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f 



. I s-'^- 






■MHMH 



IMIkiriMi 



POBUC LIBRARY 



I 



1 



Km%, WiOl AND I 

» I J 




' 'Even if ymi had croaked kirn you wovldn't dare acknowl- 
dge it here. Why, George, you're kneeling where he lay' " 



THE GRAY MASK 



BV 

WADSWORTH CAMP ^ 

^-^ 

author of 

^'thi abandoned room'* 
**thi house of fear," etc 



\Jy' 




FRONTISPIECB BY 

WALTER De maris 



Garden City New York 

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 

1920v 






THE NEW YORK 

384700B 



COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY 

DOUBLBDAY. PAGE & COMPANY 

ALL BIGHTS RBSBRVED, INCLUDING THAT OP 

TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, 

INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN 



U» 



NEW YORiC 
500IBTY LIBRAR 






CopTiIffbt, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, hf P. F. Collier & Soas, lae., 
in the United States, Great Briuin and Canada 




•I8W YORK 

LiBUARy 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTBR FAGB 

I. Garth Is Shown a Gray Mask . » ,• 3 

IL It Opens Nora's Eyes . . • • .« « 14 

III. In the Steel Room • • • • <« • • 30 

IV, Garth Buys a Boutonnibre -.- . . . 45 
V. What Happened at Elmford . . ., • 51 

VI. A Crying Through the Silence • • • 68 

VII. Nora Fears fchi Garth • :• .« •> • i« 95 

VIII. Through the Dark . . • . . • 103 

IX. The Phantom Army •••••• 118 

X The Coins and the Chinaman • « ,» 140 

XI. Nora Disappears in an EKn>T>^JH[ousB » 151 

XII. The Hidden Do(»t •••••• • 163 

XIII. Alsop's Incredible Visitor * • » « « 183 

XIV. The Levantinb Who Guarded a Cur* 

TAIN ••••••••.«•• I9i5 

XV. The Veiled Woman . . • . ^ . 209, 



da yci : ^ 



r 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XVI. A Note from the Dead •••••• 224 

XVII. The Knife by the Lifeless Hand • • 239 

XVIII. The Stained Robe 250 

XIX. Payment Is Demanded for the Gray 

Mask 264 

XX. The Black Cap 277 

XXI. The Antics of a Train 290 



THE GRAY MASK 



THE GRAY MASK 

CHAPTER I 

GARTH IS SHOWN -A GRAY MASK 

GARTH, in response to the unforeseen sum- 
mons, hurried along the hallway and opened 
the inspector's door. As he faced the rugged 
figure behind the desk, and gazed into those eyes 
whose somnolence concealed a perpetual vigil, his 
heart quickened. 

He had been assigned to the detective bureau less 
than six months. That brief period, however, had 
revealed a thousand eccentricities of his chief. The 
pudgy hand beating a tattoo on the table desk, the 
lips working at each other thirstily, the doubt that 
slipped from behind the veil of the sleepy eyes, were 
all like largely printed letters to Garth — letters 
that spelled delicate work for him, possibly an ex- 
ceptional danger. 

"Where were you going. Garth?" 

" Home. ^ That is — " 

Garth hesitated and cleared his throat. 

" First — I thought I might drop in on Nora for 
a minute/' 

With a quick gesture the inspector brushed the 

3 






4 THE GRAY MASK 

mention of his daughter aside. Abruptly he verified 
Garth's hazard. 

" How much do you love your life? " 

The inspector's voice possessed the growling qual- 
ity of an animal. A warning rather than an aggres- 
sive roar, it issued from a throat remotely surviving 
behind great masses of flesh. Garth had rarely 
heard it raised, nor, for that matter, had it ever de- 
ceived him as to the other's amiability and gentleness 
of soul. It s present tone of apologetic regret star- 
tled him. 

" On the whole I value my life rather highly just 
now," he answered, trying to smile. 

" Then turn this down and nothing said," the 
inspector went on. " It's volunteer's work. No 
gilt-edged prophecies. It's touch and go whether 
whoever tackles it eats bacon and eggs to-morrow 
morning." 

" What's the job? " Garth asked. 

The inspector glanced up. 

"You've heard of that fellow without a face?" 

Garth stared until he thought he understood. 

" One of those Bellevue cases? Awful bums? " 

The heavy head shook impatiently. 

" No. This fellow Simmons in Chicago — sev- 
eral years ago now — experimenting with some new 
explosive in a laboratory. He got his arm up in 
time to save his eyes." 

" Seems to me I remember," Garth began. 

" Worn a gray mask ever since," the inspector 
said. 



GARTH IS SHOWN A GRAY MASK 5 

He drew a telegram from a pile of papers at his 
elbow, spread it on the writing-pad, and tapped it 
with his thick forefinger. Garth wondered what 
was coming. A feeling of uneasiness compelled 
him to lower his eyes before the other's steady gaze. 
There was something uncanny about this thought of 
a mask, worn always to hide a horror. 

The inspector's tapping quickened to an expres- 
sion of anger. His voice exposed a cherished re- 
sentment. 

'* No doubt about your having heard of our friend 
Hennion? " 

Garth started forward, resting his closed fists on 
the desk top. His face was excited, unbelieving. 

" Mean to say there's a chance — " 

The inspector ceased his tapping. He looked up 
slyly. 

'* A real one at last. You know what that means. 
It's the job. Take it or leave it. I won't ask you 
to go where I mightn't have cared to go myself at 
your age." 

Garth thought rapidly. His chief had been 
right. The man who tried to trip Hennion needn't 
worry about to-morrow's breakfast until his eyes 
greeted the sun in the east. 

He, with the rest of the bureau, could point to 
half a dozen men as vassals of this abnost mythical 
figure. He, like the rest, had frequently diagnosed 
obscure crimes as the workmanship of the Hennion 
group. But he knew also that nothing had ever 
been proved against this organization of criminals, 



6 THE GRAY MASK 

which was unique, because, in addition to prosaic 
brutality, it appeared to be informed by brains of 
a brilliant and inscrutable character. 

"How much of a chance?" Garth asked. 

All the drowsiness left the inspector's eyes. 

" Maybe to sit in with them to-night. I've never 
had a ghost of a show with a stool before, and this 
is the night of all nights. One of these crooks has 
been boasting. He said — and I have it straight 
— * To-night we play our ace.' Get that. Garth 1 
iWhat must an ace mean to that lot, eh? And the 
president's here, but he'll be well looked after. 
Still there are lots of big men in this town whose 
sudden death would make a noise more like a home- 
run than a funeral. Or, if it's burglary, play it 
to scale. These fellows would unlock the gates of 
Hades while Satan slept in the vestibule. I've been 
saying to myself all day I've jg;ot to find out what 
that ace is and stack the cards, and at the same time 
I've been asking myself what the devil I was going 
to do about it. But the luck's changed." 

Garth breathed hard. 

" How do you expect to throw sand in the eyes 
of that outfit ? " 

" Give me," the inspector answered slowly, his 
rumble approximating a whisper, " someone with 
no nerves to speak of and a build like this faceless 
man Simmons." 

He looked up. His eyes were very sleepy again. 

** You have that build, Garth. All you need is 
a plain, dark brown suit." 



GARTH IS SHOWN A GRAY MASK 7 

He raised the telegram. 

" This is Simmons' description as he left Chicago 
last evening. He expects to arrive on the Western 
express to night. He's looking for someone to meet 
him and take him to the headquarters of the Hen- 
nion gang." 

Garth's face lightened. 

"Has he a record?" 

" A suspect, chiefly because he's tied up with 
that anarchist crowd out there — an analyst of ex- 
plosives, a chemist, cursed by this hideous accident 
— dangerous as giant powder itself! That's why 
his mail's been watched, how they got onto this 
move. But they've no details for us. Maybe Sim- 
mons himself doesn't know what he's up against." 

With a secretive air he opened a drawer and lifted 
out a tightly-woven gray cloth. It was pierced by 
two holes above and a long, narrow opening be- 
low. From its edges four elastic straps dangled. 

" I had it made," he. said, holding it out tenta- 
tively, " so that, perhaps, you might find out instead 
of Simmons." 

Garth took the cloth and fitted it over his face. 
It left visible a small scar on his neck. The in- 
spector pointed at this with a pleased, wondering 
smile. 

"That scar peeping will fetch them. Put on a 
brown suit and you'll pass." 

" Where," Garth asked, " does Simmons change 
cars?" 

" I'll have the express stopped at the end of 



8 THE GRAY MASK 

the bridge above Garrison. Not much chance of 
spies there. A couple of my men will take him off 
and keep him out of mischief while you get on. 
Understand ? You'll go up on the West Shore and 
ferry over from West Point. You're on?" 

" Sure. You'd jump at the chance yourself, sir." 

He removed the mask. The inspector handed 
him a piece of frayed white paper. 

"Did you notice me fingering this just now?" 
he asked anxiously. 

Garth shook his head. 

"Then take it, and, when the time comes, play 
with it that way yourself. Scratch your instruc- 
tions on it with a match, a toothpick, anything 
handy. It will stay white, but I can make what- 
ever you put on it as visible as headlines in a war 
extra. You'll reach town after ten. I'll hold back 
instructions until eleven in case these fellows have 
any spies in the department. But after that you 
can drop it near a uniformed policeman with a fair 
chance of its reaching me." 

" You'll try to trail us, too ? " Garth asked. 

The inspector grinned sheepishly. 

" Of course I'll try. I'll probably have to let it 
go at that." 

" Yes — slippery," Garth answered. 

Now that his offer was accepted, and his plan 
understood, the inspector gave way to a disquiet- 
ing nervousness. He stood up and stepped around 
the desk, putting his hand on Garth's shoulder. 

"Watch out for yourself," he faltered. "I 



GARTH IS SHOWN A GRAY MASK 9 
don't want another Kridel case on my con- 



science." 



The name dampened Garth's enthusiasm. He 
had never known Joe Kridel who, a year ago, had 
been the ascending star of the bureau. But the 
manner of the young man's death was depressingly 
familiar to him — found stabbed through the heart 
in a private house whose dwellers had heard no 
alarm. The key to that puzzle had never been 
discovered. Even the inspector had harbored the 
nature of Kridel's assignment that nig^t of his 
murder. 

'* I hate," the inspector continued, that note of 
regret in his voice again, " to give a man I like 
such an ugly risk." 

This reached Garth as definite encouragement to 
words which he had restrained for some time with 
difficulty. To loose them, now, however, would be, 
in a way, unfair to his chief; would, in every sense, 
form no fitting prelude to his formidable and dan- 
gerous task. He contented himself, therefore, with 
an unsatisfactory compromise. 

" If I've time I may drop in for a chat with Nora 
after all." 

" But you won't alarm her with this? " 

" Certainly not." 

The inspector was very friendly. 

" You know I wouldn't be surprised if Nora had 
taken kind of a fancy for you herself." 

Garth's face reddened. He turned away. 

The inspector sighed. 



lo THE GRAY MASK 

" Oh, well. There's plenty of time to think of 
that when you bring yourself back — alive." 

Before making his arrangements Garth called at 
the inspector's flat. This was, in fact, a prepar- 
ation. Without seeing Nora he felt he would not 
be armed to enter these unfair lists with death. 

He found her by the window in the sitting room. 
She looked, he thought, more Latin than usual, al- 
though the black clothes she habitually wore ac- 
centuated her dark hair and flashing eyes^ the olive 
complexion and regular features she had inherited 
from her Italian mother. 

She smiled up at Garth, and, as always in face 
of that smile, he recalled the unexplored neutral 
ground where their minds had never really met. 
This impression had unquestionably retarded the 
development of their relations. It had until now 
held their emotions in the leash of friendship. 
Garth had no idea of snapping that cord at his en- 
trance, but Nora's proximity and the suddenness of 
an unexpected gesture distilled logic and! fairness for 
the moment's irresistible intoxication. 

Their hands, reaching for the book she had 
dropped, met. The quick contact was galvanic to 
Garth. An unconquerable impulse pos&essed him. 
If he was to risk death that night it was folly ta 
shirk life to-day. So his hand dosjed over hers 
while he sought for words. 

After a moment he became awa^re: of the im- 
passivity of her fingers within his violent grasp. 



GARTH IS SHOWN A GRAY MASK 1 1 

He saw grave trouble and an unanswerable doubt 
extinguish the excitement in her eyes. A premoni- 
tion reached him. He fought against it desperately. 
His voice swayed a little. 

** Don't look at me like that, Nora. You're 
going to marry me." 

She shook her head. All at once there were 
tears in her eyes. Her hand lightly brushed her 
black skirt. 

" Jim, you've often asked me why I wear these 
dark clothes. Now you make me tell you. I can 
trust you ? Because no one knows unless my father 
guesses." 

He nodded. She spoke with an effort* 

" For the man I was going to marry, Jim. You 
see he — he died." 

Garth arose and turned to the window. He 
leaned there, staring at the busy street, listening to 
its jarring discords. Among the children at play 
one boy, unkempt and filthy, stood braced against 
a railing, crying at the top of his lungs. In his. 
abandonment to disappointment Garth accepted the 
picture as typical of his life — a crying out for the 
unattainable, a surrender to despair. The night's 
work lost its terror. Its issue became a matter of 
callous indifference. 

Then her hand was on his arm, drawing him 
around so that he saw her face, which had lost its 
colour, and the growing doubt in her eyes. 

" Try to understand, Jim. I think I scarcely do 
myself. I only know it hurts to see you unhappy* 



12 THE GRAY MASK 

Six months ago when you first came I never dreamed 
a man could make even that much difference to me 
again." 

Without warning the colour rushed back to her 
face. She clenched her hands. The determina- 
tion in her tone was overwhelming. 

" Is that inconstancy to him? Don't think that. 
Vm not inconstant. I wouldn't be that.'' 

Garth waved his hand helplessly. 
' "What difference — Never mind, Nora. It's 
finished." 

" But you — It's so unfair. And I want you for 
my friend." 

She sat down, hiding her face. 

"Later — I don't know. How can I tell? 
How can anybody?". 

Garth saw her shoulders commence to shake. 
This emotion fired a tiny hope, yet it angered him 
that she should suffer, too. 

" Stop that," he said roughly. " It isn't worth 
it to you. I'm sorry I spoke. I ought to have 
had better sense, but I'm going out of town to-day 
on a job — " 

He paused. He turned back to the window. 

" That's why I spoke, because — because I may 
be away a very long time." 

She controlled herself. 

"How long, Jim?" 

" God knows." 

"Where? West?" 

He shook his head. 



GARTH IS SHOWN A GRAY MASK 13 

" Up the state. It's just as well now. I've got 
to go. I ought to be getting ready." 

She arose. She spoke wistfully. 

" Then good-by, Jim. And you'll try to under- 
stand ? Maybe you'll come to see me just the same 
when you get back? " 

He swallowed hard, forcing back his craving for 
abandonment, for revelation. 

'* When I get back," he said. 



CHAPTER II 
IT OPENS Nora's eyes 

GA.RTH waited at the end of the bridge above 
Garrison. At eight o'clock it was dark, but 
the river, glass-like between the rugged 
hills, retained a pallid light. At a short distance 
two men smoked and chatted. They had with- 
drawn themselves in response to Garth's moodiness. 
He fancied they discussed him as one already dead. 

A whistle shrieked. The hills rumbled. Fling- 
ing their cigars in the water, the men rejoined 
Garth. He slipped the mask from his pocket, and 
secreted his features behind its gray protection. 

The train dashed across the bridge, sparks grind- 
ing from its wheels. When it stopped, panting 
sullenly, the two men sprang aboard. 

Garth flattened himself against the side of the car 
and watched them reappear, leading a third who 
wore a grey mask above a plain brown suit. He 
heard a croaking, unnatural voice issue from be- 
hind the mask. 

" Didn't look for you so soon, friends." 

Excitement drove the melancholy from Garth's 
brain. The undertaking had begun reassuringly. 
Simmons had no suspicion that he was in the hands 
of the police. Garth noticed also as he entered the 

14 



»)> 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 15 

car that the passengers were not aware of the sub- 
stitution. He resented the repugnance in the 
glances they turned on the mask. Sinunons' atti- 
tude toward life became comprehensible. But, as 
the journey extended itself interminably, Garth grew 
restless. He realized he was in the position of a 
man entering a cavern without a light. He must 
feel his way step by step. He must walk blindly 
toward innumerable and fatal pitfalls. 

At last the train paused for the change from lo- 
comotive to electric motor. Although he knew that 
normally no passengers would board it at this place, 
he gazed anxiously from the window. A man stood 
close to the track with the evident intention of en- 
tering the train. Garth saw him elude a brakeman, 
saw him grasp the railing and swing himself out of 
sight. A moment later the man walked into the 
car, stopped dead, and turned sharp, inquisitive eyes 
on the gray mask. 

About the figure was a somber air, accentuated 
by a black felt hat, drawn low over the eyes. It 
let Garth see, however, a sharp and colorless face 
which conveyed an impression of uncommon force- 
fulness. 

After a moment the slender man leaned over 
and spoke with a leer. 

'' You must be a star gambler, judging from your 
face.'' 

He continued to stare as though expectant of an 
answer. Perhaps some countersign was demanded. 
If that was so the whole enterprise swayed in the 



1 6 THE GRAY MASK 

balance. Garth concentrated his thoughts with 
difficulty. One word had strayed circuitously from 
the gang to him. He used it at random, trying to 
approximate the voice he had heard at the bridge. 
" That depends on whether I hold the ace." 
The slender man continued to stare. Garth's 
heart sank, but at last the other straightened with 
a nod. 

" Suppose you take a little stroll with me." 
Garth arose and followed him down the aisle. 
He didn't know whether to interpret that quick 
command as acceptance or condemnation. He 
might be going to the work for which he had been 
chosen, or — and he realized how likely that was — 
to an execution. Yet he had no alternative. He 
must follow the slender, sinister figure into dark 
places not knowing. 

They paused on the platform. Garth thought it 
likely that one of the inspector's men was in the 
car, but of course the fellow would not confess him- 
self by stepping to the vestibule at their heels. It 
would be enough for him to know that they were 
on board and that the train was not scheduled to 
«top before reaching the Grand Central Station. 

Garth knew that, too. Therefore he could not 
understand why his conductor stooped and with an 
air of confidence opened the vestibule door and 
raised the trap. Garth started, for, as if the en- 
gineer were an accomplice and had received some 
subtle signal, the brakes commenced to grind while 
the train lost its speed rapidly. 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 17 

The slender man grasped Garth's arm, and, as 
the train stopped, leapt with him to the right of 
way and hurried him into the shadows at the foot 
of the embankment. Any men the inspector might 
have had on the train had been outwitted. 

He saw ahead the red and green lights of an 
open draw-bridge. He understood now, and mar- 
velled at the simplicity of the trick. Certainly it 
would not have occurred to the inspector to post his 
men at the Harlem River where express trains were 
seldom detained at night. Yet it had been only 
necessary to send some small boat to loiter in the 
draw at the proper moment to assure the security 
of the conspirators. 

Inmiediately Garth lost all sense of direction. 
The other led a stealthy, circular course through a 
lumber yard, across a fence, around darkened build- 
ings, and finally onto a small wharf. A craft was 
moored there — a barge, Garth thought at first. It 
lay in darkness except for its navigating lights, and, 
as Garth looked, even these were extinguished. 

The slender man glided across the wharf, and. 
Garth at his heels, stepped to the deck. There he 
reached over the railing, dropping something from 
his hand. Garth heard three splashes at regular 
intervals. A blade of light flashed sharply athwart 
the darkness and became an open doorway, fram- 
ing a troubled face. 

Garth, shoved from behind, stumbled over the 
sill into the presence of five men who circled about 
him, like cats, wary and suspicious. He would 



1 8 THE GRAY MASK 

know now. One word from his conductor would 
deliver him to the inevitable judgment of that circle. 

But the slender man slipped in after him, closing 
the door. 

" The cops are drunk with sleep," he said. 

Garth breathed again. But into that moment^s 
respite crept the thought of Nora, suddenly become 
unobtainable. Resolutely he fought his depression 
back. At a gesture from the slender man he sat on 
a bench against the wall. 

He saw now that the apparent barge was a rough 
houseboat, unpainted, unfinished, with windows 
closed and heavily barred. The only furniture was 
this bench and another opposite with a deal table 
between. Fumes of gasoline and cylinder oil came 
through an open doorway forward and mixed repel- 
lently with an atmosphere already poisoned by to- 
bacco. For all five smoked, not with enjoyment, 
Garth noticed — rather in an abandonment to 
nerves. It impressed him that these men, who un- 
questionably were the cleverest and most indomitable 
of the Hennion group, should expose this restless- 
ness, this apparent fear, on the threshold of the 
night's work. His conductor, indeed, was the only 
one immune to the contagion of suspense. 

Garth glanced at these others with a sharp per- 
sonal curiosity. They varied amazingly from his 
anticipation. One, a sallow youth with untidy yel- 
low hair and large-rimmed eye-glasses, might have 
been a student of the most devoted species. An- 
other cunningly resembled a well-to-do business man, 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 19 

while a third had the clothing and the air of a tramp. 
The fourth, with his dapper tailoring and ferret- 
like face, was more familiar to the expert in crime. 

These, however, Garth passed over quickly for 
the fifth, perhaps because, with the detective's ex« 
tra sense, he foresaw there a special and unintelli- 
gible menace. 

This man brought his huge, handsome figure for- 
ward and leaned heavily on the table. His close- 
cropped hair, dampened by the heat, curled about 
a bronzed forehead from beneath which inquisitor- 
ial and threatening eyes challenged. 

The slender man, who clearly was the leader, 
crossed the room. 

"Seeing ghosts, George?" he asked. "Or 
maybe you're anxious for a glimpse of what Sim- 
mons hasn't got any more. Why not show him the 
big event, Sinunons?" 

His laugh, scarcely audible, was like the wrath 
of a gigantic sneer. 

Garth's hand crept to his pocket and closed over 
his revolver. George drew back. 

** Look yourself. Slim, and it ought to be done." 

The other swung on him angrily. 

" Do you think I'm bringing him here .without 
checking him up. He doesn't have to take his mask 
off to show you a scar. The lot of you look like 
sudden wealth for a nerve specialist. Sit down. 
We'll get to business." 

He swung on Simmons. 

" I know how you feel about that. Now, listen* 



20 THE GRAY MASK 

All you know is that we wanted a scientific fellow 
who doesn't use his profession exclusively for the 
benefit of humanity. Also one without any nerves. 
I've always heard that of you." 

Garth nodded, smiling a little to himself. Lack 
of nerves had been the inspector's chief requisite. 
Now the criminals demanded the same quality. He 
stood, as it were, between two deadly fires. He 
wondered if murder was on the boards. He re- 
called the slip of white paper in his pocket, ques- 
tioning if he would be able to finger it, to scratch 
upon it those vital invisible directions before these 
sharp and overcurious eyes. 

The slender man hurried on, glancing at his 
watch. 

" We're waiting for one more. At first all you 
have to do is to keep close to George. We're going 
to crack a safe." 

His voice colored apologetically. 

" No jewelry or bags of gold. George falls for 
that cheap stuff now and then, but you needn't be 
ashamed of this job, Simmons. By the way, I don't 
have to ask you if you duck your lid every time the 
band Wats * Oh, say, can you see 1 ' " 

Garth shook his head. 

" Say, Simmons," George broke in, " you talk 
yourself to death. That explosion must have hurt 
your voice something fierce." 

Again Garth tried to approximate the croaking 
tone he had heard at the bridge. 

^' Talk's as cheap and easy as cracking safes." 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 21 

He risked it for its effect on the others. More- 
over it was an antidote for his nervous strain to give 
that much rein to the antagonism he already exper- 
ienced for the huge^ dark fellow. 

Secretive laughter greeted his daring. A ges- 
ture from the leader halted George's movement, al- 
most instinctive, to resent the affront physically. 
Then three faint and regular splashes came from 
the water. 

They all held their poses of the moment statu- 
esquely until, at a nod from the leader, the intellect- 
ual-looking youth arose and moved towards the door. 

During that moment of waiting Garth tried to 
fashion what he knew into a recognizable pattern, 
but the pieces were incomplete. He could only won- 
der why they had sent to Chicago for an anarchistic 
chemist to connive with this expert at a task as 
simple as cracking a safe. 

The youth turned the lock and opened the door 
a little. It was pushed boisterously against him, 
and, beyond his amazed back, Garth had a glimpse 
of a gaudily colored skirt. The others had risen. 
The leader, grasping the youth's elbow, shoved him 
to ont side, and Garth, his view unobstructed now, 
gazed incredulously at Nora's blazing, painted face. 

His first impulse was to cry out and warn the girl 
back from this ambush into which she had unac- 
countably strayed. He gripped the edge of the 
table. He half arose. For a moment the room 
went black. All at once he realized that her pres- 
ence at this unique rendezvous must be without the 



22 THE GRAY MASK 

slightest ambiguity. Perhaps it was an ill-advised 
attempt to rescue him from the net. He waited 
tensely for some word. His heart sank. She 
couldn't recognize him behind the mask. 

He wouldn't lie to himself any longer. Nora, 
whom he had always seen in black, wore a flashy 
dress. She had given the conspirators their own 
signal. She received from them a welcome of 
anxiety. 

The room darkened again. He sat in a frozen 
silence. He saw and heard as from a vast distance. 

" Whole force at your heels, Nora? " the leader 
asked gently. 

Closing the door, she faced them breathlessly. 
Her eyes flashed, but fear lurked there, too. 

" No," she said, " but it might be tramping on 
the dock without your guessing it. Listen, Slim.'* 

She raised her clenched fists. 

" There's a bull here. There's a cop with his 
hand at your throat." 

" Nora ! You're having a nightmare." 

" Hold on," George said. ** Nora ought to 
know." 

** Yes," she gasped, " and it's straight.'* 

Slim relaxed. 

"From your father?" 

She nodded. 

««How in—" 

" I don't know," she said, " but he was sure he'd 
have a stool with you to-night. He's tried so long 
I know he wasn't bragging. Slim ! We can't trip 



IT OPENS NORA^S EYES 23 

up now. IVe worked too hard. YouVe told me 
what a mess you made last time, when that cop, 
Kridel, was croaked. Where will we be if anything 
like that^s pulled again?" 

" Easy, Nora," Slim said. " Maybe we wouldn't 
be any worse off than we were then. Has anybody 
burned in the chair for that? Does anybody know 
who croaked Kridel? Well — the man who did it. 
Don't lose your nerve. The cops would have a fine 
time getting a witness in a murder case out of this 
crowd. And, if what you say is so, maybe the same 
thing will happen to-night, only in a more con- 
venient spot." 

"What are you going to do, Slim?" she asked. 
" Tie him up, but no more murder. I quit at that." 

" Leave it to me," he muttered. " Show me the 
bull." 

Garth received the words as a condenmed man 
probably hears the voice of a judge who wears the 
black cap. 

The girl glanced rapidly around. Then, advanc- 
ing steadily to the table, she raised her hand and 
pointed at Garth. 

He stared fascinated at the finger which, a few 
hours ago, he had held violently in the rush of his 
passion. He was aware of the flashing eyes which 
that afternoon had been wet with tears. But his 
brain was dull. He waited patiently for the ex- 
posure which now appeared unavoidable because of 
the woman he loved. 

She spoke evenly. 



24 THE GRAY MASK 

'^Who could It be but this man that hides his 
face? There's no doubt about the rest of you. 
You only have to see, Slim, whether this fellow, 
Simmons, has got a face.'' 

** He had the word," the leader answered, " and 
look at that scar. But you're right, Nora. If 
there's a bull here he's behind that mask." 

" Then make him take it off," she said. 

Garth raised his hands. His croaking voice was 
torn with dismay. 

** No. I warn you. Spare me and yourselves 
that. It's not pretty, what you'd see." 

" Take it off," the girl repeated. 

" I hide it," Garth cried. " For years — Listen, 
you. If you don't let me keep a little pride you can 
do your dirty work without me." 

The leader put his hand on Garth's shoulder. 

" Now, now," he said soothingly. " Depend on 
it, Simmons, if you're all right we don't want to 
hurt your feelings." 

"All right 1" Nora mocked. "And I teU you 
there's a cop here. And you know as well as I he's 
the only one. You're crazy. Slim." 

" Good thing one of us is then," the leader 
sneered. " If this isn't Simmons we're out of the 
running for to-night anyway. If it is, what do we 
gain by making a show of him? That's what I was 
going to propose. Only one of us need look." 

" That'll do," Nora agreed. Weill Who?" 

** George here was anxious." 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 25 

" Look yourself/* George answered. " I'm no 
dime museum fiend." 

Suddenly Garth arose. 

" Maybe the lady — " he croaked. " She's so 
set on it. A pleasant sight for ladies." 

Nora flushed angrily. 

** I'll call that bluff." 

She waved the others back towards the end of the 
room. 

" And be quick about it," she said to Garth. 

Garth caught the expressions of the others. He 
noticed their ready hands. While his fingers rose to 
the fastenings of the gray mask he turned slowly 
and faced Nora. 

For a moment he hesitated. Even after all he 
had seen he shrank from forcing on the girl the 
responsibility of tossing him to those waiting hands. 
He was tempted to spare her that, to confess him- 
self to the others. But the stamping of her foot, 
the tone of her voice, impatient, commanding, de- 
cided him. 

" Hurry, I say 1 There's no way out." 

So, holding her with his eyes, he slipped the gray 
mask aside. 

He saw her stare while the angry color left her 
cheeks. But at first her expression did not alter. 
It seemed to him a long time before terror twisted 
her face, before she screamed. He watched her 
cower back, crossing her arms over her eyes ; watched 
her fall against the wall, where she bent, trembling. 



26 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth replaced the mask, shrugging his shoul- 
ders, and turned to the others. The leader laughed 
lightly, with satisfaction. 

'^ Never dreamed it was as bad as that, Simmons. 
You're right. Don't blame you, but you must see 
we had to be sure." 

Garth nodded. He sat down. Let the girl 
speak. Until then he would play his part. 

*^ Looks as if the stool lost a leg somewhere," 
he said. 

He studied Nora. Her face hidden, she re- 
mained shrinking against the wall. Still she did 
not speak. 

George stepped to her side and put his arm 
around her. 

"Forget it, little girl. Wish I'd looked for 
you." 

She shook his arm off and pushed him away. 

" Forget it yourself, George," the leader warned. 
"You ought to have learned that won't go with 
Nora." 

" She knows I'm no butterfly," George answered 
sullenly. 

His touch had aroused her. She straightened and 
turned wild eyes on the gray mask. Garth waited 
then for her to betray him, but she only stammered 
a little. 

" He's right. A pleasant sight for ladies ! Boat 
— must have thrown them off the track." 

She laughed hysterically. She sank on the end 
of the bench. 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 27 

Garth was surprised, now that the strain was 
broken, not to experience any exceptional relief. In 
spite of the game's vital stakes it had interested 
him chiefly because of the various effects it might 
have had on Nora. Yet it had yielded him no key 
to her presence here, to her disgraceful marketing 
of her father's confidence, to her assumption at 
home of black robes and grief, or, finally, to her 
apparent decision to let the night's work continue 
in spite of his presence. Probably she hoped he 
could not get help until the job had been done. Or 
— and the thought struck him with the shameful 
tingling of a slap — perhaps she thought he would 
let the others go rather than capture and convict 
the woman he had craved in marriage. 

He pressed his lips together. He beckoned to 
Slim. He took the whip in his own hands. 

" Is the safe here ? Are we going to spend the 
rest of the night on this boat? If the cops are 
awake it isn't wise." 

" All right," the leader said. " George, you and 
Nora and Simmons wait here. The rest of you 
start out." 

The studious-appearing youth, the tramp, the 
dandy, and the elderly man filed through the door 
and silently closed it. The leader spoke to Garth 
quickly. 

" George will unlock the safe without any trouble. 
He's the best in the business. Your job's to open it 
and handle what you find without blowing the lot 
of us to everlasting dirt." 



28 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth stirred uneasily. 

" Explosives I " he said. ** I see why you wanted 
me. 

" The pay's high," Slim answered. " The fellows 
that are after this stuff don't trust diplomatic talk. 
Everybody wants it if only to be sure that nobody 
else gets it, for they claim that the nation that has 
it, could make a league of all the rest look like Tod 
Sloan fighting Dempsey. The inventor thinks Uncle 
Sam ought to have it, if anybody, but he's been 
holding off. It's new, and he's either afraid of it 
himself, or he thinks he can perfect it." 

"He's afraid of it," Nora breatlled. " He told 
me it was a sin to invent it." 

** The point is, Simmons," the leader said, " can 
you handle the stuff with a degree of safety after 
you have read the formula? A man of your ex- 
perience — " 

" I am not afraid to tackle it if I can see the 
formula," Garth answered quietly. 

" Say, Simmons," George put in with a wry face, 
" if there's anything phony about your education, 
drop off here." 

Garth fingered a frayed sheet of white paper. 

** I am not afraid if I can see the formula," he 
repeated. 

The leader turned to Nora. 

" You're sure there's some of the stuff in the safe 
with the formula? The foreigner wouldn't dicker 
without a sample to analyze." 



IT OPENS NORA'S EYES 29 

*' I saw the formula and the sacks put in the safe 
to-night," she answered. 

George shook his head. 

" Nora, youVe a wonder." 

*' No wonder," she said contemptuously. " Noth- 
ing but hard work. An imbecile could have made 
friends with the housekeeper, but it took drudgery 
to get at the old man. I won't waste that. If 
there's any slip — ^" 

The leader glanced at the gray mask. 

" That's up to Sinmions now," he said. 



CHAPTER III 

IN THE STEEL ROOM 

GARTH'S fingers played with the piece of 
white paper. 
" You haven't told me where the house 
IS," he said. 

The moment the leader had answered Garth was 
standing on the bench. He waved his arm. Sud- 
denly he blew out the lamp. 

*' On the dock I " he stammered to the darkness. 
"A noise 1" 

As the others crept to the door he scratched rap- 
idly and silently with a match on the piece of paper 
the location of the house, the nature of the job, and 
an appeal for help. When he was through he heard 
the others coming back. 

" If your nerves jump like that, Sinmions» what 
a chance we'll have 1 " George said. " Not a sign. 
Light up." 

Garth struck the match and relighted the lamp. 

" I never take unnecessary risks," he said simply. 

Nora, he knew, would guess that his excess of 

caution was a police trick. His eyes sought her 

anxiously as the lamp flamed, but she gave no sign. 

After a moment she whispered: 

30 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 31 

** Let's start. It — it frightens me here/* 

The leader opened the door. 

** It's time," he said. " They're asleep in the 
house by now." 

They followed him, threading obscure spaces and 
alleyways to the unlighted end of a street which de- 
ployed into a stone mason's yard, and always Garth 
asked : 

** Will she whisper my life away to the others? " 

A taxicab waited there. Garth manoeuvred so 
that he had a seat by the window. He let his hand, 
which clenched the piece of paper, dangle through. 
Such policemen as he saw were indifferent until 
crossing One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street he no- 
ticed one who looked straight at the cab. He let 
the paper flutter from his fingers, but he did not dare 
glance back to see if the policeman had picked it up. 

The cab halted in a dark side street off Lexing- 
ton Avenue. A man stepped from the shadows and 
waved his hand. They alighted and walked with 
an unconcern that surprised Garth to the servants' 
entrance of a large house. This Nora unlocked. 
They entered and waited in the alley while one by 
one the four from the boat slipped through after 
them. 

_ • 

Garth understood what these numbers meant. In 
order that Nora, George, and he might accomplish 
their task undisturl;ed, these men would bear to 
each inmate of the house chloroform, or, under 
necessity, something more permanently silencing. 

Walking heavy-hearted through the alley at 



32 THE GRAY MASK 

Nora's heels, one last saving possibility occurred to 
Garth. Could this be another police trick? It 
was likely that the inspector had denied him his full 
confidence. Could Nora be on the same errand as 
himself, working for her father? 

When she had unlocked the house door he found 
himself brushing against her in the hall. Im« 
pulsively he reached down and clasped her handi, 
But her hand was like ice. She snatched it away. 
In her action and the sharp intake of her breath 
he felt his doubts resolved. 

Then he was flung into a stealthy, sure^ and dread- 
ful whirlpool of action. He heard feline move- 
ments on the stairs, a muffled thud in the darkness 
ahead, from the second floor a shrill cry, all at once 
strangled and beaten back into the heavy silence. 

He waited, panting. Upstairs someone rapped 
sharply three times. A podket lamp flashed ahead, 
throwing a white shaft against iinely-grained ma- 
hogany. 

A hand in the shaft signalled him, and he crept 
forward until he stumbled over a round, inert mass 
which lay just outside the room where the white 
light searched the mahogany. 

The light, wavering around to greet him, dis- 
closed the obstacle. It was a man, deftly bound, 
and bandaged about the mouth, the ears, the eyes. 

" Shut the door." 

Garth closed the door on this disturbing vision. 

The mahogany formed the doors of a large and 
very wide cabinet. George knelt in front of this, 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 33 

inserting slender, gleaming tools in the lock with 
the adroitness of a watchmaker. To one side Nora 
crouched, playing the light on his illicit undertaking. 

George opened the doors and nodded to Garth. 
The light glowed now on the sleek, steel belly of 
a safe; and, as Garth, a trifle confused, reached out 
a steadying hand, he realized that the walls of this 
room were of steel, too. The cold, uncompromis- 
ing feel of the metal was another warning to him. 
His only chance was that the safe might balk George 
for some time. 

The man's first words, indeed, encouraged this 
hope. 

" May take a little time," he muttered. 
** Might's well be comfortable, Sinunons. Nora, 
toss us a couple of those sofa pillows." 

Nora reached to the divan behind her and passed 
the cushions to George. He arranged one to his 
satisfaction before raising his hand to the combina- 
tion. 

"Plenty of time, isn't there?" Garth croaked 
anxiously. 

" Ought to be," George answered. " Every- 
thing's covered now. Didn't expect to find the 
watchman where we did though. If he hadn't been 
half asleep — Nora, maybe you doped him at sup- 
per. 

The girl gave no sign. She remained crouched 
at the side. She was like an animal, ready to spring 
at the first alarm. 

Garth was aware of an unusual tension himself. 



34 THE GRAY MASK 

It was not quite the suspense he had forecasted. 
Perhaps this sharing of criminal labor for the first 
time accounted for its nature. He appreciated the 
amount of courage demanded. He received, as it 
were, George's disturbing point of view of the 
moment. 

Garth had caught a new stanmiering quality in 
the man's voice. He wondered at the perspiration 
which bathed his face in spite of the comfortable 
temperature of the room. He studied the shoul- 
ders, squared as for an attack, momentarily expected. 
Only the fingers at their facile work displayed no 
emotion. 

Garth questioned if George always worked under 
this strain. Did any of the responsibility rest with 
this room? Since his first entrance over the pros- 
trate form of the watchman, since his first touch 
of those unyielding walls, he had himself exper- 
ienced a distaste for the apartment. This may 
have been accounted for in part by that single, 
brilliant shaft of light, which, illuminating the nest 
of this perilous booty, deepened the shadows else- 
where. 

Garth could make out little. His eyes failed to 
explore the corners, succeeded only in reaching the 
divan and one or two easy chairs — furniture alto- 
gether incongruous in a chemist's laboratory. 

Although the water streamed from George^s face, 
he saw the man shiver. It started an expository 
train of thought. The last time this job had been 
attempted Kridel had been killed — in this house. 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 35 

almost certainly In this room. He recalled the su- 
perstitious fears of many criminals. Perhaps that 
accounted in a degree for the other^s bared nerves. 

" May take time," George jerked out again. " If 
I could only use a drill and a touch of nitro." 

He whistled softly. 

'^ None of that rough business here. Good 
Lord, Simmons, don't let that stuff go off." 

Nora leaned forward. 

" Scared, George? " 

The question brought fire. 

^^ Show me anybody else who'd do this stunt with 
more nerve." 

^' Slim must think a lot of you to put you at it 



twice." 



" What do you mean by that? " 

"Didn't you fall down on it last time?" 

" Ask Slim," he said shortly. " This is the time 
I'm interested in, and if we pull it off — " 

He reached over, tapping the mahogany with 
ritual precaution. 

" If we pull it off, Nora, you're going to quit 
fooling with me. I've dangled a long time, and 
we'll have plenty of money then." 

Physical greed for a moment drove the uneasiness 
from his eyes. 

" Maybe, when I get the door open, you'll give me 
that kiss I've been waiting for." 

Garth felt shame that he had the impulse to risk 
his mission for this woman he should have loathed. 
He wanted to take the burly, glistening throat be* 



36 THE GRAY MASK 

tween his hands. He controlled himself with an 
effort. But he could not experience for the girl 
that just loathing. 

She had altered subtly. At George's question 
her form had lost its alertness and had assumed 
the unyielding lines of a somnambulist ; and her voice 
had the colorless tone of one who speaks out of a 
dream. 

" Maybe when you get it open, George. Time 
enough to think of that then. Fm not so sure you'll 
open it. I'm not so sure of your nerve." 

" Wait and see," he said. " You're a pretty one 
to talk about nerve. You look as though you'd seen 
a ghost." 

She sank back in a heap. She screened her face 
with her hands. George stared. 

" Now what — " 

** Don't say that, George," she whispered. 
" Not here. Ever since I've been in this room — 
it — it doesn't feel right." 

She trembled. 

" Hurry! I'm afraid here." 

" Hold the light up," he said roughly. " What's 
the matter with you? This isn't a graveyard." 

He resumed his manipulation of the knob. Garth 
noticed that from time to time he glanced quickly 
over his shoulder at the somber corners of the room. 

Nora had, to a certain extent, startled Garth. 
Her barely audible words still breathed disquiet- 
ingly in his ears. They had been like a bow drawn 
across a string too tightly stretched. 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 37 

She kept her face hidden now while George 
worked. The only sound was the muffled clicking 
of the balls in the combination; the only light, the 
shaft from the lamp which she held unsteadily. The 
thought of the steel walls added to the oppression 
of the air. Garth breathed with difficulty. He 
fancied once that something moved behind the 
divan. George caught his start and demanded an 
explanation. He scolded querulously. 

" Well," Garth croaked, " I agree with the lady. 
I don't like the room." 

'^ I looked around," George said. 

Nora lowered her arms. 

" George," she said, '^ sometimes you can't see 
everything." 

She straightened. That disquieting, colorless 
whisper came again. 

'^ I know what it is. That cop was killed here, 
wasn't he? " 

"What do I know about it?" he asked angrily. 

She leaned closer and grasped his arm. 

" Right here, George. And if he — It must 
have been just like this — this time of night — when 
he — George 1 Can't we turn on the lights ? " 

He swallowed hard. 

** Why not send out a call for the patrol? What 
do you mean, if he — " 

She shivered. 

" I don't like places where people have died hard. 
That's what I felt when I came in here. But you — 
you're not afraid?" 



38 THE GRAY MASK 

He turned momentarily from his work. He 
tried with indifferent success to fill his voice with 
challenge. Afterwards he looked up expectantly as 
though he was far from certain the challenge might 
not be accepted. 

'^Afraid! A man with a red heart afraid of 
dead ones! They never come back." 

" Don't say that. I know. My mother told me 
such things. She was Italian. She knew. She 
saw. George, don't say that. It's like cursing the 
dead. And he lay right there, didn't he, George, 
between you and the safe? That's why Slim 
stayed outside. Maybe Slim killed him. I want to 
go, too. Let Sinunons hold the lamp." 

** No," George said. " That thing he wears 
isn't human company. You stay." 

Garth wondered that in that fantastic light the 
girl's, manner should set a cold anxiety rippling 
along his own nerves. He looked with an unna- 
tural curiosity at the place which she had indicated. 

Evidently she had yielded to an excess of terror. 
In spite of George's command she was trying to pass 
the lamp to Garth. It slipped from her fingers, 
and the white shaft circled swiftly downwards. She 
caught the handle before it reached the floor, but 
now the only light in the room was a narrow circle 
which bored into the carpet and exposed a dark, 
irregular stain. 

Nora cried chokingly. 

" Blood 1 George 1 That's his blood 1 " 

Cursing, George reached forward, caught her 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 39 

arm, and swung the light away from this desolate 
reminder of tragedy. 

" No wonder I " she whispered. ** No wonder 
Slim didn't have the nerve to come back and do 
those same things. HeM have seen the man he'd 
killed between him and his work." 

Garth could scarcely catch her voice. 

'' If I thought you had that much nerve, George, 
I might — I believe I might — ^" 

She broke off abruptly. George stared at her, 
then turned back and fumbled for the knob. 

" Try to keep the light steady, Nora." 

There was a beseeching, child-like quality in his 
tone. He worked with difficulty now. His hands 
were no longer perfect mechanical tools. They 
wavered about the knob. His lips twitched. 
Perspiration thickened on his face. Garth saw 
drops glitter and fall slowly to the stained carpet. 

Garth caught himself paradoxically wishing 
George to hurry. For a moment he was relieved 
when a new sound came from the combination, and 
George with a sigh turned the handle. 

" Ready to open," he said. 

He swung on Nora. 

"Talk about Slim! Crying, Nora? Good 
Lord—" 

" Don't, George," she said. " If I half close my 
eyes I can see him through my tears, lying here in 
the shadows. Can't you ? " 

He clasped his arms about her. He hid his eyes 
in her hair. 



40 THE GRAY MASK 

" Hush," he said hoarsely. " And, while Sim- 
mons does his work, give me that kiss." 

Garth's fingers reached out, then he thought of 
the frayed piece of paper possibly in the inspector's 
hands and already urging the night to a successful 
climax. This anguish, too, he must suffer. So he 
drew back profoundly shaken. 

Nora, however, was protecting her lips. 

" You promised — " George began. 

" I said if you had that much nerve. But I know 
you haven't. Even if you had croaked him you 
wouldn't dare acknowledge it here. Why, George, 
you're kneeling where he lay." 

He threw back his shoulders. He laughed 
demonstratively. 

" What difference does that make? I'm kneeling 
to you. And let Slim rave. I'll give you your 
price. You needn't be ashamed to kiss me, Nora. 
It wasn't Slim. I did it. The cop jumped me 
from behind that sofa, and I let him have the 
knife." 

He raised his lips expectantly. 

Garth didn't understand at first. He only real- 
ized with a savage joy that their lips did not touch. 
Yet he questioned why the big man, instead of an- 
swering the temptation of that mouth, half-open and 
inviting, drooped backwards until he lay stretched 
on the floor. 

George's cry in his ears aroused him, and he saw 
in the reeling, drunken shaft of light that blood 
flowed and joined the ancient stain in the carpet. 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 41 

He arose. He knew what that scream would un- 
loose upon them. 

Springing backward, he grasped the handle of 
the safe and opened the doors. 

" Nora," he whispered. " Come here." 

She obeyed him with mechanical precision; but 
when he took the lamp from her listless hand, turn- 
ing it upward to examine her face, he read in her 
eyes awakening realization and horror. 

He snapped off the light. Still grasping her 
hand, he seated himself on the floor with his back 
to the open safe. He drew her down. For a mo- 
ment he thought she would resist, then she yielded 
and sank passively to the cushion at his side. 

"Why?" she asked. 

" They will be here," he said. " There is no 
way out except through that door which they will 
use. It is safer to wait here. Why don't they 
come ? " 

" They are careful," she whispered back. " They 
will come slowly. They will take no chances." 

He felt the quick shaking of her body. 

" I know what I have done," she said, ** what 
I have done to you." 

He realized that his hand still grasped hers. He 
released it gently. 

" I understand a little," he answered, " but if 
you cared enough to accomplish this madness for 
him, you should have been even less kind to me than 
you were this afternoon." 

** Perhaps," she answered. " Oh, I don't know. 



42 THE GRAY MASK 

I don't know. I was so young. I loved him so 
much, and my father said his murderer would never 
be punished — justice must fail. Maybe it was my 
Italian blood, but I swore over his body the day 
they buried him that, if there was no other way, 
I would get justice for the poor boy. We were 
practically certain it was this gang. I said nothing 
to my father. Through a girl I had helped I met 
Slim. It pleased his vanity to have a spy at head- 
quarters. I made him trust me. But I couldn't 
find out who — Yet sooner or later I knew the time 
would come. That's why I worked so hard for 
to-night, why I wouldn't let anything interfere, be- 
cause I thought in this room — Well 1 You see — 
Listen! " 

She breathed hard for a moment. 

" Since I've known you I've doubted, but I 
couldn't turn back. You despise me, Jim, but in 
a way I have done good. I made them respect me. 
I have restrained them. I think, because I have 
been with them, I have saved lives. And always 
I had planned at the end to punish them as they 
deserved. But now — in a trap. We're like mice 
in a trap, Jim. I've done that to you. They'll find 
me out now, and what's behind the mask, too. 
They'll kill us both. They'll have to. Listen 1 " 

" We'll make a fight of it, Nora," he said grimly. 
" No matter what I do, trust me." 

"Hushl" she breathed. "I think the door is 
open." 



IN THE STEEL ROOM 43 

^' Pm going to flash the light," he answered. 

" No. I know they are here. I know they are 
in the room. I hear — " 

He snapped the button. The white shaft pierced 
the darkness. Nora had been right. Slim and 
three others with ready revolvers were half way 
across the room. Garth put his finger to his lips. 

" Sh — h," he said. " Wait 1 Don't come any 
closer." 

"What's wrong, Simmons?" Slim whipped out. 
"Who called? That's George. What—" 

** He got fresh with the girl," Garth answered. 

Slim waited, taking in the details of the tableau, 
weighing Garth's words and manner, studying 
Nora's collapsed figure and its proximity to Garth's. 

" You're bluffing, Sinunons," he said at last. 
** I'm after facts now. Toss up your hands." 

He raised his revolver, aiming at Garth's body. 
Nora gave a little cry. Garthr laughed. 

" You don't quite understand," he answered 
slowly, " and you're usually so observant. Slim. 
Look around. The safe is open behind us. Your 
bullets would clip through Nora and me into those 
sacks of army destroyers. What then? So you 
won't be surprised when I take my hands down." 

He lowered them. He took his own revolver 
from his pocket. 

" But," he went on, " there's nothing behind you 
but a steel wall, and if one of you comes a step 
closer I'll shoot." 



44 THE GRAY MASK 

The four gathered together, whispering, Inaud- 
i'bly to Garth; but this tense grouping, this excited 
council warned him of their only possible answer. 

" If you try to rush me," he cried, " or if you 
try to get out of the room, I'll turn the revolver 
on the safe and blow the whole lot of us to powder 
in this pleasant steel shell." 

Slim turned, white-faced. 

"You wouldn't have the nerve," he said. 
*' After all, you're a bull." 

" Just to show you," Garth answered quietly, 
*' I'll put the whole pack on the table. You've 
called the turn, Slim. I'm that." 

He snatched the mask from his face, and took a 
police whistle from his pocket. He raised it to his 
lips. He blew a call which he felt would penetrate 
beyond these steel walls. It was the first unre- 
strained sound the room had heard that night. It 
thrilled Garth. It was like a tonic. He laughed 
outright. 

'* No more fighting in the dark. Thank Godl " 

The four men stared with the helpless rage, the 
abandoned suffering of snared animals. 



CHAPTER IV 

GARTH BUYS A BOUTO.NNiI:RE 

GARTH wondered if relief would ever come. 
He was afraid that the slip of frayed white 
paper must have gone astray. Otherwise, 
it seemed to him, it would have brought help even 
before he had sounded his shrill alarm. 

He glanced at Nora. She had placed her hand 
on his arm. She gazed at the open door. 

" I thought I heard — " 

Then Garth heard, too — a tramping in the 
house, a struggle outside the door, a voice whose 
roar betrayed excitement and triumph. 

"Where's Garth?" 

The door filled with men in uniform. 

Nora covered her face with her hands and turned 
away. With a start Garth grasped the reason. 
Planning vaguely, he arose and leaned over the 
prostrate figure of George. The man breathed. 
The wound was in the shoulder and appeared of 
little real consequence. He straightened to find the 
inspector standing over him with a look of pleas- 
ure. It hurt Garth to think of that expression's 
vanishing for one of unbelief and revolt. 

" This fellow will stand his trial," he said. 

45 



46 THE GRAY MASK 

He added gently : 

" For the murder of Joe Kridel. It was here, 
you know.*' 

The inspector puffed. 

" Garth, I'm proud of you." 

His eye caught the figure of Nora, crouched 
against the safe. His voice grew hard and busi- 
ness-like. 

".Bring that woman here." 

Slim, bound and at the door, laughed. 

Garth grasped the inspector's arm. 

"Don't," he said. "Don't bother about her. 
Let her go." 

But the inspector strode to the safe, raised Nora, 
and drew her hands from her face. 

He gasped and leaned heavily against the divan. 
All at once he appeared old. 

Garth sprang to his side. He knew the inspector 
must not speak now. 

" rU tell you," he cried. " You have to thank 
Nora as much as me." 

He glanced at the girl. 

" That is, we put it over together. It was a 
winning combination, but we didn't have the nerve 
to put you wise." 

The color rushed back to Nora's cheeks, but the 
inspector's face did not alter. He looked doubt- 
fully from one to the other. At last he seemed to 
gather his emotions in a volley of wrath for Garth. 

" You dragged a woman in this I You ought to 



GARTH BUYS A BOUTONNlfeRE 47 

be horsewhipped. Dragging my daughter into this 
hell!" 

Garth took the girl's hand. 

" Cheer up, chief," he said, ** because if you and 
she would only let me I'd drag her into a lot worse 
than that." 

He turned to her anxiously. There were tears 
in her eyes. He questioned if they had sprung from 
pity for him. She touched his hand. He looked 
away, for the quick pressure expressed only thanks, 
and a friendship troubled by his persistence. 

During the next few days Garth saw little of 
Nora, meeting her only once or twice by chance in 
her father's office. He was not inclined, indeed, 
to urge a more intimate opportunity. He had let 
her see rather too much of his heart, and he shrank 
from an appearance of seeking advantage from her 
gratitude. 

That gratitude existed abundantly, and the in* 
spector shared it. The affair of the gray mask had 
altered a good deal for Garth. It had placed him 
all at once apart from his fellows in the bureau. 
The newspaper publicity, which, unlike most of hia 
kind, he would have preferred to avoid, had swept 
his reputation far beyond the boundaries of his own 
city. He acknowledged a benefit in that. Such 
notoriety might deter the desire for revenge of any 
of the friends of Slim and George who remained at 
large. 



48 THE GRAY MASK 

A very real danger for Nora and himself lay 
there. It created, too, a tie that the inspectoc 
visualized with an increasing friendliness and con- 
fidence. 

" If Slim and George go to the chair," the big 
man said on one of those mornings when Garth had 
stumbled into Nora in the office, " you two are prob- 
ably safe enough. With those birds salted away 
the weaker brothers aren't likely to take any wild 
chances, at least until the thing has been pretty well 
forgotten." 

Apprehension clouded his sleepy eyes. 

^' But, young people, if Slim and George escaped 
conviction or managed a getaway, I'd look for a 
new first-class detective, and — " 

He took Nora's hand and studied her face, whose 
dark beauty remained unafraid. 

'* I guess I'd need another daughter, which I 
couldn't very well have." 

He laughed brusquely. 

" Slim and George are tight enough now, so why 
borrow trouble." 

Garth saw the foreboding of his chief's eyes turn 
to curiosity, a trifle groping. 

" Wish you'd kept out of it, daughter." 

" Don't scold," she laughed. " You did enough 
of that the other night." 

" I'm not," he grumbled, " I'm only wondering 
where you got the nerve, and the brains." 

" Some from you, father." 

^* Not as much as all that. I guess your mother 



GARTH BUYS A BOUTONNlfeRE 49 

gave you a little that we hum-drum New Yorkers 
don^t quite understand.'* 

" If," Garth said, " anything develops, ** you'll 
have to send Nora away/' 

" If there's time," the inspector agreed. 

He turned back to his papers, shaking his head. 

It is, perhaps, as well, when one fears, that the 
march of routine brings new and destructive de- 
mands. It was only a few days afterwards that 
Garth and Nora were involved in events that drove 
their minds for the time from the threat, which they 
should never have quite lost sight of. Yet the Elm- 
ford murder didn't leave room in one's mind for 
much else. 

On the afternoon before that tragedy Garth, leav- 
ing headquarters, made an unaccustomed purchase. 
Not long ago such affectation would have appealed 
to his sturdy, straightforward mind of a detective 
as trivial, possibly unmasculine. He reddened as 
he handed his ten cents to the shapeless Italian 
woman whose fingers about his coat lapel were con- 
fusingly deft. He had no illusions as to the source 
of this foppish prompting. The inspector had 
called him in and told him that Nora would welcome 
him at the flat for dinner that evening. The event 
appeared a milestone on the amorous path he sought 
to explore hand in hand with the girl. He realized 
his desired destination was not yet in view, but such 
progress required a deviation from the familiar — 
some peculiar concession to its significance. So he 
turned away from the cheap sidewalk stand, wear- 



50 THE GRAY MASK 

ing, for the first time in his life, a flower in his 
button hole — a rose of doubtful future and un- 
aristocratic lineage. 

Before following Garth with his blushing decora- 
tion it is serviceable to know what happened at 
Elmford. 



CHAPTER V 

WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 

THAT night on the edge of winter it was 
thoroughly dark when Dr. John Randall left 
New York for his Long Island home. Trev- 
ing had unexpectedly detained him at the club. The 
interview had evidently projected more than the 
unforeseen, for RandalFs habitual calm, which car- 
ried even to his hours of relaxation a perpetual 
flavor of the professional, was suddenly destroyed 
by the color and the lines of a passionate inde- 
cision. He crossed the Queensborough bridge and 
threaded the Long Island city streets with a reckless 
disregard of traffic which probably went undisci- 
plined only because of the green cross on the radia- 
tor of his automobile. 

His house, although just within the city limits, 
had an air, particularly under this wan starlight, 
remote and depressing. It stood in wide grounds 
not far from the water. Heavy trees, which clus- 
tered near, appeared to shroud it. 

The doctor, scarcely slackening speed, swung his 
car through the gateway and glided up the drive. 
At the turn the house rose before him, square, 
frowning, black. It was only after a moment that 
a nebulous radiance from a curtained window up- 

SI 



52 THE GRAY MASK 

stairs defined itself as light. Usually there was 
much light and the companionable racket of a busy 
household. 

RandalFs hands trembled while he arranged the 
levers and shut off the engine. Yet the radiance, 
at last, was somewhat reassuring. 

He sprang out, and nearly running, stumbling a 
little, climbed the steps, crossed the verandah, and 
pushed the electric button. From far away the re- 
sponse echoed as through an empty house. No 
sound of hurrying feet followed it. Randall, after 
waiting for a moment, took out his latch-key and 
entered. 

Because of his impatience he didn't stop to fumble 
for the switch. Instead he flung his hat haphazard 
through the darkness, felt his way across the hall, 
and climbed the stairs. 

" Bella I " he called. 

Immediately the relieving answer came : 

" Here — in my dressing-room, John. Why arc 
you so late? " 

He leant weakly against the wall. 

" I was detained. What's the matter? '' 

" Why don't you come in? " she asked. 

He straightened and opened the door. The 
light, shining upon his face, showed it still scarred 
by anger and indecision. The relief of finding his 
wife at home and safe was not, then, wholly cura- 
tive. 

He closed the door behind him and stared at her, 
lying in a reading-chair, a book open on her knees. 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 53 

her dark and lovely face upraised to him, expectant, 
questioning, a trifle startled. 

" Where are all the servants? " he demanded. 

She stirred. The youthful fluency of her body in 
the mauve dressing gown nMist have impressed it- 
self upon the excited man by the door. 

" I had to let myself in. I — Not a light. It 
frightened me." 

** You've forgotten," she answered. " We talked 
it over a week or so ago, and I thought you had 
agreed. Ellen's wedding. Naturally they all 
wanted to go. I had an early dinner and packed 
them off. But I counted on you. I was growing 
afraid, all alone in the house. What kept you?" 

" Old Mrs. Hanson — at first. She's very ill. 
I should really have stayed the night. I went to 
the club for a bite — ^" 

He broke off. He walked closer, looking down 
into her eyes which did not quite meet his. 

" At the club — I knew I must come home to- 
night. I — I sent your cousin, Tom Redding, to 
Mrs. Hanson." 

Her eyes wavered even more. 

"Why? That isn't like you to — to turn a 
critical case over to another man. I could have 
managed. Anyway, you'd forgotten about my 
maid's wedding. So it wasn't that. What — 
what happened at the club? " 

She shivered for a moment uncontrollably. 

" John I What's the matter ? Why do you glare 
at me like that? Why do you look so — so — " 



54 THE GRAY MASK 

She tried to laugh. 

" So — murderous ? " 

His face worked. 

" Bella," he said, " I've not been altogether blind 
about you and Treving." 

She exclaimed impatiently, but her shiver was re- 
peated, and the uncertainty of her voice lingered. 

" You're not going to commence on that ! " 

He brushed her interruption aside. 

" But Treving's seemed a decent enough sort in 
spite of the way he spends his money and his Broad- 
way record, and, you see, Bella, I've always trusted 
you unquestioningly." 

"And now? Tell me what you're driving at, 
John. I won't put up — " 

She sprang to her feet, facing him, wide-eyed, 
furious, yet, one would have suspected, not com- 
pletely free from apprehension. 

Randall touched her arm. 

" Don't work yourself up, Bella. You know. 
I've tqld you. It's bad for you." 

" What do you expect, when you insinuate — ^" 

"What have I insinuated, provided your con- 
science's clear?" 

He urged her back to the chair. 

" It's just this : we must talk it out. I've a right 
to know how far this folly's gone — what it por- 
tends, so that I can take measures of defence for 
myself and for my wife." 

She yielded and sat down, but now she bent for- 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 55 

ward, her hands clasped at her knees to prevent 
their trembling. 

Randall clearly made an effort to speak normally. 
His tone had resumed its professional quality. It 
was, in a sense, soothing, but the power of the words 
themselves could not be diminished, and, as he went 
on, her emotions strayed farther and farther from 
the boundaries she had plainly tried to impose. 

" I overheard," he said. " It was Delafield and 
Ross. I went to Ross. I felt I knew him well 
enough. My dear! It's conmion scandal — much 
worse, ril do you the credit of saying, than the 
facts. YouVe been seen with Treving in cafes of 
doubtful reputation, and out here on Long Island, 
at some of these unspeakable road houses — " 

He turned away. 

" People aren't kind at construing those things. 
He was a damned scoundrel to take you to such 
places." 

" I'll judge that," she said. " If it's all you have 
to charge me with ! " 

"Isn't it enough? Good God! How indis- 
creet!" 

" Then why not tell all this to Freddy Treving? " 
she asked. 

The lines about his mouth tightened. 

" Treving," he said with an affectation of sim- 
plicity, " came into the club while I was talking with 
Ross. He had been drinking — a great deal. I 
didn't realize it at first — it's quite necessary you 



S6 THE GRAY MASK 

should hear this — so I took him out in the hall 
and tried to talk to him reasonably. I told him 
it must stop — any friendship between him and you." 

She glanced up tempestuously. 

" I'll not have my friendships questioned." 

" Fm sorry, Bella. YouVe placed this one be- 
yond your own control. You made me speak to 
Treving. It was the only thing to do. And he 
was impertinent, defiant. As I told you, he had 
been drinking, but that didn't explain his astound- 
ing assurance. I don't want to do you an injustice, 
but I couldn't help fearing his confidence was based 
on an understanding with you." 

"John I You're mad I" 

" No. I think it's Treving who's a little mad as 
well as drunk." 

He studied her face morosely. 

" I told him, if I heard of his coming near you 
again or communicating with yoy in any way, I would 
thrash him within an inch of his life. Bella, he 
laughed at me." 

His eyes left hers. A look of utter discourage- 
ment entered them. He spoke slowly, with un- 
natural distinctness. 

" Treving offered to lay me any stakes he'd spend 
this evening with you without my knowing." 

His eyes remained averted. Perhaps he didn't 
dare risk the vital testimony hers might have yielded. 

Her voice was sharp. 

" Treving said that ? " 

He nodded. 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 57 

*' But I don^t think he'll succeed. And I warned 
him as he deserved. You may as well make up 
your mind, Bella, that that incident is finished." 

" On the contrary,'' she answered, " it's only be- 
gun. 

He swung around and bent over her, grasping 
her shoulders, shaking her slightly. 

" Unless, Bella — unless — " 

His hands tightened until she cried out. 

" That's why, when I saw the house dark, I was 
afraid you'd gone. Did you and he know about 
old Mrs. Hanson? Have you any arrangement 
with him for tonight? " 

She pressed her lips together. Blood congested 
her cheeks. 

He shook her more deterrfiinedly. 

** Answer. You have to answer that." 

Her lips parted. 

** Take your hands away." 

" Bella ! You can't keep quiet. Sec how you're 
racking me I Answer." 

Somewhere in the house a bell commenced to 
jangle, and continued, irritatingly, insistently. 

She grasped his wrists and pushed his hands aside. 

" You've gone rather too far," she whispered. 

** I've a right. Answer. Was there an arrange- 
ment ? Did you expect him here tonight while I 
struggled in town ? " 

The discordant jangling appeared to enter his 
consciousness. He sprang back, listening. 

** That might — By gad, if it were I " 



58 THE GRAY MASK 

** It's the telephone," she said, " in the library-" 

"Why isn't it answered? Oh, yes. You might 
have kept Thompson at least. Let it ring. I shan't 
go down." 

" A doctor I " she said scornfully. 

She arose with an effort. The lace of the mauve 
dressing-gown exaggerated the difficulty of her 
breathing. His glance, which took all this in, was 
not wholly without contrition. 

" Answer it," she said. ** I shan't fly from the 
house to any man's arms while you are in the li- 
brary." 

He half stretched out his hand to her, but the 
appealing motion resolved itself into a gesture of 
despair. He walked out and descended to the 
library. 

After a moment the discordant bell was silent. 
The murmur of his voice, moment by moment in- 
terrupted, arose through the quiet house to this 
single lighted chamber. 

She stood for a time by the door, listening. Once 
or twice she placed her hand above her heart. At 
last she turned back and gazed through the narrow 
door to the next room where a yellow ribbon of 
illumination from the reading light draped itself 
across her bed. Her face set in the cruel distortion 
that precedes tears, but at the sound of her hus- 
band's returning footsteps it resumed a semblance 
of control. No tears fell. 

"WeU?" she asked. 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 59 

His face was haggard, confessing greater sus- 
pense than before. 

"The Hansons' butler," he said. "I — I'm 
afraid the old lady's off this time. Redding had 
told him to get me. They sent the chauffeur some 
time ago with a fast car. Man said he ought to be 
here." 

He paused, searching her face in an agony of 
indecision. 

"Well?" she repeated. 

"Bella," he went on. "Won't you tell me? 
Won't you promise ? That old woman — for years 
she's depended on me. I could do more for her 
than Redding. I might help her — a little — " 

" Of course you'll go," she said. 

He spread his arms. 

" How can I go, knowing nothing, imagining 
everything. Tell me. Was there an arrangement 
with that beast? Bella, he'd been drinking. He's 
unfit — " 

She raised her hand. 

" You only make matters worse. John, you've 
done your best to make me despise you, to urge me 
to Freddy Treving. For, understand, I do care for 
Jiim — a great deal. There's been nothing really 
wrong, but evidently you're not content it should stop 
at friendship. We can settle what's to be done 
tomorrow. Meantime — you've put me in such a 
position! What am I to say? " 

She shrugged her shoulders. 



6o THE GRAY MASK 

" Go to your work, I've no arrangement with 
Freddy. I don't expect him here. If he came I 
shouldn't let him in. Your honor is safe enough 
in my hands for tonight. Does that satisfy you ? " 

Her tone had a merciless lashing quality. He 
bowed his head before it. His words stumbled. 

" I trust you, Bella. I'm sorry." 

" Then go. In the morning — " 

She waved her hand vaguely. 

" We'll arrange — something." 

His eyes begged, but, she offered nothing more. 
So he went out, closing the door softly behind him. 

Almost immediately he heard the sound of a 
motor. He couldn't find his hat. The front door 
bell rang, and, snatching an ancient cap from the 
table, he opened the door. No one stood in the 
verandah, but the glare of powerful automobile 
headlights blinded him. 

*^ You're Mrs. Hanson's chauffeur? " he called. 

An indistinct voice came back affirmatively. 
Randall caught the word " hurry." Therefore he 
ran down the steps, and, his eyes still blinded by 
the glare, stepped into a large runabout and settled 
himself by the driver. 

They swung away at a breakneck speed which 
before long swept Randall's cap from his head and 
forced him to cling with both hands to the side of 
the car. 

The landscape tore up through the glare and dis- 
appeared in a dense and terrifying confusion of dark- 
ness. 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 6i 

" Man ! " he shouted. " This is dangerous. 
There^s no point in such haste.'* 

He managed to turn, but the other had protected 
himself against the cold by rolling his collar up 
about his face and drawing his slouch hat down 
to meet it. 

'^ Slower I '' Randall conunanded. 

The car swerved. The other cried hoarsely: 

"Look out I Hold tight!" 

Randall clung, but the car kept the road. Ito 
speed was all at once reduced. With a disconcerting 
jerk it came to a standstill. As Randall, trying to 
recover his balance, started to speak angrily, some- 
thing soft and blinding struck his face and enveloped 
his head. His hands, raised purposelessly, were 
caught and pinioned. The cloth suddenly became 
moist and a familiar odor arose. The other laughed 
as he fastened a cord about the arms and body. 
Randall gasped. His bound limbs relaxed. 

The driver turned the car, and, with one arm 
around the senseless doctor, drove in leisurely fash- 
ion back towards Elmford. 

Hidden among the undergrowth at some distance 
from the house stood a small, partly ruined stone 
building, used once, from the water flowing nearby, 
as a spring house. The driver carried Randall to 
the interior of this building and placed him on the 
floor. Lighting a match, he glanced around. 

The unfinished walls were mottled with the melan- 
choly vegetation which takes hold in places where 
the sun is forbidden. Drops of water oozed from 



62 THE GRAY MASK 

the stones. The earth yielded to the pressure of 
feet soggily. 

The man raised his hat higher on his forehead and 
lowered his coat collar, exposing a face that was 
handsome in a weak and flippant way. He grinned 
rather foolishly now at his victim, outstretched on 
the damp floor. He swayed a trifle, steadied him- 
self with an effort, then, as the glow of the match 
expired, bent over and thrust his hand in RandalPs 
pocket. 

He drew out a key ring. He struck another 
match and ran quickly over the ring until he had 
found the key he desired. This he slipped from 
the ring into his own pocket and returned the rest 
to Randall's coat. 

On the point of leaving, he hesitated, and with a 
resolute air stooped and removed the cloth from 
Randall's head and the cord from the body. After- 
wards he took a small bottle from his pocket, forced 
the unconscious man's lips open and poured a quan- 
tity of the fluid down his throat. Evidently the 
doctor would sleep thoroughly and for a long 
time. 

When he had gathered up the cloth, the rope, and 
the bottle, the man left the stone building, laughing 
with a satisfaction that was not wholly vicious. In 
spite of the anger his face had displayed the situa- 
tion for him possessed at least a tiny element of 
humour. 

He secreted the compromising bundle beneath a 
large stone in the bed of the stream. 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 63 

" Put it over," he muttered. *' People'!! say tlie 
o!d boy was off his head or's a reason why we had to 
have prohibition." 

His !urch was more pronounced as he wa!ked to 
the car, and his manner !ess confident as he drove 
on to the house. 

He a!ighted and, steadying himse!f against the 
mud-guard, gazed at the darlc, forbidding facade 
in which that diffused and indeterminate radiance 
a!one suggested habitation. 

After a time he straightened, climbed the steps, 
and crossed the verandah. He fe!t in his poclcet 
for the latch-Icey he had talcen from Randa!!, in- 
serted It in the !oc!c, and noiselessly opened the door. 
He was very careful to see that the door did not 
latch behind him. He placed the key on the hall 
table. He folded his coat and laid it with his cap 
on a chair. Stealthily he advanced along the dark 
and silent hall to the stairway. 

At the sound of his automobile Bella had half 
arisen. She waited attentively, but when for some 
time no sound followed, she walked to the window, 
raised it, and leaned out, striving unsuccessfully to 
penetrate the heavy night. 

A board creaked in the corridor outside her door. 

She swung around, her hand at her throat. 

" John I " 

Complete silence followed. Unless something 
out of all reckoning had occurred, her husband could 
not be back. None of the servants would have 
used an automobile. Then who prowled about the 



64 THE GRAY MASK 

ualighted house and hesitated In the vicinity of her 
door? 

"John!" 

The formlessness of her cry unveiled her fear. 

The knob moved. Inch by Inch the door opened, 
and, Inch by Inch, as If Impelled hy a perfectly con« 
trolled Impulse from the door widening on the In- 
truder, she retreated until the wall held her. 

" Freddy I " she gasped. 

He stepped In and closed the door. It could 
scarcely have been apparent to her all at once how 
much he had been drinking, for, although his face 
was flushed, the event justified that, and he had evi- 
dently forced on himself for the moment a supreme 
control. Yet her relief was short-lived. To be 
sure she could leave the wall and advance to meet 
him, yet, as If the room possessed a phonographic 
equality, it was still loud with her husband's anxiety 
and her own contemptuous promises. 

" What are you doing here ? How did you get 
In? Go before — This Is out of the question." 

His hand left the knob. 

" It's all right, Bella. Needn't be afraid. Ran- 
dall's out of the way. He won't bother us tonight." 

"Then you know about Mrs. Hanson?" she 
asked. 

He nodded sagely. 

" I know a lot." 

" You can't stay here," she said. " Go." 

He stretched out his hands. 

"Then you shall come with me. That's the 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 65 

scheme. Been In the back of my head all along. 
We'll show a clean pair of heels. Time something: 
definite happened. Bella! — you know — how I 
love you.'' 

A slight impediment, unfamiliar to the startled 
woman, made itself noticeable in his voice. His* 
control was limited. Already his true condition dis- 
closed itself. Fear as powerful as that which had 
greeted his stealthy approach returned to her eyes. 

" You know I won't come with you, Freddy. 
•Perhaps later things will be arranged. John and 
I had a talk tonight." 

His face Miorked evilly. 

" He had a talk with me, too," he said. " It's 
come to a showdown. No use talking about wait- 
ing, Bella. It's now or never. You've held me off 
too long. Got to choose. We love each other." 

He advanced. She stepped behind the table. 

" Don't come any nearer, Freddy. What's the 
matter with you? " 

He laughed. 

*' Just you." 

He tapped the side pocket of his coat. 

*' By gad I I'd have killed him tonight to get to 
you if it had been necessary. That's what you've 
done to me, Bella." 

He reached across and grasped her arm. He 
held her tight while he glided around the table. A 
book fell to the floor, and another. A vase of roses 
toppled over and shattered musically. The flowers 
made brilliant patches on the dull carpet. 



66 THE GRAY MASK 

"Let me go. Listen, Freddy 1 We'll talk it 
over tomorrow — all three. I promised John I 
wouldn't see you tonight." 

"Tomorrow!" he laughed. "Too late. You 
don't know all I've done for this — a real sportin' 
proposition. I tell you it's now or never, and I'm 
mad about you." 

He got his arm around her. 

" You've got to let me keep my promise." 

Still laughing, he drew her closer. His flaming 
eyes were near. His breath was revolting on her 
cheeks. 

She struggled, gasping for words. 

" Let me go. You've been drinking. He 
said—" 

"He said!" he cried furiously. 

" What are you going to do? " she begged. 

As he flung her back against the table the side 
pocket of his unbuttoned coat flapped against her 
hand. 

" I'm not going to let you slip now, Bella." 

" Freddy ! You're killing me 1 " 

She put her hand in his pocket and snatched out 
an unpolished, stubby, evil cylinder with a square 
grip which perfectly fitted her hand. 

" Look out, Freddy ! You hurt ! " 

He laughed again. His lips, repulsive and cruel, 
crushed hers. Her smothered crying was bitter. 

An explosion, slightly mufiled, crowded the room 
with sound. Another followed. 



WHAT HAPPENED AT ELMFORD 67 

His lips, a moment ago masterful with unreason* 
ing vitality, no longer troubled her. 

" Freddy I " she sobbed. " I'm sorry — " 

He crumpled at her feet. 

Near the water, spilled from the vase of roses, 
a darker stain spread. 

She screamed. 

"What's the matter? Freddy 1 Vm sorry — 
Say something — Prayl " 

She stumbled to her knees by the dead man. Her 
desolate cries fled ceaselessly through the open win- 
dow. 



■* 7 • ■ ■ • ' ^ ■ ■ •* 






CHAPTER VI 

A CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 

GARTH the next day did not repeat his floral 
indiscretion. One experience had convinced 
him that practice is necessary to the success- 
ful threading of such by-ways. His rose, in fact, 
had disclosed its limitations even before he had 
reached the inspector's flat. On his entrance it had 
not adorned his coat. 

He read the brief and scarcely illuminating ac- 
count of the Elmford murder in the morning papers. 
Irritation at his own assignment — an unimportant 
case up-town — let it slip through his mind without 
arousing any exceptional interest. 

When he returned to the central office in the after- 
noon the doorman beckoned to him. 

" Inspector's been asking after you.'* 

Garth yawned. 

" All right. TeU him I'm here, Ed." 

After a moment the doorman called : 

" Inspector says, walk in." 

Garth went, and paused, ill-at-ease, just within 
the doorway. 

The huge man lolled in his chair. His quiet eyes 

fixed Garth genially. For once he failed to fidget 

68 



> 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 69 

with his desk paraphernalia. His rumbling voice 
was abnormally mild. 

Garth appreciated theser portents. They con- 
noted favoritism, but he traced that to the inspec- 
tor's love for his daughter, because he was too mod- 
est to place in the scales his own conspicuous virtues. 

" Come over here and sit down, Garth." 

Garth obeyed. 

" Thanks, inspector." 

The inspector's eyes twinkled. 

" Boys tell me you're a little sore on the jobs 
you've had since you smashed Slim and George and 
their favourites." 

Garth grew red. 

"There are old women everywhere," he said. 
" Nothing to do but talk." 

The inspector guffawed. 

" Ain't it so ? " 

" Incriminating question, chief." 

The other leaned forward. 

" I can't take chances with such a valuable man." 

He cleared his throat. 

"Were you thinking of paying your party call 
tonight? Because I've got to disappoint you. But 
I don't want to do that two ways. I can't see any- 
thing particularly dangerous about this job, but I'd 
like you to look it over this afternoon. It's the 
Elmford murder. Suppose you've read about it." 

" I glanced it over in the morning papers," Gi^trth 
answered^ " They were ajhort on dttaMhi." 

" There doesn't seem much to clear up," the in- 



70 THE GRAY MASK 

spector said, " except Dr. Randall's whereabouts* 
The men I sent out this morning haven't got a trace. 
Nothing's been heard from the ferries or the stations 
or out of town. Seems there ought to be some in- 
dication at the house for a sharp pair of eyes." 

" There's no doubt then," Garth asked, " that he 
killed Treving? " 

The inspector ran his hand through his hair. 

" Those must have been rotten papers you read," 
he answered. " Ask me if Cain killed Abel. Trev- 
ing's goings-on with Randall's wife have been com- 
mon gossip. The boys blushed about it in the clubs 
up town. Listen, Garth. I've found out things you 
won't get from any papers. Randall and Treving 
met at their club last night. Seems Randall had 
overheard some of this conversation. I've had a 
few of the high-hat crowd down here today, and one 
of the hall boys who heard what went on between 
Randall and Treving. Randall warned Treving 
away with threats. Treving lost his head and of- 
fered to bet he'd spend last evening with Mrs. Ran- 
dall." 

"Good Lord!" Garth exclaimed. "Was he 
drunk?" 

" Can't tell," the inspector said. " The boy 
thought he had been drinking, but he didn't believe 
he was drunk. That don't mean much. Nothing 
like a college education to teach a man how to carry 
his liquor. Anjrway, Randall came back with his 
own conviction. Swore he'd shoot Treving if such 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 71 

a thing came off. Well! Randall found Treving 
late last night in the lady's dressing-room." 

" Pretty bad," Garth agreed, " but IVe never 
thought threats were very satisfactory evidence." 

** Plenty of other evidence," the inspector an- 
swered. " Randall had stayed late in town. He 
must have driven up and found Treving's car by 
the verandah. They're both there now. Easy to 
understand how that sight fixed his resolution to 
kill. And the signs of the struggle are all over the 
room. He left in a hurry after he had shot him. 
He lost his hat off, rushing down the stairs. It's 
lying by the newel post. Mark my words. When 
we find Randall he'll have a new hat or none at all. 
He had enough sense not to try to make his getaway 
in his own machine or Treving's. That's why I'm 
putting you on the case. Garth. You know what a 
pipe it is to round up these amateur criminals. I 
tell you this fellow's clever." 

Garth considered. 

" That's clear enough evidence," he said at last, 
"if the woman — ? But I suppose she refuses to 
open her mouth." 

The inspector's rapid fingering of his paper-cutter 
confessed his annoyance. His small eyes narrowed. 

" Wish I knew if she's acting. She's been prac- 
tically off her head ever since that motor cop found 
her kneeling over the body, screaming fit to — to 
wake the dead. Nothing but hysterics all night and 
day. Jones reports she's had some nervous trouble 



72 THE GRAY MASK 

— something about the heart. Her cousin, another 
doctor, is with her. You know I hate to make a 
wife testify. Got to be done though when she comes 
around. That's about all, Garth. Run out there 
and see if you can hit RandalPs trail.'' 

Garth arose. 

'* Seems simple, chief. Any dope on the 
gun?"^ 

The inspector shook his head. 

'' One of these deadly automatics it ought to be 
a felony to have around. Natural enough for a 
doctor to carry one." 

He grinned. 

" Got to kill their patients one way or another." 

** Nothing been disturbed ? " Garth asked. 

"No. They've taken Treving away, but the 
room's just as it was when they were found." 

Garth moved towards the door. 

" I know you'll bring Randall in," the inspector 
called. 

" I'll do my best," Garth answered. 

He hurried through the outer office. Perhaps the 
inspector was right and the case promised no unusual 
excitement, but at least it possessed interest. 

It was late in the afternoon when he reached the 
station near Elmford. He inquired the way from 
the agent. 

" It's about ten minutes' walk," the man replied. 
" Maybe you're a reporter or a cop? Say, there's 
no mystery about that case. Any word of the doc- 
tor?" 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 73 

Garth smiled discreetly. He disentangled him- 
self from the agent's curiosity and set off along a 
road bordered by unlovely suburban dwellings. 

These soon gave way to fields and hedges which 
in turn straggled into a miniature forest. Just be- 
yond that the gateway opened to the left. Garth 
walked through and up to the secluded house. He 
glanced at the two automobiles, near each other in 
the drive. 

A tired-looking man in plain clothes lounged in 
the verandah. Another with a languid air paced 
up and down at the side. They became animated 
and converged on Garth, anxious to know if the 
inspector had got any word of Randall. 

While he was talking to them Garth first became 
aware of a mournful undertone, sometimes punc- 
tuated by a shrill, despairing note, now smothered 
in a heavy silence. 

" What's that? " he asked sharply. 

The men moved restlessly. 

" Been listening to that music all day," one of 
them answered. ** Lonely hole I Who'd want to 
live here ? " 

''I see. Mrs. Randall," Garth said. "I'd 
hoped she'd be able to stand a little talk by this 
time." 

" Swell chance ! " the man answered. " There's 
a high and mighty sawbones with her who'd do 
murder himself before he'd let you get within a mile 
of her. I'm sick of the rotten case. Nothing to 
it anyway." 



74 THE GRAY MASK 

" I'm going in, boys/' Garth said. " Inspector 
told me everything had been left." 

One of the detectives handed him a key. 

*' Room's locked. This lets in from the corridor. 
Key to her bedroom door's in the lock." 

Garth entered the hall. Randall's hat lay as the 
inspector had described it. Its gilt initials stared 
up at Garth with an odd air of appeal. He saw 
Treving's coat and hat — another tragic excitation 
for the doctor if he had chanced to notice them — 
on a chair by the table. A key, which Garth found 
fitted the front door, lay at the table's edge. Garth 
replaced it there and continued up the stairs. 

Mrs. Randall's cries were quieter. Garth, inured 
as he was to unbridled suffering, was grateful. He 
unlocked the door of the dressing-room and paused 
just across the sill while he made a quick survey of 
the scene of the murder. There was plenty of light 
and air here, for the curtains were thrown back and 
the window was open. Since the doctor had un- 
questionably left by the front door he could not un- 
derstand why the window had been opened on such 
a chilly night. He mused. Before bothering with 
Randall's course from the verandah it would be use- 
ful to examine the source of everything. 

The table cover was awry. One or two books lay 
on the floor beneath. Half a dozen long-stemmed 
roses, faded as they were, still splashed color across 
the carpet of a neutral tint. As his eyes took them 
in Garth smiled, shame-facedly reminiscent. 

He started. The formless, agonized cry of a 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 75 

woman arose and seemed to set in violent motion 
the atmosphere of this tragic chamber. 

The cry was repeated. Garth shivered. He had 
a quick uncomfortable fancy that the woman was 
making horrid and superhuman efforts to overcome 
some obstacle to expression. 

" I wish she'd keep quiet," he thought. " Con- 
found it I There's no acting about that. She wants 
to talk and can't." 

He returned to his scrutiny of the room. Its dis- 
ordered condition suggested a struggle before Ran- 
dall had fired the shots and dropped the revolver 
there at the end of the table. 

A circle of no great radius would have enclosed 
the scattered and faded roses. No — not all. One 
bud lay farther off, nearer the bedroom door. 

Garth tiptoed to it, stooped, and picked it up» 
examining it curiously while he tried to reconstruct 
from it an active picture of the tragedy. The stem 
had been broken away, indicating, since Treving 
or Randall had probably worn it, the close and 
desperate nature of their struggle. For it was not 
like the roses from the vase. They were of a larger 
variety and wider open, and this lay, he estimated, 
near the spot where Treving, conquered and killed,^ 
had fallen. 

As he stooped there, reflecting, constantly troubled 
by the impotent sounds from the next room, a ray 
of late sunlight penetrated the foliage, entered the 
open window, and gleamed upon a silvery thread 
apparently in the carpet. In his haste to reach this 



76 THE GRAY MASK 

thread Garth stumbled noisily against a chair, and, 
as if in response, while he detached the thread from 
the carpet, a gentle knocking reached him from the 
bedroom door. 

A little ashamed of his racket, he thrust the thread 
in his pocket, arose, and opened the door. A tall 
man with iron-gray hair entered, closing the door 
gently behind him. His tone was repressed, but 
Garth did not miss its annoyance. 

** Do you want to kill that woman? " 

" I see. The chair," Garth said. 

" Every sound from this room," the man ex- 
plained, *' must be torture to her. I suppose you 
policemen think all this fuss and feathers necessary. 
You'd do better to get after Randall." 

Garth curbed his own irritation. 

*' When do you think we'll be able to question 
her?" 

'' God knows! If this keeps up. She's in a bad 
way. Do you suppose I'd waste my time here other- 
wise. I tell you quiet is essential." 

Garth rested his hands against the table. The 
knotted veins testified to his anxiety, but his tone 
was casual. 

'* By the way, doctor, since you're Mrs. Randall's 
cousin, you must have known the doctor pretty well" 

" Yes, yes, very well." 

" Did you ever notice — was he in the habit of 
wearing a flower in his button-hole ? " 

The other glanced at him suspiciously. 

"What are you driving at?" 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 77 

" Answer me, please," Garth insisted. 

" I never saw him with one. He was a very 
masculine type — no affectations." 

Garth flushed. 

"And Mr. Treving?" he asked. "You knew 
him, too?" 

" Slightly." 

"Did he?" 

"What? Wear a flower? I'm sure I don't 
know. Never noticed. But I think it likely 
enough." 

Garth's hands relaxed. He straightened. 

" Thank you, doctor. There'll be no more noise 
here to-night. I'm sorry about the chair. I'd 
rather you didn't say anything about those ques- 
tions." 

The doctor's face, which had shown suffering all 
through, broke into a derisive smile. 

" About the flowers I I understand. One must 
appear wise, even if there's nothing to be wise 
about." 

" Quite so," Garth said gravely. 

The other returned to the bedroom and Garth 
went downstairs. He paused in the hall long 
enough to take the latch-key from the table and slip 
it in his pocket. Then he walked to the back of 
the house where the servants were collected in an 
uneasy group. There was a chauffeur, he found, a 
butler, a cook, and a maid. Another maid, they 
told him, was with Mrs. Randall. 

Garth questioned them about last night's wedding 



78 THE GRAY MASK 

and the hour of their return, but they were an in- 
coherent lot, all talking at once, and saying nothing 
useful. Therefore he returned to the verandah 
where he stood, trying to put himself in Randall's 
place, casting about for his likely course when he 
had sensibly decided not to use his automobile. 

The sun had set. The dusk had already rendered 
objects at a distance indistinct. A decided chill 
heralded the night. The two detectives sat discon- 
solately on the steps. Mrs. Randall's voice con- 
tinued its pitiful monotone, now and then torn by 
unavailing and demoralizing cries. 

Garth started. He stared at a patch of shrub- 
bery on the hillside to the right. Certainly some- 
thing had moved there. It occurred to him that to 
a man in the shrubbery the three forms under the 
verandah roof would be in this light invisible. 
Again he was sure there was movement over there. 
If it were Randall, come back! His experience 
had taught him that such a return was psycholog- 
ically conformable. 

Without speaking to the others he walked to the 
end of the verandah and dropped over the rail. 
Aiding the friendly dusk by keeping behind trees 
and bushes as far as possible, he approached the 
patch of shrubbery. After a moment there was no 
question. The foliage did not wholly secrete the 
figure of a man. The man appeared to listen. 
Garth's hand tightened on his revolver. The de- 
scription fitted, but that was scarcely necessary, for 
on this cold evening the man was hatless. 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 79 

Garth appraised the fugitive's damp and stained 
clothing. He could picture him hiding all night and 
day — perhaps in that small, half-ruined stone build- 
ing which showed dimly from here — until the neces- 
sities of hunger or the impulse to return to the scene 
of his crime and learn its denouement had driven him 
from cover. The haggard face seemed eloquent of 
guilt. 

Garth sprang up and, his revolver ready, faced the 
man. 

" Dr. Randall 1 I've plenty of help near." 

Randall stepped back. 

" And what about Treving? " he asked in a husky 
voice. 

Garth watched him warily. 

" I'm sorry," he answered, " but I've got to take 
you for his murder." 

Randall's face whitened. He held himself 
rigidly. After a time he relaxed and laughed. His 
words came with difficulty as if his mouth held no 
moisture. 

" I'm wanted for Treving's murder I " 

" You'll come quietly? " 

"Yes. What's that noise? I thought I heard 
some one scream, a — a woman." 

" Dr. Randall," Garth began steadily, " did you 
ever — " 

" See here," Randall interrupted, " I'll answer no 
questions until I've seen my lawyer. Where's my 
wife ? What about my wif e ? " 

Garth cleared his throat. 



8o THE GRAY MASK 

" She's been hysterical — well — practically out 
of her head/' 

Garth could not fathom Randall's expression as 
he walked at his side towards the house. 

" Of course," he said, *' she'll be called as a wit- 
ness against you — in fact the only human witness 
of the crime itself." 

The doctor smiled contentedly. 

" Yes," he said. " I should like to see her." 

" Dr. Redding's with her," Garth explained, " but 
if it's in my presence I've no objection if he hasn't." 

Garth waved the two excited detectives away. As 
he led Randall across the verandah he was provok- 
ingly conscious of something missing. When he had 
opened the door and taken his captive into the hall, 
he realized all at once what it was. Mrs. Randall's 
pitiful and chaotic crying no longer disturbed the 
quiet house. He noticed, too, that Dr. Redding 
had descended the stairs and leant against the newel 
post. 

" Who's that? " Redding asked. 

'' Hello, Redding! " Randall said easily. 

" Randall 1 They've got you I " 

Randall's contented smile persisted. 

"Mrs. Randall?" Garth asked in a low tone. 
"She's quieter now? Dr. Randall would like to 
see her." 

Redding stepped forward swiftly. 

" He can see her," he sneered, " if he's got the 
courage. She's dead." 

He swung in a fury on Randall. 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 8i 

'* Two murders on your soul I That's what it 
comes to. What were you thinking of, man? 
You'll go to the chair for this." 

Randall staggered against the wall where he leant, 
covering his face with his hands. 

" My only human witness I " he mumbled. 

Garth knew it would be a kindness to get him out 
of this house, but first he did his duty with a strong 
distaste. 

" You'd better tell us," he said. " Say some- 
thing. It might help you in the end." 

Randall lowered his hands. His face worked. 

" I'll say nothing — nothing," he cried fiercely. 

He stretched out his hands to Garth. 

"No handcuffs," Garth said gruffly. "We 
might go in one of those automobiles." 

Randall stumbled forward. He groped about the 
hat-rack. 

" My hat! Where's my hat? Do as you wish. 
But not Treving's car. Good God 1 You wouldn't 
take me to jail in Treving's carl " 

Garth was restless the next day. The public, in 
conunon with the police department and the district 
attorney's office, looked upon the case against Ran- 
dall as proved and, to all purposes, disposed of. 
But Garth, walking along upper Fifth Avenue in 
the afternoon, could not resist stopping at an ex- 
pensive florist's and demanding a rose for his button- 
hole. When it was brought he asked the price, and, 
a good deal disconcerted, handed over the money. 



S2 THE GRAY MASK 

For some time he gazed at the colorful, fragrant 
flower which swayed on its graceful stem. Then, 
with an absent air, he placed it on the marble stand 
and moved towards the door. 

The clerks glanced at each other, amused. 

" You've forgotten your rose, sir," one of them 
said. 

"No matter," Garth replied. "I've had my 
money's worth." 

He called at the inspector's flat after dinner. 
The inspector was still at the office, but Nora com- 
mented on his restlessness immediately. 

"What are you working on, Jim? Of course 
you're through with the Elmford case." 

" Not quite." 

He faced her, lighting back the quick emotions in 
which her proximity always involved him. He loved 
her too much to risk demanding at random a fixed 
understanding. Moreover, with this case on his 
mind, it was clearly not the hour. 

" I've arranged for a number of subpoenas to be 
served in the morning," he said. " The servants 
have left the house. Your father has arranged to 
call his men in. In an hour or so the house will be 
empty. Nora — I — can't stay long this evening." 

"Jim I What's on your mind? It's a clear 



case." 



" Yes," he answered. " That's why Jones and 
the other flat-foot your father sent out yesterday 
didn't search the neighborhood far enough to find 
the stone building where Randall hid. It's why 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 83 

when I arrested him I didn't look it over either. 
The arrest at the time seemed enough. But he 
didn't act like a man caught with the goods. Your 
father says he's clever. Maybe he is, but I wonder 
if he is to that extent. It's been the trouble all 
along. It's too clear a case. I talked to his law- 
yers this afternoon. He's refused to put in any 
defence." 

" Isn't that proof, Jim, that he knows he hasn't 
a chance? " 

He fumbled, almost unconsciously, with the but- 
ton-hole in the lapel of his coat. 

" It might mean," he answered, " that he was 
protecting somebody else, and that makes one won- 
der if there mightn't be something in the house — 
letters, perhaps, in that bedroom I've never had 
a chance to explore — something he would like to 
have destroyed." 

*' Trust your instinct, Jim." 

He arose smiling. 

" That's what I've arranged to do." 

"Then you're going out there to-night?" 

" Yes." 

He hesitated, but the temptation was too strong. 

" How would you like a taxi-ride to Elmford? " 

" Jim, you talk like a millionaire." 

" If anything comes of it," he said, " the city will 
pay. If nothing does I'll look an awful fool, so 
I'd rather you didn't ask any questions now. But 
if you want to come — I know you're game." 

She laughed and got her hat and coat. 



84 THE GRAY MASK 

So they drove to the lonely patch of woods near 
the Elmford gate where Garth instructed the driver 
to wait for them. He led Nora, warning her not 
to speak, through the obscurity to the entrance. 
There he paused, and, aftf r a moment, whistled on 
a low, prolonged note. 

Almost immediately the sound of voices came to 
them and the scraping of feet in the gravel. Two 
blacker patches scarcely outlined themselves against 
the black shrubbery. 

" Jones I " Garth called softly. 

The men approached. 

" All right," Garth said. ** Go along home. 
When did they take Mrs. Randall away? " 

" Over an hour ago. Thought you were never 
coming. Spooky hole 1 " 

"No alarms?" Garth asked. 

" No," Jones replied, " but I can hear that 
woman yelling yet." 

Garth laughed, uneasily. 

"Well, good-night. There's no secret about 
your leaving, but don't mention at the station that 
I'm here." 

The men merged into the darkness by the gate. 

Garth took Nora's arm, and, circling the house 
at a distance, reached the stone building by the 
stream. He entered, sniffing suspiciously. When 
he had closed the door he took his flashlight from 
his pocket and pressed the control. 

" Don't move around, Nora." 

Quickly he examined the confusion of footprints. 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 85 

It Impressed him at once as significant that none 
strayed far from the threshold. The damp floor 
farther in was disturbed only by a long, irregular 
depression modelled, he knew, by a body, lying 
prone. 

" Think of lying there, Nora," he said. " Fd 
have preferred standing indefinitely. And why 
didn't he move around? " 

Nora's teeth chattered. 

" It's bitter cold in here." 

Garth's face set. 

''And a fastidious man like the doctor lies here 
all night and most of the day. Then let's see." 

He went outside and ran his light over the lines 
of footprints which converged at the door. One 
>set straggled unevenly up the stream. With an 
exclamation he followed it along the bank until it 
swung close to the water. He stooped. His lamp 
moved searchingly about the bottom of the shallow 
creek. Nora bent over his shoulder. 

" Jim 1 Do you see that stone ? There. Hold 
your light steady. It's been moved. Look at the 
dark stain on this side." 

Garth reached over, rolling the stone away. He 
drew from the water a stout, slender rope and a 
black cloth. As he raised the cloth a tiny bottle 
fell from its folds and splintered on the rock. 

Nora's eyes sparkled. 

"Does it fit, Jim?" 

" It suggests a lot," he answered, " and it ex- 
plains something, but it's little use unless — " 



86 THE GRAY MASK 

He caught his breath. 

" He might be that kind of a fool." 

He sprang upright. 

" Come along. We've got to turn up something 
in the house that will make Randall talk. Nora! 
If there had been letters do you think she would 
have destroyed them one by one? You see there 
was no chance after the murder, and don't women 
cling to such things?" 

" She'd probably keep them," Nora said. 

They climbed the hill. The unlighted house, like 
a thing dead itself and surrendered to decay, arose 
before them forbiddingly. 

" Jones was right," Nora said. " It's spooky." 

Garth crossed the verandah on tip-toe and silently 
opened the door. 

" No lights," he breathed. 

Nora shivered. 

^' It's as cold and damp here as the stone house. 
Can you find your way? " 

" Yes. Sh-h." 

He led her across the hall, up the staircase, and 
down the corridor to the dressing-room. The win- 
dow had been closed in there, and there was no 
escape for a humid and depressing chill which en- 
veloped them with discomfort. 

He found the easy chair and told Nora to sit 
down. He drew another one close. 

"But why not lights, Jim?" 

" It's logic to wait awhile," he said. " The let- 
ters, you know." 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 87 

She gasped. 

" I begin to see." 

" Maybe I shouldn't have brought you," he whis- 
pered. 

" But who — " 

"Sh-hl" 

" Did you hear anything? " she asked. 

" No. If Randall never wore a rose — ^" 

" Jim I I've never — felt such darkness." 

'* I must think," he said. 

But his brain refused to enter the new country 
of speculation whose gates the discovery in the 
stream had opened. The dank air of the room 
where Treving had been murdered was thick with 
imminence. A formless anticipation possessed 
Garth's mind. He had a quick instinct to turn on 
the lights and proceed with his search, abandoning 
this course which logic had suggested, but which 
was fraught, he had no doubt, with positive appre- 
'hension to Nora. Why not, indeed, satisfy her 
curiosity now? But his pride denied the impulse. 
He wanted first something more tangible, something 
more provocative of her praise. 

" It frightens me here," Nora breathed. " I've 
the queerest desire to — to scream." 

Her laugh was scarcely audible. 

Her words had set Garth's memory to work. He 
knew again what he missed in this silent house — 
the amorphous screams of a woman in an agony 
powerless to express itself. How she must have 
wanted to speak! How horribly she had tried un« 



88 THE GRAY MASK 

tU the supreme, the enduring silence had clutched 
about her throat! The sullen and sepulchral air 
of the room seemed to vibrate with the wraiths 
of those efforts. 

Was the door open to the next room where she 
had struggled and died? 

Garth stirred uneasily. 

Nora spoke. 

"How long?" 

" Not long," Garth whispered, " or FU turn the 
lights on. ril look." 

His thoughts swung back to the next room and 
the despair it had harbored. Could such passionate 
resistance to circumstance perish utterly? Could 
the violent will behind it accept silence and pass 
with the body into nothingness? 

What had she wanted to say? 

A movement, scarcely audible, reached him from 
the next room. 

Nora's hand touched his arm. He was aware 
of the trembling of her fingers. He leant forward, 
listening. He scarcely caught Nora's voice. 

"You heard — that?" 

The movement was repeated — somebody — 
something stirred in the dark room where the woman 
had died. 

Nora swayed against him. Her other hand 
touched his shoulder. His heart leapt, but he real- 
ized that this contact was only an impersonal ap- 
peal for protection. So he drew his arms back, 
but his brain was clearer. He no longer answered 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 89 

to the fancy that the echoes of those screams tor- 
tured his ears. 

" Stay here quietly," he whispered. 

*' Don't go in there, Jim." 

He pushed her hands gently away. His move- 
ments as he crossed the floor were stealthier than 
those which still persisted in the bedroom. He 
paused in the doorway. The darkness was com- 
plete, yet he could locate the movements now 
against the farther wall. 

He drew out his revolver and his flashlight. He 
pressed the button. The glare splintered the 
blackness and centered on the figure of a man who 
bent over the open drawer of a desk. 

" Throw your hands up I " Garth said. 

In the dressing-room Nora cried out. 

The man at the desk swung around, lifting his 
hands and exposing the white and contorted face 
of the butler, Thompson. 

Garth laughed nervously. 

" I've got him, Nora." 

"Wh — what do you mean?" the man asked. 
"I came back — Who are you? What do you 
want of me ? " 

Garth stepped forward aggressively. His con- 
science troubled him not at all. 

" I want you for the murder of Frederick Trev- 
ing — there in the next room." 

The fellow's jaw dropped. 

" No — no. I had nothing to do with it. I 
swear." 



i 



90 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth raised his hand to the lapel of the butler's 
coat. 

*' I thought so," he said. " No question about 
you, my man. You wore the rose I found where 
Treving's body lay. Got it at the wedding, didn't 
you?" 

The man sank on the unmade bed. 

"What are you talking about? I had nothing 
to do with it." 

" Tell that to the judge who'll send you to the 
chair," he said. 

The butler shook. He raised his uncertain hands 
to his face. He shuddered. 

" No, no. I tell you I had nothing to do with it. 
It was Mrs. Randall. He attacked her, and she 
shot him." 

Garth relaxed. 

" You heard that, Nora?" 

Nora came to the door. 

" Yes." 

" Then," Garth said, " I am about through with 
the case." 

He turned back to Thompson. 

" But you're not clear yet. How did you hap- 
pen to be here? I know you went to the wedding 
with the rest." 

** Yes, but Mrs. Randall got me on the telephone 
— said the doctor had been called back to town 
and she was nervous and I'd have to come home. 
As r let myself in the back way I heard her scream. 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 91 

I ran up and through this room. I got to the door 
just in time to see her shoot him. But when I 
rushed in and tried to lift her up she screamed. I 
couldn't do anything with her. And I got fright- 
ened. When I heard the motorcycle and guessed 
it was a policeman who had heard her screaming, 
I ran out the servants' entrance and went back to 
the wedding and came home with the rest. I was 
afraid they would take me, and she couldn't say 
anything to clear me. That's the truth." 

Garth looked him over contemptuously. 

" And, knowing the truth, you'd have let Dr. 
Randall go to trial." 

Thompson uncovered his face. Through his 
tears his eyes glowed with an exceptional devotion. 

" I worked for her, sir. I had been with her 
family ever since she was born. Besides, if he 
didn't want to give her away, what business was it 
of mine ? He sent for me to-day, and when I told 
him I had seen her shoot him, he made me promise 
to keep my mouth shut." 

'* I know he sent for you," Garth said. " That's 
why I hoped to find you here to-night. He sus- 
pected you were a go-between and that there might 
be letters or something here to incriminate her with 
Treving." 

Thompson nodded. 

'* I told the doctor, a few letters and trinkets. 
He said I must get them as soon as the detectives had 
left and the house was clear. But I can say, sir. 



92 THE GRAY MASK 

there was never anything really out of the way. 
She wasn't quite happy with the doctor. It would 
be a kindness to the dead — " 

Garth smiled, turning to Nora. 

" You wouldn't give me away, would you? All 
right, Thompson. Do what you came to do." 

Thompson shot him a grateful glance and re- 
turned to his obliterating task at the desk. Garth 
snapped on the light. 

" But, Jim," Nora asked, ** how did you know 
that man had been a witness? Was it a guess?" 

Garth shook his head. 

** Simple enough," he said. 

He took a short, slender, silvery thread from 
his pocket. With a shame-faced look he handed 
it to Nora. 

" You'd know more about such things than I. 
It's a wire that made a broken, worn-out rose look 
a whole lot better than it was. I found it and the 
rose in the next room. I recognized it, because, 
Nora, when I came to dinner the other night I 
stopped at a sidewalk stand and bought a rose for 
my button-hole. Silly, wasn't it? But it was a 
good thing, because I got stung with one of those. 
That's why I knew what the broken stem and the 
wire meant. I learned that Randall didn't wear 
flowers, and I made sure this afternoon what kind 
of a rose Treving would have worn. Therefore, 
somebody else had been in that room, wearing a 
cheap rose which he had almost certainly got at 
that cheap wedding. When I heard Randall had 



CRYING THROUGH THE SILENCE 93 

sent for this man I decided to hold over my sub- 
poenas for the servants until to-morrow, and run 
out here myself as soon as the detectives were 
called in — maybe get my man when he wouldn't 
lie." 

Her eyes sparkled. . 

^'And you guessed Randall didn't know about the 
murder when you caught him? " 

^' After I had landed him in jail, his manner, 
taken with the rest of it, worried me. If he wasn't 
guilty, why had he hidden all night and day ? What 
we found in the stone house answered that, and 
almost certainly put it up to Mrs. Randall. Of 
course he guessed she had done it, and that cleared 
her in his eyes. It's why he's been so sentimental 
about protecting her memory. He didn't want it 
stained with murder, and he's probably figured he 
could tell some story on the stand that would clear 
her of the scandal, provided Thompson gathered 
up these little souvenirs of her indiscretion." 

" Jim, I'm proud of you," Nora said. " But 
will Dr. Randall thank you for interfering? " 

"I think so, when he's got over this first mis- 
taken idea of what he owes her for protecting his 
honor and her own even to the point of murder. 
He'll soon be clear-headed enough to weigh both 
sides. He'll appreciate then that there isn't much 
disgrace about such a crime for her, particularly 
since it's the strongest proof the world could have 
that Thompson's opinion is right." 

He turned to the butler. 



94 THE GRAY MASK 

" Surely, Thompson, there isn't as much evi- 
dence as all that. Come. We ought to get back 
to town.'* 

As they went down the stairs Garth wondered 
that his success borrowed its chief value from its 
effect on Nora. As large as the satisfaction of 
clearing an innocent and harassed man, loomed the 
fact that he had, indeed, provoked her praise. 

At the turn their hands met in the darkness. He 
rejoiced that the warmth of her fingers lingered 
momentarily in his. 



CHAPTER VII 

NORA FEARS FOR GARTH 

FROM the moment of his solution of the Ehn- 
ford affair Garth was recognized at head- 
quarters as the man for the big jobs — the 
city's most serviceable detective. For one who ac- 
cepted his success so modestly it was difficult to 
breed jealous enemies. There was, to be sure, some 
speculation as to how long such a man would chain 
his abilities by the modest pay of the department, 
and a wish here and there that he would find it con- 
venient to free himself for broader fields in the near 
future. 

Garth realized that it was the inspector's atti- 
tude that had determined his new standing. Un- 
der other circumstances things might have pro- 
gressed more slowly. The tie formed the night of 
the arrest of Slim and George was still strong. 

Garth arranged, when he went to bear the news 
of his discovery to Dr. Randall in the Tombs, to 
catch a glimpse of the two. Their greeting suffi- 
ciently defined the threat he had always known ex- 
isted. In their faces he read an intention from 
which he shrank, more for Nora's sake than for 
his own. He didn't stay to argue. He walked 

95 



96 THE GRAY MASK 

on to Randall's cell and told the stricken man that 
in a few minutes he would be free. 

Garth had been a good prophet. Randall^s first 
resentment gave way to a gratitude, expressed with 
difficulty but genuine. 

*** It -— it was exceptionally fine of you to let 
Thompson destroy those things.*' 

" I would want someone to do as much for me»'' 
he answered, " that is, if I ever had the nerve t6 
do what you did. That was the fine thing, doc- 
tor." 

And Garth went away, aware that he had made 
a staunch friend. 

The inspector was troubled when he heard of 
Slim and George's open hatred. He saw the dis- 
trict attorney, and others whose ears he had. On 
his return he sent for Garth. 

** The district attorney tells me," he said, " that 
there isn't a loophole. They'll be convicted and go 
to the chair as certain as that when the moon shines 
lovers kiss. If they don't escape. Without sug- 
gesting that every crook doesn't get the same at- 
tention, I've seen to it that those chair warmers 
will be watched closer than Fido watches the 
butcher." 

So again Garth put the matter out of his mind, 
and was aided by an unexpected threat, apparently 
just as serious, that faced him a very short time 
after. 

On that fall morning he paused on the threshold 
of the inspector's office, and, surprised and curious, 



NORA FEARS FOR GARTH 97 

glanced quickly within. It was not so much that 
Nora sat by the window, clothed in her habitual 
black, nor was his interest quickened by the fact 
th^t she knitted deftly on some heavy, gray gar- 
ment. Rather his concern centered on the inspector 
who had left his desk and whose corpulent, lethargic 
figure moved about the room with an exceptional 
and eccentric animation. 

At Garth's step Nora glanced up, smiling. The 
inspector retarded his heated walk. To ease the 
perceptible strain Garth spoke to Nora. 

" Seems to me you knit no matter where you 
are." 

" When one knits for the hospitals," she answered, 
'* any place will do. I had hoped my example 
might quiet father. I only dropped in for a chat, 
and look at him. What a welcome! Tm afraid, 
Jim, he has something disagreeable for you." 

The inspector paused and sat on the edge of his 
desk. 

" Maybe so. Maybe not," he rumbled. " I 
don't like working through the dark, so I don't like 
to ask anybody else to do it. I've got to, though. 
Cheer up. Garth. I'm asking you." 

He raised his paper cutter and jabbed at the desk 
with a massive petulance. 

" Ever since I got down this morning," he went 
on, ^^ I've been hounded by telegrams and long-dis- 
tance calls. Well ? Do you want a holiday ? It's 
apt to be a hell of a holiday. Excuse me, Nora." 

" I see," Garth said. " Something out of town." 



98 THE GRAY MASK 

The inspector's manner warned him. After long 
experience he knew it veiled a grave distrust. 

" Why," Nora asked, ** don't you tell us what 
the case is?" 

The inspector walked around the desk and with 
a sigh settled himself in his easy chair. 

" That's the rumpus," he answered, and Garth 
saw that his eyes were not quite steady. " Don't 
know anything about it myself unless they'd like 
Garth to chase a few spooks. Here's the lay-out. 
It's a man who's done me a good many favors. 
There's no secret — political ones. I'm in his debt, 
and he's asked me for a good detective to go up to 
his place in New England — not as a detective, 
mind you, Garth. That's the queer side, the side 
I don't like. He insists on his man's showing up 
as a guest, knowing no more than a random guest 
would know. Sounds like tommy-rot, but he isn't 
sure himself there's anything out of the way. He 
wants you, if you take it up, to live quietly in the 
house, keeping your eyes peeled. .He expects you 
to put him wise to the trouble or to stake your 
reputation that there isn't any trouble at all. Are 
you willing to jump into a chase blindly that way? 
He'd like the fellow that swung the Hennion job, 
but if you turned it down cold I couldn't help it, 
could I?" 

" Nonsense, chief," Garth answered. " Never 
heard of such a thing, but it sounds interesting. I'll 
take a shot at it." 



NORA FEARS FOR GARTH 99 

The inspector wrote hurriedly on a piece of paper. 

'* Here's his name and address. Catch the ten 
o'clock from the Grand Central and you'll get up 
there to-night." 

Garth took the slip. Before placing it in his 
pocket he glanced it over. 

" Andrew Alden," he saw. " Leave Boston from 
North Station on four o'clock train and get off at 
Deacon's Bay." 

" I've heard of Mr. — " Garth began. 

The inspector's quick, angry shake of the head 
in Nora's direction brought him to an abrupt pause. 
He walked to Nora and took her hand. 

" Then I won't see you until after my holiday," 
he said with a smile. 

Her eyes were vaguely uneasy. 

" I agree with father," she said. " It isn't safe 
to walk through the dark. Won't you tell me where 
you're going? " 

Garth's laugh was uncomfortable. He didn't 
pretend to understand, but his course had been 
clearly enough indicated. 

" I'll leave that for the inspector," he answered. 
" I have to rush to pick up my things on the way 
to the train." 

The uneasiness in her eyes increased. 

" You know, Jim, as father says, you can turn it 
down. It might be wiser." 

His heart responded to her anxiety. In view of 
her fear it was a trifle absurd that their farewell 
should project nothing more impulsive than a hand- 



:i^\^^^^ 



loo THE GRAY MASK 

dasp. Its only compensation, indeed, was the re- 
luctance with which she let his fingers go. 

When Garth had left, Nora arose and faced her 
father. 

"What's all this mystery?" she demanded. 
" It's easy enough to guess there's danger for Jim, 
and you know a lot more than you pretend." 

" See here, Nora," the inspector grumbled, " I 
usually give the third degree myself in this place." 

She rested her hands on the desk, studying his 
uncertain eyes. 

"Why," she asked, "wouldn't you let Jim tell 
me the man's name?" 

His bluster was too apparently simulated. 

" What did you come down for this morning any- 
way ? No sense in your getting upset. A detective 
bureau isn't a nursery." 

She straightened slowly, her face recording an 
unwelcome assurance. 

" Politics ! " she cried. " And Jim's leaving 
from the Grand Central. I know. He's going to 
Mr. Alderi's at Deacon's Bay. I see why you 
wouldn't let him tell me." 

" Place is all right," the inspector said stub- 
bornly. " You've seen it. You were there with 
me two summers ago. What's the matter with the 
place?" 

" No use trying to pull the wool over my eyes," 
Nora answered. " It's the loneliest place I've ever 
seen, and you ought to know I'd remember Mr. 
Alden's big furnaces and machine-shop. I read the 



NORA FEARS FOR GARTH loi 

papers, father. He^s staying up so late this year 
on account of the enormous war orders he's taken. 
You know as well as I do that that may mean real 
danger for Jim. What did Mr. Alden tell you? " 

The inspector spread his hands helplessly. 

" I sometimes think, Nora, you'd make a better 
detective than any of us. Alden's sick and nervous. 
I guess that's all it amounts to. He's probably 
scared some German sympathizer may take a pot 
shot at him for filling these contracts. And he's 
worried about his wife She won't leave him there 
alone, and it seems all their servants, except old 
John, have cleared out." 

" You said something to Jim about spooks," Nora 
prompted. 

"Thought you'd come to that," the inspector 
said. " You're like your mother was, Nora — al- 
ways on the look-out for the supernatulral." 

" So, I gather, were the servants," she answered 
drily. 

" Silly talk, Alden says, about the woods back 
of his house. You remember. There was some 
kind of a fight there during the Revolution — a lot 
of men ambushed and massacred. I guess you saw 
the bayonets and gun-locks Alden had dug up. Ser- 
vants got talking — ^said they saw things there on 
foggy nights." 

The inspector lowered his voice to a more seri- 
ous key. 

" The angle I don't like is that Alden's valet was 
found dead in those woods yesterday morning. Not 



\ 



102 THE GRAY MASK 

a mark on him. Coroner, I believe, says apoplexy, 
but Alden's nervous, and the rest of the help cleared 
out. I suppose theyUl get somebody else up as 
soon as they can. Meantime Alden and his wife 
are alone with old John. Confound it, Nora, I had 
to send him somebody." 

" But without a word of this I " 

" I tell you I don't like it. I didn't want to do 
it. It was Alden's idea — would have it that way. 
Frankly I don't make it Out, but maybe, being on the 
spot, he knows best." 

" There's something here," she said, " that we 
can't understand — maybe something big. It isn't 
fair to Jim." 

The inspector looked up slyly. 

" Jim," he said, " can take care of himself if any- 
body can. Seems to me you're pretty anxious. 
Sure you haven't anything to tell me about you and 
him? If you had, I might make a place for him 
watching these ten-cent lunch joints to see that cus- 
tomers didn't carry away the Itardware and crock- 
ery. Then all the danger you'd have to worry 
about would be that he might eat the food." 

But Nora failed to smile. She glanced away, 
shaking her head. 

" I've nothing to tell you, father," she answered. 
" Nothing now. I don't know. Honestly I don't 
know. I only know I've been through one such ex- 
perience, and if anything happened to Jim that I 
could help, I'd never forgive myself." 



CHAPTER VIII 

THROUGH THE DARK 

THE night had gathered swiftly behind a cur- 
tain of rain. Garth, glancing out the win- 
dow of the train, saw that darkness was al- 
ready close upon a somber and resentful world. 
Pines, hemlocks, and birches stretched limitlessly. 
The rain clung to their drooping branches like tears, 
so that they expressed an attitude of mourning 
which their color clothed convincingly. The roar- 
ing of the train was subdued, as if it hesitated to dis- 
turb the oppressive silence through which it passed. 

The car, nearly empty, was insufficiently lighted. 
Garth answered to the growing depression of his 
surroundings. His paper, already well-explored, no 
longer held him. He continued to gaze from the 
window, speculating on the goal towards which he 
was hurrying through this bleak desolation. The 
inspector's phrase was suddenly informed with 
meaning. He was, in every sense, advancing 
through the dark. The realization left him with a 
troublesome restlessness, a desire to be actively at 
work. 

The last streak of gray had long faded when the 

train drew up at Deacon's Bay station — a small 

103 



I04 THE GRAY MASK 

building with a shed like an exaggerated collar about 
its throat. At this hour there was no operator on 
dut^. Only one or two oil lamps maintained an 
indifferent resistance to the mist. Garth saw a 
horse and carriage at the rear. He walked to it. 

" Could you drive me to Mr. Andrew Alden's 
place?" he asked. 

From the depths of the carriage a native's voice 
replied : 

" Probably you're the party I'm looking for. If 
you're Mr. Garth from New York, step in." 

Garth obeyed, and they drove off along a road 
for the most part flanked by thick woods. 

Without warning, through an open space, Garth 
saw a flame spring upward, tearing the mist and 
splashing the sky with wanton scarlet. 

"What's that?" he asked sharply. 

The glare diminished and died. The native 
clucked to his horse. 

" Mr. Alden's furnaces," he answered. 

Garth stirred. 

" I see. Iron. Steel. And now it works night 
and day?" 

" On war orders," the native answered. " Now 
you wouldn't think we'd ever have got in the war, 
would you ? There's a whole town — board shacks 
— to take care of the men — more'n fifteen hun- 
dred of them." 

Garth nodded thoughtfully. Here at the start 
was a condition that might make the presence of a 
detective comforting to his host. 



THROUGH THE DARK 105 

As they penetrated deeper into the woods the 
driver exhibited an increasing desire to talk, and 
from time to time, Garth remarked, he glanced over 
his shoulder. 

" None of my business," the man said, ** but it's 
funny Mr. Alden's having company now." 

Garth smiled. He was certainly on the thresh- 
old of a case he had been asked to enter wholly 
unprepared. 

** Maybe you'll tell me why," he encouraged. 

" Because," the driver answered, " although Mr. 
Alden stands to make a pile of money, he's paying 
for it in some ways. You didn't hear about his 
yacht?" 

Garth shook his head. 

** Maybe some of these rough workmen he's got 
up from the city, or maybe somebody wanted to pay 
him out. Took it out of his boathouse a few nights 
ago, started on a joy-ride, I suppose, and ran it on 
the rocks." 

** Much loss? " Garth asked. 

" Total, except for the furnishings.'* 

"Are you one of Mr. Alden's servants?" 

The driver's laugh was uncomfortable. 

" That's what I meant about his having company. 
There aren't any servants except the old butler. 
A woman from the village goes to get breakfast 
and lunch for them, but she won't stay after dark." 

Garth grinned, recalling the inspector's conunent 
about spooks. 

"Why did the servants quit?" 



io6 THE GRAY MASK 

The driver glanced over his shoulder again. He 
hurried his horse. 

" Laughing's cheap," he said, ** but you can judge 
for yourself how lonely it is, and Mr. Alden's right 
on the ocean — only house for two miles. You see 
he owns a big piece of this coast — woods right 
down to the water. They've always told about a 
lot of soldiers being killed in those woods during 
the Revolution. All my life I've heard talk about 
seeing things there. Servants got talking a few 
days ago — said they saw shadows in grave clothes 
going through the woods. I laughed at that, too. 
But I didn't laugh when they found Mr. Alden's 
valet yesterday morning, dead as a door nail." 

Garth whistled. 

"Violence?" 

** Not a sign. Coroner says apoplexy, but that 
doesn't convince anybody that doesn't want to be." 

" Curious," Garth mused. 

For some time a confused murmuring had in- 
creased in his ears — the persistent fury of water 
turned back by a rocky coast. 

They turned through a gateway, and, across a 
broad lawn, he caught a glimpse of lights, dim, un- 
real, as one might picture will-o-the-wisps. But the 
night and the mist could not hide from Garth the 
size of the house, significant of wealth and a habit 
of comfort. That such an establishment should be 
practically bereft of service was sufficient proof that 
there was, indeed, something here to combat. Yet 
from the driver he could draw nothing more ponder- 



THROUGH THE DARK 107 

able than the fancied return of the dead to their 
battlefield, and a distrust, natural enough in a na- 
tive, of the horde of new men gathered for the 
furnaces. 

When he had stepped from the carriage he saw 
that the lights were confined to the lower hall and 
one room to the left. The rest of the great house 
stretched away with an air of decay and abandon- 
ment. 

In response to his ring he heard a step drag across 
the floor, but the door was not opened at once. In- 
stead a quavering voice demanded his identity. 

With some impatience Garth grasped the knob, 
and as he heard the carriage retreat towards the 
town, called out: 

** My name is Garth. I'm expected." 

The door was swung back almost eagerly, and 
Garth stepped across the threshold of the lonely 
house. 

An old man faced him, white-haired, bent at the 
shoulders, unkempt and so out of key with the neat 
hard-wood floor, the hangings, and the wainscot of 
the hall — a witness to an abrupt relaxation of dis- 
cipline. 

*' Thank heavens you've come, sir," the old man 
said. 

" Then you know," Garth answered. " What's 
wrong here? " 

But before the other could reply a man's voice, 
uncertain, barely audible, came from the lighted 
room to the left. 



io8 THE GRAY MASK 

**Who IS that? If it is Mr. Garth bring him 
to me at once." 

Garth became aware of the rustling of skirts. 
He stepped into the room, and, scarcely within the 
doorway, met a young woman whose unquestionable 
beauty impressed him less than the trouble which, 
to an extent, distorted it. Her greeting, too, al- 
most identical with the old servant's, disturbed him 
more than his. It was reminiscent of the desolate 
landscape he had seen from the train, of the forest 
loneliness through which he had just driven, of the 
gaping scarlet that had torn across the cloud-filled 
sky. 

" I'm glad youVe come. I — I was afraid you 
mightn't make it." 

Garth's glance appraised the room. It was a 
huge apartment, running the width of the house. 
Casement windows rose from the floor to the ceil- 
ing. An oak door in the farther wall, towards the 
rear, was closed. There were many bookcases. 
A fire burned drowsily in a deep hearth. Before it 
stood a writing-table with an inefficient lamp, and 
at its side — the point where Garth's eyes halted — 
a man sat — huddled. 

The man wore a dressing gown and slippers. His 
hair was untidy. From his cadaverous face eyes 
gleamed as if with a newly-born hope. He put his 
hands on the chair arms and started to rise, then, 
with a sigh, he sank back again. 

** You'll excuse me," he said. '* I've not been my- 



THROUGH THE DARK 109 

self lately. It is an effort for me to get up, but I 
am glad to see you, Mr. Garth — very glad." 

Garth understood now why the voice had barely 
carried to the hall. It lacked body. It left the 
throat reluctantly. It crowded the room with a 
scarcely vibrating atmosphere of dismay. Garth 
asked himself hotly if he had been summoned as 
an antidote to the airy delusions of an invalid. 

A stifled sound behind him caused him to turn 
swiftly. He was in time to see the distortion of 
the woman's features increase, to watch the resist- 
less tears sparkle in her eyes and fall, to be shamed 
by the laborious sobs which, after she had covered 
her face, shook her in freeing themselves. 

He advanced, at a loss, shocked by this unfore- 
seen breakdown. He took Alden's hand, but the 
other appeared to have forgotten his presence. 

" Don't, Cora," he mumbled. " You mustn't do 
that any more. We are no longer — alone." 

Garth glanced from one to the other, answering 
to the atmosphere of dismay, which moment by mo- 
ment became more unavoidable. Yet what could 
there be here beyond loneliness, and, perhaps, 
threats from those against whose cherished prin- 
ciples Alden's furnaces were busy night and day? 
The loneliness. Garth acknowledged even then, could 
account for a lot, but, he decided, a doctor was 
needed here as much as a detective. 

At last Mrs. Alden resumed her control. She 
faced Garth apologetically. 



no ' tttE^ ORA^^ksk 



^^ It'if ^ befefeuse I can't gei hihi aWay,'*' she said 
wistfully; "And he'k sfck. Anybody cari sefe ^at.*' 

*^ A \vdek bt- tWb mdf e,"^ AMcrt said; ^' ti^ri^^ the 
Works afU ruilhirtjg rj^htl Then We'll gb back tb 
New York: IVe had troublfc repladng tihsitisfac- 
tory ^oricmienv and I caii^t make the gov^rrimeht 
wait.^^-'-'''"'^'' ' ' ■' '■■ '' /-^ ^' ''■^'" ^' ; - -^^ •"" 

"New^Yorkl-' thtwonian echoed. - 

^* You've a doetor? ^' Gatth asked. 

'^ Fi^oni the village," Alden answered. " Fm 
afmd hfe doesn't understarid ihe." 

**Then^" GartJi said fifihljr, ** I kould let the 
works gbtb blazes Until I'd h>bked after myself.*^ 

Alden moved his hand vaguely. 

■* It's nothing ^— cold, maybe a touch of ^he gout. 
I sometirtjes sutfer^ and my nerves are a little un- 
der. Too much irtvblved h^re; Mn Garth: Ybti 
couldn- 1 afiord to take chances with that." 

Garth glanced at the f bom's hnturious furnishing. 

" I couldn't,-' he ansilsreted captiously. " I'm hot 
S0 sure about you.'* ^ 

It annoyed mm that the lamp on the tablfe failed 
to drive the shadows from the ciornerts. 

Mrs. Alderi approached him timidly. 
^■You'll forgive our 'vvelcome? You -11 try tb un- 
derstand ? ' You may hav6^ noticied something about 
rfie fail iri a reinbte placb. It is very deptefssing 
here. If only you cbuld p^frsuade hirri tb leave. 
You sec we've nb servants but bid Jbhn. Shall I 
tell him to get you somfethhig^*--a wliiikey and 
soda?" 



Garth shook his head. 

" I nearer jdf?i;;il^ wj^^n \]ix^^t ^qr|^'! .^ i vt 5 
r, "^ul; yoij^,aix^,pf|^-ig!Li^st,''.sivP s^i^-. , v. M 
I . '* PMr,J[up3^/'^ capie,,^n h^/husi^aJ^d's xjiffiqu^t ypi^c. 

In neither of their faces could Garth rf;^4 ^ 
r^P^opf j thejf tpi^qs had S)ugge3te(J.. „ W^at point 
CpiiMi tiiere^ be . ia this . ^abnprx^al ^ n^a^quera^d? ? ; . 

ijp^ gla^cpd;^^!^ hW W2Aj^.J (Mv% ^aught 

the gesture. SKe walked to a caVii^ct^ ;Emi4/n^easured 
her husband's medicine. ^ h 

" It's time," she said as she gayejt t;o him, " that 
we all wcreifl b^d.,,,ShaIJl J iii>g :fpr John ? " 

,\'V}\ ^mg^'^.C^rtK ajtisj^^ later. I 

should be glad of a worcl iw^ith; your husband." 
. WliTO Mrs. y^lden ha^ he tried to talk 

sanely tP the sick and melancholy man, urging him 
to sciek mpre ^fipejrful surroundings. Alden merely 
shook his head. 

" See here," Garth exploded at last. " There's 
no poiat in^your closing your confidence to me. It 
only niakes matters a thousand times more difficult. 
Ypu're afraid. Of what ? " 

The other answered with a difficulty that was 
not wholly physical. He had hit upon this incom- 
prehensible plan and he would carry it through. 

** Then it's only fair to tell you," Garth said> 
** that the man who drove me out talked a little. 
I've heard about your boat, of why your servants 
ran, of the strange men with whom you've crowded 
the village. Tell me one thing. Have you had 
threatening letters about your contracts?" 



112 THE GRAY MASK 

"Several." 

The deep lines in Alden's face tightened. 

" Don't think," he managed to get out, " that Fm 
a coward. I'll stay. My contracts will be carried 
through." 

" No," Garth answered, " you're not that kind 
of a coward, but there's something else. Don't 
deny, Mr. Alden. You're more than sick. You're 
afraid. What is it?" 

Alden shuddered. 

"A — a coward." 

The words stumbled out of his mouth. 

" But I don't know what it is. You're to tell me, 
Mr. Garth, if it's anything." 

" This rot about the woods and the spirits of 
dead soldiers?" Garth asked. 

Alden stirred. He nodded in the direction of 
the rear casement windows. 

" Just across the lawn." 

"You haven't seen?" Garth asked sharply. 

"But," Alden said, "the servants — " 

This, then, Garth decided, must be the source 
of the fear the other's appearance recorded. 

" Nonsense, Mr. Alden. That's one of the 
commonest superstitions the world over, that sol- 
diers come back to the battlefields where they have 
died, and in time of war — " 

" If there's nothing in it," Alden whispered, " why 
is it so common? Why did my servants swear they 
had seen? And the fog I We've had too much 



THROUGH THE DARK 113 

fog lately — every night for a week. My man died 
in the fog." 

Garth whistled. 

" Could they have mistaken him for you ? " 

" There were no marks on the body." 

Alden looked up. His voice thickened. 

** We are talking too much. I — I want you to 
stay and judge for yourself." 

Garth arose and walked to the rear window, but 
he could see nothing for the mist. He stood there, 
nevertheless, for some time, puzzled and half angry. 
The mental and physical condition of his host, Mrs. 
Alden's shattered nerves, the extreme loneliness, im- 
pressed on him a sense of uncharted adventuring. 

** Why," he asked himself, " won't these people 
talk? What do they expect me to find in this 
house?" 

When he turned back he saw that Alden's eyes 
were closed. The regular rising and falling of his 
chest warned Garth to quietness. He would not 
disturb the worn-out man. So he pressed the elec- 
tric bell and walked to the hall. He met John there. 

" Please show me to my room," he said. " Mr. 
Alden's asleep. Perhaps you'd better speak to his 
wife before you disturb him." 

John bowed and led him upstairs. 

" Good-night, sir," he said, opening the door. 
" May you sleep well. It's a little hard here 
lately." 

He hesitated. He cleared his throat. 



114 THE GRAY MASK 

" You couldn't persuade him to send his wife 
away? " he went on at last. ** She's not strong, sir. 
It's pitiful." 

" See here, John," Garth said impulsively. " I 
know it's against the rules, but tell me what's wrong 
here. What are you all afraid of?" 

The old man's lips moved. His eyes sought 
Garth's urgently. With a visible effort he backed 
out of the room. His glance left Garth. When 
he opened his lips all he said was: 

** Good-night, sir." 

Garth closed the door, shrugging his shoulders. 
Of what a delicacy the threat must be to require 
such scrupulous handling ! ^* If there is anything," 
Alden had said. Garth brought his hands to- 
gether. 

" There is something,^' he muttered, " something 
as dangerous as the death Alden is manufacturing 
back there." 

He went to bed, but the restlessness of the train 
returned to him. Reviewing Alden's exhaustion and 
the old servant's significant comment, he wondered 
half seriously if sleep refused to enter this house. 
The place, even for his splendidly controlled emo- 
tions, possessed a character, depressive, unhealthy, 
calmly malevolent. 

He had lost account of time. He had been, per- 
haps, on the frontier of sleep, for, as he sprang up- 
right, he could not be all at once sure what had 
aroused him. A man's groan, he thought. Sud- 
denly, tearing through the darkness, came the 



THROUGH THE DARK 115 

affirmation — a feminine scream, full of terror, 
abruptly ended. 

He threw on his clothes, grasped his revolver, 
dashed down the stairs, and burst into the living- 
room. There was no light now beyond the wan 
glow of the fire, but it was still sufficient to show 
him Alden, huddled more than ever in the chair, 
and the terror that had quivered through the cry, 
persisted now in Alden's face. 

His wife, in a dressing gown, knelt at his side, 
her arm around his knees. At Garth's entrance she 
sprang erect, facing him. 

" It came," she gasped. ** Oh, I knew it would. 
All along I've known." 

" Tell me what's happened," Garth commanded. 

The woman's voice was scarcely intelligible. 

" I let him sleep here. Just now he groaned. I 
ran in. Somebody — something had attacked him. 
I ran in. I — I saw it." 

"Where?" 

She pointed to the rear window. 

*' I saw it going out there. It was foggy. It 
went in the fog. I couldn't — " 

Garth sprang to the window. It was, in fact, 
half open. Before he could get through Mrs. Alden 
had caught his arm. 

" Don't follow. It isn't safe out there." 

" I want that man," he said. 

She leaned weakly against the casement. 

** But out there," she whispered, ** they arc not 
men." 



ii6 THE GRAY MASK 

Again she caught his arm. 

" Don't leave me alone now that they can come 



m. 



She pointed at her husband. 

" Look at him. He saw it in the fog that came 
through the window. It is all fog out there. Don't 
leave me alone." 

He thrust the revolver impatiently in her hand. 

" Then take this. Not much use outside on such 
a night." 

He jumped to the lawn and started swiftly across. 
Since the intruder had fled this way he might hear 
him in the woods, might grapple with him. He re- 
gretted the loss of his revolver, although he real- 
ized it would be useless to-night except at close 
quarters, and for that he possessed a cleverly-de- 
vised reserve, which he had arranged on first join- 
ing the force — a folding knife, hidden in his belt, 
sharp, well-tested, deadly. 

At the edge of the woods he paused, straining 
his ears, trying to get his bearings, for he was on 
unfamiliar ground and the fog was very dense here. 
It lowered a white, translucent shroud over the 
nocturnal landscape. Beneath its folds he could 
make out only one or two tree trunks and a few 
drooping branches. These, as he stared, gave him 
the illusion of moving surreptitiously. 

The moon, he knew, was at the full, but its golden 
rotundity was heavily veiled to-night, so that it had 
the forlorn, the sorrowful appearance of a lamp. 



THROUGH THE DARK 1 1 7 

once brilliant, whose flame has gradually diminished 
and is about to expire. 

Garth could hear nothing, but he waited breath- 
lessly, still straining his ears. This, he mused, was 
the place where many soldiers had died in battle, 
the setting for ghostly legends, the spot where the 
servants had fancied a terrifying and bodiless re- 
animation, the death-bed of Alden's valet. 

Now that he had time to weigh it, Mrs. Aldcn's 
manner puzzled him. She had said it had been in 
the house, that now they could come in, and that out 
here they were not men. Had the loneliness im- 
posed upon her intelligence such a repulsive credu- 
lity? 

He had to admit that imagination in such a med- 
ium could precipitate shameful and deceptive fancies. 

Then, without realizing at first why. Garth knew 
he had been unjust. He found his eyes striving to 
penetrate the night to the left. Surely it was not 
the old illusion of moving trees and branches that 
had set the fog in lazy motion over there. He 
stepped cautiously behind a pine tree. The chill in- 
creased. A charnal atmosphere had crept into the 
woods. As he shivered he realized that this 
sepulchral place had filled with plausible inhabitants 
— shapes as restless and unsubstantial as if sprung 
solely from a morbid sonmambulism. 






', / 



'i 






■'■ ■-■^-'•■' "^ •■'tHAPTER-IX- 




*:>'' ;t: !y^.^ ^..M rr..:':,; ^;)":! '.-^''"l./ '.•..'': ':"-^ 

HADQWS, a^dy?ince4 thrpugl^ the jhadpwy ipg, 
ariid Q^th coul4' dfifini^ ^be^ , as ,nq t;apn;, than 

^^)m?atar^y, an4 )ie, ;^ywp§e4^ appareritly. floating 
forwj^rxith^rtrwikrpf (a ra^^> ^gurc. , Pallid tat-( 
ters, ?u<;h. as migj[it i s^rviyl5 iri: at n(i(w:t,^axy, flapped 
about bare shoulders, and from a little distance b^ 

yp94 9?ff*?, a si^^Ix.fikv^T^^f^^ 4?^ r^P??se 

uncertain mponlight plight , dr^w from a b^yojaet or 
a inusfcet barrel,, ^ . . .• .m v 

The fog clpsedrin. Thier? wer^ no mont ^d- 
oy^s. Garth, e^ger to fpllqw, Jfprc;^d hioif elf to wait, 
Hci told himself th^t t^ Tna pf phantpm^posh* 
ses^ed a ipe^ning :\ybich wpu^^ directipn tp 

his task, '^he m^vfiiling pf itjs iippuls^, he was con-, 
fident, wou^d unveil the inysteiy at the hpuse- 
Against so many only caution w^ useful at present. 

He was glad Nora was i^ot witl^ ? hjna. He knew 
how profojmdly she; wpuld have been srirredt how 
ready she would, have bpen to discard ^> rational ex- 
planation for the occult. He could smile a little. 
In this one respect of vulnerability to superstition 
he felt himself immeasurably her superior. He was 

glad she had not involved herself in such a case. 

ii8 



THfe PliAlWf bM ' AkMY 1 1^ 

' FiiiaUy; ; phaW:art>likri ' hiriiielif , he ptoteeiied 
througfr tlid fog' in the dtfectioh the sUkni shadoW^ 
hiid t^eh. He walked for sbhle distahce. ' 

Wiihoirwahiing'he ^Stumbled and pitched for- 
ward' to his knees. Reaching out to save himself, 
his fingers touched something Wet,' cold, arid 
possessed of ^ revealing quiali ty Which In bhe breath- 
less moment -drbve into his brain the excuse for 
thdsef it thi6 hdus^, and fdctissed for him their tei^ror 
of the 'unexplored world 6f Wfcose adjacerice their 
solitude nftjst ^Ve coiiviticed them. ^ ' 

He sriitchedhrSf hand back, reridered for^ the mo*- 
ment without purpose by this silent and sirigular 
tryst to which chance had led him jii the eVil fbrest. 
It was ' necessary; hoWe ver, to strip ' the mask of 
night from the face of the one who lay, defeated 
and beyond resistance^ tri the path of the shadowy 
army.--'- '^-''^ ^'^ • ^"■' ';■[ ■ ;"''-^^^ ^ ■ ;•" •; 

He took his pocket lamp ffotnhiis?cbat arid 
pressed the control. The light fought through the 
fog to the face of the old servant who 2t few hours 
ago had begged him to get Mrs. Alden away, whoie 
lips had been incomprehensibly sealed. 

Quickly he searched for the manner of death, for 
there could be no coincidence about two such catas- 
trophes in the same spot. Iil spite of tjtie corprier's 
verdict, intirder wa^ the only 'sdhsible deduction. 
Yet he found no slightest souvenir of violence. The 
f ace aionb held a record of an attack -^ th^ features 
were twisted as if fttrth its veheiriince, ihd" the^ eyes 
appeiarfed to secrete some shocldng vist(*i. 



I20 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth sprang to his feet. Alden's sick fear and 
his wife's hysterical misgivings were placed on a 
basis far sounder than imagination. A danger, un- 
conformable, but none the less real, skirted their 
isolated house, had at last, according to the woman, 
forced an entrance. 

Garth knew his limitations. He must have help, 
and now Alden must be made to talk. 

He ran back to the house and stepped through 
the window. The lamp had been lighted. It shone 
on Mrs. Alden who bent over the writing-table, her 
gaze directed hypnotically towards the huddled man 
in the chair. Garth, since he came from the rear, 
could not see Alden's face at first. 

" Mrs. Alden," he said, ** I found your man, out 
there — " 

Her hands left the table. She ^straightened. 
With a perceptible effort she raised her eyes from 
the chair to meet Garth's. 

'' Not de — " 

She put her hand to her mouth and crushed back 
the word. 

Garth nodded. 

** I must have help. Where's the telephone?'' 
he asked. 

He started for the hall. 

" Lock that window," Ke said. ** I've left it 
open." 

Suddenly he paused and turned. A sound, 
scarcely human, had come from the chair — a hol- 
low, a meaningless vocal attempt, as though there 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 1 2 1 

were no palate behind It, no tongue to shape Its 
Intention. 

From where he stood Garth could see Alden dis- 
tinctly enough. His head was sunk forward on his 
chest. His fingers clutched powerlessly at the chair 
arms. His eyes appeared to have hoarded and 
just now released all the strength of which his 
meager body had been stripped. They flashed with 
a passionate purpose which drew Garth magnetically 
until he was close and had stooped and was staring 
into them with a curiosity almost as pronounced 
as their eagerness. 

" What is it, Mr. Alden? " he asked. 

The other's fingers continued to stray about the 
chair arms. 

" You've got to tell me what you know — all 
you suspect," Garth urged " We've murder on our 
hands. What do you know? " 

Alden's head rose and fell affirmatively. 

" Out with it." 

But Alden did not answer, although his eyes 
burned brighter ; and Garth guessed. 

" Speak, Mr. Alden," he begged. 

Alden's lips moved. His throat worked. His 
face set in a grotesque grimace. 

" There's danger for all of us," Garth cried. 
" The time for silence has passed." 

Then Alden answered, but it was only with that 
helpless, futile sound — such a whimper as escapes 
unintelligibly from the fancied fatality of a night- 
mare. 



122 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth drew back. Now when it was too late 
Alden wanted to talk. Now when he had been 
robbed of the power he craved the abandonment of 
words. 

" Mrs. Alden," Garth whispered. ** You know 
your husband can't speak 1 Look at him 1 " 

About her advance there was that hypnotic qual- 
ity Garth had noticed before. He read in her face, 
moreover, a sympathy and a love that made it as 
difficult of unmoved contemplation as the helpless 
suffering in Alden's. 

Alden smiled sorrowfully as his wife came close 
and stooped to him. His hands ceased their stray- 
ing about the chair arms. They rose with a quick 
motion, an unsuspected strength, and closed about 
her white and beautiful throat. 

She did not cry out. Perhaps there was no time. 
Her eyes closed. Her lips were wistful. 

Garth tore at the man's fingers. It took all his 
force to break their hold. And as he fought the 
answer to a great deal came to him. Alden was 
clearly insane, and his wife's fear and John's doubt 
of her safety were accounted for. Yet it didn't 
answer all. What was the share of the shrouded 
army in the forest? What was the connection of 
the death that had struck there twice? 

Alden's vise-like grip was broken. Mrs. Alden 
swayed against the writing-table, gasping. Alden's 
whimpering had recommenced. 

Garth looked from one to the other. 

" Good God I " he said. 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 123 

She turned on him. 

" Why did you come? It is your fault.'* 

Garth pointed at the cabinet where the medicine 
was kept. The nightmare whimpering did not 
cease. 

" Get him something," Garth directed. " The 
doctor must have left you a narcotic.'* 

She walked with a pronounced lurch to the cabinet 
where Garth heard her fumbling among the bottles» 
but he did not turn away from Alden. The im* 
becile sounds stopped, but the lips worked ineffec- 
tively again. One of the hands moved slowly with 
an apparent sanity of purpose. Garth realized that 
it was motioning him bade. Alden started to rise. 
Garth saw his veins swell and the emaciated muscles 
strain as he literally dragged himself out of the 
chair and braced his elbows against the writing- 
table. He grasped a pencil and wrote rapidly on 
a piece of paper. Garth understood, and he reached 
out for the sheet on which Alden had written the 
words — perhaps a warning, perhaps the truth — 
which his tongue had been unable to form. 

" Don't touch that paper." 

There was a new quality about the voice Garth 
could not deny. There was no more tinkling of 
glass at the cabinet. He found it difficult to credit 
Mrs. Alden with that clear, authoritative command. 
He turned warily and looked into the muzzle of 
his own revolver. Mrs. Alden's outstretched hand, 
he noticed, did not waver. 

"What does this mean?" he cried. 



124 THE GRAY MASK 

" It means," she answered in a tired voice, " that 
if you read what is on that paper you'll leave me no 
choice. I shall have to shoot." 

Alden whimpered again. The paper fluttered to 
the floor and rested, white and uncommunicative, be- 
neath the table. His face set. He pointed ac- 
cusingly towards the rear window. 

The gesture was clear to Garth. He knew what 
It meant before his eyes followed its direction. Be- 
fore he had seen, he appreciated almost palpably 
the new presence in the room. At the moment it 
seemed inevitable to him that the tense group should 
be joined by a stronger force, the inspiration, prob- 
ably, of the mysteries that had posed it, and that 
worked ahead, he could not doubt, to a graver is- 
sue for Alden and himself 

The newcomer glided from the shadows by the 
window and moved to Mrs. Alden's side — huge, 
powerful. The cap, drawn low over his eyes, and 
the thick growth about the mouth, robbed his face 
of expression and gave to his actions a mechanical 
precision not lightly to be disturbed. He took the 
revolver from the woman. 

" I couldn't," she said. " He hasn't read. It 
won't be necessary? " 

" Necessary," the man answered, " but you were 
right. Not in that way. It leaves too much evi- 
dence. As the others went.'* 

" No more death," she cried. " There has been 
too much death." 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 125 

" These days the world is full of death," he an- 
swered. "What are one or two here?** 

The voice carried as little expression as the face 
or the figure, but an accent, which Garth kneW) 
hindered its flow, and defined the situation with a 
brutal clearness. 

' He turned at a slipping behind him, a heavy f all. 
Alden lay on the floor, his hand stretched towards 
the futile spot of white beneath the table. His wife 
stumbled across and knelt beside him, restlessly fin- 
gering his shoulders. 

" Andrew I " she cried. " You don't understand. 
Look at me. You have to understand. I love you. 
Nothing changes that." 

The newcomer moved to her, and, without re- 
laxing his vigilance, grasped her arm. 

" There's too much to be done to-night for tears. 
Keep your watch." 

He indicated Garth. 

" I'll come back and attend to him later." 

She continued to stare at her husband's closed 
eyes. 

" He knows now, but you shan't kill him. I tell 
you you shan't kill him." 

" When the occasion arises you will follow your 
duty," he said. 

He turned to Garth, pointing to the oak door in 
the rear corner. 

" You will go in there." 

A flashing recollection of Nora decided Garth. 



126 THE GRAY MASK 

Resistance now, he knew» as he studied the great 
figure, would mean the end, whereas, if he waited 
and obeyed, the knife, secreted in his felt, offered a 
possible escape. 

" Wait 1 " the man snapped. 

He thrust the revolver in Mrs. Alden^s hand while 
he ran quickly over Garth's clothing. The thick- 
ness of the belt escaped him. He found only the 
pocket lamp. 

" The telephone is disconnected," he said, evi- 
dently to reassure the woman. '' Your husband is 
too weak to leave the house, and no one will come 
near it until daylight. We won't cross that bridge 
before we reach it." 

She shuddered. 

The other opened the oak door and motioned 
Garth to enter. He went through, simulating a pro- 
found dejection, but actually reaching out again to 
confidence. For the man would come back to visit 
him with the silent, undemonstrative violence that 
had done for the two men in the woods, but Garth 
would be waiting for him, behind the door, with his 
knife. Therefore, when the door was locked, he 
commenced hopefully to examine his prison. 

The night, he found after a moment, was not 
complete in here. It possessed a quality, milky but 
lustreless, reminiscent of the shroud through which 
the shadowy figures had paraded. It retained, how- 
ever, the obscurity of thorough darkness. He had 
a feeling, indeed, of standing in a darkness that was 
white. 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 127 

There must be windows over there, many win- 
dows. He felt his way across. The wall, as well 
as the interior face of the door, was lined with sheet 
tin, suggesting immediately the nature of his prison 
— ? a dismantled conservatory. The glazed end was 
of small panes, heavily leaded. The frames in 
themselves offered a resistance to escape as effica- 
cious as prison bars. 

The arrangement, nevertheless, gave him one ad- 
vantage. A single door to guard removed the 
threat of a surprise. 

In the centre of the floor he found a considerable 
heap of wood, probably the fittings of the place. 
He scarcely dared pause to examine it. He hurried 
back to his post at the doorway, removed the knife 
from his belt, jointed it, and tested the point against 
his finger. He didn't know how long his respite 
would last. He couldn't hazard a guess as to the 
nature of the big man's occupation. He could only 
estimate its importance by the fact that it had pre- 
vented the other's dealing summarily with him. 

He had entered the case with too little light. 
Nora had been right. One can not follow a 
straight course through the dark. Only a few dim 
outlines offered themselves for his appraisal. Mrs. 
Alden had made her choice between an evident, an 
exceptional affection for her husband and an enter- 
prise directed by the sinister figure who had stepped 
from the shadows. Of what a vast importance that 
enterprise must be since it had prodded her to such 
a decision, since it had made her acquiesce, however 



J 



128 THE GRAY MASK 

unwillingly, in murder to safeguard its progress! 
She faced even the death of her own husband be- 
cause he had learned too much of its intention. And 
she had no slightest amorous tendency — of that 
Garth was sure — towards the bearded giant to 
whose will she bent her own with a pitiable humility. 
The lack of that world-wide, easily comprehensible 
motive to wrong, taken with the leader's German 
accent, directed Garth's logic to the furnaces, which 
night after night stained the sky with a scarlet, 
significant of their feverish industry. Yet the 
shadowy figures of the woods were still elusive, un- 
less the place was used as a rendezvous and the 
affair to-night approached a crisis. Could he es- 
cape? Would he be in time to prevent a crime of 
such proportions, of such disquieting possibilities? 

He stiflFened at a stealthy movement of the key 
in the lock. The answer lay just ahead. Garth 
could not doubt that the German was about to enter, 
to annihilate in his subtle manner an enemy he be- 
lieved unarmed. 

With his left hand he braced himself against the 
door-frame for the stroke, while with his right hand 
he lifted the knife. The necessity of striking with- 
out warning sickened him. He had no choice. 
There was too much eager help within ear-shot of 
an alarm. The stakes loomed too conunandingly 
to tolerate a sentimental hesitation. It was not 
only his own life in the scales. The lives of those 
who toiled at the furnaces swayed with his. But it 
was from the recollection of Nora that he drew the 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 129 

most strength, from the desire to see her again; to 
watch her quiet figure — a little inscrutable, uncon- 
sciously provocative; to hover again on the edge o£ 
an avowal, alert for his favorable moment. 

The door hinges responded to a pressure. The 
lamp had evidently been extinguished again, for he 
saw in the uncertain radiance of the embers a thing, 
scarcely definable as human, prone beyond the thresh- 
old. 

The empty doorway, the inert object on the floor, 
the darkness, accented rather than diminished by the 
embers, blurred his calculations. Where was the 
one who had opened and for whom his knife was 
eager ? 

Unexpectedly a brilliant light flashed in his eyes 
and went out. Half-blinded, he sensed the presence 
of something on the sill, and he struck downward 
with all his force. He reached only emptiness. 
The one on the sill had sprung through. From 
somewhere in the house Garth heard the patter of 
hastening feet. 

He fought away the effects of the flash, striving 
to locate the one who had entered. There beside 
the heap of rubbish knelt a form darker than the 
white darkness. 

He moved noiselessly over. He reached down 
and grasped the bent shoulder, and, as the shoulder 
recoiled from his touch, so he recoiled from its qual- 
ity that revealed the presence in his prison of a 
woman. 

Through his amazement he heard the door close. 



130 THE GRAY MASK 

but he felt sure of himself now. Mrs. Alden was 
his prisoner — a hostage, if he chose, for his own 
escape, unless, indeed, she had finally revolted and 
come to his aid. 

" Get up," he said roughly. 

The woman's sig^ conveyed relief. Something 
scraped beneath her hand. A tiny flame was born 
and entered into the base of the rubbish. 

Then the woman turned slowly, and, in the light 
of the flame^ Garth looked into Nora's excited eyes 
and smiling face. 

Incredulous, he grasped her arms, lifted her to 
her feet, and stared. The growing flame struck a 
flash from his knife, drove into his brain a full 
realization of the monstrous misunderstanding which 
had nearly involved them in unspeakable disaster. 

" Good God, Nora ! I nearly — I tried to — " 

Her smile grew. 

" I didn't know what I should find in here. I 
couldn't afford to take chances." 

" But I left you in New York," he went on un- 
certainly. "How did you come? Why are you 
here?" 

" No time for explanations now," she answered 
quickly. '* We must get out of here." 

He recalled the patter of hastening feet, the soft 
closing of the door. In the growing light he saw 
its tin-sheeted face flush with the wall. 

" The door has been shut," he said. " I'm afraid 
— locked. Why did you light that fire ? " 

She ran across, grasped the knob, then commenced 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 131 

to beat with her fists at the tin. Suddenly she 
stopped. Her shoulders drooped. 

** No use," she whispered. " She must have come 
in. She won't open now." 

Garth hurried to her side. 

" I don't understand," he said, " but it's evident 
we are caught here, and that fire has been fixed — 
a signal ? " 

She nodded. 

"Why did you light it?" 

"Because," she answered dully, " it had to bum 
to-night." 

The crisis they faced was clear to him. 

" Nora 1 In a minute this room will be a fur- 
nace." 

He imagined from the excitement still flashing 
in her eyes that she did not quite realize, but she 
spoke without regret, and her words carried the 
shocking fatality of the German's. 

" I'm sorry, Jim, but if I had known we would 
be caught I would have lighted it just the same. 
After all, a small price in the long run — only the 
two of us." 

He brushed the rapid perspiration from his face. 
The fire had reached the heart of the pile. The air 
thickened with a reddish, pungent smoke. He 
choked. 

" I'm sorry, Jim. I came only to help you, but I 
found — " 

The vapour cut her voice. 

The sentimental possibilities of their predicament 



132 THE GRAY MASK 

came with a gentle wonder to Garth. They over- 
weighed the danger, robbed him for the moment of 
full comprehension. This clearly was his moment, 
and whatever the next might bring seemed a fair 
exchange for her probable response. He reached 
blindly towards her through the smoke. 

"Nora!" 

His heart leapt as she swayed a little. Then he 
heard the grating of the key in the lock. It im- 
pressed him as curious that the saving sound carried 
to him a sense of disappointment, the emptiness of a 
destiny unfulfilled. 

Nora turned the knob. He pushed against the 
door. They stumbled into the next room, breath- 
ing deeply the fresh, clean air. 

Alden's prostrate form lay just within. His wife 
stood across the room by the hall door, the revolver 
held listlessly in her hand. Her hair, more than 
ever disordered, fell about her weary eyes, and gave 
her face an air of ironical witchery. 

Garth caught the meaning of the tableau. He 
glanced with admiration at the sick man, appreciat- 
ing the bitter obstacle he had overcome, the ab- 
horrent chance he had taken after conquering his 
physical incapacity and reaching the door. The re- 
sult, Garth noticed, had carried to Alden a vast 
relief, a shadow of content. The light from the 
conservatory flickered about his face, exposing an 
expression of pride. The silent lips moved as if 
to frame a boast. 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 133 

**So, Mrs. Alden," Garth said, "you left him 
again. To warn the others? " 

She did not answer. He shrugged his shoulders. 

" Anyway," he went on, " when you came back 
and found him at the key you didn't have time to 
get to him, and you weren't quite as bad as you 
should have been. You let him unlock the door. 
You didn't have the nerve to shoot — your hus- 
band." 

** Don't, Jim," Nora warned. ** You don't under- 
stand." 

Frankly he didn't, but he knew that Mrs. Alden, 
in a sense, still controlled the situation. Her re- 
volver could compel their movements. Its explosion 
would doubtless bring help swarming to her side. 

" And you see," Nora went on, speaking to her 
gently, " what a useless sacrifice it would have been. 
Everything was finished for you the moment I lighted 
the beacon." 

Mrs. Alden nodded. 

Garth grinned as the protective feminine instinct 
expressed itself through this woman in her most 
intricate hour. 

" It was all arranged," she said. " If you will 
close that door the house will be safe enough from 
the fire." 

She indicated her husband. There were tears in 
her eyes again. 

" You will take care of him? " 

" Yes," Nora said. 



134 THE GRAY MASK 

She turned and closed the door. Through the 
sudden darkness Garth heard Mrs. Alden run into 
the hall. He sprang after her, but Nora's voice, 
sharp and commanding, halted him. 

" Let her go, Jim. I'll explain. Light the lamp 
now." 

" You've earned the right to give the orders," 
he said. 

^ He felt his way to the writing-table and lighted 
the lamp. 

" You know," he said, " that there are many men 
near here — that they can trap us in this house?" 

" I don't think," she answered, " that they will 
come to this house again." 

He turned to her. 

"Nora! What is it? Even after all I've seen 
I can't be sure. The furnaces? They are two 
miles away." 

She shook her head. 

" Not the furnaces, Jim. Come with me and I 
will show you." 

She led him to an unlighted room across the hall 
and flung back the curtains. 

The glare of a conflagration, far vaster than that 
which had threatened them in the conservatory, 
flashed in their eyes and lighted the neighborhood 
with a brilliancy fiercer than noonday. 

For the first time Garth could see that the house 
stood on a high, wooded plateau. The trees had 
been cleared away between it and the water, and 
a slope, bordered with hedges, had been blasted 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 135 

to a beach, small and crescent-shaped. The fire 
blazed with a destructive violence in a structure on 
this beach. He recalled the driver's gossip about 
Alden's yacht. He saw a small launch, heavily- 
laden, making for the open sea. 

" The boat house," he said. 

" Yes," Nora answered. " Look." 

She drew a little back. An explosion tore at 
their ears. Somewheres upstairs a window broke. 
The tinkling of glass was like an absurdly attenuated 
echo. But Garth's attention was fixed on the boat- 
house. The building appeared to disintegrate. 
Out of its ruins rose a colossal column of muddy 
smoke. From its summit streaming banners of 
purple and violet flame unfurled. They waved their 
frantic message to Garth. He turned, gaping, to 
Nora. 

'*That building!" he gasped. "It's crowded 
with gasolene — oil 1 " 

** You didn't guess, Jim? You see now I couldn't 
take chances. I had to light the signal that made 
them fire this." 

" And you were right," he agreed. " Only the 
two of us — " 

He gazed at her wonderingly. There was only 
pride in his voice. 

" How many lives I How many millions of dol- 
lars 1 You've spared them, Nora." 

Garth had lifted Alden to the sofa and had left 
Nora hovering over the man who, they knew now, 



136 THE GRAY MASK 

had been systematically drugged for days. After 
reconnecting the telephone and notifying the federal 
authorities he had returned to the living-room. 
Nora arose, and, with her finger at her lips, joined 
him by the fireplace. 

" He's asleep," she said. " You know, Jim, 
there wasn't much point in your telephoning. 
They've destroyed the evidence. They've gone." 

She sat down. Garth drew a chair close to her. 
Their voices were low in order that Alden might 
not be disturbed. 

" Was it near? " he asked. ** The fact that they 
took the launch — yet they might put in at some 
lonely cove and scatter." 

" It must have been expected soon," she answered. 
" They were working desperately. They were very 
anxious tonight." 

" You must have guessed, Nora, as soon as I left 
New York. How?" 

" By giving father a scolding," she answered with 
a smile. ** I knew that Mrs. Alden had been born 
in Berlin, and that her family was still prominent 
there where Mr. Alden had married her. Even 
since her marriage she's spent much time abroad. I 
wondered what these shadowy figures were doing 
in the woods on foggy nights unless they were trans- 
porting something or working about some building. 
But Mr. Alden would know if it had anything to do 
with the house or the stable. Since he was sick, 
the boat-house might be their objective without his 
knowing it. I suspected the truth then. Such an 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 137 

opportunity! No one would doubt the property of 
a man who manufactured ammunition for the gov- 
ernment. The natural thought was that any at- 
tempts by Germans here would be directed against 
the furnaces or Alden personally. It was ideal. 
All that was necessary was to scare the servants 
away and keep Alden in the house while his wife 
and the rest made ready for it." 

" Still those men in the woods? " Garth asked. 

" They were probably working at the furnaces. 
When you saw them they were on their way to the 
boat-house to make the necessary alterations. And^ 
of course, they carried all the supplies there. You 
see, I went to the freight agent of the only railroad 
that runs to Deacon's Bay. He helped me a lot. 
We found that a large number of heavy cases had 
been sent here and to nearby stations, falsely in- 
voiced and labelled to be called for. He had sus- 
pected gasolene in one of them and was about to hold 
up further shipments. That settled it for me. I 
knew you were going blindly, so I took the next 
train." 

** How did you learn about the signal?" he 
asked. 

" I came very quietly," she answered, " a little 
like a sneak-thief, I'm afraid. That front window 
is a little open. I overheard Mrs. Alden and a 
huge man. Of course she was only to light that 
signal if the game was wholly up. It meant to 
them that there was a party big enough to handle 
the lot of them. So I made up my mind I must 



138 THE GRAY MASK 

slip in and burn it to-night, in case it was near by. 
I knew then they would burn the evidence, escape 
themselves, while the submarine would turn back, 
believing that the game was up.'* 

** What a base 1 " he muttered. " With the trans- 
atlantic lanes at its mercy. All those transports 
and freighters marked for destruction! Alden 
saved the fat." 

" Yes," Nora answered, " I gathered from what 
they said that he made sure to-night somehow and 
faced her with it. That was when she screamed 
and tried to send you out. Then her courage failed 
her and she called you back. She wasn't strong 
enough for murder. And from her point of view 
what she did was pure patriotism." 

'^ It Vtras because he suspected his wife, poor devil," 
Garth answered, ^' that he'd tell me nothing. I 
guess he hoped I'd convince him he was wrong." 

He had been staring at the fire. He looked up 
now to find that Nora was knitting complacently 
on something heavy and comfortable and grey. Her 
eyes were thoughtful. 

^* Wife against husband," she mused. '^ Such 
tragedies are common in war. And she loved him. 
Have you noticed the conservatory door? " 

It stood open. Through the glass Garth could 
see the far sea, still ruddy from the fire, and there 
entered again into his consciousness the restless 
clamor of water. 

" He made me open It," Nora went on. " He 
looked out there until he went to sleep — a sort 



THE PHANTOM ARMY 139 

of farewell, a welcome if she should come back. 
Perhaps she will some day." 

Such devotion stirred anew in Garth the sensa- 
tions he had experienced in the conservatory. He 
watched Nora as her fingers moved with their ac- 
customed deftness about her knitting. She made 
the old picture, lovable and tempting, of quiet, house- 
wifely efficiency. 

" You always knit," he said in an uncertain voice. 

" Another winter is very close," she answered 
gravely, ** and if the peace should be delayed there 
would be so much suffering — " 

He stretched out his hand. 

" Nora," he said huskily, " you've saved my life 
to-night. It's yours. What will you do with it? " 

She glanced up. She smiled a little. 

** You very nearly took mine, Jim, so aren't we 
quits?'* 



CHAPTER X 

THE COINS AND THE CHINAMAN 

ON their way to the station, and during their 
long journey to New York, Nora drew back 
from any attempt of Garth's in the direction 
of sentiment. Frequently he stared at her with a 
whimsical despair. It was clear enough that he was 
not distasteful to her. He fancied, moreover, that 
he had through his very persistence softened per- 
ceptibly the girl's regret for Kridel; had remodeled 
to an extent her earlier attitude of a widow. Would 
he, however, he asked himself, be able to go the 
whole way? 

Now she wished to talk of trivial things, to make 
a lark of their luncheon in Boston, to get as far 
away as she could from the dangerous and uncertain 
profession which had taken Kridel from her, and 
which might, even before she could resolve her own 
feelings, involve Garth in some fatal accident. 
Once he recurred to the gray mask, and spoke of 
Slim and George, whose trial would soon begin. 
She trembled slightly, he thought. She wouldn't 
let him go on. Her fear, he was certain, was not 
for herself. That much encouraged. Yet this 
rivalry with one who had been for some time dead 

I4d 



THE COINS AND THE CHINAMAN 141 

often brought him a sensation of complete help- 
lessness; for Nora was not one to pose. She was 
honest with herself, with Garth, with the dead man. 
Perhaps some grave sacrifice would resolve her 
doubts. He felt himself capable of that. He fell 
into her mood at last, and found the journey home 
too short. In retrospect it assumed an increased 
value. During a long period he saw practically 
nothing of Nora. 

For a month or more he found no comfort in 
his work. Headquarters, he remarked many times, 
was a rest cure for anybody who wanted one. 

All at once that altered, as such things happen, 
without warning. He had spent an hour or so on 
an unimpressive case, and it was nearly midnight 
when he turned south from the frontier of Harlem. 

From time to time a light snow fell, and always 
there was a vaporous quality about the cold night 
air which added to the waywardness of his unex- 
pected experience. 

He walked for a long time, scarcely aware of 
the landmarks of the neighbourhood, rehearsing 
thoughts which, these last few weeks, had grown 
familiar and unpalatable. Now, as always, they 
failed to guide him to any explanation of Nora's 
abrupt abandonment of her routine. His recent 
visits at the flat had thrown him into the hospitable 
hands of the inspector, who, however, had main- 
tained an incomprehensible silence as to his daugh- 
ter's whereabouts. Garth could read in this atti- 
tude no antagonism to his own ambitions. He was 



142 THE GRAY MASK 

confident that the result of his campaign for Nora's 
heart depended wholly on the girl herself. 

He realized it was growing late. Absent-mind- 
edly he turned into a side street, intending to reach 
Third Avenue and climb the steps of the nearest 
elevated station. 

It was the discreet murmuring of a motor that 
routed finally his preoccupation. A limousine of an 
extravagant type had halted close to the curb at the 
end of the block. It pointed a contrast which stirred 
the detective's curiosity. The street, he noticed 
now, in common with many this far up-town, was 
inadequately lighted, but, in spite of the veils placed 
by the snow and the haze over the few gas lamps, 
a glance informed him that fashion had not invaded 
this far. The buildings, with high stoops and 
sunken areaways, were of a depressing, tasteless 
similarity — doubtless cheap boarding-houses or 
dreary converted apartments. He wondered what 
such an automobile did here, unless, perhaps, the 
chauffeur, alone, had some object. But he saw that, 
while the chauffeur retained his seat, the door was 
opened from the inside and a tall man, in a high 
hat and a fur coat, which exposed an evening shirt, 
stepped with nervous haste to the sidewalk. 

Garth slackened his pace. He kept to the shad- 
ows near the house line. He watched with increas- 
ing interest while the man crossed the pavement, 
and, instead of climbing the steps, stooped to place 
an object on the ground. He saw him rise then 
and take something from his pocket which he tossed 



THE COINS AND THE CHINAMAN 143 

in the air. He was not surprised when the man 
failed to catch it. He heard it, whatever it was, 
strike the sidewalk, clicking metallically. 

The man dropped to his knees and with wide 
gestures searched the flagging and the gutter. 
After a moment the chauffeur exclaimed — angrily, 
Garth fancied — then descended from his seat and 
joined the hunt. 

Garth, speculating on this unconventional per- 
formance, stepped casually into an areaway, as if, 
indeed, it was his destination. From this shelter 
he observed the outcome. 

The chauffeur picked up something which he thrust 
into the other's hand. After glancing quickly 
around he sprang to his seat while the man in evening 
clothes straightened, returned to the limousine, and 
closed the door. The car rolled almost silently up 
the street. 

What, Garth questioned, had been left with such 
care on the sidewalk in front of the corner house? 
tWhat object, probably similar, had occasioned the 
search ? 

When the car was nearly opposite him the man 
inside tapped on the pane. On a subdued note the 
chauffeur exclaimed again, then pulled the car to the 
curb and stopped it. 

Once more the well-dressed man left the limousine 
and crossed the sidewalk. For the second time he 
bent and placed something carefully on the ground. 
It lay within Garth's reach, but just outside his line 
of vision. In fact, Garth could have grasped the 



144 THE GRAY MASK 

other, so close was he ; and he could see, in spite of 
the inefficient light, that he was young and probably 
good-looking. His inspection, however, was lim- 
ited, for the other arose, breathing harshly, as if he 
were labouring under an unfamiliar excitement, and 
returned to the car. 

As the driver set his gears and let the clutch in 
Garth reached through the areaway railing and 
fumbled about the sidewalk for the object. His 
fingers found it — round, flat, hard — not at all 
puzzling in itself, yet completely unintelligible as a 
clue to the young man's motive in placing it there. 
It was a piece of money. 

Garth slipped from the areaway. He held his 
find up to the nearest lamp. The piece of money 
was a five dollar gold piece. He glanced along the 
street. The automobile had just swung from sight. 
He started quickly after it, because it^had occurred 
to him that if such a performance were repeated in 
Park Avenue, his curiosity would make him stop 
the machine, would suggest a number of questions 
to the young man in the fur coat, would seek an 
explanation of the chauffeur's furtive impatience. 

When he turned the corner he was not surprised 
to find the limousine halted again, to see the young 
man returning from a third excursion to the house 
line where, doubtless, he had with an extreme anxiety 
placed another piece of money. 

Garth broke into a run. The chauffeur glanced 
over his shoulder and muttered quickly to the man, 
who sprang in. As soon as the door was closed 



THE COINS AND THE CHINAMAN 145 

the car started with a speed aknost affirmative of 
flight. 

Garth held up his hand with the gold piece and 
shouted. The car went faster. He hastened to 
read the license number on its rear. As he wrote 
it in his pocket book he watched the red of the tail 
light diminish and disappear. 

He walked over and picked up a twenty-five cent 
piece. Why then had the young man left five dol- 
lars around the corner ? He stared at the two coins, 
his bewilderment growing. What could be the ex- 
planation of this trail of money, left with a scrupu- 
lous care on New York pavements? Of what ab- 
normal diligence could such an eccentricity be an 
echo ? How pronounced was its significance ? 

Almost certainly another coin lay close to Lex- 
ington Avenue where the car had first stopped. It 
was not probable that a third exhibit would reflect 
any light on the affair, still he wanted to learn the 
denomination of that coin, and evidently it was the 
final goal of his curiosity to-night. 

As soon as he turned the corner he saw that he 
would be too late. The discovery heightened his 
interest. Breathlessly, he slipped into an areaway 
and watched. 

A singularly small figure of a man shuffled across 
Lexington Avenue and, as if with an assured purpose, 
made for the corner stoop. The arc light down 
there, while it emphasized few details, sharpened 
'Garth's wonder at the size and shape of the new- 
comer. He was inclined to explain him as a small 



\ 



146 THE GRAY MASK 

boy, masquerading In mature clothing. Yet there 
was about the shoulders a thickness and a curve 
which did not belong to youth. The face was con- 
cealed by the turned-up collar of a diminutive over- 
coat and by a felt hat, drawn low over the eyes. 
Even at a distance the figure projected an air of 
the lawless and sinister. 

The man bent and picked up the coin. After- 
wards he continued towards Garth, not, however, 
in a straight line. He shuffled stealthily, his feet 
scarcely leaving the ground, in a series of zig-zags 
across the sidewalk. And always his shoulders re- 
mained bowed, the eyes lowered, as if he examined 
with a vital solicitude every inch of his path. 

It was obvious to Garth that there was some con- 
nection between the young man in the limousine and 
this stunted, clandestine figure who followed his 
trail with such anxious vigilance. Therefore he felt 
justified in setting a small trap. If its issue involved 
him In a mistake a laugh would extricate him. But 
he foresaw no mistake. The deformed thing ap- 
proaching was not to be explained as a peaceful, 
if tipsy, citizen, bound for home. So he placed the 
five dollar gold piece just outside the railing. He 
removed his gloves. He took his pocket lamp from 
his coat and held it ready. If the other saw the 
money and tried to pick it up he would be quite at 
the mercy of Garth's lamp and hands. 

That would happen, for the man had evidently 
caught the pallid gleaming of the gold. Without 
increasing his pace he shuffled across and stooped. 



THE COINS AND THE CHINAMAN 147 

stretching out his hand. Up to this point the other's 
activity had worn an established air. Garth pro- 
ceeded to rout its complacence. He reached through 
the railing, and as the hand was about to close over 
the money grasped it with all his strength. 

He had been prepared for fright, for a struggle, 
but scarcely for the shrill, animal cry that greeted 
his surprise, nor for the violent and unnatural 
strength that quivered through the little body as it 
tried to break away. 

And at first Garth combatted a quick impulse to 
let go. The quality of the bare hand in his own 
revolted him. The fingers were long, slender, and 
hard. The skin was dry. It gave him an impres- 
sion that there was no flesh between it and the bones 
it covered. 

" Steady, my friend," he muttered. " That's my 
money in your claw. Let's have a look at you." 

The other's squirming increased. The scream 
was not repeated. Only a difficult, sobbing sound 
came recurrently from the man's throat. 

At last Garth managed to twist the small wrist 
so that practically he controlled the fellow's move- 
ments. Then he pressed the button of his lamp. 
The light shone mercilessly upon an abhorrent 
face. 

The skin was yellow, and tight, like parchment, 
across the high cheek bones. The tiny eyes lay far 
back in rounded sockets. In the lamplight they were 
deceptively reminiscent of the eyes of a cat. But it 
was on the head, from which the hat had fallen, 



148 THE GRAY MASK 

that Garth's glance lingered with the most distaste. 
A queue was curled about it. It gave the last touch 
to the fantasy of the snow, the mist, the deserted 
st^^t of old houses — a fitting setting for the 
night's vagaries. 

For him the coil of hair gleamed like a serpent, 
carefully poised and awaiting the most favorable 
moment for its stroke. As the yellow head moved 
spasmodically the coil appeared to writhe. It pro- 
voked Garth's imagination. With quiet eloquence 
it sjrmbolized a vicious conservatism, publicly dead. 
It suggested secret ceremonials in forbidden shrines. 
In a broader sense it was the outward survival, 
properly snake-like, of unconquerable and scarcely 
apprehended customs. 

Garth shuddered. He found it more difficult than 
before to cling to that bony hand. He arose, 
snapped off the light, and grasped the Oriental by 
the shoulder. 

** How did you know you'4 find this money on 
the sidewalk? " he asked. 

The other shivered, as if for the first time the 
cold had reached him. 

" Talk up," Garth ordered. " Who's the fash- 
ion-plate that left it?" 

The Chinaman made a last effort to escape. 
Garth subdued him. 

"No talk-ee, eh? All right, little one. Then 
you'll have a nice free ride downtown — just as a 
suspicious character." 

For a possibility had occurred to him from which 



THE COINS AND THE CHINAMAN 149 

he shrank. Still, since it existed, it dictated a clear 
enough duty. He stepped from the areaway. 

** Hustle along, sonny." 

The other exploded into a torrent of Chinese. 
^Garth understood not a word, yet the shrill voice, 
rising and falling, cried to him a fear and a despair 
that were tragic. 

*' Bluff away," he muttered, " 'though I don't see 
what good it will do you. Plenty of interpreters 
at headquarters. Point is, are you coming peace- 
ably, or will I have to wake up a patrolman to get 
a wagon ? " 

The Chinaman was on the point of collapse. 
Garth practically carried him to the corner. He 
experienced a feeling of remorse, which, however, 
vanished before the recollection of the queue, glisten- 
ing, serpent-like. 

He was relieved to turn his man over at head- 
quarters. He saw him placed in an empty detention 
cell. 

^' Sleep tight," he called as the key turned. 
** Maybe you'll learn English by morning." 

His own sleep was untroubled, save by his per- 
sistent uneasiness about Nora. 

As soon as he was up the next morning he tele- 
phoned the Bureau of Licenses and apparently ran 
his one clue into a dead wall. . The limousine, he 
found, belonged to Thomas Black, a young man of 
more than ordinary wealth and position. Garth 
flushed uncomfortably. He began to suspect that 
he had been guilty of an indiscretion, for Black, 



i 



I50 THE GRAY MASK 

some years ago, had married the sister of Rufus 
Manford, whose recent selection as head of the 
Society for Social Justice had set in motion a cum- 
bersome amount of self-satisfied and unusually ill- 
designed activity against crime. Still Garth knew 
that Manford was working with the inspector now 
on some urgent cases about which little was said 
at headquarters. It was possible, then, that the 
trail of coins had been arranged by Manford in 
the society's office for a purpose which his inter- 
ference might have destroyed. 

But the growing day diminished the importance of 
the whole adventure. That returned to it only 
when the telephone summoned him as he was about 
to leave his rooms. 

" HeUo I " he called. 

The voice that answered was gruff, disapproving, 
almost reproachful, he would have said. 

" It's Ed, at headquarters. Say, you've got me 
in bad. Hustle on down. Inspector's on his ear 
and wants you." 

"What's up, Ed?" 

" That pigtail of yours. Can't make out the 
chief. Might be a member of his own family." 

"What are you driving at, Ed? What's the 
matter with the pigtail? " 

" Dead — that's all." 

" Dead ! " Garth echoed. 

" Yup. Must have done it right after you left. 
Choked himself to heaven with his bloomin' queue. 
Now if he'd had it cut ofl proper — " 



CHAPTER XI 

NORA DISAPPEARS V^ AN EMPTY HOUSE 

FOR the first time Garth entered the inspector's 
office with the discomfort of a culprit. Yet 
he could not accuse himself justly of blunder- 
ing. Nevertheless the brief telephone conversation 
with the doorman had informed him that the in- 
spector attached an uncommon importance to the 
chance capture of the Chinaman. Because of it he 
would place the blame for the suicide where it fell 
most conveniently. 

When he opened the door he appreciated that 
there was more than that out of the way at head- 
quarters this morning. A woman bent, ancient, 
poor, sat in a chair to the right of the inspector's 
desk. He could hazard no more concerning her, 
because of an intricately-patterned shawl which was 
draped over her head and nearly covered her face. 
Her presence was less astonishing than her bearing 
in this room, terrible alike to wrong-doers and to 
the reluctant witnesses of crime. Her attitude, in- 
deed, was expectant. Her lack of distrust impressed 
him as aggressive. Moreover, its customary rumble 
had left the inspector's voice which had flowed. 
Garth had remarked, with a conciliatory blandness. 

isi 



152 THE GRAY MASK 

It paused shortly as Garth entered. The huge 
man turned slowly in his chair. His eyes, somnolent 
as a rule, fixed Garth with a lively reproach. 

" Shut the door," he grumbled. 

Garth obeyed. 

" Here's a pretty mess ! Why did you bring him 
in at all?" 

" The chink? " Garth asked mildly. 

" No," the inspector roared. ** Queen Lillioku- 
lani! Who do you suppose I mean? How many 
mugs have you brought in since I saw you last? 
Maybe you thought the big Chinese population was 
unhealthy." 

" I never dreamed he'd do that," Garth protected 
himself. 

" Why didn't you warn the boys to keep an eye 
on him?" the inspector demanded. 

Garth threw up his hands. 

** How could I tell ? I only brought him in on a 
chance. I knew you were after the funny medicine 
crowd. He was up to some queer business last night, 
and I thought he looked the type." 

" Yes," the inspector agreed drily, " he certainly 
looked the type, so much so that I'd gamble that 
wizzened brain of his held all I want to know." 

He seized a paper weight and commenced to toss 
it ponderously from fist to fist. 

" That's what you've let get away from y^u. 
Maybe you'll be accommodating enough to tell me 
how you happened to pick him up." 

Garth glanced questioningly at the woman. 



NORA DISAPPEARS 153 

" Don't fret," the inspector said scornfully. 
" She won't giye you away even if you have made 
an ass of yourself." 

Garth reddened. Impulsively he turned on his 
heel. Later he would be ashamed, since he under- 
stood the inspector thoroughly. But for the mo- 
ment he surrendered himself to pride. The sound 
of the chair shoved back by the inspector was not 
unexpected, nor did he fail to catch the note of 
apology, the appeal for terms in the gruff voice. 

" Come back here. Where are you going? " 

But it was another voice that swung him sharply. 

" Jim I Don't lose your temper." 

The inspector's fist scattered the papers on his 
desk top. 

" Who's running this office ? " 

Garth scarcely heard. He strode to the woman. 
He snatched the intricately-patterned shawl from 
her head. The face beneath was old, stained, and 
wrinkled; but there was no disguising the dark, young 
eyes which smiled up at him. 

" So that's why? " he gasped. ** You've done it 
well, Nora. Now maybe I can know something 
about it." 

She laughed. 

" Not if you resign. So much dignity ! " 

He laughed back. 

" Nor if I'm fired." 

The inspector grinned. 

" I'm glad you let me in this on some basis." 

The disclosure of the girl's personality had scat- 



154 THE GRAY MASK 

tered Garth's revolt, and her eyes, now that they 
were no longer concealed, seemed to have rebuked 
the inspector to a milder humour. 

" Understand," he said, " Nora doesn't tell me 
any too much how she's working, and she's been 
at this off and on for a long time. It's only the 
last two weeks that it's gotten serious. She had to 
see me to-day. That's why I'm on my ear about the 
Chinaman. He might have saved her a good deal. 
You see, she's working on that case." 

Garth's heart sank. 

" Dope I " he cried. " It isn't safe. I tell you 
she's fighting desperate people, inspector. Look at 
that Chinaman, whether he's mixed up with the 
traffic or not, if a brute like him suspected herl " 

The inspector returned to his chair. He waved 
his hands helplessly. 

" Talk to Nora. I've told her all that. Once 
or twice I've wanted her to use her brain in cases 
where there wasn't any risk. Nothing doing. 
When this rotten business came up she would go 
into it on her own hook. I guess that's because 
she knows Manford and his high-brow, meddling 
society have got the district attorney behind them, 
and they've put it up to me hard." 

Nora shook her head, smiling a trifle wistfully. 

" No, father, I did it to save souls and bodies. 
You see, Jim, they can handle the little fellows 
under the new laws, but everybody knows there's 
this one place up-town, marvelously hidden and 
guarded — a distributing center, the heart of the 



NORA DISAPPEARS 155 

whole surviving drug traffic. When I found out 
from father that everybody else had failed I ju^t 
had to try. My conscience kept at me. Success 
would turn so much misery into happiness, so much 
sickness into health, so much crime into usefulness. 
And to-night, I believe, if we're lucky — Jiml I 
want you to be there." 

" She thinks she's spotted the house," the inspec- 
tor said softly. " That's what she had to see me 
about. She wants a raid arranged for to-night." 

Garth's voice was anxious. 

" How are you working, Nora? I don't like it. 
I wish you were out of it." 

But Nora would tell him nothing, and he realized 
instinctively that in her crusade she had taken des- 
perate chances and would face more, probably the 
worst, to-night. 

** You must tell us," she said, " how you found 
the Chinaman. I've no doubt he was one of them. 
In itself his death was a confession — a pitifully 
silent one." 

Garth told his story of the man in the limousine^ 
of the trailing Oriental, of what he had learned 
at the Bureau of Licenses. Nora offered no inter- 
pretation, but she smiled sympathetically at the in- 
spector's rage. He saw in the affair more than 
Garth. To him it meant an underhanded attempt 
on the part of the society to trap a material witness. 

" They put it up to me," he grumbled, *' then they 
want to put it over me. Manford gets a line of his 
own and keeps it to himself. Out for a little glory 



156 THE GRAY MASK 

and advertising! What happens every time I work 
with these silk-stockinged, fur-coated societies that 
think they know more about vice than the police. 
And to think, Garth, you snitched him away from 
them, then let him croak I " 

Nora arose. 

** No use crying over spilt milk, father." 

She prepared to leave. Garth followed her to the 
hallway. He urged her to let him share her plans, 
to give him a more pronounced part in the risks. 
She shook her head. 

** It's best to let me work this alone until the last 
minute, Jim." 

His one grain of comfort was her insistence that 
he should be in the van of the raiding party. So 
he watched her leave, her grace and beauty trans- 
formed by an inspired ingenuity into the bent lines 
and the haggard distortion of a crone. 

The day lingered interminably. Whatever Nora 
had told her father he guarded with an unqualified 
stubbornness. Aside from the fact that he was to 
join the inspector in an up-town precinct house at 
ten o'clock. Garth walked into the affair wholly ig- 
norant of plans or probabilities. 

When finally the hour struck and he kept the ap- 
pointment, he found Manford, in evening clothes, 
leaning against the desk while he tested the inspec- 
tor's temper with a smiling face and an insinuating 
conversation. 

Garth had never before seen this amateur in social 
justice. His first glance furnished him a share in the 



NORA DISAPPEARS 157 

inspector's resentment, for clearly Manford's illu- 
sions as to his importance were all of a happy char- 
acter. His moustache, arranged with a studied pre- 
cision, his ruddy complexion, his eyes, noticeably 
sarcastic, testified to measureless pride in a success 
which, Garth knew, had arisen almost of its own 
power from his inheritance. It was not to be 
doubted that his selection as its head had given the 
society in his eyes a majestic and peculiar value. 

The fact that the inspector failed to counter im- 
pressed Garth. Probably it would be a sufficient 
revenge for him to accomplish the raid and smash 
the gang with Manford as a witness, yet without 
his active assistance. 

A number of detectives and some men in uniform 
were grouped about the two. The inspector's com- 
mands were brief and delivered with an excited 
anticipation which he could not conceal. At last he 
announced the number of the house. It was in the 
centre of the block east of that in which Garth 
had captured the Chinaman. Some of the men were 
to reach the back yard. Others were to guard the 
roof. The remainder would form the attacking 
party at the front. 

" When these people find they can't get through," 
the inspector warned, " it's a good bet they'll show 
fight. So look out for yourselves, and impress on 
them that your guns aren't watch charms." 

Garth, Manford, and the inspector led the way. 
Garth's misgivings were far more profound than if 
the chief risk had been his own. Where was Nora 



158 THE GRAY MASK 

now? What would such conscienceless men do to 
her if they found at the last moment she was re- 
sponsible for their hopeless predicament? 

They walked slowly to give the others time to 
reach their posts. At last the inspector glanced at 
his watch, snapped it shut, and quickened his pace. 

" Come on, boys," he muttered. " The season's 
open," 

The house presented an uncommunicative front. 
They climbed the steps. No lights showed in the 
hall. The windows appeared to be shuttered. The 
inspector pulled the old-fashioned bell handle. 
After aii undisturbed wait he tried again. 

** Guess we haven't got the combination. Chief," 
Garth whispered. 

'* No time for experiments," the inspector said. 
He put his shoulder to the door. 

" Give a hand here, boys. Bring that ax." 

The lock snapped under their assault. They 
stumbled through into the vestibule. Garth choked. 
He was aware of fine particles of dust in his nose 
and his throat. The inspector had been similarly 
affected. 

** Filthy lot! " he sneered. " One more door." 

They attacked the inner door. They burst 
through into a black hallway. The dust rose in 
clouds. The inspector snapped his flashlight and 
fell back with an exclamation, disappointed and sur- 
prised. 

The light shone on bare floors and walls. Its 
power was radically diminished by the long accumu- 



NORA DISAPPEARS 159 

lated dust their entrance had disturbed. As far as 
the first floor was concerned they stood in an empty 
house. 

Manford sneered. 

" A fine plant of yours, inspector ! " 

The inspector glared his dislike. 

^' Fm beginning to think you were jealous a min- 
ute ago, young man." 

" Then you've quite disarmed my unworthy emo- 
tion," Manford laughed. 

Garth had read more than dislike in the inspec- 
tor's manner. It had veiled, he was sure, a positive, 
an increasing fear; and the scorn of his voice had 
not thoroughly cloaked its uncertainty. 

*' Get up stairs," he snarled to his men. " Scour 
every inch of this place." 

He turned back to Manford. 

" I'll swear they were here this afternoon. This 
house was used as a dive no later than this after- 
noon." 

Manford chuckled, indicating the dust which still 
whirled in the rays of the flash light. 

The plain-clothes men returned almost at once. 
There was not a person in the house — not a piece 
of furniture. The grime on the walls, the thick 
dust testified to its long disuse. 

Manford's superior wisdom appeared justified. 
The intolerance of a position and a success, both in- 
herited, shone in his eyes, expressed itself in his 
voice. He drew his coat closer about him. He 
touched his hat. It assumed a jauntier air. 



i6o r THE GRAY MASK 

" Good night, inspector," he drawled " I cut 
the opera to take in this example of police efficiency. 
I hope my society, on its own initiative, will be able 
to make more progress with the case. Maybe TU 
find some amusement chatting with the lieutenant at 
the station house. At least I can learn from the 
police what sins to omit." 

The inspector strangely, did not answer. Man- 
ford lighted a cigarette, grinning, and strolled down 
the steps. 

Garth marvelled at the inspector's lack of bel- 
ligerency. He looked at him more closely. The 
big man's jaw had fallen. He stared without pur- 
pose at the blank walls. The picture made Garth 
afraid. He grasped the inspector's arm. He drew 
him to one side. 

"How were you so sure?" he asked under his 
breath. " Because Nora gave you this number? " 

The inspector shook his head. His great shoul- 
ders trembled. 

** No. She had no number to give me. But this 
afternoon I saw her enter this house. I watched 
the door close behind her, and. Garth — she has 
never come out." 

Garth with frantic haste explored the place him- 
self from roof to cellar. There was no question. 
It had remained uninhabited for many months, per- 
haps years. Yet Npra had told her father that, 
while its location had been kept from her, she had 
arranged a certain entry to the evil house that after- 



NORA DISAPPEARS i6i 

noon. She had told him to follow her. He had 
seen the door close behind her. 

Garth scarcely dared open his mind to full com- 
prehension. If Nora had been directed to this 
deserted building and admitted, it was clear that 
her connection with the police had been discovered. 
It was logically certain that she had walked into 
an elaborately plotted ambush. 

He hurried to the sidewalk where he found the 
inspector braced heavily against the rail. 

**What can I do, Garth?" the big man asked 
hoarsely. 

What to do, indeed! Garth thrust his hands in 
his pockets. He stared helplessly up the street. 
His glance rested on the corner house of the next 
block where last night the man in the fur coat had 
left the first coin. Suddenly his breath sharpened. 
His mind, planning blindly, paused, drew back, dared 
again to face the single chance that had risen from 
the shadows of the corner house. 

He wet his lips. He touched the inspector's 
shoulder. He understood that on a bare possibility 
he would place his entire career in the scales. Since, 
however, it balanced Nora's rescue from such un- 
speakable hands, he did not hesitate. 

" Chief," he whispered, " take your men back to 
the station house and keep them ready. I'll tele- 
phone you there in a few minutes, fifteen or twenty 
at the outside." 

" What are you going to do. Garth? " 

" Take one chance to get Nora back," he answered 



1 62 THE GRAY MASK 

quickly, " probably say good-bye to New York. It 
was something I thought of last night. It seemed 
common sense to forget it this morning. Now I'm 
going to make sure. No time to talk/' 



CHAPTER XII 

THE HIDDEN DOOR 

HE ran swiftly west, past the house on the 
comer, past the areaway where he had 
secreted himself last night, into Park Ave- 
nue, always on the course taken by the limousine. 
And, when he came to Black's number, he saw the 
limousine drawn up, waiting. In the upper story 
of the small but expensive house lights burned. He 
pressed the electric button, sighing his relief. He 
was grimly determined to see the thing through. 
His resolution was stimulated by his memory of the 
queue, coiled like a serpent, watching to strike with 
fangs bearing the poison of degradation and death. 
Nora stood within reach of that, perhaps, was al- 
ready its victim. So when the door was opened 
by a sleek serving-man, he did not hesitate. 

" I must see Mr. Black." 

The servant displayed a mild astonishment at his 
tone. 

** Vm sorry, sir. Mr. Black is not at home." 

The lights he had noticed upstairs and the lim- 
ousine gave Garth confidence. 

" Mr. Black," he said, " is the brother-in-law of 
the president of the Society for Social Justice." 

The servant nodded. 

163 



1 64 THE GRAY MASK 

" Then he will see me." 

The other was shocked. 

" Really, sir — " 

Garth gave him a glimpse of his badge, pushed 
past, and entered the reception hall. The servant 
turned, staring at him with insolent eyes. 

" You'll have to get out of here Mr. Black has 
no official connection with the society. What do 
you mean by forcing — " 

Garth called : 

"Mr. Black! Mr. Black!'' 

The servant tried to catch his arm. 

" This is outrageous." 

" Mr. Black ! " Garth called again. 

And the response he had prayed for, the response 
he had made up his mind to force at all hazards, 
came quavering from the upper floor. 

" Who is that? What's all this row, Arnold? " 

Garth sprang up the stairs, eager and relieved at 
the quality of the voice. The young man of the 
limousine stood at the head, bending anxiously over, 
backed against the railing, as if to repel an assault. 

" I'm sorry, Mr. Black," Garth said hurriedly. 
" I have to speak to you about something too im- 
portant for delay." 

He paused, embarrassed, reluctant to go on, for in 
the brightly lighted doorway of the living-room a 
woman had appeared, small, with an extraordinary 
grace of figure, and a face which, in a trivial, light- 
hearted way, impressed him as rarely beautiful. She 
wore evening dress. A wrap was draped across 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 165 

her arm. Her resemblance to Man ford established 
her identity beyond debate. She glanced at Garth 
with an amused curiosity quite at variance with her 
husband's emotion. She smiled tolerantly. 

^' Quite like a bearer of evil tidings in a play, but 
even they don't come upstairs, unannounced." 

" I'm sorry, Mrs. Black," Garth said apologetic- 
ally. ** Your man drew the long bow. I couldn't 
be put off." 

But the smiling, graceful figure was a defence, 
almost incontestable. Nothing short of Nora's 
danger could have armed him to overcome it. He 
would, however, spare Black's wife as far as possible. 

" I wanted to speak to you, Mr. Black, privately." 

He turned back to the woman. 

" You see I come from your brother, the head of 
the Society for Social Justice." 

"What can he want at this time of night? " she 
said. 

She advanced to the head of the staircase. 

** It makes no difference, John. You weren't com- 
ing anyway. I'll tell Aunt Sarah why — business I " 

She laughed lightly and passed on down the stairs. 

Garth breathed more freely. He waited until the 
front door had slammed, until he had heard the 
motor whir, until he was sure she was started for 
her reception or dance, unsuspecting the desolation 
he had brought into her home. Then he swung 
on Black. 

** Come in here." 

He indicated the living-room. 



1 66 THE GRAY MASK 

Black followed with uncertain steps^ The light 
shone on his sallow face out of which heavy eyes 
looked distrustfully. 

" What do you want? " he asked. ** What does 
Manford want?" 

" Don't trouble to sit down, Mr. Black," Garth 
directed. " I've little time — just enough to tell 
you that I'm on to you." 

Black with an odd, halting motion reached the 
centre table. His fingers shaking, he lifted a ciga- 
rette from a silver box and essayed to strike a match. 
The wood splintered. He fumbled aimlessly about 
the table. He took the unlighted cigarette from 
his mouth. He stammered. 

" Wh — what the devil do you mean? " 

" No use bluffing," Garth said. " You give your- 
self away. But don't get too scared. I'm the only 
one who knows." 

The other's voice was scarcely audible. 

"Who are you?" 

Garth threw back his coat lapel, displaying mo- 
mentarily his badge. 

Black's voice rose on a shrill note. 

"It's a lie 1 It's a lie!" 

Garth shook his head. 

" I watched you last night," he said, " planting 
money here and there — a pretty, generous fancy, 
just to give people the joy of finding it. Men don't 
do such things in their right senses. I've heard of 
it, but the fact that you were the brother-in-law of 
the head of an organization that was after these 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 167 

cases offered a more likely explanation. Put me off 
the track. Thought you were working for him. 
Now that IVe had a good look at you, there's no 
question.'' 

Black made a last pitiful effort 

" This is blackmail." 

" I have my price," Garth admitted. 

Black sat on the table edge. 

" I'll put them on to you down town — through 
Manford." 

Garth laughed outright. 

" You ! You'd never have the nerve Give a po- 
lice surgeon one good look at you 1 " 

Black fumbled in one of the drawers. He lifted 
out a cheque book. 

" How much? " he asked with dry lips. 

" Not money," Garth said. 

He felt every nerve in his body tighten. 

" When I saw you making a fool of yourself last 
night," he went on, "you had come straight from 
a house you are going to get me in to-night." 

The cheque book fluttered to the floor. 

"Wh-whatfor?" 

" To save a woman," Garth answered. " It's 
enough for you to know that they've trapped her 
there, and that she means too much to me — " 

Black turned on him with a snarl. 

" You mean you love her. Then maybe you can 
understand. What about my wife? " 

" Black," Garth said quietly, " you stand a better 
chance of sparing your wife if you meet my price. 



i68 THE GRAY MASK 

I promise to do all I can to keep you out of the 
scandal. I'll get you away clean if it can be done. 
All I ask is, that for your wife's sake, you'll try to 
be a man. But now you listen. By gad, if you 
refuse to do this thing, I'll raise a scandal that will 
finish you once for all I'll shout the thing from 
the housetops. I'll take you to a cell within the 
next ten minutes. What about your wife then? 
Look at me. I'm not bluffing. I hate it, but I've 
no choice. It's life and death to me, and, since it's 
all I've got, I'm going to use your reputation to 
make it life." 

Black sank into a chair, covering his face. 

" You do mean it. I can't do it. I tell you I 
can't do it." 

Garth stood over the man. As he fought, there 
came back to him with an advocacy not to be denied, 
the memory of Nora's altered face, out of which, 
however, her eyes, unalterable, had glanced at him 
with a definite appeal 

" Yes you can," he said savagely. ** They'll let 
you vouch for a — friend. And if you don't, you'll 
give the game away to a jury and a crowded court- 
room." 

Black's hands dropped. He stared straight 
ahead. He did not answer. 

Garth reached out and grasped the telephone. 
Black stumbled to his feet and tore at Garth's arm. 

" What are you going to do? " 

" Call for a patrol wagon to drive up to your 
exalted home." 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 169 

"No, no, no!" 

" Then you agree ? " 

" You'll come with me alone ? " 

" Yes." 

" Then I agree." ' 

The gleam in Black's eye was revealing. It re- 
tarded Garth's relief. It warned him that, entering 
the place alone, he could be handled, as, perhaps, 
Nora had been handled. 

" I'll get my hat and coat," Black said. 

" No," Garth answered. " From now on you'll 
stick to me like a brother." 

He took the receiver from the telephone and got 
the inspector at the station house. While Black 
protested, he instructed the inspector to have a man 
follow Black and himself, and, no matter what house 
they entered, to surround that entire block and to 
keep a watch on every house front. If he could 
communicate in no other way. Garth promised to 
fire his revolver twice, if possible, from a front 
window. 

Black shrank back. 

" But you said — alone." 

" Alone," Garth answered, " but that's what's go- 
ing to happen once I'm in. I'm not throwing my 
life away. Are you ready, or do you prefer the 
cell and your picture in the morning papers? " 

Black led the way without further protests down 
the staircase. At the foot he broke down again. 
Garth warned him and helped him on with his over- 
coat. 



I70 THE GRAY MASK 

"You leave me no choice," Black whimpered. 
" No choice." 

Garth drew him to the sidewalk. 

" If you waste time steering me wrong," he said, 
" I'm through. And don't forget I have a gun. 
Try to throw me down once we're in, I'll use it." 

Black made an effort to square his shoulders. He 
crossed the avenue with a lurching gait. Garth 
glanced back. A dark figure skulked after them. 
So that was all right. The inspector would know 
their destination immediately. 

" One thing," Garth asked. " How did you have 
the nerve to drive your limousine to the place last 
night?" 

" I didn't," Black answered. " I picked it up 
in Third Avenue." 

He did not speak again, and Garth no longer 
urged him. He walked straight for the block in 
which he had been at his folly last night. But he 
did not pause there. He continued across Lexing- 
ton Avenue and made confidently for the deserted, 
dust-filled house which just now had mocked the po- 
lice. Garth, amazed, followed him to the basement 
door. 

Black took a key from his pocket, and with the 
ease of long habit inserted it through the obscurity 
in the lock. The door opened and Garth walked 
into the blackness with a quickening suspense. His 
apprehension was for Nora rather than himself. 
What had happened to her when she had stepped 
into the dusty hall? Her only chance was that he 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 171 

would not be caught in this somber pit as she had 
probably been. He put his hand on his revolver. 

" Go first," he whispered. 

The darkness was so complete that Garth had to 
keep his fingers on the other's arm to avoid stumb- 
ling against the walls. Yet his guide went with a 
quick assurance to the rear door which he opened 
with another key. They stepped beneath a rough 
shelter of corrugated iron such as is hastily thrown 
up for the protection in summer of washboards, or, 
in winter, for the storing of wood. Black pro- 
ceeded beneath this shelter along the fence to the 
corner. Garth noticed a large accumulation of 
rubbish in the yard, souvenirs, doubtless, of indolent 
and utilitarian neighbors. 

Black stooped. Evidently he had given a signal 
which Garth had not seen or heard, for straightway 
he arose and leant against the fence, waiting. 

" What now? " Garth asked. 

Black raised his finger to his lips. 

Garth looked down at a rustling among the rub- 
bish. A thin piece of flagging had opened at his 
feet as if hinged like a trap-door, leaving visible the 
top of a flight of rough wooden steps. 

Black stepped down and Garth followed. The 
steps led diagonally under the angle of the fence. 
Others rose into the corner of the adjacent yard. 
If this was their destination it was neither to one 
side nor directly behind the empty house used as an 
entrance. Garth marvelled at the simplicity of the 
contrivance. Two men in half a day could have 



172 THE GRAY MASK 

accomplished the entire excavation and arranged 
the steps. Moreover, without a definite clue the 
police would never suspect such an entrance. 

While Black carefully lowered the flag on the 
other side Garth glanced around. They stood in 
the kitchen shed of a house which, of course, faced 
the next street. Garth had no doubt that the place 
was masked with a physician's office, or, perhaps, 
an appeal for boarders, who, nevertheless, would 
always fail to find rooms available at the hour of 
their application. He saw nothing of the man who 
had admitted them by raising the flag. He was 
more disturbed than before, since he could picture 
the inspector's bewilderment on learning that he 
had entered the house which had been so recently 
raided and combed. 

Garth had small time for speculation. He saw 
Black press an electric button. Faintly he heard 
the response from a mufiled bell — two rings short, 
and one long. Almost at once the door opened a 
crack, but no gleam of light came through. Black 
muttered something unintelligible to Garth, and led 
him into a darkness as complete as that which had 
oppressed him in the empty house. Yet in spite of 
it he was sure it was a woman who had admitted 
them. 

" This way," Black said. 

Garth followed, scarcely breathing. Where 
would he find Nora? How would he find her? 

A door opened ahead, and at last there was a 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 173 

light — a subdued, brown light, unhealthy, sugges- 
tive of a melancholy repose. 

Black went first, then Garth, into an inner hall- 
way, which was saturated with this aberrant radi- 
ance. 

Garth turned sharply to inspect the woman who 
had followed them in. He drew back. He con- 
trolled his gasp of relief and gratitude, for it was 
Nora herself who had opened the door for them 

and who stood now on the threshold of the halL 
Yet he saw that his presence, instead of bringing to 
them a grateful welcome, had drawn into her eyes 
a fear which quickly approached despair. 

She wore the apron and the cap of a housemaid, 
transparent hints as to how she had found an en- 
trance and remained here, unmolested. Her fea- 
tures, in addition, were subtly changed, so that one, 
less acquainted with them than Garth, might have 
passed her unrecognizing. 

His astonishment had held him longer than was 
discreet. He turned at a sound to find his conduc- 
tor gone. He knew what that portended. He 
cursed his carelessness. 

Nora took his arm. 

"What are you doing here?" she whispered 
tensely. " Go before it's too late. I knew they 
suspected trouble to-night, but I never dreamed of 
your getting in here alone. Go — the way you 
came." 

" To be caught in the yard? " he scoffed. " That 



174 THE GRAY MASK 

fellow's given me away by this time. They'll watch 
that exit first." 

He ran along the hallway. The strange brown 
light appeared to have given the air a substantial 
resistance. He breathed it with distaste. It 
choked him. At the foot of the stairs Nora caught 
his arm again. 

"Where are you going?" 

" Up there," he answered. " I haven't the ghost 
of a show in this suffocating basement. They'll 
look for me here first." 

He climbed the stairs. She followed him. 

** Jim," she breathed, " it's hopeless. They'll 
never let you out." 

He turned at the head of the stairs. The same 
dim, unreal light was repugnant in his lungs here. 
A repellent odor, not to be classified, crept into 
his nostrils, made him want to cough. Heavy pur- 
ple hangings were draped across two doorways. 

"Tell me the lay-out," he whispered. "Quick! 
The yard isn't the only getaway? " 

" Except the roof and the front," she whispered 
back, " and they're locked. The head one keeps 
the keys. For God's sake, Jim, try to get out of 
this house before it's too late." 

He pointed to one of the draped doorways. It 
was at the end of the hall, but the hall appeared to 
him too short. 

" Is that the front door? " 

She shook her head. 

" Only leads to the front of the house. That's 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 175 

planted, of course — a boarding house. I tell you 
that door's locked." 

" Then how can I get to a front window? " 

" You can't, Jim." 

He tried to plan. 

** Then how am I — " 

A heavy step seemed to set the thick, brown air 
in lazy motion. It came from a nearby room. It 
approached. Garth glanced at the purple hangings, 
expecting them to part on one who would discipline 
without mercy his presumption. 

" Jim I They've got you, and if they see me with 
you — " 

She spread her arms. 

" They know you're a detective. Your only hope 
is that they shouldn't suspect me. And I can't lose 
all I've done. Hit me, Jim." 

"Noral" 

" Trust me," she begged, " and we've a chance. 
They mustn't doubt me. Hit me, Jim. Take hold 
of me. Clap your hand over my mouth. Quick I " 

He drew back. He knew she was right, but he 
couldn't, all at once, bring himself to obey. 

" I've my gun," he muttered. 

" It's worthless." 

The footsteps were nearer. They had persisted 
with a measured, an unhurried purpose. Garth 
drew his revolver. The curtains waved. 

Suddenly Nora screamed. She flung herself upon 
him tigerishly. 

" Jim ! " she whispered. " Now 1 " 



176 THE GRAY MASK 

The contact swept him with a bitter, distorted 
content. He had to force himself to grasp her 
shoulders, and to bend them back. Her hand rose. 
Scarcely understanding her intention, he saw her 
strike herself sharply across the face. An ugly, 
reddish mark survived. There was a suggestion of 
tears in her voice. 

" You coward, Jim I " 

The curtains were wider, but always, as he forced 
her back, he combatted the desire to draw her 
closer instead, to heal with his lips the scar with 
which his precipitancy had marked her. 

She cried out again. He glanced at the curtains. 
He let her go, staring with a sense of loathing at a 
yellow, wrinkled face, which protruded from the 
purple, and permitted him to see, glistening above 
it, a braid of hair, serpent-like and perilous. 

The leering face was withdrawn. Garth heard 
a low whistle modulated on an unfamiliar, minor 
interval. 

" Don't resist them, Jim," Nora whispered. 
" rU do what I can." 

Then she turned and ran, screaming, through the 
curtains. 

Garth dashed for the hidden door which led to 
the front of the house. If only he could break 
through there, reach a window, and signal the in- 
spector, but when he tore the curtains back he faced 
panels of an exceptional stoutness, unquestionably 
built to deaden sound as well as to form a com- 
petent barricade. He surrendered to the realiza- 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 177 

tion that he was caught in the heart of this evil 
house. He wondered if Nora's strategy retarded 
his captors. 

A stealthy shuffling turned him from the door so 
that he faced the hall. He had heard that same 
sound last night when the diminutive Chinaman had 
approached him. Now he saw three of the same 
mold whose queues appeared to writhe in the brown 
and stifling light as they glided along the hall, their 
talon-like hands outstretched. 

He guessed that the picture was intended to ter- 
rify, to impress upon him the futility of resistance, 
yet while he had his revolver the success of such an 
attack was remote. 

'* Stay where you are," he said, puzzled, trying 
to understand. " Come any closer and I'll shoot." 

The yellow mouths grinned. Then, when it was 
too late, Garth understood the trick. A rush of 
colder air on his back informed him that the heavy 
door was open. He stood between two fires. In 
fact, before he could turn, his wrists were grasped. 
Two leering faces were close to him, but as the re- 
volver was wrenched from his hand, he pulled the 
trigger twice. With the great door open those ex- 
plosions might penetrate beyond the house wall, 
might carry even to the inspector's men on the side- 
walk. 

They had at least aroused in the thick brown 
twilight of the house a restless, incoherent stirring. 
Voices muttered. Steps pattered here and there. 
A muffled bell commenced to complain. Through 



178 THE GRAY MASK 

the curtains from the inner room stepped a man — 
a white man with cruelly intelligent features. Garth 
realized that he probably faced the head of this 
organization which for so long had outwitted the 
police. 

Garth laughed with an effort at bravado. 

*' That was a signal," he said. ^^ Block's sur« 
rounded. They'll be in here before you can light 
a joss stick. Call these things off, or you're as good 
as in the chair." 

Upstairs the stirrings increased. Someone 
shrieked. 

Nora appeared at the man's elbow. Her face 
was twisted with an abandoned terror. 

" Men in the yardl " she gasped. 

Garth guessed that it was a part of her scheme 
to turn the hunt from him, to give him that one 
moment he needed. And it worked. He felt his 
hands released. The Chinamen crouched along the 
wall, as if trying to conceal themselves, whining 
pitifully. 

Garth jumped through the front hall. The ves- 
tibule door was locked and the key was missing. 
There was no time to conquer locks His oppor- 
tunity was limited. So he ran into the front room. 
The window catch baffled him. He didn't dare 
wait to fumble with it. He raised his fists and 
crashed them through the glass. His hands, 
scratched and bleeding a little, waved a frantic ap- 
peal. He shouted. And he heard answering 
voices and the pounding of feet. He saw figures 



THE HIDDEN DOOR 179 

glide into view and spring up the steps. The bat- 
tering of shoulders filled the house with a turmoil 
that drowned its own increasing agitation. 

He went back to the inner hall. 

" Nora 1 '' he called. 

He pushed through the curtains into a room fan- 
tastic with Oriental furnishings. Black, in a panic, 
had Nora in his grasp. The girl struggled mutely. 

"Drop her, Black 1" 

Black turned. 

" That ends our bargain," Garth said harshly. 

" She tried to stop me," Black quavered. 

"He's the brother-in-law," Garth said scornfully, 
" of the very man who's been trying in his useless 
way to smash this gang. What do you think of 
that?" 

Nora came forward. She was shocked, but it 
was clear she failed to share his scorn. As the 
front door yielded she put her hand on his arm. 

" Have you ever seen his wife, Jim? " she asked 
simply. 

He nodded. 

" So have I," she went on. " She's the one Fm 
thinking of. She's too young, too happy, to have 
her whole life stained by this thing." 

But Garth's anger persisted. Black, however, in 
response to Nora's nod, slipped behind the window 
curtains. The inspector, Manford, and a number 
of detectives rushed in. 

" Get your men through the house," Nora ad- 
vised. 



i8o THE GRAY MASK 

The inspector motioned the men to go. He lum- 
bered over to Nora. He put his arms around her. 
An excessive gratitude moistened his eyes and thick- 
ened his voice. 

"Thank the Lord 1*' 

" Thank Jim," she said, " although he risked 
everything by appearing here." 

"If you'd told us more of your plans," Garth 
said, " we would have worked better together." 

" I didn't dare," she answered. ** I knew so 
little myself. So much depended on success." 

Manford's fragile fingers pulled at his moustache. 
The humor in his eyes did not quite veil a real ad- 
miration. 

"Weill" he said gaily. "Let me congratulate 
you, inspector. The police have put something 
worth while over — through a woman." 

Garth, whose eagerness had carried him closer to 
the girl, noticed for the first time on her neck a 
bruise left by Black's urgent fingers. A sudden, un- 
reasoning temper swept him with the necessity for 
atonement. Impulsively he burst out : 

" Inspector, one of the beasts you want is behind 
those curtains. 

Nora cried out. 

" Jim 1 You might have let me have that. His 
wife 1 " 

The inspector glanced from one to the other. 

" What's on your mind, Nora? " 

Manford laughed easily. 

" No sentiment in this game, young woman. If 



THE HIDDEN DOOR i8i 

we thought of the wives there'd be few arrests." 

With an air of satisfaction, as if the climactic 
feature of the raid had been reserved for his im- 
portance, he snatched the curtains open. Black 
cowered in the embrasure of the boarded window, 
glaring out at his brother-in-law. He moistened 
his lips. 

" Don't let them tell Anna, Billy." 

Manford's satisfaction, founded on a self-im- 
posed superiority, suddenly expired. He became 
rather pitifully human. His cheeks darkened. His 
insinuating antagonism for the inspector dwindled 
and faltered, finally, into a passionate mendicancy. 
He would meet any terms to spare his sister's en- 
tanglement in the destroying scandal. 

" I'm afraid you might think the police didn't do 
its duty," the inspector said softly. " I just heard 
your own motto — no sentiment for the wives." 

Garth had not shifted his glance from Nora. 
Her disapproval more and more impressed him, yet. 
with the bruise still eloquent on her white neck, he 
forced himself only with distaste to bargain. 

" He's my prisoner, Manford. If the inspector 
says the word we'll tamper with the law and get him 
away and home. There's one condition. He does 
as I say for the next couple of years — takes any 
treatment I suggest." 

" Don't worry. I'll see to that," Manford said. 
" It's good of you, Garth." 

He turned to his brother-in-law. 

" Are you willing, John? " 



1 82 THE GRAY MASK 

Black stumbled from the embrasure. He reached 
out his hands appealingly. 

" Yes, yes. I want to — with all my heart." 
• " Then, inspector — " Manford began. 

The inspector winked good-humouredly. 

" Since we're all such old friends I agree. I've 
never had a come-back yet from reading a little 
humanity and mercy into the law. YouVe a good 
deal to learn about police work, young man. Let's 
start your education now. .We'll see what the boys 
have bagged." 



CHAPTER XIII 

ALSOP'S INCREDIBLE VISITOR 

WHEN the crowded police van had left, 
Nora, Garth, and the inspector stepped 
Into the crisp night air. 

" Garth," the inspector said, " you and Nora 
ought to have medals or something. That pale- 
face at the head of the gang is Jerry Smith. He 
must have been sent on from San Francisco. If 
there's a country-wide syndicate of crime he's on 
the board of directors along with your old friend 
Slim." 

" Some day," Garth said, ** that syndicate will be 
tapped properly." 

Nora, after her experience in the heavy, repellent 
atmosphere of the house, was anxious to remain in 
the air. She proposed that they walk down town. 

Garth, aware of her displeasure, scarcely dared 
suggest an answer to his curiosity, but the inspector, 
in a happier mood, did not hesitate. 

" Maybe, Nora, you'll tell us how you got in that 
dive as a first class housemaid." 

** There was only one way I could think of," she 
answered. " The place was bound to make cases 
for Bellevue, so I went to the head nurse and took 

183 



1 84 THE GRAY MASK 

her into my confidence. She kept me posted. At 
every chance I went there and was apparently ill 
myself of the same dreadful illness as the patient 
in the next cot. About two weeks ago the head 
nurse telephoned me a case had come in which looked 
promising. I've been there since. I'll confess, the 
best I hoped for was the number of the house, but 
this girl grew confidential finally. She had actually 
worked there. When she found she couldn't go 
back for a long time, and learned that I was about 
to be discharged as cured, she whispered a tele- 
phone number and a name. She said they would 
want somebody and it was hard to get just the right 
kind. I called up last night and told them about 
her and my anxiety for the place A meeting was 
arranged with Smith in a cafe. He wouldn't give 
me the address, but he agreed to take me there this 
afternoon. You see he wouldn't have let me out 
again until he was sure of me — no afternoons off 
there." 

" Clever, Nora," the inspector muttered. 

She shook her head. 

" Only choosing the best chance. I knew I 
couldn't trace them in any obvious fashion. They 
were too careful. Few customers had the run of 
the place. The stuff was taken to the rest. The 
way they had Black followed last night to make 
sure he left no trail shows how they accounted for 
everything. He had evidently been seen answer- 
ing to that generous symptom of his before." 

Garth noticed that she did not speak to him di- 



ALSOFS INCREDIBLE VISITOR 185 

rcctly, but her resentment could not completely veil 
her relief at his safety, her appreciation of the 
courage that had urged him to her rescue, her grati- 
tude that his daring had brought about the end she 
had so ardently desired. He hoped, moreover, that 
there was, about her quiet manner, something to be 
followed to that necessary but impulsive moment 
in the brown radiance of the evil house. 

Yet that illusion she did not permit him to hold 
for long. He left the inspector and her at the flat 
with an uncomfortable feeling of having failed to 
measure up to the idea of him she had developed. 
She did not mention Black again, but her restraint 
persisted. Sooner or later, he tried to tell himself, 
something would destroy that — probably another 
case that would throw them together, that would 
make them depend one upon the other. 

At headquarters one day the doorman told him 
that the inspector had been taken ill. The detec- 
tive satisfied himself that nothing serious was to 
be feared, so he smiled, thinking the situation might 
offer something useful for himself. 

It was really the trivial fact of the inspector's 
cold that involved Nora and Garth in the troubles 
of Addington Alsop. Those gathered into one of 
the most daring and dangerous cases headquarters 
had had since the commencement of the period of 
reconstruction. 

To begin with, the inspector's indisposition con- 
fined him to his flat. It held Nora there in the 
part of a nurse. It drew Garth, who would have 



1 86 THE GRAY MASK 

braved the most virulent contagion to be near her. 
Most important of all, it allowed the mighty Alsop 
to apply for police help without fear of detection 
by the reporters and agents constantly swarming at 
headquarters. 

When Garth entered the flat that afternoon, he 
was, unknowingly, already on the threshold of the 
strange case; for he had read in the noon editions 
the brief paragraph which recited an accident to all 
appearances common enough. A man had been 
picked up unconscious in the middle of a quiet street. 
Evidently he had been struck by an automobile. 
Two details, however, arrested Garth's attention. 
The victim, Ralph Brown, he knew as a successful 
private detective. Moreover, the outrage had oc- 
curred during the slack hours before the dawn. Ap- 
parently no clue as to its perpetrators remained. 
Garth spoke of that casually to the inspector. 
The huge, suffering man was scarcely intrigued. 
Wrapped in an ancient dressing-gown, his throat 
smothered beneath flannel, he sat in an easy chair, 
facing the fire, whose coals he perpetually reproved 
with a frown. He groaned. There was utter 
despair in the rumbling, animal-like note. Nora 
laughed. 

** Laugh away," the inspector roared, " but make 
Garth forget he's a detective if he can't do better 
than hound a sick man with a cheap automobile 
case." 

From her dark and striking face Nora's quiet eyes 
smiled sympathetically at Garth. 



ALSOFS INCREDIBLE VISITOR 187 

** These unimportant things, father, arc some- 
times the most important of all," she said. " Jim's 
right. It's odd no witnesses can be found." 

As if there had been something prophetic in her 
words and her attitude, a muffled knock came from 
the outer door. 

"Why doesn't he ring?" the inspector growled. 
"You haven't had the bell disconnected, Nora? 
Good Lordl Am I as sick as that? " 

Nora, a trifle bewildered, moved towards the 
door. " Queer I And I think there are two in the 
hall." 

Garth, as he always did, marveled at her acute 
perception. For, although he had heard no foot- 
steps, no voices, two men followed Nora into the 
living room. The one in advance was young, with a 
frightened and apprehensive face. His companion 
was older and portlier, with narrow eyes and full- 
blooded cheeks. And those eyes were uneasy. For 
Garth they did not quite veil a sense of sheer terror. 
With a growing discomfort he guessed the cause 
of this visit. 

Nora's voice betrayed none of the amazement 
Garth knew she felt. 

" It's Mr. Alsop, father," she said — " Mr. Ad- 
dington Alsop." 

The inspector had already struggled to rise. He 
conceded the importance of this unexpected calL 
He apologized for his failure. 

** Nora's got me wound up like a mummy — ^^ 

Alsop broke in rapidly. 



1 88 THE GRAY MASK 

*' No politeness, inspector. I must speak to you. 
I'm up against it. They're after me.'* 

He sat down heavily. The young man, whom 
he introduced as his secretary, Arthur Marvin, 
lighted a cigarette with trembling fingers. Garth 
watched them both while the inspector explained 
that they might speak freely before him and Nora. 
Alsop, he knew, because of his genius for organizing 
money and industry, and his utter ruthlessness in 
dealing with those whom necessity had thrown within 
his power, had made dangerous and active enemies. 
Garth was aware, moreover, that recently Alsop 
had publicly defied certain organizations which had 
asked what he believed to be too much. The de- 
tective could understand the financier's position. 
His death might be a cheap risk for outside fanatics 
to take to destroy his leadership against the forces 
of radicalism, for there were few men strong enough 
to replace him. Alsop had a newspaper in his hand 
now, and was holding it out to the inspector, while 
with his forefinger he tapped the paragraph which 
told of Brown's accident. 

" No accident," he muttered. '* That man 
worked for me — a precaution any fool would take. 
Well, he must have found out what he was after 
last night, and they got him, and thought they had 
killed him. They tell me at the hospital he's still 
unconscious." 

Nora smiled at her father. 

^' A cheap automobile case ! " she reminded him 
softly. 



ALSOFS INCREDIBLE VISITOR 189 

Alsop handed Garth a crumpled, torn, and soiled 
post-card. 

^' That came in the noon mail. Must have been 
picked up by somebody and dropped in a post box. 
I figure Brown, before they got him, threw it out 
of a window, or some such thing. Anyway that 
settled it It brought me here for a quiet talk.*' 

Garth read the card. A single line, almost un- 
decipherable, sprawled across the back: 

" Danger to-morrow night. Brown." 

** That means to-night," Garth said. " Had you 
planned anything important for to-night ? " 

Marvin laughed a little. Alsop spread his hands. 

''The conference with capitalists and politicians 
at which we settle on certain legislation that will 
put some of these foreign anarchists on the skids, 
snatch American labor beyond their influence, and 
give the honest business man a chance to make a fair 
profit by driving his men as he should. See here, 
inspector. Tm not afraid of good Americans. 
They may put me out of business, but if they doy 
m know IVe been beaten in a fair fight. It's these 
damned foreign anarchists and some sore central 
Europeans Fm afraid of. I expect some important 
men from Wall Street and Washington to-night. I 
can't let them walk into a bomb, and I don't want 
any high explosives myself." 

The inspector grunted. 

''Nasty situation. I'm no politician. Fight 

crime. We'll see what we can do. It's a good 
thing you found Garth here." 



I90 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth, who had not ceased to study Alsop*s face, 
realized that the man had more to report — some- 
thing which he shrank, however, from mentioning.. 

" What is it, Mr. Alsop? " he asked. " You've 
something else to tell us.'' 

Nora, who had clearly noticed the same symp- 
toms, nodded approvingly. Alsop flushed and 
glanced at Marvin. The secretary knocked the 
ashes from his cigarette. The trembling of his fin- 
gers was more apparent. 

" You should tell that by all means, Mr. Alsop," 
he said in a low voice. "That's what I want to 
find out. If I don't get some explanation of that 
rU doubt my sanity." 

Alsop cleared his throat 

" A ghost story," he said with an attempt at a 
laugh. " Fact is, Marvin and I and some of the 
servants are haunted by a veiled woman." 

Nora came closer. The inspector turned back 
to the fire a little contemptuously. But Garth had 
no doubt that this hard-headed business man was 
serious. 

" Go on," he said softly. " You think this ghost 
is connected with a dangerous conspiracy against 
you?" 

" I can only tell you facts and let you judge," 
Alsop answered. " I daresay you know about my 
house on the river near the city line. It is lonely 
for that neighbourhood, and very old. I've always 
heard stories about a ghost, a veiled woman on the 
upper floor — some connection with the suicide of a 



ALSOFS INCREDIBLE VISITOR 191 

beautiful girl long ago. You know the sort of thing. 
It's always told about old houses. The point is, I 
saw that veiled woman last night, and she gave me 
rather too much evidence of spirituality." 

** Why do you connect a ghost with anarchists? " 
the inspector demanded. 

" Because," Alsop answered, perfectly seriously, 
" I believe the thing was after my papers." 

Garth laughed outright. 

" Then why suspect your visitor of being a 
ghost?" 

'^ Because," Alsop said patiently, '^ this visitor had 
every appearance of walking through a locked door." 

Nora alone was thoroughly impressed. 

" Tell us," she urged. 

" IVe a safe in my room," Alsop said, " and as 
an extra precaution, when Fve had important papers 
at the house, IVe locked my door. I went upstairs 
late last night. There was no light in the upper 
hall, but a glow came from the lamps downstairs. 
In this sort of radiance I saw the figure of a woman, 
clothed in white, her face hidden behind a white veil, 
come apparently from my room, cross the hall, and 
disappear. I cried out. I sprang for the door. 
It was locked. Marvin and I searched the house. 
My daughters are in Florida. The only women 
in the place were servants. There seemed no way 
in or out of the house without the collusion of one 
of these. And Tve had them a long time. It's 
hard to suspect them. Besides, Marvin has had 
much the same experience. Tell them, Arthur." 



192 THE GRAY MASK 

" As a motive/' Marvin said slowly, " I might 
mention the fact that I often take my work upstairs 
— letters of Mr. Alsop's to answer, statements to 
make out. The first time the thing happened was 
Thursday night. It must have been after midnight. 
I was in bed. I awakened with that uncomfortable 
feeling of being no longer alone. At first I saw 
nothing. The only light in the room came from a 
dying moon. I had been nervous for several nights, 
fearing an attempt on Mr. Alsop. I never could 
get him to take that very seriously until to-day. At 
any rate, after a long time, I saw this figure that 
Mr. Alsop describes. It did not seem to come from 
anywhere." 

He commenced to pace up and down the room. 
There was about the sudden gesture of his hand a 
despairing belief that shocked Garth. 

" The thing — white veil and all — seemed to 
materialize out of nothing. It moved softly about 
the room as if searching — searching. I thought 
of the letters on my desk. I called out instinctively, 
* Who's there?' There was no reply. The fig- 
ure did not hurry. It stepped behind a screen by 
the fireplace. I sprang up and went there. I 
couldn't believe the evidence of my eyes. There 
was no one — nothing behind the screen. I ex- 
amined the door. It was locked as I had left it, with 
the key on the inside. There was no way in or 
out of that room. Yet the veiled woman had been 
there, and had gone, leaving no trace." 



ALSOFS INCREDIBLE VISITOR 193 

'* The windows,'* Garth said, " or the fireplace? '* 

Marvin shook his head. 

" The windows were scarcely open, and a fire 
burned in the fireplace. And, mind you, this was^ 
before Mr. Alsop had seen the woman. I mean,, 
he had not suggested the vision to me. The same^ 
thing happened last night. That figure came^ 
searching and disappeared in the same impossible- 
way. I knew I was n't dreaming then. I spoke of 
it to Mr. Alsop. It frightens me. I want an ex- 
planation of that.'* 

** Catch your enemies and you'll catch your ghost," 
Garth said drily. " I'd like a shot at both." 

" What you want,'" the inspector said to Alsop 
and Marvin, " is protection for yourselves and your 
distinguished guests. What the police want is to 
catch these fellows red-handed. We'll try to fit the 
two things. Don't lose your nerve. Go ahead 
with your conference, and trust Garth to find out 
how your veiled woman gets in and out of the house 
and through locked doors. I should say if we find 
her we should have the brains of the conspiracy. 
There may be no danger for you to-night. We've 
only Brown's post card to go on. That looks seri- 
ous, and I'll do my best to protect you. But you 
must give me every chance to nab these birds. This 
sort of thing's getting too bold. There's too much 
foreign propaganda in this country. It would 
please me to throw the fear of Uncle Sam into such 
people." 



194 THE GRAY MASK 

And when Nora had gone to the door with Alsop 
and Marvin, he called Garth over, and hurriedly 
whispered : 

'' It^s a big chance, Garth, but dangerous as dyna- 
mite. These fellows won't hesitate to blow that 
house up if they can't block Alsop's dirty politics any 
other way. And remember, you're fighting a 
woman who behaves like a ghost. Take it from 
me, she's the one you've got to be afraid of. She 
has the brains." 

" If I could get something out of Brown," Garth 
mused. 

" Maybe he's conscious now," the inspector said. 
** Run up to the hospital, then look over the neigh- 
borhood where he was found. Come back here by 
five, and we'll lay our plans." 

Nora stopped Garth in the hall. 

** Jim," she breathed, " you're going to take this 
case? " 

" Surely. I've only to lay a ghost. That ought 
to be simple." 

She hesitated. 

" I've been thinking," she said, ** and I wish you 
wouldn't go, because it will be hard, terribly hard — 
with death always in the way." 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE LEVAJ^mNE WHO GUARDED A CURTAIN 

GARTH, in spite of Nora's fears, went con- 
fidently enough to the hospital. If he could 
learn all-Brown knew the case should be easy 
sailing. 

In Brown's room the blinds were down. The 
greenish light scarcely found the upturned face. It 
sought rather the bandage, ghastly and white, wound 
thickly about the head. From time to time Brown's 
lips moved with a pitiful futility. Garth, while the 
nurse cautioned him to silence, bent closer, so that 
at last he could define the pallid face and the closed 
eyelids that trembled. Suddenly the eyes opened. 
From them into Garth's brain sprang an impression 
of immeasurable terror as if they still secreted the 
outline of some monstrous vision. 

Garth started back as the injured man, appar- 
ently spurred by that recollection, struggled to rise, 
sat bolt upright, his head swaying drunkenly, while 
from his wide throat vibrated an accusing and de- 
spairing cry : 

" The veiled woman 1 Oh, my God ! The veiled 
woman 1 " 

Garth's nerves tightened. Again that incredible 

IPS 



196 THE GRAY MASK 

feature of the case startled him. Here was proof 
he needed. The figure that had frightened Alsop 
and Marvin was probably involved in the attack on 
Brown. The inspector was right. She was the 
brains of the affair. Brown must tell him all he 
knew. He urged the man desperately. 

"Take hold of yourself! YouVe seen this 
woman 1 YouVe got to talk to me 1 ** 

But Brown screamed incoherently with a dimin- 
ishing power. The nurse had run into the hall. 
Through the open doorway her voice tore anxiously, 
summoning a house physician. 

Garth's feeling of a desperate helplessess in- 
creased. Before him was the knowledge that would 
safeguard Alsop and his friends, that would insure 
Garth's own life, that would destroy, perhaps, a 
dangerous foreign influence, and the man couldn't 
speak. 

At last the nurse's calls seemed to seep through 
the bandage into that tortured brain, suggesting the 
necessity for caution. In a whisper coherent words 
came again from the trembling lips. 

" For God's sake, don't look behind the white 
veil 1 No 1 No 1 I have. That's madness ! " 

The doctor slipped in and hurried to the bedside. 
In response to his touch Brown lay down. 

** Don't dope him," Garth begged. " That man 
knows things on which many lives depend. He must 
tell them to me before night. When will he be able 
to talk straight?" 

The doctor smiled tolerantly. 



THE LEVANTINE 197 

^^You don't seem to understand. A frightful 
fracture at the base of the brain. He seems in- 
clined to be quiet enough now.** 

The doctor turned away. Garth followed him 
to the door, urging him to use his skill to make 
Brown talk. The nurse had remained by the bed. 
Garth heard her sharp cry through his own plead- 
ing. The sound puzzled him because it was a trifle 
strangled. The doctor, however, turned like a flash 
and hurried back to the bed. Garth looked. The 
nurse bent over the bandaged head. The doctor 
fumbled quickly beneath the bed clothes. He arose, 
glanced at Garth, and spread his hands. Garth 
picked at his hat, unwilling to believe. 

" You mean," he whispered, " that he's — 
gone?" 

The doctor nodded. The nurse sobbed once. 
Garth had not noticed how young her face was. 

The block where the murdered man had been 
found was flanked by long rows of similar houses. 
Its cobblestones, unfriendly to traffic, made it an 
ideal place for the brutal deception which had been 
attempted. 

Opposite the spot where Brown had been picked 
up Garth paused and looked curiously across the 
street. The dreary house line was broken there by 
a number of basement and flrst-story shops. His 
eyesi alert for the unusual, had found it. A base- 
ment window displayed iatricately patterned rugs, 
lamps of the Orient, iiB£am9tar ai^ batbaric jewel- 



198 THE GRAY MASK 

ry. The fact that he had not noticed the window 
sooner testified to a significant discretion in its ar- 
rangement. It was, he fancied, designed less to 
attract curiosity than to satisfy it once it was 
aroused. Probably it was that idea that suggested 
a fantastic connection between what he had heard 
at the flat and the hospital and what he saw now. 
Half derisively he recalled that Oriental women 
went veiled — customarily secreted their faces be- 
hind white veils. 

He had intended entering all these shops and 
houses in search of a witness of the attack on Brown. 
He determined now to proceed ra her more warily. 
Suppose Brown spying, or about to spy, had been 
assaulted in one of these basements — for instance, 
in the Oriental shop which had straightway aroused 
his interest? 

He crossed the street and darted quickly down 
the steps from one side, so that he was sure he had 
taken by surprise whoever was in the place. What 
he saw was sufficient proof of his success, and his 
special detective sense was immediately impressed 
by much that was ominous in the shadowed room. 
The echoes of such an attack as Brown had suf- 
fered could have been easily smothered here. 

Rugs were draped against the walls or flung at 
haphazard on the floor. Carved tables supported 
lacquer work. From a glass case jewelry gleamed 
with a dull beauty. But it was on the rear of the 
shop that Garth's eyes rested, while a cold fear 
grasped him. 



THE LEVANTINE 199 

A long, low divan sprawled there against a tap- 
estry hanging of a colorful and grotesque design. 
On this divan, seated cross-legged, was the figure of 
a man, at first quite motionless, like an image in a 
somber and guarded temple. He wore a fez, set 
formally on his head. One hand clasped the sin- 
uous stem of a water pipe. 

The round, flaccid, repulsive face defied class- 
ification. Garth could not be sure whether it was 
Egyptian, Turkish, Arabian, or Semitic. He only 
knew that it was evil and accustomed to perfect 
control, for he suspected that his rapid entrance 
had made the concealment of the fez and the alter- 
ation of that ritual attitude impossible. In a mat- 
ter-of-fact tone Garth spoke of examining the rugs 
and antiques. 

The figure did not stir. The sallow face re- 
mained as if carved. The only motion in the room 
was a lazy curling from the water pipe of white 
smoke which faded in the darkened, perfumed air. 
Then the curtain moved stealthily at one end, dis- 
closing a dark face of a Levantine cast. This man 
came through, carefully replacing the curtain behind 
him, stroked his bony hands, and demanded Garth's 
desires. The immobility of the cross-legged crea- 
ture ceased. The stem of the water pipe as he 
raised it to his mouth writhed in sinuous curves. 
He commenced to puff. The water bubbled un- 
evenly. 

Garth examined the rugs with growing excitement. 
He was prepared to believe that he had stumbled 



200 THE GRAY MASK 

on a meeting place. And after all wasn't this an 
ideal rendezvous? The shop had probably been 
here for years. The town was full of such stores. 
At any rate his impression of a calculated evil in- 
creased. He felt himself the object of suspicion. 
It was conceivable to him that he might suffer a fate 
similar to Brown's — perhaps behind that hideous 
curtain which the Levantine and the cross-legged fig* 
ure seemed to guard. 

Garth started. The unequal bubbling of the 
pipe had accompanied all his thoughts. Constantly 
it would pause, then recommence. The idea which 
had been struggling unconsciously in the detective's 
brain took shape. That uneven bubbling possessed 
a significance beyond the pleasures of nicotine. It 
suggested a means of communication, a code. 

While he bargained with the Levantine his con- 
fidence in this eccentric explanation increased. It 
condemned the occupants of the shop. Whether or 
not the men were connected with the plot Brown 
had feared against Alsop, they were decidedly ob- 
jects of interest to the police. Still, if Brown had 
spied here, the danger was obvious. The Levantine 
and the man in the fez were sinister opponents. 
Yet Garth wanted to see behind that grotesque 
curtain. 

For a time, listening to the bubbling, he wondered 
if they would let him leave the shop at all. He was 
in no hurry to go until he had made sure of one or 
two things. While fingering a rug he managed 
stealthily to examine the wall. It was about what 



THE LEVANTINE 201 

he had hopedy what he had expected. The house 
was very old. It was one of a row built simultan- 
eously before the fire laws had amounted to much. 
He was sure that the dividing walls between these 
basements were not fireproof. As nearly as he 
could tell from the surface he examined, they would 
probably be lath-and-plaster, with, perhaps, rubble 
in the space between. His next step was to meas- 
ure as accurately as he could with his eye the dis- 
tance between the entrance and the curtain, which 
was like a ceremonial background for the man in 
the fez. Stooping to inspect one of the rugs, he 
struck the flooring with his fist, as if by accident. 
He was satisfied. There was no cellar beneath this 
basement. He dared hope that he would see what 
lay behind the curtain. 

Approximating as nearly as he could the subtleties 
of a buyer, he promised to make up his mind and 
return with his decision the next morning. He knew 
that sharp and angry eyes followed him from the 
shop. 

He had a feeling that the darkened place had 
become active as soon as he had turned his back. 

He walked slowly to the corner, studying the 
houses on either side of the shop. The one to the 
right was a cheap boarding house. The one on 
the other side was evidently a private dwelling. 

At the nearest hardware store he bought an auger 
and a screwdriver. Then he entered the alley that 
bisected the block, and, counting the houses, knocked 
at the kitchen door of the one to the right of the 



202 THE GRAY MASK 

Oriental shop. The servant who admitted him 
verified his hazard. At this hour the occupants 
were at work. She was, for the present, alone in 
the house. 

Garth showed her his badge, warned her to make 
no noise, and to stay close to him. The girl, fright- 
ened and unable to comprehend, followed him into 
the basement. He paced from the front of the 
house along the wall to a point which, according to 
his calculations, was opposite the hidden portion of 
the shop. He glanced up then with satisfaction. 
Against a thin and antiquated partition was sus- 
pended one of those heavy and unwieldy gas meters 
which are found only in very old buildings. 

Garth drew up a table, climbed upon it, and ex- 
amined the thick screws which held the contrivance 
in place. With his screwdriver he commenced 
noiselessly to remove one of these. He thought it 
likely that the screw hole would go all the way 
through. If it did not, his auger would complete 
the journey. He instructed the girl to draw the 
blinds and close the door so that the room would 
be darker. He pulled the screw from the rotten 
wall. The aperture was sufficiently large. It ad- 
mitted the repellent odor he had noticed in the 
shop ; so he put his eye to the hole and waited for his 
brain to accustom itself to these new conditions. 

The drone of voices reached him, but at first he 
could see very little — shadowy outlines circling a 
dull, glowing thing close to the floor — a brazier, 
he decided, about which men sat. ' Then he started, 



THE LEVANTINE 203 

for he thought he saw something long and white, 
like a woman. But the smoke from the aperture 
hurt his eye. He had to close it. When he opened 
it again there was nothing white, but out of the 
droning voices came words in English with a foreign 
accent, and he crouched aginst the wall, listening. 

He marveled that he should hear just these words 
at this particular moment. 

" The police are suspicious," he heard, " so it's 
been put ahead. At nine o'clock to-night. Two 
raps on the west door at Alsop's. The veiled 
woman will open the door and take the bomb, and 
then, by God, we'll show them 1 " 

A sibilant demand for caution reached Garth. 
The droning recommenced. Garth fancied that it 
continued in the guttural accents of some eastern 
dialect. 

He replaced the screw. He got down from the 
table, able to plan definitely. Against her protests, 
he took the girl to headquarters and warned the 
matron to let her communicate with no one before 
nine-thirty. He hurried to the flat then, and told 
the inspector and Nora of Brown's death and of his 
experience at the shop. 

"That's where Brown was struck," he ended, 
" and Brown was right. They are after Alsop and 
his crowd to-night with dynamite, and the veiled 
woman's the figure of chief danger. Do you know, 
chief, I'm going to let them hand her that bomb, 
then I'll try to handle her." 

The inspector shook his head. 



204 THE GRAY MASK 

*' It's taking too big chances to let them get as 
far as the house with the thing." 

" It's the veiled woman I'm thinking of," Garth 
answered. " Grab these people before her share 
commences, and you'll probably never see her. 
She'll bob up here and there, causing infinite trouble, 
because everything she does has the marks of a 
fiendish cleverness. Let me take the risk and land 
her." 

" It's utter madness your way," Nora said quietly. 
" How could you control her with a thing like that 
in her hands?" 

'' I think I can take care of her and the bomb, 
too," Garth said quietly. 

The inspector thought for a long time. It was 
clear the idea tempted him. If Garth could ambush 
the mysterious creature at the proper moment, her 
capture would be certain. His own share in the 
night's work was simple. He had arranged to sur- 
round the Alsop place quietly with his best detec- 
tives. They would keep themselves hidden. They 
would permit the conspirators to enter the grounds. 
Garth, at the house, would use his own judgment. 
When he blew his whistle this small army would 
close in and make the arrests. Meantime the 
Oriental shop would be raided. The dictaphone, 
which undoubtedly carried the signaling of the pipe, 
would probably lead the police to another rendez- 
vous. 

'' It looks like a big haul," the inspector said. 
** We can't let Alsop's ghost slip us." 



THE LEVANTINE 205 

With a grumbled oath the inspector tossed his 
blankets aside and lumbered to his feet. He stood 
for a moment swaying against the chair. His pudgy 
fingers tore at the bandage about his throat. Nora 
ran to him and grasped his arm. 

"What are you doing, father?" 

" Haven't you any eyes? " he r-oared. " Getting 
well. I'm tired being sick. I want to get on this 
job. Working, I can cough my head off as comfort- 
ably as I can sitting here." 

Nora spread her hands. 

" You are both mad," she said. " You both 
want to take too great risks — impossible risks." 

Garth was warmed by her concern for him. For 
the first time since their quarrel in the house with 
the hidden door the barrier of reserve which had 
risen between them lost a little its solidity. 

The inspector had gone into his bedroom. From 
the sounds there Garth gathered that the huge man 
fought his way Into his clothing. Nora stared help- 
lessly from the door to Garth and back again. Then 
he saw resolution tighten the lines of her face. Her 
eyes flashed. She laughed. Without shaking 
hands she turned and walked to the door of the in- 
spector's room. 

" Good-by, Jim," she called. ** I suppose I'll 
have to look after this reckless one first." 

Garth went. Nora's words and manner had 
made him a trifle uneasy. Little time, however, 
remained for speculation. It was seven o'clock 



2o6 THE GRAY MASK 

when he had completed his arrangements. He took 
the subway to Harlem and continued in a taxicab. 

Alsop's great wealth permitted him a rural lone- 
liness even in this expensive neighborhood. Garth 
dismissed the cab at the edge of a wide property 
along the river, made sure he had not been followed, 
then climbed the fence, and entered a thick piece of 
woods. 

Certainly nature favored the police as thoroughly 
as it did the conspirators. There was no moon, 
and sullen clouds hid the stars. 

Suddenly in the dense obscurity of the woods he 
experienced that sensation Marvin had described of 
no longer being alone. He paused and waited, 
scarcely breathing, aware of the dangers, perhaps 
fatal, that might lurk for him here. And, as he 
stood, not knowing what to expect, he wondered if 
the veiled woman was abroad in the woods. He 
became filled with a passionate desire to learn her 
identity. The somber, perfumed atmosphere of 
the shop came back to him. There were odd things 
in the Orient — happenings, apparently occult, for 
which no explanation had ever been offered. Mar- 
vin was young and imaginative, but Alsop was not 
the type to be frightened by fancies, yet both of these 
men believed that the woman could pass through 
locked doors, that she could appear and disappear 
as she wished. And Brown had said that to look 
behind the veil was madness. Was she abroad in 
these woods? He had waited for some time. 
There was nothing. He stepped forward. 



THE LEVANTINE 207 

Immediately he knew there wais someone. He 
sprang aside, whipping out his revolver, crouching 
against an expected attack ; for a figure blacker than 
the night had glided in his path from behind a tree 
trunk, and the hands carried something round, 
black — 

" Put that thing down," Garth whispered, " then 
up with your hands 1 " 

Her laugh barely reached him. 

" I thought it was you, Jim." 

He dropped his revolver in his pocket and strode 
forward, angry and anxious. 

" What are you doing here, Nora? " 

He laughed uncomfortably. 

" For a minute I looked for the veiled woman." 

*' I've come," she said confidently, " for her, and 
to see that you don't throw your life away, because 
you won't admit the possibility of incomprehensible 
forces." 

'^ You must go back, he said. *' What's in that 
bundle you're carrying?" 

She held the bundle up, and Garth touched it. 
It was a soft substance wrapped in a black shawl. 

" What is it? " he repeated. 

" A white gown," she answered simply, " and a 
white veil, so that I may take the bomb after I have 
trapped this queer creature; so that I may talk to 
these men and learn how wide the organization is.'^ 

She argued logically enough that there was less 
risk this way than the other. Once she had the 
bomb in her hands the great danger would be over* 



208 THE GRAY MASK 

Try as he might, Garth could not move her. She 
walked on towards the house. 

They paused at the edge of the woods. The 
dark, vague mass of the building frowned at them. 
The windows, Garth gathered, were heavily cur- 
tained, for no gleam of light escaped. 

*' I am going in with you, Jim, to see it through," 
Nora whispered. " Don't be disapproving. I only 
want to help." 

Impulsively he grasped her hand. For a mo- 
ment he forgot the restraint she had forced upon 
him. 

" Nora," he said hoarsely, " since I lost my tem- 
per with Black, you've not been kind. You know I 
want you with all my heart — ^" 

Through the darkness her voice was filled with 
wistful regret and sympathy. It reminded him 
again that her tragic love affair, preceding their 
capture of Slim and George, still touched her with 
fingers of sorrow; had not yet given her time to 
adjust herself to this new ardor. 

"Hushl You were not to speak of that." 

But he would not let her hand go. 

" And you — will you ever speak? " he asked. 

" I don't know," she answered dully. 

She snatched her hand away. Her voice rose. 

" Don't you see? It's because I don't know that 
I can't let you take such chances with death. That's 
why I'm here, Jim." 



CHAPTER XV 

THE VEILED WOMAN 

INSIDE the house the atmosphere of danger 
reached Garth more positively than it had done 
even through Brown's unreasoning terror. 
Alsop and Marvin met them in the hall. Both were 
white-faced and nervous. Through the open door 
of a library Garth saw five men in evening clothes 
gathered about a table which was littered with 
papers. Alsop closed the door. 

" I hope you and the inspector are satisfied," he 
jeered. " We're properly trapped." 

" The house is surrounded by detectives," Garth 
said. " We've arranged to take care of the one 
with the bomb. For there is a bomb, Mr. Alsop. 
There's no point lying about that." 

Alsop scarcely made an effort to hide his fear. 

" How are your detectives outside going to help 
us in here?" 

He pointed to the closed door of the library. 

" All my figures, all of my plans that I've ever put 

on paper I've brought out here for the first time 

to-night for this conference. Don't you suppose 

those devils know? And that thing — you can 

laugh at me if you like — I tell you that thing in 

white is after them. When I went upstairs just 

209 



210 THE GRAY MASK 

now to bring them from the safe I felt it. I saw 
something white, and I ran down. Ask Marvin. 
Fm afraid. I acknowledge it. Stay in this house 
with that — that influence, then if you'll tell me I'm 
a coward I'll believe it." 

" I'm not sneering," Garth said grimly. " As a 
matter of fact we know your veiled woman is act- 
ually to be in this house at nine o'clock. It's likely 
enough she's upstairs now in some hidden corner 
after failing to steal your papers. I'll search every 
rat hole, because you can take it for granted her 
apparent magic is pure trickery, and if she isn't to be 
found upstairs we've a net arranged down here for 
her a little later." 

He explained briefly the arrangement that Nora's 
presence and her disguise had made possible. Alsop 
and Marvin were not impressed. 

" Better find out what you can now," Alsop ad- 
vised. 

He nodded at Marvin. Garth and Nora fol- 
lowed the secretary towards the stairs. Suddenly, 
with a sharp intake of breath. Garth turned, grasped 
Nora's arm, and drew her back. 

" Alsop," he whispered excitedly, " I don't give 
a hang how long you've had your servants, or how 
much you trust them. The thing's obvious any- 
way. Nora I You saw that?" 

Nora nodded. Her eyes were wide. 

"What do you mean?" Alsop gasped. 

Without answering Garth ran down the hallway 
and flung the curtain at the end to one side. Across 



THE VEILED WOMAN 211 

a wide dining-room he saw a woman, slender and 
middle-aged. Her attitude was of flight Her 
hand rested on the knob of the farther door. As 
Garth called sharply for Alsop she opened the door 
and went through. Alsop had only a glimpse. 

" It's my housekeeper," he said- '* She's worked 
here for twenty years. Certainly there's nothing 
wrong there." 

*' I wonder." Nora spoke softly. " Such people 
are clever enough to involve one's own family against 
one. She can't leave the house anyway. Suppose, 
Jim, we look upstairs." 

While Alsop, angry and at a loss, went back to 
the library, Garth and Nora climbed to the upper 
hall. Garth supposed that Marvin would have 
made a light for them, but of all the doors that 
opened from the stair landing one alone was wide, 
and no light gleamed through that. 

" Marvin 1" he called, and again: ** Marvin! 
Marvin 1" 

He was aware of Nora's shivering. He glanced 
at her. The color had left her cheeks. 

" Something's wrong up here, Jim," she said. ** I 
know it. I feel it. Don't you feel anything 
strange? You heard him come up, and after what 
Mr. Alsop said — where is he? Why doesn't he 
answer?" 

Garth stepped forward. Nora reached out and 
grasped his arms. The quality of her voice startled 
him. 

" Don't go in there without a light, Jim." 



212 THE GRAY MASK 

He shook off her hands. He entered the dark 
room, and immediately he knew she had been right, 
that he had advanced too precipitately. He 
stumbled against something soft and yielding, and 
went down, stretching out his hand to save him- 
self. He knew what his fingers had found. He 
snatched them away with a little cry: 

" Get back to the hall, Nora I " 

But he heard no movement from her, so, since 
he didn't dare wait, he took his flashlight from his 
pocket, pressed the control, and turned the ray on 
the features his hand had touched in the dark. 
Marvin was stretched, face downward on the floor 
near the head of the bed. His arm lay beyond his 
head, pitiful evidence that he had reached for the 
electric light switch which had been just beyond his 
grasp. 

Nora with a reluctant air had come closer. Cry- 
ing out her horror, she indicated the collar, at the 
back of Marvin's neck. 

'' Blood I " 

Garth nodded. 

*' Like Brown. The same place as Brown's 
wound." 

Nora covered her face with her hands. 

Garth sprang up, unconsciously quoting Brown's 
words : 

" That's madness I " 

He ran to the bath-room and brought water with 
which he bathed Marvin's face and head. He 
looked up after a moment with a sigh of relief. 



THE VEILED WOMAN 213 

'* It was only a glancing blow,'* he said. '' He'll 
come around." 

Marvin, indeed, before long stirred, and tried to 
struggle to a sitting posture as Brown had done. 
He cried out, as Brown had cried: 

" The veiled woman I " 

** You see," Nora breathed. 

Garth lifted the secretary to the bed, but when, to 
an extent, the man had recovered consciousness he 
had nothing reasonable to tell. 

He had started, he said, up the stairs, thinking 
Garth at his heels. He had been about to press the 
switch. 

" I knew she was there," he sobbed. " I saw 
her — all white, and with a veil over her face. 
Then I don't know. I don't remember being 
struck. Everything went black." 

Garth with a gesture of determination turned and 
conunenced examining the room. Nora, crouched 
against the wall, watched him with the assurance 
of one who sees an evil prophecy fulfilled. After 
a quarter of an hour he gave it up. There was no 
one concealed in the room. Nor, he would have 
sworn, was there any reasonable hiding place. From 
behind the screen where the veiled woman had evi- 
dently disappeared twice there was no possible es- 
cape. 

" Before long, Marvin," he muttered, " I'll be as 
bad as you and old Alsop. If you believe in ghosts, 
Nora, this certainly looks like one." 

He glanced at his watch. 



214 THE GRAY MASK 

" Are you still anxious to try that plan of yours 
after what you've seen?" 

She nodded She went uncertainly from the room. 
Marvin stumbled after them. They helped him 
down the stairs and to a sofa in the lower hall. 
Garth led Nora to the west door. 

" We've less than ten minutes," he said, " and I 
don't understand. I'd rather you kept out of it." 

In silence and with determination she slipped on 
the white gown she had brought and draped the 
white veil over her face. Garth, shaking his head, 
arranged a screen just within the doorway. He 
turned out the electric lamp, lighted a single candle, 
and placed it on a stand at some distance. 

" Wait behind the screen," he said. " Actually, 
Nora, unless we are dealing with something beyond 
the human, the result is certain. I shall be at the 
other end of the hall just within the library door. 
Anybody coming from the interior of the house 
must pass me. I'll grab the woman. I'll see she 
makes no outcry. I'll keep her out of the way for 
she must be human to that extent. When you hear 
the two raps open the door and take the bomb. Ac- 
cording to Alsop's description you won't be sus- 
pected in this light. A little over five minutes I 
I'll get Alsop and his crew out of the library and 
where their precious skins will be safe." 

He touched her hand in farewell. Her fingers 
were very cold. She shivered and slipped behind 
the screen. He went to the library, knocked, en- 



THE VEILED WOMAN 215 

tered, and closed the door. The faces that greeted 
him were restless with misgiving. 

" I want you all out of this room now, please," 
Garth said. " I've delayed moving you as long as 
I dared, so, if anything goes wrong, those outside 
won't know you have left. Take them to the back 
part of the house, Mr. Alsop. Into the cellar, if 
you like. It's safest. In fifteen or twenty minutes 
I hope you will be able to resume your conference 
in perfect security." 

Without words the men gathg;ed up their papers 
and filed out. 

Garth, left alone in the room, turned out the 
light, went to the window, slipped behind the cur- 
tain, opened the casement, and peered through. 

The darkness was still unrelieved. Through 
that darkness, he knew, men crept on an errand of 
fanaticism and death. Through that silence he was 
momentarily expectant of the audible evidence of 
their approach. But he could hear nothing, see 
nothing. He couldn't wait. It was necessary for 
him to go to the door from behind which he was to 
ambush the veiled woman in order that Nora might 
take her place. 

As he thrust the curtain aside a thin, tinkling 
sound stole from the silence of the room. He felt 
his way to the telephone and lifted the receiver. 

" Hello I " he whispered. " Hello I " 

The inspector's hoarse voice came to him, low- 
ered to a note of caution. 



2i6 THE GRAY MASK 

" You, Garth ? I'm in the gardener's cottage. 
Tell me AIsop and his people ar€ safe." 

"Yes," Garth said. " Hurry 1 Hurry I What's 

up?" 

" For Heaven's sake, be careful/' the inspector 
answered, *' because, Garth, all your dope was right. 
There are four of them in the grounds now, and 
one carries a thing that looks like a bomb. Are you 
going to get away with it? The veiled woman — " 

" She's in the house," Garth murmured. " I'm 
waiting. I must go. Hush I I hear — " 

He broke off. Through the appalling quietness 
of the house he had heard distinctly from the direc- 
tion of the west door two sharp raps. He flashed 
his light at the clock over the mantel. Its hands 
pointed exactly to nine o'clock. Yet he had seen 
no one pass the dim frame of the library doorway 
— nothing white. 

He ran through. In the wan candle light he 
could see the slender figure in the white gown and 
the flowing veil slip from behind the screen and open 
the door. Then Nora would get the bomb, but 
where was the real veiled woman? What unac- 
countable intuition had warned her away? 

Garth slipped along the hall, clinging to the 
shadow of a tapestry. He knew from the black 
patch at the end of the corridor that the door was 
wide. In that dark patch he suddenly saw the sil- 
houette of a man. The hands were stretched out as 
if to meet the hands which Nora appeared to offer 
for the bomb. But the man carried no bomb. In 



THE VEILED WOMAN 217 

the dim light Garth thought at first that he carried 
nothing. Then he understood his mistake, and he 
cried out, drawing his own revolver, darting for- 
ward: 

"Nora! Lookout!" 

He had seen that the man's fingers fondled an 
automatic, raised it, aimed it at the confident, ex- 
pectant figure. 

" For police spies I " the man called. 

Before Garth could reach the door the harsh, 
tearing report of the automatic came, and was re- 
peated twice. There was no question. At that 
short range each sound from the stubby cylinder 
was the voice of death. Garth saw the form that 
he loved sway, clutch at nothing, without a cry 
crumple and lie motionless across the threshold. 

Before the other could turn his gun on him the 
detective had grappled with the murderer. He bore 
him to the porch floor and struck him across the tem- 
ple with the butt of his revolver. Garth arose then, 
and, scarcely aware of what he did, placed his police 
whistle at his lips, and blew shrilly through the night. 

While he waited for the help that he knew would 
be too late for Nora or for him, he gazed at the 
silent, slender form. The veil alone moved, tremb- 
ling from time to time in the wind which came gently 
from the woods. That reached the candle also, 
which flickered, making the light ghastly, unbearable. 

Garth shook. He covered his face with his 
hands, for the dim, unreal illumination had shown 



2i8 THE GRAY MASK 

him that the figure was no longer completely white. 
The reason for its stillness exposed a scarlet testi- 
mony. 

That which Garth had feared but had forgotten 
in the rush of his more personal terror rent the si- 
lence with a chaotic turmoil. A terrific detonation 
was followed by the shattering of glass. Shouts 
and curses arose from the house. Someone hurried 
across the drive and up the steps. Garth was aware 
of a heavy hand on his shoulder. He glanced up at 
the inspector's startled face. Suddenly the detec- 
tive realized that the old man had no misgivings 
for Nora. At this moment, with the white form 
at his feet, he must picture her quietly, safely at 
home. Garth moved away, but the inspector 
grasped him again. 

" What's the matter with you? You've let them 
use their infernal bomb. You're responsible for 
Alsop and his people." 

" They're safe," Garth answered. 

The candle still burned. In its wan and flicker- 
ing light he indicated the still, white figure. 

" The veiled woman I " the inspector said. 
"Dead!" 

He stooped swiftly. 

" You've done well here anyway. Garth. Let's 
have a look." 

Frantically Garth snatched at his arm and tried 
to pull him away. 

"Don't look! Not you 1" 



THE VEILED WOMAN 219 

The inspector glanced up amazed. Garth knelt 
with a gesture of despair. 

" What's that? " the inspector whispered, and his 
voice was suddenly afraid. Garth followed his 
glance. From the black shadows of the woods a 
white figure glided. Its face was hidden beneath 
a white cloth. 

Garth's shaking fingers reached out and lifted 
the stained veil from the silent form. He drew 
back. His cry was like a sob. For a long time 
the inspector and Garth stared at the features, appre- 
hensive even in death, of the secretary, Marvin. 

Nora, who ran up the steps crying out her fear 
for those in the house, gave Garth no opportunity 
for questions or for the expression of that relief 
which shook him with a power nearly physicaL 
Even the inspector, after his first shock of surprise, 
had no time to demand the particulars of her share 
in the night's work. 

The four prisoners were brought to the hall. 
They knew they must stand trial for Brown's death 
as well as for this attempt. The one who had shot 
Marvin and who had gone down before Garth's 
attack was still dazed. Garth identified him as the 
man who had disguised himself as an Oriental in 
the shop. The sharp face of the Levantine twitched 
with hatred and fright. The other two, although 
he knew the type, the detective had never seen be- 
fore. They boasted openly that the shop had been 



220 THE GRAY MASK 

only an outpost for this affair. Through a dicta- 
phone and the telegraphy of the pipe, instructions 
had been sent to and from their headquarters. To- 
night, they declared, the shop had ceased to be use- 
ful. No trail would lead from it to the central 
force that worked in New York. 

As they drove home in a taxicab the inspector 
bitterly lamented the fact to Garth and Nora. 

" We'll get to it later," Garth said. 

'* If only things hadn't gone wrong at the last 
minute I " Nora cried. " If only I might have taken 
the bomb and talked to the man who brought it I 
Even with the others 1 For it's clear those fellows 
will give nothing away now. We can blame poor 
Marvin that I never had a chance." 

"What do you mean?" Garth asked. "You 
haven't told us what happened when I left you by 
the west door." 

" You remember we had got Marvin on a sofa 
in the hall," Nora answered. " He must have seen 
you close the door when you went in the library to 
warn Alsop and the others, because from my hiding 
place I saw him get up, and, with no appearance of 
an injured man, sneak along the wall to the stairs. 
I followed him up, and, Jim, I found him on the 
floor in his room again, but this time he didn't hear 
me, and he was talking. Then I saw his whole 
game. There was a dictaphone hidden beneath the 
bed with which he had probably conununicated with 
those outside the house for days. We had stopped 
him the first time when he had just learned of my ^ 



THE VEILED WOMAN 221 

Intended masquerade. Don't you see? He had to 
tell them that. We caught him, and he scratched 
himself to throw us off the track with the details 
of another case like Brown's. Now I heard him 
tell everything — just what I was to do, and that 
Alsop and the others were in the library. I ran 
downstairs, but when I reached the lower hall I saw 
him coming after me. So I said I had changed my 
mind, that I was afraid, that I wanted only to leave 
the house. I went to the kitchen and slipped out, 
intending to get to you, Jim, with my information. 
But I knew these men were In the grounds, and I 
had to go carefully. When I crept up to the library 
window I thought I saw you. Then the telephone 
bell rang, and I couldn't make you hear." 

" Of course," Garth said, " Marvin, coming down, 
had seen that the library door was open, and that 
there was no longer a light there. It was too late 
to use the dictaphone again, but he knew he must 
change his instructions and tell them not to waste 
the bomb in the library. So he threw on his dis- 
guise and rushed to the west door as he had origi- 
nally planned, in too much of a hurry to dream such 
a mistake could happen. I suppose he got past 
while I was at the window." 

" Marvin," the inspector mused, ** was just the 
man for them. Probably full of wild-eyed ideas, 
and feeling a divine call to help smash Alsop. I 
hold no brief for that millionaire. I understand 
he had to work, like most everybody else, for what 
he's got, and maybe that's the reason he can't under- 



222 THE GRAY MASK 

stand these new social notions. And far be it from 
me to say anything about Marvin's grand thoughts, 
although it may be his share in this affair was made 
worth his while. My part in life is to see that the 
law's kept, and I guess without the law there 
wouldn't be anything much worth while for anybody 
to fight over. These rough boys had certainly fixed 
Marvin to help them break the law into little bits 
of pieces. So maybe he deserves just what he got. 
Alsop tells me he didn't trust any of his employes 
with his schemes for putting a stop to socialistic 
movements in his concerns, and that's where the big 
hitch came. Marvin, whenever he knew there were 
private, papers in the house, was always searching. 
He had a key to Alsop's door. He used that old 
ghost story, and dressed himself up in case any of 
the servants should see him. Their fright would 
give him time to cover himself. When Alsop did 
catch him he came across with the terrible experi- 
ences he had had himself with the veiled woman. 
Ought to have got on to him before." 

" It wasn't easy to suspect him," Nora said, " par- 
ticularly after we had seen the housekeeper's curi- 
osity, and had found him, apparently unconscious, 
in his room. He was really too frightened at the 
flat, and we might have suspected when Jim heard 
those directions at the shop. Such luck as that 
doesn't often happen. It's easily explained now. 
The time it took you, Jim, to go to the hospital 
and to visit the shop was just the time he needed to 
return to Wall Street with Mr. Alsop, make some 



THE VEILED WOMAN 223 

excuse, and get into the shop by a back way to re- 
ceive his new orders. It was simple enough." 

The inspector grunted. 

" If we saw all the simple things there'd be no 
need for detectives." 

He commenced to cough with a persistent vehe- 
mence. 

" Take me home, Nora," he groaned. " Back to 
the fireplace and the flannel for the old man. 
You're always right, Nora. Isn't she always right, 
Garth?" 

But Garth, recalling that moment before Nora 
and he had entered the Alsop house, shook his head. 
Nora must have seen and understood, for she 
laughed lightly. 

" Maybe she is," Garth said thoughtfully, " but 
sometimes I wonder." 



CHAPTER XVI 

A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 

ALSOP was around the next day, loud with 
generosity, and anxious to give Garth the 
only form of reward he could understand — 
large sums of money. Garth, however, didn't care 
for the man. He preferred to keep their relations 
on a purely business basis. 

" I only did my duty, Mr. Alsop," he said. 
** Some day I may break away from here and start 
an office of my own. In that case, if you cared 
to mention me to your friends I would feel I had 
been well repaid." 

** Maybe you were a little too proud, Garth," 
the inspector grunted afterwards. 

Nora, however, when she heard of it, said simply 

** Jim, you did perfectly right. If you had taken 
money from that man he'd have believed he owned 
you body and soul." 

" When you two combine against me I've nothing 
more to say," the inspector grinned. 

Garth knew that the old man watched, with some- 
thing like anxiety himself, the progress of his and 
Nora's friendship. The detective had long since 

made up his mind not to speak to the inspector on 

224 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 225 

that subject until he had received some definite en- 
couragement from the girl. The inspector himself 
brought up the matter about this time. Probably 
the impulse came from the trial of Slim and George 
which began and threatened, in spite of its clear 
evidence, to drag through several weeks. 

It would be necessary, of course, for both Garth 
and Nora to testify sooner or later. So they re- 
hearsed all the incidents of that night when Garth 
had worn the grey mask. After this exercise 
one evening the inspector followed Garth to the 
hall. 

" I don't want my girl to become morbid, Jim.'* 

Garth nodded. 

"You mean Kridel?" 

" YouVe said it," the big man answered with an 
attempt at a whisper. ** I've thought that maybe 
you and Nora — See here, Jim, I wouldn't mind 
a bit. You see Nora's mother was Italian. I don't 
altogether understand her, but I know it isn't natural 
for her to mourn for this fellow forever, and I 
mean, if you and she ever hit it off, I won't forbid 
the banns. Only maybe you'll let me live with you 
now and then. You don't know what that girl 
means to me, Jim; but I want to make her happy, 
and I believe you're the one, for a blind, deaf, and 
dumb man could see you are in love with her." 

Garth laughed, not altogether comfortably. 

" It's up to Nora, chief, but I don't see how I 
can ever get along without her." 

It wasn't often that the inspector had used Garth's 



226 THE GRAY MASK 

first name. It seemed to bring the detective closer 
to his goal. During the daytime at headquarters, 
however, their relations were scarcely altered. 
Garth often suffered from lack of work there, prob- 
ably because the inspector didn't care to send him 
out on unimportant matters that the least imagina- 
tive of his men could handle. When he had to 
assign him to an unpromising task, either to spare 
him too prolonged idleness, or because no other de- 
tective was available, the big man always assumed 
an apologetic air. It was so when he started him 
on the mystifying Taylor case. 

" Nothing doing these days," he grumbled. 
" City must be turning pure, Garth. Anyway I got 
to give it something for its money. Run up and 
take a look at this suicide. Seems Taylor was a 
recluse. Alone with his mother-in-law and the ser- 
vants. Wife's in California. Suppose you had 
other plans, but I don't see why the city should pay 
you to taUc moonshine to Nora." 

He grinned understandingly, encouragingly. 

So the detective nodded, strolled up town, and 
with a bored air stepped into that curious house. 

Garth for a long time stared at the pallid features 
of the dead man. Abruptly his interest quickened. 
Between the thumb and forefinger of the clenched 
left hand, which drooped from the side of the bed, 
a speck of white protruded. The detective stooped 
swiftly. The hand, he saw, secreted a rough sheet 
of paper. He drew it free, smoothed the crumpled 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 227 

surface, and with a vast incredulity read the line 
scrawled across it in pencil. 

" Don't think it's suicide. I've been killed — " 

There was no more. Until that moment Garth 
had conceived no doubt of the man's self-destruc- 
tion. The bullet had entered the left side of the 
breast. The revolver lay on the counterpane within 
an inch of the right hand whose fingers remained 
crooked. The position of the body did not suggest 
the reception or the resistance of an attack. In 
the room no souvenir of struggle survived. 

Here was this amazing message from the dead 
man. Its wording, indeed, offered the irrational im- 
pression of having been written after death. 

Garth thought rapidly. Granted its accusation, 
the note must have been scrawled between the firing 
of the shot and the moment of Taylor's death. But 
a murderer, arranging this appearance of suicide, 
would have given Taylor no opportunity. On the 
other hand, the theory that Taylor had written the 
note before killing himself, perhaps to direct suspi- 
cion to some innocent person, broke down before the 
brief wording, its patent incompleteness. One pos- 
sibility remained. Garth could imagine no motive, 
but another person might have prepared the strange 
message. 

A number of books littered the reading table at 
the side of the bed. Garth examined them eagerly. 
He found a blank page torn from one — the sheet 
which Taylor had clenched in his fingers. In an- 
other was Taylor's signature. When Garth had 



228 THE GRAY MASK 

compared it with the message on the crumpled paper 
no doubt remained. Taylor himself had written 
those obscure and provocative words. 

Garth found the pencil on the floor beneath the 
bed, as if it had rolled there when Taylor had 
dropped it. The place at the moment had nothing 
else to offer him beyond an abnormally large array 
in the bath room of bottles containing for the most 
part stimulants and sedatives. They merely 
strengthened, by suggesting that Taylor was an in- 
valid, his appearance of suicide. 

The coroner and Taylor's doctor, who came to- 
gether, only added to the puzzle. The coroner de- 
clared unreservedly for suicide, and, in reply to 
Garth's anxious question, swore that no measurable 
time could have elapsed between the firing of the 
shot, which had pierced the heart, and Taylor's 
death. The physician was satisfied even after Garth 
confidentially had shown him the note. 

" Mr. Taylor," he said then, " understood he 
had an incurable trouble. Every one knows that 
his wife, whom he worshipped, had practically left 
him by going to California for so long. It may have 
appealed to a grim sense of humour, not unusual 
with chronic invalids, to puzzle us with that absurdly 
worded note. I might tell you, too, that Mr. Taylor 
for some time had had a fear that he might go out 
of his head. Perpetually he questioned me about 
insanity, and wanted to know what treatment I would 
give him if his mind went." 

Garth, however, ^hen they had left, went to the 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 229 

library on the lower floor and telephoned headquar- 
ters. The inspector agreed that the case held a 
mystery which must be solved. 

Garth walked to the embrasure of a high colonial 
window. The early winter night was already thick 
above the world. The huge room was too dark. 
There was a morbid feeling about the house. He 
had noticed that coming in, for the place had offered 
him one of those contrasts familiar to New York, 
where some antique street cars still rattle over so- 
norous subways. The Taylor home was a large, 
colonial frame farmhouse which had eventually been 
crowded by the modern and extravagant dwellings 
of a fashionable uptown district. In spite of its 
generous furnishings it projected even to this suc- 
cessful and materialistic detective a heavy air of the 
past, melancholy and disturbing. 

Garth sighed. He had made up his mind. The 
best way to get at the truth was to accept for the 
present the dead man's message at its face value. 
He turned on the single light above the desk in the 
center of the room. He arranged a chair so that 
the glare would search its occupant. He sat oppo- 
site in the shadow and pressed a button. Almost 
at once he heard dragging footsteps in the hall, then 
a timid rapping at the door. The door opened 
slowly. A bent old man in livery shuffled across the 
threshold. It was the servant who had admitted 
Garth on his arrival a few minutes earlier. The 
detective indicated the chair on which the light 
fell. 



230 THE GRAY MASK 

**Sit down there, please." 

As the old man obeyed his limbs shook with a 
sort of palsy. From his sallow and sunken face, 
restless, bloodshot eyes gleamed. 

" I understand from the doctor," Garth began, 
" that you are McDonald, Mr. Taylor's trusted 
servant. The coroner says death occurred last night 
or early this morning. Tell me why you didn't find 
the body until nearly four o'clock this afternoon." 

The old servant bent forward, placing the palm 
of his hand against his ear. 

"Eh? Eh?" 

On a higher key Garth repeated his question. 
McDonald answered in tremulous tones, clearing his 
throat from time to time as he explained that because 
of his master's bad health his orders had been never 
to disturb him except in cases of emergency. He 
drew a telegram from his pocket, passing it across to 
Garth. 

** Mrs. Taylor is on her way home from Cali- 
fornia. I don't think Mr. Taylor knew just what 
connection she would make at Chicago, but he ex- 
pected her to-morrow. That telegram sent from the 
train at Albany says she will be in this afternoon 
on the Western express. I thought it my duty to 
disturb him and get him up to welcome her, for he 
was very fond of her, sir. It will be cruel hard for 
her to find such a welcome as this." 

"Then," Garth said, "you heard no shot?" 

McDonald indicated his ears. Garth tugged at 
his watch chain. 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 231 

** I must know," he said, " more about the con- 
ditions in this house last night." 

He had spoken softly, musingly, yet the man, who 
had displayed the symptoms of a radical deafness, 
glanced up, asking without hesitation : 

** You don't suspect anything out of the way, sir? " 

Garth studied him narrowly. 

** I want to know why the shot wasn't heard. 
You were here and Mr. Taylor's mother-in-law. 
Who else?" 

The bony hand snapped to McDonald's ear again. 

"Eh? Eh?" 

** Speak up," Garth said impatiently. " Who was 
in the house besides yourself and Mrs. Taylor's 
mother ? " 

** The cook, Clara, sir — only the cook, Clara.'* 

** You're sure? " 

** Absolutely, sir. Who else should there be ? 
We've been short of servants lately." 

Garth dismissed him, instructing him to send Mrs. 
Taylor's mother. While he waited he stared from 
the window again, jerking savagely at his watch 
ribbon. From McDonald he had received a sharp 
impression of secretiveness. He hadn't cared to 
arouse the servant's suspicions. Through strategy 
he might more surely learn whatever the old man 
had held back. 

Garth swung around with a quick intake of breath. 
He had heard no one enter. Through the obscurity, 
accented rather than diminished by the circular patch 
of light around the chair, he could see no one. Yet 



232 THE GRAY MASK 

almost with a sense of vibration there had reached 
him through the heavy atmosphere of the old house 
an assurance that he was watched from the shadows. 
Impulsively he called out : 

"Who's that?" 

He stepped to the desk so that he could see the 
portion of the room beyond the light. It was 
empty. Garth, as such things go, had no nerves, 
but through his bewilderment a vague uneasiness 
crept. 

He sprang back, turning. A clear, girlish laugh 
had rippled through the dusk. A high, girlish voice 
had challenged him. 

*' Here I am I Hide and seek with the police- 
man 1 " 

He saw, half hidden in the folds of the curtain 
at the side of the embrasure in which he had stood, 
a figure, indistinct, clothed evidently in black. He 
took it for granted McDonald had sent the girl, 
Clara, first. 

" I wanted Mr. Taylor's mother-in-law," he said. 
" No matter. Come here, and let me remind you 
that humor is out of place in a house of death." 

Nevertheless the pleasant laugh rippled again. 
Slowly the dark figure detached itself from the shad- 
ows and settled in the chair while Garth watched, 
his uneasiness drifting into a blank unbelief. He 
couldn't accept the girlish laughter, the high, coquet- 
tish voice as having come from the grey, witch-like 
hag whom the light now exposed mercilessly. 

" I am Mr. Taylor's mother-in-law," she said 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 233 

laughingly. ** Everybody's surprised because I'm so 
youthful. My daughter's coming home this after- 
noon. That's why I'm so happy. They wouldn't 
let me go west with her, but when one's as advanced 
as I young people don't bother much." 

Garth experienced a quick sympathy, yet behind 
the mental deterioration of extreme old age some- 
thing useful might lurk. 

*' You slept in the front part of the house last 
night," he tried. ** You probably heard the shot." 

She shook her head. Her sunken mouth twitched 
in a smile a trifle sly. 

^* Once I drop off it would take a cannonade to 
wake me up." 

For no apparent reason her youthful and atrocious 
laugh rippled again. 

" Please," Garth said gently. " Mr. Taylor—" 

" At my age," she broke in, ** you say when a 
younger person dies : ^ Ha, ha I I stole a march 
on that one.' " 

She arose and with a curious absence of sound 
moved towards the door. 

*^ 1 must go now. I am knitting a sweater. It 
was for my son-in-law. Now that he's put himself 
out of the way it might fit you." 

The door closed behind her slender figure, and 
Garth tugged at his watch ribbon, wondering. Her 
actions had been too determined, her last words too 
studied. They had seemed to hold a threat. Was 
she as senile as she appeared, or had she tried to 
throw sand in his eyes? 



234 THE GRAY MASK 

He rang and sent for the cook Clara, unaware 
that a new and significant surprise awaited him in 
this dreary room. The girl, when she came, was 
young, and, in a coarse mold, pretty. When she 
sat down the light disclosed a tremulousness as pro- 
nounced as McDonald's. Before Garth could ques- 
tion her she burst out hysterically: 

'* I am going to leave this house. I was going 
to leave today, anyway.'' 

Garth pitched his voice on a cold, even note. 

" For the present you'll stay. Mt. Taylor didn't 
kill himself. He was murdered." 

She covered her face with her hands, shivering. 

" I didn't kill him. I didn't — " 

** But," Garth snapped, " you know who did." 

She shook her head with stubborn vehemence. 

" I don't know anything," she answered, *' except 
that I must leave this house." 

" Why? Because you think the old lady's crazy, 
and she frightens you ? I want to know about that." 

As Clara lowered her hands the increased fear, 
rather than the tears in her eyes, held Garth. She 
shook her head again. 

" I've only been here a week. I haven't seen 
much of her. She's only been to meals once or 
twice, and then she's scarcely said a word." 

She glanced about the room with its small paned 
windows, its deep embrasures, its shallow ceiling. 

" It isn't that," she whispered. " It's because the 
house is full of queer things. The servants all felt 
it. They talked about spirits and left. Five have 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 235 

come and gone in the week I've been here. But 
I've never been superstitious, and I didn't hear any- 
thing until last night." 

Garth stirred. 

" What did you hear? When was it? " 

** About midnight," she answered tensely. '* I 
had had company in the kitchen until then, so I 
was alone downstairs. McDonald had told me be- 
fore he went to bed to make sure the last thing that 
the library fire was all right. I had looked at it 
and had put the fender up and was just leaving the 
room when I heard this sound — like moans, sir. 
I — I've never heard such suffering." 

She shuddered. 

" It was like a voice from the grave — like some- 
body trying to get out of the grave." 

"But you heard no shot?" 

" No, sir." 

Garth spoke tolerantly. 

'* These sounds must have come from up stairs. 
You've forgotten that Mr. Taylor was an in- 
valid." 

She cried out angrily. 

*' It wasn't like a man's or a woman's voice, and 
I can't tell where it came from. I tell you it was 
like a — a dead voice." 

** You failed to trace it, of course," Garth said. 
** Describe to me what you did." 

" I ran to the kitchen," she answered, " but, as 
I told you, there was no one there. McDonald 
had gone to bed, and so had his daughter." 



236 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth stooped swiftly forward and grasped her 
arm. 

"What's that you're saying? His daughter! 
You mean to tell me McDonald has a daughter, and 
she was in the house last night?" 

She shrank from his excited gesture. 

" Yes. He asked me not to tell you, but I'm 
frightened. I don't want to get in trouble. She's 
the housekeeper. She engages all the servants and 
runs the house." 

" Then where is she now? " 

" She must have gone out early this morning, sir, 
for I haven't seen her all day. I wanted to be 
fair. I've only been waiting for her to come back 
so I could tell her I was leaving." 

" Send McDonald back to me," Garth said, " un- 
less he's left the house, too." 

The butler had deliberately lied to shield his 
daughter, and had asked secrecy of this girl. And 
all this talk of spirits and of cries I It was turning 
out an interesting case after all — possibly an ab- 
normal one. Moreover, he was getting somewheres 
with it. 

McDonald slipped in. He was more agitated 
than before. His face was distorted. His tongue 
moistened his lips thirstily. Against his will Garth 
applied the method he knew would bring the quickest 
result with such a man. He grasped the stooped 
shoulders. He shouted: 

** Why did you lie when I asked you who was in 
the house at the time of the murder? " 



A NOTE FROM THE DEAD 237 

"Eh? Eh? " the old man quavered. 

" You're not as deaf as that. Where's your 
daughter now? " 

" My ears I '* the old servant whined. " I can't 
hear, sir." 

" All right," Garth shouted. " If you want to 
go to the lockup and your daughter too, stay as deaf 
as you please." 

He wasn't prepared for the revolting success that 
came to him. McDonald clutched at one of the 
window curtains and hid his twitching face in its 
folds, while sobs, difficult and sickening, tore from 
his throat, shaking his bent shoulders. 

** God knows ! I haven't seen her since I went 
to bed last night. I thought she'd gone out." 

He glanced up, his face grimacing. 

" Don't you think she did it. Don't you think — " 

" First of all," Garth said, " I want her picture." 

" I haven't any," McDonald cried. 

But Garth hadn't missed the man's instinctive 
gesture towards his watch pocket. Then, whether 
he actually knew anything or not, he suspected his 
daughter and sought to protect her. Against his 
protests Garth took the watch and, as he had fore- 
seen, found a photograph in the case. The picture 
was not of a young woman, but the face was still 
attractive in an uncompromising fashion. It was 
this hardness, this determination about the picture 
that made Garth decide that the original, under 
sufficient provocation, would be capable of killing. 

** For her sake and yours, McDonald," Garth 



238 THE GRAY MASK 

said, *' answer one thing truthfully. Did she fancy 
herself any more than a superior servant ? Had she 
formed for Mr. Taylor any silly attachment? " 

McDonald's reply was quick and assured. 

" To Mr. Taylor she was only a trusted servant, 
sir, and she knew her place." 

The whirring of a motor suggested that an auto- 
mobile had drawn up before the house. Garth 
slipped the photograph in his pocket. 

" If that is Mrs. Taylor arriving," he said with 
an uncomfortable desire to shirk the next few min- 
utes, '* the news of her husband's death might come 
easier from you." 

" I telephoned Mr. Reed," McDonald said. 
" He's an old friend of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor's. I 
told him about the telegram, and he's probably met 
her and brought her home." 

" I will be here," Garth said, " if she wishes to 
speak to me." 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE KNIFE BY THE LIFELESS HAND 

HE heard McDonald open and close the front 
door. Then the widow entered, followed 
by a young man with an abundance of dark 
hair curling over a low forehead and shading eyes 
a trifle too deep set. But at first Garth saw only 
the widow, and he marveled that one so young and 
lovely in an etherial sense should have been mated 
with the elderly invalid upstairs. As he looked it 
suddenly occurred to him that Reed, since he had 
lost Taylor as a friend, might crave more than 
friendship from the widow. 

She sank on a divan. Even in the shadows her 
heavy black hair and the dark grey traveling dress 
she wore heightened the weary pallor of her face. 
Had her eyes held tears they would have been easier 
to meet, for the shock was there, dry and unrelieved. 

*' It is dreadful to come home this way," she said, 
'* dreadful I I had never dreamed of his doing such 
a thing." 

" It is by no means certain," Garth said gently, 
*^ that he killed himself. There is a curious situa- 
tion in this house. McDonald's daughter, the house- 
keeper, for instance, has not been seen since a short 
time before the crime." 

2^ 



240 THE GRAY MASK 

Her lips twitched a little. He fancied hope in 
her eyes. 

" If I could only cry 1 " she said. ** At any rate 
that would be better for his memoryi wouldn't it? 
You suspect this woman? '* 

" If you are able," Garth said, " I would like you 
to tell me something about her." 

** I have never seen her," she answered. * • Sh^ 
came after I went west. McDonald had a good 
deal of influence over Mr. Taylor, and I never quite 
trusted him. There's no use. You might as well 
know the truth about Mr. Taylor and me. YouVe 
probably heard. We were never quite happy. He 
was so much older. We never quite belonged to 
each other. But that is all. It isn't true all this 
gossip that I went west for a divorce, and I don't 
believe he was the man to kill himself. If there 
has been a crime against him I want the world to 
know it. I want his memory clean." 

Quickly the man Reed touched her shoulder. For 
the first time since entering the room he spoke. His 
voice possessed a peculiar, aggressive resonance. 

^' Helen, you shouldn't take this man's suspicion 
that he was murdered too seriously." 

Garth motioned him to silence. 

*' At such a time," he said to Mrs. Taylor, ** I 
dislike to bother you, but I'd like to ask one or two 
questions. Your mother? Her mind?" 

He caught a flash of pain across her white face. 

^' She has always been peculiar," she answered, 
" but she isn't out of her head, if that's what you 



THE KNIFE 241 

mean. Fve always thought it's a habit of hers to 
hide her real thoughts behind apparent absurdi- 
ties." 

** I had wondered about that," Garth said with 
satisfaction. " One more thing. There has been 
talk among the servants of spirits, of moans." 

She shivered. 

" I know nothing about that," she said, *' except 
that the house is unbearable. That is one reason 
I decided on this long visit, why I shrank from 
coming home." 

"Unbearable?" Garth helped her out. 

** Old, moldy, and depressing. My husband, I 
think, believed in it a little. I've heard him and 
my mother talk about a figure who sometimes 
walked. I laughed at that, and I laughed when 
they heard moans. You see the wind often cries in 
the narrow space between us and the high wall of 
the next house. I've never liked it here. It de- 
presses me too much. That's all." 

" Thanks," Garth said. ** You will want time to 
accustom yourself. Rest assured I will do every- 
thing I can to get the truth." 

" You must," she said tensely, " and don't hesi- 
tate to disturb me if I can be of any use." 

As they went out the resonance of Reed's under- 
tone reached Garth. 

" Helen. You are giving this man's suspicion too 
much weight He seems to have no evidence." 

After the door had closed Garth telephoned the 
inspector, suggesting that the house be guarded in 



242 THE GRAY MASK 

order that he might have McDonald, Clara, and 
the old lady at hand. 

** rU give instructions," the throaty rumble of 
the inspector came back, " to arrest any one who 
tries to make a getaway." 

Garth hurried to the kitchen. The night was 
nearly complete there, but, as he entered, he caught 
a swift, silent movement from the servants' stairs. 
He walked to the entrance. 

" I thought so." 

The girl Clara shrank from him in the shadows. 
She wore a hat and cloak. She carried a hand bag. 

*' If you don't want yourself locked up, charged 
with murder, take those things off," Garth said. 
^^ From this moment the house is watched, and any 
one attempting to leave will be arrested." 

The girl commenced to cry again. 

" I am afraid," she sobbed. ** Afraid." 

Garth turned on the light. 

" Take me," he directed her, " to the room oc- 
cupied by the housekeeper." 

Shaken and uncertain, Clara led him to a room 

at the head of the stairs, which, Garth found, had a 
second door opening into the upper hall of the front 
portion of the house. The room displayed a taste 
seldom found among servants. His examination of 
it from the first spurred Garth's curiosity. The 
bed had been occupied last night, but to all appear- 
ances for only a brief period, since the blankets and 
sheets were little disturbed. Some clothing and a 
pair of shoes lay at one side, and clothing, shoes. 



THE KNIFE 243 

and hats were neatly arranged in the closet, but 
nowhere could he find a dressing gown or a pair 
of bedroom slippers. Clara, moreover, could not 
recall having seen the housekeeper wear any hat or 
clothes other than those in the closet. If McDon- 
ald's daughter had fled from the house in slippers 
and dressing gown it was strange she hadn't been 
heard of long ago. It became increasingly clear to 
him that the woman remained hidden in the house. 
It should be easy enough to find her. He would 
search every corner for the one whose brain, he was 
now convinced, held the solution of the mystery. 
But on the lower floor he found no trace. He 
paused in the lower hall, intending to ring for Mc- 
Donald to guide him through the rest of his task. 

All at once his hand which he had raised to the 
bell hesitated. He braced himself against the wall. 
Through the heavy atmosphere a stifled groan had 
reached him, followed by a difficult dragging sound. 
But as he sprang up the stairs he knew he hadn't 
heard the cause of Clara's fright, for the groan had 
sufficiently defined itself as having come from a man. 

In the upper hall there was no light beyond the 
glow sifting through the stair well. It was enough 
to show Garth a dark form huddled at the foot of 
the stairs leading to the third story. He ran over 
and stooped. 

" McDonald 1 What's the matter? Are you 
hurt ? " 

The silence of the house was heavier, more secre- 
tive than before. 



244 THE GRAY MASK 

At last, In response to Garth's efforts, a whimper- 
ing came from McDonald's throat. The heap 
against the wall struggled impotently to rise. 
Garth recalled the medicines in Taylor's bath room 
and started down the hall. The unintelligible 
whimpering increased. Garth went on, aware that 
the black, huddled figure crawled after him with 
the sublime and unreasonable courage of a wounded 
animal. 

He snapped on the light and ran to Taylor's bath 
room where he poured a stimulant into a glass. As 
he stepped back to the bedroom he faced Taylor's 
body on which the light shone with peculiar reflec- 
tions. They gave to the pallid face the quality of 
a sneer. But it was only in connection with another 
radical difference at the bed that that Illusion ar- 
rested Garth and <sent a chill racing along his nerves* 
For on the counterpane, as near the crooked fingers 
as the revolver lay, now rested a long and ugly 
kitchen knife. 

With a graver fear the detective glanced at the 
door of the hall. McDonald had dragged himself 
that far. He raised his trembling hand, stretching 
it towards the bed in a gesture, it seemed to Garth, 
of impossible accusation. Then the crouched figure 
toppled and fell across the threshold while froni 
somewheres beyond the door a high girlish laugh 
rippled. 

Garth sprang forward and knelt by the old man, 
reluctant to search for what he expected to find. 
There it was at the back of the coat, a jagged tear 



THE KNIFE 245 

whose edges were stained, showing where the knife 
had penetrated the shoulder. The wound didn't 
look deep or dangerous, and in his unconsciousness 
McDonald breathed regularly* So Garth hurried 
back to the bed and examined the knife. There was 
no ambiguity about the red stains on the blade. The 
knife, resting close to the dead hand, had wounded 
McDonald who had seemed to accuse the still form 
whose note projected the impression of having been 
written after death. 

Garth smothered his morbid thoughts. McDon- 
ald's daughter was the living force, probably at 
large in this house, that he wanted to chain. If 
she were guilty of the earlier crime she had suffi- 
cient motive for this attempt to keep the old man 
silent. She could have got such a knife from the 
kitchen. So, for that matter, could Clara. But 
the eccentric had laughed. Was that merely coinci- 
dence? Garth ran across the hall and listened at 
her door with an increasing excitement. He heard 
the running of water, regularly interrupted, as if 
by hands being cleansed under an open faucet. He 
tried the door and found it unlocked. He entered, 
staring at the daring indifference of the old woman 
who stepped from the bath room, calmly drying 
her hands on a towel. 

^^ Come in, policeman," she said in her high girlish 
voice. " Don't suffer in the black hall." 

" Let me have that towel" he cried. 

Without hesitation she offered him the piece of 
linen. It showed no stains, nor were there stains 



246 THE GRAY MASK 

to be found about the wash basin, but the slab of 
marble in which it was set was damp as if it had 
just now been carefully cleansed. She watched, her 
wrinkled face set in an expression of contempt. 

" What are you up to ? Think if I wanted to do 
anything wrong I'd let you find me out? " 

" Then you know," he said, " what happened out 
there in the hall. I heard you laugh." 

She started. Her voice was lower. At last it 
was as old as herself. 

" Things always happen out there. It is crowded 
with the people who have lived in this house before 
us — unhappy and angry people. Often I have seen 
and heard the black thing out there. I would never 
laugh at her." 

Again the doubt of her senility attacked him. 

" You can't impress me with that," he said harshly. 
^' I am talking about McDonald. He was stabbed 
out there a few minutes ago." 

She laughed foolishly. 

** Horrid old man ! But why should I want to 
see him stabbed? " 

He watched her closely. 

" I saw you strike him. You didn't have enough 
strength to send the blow home." 

The assurance of her voice increased his doubt. 
'Whatever her mental state she was at least purpose- 
ful. 

^'You need glasses, policeman. Don't neglect 
your eyes. You have only one pair." 

He felt himself against a blank wall, and there 



THE KNIFE 247 

was McDonald to think of. He asked one more 
question. 

" When did you last see McDonald's daughter? " 

" Maybe at dinner last night," she said. " Nice 
girl, in spite of her father. I must go back to my 
knitting, policeman." 

Garth left her, hurrying down stairs to the front 
door. He called the policeman from the shadows 
of the portico, instructing him to go to the large 
apartment house on the corner where he would al- 
most certainly find a physician. 

As he gave his directions he saw Nora's slender 
figure cross the street and come up the steps, and, 
as he looked at the pretty Latin face, expressive of 
an exceptional intelligence, his morose and puzzled 
mind brightened. He was surprised to see her now, 
and a little worried, for a grave menace existed for 
every one in this house. Moreover, the case mysti- 
fied him to the point where he felt he must«find the 
solution himself. He didn't care to place himself 
again under obligations to her. Rather he was am- 
bitious to impress her, perhaps to the removal of her 
reserve. 

" Father's told me about the case," she said. " I 
couldn't keep away, because you're so hard-headed, 
Jim." 

Smiling whimsically, she glanced at his frayed 
watch ribbon. 

** I see you haven't found the answer yet. Tell 
me everything you have learned while you have been 
torturing that poor ribbon." 



248 THE GRAY MASK 

" Ghosts or not, Nora," he answered, " the house 
isn't healthy, and I'd rather you didn't «tay.'^ 

She laughed and walked in. Shrugging his shoul- 
ders, he followed her, closed the door, and told her 
what had happened since he had telephoned the in- 
spector. Her face, he noticed, had grown pale, and 
a troubled look had entered her eyes. She shivered. 

'^What an uncomfortable place! I can guess 
what Clara meant. Don't you get an impression 
of great suffering, Jim?" 

He was familiar with her superstitious sensibility 
which at times seemed nearly psychic. It irritated 
him that to his own matter-of-fact mind the house 
had from the first conveyed a sense of unhealth. 
As he started to laugh at her, Nora with a quick 
movement shrank against the wall. 

" What's that? " she whispered. 

Garth strained forward, listening, too. He had 
heard what Clara had described, a crying, smothered 
and scarcely audible, and he knew what the girl had 
meant when she had spoken of a voice from the 
grave — a dead voice. 

Across the moaning cut a shrill feminine scream. 

" Stay here," Garth called to Nora as he started 
up the stairs. 

He heard her voice, like an echo behind him, as 
full of misgivings as Clara's had been. 

" I am afraid." 

At the foot of the attic stairs he saw the white 
figure of Mrs. Taylor, staring upward, trembling, 
hysterical, a violent fear in her eyes. 



THE KNIFE 249 

" You heard it, too," she breathed. " It wasn't 
the wind." 

With a shuddering gesture she indicated McDon- 
ald's still form. 

" He isn't dead," Garth said. 

While she relaxed a little the fear in her eyes 
didn't diminish. 

** I — I heard her moan," she said. " I opened 
my door, and there she was- — a black thing — 
bending over him like — like a vampire. I couldn't 
seem to see her face. She ran up these stairs, and 
I could see through the banisters that she went in 
the big attic room — the room they always talked 
about where the woman — " 

She broke off, screaming sharply again. 

''Look out! Back of you I There's something 
black creeping up the stairs — " 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE STAINED ROBE 

GARTH had been aware of Nora's slow ascent. 
As he turned she reached the upper floor 
and the light from the well caught her face. 

** A friend who has just come," Garth explained 
to Mrs. Taylor. ** There is nothing to frighten 
you. The woman you saw is McDonald's daughter. 
I had satisfied myself she was in the house. We 
arc pretty near our goal now." 

" But why," Nora asked, " should McDonald's 
daughter cry through the house in this fashion? 
Why didn't Mrs. Taylor see her face? " 

But Garth had started up the stairs. The two 
women followed, as if each was unwilling to be left 
alone. Garth snapped on his pocket lamp. The 
light shone on the only two doors on the attic floor. 
From behind the first keened once more that ghastly 
and smothered escape of suffering, scarcely audible. 
As Garth stepped towards the door Mrs. Taylor 
cried out again: 

"Is it safe?" 

" Don't go in there unprepared," Nora warned 
him. 

" I want the woman in that room," Garth mut- 

250 



THE STAINED ROBE 251 

tcred. " IVe heard her and I know she's there. 
The case is finished with her arrest." 

He took out his revolver, flung open the door, and 
flashed his light about the interior of the room. He 
lowered his hand with the revolver. The lamp 
shook a little. There was no one in the room. 

" You heard her, too," he said. " Look here." 

The others followed him in. The light played 
on the usual attic chamber, common to old houses. 
The plaster was stained and cracked. The single 
window at the end was boarded over. An iron bed 
rested against the wall, and the customary conglom- 
eration of old furniture cluttered the floor. But 
there was no possible hiding place or means of es- 
cape except a door in the side wall, and Garth found 
that locked, and when he had entered the other attic 
room to which it led he found that empty too except 
for dust and lumber. Yet, as he searched, that 
stifled and unearthly moaning reached him again. 

Feeling himself caught in the sway of incompre- 
hensible forces that mocked him, he sounded the 
walls and measured until he was convinced the two 
rooms could hold no secret place. Meantime the 
women watched with a deepening fear. 

" Just the same, she's in this house," Garth said. 
" By every rule of logic she's in this attic. But 
I'll go through every nook and cranny. Nora, you 
and Mrs. Taylor take the bedrooms. I'll go 
through the cellar and try the lower floor again." 

On his way down he saw the doctor, whom the 
policeman had brought, bending over McDonald. 



252 THE GRAY MASK 

^^ The wound is nothing/' the doctor said in an- 
swer to his question, ^' but he's had a slight paralytic 
stroke from the shock." 

" When," Garth asked eagerly, " will he be able 
to talk?" 

" Certainly not for several days," the doctor an- 
swered. '^ ril carry him to his room and make him 
as comfortable as possible." 

As Garth went on down, helpless and bewildered, 
he heard again the old woman's jibing laugh. It 
assumed the quality of a threat as he searched un- 
successfully the cellar and the back part of the house. 
He met Nora in the library. Mrs. Taylor and she 
had found no more than Garth. As they talked. 
Reed's tall figure appeared in the doorway. Garth 
had supposed the man had gone home immediately 
after bringing Mrs. Taylor from the station. 

** What are you doing here? " he demanded. 

Reed yawned. 

" Mrs. Taylor and this young lady woke me up 
searching through the spare bedroom in which I 
was resting. They were after a woman in black. 
That sounds rather silly, doesn't it? I've heard 
Taylor drool about his pet guest — lady in black, 
strangled in attic by jealous husband. I see you're 
surprised to find me still here. I thought it was 
understood I should stay and be of what help I could 
to Mrs. Taylor and her mother." 

" Then I'm afraid you'll have to stay for some 
time," Garth answered dryly. "The house is 
guarded. No one will be permitted to leave until 



THE STAINED ROBE 253 

I have found or accounted for McDonald's daugh- 
ter." 

" Clever girl that 1 " Reed said indifferently. 
" Never heard her open her mouth." 

He took a book from a shelf and seated himself 
in a comfortable chair by the lamp. 

" If I can be of any use you'll find me here or in 
my room." 

" I'm wondering," Garth answered, " if Clara 
knows anything about McDonald's daughter. For 
to-night the back part of the house interests me." 

At his nod Nora followed him into the hall. 

"Apparently Reed knows nothing," Nora said. 
" But the old woman — " 

** I'm thinking about the room where Taylor's 
body lies," Garth replied. " From the first an at- 
tempt seems to have been made to color the case 
with the supernatural. The wording of Taylor's 
note, for instance. An illusion is furnished us that 
it was written after the man's death. That is fol- 
lowed by another illusion that his cold hand wounded 
McDonald with the knife. And this crying I The 
complete disappearance of the black figure almost 
under our eyesl I grant you it's a moldy, un- 
healthy house, but it can't shelter such miracles. 
These phases are clearly manifestations of some 
abnormal criminality. I have to work on physical 
lines. The black figure proves that the woman is 
actually hidden here. The knife on Taylor's bed 
means that the murderer was in the room this eve- 
ning. McDonald's gesture, instead of accusing} 



254 THE GRAY MASK 

probably tried to tell me that; tried to warn me, 
perhaps, that the murderer would return again to 
the body. I didn't tell Reed the truth. I am going 
to that room about which nearly everything centers. 
Before the night is over it may tell me what Mc- 
Donald tried to say. There at any rate my mind 
should be more receptive to that flash of intuition 
I need to make some theory fit this mystery. Since 
the house is clearly dangerous, Nora, I want you 
to go home." 

Her laugh was uncomfortable, but Garth recog- 
nized its determined quality. 

" I'll see it through, thanks," she said. ** I want 
this sense of suffering destroyed. I want — you 
don't know how anxious I am — tp see the case 
put on a physical basis. So I'll watch with you." 

Since he failed to alter her determination. He 
sent her upstairs to make sure no one was spying, 
for he wanted their entrance of the room of death 
to remain a secret. She beckoned him from the 
head of the stairs, and he went up, and they entered 
the black room. 

Garth closed the door and snapped his light on. 
Immediately strange reflections played again over 
the face of the dead man. Its sneering expression 
seemed to follow Garth as he moved about, search- 
ing in the closets and the bath room, looking behind 
each piece of furniture. Meantime Nora waited, 
for the moment stripped of her familiar confidence. 
She watched the dead man rather than Garth. The 



THE STAINED ROBE 255 

knife and the revolver, close to the cold and motion- 
less hand, appeared to fascinate her. 

" No one," Garth whispered. " No evidence, 
beyond the knife, that any one has been here un- 
lawfully." 

He removed the cushions from a lounge and ar- 
ranged them in a window recess. He seated him- 
self with Nora there. He drew the curtains so that 
they would be thoroughly concealed from any one 
entering the room. Then he snapped off the light. 

The vigil, Garth realized nearly at once, would 
not be comfortable. Nora's obvious tenseness en- 
couraged him to morbid fancies, to formidable 
premonitions. The heavy black silence of the decay- 
ing house became more oppressive. The near pres- 
ence of the soulless thing on the bed, which had 
yielded to him the puzzling note, seemed through 
the night capable of a malicious and unique activity. 
Garth, in spite of himself, became expectant of some 
abnormal and impossible movement in the room. 
Nora, he knew, listened with him. Once she whis- 
pered : 

" Haven't you a feeling there is some one here 
who laughs at us ? " 

The old woman's atrocious mirth came back to 
him. 

" Hush. It is better even not to whisper." 

The minutes loitered. The silence grew thicker, 
the presence of Taylor's body more oppressive. 
Then suddenly through the night Garth became 



256 THE GRAY MASK 

finally aware of a movement in the room, and at 
first it seemed to be in keeping with the supernatural 
fears Nora had imposed on him. 

He aroused himself. He commenced to reason. 
He had not heard the door open or dose, but the 
intruder must have entered that way. Again his 
ears caught a sly scraping sound as of one walking 
stealthily, and the sound was nearer the bed — be- 
tween the window recess and the bed. Garth thrust 
his revolver and his lamp through the narrow open- 
ing between the curtains and pressed the control. 
There was no more shuffling. Nora swayed closer. 
The light revealed all of Garth's doubts. He be- 
came efficient again. For, while there was a ghoul- 
like quality about the picture his lamp had suddenly 
illuminated, the figure bending over the body was 
sufficiently human. In this position, however, be- 
cause of the dressing gown and the slippers, its sex 
remained undefined, but Garth, remembering his ex- 
amination of the housekeeper's room, thought he 
knew. Yet he couldn't understand what the creature 
was doing. One hand had partly drawn from be- 
neath the mattress what appeared to be a long and 
wide piece of jet black cloth. 

" Game's up 1 " Garth said. " I've got you. 
Turn around and let me have a look at your pretty 
face." 

The bent shoulders twitched. 

" Come 1 " Garth said harshly. " You* re no 
ghost. You can't evaporate before our eyes again." 

Then with a gesture of repulsion the hand let the 



THE STAINED ROBE 257 

piece of black cloth fall. It trailed across the floor, 
one end still caught beneath the mattress. Slowl/ 
the figure turned until a profile cut against the shaft 
of light Nora cried out her surprise. Garth 
sprang erect, covering with his revolver, not Mc- 
Donald's daughter, but the friend of Taylor and 
his wife, the man Reed. 

The shock of discovery stripped Reed of his con- 
trol. He glanced once at the dead man, then sank 
in a chair by the bed. 

" Don't send me to the death house," he groaned. 
" I couldn't stand that. I won't stand that." 

"You killed Taylor so you might marry his 
wife ? " Garth shot at him. 

The head jerked back and forth. 

" Fortunately you did a rotten job with McDon- 
ald," Garth said. "Where's his daughter? I 
don't get that." 

Reed shrank farther into the chair. 

" I won't answer. You can't make me say any 
more." 

Garth stooped, lifted the black cloth, and drew it 
clear of the bed beneath the mattress of which it had 
patently been hidden. As he held it up it fell in 
folds to the floor, and he saw it had sleeves and 
was a long garment without shape. But it recalled 
the black figure that had vanished from the attic. 
He ran his lamp over the gown. In spite of the 
coarse, tough material it was torn here and there, 
and on the right hand sleeve there were blood stains. 
That was why the gown had been hidden in the 



as 8 THE GRAY MASK 

easiest place, the first place at hand. That undoubt- 
edly explained Reed's daring intention to get the 
gown and destroy it before the body should be moved 
and the evidence discovered. Garth glanced at the 
man, who still shook, a picture of broken nerves, at 
the side of the bed. And Garth's hand, holding 
the tell-tale gown, commenced to tremble too, for 
It had offered him a solution of everything. He 
had no time for analysis. Already there were 
stirrings outside. Their voices and Nora's cry had 
aroused the others in the house. 

"Don't you see it, Nora?" he cried, ** and it 
wasn't intuition. The truth has stared at us from 
the first, but we wouldn't open our eyes." 

" I sec nothing," Nora said, " except that his 
motive was common enough, cheap enough." 

" You don't understand," Garth smiled. 

He stepped to the hall where he met Mrs. Taylor 
coming from her room. 

"What is it?" she asked. 

Garth shrank from telling her the truth. 

" I know who murdered your husband," he an- 
swered gently. 

" Who — " 

But the opening of her mother's door interrupted 
her. The old woman appeared, her eyes wild, her 
hands shaking. 

" What's the matter out here ? Helen 1 What's 
happened?" 

" I want to examine your room a little closer,'* 
he said. " I wondered at the start that there was 



THE STAINED ROBE 259 

so much furniture in it, and I'll wager there are 
things hidden beneath the bed and back of that 
large screen. I know now, too, that it wasn't you 
who washed your hands this afternoon. I know 
that you fooled me with a clean towel while the 
person who had tried to kill McDonald slipped 
through the conmiunicating door from your bath- 
room — ^" 

She screamed to stop him. She placed her 
slender body against the panels of the door. She 
stretched her arms to either side, forming a barrier 
he didn't care to pass. She commenced to laugh 
again, but there were tears in her eyes, and he saw 
that all along her laughter had been grief. Still 
without time to analyze, he received from the old 
lady a perfect corroboration. He whispered to 
Nora, instructing her to bring the policeman from 
the front door. 

" We may have difficult violence on our hands," 
he warned her. 

Without waiting to argue, Nora ran down the 
stairs. Mrs. Taylor came closer, asking the ques- 
tion her mother had interrupted. 

" Who is it? Why do you speak to my mother 
like this? Not she — " 

" He caught me, Helen," Reed said with dry lips. 

She flung up her hands. 

" What do you mean? Oh, my Godl What do 
you mean?" 

The policeman came briskly up. Nora followed 
him, her eyes wide and uncertain. 



26o THE GRAY MASK 

" Everything Is accounted for,'* Garth said to the 
policeman. " Make your arrest/* 

Reed stepped forward, offering himself. 

•* I admire you, Reed," Garth said, " but your 
devotion can't do any more for hen Mrs. Taylor 1 
I don't want you to get excited. This man must 
take you — just a form, you know — for the mur- 
der of your husband and for the attack on Mc- 
Donald.'] 

The violent rage Garth had feared flamed in her 
eyes. 

'' I did kill him. He kept me locked up for more 
than two months, because I didn't love him.*' 

She conunenced to struggle in the grasp of the 
policeman. Abruptly she went limp and her efforts 
ceased. Garth nodded with satisfaction. 

"That's better. She's fainted. Carry her to 
her room. We'll have a doctor right away to go 
down town with her." 

Reed touched his arm timidly. His husky voice 
was scarcely audible. 

" I understand now. Once or twice this after- 
non I've wondered, but she told me that Taylor had 
lied, that she had never been to California, that he 
had kept her a prisoner here because in his sick, 
morbid way he was jealous of me. In any case I 
would have done anything to help her over the next 
day or two, for you must understand I've loved her 
very> deeply and for a long time — " 

Garth turned away, because he didn't care to see 
the man's tears. 



THE. STAINED ROBE 261 

Later the humility of Nora's interest amused 
Garth. He told her frankly how the pivotal pieces 
of the puzzle had been within reach long before 
Reed had tried in Mrs. Taylor's service to recover 
and destroy the tell-tale black gown. 

" Those sedatives in Taylor's bathroom," he 
said. ''The man's perpetual questioning of his 
doctor about the symptoms and the treatment of 
insanity, the moans which frightened the other ser- 
vants without affecting McDonald or his daughter, 
the old lady's exaggeration of her eccentricities to 
draw my attention from Mts* Taylor — any of 
these clues ought to have reminded us, Nora, of 
the hundreds of similar cases in New York of fond 
relatives who, through a mistaken pride, hide and 
treat in their own homes such cases of mental dis- 
order." 

He scarcely needed to outline for her the picture, 
filled in by the old lady, of that black hour last 
night in the melancholy house, when Mrs. Taylor 
had tricked McDonald's daughter — a competent 
trained nurse — had escaped from the attic sick- 
room, and had got the revolver. Garth saw that 
Nora, too, could fancy Taylor's panic and self-re- 
proach as he lay sick and helpless in bed, knowing 
his wife was free, foreseeing inevitably much the 
sort of thing that had happened, trying when it was 
too late to confess his mistake, to warn the au- 
thorities that his wife was at large and, possibly, 
dangerous. 

'* But she didn't give him time to write enoijKght** 



262 THE GRAY MASK 

Garth said " She followed too quickly her rulmg 
impulse to punish the man she blamed for her tragic 
situation. Moreover, the realization of what she 
had done, as is common in such cases, returned her 
to approidmate sanity, suggested, even without her 
mother^s prompting, Taylor's California blind as 
a road from her dreadful dilemma. And McDon- 
ald's daughter, through her fright and a promise 
of money, could be persuaded to avoid arousing 
her father or Clara, to throw on one of Mrs. Tay- 
lor's dresses, to hurry with her to Albany. Evi- 
dently the girl lost her nerve, for she was to have 
come back as if nothing had happened. She was 
to have taken care of Mrs. Taylor. Eventually 
she was to have placed her in a sanitarium, explain- 
ing her breakdown, as well as any present peculiari- 
ties, naturally enough through the shock of her hus- 
band's suicide. It was McDonald's demands to 
know what had happened to his daughter that made 
Mrs. Taylor turn on him finally. If he had been 
able to speak then I think he would have broken 
faith with his dead master and told us the truth 
about her condition." 

** Is there any hope for her? " Nora asked. 

" I've asked the doctor," Garth answered. " He 
says that the studied manner in which she threw 
us off the track when we caught her crying over 
McDonald, and her failure to lose complete control 
of herself when she was arrested indicate that her 
trouble is curable. It seems to have been brought 
on by her intolerable life in this gloomy house with 



THE STAINED ROBE 263 

an invalid whom she didn't love, while her affection 
for Reed increased hopelessly. Her illness was 
broken by such periods of apparent sanity as she 
had last night and to-day. I rather think Reed 
and she may be happy yet." 

Nora smiled wistfully. 

" Then," she said slowly, " I almost wish we 
had kept Taylor's secret better than he did him' 
self." 



1 



CHAPTER XIX 

PAYMBNT IS DEMANDED FOR THE GRAY IfASK 

f ■ iHE approach of the moment when she must 
I testify against Slim and George; must tell in 
"*• public the details of that tragedy which had 
played such havoc with her, drove Nora into a mor- 
bid humor which neither Garth nor the inspector 
could alter. She followed Garth on the stand. 
She was dressed in black. The appeal of her per- 
sonality was irresistible. It was clear that if the 
two criminals had ever had a chance Nora would 
destroy it. 

Slim and George sat by their counsel. George 
could not quite hide the animal character of hts face, 
but he had managed to soften it somewhat. Evi- 
dently he endeavoured to impress the jurors with 
the idea that he was a good-natured fellow who had 
been involved in the case through some curious 
mischance. At Nora's appearance, Garth noticed, 
there came into his eyes a survival of the passion 
he had so recklessly declared in the steel-lined room. 
Slim, on the other hand, let slip nothing of the 
criminal. His quiet clothing gave him an air al- 
most clerical. His sharp features expressed a 
polite interest. He could not, a casual spectator 

264 



PAYMENT IS DEMANDED 26} 

would have said, be capable of the evil with which 
he was charged. 

Garth watched the men perpetually. He saw 
the hatred slip through while he quietly told the 
story that would condemn them to death. During 
Nora's recital, too, both men exposed something 
of their powerful desire for revenge against these 
two who quietly droned away their lives. 

Garth took Nora from the courtroom well aware 
that, given the opportunity. Slim and George would 
not let them move a foot without exacting full pay- 
ment. 

Garth respected Nora's mood. He put her in a 
cab and sent her home, then wandered restlessly 
about the down town streets. 

Perhaps Nora's attitude was partly responsible 
for his feeling of oppression, of imminence. Noth- 
ing could happen, he told himself again. Slim and 
George would start for the death house to-morrow. 
They would have no chance. If they delegated 
such work to their subordinates still at large. Garth 
fancied that he could take care of himself and Nora, 
too. It was the exceptional cunning of Slim and 
George that he shrank from, had feared ever since 
the night Nora and he had trapped them. 

Angry with himself he went to headquarters. 
The inspector admitted that he, too, would breathe 
easier when the two were in the chair. 

The next day Garth managed to dismiss his pre- 
monition. He chatted with two or three detectives 
in the outside office. The inspector sent for him. 



266 THE GRAY MASK 

The moment he answered the summons he knew 
something disastrous had occurred. He felt that 
the exceptional, ahnost with the effect of a physical 
violence, had entered the room ahead of him. 

The inspector held the telephone. The receiver 
was at his ear. His huge figure projected to Garth 
an uncontrolled fear. His voice, customarily rum- 
bling and authoritative, was no more than a groping 
whisper. 

"Why the devil doesn't Nora answer? Do you 
know. Garth, that Slim and George are loose on the 
town?" 

Garth started back. He would have responded 
just so to a blow in the face. 

" They are on their way to the death house," 
he countered. 

" You mean they were," the inspector said, " con- 
denmed by your testimony and Nora's." 

His voice rose and thickened. 

" I've just got the word. An explosion was 
planted in front of their van on the way to the 
Grand Central. There was a crowd of rats from 
the slums. Those birds were torn from the sheriff's 
men, and their bracelets knocked off. They were 
spirited away. But don't you suppose Slim and 
George would gamble I'll never let them out of this 
town ? Every exit's barred now. They know their 
liberty's only good to pay old debts. What'U they 
do at the start?" 

Garth braced himself against the desk. 



PAYMENT IS DEMANDED 267 

"They'll go for Nora first. Then they'll get 
me. I've been afraid of it all along." 

" I'm trying to warn her," the inspector raged. 
" She doesn't answer." 

He shouted into the transmitter: 

*' Are you all dead out there? Get me that num- 
ber, or by heaven — " 

While the inspector stormed to be put in com- 
munication with his daughter Garth tried to plan. 
Could he devise any useful defence against Slim's 
imagination, abnormally clever and inscrutable; or 
against such naked brutality a& George's? And 
the malevolence of these two would be all the more 
certain in its action since no fear of punishment 
would restrain it. The murder, or worse, of Garth 
and Nora, which undoubtedly they intended, could 
earn for them only the death penalty to which they 
were already condemned. 

** You've got to get Nora," Garth urged the in- 
spector. ** The servant at least should be there." 

" Her afternoon out, and Nora said she would 
be home." 

" Then," Garth cried, ** they made for her like 
a shot." 

He turned and strode to the door. 

"Where are you going, Jim?" 

" Keep after that numljer," Garth called back. 
" If you get Nora tell her I'm on the way, and to 
sit tight." 

The inspector tried to stop him. 



268 THE GRAY MASK 

" You're out of your head. Your only chance 
is to keep under cover. They'll give you a bullet 
in the back." 

" Somebody's got to look after Nora," Garth 
called, and caught up his coat and hat, and ran 
from the building. 

He threaded a course through the homeward 
bound crowds, experiencing the sensations of a 
truant from an impending and destructive retribu- 
tion, his eyes alert for a sudden movement, his ears 
constantly prepared for the sharp crack of a re- 
volver. 

As he ran he recalled that evening last summer 
when he had sidetracked Simmons and had taken 
his place behind a replica of the gray mask. He 
could see Nora in her cheap finery, and George, he 
remembered with a sense of sheer terror, had loved 
Nora in his way; had, in fact, through his brutal 
and amorous eagerness, delivered himself into her 
hands. He threw aside all caution. He ran faster. 
Somehow, no matter what the cost, he had to keep 
Nora out of the grasp of those men. 

He reached the flat, breathless and wondering 
that he had not been disturbed. No one answered 
his ring. He questioned the hall-boy. The inspec- 
tor's daughter had left fifteen minutes ago. She 
had said headquarters had telephoned her to go to 
her father without delay. The situation was clear. 
Garth grasped the hall-boy's arm. 

"Didn't you follow her to the door? Didn't 
you see where she went? " 



PAYMENT IS DEMANDED 269 

The boy shook his head, clearly alarmed before 
such vehemence. 

** Then you must have heard. Did you hear any- 
thing?" 

The boy tried to free his arm. He whimpered. 

** No. Unless — maybe somebody screamed, but 
there are so many children in the street, playin* and 
hollerin'— " 

Garth let him go and ran to the sidewalk. A 
man stood there. In spite of the sharp cold he 
wore no coat. Garth recognized him for a tailor 
who worked in a nearby shop. The tailor's ex- 
citement made him nearly incoherent, but Garth 
drew from him a description of Slim and George. 
As the inspector's daughter had stepped to the side- 
walk, he said, the men had sprung upon her, stifled 
her one scream, and driven her oS in an automobile. 

** I saw it from my shop," he spluttered. " I've 
been telephoning the inspector. I just got him, be- 
cause his wire was busy." 

" Which direction did they take? " 

The tailor pointed south. Garth hurried to the 
curb, stooped, and found fresh tire marks. He was 
aware of his helplessness unless Nora's ingenuity 
had hit upon some trick for his guidance. He 
searched with a greedy hope. While his eyes roved 
about the frozen dust of the gutter he acknowledged 
that the inspector had appraised his men justly. 
Slim and George wouldn't even try to leave the city 
until the hue and cry had somewhat abated. Into 
the windings of the underworld they had carried 



270 THE GRAY MASK 

Nora, and Garth knew how devious those windings 
were — what silent and invisible machinery would 
nourish and secrete and protect. 

He lifted a tiny tuft of fur which had nestled, 
almost hidden, in the dust of the gutter. He ex- 
amined it closely. It's colour and texture were 
reminiscent of the muff he had frequently seen Nora 
carry. It might be a souvenir of her struggle, or 
else — 

He arose and walked down the street, searching 
every inch of the pavement. At the corner his 
breath quickened, for he knew the piece of fur had 
not rested in the gutter by accident. Two others 
were there, trampled, but suggestive of the direction 
taken by the automobile. He could picture Nora 
surreptitiously tearing the bits from her muff and 
dropping them from the window of the car. 

He hastened on. As soon as he was confident 
the pieces constituted an intelligible trail he con- 
quered his impatience long enough to enter a drug 
store and telephone his discovery to the inspector. 

**I'm going on," he explained. "The Lord 
knows what I'll find, so get after me right away." 

The voice that reached him could not conceal 
its suspense. 

" Go fast. Garth, and I'll follow with every 
man I can raise. Pull Nora out of this and ask me' 
for my badge." 

Garth went on, following the trail into the dark 
and intricate thoroughfares of the lower east side, 
knowing that each moment his pursuit might be 



PAYMENT IS DEMANDED 271 

abruptly and fatally ended by a flash of light from 
the obscurity ahead. 

He emerged into a waterfront street which was 
nearly deserted at this hour. One or two street 
lamps of an antiquated pattern flickered ineflectually. 
The only sign of habitation was a glow, wan and 
unhealthy, which escaped from the broad windows 
of a saloon on the corner. 

Garth knew the reputaton of that dive, and its 
long resistance to a final closing of its shutters. 
More than once the yellow sawdust of its floor had 
reddened, while men had fought towards its doors 
through a whirling, pungent fog of powder smoke. 
He remembered, too, that it was suspected of har- 
boring the explanation of stealthier and more re- 
volting crimes, the responsibility for which, how- 
ever, had never been legally determined. He was 
glad when the automobile tracks swung beyond it, 
but they turned in at the next building, a warehouse 
with a crumbling, picturesque facade. He saw be- 
neath the edge of a double cellar door a larger piece 
of fur, mute testimony that the place had recently 
been opened, that the condemned men had carried 
Nora to its abandoned vaults; but if Slim and 
George had trusted themselves there, the cellar 
obviously furnished other exits, perhaps under- 
ground to the river, almost certainly through the 
evil saloon next door. That, indeed, might offer 
him the chance he must have to pome upon his men 
unexpectedly, from the rear. 



272 THE GRAY MASK 

He glanced around. There was no policeman in 
sight He saw only half a dozen pedestrians — 
shambling creatures who appeared to seek the plen- 
^ tiful darkness. The neighboring warehouses, the 
pier opposite, frowned back at him. The lapping 
of the water was expectant. Yet high in the air 
two brilliant arches were suspended across a slight 
mist. They were restless with blurred movement. 
Constantly they lowered into this somber pit an in- 
cessant murmuring, like an echo, heard at a dis- 
tance, from some complicated and turbulent indus- 
try. 

These crowded bridges, his desolate surroundings, 
assumed a phantasmal quality for Garth. The only 
real world lay beyond those sloping, silent doors 
which had been swung back to admit Nora. 

While he looked a figure detached itself from the 
shadows at the corner of the warehouse. It moved, 
lurching, in his direction. He could only see that 
the newcomer was in rags with unkempt hair, and 
features, sunken and haggard. He grasped his re- 
volver, suspecting that this vagabond exterior dis- 
guised a member of the gang — an outpost. Yet 
there was a chance that the man was one of the 
neighborhood's multitude of derelicts — a purveyor, 
possibly, of valuable information. 

" Come here, my friend," he called. " How 
long have you been loafing in that corner? " 

The other hesitated. When he answered his 
voice was without resonance — scarcely more than 
an exaggerated whisper. 






PAYMENT IS DEMANDED 273 

"Who the devil are you?" 

Garth held out some money. The claw-like 
hand extended itself, closing over the coins. In 
quick succession the man rang three of the pieces V 
on the pavement. Garth's watchfulness increased. 
Such routine suggested a signal, but the fellow 
picked up his money, grinning. 

" Seems good," he said in his difficult voice. " If 
you want to know that bad, maybe an hour; maybe 
more. Napping. Nothing better to do, but I'm 
honest, and I'd work if I got the chance." 

" An automobile drove up here," Garth said 
rapidly. 

" Why so it did. I seen it with these very peep- 
ers — not a quarter of an hour back." 

" How many got out of it ? What did they do ? " 

" I seen two men and a woman," the other an- 
swered. " They lifted that cellar door and went 
down. Now I wondered why they did that." 

** Did the woman make a fight? " 

The other shook his head. 

** Went like it was a candy store." 

Cutting across his throaty accents, a feminine 
cry shrilled. The heavy doors could not muffle its 
terror. It seemed like a response to the ringing 
of the coins. Suddenly it was hushed. Garth 
shoved the man to one side, urged by a temper that 
no longer permitted calculation. At any risk he 
must get to Nora and to those who were responsible 
for that unrestrained appeal. 

Beyond the doors of the saloon he faced the 



274 THE GRAY MASK 

proprietor across unoccupied tables. He remem- 
bered the round, livid face beneath its crown of red- 
dish hair. He had seen it more than once, sullen 
and unashamed, behind the bars at headquarters. 
He had often watched its wrinkles smooth into a 
bland hypocrisy before the frown of a magistrate. 
The man's past history made a connection between 
him and Slim's party nearly inevitable. But Garth 
had no choice. The proprietor, at his entrance, had 
braced his elbows against the bar. 

** I ain't done a thing, Mr. Garth. I call God 
to witness there ain't anything to bring a bull here 
except near beer and tobaccy." 

" We'll see, Papa Marlowe," Garth said evenly. 
** I'm going into the cellar of the warhouse next 
door. Dollars to dimes there's a way through your 
place. Will you give up the combination quietly? " 

Marlowe's misgivings resolved into a smile. In- 
stead of protestations he offered only an oily sur- 
prise. 

** Now who told you there was a door through 
my cellar? " 

** Never mind," Garth snapped. ** I'll take all 
the chances and use it, but at a sound from you — 
You understand? Come ahead then." 

Marlowe slouched down the stairs, muttering 
apologetically : 

** Blest if I know what you want there. Old 
hole's been closed six years. That was a growler 
door for the warehousemen. Hold up, Mr. Garth, 
and I'll strike a match." 



PAYMENT IS DEMANDED 275 

Garth ordered him ahead while he pressed the 
control of his pocket lamp. They continued be- 
tween grim walls, splashed with mold, beaded with 
moisture, offering the appearance and the odor of 
a neglected tomb. They paused before an oak 
door. 

" Don't open," Garth whispered. " Let me get 
my fingers on the latch." 

** Maybe it's locked on the other side," Marlowe 
whispered back. 

But when Garth tried the latch noiselessly he 
found that the door would open. 

" I don't trust you. Papa," he said, ** but if you 
want to make yourself solid at headquarters find a 
policeman and tell him what Fm up against." 

The round, white face leered. 

" The cops and I seem hand and glove these days. 
What are you up against, Mr. Garth? What you 
want in that empty cellar? " 

Garth waved him away; watched him retreat to- 
wards the stairs, squinting his beady eyes, mouth- 
ing unintelligibly. 

The detective snapped ofi his light, aware that he 
faced the critical moment. He opened the door 
and stepped into the black pall of the warehouse 
cellar. His memory reinforced him. Other mem- 
bers of the bureau had taken equal risks, had fol- 
lowed into such places criminals as desperate as the 
ones who held Nora. Moreover, they had lacked 
the impulse of a vigorous personal motive. They 
had answered only to the stimulation of duty. Not 



276 THE GRAY MASK 

frequently they had emerged successful, unharmed. 

He held his revolver ready. He moved to one 
side and paused. For some moments the silence 
was broken only by the drumming of his pulse in 
his ears. He realized it was not unlikely that the 
cellar was empty save for himself. The men might 
have led Nora into it as a trick to confuse the police. 
Nora's cry might have marked their departure by 
^ome ingeniously contrived exit. As his own im- 
mediate danger appeared to diminish his disappoint- 
ment and anxiety increased. He had been prepared 
to risk everything for Nora. As if it had actually 
been prolonged to this moment, her cry still vibrated 
in his brain. Inaction was no longer bearable. He 
must assure himself that the cellar was, indeed, 
empty. He must find that exit and continue his 
pursuit. He stepped forward. 

Light flashed, and from the sudden, sparkling 
confusion a remembered laugh jeered at him. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE BLACK CAP 

F)UR shadowy figures stood in front of him, 
holding flashlights. Behind the blinding 
barrier he could make out Nora, crouched 
against a stained and rugged wall. And the brute, 
George, was at her side, his muscular hands on her 
arm. Slim stepped out of the obscurity, moving 
for Garth with a stealth and an evenness nearly 
cat-like. 

Garth raised his revolver, strengthened by the 
knowledge that the inspector with many men would 
soon be tearing through the cellar doors. If only 
he could postpone the issue for himself — fight for 
time until that saving moment I There lay Nora's 
best chance, but her ignorance of such a possibility 
couldn't account for the horror in her customarily 
expressionless face. 

"It's no use," she screamed. "Get back, Jim I 
Quick 1 Through the doorl" 

Slim was so close that Garth could see the auto- 
matic held at his hip. 

" You'll stick here, Garth," came the smooth 
tones. " And you might's well drop your gun." 

Garth saw George's hands tighten on Nora's arm. 



278 THE GRAY MASK 

He understood then the real threat by which they 
would control him. 

" Hands off the girl 1 " he said. 

But George smiled, and pressed tighter until Nora 
cried out involuntarily. 

"That means, drop your gun. For any little 
damage you do here Nora'U foot the bill." 

She shook her head, but her face recorded an in- 
sufferable pain. Garth knew that the one shot for 
which he would have time would spare her noth- 
ing. 

" I never expected to see the pride of your 
gang slinking behind a woman's skirts," he sneered. 
" I suppose those are four of the rats who helped 
put your breakaway over. Six against one, and a 
woman for a shield! " 

It chilled him that the four strangers exposed 
their faces to his glance with a contemptuous in- 
difference. He laughed, however, as Slim took his 
revolver. 

" You giants must know that you haven't the 
chance of a pretzel at a Dutch wedding." 

Slim affected not to have heard, but his gestures 
lacked smoothness. 

** Let's see how you enjoy your own jewelry, 
Garth." 

And he reached in Garth's pocket and drew out 
the pair of handcuffs he had been certain to find 
there. He snapped them on the detective's wrists. 
The four confederates lounged forward, produced 
stout cords, and bound them about Garth's ankles. 



THE BLACK CAP 279 

His momentary resistance was smothered by Nora^s 
sharp cry: 

"Don't fight, Jiml" 

His sense of utter helplessness increased, while 
the men, in obedience to Slim's gestures, stretched 
him on the floor. The surface was wet, as if the 
ooze of the river had penetrated this far. Slim 
stooped and glared at him, his eyes exposing a meas- 
ureless resentment. 

" Thanks for walking into our parlor, you fly 
cop. We heard how you and the skirt had fallen 
for each other. We guessed if we gave you a lead 
with some of her trinklets, you'd play the busy 
sleuth hound." 

Nora's voice held the quality of a sob. 

" Jiml Why did you come?" 

He shrugged his shoulders. He forced on him- 
self a semblance of confidence. 

** Planted or not, the trail was my best chance." 

Slim beckoned to George. 

** Straight you've come to the place where I've 
dreamed for months of getting you." 

Garth managed a grin. 

** Cut out the bum acting. Slim. Let's hear what 
you've got on your mind." 

He shrank from a reply. More and more he was 
impressed by the indifference with which these con- 
federates constantly revealed their faces. He 
knew, if the inspector did not arrive quickly, he must 
suffer an eccentric and barbarous punishment. He 
tried to forecast the penalty, but his imagination 



28o THE GRAY MASK 

was insufficient and his appraisal of Slim's cruelty 
too conservative. It wasn't until George stepped 
forward and Nora screamed that he guessed why 
the others were unafraid of his identification, that 
he understood how his situation might involve more 
than life and death. And, perhaps, the shambling 
creature outside had put the inspector's party on the 
wrong track. 

George placed a pint bottle in Slim's hand. A 
smoky liquid did not quite fill it. Slim turned to 
the others, assuming an attitude of mockery. 

" This is the brave guy that side-tracked Sinmions 
last sunmier and wore the gray mask just as if he 
had something, too, that would frighten women and 
children. He's the bull that steered us against the 
black cap yesterday. Let's see how he likes hear- 
ing the sentence read himself. Only he isn't going 
to get anything as comfortable as the electric chair." 

A laugh sneered through the cellar. 

" Better speed it up. Slim," George advised. 

Slim drew the cork from the bottle while his thin 
lips ceased to smile. 

** Since you found a gray mask so becoming, 
Garth," he snarled, " it's only fair to give you hon- 
est cause to wear one. But you'll go poor Sinunons 
one better. Your mask won't need any eye holes." 

Nora cried out again. 

" You couldn't do it," Garth muttered. 

Beneath his rage lurked a fear of which he had 
never dreamed himself capable. To face death 
would have been so much simpler. 



THE BLACK CAP 281 

"What's in that bottle, Slim?" 

" A black cap for you, damn you 1 Pure vitriol I *' 

He bent closer. 

" Squirm 1 Those ropes and your own handcuffs 
will hold you. You'll beg me for a bullet before 
I'm through." 

George twisted the girl so she had to watch. 

** Pipe your handsome beau, Noral You'll think 
I'm more your style in about ten seconds." 

She shuddered. 

** You're not bad enough to do that, Sliml " 

** Watch me," he answered. 

A complete satisfaction blotted from his eyes the 
fear he had hitherto never quite concealed — the 
quiet fear of a strong man who acknowledges his 
own inevitable destiny. Garth reminded him of 
that. It was his last weapon. 

"They'll get you, Slim. They're keeping the 
chair warm for you. Will this help then?" 

Slim laughed. 

"Will it hurt? I've waited for this moment 
ever since you and she sent me to rot in the Tombs. 
I'll pay old scores while I can." 

With an extreme deliberation he commenced to 
tip the bottle. The fluid, almost imperceptibly ap- 
proaching the mouth, exercised for Garth a dread- 
ful fascination. It was easy to estimate its prog- 
ress. George had been right. In about ten sec- 
onds I And he couldn't get his chained hands to his 
eyes. He tried to tell himself it was impossible 
that that innocent-appearing fluid in the control of 



282 THE GRAY MASK 

this criminal could condemn him to an unrelieved 
blackness through which, hideously scarred, he must 
grope henceforth, a thing repellent and past use. 

The lights were centred upon his face. It struck 
him as ironic that their glare should hurt his 
eyes. 

Suddenly Nora sprang forward. She stretched 
her hand towards Slim, but she didn't touch the 
bottle or his wrist, for the fluid filled the neck; was 
so close to the edge that a quick contact might have 
spilled it. George looked on, his hands in his 
pockets, his attitude expressing satisfaction at a just 
and long-deferred punishment. 

Slim smiled at Nora. He moved the bottle a 
little. A drop fell. Something tortured the skin 
of Garth's cheek. It was as if an iron at white 
heat had been applied against his flesh with a strong 
pressure. The stuff was real enough. 

Again Slim moved the bottle sluggishly, so that 
the liquid, ready to trickle out, was directly above 
Garth's eyes. Nora reached and closed her hands 
about the mouth. 

" Look out ! " George warned. " You'll get 
burnt." 

" You see, George won't stand for that," Slim 
said slily. 

**No, no, Sliml" Nora whispered. "I'll bar- 
gain." 

** You're in a swell position to bargain," George 
scoffed. 

The handcuffs cut into Garth's wrists. 



THE BLACK CAP 283 

"You don't think," he muttered, "that I was 
fool enough to follow that trail without covering 
myself?" 

"That doesn't affect me," Slim grinned. 
" There's a getaway from this place no cop will 
ever find. Now, Nora ! Hands off 1 " 

But she resisted him. 

" Slim," she said breathlessly. " You're not a 
fool. You must know that I can bargain. Suppose 
you got clear — across the border — into Canada ? 
Couldn't you keep out of trouble once you were 
there?" 

Slim ceased pulling at her hands. He stared at 
her, amazed, casting aside his last pretence. 

" What you talking about, Nora ? I know you're 
clever, but there aren't any more miracles. There's 
no way out of this town for us." 

Her voice was barely audible. 

" Unless my father unlocked the gates." 

Slim started. Garth, too, answered to a desire 
almost violent. Surely Slim would realize the hope- 
lessness of securing the inspector's complicity, or, 
failing that, would seek, as Garth did, for the 
stratagem behind her plan. Slim, nevertheless, con- 
tinued to study her, and the narrow face no longer 
hid his greed for life. 

" There's no way under heaven to get the old man 
to stand for that." 

She took her hands from the bottle. Her eyes 
did not waver. 

" No one else could do it, but you know how he 



284 THE GRAY MASK 

loves me. I could make him do it as the price 
for myself and Jim." 

Slim laughed shortly. 

" One thing's certain," he mused. " If you did 
get away with it, I could keep you and the inspector 
straight. Fd take Garth, bound tight, some guns, 
and the acid along as gilt-edge securities. Hadn't 
thought of that, eh? Expected to trip me, didn't 
you? Well, Nora, you have let yourself in for a 
dicker, and, by gad I'm inclined to think it over, 
because I've got you this far : the minute you played 
queer Garth would go blind and burnt." 

Nora conquered her disappointment. 

" You'd swear to let Jim go at the border? " 

** On my oath I'd let him go clean." 

" Not for a million," George broke in angrily. 
" She gets herself away, then she throws Garth down 
to see us roast in the chair. You ought to know 
the skirt. She'd double cross the devil himself." 

Garth waited for Slim's answer, his gaze con- 
trolled again by the acid. 

** George," Slim said slowly, " any chance is 
worth playing now, for we're as good as in the 
chair already. And I don't believe she'd throw 
Garth down. You know what she went through 
with for the sake of a dead lover." 

" You've got to show me," George sneered, *' that 
she's forgotten the dead one to take on Garth." 

** We heard in the Tombs," Slim said drily, " that 
these pigeons wanted to roost on the same stool." 

With a growing wonder Garth watched Nora fling 



THE BLACK CAP 285 

aside her reserve. She turned on George, raising 
her hands in an attitude of fury, as if inspired by 
a passion beyond her control. 

" And that's true. If you think Fd let him take 
that acid give the bottle to me, and I'll use it on 
myself instead." 

She knelt at Garth's side, and for a moment the 
light in her eyes, her unrestraint, more than the re- 
sult of her appeal, held him tense. 

** Tell them, Jim," she cried. " If they made 
you that way I swear Fd kill myself." 

She glanced up, tears in her eyes. 

** I love him so much. Slim, that to save him Fd 
see my father dead." 

A subdued murmur of voices sifted through from 
the street. They could hear the stealthy straining 
of hands at the cellar doors. Nora arose, and, hid- 
ing her face, stood trembling. 

*' The bulls I " George whispered. *' Throw the 
stuff and let's make our getaway." 

Slim shook his head. 

" I tell you it's a chance. All of you vamoose 
except George. We'll wait and see, and maybe we 
won't need you after this. Remember, Nora, 
there'll always be time for us to wash Garth's face 
and show our heels." 

" Oh, I know it," she breathed. " I know it." 

The lights snapped out. Garth was aware of 
clandestine stirrings. Then the silence of the cellar 
was broken only by the fumbling at the door. 

*' I'll let you go, Nora," Slim whispered. *' Send 



286 THE GRAY MASK 

the other cops back. If they try to rush us, by God 
we'll do the trick on Garth and kill who we can be- 
sides, the inspector first of all. So play straight." 

Garth heard her retreating footsteps. After all 
he had accomplished his chief purpose. Through 
him Nora had found escape. 

He heard a sharp splintering of wood, and a 
wan light, not much stronger than the glow of the 
city through the mist, diffused itself in the cellar. 
The inspector's breathless voice reached them. 

"Nora! Garth 1" 

Garth saw Nora's shadowy figure advance into 
the well of the door. He heard her stifle her 
father's relief and tell him to order his men beyond 
ear-shot. Her voice murmured. Garth guessed 
that it recited his abhorrent danger and the terms 
on which she had agreed to buy his release. 

He strained his ears, understanding fully what 
depended on the answer, yet convinced that reason^ 
ably it could only be a refusal. In a way Nora had 
placed the responsibility for whatever might happen 
to him on the inspector's shoulders, but the alterna- 
tive was too distinct. As the price for his con- 
nivance the inspector must throw his position and 
his reputation to the winds, perhaps, face a trial, 
more than likely to jail sentence. It was conceivable 
that his love for Nora would dictate even that sacri- 
fice, but she would have to force on him an illusion 
of a passion as unaccounting as that which had con- 
vinced Slim. Could she act to that extent with her 
father? In spite of his logical interpretation of it, 



THE BLACK CAP 287 

Garth responded to the memory of her agitation. 
Had she, in fact, been acting in the cellar? Had 
his peril finally shown her heart the truth? The 
two most compelling issues of his own life, as well 
as the inspector's career, depended on the reply, and 
he could hear nothing. Nora and her father must 
have moved to one side, for their voices entered the 
cellar in barely audible murmurs. Slim had handed 
the bottle to George, and he moved now into the 
door well where he could listen. 

Garth's nerves tightened. Always George held 
the acid close to the detective's bound and helpless 
body. Of course the inspector couldn't do it. 

Slim came slinking back. His whisper warmed 
the cold, damp air. 

*' I couldn't catch it all, but she's getting away 
with something." 

The murmuring ceased, and through the wan 
light Nora glided, wraith-like, into the doorway, and 
called to them softly across the cellar: 

'' Slim I He hates me for making him, but he'll 
do what he can. He'll tell the Harlem police and 
the towns along the Hudson that he's got you. 
He'll try to cover himself with a planted getaway. 
You have an automobile. Take it and leave by 
the Broadway bridge. You'll catch the Montreal 
express at Tarrytown. You've plenty of time, and 
everything will be arranged; but he can't keep the 
wool over the district attorney's eyes forever. If 
you're not over the border to-morrow morning it's 
no good. So catch that train." 



288 THE GRAY MASK 

** Come here, Nora," Slim sighed, " and let me 
thank you properly." 

Her laugh was hard, more suggestive of forbidden 
tears than mirth. 

** One hostage is enough. And, Jim, there's a 
condition for you. Father won't budge unless you 
give him your word to go quietly. You have to 
promise on your sacred oath not to make any effort 
to escape or to throw Slim down." 

" What's that for? " George asked suspiciously. 

Her tone was contemptuous. 

" Use your head, George. It would do father a 
lot of good to risk so much for Jim if he took mat- 
ters into his own hands and got the acid just the 
same 

"Right!" Slim agreed. "You've plenty of 
common-sense, Nora, and it's going to give us a 
chance." 

"You promise, Jim?" 

He fancied an element of conunand in her voice. 

" I'll do what you wish, Nora," he answered. " I 
promise." 

" Then good-by," she called, and her voice no 
longer held any command, nor was it steady. 
"Good-by. If I only dared come over to you I 
God bring you back safe to me." 

Garth tried to fight back the response of his 
heart. He told himself that honorably he myst 
accept all she had said that night as mimicry whose 
only intention was to save his life. She would ex- 



THE BLACK CAP 289 

pect him to take it at its real value, but he could 
not shake off the recollection of her emotion. With 
a great longing he watched her move into the shad- 
ows beyond the door. 



CHAPTER XXI 

THE ANTICS OP A TRAIN 

AT a gesture from Slim, George cut the cords 
that bound Garth's ankles. The detective 
rose. With a nod Slim motioned George to- 
wards the oak door which opened on Marlowe's 
cellar. 

** Get to the *phone," he whispered. " Pass the 
fair word, and bring the wheels here on the minute." 

He swung on the detective. 

^^ If you see anybody upstairs, just keep your back 
turned so they won't notice your pretty bracelets." 

Garth shivered, aware that a new and disquiet- 
ing element had entered the situation. 

Slim indicated the revolver, held ready in his 
coat pocket. 

"After George, and in front of me. Always 
like that from now on." 

He touched the bottle of acid which he had taken 
from George. 

** Remember this will be behind you like my gun, 
but I don't want to shoot to kill with either. Just 
a little in the face is better if you try to cut up." • 

** You heard my promise," Garth said. 

He followed George through the doorway, re-* 

ago 



THE ANTICS OF A TRAIN 291 

8isting continually the impulse to turn around, to 
assure himself of what he already knew, that Slim 
was actually alert each moment to discipline his 
slightest effort at escape. 

They crossed the damp spaces of the cellar and 
climbed the stairs, pausing at the head until they 
could be certain Marlowe's evil figure still faced a 
bar-room, significantly empty. 

George hurried to the telephone booth, fastening 
the door behind him so that Garth could hear noth- 
ing. Marlowe wiped his hands on his apron. A 
sly smile twitched at the comers of his colorless 
lips. 

"Weill Weill Who's rented the warehouse? 
Who are your pals, Mr. Garth ? " 

Garth kept his back turned. The glasses tinkled 
musically under Marlowe's nervous fingers. 

** Maybe you'll name your pleasure, gentlemen." 

" Nothing but a little quiet," Slim grunted. 

Marlowe flung up his hands, indicating a pro* 
found disapproval. 

" Then what you mean coming through my cellar? 
That might get me in bad with the cops. Or may- 
be you're detectives like Mr. Garth? " 

Slim responded to the strain of this waiting. He 
turned angrily on the man. 

" How often have I told you, Papa Marlowe, to 
keep your fat mouth shut?" 

For Garth that outburst pitilessly defined the new 
element. Slim's anger had let slip real evidence of 
the proprietor's lawless connection with the gang; 



292 THE GRAY MASK 

and Slim, Garth knew, was unlikely to make blund- 
ers he couldn't retrieve. This one dovetailed into 
the fact that the detective could still identify the 
four confederates he had seen down stairs — that 
is, if he kept his eyes. Slim, then, had no intention 
of holding to his bargain with Nora. He would 
use Garth as far as the border, then he would pro- 
tect his own through the unspeakable punishment 
his twisted soul craved. , Nor could Garth see any 
way to save himself. Moreover, he knew Nora 
too well to cast lightly aside the promise she had 
drawn from him on a note of command. 

George emerged from the booth. The four men 
stared at each other without words. Once or twice 
Marlowe started to speak, but at a frown from Slim 
he smothered the impulse in a busy attention to his 
bar cloth. 

Faintly the whirring of a motor reached them. 
George sprang for the door. Slim motioned Garth 
ahead and followed him to the sidewalk where an 
automobile had drawn up. It exposed, in the vague 
light, an air of smug respectability in itself protec- 
tive. 

The driver wore a fur coat with a voluminous 
cape, of a common chauffeur pattern. Its collar 
was turned up so that it completely hid the lower 
part of the wearer's face. Garth didn't understand 
at first when Slim took a smaller coat from the car, 
stooped, and whispered in the driver's ear. The 
other stepped obediently to the sidewalk, removed 
his great coat, handed it to Slim, and slipped on 



THE ANTICS OF A TRAIN 293 

the smaller one. Slim motioned George and Garth 
into the car, followed them, and, while he jerked 
out his instructions, drew down the side curtains. 
Garth was to sit on the back seat with George, who 
would keep one hand conveniently on his automatic. 
Slim would be opposite, his gun handy, and the bot- 
tle of acid ready at his side. 

"And that isn't all," he leered. "You're too 
precious to take chances with. Here I Lean for- 
ward." 

He flung the chauffeur's great coat across Garth's 
shoulders, and, over his chained wrists, buttoned 
it tight about him. He chuckled as the car started. 

" The cape, George, makes it look as if our friend 
kept his hands out of sight for warmth. Let's hope 
the train'U be a little chilly, too. Your arms are 
going to sleep and get a nice rest. Garth." 

He chuckled again. He took his own handker- 
chief and borrowed George's. With the two he im- 
provised a gag which he fastened skillfully in the 
prisoner's mouth. Then he turned the great collar 
up so that the gag was hidden. 

" You've a swell chance to make trouble now. 
Garth. That's how I check up on a bull's promises. 
If anybody tries to stop us or to snitch you free 
you'll get the acid in those shining peepers without 
being able to move. You'd better pray everybody 
keeps straight." 

Enough light entered from the front to draw an 
ashen glow from the acid which he held at his side 
perpetually ready. 



294 THE GRAY MASK 

Beyond the driver's back Garth could follow their 
route among tortuous downtown thoroughfares 
into lower Broadway. They went then at a discreet 
pace straight through the heart of the city* He 
watched the lights flash by, the impatient traffic, the 
crowds, hurrying and voluble. Such things, taken 
with the grim man opposite and his unique threat, 
became like one of those dreams which project 
against a familiar background incredible and gro- 
tesque details. 

The car at last drew a hollow response from the 
pavement of the Broadway bridge. Slim moved 
restlessly. 

"The first toll-gate, Garth! Who pays the 
biU?'* 

And Garth struggled, and could not move his 
hands, for George cried out, and Slim started to 
raise the bottle as the horse of a mounted policeman 
halted across their path. The car stopped. 

Swiftly the policeman bent down, shaking his fist 
at the driver. 

" If you want to run me down," he shouted, " why 
not give me a chance to make my will ? You might 
be a good chauffeur for a baby carriage. Go ahead 
now, and keep to the right. I ought to run you in." 

Slim grinned and lowered the bottle. George 
sank back. The dryness of Garth's gagged mouth 
choked him. How could he continue to face such 
moments ? 

During the remainder of that swift ride he sat 
voiceless and helplessly trussed. He smiled grimly, 



THE ANTICS OF A TRAIN 295 

recalling the promise Nora had drawn from him 
not to resist. He was as little able to resist as he 
had been when bound on the floor of the warehouse 
cellar. Nora, he tried to tell himself, would not 
condemn him to the torture of that bottle opposite ; 
nor would she, he was willing to swear, throw her 
father's career and reputation to the winds. She 
would try some trick, not realizing how many pre- 
cautions Slim had taken. 

He struggled again futilely to free his hands, to 
loosen a little the coat, buttoned tight about his 
own overcoat, across his body and his legs. Nora, 
his logic told him, could have hit upon no plan 
dexterous enough to control these men before they 
could carry out their monstrous threat. Yet what 
difference did it make? If she didn't intervene, 
Slim would let him have it at the border any- 
way. 

The night was disturbed only by the sound of their 
passing, nor at the station was there any indication 
that an effort would be made to halt them. So 
tightly was Garth bound Slim had to help him from 
the automobile. He stood beside him while they 
watched through the station window George as he 
purchased three tickets from a sleepy-eyed agent. 
The gag was as tight as at first. Even if it had 
not been for the acid Garth was helpless. 

A dull rumbFing made itself audible far to the 
south, and increased until the rails commenced to 
hum. The headlight gleamed — hastened closer. 
The locomotive grumbled by, drawing an inter- 



296 THE GRAY MASK 

minable string of mail and express cars and Pull- 
mans, shrouded for the night. 

At the very end, far from the station lamps, were 
two lighted day coaches. Slim and George led 
Garth there, and helped him to the platform be' 
tween. The rear car was a smoker, comfortably 
filled with sleepy men. Slim turned his back on it, 
urging Garth into the car ahead which housed 
scarcely more than a dozen passengers — men and 
women in various attitudes of somnolence. He 
nodded his satisfaction. It became clear that for 
him the gravest strain was at an end. And the car 
was chilly. The dozing passengers wore wraps and 
hats. The fact that Garth retained his great coat 
would pass unnoticed. 

When they were settled as before with Slim op- 
posite Garth and George, and the acid held ready 
in the corner of the seat, the detective ventured 
with one last hope to appraise his neighbors. A 
man opposite lounged on his cushion, his paper fallen 
to the floor, his eyes closed, his head swaying drunk- 
enly in unison with the motion of the train. Far- 
ther back two women in deep mourning wept quietly 
from time to time, and a man and a woman across 
the aisle stared restlessly at them, speaking in low 
tones whose accents of pity alone reached Garth. 
The rest slept. The face of none was recognizable, 
nor did any suggest the slightest interest in the new 
arrivals. Garth resented their innocuous compan- 
ionship. It was not to be believed that their ignor- 
ance should permit this flight, which, at its termina- 



THE ANTICS OF A TRAIN 297 

tion, threatened him with an unbearable punishment. 

The drowsiness of the car increased. Only his 
captors and himself seemed immune to the contagion 
of sleep. The muttering of the pair behind had 
ceased. The women in mourning had controlled 
their grief. One of them had left her seat, and, 
carrying a tin cup, moved along the aisle towards 
the water tank. Garth saw Slim glance at his 
watch. He took in George's contented smile, evi- 
dently appreciative of the smoothness of their es- 
cape. 

Without warning a dark and chaotic confusion 
descended upon and destroyed the smooth order- 
liness of their journey. With a sudden jar the 
brakes locked. The jolting of the wheels, as if they 
had left the rails, flung the passengers from their 
sluggish indifference. The lights expired, leaving 
a darkness almost palpable, through which one 
momentarily flinched from the splintering, destruG- 
tive violence of a collision. 

During that first instant Garth was lashed by 
misgivings for the time, as compelling as those which 
had been constantly inspired by the threat opposite ; 
and in the last flash of light he had seen that the 
steady courage of his captors had furnished no anti- 
dote for this uncharted peril. As women screamed 
and men fought along the aisle towards the door he 
endeavored frantically and without success to free 
himself. The turmoil might involve Slim and 
George, might smash that atrocious weapon, but he 
could do nothing. 



298 THE GRAY MASK 

Then he felt George's arms about him. He 
heard Slim's oath. The jolting of the wheels was 
less difficult. The train resumed its smooth haste. 
The lights came on, and Garth stared at the inspec- 
tor and other men he knew, holding leveled re- 
volvers. Somebody cried out: 

" Take care I '\ 

Garth turned In time to see Slim whirling the 
bottle from which the cork had been drawn, and 
from whose neck the liquid was already spouting 
towards his face. 

"Then shoot 1" Slim shouted. 

He heard Nora's voice, screaming: 

"You won't, Slim I" 

He moved his head. He saw the woman in 
mourning who had thrown back her veil, exposing 
Nora's face and Nora's eyes which reflected the un- 
belief and the horror of her voice. The future 
seemed to crush upon him, a sable weight, lowered 
by her as the result of a deliberate choice. 

The liquid struck his forehead, filled his eyes. 
He wondered why the pain wasn't greater. He 
could not grasp the fact that he still read through 
a blur the tense unbelief of Nora's face, and saw 
vaguely the two condemned men struggling in the 
grasp of the detectives who fastened upon their un- 
willing wrists gleaming handcuffs. Then he under- 
stood, and laughing a little hysterically, shook the 
water from his eyes. 

Shame of his doubt joined the relief that swept 
him with the urgency of a material suffering. He 



THE ANTICS OF A TRAIN 299 

glanced at Nora. She had stooped and was raising 
from the floor behind Slim's seat a bottle precisely 
similar to that from which the water had poured. 
She had not conquered her emotion. 

" He ought to have it," she whispered. " I 
didn't believe heM do that when he saw the game 
was up and there was no use. The chair is too 
kind." 

She opened the window and emptied the bottle. 
She flung it far to the right of way. The inspector 
freed Garth from the coat and the handcuffs. He 
grasped Garth's hand. 

'* I know it hurt you, Garth, to promise to go 
along with these crooks quietly, but Nora made me 
ask it. She passed me the wink at the top of the 
cellar steps." 

" You mean," Garth asked, " that Nora had all 
this planned from the very beginning? " 

" Not then," the inspector answered, " but she 
promised to get us both out, and I've had enough 
experience with that daughter of mine to believe 
her when she talks like that. She chased to the 
Grand Central while we watched Marlowe's and 
saw you leave. Got the number of your car, of 
course, and had reports on you all the way to Tarry- 
town. A mounted cop on the bridge made sure you 
were all three inside, and the operator at Tarry- 
town was a local detective. Nora smiled at them 
in the railroad offices and fixed the rest." 

Garth beckoned Nora. She sat by a window. 
Her expression was nearly tranquil again. The 



300 THE GRAY MASK 

only concession she made to the reaction was a quick 
tapping of her fingers on the window ledge. 

" Better sit down, too, Garth," the inspector ad- 
vised. " Your legs ought to be shaky." 

Garth obeyed, laughing nervously. 

" Fve been trying to hide it." 

He turned to Nora. 

"I'd like to know how you changed the bot- 
tles." 

** I only arranged the most likely opportunity," 
she answered. " I knew something must happen to 
make Slim forget that acid for a moment. It had 
to be bigger, more immediate than the fear of cap- 
ture. Everybody has a dread of railroad accidents. 
Own up, Jim. You were scared yourself when the 
brakes set." 

He nodded. 

" You sized us up right. For that minute I was 
about as afraid of the wreck as I was of the acid, 
and I was trussed like a fowl." 

** So," she went on, " I persuaded them in New 
York to furnish an illusion of the beginnings of a 
wreck. It was simple. Slim would almost cer- 
tainly take his hands from the bottle then. He 
wouldn't risk having it broken over him in the smash. 
But if it hadn't worked out right, Jim, you know 
I'd never have let the others come in. You see 
they were with father in the dark sleeping car ahead. 
Father watched from the vestibule. When I chose 
my moment — you remember, I was going along the 
aisle close to you — he gave the engineer and the 



THE ANTICS OF A TRAIN 301 

brakeman the signals we had arranged in New 
York." 

The inspector's wink was brazen. 

" That's a bright girl by you, Garth," he grunted. 
'' Guess it's time I enjoyed a cigar again. So long, 
children." 

He drifted down the aisle. 

Garth wanted to tell Nora of his gratitude, real- 
izing how far beyond expression that lay. With 
a smile she stopped his awkward attempts. 

" I think I know what you would say, Jim. It 
was nothing — only what I had to do." 

All at once he looked away. He had caught in 
her smile a new, untrammeled quality. 

" Why do you look away, Jim? " she asked softly. 

He turned back. He tried to meet her eyes. 

'* Things can't be the same," he said hoarsely. 
" I know I'm a beast to speak of it. I know you 
expect me to take what you did in the cellar as act- 
ing. But, Nora, lying there as I was, it made me 
happier than I ever have been in my life." 

He looked straight at her. 

** Tell me how you managed such acting.'* 

Her lips trembled. 

"I — I think nobody could act like that." 

He saw the tears in her eyes. She closed them. 

** While I was doing it," she went on, ** it came 
to me that it wasn't acting at all." 

There was no one to see the quick surrender of 
her hands. 

THE END 



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