. It is all
     for the best, dear friend. Just allow your big, generous heart to
     feel that my intentions are for your good, and also my own. There
     have been precious moments in our lives which I shall never
     forget--nor shall I deny, even to the man I shall marry--that you
     were the first to inspire my heart with a knowledge of what a
     sacred emotion love should be.


And that was the letter in full, all save the signature--one
word--Winifred.

Had Villard opened it upon its arrival, his greatness of heart would
have asserted itself forthwith. But gaining first information from a
newspaper clipping was quite another matter. It rankled in his bosom.
Big, manly fellow that he was, ordinarily he would have stopped to think
how innocently such things could happen. Winifred's letter had been
mailed two days before the article appeared, but it had been delayed in
transit. On time, it would have given Villard opportunity to support his
own cause, but fate plays in all games, either of heart or of brain. To
a girl of her mould wealth had no standing when measured by love.

Time flew by as the wedding day drew near. But there came no word from
Villard. Henry Updyke looked in on Winifred's little home one day and
found the girl crying. Few women are they who may heighten their beauty
through tears, but Winifred's face was that of a grieving Madonna. She
ran to him at once, as a child to its father and wound her arms about
his neck. And there she remained as she sobbed out her story.

"But you love this young man, don't you?" soothed the big fellow whose
face looked drawn and old, as his heart went out to the girl.

"I don't know," sobbed Winifred.

"Do you love Drury Villard?"

"Oh, fondly, sir, but he is far above me! I would ruin his life--and
after all his kindness to my father and myself, I can't bear to think of
it."

"Well, now, little woman, just sit down in that big rocking chair and
let me talk to you like an uncle who had your interest at heart. Villard
is a sick man, and he hadn't opened your letter when I called upon him
two weeks ago. There were many more and all of them more or less
important. Yours was among them, and to oblige him I read all his mail."

"My letter, too!" blushed the girl--"and it was sacred--I meant it so."

"Yes, and it is still sacred, but now he knows its contents--and he
might never have known had I not done a little secretarial work for him
that day. He had ordered his mail to be thrown in the fire, but I was
consulted, arriving as I did at the right moment. In due course I read
your letter, and I sincerely compliment you upon your good sense. I
count you as one of my friends, for I know you have nothing against me,
so we may be quite confidential, I hope."

"Indeed we may, sir," assented Winifred in a very weak little voice.

"Mr. Villard trusts me, Mr. Sawyer trusts me, and hundreds of the
best-known people in New York trust me. Now I want you to understand
that every word I say is truth. I make my living by telling the truth,
but in many cases it does not come to light. Now then, listen
carefully--Mr. Villard is one of God's noblemen!"

"Oh, I know he is, Mr. Updyke!" assented Winifred.

"He loved a girl named Winifred many years ago----"

"Yes, I know that--too. She warned me of the accident, but in my
eagerness to see New York I said little about it. But I did tell Mr.
Villard, after I came to know him."

"He hears from her, from time to time--or thinks he does--it's all the
same," said Updyke. "She warned him of Parkins, but trustful man that
he was, he wouldn't believe. Now he knows the truth--but to get back to
my point, I want to say, in justice to all parties, that you should
_not_ marry Villard. Not that he isn't worthy--far from that, there is
no one more so--but his heart is with the dead! As his wife you would
become to him the shrine of his dead love's soul!--and he would worship
you as such. Would you be satisfied with just that, little girl?"
queried the big fellow.

Updyke watched the varying emotions of the girl as she struggled to
understand. It was all so deep and mysterious, even though she had
beliefs of her own like the one he had explained.

"Allow me to answer the question for you," prompted Updyke, gazing deep
into her eyes. "There are as many beliefs on the subject of the
hereafter as there are grief-stricken people. Every person who pretends
to know about the life to come is to that extent insane. In fact there
is no such thing as complete sanity. The ninety and nine are divided
into that same number of personal and deviating beliefs, and the
one-hundredth--has no belief whatever."

Winifred's eyes had begun to open wide, as if to testify in behalf of
her own hereafter, but Updyke raised his hand for a new beginning.

"I know what you are going to tell me--your own belief--eh? But what is
the use? It is but yours after all, and though it might satisfy you it
might not meet my views. But I am glad you have a belief, little woman.
We must all have something to lean upon or what would be the use of a
temporary life, and nothing to hope for in the future? I want you to
believe that which will comfort your soul and keep it good. And you must
never allow any one to shake that belief--'for therein is the power and
the glory forever--Amen'!"

Updyke's voice betokened a depth of feeling that Winifred had never
before witnessed in his conversation. He had joked and teased, but now
he talked in a way that convinced her of his superior mental equipment.

"Your words comfort me, and I shall always think of that dear good man
at Dreamy Hollow with reverence for his constancy," she sighed. "Were it
fair to either of us I would gladly share his love with the other
Winifred, but something tells me that my youth must not be shadowed by
brooding thoughts. I must have individuality of my own," faltered
Winifred, her eyes haunted by strange lights of mingled fear and
compassion.

"Then marry the young man. It is simply in justice to you and George
Carver that I say it. I have never known a more upright man in my life.
He has the heart of a lion--you know that yourself, for you saw him in
action as he carried out my instructions to the letter. And----"

"Your instructions!--I don't understand, Mr. Updyke. Please explain,"
demanded the astonished girl.

"It was a slip of the tongue, but there is no harm done. You are soon to
be one of our family, so perhaps I'd better tell you something about
George," said he, laughingly. "He belongs to the greatest law and order
association in America, perhaps the world. It spreads to wherever our
flag flies and is truly the backbone of the nation. As members of the
association each man is carefully chosen and sworn in, but not as an
officer of the law, but rather as an upholder of our government. Most of
them are given official standing by being sworn in as deputy sheriffs,
clerks of courts, and so on. George is a deputy sheriff, and that is why
he came to your rescue. As soon as you were kidnapped my office sent out
an alarm that spread all over Long Island. It wasn't possible for
Parkins to escape in my district," concluded the big fellow as he arose
to go.

"Then you are a--a----"

"Sleuth?--No, never!--I just keep bad eggs from getting into the cake,"
laughed Updyke--and then very soberly, he reached out his huge hand to
the little girl in front of him, and she grasped it eagerly. She tried
to squeeze it, but it was too big and too gnarled--it couldn't be
squeezed--ah, but how it might squeeze was Winifred's thought, as she
followed him out to the gate.

"Would you mind if I asked one more question?" queried Winifred, her
cheeks turning red from the wave of diffidence that crept into her
heart.

"Bless you, no--go on," said Updyke, invitingly.

"I am haunted with fear--where is this man Parkins?"

"You will never hear of him again; rest your mind on that score. He is
alive--somewhere. Nobody knows but me," he laughed, as he jumped in his
car.

And then she stood at the gate and watched with awe the big man's
machine as it faded in the distance, but when it turned west he raised
his hand, and she answered by waving her own.



CHAPTER XIV.

GEORGE CARVER'S BRIDE


The day that Winifred Barbour was married to George Carver was as
beautiful as a day might be. The ceremony was performed in her own
little home and was followed by a reception that lasted on toward the
evening. Every gay gown in Patchogue had its chance for an airing on
that gala day, but when evening shadows began to fall, the church bell
rang, and every man and woman, to say nothing of the children, betook
themselves to the church. A monster wedding supper, the inspiration of
the townspeople acting in one accord, had been spread, and none would be
denied admission.

It was Winifred's hour of triumph over her young lord and master, who,
while subject to congratulations, came in for small glory. The fact that
he was soon to depart with his bride for their new home in Riverhead
failed to develop any medals for him.

"Why don't you quit that dead county seat town and stay here among us
'ristocrats," demanded Old Man Carmichel, gruffly, by way of gleaming
daggers--then bursting out in wild guffaws, "Jes'ta take the feller
off'n his feet."

But Carver had seen many such in his bright young life, and he likened
them to the usual village "Jester," who started that way and kept it
going to the end of his days. Nevertheless, it was Carver's night to be
affable so he grinned quite good naturedly as he awaited the arrival of
Henry Updyke and his big touring car. It was the one privilege the big
fellow had demanded, since he could not attend the wedding--to see the
bride safely to the door of her new home. And he had his reason for
that, aside from its pleasure, for the event had been attended by much
advance publicity, far greater than the prominence of the happy girl
would ordinarily entitle her.

The New York papers gave mention of the forthcoming wedding in their
last Sunday editions, and on the following Sabbath the "write ups" would
be much extended, with a picture of the bride in the magazine sections.

Mary Johnson, Updyke's assistant, had seen to all that by personally
making the rounds of Newspaper Row. A camera man, as if dropped from the
clouds, seemed somewhat officious to the townspeople of Patchogue, when
he posed the young couple on the steps of the church. Just how a young
fellow with tripod and camera could halt with his hand a great host of
people, and sweep them this way and that until they posed artistically
about the bride and groom, was something to ponder on. In the doing of
this there was some rivalry by way of holding one's own in "the
limelight," but the camera was newfangled, and it revolved either way
sufficiently to take in the most prominent of those in the wake of the
bride--and much to the mystification of more than one person. It was Old
Man Carmichel's turn to again become facetious.

"I'll be switched if I c'n see how they take pitchers with a contraption
that won't stay put," said he, his eyes showing his mystification. "It
must be broke, or somethin'."

"It's a movin' pitcher kodak--ain't you ever seen 'um before?" queried
the man beside him.

"Yeh--I've seen 'um twicet as big," said Carmichel moving within range
of the strange machine.

After depositing the Carvers at their new home Updyke refused the
invitation to alight, but Winifred, the bride, would not have it so, and
she caught up one of his big hands and called to her husband to help
her.

"Just think, after all of the trouble I have caused you, now you refuse
to take a little bit more, to see how George has busied himself of
late," she pouted, playfully. "You've just got to or I'll jump up and
kiss you before everybody passing by."

"Well, I don't want Mary's nose to get out of joint," said the big
fellow, clambering down to the pavement.

"Mary!--Mary who?" she demanded, as with her husband on one side and
herself on the other, they dragged him into the new cottage. There, with
one poke of Carver's forefinger he touched a master button which set
every light globe going from cellar to roof.

In the excitement of entering her new home for the first time, Winifred
forgot the word "Mary" for quite a long time. The little place was yet
to be furnished, and that was "Winifred's job," according to Carver, and
meanwhile they would "put up" at "The White House," only a few blocks
away. George's plans had been splendid, far better than she could have
figured out for herself.

"What shall we call it?" she cried, enthusiastically. "Think up a good
name for our new home, Mr. Updyke."

"The Gambler's Paradise," he replied soberly.

"You horrid thing--how could you think of such a name!" scolded
Winifred.

"Well--didn't George take a big gamble when he waylaid Parkins? He might
have been shot, you know."

"Oh, my darling George, come here and let me kiss you!" she demanded.
"Wasn't he brave, Mr. Updyke?"

"All gamblers are brave as long as----"

"Now you stop teasing me, sir--make him stop George!" she urged, her
face wreathed in smiles. "Just give me a name for our home--and be quick
about it."

"Parkins' Waterloo," replied Updyke, his eyes filled with the Old Nick.

"Now George, you come forward and make this man behave," she
demanded--"or shall I pull his hair?"

Then remembering something she had forgotten Winifred exclaimed--

"Tell me about Mary--who is she?"

"My right hand man," replied Updyke soberly.

"A man named Mary?--Oh!"

"Well she is more than a man--she's a woman with a level head, who runs
my business and knows more about it than I do," replied Updyke without
further indication of his attitude toward her.

"Then you'd better marry her at once or some one will come along and
steal her, too!" warned the bride.

"If they do they'll have to take a chance they might regret. Mary is an
officer of the law and amply able to protect herself," said the big
fellow, knowingly.

"George Carver--look at this man! I declare, with all my feminine
intuitions, that he is in love!"

Laughter, always a tonic, brought the red to Updyke's face when he saw
that he had stumbled into the wrong kind of joking.

"He doesn't deny it, George. See that heightened color in his cheeks?"
teased Winifred, her eyes sparkling.

"Well--I own up--just between the three of us, and to go no further,"
Updyke replied. "I haven't asked her yet."

"Then how do you know she will have you?" demanded Winifred, biting her
lower lip in order to look solemn.

"The Updyke System will reach out and gather her in one of these days,
when I get my courage to the boiling point," replied the big fellow,
chuckling.

"Then you must start practicing at once," commanded Mrs. Carver, with
the air of a matron of long time experience. "I want to go along when
she shops for her trousseau. I've yet to see your little old New York,"
said she, dreamily, as memories came back to her mind.

"Come--jump in and I'll drive you over to 'The White House,'" ordered
Updyke, noting her thoughtful attitude. "It's getting late for young
married couples to be caught on the streets. There is a curfew law in
Riverhead for brides and grooms. Seven thirty, and then the law swoops
down!"

And when the happy pair were landed in front of the white painted hotel
the big fellow whispered hoarsely--

"I'm going to bring Mary out to see you when you get settled. We'll come
some Saturday, and you act as chaperon for a night. Next day we will run
over to New York for a whole week while you help do her shopping. That's
a go--eh--George?"

"Indeed it is," laughed Winifred, assuming command of the new ship of
state. "But wouldn't it be wise to wait and see if she will have you?"

"By George, you're right; I hadn't thought of that. I'll ring her up the
moment I get to my hotel," replied Updyke.

"Why not use long distance?" suggested Winifred. "Then George can stand
near and coach you. I assure you he is good at it."

"Not much!" exploded Updyke, as he set the starter going. "When I tell
Mary, there will be no freshly married people around."

As the long nosed roadster threaded its way along Main Street the
Carvers stood watching until its red tail lights faded from view. Thus
the happiest day of their lives had merged into night.

On reaching the second floor of The White House, the bride enquired
about the hour.

"Just seven twenty-eight," replied Carver, consulting his watch.

"Then 'curfew shall not ring to-night,' as we have two minutes to
spare," laughed the bride, closing the door softly behind them.

On reaching New York Updyke immediately rang up the home where Mary
Johnson lived and "switchboard" promptly responded.

"Updyke calling," said he, gruffly.

"Miss Johnson is waiting to hear from you--something important I
believe," said the girl, who always watched out for his interests.

"Put her on, Miss Daisy," said Updyke, "and don't listen in," he warned,
as one who knew about her girl-like curiosity. "This you, Miss
Johnson--how's everything?"

"Bad news from South Bay," said she, meaning Dreamy Hollow. "News from
Patchogue caused a severe spell of anesthesia. Doctor Benton is staying
there over night--also Mr. Sawyer."

"Does he recognize them?"

"They do not know, but think it doubtful. At one time he said--'tell
Parkins'--and at another, some hours later, he mumbled incoherently
about 'the church' being 'too crowded.' 'I've been puzzled over the
words 'tell Parkins'--what do you make of that?" queried the secretary.

"Nothing important," replied Updyke--"just vagaries of the mind. He'll
get over it in a day or two. Perhaps his words 'the church' signified a
hazy recollection of the wedding held there to-day. The camera man shot
a lot of pictures. Better hold on to some of the proofs for the
gallery," laughed Updyke.

"The Updyke gallery?--never! You may have one for your private office,"
said the secretary, after a pause.

"Old stingy--always keeping down expenses, eh? Proofs only cost a dollar
apiece--good ones, I mean. Spoils, only a quarter. I presume I'll get
one of the spoils," laughed the big fellow.

"If you talk that way, I'll keep all of them," bantered Mary Johnson.
"Where are they now?"

"What--the pictures?"

"No--the happy couple?"

"Asleep--I guess," replied Updyke, blandly.

"You are quite impossible, after your long ride all by yourself. I
believe you are jealous of George."

"No, you are wrong, Mary. It's not him, much as I admire his wife."

"Who else could it be?" giggled Mary.

"Now you are asking questions! What is the name of the photographer you
sent out to Patchogue?"

"Oh, a queer sort of name!--Pelletier, or something. He does all our
work, and for most of the newspapers. I had him go out personally,
instead of sending some horrid assistant."

"Well, he is the man who excites my jealousy," said Updyke, sharply.

"Impossible! I didn't know you were acquainted," replied Mary Johnson,
in a surprised tone.

"Nevertheless it's him," replied the big fellow, in a positive tone of
voice.

"What reason have you to be jealous of that little simp?" laughed the
secretary.

"Well, he kept saying she wants this, and she wants that, and she wants
one taken on the steps of the church, and one as they get into the
automobile, and so on," replied Updyke.

"Why did that disturb you?"

"I found out who the _She_ was that he talked of so glibly."

"Who was she?" persisted Mary Johnson.

"Why--can't you guess, after all the hints I've made?"

"No, I'm still in the dark."

"He meant _you_, of course, and he seemed so familiar. Knew precisely
what you wanted, and aired himself importantly," growled the big fellow.

"But what had that to do with you, I wonder? You left the matter in my
hands."

"Quite so, my dear, and that's what makes me jealous. The fellow talked
so much about you I feared there must be a strong attachment, or----"

"Now that will be quite enough!" said Mary Johnson, as if offended. "I
think it's time to----"

"No, Mary don't do that. I'm in real deadly earnest about--you know what
I mean--now don't you?" appealed the big fellow.

"It begins to dawn on me. After this long conversation I feel that I
have been unusually dense. Your moonlight ride all by yourself must have
gone to your head," giggled the secretary.

"Nevertheless I mean every word I have said, Mary. I want you--I must
have you, Mary," said Updyke, a note of strong appeal in his voice.
"I've known it a long time but I could not make myself believe that I
had a chance. You are so young and pretty, and I am so old and ugly,
and----"

"Why you are not old at forty-one!" exclaimed Mary Johnson, forgetting
that she was listening to an avowal. "And as for being ugly, I'd say
that your rugged face denotes character, which is far more worthwhile
than being good looking. But why do you tell me all this over the
telephone? Weren't you brave enough to say it to my face?"

"No, coward that I am--I just couldn't," sighed Updyke so loudly that
Mary Johnson heard it over the wire.

Then came a pause, a very long one, each expecting the next word to come
from the other. Finally, the softly modulated voice of Mary Johnson came
into the Updyke ear.

"Why not call with your car to-morrow evening, then we can talk more
freely," she suggested. "Am I never to ride in that big machine?"

"I always knew you were the brains of the business, Mary. It's no wonder
that----"

"Don't say it over the wire," warned Mary. "I'd rather hear it more
directly."

"Then be ready at seven, my----"

"Never mind--careful what you say--some one listening in," said she as
both heard the guilty click of the switchboard. "Au revoir--I'll be
ready at seven, but I will not go to the office to-morrow."

"No--and when Miss Carew returns, you will come and go as you please,"
said he, as she answered "Good night."

Then the big fellow hung up the receiver.

With mind filled with happy thoughts, Henry Updyke, fatigued by
eighteen hours of constant activity, turned doggedly back to the
telephone and asked connection with Dreamy Hollow, Villard's strange
condition gave him a queer feeling of unrest. The big fellow felt that
he had experienced more kinds of ups and downs during the past few
months than for any period of his life. With joy on one lobe of his
brain and dread on the other, he found himself halting between going
ahead or going to bed. But the long tingle of the phone bell brought him
back to attention, as Mrs. Bond's voice came over the wire.

"How's Mr. Villard?" he inquired.

"About the same, sir. His mind is just as it has been since----"

"Yes, I am fearful of the consequences. Any change in his actions?"

"About the same. He lives with the stars, and has no word for any of
us--just oblivious to everything about him. Two specialists from the
city were here to-day with Dr. Benton. Something about lesions that
interfere with the brain," answered Mrs. Bond.

"Any talk of an operation?"

"I believe so, but the doctors are not agreed. Doctor Benton declares
that no operation will take place with his consent. If outvoted, he says
that he will turn the case over and quit. That would be terrible,
wouldn't it?"

"Yes--more than that, it would be sinful. I'll give him a ring on the
phone to-morrow. Lesions practically mean incipient paresis, and
sometimes lobes form that are even more dangerous. Without criticising
the life he leads, which is sedentary, Mr. Villard could have saved
himself from the dreadful state he is in. An active, out-of-door life
for a man of his build was positively necessary. And he should never
have given up his daily habit of attending to business. It is the soft
life that kills," concluded Updyke vehemently.

"I know you are right. Fat people like me have to keep going and
continually diet, or they fall suddenly never to rise again," replied
the housekeeper.

"How about his mail? More of it coming in?"

"Yes, great heaps of letters. You never saw the like."

"I'll have them delivered to his town office, hereafter," said Updyke.
"I can't spare the time to run down there to read them. I'm too busy
just now."

"Very well, Mr. Updyke, good night, sir," said Mrs. Bond, and with that
off his mind the big fellow turned in for the night.



CHAPTER XV.

PARKINS RUNS AMUCK


Fortunately Henry Updyke was no slave to his nerves. He could fall into
slumber as his head touched the pillow, and six hours later roll out for
the day. Just approaching the middle-age period, sleep meant nothing to
a man of his bulk. So on this night of all nights the big fellow
bolstered himself and concentrated his thoughts on the girl of his
heart. He was glad that she had a mind of her own, and, on the other
hand, could take advice--yet needing little. Many times he had told her
to attend certain matters, to find that she had anticipated his wishes.
Another thing, most pleasant to reflect upon, was that no episode of the
Parkins variety had entered her life, and "By the Great Horn
Spoon"--which was his most violent expletive--"there never would be!"

The thought of Parkins had a tingling effect upon Updyke, as he brought
to mind a certain far-away monastery, hid away amid the timber-lands,
one hundred miles northwest of Quebec. There the padrone system still
flourished under the ban of a French-Canadian lumber company, and
Parkins had become one of the lumber jack gang. Three years was his
"sign up," after a stormy session with the big boss to whom he had been
consigned by a Montreal employment bureau. To attempt an escape was to
die by starvation, or wild beasts, or woodticks, it mattered not which.
But the Parkins brain was not so far scrambled that he could not work
himself into the good offices of the boss of the gang. He first helped
the paymaster, and kept up the records. Then the paymaster took sick and
Parkins became head of the accounting, for which a rude shack answered
the needs of protection--at the same time, a roof for his head.

All these details of the Parkins' entourage came through on reports from
Updyke's Quebec agents. Invariably, on answering, the New York office
warned against too much freedom of action, for Parkins was resourceful,
and might effect an escape. All this was poopoohed by the big boss at
the lumber-jack camp. Just to show his confidence in Parkins he sent
him to Quebec with an order for gold coin, to relieve the priests of the
region, whose needs were urgent after the winter's deep snows. The scrip
of the company had fallen far below par, which caused a dull roar among
the thrifty tree choppers.

Long days of hard travel brought Parkins once more to the civilization
of a big city, and he reveled in it. His long suffering thirst quickly
turned his feet toward the hotel barroom where, with his escort, tumbler
after tumbler of Scotch and soda were consumed. But Parkins was wary. He
poured out large portions for his companion, but small drinks for
himself. Then later, a hotel porter helped the drunken man to bed.

With his escort out of the way, Parkins hastened to the bank with the
check calling for gold. The bulk of it almost filled the satchel he
carried.

And now was his chance to escape on the night boat for Montreal, there
to connect with railway transportation to New York. His beard and
mustache of a few weeks' growth now needed a trim, as he decided to
continue wearing them. At Montreal these matters were attended to,
likewise the purchase of several suits of English cut, and a bag of the
tourist variety, which held much, and could be plastered with foreign
labels of his own selection. All this he had done during his one day in
the city, and his tickets were purchased for gay old New York. From that
time on he haunted the hotel bar and filled himself to the brim. As his
train crept slowly out of the Montreal station in the late afternoon,
Parkins' one fear was of the U. S. revenue officers across the border,
who might search his bag and seize the six bottles hidden among its
contents. But one flask was kept in his overcoat pocket and long before
midnight its contents were gone.

Along in early hours of the following morning, about the usual time for
the bath and shower, Updyke in New York heard a rap on his door. A
telegram was slipped under it, as the big fellow tumbled out to see who
was there. He picked up the message, and as he tore off the envelope,
his mind reverted to the night of all nights that would follow this day.
For that reason he eyed the yellow sheet with apprehension. It was from
his Montreal Agency, and as he read its contents Updyke's eyes blazed
with fury.


     "Man with new growth black beard and mustache boarded New York
     Central train one thirty this afternoon stop arrived on night boat
     from Quebec stop bought new outfit clothes stop also large english
     bag and foreign labels stop had whiskers and mustache trimmed Van
     Dyck at Queens hotel stop paid all bills in Canadian gold stop
     changed five hundred in gold into american bank notes stop think he
     is your man act quick stop signed Updyke Agency."


Updyke threw on a dressing gown and methodically started the ball to
rolling. His night man was just on the point of turning the office over
to the day manager when the voice of the boss came through. Jackson, the
night manager, answered the call and was given some quick instructions.

"Is Bloss there yet?" Updyke asked, sharply.

"Yes--just getting ready to leave."

"Give him a wire so he can listen in--also a stenographer."

"All set," said Jackson.

"Parkins has escaped unless I am badly mistaken. Listen to this telegram
from Montreal"--then followed the contents of the message in a voice of
staccato precision.

"Now, go to it. No doubt about this fellow being Parkins, is there?"

"Not here," answered Bloss receiving a nod from Jackson.

"You're not going to fall down on this, boys. I'm confident of that.
Don't tip it to the police until you hear from me. We may have to stall
him for he would be a fool to walk into Grand Central--but cover it just
the same. That train makes a stop at Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester,
Albany--and sometimes at Yonkers. Use long distance, on all those cities
as he may stop off and change to Pullmans attached to trains from the
west. Miss Johnson was to be absent to-day but I think I'll call her
anyhow. Then she will know what is going on. So long--don't get
rattled--keep your noodles working--and get this man! I'll be down
soon," growled the big fellow, as he hung up the receiver and set the
shower going.

A little later on Mary Johnson, with a smile of anticipation, answered a
ring from the telephone bell. She was sure it was Updyke, and with a
laugh at his nerve for rousing her out of bed on her first day off, she
finally answered the call.

"I just knew it was you," said she--"now, what about my beauty sleep!"
she exclaimed, with a laugh. "I wanted to look pretty to-night."

"Everything is off for to-night," replied Updyke, manlike, not stopping
to think how jarring were the words he had spoken.

Mary Johnson, unnerved, awaiting further explanation.

"Did you get that?" he asked, with equal abruptness.

"Oh, quite so!--my little dream won't come true," said she, in a queer
small voice that brought Updyke back to earth in a hurry.

"Well, my dear little Mary, there is a big hustle on in our office this
morning and I want you to come down. Parkins has escaped and is headed
this way--due this morning. The night and day managers are both on for
the day, and I need _you_," said Updyke, in gentle voice.

"I'll be down in an hour, dear big man, and will stay until we get him,"
replied Mary with her usual workaday emphasis. "Good-bye, dear, don't
worry--we will run him down before night."

And so began a careful and constant search for a man who looked like
Parkins until the Updyke Agency was all out of breath. Also every soul
in it worn to a frazzle. But Mary Johnson failed to show a single sign
of the weariness she must have felt, as with bright eyes and alert brain
she steadied the forces about her. George Carver, using every Ranger on
Long Island, invaded all places that offered concealment. The hut, on
the outer drive, was to be watched day and night and the old home of
Winifred at Patchogue had a guard inside its door. Dreamy Hollow and the
Sawyer home were also included as a zone to be protected, although the
reasons given seemed far-fetched and foolish.

"You never can tell," bellowed Updyke, by phone, as he warned Mrs. Bond
that eternal vigilance was the price of safety, when a demented brain
roamed at large.

"But I can't get to Mr. Villard," she urged as a reason for not doing
more in the way of safeguarding the premises.

"Then tell Santzi I say to watch out for Mr. Villard's safety,"
answered Updyke--"and use Jacques on the early watch. If necessary Jerry
can drive an automobile but he would not make a good night watchman."

"Very well, Mr. Updyke, I'll do as you say," said Mrs. Bond--"but for
the life of me I don't see why he would want to harm Mr. Villard."

"I'll give one reason that will suffice--he thinks Mr. Villard caused
him to lose Winifred Barbour."

"Well, of all the fools!" exclaimed the housekeeper.

"He may have been pretty near right, Mrs. Bond."

"Well I never was more surprised than right now," she replied.

"Good night, and don't worry," answered the big fellow. "Just keep your
eyes open and call me up even if it is but a single thought that you
think might have a bearing upon the case."

From that moment Mrs. Bond became a silent watcher over every
circumstance that connected itself with the master of Dreamy Hollow--but
a week passed by and all was serene. It must have been some one other
than Parkins that wore the black beard and mustache.

"Well, Mary," said Updyke one day, as evening drew near, "I'm ready to
give that little us-two party. Shall we go as we are, or shall we make
it to-morrow night?"

"To-morrow night, dear--I want to look pretty when you continue that
proposal," she teased. "Or is that withdrawn?"

"That will never happen, little lady. You be ready when I drive up at
seven-thirty sharp to-morrow evening. After we take a little spin we
will drop back to the Swathmere and dine on the roof."

"Oh, that will be tremendous!" exclaimed the delighted Miss Johnson, as
she withdrew her hand from the grip of her big fellow.

An hour later, as she sat in her cozy room building air castles instead
of reading the book that she held in her hand, the telephone rang, and
the castles all tumbled as she answered the call.

"Am leaving for Dreamy Hollow--want to go along? It is a lovely
night--moon and all that--love to have you--back in three or four
hours."

"No sir!--to-morrow night--I must look my best--so early to bed for me.
But Henry, do be careful. What is the trouble down there?" she asked in
her most professional tone of voice.

"Oh, he wants me to come! and this is the first time since--you know
what I mean," he concluded.

"Take my advice, and have one of the men along," continued the girl.
"I'd feel easier, Henry."

"Very well, I'll do it to please you."

And that was the last word she heard from him until the next day at
noon.

When Updyke reached Dreamy Hollow everything was in turmoil. Parkins had
been there and the master lay in a comatose condition, and perhaps
dying.

At seven o'clock Jacques, the chauffeur, carried a tray of light food to
his master who now ate alone in his private office. An hour later he
would return for the tray, which had become the nightly habit. As
Jacques opened the door, on his return for the tray the muzzle of a
revolver was shoved in his face.

"Hands up!" whispered a man with a mask over his nose and forehead, a
growth of black whiskers concealing the rest of his face.

Frightened beyond ability to shout the servant held up his hands, and
was gagged in a jiffy and his hands tied behind his back. At the point
of a revolver he was motioned to lie down on the deep cushioned lounge,
and by the look of the man who held the weapon, he was convinced that he
must obey or be killed.

Villard, abstracted, had not even looked up from the desk where his eyes
searched a document. Apparently he had been oblivious to the almost
noiseless hold-up within forty feet from where he sat, his back being
turned toward the great empty space over which the intruder had walked
to a chair by his side. The next thing he knew he was looking into the
muzzle of a revolver, with silencer attachment. That was enough. He
didn't care to look at the person who held it. But in a carefully
modulated voice he said--

"I am a very sick man. I'm given up to die by the doctors. I am putting
my affairs in order," he concluded, but without seeming interest in how
his words had been taken.

"Do you know who I am?" demanded the man, his voice husky with passion.

"Yes, William, I know you," replied Villard wearily, as the boy Jacques,
alarmed, listened to the conversation.

"I've come to square accounts with you, Drury Villard. I'm a desperate
character and I don't care what happens," said Parkins tearing the mask
from his face. "You drove me into slavery, and all because you loved my
sweetheart. You coveted my woman and you tore her from me by the use of
your hirelings. You bought up the law by using Updyke's crooked bunch of
highwaymen. He sicked Carver onto me, who tore my Winifred away--then
your soulless lieutenant put me through a hell of mental torture--and
that's what I am going to do to you!"

[Illustration: "I'VE COME TO SQUARE ACCOUNTS WITH YOU DRURY VILLARD!"]

"Very well, William--since you have assumed to judge me by the action of
another. You seized Winifred in an illegal manner. I owed the girl a
certain hospitality, since I rescued her, and took her into my home
where she was nursed back to life," said Villard, in a very even tone of
voice.

"You rescued her!--you mean, that because she struck your fancy you
gathered her up and took her into your home and tried to win her love!"
shouted Parkins, not caring who heard him. "Now I want to know what
you've done with her--if she is on these premises, produce her!"

"I am unable to do that."

"Then you refuse?"

"She isn't here--she hasn't been here since she went back to Patchogue."

"Is she there now?"

"No."

"Where is she--speak up Villard! I am in a dangerous mood."

"I refuse to answer," replied the old time friend and employer of
Parkins.

"I'll give you one minute, and if you have not answered by that time I
shall give you a 'third degree' with the butt of this gun."

All during the time that Parkins held his watch in hand Villard sat
motionless and without protest. A minute seems long when one counts the
slow seconds, but short, indeed, when one gives no heed.

"Last call--one--two--three--that's the way your Updyke man counted the
seconds for me--four--five--six--seven--eight--nine--ten--time's
up--here goes," and with that Parkins, his eyes staring, jumped to his
feet and struck Villard on the back of his head in the manner he had
warned.

Knocked senseless, the victim would have fallen to the floor, but his
persecutor was not through with him. Jacques groaned piteously, as,
helpless, he heard the blow fall, and felt sure that the master was
killed.

"Shut up, you vassal, over there!" shouted Parkins, now frenzied as he
chafed Villard's hands and stretched out his arms. Not effecting
results, he bent the limp body over the desk and pushed the chair
closely up to it. Then he ran to the tray that Jacques had put on the
floor, and seized the glass of water that stood on it. This he dashed
into Villard's face and slowly the huge body responded. A minute went by
before he opened his eyes and tried to stagger to his feet, but Parkins,
remorseless, shoved him back in the chair.

"Wake up and talk--where is she?"

Only a moaning sound gave answer.

"You old cradle robber, why don't you speak up in defense of yourself.
It was all right for you to love her, but for _me_ it was a crime! I
always treated her right, until you put false notions in her head. When
I finally rose out of a sick bed and got her back into my care, where
she belonged, your big Wall Street hireling set his dogs loose and they
finally ran me down."

"I'll go to my bed," said Villard, trying to rise from his seat.

"You'll stay where you are and die in that chair if you make a move to
leave it! Where is the girl you stole!" he shouted, his eyes flaming
with hate.

At that moment the far door opened and the faces of Santzi and Jerry
came into view. One glance, and they yelled as if stricken with
nightmare, then ran out and shouted to the watchman.

By the time they returned Parkins had flown.

Villard, however, now lying full length upon the floor, was in need of
quick attention. Dr. Sawyer was sent for, and Dr. Benton was phoned.
Pending their arrival the master was picked up and carried to the couch
where Jacques had laid helpless as he listened to Parkins' cruel words.
When his master fell to the floor, he rolled off and groaned.

And it was just at this time that Updyke rolled in, without knowledge of
the terrible tragedy that had been enacted. When told, he thanked his
stars that Mary Johnson had not joined him in his moonlight excursion.
Then he thought of the leisurely run he had made and bitterly accused
himself of procrastination. Ten minutes would have saved Villard from
possible death, and he had "fooled" away half an hour by slow driving.

Once in action, however, the big fellow gave quick account of himself.
He threw off his coat, called for ammonia, and then began to move the
victim's arms and legs, and peeped at the whites of his eyes. One whiff
of the bottle caused the injured man to stir, the cold water
applications resulting in the definite movement of the arms and legs.
Suspended animation was quickly released.

When Dr. Benton arrived Updyke looked on for a moment, and then began to
collect the facts. He knew that Parkins had been the assailant from
first description and now was his chance to learn from Jacques the
details of the crime, particularly of the words spoken by Parkins to
Villard. Still trembling, the youngster, assisted by Updyke, promptly
gave a well-connected story of the affair, and with that to go on, the
big fellow cleared the private office, and warned against interruptions
while he was engaged with Long Distance.

Meanwhile, by his order, no one on the premises should leave it, nor
should any one talk about the case.

"I don't want a word to leak about this," said he to Mrs. Bond. "Mr.
Villard was in no way to blame for it, therefore he should not be
subjected to wild rumors that would involve his good name and that of a
pure young woman now happily married."

"I will talk to all of the servants and appeal to their sense of
justice, for they all love the master," replied Mrs. Bond. "That we will
all keep mum, you may be sure."

"And it wouldn't be a bad idea to throw a scare in along with the rest.
For instance, if anything leaks out about this I'll know where it comes
from in a very few hours, and that will bring trouble for whoever is
guilty. You make that strong, Mrs. Bond, for I mean every word of it,"
said Updyke, pointing a very large finger at the fat little housekeeper.

"I'll do the best I can," sighed Mrs. Bond.

"Well, I am sure of that, and you keep everybody on their toes until I
arrange my plans. We'll sleep in relays to-night, but to-morrow I'll
throw a human network around this place."

Hour upon hour the big fellow with his mouth to the phone, spread the
web for the human spider that had crawled out into the black of night.
Sawyer came in with news concerning Villard from time to time, but
Updyke, grim and preoccupied, merely nodded his head and motioned him
back to the sick man. At midnight he finally succeeded in arousing
George Carver, who with his bride had been bridge-whisting all evening
in a near-by home.

"I need you, George," appealed Updyke, "but you get about three hours'
sleep before we talk about it. I don't want you to lose the much needed
rest from now until three A. M., over something that I am going to ask
you to do. I'll call you at sharp three, and at three thirty your
flivver will be in front of your hotel--good night."

"Good night, you old sleep burglar. I'll turn in at once," replied
Carver--and the web was complete.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE HUT ACROSS THE BAY


It was with a grunt of relief that Updyke called Central for the last
time pending the three o'clock date with Carver. This time it was a
certain switchboard operator who answered him.

"Miss Johnson," said the big fellow, toning down the rasping voice that
had been vibrated a thousand miles within the short space of four hours.

"I think she has retired for the night," lisped the girl in charge.

"Quit thinking and connect as directed," snapped Updyke, forgetting that
his voice was in training for a certain event at the Swathmere. "You are
expected to act! And say--no listening. Get that?"

The next voice he heard was that of Mary Johnson.

"It's about time you said something from somewhere," said she, knowing
that the unusual had happened.

"That fellow showed up at Dreamy Hollow to-night--you know who. Much to
say to-morrow morning--no holiday dinners for us yet. Get to the office
early, say, eight thirty and I'll spin the yarn."

"Big Case?"

"Getting bigger all the time."

"That little dinner, by the way--next winter--some time?"

"Not on your sweet young life! The first breathing spell."

"I was joking dear--you----"

"Of course you were, we're always joking, aren't we? As long as we joke,
we won't quarrel!"

"Speaking of--you know who--did you see him?"

"No--he had done his mischief and skedaddled a few moments before I
arrived. First real bad luck in a long time. Bad mess down here!"

"There is satisfaction in knowing that so and so is in the web. Will he
go out to his old haunt on the outer drive?"

"In time--but not now."

"Why?"

"He would expect us to look for him there--and we will--for a much
longer time than he thinks."

"Had you thought of Julie Hayes--she still runs Winifred's stand. She
has sharp eyes and sharp wits. She can keep mum."

"Now that is a first-class tip. I'll put George onto that. I'm phoning
him at three o'clock to wake him up. He doesn't know it yet, but I'm
going to have him at the hut very early to-morrow morning. He can see
Julie and put her wise."

"I believe it is the Swathmere that I'm saving up that pretty new dress
for--is it not?" teased Mary Johnson.

"Exactly so, dear girl--if we ever get around to it," mourned the big
fellow. "I am more anxious about that little you-and-me dinner than any
other thing in life, except one--that's you!"

"It's time you got back on your job--good night!"

"So long, dear--I'll ring you at the office soon as possible to-morrow
morning."

"Take a little nap--why don't you?"

"Yeah!--take a little nap!--I hardly see myself shutting my eyes on a
night like this. But I might--so you go to bed yourself and get that
beauty sleep."

As the phones clicked off Updyke with stubborn tenacity, lunged back
into the woof of his spider web. Everything seemed well in hand. Inquiry
as to Villard showed satisfactory progress. He would live, but how he
would come out of it was a question for Father Time to solve. Finally he
called for Santzi and told him to sit by and wake him at prompt
two-forty-five, and in two minutes more from the depths of the lounge he
was competing with the fog horns of South Bay.

To George Carver three o'clock was an unearthly rising hour, as many a
man would willingly bear witness. But Winifred, at two-thirty, had
switched on the current under the percolator, and only awaited the
presence of her liege lord and master before connecting the toaster.

It was the enticing odor of the bacon and coffee, not the alarm clock's
mad music, that sent the young husband under the shower.

At two-forty-five the telephone tingled, and Winifred ran forward to
answer.

"Are you up?" shouted a well-known voice, in a drowsy tone.

"Can't you smell the coffee and bacon?" replied Winifred, gaily--"and
the noise of that awful man under the shower? I'll tell him you're
waiting. He's making more fuss than a porpoise," she concluded as she
hastily snatched a bathrobe and hung it on a hook near the shower room.

"Parkins has disclosed himself and his whereabouts," were Updyke's first
words, as Winifred's husband took up the receiver.

"That sounds interesting," replied Carver, with enthusiasm.

"Glad to hear you say so, and I'll add--especially so, to you!"

"Humph! Give me the details," replied Carver, who analyzed quickly.

"Listen carefully, boy, and don't get excited about anything I tell you.
By all means don't repeat any part of it to Winifred that concerns
herself."

"Yep--I get you--what's up?"

"The scoundrel was here at Dreamy Hollow, just after dark. I was on my
way down but he had done his mischief and gone before I arrived. The
scene was in so and so's office where he appeared suddenly--bound and
gagged Jacques who was taking out a tray of dishes. Then slipped over to
so and so and covered him with a silencer automatic."

"You don't say!"

"Yep--he demanded the whereabouts of a certain girl--accused so and so
of stealing her and gave him a third degree. So and so steadfastly
refused all information, giving no inkling of her marriage or address.
Julie Hayes is the only one in Patchogue who knows her real address--get
me?"

"Yep--go on--what happened between so and so and----"

"So and so was beaten over the head with the butt of the
revolver--knocked senseless. Santzi and Jerry looked in, wondering why
Jacques had not returned with the tray of dishes. Unarmed they ran to
spread alarm, but the whelp had escaped on their return."

"How--only one door to the room?"

"Just one--and only two windows--north and east corners, for light on
his desk. No furniture to speak of--just his big square flat-top,
council table--chair, lounge, and filing cases. The scoundrel
disappeared through the east window."

"What do you suggest for me to do?"

"Light out as quickly as possible for Patchogue. See Chief Mack. I
couldn't reach him by phone. Had gone somewhere--not expected back until
very late. I left word for him to call me, but he hasn't so far."

"Any one else?"

"See Julie Hayes--she's safe. Have her keep sharp eye out and phone me
here anything she sees or learns about the scoundrel. Then you go to his
hut on the outer drive--pick up a ranger at Patchogue and have him stay
there day and night. Have him supplied with provisions--Julie will help
him, without exposing our hand. Tell her I'll pay all bills--have them
sent to me, here."

"You must feel pretty certain that he will turn up at the hut--sooner or
later?" said Carver enquiringly.

"I do--and I think he is more likely to go there by water," answered
Updyke, with a ring of conviction in his voice.

"Why would he come here at all?"

"Because he has a lot of gold to conceal that he can't deposit without
answering questions."

"Why?"

"It's Canadian coinage mostly, and would come under suspicion."

"Give me a reason for that," said Carver. "I'm not very well posted in
such matters."

"He was sent to Quebec with the pay roll of a lumber company, up in the
timber country, where I had sent him for keeps. The shyster played
square and seemed so honest that they intrusted him with a check on a
bank in Quebec. He kept on going, changing into American money as fast
as he could without arousing suspicion. He has a lot of gold left and I
think he has it cached near the hut. But he may not go near it for some
time. He now wears whiskers and mustache, raven black--I'd say from
description, but he is easily recognized. Jacques says Villard knew him
the moment he saw him. Better write out a 'John Doe' and have it ready.
I don't want his real name to come out--yet," said Updyke, yawning loud
enough to be heard at Riverhead.

"All right, Henry, I'll be on my way. I'll let you know my whereabouts
from time to time. Better turn in for a three hours' nap while I'm
getting to destination."

"That's just what I'll do, now that you're on the job. So long, and good
luck."



CHAPTER XVII.

THE WOLF HOUND'S NEW MASTER


Far famed detectives have lived in all ages, but it remained for the
modern operative to enlarge the perspective. Intuition still ruled as a
first qualification, but the real prime requisite changed to "knowledge
of men." Not only their cunning but the whites of their eyes and the
shapes of their heads. The "hatchet face" one type, the "round head"
another, and the month they were born in--an important clue as to
temperament. On the charts prenatal influence had much space for
remarks--also the color, of eyes, and the color of hair, curly or
straight, the nose pug or aquiline--the mouth large or small--curved up
or down.

Parkins, on the Updyke chart, registered as "low brow," meaning thick
hair growing far down the forehead--no matter the color. But when
considering hair, red heads warned of danger--once started, they fight.
Black hair generally stood for impulsiveness and quick temper. That was
the Parkins type, with hair as dark as a raven. Born in June, his stone
was the agate--naturally drifting toward the "good fellow" class--the
kind that need wonderful mothers to hold them in check through the days
of their youth.

George Carver, now flivvering his way to Patchogue, was a brown haired
"husky" with big open face that bespoke sterling character, and what is
known as "horse sense." Instead of being brilliant, he was apt and quick
of discernment. He could match with all types and win by his coolness.
But he knew the value of getting in with the first blow. To him a run on
lonesome roads meant nothing, either in daylight or darkness--he was
always prepared--his intuition unerring. So when entering Patchogue he
skirted the town on its farthest east line and hit the trail for the
outer drive. The townspeople were just rubbing their eyes before leaving
their beds when he muffled his engine and scooted across the little
city. By the time he returned the stores would be open and Julie Hayes
would have taken down the shutters from Winifred's booth.

When in close proximity to the Parkins hut his small car, with hood
down, was turned off the trail into an arroyo. From there, with a pair
of strong field glasses in the early morning light, he drew the little
shack right up to his eyes. He could see every crack in the unpainted
planks, and by maneuvering, belly fashion, along the grassy slope, he
gained a knowledge of three sides. In the rear a huge wolfhound lay
curled in a heap, and the chain in its collar reached through the
boarding, evidently permitting release from inside.

It was a dangerous moment, had a breeze from the north been stirring,
for one whiff of strange flesh might have brought on a death struggle.
With an automatic forty-five silencer drawn along at his right side, and
a pistol in holster for close quarters, Carver drew a "bead" on the dog
and awaited further developments. He watched the big brute with the eyes
of a hawk, and noted through his glasses that the animal slept uneasily.
It might have been the cold of early morning, but a wolf hound had never
been known to shiver in less than zero weather. Carver was well posted
on dogs. He was that type of man at whom dogs never snapped or offered
to bite. So, with silencer in readiness, he puckered his lips and gave a
low whistle.

At once the big brute arose to his haunches and whined.

Something wrong about the premises was Carver's first thought. A dog of
that breed would not bid for friendship with a stranger unless actuated
by an instinct that a friend was near by. But it was no time to take
chances. The first thing he thought of was that Parkins had not returned
and the dog had been left without water or food. On the other hand a
wolf hound invariably fought the stranger at its gate. They were never
allowed to roam at large except in forest camps, or on extensive
estates. The situation was altogether strange, and, to prove it, Carver
rose to his knees.

He expected a wild lunge on the part of the dog but the brute rose to
all fours and wagged his tail, whining the while, as he strained at his
chain. That seemed full evidence that Parkins was not in the hut, and
forthwith he stood up and walked toward the dog, now manifesting great
joy. At the length of his chain Carver reached out his hand, but with
one eye on the hut--then he patted the dog on its head.

That settled the friendship between them. Carver then pulled out a
chocolate bar and tearing off the wrapper reached out his hand. One
sniff and the big brute took it into his mouth and practically swallowed
it whole. He was starving--further evidence that the master was still at
large.

After parting with his last piece of chocolate Carver walked to the
front of the hut and tried the door.

It was locked.

He then took out a bunch of keys and tried to fit one in the lock, but
none of them would enter.

Then he reached for his electric torch and peered into the
keyhole--there was a key inside that obstructed!

Carver dropped to the ground, on his stomach, and with his automatic
reached far up on the door and gave it a thump.

There was no response, whereupon Carver shouted--"Parkins" in a voice
both harsh and loud.

"Wake up, you scoundrel, and open this door! You can't play any tricks
on us! We've got you surrounded! Make one bad move and we'll kill you!"

There was no answer--except the whining of the dog in the rear.

"What do you say, boys!" shouted Carver to his "phantom" companions.
"Shall we burn the place down? Those in favor will raise their right
hands! Unanimous, eh?--then bring the oil can," continued Carver, who
shouted--

"We give you one minute to open the door--hush boys!--keep your eyes
open, and cover this place. When I say the word put a match to the oil!"

Then all became still save the dog in the rear, which strained at its
chain and sent up pitiful howls, as if baying at the moon now fading in
the early daylight. No answer forthcoming he kicked at the door and it
made his blood tingle as it swung back--wide open!

Carver jumped to one side and reached for his torch, with that in his
left hand he searched the front room. It was a moment when courage had
no chance to take counsel. The advantage now lay with the man that he
sought. The glare of the torchlight swung into each corner, all over
the room, and under the bed, but only a shirt and some clothing lay on
top of it. Parkins had been there recently for the imprint of his body
showed on the coverlet and an empty bottle rested under the pillow. Next
came the bath-kitchenette.

One glance into that and the story was told!

In his night clothes Parkins lay dead in his bath tub, his legs at the
bottom and his dead body floating. His eyes, partly closed, seemed to
stare at a picture, an old-fashioned daguerreotype. "From Mother" was
printed at the bottom of the cheap little frame. On the floor were empty
bottles, and one partly filled, was clutched in the dead man's hand.
Evidently he had placed it there within easy reach, as he lay in the
water refreshing himself--hours after his escape from Dreamy Hollow.

Making careful notation on a sheet from his note book Carver drew a
rough plan of the scene to be given to Updyke. In a combination cupboard
he found the remainder of a parcel of food, crackers and sausage, and a
slice of cold beef. These were fed to the famishing dog, then closing
the door he hurried back to Patchogue, where he phoned Dreamy Hollow.

"Well--it's all for the best," said Updyke, not without a shade of
sorrow at the tragic death of the man. "He was a stormy petrel, as I've
often said, and he sacrificed his life upon the altar of booze."

"I'm thinking of Winifred," said Carver, huskily. "She----"

"Calm your soul on that point--she never loved him. He was thought to be
a friend of the family, but she found that he was just an old-fashioned
knave. She and I have talked over this whole matter, and I know what I
say is true. Shall I phone her the news?"

"Yes, if you will. What shall I do about the corpse?"

"Just turn the whole matter over to the coroner, and if any questions
are asked, refer him to me. There is no longer any chance of publicity.
A burial notice among the paid advertisements. That's best for him, and
best for all. After you have made your report to the coroner beat it for
home and go to bed."

"But that wonderful dog--I want him! We already love each other."

"Go get him and take him with you. But don't you ever tell your wife
that he once belonged to so and so. Just say that the poor thing seemed
to have no master so you picked him up and brought him home. Now that is
no lie."

"You are a great old bird, Henry. I'll do as you say. No use to talk
with Julie, I imagine, except about the booth."

"That's all," said Updyke, "go on about your business and I'll pick up
the matter just where you left off."

"Tell Mary that she may stand a chance to get that quiet little dinner
after all," laughed Carver.

"What do you know about that?"

"I'm a married man and we fellows know everything!"

"That will be all from you! I may cut you out of my gold expedition, if
you get gay. So long."

The death and burial of William Parkins received the exact amount of
space that Updyke had indicated to George Carver--four nonpareil lines
among the death notices--paid for by the Updyke Agency. Henry Updyke
himself wrote the announcement. And then came the search for the stolen
funds which were quickly found within a hundred feet of the hut with
only a thousand missing. The Quebec Agency was notified quickly and the
bank officers were profoundly thankful. They wanted to reward the agent,
but that was tabooed by a terse telegram.


     "We never take money that we do not earn stop we sent the man up in
     your country to reform him stop we accept the liability as our own
     and are sending check today for a thousand. For all favors we thank
     you--signed Updyke."


At last came the evening when, without the least "fuss and feathers,"
Mary Johnson leaned back in Henry Updyke's big car and drank in the
ozone of Westchester county. She looked a dream in her light summer furs
and stylish coat that concealed her pretty party gown. Twenty miles
whizzed by with little in the way of conversation when suddenly the car
made a quick turn, and stopped in the shadows of a great boulder. Behind
them lay Riverdale, and the black forests of Spuyten Duyvel loomed
ahead, just across the East River, five hundred feet below. The moon
was now doing its best to light up the mighty Hudson. Nothing like this
grandeur had Mary Johnson's eyes beheld. A thrill of ecstasy crept into
her heart. A new world was opening before her, and all within the limits
of little old Manhattan, where all kinds of worlds exist--pay as you
enter and take your choice.

"I never dreamed of such splendor!" sighed Mary, her heart filled with
emotion, which was just like most women, who cry when they are glad.

"Well, little girl, while you go on dreaming I'm going to say something
to you," said Updyke, gruffly.

"I'm always glad to hear your voice, dear," replied the girl still awed
by the scene.

"I love you!" exclaimed Updyke, in as harsh a tone as a frightened man
of his size could muster.

"Say it again," said Mary, snuggling closer.

"I meant it the first time, and I never repeat," he fumed uneasily.

"Oh, do--just to please me," she whispered.

"No, mam!--what I want is a kiss!"

"S'pose we kiss each other--dear?"

"All right here goes," and with that Updyke took her bodily into his
arms and held her there until the moon lady looked down and laughed at
them. And when all was said, and the gardens of their two hearts had
been merged into one, Updyke suddenly recollected the seats he had
engaged on the Swathmere roof.

"I am hungry, Mary. Shall we jog along back?" he asked meekly, as if
taking orders for the first time in his life.

"I could stay here forever," said she, putting her lips up to be kissed.

"Let's get married to-night," suggested Updyke, his eyes aflame.

"No, sir! with one good dress to my name--Never!" exclaimed the girl.

"Well, you hurry up those dresses. Your pay is raised one thousand
dollars. Draw it to-morrow and go up the line. You ought to get a couple
of 'em for that," said he, grinning.

"Thanks for the raise, dear, but I'll buy my own wedding clothes. I
haven't thrown my earnings away. How about that little dinner at
the----"

"Nuff said," replied Updyke, "but you just keep those arms about me
while I do the driving. They don't seem to bother me," said he,
chuckling down in her pretty face.

At the Swathmere two tall hatted porters ran out to the car, and with
much ado landed the guests under the canopied entrance, where they were
met by the captain and escorted up-top to the table that Updyke had
engaged.

"Does you know who that big fellow is?" inquired one porter of the
other.

"I don't reckon I does. He don't look good to me, nohow!" was the
answer.

"Well, be ca'ful of yo' step when you see him edgin' yo' way!" warned
the other. "He's de bigges' ov 'em all--gits 'um goin'--and gits 'um
comin'--is you guilty?--den kiss yo' baby good-by!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

FLIGHT OF A SOUL


Beautiful Dreamy Hollow, peaceful, charming--with the master always on
hand. No longer in business he lived in a dreamland and never looked out
except toward the sea. Alone, he lived in silence, with only the future
state in mind. Alone!--not just that--for way up in the skies a sweet
soul was waiting and beckoning to him. He could see her quite plainly as
the veil lifted at night, and also, whenever he looked this way or
that--those were terrible blows that the mad Parkins dealt! Only the
strong of heart could have survived them and turned them to account--but
Drury Villard, once the farseeing financier, only looked at the heavens
and bided his time. Things earthly were now forgotten, and old friends
forsaken, not with malice aforethought, but because of a tiny link
missing--the mischief of a dreadful night.

To talk with himself was no trouble at all, but to sit and laugh at his
own jokes when no one seemed near lent a pathos to those who chanced to
look on. But the Winifred of his first love heard him, and evidently
applauded, for when unduly excited he ran to the window and clapped both
his hands--then called out her name! Just why Mrs. Bond should cry and
run out of his presence was a mystery to him. And Santzi, wide-eyed,
when he took the master to drive, sometimes felt compelled to signal
Jacques to turn back. To avoid passers-by the woods road were used, but
the birds seemed to know that a friend was out riding. The blue jays
shouted at him and he shouted back, as near in their language as he
could imitate.

Then one day came a great specialist from over the ocean. A cable to
Updyke told the date of his sailing, and when the big liner warped in at
her Hoboken dock, he was on hand to welcome, and took the expert in
charge. A few days went by before arrangements were ready, and certain
experts engaged to help on the case. It was quite a big party that
trailed the Updyke machine down from the city. Among them several
nurses--one of them Winifred--with Carver's consent--for hers was the
one name that Villard seemed to remember--so Carver himself came along
as her escort.

Of course Winifred had nothing to do with the others, or the lances and
things--but she was there all in white, as the patient came to, and she
was the first person he knew when he opened his eyes. There she was in
the life, all smiles, with her husband, and Villard smiled at him, too.

"I--thought you had--all deserted me," said he weakly, but Winifred put
a finger over his blue lips, and whispered----

"Don't talk, Uncle Drury--just rest--that's a dear. We're not going to
leave you until you are strong and well! There now, close your dear eyes
and go back to rest. We'll--not leave you--go back to sleep--back to
dreamland--you'll soon be----" And with a smile on his lips Villard
lapsed into slumber.

As the great surgeon looked on, a smile lighted his face, and with
actual tears in his eyes he grasped Winifred's hand. He had risked his
reputation in coming to "far-off America" on such a hopeless case. And
to win!----

"Most wonderful!" said he. "There's nothing that answers the call of
returning reason as the voice of a sweet woman," he concluded, as he
again grasped her hand, and this time squeezed it hard.

Then to George Carver he said: "You're the right kind, young man. You'll
go far in the world."

In less than a week Villard sat out in the sunshine, with light blankets
about him, and Winifred near. She read to him, sang to him, laughed at
him, called him a bear, and teased him for trying to live alone.

"If you and George move down here and live with me, I'll will to you
both, in common, a cold million dollars," said Villard eagerly.

"And me leave my dear little white cottage! Oh, how could you dare to
tempt me, Uncle Drury!" she exclaimed, with a laugh.

"I mean it, little woman," said Villard, very soberly.

"Well, don't tell George that, please. He likes you now, and it might
turn him against you. Don't you see, dear man, he wants to make his own
way in the world!"

"He is right, little woman, and you are going to help him, more than he
will know," replied Villard, with enthusiasm.

"Well, if you just knew all about it, you'd think differently. He is so
active, and so kindly, that he often steals out of his bed and cooks his
own breakfast rather than awaken old lazy bones--that's me," laughed
Winifred.

"It won't hurt him, and it shows his affection. He'll rise in the
world--all good husbands do."

And so ran the days by until Villard, in sheer pity for Carver's young
bride, sent her away in his car to the home that she loved. Then back to
his old haunts he went straightway--to the window where the open sea
came into view. From that point of vantage, somehow, he heard the voice
of his old love, bidding him come--and with a prayer in his heart he lay
back and died.

When Updyke came down to take charge of affairs, a letter was handed to
him by the weeping housekeeper--Mrs. Bond's heart seemed broken!

"Don't cry," said he gently. "He's happier now than he would be on
earth. There's a reason that's sacred, but you may take it from me that
for years he has waited impatiently for his time to go."

Seated in a deep leather chair Updyke opened the letter. It was short
and to the point. It read:


     DEAR HENRY: My will is in the Bankers Deposit Company vault room.
     The enclosed release is made out in your name. You will find
     instructions along with the will--your name is entered as trustee,
     without bond.

     As ever, faithfully,
     DRURY VILLARD.


And so passed from earth a man of big soul, whose wealth had not spoiled
him, nor brought much joy. As trustee, Updyke soon fathomed the great
heart of the man. Not one person having the least lien upon his
generosity was omitted from his will. Only within the past month had
Parkins' name been stricken from it--just scratched with a pen, and
initialed D. V.--without giving reasons.

Each servant came in for a good start in life. Dreamy Hollow was to be
turned into a home for aged and infirm nurses. His business was to be
divided equally between his old partners to the extent of his
holdings--three-fourths of the whole. Of the individuals mentioned
Updyke came first--he to have twenty thousand a year for ten years while
settling the estate, and to Sawyer his watch and an annuity of five
thousand a year if any misfortune should ever befall him. To Updyke's
wife Mary, in token of her faithful attention to his affairs as they
related to the Updyke Agency--twenty thousand dollars in cash. And last,
but not least, was his legacy to Winifred Barbour Carver, "share and
share alike with her good husband, George"--one hundred thousand
dollars--"and an additional sum of fifty thousand to their first
offspring."


     "In further acknowledgment of my high regard for the Carver family
     I hereby appoint Mrs. Winifred Carver chairman of the board of
     directors of Dreamy Hollow Home for Aged and Infirm Nurses."

       "And through the veil to the great unknown,
       Sped the soul of an upright man."


So wrote the girl, Winifred, as an epitaph for the tomb of Drury
Villard.





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