FRANK L. PACKARD
FIRST PROLOGUE HER STORY
A HANSOM cab, somewhat woebegone in appearance, threaded its way in a curiously dejected manner through the heart of New York’s East Side. A fine drizzle fell through which the street lamps showed as through a mist; and, with the pavements slippery, the emaciated-looking horse, the shafts jerking and lifting up at intervals around its ears, appeared hard put to it to preserve its footing.
The cabman on his perch drove with his coat collar turned up, and his chin on his breast. He held the reins listlessly, permitting the horse to choose its own gait.
At times he lifted the little trap door in the roof of the cab and peered into the interior; occasionally his hand, tentatively, hesitantly, edged toward a bulge jn his coat pocket—only to be drawn back again in a sort of panic haste.
The cabman turned into a street where, in spite of the drizzle, hawkers with their push-carts under flaring, spitting gasoline banjoes were doing a thrivingbusiness. The horse went more slowly. There was very little room. With the push-carts lining the curbs on both sides, and the overflow of pedestrians from the sidewalks into the street, it was perhaps overtaxing the horse’s instinct to steer a safe course for the vehicle it dragged behind it.
Half way along the block a wheel of the
block a wheel of the hansom bumped
too gently into one of the push-carts, nearly
upsetting the latter. The hawker, with a frantic grab, saved his wares from disaster by an uncomfortably narrow margin, and, this done, hurled an impassioned flood of lurid oratory at the two-wheeler.
The cabman lifted his chin from his breast, stared stonily at the hawker, slapped the reins mechanically on the roof of the cab as an intimation to the horse to proceed, and the cab wended its way along again.
At the end of the block, it turned the corner, and drew up before a small building that was nested in between two tenements. The cabman climbed down from his perch,
and stood for a moment surveying the three gilded balls that hung over the dingy doorway, and the lettering “Paul Veniza. Pawnbroker”— that showed on the dullylighted windows which confronted him.
He drew his hand across his eyes; then, reaching suddenly inside the cab, lifted a bundle in his arms, and entered the shop. A man behind the counter stared at him, and uttered a quick ejaculation. The cabman went on into a The man from behind the counter followed.
Here, a woman rose from a table where she had been sew ing, and took the bundle quickly from the cabman’s arms
as it emitted a querulous little cry.
The cabman spoke for the first time.
“She’s dead,” he said heavily.
The woman, buxom, middle - aged, stared at him, white-faced, her eyes filling suddenly with tears.
“She died an hour ago,” said the cabman, in the same monotonous voice. “I thought maybe you’d look after the baby girl for a bit, Mrs. Veniza—you and Paul.”
“Of course!” said the woman in a choked voice. “I wanted to before, but—but your wife wouldn’t let the wee mite out of her sight.”
“She’s dead now,” said the cabman. “An hour ago.”
Paul Veniza, the pawnbroker, crossed to the cabman’s side, and, placing his hands on the other’s shoulders, drew the other man down into a
“Hawkins,” he said slowly, “we’re getting on in years, fifty each of us, and we’ve known each other for a good many of those fifty.” He cleared his throat. “You’vemade a mess of things, Hawkins.” The woman holding the baby started suddenly forward, a red flush dyeing her cheeks.
ing “Paul!” she cried sharply. “How can you be so cruel at such an hour as this?” The pawnbroker shook his head. He had moved to the back of the cabman’s chair. Tall, slight, grave and kindlyfaced, with high forehead and the dark hair beginning to silver at the temples, there seemed something almost esthetic the
“It is t)u hour." he said deliberately ; "the ono^hour in whieji I must, speak plainly to my old friend, the one hour that has come into his life which may mean everything to him.” 11 is right hand slipped from the cabman s shoulder and started, tentatively, hesitantly, toward a bulge in the cabman’s coat pocket but was drawn back again, and found its place once more on the rabtmn’s shoulder. 1 was afraid, Hawkins, when you married the young wife. 1 was afraid of your curse."
The cabman's elbows were on the table; he had sunk his chin in his hands. His blue eyes, out of a wrinkled face of wind-beaten tan, roved around the little room, and rested finally on the bundle in the woman’s arms.
“That’s finished now,” he said dully.
‘T pray to God it is,” said Paul Veniza earnestly; “but you said that before—when you married the young wife.” “It’s finished now—so help me God!” The cabman’s lips scarcely moved. He stared straight in front of him.
There was silence in the little, plainly furnished room for a moment; then the pawnbroker spoke again:
“I was born here in New York, you know, after my parents came from Italy. There was no money, nothing— only misery. I remember. It is like that, Hawkins, isn’t it, where you have just come from, and where you have left the young wife?”
“Paul!” his wife cried out again. “How can you say such things? It—it is not like you!” Her lips quivered. She burst into tears, and buried her face in the little bundle she snuggled to her breast.
The cabman seemed curiously unmoved—as though dazed, almost detached from his immediate surroundings. He said nothing.
The pawnbroker’s hands still rested on the cabman’s shoulders, a strange gentleness in his touch that sought somehow, it seemed, to offer sympathy for his own merciless words.
“I have been thinking of this for a long time, ever since we knew that Claire could not get better,” he said. “We knew you would bring the little one here. There was no other place, except an institution. And so I have been thinking about it. "What is the little one’s name?”
The cabman shook his head.
“She has no name,” he said.
“Shall it be Claire, then?” asked the pawnbroker gently. The cabman’s fingers, where they rested on his cheeks, gathered a fold of flesh and tightened until the blood fled, leaving little white spots. He nodded his head.
Again the pawnbroker was silent for a little while.
“My wife and I will take little Claire—on one condition,” he said at last, gravely. “And that condition is that she is to grow up as our child, and that, though you may come here and see her as often as you like, she is not to know that you are her father.”
The cabman turned about a haggard face.
“Not to know that I am her father—-ever,” he said huskily.
“I did not say that,” said Paul Veniza quietly. He smiled now; leaning over the cabman. “I am a pawnbroker; this is a pawnshop. There is a way in which you may redeem her.”
The cabman pressed a heavy hand over his eyes.
“What is that way?" He swallowed hard as he spoke. “By redeeming yourself.” The pawnbroker’s voice was low and earnest. “What have you to offer her to-day save a past that has brought only ruin and misery? And for the future, my old friend? There is no home. There was no home for the young wife. You said when you married Claire, as you have said to-night, that it was all finished. But it was not finished. And your curse was the stronger. Well, little Claire is only a baby, and there would be years, anyhow, before just a man could take care of her. Do you understand, my old friend? If at the end of those years, enough of them to make sure that you are sure of yourself, you have changed your life and overcome your weakness, then you shall have little Claire back again and she shall know you as her father, and be proud of you. But if you do not do this, then she remains with us, and we are her parents, and you pledge me your word that it shall be so.” There was no answer for a long time. The woman was still crying—but more softly now. The cabman’s chin had sunk into his hands again. The minutes dragged along. Finally the cabman lifted his head, and, pushing back his chair, stumbled to his feet.
“God—God bless you both!” he whispered. “It’s all finished now for good, as I told you, but you are right, Paul. I—I aint fit to have her yet. I’ll stand by the bargain.” He moved blindly toward the door.
The pawnbroker interposed.
“Wait, Hawkins, old friend,” he said. “I’ll go with you. You’ll need some help back there in the tenement, some one to look after the things that are to be done.”
The cabman shook his head.
“Not to-night,” he said in a choked way. “Leave me alone to-night.”
He moved again toward the door, and this time Paul Veniza stepped aside, but following, stood bare-headed in the doorway as the other clambered to his perch on the hansom cab.
Hawkins slapped his reins on the roof of the cab. The horse started slowly forward.
The drizzle had ceased; but the horse, left to his own initiative, was still wary of the wet pavements and moved at no greater pace than a walk. Hawkins drove with his coat collar still turned up, and his chin on his breast.
And horse and man went aimlessly from street to street— • and the night grew late.
And the cabman’s hand reached tentatively, hesitantly, a great many times, toward a bulge in his coat pocket, and for a great many times was withdrawn as empty as it had set forth. And then, once, his fingers touched a glass
bottle neck—and then, not his fingers, but his lips—-and for a great many times.
It had begun to rain again.
The horse, as if conscious of the futility of its own movements, had stopped, and, with head hanging, seemed to cower down as though seeking even the slender protection of the shafts, whose ends now made half circles above his
Something slipped from the cabman’s fingers and fell with a crash to the pavement. The cabman leaned out from his perch and stared down at the shattered glass.
“Broken,” said the cabman vacantly.
SECOND PROLOGUE—TWENTY YEARS LATER HIS STORY
IT WAS silver light. Inside the reefs the water lay placid and still, mirroring in a long, shimmering line the reflection of the full tropic moon; beyond, ever and anon, it splashed against its coral barriers in little crystal showers.
It was a soundless night. No breeze stirred the palms that, fringing white stretches of beach around the bay, stood out in serene beauty, their irregular tops etched with divine artistry into the sky-line of the night.
Out from the shore, in that harbor which holds no sanctuary in storm, the mail boat, dark save for her riding lights, swung at her moorings; shoreward, the perspective altered in the moonlight until it seemed that Mount Vaea had lowered its sturdy head that it might hover in closer guardianship over the little town. Apia straggled in white patches along the road. And from these white patches, which were dwellings and stores, there issued no light.
From a point on the shore nearest the mail boat, a figure in cotton drawers and undershirt slipped silently into the water and disappeared. Thereafter, at intervals, a slight ripple disturbed the surface as the man, coming up to breathe, turned upon his back and lay with his face exposed; for the rest he swam under water. It was as though he were in his natural element. He swam superbly even where, there in the Islands, all the natives were born to the sea; but his face, when visible on the few occasions that it floated above the surface, was the face, not of a native, but of a white man.
And now he came up in the shadow of the steamer’s hull where, near the stern, a rope dangled pver the side almost touching the water’s edge. And for a moment he hung to the rope, motionless, listening. Then he began
February 15, 1921
to swarm upward with fine agility, without a sound, his bare feet finding silent purchase against the iron plates of the hull.
Halfway up he paused, and listened intently again. Was that a sound as of some one astir, the soft movement of feet on the deck above? No, there was nothing now. Why should there be? It was very late, and Nanu, the man who lisped, was no fool. The rope had hung from exactly that place where, of all others, one might steal aboard without attracting the attention of the watch.
He went on again, and finally raised his head above the rail. The deck, flooded with moonlight, lay white and deserted below him. He swung himself over, dropped to the deck —and the next instant reeled back against the rail as a rope-end, swung with brutal force, lashed across his face, raising a welt from cheek to cheek. Half stunned, he was still conscious that a form had sprung suddenly at him from out of the darkness of the after alleyway, that the form was one of the vessel’s mates, that the form still swung a short rope-end that was a murderous weapon because it was little more flexible than iron and was an inch in thickness, and that behind this form other forms, big forms, Tongans of the crew, pressed forward.
A voice roared out, hoarse, profane, the mate’s voice: “Thought you’d try it again, did you, you damned beachcomber? I’ll teach you! And when I find the dog that left that rope for you, I’ll give him a leaf out of the same book! You bloody waster! I’ll teach you! I’ll—” The rope-end hissed as it cut through the air again, aiming for the swimmer’s face. But it missed its mark. Perhaps it was an illusion of the white moonlight, lending unreality to the scene, exciting the imagination to exaggerate the details, but the swimmer seemed to move with incredible speed,with the lithe, terrible swiftness of a panther in its spring. The rope-end swished through the air, missing a suddenly-lowered head by the barest fraction of an inch, and then, driven home with lightning-like rapidity, so quick that the blows seemed as one, the swimmer’s fists swung, right and left, crashing with terrific impact to the point of the mate’s jaw. And the mate’s head jolted back, quivered grotesquely on his shoulders for an instant like a tuning fork, sagged, and the great bulk of the man collapsed and sprawled inertly on the deck.
There was a shuffle of feet from the alleyway, cries. The swimmer swung to face the expected rush, and it halted, hesitant. It gave him time to spring and stand erect upon the steamer’s rail. On the upper deck faces and forms began to appear. A man in pyjamas leaned far out and peered at the scene.
There was a shoút from out of the dark, grouped throng in the alleyway; it was chorused. The rush came on again for the rail; and the dripping figure that stood there, with the first sound that he had made—a laugh, half bitter, half of cool contempt—turned, and with a clean dive took the water again and disappeared.
Presently he reached the shore. There were more than riding lights out there on the steamer now. He gave one glance in that direction, shrugged his shoulders, and started off along the road. At times he raised his hand to brush it across his face where the welt, raw and swollen now, was a dull red sear. He walked neither fast nor slow.
The moonlight caught the dripping figure now and then in the open spaces, and seemed to peer inquisitively at the great breadth of shoulder, and the rippling play of muscle under the thin cotton drawers and shirt, which, wet and clinging, almost transpaient, scared hid the man’s nakedness; and at the face, that of a young man, whose square jaw was locked, whose gray eyes stared steadily along the road, and over whose forehead, from the drenched, untrimmed mass of fair hair, the brine trickled in little rivulets as though persistent in its effort to torture with its salt caress the raw, skin-broken flesh across the cheeks.
Then presently a point of land ran out, and, the road ignoring this, the bay behind was shut out from view. And presently again, farther on, the road came to a long white stretch of beach on the one hand, and foliage and trees on the other. And here the dripping figure halted and stood hesitant as though undecided between the moonlit stretch of sand, and the darkness of a native hut that was dimly outlined amongst the trees on the other side of the road.
At a moment he made his way to the hut, and groping around secured some matches and a box of cigarettes. He spoke into the empty blackness.
“You lose, Nanu,” he muttered whimsically. “They wouldn’t stand water and I left them for you. But now, you see, I’m back again, after all.”
He lighted a cigarette, and in the flame of the match stared speculatively at the small, broken pieces of coral that made the floor of the hut, and equally, by the addition of a thin piece of native matting, his bed.
“The sand is softer,” he said with a grim drawl.
He went out from the hut, crossed the road, flung himself upon his back on the beach, and clasped his hands be hind his head. The smoke from his cigarette curled languidly upward in wavering spirals, and he stared for a long time at the moon.
“Moon madness,” he said at last. “They say if you look long enough the old boy does you in.”
'T'HE cigarette finished, he flung the stub away. After a time, he raised his head and listened. A moment later he lay back again full length on the sand. The sound of someone’s footsteps coming rapidly along the road from the direction of the town was now unmistakably audible.
“The jug for mine, I guess,” observed the young man to the moon. “Probably a file of native constabulary in bare feet that you can’t hear bringing up the rear!”
The footsteps drew nearer, until, still some distance away, the white-clad figure of a man showed upon the treefringed road. The sprawled figure on the beach made no effort toward flight, and less toward concealment. With a sort of studied insolence injected into his challenge, he »stuck another cigarette between his lips and deliberately allowed full play to the flare of the match.
The footsteps halted abruptly. Then, in another moment, they crunched upon the sand, and a tall man, with thin, swarthy face, a man of perhaps forty or fortyfive, who picked assiduously at his teeth with a quill toothpick, stood over the recumbent figure.
“Found you, have I?” he grunted complacently.
“If you like to put it that way,” said the young man indifferently. He raised himself on his elbow again, and stared toward the road. “Where’s the army?” he inquired.
The tall man allowed the point of the quill toothpick to flex and strike back against his teeth. The sound was distinctive. Tckl He ignored the question.
“When the mate came out of dreamland,” he said, “he lowered a boat and came ashore to lay a complaint against you.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” admitted the young man. “I suppose I am to go with you quietly and make no trouble or it will be the worse for me—I believe that’s the usual formula, isn’t it?”
The man with the quill toothpick sat down on the sand. He appeared to be absorbed for a moment in a contemplation of his surroundings.
“These tropic nights are wonderful, aren’t they? Kind of get you.” He plied the quill tcothpick industriously.
“I’m a passenger on the steamer, and I came ashore with the mate. He’s gone back—without laying the complaint. There’s always a way of fixing things—even injured feelings. One of the native boat’s crew said he knew where you were to be found. He’s over there.”
He jerked his head in the direction of the road.
The young man sat bolt upright.
“I don’t get you,” he said slowly, “except that you are evidently not personifying the majesty of the law.
What’s the idea?”
“Well,” said the other, “I had three reasons for coming.
The first was that I thought I recognized you yesterday when they threw you off the steamer, and was sure of it to-night when—I am a light sleeper—I came out on the upper deck at the sound of the row and saw you take your departure from the vessel for the second time.”
“I had no idea,” said the young man caustically, “that I was so well known. Are you quite sure you haven’t made a mistake?”
“Quite!” asserted the other composedly. “Of course, I am not prepared to say what your present name is—you may have considered a chan ge beneficial—so I will not presume in that respect. But you are, or were, a resident of San Francisco. You were of very nice people there. I have no knowledge of your mother, except that I understand she died in your infancy. A few years ago your father died and left you, not a fortune, but quite a moderate amount of money. I believe the pulpits designate it
as a‘besetting sin.’ You had onegambling. The result was that you traveled the road a great many other young men have traveled; the only difference being that, in so far as I am competent to speak, you hold the belt for speed and all-round proficiency. You went utterly, completely and whole-heartedly to hell.” The tall man became absorbed again in his surroundings. “And I take it,” he said presently, “that in spite of the wonders of a tropic night, you are still there.”
The young man shrugged his shoulders.
“You have put it very delicately,” he said, with a grim smile. “I’m sorry, but I am obliged to confess that the recognition isn’t mutual. Would you mind telling me who you are?”
“We’ll get to that in due course,” said the other. “My second reason was that it appeared to me to be logical to suppose that, having once been the bona fide article, you could readily disguise yourself as a gentleman again, and your interpretation of the rôle would be beyond suspicion
“By God!” The welt across the young man’s face grew suddenly white, as though the blood had fled from it to suffuse his temples. He half rose, staring levelly into the other’s eyes.
The tall man was apparently quite undisturbed.
“And the third reason is that I have been looking for just such a—there really isn’t any other word—gentleman, providing he was possessed of another and very essential characteristic. You possess that characteristic in a most marked degree. Your actions to-night are unmistakable evidence that you have nerve.”
“It. strikes me that you’ve got a little of it yourself,” observéei the young man evenly.
The quill toothpick under the adroit guidance of his tongue traveled from the left to the right-hand side of the other’s mouth.
“It is equally as essential to me,” he said dryly. “You appear to fill the bill : but there is always the possibility of a fly in the ointment; complications—or unpleasant complications, perhaps, you know, that might have arisen since you left San Francisco, and that might—er—complicate matters.”
'T'HE young man relapsed into a recumbent position upon A the sand, his hands clasped under his head again, and in his turn appeared to be absorbed in the beauty of the night. “Moon-madness!” he murmured pityingly.
“A myth!” said the tall man promptly. “Would you mind sketching in roughly the details of your interesting career since you left the haunts of the aristocracy?"
“I don’t see any reason why I should.” The young man yawned.
“Do you see any reason why you shouldn’t?” inquired the other composedly.
“None,” said the young man, “except that the steamer sails at daybreak, and I should never forgive myself if you were left behind.”
“Nor forgive yourself, perhaps, if you failed to sail on her as a first-class passenger,” said the tall man quietly. “What?” ejaculated the young man sharply.
The other shrugged his shoulders.
“It depends on the story,” he said.
“I—I don’t understand.” The young man frowned. “There’s a chance for me to get aboard the mail boat?” “It depends on the story,” said the other again.
“Moon-mad!” murmured the young man once more, after a moment’s silence. “But it’s cheap at the price, for it’s not much of a story. Beginning where you left off in biography, I ducked when the crash came in San Francisco, and having arrived in hell, as you so delicately put it, I started out to explore. Mr. Dante had it right—there’s no use stopping in the suburbs. I lived a while in his last circle. It’s too bad he never knew the ’Frisco water-front; it would have fired his imagination! I’m not sure, though, but Honolulu’s got a little on ’Frisco, at that! Luck was out. I was flat on my back when I got a chance to work my way out to Honolulu. One place was as good as another by then.”
The young man lit a cigarette, and stared at the glowing tip reminiscently with his grey eyes.
“ Y ou said something aoout gambling,” he went on; “but you didn’t say enough. It’s a disease, a fever that sets your blood on fire and makes your life kind of delirious, I guess —if you get it chronic. I guess I was born with it. I remember when I was a kid I—but I forgot, pardon me, the mail boat sails at daybreak.”
“Go as far as you like,” said the tall man, picking at his teeth with the quill tooth-
The young man shook his
“Honolulu is the next stopping place," he said. “On the way out 1 picked up a few odd dollars from my fellow-members of the crew,
•'Tckl" It was the quill toot hpick.
'THE young man’s eyes I narrowed, and his jaw set challengingly.
“Whatever else I’ve done,” he stated in a significant monotone, “I’ve never played crooked. It was on the level.”
“Of course,” agreed the tall man hastily.
“I sat in with the only stakes I had,” said the young man, still monotonously. “A bit of tobacco, a rather good knife that I’ve got yet, and a belt that someone took a fancy to as being worth half a dollar.”
“Certainly! Of course!” reiterated the tall man in
The quill toothpick was silent.
“A pal of mine, one of the stokers, said he knew' of a good place to play in Honolulu where there was a square deal,” continued the young man; “so, a night or so after we reached there, we got shore leave and started off. Perhaps you know that part of Honolulu. I don’t. I didn’t see much of it. I know there’s some queer dumps, and queer doings, and the scum of every nationality under the sun to run up against. And I know it was a queer place my mate steered me into. It was faro. The box was run by an old Chinaman who looked as though he were trying to impersonate one of his ancestors, he was so old. My mate and I formed the English-speaking community. There were a Jap or two, and a couple of pleasant-looking cutthroats who cursed in Spanish, and a Chink lying on a bunk rolling his pill. Oh, yes, the place stunk. Every once in a while the door opened and some other Godforsaken piece of refuse drifted in. By midnight we had a full house of pretty bad stuff.
“It ended in a row, of course. Some fool of a tout came in chaperoning a party of three men, who were out to see the sights; they were passengers, I found out later, from one of the ships in port. I don’t know what started the rumpus; some private feud, I guess. The first thing I knew one of the Spaniards had a knife out and had jumped for the tout. It was a free-for-all in a minute. I saw the tout go down, and he didn’t look good, and the place suddenly struck me as a mighty unhealthy place to be found in on that account. The stoker and I started to fight our way through the jam to the door. There was a row infernal. I guess you could have heard it a mile away. Anyway, before we could break from the clinches, as it were, the police were fighting their way in just as eagerly as we were fighting our way out.
“I didn’t like the sight of that tout lying on the floor, or the thought of what might happen in the police court the next morning if I were one of the crowd to adorn the dock. And things weren’t going very well. The police were streaming in through the doorway. And then I caught sight of something I hadn’t seen before because it had previously been hidden by a big Chinese screen—one of these iron-shuttered windows they seem so fond of down there. Things weren’t very rosy just at that moment because about the worst hell-cat scramble on record was being made a little worse by some cheerful maniac starting a bit of revolver practice, but I remember that I couldn’t help laughing to save my soul. In the melée one of the folding wings of the screen had suddenly doubled up, and, beside the window, I saw hiding there for dear life, his face pasty-white with terror, a very courageous gentleman —one of the rubbernecks who had come in with the tout. He was too scared, I imagine, even to have the thought of tackling such formidable things as iron shutters enter his head. I yelled to the stoker to get them open, and tried to form a sort of rear guard for him while he did it. Then I heard them creak on their hinges, and heard him shout. I made a dash for it, but I wasn’t quite quick enough. One of the policemen grabbed me, but I was playing in luck then. I got in a fortunate swing and he went down for the count. I remember toppling the screen and the man behind it over on the floor as I jumped sidewise for the window; and I remember a glimpseof his terrified face, his eyes staring at me, his mouth wide open, as I took a headlong dive over the window sill. The stoker picked me up, and we started on the run.
“'T'HE police were scrambling through the window after us. I didn’t need to be told that there wouldn’t be a happy time ahead if I were caught. Apart from that tout who, though I had nothing to do with it, gave the affair a very serious aspect, I was good for the limit on the statute books for resisting arrest in the first place, and for knocking out an officer in the second. But the stoker knew his way about, we gave the police the slip, and a little later on we landed up in a sailors’ boarding-house run by a oneeyed cousin of Satan, known as Lascar Joe. We lay there hidden while the tout got better, and the Spanish hidalgo got sent up for a long term for murderous assault. Finally Lascar Joe slipped the stoker aboard some ship; and a week or so later he slipped me, the transfer being made in the night, aboard a frowsy tramp bound for New Zealand.”
The young man paused, evidently inviting comment.
“Go on,” prompted the man with the quill toothpick
“There isn’t very much more,” said the young man. He laughed shortly. “As far as I know I’m the sole survivor from that tramp. She never got to New Zealand; and that’s how I got here to Samoa. She went down in a hurricane. I was washed ashore on one of this group of islands about forty or fifty miles from here. I don’t know much about the details; I was past knowing anything when
the bit of wreckage on which I had lashed myself days before came to port. There weren’t any—I was going to say white people on the island, but I’m wrong about that. The Samoans are about the whitest people on God’s green earth. I found that out. There were only natives on that island. I lived with them for about two months, and I got to be pretty friendly with them, especially the old fellow who originally picked me up half drowned and unconscious on the beach, and took me into the bosom of his family. Then the missionary boat came along, and I came back with it to Apia here.”
The young man laughed again suddenly, a jarring note in his mirth.
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard that original remark about the world being such a small place after all! I figured that back here in Apia a shipwrecked and destitute white man would get the glad hand and at least a chance to earn his stake. Maybe he would ordinarily; but I didn’t. I hadn’t said anything to the missionary about that Honolulu escapade, and I was keeping it dark when I
Painted In Italy
'J'HESE illustrations by Charles L.
Wrenn are being made in sunny Italy for Mr. Packard’s serial. Mr. Wrenn is studying, sketching and holidaying in Naples and in the Riviera, and, wilting to the editor of MACLEAN’S, says:—
“The originals cannot be sent out without first passing through the museum to see that they are not antiques! Some red tape!
“Regards to the readers of MACLEAN’S.
. “C. L, WRENN.”
got here and started to tell the shipwreck end of my story over again. Queer, isn’t it? Lined up in about the first audience I had was the gentleman with the pasty face that I had toppled over with the screen in the old Chink’s faro dump. He was one of the big guns here, and had been away on a pleasure trip, and Honolulu had been on his itinerary. That settled it. The missionary chap spoke up a bit for me, I’ll give him credit for that, though I had a hunch he was going to use that play as an opening wedge in an effort to reform me later on. But I had my fingers crossed. The whites had turned their backs on me, and I turned my back on the missionary. That’s about all there was to it. That was about two weeks ago, and for those two weeks I’ve lived in another of Mr. Dante’s delightful circles.” i
He sat suddenly upright, a clenched fist swung outward.
“Not a cent! Not a damned sou-marquee\ Nothing but this torn shirt, and what’s left of these cotton pants! Hell!”
He lay back on the sand quite as suddenly again, and fell to laughing softly.
“Tck\” It was the quill toothpick.
“But at that,” said the young man, “I’m not sure you could call me a cynic, though the more I see of my own breed as compared with the so-called heathen the less I think of—my own breed! I still had a card up my sleeve. I had a letter of introduction to a real gentleman and landed proprietor here. His name was Nanu, and he gave me his house to live in and made me free of his taro and his breadfruit and all his worldly possessions; and it was the old native who took care of me on the other island that gave me the letter. It.was a queer sort of letter, too— but never mind that now.
“Splendid isolation! That’s me for the last two weeks as a cross between a pariah and a mangy cur! What amazes me most is myself. The gentleman of the Chinese screen is still in the land of the living and walking blithely around. Funny, isn’t it? That’s one reason I was crazy to get away—before anything happened to him.” The tanned fist closed fiercely over a handful of sand, then opened and allowed the grains to trickle slowly through the fingers, and its owner laughed softly again. “I’ve lived through hell here in those two weeks. I guess we’re only built to stand so much. I was about at the end of my rope when the mail steamer put in yesterday. I hope I haven’t idealized my sojourn here in a way that would cause you to minimize my necessity for getting away, no matter to where or by what means! Nanu and I went out to the ship in his outrigger. Perhaps I would have had
better luck if I had run into any other than the particular mate I did. I don’t know. I offered to work my passage. Perhaps my fame has already gone abroad—or aboard. He invited me to make another excursion into Dante-land. But when he turned his back on me I slipped below, and tucked myself in behind some of the copra sacks they were loading. Once the steamer was away I was away with her, and I was willing to take what was coming. But I didn’t get a chance. I guess the mate was sharper than I gave him credit for. After about four hours of heat and stink down there below decks that I had to grit my teeth to stand, he hauled me out as though he knew I had been there all the time. I was thrown off the steamer.
“DUT I wasn’t through. Steamers do not call here
•*-' every day. I wonder if you’ll know what I mean when I say I was beginning to be afraid of myself and what might happen if I had to stick it out much longer? That mangy cur I spoke of had me lashed to the mast from a social standpoint. I tried it again—to-night. Nanu fixed it for me with one of the crew to hang that rope over the side, and—well, I believe you said you had seen what happened. I believe you said, too, that a chance still existed in my sailing with the mail boat, depending upon my story.” He laughed a little raucously. “I hope it’s been interesting enough to bail me out; anyway, that’s all of it.”
The tall man sat for a moment in silence.
“Yes,” he said at last; “I am quite satisfied. Dressed as a gentleman, with money in your pockets, and such other details as go with the rôle, you would never be associated with that affair in Honolulu. As a matter of fact your share in it was not so serious that the police would dog you all over the world on account of it. In other words, and what really interests me, is that you are not what is commonly designated as a ‘wanted’ man. Yes, I may say I am thoroughly satisfied.”
The young man yawned and stretched himself.
“I’m delighted to hear it. I haven’t any packing to do. Shall we stroll back to the ship?”
“I hope so.” The quill toothpick was busy again. , “The decision rests with you. I am not a philanthropist. I am about to offer you a situation—to fill which I have been searching a good many years to find someone who had the necessary qualifications. I am satisfied you are that man. You do not know me; you do not know my name, and though you have already asked what it is, I shall still withhold that information until your decision has been given. If you agree, I will here and now sign a contract with you to which we will both affix our bona fide signatures; if you refuse we will shake hands and part as friends—and strangers who have been, shall we use your expression? moon-mad under the influence of the wonders of a tropic night.”
“Something tells me,” said the young man softly, “that the situation is not an ordinary one.”
“And you are right,” replied the other quietly. “It is not only not ordinary, but is, I think I may safely say, absolutely unique and without its counterpart. I might mention in passing that I am not in particularly good health, and the sea voyage I was ordered to take explains my presence here. I am the sole owner of one of the largest if not the largest, business enterprises in America; certainly its turnover, at least, is beyond question the biggest on the American continent. I have establishments in every city of any size in both the United States and Canada—-and even in Mexico. The situation I offer you is that of my confidential representative. No connection whatever will be known to exist between us; your title will be that of a gentleman of leisure—but your duties will be more arduous. I regret to say that in many cases I fear my local managers are not—er—making accurate returns to me, and they are very hard to check up. I would require you to travel from place to place as a sort of, say, secret inspector of branches, and furnish me with the inside information from the lack of which my business at present, I am afraid, is suffering severely.”
“And that business?” The young man had raised himself to his elbow on the sand.
“The one that is nearest to your heart,” said the tall man calmly. “Gambling.”
The young man leaned slowly forward, staling at the
“I wonder if I quite get you?” he said.
“I am sure you do.” The tall man smiled. “My business is a chain of select and exclusive gambling houses where only high play is indulged in, and whose clientèle is the richest in the land.”
THE young man rose to his feet, walked a few steps away along the beach, and came back again.
“You’re devilishly complimentary!” he flung out, with a short laugh. “As I understand it, then, the price I am to pay for getting away from here is the pawning^of my soul?”
“Have you anything else to pawn?” inquired the other— and the quill toothpick punctuated the remark: “Tck\” “No,” said the young man, with a twisted smile. “And I’m not sure I’ve got that left! I am beginning to have a suspicion that it was in your ‘branch’ at San Francisco that I lost my money.”
“You did,” said the other coolly. “That is how I came to know you. Though not personally in evidence in the ‘house’ itself, San Francisco is my home, and my information as to what goes on there at least is fairly accurate ”
The young man resumed his pacing up and down the
“And I might add,” said the tall man after a moment, “that from a point of ethics I see little difference in the moral status between one who comes to gamble and one who furnishes the other with the opportunity to do so. You are perhaps hesitating to take the hurdle on that account?”
“Moral status!” exclaimed the young man sharply. He halted abruptly before the other. “No—at least I am not a hypocrite! What right have I to quarrel with moral status?” x
“Very well, then,” said the other; “I will go farther. I will give you everything in life that you desire. You will live as a gentleman of wealth surrounded by every luxury that money can procure, for that is your rôle. Y ou may gamble to your heart’s content, ten, twenty, fifty thousand a night—in my houses. You will travel the length and breadth of America. I will pay every expense. There is nothing that you may not have, nothing that you may not do.”
The young man was silent for a full minute; then, with his hands dug in his pockets, he fell to whistling under his breath very softly—but very deliber-
An almost sinister smile spread over the tall man’s lips as he listened.
“If I am not mistaken,” he observed dryly, “that is the aria from Faust.”
“Yes,” said the young man —and stared the other in the eye. “It is the aria from
The tall man nodded—but now his lips were straight
“I accept the role of Mephistopheles, then,” he said softly.
“Doctor Faustus, you know, signed the bond.”
The young man squatted on the sand again. His face was curiously white; only the ugly welt, dull red, across his cheeks, like the mark of some strange branding-iron, held color.
“Then draw it!” he said shortly.
“And be damned to you!”
THE tall man took a notebook and a fountain pen from his pocket. He wrote rapidly, tore out the leaf, and on a second leaf made a copy of the first.
This too, he tore out.
“I will read it>” he said. “You will observe that no names are mentioned; that I have still reserved the privilege of keeping my identity in abeyance until the document is signed. This is what I have written: For good and valid consideration the second signatory to this contract hereby enters unreservedly into the employ of the first signatory for a period which shall include the lifetime of one or other of the undersigned, or until such time as this agreement may be dissolved either by mutual consent or at the will of the first signatory alone. And the first signatory to this contract agrees to maintain the second signatory in a station in life commensurate with that of a gentleman of wealth irrespective of expense, and further to pay to the second signatory as a stated salary the sum of one thousand dollars a month.” He looked up. “Shall I sign”?
“Body and soul,” murmured the young man. He appeared to he fascinated with the restless move ment of the quill toothpick in the other’s mouth. “Have you another toothpick you could let me have?” he inquired casually.
The tall man mechanically thrust his fingers into his vest pocket; and then, as though hut suddenly struck with the irrelevancy, and perhaps facetiousness of the request, frowned as he found himself handing over the article in question.
“Shall I sign?” His tone was sterner. “It is understood that the signatures are to be bona fide and—”
“Yes, sign it. It is quite understood." The young man spoke without looking up. He seemed to he engrossed
in carefully slitting the point of the quill toothpick he had acquired with his knife.
The other signed both sheets from the notebook.
The young man accepted the two slips of paper, but refused the proffered fountain pen. In the moonlight he read the other’s signature: Urlin P. Neyret. His lips tightened a little. It was a big name in San Francisco, a name of power. Few dreamed perhaps where the sinews of that power came from! He drew from his pocket a small bottle, uncorked it, dipped in the quill toothpick, and with his improvised pen wrote with a rasping, spluttering noise beneath the other’s signature on each of the two slips of paper. One of these slips he returned to the other—but beneath the tall man’s signature there was no mark of any kind whatever.
Through narrowing eyes the tall man had been watching and now his face darkened ominously, and there was something of deadly coolness in his voice as he spoke.
HAT tomfoolery is this?” he demanded evenly.
placidly. “Just a whim of mine. I can’t seem to get that Doctor Faustus thing out of my head. According to the story, I think, he signed in a drop of blood—and I thought I’d carry a sort of analogy along a bit. That stuff’s all right. I got it from my old native friend on that island I was telling you about. It’s what my letter of introduction to Nanu was written with. And—well, at least, I guess it stands for the drop of blood, all right! Take it down there to the shore and dip that part of the paper in the salt water.”
The tall man made no answer. For a moment he remained staring with grim-set features at the other, then he got up, walked sharply to the water’s edge, and, bending down, moistened the lower portion of the paper. Ho held it up to the moonlight. Heavy black letters were slowly taking form just beneath his own signature. Presently he walked back up the beach to the young man, and held out his hand.
“Let us get back to the ship—John Bruce,” bo said.
The young man stood for a long time in silence, staring at the sand. Then, abruptly, he threw up his head, and the two moved off together.
THEIR STORY CHAPTER I Aladdin’s Lamp
JOHN BRI CL. si retched at full length on a luxurious divan in the most sumptuous apartment of the BayneMiloy, New York’s newest and most pretentious hostelry, rose suddenly to his feet and switched off the lights. The same impulse carried him in a few strides to the window. The night was still, and the moon rode high and full. It was the same moon that, three months ago, he hadjstared at from the flat of his back on the beach at Apia. A smile, curiously light, and yet curiously whimsical, touched his lips. If4it had been “moon-madness” that had fallen upon the gambler king and himself that night, it had been a madness that was strangely free in its development from hallucination! That diagnosis no longer held. It wouldjbe much more apposite to lay it. bluntly to the door of—Mephistopheles! From the moment he had boarded the mail steamer he had lived as a man possessed of unlimited wealth, as a man with!unlimited funds always in his possession or at his instant command.
He whistled softly. It was, though, if not moon-madness, perhaps the moon, serene and full up there as it had been that other night, which he had been watching from the divan a few moments before, that had sent his mind scurrying backward over those intervening months. And yet, perhaps not; for there would come often enough, as now, moments of mind-groping, yes, even the sense of hallucination, when he was not quite sure but that a certain bubble, floating at one moment in dazzlingly iridescent beauty before his eyes, would dissolve the next into blank nothingness, and—well, what would it be then? Another beach at some Apia, until another Mephistopheles, in some other guise, came to play up against his rôle of Doctor Faustus again?
He looked sharply behind him around the darkened room, whose darkness did not hide its luxury. His shoulder brushed the heavy silken portière at his side; his fingers touched a roll of banknotes in his pocket, a generous roll, whose individual units were of denominations more generous still. These were realities!
Mephistopheles at play! He had left Larmon at Suva, Fiji. Thereafter, their ways and their lives lay apart—outwardly. Actually, even here in New York with the continent between them, for Larmon had resumed his life in which he played the rôle of a benevolent and retired man of wealth in San Francisco, they were in constant and extremely intimate touch with each ot er.
A modern Mephistopheles! Two men only in the world knew Gilbert Larmon for what he was.
,7One other beside himself! And that other man was
named Maldeck, Peter Maldeck. But only one man knew him, John Bruce, in his new role, an that was Gilbert Larmon. Maldeck was the manager o the entire ring of gambling houses, and likewise the clearing house through which the profits flowed into Larmon s coffers; but to Maldeck, he, John Bruce, was exactly w iá he appeared to be to the world at large, a mi ion aire plunger to whom gambling was as the breath of 1 e. The "inspector of branches” dealt with Gilbert Larmon alone, and dealt confidentially and secretively over a -deck’s head even that invisible writing fluid supplie« the old Samoan Islander playing its part when necessary, for it had been agreed between Larmon am himself that even (he most iimocnnt-appearing dot uni« n received from him, John lirurr, should be subie« n 111
shoulders. The whole scheme of ms had all been artfully simple a"“ He was under no necessity !” explain ouree of his wealth except in his native city. San hran, where lie was known ami San Francisco was outhis jurisdiction. With both Larmon and Maldeck mg that their headquarters, other supervision of the local “branch” was superfluous; elsewhere, his wealth was inherited—that was all. So, skipping San Francisco, he had come leisurely eastward, gambling for a week or two weeks, as the case might be, in the various cities, following as guidance apparently but the whim of his supposedly roué inclinations, and he had lost a lot of money—which would eventually find its way back to its original source in the pockets of Gilbert Larmon, via the clearing house conducted by Peter Maldeck. It was extremely simple—but, equally, extremely systematic. The habitués of every branch were carefully catalogued. He had only—and casually—to make the acquaintance of one of these in each city, and, in turn, quite inevitably, would follow an introduction to the local “house;” and, once introduced, the entrée, then or on any subsequent visit to that city, was an established fact.
Continued on page 51
Continued from page 17
John Bruce laughed suddenly, softly, out into the night. It had been a good bargain that he had made with Mephistopheles! Wealth, luxury, everything he desired in life was his. On the trail behind him in the cities he had already visited he had nightly lost or won huge sums of money until he had become known as the millionaire plunger. It was quite true that, inasmuch as the money, whether won or lost, but passed from his right to his left-hand pocket—the pockets being represented by one Gilbert Larmon—the gambler craving within him was but ill served, almost in a sense mocked; but that phase of it had sunk into insignificance. The whole idea was a gigantic gamble—a gamble with life. The whole fabric was of texture most precarious. It exhilarated him. Excitement, adventure, yes, even peril, beckoned alluringly and always from around the corner just ahead. He stood against the police; he stood a very excellent chance of being discovered some morning minus his life if the men he was sent to watch, and who now fawned upon him and treated him with awe and an unholy admiration, should get an inkling of his real identity and his real purpose in their houses!
HE YAWNED, and as though glorying in his own strength flexed his great shoulders, and stretched his arms to their full length above his head. God, it was life! It made of him a superman! He had no human ties to bind him; no restraint to know; no desire that could not be satiated. The past was wiped away. It was like some reincarnation in which he stood supreme above his fellow men, and they bowed to their god. And he was their god. And if he but nodded approval they would lie, and cheat, and steal, and commit murder in their greed of worship, they whose souls were in pawn to their god!
He turned suddenly from the window, switched on the lights, drew from his pocket a great sum of money in bank notes, and stood staring at it. There were thousands in his hand. Thousands and thousands! Money! The one universally orthodox god! For but one of those pieces of paper in his hand he could command what he would, play upon human passions at his whim, and like puppets on a stage of his own setting move the followers of the Great Creed that were numbered in their millions at his will! It was only over the few outcasts, the unbelievers, that he held no sway. But he could afford to ignore the minority! Was he not indeed a god?
And it had cost him nothing. Only the pawning of his soul; and, like Faustus, the day of settlement was far off. Only the signing of a bond that postulated a denial of what he had already beforehand held in light esteem—a code of canting morals. It was well such things were out of the way! Life stretched the fuller, the rosier, the more red-blooded before him on that account. He was well content. The future lured him. Nor was it money alone. There was the spice of adventure, the battle of wits, hardly inaugurated yet, between himself and those whose underround methods were the raison d’etre oí is own magically enhanced circumstances. John Bruce replaced the money in his pocket abruptly, and frowned. That was something, from still another standpoint, which he could not afford to lose sight of. He had to justify his job. Gilbert Larmon had stated that he was not a philanthropist, and it was written in the bond that Lar-
mon could terminate the agreement at will. Yes, and that was queer, too! What kind of a man was Larmon? He knew Larmon as Larmon superficially subjected himself to inspection and speculation; but he was fully aware that he did not know Larmon the man. There seemed something almost sinister in its inconsistency that Larmon should at one and the same time reserve the right to terminate that bond at will while his very signature upon it furnished a weapon which, if he, John Bruce, chose to use it, placed the other at his mercy. What kind of a man was Larmon? No fool, no weakling—that was certain. And yet at a word he, John Bruce, could tear the other from the pseudo righteous pedestal upon which he posed, strip the other naked of the garments that clothed his criminal activities, and destroy utterly the carefully reared structure of respectability that Larmon had built up around himself. It might be very true that he, John Bruce, would never use such a weapon, even under provocation; but Larmon could not be sure of that. How then did Larmon reconcile his reservation to terminate the contract at will and yet furnish his co-signatory with the means of blackmailing him into a continuance of it? What kind of a man was Larmon? What would he be like with his back to the wall? What other reservation had been in Larmon’s mind when he had drawn that bond?
And then a queer and bitter smile came to John Bruce’s lips. The god of money! Was he so sure that he was the god and not the worshipper? Was that it? Was that what Larmon counted upon—that only a fool would risk the sacrifice of the Aladdin’s lamp that had been thrust into his hands, and that only a fool but would devote body and soul to Larmon’s interests under the circumstances!
The smile grew whimsical. It was comDlimentary in a sense. It was based on the premise that he, John Bruce, was not a fool. He shrugged his shoulders. Well, therein Larmon was right. It would not be his, John Bruce’s, fault if anything short of death terminated the bond which had originated that tropic night on the moon-lit beach in Samoa three months ago!
He looked at his watch. It was nine o’clock. It was still early for play; but it was not so early that his arrival in the New York “branch,” where he had been a constant visitor for the last four nights, could possibly arouse any suspicion, and one’s opportunities for inside observation were very much better when the play was desultory and but few present than in the crowded rooms of the later hours.
“If I were in England now,” said John Bruce addressing the chandelier, as he put on a light coat over his evening clothes, “I couldn’t get away with this without a man to valet me—and at times, though he might be useful, he might be awkward. Damned awkward! But in America you do, or you don’t, as you please -and I don’t!”
CHAPTER II The Millionaire Plunges
JOHN BRUCE left the hotel and entered a taxi. A little later, in that once most fashionable section of New York, in the neighborhood of Gramercy Square, he was admitted to a stately mansion by a white-haired negro butler, who bowed obsequiously. Thereafter, for a little while, John Bruce wandered leisurely from room to room in the magnificently appointed house, where in the rich carpets the sound of footsteps was lost, where bronzes and paintings, exquisite in their art, charmed the eye, where soft-toned draperies and portières were eloquent of refinement and good taste; he paused for a moment at the threshold of the supper-room, whose table was a profusion of every delicacy to tempt the palate, where wines of a vintage that was almost priceless were to be had at no greater cost than the effort required to lift a beckoning finger to the smiling ebony face of old Jake, the attendant. And here John Bruce extended a five dollar bill, but shook his head as the said Jake hastened toward him. Later, perhaps, he might, revisit the room—when a few hours’ play had dimmed the recollection of his recent dinner, and his appetite was again sharpIn the card roomslthere were, as yet, scarcely any “guests.” He chatted pleasantly with the “dealers”—John Bruce, the millionaire plunger was persona grata, almost effusively so, everywhere in the house. Lavergne, the manager, as Parisian as he was immaculate from the tips of his patentleathers to the tips of his waxed moustache, joined him; and for ten minutes, until the other was called away, John Bruce proceeded to nourish the already extremely healthy germ of intimacy that, from the first meeting, he ¡had planted between them. r.-*,£*)
With the manager’s million apologies for the unpardonable act of tearing himself away still sounding in his ears, John Bruce placidly resumed his wanderings. The New York “branch,” which being interpreted meant M. Henri de Lavergne, the exquisite little manager, was heavily underscored on Gilbert Larmon’s black-list!
THE faint, musical whir of the little ivory ball from the roulette table caught John Bruce’s attention, and he strolled in that direction. Here a “guest” was already at play. The croupier smiled as John Bruce approached the table. John Bruce smiled pleasantly in return, and sat down. After a moment, he began to make small five-dollar bets on the “red.” His fellow-player was plunging heavily—and losing. Also, the man was slightly under the influence of liquor. The croupier’s voice droned through half a dozen plays. John Bruce continued to make five-dollar bets. The little by-play interested him. He knew the signs.
His fellow-player descended to the supper room for another drink, it being against the rules of the house to serve anything in the gambling rooms. The croupier laughed as he glanced at the retreating figure and then at another five dollar bet that John Bruce pushed upon the “red.”
“He’ll rob you of your reputation, Mr. Bruce, if you don’t look out!” the croupier smiled quizzically. “Are you finding a thrill in playing the minimum for a change?”
“Just feeling my way.” John Bruce returned the smile. “It’s a bit early yet, isn’t it?”
The other player returned. He continued to bet heavily. He made another excursion below stairs. Other “guests” drifted into the room, and the play became more general.
John Bruce increased his stakes slightly, quite indifferent naturally as to whether he lost or won—since he could neither lose nor win. He was sitting beside the player he had originally joined at the table, and suddenly his interest in the other became still more enlivened. The man, after a series of disastrous plays, was palpably broke, for he snatched off a large diamond ring from his finger and held it out to the croupier.
“Give me—hie!—somethin’ on that,” he hiccoughed. “Might as well make a clean-up, eh?”
The croupier took the ring, examined it criticallyAfor an instant, and handed it
“I’m sorry,” he said; “but you know the rules of the house. I couldn’t advance; anything on it if it were worth a million. But the stone’s valuable, all right. You’d better take a trip to Persia.”
The man replaced the ring with some difficulty upon his finger, and stared owlishly at the croupier.
“T’hell with your—hie!—trip to Persia!” he said thickly. “Don’t like Persia! Been—hie!—there before! Guess I’ll go home!”
THE man negotiated his way to the door.
The game went on. John Bruce began to increase his stakes materially. A trip to Persia! %What, exactly, did that mean? It both piqued his curiosity and stirred his suspicions. He smiled as he placed a heavy stake upon the table. It would probably be a much more expensive trip to this fanciful Persia than to the Persia of reality, for it seemed that one must go broke first! Well, he would go broke—though it would require some little finesse for John Bruce, the millionaire plunger, to attain the envious situation without exciting suspicion. He was very keenly interested in this personally conducted tour, obviously inaugurated by that exquisite little man, M. Henri de Lavergne!
John Bruce—to his inward chagrin—won. He began to play now with a zest, eagerness and excitement which, heretofore, the juggling of Mephistopheles’s money had deprived him of. Outwardly, however, the
calm impassiveness that, in the few evenings he had been in the house, had already won him the reputation of being par excellence a cool and nervy plunger, remained unchanged.
He continued to. win for a while; and then suddenly he began to lose. This was much better! He lost steadily now. He staked with lavish hand, playing numerous long chances for the limit at every voyage of the clicking little ivory ball. Finally, the last of his visible assets were on the table, and he leaned forward to watch the fall of the ball. He was already fingering the magnificent jeweled watch-fob that dangled from the pocket of his evening clothes.
“Zero!” announced the croupier.
The “zero” had been one of his selections. The “zero” paid 35 for 1.
A subdued ripple of excitement went up from around the table. The room was filling up. The still-early comers, mostly spectators for the time being, lured to the roulette table at the whisper that the millionaire plunger was out to-night to break the bank, were whetting their own appetites in the play of Mr. John Bruce, who had obviously just escaped being broke himself by a very narrow margin.
JOHN BRUCE smiled. He was in funds again—more so than pleased him!
“It’s a ‘zero’ night, Mr. Croupier,” observed John Bruce pleasantly. “Roll her again!”
But now luck was with John Bruce. The “zero” and his other combinations were as shy and elusive as fawns. At the expiration of another half hour the net result of John Bruce’s play consisted in his having transferred from his own keeping into the keeping of the New York branch thirty thousand dollars of Mephistopheles’s money. He was to all appearances flagrantly broke as far as funds in his immediate possession were concerned.
“I guess,” said John Bruce, with a whimsical smile, “that I didn’t bring enough with me. I don’t know where I can get any more to-night, and—oh, here!” He laughed with easy grace, as he suddenly tossed his jeweled watch-fob to the croupier. “One more fling anyhow—I’ve still unbounded faith in ‘zero!’ Let me have a thousand on that. It’s worth about
The croupier, as on the previous occasion, examined the article, but, as before, shook his head.
“I’m awfully sorry, Mr. Bruce, but it’s strictly against the rules of the house,” he said apologetically. “I can fix it for you easily enough though, if you care to take a trip to Persia.”
“A trip to Persia?” inquired John Bruce in a puzzled way. “I think I heard you suggest that before this evening. What’s the idea?”
Some of those around the table were smiling.
“It’s all right,” volunteered a player opposite, with a laugh. “Only look out for the conductor!”
“Shoot!” said John Bruce nonchalantly. “That’s good enough. You can book my passage, Air. Croupier.”
THE croupier called an attendant, spoke to him, and the man left the room.
“It will take a few minutes, Mr. Bruce —while you are getting your hat and coat. The doorman will let you know,” said the croupier, and with a bow to John Bruce resumed the interrupted game.
John Bruce strolled from the room, and descended to the lower floor. He entered the supper room, and while old Jake plied him with delicacies he saw the doormanemerge from the telephone booth out in the hall, hurry away, and presently return, talking earnestly with M. Henri de Lavergne. The manager, in turn, entered the booth.
M. Henri de Lavergne came into the supper room after a moment.
“In just a few minutes, Mr. Bruce—r there will be a slight delay,” he said effusively. “Too bad to keep you waiting.” “Not at all!” responded John Bruce. He held a wine glass up to the light. “This is very excellent, M. de Lavergne.”
M. Henri de Lavergne accepted the compliment with a gratified bow.
“Mr. Bruce is very kind to say so,” he said—and launched into an elaborate apology that Mr. Bruce should be put to any inconvenience to obtain the financial accommodation asked for. The security that Mr. Bruce offered was unquestioned.
It was not that. It was the rule of the house. Mr. Bruce would understand.
Mr. Bruce understood perfectly.
“Quite so!” he said cordially.
M. Henri de Lavergne excused himself, and left the room.
“A fishy, clever little crook,” confided John Bruce to himself. “I wonder what’s the game?”
He continued to sip his wine in apparent indifference to the passing minutes, nor was his indifference altogether assumed. His mind was quite otherwise occupied. It was rather neat, that—a trip to Persia. The expression in itself held a lure which had probably not been overlooked as an asset. It suggested Bagdad, and the Arabian Nights, and a Caliph and a Grand Vizier who stalked about in disguise. On the other hand, the inebriated gentleman had evidently had his fill of it on one occasion, and would have no more of it. And the other gentleman who had, as it were, indorsed the proceeding, had, at the same time, taken the occasion to throw out a warning to beware of the conductor.
John Bruce smiled pleasantly into his wine glass. Not very difficult to fathom, perhaps, after all! It was probably some , shrewd old reprobate with usurious rates In cahoots with the sleek M. Henri de Lavergne, who made a side-split on the said rates in return for the exclusive privilege accorded the other for acting as leech to the guests of the house when in extremity.
IT HAD been perhaps twenty minutes since he had left the roulette table. He 'looked at his watch now as he saw the doorman coming toward the supper room with his hat and coat. The night was still •early. It was a quarter to eleven.
He went out into the hall.
“Yassuh,” said the gray-haired and obsequious old darky, as he assisted John Bruce into his coat, “if yo’ll will just come with me, Mistuh Bruce, yo’all will be ’commodated right prompt.”
John Bruce followed his guide to the doorstep.
The darky pointed to a closed motor ■car at the curb by the corner, a few houses
“Yo’ll just say ‘Persia’ to the shuffer, Mistuh Bruce, and—”
“All right!” John Bruce smiled his interruption, and went down the steps to the sidewalk.
John Bruce approached the waiting car leisurely, scrutinizing it the while; and as he approached, it seemed to take on more and more the aspect of a venerable and decrepit ark. The body of the car was entirely without light; the glass front, if there •were one, behind the man whom he discerned sitting in the chauffeur’s seat, was ■evidently closely curtained; and so, too, he now discovered as he drew nearer, were the windows and doors of the car as well.
“The parlor looks a little ominous,” said John Bruce softly to himself. “I wonder how far it is to the spider’s diningroom?”
He halted as he reached the vehicle. “I’m bound for Persia, I believe,” he suggested pleasantly to the chauffeur.
The chauffeur leaned out, and John Bruce was conscious that he was undergoing a critical inspection. In turn he looked at the chauffeur, but there was very little light. The car seemed to have chosen a spot as little disturbed by the rays of the street lamps as possible, and he gained but a vague impression of a red, weather-beaten dace, clean-shaved, with shaggy brows under grizzled hair, the whole topped by an -equally weather-beaten felt hat of nondescript shape and color.
THE inspection, on the chauffeur’s part, at least, appeared to be satisfactory. “Yes, sir,” said the man. “Step in, sir, please.”
The door swung open—just how, John Bruce could not have explained. He stepped briskly into the car—only to draw back instinctively as he found it already occupied. But the door had closed behind him. It was inky black in the interior now with the door shut. The car was jolting into motion.
“Pardon me!” said John Bruce a little grimly, and sat down on the hack seat.
A woman! He had just been able to make out a woman’s form as he had stepped in. It was clever—damned clever! •of both the exquisite M. Henri de Lavergne and the money-lending spider at the other end of this pleasant little jaunt into •unexplored Persia! A woman in it—a luring, painted, fair and winsome damsel, no doubt—to make the usurious pill of illegal
interest a little sweeter! Oh, yes, he quite understood now that warning to beware of the conductor!
“I did not anticipate such charming company,” said John Bruce facetiously. “Have we far to go?”
There was no answer.
Something like a shadow, deeper than the surrounding blackness, seemed to pass before John Bruce’s eyes and then he sat bolt upright, startled and amazed. In front of him, let down from the roof of the car, was a small table covered with black velvet, and suspended some twelve inches above the table, throwing the glow downward in a round spot of light over the velvet surface, was a shaded electric lamp. A small white hand, bare of any ornament, palm upward, lay upon the velvet table-top under the play of the light.
^ A voiçe spoke now softly from beside
“You have something to pawn?”
John Bruce stared. He still could not see her face.
“Er—yes,” he said. He frowned in perplexity. “When we get to Persia, alias the pawn shop.”
“This is the pawn shop,” she answered. “Let me see what you have, please.”
“Well, I’m da—” John Bruce checked himself. There was a delicacy about that white hand resting there under the light that rebuked him. “Er—pardon me,” said John Bruce.
He felt for his jewelled watch-fob, unfastened it, and laid it in the extended palm. He laughed a little to himself. On with the game! The lure was here, all right; the stage setting was masterly—and now the piper would be paid on a basis, probably, that would relegate Shylock himself to the kindergarten class of money lenders!
AND then, suddenly, it seemed to John Bruce as though his blood whipping through his veins was afire. A face in profile bending forward to examine the diamonds and the setting of the fob-pendant, came under the light. He gazed at it fascinated. It was the most beautiful face he iiad ever seen. His eyes drank in the rich masses of brown, silken hair, the perfect throat, the chin and lips that, while modelled in sweet womanliness, were still eloquent of self-reliance and strength. He had thought to see a pretty face, a little brazen perhaps, and artfully powdered and rouged; what he saw was a vision of loveliness that seemed to personify the unsullied, God-given freshness and purity of youth.
He spoke involuntarily; no power of his could have kept back the words.
“My God, you are beautiful!” he exclaimed in a low voice.
He saw the color swiftly tinge the throat a coral pink, and mount upwards; but she did not look at him. Her eyes! He wanted to see her eyes—to look into them! But she did not turn her head.
“You probably paid two thousand dollars for this,” she said quietly, “and—” “Nineteen hundred,” corrected John Bruce mechanically.
“I will allow you seventeen hundred on it, then,” she said, still quietly. “The interest will be at seven per cent. Do you wish to accept the offer?”
“Seventeen hundred! Seven per cent!” It was in consonance with the vision! His mind was topsy-turvy. He did not understand.
“It is very liberal,” said John Bruce, trying to control his voice. “Of course, I accept.”
The shapely head nodded.
He watched her spellbound. The watch fob had vanished, and in its place now under the little conical shaft of light she was swiftly counting out a pile of crisp, new, fifty-dollar banknotes. To these she added a stamped and numbered ticket.
“You may redeem the pledge at any time by making application to the same person to whom you originally applied for a loan to-night,” she said, as she handed him the money. “Please count it.”
Her head was in shadow now. Ho could no longer even see her profile. She was sitting back in her corner of the car.
“I—I am quite satisfied,” said John Bruce a little helplessly.
“Please count it,” she insisted.
With a shrug of protest, John Bruce obeyed her. It was not at all the money that concerned him, nor the touch of it that was quickening his pulse.
“It is correct,” he said, putting money and ticket in his pocket. He turned toward her. “And now ”
His words ended in a little gasp. The light was out. In the darkness that shadow passed again before his eyes, and he was conscious that the table had vanished —also that the car had stopped.
The door opened.
“If you please, sir!” It was the chauffeur, holding the door open.
John Bruce hesitated.
“I—er—look here!” he said. “I—”
“If you please, sir!” There was something of significant finality in the man’s patient and respectful tones.
•John Bruce smiled wryly.
“Well, at least, I may say good-night,” he said, as he backed out of the car.
“Certainly, sir—good-night, sir,” said the chauffeur calmly—and closed the door, and touched his hat, and climbed back to his seat.
John Bruce glared at the man.
“Well, I’m damned!” said John Bruce fervently.
CHAPTER III Sanctuary
THE car started off. It turned the corner. John Bruce looked around him. He was standing on precisely the same spot from which he had entered the car. He had been driven around the block, that was all!
He caught his breath. Was it real? That wondrous face which, almost as though at the touch of some magician’s wand, had risen before him out of the blackness! His blood afire was leaping through his veins again. That face!
He ran to the corner and peered down the street. The car was perhaps a hundred yards away—and suddenly John Bruce started to run again, following the car. Madness! His lips had set grim and hard. Who was sh*that prowled the night in that bizarre traveling pawn shop? Where did she live? Was it actually the Arabian Nights back again? He laughed at himself—not mirthfully. But still he ran on.
The car was outdistancing him. Fool! For a woman’s face! Even though it were a divine symphony of beauty! Fool? Love-smitten idiot? Not at all! It was his job! Nice sound to that word in conjunction with that haunting memory of loveliness—job!
The traveling pawn shop turned into Fourth Avenue, and headed down town. John Bruce caught the sound of a streetcar gong, spurted and swung breathlessly to the platform of a car traveling in the same direction.
Of course it was his job! The exquisite M. Henri de Lavergne was mixed up in
The street car conductor stared at him. John Bruce scowled. He swore again— but this time under his breath. It brought a sudden wild, unreasonable rage and rebellion, the thought that there should be anything, even of the remotest nature, between the glorious vision in that car and the mincing, silken-tongued manager of Larmon’s gambling hell. But there was, for all that, wasn’t there? How else had she come there? It was the usual thing, wasn’t it? And—beware of the conductor! The warning now appeared to be very apt! And how well he had profited by it! A fool chasing a siren’s beauty!
His face grew very white.
“John Bruce,” he whispered to himself, “if I could get at you I’d pound your face to pulp forthat!”
He leaned out from the platform. The traveling pawn shop had increased its speed and was steadily leaving the street car behind. He looked back in the opposite direction. The street was almost entirely deserted as far as traffic went. The only vehicle in sight was a taxi bowling along a block in the rear. He laughed out again harshly. The conductor eyed him suspici-
John Bruce dropped off the car, and planted himself in the path of the on-coming taxi. Call it his job, then, if it pleased him! He owed it to Larmon to get to the bottom of this. How extremely logical he was. The transaction in the traveling pawn shop had been so fair-minded as almost to exonerate M. Henri de Lavergne on the face of it, and if it had not been for a certain vision therein, and a fire in his own veins, and a fury at the thought that even her acquaintance with the gambling manager was profanity, he could have heartily applauded M. Henri de Lavergne for a unique and original—
The taxi bellowed at him, hoarsely indignant.
John Bruce stepped neatly to one side — and jumped on the footboard.
“Here, you! What the hell!” shouted the chauffeur. “You—”
“Push your foot on it a little,” said John Bruce calmly. “And don’t lose sight of that closed car ahead.”
“Lose sight of nothin’!” yelled the chauffeur. “I’ve got a fare, an’—”
“I hear him,” said John Bruce composedly. He edged in beside the chauffeur, and one of the crisp, new, fifty-dollar banknotes passed into the latter’s possession. “Keep that car in sight, and don’t make it hopelessly obvious that you are following it. I’ll attend to your fare.”-
He screwed around in his seat. An elderly, gray-whiskered gentleman, a patently irate gentleman, was pounding furiously on the glass panel.
“We should be turnin’ down this street we’re just passin’,” grinned the chauffeur.
JOHN BRUCE lowered the panel.
“What’s the meaning of this?” thundered the fare.
“I’m very sorry, sir,” said John B. respectfully. “A little detective business.” He coughed. It was really quite true. His voice became confidential. “The occupants of that car ahead got away from me. I—I want to arrest one of them. I’m very sorry to put you to any inconvenience, but it couldn’t be helped. There was no other way than to commandeer your taxi. It will be only for a matter of a few min-
“It’s preposterous!” spluttered the fare. “Outrageous! I—I’ll—”
“Yes, sir,” said John Bruce. “But there was nothing else I could do. You can report it to headquarters, of course.” He closed the panel.
“Fly-cop—not!” said the chauffeur, with his tongue in his cheek. “Any fly-cop that ever got his mitt on a whole fifty-dollar bill all at one time couldn’t be pried loose from it with a crowbar!”
“It lets you out, doesn’t it?” inquired John Bruce pleasantly. “Now let’s see you earn it.”
“I’ll earn it!” said the chauffeur with unction. “You leave it to me, boss!” The quarry, in the shape of the traveling pawn shop, directed its way into the heart of the East Side. Presently it turned into a hiving, narrow street, where hawkers with their push-carts in the light of flaring spitting gasoline banjoes were doing a thriving business. The two cars went more slowly now. There was very little room. The taxi almost upset a fish vendor’s wheeled emporium. The vendor was eloquent—fervently so. But the chauffeur’s eyes, after an impersonal and indifferent glance at the other, returned to the car ahead. The taxi continued on its way, trailing fifty yards in the rear of the traveling pawn shop.
At the end of the block the car ahead turned the corner. As the taxi, in turn, rounded the corner, John Bruce saw that the traveling pawn shop was drawn up before a small building that was nested in between two tenements. The blood quickened in his pulse. The girl had alighted, and was entering the small building.
“Hit it up a little to the next corner, turn it, and let me off there,” directed John
“I get you!” said the chauffeur.
The taxi swept past the car at the curb. Another minute and it had swung the next corner, and was slowing down. John Bruce jumped to the ground before the taxi stopped.
“Good-night!” he called to the chauf-
He waved his hand debonairly at the scowling, whiskered visage that was watching him from the interior of the cab, and hurriedly retraced his way back around the corner.
THE traveling pawn shop had turned and was driving away. John Bruce had moderated his pace, and sauntered on along the street. He smiled half grimly, half contentedly to himself. The “trip to Persia” had led him a little farther afield than M. Henri de Lavergne had perhaps counted on—or than he, John Bruce, himself had, either! But he knew now where the most glorious woman he had ever seen in his life lived, or, at least, was to be found again. No, it wasn’t the moon\ To him she was exactly that. And he had not seen her for the last time, either! That was what he was here for, though he wasn’t so mad as to risk, or, rather, invite an affront to begin with by so bald an act as to go to the front door, say, and ring
the bell—which would be tantamount to informing her that he had—er—played the detective from the moment he had left her in the car. To-morrow, perhaps, or the next day, or whenever fate saw fit to be in a kindly mood, a meeting that possessed all the hall-marks of being quite inadvertent offered him high hopes. Later, if fate still were kind, he would tell her that he had followed her, and what she would be thoroughly justified in misconstruing now she might then accept as the tribute to her that he meant it to be— when she knew him better.
John Bruce was whistling softly to himself.
He was passing the house now, his scrutiny none the less exhaustive because it was apparently casual. It was a curious little two-story place tucked away between the two flanking tenements, the further one of which alone separated the house from the corner he was approaching. Not a light showed from the front of the house. Yes, it was quite a curious place. Although curtains were on the lower front windows, indicating that it was purely a dwelling, the windows themselves were of abnormal size, as though, originally perhaps, the ground floor had once been a shop of some kind.
John Bruce turned the corner, and from a comparatively deserted street found himself among the vendors’ push-carts and the spluttering gasoline torches again. He skirted the side of the tenement that made the corner, discovered the fact that a lane cut in from the street and ran past the rear of the tenement, which he mentally noted must likewise run past the rear of the little house that was now so vitally interesting to him—and halted on the opposite side of the lane to survey his surroundings. Here a dirty and uninviting café attracted his attention, which, if its dingy sign were to be believed, was run by one Palasco Ratti, a gentleman of parts in the choice of wines which he offered to his patrons. John Bruce surveyed Palasco Ratti’s potential clientèle—the street was full of it; the shawled women, the dark-visaged, earringed men. He smiled a little to himself. No—probably not the half naked children who sprawled in the gutter and crawled amongst the push-carts’ wheels! How was it that she should ever have come to live in a neighborhood to which the designation “foreign,” as far as she was concerned, must certainly apply in particularly full measure? It was strange that she—
John Bruce’s mental soliloquy came to an abrupt end. Half humorously, half grimly his eyes were riveted on the pushcart at the curb directly opposite to him, the proprietor of which dealt in that brand of confection so much in favor on the East Side—a great slab of candy from which as occasion required he cut slices with a large carving knife. A brown and grimy fist belonging to a tot of a girl of perhaps eight or nine years of age, who had crept in under the push-cart, was stealthily feeling its way upward behind the vendor’s back, its objective being, obviously, a generous piece of candy that reposed on the edge of the push-cart. There was a certain fascination in watching developments. It was quite immoral, of course, but his sympathies were with the child. It was a gamble whether the grimy little band would close on the coveted prize and disappear again victorious, or whether the vendor would turn in time to frustrate the raid.
The tot’s hand crept nearer and nearer its goal. No one, save himself of the many about, appeared to notice the little cameo of primal instinct that was on exhibition before them. The small and dirty fingers touched the candy, closed on it, and were withdrawn -but were withdrawn too quickly. The child, at the psychological moment under stress of excitement, eagerness and probably a wildly thumping heart, bad failed in finesse. Perhaps the paper that covered the surface of the push-cart and on which the wares were displayed rattled; perhaps the sudden movement in itself ati tracted the vendor’s attention. The man whirled and made a vicious dive for the child as she darted out from between the wheels. And then she screamed. The man had hit her a brutal clout across the
John Bruce straightened suddenly, a dull red creeping from his set jaw to his cheeks. Still clutching the candy in her hand the child was running blindly and in terror straight toward him. The man i struck again, and the child stuggere I, arid, j reeling, sought sanctuary behind John ! Bruce’s legs. A bearded, snarling face in , pursuit loomed up before him -and John Bruce struck, struck as he had once struck before on a white moon - flooded deck when a man, a brute beast, had gone down before him — and the vendor, screaming shrilly, lay kicking in pain on the sidewalk.
It had happened quickly. Not one, probably, of those on the street had caught the details of the little scene. And now the tiny thief had wriggled through his legs, and with the magnificent irresponsibility of childhood had darted away and was lost to sight. It had happened quickly—but not so quickly as the gathering together of an angry, surging crowd around John Bruce.
Some one in the crowd shrieked out above the clamor of voices;
“He kill-a Pietro! Kill-a da dude!”
It was a fire-brand.
JOHN BRUCE backed away a little—up against the door of Signor Palasdo Ratti’s wine shop. A glance showed him that with the blow he had struck his light overcoat had become loosened, and that he was flaunting an immaculate and gleaming shirt-front in the faces of the crowd. And between their Pietro with a broken jaw and an intruder far too well dressed to please their fancy, the psychology of the crowd became the psychology of a mob.
The fire-brand took.
“Kill-a da dude!” It^was echoed in chorus—and then a rush.
Itjflung John' Bruce heavily against,the wine shop door,* and the door crashed inward—and for a moment he was down, and the crowd, like a snarling wolf pack, was upon him. And then the massive shoulders heaved, and he shook them off and was on his feet; and all that was primal, elemental in the man was dominant, the mad glorying in strife upon him, and he struck right and left with blows before which, again and again, a man went down.
But the rush still bore him backward, and the doorway was black and jammed with reinforcements constantly pouring in. Tables crashed to the floor, chairs were overturned. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a white-moustached Italian leap upon the counter and alternately wave his arms and wring his hands together frantically. „ Jfi:
“For the mercy of GodU the man screamed—and then his voice added to the din in a flood of impassioned Italian. It was Signor Palasco Ratti probably.
John Bruce was panting now, his breath coming in short hard gasps. It was not easy to keep them in front of him, to keep his back free. He caught the glint of knife blades now.
He was borne back foot by foot, the space widening as he retreated from the door, giving room for more to come upon him at the same time. A knife blade lunged at him. He evaded it—but another glittering in the ceiling light at the same instant, flashing a murderous arc in its downward plunge, caught him, and, before he could turn, sank home.
A yell of triumph went up. He felt no pain. Only a sudden sickening of his brain, a sudden weakness that robbed his limbs of strength, and he reeled and staggered, fighting blindly now.
And then his brain cleared. He flung a quick glance over his shoulder. Yes, there was one chance. Only one! And in another minute, with another knife thrust, it would be too late. He whirled suddenly and raced down the length of the café. In the moment’s grace earned through surprise at his sudden action, he gained a door he had seen there, and threw himself upon it. It was not fastened though there was a key in the lock. He whipped out the key, plunged through, locked the door on the outside with the fraction of a second to spare before they came battering upon it—■ and stumbled and fell headlong out into the
It was as though he were lashing his brain into action and virility. It kept wobbling and fogging. Didn’t the damned thing understand that his life was at stake! He lurched to his feet. He was in a lane. In front of him, like great looming shadows, shadows that wobbled too, he saw the shapes of two tenements, and like an inset between them, a small house with a light gleaming in the lower window.
That was where the vision lived. Only there was a fence between. Sanctuary! He lunged toward the fence. He had not meant to—to make a call to-night—she— she might have misunderstood. But in a second now they would come sweeping around into the lane after him from the
He clawed his way to the top of the fence, and because his strength was almost gone fell from the top of the fence to the ground on the other side.
And now he crawled, crawled with what frantic haste he could, because he heard the uproar from the street. And he laughed. The kid was probably munching her hunk of candy now. Queer things— kids! Got her candy—happy—
He reached up to the sill of an open window, clawed his way upward, as he had clawed his way up the fence, straddled the sill unsteadily, clutched at nothingness to save himself, and toppled inward to the floor of the room.
A yell from the head of the lane, a cry from the other end of the room, spurred him into final effort. He gained his feet, and swept his hand, wet with blood, across
his eyes. That was the vision there running toward him, wasn’t it?—the wonderful, glorious vision!
“Pardon me!” said John Bruce in a sing-song voice, and with a desperate effort reached up and pulled down the window shade. He tried to smile. “Queer—queer things—kids—aren’t they? She—she just ducked out from under.”
The girl was staring at him wildly, her hands tightly clasped to her bosom.
“Pardon me!” whispered John Bruce thickly, fie couldn’t see her any more, just a multitude of objects whirling like a kaleidoscope before his eyes. “She—she got the candy,” said John Bruce, attempting to smile again—and pitched unconscious to the floor.
(To be Continued.)