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"Yes," he said quietly, "you are right, it is blood." Page 99 



Author of 
The Man of the Hour, Stories of a Western Town 

The Missionary Sheriff 
A Book of i rue Lovers, etc. 

With Illustrations by 










II AUNT REBECCA . . . -25 


V BLIND CLUES . . . .83 

VI THE Voics IN THE TELEPHONE . . . 100 

VII THE HAUNTED HOUSE . . . . . 118 

VIII FACE TO FACE . t . . . . . .138 










Serene, indifferent to fate, 

Tbou sittest by the Western gate, 

Tbou seest the white seas fold their tents , 
Oh t warder of two continents. 

Tbou drawest all things small and great 
To thee beside the Western gate. 




The first time that Colonel Rupert Winter saw 
Cary Mercer was under circumstances calculated 
to fix the incident firmly in his memory. In the 
year 1903, home from the Philippines on fur 
lough, and preparing to return to a task big 
enough to attract him in spite of its exile and 
hardships, he had visited the son of a friend at 
Harvard. They were walking through the cor 
ridors of one of the private dormitories where the 
boy roomed. Rather grimly the soldier s eyes 
were noting marble wainscoting and tiled floors, 
and contrasting this academic environment with 
his own at West Point. A caustic comment rose 
to his lips, but it was not uttered, for he heard the 
sharp bark of a pistol, followed by a thud, and a 
crackle as of breaking glass. 

"Do you fellows amuse yourselves shooting up 


the dormitory?" said he. The boy halted; he had 
gone white. 

"It came from Mercer s room!" he cried, and 
ran across the corridor to a door with the usual 
labeling of two visiting cards. The door was not 
locked. Entering, they passed into a vestibule, 
thence through another door which stood open. 
For many a day after the colonel could see just 
how the slender young figure looked, the shoul 
ders in a huddle on the study table, one arm 
swinging nerveless; beside him, on the floor, 
a revolver and a broken glass bottle. The latter 
must have made the crackling sound. Some dark 
red liquid, soaking the open sheets of a newspaper, 
filled the room with the pungent odor of alcohol. 
Only the top of the lad s head showed a curly, 
silky, dark brown head ; but even before the colo 
nel lifted it he had seen a few thick drops matting 
the brown curls. He laid the head back gently 
and his hand slipped to the boy s wrist. 

"No use, Ralph," he said in the subdued tones 
that the voice takes unconsciously in the presence 
of death. 

"And Endy was going to help him," almost 
sobbed Ralph. "He told me he would. Oh, why 
couldn t he have trusted his friends !" 


The colonel was looking at the newspaper 
"Was it money?" said he; for a glance at the 
dabbled sheet had brought him the headings of 
the stock quotations: "Another Sharp Break in 
Stocks. New Low Records." It had been money. 
Later, after what needed to be done was over, 
after doctors and officers of the law were gone, 
Colonel Winter heard the wretched story. A 
young, reckless, fatally attractive Southerner, 
rich friends, college societies, joyous times; noth 
ing really wicked or vicious, only a surrender to 
youth and friendship and pleasure, and then the 
day of reckoning duns, college warnings, the 
menace of black disgrace. The young fellow was 
an orphan, with no near kindred save one brother 
much older than he. The brother was reputed to 
be rich, according to Southern standards, and 
young Mercer, who had just come into a modest 
patrimony of his own, invested in his brother s 
ventures. As to the character of these ventures, 
whether flimsy or substantial, the colonel s in 
formants were absolutely ignorant. All they knew 
of the elder Mercer was that he was often in New 
York and had "a lot to do with Wall Street." He 
wasn t a broker ; no, he was trying to raise money 
to ha^ng on to some big properties that he had; 


and the stocks seemed to be going at remarkable 
rates just now, the bottom dropping out of the 
market. If a certain stock of the Mercers they 
didn t know the name could be kept above 
twenty-seven he would pull through. Colonel 
.Winter made no comment, but he remembered 
that when he had studied the morning s stock- 
market pages for himself, he had noted "bad 
slump in the Southern steels," and "Tidewater 
on the toboggan slide; off three to four points, 
declining from twenty-seven and a fraction to 
twenty-three. * 

"Another victim of the Wall Street pirates," 
was the colonel s silent judgment on the tragedy. 
"Lucky for her his mother s dead." 

The next morning he had returned and had 
gone to his young friend s rooms. 

The boy was still full of the horror of the day 
before. Mercer s brother was in Cambridge, he 
said arrived that morning from New York. 
"Endy is going to fetch him round to get him out 
of the reporters way sometime this evening; 
maybe there s something I can do" this in ex 
planation of his declining to dine with the colonel. 
As the two entered the rooms, Winter was a little 
in advance, and caught the first glimpse of a man 


sitting in a big mission arm-chair, his head sunk 
on his breast. So absorbed was this man in his 
own distempered musings that the new-comers 
approach did not arouse him. He sat with knitted 
brows and clenched hands, staring into vacancy; 
his rigid and pallid features set in a ghastly in 
tensity of thought. There was suffering in the 
look; but there was more: the colonel, who had 
been living among the serpent passions of the 
Orient, knew deadly anger when he saw it ; it was 
branded on the face before him. Involuntarily he 
fell back; he felt as if he had blundered in on a 
naked soul. Noiselessly he slipped out of the 
range of vision. He spoke loudly, halting to ask 
some question about the rooms ; this made a mo 
ment s pause. 

It was sufficient; in the study they found a 
quiet, calm, although rather haggard-looking man, 
who greeted Winter s companion courteously, 
with a Southern accent, and a very good manner. 
He was presented to the colonel as Mr. Mercer. 
He would have excused himself, professing that 
he was just going, but the colonel took the words 
out of his mouth : "Ralph, here, has a cigar for 
me that is all I came for ; see you at the Tour- 
aine, Ralph, to-morrow for luncheon, then." He 


did not see the man again; neither did he see 
Ralph, although he made good, so far as in him 
lay, his fiction of an engagement at the Tottraine. 
But Ralph could not come; and Winter had 
lunched, instead, with an old friend at his club, 
and had watched, through a stately Georgian win 
dow, the shifting greenery of the Common in an 
east wind. 

All through the luncheon the soldier s mind 
kept swerving from the talk in hand to Gary 
Mercer s face. Yet he never expected to see it 
again. Three years later he did see it; and this 
second encounter, of which, by the way, Mercer 
was unconscious, was the beginning of an absorb 
ing chapter in his life. A short space of time that 
chapter occupied; yet into it crowded mystery, 
peril, a wonderful and awful spectacle, the keenest 
happiness and the cruelest anxiety. Let his days 
be ever so many, the series of events which fol 
lowed Mercer s reappearance will not be blurred 
by succeeding experiences ; their vivid and haunt 
ing pictures will burn through commoner and 
later happenings as an electric torch flares through 
layers of mist. 

Nothing, however, could promise adventure 
less than the dull and chilly late March evening 


when the chapter began. Nor could any one be 
less on the lookout for adventure, or even inter 
est, than was Rupert Winter. In truth, he was 
listless and depressed. 

When he alighted from his cab in the great 
court of the Rock Island Station he found Haley, 
his old orderly, with a hand on the door-hasp. 
Haley s military stoicism of demeanor could not 
quite conceal a certain agitation at least not 
from the colonel s shrewd eye, used to catch the 
moods of his soldiers. He strangled a kind of 
sigh. "Doesn t like it much more than I," thought 
Rupert Winter. "This is mighty kind of you, 
Haley," he said. 

"Yes, sor," answered Haley, saluting. The 
colonel grinned feebly. Haley, busy repelling a 
youthful porter, did not notice the grin ; he strode 
ahead with the colonel s world-scarred hand-lug 
gage, found an empty settee beside one of the 
square-tiled columns of the waiting-room and dis 
posed his burden on the iron-railed seat next the 
corner one, which he reserved for the colonel. 

"The train ain t in yet, Colonel, 7 said he. "I ll 
be telling you " 

"No, Haley," interrupted the colonel, whose lip 
twitched a little; and he looked aside; "best say 


good-by now ; don t wait. The fact is, I m think 
ing of too many things you and I have gone 
through together." He held out his hand ; Haley, 
with a stony expression, gazed past it and saluted, 
while he repeated : "Yes, sor ; I ll be back to take 
,the bags whin the train s made up." Whereupon 
he wheeled and made off with speed. 

"Just the same damned obstinate way he s al 
ways had," chuckled the colonel to himself. 
Nevertheless, something ached in his throat as he 
frowned and winked. 

"Oh, get a brace on you, you played-out old 
sport !" he muttered. "The game s on the last four 
cards and you haven t established your suit ; you ll 
have to sit back and watch the other fellows 
play!" But his dreary thoughts persisted. Ru 
pert was a colonel in the regular army of the 
United States. He had been brevetted a brigadier- 
general after the Spanish War, and had com 
manded, not only a brigade, but a division at one 
critical time in the Philippines; but for reasons 
probably known to the little knot of politicians 
who "hung it up," although incomprehensible to 
most Americans, Congress had failed to pass the 
bill giving the wearers of brevet titles the right to 
keep their hard-won and empty honors; where- 


fore General Winter had declined to Colonel 

He had more substantial troubles, including a 
wound which would probably make him limp 
through life and possibly retire him from service 
at fifty. It had given him a six months sick leave 
( which he had not wanted), and after spending 
a month on the Atlantic coast, he was going for 
the spring to the Pacific. Haley, whose own term 
of service had expired, had not reenlisted, but had 
followed him, Mrs. Haley and the baby uncom 
plainingly bringing up the rear. It was not fair 
to Haley nor to Mrs. Haley, the colonel felt. He 
had told Haley so ; he had found a good situation 
for the man, and he had added the deed for a lit 
tle house in the suburbs of Chicago. 

If Haley wouldn t reenlist there never was a 
better soldier since he had downed a foolish young 
hankering for wild times and whisky if he 
wouldn t go back to the army, where he belonged, 
let him settle down, take up the honest carpenter s 
trade that he had abandoned, be a good citizen 
and marry little Nora to some classmate in the 
high school, who might make a fortune and build 
her a Colonial mansion, should the Colonial still 
obtain in the twentieth century. 


The colonel had spread a grand prospect before 
Haley, who listened unresponsively, a dumb pain 
in his wide blue Irish eyes. The colonel hated it; 
but, somehow, he hated worse the limp look of 
Haley s Back as he watched it dwindle down 
Michigan Avenue. 

However, Mrs. Haley had been more satisfac 
tory, if none the less bewildering. She seemed 
very grateful over the house and the three hun 
dred dollars for its furnishing. A birthday pres 
ent, he had termed it, with a flicker of humor 
because the day was his own birthday. His fiftieth 
birthday it happened to be, and it occurred to him 
that a man ought to do something a little notable 
on such an anniversary. This rounding of the 
half-century had attributes apart; it was no mere 
annual birthday ; it marked the last vanishing flut 
ter of the gilded draperies of youth ; the withering 
of the garlands; the fading tinkle of the light 
music of hope. It should mark a man s solid 
achievements. Once, not so long ago, Winter had 
believed that his fiftieth birthday would see wide 
and beneficent and far-reaching results in the 
province where he ruled. That dream was shat 
tered. He was generous of nature, and he could 
have been content to behold another reap the fields 


which he had sown and tilled ; it was the harvest, 
whether his or another s, for which he worked; 
but his had been the bitter office to have to stand 
aside, with no right to protest, and see his work 
go to waste because his successor had a feeble 
brain and a pusillanimous caution in place of 
his own dogged will. For all these reasons, as 
well as others, the colonel found no zest in his 
fiftieth birthday; and his reverie drifted dismally 
from one somber reflection to another until it 
brought up at the latest wound to his heart his 
favorite brother s death. 

There had been three Winter brothers Ru 
pert, Melville and Thomas. During the past year 
both Thomas Winter and his wife had died, leav 
ing one child, a boy of fourteen, named Archibald 
after his fathers uncle. Rupert Winter and the 
boy s great-aunt, the widow of the great-uncle for 
whom he had been named, were appointed joint 
guardians of the young Archie. To-night, in his 
jaded mood, he was assailed by reproaches because 
he had not seen more of his ward. Why, he hadn t 
so much as looked the little chap up when he 
passed through Fairport merely had sent him a 
letter and some truck from the Philippines ; nice 
guardian he was ! By a natural enough transition, 


his thoughts swerved to his own brief and not al 
together happy married life. He thought of the 
graves in Arizona where he had left his wife and 
his two children, and his heart felt heavy. To 
escape musings which grew drearier every sec 
ond, he cast his eyes about the motley crowd 
shuffling over the tiled floors or resting in the 
massive dark oaken seats. And it was then that 
he saw Gary Mercer. At first he did not recog 
nize the face. He only gazed indifferently at two 
well-dressed men who sat some paces away from 
him in the shadow of a great tiled column similar 
to his own. There was this difference, it hap 
pened : the mission lantern with its electric bulbs 
above the two men was flashing brightly, and by 
some accident that above the colonel was dark. 
He could see the men, himself in the shadow. 

The men were rather striking in appearance; 
they were evidently gentlemen ; the taller one was 
young, well set-up, clean-shaven and quietly but 
most correctly dressed. His light brown hair 
showed a slight curl in its closely clipped locks; 
his gray-blue eyes had long lashes of brown 
darker than his hair; his teeth were very white, 
and there was a dimple in his cheek, plain when 
he smiled. Had his nose been straight he would 


have been as handsome as a Greek god, but the 
nose was only an ordinary American nose, rather 
too broad at the base; moreover, his jaw was a 
little too square for classic lines. Nevertheless, he 
was good to look upon, as well as strong and clean 
and wholesome, and when his gray-blue eyes 
strayed about the room the dimple dented his 
cheek and his white teeth gleamed in a kind of 
merry good-nature pleasant to see. But it was the 
other man who held the colonel s eye. This man 
was double the young man s age, or near that ; he 
was shorter, although still of fair stature, and 
slim of build. His face was oval in contour and 
delicate of feature. Although he wore no glasses, 
his brow had the far pucker of a near-sighted man. 
There was a mole on his cheek-bone and another 
just below his ear. Both were small, rather than 
large, and in no sense disfiguring ; but the colonel 
noted them absently, being in the habit of photo 
graphing a man in a glance. The face had beauty, 
distinction even, yet about it hung some associa 
tion, sinister as a poison label. 

"Now, where," said the colonel to himself, 
"where have I seen that man?" Almost instantly 
the clue came to him. "By Jove, it s the brother P 
he exclaimed. Three years ago, and he had almost 


forgotten ; but here was Gary Mercer the name 
came to him after a little groping here he was 
again; but who was the pleasant youngster with 
him ? And what were they discussing with so lit 
tle apparent and so much real earnestness ? 

One of the colonel s physical gifts was an ex 
traordinary acuteness of hearing. It passed the 
mark of a faculty and became a marvel. Part of 
this uncanny power was really due, not to hear 
ing alone, but to an alliance with another sense, 
because Winter had learned the lip language in 
his youth; he heard with his eyes as well as his 
ears. This combination had made an uninten 
tional and embarrassed eavesdropper out of an 
honest gentleman a number of times. To set off 
such evil tricks it had saved his life once on the 
plains and had rescued his whole command an 
other time in the Philippines. While he studied 
the two faces a sentence from the younger man 
gripped his attention. It was : "I don t mind the 
risk, but I hate taking such an old woman s 

"She has a heap," answered the other .man 
carelessly ; "besides " He added something with 
averted head and in too low a voice to reach the 
listener unassisted. But it was convincing, evi- 


dently, since the young man s face grew both 
grave and stern. He nodded, muttering: "Oh, I 
understand; I wasn t backing water; I know we 
have lost the right to be squeamish. But I say, 
old chap, how long since Mrs. Winter has seen 
you ? Would she recognize you ?" 

The colonel, who had been about to abandon 
his espionage as unbecoming a soldier and a gen 
tleman, stowed away all his scruples at the men 
tion of the name, He pricked up his ears and 
sharpened his eyes, but was careful lest they 
should catch his glance. The next sentence, owing 
to the speaker s position, was inaudible and in 
visible; but he clearly caught the young man s 
response : 

"You re sure they ll be on this train ?" 

And he saw the interlocutor s head nod. 

"The boy s with them?" 

An inaudible reply, but another nod. 

"And you re sure of Miss Smith ?" 

This time the other s profile was toward the 
listener, who heard the reply, "Plumb sure. I 
wish I were as sure of some other things. Have 
we settled everything ? It is better not to be seen 

"Yes, I think you ve put me wise on the main 


points. By the way, what is the penalty for kid 
napping ?" 

Again an averted head and hiatus, folk vved by 
the younger man s sparkling smile and ekclama- 
tion : "Wow ! Riskier than foot-ball and even 
more fun !" Something further he added, but his 
arms hid his mouth as he thrust them into his 
greatcoat, preparing to move away. He went 
alone; and the other, after a moment s gloomy 
meditation, gathered up coat and bag and fol 
lowed. During that moment of arrested decision, 
however, his features had dropped into sinister 
lines which the colonel remembered. 

"Dangerous customer, or I miss my guess," 
mused the soldier, who knew the passions of men. 
"I wonder they couldn t mean my Aunt Re 
becca ? She s old ; she has millions of money but 
she s not on this train. And there s no Miss 
Smith in our deck. I m so used to plotting I go 
off on fake hikes! Probably I m getting old and 
dotty. Mercer, poor fellow, may have his brain 
turned and be an anarchist or a bomb-thrower or 
a dirty kidnapper for revenge; but that boy s a 
decent chap ; I ve licked too many second lieuten 
ants into shape not to know something of young 

By the way what is the penalty for kidnapping?" Page 16 


He pushed the idea away; or, rather, his own 
problems pushed it out of his mind, which went 
back to his ward and his single living brother. 
Melville had no children, only his wife s daugh 
ters, who were both married Melville having 
married a widow with a family, an estate and a 
mind of her own. Melville was a professor in a 
state university, a mild, learned man whom nature 
intended for science but whom his wife was de 
termined to make into the president of the uni 

"Even money which will win," chuckled Ru 
pert Winter to himself. "Millicent hasn t much 
tact; but she has the perseverance of the saints. 
She married Mel ; he doesn t know, but she surely 
did. And she bosses him now. Well, I suppose 
Mel likes to be bossed ; he never had any strenuous 
opinions except about the canals of Mars Val- 
game dios!" 

With a gasp the colonel sprang to his feet. 
There before him, in the flesh, was his sister-in- 
law. Her stately figure, her Roman profile, her 
gracefully gesticulating hand, which indicated the 
colonel s position to her heavily laden attendant, 
a lad in blue these he knew by heart just as he 
knew that her toilet for the journey would be in 


the latest mode , and that she would have the latest 
fashion of gait and mien. Millicent studied such 

She waved her luggage into place an excel 
lent place in the same breath dismissing the por 
ter and instructing him when he must return. 
Then, but not until then, did she turn graciously 
to her brother-in-law. 

"I hoped that I should find you, Bertie," she 
said in a voice of such creamy richness that it was 
hard to credit the speaker with only three short 
trips to England. "Melville said you were to take 
this train ; and I was so delighted, so relieved ! I 
am in a most harassing predicament, my dear 

"That s bad," murmured the colonel with 
sympathetic solicitude; "what s the trouble? 
Couldn t you get a section?" 

"I have my reservations, but I don t know 
whether I shall go to-night." 

"Maybe I m stupid, Millicent, but I confess I 
don t know what you mean." 

"Really, there s no reason why you should, 
Bertie. That s why I was so anxious to see you 
in time, so that I might explain to you might 
put you on your guard." 


"Yes?" the colonel submitted; he never hur 
ried a woman. 

"I m going to visit dear Amy you remember 
she was married two years ago and lives in Pas 
adena ; she has a dear little baby and the loveliest 
home! It s charming. And she was so delighted 
with your wedding gift, it was so original. Amy 
never did care for costly things; these simple, 
unique gifts always pleased her. Of course, my 
main object is to see the dear child, but I shall not 
go to-night unless Aunt Rebecca Winter is on the 
train. If for any reason she waits over until to 
morrow I shall wait also." 

"Ah," sighed the colonel very softly, not stir 
ring a muscle of his politely attentive face ; "and 
does Aunt Rebecca expect to go on the train ?" 

"They told me at the Pullman office that she 
had the drawing-room, the state-room and two 
sections. Of course, she has her maid with her 
and Archie " 

"Does he go, too?" the colonel asked, his eyes 
narrowing a little. 

"Yes, she s taking him to California ; he doesn t 
seem well enough, she thinks, to go to school, so 
he is to have a tutor out there. I m a little afraid 
Aunt Rebecca mollycoddles the boy." 


"Aunt Rebecca never struck me as a molly- 
coddler. I always considered her a tolerably 
cynical old Spartan. But do you mean there is 
any doubt of their going? Awfully good of you 
to wait to see if they don t go, but I m sure Aunt 
Rebecca wouldn t want you to sacrifice your sec 

Mrs. Melville lifted a shapely hand in a Del- 
sartian gesture of arrest ; her smiling words were 
the last the colonel had expected. "Hush, dear 
Bertie; Aunt Rebecca doesn t know I am going. 
I don t want her to know until we are on the 

"Oh, I see, a surprise?" But he did not see; 
and, with a quiet intentness, he watched the color 
raddle Mrs. Melville s smooth cheeks. 

"Hardly," returned the lady. "The truth is, 
Bertie, Melville and I are worried about Aunt Re 
becca. She, we fear, has fallen under the influ 
ence of a most plausible adventuress; I suppose 
you have heard of her companion, Miss Smith ?" 

"Can t say I have exactly," said the colonel 
placidly, but his eyes narrowed again. "Who is 
the lady?" 

"I thought I am sure Melville must have 
written you. But Oh, yes, he wrote yesterday 


to Boston. Well, Bertie, Miss Smith is a South 
erner; she says she is a South Carolinian, but 
Aunt Rebecca picked her up in Washington, 
where she was with a kind of cousin of ours who 
was half crazy. Miss Smith took care of her and 
she died she fixed a darkling eye on the soldier 
"she died and she left Miss Smith money." 


"A few thousands. That is how Aunt Rebecca 
met her, and she pulled the wool over auntie s 
eyes, and they came back together. She s awfully 

"Young? Pretty?" 

"Oh, dear, no. And she s nearer forty than 
thirty. Just the designing age for a woman when 
she s still wanting to marry some one but begin 
ning to be afraid that she can t. Then such crea 
tures always try to get money. If they can t 
marry it, and there s no man to set their caps for, 
they try to wheedle it out of some poor fool 
woman!" Millicent was in earnest, there was no 
doubt of that ; the sure sign was her unconscious 
return to the direct expressions of her early life 
in the Middle West. 

"And you think Miss Smith is trying to influ 
ence Aunt Rebecca ?" 


"Of course she is ; and Aunt Rebecca is eighty, 
Rupert. And often while people of her age show 
no other sign of weakening intellect, they are not 
well regulated in their affections ; they take fancies 
to people and get doting and clinging. She is 
getting to depend on Miss Smith. Really, that 
woman has more influence with her than all the 
rest of us together. She won t hear a word against 
her. Why ! when I tried to suggest how little we 
knew about Miss Smith and that it would be bet 
ter not to trust her too entirely, she positively re 
sented it. Of course I used tact, too. I was so 
hurt, so surprised!" Mrs. Millicent was plainly 

The colonel, who had his own opinion of the 
tact of his brother s wife, was not so surprised; 
but he made an inarticulate sound which might 
pass for sympathy. 

"We ve been worried a good deal," pursued 
Mrs. Melville, "about the way Aunt Rebecca has 
acted. She wouldn t stay in Fairport, where we 
could have some influence over her. She was al 
ways going south or going to the sea-shore or go 
ing somewhere. Sometimes I suspect Miss Smith 
made her, to keep her away from us, you know." 

"Well, as long as I have known Aunt Rebecca 


anyhow, ever since Uncle Archibald died she 
has been restless and flying about." 

"Not as she is now. And then she only had her 

"Oh, yes, Randall; she s faithful as they make 
em. What does she say about Miss Smith ?" 

"Bertie, she s won over Randall. Randall 
swears by her. Oh, she s deep!" 

"Seems to be. But excuse me what s your 
game, Millicent? How do you mean to protect 
our aged kinswoman and, incidentally, of course, 
the Winter fortune?" 

"I shall watch, Bertie ; I shall be on my guard 
every waking hour. That deluded old woman is 
in more danger, perhaps, than you dream." 

"As how?" 

"Miss Smith" her voice sank portentously 
"was a trained nurse/ 

"What harm does that do unless you think 
she would know too much about poisons?" The 
colonel laughed, 

"It s no laughing matter, Bertie. Rebecca is so 
rich and this other woman is so poor, and, in my 
estimation, so ambitious. I make no insinuations, 
I only say she needs watching." 

"You may be right about that," said the colonel 


thoughtfully. "There is Haley and the boy for 
your bags !" 

The boy picked up the big dress-suit case, the 
smaller dress-suit case and the hat case, he 
grabbed the bundle of cloaks, the case of um 
brellas, and the lizard-skin bag. Dubiously he 
eyed the colonel s luggage, as he tried to disen 
gage a finger. 

"Niver moind, young feller," called Haley, per 
emptorily whisking away the nearest piece, "I ll 
help you a bit with yours, instead ; you ve a load, 

Mrs. Melville explained in an undertone: "I 
take all the hand-luggage I possibly can ; the over 
weight charges are wicked !" 

"Haley, they won t let you inside without a 
ticket," objected the colonel. But Haley, unheed 
ing, strode on ahead of the staggering youth. 

"I have an English bath-tub, locked, of course, 
and packed with things, but he has put that in the 
car," said Mrs. Melville. 

"Certainly," said the colonel absently; he was 
thinking: Mrs. Winter, the boy, Miss Smith 
how ridiculously complete ! Decidedly something 
will bear watching. 



No sooner was Mrs. Melville ushered into her 
section than the colonel went through the train. 
He was not so suspicious as he told himself he 
might have been, with such a dovetailing of cir 
cumstances into his accidentally captured informa 
tion ; he couldn t yet read villainy on that college 
lad s frank face. But no reason, therefore, to neg 
lect precautions. "Hope the best of men and pre 
pare for the worst," was the old campaigner s 

A walk through the cars showed him no signs 
of the two men. It was a tolerably complete in 
spection, too. There was only one drawing-room 
or state-room of which he did not manage to get 
a glimpse the closed room being the property of 
a very great financial magnate, whose private car 
was waiting for him in Denver. His door was 
fast, and the click of the type-writer announced 
the tireless industry of our rulers. 

But if he did not find the college boy or the man 


with the moles he did get a surprise for his walk ; 
namely, the sight of the family of Haley, and 
Haley himself beside their trig, battered lug 
gage, in a section of the car next his own. Mrs. 
Haley turned a guilty red, while Haley essayed a 
stolid demeanor. 

"What does this mean ?" demanded the colonel. 

"Haley felt he would have to go with you, Colo 
nel," replied Mrs. Haley, who had timid, wide, 
blue eyes and the voice of a bird, but a courage 
under her panic, as birds have, too, when their 
nests are in peril. "We ve rinted the house to a 
good man with grown-up children, and Haley can 
get a job if you won t want him." 

"Yis, sor," mumbled Haley. He was standing 
at attention, as was his wife, the toddling Nora 
being held in the posture of respect on the plush 

"And I suppose you took the furniture money 
to buy tickets?" 

"Yis, sor." 

"And you re bound to go with me?" 

"Yis, sor," said Haley. 

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Ser 
geant," said the colonel ; but he was glad at the 
heart of him for this mutinous loyalty. 


"Yis, sor," said Haley. 

"Well, since you are here, I engage you from 
to-day, you understand." 

"Yis, sor," said Haley. Mrs. Haley whimpered 
a blessing ; but the only change in the soldier was 
that his military stolidity became natural and real 
instead of forced. 

"Sit down on this seat over here with me and 
I ll tell you what I want. You fraud, letting me 
say good-by to you " 

"I didn t want to take the liberty, sor, but you 
made me shake hands. I was afraid you d catch 
on, sor. Tis a weight off me moind, sor." 

"I dare say. You always have your way with 
me, you old mule. Now listen ; I want you to be 
on the watch for two men" thereupon the colo 
nel described his men, laying special stress on the 
moles on the face of one, and the other s dimple. 

Having set Haley his tasks, he went back to his 
car in better spirits. 

By this time the train was moving. He had 
seen his kinswoman and her party enter ; and he 
found the object of Mrs. Melville s darksome 
warnings sitting with a slender lad in the main 
body of the car. Aunt Rebecca was in the draw 
ing-room, her maid with her. Mrs. Melville, who 


had already revealed her presence, sat across the 
aisle. She presented the colonel at once. 

Miss Smith did not look formidable ; she looked 
"nice," thought the colonel. She was of medium 
height; she was obviously plump, although well 
proportioned ; her presence had an effect of radi 
ant cleanliness, her eyes were so luminous and her 
teeth so fine and her white shirt-waist so immacu 
late. There was about her a certain soft illumina 
tion of cheerfulness, and at the same time a rest 
ful repose; she moved in a leisurely fashion and 
she sat perfectly still. "I never saw any one who 
looked less of an adventuress/ Winter was think 
ing, as he bowed. Then swiftly his glance went 
to the lad, a pale young fellow with hazel eyes and 
a long slim hand which felt cold. 

The boy made a little inarticulate sound in his 
throat and blushed when Colonel Winter ad 
dressed him. But he looked the brighter for the 
blush. It was not a plain face; rather an inter 
esting one in spite of its listlessness and its sickly 
pallor ; its oval was purely cut, the delicate mouth 
was closed firmly enough, and the hazel eyes with 
their long lashes would be beautiful were they not 
so veiled. 

"He has the Winter mouth, at least," noted the 


colonel. He felt a novel throb at his heart. Had 
his own boy lived, the baby that died when it was 
born, he would be only a year older than Archie. 
At least, this boy was of his own blood. Without 
father or mother, but not alone in the world ; and, 
if any danger menaced, not without defenders. 
The depression which had enveloped him lifted 
as mist before the sun, burned away by the mere 
thought of possible difficulties. "We will see if 
any one swindles you out of your share," said 
Rupert Winter, compressing the Winter mouth 
more firmly, "or if those gentlemanly kidnappers 
mean you." 

His ebbing suspicion of the boy s companion 
revived ; he would be on his guard, all right. 

"Aunt Rebecca wants to see you," Mrs. Mel 
ville suggested. "She is in the drawing-room with 
her solitaire." 

"Still playing Penelope s Web?" 

"Oh, she always comes back to it. But she 
plays bridge, too ; Rupert, I hear your game is a 
wonder. Archie s been learning, so he could play 
with you." 

"Good for Archie!" he shot a glance and a 
smile at the lad s reddening face "we ll have a 


"Lord, I wish he didn t look quite so ladylike," 
he was grumbling within, as he dutifully made his 
way to his aunt s presence. 

The electric lights flooded the flimsy railway 
table on which were spread rows of small-sized 
cards. An elderly lady of quality was musing 
over the pasteboard rows. A lady of quality 
that was distinctly the phrase to catch one s fancy 
at the first glimpse of Mrs. Winter. Not an aged 
lady, either, for even at eighty that elegantly 
moulded, slim figure, that abundance of silvery 
hair parted in the middle and growing thickly on 
each side in nature s own fashion, which art can 
not counterfeit, as well as softly puffed and 
massed above that exquisitely colored and tex 
tured skin, strangely smooth for her years, with 
tiny wrinkles of humor, to be sure, about the eyes, 
but with cheeks and skin unmarred; that fine, 
firmly carved profile, those black eyebrows and 
lashes and still brilliant dark eyes ; most of all that 
erect, alert, dainty carriage, gave no impression 
of age ; but they all, and their accessories of toilet 
and manner, and a little prim touch of an older, 
more reticent day in both dress and bearing 1 , re 
called the last century phrase. 

A soft gray bunch of chinchilla fur lay where 


she had slipped it on her soft gray skirts; one 
hand rested in the fur her left hand and on the 
third finger were the only rings which she wore, a 
band of gold, worn by sixty years, and a won 
derful ruby, wherein (at least such was Rupert s 
phantasy) a writhing flame was held captive by 
its guard of diamond icicles. The same rings ad 
mired by her nephew ever since he was a cadet 
just the same smiling, inscrutable, high-bred, un 
changing old dame ! 

"Good evening, Aunt Rebecca; not a day 
older !" said the colonel. 

"Good evening, Bertie," returned the lady, ex 
tending a hand over the cards; "excuse my not 
rising to greet you; I might joggle the cards. Of 
course I m not a day older ; I don t dare to grow 
older at my age! Sit down. I m extremely glad 
to see you ; I ve a heap to talk to you about. Do 
you mind if I run this game through first?" 

The colonel didn t mind. He raised the prof 
fered hand to his lips ; such homage seemed quite 
the most natural act in the world with Mrs. Win 
ter. And he unobtrusively edged his own lean and 
wiry person into the vacant seat opposite her. 

"How far are you going ?" said she, after a few 
moves of the cards. 


"My ticket says Los Angeles ; but it had to say 
something, so I chose Los Angeles for luck; I m 
an irresponsible tramp now, you know ; and I may 
drop off almost anywhere. You are for southern 
California, aren t you ?" 

"Eventually; but we shall stop at San Fran 
cisco for two or three weeks." 

"Do you mind if I stop off with you? I want 
to get acquainted with my ward," said the colo 

"That s a good idea, Bertie." 

"He seems rather out of sorts ; you aren t wor 
ried about well, tuberculosis or that sort of 

"I am worried about just that sort of thing; 
although the doctor says nothing organic at all is 
the matter with him ; but he is too melancholy for 
a boy; he needs rousing; losing his father and 
mother in one year, you know, and he was devoted 
to them. I can t quite make him out, Bertie; he 
hasn t the Winter temperament. I suppose he has 
a legal right to his mother s nature ; but it is very 
annoying. It makes him so much harder to un 
derstand not that she wasn t a good woman who 
made Tom happy; but she wasn t a Winter. 
However, Janet has brightened him up consider- 


ably you ve seen Janet Miss Smith ? What do 
you think of her?" 

Winter said honestly that she was very nice- 
looking and that she looked right capable ; he fell 
into the idiom of his youth sometimes when with 
a Southerner. 

"She is," said Aunt Rebecca. 

"Where did you find her?" asked the colonel 
carelessly, inspecting the cards. 

Aunt Rebecca smiled. "I thought Millicent 
would have given you all the particulars. She was 
nurse, secretary, companion and diet cook to 
Cousin Angela Nelson ; when she died I got her. 
Lucky for me." 

"So I should judge," commented the colonel 

"I presume Millicent has told you that she is an 
adventuress and after my money and a heap more 
stuff. If she hasn t she will. Get a notion once in 
Millicent: s head and a surgical operation is neces 
sary to dislodge it ! Janet is the only mortal per 
son who could live with poor Cousin Angela, who 
had enough real diseases to kill her -and enough 
imaginary ones to kill anybody who lived with 
her! Janet made her comfortable, would not 
stand everything on earth from her though she 


did stand a heap and really cared for her. When 
she died Cousin Angela left her some money ; not 
very much, but a few thousands. She would have 
left her more, but Janet wouldn t let her. She left 
some to some old servants, who surely deserved it 
for living with her, some to charities and the rest 
to her sisters, who hadn t put a foot inside the 
house for fifteen years, but naturally resented her 
not giving them everything. I reckon they filled 
Millicent up with their notions." She pushed the 
outspread cards together. 

"You had several moves left," said the colonel. 

"Four. But then, I was finished. Bertie, you 
play bridge, of course ; and I used to hear of your 
whist triumphs; how did you happen to take to 

"To fill up the time, I reckon. I began it years 
ago. Now a soldier s life is a great deal more 
varied, because a man will be shifted around and 
get a show of the different kinds of service. And 
there are the exams., and the Philippines oh, 
plenty of diversions. But in the old days a man in 
the line was billed for an awfully stupid time. I 
didn t care to take to drink ; and I couldn t read as 
you do if I d had books, which I hadn t, so I took 
to playing cards. I played skat and poker and 


whist, and of late years I ve played bridge. Milli- 
cent plays ?" 

"Millicent is a celebrated player. She was a 
great duplicate-whist player, you know. To see 
Millicent in her glory, one should play duplicate 
with her. I m only a chump player; my sole ob 
ject is to win tricks." 

"What else should it be?" 

Aunt Rebecca smiled upon him. "To give in 
formation to your partner. The main object of 
the celebrated American-leads system is signaling 
information to your partner. Incidentally, one 
tells the adversaries, as well as one s partner, 
which, however, doesn t count really as much as 
you might think; for most people don t notice 
what their partners play very much, and don t 
notice what their adversaries play at all. Millicent 
is always so busy indicating things to her partner 
and watching for his signals and his indications 
that you can run a cross ruff in on her without her 
suspecting. She asked me once if she didn t play 
an intelligible game, and I told her she did ; a babe 
in arms could understand it. She didn t seem 
quite pleased." 

"How about Archie? Can he play a good 


"Very fair for a boy of fourteen ; he was fond 
of whist until his troubles came/ said Mrs. Win 
ter, with a faint clouding of her keen gaze. 
"Since then he hasn t taken much interest in any 
thing. Janet has brightened him up more than 
any one; and when he heard you were coming 
that did rouse him. You are one of his heroes. 
He s that sort of a boy," she added, with a tinge 
of impatience in her soft Southern voice. As if 
to divert her thoughts, she began deftly moving 
the cards before her. Her hands showed the blue 
veins more prominently than they show in young 
hands. This was their only surrender to time; 
they were shapely and white, and the slim fingers 
were as straight as when the beaux of Fairfax 
County would have ridden all day for a chance to 
kiss them. 

The colonel watched the great ruby wink and 
glow. The ruby was a part of his memories of 
his aunt; she had always worn it. He remem 
bered it, when she used to come and visit him at 
the hotel at West Point, dazzling impartially of 
ficers, professors, cadets and hotel waiters. Was 
that almost forty years ago? Well, thirty- four, 
anyhow ! She had been very good, very generous 
to all the young Winters, then. Indeed, although 


she never quite forgave him for not marrying the 
wife of her selecting, she had always been kind 
and generous to Rupert; yet, somehow, while he 
had admired and found a humorous joy in his 
Aunt Rebecca, he wondered if he had ever loved 
her. She was both beautiful and brilliant when 
she was young, a Southern belle, a Northern so 
ciety leader; her life was full of conquests; her 
footsteps, which had wandered over the world, 
had left a phosphorescent wake of admiration. 
She had always been a personage. She was a 
power in Washington after the war; they had 
found her uniquely delightful in royal courts long 
before Americans were the fashion ; she had been 
of importance in New York, and they had loved 
her epigrams in Boston ; now, in her old age, she 
held a veritable little court of her own in the pro 
vincial Western city which had been her hus 
band s home. He went to Congress from Fair- 
port ; he had made a fortune there, and when he 
died, many years ago, in Egypt, back to his West 
ern home, with dogged determination and lavish 
expenditures of both money and wit, his widow 
had brought him to rest. The most intense and 
solemn experience of a woman she had missed, 
for no children had come to them, but her hus- 


band had been her lover so long as he lived, and 
she had loved him. She had known great men ; 
she had lived through wonderful events; and 
often her hand had been on those secret levers 
which move vast forces. She had been in trage 
dies, if an inviolable coolness of head, perhaps of 
heart, had shielded her from being of them. The 
husband of her youth, the nearest of her blood, the 
friends of her middle life all had gone into the 
dark; yet here she sat, with her smooth skin and 
her still lustrous eyes and her fragrant hands, 
keenly smiling over her solitaire. The colonel 
wondered if he could ever reconcile himself with 
such philosophy to his own narro\ved and emptied 
life; she was older than he, yet she could still 
find a zest in existence. All the great passions 
gone; all the big interests; and still her clever 
mind was working, happy, possibly, in its mere 
exercise, disdaining the stake, she who had had 
every success. What a vitality! He looked at 
her, puzzling. Her complexity bewildered him, 
he not being of a complex nature himself. As he 
looked, suddenly he found himself questioning 
why her face, in its revival of youthful smooth 
ness and tint, recalled some other face, recently 
studied by him a face that had worn an abso- 


lutely different expression ; having the same deli 
cate aquiline nose, the same oval contour, the 
same wide brows who? who? queried the colo 
nel. Then he nodded. Of course ; it w r as the man 
with the moles, the brother. He looked enough 
like Mrs. Winter to be her kinsman. At once he 
put his guess to the test. "Aunt Becky," said he, 
"have you any kin I don t know about?" 

"I reckon not. I m an awfully kinless old 
party/ said she serenely. "I was a Winter, born 
as well as married, and so you and Mel and Archie 
are double kin to me. I was an only child, so I 
haven t anything closer than third or fourth 
cousins, down in Virginia and Boston." 

"Have you, by chance, any cousin, near or far, 
named Mercer?" 

Resting her finger-tips on the cards, Aunt Re 
becca seemed to let her mind search amid Vir 
ginian and Massachusetts genealogical tables. 
"Why, certainly/ she answered after a pause, 
"there was General Philemon Mercer Confeder 
ate army, you know and his son, Sam Nelson ; 
Phil was my own cousin and Sam Nelson my sec 
ond, and Sam Nelson s sons would be my third, 
wouldn t they ? Phil and Sam are both dead, and 
Winnie Lee, the daughter, is dead, and poor Phil 


the grandson, you know poor boy, he shot 
himself while at Harvard ; but his brother Gary is 

"Do you know him ?" 

"Never saw him but once or twice. He has 
very good manners." 
1 "Is he rich?" 

"He was, but after he had spent his youth 
working with incredible industry and a great deal 
of ability to build up a steel business and had put 
it into a little combination not a big trust, just 
a genuine corporation some of the financial 
princes wanted it for a club to knock down big 
ger game, I reckon and proceeded to cheapen 
the stock in order to control it. Gary held on des 
perately, bought more than he could hold, mort 
gaged everything else; but they were too big for 
him to fight. It was in 1903, you know, when 
they had an alleged financial panic, and scared the 
banks. Gary went to the wall, and Phil with him, 
and poor Phil killed himself. Afterward Gary s 
wife died ; he surely did have a mean time. And, 
to tell you the truth, Bertie, I think there has been 
a little kink in Gary s mind ever since." 

"Did you hold any of Gary s stock?" He was 
piecing his puzzle together. 


"Yes, but my stock was all paid for, and I held 
on to it ; now it is over par and paying dividends. 
Oh, the property was all right, had it been kept 
in honest hands and run for itself. The trouble 
with Cary was that in order to keep control of the 
property he bought a lot of shares on margins, 
and when they began to run downhill, he was 
obliged to borrow money on his actual holdings 
to protect his fictitious ones. The stock went so 
low that he was wiped out. He wouldn t take my 
advice earlier in the game; and I knew that it 
would only be losing money to lend it to him, 
later still, sometimes I have been rather sorry 
I didn t. Would I better try the spade, Bertie, or 
the diamond ?" 

The colonel advised the spade. He wondered 
whether he should repeat to his aunt the few 
sentences which he had overheard from Mercer 
and his companion ; but a belief that old age wor 
ries easily, added to his natural man s disinclina 
tion to attack the feminine nerves, tipped the 
scales against frankness. So, instead, he began to 
talk about Archie ; what was he like ? was he fond 
of athletics ? or was he a bookish lad ? Aunt Re 
becca reported that he had liked riding and golf ; 
but he was not very rugged, and since his father s 


death he had seemed listless to a degree. "But 
he is better now," she added with a trace of eager 
ness quite foreign to her usual manner. Janet 
Smith has roused him up ; and what do you sup 
pose she has done ? But really, you are the cause." 

"I ?" queried the colonel. 

"Just you. Archie, Janet argued, is the kind of 
nature that must have some one to be devoted to." 

"And has he taken a fancy to her ? Or to you ?" 

Aunt Rebecca s eyes dulled a little and her deli 
cate lips were twisted by a smile which had more 
wistfulness than humor in it. "I m not a lovable 
person ; anyhow, he does not love easily. We are 
on terms of the highest respect, even admiration, 
but we haven t got so far as friendship, far less 
comradeship. Janet is different. But I don t mean 
Janet ; she has grown absurdly fond of him ; and 
I think he s fond of her; but what she did was to 
make him fond of you. You, General Rupert 
Winter ; why, that boy could pass an examination 
on your exploits and not miss a question. Janet 
and he have a scrap-book with every printed word 
about you, I do believe. And she has been amaz 
ingly shrewd. We didn t know how to get the 
youngster back to his sports while he was out of 
school; and, in fact, an old woman like me is 


rather bewildered by such a young creature, any 
how ; but Janet rode with him ; you are a remark 
able rider; I helped there, because I remembered 
some anecdotes about you at West Point " 

"But, my dear Aunt " 

"Don t interrupt, Bertie, it s a distinctly Amer 
ican habit. And we read in the papers that you 
had learned that Japanese trick fighting jiu- 
jitsu and were a wonder " 

"I m not, I assure you; that beast of a news 
paper man " 

"Never mind, if you are not a wonder, you ll 
have to be ; you can take lessons in Los Angeles ; 
there are quantities of Japs there. Why, even in 
Chicago, Janet picked up one, and we imported 
him, and Archie took lessons, and practises every 
day. There s a book in my bag, in the rack there, 
a very interesting book; Janet and I have both 
read it so we could talk to Archie. You would 
better skim it over a little if you really aren t an 
expert, enough so you can talk jiu-jitsu, anyhow; 
we can t be destroying Archie s ideals until he 
gets a better appetite/ 

"Well, upon my word!" breathed the colonel. 
"Do you expect me to be a fake hero? I never 
took more than two lessons in my life. That re- 


porter interviewed my teacher, who was killed in 
the Japanese War, by the way; he went to the 
army after my second lesson. He didn t know any 
English beyond yes and if you please ; and he 
used them both on the reporter, who let his own 
fancy go up like a balloon. Well, where is the 

He found it easily; and with a couple of vol 
umes of another kidney, over which he grinned. 

"The Hound of the Baskervilles and The 
Leavenworth Case! I ve read them, too," he said; 
"they re great! And do you still like detective 
stories? You would have made a grand sleuth 
yourself, Aunt Becky." Again he had half a mind 
to speak of the occurrence at the station; again 
he checked the impulse. "I remember," he added, 
"that you used to hold strenuous opinions." 

"You mean my thinking that the reason crimes 
escape discovery is not that criminals are so 
bright, but that detectives in general are so 
particularly stupid? Oh, yes, I think that still. 
So does Sir Conan Doyle. And I have often 
wished I could measure my own wits, once, with 
a really -fine criminal intellect. It would be worth 
the risk." 

"God forbid !" said the colonel hastily. 


There came a tap on the door. 

"Millicent!" groaned Aunt Rebecca. "I know 
the creaking of her stays. No, don t stay, Bertie ; 
go and get Janet and a rescue bridge party as 
quick as you can !" 

"The original and only Aunt Rebecca," thought 
the colonel at the door, smiling. But, somehow, 
the handsome old dame never had seemed so 
nearly human to him before. 



When the colonel awoke next morning the 
train was running smoothly over the Iowa prai 
ries, while low hills and brick factory chimneys 
announced Council Bluffs. The landscape was 
wide and monotonous ; a sweep of illimitable corn 
fields in their winter disarray, or bleakly fresh 
from the plow, all painted with a palette holding 
only drabs and browns; here and there a dab of 
red in a barn or of white in windmill or house; 
but these livelier tints so scattered that they were 
no more than pin spots on the picture. The very 
sky was as dimly colored as the earth, lighter, 
yet of no brighter hue than the fog which smoked 
up from the ground. Later in the spring this same 
landscape would be of a delicate and charming- 
beauty; in summer or autumn it would make the 
beholder s pulses throb with its glorious fertility; 
but on a blurred March morning it was as dreary 
as the reveries of an aging man who has failed. 


Nevertheless, Rupert Winter s first conscious 
sensation was not depression, only a little tingle 
of interest and excitement, such as stings pleas 
antly one who rises to a prospect of conflict in 
which he has the confidence of his own strength. 
"By Jove!" he wondered, "whatever makes me 

His first impulse was to peep through his cur 
tains into the car. It wore its early morning aspect 
of muffled berths and stuffy curtains, among 
which Miss Smith s trig, carefully finished pres 
ence in a fresh white shirt-waist, attended by the 
pleasant whiffs of cologne water, gave the be 
holder a certain refreshing surprise. One hand 
(white and firm and beautifully cared for) held 
a wicker bottle, source of the pleasant whiffs; 
her sleek back braids were coiled about her comely 
head, and the hair grew very prettily in a blunted 
point on the creamy nape of her neck. It was 
really dark brown hair, but it looked black against 
the whiteness of her skin. She had very capable- 
looking shoulders, the colonel noted, and a flat 
back; perhaps she wasn t pretty, but in a long 
while he had not seen a more attractive-looking 
woman. She made him think of a Bonne Celine 
rose, somehow. He could hear her talking to some 


one behind the berth s curtains. Could those dole 
ful moans emerge from Archie? Could a Winter 
boy be whimpering about the jar of the train in 
that fashion ? Immediately he was aware that the 
sufferer was Randall, for Miss Smith spoke: 
"Drink the tea, and lie down again, I ll attend to 
Mrs. Winter. Don t you worry!" 

"Getting solid with Randall," commented the 
colonel. "Which is she kind-hearted, or an ac 
complished villainess? Well, it s interesting, any 

By the time he had made his toilet the train 
was slacking speed ready to halt in Council 
Bluffs, and all his suspicions rushed on deck 
again at the sight of Miss Smith and Archie 
walking outside. 

He joined them, and he had to admit that Miss 
Smith looked as pleased as Archie at his appear 
ance. Nor did she send a single furtive glance, 
slanting or backward, while they walked in the 
crisp, clean air. Once the train had started and 
Miss Smith was in the drawing-room, breakfast 
ing with Mrs. Winter and Archie, he politely at 
tended Mrs. Millicent through the morning meal 
in the dining-car. It was so good a meal that he 
naturally, although illogically, thought better of 


Miss Smith s prospects of innocence ; and cheerily 
he sought Haley. He found him in the smoking 
compartment of the observation-car, having for 
companions no less personages than the magnate 
and a distinguished-looking New Englander, who, 
Rupert Winter made no doubt, was a Harvard 
professor of rank and renown among his learned 
kind. He knew the earmarks of the species. The 
New Englander s pencil was flying over a little 
improvised pad of telegraph blanks, while he 
listened with absorbed interest to Haley s rich 
Irish tones. There was a little sidewise lunge of 
Haley s mouth, a faint twinkle of Haley s frank 
and simple eyes which the colonel appraised at 
very nearly their real value. He knew that it 
isn t in Irish- American nature to perceive a wide- 
open ear and not put something worth hearing 
into it. Besides, his sharp ears had brought 
him a key to the discourse, a sorrowful remark of 
the sergeant s as he entered: "Yes, sor, thim 
wather torchures is terrible!" 

He glanced suspiciously from one of Haley s 
audience to the other. The newspaper cartoonist 
had pictured on all kinds of bodies of preying 
creatures, whether of the earth or air, the high 
brows, the round head, the delicate features, the 


thin cheeks, the straight line of the mouth, and 
the mild, inexpressive eyes of the man before 
him. He had been extolled as a far-sighted bene 
factor of the world, and execrated picturesquely 
as the king of pirates who would scuttle the busi 
ness of his country without a qualm. 

Winter, amid his own questionings and prob 
lems, could not help a scrutiny of a man whose 
power was greater than that of medieval kings. 
He sat consuming a cigarette, more between his 
fingers than his lips; and glancing under droop 
ing eyelids from questioner to narrator. At the 
colonel s entrance he looked up, as did Haley, 
who rose to his feet with an unconscious salute. 
"I d be glad to spake wid youse a minnit, if I 
might, General," said Haley, "about where I put 
your dress-shute case, sor." 

The colonel, of course, did not expect any re 
marks about a suit-case when he got Haley by 
himself at the observation end of the car; but 
what he did get was of sufficient import to drive 
out of his mind a curt lecture about blackening the 
reputation of the army with lies about the Philip 
pines. Haley had told him that he had seen the 
man with the two moles on his face jump out of 
his own car at Council Bluffs. He had simply 


stood on the platform, looking to right and left 
for a moment; then he had swung himself back 
on the car. Haley had watched him walk down 
the aisle and enter the drawing-room. He did 
not come out ; Haley had found out that the draw 
ing-room belonged to Edwin S. Keatcham, "the 
big railroad man, sor." 

"It doesn t seem likely that he would be an ac 
complice of a kidnapper," mused the colonel. 
"The man might have gone in there while he was 

"Sure, he might, sor ; twas mesilf thinking that 
same; and I wint beyant to the observation-car, 
and there the oulcl gintleman was smoking." 

"And you stopped to tell yarns to that other 
gentleman instead of getting back and follow- 

"No, sor, I beg your pardon, sor ; I was kaping 
me eyes open and on him ; for himsilf was in the 
observation-car where you are now, sor, until we 
come in, and thin he walked back, careless like, to 
his own car. Will I be afther following him ?" 

"Yes; don t lose him." 

They did not lose him ; they both saw him enter 
the drawing-room and almost immediately come 
out and sit down in one of the open sections 


"See if yon can t find out from the conductor 
where he is going," the colonel proposed to Ha 
ley ; and he frowned over his thoughts for a bad 
quarter of an hour at the window. The precipi 
tate of all this mental ferment was a determina 
tion to stick close to the boy, saying nothing. 
He hoped that when they stopped overnight at 
Salt Lake City, according to Aunt Rebecca s plan, 
they might shake off the "brother s" company. 
The day passed uneventfully. He played bridge 
with Mrs. Millicent and Miss Smith and Archie, 
while Aunt Rebecca kept up her French with one 
of Bentzon s novels. 

Afterward she said grimly to him: "I think 
you must have been converted out in the Philip 
pines; you never so much as winced, that last 
hand; no, you sat there smiling over your ruin 
as sweetly as if you enjoyed it." 

The colonel smiled again. "Ah, but, you see, 
I did enjoy it; didn t you notice the hand? No? 
Well, it was worth watching. It was the rubber 
game ; they were twenty- four and we were twenty- 
six and we were on the seventh round; Miss 
Smith had made it hearts. She sat on my left, 
dummy on my right. Millicent had the lead. She 
had four little spades, a little club, the queen of 


hearts and a trey ; dummy had the queen, the ten 
and the nine of spades, it had the king of hearts 
and three clubs with the jack at the top. I had 
a lovely diamond suit which I hadn t had a chance 
to touch, top sequence, ace, king, queen ; I had 
the jack of trumps and the jack of spades; and 
the queen and a little club. I hadn t a lead, you 
understand; Millicent had taken five tricks and 
they had taken one; they needed six to win the 
game, we needed two ; see ? Well, Millicent hadn t 
any diamonds to lead me, and unhappily she didn t 
think to lead trumps through dummy, which 
would have made a world of difference. She led 
a club; dummy put on the jack. I knew Miss 
Smith had the ace and one low heart; no clubs, 
a lot of low diamonds, and she might or might 
not have a spade. I figured that she had the ace 
and a little one; if she would trump in with the 
little one, as ninety-nine out of a hundred women 
would have done, her ace and her partner s king 
would fall together; or, at worst, he would have 
to trump her diamond lead, after she had led out 
her king of spades, and lead spades, which I could 
trump and bring in all my diamonds. Do you take 
in the situation?" 

"You mean that Janet had the king of spades 


alone, the ace and the little trump and four worth 
less diamonds ? I see. It is a chance for the grand 
coup; I reckon she played it." 

"She did!" cried the colonel with unction. 
"She slapped that ace on the trick, she modestly 
led her king of spades, gathered in my jack, then 
she stole, she stole my child away/ my little jack 
of trumps; it fell on dummy s king, and dummy 
led out his spades and I had to see that whole 
diamond suit slaughtered. They made their six 
tricks, the game and the rubber ; and I wanted to 
clap my hands over the neatness of it." 

"She is a good player," agreed Aunt Rebecca, 
"and a very pleasant person. You remember the 
epitaph, don t you, Bertie ? She was so pleasant. 
Yet Janet has had a heap of trouble; but, after 
all, happiness is not a condition but a tempera 
ment ; I suppose Janet has the temperament. She s 
a good loser, too ; and she never takes advantage 
of the rules." 

"She certainly loves a straight game," reflected 
the colonel. "I confess I don t like the kind of 
woman that is always grabbing a trick if some 
one plays out of the wrong hand." 

He said something of the kind to Millicent, 
obtaining but scant sympathy in that quarter. 


"She s deep, Bertie; I told you that," was the 
only reply, "but I m watching. I have reason for 
my feeling." 

"Maybe you have been misinformed," ventured 
her brother-in-law with proper meekness. 

"Not at all," retorted she sharply. "I happen 
to know that she worked against me with the 

"Daughters," the colonel repeated inanely, 
"your daughters?" 

"Certainly not! The Daughters of the Revo 

"It s a mighty fine society, that ; did a lot dur 
ing the Spanish War. And you are the state 
president, aren t you?" 

"No, Rupert," returned Mrs. Melville with 
dignity, "I am no longer state regent. By methods 
that would shame the most hardened men poli 
ticians I was defeated ; why ! didn t you read about 

"You know I only came back from the Phil 
ippines in February." 

"It was in all the Chicago papers. I was in 
terviewed myself. I assure you the other candi 
dates (there were two) tried the very lowest 
political methods. Melville said it was scandalous. 


There were at least three luncheons given against 
me. It wasn t the congress, it was the lobby 
defeated me. And their methods! I would not 
believe that gentlewoman could stoop to such in 
famy of misrepresentation." The colonel chewed 
his mustache; he felt for that reporter of the 
Chicago paper; he was evidently getting a pho 
nographic record now; he made an inarticulate 
rumble of sympathy in his throat which was as 
the clucking of the driver to the mettled horse. 
Mrs. Melville gesticulated with Delsartian grace, 
as she poured forth her woes. 

"They accused me of a domineering spirit; 
they said I was trying to set up a machine. // 
I worked for them, many a time, half the night, 
at my desk ; never was a letter unanswered ; I did 
half the work of the corresponding secretary ; yet 
at the crucial moment she betrayed me! I learned 
more in those two days of the petty jealousy, the 
pitiless malevolence of some women than I had 
known all my life before; but at the same time, 
to the faithful band of friends" the colonel had 
the sensation of listening to the record again 
"whose fidelity was proof against ridicule and 
cruel misrepresentation, I return a gratitude that 
will never wane. Rupert" she turned herself in 


the seat and waved the open palm of her hand in 
a graceful and dramatic gesture, " those women 
not only stooped to malignant falsehoods, they 
not only trampled parliamentary law underfoot, 
but they circulated through the hall a cartoon 
called the Making of the Slate. Of course, we 
had our quarters a-t a hotel, and after the even 
ing meeting, after I had retired, in fact, a bell 
boy brought me a message; it was necessary to 
have a meeting at once, to decide for the secre 
taryship, as we had found out Mrs. Ellennere 
was false. The ladies in the adjoining rooms and 
the others of us on the board who were loyal came 
into my chamber. Rupert, will you believe it, 
those women had a grotesque picture of us, with 
faces cut out of the newspapers of course, all our 
pictures were in the papers and they had the 
audacity and the meanness to picture me in in 
the garments of night !" 

"That was pretty tough. But where does Miss 
Smith come in?" 

"She was at the convention. She is a Daugh 
ter. I ve always said we are too lax in our admis 

"Who drew the picture?" 

"It may not be Miss Smith, but she does 


draw. I m sure that she worked against me; she 
covered up her footprints so that I have no proof ; 
but I suspect her. She s deep, Bertie, she s deep. 
But she can t hoodwink me. I ll find her out." 

The colonel experienced the embarrassment 
that is the portion of a rash man trying to defend 
one woman against another ; he retreated because 
he perceived defense was in vain ; but he did not 
feel his growing opinion of Miss Smith s inno 
cence menaced by Mrs. Melville s convictions. 

She played too square a game for a kidnapper 
and Smith was the commonest of names. No, 
there must be some explanation; Rupert Winter 
had lived too long not to distrust the plausible 
surface clue. "It is the improbable that always 
happens, and the impossible most of the time," 
Aunt Rebecca had said once. He quite agreed 
with her whimsical phrase. 

Nothing happened to arouse his suspicions that 
day. Haley reported that Gary Mercer was going 
on to San Francisco. The conductor did not 
know his name; he seemed to know Mr. Keatch- 
am and was with him in his drawing-room most of 
the time. Had the great man a secretary with 
him ? Yes, he seemed to have, a little fellow who 
had not much to say for himself, and jumped 


whenever his boss spoke to him. There was also 
a valet, an Englishman, who did not respond 
properly to conversational overtures. They were 
all going to get off at Denver. 

Haley was not misinformed, as the colonel 
perceived with his own eyes and he saw Gary 
Mercer bow in parting to the great man, who 
requited the low salute with a gruff nod. Here 
was an opportunity for a nearer glimpse of Mer 
cer, possibly for that explanation in which Winter 
still had a lurking hope. He caught Mercer just 
in the car doorway, and politely greeted him: 
"Mr. Mercer, I think? You may not remember 
me, Colonel Winter. I met you in Cambridge, 
three years ago " 

It seemed a brutal thing to do, to recall a meet 
ing under such circumstances ; but if Mercer could 
give the explanation he would excuse him ; it was 
better than suspecting an innocent man. But 
there was no opportunity for explanation. Mer 
cer turned a blank and coldly suspicious face 
toward him. "I beg pahdon," he said in his South 
ern way, "I think you have made a mistake in 
the person." 

"And are you not Mr. Cary Mercer?" The 
colonel felt the disagreeable resemblance of his 


own speeches to those made in newspaper stories 
by the gentleman who wishes his old friend to 
change a fifty-dollar bill or to engage in an amus 
ing game with a thimble. Mercer saw it as well 
as he. "Try some one from the country/ he re 
marked with an unpleasant smile, brushing past, 
while the color mounted to the colonel s tanned 
cheek. "The next time you meet me," Rupert 
Winter vowed, "you ll know me." 

A new porter had come on at Denver; a light 
brown, chubby, bald man with a face that radiated 
friendliness. He was filled with the desire for 
conversation, and he had worked on the road for 
eight years, hence could supplement Over the 
Range and the other guide-books with personal 
gossip. He showed marked deference to the 
colonel, which that unassuming and direct man 
could not quite fathom, until Archie enlightened 
him. Archie smiled, a queer, chewed-up smile 
which the colonel hailed with : 

"Why are you making fun of me, young 

"It s Lewis, the porter; he follows you round 
and listens to you in such an awestruck way." 

"But why?" 

"Why, Sergeant Haley told him about you; 


and I told him a little, and he says he wishes 
you d been on the train when they had the hold 
ups. This is an awful road for hold-ups, he says. 
He s been at five hold-ups." 

"And what does he advise? 

"Oh, he says, hold up your hands and they 
won t hurt you." 

"Well, I reckon his advice is sound/ laughed 
the colonel. "See you follow it, Archie." 

"Shall yon hold up your hands, Uncle Bertie?" 
asked Archie. 

"Much the wisest course ; these fellows shoot." 

Archie looked disappointed. "I suppose so," 
he sighed. "I m afraid I d want to, if they were 
pointing pistols at me. Lewis was on the train 
once when a man showed fight. He wouldn t put 
up his hands, and the bandit plugged him, like a 
flash ; he fell crosswise over the seat and the blood 
spurted across Lewis wrist ; he said it was like a 
hot jet of water." 

The homely and bizarre horror of the picture 
had evidently struck home to Archie; he half 

"Too much imagination," grumbled the colo 
nel to himself. "A Winter ought to take to fight 
ing like a duck to water!" He betook himself 


to Miss Smith; and he was uneasily conscious 
that he was going to her for consoling. But he 
felt better after a little talk about Archie with 
her. Plainly she thought Archie had plenty of 
spirit; although, of course, he hadn t told her 
about the bandits. The negro was "kidding" the 
passengers ; and women shouldn t be disturbed by 
such nonsense. The colonel had old-fashioned 
views of guarding his womankind from the harsh 
ways of the world. Curious, he reflected, what 
sense Miss Smith seemed to have; and how she 
understood things. He felt better acquainted with 
her than a year s garrison intercourse would have 
made him with any other woman he knew. 

That afternoon, they two sat watching the 
fantastic cliffs which took grotesque semblance 
of ruined castles crowning their barren hillsides; 
or of deserted amphitheaters left by some van 
ished race to crumble. They had talked of many 
things. She had told him of the sleepy old South 
Carolinian town where she was born, and the plan 
tation and the distant cousin who was like her 
mother, and the hospital where she had been 
taught, and the married sister who had died. 
Such a narrow, laborious, innocent existence as 
she described! How cheerfully, too, she had 


shouldered her burdens! They talked of the 
South and of the Philippines ; a little they talked 
of Archie and his sorrow and of the eternal 
problems that have troubled the soul of man since 
first death entered the world. As they talked, the 
colonel s suspicions faded into grotesque shadows. 
"Millicent is ridiculous," quoth he. Then he fell 
to wondering whether there had been a romance 
in Miss Smith s past life. "Such a handsome 
woman would look high," he sighed. Only twenty- 
four hours ago he had called Miss Smith "nice- 
looking," with careless criticism. He was quite 
unconscious of his change of view. That night 
he felt lonely, of a sudden ; the old wound in his 
heart ached; his future looked as bleak as the 
mountain-walled plains through which he was 
speeding. After a long time the train stopped 
with a jar and rattle, ending in a sudden shock. 
He raised the curtain to catch the flash of the 
electric lights at Glen wood. Out of the deep 
defile they glittered like diamonds in a pool of 
water. Why should he think of Miss Smith s 
eyes? With an impatient sigh, he pulled down 
the curtain and turned over to sleep. 

His thoughts drifted, floated, were submerged 
in a wavering procession of pictures ; he was back 


in the Philippines; they had surprised the fort; 
how could that be when he was on guard? But 
they were there He sat up in his berth. In 
stinctively he slipped the revolver out of his bag 
and held it in one hand, as he peeped through the 
crevice of the curtains. There was no motion, no 
sound of moving; but heads were emerging be 
tween the curtains in every direction ; and Archie 
was standing, his hands shaking above his tum 
bled brown head and pale face. A man in a soft 
hat held two revolvers while another man was 
pounding on the drawing-room door, gruffly 
commanding those inside to come out. "No, we 
shall not come out/ responded Aunt Rebecca s 
composed, well-bred accents, her neat enuncia 
tion not disturbed by a quiver. "If you want to 
kill an old woman, you \vill have to break down 
the door." 

"Let them alone, Shay, it takes too long; let s 
finish here, first," called the man with the revol 
ver; "they ll come soon enough when we want 
them. Here, young feller, fish out! Nobody ll 
get hurt if you keep quiet; if you don t you ll get 
a dose like the man in number six, two years ago. 
Hustle, young feller!" 

The colonel was eying every motion, every 


shifting from one foot to the other. Let them once 
get by Archie 

The boy handed over his pocket-book. 

"Now your watch," commanded the brigand ; 
"take it, Shay!" 

"Won t you please let me keep that watch?" 
faltered Archie; "that was papa s watch." 

The childish name from the tall lad made the 
robber laugh. "And mama s little pet wants to 
keep it, does he? Well, he can t. Get a move on 

The colonel had the sensation of an electric 
shock; as the second robber grabbed at the fob 
in the boy s belt, Archie struck him with the edge 
of his open hand so swiftly and so fiercely under 
the jaw that he reeled back against his companion. 
The colonel s surprise did not disturb the auto 
matic aim of an old fighter of the plains; his re 
volver barked ; and he sprang out, on the man he 
shot. "Get back in the berths, all of you," he 
shouted; "give me a chance to shoot!" 

The voice of the porter, whose hands had been 
turning up the lights not quite steadily, now 
pealed out with camp-meeting power, "Dat s it; 
give de colonel a chance to do some killing !" 

Both bandits were sprawling on the floor of 


the aisle, one limp and moaning; but the other 
got one hand up to shoot; only to have Archie 
kick the revolver out of it, while at the same in 
stant an unbrella handle fell with a wicked whack 
on the man s shoulder. The New England pro 
fessor was out of his berth. He had been a base 
ball man in his own college days; his bat was a 
frail one, but he hit with a will ; and a groan told 
of his success. Nevertheless, the fellow scrambled 
to his feet. Mrs. Melville was also out of her 
berth, thanks to which circumstance he was able 
to escape; as the colonel (who had grappled with 
the other man and prevented his rising) must 
needs have shot through his sister-in-law to hit 
the fleeing form. 

"What s the matter?" demanded Mrs. Mel 
ville, while the New Englander used an expres 
sion which, no doubt, as a good church-member, 
he regretted, later, and the colonel thundered: 
"All the women back into their berths. Don t 
anybody shoot! You, professor, look after that 
fellow on the floor." He was obeyed; instinct 
ively, the master of the hour is obeyed. The por 
ter came forward and helped the New Englander 
bind the prostrate outlaw, with two silk hand 
kerchiefs and a pair of pajamas, guard mount 

Miss Smith was sitting beside Archie, holding the watch. Page 67 


being supplied by three men in very startling 1 cos 
tumes ; and a kind of seraglio audience behind the 
curtains of the berth being enacted by all the 
women in the car, only excepting Aunt Rebecca 
and Miss Smith. Aunt Rebecca, in her admirable 
traveling costume of a soft gray silk wrapper, 
looked as undisturbed as if midnight alarms were 
an every-night feature of journeys. Miss Smith s 
black hair was loosely knotted; and her face 
looked pale, while her dark eyes shone. They all 
heard the colonel s revolver ; they all saw the two 
men who had met him at the car door spring off 
the platform into the dark. The robbers had 
horses waiting. The colonel got one shot ; he saw 
the man fall over his horse s neck; but the horse 
galloped on ; and the night, beyond the little splash 
of light, swallowed them completely. 

After the conductor and the engineer had both 
consulted him, and the express messenger had ap 
peared, armed to the teeth, a little too late for 
the fray, but not too late for lucid argument, Win 
ter made his way back to the car. Miss Smith 
was sitting beside Archie; she was holding the 
watch, which had played so important a part in 
the battle, up under the electric light to examine 
an inscription. The loose black sleeves of her 


blouse fell back, revealing her arms; they were 
white and softly rounded. She looked up ; and the 
soldier felt the sudden rush of an emotion that he 
had not known for years; it caught at his throat 
almost like an invisible hand. 

"Well, Archie," he said foolishly, "good for 

Archie flushed up to his eyes. 

"Why didn t you obey orders, young man, 
and hold up your hands?" said Colonel Rupert 
Winter. "You re as bad as poor Haley, who is 
nearly weeping that he had no chance, but only 
broke away from Mrs. Haley in time to see the 
robbers make off." 

"I I did at first ; but I got so mad I forgot," 
stammered Archie happily. "Afterward you were 
my superior officer and I had to do what you 

All the while he chaffed the boy, he was watch 
ing for that beautiful look in Janet Smith s eyes ; 
and wondering when he could get her off by her 
self to brag to her of the boy s courage. When 
his chance at a few words did come he chuckled : 
"Regular fool Winter! I knew he would act in 
just that absurd, reckless way." Then he caught 
the look he wanted ; it surely was a lovely, worn- 


anly look; and it meant what in thunder did it 
mean? As he puzzled, his pulses gave the same 
unaccountable, smothering leap ; and he felt as the 
boy of twenty had felt, coming back from his first 
battle to his first love. 



"In my opinion," said Aunt Rebecca, critically 
eying her new drawing-room on the train to San 
Francisco; "the object of our legal methods seems 
to be to defend the criminal. And a very efficient 
means to this end is to make it so uncomfortable 
and costly and inconvenient for any witness of 
a crime that he runs away rather than endure 
it. Here we have had to stay over so long in Salt 
Lake we nearly lost our drawing-room. But never 
mind, you got your man committed. Did you find 
out anything about his gang? * 

The colonel shook his head. "No, he s a tough 
country boy; he has the rural distrust of lawyers 
and of sweat-boxes. He does absolutely nothing 
but groan and swear, pretending his wound hurts 
him. But I ve a notion there are bigger people 
back of him. It s most awfully good of you, 
Aunt Rebecca, to stick to me this way." 

"Of course, I stick to you; I m too old to be 


fickle. Did you ever know a Winter who wouldn t 
stand by his friends ? I belong to the old regime, 
Bertie; we had our faults glaring ones, I dare 
say but if we condoned sin too readily, we never 
condoned meanness; such a trick as that upstart 
Keatcham is doing would have been impossible to 
my contemporaries. You saw the morning pa 
pers ; you know he means to eat up the Midland ?" 
"Yes, I know," mused the colonel; "and turn 
Tracy, the president, down the one who gave 
him his start on his bucaneering career. Tracy 
declines to be his tool, being, I understand, a 
very decent sort of man, who has always run 
his road for his stock-holders and not for the 
stock-market. A capital crime, that, in these days. 
So Keatcham has, somehow, by one trick or 
another, got enough directors since Baneleigh 
died to give him the control ; though he couldn t 
get enough of the stock; and now he means to 
grab the road to use for himself. Poor Tracy, 
who loves the road as a child, they say, will have 
to stand by and see it turned into a Wall Street 
foot-ball; and the equipment run down as fast 
as its reputation. I think I m sorry for Tracy. Be 
sides, it s a bad lookout, the power of such fel 
lows; men who are not captains of industry, not 


a little bit; only inspired gamblers. Yet they are 
running the country. I wonder where is the class 
that will save us." 

"I don t know. I don t admire the present cen 
tury, Bertie. We had people of quality in my day; 
we have only people of culture in this. I confess 
I prefer the quality. They had robuster nerves 
and really asked less of people, although they 
may have appeared to ask more. We used to be 
contented with respect from our inferiors and 
courtesy from our equals " 

"And what from your betters, Aunt Rebecca ?" 
drawled the colonel. 

"We had no betters, Rupert ; we were the best. 
I think partly it was our assurance of our posi 
tion, which nobody else doubted any more than 
we, that kept us so mannerly. Nowadays, no 
body has a real position. He may have wealth 
and a servile following, who expect to make some 
thing out of him, but he hasn t position. The 
newspapers can make fun of him. The common 
people watch him drive by and never think of 
removing their caps. Nobody takes him seriously 
except his toadies and himself. And as for the 
sentiments of reverence and loyalty, very useful 
sentiments in running a world, they seem to have 


clean disappeared, except" she smiled a half- 
reluctant smile "except with youngsters like 
Archie, who would find it agreeable to be chopped 
into bits for you, and the women who have not 
lived in the world, like Janet, who makes a heroine 
out of me upon my word, Bertie, je t ai fait 

"Not at all," said the colonel; "an illusion of 
the sunset; but what do you mean when you say 
people of quality required less than people of cul 

"Oh, simply this; all we demanded was defer 
ence; but your cultivated gang wants admiration 
and submission, and will not let us possess our 
secret souls, even, in peace. And, then, the quality 
despised no one, but the cultivated despise every 
one. Ah, well 

Those good old times are past and gone, 
I sigh for them in vain, 

Janet, I wish Archie would fish his mandolin out 
and you would sing to me ; I like to hear the songs 
of my youth. Not rag-time, or coon-songs, but 
dear old Foster s melodies; Old Kentucky Home, 
and Massa s in the Col, Col Ground, and Nellie 
Was a Lady what makes that so sad, I wonder ? 


Nellie was a lady, las night she died; it s 
all in that single line; I think it is because it 
represents the pathetic idealization of love ; Nellie 
was that black lover s ideal of all that was lovely, 
and she was dead. Is the orchestra ready and 
the choir? Yes, shut the door; we are for art s 
sake only, not for the applause of the cold world 
in the car." 

Afterward, when he was angry over his own 
folly, his own blind, dogged, trustfulness against 
all the odds of evidence, Rupert Winter laid his 
weakness to that hour; to a woman s sweet, un 
trained, tender voice singing the simple melodies 
of his youth. They sang one song after another 
while the sun sank lower and stained the western 
sky. Through the snow-sheds they could catch 
glimpses of a wild and strange nature; austere, 
yet not repelling ; vistas of foot-hills bathed in the 
evening glow ; rank on rank of firs, tall, straight, 
beautiful, not wind-tortured and maimed, like the 
woeful dwarfs of Colorado ; and wonderful snow 
capped mountain peaks, with violet shadows and 
glinting streaks of silver. Snow everywhere : on 
the hillsides ; on the close thatch of the firs ; on the 
ice-locked rivers ; snow freshly fallen, softly tint 
ed, infinitely, awesomely pure. 


Presently they came out into a lumber country 
where the mills huddled in the hollows, over the 
streams. Huge fires were blazing on the river- 
banks. Their tawny red glare dyed the snow for 
a long distance, making entrancing tints of rose 
and yellow; and the dark green of the pines, 
against this background, looked strangely fresh. 
And then, without warning, they plunged into 
the dimness of another long wooden tunnel and 
emerged into lovely spring. The trees were in 
leaf, and not alone the trees ; the undulating swells 
of pasture land and roadside by the mountains 
were covered with a tender verdure; and there 
were innumerable vines and low glossy shrubs 
with faintly colored flowers. 

"This is like the South," said Miss Smith. 

Archie was devouring the scene. "Doesn t it 
just somehow make you feel as if you couldn t 
breathe, Miss Janet?" said he. 

"Are you troubled with the high altitude?* 
asked Millicent anxiously; "I have prepared a 
little vial of spirits of ammonia; I ll fetch it for 

The colonel had some ado to rescue Archie; 
but he was aided by the porter, who was now pass 
ing through the car proclaiming: "You all have 


seen Dutch Flat Mr. Bret Hahte wrote bout ; nex 
station is Shady Run; and eve ybody look and 
see the greates scenic traction of dis or any 
odder railroad, Cape Hohn!" 

Instantly, Mrs. Melville fished her guide-book 
and began to read : 

" There are few mountain passes more famous 
than that known to the world as Cape Horn. The 
approach to it is picturesque, the north fork of 
the American River raging and foaming in its 
rocky bed, fifteen hundred feet below and parallel 
with the track " 

"Do you mind, Millicent, if we look instead 
of listen?" Aunt Rebecca interrupted, and Mrs. 
Melville lapsed into an injured muteness. 

Truly, Cape Horn has a poignant grandeur 
that strikes speech from the lips. One can not 
look down that sheer height to the luminous ghost 
of a river below, without a thrill. If to pass along 
the cliff is a shivering experience, what must the 
actual execution of that stupendous bit of engi 
neering have been to the \vorkmen who hewed 
the road out of the rock, suspended over the 
abyss! Their dangling black figures seem to 
sway still as one swings around the curve. 

Our travelers sat in silence, until the "Cape," 


was passed and again they could see their road 
bed on the side. Then Mrs. Melville made a po 
lite excuse for departure; she had promised a 
"Daughter" whom she had met at various "bien 
nials" that she would have a little talk with her. 
Thus she escaped. They did not miss her. Hardly 
speaking, the four sat in the dimly lighted, tiny 
room, while mountains and fields and star-sown 
skies drifted by. Unconsciously, Archie drew 
closer to his uncle, and the older man threw an 
arm about the young shoulders. He looked up to 
meet Janet s eyes shining and sweet, in the flash 
of a passing station light. Mrs. Winter smiled, 
her wise old smile. 

With the next morning came another shift of 
scene; they were in the fertile valleys of Cali 
fornia. At every turn the landscape became more 
softly tinted, more gracious. Aunt Rebecca was 
in the best of humor and announced herself as 
having the journey of her life. The golden green 
of the grain fields, the towering palms, the pepper- 
trees with their fascinating grace, the round tops 
of the live-oaks, the gloss of the orange groves, 
the calla-lily hedges and the heliotrope and gera 
nium trees which climbed to the second story of 
the stucco houses, filled her with the enthusiasm 


of a child. She drank in the cries of the enter 
prising young liar who cried "Fresh figs," months 
out of season, and she ate fruit, withered in cold 
storage, with a trustful zest. No less than three 
books about the flora of California came out of 
her bag. A certain vine called the Bougain- 
villea, she was trying to find, if only the cars 
would not go so fast ; as for poinsettias, she cer 
tainly should raise her own for Christmas. She 
was learned in gardens and she discoursed with 
Miss Smith on the different kinds of trumpet- 
vine, and whether the white jasmine trailing 
among the gaudy clusters was of the same family 
as that jasmine which they knew in the pine for 
ests. But she disparaged the roses; they looked 
shop-worn. The colonel watched her in amaze 

"Bertie, I make you think of that little dwarf 
of Dickens , don t I?" she cried. "Miss Muffins, 
Muggins? what was her name? You are expect 
ing me to exclaim, Ain t I volatile? Thank 
Heaven, I am. I could always take an interest in 
trifles. It has been my salvation to cultivate an 
interest in trifles, Bertie; there are a great many 
more trifles than crises in life. Where has Janet 
gone? Oh, to give the porter the collodion for 


his cut thumb. People with troubles, big or little, 
are always making straight for Janet. Bertie, 
have you made your mind up about her ?" 

"Only that she is charming," replied the colo 
nel. He did not change color, but he was uneasily 
conscious that he winced, and that the shrewd old 
critic of life and manners perceived it. But she 
was mercifully blind to all appearance ; she went 
on with the little frown of the solver of a psycho 
logical enigma. "Yes, Janet is charming; and 
why? She is the stillest creature. Have you no 
ticed? Yet you never have the sense that she 
hasn t answered you. She s the best listener in the 
world; and there s one thing about her unusual 
in most listeners her eyes never grow vacant." 

Rupert had noticed ; he called himself a dodder 
ing old donkey silently, because he had assumed 
that there was anything personal in the in 
terest of those eyes when he had spoken. Of 
course not; it was her way with every one, even 
Millicent, no doubt. His aunt s next words were 
lost, but a sentence caught his ear directly : "For 
all she s so gentle, she has plenty of spirit. Bertie, 
did I ever tell you about the time our precious 
cousin threw our great-great-grandfather s gold 
snuff-box at her? No? It was funny. She flew 


into one of her towering rages, and shrieking, 
Take that! hurled the snuff-box at Janet. Janet 
wasn t used to having things thrown at her. She 
caught the box, then she rang the bell. Thank 
you very much/ says Janet ; and when old Aunt 
Phrosie came, she handed the snuff-box to her, 
saying it had just been given to her as a present. 
But she sent it that same day to one of the sisters. 
There was never anything else thrown at her, I 
can tell you." 

They found a wonderful sunset on the bay when 
San Francisco was reached. Still in her golden 
humor, as they rattled over the cobblestones of 
the picturesque streets to the Palace Hotel, Mrs. 
Winter told anecdotes of Robert Louis Stevenson, 
obtained from a friend who had known his 
mother. Mrs. Winter had chosen the Palace in 
preference to the St. Francis, to Mrs. Melville s 
high disgust. 

"She thinks it more typical," sneered Millicent ; 
"myself, I prefer cleanliness and comfort to 

Their rooms were waiting for them and two 
bell-boys ushered Mrs. Winter into her suite. 
Randall was lodged on the same floor, and Mrs. 
Melville, who was to spend a few days with her 


aunt on the latter s invitation, was on a lower 
floor. The colonel had begged to have Archie 
next to him ; and he examined the quarters with 
approbation. His own room was the last of the 
suite; to the right hand, between his room and 
Archie s, was their bath; then the parlor of Mrs. 
Winter s suite next her room and bath, and last, 
to the right, Miss Smith s room. 

Archie was sitting by the window looking 
out on the street ; only the oval of his soft boyish 
cheek showed. The colonel went by him to the 
parlor beyond, where he encountered his aunt, 
her hands full of gay postal cards. 

"Souvenirs de voyage," she answered his 
glance; "I am going to post them." 

"Can t I take them for you?" 

"No, thanks, I want the exercise." 

"May I go with you ?" 

"Indeed, no. My dear Bertie, I m only aged, 
I m not infirm." 

"You will never be aged," responded the colo 
nel gallantly. He turned away and walked along 
the arcade which looked down into the great court 
of the hotel. Millicent was approaching him ; Mil- 
licent in something of a temper. Her room was 
hideously draughty and she could not get any one, 


although she had rung and telephoned to the of 
fice and tried every device which was effectual in 
a well-conducted hotel; but this, she concluded 
bitterly, was not well-conducted; it was only 

There s a lovely fire in Aunt Rebecca s par 
lor," soothed the colonel; "come in there." 

Afterward it seemed to him that this whole in 
terview with Millicent could not have occupied 
more than four minutes ; that it was not more than 
seven minutes since he had seen Archie s shapely 
curly head against the curtain fall of the window. 

But when he opened the door, Miss Smith 
came toward them. "Is Archie with Aunt Re 
becca?" said she. 

The colonel answered that he had left him in 
the parlor; perhaps he had stepped into his own 

But neither in Archie s nor the colonel s nor in 
any room of the party could they find the boy. 



"But this is preposterous," cried Mrs. Melville, 
"you must have seen him had he come out of the 
room ; you were directly in front of the doors all 
the time." 

"I was," admitted the colonel; "can can the 
boy be hiding to scare us?" He spoke to Miss 
Smith. She had grown pale; he did not know 
that his own color had turned. Millicent stared 
from one to the other. 

"How ridiculous!" she exclaimed; "of course 
not ; but he must be somewhere ; let me look !" 

Look as they might through all the staring, 
empty rooms, there was no vestige of the boy. He 
was as clean vanished as if he had fallen out of 
the closed and locked windows. The colonel ex 
amined them all; had there been one open, he 
would have peered outside, frightened as he had 
never been when death was at his elbow. But it 
certainly wasn t possible to jump through a win 
dow, and not only shut, but lock it after one. 



Under every bed, in every closet, he prowled; 
he was searching still when Mrs. Winter re 
turned. By this time Mrs. Melville was agitated, 
and, naturally, irritated as well. "I think it is un 
pardonable in Archie to sneak out in this fash 
ion/ she complained. 

"I suppose the boy wanted to see the town a 
bit," observed Aunt Rebecca placidly. "Rupert, 
come in and sit down; he will be back in a mo 
ment; smoke a cigar, if your nerves need calm 

Rupert felt as if he were a boy of ten, called 
back to common sense out of imaginary horrors 
of the dark. 

"But, if he wanted to go out, why did he leave 
his hat and coat behind him ?" asked Miss Smith. 

"He may be only exploring the hotel," said 
Mrs. Winter. "Don t be so restless, Bertie; sit 

The colonel s eye was furtively photographing 
every article of furniture in the room ; it lingered 
longest on Mrs. Winter s wardrobe-trunk, which 
was standing in her room. Randall had been de 
spatched for a hot-water bottle in lieu of one 
which had sprung a leak on the train ; so the trunk 
stood, its door ajar. 


"Maybe he is doing the Genevra stunt in there 
is that what you are thinking?" she jeered. 
"Well, go and look." 

Light as her tone was, she was not unaffected 
by the contagion of anxiety about her ; after a mo 
ment, while Rupert was looking at the wardrobe- 
trunk, and even profanely exploring the swathed 
gowns held in rigid safety by bands of rubber, 
she moved about the rooms herself. 

"There isn t room for a mouse in that box," 
growled the colonel. 

"Of course not/ said his aunt languidly, sink 
ing into the easiest chair ; "but your mind is easier. 
Archie will come back for dinner ; don t worry." 

"How could he get by me?" retorted the colo 

"Perhaps he went into one of the neighboring 
rooms," Miss Smith suggested. "Shall I go out 
and rap on the door of the next room on the left?" 
On the right the last room of the party was a 
corner room. 

"Why, you might" acquiesced Aunt Rebecca; 
but Mrs. Melville cut the ends of her words. 

"Pray let me go, Aunt Rebecca," she begged, 
suiting the action to the words, and was out of 
the door almost ahead of her sentence, 


The others waited ; they were silent ; little flecks 
of color raddled Mrs. Winter s cheeks. They 
could hear Millicent s knock reverberating. There 
was no answer. "Telephone to the adjacent 
rooms/ proposed the colonel. 

"I ll telephone," said Mrs. Winter, and rang 
up the number of the next room. There was no 
response; but when she called the number of the 
room adjoining, she seemed to get an answer, for 
she announced her name. "Have you seen a 
young lad?" she continued, after an apology for 
disturbing them. "He belongs to our party; has 
he by chance got into your room? and is he 
there?" In a second she put down the receiver 
with a heightened color, saying, "They might be 
a little civiler in their answers, if it is Mr. Keatch- 
am s suite." 

"What did the beggar say?" bristled the colo 

"Only that it was Mr. Keatchanrs suite Mr. 
E. S. Keatcham as if that put getting into it 
quite out of the question. Some underling, I pre 

"There is the unoccupied room between. That 
is not accounted for. But it shall be. I will find 
out who is in there." Rupert rose as he spoke, 


pricked by the craving for action of a man accus 
tomed to quick decision. He heard his aunt 
brusquely repelling Millicent s proposal of the po 
lice, as he left the room. Indeed, she called him 
back to exact a promise that he would not make 
Archie s disappearance public. "We want to find 
him," was her grim addendum; "and we can t 
have the police and the newspapers hindering us. * 

In the office, he found external courtesy and a 
rather perfunctory sympathy, based on a sup 
pressed, but perfectly visible conviction that the 
boy had stolen out for a glimpse of the city, and 
would be back shortly. 

The manager had no objection to telling Colo 
nel Winter, whom he knew slightly, that the oc 
cupant of the next room was a New England lady 
of the highest respectability, Mrs. Winthrop 
Wiggles worth. If the young fellow didn t turn 
up for dinner, he should be glad to ask Mrs. Wig- 
glesworth to let Mrs. Winter examine her room; 
but he rather thought they would be seeing young 
Winter before then oh, his hat? They usually 
carried caps in their pockets; and as to coats 
boys never thought of their coats. 

The manager s cheeriness did not especially up 
lift the colonel. He warmed it over dutifully, 


however, for his womankind s benefit. Miss 
Smith had gone out; why, he was not told, and 
did not venture to ask. Mrs. Melville kept making 
cautious signals to him behind his aunt s back; 
otherwise she was preserving the mien of sympa 
thetic solemnity which she was used to show at 
funerals and first visits of condolence and con 
gratulation to divorced friends. Mrs. Winter, as 
usual, wore an inscrutable composure. She was 
still firmly opposed to calling in the aid of the po 

Did she object to his making a few inquiries 
among the hotel bell-boys, the elevator boy and 
the people in the restaurant or in the office ? 

Not at all, if he would be cautious. 

So he sallied out, and, in the midst of his fruit 
less inquisition, Millicent appeared. 

Forcing a civil smile, he awaited her pleasure. 
"Go on, don t mind me," said she mournfully; 
"you will feel better to have done everything in 
your power." 

"But I shall not discover anything?" 

"I fear not. Has it not occurred to you that he 
has been kidnapped ?" 

"Hmn !" said the colonel. 

"And did you notice how perturbed Miss Smith 


seemed? She was quite pale; her agitation was 
quite noticeable." 

"She is tremendously fond of Archie." 

"Or she knows more than she will say." 

"Oh, what rot !" sputtered the colonel ; then he 
begged her pardon. 

"Wait," he counseled, and his man s resistance 
to appearances had its effect, as masculine im 
mobility always has, on the feminine effervescence 
before him. "Wait," was his word, "at least until 
we give the boy a chance to turn up; if he has 
slipped by us, he is taking a little pasear on his 
own account; lads do get restless sometimes if 
they are held too steadily in the leash, especially 
if you will excuse me by, well, by ladies." 

"If he has frightened us out of our wits well, 
I don t know what oughtn t to be done to him !" 

"Oh well, let us wait and hear his story," re 
peated the soldier. 

But the last streaks of red faded out of the 
west; a chill fog smoked up from the darkening 
hills, and Archie had not come. At eight, Mrs. 
Winter ordered dinner to be served in their 
rooms. Miss Smith had not returned. The colo 
nel attempted a military cheerfulness, which his 
aunt told him bluntly, later in the evening, re- 


minded her of a physician s manner in critical 
cases where the patient s mind must be kept abso 
lutely quiet. 

But she ate more than he at dinner; although 
her own record was not a very good one. Mini- 
cent avowed that she was too worried to eat, but 
she was tempted by the strawberries and carp, 
and w r ondered were the California fowls really 
so poor; and gave the sample the benefit of im 
partial and fair examination, in the end making 
a very fair meal. 

It is not to be supposed that Winter had been 
idle ; before dinner he had put a guard in the hall 
and had seen Haley, who reported that his wife 
and child had gone to a kinswoman in Santa Bar- 

"Sure the woman has a fine house intirely, and 
she s fair crazy over the baby that s named afther 
her, for she s a widdy woman with never a child 
excipt wan that s in hivin, a little gurrl; and she 
wudn t let us rist til she d got the cratur . Nor 
I wasn t objictin , for I m thinking there ll be 
something doin and the wimin is onconvanient, 
thim times." 

The colonel admitted that he shared Haley s 
opinion. He questioned the man minutely about 


Mercer s conduct on the train. It was absolutely 
commonplace. If he had any connection (as the 
colonel had suspected) with the bandits, he made 
no sign. He sent no telegrams ; he wrote no let 
ters; he made no acquaintances, smoking his 
solitary cigar over a newspaper. Indeed, abso 
lutely the only matter of note (if that were one) 
was that he read so many newspapers buying 
every different journal vended. At San Fran 
cisco he got into a cab and Haley heard him give 
the order: "To the St. Francis." Having his 
wife and child with him, the sergeant couldn t 
follow; but he went around to the St. Francis 
later, and inquired for Mr. Mercer, for whom he 
had a letter (as was indeed the case the colonel 
having provided him with one), but no such naii^e 
appeared on the register. Invited to leave the let 
ter to await the gentleman s arrival, Haley said 
that he was instructed to give it to the gentleman 
himself; therefore, he took it away with him. 
He had carried it to all the other hotels or board 
ing-places in San Francisco which he could find, 
aided greatly thereto by a friend of his, formerly 
in "the old th," a sergeant, now stationed at the 
Presidio. Thanks to him, Haley could say defi 
nitely that Mercer was not at any of the hotels 


or more prominent boarding-houses in the city, at 
least under his own name. 

"And you haven t seen him since he got into 
the cab at the station ?" the colonel summed up. 

Haley s reply was unexpected : "Yes, sor, I 
seen him this day, in the marning, in this same 


"Drinking coffee at a table in th coort. He 
wint out, havin paid the man, not a-signin , an 
he guv the waiter enough to make him say, 
Thank ye, sor/ but not enough to make him 
smile and stay round to pull aff the chair. I fol- 
lied him to the dure, but he got into an autymo- 
bile " 

"Get the number?" 

"Yis, sor. Number here tis, sor, I wrote it 
down to make sure." He passed over to the colo 
nel an old envelope on which was written a num 

* "M. 20139," read the colonel, carefully not 
ing down the number in his own memorandum- 
book. And he reflected, "That is a Massachusetts 
number humph !" 

Haley s information ended there. He heard of 

*0f course, no allusions are made to any real M. 20139. 


Archie s disappearance with his usual stolid mien, 
but his hands slowly clenched. The colonel con 
tinued : 

"You are to find out, if you can, by scraping 
acquaintance with the carriage men, if that auto 
you have written a description, I see, as well 
as the number find out if that auto left this hotel 
this afternoon between six and seven o clock. 
Find out who were in it. Find out where it is 
kept and who owns it. Get H. Birdsall, Mer 
chants Exchange Building, to send a man to help 
you. Wait, I ve a card ready for you to give him 
from me ; he has sent me men before. Report by; 
telephone as soon as you know anything. If I m 
not here, speak Spanish and have them write it 
down. Be back here to-night by ten, if you can, 

Haley dismissed, and his own appetite for din 
ner effectually dispelled by his report, Winter 
joined his aunt. Should he tell her his suspicions 
and their ground? Wasn t he morally obliged, 
now, to tell her? She was co-guardian with him 
of the boy, who, he had no doubt, had been spir 
ited away by Mercer and his accomplice; and 
hadn t she a right to any information on the mat 
ter in his possession ? 


Reluctantly he admitted that she did have such 
a right; and, he admitted further, being a man 
who never cheated at solitaire, that his object in 
keeping the talk of the two men from her had 
not been so much the desire to guard her nerves 
(which he knew perfectly well were of a robuster 
fiber than those of most women twenty or forty 
years younger than she) ; no, he admitted it 
grimly, he had not so much spared his aunt as 
Janet Smith ; he could not bear to direct suspicion 
toward her. But how could he keep silent longer? 
Kicking this question about in his mind, he 
spoiled the flavor of his after-dinner cigar, al 
though his aunt graciously bade him smoke it in 
her parlor. 

And still Miss Smith had not returned ; really, 
it was only fair to her to have her present when 
he told his story to his aunt ; no, he was not grab 
bing at any excuse for delay; if he could watch 
that girl s face while he told his story he would 
well, he would have his mind settled one way or 

Here the telephone bell rang; the manager in 
formed Colonel Winter that Mrs. Wiggles worth 
had returned. 

" Wigglesworth ? what an extraordinary name !" 


cried Millicent when the colonel shared his in 

"Good old New England name; I know some 
extremely nice Wigglesworths in Boston," Mrs. 
Winter amended with a touch of hauteur ; and, at 
this moment, there came a knock at the door. 

There is all the difference in the world between 
knocks; a knock as often as not conveys a most 
unintentional hint in regard to the character of 
the one behind the knuckles ; and often, also, the 
mood of the knocker is reflected in the sound 
which he makes. Were there truth in this, one 
would judge that the person who knocked at this 
moment must be a woman, for the knock was not 
loud, but almost timidly gentle; one might even 
guess that she was agitated, for the tapping was 
in a hurried, uneven measure. 

"I believe it is Mrs. Wigglesworth herself/ de 
clared Aunt Rebecca. "Bertie, I m going into the 
other room ; she will talk more freely to you. She 
would want to spare my nerves. That is the 
nuisance of being old. Now open the door." 

She was half-way across the threshold before 
she finished, and the colonel s fingers on the door 
knob waited only for the closing of her door to 
turn to admit the lady in waiting. 


A lady she was beyond doubt, and any one who 
had traveled would have been sure that she was a 
lady from Massachusetts. She wore that little 
close bonnet which certain elderly Boston gentle 
women can neither be driven nor allured to aban 
don ; her rich and quiet black silken gown might 
have been made any year within the last five, and 
her furs would have graced a princess. She had 
beautiful gray hair and a soft complexion and 
wore glasses. Equally evident to the observer was 
the fact of her suppressed agitation. 

She waved aside the colonel s proffered chair, 
introducing herself in a musical, almost tremulous 
voice with the crisp enunciation of her section of 
the country. "I am Mrs. Wigglesworth ; I under 
stand, Colonel Winter you? y-yes, no, thank 
you, I will not sit. I I understood Mrs. Winter 
ah, your aunt, is an elderly woman/ 

"This is my sister-in-law, Mrs. Melville Win 
ter," explained the colonel. "My aunt is elderly 
in years, but in nothing else." 

Mrs. Wigglesworth smiled a faint smile; the 
colonel could see a tremble of the hand that was 
unconsciously drawing her fur collar more tightly 
about her throat. "How very nice yes, to be 
sure," she faltered. "But you will understand that 


I did not wish to alarm her. I heard that you 
wanted to speak to me, and that the little boy was 

"Or stolen," Mrs. Melville said crisply. 

The colonel, in a few words, displayed the situa 
tion. He had prevailed upon his visitor to sit 
down, and while he spoke he noticed that her 
hands held each other tightly, although she ap 
peared perfectly composed and did not interrupt. 
She answered his questions directly and quietly. 
She had been away taking tea with a friend ; she 
had remained to dine. Her maid had gone out 
earlier to spend the day and night with a sister in 
the city ; so the room was empty between six and 
seven o clock. 

The chambermaid wasn t there, then?" 

"I don t think so. She usually does the room 
and brings the towels for the bath in the morning. 
But I asked her, to make sure, and she says that 
she was not there since morning. She seems a 
good girl; I think she didn t but I have found 
something. At least I am af I may have found 
something. I thought I might see Mrs. Winter s 
niece about it" she glanced toward Millicent, 
who said, "Certainly," at a venture; and looked 


"And you found ?" said the colonel. 

"Only this. I went to my rooms, turned on the 
light and was taking off my gloves before I un 
tied my bonnet. One of my rings fell on the floor. 
It went under a rug, and I at once remarked that 
it was a different place for the rug to the one 
where it had been before. Before, it was in front 
of the dresser, a very natural place, but now it is 
on the carpet to one side, a place where there 
seemed no reason for its presence. These details 
seem trivial, but " 

"I can see they are not," said the colonel. 
"Pray proceed, Madam. The ring had rolled un 
der the rug!" 

Mrs. Wigglesworth gave tyim a grateful nod. 

"Yes, it had. And when I removed the rug I 
saw it ; but as I bent to pick it up I saw something 
else. In one place there was a stain, as large as 
the palm of my hand, a little pool ofit looks 
like blood." 

Mrs. Melville uttered an exclamation of horror. 

The colonel s face stiffened; but there was no 
change in his polite attention. 

"May we be permitted to see this ah, stain? 
said he. 

The three stepped through the corridor to the 


outside door, and went into the chamber. The 
rug was firing to one side, and there on the gray 
velvet nap of the carpet was an irregular, sprawl 
ing stain about which were spattered other stains, 
some crimson, some almost black. 

Millicent recoiled, shuddering. The colonel 
knelt down and examined the stains. "Yes," he 
said very quietly, "you are right, it is blood." 

There was a tap on the door, which was opened 
immediately without waiting for a permission. 
Millicent, rigid with fright, could only stare help 
lessly at the erect figure, the composed, pale face 
and the brilliant, imperious eyes of her aunt 

"What did you say, Bertie?" said Rebecca Win 
ter. "I think I have a right to the whole truth." 



"Well, Bertie?" Mrs. Winter had gone back to 
her parlor in the most docile manner in the world. 
Her submission struck Rupert on the heart ; it was 
as if she were stunned, he felt. 

He was sitting opposite her, his slender, rather 
short figure looking shrunken in the huge, ugly, 
upholstered easy-chair; he kept an almost con 
strained attitude of military erectness, of which 
he was conscious, himself; and at which he smiled 
forlornly, recalling the same pose in Haley when 
ever the sergeant was disconcerted. 

"But, first," pursued his aunt, "who was that 
red-headed bell-boy with whom you exchanged 
signals in the hall ?" 

The colonel suppressed a whistle. "Aunt 
Becky, you re a wonder! Did you notice? And 
he simply shut the palm of his hand! Why, it s 
this way: I was convinced that Archie must be 
on the premises; he couldn t get off. So I tele- 


phoned a detective that I know here, a private 
agency, not the police, to send me a sure man to 
watch. He is made up as a bell-boy (with the 
hotel manager s consent, of course) ; either I, or 
Millicent, or that boy has kept an eye on the 
Keatcham doors and the next room ever since I 
found Archie was gone. No one has gone out 
without our seeing him. If any suspicious person 
goes out, we have it arranged to detain him long 
enough for me to get a good look. I can tell you 
exactly who left the room." 

"It is you who are the wonder, Bertie," said 
Aunt Rebecca, a little wearily, but smiling. "Who 
has gone out ?" 

"At seven Mr. Keatcham s secretary went down 
to the office and ordered dinner, very carefully. 
I didn t see him, but my sleuth did. He had the 
secretary and the valet of the Keatcham party 
pointed out to him ; he saw them. They had one 
visitor, young Arnold, the Arnold s son " 

"The one who has all the orange groves and 
railways ? Yes, I knew his father." 

"That one ; he only came a few moments since. 
Mr. Keatcham and his secretary dined together, 
and Keatcham s own man waited on them; but 
the waiter for this floor brought up the dishes. At 


nine the dishes were brought out and my man 
helped Keatcham s valet to pile them a little far 
ther down the corridor in the hall." 

These items the colonel was reading out of his 
little red book. 

"You have put all that down. Do you think it 
means anything?" 

"I have put everything down. One can t weed 
until there is a crop of information, you know." 

"True," murmured Aunt Rebecca, nodding her 
head thoughtfully. "Well, did anything else hap 

"The secretary posted a lot of letters in the 
shute. They are all smoking now 7 . Yes " he 
was on his feet and at the door in almost a single 
motion. There had been just the slightest tattoo 
on the panel. When the door was opened the 
colonel could hear the rattle of the elevator. He 
was too late to catch it, but he could see the in 
mates. Three gentlemen stood in the car. One was 
Keatcham, the other two had their backs to Win 
ter. One seemed tc be supporting Keatcham, who 
looked pale. He sa / the colonel and darted at 
him a single glanr? in which was something 
like a poignant appen 1 ; what, it was too brief for 
the receiver to decide for in the space of an eye- 


blink a shoulder of the other man intervened, 
and simultaneously the elevator car began to 

There was need to decide instantly who should 
follow, who stay on guard. Rupert bade the boy 
go down by the stairs, while, with a kind of bull 
dog instinct, he clung to the rooms. The lad \vas 
to fetch the manager and the keys of the Keatch- 
am suite. 

Meanwhile Rupert paced back and forth before 
the closed doors, whence there penetrated the 
rustle of packing and a murmur of voices. Pres 
ently Keatcham s valet opened the farther door. 
He spoke to some one inside. "Yes, sir," he said, 
"the porter hought to be ere now." 

The porter was there; at least he was coming 
down the corridor which led to the elevator, trun 
dling his truck before him. He entered the rooms 
and busied himself about the luggage. 

Doggedly the colonel stuck to his guard until 
the valet and another man, a clean-shaven, fresh- 
faced young man whom the watcher had never 
seen before, came out of the room. The valet 
superintended the taking of two trunks, accepting 
tickets and checks from the porter with a thor 
oughly Anglican suspicion and thoroughness of 


inspection, while the young man stood tapping his 
immaculate trousers-leg with the stick of his ad 
mirably slender umbrella. 

"It s all right, Colvin," he broke in impatiently; 
"three tickets to Los Angeles, drawing-room, one 
lower berth, one section, checks for two trunks; 
come on !" 

Very methodically the man called Colvin 
stowed away his green and red slips, first in an 
envelope, then in his pocket-book, finally button 
ing an inside pocket over all. He was the image 
of a rather stupid, conscientious English serving 
creature. Carefully he counted out a liberal but 
not lavish tip for the porter, and watched that 
functionary depart. Last of all, he locked the 

With extreme courtesy of manner Winter ap 
proached the young man. 

"Pardon me," said he. "I am Colonel Winter; 
my aunt, Mrs. Winter, has the rooms near yours, 
and she finds that she needs another room or two. 
Are you leaving yours ?" 

"These are Mr. Keatcham s rooms, not mine/ 
the young man responded politely. "He is leaving 

"When you give up your keys, would you mind 


asking the clerk to send them up to me?" pursued 
the colonel. "Room three twenty-seven." 

"Certainly," replied the young man, "or would 
you like to look at them a moment now ?" 

"Why if it wouldn t detain you," hesitated 
Winter; he was hardly prepared for the offer of 

"Get the elevator and hold it a minute, Colvin," 
said the young man, and he instantly fitted the key 
to the door, which he flung open. 

"Excuse me," said he, as they stood in the 
room, "but aren t you the Colonel Winter who 
held that mountain pass to let the other fellows 
get off, after your ammunition was exhausted ?" 

"I seem to recall some such episode, only it 
sounds rather gaudy the way you put it." 

"I read about you in the papers; you swam a 
river with Funston ; did all kinds of stunts " 

"Or the newspaper reporter did. You don t 
happen to know anything about the price of these 
rooms, I suppose ?" 

The young man did not know, but he showed 
the colonel through all the rooms with vast civil 
ity. He seemed quite indifferent to the colonel s 
interest in closets, baths and wardrobes; he only 
wanted to talk about the Philippines. 


The colonel, who always shied like a mettled 
horse from the flutter of his own laurels, grew 
red with discomfort and rattled the door-knob*. 

"There the suite ends," said the young man. 

"Oh, we don t want it all, only a room or two," 
Colonel Winter demurred. "Any one of these 
rooms would do. Well, I will not detain you. The 
elevator boy will be tired, and Mr. Keatcham will 
grow impatient/ 

"Not at all ; he will have gone. I I m so very 
glad to have met you, Colonel " 

In this manner, with mutual civilities, they 
parted, the young man escorting the colonel to his 
own door, which the latter was forced to enter by 
the sheer demands of the situation. 

But hardly had the door closed than he popped 
out again. The young man was swinging round 
the corner next the elevator. 

"Is he an innocent bystander or what ?" puzzled 
the soldier. He resumed his march up and down 
the corridor. The next room to the Keatcham 
suite was evidently held by an agent of the Fire- 
less Cooking Stove, since one of his samples had 
strayed into the hall and was mutely proclaiming 
its own exceeding worth in very black letters on 
a very white placard. 


"If the young man and the valet are straight 
goods, the key will come up reasonably soon from 
the office," thought the watcher. 

Sure enough, the keys, in the hands of Winter s 
own spy, appeared before he had waited three 
minutes. He reported that the old gentleman got 
into a cab with his secretary and the valet, and the 
other gentlemen took another cab. The secretary 
paid the bill. Had he gone sooner than expected ? 
No; he had engaged the rooms until Thursday 
night ; this was Thursday night. 

The colonel asked about the next room, which 
was directly on the cross corridor leading to the 
elevator. The detective had been instructed to 
watch it. How long had the Fireless Cooking 
Stove man had it? There was no meat for sus 
picion in the answer. The stove man had come 
the day before the Keatcham party. He was a 
perfectly commonplace, good-looking young man, 
representing the Peerless Fireless Cooking Stove 
with much picturesque eloquence; he had sold a 
lot of stoves to people in the hotel, and he tried 
without much success to tackle "old Keatcham" ; 
he had attacked even the sleuth himself. "He 
gave me a mighty good cigar, too," chuckled the 
red-headed one. 


"Hmn, you got it now?" 

"Only the memory," the boy grinned. 

You ought to have kept it, Birdsall would tell 
you ; you are watching every one in these rooms. 
Did it have a necktie? And did you throw that 
away ?" 

"No, sir, I kept that; after I got to smoking, I 
just thought I d keep it." 

When he took the tiny scrap of paper from his 
pocket-book the colonel eyed it grimly. " A de 
Villar y Villar, " he read, with a slight ironic 
inflection. "Decidedly our young Fireless Stove 
promoter smokes good cigars !" 

"Maybe Mr. Keatcham gave it to him. He was 
in there." 

"Was he? Oh, yes, trying to sell his stove 
but not succeeding ?" 

"He said he was trying to get past the valet 
and the secretary ; he thought if he could only get 
at the old man and demonstrate his stove he could 
make the sale. He could cook all right, that 

The colonel made no comment, and presently 
betook himself to his aunt. She was waiting for 
him in the parlor, playing solitaire. Through the 
open door the white bed that ought to have been 


Archie s was gleaming faintly. The colonel s 
brows met. 

"Well, Bertie? Did you find anything?" Mrs. 
Winter inquired smoothly. 

"I m afraid not; but here is the report." He 
gave it to her, even down to the cigar wrapper. 

"It doesn t seem likely that Mr. Keatcham has 
anything to do with it," said she. "He, no doubt, 
has stolen many a little railway, but a little boy 
is too small game." 

"Oh, I don t suspect Keatcham; but I wish I 
had caught the elevator to-night. He looked at 
me in a mighty queer way." 

"Did you recognize his secretary as any one 
whom you ever saw before?" asked Mrs. Winter. 

"I can t say," was the answer, given with a 
little hesitation. "I m not sure." 

"I don t think I quite understand you, Bertie; 
better make a clean breast of all you know. I m 
getting a little worried myself." 

The colonel reached across the cards and tapped 
his aunt s arm affectionately. He felt the warm 
est impulse toward sympathy for her that he had 
ever known; it glistened in his eyes. Mrs. Win 
ter s cheeks slowly crimsoned; she turned her 
head, exclaiming, did she hear a noise; but the 


colonel s keen ears had not be*n warned. "Poor 
woman/ he thought, "she is worritd to death, 
but she will not admit it." 

"Now, Bertie," said Mrs. Winter calmly, but 
her elbow fell on her cards and spoiled a very 
promising game of Penelope s Web, "now, Ber 
tie, what are you keeping back ?" 

Then, at last, the colonel told her of his experi 
ence in Chicago. She heard him quite without 
comment, and he could detect no shift of emotion 
in her demeanor of absorbed but perfectly calm 
attention, unless a certain tension of attitude and 
feature (as if, he phrased it, she were "holding 
herself in") might be so considered. And he was 
not sure of this. When he came to the words 
which stuck in his throat, the sentence about Miss 
Smith, she smiled frankly, almost laughed. 

At the end of the recital and the colonel had 
not omitted a word or a look in his memory she 
merely said : "Then you think Gary Mercer has 
kidnapped Archie, and the nice-looking Harvard 
boy is helping him ?" 

"Don t you think it looks that way, yourself?" 

She answered that question by another one: 
"But you don t think, do you, that Janot is th 
Miss Smith mentioned ?" 


His reply came after an almost imperceptible 
hesitation: "No!" 

Again she smiled. "That is because you know 
Janet; if you didn t know her you would think 
the chances were in favor of their meaning her? 
Naturally! Well, I know Gary a little. I knew 
his father well. I don t believe he would harm a 
hair of Archie s head. He isn t a cruel fellow at 
least not toward women and children. I ve a no 
tion that what he calls his wrongs have upset his 
wits a bit, and he might turn the screws on the 
Wall Street crowd that ruined him. That is, if 
he had a chance; but he is poor; he would need 
millions to get even a chance for a blow at them. 
But a child, a lad who looks like his brother no, 
you may be sure he wouldn t hurt Archie! He 

"But the name, Winter ; it is not such a com 
mon name ; and the words about a lady of of " 
The polite soldier hesitated. 

"An old woman, do you mean ?" said Aunt Re 
becca, with a little curving of her still unwrinkled 
upper lip. 

"It sounds so complete," submitted her nephew. 

"Therefore distrust it," she argued dryly. 
"Gaboriau s great detective and Conan Doyle s 


both have that same maxim not to pick out easy 


Winter smiled in his own turn. "Still, some 
times the easy answers are right. Now, here is 
the situation : I hear this conversation at the 
depot. I find one of the men on the same train 
with me. He, presumably, if he is Gary Mercer, 
and I don t think I can be mistaken in his iden 

"Unless another man is making up as Gary!" 

"It may seem conceited, but I don t think I 
could be fooled. This man had every expression 
of the other s, and I was too struck by the I may 
almost call it malignant look he had, not to rec 
ognize him. No, it was Mercer; he would cer 
tainly recognize you, and he would know who I 
am ; he would not be called upon to snub me as a 
possible confidence man." 

"That rankles yet, Bertie?" 

He made a grimace and nodded. 

"But," he insisted, "isn t it so? If he is up to 
some mischief, any mischief doesn t care to have 
his kin meet him that is the way he would act, 
don t you think ?" 

"He might be up to mischief, yet have no de 
signs on his kin." 


"He might," said the colonel musingly. A 
thought which he did not confide to the shrewd 
old woman had just flipped his mind. But he 
went on with his plea. 

"He avoids you ; he avoids me. He is seen go 
ing into Keatcham s drawing-room; that means 
some sort of an acquaintance with Keatcham, 
enough to talk to him, anyway. How much, I 
can t say. Then comes the attack by the robbers ; 
he is in another car, so there is no call for him to 
do anything; there is no light whatever on 
whether he had anything to do with the robbery. 

"Then we come here. Keatcham has the room 
next but one. Archie goes into his own room ; we 
see him go; I am outside, directly outside; it is 
simply impossible for him to go out into the hall 
without my seeing him ; besides, I found the doors 
outside all locked except the one to the right where 
we entered your suite; then we may assume that 
he could not go out. He could not climb out of 
locked windows on the third floor down a sheer 
descent of some forty or fifty feet. Your last 
room to the right, Miss Smith s bedroom, is a 
corner room ; besides, she was in it ; that excludes 
every exit except that to the left. We find Mrs. 
Wigglesworth was absent, and there were evi- 


dences of *an an attack of some kind carefully 
hidden, afterward. But there is no sign of the 
boy. I watch the rooms. If he is hidden some 
where in Keatcham s rooms, the chances are, after 
Keatcham goes, they will try to take him off. I 
don t think it probable that Keatcham knows any 
thing about the kidnapping; in fact, it is wildly 
improbable. Well, Keatcham goes; immediately 
I get into the room. The valet and the young man 
visiting Keatcham, young Arnold, let me in with 
out the slightest demur. Either they know noth 
ing of the boy or somehow they have got him 
away, else they would not let me in so easily. 
Maybe they are ignorant and the boy is gone, 
both. We go to the rooms very soon after ; there 
is not the smallest trace of Archie." 

"How did he get out?" 

"They must have outwitted me, somehow," the 
colonel sighed, "and it looks as if he went volun 
tarily; there was no possible carrying away by 
force. And there was no odor of chloroform 
about ; that is very penetrating ; it would get into 
the halls. They must have persuaded him to go 
but how?" 

"If they have kidnapped him," said Mrs. Win 
ter, "they will send me some word, and if they 


have persuaded him to run away, plainly he must 
be able to walk, and that mess in Mrs. Wiggles- 
worth s room doesn t mean anything bad." 

"Of course not," said the colonel firmly. 

Then, in as casual a tone as he could command : 
"By the way, where is Miss Smith ? She is back, 
isn t she?" 

"Oh, a long time ago," said Mrs. Winter. "I 
sent her to bed." 

"I ve been frank with you. You will recipro 
cate and tell me why, for what, you sent her out ?" 

Mrs. Winter made not the least evasion. She 
answered frankly: "I sent her with a carefully 
worded advertisement but you needn t tell Milli- 
cent, who has also gone to bed, thank Heaven I 
sent her with a carefully worded advertisement to 
all the papers. This is the advertisement. It will 
reach the kidnappers, and it will not reach any 
one else. See." She handed him a slip of paper 
from her card-case. He read : 

"To the holders of Archie W: Communicate 
with R. S. W., same address as before, and you 
will hear of something to your advantage. Per 
fectly safe." 

The colonel read it thoughtfully, a little puz 
zled. Before he had time to speak, his quick ears 


caught the sharp ring of his room telephone bell. 
He excused himself to answer it. His room was 
the last of the suite, but he shut the door on his 
way to the telephone. 

He expected Haley; nor was he disappointed. 
Haley reported in Spanish that he had traced 
the automobile ; it was the property of young Mr. 
Arnold, son of the rich Mr. Arnold. Young Ar 
nold had been at Harvard last year, and he took 
out a Massachusetts license; he had a California 
one, too. Should he (Haley) look up young Ar 
nold ? And should he come to report that night ? 

The colonel thought he could wait till morn 
ing, and, a little comforted, hung up the receiver. 
Barely was it out of his hand when the bell 
shrilled again, sharply, vehemently. Winter put 
the tube to his ear. 

"Does any one want Colonel Winter, Palace 
Hotel?" he asked. 

A sweet, eager, boyish voice called back : "Un 
cle Bertie! Uncle Bertie, don t you worry; I m 
all right!" 

"Archie!" cried the colonel. "Where are you?" 

But there was no answer. He called again, and 
a second time; he told the lad that they were 
dreadfully anxious about him. He got no re- 


sppnse from the boy; but another voice, a wom 
an s voice, said, with cold distinctness, as if to 
some one in the room : "No, don t let him ; it is 
impossible !" Then a dead wall of silence and Cen 
tral s impassive ignorance. He could get nothing. 

Rupert Winter stood a moment, frowning and 
thinking deeply. Directly, with a shrug of the 
shoulders, he walked out of his own outside door, 
locking it, and went straight to Miss Smith s. 

He knocked, at first very gently, then more 
vigorously. But there was no answer. He went 
away from the door, but he did not reenter his 
room. He did not bear to his aunt the news which, 
with all its meagerness and irritating incomplete 
ness, had been an enormous relief to him. He 
simply waited in the corridor. Five minutes, ten 
minutes passed; then he heard the elevator whir, 
and, standing with his hand on the knob of his 
open door, he saw his aunt s companion, dressed 
for the street, step out and speed down the cor 
ridor to her own door. 

The other voice the woman s voice had been 
Janet Smith s. 



A mud-splashed automobile runabout contain 
ing two men was turning off Van Ness Avenue 
down a narrower and shadier side street in the 
afternoon of the Sunday following the disappear 
ance of Archie Winter. One of the occupants 
seemed to be an invalid whom the brilliant March 
sunshine had not tempted out of his heavy wrap 
pings and cap; the other was a short, thick-set, 
corduroy- jacketed chauffeur. One marked the 
runabout at a glance as a hardly used livery mo 
tor-car; but a moment s inspection might have 
shown that it was running with admirable smooth 
ness and quiet. The chauffeur wore goggles, 
hence his eyes were shielded, but he turned a 
broad smile upon the pallid cheeks and sharpened 
profile beside him. 

"Colonel, as a health-seeker who can t keep 
warm enough, you re great!" he cried. "Lord, 
but you look the part !" 



"If I can t shed some of these confounded 
rnujQleri soon," growled the pale sufferer ad 
dressed, "I ll get so red with heat it will come 
through my beautiful powder. I hope those fel 
lows won t see us, for they will be on to us, all 

"Our own mothers wouldn t be on to us in these 
rigs," the chauffeur replied cheerily ; he seemed to 
be in a hopeful mood; "and let us once get into 
the house, and surprise em, and there ll be some 
thing drop. But I haven t really had a chance to 
tell you the latest having to pick you up at a 
drug store this way. Now, let s sum things up! 
You think the boy got out through Keatcham s 
apartment ? Or Mrs. Wigglesworth s ?" 

"How else?" said the colonel, "he can t fly, 
and if he could, he couldn t fly out and then lock 
the windows from the inside." 

"I see" the chauffeur appeared thoughtful 
"and the Wigglesworth door was locked. You 
think that Keatcham is in it, someway ?" 

"Not Keatcham," said the colonel. "There 
was another man in the car- Atkins they called 
him, though he has disappeared. But Mercer re 
mains. His secretary and that valet of his; I 
think the secretary is Gary Mercer. The boy 


might have slipped out in those few moments we 
were hunting for him inside. Afterward, either 
Mrs. Melville Winter or I was on guard until 
your man came. He might go to the Fireless 
Stove man, slip out of his rooms, and round the 
corner to the elevator in a couple of seconds. 
Then, of course, I might see their rooms " 

"Provided, that is, the Fireless Stove drummer 
is in the plot, too." 

"The Fireless Stove drummer who smokes Vil- 
lar y Villar cigars ? He is in it, I think, Birdsall." 

"Well, I ll assume that. Next thing: you get 
the telephone call. And you say the voice sounded 
chipper; didn t look like he was being hurt or 
bothered anyway, did it?" 

"Not at all. Besides, you know the letter Miss 
Smith got this morning ?" 

"I think I d like another peek at that; will you 
drive her a minute, while I look at the letter 
again ?" The instant his hands were free Birdsall 
pulled out the envelope from his leather-rimmed 

It was rectangular in shape and smaller than 
the ordinary business envelope. The paper was 
linen of a common diamond pattern, having no 
engraved heading. The detective ran his eyes 


down the few lines written in an unformed boyish 
hand. There was neither date nor place; only 
these words : 

DEAR Miss JANET Don t you or auntie be woried about 
me because I am well and safe and having a good time. I 
had the nose bleed that is why I spoted the carpet. Tell 
Auntie to please pay for it out of my next week s allowance. 
Be sure and don t wory. 

Your aff. friend, 


"You re sure this is the boy s writing?" was 
the detective s comment. 

"Sure. And his spelling, too." 

"Now," said Birdsall, watching the colonel s 
keen, aquiline profile as he spoke, "now you no 
tice there s no heading or mark on the paper; 
and the water-mark is only O. K. E., Mass., 1904. 
And that amounts to nothing; those folks sell all 
over the country. But you notice that it is not 
the ordinary business paper; it looks rather lady 
like than commercial, doesn t it?" 

The colonel admitted that it did look so. 

"Now, assuming that this letter was sent with 
the connivance of the kidnappers, it looks as if 
our young gentleman wasn t in any particular 
danger of having a hard time. To me, it looks 


pretty certain he must have skipped himself; 
tolled along someway, maybe, but not making 
any resistance. Now, is there anybody that you 
know who has enough influence over him for that ? 
How about the lady s maid ?" 

"Randall has been a faithful servant for twenty 
years, a middle-aged, serious-minded, decent 
woman. Out of the question." 

"This Miss Smith, your aunt s companion, who 
is she ? Do you know ?" 

"A South Carolinian; good family; she has 
lived with my aunt as secretary and companion 
for a year; my aunt is very fond of her." 

"That all you know? Well 7 have found out 
a little more; she used to live with a Mrs. James 
S. Hastings, a rich Washington woman. The 
lady s only son fell in love with her; somehow 
the marriage was broken off." 

"What was his name?" 

"Lawrence. They call him Larry. He went to 
Manila. Maybe you ve met him there." 

"Yes, I knew him ; I don t believe he ever was 
accepted by her." 

"I don t know. I have only had two days on 
her biography. Later, she went to Johns Hopkins 
Hospital. One of the doctors was very attentive 


to her but it did not come to anything. She 
didn t graduate. Don t know why. Then she 
went to live with Miss Angela Nelson, who died 
and left her money, away from her own family. 
There was talk of breaking the will ; but it wasn t 
done. Then she came to Mrs. Winter." 

The colonel was silent; there was nothing dis 
creditable in these details. He had known before 
that Janet Smith was poor; that she had been 
thrown on the \vorld early; that she must earn 
her own livelihood; yet, somehow, as Birdsall 
marshaled the facts, there was an insidious, mala 
rious hint of the adventuress, bandied from place 
to place, ha\vking her attractions about, whee 
dling, charming for hire, entrapping imbecile 
young cubs Larry Hastings wasn t more than 
twenty-two somehow he felt a revolt against 
the picture and against the man submitting it 
and, confound Millicent! 

The detective changed the manner of his ques 
tions a little. "I suppose your aunt is pretty ad 
vanced in years, though she is as well pre 
served an old lady as 1 have ever met, and as 
shrewd. Say, wouldn t she be likely to leave the 
boy a lot of money ?" 

"I dare say." The colonel was conscious of an 


intemperate impulse to kick Birdsall, who had 
been such a useful fellow in the Philippines. 

"If anything was to happen to him, who would 
get the money?" 

"Well, Mrs. Melville and I are next of kin," 
returned the colonel dryly. "Do you suspect us? " 

"I did look up Mrs. Melville," answered the 
unabashed detective, "but I guess she s straight 
goods all right. But say, how about Miss Smith?" 

The colonel stared, then he laughed. "Bird 
sall," said he, "there s somewhat too much men 
tion of ladies names to suit my Virginian taste. 
But if you mean to imply that Miss Smith is going 
to kill Archie to get my aunt s money, I can tell 
you you are way off! Your imagination is too 
active for your profession. You ought to hire 
out to the yellow journals." 

His employer s satire did not even flick the 
dust off Birdsall s complacency ; he grinned cheer 
fully. "Oh, I m not so bad as that; I don t sup 
pose she did kill the boy; I think he s alive, all 
right. But say, Colonel, I ll give it to you straight ; 
I do think the seiiora coaxed the boy off. You 
admit, don t you, he went off. Well, then he was 
coaxed, somehow. Now, who s got influence 
enough to coax him? You cross out the maid; 


so do I. You cross out Mrs. Melville Winter ; so 
do I. I guess we both cross out the old lady. 
Well, there s you and the senora left. I don t 
suspect you, General." 

"Really? I don t see why. I stand to make 
more than anybody else, if you are digging up 
motives. And how about the chambermaid?" 

Birdsall flashed a glance of reproach on his 
companion. "Now, Colonel, do you think I ain t 
looked her up? First thing. Nothing in it. De 
cent Vermont girl, three years in the hotel. Came 
for her lungs. She ain t in it. But let s get back 
to Miss Smith. Did you know she is Cary 
Mercer s sister-in-law ?" 

He delivered his shot in a casual way, and the 
colonel took it stonily; nevertheless, it went to 
the mark. Birdsall continued. "Now, question is, 
was Mercer the secretary ? You didn t see the man 
in the elevator, except his back. Had he two 

"I couldn t see. He had different clothes; 
but still there was something like Mercer about 
the shoulders." 

"Burney didn t get a chance to take a snapshot, 
but he did snap the stove man. Here it is. Pull 
that book out of my pocket." 


Obeying, the colonel lifted a couple of small 
prints which he scrutinized intently, at the end, 
admitting, "Yes, it is he all right. Now do you 
know what / think ?" 

Birdsall couldn t form an idea. 

"I think the Keatcham party is in it; and I 
think they are after bigger game than Archie. 
Maybe the train-robbers were a part of the 
scheme although I m not so sure of that." 

"Oh, the robbers were in it all right. But now 
come to Miss Smith; where does she come in? 
Or are you as sure of her as Mercer was in Chi 

If he had expected to get a spark out of the 
Winter tinder by this scraping stroke, he was 
mistaken ; the soldier did not even move his brood 
ing gaze fixed on the hills beyond the house 
roofs; and he answered in a level tone : "Did you 
get that story from my aunt, or was it Mrs. Mel 
ville? I m pretty certain you got your biography 
from that quarter. My aunt might have told her/ 

"That would be betraying a lady s confidence. 
I m only a detective, whose business is to pry, 
but I never go back on the ladies. And I think, 
same s you, that the lady in question is a real 
nice, high-toned lady; but I can t disregard the 


evidence. I never give out my system, but I ve 
got one, all the same. Look here, see this paper?" 
he had replaced the envelope in his pocket; 
he pulled it out again; or rather, so the colonel 
fancied, until Birdsall turned the envelope over, 
revealing it to be blank. "There s a sheet of 
paper inside ; take it out. Look at the water-mark, 
look at the pattern; then compare it with this 
letter handing the colonel the original envel 
ope. "Same exactly, ain t they?" 

The colonel, who had studied the two sheets 
of paper silently, nodded as silently ; and he had 
a premonition of Birdsall s next sentence before 
it came. "Well, Mrs. Melville Winter, this morn 
ing, took me to Miss Smith s desk, where we 
found this and a lot more like it." 

"You seem to be right in thinking the paper 
widely distributed," observed the colonel. 

"And you don t think that suspicious?" 

"I should think it more suspicious if the paper 
were not out on her desk. If she is such a deep 
one as you seem to think, she would hide such an 
incriminating bit of evidence." 

"She didn t know we suspected her. Of course, 
you haven t shadowed her a little bit ?" 

"There is a limit to detective duty in the case 


of a gentleman," returned the colonel haughtily. 
"I have not." 

Little Birdsall sighed; then in a propitiatory 
tone: "Well, of course, we both think there are 
other people in the job ; I don t know exactly what 
you mean by bigger game, but I can make a stag 
ger at it. Now, say, did you get any answer when 
you wrote to Keatcham himself?" 

"Yes," said the colonel grimly, "I heard. You 
know the sort of letter I wrote ; telling him of our 
dreadful anxiety and about the lad s being an 
orphan ; don t you think it was the sort of letter a 
decent man would answer, no matter how busy 
he might be?" 

"Sure. Didn t you get an answer ?" 

"I did." The colonel extricated himself from 
his wrappings enough to find a pale blue envel 
ope, which he handed to Birdsall, at the same time 
taking the motor handle. "You see ; type-written, 
very polite, chilly sort of letter, kind to make a 
man hot under the collar and swear at Keatcham s 
heartlessness. Mr. Keatcham unable to answer, 
having been ill since he left San Francisco. Did 
not see anything of any boy. Probably boy ran 
away. Has no information of any kind to afford. 
And the writer is very sincerely mine. The min- 


ute I read it I was sure Mercer wrote it; and he 
wrote it to make me so disgusted with Keatcham 
I wouldn t pursue the subject with him. Just the 
same way he snubbed my aunt ; and, for that mat 
ter, just the way he tried to snub me on the train. 
But he missed his mark; I wired every hotel in 
Santa Barbara and every one in Los Angeles; 
and Keatcham isn t there and hasn t been there. 
He has a big bunch of mail at Santa Barbara 
waiting for him, forwarded from Los Angeles, 
but he hasn t shown himself." 

Birdsall shot a glance of cordial admiration 
at the colonel. "You re all there, General," he 
cried with unquenchable familiarity. "I ve been 
trying to call up the Keatcham outfit, and / 
couldn t get a line, either. They haven t used the 
tickets they bought their reservations went 
empty to Los Angeles. Now, what do you make 
out of that?" 

"I make out that Archie is only part of their 
game," replied the soldier. "Now see, Birdsall, 
you are not going to get a couple of rich young 
college fellows to do just plain kidnapping and 
scaring women out of their money " 

"Lord, General," interrupted Birdsall, "those 
college guys don t turn a hair at kidnapping; 


they regularly steal the president of the freshman 
class, and the things they do at their hazing bees 
and initiations would make an Apache Indian sit 
up and take notice. I tell you, General, they re 
the limit for deviltry." 

"Some kinds. Not that kind; it s too dirty. 
Arnold was one of the cleanest foot-ball players 
at Harvard. And I don t know anything about 
human nature if that other youngster isn t decent. 
But Mercer es un loco; you can look out for 
anything from him. Now, see the combination. 
Arnold was at Harvard ! I have traced the motor 
car they used to him; and then, if you add that 
his father is away safe in Europe and he has an 
empty house, off to one side, with a quantity of 
space around it and the reputation of being 
haunted, why " 

"It looks good to me. And I understand my 
men have got around it on the quiet all right. 
How s your man Haley got on, hiring out to the 
Jap in charge?" 

"Well enough; the Jap took him on to mow, 
but either Mr. Caretaker doesn t know anything 
or he won t tell. He s bubbling over with conver 
sation about the flowers and the country and the 
Philippines, where he used to be; but he only 


knows that the honorable family are all away 
and he is to shun the house. Aren t we almost 

"Just around the corner. I guess when you 
see it you ll think it s just the patio a spook of 
taste would freeze to." 

"Why is it haunted?" 

"Now you have me. I ain t on to such dream 
stuff. Gimme five cards. Mrs. Arnold died off in 
Europe, so tain t her; and the house has only 
been built two years ; but the neighbors have seen 
lights and heard groans and a pick chopping at 
the stones. Some folks say the land belonged 
to an old miner and he died before he could tell 
where he d buried his masuma; so he is taking a 
little buscar after it. There s the house, General." 

The street climbed a gentle hill, and on its 
crest a large house, in mission style, looked over 
a pleasant land. Its position on a corner and the 
unusual size of the grounds about it gave the man 
sion an effect of space. Of almost rawly recent 
erection though it was, the kindly climate had so 
fostered the growth of the pines, acacias and live- 
oaks, the eucalypti and the orange-trees, which 
made a rich blur of color on the hillside, had so 
lavishly tended the creeping ivies and Bougain- 


villeas which masked the rounded lantern arches 
of the stern gray fagade, and so sumptuously bla 
zoned the flower-beds in the garden on the one 
hand, yet, on the other, had so cunningly dulled 
the greenish gray of the cobblestones from Cali 
fornia arroyos in chimney and foundation, and 
had so softly streaked the marble of the garden 
statues and the plaster of walls and mansion with 
tiny filaments of lichens or faint green moss, that 
the beholder might fancy the house to be the an 
cient home of some Spanish hidalgo, handed down 
with an hereditary curse, through generations, to 
the last of his race. One was tempted to such a 
flutter of fancy because of the impression given 
by the mansion. A sullen reticence hung about the 
place. The windows, for the most part, were 
heavily shuttered. Not a pane of glass flashed 
back at the sunlight; even those casements not 
shuttered turned blank dark green shades, like 
bandaged eyes, on the court and the beautiful ter 
races and the lovely sweep of hillsides where the 
wonderful shadows swayed and melted. 

The bent figure of a man raking, distorted by 
the perspective, was visible just beyond the high 
pillars of the gateway. He paid no attention to 
the motions of the motor-car, nor did he answer 


a hail until it was repeated. Then he approached 
the car. Birdsall was in the roadway trying to 
unlock the gate. The man, whose Japanese fea 
tures were quite distinguishable, bowed; he ex 
plained that the honorable owners were not at 
home; his insignificant self was the only keeper 
of the grounds. He spoke sufficiently good Eng 
lish with the accompaniment of a deprecatory, 
amiable smile. Birdsall, in turn, told him that his 
own companion was a very great gentleman from 
the East who belonged to a society of vast power 
which was investigating spectral appearances, and 
that he had come thousands of miles to see the 

The Japanese extended both hands, while the 
appeal of his smile deepened. "Too bad, velly," 
he murmured, "but not leally any g lost, no, nev ." 

"Don t you believe in the ghost?" asked Colonel 

"No, me Clistian boy, no believe not ing." 

"All the samee," said the colonel, laboriously 
swinging himself from his vantage-ground of the 
motor seat to the flat top of the wall, thence drop 
ping to the greensward below, "allee samee, like 
go in house hunt ghost." He crackled a bank-note 
in the palm of the slim brown hand, smiling and 


nodding as if to break the force of his brusque ac 
tion. Meanwhile, Birdsall had safely shut off his 
engine before he placed himself beside the others 
with an agility hardly to be expected of his ro 
tund build. 

As for the caretaker, whether because he per 
ceived himself outnumbered, or because he was 
really void of suspicion, he accepted the money 
with outward gratitude and proffered his guid 
ance through the garden and the orchards. He 
slipped into the role of cicerone with no atom of 
resistance; he was voluble; he was gracious; he 
was artlessly delighted with his seiiors. In spite 
of this flood of suavity, however, there seemed to 
be no possibility of persuading him to admit them 
to the house. 

Assured of this, the two fell back for a second, 
time for the merest eyeflash from the detective 
to the soldier, who at once limped briskly up to 
the Jap, saying: "We are very much obliged to 
you ; this is a beautiful house, beautiful gardens ; 
but we want to see the ghost ; and if you can give 
me young Mr. Arnold s address I will see him 
or write, and we can come back." 

The gardener, with many apologies and smiles, 
did not know Mr. Arnold s honorable address, but 


he drew out a soiled card, explaining that it bore 
the name of the gentleman in charge of the prop 
erty. Birdsall, peering over the Jap s shoulders, 
added that it was the card of a well-known legal 

"Then," said the colonel with deliberation, "we 
will thank you again for your courtesy, and 
what s that?" 

The Jap turned ; they all started at the barking 
detonation of some explosion; while they gazed 
about them there came another booming sound, 
and they could see smoke pouring from the chim 
ney and leaking through the window joints of a 
room in the rear of the house. Like a hare, not 
breaking his wind by a single cry, the Jap sped 
toward the court. The others were hard on his 
heels, though the colonel limped and showed signs 
of distress >>y the time they reached the great iron 

The Jap pulled out a key; he turned it and 
swung the door barely wide enough to enter, call 
ing on them to stay out ; he would tell them if he 
needed them. 

"Augustly stay; maybe honolable t ieves!" he 

But the detective had interposed a stalwart leg 


and shoulder. Instantly the door swung open ; he 
acted as if he had lost his wits with excitement. 
"You re burning up! Lord! you re burning! 
Fire! Fire!" he bawled, and rushed boldly into the 

Winter followed him, also calling aloud in a 
strident voice. And it was to be observed, being 
such an unusual preparation for a conflagration, 
that he had drawn a heavy revolver and ran with 
it in his hand. Before he jumped out of the car 
he had discarded his thick top-coat and all his 

An observer, also (had there been one near), 
would have taken note of a robust Irishman, who 
had been weeding the flower-beds, and would have 
seen him straighten at the first peal of the ex 
plosion, stare wildly at the chimneys before any 
distinct smoke was to be seen, then run swiftly 
and climb up to a low chimney on a wing of the 
house, watering-pot in hand. He would have seen 
him empty his inadequate fire extinguisher and 
rapidly descend the ladder, while the smoke vol 
leyed forth, as if defying his puny efforts; later, 
he would have seen the watering-pot bearer pur 
sue the others into the house, emitting noble yells 
of "Fire!" and "Help!" 

The detective had interposed a stalwart leg and shoulder. Page 135 


Further, this same observer, had he been an in 
timate friend of Sergeant Dennis Haley, certainly 
would have recognized that resourceful man of 
war in the amateur fireman. 



When the two men got into the house the dim 
rooms made them stumble for a moment after 
the brilliant sunshine of the outer skies; but in 
a second Birdsall s groping hand had found an 
electric push-button and the room was flooded 
with light. They were in a small office off the 
kitchen, apparently. Smoke of a peculiarly pun 
gent odor and eye-smarting character blurred all 
the surroundings ; but during the moment the Jap 
halted to explore its cause the others perceived two 
doors and made for them. One was locked, but 
the other must have been free to open, since Ha 
ley, with his watering-can, bounded through it 
while they were tugging at the other. Almost im 
mediately, however, Haley was back again shout 
ing and pointing down the dark passage. 

"The fire s there" screamed the detective. "I 
can smell smoke! The smoke comes through the 
keyhole!" But while the Jap fitted a key in the 



lock and swung back the door, and Haley, who 
had paused to replenish his watering-can at a con 
venient faucet, darted after the other two, the 
colonel stood listening with every auditory nerve 
strained to catch some sound. He yelled "Fire! 
help!" at the top of his voice, but not moving a 
muscle. "Too far off," he muttered, then he 
yelled again and threw a heavy chair as if he had 
stumbled against it. Another pause ; he got down 
on his knees to put his ear to the floor. Directly 
he rose ; he did not speak, but the words that he 
said to himself were only : "Just possible. Some 
one down cellar; but not under here." Meanwhile 
he was hurrying in pursuit of the others as swiftly 
as his stiff knee would allow. He found them in 
a side hall with tiled or brick floor, gathered about 
a water-soaked heap of charred red paper. 

" Tis terrible!" announced Haley, "a bum for 
sure! a dinnermite bum!" fishing out something 
like a tin tomato can from the sodden mass. 

"Anyhow 7 , there goes the real thing," observed 
the colonel coolly, as a formidable explosion 
jarred the air. 

"If you blow us up, I kill you flist!" hissed the 
Ja~p, and his knife flashed. 

"Chito, ChitoT soothed the colonel, lifting his 


revolver almost carelessly. Simultaneously two 
brawny arms pinioned the Jap s own arms at his 

"Shure, Mister Samurai, tis the ongrateful 
chap youse is/ expostulated Haley. "I hate to 
reshtrain ye, but if ye thry any jehujits on me 
twill be sahanara wid youse mighty quick." 

"No understan ," murmured the Jap plaintively. 

"Come, put out the fire first," said the colonel ; 
"you know the house, you go ahead." 

The Jap darted on ahead so swiftly that they 
had some ado to follow ; which seemed necessary, 
since he might have clashed a bolt on them at any 
turn. The colonel s stiff leg kept him in the rear, 
but Haley was never a hand s breadth behind the 

They found smoke in two places, but they easily 
extinguished the tiny flames. In both cases the 
bombs turned out to be no more dangerous than 
a common kind of fireworks yielding a suffocating 
smoke in an inclosure, but doing no especial dam 
age on safe and fire-proof ground, like a hearth. 
They were quickly extinguished. In their search 
they passed from one luxurious room to another, 
the Jap leading, until he finally halted in a spa- 


cious library hung in Spanish leather, with an 
cient, richly carved Spanish tables and entrancing 
Spanish chairs of turned wood and age-mellowed 
cane, and bookcases sumptuously tempting a 
book-lover. But the colonel cared only for the soul 
of a book, not its body ; the richest and clearest of 
black letter or the daintiest of tooling had left 
him cold ; moreover, every fiber in him was strung 
by his quest ; and Haley, naturally, was immune ; 
strangely enough, it was the cheerful, vulgar little 
detective who gave a glance, rapid but full of ad 
miration, at the shelves and pile of missals on the 
table, incongruously jostled by magazines of the 

Winter faced the Jap, who was sheathed again 
in his bland and impassive politeness. "Where is 
Mr. Mercer?" said he. 

The Jap waved his hands in an eloquent ori 
ental gesture. He assured the honorable ques 
tioner that he did not know any Mr. Mercer. 
There was no one in the house. 

The colonel had seated himself in a priceless 
arm-chair in Cordova stamped leather; he no 
longer looked like an invalid. "Show your star, 
please," he commanded Birdsall, and the latter si 
lently flung back the lapel of his coat. 


"I ought to tell you," continued Rupert Win 
ter, "that the game is up. It would do no good 
for you to run that poisoned bit of steel of yours 
into me or into any of us; we have only to stay 
here a little too long and the police of San Fran 
cisco will be down on you oh, I know all about 
what sort they are, but we have money to spend 
as well as you. You take the note I shall write to 
Mr. Mercer, or whatever you choose to call him, 
and bring his answer. We stay here until he 

Having thus spoken in an even, gentle voice, he 
scribbled a few words on a piece of paper which 
he took out of his note-book. This he proffered to 
the Jap. 

On his part, the latter kept his self-respect ; he 
abated no jot of his assurance that they were alone 
in the house ; he insinuated his suspicion that they 
were there for no honest purpose; finally he was 
willing to search the house if they would stay 
where they were. 

"I am not often mistaken in people," was the 
colonel s rather oblique answer, "and I think you 
are a gentleman who might kill me if you had a 
chance, but would not break his word to me. If 
you will promise to play fair with us, do no harm 


to my nephew, take this letter and bring me an an 
swer if you find any one on your word of 
honor as a Japanese soldier and gentleman, you 
may go; we will not signal the police. Is it a 
bargain ?" 

The Jap gravely assented, still in the language 
of the East, "saving his face" by the declaration 
of the absence of his principals. And he went off 
as gracefully and courteously as if only the high 
est civilities had passed between them. 

"Won t he try some skin game on us?" the de 
tective questioned ; but Winter only motioned to 
ward the telephone desk. "Listen at it," he said, 
"you can tell if the wires are cut; and he knows 
your men are outside hiding, somewhere; he 
doesn t know how many. You see, we have the 
advantage of them there; to be safe they don t 
dare to let many people into their secret. We can 
have a w r hole gang. We haven t many, but they 
may think we have." 

Birdsall, who had lifted the receiver to his ear, 
laid it down with an appeased nod. Immediately 
he proceeded to satisfy his professional conscience 
by a search in every nook and cranny of the apart 
ment. But no result appeared important enough to 
justify the production of his red morocco note- 


book and his fountain-pen. He had paused in dis 
gust when the colonel sat up suddenly, erect in his 
chair; his keener ears had caught some sound 
which made him dart to all the windows in suc 
cession. He called Haley (whom he had posted 
outside to guard the door) and despatched him 
across the hall to reconnoiter. "I am sure it was 
the sound of wheels," he explained, "but Haley 
will be too late ; we are on the wrong side of the 

As he spoke the buzz of an electric bell jarred 
their ears. "Somebody is coming in the front 
door/ hazarded Birdsall. 

"Evidently," returned the colonel dryly. "How 
can our absent friends get in otherwise at least 
how can they let us understand they have come 
in ? I think we are going to have the pleasure of 
an interview with the elusive Mr. Mercer." 

They waited. The colonel motioned Birdsall to 
a seat by the table, within breathing distance of 
the telephone. He himself fluttered the loose 
journals and magazines, his ironic smile creasing 
his cheek. "Our Japanese friend reads the news 
papers," he remarked. "Here are to-day s papers ; 
yes, Examiner and Chronicle, unfolded and 
smoked over. Cigar, too, not cigarette, for here 


is a stump decidedly our cherry-blossom friends 
are getting civilized!" 

"Oh, there is somebody in here all right," 
grunted Birdsall. "Say, Colonel, you are sure 
Mrs. Winter has had no answer to her ad? No 
kind of notice about sending money ?" 

"I haven t seen her for a few hours, but I saw 
Mrs. Melville Winter ; she was positive no word 
had come. She thought my aunt was more wor 
ried than she would admit, and Miss Smith looked 
pale, although she seemed hopeful." 

"She didn t really want to give me the letter, I 
thought," said the detective. The colonel gave 
him no reply save a black look. A silence fell. A 
footfall outside broke it, a firm, in no wise 
stealthy footfall. Birdsall slipped his hand inside 
his coat. The colonel rose and bowed gravely to 
Cary Mercer. 

On his part, Mercer was not in the least flur 
ried ; he looked at the two men, not with the arro 
gant suspicion which had stung Winter on the 
train, but with the melancholy courtesy of his 
bearing at Cambridge, three years before. 

"This, I think, is Colonel Winter?" he said, re 
turning the bow, but not extending his hand, 
which hung down, slack and empty at his side. 


"I am glad you recognized me this time, Mr. 

"I am sorry that I did not recognize you be 
fore," answered Mercer. "Will you gentlemen be 
seated ? I am not the owner of the house nor his 
son ; I am not even a friend, only a casual ac 
quaintance of the young man, but I seem to be 
rather in the position of host, so will you be 
seated, and may I offer you some Scotch and 
Shasta Mr. ah " 

"Mr. Horatio Birdsall, of the Birdsall and 
Gwen Detective Agency," interposed Winter. 
Birdsall bowed. Mercer bowed. "Excuse me if 
I decline for us both; our time is limited no, 
thank you, not a cigar, either. Now, Mr. Mercer, 
to come to the point, I want my nephew. I un 
derstand he is in this house." 

"You are quite mistaken," Mercer responded 
with unshaken calm. "He is not." 

"Where is he, then?" 

"I do not know, Colonel Winter. What I 
should recommend is for you to go back to the 
Palace, and if you do not find him there why, 
come and shoot us up again!" His eye strayed 
for a second to the blackened, reeking mass on 
the great stone hearth. 


Have you sent him home? Is that what you 
mean to imply?" 

"I imply nothing. Colonel ; I don t dare to with 
such strenuous fighters as you gentlemen; only 
go and see, and if you do find the young gentle 
man has had no ill treatment, no scare only a 
little adventure such as boys like, I hope you will 
come out here, or wherever I may be, and have 
that cigar you are refusing." 

The colonel was frankly puzzled. He couldn t 
quite focus his wits on this bravado which had 
nothing of the bravo about it, in fact had a tinge 
of wistfulness in its quiet. One would have said 
the man regretted his compulsory attitude of an 
tagonism ; that he wanted peace. 

Mercer smiled faintly. "You ought to know 
by this time when a man is lying, Colonel," he 
continued, "but I will go further. I may have 
done plenty of wrong things in my life, some 
things, maybe, which the law might call a crime ; 
but I have never done anything which would de 
bar me from passing my word of honor as a gen 
tleman; nor any one else from taking it. I give 
you my word of honor that I have meant and I 
do mean no slightest harm to Archie Winter ; and 
that, while I do not know where he is at this 


speaking, I believe yon will find him safe under 
your aunt s protection when you get back to the 

"Call up the Palace Hotel, Mr. Birdsall," was 
the colonel s reply. "Mr. Mercer, I do not dis 
trust that you are speaking exactly, but you know 
your Shakespeare; and there are promises which 
keep their word to the ear but break it to the 

"I don t wonder at your mistake; but you are 
mistaken, suh." 

Birdsall was phlegmatically ringing up Mrs. 
Winter, having the usual experience of the rash 
person who intrudes his paltry needs on the com 
plex workings of a great hotel system. 

"No, I don t know the number, I haven t the 
book here, but you know, Palace Hotel. Well 
give me Information, then Busy? Well, give 
me another Information, then yes, I want the 
Palace Hotel P-a-1-a-c-e yes, yes, Palace Ho 
tel ; yes, certainly. Yes ? Mrs. Archibald Winter. 
Yes line busy? Well, hold on until it is disen 
gaged. Say, Miss Furber, that you? This is 
Birdsall and Gwen. Yes. Give me Mrs. Winter, 
will you, 337? This Mrs. Winter? Oh! When 
will she be back? Is Mrs. Melville Winter in? 


Well, Miss Smith in? She s gone, too? Has Mas 
ter Archibald got back, yet, to the hotel ? Hasn t ? 
Thank you eh?" in answer to the colonel s in 
terruption. "What say, Colonel ?" 

"Tell her to call up this number," the colonel 
read it out of the telephone book "when Master 
Archie does get back, will you ? I am afraid, Mr. 
Mercer, that you will have to allow us to trespass 
on your hospitality for a little longer." 

He suspected that Mercer was annoyed, al 
though he answered lightly enough: "As you 
please, Colonel Winter. I am sure you will hear 
very soon. Now, there is another matter, your 
machine; I understand you left it outside. Will 
you ring for Kito, Colonel? Under the circum 
stances you may prefer to do your own ringing. 
I will ask him to attend to the car." 

The colonel made proper acknowledgments. 
He was thinking that had Mercer cared to con 
fiscate the motor, he would have done it without 
ringing; on the other hand, did he desire some 
special intercourse with his retainer, wherein, un 
der their very noses, he could issue his orders 
well, possibly they might get a whiff of the secret 
themselves were he allowed to try. At present the 
game baffled him. Therefore he nodded at Bird- 


sail s puckered face behind Mercer s shoulder. 
And he rang the bell. 

The Jap answered it with suspicious alacrity. 

"Kito," said Mercer, "will you attend to Gen 
eral Winter s car ? Bring it up to the court." 

Absolutely harmless, to all appearances, but 
Birdsall, from his safe position behind master and 
man, looked shrewd suspicion at the soldier. 

"Shall your man in the hall go with him?" 
asked Mercer. 

The colonel shook his head. "No/ he said 
quietly, "we have other men outside if he needs 
help. Call Skid, please." But when Birdsall at 
tempted to get Central there was no response. 

The colonel merely shrugged his shoulders, al 
though Birdsall frowned with vexation. "What a 
pity!" said Winter softly. "Now the fellows will 
come when the time is up ; we can t call them off." 

Mercer smiled faintly. "There are two more 
telephones in the house," he observed. "You can 
call off your dogs easily any time you wish. Also 
you can hear from the Palace. Will you come up 
stairs with me? I assure you I have not the least 
intention to harm you or the honest sergeant." 

"You take the first trick, Mercer," said the colo 
nel. "I supposed the bell was your signn 1 to h?ve 


the wires cut. But about going; no, I think we 
will stay here. There is a door out on the court 
which, if you will open thank you. A charming 
prospect ! Excuse me if I send Haley out there ; 
and may I go myself?" 

Anticipating the answer, he stepped under the 
low mission lintel into a fairy-like Californian 
court or patio of pepper-trees and palms and a 
moss-grown fountain. There was the usual col 
onnade with a stone seat running round the wall. 
Mercer, smiling, motioned to one of them. "I 
wish I could convince you, Colonel, that you are 
in no need of that plaything in your hand, and 
that you are going to dine with your boy isn t 
he a fine fellow ?" 

The colonel did not note either his admission 
that he had seen Archie, nor a curious wanning 
of his tone ; he had stiffened and grown rigid like 
a man who receives a blow which he will not 
admit. He stole a glance at the detective and met 
an atrocious smirk of complacency. They both 
had caught a glimpse of a figure flitting into a 
door of the court. They both had seen a woman s 
profile and a hand holding a little steel tool which 
had ends like an alligator s nose. And both men 
had recognized Miss Smith. 



The time was two hours later. Rupert Winter 
was sitting on one of the stone benches of the 
colonnade about the patio. The court was suf 
fused with the golden glow presaging sunset. 
Warm afternoon shadows lay along the flags; 
wavering silhouettes of leafage or plant; blurred 
reflections from the bold bas-reliefs of Spanish 
warriors and Spanish priests sculptured between 
the spandrels of the arches. Winter s dull eyes 
hardly noted them : the exotic luxuriance of foli 
age, the Spanish armor and Spanish cowls were 
all too common to a denizen of a Spanish colony 
in the tropics, to distract his thoughts from his 
own ugly problem. He had been having it out 
with himself, as he phrased it. And there had 
been moments during those two hours, when he 
had ground his teeth and clenched his fists be 
cause of the futile and furious pain in him. 

iWhen he recognized Janet Smith, by that same 


illuminating flash he recognized that this woman 
who had been tricking him was the woman that 
he loved. He believed that he had said his last 
word to love, but love, after seeming to accept the 
curt dismissal, was lightly riding his heart again. 
"Fooled a second time/ he thought with inex 
pressible bitterness, recalling his unhappy mar 
ried life and the pretty, weak creature who had 
caused him such humiliation. Yet with her 
there had been no real wrong-doing, only absolute 
lack of discretion and a childish craving for gaiety 
and adulation. Poor child! what a woeful end 
ing for it all ! The baby, the little boy who was 
their only living child, to die of a sudden access 
of an apparently trifling attack of croup, while 
the mother was dancing at a post ball ! He was 
East, taking his examination for promotion. The 
frantic drive home in the chill of the dawn had 
given her a cold which her shock and grief left her 
no strength to resist she was always a frail little 
creature, poor butterfly! and she followed her 
baby inside of a month. Had she lived, her hus 
band might have found it hard to forgive her, for 
already a sore heart was turning to the child for 
comfort ; but she was dead, and he did not let his 
thoughts misuse her memory. Now here was an- 


other, so different but just as false. Then, he 
brought himself up with a jerk; he would be fair; 
he would look at things as they were ; many a man 
had been fooled by the dummy. He would not 
jump at conclusions because they were cruel, any 
more than he would because they were kind. 
There was such a thing, he knew well, as credu 
lous suspicion; it did more harm than credulous 
trust. Meanwhile, he had his detail. He was to 
find Archie; therefore, he waited. They were in 
the house; it were only folly to give up their ad 
vantage under the stress of any of Mercer s plaus 
ible lurings to the outside. 

Moreover, by degrees, he became convinced 
that Mercer, certainly to some extent, was sincere 
in his profession of belief in Archie s absence and 
safety. This, in spite of hearing several times that 
Archie was not returned. Mercer did all the 
speaking, but he allowed Birdsall to hold the re 
ceiver and take the message from Mrs. Winter. 

The telephone was in an adjoining room, but 
by shifting his position a number of times the 
colonel was able to catch a murmur of the con 
versation. He heard Mercer s voice distinctly. He 
had turned away and was following the detective 
out of the room. "I don t understand it any more 


than you do, Mr. Birdsall," he said; "you won t 
believe me, suh, but I am right worried." 

"Of course I believe you," purred the detective 
so softly that the colonel knew he did not believe 
any more than Mercer suspected. "Of course I 
believe you ; but I don t know what to do. It ain t 
on the map. I guess it s up to you to throw a 
little light. I ve called the boys off twice already 
and told em to wait an hour or a half-hour longer. 
I got to see the colonel." 

"I can trust my intuitions, or I can trust the 
circumstantial evidence," thought the colonel. He 
jumped up and began to pace the court. 

"Seems to be like a game of bridge before one 
can see the dummy," he complained; and as so 
often happens in the crises of life, a trivial illus 
tration struck a wavering mind with the force of 
an argument. His thoughts reverted whimsically 
to the card-table; how many times had he hesi 
tated over the first lead between evenly balanced 
suits of four ; and how often had he regretted or 
won, depending solely upon whether his card in 
stinct had been denied or obeyed ! It might be in 
stinct, this much-discussed "card instinct," or it 
might be a summing up of logical deductions so 
swift that the obscure steps were lost, and the 


reasoner was unconscious of his own logical pro 
cesses. "Now," groaned Rupert Winter, "I am up 
against it. She looks like a good woman; she 
seems like a good woman; but I have only my 
impressions and Aunt Rebecca s against the ap 
parent facts in the case. Well, Aunt Rebecca is a 
shrewd one!" He sat down and thought harder. 
Finally he rose, smiling. He had threshed out his 
problem; and his conclusion, inaudibly but very 
distinctly uttered to himself, was: "Me for my 
own impressions ! If that girl is in with this gang, 
either what they are after isn t so bad or they 
have made her believe it isn t bad." 

He looked idly about him at the arched door 
way of the outer court. It was carved with a fa 
vorite mission design of eight-pointed flowers 
with vase-like fluting below. There was a tiny 
crack in one of the flowers, the tiniest crack in 
the world. He looked at it without seeing it, or 
seeing it with only the outer half of his senses, 
but he could not have told how into his effort 
to pierce his own tangle there crept a sudden inter 
est, a sudden keenness of scrutiny of this minute, 
insignificant crack in the stone. He became aware 
that the crack was singularly regular, preserving 
the form of the flower and the fluting beneath. 


Kito, the Japanese, who was sitting at the far 
end of the court, conversing in amity with Haley, 
just here rose and came to this particular pillar. 
The Irishman sat alone, rimmed by the sunset 
gold, little spangles of motes drifting about him ; 
for the merest second Winter s glance lingered 
on him ere it went to the Jap, who passed him, 
courteously saluting. 

After he had passed, the colonel looked again 
at the column and the crack it was not there. 

"Chito, chito!" muttered the colonel. Care 
lessly he approached the column and took the 
same posture as the Jap. Unobtrusively his fin 
gers strayed over the stone. He scratched the 
surface; not stone, but cement. He tapped cau 
tiously, keeping his hand well hidden by his body ; 
no hollow sound rewarded him; but all at once 
his groping fingers touched a little round object 
under the bold point of an eight-pointed flower. 
He didn t dare press on it ; instead he resumed his 
cautious tapping. It seemed to him that the sound 
had changed. He glanced about him. Save for 
Haley he was alone in the patio. He pressed on 
the round white knob, and what he had half ex 
pected happened: a segment of the column 
swung on inner hinges, disclosing the hollow 


center of the engaged columns on either side. 
He looked down. Nothing but darkness was visi 
ble, but while he stood, tensely holding his breath, 
his abnormally sensitive auricular nerve caught 
distinctly the staccato breath of that kind of sigh 
which is like a groan, and a voice said more wear 
ily than angrily : "Oh, damn it all !" 

Almost simultaneously, he heard the faint foot 
falls of the men within; he must replace his 
movable flower. The column was intact, and he 
was bending his frowning brows on the stylobate 
of another when Birdsall and Mercer entered 
together, Mercer, with a shrug of his shoulders at 
the detective s dogged suspicion, preceding the 

"Well," said the colonel, "did you get my 

"Yes, suh, I got your aunt herself," responded 
Mercer, with his Virginian survival of the formal 
civility of an earlier generation. "Yes, suh; but 
I regret to say Archie is not there." 

"Where is he?" The soldier s voice was curt. 

"Honestly," declared Mercer, "I wish I knew, 
suh, I certainly do. But " Mercer s jaw fell; 
he turned sharply at the soft whir of an electric 


stanhope gently entering the patio through the 
great arched gateway. It stopped abreast of the 
group, and its only occupant, a handsome young 
man, jumped nimbly out of the vehicle. He greet 
ed them with a polite removal of his cap, a bow, 
and a flashing smile which made the circuit of 
the beholders. Birdsall and the colonel recog 
nized the traveling enthusiast of the Fireless 

The colonel took matters into his own hands. 

"I think you re the young gentleman who took 
my nephew away/ said he. "Will you kindly 
tell us where he is ?" 

"And don t get giddy, young gentleman," 
Birdsall chimed in, "because we know perfectly 
well that you are not the agent of the Peerless 
Fireless Stove." 

"I ve got one here on trial, and I ve come back 
to see if they like it," explained the young man, 
in silken accents, but with a dancing gleam of the 

"We are going to keep it," said Mercer. 
"Kito," calling the unseen Jap, "fetch that Fire- 
less Stove this gentleman left us, and show it to 
this gentleman here." 

"Oh, cut it out!" Birdsall waved him off. 


"It s only ten minutes before our fellows will 
come. You can put the police court wise with 
all that. Try it on them; it don t go with us." 

"Where is the boy?" said the colonel. 

"Tell him, if you know," said Mercer. "This 
gentleman," he explained, "left a stove with us 
to test. He was here about it this morning, and we 
gave Archie to him to take to the Palace Hotel." 

"And he is there now," said the young man. 

"Did you leave him there?" asked the colonel. 

"Yes, did you?" insisted Mercer. 

The young man looked from Mercer to the 
other two men. There was no visible appeal to 
the Southerner, but Winter felt sure of two 
things: one, that the new-comer was Mercer s 
confederate whom he was striving to shield by 
pretending to disavow; the other, that for some 
reason Mercer was as anxious for the answer as 
were they. 

"Why-y," hesitated the stove promoter, "you 
see, Mr. ah, gentlemen, you see, I was told to 
take the boy to the Palace Hotel, and I set out to 
do it. We weren t going at more than an eight- 
mile-an-hour clip, yet some foozler of a cop 
arrested us for speeding. It was perfectly ridicu 
lous, and I tried to shake him, but it was no use. 


They carried us off to a police court and stuck 
me for ten dollars. Meanwhile my machine and 
my passenger were outside. When I got outside 
I couldn t find them. I skirmished around, and 
finally did get the machine. I d taken the pre 
caution to fix it so it couldn t be run before I 
left it took the key out, you know it must 
have been trundled off by hand somewhere! 
but I couldn t find the boy. Naturally, I was a 
bit worried; but after I had looked up the force 
and the neighborhood, it occurred to me to phone 
to the Palace. I did, and I was told he was there." 

"Who told you?" The question came simulta 
neously out of three throats. 

"Why, Mrs. Winter that s what she called 

"But not three minutes ago Mrs. Winter told 
me that he wasn t there," remarked Mercer coldly. 
"When did you telephone?" 

"It was at least fifteen minutes ago," the young 
man said dolefully. "I say, wouldn t you better 
call them up again ? There may be some explana 
tion. I shouldn t have come back without the kid 
if I hadn t been sure he was safe." 

"Was it Mrs. Melville or Mrs. Winter you 
got?" This came from the colonel. "Did she by 


chance have an English accent, or was it South 

"Oh, no, not Southern," protested the young 
man. "Yes, I should say it was English or try 
ing to be." 

"It would be exactly like Millicent," thought 
the colonel wrathfully, "to try to fool the kid 
nappers, who had apparently lost Archie, by pre 
tending he was at the hotel !" 

He made no comment aloud, but he nodded as 
sent to Mercer s proposal to telephone; and then 
he walked up to the stove man. 

"The game is up," he said quietly. "We have 
a lot of men waiting outside. If we signal, they 
will come any minute; if we don t signal, they 
will come in ten minutes. Give us a chance to 
be merciful to you. This is no kind of a scrape 
for your father s son or for Arnold s." 

Shot without range though it was, Winter 
was sure that it went home under all the young 
fellow s assumed bewilderment. He continued, 
looking kindly at him : 

"You look now, I ll wager, about as you used to 
look in the office when you called on the dean 
by invitation and were wondering just where 
the inquiry was going to light !" 


The dimple showed in the young man s cheek. 
"I admit," he replied, "that I didn t take advan 
tage as I should of my university opportunities. 
Probably that is why I have to earn a strenuous 
livelihood boosting the Only Peerless Fireless 
Stove. By the way, have you ever seen the Fire- 
less in action ? Just the thing for the army ! Fills 
a long-felt want. I should be very pleased to 
demonstrate. We have a stove here." 

The colonel grinned responsively. "You do it 
very well," said he. "Can t you let me into the 

There was the slightest waver in the promoter s 
glance, although he smiled brilliantly as he 
answered : "I ll take it into consideration, but 
will you excuse me ? I want to speak to Mr. Mer 
cer about the stove." 

The moment he had removed his affable young 
presence Birdsall approached his employer. It 
had been a difficult quarter of an hour with the 
detective. Vague instinct warned him not to touch 
the subject of Miss Smith; he felt in no way as 
sured about anything else. The result had been 
that he had fidgeted in silence. But the accumu 
lated flood could no longer be held. 

"I ve found out one thing," exploded Birdsall, 


puffing in the haste of his utterance. "The boy 
is on the premises." 

"Think so?" was all the colonel s answer. 

"I m sure of it. Say, I overheard Mercer talk 
ing down a speaking-tube." 

"What did he say?" 

"Talked French, damn him! But say, what s 


"What s cupillo gorge?" 

"Sure he wasn t talking of a carriage, or did 
he say je le couperai la gorge?" 

"Maybe. I wouldn t swear to it. I don t paries 
franqais a little bit." 

"Did you hear any other noises? Where were 

Birdsall thought he had heard other noises, 
and that they were down cellar. "And anyhow, 
Colonel, I m dead-to-rights sure those guys are 
giving us hot stuff to get us out of the house. 
I m for getting our men in now and rushing the 
house. It s me for the cellar." 

While the colonel was rolling Birdsall s infor 
mation around in his mind, he heard the echo of 
steps on the flagging which preceded Mercer and 
the other man. 


There was that in the bearing and the look of 
them that made the watcher, used to the signs of 
decision on men s faces, instantly sure that their 
whole course of plans and action was changed. 

Mercer spoke first and in a low tone to the 

"I have no right," said he, "to ask so much 
trust from you, but will you trust me enough 
to step aside with this young man and me for a 
moment only out of ear-shot? I give you my 
word of honor I mean no slightest harm to you. 
I want to be frank. I will go alone if you de 

The colonel eyed him intently for the briefest 
space. "I ll trust you," said he. Then : "I think 
you have the key to this queer mix-up. At your 
service. And let your friend come, too. He is an 
ingenuous sort, and he amuses me." 

Birdsall looked distinctly sullen over the re 
quest to wait, intimating quite frankly that his 
employer was walking into a trap. "I won t 
stand here more than fifteen minutes," he grum 
bled. "I ve given those fellows poco tiente long 
enough." But the colonel insisted on twenty min 
utes, and reluctantly Birdsall acquiesced. 

Mercer conducted the others to the library. 


When they were seated he began in his composed, 
melancholy fashion: 

"I earnestly beg of you to listen to me, and 
to believe me, for your nephew s sake. I am go 
ing to tell you the absolute truth. It is the only 
way now. When you came, we handed him over 
to this gentleman, exactly as we have said. I do 
not know why he should have been stopped. I 
do not know why he left the machine " 

"Might he not have been carried away?" said 

"He might; but I don t know what motive " 

"What motive had you? You kidnapped him !" 

"Not exactly. We had no intention of harm 
ing him. He came accidentally into the room be 
tween Mrs. Winter s and Mr. Keatcham s suites. 
Standing in that room, trying to stanch the bleed 
ing of a sudden hemorrhage of the nose, he over 
heard me and my friend " 

"You?" asked the colonel laconically of the 
young Harvard man. 

"I," smilingly confessed the latter. "I am 
ready to own up. You are a decent fellow, and 
you are shrewd. You ought to be on our side, 
not fighting us. I tell you, you don t want to have 
the boy turn up safe and sound any more than I 


do. Mr. Mercer was talking to me, and the kid 
overheard. We heard him and went into the 
room " 


"Knocked on the door and he opened it. And 
we jumped on him. It was life and death for us 
not to be blown on ; so, as we didn t wish to kill 
the kid, and as we didn t know the youngster well 
enough to trust him then although we might, 
for he is game and the whitest chap! but we 
didn t know why, we just told him he would 
have to stay with us a while until our rush was 
over. That was all we meant; and we let him 
phone you." 

"How about his great-aunt the cruel anx 

"Anxiety nothing!" began the other man, but 
a glance from Mercer cut him short. 

The Southerner took the word in his slow, gen 
tle voice. "I tried to reassure our aunt, Colonel 
Winter. I think I succeeded. She telephoned and 
I told her it was all right. As for Archie, 
after we talked with him, he was willing enough 
to go. He stole out with my friend inside of 
five minutes, while you all were searching your 
rooms. It was he insisted on calling you up, lest 


you should be worried. He said you were right 
afraid of kidnappers, and you would be sending 
the police after us. You can call Mrs. Winter up 
and find out if I am not telling you the exact 

"Very well, I will; 9 said Winter. They met 
the sullen detective at the door. Gary Mercer, 
with his mirthless smile, led the way. Mercer 
rang up the hotel for Winter, himself. To the 
colonel s vast relief Aunt Rebecca answered the 

"Est-ce que c est vous-meme, mon neveu?" 
said she dryly. 

"Mais oui, ma tante. Why are you speaking 
so formally in foreign tongues? Is Millicent on 

"In her room," came the answer, still in 
French. "Well, you have got us in a pretty mess. 
Where is my boy ?" 

"I only wish I knew ! Tell me now, though, is 
Mercer s story straight ?" 

"Absolutely. You may trust him." 

"What s his real game, then? The one he was 
afraid Archie would expose ?" 

"Ask him." 

"But you are in it, aren t you ?" 


"Enough to ask that you abandon the chase 
immediately! Unless you wish to ruin me!" 

"You ll have to speak plainer. I ve been kept 
in the dark as long as I can stand in this matter." 

But before he could finish the sentence. 
"Pas id, pas maintcnant c est trop de peril," 
she cried, and she must have gone, for he could 
get no more from her. When he rang again, 
Randall responded: 

"Mrs. Winter says, sir, will you please come 
up here as quick as you can. She s gone out. She 
thought she caught sight of Mr. Archie on the 

To the colonel s demand, "Where, how did 
she see him ?" he obtained no answer, and on his 
vicious pealing of the bell there came, eventually, 
mellow Anglican accents which asked: "Yes? 
Whom do you wish to see?" It is an evidence of 
the undisciplined nature of the sex that the soldier 
made a face and hung up the receiver. 

He found himself although this to a really 
open mind is no excuse in a muddle of conflict 
ing impulses. He was on edge to get into the 
street for the search after the boy ; he was clutched 
in a vise by his conviction that the clue to Ar 
chie s whereabouts lay in Mercer s hands, and 


that the Southerner meant no harm to the lad. 
And all the while he could feel Birdsall tugging 
at the leash. 

"It s on the cards/ he grumbled, with a wry 
face, "quite on the cards that he may bolt in spite 
of me, and do some foolish stunt of his own that 
will make a most awful muddle." 

Not nearly so composed as he looked, therefore, 
he turned to Mercer. However, his ammunition 
was ready, and to Mercer s inquiry, was he satis 
fied? he replied calmly: "Well, not entirely. If 
Archie isn t in the house, who is it whose throat 
you wish to cut ? Who is hidden here ?" 

It could not have been an unexpected question 
or Mercer hardly had answered so readily : "You 
know who it is," said he. "It is Mr. Keatcham." 



If Mercer s avowal surprised the colonel, there 
was no trace of such emotion in his face or his 
manner. "I rather thought it might be," he said. 
"And our young friend who is promoting Fireless 
Stoves with the solemn energy he learned doing 
Dicky stunts ?" 

"Mr. Endicott Tracy/ Mercer had the manner 
of a ceremonious introduction. Tracy flavored 
the customary murmur of pleasure with his ra 
diant smile. 

"Pleased, I am sure," said the colonel in turn, 
bowing. "Your father, I suppose, is the president 
of the Midland; and Mr. Keatcham will, I sup 
pose, not be able to prevent his reelection to 
morrow. Is that the game ?" 

Mr. Tracy s son admitted that it might be. 

"Ah, very clever," said the colonel, "very. 
Any side-show, for example?" 

"I did not go into this for money." Mercer s 


level gaze did not relax, and he kept his dreary 
eyes unflinchingly on Winter s. A peculiar look 
in the eyes recalled some tragic and alien memory, 
just what, Rupert could not capture; it flitted 
hazily through his thoughts ere the next words 
drove it off. "Nevertheless, it is true that if we 
win out I shall have enough to pay back to all 
the people who trusted me the money they lost 
when they were frightened into selling their stock 
in the Tidewater, and your aunt and Mr. Tracy 
stand to make money." 

"How do you expect to make it ?" 

"The M. and S. stock is away down because 
of rumors Keatcham is likely to control it. When 
it is settled it is not to be looted by him, the stock 
will rise we are sure of the ten points ; we may 
make twenty " 

"And my aunt has financed your scheme, has 
she ? paid all your expenses ?" 

The Harvard man laughed out. "Our ex 
penses f Oh, yes, she has grub-staked us, all 
right; but she has done a good deal more she 
has furnished more than half a million to us for 
our gamble." 

The colonel considered; then: "But why did 
you keep him here so long beforehand ?" said he. 


"It was not long beforehand/ said Mercer. 
"The meeting was adjourned for a day we 
don t know why we fancy that his partners sus 
pect something. It is called for to-morrow, in 
spite of their efforts to have it put off a week. 
But we want more ; we want to induce Keatcham 
to vote his own stock for us, and to call off his 
dogs himself." 

"And you can t force him to do it?" 

"We shall force him, easily enough," returned 
Mercer, "but we don t trust him. We want his 
private code-book to be sure he is playing fair. 
In fact, we have to have it, because nothing gets 
any attention that isn t, so to speak, properly in 

"And he will not give it to you?" 

"Says he has lost it." 

"Perhaps he has," mused the soldier. "But 
now, all this is not my concern, except that I 
have no right, as a soldier, even passively to aid 
in breaking the laws. It is my duty to rescue and 
free Mr. Keatcham." 

But before he could speak further Mercer lifted 
a hand in apologetic interruption. Would Colonel 
Winter excuse him, but he must ask Mr. Tracy 
to go back to the patio and have an eye on the 


detective. Endicott only exchanged a single 
glance before he obeyed. Mercer s eyes followed 
him. "It was not to be helped," he said, half to 
himself, "but I have been sorry more than once 
that I had to take him into this." 

Winter looked at him, more puzzled than he 
wanted to admit to himself; indeed, he was rather 
glad to have the next word come from Mercer. 

"I have a few things I want to say to you; 
they go easier when we are alone but won t you 
sit down?" When the colonel had seated himself 
he went on : "I d like to explain things a bit." 

"I d like to have you," answered the soldier. 
"I think you have the clue to Archie s where 
abouts and don t recognize it yourself; so put me 
wise, as the slang goes." 

Then, without preface, in brief, nervous sen 
tences, spoken hardly with a quiver of a muscle 
or a wavering cadence of the voice, yet neverthe 
less instinct with a deadly earnestness, Mercer 
began to talk. He told of his struggling youth 
on the drained plantation, mortgaged so that after 
the interest was paid there was barely enough to 
get the meagerest living for his mother and sister 
and little brother; of his accidental discovery of 
iron ore on the place; of his working as a com- 


mon laborer in the steel mills ; of his being "roos 
ter," "strand-boy," "rougher," "heater," "roller," 
during three years while he was waiting for his 
chance ; of his heart-draining toil ; of his solitary 

"I never was the kind of fellow to make 
friends," he said, in his soft, monotonous voice, 
"so I expect I was the fonder of my own kin. 
I d a mighty good mother, sir, and sister; and 
there was Phil my little brother. We were right 
happy all together on the old place that s been 
in our family for a hundred years, and it was all 
we asked to stay there; but it had every dollar 
of mortgage it could stand, and the soil all worn 
out, needing all kinds of things; and I wish you 
could have seen the makeshifts we had for ma 
chines! I was blacksmith and carpenter and 
painter just sixteen, and not an especially 
bright chap, but mighty willing to work ; and my 
mother and Sis and I we did a heap. When I 
stumbled on the ore I couldn t be sure, but I 
wrote to Aunt Rebecca Winter. She sent a man 
down. He looked up things. It would take a heap 
of money to work the mines, but it might be a 
big thing. She paid off the mortgage and took 
another. First to last, she s been mighty kind to 


us. She would have done more had we let her. 
So I went to Pittsburgh and learned my trade, 
and I made enough to pay interest, and the peo 
ple at home got a fairly good living. When I was 
twenty-one I was back home, and got a company 
started and put up a mill. You know how those 
things have to creep up. But there was ore, all 
right, and I understood my business and taught 
the hands. We d a right sweet little mill. Well, 
I don t want to take up your time, suh. Those 
next ten or twelve years were right hard work, 
but they were happy, too. We prospered; we 
helped the whole county prosper. We paid Aunt 
Becky. We were in good shape. We went 
through 93 paying our dividends just as regular, 
and making them, too, though we didn t much 
more it was close sailing. But we were honest ; 
we made a mighty good article; and everybody 
trusted us. Then came the craze for mergers, 
and a number of us got together. Still we weren t 
very big, but we were big enough to be listed. 
I didn t want it, but some of the men thought it 
was a terrible fine thing to be Iron Kings/ That 
was how. Keatcham was looking over the country 
for fish for his net; he somehow heard that here 
was a heap of good ore and new mills. The first 


intimation we had was his secretary coming as a 
Northern invalid why, he stayed at our house 
because we were so sorry for him, the hotel be 
ing in new hands and not right comfortable. He 
seemed so interested in our mills, and bought 
some stock, and sent presents to Phil and my 
mother after he went." 

"That was Keatcham s private secretary, you 

"Yes, suh, Atkins. You met him on the train 
as sleek and deadly a little scoundrel as ever 
got rich quick. Oh, he s deep. Well, suh, you 
know the usual process. Convinced of the value 
of the property, Keatcham and one or two others 
set out to buy it. They got little blocks of it 
here and there. Then Atkins wrote me in confi 
dence that some men were after the controlling 
interest and meant to squeeze us all out offered 
to lend me money to buy of course, on a mar 
gin. And I was plumb idiot enough to be tolled 
into his trap! I, who had never speculated with 
a dollar before, I didn t borrow his money, but I 
took all I could raise myself, and I bought 
enough to be sure I could control the next elec 
tion. Then the slump came, and after the slump 
the long, slow crumbling. I controlled the elec- 


tion all right, of course, but before the next one 
came I was ruined, and Keatcham put his own 
men in. I went desperately to New York. I 
didn t know how to fight those fellows; it was a 
new game. I didn t find Atkins. Maybe because 
that wasn t his name when I had known him. I 
was so sure that the property was good as if 
that mattered! As if anything mattered with 
these gamblers who play with loaded dice and 
dope the horses they bet against! Phil had all 
his property in the mills ; we all had. We mort 
gaged the house ; we had to, to protect our stock. 
You know how the fight ended, and what hap 
pened at Cambridge. That isn t all. My wife " 
He stood a little straighter, and the light went 
out of his eyes. "I told you I don t make friends 
easily, and I am not the kind of man women take 
to; all the same, the loveliest girl in the South 
loved me ever since I jumped over the mill-dam 
to save her rag doll, once, when she was visiting 
her aunt near us. I d married, when we seemed 
prosperous. Now, understand me, I don t say 
it was my ruin and Phil s death that killed her 
and the baby; she had pneumonia, and it may be 
that seeing that paper by accident didn t turn the 
scale; but I do say that she had her last hours 


embittered by it. That s enough for me. When 
I got home with with Phil, she was dead." 

"Tough," said the colonel. He began to revise 
his impressions of Mercer. 

"Wasn t it?" the other asked, with a simplicity 
of appeal that affected the listener more than any 
thing he had heard. He jumped out of his chair 
and began pacing the room, talking more rapidly. 
"You re a man; you know what I wanted to do." 

"Kill somebody, I suppose. / should." 

"Just that. I ran Atkins to cover after a while 
through Endicott Tracy. That boy is one of the 
noblest fellows that ever lived ; yes, suh. He was 
going to help poor Phil, Phil s room-mate had 
told him. All those boys look a-here, Colonel 
Winter, if ever anybody talks to you about Har 
vard fellows being indifferent " 

"I shall tell him he can t get under the Ameri 
can surface. A Harvard boy will do anything on 
earth for his friends." 

"They were mighty good to me. It was Endy 
found out about Atkins, just from my description 
of him. I found out about Keatcham for my 
self. And you are quite right for a little while 
I wanted to kill them both. Looked like I just 
naturally had to kill them! But there was my 


mother. There was nobody to take care of her 
but Sis and me, and a trial for murder is terri 
bly expensive. Of course, anybody can get off 
who has got money and can spend it ; but it takes 
such an awful heap of money. And we were all 
ruined together, for what little was left was all 
in the company, and that promptly stopped paying 
dividends. I couldn t risk it. I had to wait. I 
had to go to work to support my mother, to pay 
Sis and her back, don t you see? We came here. 
I got a job, a well-paid one, too, through Endy s 
father, reporting on the condition of the mills 
a kind of examiner. And the job was for 

"Why did you take it? I know, though. You 
did it to familiarize him with your appearance, 
so that he would not be warned when your 
chance came." 

"How did you know that?" 

"A man I knew in the Philippines a Filipino 
was wronged by a white man, who took his 
wife and threw her aside when he tired of her. 
The girl killed herself. Her husband watched 
his chance for a year, found it at last thanks 
to that very fact that his victim wasn t on guard 
against him and sent his knife home. He d 


been that fellow s servant. I picked the dead man 
up. That Filipino looked as you looked a minute 

"What became of the Filipino?" inquired his 

The colonel had not told the story quite with 
out intention. He argued subconsciously, that 
if Mercer were a good sort under all, he would 
have a movement of sympathy for a more cruelly 
wronged man than he; if not, he would drive 
ahead to his purpose, whatever that might be. 
His keen eyes looked a little more gentle as he 
answered : "He poisoned himself. The best way 
out, I reckon. I should hate to have had him 
shot after I knew the story. But there was really 
no option. But I m interrupting you. You did 
your work well and won Keatcham s confidence ?" 

"He isn t a very confiding man. I didn t see 
him often. My dealings were with Atkins. He 
didn t know that I had found him out ; he thought 
that he had only to explain his two names, and 
expected gratitude for his warning, as he called 
it. He is slimy; but I was able to repay a little 
of my score with him. I was employed by more 
than Keatcham, and I saw a good many industrial 
back-yards. Just by chance, I came on a clue, and 


Endy Tracy and I worked it up together. Atkins 
was selling information to Keatcham s enemies. 
We did not make out a complete case, but enough 
of one to make Keatcham suspect him, and at 
the right time. But that happened later you see, 
I don t know how to tell a story even with so 
much at stake." He pulled out his handkerchief, 
and Winter caught the gleam of the beads on his 
sallow forehead. "It was this way," he went on. 
"At first I was only looking about for a safe 
chance to kill him, and to kill that snake of an 
Atkins; but then it grew on me; it was all too 
easy a punishment just a quick death, when his 
victims had years of misery. I wanted him to 
wade through the hell / had to wade through. 
I w r anted him to know why he was condemned. 
Then it was I began to collect just the cases I 
knew about just one little section of the horrible 
swath of agony and humiliation and poverty and 
sin he and his crowd had made the one I knew 
every foot of, because I d gone over it every night 
I wasn t so dead tired I had to sleep. God ! do you 
know what it is to have the people who used to 
be running out of their houses just to say howdy 
to you, curse you for a swindler or a fool or 
turn out of one street and down the other not 


to pass you? Did you ever have a little woman 
who used to give you frosted cake when you were 
a boy push her crape veil off her gray hair and 
hand you the envelope with her stock, with your 
handwriting on the envelope, and beg you try 
ing so hard not to cry, twas worse than if she 
had beg you to lend her just half her interest 
money and you couldn t do it? Did you never 
mind. I said I waded through hell. I did! Not I 
alone that was the worst all the people that had 
trusted me ! And just that some rich men should 
be richer. Why should they have the lion s share ? 
The lion s share belongs to the lion. They are 
nothing but jackals. They re meaner than jackals, 
for the jackals take what the lion leaves, and 
these fellows steal the lion s meat away from 
him. We made honest money; we paid honest 
wages; folks had more paint on their houses 
and more meat in their storehouses, and wore bet 
ter clothes Sunday, and there were more school- 
houses and fewer saloons, and the negroes were 
learning a trade instead of loafing. The whole 
county was the better off for our prosperity, and 
there isn t a mill in the outfit and I know what 
I m talking about there isn t a shop or a mine 
that s as well run or makes as big an output now 


as it did when the old crowd was in. You find 
it that way everywhere; and that s what is going 
to break things down. We saw to all the little 
affairs; they were our affairs, don t you know? 
But Keatcham s new men draw their salaries and 
let things slide. Yet Keatcham is a great manager 
if he would only take the time ; only he s too busy 
stealing to develop his businesses; there s more 
money in stealing a railway than in building one 
up. Oh, he isn t a fool; if I could once get him 
where he would have to listen, I know I could 
make him understand. He s pretty cold-blooded, 
and he doesn t realize. He only sees straight 
ahead, not all round, like all these superhumanly 
clever thieves; they have mighty stupid streaks. 
Well, I ve got him now, and it is kill or cure for 
him. He can t make a riffle. I knew I couldn t 
do anything alone ; I had to wait. I had to have 
stronger men than I am to help. By and by they 
tried their jackal business on a real lion on 
Tracy. They wanted to steal his road. I got on 
to them first. I see a heap of people in a heap of 
different businesses the little people who talk. 
They notice all right, but they can see only their 
own little patch. I was the fellow riding round 
and seeing the township. I pieced together the 


plot and I told Endy Tracy. He wouldn t believe 
me at first, because his father had given Keatcham 
his first start and done a hundred things for him. 
To be sure, his father has been obliged as an hon 
est man to oppose Keatcham lately, but Keatcham 
couldn t mean to burn him out that way. But he 
soon found that was precisely what Keatcham 
did mean. Then he was glad enough to help me 
save his father. The old man doesn t know a 
thing ; we don t mean he ever shall know. We let 
him put up the best sort of a fight a man can with 
his hands tied while the other fellow is free. My 
hands are free, too. I don t respect the damned 
imbecile laws that let me be plundered any more 
than they do ; and since my poor mother died last 
summer I am not afraid of anything; they are; 
that s where I have the choice of weapons. I tell 
you, suh, nobody is big enough to oppress a des 
perate man! Keatcham had one advantage he 
had unlimited money. But Aunt Rebecca helped 
us out there. Colonel, I want you to know I didn t 
ask her for more than the bare grub-stake ; it was 
she herself that planned our stock deal." 

"She is a dead game sport," the colonel 
chuckled. "I believe you." 

"And I hope you don t allow that I was willing 


to have her mix herself in our risks. She would 
come ; she said she wanted to see the fun " 

"I believe you again/ the colonel assured him, 
and he remembered the odd sentence which his 
aunt had used the first night of their journey, 
when she expressed her hankering to match her 
wits against those of a first-class criminal. 

"We didn t reckon on your turning up, or the 
complication with Archie. I wish to God we d 
taken the boy s own word ! But, now you know 
all about it, will you keep your hands off ? That s 
all we ask." 

"Well," the colonel examined his finger-nails, 
rubbing his hands softly, the back of one over the 
palm of the other "well, you haven t quite told 
me all. Don t, unless you are prepared to have it 
used against you, as the policemen say before the 
sweat-box. What did you do to Keatcham to get 
him to go with you so like Mary s little lamb?" 

"I learned of a little device that looks like a 
tiny currycomb and is so flat and small you can 
bind it on a man s arm just over an artery. Just 
press on the spring and give the least scratch, and 
the man falls down in convulsions. I showed him 
a rat I had had fetched me, and killed it like a 
flash. He had his choice of walking out quietly 


with me I had my hand on his arm or drop 
ping down dead. He went quietly enough." 

"That was the meaning of his look at me, was 
it ?" Winter thought. He said only : "Did Endi- 
cott Tracy know about that?" 

"Of course not/ Mercer denied. "Do you 
reckon I want to mix the boy up in this more than 
I have? And Arnold only knew I was trying 
some kind of bluff game." 

"I will lay odds, though," the colonel ventured 
in his gentlest tone, "that Mr. Samurai, as Haley 
calls him, knew more. But when did you get rid 
of Atkins?" 

"Mr. Keatcham discharged him at Denver. I 
met Mr. Keatcham here; it was arranged on the 
train. We had it planned out. If that plan had 
failed I had another." 

"Neat. Very neat. And then you became the 

Mercer flushed in an unexpected fashion. "Cer 
tainly not !" he said with emphasis. "Do you think 
I would take his wages and not do the work faith 
fully? No, suh. I assumed to be his secretary in 
the office ; that gave me a chance to arrange every 
thing. But I did it to oblige him. I never touched 
a cent of his money. I paid, in fact, for our board 


out of our own money. It would have burned my 
fingers, suh !" 

"And the valet? Was he in your plot? Don t 
answer if you " 

"He was not, suh," replied Gary Mercer. "He 
is a right worthy fellow, and he thought, after he 
had seen to the tickets which he did very care 
fully and given them to me, he could go off on 
the little vacation which came to him by his mas 
ter through me." 

"That s a little bit evasive. However, I haven t 
the right to ask you to give away your partners, 
anyhow." He was peering at Mercer s face be 
hind his glasses, but the pallid, tired features re 
turned him no clue to the thoughts in the head 
above them. "What have you done with Mr. 
Keatcham ?" he concluded suddenly. 

The question brought no change of expression, 
and Mercer answered readily : "I put him off by 
himself, where he sees no one and hears nothing. 
I read a good deal about prisons and the most 
effectual way of taming men, and solitary con 
finement is recommended by all the authorities. 
His meals are handed to him by by a mechanical 
device. He has electric light some of the time, 
turned on from the outside. He has a comfortable 


room and his own shower-bath. He has comfort 
able meals. And he is supplied with reading." 

"Reading?" repeated the colonel, his surprise 
in his voice. 

For the first time he saw Mercer smile, but it 
was hardly a pleasant smile. "Yes, suh, reading," 
he said. "I have had type-written copies made of 
all the cases which I discovered in regard to his 
stealing our company. I reasoned that when he 
would get absolutely tired of himself and his own 
thoughts he would just naturally be obliged to 
read, and that would be ready for him. He tore 
up one copy." 

"Hmn I can t say I wonder. What did you 

"I sent him another. I expected he would do 
that way. After a while he will go back to it, be 
cause it will draw him. He ll hate it, but he will 
want to know them all. I know his nature, you 


"What are you going to do with him ?" 

"Let him go, after he does what we want and 
promises never to molest any of us." 

"But can you trust him ?" 

"He never breaks his word," replied Mercer 
indifferently, "and besides, he knows he will be 


killed if he should. He isn t given to being scared, 
but he s scared of me, all right." 

"What do you want him to do ?" 

"Promise to be a decenter man and to let Mr. 
Tracy alone in future ; meanwhile, to send a wire 
in his secret code saying he has changed his mind. 
It will not surprise his crowd. He never confides 
in them, and he expects them to obey blindly any 
thing in that code language. I reckon other tele 
grams are just for show, and they don t notice 
them much." 

The colonel took a turn around the room to 
pack away this information in an orderly fashion 
in his mind. Mercer waited patiently ; he had said 
truly that he was used to waiting. Perhaps he 
supposed that Winter was trying the case in his 
own mind ; but in reality Rupert was seeking only 
one clue, as little diverted from his purpose as a 
bloodhound. He began to understand the man 
whose fixed purpose had his own quality, but 
sharpened by wrong and suffering. This man had 
not harmed Archie; as much as his warped and 
fevered soul could feel softer emotions, he was 
kindly intentioned toward the lad. Who had car 
ried him away, then? Or was he off on his own 
account, really, this time? Or suppose Atkins, 


the missing secretary discharged at Denver, com 
ing back for another appeal to his employer, find 
ing Keatcham gone, but, let one say, stumbling 
on some trace of mystery in his departure; sup 
pose him to consider the chance of his having his 
past condoned and a rosy future given him if his 
suspicions should prove true and he should release 
the captive wouldn t such a prospect spur on a 
man who was as cunning as he was unprincipled ? 
Mightn t he have watched all possible clues, and 
mightn t he have heard about Archie and plotted 
to capture the child, thinking he would be easily 
pumped? That would presuppose that Atkins 
knew that Archie was at the Arnolds or no, he 
might only have seen the boy on the street; he 
knew him by sight; the colonel remembered that 
several times Archie had been with him in Keatch- 
am s car. It was worth considering, anyhow. He 
spoke out of his thoughts : "Do you think Keatch 
am could have told the truth, and that code of 
his be lost or stolen ? Why couldn t Atkins have 
stolen it? He had the chance, and he isn t ham 
pered by principle, you say." 

Mercer frowned; it was plain the possibility 
had its argument for him. "He might," he con 
ceded, "but I doubt it. Why hasn t he done some- 


thing with it? He hasn t. They wouldn t have 
postponed that meeting if he had wired his proxy 
and his directions in the code. He d have voted 
his employer s stock. He s got too much at stake. 
I happen to know he thought it a sure tip to sell 
short, and he has put almost all he has on it. You 
see, Keatcham was banking on that; he knew it. 
He thought Atkins wouldn t dare give any of his 
secrets away or go against him in this deal, be 
cause they were in the same boat." 

"Still, I reckon I ll have to see Keatcham." 

Mercer shook his head, gently but with deci 
sion. "I hate to refuse you, Colonel, but unless 
you promise not to interfere, it is impossible. But 
I ll gladly go with you to see if we can find any 
trace of Archie. I ll risk that much. And if you 
will promise " 

"Such a promise would be impossible to an of 
ficer and a gentleman," the colonel urged lightly, 
smiling. "Besides, don t you see I have all the 
cards ? I have only to call in my men. I d hate to 
do it, but if you force me, you would have no 
chance resisting." 

"We shouldn t resist, Colonel, no, suh; your 
force is overwhelming. But it would do no good ; 
you couldn t find him." 


"We could try; and we may be better sleuths 
than you imagine." 

"Then it would be the worse for him ; for if you 
find him, you will find him dead." 

There was something so chilling in his level 
tones that Winter broke out sharply : "Are you 
fooling with me? Have you been such an in 
credible madman as to kill him already?" 

Mercer s faint smile made the colonel feel boy 
ish and impetuous. "Of course not, suh," he an 
swered. "I told you he was alive, myself. I reck 
oned you knew when a man is lying and when he 
is telling the solemn truth. You know I have told 
you the truth and treated you on the square. But, 
just the same, if you try to take that man away, 
you ll only have his dead body. He can t do any 
more harm then, and a dead man can t vote." 

The colonel, who had taken out his cigarette- 
case, opened it and meditatively fingered the rub 
ber band. "Do you reckon," he suggested, in his 
most amiable voice, "do you reckon young Ar 
nold and Endicott Tracy will stand for such frills 
in warfare as assassination?" 

"I do not, suh," replied Mercer gravely, and as 
he spoke he pushed back the heavy tapestry hid 
ing a window opposite the colonel s head, "but 


they can both prove an alibi. Mr. Arnold is in 
Pasadena, and there goes Mr. Tracy now in his 
machine to try to find Archie. Do you see?" 

The colonel saw. He inclined his head, at the 
same time proffering his case. 

"I rather think, Mr. Mercer, that I was wrong. 
You have the last trump." 



It was no false lure to distract pursuit, that hur 
ried sentence of Randall s which had met the colo 
nel s angry appeal for information. The woman 
was not only repeating Mrs. Winter s message; 
the message itself described a fact. As she stood 
at her room telephone, Aunt Rebecca had hap 
pened to glance at Randall, supplementing the per 
functory dusting of the hotel maid with her own 
sanitary, dampened, clean cloth; Randall s eyes 
suddenly glazed and bulged in such startling trans 
formation that, instead of questioning her, Mrs. 
Winter stepped swiftly to the window where she 
was at work, to seek the cause of her agitation. 

"Oh, Lord! Oh, Mrs. Winter!" gasped Ran 
dall. "Ain t that Master Archie?" 

Mrs. Winter saw for herself; the face at a cab 

window, the waving of a slim hand Archie s 

face, Archie s hand. Brief as was the space of his 

passing (for the two horses in the cab were trot- 



ting- smartly) , she was sure of both. "Give me my 
bonnet/ she commanded, "any bonnet, any 
gloves ! And my bag with some money !" 

It was as she flung through the door that she 
threw her message to the colonel back exactly as 
Randall had submitted it. Miss Smith was com 
ing along the loggia. "Don t stop me !" said Mrs. 
Winter sternly. "I ve seen Archie; I m after 

"Stop!" cried Miss Smith but it was to the 
elevator boy who was whizzing below them in his 
cage, not to her employer; and she boarded the 
elevator with the older woman. "I ll go with 
you," she said. There was no vibration in her 
even tones, although a bright red flickered up in 
her cheek. 

But Rebecca Winter caught savagely at her 
breath, which was coming fast. "It is not with 
the running; you needn t think it, Janet," she 
panted sharply, in a second. "It was the sight of 
his face so suddenly; I never expected any face 
would make my heart pump like that again. All 
of which shows" she was speaking quite natur 
ally and placidly again "that women may grow 
too old for men to make fools of them, but never 
for children. Come ; it was a shabby sort of hack 


he was in, drawn by two horses with auburn tails. 
Here s the office floor." 

Not a word did Janet Smith say ; she was not a 
woman of words in any case. Moreover, the pace 
which Mrs. Winter struck was too rapid for com 
ments or questions; it swept them both past the 
palm-shaded patio into the side hall, out on the 
noisy, dazzling, swaying street. Looking before 
her, Miss Smith could see the dusty body of a 
hack a block away. Mrs. Winter had stepped up 
to a huge crimson motor-car, in the front seat of 
which lounged the chauffeur, his forehead and 
eyes hunched under his leather visor. The ma 
chine was puffing, with the engine working, ready 
to leap forward at a touch of the lever. 

"Twenty dollars an hour if you let me get in 
now !" said Mrs. Winter, lightly mounting by his 
side as she spoke. 

"Hey, me? what!" gurgled the chauffeur, 
plucked out of a half-doze. "Oh, say, beg your 
pardon, lady, but this is hired, it belongs " 

"I don t care to whom it belongs, I have to have 
it," announced Mrs. Winter calmly. "Whoever 
hired it can get another. I ll make it all right. 
You start on and catch that hack with the auburn- 
tailed horses " 


"I ll make it right with your fare !" Miss Smith 
cut in before the chauffeur could answer. "It s a 
case of kidnapping. You catch that cab!" She 
was standing on the curb, and even as she spoke 
an elderly man and his wife came out of a shop. 
They stared from her to the automobile, and in 
their gaze was a proprietary irritation. This was 
instantly transfused by a more vivid emotion. The 
woman looked shocked and compassionate. "Oh, 
pa!" she gasped, "did you hear that?" 

The man was a country banker from Iowa. He 
had a very quick, keen eye; it flashed. "Case of 
kidnapping, hey?" snapped he, instantly grasping 
the character of the speakers and jumping at the 
situation. "Take the auto, Madam. Get a move 
on you, Mr. Chauffeur !" 

"Oh, I m moving, all right," called the chauf 
feur, as he skilfully dived his lower wheels under 
the projecting load of a great wagon and obliquely 
bumped over the edge of a street-car fender, pur 
sued by the motorman s curses. "I see em, lady ; 
I see the red tails; I ll catch em!" 

His boast most likely had been made good 
(since for another block they bore straight on 
their course) but for an orange-wagon which had 
been overturned. There was a rush of pursuit of 


the golden balls from the sidewalk; a policeman 
came to the rescue of traffic and ordered every 
thing to halt until the cart was righted. The boys 
and girls in the street chased back to the sidewalk. 
The episode took barely a couple of minutes, but 
on the edge of the last minute the cab turned a 
corner. The motor-car turned the same corner, 
but saw no guiding oriflamme of waving red 
horsehair. The cross street next was equally bare. 
They were obliged to explore two adjacent high 
ways before they came upon the hack again. This 
time it was in distant perspective, foreshortened to 
a blur of black and a swish of red. And even as 
they caught sight of it the horses swung round 
into profile and turned another corner. In the 
turn a man wearing a black derby hat stuck his 
arm and head out of the window in order to give 
some direction to the driver. Then he turned half 
around. It was almost as if he looked back at his 
pursuers; yet this, Mrs. Winter argued, hardly 
could be, since he had not expected pursuit, and 
anyhow, the chances were he could not know her 
by sight. 

It was a mean street, narrow and noisome, but 
full of shipping traffic and barred by tramways 
a heartbreaking street for a chase. The chauffeur 


was a master of his art ; he jumped his great craft 
at every vacant arm s-length ; he steered it through 
incredibly narrow lanes ; he progressed sometimes 
by luffs, like a boat under sail when the forward 
passage must be reached in such indirect fashion ; 
but the crowd of ungainly vehicles, loaded dizzily 
above his head, made the superior speed of the 
motor of no avail. In spite of him they could see 
the red tails lessening. Again and yet again, the 
hack turned ; again, but each time with a loss, the 
motor struck its trail. By now the street was 
changed; the dingy two-story buildings lining it 
were brightened by gold-leaf and vermilion; ori 
ental arms and garbs and embroidery spangled 
the windows and oriental faces looked inscrutably 
out of doorways. There rose the blended odors 
of spice, sandalwood and uncleanliness that an 
nounce the East, reeking up out of gratings and 
puffing out of shops. 

"Ah," said Mrs. Winter softly to herself, "Chi 
nese quarter, is it? Well." Her eyes changed; 
they softened in a fashion that would have amazed 
one who only knew the surface of Mrs. Winter, 
the eccentric society potentate. She looked past 
the squalid, garish scene, past the shining sand 
hills and the redwood trees, beyond into a stranger 


landscape glowing under a blinder glare of sun. 
Half mechanically she lifted a tiny gold chain that 
had slipped down her throat under the gray gown. 
Raising the yellow thread and the carven jade 
ornament depending therefrom, she let it lie out 
side amid the white lace and chiffon. 

"We re making good now," called the chauf 
feur. "Will I run alongside and hail em, or 

She told him quietly to run alongside. But her 
lips twitched, and when she put up her hand to 
press them still, she smiled to discover that the 
hand was bare. She had forgotten to pull on her 
glove. She began to pull it on now. 

"The road is narrow/ said she. "Run ahead 
of the hack and block its way. You can do it 
without hitting the horses, can t you ?" 

"Well, I guess," returned the chauffeur, in 
stantly accomplishing the manoeuver in fine style. 

But he missed his deserved commendation ; in 
deed, he forgot it himself; because, as he looked 
back at the horses rearing on the sudden check 
and tossing their auburn manes, then ran his scru 
tiny behind them to the hack, he perceived no life 
in it; and when his own passenger jumped with 
amazing nimbleness from her seat and flung the 


crazy door wide open, she recoiled, exclaiming: 
"Where are they ? Where did you leave them ?" 

"Leave who?" queried the hackman. "Say, 
what you stoppin me fur ? Runnin into me with 
your devil-wagon! Say!" then his wrath trailed 
into an inarticulate mutter as he appreciated better 
the evident quality of the gentlewoman before 

"You may be mixed up in a penitentiary of 
fense, my man," said she placidly. "It is a case 
of kidnapping. Where did you leave that boy 
who was in the cab ? If you give us information 
that will find him, there s five dollars ; if you fool 
us well, I have your number. Where did you 
leave the boy ?" 

"Why, there was a cop with im a cop and 
a gentleman. Ain t you got hold of the wrong 
party, lady?" 

"A brown-haired boy in a gray suit with a blue 
cravat you know he was in your cab. And how 
do you know it was a real policeman?" 

"Or he wasn t helping on the deviltry if it 
was?" sneered the chauffeur, who had now be 
come a full-fledged partizan. "Ain t you lived in 
this burg long enough to find out how to make a 
little mazuma on the side? You re too good for 


Frisco. Heaven is your home, my Christian 

"Cut it out!" retorted the man. "I guess I 
know how to find my way round as well as the 
next man " 

"Certainly you do/ soothed Mrs. Winter, who 
was fingering a crisp new five-dollar bank-note, 
"and you are no kidnapper, either; you made no 
bargain with those men " 

"Sure I didn t," agreed the hackman, "nor I 
ain t standin for kidnapping, neither. Why, I got 
kids of my own, and my woman she d broom me 
outer the house if I was to do them games. Say, 
I ll tell you all I knows. They got off, them three, 
at that there corner, and I was to drive fast s I 
could three blocks ahead and then git home any 
old way. And that s God s truth, I " 

"You didn t see where they went ?" Mrs. Win 
ter was quietly insistent. 

"No, I didn t. I guess I was a dumb fool not 
ter notice, but they paid me well, and I d a bad 
thirst, and I was hiking to a place I know for 
beer ; and that s " 

"Did the boy seem willing?" 

"He didn t do no kicking as I seen." 

A few more questions revealed that the man 


had unpacked his full kit of information. He had 
never seen either of the men before. The gentle 
man yes, he was sure he was a gentleman ; he 
wasn t no swell confidence guy ; he was the regu 
lar thing gentleman engaged him to take a party 
to the Chinese quarter; he d tell where to stop; 
didn t need a guide; only wanted to make a few 
purchases, he said, and he knew where the things 
was; yes, ma am, that was all; only down there 
on Market Street, or maybe why, somewhere 
near by he stuck his head out and told him to 
turn the corner, and then he kept telling him to 
turn corners, until finally he told him to stop and 
they got out. 

Mrs. Winter gave the man the bank-note, coun 
seling him to keep his eyes open for the two men 
and the boy, and to report to her at the Palace 
Hotel, giving his number, should he see either 
man or boy. It would be very well worth his 

The chauffeur did not interrupt, but he shook 
his head over the departing hack. "He d ought to 
have known it wan t on the square, but these hack 
drivers ain t got good sense even when they re, so 
to speak, sober, which ain t often," he solilo 
quized. "Well, lady, if they ve took to the Chi- 


nese quarter, we d better be looking up a Chink 
to help us, I guess. I know a fairly decent one " 

"I think I know a better," interrupted Mrs. 
Winter, with a faint smile. She had detected a 
suppressed pity in the man s regard. "Motor 
slowly along the street. There is a shop, if I can 
find it, where there ought to be a man " 

"Man you know ? Say, lady, I guess I better go 
in with you, if you don t mind " 

"No; stay in your car. You don t know how 
safe I am. Not only my gray hair protects me, 
but I have only to say a few words and any of 
these men will fight for me if necessary. But this 
is in confidence just between us, you understand. 
You are not to repeat it, ever." 

She looked at him with a frank smile, and in 
voluntarily his hand went up to his cap. "What 
you say goes, lady. But jest remember Fm right 
here, spark going all the time, ready to throw her 
wide open when you step in; and" his voice 
sank "I ain t absolutely unprepared for a scrap, 

"I understand," said she, looking at him 
keenly, and a few moments later she stepped 
briskly into the shop before which he halted with 
a little lightening of the heart because of this un- 


couth knight of the lever. The shop itself was 
like any pne of a score on the street, crowded 
with oriental objects, bizarre carvings of ivory 
and jade, daggers and strings of cash, swords, 
gorgeous embroidered robes of silk and gold in a 
huddle over a counter or swinging and gleaming 
in the dusky background, squat little green and 
brown gods with puffy eyelids, smiling inscrutably 
amid shoes and fans and Chinese lanterns of glass 
and bronze, glittering with beads in all these, 
like the score about it ; yet the clean windows and 
a certain order within gave it a touch out of the 
common. A man and a boy served the shop, both 
in the American dress, with their pigtails tucked 
under visorless caps. Both greeted her in the 
serene oriental fashion, bowing and smiling, their 
obsequious courtesy showing no smallest sign of 
the surprise which the sight of an unattended 
woman must have given them. 

Nevertheless, Mrs. Winter was aware that both, 
under their lowered eyelids, took cognizance of 
that soft-carven disk of jade among the laces on 
her breast. She asked the man if he had seen a lad 
and an older man, or it might be two older men, 
one a policeman, come into that or any other 
neighboring shop. She explained that the lad was 


her grand-nephew and was lost ( she eschewed the 
harsher word, for she had no desire to set afloat a 
rumor which might bring the police upon her). 
She named a sum large enough to kindle a sudden 
gleam in the boy s eyes, as the reward awaiting 
the lucky man who might put her on the right 
track. But her words struck no responsive spark 
from the Chinaman s veiled gaze. In perfect 
English and a very soft voice he avowed igno 
rance and sympathy with the same breath. 

And all the while she could feel his glance slant 
down at the jade ornament. 

"Send the boy to look in the shop next door," 
said she. As she spoke she raised the charm be 
tween her thumb and first two fingers, looking at 
him directly. Her tone was that of command, not 
request. He frowned very slightly, making an al 
most imperceptible gesture, to which she returned 
a single Chinese phrase, spoken so low that had 
he not expected the words they had been indis 
tinguishable to his ear. Instantly he addressed the 
boy rapidly in their own language. The boy went 
out. The master of the shop returned to Mrs. 
Winter. His manner had utterly changed; the 
tradesman s perfunctory deference was displaced 
by an almost eager humility of bearing. He would 


have her sit there were a few cane-seated Amer 
ican arm-chairs, in grotesque contrast to all their 
accompaniments he prostrated himself before 
her; he put himself at her service; still to her 
trained eye there was a corner of his mind where 
incredulity wrestled with a stronger emotion. 

"Do not fear," she said gently. "It is really my 
own, and he gave it to me himself, almost thirty 
years ago. He was hardly thirty years old him 
self then. You see, my husband had been so for 
tunate as to do him a kindness. It was he who 
had it first. When he died it came to me, and now 
for the second time in my life I am using it. I 
knew you belonged. I saw the sign. Will you 
help me find my boy?" 

"Did your ladyship know he is he e, in San 
Flancisco ?" 

If she had not already dissipated any doubt in 
his mind, her evident relief blew the last shred 
away now. "Haven t you such a thing as a tele 
phone somewhere?" cried Rebecca Winter. "Time 
is precious. Can t you speak to him have him 
come here?" 

It appeared that there was a telephone, and in 
a moment she was put into communication by the 
shopkeeper. He stood in an attitude of deep re- 


spect while she talked. He heard with unsmiling 
attention her first Chinese words; he listened as 
she returned to English, speaking very quietly, 
but with a controlled earnestness, explaining that 
she was Archibald Winter s widow, giving dates 
and places, in nowise alluding to the service which 
had won the charm about her neck. Yet as he list 
ened, insensibly the Chinaman grew certain that 
she had spoken the truth. Presently she turned to 
him. "He wishes to speak to you/ she said, and 
went back to the shop. She sighed as one sighs 
from whose heart a great burden rolls. "To find 
him here, and still grateful !" she was thinking. 
"What wonderful good fortune!" 

She sat down, and her face grew dreamy. She 
was no longer thinking of Archie. Her vision was 
on another face, another scene, a time of peril, 
when almost against her reason her instinctive 
woman s recoil of pity for a fellow-creature in 
danger of unthinkable torture had been so intense 
that she had more than acquiesced in her hus 
band s plan of risking both their lives to save him ; 
she had impelled him to it ; she had overcome his 
terror of the risks on her account. "It is only 
death we have to fear, at worst," she had argued. 
"We have the means to escape in a second, both 


of us, from anything else; and if we run away 
and leave this poor wretch, who hasn t done any 
thing but love his country, just as we love ours, 
and be too civilized for his trifling, ornery, pusil 
lanimous country-people to understand, to get 
slashed to pieces by their horrible ling-ling 
whatever they call it Archibald Winter, don t 
you reckon we shall have nightmares as long as 
we live?" 

Thirty years ago yet it seemed like yesterday. 
Distinctly she could hear her husband s voice; it 
had not come back to her with such reality for 
years ; it was more real than the cries of the street 
outside ; and her heart was beating faster for his 
words: "Becky, there never was a woman like 
you! You could make a dead man hop up and 
fight, bless you !" 

"Your ladyship" it was the shopkeeper back 
again; he had lived in England, and he offered 
the most respectful western title of his knowledge 
"your ladyship may be chee ful. All will be 
done of the best. The young gentleman will be 
back fo to-night. If your ladyship will now le- 
tu n to the hotel." 

Mrs. Winter bowed slightly ; she was quite her 
self-possessed self again. "I will go certainly," 

"?3gfc r 


It took only a moment to transfer a passenger. Page 211 


she said, "but I shall hope to see you, also, to 
night ; and meanwhile, will you accept, as a token 
from a friend who trusts you, this?" She took a 
little gem-encrusted watch from her fob and 
handed it to him. Her manner was that of a 
queen who rewards her general. And she left 
him bowing low. She entered the motor-car. It 
was no longer a lone motor. Another car steamed 
and snorted near by, in which sat the amiable 
banker from Iowa, his wife and Janet Smith. 

It took only a moment to transfer a passenger, 
to explain that she hoped to find the boy who had 
been lost no, she would not use such a strenuous 
word as kidnapped and would they complete 
their kindness by not mentioning the affair to any 
one? One hated so to get into the papers. And 
would they let her see them again to thank them ? 
Then, as she sank back on the cushions, she re 
marked, as much to the expectant chauffeur as to 
Janet: "Yes, I think it is all right. I think we 
shall see Archie to-night." 



There was no one but Mrs. Winter to welcome 
the colonel when, jaded, warm and dusty, he 
tapped on Aunt Rebecca s parlor door. Mrs. Mil- 
licent was bristling with a sense of injury; one 
couldn t touch her conversationally without risk 
of a scratch. The colonel put up the shield of his 
unsuitable appearance, his fatigue and his de 
plorable need of a bath, and escaped into his own 
apartment. But he made his toilet with reckless 
haste. All the time he was questioning his recent 
experience, trying to sort over his theories, which 
had been plunged into confusion by Mercer s con 
fession. "I suppose," he reflected, "that I had no 
right to give Mercer that hint at the door." The 
hint had been given just as they parted. It was 
in a single sentence : 

"By the way, Mercer, if that pillar in the patio 
is of importance in your combination, you would 
better keep an eye on it ; it has a trick of cracking." 

"The devil it has!" grunted Mercer. Then he 


A BLOW 213 

thanked him, with a kind of reluctant admiration 
in his tone. 

"You are sure you don t object to my detect 
ive s staying?" questioned the colonel. 

"No, suh ; prefer to have him. You told him to 
have his men in and overhaul the house ?" 

"I did. I warned you I should have to. You 
promise there shall be no racket? But I I think 
I ll take Haley." 

"Thank you. That s right kind of you, suh. 
Good-by, suh." 

This had been the manner of their parting as 
suredly a singular one, after the sinister suspicions 
and the violent promises which the soldier had 
made himself in regard to this very man. After 
leaving, he had motored into town, down to 
the police courts, to discover no records of the 
arrest and no trace of Archie. Thence, discour 
aged, perplexed and more worried than he liked 
to admit, he had repaired to the hotel. His aunt 
was gone, Miss Smith was gone, and Randall 
could only relate how Mrs. Winter "had flewed 
like a bird, sir, into a big red motor-car and gone 
off, and then Miss Smith and a lady and gentle 
man had got into a white car and gone off in the 
same direction." 


He was meditating on his next step, wlien Bird- 
sail was announced below. The detective looked 
as warm and as tired as the colonel had felt an 
hour before. Rupert was not eager to see him, 
but neither was he anxious for the tete-a-tete with 
Millicent which awaited him in the parlor. Be 
tween the two he chose Birdsall. 

"Well," he greeted him, "did you find any trace 
of the boy?" 

"Of course I did," growled Birdsall. "They 
didn t try to hide im. They had him lodged in a 
dandy room with his own bath. Of course, he 
left his tooth-brush. They d got him some auto 
mobile togs, too, and he d left some leggings when 
he packed, and a letter begun on a pad to Miss 
Smith Dear Miss Janet, it begins, I am hav 
ing a bully time. I can steer the machine, only I 
can t back that s all. Say, the young dog has 
been having it fat while we were in the frying-pan 
for fear somebody was bothering him." 

"But he is not in the house now ?" 

"No, nor nothing else." 

"Nobody hidden away? Where did the groans 
you heard come from?" queried the colonel 

Birdsall flushed. "I do believe that slick de- 

A BLOW 215 

ceiver you call Mercer put up a game on us out 
of meanness just to git me guessing." 

"That sort of thing looks more like the college 

"Say, it might have been. This thing is giving 
me nervous prostration. Say, why didn t you see 
the thing out with me?" 

The colonel shamelessly told the truth to de 
ceive. "I was called here. I was told that Mrs. 
Winter, my aunt, had seen Archie in the street." 

"She was just getting out of a machine as I 
came up. Miss Smith was with her, and they had 
their hands full of candy boxes. They were 
laughing. I made sure the boy had been found." 

"Not to my knowledge," said the colonel. But 
in some excitement he walked into the parlor. 
The ladies had arrived; they stood in the center 
of the room while Randall took away the boxes. 

"Candy for Archie," explained Aunt Rebecca, 
and these were the first words to reach Rupert 
Winter s ears. "I expect him to dinner." 

"Aunt Rebecca," proclaimed Millicent, "I never 
have been one to complain, but there are limits to 
human endurance. I am a modern person, a civil 
ized Episcopalian, accustomed to a regular and 
well-ordered life, and for the last few days I seem 


to have been living in a kind of medieval mystery, 
with kidnappers, and blood-stains, and, for any 
thing I know, somebody ready to stick a knife into 
any one of us any time! You people may enjoy 
this sort of thing you seem to but I don t. 
And I tell you frankly that I am going to apply 
to the police, not to any private detective inquiry 
office, as like as not in league with the criminals" 
thus ungratefully did Mrs. Millicent slur the 
motives of her only truly interested auditor "but 
real policemen. I shall apply " 

She did not tell where she should apply, the 
words being snapped out of her mouth by the 
sharp tinkle of the telephone bell. 

Aunt Rebecca responded to the call. "Send him 
up," was her answer to the inaudible questioner. 

She laid down the receiver. Then she put it 
back. Then she stood up, her silver head in the 
air, her erect little figure held motionless. 

Janet Smith s dark eyes sought hers; her lips 
parted only to close firmly again. 

Even the detective perceived the electric in 
tensity of the moment, and Rupert shut his fists 
tight, with a quickened beating of the heart; but 
emotional vibrations did not disturb Mrs. Melville 
Winter s poise. She continued her plaint. 

A BLOW 217 

"This present situation is unbearable, unprece 
dented and un un unexpected," she declaimed, 
rather groping for a climax which escaped her. 
Aunt Rebecca raised her hand. 

"Would you be so very kind, Millicent," said 
she, "as to wait a moment? I am trying to listen." 

Like a response to her words, the knob of the 
door was turned, the door swung, and Archie en 
tered the room, smiling his odd little chewed-up 

Janet uttered a faint cry and took a single step, 
but, as if recognizing a superior right, hung back 
while the boy put his arm about his great-aunt s 
waist and rather bashfully kissed her cheek. 

She received the salute with entire composure, 
except for a tiny splash of red which crept up to 
each cheek-bone. "Is it really you, Archie?" said 
she. "You are a little late for dinner day before 
yesterday, but quite in time for to-day. Sit down 
and tell us where you have been," 

"Quite so!" exclaimed Mrs. Millicent. "Good 
heavens! Do you know r how we have suffered? 
Where have you been? Why did you run away?" 

But Archie, who had surrendered one-half of 
him to be hugged by Miss Smith and the other to 
be clapped on the shoulder by his uncle, seemed 


to think a vaguely polite "How-de-do, Aunt Milli- 
cent ; I m sorry to have worried you !" to be an 
swer enough. Only when the question was re 
peated by Mrs. Winter herself did he reply : "I m 
awfully sorry, Aunt Rebecca, but I ve promised 
not to say anything about it. But, truly, I didn t 
mean to bother you." 

Millicent exploded in an access of indignation : 
"And do you mean that you expect us to accept 
such a ridiculous promise after all we have been 
through ?" 

"Quite so," remarked Aunt Rebecca, with a 
precise echo of her niece s most Anglican utter 
ance the gift of mimicry had been one of Mrs. 
Winter s most admired and distrusted social gifts 
from her youth. 

Rupert Winter hastened to distract Millicent s 
attention by saying decisively: "If the boy has 
promised, that ends it; he can t break his parole. 
Anyhow, they don t seem to have hurt you, old 

"Oh, they treated me dandy, those fellows," 
said Archie. "Miss Janet, I know how to run an 
electric motor-car, except backing." 

"I ll bet you do," muttered the detective. 

Here the colonel came to the boy s relief a sec- 

A BLOW 219 

ond time and drew Birdsall aside. "Best let me 
pump the chap a little. You get down-stairs and 
see how he got here, who brought him. They ll 
get clean away. It is late for that as it is. You 
can report to-morrow." 

It was the colonel, also, who eliminated Mrs. 
Millicent by the masterly stratagem of suggesting 
that she pass the news to Mrs. Wigglesworth. He 
artfully added that it would require tact to let the 
lady from Boston understand that the lad had 
been found without in any way gratifying her 
natural curiosity in regard to the manner of find 
ing or the cause of disappearance. "I ll have to 
leave that to you/ he concluded. "Maybe you can 
see a way out ; I confess my hands are in the air." 

Millicent thus relegated to the ambassador s 
shelf, the colonel slipped comfortably into his pet 
arm-chair facing his nephew on the lounge be 
tween Aunt Rebecca and Miss Smith. Miss Smith 
looked frankly, charmingly happy. Aunt Rebecca 
looked rather tired. 

"Of course/ remarked he, "I understand, old 
man, that you have promised secrecy to well, to 
the Fireless Stove gang, as we ll call them ; but the 
other kidnappers, the crowd that held up your car 
and then switched you off on a side track while 


young Fireless was detained they haven t any 
hold on you ?" 

"No, sir," said Archie; "but you see, that 
strange gentleman and Aunt Millicent I was 
scared lest I d give something away." 

"They re not here now. All friends here. Sup 
pose you make a clean breast of your second kid 
napping. It may be important you should." 

Nothing loath, Archie told his story. Left out 
side while Tracy went into the office with a po 
liceman, to whom he gave his assumed name, he 
remained for hardly two minutes before a gentle 
man and a "cop" came up to him, and the latter 
ordered him to descend from the machine but 
not until they had found it impossible to move 
the vehicle. When they did discover that the key 
was out and gone, the man in citizen s clothes 
hailed a cab and the officer curtly informed Archie 
that Gardiner (Tracy s traveling name) had been 
taken to another court and he was to follow. He 
didn t suspect anything beyond a collision with 
the speed regulations of the city, but had he seen 
a chance to dive under his escort s arm the boy 
would have taken it. Such chance was not af 
forded him, and all he was able to do was to lean 
out suddenly as they passed the Palace and to 

A BLOW 221 

wave at Randall. "I wanted them to stop and let 
me get some one to pay my fine/ said Archie, 
"but they said I was only a witness. They; 
wouldn t let me stop; they run down the curtain 
at least so far as it would run. It was like all 
those hack curtains, you know all out of order." 

"Archie/ 5 the colonel interjected here, "was one 
of the men a little fellow, clean-shaven, with a 
round black head, blue eyes one of his eyes 
winks a little faster than the other ?" 

"Yes, sir. How did you know?" 

"I didn t know ; I guessed. Well, get on ; they 
wanted to pump you when they got you safely out 
of sight?" 

"Yes," Archie said, "they put me into the 
sweat-box, all right." 

"Did you tell them anything ?" asked Mrs. Win 

Archie looked at her reproachfully. Did she 
think that he had gone to boarding-school for 
nothing? He explained that, being a stranger in 
the town, he could not tell anything about where 
he d been. There was an agent at the house trying 
to sell stoves, and they let him take him off back 
to the hotel. The man seemed to know all about 
who he (Archie) was, and about his having gone 


away. The men asked him an awful lot of ques 
tions about how he was taken away. He said he 
didn t know, and he d promised not to tell. He 
couldn t tell. They said he would have to go to 
jail if he didn t tell, because the men who had him 
were such bad men. But he didn t tell. 

"Did they try to frighten you to make you 
tell ?" said Mrs. Winter. 

"Oh, they bluffed a little," returned Archie care 
lessly, yet the keen eyes on him eyes both 
worldly-wise and shrewd noted that the lad s 
color shifted and he winced the least in the world 
over some remembrance. 

"But they didn t hurt you? They didn t burn 
you or cut you or twist your arms, or try any 
other of their playful ways?" Mrs. Winter de 
manded ; and Janet began feeling the boy s arms, 
breathing more quickly. The colonel only looked. 

"No, they didn t do a thing. I knew they 
wouldn t, too," Archie assured her earnestly. "I 
told them if they did anything, Uncle Rupert and 
you would make them pay." 

"And you weren t frightened, away from every 
one in that hideous quarter ?" cried Miss Smith. 
"Oh, my dear!" She choked. 

"Well, maybe I was a little scared. I kept think- 

A BLOW 223 

ing of a rotten yarn of Kipling s ; something hap 
pened to him, down in the underground quarter, 
in just such a hot, nasty-smelling hole, I guess, as 
I was in; you remember, Miss Janet, about the 
game of cards and the Mexican stabbing a Chink 
for cheating, and how Kipling jumped up and ran 
for his life, never looked around; and don t you 
remember that nasty bit, how he felt sure they 
had dealt with the greaser their own way and he d 
never get up to the light again " 

"I ve been remembering that story all this after 
noon," answered Miss Smith with a shudder. 

"Agreeable little tale," said Aunt Rebecca 
dryly. "Archie, you must have had a right nasty 
quarter of an hour ; what stopped it ?" 

"Why, a Chink came and called the little man 
off ; and there was a lot of talking which I couldn t 
hear, and the cop was swearing; I think they 
didn t like it. But, in a minute the Chinaman 
he was an awful nice little feller he came up to 
me and took me out, led me all sorts of ways, not 
a bit like the way I came in, and got me out to 
the street. The other fellows were very polite; 
they told me that they were my friends and only 
wanted to find a clue to my kidnappers; and the 
burning holes in me was only a joke to give me 


an excuse to break my word under compulsion 
why, they wouldn t hurt me for the world! I 
pretended to be fooled, and said it was all right, 
and looked pleasant; but I d like to scare them 
the same way, once, all the same." 

The boy caught at his lip which was trembling, 
and ended with a shaky laugh. Miss Smith 
clenched the fist by her side ; but she dropped the 
arm near Archie, and said in a matter-of-fact, 
sprightly tone: "Archie, you really ought to go 
dress and wash for dinner ; excuse me for men 
tioning it, but you have no idea how grimy you 


The commonplace turn of thought did its er 
rand. Archie, who had been bracing himself anew 
against the horror which he remembered, dropped 
back into his familiar habits and jumped up con 
sciously. "It s the dust, motoring," he offered 
bashfully. "I ought to have washed before I came 
up. Well, that s all ; we came straight here. Now, 
may I go take a bath ?" 

Aunt Rebecca was fingering a curious jade 
locket on her neck. She watched the boy run to 
the open door. 

"I wish you d go into your room, Colonel," 
said Miss Smith, "and see that nothing happens 

A BLOW 225 

to him. It s silly, but I am expecting to see him 
vanish again !" 

The sentence affected the colonel unpleasantly ; 
why need she be posing before him, as if that first 
disappearance had had any real fright in it? Of 
course she didn t know yet (although Aunt Re 
becca might have told her she ought to have told 
her and stopped this unnecessary deceit) that 
he was on to the game; but he didn t like it. 
.Unconsciously, his inward criticism made his tone 
drier as he replied with a little bow that he im 
agined Archie was quite safe, now, and he would 
ask to be excused, as he had to attend to some 
thing before dinner. 

Was it his fancy that her face changed and her 
eyes looked wistful? It must have been. He 
walked stiffly away. Hardly had he entered his 
room and turned his mind on the changed situa 
tion before the telephone apprised him that a 
gentleman, Mr. Gardiner, who represented the 
Fireless Cook Stove, said that he had an appoint 
ment with Colonel Winter to explain the stove; 
should he be sent up ? 

Directly, Endicott Tracy entered, smiling. 
"Where s the kid? I know he s back," were his 
first words; and he explained that he had been 


hunting the kidnappers to nd purpose. "Except 
that I learned enough to know they put up a job 
with the justice, all right; I got next to that game 
without any Machiavellian exertions. But they 
got away. Who is it? Any of Keatcham s gang?" 

"Atkins," said the colonel concisely. 

Tracy whistled and apologized. "It s a blow," 
he confessed. "That little wretch ! He has brains 
to burn and not an ounce of conscience. You 
know he has been mousing round at the hotels 
after Keatcham s mail " 

"He didn t get it?" 

"No, Gary had covered that point. Gary has 
thought this all out very carefully, but Atkins 
has got on to the fact that Gary was here in this 
hotel with Keatcham. But he doesn t know where 
we come in; whether Keatcham s gang is just 
lying low for some game of its own, or whether 
we ve got him. At least, I don t believe he 

"You ought not to be talking so freely to me; 
I haven t promised you anything, you knpw," 
warned the colonel. 

"But you ve got your nephew back all right; 
we have been on the square with you; why should 
you butt in ? I know you won t." 

A BLOW 227 

"I don t seem to have a fair call to," observed 
the colonel. 

"And I think the old boy is going to give in; 
he has made signals of distress, to my .thinking. 
Wanted his mail; and wanted to write; and in 
formed Gary he saw him for the first time to 
day that he had bigger things on deck than the 
Midland; and wanted to get at them. We re 
going to win out all right." 

"Unless Atkins gets at him to-night," the 
colonel suggested. "You oughtn t to have come 
here, Gardiner. Don t go home, now. Wait until 
later, and let me rig you up in another lot of togs 
and give you my own motor-car. Better." 

Tracy was more than impressed by the propo 
sal; he was plainly grateful. He entered with 
enthusiasm into the soldier s masquerade Tracy 
had always had a weakness for theatricals and 
some of his Hasty Pudding Portraits of Unknown 
People We Know had won him fame at Cam 
bridge. Ten minutes later, there sat opposite the 
colonel a florid-faced, mustached, western com 
mercial traveler whose plaided tweeds, being an 
ill-advised venture of Haley s which the colonel 
had taken off his hands and found no subject of 
charity quite obnoxious enough to deserve them, 


naturally did not fit the present wearer, but suited 
his inane complacence of bearing and might pass 
for a bad case of ready-made purchase. 

"Now," said the adviser, "I ll notify Haley 
to have my own hired motor ready for you and 
you can slip out and take it after you ve had 
something to eat. Here s the restaurant card. 
Haley will be there. Leave it at the drug store 
on Van Ness Street Haley will give you the 
number and get home as unobtrusively as pos 
sible. Yon can peel off these togs in the motor 
if necessary. You ve your own underneath ex 
cept your coat. Wrap that in a newspaper and 
carry it. I don t know that Atkins has any one 
on guard at the hotel, but I think it more than 
likely he suspects some connection between our 
party and Keatcham s. But first, tell me about 
Atkins; what do you know about him? It s an 
American name/ 

"America can take all the glory of him, I fancy," 
said Tracy. "He s been Keatcham s secretary for 
six years. He seems awfully mild and useful and 
timid. He s not a bit timid. He s full of resource; 
he s sidled suggestions into Keatcham s ear and 
has been gradually working to make himself ab 
solutely necessary. I think he aimed at a part- 

A BLOW 229 

nership; but Keatcham wouldn t stand for it. I 
think it was in revenge that he sold out some of 
Keatcham s secrets. Gary got on to that and has a 
score of his own to settle with him, besides. I 
don t know how he managed, but he showed him 
up; and Keatcham gave him the sack in his own 
cold-blooded way. I know him only casually. 
But my cousin, Ralph Schuyler, went to prep, 
school with him, so I got his character straight 
off the bat. His father was a patent-medicine 
man from Mississippi, who made a fair pile, a 
couple of hundred thousand which looked good 
to that section, you know. I don t know anything 
about his people except that his father made the 
Celebrated Atkins Ague Busters ; and that At 
kins was ashamed of his people and shook his 
married sisters who came to see him, in rather 
a brutal fashion ; but I know a thing or two about 
him; he was one of those bounders who curry 
favor with the faculty and the popular boys and 
never break rules apparently, but go off and have 
sly little bats by themselves. He never was popu 
lar, yet, somehow, he got into things; he knew 
where to lend money; and he was simply sicken- 
ingly clever; in math, he was a wonder. Ralph 
hated him. For one thing, he caught him in a 


dirty lie. Atkins hated him back and contrived to 
prevent his being elected class president, and when 
he couldn t prevent Ralph s making his senior so 
ciety the happy thought struck Atkins to get on 
the initiation committee. They had a cheery little 
branding game to make the fellows quite sure they 
belonged, you know, and he rammed his cigar 
stump into Ralph s arm so that Ralph had blood- 
poisoning and a narrow squeak for his life. You 
see that I m not prepossessed in the fellow s favor. 
He s got too vivid an imagination for me !" 

"Seems to have," acquiesced the colonel. 

"I think, you know" Tracy made an effort 
to be just "I think Atkins was rather soured. 
Some of the fellows made fun of the Ague Bust 
ers ; he had a notion that the reason it was 
such uphill work for him in the school, was his 
father s trade. No doubt he did get nasty licks, 
at first; and he s revengeful. He hasn t got on 
in society outside, either this he lays to his not 
being a university man. You see his father lost 
some of his money and put him to work instead 
of in college. He was willing enough at the time 
I think he wanted to get married but after 
ward, when he was getting a good salary and pil 
ing up money on his tips, he began to think that 

A BLOW 231 

he had lost more than he had bargained for. 
Altogether, he s soured. Now, what he wants 
is to make a thundering big strike and to pull 
out of Wall Street, buy what he calls a seat 
on the James and set up for a Southern gentle 
man. He s trying to marry a Southern girl, they 
say, who is kin to the Carters and the Byrds and 
the Lees and the Carys why, you know her, 
she s Mrs. Winter s secretary." 

"Does does she care for him?" The colonel 
suddenly felt his mouth parched ; he was savagely 
conscious of his mounting color. What a fiendish 
trick of fate! he had never dreamed of this! 
Well, whether she cared for him or not, the man 
was a brute ; he shouldn t get her. That was one 
certainty in the colonel s mind. 

"Why, Gary vows she doesn t, that it was only 
a girlish bit of nonsense up in Virginia, that time 
he was prospecting, you know. But I don t feel 
so safe. She s too nice for such a cur. But you 
know what women are; the nicest of them seem 
to be awfully queer about men. There s no betting 
on them." 

"I m afraid not," remarked the colonel lightly. 
But he put his fingers inside his collar and 
loosened it, as if he felt choked. 


Because he had a dozen questions quarreling 
for precedence in his head, he asked not one. 
He only inquired regarding the situation; dis 
covering that both Mercer and Tracy were equally 
in the dark with himself as to Atkins plans, At- 
I kins store of information, Atkins resources. 
How he could have waylaid Tracy and the boy 
without knowing whence they came was puz 
zling; it was quite as puzzling, however, assum 
ing that he did know their whereabouts, to decide 
why he was so keen to interrogate the boy. In 
fact, it was, as Tracy said, "top much like Profes 
sor Santa Anna s description of a German defini 
tion of metaphysics, A blind man hunting in a 
dark room for a black cat that isn t there/ 

"In any event, you would better keep away 
from me" was the colonel s summing up of the 
situation; "I don t want to be inhospitable, but 
the sooner you are off, and out of the hotel, the 
safer for your speculation." 

"Friends will please accept the intimation," 
said Tracy good-humoredly. "Very well, it s 
twenty-three for me. I m hoping you ll see your 
way clear to run over as soon as the old man has 
surrendered; I m going to invite him to make us 
a proper visit, then, and see the country. I m al- 

A BLOW 233 

ways for letting the conquered keep their side- 


He went away smiling his flashing smile, and 
turned it up at the hotel as he walked out ; the 
colonel made no sign of recognition from the 
window whence he observed him. Instead, he 
drew back quickly, frowning ; it might be a mere 
accident that only a hand s-breadth of space from 
the young Harvard man was a dapper little shape 
in evening clothes, a man still young, with a 
round black head ; if so, it was an accident not to 
the colonel s liking. 

"Damn you!" whispered Rupert Winter very 
softly. "What is your little game?" 

At once he descended, having telephoned Ha 
ley to meet him at the court. When he entered 
and sent his glance rapidly among the little tables, 
by this time filled with diners, he experienced a 
disagreeable surprise. It did not come from the 
sight of Sergeant Haley in his Sunday civilian 
clothes, stolidly reading the Call; it came from a 
vision of Atkins standing, bowing, animatedly 
talking with Janet Smith. 

Instead of approaching Haley, Winter fell back 
and scribbled a few words on a page of his note 
book, while safely shielded by a great palm. The 


note he despatched to Haley, who promptly 
joined him. While they stood, talking on appar 
ently indifferent subjects, Miss Smith passed 
them. Whether because he was become suspicious 
or because she had come upon him suddenly, she 
colored slightly. But she smiled as she saluted 
him and spoke in her usual tranquil tone. "You 
are going to dine with us, aren t you, Colonel?" 
said she. "I think dinner is just about to be 

The colonel would be with them directly. 

Haley s eyes followed her ; he had returned her 
nod and inquiry for his wife and little Nora with 
a military salute and the assurance that they were 
both wonderfully well and pleased with the coun 

"Sure, ain t it remarkable the way that lady do 
keep names in her mind?" cried he. "An don t 
she walk foine and straight? Oi ve been always 
towld thim Southern ladies had the gran way 
wid em; Oi see now tis thrue." The unusual 
richness of Haley s brogue was a sure sign of feel 
ing. The colonel only looked grim. After he had 
taken Haley to a safe nook for his confidence, a 
nook where there were neither ears nor eyes to 
be feared, he would have made his way up-stairs ; 

A BLOW 235 

but half-way down the office he was hailed by 
the manager. The manager was glad to hear that 
the young gentleman was safely back. He let the 
faint radiance of an intelligent, respectfully tact 
ful smile illumine his words and intimate that 
his listener would have no awkward questions to 
parry from him. The colonel felt an ungrateful 
wrath, a reprehensible snare of temper which did 
not show in his confidentially lowered voice, as he 
replied : "Mighty lucky, too, we are ; the boy s all 
right ; but San Francisco is no place for an inno 
cent kid even to take the safest-looking walk. 
What sort of a police system have you, anyhow ?" 

The manager shook his head. "I m not brag 
ging about it; nor about the Chinese quarter, 
either. I confess I ve felt particularly uncomfort 
able, myself, the last day. Well if you ll excuse 
the advice least said, you know." 

The colonel nodded. He proffered his cigar- 
case; the manager complimented its contents, as 
he selected a cigar; and both gentlemen bowed. 
A wandering, homesick Frenchman, who viewed 
their parting, felt refreshed as by a breath from 
his own land of admirable manners. Meanwhile, 
the colonel was fuming within: "Confound his 
insinuating curiosity! but I reckon I headed him 


off. And who would have thought/ he wondered 
forlornly, "that I could be going to dine with the 
boy safe and sound and be feeling so like a 
whipped hound!" 

But none of this showed during the dinner at 
which Millicent was in high good humor, having 
obtained information about most astounding bar 
gains in the Chinese quarter from Mrs. Wiggles- 
worth. Her good humor extended even to Miss 
Smith, who received it without enthusiasm, albeit 
courteously ; and who readily consented to be her 
companion for the morning sally on the distressed 
Orientals, whose difficulties \vith the customs had 
reduced them to the necessity of sales at any cost. 
Aunt Rebecca listened with an absent smile, while 
Archie laughed at every feeblest joke of his uncle 
in a boyish interest so little like his former apathy 
that often Miss Smith s eyes brightened and half 
timidly sought the uncle s, as if calling his atten 
tion to the change. Only a few hours back, his 
would have brightened gratefully in answer; 
now, he avoided her glances. Yet somehow, his 
heart felt heavier when they ceased. For his part, 
he was thankful to have his aunt request his com 
pany in a little promenade around the "loggia," as 
she termed it, overlooking the great court. 

A BLOW 237 

She took him aside to tell him her afternoon 
experience, and to ask his opinion of the enigmati 
cal appearance of Atkins. He was strongly tempt 
ed, in return, to question her frankly about Miss 
Smith, to tell her of seeing the latter with At 
kins only that evening. He knew that it was the 
sensible thing to do but he simply could not do 
it. To frame his suspicions past or present of 
the woman he loved; to discuss the chances of 
her affection for a man loathsomely unworthy of 
her; worse, to balance the possibilities of her 
turning betrayer in her turn and chancing any 
damage to her benefactress and her kinsman for 
this fellow s sake no, it was beyond him. He 
had intended to discuss his aunt s part in the 
waylaying of Keatcham, with calmness and with 
the deference due her, but unsparingly ; he meant 
to show her the legal if not moral obliquity of 
her course, to point out to her the pitfalls besetting 
it, to warn her how hideous might be the conse 
quences of a misstep. Somehow, however, his 
miserable new anxiety about Miss Smith had dis 
turbed all his calculations and upset his wits ; and 
he could not rally any of the poignant phrases 
which he had prepared. All he was able to say 
was something about the rashness of the business ; 


it was like the Filipinos with their bows and ar 
rows fighting machine-guns. 

"Or David with his ridiculous little sling going 
against Goliath," added she. "Very well put, 
Bertie; only the good advice comes too late; the 
question now is, how to get out with a whole 
skin. Surprising as it may be, I expect to with 
your help." 

"Honored, I m sure," growled Bertie. 

"There is one thing I meant to ask you I 
haven t, but I shall now. Instead of making it 
impossible for me to sleep to-night, as you virtu 
ously intended in order to clear your conscience 
before you tried to pull me out of the trap I ve 
set for myself, suppose you do me a favor, right 


"You put it so well, you make me ashamed of 
my moral sense, Aunt Becky; what is it you 

"Oh, nothing unbefitting a soldier and a gen 
tleman, dear boy ; just this : Gary has to have some 
money. I meant to give it to Stoves, but you 
hustled him off in such a rush that I didn t get 
at him. You know where he is, don t you? You 
haven t sent him straight back?" 

"I can find him, I reckon." 

X BLOW 239 

"Then I ll give you the money, at once/* 

How weak a thing is man ! Here was an emi 
nently cool-headed, reasonable man of affairs 
who knew that paws which had escaped from the 
fire unsinged had no excuse to venture back for 
other people s chestnuts; he had expressed him 
self clearly to this effect to young Tracy; now, 
behold him as unable to resist the temptation of a 
conflict and the chance to baffle Atkins as if he 
were a hot-headed boy in plain shoulder-straps ! 

"I ll do better for you, Aunt Rebecca," said he. 
"I ll not only take Fireless the money, I ll go with 
him to the house. I can make a sneak from here ; 
and Atkins is safely down-stairs at this moment. 
He may be shadowing Fireless; if he is, perhaps 
I can throw him off the track." 

Thus it befell that not an hour later Rupert 
Winter was guiding the shabby and noisy runa 
bout a second time toward the haunted house. 

"Nothing doin / said the joyous apprentice 
to crime; "I called old Gary up and got a furious 
slating for doing it; but he said there wasn t a 
watch-dog in sight; and the old man had sur 
rendered. He was going to let him into the 
library on parole." 

"You need a guardian," growled the colonel; 


"where did you telephone? Not in the drug 
store? * 

"Oh, dear, no, not in such a public place; I ve 
a shrinking nature that never did intrude its 
private, personal affairs on the curious world. 
I used the phone of that nice quiet little restau 
rant where they gave me a lovely meal but were 
so long preparing it, I used up all the literature 
in sight, which was the Ladies Home Journal and 
a tract on the virtues of Knox s Gelatine. When 
I couldn t think of anything else to do I routed 
out Gary I d smoked all my cigarettes and all 
my cigars but one which I was keeping for after 
dinner. And Gary rowed me good and plenty. 
There wasn t a soul in the room." 

"Has any one followed you ?" 

"Not a man, woman or child, not even a yellow 
dog. I kept looking round, too." 

"It was a dreadfully risky thing to "do; you 
don t deserve to escape; but perhaps you did. 
Atkins may have come to the Palace for some 
other purpose and never have noticed you." 

"My own father wouldn t have got on to me 
in that dinky rig." 

Winter was not so easy in his mind. But he 
hoped for the best, since there was nothing else 

A BLOW 241 

for him to do. They were in sight of the house 
now, which loomed against the dim horizon, 
darker, grimmer than ever. Where the upper 
stories were pierced with semicircular arches, the 
star- sown sky shone through with an extraor 
dinary effect of depth and mystery. All the lighter 
features of the architecture, carving on pediment 
or lintel or archivolt, delicate iron tracery of 
rcjas, relief of arcature and colonnade all these 
the dusk blurred if it did not obliterate; the great 
dark bulk of the house with its massive buttresses, 
its pyramidal copings and receding upper stories, 
was the more boldly silhouetted on-the violet sky ; 
yet because of the very flatness of the picture, the 
very lack of shadow and projection, it seemed un 
substantial, hardly more of reality than the giant 
shadow it cast upon the hillside. Electric lights 
wavered and bristled dazzling beams on either 
side of the street ; not a gleam, red, white or yel 
low, leaked through the shuttered windows of 
the house. In its blackness, its silence, its deter 
mined isolation it renewed, but with a greater 
force, the first sinister thrill which the sight of 
it had given the man who came to rifle it of its 

"Lonesome-looking old shanty, isn t it?" said 


the Harvard boy; "seems almost indecorous to 
speak out loud. Here s where we cache the car 
and make a gentle detour by aid of the shrubbery 
up the arroyo to the north side of the patio. See?" 

He directed the colonel s course through an 
almost imperceptible opening in the hedge along 
sharp turns and oblique and narrow ways into a 
small vacant space where the vines covered an 
adobe hut. Jumping out, Tracy unlocked the door 
of this tiny building so that the colonel could 
run the car inside ; and after Winter had emerged 
again, he re-locked the door. As there was no 
window, the purpose of the hut was effectually 

"Very neat," the colonel approved; whereat 
Tracy flashed his smile at him in the moonlight 
and owned with ingenuous pride that he himself 
was the contriver of this reticent garage. 

From this point he took the lead. Neither 
spoke. They toiled up the hill, in this part of the 
grounds less of the nature of a hill than of an 
arroyo or ravine through which rocks had thrust 
their rugged sides and over which spiked semi- 
tropical cacti had sprawled, and purple and white 
flowered vines had made their own untended 
tangle. Before they reached the level the colonel 

A BLOW. 243 

was breathing hard, every breath a stab. Tracy, a 
famous track man who had won his H in a won 
derful cross-country run, felt no distress until 
he heard his companion gasp. 

"Jove ! But that hill s fierce !" he breathed ex 
plosively. "Do you mind resting a minute?" 

"Hardly," the colonel was just able to hold 
his voice steady "I have a Filipino bullet in my 
leg somewhere which the X-ray has never been 
able to account for; and I m not exactly a moun 
tain goat !" 

"Why, of course, I m a brute not to let you run 
up the drive in the machine. Not a rat watching 
us to-night, either; but I wanted you to see the 
place ; and you seem so fit " 

"You oughtn t to give away your secrets to 
me, an outsider " 

"You re no outsider; I consider you the treas 
urer of the band," laughed Tracy. They had 
somehow come to an unexpressed but perfectly 
understood footing of sympathy. The colonel 
even let the younger man help him up the last 
stiff clamber of the path. He forgot his first chill, 
as of a witness approaching a tragedy ; there was 
a smile on his lips when the two of them passed 
into the patio. It lingered there as he stood in the 


flower-scented gloom. It was there as Tracy stum 
bled to a half-remembered push-button, wonder 
ing aloud what had become of Gary and Kito that 
they shouldn t have answered his whistle ; it was 
there, still, when Tracy slipped, and grumbled: 
"What sticky stuff has Kito spilled on this floor?" 
and instantly flooded the court with light. 
Then he saw the black, slimy pool and the long 
slide of Tracy s nailed sole in it; and just to 
one side, almost pressing against his own foot, he 
saw a man in a gray suit huddled into the shape 
of a crooked U, with his arms limp at his side 
and his head of iron-gray fallen back askew. 
The light shone on the broad bald dome of the 
forehead. He had been stabbed between the shoul 
ders, in the back ; and one side of the gray coat 
was ugly to see. 

"Good God !" whispered Tracy, growing white. 
"It s Keatcham! they ve killed him! Oh, why 
didn t I come back before !" 



"Get out your revolver/ ordered the colonel; 
"look sharp ! there may be some one here." 

But there was not a sign of life revealed by 
the search. Meanwhile, Winter was examining 
the body. His first thought was that Keatcham 
had tried to escape and had been struck down in 
his flight. Kito would not scruple at such a deed ; 
nor for that matter, Mercer. But why leave the 
man thus ? Why not dispose of the body unless, 
indeed, the assassins had been interrupted. Any 
how, what a horrid mess this murder would make 
of the affair ! and how was he to keep the women 
out of it! All at once, in the examination which 
he had been making (while a dozen gruesome 
possibilities tumbled over one another in his 
mind) he stopped; he put his ear to the man s 

"Isn t he dead?" asked Tracy under his breath. 

"No, he is not dead, but I m afraid he ll never 


find it out/ returned the colonel, shrugging his 
shoulders. "However, any brandy handy? And 
get me some water." 

"I know where there is some brandy I ll get 
it; there is some water in the fountain right 

"What s the matter?" demanded Gary Mercer 
in one of the arcade doorways of the patio. 
"What s happened? The devil! Who did this?" 
He strode up to the kneeling soldier. 

"You are in a position to know much better 
than I," said the colonel dryly. "We came this 
moment ; we found this." 

"Gary, did you do it ?" the young man laid his 
hand on Gary s shoulder; his face was ashy but 
his voice rang full and clear. "If you did, I am 
sure you had a reason; but I want to know; 
we re partners in this thing to the finish." 

"Thank you, boy," said Gary gently, "that s 
good to hear. But I didn t hurt him, Endy. Why 
should I ? We d got what we wanted." 

"Who did?" asked the colonel. 

"I didn t and Kito didn t. He went away to 
see his only brother who is sick. He hasn t got 
back. I don t know who did it; but whoever 
stabbed him must have done it without warning 


him; for I didn t hear a sound. I was in the 

"He s breathing a little, I think," murmured 
the young man, who was sopping the gray mask 
of a face while Winter trickled brandy drop by 
drop into the sagging mouth, "and look ! some 
body has tried to rob him; that s a money belt!" 

The waistcoat was open and Winter could see, 
beneath, a money belt with buttoned pockets, 
which had been torn apart with such haste that 
one of the buttons had been wrenched off. 

"They seem to have been after money," said 
he ; "see ! the belt is full of bills ; there s only one 
pocket empty." 

"Perhaps he was interrupted," explained Mer 
cer. "Push the brandy, Colonel, he s moving his 
eyelids, suh !" 

"We ve got to do something to that hole in 
him, first," said the colonel. "Is there any doc 

"I daren t send for one." 

"Tony Arnold might know one we could trust," 
suggested Tracy. "I can get him over the long 

"We want somebody now, this minute," de 
clared the colonel. 


"There s Janet Smith," said Mercer, "my sis 
ter-in-law; she s Mrs. Winter s companion; she 
used to be a trained nurse and a mighty good one ; 
she could be trusted." 

Could she ? And how the terms of his distrust 
had changed! He had fought against an answer 
in the affirmative this morning; now his heart 
was begging for it; he was cold with fear lest 
she wasn t this conspirator s confederate. 

"Send for them both," said he with no sign of 

"I ll call up Aunt Rebecca," said Mercer. 
"Isn t he reviving? No? Best not move him till 
we get the wound dressed, don t you reckon, 

JBut the colonel was already making a rough 
tourniquet out of his handkerchief and a pencil 
to stanch the bleeding. The others obeyed his curt 
directions; and it was not until the still uncon 
scious man was disposed in a more comfortable 
posture on the cushions which Tracy brought, 
that Winter sent the latter to the telephone; and 
then he addressed Mercer. He took a sealed pack 
age from an inner pocket and tendered it, saying : 
"You know who sent it. Whatever happens, 
you re a Southern gentleman, and I look to you 


to see that she they are kept out of this nasty 
mess absolutely." 

"Of course/* returned Mercer, with a trace 
of irritation; "what do you take me for? Now, 
hadn t I better call Janet?" 

"But if this were to be discovered " 

"She wouldn t have done anything; she is only 
nursing a wounded man whom she doesn t know, 
at my request." 

"Very well," acquiesced the colonel, with a 
long sigh as he turned away. 

He sat down, cross-legged, like a Turk, on the 
flags beside the wounded man. Mercer was stand 
ing a little way off. It was to be observed that 
he had not touched Keatcham, nor even ap 
proached him close enough to reach him by an 
outstretched hand. Winter studied his face, his 
attitude and suppressed the slightest of starts; 
Mercer had turned his arm to light another elec 
tric bulb and the action revealed some crimson 
spots on his cuff and a smear on his light trousers 
above the knee. The lamp was rather high and 
he was obliged to raise his arm, thus lifting the 
skirts of his coat which had previously hidden 
the stain. He did not seem aware that his action 
had made any disclosure. He was busy with the 


light. "That ll be better," said he; "I ll go call up 
Sister Janet." 

How had those stains come ? Mercer professed 
just to have entered. Vainly Winter s brain tried 
to labor through the crazy bewilderment of it all ; 
Mercer spoke like an honest man but look at his 
cuffs ! How could any outside assassin enter that 
locked and guarded house? yet, if Mercer had 
not lied,, some one must have stolen in and struck 
Keatcham. Kito? But the Jap was out of the 
house perhaps ! And Janet Smith, what was she 
doing talking to Atkins ? Had she given that rep 
tile any clue? Could he but it was his oppor 
tunity to rescue Keatcham, not to murder him 
what a confounded maze ! 

And what business had he, Rupert Winter, who 
had supposed himself to be an honorable man, 
who had sworn to support the Constitution and 
the laws of the United States, what business had 
he to help law-breakers and murderers escape the 
just punishment of their deeds? He almost 
ground his teeth. Oh, well, there was one way out, 
and that was to resign his commission. He would 
do it this very night, he resolved; and he swore 
miserably at himself, at his venerable aunt who 
must be protected at such a sacrifice, at Atkins, 


at the feebly moaning wretch whom he had not 
ceased all this while to ply carefully with drops of 
brandy. "You everlasting man-eater, if you dare 
to die, I ll kill you !" he snorted. 

Thereupon he went at the puzzle again. Before 
any answer could come to the telephone calls, a 
low, mournful, inhuman cry penetrated the thick 
walls. It was repeated thrice; on the third call, 
Tracy ran quickly through the patio to a side 
door, barred and locked like all the entrances, 
released and swung it open and let in Kito. A 
few murmured words passed between them. The 
Jap uttered a startled exclamation. "But how can 
it to be? How? no one can get in! And who 
shall stab him? For why?" 

He examined the wounded man, after a gravely 
courteous salute to Winter; and frowned and 
sighed. "What did it?" said he; "did who 
stabbed, take it way, he must give stlong pull! 

"Whoever did it," said the colonel, "must have 
put a knee on the man s back and pulled a strong 
pull, as you say." In speaking the words he felt a 
shiver, for he seemed to see that red smear above 
Mercer s knee. 

He felt the shiver again when Mercer returned 
and he glanced at him ; there was not a stain on 


his shining white cuffs; he had changed them; 
he had also changed his suit of clothes and his 
shoes. His eyes met the colonel s; and Winter 
fancied there was a glint of defiance in them ; he 
made no comment, for no doubt a plausible ex 
cuse for the fresh clothes was ready. Well, he 
(Winter) wouldn t ask it. Poor devil ! he had had 

For the next half-hour they were all busy with 

"He is better," pronounced the Jap; "he will 
not live, maybe, but he will talk, he can say who 
hull him." 

"If he can only do that!" cried Mercer. "It 
is infernal to think any one can get in here and do 
such a thing!" 

"Rotten," Tracy moaned. 

The colonel said nothing. 

They were all still working over Keatcham 
when a bell pealed. Tracy started; but Mercer 
looked a shade relieved. "They ve come," said he. 

"They?" repeated the colonel. He scrambled to 
his feet and gasped. 

Miss Smith was coming down the colonnade, 
but not Miss Smith alone. Aunt Rebecca walked 
beside her, serene, erect and bearing a small hand- 


bag. Miss Smith carried a larger bag ; and Tracy 
had possessed himself of a dress-suit case. 

"Certainly, Bertie," remarked his aunt in her 
softest tone, "I came with Janet. My generation 
believed in les convenances." 

All the colonel could articulate was a feeble, 
"And Archie? and Millicent?" 

"Haley is staying in your room with Archie. 
Millicent had retired; if she asks for us in the 
morning we shall not be up. She has an appoint 
ment with Janet, but it isn t until half-past eleven. 
Randall has her instructions." 

"But but how did you get here?" 

Aunt Rebecca drew herself up. "I trust now, 
Bertie, you will admit that I am as fit as any of 
you to rough it. If there is one mode of transit 
I abominate, it is those loathsome, unsanitary, 
uncivil, joggly street-cars; we came as far as the 
corner in the street-cars, then we walked. Did we 
want to give the number to a cab-man, do you 
. suppose ? Bertie, have you such a thing as a match 
about you? I think Janet wants to heat a tea- 
sjDoonf ul _of ^water;.f prja strychnine hypodermic." 


The Palace Hotel, 

San Francisco, March 24, 1906. 
My dear Husband : 

Although I sent you a postal yesterday, I am 
writing again to-day to try to keep you in touch 
with our extraordinary series of events. Noth 
ing has been heard from Archie except the letter 
if he wrote it which tells nothing except that 
his kidnappers use the same kind of writing paper 
as Miss Janet Smith. I grow more suspicious of 
her all the time. You ask (but of course you 
wrote before the recent mysterious and tragical 
occurrences) you ask do I like Miss Smith any 
better, now that I am thrown with her so closely. 
No, Melville, / have not the fatal credulity of the 
Winters ! I distrust her more. She has, I admit, 
an engaging personality; there is a superficial 
amiability that would be dangerous to one not on 
her guard. But I am never off my guard with 


her. I m sorry to say, however, that your brother 
seems deceived by her plausible ways. And, of 
course, our poor aunt is still her blind dupe. 
Aunt Rebecca has failed a good deal this last year ; 
she is quite irritable with me, sometimes; and I 
suppose it is the insensibility of age, but she does 
not appear to realize the full horror of this kid 
napping. Miss Smith actually seems to suffer 
more; she looks pale and haggard and has no 
appetite. I do not think it all pretense, either; I 
dare say much of it is remorse! The situation is 
dreadful. Sometimes I think Aunt Rebecca will 
not yield to the demands of these wretches who 
have our poor boy, and that he will be mutilated 
or murdered; sometimes I think that they have 
murdered him already and are writing forged let 
ters to throw us off the track. You can imagine 
how my nerves are shaken! I have seen hardly 
anything of the city ; and of course have not gone 
into society at all. Indeed, I have met only one 
pleasant person ; that was the secretary of the great 
financier, Mr. Edwin Keatcham, who was here, 
next to us. The secretary is a pleasing person 
quite comme il fant in appearance. I met him here 
in the court where he nearly knocked me over; 
and he apologized profusely and really very 


nicely, using my name. That surprised me, but 
he explained that they had been on the train with 
us. Then I remembered him. His name is Horatio 
Atkins; and he is very polite. He is on a two 
weeks vacation and came here to see Mr. 
Keatcham, not knowing he was gone. He was 
really most agreeable and so sympathetic about 
poor dear Archie. He agreed with me that such a 
nervous temperament as Archie s suffers much 
more from unkindness. I could see, in spite of 
his assumed hopefulness, that he shared my fears. 
He has met quite a number of our friends. He 
may (through Mr. Keatcham) be a most valua 
ble acquaintance. Didn t you tell me, once, that 
Keatcham was the leading benefactor of the uni 
versity ? 

He (Mr. Atkins) got his vacation on account 
of his health; and he is going to Southern Cali 
fornia. I don t wonder. I have never suffered 
more than in this land of sunshine! It is not so 
much the cold of the air as the humidity! Do 
pray be cautious about changing to your summer 
underwear. Don t do it! I nearly perished, in the 
bleak wind yesterday, when I tried to visit a few 
shops. Be sure and take the cough medicine on 
the second shelf of our bath-room medicine closet; 


don t mistake rheumatism liniment for it; they 
are both on the same shelf; you would bet 
ter sort them out. You are so absent-minded, Mel 
ville, I haven t a peaceful day when I m away 
from you; and do for Heaven s sake try to bow 
to Mrs. Farrell and call her by her right name! 
You certainly have been to the president s house 
often enough to know his wife on the street; and 
I don t think that it was a good excuse which 
you gave to Professor Dale for calling "Good 
morning, Katy!" to Mrs. Dale (who was born a 
Schuyler and is most punctilious) that -you mis 
took her for our cook! 

I miss you very much. Give my love to all 
our friends and be sure to wear your galoshes 
(your rubbers, you know) when the campus is 
wet, whether it is raining or not. 

Your aft. wife, 



The Palace Hotel, March 25, ten p. M. 
My dear Husband: 

What do you think has happened ? I am almost 
too excited to write. Archie is back! Yes, back 


safe and sound, and absolutely indifferent, to 
all appearances, to all our indescribable suf 
ferings on his account! He walked into the 
parlor about six or a little after, grinning like 
an ape, as if to disappear from the face of the 
earth and come back to it were quite the usual 
thing. And when we questioned him, he professed 
to be on his word not to tell anything. And Ber 
tie upheld him in this ridiculous position ! How 
ever, I was told by the detective whom Bertie 
employed, rather a decent, vulgar, little man, that 
they (Bertie and he) had cornered the kidnap 
pers and "called their bluff/ as he expressed it ; 
but I m inclined to think they got their ransom 
from our unfortunate, victimized aunt who is too 
proud to admit it, and that they probably managed 
it through Miss S . I know they called up the 
room to know if the boy was back ; and I puzzled 
them well, I fancy, by saying he was. I may have 
saved our poor aunt some money by that; but I 
can t tell, of course. Melville, I am almost sure 
that Miss J. S is at the bottom of it, whatever 
the mystery is. I am almost sure that, not content 
with blackmailing and plundering auntie, Miss 
S is now making a dead set at poor, blind, sim 
ple-hearted Bertie! I have reasons which I 


haven t time to enumerate. Bertie will hardly 
bear a word of criticism of her patiently ; in fact, 
I have ceased to criticize her to him or to Aunt 
Rebecca ah, it is a lonely, lonely lot to be clear 
sighted; but noblesse oblige. But often during the 
last few days I have thought that Cassandra 
wasn t enough pitied. 

Your aff. wife, 



Casa Fuerte, San Francisco, Cal., 

Dear Husband: 

This heading may surprise you. But we are 
making a visit to Mr. Anthony Arnold (the 
Arnold s son) in his beautiful house in the sub 
urbs pf the city. It was far more convenient 
for me at the Palace where I found Mrs. Wig- 
glesworth most attentive and congenial and 
found some great bargains; but you know I can 
not be false to my Trust. To watch Aunt Rebecca 
Winter (without seeming to watch, of course, for 
the aged always resent the care which they need) 
is my chief object in this trip; therefore when Mr. 


Arnold (whose father she knows, but the old gen 
tleman is traveling in Europe with his married 
daughter and her family) when the young Ar 
nold urged us all to come and spend a couple of 
weeks with him, I could not very well refuse. 
Though a stranger to me, he is not to Auntie or 
Bertie. The house is his own, left him by his 
mother, who died not very long ago. At first, I 
remained at the Palace with Bertie and Archie; 
Bertie seemed so disturbed at the idea of my going 
and Aunt Rebecca was very liberal, insisting that 
I was just as much her guest as before, it was 
only she who was running away ; and the end of 
it was (she has such a compelling personality, 
you know) that she went with Randall and J. S. 
to Casa Fuerte (Strong House and you would 
call it well-named could you see it ; it is a massive 
structure!) while we others remained until Sun 
day. On account of what I have hinted in regard 
to the designs of a certain lady I was not sorry 
to have Bertie under another roof. He has a for 
tune of his own, you know, and a reputation as 
well. Wealth and position at one blow certainly 
would appeal to her, an obscure dependent prob 
ably of no family (it is not a romantic name), and 
Bertie is very well-bred and rather handsome with 


his black eyebrows and gray hair and aquiline 
nose. I have been very, very worried, but I feel 
relieved as to that. Melville, she is flying at higher 
game! In this house is a multimillionaire, in fact 
the fourth richest man in the United States, Ed 
win S. Keatcham. He is ill probably with ap 
pendicitis which seems to be the common lot. I 
asked the doctor of course, very delicately 
and he said, "Well, not exactly, but " and smiled 
very confidentially ; and begged me not to mention 
Mr. Keatcham s illness or even that he was in the 
house. "You know," he said, "that when these 
great financiers sneeze, the stock-market shakes; 
so absolute secrecy, please, my dear madam." 
Don t mention it to a soul, will you? Of course 
I haven t seen the invalid ; but I ve seen his valet, 
who is very English; and I have seen his nurse. 
Who do you suppose she is ? Janet Smith ! Yes ; 
you know she has been a trained nurse. Was there 
ever a more artful creature! But Mr. K. is none 
of my affairs ; he will have to save himself or be 
lost. Once she is his wife we are safe from that 
designing woman. I am quite willing to admit his 
danger and her fascination. Now, Melville, for 
once admit that I can be just to a woman whom I 


This house is sumptuous; I ve a lovely bath 
room and a beautiful huge closet with a window. 
It must have cost a mint of money. I have been 
told that Arnold pere made a present of it to his 
wife; he let the architect and her draw all the 
plans of it, but he insisted on attending to the 
construction himself; he said he was not going to 
have any contract work or "scamping," such as I 
am reliably informed has been common in these 
towering new buildings in San Francisco; he 
picked out all the materials himself and inspected 
the inspector. It has what they call "reinforced 
concrete" and all the beams, etc., are steel and the 
lower story is enormously thick as to walls, in the 
genuine Mission style. He said he built for earth 
quakes. The house is all in the Spanish hidalgo 
fashion. I wish you could see the bas-reliefs and 
the carved furniture with cane seats of the seven 
teenth century, all genuine; and the stamped 
leather and the iron grille work rcjas they call it 
all copied from famous Spanish models from 
Toledo ; you know the ancient Spaniards were re 
nowned for their rejas. The pictures are fine 
all Spanish; I don t know half the names of the 
artists, but they are all old and imposing and some 
of them wonderfully preserved. The electric 


lights are all in the shape of lanterns. The patio, 
as they call the court around which the house is 
built, reminded me of the court in Mrs. Gardiner s 
palace in Boston, only it was not so crowded with 
objets and the pillars are much thicker and the 
tropical plants and vines more luxuriant on ac 
count of the climate, I suppose. It is all certainly 
very beautiful. 

There is a great arched gateway for carriages 
which reminds me, do be sure to send the horses 
into the country to rest, one at a time ; and have 
Erastus clean the stable properly while they are 
gone. You can keep one horse for golf ; but don t 
use the brougham ever ; and why not send the sur 
rey to be done over while I am gone? Is the 
piazza painted yet ? How does the new cook do ? 
Insist upon her cooking you nourishing food. 
You might have the Bridge Club of an evening 
there are only the four of you and she might, 
with Emily s help, get you a nice repast of lobster 
a la Newburg, sandwiches and chicken salad ; but 
be sure you don t touch the lobster ! You know 
what happened the last time ; and I shan t be there 
to put on mustard-plasters and give you Hunyadi 
water. If Erastus needs any more chamois skins 
Emily knows where they are, but admonish him 


to be careful with them ; I never saw mortal man 
go through chamois skins the way he can ; some 
times I think he gives them to the horses to eat ! 

Your afL wife, 




The changes which Mrs. Melville had accepted 
so philosophically, the metamorphosis of the tragic 
and lonely house of mystery into a luxurious 
country villa, the flinging open of the shutters, the 
marshaling of servants, the turning, one may say, 
of the lime-light on a rich man s ordinary life 
all this had occurred as swiftly and with as little 
warning as a scene shifts on the stage. 

Mrs. Rebecca Winter may have the credit for 
this bonlevcrsenient of plans. By an astonishingly 
early hour, the next morning, she was awake and 
down-stairs, where Kito and Tracy were making 
coffee, toasting bread and admiring the oatmeal 
which had cooked, while they slept, in the Fire- 
less Stove. Tracy had planned a surprise of brown 
bread, but through no fault of the Fireless, owing 
solely to his omitting what he called "the pick- 
me-up/ commonly known as soda an accident, 
as he truly said, which might happen to any lady 


the bread was "rather too adhesive." The 
breakfast, notwithstanding, was a cheerful one, 
because Miss Smith reported the patient a shade 
better. She looked smiling, although rather heavy- 
eyed. Mercer and the colonel had taken turns sit 
ting in the adjoining room to bring her ice or hot 
water or be of service outside. 

The colonel had suggested calling a doctor, but 
Aunt Rebecca had demurred: "Janet can do 
everything; it is just a question of his heart; and 
she has digitalis and nitroglycerin and strychnine, 
the whole outfit of whips. She has dressed the 
wound with antiseptics. To-morrow will be soon 
enough for the medical talent." It was she, how 
ever, who, as soon as breakfast was over, took first 
Mercer and Tracy, then the colonel apart, and 
proposed calling up Keatcham s confidential as 
sociates on the long distance telephone. "Strike, 
but hear me, nephew," she said languidly, smiling 
at his bewilderment. "Our only chance now is to 
exhaust trumps. Yesterday the game was won. 
Keatcham had surrendered, he had told his part 
ners in the deal to make no fight on Tracy s elec 
tion; they could get what they wanted without 
the Midland ; he advised them to cover their shorts 
and get ready for a bull market " 


"How did he do all that when he had lost his 
private code book ?" 

"How would you do it? You would use the 
long distance telephone. We caught them at Se 
attle, where his men had gone for the meeting. 
I don t understand why they needed me to sug 
gest that. There the poor man was, as your 
Harvard stove agent calls it, rubbering about the 
library, trying to find The Fortunes of Nigel in 
the edition Darley had illustrated; of course, it 
wasn t there. He had lost it just before he came 
to the Palace, he thought. It seems his old cipher 
needs a particular book, that kind. No doubt in 
my mind that your theory is right and that Atkins 
stole it and perhaps thought he stole the key, but 
didn t get it. He took a memorandum of ciphers 
which looked like a key. There Keatcham was, 
with millions hanging on his wires and his mod 
ern substitute for the medieval signet-ring that 
would enforce the message quite lost. What to 
do? Why, there was nothing to do but get an 
other cipher! They made up a temporary one, 
right in that library, yesterday afternoon." 

"But how could Mercer be sure Keatcham 
would not play a trick on him ? Did he hear the 
conversation ?" 


"Certainly not. He took Keatcham s word. 
Whatever his faults, Keatcham has always kept 
his word. Mercer was sure he would keep it. He 
went out of the room. He was in the library; when 
Keatcham was stabbed." 

The colonel drew a long, difficult breath . 
"Then you don t believe Mercer did it?" 

"I m sure he didn t. He didn t hurt him. Why 
should he kill him after he had surrendered ? He 
had nothing to gain and considerable to risk, if 
not to lose. We want that bull market/* 

"But who did then ? Atkins? But he is trying 
to rescue him." 

"Is he? How do we know? The rescue was 
only our supposition. I m only certain none of 
our crowd did it." 


"No, Kito keeps absolutely within his orders; 
he knew how things stood when he went away. 
Mercer saw him go. He couldn t get in, either; 
he had to signal to be let in. They were as careful 
as that. Now, assuming they all are innocent, isn t 
it the best plan to telephone to Seattle to Keatch 
am s next friend there ?" 

"He hasn t any family, has he? His wife died 
and there were no children, I think." 


"No, and if he ever had any brothers or sisters 
they died when they were little; his business as 
sociates are the only people Gary knows about. 
He is anxious to have word sent at once, because 
there are important things to do in Keatcham s 
own interest; he came to California and he has 
employed Gary in a big Portland cement invest 
ment; Gary has been working all the time on it 
for him I beg your pardon " for the colonel 
had raised his hand with a little gasp. 

"Do you mean," said he, "that Mercer has been 
acting as Keatcham s agent, working in his inter 
est all the time he was holding him a prisoner and 
ready to kill him rather than let him go ?" 

"Why not ? Gary is a man of honor. This ce 
ment deal is a perfectly fair one which will give 
a fair price to the present owners and make a 
great business proposition. There are other 
schemes, too, very large ones, which need the man 
at the wheel. Now, I have talked with Gary and 
Endicott Tracy and my plan is to call up Warne- 
bold, his next friend, who knows Mercer has been 
employed by Keatcham and knows his voice and 
knows he is a trusty man (for Mercer has done 
some inquiries for him and saved him once from 
buying a water-logged steel plant) to call him 


up and tell him the truth. We can say Mr. 
Keatcham was mysteriously stabbed; we can ask 
what is best to do. By that time we can report 
that we have the best medical assistance young 
Arnold will get his family physician, who can be 
trusted. .Warnebold will instruct Mercer, I 
reckon, to keep the fact of the assault a secret, not 
even mention that Mr. Keatcham is ill ; and very 
likely he or some one else will come straight on 
here. Meanwhile, young Arnold can open the 
house, hire some servants who won t talk I can 
get them for him ; we all say nothing of the mag 
nate s presence. And the bull market will come 
all right." 

After a little reflection the colonel agreed that 
the bold course would be the safest. Thus it came 
about, with amazing rapidity, that the haunted 
house was opened; that sleek, smiling Chinamen 
whisked brooms and cleaning cloths at open win 
dows ; and Haley and Kito frankly told any curi 
ous inquirers who hailed them over the lawn and 
the flower-beds that young Mr. Arnold was com 
ing home and going to have a house-party of 
friends. The servants had been carefully selected 
by Mrs. Winter s powerful Chinese friend; they 
had no dread of white spooks, however they might 


cringe before yellow ones. Mrs. Winter and Ran 
dall left their hotel, after all the appropriate cere 
monies, amid the lavish bows and smiles of 
liberally paid bell-boys and porters. They gave 
out that they were to visit friends ; and the colonel, 
who remained, was to take charge of their mail; 
hence, with no appearance of secrecy, the trail 
took to water and was lost, since the motor-car 
which carried them was supplied by Birdsall and 
driven by a safe man of his own. 

Regarding the detective, Rupert Winter had 
had what he called "a stiff think;" he could not 
afford even the remote risk of his going with the 
picturesque assortment of information which he 
had obtained about Casa Fuerte and Mercer, into 
Atkins employ ; therefore he hired him, still, him 
self. He made a partial but absolutely truthful 
statement of the case ; he said frankly : "Birdsall, 
I m not going to treat you fair, for I m not going 
to tell you all I know, because well, for one 
thing, I don t feel sure how much I do know my 
self. But all I m going to ask of you is to watch 
the house, day and night, without seeming to 
watch it. You will oblige Mr. Keatcham as well 
as me. There is a big game going on, but it isn t 
what you thought. Mr. Keatcham s best helpers 


are right in that house. Mercer and I and young 
Fireless and Arnold are doing our best to guard 
him, not hurt him. Now, there is big money for 
you if you will watch out for us/ 

Birdsall reflected a moment before he answered, 
but he did answer, screwing up his face : "I don t 
like these jobs in the dark ; but I like you, Colonel, 
and it s a go/* 

Keatcham s valet was next summoned from his 
vacation and became, in Tracy s phrase, "a dandy 

The Tracys family physician came twice a day. 
He was known to be visiting one of the guests 
who had fallen ill. Mercer sent three or four tele 
grams a day to Seattle and to New York, to 
Keatcham s associates. Several times he held a 
conversation of importance over the telephone 
with the man who acted as distributer of intelli 
gence. Warnebold, himself, came on to San Fran 
cisco from Seattle, and was received with every 
courtesy. He questioned Kito, questioned Mer 
cer, questioned the colonel. Tracy had effaced 
himself and was in Pasadena for a day or two. 

The colonel was the star witness (at least this 
was young Arnold s verdict). His narrative was 
to the effect that he had gone out to see Mercer, 


who was a family connection; no, he was not 
alone, he had a young friend with him ; confiden 
tially, he would admit that the friend was Mr. 
Tracy s son; and, while he could not be sure, he 
had reason to suspect that he, "young Tracy," 
had been conducting some delicate negotiations 
with Mr. Keatcham. At this point the interlocutor 
nodded slightly; he was making the deductions 
expected and explaining to himself Keatcham s 
astonishing communication over the telephone. 
So, he was surmising shrewdly, that was the clue ; 
the old man had been making some sort of a deal 
with Tracy through the son ; well, they were pro 
tected, thanks to Keatcham s orders. Likely as not 
they never would know all the reasons for this 

"I understand, then," he said, as one who holds 
a clue but has no notion of letting it slip out of his 
own fingers, "you and young Tracy got here and 
you found Mr. Keatcham ? How did you get in ? 
Did Mr. Mercer let you in ? How did it happen he 
didn t discover Mr. Keatcham instead of you, or 
did you come in on the side?" 

Mrs. Winter who was in the room had a di 
version ready, but it was not needed ; the colonel 
answered unhesitatingly, with a frank smile: 


"No, we came in ourselves; young Tracy had a 

"Oh, he had, had he?" returned Warnebold 
with a shrug of the shoulders. 

"He is a great friend of young Arnold s ; they 
were at Harvard together, belonged to the same 

"Yes, I understand ; well" 

The rest of the interview was clear sailing. 
Mrs. Winter s presence was explained in her very 
own words. "Of course I was put out a good deal 
at first," added the colonel, "by the women getting 
mixed up in it ; but Miss Smith undoubtedly saved 
Mr. Keatcham s life. I never saw any one who 
seemed to think of so many things to do. Half a 
dozen times, that first night, he seemed to be fad 
ing away; but every time she brought him back. 
I was anxious to have a doctor called in; but 
Mercer seemed opposed to making a stir " 

"He knew his business thoroughly," interjected 
Keatcham s confidant, "he undoubtedly had his 
instructions to keep Keatcham s presence here 
a secret." 

"He had," said Mrs. Winter; "besides, Miss 
Smith is his sister-in-law and he knew that she 
could be trusted to do everything possible. And, 


really, it didn t look as if anything could help 
him. I hardly believed that he could live an hour 
when I saw him." 

"Nor I," the colonel corroborated. 

Warnebold, plainly impressed by Mrs. Winter s 
grand air, assured them both that he felt that 
everything that could be done had been done; 
Miss Smith was quite wonderful; and he would 
admit (of course, confidentially) that Mr. Keatch- 
am did have a heart trouble ; Mr. Mercer had re 
called one or two fainting fits; there was some 
congestion ; and the doctor found a sad absence of 
reaction ; he believed that there had been a er 
syncope of some sort before the stabbing; Mr. 
Keatcham himself, although he was still too weak 
to talk much, had no recollection of anything ex 
cept a very great faintness. Mr. Mercer s theory 
seemed to cover the ground. 

"Except as to who did the stabbing," said the 

"Has Mr. Keatcham any bitter enemies?" 
asked Aunt Rebecca thoughtfully. 

"What man whcMias made a great fortune 
hasn t?" demanded Warnebold with a saturnine 
wrinkle of the lips. "But our enemies don t stab 
or shoot us, nowadays." 


"They do out West/ said the colonel genially ; 
"we re crude." 

"Are you in earnest ?" 

"Entirely. I know a man, a mine superintend 
ent, who got into a row with his miners because 
he discharged a foreman, one of the union lights, 
for stealing ore. In consequence he got a big 
strike on his hands, found a dynamite bomb un 
der his front piazza, and was shot at twice. The 
second time he was too quick for them; he shot 
back and killed one of them. He thought it was 
time to put a stop to so much excitement, so he 
sent for the second assassin " 

"And had him arrested ?" 

"Oh, dear, no; he wasn t in Massachusetts; I 
told you he wanted the thing stopped. No, he sent 
for him and told him that he had no special ill 
feeling toward him, but that the next time any 
thing of the kind happened he had made arrange 
ments to have not him, or any other thug who 
was doing the work, but the two men who were at 
the bottom of the whole business, killed within 
twenty-four hours. They took the hint and kind 
feeling now prevails/ 

Warnebold grunted; he declared it to be a 
beastly creepy situation ; he said he never wanted 


to sit down without a wall against his back ; and 
he intimated that the president of the United 
States was to blame for more than he realized. "I 
hope you have some one watching the house," he 
fumed, "and that he well, he doesn t belong to 
the police force." 

"No, he s an honest mercenary," said the colo 
nel ; "I ll introduce him to you." 

"And you haven t found any method of enter 
ing the house?" fumed the financier. 

"No," said Aunt Rebecca. 

"Yes," said the colonel. 

He laughed as they both whirled round on him. 
"You speak first, my dear aunt," he proposed po 
litely ; "I ll explain later." 

Mrs. Winter said that a most careful examina 
tion had been made not only by Mercer and the 
colonel together, but also by young Arnold. They 
found everything absolutely secure; all the win 
dows were bolted and all the cellar gratings firm 
and impossible to open. 

"Now, you ?" said Warnebold. 

"I only found out to-day," apologized the colo 
nel, "or I should have spoken of it. I got to 
thinking; and it occurred to me that in a house 
built, as I understood from Arnold, by a very 


original architect, there might be some queer fea 
tures, such as secret passages. With that in my 
mind, I induced the young gentleman to hunt up 
the architect, as he lives in San Francisco. He not 
only showed us some very pretty secret passages 
about the house, but one that led into it. Shall I 
show it to you?" 

On their instantly expressed desire to see the 
hidden way, the colonel led them to the patio. 
He walked to the engaged column which once 
before had interested him; he pressed a con 
cealed spring under the boldly carved eight-pointed 
flower; instantly, the entire side of the columns 
swung as a door might swing. As they peered 
into the dusky space below, the colonel, who had 
put down his arm, pressed an electric button and 
the white light flooded the shaft, revealing an in 
genious ladder of cleats fitted into steel uprights. 

"Here," said the colonel, "is a secret way from 
the patio to the cellar. The cellar extends a little 
beyond the patio and there is a way down from the 
yard to the cellar I can quickly show you, if you 

"No, thank you," replied Warnebold, who was 
a man of full habit and older than the colonel, "I 
will take your personal experience instead." 


Then if you will go out into the yard with me 
I will show you where a charming pergola ends 
in a vine-wreathed sun-dial of stone that you 
may tug at and not move ; but press your foot on 
a certain stone, the whole dial swings round on a 
concealed turn-table such as they have in garages, 
you know. You will have no difficulty in finding 
the right stone, because an inscription runs round 
the dial : Mas vale tarde que nunca; and the stone 
is directly opposite nunca. When you have moved 
away your dial you will see a gently inclining tun 
nel, high enough for a man to walk in without 
stooping, wide enough for two, and much better 
ventilated than the New York subway. That tun 
nel leads to a secret door opening directly into the 
cellar, so skilfully contrived that it looks like an 
air-shaft. This door is only a few feet from the 
shaft to the patio. We have found a bolt and put 
it on this entrance, but there wasn t any before; 
nor did any one in the house know of the secret 

The colonel went on to say that on questioning 
the architect he averred that he had never men 
tioned the secret passage to his knowledge ex 
cept that very recently, only a few days before, 
at a dinner, he had barely alluded to it ; and one 


of the gentlemen present, an Easterner, had asked 
him where he got a man to make such a contriv 
ance it must take skill. He had mentioned the 
name of the workman. The colonel had hunted 
up the artisan mentioned, only to find that he had 
left town to take a job somewhere; no one seemed 
to know where. Of course he had inquired of 
everybody. The name of the Easterner was At 

"Atkins," cried Warnebold, at this turn of the 
narrative, "Keatcham s secretary? Why, he s the 
boldest and slyest scoundrel in the United States ! 
He started a leak in Keatcham s office that made 
him a couple of hundred thousands and lost us a 
million, and might have lost us more if Mercer 
hadn t got on to him. Keatcham wouldn t believe 
he had been done to the extent he was at first 
you know the old man hates to own to any one s 
getting the better of him; it s the one streak of 
vanity I ve ever been able to discover in him. 
Otherwise, he s cold and keen as a razor on a 
frosty morning. He was convinced enough, how 
ever, to discharge Atkins; the next news I had, 
he was trying to send him to the pen. Gave us 
instructions how to get the evidence. No allusion 
to his past confidence -in the fellow, simply the or- 


ders as if we knew all the preliminaries. Won 
derful man, Mr. Keatcham, Colonel Winter." 

"Very," agreed the colonel dryly. 

By this time the warrior and the man of finance 
were on easy terms. Warnebold remained three 
days. Before he left the patient had been pro 
nounced out of danger and had revived enough to 
give some succinct business directions. Mercer 
had been sent to look out for the cement deal; 
and Keatcham appeared a little relieved and 
brighter when he was told that Mercer was on 
his way. 

"He will put it through if it can be put," he 
had said weakly to Warnebold ; "he s moderately 
smart and perfectly honest." Such words, Warne 
bold explained later to Mrs. Winter, coming from 
Keatcham might be regarded almost as extrava 
gant commendation. "Your cousin s fortune is 
made," he pronounced solemnly; "he can get At 
kins place, I make no doubt." 

Mrs. Winter thought that Mercer was a very 
valuable man. 

"Only always so melancholy; I ve been afraid 
he had something serious the matter with his di 
gestion. It s these abominable quick lunches that 
are ruining the health of all our steady young 


men. I don t know but they are almost as bad 
as chorus girls and late suppers. Well, Mrs. Win 
ter, I m afraid we shall not have another chance 
at bridge until I see you in New York. But, any 
how, we stung the colonel once and with Miss 
Smith playing her greatest game, too. Pity she 
can t induce Mr. Keatcham to play ; but he never 
touches a card, hardly ever takes anything to 
drink, doesn t like smoking especially, takes a cig 
arette once in a while only, never plays the races or 
bets on the run of the vessel positively such icy 
virtue gives an ordinary sinner the cramps ! Very 
great man though, Mrs. Winter, and a man we 
are all proud to follow ; he may be overbearing ; 
and he doesn t praise you too much, but somehow 
you always frave the consciousness that he sees 
every bit of good work you do and is marking it 
up in your favor; and you won t be the loser. 
There is no question he has a hold on his asso 
ciates ; but he certainly is not what I call a genial 


Only on the day of his departure did Warne- 
bold, in young Arnold s language, "loosen up" 
enough to tell Arnold and the colonel a vital in 
cident. The night of the attack a telegram was 
sent to Warnebold in Keatcham s confidential 


cipher, directing the campaign against Tracy to 
be pushed hard, ordering the dumping of some big 
blocks of stock on the market and arranging for 
their dummy purchasers. The naming of Atkins 
as the man in charge was plausible enough, pre 
suming there had been no knowledge of the break 
in his relations with Keatcham. The message was 
couched in Keatcham s characteristic crisp phrase 
ology. But for the receiver s knowledge of the 
break and but for the previous long-distance con 
versation, it had reached its mark. The associates 
of Keatcham were puzzled. The hands were the 
hands of Esau but the voice was the voice of 
Jacob. There had been a hurried consultation into 
which the second long-distance telephone from 
San Francisco broke like a thunderclap. It de 
cided the hearers to keep to their instructions and 
disregard the cipher despatch. 

"And didn t you send any answer ?" the colonel 

"OH, Certainly; we had an address given, The 
Palace Hotel, Mr. John G. Makers. We wired 
Mr. Makers in cipher. Despatch received. Will 
attend to it, I signed. And I wired to the man 
ager of the hotel to notice the man who took the 
despatch. It wasn t a man, it was a lady." 


"A lady?" 

"Yes, she had an order for Mr. Makers tele 
grams. Mr. Makers gave the order. Mr. Makers 
himself only stopped one night and went away in 
the morning and nobody seemed to remember him 
particularly; he was a nondescript sort of party/* 

"But the lady?" The colonel s mouth felt dry. 

"The lady? She was tall, fine figure, well 
dressed, dark hair, the telegraph girl thought, but 
she didn t pay any special attention. She had a 
very pleasant, musical voice." 

"That doesn t seem to be very definite," re 
marked the colonel with a crooked smile. 

It didn t look like a clue to Warnebold, either ; 
but he was convinced of one thing, namely, that 
it would pay to watch the ex-secretary. 

"And," chuckled he, "there s a cheerful side to 
the affair. Atkins is loaded to the guards with 
short contracts; and the Midland is booming; if 
the rise continues, he can t cover without losing 
about all he has. By the way, we got another wire 
later in the day demanding what we were about, 
what it all meant that we hadn t obeyed instruc 
tions. Same address for answer. This time we 
thought we had laid a nice trap. But you can t 
reckon pn a hotel ; somehow, before we got warn- 


ing, Mr. Makers had telephoned for his despatch 
and got it." 

"Where did he telephone from?" 

"From his room in the Palace." 

"I thought he had given up his room?" 

"He had. But somebody telephoned to the 
telegraph office from somewhere in the hotel and 
got Mr. Makers wire. You can get pretty much 
everything except a moderate bill out of a hotel." 

"I see," said the colonel and immediately in his 
heart compared himself to the immortal "blind 
man ;" for his wits appeared to him to be tramp 
ing round futilely in a maze; no nearer the exit 
than when the tramp began. 

That night, after Warnebold had departed, 
leaving most effusive thanks and expressions of 
confidence, Winter was standing at his window 
absently looking at the garden faintly colored by 
the moonlight, while his mind was plying back 
and forth between half a dozen contradictions. 

He went over the night of the attack on Keatch- 
am; he summoned every look, every motion of 
Janet Smith ; in one phase of feeling he cudgeled 
himself for a wooden fool who had been abso 
lutely brutal to a defenseless woman who trusted 
him ; he hated himself for the way he would not 


see her when she looked toward him ; no wonder 
at last she stiffened, and now she absolutely 
avoided him! But, in a swift revulsion against 
his own softness he was instantly laying on the 
blows as lustMy because of his incredible, pig 
headed credulity. How absolutely simple the 
thing was ! She car ed for this scoundrel of an At 
kins who had first betrayed his employer and then 
tried to murder him. Very likely they had been 
half engaged down there in Virginia; and he had 
crawled out of his engagement ; it would be quite 
like the cur! Later he found that just such a dis 
tinguished, charming woman, who had family 
and friends, was what he wanted ; it would be easy 
enough for him to warm up his old passion, curse 
him! Then, he had met her and run in a bunch 
of plausible lies that had convinced her that he 
had been a regular angel in plain clothes ; hadn t 
done a thing to Gary or to her. Atkins was such 
a smooth devil! Winter could just picture him 
whining to the girl, putting his life in her hands 
and all that rot ; and making all kinds of a tool of 
her why, the whole hand was on the board ! So 
she was ready to throw them all overboard to 
save Atkins from getting his feet wet. That was 
why she looked so pale and haggard of a morning 


sometimes, in spite of that ready smile of hers; 
that was why her eyes were so wistful ; she wasn t 
a false woman and she sickened of her squalid 
part. She loved Aunt Rebecca and .Archie all 
the same, she would turn them both down for 
him ; while as to Rupert Winter, late of the United 
States army, a worn-out, lame, elderly idiot who 
had flung away the profession he loved and every 
chance of a future career in order to have his 
hands free to keep her out of danger where were 
there words blistering enough for such puppy-dog 
folly! At this point in his jealous imaginings the 
pain in him goaded him into motion; he began 
furiously pacing the room, although his lame leg, 
which he had been using remorselessly all day, 
was sending jabs and twists of agony through 
him. But after a little he halted again before the 
casement window. 

The wide, darkening view ; the great, silent city 
with its myriad lights; the shining mist of the 
bay; the foot-hills with their sheer, straw-colored 
streaks through the forests and vineyards ; the il 
limitable depths of star-sown, violet sky all these 
touched his fevered mood with a sudden calm. 
His unrest was quieted, as one whose senses are 
cooled by a running stream. 


"You hot-headed Southerner!" he upbraided 
himself, "don t get up in the air without any real 

Almost in the flitting of the words through his 
brain he saw her. The white gown, which was her 
constant wear in the sick-room, defined her figure 
clearly against a clump of Japan plum-trees. 
Their purplish red foliage rustled ; and an unseen 
fountain beyond made a delicate tinkle of water 
splashing a marble basin. Her face was hidden ; 
only the moonlight gently drew the oval of her 
cheek. She was standing still, except that one foot 
was groping back and forth as if trying to find 
something. But, as he looked, his face growing 
tender, she knelt on the sod and pulled something 
out of the ground. This something she seemed to 
dust off with her handkerchief he could not see 
the object, but he could see the flutter of the hand 
kerchief ; and when she rose the white linen partly 
hid the thing in her hand. Only partly, because 
when she passed around the terrace wall the glow 
from an electric lantern, in an arch, fell full upon 
her and burnished a long, thin blade of steel. 

He looked down on her from his unlighted 
chamber; and suddenly she looked up straight at 
the windows of the room where she thought he 


was sleeping; and smiled a dim, amused, weary, 
tender smile. Then she sped by, erect and light of 
foot; and the deep shadow of the great gateway 
took her. All he could see was the moonlight on 
the bluish green lawn ; and the white electric light 
on the gleaming rubber-trees and dusty palms. 

He sat down. He clasped his hands over his 
knee. He whistled softly a little Spanish air. He 
laughed very gently. "My dear little girl," said 
he, "I am going to marry you. You may be swin 
dled into helping a dozen murderers; but I am 
going to marry you !" 



One Sunday after Mrs. Melville Winter and 
Archie came to Casa Fuerte, Mr. Keatcham sent 
for the colonel. There was nothing unusual in 
such a summons. From the beginning of his ill 
ness he had shown a curious, inexpressive desire 
for the soldier s company. He would have him 
sit in the room, although too weak to talk to him, 
supposing he wished to talk, which was not at all 
sure. "I like-to-see-him- just-sitting- there," he fal 
tered to his nurse, "can t-he-read-or-play-solitaire- 

Sometimes Winter would be conscious that the 
feeble creature in the bed, with the bluish-white 
face, was staring at him. Whether the glassy eyes 
beheld his figure or went beyond him to unfinished 
colossal schemes that might change the fate of a 
continent, or drifted backward to the poverty- 
stricken home, the ferocious toil and the unending 
self-denial of Keatcham s youth on the Pacific 


slope, the dim gaze gave no clue. All that was 
apparent was that it was always on Winter, as he 
curled his legs under his chair, wrote or knitted 
his brow over rows of playing-cards. 

At the very first, Keatcham s mind had wan 
dered; he used to shrink from imaginary people 
who were in the room; he would try to talk to 
them, distressing himself painfully, ior he was so 
weak that his nurses turned his head on the pillow ; 
he would feebly motion them away. In such aber 
rations he would sometimes appeal, in a changed, 
thin, childish voice, to the obscure, toil-worn 
pioneer woman who had died while he was a lad. 
"Mother, I was a good boy ; I always got up when 
you called me, didn t I ? I helped you iron when 
the other boys were playing mother, please don t 
let that old woman stay and cry here!" Or he 
would plead ; "Mother, tell her, say, you tell her 
I didn t know her son would kill himself I 
couldn t tell he was a damn coward, anyhow 
excuse me, mama, I didn t mean to swear, but 
they make me so awful mad ! ? There was a girl 
who came, sometimes, from whose presence he 
shrank ; a girl he had never seen ; nor, indeed, had 
he ever known in the flesh any of the shapes 
which haunted him. They had lived; but never 


had his eyes fallen on them. Nevertheless, their 
presence was as real to him as that of the people 
about him whom he could hear and touch and see. 
It did not take Winter s imagination long to piece 
out the explanation of these apparitions: they 
were specters of the characters in those dramas 
of ruthless conquest which Mercer had culled out 
of newspaper "stories" and affidavits and court 
reports and forced upon Keatcham s attention. 
Miss Smith helped him to the solution, although 
her own ignorance of Mercer s method was puz 
zling. "How did he ever know old Mrs. Ferris ?" 
she said. "He called her Ferris and he talks about 
her funny dress she always did wear a queer lit 
tle basque and full skirt after all the world went 
into blouses but how did he ever come across 
her? They had a place on the James that had 
been in the family a hundred years and had to 
lose it on account of the Tidewater; and Nelson 
Ferris blew his brains out." 

"Don t you know how?" asked the colonel. 
"Well, I ll tell you my guess sometime. Who is 
the girl who seems to make him throw a fit so?" 

"I m not sure; I imagine it is poor Mabel Ray; 
there were two of them, sisters ; they made money 
out of their Tidewater stock and went to New 


York to visit some kin ; and they got scared when 
the stock fell and the dividends stopped ; and they 
sold out at a great loss. They never did come 
back; they had persuaded all their kin to invest; 
and the stopping of the dividends made it difficult 
for some of the poor ones Mabel said she 
couldn t face her old aunts. She went on the stage 
in New York. She was very pretty; she wasn t 
very strong. Anyway, you can imagine the end 
of the story. I saw her in the park last winter 
when Mrs. Winter was in New York ; she turned 
her face away poor Mabel !" 

Through Janet Smith s knowledge of her dead 
sister s neighbors, Winter got a dozen pitiful rec 
ords of the wreckage of the Tidewater. "Mighty 
interesting reading," he thought grimly, "but 
hardly likely to make the man responsible for 
them stuck on himself!" Then he would look at 
the drawn face on the pillow and listen to the bab 
blings of the boy who had had no childhood; and 
the frown would melt off his brow. 

He did not always talk to his mother when his 
mind wandered ; several times he addressed an in 
visible presence as "Helen" and "Dear" with an 
accent of tenderness very strange on those inflex 
ible lips. When he talked to this phantasm he was 


never angry or distressed; his turgid scowl 
cleared ; the austere lines chiseling his cheeks and 
brow faded; he looked years younger. But for 
the most part, it was to no unreal creature that he 
turned, but to Colonel Rupert Winter. He would 
address him with punctilious civility, but as one 
who was under some obligation to assist him, say 
ing, for instance, "Colonel Winter, I must beg 
you not to let those persons in the room again. 
They annoy me. But you needn t let Mercer know 
that. Please attend to it yourself, and get them 
away. Miss Smith says you will. Explain to them 
that when I get up I will investigate their claims. 
I m too sick now !" 

Conscious and free from lever, He was Barely 
able to articulate, but when delirious fancies pos 
sessed him he could talk rapidly, in a good voice. 
Very soon it was clear that he was calmer for the 
colonel s presence. Hence, the latter got into the 
habit of sitting in the room. He would request 
imaginary ruined and desperate beings to leave 
Keatcham in peace; he would gravely rise and 
close the door on their departure. He never was 
surprised nor at a loss; and his dramatic nerve 
never failed. Later, as the visions faded, a moody 
reserve wrapped the sick man, He lay motionless, 


evidently absorbed by thought. In one way he 
was what doctors call a very good patient. He 
obeyed all directions; he was not restless. But 
neither was he ever cheerful. Every day he asked 
for his pulse record and his temperature and his 
respiration. After a consultation with the doctor, 
Miss Smith gave them to him. 

"It is against the rules," grumbled the doctor, 
"but I suppose each patient has to make his own 
rules." On the same theory he permitted the colo 
nel s visits. 

Therefore, with no surprise, Winter received 
and obeyed the summons. Keatcham greeted him 
with his usual stiff courtesy. 

"The doctor says I can have the papers will 
you pick out the one day after I was 

Miss Smith indicated a pile on a little table, 
placed ready at hand. "I kept them for him," she 

"Read about the Midland," commanded the 
faint, indomitable voice. 

"Want the election and the newspaper senti 
ments?" asked the colonel; he gave it all, con 
scious the while of Janet Smith s compassionate, 
perplexed, sorrowful eyes. 


"Don t skip !" Keatcham managed to articulate 
after a pause. 

The colonel gave him a keen glance. "Want it 
straight, without a chaser ?" 

Keatcham closed his eyes and nodded. 

The colonel read about the virtually unanimous 
election of Tracy; the astonishment of the out 
siders among the supposed anti-Tracy element; 
the composed and impenetrable front of the men 
closest to Keatcham; the reticence and amiability 
of Tracy himself, in whose mien there could be 
detected no hint either of hostility or of added 
cordiality toward the men who had been expected 
"to drag his bleeding pride in the dust;" finally of 
the response of the stock-market in a phenomenal 
rise of Midland. 

Keatcham listened with his undecipherable 
mask of attention ; there was not so much as the 
flicker of an eyelid or the twitch of a muscle. All 
he said was: "Now, read if there is anything 
about the endowment of the new fellowships in 
some medical schools for experimental research." 

"Who gives the endowment ?" 

"Anonymous. In memory of Maria Warren 
Keatcham and Helen Bradford Keatcham. Find 


The colonel found a great deal about it. The 
paper was full of this munificent gift, amounting 
to many millions of dollars and filling (with 
most carefully and wisely planned details) an 
almost absolute vacuum in the American scheme 
of education. The dignity and fame of the chairs 
and fellowships endowed were ample to tempt the 
best ability of the profession. The reader grew en 
thusiastic as he read. 

"Why, it s immense! And we have always 
needed it!" he exclaimed. 

"There are some letters about it, there/ 
Keatcham feebly motioned to a number of neatly 
opened, neatly assorted letters on a desk. "The 
doctor said I might have the letters read to me. 
Miss Smith got him to. For fear of exciting you, 
the doctors usually let you worry your head off 
because you don t know about things. I ve got to 
carry a few things through if it kills me. Don t 
you see?" 

"I see," said the colonel, "you shall." 

The next time he saw the financier, although 
only a few days had elapsed, he was much 
stronger ; he was able to breathe comfortably, he 
spoke with ease, in his ordinary voice ; in fine, he 
looked his old self again, merely thinner and paler. 


Hardly was the colonel seated before he said 
without preface Keatcham never made ap 
proaches to his subject, regarding conversational 
road-making as waste of brains for a busy man : 

"Colonel, Miss Smith hasn t time to be my 
nurse and secretary both. I won t have one sent 
from New York; will you help her out?" 

The colonel s lips twitched; he was thinking 
that were Miss Smith working for Atkins, she 
couldn t have a better chance to make a killing. 
"But I ll bet my life she isn t," he added ; "she 
may be trying to save his life, but she isn t play 
ing his game !" 

He said aloud : "I will, Mr. Keatcham, if you 
will let me do it as part of the obligation of the 
situation ; and there is no bally rot about compen 

"Very well," said Keatcham. He did not hesi 
tate; it was (as the colonel had already discov 
ered) the rarest thing in the world for him to 
hesitate; he thought with astonishing rapidity; 
and he formulated his answer while his interlocu 
tor talked ; before the speech was over the answer 
was ready. Another trait of his had struck the 
soldier, namely, the laborious correctness of his 
speech; it was often formal and old-fashioned; 


Aunt Rebecca said that he talked like Daniel 
Webster s speeches ; but it had none of the homely 
and pungent savor one might expect from a man 
whose boyhood had scrambled through miners 
camps into a San Francisco stock office ; who had 
never gone to school in his life by daylight ; who 
had been mine superintendent, small speculator 
and small director in California until he became 
a big speculator and big railway controller in 
New York. 

"You might begin on the morning mail," 
Keatcham continued. "Let me sort them first." 
He merely glanced at the inscriptions on the en 
velopes, opening and taking out one which he read 
rather carelessly, frowning a little before he 
placed it to one side. 

A number of the letters concerned the endow 
ments of the experimental chairs at the universi 
ties. Keatcham s attention was not lightened by 
any ray of pleasure. Once he said : "That fellow 
has caught my idea," and once: "That s right," 
but there was no animation in his voice, no inter 
est in his pallid face. Stealing a furtive scrutiny 
of it, now and then, Rupert Winter was impressed 
with its mystical likeness to that of Gary Mercer. 
There was no physical similarity of color or fea- 


ture ; it was a likeness of the spirit rather than the 
flesh. The colonel s eyes flashed. 

"I have it!" he exclaimed within, "I have it; 
they are fanatics, both of them; Keatcham s a 
fanatic of finance and Mercer is a fanatic of an 
other sort ; but fanatics they both are, ready to go 
any length for their principles or their ambitions 
or their revenge! J ai trouve le mot d enigme, 
as Aunt Becky would say I wonder what 
she ll say to this sudden psychological splurge of 

"The business hour is up," it was Miss Smith 
entering with a bowl on a white-covered tray ; the 
sun glinted the lump of ice in the milk and the 
silver spoon was dazzling against the linen 
"your biscuit and milk, Mr. Keatcham. Didn t 
you have it when you were a boy?" 

"I did, Miss Janet," and Keatcham actually 
smiled. "I used to think crackers and milk the 
nicest thing in the world." 

"That is because you never tasted corn pone 
and milk ; but you are going to." 

"When you make it for me. I m glad you re 
such a good cook. It s one of your ways I like. 
My mother was a very good cook. She could 
make better dishes out of almost nothing than 


these mongrel chefs can make with the whole 

"I reckon she could/ said Miss Smith ; she was 
speaking sincerely. 

"When my father didn t strike pay dirt, my 
mother would open her bakery and make pies for 
the miners; she could make bread with potato 
yeast or salt-emptins can you make salt-rising 

"I can shall I make you some, to-morrow ?" 

"I d like it. My mother used to make more 
money than my father; sometimes when we chil 
dren were low in clothes and dad owed a bigger 
lot of money than usual, we had a laundry at our 
house as well as a bakery. Yet, in spite of all the 
work, my mother found time to teach all of us; 
and she knew how to teach, too ; for she was prin 
cipal of a school when my father married her. 
She was a New Englander; so was he; but they 
went West. We re forty-niners. I saw the place 
where our little cloth-and-board shack used to 
stand. After the big fire, you know. It burned us 
all up ; we had saved a good deal and my mother 
had a nice bakery. She worked too hard ; it killed 
her. Work and struggle and losing the children." 

"They died ?" said Miss Janet. 


"Diphtheria. They didn t know anything about 
the disease then. We all had it ; and my little sis 
ter and both my brothers died; but I m tough. 
I lived. My mother fell into what they called a 
decline. I was making a little money then I was 
sixteen; but I couldn t keep her from working. 
Perhaps it made no difference; but it did make a 
difference her not having the the right kind of 
food. Nobody knew anything about consumption 
then. I used to go out in the morning and be 
afraid I d find her dead when I got back. One 
night I did." He stopped abruptly, crimsoning up 
to his eyes " I don t know why I m telling you 
all this." 

"I call that tough," as the colonel blurted out 
the words, he was conscious of a sense of repeti 
tion. When had he said those very same words 
before, to whom? Of all people in the world, to 
Gary Mercer. "Mighty tough," murmured he 

"Yes," said Keatcham, "it was." He did not 
say anything more. Neither did the colonel. 
Ketcham obediently ate his milk and biscuit; 
and very shortly the colonel took his leave. 

The next morning after an uneventful hour of 
sorting, reading and answering letters for Miss 


Smith to copy on the traveling typewriter, 
Keatcham gave his new secretary a sharp sensa 
tion; he ordered in his quiet but peremptory 
fashion : "Now put that trash away ; sit down ; 
tell me all you know of Gary real name is Gary 
Mercer, isn t it?" 

The colonel said it was; he asked him if he 
wanted everything. 

"Everything. Straight. Without a chaser," 
snapped Keatcham. 

The colonel gave it to him. He began with 
his own acquaintance ; he told about Phil Mercer ; 
he did not slur a detail ; neither did he underscore 
one ; Keatcham got the uncolored facts. He heard 
them impassively, making only one comment: 
"A great deal of damage would be saved in this 
world if youngsters could be shut up until they 
had sense enough not to fool with firearms." 
When Winter came to Mercer s own exposition 
of his motives and his design if successful in his 
raid on the kings of the market, Keatcham grunt 
ed; at the end he breathed a noiseless jet of a 
sigh. "You don t think Mercer is at all" he 
tapped the side of the head. 

"No more than you are." 

"Or you?" 


"Oh, well," the colonel jested, "we all have a 
prejudice in favor of our own sanity. What I 
meant was that Mercer is a bit of a fanatic; his 
hard luck has well, prejudiced him " 

Keatcham s cold, firm lips straightened into his 
peculiar smile, which was rather of perception 
than of humor. 

One might say of him Aunt Rebecca Win 
ter did say of him that he saw the incongruous, 
which makes up for humor, but he never enjoyed 
it ; possibly it was only another factor in his con 
tempt of mankind. 

"Colonel," said Keatcham, "do you think Wall 
Street is a den of thieves ?" 

"I do," said the colonel promptly. "I should 
like to take a machine gun or two and clean you 
all out." 

Keatcham did not smile; he blinked his eyes 
and nodded. "I presume a good many people 
share your opinion of us." 

"Millions," replied the colonel. 

Again Keatcham nodded. "I thought so," said 
he. "Of course you are all off; Wall Street is as 
necessary to the commonwealth as the pores to 
your -skin ; they don t make the poison in the sys 
tem any more than the pores do; they only let it 


escape. And I suppose you think that big finan 
ciers who control the trusts and the railways 

"Us," the colonel struck in, "well?" 

"You think w r e are thieves and liars and mur 
derers and despots?" 

"All of that," said the colonel placidly; "also 

"You certainly don t mince your words." 

"You don t want me to. What use would my 
opinion be in a one-thousandth attenuation? 
You re no homeopath ; and whatever else you may 
be, you re no coward." 

"Yet, you think I surrendered to Mercer ? You 
think I did it because I was afraid he would 
kill me? I suppose he would have killed me if I 
hadn t, eh?" 

"He can speak for himself about that; he 
seems well, an earnest sort of man. But I don t 
think you gave in because you were afraid, if that 
is what you mean. You are no more afraid than he 
was ! You wanted to live, probably ; you had big 
things on hand. The Midland was only a trump 
in the game; you could win the odd trick with 
something else; you let the Midland go." 

"Pretty close," Keatcham really smiled "but 


there is a good deal more of it. I was shut up witli 
the results of my my work. He did it very 
cleverly. I had nothing to distract me. There 
were the big type-written pages about the foolish 
people who had lost their money, in some cases 
really through my course, mostly because they 
got scared and let go and were wiped out when, 
if they had had confidence in me and held on, they 
would be very much better off, now. But they 
didn t, and they were ruined and they starved and 
took their boys out of college and mortgaged their 
confounded homes that had been in their families 
ever since Adam; and the old people died of 
broken hearts and the girls went wrong and some 
of the idiotic quitters killed themselves it was 
not the kind of crowd you would want shut up 
with you in the dark ! I was shut up with them. 
He had some sort of way of switching off the 
lights from the outside. I never saw a face or 
heard a voice. I would have to sit there in the 
dark after he thought I had read enough to 
occupy my mind. It was unpleasant. Perhaps 
you suppose that brought me round to his way of 

The colonel meditated. "I ll tell you honestly/ 
he said after a pause, "I was of that opinion, or 


something of the kind, until I talked your case 
over with my aunt " 

"The old dame is not a fool ; what did she say ?" 

"She said no, he didn t convert you; but he 
convinced you how other people looked at your 
methods. You couldn t get round the fact that a 
majority of your countrymen think your type of 
financier is worse than smallpox, and more con 

"Oh, she put it that way, did she? I wish she 
would write a prospectus for me. Well, you 
think she was nearer right than you ?" 

"I think you do; I myself think it was a little 
of both. You ve got a heart and a conscience 
originally, though they have got pretty well 
tanned out in the weather; you didn t want to be 
sorry for those people, but you are. They have 
bothered you a lot ; but it has bothered you more 
to think that instead of going down the ages as a 
colossal benefactor and empire builder, you are 
hung up on the hook to see where you re at; 
and where you will be if the people get thorough 
ly aroused. You all are building bigger balloons 
when it ought to be you for the cyclone cellar ! 
But you are different. You can see ahead. I give 
you credit for seeing." 


"Have you ever considered/ said Keatcham 
slowly, "that in spite of the iniquitous greed of 
the men you are condemning, in spite of their 
oppression of the people, the prosperity of the 
country is unparalleled? How do you explain it?" 

"Crops," said the colonel ; "the crops were too 
big for you." 

"You might give us a little credit your aunt 
does. She was here to-day ; she is a manufacturer 
and she comprehended that the methods of busi 
ness can not be revolutionized without somebody s 
getting hurt. Yet, on the whole, the change 
might be immensely advantageous. Now, why, 
in a nutshell, do you condemn us?" 

"You re after the opinion of the average man, 
are you ?" 

"I suppose so, the high average." 

The colonel crossed his legs and uncrossed 
them again; he looked straight into the other s 
eyes; his own narrowed with thought. 

"I ll tell you," said he. "I don t know much 
about the Street or high finance or industrial de 
velopment. I m a plain soldier; I m not a manu 
facturer and I m not a speculator. I understand 
perfectly that you can t have great changes with 
out somebody s getting hurt in the shuffle. It 


is beyond me to decide whether the new indus 
trial arrangements with the stock-jobber on top 
instead of the manufacturer will make for better 
or for worse but I know this; it is against the 
fundamental law to do evil that good may come. 
And you fellows in Wall Street, when, to get rich 
quick, you lie about stocks in order to buy 
cheap and then lie another way to sell dear ; when 
you make a panic out of whole cloth, as you did 
in 1903, because, having made about all you can 
out of things going up, you want to make all you 
can out of them going down ; when you play foot 
ball with great railway properties and insurance 
properties, because you are as willing to rob the 
dead as the living; when you do all that, and 
when your imitators, who haven t so much brains 
or so much decency as you, when they buy up 
legislatures and city councils; and their imitators 
run the Black Hand business and hold people up 
who have money and are not strong enough, 
they think, to hunt them down why, not being 
a philosopher but just a plain soldier, I call it bad, 
rotten bad. What s more, I can tell you the Amer 
ican people won t stand for it." 

"You think they can help themselves?" 

"I know they can. You fellows are big, but 


you won t last over night if the American people 
get really aroused. And they are stirring in their 
sleep and kicking off the bed-clothes." 

"Yet you ought to belong to the conservatives. * 

"I do. That s why the situation is dangerous. 
You as an old San Franciscan ought to remember 
how conservative was that celebrated Vigilance 
Committee. It is when the long-suffering, pusil 
lanimous, conservative element gets fighting mad 
that something is doing." 

"Maybe," muttered Keatcham thoughtfully. "I 
believe we can manage for you better than you 
can for yourselves; but when the brakes are 
broken good driving can t stop the machine; all 
the chauffeur can do is to keep the middle of the 
road. I like to be beaten as little as any of them ; 
but I m not a fool. Winter, you are used to ac 
complishing things; what is your notion of the 

"Knowing when to stop exhausting trumps, I 
reckon but you don t play cards." 

"It is the same old game whatever you play," 
said the railway king. He did not pursue the 
discussion; his questions, Winter had found, in 
variably had a purpose, and that purpose was 
never argument. He lay back on the big leather 


cushions of the lounge, his long, lean lingers 
drumming on the table beside him and an odd 
smile playing about the corners of his mouth; 
his next speech dived into new waters. He said : 
"Have those men from New York got Atkins, 

"They couldn t find him/ 7 answered the colo 
nel. "I have been having him shadowed, on my 
own idea I think he stabbed you, though I have 
no proof of it; I take it you have proof of your 

"Plenty," said Keatcham. "I was going to 
send him to the pen in self-defense. It isn t safe 
for me to have it creep out that my secretary 
made a fortune selling my secrets. Besides, I 
don t want to be killed. You say they can t find 

"Seems to have gone to Japan " 

"Seems ? What do you mean ?" 

"I am not sure. He was booked for a steamer; 
and a man under his name, of his build and color, 
did actually sail on the boat," announced the 
colonel blandly. 

"Hmn ! He s right here in San Francisco ; read 
that note." 

Winter read the note, written on Palace Hotel 


note-paper, in a sharp, scrawling, Italian hand. 
The contents were sufficiently startling. 

Dear friend Hoping this find you well. Why do you 
disregard a true Warning? We did write you afore once 
for say you give that money or we shal be unfortunately 
compel to kill you quick. No? You laff. God knows we got 
have that twenty-five thousan dol. Yes. And now because 
of such great expence it is fifty thousan you shall pay. We 
did not mean kill you dead only show you for sure there 
is no place so secret you can Hide no place so strong can 
defend you. Be Warn. You come with $50000.00 in $100 
bills. You go or send Mr. Mercer to the Red Hat; ask 
for Louis. Say to Louis For the Black Hand. Louis will 
say For the Black Hand. You follow him. No harm will 
come to you. You will be forgive all heretobefores. Else- 
ways you must die April 15-20. This is sure. You have 
felt our dagger the other is worse. 

You well wishing Fren, 

The Black Hand. 

"Sounds like Atkins pretending to be a Dago," 
said the colonel dryly. "I could do better my 

"Very likely," said Keatcham. 

"Does he mean business ? What s he after ?" 

"To get me out of the way. He knows he isn t 
safe until I m dead. Then he hasn t been cleaned 
out, but he has lost a lot of money in this Midland 
business. The cipher he has is of no use to him, 
there, or in the other things which unluckily he 


knows about. With me dead and the cipher in his 
hands, he could have made millions ; even without 
the cipher, if he knows I m dead before the rest of 
the world, he ought to make at least a half-mil 
lion. I think you will find that he has put every 
thing he has on the chance. I told you he was 
slick. And unstable. What do you anticipate he 
will do? Straight, with no chaser, as you say." 

"Well, straight with no chaser, I should say a 
bomb w r as the meanest trick in sight, so, natu 
rally, he will choose a bomb." 

"I agree with you. You say the house is 

"The whole place. But we ll put on a bigger 
force; I ll see Birdsall at once. Atkins would 
have to hire his explosive talent, wouldn t he?" 
questioned the colonel. 

"Oh, he knows plenty of the under-world ras 
cals ; and besides, for a fellow of his habits, there 
is a big chance for loot. Mrs. Millicent Winter 
tells me that your aunt has valuable jewels with 
her. If she told me, she may have told other peo 
ple, and Atkins may know, He will use other 
people, but he will come, too, in my opinion." 

"I see," said the colonel; "to make sure they 
don t foozle the bomb. But he ll have his alibi 


ready all right. Mr. Keatcham, did they send 
you a previous letter ?" 

"Oh, dear no; that s only part of the game; 
makes a better story. So is using the hotel paper ; 
if it throws suspicion on anybody it would be 
your party; you see Atkins knew Mercer had a 
grudge against me as well as him. He was count 
ing on that. I rather wonder that he didn t fix 
up some proof for you to find." 

"By Jove!" cried the colonel; "maybe he did." 

"And you didn t find it?" 

"Well, you see I was too busy with you; the 
others must have overlooked it. Hard on Atkins 
after he took so much trouble, wasn t it?" 

"I told you he was too subtle. But it is not 
wise to underrate him, or bombs either ; we must 
get the women and those boys out of the house." 

"But how ? You are not really acquainted with 
my aunt, Mrs. Rebecca Winter, I take it." 

"You think she wouldn t go if there was any 
chance of danger?" 

"You couldn t fire her unless out of a cannon ; 
but she would help get Archie away; Mrs. Mel 
ville and Miss Smith " 

"Well ur Miss Smith, I am afraid, will .not 
be easy to manage ; you see, she knows " 


"Knows? Did you tell her?" asked Colonel 
Winter anxiously. 

"Well, not exactly. As the children say, it told 
itself. There has been a kind of an attempt, al 
ready. A box came, marked from a man I know 
in New York, properly labeled with express com 
pany s labels. Miss Smith opened it; I could see 
her, because she was in the bath-room with the 
door open. There was another box inside, 
wrapped in white tissue paper. Very neatly. She 
examined that box with singular care and then 
she drew some water in the lavatory basin, half 
opened the box and put the whole thing under 
water in the basin. Then I thought it was time 
for me and I asked her if it was a bomb. Do you 
know that girl had sense enough not to try to 
deceive me ? She saw that I had seen every move 
she had made. She said merely that it was safe 
under water. It was an ingenious little affair 
which had an electrical arrangement for touching 
off a spark when the lid of the box would be 

"Ah, yes. Thoughtful little plan to amuse an 
invalid by letting him open the box, himself, to 
see the nice surprises from New York. Very 
neat, indeed. What did you do with the box?" 


"Nothing, so far. It only came about an hour 

"Do you reckon some of the Black Hands are 
out on the street, rubbering to see if there are any 
signs of anything doing?" 

"Perhaps ; you might let Birdsall keep a watch 
for anything like that. But they hear, somehow ; 
there is a leak somewhere in our establishment. 
It is not your aunt; she can hold her tongue as 
well as use it; the boy, Archie, does not know 
anything to tell " 

"He wouldn t tell it if he did," interrupted 
the colonel; and very concisely but with evident 
pride he gave Archie s experience in the Chinese 

Keatcham s comment took the listener s breath 
away; so far afield was it and so unlike his ex 
perience of the man ; it was : "Winter, a son like 
that would be a good deal of a comfort, wouldn t 

"Poor little chap!" said Winter. "He hasn t 
any father to be proud of him father and mother 
both dead." 

Keatcham eyed Winter thoughtfully a moment, 
then he said : "You ve been married and lost 
children, your aunt says. That must be hard. 


But did you ever read that poem of James 
Whitcomb Riley s to his friend whose child was 
dead? It s true what he says they were better 
off than he who had no child to die/ 

Rupert was looking away from the speaker 
with the instinctive embarrassment of a man who 
surprises the deeper feelings of another. He 
could see out of the window the lovely April gar 
den and Janet Smith amid the almond blossoms. 
Only her shining black head and her white shoul 
ders and bodice rose above the pink clusters. 
She looked up and nodded, seeing him; her face 
was a little pale, but she was smiling. 

"I don t know," he said, "it s hard enough 
either way for a man." 

"I never lost any children" Keatcham s tone 
was dry, still, but it had not quite the former 
desiccated quality "but I was married, for a 
little while. If it s as bad to lose your children 
as it is to lose the hope of having them, it must 
be hard. You lost your wife, too?" 

"Yes," said Rupert Winter. 

At this moment he became conscious that 
Keatcham was avoiding his gaze in the very 
manner of his avoiding of Keatcham s a moment 
ago; and it gave him a bewildering sensation. 


"I wanted to marry my wife for seven years 
before we were married/ Keatcham continued 
in that carefully monotonous voice. "She was the 
daughter of the superintendent of the mine where 
I was working. I was only eighteen when I first 
saw her. I was twenty-five when % we were mar 
ried. She used to give me lessons; she was ed 
ucated and accomplished. She did more than is 
easy telling, for me. Of course, her parents were 
opposed at first because they looked higher for her, 
but she brought them round by her patience and 
her sweetness and her faith in me. Six months 
after we were married, she had an accident which 
left her a helpless invalid in a wheeled chair, at 
the best; at the worst, suffering you ve known 
what it is to see anybody, whom you care for, in 
horrible pain and trying not to show it when you 
come near?" 

"I have," said Winter; "merry hell, isn t it?" 
"I have seen that expression," said Keatcham ; 
"I never recognized its peculiar appropriateness 
before. Yes, it is that. Yet, Winter, those two 
years she lived afterwards were the happiest of 
my whole life. She said,, the last night she was 
with me, that they had been the happiest of hers." 
The same flush which once before, when he had 


seemed moved, had crept up to his temples, burned 
his hollow cheeks. He was holding the edge of 
the table with the tips of his fingers and the blood 
settled about the nails with the pressure of his 
grip. There was an intense moment during which 
Winter vainly struggled to think of something to 
say and looked more of his sympathy than he was 
aware; then: "Gary Mercer needn t think that he 
has had all the hard times in the world!" said 
Keatcham in his usual toneless voice, relaxing 
his hold and leaning back on his pillows. The 
color ebbed away gradually from his face. 

"I don t wonder you didn t marry again," said 



"You would not wonder if you had known 
Helen. She always understood. Of course, now, 
at sixty-one, I could buy a pretty, innocent, young 
girl who would do as her parents bade her, and 
cry her eyes out before the wedding, or a hand 
some and brilliant society woman with plenty of 
matrimonial experience but I don t want them. 
I should have to explain myself to them ; I don t 
know how to explain myself ; you see I can t half 
do it" 

"I reckon I understand a little." 

"I guess you do. You are different, too. Well, 


let s get down to business, think up some way of 
getting the women out of the house ; and get your 
sleuths after Atkins. It is we get him, or he gets 
us ! " 

The amateur secretary assented and prepared 
to go, for the valet was at the door, ready to re 
lieve him; but opposite Keatcham, he paused a 
second, made a pretense of hunting for his hat, 
picked it up in his left hand and held out the 
right hand, saying, "Well, take care of yourself." 

Keatcham nodded; he shook the hand with a 
good firm pressure. "Much obliged, Winter," 
said he. 

"Well," meditated the soldier as he went his 
way, "I never did think to take that financial 
bucaneer by the hand ; but it wasn t the bucaneer, 
it was the real Edwin Keatcham." 



While the colonel was trying to decipher his 
tragical puzzle, while Edwin Keatcham was 
busied with plans that affected empires and in 
cidentally were to save and to extinguish some 
human lives, while Janet Smith had her own 
troubles, while Mrs. Rebecca Winter enjoyed 
a game more exciting and deadly than Penelope s 
Web, Mrs. Millicent Winter and the younger peo 
ple found the days full of joyous business. The 
household had fallen into normal ways of living. 
Although the secret patrol watched every rod 
of approach to the house, the espial was so unob 
trusive that guests came and went, tradesmen 
rattled over the driveways ; the policemen, them 
selves, slumbered by day and loitered majestically 
by night without the Casa Fuerte portals, never 
suspecting. Little Birdsall had his admirable 
points; they were now in evidence. To all out- 


ward seeming, a pleasant house-party was enjoy 
ing the lavish Californian hospitality of Casa 
Fuerte; and Black Care was bundled off to the 
closet with the family skeleton, according to the 
traditions of mannerly people. Arnold had opened 
his garage and his stables. There was bridge of 
an evening; and the billiard-balls clinked on the 
pool-table. Archie could now back the electric 
motor into almost any predicament. The new 
Chinese chef was a wonder and Tracy was initiat 
ing him into the possibilities of the Fireless, de 
spite a modest shrinking on the part of the orien 
tal artist who considered it to be a new kind of 

Millicent, encouraged by Arnold, had had Mrs. 
Wigglesworth and two errant Daughters, whose 
husbands were state regents for Melville s uni 
versity, to luncheon and to dinner; the versatile 
Kito donning a chauffeur s livery and motoring 
them back to the city in the Limousine, on both 
occasions; all of which redounded to Millicent s 
own proper glory and state. 

Indeed, about this time, Millicent was in high 
good humor with her world. Even Janet Smith 
was no longer politely obliterated as "the nurse," 
but became "our dear Miss Janet" ; and was pre- 


sented with two of Mrs. Melville s last year s 
Christmas gifts which she could not contrive 
to use; therefore carried about for general deco 
rative generosity. One was a sage-green linen 
handkerchief case, quite fresh, on which was 
etched, in brown silk, the humorous inscription : 
was a white celluloid brush-broom holder be 
decked with azure forget-me-nots enframing a 
complicated monogram which might just as well 
stand for J. B. B. S. (Janet Byrd Brandon 
Smith) as for M. S. W. (Millicent Sears Winter) 
or any other alphabetical herd. These unpretend 
ing but (considering their source) distinguished 
gifts she bestowed in the kindest manner. Janet 
was no doubt grateful; she embroidered half a 
dozen luncheon napkins with Mrs. Melville s mon 
ogram and crest, in sign thereof; and very pret 
tily, she being a skilful needle-woman. On her 
part, Mrs. Mellville was so pleased that she re 
marked to her brother-in-law, shortly after, that 
she believed Cousin Angela s sisters hadn t been 
just to Miss Smith; she was a nice girl; and if 
she married (which is quite possible, insinuated 
Mrs. Melville archly), she meant to give a tea in 
her honor. 


"Now, that s right decent of you, Millie," cried 
the colonel; and he smiled gratefully after Mrs. 
Melville s beautifully fitted back. Yet a scant five 
minutes before he had been pursuing that same 
charming back through the garden terraces, in 
a most unbrotherly frame, resolved to give his sis 
ter-in-law a "warning with a fog-horn." The cause 
of said warning was his discovery of her acquaint 
ance with Atkins. For days a bit of information 
had been blistering his mind. It came from the 
girl at the telegraph office at the Palace, not in a 
bee-line, but indirectly, through her chum, the 
girl who booked the theater tickets. It could not 
be analyzed properly because the telegraph girl 
was gone to Southern California. But before she 
went she told the theater girl that the lady who 
received Mr. Makers wires was one of Mrs. 
Winter s party ! This bit of information was like 
a live coal underfoot in the colonel s mind ; when 
ever he trod on it in his mental excursions he 

"Who else but Janet?" he demanded. But by 
degrees he became first doubtful, then daring. He 
had Birdsall fetch the telegraph girl back to San 
Francisco. A ten minutes interview assured him 
that it was his brother s wife who had called for 


Mr. Makers messages, armed with Mr. Makers 

Aunt Rebecca was not nearly so vehement as he 
when he told her. She listened to his angry criti 
cism with a lurking smile and a little shrug of 
her shoulders. 

"Of course she has butted in, as you tersely 
express it, in the language of this mannerless gen 
eration; Millicent always butts in. How did she 
get acquainted with this unpleasant, assassinating, 
poor white trash? My dear child, she didn t 
probably ; he made an acquaintance with her. He 
pumped her and lied to her. We know he wanted 
to find out Mr. Keatcham s abode; he may have 
got his clue from her; she knew young Arnold 
had been to see him. There s no telling. I only 
know that in the interest of keeping a roof over 
our heads and having our heads whole instead 
of in pieces from explosives, I butted in a few 
days ago when somebody wanted Mrs. Melville 
Winter on the telephone. I answered it. The per 
son asked if I was Mrs. Melville Winter; it was 
a strange man s voice. I don t believe in Christian 
Science or theosophy or psychics, but I do be 
lieve I felt in my bones that here was an occasion 
to be canny rather than conscientious. You know 


I can talk like Millicent or anybody else; so I 
intoned through the telephone in her silken 
Anglican accents, Do you want Mrs. Melville 
Winter or Aunt Rebecca, Madam Winter? I 
hate to be called Madam Winter, and she knows 
it, but Millicent is catty, you know, and she 
always calls me Madam Winter behind my back. 
The fellow fell into the trap at once recognized 
the voice, I dare say, and announced that it was 
Mr. Makers ; Mr. Atkins, who had left for Japan, 
had not been able to pay his respects and say good- 
by; but he had left with him an embroidered 
Chinese kimono for Professor Winter, whom he 
had admired so much; and if it wouldn t be too 
much trouble for her to pay a visit to her friend 
one of those women she had to luncheon, who s 
at the St. Francis he would like to show her 
several left by Mr. Atkins, for her to select one. 
Then in the most casual way, he asked after Mr. 
Keatcham s health. I believed he was improving ; 
had had a very good night. I fancy it didn t 
please him, but he made a good pretense. Then 
he went off into remarks about its being such a 
pity Mr. Atkins had left Mr. Keatcham; but 
he was so conscientious, a Southern gentleman I 
knew; yet he really thought a great deal still of 


Mr. Keatcham, who had many fine qualities ; only 
on account of the unfortunate differences At 
kins was so proud and sensitive; he was anxious 
to hear, but not for the world would he have 
any one know that he had inquired; so would I 
be very careful not to let any one know he had 
asked. Of course I would be; I promised effu 
sively; and said I quite understood. I think I 
do, too." 

"They are keeping tab on us through Milli 
cent," fumed the colonel. "I dare say she gave 
it away that Arnold was visiting Keatcham at 
the hotel; and it wouldn t take Atkins long to 
piece out a good deal more, especially if his spy 
overheard Tracy s phone. Well, I shall warn 
Millicent with a fog-horn !" 

The way he warned Millicent has been related. 
But from Millicent he deflected to another sub 
ject the impulse of confession being strong upon 
him. He freed his mind about the stains on Gary 
Mercer s cuffs ; and, when at last he sought Milli 
cent he was in his soul praising his aunt for a 
wise old woman. After justice was disarmed by 
his miscomprehension of Millicent s words, he 
took out his cigarette case and began pacing the 
garden walks, smoking and humming a little 


Spanish love song, far older than the statehood of 

La noche estd serena, tranquilo el aquilon; 

Tu duke ccntinella te guarda el corazon. 
Y en al as de los cefiros, que vagan por doquicr, 

Volando van mis suplicas, a ti, bella mujer! 

Volando van mis suplicas, d ti, bella mujer! 

De un corazon que te ama, recibe el tierno amor; 
No aumentes mas la llama, piedad, d un trobador. 
Y si te mueve d lastima eterno padecer, 

Como te amo, amarna, bellissima mujer! 

Como te amo, amama, bellissima mujer I* 

*So still and calm the night is, 

The very winds asleep, 
My heart s so tender sentinel 

His watch and ward doth keep. 
And on the wings of zephyrs soft 

That wander how they will, 

To thee, O woman fair, to thee 

My prayers go fluttering still. 

Oh, take the heart s love to thy heart 

Of one that doth adore ! 
Have pity, add not to the flame 

That bums thy troubadour ! 
And if compassion stirs thy breast 

For my eternal woe, 

Oh, as I love thee, loveliest 

Of women, love me so ! 


The words belonged to the air which he had 
whistled a weary week ago. Young Tracy came 
along, and caught up the air, although he was 
innocent of Spanish; he had his mandolin on his 
arm; he proffered it to the colonel. 

"Miss Janet has been singing coon songs to his 
nibs, who is really getting almost human," he 
observed affably; "well, a little patience and in 
terest will reveal new possibilities of the Fire- 
less Stove ! In man or metal. Shall we get under 
his nibs window and give him the Bedouin Love 
Song and / Picked Me a Lemon in the Garden of 
Love and the Sextette from Lucia and other 
choice selections ? He seemed to be sitting up and 
taking notice; let s lift him above the sordid 
thoughts of Wall Street and his plans for busting 
other financiers." 

The soldier gave this persiflage no answer ; his 
own thoughts were far from gay. He stood drink 
ing in the beauty of the April night. The air was 
wonderfully hushed and clear; and the play of 
the moonlight on the great heliotrope bushes and 
the rose-trees, which dangled their clusters of 
yellow and white over the stone parapets of the 
balconies, tinted the leafage and flickered deli 
cately over the tracery of shadow on the gray 


walls. Not a cloud flecked the vast aerial land 
scape only stars beyond stars, through un 
fathomable depths of dim violet, and beneath the 
stars a pale moon swimming low in the heavens ; 
one could see it between the spandrels of the 
arches spanning the colonnade. 

"Looks like a prize night-scene on the stage, 
doesn t it?" said Tracy. "Jolly good shadows 
and aren t these walls bulging out at the bottom 
bully? I used to know the right name for such 
architectural stunts when I was taking Fine Arts 
Four dreadful to neglect your educational ad 
vantages and then forget all the little you didn t 
neglect, ain t it ? I say, get on to those balconies 
that isn t the right word for the mission style, 
I guess; but never mind; aren t they stunning? 
Do you see the ladies up there? Is that Archie 
sniggering? What do you think of the haunted 
house, now, Colonel?" 

Tracy s gay eyes sought the other s gaze to find 
it turn somber. Winter couldn t have told why; 
but a sudden realization of the hideous peril 
dogging the warm, lighted, tenanted house, sub 
merged him and suffocated him like a foul gas. 
Let their guards be vigilant as fear, let their 
wonderful new search-light flood rock and slope 


and dusky chaparral bush; and peer as it might 
through the forest aisles beyond; yet yet who 
could tell! 

But he forced an equal smile in a second for 
the college boy; and chatted easily enough as 
they climbed up the stepped arches to the balcony 
and the little group looking seaward. 

Aunt Rebecca in black lace and jewels was 
tilting with the world in general and Millicent 
Winter in particular; she displayed her most 
cynical mood. She had demolished democracy; 
had planted herself firmly on the basic doctrine 
that the virtues cultivated by slavery far outnum 
ber its inseparable vices; and that most people, 
if not all, need a master; had been picturesquely 
and inaccurately eloquent on the subject of dyna 
mite (which she pronounced the logical fourth 
dimension of liberty, fraternity and equality) ; had 
put the yellow rich where they belonged ; and the 
red anarchists mainly under the sod ; and she had 
abolished the Fourth of July to the last sputter 
of fire-cracker; thence by easy transitions she 
had extolled American art (which American pa 
trons were too ignorant to appreciate), deplored 
American music ("The trouble isn t that it is 
canned" says she, "but that it was spoiled before 


they canned it!") and was now driving a chariot 
of fire through American literature; as for the 
Academics, they never said what they thought, 
but only what they thought they ought to think ; 
and they always mistook anemia for refinement, 
as another school mistook yelling and perspiring 
for vigor. 

Just as Winter modestly entered the arena, no 
less a personage than Henry James was under the 
wheels. Janet Smith had modestly confessed to 
believing him a consummate artist ; and Millicent 
in an orotund voice declared that he went deep, 
deep down into the mysteries of life. 

"I don t deny it ; he ought to get down deep," 
returned Aunt Rebecca in her gentlest, softest 
utterance ; "he s always boring." 

Mrs. Melville s suppressed agitation made her 
stays creak. 

"Do you really think that James is not a great 
artist?" she breathed. 

"I think he is not worth while." 

"Wow !" cried Tracy. "Oh, I say" 

"Aunt Rebecca ; you can not mean " this was 
Mrs. Melville, choking with horror. 

"His style," repeated the unmoved iconoclast, 
"his style has the remains of great beauty ; all his 


separate phrases, if you wish, are gems ; and he is 
a literary lapidary ; but his sentences are so subtle, 
so complex, so intricately compounded, and so 
discursive that I get a pain in the back of my neck 
before I find out what he may mean ; and then 
I don t agree with him ! Now is it worth while to 
put in so much hard reading only to be irritated ?" 

"I beg pardon/ Winter interposed, with mas 
culine pusillanimity evading taking sides in the 
question at issue, "I thought we were going to 
have some music; why don t you boys give us 
some college songs ? Here is a mandolin." 

Aunt Rebecca s still luminous eyes went from 
the speaker to Janet Smith in the corner. She 
said something about hearing the music better 
from the other side of the balcony. Now (as Mrs. 
Millicent very truly explained) there was not a 
ha pennyworth s difference in favor of one side 
over the other; but she followed in the wake of 
her imperious aunt. 

The colonel drew nearer to Janet Smith; in 
order to sink his voice below disturbing the music- 
lovers he found it necessary to sit on a pile of 
cushions at her feet. 

"Did you know Mercer will be back to-night?" 
he began, a long way from his ultimate object. 


He noticed that leaning back in the shadow her 
ready smile had dropped from her face, which 
looked tired. "I want to tell you a little story 
about Mercer/ he continued; "may I? It won t 
take long." 

He was aware, and it gave him a twinge of 
pain to see it, that she sat up a little straighter, 
like one on guard ; and oh, how tired her face was 
and how sweet ! He told her of all his suspicions 
of her brother-in-law ; of the blood-stains and the 
changing of clothes ; she did not interrupt him by 
a question, hardly by a motion, until he told of the 
conversation with Keatcham and the note signed 
"The Black Hand." At this her eyes lighted; she 
exclaimed impetuously : "Gary Mercer never did 
send that letter!" She drew a deep intake of 
breath. "I don t believe he touched Mr. Keatch 

"Neither do I," said the colonel, "but wait!" 
He went on to the theater girl s report of the re 
ceiver of the telegrams. Her hands, which clasped 
her knee, fell apart; her lips parted and closed 

"Did I think it was you ?" said he. "Why, yes, 
I confess I did fear it might be and that you might 
be trying to shield Atkins." 


"I !" she exclaimed hotly ; "that detestable vil 

"Isn t he?" cried the colonel. "But well, I 
couldn t tell how he might strike a lady," he ended 

"I reckon he would strike a lady if she were 
silly enough to marry him and he got tired of her. 
He is the kind of man who will persecute a girl 
to marry him, follow her around and importune 
her and flatter her and then, if he should prevail, 
never forgive her for the bother she has given 
him. Oh, I never did like him ; I m afraid of him 

"Not you?" the colonel s voice was cheerful, 
as if he had not shivered over his own foreboding 
vision. "I ve seen you in action already, you 

"Not fighting bombs. I hate bombs. There are 
so many pieces to hit you. You can t run away." 

"Well, you ll find them not so bad ; besides, you 
did fight one this very morning, and you were 
cool as peppermint!" 

"That was quite different ; I had time to think, 
and the danger was more to me than to any one 
else ; but to think of Mrs. Winter and Archie and 
y all of you; that scares me." 


"Now, don t let it get on your nerves/ he 
soothed of course it is necessary to take a girl s 
hand to soothe her when she is frightened. But 
Miss Smith calmly released her hand, only red 
dening a little ; and she laughed. "Where where 
were we at ?" she asked in her unconscious South 
ern phraseology. 

"Somewhere around Atkins, I think," said the 
colonel ; he laughed in his turn, he found it easy 
to laugh, now that he knew how she felt toward 
Atkins. "You see, after I talked with Keatcham 
I couldn t make anything but Atkins out of the 
whole business. But there were those stained cuffs 
and his changing his clothes " 

"Yes," said she. 

"How explain? There was only one explana 
tion: that was, that perhaps Mercer had discov 
ered Keatcham before we did, unconsciously 
spotted his cuffs, been alarmed by our approach 
and hidden, lest it should be the murderers re 
turning. He might have wanted a chance to draw 
his revolver. Say he did that way, he might fool 
ishly pretend to enter for the first time. If he 
made that mistake and then discovered the con 
dition of his cuffs and the spots on his knee, what 
would be his natural first impulse? Why, to 


change them, trusting that they Hadn t been no 
ticed. Maybe, then, he would wash them out " 

"No," murmured Miss Smith meekly, with 
a little twinkle of her eye; "/ did that; he hid 
them. How ridiculous of me to get in such a 
fright! But you know how Gary hated Mr. 
Keatcham; and you no, you don t know the 
lengths that such a temperament as his will go. 
I did another silly thing: I found a dagger, one 
of those Moorish stilettoes that hang in the li 
brary; it was lying in the doorway. When no 
one was looking I hid it and carried it off. I 
stuck it in one of the flower beds; I stuck it in 
the ferns; I have stuck that wretched thing all 
over this yard. I didn t dare carry it back and 
put it in the empty place with the others because 
some one might have noticed the place. And I 
didn t dare say anything to Gary; I was right 

"So was I," said the colonel, "thinking you 
were trying to protect the murderer. But do you 
know what I had sense to do?" 

"Go to Mrs. Winter? Oh, I wanted to!" 

"Exactly; and do you know what that dead 
game sport said to me? She said she found those 
washed and ironed cuffs and the trousers neatly 


cleaneH with milka what s milka? an d the 
milka cleaned the spots so much cleaner than the 
rest that she had her own suspicions started. But 
says she, Npt being a plumb idiot, I went straight 
to Gary and he told me the whole story J: 

"Which was like your story?" 

"Very near. And you see it would be like At 
kins to leave incriminating testimony round loose. 
That is, incriminating testimony against Mercer 
and Tracy. The dagger, Tracy remembers, was 
not in the library; it was in the patio. Right to 
hand. Atkins must have got in and found Mr. 
Keatcham on the floor in a faint. Whether he 
meant to make a bargain with him or to kill him, 
perhaps we shall never know; but when he saw 
him helpless before him he believed his chance 
was come to kill him and get the cipher key, re 
moving his enemy and making his fortune at a 
blow, as the French say. Voila tout!" 

"Do you think" her voice sank lower; she 
glanced over her shoulder "do you reckon At 
kins had anything to do with that train robbery ? 
Was it a mere pretext to give a chance to murder 
Mr. Keatcham, fixing the blame on ordinary ban 

"By Jove! it might be." 


"I don t suppose we shall ever know. But, 
Colonel Winter, do you mind explaining to me 
just what Brother Cary s scheme with Mr. 
Keatcham was? Mrs. Winter told me you 

"She told me" mused the colonel, "that you 
didn t know anything about this big game which 
has netted them millions. They ve closed out their 
deals and have the cash. No paper profits for 
Auntie! She said that she would not risk your 
being mixed up in it; so kept you absolutely in 
the dark. I m there, too. Didn t you know Mercer 
had kidnapped Archie ?" 

"No ; I didn t know he was with Mr. Keatcham 
at the hotel. It would have saved me a heap of 
suffering; but she didn t dare let me know for 
fear, if anything should happen, I would be mixed 
up in it. It was out of kindness, Colonel Winter, 
truly it was. Afterward when she saw that I was 
worried she gave me hints that I need not worry, 
Archie was quite safe." 

"And the note-paper?" 

"I suppose she gave it to them," answered Miss 

"And the voice I heard in the telephone?" He 
explained how firmly she had halted the conver- 


sation the time Archie would have reassured him. 
"You weren t there, of course ?" said he. 

"No, I was down-stairs in the ladies entrance 
of the court in the hotel; I had come in a little 
while before, having carried an advertisement to 
the paper; I wonder why she maybe it was to 
communicate with them without risking a letter." 

"But how did your voice get into my phone ?" 
he asked. 

She looked puzzled only a second, then laughed 
as he had not heard her laugh in San Francisco a 
natural, musical, merry peal, a girlish laugh that 
made his heart bound. 

"Why, of course," said she, "it is so easy! 
There was a reporter who insisted on interview 
ing Mrs. Winter about her jewelry; and I was 
shooing him away. Somehow the wires must have 

"Do you remember this is very, very pretty, 
don t you think? Just like a puzzle falling into 
place. Do you remember coming here on the day 
Archie was returned ?" 

"I surely do ; my head was swimming, for Mrs. 
Winter sent me and I began then to suspect. She 
told me Brother Gary was in danger ; of course I 
wanted to do anything to help him ; and I carried 


a note to him. I didn t go in, merely gave the note 
and saw him." 

"I saw you." 

"You? How? * 

"Birdsall and I; we were here, in the patio; 
we, my dear Miss Janet, were the Danger! You 
had on a brown checked silk dress and you were 
holding a wire clipper in your hand." 

"Yes, sir. I saw it on the grass and picked it 

She laughed a little ; but directly her cheeks red 
dened. "What must you have thought of me!" 
she murmured under her breath; and bit the lip 
that would have quivered. 

"I should like to tell you dear," he answered, 
"if you will O Lord, forgive young men for liv 
ing! If they are not all coming back to ask me to 
sing ! But, Janet, dear, let me say it in Spanish 
yes, yes if you really won t be bored; throw me 
that mandolin." 

Aunt Rebecca leaned back in the arm-chair, 
faintly smiling, while the old, old words that 
thousands of lovers have thrilled with pain and 
hopes and dreams beyond their own power of 
speech and offered to their sweethearts, rose, 
winged by the eternal longing : 


"Y si te mueve a lastima mi cterno pddecer, 
Como te amOj amame, bellissima mujcr! 
Como te amo f amame f bellissima mujer! 

"And what does it mean in English, Bertie?" 
said Mrs. Melville. "Can t you translate it ?" 

"Shall I ?" said the colonel, his voice was care 
less enough, but not so the eyes which looked up 
at Janet Smith. 

"Not to-night, please," said she. "I I think 
Mr. Keatcham is expecting me to read to him a 
little. Good night. Thank you, Colonel Winter." 

She was on her feet as she spoke ; and Winter 
did not try to detain her ; he had held her hand ; 
and he had felt its shy pressure and caught a 
fleeting, frightened, very beautiful glance. His 
dark face paled with the intensity of his emotion. 

Janet moved away, quietly and lightly, with 
no break in her composure; but as she passed Mrs. 
Winter she bent and kissed her. And when Ar 
chie would have run after her a delicate jeweled 
hand was laid on his arm. "Not to-night, laddie ; 
I want you to help me down the steps." 

With her hand on the boy s shoulder she came 
up to Rupert, and inclined her handsome head in 
Janet s direction. "I think, by rights, that kiss 
belonged to you, mon enfant" said she. 



Winter would have said that he was too old a 
man to stay awake all night, when he had a nor 
mal temperature; yet he saw the stars come out 
and the stars fade on that fateful April night. He 
entered his room at the hour when midnight 
brushes the pale skirts of dawn and misguided 
cocks are vociferating their existence to an indif 
ferent world. Before he came there had been a 
long council with Mercer and his aunt. Mercer, 
who had been successful in his mission, had barely 
seen his chief for a moment before a gentle but 
imperious nurse ordered him away. Winter 
caught a queer, abrupt laugh from the financier. 
The latter beckoned to him. "See you are as obe 
dient as I am when your time comes/ he 
chuckled; and he chuckled again when both the 
soldier and Miss Smith blushed over his awkward 
jocoseness. Yet, the next moment he extended 
his hand with his formal, other-generation cour- 


tesy and took Miss Janet s shapely, firm fingers 
in his own lean and nervous grasp. "Allow me to 
offer you both my sincere congratulations," be 
gan he, and halted, his eyes, which seemed so 
incurious but were so keen, traveling from the 
woman s confusion to the man s. "I beg your 
pardon; I understood Archie who was here, 
gave me to understand and I heard you sing 
ing; you will hardly believe it, but years ago / 
sang that to my wife." 

"So far as I am concerned, it is settled," said 
the colonel steadily. 

"We are all," Keatcham continued, no longer 
with any trace of embarrassment, as he touched 
the hand which he still held with his own other 
hand, "we are all, as you know, my dear young 
lady, in considerable personal peril ; I regret that 
it should be on my account ; but it really is not my 
fault ; it is because I will not relax my pursuit of 
a great scoundrel who is dangerous to all decent 
people. But being in such danger, I think you will 
be glad afterward if you are generously frank, 
and give up something of the sex s prerogative 
to keep a lover on the anxious seat. Excuse me if 
if I presume on my age and my privileges as a 


Janet lifted her sweet eyes and sent one glance 
as fleeting and light as the flash of a bird s wing. 
"I I reckon it is settled/ murmured she; but 
immediately she was the nurse again. "Mr. 
Keatcham, you are staying awake much too late. 
Here is Colvin, who will see to anything you 
want. Good night." 

It was then that Mr. Keatcham had taken the 
colonel s breath away by kissing Janet s hand; 
after which he shook hands with the colonel with 
a strange new cordiality, and watched them both 
go away together with a look on his gaunt face 
unlike any known to Colvin. 

Only three minutes in the hall, with the moon 
through the arched window; and his arm about 
her and the fragrance of her loosened hair against 
his cheek and her voice stirring his heartstrings 
with an exquisite pang. Only time for the im 
memorial questions of Igve : "Are you sure, dear, 
it is really If" and "When did you first" To 
this last she had answered with her half -humor 
ous, adorable little lilt of a laugh. "Oh, I reckon 
it was a little all along, ever since I read 
about your saving that poor little Filipino boy, 
like Archie; the one who was your servant in 
Manila, and going hungry for him on the march 


and jumping into the rapids to save him when 
you were lame, too " 

Here the colonel burst in with a groan : "Oh, 
that monstrous newspaper liar! The dear little 
Filipino boy* was a married man; and I didn t 
go hungry for him, and I didn t jump into the 
river to save him. It wasn t more than wading 
dej)th I only swore at him for an idiot and told 
him to walk out when he tipped over his boat and 
was floundering about. And he did! He was the 
limit as a liar " 

To his relief, the most sensible as well as the 
most lovable woman in the world had burst into 
a delicious fit of laughter; and returned: "Oh, 
well, you would have jumped in and saved him 
if the water had been deep; it wasn t your fault 
it was shallow!" And just at this point Mercer 
and Aunt Rebecca must needs come with a most 
unusual premonitory racket, and Janet had fled. 

Afterward had come the council. All the coil 
had been unraveled. Birdsall appeared in person, 
as sleek, smiling and complacent over his blunders 
as ever. One of his first sentences was a declara 
tion of trust in Miss Smith. 

"I certainly went off at half-cock there," said 
he amiably; "and just because she was so awful 


nice I felt obliged to suspect her ; but I ve got the 
real dog that killed the sheep this time; it s sure 
the real Red Wull !" It appeared that he had, of 
a verity, been usefully busy. He had secured the 
mechanic who had given Atkins a plan of the 
secret passages of Casa Fuerte. He had found 
the policeman who had arrested Tracy (he swore 
because he was going too fast) and the magistrate 
who had fined him ; and not only that, he had cap 
tured the policeman, a genuine officer, not a crim 
inal in disguise, who had been Atkins instrument 
in kidnapping Archie. This man, whom Birdsall 
knew how to terrify completely, had confessed 
that it was purely by chance that Atkins had seen 
the boy, left outside in the motor car. Atkins, so 
he said, had pretended that the boy was a tool of 
some enemies of Keatcham s, whose secretary he 
was, trading, not for the only time, on his past 
position. In reality, Birdsall had come to believe 
Atkins knew that Keatcham was employing Mer 
cer in his place. 

"Why, he knew the old gentleman was just off 
quietly with Mr. Mercer and some friends ; knew 
they were all friendly, just as well as you or me," 
declared Birdsall. He had seen Archie on the 
train, for, as the colonel remembered, he had been 


in the Winters car on the night of the robbery. 
Somehow, also, Atkins had found out about 
Archie s disappearance from the hotel. 

"I can t absolutely put my finger on his in 
formation," said Birdsall; "but I suspect Mrs. 
Melville Winter ; I know she was talking to him, 
for one of my men saw her. The lady meant no 
harm, but she s one of the kind that is always 
slamming the detectives and being took in by the 

He argued that Mrs. Winter and Miss Smith 
knew where the boy was; for some reason they 
had let him go and were pretending not to know 
where he was. "Ain t that so? the detective ap 
pealed to Aunt Rebecca, who merely smiled, say 
ing : "You re a wonder, Mr. Birdsall !" According 
to Birdsall s theory, Atkins was puzzled by Ar 
chie s part in the affair. But he believed could he 
find the boy s present hosts he would find Edwin 
Keatcham. It would not be the first time Keatch- 
am had hidden himself, the better to spin his web 
for the trapping of his rivals. That Mercer was 
with his employer the ex-secretary had no manner 
of doubt, any more than he doubted that Mercer s 
scheme had been to oust him and to build his own 
fortunes on Atkins* r u i n .. Be knew both Tracy 


and young Arnold very well by sight. When he 
couldn t frighten Archie into telling anything, 
probably he went back to his first plan of shadow 
ing the Winter party at the Palace. He must have 
seen Tracy here. He penetrated his disguise. 
("He s as sharp as the devil, I tell you, Colonel.") 
He either followed him himself or had him fol 
lowed ; and he heard about the telephone. ("Some 
body harking in the next room, most likely.") 
Knowing Tracy s intimacy with Arnold it was not 
hard for so clever and subtle a mind as Atkins to 
jump to the conclusion and test it in the nearest 
telephone book. ("At least that is how / figure it 
out, Colonel.") Birdsall had traced the clever me 
chanic who was interrogated by the Eastern gen 
tleman about to build ; this man had given the lav 
ish and inquisitive Easterner a plan of the secret 
passages to use in his own future residence. 
Whether Atkins went alone or in company to the 
Casa Fuerte the detective could only surmise. He 
couldn t tell whether his object would be mere 
blackmail, or robbery of the cipher, or assassina 
tion. Perhaps he found the insensible man in the 
patio and was tempted by the grisly opportunity; 
victim and weapon both absolutely to his hand; 
for it was established that the dagger had been 


shown Tracy by Mercer as a curio, and left on 
the stone bench. 

Perhaps he had not found the dagger, but had 
his own means to make an end of his enemy and 
his own terror. Birdsall believed that he had ac 
complices, or at least one accomplice, with him. 
He conceived that they had lain in ambush watch 
ing until they saw Kito go away. Then an entry 
had been made. "Most^like," Birdsall concluded, 
"he jest flung that dagger away for you folks to 
find and suspect the domestics, say Kitp, cause 
he was away." But this was not all that Birdsall 
had to report. He had traced Atkins to the haunts 
of certain unsavory Italians; he had struck the 
trail, in fine. To be sure, it ran underground and 
was lost in the brick-walled and slimy-timbered 
cellars of Chinatown which harbored every sin 
and crime known to civilization or to savagery. 
What matter? By grace of his aunt s powerful 
friend they could track the wolves even through 
those noisome burrows. 

"Yes," sighed the colonel, stretching out his 
arms, with a resonant breath of relief, "we re out 
of the maze; all we have to do now is to keep 
from being killed. Which isn t such a plain propo 
sition in Frisco as in Massachusetts! But I 


reckon we can tackle it! And then then, my 
darling, I shall dare be happy I" 

He found himself leaning on his window-sill 
and staring like a boy on the landscape, lost in the 
lovely hallucinations of moonlight. It was no 
scene that he knew, it was a vision of old Spain ; 
and by and by from yonder turret the princess, 
with violets in her loosened hair and her soft 
cheek like satin and snow, would lean and look. 

Y si te mueve d lastima mi eterno padecer t 
Como te amOj anuwne, bellissima mujer! 

"Ah, no, little girl," he muttered with a shake 
of the head, "I like it better to have you a plain, 
American gentlewoman, as Aunt Becky would 
say, who could send me to battle with a nice little 
quivery smile sweetheart! Oh, I m not good 
enough for you, my dear, my dear." He felt an 
immense humility as he contrasted his own lot 
with the loneliness of Keatcham and Mercer and 
the multitude of solitaries in the world, who had 
lost, or sadder still, had never possessed, the di 
vine dream that is the only reality of the soul. As 
such thoughts moved his heart, suddenly in the 
full tide of hope and thankfulness, it stood still, 
chilled, as if by the glimpse of an iceberg in sum- 


mer seas. Yet how absurd; it was only that he 
had recalled his stoical aunt s most unexpected 
touch of superstition. Quite in jest he had asked 
her if she felt any presentiments or queer things 
in her bones to-night. He expected to be answered 
that Janet had driven every other anxiety out of 
her mind; and how was she to break it to Milli- 
cent? or with some such caustic repartee. In 
stead, she had replied testily : "Yes, I do, Bertie. 
I feel horrid ! I feel as if something out of the 
common awful were going to happen. It isn t ex 
actly Atkins, either. Do you reckon it could be 
the / Sucy When, that bamboo-shoots mess we 
had for dinner?" 

Although they spent a good twenty minutes 
after that, joking over superstitions, and he had 
repeated to her some of Tracy s and Arnold s most 
ingenious "spooky stunts," to make the neighbor 
hood keep its distance from Casa Fuerte, and they 
had laughed freely, she as heartily as he, never 
theless he divined that her smile was a pretense. 
Suddenly, an unruly tremor shook his own firm 
spirits. Looking out on the stepped and lanterned 
arches of the wing, he was conscious of the same 
tragic endowment of the darkened pile, which had 
oppressed him that night, weeks before, when he 


had stood outside on the crest of the hill ; and 
the would-be murderers might have been skulking 
in the shadows of the pepper-trees. He tried 
vainly to shake off this distempered mood. Al 
though he might succeed for a moment in a lover s 
absorption, it would come again, insidiously, seep 
ing through his happiness like a fume. After futile 
attempts to sleep he rose, and still at the bidding 
of his uncanny and tormenting impulse he took his 
bath and dressed himself for the day. By this 
time the ashen tints of dawn were in his chamber 
and on the fields outside. He stood looking at 
the unloveliest aspect of nature, a landscape on the 
sunless side, before the east is red. The air felt 
lifeless; there were no depths in the pale sky; the 
azure was a flat tint, opaque and thin, like a poor 
water-color. While he gazed the motionless trees, 
live-oaks and olives and palms, were shaken as by 
a mighty wind; the pepper plumes tossed and 
streamed and tangled like a banner ; the great elms 
along the avenue bent over in a breaking strain. 
Yet the silken cord of the Holland window-shade 
did not so much as swing. There was not a wing s 
breath of air. But gradually the earth and cloud 
vibrated with a strange grinding noise which has 
been described a hundred times, but never ade- 


quately ; a sickening crepitation, as of the rocks in 
the hills scraping and splintering. Before the 
mind could question the sound, there succeeded 
an anarchy of uproar. In it was jumbled the crash 
of trees and buildings, the splintering crackle of 
glass, the boom of huge chimneys falling and of 
vast explosions, the hiss of steam, the hurling of 
timbers and bricks and masses of stone or sand, 
and the awful rush of frantic water escaping from 
engine or main. 

Quake, sure s you re born !" said the colonel 

Now that his invisible peril was real, was upon 
him, his spirits leaped up to meet it. He looked 
coolly about him, noting in his single glance that 
the house was standing absolutely stanch, neither 
reeling nor shivering; and that the chimney just 
opposite his eye had not misplaced a brick. In 
the same instant he caught up his revolver and 
ran at his best pace from the room. The hall was 
firm under his hurrying feet. As he passed the 
great arched opening on the western balcony he 
saw an awful sight. Diagonally across from Casa 
Fuerte was the great house of the California mag 
nate who did not worry his contractor with de 
mands for Colonial honesty of workmanship as 


well as Colonial architecture. The stately man 
sion with its beautiful piazzas and delicate har 
mony of pillar and pediment, shone white and 
placid on the eye for a second; then rocked in 
ghastly wise and collapsed like a house of cards. 
Simultaneously a torchlike flame streamed into 
the air. A woeful din of human anguish pierced 
the inanimate tumult of wreck and crash. 

"Bully for Casa Fuerte !" cried the soldier, who 
now was making a frenzied speed to the other 
side of the house. He cast a single glance toward 
the door which he knew belonged to Janet s room ; 
and he thought of the boy, but he ran first to his 
old aunt. He didn t need to go the whole way. She 
came out of her door, Janet and Archie at her 
side. They were all perfectly calm, although in 
very light and semi-oriental attire. Archie plainly 
had just plunged out of bed. His eyes were danc 
ing with excitement. 

"This house is a dandy, ain t it, Uncle Bertie?" 
he exclaimed. "Mr. Arnold told me all about the 
way his father built it ; he said it wouldn t bat its 
eye for an earthquake. It didn t either; but that 
house opposite is just kindling-wood! Say! here s 
Cousin Cary; and look, Uncle Bertie, Mr. 
Keatcham has got up and he s all dressed. Hullo. 


Cplvin! Don t be scared. It s only a quake!" 
Colvin grinned a sickly grin and stammered, 
"Yes, sir, quite so, sir." Not an earthquake could 
shake Colvin out of his manners. 

"Are you able to do this, Mr. Keatcham?" 
young Arnold called breathlessly, plunging into 
the patio to which they had all instinctively gravi 
tated. Keatcham laughed a short, grunting laugh. 
"Don t you understand, this is no little every-day 
quake ? Look out ! Is there a way you can look 
and not see a spout of flame? I ve got to go 
down-town. Are the machines all right?" 

"We must find Randall; the poor soul has a 
mortal terror of quakes " Aunt Rebecca s well- 
bred accents were unruffled; she appeared a 
thought stimulated, nothing more; danger always 
acted as tonic on Winter nerves "Archie, you 
go put your clothes on this minute, honey. And 
I suppose we ought to look up Millicent." 

The colonel, however, had barely set foot on 
the threshold when Mrs. Melville appeared, pro 
pelling Randall, whom she had rescued from the 
maid s closet where she was cowering behind 
her neat frocks, momently expecting death, 
but decently ready for it in gown and shoes. Mrs. 
Melville herself, in the disorder of the shock, had 


merely added her best Paris hat and a skeleton 
bustle to her dainty nightgear. She had not for 
gotten her kimono ; she had only forgotten to don 
it; and it draggled over her free arm. But her 
dignity was intact. The instant she beheld her 
kindred she demanded of them, as if they were 
responsible, whether this was a sample of the 
Calif ornian climate. Keatcham blushed and fled 
with Colvin and the giggling Arnold and Archie, 
who was too polite to giggle. 

Mrs. Winter put on her eye-glasses. "Milli- 
cent," said she in the gentlest of tones, "your 
bustle is on crooked." 

One wild glance at the merciless mirror in the 
carved pier-glass did Mrs. Melville give, and, 
then, without a word, she fled. 

"Randall," said Mrs. Winter, "you look very 
nice; come and help me dress. There will most 
likely be some more shocks." 

Randall, trembling in every limb, but instinc 
tively assuming a composed mien, followed the 
undaunted old lady. 

The colonel was going in another direction, 
having heard a telephone bell. He was most anx 
ious to put himself into communication with Bird- 
sail, because not even during the earthquake had 


he forgotten an uglier peril; and it had occurred 
to him that Atkins was of a temper not to be 
frightened by the convulsions of order ; but rather 
to make his account of it. Nor did the message 
through the telephone tend to reassure him. 

The man at the other end of the telephone was 
Birdsall. No telling how long the telephone serv 
ice would keep up, he reported ; wires were down 
around the corner; worse, the water mains were 
spouting; and from where he stood since he felt 
the first shock he had counted thirty-six fires. 
Ten of them were down in the quarter where some 
of his men had homes ; and a field-glass had shown 
that the houses were all tossed about there; he 
couldn t keep his men steady ; it seemed inhuman 
to ask them to stay when their wives and chil 
dren might be dying; of course it was his damn 
luck to have all married men from down there. 

"Well, I reckon you will have to let them go; 
but watch out," begged the colonel, "for you 
know the men we are after will take advantage 
of general disorder to get in their dirty work. 
Now is the most dangerous time/ 

Birdsall knew it; he had had intimations that 
some men were trying to sneak up the hill; they 
had been turned back. They pretended to be some 


wandering railway workers; but Birdsall dis 
trusted them. He No use to ring! Vain to tap 
the carriage of the receiver! The telephone was 
dead, jarred out of existence somewhere beyond 
their ken. 

By this time the cold sunlight of the woefulest 
day that San Francisco had ever seen was spread 
over the earth. The city was spotted with blood- 
red spouts of flames. The ruin of the earthquake 
had hardly been visible from their distance, al 
though it was ugly enough and of real impor 
tance; but, even in the brief space which they in 
Casa Fuerte had waited before they should set 
forth, fires had enkindled in all directions, most 
dreadful to see; nor did there seem to be any 
check upon them. 

Tracy had waked the domestic staff, and, dazed 
but stoical, they were getting breakfast. But 
Keatcham could not wait; he was in a cold fury 
of haste to get to the town. 

He had consented to wait for his breakfast un 
der Miss Smith s representation that it would be 
ready at once and her assurance that he couldn t 
work through the day without it. 

"Happily, Archie," explained Tracy, whose un 
quenchable college levity no earthquake could af- 


feet, "happily my domestic jewel has been stocked 
up with rice and oatmeal, two of the most nu 
tritious of foods ; and Miss Janet is making coffee 
on her traveling coffee pot for the Boss. That s 
alcohol, and independent of gas-mains. Lucky; 
for the gas-range is out of action, and we have to 
try charcoal. Notice one interesting thing, Ar 
chie? Old Keatcham, whom we were fighting 
tooth and nail three weeks ago, is now bossing 
us as ruthlessly as a foot-ball coach ; and Cousin 
Gary is taking his slack talk as meek as a fresh 
man. Great old boy, Keatcham ! And oh, I say ! 
has any one gone to the rescue of the Rogerses? 
I saw Kito speeding over that way from the gar 
age and Haley hiking after him. I hope the nine 
small yellow domestics are not burned at the stake 
with Rogers; the bally fire-trap is blazing like a 
tar-barrel !" 

As it happened, the colonel had despatched a 
small party to their neighbor s aid. Haley and 
Kito were not among them; they were to guard 
the garage which was too vital a point in their 
household economy to leave unprotected. Never 
theless, Haley and Kito did both run away, leav 
ing a Mexican helper to watch; and when they 
returned they were breathless and Haley s face 


was covered with blood. He was carefully carry 
ing something covered with a carriage-robe in his 

"I ve the honor to report, sir," Haley mumbled, 
stiff and straight in his military posture, a very 
grimy and blood-stained hand at salute, "I ve the 
honor to report, sor, that Private Kito and me 
discovered two sushpicious characters making up 
the hillside by the sekrut road. We purshooed 
thim, sor, and whin they wu dn t halt we fired on 
thim, sor, ixploding this here bum which wint 
off whin the hindmost man tumbled." 

Kito smilingly flung aside the carriage-robe, 
disclosing the still smoking shell of an ingenious 
round bomb, very similar to those used in fire 

The colonel examined it closely; it was an 
ugly bit of dynamite craft. 

"Any casualties, Sergeant?" the colonel asked 

"Yes, sor. The man wid the bum was kilt be 
the ixplosion; the other man was hit by Private 
Kito and wounded in the shoulder but escaped. I 
mesilf have a confusion on me right arrum, me 
ankle is sprained; and ivery tooth in me head is 
inmepockit! That s all." 


"Report to Miss Smith at the hospital, Ser 
geant. Any further report?" 

"I wu d like to riccommind Private Kito for 
honorable minshun for gallanthry." 

"I shall certainly remember him ; and you also, 
Sergeant, in any report that I may make. Look 
after the garage, Kito." 

Kito bowed and retired, beaming, while Haley 
hobbled into the house. The consequences of the 
attack made on the garage did not appear at once. 
One was that young Arnold had already brought 
the touring car into the patio in the absence of 
Haley and Kito. Another was that he and Tracy 
and Kito all repaired to the scene of the explosion 
to examine the dead man s body. They returned 
almost immediately, but for a few moments there 
was no one of the house in the court. The colonel 
went to Keatcham in a final effort to dissuade him 
from going into the city until after he himself had 
gone to the Presidio and returned with a guard. 
He represented as forcibly as he could the danger 
of Keatcham s appearance during a time of such 
tumult and lawlessness. 

"We are down to the primeval passions now," 
he pleaded. "Do you suppose if it had been Haley 
instead of that dago out there who was killed that 


we could have punished the murderer? Not un 
less we did it with our own hands. They are 
maybe lying in wait at the first street-corner now. 
If you will only wait " 

Keatcham chopped off his sentence without 
ceremony, not irritably, but with the brusquerie 
of one whose time is too precious for dilatory 

"Will the fire wait?" he demanded. "Will the 
thieves and toughs and ruffians whom we have to 
crush before they realize their strength, will they 
wait ? This is my town, Winter, the only town I 
care a rap for; and I propose to help save it. I 
can. Danger? Of course there is danger; there 
is danger in every battle ; but do you keep out of 
battles where you belong because you may get 
killed? This is my affair; if I get killed it is in 
the way of business, and I can t help it ! No, Ar 
nold, I won t have your father s son mixed up in 
my fights ; you can t go." 

"Somebody has to run the machine, sir," in 
sinuated young Arnold with a coaxing smile; 
"and I fancy I shouldn t be my father s son if I 
didn t look after my guest not very long; he d 
cut me out. Tracy is going, too, he s armed " 

"You are not both going," said the colonel; 


"somebody with a head on him must stay here to 
guard the ladies." 

He would have detailed both Tracy and Mer 
cer ; but Mercer could really help Keatcham better 
than any one in any business arrangements which 
might need to be made. And Keatcham plainly 
wished his company. Had not the situation been 
so grimly serious Winter could have laughed at 
the grotesque reversal of their conditions ; Tracy 
and Arnold did laugh ; they were all taking their 
orders from the man who had been their defeated 
prisoner a little while back. Mercer alone kept 
his melancholy poise; he had obtained the aim of 
years ; he was not sure but his revenge was subtler 
and completer than he had dared to hope. Being 
a zealot he was possessed by his dreams. Suppose 
he had converted this relentless and tremendous 
power to his own way of faith ; what mightn t he 
hope to accomplish? Meanwhile, so far as the 
business in hand was concerned, he believed in 
Keatcham and in Keatcham s methods of help ; he 
bowed to the innate power of the man; and he 
was as simply obedient and loyal as Kito would 
have been to his feudal lord. 

In a very brief time all the arrangements were 
made ; the four men went into the patio to enter 


the touring-car. They walked up to the empty 
machine. The colonel stepped into the front seat 
of the machine. Something in the noise of the 
engine which was panting and straining against 
its control, some tiny sibilant undertone which any 
other ear would have missed, warned his ; he bent 
quickly. A dark object gyrated above the heads 
of the other two just mounting the long step; it 
landed with a prodigious splash in the fountain,, 
flying into a multitude of sputtering atoms and 
hurling a great column of water high up in air. 
Unheeding its shrieking clamor, the soldier 
sprang over the side of the car, darted through 
the great arched doorway out upon the terrace 
toward a clump of rubber-trees. He fired; again 
he fired. 

In every catastrophe the spectators minds lose 
some parts of the action. There are blanks to be 
supplied by no one. Every one of the men and 
women present on that fatal morning had a dif 
ferent story. Colvin was packing; he could only 
remember the deafening roar and the shouting; 
and when he got down-stairs and saw he turned 
deadly sick; his chief impression is the backs of 
people and the way their hands would shake. 
Janet Smith, inside, dressing Haley s wounds, 


was first warned by the tumult and cries; she as 
well as Archie and Haley who were with her 
could see nothing until they got outside. All 
Mrs. Melville saw was the glistening back of the 
car and Mercer stepping into the car and instantly 
lurching backward. The explosion seemed to her 
simultaneous with Mercer s entering the car. But 
Mrs. Rebecca Winter, who perhaps had the cool 
est head of all, and who was standing on the dais 
of the arcade exactly opposite the car, distinctly 
saw Keatcham with an amazing exertion of vigor 
for a man just risen from a sick-bed, and with a 
kind of whirling motion, literally hurl Mercer out 
of the car. She is sure of this because of one 
homely little detail, sickening in its very home 
liness. As he clutched Mercer Keatcham s soft 
gray hat dropped off and the light burnished the 
bald dome of his head. In the space of that glance 
she heard a crackle and a roar and Kito screamed 
in Japanese, running in from the carriage side. 
She can not tell whether Tracy or Arnold reached 
the mangled creature on the pavement first. Ar 
nold only remembers how the carriage-robe 
flapped in Tracy s shaking hands before he flung 
it over the man. Tracy s fair skin was a streaky, 
bluish white, and his under jaw kept moving up 


and down like that of a fish out of water, while 
he gasped, never uttering a sound. 

Young Arnold was trembling so that his hands 
shook when he would have raised the wounded 
man. Mercer alone was composed although 
deathly pale. He had the presence of mind to 
throw the harmless fragments of the bomb into 
the fountain and to examine the interior of the 
car lest there should be more of destruction hid 
den therein. Then he approached the heap on the 
flags; but Keatcham was able to motion him 
away, saying in his old voice, not softened in the 
least: "Don t you do that! I m all in. No use. 
They got me. But it won t do them any good; 
you boys know that will you witnessed ; it gives a 
fifty thousand for the arrest and conviction or the 
killing of Atkins ; his own cutthroats will betray 
him for that. But where s Winter? You damn 
careless fools didn t let him get hurt ?" 

"Shure, sor, he didn t let himsilf git hurted," 
Haley blurted out; he had run in after Miss 
Smith, brandy bottle in hand ; " tis the murdering 
dagoes is gettin hurted off there behind the big 
rubber-trees ; I kin see the dead legs of thim, this 
minnit. Tis a grand cool shot the colonel is, sor." 

"Bring him in, let them go; they were only 


tools," panted Keatcham weakly; but the brandy 
revived him; and his lips curled in a faint smile 
as Janet Smith struck a match to heat the tea- 
spoonful of water for her hypodermic. "Make it 
good and strong, give me time to say something 
to Mercer and Winter there he comes; good 
runners those boys are !" 

Tracy and Arnold, acting on a common un 
spoken impulse, had dashed after Winter and 
were pushing him forward between them. Keatch 
am was nearly spent, but he rallied to say the 
words in his mind. He kept death at bay by the 
sheer force of his will. When Winter knelt down 
beside him, with a poignant memory of another 
time in the same place when he had knelt beside 
a seemingly dying man, and gently touched the 
unmarred right hand lying on the carriage-robe, 
he could still form a smile with his stiff lips and 
mutter: "Only thing about me isn t in tatters; 
of course you touched it and didn t try to lift me 
where I m all in pieces. You always understood. 
Listen! You, too, Mercer. Winter knows the 
things I m bound to have go through. I ve ex 
plained them to him. You ll be my executors and 
trustees? A hundred thousand a year; not too 
big a salary for the work you can do it. It s a 

He kept death at bay by the sheer force of his will. Page 368 


bigger job than the army one. Winter. Warne- 
bold will look after the other end. He s narrow 
but he is straight. I ve made it worth his while. 
Some loose ends it can t be helped now. Maybe 
you ll find out there are more difficulties in ad 
ministering a big fortune than you fancied; and 
that it isn t the easiest thing in the world helping 
fools who can t . . . help themselves. There 
are all those Tidewater idiots . . . made me 
read about . . . you ll have to attend to them, 
Mercer . . . old woman in the queer clothes 
. . . chorus girl . . . those old ladies who 
had one egg between them for breakfast ... 
you ll see to them all ?" 

"Yes," said Mercer, looking down on the 
shrunken features with a look of pain and bewil 
derment. "Yes, suh, I ll do my best." 

"And we re even?" 

"I reckon I am obliged to call it so, suh," re 
turned Mercer with a long, gasping sigh, "but 
my Lord ! you d better have let me go !" 

"Very likely," said Keatcham dryly, "the city 
needs me. Well, Winter, you must look after 
that. I ve been thinking why a man throws his 
life away as I did; he has to, unless he*s a pol 
troon. He can t count whether he s more useful 


than the one he saves ... he has simply got 
to save him . . . you were a good deal right, 
Winter, about not doing the evil thing to get the 
good. No, it s a bad time for me to be taken ; but 
it s an honorable discharge. . . . Helen will 
be glad . . . you know I m not a pig, Winter 
... do what I tried to do . . . where s my 
kind nurse?" Janet was trying by almost imper 
ceptible movements to edge a pillow under his 
shoulders; he was past turning his head, but his 
eyes moved toward her. "I ve left you ... a 
wedding gift ... if I lived . . . given to 
you; but made it safe, anyhow. Mercer?" 

His voice had grown so feeble and came in such 
gasps from his torn and laboring chest that Mer 
cer bent close to his lips to hear the struggling 
sentences. "Mercer," he whispered, "I want . . . 
just ... to tell you . . . you didri t con 
vert me!" 

Thus, having made amends to his own will, 
having also, let us humbly hope, made amends 
to that greater and wiser Will which is of more 
merciful and wider vision that our weakness can 
comprehend, Edwin Keatcham very willingly 
closed his eyes on earth. 



From Mrs. Rebecca Winter to Mrs. John S. G. 

Fairport, Iowa. 


And it was delightful to discover that you were 
so distressed about me. I must be getting a trifle 
maudlin in my old age, for I have had a lump in 
my throat every time I have thought of Johnny 
and you actually starting out to find me; I am 
thankful my telegram (Please, Peggy, do not 
call it a wire again to me ! I loathe these verbal 
indolences) reached you at Omaha in time to stop 

Really, we have not had hardships. Thanks to 
Israel Putnam Arnold! I have a very admiring 
gratitude for that man! In these days of degen 
eracy he builded a stanch enduring house. With 
union labor, too ! I don t see how he contrived to 
do it. Generally, when they build houses here, 


they scamp the underpinning and weaken tHe 
joists and paint over the dirt instead of washing 
it off ; and otherwise deserve to be killed. The un 
fortunate man opposite had just that kind of 
house, which tumbled down and burned up, at 
once; but, alas! it killed some of the people in it, 
not the guilty masons and carpenters. 

Our chimneys have been inspected and we are 
now legally as well as actually sound ; but we did 
not suffer. We cooked out on the sidewalk, and 
supplemented our cooking with young Tracy s 

I told you of Janet s engagement. Confiden 
tially, my dear Peggy, I am a bit responsible. 
They met by chance on the train; and I assure 
you, although chance might have parted us, I did 
not let it. I clung to Nephew Bertie. I m sure he 
wondered why. I knew better than to let him 
suspect. But a success you can t share is like a 
rose without a smell. So I confess to you, I have 
made this match. But when you see Millicent she 
will tell you that she helped things along. She 
has abused Janet like a pickpocket ; but now, since 
she has discovered Janet didn t draw the Daugh 
ters caricature of her, she regards her as one of 
the gems of the century. 


We are recovering from the terrible events of 
which we wrote. It is certainly a relief that At 
kins is killed. He was one of the two scoundrels 
who sneaked into the patio and put the bombs 
into the automobile. Bertie shot him. You have 
no doubt heard all about Mr. Keatcham s death. 
He was killed by the man whose wickedness he 
had unconsciously fostered. He did not know it, 
but I make no doubt his swollen fortune and the 
unscrupulous daring of its acquiring had a great 
influence in corrupting his secretary. 

And his corruption was his master s undoing. 
I must say I sympathize with young Tracy, who 
said last night : "I feel as if I had been put to soak 
in crime! That bomb was the limit. In future, 
me for common or garden virtue ; it may be tame 
but I prefer tameness to delirium tremens !" 

I used to think that I should like to match my 
wits against a first-class criminal intellect; God 
forgive me for the wish! I have been matching 
wits for the last month ; and never putting on my 
shoes without looking in them for a baby bomblet 
or feeling a twinge of indigestion without darkly 
suspecting the cook who is really the best crea 
ture in the world, sent Mr. Arnold by a good 
Chinese friend of mine. (I had a chance to do a 


good turn to my friend, by the way, during tHe 
earthquake and thus repay some of his to me.) 

Archie is well and cheerful. Isn t it like the 
[Winter temperament to lose its melancholy in 
such horrors as we have seen? Archie is dis 
tinctly happier since he came to California. As 
for Janet and Rupert oh, well, my dear, you 
and Johnny know! The house has been full of 
people, and we have had several friends of our 
own for a day or two. I got a recipe for a deli 
cious tea-cake from Mrs. Wigglesworth of Bos 
ton. She didn t save anything but her furs and 
her kimono and a bridge set, besides what she 
had on ; she packed her trunk with great care and 
nobody would take it down-stairs. Of course she 
saved her bag of jewels, which reminds me that 
poor Mr. Keatcham left Janet some pearls that 
is, the money for them. He was very much at 
tached to her. 

We buried him on the crest of the hill; later, 
when more settled times shall come, he may take 
another and last journey to that huge mausoleum 
where his wife and mother are buried. Poor 
things! it is to be hoped they had no taste living 
or else that they can t see now how hideous and 
flamboyant is their last costly resting place. But 


if Keatcham hadn t a taste for the fine arts he had 
compensating qualities. I shall never forget the 
night of his burial. It was a "wonderful great 
night of stars/ as Stevenson says. A poor little 
tired-out clergyman, in a bedraggled surplice, 
who had been reading prayers over people for the 
last ten hours and was fit to drop, hurried through 
the service ; and the town the dead man loved was 
flaming miles beyond miles. About the grave was 
none of his blood, none of his ancient friends, but 
the men I believe he would have chosen men 
who had fought him and then had fought for him 
faithfully. They were haggard and spent with 
fighting the fire; and they went from his burial 
back to days and nights of desperate effort. He 
had fought and lost and yet did not lose at the 
last, but won, snatching victory out of defeat as 
he was wont to do all his life. The heavy burdens 
which have dropped from his shoulders these 
others whom he chose will carry, maybe more 
humbly, perhaps not so capably, but quite as cour 
ageously. And it is singular how his influence per 
sists, how it touches Kito and Haley, as well as 
the others. 

"Shure," said honest Haley (whose wit you are 
likely to sample in the near future, for he has 


elected to be the Rupert Winters chauffeur ; they 
don t know it yet, but they will when it is time) ; 
"shure," says he, "whin thot man so mashed up 
there ye cudn t move him for fear ye d lose the 
main parrt of him, whin he was thinkin of the 
town and nothin else, I hadn t the heart to be 
complainin for the loss of a few teeth and a few 
limps about me ! An I fair wu ked like the divil. 
So did Kito, who s a dacint Jap gintleman and no 
haythin at all." 

Poor Keatcham, he had no childhood and his 
wife died too soon to revive the fragrance of his 
youth ; but I can t help but think he had a reticent, 
awkward, shy sort of heart somewhere about him. 
Well, he was what Millicent would call "a com 
pelling personality." I use plain language and I 
call him a great man. He won the lion s share be 
cause he was the lion. And yet, poor Lion, his 
share was a lonely life and a tragic death. 




7 19)9 


MAR i" 1956 


AUG1 1962 



30m-6, 14