FICTION

The Thief

Charles Shirley March 1 1911
FICTION

The Thief

Charles Shirley March 1 1911

The Thief

Charles Shirley

HE’D ’a swiped the nuts off his own wagon, if he’d had one,” said Shorty MacLean, “He’d ’a robbed a bank if. he’d thought he could ’a done it neatly. He was a’ artist at thievin’—steal the hair off ’n a doggie without the doggie knowin’ it, and now—he’s dead, him and Stripes.” “Terrible!” sighed little MaePherson, who is a Knox College student from Toronto, but who goes in for cow-punching in his holidays. “It is terrible to think of,” adding, “and do you mean to say, Mr. MacLean, that there was nothing left of the two men that could be called a— that could be buried?”

“That’s what,” replied Shorty. “There were two heaps of something that was part ashes and part—somethin’ else. The two heaps were lyin’ under the wreckage after the fire. They knew one of ’em was Stripes, because there were little bits of melted-up brass among the ashes, which had been Stripes’ buttons. There was a gun, which must have been in Stripes’ hip pocket. There were two spurs on two bits of burned leather, which had been the heels of a pair of R.N.W.M.P. boots. So they knew that heap was Stripes. The other heap—well, it was just ashes mixed in with bits of wood from the remains of the car. They couldn’t find Striver, and the ashes looked as much like him as anything, so they called him dead. Guess he is, too.”

“What ’come of the hand-cuffs?” demanded big Pete Black, whose mind ran to police stories and that sort of thing. “Were they melted, too?”

“No,” said Shorty. “Stripes didn’t have hand-cuffs on his man.”

“How’s that?”

“Oh, he knew what Striver was like. Knew he didn’t need them.”

“Poor Stripes!” we sighed.

“Poor Striver!” added little MaePherson, thoughtfully.

“He was a darn little skunk!” exclaimed Black, bitterly.

“Yes,” said Shorty, suddenly taking up another lap in the story of his adventure. “That was my first train wreck, and I hope it’ll be my last. It was the first time the poor old Thief ever was pinched, and I guess it was his last, all right. Fellow on the train was tellin’ me he was near heart-broken when they pinched him. *He was talkin’ to his horse back of the corral on the Jew’s place, when the boys told him Stripes was cornin’ for him. All he said was, “Tell Stripsey I’m here.” The fellows thought he’d run, but he wouldn’t. Just waited for Stripes. Stripes led him away quiet as a lamb. Both of ’em was killed two hours later.”

“Good riddance,” muttered Black.

We were in the bunk-house. The oil burner was lighted. Outside, the wind was blowing. Shorty had been telling us in detail how the local train, running down from Medicine Hat into our part of the country had been wrecked. Two men were reported killed, Sergeant Jams of the Mounted Police, and his prisoner, George Striver, commonly known as “The Thief.” Our Shorty had been down at the Hat on business for our owner. He had been sitting in the same smoking compartment on the Canadian Southern train as were Stripes and Striver, when the engine pitched into a light engine running toward the Hat. Shorty, as he

had told us, had heard the brakes go on, had heard the crash, had seen the roof coming through right over Stripes and his man. After that he had remembered nothing. When he came to, the wrecking train had cleared the track and they had sorted him out with the rest of tho injured. In one place were the two dead—or what was surmised to be their ashes; in a special car running back to Medicine Hat were the more seriously injured. But Shorty, and the others who had escaped with a few bruises, had been kept for the night at a ranch-house. Next morning lie had been driven across to his own outfit—our outfit.

“How much did you get out of them?” asked Black suddenly, reverting to Shorty’s description of the Canadian Southern Railway’s claims agent, who had bought off Shorty’s claim.

“Two hundred dollars.”

“You were a fool,” commented Black. “You could ’a had more by standing out for it. Why, there was one fellow who hadn’t even a bump on the head, and he got—”

He paused, listening. Someone had knocked at our door. The sound came again, feebly.

“Come in !” yelled Shorty. .

Nobody came, but there was some sort of a noise outside. Then the sound was repeated, still feebly.

“Come in!” called Shorty again, and at the same time he threw the door wide open. I heard him say, “What’s the matter with you, you fool?” Then there was the sound of something scuffling in the doorway and Shorty appeared, dragging a limp figure into the light. He dropped it gently on the floor, panting.

We all stepped forward to look. Black pished his way between MacPherson and me.

JFrl he exclaimed, whistling MTiew! Its Striver. It’s the Thief I”

. No* ainV’ Shorty said. “The Thie is taller.”

“No, he ain’t.”

I seen the Thief last,” retorted Shortv bending closer over the prostrate man “

ougit—I ought t’ know—and yet_

He paused, perplexed.

I sent MacPherson to the owner’s for sponges and cloth and bandages. ]

told him to say, if Miss Isabel wanted to know what was the matter, that one of the horses was hurt. I didn’t want her fussing around. The unconscious man on the floor of the bunk-house was in pretty bad condition. His face was laid clean open. It was a nasty wound, and we worked a long time before we had it dressed. Meanwhile, Shorty had gone off for the doctor, and I had spent five minutes outside the door of the bunk-house arguing with the boss and his daughter, Miss Isabel, that they didn’t need to do anvthing.

II.

In the morning we held a consultation. Just after breakfast I called Black and Shorty and MacPherson—leaving out thé other hands that were sleeping in the other bunk-house—and 1 told them mv idea.

“There’s no need,” I said, constituting myself chairman. “There’s no need for tell anybody anything about this. Striver—if it is Striver—ain’t any angel. He s a thief, we all know it. Yet he never did anybody any harm in his life, and what’s the sense—if it’s Striver—of puttin’ him back in the hole where the Jew will prosecute the warrant against him? When the doctor comes, give him the tip. He knows Striver. If it’s Striver, he needn’t say anything.”

“All right,” assented Shorty and MacPherson. Black nodded, dubiously. I knew what was rankling in Black’s head.

. the last busting match at Medicine Striver had beaten Black—rode a badactor that had left Black rolling in the dirt. And Black “fancied himself” as a broncho-buster. That was why his assent' was slow.

So we arranged to keep our man in the bunk-house, and when the doctor came we told him what was what, and he said noth-

lnw in, which meant that he knew

what he knew and no more. There was only one hurt to the stranger. That one had been caused by a blow across the face and the head; The face was in bandages.

" e were still wondering whether the man was Striver or not.

In my day in the north part of the cow-country in Alberta, there had been ^"Ousand stories about George Striver, the Ihief. In the southern parts he was

not so well known, though at odd periods stray cow-men would pass by and tell yarns about Striver, the Thief.

There wasn’t a man but had a sort of sneaking regard for Striver. He was tall and fair and handsome enough, and he was always—the gentleman. It may seem contradictory, but he was. He would steals any mortal thing except something you trusted him with. He seemed to do it for the love of doing a neat piece of work. He did not need to steal. In fact, he never took anything of any considerable value. And yet when he -was taxed with stealing he would admit it and look as ashamed as though he had been caught 'murdering a baby.

He traveled all over the north country trying to get over the habit. People said that he came from England. Some that seemed to know more than others said there was a girl in the case, But no one ever heard of her, except when the Thief would be smitten with remorse. Then he would mention dimly that he could never look “her” in the face. But no “her” ever materialized. No one ever knew him to speak to a woman beyond the barest civilities. He did not drink. He did not “paint the towns red.” He just made a track from ranch to ranch trying to reform, and failing.

Rany, on the Thompson ranch, took hold of him and declared he was going to reform him. It was a good enough bargain for Rany, because anybody was willing to hire Striver, he was such a man with cattle, and he could ride so much like the all-fired Satan himself. But Rany said he was going to “reform” the Thief. He gave him extra high wages. But the Thief did not need them. He gave his money to the children in town, or to the Indian youngsters that he might happen to run across in a camp. He lent the fellows money and never wanted it back again. And yet, he would steal an old silver watch, or a little bag of nuggets that some fellow had brought with him from the gold country. Or he’d steal a knife or a stick-pin—for the mere joy of stealing.

I The fellows all took it good-naturedly a|id dubbed him—the Thief, without nièaning a bit of harm in the world. But somehow, it hurt Strivers, and made him

wear a hang-dog appearance, often. He went to Rany’s ranch, as he went to all new jobs, in high spirits, hoping to get over his habit, and one night he called three of the fellows around him and pleaded with them not to call him The Thief. He made them promise that if he never did anything again they would quit calling him by that name. They laughed at him, good naturedly, and clapped him on the back. But next week he stole an ivory lucky piece from a Mexican. They wouldn’t have known where to have looked for it, only that the Thief was in camp. They asked him where it was and he owned up. Then he went to Rany and told him he was quitting the job. Rany said no; said he wanted Striver to take a consignment of cattle to Winnipeg and handle all the money matters for him. Striver, touched, stayed, and said he would. He took the cattle and brought back every cent of the money correct. But he had not been home two days before the brakeman on the train that had carried Striver and the cattle down to Winnipeg wrote up asking for his watch. It was a German silver affair, not worth a dollar. Striver took the letter to the boss and then fished the watch out of his dunnage. Next day he quit and went to the next ranch, primed with new resolutions and new hope. But he failed, as he had failed before, and now his last employer, a nasty foreigner, with a pumpedup notion about the rights of property which he had acquired since his coming to Canada, had laid a charge against Striver and had had him arrested. Striver had a “weakness” before, but the arrest made him a criminal. The train which had been conveying him and Stripes Jarvis to the local headquarters of the R. N. W.M.P. was wrecked. And the question in our mind was—whether George Strivers, commonly known as the Thief, wras dead and cremated, or whether this bruised and battered affair which had arrived at our bunk-house during Shorty’s recital of his adventure, was the man.

III.

For three days he lay in the bunk-house and said nothing. He was attended by Anderson, the local doctor, once a day. He said nothing to the doctor. We fed

him, and all he said was “Thank you, in a formal way—for he was conscious enough. But he put in his time lying staring at the ceiling through his bandages, or sleeping. On the fourth day he unexpectedly announced his intention of getting up. Shorty MacLean heard him speaking and went over to the side of the bunk.

“I’m going to get up,” said the stranger.

“Y’ aren’t able,” replied Shorty. “Lie down. You’ll put yourself to the bad if you get up.”

“I’m going to get up,” persisted the stranger, in a-peculiarly steady voice, “I heard the doctor telling you yesterday that I was pretty well mended and that the bandages could come off to-day.”

While Shorty was wrangling with him the doctor’s run-about came whirring up the road. He heard what the stranger had to say and he said it was quite correct—he would take the bandages off and let the patient get up. So the stranger won his point from Shorty.

When I walked into the house that night there was the stranger sitting with his head bent over, studying the floor in a corner of the room.

“Evening I” I said. “Feelin’ any better?”

“Thank you,” came back a monotonous voice. “Thank you I I do. I feel much better. I’m glad to be sitting up.”

Black came in. It was before the big oil burner was lighted. I saw him straining his eyas to catch sight of the unbandaged face of the stranger.

The stranger looked up, vaguely, at Black. “Evening!” he said, in that same steady tone, not the tone of a cow-puncher at all, but the tone of one of these Englishmen that you meet in Saskatchewan in the fall, shooting ducks.

“Evening!” returned Black, coldly. “Feelin’ better?” J

“Yes, thank you.”

Again the head dropped and the man seemed to be studying the floor. I was hxmg some records on the gramophone when I heard him speak again.

“Gentlemen,” he said, slowly. “Gentlemen, I hope I haven’t given you a great deal of trouble.

“Not at all,” I said.

“Because,” he went on, “I am afraid I don’t know how to repay you for it—” “Don’t talk about that,” snapped Shorty who had entered the room.

“Evening!” muttered the stranger, as hé looked up through the dusk and saw Shorty hanging up his hat. “I am sorry to have put you—as I was saying—-to so. much trouble, but now—I have to be honest with you, gentlemen, now I would like you to tell me, if you can, how did I come here?”

We stared, to see if he was serior parently he was. .

“Why,” I answered, “you knocked our door last Sunday night about o’clock. We found that you had a cut across the face and that you h big bruise on your head—”

“Did I come in these clothes?”

“Yes.” s •

“And have you any idea where t^carpe from—where I had received these «har juries of which you speak?” He Íét the shade of a smile flit across his face.-#* ] ' “Darned if we know,” returned Shorty/ “’Fraid we don’t know if you don't/’. I added. &

“Hell !” said Black, leaning forwarded, suddenly striking a match. “He knoWp mighty well. Wasn’t you in that train wreck.—with Stripesy?”

The man seemed to be thinking ©¡|er what Black had said. Black put Jiis match to the oil burner and under the yellow light I saw the stranger’s face, since it had begun to heal, for the first time, yet he had it turned so that I could not see át in detail. It looked like Striver’s |ace and yet there was something different about it, as though the wound, thougH it was healing over very neatly, had alt^fed' it in some manner.

“Train wreck!” he muttered, “andaF-ra person whom you call 'Stripesy’! Do yôu know,” he said, suddenly turning to me, “was it a—a goods train, or a—well, in short, what sort of a train was it?”

Look here !” said Black, roughly putting aside the question. “Look here! This is the year nineteen hundred and eight/: You are in the bunk-house of the Bar Ti -ran ch in Southern Alberta. The owner’s/ name is Barthe.” The stranger looked upï at the mention of the name. “We think,’# Black went on, without noticing, “that you-;

were hurt in the wreck of the Canadian Southern Saturday night, near here. We also think that you know damn well who you are and that your name is Striver, Striver—the Thief.”

It was out before I could stop him. But Black went on, “At first I didn’t know for sure. I couldn’t make sure of the face. But when you turned your face to the light a minute ago I knew who’t was, and you know, too.”

The stranger stood up in the middle of the floor. He was swaying; he was still weak. '

“Sir,” he said, with the dignity which nobody but one of those duck-shooting Englishmen can raise, “Sir, you have the advantage of me. I have been messed up, somehow or another. I am sorry to say that I apparently have lost my memory. I do not know my name. I do not know how I come to be in this country. I do not know how I was hurt nor when. My only recollection is that I was in England, that I was riding a small horse, that something happened, and that—I return to consciousness here in this place where you have been so kind as to shelter me. I must thank you for your hospitality.”

He Avas just toppling over when Shorty aught him. He had fainted.

“Black!” Shorty exclaimed, “You are a confounded liar. This ain’t Striver.”

“'Wait and see,” returned Black.

It was three days before the stranger Avas out of his bunk again. I told Anderson, the doctor, about his claiming to have lost his memory. At first he laughed. Then he examined the stranger again and came to me, outside the bunk-house, serious.

“He’s not lying,” he said.

“You mean that he has lost his memory, or part of it?”

“Yes. I Avas looking at his head again. He has been hurt before sometime—perhaps years ago. The first wound probably injured his brain in some way or another. The second shock has restored his memory only for those things which happened before the first accident. It’s what we call Aphasia.”

IV.

One morning, the stranger came out of the bunk-house rigged in some old clothes that Shorty and I had scraped together for him. He walked with a long stride and an air of self-reliance that would have marked him anywhere as a man AAT1IO had been “accustomed to things.”

“Mr. Brown,” lie said, “the physician has said that I am quite fit again. I wish to know if there is anything to do on this ranch here, of which Î believe you are the manager, by which I may continue to support myself and perhaps earn enough to pay back what I owe you and the other men.”

“There’s nothing but cow-punching,” I replied. “We are shy one man, but he’d have to be able to ride. As for paying back, forget it.”

“I can ride.”

“Can you? Then Shorty’ll get you a horse, and we’ll break you in. If you can stand the job, the wages will be thirty a month and grub and your place in the bunk-house.”

Shorty brought a horse. At first the stranger looked afraid of the saddle. He said that he had been accustomed to the English hunting saddle. But the moment he was up on the horse I could see that he had ridden the Mexican saddle before, and as we rode off the old puzzled expression came back into his face.

“Mr. Brown,” he said, “I feel like a fool. I said I was unaccustomed to this sort of saddle, yet when I am in it I feel as though I had never ridden in any other. I am the victim of a lost memory I am afraid. But, by the way—I can tell you my name. That much and a little more came back to my memory after I had my—my little relapse. My name is Gerrard, Anthony Gerrard. My people were the Gerrards of Lancashire. My parente were not living when I went to school —Eton. I was staying at a country place, the Barthes, and I remember riding out before breakfast one morning with young Barthe that is the end of my memory. But my name is Gerrard. It will give you a handle by which to call me. Isn’t that vour word, ‘handle’?”

“All right, Gerrard,” I said. “But what did you .say was the name of the people in England—the Barthes?”

“Yes, why?”

Mr.'BBaX”the ^ °f tWs Place is

“Oh!” he exclaimed.

Gerrard seemed to have been bom in the cow-punching business. There was only one man I knew in those days th

could do as well with a horse. That was Black.

As we were all riding in from the big corral that night I saw the owner’s daughter cantering across the pasture toward the house—Miss Barthe, Miss Isabel. She had been out on one of those eastern horses that I wouldn’t trust farther than the length of a tight line.

Suddenly, I saw a little spurt of düst under the girl’s horse. The horse ^as plunging, and as I looked I saw it jérk its head free and start off on the run. Ordinarily, there would have been no trouble, but there was a barbed-wire fence not Jar from where the easterner was heading &r and if he struck it—.

We hurried after the girl. Black and Gerrard made a lead on us. “Look hut for the barb wire!” I shouted, as tfoey passed out of hearing. I saw Black ^gm and yell something at Gerrard. ‘ I -iaw Gerrard give him an answer and spur&is horse. Gerrard’s horse gained. Black lagged. Inch by inch Gerrard crept u£ ! on the eastern horse, and with a side-long ^motion Gerrard put his horse beside the rjmaway and seizing a rein, brought him pp.

We saw him lift his hat as ¡the £irl thanked him, apparently, and he held it suspended above his head, as though he was surprised. Then she must have de-, cided to dismount, for Gerrard left his horse and held the easterner jvhSe the girl jumped down. Gerrai#*fixed the girth and handed the girl up to her^saddle again. '

Say !” said Shorty to me, as we drew near. “Nobody ever saw the Thief hand a lady up on a horse.” *

Say!” growled Black, coming back at that moment, “Do you mean to tell me that wasn’t the Thief that rode that way?

there anybody else in the country ibad the Thief’s way of sideling his horse up to a thing the way he did?” .-ft /‘You’re right,” I admitted. “That certamly was Striver’s trick. And yet—it isn’t Striver. You never saw Strive? Halt or act the way Gerrard does, and, besides Black—Gerrard ain't a thief."

Black ignored my answer.

“He looks like Striver, don’t he?”

“Yet, but—” •

“And the only difference is thaiK.4e, cloesn t talk like him, or act like him?”?

“Yes, but—”

“Yes, but—nothin’,” Black answered sharply. “That’s Striver, I tell you. He’s shammin’.”

Black rode ahead of us, muttering. Shorty and I caught up to Miss Barthe and Gerrard. They were riding side to side, and talking pleasantly.

“Brown,” she said, “I pretty nearly had a bad one that time. I mustn’t ride him without a curb after this. But Mr. Gerrard saved me. You didn’t know, did you, that Mr. Gerrard and our family were old acquaintances?”

“I heg pardon, m’am—”

“Oh, yes,” she laughed, “when he was a little boy going to Eton he used to visit at our place in the holidays with my brother. We lost track of him five years ago when he was thrown from a horse.”

“I hope you are not hurt, Miss,” I said.

Good cow-punching never yet made a good mix with a pretty girl.

V.

That night I found Black writing letters. That was something unusual for Black. Two days later I brought the mail to the bunk-house and sorted out three for Black. One was from a Medicine Hat paper. The other two were in Mounted Police envelopes.

“Quite a correspondence these days, Black,” I remarked.

“Yes,” he replied, drily. “Do you object?”

“Öh, no,” I answered hastily, “I was only wondering.”

“Don’t do it. It’s bad for you,” he sneered.

“None of, your lip,” I warned hinf.

“Then mind your own business,” he said.

I felt sore, because he was right. It was none of my business. Yet I knew Black was up to mischief and I did not like the appearance of the police envelopes. I had seen Black’s resentment growing stronger every day against Gerrard. He seemed convinced that Gerrard was Striver, the Thief. I sometimes thought he was, too, but I saw no reason why the man that Gerrard had proven to be should be saddled with the shame of whatever Strivers, the Thief, had been.

The owner called me to the house that night and took me into the smokingroom.

“Brown,” he said, “you have managed this ranch for three years. I want to know something of Mr. Gerrard.”

“How do you mean,” I said. “As a cow-man?”

“No,” he said, “Not that. I mean, there is a mystery about Gerrard which it is only fair to myself and Isabel to clear up. We knew Gerrard as a boy in the Old Country, before I came out here to ranch. He and my son, who is now dead, went to Eton together. My son—was killed in an accident. He was riding with Gerrard. Gerrard’s horse went over the enbankment at the same time, but Gerrard recovered. He was taken home by some relative of his—his parents were dead, and apparently remained only long enough to recover his health. At all. events, when next I made inquiries, he had gone to Canada, and we could find no trace of him. I want to know what you know of him here. I may say first, quite frankly, I like him.”

I was arguing it out with myself. I thought of a question by which to gain a moment’s time.

“Will it make a great deal of difference what I say?” I asked.

“Yes, it will. He has asked to marry my daughter. She wishes it. But he says he has no memory of what took place since the accident in England, and I fancied that you—”

I had made up my mind.

“Well,” I replied, “I have been trying to think of anything I know. All I know is that he has been an excellent man with us here on the ranch. Dr. Anderson says that the man has evidently been a victim of something that he calls—•” “Aphasia?”

“And you don’t know anything about him, except that you imagine that he must have been a passenger on the train that was wrecked?”

I was about to leave the room when Shorty came running across the verandah and beckoned to me through the French window. Barthe opened it and let him in.

“Quick!” said Shorty, “Black and Gerrard have been lighting. Black followed him and Miss Isabel when they were riding bv the little corral. I followed him. Black had a bunch of papers in one hand and he was calling Gcrrard by the old name—calling him Striver, the Thief. At lirst Striver was cool. But Black kept insulting him and finally struck him across the head. It’s opened Gerrard’s wound again. Ilurry up!”

“Where are the papers that Black had in his hand?” I demanded.

“Black has them. He thought he had killed Gcrrard, and lie’s bolted.”

We found Gcrrard as Shorty had described it.

Ho was delirious by morning. Miss Bartlie and her father wanted him kept in the house, but Shorty and I said no. One of them wanted to stay beside him, hut Shorty and I said no again.

Gcrrard was Striver and the Thief rolled in one. We knew that the moment we heard his delirium talk. The blow which Black had dealt him had not only re-opened the wound, but it had recalled the Thief, George Striver, into the body of Anthony Gcrrard, into which the Thief had entered at the time of which old

Barthe had been telling me—when Gerrard had been thrown from his horse in England.

VI.

Late that night the big oil burner spilled a yellow light down on the face of the man Gerrard, the Thief—Striver. His

lips were going. He was tossing to and fro. He was in fever.

“I know,” he muttered, “I know. I can’t help it. I don’t meanit. I don’t want the things and I don’t need ’em, but I—I can’t help it.”

“Sh !” said Shorty. “Shut up, old man. You’re hurtin’ yourself talkin’.”

“It don’t matter,” went on the sick man, “I can’t help it. It’s something outside of myself—it’s some outside influence that makes me this way.”

He was quiet for a time and then went on: '

l“I have everything—everything—y^t when I see it—when I see some little thing, some bauble that some of the feV lows have—I want to steal it. That’s word—steal. I like to get things awav from them without them guessing. I Jpe to deceive them, to put my hand in etíbningly,—cunningly, carefully,—Oh so gently, that they never know what Í am

doing. Then I love to hide it—To hide the thing away and watch them looking for it.”

There was a silence. An hour afterward I waked out of a doze to hear him again.

“And now,” he was saying/! they have been calling me—the Thief. It isn’t fair. I know it isn’t fair. I told them I couldn’t help it, and they promised that if I— if— if—I stopped they would quit the name. I thought I had won out. I thought I could control the itching and then— I saw the Jew with his silver spoons and— I wanted them. Not the spoons, but the Jew’s perplexity. That was what I wanted. I took one spoon at a time. There’s nobody could have done it so cleverly. No, no. But the Jew—the Jew, damn him, he’s put it to the law.” A pause. “Yes, Stripesy, I’ll go quiet, if only you won’t hand-cuff me. Yes! Yes! But now—I am the Thief. I am the Thief.”

The tone of the voice was changed. The expression of the face. We waited for Anderson, the doctor.

“It’s Striver, Doctor,” I said, as he entered.

“Sure?” he asked, taking off his gauntlets.

“Yes, he thinks he’s the Thief again.” Very carefully he examined the wound. Shorty held the oil burner down close so that he could see better. When at length he had finished the examination and fixed his man, he called me aside.

“I’ve a theory,” he said.

“What is it?”.

“I want to send for Trevis, of Winnipeg, ié come and trepan the skull.” “What’s that mean?”

“A ticklish operation on the head.” “What would that do?”

> “That—I think—is what has made the difference-between Striver, the Thief, and Gerrard. If we don’t lift that bone your inan will wake up as Striver, the Thief. If we do, he may wake up—Gerrard.” “But suppose he wakes up as Gerrard, but remembers what he has done as Striver?”

“Well—we’ll have to risk it. It’s only my theory, anyhow. But the man who should do it is Trevis. He would have to come from Winnipeg.”

“Is there time? It takes two days.”

“N—no.”

“'Then you’ll have to do it yourself, doctor.”

I had taken him by surprise. He was only a “rural practitioner.” He had come west after graduating from some eastern college, thinking that the west was the place to make money quickly. He hesitated.

“I would—I would be taking a risk,” he said.

I knew he was not afraid of that. It ivas modesty that was troubling him.

“I would need a nurse,” he objected again.

“Wouldn’t Shorty and I do?”

“No.”

“Then — hmph ! Then — how would Miss Isabel do?”

“Miss Isabel?”

“Yes, Barthe’s daughter. She—”

“Think she would?”

“I’ll see.”

I carried the proposition to Barthe’s daughter. I did not tell her what difference we hoped the operation would make to the sick man. I did not let her think that Gerrard had ever been anything other than she had known him. I said merely that it was a delicate operation, that it must be done quickly, and that it needed a woman. She accepted, quietly. Old Barthe grumbled, but gave in. The doctor went home in his run-about for more instruments. We cleared the big dining-room in Barthe’s house, and we disinfected the walls. Shorty held the chloroform and one of Gerrard’s hands— where he could feel the pulse. Isabel Barthe stood by with a tray of knives and sponges and antiseptics. Once, in the most trying part of the operation, Anderson indicated with a curt nod of the head a certain thing that the improvised nurse was to do. With cool, steady, delicate fingers she did it. Ten minutes later the operation was over.

VIII.

“And now,” ruminated Anderson, washing his hands, “we shall see.”

“What shall we see?” demanded the girl, taking off the great white apron she had worn. “I thought you said that the operation had been successful.”

“It was, but—”

"But what?”

"Olí, I was just woudering how long it would take him to come out of the antithetic. But, meanwhile, Miss Barthe, you must go and rest. You have been under a strain, though you may not feel so at this moment.”

Shorty nudged me and pointed surreptitiously to the girl’s hands. She was twining and untwining her fingers nervously.

“But I want to stay,” she objected.

“No,” re-aflirmed Anderson. “You must

bro.” . \ I

He was afraid of the result of the operation. So were we. We waited for our man to come out of the sleep.

“Of course,” said the doctor, a trifle nervous, as Gerrard began to stir uneasily. “Of course, this has been only my theory.”

“Of course,” I assented.

“God, but it’s weird!” said Shorty, not irreverently. “He’ll be awake in say an hour, and he may wake up as Striver— or he may wake as—as Gerrard!”

“Sh!”

He began to stir. We tip-toed to the side of the bed and listened. His breathing was regular.

Presently he stirred. The ghost of a smile flitted across his face. He halfopened his eyes and then closed them again.

I think—I think—” began Anderson. “I think it will be—Gerrard.”

The man’s eyes opened wide, though they were still heavy with sleep.

Somebody call me?” he whispered thickly.

Me did not speak. MTe drew back.

The voice sounded like the voice of Gerrard, and yet—I wondered a thousand things concerning the new man that would come out of the grip of the chloro-

form. Would it be Gerrard, tall, dignified, good-natured, self-controlled, self-reliant ; or would it be Striver, the Thief, a man who was afraid of himself, a man always running away from his own temptations, a man who could not govern himself, but who was governed by one small idiosyncrasy of his own brain? And more horrible than this alternative was the possibility of Gerrard awakening and remembering Striver. For if Striver waked he would be nothing but himself, an abject mortal. If Gerrard waked, as the Gerrard we had known before, it would be well for himself and for the girl, Misa Barthe. But if Gerrard waked and remembered himself as Striver—I could not guess what catastrophe might follow.

Then, suddenly, we heard him whiëpeTing weakly, and we went to his side. /T,

“Hello, Brown,” he said, faintly. “Have I been getting messed up again?” ■>.

• “Sh! Don’t exert yourself!”

“I remember now—it was that fellow Black—he called me Thief—ridiculous notion—that my name^-was something else—stealing something or other—hoW odd!” •

He smiled contentedly. After awhile Anderson let in Miss Barthe and old man Barthe, telling them not to talk. ? . A

It was all right for Gerrard after that. Striver was dead. It was his ashes that had been left in the wreck of the Canadian Southern. But out of those ashes had come—Gerrard. * M

Shorty and I went out to water the horses. I found a note from Black, a poor maudlin note. He thought he had killed Gerrard. I had not known it before—hut I saw from the note what the trouble was. He had been jealous. He liked Éíiss Barthe.