FRANK L. PACKARD
THE hours of mental strife, of torment through which he had just passed were as the memory of some rack upon which his soul had been put to torture. They came back vividly now, those hours-every min ute of them a living eternity. His soul had shrunk back aghast at first, and called it murder; but it was not mur der, or, if it was, it was imperative. It was the life of a foul viper-or Claire's. It was the life of an unclean thing that mocked and desecrated all decency, that flung its sordid challenge at every law both human and divine-or the life of a pure, clean soul made the plaything of this beast, and dragged into a mire of unutterable abomination to suffocate and strangle .in its noxious surroundings and die.
And that soul was in jeopardy because at this moment he, John Bruce, had the power of movement in his limbs, the sense of sight, the ability to stretch out his hand and feel it touch that lamp-post there, and, if he would, to speak aloud and designate that object for what it was—a lamppost. She had bought him these things with her life. Should she die—and he live?
And he remembered back through these hours since midnight, when his soul had still faltered before the taking of human life, how it had sought some other way, some alternative, any alternative. A jail sentence for Crang. There was enough, more than enough now with the evidence of Crang’s double life, to convict the man for the robbery of that safe. But Claire had answered that in the long ago: “I will marry him when he comes out.” Or, then, to get Crang away again like this afternoon—no, yesterday afternoon. It was this morning, in a few hours, that they were to be married. There was no time left in which to attempt anything like that; but, even if there were, he knew now that it but postponed the day of reckoning. Claire would wait. Crang would come back.
He was going to kill Crang. If he didn’t, Crang would kill him. He knew that, too. But his decision was not actuated, or even swayed, by any consideration of self-preservation. He had no thought of his future or his safety. That was already settled. With his decision was irrevocably coupled the forfeiting of his own life. Not his own life! It belonged to Claire. Claire had bought it. He was only giving it back that the abysmal price she had agreed to pay should not be extorted from her. Once he had accomplished his purpose, he would give himself up to the police. He was going to kill Crang.
THAT was what had been born out of the travail of those hours of the night. But there were other things to do first. He walked briskly now. The decision in itself no longer occupied his thoughts. The decision was absolute, it was final. It was those “other things” that he must consider now.
There was Larmon. He could not tell Larmon what he, John Bruce, was going to do, but he must warn Larmon to be on his guard against any past or present connection with John Bruce coming to light. Fortunately, Larmon had come to New York and registered as Peters.
He must make Larmon understand that Larmon and John Bruce had never met, even if he could not give Larmon any specific reason or explanation. Larmon would probably refuse at first, and attribute it as an attempt to break, for some ulterior reason, the bond they had signed together that night on the beach at Apia.
John Bruce smiled gravely. The bond would be broken in any case. Faustus was at the end of the play. A few months in prison, the electric chairhow apt had been his whistling of that aria in his youth! Youth! Yes, he was old now; he had been young that night on the beach at Apia.
He took off his hat and let the sharp air sweep his head. He was not thinking clearly. All this did not express what he meant. There was Larmon’s safety. He must take care of that; see to it, first of all, that Larmon could not be implicated, held by law as an accomplice through foreknowledge of what was to happen; then, almost of as great importance for Larmon’s sake and future, the intimacy between them, their business relations of the past, must never be subjected to the probe of the trial that was to come.
John Bruce nodded his head sharply. Yes, that was better! But there was still something else—that bond.
He knew to-night, even if prison walls and a death penalty were not about to nullify that bond far more effectively than either he or Larmon ever could, that the one thing he wanted now, while yet he was a free agent, while yet it was not arbitrarily his choice, was to cancel that agreement which was so typical of what his life up to the present time had always stood for; and in its cancellation, for what little time was left, to have to typify, instead, a finer manhood. The future, premonitive, grim in its promise, seemed to hold up before him as in a mirror where no lines were softened, where only the blunt, brutal truth was reflected, the waste and worthlessness of the past. He had no wish to evade it, or temporize with it, or seek to palliate it. He knew only a vain and bitter regret; knew only the desire now at the end, in so far as he could, to face death a changed
rE WALKED on and on. He was getting into the uptown section now. How many miles he must have covered since he had left Hawkins, and since the door of the
one-time pawnshop had closed on that little bare-headed figure with the loose cloak clutched about her throat the last sight he had had of Claire! How many miles:1 He did not know. It must have been many, very many. But he felt no weariness. It was strange! It was as though his vitality and energy flowed into him from some wholly extraneous source; and as though physically he were nonexistent.
He wondered what Larmon would say. Larmon alone had the right to cancel the bond. That was the way it had been written. Would Larmon refuse? He hoped not because he wanted to part with Larmon as a friend. He hoped not, though in the final analysis, in a practical way
Larmon’s refusal must be so futile a thing. Would Larmon laugh at him,, and, not knowing, call him a fool? He shook his head. He did not know. At least Larmon would not be surprised. The conversation of last evening—
_____ John Bruce looked up. Lie was at the entrance to the Bayne-Miloy Hotel. He entered, nodded mechanically to the night clerk, stepped into the elevator, and went up to his room. There was his revolver to be got. Afterward he would go down to Larmon’s room. Somehow, even in the face of that other thing which he was to do, this interview which was to come with Larmon obsessed him. It seemed to signify some vital line of demarcation between the old life and the new.
The new! He smiled grimly, without mirth, as, entering his room, he switched on the light, stepped quickly to his desk, pulled open a drawer, and took out his revolver. The new! There v'ould be very little of the new! He laughed now in a low, raucous way, as he slipped the weapon into his pocket. The new! A few weeks, a few months of a prison cell, and then— His laugh died away, and a half startled, half perplexed look settled on his face. For the first time he noticed that a letter, most obviously placed to attract his attention, lay on the center of the desk pad. Strange, he had not seen it instantly!
He stared at it now. It was a plain envelope, unstamped, and addressed to him. The writing was familiar too! Larmon’s! He picked it up, opened it and from the folds of the letter, as he drew it from the envelope four torn pieces of paper fluttered to the desk. And for a long time, in a dazed way, he gazed at them. The letter dropped from his hand. Then mechanically he pieced the four scraps together. It was one of I the leaves torn from Larmon’s notebook that night in Apia—and here was the heavy scrawl where he, John Bruce, had signed with the quill toothpick. It was Larmon’s copy of the bond.
And again for a long time he stared at it, then he picked up the letter again. He read it slowly, for somehow his brain seemed only able to absorb the words in a stunned way. Then he read it again:
Dear Bruce:Something has come into your life that was not there on a night you will remember in the Southerii Seas, and I know of no other way to repay you for what you did for me to-day than to hand you this. I knew from what you said to-night, or perhaps, from what you did not say, that this was in your heart. And if I were young again, and the love of a good woman had come to me, I too should try-and fail, I fear, where you will succeed-to play a man's part in life. And so I bid you good-by, for when you read this I shall be on my way back West. What I lose an other will gain. Amongst even my friends are men of honorable call ings an(l wide interests who need a John Bruce. You will hear from one of them. God speed to you, for you are too good and clean a man to end your days as I shall end mine-a gambler. -
Yours, GILBERT LARMON. The love of a good wwnan---anu young agai~i! John Bruce's face was white. A thousand conflicting emotions seemed to surge UPOfl him. There was something fine and big in what Larna had done, like Larmon whose real self he had come to glimpse for the first time last night; an(l soniet hing I hat was alroost, ghastly in the unconscious irony that. lay behind it~ all. And for a little while he stood there motionless, holding the lift or in his hand; t hen with a quirk abrupt, return to art i on, he began to tear the letter into lit t to shreds, and from his pocket ho took las own copy of the bond uid tore that up, and thu four pieces of Larmon `s copy he I tire in In still smaller fragments, and gat bering all these in his hands he walked to the window and let them flutter out into tin night.
T `av `a~ (lear. There was long o onfl(t Gilbert Larnion with I he man who to-morrow no to daywould he in the hands of the polue charged wit Ii murder. Not hing to hri rig to light Larmon s rivat e affairs, for nothing hearing Larnions signal ore had ever been k p1: it was always destroyed. Larmon was safe -for, at least, they could never make John Bruce talk.
There was a strange relief upon him, a strange uplift; not only for Larmon’s sake, but for his own. The link that had bound him to the past was gone, broken, dissolved. He stood free for the little time that was left ; he stood free to make a fresh start in the narrow confines of a prison cell. He smiled grimly. There was no irony here where it seemed all of irony. It meant everything all. It was the only atonement, he could make.
lie switched oil' the light, left his room, and went down to the desk. Here he consulted the directory, lie requested the clerk to procure a taxi for him.
It was live minutes after six by the clock over the desk.
He entered the taxi and gave the chauffeur theaddress.
He was unconscious of emotion now. He knew only a cold, fixed, merciless purpose.
He was going to kill Crang. The taxi stopped in front of a frame house that bore a dirty brass name-plate. He dismissed the taxi, and mounted the steps. His right hand was in the pocket of his coat. He rang the bell, and, obtaining no response, rang again—and after that, insistently.
The door was opened by an old woman, evidently aroused from bed, for she clutched tightly at a dressing gown that was flung around her shoulders.
“I want to see Doctor Crang,” said John Bruce.
She shook her head. “The doctor isn’t in,” she answered.
“I will wait for him.” said John Bruce.
Again she shook her head. “I don’t know when he will be back. He hasn’t been here since yesterday morning.” “I will wait for him,” said John Bruce monotonously.
“But—” John Bruce brushed his way past her into the hall. “I will wait for him,” he repeated.
A door was open off the hallway. John Bruce looked in. It was obviously Crang’s office. He went in and sat down by the window.
The woman stood for a long time in the doorway watching him. Finally she went away.
John Bruce’s mind was coldly logical. Crang was not. aware that, his escape was known to any one except Claire, and he had been cun-
ning enough to keep under cover. That was why he had not been home. But he would be home before he went out to be married. Even a man like Crang would have a few preparations to make.
John Bruce sat by the window. Occasionally the old woman came and stood in the doorway—and went away again.
There was no sign of Crang. At fifteen minutes of eight John Bruce rose from his chair and left, the house. “He was to be at Paul Veniza’s at eight,” said John Bruce to himself with cool precision.
The Best Man
T T AWK1NS sat at the table in his room, and twined and *■ I twined one old storm-beaten hand over the other. For hours he had sat like that. It was light in the room now, for it was long after seven o’clock. His bed had not been slept in. He was dressed in his shiny best suit; he wore his frayed black cravat. He had been dressed like that since midnight; since he had returned home after Claire had fled into her house, and John Bruce had strode by him on the sidewalk with set, stony face and unseeing eyes; since, on reaching his room here, he had found a note whose signature was false because it read “Paul Veniza,” when he knew that it, came from Crang. Crang was taking precautions that his return should not leak out! The note only corroborated what he had heard through the door. He was to be at Paul Veniza’s at eight o’clock with the
travelling pawnshop. The note had said nothing about any marriage; but, then, he knew! He was to be the best man. And so he had dressed himself. After that he had waited. He was waiting now.
“The first,” said Hawkins, with grave confidence to the cracked mirror. “Yes, that’s it the first in line, because 1 am her old father, and there aint nothing can change that.”
His own voice seemed to arouse him. He stared around the shabby room that was his home, his eyes lingering with strange wistfulness on each old battered, and long familiar object—and then suddenly, with a choking cry, his head went down, buried in his arms outflung across the table.
“Pawned!” the old man cried brokenly. “It’s twenty years ago I pawned her—twenty years ago. And it’s come to this because—because I aint never redeemed her—but, oh God, I love her—I love my little girl and and she aint never going to know how much.”
The asthmatic gas jet spat venomous defiance at the daylight that was so contumaciously deriding its puny flame.
And after a little while, Hawkins raised his head. He looked at his watch.
“It’s time to go,” said Hawkins and cleared his throat.
Hawkins picked up his hat and brushed it carefully with his coat sleeve; his shoulders, and such of his attire as he could reach, he brushed with his hands; he re-adjusted his frayed black cravat before the cracked mirror.
“I’m the best man,” said Hawkins.
Oblivious to the chattering gas jet, he descended the stairs and went out to the shed in the rear that housed the travelling pawnshop.
“The first in line,” said the old cab driver, as he climbed into the seat.
Five minutes later, he drew up in front of the one-time pawnshop. He consulted his watch as he got down from his seat and entered the house. It was 7.35.
HE TWISTED his hat awkwardly in his hands as he entered the rear room. He felt a sudden wild rush of hope spring up within him because there was no sign of Crang. And then the hope died. He was early; and, besides, Claire had her hat on and was dressed to go out. Paul Veniza, also dressed, lay on the cot. No one spoke.
Then Paul Veniza’s frame was racked with a fit of coughing, and out of a face ashen in pallor his eyes met Hawkins’ in silent agony—and then he turned his head away. Hawkins twisted his hat.
“I came a little early,” he said wistfully, “because I thought mebbe you might— mebbe there might be some change — that mebbe you might not—”
He stopped. He was looking at Claire. Her face was very white too. Her smile seemed to cut at his heart like a knife.
“No, Hawkins,” she said in a low voice; “there is no change. We are going to Station Island. You will drive Doctor Crang. There is a limousine coming for father and me that will be more comfortable for father.” Hawkins’ eyes went to the floor.
“I—I didn’t mean that kind of a change,” he said.
• “I know you didn’t, Hawkins. But—but I am trying to be practical.” Her voice broke a little in spite of herself. “Doctor Crang doesn’t know that you overheard anything last night, or that you know anything about the arrangements, so—so I am explaining them to you now.”
Hawkins’ eyes were still on the floor.
“Aint there nothing”—his voice was thick and husky— “aint there nothing in all the world that any of us can do to make you change your mind? Claire, aint there nothing, nothing at all? John Bruce said there wasn’t, and you love John Bruce, but—” “Don’t, Hawkins!” she cried pitifully.
The old shoulders came slowly up, and the old head; and the old blue eyes were of a sudden strangely flint-like.
“I’ve got to know,” said Hawkins, in a dead, stubborn way. “There is nothing,” she answered. Hawkins’ eyes reverted to the floor. He spoke now without lifting them.
“Then—then it’s—it’s like saying good-by,” he said, and the broken note was again in his voice. “It’s—it’s so many years that mebbe you’ve forgotten, but when you were a little girl, and before you grew up, and—and were too big for that, I—I used to hold you in my arms, and you used to put your little arms around my neck, and kiss me, and—and you used to say that—Hawkins would never let the bugaboos get you, and—and I wonder if—if—” “Oh, Hawkins!” Claire’s eyes were full of tears. “I remember. Dear, dear Hawkins! and I used to call you Daddy Hawkins. Do you remember?”
A TEAR found a furrow and trickled down the old weather-beaten face, unchecked, as Hawkins raised his head.
“Claire! Claire!” His voice trembled in its yearning. “Will—will you say that again, Claire?” “Dear Daddy Hawkins,” she whispered.
His arms stretched out to her, and she came to them smiling through her tears.
“You’ve been so good to me,” she whispered again. “You are so good to me—dear, dear Daddy Hawkins.”
A wondrous light was in the old cabman’s face. He held the slight form to him, trying to be so tenderly careful that he should not hurt her in his strength. He kissed her, and patted her head, and his fingers lingered as they smoothed the hair back from where it made a tiny curl about her ear. And then he felt her drawing him toward the couch— Continued on page j>6 and he became conscious that Paul Veniza was holding out his hands to them both.
Continued from page 16
And Claire knelt at the side of the couch and took one of Paul Veniza’s hands, and Hawkins took the other. And no one of them looked into the other’s face.
The outer door opened, and Doctor Crang came in. He stood for an instant surveying the scene, a half angry, half sarcastic smile spreading over his sallow face, and then he shrugged his shoulders.
“Ah, you’re here, like me, ahead of time, Hawkins, I see!” he said shortly. “You’re going to drive me to Station Island where—”
Claire rose to her feet. “I have told Hawkins,” she said quietly.
Hawkins’ hand tightened over Paul Veniza’s for a moment, and then he turned away.
'T—I’ll wait outside,” said Hawkins— and brushed his hand across his eyes as he went through the doorway.
Paul Veniza was racked with a sudden fit of coughing again. Doctor Crang walked quickly to the couch and looked at the other sharply. After a moment he turned to Claire.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked crisply. “Yes; I am ready,” she answered steadily-
“Very well, then,” said Crang, “you had better go out and get into the old bus. “You can go with Hawkins and me.”
“But”—Claire looked in a bewildered way at Paul Veniza—“but you said—”
“I know I did,” Crang interrupted brusquely, “but we’re all here a little early and there’s lots of time to countermand the other car.”
He indicated Paul Veniza with a jerk of his hand. “He’s far from as well as he
was last night. At least you’ll admit that I’m a good doctor, and when I tell you he is not fit to go this morning that ought to be enough for both of you. I’ll ’phone and tell them not to send the limousine.”
Still Claire hesitated. Paul Veniza had closed his eyes.
Crang shrugged his shoulders. “You can do as you like, but I don’t imagine”—a snarl crept into his voice— “that it will give him any joy to witness the ceremony, or you to have him. Suit yourselves; but I won’t answer for the consequences.”
“I’ll go,” said Claire simply—and as Paul Veniza lifted himself up suddenly in protest, she forced him gently back upon the couch again. “It’s better that way,” she said, and for a moment talked to him in low earnest tones, then kissed him, and rose, and walked out from the room.
Crang, with a grunt of approval, started toward the telephone.
“Wait!” Paul Veniza had raised himself on his elbow. Crang turned and faced the other with darkened face.
“It is not too late even now at the last moment!” Paul Veniza’s face showed his agony. “I know you for what you are, and in the name of God I charge you not to do this thing. It is foul and loathsome, the basest passion—and whatever crimes lay at your door, even if murder be among them, no one of them is comparable with this, for you do more than take a human life, you desecrate a soul pure as the day God gave it life, and—”
The red surged into Crang’s face, and changed to mottled purple.
“Damn you!” he flung out hoarsely. “Hold your cackling tongue! This is my wedding morning—understand?” He laughed out raucously.“My wedding morning—and I’m hungry!”
Paul Veniza raised himself a little higher. White his face was, white as death. “Then God have mercy on your soul!” he cried.
And Crang stared for a moment, then turned on his heel—and laughed.
JOHN BRUCE turned the corner, and,
on the opposite side of the street, drew back under the shelter of a door porch where he could command a view of the entrance to Paul Veniza’s house. And now he stood motionless, waiting with cold patience, his eyes fixed on the doorway across the street. He was there because Crang was either at the present moment within the house or presently would come to the house. It was nearly eight o’clock. The old travelling pawnshop was drawn up before the door.
He had no definite plan now. No plan was needed. He was simply waiting for Crang.
His eyes had not left the doorway. Suddenly, tense, he leaned a little forward. The door opened. No; it was only Hawkins. He relaxed again.
Only Hawkins! John Bruce’s face grew a little sterner, his lips a little more tightly compressed. Only Hawkins—only an old man who swayed there outside the door, and whose face was covered with his hands.
He watched Hawkins. The old cabman moved blindly along the sidewalk for the few steps that took him to the corner, and turning the corner, out of sight of the house, sat down on the edge of the curb, and with his shoulders sunk forward, buried his face in his hands again.
And John Bruce understood; and his fingers, in his pocket, snuggled curiously around the revolver that was hidden there. He wanted to go to that old bent figure there in its misery and despair, who was fighting now so obviously to get a grip upon himself. But he did not move. He could not tell Hawkins what he meant to do.
Were they minutes or were they hours that passed? Again the front door of Paul Veniza’s house opened, and again John Bruce leaned tensely forward. But this time he did not relax. Claire! His eyes drank in the slim, little dark-garbed figure, greedy that no smallest gesture, no movement, no single line of face or form should escape him. It was perhaps the last time that he would see her. He would not see her in his prison cell—he would not let her go there.
A queer sound issued from his throat, a strange and broken little cry. She was gone now. She had crossed the sidewalk and entered the travelling pawnshop. The curtains were down, and she was hidden from sight. And for a moment there seemed a blur and mist before John Bruce’s eyes—then Hawkins, still around the corner, still with crouched shoulders, still with his face hidden in his hands, took form and grew distinct again. And then after a little while, Hawkins rose slowly and came back along the street, and climbed into the driver’s seat of the travelling pawnshop, and sat fumbling at the wheel with his hands.
The door of Paul Veniza’s house opened for the third time—and now John Bruce laughed'in a low, grim way, and his hand, hugging the revolver in his pocket, tightened and grew vise-like in its grip upon the weapon. It was Crang at last!
And then John Bruce’s hand came out from his pocket—empty.
Not in front of Claire!
He swept his hand across his forehead. It was as though a sudden shock had aroused him to some stark reality to which he had been strangely oblivious. Not in front of Claire! Claire was in the car there. He felt himself bewildered for a moment. Hawkins had said nothing about driving Claire too.
Crang’s voice reached him from across the street!
“All right, Hawkins! Go ahead!”
WHERE was Paul Veniza? Crang had got into the car, and the car was moving forward. Wasn’t Paul Veniza going too?
Well, it did not matter, did it? Crang was there. And it was a long way to Station Island, and before then a chance would come, must come, he would make one somehow, and—
John Bruce ran swiftly out into the street, and, as the car turned the corner,
swung himself lightly and silently in beside Hawkins. Crang would not know. The curtained panel at the back of the driver’s seat hid the interior of the car from view.
' Hawkins turned his head, stared into John Bruce’s face for an instant, half in a startled, half in a curiously perplexed way, made as though to speak—and then, without a word, gave his attention to the wheel again.
The car rattled on down the block.
John Bruce, as silentas Hawkins,stared ahead. On the ferry! Yes, that was it! It was a long way to Station Island. Glaire would not stay cooped up in a closed car below; she would go up on deck to get the air. And even if Crang accompanied her, it would not prove very difficult to separate them.
He looked around suddenly and intercepted a furtive, puzzled glance cast at him by Hawkins.
And then Hawkins spoke for the first time.
“You’d better get off, John Bruce,” he said in a choked voice. “You’ve done all you could, and God bless you over and over again for it, but you can’t do anything more now, and it won’t do you any good to come any further.”
“No,” said John Bruce, “I’m going all the way, Hawkins.”
Hawkins relapsed into silence. They were near the Battery when he spoke again.
“All the way,” Hawkins repeated then, as though it were but a moment gone since John Bruce had spoken. “All the way. Yes, that’s it—after twenty years. That’s when I pawned her—twenty years ago. And I couldn’t never redeem her the way Paul Veniza said. And she ain’t never known, and thank God she ain’t never going to know, that I—that I—” A tear trickled down the old face, and splashed upon the wrinkled skin of the hand upon the wheel. And then old Hawkins smiled suddenly, and nodded toward the clock on the cowl-board—and the speed of the car increased. “I looked up the ferry .time,” said Hawkins.
They swung out in front of the ferry house, and the car stopped. A ferry just berthing was beginning to disgorge its stream of motors and pedestrians.
“We’re first in line,” said Hawkins nodding his head. “We’ll have to wait a minute or two.”
John Bruce nodded back indifferently. His eyes were fixed on the ferry that he could just see through the ferry house. Certainly, Claire would not stay down in the confined space of the ferry’s run-way all the trip! or if she did, Crang wouldn’t. His face set. Quite unconsciously his hand had gone to his pocket, and he found his fingers now snuggling again around the weapon that lay there.
AND then he looked at Hawkins—and stared again at the other, startled. Strange, he had not noticed it before! The smile on Hawkins’ face did not hide it. The man seemed to have aged a thousand years; the old face was pinched and worn, and deep in the faded, watery blue eyes was hurt and agony. Anda great sympathy for the man surged upon John Bruce. He could not tell Hawkins but— He reached out, and laid his hand on the other’s arm.
“Don’t take it too hard, Hawkins,” he said gently. “I—perhaps—perhaps, well, there’s always a last chance that something may happen.”
“Me?” said Hawkins, and bent down over his gears as he got the signal to move forward. “Do I look like that? I—I thought it all out last night, and I don’t feel that way. I’ll tell you what I was thinking about. I was just thinking that I did something to-day when I left my room that I haven’t done before—in twenty years. I’ve left the light burning.”
John Bruce stared a little helplessly.
“Yes,” said Hawkins. He smiled at John Bruce. “Don’t you worry about me. Mebbe you don’t understand, but that’s all I’ve been thinking about since we’ve been waiting here. I’ve left the light burning.”
Sick at heart, John Bruce turned his head away. He made no response.
Hawkins paid the fare, ran the car through the ferry house, and aboard the ferry itself. He was fumbling with a catch of some kind behind his seat as he proceeded slowly up the run-way.
“He’ll want a little air in there,” said Hawkins, “because it’s close down here. Opens back, you know—the whole panel. I had it made that way when the car was turned into a travelling pawnshop—didn’t know what tough kind of a customer Paul might run into sometimes, and I’d want to get in beside him quick to help, and I—” The old cabman straightened up. The car was at the extreme forward end of the ferry—and suddenly it leaped forward. “Jump, John Bruce! Jump clear,” old Hawkins cried. “There’s only two of us going all the way^-and that’s Crang and me! Claire and Paul’ll be along in another car—tell them it was an accident, and—”
John Bruce was on his feet—too late. There was a crash, and the collapsible steel gates went down before the plunging car, and the guard chain beyond was swept from its sockets. He reeled and lost his balance as something, a piece of wreckage from the gates or chain posts, struck him. He felt the hot blood spurt from shoulder and arm. And then, as the car shot out in mid-air, diving madly for the water below, and he was thrown from his feet, he found himself clinging to the footboard, fighting wildly to reach the door handle. Claire was in there! Claire was in there!
There was a terrific splash. A mighty rush of water closed over him. Horror, fear, madness possessed his soul. Claire was in there! Claire was in there!—and somehow Hawkins had not known! Yes, he had the door handle now! He wrenched and tore at the door. The pressure of the water seemed to fight against his strength. He worked like a maniac. It opened. He had it now! It opened. He could scarcely see in the murky water—only the indistinct outlines of two forms undulating grotesquely, the hands of one gripped around the throat of the other—only that, and floating within his reach a woman’s form. He snatched at the dress. His lungs were bursting. Claire! It was Claire! She was in his arms—then blacknessthen sunlight again—and then faintly, he heard a cheer.
He held her head above the water. Sha was motionless, inert.
“Claire! Claire!” he cried. Fear, cold, horrible, seized upon him. He swam in mad haste for the iron ladder rungs at the side of the ship.
TRACES, a multitude of them, seemed to * peer at him from above, from the brink of this abyss in which he was struggling. He heard a cheer again. Why were they cheering? Were they cheering because two men were locked in a death grip deep down there in the water below?
“Claire!” he cried out again.
And then, as his hand grasped the lower rung, she opened her eyes slowly and a tremor ran through her frame.
She lived! Was he weak with the sudden revulsion that swept upon him now? Was that it? He tried to carry her up—and found that it was beyond his strength. And he could only cling there and wait for assistance from above, thankful even for the support the water gave his weight. It was strange! What were those red stains that spread out and tinged the water around him? His arm! Yes, he remembered now. His shoulder and arm! It was the loss of blood that must have sapped his strength, that must be sapping it .now so that-
“John!” Claire whispered. “You— John!”
He buried his face in the great wet masses of hair that fell around her. Weak? No, he was not weak! He could hold her here always—always.
He felt her clutch spasmodically at his arm.
“And—and Hawkins, John?” she faltered.
He lifted his head and stared at the water. Little waves rippled across its surface, gambolling inconsequentially—at play. There wasn’t anything else there. There never would be. He made no answer.
A sob shook her shoulders.
“How—how did it happen?” she whispered again.
“I think a—a gear jammed, or something,” he said huskily.
He heard her speak again, but her voice was very low. He bent his head until it rested upon hers to catch the words.
She was crying softly.
“Dear, dear Hawkins—dear Daddy Hawkins,” she said.
A great mist seemed to gather before John Bruce’s eyes. A voice seemed to come again, Hawkins’ voice; and words that he understood now, Hawkins' words:
“I’ve left the light burning.”